There is no question the AFC North is a competitive division with a rich history of fierce rivalries involving all four teams.
In other words, the AFC North is no different than any other NFL division. The teams don’t like each other. The cities those teams represent don’t like each other. And, of course, the fans of those teams and cities certainly do not like each other.
The dislike between rival fans often manifests itself on game day, especially when beer is consumed, jerseys are donned and four-letter words are hurled.
And that’s just on Twitter.
Speaking of Twitter, unlike an actual in-stadium experience where battles between rival AFC North fans are contained to a few hours during a couple of Sundays a year, the little wars that take place between fans on social media never seem to end, especially on Twitter—a place where nobody ever calls for a cease-fire.
Ravens fans are tough to battle because they have plenty of weaponry to bring to the table.
Bengals fans, even during the years when their organization was quite oppressed and at the mercy of the entire division, were tough to deal with. It’s even worse now that Joe Burrow has emerged as their general and commands total respect from his AFC North enemies.
If you’re reading this as a Ravens or Bengals fan, you probably have your share of battle scars from going up against my fellow (and totally classy and innocent) Steelers fans.
But while the Ravens, Bengals and Steelers have more than their share of obnoxious Twitter troops, none of them can compare to the Browns battalion.
I don’t know what it is about Browns fans, but they’re everywhere on Twitter. I believe they outnumber Ravens and Bengals trolls by like 3 to 1 on my timeline. They’re very good at starting fights with fans of their AFC North rivals, and they’re unrelenting.
You’d think any fan of that organization, one that has had almost zero success and a lot of heartache since coming back into the NFL as an expansion team in 1999, would be totally beaten down.
Yet, they keep marching forward and refuse to surrender.
The Browns have a rich history of success, or at least the franchise that moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens in 1996 does. That, alone, should demoralize Browns fans. Throw in the fact that the organization formally known as the Cleveland Browns appeared in and won two Super Bowls AFTER moving to Baltimore, and that would be enough to get me to surrender all hope if I cheered for the team with the generic football logo.
Not only do Browns fans vigorously engage in Twitter battles against Ravens fans, but they have the gall to use championships actually won by the Ravens franchise before it moved to Baltimore as weapons—the old Cleveland Browns won four NFL titles between 1950-1964.
Browns fans take it a step further when comparing championships with the Steelers. How? By throwing in the four titles the Browns won between 1946-1949 as a member of the AAFC.
The Steelers have six Super Bowl titles, but the Browns have eight world championships. Eight is more than six, get it? This little jab is usually accentuated with a laughing emoji or two. Sometimes, even a laughing hysterically emoji is used as a weapon. Heck, sometimes, even a sideways hysterically laughing emoji or two is thrown in to let Steelers fans know that the Browns have two more championships.
Bengals fans have it the worst in this regard, because their franchise has zero world championships. That’s right, despite the fact that the Browns haven’t won a championship since 1964, and have never even been to a Super Bowl, their faithful love to mock Bengals fans for losing the Big Game three times.
How can a fanbase of a franchise that has done nothing for a quarter of a century be so cocky and arrogant on Twitter? How are these people not beaten down by the success of the old Cleveland franchise since it moved to Baltimore? How can they not still feel the sting of The Mistake by the Lake, The Drive and/or The Fumble?
I think I understand it, though.
Browns fans have virtually nothing to lose. The new Browns have been so bad for so long that their fans are likely numb to all of those horrible memories.
Furthermore, the Browns haven’t even appeared in a championship game since before the majority of their fans—especially the ones on Twitter—were born. It’s much easier to make fun of another team’s Super Bowl failures when yours has never even been to one.
Also, the national media has been aching for the Browns to be good ever since they appeared on Hard Knocks about five years ago. An NFL season is six months long between Week 1 and the Super Bowl, but as you know, the league tries to keep itself in the news 365 days a year. In many ways, the offseason is just as big as the actual season. Content is needed. Content is created. When a lot of that content involves the national media hyping up a notoriously downtrodden franchise—“The Browns are my pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this year”—it’s easy for their fans to become emboldened and arrogant.
Sure, the Browns failed to make the playoffs again in 2022, but who cares about that by March? It’s on to hyping up 2023, baby! The Browns WON free agency! The Browns had a great draft! The Browns have Deshaun Watson and Myles Garrett! Most of that may not even be true, but those fans don't care.
Did you know Watson is a much more talented quarterback than Kenny “Baby Hands” Pickett, who threw seven touchdowns to nine interceptions in his rookie year? (Insert hysterically laughing emoji here.)
Hey, look at this latest PFF ranking of NFL pass rushers. Garrett is rated number one, and T.J. Watt isn’t even on the list. (Insert many hysterically laughing emojis here.)
God bless my fellow Steelers fans, but they’re some of the most sensitive and defensive people I know. Heck, if it’s easy for me to stir their pots with an article about OTAs, imagine what some Browns clown on Twitter is capable of doing with the help of Myles Garrett, Deshaun Watson, and Maurkice Pouncey’s errant snap at the onset of that wildcard playoff game at Heinz Field a couple of years ago.
The new Browns only playoff win came against the Steelers at Heinz Field following the 2020 regular season. (Insert sideways hysterically laughing emoji here.)
Did you see Ben Roethlisberger crying on the sidelines at the end of that game? (Insert sideways hysterically laughing emoji here.)
Steelers fans care about history. Browns fans do not, but they know they can use the old Browns history to stir the pot on Twitter.
To sum it up, Steelers fans, as well as Ravens and Bengals fans, have plenty of ammo to throw at these Browns fans on Twitter, but those fans literally have nothing to lose.
Browns fans are empty vessels and cannot be hurt by anything at the moment. You almost want the Browns to have some postseason success just so their fans can know what true failure feels like when their team comes up short in the end.
Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon. (Insert sideways hysterically laughing emoji and “Got Six?” t-shirt here.)