Football Follies and…Paul Ryan

My esteemed departed father would have been 76 years old today. Born in London, on the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, 1805, where the immortal Admiral Nelson knocked down the French fleet. In our family lore my father was (almost) named Horatio Nelson Davies – a rate determining step on most 1940s schoolyards, one might think…but ‘Bryan’ eventually prevailed. The family emigrated to Canada in 1948, where the West London boy, Queens Park Rangers fan became entranced with the new television media wonders, its monochromatic power broadcasting live sports from wonderful places…New York, Chicago, and even more prosaic Cleveland, just 90 miles away on the diagonal from suburban Toronto.

Not a bad story, big fella – but I ran a marathon in under 3 hours!

The new All American Football Conference and its Cleveland Browns became my father’s team, a Buffalo repeater station the football conduit. We cheered for the Browns as long as my father lived. Family trips across the border, too, where the heroes played – Leroy Kelly, Brian Sipe, Bernie Kosar, and my own magic man, the supernatural ‘Wizard of Oz’, Ozzie Newsome, in the mud and the Great Lakes sleet that cut through the Cleveland Municipal Stadium faithful. We loved the Browns – unreservedly.

Art Modell died last month. It was this traitorous Diablo Browns owner that ended my infatuation with NFL football in 1996, when he took smallish but steady margins reaped from the slavering Cleveland football cognoscenti for larger profits in Baltimore, his spurned Northeast Ohio fan base so bitter that when Modell died, the NFL determined that no memorial words to this purported NFL titan ought to be read out at the next Browns game, for fear of a riot. Sixteen years later – they hate him, no respect for the dead man that did them wrong.

So, this modest personal epistle as my backdrop….a faded Canuck looked south to Cleveland this week, epicenter of the Ohio election battleground the breathless American journalists tout. A few days ago, Paul Ryan, the ‘one heart beat away guy’ if (saints preserve us!) he and Mitt win the big prize, did something that ran afoul of football-engorged Cleveland. In a stirring interview, sportsman Paul mixed up the names of the two quarterbacks who now toil for the hapless Browns. It touched off (I do not make this up) a huge Cleveland media splash. The roiling online Dem blitzkrieg went like this – how can this Ryan maroon seriously contemplate national leadership? So dumb he can’t keep our QBs straight? C’mon!

And from here in Ontario, 90 miles as the crow flies from Cleveland, where my Dad and I had such fun cheering on the Browns long ago, this pathetic, polarized nonsense is actually presidential campaign fodder in the Great Republic. Zillions in debt, Tea Bag zanies calling the Republican tune, a dodgy Obamacare plan with funding holes as big as North Dakota, a few foreign relations imbroglios to resolve…. but the Veep nominee trips up on our NFL QB’s identity …hoo boy, are you unfit to lead!

I have said it before – I shall never understand how President Obama, his policy warts on 24/7 display, but bedrock personal integrity, could ever lose at rock/ scissor / paper to these half-wits, let alone the presidency. But to the Dem faithful…. this supposed Ryan campaign sin takes you on the deep open corner route to absurdist farce. Hit ‘em high, hit ‘em low!!!…but – sweet Jesus!!! – stick to the issues in Ohio.