Browns Backers surprisingly subdued; Mini-Dawg Pound at PSINet never really materializes


In the last row of section 537 -- located in the northwest corner of the upper deck at PSINet Stadium -- Browns fans Shelly Ehrke and Amy Linton watched the Ravens' 17-10 win over Cleveland yesterday.

Ehrke and Linton, with their hair dyed orange, moved from their original section shortly after kickoff because they wanted to be near more Cleveland fans.

Judging by the lack of brown and orange around the stadium, sections 537 and 536 were about their only choices.

"We came to support our team," said Ehrke, 24, who teaches third grade in Nashville, Tenn. "The ushers got rid of our signs in the other section. So we moved over here to be closer to our fans."

The section they moved into was in the heart of the Browns Backers' organization. About 500 Browns Backers came with Browns hankies and painted orange faces.

Having lost two signs that were in questionable taste, they created another: "Cleveland kept the Browns, Baltimore got Art [Modell], so we win." It was the only pro-Browns, anti-Modell sign hanging in the stadium.

That surprised Kevin Byrne, Ravens vice president of public relations. Speculation varied last week about the number of Browns fans that would invade PSINet Stadium, although Byrne said the Browns returned about 200 tickets.

But there was still the possibility that the Browns would create a mini-Dawg Pound in Baltimore.

That never happened.

"I look around at the fans to see who is cheering, and I didn't see that many Browns fans," said defensive tackle Larry Webster, who is one of five ex-Browns still on the Ravens' roster. "It is a little surprising. I thought they would bring the house and try to be like Pittsburgh when they come here. But it was nothing like that."

It was anything but Pittsburgh. The Steelers bring thousands of fans when they come every year, causing many to say that when Pittsburgh scores, it sounds like Three Rivers Stadium East. But the Browns could not have had more than 2,500 fans in the stadium yesterday.

The Browns Backers of Baltimore purchased tickets and advertised over the Internet, which is how Ehrke and Linton found out that seats were available. Outside of a little profanity between the Ravens' fans in adjacent sections and the Browns' fans after big plays, the game was incident-free.

Ravens fan Kevin Brooks, sporting a Ray Lewis jersey, was one of the main instigators. He said he wanted to have some good-natured fun with Browns fans. Brooks, 35, is a season-ticket holder and travels to many away games, including next week's game against Atlanta. But he said he is not planning to go to Cleveland, because he wants to avoid a potential altercation.

Outside the stadium, heading to the game, Ehrke and Linton said they had to deal with unruly Ravens fans.

The two, with other Browns Backers, rode around in a makeshift Browns van, with the Browns' logo on the outside.

"They were throwing eggs, ice cubes and beer bottles when we were driving around town," Linton, 24, said. "They don't understand what being a real football fan is all about."

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