The Cleveland Browns recently announced that their Brownie the Elf mascot would become the centerpiece at mid-field this year.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) September 13, 2022
Many in the national media made fun of the design and mocked the Browns’ “new” addition.
— Rich Eisen Show (@RichEisenShow) September 14, 2022
Of course, Brownie is actually not new in Cleveland and has been part of the franchise since the beginning.
Here is a look back at the mascot’s origin and how it came to Cleveland.
Arthur McBride Wants a Mascot
As the Browns were forming in the mid-1940s, the team hired former Ohio State coach Paul Brown as their first head coach.
The team was named after him and began play in 1946.
Brown was not just a great coach, but an assembler of talent.
Loaded in all phases of the game, the franchise won the All-America Football Conference championship four years in a row.
It was near the beginning of this run that team owner Arthur McBride decided he wanted the Browns to become more marketable.
Since the team was named after a person, he desired something extra that the city and its fans could rally behind and identify with.
McBride asked the local community to help in designing a new mascot for the team and was deluged with several suggestions.
One of the ideas was an elf named Brownie and the idea was a hit.
Brownie was seen in team advertisements holding a football and decked out in pointed shoes with pointy ears.
— Nathan The Flirt😎🌹 (@NathanC98658759) September 15, 2022
From the late 1940s through the late 1960s, Brownie was used to promote the team in newspapers and didn’t change much in appearance.
At one point, Paul Brown thought having Brownie on the side of the team helmets would be a good idea.
The idea was shelved after the coach saw various artists’ sketches of what the helmets would look like.
When Cleveland won the 1964 NFL championship, a crown was added to Brownie’s head to mark the occasion.
Brownie’s origin story and involvement as part of team lore are special.
However, Brownie’s true origin comes much earlier and from a different country entirely.
According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, a Brownie is of English and Scottish folklore and is a small fairy or hobgoblin that lived in houses or barns throughout the Scottish countryside.
Scottish legend says that Brownies stayed hidden in the furthest recesses of a house or farm until nighttime.
When everyone was asleep, the Brownie would come out and clean the place until it shined.
— Scottish Storytelling Centre (@ScotStoryCentre) September 29, 2016
The Brownies would also cook and make sure chores were completed.
When the homeowners awoke the next morning, the Brownie was nowhere to be seen, but the food was cooked and chores were done.
Folklore in Scotland even mentions a number of high-profile farms that flourished for a time due to the help of Brownies.
The best part of the Brownies’ work behavior was the fact that they didn’t expect much in return.
All they wanted was a little food, especially some honey, cream, or porridge.
However, it was well-known that homeowners risked offending Brownies at their peril.
For example, at no time should the homeowner critique or criticize the work of a Brownie.
Also, even if the Brownies do a good job, giving them more than what is expected is a major offense.
(For heaven’s sake, don’t give them extra cream!)
Brownies were known to dress in very modest attire. After all, they were there to clean, not walk the red carpet.
In Scotland Brownies are household spirits who help with tasks about the home. But never gift a set of clothes to a Brownie or they will leave forever, calling gleefully: 'Gie brownie coat, gie brownie sark, Ye'll get nae mair 'o brownie's work!' #FolkloreThursday pic.twitter.com/mOS4nN22EB
— Claire Cock-Starkey (@NonFictioness) January 27, 2022
If a homeowner should leave him a new suit, beware!
That was another major insult and the Brownie could react by messing up the house on purpose or leaving, never to return.
If a Brownie was disrespected too often, he may also turn into a Boggart, according to legend.
A Boggart has a hateful disposition and can be a massive hindrance.
Basically, as long as the homeowner respected their Brownie, life was good.
Thanks Art Modell!
After Art Modell bought the team in the early 60s, it was painfully evident that he offended the team’s Brownie.
Not long after the franchise won the ‘64 title, Modell began to reduce the amount of public exposure to Brownie.
Team employees later said that Modell disliked Brownie to the point where he got rid of him.
A couple quick notes on Brownie The Elf:
-Mascot from late 1940’s-late 60’s.
-For all 5 of the #Browns NFL Championships…he was the mascot.
-ART MODELL was responsible for phasing him out.
If u want TRADITION…he is EXACTLY that. pic.twitter.com/ncBipvud0u
— Dan Nettleton (@CoachNett3) March 31, 2020
That offense apparently cost the franchise greatly as the Browns failed to win another championship.
Even worse, Modell took the Browns and left to find a new home in Baltimore after the 1995 season.
Brownie Comes Home
When the Browns returned to Cleveland before the 1999 season, then owner Randy Lerner made a smart decision.
No, it wasn’t hiring Chris Palmer as head coach. Lerner brought back Brownie.
“I think it’s a great anchor for our tradition and for the look and feel of the Browns,” Lerner said at the time. “But I also understand that there is something to freshening up the act, so I think that’s a balancing act we’re having right now.”
Brownie has been used by the organization in various capacities in the years since.
It is obvious, though, that Brownie was offended by Modell’s treatment and has held a grudge.
Cleveland has just three winning seasons and two playoff appearances since returning to the league.
The hope is that by openly acknowledging his importance to the team by placing him at midfield, Brownie will clean up the team’s negative history.
— Tom Withers (@twithersAP) September 16, 2022
That should lead to a brighter future and another championship.