The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 7, 2014

A Don McCormack column: Compan’s Lakers make quite a splash

By DON McCORMACK - donmac@suite224.net
Sports Editor

While all schools and many businesses are closed today because of Mother Nature’s fury, the variety store is open for your shopping, er... reading, pleasure...



Red-hot Lakers

When the Associated Press released the first of its weekly high school basketball polls for girls and boys last night, only one area team was mentioned with the elite in the Buckeye State.

However, it was certainly a terrific mention.

The Pymatuning Valley Lakers are rated third in the Division III girls rankings, trailing only first-place Columbus Africentric and Oak Hill.

Coach Jeff Compan’s high-flying Lakers have steamrolled their way to a perfect 10-0 record so far this season.

PV received three first-place votes in this week’s AP Poll and totaled 114 points, behind Africentric’s 148 and Oak Hill’s 134. Only Africentric (11) received more first-place votes than the locals.

Compan & Co. will take their 5-star act on the road Thursday night when they invade Thompson to take on the Ledgemont Redskins in a Northeastern Athletic Conference clash.



Words from above

It’s always wonderful and rewarding for an author to have his words read.

However, when it’s done by his boss, well, you get the idea.

Along those lines, Jim Frustere read the centerpiece of our Monday sports section, in which we asked readers to send along their memories of Red Right 88, the Browns’ infamous AFC divisional playoff game against the Oakland Raiders, played in minus-5 degree temperatures on Jan. 4, 1981.

The game, at the time the second-coldest game in NFL history, was decided when a pass by NFL Player of the Year Brian Sipe of the Browns was intercepted by Oakland’s Mike Davis, who cut in front of Hall of Fame Browns tight end Ozzie Newsome to make the pick and save Oakland’s frozen bacon in a 14-12 verdict.

I began the column by describing my memories of the day as I, an 18-year-old high school senior at the time, was one of the 77,665 brave souls in attendance that memorable day.

Turns out, so was my boss.

With that, Mr. Frustere, the mic is yours...



Hi, Don,



I just finished reading “The day a region stood still…”  

It brought back a lot of memories.

My best friend, Jack Gorka, and I were at that game, too. We were longtime season ticket holders (I was also there, unfortunately, for “The Drive” but we won’t talk about that now because I can handle only so much Cleveland professional sports team disappointment at one time).  

Our seats were on the visitors’ side of the field, 40 yard line, upper deck and only about a third of the way up the section of yellow seats, which meant we didn’t have to deal with any of those awful steel girders blocking our view.

Here’s what I remember:

n I remember COLD. Jack and I both looked like Ralphie’s little brother, Randy, from “A Christmas Story” in the scene where his Mom dresses him up in 12 layers before sending him off to school.  Even with all the layers we had on, it was impossible to keep warm once our feet got cold.

n The playing field was frozen dirt that they painted green. It still looked like a skating rink.

n I remember fans in our section burning little fires in the stands using beer cartons, paper bags, hot dog wrappers, paper cups, etc… they were burning anything they could get their hands on that was flammable!

n I remember all the excitement and how loud the fans were during most of the game. Municipal Stadium was a great place to watch Browns games and I always felt it (the stadium) symbolized in a lot of ways the toughness of Cleveland’s fans.  

It was old, beat up, damp, rusting and crumbling under 20 coats of paint, and it had a funky smell… but I loved the place and it always stood tall in my eyes.  There was so much history and so many great players that stepped on the field there.  

I felt “something” every time I walked in the place and I don’t think today’s fans will ever be able to feel that. My Dad took me there to watch my first professional football and baseball games.  

Man, what I wouldn’t give to watch just one more game there!  I really miss that place.

n When I saw Sipe staying in the game and go behind center to take the snap, I remember yelling to Jack, “NOOOOOO! They should try to kick a field goal!!!!” But, they were the “Kardiac Kids” and they went out playing the same swashbuckling, gambling style of football they played all that season. It’s what made us love them.

n I remember how quiet it got right after the interception. It was if someone threw a switch and turned off all the sound. I have never experienced anything like it before or since.

n I remember the walk back to our car in the Muni Lot and the ride home to Mentor. Jack and I didn’t say a word to each other.  It was that much of a disappointment.

n And, I remember this…  After the game was over, Jack and I watched a group of guys slide a passed out friend of theirs down every one of the cement ramps leading from the upper deck section down to the ground level of the stadium.  

The passed out guy’s name was Vick. He obviously had too much to drink and was unconscious, which was probably for the best as Vick’s friends tried to make him into a sled rather than attempt to carry him out of the stadium.  

If you remember, Don, all those cement ramps would freeze when the Browns played in the winter from all the spilled coffee, beer, booze, hot cocoa, etc. The ramps would turn into frozen toboggan shoots.  

Now, you have to picture two guys  holding Vick by his arms and legs, swinging him back and forth yelling, “ONE!... TWO!.. THREE!... GOOOO!!” as they hurled this “cadaver” down each of the cement ramps as if he were a curling stone. And here’s where Vick being unconscious worked to his advantage. The cement ramps were elevated using metal posts, one every 20 feet or so.  

I can still hear the sound of Vick’s head hitting these posts as he went off course on his way down each of the ramps. It sounded a little like Christmas bells, which was appropriate when you consider that the game took place right after the holidays.  

Vick didn’t seem to feel a thing and had a nice, peaceful grin on his face the whole time.

I’m pretty sure Vick survived that day.  

It was probably all the better that he didn’t see the end of the game, anyway.       

Ah, memories...



Best regards,

Jim



As you can see, while Jim is our publisher, he can put words together, too, which is why I decided add them as a tag-team effort to what appeared in our Monday section.

His effort is, if you’ll pardon the pun, pretty cool.

Hopefully, Loyal Readers, after reading I published his email here, he won’t put these two words together today — “you’re fired!”

McCormack is the sports editor of the Star Beacon (through today’s edition, anyway). Reach him at donmac@suite224.net.