Category Archives: Sports

In Sports Deals, Pittsburgh is Bizarro Cleveland

Once again, I am completely jaw-to-floor awestruck at how much better managed Pittsburgh is than Cleveland.

The Post Gazette is reporting the city of Pittsburgh spent a year negotiating improvements to Heinz Field. The deal they worked out will add a $1 ticket fee to help pay for a $40 million expansion.

“I am pleased that this project at Heinz Field is being completed without any public dollars, which are increasingly scarce,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

That’s what can happen if city leaders are willing to negotiate with private entities on behalf of the people they represent.

We just witnessed the absolute complete opposite in Cleveland. On the latest $260 million public deal for Cleveland’s pro-sports stadiums, City leaders like Mayor Frank Jackson and City Council President Kevin Kelley busied themselves not with negotiating the terms of the deal. That was approved by County Council just weeks after it was introduced, with no major changes.

Kelley and Jackson joined the sports teams’ side, acting as spokesmen for the teams’ campaign. They argued that if the public didn’t fund 100 percent of the repairs through a sin tax, the teams would be free to just raid the city’s general fund of $260 million under the terms of the lease.

Raid the city’s general fund of $260 million. Can you imagine? The mayor and president of City Council went on television and the radio and suggested that was a real possibility. That they would allow that to happen, rather than go back to the table and try to broker a better deal. Admit they had that power.

Ultimately, a majority of CITY residents voted against the deal. But not a single elected city representative came out against the issue. A near total leadership vacuum. There was no negotiation on the public’s behalf. They rolled out a bad deal quickly, and then got to work convincing voters that they had no other choice.

What Pittsburgh did — that’s how it’s supposed to work. Once again, I am just completely floored. Something is terribly broken in Cleveland.

–Angie Schmitt

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Baltimore's Inner Harbor Poised to kick out Millennials

Rash Field-Current home of Baltimore Beach Volleyball

Thirteen million visitors a year come to the Inner Harbor.  The city has much to gain if it puts its physically active young professionals out front on display.  By playing at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore Beach Volleyball helps create a desirable healthy active image for the city. Instead of being celebrated, Baltimore Beach’s millennials are getting kicked off-stage.

The Inner Harbor has been home to Baltimore Beach Volleyball (BBV) for eleven years.  BBV has 2500 weekly participants, plays games seven days a week from May to September. It draws players who are 87% millennials, or adults between 20-34, 88% single (in case you’re looking), and 37% come from outside of Baltimore City, according to Todd Webster, who runs the league. BBV has been touted as the largest inner-city metropolitan league on the east coast, hosted games for the International Olympic committee, and become a permanent stop on the Toyota Pro Beach Volleyball tour. Baltimore ought to give BBV the proverbial keys to the harbor, instead there are plans to boot the volleyballers from the Inner Harbor to Swann Park. This is an unambiguous demotion to a low visibility location two miles to the south in the shadow of Interstate 95.

Rendering for Inner Harbor II’s Rash Field proposal

The city of Baltimore, Waterfront Partnership, and Greater Baltimore Committee recently released  The Inner Harbor II (IH2 ) plan , which looks at ways to improve open space around the harbor. It proposes replacing BBV’s courts and an existing park as well as the Pride of Baltimore memorial with a  subterranean parking garage topped by an oval grass lawn and a small sand “destination.” How this lawn will be programmed is unclear.  The plan will cost $40 million, though parking revenues will likely offset some of these costs.

Baltimore leaders have concluded that the Inner Harbor and Rash Field needs a refresher.  But the results of a citizen survey say about the area suggest that residents prefer more local retail in the area and want to address the lack of activity in some parts of the harbor. The plan does not ignore those concerns, but its bigger proposals do overshadow them.

There are good ideas in the plan, like the pool barge. But unfortunately, leaders are rushing to start with Rash Field,  a controversial and expensive part of the plan. How did the architects choose a grass oval lawn and sand lot for the top of the garage?  How is the proposed lawn not redundant with West Shore Park and grassy Federal Hill?

Baltimore and the Inner Harbor planners would benefit if they mixed-in some of the affordable ingenuity demonstrated by Janette Sadik-Khan’s New York City project portfolio.  Her matra: “Do bold experiments that are cheap to try out.”   She loves to talk about how Times Square was successfully transformed with lawn chairs and paint. All urbanists should view her Ted Talk.

Instead of replicating park-like amenities that already exist, there are ways to provide things citizens asked for and retain an existing draw, all at a much lower cost. Beach volleyball could be an anchor and destination for the area with the addition of local food and beverage vendors, water features, specialty kiosks, seasonal activities, and tables overlooking the courts. The space could also accommodate other activities like bocce, ping pong, yoga, zumba, stationary bikes, and kayaks.

Meanwhile, the Rash Field garage is not only expensive, but unnecessary with the existing 45,000 parking spaces in downtown Baltimore.  Has the city studied the possibility of valet parking service operating from the visitors’ center as an alternative? A valet service might make better use of existing parking capacity, be more convenient for visitors, and provide jobs. To increase access, extend  Charm City Circulator coverage to more neighborhoods. Creating a safe network of cycle-tracks to serve bicycles and bikeshare, which will launch this July, on the bike-unfriendly roads ringing the Inner Harbor would help.


The view from Federal Hill will soon look a lot like this

In addition, building the parking garage will disrupt a public space for up to two years of construction. The view from Federal Hill is a very photogenic spot, and a popular site for locals and tourists.  A parking facility isn’t enough of a compelling reason to take this space away when smaller changes would have a much shorter and disruptive effect on the area.

This plan also would have an impact on the city’s millennial community.   Many young professionals seek healthy and active social amenities. The data shows clearly that millennials are driving Baltimore’s growth more than any other generation.  For young professionals, Baltimore Beach Volleyball is arguably the Inner Harbor’s top draw.  Unceremoniously kicking them out will not be viewed charmingly by this opinionated generation.

Millennials heavily populate nearby neighborhoods and have brought new life to the city. Why not ask them to help program the harbor?


crossposted at Comeback City

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Shared Responsibility for Detroit's Woes


As a Michigander for the past 21 years, I’ve heard my share of Detroit criticisms, jokes, and put downs, both from within and outside the Great Lakes State. While fingers can be  pointed at the lack of past civic and political leadership in Detroit, our collective actions (or lack thereof) can certainly share in the responsibility. Some may scoff at such a notion, but here’re a few reasons why:

  • As a nation we elected leaders who adopted a tax code and laws that advocated, promoted, and accelerated flight from cities and suburban sprawl. Many in this nation continue to support such policies. Granted, this affects every city, but that doesn’t mean it was beneficial for them unless they had scads of excess land for new subdivisions or the ability to annex freely.
  • As a nation, we collectively turned our backs on inner cities and the residents thereof many years ago, only seeing fit to reverse course when the notion of revitalization became profitable.
  • As a state, Michigan has some of the most arcane home rule laws that created thousands of 36 square mile “kingdumbs” (pun intended) that fight with each other like cats and dogs and seldom do the right thing.
  • This nation very nearly turned its collective back on the auto industry due to political self-interest.
  • As a state and nation we allowed expressways, poorly placed factories, urban renewal projects, sports stadiums, and other projects to carve up and displace perfectly healthy inner city neighborhoods, leaving a tattered and disjointed landscape.
  • Residents/politicians living in outstate Michigan from Detroit would short-sightedly say, act, and vote as if Detroit was not their problem too.
  • In Southeast Michigan, leaders and residents alike outside of Wayne County often could care less what happened south of Eight Mile.
  • One of the best interurban transit systems in the nation was torn up and replaced by diesel-belching buses that have as many endearing qualities as a lump of coal.
  • Corporations ran away from the city in the ’60s and ’70s…with some finally seeing the light of their actions and returning to Detroit in the ’00s and ’10s.
  • Half of Detroit’s professional sport franchises left for the ‘burbs with one, the Pistons, still playing practically closer to Flint than Detroit.
  • Far too many lenders and insurance companies red-lined inner city neighborhoods.
  • Shady lenders who offered inner city loans foreclosed on homeowners the first chance they got.
  • Absentee landlords let their properties decline into disrepair and blight.
  • Politicians shied away from making the tough decisions, and rhetoric replaced reason in far too many discussions and decisions concerning Detroit.
  • Too many people in Southeast Michigan acted like the city was an island unto itself, when, like it or not, their collective futures have been inexorably linked to Detroit’s fate.
  • Up until recent years, the national media tended to solely focus on the bad news  about Detroit. There are many great things about Detroit, and piling on does nothing to reverse problems: it only reinforces misperceptions and stereotypes.

Shall I go on?

– Rick Brown


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A Browns Fan Explains Himself

Browns fans, I often think, are gluttons for punishment. But this video, shot by Cleveland’s own Matthew Hashiguchi, explains it pretty well.

Browns Bus: Cleveland Heights Chapter from Matthew Hashiguchi on Vimeo.

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Youth Football: Human Development on the Cheap

We often talk about cities being rebuilt on the cheap. Like casinos and convention centers and urban strip malls becoming catchalls to the reasons our societies are crumbled. What’s less talked about is how we build our humans on the cheap. “Football as a way out” is an example of this.

From eHow, in article entitled “How to Escape from The Ghettos and Poverty”, Instruction 4 states:

If you have a talent or gift, use it to your advantage. If you can sing really well or if you are a star football player, use these gifts as a stepping stone out of the ghetto and onto a bigger and better pedestal in life.

Elaborating, this method of social capital development goes something like this: a kid’s athletic talents are honed early. Feats of physical skill become the child’s burn, not to mention a source of affirmation that is perhaps lacking elsewhere. The four years of high school turn into an indoctrination to commitment, with weightlifting, in- and off-season workouts, pep rallies, and games taking up the lion’s share of the educational experience. You get recruited (see the video below). You enter the learning environment of a campus. You play or don’t but your books and tuition are paid for. The NFL is probably not an option but you leave learned, evolved from the society that bore you.

The problem with this method is that it’s based on a foundation of hypocrisy and bullshit.

First, a fraction of kids who play high school football will ever make it to the college level. Even less will go on to the pros. Also, see the pyramid below (stats from the North American Sports Institue Survey, 1999). It provides a telling visual showing the narrowing of youth who actually make it “to the top”, with the byproduct the sheer number of young shed from this particular track of youth development.

Where they land often becomes tragic. Recently, Canton, Ohio’s own two-time Mr. Football was arrested for an alleged robbery and sexual assault. Hell, just Google “mr. football and arrested” and it reads like a who’s who of perpetrators and victims that have unfolded in the shadow cast by big time athletics.

Second, kids are set up to fail. They enter a pressure cooker without the social, intellectual, and interpersonal tools to sustain the heat. Even those physically gifted—the stars—they not only have a populace to win over, they got pariahs lurking around high school and college campuses that make a living out of naivete. Tattoos are traded for game-worn jerseys. Sex parties happen on boats. NCAA laws are broken. Scholarships revoked. Education as a fall-back is not an option because the path was of an athlete to fame with education the virtuous cover for the fact that we are chewing up our young. Said Mark Yost, author of the book “Varsity Green: A Behind the Scenes Look at Culture and Corruption in College Athletics”:

We never as a culture talk about those 97 or 98 percent of kids who end up at college, and they don’t make it to the NBA or the NFL. They end up spending two or three years at college, they come out with 60 credits, and they don’t know how to read or think. And then we’re shocked when these kids end up in a dead end, with nowhere to go, and unfortunately that’s the story that never gets told, but it’s what happens to the vast majority of NCAA athletes. They end up with no pro contract, no degree, and no prospects for the future.

Lastly, the context that is sports fandom in general, and “football as a way out” in particular, well, it has recently been exposed more rotten to the core more than previously imagined. Penn State, the campus and the coach once held up as the ideal of the making of men out of the mold that was football, even they proved ultimately and horrifically hypocritical. (Note: for more on the Penn State scandal I point you to this piece I wrote for the The Classical.) While Penn State owns the apex of this deceit, both high school and college

athletics have long existed with tentacles tied to an underbelly that–when all is said and done–is built off the exploits of youth. Which begs the question, when we say “a way out”, a way out to what exactly?

Look: fame and dreams and achievement have always been a significant part of the American experience. I get that. Football and touchdowns and clapping and sweat are terrific escapes to the severity that can be the life experience. But the dichotomy that is the two-track system of human capital development in this nation’s educational system has got to stop. Its like raising a child for the hope of the lottery versus raising the child on the wisdom that: with education, you are eliminating the need for the sliver of chance.

We in the Rust Belt know the consequences of such an approach perhaps more so than any other region. Poverty and pigskin should be our regional flag. Perhaps we can use the present as a moment of non-bullshit reflection. Vince Lombardi—a regional icon—once said that it was all about God, family, and the Green Bay Packers. Seems like we believed him. But there are no short of a thousand other things that should be third on that list.

Sadly, it will be business as usual by daybreak.

–By Richey Piiparinen

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More than Witnesses: A Brief History of Cleveland Sports

Cleveland is half its population since the epitome of itself as a winner. The year was 1948. The Indians had won the crown with a player-manager, and with Satchel Paige: the first black pitcher to appear in a World Series.

A model team then, for a model city.

In fact it’s said a town’s teams can mirror in play the state of its locale’s mindset—like a kid rounding third through the awareness that his dad won’t scream if he’s called out. And so the bounty of life symbolized back then was tremendous—the city like the belly of a suckling, honest-to-god infant; and like the puffed chest of an honest-to-god hard-ass. A city, then, with lights and people and bridges impressive in their capacity to let order pass across the fullness of their steel frames.

Things change, though. Yet it’s hard to believe that when things are going your way. And even when they aren’t, there is the illusion of winning. Charlie Sheen now, Cleveland in the 60’s: they had much in common in this regard.

After all, Cleveland had the Browns. It had Jim Brown. Otto Graham.  And it looked certain that the Browns would be good forever. As they had been, and then came the title against the Colts in 1964. That title in the cold of the huge concrete-and-column shell that was Municipal Stadium. That win despite the noisy reality going on outside the game in the city: people dripping into the suburbs, with each white person gone the entry of city eating its inside out.

The Browns would never win another championship again.

And the devaluation thereafter would only spread out, and the uptick in fear rose due to the reality of what we’d been doing to our reality. Like what we did to our river in ’69. Catching it on fire like that. In effect, Cleveland literally began drinking its own demise, and it shown on the field. In fact the ’69 Tribe lost 99 games. Its worst winning percentage since 1915.

And then in 1974 it all came to a head. The Indians had been straight bad for almost two decades. The owner needed a crowd. The concept was ten-cent beer night. Then, the city finally flooded into its own projection of itself, and hating its own image. Like a person with a horrible imagination only, and no pastime left. An account, according to Wikipedia:

A woman ran out to the Indians’ on-deck circle and flashed her breasts…A father and son pair ran onto the outfield and mooned the fans in the bleachers…Mike Hargrove was pelted with hot dogs and spit…and was nearly struck with an empty gallon jug of Thunderbird…In the ninth inning, a fan attempted to steal Texas outfielder Jeff Burroughs’ cap…Burroughs tripped, and Texas manager Billy Martin…charged onto the field, his players right behind… A large number of intoxicated fans…surged onto the field…Realizing that the Rangers’ lives might be in danger…the Indians’ manager ordered his players to grab bats and help the Rangers…As Joe Tait and Herb Score called the riot live on radio, Score mentioned the lack of police protection; a riot squad…finally arrived to restore order.”

Of course order here meant to put back in the box what had been festering for some time now—or that clarity that Cleveland was dying. And so as the fans left the field to emerge from the tunnels into a city uncovered with night, the only thing left to do was to keep going—or to leave this sinking, shrinking vessel of homes and factories for the vultures that live on the after, after-party.

177,000 plus left Cleveland in the 70’s alone.


But often when what you’ve feared has finally arrived you got a chance to be fearless. Said C.S. Lewis: “(Pain) removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul”. In the 1980’s one could say Cleveland’s rebel soul came out.

There was Harvey Pekar giving it to Letterman. There was the post-punk, industrial rock band Peru Ubu. There was WMMS and Murray Saul. And Daffy Dan t-shirts. And then the fight with New York to be the capital of rock. In all, Cleveland was becoming accustomed to finding its pride in the result of having few illusions left.

Such was the essence of the era’s Browns teams too. There was the Kardiac Kids: a team that took their name from their comebacks if not an implicit understanding that Cleveland was thrashing on the gurney. And later on, the Bernie Kosar team with Mack and Newsome and Dixon et al. They called themselves the Dawgs—an identity derived less from rabidness than from the fact that what increasingly existed in the Rust Belt was an impossibility of cushioning. And yes: both teams did break our hearts. But it wasn’t regret. And to this day we long for that time when there was nothing to fear because reality killed any apprehension we had. And so we barked, cheered, and threw batteries and bones.

But again—nothing lasts. Because with success comes the desire for permanence: winning. Re-enter illusions, or more exactly: Andre Rison, and the Downtown Cleveland renaissance.


The early 90’s saw Cleveland’s new life after its denial of death. And it used the method of the new mostly: the new buildings and city malls, the new sports stadiums. And then the new Indians. It was a big market’s team now. A team of old superstars (Eddie Murray) and young superstars (Manny Ramirez) and salty-ass superstars in their prime (Albert Belle). They broke records. Just missed winning the Series. And there was a short period when all this new gave everyone the relief that the last 30 years were a fake nightmare. Gettin’ that effin’ swag back…

Swag. It always fit Cleveland like pearls on an iron worker. Enter Andre Rison in a Browns uniform.

The Browns owner Art Modell saw the cash that was being thrown around him. His home was still Municipal Stadium where you pissed in a trough, though.  But it was Cleveland, and it was the chapel of us.  Still, Modell didn’t care. He wanted new too. So he threw the largest wide receiver contract to date at a person voluntarily nicknamed “Bad Moon” Rison in March of 1995. Modell took out a personal loan to the pay the guy. The dude sucked. Modell’s gambit didn’t pay off, and so he took his talents to a town (Baltimore) that had taken took their talents to another town (Indianapolis). The Cleveland Browns, the fucking Cleveland Browns—no longer. It was a death.

Of course the irony of it all was the timing of it. Modell announced he was moving on November 6th, 1995, a fucking week after Cleveland’s first World Series appearance in 41 years. To that end, Cleveland was always a city that could never deal with its own success. Perhaps this is because the concept of “success” has grown so far away from what is Cleveland: heritage, hard work, bowling and bridges. Regardless, our demise is self-inflicted usually—an infliction that often proves to be more about returning to the source of our belonging than our desire to run away from where we came from. Even Modell, a Brooklyn New York native with a Super Bowl ring, even he can’t stay away—stay away from the pain, the heritage, the hope—saying recently: “I still love Cleveland. Nobody could ever take that love away from me. Nobody.”

The self-infliction and longing, the draping in the comfort of wanting to return to the source—so Cleveland, typically…


The legacy of the 90’s still hangs over this city like a bad tattoo. We ran into the arms of the late 90’s Tribe like a rebound b who never cried. Juan “Gone” Gonzalez was our end point here. And the Browns, the new ones, well, the Stadium is gone—the team’s colors are there—there is a billionaire owner—and so much losing—and people wearing so much Steelers gear and cheese hats in the stands that it’s enough to make one sick. Like seeing your sister’s ass of a boyfriend in your dead grandpa’s favorite chair.

And we have seen a whole generation grow up into it. In the exurbs—in the culture of a City that keeps forgetting it will always be Rob Lowe as “Soda” as opposed to Rob Lowe as a dick. The result? Yankees fans, Cowboys fans—or a whole grip of young with a threadbare attachment to place.

The rootlessness had even begun trickling up into the older as well. Cleveland being demolished around us. Loss after loss after loss after loss. Us a tiny afterthought in a global economy. Us getting cheap even if it was local by shifting our hopes from the team to the one.

And we can remain illusory by pretending it was just his fault. But the projection was ours, and it was a projection which ultimately succumbed to what Cleveland wasn’t: a city that witnessed things rather than being a part of their happening—or a city that lived through the efforts of the child so much that the child finally became connected to his land in the feeling of all that has left.

–By Richey Piiparinen

(Thanks to Shit City Comic writer Colignon Porc-Epic, an a alias I presume, for indirectly encouraging me to dust off this piece. Go read his stuff. Skillfully understated like a roofie, i.e., it gets in  you before you even know it.)

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Video: Youngstown’s Bridge Movement, Skateboarders Give Back

This is seriously the coolest thing I’ve seen in a long time.

The Bridge is a video about a movement started by DeKorda Jackson and his efforts for the push of getting a public skate-park built in the city of Youngstown, Ohio.

The video was produced by Stuck in Ohio, a Northeast Ohio creative studio.

Skateparks are a great way for cities to demonstrate their youth friendliness and also boost their hip factor. Plus it’s better to get kids off the street where they could get killed by a car. This is what you call a win, win. A no brainer. I hope this effort is successful.

Props to everyone involved. Seriously.



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