In light of today’s 20–10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, which, combined with a fortuitous Chargers loss to Kansas City, enabled that city’s stolen team to cruise once again to the playoffs, it’s high time we all confront the absurd reality of being a Browns fan.
Let’s get philosophical for a second, rather than wasting our time delving into injured defenses, third string quarterbacks, or partying rookies with the decision-making capabilities of beer-addled college freshmen. We’ve had 15 years to talk about those sort of things, and nothing ever changes.
Let’s stare into the darkness together. The agony is a given, what’s interesting is the search for meaning in our pain.
Obviously, in this sort of situation, we should turn to tens of thousands of years of mankind’s greatest thinkers and philosophers. Because it’s self-evident that I don’t qualify.
The first step, clearly, is to look to mankind’s major religions to try to understand what it means to be a Cleveland Browns fan. Unfortunately, I find little written about being a Browns fan in my Judeo-Christian heritage outside of the ridiculously applicable Book of Job. Which might work as a template.
The notion that we are facing down the wrath of a vengeful God with an inexplicable focus on one fan group has some appeal, particularly if it’s the result of a bet with one of Satan’s minor demons, say, Art Modell.
But, I frankly tend to prefer my God to be more of the New Testament’s creator, less the sort of Type-A God who micro-manages Josh Gordon into deciding that Saturday walk-throughs aren’t a big deal. So, I’m not necessarily thinking that we’re in midst of Book of Job 2: The Slappening.
Moving on, the Buddhist notion of karma isn’t applicable here, whatsoever, unless we’re all somehow due to be reborn as Patriots fans. I don’t know enough about other religions to find anything there, but I figured I would have heard about it if they said anything about being a Browns fan.
Turning to philosophy, I painstakingly examined most of mankind’s great thinkers. For instance, a Google search for “Socrates” and “Cleveland Browns” didn’t turn up anything helpful, nor did Neitzche, although that “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” claim of his would have us all able to lift semis with our less-dominant hand by now.
It wasn’t until I read about the philosophy of existentialism that I found a set of beliefs which matched my innate sense of what it means to be a Browns fan.
Existentialism, in my limited understanding, is based somewhat on the notion that we are what we do, based on our reaction to the absurdity that life presents. To quote from the foremost authority on anything that I have to look up, Wikipedia:
The notion of the Absurd contains the idea that there is no meaning in the world beyond what meaning we give it. This meaninglessness also encompasses the amorality or “unfairness” of the world. This contrasts with the notion that “bad things don’t happen to good people”; to the world, metaphorically speaking, there is no such thing as a good person or a bad person; what happens happens, and it may just as well happen to a “good” person as to a “bad” person.
Because of the world’s absurdity, at any point in time, anything can happen to anyone, and a tragic event could plummet someone into direct confrontation with the Absurd.
That is freaking it! Right there.
Whether you’re a good person or a bad person, the very act of being a Browns fan puts you on a collision course with the Absurd. But it’s how you react to it that defines who you are. This is the meaning of being a Browns fan.
Therefore, I choose to look on being a Browns fan as a test. If confronted by the Absurd, if I can continue to be a good person and face it down with humor and good-natured use of hard liquor to dull the pain, then I’ve essentially become who I want to be. Others may chose to react by fighting back in some way, or by rejecting their own core natures as Brown fans. That defines who they are. Being a Browns fan gives one a chance to create oneself and define who they are independent of their past and their heritage. Whoa.
I can’t wish myself to be a fan of a winning Browns team - I don’t control that and it would not be authentic - but I can control how I react to year after year of losing.
I choose to react by hosting a website dedicated to the Cleveland Browns for most of my adult life.
So now we know two things:
The act of being a Browns fan my be best expressed by expressed by existential philosophers like Kirkegaarde, and,
I am hopelessly, irredeemably, unfortunately, and almost morbidly stupid.
God help us all.
Those compelled by unseen and powerful forces can follow Barry McBride on Twitter at @BarryMcBride or can write to him at barrymcbride at gmail dot com.