Tuesday, November 28, 2006

From The Toy Department of Life

Cleveland lost a good friend yesterday. Casey Coleman, a legendary sportscaster and sports anchor in the Greater Cleveland area, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer early Monday morning. He strived to be among the 4% of survivors, but it wasn't meant to be.

I hit the snooze on my alarm that morning. When it startled me awake again, I could tell something was different. Fading in and out of sleep, I was only picking up parts of the radio broadcast. Something startled Mrs. Quipper awake, and I said "I think Casey died last night." I was right.

Today, as I observed people calling local radio stations, or dropping comments on the local websites, to talk about him and his life, I became compelled to post some of my own comments.

For his entire life, Casey was involved with professional sports, which he coined "the toy department of life" because, in the grand scheme of things, sports really didn't mean anything. You would never see or hear him make himself the story; he always kept a proper perspective. He hated it when sports took on more importance than real-life problems, or when athletes became caricatures of themselves.

His father, Ken Coleman, was the voice of the Boston Red Sox for many years. He passed away a couple years ago. Casey had big shoes to fill, and filled them well.

When I was a younger, Casey was the sports anchor for one of the local television stations. Yesterday, a local radio personality responded to a caller, saying she remembered watching Casey on TV as she grew up. As I thought about it, I remembered we had three TV stations, and three sports programs in the 80s. Darn it if I couldn't remember the other two sports anchors, because I spent my time watching Casey, too.

When another local sportscasting legend and "voice of the Browns", Nev Chandler, passed away from cancer, Casey replaced him in the booth. Casey was unfortunate to be behind the mic for the 1995 football season, when Art Modell announced then proceeded to move the Browns to Baltimore. This individual, who was a ball boy for the Browns when he was growing up, remained professional through the sadness of the time.

I remember when Casey defended Bill Belichick, former Browns head coach, current New England Patriots coach and winner of three Super Bowls, for benching and waiving local hero Bernie Kosar. I didn't like it. I loved Bernie. But Casey stuck to his guns, and probably got himself in local hot water for sticking with his story. But I also recall rumors of Casey writing a book to explain what really happened to cause Art Modell to move the Browns to Baltimore. What a shame that the truth could not be told. Now, local politicians and businessmen no longer need to worry about what dirty laundry could be exposed.

I also learned yesterday that Casey was one of the pioneers for sideline reporting during football games. Granted, he wasn't as good looking as the sports babes on TV, but his insights were spot-on, as though he was in the huddles and the coaches' meetings. He always educated as well as entertained. This is a talent that the Cleveland Indians sportcasters also have, and it makes for easy listening.

Mrs. Quipper was introduced to Casey through Browns broadcasts in the mid-90s, courtesy of my love for all Cleveland pro sports teams, but didn't gain an appreciation for him until he joined the high-powered AM talk radio station in cleveland, WTAM 1100 . He had a quick, dry wit, which fit very well within the walls of the Quipper household. His contacts around the major sports leagues, and the way those contacts confided in him, made him THE MAN in Cleveland for up to the minute sports news. He could decipher rumors, facts, and wild fantasy. If Casey reported it, it had to be true. And if it wasn't, then decisions were reversed, and we found out about it the next day in the paper. (This was what happened when the Browns almost fired their General Manager, Phil Savage, last off-season.)

Casey once recommended a fantasy baseball book on one of his programs. We liked what Casey said about the book, so we bought it for Classical Pelican, my father-in-law, for Father's Day. Mrs. Quipper sent a thank you e-mail to Casey for his recommendation of the book. He was genuinely surprised to get an e-mail, and replied to my wife with a heartfelt thank you. It might not sound like much, but how many people in that position would you expect to reply to you?

For several years, Casey also hosted the must-hear, Cleveland Indians pre-pregame program. When the program first aired, he would end the show by saying, "Honey, I'm rounding third and heading home." Once in a while, he'd say he was rounding third, picking up that gallon of milk she requested, then headed home. He was factual, witty and entertaining. "Rounding third and heading home" will forever be the way Clevelanders remember him, given the pain he endured over the last year and the faith that he conveyed.

Casey fought the bottle for a long time, and seemed to have conquered those demons. He lived his faith, enjoyed what he did, and helped others. He was not perfect; no one is. He did, however, live to fulfill all his vocations. If we could only show so much joy and passion through all our own trials and tribulations.

God Bless the Coleman family. Your son, brother, husband, and father was an inspiration to us.


Marie N. said...

Well done, Honey. Thank you.

Barb the Evil Genius said...

I'm glad he got his Casey Coleman day so people could pay tribute to him in person instead of to his coffin. God willing, Casey is home now.

Quipper said...

Barb: agreed. I didn't realize he did so much work in substance abuse recovery. But then, that's the way it's supposed to be.