CLEVELAND, Ohio – The year John Salminen got married to his wife, Dianne, was the year he became a Browns fan.
It was September 24, 1979, and the Browns were playing the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football. Dianne is a Cleveland native, and before that Monday night game, Salminen had been watching the Browns every Sunday with Dianne and her family.
“When we went to that Monday Night Football game, it was something like 82,000 people in the stadium,” Salminen said in a Skype interview. “And it was just like ‘oh my gosh.’ I was just totally overwhelmed by that. We really got into it, and the way they totally dominated the Cowboys (a 26-7 victory) was something. And after that I was hooked.”
Salminen, 64, lives in Vietnam and is a music teacher at Saigon South International School. He has taught overseas since 1981, living in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Jordan and Belgium.
No matter where he’s lived abroad, Salminen said he’s made sure to follow the Browns through various news outlets. That commitment early on in his fandom made him feel like he had ingratiated himself into the fanbase.
“The first thing I would do was look in the newspaper for what the score was for the Browns game, no matter where I was in the world. I think that definitely got me in there,” Salminen said. “It’s amazing in the places where I’ve lived, you can always find other Browns fans there and having that one thing in common.”
Growing up in Newark, Delaware, Salminen attended Temple University and met Dianne there. When the couple got engaged, Dianne’s father helped Salminen find a summer job in Cleveland.
With Salminen spending some time in Cleveland throughout his life, he has a fondness for the city and recognizes the occasional negative outside reception it receives.
“I think it’s too bad it gets such a bad rep,” Salminen said. “But it was just so much fun to see people with the Browns flags on their cars or posters on their lawns. People dressing in the Browns colors on gamedays, whether they’re staying at home watching on TV or actually going to the games. The tailgating outside of either of those stadiums, the new one or the old one. You could tell that that was one of those things that really pulled people together in the city.”
Salminen said as part of keeping up with the Browns, he would try to go a preseason game, and then when he came back to the U.S. for Christmas, try to see a game.
Like for many fans recently, following the Browns has been a complicated, love-hate relationship for Salminen. He remembers the good days of the Kardiac Kids era, and he knows about the success of the Paul Brown era, too.
With the Browns in transition once more, Salminen hopes the franchise can get back to being competitive.
“There’s that foundation that’s there that keeps the hope alive,” Salminen said. “And I’m gonna guess even people who were totally (disappointed) by this past season, I’m guessing that there’s still that hope there, and they’re still following closely and waiting to see what happens with the new regime.”