Monday, July 24, 2017

Two Minutes with Gregg Williams of the Cleveland Browns

I had the chance to meet Coach Gregg Williams, Defensive Coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.   Maybe I picked up a pointer or two. 

   I wanted to meet Gregg Williams, Defensive Coordinator of the Cleveland Browns.  I was in town for the Berea High School All Class Reunion at Polish Village.   It turns out that the Grindstone in Berea hosted a charity event on Saturday, and Myles Garrett, rookie Defensive End, and Defensive Coordinator Gregg Williams attended.  I really wanted to meet Gregg Williams especially.  Football, you see, is the hardest game in the world, and Coach Williams is one of the top experts in the world at designing plays and motivating people.  I've listened to him on TV and I really think he's a special person.  I think it's wise to follow successful people because maybe you might pick up on something.  So, I talked with Coach Williams for probably less than two minutes, but we covered a lot. I stood in line for about half an hour, which I didn't mind one bit because I was talking football with other Browns fans the whole time.   Almost everyone else wanted autographs, but I'm not an autograph hound.  I just wanted to meet Gregg Williams.  But what do you say to a guy like that?  If I were to try to talk about zone blitzes or cover two defenses, first of all I don't know anything, and second I wouldn't understand the answer.  So, when it was finally my turn, I said "Coach Williams, I just wanted to thank you for coming to Cleveland, and also for sponsoring the Gregg Williams Foundation."  
     Coach Williams looked me right in the eye, and asked, "What is your name?"  Lesson one:  I hadn't introduced myself, because I figured I was completely unimportant and unmemorable and the Coach would not be interested in me.  But Coach contradicted that assumption, and made me understand that no matter who you are, you're important and you should always introduce yourself.  Think of yourself as a person who is important enough that a famous coach wants to know who you are. .  
        "I'm Elliot Kennel from Beavercreek Ohio, near Dayton."
        Coach nodded.  "You know, I've never been happier than I am right now with the Browns," he said, and then repeated, "I've never been happier than now."
        Then he shifted gears and talked about his Foundation.  "I'm a sucker for anything that helps kids.  We've raised over a million dollars so far, and we can really make a difference in  kids lives.  You never know what might happen.   Look at me, I was never supposed to amount to anything.  I'm the son of a farmer.  I grew up in a house without electricity and indoor plumbing. But I've been given a chance, and people helped me along the way."   Lesson two:  Remember where you came from, even if you are one of the top experts in the world at what you do. There are still children today who grow up in extreme poverty, through no fault of their own, and face very difficult obstacles in order to become an adult.  
        I myself have never been poor except as an occasional experiment.  But I'm the son of Depression era kids.  My mom's family lived under a bridge for a while during World War II.   My Dad's family suffered greatly during the Great Depression.  So while I didn't experience that personally, I understand at least something about what it means to be poor.  
    We can complain about it, assign blame, or we can do something about it.   Coach Williams has invested a lot of his time and considerable energy doing things for the young people in little Excelsior Springs, Missouri.   My sense has been all along that he is not just talking the talk.  He really is walking the walk, and there are 1.2 million reasons to believe in that.  
      Coach is a very fast talker, very direct and incisive.  I learned a few things in a very short time.  
     When it was my turn to meet Myles Garrett, I remembered my mistake in not introducing myself to Coach Williams.  "Mr. Garrett, I'm Elliot Kennel from Beavercreek, near Dayton.  Welcome to Cleveland.   If you're ever down our way to see the Air Force Museum please stop by Tuty's Bar and Grill which is the home of the Beavercreek Browns Backers."  We exchanged pleasantries and shook hands.
      I kind hung around the autograph table for a while.  I was very impressed that Myles was the guy with Coach Williams helping out at a charity event. It's a little thing, but it's the kind of thing that the "face of the franchise" does. First impression is, maybe he "gets it."  

Myles Garrett was very friendly with the fans,  gracious with his time and well spoken.  And he helped to raise a pile of money for local charities.  Well done.  

Sunday, July 16, 2017

What I Actually Remember About Bill Nahorodny's Career

Over the years I've become social media friends with Bill Nahorodny.  I'm an amateur sports blogger and fan, and I remembered Bill from his days as a major league player.   Eventually I found out we have common interests in music and many other things, so I consider him a friend.  But I wish, I wish I could remember more of the events of his career.  It would nice if I could remember all sorts of details, but it's just not in the old memory banks.

In a general way, I remembered that he came up as one of the bright prospects of the White Sox in the circa 1978, and Indians broadcasters chatted him up on the radio a bit. At that time I was in college and in ROTC training camp in the summer and didn't follow sports quite as faithfully as in high school. Anyway, the White Sox at that time had been purchased by Bill Veeck, who had been the owner of the Indians in the 1940's and 50's.  They had some modest success by recycling veteran players like Eric Soderholm and player-manager Don Kessinger, and Bill Nahorodny was one of the few young players on the team.    I vaguely remember Indians radio broadcasters Herb Score and Joe Tait chatting him up a bit when he was at bat.  Not just a catcher, but a good young hitter....

Flash forward to July 3, 1982.  My Air Force friend, Vic Slaboszewicz and I drove up to Cleveland for the ball game, with fireworks after the game.  At that time Toby Harrah was playing at an MVP level, batting way over .300.  Toby did not disappoint, ripping  three hits including a triple, and getting a standing ovation while all of us fans chanted his name.  The Indians blew the game, however, getting outslugged by former Indians like Oscar Gamble and Graig Nettles. 

OK, so back to Bill Nahordny.   I was surprised to see him shagging balls in the outfield before the game.  I remember thinking "Hey! I remember that name.  He was considered to be a great prospect wasn't he?  Maybe he can help the team..."   

That's it.  That's the only event I can definitely remember distinctly. It seems like an almost infinitesimal fraction of a man's like and an incredible achievement.  Bill played nine years in the major leagues, which is an enormous accomplishment. Really, I think everyone who makes it deserves a plaque in the Hall of Fame, and they should record everything that you do on the field, and  people should remember every play you made, because it was so intensely important at the time.  But really, most of us can only remember a sliver of shared experiences.  

The only thing I really remember for sure from his entire career is that he shagged fly balls in the outfield on July 3, 1982.