CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Cleveland Browns fans have waited over half a century to throw their team a parade.
Saturday afternoon was not exactly the occasion for what they had envisioned.
“Hopefully we never, ever have to do this again for being 0-16,” parade organizer Chris McNeil told 92.3 The Fan. “Next time we do this is going to be for a Super Bowl.”
What started out as a snarky tweet about throwing a parade if the Browns went 0-16 during the 2016 season for McNeil turned into reality in the bitter January cold nearly 13 months later.
Frustrated by nearly 19 years of losing, coaching and front office changes, personnel decisions that didn’t work out and a quarterback carousel counter currently at 28 – and still spinning, a group of fans gathered outside of FirstEnergy Stadium for what they called a ‘Perfect Season Parade’ – a tribute to the Browns’ 0-16 season and record-setting futility.
RELATED – Photos: Perfect Season Parade
More than 80 vehicles including trucks, buses and trailers packed with fans slowly made their way around the stadium in a loop, a symbolic representation of how many games the team won this past season: 0.
Some fans tossed candy into the crowd. Others marched with signs mocking the team, ownership as well as past and present coaches too.
There were floats, a truck with a casket in the bed, Santa danced and threw candy from a flatbed trailer that also housed a rock band, a 28-man headstone march commemorating the 28 different starting QBs since 1999 and even a marching band too.
Local comedian Mike Polk Jr., who coined “Factory of Sadness” during one of his famed videos that went viral on YouTube to describe where the Browns play in the fall, led chants as fans marched. “Why are we Browns fans?” Polk yelled into a megaphone. “Because god hates us,” marchers behind him responded. Polk followed it with, “What do we want?” “Watchable football,” they said right on cue.
Following the loss in Pittsburgh last Sunday that secured their dubious place in the record books, joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams to accomplish 0-16 in NFL history, several Browns players shrugged off questions about the planned parade but Saturday morning defensive linemen Emmanuel Ogbah and Danny Shelton expressed their displeasure with it on Twitter.
The Browns not only went 0-16 in 2017 but they are 1-31 over the last 2 seasons and an astonishing 4-44 over the last 3 – both are new league records for futility over a 2- and 3-year span.
It just can’t get much worse than this for professional football in Cleveland. Could it?
It seems every time that question gets asked, it does.
Frustrated fans have had enough and their creative signage expressing it showed no bounds Saturday.
The franchise, which now boasts the NFL’s longest playoff drought, is an embarrassing 88-216 since returning as an expansion club in 1999 after former owner Art Modell moved the original franchise to Baltimore and renamed the team the Ravens in 1996. Those Ravens have gone on to multiple division titles, 10 playoff appearances and not 1, but 2 Super Bowl victories while the Browns have barely averaged 4.5 wins a season over 19 years.
The team issued this statement Saturday: “We greatly appreciate the passion of all our fans and we apologize to them for not making 2017 an enjoyable season. We certainly hear them and understand their frustration. Obviously, we want the same thing as our fans; winning results. We are committed to doing everything we can to improve and build them the type of team they most certainly deserve.”
Between 2,500-3,200 fans showed up to watch the ‘parade’ according to initial estimates by Cleveland police, who reported no arrests or incidents Saturday afternoon.
The crowd felt much bigger.
McNeil’s parade has been divisive issue in Cleveland, but Saturday’s event was civil, well organized and did little to stain Cleveland’s improving reputation nationwide.
“The overall flavor of this thing was positive,” McNeil said. “It just showed the passion of Cleveland fans. How great we are as a fanbase, how excited we are about our team despite the fact they give us nothing [to cheer for].”
McNeil, who said the event also raised nearly $15,000 which will be donated to the Cleveland Food Bank, hopes the’ve caught the Browns’ attention.
“We expect more out of these guys that are in this building,” McNeil said pointing to the stadium. “They gotta do better. They gotta do better by this city. They gotta do better by this fanbase and I think you saw that on display.”