The Cleveland Browns welcomed 100 Browns Backers club presidents to Berea for Browns Backers Weekend Friday and Saturday.
The 100 presidents were able to meet with members of other clubs, enjoy a barbeque-style lunch catered by former Browns defensive lineman Al “Bubba” Baker and get autographs from team alumni. Browns general manager Tom Heckert addressed the group of presidents following Friday morning’s practice at the Berea training facility.
“This is the largest luncheon we’ve ever had,” said Michele DeScioli, manager of Browns Backers Worldwide. “It just shows us how passionate these people are. This is exactly who we want running our clubs all over the country, all over the world. For them to take the time out of their busy lives to come here to celebrate just makes us feel so great and we’re proud to have them as ambassadors for the Cleveland Browns.
“This is a way for us to give back and appreciate them and also recognize what they do in the community, which is not just celebrate the Browns and support the team and organization as a whole, but they all have ties to a particular charity. Many times throughout the year, they do fundraising events in support of those charities.”
Mark Miller, president of the Taipei Browns Backers, had the longest trip of any president. Along with his wife and seven-year old son, Miller spent 24 hours on the road to get back home to Cleveland.
“I have always been a Browns fan,” Miller said. “I worked overseas in Japan for a couple years and visited Taiwan at that time, met a lady and ended up getting married after I was back in Ohio. I relocated to Taiwan and one of the first guys I met there was a guy from Berea. We became friends and started a little NFL group that watched games locally in Taipei. I decided I wanted to make a Browns group and I started asking people and going to sports events. I ended up meeting some people from Cleveland and we networked a bit. The Browns are so supportive for all the Browns Backers groups.”
There is a 12-hour time difference between Cleveland and Taipei, which makes watching Browns games a challenge for Miller and his six-member club.
“You don’t get to see much live, unless you want to stay up all night,” Miller said. “They broadcast games at the sports pubs in Taipei, but they’re taped. You don’t often see a Browns game. I ended up going to the NFL Game Pass. It makes it a lot nicer. It’s really convenient; you can’t beat it.”
Stan Gage, president of the Southeast Michigan Browns Backers was also in Berea for the weekend. He is currently organizing an annual tailgate, known as the “Motor City Weekend” for when the Browns go up to Detroit, Mich., for the Aug. 10 preseason opener against the Lions at Ford Field.
When the Browns played the Lions in November of 2009, Gage organized one of the weekends and 800 people from all around the country attended the festivities.
The Southeast Michigan Browns Backers also host draft parties and make an annual pilgrimage to Cleveland for a game each season. Their events raise money for the Penrickton Center for Blind Children, the First Step Domestic Violence Center, Touchdown for Tots and Cleveland Browns Foundation charities throughout the year.
“It’s a unique opportunity,” Gage said of Browns Backers Weekend, “and the Browns are a great organization because not all teams do this, where they have an organized fan base and give us a chance to get together as club presidents and mingle and interact with other Browns presidents. For me, it’s the highlight of the year. It’s a three-hour drive, but I look forward to it and it gives me a chance to see training camp up close, get some autographs for my club and meet other club presidents.”