My heart was ripped out when Art Modell took the team to Baltimore in 1996. It was stomped upon when that Baltimore team, a mere four seasons later, won the Super Bowl.
It has bled a slow death ever since, as the Browns have consistently put an inferior football team on the field year-after-year.
Rob Oller of the Columbus Dispatch wrote that his son, after the abysmal Browns game and the Bengals' win over the Steelers this past weekend, decided to become a Bengals fan.
"...A 12-year-old boy weighed his options -- continue to call Cleveland his favorite team or switch to Cincinnati -- and chose the Bengals. With his father's blessing. The Browns-fan-since-birth had seen enough -- who hasn't? -- and reached the wise conclusion that when a team doesn't even attempt to accommodate its fans, that team no longer deserves the loyalty it has enjoyed for generations. So he officially died as a Browns fan on Sunday evening, when Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer threw a winning touchdown to defeat the Steelers.
Is that selling out your team? Hardly. Not when you mean less to the Browns than the ground they spit on. Is that hopping off the Cleveland bandwagon? Not when the band on that wagon won't play a single pleasing note.
Many longtime Browns fans consider such talk blasphemous, but their numbers are dwindling as a new generation of followers emerge who know chronic ineptitude when they see it. The old fan base takes distorted pride in hanging tough with a team that tests its patience while mocking its allegiance. I know this because my blood once ran as orange as theirs. I lived through the Mike Phipps years, the 1980s calamities and the early expansion seasons. I understand the culture. Sticking with the Browns through thick and thin is considered a badge of honor. It means you are a real fan.
To which I now say: Baloney. Show me where it says in the Good Fan Rulebook that true fans should stick with a loser who refuses to improve.
Quite the contrary. The stand-up thing is to stop enabling the behavior. The Browns, from owner Randy Lerner to the ball boys, need to know that actions have consequences; fail to put a competent product on the field and risk losing young fans to other teams.
Maybe old fans, too. If you're not wavering in your unconditional commitment to the Browns, then you are the sucker. That's no overreaction..."
Sure, these Browns have the same colors and name as the Browns I've followed all my life, but it has never felt like the Browns I grew up enjoying. The new regime has been inept and has not connected with me as a fan. There has not been one player that I can be proud of as a fan. I would never buy a Browns jersey with a player name on it - because the players have been awful and won't likely last on the team anyway.
After Hurricane Katrina hit, I watched as the New Orleans Saints trade for a quarterback I really liked and drafted an extremely talented and flashy running back. So I became a Saints fan.
But not until today have I made it official. I am not any longer a Browns fan.