Friday, January 8, 2010
Seriously Chapter 66: I Just Got Off the Phone With a Blithering Idiot
My first pro-football beat was in 1970 for the old Cincinnati Post when I didn't even have a byline. I was just writing stuff and giving the guys at the Post information about the Bengals as they were an expansion team and I knew everybody. In fact, that was the year I got my first big bones in sports journalism as I was covering the Bengals during their famous, magical 7-game winning streak. It was a record breaking streak and a level of play unheard of for a first-year professional team and yours truly had a front row seat. Not only that, I also had the pleasure of being involved in a sexual relationship with the sister of their placekicker, Horst Muhlmann. Those were great times and formative years. I was just a young nobody with a ball-point pen and a dream. Why am I bringing this up?
I'm bringing it up because it was also around this time that my career took me into the sphere of NFL ownership, where I met, interviewed, drank and smoked-with many NFL owners including the hated-but-great, Art Modell. Now why am I bringing up Art Modell? He used to own a team called the Cleveland Browns until he hijacked them to Baltimore in `96 where they took the place of the Colts who had moved to Indianapolis in `83. Art Modell, the man, was pure unadulterated class, all the way around. Even though we hated him and his team, he'd still compliment you on a nice pair of cuff links and when you asked the man a question, he gave you a straight answer.
The Same, My Friends, Cannot Be Said For This New Breed of Cleveland Brown Front Office-Types.
Seriously just got off the phone with an ass-hat of the highest order. His name is Keith Lerner and he's the nephew of current Cleveland Browns owner, Randy Lerner. Now I didn't call the Cleveland Browns to talk to him, Keith Lerner, who's position with the team is, I-don't-know-what. He called me. I had originally called their offices to talk to VP of Operations, Lew Merletti, who is a friend of mine, because I wanted to give my two cents on the Josh Cribbs situation which, as of press-time, seems to have gone way-far south, the Browns being on the verge of losing him to the 49er's. See, Josh Cribbs is their Hall-of-Fame-level flanker and kick-off returner who is currently under a contract, with 2-years left on it, which pays him $900,000 a season which, in real life, should be his meal money what with the level of performance he brings to the field. He is a deadly dangerous, All-World threat. Now maybe it's because they know we can't stand the Browns here at Sports Seriously, I don't know, but I never received a phone call back from Lew Merletti (which is a personal situation that I'll be handling privately.) But I did get a call back from an obnoxious prick who would have been bounced out of the organization in ten minutes in the old days, even if he were a member of the Modell family. This Keith Lerner creature invaded my cell phone uninvited and proceeded to talk about "how much I don't know you" and asking about my "journalistic credentials." I told him I was covering NFL games when he was sucking his thumb and holding his blanky against his right ear. I also told him to shut his fat mouth and give the new GM (and old friend of mine,) Mike Holmgren, a message. "Tell him he can sign Cribbs for less than market, right friggin' now if he's concerned about money (yeah, right. Every team in the NFL makes a king's ransom.) The kid is starving, his posse is crying. Pookie and Cool Breeze are still drinking 40's, two years into their boy's NFL thing and they ain't got shit for Hennessy. His moms ain't even in a condo. This is arguably the best football player in the entire National Football League and he's choking to death. So rip up the, fresh-out-the-MAC-Conference, contract and give the kid his money. You could get him for 5-million a year plus bonus money. Hell, Laverneus Coles' stats for the entire year were exceeded by Josh Cribbs in his last two games and Laverneus Coles makes 7-Million a year!"
I dictated the message, word for word, to this little prick and he responded with a smug, "I'll get it right to him," looking at me with a dismissive smile. It was the smile of an owner's son and this wispy jerk-off was only a nephew. The indignities one must endure in the acquisition and distribution of sports information. God of my God. But I did manage to have a little bit of off-hand, subtle fun with the Lerner lad. I said, "I hear I.M. Pei designed the Rock and Roll Hall-of-Fame there in Cleveland. Why don't you have him design a stick so you can shove it up your doppleganger ass." I owe that punk for nothing and I can't stand the Browns, anyway. All's I'm saying is that Art Modell is rolling over in his grave right now and he's not even dead.