The year was 1977, early January, and I had just moved into the upstairs unit of a Lakewood double (is there any other kind of home in Lakewood, really?) so we’d have a nice place to stay when my wife-to-be and I were married in April of that year.
Those of you too young to recall 1977 (which would be the vast majority of my loyal reader(s)) probably need to be reminded that there was no such thing as “digital” television back in those days; we were strictly analog folk, requiring those goofy rooftop antennas (many still remain on homes to this day, as most sensible humans would rather let Mother Nature bring them down rather than risking a serious fall attempting to dismantle one themselves) to receive a decent TV signal.
Or, if one lived in such a situation where the addition of an exterior rooftop antenna was not plausible (which my landlord indicated – in no uncertain terms – was indeed the case), and I, not the best of friends with any height over, say, six feet, had stood stoically outside and perused the top of this double to be almost as tall, from my perspective, as the Terminal Tower. This assessment convinced me to go the route of the rabbit ears.
Rabbit ears were a style of antenna which were available in many designs, but the one constant was there were usually a pair of them, of oval ilk, which to some clearly resembled the ears of a rabbit. Common sense told me this was the best possible choice for my situation.
Anyway, I hooked up my trusty rabbit ears to the TV and fired it up. Fully expecting to spend several hours moving the ears, the TV, and everything else that wasn’t nailed down in an effort to get a decent TV signal, imagine my surprise when the picture was about as perfect as you could have asked for in the pre-digital days. And one of the stations I found when playing with the rabbit ears was in Toledo. Yes, Toledo.
Unbeknownst to me when I rented the home on Archdale Avenue, was that in living only about 150 feet east of the valley, the complete lack of obstructions to my west made for pristine TV reception.
I immediately broke into my happy dance for one huge reason: Browns football, baby! Beginning in 1973, the Browns were required to black out a 75-mile radius of Cleveland if 85% of their game day seats were not sold 72 hours prior to kickoff.
When you remember that the old Cleveland Stadium (constructed in 1931 in an effort to bring the Olympics to Cleveland) sat 81,000 for football, sellouts were more difficult than you might think!
Since I had inadvertently discovered the fountain of youth of TV reception, I would never miss a Browns game again! Take that, NFL. Take that, Art Modell.
So, that fall I eagerly anticipated the first home game that would be blacked out, because I had the secret weapon, right? Well, not so much …
It turned out that the weather was a significant factor in the quality of the analog picture, and I had happened to make my discovery on a day when the weather conditions between Lakewood and Toledo were, apparently, perfect.
When I tried to get the game on blackout day, it was cloudy, windy (you know, typical Cleveland fall weather), and my TV screen had more snow (white blotches caused by poor reception) than a ski resort in January.
On the other hand, had I known in 1977 how football in Cleveland would be in Cleveland after the mid-'80s, I might have started my happy dance when the game wouldn’t come in on my television.
Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!