As we look forward to the Cleveland Browns 2019 season with higher hopes than ever, we should remember that we wouldn’t be at this point without an event that happened two decades ago. The return of the Browns to the NFL.
If you are old enough to remember the Browns’ return in 1999, chances are you also recall the pain and despair of the November 6th, 1995 announcement that then team owner Art Modell intended to move the Browns to Baltimore.
As a life-long fan of the Browns, I was incensed and heartbroken, as were the rest of the Browns’ faithful and the city of Cleveland. Attending the games at Municipal Stadium post-announcement was hard. I, and many like me, shed plenty of tears and vocally shared our feelings about Modell’s plans for our team.
For me, it marked the end of an era. The move also killed a long-held dream of mine. A dream that one day, I would watch the Cleveland Browns with a son or daughter. Ultimately, the City of Cleveland fought for and won the rights to retain the Cleveland Browns’ name, colors, and legacy. Plans for a new stadium began, and we faithful fans tried to adjust to Sundays without Browns’ football.
Fast forward a few years. It’s February 1999, and a supplemental draft held in Canton welcomed close to 4,000 fans. These fans came excited to see the day’s proceedings, wearing orange and brown, barking like there was no tomorrow.
With a team in place and Chris Palmer at the helm, the newly reactivated Cleveland Browns took the field against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Hall of Fame Game on August 9, 1999. The preseason matchup was the culmination of years of work on the part of many, and the Browns did not disappoint their hungry fans. An overtime win gave Browns fans a huge spark of hope to go with their reignited passion for the team that represented so much to so many.
Of course, in August of 1999, no one could imagine the pain that lie ahead for the Cleveland Browns and their fans. Alive with the gleam of innocence that comes from a new beginning, fans embraced the Browns and looked towards the future.
About an hour away from Canton, I propped my 2-month-old baby boy on my lap. As the team took the field, I couldn’t help but try and cement the moment in my mind. I was sitting with my son watching the Cleveland Browns return to the NFL. Years earlier, I had put that dream on a shelf. At that moment, 20 years ago, I got to experience a genuine dream come true.