Growing up in Huntington Beach, CA made it natural for Ryan Burns of footballsickness.com to become a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim fan. What wasn’t natural was being a Cleveland Browns fan. For that, he can thank his dad, who lived for many years outside of Cleveland in Wadsworth, Ohio. As any boy would, Ryan cheered for the Browns because his dad cheered for the Browns.
“It always seemed to me that the Raiders were really from Oakland and the Rams were for tennis fans. And when you’re eight, San Diego (90 miles) and Cleveland (2356 miles) are essentially equidistant from Huntington Beach,” he said.
His Browns devotion led to meeting his friend Tim (friends since third grade) for breakfast at 7am every Sunday and then finding a place to watch the game. The early years of the weekly tradition resulted in riding beach cruisers (bicycles you can pedal on the beach) because they were too young to drive.
Eventually, the youngsters got their licenses and drove cars. Denny’s was the first stop, followed by Patsy’s Irish Pub. Patsy’s would reserve the entire back room for maniacal Browns fans. “They would gnaw on Milk-Bones and bark like maniacs while their team marched to another 3-13 season,” Ryan said.
Those Sunday gatherings will always hold a place in his heart. “After a while, you get to know people just like you would those around you if you had season tickets to the Pound,” he said. “It’s those little communities that, to me, make football so great.”
Ryan’s fanaticism also led to two Cleveland trips. The first trip in December, 2005 was with Tim. They made a serious decision to attend a game in December, hoping for the worst possible weather.
After a red-eye flight from L.A. to Cleveland that left them both exhausted, they explored Cleveland’s nightlife (and thoroughly enjoyed it) on Friday, visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum on Saturday, and got ready for Sunday’s festivities.
The weather was cooperating fully with their original hopes, resulting in such a cold and snowy day that the pair had to buy more winter accessories from street vendors near the stadium. The amount of anti-Steelers gear was noticeably prominent despite the fact that the Browns were playing the Jacksonville Jaguars. In addition, Cornhole was quite popular with the fans.
Ryan immediately walked over to a group of Browns fans, mentioned that he and Tim were fans from out of town, and asked what they could do after the game. “Within seconds, we both had cold beers and fresh eats in our hands, and a place to hang until kickoff,” he said. “Cleveland Browns fans are die-hard, and your credentials are instantly bolstered when you explain that you chose Cleveland in December for the climate.”
Although the Browns lost 20-14, the pair appeared on the big screen and Tim was in the Monday Night Football halftime montage. All in all, it was a very memorable trip.
Ryan took his second trip to Cleveland with his dad. They took a red-eye flight in September, 2007, and drove straight to Wadsworth after they landed. “My dad hadn’t been back there since he was a kid, so it was moving to watch him be transported back and mystified by the whole thing,” Ryan said.
They then took in a Pittsburgh Pirates game at PNC Park before attending the Browns’ season opener against the Steelers in Cleveland. “It will forever be known to me as the Charlie Frye Game. Frye was so bad that they went to Derek Anderson and traded Frye, their named starter at quarterback, the next day,” Ryan said.
2007 was the year that Derek Anderson went to the Pro Bowl. The game, however, was the only home game that the Browns lost that year in a 10-6 season. Ryan said, “My dad and I have had a joke forever about how his attendance dooms all of our teams to failure, and that we ought to therefore refrain from actually going to games.”
Although the Browns have been awful, Ryan continues to have faith. “I’m no longer just knowingly blowing smoke,” he said. “I’m not saying they go to the playoffs or win the division in 2010, but I’m fairly confident they’re going to be significantly better than most folks out there are giving them credit for. The good times are coming back. I’m telling you, it’s coming.”
That’s, um, just crazy.