I was waiting to write about this until I was ready, but sometimes your plans change due to an amazing experience. I lost my Dad four weeks ago yesterday after a courageous battle with heart disease. My Dad was my best friend, my hero, and the strongest person I ever met. When I was a baby my father was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was given 8 weeks to live. He defied the odds and went on to live a healthy life for more than 20 years. He was able to further his dream of being an elected official and it all culminated when he was elected Mayor of the City of Maple Heights in 2007 . My Dad was an inspiration to so many people, but his will to live and never give up attitude is what I will always carry with me. At a young age, my Dad got me hooked on sports taking me to the local sports games, autograph signings and sports card shows. Like any kid once I realized I would never become a professional athlete, I knew I wanted to do the next best thing which was to cover sports. Now with a journalism degree and almost one year removed from college I have my Dad to thank for giving me my dream. I wanted nothing more than to be able to tell my father that I got my first job in sports media, but I am now more motivated to make it in this industry with the same never quit attitude that he had.
As an aspiring journalist, I am always listening to the sports talk shows here in Cleveland. Last week, I was listening to the Really Big Show on ESPN 850 with Tony Rizzo and Aaron Goldhammer like I usually do in the mornings when I was inspired. Hammer encouraged any listeners coming to their draft party at the Hard Rock Rocksino to bring a good luck charm of some sort to bring the Browns good karma on arguably the most important draft night in franchise history. Anyone who knows my family knows what a huge collector my Dad was. He collected all things sports for me when I was little from bobbleheads to autographs. My sisters joke to this day that at one point when I was a kid if you would walk into my bedroom and jump the entire room would be shaking its head up and down at you from all of the bobbleheads. I knew I obviously couldn’t bring something like a bobblehead or an autographed picture so I had to find something small. This was sort of a difficult task considering my Dad gave up our Browns season tickets four years ago because he was finally fed up with the losing, but he still watched them every Sunday. I settled on a small plastic Browns helmet that he got me out of a gum ball machine.
Fast forward to yesterday, the guys on RBS were sharing some tweets about what people were bringing to the Rocksino. I decided to tweet the show with a picture of the helmet in hopes that our special bond would finally bring the Browns some impact players. What followed was completely unexpected. Rizz and Hammer read my tweet on the air and the ESPN Cleveland Twitter account retweeted my tweet. The response was amazing! Many people reached out to me and one of them even shared a story about how he and his Dad bonded over football just like my Dad and I. This reiterated the fact to me that Cleveland sports fans are the best in the world. We have all experienced loss either with our beloved sports teams or our personal lives and somehow we always rally around each other. It’s that togetherness that makes Cleveland such a special place and it’s why people from out of town don’t understand why we love our home so much.
The Rocksino took care of my buddy Nate and I last night by providing us with the VIP experience for the draft party. It was an unexpected, but appropriate gesture because my father loved the Rocksino! Until his sickness progressed, there would be many times he would take me up there to have dinner and play the machines for a little bit. The draft party featured a buffet and the guys from ESPN Cleveland broadcasted all night. The mini Browns helmet definitely brought us luck last night as we selected three impact players and picked up a first round pick for next year (I will have more on this in my Browns draft recap this weekend). Before I left, both the Rocksino and ESPN Cleveland gave me some Bernie Kosar goodies. This whole experience had my Dad written all over it and I have no doubt in my mind he played a part in it. I want to thank Jill Middleton, Dave Shultz, and Sylvia Watson from the Hard Rock Rocksino for their generosity. The Rocksino was our favorite spot and it was so fitting that I had this experience here. I also want to thank Keith Williams and ESPN Cleveland for their kindness. Your radio station provides the best sports coverage in Cleveland and you always take great care of your listeners.
As much as I wanted to have my Dad watching this historic draft with me last night I know he was watching over me. He will continue to look out for me for the rest of my life because a part of him lives in me. I will use that part of him to chase my dream of making it in sports media just like he chased his dreams.