Cleveland

In 2012, a group of friends and I went to the Browns game in East Rutherford. The Giants destroyed us, putting up 41 points. I know it’s hard to keep track since we’ve had 20 quarterbacks since 1999, but this was the Brandon Weeden era, and at 0-5, we were right on track for another glorious season.

We arrived at the stadium in full Browns gear under the pouring rain, an omen of game’s outcome. After living in New York for a decade, I was a little nervous about showing up wearing a Browns jersey. I envisioned of a group of rabid NY fans in blue, finance bros by day, broad-banging, fighting cokeheads by night, confronting a bunch of guys in poop brown colors. The last fight I participated in was in karate class in 1991 when I was a purple belt. Or was it brown?

Our group filed into the stadium and I sat next to my friend in seats behind the end zone. To my surprise, the NY fans treated us with respect. When they scored, nobody pointed at us or made comments. And when we left the stadium, our heads down after yet another defeat, one NY fan, a man around the same age, came up to me, patted me on the back, and said, “You guys will be good soon. I know it.” He smiled at me with pity, like I was in a wheelchair or had a pair of those crutches that connect to your forearms. The only person who mocked us was this little seven-year-old kid who told us, “The Browns suck!” Yeah, and water’s wet.

I was in Cleveland a few weeks ago for a wedding. We rented a Chevy Sonic, which drives more like a go-cart than a car. I zipped over to visit an old best friend from college who has struggled with drugs and alcohol for the past decade until he finally graduated to heroin. Homeless and bouncing in and out of shelters for a year, he finally got help and is now almost a year clean and sober. As I drove the go-cart to meet, not having seen him in almost ten years, I was nervous. Not that I’m a poster-child of success, but our lives had taken such opposite trajectories since 2003. But, as these things usually go, we picked up right where we left off.

We sat outside a coffee shop and talked about our lives. Ironically, he used to buy heroin in the park next door. I was shocked to hear about how much of an epidemic heroin is in Cleveland. He said it’s everywhere, and unless you’re in that world, you would never have any idea. We talked about lighter topics too; how he placed top ten in the world Tetris rankings, how I got married, and how we both sustained bodily injuries while sleeping. It was good to have him back.

Despite the Browns, the stories out of Cleveland aren’t all bad. Having my friend sober is like winning the Super Bowl.

All this being said, a Browns winning season would really lift our spirits. Get to work Brian. Or Johnny. Or Rex. Or [insert QB name here].

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