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Why am I a fan of the Cleveland Browns? Covering the team here at Dawgs By Nature for over a decade has strengthened by fandom — there isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not following all of the latest news about the team, no matter how unimportant the headline might be to others.
When I was asked to pick a name for the site in 2006, “Dawgs By Nature” jumped right into my head. The only Cleveland site that existed prior to that at SB Nation was “Let’s Go Tribe,” so the concept of having three words seemed like a good fit (and coincidence or not, “Fear the Sword” also followed suit). But “Dawgs By Nature” is meant to convey the strength of my fandom — no matter how many countless, terrible decisions this organization has made, I can’t help but staying glued to and loving everything about the team. And that’s the audience I hoped to share my fandom with: a group where we could collectively say that “no matter what, we are Dawgs By Nature.”
Regarding my initiation to being a Browns fan, the very early stages began during the 1999 season, when I remember hearing the team’s first victory on a Hail Mary against the Saints. I was somewhat fortunate to have not suffered through the realization of what the heck was happening when Art Modell abandoned Cleveland for Baltimore. I was too young at the time, and with the Cleveland Indians having a ridiculously good team, they were my No. 1 team by far.
As the 2001 season moved along, my interest in football started picking up. I became fascinated with the game and the team’s progress, and then the 2002 season was the first year in which I watched every minute of every game. Of course, my first game of being fully invested saw Dwayne Rudd toss his helmet and cost Cleveland the season opener. I should’ve known then what I was getting in to. At the same time, little did I know that I would be completely spoiled by my first fully-invested season, as the team made the playoffs with a 9-7 record. They haven’t been back since, and that year also saw them blow a big playoff lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Off the top of my head, here are five moments in which, in the heat of the moment, I was really excited about something related to the Browns. Note that these are not in any particular order, and I’m sure I’m missing many of them if I had the time to sit and really think through them.
- Browns drafting Johnny Manziel: I was not one of the fans clamoring for him ahead of the draft, but when he kept dropping and then Cleveland went up to get him, the feeling of excitement was off-the-chart. It should go without saying that I thank god there was no video capturing my excitement; I’m embarrassed enough to put this in writing.
- Meder blocks field goal to avoid winless season: We’ve been through enough as Browns fans. I did not want to have the humiliation from other teams’ fans, and even Clevelanders, poking fun at the team I have a passion for, having the stain of an 0-16 season.
- Tim Couch’s 50-yard Hail Mary to Quincy Morgan: This was part of me being spoiled: without the Week 14 Hail Mary to end the game, Cleveland wouldn’t have made the playoffs. I remember vividly jumping up and down and yelling in my living room, and thinking back, you never see those type of isolated one-on-one Hail Mary situations in the corner. What the hell were the Jaguars doing? I remember I also sketched the Plain Dealer still shot of Morgan catching the ball in the end zone.
- Beating the Saints and Patriots under Mangini: This was an unbelievable two-game stretch mid-way through the 2010 season in which Cleveland convincingly beat New Orleans and New England for a two-game winning streak. The Browns were set to face the Jets next, but the reason it stands out so much is because Cleveland had jumped to the forefront of the national spotlight in a good way for once.
- Biggest road comeback in NFL history: Nothing can take this away from Brian Hoyer — in 2014, he led the biggest road comeback in NFL history. Down 28-3, Cleveland scored 26 unanswered to win 29-28, including two touchdown passes to Travis Benjamin in the fourth quarter, the final one with about a minute to ago.
Sadly, if I had to make my list of miserable Browns moments, I think I’d be here for another ten hours and still going. But circling back to what I said earlier, that just confirms how much I love the Browns — despite all of the atrocities we’ve seen, I’ve never once been compelled to quit or turn off a game early. I’m a Browns fan for life.
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