Saturday, September 28, 2013

“The Big Trade”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

I work late at my “real job” as a retail manager.
Lunch typically comes about seven o’clock in the evening, if I am lucky. On a recent night, I had just managed to sit down with a container of General Tso’s Chicken and Rice, when our front desk paged me for a phone call.
A first bite of my meal had tasted good. Briefly, I wondered if I would get a second before the quick-serve meal went cold.
Before answering, I found note paper and a pen. It was not unusual to encounter customer issues that required a pull page of documentation for our business owner.
A click of the button on my cordless handset brought the call online. I spoke in a subdued tone. “This is Rod Ice, may I help you?”
Instead of an irritated patron, one of my coworkers was on the other end of the line. “Hey!” he exclaimed, sounding out of breath. “The Browns just traded Trent Richardson to Indy for a first-round draft pick in 2014! Can you believe that?”
I was numb with surprise. “Traded to the Colts?”
“Yes,” he confirmed. “It was just announced on ESPN.”
I slumped in my chair. “So after two games, the Browns season is done?”
“Probably,” he replied.
I lost my appetite.
In the week that followed, debate about the franchise was unending. Everyone seemed to have an opinion. Words like “misery” and “meltdown” were heard frequently. ESPN and national media outlets had fun shredding our reputation.
It was difficult not to think of “The Drive” and “The Fumble.” Not to mention “The Move.”
Brian Hoyer, a graduate of St. Ignatius High School and local hero, was named the starting quarterback, to replace Brandon Weeden, who was injured.
Willis McGahee was acquired at RB, a veteran of Buffalo, Baltimore and Denver.
Steeler fans at work were rabid. They were eager to forget their own woes as an uncompetitive, aging team. One compared watching the Browns in action to cleaning up dog waste from the yard on a Sunday afternoon. But as the meeting with Minnesota approached, a new perspective was apparent.
Somehow, I had been scheduled off for game day. Fatigue made me slow to greet the afternoon. But with a cold beverage in hand, I positioned myself in front of the household television. My iPhone was at the ready. Hot wings, pepper fries and other treats were on my kitchen counter.
I fully expected to witness a debacle of historic proportions.
Instead, Hoyer and the Browns demonstrated that they were ready to compete. Our QB finished the first half 14-of-23 for 174 yards and two touchdowns. Trick plays kept the team from up north guessing. Answering the Vikings second-half scoring run, Hoyer threw a touchdown pass to Jordan Cameron with 51 seconds left in the game.
I texted on my phone with equal ferocity to his handling of the football.
“Can you believe it?” a neighbor sputtered. “The Browns actually win a game?”
“Cleveland rocks!” another contact commented, on Facebook.
WTAM 1100 host Mike Trivisonno’s page was full of praise for the Cleveland Indians and Browns. Both teams had a good Sunday.
After the game was over, national reporters expressed pure amazement. In local terms, I simply took a moment to give thanks.
Since the NFL returned to Lake Erie, in 1999, a parade of front-office personnel, coaches and athletes had come and gone. The regime changes were dizzying. Only a true fan could keep up with this unending cycle of personalities.
Yet on Sunday, I felt more confident. Perhaps even relieved.
I remembered watching Bernie Kosar in the 1980’s. Pondered memories of grilling out in the snow, as playoff games commenced. Decorating our living room with dog bones and team colors. With the family waiting as I rushed home from work to join their celebration.
Typical sports fans talk about championships and contests of old. But in northeastern Ohio, the story has been more dramatic. A tale of tragedy and heroic adventure.
The Browns represent our life by the lake. Sweet summer celebrations and hard winters buried under merciless cascades of white.
The Rams left us in 1946. The original Browns, in 1995.
LeBron, in the modern era.
We have endured loss and heartbreak. But that has made us strong. Strong enough to be the only place where the NFL left the colors and team name behind when a franchise left town.
All of those things were in my mind after watching the Browns and Vikings do battle. Still, my heart was glad for more than simply a one-week victory in the regular NFL season.
I felt glad to have that one intangible asset that has caused mankind to go forward for generations, seeking adventure and the lure of treasure to be discovered.
I was glad for a thing called “hope.”

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