He has long been a part of those crowds, a Brown season-ticket holder for more than three decades. He, too, must have been bewildered when Modell announced the move, no? The Toe doesn't answer. But Jackie, his wife of 45 years, does.
"We could have cried," she says.
It turns out they did. The Toe was asked to accompany Mayor White as he presented the Browns with the city's financial proposal that had been in the works for months. Afterward, speaking at a press conference, Groza felt the tears quicken, and he could not continue for the lump in his throat. It was an epochal moment—almost literally the melting of a polar icecap—and a stark sign that an era had passed in Cleveland, whatever becomes of the Browns.
An Ohio State flag flies above the Groza garage. A winter gloom gathers outside the window. But the Toe remains silent, lost in his thoughts of pro football in Cleveland. His eyes go slick as freshly Zambonied ice. "It's like a fire has just burned out," he says at last. "And all you're left with is ashes."