Cornell McCleary: Calm Like a Bomb

1952 - 2009

Cornell McCleary: 1952 - 2009

It would be a gross exaggeration to describe Cornell McCleary as a friend of mine.  We weren’t friends at all.  In fact,  over the  last few years there were times when I couldn’t stand the guy.

Yet  he believed passionately in things and wasn’t the least bit interested in tailoring his principles to be popular or well-liked.   Cornelll was the type of guy who wasn’t the least bit shy about calling you a dumb ass if he thought you were one and that might include anyone from the mayor of Columbus to the President of the United States.

He hosted a radio show for six years Sunday nights on WTVN (610) radio.  The format was to talk about whatever was on his mind, take phone calls and interview guests while Cornell would play old school soul music, rip into whatever politician  that had got on his nerves and not take any of it, including himself too seriously.

Cornell was the first person I’ve  met who could dominate a room through the sheer force of  their outrageious  persona.  The other was Don King.

We sparred verbally when I was a reporter and then the editor of The Columbus Post newspaper.  I invited him to write for The Post because I wanted a Black conservative voice, but it didn’t last more than a few columns because McCleary had butted heads in the past with The Post’s publisher, Amos Lynch.

That was Cornell’s way.  For him there were no sacred cows.  He ground them all up like hamburger.  He didn’t care if he was ticking off Democrats on Monday,  Republicans on Tuesday and a good portion of the Black community on Wednesday.   He’d laugh at all the drama as if he was enjoying a private joke nobody else quite got.

McCleary was an activist in the community, but he was also the  quintessential political gadfly.  He could form alliances with liberals like Bob Fitrakis, the publisher of the progressive Columbus Free Press and then turn around and with  Ohio GOP chairman Bob Bennett, standing by, announce he would be leading minority outreach efforts for the Republicans.

Cornell’s seemed to delight in biting the hand that fed him.  In 1999, he publicly backed the Democrat, Michael Coleman over the endorsed Republican candidate.   Local GOP officials were furious with McCleary, but he could have cared less.

Still, with his prodding,  the paper did become more receptive to the Republican Party and when we endorsed Pat Tiberi for Congress in 1999 it was largely due to Cornell’s introduction of the unknown Tiberi to the paper’s editorial board.

I appeared on Cornell’s radio show once and he worked me over pretty good  with his questions and biting sarcasm.  But I didn’t get mad about it because I knew that was just how Cornell rolled.   I listened to his program and when he left in 2006 over a dispute with the station manager, I sat in one night as a possible replacement.   I flat-out sucked and when I ran into Cornell a few months later on the set of  Columbus On the Record, a public affairs tv show,  he didn’t fail to mention how bad I was.

Losing the show really seemed to throw  Cornell off his game.   When he appeared on On the Record he would often show up dressed head-to-toe in black, wearing combat boots and an attitude.   Cornell’s “mad as hell and ain’t gonna take it no more”  Angry Black Man persona was made for radio.   It didn’t thrive in a structured 30-minute television program where he was sharing the spotlgith with three others.   Where once Cornell was entertaining, now he was merely cranky and abrasive.

It got so unpleasant  finally I asked the program host  to stop scheduling me with Cornell.

I don’t think Cornell meant to be so in your face.  It was just his way.  He always had to show he was the Alpha male.

With his profile diminished by the loss of his radio show,  Cornell tried internet radio and a blog  with middling success, but it lacked the impact and reach he had enjoyed before.  Every so often, he’d sent out a mass e-mail blast to everyone in local media about what his thoughts of the day were, but now it seemed more to remind us he was still hanging around.

Cornell  passed away at his home from complications due to high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

I didn’t know Cornell well enough to mourn him.  I do know that he did things to bring about changes, improve the lives of others and shake people awake even as he was shaking things up.  He cared about people and he cared about the causes that were important to him.  If that means stepping on someones toes hard and repeatedly, he’d do it.

Cornell was liked by many, disliked by others, but respected by all.  If he ever changed his ways to please anyone but himself  I never caught him doing it.

That’s all.

Brett Favre, the Jessica Simpson of Pro Football.

Even Football Jesus couldn't get the Jets in the playoffs.

Even Football Jesus couldn't get the Jets in the playoffs.

Brett Favre retired from the National Football League.

What?  AGAIN?   Haven’t we seen this movie before?

Nothing would make me happier as a football fan than to get rid of Favre and the cult of sportswriters, broadcasters and slaves that worship at his feet.

I don’t think this publicity seeking whore is done yet.  Sometime next season a quarterback will go down and immediately the speculation will start.  Will Favre come back?   Let’s put it this way.  If the Cincinnatti Bengals have an opening for a signal caller, hell no, Favre won’t go.  But if it’s one of the NFL “glamour” franchises like the Dallas Choking Dogs with a job opening we will see Number 4’s tired ass back in the league.

When Brett the Holy One hung it up last time it was a big deal.  This time the response was, “big deal.”

I know some people are hanging on every detail about Alex Rodriguez using steroids, Chris Brown pimp slapping Rihanna before the Grammys, Michael Phelps losing sponsors due to his fondness for sparking up and hitting a big-ass bong or that crazy octo-mom Nadia Suleman and her 14 kids,  BUT I DON’T CARE!

Last week the hot story was whether or not Christian Bale needed anger management treatment after threatening to go postal  over some crew member who distracted him on the set of Terminator: Salvation.   Oh wait.  Bale apologized.  Okay.  Let’s go to You Tube and watch Joaquin Phoenix’s incohrent mumblings on The David Letterman Show.

Or let’s not and say we did.  Well, what about Salma Hayek whipping on one of her milk jugs and popping it into the mouth of a baby in Africa who’s mama ran dry?  That should be good for a totally gratitutious boob shot .

Or better yet.  Look at Jessica Simpson.  Hey, she got fat!  God, how hard up are we for entertainment?

Simpson put on some weight.  Stop the presses!  Throw a picture up there.  Okay, so she’s a little thicker, but nobody would confuse her with Queen “I am not a lesbian” Latifah.   Some more curves, but she’s wearing mom jeans and  still ain’t got no butt to fill in those pants. 

Brett Favre is the Jessica Simpson of pro football.  A bit more talented, but ever bit as irrelevant.

Got mo curves.  Still aint got no talent.

Got mo' curves. Still ain't got no talent.

Favre retiring was a major news story the first time he tried it last year.   ESPN treated it like it was the announcement of a new pope.   Even non-sports media picked up the story and mused over how soon the overrated QB would walk into the Hall of Fame.  Favre was celebrated as the greatest quarterback ever and he milked it for all it was worth.  Never mind the fact that after 14 seasons he’d only won ONE Super Bowl.

Favre isn’t the greatest quarterback in the history of the NFL.  He’s the greatest egomaniac in the history of the NFL.  The way people like Sports Illustrated’s Peter King and NBC’s John Madden talked about Favre, you could almost see the child-like wonder in their eyes and the worship in their voice.

The mindless adulation of Favre was all out of proportion to his accomplishments on the field.   Sportswriters are no different than the fans.  They’re predominantly White men writing about sports that are dominated by Black men.  It’s a lot easier for a middle-aged guy to relate to a talented, but overrated QB from Mississippi than a tattooed brother from L.A. sporting dreads and dancing like a maniac in the end zone.

When  Simpson failed as a pop singer, she made a career change and came back as a country singer.  I doubt real country fans are buying into her change up, but what else is she going to do?  Start rapping?

Same thing with Favre.  He went as far as he could go with the Green Bay Packers and even they were getting tired of his penchant for throwing brain-dead interceptions at critical moments.   Favre looked around and saw a Packers team on the down stroke, so he when the team rightly refused his selfish demands to  trade him to a competing team in their own division, they shipped him out to the Jets.

As it turns out, the Jets cleared the deck for Favre bycutting starting QB Chad Pennington who signed with the Miami Dolphins.  The Jets came out hot, faded in the middle and flopped at the end missing the playoffs entirely.  Meanwhile, Pennington led the Dolphins into the playoffs and won Comeback Player of the Year.   Is that the sound of poetic justice?

So let Favre retire.   He’ll be back.  Just like when Simpson will after she drops 20 pounds. She’ll be all over the celebrity mags boasting of how she lost the flab and you can too (provided  you can afford a exclusive trainer to work you out).

Meanwhile I’m bored with this week’s celebrity news.  What’s up next?  Madonna or Amy Winehouse fighting over who’s going  to steal Favre from his wife? 

So many clowns.  So few circuses. 

Hey look, its Jessica Simpson in her mom jeans.

"Hey look, it's Jessica Simpson in her mom jeans."