The couch tattooed on Kyle Hart’s arm is one of the mid-century modern variety. It’s brown, appears to be upholstered in some sort of tweed, and has accent buttons sewed along the sides of the cushions. Before you get a good look at the couch, however, you notice the giant No. 2 in front of it, decorated with the same stripe that’s on the helmets of the Cleveland Browns. This is because Hart’s fresh ink is an homage to the Browns quarterback Tim Couch, who the team drafted in 1999.
You probably have a lot of questions. Namely — who is this guy? Why did he get a Tim Couch tattoo in 2017? Well, gather ’round, and I’ll tell you the story of how I found the biggest Tim Couch fan in the world.
It all started when I began regularly going to the Good Batch, a bakery in Brooklyn, to get my morning coffee. Hart, who’s 29, works there. I’ve come to know him superficially, in the strangely intimate-but-still-distant way you know the people on the periphery of your life. I know, for example, that he recently moved. I know that last week he couldn’t remember the name of this movie with Colin Hanks in it, the one where a high school puts on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I know it was bugging him. I also know he refused to look it up because that would be cheating.
I thought I knew that Hart loves Phil Collins more than anything, given that he’s always playing a Phil Collins or Genesis album as he foams milk or chooses the perfect slice of banana bread for a customer. I once saw a mother take her baby’s hands and do the air drums to “In The Air Tonight,” thanks to his Spotify preferences.
But I was wrong. It turns out that Hart loves the Cleveland Browns and Tim Couch as much, if not more, than he loves No Jacket Required. I learned this one Friday a few weeks ago as he handed me my coffee.
“What are you up to this weekend?” Hart asked me.
“One of my best friends is visiting me,” I told him. “What about you?”
“I’m getting another tattoo,” Hart said. He already has several on his arms.
“Ooooh,” I said. “Of what?”
“Well ...” Hart paused. He smiled, looking a little sheepish. “It’ll be a Browns tattoo.”
“As in, the Cleveland Browns?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said.
“Why?!” I half-yelled. A few people at tables nearby looked up.
“I just love them,” Hart said.
In the event you’ve been living under a rock for the past few decades, I must tell you that the Browns totally suck. They won only one game last year, which was one game too many, as it almost destroyed their chances of having the No. 1 pick in the draft. It didn’t, but even adding the stellar defensive end Myles Garrett out of Texas A&M to their roster didn’t help. This year, the team is 0-13.
Hart isn’t from Cleveland, and he isn’t even from Ohio. He’s also not from Kentucky, where Tim Couch was a Heisman finalist in the late ’90s. Hart actually grew up a Niners fan in the Bay Area, but his family was big into college football, and he loved watching Couch play. He was so into this guy that he named his old band Couch (they played music that was “very derivative” of Weezer).
After college, Couch (Tim, not Hart’s band) went on to become one of many somewhat-consistent quarterbacks the Browns have been lucky enough to have on their roster. Johnny Manziel, the promising Cleveland quarterback who flamed out a few years ago, also wore No. 2. The couch was necessary in the tattoo to make it clear which quarterback Hart was honoring.
“There was just something about [Couch],” Hart said. “He always seemed like a good person. He was just a great player, he was exciting to watch. When he got drafted by the Browns, your heart goes out — I just wanted him to succeed so much.”
Hart stopped watching the NFL for a few years, but he hopped on the Browns wagon recently because he says he can identify with them, and one of his best friends is from Cleveland and loves the team. Hart put $20 on the Browns to win the Super Bowl last year, and this year, he’s got $30 riding on the winless team. If they manage to go 0-16, and fans do hold a Sadness Parade in Cleveland on Jan. 6, he fully intends to go.
I came back the following Monday to see Hart’s tattoo. It was still wrapped in plastic, so I couldn’t get a good visual. But a few days later, once it had healed more, Hart rolled up his sleeve to show me his bicep. My jaw dropped.
“Wow,” I said. “A brown, mid-century couch. And the Browns colors. That’s incredible.”
“I know,” Hart said, beaming. “I just love it.”
I asked Hart if he had something he wanted to say to Tim Couch, in the event that I could talk to his idol for this article.
“Oh boy,” Hart said, looking flustered. “Uh, tell him that we miss him. And to keep being amazing.”
I tracked down Couch’s information and sent him an email with a picture of Hart’s Tim Couch couch tattoo, and also relayed his message.
Here’s what Couch wrote back:
“Hey Charlotte! Thanks for the message. I think I do remember someone I met that had a tattoo before but it was a long time ago when I was playing haha.. Pretty neat that he just recently got it since I haven’t played in a while. But I think his tattoo is cool ! Pretty creative. Tell him I really appreciate him being a fan of mine and I loved my time in Cleveland! Wish things were going better for the Browns right now but I’m still a fan of the team.”
I went back to the Good Batch the day after I got Couch’s response. I stood in line, and when it was my turn to order, I held up my phone so Hart could read the email. He smiled, made it to the end, and cracked up.
“That’s amazing,” he said. “That’s amazing. Wow, it feels pretty good.”
Then he filled up my usual large coffee before I could order it and handed it to me, laughing the whole time.