She and Jeff started watching the Browns together in her family's basement when they were ninth-graders. They now rent the house from her parents and keep up the game-viewing tradition. The basement color scheme is Cleveland Brown orange and brown. The shelves are lined with Brown artifacts: clocks, glasses, jugs, banks, troll dolls, gum and candy bars. Brown posters and pennants hang from the walls, which are strung with Christmas-tree lights. When the game starts, Marianne flicks the lights on.
Next to the TV is a mannequin decked out in a Dawg Pound mask and Brown cap onto which two ticket stubs have been stapled. "One game was The Fumble," Marianne says. "The other was The Drive." The Fumble refers to the 1988 AFC Championship Game against the Denver Broncos, which ended when Brown fullback Earnest Byner coughed up the ball on the Denver goal line. The Drive refers to the 1987 AFC Championship Game, in which John Elway drove the Broncos 98 yards to tie the Browns in the final minute. (Denver won on a field goal in overtime.) On the post-Drive drive, Marianne wept all the way home. "I can see shedding a tear or two after the game," says Jeff. "But she cried for 2½ straight hours!"
A recent Monday Night Football telecast—the Browns against the Miami Dolphins—begins with Marianne watching from an ottoman midway between the TV and the couch, where Jeff, Don and Rick are sprawled. She's wearing a Brown jersey, Brown socks, Brown sneakers, dog-bone earrings and a general air of hope.
The Dolphins score a touchdown on their first possession. Marianne hurls a Koosh ball at the TV. The Dolphins score on their second possession. Marianne hurls her lucky troll against the TV. She presses her face to the glass. "Come on, guys!" she wails. "Where's the defense?"
Brown quarterback Bernie Kosar drops back to pass but doesn't see wide receiver Michael Jackson. "He's open, Bernie!" Marianne yelps. Kosar throws to somebody else. Incomplete.
"Bernie can't hear you screaming," snorts Jeff. "It doesn't do a bit of good."
"Yes it does," she replies. "He knows I'm here. Just because I'm not at the game doesn't mean he can't feel my presence."
The Browns remain uninspired. Don says, "Marianne, know where Bernie is?"
"In a phone booth, sobbing. He can't find the receiver."