The Browns will host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, but my thoughts will be elsewhere.
And maybe yours will, too, especially if you remember black-and-white TV, cars with big fins on the back and 18-cent gasoline.
We're talking about the fact Sunday will be the 45th anniversary of the Browns' improbable – and glorious -- 27-0 victory over the heavily-favored Baltimore Colts in the 1964 NFL Championship Game at Cleveland Stadium.
Wow, 45 years – nearly a half-century.
Has it really been that long?
Guess so. We did the math and it checks out.
Every Browns fan who was around then will forever remember where they were that day, Dec. 27, 1964.
A crowd of 79,544 watched it in person, but not too many other Browns fans got to see the game at all. For that was back in the day when all games – postseason or regular season – were blacked out by the NFL regardless if they were sold out, like this one, or not.
The members of my family were among the lucky few who were not at the game, yet still got to watch it. Actually, I should clarify that, for my dad and I watched it on TV, out of the 75-mile radius of the blackout area, with my great uncle and my dad's cousin at my great uncle and aunt's house in coal country in Bellaire, Ohio, along the Ohio River in the East Central portion of the state. My mother didn't. She stayed in the kitchen with my great aunt as they talked about what they had done on Christmas two days before.
My great aunt was a wonderful cook, and she made a big turkey dinner with all the fixings. Despite the fact I was a klutzy 9-year-old who was great at spilling things anywhere at any time, she graciously allowed me to sit on the floor in the living room with a towel – a big towel, albeit – under my plate so I could watch the game. If that house is still there – and I don't know that it is – then I could walk into that living room and point to the exact spot where I sat that day. I know I could
In fact, I can recall so much about that day. It's as if it were yesterday.
Other Browns fans watched the game on TV, too, but they had to work a lot harder than we did to do it. They did so by adjusting the antenna on their roof to pull it in from out-of-town stations in Toledo and Wheeling-Steubenville, the station on which we watched it.
One guy realized that when his wife pulled the car in the driveway while returning home from a trip to the supermarket, the reception got a lot better. So he made her drive the car in and out of the driveway all afternoon while he sat and watched the game.
Another man noticed that when his little boy was swinging on the swing in the back yard, the reception improved markedly. But it got worse when he zipped up his jacket. Guess what happened? You're right. That little boy got all his swinging out of his system – but hopefully not pneumonia.
Yet another fella realized that when he grabbed the antenna a certain way, the reception was really good. So he sent his wife to the roof to take his place, allowing him to enjoy the game in the warmth and comfort of his living room.
There was never any word if any divorce proceedings ensued, or if the little boy ever got the attention of Family Services.
As for what went on, on the field, it might have been the greatest total team effort in Browns history. The Browns were good, but at least on paper, the Colts were better. Their roster was dotted with players who would someday be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Colts scored the most points in the NFL that year, and gave up the fewest. That's why they were clear-cut favorites to win.
But the Browns not only outplayed them, but dominated them. Quarterback Frank Ryan, in 18 attempts, completed just 11 passes all day, but three went for touchdowns to Gary Collins covering 18, 42 and 51 yards. He had 206 yards overall with one interception for aq 117.1 passer rating, the third-highest by a Browns starting quarterback in an NFL playoff game.
The Browns' other points were tallied on 43- and 10-yard field goals from Lou Groza, the former of which came in the third quarter and broke a scoreless tie.
All this overshadowed the fact that Jim Brown rushed for 114 yards.
But the real story was the Cleveland defense and the way it shut down the Colts. The great John Unitas was held to 95 yards passing. The Browns took away his favorite target, Raymond Berry, by being physical in their coverage of the HOF wide receiver.
Another key also involved the physicality of the Browns. Second-year defensive tackle Jim Kanicki used his size to neutralize Jim Parker, Baltimore's HOF guard. That allowed the Browns to harass Unitas and limit the running game to just 92 yards.
Linebacker Galen Fiss, though, made the defensive play of the day and set the tone for the game by being the only Brown to stay home on a screen pass, thus permitting him to sneak through a slew of Colts blockers to spill Lenny Moore in the first half on a play that would have otherwise gone for a 77-yard touchdown. If Moore had scored, would the game have played out differently? No one will ever know.
But who would have ever thought that with Unitas, Moore, Berry, HOF tight end John Mackey and all the rest, the Colts would be held to just 181 total yards.
Never has a Browns defense played better than it did that day.
When the game was finally over, I can distinctly remember walking out the front door of the house and onto the porch. As the sun – what there was of it – began to get low in the sky, I stood there and watched the train rumble by on the elevated tracks across Ohio 7 from the house as I thought about how special it was that the Browns were "the champions of the world," as they were referred to then even though there was an AFL champion as well in the Buffalo Bills.
A great victory. A great dinner. Just a great day spent with great people – great parents and a great aunt and a great uncle.
As current Browns returner Joshua Cribbs said of the recent victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, "It was great, Tony the Tiger great!"
And so it was, too, back on Dec. 27, 1964, when it was good to be 9 years old and fat with a butch haircut, and a devoted fan of the Cleveland Browns.
Everybody who was in the house with me that day is long gone, so to keep that memory alive, I had to tell you guys about it. Now you know as well.
But I'm sure you've got your own stories, too.
So as daylight begins to turn to dusk on Sunday and the Browns-Raiders game winds down, let's take a minute to share a smile and think about that special, incredible day long ago.
And let's hope we see one like it again, even if it has to come without the turkey dinner with all the fixings.