When the Browns lost 31-3 to the Green Bay Packers a few weeks ago, Eric Schmiedl and the cast of his vaudeville-style production Browns Rules were in the Muni lot, performing songs from the show.
"That game was atrocious," says Schmiedl. "And people knew it was going to be bad. But they went with joy and hope that something good would happen. There were, like, 70,000 people there."
Those loyal fans are the target audience for Browns Rules, a history and appreciation of one of the NFL's most frustrating teams.
"The whole thing is tied together with a hook," says Schmeidl, "that [actor] Nick Koesters' grandfather appeared to him in a dream and told him that if he can get the audience to come up with the 29 rules of being a Browns fan, the Browns will win the Super Bowl next year."
So while Schmiedl and his cast — himself, Koesters and Nathan Lilly — exhume the team's history through music and storytelling, they ask the audience to jot down the rules, beginning with the words "You Gotta."
Team history plays into fans' devotion. For example, the Browns became the first racially integrated professional sports team when Paul Brown hired eventual hall-of-famers Marion Motley and Bill Willis in 1946 — a year before Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. But the thing about Browns history, it's mostly in the distant past. Schmiedl expects the audience to respond with rules having to do with superstition, fidelity and football platitudes.
He loves the superstitions because they are so personal and quirky: "[In] our family, you had to get pizza from Guido's because the Browns won the Jets game in double overtime in 1986, and we got pizza from Guido's. We did our part."
The fast-paced show is packed with stories. "We cover 60 years of history and culture in 90 minutes," says Schmiedl.