Things have been extremely busy for me at work so I don't get to post as much as I would like. I still lurk and enjoy reading (when the sky isn't falling) and post occasionally, not that anybody really misses me. Still, now that I have had time to recover, I need to share with everyone, my experience in a town called Cleveland.
Because I am the leader of a rather large project in which my company has entered into a contract / partnership with a company based in Cleveland, I scored the "perk" of two club seat tickets to the Pittsburgh Steelers / Cleveland Browns game in Cleveland on 11/25/2012. First let me point out that I have attended games at old Municipal Stadium in the 80s so I knew there was going to be a lot of smack and regular old "football stuff" from the Browns' fans. Because of this, I took my middle son, instead of my wife. He is 22 and - like his father - a pretty big Steelers fan. Mrs. Dawg wasn't interested in going to Cleveland. I should have considered that a sign. I myself didn't really want to drive to all that way (over 2 & 1/2 hours) when I could have stayed in the comfort of my own home, but I thought "Free club seats! How bad could it be?" I was about to find out. I don't really know how to explain the experiences of this day properly, so I will just do it chronologically.
- I need to preface this by stating, neither my son nor myself are big drinkers and the only thing we had that day was hot chocolate and Sierra Mist. We also are not belligerent fans. We don't get in people's faces and rub anything into anyone else's face, win or lose. We consider it poor sportsmanship. And again, we expected the normal game day football fan stuff and were ready to give what we got.
- Walking from the parking garage to the Stadium, I remark that it is really a beautiful facility. At least it is from a distance. Within a couple blocks we pass a band playing at some company's Beer Tent. The singer brings up a guy named "Electric Larry" to sing what may or may not have been an AC/DC tune. I remarked to the Browns Fans walking next to us that "I think old Larry has been drinking". Their response was ignoring me, while asking each other "Did you guys hear something?". Lame? Yes. Rude? Yes. But whatever.
- A half a block later, an extremely visibly intoxicated man was standing in the street corner engaged in conversation with a Cleveland police officer. That's correct...drunk guy...11:15 AM....ripped out of his head...talking to a Cleveland cop. He excuses himself, takes a few steps into my personal space and screams obscenities into my face. He wasn't within arm's reach, he was within elbow's reach. It went like this, "Excuse me office" step, step, step "F*CK YOU!!!!!!". I hold a Yan Dan (4th Degree Black Belt) rank in a style of karate called Isshin-Ryu, so I am capable of protecting myself and I thought I was going to have to. I could feel the spittle from the "F". I glanced at the cop and he just smiled and shrugged his shrugged his shoulders. Thanks officer! I am certain that if I had made the man step off, that it would have been ME that would have found himself in trouble with the law.
- It's easy to get into the stadium. Cleveland fans show up very late if at all. No lines, no nothing. Straight in. We get to looking around and the first thing I notice of course is the HUGE number of Steelers fans there. Not surprising, but one of the Browns fans in attendance said that for any home game other than the Steelers games, you can find Browns tickets on eBay for $10.00. Steelers' fans pay full price.
- The next thing I notice is the big screens at the stadium are laughable. First of all, they aren't big. Secondly, they are LOW DEF. The Jumbotron at Three Rivers Stadium (may she rest in peace) was bigger and had higher resolution. The more you look at the place, the more of a sh*thole it reveals itself to be.
- OK, so we make it to our seats. We are booed by a couple your boys. One kinda flips me off when he doesn't think I am looking. He apologizes when he sees that I am. Their parents are nowhere to be found. We talk football with them for quite a while and they turn out to be OK.
- The teams come out and the Steelers are cheered as loudly as the Browns and the Browns are booed as loudly as the Steelers. It is a surreal experience. It fills a Steelers Fan with a certain amount of pride to be a part of that.
- The game starts and things start out well for the Black & Gold. Lawrence Timmons' Pick 6 makes the Browns' fans true colors come out. This fan base hates...HATES....their team. The only team that they booed worse than the Steelers was their own. They hate their coach, they hate their coordinators and they HATE Brandon Weeden, cheering when he got hurt.
- The fans are just poor. A dozen or so said they would be leaving at half time regardless of the score or the situation. Even with their team in the lead late in the game, they booed their team EVERY chance they got. It was a little sad. When the defense exhorted the crows to make noise whenever it was third down and they needed a stop, I could still have a normal volume level conversation with my son. He could CLEARLY hear me say, "Wow it's quiet in here. Almost creepy!"
- Chris Rainey scores on a beautiful TD run and everyone in the end zone throws things at him. It didn't look near as bad on TV as it did in person. The rest of the crowd laughs and cheers them on. I ask, "Is that the way it always is? People throwing stuff from the stands?" Browns' fans say "Of course" looking me up and down like I was an idiot. Video of the fans throwing objects was shown on the big screens to yet more cheering. At least I THINK it was video of it. It could have been a Viagra commercial for all I could tell. Did I mention those screens are a joke?
- The coolest adult Browns fan that I met finally stopped with the "rape jokes" after I bought him and his woman a beer because other Browns' fans had knocked them out of their hands while walking past. I told him, "Bro, I don't know about you, but I have never thought that rape was all that funny. If you're looking to insult me, you aren't. But you should ask your woman how she feels about what you're saying." She didn't care for it much.
- Next a fight breaks out on the field when a Browns defensive player hits a Steelers O-Lineman in the back after the whistle. One of the security guys goes, "Now it's a Browns game!" I said, "What, you mean punk/cheap shots after the whistle?" To which he replies, "Yes."
- The next thing that happens is Browns fans start throwing things at Steelers fans. When I was hit by some flying debris, I looked at the security guy and was informed, "You shouldn't have come here if you don't want to have things thrown at you!" Thank God I was in the Club Section where the "classy" fans sit. "Classy Browns Fan" there's an oxymoron.
- I can't count the individual times Browns fans crossed the line of what could be considered appropriate behavior. More than once I was told "Go F*ck Yourself!" or "F*ck Pittsburgh!" where I could smell the booze on the offenders breath and had to dodge their slobber. Several times in the 4th quarter, I thought I would have to physically defend myself. Actually stepping into a defensive stance readying myself for what I was sure was going to be a flurry of drunken punches. Fortunately, we were sober and kept our heads and avoided any such necessity.
- After Foote's fumble recovery was blown dead and could not be challenged, we decided to get out of there while we still had our health. Since we were in the club section, we could get out fairly quickly. Now the stadium employees and security crew got into it. They asked my son things like "Why you crying little man?" and calling us names like "f*ggot". Now, my son is 6 feet tall and 180 lbs. of solid muscle. He is a gym rat who has done all of the P90X stuff multiple times, There is no body fat on this kid. Phrases like "Little man" and "F*ggot" do not apply. I am so proud of him for keeping his composure and not pushing somebody's teeth in.
- We make it out of the stadium and three different guy approach us menacingly barking in our faces. Barking? Seriously? I am putting a lot of thought into changing my handle. Not so sure I want "dawg" in it anywhere. This was the closest I came to injuring someone in three decades. It is very difficult to have someone approach you, barking at the top of their lungs until your chests bump without feeling the overwhelming need to protect yourself. 20 years ago, I would have seriously hurt one of those dudes.
- On the walk back to the car we were called, "Squealers" and "Losers" and the like multiple times, but you have to expect that. No issues there, but when the POLICE did it, that was a little hard to take.
I have been to many games at Three Rivers and Heinz Field and yes opposing fans do take their fair share of abuse but I have made sure I paid attention. Talk is talk, and that's what Steelers fans do. I have never once thought an opposing team's fans were in any kind of danger at a Steelers game, nor have I ever had to step in or call security. And I don't sit in the club seats at Heinz. We sit where the crazy people are!
I was embarrassed for the Browns organization and the city of Cleveland. The guys from DBN can come here and flame this post all they want, it is the truth, 100%. I used to think that they were in the minority, but t turns out that it is a site that matches the fan base perfectly; Classless, unknowledgeable, and almost inhuman.
I made sure the company that gave me the tickets knew of my experience and that if contracts had not have already been signed it could have cost them our business. They didn't do me any favors, and I suggested they think it through thoroughly the next time they offer such a perk to a potential client. It was a disgraceful way of representing a city. The worst, drunkest, douchiest Steelers fan ever, would have been no match to the average blow hole we ran into on this day.
I have never been more proud to be a member of the greatest fan base on the planet. Do we have our exceptions? Yes, all fan bases do. But in Cleveland, the exceptions are the rule. Maybe, it is being irrelevant for so long as a franchise. Maybe it is what happened to them in the 90s having their team stolen from them. Maybe there is something in the water. I don't know, maybe Cleveland is an American Indian word meaning "Land of A$$hats". Any way you look at it, they are a blemish on the landscape of the NFL and humanity in general. I hope I never have to go back there. The fans deserve the team, but the team doesn't deserve the fans. The worst team in the world (I hope I am not being redundant) doesn't deserve a fan base THAT bad.
God Bless the Pittsburgh Steelers and God Bless Steelers Nation!