“I am a diehard Cleveland Browns fan.” That is a statement that is usually followed by condolences or jeers, but neither deter me.
You see, I was born and raised in Cuyahoga County amongst the pot holes, lake effect snow, and humidity. I cut my teeth as a fan during the Kardiac Kids days – during The Fumble, The Drive, and even The Move. I have cheered through 20 plus starting “franchise” quarterbacks since our Return. Yes, I am committed.
The first NFL game that I ever attended was a home playoff game against the then Houston Oilers. We lost the game after a controversial replay overturned what would have been a victorious defensive touchdown by Clay Matthews. It was the Christmas Eve that Santa forgot to show up.
I still remember that game. My dad and I sat in the Dawg Pound, the original Dawg Pound, amidst batteries, snowballs, and dog biscuits – each hurled with glee and disappointment. I remember watching despite the whipping winds that launched off the shore of Lake Erie and enveloped the entire crowd in a bitter cold.
It was freezing, but I loved it.
That experience cemented my allegiance to the Brown and Orange. No other team has ever come close to procuring my affinity. Kosar, Newsome, Matthews, Dixon, Minnefield, Slaughter, Mack, and yes even Byner were my gladiators.
The 80’s and 90’s were some great years – until our owner moved the team to Baltimore and they won the Super Bowl that should have rightfully been ours.
A strange thing happened during that time: I was attending college in Pennsylvania. More specifically, in the shadows of Cleveland’s most despised rival. I had an opportunity to change my colors. I had an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon. But even in the absence of my team, I couldn’t do it.
I stayed loyal.
And when my team returned and took a 49 point shellacking on national tv in 1999 – I stayed loyal.
Cleveland is my team, and always will be. I know the taunts of Steeler Nation. I know the barbs that they throw (and I get the barbs a lot because a lot of my college friends are Steelers fans), yet somehow they are meaningless. Yes, I know of the 6 rings. Yes, I know of the Steel curtain. Still somehow, I believe that Cleveland fans still win the smacktalk game. Crazy thought? Maybe not.
Worst Steelers’ loss, to date, came at the hands of the Browns – 51 points. The rivalry dates back to 1950, but the Steeler’s didn’t win the first game of the rivalry until 1954. And despite the recent slide (which heavily favors Pittsburgh) the series didn’t shift in favor of Pittsburgh until 2005 – other than the 70’s Cleveland dominated the matchup between the two teams…until the return in 1999.
Let’s get a little more personal. One of the greatest Steelers of all time, Jack Lambert, is from Ohio, went to Kent State. QB Rothlesberger and LB Harrison are also from Ohio. Two of the three Super Bowl winning coaches, Knoll and Cowher, were both former Browns players.
What’s my point? The pendulum swings. The Browns were an elite team and will be again, and within all the success that Pittsburgh has had? There’s Brown and Orange all over it.
The truth of the matter is that I don’t play a single down. Neither do my Steeler friends. However, we have a great deal of fun talking smack back and forth. The Smack Zone blog is all about sports rivalries and apparel for those rivalries. They allow fans to talk as much smack as they receive. Since 1998, Smack Apparel has been there for passionate sports fans (note: not the casual fan) with the tagline “Don’t Just Talk the Talk – Wear It”.
I’m giving you the opportunity to win a free “virtual gift card” for a t-shirt of your choosing from Smack Apparel (this includes shipping and handling). Simply leave me the name of your favorite NFL team and your most despised rival in the comments of this post (keep the language G rated:). Contest ends Friday evening (9/4) at 11:59 PM.
Oh, and be sure to join the Smack Apparel Twitter Party on September 8th from 8-9 pm EST. Follow @smackapparel and look for the hashtag, #SmackZone. Prizes for the Twitter party: three $25 virtual gift cards to order Smack Apparel products; one $100 virtual gift card to order Smack Apparel products.
I have partnered with Smack Apparel to celebrate the return of football season and the launch of the new Smack Zone blog. Though I was compensated, my words and thoughts are my own.