At ten years old, I understood little of the Cleveland Browns except that it made my dad laugh whenever I told him I wanted to marry Bernie Kosar. I knew how teams scored points, knew that a quarterback threw the ball, and had a general idea that gaining yards was something to celebrate. Larger in my ten year old mind was the emotional connection my dad had to the Cleveland Browns, to his hometown, to the city of Cleveland. And, most important, the connection the Cleveland Browns held for my dad and me.
That first game was more than just a game. Even the drive to the stadium was infused with a gravity and excitement that I didn’t quite understand, but was thrilled to be a part of. My dad’s company had rented buses to make the trip; at ten years old, this seemed a fun adventure; as an adult, I realize this allowed for responsible tailgating along the way. I’m old enough now that I can’t quite capture the details of that day, but I remember the old gray Municipal Stadium. I remember it had its own smell, a steely pride in its own ugliness, a resolute embrace of its fans, and a defiant face on the lake. It fit that the proud, ugly gray lady was a source of determined pride for Cleveland Browns fans. The scrapper and more defiant you are, the more Cleveland loves you.
And, of course, nothing could overshadow my excitement, even at ten years old, of seeing the man I claimed I was going to marry quarterbacking the Cleveland Browns.
Today’s Cleveland Browns Stadium is a bit reflective of the new Cleveland Browns. Molded more in the style of the corporate stadiums, it has never been quite as fan-friendly or as high-end as other NFL stadiums. Cleveland Browns Stadium is not as flashy or modern as its rivals and now lacks the distinct ugly character that so endeared old Municipal Stadium to Cleveland. But, as is their way, Cleveland Browns fans have done all they can to hold on to game day traditions that make attending a Cleveland Browns game such a fantastic, unique experience.
The new Dawg Pound lacks the bite of the original Dawg Pound. The more posh stadium, the modern NFL, and fan conduct policies have taken some of the teeth from the Dawg Pound, but it’s still standing strong, waiting perhaps for a Cleveland Browns team worthy of the insane barking that Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield inspired. To find some of the character of the old Dawg Pound, it’s there among tailgaters at the Muni Lot or the Pit. Long before people stopped talking about what happens in Vegas, the Muni Lot and the Pit had cornered the market on tailgating behavior you can only experience, and just don’t discuss.
Cleveland Browns fans continue to connect the old Cleveland Browns at the Municipal Stadium to the new Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns stadium. We cheer our old heroes as we did Bernie Kosar Sunday as he served as honorary capitain, we bark throughout our tailgates and the game, and carry our memories of the past with pride. At my first game, my dad bought me a Cleveland Browns windbreaker. Like most things about the Cleveland Browns, it has seen better days. But like all Cleveland Browns fans, I still believe it carries the magic of the old days.