The Thursday night game between the Redskins and Giants notwithstanding, today marks the real kickoff to the 2008 National Football League season. In celebration, I took my natty corduroy Cleveland Browns cap out into the warm California sun for a morning portrait.
I call this a classic Browns cap because it dates not from the present franchise but from the last years of the old Browns, the team that the sinsister Art Modell carted off to Baltimore to become the dead-to-me Ravens.
The original Browns started in the All American Football Conference that was folded into the NFL in the early 1950s. My early childhood centered on baseball, and football didn’t enter my consciousness until early grade school. In fact, my earliest pro football memory is of the day of the 1964 championship game in which the Browns defeated the Baltimore Colts (another team that would ultimately and appallingly be wrenched from the hearts of its fans). The game was blacked out on television in Cleveland, so my dad sent me to the attic to move our antenna around so we could catch the game on a Toledo station.
The demise of the old Browns roughly coincided with my move to California, where I’ve since attached my primary allegiance to the San Francisco 49ers and, given a few beers and the right opponent, the Oakland Raiders. I have not bonded with the new Browns, but should they advance to the playoffs, I’ll be pulling for them hard. And yeah, I want them to crush the Dallas Cowboys today.
In the meantime, I reserve my Browns cap mainly for the winter months, always hoping for the delightful contrast of white snowflakes settling on its rich brown bill.