Brown's parade organizer didn't expect parade to happen

Chris McNeil may be the most disappointed of all the many thousands of disappointed Cleveland Browns fans.

McNeil is the man responsible for the Perfect Season Parade that will take place around FirstEnergy Stadium on Saturday, a parade to acknowledge the Browns' 0-16 season.

"First of all, I didn't expect it to take place," McNeil said Tuesday. "I expected the Browns to win a game. Second of all, I didn't want it to happen. I wanted them to win a game."

The Browns simply did not do their part.

So the parade will begin at noon and will walk counterclockwise in a circle around FirstEnergy Stadium. The idea: To go backward and form a zero in recognition of the Browns completing the second 0-16 season in NFL history.

McNeil called it a "shot across the bow to ownership and to the front office" that fans are sick and tired of being sick and tired.

The second goal is to raise money for the Cleveland Food Bank.

"Everything above our costs is going to the Food Bank," he said.

The city of Cleveland gave final security clearances this week. Roads will be closed around the stadium from 10 in the morning until 2 in the afternoon. McNeil has hired security, and the Cleveland Police Department will be present as well.

McNeil said he has received commitments from people who will fly in from as far away as California. Anyone who wants to be involved can march, but they have to register.

The Facebook page for the parade has 5,800 saying they are going, with 18,000 interested. McNeil admits those numbers can't be taken as gospel, especially with the temperature forecast high at 10 degrees and wind chills below zero that day, but they are impressive numbers.

He relays stories he's heard. One Browns fan who has put headstones for every one of the 28 starting quarterbacks since 1999 in his yard said he will be there with 27 friends, each carrying a headstone. He said others have committed to decorating cars or even building a float to pull on a trailer.

"No matter what you think, if you read through these stories that these folks are telling, they're all about stories from back in the day," McNeil said. "They've been season ticket holders for years. They bleed brown and orange. They want a winner.

"They're celebrating what we had before, telling inspiring stories of watching with their families. We can all relate. In a way I think this may be cathartic for people kind of burying last year and going forward."

McNeil, 38, lives in Granville, outside Columbus, and works in purchasing for a family business. He grew up in Bath (where LeBron James resides) and attended Miami (Ohio) University. He retains fond memories of going to Browns games with his Dad, and has three children younger than 10.

McNeil has learned the logistics of this kind of event are complex. He has a GoFundMe account set up to help pay for the expenses, which include insurance, bathrooms and security. The company that makes Excedrin has donated about $8,000, saying Browns fans have had a lot of headaches. Single digit temperatures bring a whole new level of safety concern.

Critics have spoken to McNeil, mainly via social media, telling him they feel the parade is just one more embarrassing event for the city of Cleveland.

"The Browns have one win in the last two years," he said. "That's embarrassing enough to me as a fan."

He also points out that the day will not be a lot of fun for him.

"I'll be the guy picking up trash, making sure security is there," McNeil said. "These are not glamour jobs I'm left with. For those giving me a hard time about being a publicity grabber, I'm the the guy checking people in and making sure they are safe."

The team doesn't want a parade like this - what team would - but recognizes it goes with not winning a game.

"We greatly appreciate the passion of all our fans and we apologize to them for not making 2017 an enjoyable season," the team said in a statement. "We certainly hear them and understand their frustration. Obviously, we want the same thing as our fans; winning results. We are committed to doing everything we can to improve and build them the type of team they most certainly deserve."

McNeil recognizes that the team is trying to win, but said he feels the parade gives the fan base a way to express themselves.

"We really haven't done anything as a fan group other than maybe not renew a season ticket or something," McNeil said. "This is kind of a neat way to protest what is going on. Its a creative way, a little more nuanced.

"I know they are flummoxed, but I think there is value as far as knowing you are heard and making the Browns and NFL know that we need things to change here.

"I feel like we've certainly got everybody noticing."

One tweet sent in jest last season got this effort going. McNeil said the city was coming off the Cavs championship parade and the Indians going to the World Series when he tweeted: "This Browns team deserves a parade."

People started sharing ideas and suggestions and the idea became reality. When the Browns won on Christmas Eve in 2016, McNeil canceled the parade and announced all money collected would go to the Food Bank. The Browns matched the donation, and when then defensive coordinator Ray Horton added $5,000 a local Cleveland radio personality challenged listeners to match the entire amount.

In the end, about $50,000 was donated to the Food Bank.

This season, the Browns could not get a single win. An event nobody seems to want that will still take place outside a stadium that has been dubbed the "Factory of Sadness"

"The last thing I want to do is embarrass the city," McNeil said. "As we get closer to weekend maybe it will have more of a positive spin in terms of the cathartic part, and less of the negativity that has bred underneath the surface. "We just want to see the Browns win."