WFNY Roundtable: Dawg Days Over?

The ‘Dawg Pound’ became such in the mid 80’s as the fans and defensive players created an identity together. Lead by two young cornerbacks, Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield, the defense was tough to move the ball on (unless you were John Elway). This identity, of course,  stuck with Browns fans long after Dixon, Minnifield and teammate Felix Wright were gone.

Now there is a new corps in the secondary that shows some promise. Eric Wright, Joe Haden and TJ Ward are young defensive backs that could well be the cornerstones of the Browns defense for years to come. With these similarities to the original ‘Dawg Defense,’ I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before fans try to brand this new group with the old mark.

Today’s round table question: Is it time for fans (and ownership) to let the team create it’s own identity and stop trying to force the ‘Dawg’ imagery on new players?

Craig: I know it won’t be popular to say, but it is time to move on. I have heard many say that the “Dawg Pound” should have died with Cleveland Municipal Stadium. I think it is one of the problems that we Clevelanders have (other than our favorite football team failing to play well since 1999.) We missed out on a lot of change in the league while our team was gone. Meanwhile because we are such traditional fans, we keep trying to put everything in the modern era back into the neat little box that our history has created. Call it a side effect of having to go before Congress to save your team’s name, history and colors. The bottom line is that we don’t need to forget the past even as we move on from nicknames of yesteryear. The Dawgs were an era like The Steel Curtain. It is an era we should never forget and one to be proud of, but it is time to stop trying to put new people into old categories. Eric Wright, Sheldon Brown and Joe Haden don’t need to be Dixon, Minnifield and Wright. They could even be better if we are lucky. Let them carve out their own place in history.

Jacob: Growing up in a generation that fed upon the successful Indians teams of the 90’s, the “Dawg Pound” is almost a lost image. The idea still has not fallen apart because of the efforts of those loyal Browns fans who continue to sell out the stadium, but now there might be a need for a new identity.

This organization is now relying upon the efforts of defensive players like Eric Wright and all the backs drafted this year to generate excitement in Cleveland. However, the Browns have struggled to develop any sort of intriguing relationship with the NE Ohio fans. The Tribe was the story last decade, the pre-LeBron Cavs were dominating for nearly half a dozen years and that leaves the Browns in a potential-laden position today. In order for them to far exceed this other recent sports popularity in town, a different slogan, a different image and a different re-branding might be necessary.

Rick: I hear what you’re saying Jacob. And I do think the Browns as an organization have clung to the Dawg image a little much (Chomps, anyone?). What I don’t want to see is the organization trying to re-brand the team’s identity. Let the identity come naturally. Then go ahead and run with it. Everything does not always have to be marketable either…

Scott: We can always just scrap the dog all together and fully embrace Brownie the elf. Who wouldn’t want to sit in “Santa’s Workshop?” You know…aside from everyone.

Rick: Would that make Mike Holmgren Santa?

Scott: I have a feeling Coach Holmgren would be delegating those responsibilities, if you will.

This all sort of ties into the Jim Brown issue that has been talk of the last few days. Does this team – which has been at the forefront of embracing history – keep clinging to the past or do we put this all behind us and trek on? I definitely think it starts at the top, but getting the 70,000-plus to jump aboard could be another story.

TD: A year ago at this time, I would have said that the Browns need to continue to cling to the good old days as much as they can. Mostly because the play on the field was so horrible. Fast forward a year and you have the new regime with Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert, a new excitement, and a move in the right direction. That is the hope at least.

If there was ever a time to break from the “Dawg” movement, this is it. Rob Ryan’s defense showed a lot of improvement throughout the season and took on his personality. By the end of the season, you could tell that if they added a few more key pieces, they could take the next step. They did that by adding corners Joe Haden and Sheldon Brown, safety TJ Ward, and linebackers Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita. The names I mentioned are not “The Dawgs.”

“The Dawgs” will always be Hanford Dixon, Frank Minnifield, and that group. Don’t forget the old, but embrace the new.

Jacob: Just saying folks. The Browns are struggling with this new generation that fed off the Tribe and loved LeBron’s Cavs. If the team doesn’t do something quickly to grab their attention (either with new marketing or actual winning), then we could have another generation of football fans fall by the wayside.

Rick: I love the ring of honor idea. Not just for honoring the old, but giving the new players a sense that “hey that could be me someday.”

TD: Only our moronic leadership would take 12 years to figure that out.

Scott: David Veikune is just hoping for a Ring of Playing Time.

Craig: Is it too late for Mangini to blame George Kokinis for David Veikune? Who wouldn’t be in favor of blaming him for at least one thing. It is a victim-less crime really.

Andrew: Quite frankly, I don’t think it matters one way or the other. Doing a forced re-branding of the team isn’t going to affect wins and losses on the field, and at the end of the day, that’s all fans really care about. I have no problem with the “dawg” branding/imagery nor would I be heartbroken if it left. It’s just something to distract fans while they cheer for a losing franchise. I can’t envision any kind of campaign that would make me any more or less of a fan of the Cleveland Browns than I already am. Whether we cling to the past or embrace the history, I think it’s all good as long as Czar Holmgren can finally turn this franchise around. If the Browns can finally make smart front office moves and put a competitive product on the field, we’ll all be ecstatic no matter if we’re barking like dawgs, wearing elf logos, or following whatever new brand/image is created. Just win, baby!

DP: When the team was coming back and the plans for the new Cleveland Browns Stadium were announced, the first thing I heard was “expanded Dawg Pound.” 20-year-old me was ecstatic. I cut my football teeth on those late-80’s teams that gave birth to the monniker. Then, when I actually saw what the new “Dawg Pound” was–uncomfortable bleachers in an otherwise non-descript section of the stadium that looks like every other section of the stadium–my enthusiasm was lessened. Perhaps I was growing up. Or, perhaps it was a good idea gone bad in the new era of corporate stadiums and branding and marketing.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was the introduction of the “plushy dog mascots” at the games. The Dawg Pound was about intimidation; it was about a tough defense, and about the fans who were maybe a little too crazy to be in with the “regular seats”. It wasn’t about cute puppy mascots giving away Donatos’ pizzas and dancing around on the field with high school cheerleaders. From the stories I’ve been told about the original Dawg Pound bleachers by people I know very well who were at those games, it was about getting as drunk as possible, being as loud and rowdy as possible, and making that end of the stadium a tomb for opposing teams.

The two-fold issue there is that: 1) the players that personified that era of the Dawg Pound are long gone, and have mostly been replaced for the last decade by sieve-like defenders, and 2) most of the people that made up the Dawg Pound of the late-80’s are actually still there… but are twenty years older. Combine that with the cynicism that comes with a decade of putrid football since the team’s return, and you have a recipe for a Dawg Pound that isn’t really anything of spectacular wonder anymore. It’s more a surly collection of unstatisfied fans now than any kind of a home field advantage.

Don’t get me wrong: the fans down there are knowledgable. Many of the “veterans” are more often than not still several sheets to the wind. There’s a lot of character burned in by a lot of losing down there. But those “veterans” are really down in the bottom few rows. Gone are the days where the entire section was full of the same people in the same seats every game. Gone are the days where you had to have a special kind of mental condition to desire sitting down there.

Nowadays, there are opposing fans down there for every game–to wit, Saturday night a guy clapped for every positive thing the Rams did. Certainly his right no matter how you feel about the “Family Friendly” atmosphere desired; but, also something that would have been done with great trepidation in the original Dawg Pound – you entered at your own risk. The other new addition is the early-20-something guy who’s had several beers too many, has heard stories of the Dawg Pound circa 1988, and believes it’s singularly his job to revive that tradition. Only, in one of life’s sweet ironies, the “lifers” down there usually give that guy a dirty look and generally ignore him.

The point of all of this?

The Dawg Pound as those fans knew it–those fans that really made it what it was–is no more. I enjoy sitting there because I’m close to the field, I have some friends down there, and the people there really know their Browns football. I don’t sit there because of the mystique or the history or the legends of what the section once was at the old stadium.

The truth is that once Muni fell, the real Dawg Pound fell with it. Some fans hold on to it for many different reasons, perhaps: 1) it reminds them of a time when they were younger and crazier, 2) it reminds them of a time when the team was good year in and year out, or maybe most specifically 3) it reminds them of a time when the stadium–specifically that end of it–was one of the best home field advantages in football and that they were part of the reason why. I don’t have to tell anyone that goes to CBS regularly how insignificant the home field advantage of the last decade has been. Go to a Steelers game now; the stadium is generally 20 percent y’inzers.

I don’t know why some cling to the Dawg Pound brand. But, I can speak with pretty solid certainty that most of the true “Dawg Pound” fans that still have their tickets down there would tell you that it isn’t the Dawg Pound anymore, and that it shouldn’t be called the Dawg Pound anymore because to do so is an insult and a disservice to what the original Dawg Pound actually was and stood for.

For me, I look at it in a couple of ways, since I’m technically a “newbie” down there in the grand scheme of things. To continue calling it the Dawg Pound is to imply that we have a preconceived belief that Browns football will never be as good as it was back then. That’s not only unfair, but it’s self-defeating. If, based on early returns, this new front office can build a winning team, how is it fair to that team to be implicitly compared to teams of twenty years ago? It also sets a strange standard for younger Browns fans, perhaps one that shouldn’t be emulated. After all, the Dawg Pound of old was like the Wild West.

In summary, I’m all for celebrating history; this franchise has more than its share of good history. But, the Dawg Pound as a stadium entity has been dead since 1995. It’s time to put the monniker to rest, too, and to move forward into the future.

  • JNeids

    I haven’t even read the article yet, but just looking at the picture, I got to dreaming that a WFNY beer, or even better, a WFNY brewery is the “biggest news” we’re waiting on. Mmm, WFNY Ale…

  • BrianRut4

    You have failed to answer the most important question.

    If a nearby fellow fan proclaims “Here we go Brownies, here we go”, would the apporpriate response remain “Woof, Woof”?

    I’m so confused!

  • WayneEmbrysKids

    The Dawg Pound is a Cleveland tradition forever now.

  • Pete

    I dont think the whole dawg thing is going anywhere. But it’s an interesting question to ponder. Does that mean you all think that the fight to keep the franchise name and colors in the 90’s was fruitless. I think in fighting to keep such things you by default fight for all of the tradition and what not that comes with them including the dawg moniker. Should we have just completely rebranded a la the Ravens? The Cleveland…whats? God, for the life of my I can’t think of one other name with some kind of historical value that would do justice to such a great football town. I don’t think I could stomach just some kind of animal or pirate or something. No thank you.

  • Mike

    How about the fact that the Legend’s Club is now closed to us regular folk that sit in the “Dawg Pound”? The Club will now cost $300 bucks a year just to walk in and drink a beer. Whatever.

    The Dawg Pound died when the old Stadium when down. What we have now is a corporate version run by a league that wants nothing to do with the intense fans that made the origional Pound legendary. Just make sure you buy the NFL licensed apparel with the Dawg Pound logos etc. :)

  • Harv 21

    Aw, Scott, you beat me to the Elfin Dude as the new identity.

    DP, would you next dismantle Pronkville? Good lord, where’s your sense of history?

    To older readers like me the “dawg pound” is not such sacred lore, like Paul Brown or Otto Graham, and it’s kind of weird to hear it held in such reverence. Before the mid-1980s it was “the bleachers” and it could get truly wild because seats were cheap, people drank and sometimes fought and threw things. The vehemence from those fans gave home field advantage but the whole windy, peeling, rickety stadium helped too. This was way before “dawg pound” became the cliche for the national audience, with the mandatory establishing tv shot of barking people in funny masks leaning into the camera.

    My point is that type of identity doesn’t work if it’s forced, or transplanted into a sterile atmosphere, or is so self-conscious. Let it go and let something real develop organically. It will, because there is so much real passion.

  • OmegaKing

    I don’t know about this discussion – the idea that Browns fans are just supposed to “let go” of a tradition (nickname, whatever you want to call it) like the Dawg makes you guys sound a little elitist.

    If the Browns came out and said “we’re not identifying our franchise with the ‘Dawg’ image anymore”, what are the fans supposed to cling to? The elf is fun, but only on merchandise. The imagery brought about to fans with the “Dawg” and the Dawg Pound is that of toughness, intimidation, and the fans actually having an impact on the opposing team. Why would you want to try to end that? Just because the team hasn’t been any good lately? It seems senseless to totally divorce this incarnation of the franchise from the one that came before (you know, the one that was good).

    Maybe they should be the Cleveland Nothings and fans can sit there silently.

  • Eric D

    Getting rid of the Dawg Pound doesn’t make the fight for the name and colors fruitless. The Dawg Pound was a fan tradition, not the whole team. Similar to the Braves’ Tomahawk Chop. Do they still do that? We just have to decide how ingrained it is in the personality of our team. Is it more Rock Chalk Jayhawk or Deee-Troit Basket-Ball. I love sitting in the Dawg Pound, but if it wasn’t called the Dawg Pound I would still sit there, because I like the view and the bleacher thing. The Dawgs are gone, and frankly I like the idea of embracing Brownie the Elf.

  • buu

    i agree with wayneembryskids. “dawg pound” has gone beyond top dawg and mighty minni, beyond old municipal. people nationwide still think “dawg pound” when they think browns and i dont see how thats a bad thing. sure a plush dog mascot running around is a bit goofy, but at least its not steely mcbeam or whatever the steelers call(ed) that guy.
    it gives the browns and their fans a rough and tumble sort of reputation and even if the team has been terrible, i think its something worth embracing rather than pushing away. do raiders fans have this discussion about “the black hole”/

  • Andrew

    As being a “younger” Browns fan relative to the Dawg Pound, I can’t imagine not barking at opposing fans. The only thing that it has to do with history is that Browns fans continue to bark at fans. Not sure why it is necessary to give those things up because we don’t have the original Dawg Pound. The Dawg Pound was just as much about the fans as the players and the fans are still there. So you have to be a certain age to bark or appreciate the barking? Without the Dawg Pound we would need to develop witty comebacks amongst our drunkenness. I would rather simple bark at someone and not think about it.

  • JKron

    Harv, you beat me to the punch. Can’t remember who said the right time is now, but it isn’t. To rebrand now would be so forced and empty that I can’t see anyone truly embracing it because no one would feel it. At least The Dawg Pound has some substance – because as much as it was history (and apparently that’s a bad thing now?), it was EARNED. If you’re ever going to lead a majority public movement, it has to really come from somewhere. Earned on the field, felt by the fans, and thusly so adopted.

  • Turk

    I think we’re overthinking things here. Why throw out years of tradition on the flimsy hope that Holmgren’s regime will actually do any better than the last ten years?

    I’ve always like the “Dawg” imagery. To me, it’s awesome because it harkens back to the days when teams adopted whatever “unofficial” nickname the crowd or the press gave them rather than some corporatized brand name. I like the imagery it evokes, especially given that no one can describe and visualize what the hell a “Brown” is. I even liked when they had the dog logo a few years back.

    Again, why throw this all out because we think Holmgren and his posse are gonna lead the team to a nine-win season? Didn’t we all buy nto the same BS hype when we had Crennel and Savage at the helm initially? Don’t throw out the tradition in favor of the zeitgeist. It’s shortsighted.

  • tribefan30

    As a Cleveland Indians/Cavs/Browns fan, this would just be too much. First we have to loose Jacobs field for Progresive field, then the Cavs loose Lebron, and now you want to throw in dismantling the Dawg pound? Some change is ok, but this is just too much all at once.

  • MrCleaveland

    I never cared for the front office’s attempts to identify with the Dawg culture. They painted that ugly dog head in the end zone and had some guy running around in bad costume.

    But that being said, I agree with Harv. People don’t seem to go for stuff that’s contrived. The whole Dawg thing started spontaneously. If it dies, it should die a natural death, not because some marketing firm or pr agency designs a new identity.

    The fans will decide when it’s time.

  • jimkanicki

    just want to agree with harv’s post. like verbatim. 100% accord.

  • Brent

    The Dawg Pound became a joke when all of the fame whore Browns fans tried to create their own character. Yes, I am looking at you Dawg Pound Mike, Tail Gator Lady, Big Dawg, etc… These people are total D bags that care more about getting attention for themselves than cheering the team.

  • Titus Pullo

    I’m cool with the team dropping it – and actually have wished they would for years. Using anything other than the elf as a secondary logo is blasphemous, especially if we’re talking about tradition because that goes back to the team’s founding.

    If/when the team starts winning, a new identity will emerge. If the fans want to keep it going, more power to them.

  • BW

    Keep the dawg pound, it is who we are. Is it as nasty as the original and all of that? No, but like #8 said… it’s how we are recognized nationally, and hey that’s not a bad thing. The Black Hole is not what it used to be either, but it remains…

  • MrCleaveland

    Harv’s right again on the pre-Dawg Pound era. The bleachers were just as crazy before the Dawg thing. Fan behavior in the bleachers played a part in the NFL’s decision to put up nets behind the goal posts to keep place kicks from going into the crowd. I guess the fights over the ball in the old bleachers were pretty good.

    My uncle used to say that whenever the Browns scored, in the bleachers 10,000 brown paper bags went up in salute.

  • P Mack

    I never liked the Dog Pound name. To me, saying a player was a “dog” means that he’s a lousy player. If the name dies that’s fine with me.

  • Rick

    I don’t think anyone wants the organization to force something new on the fans. That’s why I said let the team create it’s own identity.

  • skyler188

    I’ve never been an enormous fan of the whole Dawg thing, but it was there and it was real and so it was great. But I agree that the team should let it go — it’ll either continue on its own as something organic that the fans express, or it’ll die. I STRONGLY urge the team to get rid of the mascots. No mascots — and no cheerleaders and no logo — were part of the whole identity of the Browns. Now with four (!) cutesy-pie dog mascots running around, the Browns commonly have more mascots than quality linemen. You CAN’T like that ratio. We’re finally developing a good line — maybe it’s time to get rid of those dumbass dogs.

  • Alex

    Big fan of the Elf

  • AMC

    Love that Dog Pound picture. Have an original print in my office in DC that I’m staring at right now. That will always be the true Dawg Pound. Whatever happens to the current iteration, I’m indifferent.

  • BB

    What noise does an elf make?

  • TSR3000

    I was barking in the 80’s and I will bark again someday when we are sweet again. DawgPound forever.

  • Ike

    As soon as the Browns get back to getting 9-10 Ws a year, the Dawg Pound will be back in effect.

    I think all of this is vastly overstated; it’s simply a direct reflection of what happens on the field.

  • B-bo

    I personally love the “idea” of the Dawg Pound, even though it’s obvious that this incarnation is not the same as Muni’s. And the “Dawg” attitude/mentaility/spirit, whatever you want to call it, is something I’ll always associate with the Browns. Others don’t feel as positive about it, and that’s fine as well. If the franchise wants to stop making it a featured element of the “Cleveland Browns Experience”, then whatever. But can we please let fans decide how they want to look at their team and what they choose to rally around, please? It’s sports, it’s a diversion–we don’t need some formal policy about how folks go about demonstrating their support, do we? I hope not.

    I am all for the franchise making more use of Brownie the Elf, which I am convinced is the coolest “non-standard” logo going. We don’t have to build a cult of personality around it with an elaborate theme in the stadium (though “Santa’s Workshop”–hi-larious) or costumes or sounds, but it should be more visible. In the end, what I’d most like to see is CBS become a place that offers a true home field advantage, like Muni once did, instead of an easy road game environment for our opponents and their fans.

  • Ryan

    The dawg pound needs to be re-vamped if its going to stay alive. i suggest they paint the dawg pound bleachers brown, to make them stand out.

  • BuckeyeCIC

    On the topic of nostalgia, this man has recapped most of past Browns’ seasons via YouTube:


  • Reginald VelJohnson

    I’m in favor of getting rid of the dawg pound for the sole reason that it would be the end of dawg pound mike.

  • MrCleaveland

    I’m afraid you guys who want the Browns to bring back the Elf miss the entire point of all this! You don’t need Cleveland Browns Corp. Inc. Ltd. to bring back the Elf. All you need to do is just wear your own Elf stuff and enjoy it! If it “goes viral,” great! If not, so what? You don’t need official corporate sanction to do stuff.

    Like Brian says in The Life of Brian “You don’t need me. Just do it yourselves!”

  • Desert Wahoo

    I don’t know about this. Living in Arizona for a few years now..I go to a local bar on football day. I’m there with a browns backer group and that bar is a Cleveland bar for a few hours that day.

    The game starts and we bark. A score via TD or FG and we bark. A turnover and we bark. There are jingles that end in barking.

    I don’t want that to change.

    Barking at the good things that come form the team makes me feel part of the team in some VERY small way. The Dawg Pound is tradition because it was a fan thing at first.

    Just because the ownership tried to make a buck off of it with the plush dolls and corporate Dawg identity is not a bad thing. I just never bought anything that had that imagery.

    Again living in Arizona I have to deal with the Cardinals in the local media. This team has absolutly NO identity, NO real fan support, There are still more opposing team fans in the stands. I just can’t see this happen to the Browns.

    To junk the Dawg Pound is just wrong. Just because it’s not what it was, is not a bad thing. What is exactly the same now as it was in 1986? We fans just need to contiune to support the team in our own ways.

    I will continue to bark! Woof Woof!

  • ErikInHell

    The DawgPound was created by the fans. The fans made that section what is was, and made the stadium a true home field advantage. I agree that the Cleveland Browns and NFL corporate sponsorship of the DawgPound should stop, and if the fans want to keep it, they will. The fans will create a new identity once they find it.

  • Cleveland Frowns

    This is the worst WFNY post I’ve seen in a long time. Who’s “forcing the imagery” on the players? It’s a nickname. It’s tradition. It’s dogs, for god’s sake. Who doesn’t love dogs?

  • KirstenOfCleveland

    Why should the franchise stop pushing the Dawg Pound, if people still want to embrace it? Just because it’s no longer a grassroots thing doesn’t mean it no longer merits existence–or promotion. It was at *one* point an organic outgrowth. I think that should be enough. Any team would be lucky to have a real, homegrown idea to promote among fans.

    I guess I’m just surprised that among all seven (seven, right?) of you, not one of you is solidly in the corner of the Dawg Pound. Not angry, really, because it’s your opinions and you’re entitled to them, but … surprised. I can’t imagine this is a representative sample of Clevelanders.

    And even if you’re suggesting that the franchise itself stop peddling the idea, why would they? Why *should* they? It’s capitalism in its purest and most unadulterated form.

    Look and Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Pepsi felt the need to “rebrand” itself and shed its “old” image, while Coca-Cola stuck with its retro look. The results: Coca-Cola’s logo is as classically cool as ever, while Pepsi’s logo looks like a fat guy whose red t-shirt won’t cover his burgeoning belly.

    Seriously, google it. You’ll see I’m right.