A sad day it is for us long-time Cleveland Browns fans as the greatest player ever, Jim Brown #32, has passed away. Since my birth in 1960 Cleveland sports has been a sick passion. Sick not only because we root for all their teams with deep hope at the chance for a championship, but ill-sick every time they have another losing season. Since Jim Brown led the Browns to the NFL championship in 1964 ALL Cleveland teams have only won a single championship in these 63 years. Some of us see that one trophy as being laced with a squirt of bitter lemon because our savior of northeast Ohio sports, Lebron James, was followed by him leaving town with a stick-in-the-eye fashion a second time. It left the Cavaliers teams in complete shambles both times. This morning Lebron’s quote on Brown’s passing immediately went viral –
All are words of truth honoring a man for both his heroism on the field and some off. I remark however that every kid regardless of race or color and most adults saw Jim Brown as our hero and greatest football player ever. Honestly, never once did I care one iota about his color. Admittedly, few were happy when our hero retired early to pursue a career in acting. It seemed to leave behind decades of future really bad luck and bad teams for my birthplace. After football parts of Jim’s life after retirement was filled with controversy and later his reckoning with wrongs in society. He indeed left a mark on the world that few achieve.
All heroes though had moments in their life for us to evaluate both their triumphs and falls. Like Abraham, Moses, King David, King Solomon of Bible history, or any hero of modern times from Lincoln to MLK to Queen Elizabeth – all had moments of their lives that are both great and not-so-great or even tragic. In the end, we wonder what could have been better to glorify or vindicate their lives even more? Or perhaps help erase the mistakes? Perhaps a lucky break or casual encounter could have rewritten their stories?
A few decades ago I personally had a casual chance to meet the man Jim Brown. It wasn’t as storied as the one Lebron James had as shown in his Instagram video. I ponder that perhaps I could have shared some super wisdom about life or living like Jesus and my teeny conversation had an effect on him that would have …. Well, I wrote all about it back on March 20, 2022.
Here it is unedited from my 3-20-22 post of the same title.
Most events in our lives are intentionally planned unless you are one of those people that thrives on the thrill of sky diving and mountain climbing in sub-zero weather. Me, I prefer the safe routes and plan every detail of travel for business and vacations. I do enjoy the opportunity of traveling, talking with anybody, and I count on running into people randomly in a restaurant, hotel, or airport. Who doesn’t enjoy those moments and events that happen just by Casual Chance?
Luckily, I have had some casual short meet-ups with famous people. They don’t impress me much, they all put their pants on one leg at a time, but they do make great stories. I did meet George Bush senior one day while serving in the Army as he came to snorkel in an obscure military base in the Pacific called Johnston Atoll. But most famous people I have ever met involved at most getting an autograph, or shaking a hand, a short chat, and not much beyond.
But the most memorable conversation I ever had was with the GOAT of the NFL. No, not the newest one, Tom Brady has certainly earned that title with his rings and longevity. Maybe some of you remember the greatest running back in NFL history who had a football team named after him, Jim Brown. The Browns (who actually were named after the original coach Paul Brown, not Jim Brown) have never even made it into a championship or Super Bowl since he last played in the ’60s. Still, for my family, there was never a doubt he was the greatest. For you that have no clue about important football history, this expose’ shows and tells about some aspects of his life, both the good and the bad. My meet-up was after one of his lowest moments. It was a very odd casual chance meet-up.
The time period was in 2002, place Youngstown, Ohio, in a hotel lounge, I believe. (I don’t recall the exact place it may have been a Holiday Inn). I had been traveling to every nook and cranny in Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana and grabbed a beer at the end of the evening. To my surprise, I walked in and saw a large football-sized man whom I immediately recognized as Jim Brown. I ‘casually’ sat down at the bar a few empty seats down from him. If I recall there were only a few people in the place, which was pretty much status quo for my travels. I exchanged a how you doing tonight with him and he tipped his glass to me in response.
My mind was racing as I thought, Didn’t he just get out of jail? Yep, the headlines in those days spoke of how he had managed to escape from the law for many years and finally ended up on a 6 month reduced to a 4 month sentence: “Brown, 66, was convicted on a misdemeanor vandalism charge and chose to serve the jail time rather than complete a domestic violence counseling program, pay a fine and donate to a battered women’s shelter.”
Don’t read into this that my goal is to bash the man. It just happened to be this casual chance meeting happened at the low point of his life. The headlines I note happen to be the only place that covers everything in one place. Here is one that depicts the man who had an illustrious career not only in sports, but movies, an advisor to the current Cleveland Browns, a civic leader, and one who was invited to sit in with Donald Trump at the White House.
I attempted to make small talk with Jim and got a few responses. I asked what brought him into town to which he said business so I queued in on a business piece telling him a little about me, as if maybe he might care. He didn’t. I walked lightly but thought about asking him, ‘hey Jim, what was it like in jail.’ I didn’t want to make him mad though. Knowing the man had posed in Playgirl, I also didn’t want to say the wrong things and get punched out for that either. Honestly, I chickened out and did not say much. I did eavesdrop intently as a drunk man was being bolder and talking to him about some other nonsense.
Jim asked for a last drink and fumbled in his wallet to pull some cash out. I was about to check out also and pulled my wallet out and thought, it would be so cool if I bought The Jim Brown’s drinks so I could tell people about the encounter. Weird huh? But, as Jim was counting out his cash and seemingly acting like he was broke the other guy made a joke about money. It was not offensive, but all of a sudden Jim got mad and started getting into it with the guy. They exchanged a few barbs back and forth. The bartender told the other man, do you not know who you are talking to fool, you best calm down. I put my wallet back in the pocket. If he was going to fight over nothing, he certainly would be offended if I offered to pay for his food and drink.
That was the end of my casual chance encounter with my childhood football hero. Watching and listening to an angry and bitter man grumble as he walked out the door. I mentioned to the other guy, do you not know that that was Jim Brown? He replied, ‘I don’t give a crap who it was, what a jerk, I didn’t even say anything for him to go off like that.’ I handed the bartender my signed receipt and headed out wondering what just happened.
Honestly, I had not thought much about that encounter until recently as my favorite team the Cleveland Browns had considered signing a player with a similar history of sexual and abusive accusations hanging over his head. Fortunately, the man said NO as I was working on publishing this story. But, then it all turned around and somehow the Browns signed the player to the largest guaranteed contract in NFL history and gave up their future with three top draft picks.
Jim Brown was always admired for his ability to stand alone. This book on his whole life describes how so many people looked to him as the epitome of a man. In his nine seasons in a time where the helmets and pads were thin and the rules allowed punching, kicking, and brutality, he never missed a game. He left the league on his own terms. He also was one of the few black men that scorned Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem. He was even a conservative backing Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Trump.
In my deep thoughts category, I reviewed the surrounding aspects of this casual encounter.
2002 I meet my childhood sports idol who played for the Cleveland Browns, who had a history of domestic violence incidents.
2001 my sister, avid Cleveland Browns/Indians fan had been murdered by a Cleveland area man. We found out about the murder as he was being put in a police car wearing a Browns jacket, and later he wore a Cleveland Indians shirt – this old story is written here
2003 – I have another casual chance meeting, on an airplane, with another famous running back, 19-year-old Maurice Clarett
2016 I write the story about that encounter, only one week later, Clarett who had for a while turned his life around after being in prison, is arrested for a DUI. Story of SHATTERED about that incident written.
2003 – Clarett a born and raised Cleveland area star football player is advised by everyone’s football hero Jim Brown to fight Ohio State, the NCAA, and NFL, all by himself. His football career is destroyed. Perhaps I could have prevented Brown from giving Clarett the horrible advice…
Hey, I’m just an average Joe that happened to have a couple of casual encounters. As I look back I imagine this grandiose what-if scene that maybe I could have affected Jim Brown’s life so much that his life changed for the better. In retrospect, he could have advised Maurice Clarett so much that Clarett could have been a Cleveland Brown and broken Jim’s records. What if that conversation Clarett and I had on the airplane where we discussed the death of his friend that happened in the Cleveland area, and the death of my sister, changed his life at that moment? What if Jim Brown and Maurice both called me separately and said the three of us need to get together and talk about the post-championship game and OSU fiasco back in 2003?
Perhaps that is the most ridiculous thought ever? But, maybe not? Who knows what some small casual chance encounter could or could have changed your life, or someone else making the world a better place for everyone?
Wishful thoughts to ponder and yes of course to my regular followers, I have a deeper spiritual side story to go with this. This one ENDED totally different, one of which changed history for someone. It has nothing to do with football. If you enjoyed this story and it made you think, great, move on and have a great day. If however, you’d like to go way deeper, tap the line below and go further.
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Some call them ‘divine appointments,’ ’a tap on the shoulder,’ ‘God-incidences,’ ‘divine providence;’ whatever one wishes to call them, but with God there is no such thing as luck or un-inspired casual chances. God is always in control but often in subtle ways that we must take notice of. Lest we miss out on the ways God has set things up, on purpose, for ours and others sake.
Two recent intentional activities tie my life to dealing with helping survivors/victims of domestic abuse and unwanted pregnancies. I had a casual encounter this week with a young woman as I was putting used baby clothes on hangers for a place that raises money to help them. I joked, man you can sure tell the 2 year olds were in this area. She said, what did you say? I said, oh sorry I’m just lamenting about all the toys and clothes on the floor over here. She laughed and said oh man can I relate, I have twins that are both 2. She walked on with a grin on her face.
I got that gut feeling of, this encounter is not over. Do you get those? It is like dramatic music starts playing and you know something is about to happen. Then this small voice is whispering telling you to say something, do something, this is no casual chance encounter! I began to pray and ask for discernment. There were only 2 other people in the store and I’m JUST a volunteer there to help with cleaning up, emptying boxes, putting stuff on shelves, and being friendly with people.
I noticed her looking at everything but keeping nothing. I went out to the window to look in the parking lot. The last thing I wanted to do was assume this was a person who needed help and offend her. Kind of like, do I buy the drinks of a guy who I don’t know if he’s a millionaire or an old athlete that messed up and is near homeless now. In the lot were two cars, an older model suv and a Mercedes. Both of the customers in the store looked conservative clothes-wise, no way to know if one was poor and one better off. I asked my whispering voice what I should do. The promptings had my heartbeat a racing. Another voice said she’ll think you are a creeper if you say something more.
She still had nothing in her hands so I got the nerve to make small talk and finally ask her a hard question. I said, hey I don’t want to make any assumptions so please forgive me for asking but you mentioned having twins and I see you haven’t found anything for them. I used to be heavily involved down the street at a Help Pregnancy Center, do you possibly need any assistance? Her eyes watered up and she said, no way! I’m like oh no, ‘I’m sorry did I miss here?’ She said no way again and went on to say “I just moved here from the east coast. I have been driving around with my Mom trying to find my new family of help. I am a single Mom and used to have a place to go where they helped us. I can’t believe it; you must be someone God has sent to guide me where to go.”
From there, the conversation turned totally magical if you like that term! Answering the tap-on-the-shoulder brought blessings to someone in need. It cost me 5 minutes of time, but the blessings for both of us, and even my wife, who happened to catch the tail end of the conversation was worth way more than money can buy. My wife said afterward, there it goes again. Yep, another casual chance encounter.
And yes, here it goes again with a longer story that must be told.
Have you ever been told to go dig in the concordances and study notes as you are reading the Bible? I was dealing with some difficult situations with a group of church people where the Lord showed me a passage at the end of Ephesians 6, “Now, so that you may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will tell you everything. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, so that you may know how we are, and that he may comfort and encourage and strengthen your hearts. Peace be to the brothers and sisters, and love joined with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying and incorruptible love.”
I got that little whisper again and it said go look up the odd name of Tychicus. Translated by abarim publications it means ‘casual; by chance’
In my research, I found that Tychicus was anything but casual or by chance, not even close. “Paul had entrusted Tychicus with a very important mission. He was to deliver the Epistle to the Ephesians, that is, “the circular letter” to the churches in proconsular Asia. He was then to proceed to Colosse, with the Epistle to the church there.”
Additionally, “In the first of these passages, his name occurs as one of a company of the friends of Paul. The apostle, at the close of his 3rd missionary journey, was returning from Greece through Macedonia into Asia, with a view to go to Jerusalem. This journey proved to be the last which he made, before his apprehension and imprisonment. It was felt, both by himself and by his friends, that this journey was a specially important one. He was on his way to Jerusalem, “bound in the spirit” (Acts 20:22).
But another cause which gave it particular importance was that he and his friends were carrying the money which had been collected for several years previous in the churches of the Gentiles, for the help of the poor members of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 24:17). No fewer than eight of his intimate friends accompanied him into Asia, and one of these was Tychicus”. He delivered what was most likely in U.S. dollars, with 7 years worth of donations gathered in the $millions. Traveling with that type of money in dangerous times would normally require armed guards. But incognito was Mr. Casual Chance. Not only was he trusted to handle the funds and letters, but he did so calmly, with the guardianship of God’s Holy Army. God knows what He is doing when He has people who follow Him leading every aspect of the mission.
Little unknown Tychicus was one of Paul’s closest companions, or so it seems. He appears to have served Paul mostly as a messenger. Abarim adds Tychicus appears to have been with Paul when he was incarcerated in Rome, but he sent him to the Ephesians most probably while carrying Paul’s letter so that they might learn about Paul’s circumstances. At some point during Paul’s second imprisonment in Rome, he wrote to Timothy that although Luke was with him he had sent Tychicus back to Ephesus again (2 Timothy 4:12). The name Tychicus occurs only 5 times in the New Testament.
Many theologians believe the letter to the Ephesians was the last one Paul wrote to the churches. (hard to know for sure).
I had made this discovery a few years ago on ‘casual chances.’ God has used this often in my life to act intentionally, not just casually, when those divine appointments appear, and to look for them. I saved it for the right time to write about as I also had tapped on Paul’s last sentence from the last of his letters to the churches. “Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with undying and incorruptible love.” Ephesians 6:24 (AMP) For the KJV advocates it says “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen” Paul often preached on Grace. It is arguably the most important word in the new testament. The Gospel, The Good News, is all about understanding God’s Grace and forgiveness and taking it to people with complete sincerity. We have to get this right.
Football players that mess up need Grace. Abusers need Grace as do the victims. It is a difficult conversation and not one that can be finished in a casual conversation. Thus, for three years, it was no short period for me to fully grasp the meaning of Tychicus’s subtle name and delivered message.
I don’t think it is by a casual chance wording that Paul would end his letter to the church to operate with the fullness of Grace and add for the church to do it with incorruptible and sincere love.
How I started this story three years ago and got to football in the middle of basketball season is no casual chance. Corruption and immorality has become so common that people get rewarded for their acts while those who condemn the obvious are told to keep to themselves. We’re supposed to just accept, without question or stirring, that a team just paid a person 1/4 Billion dollars who was accused by 22 people of sexual improprieties. We’re supposed to just accept, without question or stirring, that a ‘former male swimmer’ who got a sex change should be able to compete against women and break every swimming record? Sadly, corruption also happens in the church, so perhaps Paul ’slipped in’ as the last words to the church for then and for now to deal strongly with and not just accept, without question or stirring, corruption in Jesus Christ’s church. Let us find ways to slip in the truth in winsome ways. Not easy I know.
Let us find ways to bring Grace to a fallen world, and be sure to always act with intention whenever we stumble upon a Casual Chance!
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