News & Opinions Editor
I’m sure some saw the news of a Cleveland Browns 0-16 “Perfect Season Parade” and wondered why anyone would celebrate such a disaster. As soon as I heard of the parade I sat back and beamed proudly at the effort. Some people may not like it, but if you’re not from Northeast Ohio I don’t expect you to understand.
I happen to know a few things about Northeast Ohio. My Northeast Ohio credentials are nothing short of spotless and deep. My great-grandfather, Richard W. Corns, came from nothing. The son of poor immigrants, he worked all summer for a farmer who would give him the money to go to college. He became a businessman and even negotiated across the table from Roadway Union Boss Jimmy Hoffa. His son, my grandfather, became a lawyer and worked in the Northeast Ohio court system all his life. On the other side of the family, my grandfather worked as a chemical engineer for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. My father is currently a proud mechanical engineer for Goodyear. I am proudly a Northeast Ohioan, a kid from Akron, and if you knew about Cleveland’s sports misery you might get an idea too as to why the parade makes so much sense.
For the past 2 years the Browns have gone 1-31. Meaning the Browns have won a single regular season game in the span of two years. It’s incredible how bad the Browns have been. The Browns have had 31 different starting quarterbacks for at least one game since 1999. There have been 9 head coaches for the Cleveland Browns since 1999. No other organization has had such immense upheaval and inconsistency at quarterback. One bad season isn’t fun, but imagine 17 losing seasons since 1999 and you begin to understand the state of affairs for Browns fans. Only one season (2002) has produced a playoff appearance.
But Cleveland sports fans have turned this depressing reality into all sorts of creative ways to share their suffering. Check out AngryBrownsFan’s YouTube video “A Very Angry Browns Fan Christmas” or clevelandthundercat’s “The Factory of Sadness” to see some amazing ways the fan community has rallied together in mutual suffering. Some fans call the Browns the “Cleveland Clowns” all the while watching the games as if it was a religious obligation.
Then comes the true giant of them all, Mr. Chris McNeil. McNeil, under the Twitter handle @Reflog_18, has a little more than 52,000 followers who enjoy his sarcastic tweets and comments on Cleveland sports. Dillon Stewart of Cleveland Magazine in his article “Parade of Jeers” relays the story of how the crazy idea to make a parade to celebrate the perfect losing season began.
As Stewart tells it, McNeil simply tweeted jokingly a year and a half ago (when the Browns still might have gone 0-16), “Why don’t we have a parade if the Browns go 0-16?” So, after the loss to the Steelers to end this season McNeil was forced to make good on his promise. He and his podcast buddies created the Browns Perfect Season Parade Committee and got to work raising the $8,500 dollars to make the parade a reality. McNeil unintentionally created the dumbest but perhaps most Northeast Ohioan reaction to a disastrous season anyone expected. In light of such a disastrous season all one can do is celebrate ironically.
I’ve seen this style before. McNeil’s story reminded me of my late grandfather’s consistent ironic optimism for Cleveland sports. My grandfather, with friends from his law firm, would fly down for Spring Training to watch the Cleveland Indians play and hope the coveted “next year” produced a World Series. I remember the jokes made and the stories told of historic disasters like “10-Cent Beer Night” where Indians fans actually rioted in the bottom of the 9th in an embarrassing display that required Cleveland police to shoot tear gas into the stadium to break it up. All the way through the story my grandfather would laugh as he remembered that night.
This is just how Northeast Ohio sports fans have been taught to celebrate and root for our favorite teams. Cleveland sports have taught Northeast Ohio and its fans to root for the Browns, Indians, and Cavs until you die, but when the game is over you laugh or cheer. It’s the way my grandfather taught me, and I’m sure it is what other Cleveland sports fans have been taught too. In fact, on a day hovering near zero degrees Fahrenheit it’s estimated by Cleveland Police that some 3,000 people showed up for the perfect season parade. If the crowd doesn’t convince you listen to some comments made by a few people Stewart interviewed in his article.
Scott Newcomb of Sheffield Lake told Stewart, “I’ve been a Browns fan for over forty years. This is the first parade where we could come and celebrate the history of the Browns.”
Stewart says an older fan told him about the old Municipal Stadium where the Browns used to play. He remarked, “Oh, that place was a dump, but I loved it.”
The parade isn’t a “joke” as some, like Browns Defensive End Emmanuel Ogbah, have insinuated. The parade is just the way Cleveland has always made sense of the bad. Let’s be honest 0-16 is never the way anyone wants to finish a season, but if it’s going to happen I’d rather joke and ironically celebrate together than lose hope and cry about it. In fact, the parade raised over $17,000 for the Cleveland Food Bank and donated another 2,000 items to our poor neighbors in need. Now that is my type of perfect season parade.
To Chris McNeil, thank you for keep Cleveland’s unique fandom style alive. Thank you for making me smile and remember the great stories my Grandfather told me about Indians, Cavs, and Browns seasons long past. Thank you for doing what you did even if you did it as a joke. You make me proud to be from Northeast Ohio and proud to call myself a Cleveland Sports fan. I think you’re comment was right, “We got the best fans in the frickin’ NFL right here in Cleveland, Ohio.”