CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Browns have one of the National Football League’s most loyal and passionate fan bases, with followers around the country and around the world. Browns fans have watched teams that have won championships, recorded winless seasons and everything in between.
In the spring, we asked you to tell us “Why I’m a Browns Fan.” More than 600 of you responded. Today, we’ll share another one of your stories as we near the halfway point of the 2019 season. The Browns are 2-4 and are on a bye week heading into Sunday.
The authors of these essays have one thing in common: their love for the Browns.
By the time we’re through, we plan to tell all your stories.
Today’s fan is Dave Skeel, who lives in Pittsburgh with his wife of 44 years, Valerie.
Who is he?
Skeel, 71, grew up in Meadville, Pa., which is about an hour and a half drive to Pittsburgh. In September 1970, he moved to Pittsburgh for a job with Consolidated Natural Gas.
The company officially merged with what was formerly known as Dominion Resources in 2000. Skeel stayed on with Dominion for eight more years after the merger and retired from the company in January 2008.
Skeel met Valerie in Pittsburgh during 1972. She is the daughter of the late Leo “Ducky” Elter, a Pro Bowl running back in the 1950s who played with the Steelers and the Redskins. Skeel and Valerie, 65, have three sons aged 43, 41 and 38.
Growing up with the Browns
When Skeel was growing up in Meadville, his town was one of the first rural areas to have cable installed. The cable setup provided Skeel with all three Cleveland channels, and he was able to watch most Browns games.
Skeel wrote in his submission that he was “hooked for life” when he first saw Jim Brown. At 16 years old, Skeel watched the Browns win the 1964 NFL Championship alone at home.
Throughout his childhood and into his formative years, Skeel was almost guaranteed to see a Browns game.
But when he moved to Pittsburgh in 1970, his access to the Browns changed.
Skeel wasn’t able to get any of the Cleveland channels, but he still figured out a way to watch the Browns.
“There were a few other channels that you could pick up with rabbit ears and some other hardware, and you might pick up a Wheeling (West Virginia) station, and on rare occasions a Youngstown, and believe it or not, Johnstown, Pa.,” Skeel said.
“And depending on how the games were lining up on television, also when you factor in whether things were sold out or not, I would go to great extremes to watch a Browns game on a natural rabbit ear signal with snow. Almost like the old black and white snow back in the ’70s and even into the ’80s.”
As Skeel’s access to the Browns changed, so did the team’s winning ways. After they won the championship in 1964, the Browns lost the championship against the Green Bay Packers in 1966. For five seasons in the 1970s, the Browns were either .500 or had a losing record.
But during the 1979 and 1980 seasons, quarterback Brian Sipe led the Kardiac Kids squads, the Browns teams that were good at making comebacks.
“Those games in the Sipe years were just exciting because of their propensity to pull it out at the end,” Skeel said. “Not too long after that, Kosar came along, so the ’80s overall were a good decade compared to the ’70s.”
The Kosar-led teams of the 1980s were some of Skeel’s favorites. Marty Schottenheimer coached the team from 1984-1988, and during that span the Browns had three winning seasons, including consecutive trips to the AFC Championship game in 1987 and 1988, where they lost to the Denver Broncos.
Skeel remembers going to the Steelers’ old Three Rivers Stadium in 1986, where he saw the Browns end their infamous Three Rivers jinx.
The Browns had lost 16 straight games at the Steelers’ stadium, but on Oct. 5, 1986, Kosar and the Browns ended the streak. Kosar led them to a win, throwing for 186 yards and a touchdown.
“They won 27-24,” Skeel said. “But that team as well as the disappointments of the two Broncos games, — they still had my passion ranking right up there with the ’64 championship team.”