Brown stuff, Great Big Sea and Celefunktion

by Chris Aaland

With apologies to my friend Richard Sax, Cleveland sucks. I’ve known this ever since Jan. 17, 1988, when Earnest Byner, on his way to a three-yard touchdown, was stripped of the ball by Jeremiah Castille on Denver’s two-yard line with 1:12 remaining in regulation play. The Broncos recovered and held on for a 38-33 win. It was the second of three times in a four-year span that they’d end Cleveland’s season one game shy of the Super Bowl. Fans in Denver hawked “If It’s Brown, Flush It Down” T-shirts and bumper stickers that day.

Cleveland sports haven’t amounted to diddly-poo ever since.

Most surely, though, Cleveland fans found sympathizers in Denver last summer during the LeBron James drama that forever shaped the future of NBA free agency in small markets like Northern Ohio and the Front Range. LeBron, in an unprecedented display of egomania, announced on a live TV special that he was signing with the Miami Heat. His hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, got nothing in return.

Denver tried to offer its franchise player, Carmelo Anthony, a long-term deal throughout the season. Melo refused to sign and demanded a trade. The Nuggets were between a rock and a hard place. If they didn’t trade their superstar, he’d sign as a free agent with somebody else in the offseason and they’d suffer the same fate as Cleveland did with LeBron. The Nuggets eventually dealt Anthony, fan favorite Chauncey Billups and two role players to the New York Knicks on Feb. 21 for Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, three draft picks and $3 million in cold, hard cash.

Like many longtime Denver fans, I was furious. We felt the pain that Cleveland suffered over the LeBron fiasco, only in our case, the trade also shipped out Billups, a Denver native who is the greatest basketball player ever to hail from our dear state.

Guess what though? In the weeks since the trade, the Nuggets are 10-4. The Knicks? Just 7-9 since pulling the trigger on the trade. The Nuggets have climbed two spots to No. 5 in the West. The Knicks are struggling to keep a firm grasp on a playoff hold that would likely set them up for an embarrassing first round loss.

First round losses are all too familiar to Anthony. Although he led Denver to a pair of division championships and the 2009 Western Conference finals, he saw his Nuggets lose in the first round six times.

And LeBron’s former team, the Cavs? A league-worst 13-56 record as of Monday night. Sorry, Cleveland. At least you have the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The multi-award winning Great Big Sea, which fuses the sea shanty tradition of Newfoundland with the spirit and energy of rock, takes the stage at the Community Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Thurs., March 24). Though self-described as a folk band, Great Big Sea maintains a broad following, enjoying fans of both traditional Celtic and contemporary rock music. The group is celebrating the release of their 10th album, “Safe Upon the Shore,” on its current tour.

The second annual Spring Celefunktion takes over the Abbey at 8 p.m. Saturday, with 90-minute sets from the Fort Knox Five and the Great Mundane. Fort Knox Five was formed in 2003 by four like-minded musicians as an outlet for a new style of funk-infused electronic music. They’ve since shared the stage with the likes of Gwen Stefani and the Black Eyed Peas. In 2007, they had the honor of remixing two Bob Marley songs for the experimental “Roots, Rock, Remixed” project that gave top DJs and producers the chance to rework some of the reggae legend’s tunes for the modern dance hall. The Great Mundane grew up in southeastern Michigan, explored Chicago’s house/techno scene, then departed for the fertile musical grounds of Portland, Ore. He’s known for his fractured, heady instrumentals that are laced with lush synthesizer work, all the while rethinking hip-hop and electro/house music.

Mountain Standard Time plays the Abbey at 9 p.m. tonight. Following in the footsteps of Colorado icons like the String Cheese Incident and Leftover Salmon, MST hits you with traditional bluegrass instrumentation like guitar, mandolin and banjo, but also adds rock sounds like saxophone, electric bass, drums and electronic effects. Its members met in Nederland, fertile breeding grounds for jamgrass innovators like the Yonder Mountain String Band. They’ve since performed across the country, with appearances at Wakarusa and Telluride, among other festivals. The Scrugglers kick things off.

The Four Corners Center for Spiritual Living hosts Jami Lula in concert at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at the Durango Arts Center. An award-winning vocalist, the L.A.-based Lula is known for his improvisational, multi-textured vocals and his inspirational messages.

This week’s Starlight schedule includes the regular Salsa Night at 8 p.m. tonight, Peter Robot at 8 p.m. Saturday, Musica del Mundo at 8 p.m. Sunday and karaoke at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

More good stuff: tonight’s Ska-B-Q features Dolores’ original, organic, rocking, acoustic duo, the Porchlights; Kirk James does solo blues at the Schank House at Vallecito at 7 p.m. Friday; and Black Velvet plays the Diamond Belle Saloon at 5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

This week’s Top Shelf list examines some of the worst moments in Cleveland athletic history, a sad-but-true reality for some of the sports world’s greatest fans:

The Catch. Willie Mays’ play in the first game of the 1954 World Series is widely considered to be the greatest catch in baseball history. His Giants swept the Indians, and Cleveland wouldn’t return to the World Series until 1995.

The Drive. 98 yards. 5:02 remaining. John Elway became a legend in the 1987 AFC Championship.

The Shot. Michael Jordan’s buzzer beater lifted the Bulls to a 101-100 triumph over the Cavs and a 3-2 series win in the first round of the 1989 NBA playoffs.

The Decision. King James showed no class. Northern Ohio deserved better.

The Fumble. Lest we forget, Byner had a stellar career and finished among the NFL’s Top 30 rushing leaders of all-time.

The Single. Edgar Renteria’s 11th inning single in game seven of the 1997 World Series ended the Indians’ hopes and gave the upstart Marlins their first title. ï®

So say hey Willie, tell Ty Cobb and Joe Dimaggio? Email me at



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows