LOVE FOR FOOTBALL is why I used to press my face against a frozen windowpane at 3412 E. 53rd St., waiting for Dad to get off the bus after a Browns game, hoping he had a game program for me.
As frost formed on my nose and fingertips, I’d back away, laughing at the thaw marks left against the glass. Mom would be cooking soup on the stove. The smell of the chicken and homemade noodles filled the house.
If I was lucky, Dad would also bring me an empty orange-aid container, shaped like a megaphone, so I could poke out the end and yell, “Go Browns!” I was often certain former Mayor Ralph Perk and his family could hear me all the way over on East 49th Street and Hamm Avenue.
I’d first catch a glimpse of Dad, hands in pockets, no doubt frozen but smiling as he walked between the rectory at Our Lady of Lourdes and the school, then down the long church drive to our home, which was across the street. When he got to the front door, I would run and jump up to hug him, but I never got my arms around the thick ex-Marine.
I immediately asked, “Did Jim Brown run people over? What about Milt Plum? Or did Jim Ninowski play?” Mostly, I had to know: “Did they win? Did they win?” After I got down from his arms, he’d quickly pull out the program from under his long overcoat, the kind men wore to church.
It was smaller than today’s program, but for me, it was the gospel. Who was on the cover? What pictures were inside? I tore into it. Then the megaphone would come out of his pocket, and Captain Penny, Jungle Larry and all our Cleveland heroes would take a back seat ... to our Browns.