CLEVELAND, Ohio — Browns fans from around the country and the world have followed their favorite team through the best and worst moments.
Fans have seen the Browns win titles, but they have also seen many losing seasons. But Browns fans possess loyalty that’s arguably the strongest of any NFL fanbase. During the spring, we asked you to share your story of “Why I’m a Browns Fan.” More than 600 sent in submissions. Today, we’ll share another one of your stories as Week 14 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 Jon Boyce, who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, with his wife, Susan. They have a 2-year-old daughter named Abigail and a son named Benji, who is five months.
Who is he?
Boyce, 34, has been a registered nurse for nearly 10 years. For his job, his weekend is Sunday and Monday, which helps him be free to watch Browns games on NFL Game Pass. Christchurch is 18 hours ahead of Cleveland, so he watches games on Monday morning.
He has never been to the United States, but he wants to eventually come to Cleveland to watch the Browns.
Connecting with the pain of the fan base
When Boyce’s older brother got a PlayStation 1 in 1999, the Browns had returned to Cleveland. Boyce and his brother played franchise mode on Madden, and they always rode with the Browns to the Super Bowl.
Boyce watched Browns highlights on ESPN at first, and saw his first game in 2006 or 2007 because it was in primetime. A San Francisco 49ers fan at first, Boyce lost interest in them, but continued to follow the NFL and eventually adopted the Browns. He’s been watching every game since 2014, and what drew him to the franchise was learning its history.
“I watched a lot of the history of the NFL shows,” Boyce said in a Skype interview. “Hearing about the ‘50s and the ‘60s with Otto Graham, and particularly Jim Brown was quite inspiring stuff as well. Jim Brown’s highlights are phenomenal. I can still watch them today.”
Boyce mentioned the Kardiac Kids era of the 1980s and the team relocating to Baltimore for the 1996 season being two other pivotal periods in the team’s history.
“I think the pain of the Browns in the mid-1990s with the relocation, it’s a really profound story,” Boyce said. “It’s kind of like ripping the heart out of a city in a way.”
As a sports fan, Boyce said none of his favorite teams’ fanbases can compare to the anguish Browns fans have experienced over the years. This year’s team is seeking the third winning record since the 1999 return.
“It’s a really human connection,” Boyce said. “My life and pretty much everyone’s life that I know, we experience pain. Everyone experiences loss. I think you just really connect with that at a human level.”
In regularly watching the Browns, Boyce has seen some of the team’s lowest moments. He’s seen the 0-16 season in 2017. He thought former quarterback DeShone Kizer would be good, but Kizer ended up not winning one game in a Browns uniform.
Despite all their shortcomings, the Browns produced a brief bright spot in 2007. Former quarterback Derek Anderson had his best season, throwing for 29 touchdowns. In all his other seasons, Anderson combined for 31 touchdowns. The 2007 season was his lone appearance as a Pro Bowler.
“I remember an interview with Derek Anderson and Braylon Edwards, and I thought we had a really strong future with Anderson,” Boyce said.
The Browns’ fortunes quickly changed. They didn’t win more than five games for six consecutive seasons following 2007, but Boyce has remained loyal. He’s a fan of running back Nick Chubb, and also likes watching cornerback Denzel Ward. Boyce thinks Ward can be a good leader in the future.
“I think if anyone’s going to find their voice on the Browns defense, I’d really like it to be him as well,” Boyce said. “I think he can be an incredible leader once he matures a bit.”