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A Cleveland Browns Fan's Lament

Picture Of Cleveland Browns

One Great Season

Why are you a Cleveland Browns fan?

It's a question asked of me seemingly every Sunday I spend with friends.

There is a reason you can't vote until you're 18. There's a reason you can't drink until you're 21. There's is a reason we don't choose our life partners until we're in our 20s and 30s.

Young people make dumb decisions. Fortunately, most aren't allowed to make choices that will haunt them throughout the remainder of their lives.

Unfortunately, I did make a poor, poor decision as a child. I chose to be a Cleveland Browns fan.

Louisville, Ky., is a melting pot of NFL allegiance. Folks around here root for the Colts, Bengals, Cowboys and Steelers. But, as a young boy, I chose to hang in my bedroom a life-size poster of a curly-mullet-headed Bernie Kosar in a polyester track suit. Why did I become a Cleveland Browns fan? Because when you're a kid, allegiances are bought. My aunt from Ravenna, Ohio, sent me Browns' swag all the time. It's that simple.

Here's what I traded for a few winter caps, a couple of T-shirts and the occasional poster:

+ The Drive
+ The Fumble
+ Art Modell
+ 2 playoff appearances in the last 20 years

It's almost mind-numbing when you think of it. With the NFL structured as it is today to ensure competitiveness and some sense of parity, the incompetence of Browns football really defies all odds and logic. Yet, the numbers are inescapable. Since the Browns began playing again in 1999 (because part of being a Browns fan was not having a team to watch for three seasons), they've amassed a miserable 64-127 record. That includes one playoff appearance, 10 losing seasons, and nine seasons with double-digit losses. Salt in the wound: The former Browns (now the Ravens) are 111-80 and have a Super Bowl title.

Of course the embarrassment on the field is only matched by that off it and in the front office. There was the Phil Savage debacle; the handling of the staph infection scenario; Braylon Edwards; Kellen Winslow as Evil Kenevil; and, the Draft (1999-2008). It's a direct reflection of the shambolic ownership that has plagued this franchise. Randy Lerner has proven he has no idea how to run a sports team. And, I've proven I cannot choose a good sports team to follow.

Summer 2006. After years of following soccer, I decide I must choose an English club to support. Refusing to give into the American tendency to follow only big clubs with tons of money who win all the time (Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal), I decide to follow a club with a good history, a good following in a blue-collar town — Aston Villa. Not being from England, I desperately search for a personal tie. Somehow, despite all prior evidence, I choose Villa based on the man rumored to be the next owner, none other than the man who takes the Browns to the Super Bowl, figuratively, year after year: Randy Lerner. Amazingly, thanks to a smart hire of soccer great Martin O'Neill as manager, the team ascends from bottom-dweller to Champions League contender in short order.

But, the team was built on a horrible salary structure, and in a time when wise spending is a must to compete in soccer, Lerner demands the dumping of wages. O'Neill leaves the team five days before the beginning of this season because of it, and the team now faces the possibility of being relegated to a lesser league. On the cusp of greatness, Lerner refuses to spend a few more dollars and sinks the future of the club.

Why are you an Aston Villa fan?

I continue to say I will be an Aston Villa supporter until I die. I expect Lerner to be forced out in a relatively short time. However, I am on the verge of renouncing my Browns fandom, and am willing to support no NFL team.

Another double-digit loss season this year. Probably another newly doomed coach next. And, decades of heartache to follow.

I still love my aunt, but even I'm wondering, why am I a Browns fan?

Ben Jackey is an Emmy Award-winning former television reporter. Click here for his bio and an archive of his previous OGS stories.

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