It's not that I have a problem with anyone rooting for the Browns. Hey, who could blame them for wanting to jump on the bandwagon of a hot team, one with a real shot at making some waves in the NFL this season and, quite possibly, for years to come?
But where were all these folks last year, when the heartbreaking losses were piling up? Where were they the year before, when Doug Pedersen was stinking up the stadium? Did they call themselves Browns fans in the team's first year back in the league, when there wasn't a whole lot to cheer for? Or during in the Dark Years, when there was no team and rumors were flying that maybe the Vikings or the Colts or the Buccaneers would move to town and become the New Browns?
Rooting for the Browns – or rooting for any team in any sport, for that matter – is a lifelong commitment. It's not something to be taken lightly. Supporting a team through the good years and the bad is sort of like being married (only you get screwed more often).
I don't care if you pull for the Raiders or the Dolphins or the Jaguars or the Rams. You don't have to join an official fan club or watch every game or buy a hat with a logo on it to count yourself as a fan of your team – anybody's free to pull for any team they like. You can even pull for more than one; it's a little weird, but there's no law against it. Heck, even the Bengals and the Lions have die-hard fans, and I can respect that.
My 6-year-old daughter announced to me one day that she was a Miami Dolphins fan. Of course, I'd have preferred that she pull for the Orange and Brown, but she's a 6-year-old girl, and 6-year-old girls think dolphins are cool, so she's a Dolphin fan, and I've got no problem with that. I am a little concerned that my 3-year-old son, who has a thing for horses, is gonna be a Cowboys fan, but I've still got time to work on him.
Pick any team you want, but remember this: Once a fan, always a fan. If you put a Browns or a Titans or a Jets bumpersticker on your new car, it had better still be there years later when you surrender the car to the junkman. If you buy a Seahawks or Saints or Patriots hat, you can't wear it the day after a victory unless you're also willing to wear it the day after a particularly humiliating loss. A true fan will renew his season tickets after a 3-13 year and hold his head high after the sixth consecutive loss.
That's why I'm urging everyone to write his or her congressman to demand a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting bandwagon jumping by fans.
I'm thinking Tom Osborne, the old Nebraska football coach who now serves in Congress, would support this one. And aren't Steve Largent and J.C. Watts still in office? Surely they'd be on our side on this one. The president used to own a baseball team, so maybe we can even count on him.
I'm not big on Big Government, but if America can have an Internal Revenue Service, it can damned well have a General Office To Ensure Athletic Mania (GOTEAM). You'd have to register yourself as a Packer or a Giant or a Charger or whatever, the way you have to declare your political party to vote in some state primaries. Anyone caught subsequently dissing his team would have Bengals stripes permanently painted on his face. You'd be free to walk out of the stadium or the sports bar or your obnoxious Steeler fan neighbor's living room after a truly awful game and bitch about the crappy defense or complain about the rookie receiver with hands of stone or publicly demand the coach's head on a platter – hey, it's still America, with free speech and all that good stuff. But you absolutely cannot say you're going to abandon your team and root for the Patriots because they won the Super Bowl. You wouldn't give away your beloved dog just because he pisses on the floor, would you?
The law would have to have a couple of loopholes – you can switch allegiances if your team moves out of town or hires Jerry Glanville as head coach, or you can quit the whole sport if they do something monumentally stupid like cancel the World Series over a labor dispute – but otherwise it would have to be ironclad.
So anybody who wants to board the Browns bandwagon, come on in. But remember what the Eagles said (that's the Joe Walsh Eagles, not the Donovan McNabb Eagles): "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."