The last time the Cleveland Browns were legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl, UJ and I had season tickets.
We sat in the upper deck of old Cleveland Municipal Stadium during the late ’80s and early ’90s. We watched as the Denver Broncos and John Elway — may he rot forever in hell — broke our hearts with The Drive, and the next year we watched the great team that eventually fell, again, to Denver thanks to The Fumble. (It’s all part of the immense burden of failure lugged around by Cleveland sports fans, most recently recounted by this piece in the New York Times.) It was fun going to the games and great to watch good football, but eventually we gave up our tickets as the Browns jacked up prices and other obligations intervened.
But now Russell will be returning to the Midwest. He loves the Browns, and from the Cranbrook campus in the suburban Detroit area he’ll be within a reasonable drive from Cleveland. So, we talked about it during Russell’s Mother’s Day visit, and we decided to pull the trigger. Once again, I’ll be a season ticket holder, taking in the NFL in all its spectacle and wretched excess with Russell as we watch from our seats in Section 536 of Cleveland Browns Stadium.
I don’t think the Browns will be very good this year, but you never know . . . and sometimes you just have to put your money where your mouth is. This season, we’re betting on the Browns.
Stadium mustard is the best mustard there is — thick and and brown and spicy, with a nice little kick — and it tastes even better in a stadium. Today, Russell and I were up in ice-cold Cleveland Browns Stadium to watch the Browns take on the Steelers, and we had to get some stadium dogs and some crinkle cut fries. The $9.50 price tag put a dent in the wallet, but we were there to root on the Brownies and you just have to eat a dog before you can root for the Dawgs.
As good as the Stadium mustard was, the game itself was even better. The Browns beat the Steelers for the first time since 2009 and one of the few times since Cleveland came back into the NFL in 1999. It was a tough, hard-hitting game in which the Browns forced 8 turnovers, the rhythm of the game was destroyed by constant penalties, and the Browns offense was unable to put the game away despite repeated opportunities. Still, a win is a win is a win, and lately any win over the Steelers is a win worth savoring — with a little mustard, of course.
Today the Cleveland Browns play the Miami Dolphins in Cleveland Browns Stadium. The Browns are trying to get to 2-1 and a record above .500 for the first time in a very long time. Equally important, the Browns are trying to win at home and establish the kind of home field advantage that other NFL teams routinely enjoy.
Since their return to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have been awful at home. In the 1999 season, they went 0-8 at Cleveland Browns Stadium, and that has set the tone. Overall, the Browns have been 34-63 at home, a record that includes this year’s initial loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Browns have had exactly one season where they had a winning record at home: in 2007 they were 7-1 at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Otherwise, the record is one of pathetic futility and the dashed hopes of countless Browns fans.
This should not be the case. The Browns have among the most rabid fans in the NFL. The Dawg Pound is a legendary collection of face-painting, costume-wearing screamers and brawlers who can make a lot of noise and hurl a lot of verbal invective and intimidation at opposing players. It’s time for the Browns and their fans to make Cleveland Browns Stadium one of the toughest venues in the NFL — one that opposing players and coaches dread to visit and are happy to leave.
Today’s game against the Dolphins, who are 0-2, would be a good place to start.