Wow. I still don’t know what to feel after that. I don’t even know exactly what I’m feeling right now. But all I know, was that was one of the best runs I’ve ever experienced as a football fan! Yes, the Cleveland Browns unfortunately lost to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Playoffs yesterday afternoon. But after having a good night’s sleep, I woke up with a big smirk on my face. When the gut punch of thinking about a disappointing loss goes away, I realize just how awesome this season was!
I remember back to when the Browns suffered their first loss of the season on opening day against the Ravens. It was a 38-6 blowout. And of course, like probably many Browns fans, I was left thinking, “Here we go again.” We’d seen this horror movie before. A coordinator from another team is hired to become a head coach in Cleveland, and we have a new General Manager as well. Just the normal beginning to another brutal year, right?
Wrong. Dead wrong. I don’t know how Coach Kevin Stefanski got the guys to buy in so quickly. Especially with no preseason and really no time to prepare in a normal way for the regular season. But after that loss, the Browns steadily started to climb up the ladder. They learned how to finish games and put winning streaks together, no matter who they were playing. At two separate times this season, they built four-game winning streaks. One to get themselves rolling early on, and the other to put themselves into prime position to make the Playoffs late in the year!
They started morphing into a stout, respectable team before my eyes after every week whether they won or lost. They improved and got better, which is the mark of a good football team. For so many years, the Browns were the team everyone in the league circled on their calendars as a guaranteed win. Not anymore. This bunch of Browns took their cue from the 1980’s teams in how they approached things, which was: No matter who wins, we’re gonna give you our absolute best shot and make you hurt in the morning if you do beat us. You’re going to sweat it out and earn it.
That attitude led to the first winning season since 2007, the most wins since 1994, and the first playoff win since January 1995. It was an absolute thrill ride! Cedar Point might know roller coasters, but even they couldn’t build one as crazy as this Browns season! This year had it all. A steady climb early on with that first winning streak, a brutal 38-7 loss to the Steelers to bring us back to reality, another winning streak with a surprising win over a very good Titans team that had us peaking at 9-3, a wild back and forth Monday Night Football loss against the Ravens in Cleveland, and then dealing with Coronavirus and injuries down the stretch. And wouldn’t you know it, clinching the first playoff spot in 18 years on the last day of the season!
And of course, there was the biggest high for a Browns fan other than eventually winning the Super Bowl: Knocking the Steelers out of the Playoffs on their own turf. Folks, the saltiness was real and absolutely hilarious. Even if I drank a mouthful of straight seawater somewhere, there STILL wouldn’t be enough salt compared to how much the Steelers and their fans had after the Browns sent them packing. They’ve been so used to kicking the Browns around for the past two decades. Like a bully kicking a wounded, emaciated dog. Except this time, the dog finally had enough, got angry, bit the bully several times and chased the bully as he ran for the hills!
Even though the loss to the Chiefs ended their season, the future is brighter for the Browns than it has been in probably at least 25-30 years. This will be the longest offseason wait of my life!
What makes a Browns fan?
By this point some of you might be saying, “Goodness! It’s just a game. He’s crazy!” You might be right on the crazy part. And it is just a game. But I think part of the reason why I pour so much passion and love into being a Browns fan, is because of my condition. I never got the chance to play football thanks to Cerebral Palsy. I never had the chance to play any football beyond peewee football when I was a boy, and similar in size to most of the other kids. I’ve always wished I had been able-bodied, so I could’ve played safety on defense. I would’ve smacked the hell out of some poor receiver catching a pass over the middle, and then helped him up after doing it.
Along with my condition, add a fiery, emotional, passionate personality to the mix, and there’s another ingredient that makes a Browns fan. I have always tried to live my life passionately. Whether it’s by fully loving God and those who matter to me with every ounce of my being, working hard toward personal goals, pouring myself into things that I love and enjoy, or keeping a positive attitude, I have always tried to live life to the fullest. Sometimes if I’m lucky, that passion and positivity rubs off on others. So it’s no surprise that being a Browns fan is a perfect fit for me.
Browns fans wear their hearts on their sleeve. They see themselves and their city as underdogs, having to scratch, claw and fight for success. They love the team passionately and expect that love to be returned with hard-nosed competitiveness, blue-collar effort, and a win on Sunday if it’s in the cards.
All of these qualities are also personal qualities that I see in myself. I have always worn my heart on my sleeve. Everybody knows where they stand with me. I’ve always been an underdog. My life seems to have gone slower than most people’s, and I reach my goals later after having to try harder, but I always get there. And I love people and life passionately. If I can find people in life who are on my level, and they understand these things, I feel right at home with them. I belong with them. When it comes to football, I belong as a Cleveland Browns fan!
Kevin Stefanski, Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Jarvis Landry and the rest of the Browns personified Cleveland and underdogs everywhere this year: They never gave up even when things weren’t going their way. They rolled up their sleeves and worked hard. They took the punches of a tough season, and bounced back and gave plenty counterpunches of their own. And at the end of the day, they surprised many people. Myself included!
See you next season, boys! Thanks for bringing so many people so much joy on Sundays this year! GO BROWNS!