March Blandness

The top names in awful writing vie for the title of Worst Columnist.

Kiddo, with Boyracer and Kanda Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Road 9 p.m. Sunday, March 16, $7, 216-383-1124.
You've read their work (okay, scanned the headlines) all season. But given Northeast Ohio's fierce lineup of hackneyed columnists, it's impossible to pick the worst. So, in the spirit of the season, we propose a tournament -- with you, our wise and insightful readers, serving as judge and jury.

E-mail your pick for the Worst Columnist in Northeast Ohio to [email protected]. Whoever comes up with the best reasoning not only pushes their favorite columnist to the tournament title, but wins a $50 gift certificate from Don's Lighthouse.

The best responses will be printed in an upcoming issue.

Tom Feran, Plain Dealer

Typical Column: A bad stand-up comedian tackles current events. Taking a Stand: Wrote an entire column about how to pick a good melon at the supermarket. Concluded that “it's pretty difficult to pick a bad one.” Wearing Out Shoeleather: Rewrote an article from Forbes ranking the fortunes of fictional characters. (Batman is worth $6.3 billion in Monopoly money.) Stunning Epiphany: “Why am I cleaning the gutters when I could be watching televised sporting events instead? It is a profound question, and it is one that many of us encounter.” Moment of Greatness: “If there's one thing you can be sure of, it's this: Saddam Hussein has his hands on some tiny nuts. The question is what he intends to do with them.” Handicapper’s Call: Would do better as the dopey mascot who leaps off a trampoline for a jaw-dropping dunk.

Dick Feagler, Plain Dealer

Typical Column: Him and his buddies squawking about how today sucks and the old days didn’t suck. Taking a Stand: Used his inability to perform at the self-checkout line at Kmart to argue that machines shouldn’t put people out of work. Wearing Out Shoeleather: Pretends to drive to coffee shop to talk to imaginary friends. Stunning Epiphany: “So many people have cell phones now that the pay telephone soon will be obsolete.” Moment of Greatness: “It's got to be tough being a believing, committed atheist in America . . . For example, what does he do when he stubs his toe?” Handicapper’s Call: Stuck in a 1956 offense and refuses to shoot the three. Thinks it’s a newfangled gimmick.

Jewell Cardwell, Akron Beacon Journal

Typical Column: Hopeful tale of ordinary citizen doing good. Taking a Stand: A program showing students the obstacles handicapped people face “ought to be required learning in all schools.” Wearing Out Shoeleather: Only columnist in Northeast Ohio who had courage to expose the Great Pierogi Cook-In as a “pocketful of memories.” Stunning Epiphany: Went to two schools to ask students about Presidents’ Day. Her startling revelations: “It is when we celebrate all of the Presidents of the United States. But mostly it's for the two old ones -- Abe Lincoln and George Washington -- who died.” Moment of Greatness: “Folks fortunate enough to be invited to several homes in the Greater Doylestown area will be feasting big time on sauerkraut balls.” Handicapper’s Call: Cardwell is too busy “checking up on the area’s good folks” to make any big plays.

Michael Heaton, Plain Dealer

Typical Column: Think of your grandpa growing a ponytail and writing about hip stuff. Taking a Stand: The Rolling Stones may be old, but they can still rock the house! Wearing Out Shoeleather: Known for working his sources on the street: “Last Sunday morning I was sitting on the couch with Miss Thing and Peaches channel surfing when we came across a movie on American Movie Classics . . .” Stunning Epiphany: Recognized that a balding old fart could have a sweet gig masquerading as the “Minister of Culture.” Moment of Greatness: Figured out his job description after driving to New York to write about September 11: “I was only required to record the emotions of others. And make my deadlines. I talked to a lot of people. It wasn't hard to do.” Handicapper’s Call: The perfect 12th man. Prefers to ride pine rather than play, just so those checks keep coming.

Pete Kotz, Scene

Typical Column: A whiskey-induced rant on the virtues of manliness and the evils of yuppiedom. This from a guy who drives a minivan. Taking a Stand: Crowned a backup soccer goalie “Best Man in Cleveland.” Wearing Out Shoeleather: For article on the evils of the Free Times, interviewed former Free Times writers -- the same ones he hired to work at Scene. Stunning Epiphany: Told LeBron James that if he bought a Cadillac, he’d have “women coming like a herd of moose.” Moment of Greatness: Proved he’s down with the homos in column called “Calling All Queers.” Handicapper’s Call: Plenty offensive, but refuses to play man-to-man defense. Thinks it’s “too fruity.”

Roldo Bartimole, CityNews

Typical Column: How the Axis of Evil (Dick Jacobs, the Ratners, and The Plain Dealer) use the Gateway lease to soak the poor and line their own pockets. Taking a Stand: Calls out corporate fat cats for plundering city, and The Plain Dealer for failing to notice. In every column. Wearing Out Shoeleather: Plods to doorstep to pick up The Plain Dealer for ideas. Stunning Epiphany: “The vultures are circling and The Plain Dealer is directing the traffic.” Moment of Greatness: Interrupted Plain Dealer-bashing for one week to bestow a compliment on newspaper. Next week called compliment a “rare mistake,” then resumed bashing. Handicapper’s Call: May forfeit because he suspects referees are being paid off by The Plain Dealer.

Richard Osborne, Lorain Morning Journal

Typical Column: The Ned Flanders of Lorain delivers his thoughts on life. Taking a Stand: “Colds stink,” he once wrote in a bold attack against being sick. Wearing Out Shoeleather: Recently discovered the networks are programming a lot of reality TV. Stunning Epiphany: “People are getting meaner. Have you noticed?” Moment of Greatness: In a recent column marveling at the call-waiting phenomenon, he posed that most pressing question, “What happened to the busy signal?” Handicapper’s Call: Seems to think sports aren’t about winning or losing, but about having fun. Which is what losers say.

Sam Fulwood III, Plain Dealer

Typical Column: Rewrites a story that appeared in The Plain Dealer two days earlier. Taking a Stand: Came out of closet on Krispy Kremes. “I’ll admit to being crazy for those little pillows of sweetness.” Wearing Out Shoeleather: Gets most of his material from Shaker Heights dinner parties and speaking engagements. Stunning Epiphany: “The U.S. currency is only half green. The front is printed with black ink.” Moment of Greatness: “I have spent all of my adult life rushing toward strangers, waving a press pass like a magic shield and a notebook like a sword, as if the tools of my craft could protect me from every danger.” Handicapper’s Call: All dribbling. No shooting. Has yet to have an opinion that wasn’t first expressed in 1983.

Mansfield B. Frazier, CityNews

Typical Column: Here a racist. There a racist. Everywhere a racist. Taking a Stand: Remains ever-vigilant, even on vacation. Lambasted The Outer Banks of North Carolina Travel Guide for failing to include photographs of black families. Wearing Out Shoeleather: Did prison time. Is black. Writes about prison and being black. Stunning Epiphany: Realized his column afforded him a weekly chance to advertise his book. With more about prison. And racism. “See page A4 for ordering details.” Moment of Greatness: After Browns game ended in bottle-tossing, pointed out that white people riot, too. Handicapper’s Call: Only seems motivated when playing against white guys.

Connie Schultz, Plain Dealer

Typical Column: I am woman. Hear me bitch. Taking a Stand: Pronounced Joe Millionaire “about as much fun as a bikini wax.” Wearing Out Shoeleather: Boldly ventured into rural Pennsylvania. Got lost. Inspired column headline “Just Don’t Call Me Miss Direction.” Stunning Epiphany: “Short hair would make me look like deposed columnist Bob Greene in his midlength toupee.” Moment of Greatness: Sought to cheer up female readership by reminding them that, while beautiful, Sports Illustrated swimsuit models are quite stupid. Handicapper’s Call: Thinks basketball shorts are a plot to objectify her.

Regina Brett, Plain Dealer

Typical Column: An earnest screed followed by three installments of reader reaction. Taking a Stand: Spent several columns arguing about that most divisive issue, hate. For the record, she’s against hate. Wearing Out Shoeleather: Wrote entire column about being trapped in her house because snow-plow guy didn’t show. Stunning Epiphany: “You rarely see anything about vaginas in the media . . .” Moment of Greatness: Used a high school debate to try to decide whether to support war with Iraq. Handicapper’s Call: We’ll get back to you when we hear what the high school guys have to say.

Brian Tucker, Crain's Cleveland Business

Typical Column: Cleveland’s slumping economy can soar again! Just listen to these ideas I stole from other people! Taking a Stand: As the self-anointed spokesman for the Cleveland business community, declared that a convention center would rejuvenate the economy. Forgot to explain how. Wearing Out Shoeleather: Effectively solved the crisis in the Middle East by musing, “There will be no peace until both sides are willing to compromise.” Stunning Epiphany: “Jane Campbell is like the dog that caught the car bumper.” Moment of Greatness: Began a column by admitting that 2001 brought terrorist attacks, war in the Middle East, the decay of LTV, and one fat-ass recession. Yet still manages to end on a positive note: “My wife made more Christmas cookies than ever before. Can it get any better than that?” Handicapper’s Call: Better suited for the cheerleading squad.

Joanna Connors, Plain Dealer

Typical Column: It’s all about Joanna, all the time. Taking a Stand: “Could you come over to my house, just for a second? I really, really need some advice. It's this color thing. I'm stuck. We're finally doing the kitchen. They're painting the walls tomorrow, and I have to choose a color today.” Wearing Out Shoeleather: Celebrated the changing of the showerheads at the high school gym where she swims. Stunning Epiphany: Christened herself “J.Co, Diva of Domesticity,” then admitted her friend is a better homemaker. Moment of Greatness: After half of her column was lost in a printing error, she basked in her fan base’s fury: “You called. You wrote. The general tone of the messages was: ‘My day is ruined! Possibly even my week!’” Handicapper’s Call: Not a team player. It’s always “Me Me Me.”

Mary Jane Skala, Sun Newspapers

Typical Column: Small talk from a Chagrin Falls soccer mom just back from vacation. Taking a Stand: Urged mass protests against al-Qaeda. Suicide bombers RSVP. Wearing Out Shoeleather: Someone forgot to turn on the oven. It ruined Thanksgiving, but made for one kneeslapper of a column! Stunning Epiphany: “Too many restaurants write ‘ice tea’ when they mean ‘iced tea.’” Moment of Greatness: “Horsefeathers! As the mother of a Chagrin Falls High School senior, I hope the Pumpkin Roll will never die.” Handicapper’s Call: A little trash talk sends her weeping to the bench.

David Giffels, Akron Beacon Journal

Typical Column: Finding a moral lesson from talking to an ordinary American. Taking a Stand: “Anyone can interview a veteran, and everyone should.” Wearing Out Shoeleather: Wrote a column featuring two jokes about cold weather. It was a follow-up to a Pulitzer-worthy piece arguing that “there are no funny jokes about cold weather.” Stunning Epiphany: “End-of-the-year desk cleaning is a humbling experience.” Moment of Greatness: Wrote an entire column based on a one-minute phone call from a reality TV talent scout. Headline: “Reality TV is so unreal sometimes.” Handicapper’s Call: Throws up too many airballs to compete with league powers.

Roger Brown, Plain Dealer

Typical Column: Deep thoughts about the announcers of the game he watched last night. Taking a Stand: Doesn’t actually take his own stands. All stands are attributed to “inside sources.” Wearing Out Shoeleather: Traveled to Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. His scoop? Butch Davis dined in a sushi restaurant with the Browns’ defensive backs coach. Stunning Epiphany: “Don't invite WKNR management to the same party as former station personality Vegas Vic.” Moment of Greatness: Identified each of Ricky Davis’s split personalities, including the one where he “acts like such a ball hog on the court you'd swear there's a curly tail attached to his backside.” Handicapper’s Call: Doesn’t have much of an inside game. Would rather hang out with the announcers than get on the court.

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