Saturday, February 01, 2014

Cleveland's Sorry Sports Scene, Richard Sherman, urban trollers, Jazz, Black History Month

Since this is a commentary about Cleveland’s abysmal professional sports environment, I probably should post it tomorrow on Ground Hog Day. Like the movie, we seem to relive the same scenes over and over.

Collectively, the Haslam Browns, the Gilbert Cavaliers and the Dolan Indians are about as sad a trio of professional sports teams as exist in America. It would pain me less to acknowledge this sorry truth if I hadn’t been infected with an especially virulent case of hometown sports fever back in the Fifties. The Browns were the best team in pro football the first decade of my life, and the Indians won a couple of pennants and even a World Series during that same decade, though I hadn’t yet become emotionally chained to the city.

Even those glory days come with historical asterisks, however. The Browns’ best teams pre-dated the Super Bowl era, and several even pre-dated their admission to the NFL. The 1964 championship Browns team can be seen pretty much as an anomaly that unfortunately obscured the magisterially micro-mismanagement skills of one Art Modell.

Sad to say, the best three year football stretch in Cleveland over the past two decades occurred in those three or four years in the late ‘90s when we had no NFL entry.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were born during my early adulthood but still snuck into my sports heart. My favorite Cavs teams was the Miracle of Richfield bunch of the late ‘70s. They played as a unit, unselfishly sharing the ball. It didn’t matter who took the shot. Subsequent Cavs teams have had better talent. While this year’s team has some excellent talent, they play so disjointedly, selfishly, and with so little basketball intelligence that they are actually ugly to watch. [Exceptions: Andy Varajao, Tristan Thompson and newcomer Luol Deng.]

The Dolan baseball club is probably the best managed of Cleveland’s professional sports teams. However, they operate with the least money in the sport where money matters most. And they will be rightly cursed so long as they support the ugliest and most racist totem in pro sports.

I am given to occasionally reading the comments on various news stories of civic importance. I know beforehand that if the story involves any element of race or “inner-city” or increasingly, inner-ring suburbia, the commenters will be especially vitriolic. This phenomenon extended this week even to the announcement that The Ohio State University has selected an accomplished African American as its next president. While I don’t recall either the Plain Dealer or the Columbus Dispatch making much if any reference to his race, there was a healthy dosage of affirmative action commentary among the trolls. I suspect that these people are among the Chief Wahoo’s most fervent defenders.

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On a related note, these trollers are probably among the most vociferous attackers of the tastefully named Richard Sherman, star cornerback of the Seattle Seahawks. Sherman was the hyper vocal face of the Seahawks who made amped up over-the-top Muhammad Ali-like comments when a microphone was stuck in his face immediately after he made a tremendously acrobatic play that ensured his team would be in tomorrow’s Super Bowl. Sherman’s intemperate, adrenaline-fueled remarks, coupled with his defiant manner and flowing dreadlocks, made it easy for incognito critics to call him a thug. While a gladiator on the field, Richard Sherman is actually one of the most intelligent, best-educated and thoughtful professional athletes on the scene today. Doubters may want to take a look at this profile of the man, written before the season started.

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We intend in 2014 to do a better job providing local coverage of what some like to call “America’s music”, more familiarly known as jazz. We start with noting tonight’s Nighttown appearance of Dr. Phillip Martin [hat tip to local jazz aficionado Evan Morse]. Saxophonist Martin is crafting a dual career as a jazz sax man [clearly influenced by Grover Washington] with being a practicing dentist in Washington DC. For more info on tonight’s show, which starts at 8:30PM, visit here or here.

Elsewhere, also in Cleveland Heights, local singer Anita Keys will be performing at Rockefellers, 3099 Mayfield Road. Call 216.321.0477 for more info.
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Finally, I was initially hilarious when I first heard about Atlanta’s two-inch blizzard earlier in the week. I became more sensitive as I learned about stranded students, the elderly, distraught caregivers, and expectant mothers.

I turned off the cable news accounts as “the snow event” [the Atlanta local’s current term of art] because of the disgusting efforts of the so-called news broadcasters efforts to assign blame. [Those folk would fit in well in Cleveland.]

No doubt, some of those castigating public officials, from the governor on down, were those opposed to almost all non-military government spending.

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Today is the first day of Black History Month. In a few days the primary election season will be in full spring for a host of state, county, and local offices, including judicial races. Your Congressman will also be on the ballot.

There is a relationship between our history, the kind of policies our government advances or retards, who become our community spokespersons, the quality of our educational systems, the future of our children and our communities, and how involved we are in the political and civic process. Voting in the May primary is an essential duty. But it is not sufficient. Now is not too early to begin the process of self-education about who is running and doing some serious candidate vetting. We will do our part to help.

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