CAPE COD – One of the only times in the last year that I have seen another recognizable Cleveland Browns fan on Cape Cod was an hour or so before the first game of this season when I stopped at a Centerville convenience store and saw a guy in a Baker Mayfield jersey.
We bonded instantly. It was as if I had found a cousin from the old country. He spoke the same language, and had the same dialect and accent as me, and he knew of the same trivia – although I would argue that when it comes to sports, nothing is trivial.
I don’t recall the name of my new best friend, but I believe he is about the coolest football fan I have ever met on Cape Cod.
Living here in New England where every business is legally required to have an “In Bill We Trust” sign, is not easy for a Cleveland Browns fan. Most of you probably don’t even know that before you trusted in him, Bill Belichick was a crappy coach in Cleveland.
It is what it is.
This weekend your New England Patriots will play the Cleveland Browns, a team that recently had a perfect 0-16 season.
That’s my team, the Cleveland Browns. Yes, I proudly “admit” it… thank you for asking.
On this Halloween weekend, it is clear that I am cursed to love these Cleveland Browns. While I have lived in New England for more than three times as long as I lived in Ohio when I was growing up, this football love is a genetic thing for which I have no self control.
You don’t think I have tried to root for the best team in football since the 1950s Cleveland Browns? (See what I did there? Wait, there’s more.)
I would love to root for Tom Brady, who is almost as good as Otto Graham, who won seven championships in ten years while playing for the Cleveland Browns. Otto Graham played in a championship game every year he played.
And while I could never root for Bill Belichick, he’s certainly almost as good of a coach as Paul Brown (use Google, it’s fun.) But he’s not half the innovator.
The truth is, that as good as New England Patriots have been for the past two decades, they have not been quite as as good as the Cleveland Browns were… before I was born. So I’ve got that going for me.
But recent history… the last 30 years or so, have not been so kind to my team. Once, they even moved to Baltimore.
It is stupid to love someone who does not love you. I should have learned that lesson in the mid-1990s. But I stayed with my team even when they didn’t exist.
And I was rewarded for my loyalty with a new team that has given me two decades of horrible football, bad decisions, and a laughably long list of bad quarterbacks who were supposed to be my football saviors and heroes.
And then there were the coaches, so many geniuses thrust upon me. Hue Jackson, as coach, once went 1-15 and was rewarded with another year. So he followed it up with an 0-16 season. You can’t make this up. I wish you could.
Yet Hue Jackson is a minor league train wreck compared to most memorable of all, Johnny Manziel, who once went to Las Vegas mid-week during the season, donned a blond wig and mustache and told people his name was, “Billy.”
Billy Manziel is my favorite Cleveland Brown of the past two decades.
But now I have a new hero, Baker Mayfield.
The first football game I ever attended was in 1971 at cavernous but capacity-full Cleveland Municipal Stadium when the Browns hosted the Patriots and the Patriots’ number one draft pick, quarterback Jim Plunkett.
The Browns won 27-7. My childhood hero, Leroy Kelly, scored two touchdowns.
Years later, through serendipity and a Falmouth resident who once played for the Browns in those years, Robert Pena, I had a beer with Leroy Kelly at the old Amigos Restaurant. I was no longer a boy, and he was long retired.
Still, meeting a childhood hero is cool in a way that is impossible to duplicate.
The last NFL football game I attended was in 1995, when the Browns, just before they moved to Baltimore came to New England and played in what looked like a bad college stadium.
That day, I cheered for the Browns in New England. The Patriots, quarterbacked by Drew Bledsoe, won 17-14. What I remember most is that a Patriots fan threw beer on me.
Two months later, the Browns announced they were moving to Baltimore.
Through a friend who is a Patriots fan, I am attending the game this weekend in the new stadium. I’ll be wearing a raincoat.
On the night that I saw that Browns fan in Centerville, the Browns lost 43-13 to the Tennessee Titans.
And now the Browns are playing against a quarterback with six Super Bowl rings as well as against a (so far) historically great defense.
Of course I’m confident… even more than I was in 2013.
See also What’s Gonna Happen… NFL Picks + Political Satire.
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Have you ever thought about the fact that professional football damages young bodies and minds (and disproportionately young men of color) in order to allow wealthy white men to get weather? Please read my columns on the topic …