What gets your attention?
More specifically, what is your passion? What stirs the most emotion in you?
For Bob Stewart, those were easy questions to answer.
It was – they were, if you want to consider it a plural – Canton and Stark County.
Bob, who passed away recently at age 82, was a former longtime sports editor at the Repository, a sister publication of The Suburbanite. He believed in the area – the area in which he worked in, and lived in, for decades – almost as much as he believed in life itself.
I’ll admit that I didn’t know Bob well. Nonetheless, I ran into him quite a few times while covering sports events over the years, and it was on one of those occasions that I discovered – in no uncertain terms – what made him tick.
It was a Canton Indians game in 1991 at Thurman Munson Stadium. I was in the press box covering the game for the Medina County Gazette. About the third inning, Bob came up to the press box and stood in the back. Not long thereafter, Russ Schneider, a longtime sports writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, walked into the press box to check out the plethora of future Cleveland Indians stars who were playing for the Class AA Indians then.
One thing led to another, and the men somehow got around to talking about the viability of Canton Memorial Civic Center, or the lack thereof, as it were.
Bob was a staunch believer in the Civic Center. After all, it is a landmark in Canton and throughout Stark County.
Being from Cleveland, Schneider, who also passed away recently, was a staunch disbeliever in the Civic Center. The way he saw it, how could a place as small as Canton have anything noteworthy?
The men were a lot alike – almost alter-egos of one another, really. Both had a lot of pride in their opinions, and weren’t easily influenced to change their minds.
As such, it didn’t take long for the conversation to turn in a little bit of a heated debate.
Sure, Bob knew the weaknesses of his community. He wasn’t blind. But he lived in the community, so he had every right to point them out and complain.
But, in his view, people from outside the area had no right to put up a beef. How dare they rip the area? How dare they come to Canton and spout those criticisms? Bob was bound and determined that it wasn’t going to happen on his watch, especially not on this warm, weekday summer evening.
I think that’s an extremely admirable trait. If you’re not willing to go to bat for your home area, then who is? If you don’t have a fire burning in your belly for your hometown, then who will?
I’m like Bob. I will complain about my native area, but those who didn’t come from there, don’t live there and/or don’t really know anything about it, had better keep their negative opinions to themselves when they’re around me.
Having said that, then, I probably would have done the same thing as Bob did that night.
Bob was furious when the Indians bolted Canton following the 1996 season for a nice new stadium in Akron. He wanted no part of the franchise after that.
You can agree or disagree with that opinion. But you can’t disagree with the heartfelt emotion that comes with it.
We’re all concerned with our legacies. Bob Stewart’s was that he really cared – cared deeply -- about this area and wasn’t afraid to show it.
And that’s a good – no, make that a great -- legacy to have.