Thursday, February 23, 2012

Five Minutes with Cleveland Sports Journalist Terry Pluto

In the early nineties when AOL was king, before the real Internet stole us all away, every NFL football team had an AOL meeting-place for its fans. The most populated group of them all consisted of die-hard Cleveland Browns fans. Sadly, being a Browns fan these past forty years has been an exercise in futility. The only thing more painful than being a Browns fan is being a Cleveland Indians fan.

Nevertheless, even though Cleveland has left us little to cheer about in terms of championships, we have many great memories of great moments and, win or lose, we have some great sports journalists who continue to write with passion and earnestness. One of these is Terry Pluto, whom I first became aware of many years ago by seeing his name associated with The Amy Awards, in recognition of the best of Christian journalism.

But his awards don’t stop there, and I get the impression based on his output of 22 books or more that his writing is not going to stop anytime soon either. His book The Curse of Rocky Colavito was one of the most enjoyable and insightful sports stories I’ve ever read. This book should be mandatory for any living fan of the Tribe. I now understand what was behind the demise of the Indians that I witnessed in the early Sixties.*

On my current reading list, downloaded to my Kindle, is his exposition of the Browns’ more recent struggles, False Start. Perhaps what makes his writing zing is its pointedness backed by keen observation. You can tell he's well acquainted with his subject matter and has done his homework, or rather, legwork. For what it’s worth, whenever I want to check in on my Cleveland Browns, I look online for the Cleveland Plain Dealer columns of Terry Pluto.

Terry kindly accepted my request to be interviewed here about both writing and sports journalism.

Ennyman: You make a living as a sports journalist who has been continuously cranking out copy for 30 years. Have you ever had writer's block and how did you deal with it?
Terry Pluto: I hope it's a little better than "cranking out copy," or I wouldn't be around for 30 years. A big key is deciding what you want to say and how to say it... My job is to write, and it matches my passion. There always is something going on in sports if you are willing to look at high schools, small colleges, etc. Not just the pros.

E: Can I assume that you have been from Cleveland all your life? Describe briefly what it is like to be an Indians and a Browns fan the past forty years.
TP: I worked in Greensboro, Savannah and Baltimore when I was a young writer. I like sports, but love to write. My passion is finding good stories for fans who love sports... I prefer the teams to win because it's much more fun and makes for better stories but I never let the millionaires ruin my day when they lose or make a bad trade.

E: Why were Browns fans optimistic when owner Art Modell took the team to Baltimore?
TP: It seems like they became a start-up again. Most fans didn't understand the perils of expansion. I wrote a book about it, False Start.

E: What's been harder, being a Browns fan or an Indians fan and why?
TP: Browns fans are more passionate and have had far less success. The Tribe receives far less patience and harsher judgment from fans. Not sure why because the rules make it far easier for the Browns to be successful than the Tribe.

E: Which came first, being a writer or being a fan? If you had not been a sports journalist, what would you have been writing about these past many decades?
TP: I love to write, so I would have been writing something, somewhere. I do have a degree in secondary education, and spent much of my senior year teaching history at Lincoln-West. So I am a certified high school teacher, but I prefer to write.

E: You never saw Otto Graham play, a true great Browns quarterback. How would you compare Frank Ryan, Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar?
TP: Kosar was the most polished in terms of reading defenses and squeezing the most out of the offense. Sipe was very close. Ryan was an above average QB surrounded with tremendous talent.

E: How many years till we have a Browns team that can be competitive?
TP: If I knew that, I'd write it.

Terry, thank you.
To other readers here: You can find more about Terry Pluto and his writings at the following Internet places and spaces:

Terry Pluto:

Sports stories:
Faith stories:

*When I attended the 1963 All Star Game in Cleveland, there were no home town players on the American League squad except pitcher Jim "Mudcat" Grant, who was no doubt selected as a token for the hometown fans. Pluto's book explains why this was so.


Coupons said...

You are an example for inspiring the readers through your writings.

ENNYMAN said...

Thanks... if that was meant for me. If for Terry, yes, I find him inspiring myself.