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Unsportsmanlike Conduct

Letters published January 30, 2008

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"Forgotten Forefathers," January 16

NFL's discarded heroes deserve far better: I thoroughly enjoyed your article. Your story is very indicative of what health care is like in general: costing more and more money, with benefits going to fewer and fewer of those who need it.

I remember reading a story about Johnny Unitas in Sports Illustrated in 2001, not long before he died. It was a story about NFL benefits, about the unfairness of the NFL's pension, and depicted other retired players as completely disabled from playing the game they loved. They had been forgotten and were literally rotting their lives away.

When Johnny Unitas revealed that his monthly pension was $3,000, I thought that was ridiculous. Unitas put the NFL on the map, and Tim Couch gets to walk away from the NFL with more than $30 million? Are you kidding me? Johnny Unitas probably played a lot longer than he should have, and at 68 years old, he could barely raise his arm to dress himself. It really sickens me with all this greed and unfairness.

When I saw that photo of Leroy Kelly on the cover, it instantly took me back. It was the first time I had picked up Scene in almost 30 years. I was the youngest of five kids growing up in Dublin, Ohio, in the late '60s. Browns football ruled our home on Sundays. Leroy Kelly meant a lot to Ohioans. He was a role model, he was classy, he had manners, and above all, he meant everything to the kids. I recall riding with my father and four brothers all the way from Dublin to a Cleveland department store called Uncle Bill's on a Friday night, around 1970 or so, for an autographed picture of Leroy Kelly. All my brothers wanted to be Leroy Kelly.

I'm now 50 years old with kids in college, and I still remember Leroy Kelly and Bo Scott (now a hobbling prison guard in Franklin County), Walter Johnson (now deceased), and Jerry Sherk (battered knee from turf staph infection, although Sherk went on to earn a Ph.D. in psychology). We all saw Gene Hickerson's Hall of Fame presentation — that was the saddest thing I've seen in a while.

Why hasn't anyone ever mentioned Bill Nelson? If ever there was a field-general prototype quarterback, it was Bill Nelson. The man played in constant pain. In later years, I heard he was routinely dosed with Demerol and cortisone injections to take the edge off his knee pain after every game. That is unacceptable medical care by today's standards. I recall hearing Gib Shanley or Jim Graine broadcasting games, telling the audience that Bill Nelson "got his knees drained again today." Today a player can be sidelined for a whole game with just a "stinger" or three or four weeks with turf toe. Conversely, you have a slug like LeCharles Bentley, who can sit on his fat ass and get paid millions in salary.

I am very glad you wrote a story like this. No one needs to live in pain. It is shameful and indefensible how the NFL continues to get away with ignoring its greatest asset: its players, its history, its legacy. I hope your story can stir some interest in helping these poor guys.

Jennifer Marks
Gates Mills

"Taking the Fifth," January 2

Canceled Checkup
Legal foot-dragging costly for Clinic's patients: I am in the same boat with the Cleveland Clinic. My wife was injured by a doctor. He broke a face nerve after removing a tumor and gave us a letter stating what happened. I got a lawyer and spent $14,000 trying to get it into court, to no avail. They think they are so good that no one can touch them.

William Yaeger

"Cleveland Is Getting Better," January 23

Straight-Up Shot
Cleveland's story gets positive buzz: Pete Kotz's immigrant success story was a journalistic gem. It managed to glance backward at antique and recent violence, and glimpse optimistically the present and into the future. Plainly, Wally Pisorn has seen the Harbor Inn's environs improve, along with the barroom clientele and local society in general. Gone are the gangsters who left dead bodies near the establishment; gone, too, the macho types who battered one another for trivial reasons or for no reason at all.

It could be Cleveland is indeed clawing its way upward from Rust Belt perdition. In any case, some positive vibrations concerning our metropolis are much appreciated.

William Dauenhauer

"No Snitchin'," January 23

Don't Get Punked
Stand up for the 'hood by standing up to hoods: I loathe how entire urban communities are allowing themselves to be blackmailed into submission by the very people who are bent on destroying them.

What next? Will places like Slavic Village and East Cleveland stop having anti-crime rallies and civic meetings against crime, simply because the thugs might take offense, storm the meetings, and kill everybody there? Will thugs start taking neighborhoods hostage, the way Nazis used to, in order to get other hoodlums out of jail? Will anti-crime, anti-gang, and anti-drug programs in schools be dismantled, simply because some thugs will get angry?

The fact that people working against the law think they can place themselves above the law means our social priorities are in need of a complete overhaul. Maybe if people told not to snitch would all do their civic duty — and stop buying into this rhetoric about crime as an urban industry and that every cop is the enemy — they would finally get the peace of mind they need. And if some hood doesn't like it, try to think of the coward as he really is: a piece of beefsteak, just asking to get itself fried! Yummy yum yum!

Thomas Tobie


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