CLEVELAND, Ohio — Browns fans from around the country and the world have rooted for and supported their favorite team through the best and worst moments.
Fans have seen the Browns win championships and be playoff contenders. But recently they have seen a plethora of losing seasons.
The Browns haven’t had a winning season since 2007, but fans still possess the kind of loyalty that’s perhaps 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 16 of the NFL season comes around.
The authors of these essays have one thing in common: Passion and enthusiasm for the Browns. By the time we’re through, we plan to tell all your stories.
Today’s fan is Jay Burgess, who lives in Sugar Land, Texas, with his wife, Essie.
Who is he?
Burgess, 60, leads a corporate tax department for an HVAC company. He has done that job for about two years, and next year he will have lived in the Houston area for 38 years.
He drove into Houston on Jan. 10, 1982, the same day the late Dwight Clark made his famous catch in the San Francisco 49ers’ NFC Championship game win against the Dallas Cowboys.
Burgess and his wife have a daughter and two sons. Burgess’ daughter, oldest son and wife are Houston Texans fans, but his youngest son follows the Browns.
Traveling with family to see the Browns
Burgess grew up in Newark, N.Y., a town on the western part of the state. His uncle followed the Buffalo Bills of the old All-America Football Conference; that franchise is not part of the current Bills of the NFL.
When the AAFC finished its last season in 1949, the Browns were one of three teams to join the NFL. They had won a title each year the AAFC existed from 1946-1949, so Burgess’ uncle became a fan. He and some of his friends got season tickets and went to the games.
Eventually his friends got married, and he had four tickets available. Burgess’ love for the Browns was sparked by his uncle, who would take a rotation of family members (which included eight brothers) to games. Burgess saw one or two games each year in person.
It takes about 4.5 hours to drive from Newark to Cleveland, but Burgess fondly remembers the trips with his family.
“It was just an event for us,” he said over the phone. “We’d get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and get on the (New York State) Thruway. We’d stop, have breakfast halfway there. Enjoy the game, stop on the way back and have places to stop and eat.”
Along with the Browns tickets, Burgess said his uncle had five tickets to the NFL’s annual Hall of Fame Game.
“We would go also several times to the Hall of Fame weekend there in Canton,” Burgess said. “There we would spend a weekend. It’s just a lot of memories of being together and rooting for the Browns. Going from the (Brian) Sipe years and the (Bernie) Kosar years. It’s just been a family affair, if you will.”
When Burgess went to Niagara University in the late 1970s, he and his late oldest brother, Steve, got season tickets with some friends for a few years.
He remembers being at the 1979 game when Reggie Rucker caught a game-winning touchdown in overtime against the Miami Dolphins. Some fans stormed the field, and Burgess was one of them. Although, he wasn’t on the field long.
“He got mobbed in the end zone,” Burgess said. “I got the bright idea to go jump on the field, and as he was getting away from the mob, he saw me. He was like, ‘Don’t even come near me.’ So, I’m like OK. So, then I just walked around a little bit. Lyle Alzado was on the team at the time, and I remember him pushing somebody off of him trying to get to the locker room. I’m like ‘all right, I am out of here.’”
Burgess also remembers being at the Browns’ 1981 playoff game against the Oakland Raiders, when the wind chill was reportedly 37 degrees below. The Browns lost the Red Right 88 game 14-12.
“I don’t think I ever thawed out that whole winter,” Burgess said. “Felt like I was frozen that whole winter.”