In 1968, the Green Bay Packers’ offensive guard Jerry Kramer released a book with the help of sportswriter Dick Schaap that was an enormous best seller. Instant Replay provided an ongoing commentary and narrative diary of the trials and tribulations involved with playing for the legendary head coach, Vince Lombardi. Kramer achieved much fame from that book as well as from his success on the football field. Years later, in 1985, he attempted to re-create that success through a “where are they now” sequel that documented the reunion of many of those players, like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung and Fuzzy Thurston. He called the sequel Distant Replay.
A Defining Moment
In one of the early chapters, he relates how his celebrity status allowed him access to places he’d never imagined. One day, he happened to be in a studio where Frank Sinatra was recording, so he stood in the shadows listening to “Old Blue Eyes.”
Kramer’s friend noticed his awestruck reaction and asked if he would like to meet Sinatra when the session was over, and Kramer said it would be an honor. No sooner had the two shaken hands than Kramer began to give Sinatra advice, telling him to re-cut the last song because Kramer had noticed a couple of clinkers during the recording. Sinatra stared at him as if he had two heads, not even acknowledging what was said. The singer was suddenly anxious to leave, and it wasn’t until days later that Kramer realized he had actually offended him.
Kramer’s run of fame had given him feelings of self-confidence and self-assuredness that might not have been as apparent to the rest of the world as they were to him. Why was an offensive guard for the Green Bay Packers telling Frank Sinatra how to sing? What had he become?
Fortunately for Kramer, that ego check forced him to take a hard look inward and reassemble his persona in a more generous manner. How come so few of us have learned that lesson? Evidence that we haven’t is abundant.
Did you watch Super Bowl XLII? It was especially difficult for Cleveland fans as New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick was probably the best hire former owner Art Modell had ever made. Early on, it was obvious Belichick marched to his own drummer, but the Cleveland fans refused to give him his due. He began to make changes, but the resistance from both players and the fan base were substantial. He was not a chatty guy, so the press ate him up. He was not a friendly guy, so the fans didn’t get their warm and fuzzies satiated. He was mainly a football guy, but he was never able to bring that forward. Squelched from the very beginning, he was only able to make minor changes without major fallout.
Beloved quarterback Bernie Kosar was in direct resistance to the coach’s decisions, and Kosar had the ear of the owner as well as the fans. His dissent became obvious, and fans sided with the man-cub who had put the Browns back on the map years before. Belichick--in a last-ditch attempt to make his point--put Kosar on the trading block, saying he had “diminished skills.” That was it--Kosar headed to Dallas and earned his Super Bowl ring as a backup to Troy Aikman, and the Browns’ steady decline was laid at the feet of the now-hated Belichick. Soon he left Cleveland and returned to his previous mentor Bill Parcells, who had utilized Belichick’s defensive schemes for the dominant New York Giants of the 1980s. He continued to prosper as a top assistant, and honed his craft even more. Soon every team he worked with was given his Midas touch, and their fortunes turned into gold. Cleveland could have had that glory, but the fans were all heart and no logic. They claimed to know what was best. They didn’t want to hear from the coach who watched the films and assessed the team day in and day out at practice. After all, the fans watched SportsCenter at 6 p.m. every night--they were fully informed and ready to make the call.
Given the classless way Belicheck ended Super Bowl XLII, I am not convinced Cleveland fans missed much in the way of an icon, but if they want “W’s,” clearly this was the man to deliver results.
We’re all guilty of it. As parents we sit as judge and jury before our kids have even finished telling us what really happened. As friends, we listen to our peers lament their troubles, and although we nod in agreement, we are really thinking, “Well, maybe if you had saved a little money from that promotion instead of buying a new car, things would be easier.”
Since we have grown accustomed to parental guilt, we second-guess our parents’ motives too as we become caregivers and emotional providers for those who once taught and cared for us. “Papa says he’ll hate the nursing home, but it has bingo and people his age. I know what’s best for him--he’ll love it there.”
Why this mass presumption to decide for others? I am a big fan of cold weather and snow. No matter how great it makes me feel, I never hear the weather forecaster on TV or radio tell of impending snow or dropping temperatures without attaching doom and gloom to the report, with the prefaced quip, “Now, don’t hate me, folks, I am only the messenger, but it’s going to get really cold this week.” Just once I would like to hear, “Stack those logs up for the fireplace, brew a pot of hot chocolate, get your warmest blanket, and settle in for a great, cozy Cleveland winter night.” But why do that when it is so much easier to be negative, and by all means, let’s never let go of the need to wish for what we don’t have as opposed to making the best of what we do have.
Your Own Reaction
In conclusion, I think we simply have given too much authority and credibility to those who inform us. They have taken it to a level where they speak for us instead of to us. They are ever-present and constantly manipulate what we think.
Have you noticed that almost every picture of Hillary Clinton includes either a rubber-faced expression or her mouth wide open? There are more flattering photos available, I am sure, but the media run those pictures to make a statement without …. making a statement. Do you think it’s not planned when the networks show film of President Bush fumbling through a speech, as opposed to summarizing his comments? The media use every subtle opportunity to nudge us into our opinions. But, as I‘ve written many times before, if we allow ourselves to be victims, we shouldn’t be surprised when we are victimized. Be careful, though, for the seeds you sew with your indifference or with your lack of consideration may come back to harm you.
I leave you with an “old Italian story” I’ve heard for many years. A grandfather was old and failing, and his son decided it was time for the elderly man to go to a nursing home, a place Grandpa had long said he never wanted to go. The old man’s son told his 10-year-old son to go upstairs and get a blanket to put over Grandpa’s shoulders to keep him warm on the ride to the home. When the boy didn’t come back soon, the father went to investigate and found the boy cutting the blanket in half. “What are you doing, son?” “You said to get the blanket for Grandpa,” he replied. “Yes, but why are you cutting it in half?” “Well, I figure in a few years I’ll need the other half for you, Pa.”
Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He can be reached via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org