My good internet friend Kirsten Brownrigg and I have been going back and forth about the Steelers/Browns rivalry for a while on Twitter. I asked her to submit a piece for this Sunday\’s game and she penned a letter to Steeler Nation. Make sure to follow her on Twitter here and read her bio at the bottom of the letter and make sure to comment as well. This should be pretty good.
By Kirsten Brownrigg
Dear Steelers fans:
As I wash my beloved Browns hoodie and prepare to root against you this Sunday, I think back on Sept. 9, 2007. As fate would have it, our opening game pitted us against your “Stillers,” as part of what some of us know is called the Rustbelt Series. That was the day your boys beat the Browns for the 56th time and took the lead in our all-time series.
I remember gnashing my teeth, watching our AFC North adversaries pull ahead in a rivalry that boasted 57 years of mutual disdain.Things just haven’t been the same since that day.
But even before that, I’d watched several native Ohioans defect to Steelers fanship in the years that followed, further fueling my fury. I lusted after the team\’s front office stability and the clarity of the management\’s vision. There was no overpaying for players, no distracting infatuation with draft rankings. The Steelers picked guys who fit in your system, while the Brownies seemed to repeatedly whiff on the draft. For most of my life as a Browns fan, you have had one of two head coaches, both of whom led their teams to Superbowls, while we swap out coaches like underwear. And whereas we understandably take a step (or 10) backward each time we switch up the management, the Steelers continued to win the year you switched yours.
Now, none of this means I\’ll ever switch alliances. See, becoming a sports fan is like falling in love: you forgive any shortcomings and stick it out through the rough spots, because no one else will do. Still. Everything your team does right, we seem to do wrong. If cities were siblings, we’d be the Jan to your Marsha Brady. The Goofus to your Gallant.
And to add insult to injury, just this week I learned that Byron Scott, newest head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, is a Steelers fan. Are you kidding me, Irony?
Of course, all this only nourishes our commitment to best you. In Cleveland, adversity is like oxygen to us.
Enough like oxygen, in fact, that in many ways Cleveland needs this common contempt to survive. One scientific study showed that, when faced with the image of the thing they most despised, test subjects also experienced a strong emotion much like love. So it should come as no surprise that our animosity toward all things Pittsburgh actually borders on a sick kind of devotion. A true love-hate relationship!
So we mock your manufactured blue-collar persona and we revel in your quarterback’s succession of unsavory slipups. Do you know we sell t-shirts emblazoned with “Rapelisberger” in our tailgating lots before every single game? Amazing! We don’t even need to be playing you to celebrate our never-ending grudge against your people. And wearing a Steelers jersey to a Cleveland sports bar is almost as unspeakably stupid as choosing to wear a LeBron Heat jersey to an Indians game. (I often wonder if some of your greener, bandwagon fans know how deep-seated our enmity truly is.)
This Sunday the odds seem stacked against us, as they often are. If any NFL team is hobbled in the quarterback arena, it’s us, as we’ve lost both our first- and second-string QBs to some sort of high ankle sprain epidemic. The one poetically redeeming fact about this nearly comedic quandary is the following: there’s no film on Colt McCoy for your darling defense to analyze.
That, and running the ball. When you’re haunted by some inexplicable quarterback curse, year after year, the only thing you can do is pound the rock. And I hope to see my Browns do just that. Because a win on Heinz territory, for some Browns fans, is tantamount to a Superbowl win. I’m hyperbolizing only slightly, here.
But what I do appreciate about you Steelers fans is that you still do us the respect of treating us like rivals. You call us the Clowns and the Frowns. (And by the way, I have to concede that Buck the Frowns is much funnier than Stuck the Feelers … unless you throw a “Big Ben” joke in there, and then I have no choice but to go with the latter option.) And we exchange the requisite potshots about the perceived stench of each other’s cities.
But in the end, if we ceased to be relevant to you, that would bother us more. At least the reciprocal taunts and jeers mean we still get under your skin. You still relish beating us, and we still salivate over embarrassing you.
Hatred that unadulterated? That rooted in time and bitter tradition? It’s borne only of respect. Respect, and an abiding urge to one day destroy you on the field again. And that’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.
Kirsten Brownrigg is a multimedia journalist and sporadic author of the blog LeBromageddon. Raised in Cleveland and nursed on the bittersweet milk of chronic defeat, she is producing a documentary on the trials and tribulations of her hometown\’s sports, economy and politics.