Our house is a very very fine house
- Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
The seemingly yearly reminders (see Cavs in playoffs) that national audiences are given about what announcers like to call "The Drive," in which John Elway is talked of as a figure of (equine) mythology, serve up pain in a variety of fashions. Sure, for those of us old enough there's "oh crap, I remember that." But there's more.
Back then winning in Cleveland against the Browns was a major accomplishment - it meant something. That's why Denver's was such a huge victory. Well, that and other factors…okay, I hear your reader's brain talking - I'll shut up about the bucktoothed Denver devil.
But what about the present? Where is the home field advantage in Cleveland? Since 1999, according to the slave who works (and pays me extravagantly with soup) for this column, the Cleveland Browns have never won more than half their games at home. So where is the home field advantage in Cleveland? It is, simply, with the visitors.
If you are on an NFL team visiting Cleveland Browns Stadium to play a football game, you have a much better than 50 percent chance of winning. How's that for home field advantage?
I cannot make these statistics up. Someone else might have… and I sure hope someone did. Still, this is what people out there are saying about how the Cleveland Browns have performed at home since 1999. Yes, people talk. It's the word on the street. Again, before you load your shotgun, remember the famous saying, don't blame the messenger. Okay, you ready?
Woof? Um, how about meow?
The definition of insanity, as Mr. Einstein so aptly put it, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It's not that I don't think that barking is fun. It's just that it's, well, so 1980s.
Back then, other teams playing against the Cleveland Browns had to play in THAT stadium against THOSE cornerbacks. Those were dawgs and that was a dawgpound. And let me be so bold as to point out that that really was way back then and there and not in Cleveland Browns Stadium, and not anytime since 1999.
It's time to move on. In fact, if I were a lawyer I'd say that the name "Dawgs" belongs to the players (mostly Frank Minnifield and Hanford Dixon) and the 500 or so fans in the bleachers who started the whole thing. And, not only that, but it belongs in the past. It is a signature time in history of the franchise, just as the era of Jerry Sherk and Walter Johnson was. But that's it.
Trying to pin an old identity on a new team is not only unfair; it's proven to be incredibly bad karma.
Let me suggest this: until something else evolves all on its own without a John Collins or Carmen Policy type marketing it like some silly cartoon, let it be. Let's all just call it the Cleveland Browns defense and cheer when they do well. If you are the type who is inclined to bark because you are a barker, then by all means bark. But this is no dawg defense. It's different, at least I hope so, because the last many versions of the dawg defense was, frankly, a dog.
Hey, live in the past if you want. I admit that I am still secretly hoping to go to what was once quaintly called the Siper Bowl. And yes, nostalgia is all fine and good. But the Dawgs, in my mind, were a generation of Cleveland Browns' defensive football players and all the fans that supported them. It was great fun, eating dog biscuits every Sunday while listening to my "Bernie, Bernie" (sung to Louie Louie) tape. But that was then, back when other teams could barely hope to win in Cleveland.
And so I agree with others who have reached the logical conclusion that it is time to drop the dawg act at least until the defense begins to act like, pardon the expression, a mad dog in a meat market. See, this is how this dog act has looked for a decade. Talk about a bark being worse than a bite. Picking on this defense requires a cliché handbook because they play as if they are in the doghouse.
Okay, I hear your criticism of my points and it probably goes like this - sometimes they've played okay. Yeah, woof.
Look, it really doesn't matter a bit if they keep the dawg thing going or not. What matters is how they play and whether Cleveland Browns Stadium ever becomes the kind of place that other teams fear to go.
Upholding tradition along the lines of Our Name/Our Colors is a great thing. Steeping the organization with history such as the presence of Jim Brown and others, is essential for the team to keep its identity.
But sports is a results' business and none of the trappings matter if the team doesn't win. The real identity of the current team comes from the results on the field. Sure, all of the old history figures in but let me make this argument: the piece of clothing that most symbolizes the Browns since 1999 is not a dog mask but rather a Tim Couch jersey. That's right, meow.
So my hope is that Kamerion Wimbley and D'Qwell Jackson and others forge a new identity for the team that results in Cleveland Browns Stadium becoming the most feared home field in the NFL. Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield aren't playing cornerback anymore. The truth is I don't care if I ever hear barking again. The only sound I really want to hear is the sound of someone organizing a parade. No dawg's ever done that.
Brian Tarcy, a book developer, is a native of Lyndhurst. He lives in Falmouth, MA. His website is at www.briantarcy.com