CLEVELAND, Ohio — NFL fans know that the Cleveland Browns have one of the league’s most loyal and fervent fan bases and have followers around the country and around the world. They share a long tradition that has seen championships and winless seasons and everything in between.
In the spring, we asked you to tell us “Why I’m a Browns Fan.” More than 600 of you responded. Today, we’ll share another one of your stories as we wind through the 2019 season.
The authors of these essays have one thing in common: their love for the Browns.
By the time we’re through, we plan to tell all your stories.
Today’s fan is Toby Stefan, who lives in Monterey, Calif., but spent most of his formative years in Cleveland.
Who is he?
Stefan, 49, has been a cab driver for seven years. He said that he sometimes hears from people he looks like Ben Bailey, the host of the game show “Cash Cab” on various cable channels.
“It’s an interesting job,” Stefan said. “Every day’s kind of a new adventure. Fortunately, I have a lot of regulars too that I’ve gotten to know over the years. It’s great being your own boss, independent contractor so I make my own schedule and make my own rules and all that. But yeah I’m very fortunate.”
Stefan and his wife have lived in Monterey for 10 years, and they have their own mini-version of a “Dawg Pound.” One dog is a beagle mixed with a bit of hound, and the other is a Scottie poodle dachshund mix.
Moving around, but still loving the Browns
Stefan went to Bay High School (and briefly Mentor) as a teen. But even though he spent some of his formative years in Cleveland, he had moved around frequently. In addition to Ohio, his family spent time in North Carolina and Texas.
As he bounced around different states, though, being a Browns fan was a constant.
“So, I think once (Bernie) Kosar got on the scene, then I moved, I think I really kind of latched onto the Browns because there was a connection to my hometown and my friends and my family,” Stefan said.
Running onto the field at Candlestick
Stefan had admittedly talked a lot of trash to his friends about him running onto the field at Candlestick Park in San Francisco in 1996.
It was the first season after the Browns had left Cleveland for Baltimore. Stefan was upset, and had even gotten a Browns tattoo at the time.
His idea to run onto the field at Candlestick on Nov. 17, 1996, during the San Francisco 49ers’ game against the Baltimore Ravens was planned – this wasn’t spontaneous. He had promised his mother he wouldn’t fight back against police officers if he was arrested, but overall both parents were supportive. His friends had even gotten a collection of money together for his bail.
After a slight delay in meeting the morning of the game, his friends picked him up and they went to the stadium.
“It was really bad traffic, and we had to park really far away, so we didn’t actually get into the game until halftime,” Stefan said. “And the plan was to run at the two-minute warning.”
Stefan and his friends had previously scoped out Candlestick Park for a convenient point of access to the field. But in their excitement and anticipation, they couldn’t find the spot he had initially chosen.
“And so we ended up in a better spot down by where the ambulance is and the players run on and off the field,” Stefan said. “And I was wearing red and white to mix in the crowd with a Browns (Eric) Metcalf jersey underneath it.”
The 49ers were up 31-20 in the fourth quarter, then put up another touchdown, a run from quarterback Elvis Grbac, who coincidentally had starred at Cleveland’s St. Joseph High School. It was then that Stefan ran out onto the field, waving a Browns flag and wearing the Metcalf jersey.
He ran past two cops, but no one stopped him. As he reached the field, though, one Ravens player had some choice words for him.
Here is the clip where he runs onto the field, courtesy of Stefan.
“And so I ran out basically in the end zone that they just scored in, and I made a hard left and started running,” Stefan said. “And then the first Baltimore guy I saw, he was pissed. He looked at me, excuse my language again, but I was running by him and he goes, ‘Hey, (expletive) you.’”
In the end, Stefan ran off the field and went back into the stands, having waved a Browns flag at Candlestick Park without getting arrested.