CLEVELAND - You may not know Rhett Wennes but you know his signs. The sometimes controversial posters often draw attention in the end zone of Browns Stadium. But fans aren't the only ones who take notice: receiver Terrell Owens took offense during a game, darting into the end zone then over to the wall below Wennes' seat, ripping down a poster taunting him.
"I saw his eyes look up and come right toward me like 'oh man, what is he gonna do, throw the ball at me?' I was on guard," Wennes said. "Then when he ripped the sign down I was like 'I can't believe you just did that.'"
Wennes’ signs capture the flavor of the week, encapsulating what Browns fans are talking about as they gather around beer kegs and grills at tailgates in the Muni Lot. Some of the ideas are his own and others a coming together of the minds.
"I work with a bunch of guys who are Browns fans and also very creative. On many occasions, it’s my ideas that end up on a sign but there are times that we collaborate ideas," said Wennes, who is a senior ticket operations representative for the Cavs.
Fun fuels the diehard Browns fan, who remembers the days of Municipal Stadium in the 1980s when the stadium was dressed with signs and full of character. When the Browns returned to Cleveland in 1999, a policy was instituted prohibiting signs, Wennes said. Since then they’ve been re-allowed but they’re not as typical, so much so that Wennes’ seem an anomaly.
“It has never really been the same… sterile, if you will,” Wennes said. “Sitting in the front row, my whole idea was to have a little bit of fun and maybe even fire up the Browns or the other team.”
Nothing about Wennes’ signs are sterile, like one he made when the Browns faced the rival Steelers that read “Bed Wetters.”
"As a Browns fan, I get as sick as anybody seeing those stupid yellow towels at my stadium. I always thought that the towels looked like somebody wet the bed. So, I thought I’d let them know about it," Wennes said.
They’re engaging, putting life into an otherwise plain, brown wall. What Wennes really does is grab the spirit of a city and fan base with some spray paint and a bed sheet, the materials he has used for his signs this season.
In the past, the process of creating them has been more complex. A sign taunting Tony Romo utilized two cardboard cutouts of the Dallas quarterback’s ex-girlfriend Carrie Underwood and girlfriend at the time, Jessica Simpson.
“He must have seen them because he fired a pass my way, with no intention of finding a receiver,” Wennes said about that game.
He got fancy for the return of receiver Braylon Edwards as a Jet, putting up a graphically-designed sign in the vein of the candy “Butterfingers,” a nod to Edwards’ propensity for drops with the Browns. Current ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell tweeted out that he was voting for Wennes’ “Butterfingers 17” sign as his NFL fan sign of the year in 2010.
This past week, Wennes’ take was an ode to two of the longest tenured and fan favorite Browns.
"We thought about it for awhile and we really wanted to honor Phil Dawson and Josh Cribbs," Wennes said about his sign which read, “We don’t need RG3. We have PD4 and JC16 # CLE4LIFE.”
Sunday was the last Browns game of 2012 but Wennes said he’ll be back again next year, still holding out hope for a dream season.
“Being a Browns fan is like believing in Santa Claus. You've never really seen him, or a championship, but man we still keep believing in Santa Claus. We believe the championship's gonna come someday," Wennes said.
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