CLEVELAND, Ohio – Browns fans from around the country and the world have followed their favorite team through the highs and lows.
They have watched the Browns win titles, but they have also seen them regularly be at the bottom of the league’s standings in recent years. With that endearing loyalty, the Browns’ fanbase is perhaps the most loyal in the NFL.
During the spring, we asked you to share your story of “Why I’m a Browns Fan.” More than 600 of you sent in submissions. Today, we’ll share another one of your stories as Week 13 of the NFL season comes around.
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 James Frieden, who lives in Chicago with his wife, Sue. They have a daughter, Kate, who is a student at Michigan State.
Who is he?
Frieden, 61, has worked at Takeda Pharmaceutical for about three years. After going to John Carroll for his undergraduate schooling, Frieden went to Chicago for grad school. He usually comes back to Cleveland in September for a Browns game.
Last season he saw the home opener that resulted in a tie game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This season he was at First Energy Stadium for the Browns’ home opener against the Tennessee Titans.
“I thought for sure we were going to win the opener this year, and of course we didn’t,” Frieden said over the phone. “That was the game with all the penalties. That was frustrating.”
Learning pass patterns from Paul Wiggin
A graduate of Brush High School, Frieden grew up in South Euclid and lived on Belvoir Boulevard.
Former Browns quarterback Frank Ryan lived a few houses down from Frieden around 1965, and Ryan’s son Frank Ryan Jr. went to elementary school with Frieden. The two boys didn’t get to play much together, but Frieden remembers going over to the family’s house for a birthday party.
After Ryan and his family moved away, another player moved in. Browns defensive end Paul Wiggin and his family took up residence as he finished his 11-year career with Cleveland from 1957-67.
Frieden said Wiggin was nice and would toss the football around with him and other neighborhood kids. He said one summer Wiggin got a tire and rope and hung it from a tree. Wiggin would have Frieden and the other local kids try and throw footballs through the tire.
“He was teaching us pass patterns,” Frieden said. “That’s when I learned about a cross pattern. I was like seven years old. But it was like the coolest thing.”
Frieden said learning from Wiggin helped spark his love for the game. He and his friends used to go to Adrian Elementary School in South Euclid and play football.
“We’d have these NFL helmets,” Frieden said. “You’d get these cheap helmets. It came with shoulder pads and jersey. I always had a Browns one.”
Another one of Frieden’s childhood memories came when he went to Severance Center in Cleveland Heights. He remembers going to Higbee’s with his mom. Near the boys clothing, Browns fullback Ernie Green was signing autographs. Another time Gary Collins was there. Frieden got an autograph from both players.
“They were just black and white on cheap paper,” Frieden said. “They weren’t like really nice photo types of things. But it’s like you’re a little kid at that point and you’re getting an autograph from a pro football player, and you’re getting to say hi and all that.”
Watching Bernie Kosar’s last game
Bernie Kosar’s last game with the team was Nov. 7, 1993 against the Denver Broncos. Frieden, a fan of Kosar, was at the game. In his final season with the Browns, the 30-year-old Kosar posted a 57.2% completion percentage – it was his first time being under 60% since 1990.
Frieden remembers when Kosar had devised a play by drawing it in the ground and then throwing a pass to former receiver Michael Jackson. But a day after the game, Kosar was released.
Kosar signed with the Dallas Cowboys after being released and was the team’s backup quarterback in a Super Bowl championship season.
“I just remember how heartbroken I was,” Frieden said. “Because, I mean at that point in my life Bernie had been sort of like the best and had taken us the closest to possibly getting to a Super Bowl and maybe winning one. I couldn’t believe at that point that he wasn’t good enough.”