My fondest memories as a child almost always involve my Dad and sports. Like many Cleveland fans, I remember going to the old Municipal Stadium to watch the Indians and being able to pick pretty much any seat we wanted because only about 15-20,000 fans would show up. Or driving down to the Richfield Coliseum because Dr. J and Moses Malone were in town and maybe World B. Free and the guys could pull of a miracle and knock ’em off. OK, so I realize it was wishful thinking. Those days, like today, were filled with their fair share of frustration.
However, I think the most memorable sports moment I share with my Dad is of a Browns game we went to in the late 70’s against the Houston Oilers. My Dad worked with a women who was the aunt of Curley Culp, nose tackle for the Oilers, and because of that he was able to get the signatures of all the Browns/Kardiac Kids on a poster he had made. A big deal back in that day. He was also able to get tickets to the game up in the bleachers, long before it would become known as the Dawg Pound. The game was close and the Oilers took the lead on a controversial touchdown scored directly in front of us. Soon beer bottles and anything else fans could get their hands on were being launched on to the field in a drunken display of frustration and displeasure. If only Mike Phipps could’ve thrown as far as those fans. Being 8 years old at the time, my Dad took my head and covered it like he was protecting me from a thrown Molotov cocktail. I remember trying to peak out through his arms and seeing the sky filled with bottles and hearing every obscenity my Dad had tried to protect my virgin ears from at that age. The entire endzone would become filled with debris and looked more like a war zone, forcing the extra point to be kicked on the other end of the field. The combination of fear and excitement mixed with a strong dose of my Father’s protective instincts was undoubtedly the defining moment in me becoming a Browns fan for life. You could say it was my Browns baptism. I also now had a story to tell my friends. A story that was all mine and one that I knew they were jealous of and one that probably grew in detail and scale every time I told it. A story that I share with my Dad and one that I’m sure he can still recall at the drop of a hat. However, I’m confident his version would have a little less excitement and a lot more fear mixed in.
It’s Father’s Day today and soon I’ll pick up the phone and wish my Dad a great day and thank him for being such a wonderful guy. Maybe this time though I’ll also thank him for being the one who both protected me from Browns fans and at the same time helped in making me in to one all those years ago- I think.