Has it really been 46 years ago today? As I sit here I look back on good decisions, and bad decisions, roads taken and roads by-passed. Friends I have known, and people I thought would always be there who have long since gone.
Dec. 27, 1964 was a cold day. But I was 10, and when you are that young, cold only means invigorating air in your lungs, and the promise of snow and of course, as it is just after Christmas and well before New Year's, there are glorious winter days ahead filled with the things that make being young so wonderful, and -- sometimes -- so missed and longed-for when those days are gone forever.
Dad hated the snow, and that was hard for a 10-year-old to figure out. Such a Scrooge I thought he was, hating the lovely flakes that fill the air and make sharp angles soft, and harsh streets glow at night. But he was a truck driver and so, he had his reasons for wishing for dry pavements.
On that Dec. 27, we were off to see a Browns game at the old Stadium. Back then, success for the Browns was almost a ho-hum thing. In that long-ago year, Cleveland had had the Browns for 19 years, and in only one of those years had there been a losing record, There had been championships, and championship game losses, and close calls sprinkled through all the years, and there was no reason at all not to think that such would be the case -- why, maybe forever.
When I was ten, I had what I guess you could call an academic interest in the ramifications of a championship game. It meant we were playing to be the best, and that was something that meant a lot to me then, but obviously, not what it meant to life-long fans. Being the best was something the Browns had done a lot, and so had the AHL Barons, and the Indians were not far removed from a decade-plus of constant contention and a championship of their own. In other words, a championship here would be a continuation of what Cleveland fans of almost a half-century ago expected.
But this day was special because it was going to be the first Browns game I was ever going to see live. All the weeks of listening to Gib Shanley on the radio, and there he was going to be, right in the same stadium. How cool was that going to be?
The opponents? Oh, that would be the Baltimore Colts, who actually had a better record than the Browns in that year, finishing 12-2 as opposed to Cleveland's 10-3-1. The Colts had Johnny Unitas. That was about all I knew of them, as I did not at that time have the love of all the ins-and-outs of football, of rosters and stats and schedules and playoff possibilities that I have now. So the Colts had Unitas, and that made them favored in this game. Guess that made him better than Frank Ryan, the Browns' QB. If the experts said Unitas was better and that the Colts were also better, then it must be so...yes?
I won't go into the details of that game. Frankly, after all these years, only a few memories linger with any clarity. It isn't because I don't remember "the exciting things", but that when the exciting things happened, the Big People were standing and screaming and little young me could not see over them, from my seat on the first-base dugout side of the Stadium, with the Bleachers seeming so far away to our right -- funny, thinking of them as the Bleachers. Back then, that's what they were. The Dawg Pound was still almost two decades in the future.
The Browns won 27-0, scoring all of their points in the second half, dazzling all with the win. Of course, I did not realize what an upset it had been -- the Colts came in almost two-touchdown favorites. And Frank Ryan was kinda better than John Unitas on that day. Yes, I would say that three touchdown passes -- all to Gary Collins -- made Ryan...why, kinda good. Even if he did wear the unlucky number 13.
Forty-six years. I am reconciled to that being the last championship I am ever likely to see. For me, that is okay. I did get to see it, and I am thinking that I will never forget it.
But I want somebody to win again, for all of you who came later, I want all of you to feel the euphoria that touched even a ten-year old who really did not understand the concept, or how special Winning It All really was.
I don't have a New Year's resolution, but I do have a New Year's wish. That is that every single one of you may someday experience the joy I felt -- and my parents and almost 80.000 other people also felt in that stadium, and countless others in the Cleveland area felt.
I want you all to know that, even if just once. So Go Browns, and Go Indians, and Go Cavaliers.
And happy new year everyone.