Debra Darnall came to the Dawg Pound late.
"I wasn't in the Dawg Pound before the Browns left," says Darnall, who most fans know better as her alter ego, the BoneLady. "But I've always looked up to the ones who were there before."
It began with cornerback Hanford Dixon barking to motivate teammates during training camp in 1985. ("The quarterback is the cat and you guys are the dog, so we're gonna bark at you and let's get it going," Dixon told us for our 40th anniversary issue.) The fans picked it up immediately.
"It just happened organically, and that's when things are the best," Darnall recalls. "It goes beyond football. It's more how a city feels about itself. Not all cities that have NFL teams feel this way."
It's something that has endured beyond Dixon, beyond Cleveland Municipal Stadium, beyond our years without football. "It became our identity," Darnall says. "We are the Cleveland Browns. And that's just the way it is. It's a way of life here. ... I hope people don't forget about the tradition, because you need to know where you have been to know where you are going."
The Dawk Pound was just a pup when the Browns defeated the Colts in the 1987-88 playoffs.