Easy for us to say, in mid-March 2022, as a genuinely fascinating Cavs team makes a run at the playoffs and as the newly christened Guardians notch a win in Arizona, that we’ll stomp our feet this fall and refuse to watch any more Browns games. But I wonder: at what point does a fan walk away from a team? There’s plenty of hand-wringing material with the Deshaun Watson trade, but, setting aside the obvious headlines, what does it mean to be a fan of a team?
What I dislike most is that this isn’t even the patented Browns front office incompetence on display. It’s not clumsy or even mildly delusional. It’s not kitschy or hallucinatory. It’s cynical, which, despite all the classist profiteering that forms the foundation of professional sports leagues, is still a slap in the face of even the most jaded and booze-addled fans. It’s an empty gesture, a story without a moral. That’s a problem in sports. It’s a sickening desperation, a brazen display of private wealth and, let’s be real, the sort of cash-waving outburst that makes a man appear shockingly small when you encounter this behavior in your day-to-day life. You tend to pity this acting-out bullshit, which you often find in long lines at an airport gate three minutes after a flight cancellation. If you’re anything like me, you feel embarrassed when you see it. You feel immediately the disconnect between cause and effect. You understand, on an undeniable level, that something is deeply fucked up with this person huffing and puffing at the counter.
That sense of pity doesn’t jibe with the many emotional valences of a sports fan. It’s maybe the one line that the relationship cannot cross.
Like I said, it’s easy to rant tonight in Cleveland. But we’ve got other things to tend to in this city right now—as sports fans. It’s just a hell of a thing to have to wrestle with that fandom. It’s not like you can jump ship to another team. Sure, of course, it’s just a hobby, who cares? Walk away. But where’s the fun in being flippant about it? You’re part of the story, too. You’re in it. My belief is that you’re tied to your fandom in some cosmic dust-to-dust sense. That sounds heavier than I think it is, but the point remains: You’re either a fan or you’re not. The Cleveland Browns never fail to fucking amaze me.