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Read a book – learn something

Jonathan Knight has a good post up at The Cleveland Fan on his 25 Most Fun Non-Cleveland Sports Books, which is as good a reason as any to remind everyone to read a book once in a while.

Don’t worry Steeler fans, you can find someone to read a book to you.

If you need some book recommendations, we have those for you:

Read more…

Reading is Fundamental – Browns edition

Today we’re passing along some book recommendations for Browns fans.

Some of these books may no longer be in print, but if you can find a copy it will be well worth your time:*

  • Sundays in the Pound: The Heroics and Heartbreak of the 1985-89 Cleveland Browns by Jonathan Knight: (This book) traces quarterback Bernie Kosar’s winding path from Youngstown to Florida to Cleveland, explains why there was so much more to running back Earnest Byner than one unforgotten fumble, and reveals how cornerback Hanford Dixon created a canine phenomenon in the end zone stands that has persevered to this day. Knight delves into the Drive and the Fumble; examines the fairy-tale performance of an aging veteran quarterback who directed the Browns through the snow and into the playoffs in his final game at the old, cavernous Cleveland Stadium; and recounts an epic playoff saga in which the Browns staged one of the greatest comebacks in the history of Cleveland sports.
  • When all the World was Browns Town: Cleveland’s Browns and the Championship Season of ’64 by Terry Pluto: The 1964 Browns were truly Cleveland’s team; Terry Pluto recreates this ear with the words, thoughts and reflections of the men – Jim Brown, Frank Ryan, Dick Modzelewski and Bernie Parrish, among others – for whom team pride was not just a slogan, and who gave their all for themselves, for their teammates and for the fans who loved them.
  • Classic Browns: The 50 Greatest Games in Cleveland Browns History by Jonathan Knight: Classic Browns counts down the 50 greatest Cleveland Browns games, from unexpected upsets to incredible comebacks to titanic championship battles. The rich, six-decade history of the Browns is layered into these tales, tying together the gritty All-American Football Conference games played in the shadow of World War II to the sleek Sunday battles at shimmering Cleveland Browns Stadium today. Knight ranks heartbreakers like The Fumble and The Drive alongside championship duels and epic confrontations with heated rivals. Included in these pages are the heroics of Browns legends like Otto Graham, Lou Groza, Jim Brown, Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar to name just a few. Whether it was because of the score, the weather, or an amazing individual performance, each game included in Classic Browns is worth remembering and revisiting.
  • False Start: How the New Browns were set up to Fail by Terry Pluto: It was supposed to be the dawn of a grand new era of football in Cleveland. Instead, it was a rude wakeup call. When the new Cleveland Browns took the field in 1999, legions of loyal fans—once heartsick, abandoned, and disgusted at the loss of their team in 1995—were ready to forgive the past and embrace the future . . . a new owner, a new team, a new stadium. They just wanted their Browns back. They didn’t get what they bargained for. In the five years since a new team called the Browns arrived to play on Cleveland’s lakefront, this has become clear: Browns fans got a bum deal. The NFL traded one of the most storied teams in football history for a franchise mired in mediocrity. These were the fans who, after owner Art Modell skipped town with their beloved Browns, became the only fans ever to take on the NFL, demand their team back—and win. Yet while they were celebrating the supposed victory that kept “our name, our colors, our team” in Cleveland, fans should have been looking over their shoulders and keeping a close watch on the NFL. There would be few reasons to celebrate in the years to come.
  • Kardiac Kids: The Story of the 1980 Cleveland Browns by Jonathan Knight: In Kardiac Kids, Jonathan Knight paints a portrait of the Browns storybook 1980 season and its impact on the city of Cleveland. Knight takes us through that unforgettable year from beginning to end, describing in great detail how the city simply fell in love with this team. It was the year long-suffering Cleveland sports fans finally had something to be proud of. Tickets were at a premium, players were pursued like rock stars and songs were written about their on-field heroics.
  • On Being Brown: What it Means to Be a Cleveland Browns Fan by Scott Huler: What is this madness all about? Ask anyone who has experienced it: being a Cleveland Browns fan is just different. Scott Huler looks at this 50-year love affair between town and team in 33 essays recounting his personal saga of “becoming Brown.” Searching out those special elements of shared experience that define what being a Browns fan has meant for us all, he also holds conversations with the true legends of Cleveland Browns history – Jim Brown, Otto Graham, Lou “The Toe” Groza, Brian Sipe, Ozzie Newsome and others – in which they share their own thoughts about just what made this relationship between town and team so special. This odyssey for Browns fans takes them back to some wonderful places. It revives some truly awful moments. And it looks to the future with great hope. Those who are truly Brown will enjoy the ride.
  • Cleveland Browns History by Frank M. Henkel: There was little fanfare when Art “Mickey” McBride flew into Chicago in 1945 to purchase a professional football team for Cleveland. But that act set in motion a tradition that has brought the city of Cleveland together on Sunday afternoons for (most of) the 60 years to follow. Cleveland Browns History is the story of championship seasons, legendary coaches and Hall of Fame players. Coach Paul Brown led his teams to seven league title games in their first 17 seasons. Running backs Marion Motley, Jim Brown and Leroy Kelley each rushed over opposing defenses and straight into Canton, Ohio, along with fellow Browns like Otto Graham, Ozzie Newsome and Len Ford. The Kardiac Kids in 1980 had too many nail-biters for some fans, but won the AFC Central in typical fashion – by three points in the final game of the season. All these stories, plus those of the many unsung heroes to don the NFL’s only logo-less helmet, fill the pages of this book, sure to delight any Cleveland Browns fan.
  • Things I’ve Learned from Watching the Browns by Terry Pluto: Here’s a question for any Browns fan … Why? Why, more than four long decades after your team’s last championship … despite a relentless pattern of heartbreak, teasing, and more heartbreak … capped with a decade of utter futility … do you still stick with the Cleveland Browns? Good question. Veteran sportswriter Terry Pluto gets a daily barrage of e-mail from fans letting their hearts bleed out orange and brown. So he decided to ask his readers: Just what is it about this team that makes you love them, hate them and still keep coming back for more? A thousand fans responded – in detail. Their stories – along with interviews with former players and Pluto’s own expert analysis – deliver the answer. Answers, actually. Because like any intense relationship, it’s a little complicated … Covering the Browns from 1964 through present day, this book does for Cleveland football what Pluto’s classic about the Indians, The Curse of Rocky Colavito, did for Cleveland baseball: It won’t make the pain go away, but it might help you remember why it’s worth enduring.
  • Glory for Sale: Fans, Dollars and the New NFL by Jon Morgan: Morgan, a sports business writer for the Baltimore Sun, believes the major factor behind the flight of professional football franchises from city to city is stadium economics. Items such as skyboxes, retractable roofs, concession contracts, and scoreboard advertising have replaced fan allegiance and municipal loyalty as the deciding issues in the relocation of teams. To illustrate his case, he chronicles in dollar-by-dollar detail the recent move of the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore, an event determined in the end by the highest bidder. Like the league he targets, this study is more business than sport and thus is likely to frustrate traditional fans who cringe at the commingling of the two. Though the message he delivers may be depressing, it is also necessary for developing an understanding of today’s NFL. (summary courtesy of Library Journal)
  • Fumble! The Browns, Modell and the Move: An Insider’s Story by Michael G. Poplar: The author is the former executive vice president-treasurer of Cleveland Stadium Corp, a company formed by Browns owner Art Modell, to operate the stadium under a 25-year lease with the City of Cleveland. The book “Fumble !” chronicles the difficulties that went with operating the aging and obsolete city-owned stadium, as the writer describes from the many diaries and transaction summaries which he maintained since 1975. Along with the interesting tales of the conditions of the building and the other interesting events held there, Poplar also weaves in 20 years of Browns football memories under five head coaches … ranging from Forrest Gregg in 1975 through the end of the reign of Bill Belichick in 1996. The book is sure to rekindle fond memories of those exciting Kardiac Kids finishes, and the not-so-memorable climaxes, including the Drive and the Fumble, along with the terminations of those five head coaches.

If you do decide to check one of these out, you won’t be disappointed. And remember to shop at your local bookstore. If you don’t have one in your area and are in the Hudson area, it’s worth a stop at The Learned Owl.

*Summaries are all taken from the individual book jackets, except where noted.

Reading is Fundamental – NFL edition

With the end of the NFL season just around the corner, we thought we’d pass along some book recommendations for anyone needing a football fix.

Here are some NFL and college football related books that are worth checking out (we’ll do Browns-specific books later in the week). Some may no longer be in print, but if you can find a copy it will be well worth your time:*

  • Badasses: The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death and John Madden’s Oakland Raiders, by Peter Richmond. The Oakland Raiders of the 1970s were some of the most outrageous, beloved and violent football teams every to play the game. Peter Richmond tells the story of Oakland’s wrecking crew of castoffs, psychos, oddballs and geniuses who won six division titles and a Super Bowl championship under the brilliant leadership of coach John Madden and eccentric owner Al Davis.
  • Johnny U: The Life & Times of John Unitas by Tom Callahan. Johnny U is the first authoritative biography of Unitas, based on hundreds of hours of interviews with teammates and opponents, coaches, family and friends. The depth of Tom Callahan’s research allows him to present something more than a biography, something approaching an oral history of a bygone sporting era.
  • Saturday Rules: A Season with Trojans and Domers (and Gators and Buckeyes and Wolverines) by Austin Murphy. No two programs are more storied than Notre Dame and USC. With the inside scoop on these top-ranked teams, Murphy closely follows their arcs through the 2006 season, up to their late-November showdown in the L.A. Coliseum. Murphy puts you in the field, in the meeting room and in the huddle as both teams fight to keep alive their national title ambitions.
  • Boys will be Boys: The Glory Days and Party Nights of the Dallas Cowboys Dynasty by Jeff Pearlman. In Boys will be Boys, award-winning writer Jeff Pearlman chronicles the outrageous antics and dazzling talent of a team fueled by ego, sex, drugs – and unrivaled greatness. Rising from the ashes of a 1-15 season in 1989 to capture three Super Bowl trophies in four years, the Dallas Cowboys were guided by a swashbuckling, skirt-chasing, power-hungry owner, Jerry Jones, and his two eccentric, hard-living coaches, Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer. Together the three built a juggernaut that America loved and loathed.
  • Going Long: The Wild 10-year Saga of the Renegade American Football League in the Words of Those who Lived It by Jeff Miller. From its inauspicious beginnings through its improbable Super Bowl victories and its ultimate demise, the American Football League had a colorful and sometimes bizarre 10-year history. Going Long takes you back to that thrilling decade with the men who made the AFL – and who made it great.
  • Take Your Eye off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look by Pat Kirwan. This is not a beginner’s introduction to football, nor is it a technical manual for only the most studious of fans. Instead, it clearly and simply explains the intricacies and nuances that affect the outcomes of every NFL game. Take Your Eye Off the Ball explains the pros and cons of different personnel groups, tells you what to look for when projecting a college quarterback’s success in the NFL and gives fans a simple, easy-to-remember checklist to help them understand the action on the field. Baseball claims to be America’s national pastime, but football is its passion. Take Your Eye Off the Ball will make fans feel like they’ve got their own personal head coach by their side each and every Sunday, enhancing the fan experience by making football more accessible, colorful, and compelling than ever before.
  • The Last Coach: A Life of Paul “Bear” Bryant by Allen Barra. The Last Coach traces Paul Bryant’s rise from a family of truck farmers to recognition as the most successful and influential coach in the game’s history. At the height of the Depression, football took Bryant to the Rose Bowl with Alabama’s 1934 national champions and on to a career as an assistant and, finally, a head football coach, where he matched wit and grit with the greatest coaches of two generations, men like Tennessee’s General Robert Neyland, Oklahoma’s Bud Wilkinson, Notre Dame’s Ara Parseghian, Ohio State’s Woody Hayes and Penn State’s Joe Paterno. Through it all, Bryant’s influence has not only endured but prevailed as his former players and assistants continue to define the best in not only college but professional football.
  • Perfect Rivals: Notre Dame, Miami and the Battle for the Soul of College Football by Jeff Carroll. College football is a sport of rivalries – and no two teams were ever more perfectly matched than the Miami Hurricanes and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. In Perfect Rivals, award-winning sportswriter Jeff Carroll takes us inside the locker rooms and onto the gridiron, as two storied programs with very different cultures battle for national supremacy, school pride and the soul of the game itself.

If you do decide to check one of these out, you won’t be disappointed. And remember to shop at your local bookstore. If you don’t have one in your area and are in the Hudson area, it’s worth a stop at The Learned Owl.

If you missed it, our basketball book recommendations are here and our baseball books are here.

*Summaries are all taken from the individual book jackets.


Thanks to Scott at WFNY, who found this column by Clay Travis at Fanhouse.

After writing about how the Terrible Towel is Terribly Stupid, Travis posted a column with the response of Steeler fans.

We especially like the one hoople head who was considerate enough to leave their phone number in the death threat they sent to Travis.


Speaking of Terrible Towels, we’re pretty sure this constitutes child abuse.


Fox Sports Florida is the latest to pile on the Cavs.


If we had known Liverpool were going to turn into the Cleveland Indians


Alex Mack thinks touchdowns, not field goals.

Reading is Fundamental – Baseball Edition

With the end of the All-Star break, the Tribe is ready to embark on the second-half of what could feel like a never-ending season. With that in mind, it’s time for some more book recommendations.

There are plenty of great (or very good) sports books out there for Cleveland fans, specifically, and sports fans in general. These baseball books are worth checking out; most should be familiar to Cleveland fans, some may not be. Some may no longer be in print, but if you can find a copy it will be well worth your time*:

  • Endless Summers: The Fall and Rise of the Cleveland Indians by Jack Torry. This book “takes the reader into the executive suites, lakeshore apartments and political backrooms where the men with money and clout made the decisions that transformed the Indians from World Series contenders in 1954 to pathetic losers for four decades.”
  • Our Tribe by Terry Pluto. “By reliving the stories of Lou Sockalexis, Bob Feller, Larry Doby, Rocky Colavito, Bill Veeck, Lou Boudreau, Omar Vizquel, Manny Ramirez and countless others, Terry Pluto relives the stories of his childhood and of his father’s childhood when the Indians were the only thing that mattered.”
  • The Curse of Rocky Colavito: A Loving Look at a Thirty-Year Slump by Terry Pluto. “With the sharp-edged wit and keen eye for detail that have made him Cleveland’s favorite sportswriter, Terry Pluto looks at the strange goings-on of the thirty-plus years following the Indians trade of Rocky Colavito. Pluto draws insightful portraits of the men who’ve made the Indians what they were, for better or worse.”
  • Now I Can Die in Peace by Bill Simmons. OK, I know, it’s about the Red Sox but stick with me here. In his columns, with additional footnotes, Simmons captures the joy of finally seeing his favorite baseball team win a World Series. It’s an easy read and a primer for Cleveland fans on what it will be like when one of our teams finally wins.
  • Ball Four by Jim Bouton. Tame by today’s standards, but this book, one of the first baseball books I ever read, helped “shatter the myth of baseball players as heroes when it was published in 1970. Besides changing the public image of athletes, this book played a role in the economic revolution in professional sports. In 1975, it was accepted as legal evidence against the owners at the arbitration hearing which led to free agency in baseball. It also stands as a time capsule of life in the ’60s.”
  • Dealing: The Cleveland Indians’ New Ballgame by Terry Pluto. “Go behind closed doors in the Cleveland Indians front office as Pluto analyzes the team’s controversial moves to scrap a roster of popular stars and rebuild a new kind of contender following the 2000 season. Faced with an aging team, a mounting payroll and a shrinking budget, owners Larry and Paul Dolan and general manager Mark Shapiro worked to rebuild the team, closing out the 2005 season just one game shy of a playoff birth.” That was only five years ago; it feels like 50.
  • Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero by David Maraniss. “The Roberto Clemente that Maraniss evokes was an idiosyncratic character who, unlike so many modern athletes, insisted that his responsibilities extended beyond the baseball field. In his final years, his motto was that if you have a chance to help others and fail to do so, you are wasting your time on this earth.” This is an example of the new wave of sports biographies that take an honest look at athletes; not hatchet jobs, but just stories that show the true person, in both their triumphs and failures.

If you do decide to check one of these out, you won’t be disappointed. And remember to shop at your local bookstore. If you don’t have one in your area and are in the Hudson area, it’s worth a stop at The Learned Owl.

*Summaries are all taken from the individual book jackets.

Reading is Fundamental – Basketball Edition

With summer just around the corner, we’re all looking for a good book to read, be it on the beach, at the pool or on the back deck.

There are plenty of great (or very good) sports books out there for Cleveland fans, specifically, and sports fans in general. Here are some basketball books worth checking out; most should be familiar to Cleveland fans, some may not be. Some may no longer be in print, but if you can find a copy it will be well worth your time:

  • Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association, by Terry Pluto. Simply one of the best books I’ve ever read. For anyone (like me) not old enough to remember the ABA, the stories from the players and coaches who built the league are unforgettable.
  • Tall Tales: The Glory Years of the NBA, by Terry Pluto. A companion piece to Loose Balls, Tall Tales tells the story of the NBA, from its birth up to the early 1970s. The stories are not quite as entertaining as those in Loose Balls, but they are just as important in learning about the growth of the game.
  • Foul: The Connie Hawkins Story, by David Wolf. I first read this when I was in high school and I had no idea who Hawkins was. His story of rising out of poverty in New York City and the scandal that wrongly led to the NBA blackballing him during his best years is gripping.
  • The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to the Sports Guy, by Bill Simmons. While its a bit long at 736 pages and overly biased toward Boston players, go figure, this is an excellent book for fans of the game. And the way the book is organized its easy to pick it up, read a bit, and put it back down for later without losing anything.
  • Operation Yao Ming: The Chinese Sports Empire, American Big Business and the Makign of an NBA Superstar, by Brook Larmer. The story behind the Chinese government’s plan to create the next NBA superstar.Everything about Ming, from birth to first endorsement deal, was planned by a confluence of government and business interests intent on creating a superstar.
  • The Fab Five: Basketball, Trash Talk and the American Dream, by Mitch Albom. The remarkable story of Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, and their successes and failures in the NCAA tournaments of 1992 and 1993. Has it really been almost 20 years since they came on the scene? Good lord, I feel old.
  • Forty-Eight Minutes: A Night in the Life of the NBA, by Terry Pluto and Bob Ryan. Forty-Eight minutes is the story of the Jan. 16, 1987, game between the Cavs and Celtics, told in minute-by-minute detail with insights from the players and coaches involved in the game.
  • The Jordan Rules: The Inside Story of a Turbulent Season with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, by Sam Smith. A behind-the-scenes look at the 1991 Chicago Bulls.
  • Cavs: From Fitch to Fratello, by Joe Menzer and Burt Graeff. Published on the team’s 25th anniversary, this book chronicles the Cavs from their early days at the Cleveland Arena, the glory years of the Coliseum era and the move back downtown.

If you do decide to check one of these out, you won’t be disappointed. And remember to shop at your local bookstore. If you don’t have one in your area and are in the Hudson area, it’s worth a stop at The Learned Owl.

I’ll follow up over the next few days with recommendations on football, baseball, soccer and sports in general.


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