History of Cleveland’s Team, Stadium and Fans
What’s a football team without somewhere to play? The Cleveland Browns Stadium wasn’t always the 31-acre, 73,200-seat giant that we see now. Formerly, the location held the Cleveland Municipal Stadium, which was where the Browns played for 49 years until Art Modell moved the team to Baltimore because the city wouldn’t tend to the old stadium’s renovation needs. The Municipal Stadium was one of the first multi-purpose stadiums, hosting over 74,000 fans for baseball and 81,000 fans for football. In 1996, the stadium was torn down and debris was left in the bottom of Lake Erie as an artificial reef. This was when the attempt to rebuild the Browns began. In 1997, building began and in 1999, the Cleveland Browns Stadium was unveiled. The first game played in said stadium was a 43-0 loss against the Steelers.
The Dawg Pound is perhaps the most famous of the tailgaters and fans that come to Browns games. Seated behind the east end zone in the stadium, the Dawg Pound was started by a player during the 1985 training camp after hearing a raucous fan barking to stir the other team’s focus. The idea of the offense and defense being cats and dogs then spurred the players to call each other “dawgs” and a sign was posted in the bleacher section. They chose the already most vocal section (and cheapest) for the Dawg Pound and the fans embraced the terminology with costumes built around the name and excitement. In 1999, the Dawg Pound received its own section, with two tiers of bleachers in the new stadium. Some older fans were a bit wary of the change; with a new stadium brought new branding for the Dawg Pound which made it more “corporate” to some.
John ‘Big Dawg’ Thompson is the most famous of the Dawg Pound crew. He even had a legal name change to include his Browns nickname. He wears a number 98 jersey and dog mask to every game and became the unofficial spokesman for the fans in 1995 when he fought the move to Baltimore.
Now for the team behind all of the outrage, excitement and fandom: the Browns! The Browns began in 1946 and won each of the AAFC’s championship games before heading to the NFL in 1949. Between 1950 and 1955, the Browns made it to the championships every year and won three times. The team was off to a good start. In 1961, the Browns were sold to Art Modell who fired Paul Brown, the team’s first coach. The team continued to win or at least get close to winning through the 60s, but met mediocrity in the 70s. In 1999, after the controversial move to Baltimore, the Browns began to play in the new stadium with their new owner, Al Lerner. Since then, the Browns have only made the playoffs once, which was in 2002 as a wild card team.
The Browns have been through a lot, but they continue to persevere and that’s indicative of their fan support. No matter what happens to this team, the fans will always be there, whether it’s to prevent a city move or to cheer them through another season met with victory or disappointment.
Check out Tailgate Fan to keep the party going at tailgatefan.cbslocal.com.
Kaitlin Dershaw is an Ohio native with a distinct love for Cleveland. She enjoys making new discoveries from tasty places to eat and drink, to perfectly unique live music venues. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.