The day I decided I was done with Browns tickets was November 6, 2016. It was a beautiful, sunny day. By the time of kickoff between the Cowboys and Browns in Cleveland, it was in the mid 70’s. We had four club seats that I decided to use with my family because we couldn’t give the tickets away, let alone sell them. Despite so many factors being in our favor that day, I marched my family out of there at halftime in utter disgust. The Browns had officially crossed a line with me and I couldn’t take it anymore. We canceled our tickets and despite the positive momentum on the team, I have no plans to go back.
I should have known better than to go, but it was an unseasonably nice November afternoon. My kids had never been to a Browns game and this was a wasted season, but why not introduce them to something of the Cleveland Browns culture? Little did I know that this would be a Cowboys home game on the shores of Lake Erie. Instead of having a crowd somewhat unified in this sinking ship of a franchise, it felt contentious in the stands with Cowboys fans booing all the flags in the Browns’ favor, let alone the two Ezekiel Elliott touchdowns. The Browns were 0-8 heading into the game and as we all know now, were in the midst of Hue Jackson’s 1-31 start at the helm of Sashi Brown’s Cleveland Browns rebuild/teardown. But that wasn’t all, and it wasn’t all the Browns’ fault.
This was November 6. This was four days after the Cleveland Indians lost Game 7 of the World Series to the Chicago Cubs in what felt like an away game at Jacob’s Field. I was in attendance at that game wishing I’d sold my tickets for an amount of money equal to a nice used automobile. I was there while Cubs fans reveled in the victory after an ill-timed rain delay snapped the Tribe’s momentum. I felt about as bad about a monumental sporting event as you ever possibly could, not only because my team lost, but because I felt violated by all those away fans taking over my home stadium. To have it happen twice in one week was more than I could stand as a sports fan.
It’s one thing to be tortured by a team that took the Cubs to Game 7 of the World Series before succumbing. It’s quite another to allow it to happen at the hands of a 0-8 football team that was starting Cody Kessler on a QB depth chart that included Josh McCown, Robert Griffin III, Kevin Hogan, and Charlie Whitehurst throughout the 1-15 season. When the Tribe tortures you in the World Series, it’s worth it because you had a chance at the ultimate prize. When the Browns torture you, it’s to try and avoid the ultimate shame, which they failed to avoid just a season later going 0-16.
I still get phone calls from dutiful ticket reps from the Cleveland Browns. They’re very professional and nice, but they don’t quite understand. They ask if I have Indians tickets and how we value those even when the team isn’t good. I told him that I didn’t want to talk about the Indians. Despite my hatred for Mark Shapiro’s rant about it not being all about winning, I admit that baseball tickets have an intrinsic value outside of the quality of the roster. It’s much easier when the Indians have Cy Young contenders and MVP candidates for sure, but when the Indians are stinky, it’s still nice to hit the ballpark for a few innings in the nice summer weather.
Browns tickets impose upon you in a different way. Because there are only 20 games in a season, including pre-season games, the price is obviously higher. The Browns also make you buy two pre-season games at full price, pressing another button of mine (and every other fan who buys season tickets.) The late-season games are usually doubly bad because the team is out of it and the weather is horrendous on the shores of Lake Erie. It’s like getting poked in the eye twice, but standing in line and paying money to do so. So no, Mr. Season Ticket Sales Partner in Berea, this won’t be the year I jump back on board the ticket bandwagon.
I think the Browns are on the right track for the most part. I believe that John Dorsey and his staff have a really good chance at building a football team that won’t torture us the way teams in the past have. If he does that consistently over time, he’ll also rebuild the trust that was lost between the Browns and the fans that allowed so many “home” games to feel like away games at FirstEnergy over the past few years. Even as I’m a believer, I’m going to wait and see before I pony up even a dime of my own money to commit to it. I may hit the secondary ticket sites for a game or two to buy tickets to a game, but it’s going to be a long time before the stain of that Cowboys game and the last few years of wasted time and money is washed away. I’m not going to go on faith, that’s for sure. I’m going to have to see some results first.