With all the adventures of being a host for Cleveland Browns fans coming to the Twin Cities for this week’s game, I thought it might be worth a few minutes to reflect on nearly four decades of being the equivalent of an Internet sensation who gets hit in the gems with a whiffle bat sixteen (and-very-occasionally more) Sundays each year.
We all know about the heartaches that come with being a Cleveland sports fan. Just like the weather, there is a gray cloud hanging over us. Even if at halftime or the seventh inning stretch feels like 75 and sunny, we know that within the hour the dark clouds will roll in and suddenly it’ll be sleeting, and frosty chunks of our breath will fall to the earth with a hearty splat.
But Cleveland sports memories are so much more than that.
I remember- before I learned that math is the work of the devil- adding the Browns halftime score to the opponents score, and vice versa to make sure the Browns were at least tied by the end of regulation. I don’t know, even when I was little I wanted free football and unnecessary Cleveland drama.
I remember my mom insisting on vacuuming the living room during the early part of the second quarter as a “protest” related to existing gender roles about women hating football. This was, of course, after she made us hamburgers with Velveeta for the start of the game. I suspect melted Velveeta had as much impact on my childhood development as pumping lead marine gasoline as a teenager.e devil–adding the Browns halftime score to the opponents score, and vice versa to make sure the Browns were at least tied by the end of regulation. I don’t know, even when I was little I wanted free football and unnecessary Cleveland drama.
I remember lying on the couch bobbling a football during the Browns game until something (at least in fifteen to twenty intervals minutes) caused me so excited that I smacked myself in the nose with the ball, or worse, knocked over a lamp.
I remember my dad pouring a whole bag (Good God!) of Thomasson’s wavy potato chips into our giant silver bowl and me insisting on getting the biggest chip—Dad always let me take that chip and then I’d promptly bust it trying to get a massive glob of chive dip. In confirming how to properly spell Thomasson’s, I learned they were discontinued by their new owner in the last few years. Not as disappointing as say The Drive or The Shot, but it’ll get dumped into the “you can’t go home again” bin like my favorite Cleveland Heights bar if they close.
I remember walking out on the field (thanks HBO for putting a TV camera in my seat) during the inaugural Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert and thinking “all my childhood sports heroes puked, bled or puked blood on this grass” as I walked to sit behind a real life Simpsons character in a Pink Floyd shirt who HATED George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic.
I remember moving to Minnesota and getting harassed fifteen billion times because after every major event and minor non-event during a Browns game either my dad called or I called my dad.
I’ll never forget getting two phone calls from my dad during the Rancid concert and worrying the whole time there was a horrible accident only to call him afterward to learn he wanted to talk about the Trent Richardson trade for fifteen minutes. Only then in passing did he say, “Oh! By the way, your mother wanted me to tell you our cat died.”
And hopefully after this weekend is over, I’ll remember introducing my dad to Cleveland’s beloved Hanford Dixon who he surmised would be our guest only after three tries.
I’ll hopefully also remember taking him out on the Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (I still owe the head of PR at the Mall of America for my slip up at their suite during the preseason) because I’ve spent the last seven years reliving the exact same stories from other people that I have to share.
For people who don’t understand sports, they don’t get that it’s not about the result on the field. At its deepest level, it’s about human connection. It’s not about The Fumble, it’s that Earnest Byner, for better or worse, is part of our family. It’s not about The Shot, because we’d all have Craig Ehlo over for Thanksgiving dinner because we know he wouldn’t burn our house down—at least during dinner. It’s about the seven minutes and thirty seconds between phone calls my dad and I make during each Sunday’s Browns game. It’s about answering the phone with a shrug and sigh when an opponent hits a field goal, and saying “talk to you soon” before resignedly ordering another beer, because I mean it. I’ll always talk to him soon when it comes to Cleveland sports.