Why Millennials Are Like Browns Fans
by Bryan Cain
The Cleveland Browns are the best American Football story this year. Jimmy Haslam, the new owner, buys the franchise with the losing history amidst an FBI fraud investigation into his company, Pilot Flying J. He and his new staff, including CEO Joe Banner, who took the Eagles to 5 NFC Championship games, appoint Rob Chudzinski as Head Coach. Chudzinski grew up in Toledo, OH, pretending to coach the Cleveland Browns. The Browns lose the first two games of the season. Their struggling quarterback, Brandon Weeden (who is a sophomore, former MLB player turning 30-years-old this year), is injured at the end of the second game. Their third game is started by their third string quarterback, hometown boy Brian Hoyer, (who, as a kid, pretended to play quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, and who cried when the old team left for Baltimore to become the Ravens). Hoyer gets the nickname The Destroyer as he wins the next two games to even the Browns’ record at 2-2. In the meantime, Cleveland has traded fan favorite but underperforming running back Trent Richardson, and star receiver Josh Gordon has come back from a cough medicine suspension. In the 5th game of the season, Hoyer suffers a season-ending knee injury and Browns fans remember why they say “God hates Cleveland, (while simultaneously calling themselves Believeland.) Hope is lost until Weeden leads the Browns back from a 10-0 deficit to beat the Buffalo Bills and bring Cleveland’s record to 3-2 and a temporary first place in the division. See? It’s a good one.
By all measures, Browns fans and players should not be excited about the Browns. There is nothing in recent factual history to inspire hope. Nothing grand at least. The offense under Brandon Weeden seems mediocre at best. No one seems to remember that it’s just his second year, and he has been steadily improving. By all grand measures, including facts and the opinions of most of the fans and players of the other 31 teams in the league, the Browns don’t have a shot. By all measures Millennials shouldn’t be excited about their team either.
You know the Millennials story by now. What’s written of it at least. They are panned as narcissistic, ADD and entitled. Coming into the job market with mass unemployment, no social security or medicare to look forward to, permanently low wages, massive unemployment and income disparity, and worsening social mobility. Yet most Millennials are Browns fans. They know the facts are against them, but they choose to have hope anyway. Admittedly, some are not so optimistic. The recently viral Millennials: We Suck and We’re Sorry on YouTube has some real rough spots including “sorry so many of our friends died.”1 The Millennials have their lasher-outers the same as the Baby Boomers do, the same as the Traditionals do, the same as I would assume every generation has. According to The Economist, in 2010 in the worst of the recession, the Millennials and The Traditionals were the happiest, while the the Baby Boomers were the most unhappy. 2 The same is still true in 2013 in the UK.3 It seems to make sense. A Millennial not having a job is one thing, but for a Baby Boomer with a family to lose theirs is clearly worse. Millennials are confident they can right the ship.4
Facts and history might be against the Browns and the Millennials. After all, “people in their early twenties overestimate their future life satisfaction by an average of around 10 percent.”5 But the Millennials have the Internet, a tool that no generation before them had. There aren’t any Baby Boomers who knew that people in their early twenties overestimate future happiness. There aren’t any Traditionals who were able to connect and converse instantaneously with a vast network of friends, colleagues, and strangers. Now every generation has those tools, and those statistics. Instead of finger-pointing, there should be excitement. The Millennials and Browns fans are excited about the future. It’s time for the Traditionals and the Baby Boomers and maybe even the 0-4 Steelers’ fans to get excited too. Super Bowl or bust, and if the Browns bust, there’s always next year.6
6http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/ (Waiting For Next Year, a website dedicated to Cleveland Sports.)