Fan View: Behind the Steel Curtain

There is a hell specially made for Cleveland Browns fans. It's called Pittsburgh. Our old friend Mike from Pittsburgh explains how to survive the dark and blasted landscape...

Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Buck Owens & Roy Clark

Remember that old song from Hee-Haw? Maybe, if you're over 45. I can't seem to get it out of my mind lately. I think it should be the new Browns fight song.

Anyway, it's Super Bowl time again in the Burgh. For a Browns fan, it's two weeks of living hell. It's bad enough that the Browns are so bad, but with the Steelers in it again, salt has been inserted directly into the wound.

The city is all a-quiver for the big game. Mounds of terrible towels stand ready for purchase on every counter, of every quick-stop, on every corner of this city. Everyone is dressed in the new Steeler garb they got for Christmas.

But, let's face it, every football Sunday in Yinzerville is like Christmas. Fans wake up breathless and full of anticipation, wondering what gifts the football gods will bring today. Yinzerville is kinda like Disneyland except that Mickey and Minnie wear Steeler shirts, Goofy urinates on all the towels, the seven dwarfs run a pierogi cart outside Hines field, and Donald Duck stumbles around Liberty Avenue stinking of Iron City Beer while fondling himself and quacking about the refs.

Browns fans, on the other hand, wake up on football Sundays in what feels like a Turkish prison. Our only anticipation is what form of torture is on the schedule. Will the Browns play defense and be unable to score? Will they score at will but be unable to play defense? Will they be shut-out while giving up another record-breaking performance to a third string fill-in the blank? Will they do everything right and then let one errant pass or handoff lead to defeat? So many possibilities! But we have 16 weeks, and we'll see each and every one of them - at least twice.

I can't think of a fan base that deserves a champion more than Cleveland - Detroit included. On the other hand, I can't think of one that deserves one less than Pittsburgh, except maybe fans of the New York Yankees.

Entitled is one adjective I can think of to describe a Steelers fan. Let's try some more: smug, condescending, cocky, coddled, and often clueless about football tradition.

Many think that the NFL started in 1965 with the advent of the Super Bowl. I asked one of them why they call Green Bay title town. He replied that the Packers won a few championships in that league that was there before the NFL started.

It's the sports world's biggest bandwagon and it rolls on and on and on. Every time I drive through NE Ohio, I see more and more buckeyes jumping on, and I hope they all go to hell.

While we watch our team set new standards for incompetence, Steeler fans marinate in a mixture of perpetual bliss and righteous entitlement. They live a charmed existence that started with the immaculate reception. They think it's normal to be in the playoffs every year. When the chips are down their team makes the catch, covers their assignment, see's their opponent penalized, or watches Roethlisberger, on fourth and 52, throw a 60 yard pinpoint pass with three defenders hanging on him to an unexplainably wide open Hines Ward

Football doesn't pay the bills, but it is a great distraction from life's tribulations. I've seen first hand what it does for this city.

The Rooney's have built a culture of winning. They have the best talent evaluation system in the league. That system goes beyond the starting lineup and accounts for a deep bench with eager, passionate subs. Players and coaches come and go, yet the system lives on. Even the utility players play above their heads. We've seen it year after year. Average/mediocre players put on the Steeler uniform and turn into gangbusters (see Mewelde Moore).

On the other hand, the Lerner's have built a culture of losing. Incredibly talented athletes find a way to play below the level of competition. They have their moments, but when the chips are down, they drop the pass, get penalized, or miss their assignment. It seems somebody is always out of position at the most crucial times. They find a way to lose, where the Steelers find a way to win.

When a Browns fan watches a game they're asking themselves: "how are we going to blow this one". Whereas a Steeler fan is anticipating something good will happen. Both are rarely disappointed.

I think this culture has permeated both franchises. You could probably send all the Browns players down to Pittsburgh and Tomlin would find a way to win the Super Bowl with them. As a Steeler, Braylon Edwards would turn into a great possession receiver and Kameron Wimbley would be tearing the heads off of quarterbacks. Everybody would block and tackle. Conversely, if Ben Roethlisberger was playing for the Browns he probably would have died in a motorcycle accident by now, or at least have torn a patella tendon.

Incredibly enough, Steeler fans actually think they know more about football than Browns fans. Every Monday one or two of them at work seeks me out to let me know why the Browns lost the previous day. "You know it's that number 17 that's killing you". Or, "I don't think that coach of yours knows what he's doing".

Gee, thanks guys. Here I was thinking that coach Crennels' name would replace Lombardi on the NFL trophy.

Of course I'm jealous. You wouldn't be if the tables were turned? Maybe jealousy isn't a strong enough word to describe my feelings. I'm from a state that adores football, from the part of that state where football was born. How long does this have to go on? What have we done to deserve it? If wishing and hoping won games, then the Browns would go undefeated for the next 20 years and Steeler nation would get to go through our past twenty.

Try losing your team and then have to watch them go all the way.

Anyway, for those of you Browns fans living through your first Super Bowl in Pittsburgh here's a few tips to get through it:

  • Smile and silently swear a plague on anyone who says Go Steelers!

  • Get used to black icing on everything.

  • Try to guess how many kids will be named Ben in 2009.

  • Learn to appreciate polka.

  • Teach a yinzer the difference between the colors yellow and gold. Yellow is color you make when you write your name in the snow - or the color of the Steelers pants, and gold is the color of that big shinny building on the Parkway West.

  • Stay in touch with the world by avoiding any local media reports. A black man could be inaugurated President and it wouldn't make the front page of the newspaper or the lead story on T.V.

  • Plan all of your shopping for February 1st. The lines will be short.

  • When asked if you're psyched for the game, say "no I'll be in the hospital all day", they'll usually respond "Oh, that's too bad, you'll miss a hell of a game"

  • Avoid Sportscenter and ESPN - unless you have a quick remote finger.

  • Beware of 65 year old hunkie ladies in tights and Troy Polamalu shirts.

  • Practice the proper pronunciation of the word Stiller.

  • Drink heavily and often

Just realize Steeler fans, how blessed you are. This will not go on for ever.

Our day will eventually come. I just wonder if I'll still care when it does.

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