There we were: first row, forty-yard line at the NFL Championship! It was Dark Ages, mind you. Before there were playoffs, before there was a Super Bowl, this title tilt was not only the ultimate game of the season, but for the World Championship! It was December 27, 1964 — 50 years ago today — and at old Lakefront Stadium, Alan and I, two budding teenagers from a middle-class suburb with barely more than bus fare in our pockets, had hit the motherload!

I wonder if we knew it at the time.

Let’s draw some perspective:

We haled from Cleveland, then the eighth largest city in the U.S.. While glittery L.A. had only been home to the Dodgers five years at that time, the Indians had a solid history and had, in fact, been to the World Series but a decade earlier. Moreover, in times where baseball too had no playoffs — just two leagues with winners taking all — even then, the Tribe, as recently as ’59 had fought to a tense September in a thrilling pennant chase.

We lived in Ohio, with its bumper crop of football talent — home to the Woody Hayes Buckeyes and three national championships in the recent decade alone, not to mention the already legendary coach.

We lived in Cleveland and had the Browns, the CLEVELAND Browns. Still in the afterglow of its dynasty years, the team smelled more like Renaissance than Last Hurrah.

Yes, we were winners in a town that was winning! We were fifteen years old and had it all!

I’ve been to some signal games since then. (No championship games, of course, but some major matches). There was the Purdue game in’68, and the Michigan game that year. In fact, that three year run in Columbus — especially the year Wied, Walt and I sat on the 50 in C-Deck — we had the world by the balls. Oh, and there was the Clarett game with my first/born, the set-up for the title win over Miami. Stacy was there in the crowd, and it was the only time I’d ever had a cell phone fail due to crowd volume.

But that was it — for a half century. The Injuns — oh, they had their run in the ‘90’s, but no gold. And Yes, the Brownies had The Drive and The Fumble and God, how I froze through Red Right 88. And the Cavs? Even before Lebron there was the Miracle Of Richfield…

But no champagne.

Who knew? Who knew that the Browns, 11 point dogs facing the league’s premier offense AND premier defense, would provide our town the trophy to last a half century?

(And counting).

Certainly not Alan Vernon Wieder and his buddy Bruce.

Certainly not the two upstarts that scored tickets days before the game through a radio contest…

The two clowns so semi-cool that they’d once bussed downtown to sit in the audience at the locally produced “Mike Douglas Show”… so sophomoric that, indeed, at the same Douglas taping, one of them rose from the audience, went on camera,  and danced “The Elephant Twist”.

No, it’s a good bet that ‘though we’d treasured that day, from the pre-game hoopla in the stands through the post-game press conference at the old Sheraton Hotel ballroom — it’s a good bet neither of us knew how unique the day was…

How unique it would be.

Dan Marino, quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, went to the Super Bowl in his second season. They lost that game to the 49ers, but I read years later that Marino, years later toward the end of his great career, had regretfully mused that it hadn’t occurred to him early on that he’d never get back to the Super Bowl. The team was good, and he’d just assumed they’d be back.

But they never returned – not in the FIFTEEN more seasons he played   Alas, the Hall Of Famer holds that January 1985 day close to his heart, even now.

Like we do with Sunday, December 27, 1964.

Fifty years ago today.

4 Responses to “FIFTY YEARS ON”

  1. bob snyder says:

    I remember visiting with you and Weed in his basement while you were preparing entries for the contest you were to eventually win. Another great South Euclid Moment in History.

  2. H says:

    Was anybody else in the basement?

  3. Up From Dysfunction says:

    Ed.Note: Hal Bogart was a major part of the work force. Unfortunately, the prize was only two tickets. As such, records reflect that he spent the afternoon of December 27, 1964 in New Philadelphia, Ohio watching the game in black/white with his father. (It had been blacked out in the Cleveland viewing area).

    Further records reflect that during a portion of the night, from approximately 1am to 3 am, the first Dick Lomaz was very helpful. In fact, he walked over from his home in Upper South Euclid, just to assist.

  4. bob snyder says:

    For the record I remember Hal being there but did not want to rub it in that only two tickets were available. I watched the game with my brother and father in a hotel in Erie due to the blackout.

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