Note: Photo taken from Cleveland Municipal Stadium, December 1986, Section 60, Browns vs. Colts.
Thanks to NFL Properties, the Dawg Pound lives on.
Compared to the Rottweiler it used to be, it’s a Shih-Tzu.
In the early 1980s, General Motors unveiled its compact J-car platform, dressed up a Chevrolet Cavalier with options, padded the price tag, and called it a Cadillac Cimarron.
Anyone within even remote range of a driver’s license said “That ain’t no Cadillac.”
And this, the east end zone of Cleveland Browns Stadium, ain’t no Dawg Pound.
Like a generation before him who loathed 'He Whose Name Cannot Be Mentioned before The Move,' Six Points knows better than to call this monstrosity of marketing the Dawg Pound.
As a sop to the designers and builders of Cleveland Browns Stadium, the powers that be let them build a section without regular seating, opting for cheaper benches.
As a sop to an outraged fan base, the “new” Dawg Pound would carry no PSL fees, unlike the rest of the stadium designed by C students at the Walmart College of Architecture.
This ain’t no Cadillac. In fact, the paint is already peeling. Literally.
1. The History:
After Hanford Dixon got done humiliating himself in his rookie year of 1981, the Browns’ secondary began to come together. Dixon and USFL-refugee Frank Minnifield began barking at receivers in training camp after winning their battles.
The entire defensive unit, coached by defensive coordinator Marty Schottenheimer at the time, called themselves the “Dog Defense.” Later, that sobriquet applied only to the secondary.
Yes, “Dog” was spelled the way we north of the Mason-Dixon line tend to spell it.
Around 1984, Greater Cleveland’s now-defunct Fazio’s grocery chain sold posters of the secondary, comprised of the quartet of Dixon, Minnifield, Al Gross and Felix Wright, with four leashed dogs on the steps of Cleveland’s old Federal Courthouse.
The dogs in question were a Doberman pinscher, a Rottweiler, a pit bull, and a white German shepherd. The caption on the poster read “The Last Dogs of Defense.”
The posters sold for about $4 at Fazio’s, and all proceeds went to the Cleveland Food Bank. Six Points once had one. Damn, that thing would probably fetch some sweet coin on eBay now!
Thus, the bleachers, the most affordable section of Cleveland Municipal Stadium placed closest to the field of play, became known as the “Dog Pound.”
Only sometime later, after marketing got its hands on what was a grass-roots phenomenon, did the Southern spelling take over.
At the time, Browns fans, for the most part, called the blue seats on the east side of Cleveland Municipal Stadium “The Pound.”
Six Points had season tickets in the Pound. And you’re no Jack Kennedy.
2. The Tailgates:
Microbrew aficionados who know the history of brewing justly give the Egyptians credit for the first brewing. Give credit to the Germans for perfecting the craft.
The history of tailgating may be parallel.
The first mention of tailgating Six Points ever read was about Minnesota Vikings fans. They would show up early to the parking lots of now-demolished Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington, Minnesota, affectionately known as “The Icebox.”
They would drive their Olds Vista Cruiser, Ford Country Squire and Chevrolet Kingswood station wagons to the lot, drop the tailgate (hence the name), and treat their companions to food and drink.
Minnesota or some other place may have invented tailgating on the NFL level.
Cleveland perfected it.
Back in the day, our crew would drive the biggest, most-rusted Detroit hoopty among us to the Muny lot and set up shop around eight in the morning for a one p.m. kickoff.
Why the biggest hoopty? Well, it could fit the most people, and not even in Cleveland would some of the rustbuckets we had back then be stolen.
Forget the current $25 or so the Muny Lot charges. Then, the cost of parking was around $4.
Up would go the stereo. Out would come the grill. The football would be tossed. No one in the group would walk into Gate E of Cleveland Municipal Stadium without a full belly and a buzz on.
Complete strangers also walked into Gate E the same way after stopping by the hoopty with the grill and multiple coolers.
We’d even make it a point to buy extra food for the homeless.
Before the age of aggressive panhandling, countless pieces of barbecued chicken came from our grills to the needy on Sunday mornings. We’d even give them a beer to wash it down with. Our tailgates may have given them the best meal they had all week.
Now, people drive customized vehicles to the Muny Lot, from rolling couches to motor homes. Then, it was more like someone painting an old Chevy Biscayne white with orange and brown highlights, or my old favorite, a VW Beetle, orange in the first place, adorned with the brown and white striping to look like a rolling Browns helmet.
Buy a car for $200. Carry only liability insurance on it. Get some spray paint most closely resembling Burnt Orange, Pearl White and Seal Brown. You were good to go.
If you wanted to drop that $200 on food and beverage instead, your rusted Impala or New Yorker without the colors was just as welcome.
3. The Neighborhoods:
Much like Cleveland at the time, and Rottweilers to this day, the Pound got a bad rap.
Just like living in Cleveland itself, in a place with an overall reputation for misbehavior, you could find “pockets” of “good neighborhoods,” where you could enjoy yourself and go in peace for far less than the cost of places with better reputations.
Were there fights in the Pound? Of course.
But just like West Park is in Cleveland as much as Glenville and offers a higher quality of life, Section 58 represented an upper-deck quality of fandom at a bleacher price.
Actually, a better quality.
Fans in the Pound knew what they were watching.
So many fans in the cheapest seats in Cleveland Municipal Stadium could call the result of a play by watching formations and shifts that they would put all but the best announcers to shame.
In the years Six Points held season tickets two rows from the field by the northeast pylon of the end zone, where Bernie Kosar loved to hit Webster Slaughter for (ahem!) six points, he never saw a fight.
Granted, that was not the case throughout the Pound. Just like any city or region, there are good parts and bad parts.
Section 58 was one of those enclaves closest to the field.
Sometime after Cleveland Municipal Stadium was erected, an additional ten rows of wooden bleachers were built to give fans proximity to the field beneath the original concrete structure.
Those seats were hidden by the baseball fence in summer.
There was a unique cachet to being in the Pound. Someone else could say “Dad has tickets on the 40, upper deck, and my family has had them since 1946.” You could say “I’m two rows off the field in the Pound,” and trump them.
Granted, when the play was in closer to the west end zone, the sight lines were not good from two rows from the field, but that’s what battery-operated portable TVs were for.
Yes, you could bring the TVs in.
Along with a bunch of other stuff.
4. Smuggler’s Blues:
What in the world would a Six Points edition be without a pop-culture reference?
In the age of the Pound, that song was a hit, but if you were neither blatant nor stupid, you could take almost anything in.
Now, you can’t smoke in most seating bowls of most stadiums in the United States. In the current Cleveland Browns Stadium environment, a few puffs on a Marlboro Red will result in your ejection. In the Pound, tobacco was the least of their worries.
Was the marijuana use rampant and blatant? No, but it was present, along with its use in Municipal Stadium’s lower deck.
Don’t want to pay for overpriced weak beer? Simple. Walk in with a plastic two-liter Coke bottle full of Beck’s Dark. No problem.
The most inventive smuggling in the history of the Pound may have been the dog house.
Painted orange, brown and white to resemble a Browns helmet, it sat in the end zone on top of the hill in front of the Pound for years before security noticed it took six men to carry the dog house in and only two to carry it out.
Every Sunday, the dog house was home to a keg of beer. The men who brought it in had lines running to their seats in Section 60.
On a lesser scale, the Pound was a great dieting aid. Walk in with a beer gut, walk out 30 pounds lighter.
Six Points remembers the most-memorable Browns game he ever attended, the double-OT playoff win against the New York Jets in early 1987.
There was our “Browns Game Antifreeze” drink called Eskimo Cider, prepared on a friend’s West Side range. Eskimo Cider consisted of a 1:2 ratio of 100-proof Yukon Jack to apple cider, served steaming hot with cinnamon sticks.
At the time, Coleman made a cooler called a “Li’l Oscar,” that would fit a six-pack of bottled beer. On that January day, Oscar was filled to the brim with steaming Eskimo Cider.
Oscar survived the RTA Rapid ride from the Madison Avenue station intact.
Security guy from Andy Frain Services asked to look in the cooler upon our entrance to Gate E, took a sniff, and said, “Whoa! Go on in!”
Further proof that the Dawg Pound has been neutered is not necessary.
Time for Six Points to throw something else out there.
5. Project Projectile:
Six Points remembers a lot of stuff being thrown out of the Pound.
In fact, it was even tacitly encouraged at one point.
Former Browns PR man Kevin Byrne, who went to work with He Whose Name Shall Not Be Mentioned in Baltimore in the same capacity, once said “The east end zone has a decidedly Milk-Bone feel.”
Denizens of the Dawg Pound would buy Milk-Bone dog biscuits to throw at opposing players backed up to that end zone.
Fans in the Pound were far more accurate than either Derek Anderson or Brady Quinn.
If all dogs go to Heaven, I owe Tasha, my family’s old mix of black Lab and Newfoundland, a huge apology if I ever meet her there.
Odds are, I’m going to the other place.
Milk-Bones used to come in small, medium, large and giant sizes, and she would get shortchanged every other Sunday when she only got half of the box before the game.
Nothing more need be said, except she was big enough to rate “Giant.”
Milk-Bones were not the only items flying out of the Pound.
Add D-Cell batteries, ice balls, and Heaven knows what else to the list.
In 1989, Six Points was two rows from the field when a barrage of Milk-Bones and Duracells peppered the hated John Elway.
The incessant barrage compelled the officials to switch ends of the field and assess a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Cleveland.
In the 1987 playoff game against the Jets, an ice ball hit the side judge squarely in the back after a questionable call.
What was the ultimate projectile from the Pound?
In Tom Landry’s last year as Dallas Cowboys head coach, Dallas tight end Trevor Burbage caught a meaningless, garbage-time touchdown two Sundays after Thanksgiving. Burbage, showing far more bravado than wisdom, made the mistake of taunting the Pound when the game was already a done deal in favor of Cleveland.
From a few rows behind Six Points came a half-eaten turkey drumstick that nailed Burbage squarely on his helmet.
That is completely Cleveland.
Small family cooks huge bird, and eats from their freezer until Christmas.
Six Points, at this point, must issue a disclaimer. He never threw any of those things back then, and does not condone it.
But Six Points also has to laugh, while tears form over the Pound never being the same again.
The TSA and Homeland Security are a barrel of laughs compared to the security at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
6. When Ya Gotta Go:
Well, ya gotta go.
Cleveland Municipal Stadium was known for its 1931-vintage horse-trough urinals. When a patron had to release his beverage of choice, privacy and dignity were out of the question.
In the days of the Pound, wearing another team’s gear there was decidedly unwise, especially if that team’s colors resembled soot and urine.
One year, when the Steelers came to town, some unfortunate soul in Burgh gear got liquored up to the point of passing out. Maybe his state of unconsciousness was encouraged by someone else in the Pound. Nonetheless, there he was, passed out on his back in one of Municipal Stadium’s infamous horse-trough urinals.
Well, when ya gotta go, ya gotta go. Enough said.
Extra Point: Equilibrium, Please!
First, Six Points looks back at his days in the Pound and wonders how all of that could have happened.
Sportsmanship was completely out of the question back then.
Yes, the behavior was completely out of control.
As individuals and a nation, we seek balance in our lives.
Balance between work and life. Balance between tasks and play.
Balance between political left and right.
When Corporate America and a nanny state get in the way, those symbiotic entities seek to control, rather than to encourage.
How is it OK to get trashed on $8 beers in Cleveland Browns Stadium and not OK to save some coin and bring your own in and walk out of the game sober?
The Pound, as we called it, was an example of complete and total excess.
But in my years in Section 58, I met some of the greatest people I had ever met from many walks of life, and lived every other Sunday afternoon in autumn for years in a place where complete strangers would embrace after a victory like a scene from a World War II newsreel.
We need to arrive at a place somewhere between flying D-cells and airport-level security.
Six Points does not exactly know where that place is, but he can make some suggestions.
The first one is to recognize that people actually want to have fun at football games.
Six Points may have been at some games well over the legal limit for DUI/OVI in Ohio, but he never swung a fist or threw a projectile.
Nor did he urinate on that unfortunate Steelers fan.
But if you treat him like a criminal, you won’t see him in your stadium.
Finally, thanks to the Bleacher Report community for making the last Six Points the most popular ever, with over 2,000 reads and counting.
All Six Points can do is keep the quality at a high level, and that is my aim.