Big surprise: I paid attention to the media reaction and ensuing brouhaha surrounding the Trent Richardson trade to the Indianapolis Colts earlier this week.
I’m sure that the national media, including those who chimed in on websites, Twitter, Facebook, etc., will offer their observations once again this weekend on NFL pregame shows. That’s the meme I took away from all of this. Everyone seems to care what they think, the national perception. Statements popped up more than once on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Excuse me for not getting it. Why do people from Northeast Ohio — especially sports fans — care about national perception?
They’re not the ones covering the teams day-to-day. I shiver every time I read something in my Facebook feed like this: “Nothing like waking up to watch SportsCenter and basically seeing the national media laugh at Cleveland. Well played Joe Banner.”
Or this from Twitter: “I hope you Cleveland fans know you’re a national laughingstock for still rooting for this team!”
Who cares what national perception is? We live in Northeast Ohio and they do not. Obviously, if they wanted to they would, but if the past 40 years or so should have taught people around here anything it is that this area and Cleveland in particular gets an easy laugh.
Aren’t people used to it by now?
Or could it be that sports fans around here are particularly sensitive because it’s been 40-plus years of wandering in the desert with respect to a championship? “Remember 1964” has become a battle cry.
Or has watching “The Drive” and “The Fumble” play on assorted outlets in all their grainy glory every time the Browns and lack of the postseason are mentioned turned into a horror film? Is Michael Jordan pumping and jumping ferociously after hitting “The Shot,” beating arguably the best Cavs team in history the wretched sequel? “The Decision” for Cavs fans? No, let’s not go there; this is an Akron paper after all. Jose Mesa? Seventh game against the Florida Marlins? They all can be edited together to create the ultimate Cleveland sports horror film.
But what if it’s something else?
Something as simple as losing perspective of what sports actually are? They’re supposed to offer a diversion, not induce stress.
I am well aware of what sports can do in the right moment. I saw the face of a little girl who was facing surgery light up after I handed her a Sandy Alomar-autographed baseball during a game at the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium. I screamed along with 80,000 plus Browns fans when Bernie Kosar led the most impossible of playoff comebacks against the New York Jets in double overtime.
I sat stunned in virtually the same seats given to me by a friend who played for the Browns the following week when John Elway created his own miracle with “The Drive” in the AFC Championship Game. And a year later: I cried in my Ohio State University dorm room in Baker Hall when Earnest Byner fumbled the ball when it looked as if he was going in for a touchdown in a rematch against the Denver Broncos.
But I’ve also watched in years at what sports and fandom has become. Maybe it’s me getting older, but I generally don’t like what I see. Sure, the power to soothe the masses is there, but as we saw this week with the Richardson trade, the power to enrage is there as well and the vitriol oozing from social media spots like rancid puss has been palpable this week for Northeast Ohioans. Civility is stolen by anonymity in some cases and vulgarity replaces common courtesy. It’s not a pretty picture.
More on Richardson
Former Browns linebacker Scott Fujita might find out just how ugly things can be after his piece on the Richardson trade in which he said the then-rookie running back acted detached, didn’t engage with teammates and didn’t show up on time for treatments circulates for 24 hours.
Some backlash was evident right away as some accused him of “throwing Richardson under the bus” or trashing him.
Here’s the reality: Fox Sports 1 pays Fujita now for his insight, insider info and his analysis. He was doing his job, a cover that all of us journalists like to use.
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Sports Media blog at http://www.ohio.com/blogs/sports-media. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/GeorgeThomasABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.