Sometimes after Browns games, which have ended in losses 71.4 percent of the time this season, my friends and I question why it is exactly that we continue to support a team that, well, generally loses 71.4 percent of its games each year.
Personally, I blame my great-grandparents, or whoever it was that decided to settle in this beautiful swath of land known as Cleveland all those years ago. Geography, I say, plays the largest factor - no matter how much the Browns, Indians or Cavs suck, my pride in the city of Cleveland overrides all other factors.
One day, we mused as to what it would be like to root for teams in other cities. Who would we pick to pour our hearts and souls into? Whose website would we be checking every day for the latest free agent news, trade rumors or draft buzz? What fans would we associate most closely with?
Well, no need to fear, "Jack City" readers, for here is a guide into what life would be like on the other side! I've compiled a list of some geographically-local (to Cleveland) cities that support professional franchises who could be rooted for, if Cleveland had none. No college teams here, either. Enter...if you dare...
If I were...
A Cincinnati sports fan: Hoo-boy. Where to start? Well, if I were a football fan, I would have disowned my team for the better part of a decade. Then, when years of top draft picks finally pan out, I would start to have some interest in them again. In the case of the 2006 season, I would be a hardcore fan for the first few weeks, then hide in a closet during a mid-season losing streak and re-emerge after a recent stretch of good play. After Monday's loss against the Colts, who knows how I would feel. Since I'm under the age of 25, I'll have no appreciation for players such as Harold Green, Ken Riley, Carl Pickens or Darnay Scott who graced the uniform in the past. I do love Boomer, though.
The mayor of the city has also ordered all women and children off the streets when the Bengals aren't at practice or playing games, for fear of their safety. Eight players arrested, including one (Chris Henry) four times just himself, since last December? Those DUI's are just harmless fun, that's all. Our fine, upstanding young men have set a positive influence for the children of southwest Ohio and Kentucky. That's why the commissioner has talked to our team twice this year, right?
When baseball season rolls around, I can root for a team that's recently wasted the career of one of the best shortstops of all-time (Barry Larkin) and seen the transformation of one of the all-time best centerfielders (Ken Griffey, Jr.) into a player who has roughly the same durability as my grandmother. But at least we have Bronson Arroyo as our staff ace!
And during the winter, I can hold onto a composite-leather basketball in my driveway and try to impersonate the moves of Oscar Robertson or any of the other all-time great Cincy basketball players, past and present. Wait, the team moved out how long ago? No pro basketball now? That's so depressing, I'll do my best Deltha O'Neal impression (he's my hero, what a class guy) and pound a few cold ones before hitting the road.
If I were...
A Pittsburgh sports fan: I can be as arrogant as I want, because our team has five Super Bowl rings. Never mind that all of our players from those 70's teams are dying from complications of steroid abuse, broke and penniless, damnit, because we "just got one for the thumb!" Hell, right now we're the "best 7-7 team ever." We can finish every season 6-10 but it'll be all right because we're still the best team in the NFL. To paraphrase legendary philosopher Ricky Bobby, our team wakes up every morning and pisses excellence.
We also have a real nice baseball stadium, but sadly our team hasn't been relevant since about 1990. Now that I think about it, our star player from those past teams (Barry Bonds) probably scored his steroids from our former offensive linemen. So generous of them. I don't know about you, though, but I'm excited for the Freddy Sanchez era, and we have a Canadian (Jason Bay) who doesn't play hockey!
We don't have pro basketball, either. James Naismith didn't make it out to this part of the country, I guess. For now we have a hockey team, but no one wants to own it unless they can move it away from here.
If I were...
A Detroit sports fan: Things are going pretty well for us, actually. We have an exciting young baseball team that just lost the World Series against the heavily-underdogged St. Louis Cardinals, in which our star relief pitcher (Joel Zumaya) may have limited himself because of arm injuries sustained while playing "Guitar Hero." I wish I could make this stuff up.
Our basketball team has had a pretty nice run of success, too. Our hard-nosed style of play makes me proud of the way we play - now, can we just do something about Rasheed Wallace's bald spot? And his anger management program?
As for the football team, well...yeah, let's just move on to the next city.
If I were...
An Indianapolis sports fan: As my roommate Dan pointed out, it must be great to be a Colts fan. "It's 10 wins a year, guaranteed," he said. You know what, Dan? You're right. It is great being a Colts fan right now. Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison are a better combination than peanut butter and jelly. Dwight Freeney is an absolute monster. And if Nick Harper hadn't been stabbed in the leg last year by his wife before that AFC Championship game against the Steelers, he would have outrun Ben "Sloth"-lisberger to the end zone. But you know what? It's OK, because we know we're going to the playoffs every year that Manning is around - one of these times we'll break through to the Super Bowl.
Our basketball team has also been a model of consistency for quite some time, save for some bumps-in-the-road with Ron Artest. That brawl a few years back was a bit of a black eye for the organization, but you'll have those. If only Reggie Miller hadn't retired...we need to bring him, Rik Smits and Chris Mullin back.
If I were...
A Columbus sports fan: Umm...when does that Ohio State game kickoff???
So there you have it, Cleveland-residents. Now that you are more informed about the situation, go out and wisely choose another fan-base to join, should the Cavs, Indians and Browns ever leave us.
On a side note, this led to me thinking about what I did between 1996 and 1999, with no Browns around. Young, lost and confused, I had a smorgasboard of football teams catching my fancy - I still have an old Cowboys pillow and a Dolphins bath towel. On "Madden '98" for PlayStation, I would always play as the Lions - I loved Barry Sanders, to go along with Scott Mitchell, Herman Moore and Robert Porsche. And on Sunday's, they would always show either the Lions or Bengals on TV, and a lot of Steelers games too. Of course, I always hated the Steelers, and the Bengals were kinda cute back then (read: no annoying bandwagon fans or "Who Dey" chants).
As far as the Browns go, I will continue to accept the grief (and sympathy, sometimes mixed into the same message) for a 4-10 team. After all, they are still my team.