CLEVELAND - Editor's note: This is an opinion piece based on the personal experiences of a newsnet5.com producer.
On Sunday, during the Cleveland Browns loss to the Buffalo Billls, I was embarrassed to be a Browns fan. And it wasn't the poor playing on the field that pushed me to the edge.
I treated my parents to Browns tickets and we spent the morning tailgating, where my dad feels like home. He ran around in the muni lot wearing a Bernie Kosar apron and pretending to throw his football-shaped oven mitt. He let strangers use his "porta-potty," tried to feed all my friends and their friends, and chatted up everyone waiting in the bathroom line that stretched to our parking spot.
My dad is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. In fact, while he was drying off a row of seats for Browns and Bills fans alike with his own sweatshirt, one woman said that. I smiled with pride.
But for a home game that was about a third filled with Buffalo fans, there was already tension in the air. We sat through rain, wind and sleet. That was the easy part. That was something I expected, while huddled under a thin, plastic poncho.
A group of about 10 Browns fans had their own agenda: to make everyone around them miserable. As if the Browns wideouts inability to catch passes, Brandon Weeden's overthrows and the sloppy secondary in the absence of Joe Haden weren't enough. They shouted a continuous string of obscenities directed at everyone around them, including a group of Buffalo fans. They said nothing about football. My overly-patient father tried to defuse the situation, telling them to calm down and that everyone is there to have fun.
They threw trash at the Bills fans sitting in front of us. One man, clearly under the influence, tried to spit food at people. I think that's when my father had reached his limit. He stood up, shouting at them to stop, to let it go.
I sat still until one young man, no older than me, went to push by dad from behind. When I felt that the safety of me and my family was in danger, I put myself between the threat and my parents, with my typically laid back boyfriend glued to my side.
"You're gamers, we're lifers!" a man yelled while just inches from my face. He was so close that I could see the partially-chewed hotdog bun spilling from his lips. I stood there, trying to keep my emotions in check, while I shook with anger.
"What did you pay for those tickets? $10? I bet you got them for free! We pay thousands of dollars a year," another man yelled. No, I didn't get them for free. I paid the same as you did for your seats. I'm sorry I don't pay thousands to come to games. I, like many others, can only afford a game or two each year.
I felt defeated as we left our seats before the confrontation bubbled over into something more physical, like it did for others in the stadium . But there's no sense in arguing with a group of drunks.
"I've been a Browns fan for more than 45 years and today, I was ready to give up," my dad said. That comes from the man who looks like he's on the brink of tears whenever he talks about "The Drive" or "The Fumble."
I don't think I'll be back to Cleveland Browns Stadium anytime soon, but it's not because of the Browns personnel, who kindly relocated my family and apologized on behalf of the troublemakers. And thank you to the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's deputy who patted me on the shoulder as I retold our story, struggling to say "You can do anything, but mess with my dad."
Browns fans have very recently attracted a lot of attention for all the wrong reasons. Last November, the mother of an 8-year-old Jets fan said her son was tackled in the muni lot . There's also the fans that say they've been kicked out of the Dawg Pound for standing . It's because of that I struggled with whether to write this piece. A Twitter follower said it perfectly: "Don't we get enough negative attention as a fan base from other cities?" I hope that from one Browns fan to the countless others across this country, my story makes you think.
Perhaps the frustration over a 0-3 football team that extended its losing streak to nine games will make people do crazy things. However, you can't blame your disgusting behavior on bad football or alcohol. Don't call yourself a true fan, because that's not what the game is about.
It's about high-fiving your neighbor when the Browns score a touchdown, whether they are 5 years old or 85 years old. It's about chanting "defense" at the top of your lungs and making whatever noise you can while the other team is in the redzone. Because win or lose (and they are mostly losses), we're in it together. The heartbreak, the disappointment, the small victories that are few and far between. We have the rest of the city to help us through.
To our neighbors in Buffalo, we're not all bad and I would hate to have the negative actions of a few ruin your opinions of an entire group. No matter how much I hate the Steelers, I don't hate their fans. Yes, they do annoy me at times and
I'll heckle them a little while walking to the game, but one of my best friends is a Pittsburgh fan. She would do anything for me, just short of wearing my Josh Cribbs jersey.
Remember, at the end of the day, it is just a game. It's a game that puts us through an emotional roller coaster each season. It's a game that may drive us to drink. And it's a game that has become a way of life. But all of us go home to more important problems, like paying the bills, and doing what's best for the health and safety of our loved ones.
Finally, I ask my fellow fans of the orange and brown to share their experiences , good or bad. As this city makes a comeback (and certainly not in the sports department), I don't want to focus solely on the negative. I know northeast Ohio still has its share of nice people who can count on each other. But if you're going to spend $50-plus to go to a Browns game, I hope you'll be as respectful as you are loyal.