It’s a typical Browns motif: Unwavering dedication despite tragedy. We’ve seen it in perfect record 0-16 parades and after botched drives and shoddy calls. And yet, even after beer bottles rain down, Brownies return to FirstEnergy Stadium, clad in orange and bone. With the consequences of 24 sexual misconduct accusations looming, newly acquired quarterback Deshaun Watson is a potentially tragic burden with a $230 million price tag. Still, as preseason kicks off this month, Browns Backers around the world, 363 chapters and 100,000 plus fans, are mostly optimistic for the 2022 season. Even as some back out in protest, the vibe for many is undeniable: We're gonna show up.
The Royal Perth Browns Backers of Western Australia
Being 11,2880 miles from Cleveland, Bruce Millinger brags often about, as he says, “being the most distant Browns Backers chapter on the planet.”
A distance with downsides: Perth is 12 hours ahead of Cleveland.
It’s why Millinger, who moved to Perth with his Australian wife in 2003, schedules “Brekkie with the Brownies" — that’s Aussie for “breakfast” — at 8 a.m. Australian Western Standard Time when the Browns play nationally televised games. The event, which may take place on a Tuesday morning if the team is playing on Monday Night Football, attracts a jerseyed Backer base of 33, half expats.
At Perth’s American sports bar, Millinger’s Backers often compete with local interests. Cricket, being one. “I’m sorry, any sport that breaks for tea in the afternoon is not a sport,” Millinger says with a wink.
As for the 2022 season, Millinger’s group is mostly supportive. He lost a member in the spring, a minister at a local church, who refused to publicly support his Backers.
“Do you still want to be on the mailing list?” Millinger asked him.
“Yes, by all means,” the pastor said.
“So basically, he’s still a Browns fan,” Millinger says. “But he didn’t want to have direct association with the Browns.”
Space City Dawg Pound in Houston Texas
As one might expect, the Backers are bigger in Texas. And as a result, so are the potlucks and fundraisers.
Clocking in at 251 members, Houston’s Space City chapter — named after the town’s NASA legacy — started in 1994 as a way for Cleveland transplants South to gather in one, big organization.
Watching since Tim Couch’s reign, Cory Hammer, an IT consultant from New Riegel, Ohio, took over right before COVID-19 cut games short and slashed attendance to 50.
But this, of course, was Texas. Months into the pandemic, with Mayfield’s playoff genius, Space City was near record numbers.
Which has practical perks. In 2021, Space City raised over $4,000 — via 50/50 raffles, “Backer Bash” pregames and signed footballs sales — for Sydney’s Song, a charity for BPAN, an ultra rare child neurological disorder.
It’s why The Trade — what Hammer calls it — is so dispiriting. “Our club is split right down the middle,” he says, on both Mayfield’s treatment and Watson’s lawsuit. “I think all of us would prefer not to have controversy surrounding our starting quarterbacks, right?”
Sud de France Browns Backers of Montpellier
Years after hopping around the globe, Beau Whitney found himself in Montpellier, France. It was 2017. The Browns were infamously 0-16.
“And when we got here, there was no Browns group,” Whitney, a native of Delaware, Ohio, says.
He laughs: “If you can believe that.”
So Whitney started his own chapter, and did so with a half dozen fans as Mayfield made his debut. He soon ran into the usual expat Backer obstacles: Language barriers and stiff sports TV competition with rugby and soccer diehards. Even when they found a dedicated meeting place, the Major League Brewing Co., the owner was preferential to American baseball.
“He’s always trying to turn on, like, a Toronto Blue Jays wildcard game, or something like that,” Whitney says. “I’m like, ‘Really? Baseball?’”
Whitney has a theory as to why foreign nationals and Northeast Ohio natives are lured to supporting a traditionally bleh NFL franchise, even as the team garners a reputation overseas due to Watson.
A universal understanding of, and pity for, the underdogs.
“There’s an authenticity to it,” Whitney says. “No one’s a fake Browns fan. That doesn’t exist.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Perth was on the Gold coast and under Greenwich Mean Time.