For me, football was all about my dad. Looking back, I don't even think my dad liked football, but for some reason I thought he did. As the oldest of three kids (younger set of twins - boy/girl), I was always looking to get my dad's attention. I was definitely a "people-pleaser" in general.... got good grades, was involved in everything, had a million friends but no one really close to me, band geek.... but I think I particularly wanted my dad's approval.
I learned about football so we could watch games together and talk about sports. But we never watched games together or talked about sports. I was still a girl. My dad had firm ideas about how boys were different than girls. Mom dealt with us girls and Dad dealt with my brother. This made me angry. My way of dealing with the anger was to become the world's biggest Browns fan.
One of the great shameful secrets that I keep is that my parents are from the Pittsburgh area. They say things like "warsh the dishes" and "jeet yet?" and they are Steelers fans. Seems silly to be ashamed of this, but by the time I was 13 I was in full fan mode and hated (HATED!) all things black and gold. Instead of being mad at my dad, which would have been completely unacceptable, I chose to hate his football team. I don't think he ever really knew or cared, but there it is.
I will say that I do dearly love the game of football. While my friends were falling in love with Shaun Cassidy and Leif Garrett, I was hanging up posters of Brian Sipe (Browns QB - '80's). I was memorizing stats. I was watching games. I still get so excited at kickoff. I joined the band in the 5th grade with all of the other aspiring musicians - except they wanted to rock n roll or maybe play in an orchestra someday. I couldn't wait for high school and marching band. It was a way for me to be connected to the football games every week. My only regret is that I didn't learn to play the sousaphone and go to OSU and have a chance to dot the "I."
At any rate, I am left with a love of almost all sports, but football in particular. And I am left now, at 43, in a love affair with someone who has broken my heart more times than I can count. The Drive. The Fumble. The Tramp Stamp. Oops, forgot to mention that one. After years of thoughtful consideration, last summer I had a Browns Helmet tatooed on my lower back. My children informed me that it is called a "tramp stamp." Who knew? Anyway, they are now blaming my tat for the utter agony that has been this year's season. But I digress....
There are certain rules that I live by now as part of my Browns Fan-dom. I hate the Pittsburgh Steelers. I hate the Baltimore Ravens. I'm suppose to hate the Cincinnati Bengals, but really, they are more worthy of my pity than anything else. Their fans know my pain. AND, I hate John Elway.
The next shameful secret came when my oldest daughter - at the age of 16 - announced that she was a Steelers Fan. O. M. G. Where did I go wrong? What parenting rules did I break? Was someone going to call children's services and take my baby away for being abused? Something must truly be wrong with me if I raised "one of those" kinds of people.....
Next hurdle... my daughter Lafawnduh is dating a new boy. They'd been friends for a few years and she asked me for permission to date him. I said "why would you need my permission" and that's when she dropped the bomb... "he's a Steelers fan." Oh, baby.... what good could come from this? What about my grand babies? I will not suffer grand babies in black and gold onesies! She has promised me that if they marry and have children, they will raise them in My Faith - the church of the orange and brown - and I trust her to do just that. It will be a difficult road for them in a mixed marriage, but that is a long way off. I will wish them the best. At least she didn't bring home John Elway.
John Elway is the AntiChrist. I blame John Elway for our lack of a Super Bowl Championship. It's all his fault. He knows it, I know it. There is a special place in hell for him - right next to Art Modell. (Wow - just saying all that felt really good.) I've been to Denver twice in my life. I love to golf there. It's beautiful and the people are really cool. But if you ask me to meet you there for dinner and the restaurant is owned by John Elway, I ain't going. People have tried. I have made scenes. It wasn't pretty but I made my point.
I don't know John Elway and I guess, ultimately, he's probably not that bad a guy, but you have to consider the source. I'm a Browns fan. Good, bad, ugly, I go on hoping and dreaming that someday they will make me proud. Until then, I'll keep waiting. And watching. And drinking the Pepto Bismol.....