Mad Dawgs, Noonday Sun
By M. Wilson
Sep 12, 2002, 10:50

This time it's not Art Modell's fault.The dog business goes back to 1982 when Hanford Dixon, the All-Pro cornerback, became part of the Browns football team and showed his fellow defensive line teammates his particular way of attempting to stir and inspire them on the field: He barked at them like a dog. Soon his buddy, cornerback Frank Minnifield, was barking as well -- now their canine fury was directed at the opponent team. Of course, dog see, dog do: Fans in the stands began barking whenever Dixon or Minnifield did their stuff (no pun intended) on the field. A section of stadium seating was titled "the Dawg House" because these especially vocal fans tended to congregate in the cheaper bench seats. Cleveland fans cannot leave a thing alone, either. Thereafter, dog biscuits appeared at games, at least once unfortunately becoming projectiles aimed at the opposing team (Cleveland sometimes likes to throw things onto the field, like plastic bottles) and the Dawg House fans began bringing an entire wooden dog house into the stadium, to every game. The bulldog logo and mascot grew from what Dixon started. Previously, the team name did not refer to dogs; the team was named after Paul Brown, the original head coach who began with the original Browns in 1946. It was actually against Coach Brown's wishes, since he didn't think it was right to name the team after himself. A contest in the newspaper chose the name the Panthers, if it could not be the Browns, but it was found that name was still owned by Cleveland's semi-pro team the Panthers, who played in the 1920s. So the Browns they became. Prior to the dog logo, a logo that sometimes appeared in team advertising was -- oddly -- a Brownie pixie. Dixon's enthusiasm gave the Browns a much-needed image of male strength, drive and tenacity. The dog depicted became a brown bulldog or boxer, fighting dogs. Cleveland Stadium became fondly known as The Dawg Pound, where the Dawgs lived. Browns owner Art Modell copyrighted the name "The Dawg Pound," and when he moved the team in 1996 to Baltimore, this was another hurt Cleveland fans complained of in their tidal wave of anger. Cleveland, who might have built an expansion team out of dirty street toughs if they'd had to, came up with a new team in 3 years. During the hiatus, fans expressed their upset in interesting ways. For instance, milk cartons appeared with side panels proclaiming the football team "missing," like abducted children. The Cleveland Kennel Club, whose bulldogs had often appeared in support of the Browns, swore they were dedicated to developing a football logo which neither Modell nor the NFL could interfere with. But the city has its dogs back.

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