Know that commercial 'My Vikings family became a Vikings, Bengals, Eagles, Steelers, Cowboys Family'? Well my story is kind of like that.
I grew up watching Chicago Bears games with my dad. (Bear down Chicago Bears). No - we didn’t live in Chicago, but my parents grew up in Gary Indiana, and that’s close enough. My dad was given only daughters so we watched football with him on Sundays. I learned to really love football. And Walter Payton. (My sister Janice wanted to marry him. Remember that?)
I was born and raised in Indiana, and a miracle happened in the spring of 1984 when we got our own NFL team, the Indianapolis Colts. I didn’t care that we might have stolen them from another city. That they had a rich history in Baltimore - Johnny Unitas and all. I just wanted an NFL team to call my own. And from that moment on I became a Bears and a Colts fan.
And then I married someone from Pittsburgh. And lived where Pittsburgh was the closest NFL franchise. And I learned to love the city of Pittsburgh and the Steelers. Oh we had some years when it wasn’t easy being a Steelers fan, but yet every Sunday that’s where you’d find all the members of my family – in front of the TV, in our black and gold. When I was divorced I didn’t divorce the Steelers. After all, I wasn’t a Steelers fan because of him, he’s just the reason why I started to watch them. I was a Bears, Colts & Steelers fan.
Now I know you’re guessing the last chapter in my story. The Cleveland Browns. When I told my children that I had accepted a job in Cleveland the first thing Caroline said was “you can’t be a Browns fan”. Surely you know that the Browns are the Steelers biggest rival. So I promised I would still be a Steelers fan and I loaded up all my possessions including my Steelers sportswear and moved to Cleveland.
Where I live 2 blocks from First Energy field, home of the Browns. I can hear the cheers from the stadium before the play starts on my TV (7 second delay). Where outside my apartment window are legions of Browns fans tailgating before every home game. And my neighbor Chuck is one of the coaches and his wife Kim is in my book club.
I watched every game and found myself wanting the Browns to play well and win.
So my heart began to soften towards the Browns. After all, the fans here in Cleveland bleed brown and orange even though it’s been 50 some years since they’ve had a championship. Heck, there’s only been one winning season in the past 10 years. These are not fair weather fans. There hasn’t been any fair weather here. Oh I know it’s that way in most NFL cities, but I can’t help but love the way the people of Cleveland love their Browns.
When the schedule was announced in the summer, my son & I and some of my Marietta Steeler friends got tickets to the Steelers at Browns game, and I hosted them for the weekend. We put on our Steelers gear and walked over to the game, and I waited. I waited and listened for my emotions to tell me which team I really wanted to win. And it was clear to me right away.
I am still a bigger Steelers fan in my heart.
I’ve been a big football fan all my life, and I’ve never lived in a city with an NFL team until now. Never lived in a place where it’s really ‘my’ team because it’s my city. I am a Clevelander now. So I’m not going to apologize for saying that I have now become a Browns fan also. I broke the news to my kids and my Pittsburgh family over Thanksgiving and the reaction was disappointment but understanding. I want the Browns to do well.
And I want the Steelers to win the Super Bowl.
I am now a Steelers, Browns, Colts, Bears fan.
Photo above - Me, my dad & my sister Laura at a Chicago Bears game in 2008.
(Truth be told, I’m a Pirates fan and now an Indians fan – but that seems easier. You know - American League/National League and all).