The last seconds ticking down on the clock that Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore were joyous. Dozens of football fanatics began barking like dogs — imitating one of the Cleveland Browns’ mascots — because their beloved Browns had just trounced the Baltimore Ravens. Packed into a corner of the stands next to the field, I was proud to be standing alongside my fellow hooligans clad in our orange, sweat-stained Browns jerseys.
Overcome with euphoria, I joined the crowd in the cheering and dog-barking as Browns players jogged off the field toward the locker room. Minutes later, we were leaving the stadium — soaking in every last second of the victory before returning to our respective homes, jobs and classes.
During the football off-season from February to August, football fanaticism is like an old favorite vinyl sitting on the shelf and gathering dust. But as soon as September hits, it’s dusted off and played on its turntable for 17 weeks straight. By February, the football fan — not bored in the least by all this repetition — sadly retires it back on the shelf as yet another season comes to a close.
However, this description of typical football fanaticism does not necessarily pertain to Browns fans. Instead of listening to a cherished album all those months, Browns fans listen to the equivalent of nails scratching on a chalkboard. Basically, being a Browns fan isn’t just crazy — it’s pure masochism.
Between 2003 and 2019, the Cleveland Browns have compiled a record of 76 wins, 185 losses and one tie alongside its grand total of zero playoff appearances. For the past decade-and-a-half, a losing football team is all I have known. Although the defeats are broken up intermittently by a victory — like the one in Baltimore — losing has become a way of life for me.
I have sat in front of the TV, cursed, bawled my eyes out and punched walls 185 times as Browns players have walked with heads hung low beneath the jeers of dissatisfied Browns fans. The rest of these Sunday afternoons are nothing short of gloomy as I contemplate what had gone wrong in yet another Browns’ defeat.
Disappointment is also paired with rage. The Zach that is normally even-tempered and reserved turns into a rabid, screaming fanatic, cursing the Browns and every sorry player who put on a Browns jersey.
Nevertheless, in the midst of my misery there is always hope as the next week passes and Sunday nears. The vinyl starts anew, and with it the unfailing hope that maybe — just maybe — this week might be different from the last. Perhaps the Browns might actually win, and I could wear my jersey the next day beaming with pride.
Being a Browns fan for the past 16 years has made me a person I do not like — I can barely handle the scarce highs and excess of emotional lows. In retrospect, a quiet hobby like sewing would have saved me hours of agita. Yet, I am forever drawn to the Browns. Like a moth to lamplight, I just can't help myself.
Admittedly, a small piece of me enjoys the passion and pain that comes with being a fanatic Cleveland Browns fan. My joy is doubled knowing that I am not alone in my absurd dedication because I have other Browns fans whom I can call family — including my brother, who became a Browns fan many years ago.
So, what is the reason for my continued support of a failure of a franchise? It’s not loyalty to the hometown team since I am not from Cleveland, and it’s definitely not due to the team’s glory years in the 1950s and 1960s. The reason I am a Browns fan is in fact so irrational that, in a way, it makes perfect sense for a fanatic to have such a reason.
It’s because of their colors — brown and orange. And that’s it. Admittedly, I was five years old when I picked the Browns to be my favorite team. And as a completely irrational sports fan, I have to stick with them as my devotion has now grown too deep to untangle myself from the team. Since I am too far gone to turn back, I will stay true to my Browns — so let that record spin.