CLEVELAND — No person, a minimum of nonetheless dwelling, is aware of for positive how Brownie the Elf got here to be the primary official mascot of the Cleveland Browns some 76 years in the past.
But one truth is definite: It was Artwork Modell who put the elf on the shelf after shopping for the staff in 1961.
“My first official act as proprietor of the Browns,” Modell instructed newspaper reporters on the time, “can be to eliminate that little f—er.”
Brownie is again — and greater than ever.
Topping a preseason on-line fan vote, Brownie has returned as the team’s midfield logo, an outsized rendition of his unique mysterious look previous Cleveland’s inaugural season in 1946.
The newest caricature of Brownie spans the 45-yard traces horizontally, exceeds the hashmarks vertically, and will be simply noticed from airplanes passing overhead.
— Discipline Yates (@FieldYates) September 13, 2022
And should you’re bemused about Brownie’s existence as an NFL mascot, effectively, you are not alone.
“I do not know what to consider it,” Cleveland pass-rusher Myles Garrett stated. “It is unique, it is distinctive. However I’ve all the time been extra of a fan of the canine. I imply, we are the Dawg Pound, however we have got an elf?
“I feel we’re a bit bit confused on what route we wish to go creatively.”
One of the most inexplicable losses in franchise history sullied Brownie’s grandiloquent midfield debut on Sunday. Cleveland turned the primary staff in 21 years to blow a 13-point lead within the remaining two minutes. With 1:55 to play, the New York Jets scored a 66-yard landing, recovered an onside kick, then scored one other landing to stun the Browns, 31-30. In one other fan poll through 850 ESPN Cleveland, greater than 5% of voters really blamed Brownie for the defeat.
Brownie is perhaps 0-1 as Cleveland’s midfield emblem heading into Thursday night time’s conflict with the Pittsburgh Steelers (8:15 p.m. ET, Prime Video). However greater than seven a long time in the past, Brownie was the boyish face of professional soccer’s most dominant dynasty. So prolific, he very almost as soon as turned the brand on the helmet.
THE LEGEND OF the Brownies started in Britain and dates again to a minimum of the early sixteenth century. In keeping with John T. Kruse, an creator and blogger of British fairy lore, the primary printed reference to the Brownies got here in 1522.
“He is a small, furry … creature that lives in homes and farms with individuals,” Kruse instructed ESPN of the legendary beings. “He undertakes a spread of home and agricultural chores on the understanding that he will get free board and lodging from the people.”
As Brownie The Elf re-debuts onto the sector for @Browns dwelling video games, we glance again on the first time Brownie debuted.
It was the day the Browns performed the primary sport in staff historical past. pic.twitter.com/5l9UaOhcDT
— Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) September 18, 2022
Regardless of their diligence, Brownies will be fairly finicky.
Kruse famous that Brownies admire milk and contemporary bread being not noted for them at night time. However they detest being spied on, whether or not working or consuming. They usually particularly despise each compliments and criticisms.
“Any present of garments actually antagonizes him. It is seen as an insult or some type of subjection,” Kruse stated. “The same old results of that is that he’ll undo all the things he is carried out, make a multitude in the home, then go away eternally.”
The Dobby character in J.Ok. Rowling’s Harry Potter books is derived from the Brownie legend, which started to floor in America within the early twentieth Century. In 1916, the Woman Scouts, referencing the identical Brownie legend, began calling their members ages 7-9 “Brownies,” taken from the story “The Brownies and Different Tales” by Juliana Horatia Ewing, which was initially printed in 1870.
In 1929, the Atlas Beverage Firm in Detroit started producing a Brownie caramel cream root beer, whose bottles have been adorned with an elf. The corporate quickly put an indication promoting the soda on the aspect of a constructing in downtown Massillon, Ohio.
Off that, so the story goes, Brownie the Elf was born.
BEFORE PAUL BROWN was successful NFL titles as coach of the Cleveland Browns, he was stacking state championships at Massillon Excessive College.
Going into his remaining season at Massillon in 1940, Brown commissioned a neighborhood artist, A.D. Small, with making a emblem for the Tigers — Obie (which stands for orange and black, Massillon’s colours).
After serving within the U.S. Navy throughout World Struggle II, Brown was employed to teach Cleveland’s new professional soccer franchise. Proprietor Mickey McBride and the staff held a fan contest to find out the nickname. “Browns” was the successful submission, in honor of the primary coach. Brown initially vetoed it. One other submission — the “Panthers” — was chosen as an alternative, till a neighborhood businessman knowledgeable the staff that he owned the rights to “Cleveland Panthers.” Brown lastly relented on the title “Browns.”
Subsequent, the staff wanted a emblem.
“However what does ‘Browns’ symbolize?” stated Browns historian Barry Shuck, who’s been pursuing the Brownie the Elf origin story for years. “Mud? A dessert? Canine poop?”
Did Brown provide you with the thought for Brownie the Elf from that root beer check in Massillon? And did he, once more, have Small produce the drawing?
“In the event you take a look at Obie and also you take a look at Brownie, it is the identical character,” stated Shuck, who additionally writes for the Browns website DawgsByNature.com. “They’re each working. They each received a stiff arm. They’re each sporting a hat.”
The Cleveland-area newspapers made no point out of Brownie till he appeared in an advert selling ticket gross sales days earlier than the Browns’ first sport towards the Miami Seahawks in 1946.
Steve King, a longtime sportswriter in Northeast Ohio who subsequently labored for the Browns from 2004-13, has additionally spent years digging into Brownie the Elf’s conception. He even as soon as requested Paul Brown’s son, Cincinnati Bengals proprietor Mike Brown, if he knew the place Brownie got here from (Mike Brown did not).
But by means of his analysis, King got here to the identical conclusion as Shuck.
“I am positive I’ve gotten as shut as anybody was going to get,” King stated. “The reality is buried in a cemetery someplace — and I do not know the place. … however the thriller of Brownie is what makes it so cool.”
PROPELLED BY PAUL BROWN, Otto Graham, Lou Groza and, sure, Brownie the Elf, the Cleveland Browns gained 4 consecutive All-America Soccer Convention titles from 1946-49.
Tommy Flynn, an assistant tools supervisor, would gown up like Brownie on sport days and emulate Brown on the sidelines.
“If Paul Brown threw his arms up, Tommy Flynn would throw his arms up,” Shuck stated. “If Paul Brown took his hat off and slammed it on the bottom, Tommy Flynn would take his hat off and slam it on the bottom.”
Flynn’s antics went away when the Browns joined the NFL in 1950. However Brownie the Elf and Cleveland’s successful methods remained. The Browns gained one other championship of their first season within the NFL.
By 1953, Brown wished to showcase Brownie much more. He tasked Browns coach Leo Murphy with placing the Brownie emblem on one in every of Cleveland’s orange helmets to see what it will appear like.
“Leo lastly will get it carried out and he is all proud,” King stated. “He walks in Paul Brown’s workplace [and] units it on his desk. However Brown took one take a look at it and stated, ‘I do not prefer it. Take it away.'”
Many years later, King was visiting Murphy’s home in Medina, Ohio, when Murphy stated he had a secret to indicate him.
“He goes again and brings out this Browns helmet,” King recalled. “And it is received Brownie the Elf on the aspect. … he saved the helmet all these years, which was unimaginable.”
Murphy died in 2018. No matter turned of his Brownie helmet is a thriller, as effectively.
BROWNIE THE ELF appeared on the quilt of Cleveland’s media information in 1961 for the ultimate time. Modell purchased the staff and banished Brownie. A yr later, the media information cowl featured star working again Jim Brown as an alternative.
However for the next 30-plus years, Cleveland Plain-Supplier cartoonist Dick Dugan helped preserve Brownie’s spirit alive. A reader might inform if the Browns had gained or misplaced simply by taking a look at Dugan’s Brownie cartoons.
“My first official act as proprietor of the Browns can be to eliminate that little f—er.”
Former Browns proprietor Artwork Modell
“If the Browns gained, the elf was all proud or no matter,” King stated. “If the Browns misplaced, he appeared like he had been overwhelmed up in a battle.”
In 1995, Modell infamously took away the Browns, relocating the franchise to Baltimore. However when proprietor Al Lerner and president Carmen Coverage introduced the Browns again 4 years later, they reinstated Brownie.
Progressively, the legend has returned, as effectively.
Brownie was the staff’s official coaching camp emblem in 2006. The Brownie sideline mascot made his debut in 2015.
Kevin Stefanski has worn a Brownie the Elf cap virtually every single day since turning into Cleveland’s head coach in 2020. And this yr, Brownie is on the sleeve of the staff’s walkthrough jerseys.
Now, he is the face of Cleveland’s area.
“We gained seven championships with the elf?” Garrett requested. “If we get an eighth championship with that elf, I would are available in right here with a bit elf outfit on.”