April 23, 2014

That Sure Was Fun, Wasn’t It?

There was a time where I truly loved and looked forward to going down to the Browns games. I looked forward to it all week. The vibe in and around the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium was something I will never forget. It was a true “family” event for my family.

To me, there was nothing like a sunny fall Sunday afternoon on the shores of Lake Erie. Days like yesterday were commonplace when I was a kid. Growing up, Sunday Browns Football was my religion. My father and mother both grew up on Browns football, going to the games at Old Cleveland Stadium with their fathers. In a way, The Browns home games brought my parents together. My dad’s father was a season ticket holder in 1946, he had two seats in section 37. Over the years, the family had grown and so did the popularity of the NFL. Two tickets became four, four became eight, and as my father and his two brothers started families of their own, eight became 12. My mother’s father had his two tickets in row one of section 37. My grandfathers knew each other and my dad was checking my mom out at games.

The rest, as they say, is history.

By the time I was in the picture, my uncle had four on the aisle in row three, my dad had four on the in row four, and my other uncle had four in row five, while my grandfather had two right across the way in row 4 of the next section. So we were all together. Our routine was the same every game. My Uncle would pick everyone up at our house and pile into his Suburban. My father, the single greatest sports-traffic-navigator was always the driver downtown. Usually 10 people in the car – a mix of parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends. We would leave promptly at 11:30am for a 1:00pm kickoff. Everyone had their job. My mom was in charge of bringing the deli sandwiches from Davis Bakery – we all had our usual orders (I’m a turkey off the bone with mayo guy, my uncle’s staple was Corned Beef on rye with russian dressing). My dad bought the programs from our same program guy – he always asked for a sandwich. My Uncle bought the pregame hotdogs – A dog with ketchup was referred to as a “wimp dog,” the man swears by Stadium Mustard and rightfully so.

In close games, My father, always the most unselfish guy, would go down to the car before the game ended. He would drive it up to the top of the hill in the parking lot adjascent to the stadium and have a cop sit it in to stay warm while he ran back into the stadium to watch the finish. This was the 70′s and 80′s when you could actually get away with moves like this. When the game was over, we all sprinted to the car, our feet numb from the cold, and jumped into the Suburban. Dad would take over there – nobody was a better aggressive driver out of the madness of traffic after Browns games than him. To quote my uncle, nobody could “Stay Tight” quite like my father.

I didn’t know how good I had it when I was a kid. Not only was I lucky enough to have seats, but the Browns were winners. My formative years were with Bernie, Ozzie, Clay, Hanford, and Mighty Minnie.

Since the Browns have returned, I still watch go to/watch every game, read everything I can about the team, write about the team, but it isn’t the same. I loved going to the games as a family at the old stadium. There was something about that decrepit old relic on the lake; the smells, the disgusting bathrooms, hiking up the hill from the parking lot, walking into the den of fans waiting to get through the turnstiles chanting “Here we go Brownies, here we go, Woof Woof.” Now, like everything else in pro sports, its a bland new stadium with too much commercialism and I am being “wanded” before walking in.

I lived in Chicago from 1999-2006 and would come back for the home opener every year. My father passed away in November of 2004 and going to games without him was extremely hard. When the Browns came back and moved into the new stadium, the core of our family split in terms of tickets. We were down to eight with my mom and my uncle continuing on the tradition, but we no longer had the need for so many seats. Fast forward to 2012 and I am a father of two. My son is now five and loves the game of football. We now have three seats, as does my uncle. One of my oldest and closest friends now has the two next to us and we have started our own new set of traditions.

However, the only traditions that has seemed to stick with the new group are the deli sandwiches and the losing.

I don’t need to tell you how bad the era of “The New Browns” football has been. 8,000 Quarterbacks, two winning seasons, one playoff game, and very little excitement. There has been one failed regime change after another. We’ve had so little to cheer about, especially since the Pat Shurmur takeover. But I look back at yesterday’s 34-24 win over the Cincinnati Bengals and feel like we, the fans, deserved that one.

The beautifully thrown and incredibly caught bomb from Brandon Weeden to Josh Gordon.

The Josh Cribbs punt return.

The resilience of Montario Hardesty.

The triumphant return of Joe Haden.

The Sheldon Brown pick six.

The Emmanuel Stephens/Billy Winn strip sack.

The victory formation.

I lifted my son in the air to see all of the big plays as the crowd erupted. He was going crazy. I high fived my Uncle and my mother, who were both at the 1964 NFL Championship game as kids. I walked out of the stadium with my oldest friend and we talked about how great it would be if we could have this feeling on a regular basis.

We had such a great time yesterday. Everyone did. The place was as loud as it has been in years. I just can’t imagine what it would be like down there if the Browns became a regular Super Bowl contender. It was so good for me as child of the 80′s knowing my team was going to be competitive every single year. Recently my son asked me why the teams we watch always lose. I tried to explain to him that he was born into this misery just as I was, but that you have to stick with your teams win or lose. Its real easy to be a Yankees. Being and Indians or a Browns fan is a true test of character and it molds you. It teaches you how to appreciate the good times. Our highs are much higher, while our lows are much lower.

He didn’t seem to get it. Then again, he’s only five. But he did understand what sharing that winning feeling with 70,000 of your closest friends was like after yesterday.

Here’s hoping that new Jimmy Haslam regime can keep these good vibes going.

Lord knows we all deserve it.

(photo via John Kuntz / The Plain Dealer)

 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeremy-Humbert/100001904340553 Jeremy Humbert

    Great article… Being a Brown’s fan truelly builds character… my son doesn’t get it yet, but my daughter “likes” the Browns enough to watch parts with me, and yesterday was about as fun an experience around our house as any I sports memory I have with my kids. We were waving our fingers at the tv chanting “mojo, mojo” (trying to give the boys good mojo from 1,200 miles away), and it continued to work! It was like winning a playoff game…like we were still alive to play tomorrow.

  • Garry_Owen

    I love this. Thanks, TD. You honor your Dad, and your son, very well.
    I read a re-cap last night (ESPN?) that quoted one of the Browns players (can’t remember who). He said something to the effect of “we got our stadium back today.” These guys have no idea what that place will be like when they start winning regularly. I can’t wait.

  • 5KMD

    I am an OHIO alum who is also a Notre Dame and Browns fan from birth.
    This was the best sports weekend in years for me. Not sure when the last time those 3 all won on the same weekend. It seems like an eternity.

  • NamedMyKidPrice

    Ive been walking around for two days saying, Theres a gleam, men!!! Cant believe how great yesterday felt!!!!!

  • BuckeyeDawg

    The next time someone scolds me for “wasting time” watching the Browns, or tells me “it’s just football…who cares?”…this is the article I going to refer them to. There are thousands of similar stories all across northern Ohio. We each have our own unique ones pertaining to the Browns. I know I certainly have mine.

    This is what it’s all about. Well done, TD.

  • Garry_Owen

    “There’s a gleam, men!” was going to be the first thing that I commented today, but I completely forgot.
    Well done!
    There is certainly a gleam, man.

  • Dee P

    +1,000,000

  • Dee P

    same with the Tribe.

  • Dee P

    Awesome. Do the same kind of stuff with my kids here in St. Louis.

  • Garry_Owen

    I hope you’re right, but I do wonder. Most of the pieces are in place for the Browns to start something big. I don’t think much at all is in place for the Tribe. The Tribe just feels hopeless, and I fear that it has irrevocably sapped the fanbase. I hope I’m wrong.

  • BuckeyeDawg

    Can’t wait until the first home playoff game there. I was at the 2008 NY Giants Monday night game. By far the loudest I have ever heard that stadium…I think a playoff game will make that look tame.

  • Harv 21

    Nice, TD. I remember the stands at Muni actually shaking like they were going to collapse as Metcalf ran back his second punt return against Pitts, and wondering if it was my imagination. Then I found a videotape (yep) of the playoff win v. Buffalo and the network cameras shake wildly the moment Clay Matthews intercepted Jim Kelly’s pass in the end zone to seal it.

    You can’t replicate that atmosphere in a new, sterile stadium, and It was silly to call the end zone in the new place the “dawg pound.” But it’s all about Cleve fans, it’s still a football-crazed town, and when they win new traditions and more genuine identities will form organically.

  • BenRM

    Same here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.huyghe Kevin Huyghe

    Yep, I was there too… and when we make the playoffs and host a home game, I won’t sell my ticket for a million dollars.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.huyghe Kevin Huyghe

    Co-freaking-sign

  • Sixth City Fan

    Great article! Hoping this new ownership puts the pieces together to have a lot more days like Sunday.

  • mgbode

    Here we go Brownies…

  • Doug

    Yep, got it in one. I always imagine what Cleveland would like with the Browns as a mere playoff contender, much less a SB threat. To dream…

  • Vindictive_Pat

    I had friends who had family experiences like yours TD, and I was always jealous. We went to our fair share of Indians and Cavs games, but my dad was about as big of a fair-weather fan as you will find. He watched the Indians in the 90′s when they were winning and then tapped out of all Cleveland sports. My brother graduated from UVA, but roots for Ohio State and basically just keeps tabs on the Browns because he doesn’t like rooting for losers. I am the only one in my extended family who is a rabid Cleveland sports fan, and the thought of starting traditions like the ones you laid out here is what drives me to make my son a fan of Cleveland sports. It’s cruel, yes, but it will someday result in the sweetest taste of glory.

  • Td’s cousin

    Td, your uncle, who is my father, was at the 1950 title game, I believe. He was 24 at the 64 title game. And I saw Leroy Kelly Play, you punk kid. Thanks for the article. It makes me want to come back. Maybe… Browns fans, be of good faith. Hope lives. Try to stay positive. I live in Denver, and most of the people here Know very little about football. So appreciate that at least you got each other. NEXT YEAR WILL COME!

  • Td’s cousin

    It is Marty’s destiny to return to Cleveland and win the whole fuckin thing, btw

  • brownstown

    Great article!!! Gave me goosebumps!

  • AmyB

    I love this. My dad instilled a huge love for all things Brown and Orange in me and my brother. Being the youngest of four, with two girls and a boy, there was much disappointment on the parts of my dad and brother when I was born a girl, but they decided, what the heck, we’ll just treat her like a boy. To this day, I am a rabid Cleveland fan and my brother and I text constantly during the games if we’re not together at the game or watching it. When my dad had a stroke in 2003, my brother and I sat in the hospital waiting room and talked about being thankful that, if dad didn’t make it, the last game he saw was his beloved Browns beating the Steelers. Cleveland had beaten Pittsburgh the night before in Sunday night football. Dad was at the Championship game in 1950 when Lou the Toe kicked the winning field goal against the Rams.

    I am so excited for the Brownies to be good. I was holding my 5 year old little boy on my lap tonight and said to my husband, “Wouldn’t it be great if he grows up with a successful, winning Browns team?!” There’s a whole generation out there that sees the Browns as a joke. It’s time to change that.

  • http://twitter.com/bbo13 B-bo

    I definitely grew up in the style TD talks about (the exception being my mother, who was/is sports-indifferent), though I only wish we’d had season tickets of our own back then! My younger siblings, currently 22 and 23, were (not surprisingly) not swept up in Browns fever in their developmental years. Instead, both have gone the modern route of following players over teams (my brother: John Lynch, my sister: Peyton Manning), and so have jumped from a few different teams (bringing the Broncos into the picture for both, much to my chagrin) over the years. I am proud to say, though, that both have grown to follow and root for the Browns in recent years, thanks in part to my repeated attempts to teach them about the history and importance of the team to the area where we all grew up. The weekly texts of frustration and finally the excitement of yesterday make me smile to no end. Should I ever have the chance, I will not hesitate to raise my own to love this team–and all Cleveland teams–the way so many of us do and have done.

  • Pomp

    Great article