Social media is a great thing. Or at least it can be. We’re more connected than we’ve ever been before. We can share ideas. We can learn info about news, and each other, and know people from all over the world.
Yet it can also be a bad thing sometimes. The internet can be a surly place, and that’s especially true for sports. Too often, a fan base can be perceived to be divided just by some petty squabbles.
“Are you an Indians fan? Are you a Cavs fan? Are you a Browns fan?”
The question gets brought up, even though most people in Northeast Ohio are Cleveland fans. Meaning they’re fans of all of the teams. It gets convoluted through Twitter and Facebook, and yes, even radio/TV guys have hand in it, and should share some of the blame.
There are folks who are big baseball or basketball fans, but it’s mostly known around Northeast Ohio that most of those fans in this area are football fans. It’s a passion, if not a religion to most.
The problem for the last 18 years though is that the Browns are in the beginning of another rebuild. A new front office with a new coach and a new vision. While we can state how much we think this time around is different (and a lot of us sincerely do), there is a serious change to our fandom for the first time in those 18 years.
We’re also champions.
With the Cavs enjoying the remainder of the summer before heading to LA to workout with LeBron, the Browns are in the middle of their training camp. Their very boring, drama-free training camp. No more Johnny fetish. No more power-point presentations. No more in-fighting. It couldn’t be a more welcome thing to the fan base that has watched a team find new ways to embarrass itself over a generation. The fans know, and feel that this might be a little different too. And they’re willing to wait it out. Literally.
The days of camp mayhem are over for now. Set to return in some year in the hopefully not too distant future. There are no more reports of that same Johnny with the fetish out and about getting into things that are “non-football related.” There are no more fights on twitter over him, or wide receivers, or who was really making picks in May. It’s all gone quiet.
That doesn’t mean there’s no hope. There’s always going to be hope, but hope and patience can be one in the same, and they certainly are here.
Cleveland fans have turned focus. The Cavs have achieved heights thought unimaginable, and the Indians are in the middle of trying to close out the AL Central (no, I’m not going to say again that they’ve already won the division. I’ll let the Tribe speak for me there). It’s the best feeling in the world for a Cleveland fan: Two teams competing, and the third, actually making a concerted effort to do things right.
For the first time fans feel as if they’re not lying to themselves about the Browns. Hue Jackson has been no-nonsense. He’s shown already to be a man of conviction, and a coach who’ll defend his players, as he illustrated with his own chilly response when I asked if Cam Erving “struggled” against the Packers in Green Bay.
John Greco started his interview with Anthony Lima and I on Wednesday with unprovoked praise for Jackson. Greco went into specifics on what separated Jackson from the previous Browns coaches. Josh McCown and Joe Thomas have offered the same perspective.
The other coaches tried, they just didn’t know how. Hue Jackson does.
To a fan out there, the aforementioned could be greeted with skepticism. I wouldn’t blame you. We’ve talked ourselves into change before. This time though, the Browns will really have to earn it.
With the Cavs having a title, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, they’ve become the hottest ticket in town. The Indians have seen a noticeable uptick in sales. The success of the Cavs and Indians, in a non-direct way has had a hand in the Browns straightening up their act.
Cleveland fan now knows the taste of champagne. They’ve had their picture taken with the Larry O’Brien Trophy. They watch their favorite baseball team compete for a playoff berth, and maybe even a chance to make Cleveland – Dare we say – a glutton of success? Maybe not that much, yet, but Cleveland fans no longer have time for petty jealousies, or sideline texting scandals.
After 18 arguable years as number one, the Browns have to earn Cleveland fans’ attention. It’s a great thing.
Cleveland fans will have hope, and they’ll always be there when needed, and while we’re a football first region, we’ll pay attention to those who’ll take themselves seriously, and thank every and any Cleveland sports God it looks like the Browns are starting to.
But right now, Cleveland fans are too busy winning. Trust us, we’ll be here when the Browns start too.