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Truly faithful fans can be hard to find

Casper's CornerJeff CaspersenGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Perhaps the best season of all is nearly upon us – football season. In my book, that’s better than Christmas, Thanksgiving and my birthday combined.I caught my first National Football League game in two years on Saturday, a preseason tilt between the Denver Broncos and my girlfriend’s beloved Cleveland Browns. I’m not a big fan of either – I grew up a San Francisco 49ers faithful – but I enjoy sporting events of almost any kind, so I gladly tagged along.Though Broncos fans impressed me with their devout, football-savvy ways, I must say I was impressed by the showing of Browns fans at Invesco Field. We noted more than a fair share of Browns jerseys – Brady Quinn, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow, Joe Thomas; you name it – breaking up the sea of orange on this warm Denver night.Naturally, as we climbed the steps to our seats and nestled in, a family of Browns fans sat directly behind us. Trouble, I knew, was on the horizon. So I sat embarrassed – and somewhat impressed – as my girlfriend joined in trademark Browns bark chants with her fellow faithful. Oh, and don’t forget her frequent taunting of neighboring Broncos fans.”It’s only a preseason game,” I muttered a record number of times. The response: “It doesn’t matter. We take the wins we get,” or something like that. Bottom line: The Browns don’t win very much, at least not in recent years. Though with quarterback Brady Quinn sure to take over by midseason, this tortured franchise from Cleveland may soon make the vault to respectability.My point: Hope is a beautiful thing, even if it never materializes. Unfortunately, in this age of attention deficit disorder, few fans stick with one team. Hope means nothing because they’re jumping ship to something better as soon as hard times come.As a follower and diehard fan of one team from each major team sport (San Francisco Giants, 49ers, San Jose Sharks and Golden State Warriors, if you’re wondering), it’s impossible to harbor anything but respect for Browns fans. You choose your team as a kid and stick with ’em, for better or worse. And if you’re still pulling on a Cleveland jersey and heading to games, clearly you’re staying faithful through the worse. Fair-weather parasites drive me mad. You see way too many freakin’ Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees fans these days, too often folks who grew up nowhere near New England or the Bronx. Ask a kid who his/her favorite player is and nine times out of 10, they’re someone showcased in a Nike commercial.Parents: In addition to the standard birds-and-bees and don’t-do-drugs talks with your kids, talk to your kids about sports fidelity. Teach them that fan-team relationships are like marriage. You’re stuck.Suffering through years of downs makes the ups that much sweeter. Take the Browns, for instance. If they ever do win a Super Bowl, memories of “The Drive,” the original franchise’s relocation to Baltimore and the Ravens’ Super Bowl win just a few years after that relocation will fall by the wayside.Just as Broncos fans no doubt felt after Elway finally exorcised his Super Bowl demons and won back-to-back titles in the late 1990s.And just as I will feel when Frank Gore and Alex Smith guide a once-proud Niner franchise back into the NFL playoffs.Contact Jeff Caspersen: 384-9123jcaspersen@postindependent.com


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