When John Pallini was born, he got a stuffed animal, just like his brother, Brian, and sister, Cari.
Only Pallini’s stuffed animal was special: a Browns bulldog.
Since he was a kid, Pallini, 30, has been a dedicated Browns fan. A Medina High School alum, he is currently a teacher at Boardman High School and lives in south Youngstown. He also coaches the varsity track and field team and helps coach the middle school football team.
Pallini said in teaching near an area close to Pennsylvania, the students at Boardman are about 40% Browns fans, 40% Steelers fans and the other 20% “random other fans.”
Since the Steelers presence is relatively strong, Pallini comes in ready to have some friendly banter with students.
“I find myself arguing with people a lot. Especially with where I live because the border of PA, I feel like, especially during the fall every day I come to school, I’m ready to battle,” Pallini said over the phone. “I’m ready to argue with any kid I can. Just trying to defend them any way possible.”
As a kid of the 1990s, Pallini didn’t have the opportunity to fully engage with the Browns because of their move to Baltimore in the midst of the decade. He was in the first grade when the Browns left, and when they came back in 1999, he was 10.
“That’s when you’re searching for a team,” Palllini said. “It’s something where I know I have multiple friends who strayed away from the family at that point and started rooting for somebody else because they didn’t have anybody to root for.”
Pallini was excited when he saw the Browns were coming back to the NFL. He would listen to his dad, who grew up in Cuyahoga Heights, tell stories of the Browns. As he and Brian listened to tales of Browns lore, they could finally have a team of their own to claim and support.
“My brother’s a couple years older than me, so we knew that we wanted to like them,” he said. “But they weren’t there, and then when they came back it was ‘oh, it’s time to (embrace the Browns).’ We have a team now, we’re able to root for somebody.”
One of Pallini’s favorite Browns memories was when he was at a 2008 game with Brian and some of Brian’s friends. The group met in Cleveland for an October game against the New York Giants. John and Brian got to see one of the Browns’ best wins of the season as they took down the Giants, the reigning Super Bowl champs.
“My brother got like 13 seats in one row, so all of his buddies came up from Marietta at the time, and then I drove in from Youngstown,” Pallini said. “And it was one of those games where you just, you felt it from the start that they were gonna win.”
After that game Pallini got back to Youngstown late, and he still had to be up for 8 a.m. track practice at Youngstown State, where he competed in discus and shot put.
Though the Browns’ last winning season came when he was 18, Pallini supports his favorite team because of his strong northeast Ohio pride.
“I fight for the teams that I like, and where I’m from, where I grew up. Like I said, I argue with a bunch of kids about it,” he said. “Whether they’re 0-16 or 6-10 or whatever, I’m going to argue and fight for them.”