Dawg Bound

It's hard to love the Browns. But it's almost as hard to hate them. That's why Jonathan Knight's The Browns Bible (Kent State University Press, $55) is essential to keeping the faith. Here are the top five tidbits we learned from the tome, which is packed with game-by-game records, and brown and orange stats.

1 The first game pitting the Cleveland Browns against the Pittsburgh Steelers wasn't on the gridiron. It wasn't even in the right sport. Prior to their 1950 showdown when Cleveland joined the NFL, the Browns played the Steelers in an exhibition basketball game Feb. 2, 1947. Surprisingly, Pittsburgh lost 37-29.

2 The holidays aren't a happy time for the Browns. They're particularly unlucky on Christmas Eve, going 2-7. To dump more moisture on the holiday parade, they're 0-26-1 on Labor Day.

3 During the NFL players' strike in 1987, Cleveland and the rest of the league fielded squads of replacements players. The Browns, mockingly dubbed the "Tans" (because it wasn't Bernie Kosar, Kevin Mack and the other stars on strike), went 2-1, setting the team up for an AFC Central title when they returned.

4 The Browns' highest-attended road game wasn't even against an NFL team. The College All-Star Game, in which the Browns faced the best college players, drew 92,180 to Chicago's Soldier Field Aug. 17, 1951. The Browns clobbered the all-stars 33-0.

5 Despite the city's other sports teams, the Browns are still king. There have been 64 home games with more than 80,000 people attending. That's more than eight times the population of downtown Cleveland in one place, at one time.

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