Being a Cleveland sports fan is an experience fraught with misery, especially since the city hasn’t snagged a major competitive title since the Beatles first performed on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and the Civil Rights Act was signed into law.
The year was 1964 in case you didn’t want to look it up, but we’re guessing you probably already knew. That year imprints itself in your memory if you live here long enough.
Now imagine having to document, or even worse, be a direct witness to much of that futility without the benefit of an off switch or another web-site to browse. Such are the experiences of a few local sports media personalities and a former coach who are the personification of stoicism in the face of failure, or put another way, professionals.
Longtime members of the Cleveland media, including Plain Dealer Indians beat writer Paul Hoynes and PD columnist Bud Shaw, along with WKNR-AM 850’s Tony Grossi and former Browns coach Sam Rutigliano (1978-1984), chatted in a roundtable discussion of Cleveland sports at Executive Caterers at Landerhaven.
Les Levine of “More Sports and Les Levine” on NEON Ch. 23 moderated the second leg of the Summer Sports Series Tuesday with around 225 people in attendance in Mayfield Heights.
With the Indians in the midst of a pennant race and the Browns’ training camp officially opening Saturday, the two teams dominated the conversation.
The Cavaliers were mentioned in passing – you know it’s rough when a certain ex-player’s name is mentioned more often than the team’s current young star, Kyrie Irving.
Here’s some of what they had to say about the two teams moving forward.
On the Browns:
Grossi on the team’s rookie class: “With (quarterback) Brandon Weeden, (running back) Trent Richardson and receiver Josh Gordon, I think now, there is hope. … What is so encouraging to me is I’ve been able to see Weeden and Richardson on the field in the minicamps. And you will see the physical difference in Weeden compared to Colt McCoy and Richardson even compared to Peyton Hillis or Montario Hardesty. … I’ve talked to people who say as soon as (Gordon) steps on the field, he’ll look like the best receiver out there, physically.”
Rutigliano on the Browns’ 2012-2013 prospects: “I think we’re going to be better, but the schedule’s more important than talent and they’ve got a murderous schedule this year.”
Rutigliano on Browns president Mike Holmgren: “I’m counting on Holmgren. He coached two Hall of Famers. He knows more than anybody in the NFL about quarterbacks, and that’s how you win. You never saw a jockey carry a horse across the finish line.”
Grossi on Head Coach Pat Shurmer’s dismal first season: “I’m willing to give him a pass. We can’t fire him and hire Jon Gruden. He’s the coach. From what I’ve seen and been exposed to with Pat Shurmer, people learn, just like a player, the second year’s always better than the first year. I think that’s going to happen with Shurmer. (Offensive coordinator Brad) Childress will help him immensely.”
Grossi on the Browns’ staying power despite the years of struggle: “This is a football town … People put footballs in their cribs. That’s the way it was, and that’s the way it’ll always be. There are people here today who wonder why people cling to this team is because they heard about them for years. They were the New York Yankees of professional football. It all started with Paul Brown. That dynasty was so great, it’s affecting generations down the line.”
On the Indians:
Hoynes on the team’s postseason prospects: “We saw last year with the two wildcards, with Tampa Bay and St. Louis, that they came down to the last game of the season and got into the postseason. St. Louis not only got into the postseason, they won the World Series. As Manny Acta said, and as every manager I’ve ever covered has said, there’s still a lot of baseball left.”
Hoynes on the team’s playing style: “There’s nothing worse than a baseball team that doesn’t score runs. They just look flat. The fans don’t think the players are trying. It’s just the deadest thing you’ve ever seen. That’s what they’ve been doing since the All-Star break. … They’re not an exciting team.”
On Cleveland sports fans dashed title dreams:
Shaw: “I feel for the people here. … Paul and I both sat in the press box in Miami in 1997 when Indians officials went down and were starting to carve Chad Ogea’s name on the World Series MVP trophy and then had to erase it at the last minute. And I really felt badly for people here then as I have for many years watching the Browns.”
Each member of the panel also gave their 2012-2013 preliminary predictions for the Browns this season: Grossi (7-9), Rutigliano (7-9), Hoynes (6-10) and Shaw (6-10).
The panel discussion will appear on Time Warner Cable’s NEON channel 23 and will also be available on Local On Demand channel 411.