by Scott Pitoniak
Howard Dolgon, that wacky owner of professional hockey and lacrosse franchises in Syracuse, is at it again.
Trying to imitate P.T. Barnum in hopes of selling some tickets.
Trying to pull a Bill Veeck.
Two years ago, Dolgon almost convinced icon Gordie Howe to skate a shift with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.
Gordie was 68 at the time, and his much ballyhooed unretirement was scheduled appropriately enough for April Fool’s Day. Howe wound up backing out because his balky knees were acting up. At least that was the dog-ate-my-homework excuse given. Insiders believe public and league backlash also played a part in the cancellation. Howe eventually did suit up and skate a shift—for the Detroit Vipers of the International Hockey League.
Undeterred, Dolgon is now trying to talk 62-year old icon Jim Brown out of retirement to play for the Smash of the National Lacrosse League.
Brown established himself as the greatest football player ever while hugging the football for the Cleveland Browns in the last 1950s, early ‘60s. Before that, Big Jim also cradled a lacrosse stick for Syracuse University. Many believe he was the greatest at that sport, too.
Brown’s name came up during a lull in Tuesday’s NLL draft at the ESL Sports Centre, and the next thing you knew, commissioner John Livesay was announcing that the Smash had chosen “Jim Brown from Syracuse University.”
“We didn’t want to waste a pick, but when we got down to the ninth round, nobody really jumped out any more,” explained Dolgon, who said he was trying to get in touch with Brown yesterday. “So, we decided to write down Jim’s name. Given the great physical condition Brown is in and his popularity in our market, we think this is a good pick.”
A publicity stunt? For sure. But what the heck? The Smash were so bad last season (2-10) they couldn’t even give their tickets away. They need some sort of boost.
And if John Glenn can go into orbit at age 77, why can’t Jim Brown play a few shifts with an indoor lacrosse team?
“Hey, we’re not asking him to play 30 minutes, we’re thinking of some selected shifts with him in the attack zone,” Dolgon said. “He might be 62 years old, but I wouldn’t want to get in his way when he had the ball. You’d have to be nuts.”
Nuts is what many think Dolgon is, but he doesn’t care. He doesn’t know what it will take to land Brown, but he knows this much: “If we sign him, there won’t be an empty seat in the building. Everyone thinks this is crazy, but we have teachers and businessmen who play in this league, why not have an actor, too?”
Somewhere, far above, Barnum, Veeck and Gaedel are smiling.
(Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, September 24, 1998)