When I was a kid, the main sports I liked to watch were baseball and auto racing. When I went off to college I got really into college football and hockey. I rarely ever missed a home football game and I even went to nearby ‘away’ games against the Rockets (Tuck Foledo) and the University of Akron Zips. (I know, me traveling for entertainment purposes… shocking!)
Returning home to Cleveland after college had me missing college ball. I tried to get on board with the Browns, but they never spoke to me. I never felt any heart from them. Did they want wins? Sure. All professional athletes want that. But it never seemed like they wanted to do the work to earn those wins.
This is just my perspective, mind you. I’m not writing this to instigate a battle weaponed with quotes and statistics and highlight reels. I’m writing this because in the past 12 years that I’ve been back home in Cleveland… I never ever EVER could have predicted that I would be driving around the country, keeping track of the Cleveland Browns schedule, tuning thru my car radio AM frequencies in search of the Browns game commentary, and pinning the live score to my phone screen from the Google feed.
But, you guys. I care. I freaking CARE about The Cleveland Browns.
Never thought I’d say it but it’s happened. I can’t say its a fairweather thing though… it was well before the season started and certainly before we had a tick mark in the W column. It was over the summer. I remember hearing interviews and reading quotes from Jarvis Landry that actually got me hyped… That was new. And kind of refreshing. I remember hearing about the excitement around Baker Mayfield and for some weird reason it felt like, yeah, if they start him, this guy might last more than 3 games. But all of it… more specifically, my reactions to all of it… felt so wrong.
Was I becoming invested? Hopeful? This is not like me when it comes to Cleveland professional football. And from everything I saw friends and family suffer though in past years, hope was not a smart thing for Browns fans to possess. It was more dangerous than anything.
Dangerous. That word has new meaning this season. Baker Mayfield woke up one morning and “felt dangerous”. And I hope he continues to do so for a long time. Because bro, it is paying off.
I got back to my hotel tonight to see the offsides-call-that-never-happened because we called a timeout at the most inopportune time. The score was 17-16, Browns. We had the lead against Denver. A team we hadn’t beat since 1990. I was 8.
Any other year this would be a predictable outcome: the Browns wouldn’t be able to hold them, the Broncos would get to our 39, kick that field goal, and beat us without enough time on the clock for us to respond.
But it’s 2018. So. We held them. And then we sacked them. And then we took a victory formation and won. WE WON. Our 6th win of the season.
It’s week 15 and the Browns are playing games that matter and entertain, with results that impress and give us continued hope in Cleveland.
There’s no way to predict if we’ll make it to the playoffs. But the mere fact that we are still in contention, is phenomenal and it’s proof that this team is not the same team that’s been in our city for the past 2 decades.
These guys came to win. These guys got together and did something no other Browns teams have desired to do or even imagined was possible – they decided that turning this franchise around, for the fans, for the city, for themselves, was possible and necessary.
We are a proud town, we are a sports town, and more specifically we are a football town. And we finally have a team of players that understands that, respects that, and wants to make us proud to cheer for them again.
My Dad and I have talked about the Browns many times over the years, usually with me making snide remarks about being apathetic and not understanding the weird loyalty that so many in our hometown had to this team – a team that since 1999 seemed to be full of players that didn’t want to be here (with a few exceptions like Josh Cribbs and Joe Haden). Dad was just as frustrated with the team as any other fan and I remember him saying that if these guys would stop treating Cleveland like a pit stop in their NFL career, and instead put their heads together, they might realize that hey, they would be immortals in Cleveland history if they could just focus and start winning.
That’s this team. That’s these players. I don’t know if it will happen this year, but I do know that this feels like the first truly professional football team we’ve had in our city since the mid-90s.
I adore my hometown. Cleveland is not only THE city, but it’s MY city. I’m always proud to tell people that I’m from Cleveland, on my travels. I love this city and I want it to thrive in every possible way. I’m a lifelong Cleveland Indians fan. I’ve been a Monsters fan since 2007. I’ve been a Cavs fan since 2010. And since August of 2018, I, Shay Hazen, have been a Browns fan.
Here we go Brownies, here we go.