I am in Indianapolis. I got here yesterday. As I thought about the autographed Peyton Manning jersey in the restaurant where I ate dinner last night,I couldn’t help but to reflect on my life with the Cleveland Browns. I was raised on the Browns. As a child, I slept in a Brian Sipe jersey. Every Sunday from September thru February, my family turned against one of my cousins because he cheered for the Washington Redskins. My cousin seemed like such a fool to the rest of us. How could you not cheer for our hometown team? I never grew to admire my cousin’s disloyalty, but I thought about it over the years. I don’t want my son to be like my cousin in this way, but I also don’t want him to have the Sunday heartbreak that is the weight of the Cleveland Browns fan’s legacy.
The way I look at, I didn’t have much of a choice in being a Brown’s fan. I was a third generation Clevelander with a longstanding history of my family supporting the team. My son has a little bit more room in deciding what his relationship to his hometown team will be without being the Sunday fool my cousin was because my husband and I are new to the region. As new migrants we have history in other places and commitments to other teams. I think it would be acceptable for our son to choose to follow the Miami Dolphins and the Cleveland Browns because of us. After all, my husband became a Dolphins fan in order to establish a tie to his father.
I would like to say that I was so forward thinking that I planned to have my son in a city that boasts hosting an undefeated professional football team right at a time when my son began recognizing himself in terms of the team we told him was his. I can’t claim this power. I am no Pat Summit. I read that the esteemed Tennessee Lady Vols coach was on a recruiting trip out of state when she went into labor. As the story goes, the coach refused to deliver that baby until her plane had crossed state lines into Tennessee. If this story holds true, then in addition to the Presidential Medal of Freedom that she has already earned, she deserves for every parent to pause at least once every year in order to pay homage to Pat Summit for her dedication and commitment to home place such that she suffered prolonged labor for it! Again, I am no Pat Summit. Family planning and the role of the state takes on new meaning when seen through the lens of Summit’s decision to prolong her labor. I did not plan to have my son in a city with a winning team, but my history with a team that consistently battles for a top pick in the draft informs how I will teach my son to be a fan.
Being a Cleveland Browns fan has taught me what loyalty looks like and what it requires. 1.) Loyal fans wear fan gear and decorate using their team’s paraphernalia even when the team isn’t playing well. 2.) Real fans always look for the bright side. When your team has won only two games, you need to see the upside it provides for the rebuild. The bright side exists in the future. 3.) Real fans learn to work through their emotions. You will need to craft a healthy way of handling loss. Turning off ESPN until your team wins again is one strategy but it only provides a temporary fix. 4.) Ultimately, real fans never move on from their team. Thus, you can wish Peyton well, but if you’re a Colts fan, you’ve got to stay with your team.