Black Widow. The two words provoke several images, none of them cheery. Most people are aware, at least by repute, of the female black widow spider, notorious for occasionally dining on her male partner after mating. Some are familiar with the archetype of the female serial-killer spouse, memorably rendered in a number of films. Few Clevelanders realize, however, that almost four score years ago their city riveted the attention of the nation for almost a fortnight with sensational news of a serial husband murderess …
I suppose you think that because this column is called “The Great Indoors” its author never goes outside. Just a couch potato who watches TV and eats Smokehouse almonds all night. A shlub who shuffles around the apartment giving himself carpet shocks. A guy to whom nothing happens.
Most of that is right. I do give myself shocks because I don’t pick up my feet when I walk. I’m trying to conquer this. I do watch a lot of TV, but that’s my job. I cover the waterfront. I admit I lie around on my can quite a bit. However, lots of things happen to me—amazing and exciting things. And they happen indoors.
I’d like to begin with my most exciting indoor incident. It involves Irma La Douce and a roach.
The field of Cleveland Municipal Stadium is as brown as dry, dead leaves, as brown as any ground has a right to be, as brown as any ground on which men play professional sports. On sunny days it is a yellow, sandy brown, but the first time I ever see it, during a dispirited 6–2 Browns loss to the Dallas Cowboys, it is a wet, muddy brown in a thick stripe down the middle of the field. The game is longtime coach Blanton Collier’s final home game, and the uneventful loss means more than I have any way of knowing at the time …
The day Cleveland came back, I was sitting in my bathrobe sucking on some coffee and trying to wake up. Then the telephone rang. “We are calling from National Public Radio’s ‘Morning Edition’ program,” a nice young man from the East said. “We wonder if you will let us interview you. Cleveland has come back, you know.” “I know,” I told him. “I read it in USA Today. They had a front-page story saying we were back, so we must be back.” The young man assured me that we were. “The only trouble is, I’m not sure I’m the right person to interview about it,” I said. “I don’t feel as if I’ve ever been away. I’ve been here all the time.”
“Out of all the movies I’ve ever done,” says Rene Russo, who catapulted from Major League into a fantastic Hollywood career, “that’s the one that more people come up to me to talk about. It really is a cult classic. Not even cult, really. Everybody just loves that film.” The movie has become part of baseball’s life cycle. As the snow begins to melt in late March, fans gather in rec rooms and basements and replay the movie in a cherished ritual that indicates a new baseball season is about to begin.
We weren’t so concerned with winning because we were football-starved and just happy to have our team back. Tailgating was a spectacle. Some fans had also painted their vehicles. Many set up tailgate camps with tents and Browns flags, devoting the day to grilling, playing cornhole, throwing a football, dancing on top of RVs and buses, visiting with old friends, making new ones, and celebrating that our Browns were finally back. That phrase “Browns fans never lose a party” was never so true.