The age old debate among Ohioans – do the Cleveland Browns or the Cincinnati Bengals have a better NFL fanbase?
A few years ago, both of these franchises were in the doldrums. Neither of them was very good. Between 2019 and 2020, the Bengals were 6-25-1, and the Browns won just four games between 2015 to 2017. Today, both of these teams are on the upswing.
Here, we have two great football teams with two excellent fan bases. And we’re going to compare these two fan bases.
Cleveland Browns Fanbase
The Browns fans have been through it.
It started in 1995 when former Browns owner Art Modell moved the team from Cleveland to Baltimore to establish the Ravens.
From then on, there was no Browns team until 1999. In this year, they returned with Chris Palmer as their head coach and drafted Tim Couch No. 1 overall.
Since coming back in 1999, the Browns have had just three winning seasons and an obscene number of starting quarterbacks. They’ve also had 12 different head coaches.
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The Dawg Pound
Known as the Dawg Pound, the Browns fans rank among the most supportive fan bases in the country.
The study ranked the Browns at No. 10, citing total attendance over a season, the average attendance per game, % capacity per game, average ticket resale price, and social media followers.
The Browns fans showed that they don’t necessarily have the “win or die” attitude. And that was illustrated when Watson came to town. While he was an upgrade over former quarterback Baker Mayfield, Browns fans didn’t all consider this a win.
The Deshaun Watson Divide
Dave Caldwell of The Guardian reported the following comments from Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland: “It’s very real that the Watson acquisition from the start polarized the fan base,” says Tony Grossi. “The fissure deepened as unsavory details of the Watson case came out.” “Fans canceled their season tickets. Many who don’t hold season tickets “are totally turned off by this,” Grossi said.
Peter King of NBC Sports also chatted with some Browns fans. One, Kyle Marvin, said “I have loved this team, but I will not be a Browns fan this year. It’s going to be hard for me to be a Browns fan again. I’ll watch the NFL on TV, but not the Browns.”
So, while Browns fans are passionate and want the best for their team, they won’t seem to bend on their morals despite the years of heartache, frustration, and hardship the team has faced.
After drafting quarterback Joe Burrow No. 1 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Bengals future was looking up. They were coming off a 2-14 season and just drafted a guy out of LSU with 60 touchdowns and a National Championship in his final year.
Well, it didn’t last long. Burrow tore his ACL early in the season, and the team finished 4-11-1.
However, this enabled them to bring in Burrow’s teammate at LSU, wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Together, alongside the rest of the team, the Bengals almost went from worst to first. They lost Super Bowl 56 to the Los Angeles Rams.
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An ‘Under-Appreciated Franchise’
The Bengals have always been an under-appreciated franchise. No, not necessarily by fans. But by ownership.
Did you know that until this year, the Bengals would practice outdoors on a field under an overpass? This is a professional franchise.
Having been to a Bengals game myself, the fans can get rowdy. The game was against the Kansas City Chiefs in January 2020, and the Bengals came from behind on multiple occasions. The crowd was electric. They didn’t sit down for a second – somewhat aggravating – but spoke about their commitment to the team.
The Bengals sit on the line of Kentucky, separated by a single bridge. Thus, the fans come from two different states.
According to researchers from Emory, the Bengals have the third-worst fan base in the league. The criteria for their study consist of fan equity (box office revenue), social equity (social media followers), talent equity, and more.
There haven’t been any “scandals” relating to the fan base. So the study could infer that, other than their Super Bowl run, fans have been passive toward the team because they haven’t been all that good.
We could see a shift in this as time progresses and success continues.
Which Fanbase Is Better? Bengals or Browns?
Overall, we have to side with the Browns fans, the Dawg Pound. This team has been through the wringer over the years. And yet, they keep coming out and supporting regardless of having just three winning seasons.
The Browns fans showed their true colors with some backlash to the Watson acquisition. No matter what side of the fence you’re on in the Watson saga, fans disavowing their team over this shows they have integrity and want to rise from the ashes with honor and goodwill.
Good on you if you’re a Browns fan. You’ve won this Battle of Ohio.