Friday, December 30, 2011

Dan Coughlin's 'Pass the Nuts:' Please pass more

One of my favorite memories from my first few years working here in the mid-1990s was when Dan Coughlin called to check in his column.

He wrote for The News-Herald twice a week, and he sent his column via the AP wire. This required dialing into the AP's computer system via phone line, similar to dial-up Internet service.

Most of the time it went smoothly. But when it didn't, it was a pain to troubleshoot. On a few occasions, his column didn't make it in the first try. Or the second try. When I told him it hadn't made it, he sometimes expressed his frustration in a way that wasn't fit for broadcast or print. We can laugh about it now.

This usually happened close to 6 p.m. A short while later, Coughlin was on the air for the WJW-TV 8 sports report, and you wouldn't have known the difference. I always wondered how he prepared for his segment so quickly.

With that experience as background, I've enjoyed Coughlin's two books. "Pass the Nuts," which came out in November, is a follow-up to "Crazy, With the Papers to Prove it" from 2010. Both have hilarious stories from his 40-plus years on the sports scene in Cleveland.

They read as if he was telling stories at a local bar (there a LOT of stories about bars in "Pass the Nuts," so it isn't much a stretch.)

I was lucky to get an autographed copy for Christmas. It was inscribed, "Yes, they're all true." Some of the tales are so outrageous, that the statement is necessary.

I won't spoil them all, but a few of my favorites:

-- A lawyer who got a Cleveland State basketball player off the hook for allegedly stealing and cashing five university checks by getting him put on probation under his middle name.

-- The Fox 8 helicopter's adventures covering high school football games, including a landing in Willoughby in which they were greeted by police, but not in a good way.

-- How a 62-mile run on a bet ended Browns offensive lineman Dick Schafrath's career.

A quibble: A chapter on the Plain Dealer's D'Arcy Egan states that when Steve Pollick of the Toledo Blade retires this month, Egan will be the only full-time newspaper outdoors writer in Ohio. Our own Jeffrey L. Frischkorn has been cast-and-blasting for several decades, and he's going strong. Coughlin writes about the deer population explosion, including his backyard, in a later chapter. Jeff could tell him all about it.

The last five chapters are about the rise and fall of adult softball in Northeast Ohio and the characters involved. If the beer leagues are your bag, then they are a must read.

So is the rest of the book.

- Howard Primer



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