Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Recount of Being There

Talking to my boy Jer on the way down to the game, he said to me "today is where we separate the men from the boys." He couldn't have been more right. This game was not for the weak. I know you saw it on TV, but it doesn't hold a candle to what it was like walking to that stadium and sitting through four quarters of hard-hitting old school football in the middle of a full on blizzard. Lets start from the beginning:

I loaded up with layers and prepared for the worst. So on top I went with a long sleeve t-shirt, a sweater, a fleece over the sweater, and a thick waterproof pullover with a hood. On the bottom, long underwear, two pairs of thick socks, corduroys, and boots. I stopped at my mom's to get my father's old school 1980's cold weather Browns stuff. A blanket, an old school robber-style Browns hat/facemask that would cover everything on my face except my eyes and nose. The key item was "The Game Bag," essentially a waterproof sleeping bag for your lower extremities. It has a draw string that you tie tight at your waste. You can't walk with it on, but once you hit the seats, you didn't need to. The thing was MONEY. The robber mask and Game Bag saved me.

So off to the game I went. Solo. My mom backed out, but I knew my uncle wouldn't miss it, so I met him down there. The closer I got to downtown, the worse the weather got. I parked in my usual garage on St. Clair and began the 10 minute or so walk to the Stadium. When I came out of the garage, the Stadium is always right in front of me. It was today as well, except I couldn't see it. It was lost in the blizzard. I started to walk. The wind was something fierce. It was blowing so bad, I could barely see in front of me. I needed snow goggles. I get to the bridge to cross over towards the stadium and at the end of the bridge is a hill. The hill is concrete and has no stairs. You have to go down it to get to the stadium. Well, watching people attempt to get down the hill was interesting. You had two choices: take choppy steps and jog down, or slide like you are on a skateboard. I went for the choppy steps and made it without falling. Many others before and after me were not so lucky.

As I cross the street to enter the stadium at the Dawg Pound entrance, I am fully covered in snow, as is everyone else, regardless of what we have on. There is usually a little both of a wait to get into the stadium, but nothing like I saw today. It was almost as though all 78,000 fans were attempting to enter the same gate at the same time. It was a friggin madhouse. We were packed like sardines and nobody was moving. A vintage C-Town trashy couple decided that this was a good time to start full-on making out in front of everyone while we weren't moving. Only in Cleveland.

I thought I made the right move, I pushed my far left, figuring I'd have a shorter turn around the stadium to get into the far left lane of the gates (did that make any sense?). I was wrong. As I fought to get to the turn, I realized we were all screwed by a fence. So I began to push right. The crowd was so bitter and restless where I was that in mass unison, we all began to push are way around. Somehow, a crack in the fence became available, I followed a blocker through the hole and magically made my way to the gate to be frisked. I finally got through at 1:00 on the button, a good 35 minutes after I first got in line.

So now I'm in the stadium. Coming through the tunnel to my seat and seeing the snow covered field for the first time was a sight to behold. I hadn't seen these conditions since the 1988 season finale against Houston, affectionately known here as "The Strock Game." Remember, it was the 4th Browns starting QB of the year, Don Strock, who led the Browns to victory and into the playoffs in a crazy snow storm. That day wasn't nearly as bad. Back to 2007. The field was completely covered. Each 10 yards were blown out so you could see the distances, but that lasted maybe five minutes. I get to my seat right as the opening kickoff was happening. The seats are covered in snow and everyone is standing. Kickoff happens, the crowd is loud and we are all blanketed by layers of clothing and snow. I put myself into my Game Bag and was ready to go.

My uncle and aunt show up a few minutes into the game. Like my late father, they would never miss a game of this magnitude, no matter the weather. The temperature was not nearly as cold as it could have been, but the blowing snow was an issue all day long. At halftime, we went in the concourse to "thaw out." I'm not sure how well that worked as I ended up losing a glove somewhere and the concourse was even colder than the seats for some reason.

The further we got into the game, the worse it seemed to get. I still have no idea how Browns kicker Phil Dawson drilled two field goals. The 49 yarder he hit may be the best kick I've ever seen next to the famous Adam Vinatieri snow game kick in the playoffs against the Raiders. I don't think you could appreciate how hard it was to nail a field goal in these conditions unless you were there. Meanwhile, it was Dawson and the Browns special teams which were the major difference in the game. All eight Browns points were thanks to the special teams.

So in the end, the Browns won 8-0. I headed out and my feet were officially soaking wet from all of the slush as I approached the hill. You think going down the hill was hard? Try going up. People were biting it left and right. I gave it a shot. I fell not once, but twice. The crowd ripped into laughter at me. I didn't care. I just needed to get up. Finally I did, with my dignity somewhat intact. The wind was so severe walking towards the garage that I almost blew over. Luckily I made it to my car, but the damage was done. My non-gloved hand was borderline frost-bitten. I warmed up on my long ride home as the roads of Cleveland were bad, but drivable in a four wheel drive car. I'm just glad I was there to soak it all in.

What a day. A huge Browns win in the biggest regular season home game in more than a decade, unbelievable conditions, a crowd that wouldn't let its team down, and family. What more could you ask for on a Sunday in December. This is why we are Browns fans.

3 comments:

Patti said...

Great description! Loved reading it!

Adam said...

Good stuff. I was there as well and my hat was ice when it was over. At the car, I was able to bang it against the car to get the ice off. It was a game I'll never forget though. I almost got my foot ran over coming out of the parking lot b/c we had to get out and push the car cuz we stopped on a slope and couldn't get traction. As we moved the car we ran and jumped in but I slipped along the way, perilously close to a SUV that was going by and at the last second I moved my leg. It missed me by 6". If the Browns hadn't won, I'm convinced I'd have been run over.

Michael said...

Awesome...

2 things I remember most from that game:
- Going in to Alesci's beforehand in sunny conditions, leaving into one of the biggest blizzards I'd ever seen

- My poor dad, wearing a parks with the hood up and his glasses on, COMPLETELY blind b/c his breath had fogged up his glasses, then frozen in the wind.