Sunday, August 17, 2008

Brown pants and my lifelong obsession with the Browns uniforms
What would be a dream job?

Well, I'm a sports writer, so many assume it would be to hold that position for a big paper and write stories about my favorite sports team -- the Browns.

Or I could be a play-by-play man for the Indians or the Reds.

Then again, maybe I could be an actor who never has to show up for rehersals and hit every scene in one take.

Or a musician who travels around with an acoustic guitar, stuns the locals and has a mysterious charisma.

No, my dream job is a simple one:

I want to be the one to pick out what the Browns wear for home games.

Despite constant searches on the Internet, I have never been able to figure out which member of an NFL franchise chooses what color uniform a team wears at home. But whomever it is must have clout, because they get everyone to go along with it.

There's more to this, though. It dates back to when I first started watching the Browns in 1985.

Between 1985-1988, the Browns always wore white uniforms at home. White tops, white pants. A classic look to be sure, but as a kid, I was always fascinated by the brown tops, which during that period showed up maybe once a year.

Most teams wear color tops at home, which meant the Browns wore white almost all the time.

In 1986, the Browns played 18 games (two playoff games), never once donning brown.

So the brown uniform came to be something of a white (or is it brown?) whale for me. When the Browns played road games against Phoenix and Washington in 1988, they wore brown, which was a big moment for me -- I was eight, remember.

By 1989, the Browns started wearing brown at home -- five times in 1989 and four times in 1990. By the time Bill Belichick arrived in 1991, the Browns were wearing the dark uniforms for every home game.

With the exception of two seasons, (the Browns wore white at home for all their games in 1995 and for all but one in 2001) Cleveland has normally worn brown at home.

Of course, I was thrilled when the Browns started wearing orange pants for select games from 2003-2004, because it was a nod to the Kardiac Kids, which I was not old enough to remember.

For the record, I hated the orange jerseys. Is there anything less inspiring than running out on the field and reminding opponents of the 1988 Buccaneers?

But for the last few years, the Browns have been about tradition -- pumpkin orange helmets, white pants, brown jerseys at home. The only alternate is a "throwback uniform," which has numbers on the helmets and slight differences.

But today, the Browns are going with a major change.

I remember getting a call last year from Phil Prusa, who was complaining about his Madden '08 video game.

"For some reason," he told me, "the Browns are wearing brown pants with their white tops."

The Browns have never worn brown pants, ever. But I did a little research, and discovered that, indeed, the Browns had ordered brown pants, but had never worn them.

Now, aside from being a good waste of a few hundred (or thousand?) dollars, the pants would probably annoy about 80 percent of the team's fans, who refuse to accept any change from tradition. Maybe this is why the team kept the pants in the equipment room.

Until tonight, in a preseason game against the Giants.

I am willing to bet the pants will be the talk of the town Tuesday morning. Nothing that can happen in the game will overshadow the pants. As passionate as the fans are about the Browns, they only are slightly less so about the uniforms.

I'm willing to take a wait and see approach here. As long as the Browns don't come out looking like the Redskins, it'll be OK, at least for a one-shot deal in the preseason.

Oh, and if I were annointed my dream job this season, here's what it would look like:

Sept. 7 against the Cowboys:
White tops, white pants, for the (supposed) heat.

Sept. 14 against the Steelers:
White tops, orange pants ... anything to change the luck against that team. The last time the Browns beat Pittsburgh, it was a Sunday night game in 2003, and Cleveland wore orange pants. This is also a Sunday night game.

Oct. 13 against the Giants:
White tops, white pants. The Giants are a wonderful road team; put them in their home jerseys.

Nov. 2 against the Ravens
Brown tops, white pants. Good time to break out the brown, since it should be cooler.

Nov. 6 against the Broncos
Brown tops, white pants, but use the throwback 50s uniform with the numbers on the helmet. The Browns have always struggled against the Broncos in the modern uniforms.

Nov. 23 against the Texans
Brown tops, orange pants. Good time to bring that look back for a week.

Nov. 30 against the Colts
Brown tops, white pants.

Dec. 21 against the Bengals
Brown tops, brown pants, just for the hell of it.

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At 10:00 AM , Anonymous Erik said...

How did you find the number of times the Browns wore the dark tops in '89 and '90? Is there a database where you can access what team wore what uni and when?

Technically, dark tops are supposed to be home tops and white are supposed to be road. But home/road unis aren't enforced in the NFL the way they are in MLB and the NBA.

I would guess the home team gets the right of first refusal, which would explain why the Browns wore all white for the entire '86 and '87 seasons. It would also explain why the Cowboys wear their white tops about 90 percent of the time, home or road.

The worst uniform experiment for the Browns had to be the orange tops from 2002-04. Curiously, the tops seem to have sold pretty well. You can't go to a Browns game or practice without seeing at least one orange Dennis Northcutt or Tim Couch jersey.

I have no problems with the orange pants, even though they're a product of disco-era fashion sensibilities, like the 1978-80 San Diego Padres unis or the Astros of the same era. The orange bottoms have probably run their course.

The Brown pants might catch on, but no matter how many wrinkles the Browns try to throw into their uniforms, they always seem to come back to white pants, white and brown jerseys and black shoes. You just can't mess with an original, I guess.

At 3:55 PM , Blogger Zach said...

It's all in my head, Erik.

Some people remember calculus. Some military secrets. I remember football uniforms.

Ask me any Browns game between 1986and today, and I can give you the combo.

For instance, in '87, the Browns wore brown tops once, in a game against the Patriots. Of course, it was during the strike, with picket players and a crowd of about 14,000 at Foxborogh.

NBA and MLB rules are getting lax. The Indians occasionally sport blue at home, and the Cavs have worn wine, navy and orange at the Q.


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