I know very little about gridiron, that sport which Americans call football, and which seems to be a version of Rugby where they wear helmets and throw the ball forward instead of backward.
But I recently decided to adopt an NFL team of my very own, the Cleveland Browns.
I discovered them whilst reading Existential Comics, an online cartoon strip which presents philosophy in the form of cartoons. This particular instalment, ‘In Which Friedrich Nietzsche is a Fan of the Cleveland Browns’, greatly amused me (here is the link below):
It also touched me (and inspired me – Nietzsche is one philosopher I truly enjoy reading, which probably says something about the tenuousness of my hold on sanity). Being a Footscray boy, I have always barracked for the AFL team now known as the Western Bulldogs (but which I would prefer to call the Footscray Football Club). The Bulldogs are a team which, until the miracle spring of 2016, had not won a premiership since 1954, and had not even played in a Grand Final since 1961. I am very used to being a supporter of the underdogs. I am no fickle or fair weather fan.
And the Cleveland Browns are definitely underdogs. They have not had any success since the heady days of the 1950s, long before the Super Bowl existed. This further Existential Comics instalment points out that the Browns are a ‘factory of sadness’:
I wanted to express my new found fandom by buying an NFL jersey representing the Browns. So I went to the Highpoint Shopping Centre to the new shop called ‘Stateside’, which sells American sporting merchandise (mostly singlets for the various NBA teams) and I asked the American shop assistant if they sold NFL merchandise. He said that they didn’t normally stock it, but asked which team I wanted. When I replied ‘Cleveland Browns’, he chuckled and shook his head and said ‘No chance’.
But, just like my commitment to the Footscray Football Club, I live in hope for the Browns. We got our premiership miracle in 2016, and I was fortunate enough to see my home town come to life in celebration that night. So too, perhaps even the Browns can win a Super Bowl one day.