I've heard it said that death is the great equalizer of men. That's all well and good for people who are dead, but what about those of us who have yet to cash in our chips? In a world where social classes are increasingly divided, I say it's sports, where people from every strata of life convoke for single, unifying cause: to cheer our teams to victory. And what better symbol of unity, of equality, of the fundamental sameness of every man, than a trough urinal?
Now combine the two.
Cleveland Municipal Stadium opened in 1931 as a multi use facility for the Indians and the Browns. By the time I came around, it was known as one of the worst stadiums in all of sports, a great, ugly, hulking, sticky, reeking thing. Not to me. Brown and magnificent, cavernous and capable of seating 80,000 fans, as far as I was concerned there was no grander place in all the world. I have many memories of the stadium, mostly of getting great seats for Tribe games and watching them lose. There were some Browns games too along the way. And, of course, I remember pissing into the trough urinals.
The experience was daunting at first, urinating side by side with grown men, largely drunk and cussing, and me barely tall enough to clear the lip of the trough. Inside was more than piss. Gum and spit and always a drenched cigarette butt or two loitering near the drain. The more I used those troughs over the years the more I liked and understood them. A trough urinal is where beer-filled men, from the rank and file to the rich, come together on common purpose. No walls or barriers of any kind, and who knows what two men you might get? A truck driver and an accountant. A lawyer and an out of work, ten-time divorcé. Fat guys, skinny guys, old guys, young guys. It didn't matter. All were contributing to the constant yellow stream flowing toward a single drain and, ultimately, that great open sewer called Lake Erie.
The Indians moved into Jacob's Field in 1994. Arch traitor Art Modell relocated the Browns to Baltimore in '95. A year later, the empty Cleveland Municipal Stadium was torn down. Cleveland Browns Stadium stands in its place, along with its PSLs, rows of luxury suites and, alas, single-user urinals. Sure the team is still our team, and sure we'll cheer them to the end, but somehow it's all so sterile and stratified these days. Call me a commie, but how I long for the egalitarian days of the trough!