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NEOMED Q&A: Alumnus Talks Cleveland’s Sports Injuries

Cleveland's Bitter PillNortheast Ohio Medical University alumnus and faculty member Joseph Congeni, M.D., (’84) examines the longstanding heartbreak of the Cleveland sports franchises in his recently published book, Cleveland’s Bitter Pill: A Diagnosis of Injured Title Dreams and Die-Hard Fans.

What inspired you to write Cleveland’s Bitter Pill?

I was inspired to write this book for a couple of reasons. I have been a passionate sports fan and particularly a diehard Cleveland sports fan from a very young age. Legend at our house has it that I began reading the sports page at age 3 or 4 and read it cover to cover.  As I played sports and went through school I developed a love for the field of medicine and in particular a new niche area in medicine known as sports medicine. I greatly enjoy working with the adolescent population and this book has combined my passion and zeal for Cleveland sports with my professional interest in sports medicine.

What is your favorite memory of being a Cleveland sports fan?

My favorite memories of being a Cleveland sports fan are the bonding opportunities with family and friends; from heated discussions (disagreements) about our beloved sports teams to game watches. I will remember forever the fact that my father began taking me to sporting events despite the fact that he was not a huge fan himself. I remember the beautiful green outfield and the majestic views from the cavernous Municipal Stadium on the lakefront and high school date nights spent at the beautiful new arena known as the Richfield Coliseum.

What is your most heart-breaking memory? 

The unraveling of all the teams that were close to a championship has been heartbreaking:  the Miracle of Richfield Cavaliers, the ‘80s Browns with Bernie, the ‘90s Indians with the “murderer’s row lineup” and LeBron James 1.0. Since it occurred in my youth, as a high-schooler the loss of Jim Chones before the playoff series against the Boston Celtics due to a broken foot was particularly devastating. Every Cleveland fan knows definitively in their heart that the CAVS would’ve won the championship without that occurrence. The sudden death of Don Rogers in the ‘80s Brown contributed to THE FUMBLE and THE DRIVE. 

Which Cleveland athlete offers the most compelling medical case study?

In doing research for this book there were many compelling medical cases. The one that affected me the most was probably the story of Ernie Davis. This young man was the Heisman Trophy winner and one of the great running backs of all-time. Shortly after being drafted by the Browns he was diagnosed with leukemia. At that period of time in the early 1960s, there were no good treatments and Ernie Davis died within a year of his diagnosis. That injury set back the Cleveland Browns for decades.

What will people take away from your presentation and from reading the book? 

I hope that people will take away from this book the true passion, enduring hope, and the resiliency of the Cleveland sports fan. We call it a colorful chronicle of Cleveland sports injuries and I hope that young fans will understand the role that medical mishaps have played in writing the chapters of history of Cleveland sports. Certainly these younger fans understand the “fraternity of misery” that true fans have experienced. Older fans will fondly recall some of the memories and ultimately share that bonding process and unshakable loyalty with family and friends. Ultimately this book will be an antidote to the curse and someday … very soon?, our fans will celebrate the long awaited championship.

Join Dr. Congeni for a Lecture and Book Signing at NEOMED, Dec. 1

On Tuesday, Dec. 1, Dr. Congeni will give a lecture on many hardships and heartbreaks of the Cleveland sports teams and will also be available to sign copies of his book at 5:30 p.m. in Olson Auditorium. Copies of the book will also be on sale for an easy way to complete your holiday shopping for all the sports fans on your list. Register today.