Yesterday, December 27, was the anniversary of the Cleveland Browns’ last NFL championship, a 27-0 thrashing of the Baltimore Colts at old Municipal Stadium on the shore of Lake Erie. Today, a friend posted to Facebook a marvelous video summarizing the game, and I reveled in every minute of it.
The video, from the heretofore unknown (at least by me) Davenport Sports Network, is narrated by Chris Schenkel, whose voice I heard on many a sports telecast in the 1960s. I admit to having tears in my eyes through most of my viewing of the video, as it brought back a flood of memories.
At 8 years old, I watched the game with my father on our old Zenith black and white TV at our home in suburban Cleveland. It wasn’t merely a matter of turning on the set and switching to the right channel. The game was blacked out in the Cleveland market, even as the “Fan-a-Gram” message board in the stadium would announce it was the second largest crowd in NFL championship game history.
Dad sent me up to the attic to adjust the aluminum antenna for the TV, to see if we could pull in the game from Toledo or from London, Ontario, on the other side of the lake.
The TV was in the dining room, near the entrance to the stairway to the second floor. Dad yelled up the stairway and, from the third floor, I’d yell back. “How’s this?” I’d say. He’d respond, “Move it a bit more — no go back a bit.” We fiddled with it this way and that until finally we got a clear picture from Channel 13 in Toledo.
Then we settled down to watch the game, scoreless through the first half in icy, windy conditions. But the Browns would assert themselves in the second half on their way to what, even these many years later, is still Cleveland’s last football championship. Dad and I didn’t actually get to see the closing minutes of the game because as the afternoon wore on, the TV signal faded and the screen was covered in “snow” interference.
There’s an added poignancy to the game: years later the Colts would horrendously jilt Baltimore in a middle-of-the-night move to Indianapolis by one jerk owner (Robert Isray), and another jerk owner (Art Modell) would later move the Browns to Baltimore. Both moves are a stain that cannot be erased.
The new team that represents Cleveland has been largely a hapless flop. I always check the scores, but I haven’t followed them as I did the original franchise, switching allegiance to the 49ers in my California years and to the Eagles in recent years. (I also had flings with the Giants and Raiders, but I don’t want to talk about that.)
Should the Browns ever reach the Super Bowl, I’ll be rooting for them. But thank goodness I won’t have to adjust an antenna to do so.