Ten years into its existence, not everybody seems to be a huge fan of YouTube. Some say it’s become an unintended digital exhibit on the de-evolution of mankind — a sprawling garbage dump at the event horizon of a cultural black hole, squandering its hi-tech sophistication for the proliferation of dancing cats and dick punches. To this I say bollocks! If not for YouTube, I might never again have seen the smiling mug of my childhood hero, Indians catcher Andy Allanson. Nor could I have witnessed Hot Rod Williams help end the career of Larry Bird! Or watch a giant disembodied dog head with fireballs for eyes barter with the devil to bring the Browns back to Cleveland! If anything, there is too much great stuff out there to leave it all uncurated. Thus, the Cleveland Sports VHS Rewind now exists [for now].
The purpose here is simple: to explore the random, bizarre, and seemingly limitless collection of Browns, Cavs, and Indians crap piling up along the side of the information superhighway. Each volume will unearth three videos from the deepest recesses of YouTube’s large intestines. Some will delight you. Some will confuse you. Others will make you long for the days when fading sports memories could fade away forever, and nostalgia could survive without hindsight.
We’ll begin this edition with a quickie from the tail end of the Cleveland Indians’ 40-year walk through the desert. It’s a WUAB Channel 43 Tribe promo from the early portion of the 1989 season, which eventually ended in a 73-89 record and the exit of manager Doc Edwards. More importantly, it would also be the last season in Cleveland for the aforementioned trusty backstop Andy Allanson—a mulleted and mustachioed Virginia hilljack whom I briefly held in the highest regard.
Video 1: WUAB Kidsland Invites You to Play the Tribe Game (1989)
When Andy says, “I’ll see ya at the ballpark,” does it not come across as mildly threatening? As a Kidsland viewer slurping up Chef Boyardee Dinosaurs and watching Bugs Bunny, I’m not sure that the stony glare of the Indians’ banjo hitting catcher, nor the empty promise of a pack of shitty Donruss cards, would inspire me to play “The Tribe Game.”
Coincidentally, this advertisement ran the same month that a movie called Major League first hit theaters. The film starred respected Wall Street and Platoon actor Charlie Sheen as the pitcher who helps the long suffering Indians finally win the pennant. With Cleveland’s impressive real-life pitching staff of Greg Swindell, Tom Candiotti, Bud Black, and John Farrell, there was some hope that perhaps reality could imitate fiction that year. But as previously mentioned, it didn’t. The Indians sucked, Andy Allanson sucked, and you never met Cory Snyder.
Video 2: Larry Bird’s Last Game in Boston, Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, Game 6 (1992)
Would it be rude to pile on Boston and remind them that it twas the Cavaliers who finally felled the legend that was Larry? Almost like the polar opposite of the young, inexperienced Celtics squad currently battling for its playoff life, the 1992 C’s sent out an ancient triumvirate of Bird (35), Kevin McHale (34), and Robert Parish (38)–all with championships and Hall of Fame careers in the rear view mirror. The ’92 Cavs, meanwhile, were young 57-game winners on a road to the Conference Finals. Twenty-three years later, it’s a team that seems a little bit overlooked in local lore.
It might have something to do with the weird dark cloud that retro-actively came to hang over those 1992 Playoffs. Before getting eliminated once again by Jordan’s Bulls, Cleveland bested the New Jersey Nets in four games—overcoming a Herculean effort by Drazen Petrovic—then outlasted Boston in a seven-game series that saw a slow, hobbling Bird play his final game ever, and a young, up-and-coming Reggie Lewis emerge as Boston’s next great star. By the following summer, Petrovic (car accident) and Lewis (cardiac arrest) had both tragically died, Lenny Wilkens was relieved of his coaching duties in Cleveland, and the window of opportunity for the Price/Nance/Daugherty era was already closing up. Out of the kindness of my heart (and surprising YouTube limitations), I elected to post video of Bird’s last game in Boston—game six of the series—which the Celtics won to stay alive.
The Cavs subsequently destroyed them in game seven back in Richfield, essentially bringing that once mighty dynasty to an end.
Video 3: “Revenge of the Dawgs” (1999)
Several years after the Baltimore Ravens became a thing, a few passionate and possibly criminally insane Cleveland Browns fans made the above anti-Modell propaganda film for Munrovia Pictures. Their Oscar-snubbed creation, “Revenge of the Dawgs,” is a groundbreaking combination of inspired live action film making and state-of-the-art computer generated animation (if Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” video was still considered state of the art in 1999). It’s also a classic revenge tale, with an epic showdown between God and the Devil—check that, “Dog” and the Devil—cuz Browns fans dress as dogs, you know? Yadayadayada, dog costumes. Yadayadayada, dog puns. Yadayadayada—Hey! It’s a John “Big Dawg” Thompson cameo! Pure class.
Lessons learned watching the WTF-ridden “Revenge of the Dawgs”:
1. Getting hit by a truck will pixilate you.
2. Boobs are still more enticing than cold vengeance.
3. The current Cleveland Browns franchise only exists because a giant disembodied dog head captured and released the Prince of Darkness on the sole condition that a new team, owner, and stadium be delivered to the land of Cleveland. For some reason, the dog did NOT…
a) Add a stipulation about this new team having a serviceable franchise quarterback.
b) Demand that Art Modell never win a Super Bowl in Baltimore.
c) Consider the possibility that maybe keeping the Devil imprisoned would be more beneficial to the human race than putting another disappointing sports team in Cleveland.