There are a few factors that come to mind in determining what makes a great tailgating experience in the NFL. Many will say that all you need is beer, good food, and passionate fans. While I tend to agree with that, the tailgating experience at the Muni Lot in Cleveland, Ohio is so, so much more. I was born in the year 2000, and let's be honest… The Cleveland Browns have played shitty football for most (pretty much all) of my lifetime. While this is true, one thing has always remained constant: The fans.
On a normal day in the blue-collar city of Cleveland during the offseason or just the days in between Browns games, the Muni Lot looks like an average parking lot. It sits there every day in between the train tracks and the shoreway (the highway right off Lake Erie). At first glance, you’ll see yellow painted lines, a few cars, and mostly emptiness. The Muni Lot has also become a home to many of the less fortunate in Cleveland, who set up tents and spend their days in the parking lot right on the lake. These people know that on Sunday afternoons they’ll have lots of company. From Saturday night into Sunday morning, the barren parking lot magically transforms into the biggest party in Cleveland.
To give you an idea of how valuable a parking spot is in Muni before a Browns game, I’d like to reference the 2021 Cleveland Browns home opener. The night before the game, fans began to line up outside of the Muni Lot in hopes of getting a good spot at around 4pm. By 8pm (the day before the home opener), that line was 2.5 miles long, and growing quickly. Some people might call this stupid, an excuse to drink, or even delusion, but I call it loyalty.
Once fans enter the Muni Lot, they’re met with the aroma of burgers and dogs, the sight of drunk people tossing the pigskin, and the sound of the famous “Here We Go Brownies” chant. Like most tailgates, there is also the occasional fight in the lot (generally initiated by Steelers fans being assholes). Based on everything I’ve mentioned, you might be thinking that this seems like a pretty standard NFL tailgate. So what makes this such a great tailgating experience? It’s the fans. It always goes back to the fans.
As a city, Cleveland has a lot to offer, but the one thing that nearly everyone in Cleveland is passionate about and can bond over is the Browns. There is a very real nostalgia factor when fans enter the Muni Lot, and you don’t even need to be a Browns fan to feel it. Along with seeing fans drinking, throwing footballs, and eating good food, you see people hugging, laughing, and connecting on a personal level. The Muni Lot isn’t just a tailgate, it's a family reunion. After a long week of work or school, Cleveland fans can all look forward to meeting up with thousands and thousands of their best friends whom they may not have seen in a long time. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, who you are, what you do for a living, or what you look like; If you’re a Browns fan you’ll always have a home in the Muni Lot.
With that being said, Clevelanders are pretty welcoming people and will share their food and beer with just about anyone (as long as you aren’t a Steelers or Ravens fan, they can find somewhere else to tailgate). So if you’ve never been, I urge you to make a trip to the great city of Cleveland, Ohio on an NFL Sunday. First round’s on me.
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