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Road Games Travel Tips: Rally up, going to Cleveland

Week 6: Seattle at Cleveland Browns, Oct. 13, FirstEnergy Stadium, 10 a.m. Pacific

SPONSORED – Cleveland used to be delivered as a punchline.

An industrial city so grimy its river once caught on fire. (Well, actually, that river caught fire 13 times.)

So imagine my surprise upon my first visit nearly 20 years ago when I discovered the Lake Eerie is really quite picturesque and Cleveland has an incredibly attractive downtown, a charming baseball stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It’s also the site of the country’s first shopping mall, the country’s first electric traffic light and two artists in Cleveland were responsible for coming up with Superman.

Used to be that Cleveland also had the country’s second-longest championship drought. Seriously, no Cleveland team had won a pro-sports championship since the football squad in 1964, but Cleveland’s basketball team ended that three years ago with a victory over Golden State. Only San Diego had a longer drought, and San Diego had the beach. Cleveland had a river that had an unfortunate tendency to catch fire.

And while the city’s pro-football franchise has gone more than 50 years without ever playing for the league championship, it does have a fanbase so devoted that even when the owner of the team moved his franchise out of town, the league wouldn’t let him take the nickname.

Seriously. When Art Modell moved his team out of town in 1995, heading to Baltimore, he was told he couldn’t take the nickname with him. The Browns returned to the league as an expansion franchise with a deeply entrenched fan base and a bleacher section in the east zone with a well-known penchant for barking, wearing dog masks and flinging biscuits around. That would be the Dawg Pound.

Cleveland has reached the postseason once since returning to the league. Once. But now, Cleveland is a trendy pick. The quarterback they drafted No. 1 overall is in his second season, a prime target in Odell Beckham Jr., and years of losing have stocked their cupboard with high-end draft choices.

This game has gone from being an afterthought to being one of the most anticipated games on Seattle’s schedule.

Stadium: The Mistake by the Lake? Hardly. That’s an outdated nickname for Cleveland whose stadium opened in 1997 when the Browns franchise was resurrected. The stadium is on the site of the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, but that’s about the only similarity as it’s a modern concrete and glass structure. Originally, naming rights were not sold. Instead, the franchise sold the name of each of the four gates, but under new owner Jimmy Haslam, the naming rights were sold to FirstEnergy.

Last time here: The game was quite memorable, which is unfortunate, because as much as you’d like to forget a contest in which neither team finds the end zone, that kind of collective futility tends to stick out. The last time Seattle was in Cleveland it lost 6-3. That was Oct. 23, 2001, and it stands as the lowest-scoring game in Seattle franchise history.

Dining: Sokolowski’s University Inn (1201 University Road, Cleveland, 44113) this restaurant is not only family owned and operated, it has been that way since 1923. It specializes in Polish cuisine, and the pierogi is nothing short of a city staple; Slyman’s Deli (3106 Saint Clair Ave. NE, Cleveland, 44114) the sandwiches are absolutely phenomenal, and the corned beef here is good enough to be considered a Cleveland specialty.