So I decided that night I was never going to have a Seahawks game forced upon me. So it was then that I decided to place an ad in the Oregonian. So there it began. Calls came in, and I recall the first, John Seifert, a Portlander never to Cleveland yet a Browns fan (I recall John finding a Browns fan because John subscribed to the Browns News Illustrated, and by accident the post office had another subscribers copy inside John's, so John took the copy of BNI, to Tony Doody, and it was things like that, that allowed our club to grow.)
I thought I might have not started the most avid of clubs. But as the days went by calls came in, One here, two there, and then after the fifth ad, came a call from Scott Lynn. Local TV sports guy, and was on KEX doing a sportstalk show. Oddly enough the only person to call from my appearance of that show, was C. David Hall. More on Dave later. So as the numbers came in with a few calls every week, I also placed an ad in The Browns News Illustrated, and it seemed to be steamrolling.
As the season neared, and my negotiations on a bar, led me to Sinnott's on 57th and Halsey. It was a small place, yet large enough I thought for our meager needs. Was I wrong. That first game we packed the place. People had heard by word of mouth, and there were close to fifty people that first game. We had people coming from as far away as the Seattle and Eugene areas to watch the game.
Little did we know, that first game was also pretty much the beginning of the end for a native son and fan favorite. That first game, Bernie went down, and on came the Danielson's and Strock's to lead the way. Week one went well, with the club, but on the field not so. Week two took a turn for the club. Back in the day, you had to have those huge screen mesh dishes for your satelite, and with it, you had to know what transponder you had to point the dish to. With week two we were not able to get the game and in that event, the panic began.
Pat Ludwa, who ended up assisting me with the publication of a weekly newsletter, saw a place out by where he resided, in Gresham, Puff's Pub became our home from week three on. Pat who did the newsletter would have the newsletter done by Wednesday morning, and I would go out, pick it up, go to Kinko's after work on Wednesdays, usually at 10pm, in time to go downtown Portland and drop them in the mail so they could get to the members before the games each week with updates and assuring viewing would happen.
Puff's Pub, became a solid club location, with enough room, opening early and making us a priority. I recall one time when there was an issue of reception, and one of our members in Hillsboro had the game, so I had him record it, members lingered, not hearing the scores....easier to do in 1988....raced back at halftime with a tape of the first half....80% remained...a bit drunker....and we watched the first half....and in a rare order for Radio Cab....we had them bring the second half tape to the club, passed the hat and I think the cabbie got a $100 tip that day. Every week I would call Vern, aka Charlie Chan the satellite man and he would give me the coordinates and the game would appear.
Puff's was a place where we did our most successful fundraiser of raising 2,000 pounds of dog food for the Humane Society. Puff's was a place where the club grew swiftly. With the local TV stations taking turns covering those crazed Browns fans meeting at a local bar, the Oregonian came out and did an occasional story. In fact, the picture that graced our 25th anniversary orange club shirt of a year ago, was at the clubs most intense growth, and the 180 people on the front of that shirt.(Since 1998 we have lost a few members to the Dawg pound in the Sky, President's and friends, and rather than omit some I just want to say we miss you all, and appreciate the hard work, loyalty and passion you took in building this club.)
In the years that progressed Dave Hall and myself would eventually team up and form a Sports Talk duo that for 10 years promoted the Backer Club to the degree fans of other clubs would call and ask about our club and how to begin theirs. Not only locally but also in other areas, local we had calls from Packers, Bears, and many others to the degree where there was a flag football league formed with 8 teams, sponsorship from Pepsi to pay for officials and rent a field, and also get the leagues scores printed in the Oregonian. Duane DiCola was President then and did a fantastic job with forming that league. I got calls from Boise Idaho from Jim Gajdos who wanted to know how to start their club and it now is in it's 20th + year as a backer club.
As far as fundraising went, we ended up having a unique one, when the Browns played the Cowboys - HOFer, and former Duck player and Dallas Cowboy, Mel Renfro graced us with an appearance that we had a donation for those who wanted an autographed picture of Mel, and the monies raised Mel donated to the Boys and Girls Club.
One of the bigger events we did was when we had a trip to Seattle for a Browns game. It was the National Browns Backers convention and Browns fans and Backers from all over the country came to party and meet each other. Eric Metcalf's family was there as were some former players who found their way to Seattle to join in on all the fun. The down side was that it was the first game, without Bernie on the team, and oddly enough there was a guy in a Browns #19 jersey who looked like a Bernie clone.
So there you go a little history, and little silliness, and a lot of passion from the best, most loyal, and true fans in all of the NFL.
In our time we have not always stayed in the same place, with a total of 11 different locations, it appears we may have found a home that will be home for us for a long time.
So again, a big hand and round of applause to all who have shown their passion and helped make this club what it is.
Portland Browns Backers, President & Founder