Many times, things which appeared years ago to have no chance of happening in the future, really do come true in one way, shape or form.
MAD, the magazine that mothers way back in the day never wanted their sons to read, did a parody in 1968 on the way the NFL had grown, and was still growing then.
Like a Christmas shopping season, MAD depicted a Super Bowl shopping season.
“Only 14 days left to shop before the Super Bowl” stated a banner stretched across a well-decorated Main Street downtown as shoppers, weighed down with packages, scurried from store to store as a light snow fell.
Everybody – except, of course, our mothers, who thought the magazine was stupid, disgusting and a waste of time -- laughed at the absurdity of such a thing.
Now, 4½ decades later, no one is laughing anymore, for it has come true.
The ushering in of the NFL regular season, which officially began Wednesday night with the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants hosting their NFC East rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, and is ramping up in earnest on Sunday – maybe just as you’re getting your copy ofThe Suburbanite -- with a full slate of games, really is a big, big deal now. It’s almost like an unofficial holiday. Even the earth seems to stop spinning on its axis to take a peak.
From grandmothers and even great-grandmothers in wheelchairs – including the one who approached me after a speaking engagement a month ago and asked, very intelligently, astutely and logically, “Why doesn’t every coach in the league do exactly what (former Browns head coach) Bill Belichick does up in New England because he wins all the time?” – to infants who are dressed in mini-jerseys by their parents, everybody seems to have a favorite team and/or a favorite player.
And they also have a favorite time of year, and it is starting now and continuing for the next five months until the Super Bowl wraps up.
As for the local team and the one that most of our readers root for, the Browns, the season is beginning Sunday with a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
But this contest will be different in at least one respect – one very local respect, that is -- from every opening home game the Browns have played since President Lyndon Johnson was finishing his term in office.
For this is the first time that Green native Dick Goddard will not be the official statistician at a Browns home game for the club’s radio team.
Goddard, the legendary 81-year-old who has been a Cleveland TV weatherman for over a half-century, has hung up his big grease boards.
As he has told friends, “It was just time.”
He is being replaced by a whippersnapper of a youth, 55-year-old Fred Greetham of Wellington in Lorain County. Greetham has been involved with the Browns – off and on – since the early 1980s, and subbed in the booth from time to time when Goddard couldn’t make it. Greetham also is the senior Browns writer/reporter for The Orange and Brown Report, covering the team on a daily basis.
Other than those times, beginning with play-by-man announcer Gib Shanley and color analyst Jim Graner to Shanley/Jim Mueller, Nev Chandler/Doug Dieken, Casey Coleman/Dieken and the present team of Jim Donovan/Dieken, Goddard has been there every game tracking it all statistically, first at old Cleveland Stadium and now Cleveland Browns Stadium.
Dieken, a left tackle for 14 years, is in his 42nd consecutive season of association with the Browns. That’s a long time, to be sure, but if the truth be told, he didn’t arrive until 1971. By that time, Goddard was nearly a vested veteran, already beginning his fourth season.
As such, Dieken, who has a real appreciation of the history of the Browns in all aspects, tips his hat to Goddard for what he’s done and for how long he did it, and more importantly for who he is.
“Dick was a pro’s pro,” Dieken, now in his 25th year as analyst, said last Tuesday during the club’s off day. “In his own way, he added a little levity and made things fun, whether it was counting how many beers consumed or cigarettes smoked by Myron Cope (former longtime Pittsburgh Steelers radio color analyst) to whatever else caught his fancy.
“Dick was so popular. He was an icon. People would stop him and want to have their picture taken with him. He’s got a real following, and it’s well-deserved.
“Dick was very good doing the stats. When he started, the game was a lot different than today. Mostly the same 11 guys played on one side of the ball the whole game then. Now there is so much substitution. Whereas in the old days, you had maybe three receivers and a running back to keep track of, now you’ve got six receivers, two to three running backs and a couple of tight ends. That has made it really tough on the guys keeping stats, but it didn’t faze Dick. He made the transition.
“Dick was Dick. You always knew what you were going to get with him. Dick was a pleasure to be around. He never said anything bad about anyone. He looks like a nice guy, he acts like a nice guy and he is a nice guy.
“Just like when a player retires who has been with the team a long time, Dick will really be missed. It’s going to be a sad day up there on Sunday.”
Imagine that, a tribute to the longtime stats guy in the home radio booth – a tribute to the 1949 Greensburg High School graduate who once wanted to be the punter for the Browns, and ended up doing maybe the next-best thing.
Not even MAD magazine, in that parody that appeared at just about the time that Goddard was working his first game, couldn’t have predicted that kind of growth in the NFL.