An Interview with Bud Shaw

An Interview with Bud Shaw

An Interview with Bud Shaw

“I noticed as the confrontation was developing that lots of players and media were moving away from where Albert (Belle) and I were standing. I could see one guy sidling toward me out of the corner of my eye. Finally Sandy Alomar Jr. rushed in and saved me from possibly being pile driven or hit with the roll of quarters Albert no doubt kept in his waistband for just such occasions.”

“It was then I turned to find Plain Dealer baseball writer Paul Hoynes at my side. Hoynsie is one of the greats. He also happened to play rugby at Marquette. I told him I appreciated him not moving away like everybody else and asked him what he was going to do if Belle started getting physical. He said, “Go for his legs.” He’s been my hero ever since.”

Position: Columnist, The Plain Dealer

Born: Aug. 23, 1954, Philadelphia

Education: Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 1976, B.S. Journalism

Career: Kittanning (Pa.) Leader Times, 1976-77; Johnstown (Pa.) Tribune Democrat, 77-78; Trenton (N.J.) Times, 78-80; Philadelphia Daily News 80-82; San Diego Tribune 1982-84; Atlanta Journal-Constitution 1984-89; The National Sports Daily 1989-91; The Plain Dealer 1991 –

Personal: Married, two children

Favorite Restaurant (home): Momocho, Ohio City – “mod Mex with any kind of guacomole you can imagine.”

Favorite Restaurant (away): P.F. Chang’s – “Hear me out. Yes I know it’s a chain but I’m vegetarian and they know their way around tofu”

Favorite Hotel: The Hotel del Coronado, San Diego

Bud Shaw’s ‘Sports Spin’, excerpted from The Plain Dealer, August 14, 2008:

Braylon Edwards will likely miss two exhibition games.

Edwards, needing stitches after teammate Donte Stallworth spiked him, might be a blessing for the Browns.

The NFL preseason is already too long. Whatever small setback Edwards might experience in either conditioning or in chemistry with quarterback Derek Anderson is offset by the fact that this injury reduces the chances of him suffering a more serious one – like having Shaun Rogers fall on him.

Part of growing up

Edwards Part II: Romeo Crennel gives new meaning to the phrase, “What, me worry?”

Crennel’s explanation for why Edwards was running in his socks along with teammates wearing spikes showed a lack of concern among other things.

“Kids are kids,” Crennel said. “You look at kids. They take their shoes off and run around all the time. . . We’ll educate him a little bit more and tell him about keeping his shoes on until he gets inside.”

Just for clarification, Edwards is 25.

Educational class topics over the next three weeks could include: “Running With Scissors – Why It’s a Bad Idea” and “You Can Put Somebody’s Eye Out With That”

Got an ID?

Legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi believes some gymnasts on the gold-medal Chinese team are underage.

As long as the International Gymnastics Federation insists on a minimum age and only requires a government issued passport as proof, there will be questions about the “youth movement” in some countries.

China’s Deng Linlin (4-6, 68 pounds) and Jiang Yuyuan (4-7, 70 pounds) have raised suspicions, basically because they could fit on your dashboard.

“They are using half-people,” Karolyi told the Associated Press. “One of the biggest frustrations is, ‘what arrogance.’ These people think we are stupid.”

The two high chairs set up at China’s team meals did seem a dead giveaway.

What, no motoball?

The Beijing Games are draw-ing good ratings for NBC.

You know the reasons. Michael Phelps. The beauty of gymnastics and diving. Ratings should improve even more when track and field starts.

But there’s also a lot of unwatchable events, too.

Here’s my list of the worst Olympic sports, Summer and Winter, after covering three of each (Calgary, Seoul, Atlanta, Nagano, Sydney and Salt Lake City).

1. Shooting: Spectators sit in auditorium-like seating. The target is projected overhead for viewing. Think of the worst audio-visual class you’ve ever sat through.

2. Doubles luge: Really, get a room.

3. Greco-Roman wrestling: Apologies to Matt Ghaffari, but 30 seconds into heavyweight matches both big men are too slippery to grab. Sumo without the diapers.

4. Modern Pentathlon: The roots trace to 708 B.C. Now that’s modern.

5. Biathlon: Paint-ball guns aimed at each other would be an improvement.

Note: It’s not an Olympic sport, but the strangest international sport I’ve ever witnessed came during the inaugural Goodwill Games in Moscow in 1986 – motoball. Teams of motorcycle riders would advance an oversized soccer ball down the field and attempt to kick it in a goal. For some reason, no one ever shows up at goalie tryouts.

Say cheesy

The Spanish men’s basketball team is defending a team picture that is running as a full-page ad in Spain.

The photo shows all 15 players using their fingers to make their eyes look slanted while posing on a basketball court adorned with a Chinese dragon.

“We felt. . . it would be interpreted as an affectionate gesture,” Spain point guard Jose Manuel Calderon wrote on his ElMundo.es blog.

How warm and fuzzy. Calderon said the team took a cue from the photographer.

Who was the photog? Don Imus?

Q. Your ‘Sports Spin’ column reads like stand-up comedy. Does that come naturally? Do you have to be a smart aleck to be a sports columnist?

A. When I was asked to contribute a Page 2 column, I remember wishing I could print out the work of some guys I really admire in the business — Dave Kindred, Bob Verdi, Scott Ostler, Steve Hummer, Norman Chad, Ray Ratto, Mark Whicker – put it all under my pillow and wake up wittier by osmosis. Writing funny is difficult, a fact I prove twice a week. And in a newspaper that runs Chad, who makes it look easy, that may not be the smartest approach. I once followed Gary Smith on the Eagles beat at the Philadelphia Daily News. I have those same feelings of inadequacy now when I read the humor that other columnists, not to mention writers like David Sedaris, bring to the job

I don’t know if it’s a requirement to be a smart aleck but deep down I guess I’ve never been able to take sports all that seriously. So much about the oversized stage sports enjoys in our culture – thank goodness for that — and the egos involved invites you to look at it a little sideways. When I was at The National as the Chicago Bureau Chief I got to read Verdi and Bernie Lincicome regularly. Two approaches but the same bright, funny result.

Q. Did you write off the Indians prematurely? Will the real Indians please stand up?

A. I broke a 17-year streak and picked a local team to win a world championship in the pre-season. Of course, it hasn’t been difficult to avoid looking like a front runner in a town where the last title was 1964. But I thought the Indians could return to the World Series this season. So I wrote them in before I wrote them off. Injuries were a part of the reason for their collapse but as they proved in August when they not only were missing Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez and Jake Westbrook but had already traded away C.C. Sabathia, Casey Blake and Paul Byrd, they could’ve played competitive baseball much sooner. We should know by now that the real Indians do stand up, but only every other year or so.

Q. Is it touchy to ask why you didn’t go to Beijing? Did you wish you were there?

A. The Plain Dealer had three Olympic credentials but turned them back in to the U.S. Olympic Committee because of budget considerations. I was not scheduled to go. My Olympic flame isn’t quite extinguished but I covered my sixth Olympics in Salt Lake City in 2002 and haven’t felt a great desire to do another since. I think it’s a great event.

But I’ve long felt it was a tremendous TV show first and foremost, a TV show that hasn’t always translated to print. Of course, the Internet offers much more immediacy than we had as writers covering the Olympics in the 1980s and early 1990s. I was lucky enough to be in Calgary, Seoul, Atlanta, Nagano, Sydney and Salt Lake. I covered the Atlanta bid for the 1996 Games before leaving Atlanta for The National. It was a great experience. If I don’t go to another, well, three Winters and three Summers feels like a pretty good career sampler.

Q. You’re known for being a good interviewer. How do you get people to open up? Who was your toughest interview?

A. There’s a basic curiosity we all have or we wouldn’t have elected to go into sports writing. I think being a good interviewer – not that I’m sure I belong in that category – is a product of the jobs you’ve held. I was a beat writer first, then a takeout writer, then a columnist. I think beat work makes you comfortable with approaching players, coaches and other interview subjects because you have to do it daily. The takeout work I did in San Diego and Atlanta helped me look a little deeper into subjects,. Just the nature of that job allows you much more time to get to know people.

I found it a little unnerving in Atlanta where I worked for the late Van McKenzie who was willing to give you a lot of time to interview and write if he felt he’d see the benefits in the finished product. I’d go a few weeks or more without being in the paper and when I came into the office I knew people were thinking, “What a slacker, this better be good when he finally writes it.” It made you go back and make sure you got what you needed from the people you were talking to for the story.

Probably the toughest interview I ever did was with Bob Knight. A mutual friend – Dave Kindred – had smoothed the way for me with Knight. I knew that going in. But I wasn’t quite prepared for what that meant to Knight. Every time I asked a question he didn’t like, he’d lean in and say, “You know, don’t you, that there’s only one reason I’m even talking to you.” He was alternately charismatic and nasty. I felt I was talking to the smartest guy I’d ever met. But the bullying was always there and when the interview ended, he asked me if wanted to go do dinner with him and one of his coaches. I didn’t go. I’d already had enough of the Good Cop-Bad Cop treatment, all from the same guy.

Q. What do you look for in choosing your columns? Do website hits influence your choices?

A. Website hits haven’t really changed my approach. It has always been true in Cleveland that if you write about the Browns the response is often overwhelming. If you dropped the names “Kosar” Or “Modell” into a column on synchronized diving I’d bet you’d lead that day’s count in letters and phone calls.. And now if you update the references and can work in Brady Quinn’s name and the term “quarterback controversy” somewhere along the way, there’s no limit to the website hits you’d get.

Really, other than being aware of people’s passions – Browns, LeBron, anything anti-Steelers – I don’t purposely write things just to get a reaction. Maybe I should but it’s always felt contrived to me to be that columnist who screams for the sake of screaming – not to mention that you end up contradicting yourself before too long.

Q. Your most controversial column? Any columns you wish you hadn’t written?

A. I have a different answer to this than some of the PD readers might have. I still get mail from a guy who reminds me that I wrote that Manny Ramirez was such a disaster fundamentally as a rookie that he should be sent back to the minors even if it meant playing Wayne Kirby in his place. I don’t remember suggesting that Manny be banished to Triple A for a period no shorter than the rest of his life until he could learn to lay down a good squeeze bunt but I’ll take the hit on that one. That was shortsighted. Of course, when Wayne Kirby goes into Cooperstown, who will have the last laugh then? Huh? Right. Me.

A column I always consider “controversial” was one I wrote on Albert Belle during his 50-homer, 50-double season. I thought it was controversial because it led directly to a debate in Albert’s mind as to whether I should be body slammed or simply thrown off the mezzanine level. I spent part of the column writing about how this guy had made himself into such a student of hitting by keeping index cards in his locker and adding to his card catalog after every game. What pitches he saw. The count. The ump. The situation. He’d make notes on all of it. I found out he did that from interviewing manager Mike Hargrove and one of his coaches, Davey Nelson. When I approached Albert to talk to him about it, he cursed me and told me to go away. That was par for the course with him.

I mentioned in the column that if he even tried just a little not to be the world’s biggest jerk, he’d own the city. It led to an ugly scene in the clubhouse the next day. Albert accused me of going into his locker and reading his index cards. Uh, right. Nobody, including other players, went anywhere near Albert’s locker. I’d be more likely to willingly visit a hell mouth.

I noticed as the confrontation was developing that lots of players and media were moving away from where Albert and I were standing. I could see one guy sidling toward me out of the corner of my eye. Finally Sandy Alomar Jr. rushed in and saved me from possibly being pile driven or hit with the roll of quarters Albert no doubt kept in his waistband for just such occasions.

It was then I turned to find Plain Dealer baseball writer Paul Hoynes at my side. Hoynsie is one of the greats. He also happened to play rugby at Marquette. I told him I appreciated him not moving away like everybody else and asked him what he was going to do if Belle started getting physical. He said, “Go for his legs.” He’s been my hero ever since.

Q. Who and what do you read and watch to keep up with sports – both mainstream and non-mainstream media? How much time do you put into it?

A. I like the Sportspages.com site. Not just the Top Ten but I go through individual papers to read how different columnists handled a big event, or a developing story. I mentioned some of the people I seek out on a consistent basis but there are a bunch more that are so good they make me feel like going into another business.

I do that at least three or four times a week along with checking ESPN several times a day. Since it’s a topics show, I try to watch Pardon the Interruption as much as possible. There might be something Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon throw out for discussion that leads me to an item for the notes column. Those guys are great together so I watch simply to be entertained, too.

Q. Is LeBron destined to leave the Cavs? Say it ain’t so.

A. That’s a question that strikes at the heart of the Cleveland sports fan because it ratchets an already deep-set inferiority complex. LeBron is a local guy AND HE STILL MIGHT LEAVE? Not just leave but go to New York?

I believe James will leave and when he goes it should be with no feelings of guilt associated with abandonment. He’ll have given the Cavaliers seven years. That’s enough of a commitment even if they don’t win a title before he goes. And if they do win a title, he’ll have delivered something the city hasn’t seen in almost a half century. When you’re 23 and grilling Warren Buffett for his keys to success, and when the talk is of becoming a “global icon,” it tells me he’s thinking a little beyond the 330 he’s got tattooed on his body. That’s the Akron area code. Me? When I was 23 I was only drinking shots with Warren Buffett. And now I forget everything he told me.

Q. Can the Browns make the playoffs with those awful brown pants? Do they need a logo on their helmets? Have you ever incurred the wrath of the Dawg Pound?

A. A reader recently lamented that the Browns, barring “divine intervention,” looked on track to become even a bigger disappointment than the Indians were in 2008. I happen to think they’ll make the playoffs because their offense is that good. I think it’s a far better place to put your trust than in The Man Upstairs. Not that I’m an atheist. But it should be obvious to everyone that if God cared even a little about Romeo Crennel’s team he wouldn’t have let them take the field in those all-brown pants during the exhibition season. Those things needed a stripe or a Tinker Bell buckle or something,

I like the helmets without any logo. I hope they stay that way. I do a “PD Roundtable” TV show once a week and occasionally someone will call in and wonder if it’s time to bring back the elf. Seems back in the day an elf logo showed up on the parkas the team would sometimes wear on the sideline. I ask you. Does it sound like a good idea for a city trying to get beyond inferiority issues to rally around an elf?

Bud Shaw, The Plain Dealer, August 3, 2008:

The odds of Manny Ramirez wearing a Cleveland hat when he goes into the Hall of Fame just got better by default.

Of course, they are still outweighed by the odds he will forget to wear any hat, shirt, pants or shoes and will be inducted in his fright wig and nothing else.

“When people ask about Boston, I put my brain on pause,” Ramirez said in his first press conference with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He meant he didn’t want to revisit the acrimony that followed him to L.A. at the trade deadline.

In truth, though, Ramirez’s brain needs no prompting to go on pause. It spends chunks of every day idling there.

“Pause” is a natural default function when his head gets too filled with the nettlesome details of baseball – number of outs, hitting the cutoff man, even stuff like remembering that as the left fielder he’s really not the cutoff man for the center fielder.

Manny played and talked his way out of Boston, saying the Red Sox didn’t deserve him.

Some teammates who tolerated his quirky behavior over the years didn’t find the humor in Ramirez taking himself out of the lineup against the Yankees and not running hard with a chance to break up a no-hitter in another game.

Ramirez doesn’t believe that his teammates turned on him, preferring to think the front office is spreading stories like that to discredit him in the eyes of Boston’s fans.

Let’s just say that makes La-La Land the perfect place for him.

Boston newspapers reported Ramirez tried to lobby to stay with the Red Sox at the deadline, which wouldn’t be surprising since his career is dotted with instances where he didn’t know whether he was coming or going.

Agent Scott Boras told reporters that Ramirez “preferred another city along the lines of the lifestyle he had in Cleveland.”

Yessir. Cleveland and L.A. Peas in a pod.

I was just making that point to Martin Scorsese over skewers of braised tofu at lunch in the shadow of Progressive Field the other day. “Marty,” I said . . .

So Boston is more intense than L.A. Tell me something I didn’t know.

Lifestyle wasn’t Ramirez’s problem. He didn’t really have a problem until he crossed the line from quirky free spirit to the half-dog, half-diva he became in his final season there.

“The Red Sox don’t deserve a player like me,” Ramirez told ESPNdeportes.com Wednesday. “During my years here, I’ve seen how they [the Red Sox] have mistreated other great players when they didn’t want them to try to turn the fans against them.

“The Red Sox did the same with guys like Nomar Garciaparra and Pedro Martinez, and now they do the same with me. Their goal is to paint me as the bad guy. I love Boston fans, but the Red Sox don’t deserve me. I’m not talking about money. Mental peace has no price, and I don’t have peace here.”

He’s right about one thing. The Red Sox didn’t deserve him. They deserved a grown-up.

(SMG thanks Bud Shaw for his cooperation)


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