Things I've Learned from Watching the Browns by Terry Pluto

Gray & Company, Publishers

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Things I've Learned from Watching the Browns by Terry Pluto
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Things I've Learned from Watching the Browns

by Terry Pluto

  • Softcover, 254 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • ISBN: 978-1-59851-065-2
For dedicated Browns fans [the book is] like leafing through an old family photo album. — BlogCritics.com

Here's a question for any Browns fan: Why?

Why, more than four long decades after your team's last championship . . . despite a relentless pattern of heartbreak, teasing, and more heartbreak . . . capped with a decade of utter futility . . . do you still stick with the Cleveland Browns?

Veteran sportswriter Terry Pluto gets a daily barrage of email from fans letting their hearts bleed out orange and brown. So he decided to ask his readers: Just what is it about this team that makes you love them, hate them, and still keep coming back for more?

A thousand fans responded—in detail. Their stories—along with interviews with former players and Pluto's own expert analysis—deliver the answer. Answers, actually. Because like any intense relationship, it's a little complicated . . .

Covering the Browns from 1964 through present day, this book does for Cleveland football what Pluto's classic about the Indians, The Curse of Rocky Colavito, did for Cleveland baseball: It won't make the pain go away, but it might help you remember why it's worth enduring.

Reviews
A must-read for any fan. — Ashtabula Star Beacon
Full of information that even longtime Cleveland Browns fans may not have known. — Record Publishing
Pluto shares credit as author with “hundreds of Browns fans,” who sent him their stories about cheering for the team and, if they're lucky, meeting and befriending the players . . . For dedicated Browns fans [the book is] like leafing through an old family photo album. — blogcritics.org
Things I've Learned from Watching the Browns, by Terry Pluto
Table of Contents
  • 1. Being a Browns fan is completely, utterly irrational. But you already know that.
  • 2. The Fumble didn't cost the Browns a chance to go to the Super Bowl.
  • 3. The Browns do have a rivalry with the Steelers, but not the kind you think.
  • Voices of the Fans: How I Fell in Love with the Browns
  • 4. Fans know the draft is important, which is why it often makes them scream.
  • 5. Brian Sipe is still young in the hearts of most Browns fans.
  • 6. The greatest Brown ever is a Brown, but his first name is not Jim.
  • Voices of the Fans: The Browns Are Family
  • 7. Red Right 88 was the right call
  • 8. The Drive didn't beat the Browns. It hurt. It drove fans to tears. It was almost inexcusable. But it isn't why the Browns lost to Denver.
  • Voices of the Fans: Browns Fans in Exile
  • 9. The Browns almost didn't draft Jim Brown
  • 10. Clay Matthews made the fans proud.
  • 11. Fans still can't get enough of Bernie Kosar.
  • Voices of the Fans: Why We Love Bernie Kosar
  • 12. Only the players and the fans could have created the Dawg Pound
  • 13. Art Modell is just not a Hall-of-Famer.
  • Voices of the Fans: Meeting Browns Players
  • 14. Old Municipal Stadium may have been a dump, but it was our dump.
  • 15. The Paul Warfield trade wasn't that bad. Really. It just took eight years.
  • Voices of the Fans: Fan Favorites
  • 16. The Browns' best draft pick since 1999 wasn't drafted.
  • 17. Loving the Browns doesn't make sense. But we just can't help ourselves.
  • Acknowledgments
  • Sources
About Terry Pluto
Terry Pluto

Terry Pluto is a sports columnist for The Plain Dealer. He has twice been honored by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the nation's top sports columnist for medium-sized newspapers. He is a nine-time winner of the Ohio Sports Writer of the Year award and has received more than 50 state and local writing awards. In 2005 he was inducted into the Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame. He is the author of 23 books, including The Curse of Rocky Colavito (selected by the New York Times as one of the five notable sports books of 1989), and Loose Balls, which was ranked number 13 on Sports Illustrated's list of the top 100 sports books of all time. He was called “Perhaps the best American writer of sports books,” by the Chicago Tribune in 1997. He lives in Akron, Ohio. More About Terry Pluto

Question & Answer with the author...
Q: Why did you decide to write this book?

A: Let's be honest, things have been abysmal with the Browns since their move to Baltimore, but the fans are really engaged. Even in their anger, there's hope and so I wanted to tell the history of the Browns through the eyes of the fans and the best way to do that was ask them to send me their view of the team and those events. When I asked for their emails, I got over 1,000 responses.

Q: What kind of response did you receive? Were you surprised by this response? Why?

A: I knew it would be a lot of emails but I never expected that many, because the request ran in the paper only once. I'm not too surprised because fans are so dedicated. At least a dozen people mentioned that the Browns are in their DNA.

Q: How did you select the emails that made it into the book?

A: Boy, was that hard, there were so many good ones. Three or four fans talked about how their last conversation with their grandfather, or their dad or their mom was about the Browns. Sometimes the Browns were a kind of a comfort zone for the family, a way of saying, “I love you,” when you shared old stories about watching the Browns or going to games. These were the letters, the personal ones, that pointed out how the family and the Browns are all intertwined.

Q: How would you describe Browns fans' relationship with the team?

A: Very, very, passionate. They clearly get very angry and frustrated with the Browns and I would say the average Browns fan swears them off once or twice a year, if not more. But then it's kinda like you can't stay away. One person said, “My worst addiction is to the Browns.” I also think that no fan base has been treated worse by a franchise than the Browns because of “the Move.” And the fact that the fans are willing to embrace this very, very poor product after the team came back just shows, indeed, how football is their main addiction.

Q: Was there a specific submitted story that sticks out in your mind?

A: Yeah, they say something can be bitter-sweet, but there was one story that was “sweet bitter.” One contributor wrote about how he was eleven years old and he was at a Browns game. The Browns won the game on a field goal and he says that for the first time his father hugged him as that ball went through the uprights and his father hasn't hugged him since.

I think the book makes the Browns very human, both the players and the fans themselves. The fans often look like just faces in the crowd. Well, there are people behind those faces and we're hearing from them.

Q: Is there a particular “moment” in Browns history that many contributors shared?

A: The one that people talk about the most is the 1964 Championship. Unfortunately most of the fans were not alive for it. It wasn't just the last championship. The Browns were such a huge underdog and they won the game so decisively. In fact we had letters from people about how the game was blacked out locally, thanks to Art Modell. And all these people drove to Mansfield or Erie, Pennsylvania, so they could watch the game in some hotel room.

Q: Who are the fan favorites who are mentioned the most?

A: Even if things ended poorly, like Brian Sipe throwing the interception in Red Right 88, fans mentioned him as their favorite player, or Bernie, who was always on the wrong side of the Drive or the Fumble, was still our Bernie, because he chose us. He's sort of like the anti-LeBron now. He's from here and the only reason he left is because he got cut.

Q: Are there universally despised players or villains?

A: Well, Modell obviously was. It's been easier for Bernie Kosar to forgive Bill Belichick than the fans. I didn't choose a lot of the negative stories for the book. I wanted it to be more uplifting and more reminiscent than a book that looks back in anger.

Q: Would you say fans have gotten over Art Modell moving the team?

A: No. Not at all. The anger runs deep and it should, because it really was a betrayal. I'm convinced the Browns would have won two Super Bowls by now. They won one in Baltimore without Lerner's money and if they stayed here it would have been two.

Q: For you, personally, what is the most important thing you have learned from watching the Browns?

A: Probably how a really good Browns team could take a big area like Northeast Ohio and turn it into one small town. There was one email that said that when you're in the dawg pound and everyone is wearing their Browns stuff, you don't care if anyone is rich or poor, if the person next to you is an executive or unemployed, or if he's black or white. I grew up in a baseball family and the Indians fans are passionate, but there is nothing that beats Browns fans for pure passion.

Q: Did you write this book as Terry Pluto, sportswriter—or Terry Pluto, Browns fan?

A: I wrote it as a sports writer to give a voice to the fans. We're not just running a bunch of fan letters in the book, there's a lot of good research involved. What I was able to do is set the stage so fans could share their stories in the best way. It's kind of like I was the offensive coordinator. They still made the plays, but I was calling them and setting up the formations.

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