One for the ages

I’m very grateful to have had the chance to take my dad and son to last Sunday’s crucial win over the dreaded Ravens. It was a memorable experience made possible through the generosity of the Browns, the extraordinary Southeast Michigan Browns Backers and its members, and my folks, who won the tickets at the Browns Backers’ raffle and picked up the other incidental costs for the weekend.

We got to hang out on the field for a good hour before the game. Elliot met Chomps. We watched the teams warm up (though we were stuck behind the Ravens’ sideline). 
We sported some ridiculously huge new T-shirts, plenty big enough to wear over our coats. Below is grandpa taking one of many pictures that I’m sure are better than mine.

Although we weren’t close enough to be able to interact with Browns, side judge Larry Rose pulled my boy out of the rope line long enough for us to snap a few photos.
Soon enough, we privileged season-ticket holders and Browns Backers lined up with our mini flags along the goal line and 2-yard line for the pregame ceremonies. Cameras were now verboten, we were told, so I leaned into my nine-year-old’s ear and told him to etch this scene in his mind’s eye for the sake of future reminiscences. Amid a field busy with service-member honorees and various staff from the teams, the league, and the media, the placekickers continued practicing, confidently booting footballs clear over our heads. I noticed the stands seem suddenly filled with fans, and the enthusiastic stadium noise reached a crescendo as the Browns stormed the field just to our left. As the starting defense was announced one by one, we felt each fleeting blast of heat from the twin flamethrowers accompanying each player’s introduction. The late afternoon air was crisp, but it was no sacrifice to remove our hats for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Our shirts said “Unite,” and I sang along this time.
Then we marched back into the tunnel to grab the belongings we’d stashed in an extra locker room. We made it to our seats without missing too much of the action.
As for the game experience itself, it rivaled my own first-ever Browns game — the legendary 23-20 double-overtime playoff win over the Jets in 1987. Our seats were at the end of the last row of the lower level, so we didn’t feel crowded from behind or the side, and the suites overhead provided some cover that didn’t turn out to be needed. We were just high enough to see across the whole field, even though Section 113 is toward a corner of the stadium, near the end zone where four of the day’s five touchdowns would occur. Here’s the view upon Davone Bess‘ fourth-and-goal scoring grab:
Seated in front of us were two inebriated and very friendly young men, brothers, who instigated high-fives, fist-bumps, even chest-bumps with every good Browns play, and there were plenty. They must’ve offered a dozen times to take pictures of our little party of three generations.
Then, just as halftime approached, the drunk duo wished us a good life and left, having promised to meet a friend in town who couldn’t muster a ticket. Really, we couldn’t have asked for a happier and more agreeable day, from the fellow fans to the short concession lines at halftime, to the pre-game experience, to the result on the field, where the Browns played their most complete game of the season and aggressively stuck it to the illegitimate offspring of a late traitor whose name need not appear here. Instead, here’s Ahtyba Rubin stuffing Ray Rice for a loss.

For me, even better than the sacks of Joe Flacco, the redemption earned by our receivers, and the gutsy leadership shown by my old classmate now manning the Browns’ sideline is the sensation of the shared experience of Browns football taking root into a new and promising era. Elliot (previously featured in this blog here) quickly picked up the idea of getting loud when the opponent has the ball on third down. It’s OK, I explained, it’s not poor sportsmanship to make it hard for the Ravens to hear. It’s called the home field advantage, and I’m so glad we were there to take full advantage on Sunday.