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Another Good One Passes
Another Good One Passes
Just an epic effort from Mansfield Lucas this morning, as we get another wintery week started here on the north coast. In it, Mansfield talks about the passing of Dante Lavelli, but more about the fact that guys like Dante just don't exist anymore. And how this Cleveland Browns franchise is almost impossible to cheer for ... from passing on Shanahan and Pioli for a nobody and a young failure who painted over Dante Lavelli's mural on the week he dies.
This past week Dante Lavelli passed away. Plenty has already been said and written, and all of it was rightfully good. The often boiler plate Livvy stepped up with this nice piece about Mr. Lavelli's loyalty. You can find out about how the original three amigos of Dub Jones, Dante Lavelli, and Mac Speede changed the game with Otto Graham and stare back at you from the walls of Canton.
But that's not why I called.
Right now the Cleveland Browns make you have to try root for them. I mean seriously, it is an effort; a labor of love they in no way deserve. From The Creature and NFL ripping our team from us so we can watch Ozzie Newsome produce more-or-less a perennial contender elsewhere, to their bumbling decade of rudderless suck, to watching them pass on Scott Pioli and Mike Shanahan for some nobody and a young failure who treats football like it is Cold War submarine warfare, to a billionaire owner who cries poor over about $900,000 in salaries as Butch and Romeo and Phil pull in millions upon millions.... This team, organization, and in fact the majority of the players on the roster make it really hard to just to not hate this team. It's no wonder as someone posted in the forums that Inbred decorations are popping up in his Cleveland area neighborhood like crocuses in spring.
You wonder how and why most of us fans even still care.
Its because of men like Mister Dante Lavelli. I have no business not including the "Mister".
He may have been the only half-decent football player to come out of Hudson to this day, a lovely quaint area that embodies the Western Reserve area not exactly known for football toughness. There's not a mill for 20 miles. But from this region Mr. Lavelli came, first starting at Hudson High School and then matriculating to The Ohio State University. There, he first came into contact with Paul Brown, playing half back on a national championship team according to the Livvy piece. However, he had more important things to do. Like go to war. Can any of you imagine our current group of wide receivers in the Army? I know that our tight end is a soluljah, but seriously. Seriously? "
"PRIVATE MAGGOT STALLWORTH! WHY AREN'T YOU ON THE DOUBLE TIME ?!?!?!?"
"It's, it's, it's... my quad, sir."
When Mister Lavelli returned to football, even the most casual Browns' fan knows the rest. Our fathers and their fathers would never stop talking about it. He had one of the best nicknames in history as "Glue fingers", and was an integral part in a championship run for the the real Team of the Century (TM) that made our fathers and their fathers' fathers fall in deep DNA embedded love with this franchise the bequeathed to us. Curse them. Much as the Kardiac Kids and the Marty / Bernie's Browns connected with us, but with actual results.
But here's what made all of those teams different. The players were one of us. Mister Lavelli didn't make enough money to live in a gated community. He didn't make enough money to be set for life, even as a wide out who would make this current group of multi-millionaires a footnote in NFL history. He quit playing when it was time, he used his money and connections wisely, and he sold furniture in the modest store that bore his name for decades. He lived in our community and his kids went to our schools. He didn't do things like start a charity in an ostentatious manner an then close it out of childish and cruel petulance over a few jeers when he habitually dropped easy catches. Oh, wait. He didn't drop balls. That's why he's in Canton. And here I thought it was because he went to Ohio State and not Michigan.
Mr. Lavelli, Doug Dieken, Bernie, even Mike Pruitt who sells cars here... the list could go on and on. They were and remain one of us. But when a Mr. Lavelli passes; when a Mr. Groza passes; they are just gone. There are no replacements on the way from this group of egotistical, bumbling mercenaries, unless Jackson, or Joe or Brady check themselves. It is about more than the great individuals they were, even as they were just men who had their faults and ups and downs. It is the passing of an era when these men were more or less one of us because they had to be. There was a humanity about them that transcended the United Way made-for-TV shams that are supposed to make us look past the Carruth's, Pac Man's and Rayenthaal's. Community service as if one were on probation is not being part of a community you Madison Avenue pukes. I was lucky enough to meet Mr. Groza at The Hall before his passing. What a genuinely nice man. You'd forget he killed Japanese in the Pacific and played back before so many forms of actual hitting were legislated out of the game. All you saw was a big guy from the Ohio River Valley who never forgot he could have been stuck losing both his leg from diabetes and his Wheeling-Pitt Steel pension and how lucky he was.
This week, Pat Mac reported that as Mister Lavelli passed on to whatever lies next, the new Browns' regime painted over his image, as well as Mr. Groza's and basically whitewashed Mt. Rushmore in Stalag Berea. These men who were our father's icons and went onto be pillars of our community as actual real people no longer exist to the current and future players pulling up in their $ 80,000 SUV's and six figure sports' sedans for who Cleveland and it's fan base are but talking points in cliche filled interviews, except when we annoy them by actually hoping that for once - once - we could have that which is now considered a birthright in Greater Appalachia: a contending team filled with players we identify with who display pride in their team. Then they feel welcome to rips us a new one and shove feet and thumbs in their ample pie holes.
And they paint over Dante Lavelli the week he dies.
Want commentary to follow that up?
Sorry. I can't.
Jan 25, 2009 7:00 PM
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