As a loyal and life-long Browns fan I have seen plenty of sunshine and even more rain over the years. One thing that never changes is the way that fans respond when the Browns have a home game up in Cleveland.
I went to last weekend's game against the Cincinnati Bengals with my brother as a member of the Browns-backers. We took a charter bus up to Cleveland from Cambridge that left at 3:45am on Sunday morning.
The game didn't start until 1p.m. We got there just a little but early, say by like 6 am. That left plenty of time for us to meet other fans, eat way too much food and for some of us, to get just a little bit loose.
The City of Cleveland and the NFL decided that people were showing up too early for Browns games, so they backed up the time you could actually enter the municipal lot from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Their plans didn't exactly work, as everybody still shows up at 6 and merely turn Lakeside highway into a giant parking lot. We sat in line for an hour and traffic was backed up onto the highway for at least 2 or 3 miles.
Once we were parked, the cooking crew went about setting up our tents and the buffet line. This year's menu included skyline chili and alligator. Several people gave the cooks grief for serving something that originated in Cincinnati for our pre game feast.
By 10 a.m. the entire lot was full. People were grilling out, playing corn hole, burning Bengals in effigy, and generally behaving like they were at a festival.
Cleveland in the fall is always cold. The weather forecast means nothing. If you don't bring multiple layers and bundle up you are going to be miserable, which made one particular fan an object of interest for the rest of us.
This guy was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. I wanted to start an over/under pool on when the hypothermia made him delirious. The high temperature Sunday was supposed to be in the 50s, but when we got up there it was pouring down a cold rain and you could see your breathe. Lake Erie is not very forgiving.
After everyone had their fill of chili and alligator, (which tastes like chicken) it was time to wander the lot and take in the sights. There are always several large RV's customized to the Brown's logo, colors and mascot. It's the only place you will ever see brown and orange dog buses, complete with ears, tails, legs, and snouts, etc.
The money that people put into these traveling statements of Browns love is astounding. Several have full bars, big screens with satellite hook-up, full kitchens with grilling and steam table accessories, and even a hot tub. Tail-gating in style is the rule not the exception.
The fans are great. They love their Browns no matter what. No fair-weather fans here. They latch onto any player who performs well for the team, elevating them to mythical status in an instant.
The current fan darling is Peyton Hillis, a huge running back with a bruising style that the blue-collar fan base readily identifies with. Hillis doesn't look to go out of bounds or avoid contact. He seeks it out, looking around for any poor defenseless defenders he can run over.
Hillis was the talk of pregame after running amok the previous week against the Baltimore Ravens. When he rushed for over 100 yards and a touchdown in the Browns victory over the Bengals, he had officially become a Browns legend.
That could change next week, as is the norm in the NFL. What won't change is the hunger the fans have for a winning team. It has been hard on Browns fans ever since Art Modell took his team to Baltimore in 1995. Winning seasons and playoff appearances have been few and far between.
If you value qualities like loyalty and patience through adversity then Browns fans are the best. In good times and bad, the fans believe, and with Mike Holmgren running the show, that patience may soon be rewarded.
As for me, the early wake up, long bus trip, nasty weather and physical exhaustion was more than worth it. I got to see the Browns win and celebrate with the best fans in the world.
Jim Markley is a Marietta Times sports writer and can be reached at 376-5439.