Let’s get something straight right away. I’m a diehard Cleveland Brown’s fan and I see no reason to duck it, even though the last time we won a game, the Dead Sea was just sick. We Browns fans have a deep reservoir of hope but I understand why anyone would question our sanity in face of the heartbreak we endure every Sunday, including the loss this past weekend to the Steelers’ JV team.
The truth is, the bond that binds us to the Browns is unbreakable and probably unexplainable to those who jumped ship or pledge their allegiance elsewhere. In spite of the pain we have been exposed to since a previous owner abandoned Cleveland in 1995, and its blundering attempt to reinvent itself, there are still a whole lot of us out here.
Like most true fans, my affection for the Browns started at an early age and involved family. My father worked at the Ohio Steel Foundry here in Lima and became friends with a co-worker, Joe Morrison, in the late 1950s. Joe was a Lima South High School legend who played football at the University of Cincinnati before embarking on a 13-year career with the New York Giants in the National Football League. He was a wide receiver and running back and still holds a couple of their receiving records. Morrison’s number, 40, was retired by the Giants. In those years, the Browns and Giants played each other twice each season, one home and one away. When the Giants played in Cleveland, Morrison occasionally left four tickets at will call for my father. Dad grabbed three of his sons (he had eight to choose from) and we were off on a road trip to the cavernous Cleveland Municipal Stadium.
I remember my first Browns-Giants game as if it were yesterday, a cold November Sunday in 1960. The imposing size of the stadium and boisterous crowd were mesmerizing for a 12-year old boy. If Joe Morrison was hoping to convert the Seggerson brothers into Giants fans, the effort was lost the moment we saw Jim Brown carry the football. It was love at first sight. We joined the Browns’ faithful in full throat, every time he touched the pigskin. By the end of the game I was connected with every Browns’ fan in that stadium in a cosmic fraternity that has lasted a lifetime. Trailing 17-13 late in the game, the Browns mounted a last ditched effort that fell just short. I was heart-broken. My heart was firmly committed to the Cleveland Browns in that moment. And it hasn’t budged an inch since.
After the game we stood outside the visitor’s locker room and watched the Giants file on to their bus. Morrison stopped to speak with dad and then leaned over to talk with me and my two younger brothers, Tim and Larry. I remember he shook our hands and told us what a good person our dad was. But I assume Joe also sensed our pain because he told us the Browns were a great team and would win a lot of games. He was a good man.
Fast forward five decades and many find it hard to believe the Browns actually have a decorated history and were a dominant franchise in the NFL at one time. They won the championship game three of the first five years they joined the NFL. From 1965 to 1995 they made the playoffs 14 times. The Browns were considered Super Bowl contenders the year their owner, Art Modell, chased the money and stabbed Cleveland in the back, dealing the franchise to Baltimore.
Since the Browns began playing again in 1999, it’s basically been nothing but pain. Their ineptitude has reached record levels with 31 losses in their last 32 games. Our Brown provide us with a smorgasbord of head-scratching ineptitude. My favorite is their maddening habit of surrendering points to their opponents just before halftime, regardless of how much time is left on the clock.
As a longtime season ticket holder, I’ve joined the moaning migration of fans leaving the stadium after another Browns defeat. Following a recent loss on a cold, blustery day, the herd of fans heading for the exits reminded me of a scene from the movie “Dr. Zhivago,” trudging, head down and silent, into the frigid Siberian winter. I have a friend who calls the long car ride home from Cleveland the “Trail of Tears.”
But we Browns fans are a resilient bunch and usually, after a few days of mourning, we are eager to embrace the next challenge. I’ve passed my affection for the Browns on to our kids, Mike, Sara and Pat. We are working on the grandkids but it would be helpful if the Browns would assist us in that effort by giving us something to cheer about. Indeed, changing the culture of losing that permeates the Browns’ organization at the moment is their biggest challenge. Selecting genuine NFL talent with their prime draft picks would also go a long way in turning it around.
In a league designed to achieve parity, NFL teams often change their fortunes quickly. But the Browns haven’t figured out the formula yet. I keep waiting for them to hit true rock bottom and begin the climb back to respectability. Trust me, it will happen. When, is another subject, but hope springs eternal for every fan of the Cleveland Browns.
In fact, I think with a good draft, a free agent or two, a couple changes in the organization and a few breaks, the Browns could be pretty good next season.
Bob Seggerson is a retired boys basketball coach and guidance counselor at Lima Central Catholic. Reach him at email@example.com.