The Legend of Joe Thomas: While We’re Waiting…


Good [insert time of day to make it seem more colloquial and folksy], readers. Thursday is one of my favorite recurring sports days of the year, behind only Ohio State-Michigan Saturday and Opening Day for the Cleveland Indians. The first day of March Madness is one of the most magical days of the year, one that in my youth represented a potent illustration of adult privilege: “Wait, there are people who just skip school — I mean work, on a Thursday … to go to the Winking Lizard and watch basketball?” It was like eating cookies before dinner or watching rated-R movies, a spectacular indulgence reserved for adulthood. Blowing off work to watch the first day of March Madness was and remains a symbolic aspiration — if I was unable to neglect whatever my recurring obligations were to spend the entire day watching basketball, drinking beer, and eating chicken wings, then I hadn’t accomplished my life goals. I’m not quite there yet (though I should be able to catch many of the games this year), but I hope that you’re able to be derelict in your responsibilities long enough to enjoy the start of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. In other news, the Browns are making some moves, the Indians are approaching real live baseball season, and the Cavaliers are puttering along, but while we’re waiting…

Big news for Browns fans came Tuesday when Joe Thomas announced his retirement from professional football, a devastating blow to a franchise already facing an insurmountable deficit in talent. Thomas was more than a talented football player, he was practically a civic institution … like PBS or the post office. A good offensive lineman is like a roof over your head: you hardly notice when it’s there, but you’re in a world of shit when it’s not. While some of the Browns’ offensive linemen over the past 10 years have afforded little more protection than some banana leaves and stucco, leaving quarterbacks nude to the vicious elements of nature, Joe Thomas was the impermeable impenetrable indestructible architecture keeping quarterbacks upright that I don’t think modern science has an equivalent for yet.

I once mulled writing a post for the “Top 10 Little-Known Facts About Joe Thomas” with fictional, outlandish facts conveying Thomas’s awesomeness. I abandoned the idea because it was kind of stupid and derivative of the Chuck Norris meme from the earlier halcyon days of the web when the internet was clunky, modular, and less inclusive but hey at least your grandparents weren’t hanging around sharing their political opinions. It still is stupid and hack, but since I feel like Browns fans need a few laughs to lighten the demise of Thomas’s career, here’s the gist of what the post would have been.

  1. Joe Thomas is 90 percent granite and 100 percent hunk.
  2. Joe Thomas was conceived between a 11-foot tall Kodiak bear and one of the Wrangell Mountains. Don’t ask me how that “worked.”
  3. If you go to a bar and ask for “A Joe Thomas” they hand you a suitcase full of beers.
  4. Legend has it that Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes were created by Paul Bunyan and his blue ox, Babe. Well, Wisconsin has 15,000 lakes and they were all created by Joe Thomas.
  5. Under Wisconsin state law, Joe Thomas is permitted to announce himself the governor of the state at any moment in time. The then-sitting governor must give himself a wedgie and jump headfirst into a trash can at the nearest Arby’s.
  6. Joe Thomas has blocked for 21 different Browns quarterbacks and none of them were named Thad. (jk there was one named Thad irl.)
  7. One modern plate tectonics theory holds that a new supercontinent called Pangaea Ultima will form in 250 million or “whenever Joe Thomas feels like it.”
  8. Joe Thomas met Ron Swanson once. They were best friends.
  9. According to Greek mythology, the Titan Atlas was condemned to hold up the sky for all eternity but only Joe Thomas could help Peyton Hillis rush for 1000 yards in a season.
  10. Joe Thomas played 10,363 snaps for the Cleveland Browns, and 0 of them were in the playoffs. (That one’s actually true.)

In sum, Joe Thomas was the one dependable thing about the Browns these past 11 seasons other than the team would make me sad on Sunday. When I did pay close attention to his play on the line, he seldom disappointed. He will forever serve as a model of reliability, professionalism, and workmanlike perfection, no less for a franchise that gave such little aptitude in return. Thank you, Joe Thomas.

The Calvin and Hobbes Strip of the Day. In one of his most hilariously cruel moments in the entire comic, Calvin brags to his mother that he has nothing to do as she does chores outside. The tragedy is that Calvin’s mother mistakes Calvin’s proclamation of inaction for a complaint. Calvin’s smug satisfaction is delightful.

And now for the random 90s song of the day. Mother Love Bone’s combo of “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” is one of the best songs of the 90s on one of the best movie soundtrack ever. I know WFNY’s Andrew Schnitkey adores the Singles soundtrack — and has probably even discussed this song in these pages before — but it’s simply an undeniable duo, a true force of nature.

The two songs dovetail beautifully. “Crown of Thorns” resembles many of Mother Love Bone’s other songs like “This is Shagrila” and “Stardog Champion,” songs that are more macho swagger than poetry. To precede it with the elegiac “Chloe Dancer” is symbolic of Mother Love Bone’s lead singer Andy Wood, who passed away from an overdose in 1990 and who persisted with his flamboyance and ambition despite a doomed future — it also foreshadowed the transition from braggadocian 80s hair metal to the anguished, introspective alt-rock of the early 90s.

You could argue that “Chloe Dancer” and “Crown of Thorns” are 80s songs due to their inclusion on Bone’s 1989 EP Shine, but who cares. It was included in the Singles soundtrack, it was on the band’s 1990 LP Apple, and I’m in charge here. Pearl Jam would grow from the ashes Mother Love Bone, and they’ve been known to cover “Crown of Thorns” and even “Chloe Dancer” as tribute to Wood and the band that was. Here’s Pearl Jam playing the combo in Toronto in 2011, Eddie Vedder sporting a Marathon Man shirt — advertising a 1970s Dustin Hoffman movie with Laurence Olivier playing a sadistic Nazi doctor or something — is probably the strangest artistic choice anyone made that night.

You ever heard the story of Mr. Faded Glory?
Say he who rides a pony must someday fall
Talkin’ to my altar, say life is what you make it
And if you make it death, well rest your soul away
Away, away, yeah, child

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