Tag Archives: football

Otto Graham: The Greatest Pro Football Quarterback Ever

Ottobanner1 ottobanner21390174447012-USATSI-7685836The NFL conference championship games that were played today were as thrilling and satisfying a pair of gridiron contests as a football fan could desire. It was great to watch two veteran quarterbacks like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning face off for the AFC title – and then enjoy the next generation of star quarterbacks, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, do battle for the NFC crown.

otto-grahamHowever, in the lead-up to these games – and undoubtedly in the two-week media hype extravaganza that will precede the Super Bowl, there’s one thing that will bug the hell out of me.

In all the talk about Manning and Brady and Wilson and Kaepernick and the great quarterbacks of all time – there’s one name that won’t be mentioned.

It’s the one name that should always be mentioned.

Otto Graham.

A couple of months ago I was listening to sports talk radio host Colin Cowherd hosting a discussion of the greatest NFL quarterbacks on his morning radio show. Cowherd had the nerve to say he didn’t want to hear about guys like Otto Grahama who played in the “no face mask era”.

JETS DOLPHINS AFC CHAMPIONSHIPWell, Colin, here’s proof that Otto Graham wore a face mask in the NFL.

(Later in this post, I’ll show why Cowherd’s comment proves there’s an even deeper gash in his NFL football knowledge regarding Graham and face masks.)

imagesThen, last month, The Los Angeles Times ran an article by Mike DiGiovanna ranking the top 10 sports records that’ll never be broken. Candidates were chosen from professional sports, the Olympics and major college sports programs – and the writer limited his choices to records set from 1940 on.

Otto_GrahamBut DiGiovanna did not find a spot on his list for the most unbreakable professional sports record of all post-1940. It’s a record that will always be held by Otto Graham.

After his brilliant college career at Northwestern University was interrupted – and his professional career was delayed — by his service in the Navy during World War Two, the great Hall of Famer Otto Everett Graham, Jr. played 10 seasons of professional football for the Cleveland Browns – and took his team to the championship game all ten years!

otto-graham-brownsThat’s right, ten out of ten.

Let me say that again.

Otto Graham played 10 seasons of pro football for the Cleveland Browns – and took his team to the championship game all ten years!

And he won 7 of those 10 championship games.

Can you imagine a more unbreakable sports record?

13543826d76ec7bffd208f621ebdb2adFrom 1946 to 1949, Graham and The Browns dominated the All-America Football Conference. Then, they joined the NFL in 1950. Did Otto and his Browns struggle as an NFL expansion team? Hardly. They simply ran off an unprecedented and unequaled string of 6 straight NFL title game appearances from 1950 to 1955.

After that, the legendary Otto Graham retired as a player at the top of his game. (Just like another Browns legend, Jim Brown, would do in the following decade.)

tom-brady-bill-belichickjpg-95e8c0ab5d279e48_largeIt drives me crazy to hear otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable football pundits talk about Tom Brady and Coach Bill Belichick as perhaps the most successful quarterback and coach combo in NFL history.

Really?

Brady & Belichick? Oh, please…

otto-graham-1Paul Brown was coach of the Cleveland Browns during Graham’s entire career. Did Brady and Belichick get to the title game 10 seasons in row?

Okay, let’s throw out the AAFC years and stick to Brown and Graham’s NFL years. Have Brady & Belichick gotten to 6 NFL championship games in a row? And Brown & Graham won three of those title games, including Graham’s last game, the 1955 championship. Like I said, Otto Graham went out on top.

And, for all you stats geeks, consider this:

hof-grahamWith Graham at QB, the Browns posted a record of 114 wins, 20 losses and four ties, including a 9–3 playoff record. And while many of Graham’s records have been surpassed in the modern era — he still holds the NFL record for career average yards gained per pass attempt with 9 yards per attempt. That’s not 9 yards per pass completion – that’s 9 yards per pass attempt.

Basically, Otto Graham was good for a first down every time he threw the damn football.

otto-graham-signed-image-3Graham also holds the record for the highest career winning percentage for an NFL starting quarterback, at 0.814. If winning is the greatest measure of a pro quarterback – Otto Graham was better than Johnny Unitas, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady and all the others.

And he was tough as nails, Colin Cowherd.

In fact, Mr. Cowherd, for your information — Otto Graham played a role in ushering in the face mask era in pro football.

pro53chinOtto Graham led the Browns to 11 straight wins to start the 1953 season. (Their lone loss came in the season’s final game against the Philadelphia Eagles.) Late that season, in a game against the 49ers, Graham took a forearm to the face that opened a nasty, bloody gash it took 15 stitches to close. Was he done for the game?

No way. This was Otto Graham.

His helmet was fitted with a clear plastic face mask and he came back into the game — which The Browns won. Graham’s injury helped inspire the development of the modern face mask.

Browns HOF galleryAll right, I’ve had my say. Look it all up yourself. I’m tired of getting pissed off and wanting to throw things at the radio and TV when I hear all this yakking about the best NFL quarterbacks ever – and never any love for Otto Graham.

Now, onto the Super Bowl.

Peyton Manning is amazing. Russell Wilson is exciting. But Otto Graham was the best ever.

And I’d say that even if he weren’t a fellow Northwestern alumnus.00066

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Why I’m Cheering for the San Francisco 49ers Today!

Ray 2011313-5-NFL-Ravens-Ray-Lewis-OB-PI_20130113211537682_660_320As a Cleveland boy, I already have a very good reason to root against the Baltimore Ravens in today’s Super Bowl. Hell, The Ravens used to be the legendary Cleveland Browns until owner Art Modell screwed The Best Location in the Nation and, in the dark of night, ran off to Baltimore with our storied NFL franchise in 1996.

So, I already have one very, very good reason to bet against, cheer against, and plead to the Good Lord against the Baltimore Ravens.

But the biggest reason I’m rooting against the Ravens is Ray Lewis.

-be9303484bf781dbI’m old enough to remember Ray Lewis as the guy who got in a fight in January 2000 that resulted in his indictment on murder and aggravated assault charges. Of course, rich, resourceful, pampered athlete Ray was able to plead guilty to obstruction of justice in exchange for testimony against the two other defendants: his buddies.

Let’s remember Ray’s murderous misadventure – just a lucky 13 years ago…

Following a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000, Ray and his pals got into a fight that resulted in the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar.

ray_lewis_51965686_620x350Lewis and his buddies, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges. Lewis testified that his pals Oakley and Sweeting bought knives earlier that week from a sporting goods store where Lewis had been signing autographs. The blood of one of the victims was found inside of Lewis’s limo.

The suit Lewis was wearing the night of the killings has never been found.

Lewis’ attorneys negotiated a plea agreement. The murder charges against Lewis were dismissed in exchange for his testimony against Oakley and Sweeting — and his plea of guilty to obstruction of justice.

nfl_a_lewisr_600Lewis was sentenced to 12 months of probation and fined $250,000 by the NFL — the highest fine levied against an NFL player for an infraction that was not drug related.

The following year, Lewis was named Super Bowl XXXV MVP.

raylewisSIRay Lewis is no MVP as far as I’m concerned. And I’m tired of his whole, pious, proselytizing “God is amazing” act.

I know Christians love a redemption story ever since they forgave Saul for assisting at the stoning of St. Stephen and allowed him to become St. Paul.

But Ray Lewis is no saint. He’s no hero. He’s not a redemption story.

He’s a charlatan and a scoundrel who can hit like a ton of bricks.

I hope the San Francisco 49ers run him over and drive his reputation into the ground.

And I hope Art Modell is watching the Raven’s loss – whether in heaven above or hell below.

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The Manti Te’o Dead Girlfriend Hoax and The Crisis in American Journalism

manti-teo-siI’m a college football fan. I like the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. I revere The Four Horsemen, Knute Rockne, and winning one for the Gipper. But the Manti Te’o story is making me nuts. It’s more than just a juicy scandal that’s currently fueling countless hours of sports talk radio – it’s a clear and alarming signal that journalism in America is in a state of crisis.

http://deadspin.com/5976517/manti-teos-dead-girlfriend-the-most-heartbreaking-and-inspirational-story-of-the-college-football-season-is-a-hoax

You can follow the link above to read all about the biggest sports story of the moment: The Manti Te’o Girlfriend Hoax.

40covv7wood_promoA blogger at Deadspin.com broke the story – and burst young Manti’s golden bubble — but how in the world did the mainstream media, especially Sports Illustrated magazine, fail to apply the barest minimum of journalistic standards to one of the biggest college sports stories of the year?

I’m a television producer – and I’ve told a lot of stories about celebrities in series like Behind The Music and Fame For Fifteen, among others. (And mind you, these are not “news” shows – they’re entertainment.) Yet it’s my responsibility as a producer and storyteller not to take anything for granted, not to accept anything at face value – and to follow up on all aspects of the story that provoke questions.

So much of what Sports Illustrated reported in Pete Thamel’s October 1, 2012 cover story, The Full Manti, begged for what I would have considered very basic follow-up reporting. Had that basic research been done, due diligence calls been made, and had quotes been sought from any of the girlfriend’s family — this hoax would have begun to unravel before SI’s story ever hit the newsstand.

What were the editors at Sports Illustrated thinking?

This is NOT the mythical Lennay Kekua.

NOT the mythical Lennay.

In his article, Pete Thanel wrote:

“Te’o had dated Lennay Kekua, 22, for nearly a year. She’d been hospitalized in California since an April 28 car accident left her on the brink of death. Two months after the accident, as she began to recover from her injuries, doctors discovered that she had leukemia and sent her to a new hospital…”

Did Pete Thamel follow up to learn where “Lennay Kekua” had been hospitalized? Did he seek any photos from her car accident? (These are usually available because of insurance investigations.) Did he try to talk to any of her doctors? Had Thamel done any of this basic reporting, the story might have started to unravel before it ever got published. Or, better yet, Thamel could have broken the hoax himself.

But it gets much worse. Te’o told Thamel that…

“As Lennay struggled to survive, Te’o developed a nightly ritual in which he would go to sleep while on the phone with her. When he woke up in the morning his phone would show an eight-hour call, and he would hear Lennay breathing on the other end of the line. Her relatives told him that at her lowest points, as she fought to emerge from a coma, her breathing rate would increase at the sound of his voice.”

2012 Heisman Trophy PresentationNow, I’m just a reality TV producer – not a national reporter for Sports Illustrated – but a paragraph like the one above cries out for substantiation and follow-up for dramatic reasons alone! Wouldn’t you want to talk to the relatives who told Manti his calls had been so miraculously therapeutic? Get a quote from them about the amazing effect of Manti’s calls? Wouldn’t you try to talk to the tragic girlfriend’s parents? Had Thamel done the minimum that I’d have required of any producer working for me on such a story, the hoax would have been apparent.

I understand that that Sports Illustrated‘s Manti Te’o cover story can no longer be found in its online archives. Evidently, the entire issue has been scrubbed from the archives. No problem, this is the digital age, and I was able to find a PDF of the article rather easily. And that’s another reason that the media’s Epic Manti Te’o Dead Girlfriend Fail is such a spectacular blunder: basic research is so much easier now. Getting the facts about the mythical “Lennay Kekua” would have been easy.

Manti TeoWas she a student at Stanford? No.

Was she a patient at the hospital? No.

Was there any evidence of her death? No. No obit or death notice could be found.

Did she have any parents to talk to? No.

Do we just take Manti Teo’s word for everything? Evidently, yes.

Was Sports Illustrated more interested in printing a hot-selling cover story than practicing actual journalism? Sadly, it appears the answer is yes.

MAD-Magazine-Manti-Te'o's-Flying-CircusNow, the Manti Te’o Dead Girlfriend Hoax is all the rage in the mass media – especially sports talk radio — and objective, dispassionate, challenging journalism is still nowhere to be found. There’s a lot of blather back and forth about whether Manti is a victim of the hoax or whether he was complicit. But the real questions – the ones that could lead to real answers – are not asked.

Notre Dame officials insist Te’o is a victim. The school maintains that someone using a fictitious name “apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia.” But if Manti is the victim of a hoax, then what did the hoaxers hope to gain by their scam? There’s no indication that “Lennay Kekua” ever asked Manti for money or gifts – or anything? What was in it for them to work so hard for three years?

If Manti is the victim of a hoax, then is the woman who pretended to be “Lennay Kekua” such a great actress that she could – over the course of three long years – manage to act as though she was in a car accident, suffering from Leukemia, and going through the rigors of chemotherapy – sometimes for as long as eight hours on the phone at a time? Is this the least bit plausible?

manti-teo-scandalAnd is anyone asking why, for three years, Notre Dame’s big man on campus, the star players and captain of its football team, would prefer the company of a woman he could only communicate with via the phone to the many, many lovely, available coeds on the South Bend campus?

Did Manti ever ask to Skype with “Lennay Kekua”? What young couple today doesn’t Skype or iChat?

Te’o released a statement saying, “over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online.” But a story in the South Bend Tribune said the two met after Notre Dame’s 2009 game against Stanford, where she was allegedly a student.

130119000016-tx-teo-t1-wideThose apologists who say that Manti was not involved in the hoax cannot explain this 2009 meeting. And Jeremy Schaap, the ESPN reporter who just interviewed Te’o off-camera, got no traction on this inconsistency. According to USA Today, Te’o admitted that he led his father to believe he had physically met Kekua, although he repeatedly denied to ESPN that any meeting had happened. It was Brian Te’o, Manti’s father, who largely supplied the information for an October article in the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune that chronicled the relationship.”

According to the South Bend Tribune: “Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te’o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes.”

Manti “led his father to believe he had physically met Kekua”. So, Manti lied to his dad, right? How is that not participating in the hoax?

Manti’s father went his son one – or several times – better by telling the South Bend Tribune in October 2012, “Every once in a while, she would travel to Hawaii, and that happened to be the time Manti was home, so he would meet with her there.”

Or not.

You’ll hear a lot more about this story in the coming weeks and months. Hopefully, some real journalists will get on it and the truth will out.

But something tells me that Manti Te’o is not the victim here. His hoax story is full of more holes than the Irish defense against Alabama.

The American public is the victim.

The victim of shoddy journalism.

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Vic & Paul & Obama & Mother Mary — Blog 2012: The Third Year In Review.

ClevelandObama bannerMom bannerDays after the year 2012 ended, I was delighted to join with my wife, daughters and Cleveland relations to celebrate the 80th birthday of my wonderful mother, Mary Barrosse. I knew I was tardy in posting my blog’s 2012 year-end review — but honoring my mom in the grand style she deserves came first.

img_04992012 was a very busy year on this blog — dominated by the “The Vic & Paul Show” Summer Tour and the momentous Presidential election. Vaudevillians Vic & Paul traveled to Chicago, Cleveland, Wisconsin, and Los Angeles — and President Obama covered even more ground than that (often in one day). We both emerged victorious — and when all was was said and done, Victoria and I might have come out slightly ahead because we don’t have to deal with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

2012 was also the third year for this blog. And it was a very good year.

Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted over 129,900 views in 2012 — nearly doubling the number of visitors that dropped by during this blog’s first two years. (There were 62,900 visits in 2012.) I’ve posted 255 articles since this blog began and you folks have contributed 1,231 comments. Politics and history remain among the most popular topics.

This is not the real subscription sign up box. The real one is further to the right. And up a little…

I continue to be honored that 118 subscribers have signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. (And 31 more folks follow this blog on Twitter.) Are you a subscriber? If you’re not — then look to your right at the photo of the saluting Matey and follow the simple instructions to “Hop Aboard!”

Most of my posts focus on the main topics I established at the outset of this blog: history, adventure, politics, sailing and rock & roll — plus relentless promotion of The Practical Theatre, my band Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation, and The Vic & Paul Show. But what posts were readers of this blog most attracted to this year?

What follows is a list of The Top Ten Most Popular Posts of 2012.

Just click on the title of each post to access the original article.

1. Victory at Pearl HarborPearl Harbor

Originally posted in 2010 on the anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy” – this post has become an annual event. A lot of military history fans visit this blog, but I think Pearl Harbor fascinates and resonates with Americans whether they have an interest in military history or not. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks took more American lives – but Pearl Harbor was the shocking opening act in a drama that ultimately made the United States the world’s preeminent superpower. Can we say that we’re a better nation after 9-11?

2. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

On December 15, 2010 – the 215th birthday of our Bill of Rights – I wrote this basic primer on the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. For some reason, it’s become one of the most-read post in the history of this blog. I guess that’s because Americans still give a damn about their rights and are keen to understand their Constitutional foundation.

3. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffooneryblackboc

The bold, brave and vital Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired a lot of posts on this blog since 2011 – but this post, written on November 2, 2011, has proven to be the most popular. Maybe that’s because people agree that we don’t need a bunch of cowardly anarchists screwing up a noble movement that ultimately helped to put Barrack Obama back in office. Without Occupy Wall Street, would Romney’s attack on the 47% have evoked such a profound and spirited response?

4. A Childhood Memory of Kent State, May 4. 1970Kent State

On the May 4, 2012 anniversary of this very dark day in America history, I posted this personal remembrance of a young Ohioan’s earliest memories of that terrible day.

5. Growing Up in the Space Age

The last American space shuttle launch inspired this July 14, 2011 remembrance of my personal connection to the Space Age. This popular post salutes my fellow Ohioan, John Glenn, who served as both the first man to orbit the Earth and as a Senator from my home state. I wish that my three daughters had grown up experiencing something half as exciting and inspirational as The Race to the Moon.

6. My Book Report: “The Battle of Midway”midway

What a great book! What an amazing chapter of world history! On January 23, 2012, I wrote this review of a book that captures all the incredible heroism, good luck, and turns of fate that made this epic World War Two naval battle an overwhelming victory that turned the tide of the war against Imperial Japan.

7. A New Presidential Biography Reminds Us Why We Should Like Ikeike

Even if Los Angeles Times editor Jim Newton weren’t my good friend, I still would have written this September 28, 2011 post extolling the virtues of his excellent biography of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

8. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time

singerbanner1

There’s nothing like a Top 10 list to promote discussion on a blog – and this December 5, 2011 post did just that. Check it out – and then weigh in with your own opinion. Just realize that your opinion on rock & roll singing cannot possibly be as informed as my own.

9. 150 Years Ago Today150 years

Since the spring of 2011, we’ve been in the midst of the American Civil War sesquicentennial: the war’s 150th anniversary. Between now and April 2015, there’s an opportunity every day to write the kind of post that I wrote on March 13, 2012.

10. The Wrecking Crew

Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, Carol Kay, Tommy Tedesco, Leon Russell, Earl Palmer: the cream of Los Angeles studio musicians in the late 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s became known as “The Wrecking Crew”. I’m thrilled that my March 21, 2011 blog article celebrating Tommy Tedesco’s son’s marvelous documentary film about these rock & roll legends has proven to be such a popular post. If you haven’t done it already, start a Google search on “The Wrecking Crew” now. Until then, your rock & roll education is not complete.

So, that’s the best of 2012. Stay connected. Subscribe. And please post those replies!

Here’s to another adventurous voyage in 2013!

And here are the All-Time Top 10 Blog Posts from January 2010 up to today:

1. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

2. Victory at Pearl Harbor

3. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffoonery

4. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

This post was also the #3 post in 2010. 23 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. On our 20th anniversary, we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog. (Originally posted July 20, 2010)

5. Aliens Among Us?

I’ve always wondered where singular, epochal, “out of this world” geniuses like William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci and Bob Dylan came from. So, on January 26, 2011, I wrote this speculation on the possible alien origin of such monumental minds. Evidently, my curiosity (if not my Erich Van Daniken “ancient astronaut” fantasy) is still shared by a lot of people who read my blog in the past year.

6. Growing Up in the Space Age

7. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog back on January 9, 2010 celebrated my brief but soul-satisfying collaboration with the legendary underground comix artist, Jay Lynch, who gave Vic and I the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a series of Bazooka Joe comics. It was one of the great chapters in my creative career. The Practical Theatre Company, Saturday Night LiveBehind the Music, The Vic & Paul Show and Bazooka Joe. Can I retire now?

8. The Saints Come Marching In…

This was the #1 post in 2010 — and, like the Saints, has shown staying power. The New Orleans Saints got 2010 off to a great start by winning the Super Bowl. (What about that bounty scandal?) So, why does a man who was born in Cleveland, went to college and met his wife in Chicago, and moved to Los Angeles two decades ago care if the New Orleans Saints finally won a Super Bowl after years of epic gridiron failure? Simple: my daddy was New Orleans born and raised. Who dat say what about dem Saints? (Originally posted February 8, 2010)

9. History & Honeymoon: Part Four

2011 was the 150th anniversary of the commencement of the American Civil War – and that might be the reason that two of my “History & Honeymoon” posts are still among the most-read this past year, including this one, posted on July 26, 2010. This post covers everything from my wife Victoria and I battle tramping Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg –to our visit to Philadelphia and the eccentric, visionary artwork of Isaiah Zagar.

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Blog 2011: The Second Year’s Voyage In Review…

My 2011 concluded on a fabulously positive note as “The Vic & Paul Show” enjoyed a successful two-week run at Mayne Stage in Chicago. It was a holiday homecoming that warmed the winter chill with a gathering of the very best, most supportive, fun, generous, talented, and entertaining friends that a person could  possibly cherish. Victoria and I consider ourselves truly blessed in the camaraderie department –and this holiday season proved what an embarrassment of riches our community of friends has become. (Including our new friends at Mayne Stage, who handled it all with class, professionalism and a welcome sense of humor.)

And speaking of talented and entertaining friends — New Year’s weekend rocked with two performances by Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation — one that closed “The Vic & Paul Show” at Mayne Stage, and another that rang in the New Year at The Prop Theatre. It was a raucous, celebratory sign-off on an eventful year: full of drama, politics, resurgent activism — and the ongoing clown car routine that is the Republican Party nomination process.

2011 was also the second year for this blog.

As of this writing, Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted over 67,000 views — with 44,750 in 2011 alone. That’s double the number of views (22,250) in 2010. I’ve made 165 posts since this blog began and all of you have contributed 935 comments. The blog saw it’s busiest day this year when, on March 17, 2011, 491 viewers checked out the site to read, among other things, “A Reply To My Conservative Friend.” Politics and history remain among the most popular topics on Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc.

This is not the real subscription sign up box. The real one is further to the right. And up a little...

I’m especially gratified by the 80 subscribers who have signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. Are you a subscriber? If not — just look to your right at the photo of the saluting Matey, then look below the photo and follow the simple instructions to “Hop Aboard!”

My posts on this blog still largely stick to the main topics I established at the outset: history, adventure, politics, sailing and rock & roll. And to what type of posts were readers of this blog most attracted this year? What follows is a list of The Top Ten Most Read Posts of 2011, listed in order of the most views.

Note: Just click on the title of each post to access the original article.

1. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

On December 15, 2010 – the 215th birthday of our Bill of Rights – I wrote this basic primer on the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. For some reason, it’s become the most-read post in the history of this blog. I guess that’s because Americans still give a damn about their rights and are keen to understand their Constitutional foundation.

2. Aliens Among Us?

I’ve always wondered where singular, epochal, “out of this world” geniuses like William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci and Bob Dylan came from. So, on January 26, 2011, I wrote this speculation on the possible alien origin of such monumental minds. Evidently, my curiosity (if not my Erich Van Daniken “ancient astronaut” fantasy) is shared by a lot of people who read my blog in the last year.

3. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

This post was also the #3 post in 2010. 21 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. Last year, on our 20th anniversary, we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog. (Originally posted July 20, 2010)

4. History & Honeymoon: Part Four

2011 was the 150th anniversary of the commencement of the American Civil War – and that might be the reason that two of my “History & Honeymoon” posts are among the most-read this past year, including this one, posted on July 26, 2010. This post covers everything from my wife Victoria and I battle tramping Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg –to our visit to Philadelphia and the eccentric, visionary artwork of Isaiah Zagar.

5. The Saints Come Marching In…

This was the #1 post in 2010 — and, like the Saints, has shown staying power. The New Orleans Saints got 2010 off to a great start by winning the Super Bowl. So, why does a man who was born in Cleveland, went to college and met his wife in Chicago, and moved to Los Angeles two decades ago care if the New Orleans Saints finally won a Super Bowl after years of epic gridiron failure? Simple: my daddy was New Orleans born and raised. Who dat say what about dem Saints? (Originally posted February 8, 2010)

6. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog back on January 9, 2010 celebrated my brief but soul-satisfying collaboration with the legendary underground comix artist, Jay Lynch, who gave Vic and I the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a series of Bazooka Joe comics. It was one of the great chapters in my creative career. The Practical Theatre Company, Saturday Night Live, Behind the Music and Bazooka Joe. Can I retire now?

7. 10 Rays of Sunshine…

The general worldview looked bleak on November 9, 2010, when I decided to list some positive stuff to focus on amid the gathering gloom, including a stunning victory by the lowly Cleveland Browns over the vaunted New England Patriots, an upswing on Wall Street, and the return of the delicious though gastronomically questionable McRib to McDonald’s restaurants. Obviously, many blog readers shared my desperate desire for a few shafts of light amid the darkness.

8. The Wrecking Crew

Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, Carol Kay, Tommy Tedesco, Leon Russell, Earl Palmer: the cream of Los Angeles studio musicians in the late 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s became known as “The Wrecking Crew”. I’m thrilled that my March 21, 2011 blog article celebrating Tommy Tedesco’s son’s marvelous documentary film about these rock & roll legends has proven to be such a popular post. If you haven’t done it already, start a Google search on “The Wrecking Crew” now. Until then, your rock & roll education is not complete.

9. Baseball Season Opens: Of Mud Hens & More…

This is the third post on this list that appeared on last year’s most-read list. It was #4. It seems readers still love those Mud Hens. What was written as a tribute to The Practical Theatre Company’s contribution to the Chicago Theatre 16-inch Softball League became a post that hundreds of Toledo Mud Hens fans found online, attracted to the info and photos of Toledo Mud Hens history — especially that picture of Jamie Farr. Go figure. Cluck! Cluck! Cluck! (Originally posted April 6, 2010)

10. Growing Up in the Space Age

The last American space shuttle launch inspired this July 14, 2011 remembrance of my personal connection to the Space Age. This popular post especially salutes my fellow Ohioan, John Glenn, who served as both the first man to orbit the Earth and as a Senator from my home state. I wish my three daughters had grown up with anything half as exciting and inspirational as The Race to the Moon.

So, that’s the best of 2011. Stay tuned. Subscribe. Post those replies!

Here’s to another adventurous voyage in 2012!

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2010: The First Year In Review

This snapshot by Rob Mendel (above) appears to have been taken at The John Lennon Auditorium at 703 Howard Street in Evanston, Illinois on what looks to be New Year’s Day 1982.  (Note my Beggars’ Holiday hair and beard.) My 18-month old daughter Maura appears to be grasping a champagne bottle in her right hand, the stage looks as though it’s set up for a Rockme gig, and the numerous empty beverage containers and crumpled gift-wrapping all suggest a big holiday party the night before. (Maura certainly didn’t close the party, so this must be the day after.) Of course, I’m on clean-up duty. (I trust the amazing Rush Pearson will let us know if my photo analysis is correct.)

30 years after this picture was taken — and just one year ago — I started this blog.

So far, it’s been a fine voyage.

As of this writing, Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted over 22,250 views. I’ve made 73 posts and readers have contributed 565 comments. That’s a pretty healthy start — and I’m grateful for everyone’s interest, enthusiasm, and participation in this admittedly idiosyncratic forum.

This is not the real subscription sign up box. The real one is further to the right. And up a little...

I’m especially gratified by the 63 subscribers who have signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. (And when Mark Lancaster gets his e-mail address straightened out, we’ll be back to 64.) Are you a subscriber? If not — just look to your right at the photo of the saluting Matey, then look below the photo and follow the simple instructions to “Hop Aboard!” I know most of us just can’t get enough e-mails stuffed into our inboxes, but I promise my posts will be at least marginally more entertaining than the daily onslaught of Viagra ads, MoveOn broadsides, replica watch ads, and assorted unrelenting spam you’re already inundated with.

My posts on this blog largely stuck to the main topics I established at the outset: history, adventure, politics and rock & roll — including a four-part history of The Practical Theatre Company. And to what type of posts were readers of this blog most attracted? What follows is a list of The Top 12 Posts of 2010, listed in order of the most views. Taken as a whole, they represent a sort of oddball Year-in-Review.

THE TOP TEN POSTS OF 2010

Note: Just click on each the title of each post to access the original article.

1. The Saints Come Marching In…

The New Orleans Saints got 2010 off to a great start by winning the Super Bowl. So, why does a man who was born in Cleveland, went to college and met his wife in Chicago, and moved to Los Angeles twenty years ago care if the New Orleans Saints finally won a Super Bowl after decades of epic gridiron failure? Simple: my daddy was New Orleans born and raised. Who dat say what about dem Saints?

2. All About The Rockme Foundation

It’s not possible to write everything about Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation in one article, but I tried my best in this post to tell the basics of the band’s ongoing legend. A spring reunion gig at SPACE in Evanston was the catalyst for telling the story. The band is making plans to play SPACE again this year. Rockme-mania lives.

3. The Practical Theatre Co. Part 1

One of my goals this past year was to tell the story of The Practical Theatre from start to finish. (Is it ever really finished?) This first chapter covered the period from the company’s founding and the establishment of The John Lennon Auditorium  — to just before our 1982 comedy revue, The Golden 50th Anniversary Jubilee, brought the PTC to SNL.

4. Baseball Season Opens: Of Mud Hens & More…

Readers loved those Mud Hens. What was written as a tribute to The Practical Theatre Company’s contribution to the Chicago Theatre 16-inch Softball League became a post that hundreds of Toledo Mud Hens fans found online, attracted to the info and photos of Toledo Mud Hens history — especially that picture of Jamie Farr. Go figure. Cluck! Cluck! Cluck!

5. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

20 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! It’s true. I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. On our 20th anniversary we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog.

6. The Vic & Paul Show

After more than two decades off the stage, Victoria and I once again wrote and performed in an original musical comedy review, The Vic & Paul Show, in June at PUSH Lounge in Woodland Hills. It was the most fun we’ve had in years. We hope to bring the show to Chicago sometime in 2011. If you’re curious about what the show looked like — there are a series of clips on my YouTube channel. Click here to get there.

7. “I have not yet begun to fight!”

History and politics are two of my greatest passions — and this article combined the two. I’m gratified that so many people have continued to find it and read it since it was first posted on January 20, 2010 at the time of President Obama’s first State of the Union Address.

8. Le Salon de Crawford

I wrote this tribute to the incredible Crawford family early in the year — and I feel as though I must already write another. Ron and Sydney Crawford and their fabulous children are a gift that keeps on giving. I cannot imagine what this blog would have looked like in 2010 without all those wonderful Ron Crawford drawings lifting each post into the realm of true art. We love Ron & Syd. And we can’t say it enough.

9. Will California Buy a Used CEO this Election Year?

In an otherwise bleak mid-term election for progressives, California turned back the conservative tide by rejecting the self-funding, millionaire ex-CEO candidates, Meg Whitman for Governor and Carly Fiorina for Senator. Instead, liberal Democrat Barbara Boxer was returned to the U.S. Senate — and former “Governor Moonbeam” Jerry Brown was sent back to the California governor’s mansion (where he refused to live back in the 70’s). Maybe Jerry will pass on the mansion again. But thank goodness California passed on Meg and Carly.

10. The Practical Theatre Co. Part 3

This installment of my Practical Theatre history covered the insanely creative and productive period from the aftermath of the PTC’s headline-making success in 1982-83 to the closing of The John Lennon Auditorium in 1985. Looking back, it’s hard to believe a bunch of inexperienced, counterculturally-inclined twenty-somethings accomplished so much in so little time. That Practical spirit lives on today — and I hope this blog has helped in some small way to keep it alive.

11. The Matey’s Log: Sailing Season Begins

This blog has a nautical theme for one reason: Captain George Moll, who invited me to sail with him some years back, and instilled in me a love of the sea that had first been aroused by my reading of the entire Patrick O’Brian canon. I am grateful to Captain George for allowing me to serve as a crewman aboard his fleet of racing sailboats — and my accounts of several of our races proved to me among the most popular series of posts on the blog this year. And did I mention we won this year’s TGIS Series Championship? Hats off to Captain George!

12. A New Day of Glory for the Great (you heard me right) Cleveland Browns!

Great football teams bookend this list. When my beloved Cleveland Browns upset the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints in the early part of the 2010 NFL season, I was moved to write this remembrance of the Browns’ glorious past. Otto Graham, Jim Brown, Leroy Kelly, Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar are just a handful of the memorable stars that made history with the Cleveland Browns. Now, it’s up to Colt McCoy and Peyton Hillis to write the next glorious chapter.

So, that’s the best of 2010. Stay tuned. Subscribe. Post those replies!

Here’s to another fine voyage in 2011!

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A New Day of Glory for the Great (you heard me right) Cleveland Browns!

On Sunday, October 24, 2010, the Cleveland Browns went to New Orleans and stunned the Saints with a 30-17 upset victory over the defending Super Bowl champs.

The Browns aggressive defense sacked Saints quarterback Drew Brees three times and pressured him into tossing four interceptions – two of which were returned for touchdowns by the Browns’ 33-year old veteran linebacker, David Bowens.

Bowens celebrated his second touchdown with perhaps the worst somersault into the end zone in NFL history. But Browns fans, starved for gridiron glory, nonetheless flipped for Bowens’ endearingly enthusiastic but awkward flop. We’ll take it.

And we’ll take the win.

That the downtrodden 2-5 Browns should knock off the celebrated New Orleans Saints was a shocking turn of events — but few NFL fans realize that Cleveland has now defeated the defending Super Bowl champs for the third straight season. That’s right, buddy. The Browns beat the NY Giants in 2008, our rival Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009, and now the Saints in 2010. Only seven NFL teams have scored that unlikely trifecta.

Once again, we’ll take it.

Browns fans have had precious few accomplishments to cherish since 1964 when Cleveland won its last NFL championship – back in the Mud and Ice Age before indoor stadiums and Super Bowls.

Full disclosure: I have a soft spot in my heart for the Saints because my father was born and raised in New Orleans. (Click here for that story.) Until recently, it has been my misfortune to suffer perennial heartbreak in both the AFC and NFC – and I’ve never had to worry about my two favorite teams meeting in a Super Bowl.

While living in Chicago in the mid-1980’s, I gleefully jumped aboard the Bears bruising bandwagon just in time to experience Sweetness, Iron Mike, the Punky QB, Refrigerator Perry and the Super Bowl Shuffle in 1985.

But that was borrowed glory.

So was the Saints Super Bowl championship last year.

Cleveland is my hometown — so I am first and foremost a Cleveland Browns fan.

To be a Browns fan (much like being a Cleveland Indians fan) is to swell with pride, imbued with memories of the club’s storied history.

The Browns dominated professional football in the postwar period, from the mid 1940’s to the early 60’s like no other team before or since. And while much of these laurels were earned before my birth in 1958, the Browns — led by the Greatest Football Player of All Time, Jim Brown — were still an NFL powerhouse in my youth.

I was six and a half years old on December 27, 1964 when Gary Collins caught three touchdown passes from Frank Ryan to defeat Johnny Unitas’ Baltimore Colts 27-0 and win the Browns’ fourth NFL championship in front 79,544 freezing but frenzied fans at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. It was the first NFL title game to be televised by CBS. That legendary victory was also the Browns high water mark.

My connection to that hallowed 1964 team was made even more personal by the fact that my varsity football coach at Cleveland Central Catholic High School, Stan Sczurek, appeared in 14 games for that ’64 Browns title team. I still remember seeing Coach Sczurek wearing his NFL championship ring. A two-way star at Purdue, Stan Sczurek was taken by the Browns in the 4th round of the 1962 draft and played in 34 games for Cleveland between ‘63 and ‘65 before being sent to the NY Giants in ’66. We didn’t win many football games at CCC, but I can always say that I played football for a guy who wore Browns jersey #38 in 1964.

The '64 Browns. That's Stan Sczurek 3rd from right, #38. (Behind #36)

For the next 46 years, golden memories of Otto Graham, Mac Speedie, Jim Brown, Ernie Green, Leroy Kelly and Paul Warfield have faded as the Browns have been buffeted by infamous moments of near greatness in the 1980’s, shamed by The Pass, The Drive, The Fumble, and the ignominious loss of the franchise when traitorous owner Art Modell announced that he was relocating the Browns to Baltimore for 1996 season. Modell literally absconded with the team in the middle of the night, bound ironically for the city we’d bested on that glorious December day in 1964.

Three seasons later, Cleveland got the Browns back. The team’s name, its colors, and its glorious stats and history were restored. But another decade of football frustration followed.

All you really need to know is that Cleveland is the only current NFL city whose franchise has neither played in, nor hosted, a Super Bowl.

Alas, it was not always so.

As Cleveland Browns supporters celebrate our team’s recent moment of upset glory in the Big Easy, it’s time to remind NFL fans of the hallowed history of the great Cleveland Browns, whose history makes lesser franchises like the Cowboys and Patriots look like Johnny-come-lately flashes-in-the-pan.

The great Paul Brown.

Founded in 1944 by owner Arthur ‘Mickey’ McBride and head coach Paul Brown (whom the fans voted to name the team after), the Browns began playing in 1946. At the time, Cleveland was also home to the 1945 NFL champion Cleveland Rams, whose star quarterback Bob Waterfield was married to movie star Jane Russell. The Rams left for Los Angeles before the Browns ever played a game. (I hate to brag again, but my high school athletic director, Len Janiak, played for the Cleveland Rams from 1940 to ‘42. It wasn’t until I got to high school and learned Len Janiak’s story that I knew why the football team at Rhodes High School in my neighborhood was called the Rams – and why their helmets looked just like the ones worn by Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones and the rest of LA’s Fearsome Foursome.)

Otto Graham & Coach Brown

From the start, the Browns dominated the new All-America Football Conference, winning all four league titles. In 1948 the Browns became the first pro football team to finish the season and playoffs unbeaten and untied: 24 years before the NFL’s first “perfect team”, the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

How good was that Browns team? They were so good the league had to break them up.

A young Y.A. Tittle

When The Browns’ ran up their undefeated streak to 29 games — including 18 straight victories – they were forced to give up the rights to some of their younger players, including the future Hall of Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle, who was sent to the Baltimore Colts in ‘48. (Why is it always Baltimore?) Can you imagine such a scenario today?

Before the decade was out, the Browns’ dominance led to the AAFC’s merger with the NFL. At the end of the 1949 season, the Browns, the 49ers and the Colts joined the NFL. The 1950 Browns wasted no time showing they were still the best – winning the NFL championship in their first year in the league.

Throughout this heady period, the Browns were led on the field by quarterback Otto Graham – who (I must brag again) played for my alma mater Northwestern University as a tailback, graduating with the school record of 2,938 total offensive yards, a record which stood until 1964. Head coach Paul Brown turned Graham into a quarterback in 1946 – and the rest became NFL Hall of Fame history.

Cleveland was the center of the football universe. In fact, in the 1950 championship game the Browns faced none other than the former Cleveland Rams, now located in Los Angeles. The Browns won 30-28 on a last-second field goal by Lou Groza. Lou “The Toe” Groza was still kicking game-winning field goals when I was a kid. Incredibly, Lou didn’t hang up his spikes until 1967. To young Browns fans like me, Lou was a living legend.

Lou’s teammates on those great Browns teams of the 1950’s crowd the Hall of Fame today: Otto Graham, Marion Motley (#76 at left), Dante Lavelli and Len Ford, among others. In 1951 and ’52, they reached the championship game and lost – and in ’53, after winning 11 straight games, they lost again in the NFL title game.

Willie Mays makes "The Catch" in '54 Series

Then in 1954, not long after the mighty Cleveland Indians (with their lofty 111-43 regular season record) suffered one of the most embarrassing defeats in the history of The World Series at the hands of Willie Mays and the NY Giants – the Browns reasserted their NFL dominance, crushing the Detroit Lions 56-10 in the NFL title game.

The Browns intercepted Lions quarterback Bobby Layne six times and forced three fumbles. Otto Graham tossed three touchdowns and ran for three more. The next year, the Browns won their third NFL championship, beating the former Cleveland Rams 38-14 in Los Angeles.

But it was the end of an era.

Suffering from injuries, the truly legendary Otto Graham retired after the ‘55 season. Thus ended the greatest run of success in the history of professional sports.

In their first decade as a franchise, the Cleveland Browns reached the championship game all ten years – and won the league title seven times. Even the vaunted New York Yankees have never done that. It’s safe to say no sports franchise will ever equal the record of the Cleveland Browns from 1946 to 1955.

That all happened before I was born. But something else happened the year before I was born.

Jim Brown.

In 1956 the post-Otto Graham Browns recorded the only losing season they would suffer in their first 28 seasons as a franchise. However, further football glory in Cleveland was assured in the ’57 NFL draft when the Browns took fullback Jim Brown out of Syracuse.

Jim Brown was the NFL’s leading rusher – and its Rookie of the Year — in ’57, grinding out 942 yards in a 12-game regular season. (NFL teams now play 16 regular season games, so 1,000-yard rushing seasons are common.) Brown led his team back to the NFL championship game for the 11th time in 12 seasons, but they lost to Detroit.

Jim Brown ran for 1,527 yards in ’58 — nearly twice as much as any other NFL running back. In ’59, he led the league again with 1,329 yards. And in 1960, Brown’s 1,257 yards were once again tops in the NFL — but the team still finished in second place at 8-3-1. With the greatest running back in the history of the game setting records that would never be broken, the Browns has still managed to miss the NFL championship three years in a row. It was unheard of. Something had to give. Enter Art Modell.

Art Modell & quarterback Frank Ryan

Modell bought the team in 1961, and that year Jim Brown led the league for a fifth consecutive season while the Browns finished two games out of a spot in the championship game. Relations between Modell and Coach Paul Brown deteriorated quickly.

Before the ’62 season started, without telling Modell, Paul Brown made a secret trade for the rights to another Syracuse running back, Ernie Davis — the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy.

Tragically, Davis was stricken by a fatal form of leukemia and never played a down for the Browns. (Ernie Davis died in early ‘63.)

The ’62 Browns finished 7-6-1, and Jim Brown failed to lead the NFL in rushing yards for the only time in his career. Modell capped that dismal season by firing Paul Brown and replacing him with Brown’s assistant, Blanton Collier.

Jim Brown had his best season in 1963 with an NFL record 1,863 yards. Imagine that. That’s an average of 155 yards a game! But it wasn’t until ’64 that the Browns returned to their rightful place at the top of the NFL heap.

In the ’64 college draft, the Browns chose Ohio State receiver Paul Warfield in the first round, who immediately became their leading receiver, and the team used it 8th round pick to land Morgan State’s Leroy Kelly, a kick returner and running back who would eventually succeed Jim Brown. (Two future Hall of Famers in the same draft. Not bad, huh?)

Frank Ryan delivers the ball to Gary Collins during the glorious '64 season.

After the 1965 season in which Jim Brown was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for the third time with 1,544 yards, the Browns lost the NFL Championship game 23-12 to Coach Vince Lombardi and quarterback Bart Starr’s Green Bay Packers in frozen Lambeau Field.

Then, suddenly and shockingly…

…the Browns lost Jim Brown.

In the summer of ‘66, the incomparable Jim Brown stunned the sports world by announcing his retirement from football.

Brown had been filming the now-classic World War II movie The Dirty Dozen in London – and, in an unprecedented move for an athlete of his caliber in the prime of his career — Jim Brown, the greatest player to ever step between the lines on a football field —  decided to “go out on top”.

There would be more thrills and glory to come, but the Cleveland Browns two incredible decades of pro football supremacy were over.

Two years later, led by Jim Brown’s stellar backfield successor, Leroy Kelly and the great Paul Warfield catching passes from quarterback Bill Nelsen, the Browns reached the 1968 NFL championship game against the Baltimore Colts. The Colts shut out the Browns 34-0 to go to Super Bowl III.

In 1969, the Browns offense was as potent as ever, as Nelsen threw for 2700 yards and 23 touchdowns to lead his team to a 10-3-1 record. Alas, the Browns lost the NFL championship game 27-7 to Joe Kapp and the Minnesota Vikings.  11 years old at the time, I was starting to feel the pain of playoff disappointment.

Warfield would go on to become a key weapon for the unbeaten '72 Dolphins.

After the gridiron heroics of the 1940’s and 1950’s — and the glory and near-glory of the 1960’s – the next four decades of Cleveland Browns football were more about frustration that exultation.

In 1970, the AFL-NFL merger put the Browns, Steelers and Colts in the new American Football Conference – and the trade of Paul Warfield to the Miami Dolphins for a draft choice to get Purdue quarterback Mike Phipps – were dual body blows to the once-proud franchise. After beating the New York Jets in the first Monday Night Football broadcast, the Browns stumbled through the season finishing 7–7. In fact, they would stumble through much of the next 40 years.

In the 1980, “The Kardiac Kids” wrote their fond footnote in Browns history.

Led by League MVP quarterback Brian Sipe, who passed for 4000 yards and 30 touchdowns, the resurgent Browns faced the Oakland Raiders in their first playoff game in eight years. Known for their late-game heroics, it was sadly ironic that The Kardiac Kids’ season ended in heartbreak on a play in the last minute of the game.

A play forever after infamous as “The Pass”.

On that fateful play, with the Browns trailing 14-12 on the Raiders’ 13 yard line — easily in range of a game-winning field goal — Coach Sam Rutigliano inexplicably called for a pass play “Red Right 88“. Sipe’s unnecessary pass into the end zone was intercepted. The Raiders won the game – and went on to win the Super Bowl.

In 1985, University of Miami quarterback and hometown boy, Bernie Kosar, was the Browns #1 draft pick and took over the starting job midway through the season. With Kosar under center, the Browns would reach the playoffs each of the next five seasons, getting to the AFC Championship game in three of those years. For the Browns, the Kosar years would be their last grasp at NFL glory. And they would be remembered for a bittersweet a series of stunning, heartrending defeats.

In 1986, with Kosar slinging the ball for 3,854 yards and a dominant defense manned by five Pro Bowlers (Chip Banks, Hanford Dixon, Bob Golic , Clay Matthews and Frank Minnifield), the Browns ran up the best record in the AFC, and advanced to the AFC Championship against the Denver Broncos in Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The Browns were defending a 7-point lead, and the Broncos were pinned on their own 2-yard line with 5:11 left to play.

Then, John Elway led his team on “The Drive“.

After taking the Broncos down the field, there were just 37 seconds on the clock when Elway threw a touchdown pass to tie the game at 20-20. Minutes later in overtime, 79,973 stupefied Browns fans watched in insufferable silence as the Broncos kicked a field goal to win the game.

The following year, the Browns looked like they were rolling to a championship again, led by eight Pro Bowlers: Kosar, Mack, Dixon, Golic, Minnifield, Clay Matthews, wide receiver Gerald McNeil and offensive lineman Cody Risien. The season culminated in Denver with a rematch against the Broncos for the AFC Championship.

This time, down by 3 points with 1:12 to go in the game, the Browns were on the Broncos’ 8-yard line, when Kosar handed off to his dependable warhorse, running back Earnest Byner — who rumbled toward the end zone.

It looked like game-winning touchdown for sure. Instead, Byner coughed up “The Fumble” – and the Broncos crushed the Browns title dreams again.

In the 22 years since “The Fumble”, Browns fans have had little to cheer about. In the years since  the Kardiac Kids and Kosar and company rattled our collective nerves, we’ve come to almost cherish the kind of late-game championship heartbreak we suffered in the 1980’s.

And then came last Sunday’s beat-down of the New Orleans Saints.

Damn, that felt good.

Could it be that the Cleveland Browns — one of the NFL’s greatest franchises — is poised for a return to glory?

After “The Pass”, “The Drive” and “The Fumble” – why not…

“The Comeback”?

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