NFL

Doggone dilemma: Countdown debated interviewing Browns fan ‘in character’

“We discussed the topic in our weekly Countdown show meeting and everyone had a different reason why it would be good to shoot the interview [with Big Dawg] in or out of character.
Sunday NFL Countdown associate producer Meghan Robinson

Some 25 years ago this week, the Buckeye State’s NFL rivalry between Cleveland and Cincinnati took a fiery turn, even though the two teams weren’t even playing against one another.

Then-Bengals head coach Sam Wyche grabbed a Riverfront Stadium microphone during a loss to Seattle to yell at rowdy hometown fans who threw beer bottles and trash on the field after a questionable call. His harsh words: “You do not live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati.”

Wyche’s shot across Cleveland’s bow was heard loud and clear by Browns fans. Even today, it remains a sore spot for them, adding even more animosity to one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries – which is renewed this weekend when the two teams play.

One such fan who still holds a grudge over Wyche’s comment is John “Big Dawg” Thompson, the leader of the Browns’ raucous “Dawg Pound” fan section.

So, when associate producer Meghan Robinson was assigned this week to produce a piece on the 25th anniversary of “You live in Cincinnati. . .” for ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown (10 a.m.–1 p.m. ET), she was caught in a producer’s quandary. Watch an excerpt of the interview above.

At the end of the day, the Big Dawg character is like the Superman cape. That is what makes him relevant.
Sunday NFL Countdown coordinating producer Greg Jewell

Robinson mulled whether to shoot the interview with “Big Dawg” Thompson in or out of costume.

“The main reason we decided to speak with ‘Big Dawg’ is because of what he represents for the Browns,” said Robinson. “We discussed the topic in our weekly Countdown show meeting and everyone had a different reason why it would be good to shoot the interview in or out of character.”

One group argued that a “Big Dawg” Thompson interview in costume is representative of the core fan base in Cleveland – the Browns’ Dawg Pound – that drew Wyche’s ire.

The second group preferred an interview without the outfit, opting to see Thompson’s facial expressions on how he really felt when Wyche took a shot at his city.

For Countdown coordinating producer Greg Jewell, there is “really no right or wrong answer.

“At the end of the day, the Big Dawg character is like the Superman cape. That is what makes him relevant. That’s what makes him important. And that’s what gives him character,” Jewell said. “Once he takes all that off, he’s no different than you or I.”

Wyche, who last coached in the NFL as the offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills in 2005, was also interviewed for the story. The feature is reported by Greg Garber and includes contributions by associate producer Chad Minutillo.

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