Momentous — A Fan's Essay on the 1964 Browns Championship

To help Dobama Theatre celebrate its 50th anniversary and its first season in a new home, we asked readers to send in essays about 10 minutes in Cleveland that changed their lives. We received a wide range of entries, including some that adhered closely to the guidelines and some that took liberties but still made for good reads.

One of the winning entries is published here. All three will be read by actors following an upcoming performance of Ten More Minutes From Cleveland by local playwright Eric Coble (who helped choose the winners).

By “Simply Tim”

Ten minutes from Cleveland that changed my life? Yeah, I got ’em. Not 10 consecutive minutes — that would be too easy. And we don’t do things easy in Cleveland. But if you add up all the individual moments, like the shiny pennies that they are, they equal 10 minutes, 10 of the most glorious minutes of my life. Even if, uh, Dad did almost die. Let’s have a look, shall we?

Crowd noise fades in, growing louder and louder in volume. Yelling, cheering. Lights come up on TWO FIGURES seated in old stadium seats — TIM and HIS FATHER.

It all started that wondrous day when my father took me to my very first football game — the 1964 NFL Championship. Cleveland Municipal Stadium, December 27, the underdog Browns vs. the dreaded 12-2, Johnny-Unitas-led Baltimore Colts! And although I didn’t know it at the time, that was the greatest Browns’ game I would ever see.

Over the crowd noise, we hear an ANNOUNCER: And there’s the gun! That’s the end of the first half between the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Colts as the teams head back to their locker rooms …

Tim’s father excitedly jumps out of his seat and points.

FATHER: Look at that scoreboard, son — what’s that say?

TIM: Zero-zero?

FATHER: Zero-zero! You know what they call that?

TIM: What?

FATHER: A tie! They call that a “zero-zero” tie. And you know what that means?

TIM: What, Dad?

FATHER: Means we’re not gonna get our asses beat as bad as I thought! I figured the Colts were gonna wipe the field with us, 60-0. Ha! Only gonna be 30-0 now. Man, I’ll take that any day. The Browns are looking good. Whatta say, let’s give ’em a cheer.

FATHER and TIM: Go-o-o-o-o-o, Browns!

Lights go down. The voice of the Announcer is heard.

ANNOUNCER: Now the teams line up. They await the snap.

The lights come back as Tim and his Father stare intently at the field.

ANNOUNCER: Ball’s down. Groza hits it. End over end, got the distance, and it … is … good! Groza’s field goal is good and the Browns take a 3-0 lead!

Crowd noise goes off the chart. Tim’s Father jumps out of his seat, ecstatic.

FATHER: Lou the Toe, yeah! You know what this means?

TIM: What, Dad?

FATHER: Means no shutout! “Colts Win Championship, But Can’t Shut Out Browns.” Yeah! Colts 30, Browns 3. I’ll take that. Whatta you say, Tim?

FATHER and TIM: Go-o-o-o-o-o, Browns!

ANNOUNCER: Ryan back to throw. Deep to Collins. He’s got it! Collins has it, runs it in and — touchdown, Browns!

Crowd noise is thunderous now as Tim’s Father stares in quiet disbelief.

FATHER: I-I’m not getting this.

TIM: What, Dad?

FATHER: 10-0, Browns. I wonder what the Colts are waiting for?

TIM: Waiting?

FATHER: Shula must have something up his sleeve. That’s it! He’s gonna lull us into overconfidence, then unleash the fury of his offensive juggernaut against the Browns’ rubber-band defense. Still — Colts 30, Browns 10, I’ll take that!

ANNOUNCER: And there it is, the two minute-warning! Two minutes left in the 1964 Championship Game, and the Browns lead the Colts, 27-0!

FATHER: Wow, Tim, I can’t wait to see this!

TIM: The Browns’ joyful, boisterous celebration?

FATHER: You crazy? No, somehow, some way, the Colts are gonna score four touchdowns in the next two minutes — that’s a touchdown every 30 seconds, you know — and they’re gonna pull this thing out. That Shula’s a genius! I don’t know how he does it. Colts 28, Browns 27 — I’ll take that. Almost like a win. Helluva lot closer than I thought.

TIM: Uh, Dad?


TIM: I’m five years old, and I realize you’ve forgotten more football games than I’ve ever seen. But Dad — 27-0 with two minutes left? Not even the Browns can blow this one.

FATHER: Oh, my god, Tim — you’re right! You’re right! We’re gonna win! We’re gonna be champions! The Browns are gonna win! We got us a championship, right here in Cleveland! City of Champions, that’s us! Look at this team! The best running back, a great offensive line — you can’t win championships without a running game — and that wonderful rubber-band defense — they bend, but they don’t break! My god, Tim, we’re looking at five, 10, 15 championships in a row! Nobody can stop us now! Nobody! No— arrrrrgh!

Tim’s Father suddenly grabs at his chest, then falls to the ground. Tim stares down at him, repeating, “Dad? Dad?” Lights down. Lights up on Elder Tim.

Yes, it was sad about my father almost dying. But you know what’s even sadder? The Browns haven’t won another championship since that day. The Browns’ juggernaut that Dad envisioned never quite materialized. And he was eventually driven insane by the near-misses, the blunders, the sheer incompetence of the team through all these years. Just as we all have. Whatever. Anyway, that’s my Ten Minutes From Cleveland, and I’m sticking to it.