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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Review: The Best Show in Football: The 1946-1955 Cleveland Browns

Posted By on Tue, Apr 10, 2007 at 3:26 PM

Escape is a good thing. For Browns fans since, say, 1989, it may be the best of things. Which is why Dawg Pound diehards need reads like The Best Show in Football to numb the heartache lingering from "Red Right 88," "The Drive," and "The Fumble." Sixty years ago, this team was unbeatable. In their first 10 years of existence, the Browns won seven All-America Football Conference and National Football League titles, making them arguably the most dominant team in any era of pro football. They were led by namesake coach Paul Brown and quarterback Otto Graham, each a holy name nary uttered by the swelling of sports-talk media. And they were the first team in any professional sport to sign African-American players, strapping helmets on Hall of Famers Marion Motley and Bill Willis almost a year before Jackie Robinson took his first swing for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Get two hands on that and you're fine, because author Andy Piascik, a member of the Professional Football Researchers Association, seems so determined to let statistics do everything else that he kicks the stories of all these legendary characters way down the bench. You're lavished with as much about the personal lives of the draft picks the team never signed as you are the core of one of the 20th century's great dynasties. Who cares about the reaction of the players and press when Motley came to camp -- do you know he averaged more than eight yards a clip? The narrative, unfortunately, is as tedious as watching the team today. Almost every chapter begins with an analysis of Brown's roster changes, followed by a week-by-week breakdown of the regular season and playoffs, and ends with more stats and accolades, enough to make your brain feel like it's been kicked by Lou Groza. In all, more than 50 former players and sportswriters were interviewed, but their quotes are hollow, and the anecdotes few and far between. Still, fans of Mac Speedie should feel vindicated by Piascik's 10-page dissertation on the former receiver's snubbing by Hall of Fame voters. They just might not understand any of it. --Jason Nedley
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