CLEVELAND, Ohio – Fans of the NFL 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 Todd Schaffer, who lives in Maitland, Fla., but was born and raised in Cleveland.
Who is he?
Schaffer, 61, currently does marketing and graphics for a cable distribution company. He has nearly 20 years of experience doing humanitarian relief in eastern Africa, including in Somalia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya.
Schaffer worked in Somalia around the time of Black Hawk Down, also known as the Battle of Mogadishu. He was in Rwanda after the country had gone through genocide. Schaffer also worked with Veterinarians Without Borders.
When he was in Nairobi, Kenya, he met his wife, Liz, and she wouldn’t let him work in war zones anymore if they were to be together. In 2006, he returned to the U.S. to live with his wife and daughter in Florida.
Growing up next to the Lerners
Schaffer is one of five boys, and he grew up in Shaker Heights. His parents had Browns season tickets, and he remembers them having seats near the 50-yard line while he and his brothers sat near the top of old Municipal Stadium.
The family would go to each of the home games, and after every game on Sundays, Schaffer and his brothers would play football in the backyard.
When he was a kid in the mid-1960s, Schaffer and his family lived next to the Lerners, the future owners of the Cleveland Browns. Al Lerner, who passed away in 2002, bought the Browns as an expansion team in 1998, bringing the team back to Cleveland after it had been moved to Baltimore.
“We were very good friends with the Lerners,” Schaffer said. “My mom and dad at the time were very good friends with Norma and Al. I think some of my family up in Cleveland still are friends with at least some of the Lerner family. I know Norma lives up there.”
Schaffer said the Lerners’ children Randy and Nancy used to come out and play with him and his brothers. Looking back, Schaffer thought it was cool he used to play with Randy Lerner, who took ownership of the Browns after his father’s passing in 2002. Lerner sold the team to current owner Jimmy Haslam in 2012.
“It’s just wild to think about that we used to pound each other in the backyard, and now here they are owners of the Browns,” Schaffer said.
Why he’s a Browns Fan
For Schaffer, his fandom is tied to growing up in Cleveland, where city pride holds significance.
“I mean, it’s kind of hard to live in Cleveland and not be a Browns fan,” Schaffer said. “You’re born there, and then you’re immersed. At least with my dad, he was a Browns fan, so having season tickets and going to the Browns games, you just by osmosis, you just become a Browns fan.”
When Schaffer was in East Africa, his dedication to following the Browns was strong. He said since the areas he lived were either seven or sometimes eight hours ahead of Cleveland, he’d have to correctly time when the game would be over.
He’d then call one of his relatives or friends for an update around midnight his time, and he’d use a satellite phone. Prices to use one could range from $10 to $20 a minute.
“But I always made it, and I always got my information and made sure I kept track,” Schaffer said. “So it’s been kind of an ongoing thread in my life to keep track of what’s going on with the Browns.”
Like many fans, Schaffer has strong loyalty to the team. Despite going through numerous disappointing seasons, he is hopeful about what the team can do this season.
He was especially pleased with the Browns’ win over the Ravens on Sunday.
“True Browns fans, they never jump off the bandwagon to another team,” Schaffer said. “Just stick with it and know better days are coming, and it seems like now we are in the midst of some type of a better day is here. I think every Browns fan around the world is really hopeful that what we saw yesterday will be an omen of things to come.”