William F. Noveske, (1940-2015)

Calling hours from my brother-in-law’s father are today.

Bill Sr., like virtually all men in my immediate or extended family, battled heart disease. It got him when he was a few years older than my dad (and his father) was when they died. He was a year younger than my grandfather, who died in a car crash, but went off the road when when his myocardial infarction hit..

If you look at the photo, you can probably guess everything you need to know. Just from the color in the face, you probably know how just tall he was and how broad his shoulders were. The first time we shook, his hand swallowed mine up; my wrist was sore for a week from the shake he gave it.

The good news, I suppose, is that he didn’t suffer. My mom and one grandmother died of cancer, my other grandmother had Alzheimer’s. There are many fates worse than a few moments of pain and then nothing. Stroke  victims get buried alive inside their own bodies,.. that might be worst of all

Bill Sr. was a fanatical baseball fan. We did a round of trivia once and the only reason I got him is that I used to live in the McMillan Baseball Encyclopedia when I was a kid. But he could pretty much name every player the Indians ever had.

He used to coach Little League. And he passed that love on. His son played second base for Kent State; he coaches Little League too. When life handed Billy two daughters, he figured out how to coach soccer. (Though I’m sure, given his politics, he thinks the game is socialist nonsense.)

Bill Senior gave his life to the teams. His reward was championship (in 1948, when he was 7– not old enough to appreciate it fully). They got swept in 1954, when he was 13. Then nothing until he was in his 50’s– and two World Serieses were a near-sweep by the Braves and a devastating seventh-game loss to an expansion team in its fifth year of operation.

I don’t know how much of a Browns fan he was. From the amount we talked about an Indians team that was on its way to 68-94, I’m guessing the NFL was a poor second to MLB. But if he did follow the Browns, he would have been rewarded from ages 5-9 (again, too young to enjoy it), ages 14 and 15… then one more year at 23… then nothing. For 50 years.

That’s the payment for a lifetime of devotion in this town. Thousands of hours spent hoping… and waiting. All that energy that could have been spent doing…

Well, doing anything, really. Casting horoscopes. Collecting bottle caps. Trying to juggle chainsaws would have been a better investment of his time than watching Jerry Udkur and Kane Davis pitch.

I had the same thought when my brother’s best friend died last year. John was 49. Unless he became a rabid football fan when he was three months old, he never saw a Cleveland team win the final game of the postseason.

The day John was laid to rest, I thought the same thing I think today. One of the things that might it behoove Larry and Paul Dolan to do–or Jimmy Haslam, before he goes off to federal prison– would be attend the funerals of some of their longtime customers.

Not the guys who purchase loges, work for the companies that own club seats or buy the season tickets. Go to the funerals of the guys who watch even when the team is in the basement, and buy tickets when they have better things to do with their money.

Bill Noveske, as the obituary mentions, was a produce clerk. He was 74 when he died– but he was still working. He died bucking one of those gigantic sacks of onions out of the storeroom, in fact.

I’m guessing he didn’t do the work because he liked it. Which means that every time he walked into Municipal Stadium with his son, it represented a decision. Some priority got juggled– or delayed– or not met– in order to find the money needed to make those trips.

My father made those decisions too. So did John Kita’s. And Terry Pluto’s dad. And my friend Bob Maistros. And tens of thousands of fathers whose names I don’t know, because I haven’t met their sons.

I think these thoughts more often these days, as I go to these events. And I will probably be thinking them until it’s my turn to grab my chest.

Memo to the owners: Nobody objects to you having money. What we do object to is the way you spend it.

It’s OK not to have a clue about how to run a team. Jim Irsay was pretty hopeless when he began running the Colts. But then find someone who can run a team and then let them alone.

Ray Farmer, assuming we can believe anything Mary Kay Cabot writes, wasn’t planning to draft Johnny Jamboogie when the season ended. But by the time draft day rolled– with Jimmy patting himself on the back about the pick– he’d changed his mind.

If someone connected with that front office had had the brains required to blow their nose– to realize the depth of the cesspool they were pondering jumping into– my friend’s dad might have enjoyed the 2014 Browns a little more. If Bridgewater– or Derek Carr– or even Jimmy Garappolo– had been the next man up when Brian Hoyer flamed out, maybe the team would have made the playoffs. That would have been a nice memory– certainly better than “Well, here we go again…”

So show up at calling hours of your customers and pay your respects. And when you come, bring your idiot stepchildren– Farmer, Mark Shaprio, Chris Antonneti– to remind them who the real owners of the franchise are, and what, exactly is at stake.


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