'Wrenching,' For Mike Brown As He Stays Safe And Home

Mike Brown didn't travel Wednesday.
Mike Brown didn't travel Wednesday.

Even at 85 years old, Mike Brown does what he always does the day before a game.

On Wednesday he watched his beloved Bengals go through a brisk walkthrough in the stadium named after his father. Then he went for a brisk walk of his own around the field. Then as he walked into his corner office he kidded his secretary, Debbie LaRocco, that the bag of chips on her desk was all she got him for lunch.

But then the Bengals president didn't do what he has done 824 straight times. Getting on Bus No. 1 to accompany his team to a road game. For the first time in the history of the Bengals Thursday (8:20 p.m.-Cincinnati's Local 12), Mike Brown won't be on the bus or on the plane with them and in the building to watch them during a regular-season or post-season game.

"Wrenching," is what he called Wednesday. "I miss not going. I want to go."

That's 824 straight regular-season and post-season games. The only game he ever missed was the one he spent at the side of his dying father on Aug. 2, 1991, a Friday night pre-season game in Detroit. Paul Brown passed away in the middle of the night as Sunday turned into a training camp Monday morning.

Mike Brown is three years older than his dad and living in a much different world. He was born during The Great Depression and raised on World War II before helping his father start the Bengals amid the tumultuous late 1960s. The majority of his 30 years running the team has come in the post 9/11 era.

But never has there been a road game during a pandemic. So the streak ends at 824 straight games.

"I'm the age I am and I check all the boxes and I'm told it's foolish to do it," Brown said of the travel issues. "It comes down to a decision and maybe it's time to start doing stuff like this. I'm just at the age I have to go about life a little differently."

He has seen the Bengals play in Morgantown, W. Va., and London, England. He has watched them in the Astrodome, Jerry World and Fenway Park.

But the streak ends, in all places, just three-and-a-half hours up the road in Cleveland, the town where he grew up, played high school ball and watched his father turn the team named after him into the NFL's first America's Team.

"It was going to be somebody," Brown said. "The fact it's Cleveland and on a Thursday night is all sort of ironic and not normal."

It's only the second time that Paul Brown's rivalry has been nationally televised from the city where it all started in 1946. The first one was 30 years ago, a throwback night Boomer Esiason threw for just 85 yards while five Bengals backs chewed up 233 yards rushing in a 34-13 victory.

But while one streak goes into the book, one stays alive. The family is represented in the traveling party by Brown's daughter and granddaughter, Bengals executive vice president Katie Blackburn and Elizabeth Blackburn, the club's director of strategy and engagement.

"When the streak started, Katie would have been about three years old and Elizabeth was far, far in the future," Brown said.

Once Brown settles in front of his TV set, it probably won't be all that much different than the other 824 games.

"I'll get excited at moments. Get upset at moments," Brown said. "I'll get joyful at times. I hope it's at the end when that occurs."