Befitting the name of our SB Nation site, "Dawgs By Nature", being a Cleveland sports fan, and a Browns fan in particular, is truly in my DNA. I grew up in the eastern suburbs of Cleveland, and both of my parents were diehard Browns fans. Despite my brother choosing to root for Pittsburgh purely to be contrary, at least during his younger years, my sister and I followed our parents in rooting for Cleveland. We couldn't afford to go to games way more often than not, but every Sunday we were glued to the television to watch our beloved Orange and Brown.
Being just a little kid at the time, I don't really recall my early years of fandom, so my first memories of the Cleveland Browns are from the Kardiac Kids season with Brian Sipe at quarterback. I remember having the foam brick that was sold at the time to throw at the screen in frustration when needed without fear of permanent damage to the television. In typical (particularly in hindsight) Browns fashion, the season ended in heartbreak, but the excitement of the run cemented my fandom. During the Bernie Kosar years we would go to nearby Lakeland Community College to watch training camp and to fill my little autograph book with signatures. I don't recall a single player ever refusing to stop to connect with the fans, and that meant so much to me as a kid. I managed to not get beat down despite all of the trademark disappointing moments because I held on to the positive moments even more strongly, like going to Cleveland Municipal Stadium with my brother and sister to watch the Browns - Jets playoff game that we won in double overtime.
The move to Baltimore was devastating, of course, and with what seemed like typical Cleveland luck, I actually won a Starter jacket from the Monday Night Football Coca-Cola Red Zone promotion in the interim. However, since the Browns didn't technically exist at that point, I couldn't get a Cleveland jacket and was forced to pick a different team. I didn't want to pick a team from our conference, let alone our division, so I ended up choosing the Saints. Still, it didn't seem fair.
The years since the return have been trying, with every offseason and every regime change offering so much hope and leading to so much disappointment. Particularly since I have moved to Pennsylvania into what is very strongly Steelers country, I am often questioned why, in the face of this continued run of poor performance year in and year out, am I still a Browns fan. I tell them that I have been a Cleveland fan for 40 plus years, and the love for my team is too deeply ingrained in me to bail out on them. I would rather give up following the NFL completely than switch my allegiance to another team.
Plus, when we finally win, the long wait will make that moment all the more special.