BenBlog Book Review: ‘Pass the Nuts’ by Dan Coughlin

This book is fun.

Full stop.

Filled with stories of Cleveland sports history, local media nuggets and a dash of drinking shenanigans, Pass the Nuts was quite simply a bunch of fun to read.

The book’s subtitle is “More Stories About the Most Unusual, Eccentric and Outlandish People I’ve Known is Four Decades as a Sports Journalist” and you really can’t ask for a more apt description. Each chapter is a self contained 3-8 page story on some goofy character or situation related to Coughlin.

I found the book interesting because, as a child of the 80s, many of Coughlin’s stories were before my time (I only know of Coughlin through his his Fox 8 gig, not his Plain Dealer years). Stories of former Browns Gene Hickerson knowing Elvis Presley or Dick Schafrath running 62 miles on a dare were great and the all of the Cleveland media gems were fascinating to me (What? Cleveland papers covered softball?! And people gave a shit?!?).

A few stories stuck out to me, but mainly this nugget on covering high school football with Fox 8’s chopper and Tony Rizzo taking most of the flights:

“That’s because the helicopter and I came to Fox 8 together in 1997,” Rizz rationalized. “I never knew what it was like to be a Beatle, but after the first night in the chopper, I knew. We’d land right next to the stadium and a thousand kids would surround us, trying to touch us. I felt like a rock star. What a rush! Some schools would beg us to fly there”

Cameraman Doug Herrmann’s favorite stadium was Hudson. He pleaded to make it a regular stop on the Friday night tour.

“Because the first time we were there a woman was so wasted that she lifted her shirt and flashed us her headlights – no bra,” Rizz explained. “Dough wanted to come back every week and look for her”

What? Hudson? 1997? Boobs?! I was at every Hudson football game from 1997-2000 (yay marching band!) and I’ll be damned if I remember the Fox 8 chopper coming to a single game (or having a reason to). Not to mention I can’t recall a crowd rowdy enough to have chicks flashing people.

The book is full of little anecdotes like that. Fun accounts of ethic violations of Cleveland State hoops, college pranks (stealing a train) and 40 years in the the sports media. There’s also bits on interviewing LeBron as a freshman (and how LeBron would never use the first names of the Cavs beat reporters), George Steinbrenner, and whole of slew of people I’ve never heard of.

If there’s one complaint about the book it’s that, at times, Coughlin’s familiarity with his subjects made it confusing to read. Many of the stories mentioned the wives or girlfriends of these wackos and Coughlin would simply use their first names (like he was the story to you in person) and every now and then I’d have to go back and double check to make sure I knew who he was talking about.

But that’s really a minor quibble. Coughlin’s casual prose and sardonic wit make Pass the Nuts a fun, quick read. The chapters breeze by, whether they’re about LeBron James or about Dan fighting a whip-wielding bar tender. The language is clean, even though some of the stories aren’t, and again, most are pretty funny.

I haven’t read Coughlin’s first book (2010’s Crazy, with the Papers to Prove It), so I can’t really compare the two, but after enjoying Pass the Nuts, I’m going to pick it up. You probably won’t get much out of either book if you aren’t a Clevelander or at least a fan of their sports teams.

But if that’s the case, why the hell are you reading this?

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