CLEVELAND, Ohio – Pamela Heiker fondly remembers the tradition she and her late father had every Sunday.
After going to church and eating their Sunday meal, she and her father sat down to watch the Browns. Growing up in Portsmouth, Ohio, Heiker latched onto her father’s devotion to the team and his favorite player, Jim Brown.
“Dad would have the radio turned on and the TV turned on with the game on low, and that’s how we bonded,” Heiker said over the phone. “I grew to love the Browns through my dad’s love of the Browns. Everything that the Browns meant to my dad just came through to me and my kids.”
Heiker, 50, is an emergency room nurse and lives in Kissimmee, Florida with her husband, Jerome. She has one daughter in her late 20s and another who is 21.
As a dedicated fan, Heiker has converted most of Jerome’s family into Browns fans. The leader of her Browns-loving family, Heiker goes with them to Friendly Confines, where a Browns Backers club in Orlando meets. Heiker has been part of the club now for three years.
She said she caught some flak from her family about the Browns’ disappointing 2019 season. Still, Heiker’s relatives are committed to their fandom.
“I kept telling everybody, ‘Calm down, calm down. We’re building again, we’re building again,’” Heiker said. “To be honest with you, they’re very prideful about it, and that brings me a lot of joy.”
The bond Heiker shares with her family is important. In addition to her relatives, she’s also enjoyed the connection she has with other fans in the Browns Backers.
“Just to go there and be able to take my family and bond, it’s an instant family,” Heiker said. “It’s an instant connection that I don’t see with a lot of other kind of fair-weather fans. Basically, we have a bond that no other team has.”
A ’70s and ‘80s kid, Heiker grew up a huge fan of quarterback Bernie Kosar. On Fridays during high school, Heiker had a special Kosar jersey she’d wear. Her maiden name is Keeton, and on the top of the jersey read Kosar; on the bottom, it read her maiden name.
When 1995 came around, Heiker and other Browns fans experienced one of the most heartbreaking moments a fanbase could go through with the move to Baltimore. Heiker said she felt an “incredible sadness” when she first saw the news. She loves football, but she didn’t have a team to cheer.
“I kind of watched a lot more of the NFC teams because I just couldn’t get behind anybody in the AFC,” she said with a laugh. “I kind of lost some of my passion for the game during those four years really. I would watch it, but it wasn’t the same.”
Though her team has recently gone through some of its worst times, Heiker remains positive and is always thinking about next year. She’s optimistic about the fall and what it could bring.
“I’m going to be honest with you. Some of the darker moments, I sit and I think about those Sundays with my dad,” Heiker said. “Back watching the Kardiac Kids. Back watching Bernie Kosar and Ozzie Newsome and those guys. And I think, ‘this is our time. This young group of guys, if they jell together and they get the right coaching, this is our time.’ So I think that’s what keeps me going.”