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Saturday, August 19, 2000

Paul Brown missing from Paul Brown Stadium

        The garbage cans are engraved. The toilet paper dispensers carry team insignia. Even the drain covers are stamped with Cincinnati Bengals helmet logos.

        If architecture is in the details, Paul Brown Stadium is an unqualified triumph, a design concept dazzlingly realized.

        Just one quibble: Where's Paul Brown?

        Professional football's plushest playpen opens tonight officially unfinished and regrettably incomplete. As of Friday afternoon, there was neither a statue nor a portrait nor a banner nor a bottle cap depicting the founder of Cincinnati's NFL franchise and Ohio's most accomplished coach. This is Paul Brown's stadium in name only.

        If you're a season-ticket holder, PB's photograph appears on your game tickets. If you happen to walk into the team's administrative offices, a replica of PB's Hall of Fame bust occupies a niche on the wall that contains the club's AFC Championship trophies.

No sign of Brown
        Yet in the public areas of the massive structure, Paul Brown is conspicuous mainly by his absence. Rodney Holman and Dan Ross — capable tight ends with no claim to Canton — both rate 13 x 9 banners. Even Bob Trumpy, long a Brown antagonist, appears twice larger than life in a photograph evidently scaled to his ego.

        Paul Brown gets his name in big letters above the entrances. Brown will also appear in some scoreboard videos, but no more tangible tribute has been planned.

        “His name is on the building,” Bengals president Mike Brown said. “And I don't know that there needs to be anything beyond that.”

        This is in keeping with the Browns' understated style and the delicate politics of this construction project. Citizens opposed to the tax and tactics that built the stadium might view a Paul Brown memorial as another costly indulgence for a family that already has fed too long at the public trough.

        Given the stadium's opulence and overruns, the Browns need to be sensitive to perceived extravagance. Given the state of their team, they probably should concentrate on improving the product.

        Still, you don't build a dream house and then leave it undecorated. One of the most persistent criticisms of Cinergy Field has been that it is a ballpark with the sterility of a surgical procedure and the charm of a hotel room. This is a mistake that ought not be repeated.

        Paul Brown Stadium should be allowed to develop some character beyond its original blueprints.

Add some flavor
        Since the Bengals refuse to retire uniform numbers, they should find some other means to honor their finest players. They should commemorate the Freezer Bowl and lay dance diagrams on the floor to approximate the Ickey Shuffle.

        They should raise a statue to Paul Brown, or commission a mural, or put up a plaque, even if they have to pay for it themselves.

        Without Brown's clout, the NFL probably would have skipped Cincinnati. Without the stadiums Brown's franchise facilitated, the Reds might have moved. Without overstating the case, Paul Brown probably had the greatest impact on Cincinnati sports since George and Harry Wright went barnstorming in 1869.

        Such a man leaves such a mark that statues may be superfluous.

        Still, in a stadium of exquisite detail, PB's absence sure seems like an oversight.

        Tim Sullivan welcomes your email at tsullivan@enquirer.com.

Tell us what you think about the new stadium. See what others are saying.

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