Author,  Award-Winning Journalist and Proud Oklahoman

Ed Meyer (Photo from Facebook screen shot)

For months that turned into years, when Ed Meyer’s name popped up during endless conversations with Don Plusquellic for a book I wrote about the former Akron mayor—The Indomitable Don Plusquellic—the result never varied. Plusquellic erupted.

He ground his teeth. He sputtered. He spit fire. Mount Vesuvius was harmless smokestack in comparison. After awhile I got the idea that Plusquellic didn’t like Ed. So I didn’t bring him up when we talked.

Didn’t matter, Plusquellic did. Ed was a good punching bag. Don was like a dog and Ed the bone.

Ed Meyer struck some people this way. Usually they were people who had a story that Ed wanted and they didn’t want him to have it. Often it was someone in the Cleveland Browns hierarchy or a Browns fan angry about a story that Ed had ferreted out; they didn’t like that, either.

When Ed turned his investigative reporting skills on Plusquellic’s police chief Edward Irvine—you could look it up—Plusquellic went ballistic. In fact, Plusquellic had soured on Irvine, becoming less of a fan over time.

More than once I attempted to explain to Plusquellic that some of the tools that Ed brought to gathering information were typical of reporting. One tool in particular Plusquellic found loathsome. He accused Ed of surreptitiously taping their conversations. With my recorder—now my smartphone—on the table, I picked it up demonstrate how I put the phone beneath my thin Reporters Notebook in order to write—scrawl is more like it—notes while the recorder ran as a backup from which I could doublecheck what I wanted to use as a direct quote and not a paraphrase. Both were visible. No hiding, involved.

This was an especially useful tool in the tight spaces a sports writer such as Ed worked for much of his long career, including years of covering the Browns for the Akron Beacon Journal. Stuart Warner, then Beacon Journal, sports editor hired Ed in 1981 from Clearwater, Florida, where he had been the beat writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ed and I joined the Beacon Journal about the same time, but I wouldn’t learn until later that Warner had been considering me for the Browns job but the news side of the operation hired me first to write a local column.

The Beacon Journal lucked out. I couldn’t have held a candle to Ed Meyer as the beat writer. I know this for a fact because for more than a half dozen years I worked closely with Ed as the newspaper’s sports columnist. It proved the best columnist-beat writer relationship I ever had. Ed made it so.

Sometimes beat writers resent the columnist popping in, seemingly out of nowhere, and “stealing” an idea they had had on their story lists. It wasn’t done intentionally but inevitably it happens. The thing is, I found I couldn’t have stolen one of Ed’s story ideas if I had wanted to do so—and I didn’t. That’s because Ed shared ideas without being asked. Columnists graze in a larger pasture that includes many sports. Beat writers live with a team constantly, drilling deep until they strike pay dirt. That was Ed.

Mostly I had an idea of what I wanted to write, and would ask Ed about it and he would provide context and details from his reporting that it would have either taken me time to dig out and that I might not have gotten in any case because players, coaches, and other sources share with beat writers things they won’t with a columnist whom they do not know as well and whose job is to write opinion or at least with a point of view.

Ed may not have made me who and what I was as a columnist but he certainly sanded away some rough edges, enhanced my knowledge of the Browns, and polished the final product with his insights. He was, simply, the best. Especially for me.

I didn’t even mind when he referred to me as P.O.S. Taken out of the locker room and cleaned up for public consumption, P.O.S. was short for Piece of S— or excrement. We had a loving, brotherly relationship.

His recent death came as a shock, because while we still referred to each other with the pejorative P.O.S. we had not kept in close touch since I left the Beacon Journal in 2001 with a buyout, a part of its first downsizing. Ed went onto cover the courts and find himself in Plusquellic’s crosshairs when his police chief was the news.

There was, however, another side to Ed Meyer that not everyone saw. It was the Ed Meyer about whom I wrote in my last book Football, Fast Friends, and Small Towns: A Memoir Straight from a Broken Oklahoma Heart. I have, like most people, experienced my share of heartbreak over the years, both professionally and personally. Fortunately, Ed was there for one of the lowest of low moments.

In 1988 we found ourselves in Montreal to cover a Browns preseason exhibition game. Back at our hotel after filing our stories and column at the game, I found a message awaiting me to call my father. This had never happened, and I knew it could not be good news. I had recently written columns about the PGA Championship which that year had been played in Edmond, Oklahoma. My editor, Tom Giffen, sent me to Edmund not only because at the time the PGA was played just prior to annual PGA  tournament at Firestone Country Club but also so I could visit my mother. She was in an Oklahoma City hospital with failing kidneys after years of dialysis. (The book has more details.)

When I called my father what he had to tell me was not unexpected but nevertheless calamitous for me. Mama had died, and I had not been there. She was the person I had loved more than any other. She loved me without conditions (well, mostly) and I had no idea how I could live without knowing she was there.

I called Ed’s room. When I told him what had happened, he, without hesitation, responded (and it was late) that he would meet me in the bar. We talked for I don’t know how long, but I do know that without Ed Meyer that night would have been much, much worse than it was—and it was awful.

Now, my heart is broken again. Ed is gone, and there is no one like him to call.