Actor Fred Willard, who entertained fans for decades, passed away on Friday at the age of 86. Peers and fans alike paid tribute to him with comments on social media and several clips from his prominent roles. TV host Rich Eisen was among this group and paid tribute to Willard with video of a conversation they had in 2015. He referred to the discussion as "an absolute blast" and a "total honor."
Eisen reposted footage from his daily sports talk show in which Willard made the audience laugh with his stories. The longtime actor had appeared on The Rich Eisen Show to discuss sports, as well as his love of all things Cleveland. The pair talked about former quarterback Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow, LeBron James and how the Cleveland Indians haven't won a World Series since 1948. It was a wide-ranging conversation, and Eisen fondly remembers the back-and-forth with the late actor.
Willard revealed during the conversation that he was born and raised in Cleveland. He watched the Indians struggle in Major League Baseball and fail to secure a World Series title. He also quizzed Eisen about the last team that the Indians defeated (Brooklyn Dodgers) to capture the trophy in 1948.
As a fan of the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers, Willard experienced a lot of pain in his life during the NFL, MLB and NBA seasons. One specific example that he mentioned was The Drive. This was a historic offensive series during the 1986 AFC Championship Game. Quarterback John Elway led the Broncos on a 98-yard drive to tie the game in the fourth quarter. His team would defeat the Browns in overtime and book a trip to Super Bowl XXI.
Despite having a history of painful losses, Willard talked about fondly remembering specific plays pulled off by the Browns. However, he was puzzled by another aspect of Cleveland's fandom. When LeBron James announced "the decision" in 2010 and left the Cavaliers for the Miami Heat, the fans reacted by burning his jersey. When he returned in 2014, the fans welcomed him with open arms. Willard was puzzled by this reaction.
The conversation between Willard and Eisen took place in 2015, and the longtime TV host was grateful for the conversation. He has interviewed a multitude of stars throughout his career, but chatting about sports with Willard was an honor. He will continue to remember the conversation while paying tribute to the late actor.