Guest Column: What’s a Cleveland Sports Fan to Do?

By DARRYL WALTER

Another Super Bowl is upon us. Another year that the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, and Houston Texans won’t reach the Mt. Everest of professional sports. While Detroit and Houston fans can cry in their beer that they have yet to be in a Roman numeral football game, at least those cities have celebrated other sports championships over the last 47 years.

In Cleveland, where you can take the boy out of Cleveland but you can’t take the Cleveland out of the boy, generations of fans have yet to see a championship parade. Sure we got close in the 97 World Series and let’s not talk about The Drive or The Fumble (I was at both games*), but enough is enough. I want to know what it’s like to win a championship. No city with three major league sports teams has gone this long without a championship.

Which brings us back to Super Bowl XLVII. This year we have the Baltimore Ravens vs. the San Francisco 49ers. No Cleveland sports fan with any sense of dignity can root for the Ravens. People in Charm City can complain that the Colts were taken from under them, but two wrongs really piss me off.

It just pains me that the Ravens have been so successful since their arrival. One of my favorite players, Ozzie Newsome has done a wonderful job as General Manager. (I was at Newsome’s first game when he scored a touchdown on an end-around.) To make matters worse, my adopted state of Maryland, where I have lived in for the past 20 years, bent over backwards to build a stadium for them. Hell, I’ll never buy an instant lottery ticket in Maryland since that money goes to pay for the stadium. (Disclosure: I did finally step into that purple stadium two years ago to see U2.)

Blame it on the San Francisco Giants. What does the San Francisco Giants have to do with this discussion about the Super Bowl? Easy, it goes against one of my rules: you can’t root for a team where the city already won a championship in another sport in the same year (call it hostility since I don’t know what it’s like to win just one championship in a year). The Giants just won the 2012 World Series, so, sorry Colin Kaepernick, I can’t root for you.

So what am I going to do Sunday? Well, I can tell you I will have a few beers and not pay too much attention to commercials that cost more than the GNP of some small countries. I will likely play some squares so I have something to root for each quarter, and if push comes to shove, and I really need to root for a team, I will be cheering for the team coached by Harbaugh. Okay, it is the team coached by Jim Harbaugh. Because there is no way in hell I will root for those Ravens stolen from my beloved Cleveland.

*Worth Hoarding: “Below is a picture of the vendors license that my friend and I got the week of the Browns-Broncos game in Cleveland. We got vendor licenses and they gave us hats and aprons to sell food. When we got into the stadium, we tossed the stuff in the garbage in a bathroom and found 2 seats in the 80,000 seat stadium. They only had something like 86 no shows that day so we were pretty lucky to find seats. The ticket stub is from the Browns – Broncos game (The Fumble) the following year in Denver. Another friend had met these girls in Europe the summer before and we went out to visit them at Steamboat Springs. We came back into Denver that Saturday night and bought tickets for the game from a scalpers Sunday morning.” –DW

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Over Three Decades of Springsteen

As a young teen, one of my earliest musical influences (by a non-musician) was by the classic “Sister’s college boyfriend.” Darryl Walter, delivered to me by fate via Kent State University, is the one who first turned me on to Bruce Springsteen with his vinyl bootlegs of legendary E Street Band shows from the Agora in Cleveland and Winterland in San Francisco. As those same fates, and perhaps Springsteen himself, would have it, we are still friends. So who better to serve as a guest contributor, reviewing the recent Bruce Springsteen concert in DC. 

By DARRYL WALTER

We’re guessing our correspondent paid more than $10.50 per ticket to see Bruce Springsteen this year.

Back on October 6, 1980, when many readers of this blog weren’t even alive yet, I saw my first Bruce Springsteen concert at the Coliseum, built in the lovely cornfields between Cleveland and Akron. As a 16-year-old rock and roller growing up with the greatest radio station ever, WMMS, I had a great appreciation and knowledge of music and, outside of the 1-95 corridor, Cleveland was the first city to embrace Springsteen.

Fast forward to September 14, 2012 and I am attending yet another Springsteen concert. Between that first show in 1980 and the show I witnessed last night, I have lost count of the number of times I have seen Springsteen. I would guess it is around 25-30 range. For some that is a low number, for others that is bordering on fanatic.

So, who would have guessed that 32 years ago, when I arrived at the concert in a rusted Datsun B210 I would now be driving my wife’s Mercedes Benz R-350 (wow does that make me sound like a total dick) with my wife and three kids. The cool thing (at least for me) is that my daughter Hannah was wearing my Springsteen baseball style concert shirt from the 1980 River Tour and that my other daughter was wearing a black Springsteen T-shirt from the same tour when he returned in June 1981. My son Kyle had a bootleg T-shirt that I bought outside of Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium following a concert in the summer of 1985 Born in the USA Tour. My wife Jane had on a long sleeve jersey she got from The Rising Tour, and I was wearing a Vote for Change Tour Shirt from 2004. Jane and I went to the Vote for Change shows in Cleveland and Washington, great shows but awful election results.

At the 1980 concert, Bruce opened with “Prove It All Night” and last night, he again opened it with the “Prove It,” but with the ’78 intro. I still remember the 1980 concert with Clarence hollowing on that first solo and last night his nephew Jake didn’t let him down.

Following “My Love Will Not Let You Down,” Bruce played two songs from The River, “The Ties That Bind” and “Hungry Heart.” I am sure the folks coming down from Baltimore were happy to hear the shout-out for Charm City.

Next came a trifecta from Wrecking Ball: “We Take Care of Our Own,” “Wrecking Ball,” and “Death to My Hometown.” Bruce then went old school with with “Spirit in the Night” and “Blinded By the Light.” With “Spirit,” as he was sitting on the edge of the stage with Jake, he had a momentarily lapse and had to remember what verse he was on.

The horn section really shined on “Johnny 99.” Using the same horn arrangement that they played during Jazz Fest back in April, the E Street Horns transferred Nationals Park back to the Fairgrounds in New Orleans.

At this point, the concert was kicking into high gear. “Waitin’ on a Sunny Day,” one of my favorites from The Rising followed “Shackled and Drawn.” Following “Waitin’” was the inspirational “The Promised Land.”

Mister I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man
And I believe in a promised land

On a side note, that line from my Rabbi Bruce Springsteen was used when I gave a speech to my son at his Bar Mitzvah.

Next was “Racing in the Street.” Bruce gave a shout-out to wounded warriors from Walter Reed Hospital that he was hosting. As I told my son, it seemed a lot more sincere than when the Nationals do it during a baseball game.

This is what it looked like during the show.

“The Rising,” “Badlands,” and “Land of Hope and Dreams” concluded the set. Following a brief moment, the E Street Band returned for their encore with “We Are Alive” and “Thunder Road.” The lights slowly came on during “Born to Run” and then came one of my favorites, “Detroit Medley.” While I would have preferred the longer ’78 version circa Winterland, this version rocked the house. “Dancing in the Dark,” probably my least liked Springsteen song ever recorded was next. I realize it was a pop hit, I guess that is my problem with the song, it is such a pop hit.

During “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” when it came to the part where “the Big Man joined the band,” the crowd cheered for a few minutes as a photo montage of Clarence was displayed. The night concluded with “American Land” and donning a sailors cap, Bruce did an Isley Brothers-style “Twist and Shout.”

Leaving the 3-1/2 hour concert, I told my twin 14-year-old daughters that I have ruined their concert-going experience. Nothing they ever see will top what they just witnessed.