The earliest known member in the Browns Backers of North Jersey still with the club is Manny Ballestero, who saw an ad in the Daily Record in February 1989 (see above). At that time, the Browns Backers of North Jersey were meeting at a sports pub on Sussex Turnpike in Randolph, NJ and Joanne Tsonton was the club president. The original members were Joan Tsonton, Dean Tsonton, Mark Tsonton, Manny Ballestero, Mark Ballestero, Sara Ballestero, Kip Pearson the Pearson Twins (sisters), Rev. Dave Lawrence and his wife, and Randy Bean. These were the original 12 'Disciples' and Founders of the club. The sports pub owners sold out in around 1993 and the new owners established Rosie’s Trattoria, an Italian restaurant. Rosie’s was strictly a restaurant, so the Browns Backers of North Jersey were out of a home.
According to Terry Scullin, who also joined the club in the early years and is still a member, for the next two years (1994-1995), the Browns Backers of North Jersey met at Double D’s, a party bar on Ridgedale Avenue in Morristown, behind Morristown Lumber. They had a downstairs room with a couple of TVs and provided the club with a dedicated server.
On November 6, 1995, when it was announced that the Browns were moving to Baltimore and the Browns started to tank, the Browns Backers of North Jersey attendance plummeted. Joanne and Terry were the only two at Double D’s when the Browns played their last game in Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Browns beat the Bengals 26-10, a bittersweet victory. Double D’s would later become a Gentlemen’s Club.
In 1999, when the new Browns came into existence, the club reunited and watched the games at 10 West Bistro and Sports Bar at the Ramada in East Hanover, NJ
It is not known when JoAnn Tsonston left the club, but after she left, Linda York became President of the Browns Backers of North Jersey. 10 West Bistro and Sports Bar soon became Miami Mikes and the club continued to meet there and had their own section. However, the set-up was not the best. The viewing area was set up much like a classroom, with long tables and chairs and everyone facing one television. Miami Mikes was always crowded and very loud. Although the club met to watch the games, there was no real interaction amongst the members. Linda was the first person to institute raffle prizes, and the raffles became very popular. All money generated from the raffles was used to hold a holiday party during the season. Additionally, money was collected over the year to donate to local charities.
Linda York moved to North Carolina after the 2005 season and the club needed a new leader. Brian Potten, who had just recently joined the club, stepped up to be the President of the Browns Backers of North Jersey.
The club stayed at Miami Mike’s for a number of years, but every year the place got louder and more crowded and the service got worse. In 2007, the Browns had one of their best years and although they didn’t make the play-offs after finishing 10-6, an improved team meant later games and more prime-time games the following year. In 2008, the Browns played four 4:00 games and five prime-time (8:15-8:30) games. That’s when problems at Miami Mikes escalated. Often times we would show up for the late games and our section would not be ready and the service suffered.
During one game our drinks did not come out until the 2nd quarter. Sensing that members were starting to get fed up, Brian and newly appointed VP Bob DenBleyker began scouting out new locations. During the Bye week, a number of different establishments were looked at and Brian and Bob decided that if the club ever left Miami Mike’s they would move to Cleveland’s Tap Room, located in West Caldwell. The establishment had the room to accommodate us and they had the right name!
As a trial, the club watched the Browns vs. Bills on Monday night, November 17th, 2008 at Cleveland’s Tap Room. The Browns won and those in attendance enjoyed the service and the food. The following Sunday, November 23rd the club returned to Miami Mike’s for the last time to watch the Browns vs. Texans. Due to horrible service and a bar owner with a bad attitude, the Browns Backers of North Jersey paid their tabs at half-time and left, never to go back again. We drove to Cleveland’s Tap Room to watch the 2nd half of the Browns-Texans game. Cleveland’s Tap Room was the Browns Backers of North Jersey’s home for the next 2 weeks.
During the December 7th game against the Tennessee Titans, while watching the game at Cleveland’s Tap Room, the Browns Backers of North Jersey were visited by 15 out-of-town guests. The guests happened to be the family of then Cleveland Browns President Mike Keenan. Because of the hospitality our club showed his family, Mr. Keenan sent the club a box of Cleveland Browns attire which we were able to raffle off. A lot of members were at the December 7th game and with the 15 additional guests, the bar was filled with Browns fans, yet Cleveland’s wouldn’t allow us to move tables or chairs so we could sit together. Additionally, the bar would not give us any specials or put the game on other TVs. They just didn’t get it. We guaranteed them almost 30 people per week and they would not do anything for us. Our stay at Cleveland’s Tap Room was short lived.
The Browns played another Monday night game on December 15th (which everyone watched at home). The week-end before the Monday night game, Brian and Bob once again hit the pavement looking for a home for the Browns Backers of North Jersey. Club members Steve and Brenda Stavreno’s mentioned The Exchange on Main Street in Rockaway. This was the only place we needed to visit. The establishment was perfect. The viewing area was set-up on a stage with 2 large screen TVs. Additionally, on occasion, we were able to use the downstairs banquet room with 8-foot projection screen. The Exchange would be the Browns Backers of North Jersey’s home for the remainder of the 2008 season through the 2010 season.
Before the 2010 football season, the Browns Backers of North Jersey reached out to Mike Adams, a safety for the Browns who grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, to help him with his foundation. In August 2010, some members of the Browns Backers of North Jersey began collecting and filling school Back-Packs to hand out to under privileged children from Paterson. The members took the back-packs to PS#28 in Paterson and worked a station to assist the foundation. Club President Brian Potten also gave a speech at the event.
During our time at The Exchange, the club continued to grow and everyone was looking forward to the 2011 season. On the opening Sunday, over 50 Browns fans showed up at The Exchange to watch the Browns take on the Cincinnati Bengals. There was standing room only around the stage area and Browns fans flooded into the adjacent room. The game never went on as the satellite to was not working. “No Signal” flashed on both flat-screens. Not wanting to miss the first game of the season, phone calls were made to nearby establishments. Once a viewing venue was secured, no matter where it was, the entire club left (with the exception of one member who stayed to eat his duck salad).
Most of the members, new and old, drove up to Sidelines Bar and Grill on Route 46 in Rockaway. The place was fairly new and they were happy to see 30+ Browns fans in their establishment. The members really liked Sideline’s and wanted to stay. The club had more room, better and bigger TVs and good food and specials. While we did not want to walk out on The Exchange, we decided to try Sidelines for 4 weeks (the Browns bye week) and have a vote to either stay at Sidelines or go back to The Exchange. The vote was an overwhelming favor to stay at Sidelines.
The stay at Sideline’s was short lived. After the 2012 season, we found out that the owners were converting Sidelines into the Jersey Diner and it would no longer be a sports bar. We were informed that we could use the upstairs banquet room to watch the games. The manager indicated that he would not rent the banquet room out on Sunday, but Brian and Bob did not believe him and chose to look elsewhere.
The Browns Backers of North Jersey only had to look a ¼ mile up the street to find their new home. Ever since 2013, the club has been at Brick 46 in Rockaway. We start our 6th year at Brick 46.
In September 2017, North Jersey.com and the Daily Record did a feature on bars in the area who catered to fans of teams other than the Giants and Jets. The Browns Backers of North Jersey was featured. The video can be seen on the home page and the article is below.
The Browns Backers of North Jersey website started in 2008 and has evolved over the years. It is meant to give exposure to our club and provide information about the upcoming games including raffle prizes and predictions. Additionally, pictures are posted along with the popular animations. The animations usually poke fun at something that happened while watching the game. Consider yourself lucky if you are in animation! Check out the animations. The old animations will be uploaded from time to time with an explanation on why they were created.