Passan: The Good Old Days

Rich describes the atmosphere at Camp Crennel

Watching the Browns entertain their fans at the club's summer training camp the last several days conjures up disparate thoughts. One of recent vintage; the other belonging to a long-ago, golden age.

First, Browns owner Randy Lerner and club President & CEO John Collins need guide dogs if they can't see there is only one place for the club to hold its summer training camp.

They reportedly have cast covetous eyes toward the Columbus area for the team's summer training camp in the near future. Stop it, guys. Right now.

Ringing the field on three sides, the fans this past weekend poured out their joy, their passion, their unrelenting and unconditional love for their team. It is a love affair that knows no bounds.

Even when sloppiness prevailed – and there was plenty in the first couple of days – the fans (well, a great majority of them) showed patience and showered the players with words of encouragement.

Just getting football back into their lives seemed good enough. At least for the time being.

They were all there in generational fashion. Fathers and grandfathers with young sons and grandchildren – from toddlers to teenagers – eyed the action on the field intently. The young ones, many of them clinging to small footballs cradled in their arms, viewed the proceedings wide-eyed.

This is how it all starts. Fathers and sons. Cleveland Browns football. It passes from generation to generation. It is more than a love affair to many. It is a part of the fabric of their lives.

It has been that way since 1946, when the Browns were formed by businessman Arthur (Mickey) McBride.

Giving rise to the second thought.

The scene at training camp today is different than it used to be. Far different. Worlds different.

Back in their fledgling days when the Browns trained at Hiram College, they did so in relative seclusion. Enthusiasm for the team was in its infancy.

The little pastoral town of Hiram, about 35 miles southeast of Cleveland, housed the Browns for many summers after a brief stay at Bowling Green University. Coach Paul Brown loved the rural setting for his team.

The atmosphere was completely different. It was casual to a fault. A few people would drop by practice, joining the three or four newspapermen assigned to cover the team.

It also wasn't unusual to drop in on a Browns practice in Hiram and see reporters within yards of the players. Sometimes close enough to hear quarterback Otto Graham call the play in the huddle.

It must have worked because the Browns won championship after championship back then.

Training camp was so laid back, Brown sometimes would invite reporters to join in a film session to give them a better understanding of what the Browns tried to do and why. The man was a teacher.

Can you imagine Bill Belichick or Romeo Crennel or Bill Parcells – or any coach for that matter – doing something like that today with all the saturation coverage?

Unfortunately, that has changed dramatically over the years. Professional football has become big business.

A normal media turnout these days includes numerous television and radio stations, a large number of newspaper reporters, Web site reporters and occasional drop-ins from the national media.

Nothing wrong with that. But in many ways, it impersonalizes the event. There's almost too much.

That's because we live today in a society that wants – and needs – to know it all. It starves. It craves. Every last detail. Can't get enough of the Browns.

In many ways, the yearning for the good, old days is tough to fight off.

But it is what it is and some day, today will be the good, old days.

The OBR Top Stories