Saturday, September 08, 2007

Cleveland Browns Diaspora

With the recent surge in the size of Red Sox Nation, the stage for ubiquitous sports fans looks crowded. The national popularity of the Boston Red Sox is tied to the success of the team, which makes the growing numbers of Browns Backers all the more curious:

In the past four years, the Browns have gone 5-11, 4-12, 6-10 and 4-12 with three different head coaches and four different opening-day quarterbacks. Yet, every game (as has been the case since 1999) is a sellout. Browns Backers membership has grown from about 55,000 to closing in on 80,000 in the last nine months, according to the [Browns Backers club coordinator, Bridget Huzicka], who has a running tally of members signing up on

"Our club doubled from about 70 to 140," said Tom Rupe, a FedEx driver and head of the Ashland Browns Backers. "It's all because of the draft. When they got [offensive tackle] Joe Thomas and then traded for [the right to select quarterback] Brady Quinn, people just got back into the team. This is the most optimism since they came back in 1999."

Browns fans are anything but fair weather (only visible when the team is winning). However, once the season is lost, any bar that promotes a certain team has trouble filling the barstools. Without an owner who is also a diehard fan, most sports bars can't afford to affiliate with just one organization. Supporting the Browns might be the safest bet for a bar trying to establish a loyal clientele.

I doubt there are many bars that don't support at least one local team. I'd be interested to know if there are any bars outside of the Greater Cleveland market that promotes all Cleveland, all the time. Could an all-Pittsburgh bar survive in a faraway city such as San Francisco?

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