Wear it with pride, Madame Secretary. Wear it with pride.
Wear it with pride, Madame Secretary. Wear it with pride.
I made a personal decision not long ago, that when the Browns eventually make a Super Bowl, I’m going to book a flight to Cleveland and watch it downtown. It would be a key moment for a city for which I have some very fond memories, and though I’m far from the Scott Raab–level of fandom (The Whore of Akron, though thin, with a big typeface and wide lines, was a grueling slog of self-congratulation and self-loathing from a disgustingly fat man—by his own admission—who gets on-demand handjobs from a nubile second wife), I figure that victory, in that town, would be something to see. But I don’t think I’d take my kid. Something’s going to burn.
So granted, that was a moment of off-season optimism and now we’re back to it—deadening reality, in which Joe Haden, a solid Browns draft pick who, in the absence of an offensive star, has become the face of the franchise, testing positive for something or other. It’s too bad “testing positive” isn’t a good thing, though it sounds like it ought to be. I know when I tried Adderall I walked around a club telling everyone who’d listen that I felt like a hundred dollars. Meh—that one we’ll get over. Maybe more troubling is lingering knee trouble for the man who should step in as the new face of the franchise, TR. That just sucks. You need knees, strong ones, to be a running back, no? It is, as the French say, troubling.
Oh, and we got bought by a Steelers fan who seems pretty primed on having his own people in charge of the team, which seems to signal we’ll be starting over again. Seems like we’ve done a lot of that since Browns 2.0 stumbled on the scene. Not that I’m convinced Holmgren is the answer, but as atlswami says: “that team needs stability.” TR’s knee needs that too.
So let’s be realistic about this thing. It’s probably going to be my son taking me to Cleveland when the Browns make the Super Bowl? Humor the old man, he’s cared about this shit since, like, the ’80s.
My guess is kids today (holy shit I sound old, which is fitting since I’m in the space between being younger than Steve Nash but old enough to be Kyrie Irving’s father) are still high on the posters, right? When I was a teenager, there wasn’t an inch of the gray wood paneling in my bedroom that wasn’t covered in them. This was abetted by both my brother and I working in music stores, where we got loads and loads of promo posters and such. Hell, my brother even had his ceiling covered. But I did supplement those with a couple of sports-related ones. At some point early on, I wanted, but never actually purchased, a few of the posters made by John and Tock Costacos, a couple of T-shirt guys that had the idea of making these bizarrely themed sports posters that sometimes used athletes’ nicknames and sometimes just made em up, so far as I can tell.
“We wanted to make the athletes into comic book heroes. They’re larger than life. They’re Superman. They’re Batman,” one of the Costacos said (Kevin Mitchell literally being Batman in one of them). “They’re Hollywood action stars that kick the shit out of 20 bad guys always living to fight another day.”
Riiiiight. I know that’s what I always thought of Lester Hayes and Steve Largent.
At any rate, there’s an exhibition of these curious abominations that’s about to close at the Country Club and Mondrian in Los Angeles, and Sports Illustrated put up a slideshow of a bunch. More can be seen here. The Costacos are apparently still in the poster business, but not with the same batshit level of dementia that you can find in these. There’s about a million baffling details to parse in each one–from the overall theme (Kirk Gibson as a hunter, James Worthy as an attorney) to tiny things (Chuck Person’s too-small chaps, or the intimate caress between Jim Everett and one of his linemen).
So I naturally gravitated toward the two Cleveland posters: Bob Golic as some kind of greased hair metal canine fetishist with an exploding doghouse, and Cory Snyder as a gunslinger with smoking balls, more tiny balls on his belt, and a general look of confusion about where he is (is it all about his ability to throw out runners—I spent far too long trying to figure it out).
Before we discuss loser-on-loser violence in response to atlswami’s last post, I must note that it is just after halftime of the Ravens-Pats game for a trip to the Super Bowl. Dear Ravens: Lose please. I hate you. Naturally I’m bitter about that team’s ongoing success, hard-nosed running and defensive identity, even the rivalry with the stupid Steelers (these two teams of remorseless, jackbooted headhunters deserve each other—it blows that they have to constitute one-quarter of the Browns’ schedule every damn year—and it makes the battle for third with Cincinnati our only real rivalry, which is just sad), and, especially, their Super Bowl victory four years after leaving Cleveland. That falls into the expanding category of unique, innovative ways that fortune stabs Cleveland fans in the neck. I certainly can’t think of another beloved franchise stolen from one town that won a chronically elusive title (Browns one of four teams with no Super Bowl appearances) within five years. As big a middle finger at a town I can imagine, worse than The Decision, especially since the WoA is still without a title as yet. Compound this with the fact that my favorite player when I was a child, Ozzie Newsome, is their goddam awesome GM. Another Coming Up Small city, Seattle, is starting to understand what this feels like, but OKC needs to win a title first. Side note: Simmons and his ilk recently discussed somewhere how poetic it would be if Baltimore won a title in Indianapolis (site of this year’s Super Bowl, and I must confess that I freaking love that stadium’s design), the city that stole its Colts franchise in 1983. Blech, who cares. Indianapolis more or less sucked donkey balls until Peyton arrived. Baltimore got its justice. I’m just waiting for the wheel to turn and “hapless Ravens” to enter the SportsCenter lexicon. I wish them ill.
Yes, I did evince a little hope for the Cavs future–there’s a ton of young players on that team, likable guys who are starting to distinguish themselves. Irving, Thompson, Casspi, I like these guys. A couple of pieces and some experience away from being interesting. Play hard, good coach, fun to watch, what’s not to like at the moment? At least we’re not Washington Wiz (the major omission in the Coming Up Small lineup of sports towns at the moment). They’re a cavalcade of awfulness because their young promising players are like torture to watch, hot dogging when they’re getting blown out and ball-hogging all the time. Yech. Concern with the Cavs now is maybe winning too many games and fouling up their lottery ticket in a strong draft. So thanks Hawks for setting us straight. I’m happier with the Cavs situation than I think atlswami is the with the Hawks. Sure, the Hawks make the playoffs every year, but they’re stuck in the ghetto of mediocrity, and it’s costing them an arm and a leg. Sparing Dwight Howard, they’re not getting any further until they blow it up and start over again, I figure. So Cavs, step one in rebuilding the right way under way. Kudos, fellas. We could look like Oklahoma City, Denver, or the Sixers in a few years, and maybe take Miami out of the playoffs once. That’d taste like truffles, man. That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.
Finally, the Duke-bag issue requires some explanation. I came by Duke fandom honestly–I went there for college, and it’s impossible not to absorb some of that culture. If pain is the engine of solidarity in Cleveland, persecution does it for Duke fans. The vitriol that goes their way, delightfully saucy stuff. But yeah, it’s awful weird for a Cleveland fan to also have the Yankees of college basketball in his personal stable (and the two have several connections–Danny Ferry, Trajan Langdon, Carlos Boozer, and now Irving). I actually do know what it’s like to have one of my teams win a title–two, actually, since I matriculated in 1993. Begrudge me that? Meh. Your prerogative, Bobby. I’m not gonna fight you. As much as I enjoyed those Duke titles, that fandom really doesn’t measure up to being a Cleveland fan. Not in the slightest. Being a Duke fan is easy. Being a Cleveland fan is hard.
This video makes me a little uncomfortable for its evocation of an abusive relationship. But well played good man.
Many people now have asked whether I’m going to raise my infant son as a Cleveland sports fan. Bitter legacy and all that. Why not let him fall into the warm, smelly, corrupt embrace of New York fandom, or pick a frontrunner of his own, or devise some random association (like my Cleveland-born-and-raised cousin who lives and dies by the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas Jayhawks basketball—something about the hawks? I never asked him)? Notably, no one who asked me this question is from Cleveland. They’d never even think to ask it, just as I’d never even consider letting this little kid think for himself. He’s going down with the ship, riding on his father’s shoulders, cursing Art Modell, Jose Mesa, and LeFraud James.
Lots of people leave Cleveland, probably more than stay. A few more years and I’ll have been in New York longer than I ever lived in the Midwest. But I’ve observed that people who leave the town (different, in a way, than even the most prideful who still live there), love the place unreasonably. Ask Michael Symon, Drew Carey, or Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (our best and brightest?). People who come from Cleveland wear that shit on their sleeves, man. Maybe it’s an overreaction to the overdiscussed “Mistake by the Lake” days, or because it was a nice place to grow up, or the world-class art museum and symphony (right, that’s totally it). Nah, it’s because of the Browns, Cavs, and Indians. I don’t need to go over the sources of this pain—shit, I will anyway in this space, over time—but no other town claims “Most Tortured Sports City” more vociferously than the Metropolis of the Western Reserve. Stop arguing. We’re winning that shit in a walk. No one knows what it’s like to be us, and dammit if shared pain isn’t the greatest engine of solidarity.
So yeah, the kid is going to grow up with this. It’ll build character and teach him patience for things that may never come. I’ll cross my fingers that it won’t set him to tears like it once did me, pray that he can lay claim to the ground floor when Cleveland has a multiple title–decade like stupid Boston just had, and hope that he doesn’t one day hate me for it. I salute you, little man. Here’s a helmet.
If they ever tell my story, let them say that I rooted for giants. Men rise and fall like the winter wheat, but these names will never die. Let them say I lived in the time of Omar Vizquel, Mark Price, and Ernest Byner. Let them say I lived in the time of Kosar.