Back in black

Yellow is not my color. But this past Sunday, I found myself engulfed in a sea of it.

You may recall that as part of an agreement that sent me to a game in Pittsburgh with my fiance, Justin, last season, he agreed to accompany me to a game in Cleveland this year. Unfortunately, I’m starting to see a vicious cycle here because last Sunday, I was with Justin, back in Pittsburgh.

This is what makes up the nightmares of Browns fans: Sporting (gulp) Steelers colors and sitting amidst a mass of Terrible Towel waving, fanatical fans.

Before we left for the game on Sunday, I reflected on the game Justin and I attended in Cleveland on Sept. 11, the Browns season opener against Cincinnati. Not only did we sit with my sister, Rhonda, and her friend, April, but we also met up before the game with some friends we made last year on our Browns road trip to Miami. But the best part? Justin wore a Browns shirt, in a very lovely shade of brown I might add.

Getting him to actually WEAR the shirt was a bit of a struggle, however. He left the house wearing a yellow shirt baring an anti-Cleveland slogan, and we probably weren’t even two seconds out of the driveway before he starting waving a Terrible Towel in my face.

“That shirt is coming off of you before we get to Cleveland. Rhonda is not going to let you in her car if you’re wearing that,” I informed him, already annoyed by his antics. We were planning to meet Rhonda and April just outside of Cleveland and drive to the game together. Rhonda is an even bigger Browns fan than I am, so I knew she would not tolerate black and gold in her car.

Justin was stubborn and indignant, pouting the entire way to Cleveland. I tried to loosen him up by barking at him a few times, but for some odd reason it only sullied his mood further.

When we pulled up in the parking lot next to my sister’s car, the first thing she said was-predictably-“You’re not wearing that in my car, Justin!”

Comically, Justin attempted to pull the Browns shirt I bought him over top of his anti-Cleveland shirt, only to sadly realize it wouldn’t work. I had strategically purchased a shirt that wasn’t overly baggy so I could wear it around the house in the future. The non-bagginess of the shirt prohibited layering of Steelers gear underneath. The plan worked to perfection.

Justin reluctantly put on the Browns shirt. And then he reached for his Terrible Towel. “Don’t even think about it!” Rhonda warned him. He glanced at me for help, but I was non-sympathetic. I have to see that Terrible Towel waving in my face every weekend. It was nice to have a break.

More pouting followed. I made some feeble attempts to get him excited for the game. I thought maybe if he saw how excited I was that he would at least be happy that I was happy. Instead, he seemed miserable.

Once the game started, however, he couldn’t keep his mouth shut poking fun at the Browns. It was all cute and funny for a while, until he committed the ultimate faux pas: He stood up and cheered when Cincinnati scored the go-ahead touchdown. This girl was not a happy camper. Not that I really expected him to root for the Browns, but I didn’t think he’d actually cheer for the Bengals. Plus, my team just had their hopes of an opening-day win crushed-and I was quite disappointed-and he seemed really happy about it. On the way home, he said sincerely, “I hope I wasn’t too annoying. I was only teasing you guys.” Sure. Teasing. I was still miffed about him openly cheering for the Bengals.

So keeping his behavior in the back of my mind this past Sunday morning, I layered with a Browns thermal shirt, a Browns t-shirt and my Browns socks. “Hey!” he said when he saw my outfit.

“I have the shirt,” I replied as I held up a crumbled ball of yellow t-shirt. I was unhappy to wear it as my outermost layer, but I knew nobody would see it beneath my buttoned up jacket, scarf, hat and gloves.

We arrived in Pittsburgh, and when the time came for me to put on the dreaded shirt, I lobbied one last time to get out of it. “Can I just wear my Browns stuff and tell anyone who asks that it’s a Halloween costume?” But I knew his answer before he even gave me “that look,” so feeling defeated, I put the shirt on. He took my picture while I pouted about the shirt.

During the game, I had originally planned to stand up and openly cheer for the Patriots. However, as soon as I saw those players take the field with a head coach I despise, I knew I could not in good conscience cheer for a team I disliked as much as I disliked Pittsburgh. It would have been hypocritical.

So I did the second best thing I could in this situation-I played the indifference card. I entertained myself for a while by playing some mindless games on my phone. However, I realized these games were draining my battery pretty quickly, so I had to pace myself. I moped in silence for a while, trying to divert my eyes from the action on the field (not that I could really see anything from the top row of the uppermost section where we were seated). Really, the game wasn’t too bad, but I had a hard time caring about it. I texted my sister amusing anecdotes and tales about the sights and sounds from inside Steelers Nation.

In my boredom, I did some self-evaluating. Would a real Browns fan be sitting inside Pittsburgh’s stadium right now-the heart of enemy territory-wearing a Steelers shirt of all things? I felt very out of place, like everyone there was a part of some secret club and I showed up at their spaghetti dinner uninvited. There was even a point during a break when a 70s disco song cued up over the loudspeakers, the crowd stood up en mass and began waving their Terrible Towels and screaming loudly. What was going on? Was this some kind of special song? A song that signaled to the Steelers fans that now was the time to take the next step in their plot to overtake the world? I was confused and terrified. Someone later told me that the scoreboard directed the fans to stand and wave their towels. I logged that in the back of my mind as a ploy to misdirect me from their real plan.

With a few minutes left in the game, Justin said the best words I’d heard that day: “You ready to start walking out?”

I had survived my second trip to a Steelers game. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose it could have been worse. It was pretty cold, but I’ve sat out in much colder games-and snow-before. And maybe it’s wrong of me, but I took comfort realizing that Justin was cold and a little miserable too. Serves him right for his behavior in Cleveland.

On the way home, I suggested Justin compare my behavior at the game to his behavior at the Browns game and note any glaring differences. “So what you’re saying is, ‘Go to your room, young man, and think about what you’ve done?’,” he replied without missing a beat.

Although the score is uneven-me to Pittsburgh twice versus him to Cleveland only once-I have no desire to even things up. Unless he promises to keep a lid on it, I don’t think I want to drag Justin to another game in Cleveland. My sister and I are quite content with just the two of us having fun until, inevitably, the Browns ruin it.

I’ll tell Justin I refuse to attend another Steelers game, but I have a feeling I’m going to get suckered into it again somehow. And then it’s just going to start this vicious cycle all over again.

I guess I need to work some more on my bark AND my bite.