Cleveland's Three Stooges
I attended my share of news conferences in Cleveland while working in The Plain Dealer sports department and in Cleveland radio more years ago than I care to admit.
I heard thousands of questions directed at various sports personalities – athletes, coaches, managers and front-office types – in that time. Most of them, including a few too many from yours truly, were of the softball variety.
They were lobbed with amazing regularity in an effort to avoid antagonizing those at whom they were directed. It was much easier to cultivate a source by asking soft questions.
And while many questions directed at Jimmy Haslam III and Joe Banner during Monday’s news conference announcing the firing of Rob Chudzinski arrived with a hard-than-usual edge, one in particular stood out for its brazenness.
Never before have I heard such a blatantly direct question asked of any Cleveland sports personality in a news conference. It had a pin attached to it and was lobbed right at Haslam.
Dan DeRoos from WOIO Channel 19 pulled that pin. DeRoos introduced himself as a news reporter, not a sports reporter, about 12 minutes into the conference and asked his question following the preamble:
“This is a small, small sampling from our Facebook page, which, as you can imagine, blew up (after the Chudzinski firing was announced late Sunday night),” DeRoos began and then read several posts.
“ ‘This team remains an embarrassment not only to the NFL, but the fans as well. We deserve better.’
“ ‘Who really cares anymore?’
“ ‘They have lost their fans trying to outsmart the rest of the league and frankly, they’ve encouraged apathy instead of hope.’
“ ‘Totally done with anything Browns. Haslam (and these are their words, interjected DeRoos) Haslam and his stooges Banner and (Mike) Lombardi can pack up and get out of Cleveland.' "
Then DeRoos dropped the bomb. “Jimmy, can you assure the fans – their words, not mine – that you don’t have the Three Stooges running this operation?”
During the 45 seconds it took DeRoos to frame his question, Haslam winced a couple of times and dropped his head another time before gathering himself to answer. He did not look pleased at all.
“Listen, I feel really confident we have the right people to take this organization where we need go, OK?” he began. “I think what the fans need to understand is –and you all have heard me say this on numerous occasions – we have the best fans in the world, OK? And I’ve said our fans deserve better.
“What I want our fans to hear is nobody cares more about winning or is going to work any harder to get us there than the people you’re looking at right now (Haslam and Banner sat side by side), particularly the owner, OK? We take this extremely seriously.”
Nowhere in that answer did he answer the original question. He obviously chose to ignore the Three Stooges reference.
When you have nowhere else to go, mention the greatest fans in the world. It works more often than it doesn’t.
Bottom line is DeRoos needs to get out of news pronto and into sports at Channel 19 so he can attend more news conferences and ask more feet-to-the-fire questions like this.
It’s time those who run the Browns be held accountable. There are a couple in the Cleveland media who do. It's not nearly enough.