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Issue Date: September 2013


Why We Love Football: Brown and Orange All Over

You don't stop being a Browns fan simply by moving away from Northeast Ohio.
With more than 105,000 official members representing 67 different countries, Browns Backers Worldwide is one of the largest organized fan clubs in professional sports. There's at least one club in all 50 states, including a whopping 33 in Florida. But they do more than watch football — most raise money for local charities, throw draft parties or organize trips to games.
Jason Brill
brill@clevelandmagazine.com

Hover over each helmet for more info about each Browns Backers group.

Portland Anchorage Mile High Dallas Kansas Cincinnati Michigan Pittsburgh DC NYC

[Anchorage]

Tough Dawgs
Hanford Dixon would be proud. Last winter, the Anchorage Snow Dawgs sponsored Jamaican Iditarod musher Newton Marshall. Browns Backers attended the ceremonial and official starts of the race, even helping Marshall get his team of dogs hitched-up and ready to go. As an honorary member of the Snow Dawgs, Marshall has a personalized Browns jersey. "So we have a Browns jersey that's made it to the Iditarod finish line," says group co-founder and Northeast Ohio native Sally Selby.

[Kansas City]

Home Maker
Before the Browns play the Chiefs Oct. 27, Dick Ferrell and the Browns Backers of Kansas City hope to meet the team at the hotel to show their support. "That's not something that everybody does," says Ferrell, a longtime Browns fan who moved away in 1965. "But we want to do that." The group is also planning a big bash the night before the game and will offer game ticket packages that include a commemorative T-shirt.

[Pittsburgh]

Hostile Takeover
The Pittsburgh Browns Backers live by the motto "The Toughest Place to Wear Your Colors." Founder Paul Carson's group initially had trouble finding a bar that would let them watch games together. Even when they did find a few places, a local radio station has been known to reveal the locations and encourage Steelers fans to show up and heckle. But Cleveland Heights native Carson acknowledges that the ire his Browns gear attracts can be pretty funny. "You go to the grocery store and a grandma on a motorized cart is yelling at you," he jokes.

[Washington, D.C.]

Capitol Goods
Paige Hale has belonged to Browns Backer groups in Cincinnati, Denver and San Diego. When she joined the club in Washington, D.C., she wanted to replace its stodgy laminated membership cards with something she picked up while in Bengals country. This season, an orange dog tag with an image of the Capitol Building (look closely and you'll see the crown of a Browns helmet) doubles as a membership card. "It is a very transitional city because of the military base here," Hale says. "And it ties in with the Dawg Pound. It was simple and easy, and kinda gives you some gear along with having a membership."


Scott Raab

Writer
Scott Raab still has the ticket, protected by a zip-closure bag. Section 7, row Z, seat 19 of Cleveland Municipal Stadium. That's where, on Dec. 27, 1964, the then-12-year-old witnessed the Cleveland Browns upset a Baltimore Colts team featuring Johnny Unitas and second-year head coach Don Shula for the city's last major sports championship. Thousands of fans stormed the field when the clock hit :00 of the 27-0 victory. "I don't remember literally seeing the goal posts fall," says Raab, 61. "But it was like that. That was by far, far and away the greatest moment I have ever experienced as a Cleveland sports fan." The writer-at-large for Esquire moved away from Northeast Ohio in 1984 for graduate school, but still obsesses about Cleveland's frustrating, downtrodden and cursed sports teams. He penned a piece as Chief Wahoo for Esquire's January Meaning of Life issue and even has the embattled mascot tattooed on his arm. His 2011 book, The Whore of Akron, chronicles LeBron James' final season with the Cavaliers, the playoff implosion, The Decision and James' first season in Miami. To show his level of fandom, Raab even brought the ticket to a meeting with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Raab realizes the stub certainly isn't any form of good luck. He's not even clear why it's become a talisman of sorts, but through numerous moves to places, such as Iowa, Texas, Philadelphia and New Jersey, he still has it. "I kept the ticket because I'm an obsessive Cleveland fan," he says. "It's not like I knew that no Cleveland team was gonna win a title [after that]."

Condoleezza Rice

Professor of Political Science
It's not a stretch to say that football and religion were tied in Condoleezza Rice's childhood house in Birmingham, Ala. Her father, the Rev. John Wesley Rice Jr., was a Presbyterian minister, teacher, high school football coach and dean of students at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa. The former secretary of state remembers watching the Browns during the •60s with her dad, because the team was frequently on TV. "Since he only had a little girl, he taught me to love the game, strategies for offense and defense, and to admire Paul Brown and the rest of the team," says Rice via email. She saw her first Browns game in person at Denver's Mile High Stadium Dec. 20, 1970. The Browns beat the Broncos 27-13. "Daddy moved heaven and earth to get the tickets," she says. "We sat in the end zone. I was thrilled."

Eric Barr

Cargo handler, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport
Eric Barr's devotion to the Cleveland Browns goes beyond his orange and brown jumpsuit or his August days spent at training camp. In 2010, with no connections to the city other than his love of the Browns, Barr quit his job in Connecticut and moved here to be closer to his team. Barr's father, Richard, a machinist for 40 years in Connecticut, admired the workingman's ethos of the Browns in the 1950s and •60s. "Good parenting results in children liking the same teams that the parents do," Barr says. "So I spent my whole life watching the Browns." Although he'd make the 1,122-mile weekend round-trip to Cleveland for every game since buying season tickets in 2007, he needed more. "In Ohio, football is religion," says Barr. "If you're not from Ohio or you don't live here, you don't understand that." Barr's best moment as a fan came when he finally entered Ohio on Sept. 17, 2010. "When I crossed that border," he says, "that's when it changed. I'm not a visitor. This is home. Now, I'm in."
Comments:
Monday, August 26, 2013 8:42:29 PM by Paul
Pittsburgh has an 'h' at the end...It's right there in the Pittsburgh Browns Backer's logo.
Friday, August 30, 2013 1:41:12 AM by Aaron
The biggest browns fans in the biggest state! Go anchorage snow dawgs!
Friday, August 30, 2013 1:42:02 AM by Aaron
Go browns! Anchorage Snow Dawgs rock!
Tuesday, September 03, 2013 1:46:42 PM by BUD GENOVESE
You left out the best Browns Backers clubs in the BBW network: The Bay Area browns Backers (BABB), based in SF Bay, with locations in Palo Alto, San Jose, San Ramon, Walnut Creek, Fremont, Alameda, and San Francisco. BABB has over 900 members, contributes to the Cleveland Browns Foundation, Silicon Valley Humane Society, National Guide Dogs, and sports an annual Browns player banquet. All right here in 49er and Raider, we have the most loyal Cleveland backers, from Browns, Cavs, Tribe, Bucks, to all of greater Cleveland.
Tuesday, September 03, 2013 4:00:36 PM by Tom Cardello
Hey Dawg what about the best Browns Backers of 'em all, the Bay Area Browns Backers? I live in Westlake but am a member bcuz they R so strong.
Wednesday, September 04, 2013 5:42:39 PM by Anonymous
How can you overlook California Browns Backers clubs? I belong to the Bay Area Browns Backers in northern CA, and sure hope you'll do a follow up piece to fill in the gaping holes on your map. Thank you.

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