CLEVELAND, Ohio – When the NFL’s first Monday Night Football game aired in September 1970, Dave Clary was 14.
Clary, 63, started his life as a Green Bay Packers fan, following the lead of his father, who was a fan of legendary coach Vince Lombardi.
But when Clary watched the Browns face the New York Jets, he switched his fan allegiance permanently. As his fandom changed, he watched Leroy Kelly and Bill Nelsen star on the Browns. Though they weren’t successful for a majority of the 1970s, Clary didn’t have to wait long for some of the franchise’s most exciting seasons.
“It was right after the Jim Brown era, but they were still a real respectable team,” Clary said. “And then of course, I moved here in Cleveland in ’79, and then it was Kardiac Kids.”
A native of Strongsville, Clary grew up around Sandusky and attended Margaretta High School. He currently works in IT with Logicalis, and he and his wife, Elizabeth, will have been married for 37 years in April. They have a son and two daughters.
The Kardiac Kids era produced a moment Clary still reminisces about. The group Elliott, Walter & Bennett sang the song, “The Twelve Days of a Cleveland Brown Christmas.” The song was about the franchise’s 1980 squad, as the Browns made the playoffs for the first time since the 1972 season.
“First day of Christmas, Art Modell gave to me, a Sam Rutigliano Super Bowl team,” Clary said, proving he recalls those lyrics.
He attended the infamous Red Right 88 playoff game in 1981, where he recalls below-zero temperatures and some Dawg Pound fans going shirtless.
During high school, Clary had another memorable experience. Browns kicker Don Cockroft visited Clary’s school in 1973. He spoke with students after school hours, and his visit was for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
Cockroft played 13 seasons for the Browns from 1968-80, and he’s third in franchise history in made field goals.
“It was a very nice talk,” Clary said. “He talked about his college career and how being faith-based helped him through some tough spots. His career as a kicker, you miss one, lose the game, you feel terrible. You gotta have faith in you’ll do it the next time.”
As like many Browns fans, Clary needed plenty of faith and hope after the team moved to Baltimore.
“And the saddest part of course was the last home game, when they were tearing the bleacher seats out of the stadium and all that stuff,” Clary said. “A buddy of mine still has a section of the bleachers in his basement.”
A passionate Browns fan, Clary goes to games about four times a year. He especially likes the excitement of the home opener, a game he’s gone to three times.
The slate is clean for every team at the start of the season, and with the weather usually nice, there’s nothing but enthusiasm in the air.
“First game of the season, everybody’s 0-0,” Clary said. “It’s September, it’s sunny. It’s usually 80 degrees in Cleveland. You get a nice breeze off the lake. That’s the most electricity.”