The Elf, Himself

I was on the road yesterday and happened to catch some sports talk radio hosts making fun of the Cleveland Browns’ new midfield logo, shown above. They were laughing at the idea that a football team would feature a giant elf on the field. They compared Brownie the Elf unfavorably to one of the old Rice Krispies elves, arguing that he looks angrier and somewhat disturbed. And they professed not to understand why an elf would be associated with the Cleveland Browns, arguing that a logo of a dog–due to the Dawg Pound section of fans in the stadium–would be a much better logo. .

The sports radio hosts are not alone in dissing Brownie the Elf and the Browns’ field. One article even suggests that the Browns specifically picked the elf logo to gin up controversy and distract from the team’s on-field problems last year and its dubious off-season decision to go all in for Deshaun Watson, the quarterback who was obviously facing a long suspension due to multiple claims of sexual misconduct.

I’m a supporter of Brownie the Elf, and evidently so are lots of other Browns fans–which is why the running elf won the poll the Browns ran to select their new midfield logo. And while I wouldn’t expect sports radio hosts or sportswriters to actually do any research before voicing their ill-informed opinions, I think Brownie is a great choice. Why an elf? It’s obvious: the team has long been known to fans as the Brownies, and a brownie is a synonym for an elf–just like pixie and sprite. The elf has been associated with the franchise for decades, much longer than the Dawg Pound, which didn’t really start until the 1980s. And the elf is showing fierce determination because he’s running the football and getting ready to give a devastating elfin stiff-arm to a would-be tackler.

I also like the elf choice because it says a lot about Cleveland, which has always gone its own way and marched to the beat of a different drummer. Lots of people have disparaged Cleveland over the years, but in reality it’s a great city with a lot of heart, a blue-collar mentality, and a quirky sense of humor, besides. Picking an elf for the field is just another way for Cleveland to show those qualities for all to see and reaffirm that the Best Location in the Nation isn’t worried about the tender sensibilities of sports talk show hosts or the conventional, boring, market-driven decisions of other NFL teams. And the fact that the running elf goes back to the days when the Browns were regularly competing for, and frequently winning, the NFL championship, doesn’t hurt, either. Given the Browns’ struggles since they came back to the league in 1999, why not pick a logo that harkens back to the team’s glory days?

I’m glad the Browns picked Brownie the Elf to grace the field. Now let’s just hope that this season we can celebrate what happens on the field, too.

The Sports Voice On The Radio

We have a clock radio on the end table next to our bed.  It basically functions solely as a clock, because the radio is never turned on.  When was the last time any modern American sat in a room in their home and listened to the radio?

There was a time, though, when the radio was a regular night-time companion.  It was the early ’70s.  UJ and I rooted for the Tribe, even though they were not good.  In those days, the Indians were never on TV, and of course there weren’t personal computers or cellphone apps to give you constant score updates, so the radio was the way to follow the team.  We’d listen to the games Gaylord Perry pitched and hear easygoing Herb Score talk about the Indians’ woes and occasional triumphs.  And then, after the game, we’d listen to a show called Sportsline hosted by a guy named Pete Franklin.

pete-franklinjpg-d5c7b706a3af8778Pete Franklin was one of the pioneers among the call-in sports broadcasters.  Before there was Mike and Mike in the Morning, there was Pete Franklin at night.  He was knowledgeable, sure, and terrifically opinionated, but mostly he was the king of the dismissive insult.  Some guy would call in to argue with Pete about his pick on the next Browns game, and Pete would just cut him off, call him an idiot, and make some cutting remark about the guy’s intellect.  A kid would propose a ludicrous trade through which the Indians would somehow end up with Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter on their roster, and Pete would tell him it was past his bedtime and to quit calling the show or Pete would tell his mother.  Virtually every caller got a liberal dose of Pete’s caustic wit.  And yet, people couldn’t resist calling in to cross swords with him, which made the show all the more entertaining to its fans.

There was something about listening to the show on the radio, too, that made it even more enjoyable.  Sportsline was carried on a 50,000-watt, clear channel station, but it was still AM radio.  You’d have to precisely tune your cheap transistor radio to land on just the right broadcast band to get the station, and even then there would be crackles of static and hisses and Pete Franklin’s brashness would fade in and fade out.  You couldn’t listen to the show without realizing that it was coming from somewhere far away, which added to the exotic element of the experience.  And there was something fun, too, about sitting quietly and listening carefully, hoping that Pete would come up with a really good insult for the next loudmouth know-it-all that you could share with your friends the next day, before you finally turned off the show and went to bed.

TV is great, but radio, with voices floating over the airwaves, is wonderful, too.  When I’m in the car at night, I’ll try to find one of those local Cleveland sports talk shows, listen for a bit, and reconnect with that inner teenager chuckling at Pete Franklin’s latest putdown.

The Flavor Of The Week

I notice that the Baylor Bears lost to the Oklahoma State Cowboys last night.  In fact, losing doesn’t seem quite like the accurate word when you fall by a score like 49-14.  Perhaps crushed is more accurate.  Or obliterated.  Or shellacked.

I’ve got nothing against Baylor, and I’m not one of those thin-skinned Ohio State fans who becomes enraged at every perceived slight from the national media.  I don’t watch ESPN, I don’t read sports columnists on line, and I really don’t much care what some carefully coiffed commentator has to say about whether one team is better than another — because they are so often, and so predictably, wrong, wrong, and wrong again.

This season, however, members of Buckeye Nation can’t help but notice that the sports chat community always seems to want to talk up some team other than Ohio State.  I think that’s not only because the TV shows and the talk radio community focus on ginning up controversy to attract viewers, but also because they are just dazzled by high-scoring offenses.  Until yesterday, Baylor was a high-flying offense that was putting up the points, just as Oregon had done before it.  (Coincidentally, Oregon also got mauled yesterday.)  These teams are like the flavor of the week at the local ice cream shop — it’s interesting to try the vanilla mango cherry pistachio mix, but at the end of the week you realize chocolate chip is just better.

It’s an old saying in college football that November separates the contenders from the pretenders.  With Michigan Week now officially upon us, Ohio State remains undefeated.  There are not many teams left that can say that.

The Mindless Drone Of Sports Talk Radio

We had our family retreat to Sawmill Creek Lodge this weekend and on the way home I decided to catch up on Cleveland sports news by listening to the Sunday morning talk show on WKNR, 850-AM.  I quickly came to regret my decision.  The two hosts broadcast about the most droning, repetitive show imaginable.  During the time I listened — and I admit I gave up after an hour or so — the principal theme was that Josh Cribbs is overrated, is simply a special teams player, isn’t among the top 100 players in the NFL, and is being ridiculous in asking for more money.  In the process the hosts kept saying precisely the same things, over and over and over.  Sprinkled in the endless Cribbs discussion were bits about whether Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson should be the quarterback for the Browns this year, whether Braylon Edwards will have a good year, and whether any rational baseball fan should ever buy a ticket to an Indians game so long as their current ownership remains the same.  The hosts even chuckled about Beanie Wells’ unfortunate injury on his first day of practice.  Even worse, the hosts occasionally veered into even more dreadful non-sports topics, like one host’s experience in the “mosh pit” at a bar mitzvah and his time in the “VIP” section at some local bar.  Do any listeners actually care about this kind of stuff?

Sports talk radio has to be the most irritating radio format ever invented, and today’s Sunday morning show on WKNR was Exhibit A for that proposition.  No sports “news” is ever presented on these shows, just opinions that are typically stated in the most over-the-top fashion possible in an effort to provoke bored people to call in and try to argue with the host.  I tuned in the show hoping to get some actual information about the Browns, and I tuned out feeling like the mindless discussion had, if anything, reduced my understanding of what is going on with the team.