Rich's Rant: What is a Fan?

A week after stirring the sleepy off-season waters with his unique take on the Browns return, Rich Passan offers his thoughts on what it means to be a "fan". Or, rather, Rich asks, "What kind of fan are you...?"

What is a fan?

Dictionary definition: Fan, n(oun), an enthusiastic devotee or follower (short for fanatic).

Dictionary definition of fanatic: A person with an extreme uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion, politics, etc.

And the etcetera most assuredly embraces the world of sports.

Let's break that down in terms that sports and, in this case, Browns fans can relate to.

First of all, are you a fan of the Browns? Of course you are or else you wouldn't be on this site reading this.

Now that we've established that, what kind of fan are you?

Do you come equipped with extreme uncritical enthusiasm? Or are there corpuscles of criticism itching to be scratched? Checked your zeal lately?

Are you that spit-in-your-eye, never-give-up kind of follower who agonizes when the Browns don't play well? Dies a million deaths if they lose, especially when the loss comes in heart-wrenching fashion?

Or are you the kind of a fan who gets frustrated easily and says things you later regret because you got caught up in the heat of a moment?

You know like when the quarterback throws an interception at the absolutely worst time. Or when the running back rips off a 25-yarder only to fumble the ball to the opposition. Or when the cornerback drops an easy interception. Or . . .

You get the point.

So what kind of fan are you?

Do you hang in there no matter how badly the Browns are doing? Is that the most loyal kind? The cup is always half full. Half empty never entered your mind.

The Browns can do no wrong? There is always a good excuse when something goes wrong. Bad officiating, the other team was lucky, always got the lucky bounce.

Does what the Browns do on Sunday determine what your Monday will be like? They win and the spring in your step has a noticeable bounce to it. You smile more easily at your co-workers in the office, on the job. You laugh at that really dumb office joke.

They lose and it's leave me alone, not right now. I'll be all right. Just don't mess with me today. Monday becomes grouse day. Until midnight. Then it's on to next Sunday's game.

Winning slaps a wonderful salve on life. Losing makes life miserable, at least in the short term.

When the Browns lose, are you so dog-kicking angry that your loved ones remove all breakable objects within reach? Don't even think about talking to you for at least a few hours. Or at least until you cool down.

How often do you lose it when the Browns lose? Seethe in place. Or jump in the car and just get the hell out of the house as quickly as possible.

All this sound familiar?

Living and dying with this team can be ulcer-inducing if you're not careful. Especially the last six seasons.  

There are no more passionate fans in the National Football League than those who follow the Browns. It's hard to tell what brings out that passion, that raw emotion, the almost overpowering need to bare your innermost feelings.

Perhaps  it's the unfortunate three-year absence in the late 1990s that helped further strengthen the bond between this team and its fans. Without those fans and the manner in which they fought to bring the NFL to its knees in 1995, who knows what would have transpired.

And now with summer training camp set to begin in just a few weeks, it's time to summon all that zeal, all that extreme uncritical enthusiasm and channel it toward making the Browns a team worthy of supporting.

That's what fanatics do.

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