In 1979 I decided to "root for those guys in the orange helmets" and in spite of a lot of ups and downs (ok, more downs than ups) I haven't regretted my decision. There is no other team I can be a fan of. Even when I didn't have a team for three years I couldn't throw my loyalty behind any other franchise. I simply wasn't an NFL fan during that period without Browns football.
As we prepare to watch a Browns/Bills game with playoff implications it got me to wondering how many seasons I've been able to witness December games that matter during my tenure as a Browns fan. Not many.
For some franchises like the (yuck) Steelers its nearly an annual ritual. Lately, of course, teams like the Patriots and Colts make games count for their fans late into January. I guess that's why I cut those fans ZERO SLACK when they boo their teams at any time. If you've been treated to late season games that matter on a regular basis - plus a Super Bowl victory or two - you need to shut up and count your blessings.
Since the rebirth what have we looked forward to in December? Outside of 2002, the Browns were way out of it by this time of year. In fact, you usually knew by mid-October that the season was going south. I guess you could argue the 2001 squad provided some thrills and glimmers of hope with the 7-9 record, but did you really take playoff chances seriously back then?
Looking even further back the 1995 team was bad and Cleveland wasn't active in 1996, 1997 and 1998.
That means that from 1995 through 2007 Browns fans have been treated to three seasons where football mattered in December and one of those is in question. 2001 (maybe), 2002 and now.
To me, that makes tomorrow extra special.
A cold weather rival with playoff aspirations of their own arrives at Cleveland Browns Stadium on what looks to be a snowy Sunday in Cleveland, with tens of thousands of screaming Dawgs ready to cheer the hometown team to a possible playoff berth.
How can you beat that? True fans of the franchise deserve it.
You counted the days until football would return to Cleveland, watched every game since the return, endured countless tauntings by other NFL fans (especially Steeler fans) who never missed a chance to tell you how bad your favorite team is, suffered through the helmet toss, Courtney Brown's multitude of injuries, Tim Couch's crying, "Big Money's" empty promises, Dwight Clark's bad draft picks, Butch Davis' anxiety attack and "resignation", Bottlegate, Dennis Northcutt's butterfingers in Pittsburgh, 40 point beatings where the game was over by halfway through the first quarter, Carmen Policy's spinning, William Green's domestic problems, wasted picks of round two wide receivers who couldn't catch, first-day running backs who couldn't run, high quarterback picks who couldn't throw, a joke of an offensive line until 2007, no pro bowlers for years... and still you have been loyal to this team.
The only team you can root for.
The only team I can root for.
For a rare moment, we who have stuck with the team through all the lean times are treated to a game that matters on December 16th, 2007.
I am definitely going to enjoy it. We deserve to have many more seasons like this one and if we do I can guarantee you one thing:
You'll never hear me boo.