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A Letter to Butch

<I>"We know you're doing this to motivate us. The problem is that you don't understand the problem. It isn't motivation that we need. It's freedom."</I>

A Letter for Butch


Dear Butch,


It wasn't too long ago when Browns fans were considered to be among the most passionate, most loyal, and most innovative fans in the sporting world.  Teams feared traveling to the shores of Lake Erie.  Quarterbacks spent practice after practice trying to learn the art of silent signal calling.  Coaches would blare incredibly loud and obnoxious sounds at their team in order to prepare them for what awaited them in the East endzone of the Muni. 

And this was just to prepare for a preseason game.


They knew that regardless of the level of talent of the players they would face on the field, there would never be an easy game in front of 80,000 Browns fans.  Their goal was simply to survive 4 quarters and get off that field as soon as possible.  Hopefully without needing to duck batteries and ice balls as they sprinted to the locker room.

When the Browns had home field advantage on Sundays it was truly a home field advantage.  It was something awesome to behold and would continue to inspire new fans to follow the Browns.  It was an endless cycle of fanaticism.  Or so we thought.


Then a certain owner decided to take football away from Cleveland to make a few more bucks.  The same Browns fans who intimidated 300lb defensive tackles took to the airwaves and fax machines with a passion and intensity that forced the NFL to do something to right the situation.  A battle was fought and in the end the fans won by getting professional football back to the city of Cleveland.   Through lawsuits these fans even forced the previous owner to relinquish the colors and history of the Cleveland Browns to the franchise to the city of Cleveland where they belonged.


Once Browns fans received the guarantee that we would be given an expansion team we thought our fight was over.  The war had been won.  It was time for us to rest and enjoy the fruits of our labors.

Then some things started happening that made us wonder if what were getting back was really what we'd lost.  Oh, most of us understood that the team would be new and their level of suck would be unmatched throughout the NFL.  We understood that it would take at least a few years until the Browns were once again able to compete against the best in the NFL.  Cleveland fans weren't worried.  We haven't won a major professional sport championship since 1964, so it's not like a few more years is going to break our spirit.  Plus, of course, the Tribe was bound to win a World Series soon with the talent they had on the field.


Then we got news that the ‘new' Browns would be using the latest money-grubbing scam, Personal Seat Licenses, in order to generate more revenue for our new owners.  Once again, Browns fans sacked up and forked over their hard earned dollars to buy the right to buy season tickets.  We got past the PSL nonsense and again prepared to experience the joy of Cleveland Browns football.  The coolers were cleaned out.  The grills were washed down.   Old cars were given fresh paint jobs in Brown and Orange.  Camper sales skyrocketed.


Then came the Hall of Fame game and the first time the new Cleveland Browns would take the football field and face another team.  The joy and excitement of seeing those orange helmets on the field in Canton beating the crap out of those Lone Star helmets was something to behold.  There were highlights and lowlights but in the end the Browns managed an improbable victory.  We were back.  It was almost time to remind other teams why winning in Cleveland was never easy.

No one could wait until the Browns actually got to play in Cleveland on the spot where old Muni Stadium had sat and new Cleveland Browns Stadium was getting its final touches.


That day eventually arrived with an exhibition game against the Minnesota Vikings.  But something was different.  The atmosphere had changed.   Suddenly things that seemed trivial began to grow in importance.

The stadium announcer seemed like he wasn't sure what was going on with the team.  The guy in charge of the music seemed to be competing against the crowd.  The guy running the scoreboard didn't seem to understand how to run a replay and when he did he only used 1/3 of the screen while the rest was devoted to advertising.


There were Oreo Cookie eating races.  There were more mascots than there were beer vendors.  Some idiot insisted on getting on the mike before the game and telling us the weather.  Apparently the front office thought Browns fans care about rain or snow. 

Worst of all, we received notice that banners wouldn't be allowed.  Browns fans would no longer be allowed to express themselves in time-honored fashion.  We learned that plastic dawg bones were now considered dangerous.  If we dared to wear shirts that were ‘inappropriate' ("F___ MODELL!!!") we would be asked to turn them around. 


I haven't even mentioned the absence of urinal troughs. 


If we stood up and cheered and someone behind us was annoyed, we would be asked to sit down by the ‘courtesy' staff.  If we were still too loud or refused to sit we might even be asked to leave.  And once the courtesy staff received a complaint we could be assured that they were watching us – sometimes two or three of them.


So we learned.  We learned to not try to start our own cheers because the idiot running the stadium music would just drown it out.

We learned not to stand up.  We learned not to be loud.  We learned that if we wanted to get a beer or a hot dog we damn well were gonna have to get out of our seat and get it ourselves because no one was gonna come up our aisle.


Carmen Policy and Al Lerner taught us that what was really important was a "family environment".  In their minds, the ruffians and loudmouths who lived for the Dawg Pound were not the solution – they were the problem.  We were taught to sit down, shut up, and when there's an Oreo eating contest we damn well better cheer for the kid on the left.

So, we fast forward to today.  Today you went on the national wire and belittled Browns fans.  You told the world that Steeler fans and Ravens fans were louder.  That they helped give their teams a home field advantage.  That they had a passion that you just couldn't see with Browns fans.  You embarrassed Browns fans across the nation by ridiculing us while the people who hired you are punishing us for trying to do what you ask us to do.

We know you're doing this to motivate us.  The problem is that you don't understand the problem.  It isn't motivation that we need.  It's freedom.


Your organization has lost the ability to see that they have done their best to take that advantage away from your team.  They want us to be friends with Steeler fans and Ravens fans and hug each other before games.  They want us to stop tailgating or drinking before games because we might just end up being too loud or stand up too long – or  if we are going to do it we should do it in ‘sanctioned' areas like the ‘Barking Lot' where they can make some more money off of it.


They take isolated incidents and punish all Browns fans because they don't understand what you understand – that we can help this team win. That, if they just let us be us, we can recapture some of the things that made Browns fans respected, and a little feared, throughout the NFL. 

Some of us were convinced that it would get better as the team started to win but I think it's time to be honest with ourselves.  It isn't going to get any better.  As your organization puts pressure on the city to crack down on tailgaters and tries to prevent fans from being fans it is only looking worse.


We don't have much hope left that it's going to get any better and the people who still drive hundreds of miles to start cooking eggs and drinking beer at 7:30 in the morning in a blizzard on a subzero December day could sure use some hope right around now.


You have power that we don't Butch.  You have a voice that will be heard by Carmen Policy and Al Lerner.  Convince them to lay off the fans.  Convince them to drop the mass-produced marketing crap that doesn't have anything to do with football.  Convince them to hire more vendors and less ‘courtesy' staff so we don't have to get out of our seats to get our kids a pretzel. 


Convince them to let Browns fans be Browns fans again.


We've tried, and we're losing, and because of that your team is losing what could be its greatest advantage –70,000 people screaming at the top of their lungs forcing a bum like Maddox to call a timeout or just flat-out make a bad pass. 


If you really want us to be loud try to get the promotions department to run a ‘Nickel Beer Night' instead of ‘Orange Pride Day'.  You'll be amazed at how quickly we respond to your challenge. 


I know you're busy prepping the team for another victory over the hated (and they ARE hated) Ravens but thanks for reading, Coach.   We know you're capable of taking this team to the Promised Land.  We just hope you'll help us enjoy it on the way.



PS.  Make sure you remind the team about the helmet thing. We're still not quite over that.

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