I went to my first Browns game when I was 8 years old. It was at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, one of the loudest places I’ve ever experienced. That Browns game was a childhood experience that will live with me the rest of my life.
After that game, I wanted to go to every single one. I wanted season tickets. I wanted to sit with the die-hards. Yes, an 8 year old kid wanted to sit in one of the rowdiest fan sections in the NFL, the Dawg Pound. This 8 year old kid had an agreement with his dad that when he was older, had a job, and could pay for his own ticket, we would get season tickets in the Dawg Pound (We also have an agreement that if the Browns were ever to make the Super Bowl, no matter how much the cost or where it was, we would be there).
Time passed. The infamous ’95 season came with the news that the Browns were moving to Baltimore. I’ve never seen grown men cry as much as I did. You could feel that there was a part of you missing. We had the Indians making World Series runs, but deep down you knew that you needed the Browns. And in ’99 we got our wish back.
After that, seasons of losing, new regimes, and the craziest ways to lose a game that I have never seen with a sports team (Bottlegate, Dwayne Rudd throwing his helmet to lose the game, etc.) passed on. And would you believe that I still wanted season tickets even more?
Three years ago, I found a job about a 3 hour drive from Cleveland. What was my first big purchase when I moved out? Not a bed, not furniture, not a TV, but Dawg Pound season tickets. We started in the upper-level of the Dawg Pound, and we vowed to have these season tickets the rest of our lives, to get as close to the field as we could. Call it an obsession, call it what you will. I still associate the Browns with my upbringing, my family, and the city where I grew up. I’m convinced most fans stay fans because of the people that live in Cleveland. I was born and bred there, my hometown. When we lose, I’m devastated. And like most Browns fans we come back for more because the Browns will always be a part of us. I spend 6 hours in a car to drive up and spend time with my dad at the stadium to watch something we love. It is a chance for me to spend time with the family, tailgating in the muni-lot. I live for that. I look forward to that every single season.
A couple weeks ago, I got a call from my dad saying that he had bad news. The stadium renovations that Browns owner Jimmy Haslam had approved with the city removed our seats in the upper Dawg Pound (we were 2 rows from the cut). The rep that my dad talked to offered to downgrade us to a section an upper-level away from the Pound because it was the cost equivalent. My dad immediately told them that this was unacceptable, and that if we weren’t in the Pound for next season we would cancel.
I know what you’re thinking: just sit anywhere, why does it have to be the Pound? The Dawg Pound gets a bad reputation for being one of the most passionate fan sections in the NFL. A section of drunks and fighters looking to cause trouble, but that happens in any part of the stadium. I see it differently. I see the section as my family for every Sunday home game, a section where everyone has the same passionate mentality you have, and a section where everyone will stand up with you on 3rd down (our section at least). I sat next to a guy with a mask who wouldn’t be afraid to stand up and start barking with you. Our friends at the end of our row would drive an orange and brown hearse with a sign on that back that says "Steeler fan in the back." It would be a shame if I didn’t see that in the Muni Lot anymore.
I’m not going to cry and whine of who we will sit next to now (if we sit anywhere), but our section of the Pound was something special with some great memories. It’s a shame that has to end. Sitting somewhere else isn’t what we’ve signed up for.
I get it. New technology is needed to upgrade the stadium, a design to get people to go to the stadium instead of watching it from their homes. But what Mr. Haslam doesn’t realize is that he is taking seats from fans that would come to the stadium regardless if they had the new scoreboard screens or not. We’ve signed up for relocation in the Pound, and this makes us to wait until June to decide if we have a seat or not.
I don’t know what I would do without the Browns. I know Mr. Haslam wants to cater to the fans, and that he wants the ultimate fan experience. But I urge him not to forget about the people that go to the stadium no matter what. This is our livelihood. And I hope and plead that he makes this right with all fans that lost their seats because of the upgrade, and that he understands a seating downgrade is unacceptable for fans that care. I do feel the offer to downgrade was a slap in the face for the years of dedication and money (not to mention gas money for driving up for all of the home games) we’ve given the organization. I just hope they make it right.
Until then, we will wait with uncertainty for relocation.