Thursday, November 19, 2009

“Dawg Pound Roundtable”

c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

It was a busy morning at the McDonald’s on Water Street in Chardon.

I arrived before eight o’clock, with anticipation making me tingle. It was time for the monthly meeting of our Geauga Writers’ Roundtable. Yet today, the experience would be different. A notable guest had been invited to join our discussion.

Carrie Hamglaze, a local educator and public servant, was already at our table with a cup of Mocha Cappuccino. She exuded fashion confidence, dressed in Irish green and Hilltopper red.

As I took a seat, the fireplace behind us crackled with warmth.

“So, you actually called The Cleveland Browns?” I pondered.

Carrie was cheerfully defiant. “Yes!”

“And arranged a meeting with the owner,” I continued.

“Yes, yes!” she repeated. “He will be here any minute!”

I bowed my head. “That is just amazing…”

“Yes, yes, yes!” she laughed.

Before long, the table was full. Everyone had coffee, and a reporter’s notebook.

I looked at my watch. “Well, should we begin?”

Suddenly, a new face appeared in the doorway.

My pulse quickened. Our guest had appeared.

Randy Lerner was dressed in a long, tweed coat. Though he passed through the morning crowd without being recognized, an air of electricity followed in his wake.

Carrie bolted from our table. She took his hand with excitement. “Oh my! It is such a pleasure to have you here in Geauga County!”

Quietly, patrons in the fast-food emporium began to take notice of this unfamiliar guest.

The NFL owner nodded with appreciation. “Thank you for making this possible. I want opinions – real, honest opinions about my franchise.”

“Don’t worry,” Carrie smiled. “You’ll get them here!”

Our group was ready. Carrie cradled her notepad with care. Then, she called the meeting to order.

“Everyone, may I have your attention?” she beamed. “I’d like to introduce a special guest to The Geauga Writers’ Roundtable. This morning, we have the high honor of welcoming… Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner!”

A hush fell on the room.

Lerner took a seat by the fireplace. “Good morning!” he said. Above him, ESPN reports about his struggling NFL franchise flickered on the flat-screen television.
Groans sounded from every direction.

With diplomatic flair, Carrie gestured around the table.

“Mr. Lerner, Our participants today are all journalists in the county,” she said. “We have Ezekiel Byler-Gregg of The Burton Daily Bugle; Mack Prindl of The Parkman Register; Martha Ann Reale of The Newbury Siren-Monitor; and Rod Ice of The Geauga County Maple Leaf.”

Lerner folded his hands. “It is a pleasure to meet all of you.”

“I can vouch for everyone’s fandom here,” said Carrie. “We’d all like to write about better days for your team, when they come…”

“Except for me,” Mack snorted. “I’m happy to be part of Steeler Nation!”

Ezekiel slapped the table. “Pipe down, Pringle!”

“That’s Prindl!” the wordsmith fumed.

“Mack doesn’t even like potato chips,” I observed.

“No, he likes Iron City Beer…and Benedict Arnold!” cackled Martha Ann.

“Six Superbowl Rings for Pittsburgh!” he taunted.

“Right!” Ezekiel growled. “We’ve been hearing that since February. The Browns have eight league championships. So shut up!”

“Please!” Carrie said. “Can we stay on track this morning?”

Lerner was focused on his task. “I’d like to thank you for letting me join the group this morning,” he said, humbly. “As you know, The Browns are struggling. Going forward, there will be re-evaluations of the entire staff. But I need help with one nagging question: What can I do to restore your faith in the team?”

Silence returned. No one seemed eager to speak first.

“Two words: Bernie Kosar!” Martha Ann said, after a long pause.

Lerner smiled. “Yes, he’s still very popular.”

Ezekiel stroked his beard. “How about bringing back Marty Schottenheimer?”

“An interesting idea,” the team owner agreed.

“What you need is Bill Cowher,” said Mack. “But I hope you never get him!”

“Another name I hear often,” Lerner said.

“Hah! Let ‘The Chin’ coach pee-wee football in Pittsburgh,” Ezekiel retorted. “We can live without him in Cleveland!”

“Yeah,” Mack squawked. “Just like you can live without any Superbowl rings!”

I tried to speak. But the roundtable was spinning out of control.

“Otto Graham! Jim Brown!” shouted Ezekiel.

“Terry Bradshaw! Jerome Bettis!” Mack responded, gruffly.

“Please!” Carrie interrupted. “Get back to our topic!”

Martha Ann pointed her finger for emphasis. “You need a ‘football person’ at the top. Someone who has lived and loved the game like nothing else!”

“Bill Cowher!” Mack insisted.

“Marty Schottenheimer!” Ezekiel growled.

Mr. Lerner raised his hands. “Everyone! I appreciate your passion for the game. That’s why I’ve come here, to your county. Now… what can we do to recapture that spirit for Cleveland?”

I cradled my coffee cup while thinking. “With respect, there is one undeniable point to be made here. The Browns are still alive on Lake Erie because of us. Because of the fans. You may hold the keys to this NFL franchise, but it is the people of northeastern Ohio who really own the team. Whatever you do… proceed with them in your heart.”

Carrie nodded. “Amen.”

Lerner took a deep breath. “Thank you. This was very refreshing.”

“It has been a pleasure,” I replied.

After our distinguished visitor had left, there was little energy for continuing the discussion.

“Any new business to consider?” Carrie prodded. “Or old business?”

As a group, we were emotionally exhausted.

“I move that we adjourn for the morning,” Martha Ann sighed with fatigue.

Ezekiel brightened. “I’ll second that!”

There was no dissent. Our agenda for the day had been completed.

Afterward, I lingered with my coffee. The morning rush faded, leaving only a handful of local residents in the restaurant.

I scribbled notes while the images remained fresh. This week, there would be no difficulty in finding material for my column.

Hopeful hues streaked the horizon. Tomorrow would truly be a new day on the northcoast.

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