Tag Archives: 1964

Questioning Fanhood

Sometimes, I wonder if I am, indeed, more than a fan. After all, I moved away from the city where all most of my teams reside.

The more I do this stuff, the pods, the writing, the live radio show, I wonder if it actually makes me less than a fan. After all, I’m taking on a stance of less subjectivity. In fact, if all the dysfunction and failure to see my teams reach the pinnacle doesn’t take away from my fanhood1You know, of the Cleveland teams., I’m not sure what will. I’ve come the conclusion that only an obligation, by way of occupation, the whole “no cheering in the press box” will deter me from the tears of joy. Who am I kidding? Cleveland only offers tears of agony.

My father once watched a childish demonstration2I’m not proud to admit he’s witnessed many of these immature displays, mostly when I was an actual child., and in the interest of full disclosure, it wasn’t that long ago that I pouted over a Phil Taylor offsides penalty that reduced the Browns chances of victory from slim to none against the Ravens, that begged the question, “I don’t know why he still cares so much”. I do care, and sometimes it brings me shame to show that, but it always defines my character. We see it so much, why do we settle for this shit show that is the Browns? My answer is simple…I ain’t got no place else to go. Could I shut down shop, and just root for the local Cardinals? Of course, I could, but it’s my decision not to. I don’t want to show my middle finger to my friends and family back home; I’d rather poke my own eye out3In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal I like the Cardinals.  Living vicariously through my local friends, I’m thrilled with their current success.

I could take the cop out, you know, that the “real” Browns left in 1995 and they aren’t coming back. Had I left before this ridiculous knock-off stepped onto the scene, maybe I’d have grounds to do that, not for the approval of others, but for inner-peace, but I don’t go that route.

Putting the Browns on the back-burner for a moment, they’re only a fraction of the agony of my fanhood. I have more history with the Indians, and I marry myself to them more than I probably should. I remember taking on the unfathomable plan of what exactly it was that I would do when they finished the job in 2007. It wasn’t even a matter of “if”, and that was before they’d put away the Yankees in a best-of-5, even before they took a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead over Boston in the best-of-7 in the American League Championship Series, where actuality revealed a much crueler fate for the Sons of Geronimo. I’d gotten married that summer4Ironically, it was on a weekend that saw the Tribe swept by the very Yankees they took down in the playoffs, but I spent more time thinking about renting the tuxedos and limousines to celebrate the Indians’ first World Series win since 1948 than for any of the particulars of my own wedding. There was going to be champagne, and there wasn’t going to be any concern for sustaining employment. I don’t know if it’s accurate to say a state of depression followed, but I promise a very un-Christian period of hatred for all-things-Boston culminated from that point. I have a very dear friend from Cape Cod, and quite frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t kick my ass to the curb in the aftermath of that ALCS and subsequent Red Sox sweep of the Rockies in that World Series, but he’s a fan too, so I’m pretty sure got it/gets it.

If you think it’s just Cleveland, you’d be wrong. I’ve grown an affinity for a few of my new home’s local teams, specifically the Phoenix-turned-Arizona Coyotes. After Game 7 of the NHL’s 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals, things got weird with me and Detroit. I was a little more numb when the Winged CCCP swept my Desert Dogs out of the 2011 Stanley Cup Tournament, but when my hockey team actually started advancing in the playoffs, my hate, and I don’t use that word lightly, shifted to the Kings of Los Angeles. Phoenix had grown on me.

By 2013, I was a partial-season ticket holder with the Arizona Diamondbacks and a full-fledged Arizona State Sun Devil Football season ticket holder. That was the summer that Ian Kennedy put a pitch in Yasiel Puig’s earhole, which included a subsequent brawl that was the flashpoint for the Dodger ascent and Arizona’s fall to the bottom of the pack, a fall they’ve yet to fully recover from.

By the time the Dodgers clinched the National League West at Chase Field that September, I had such a low opinion of that organization, and all of Los Angeles, that the news/rumor of a few Dodgers players draining the main vein in the center field pool had me feeling like Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

I guess the point is, I don’t know how to do casual. I’ve adopted my wife’s Northern Illinois Huskies, and I sometimes feel guilty about not being all-in, not hating Toledo and Western Michigan head coach PJ Fleck5Fleck was a great receiver at NIU when they first stepped on to the national scene, behind the great running Michael “The Burner” Turner, earlier this millennium.. I guess I’m getting there, but I’m pretty far in for a guy that spent the early part of his adulthood just paces away from Kent State, with friends at MAC schools in every part of Ohio.

I think leaving Ohio is as much to blame for my passion as being from there is. I feel like I have some sort of obligation to serve as an ambassador, while 2500 miles from the place I called home for so long. I don’t know how to be anything other than passionate and loyal; while it destroys any hope for normalcy in my life, I feel it can be quite the virtue. If I’m a genuine sports fan, but fake at the other things I do in life, I’m exposed as a fraud.

With Yours Truly, there isn’t anything fraudulent to be revealed. I’m the genuine article, even if it means admitting that I’m not proud. Browns fan? Duh. Tribe fan? You know it. Cavs fan? With or without LeBron, you know I am, and I’m unapologetic for being so against him and the possibility of a return for four years, until it happened. If I want to leave a legacy of any sort, it’s that I root for the home team, just like my father in my love life. He says, if you like her, I like her.

It’s a front of the jersey thing. It says Cleveland, Phoenix, Arizona, or whatever’s important to me, I’m on board. Being a fan is cool; never be ashamed.

I never claimed to be brilliant, but I think that’s a principle that gets you through life, whether that concept is subject to scrutiny or not.

1 You know, of the Cleveland teams.
2 I’m not proud to admit he’s witnessed many of these immature displays, mostly when I was an actual child.
3 In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal I like the Cardinals.  Living vicariously through my local friends, I’m thrilled with their current success
4 Ironically, it was on a weekend that saw the Tribe swept by the very Yankees they took down in the playoffs
5 Fleck was a great receiver at NIU when they first stepped on to the national scene, behind the great running Michael “The Burner” Turner, earlier this millennium.

50 Years Ago: The 1964 Auburn Tigers

It was September and the excitement was building to a fever pitch in the state of Alabama. Auburn was coming off a 9-1 regular season record with a heartbreaking 13-7 loss to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl (AU’s last appearance in the game). Alabama finished 8-2 with a victory over Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl. To make things even more exciting, the Tigers were picked by Sports Illustrated to be the number one team in the country.
Boys and girls, this was before any hint of a BCS, a College Football Playoff or anything resembling a way to come up with a “true” national champion.
Jimmy Sidle, Auburn’s All American quarterback, who set their single season rushing record with 1,006 yards in 1963, was back as was Tucker Frederickson and a host of other talented teammates. The stage was set for a monster season on the Plains.
The first game in 1964 was played on a muggy Saturday afternoon in Auburn. The University of Houston was the opening day opponent and the Cougars were a decided underdog. Auburn had traveled to Texas to defeat this team, 21-14, in it’s 1963 opener and fans were more than ready to “tee it up.”
The Tigers prevailed over the Cougars by a score of 30-0. It truly did appear that this team was capable of accomplishing very big things. An SEC Championship ? Maybe. A national championship ? Possibly. BUT Jimmy Sidle hurt his right shoulder and did not pass the ball well in the next game versus Tennessee, although he did run for 94 yards, and Auburn eked out a 3-0 conference win.
Next on the schedule was a night game at Stoll Field in Lexington, KY. Auburn lost three fumbles and, without Sidle being able to pass effectively, the Wildcats came away with a 20-0 victory over the Tigers. A once promising season was now beginning to take on a more somber tone and just when it didn’t seem that things could get much worse… they did. Sidle suffered a double shoulder separation in the next game against Chattanooga and the visions of grandeur, less than one month ago, were now becoming only shattered images of what might have been.
Auburn went on to stumble to a 6-4 record in 1964.
I attended my first Iron Bowl in ’64. It is now a bittersweet memory. The game was played on Thanksgiving Day and it was televised nationally. To say I was excited would be a gross understatement. The undefeated Crimson Tide were solid favorites but that did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm. We were on the way to visit my father’s family In Isabella, AL on Wednesday of that week en route to Birmingham. As we passed through Selma a short sports segment played on the AM radio of our 1963 Plymouth Fury. Frank Gifford was doing predictions and he informed us listeners that the undefeated Tide should have “no trouble” with “Ah-burn.” I was livid !
Alabama had a great deal of trouble with “Ah-burn” on that brilliant Saturday afternoon in the “Football Capital of the South.” My Tigers led the Tide 7-6 at halftime and our hopes were very high. Tom Bryan, the sophomore AU quarterback, was having a solid day and Tucker Frederickson was simply playing his heart out. But Ray Ogden ran the second half opening kickoff back 107 yards for a touchdown. Bama made the two-point conversion and we trailed 14-7. Later, in the fourth quarter, Joe Namath hit Ray Perkins on a 23-yard pass and Auburn lost a tough one 21-14.
It is hard to believe the 1964 college football season is now that far back in the rear view mirror. It does seem like just yesterday when a 12 year old kid from LA (Lower Alabama), who had earlier in the year contracted a permanent case of Beatlemania, experienced the heady highs and lasting lows of this great, great game we know as college football.
But hey ! Let’s do it once more with feeling !!!
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