The Best of the Worst.
Congratulations are in order for the Cleveland Browns, who just last Thursday redeemed themselves, winning their first game since Christmas of 2016 over the New York Jets in a 21-17 win. This win ended one of the worst losing streaks in NFL history, not counting their recent tie against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Browns fans are of course ecstatic in the wake of the win, because after all, even if they were to lose every single game from here on out, nothing is worse than their previous 0 win, 16 loss season… even if it did make for a great parade.
So how does it feel to be a Cleveland Browns fan right now? More importantly, why are there even Browns fans to begin with? This is a team that has been a consistent laughing-stock since 1999, where they have since had only two winning seasons (2002 and 2007), one playoff appearance (2002), and no playoff wins. Still, despite all the facts, all the losses, all the quarterbacks (29, to be exact), Cleveland’s fans still have some fight left in them.
The question begs to be asked: what lies behind one of the least celebrated NFL teams there is? Why do people stick around for so long when there are plenty of other great teams to cheer for?
The Underdog Factor.
It’s a classic argument, but a good one nevertheless. Everyone loves an underdog, plain and simple; its a fantastic feeling to cheer for a team that is going against all odds to claim victory, and the Browns are one of the most applicable candidates for a good underdog. It’s almost humorous to realize that the reason so many cheer for the Browns is because it’s actually unlikely they’ll win, meaning that when they DO win, it’s a euphoric feeling.
Detailed in this MA thesis by Sarah L. Absten, there is a basic idea that when relating to a team, individuals begin to feel a larger sense of self, and gain the feeling that they belong to something larger than themselves. Using this idea, we can understand that if a not favoured team wins, and people feel like they have a deep connection with that organization, and a win for the team becomes a win for themselves.
We are deeply influenced by others around us, so maybe the reason you’re a Browns fan is because your grandfather was, or all your friends are. Maybe you heard the stories of “The Factory of Sadness”, a nickname for the Browns arena, and decided that you resented people who made fun of the underdog. In any case, Browns fans have stuck around through thick and thin to watch.
The Future is Bright… Again.
In a moderately surprising turn of events, the Browns, who had first pick in the 2018 Draft, took Oklahoma University QB Baker Mayfield, causing a little bit of distress in the Browns community. The Browns have had a rocky relationship with quarterbacks in the past, and many fans disagreed with the choice. Since then however, Mayfield has shown talent, replacing an injured Tyrod Taylor when the Browns were down 0-14 versus the Jets, bringing them to victory.
With this victory came a massive resurgence of faith in Browns fans everywhere, and a statement from Baker echoes this fact, ” I didn’t come here just to win one game and I didn’t come here just to start the next,” he said. “We’re building a franchise here and we’re turning it around. It’s about culture, so being that same person every day, which means finding that happy medium, never listening to the outside noise.”
Baker is absolutely correct, there is a culture around the Browns that is something out of a myth, a defeated team rising up again and again until they taste victory and ride it out. Social outlook is a massive strength for this team, and NFL teams in general, and with a new culture comes a new version of the Cleveland Browns that is ready to defy all odds, no matter what any bullies have to say.