Browns inspire coping mechanism: Free agency for fansWritten by Ryan Fowler | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a confession to make.
From 1996-99, I had an affair. It was stupid, it was immature and it was a mistake. But give me a break, I was only 15 years old.
I had no other choice in the matter. My significant other had moved on and so to did my loyalty. Some 10 years later, this act of infidelity is on my mind again.
When Art Modell ripped the heart out of Cleveland and moved the Browns under cover of darkness following the 1995 season, my fanhood was tested. I was not strong.
Not knowing when the Dawgs would get their pound back, I buckled and cheated on my hometown team.
At first it was fun to seek out a new companion. So, during football’s hiatus, I turned to the New England Patriots. Now, this wasn’t the Pats we know today. There was no Brady and there was no “hoodie.” Drew Bledsoe (we hardly knew you) was the quarterback and the red, white and blue had replaced the white, brown and orange.
I was the Elliott Spitzer of fans and the Patriots were my fling.
When the Browns made their triumphant return to Cleveland in 1999, I ended the affair. My Pats jersey with Bledsoe strewn across the back found its way into a box in the attic. The honeymoon period between the Browns and I was enjoyable that first year back. The new stadium, new coach and a fresh start were intoxicating.
A decade later, the honeymoon is over and I am left with the same ol’ Browns. The team, the players, the coaches and the organization have left me feeling empty inside. They take more than they give. Sure they teased us in 2003 with a brief one and out in the AFC Playoffs. But I want more. Cleveland wants more. We deserve more.
So that leads me to this question: When is it acceptable for fans to file for free agency?
The players are eligible. They aren’t handcuffed to one team their entire career. And who is to question your fanhood when the spark just isn’t there anymore?
Detroit Lions fans can relate enduing a 19-game losing streak, decades of underachieving and the lack of an identity. Nobody would fault you if a franchise that promotes winning attracted you to switch sides. You deserve better.
I’m aware of several cases where the practice of rooting against the hometown team is accepted.
The prime examples are people from Ohio rooting for the Wolverines even though they’ve never stepped foot in Ann Arbor and Michigan residents chanting OH-IO on Saturday mornings in the fall.
In baseball, the New York Yankees fan base is worldwide, even though more than half of those who bleed pinstripes couldn’t locate the Bronx on a map.
The Dallas Cowboys are America’s team and sooner, rather than later, they may become my team.
I’m open to fanatic free agency.
The Browns are leaving me few choices as I contemplate my next move. Since I was old enough to chant “Here we go Brownies, here we go!” I’ve been by their side.
But after the first three games this season and all signs pointing to digression instead of progression, this may be the time to go our separate ways.
Their offense is predictable. Their defense is Swiss cheese city. Their head coach has the persona of a beaten man who has led this lifeless team for an entire season, not 12 quarters of football.
The Browns have had ample time to build a franchise from the ground up.
Ten years should be sufficient time to acquire key players and create a foundation to build upon. But what the Browns build up, they tear down and build up and tear down.
This vicious cycle is depressing.
But can I do it?
Can I root for a professional football team not from Cleveland?
Is free agency for me?
Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko’s wife Masha’s view on monogamy may lead me to the answer.
Once a year, Masha allows her husband to test “free agency” with other women.
Perhaps polygamy is the way to go come Browns’ season because the saying “cheaters never prosper” is completely true, especially if you are a Browns fan.
Ryan Fowler is the weekend sports anchor at NBC 24 and can be reached at email@example.com.