Jefferson isn’t your enemy
My wife and I moved to Ohio back in 1999, just as the Cleveland Browns re-entered the NFL.
How’s that for an omen?
The Browns went 2-14 that first season back in the league, and quite literally the second we drove across the Indiana-Ohio state line on I-70, the muffler on my 1980 Chrysler Cordoba fell off.
I misread the sign welcoming us to Ohio as, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”
That first Christmas, my wife gave me a Browns pennant. Soon after, the transmission on the Cordoba went out.
The Browns have some of the best fans in the world — which is a little like being in an abusive relationship — but their anger is sometimes misplaced.
Late former owner Art Modell, for example, is roasting over the open fires of Hell, if the Dawg Pound had any say in it.
In 2001, when the Baltimore Ravens made (and won) the Super Bowl, it was almost too much for the Browns faithful to handle.
That’s because the Ravens up until 1996 were actually the Browns. Modell up and moved his franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore, leaving Cleveland without a team called the Browns for the first time since 1946.
The first time my wife and I visited Cleveland (on a game day, coincidentally), street vendors were selling big orange foam fingers — only with the middle finger turned up and the word “Modell” printed on them.
The prevailing thought before Super Bowl XXXV in 2001 was, “That should have been us!” My newspaper even did a story on local Browns fans who were refusing to watch the Super Bowl.
Flash forward to this past season. The Browns finished with a perfect record — that is, they went 0-16.
I may just be the only person in Greene County with a Browns stocking cap (not to mention two Browns sweatshirts, pajama pants, a baseball hat and a coffee mug). Just the other morning, former sheriff Steve Haupert saw me, pointed to my hat and started snickering.
My stock response has become, “It was on sale.”
But the truth is, I have a real affinity for the underdog.
Maybe it’s because I’ve never been on a winning team myself. I’ve so far made my home in four cities: Jefferson (my hometown); Sioux City; Fort Dodge; and Springfield, Ohio.
Waukee and Grimes they ain’t.
Whether it’s destiny or just lousy luck, I often find myself moving in as others are moving out.
Sioux City has come along nicely, but when I arrived in 1995, historic Fourth Street wasn’t yet awash with yuppies and brew pubs. It was still just one seedy adult book store.
Moving to Waukee right now is like becoming a Patriots fan if only for the fact that everyone loves a winning team.
The odds are stacked against our rural county of 9,336, but I like it that way. Every town in Greene County is essentially the Cleveland Browns.
Factoring in some recent development — particularly the casino and Hy-Vee — I’d have to say Jefferson is probably more akin to the Cincinnati Bengals.
But for what it’s worth, they finished second-to-last this season in the AFC North.
Actually, a better analogy is that Jefferson is the Baltimore Ravens.
Hearing residents of Scranton or Grand Junction complain endlessly about how “Jefferson gets this” or “Jefferson got that” sounds just as ridiculous as hearing those Browns fans back in ’01 wail, “That should have been us!”
The anger is misplaced.
For one, in what parallel universe would Hy-Vee have picked to build a new store in Scranton (pop. 557) over a county seat community of 4,345?
The true bone of contention is that Jefferson took their schools, like Baltimore did the Browns.
Nothing against my old classmates from Scranton or the kids today from Grand Junction, but it would be great if every town in Greene County still had its own school district — because in that parallel universe, Greene County’s population hasn’t shrunk to alarming levels.
The anti-Jefferson rhetoric has even infected the county board of supervisors, who made much ado over whether the Square should be called “Bell Tower Square” or “Courthouse Square” on city wayfinding signage.
The Bell Tower, apparently, is too symbolic of Jefferson. (Never mind the fact that the 47-bell carillon is one of only four like it in the entire state of Iowa.)
I’ve heard cynical comments about Jefferson Matters: Main Street, a volunteer group that formed because, frankly, they saw downtown Jefferson going the way of downtown Grand Junction.
The Main Street Iowa program is open to all communities. There’s nothing that says there can’t be a Scranton Matters or a Main Street Grand Junction. It starts with a handful of dedicated residents.
The inter-county squabbling has to end.
We are a county of 9,336 — smaller even than the towns of Carroll (pop. 10,103) and Boone (pop. 12,661).
We’re all in this together.
If you’re a lifelong Junction resident or a Scrantonite, Jefferson isn’t your enemy. Train your ire on Waukee and Grimes. They plunder our young as the old fight themselves.
The next big test will be a Greene County Schools bond vote in April to decide whether we build a new high school and regional career academy for our kids.
Let’s be better than the Browns.