and now I know.

As my frustrations with the Cleveland Browns have waxed and waned over the years, I’ve threatened at different points just to bag my five-plus decades of support because it wasn’t worth the effort.

I always stuck with it, though, and I had always wondered what exactly would it take for me to actually follow up on that impulse.

That’s the basic question here: How bad would it have to be?

I got that answer last week, when it was announced that the team had reached an agreement to trade for a quarterback who hadn’t played for a year while police, prosecutors and a grand jury investigated multiple complaints that he had sexually abused women while getting massages. A quarterback who still has deal with nearly two dozen civil lawsuits from individual woman who detailed those assaults.

And there’s the answer to that question.


To briefly recap: Early last week, NFL media folks began reporting that the Browns were one of an handful of teams interested in this guy, and I tweeted at that point that I’d be done with the Browns if that were to ever happen. At that point, though, the tweet felt impulsive and I deleted it a short time later.

I was glad I did a day or two later, when the name national media folks reported that the Browns were out of the running. That still left the Browns in a terrible position with Baker Mayfield, the guy who was to have been the team’s savior — but at least it wasn’t going to be that guy.

So it’s fair to say I was stunned when multiple push alerts hit my phone Friday afternoon that the Browns were not only back in the running but had reached an agreement with the Texans to trade for the guy.

I was crushed. And I knew that impulsive tweet from earlier in the week wasn’t just an impulse — that’s what I had to do if I was ever going to enjoy watching NFL games ever again.

I went to Target after work and grabbed a big storage tub, brought it home and filled it with all of the Browns stuff I could find — books, hats, hoodies, t-shirts, jerseys, all of it — so I could take it up to the attic. I cut the team out of my social media. I left the local Browns Backers group on FB. I shut off mentions in my various sports apps and deleted the Browns app from my phone.

Maybe I had a sliver of hope that the deal could unravel before it was finalized, and that might have been the reason that I didn’t take the tub of Browns stuff upstairs right away. But that was dashed when I saw this tweet Sunday morning.

Yep. It was over.


There is one large question to address here, because it’s already become the basis for justifying his presence in Cleveland, just as it was the justification for celebrating the Stillers quarterback who just retired without any meaningful discussion of his own reputation for being a sexual predator: “But Uncle Crappy — what happened to the concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty?’ “

Was he charged with any crimes? No, he was not.

So he’s innocent, right?

It’s not that simple. Police and prosecutors make hard decisions all the time about whether those suspected of crimes can be prosecuted successfully or not. In this case, prosecutors actually took evidence to a grand jury, which was empaneled not to decide innocence or guilt but to determine if there was enough evidence to proceed with charges and a trial.

That grand jury said there wasn’t.

But that ruling speaks only to those questions; it does nothing to address whether or not anything happened. And where there is smoke, boys and girls — in this instance the civil lawsuits that are still hanging out there — there is fire.

The number of allegations against him is important too. This wasn’t a one-time problem (which we refer to incorrectly as a “mistake,” as in, “Whoops, sorry, I don’t know how my penis got there.”) — it demonstrates a pattern. Something happened, over and over and over, which pretty clearly shows that this guy has no regard for women, that he’s a dangerous person in the community and that he shouldn’t be in the league — and I sure as hell don’t want him on my team.

After that tweeted announcement, there were subsequent posts from the owners, the GM and the head coach, all saying they were satisfied that the new face of the Cleveland Browns “understands and embraces the hard work to build his name both in the community and on the field” (quoted from the statement of Dee and Jimmy Haslam).

Is it possible that that’s actually true? Does he feel remorseful? Could he successfully rehabilitate himself? Sure. That’s possible. But I also think that we should believe people when they show us who they are — and he felt comfortable enough with some kind of troubling conduct that he did it not just once but again and again and again.

And that’s not a guy I can cheer for. Ever.


Fifty years. Plus a few more.

Because of TV, I was a Browns fan before I really knew what Ohio State football was. I had posters — the ones you used to be able to order from Sports Illustrated — of Leroy Kelly hanging in my bedroom. And while Buckeyes would be on TV once or twice a year back in those days, I couldn’t begin to count the hours I spent watching the Browns on TV on a black-and-white screen with a crescent-shaped chip out of one corner of the TV’s plastic frame.

There was also even more time when I was in junior high and high school, pretty much every Sunday. My dad and I even convinced my mom to let us keep a small radio plugged in behind the couch so we could listen to the radio broadcast as we watched the game TV. And if we weren’t parked on that couch for kickoff, it was probably because we went to the game, as we did once a year for a few years.

That wasn’t easy, either. Everyone knows the list of Patented Cleveland Sports Disasters that happened to the Browns, and trust me — I felt each of those, deeply and personally. The ultimate heartbreak happened in 1995, when the team was stolen from Cleveland and from me. Mrs. Crappy talked me out of bailing then, and I was newly committed to the team when it returned.

I stuck with them through everything, even the previously mentioned moments when I doubted whether I should. But that wavering was all based on football stuff — the team’s luck, its poor decisions by terrible coaches and personnel folks and, yes, its inability to beat the team that plays just down the road from my house. But that was my team. And I stayed.

The Browns would say that this also is a football decision; I think it’s more than that, though. Regardless of the tweeted platitudes, it shows a disregard for the women of the team’s fan base and a disregard for your community. It says that the front office folks think those things can be sacrificed in the name of playoff wins, all while keeping their fingers crossed that he doesn’t start doing the same things once he lands in Cleveland.

Look, I’m not being naive. I know that the NFL is about winning. Period. And I suspect this guy will help. But my own values are more important — and they say that I can neither support this guy nor the team that signed him


So what happens now? That’s hard to say. If I’m still going to watch the NFL, it would make sense to fall back on my previous free agency deal with the 49ers. It would be easy and pretty comfortable.

And I have to admit that at the moment, the idea of cheering for the other Ohio team — the one led by Joey Burrow — is interesting.

And it could also be that I simply choose to take some time off from pro football. After all, I discovered in the years that the Browns were gone that Sunday afternoons spent doing things other than football were kind of nice.

Maybe I’ll give that a try for a while.

right in front of me.

Not my ticket. I was 14 and my parents wouldn’t let me ride my moped to Colorado.

A couple days ago, I needed to run to grab a thing at Ikea and some stuff at another couple places nearby. In Pittsburgh, that entails getting on the Parkway West and driving for longer than it should actually take, because Parkway West traffic, duh.

I settled into the car and called up the Dead show from the University of Colorado’s arena on Dec. 9, 1981 on my iPod and let it play while I headed toward the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

That Boulder show was the first bit of live Grateful Dead I had heard besides stuff the band had released. Steve, Mark and I were just getting into the Dead, and (I think) the older brother of a friend hooked us up with copies of the cassettes of the show, labeled “Boulder 1″ and Boulder 2”; the funny thing was that none of us knew enough about the band to notice that the tape labels were on the wrong sets, but that didn’t matter. It was a hot show, no matter what was played when.

The mislabeled Boulder 2 tape closed with what is still my favorite version of China > Rider of all time. It crushes all of the combo’s expected peaks and Garcia’s guitar is especially good. And that’s where I was in the playlist as I charged out to Robinson on the parkway: Jerry was tearing up a solo just before Weir delivered the “Sun’s gonna shine…” line, and I was feeling good.

When Jerry started on his line “I wish I was a headlight on a northbound train,” my bliss was interrupted by a car that jumped into the fast lane just ahead of mine. I was annoyed for sure, until I saw what the universe had just handed to me: the license plate on the car that cut me off began with the letters JSK.

I broke into a grin. And said, out loud, to whomever was listening, “You are that light, my friend. You are.”


In just over two weeks, we’re going to meet in Columbus to celebrate Steven’s life. And I say “we” because if you knew Steven, I hope I see you there, at the service (1:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14 at Northwest United Methodist Church, 5200 Riverside Drive) or at the picnic after (3 p.m. at the North Shelter House in Thompson Park).

You don’t have to bring much, besides a hug for Mary and smiles, hugs and memories for everyone else. I’m getting better at smiling when I think of Steve instead of feeling sad, but his death is still — and will be for quite a while — a hard thing for me to digest; if it is for you as well, let’s help each other out on Aug. 14. See you then.

not that terrible.

Oh, look — someone from The Simpsons found a copy of Uncle Crappy’s bracket.

Folks, I have to apologize. I normally would have had this update ready by midweek at the latest, but real life got in the way in a pretty significant manner this week.

But writing about basketball — and the Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*) is the kind of distraction I need — so let’s get down to bidness.

As longtime AUCNFFC players will recall, no one has any points yet — that doesn’t happen until teams actually reach the Final Four after Monday night’s games.

We can, however, begin to ascertain how things might shake out, based on the results of the first weekend. Quite a few of us picked Ohio State as our eventual champion, for example — and that’s not going to work out so well. A few others of us went all in on the Big Ten — and that’s really not going to work so well.

But most of us — well over half, in fact — were able avoid real disasters associated with early upsets, and are therefore in pretty good shape. And there two of us — just two of us — who have an intact Final Four still alive.

I have done no math associated with this so far, but in general, I’d give the advantage to those who are still working with their pick to be national champion over those who are trying to move on without. And so, we begin with the bad news and move on to the good.

One FF team alive, champ pick is out:

  • Strang
  • Trailion

One FF team/champ alive:

  • Susan

Two FF teams alive, champ is out

  • Mrs. Crappy
  • Cleveland Kelsey
  • Kewyson
  • Spoon

Three FF teams alive, champ is out

  • Uncle Crappy
  • Lianne
  • Carla
  • Pgh Rugby Ref

Three FF team/champ alive

  • Socialist Joe
  • Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
  • Aunt Annoyed Angel
  • Mister G
  • Styx 4 Curl Girl
  • Chachi
  • Calipanthergrl
  • Dudders
  • North Coast Matt
  • Sports Chump
  • MFulk
  • Dish
  • JCK158
  • Scooter

And our best of the best, as we go through the second weekend of FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*):

All FF picks/champ still alive

  • Miss C
  • Red Buppy

There is one more player I haven’t mentioned, and that’s Juan, oh he of little basketball knowledge. When I started this thing, I was concerned that I wouldn’t get enough entries to make it interesting, so I badgered the hell out of my family and close friends to get in. Most were accommodating, but Juan dug in his heels, giving me BS reasons like “I don’t like college basketball” and “Why are you torturing me?” When he finally made it clear that he was out, I decided to enter him anyway, using a variety of methods that pretty much guaranteed that he wouldn’t come close to ever winning this thing. He grumbled about it at first, but eventually came to appreciate that he would be entered in AUCNFFC with zero effort and almost zero chance of stressing about it at all. It became a standing joke, one of a looooooong list of standing jokes we had between us.

Juan — that’s not his actual name — was my friend who died this week. We’re not going to worry about his picks for the rest of FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*), and if I do this again next year, I suspect the tournament will be named in his honor. Which he would find as funny as I would hope.

I hope your teams do well this weekend, and I’ll be back on Tuesday — I promise this time — with the first look at our official FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*) standings.

glory days.

Fun NCAA tournament fact: The last time a 13 seed advanced to the tournament’s Sweet 16 was 2012 — when the Ohio Bobcats shocked Michigan in the first round and continued to advance.

The Bobcats’ seed this year? They’re a 13. Look out, Virginia.

Am I suggesting that you pick OU in your entry to Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*)? Ah, probably not — fandom and gambling are different things, and the contest isn’t called Fourteenth Kind Of Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Sweet Sixteen Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub*), because hooboy that would be a lot of extra work for me.

I am suggesting, however, that you make sure you have your FKOAUCNFFC (BTYBPP*) picks in soon. Remember: It’s easy. Give me — via the social media messaging channel of your preference — your final four, your championship game contestants and your national champion. Remember also: It costs you zero American dollars to enter. Remember also also: The winner will get a $50 gift card from the legendary Piper’s Pub.

To recap:

  • Free.
  • Easy.
  • Deadline is noon Friday.
  • Fifty bucks at Piper’s for the winner.
  • Picking the Bobcats to win the whole thing probably wouldn’t be smart.

woooo, cross-promotion.

Thing you guys already know: I am a college football freak.

True, my freakishness is a bit myopic, in that nearly all of it is filtered through the lens of Ohio State football and what everything might mean for the Buckeyes. But that doesn’t diminish my freakdom, and it doesn’t mean I can’t sit in front of a TV for 12 hours on a fall Saturday, trying not to sprain my remote-changing thumb.

I’ve written about college football stuff here for years, and I’ve written about it elsewhere as well, mostly for the now-defunct Draft Day Suit blog. And that … led to this:

CnClogo

Let’s back up. I had been contributing to DDS for a while when we started kicking around ways to add different kinds of media to the lineup; one natural was to get together a weekly video chat where we could make NFL picks. They were fun, pretty good and the source of perhaps my greatest moment of football punditry, when early in the 2012 season I told Goon Squad Sarah that third-round pick Russell Wilson would be a better NFL quarterback than second overall pick RGIII. I will never tire of reminding pretty much everyone how right I was about that.

At some point during that season, my friend and former colleague Carla — who was not only a DDS contributor but also an actual sportswriter at the time — decided to branch out into picking college games. As I recall, the first season — and probably the subsequent two or three — were a bit erratic; we didn’t do shows every week and we didn’t really settle on a format for a long time. But there we were, posting the vids from our chats on the blog and on the socials.

As we went through subsequent seasons, we took gradual steps towards something that one could almost call “polished.” The above logo (which was all Carla’s doing). Consistent naming and format conventions. A Facebook page. And, as of 2017, an audio version — I believe the kids call it a podcast — that posted to iTunes and a whole bunch of other places. We’ve even added a correspondent — hi, AJ! — who gives us a rundown of the stupid fun Group of Five games I’m too old to stay up and watch.

We’re now in our eighth season. And I bring up the show here because we’re actually having a pretty good season so far. The format is solid, we have some fun little things we do each week and — somewhat oddly — we’ve actually been pretty good with our picks. And while I don’t want to speak for Carla, it feels like a lot of fun this time around, even after we spent the month of August boggling at the notion that we’d been doing this for eight years.

Look. This is a little show. I’m sure it’s mostly friends and family who are listening. And hey — that’s you guys. If you’re of a like mind as far as college football goes, give us a listen.

good times roll.

In the late 70s, my musical world view was informed pretty much exclusively by Q-FM-96 in Columbus, and was therefore a bit limited. Rock ‘n’ roll — and the harder the better — was what I wanted to hear; anything else (but especially disco) sucked. I clung to those opinions into the early 80s, when a couple things happened.

First, I found the Grateful Dead, which eventually opened a ton of musical doors for me. And second — I heard, and loved, The Cars. They were a bit poppy, sure, but there was enough new wave edginess to keep me from dismissing them as Top 40 crap. And eventually they served as my stepping stone to Talking Heads, REM, The Pretenders and a bunch more.

Ric Ocasek was found dead today, in his apartment in NYC. And when I consider context — what he and his band meant to me at 15ish years old — this is a pretty big deal. I said previously that the Dead opened doors for me, to roots music and psychedelia; Ocasek and The Cars did the same, but for the stuff that was new and interesting right then … and for that, I couldn’t be more grateful.