Mark Miller has that familiar name and familiar face.
No, he isn't the Mark Miller who played quarterback at Bowling Green in the late 1970s. Our latest Last Fan Standing played football earlier in the decade across the state at Ohio University in Athens.
He isn't related to Woody Hayes, although Mark bears a slight resemblance to the legendary coach who wore the block 'O' ball cap. Although, some of Mark's female employees at Woodforest Bank inside the Bazetta Super Wal-Mart may compare his temper to that of the tempestuous Woody.
This Mark Miller is a longtime West Sider, a graduate of Warren Western Reserve who played defensive end opposite of one of Woody's star pupil's, Van DeCree, during the1969 and 1970 campaigns for the Raiders.
"I used to joke to Van that I made him a star. He made all the plays because they sent a 140-pound halfback to his side, while all the beef went my way!"
But before Mark competed on the varsity level, he was blocking and tackling on the vacant lots and fields of the westside neighborhoods. One spring day in 1960 as Mark was playing outside his Iowa Avenue home, his mother appeared on the porch with some bad news.
"You are not going to like this, Mark, but the Indians just traded Rocky Colavito," Mrs. Miller exclaimed.
And right there, Mark Miller's life as one of the Last Fans Standing began.
The Miller family made annual treks to the lakefront stadium to watch the Indians, and he remembers watching young Sam McDowell throw his heater past those Yankee hitters. But his first love always was and still is the Browns. Mark can name nine out of the 11 offensive starters from the 1964 NFL Champions. Mark's apologies to John Morrow and Johnny Brewer.
Mark's dad and grandpa also were big Browns fans, so much so that one fall Sunday in the early 1960s, the three planned an outing to the Erie, Pa., area so they could beat the television blackout that the NFL imposed on all home Browns games. The rule that still stands says that no NFL game shall be televised within a 75-mile radius of the stadium. The caveat is that now the rule can be lifted if the game is sold out 72 hours in advance.
Well, back in the early 1960s, there was no caveat, and on one foggy Sunday morning, the three Miller men loaded up the car with a portable black and white TV in search for a place to plug in. While nearing Erie they happened to come upon a mobile home park. And in the model home, the salesman was just locking up. He found out what the Miller men were up to, and the salesman graciously opened the model back up so that the boys can have some comfy surrounds to watch the Browns take on the Minnesota Vikings.
"The man just said 'lock up when the game is over,' and then he took off. Can you imagine someone doing that in this day and Mark doesn't have much luck when it comes to rooting for Cleveland teams, but he always keeps up the hope. His older son Ben thinks LeBron James will be coming back to lead the Cavaliers to a championship after his four-year contract with the Heat is over. Mark also sees some hope in the Browns' future, no matter who the coach will be, because of the budding talent on the defensive line.
"The Cavs are so young and talented, and so are the Browns on defense," he said.
As a favorite Cavs memory, Mark points to an outing to the Gund with son Dan to see a teenaged LeBron James score 44 points in 2003.
"I think LeBron scored most of them in the fourth quarter in a big comeback win over the Nets," he said.
Even with all this hope, this banker stays real.
"Cleveland will never get the big talent bonanza because the city's teams can't build their depth," he said. "Our players won't stick around long enough to play in Cleveland as the sixth man or that fifth defensive lineman. They want to take the money and run to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago or Miami."
But Mark says he will always be in Warren rooting for the Browns, Indians and Cavs.
Readers who want to nominate someone for the next Last Fan Standing can email The Couch Fan at email@example.com