Strike up the band
The speed with which the Cleveland Browns ended up in this city has stunned John Ziemann, the president of the Baltimore Colts' Band. "I expected it to be a slow, long process that you watch. Then, the next thing you know, we have a football team on us," he said.
"I never thought it would be the Browns. Never. But we're getting a first-class organization, one of the best in the NFL, with first-class owners."
Like so many other people in Baltimore, he feels badly for the fans in Cleveland. "I know what they're going through. I cried, too [when the Colts left]. But on the other hand, I personally blame the politicians," he said.
"We did 30 NFL halftime shows when no team was here and eight were for the Modells. They kept inviting us back, and they always sent us a beautiful thank-you letter that said, 'See you next year.' Never have we been so warmly treated. But even then, you would read in the papers where he was asking for help with the stadium, and what happens? They build Jacobs Field. He asks for help, and they build a new arena for the [NBA] Cavaliers. He asks for help, and they build the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Can you blame the man? He gave them enough warning, enough chances."
Will the Colts band become the Browns band? "The Modells have bigger fish to fry right now than worry about us. But we definitely want to sit down and talk to the Browns when they feel it's time," he said.
"As usual, we're still in motion. Right now we're working with [Baltimore Stallions owner Jim Speros]. He's been excellent to us, and we're trying to get him to the Grey Cup. We'll take it day-by-day." For Rick Venturi, the Browns' move to Baltimore completes a circuitous route. He was a coach on the team that left Baltimore in 1984, and he's a coach on the team that will bring the NFL back next season.
Venturi is in his second year as defensive coordinator for the Browns. He coached the Colts' linebackers in 1983, and later became head coach when the team was in Indianapolis.
"It's really a full loop," Venturi said yesterday. "I really enjoyed Cleveland my two years here. And I really enjoyed Baltimore when I was there."
Browns fans seeing red
Browns fans in Cleveland vented their anger again yesterday when local TV stations carried live the news conference announcing the move. In a bar at Tower City in downtown Cleveland, a group of 10 sat attentively, eyes riveted to the screen, as Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening made a speech.
When Browns owner Art Modell finally took the podium, though, the emotion spilled out.
"You piece of garbage," one man yelled. "You ain't taking that name, Art," another shouted.
When Modell said he was leaving a piece of his heart in Cleveland, one man added, "Not his wallet, though."
Tradition gone for Kelly
Hall of Famer Leroy Kelly, a Browns running back from 1964 to 1973 and a Morgan State graduate, said he was "depressed" about news of the team's move to Baltimore.
"Man, I'm sick. I was just up in Cleveland for the game [Sunday]," said Kelly, who now lives in Willingboro, N.J. "It takes a lot out of you, I feel like the tradition is gone. I'll always be a Cleveland Brown. All my memories will be there."
Business as usual
On a day when die-hard Browns fans mourned, it was business as usual for the players.
Hardly anyone reminisced about the Browns' storied 50-year tradition in the antiquated stadium on the lakefront. They weren't moved by tales of the Kardiac Kids or the Dawg Pound.
There was a prevailing air of indifference. It seemed not to matter whether they are the Cleveland Browns or the Baltimore Browns.
The bottom line, several players said, is job security.
"We're paid to play wherever that might be," tight end Harold Bishop said.
"The fans are going to be against us," receiver Derrick Alexander said. "But we have to go where the owner goes.
"This is our job. If the job moves, we have to move."