My childhood revolved around sports.
Throughout his career, my dad was a dedicated teacher, assistant principal, football coach and athletic director at our local high school. I spent countless days of my youth at the school, inventing ways to stay entertained while he paced the sidelines.
I followed the cheerleaders around like a loyal relentless puppy. I studied and imitated their movements and routines, and dreamt of the day I would shake my very own pompoms and chant enthusiastic cheers.
When I was three, I was given my most prized possession—my Dallas Cowboy cheerleader jacket. I aspired to grow up and join their glorious ranks. I couldn’t wait to prance around in my tall white boots and blue and white starred uniform. What else would a coach’s daughter born in the ‘70s envision for her future?
On Sundays, we religiously gathered around the television to watch my dad’s beloved NFL team, the Cleveland Browns. In an unthinkable act of rebellion, my two older brothers declared their devotion to the Pittsburgh Steelers. They likely also jumped on the bandwagon of our successful rivals because it was more fun to root for a winning team. I continued to cheer for the Browns as an act of loyalty to Daddy. Our house was therefore evenly balanced, two against two.
When I was five years old, I met THE Ozzie. No, not Ozzy Osbourne. Ozzie Newsome! My dad volunteered at the Browns training camp and included us in the fun. I felt like a football in the grasp of Ozzie’s enormous arms. The moment was the absolute highlight of my summer and it awarded me supreme bragging rights.
Eventually, I outgrew my favorite jacket and dream of being a cheerleader.
My football overload was bound to have one of two results: I would grow up to love or shun the game. I veered down the latter path. I developed a keen ability to ignore the games that blared from our television. With nothing to contribute, I tuned out the family football conversations. I wondered if I was adopted, since I’m the only one in my extended family who didn’t inherit the football gene.
It’s not that I don’t understand the game. I know all about first downs, offense vs. defense, field goals, and quarterbacks. It’s that I just don’t care.
My only child is a natural athlete. He was groomed to love sports since birth.
My son is also a trained Cleveland sports fan. I’ll share a funny story to illustrate: When my friend was pregnant with her first son, her family threw her a modern shower and invited children and guys. Her husband, a lifelong Steelers fan, opened a gift from his friends. When he held up the Steelers onesie, my son wasted no time and shouted a loud, “BOOOOO!!!” The crowd of adult Browns fans chuckled with a deep satisfaction.
For years, our main living room fixture was a Little Tikes basketball hoop. (That's normal, right?)
I cringed when my little guy decided to play pee wee football. I didn’t want to watch him endure tackles and worried he’d get hurt. I silently rejoiced when he chose golf over football. (Though he later suffered a concussion on the golf course, proving injury can occur in any sport).
Of course, I married a football fanatic. This year, he has pared down his fantasy football leagues to five. (Yes, FIVE!) I obliged his love of football when we first started to date and tried to watch games with him. Now, I tend to hide in the other room while he roots for his beloved Browns and fantasy players.
I do lift my sports boycott and watch an occasional game. I offer a genuine high five to a fan when the Browns win and I still root against the Steelers. I feel bad when the Browns disappoint their diehard fans. I even watched the Super Bowl last year, and taunted my brother when Pittsburgh lost. Some things remain ingrained, after all.
This year, I watched a tense Ohio college basketball game while I exchanged texts with my brother, who’s still a fanatical Steelers addict. I was a nervous wreck as the minutes ticked away. I explained to my brother via text why I don’t watch sports: I can’t take the pressure! It’s too nerve wracking!! He replied: That’s why you should love sports! Touché, Bro.
So where do I stand with sports today? I enjoy the Bitter Chicks’ posts so much that I’m inspired to give football another chance. I’m not making any promises, but I am trying to unearth my inner little cheerleader and give my family’s favorite game another chance.
“You can do it! You can do it! If you put your mind to it! Doesn’t matter how, just (clap clap), do it!”
Bitter Orange & Brown is the only Cleveland Browns blog written by women and as far as we know, the only Browns parody site. Even though sometimes we wonder what's the point?! The Browns are already pretty good at parodying themselves!
This is Jenny Fickey’s first guest post for Bitter Orange & Brown. You could call Jenny bitter, but for the opposite reason than the Bitter Chicks. She feels misplaced in a world full of professional sports fanatics. She's her son's biggest fan and cheerleader. She hopes to eventually share a love for the Browns with her best bud and life cheerleader, Alanna Klapp.
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