I interrupt the "Why'd Lerner Do What He Did" musings to smack Cleveland sports fans upside the head. Consider it a public service announcement designed to shake you from your catatonic Browns-induced trances and to train your focus on where it should be today.
I know many of you out there aren't happy unless you're miserable. That's cool. It takes all kinds. I know many of you can't pull yourself away from gazing wistfully at Cleveland Browns Stadium and softly weeping into your brown and orange scarves. Sometimes you find the strength to stand up and, with one fist raised above your head, shout, "Damn you Browns. Damn you all. A curse upon the Lerner family livestock."
Actually, the indignation and crying runs about 50/50 from what I've seen.
Articles, posts, diatribes, radio rants and barstool conversations, all of them endlessly centered around Randy Lerner and his inadequacies. If I'm reading this site, the boards, the papers and the general tone correctly I think some of you might be saying, "Dude's made a mess of things. I hope he gets his head out of his ass and stops wrecking my team." At least that's what I got from the first 50-60 such articles, posts and conversations.
Here's an idea; stop the whining and crying. Wipe your noses and stop pawing at your swollen, tear-filled eyes and turn south from CBS. Now look over toward The Q. Because there's a guy inside running an organization that has the cure for what ails you. Only your indignation and temper tantrums are causing you to miss out on that fact.
Turn your attention away from the fact that Randy was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and owes pretty much everything he has in life (which is a lot) to a death in the family. Dan Gilbert is a self-made man.
Gilbert started Rock Financial with his brother and a couple of buddies when he was a 21 year-old first year law student. While he was going on to get his law degree his company grew to become a huge player in the mortgage business. Gilbert also had the foresight to jump into the growing online pool and watched as Intuit purchased Rock Financial and started Quicken Loans to further capitalize on the burgeoning online mortgage business. Gilbert stayed on as CEO at Quicken Loans for a couple years before buying it back from Intuit.
Gilbert just ‘gets it' from a business perspective. The guy understands the importance of leadership and communication not only in business but also in the sports world. Want to read or write endless stories about the mess the Browns made with their coaching and general manager hirings? Feel free. Or you can look at how Gilbert hired Danny Ferry and Mike Brown and empowered them to build an organization that's in the process of setting this city on its ear.
Why bother bitching (other than because it's a well-honed skill here) about Lerner's propensity to emulate Howard Hughes when it comes to matters of the press when you've got a man who is eminently aware of how important it is to have a face for the franchise. Gilbert is not only the face of the franchise from a business perspective but is also its conscience and mouth.
Look at his letter to the ownership group of the Portland Trailblazers when they came out with some heavy-handed correspondence warning of retribution and a plague of locusts should any team dare to sign Darius Miles and cost them $18million by doing so. Wrote Gilbert:
"With all due respect...although the Cleveland Cavaliers have no interest in signing Darius Miles and will not be signing Darius Miles," Gilbert wrote, "I find your email quite peculiar from two standpoints:
"1. It's dead wrong. I believe that all 30 NBA teams were and are fully aware of the terms and provisions of the collective bargaining agreement as to which all teams and the NBA are a party to, including the Portland Trailblazers.
"2. Are legal threats through a mass email the best way to circumvent the known potential consequences that could result from the Trailblazers decisions and actions they took with respect to Darius Miles?
"I fully understand the frustration you and your team's ownership must be feeling in regards to this situation, but a preemptive threat of ‘litigation' directed at all of your partners through a group email does not sit well with me and seems to be incongruent with the spirit of keeping a ‘fiduciary duty' and good ‘partner-like duty' to your ‘NBA joint venturers.'
"I would think there has got to be a better tactic than this one."
That's some effective communication. Friendly enough, yet strong and to the point and essentially saying; "Shut up with your idle threats because not only do I not appreciate them, but you don't have a legal leg to stand on."
Gilbert didn't stop there with making sure that not only were the Cavs strong on the court and at the gate, but that they weren't going to be a doormat in regard to being disrespected by the league either.
Just a couple days ago Gilbert followed up a Ben Wallace comment to the media calling Mo Williams' being left off the All Star roster as a sham and a mockery and as, in Wallace's words, 'a shamockery', with his own description via an email to the Associated Press:
"Ben Wallace was right when he called Mo originally being passed over for the All-Star Game a shamockery," Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said in a tongue-in-cheek e-mail to The Associated Press. "But not naming him as the natural and obvious replacement for the unfortunately injured Jameer Nelson is stupidiculous, idillogical and preposterageous."
See? That's just good stuff. It's light-hearted, funny and yet it calls the right amount of attention to the situation. You want to wring your hands over Lerner sitting sullenly in the back of the room like the shy, sullen high school kid at the dance when the situation clearly calls for him to take a leadership role and get out front? Screw him. And screw anyone who tells me I'm out of line too. That I'm not a real fan because I'm tired of his incompetence and his disappearing act, not to mention thread after thread and article after article about the same tired subject. Show me your years of season ticket purchases with all the parking and stadium fixings and I'll show you mine.
Need more? How about the fact that not only does Gilbert own a successful mortgage business and a successful NBA franchise but he also happens to own Fathead, the wall decal company. I find it amusing to think that when the Browns took down the mural of Hall of Famers in order to relocate it to another spot in their building that it was mentioned the mural was one of those wall decal deals. That led me to wonder whether Gilbert would profit again from the stupidity of his cross-town neighbor when another decal was needed. That would fit perfectly with how things are going. I can easily see the successful and accomplished Gilbert making a few bucks off of the bumblings of Lerner. It's like the track star and the one-legged fat kid betting their lunch money on a race in the schoolyard.
You know what Lerner knows about Fathead? Apparently nothing, other than he believes he's perfectly qualified, without the help of anyone else, to hire one after he's fired one.
Gilbert also comes across as approachable and engaging when he occasionally takes time to sit in with Austin Carr and Fred McLeod. He's respectful but playful and he enjoys his role.
That's the bottom line with Dan Gilbert. You don't get anything close to the feeling that he's a reluctant owner burdened by the responsibilities of ownership. On the contrary, Gilbert comes across as a man who's having the time of his life with the Cavaliers franchise. He's sunk a bunch of money into this club (luxury tax money too), he's assembled a strong front office and given them the autonomy to build a powerful club and he plays the dutiful host and protector role for his team to perfection.
Meanwhile, Randy Lerner mumbles incoherently into his handkerchief if he makes any noise at all and, for all we know, has already set about saving his nail clippings in sterilized mayonnaise jars.
If you want to wallow in the misery that Randy created then clearly that's your right. There's always a new column or post to satisfy your cravings for the same old thing. But that desire says as much about you and your ‘woe is me' attitude as it does about Lerner. I dig the disappointment and the frustration but it's not going to define me. Cry over Lerner and the Browns again in July when you can bemoan what they did or didn't do in the draft and free agency period.
But if you're truly interested in seeing ‘The Cleveland Experience' get its face beaten to a pulp then you have a clear choice and easy guy to root for. A guy who knows exactly what he's doing and actually wants to be doing it.