Most football books delve deep into historical figures/events or the nuts and bolts of the game of football.
"Brown for the Count" isn't your average football book.
As I wrote earlier this week in my review of "Brown for the Count," the newly-released book by Dave Algase details the history of the Browns in a series of 68 lists. It's a very fascinating book, and well-written, too.
To learn more about the book, I spoke to Algase at length, asking him about the writing process, and his personal Browns fandom.
Dawgs By Nature: You founded the first-ever Browns blog: Talk about that experience.
Dave Algase: "I discovered this phenomenon of blogging, which was very new at the time. I had kind of a general blog, whatever was on my mind and whatever I wanted to get off my chest. I had some good advice to say, 'This is all really good, but you'd probably be more successful if you focused on a niche.' So I said, 'What is it I can really focus on?' I thought of the Browns, and I didn't really see any other Browns blog. So I was on Blogger, I picked the URL clevelandbrowns.blogspot.com, and that's where I still am through a few twists and turns along the way."
DBN: What kind of time commitment did this book require?
DA: "It was a small part-time job for the first few years of it. After a while, there was a lot more presence of fan commentary and blogs and message boards, social networking that sprung up. I had a hard time, especially not being in Cleveland myself and not being tied in to the official media credentials, so it was a little bit tough to find my identity.
"I went through sort of an identity crisis about blogging. I was on Barry McBride's site, The OBR, for a while, and my blogging took place there. Then, the platforms there changed and I went back to my original site. It had been kind of sporadic, so I said, 'What am I going to do to find my footing again as a Browns commentator?' So, the history angle was always appealing to me because I always in the oldtimers and trying connect the old and the new and see how things happen now relate or compare to the past. The book project stemmed from that.
"The blogging recently taken a backburner as I've gotten this book project into high-gear. But I'm looking to pick it up a little bit in the coming months as the season unfolds."
DBN: Talk about your own Browns fandom. How did you come to be a Browns fan?
DA: "I was a kid. I grew up near Toledo, and my dad was from Cleveland. He would watch the Browns games on Sunday afternoons, one of the few times he would sit still. It was kind of like, 'Woah, what is this that has his attention?' Then he'd start yelling and screaming. I'd think, 'What's this? This must matter.' That's how I got hooked in. It became a father-son bonding thing, it became a Sunday ritual, it became a point of connection.
"My Browns fandom really took on a life of its own. It began back in 1978 during the rookie year of Clay Matthews and Ozzie Newsome and the dawn of the Kardiac Kids. That leaves an imprint, I remember so many things. I remember where I was when I watched Red Right 88: I was in the basement of our home. My mom was holding the shower for a relative upstairs, so we got kind of banished to this black and white, snowy screen the basement. I remember everything about that game and so many things over the years."
DBN: You mentioned that you're from Toledo and I know that you currently live in southeastern Michigan. Is it difficult writing about a team that's a little ways away from you?
DA: "Yeah, it in a way it is. I grew up in Toledo, my dad is from Cleveland, and I went to college in Central Ohio, so I was able to follow them throughout my childhood and young adulthood. Then, in 1995, my wife and I quit our jobs and moved to Florida. And you know what happened in 1995. So I took that as some kind of cosmic synchronicity and I packed up all my Browns gear -- every book, every banner, every piece of clothing that had been given to me -- and stuck it in a box in my closet and thought, 'What am I ever going to do with this stuff?'
"It came out of the closet, we had moved back up from Florida to Michigan, just north of Ohio near Toledo, and the stuff came out of the box before the first exhibition game in 1999 when they beat the Cowboys in the Hall of Fame game that year. That was rebirth of the Browns and that it was safe to come out again. Little did I know what would happen over the next 16 years, but hope springs eternal, right?"
DBN: You talked about setting a deadline for yourself. How difficult was it to get this book done?
DA: "Well, my wife was a big part of that. When you're married and you have a family, you're accountable for all of your time. There's some discussion, but there's only so long that you can say, 'I'm writing a book, I'm working on it.' Originally I wanted it out by Father's Day so people could order it and have it by Father's Day. Then, I wanted it by my college reunion. That didn't happen. So it finally came out in time for training camp, so it finally happened. I've been collecting Browns books for a while now, there's over 70 books, and a page on my blog with all of the Browns books I know of. I just wanted to add my piece to it.
"It may not be the very best, but it's unique, it's original, and it fits. I'm happy with it from that standpoint, and I'm grateful to all of the people who have gone before and written excellent Browns literature over the years."
DBN: Talk about your writing process. How did you go about tackling this project?
DA: "I used a program called Scribnr, which is software that helps you manage the writing project. It's very easy to move stuff around and keep notes and track your status and things. But basically I just brainstormed all the different lists I'd want to include. The hard part was categorizing them into chapters, but eventually that took place.
"I just started chipping away. In my blog, I'd started the best of the Browns back about a decade ago, so a lot of it was just updating that and realizing that we know a lot more, a lot has changed, and your writing style is not satisfied with your voice back then, it needs to change. So that was kind of painful. I thought it would be one of the easier parts, but it turned out to be kind of harder to be satisfied with what I was saying about Otto Graham, or any of these people, since every paragraph has to stand on its own and it's hard to categorize someone's whole career or life in 100 words or whatever it is.
"I'm not one that blurts out a whole hug volume of stuff at once. I'm a very inch-by-inch, two steps forward, one step back, re-writing and re-reading as I go. It probably isn't the most efficient way to do it. If I was more stream of consciousness, and I could go back with a fine tooth comb, I could probably go faster and get more done. But I used to work for newspapers and copy edit other writers' stuff, so I can't let things that are wrong stand on that screen at all. That's part of it. I'm both creating and refining at the same time, which is probably sub-optimal, but that's just the way I am."
DBN: Did you ever run into a wall, or writer's block, along the way?
DA: "Not with this book, because there were so many different lists. It's not like I was trying to tell one particular narrative and wasn't sure if I came to a dead end. There was always another list I could work on. Now, there were times when my energy wasn't what it needed to be -- it takes a lot of persistence and not being able to see the endpoint, but being able to get in the weeds and trudge through it. So there was that struggle.
"But I didn't have a block to say, 'What am I going to do with this?' It was just keeping faith with the process and saying, 'The more you have, the more you have to work with, so there's a lot that's left on the cutting room if the demand proves sufficient."
DBN: Going along with that, was it fun to do all of the research?
DA: "It was extremely fun. That's probably why it took longer to bring the book to fruition because I would just get lost in it. You just read these old-timer's stories and realize no matter how much you thought you knew, there's always more. With all of that history, there's always more to learn, and I was learning right up until I put the thing to bed."
DBN: Here's a tough question for you: What's your favorite list in the book?
"One of the ones I liked the best is the last one, 19 Freaky Browns Coincidences, because it speaks to the way I think. I find strange connections and try to derive a meaning that might not really be rationally sustained. But I haven't really picked up that from anybody else or come across it. But I really liked, strangely enough, Browns Who Died Young because there were so many of them, and that's the first one that became outdated since it went to the press. Just trying to do justice to these people who, most of them, are probably forgotten, and give them just a little bit of recognition. I enjoyed doing that one, even though it is kind of morbid. If I had to pick two, those would be it."
DBN: Obviously, it's still early yet, but what kind of feedback have you received thus far?
DA: "Obviously friends and family have helped to bring the book to fruition and encouraged me, supported me, and given me some early sales. One of my college fans said, 'I'm not a college football fan, but I'm a Dave Algase fan. It makes you feel good. I'm starting to get people who I have bought the book but I don't know in real life commenting back that they like it and digging into it.
"It's early, because it just came out, but I'm looking forward to hearing what people did like and what they didn't like. It's probably harder for people to be candid directly to you, but I want to improve it for the next edition if there is one, so I'm open to anyone's thoughts."