NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio — Broadway Brewhouse is a Browns bar and they’re proud of it, but I have a Cowboys fan to my right and a Steelers fan to my left on this particular night.
It’s 50-cent wings night and the bar is busy, like it is most Thursdays. There are 21 beers on draught and a rather impressive craft bottle list for the small-town bar, but it appears most of tonight’s clients are opting for the 34-ounce domestic beers for $5.
I came here with a silly idea: Find out if the Browns fans of New Philadelphia, 80 miles south of Cleveland, are drawn to their town’s namesake when picking a side for Super Bowl LII.
Of those I spoke with, no one is a true Eagles fan. “Most of the Browns fans here seem to be going for the Patriots,” Apollo, one of the patrons, tells me. I ask him if it’s because of Bill Belichick, who coached the Browns from 1991 to ’95. After all, maybe residents here have a soft spot for Belichick since it wasn’t like he fired himself and left the city. This was the preconceived notion I armed myself with heading into the bar. But Apollo didn’t know why people were leaning Patriots. He hadn’t asked.
“But Mary…Mary’s a big Eagles fan,” he says. Mary, unfortunately, is not at the bar this night.
New Philadelphia got its name when John Knisely came here in the early 1800s and figured the plateau in the river bend would make for a good town. He sold his possessions for $16,000 (more than $300,000 today), rounded up his wife and 10 kids, got 33 pioneers to tag along and bought up the land.
He wanted it to become a great city, so he asked the surveyor to lay out the town in a grid style similar to Philadelphia. He even named a few streets after the ones in the real Philadelphia—there’s a High Street in New Philadelphia, named after the High Street that’s now Market Street, one of the best-known streets in America.
“If I had to pick a team,” Carl tells me, “it’d be the Eagles.”
A-ha! A Browns fan who’s rooting for the Eagles. My mission is complete. My headline is secured. O.K., why?
“Tom Brady went to Michigan,” Carl, an Ohio State Buckeye, says. Plus the Patriots win too much.
Carl and Tony are sitting to my left. Neither lives here but they come into town for the wings. Barstool talk ensues. Tony is the Steelers fan who warns Browns fans may start turning on their team after all this losing. Here’s your chance Browns fans! Get out! Root for a winner! The Eagles are your perfect opportunity!
Carl doesn’t agree. “No, the [Browns] need stability,” he says. “That’s why they kept Hue.”
This is going to be a huge draft, Carl says. Maybe they go out and get Kirk Cousins or Alex Smith in free agency. Trade the No. 1 pick to the Giants and collect assets. Carl wouldn’t be surprised if they drafted Baker Mayfield at No. 4.
The problem with Josh Allen is accuracy. DeShone Kizer has accuracy problems, too, and if you have those problems in college, you’re going to have them in the NFL.
This is going to be a huge year for quarterbacks. Philadelphia will have a decision to make on Nick Foles. Minnesota has three quarterbacks. Arizona doesn’t have any. What are the Giants going to do?
There are a lot of prima donnas in the NFL today, Tony interjects. He’d rather watch college football on Saturdays. He says Todd Haley, the former Steelers offensive coordinator who just took the same role with the Browns, is related to him in some distant way. If the Browns need draft help, they should go 100 miles down the road to Pittsburgh and learn.
Carl neither accepts nor rejects the offer. “In my opinion,” he says, “it’s either Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield.”
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