That is because on Dec. 24, when many of you were in warm houses, eagerly anticipating Christmas Eve, I sat outside in the cold watching the Cleveland Browns play the San Diego Chargers.
Many people chose not to attend that game — there were many empty seats that day in the stadium. In fact, the rest of our row, to my right, was empty — an advantage since it was easy for me to slip in and out of the stands. And at the beginning of the game, several rows behind me also were empty.
Why not stay home? It made sense. It was cold and the Browns hadn’t won a game all season.
I am not a Browns fan — in fact, I am not a football fan. But my husband is. I had avoided accompanying him to a game all season and it was my turn to go — no matter how cold.
I brought a blanket along (which I was glad to have) and a book (which it was too cold to read).
From past experience, I know places to go to warm up at the Browns stadium. There is the occasional trip to the rest room — it’s warm in there. There are the occasional trips for food — I bought chicken tenders and fries because they were warm and later I left to buy a pretzel because the pretzel was also warm.
Then there is the shop that sells Browns merchandise. It is a good place to go to warm up — but not to buy because the items are quite expensive and unnecessary. My husband wears a Browns jacket which identifies him as from Ohio when we are traveling (which is fun), but also makes him a subject of some ridicule within our town.
I can’t say I follow the game all that well. I don’t understand the rules and I don’t care to. I am beginning to understand what a “down” is — a team has four “downs” to advance 10 yards. Mostly, though, I look at the clock. I don’t understand all the reasons the clock stops, but I dislike when it stops because mostly I want the game to be over, especially when it’s cold. I feel conflicted when the clock stops for an injury — I feel bad for the player but I just wish they would quickly just get the guy off the field so that the game can continue and I can leave soon.
THIS GAME WAS DIFFERENT
I put that all in capital letters because the Browns won that Dec. 24 game after losing all season. Even for me, a disinterested spectator, it became interesting. For much of the game the Browns were ahead — but the fans did not cheer wildly. There seemed to be a sense that, pretty soon, the Browns would blow it and lose.
Right up to the last second of the game there was no rejoicing. There seemed to be a sense of anticipation that the Chargers would pull ahead — after all, for quite a while the score was 20-17, which is not a large margin of victory.
But the Chargers didn’t pull ahead. And after that last second of play the crowd finally believed that the Browns had actually won. There was wild cheering, the release of joy after a season of losses. There were loud shouts, there were high fives — even I was happy, catching the feeling of the crowd.
Then I remembered how cold I was. Then I rejoiced because I could finally go home. But — I hate to admit it — part of my rejoicing was because the Browns had won.
I would like to believe that they won because I was there.
Debbie Leffler is a free-lance writer who lives in Norwalk. She can be reached at [email protected]