Sunday, June 1

Playing favorites

Ripping the Plain Dealer is almost a daily ritual for Cleveland fans. While the newspaper's quality has definitely diminished over the last decade or so, it's not entirely their fault.

Sure, the PD grossly under-estimated the importance of the internet, but so did the vast majority of newspapers. The internet is killing newspapers, the PD's subscriptions are down, and hence the PD cannot hire as many writers, and has trouble luring the best and the brightest.

There are two and a half PD writers worth reading at this point, those being Brown beat guy Tony Grossi, general Cleveland sports writer Terry Pluto (formerly of the ABJ), and sometimes Bud Shaw (he accounts for the "half"). I'm a huge Grossi fan, but today I take issue with one of his answers in his weekly "Hey Tony" question/answer column.

Tony claims that the best fans in the NFL are as follows, from best to worst: Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Buffalo, and Baltimore. Let's take a closer look.

1. Cleveland Browns. Cleveland has great fans, and Browns fans have come out in droves to support the resurrected Browns, who have been generally awful. The Browns have lost about twice as many games as they've won since their return, and they haven't shown the potential to compete for the long term until recently. Although I'm not sure we're the best fans in the NFL (mainly because it's difficult to prove such a subjective claim), it's safe to say that Browns fans are certainly among the best in the league. Grossi might be throwing the home town fans a bit of a bone here, but I'll bite.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers. There are great fans in Pittsburgh, even if I hate their stinking guts. Except for some mediocre years in the '80s, the Steelers have been very, very good, which has bred a large (inbred) fan base. Such a large fan base means that there's a lesser percentage of "die hards" than with a long-suffering club such as the Browns, but I suppose with so much sustained success, adding a few lightweights to the bandwagon is inevitable. I still cite the winter of 2005/2006, when the Steelers won the Super Bowl and you couldn't spot Steelers gear in Pittsburgh until they upset the hugely favored Colts. Like the Browns, you can argue this position, but Steelers fans are definitely among the best, so I can live with this.

3. Green Bay Packers. I've got no problem with this pick; Green Bay fans have legendary commitment and their small town situation is truly unique. You can argue them higher or lower, but they definitely belong in the top five.

4. Buffalo Bills. They were great in the '90s, but they've really sucked recently (although not quite as lousy as the Browns). Their fans brave bad play, horrendous weather, and a garbage stadium (really, The Ralph is trash) week after week. Buffalo has some tough fans, and definitely deserve to be in the top five.

5. Baltimore Ravens. Grossi's picks up to this points basically mirror my own, but this is the one I take issue with. Were they great fans years ago when the Colts resided by the bay? Sure. But it's no longer the case since they stole Cleveland's franchise. I've heard stories from Steelers fans of going up to the Baltimore box office less than an hour before game time to buy tickets, which is totally ridiculous for an NFL team. It's also a little fishy that three of Tony's top five teams are in the AFC North. Ravens fans, I'll see you in hell -- I mean, Baltimore.

Just for fun, here's my top five.

1. Green Bay
2. Cleveland
3. Buffalo
4. Pittsburgh
5. Philadelphia (even though they're jerks)


Andy said...

Pluto is steadliy moving towards 1/2 territory; I don't know if it's the PD's awful "blog" formatting, the silly faith columns, or what, but I haven't liked his work as much recently.

Green Bay should be #1 for your reasons plus, very importantly, they actually own the team. That's pretty cool.

I don't think there's generally much distinction between fans nationwide, except maybe Florida and southwest US fans being generally older and less invested.

To your football list I might add the KC Chieves, Cincy Bengals (they used to draw pretty well even when their franchise was utterly horrible), Dallas Cowboys (they are America's team, after all) Minnesota Vikings, and Seattle Seahawks (a very hard place to win on the road, though some of that is Qwest's design).

RAVCOLT said...

Grossi is, for once, right about Baltimore. The Colts fan base was as rabid, loyal and vocal as any in the histroy of the NFL. From the 20,000 who showed up in NY in the '58 Championship game, to the infamous Colts Corrals, and of course the Marching Band that is still in existence, Baltimore's fan base knew no peers--until Irsay. Once the slime ball (who makes Art Modell look like Santa Claus) moved to Indy (BTW Cleveland how hard have you screamed that the horseshoes should have stayed in Baltimore and Indy could have adopted their own name without acting like the Colts history actually is part of Indy?). All Baltimore games have been sold out since their rightful return to the NFL, and no, the only seats available minutes before the game were from scalpers. Ever watch the movie Diner? Case closed.

Andy said...

Nick actually pointed out that the old Colts fan base was very good, so no need to defend those fans. We're all in agreement here.

BTW Cleveland how hard have you screamed that the horseshoes should have stayed in Baltimore and Indy could have adopted their own name without acting like the Colts history actually is part of Indy?
Um...not hard at all? We don't really care about either franchise. Great question, though.

Ever watch the movie Diner?
We're all in our 20's, so no. I'm going to go ahead and say it probably doesn't close your case, though, considering it came out 14 years before the Ravens existed.