The Perfect Season Parade went off with impressive attendance and zero issue Saturday, as a crowd police estimated as high as 3,200 showed up to let the Cleveland Browns and owner Jimmy Haslam know how they feel about the team's winless 2016 and 1-31 record the last two seasons.
The turnout was larger than expected, especially given the arctic conditions, and fans expressed their displeasure in epic ways. The snark level seemed as high as the temperature was low.
The event warrants a quick look at this quirky day in Browns and Cleveland sports history.
Organizer Chris McNeil: Anyone who thinks organizing an event like this is simple needs to research why "event planner" has become a full-time job and business. McNeil not only had to obtain necessary permits, he had to deal with more than 100 media calls the week leading up to the event, security, portable toilets, safety and everything else that goes with an event like this. McNeil even did a couple of Weather Channel updates the day of the parade. All while McNeil worked his regular job and had to deal with the social media insults of fans who said the parade was embarrassing to the team and city. In the end, it went off without a hitch, with humor and with impact. The parade -- which was actually a protest -- got national attention. It let this group of fans -- how many would have been there on a nicer day? -- make their voices heard.
Browns fans: They've been kicked, stomped, twisted and abused as they continue to support a losing team yet start every season with hope. They have stopped showing up for every game -- justifiably -- but they care. And when 3,200 people take the time they did and come in from out of town to make the statement they made, their commitment is reinforced and their dedication clear.
The Cleveland Food Bank: Lost in the publicity about the march was that McNeil donated all extra funds collected to feed the needy in Cleveland. A year ago McNeil managed to donate or help raise almost $50,000 for the Food Bank. This year, in addition to cans and food collected at the event, McNeil will turn over about $16,000. If nothing else, the event and the winless season resulted in good being done for those in need.
The Browns: During the day, defensive players Emmanuel Ogbah, Danny Shelton and Chris Kirksey posted negative reactions about the parade on social media. Their emotions are understandable given that they lived through 0-16; even Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James admitted he'd have been angry about the parade. But James also admitted the team had something to say about whether this event happened. Sometimes it's just best to say nothing, and that may have been the better option for Browns players. Fans are allowed a voice, and they have put up with schlock and nonsense the past 18 years. This two-hour time period was about the fans making a statement about 0-16. They did, and the team lost, just like it lost all season. Those who felt that the protest would be embarrassing for the city had sound reasons to believe that before the event. There was no embarrassment, merely fans speaking out. The only embarrassment was that the Browns could not win a game to cancel the event.
The one thing that McNeil, participants and the team can agree on: That they all hope there will never be another parade like this in Cleveland.