I had just turned 14 when the Browns won the NFL title in 1964. There was no Super Bowl back then, just a couple playoff games and then the title game. I remember I was at Severance Center Mall with some friends during the game between the Browns and the Colts, and they were broadcasting the game from the radio over the PA system. Although people didn’t get as nutso about these things then as they do now, it was still exciting that the Cleveland Browns won and were the NFL champs going into the 1965 season.
In ’65, my dad had season tickets and we went to all the home games. It was really exciting and fun, especially since it was Jim Brown’s last year. And, as we all know, it was the last year that Cleveland had a national championship of any kind.
Over the years, I have been an avid Browns fan, and like everyone else in this city, was broken hearted when the team was moved to Baltimore for the ’96 season. Although the Browns never made it to the Super Bowl, most of the time they were in contention. It was a rare season when they didn’t make the playoffs, and football was always exciting in Cleveland. Of course, we got another Browns team in ’99, but as we all know, it hasn’t been the same. The New Browns made it to the playoffs once in the last 13 years and lost the first game.
One of the closest times the Browns came to the Super Bowl was in 1981. I was in my first year of chiropractic school in Davenport, Iowa. The Browns had been the most exciting team that season pulling out last minute miraculous wins that earned them the name “The Kardiac Kids”. Iowa doesn’t have any NFL teams, so any games that are shown on TV are the game of the week. As the season started, I thought I would be lucky to see any Browns games at all. But because they were so exciting, they were the game of the week every week! However, we lost to Oakland in the playoffs – Red Right 88. Then in later years there was The Drive, and The Fumble. But as let down as we were with those losses, we knew there was next year. You just expected the Browns to win – the Old Browns, not the New Browns.
Last night I watched some of the playoff game between the Patriots and the Ravens. I’m not much of a Pats fan either, but I tend to root for anyone who plays the Ravens. The Ravens won. Since 1996, the Ravens – that is the Old Browns – have been in the playoffs 9 times and won the Super Bowl once. When I see the Ravens play in the playoffs, I try to imagine them in the Browns’ colors and imagine what it would feel like if they were still our team. Win or lose, what does it feel like to have our team go to the Super Bowl?
And now the Old Browns are going to the Super Bowl. I still think that that should be us, and I still feel a little sad that it’s not. And even if I try to imagine them in the orange and brown they are not the Browns, they’re the Baltimore Ravens. But hope springs eternal. The New Browns have a new owner who has hired a new coach and has new ideas. Maybe a new owner and a new direction will mold the New Browns back into winning form. Maybe in the next year or two the New Browns will be the winners we have always expected them to be. Then I can forget about the Old Browns, and the New Browns. They will just be once again, the Cleveland Browns.