CLEVELAND — When Vince Guerrieri mentioned to me last year that he was writing a book about the weirdest moments in Cleveland sports, I told him it was a great idea because there have been SO MANY weird moments in Cleveland sports, and he’s the perfect guy to write it.
A few weeks ago, his publisher sent me a copy of "Weird Moments in Cleveland Sports." I’m happy to report it’s a totally fun read, and even though I’m a Cleveland sports fan from way back, I learned a few things I really should have known, such as the fact that Austin Carr’s banner was stolen from the Cavs’ home arena during Monday Night Raw, and it’s now probably a dangling felony in some legend’s man cave.
This is the part where you might expect me to spotlight a few more of those weird moments, like the baseball player who was traded for himself, or ill-advised Ricky Davis triple-doubles, and maybe even impress you with my own favorite weird Cleveland sports moments that didn’t make it into this book, which, let’s be honest, wouldn’t be fair, because no single book can contain the totality of the weirdness that is Cleveland sports. In any other city, the Rick Manning/Dennis Eckersley drama would be the most memorable moment in local sports history, but in this book, it’s like the 11th most interesting entry.
Instead of making this a standard book review, and spoiling some of the fun of reading it, I’m going to jump right to the conclusion.
This book is not really about sports. It’s about us. That such a book could be written and sold is less a testament to the weirdness of Cleveland sports and more a testament to the power of community that sports hold in Northeast Ohio.
These stories are known because they are told, and they are told because there is value in their retelling. That value is connection – the chance to bond. In the din of divisive politics and cultural issues, we have the purity of sports, and our sports purity in Cleveland has been filtered and made extra and extremely pure through decades of heartbreak and rank incompetence. We have all suffered mightily. Together.
The outsized role sports plays in all our lives is a topic I hit on before when I agonized over whether to continue being a Browns fan after the Deshaun Watson trade. I landed on yes, because the Browns mean so much to the people around me, I won’t let some morally-challenged quarterback take away the shared joy the Browns occasionally create with my family and friends. I thought about that as I read this book. The reason you’d open it and keep at it and finish it is because you want to know all the stories so you could tell them or talk about them someday, which is why I recommend it. We need more moments of connection, and "Weird Moments in Cleveland Sports" offers up plenty of stories to tell and retell to strangers and loved ones alike. In Northeast Ohio, sports are our oral tradition. Our oral tradition, of course, includes grand theft banner.