Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Completed: On Being Brown: What it Means to Be a Cleveland Browns Fan

Dear Jenny,

I loved, loved, loved this book. Despite the horrendous finish to the season that my beloved Cleveland Browns have just had, I am a die-hard fan and I thought this book was terrific.

My parents actually gave it to Bill about... 8 or 9 years ago, I think. He read it then and passed it on to me and it's been sitting on my TBR shelf ever since. I read it before the season started, so I still had a lot of hope in my heart upon finishing it. It's probably best read as an off-season book... you know... several months after the pain of the recent season has worn off.

I'll get this out of the way up front: I find the title a little awkward... although the subtitle clears up the initial confusion, when I see "On Being Brown," I think, "This book title does not mean what you think it means..." Heh.

Other than that, it's great. There are a series of reminiscences by the author himself on growing up as a Browns fan in the 70s and 80s:
A Browns game. When I was 12, a Browns game lived somewhere in my spirit between a presidential inauguration and New Year's Eve -- it was the first true event I can ever remember, trumping weddings and bar mitzvahs, holidays and anniversaries in importance in my mind. I remember gatherings of men outside the catering halls, smoking cigarettes, heads bent over transistor radios, during autumn weddings held, recklessly, on Sunday afternoons. That was a clue to what was important.
The Browns were important. They may or may not have been important to the outside world, but they were important to us. [13]
And those personal essays are interspersed with interviews with Browns legends like Lou Groza, Jim Brown, Ozzie Newsome, Otto Graham and, of course, Bernie Kosar (My favorite.) (19 should be retired!) and reviews of some great (and not-so-great) Browns moments throughout the years like the 1964 championship game, Red Right 8, and, of course, the troubles with Denver (oof).

This book was published in 1999, on the brink of the team returning to Cleveland after that no-good son-of-a-bitch moved them to Baltimore. I actually teared up several times while reading it, vividly remembering the hope and excitement of that time. I loved reading players' memories of being Browns and their emotional comments also choked me up. Seeing my waterworks, Bill said, "Hrm... I don't remember crying while reading that book..." (He is also a Browns fan, but, of course, not nearly as emotional about it... it's Bill. You know.) So I'm not sure that everyone would have such a strong emotional reaction but... I sure did.

I also had a lot of "Hell yeah!" moments... the chapter covering Browns Backers organizations (of which I am a proud member); the author's Dad's unofficial code of behavior while attending games (including: "#2: Inclement weather is part of the deal -- it's part of the fun. Rooting for the Browns when it's 10 degrees and snowing is harder than rooting for the Browns in front of your television; anyone could do that.  That's what makes this fun. That's why we're here." [30]); and, in general, all of the talk about the spirit of Browns fans, who love this team despite its never having been to a Super Bowl (only one of four NFL teams, if you were curious) and the repetitive crushing of our hopes year after year.

I could keep on gushing, but I won't. It was great. I would recommend this book to any Browns fan (or anyone who is interested in figuring out what it means to be a Browns fan.) But, again... they might want to wait until the summer to read it.


1 comment:

  1. I am cracking up at Bill saying he didn't remember crying while reading it. Haha! That's awesome.

    It sounds like a really fun read, actually. Even though I don't consider myself a big Browns fan, I think the growing up part of it would definitely resonate. For sure it was a big part of the landscape of my childhood!

    I had not thought about the awkward title before you mentioned it, but now it definitely seems weird....oh well. They can't all be winners!

    It's always so satisfying to read a TBR book and truly love it!