So this post is a few days late, but I thought it necessary to call attention to an important date in my life and Browns history. October 24, 2008 was the 15th anniversary of my favorite Browns game, and the day I’m pretty sure that I was locked in as a Die-Hard with no way of every escaping.
To put this in perspective, I was born in 1980 (11 days before red-right 88). I have a very faint recollection of the Drive (remember thinking the kick was no good), but vividly remember Earnest Byner fumbling away the Super Bowl. So by the time October 1993 rolled around I was in a prime sports-worshipping age.
The Browns were already my favorite team, and I probably hadn’t missed a game since I was 8. 1993 was the goofy season that saw the Browns ready to contend after 3 medicocre seasons under Bill Belichick–yet they had benched local idol Bernie Kosar in favor of Vinny Testaverde midway through the season.
Enter the Browns/Steelers game of October 24th, 1993. The game is for rights to first place as the Browns and Steelers both entered with a 4-2 record. it is a 4pm start and I have a $5 bet on the game with my Step-dad. The first have features the Browns taking a 14-0 lead, only to give it right back. It also featured my favorite player Eric Metcalf returning a kick for 91 yards.
Fast forward to the 4th quarter. With the Browns behind in the game, Vinny Testaverde injures his shoulder and is forced to come out of the game. The entire time Vinny is down the sellout crowd of over 78,000 is chanting for BERNIE, BERNIE! When Vinny comes off the field he gives a pat of encouragement to Bernie his one-time collegiate teammate. Bernie enters the game and the chanting continues. The Browns are down 23-21 and need a score. On a broken 3rd down play, Bernie actually sweeps around right end, turns the corner and gets the first down in probably the best run of his career–there aren’t many more to chose from. However, the Browns would be forced to punt.
The Steelers get the ball deep in their own territory with time winding down and face a 3rd and short with the guy that would eventually lead the league in rushing–Barry Foster. With everyone in the stadium knowing that it would be a stretch play to Foster the Browns stuff him for no gain and force the Steelers to punt deep from deep in their own territory with just over two mintues remaining.
The network (NBC) went to commercial and when they came back it was a shot from the back of the endzone where Mark Royals was about to punt. I vividly remember the announcer (Tom Hammond) saying “we’re back in Cleveland in a game that has had more drama, more storylines than a Broadway play”. Little did he know the game would only be remember for the play that was about to ensue. Royals gets the kick away and it drives Metcalf back to his own 25. As he scampered down the right sideline with my huge $5 bet and first place in the AFC Central in tow, me and the friend I was watching the game probably were screaming like little girls. All I remember is that somehow we ended up running up and down our street like the Browns had just won the Super Bowl. Little did I know I would still be waiting 15 years later.
As an afterthought to that game, it really marked the beginning of the end for the Browns. Even though they would make the playoffs the next year, the Browns went into their bye week after the ‘Metcalf’ game in first place but things quickly unraveled when they traded away Bernie Kosar the next week after a loss to Denver when Testaverde was still injured! Cleveland fans have probably never regained their trust after that move, and THE Move that would occur two years later.
But as for me, whenever I played football growing up after that I was always Eric Metcalf (and I couldn’t have picked a player who was less similiar to me), and I still wear the Eric Metcalf jersey that I wore during that game to Browns games to this day, and somehow it still fits…sort of. But obviously the game struck a chord with me…you don’t grow up and buy a bus to paint orange and Brown, paint your basement like a Browns helmet, and follow the Browns around the country otherwise. But for a 12-year old kid who was already a Browns Dork, my fate was sealed about the time the photo above was taken.