Despite record, Browns fans try for positive spin

The Baltimore Sun

CLEVELAND -- The disappointment has already set in.

Despite a season that is just a few weeks old, Cleveland Browns fans were generally in the type of discouraging mood that befits an 0-8 record, not a Cleveland team that is merely 0-3 after yesterday's 15-14 loss to the Ravens at Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Still, before yesterday's outcome, Browns fans tried to remain optimistic.

"They do bust your hopes, but I've been a fan for so long that you just keep rooting for the team," said Tom Andrus, a 24-year-old machinist from Akron, who said he has rooted for Cleveland since he was 6. "So it's not hard to be a fan."

Take, for instance, 59-year-old Roy Maxwell from Apple Creek, who two years ago forced his doctors to release him from the hospital after minor surgery so he could attend a Browns home game.

"Last year, I saw improvement," said Maxwell, who has been a fan since 1957. "This year, I'm seeing what looks like an expansion team again. But at least we've got a football team."

That wasn't always the case. For four years, Cleveland fans stewed after former owner Art Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore after the 1995 season until the league re-established a presence in 1999.

While Modell is still vilified as Public Enemy No. 1 and the Ravens trail only the Pittsburgh Steelers as the most hated team in the city, Browns fans are more concerned about the state of the team.

Cleveland's loss yesterday left the team in last place in the AFC North and put the organization on pace to record its sixth last-place finish in eight seasons.

Still, Tony Schaefer, a 55-year-old contractor who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Hall of Fans in 2004, said he won't renege on his pledge to refrain from booing the Browns.

Schaefer, who owns a refurbished school bus called the Mobile Dawg Pound, recalled last week's loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in which Browns offensive lineman Ross Tucker approached several fans in the stands and urged them to continue their support.

"It's in my blood," Schaefer said of his loyalty for the team. "I will never lose the love I have for the Browns."

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