Newspaper article International New York Times

Glory Only a Memory in Cleveland

Newspaper article International New York Times

Glory Only a Memory in Cleveland

Article excerpt

Cleveland had a chance to beat Baltimore and to simultaneously shift some of the focus off the troubles of the Ravens and the N.F.L., but it was not to be.

The Cleveland Browns, a proud but forlorn N.F.L. franchise, had hoped to provide fans with a signal that positive change was on the way for a team -- and a city -- that has not won a major professional championship in any sport in 50 years.

To celebrate what they hoped would be a landmark day, the Browns brought back members of their last two championship teams: the 1954 squad, coached by Paul Brown, and the 1964 team, coached by Blanton Collier and featuring Jim Brown. The 78-year-old Brown was among several former players who were paraded on the field at halftime and celebrated with videos and proclamations.

Walter Beach, a starting left cornerback on the 1964 team, which beat the Baltimore Colts, 27-0, for the N.F.L. title, called the ceremony "a very inspirational moment for me."

"The reunion had very little to do with football and a great deal to do with friendships -- it was so meaningful to renew old friendships," Beach said.

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon, on a day of celebration, Browns fans were primed for a happy ending that might signal a new beginning.

Instead, a field-goal attempt bounced off a goal post, a crowd- pleasing trick play to Johnny Manziel that gained 39 yards was nullified by a penalty, and the Browns repeatedly turned golden opportunities into mud in a 23-21 loss to another team from Baltimore, the Ravens, who won on a 32-yard field goal as time expired.

"I put this one on me," said Coach Mike Pettine, whose team fell to 1-2. "We didn't coach well enough to win today."

Quarterback Brian Hoyer -- who was born in nearby North Olmsted, grew up a Browns fan and attended the team's final game at Municipal Stadium in 1995, when he was 10 -- said the loss was even tougher to take than a close one against the Steelers, the Browns' biggest rival, "because it's in front of our home crowd."

"They were in it the whole game until the very end," Hoyer said of the fans. "It's disappointing."

He said the loss would stick with his teammates, too.

"Because we don't play next Sunday, this will hang with us a little bit longer," Hoyer said. "We have no one to blame but ourselves, and that's what hurts the most."

This game had significance for the Ravens, too, and for the league, which could have used a feel-good moment after one of its roughest weeks in memory.

Had N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell allowed his initial two- game suspension of Ray Rice to stand, this game would have been Rice's season debut with Baltimore. Instead, the release of video showing Rice knocking out his fiancee ultimately led to his release by the team and indefinite suspension by the league. The N.F.L., and Goodell in particular, faced harsh criticism for their initial handling of the episode. …

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