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Sports


Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar starts over
Commentator Terry Pluto talks about the fan favorite's rebound from personal struggles
by WKSU's AMANDA RABINOWITZ


Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
 
Bernie Kosar was the Browns quarterback from 1985 to 1993 and was cut from the team. A messy divorce, health problems and bankruptcy followed at the end of his NFL career.
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Browns fans tuning into this month's preseason games see a familiar face offering commentary, former quarterback Bernie Kosar. The Youngstown native led the Browns the last time they were really considered good, in the late 1980's. Since then, his personal battles have overshadowed his glory days on the field. Now, Kosar is rebuilding his life.
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Amanda Rabinowitz: Browns fans tuning into this month’s preseason games are seeing a familiar face offering commentary – former quarterback Bernie Kosar. The Youngstown native led the Brownsthe last time they were reallyconsidered good - in the late 1980’s. Since then, Kosar’s personal battles have overshadowed his glory days on the field. Joining me is WKSU commentator Terry Pluto, whose recent Plain Dealer column talks about Kosar’s comeback …First off Terry, talk about what Bernie Kosar means to Cleveland and what Cleveland means to Kosar…
Terry Pluto: He was determined, even though he played the University of Miami down in Florida and won a national title at the age of 19, he wanted to come home and kind of resurrect the home franchise. And this resonated of course with fans here. Several fans have sent me emails going, “I’ll always thank Bernie because he chose us.”
Bernie had probably five really good seasons here. He was cut in 1993 by Bill Belichick in the middle of the season. It was very controversial at the time. But one of the things Bernie will tell you is he was 29 with about a 59-year-old body at that point because of all the beatings he took.
AR: So what happened to him after the age of 29? He was cut. He’s had financial problems. A messy divorce. These were all things in the public’s eye.
TP: Oh yeah. The last two years it all came out. Frankly, if you look at the statistics, for most former players, well over half of them get divorced, and nearly half of them get bankrupt. Even smart guys like Bernie Kosar … Three years [he] blew through the University of Miami, a 3.27 G.P.A in finance. That was his degree.
[He] did some really dumb stuff because I think sometimes when you’re a professional athlete, you live in a bubble and you’re used to people taking care of you. So the last four years, his life just blew up, Amanda. He got into his early 40s. His wife divorced him. All kinds of wild accusations were made. Then when the economy hit bottom, Bernie was heavy into Florida real estate and he just took a pounding. So people were wondering really, “What’s going on with this guy?”
AR: What’s happened to him since then? He’s kind of making a new start.
TP: Right. Well the last two years, the divorce went through and that quieted down. He met a woman named Tami Longaberger, of Longaberger Baskets, a very famous company down in Newark, Ohio. And Tammy has really helped Bernie get himself back on his feet.
Physically she’s really worked with him and with the doctors. They discovered he had multiple, multiple concussions. He doesn’t even know how many concussions he had. And that explained a lot of the times the sort of slurred words and where he didn’t seem to be with it. In fact, if you listen to him now on the air, he sounds a lot better because they’re treating those symptoms. He told me that he used to play with smelling salts stuck into his belt because sometimes he’d get hit. He just didn’t feel right, and he just didn’t want to come out of the game. Back then, it was macho. There wasn’t a lot of talk about concussions.
They would all just go, “Oh, he got dinged in the head. Well, he’ll be fine.” Well, they found out these guys are not fine. He doesn’t have enough power anymore in his ankles or anything. He has to pull himself up. He cannot put his arms straight out either one. The story here is remarkable in how this guy, who really could be bitter, mended some fences and is just picking himself up again.
AR: When you think 25 years ago, or 30 years ago, when there was a player like Bernie Kosar in Cleveland, who was so passionate about playing in Cleveland. The game is totally different now. We don’t have that allegiance with one team. It’s very rare. Are there any current Browns players that you see maybe one day being like Bernie Kosar?
TP: It’s funny. Every time the Browns get a new young quarterback they want a new Bernie. Whether it’s Charlie Frye or Brady Quinn. They want somebody’s jersey they can proudly wear.
 The closest we have now is Josh Cribbs. Cribbs, you know, didn’t grow up in this area at Kent State. [He] had a chance to try out for any team because he wasn’t drafted and he picked the Browns to try out for $2,500. Bernie, I think, sees that in Cribbs too. This is a guy who’s embracing the franchise.
Kosar just stands for an era, and he stands for the last good era. That’s why I think people are excited to see him getting back up and standing again. People love a comeback story, and Bernie hasn’t made a lot of excuses for his problems.

Related Links & Resources
Terry Pluto's Plain Dealer column

Listener Comments:

Great report Amanda---The truth is long over due.


Posted by: Cooker (Stow) on August 23, 2010 8:08AM
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