Saturday, December 31, 2005

Browns v. Ravens

Something's got to give here--the Ravens haven't won a road game all season, while the Browns haven't won a division game all season. However, the Ravens still play ferocious defense, and currently are the AFC's 2nd ranked defensive unit overall. What's more, after an atrocious 2-7 start, the Ravens have won four of their last six, have scored 78 points in their last two games, and are coming off back-to-back wins against Green Bay and Minnesota.

The Browns, on the other hand, haven't scored a touchdown in 10 quarters, are coming off the Nightmare Before Christmas, and now have to deal with the distraction of the soap opera between Collins and Savage. Listen to the pregame shows tomorrow. At least one football pundit will tell you that how the Browns respond to all this adversity tomorrow will show just how far this team has (or hasn't) come this season.

That's a nice sound bite, but of course, it's nonsense. Remember, even Butch's Browns could come up with those last game victories that falsely raised fans' hopes. The Browns knocked the Bengals out of the playoffs in 2003's last game, and even last year's catastrophically bad team managed to beat the Texans in 2004's finale.

Win or lose, this game means nothing for the future of the Browns. What's happening in Berea right now and what will happen over the course of the next several weeks is much more significant than a meaningless game between two sub-.500 teams. Don't forget that, because if the Browns pull off the upset tomorrow, you can bet your life that the happy talk from the front office is going to start in earnest.

Ravens 23, Browns 6.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Ohio Politics

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff appears poised to strike a plea deal. That means Bob Ney's (R-Ohio) sphincter just squeezed a little tighter than usual. An associate of Abramoff's, Michael Scanlon, already had pointed his finger at Ney, alleging that Ney helped Abramoff by putting comments into the Congressional record that were calculated to pressure the owner of an entity named SunCruz to sell to Abramoff on very favorable terms. Abramoff could destroy Ney.

Keep watching.

The Phil Savage Mess

It's nice to know that even though Carmen's making wine, Butch is doing the TV analyst thing and Al's pushing up daisies, you can still count on the Browns' front office to be in complete disarray by New Year's Eve. As of right now--7:00 p.m. on Friday, December 30th--Phil Savage is still the GM, but despite the spin coming out of Berea, nobody in his right mind believes that it wasn't touch and go all afternoon. No matter how they try to smooth things over, there are plainly deep divisions in the Browns organization about what happens next with the team.

Hey guys, WAKE UP! At some point, fans really are going to say to hell with you and your football team.

You apparently don't get around much, but did you know that down here in Summit County, you'll find grocery stores selling black and yellow cupcakes for Steelers' playoff parties? You'll also see a bunch of Steelers flags flying every weekend in front of people's homes throughout the Akron area. Stuff like that would have been unthinkable 15 years ago, but your incompetence, cynicism--did I mention incompetence?--and complete disregard for the average fan are rapidly making the Browns Akron's second favorite team.

Get your act together guys. The last thing a team that's about to go 5-11 needs is another front office soap opera heading into the postseason. You've got a lot of work to do before this team no longer needs a laugh track for its highlight film, so stop this crap and get on with it.

Sports Figure of the Year

Each year that we've known each other, the Rhino and I have looked back at year's end and picked out pivotal sports moments, great games and the most important sports figure. My pick for this year's Sports Figure of the Year has never been in doubt. I gave some minor consideration to a Rhino favorite, Bill Belichik, for building what some people refer to as a new football dynasty. I considered Michelle Wie (golf), Annika Sorenstam (golf), Lance Armstrong (bicycling), Danica Patrick (Indy racing), Tiger Woods (golf), Ozzie Guillen (baseball), LeBron James (basketball), Reggie Bush ('cause he's freaking amazing), and Pete Carroll ('cause he literally has been kickin' asses and taking names). While all of those individuals merit some consideration, none has had the impact on his or her sport and on the media as did...Jose Canseco.

Canseco published his tell-all book "Juiced" and the country howled. Some baseball apologists made fun of the writing---it was bad. Others nitpicked minor inconsistencies in dates. But the apologists couldn't stop the wave of revulsion that Canseco's revelations caused. Grown men, who spend their days being hardassed pricks, get sentimental about baseball. Those same guys finally said "Enough." The effects were swift. The same people who had winked at the doping problem in baseball for two decades were confronted with the horrible truth that certain segments of the public would no longer accept revered records being obliterated by juiced up freaks who, to once again use an overused cliche', couldn't carry the jocks of some of the guys whose records they destroyed. We all know that the generally useless and gutless bags of shit known as our Congress actually found something they could finally bully with impunity. They did, and the bullying worked.

As a result, a former "certain" Hall of Famer to be, Rafael Palmiero, is no longer so certain. Most writers have finally hopped off the bandwagon of glorifying balls flying over outfield fences and at least publicly, are now beginning to take a more sober look at Messrs. McGwire, Sosa and Bonds.

You might loathe him, but Jose Canseco had the greatest impact on sports and the coverage of sports in 2005.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Bill Belichick: The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived, by David Halberstam

A friend of mine gave me David Halberstam's book on Bill Belichick a few months ago and I finally had a chance to read it. The book is called "The Education of a Coach" and it is a very enlightening account of the Little Man's rise to greatness. Before I read this book, I thought that Bill Belichick was a nasty, misanthropic, deceitful egomaniac who also happened to be one of the best football coaches of his era. After I read it, I came to the realization that he is all those things, but also a generally diabolical little creep with a Clintonesque obsession about his "legacy."

This 275 page ode to an out of control ego was penned by the once great David Halberstam. If the amount of mindless repetition contained in the book is any indication, Mr. Halberstam appears to be suffering from senile dementia, so perhaps I'm being unkind when I say that in the annals of propaganda, this book deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will.

Unkind, but not inaccurate, for no page of this book would be complete without a reference to how doggone smart Bill is or what a precocious knowledge of football he had or just how, well, truly exceptional he is. Whether he's an unpaid piss boy for the Baltimore Colts coaching staff during the 1970s, the REAL brains behind those 1980s Giants or the victim of a very unfortunate situation for which he bears no responsibility in Cleveland, Bill's always the smartest guy in the room... hardest working too... what a guy!

Now, I shouldn't be too hard on the great man, because he had to overcome so many disadvantages to achieve greatness. As the son of one of the most well respected (and well connected) assistant coaches in college football, Bill had to pay lots of dues before landing his first NFL job. In fact, he wasn't hired as an assistant coach for an NFL football team until he was old enough to vote! Why, Bill had to wait until he graduated from Andover and Wesleyan before using Daddy's connections to hook up with the Baltimore Colts.

Bill appears to have grown quite a bit in the decade since he left Cleveland. He scowls less, and his grunts to the media are more frequently accompanied by intelligible comments. He's certainly added some impressive hardware to New England's trophy case and Vladimir Putin's finger, and his collaboration with Halberstam indicates that he's taken an interest in polishing his public image. But the Bill we Clevelanders remember so fondly is still to be found between the pages of Halberstam's book (by the way, I understand the working title of the German language version is "Mein Kampf II").

In fact, Halberstam's discussion of Bill's tenure in our fair city and, in particular, the way he spins the Bernie Kosar situation, makes it clear that Bill's still the same shifty little dirt bag that we knew way back when. To hear Halberstam tell it, everything that happened to Bill in Cleveland was just a result of a series of unfortunate events. Why, Bill was right to cut Bernie--his skills had diminished! Even other teams players said so! Besides, Art Modell undermined him!

Without getting into the merits of this argument, there's a two word response to it: Todd Philcox. Nowhere in the pages of Halberstam's hagiography does this guy's name surface, but Vinny Intercepteverde had injured his shoulder a week earlier, so that's who became Bill's starter when he decided to turn Kosar loose. He also doesn't mention that the Browns were 5-3 at the time of Bernie's departure, and that under Philcox's able guidance, they went 0-4 before Intercepteverde returned to salvage a couple of wins.

The bottom line is that by cutting Kosar when he did, the Little Man decided to tank the Cleveland Browns' 1993 season. Since we know that Bill was the smartest guy in the room, it's probably safe to assume that he knew he was doing that when he did it. But that gets glossed over, while the Cleveland fans' anger at Bill gets treated with the kind of condescending psychobabble that only an upper class twit like David Halberstam could possibly think is insightful:

It was almost like a football lynching, and it became uncommonly personal; in the media fans criticized his looks, his dress, his overall manner. It was so toxic that it seemed he had tapped into something deep and dark and angry in this city..., little of it probably in the long run about football. Rather, it was the product of myriad other disappointments, personal and economic and social, but somehow, the continued failure of a not very good football team, a group of strangers who were not viewed as strangers, became the focal point for so much rage; the alternative, one assistant coach privately noted, was probably to beat your wife.

Yes, Browns' fans, David Halberstam and his unnamed assistant coach think we're all a bunch of repressed wife beaters.

Now the little creep has three Super Bowl rings, and a fawning biography from a Pulitzer Prize winner. You? Well, you had your football team taken from you, and replaced by a half-billion dollar bag-o-shit stuffed into orange helmets that you had to shell out $500+ in PSLs to get the privilege of watching. Serves you right, you lousy bunch of wife beaters.

Keep your chins up, gang. After all, the new Browns have come a long way baby. Remember, they started out the 1999 season with a 43-0 shellacking by the Pittsburgh Steelers, and have managed to improve over the past seven seasons to the point where the Steelers were only able to squeek by them 41-0 last weekend.

So, Little Man, polish your Super Bowl trophies. You're a hell of a coach, and you deserve them--just don't try to polish your image by glossing over your tenure here. We know exactly what kind of guy you are and the role you played in creating the mess we're still living with.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

La Vigilia

To Italian-Americans, December 24th is La Vigilia di Natale, the Christmas Vigil. Earlier, I did the same thing I've done every year of my life---eat fish and drink a little vino. My family is pretty traditional in that we have at least 7 fish entrees and no meat. My aunt served spaghetti with squid, spaghetti with clams, scallops, baccala, fried smelts, tilapia, shrimp and stuffed calamari. As always, there was far too much food, and I continued to eat even after I was stuffed. Then I had a little more vino to make room for dessert. It was a good day.

I really didn't even think about the brutal spanking the Browns suffered today. I was too content. I'll let the Rhino be miserable about that.

I've really got nothing more to say other than Buon Natale.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Steelers 14,972, Browns -9

laugh·ing·stock: 'la-fi[ng]-"stäk, noun: an object of ridicule; synonym: see Cleveland Browns
doo·fus: 'dü-fis, noun: a stupid, incompetent, or foolish person; synonym: see Cleveland Browns
in·com·pe·tent: in-'käm-p&-t&nt: adjective 1 : not legally qualified2 : inadequate to or unsuitable for a particular purpose3 a : lacking the qualities needed for effective action b : unable to function properly; synonym: see Cleveland Browns
ri·dic·u·lous : r&-'di-ky&-l&s: adjective: arousing or deserving ridicule: absurd, preposterous; synonym: see Cleveland Browns
laugh·able: 'la-f&-b&l: adjective: of a kind to provoke laughter or sometimes derision : amusingly ridiculous; synonym: see Cleveland Browns
lu·di·crous : 'lü-d&-kr&s: adjective: meriting derisive laughter or scorn as absurdly inept, false, or foolish; synonym: see Cleveland Browns

Browns v. Steelers

"It would be a great satisfaction, I am sure, if they were able to knock us out of the playoffs, or at least a chance to get into the playoffs," Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said.

Boy, that Cowher's a deep thinker isn't he? He figured that out all by himself too. Honest.

I want to throttle these guys. I want to humiliate them. I want them and all of their rotten little fans to shudder every year when Christmas comes around as they recall the trauma of this day. To paraphrase Fenwick in Diner, I want the Browns to hit them so hard they kill their whole family!

Do I think that's going to happen? Nope. The Steelers are fighting for a playoff spot, so it's guaranteed that they're going to show up guns blazing today. Unless the Browns play way over their collective heads, I don't think they've got much of a shot. Boy, do I hope I'm wrong.

Pittsburgh 24, Browns 13.

A Christmas Story

Okay, here's my Christmas story.

On Christmas Eve 1968, I was six years old. I don't remember too much about the day, although I'm sure that I was as wired as any other six-year old. I do recall seeing the astronauts on TV before going to bed, but that was the last thing I was going to remember for a little while.

My little brother and I shared bunk beds. I had the top bunk, and back then, of course, bed rails weren't all that common. Although I'd slept in that bed for several months, I picked that night to tumble out of the top bunk and crack my melon on the dresser. I must have made quite a noise, because my parents immediately woke up, and discovered me on the floor.

I guess I was bleeding from my ear, so my parents immediately decided to throw me in the car and take me to the hospital. My Dad got this job, while Mom stayed behind with my brother. I have no idea why the thought of calling an ambulance didn't occur to them, but as you'll see, it wouldn't be much of a story if they did that.

Now, understand that we hadn't been in Rochester that long, and my Dad wasn't real familiar with where the hospitals were. He did know the closest was Strong Memorial, which was part of the University of Rochester's Medical Center, and he knew that it was on Elmwood Avenue. So, he drove me there. Being somewhat frantic, he saw a sign that said "Hospital" and immediately turned into the facility. He didn't see a sign for the emergency room, so he pulled right out front and carried me in, anxiously looking for a doctor or nurse to assist me. Well, much to his consternation, the nurse he encountered was adamant that they could not help me, and that we would have to leave. My Dad was usually on an even keel, but I can only imagine his rage at their unwillingness to let me into the hospital. He probably was only half listening when they told him that Strong Memorial was another mile and a half down the road. That probably explains why he didn't figure out for several years that the hospital he tried to check me in to that night was--you guessed it--the loony bin.

Anyway, we get to Strong Memorial, and my Dad carries me in. Now, my Dad was sort of a Rhino-like individual himself, and apparently the combination of unshaven, t-shirt wearing Rhino-like Dad with kid bleeding from the head on Christmas Eve was enough to set off the child abuse alarms even way back then. So, as they worked on me, they gave him the third degree.

This wasn't my Dad's night, but it sure as hell wasn't mine either. When they took a look at the size of me, they apparently got it in their head that I wasn't a six-year old, but a retarded 12 year old. Sigh. They apparently weren't disabused of this notion-or the child abuse scenario-until they managed to wake me up and talk to me.

They then x-rayed me and determined that I didn't have a fractured skull, but that I'd managed to give myself a severe concussion. That meant Christmas morning and several days thereafter would be spent in the hospital. That sucked, but at least Mom brought me the Major Matt Mason moon crawler that Santa left for me. I also got a visit from a local celebrity. There was a guy named Eddie Meath, who was a local broadcaster who spent much of his time raising money to help bring Christmas presents to poor kids and kids who were in the hospital. He brought me some crappy puzzle, but hey, it's the thought that counts.

I had lots of great Christmases when I was a kid, but this is the one that my family still talks about. It wasn't funny at the time, I'm sure, but the loony bin and retarded 12-year old aspects of the story never fail to get a laugh now. I'm still a little pissed about the puzzle though.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

WWJDD? Sign with the Evil Empire, that's what he'd do

Yesterday, I said the baseball gods were fickle. However, I've got to hand it to them---they do have a "wicked good" sense of humor. Nothing demonstrates the fact that the baseball gods enjoy a good laugh quite like the Evil Empire's signing of Boston Red Sox icon Johnny Damon.

As an Indians' fan, I know I'm supposed to hate the Empire, but I've got to say that the thought of those insufferable Boston fans having to endure the sight of Damon in pinstripes for the next four years is simply delightful.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Appeasing the Baseball Gods

I'll leave Vinny to comment (if he wants) on the substantive merits of yesterday's Danny Graves and Steve Karsay signings, but I do feel a need to give Shapiro some credit for making an effort to appease the always fickle baseball gods (like Jobu, pictured left).

As everyone knows, Danny Graves and Steve Karsay both had prior stints with the Indians. Graves was one of the Indians' hot young properties back in the mid 1990s, and John Hart dealt him to Cincinnati as part of the deal that brought veteran southpaw John Smiley to the Indians in 1997. That deal turned out to be a disaster for the Tribe, as Smiley broke his arm shortly after the Indians acquired him, while Graves turned in several solid seasons as the Reds' closer, and was even selected to play in two All-Star games. Meanwhile, the Tribe had to console themselves with the weak hitting Jeff Branson, the other player acquired from the Reds in that ill-fated deal.

As bad as that deal was, the deal that sent Karsay to the Atlanta Braves was even worse. Why? Two words: John Rocker. Yup, the Tribe sent Karsay and Steve Reed, another decent right-handed set-up guy, to the Braves in 2001 in exchange for John Rocker. Oh yeah, they got minor leaguer Troy Cameron too. Not the Troy Cameron? Yup, the very same guy who was last seen tearing up the Atlantic League for the Camden Riversharks.

Not quite as bad as Harry Frazee sending Babe Ruth to the Yanks, but these were two awful deals in anybody's book. They were certainly bad enough to draw the ire of the baseball gods, and by undoing them, even belatedly, perhaps the gods will be appeased. If not, then to hell with them. Or, as Pedro Cerrano more eloquently put it in Major League, "Jobu, I stick up for you. I am good to you. If you don't help me now, I say F-you Jobu, I'll do it myself."

Monday, December 19, 2005

You heard it here first

You guys thought that the Rhino (and I) were nuts when we spent an evening drinking and bashing Bret Favre (See the Rhino's Nov. 9th post) . Well, he made us look like geniuses tonight. It's only the third quarter and he's played like he should be benched in favor of Paul McDonald, or at least Mike Pagel.

Give the Rhino props for loudly announcing that the emperor has no clothes.

Browns v. Raiders Redux

That was not an elegant football game yesterday. Two not very good teams slogged through the mud and delivered four quarters of mediocrity. But, the Browns won, so who cares?

I'll take a win any day. I don't want to throw my lot in with the guys who whine about how this moved the Browns down about half a dozen places in the draft and now they won't get A.J. Hawk. That's what fans of a loser sound like--they pray to lose so that their team can get some mythical draft choice who will suddenly turn everything around. I'm tired of that crap. I want to win.

Fans need to realize that overnight turnarounds happen only to teams that have the talent in place and need the right coach to maximize that talent's potential. (Think about teams like this year's version of Notre Dame or the Packers when Lombardi showed up.) The Browns just aren't that kind of team. They've got huge personnel issues, but they are still managing to get better in spite of them. I'm glad they picked up their fifth win for several reasons, but maybe most of all because they've now got tangible proof that they're better than last year's team, which they clearly are.

A few thoughts on the game:

  • Even though I've coached football for several years, I'll confess that defensive backfield play has always mystified me. Coverage assignments can be difficult to figure out, and a mistake that fans attribute to one player may be the fault of another guy, who wasn't where he was supposed to be. So, I'm very tentative in making conclusions about who is good and who is bad. That being said, Leigh Bodden is really impressing the hell out of me. The guy just makes play after play.

  • I'm not ready to have Charlie Frye anointed savior of the franchise just yet (he needs a bit more than a 69.5 QB rating to wear that particular crown), but it's real apparent that the team just plays a lot harder when he's in the game. This kid looks like a natural leader.

  • The Browns defense was just huge yesterday, but it was helped by some brain dead play calling by the Raiders and by a terrible performance by Kerry Collins. Why throw when Jordan's running 8 yards every time he touches the football? If you're going to throw, why not look for Randy Moss every now and again (just a thought)? Moss caught a touchdown pass yesterday, but that was the only ball thrown to him all day--or at least the only one thrown to him that he had a reasonable chance to catch.

  • The refs' call on Droughns non-fumble was inexcusable. What could they possibly have been looking at to rule that a fumble in the first place?

Anyway, on to the Steelers. Honestly, I can't imagine a better Christmas present than having the Browns sink Pittsburgh's playoff hopes, which a win here next week just might do. Pittsburgh delenda est.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Browns 9, Raiders 7

Yeah BABY!!!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Browns v. Raiders

I know that my pal Vinny's a little conflicted about this game. Though he's a die-hard Browns fan, he has fond memories of the Raiders we grew up watching in the 1970s. I guess I'm a little conflicted too, because my Dad always loved the Raiders, and I grew up watching him cheer for them.

There was a lot to cheer about back then. Think about it, was there ever a more consistently exciting team than those Raiders? Every game was a high scoring, hard hitting, three hour commercial for the NFL. Those teams had some unforgettable players. Thirty years later, the names still effortlessly come to mind-- Stabler, Branch, Biletnikoff, Hubbard, Caspar, Shell, Upshaw, Hendricks, Blanda, Tatum, Hayes, Matuszek. Even before the Snake showed up, the Raiders had Daryl Lamonica (a.k.a. the Mad Bomber) heaving the ball to Warren Wells. Hell, with Ray Guy, the Raiders even made punting exciting! Remember Curt Gowdy and Al Derogatis of NBC, who seemed permanently camped out in Oakland for the weekly 4:00 p.m. game? Remember Howard Cosell's weekly intonation of "The Oak-land Al-a-me-da Coun-ty Col-i-ss-eum" during Monday Night's halftime highlights?

Anyway, back to tomorrow's game. On paper, the Browns match up pretty well against Oakland. The Raiders can pass, but they can't run. The Browns defend the pass pretty well, but can't stop the run. On the other side of the ball, the Raiders are as bad as the Browns against the run, while the Browns have Rueben Droughns and an offensive line that's looked better each week. If the Browns can run the ball on offense and get pressure on Collins, I think they've got a shot to win. (Another thing in the plus column for the Browns is the possibility that the Raiders may have decided to pack it in after the loss to the dreadful Jets.)

This would be a nice win to get, because that stadium is no bargain to play in, no matter how bad the Raiders are. I'm going with the Browns, 17-13.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Nomar Sets Off the B.S. Meter

This thing's redlining again. Nomar Garciaparra is supposedly trying to decide between the Yankees, Dodgers, Indians and Astros. He reportedly views all of these alleged finalists as "attractive options," and is "weighing them all carefully." See ESPN's article here.

This is a lie. Cleveland is not an option for Mr. Mia Hamm and, apparently, even the Tribe has figured that one out, although they appear delusional as ever about the reasons. The way the Indians' see it, Nomar's not crazy about the prospect of being a right fielder. Yeah, sure, that's probably why he doesn't want to move Mia into a nice four bedroom colonial in Brecksville. I mean, it couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that the Dodgers are in the mix, and the last time I checked, they played in Los Angeles.

LA is warm, sunny, the second largest city in the nation, an international media and entertainment center and a place where Nomar owns two homes. Granted, it's no Brecksville, but my guess is that something beyond worrying about misjudging fly balls may factor into Garciaparra's decision.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Culture of Losing

"Losing is a contagious as syphilis. "

---The Natural

Sometimes, I RULE!!

Like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, I have a couple of reasons to throw my hands up in the air and announce "I RULE!!"

First, if you check outl my October 31st post titled "The Cleveland Clowns," you'll find that I told everyone to face the fact that the Browns had a loser's mentality. You only had to wait six weeks to get the identical message from the Beacon Journal's Terry Pluto, who shared this conclusion with everyone on Monday, in a column titled "Losing Culture Plagues Browns."

Second, in early November, I posted about the Browns v. Steelers game. In that post, I commented on the seasonality of Cleveland sports, and pointed out the annual bout of premature Cavs' euphoria had begun, and that the fans' mood, and the Cavs' play, would eventually head south. I said it would take two months, but as the front page of today's PD sports section demonstrates, it took only one (see "Cavs Slide Doesn't Sit Well").

I may be doing only a little better than .500 on the Browns games, but you've gotta gimme some love for these calls. Even putting aside the lesbians in the comment section, Vinny and the Hornless Rhino remains the Cleveland sports fan's best value.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Bengals 23, Browns 20: The Hornless Rhino's Excellent Adventure

Frustrating, wasn't it? All I can say is that the Browns are getting better, and for now, this is what getting better looks like. Back-to-back heartbreakers to two of the AFC's best teams don't leave fans feeling happy, but they ought to leave them feeling hopeful. Charlie Frye played tough in a hostile environment, and--along with a couple of tough red zone performances by the Browns' defense--helped give the Browns a chance to win a game that nobody thought they had a shot at.

In the "now it can be told" category, the Hornless Rhino is free to disclose from where he viewed yesterday's game: the Browns' sideline at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Yup, I was on the field as part of the game day staff for the Browns. How cool is that? A buddy of mine knows a guy who works for the Browns, and I guess they sometimes need sideline help at away games. My friend asked if I'd like to help him out at the Bengals game, and after thinking for about one nanosecond, I said "sure."

My job was helping one of the Browns' video guys. The Browns have cameras positioned above the playing field and they take sideline and end zone shots of each play. One photo from each vantage point is taken immediately before the snap, and one is taken immediately afterward. The photos are taken by a member of the Browns' video department, who operates the cameras remotely from a booth in a small vinyl tent behind the team's bench. The photos are then labeled with information about which possession it is, and the down and distance, and are handed to runners who deliver them to appropriate members of the coaching staff after each series. That's where I came in.

We had to get to the stadium two hours before kick-off. We gave our names to a security guy, who matched us up with a list of people who were to get credentials for the game. I saw this list, and it had to have a couple of hundred names on it. After we got our credentials, we pretty much had the run of the place--we even got to go into the Browns' locker room for a few minutes, until one of the Browns' security guys told us we were supposed to meet our contact someplace else. We then hooked up with our contact, who showed us the ropes out on the field. We hung out on the field for a while and watched some of the individual players warm up, and then we moved on up to the press box level of the stadium, where the Bengals put on this incredible spread of food for all of the people working the game, including us.

After pigging out, it was time to get back down on the field. The video guy from the Browns threw a bunch of white parkas with the team name on them at us and told us we had to wear them (there were three of us). He must have also reminded us about 30 times during the game that he needed to get them back at the end of the game. I don't know why he was so worried that we'd walk off with them, other than maybe the fact that this is exactly what we would have done if given half a chance.

For the first half of the game, I was designated to deliver photos to the defensive and offensive line coaches (they get the end zone shots). So, I was running around amongst the Browns, literally a few feet from Charlie Frye, Ruben Droughns, Ryan Tucker and the other players, trying to find an opportune time to shove the photos into the fist of the coach. Yes, it rocked, and yes, I tried very hard to look as cool as possible. That was helped by my parka, which made me look very official.

The second half was harder work. I had to help the video guy tear the photos off the printer and label and staple them. That's work, especially if you're trying to keep up with a team like the Bengals, who spent pretty much the whole afternoon running the no-huddle. Even though we had the game on a monitor in the video tent and the action was only a few feet away, I was so focused on getting the photos done and labelled properly that the first part of the second half was a blur. I finally got comfortable with it by about the end of the third quarter.

What can I tell you about the sidelines? Well, if you've ever played or coached football, the one thing I can tell you is that there are similarities to what you've experienced. Some of the guys who aren't in the game sit around talking about the last series. The offensive guys cheer on the defense. On third down, the coaches warn the special teams guys to get ready to go in. Somebody's always looking for one of the equipment guys to do something for him.

There are some other insights that may not be so commonplace. For example, I can tell you with authority that the official profanity of the NFL is a 12 letter (when used as a noun) compound word that begins with "M" and describes conduct that is illegal in all 50 states. The other thing I can tell you is that I now truly understand why, whenever somebody asks a rookie what the toughest part about of transitioning to the pro game is, the invariable answer is "getting used to the speed of the game." Standing on the sidelines gives you a chance to appreciate that speed much more than you do from the vantage point of even the best seat in the stadium. These guys are just unbelievable athletes, and the speed of the game almost takes your breath away.

When it was over, I turned in my parka, the Browns' guys thanked us for helping, and I began the long trek back to Cleveland. I kept my credential, and grabbed a handful of photos that were printed out but the coaches weren't interested in seeing as a souvenir. Like many of you guys, I spent a lot of time as a kid dreaming of playing on an NFL field. This is as close to that dream as I ever got, but it was still awesome.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Browns v. Bengals

The Bengals just have way too much offensive firepower for the Browns to handle. I think they will win this game by a couple of touchdowns, but it will be interesting to see what the Browns can do against the Bengals' defense, which is among the league's worst.

I think that starting Charlie Frye in Cincinnati is a very good move. Frye's got to show what he can do against a hostile crowd, and the fact that Cincy's defense ain't exactly the Ravens gives him an opportunity to show that he can have some success on the road or that he still has a long way to go. Either way, that's important information for the Browns to have as they begin to think about draft priorities.

Personally, I think Frye will do okay even without Edwards in the lineup. It wouldn't surprise me to see the Browns score 24-28 points in this game, but they've been so horrible on the road lately that it wouldn't surprise me to see them score 3 points either. In honor of the late Bud Carson, I'm going to go with my gut feeling and say that they show some offense tomorrow: Bengals 38, Browns 24.

The Hornless Rhino is now signing off for the remainder of the weekend. I will be traveling to an undisclosed location for the Browns game (I'll let you know if I see Dick Cheney), but will tell you all about my adventures when I return.

Ugliest Uniform in College Football

This is what the well dressed Oregon Duck football player is wearing this year. The Ducks have a long tradition of hideous uniforms (the banana yellow version has to be seen to be believed), but this looks like what James Caan wore in Rollerball.

You've got to get up pretty early in the morning to outdo teams like Virginia Tech, which gets a massive head start on the rest of college football in any ugly contest based on its bizarre maroon and orange color scheme alone, or "The U," which seems to hold annual clown suit contests in search of the strangest possible uniforms to throw on their players. Yet, I think it is fair to say that the Ducks have overcome all of the obstacles to become the hands-down winner. Congratulations Ducks!

I hope this award is a consolation to the literally dozens of Duck fans across the nation who are so bitterly disappointed that the rest of the country didn't want to see you play in the Fiesta Bowl. Perhaps next time, you'll want to build a 10-1 record off of somebody a little more challenging than Houston and Montana State, and at least try not to get lapped by USC. You remember them don't you? They're the ones who needed 59:57 to overcome Notre Dame, and they're also the ones who beat you in your own house, 45-13.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

No Surf in Cleveland

The Tribe was dissed again yesterday by a big name relief pitcher. This time, it was Trevor Hoffman who told the Indians that he just wanted to be friends, opting for a two-year, $13.5 million deal to stay with the Padres. However, Hoffman went out of the way to let us know it's not us, it's him, and that lots of girls would really, really love to go out with a nice guy like us. Check it out here.

If your own B.S. meter isn't redlining on this one people, you need to get it adjusted. Hoffman may be letting us down easy with his mealy mouthed line of crap, but any way you slice it, what he's really saying is "you're ugly and your mother dresses you funny."

So, it looks like we're going to the prom with the fat girl again (no offense Wickie).

Hope Vinny's right about the trading market, because the Euclid Beach Band had the problem with free agency pegged years ago:

And man we can't impress the girls on the beach
The way they do out in LA
Cause there's no surf in Cleveland
There's just no surf in Cleveland U.S.A.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Bud Carson

Bud Carson passed away today. As you'll undoubtedly recall, Bud coached the Browns during the 1989 and 1990 seasons. He led those near-great 1980s Browns to their last moment of glory, a memorable 34-30 victory over the Buffalo Bills in a January 1990 playoff game. That game, which the Browns won when Clay Matthews intercepted a Jim Kelly pass in the end zone with seconds remaining, is still the most exciting football game I've ever attended in person (I was in the west end zone, so Clay's INT happened right in front of me).

Of course, the 1989 Browns were running on fumes. They were blown out the following week in the AFC Championship by Elway and the Broncos. The Browns were catastrophically bad (3-13) during the 1990 season, and poor Bud barely made it to November. Modell fired him on November 5th, the day after they were annihilated by those same Bills, 42-0, and replaced him with interim coach Jim Shofner. Browns fans will recall that this was the game where Bud opted to start Mike Pagel instead of Bernie Kosar at QB, because he "had a gut feeling."

Bud had his troubles in Cleveland, but he will be remembered as one of the best defensive coordinators in NFL history. His most notable achievement was building the Steel Curtain defense for the Steelers of the 1970s. That's enough for any coach's career to be regarded as a success.

Vinny's Pearl Harbor Day Post Deserves a Picture

A Day That Will Live in Infamy

That's what Franklin Delano Roosevelt called it when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Check out his speech.

It's simple. It's direct. It's eloquent.


Poor Mark Shapiro. He's already spent Larry Dolan's money and has damn little to show for it. The $7 Million he's going to pay Paul Byrd for each of the next two years is part of the $21 Million they had earmarked for Matt Clement last year. Kevin Millwood ate the first year, but he's now looking for a four-year deal worth $44 Million. All those people who think Larry Dolan will loosen the purse strings for that one, raise your hands.

I thought not.

However, there is hope. Due to the crappy free agents available, this should be a pretty active Hot Stove season for trades. GM's get scared when they don't take action. They all have to do something to justify their existence. You know someone will do something really stupid soon. I've read that the Cubs are entertaining offers for Mark Prior. I've always thought Dusty Baker was a piss poor manager. He is ridiculously overrated. But, if he allows the team to trade Prior, he's simply an idiot.

That being said, I'd be happy if Shapiro called that idiot and pantsed him. Now Tina don't be upset. I have nothing against the Cubs. In fact, I actually root for them in the National League, but I'd really like the Indians to have Mark Prior. After all, you know that if he stayed in Chicago, that genius of a manager would ruin his arm before his 27th birthday.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Jags 20, Browns 14

My head hurts. Before we get to the game though, the news on Braylon Edwards can be summed up in three letters: ACL. See you next year Braylon, maybe.

It used to be that the list of the world's most hazardous professions included things like astronaut and firefighter. However, based on experience, you've got to add being a Cleveland Browns #1 pick to that list. Kellen Winslow, Braylon Edwards, William Green, Courtney Brown--the parade of walking wounded stretches back even before the Browns left town.

What's even more scary, however, is that Browns' #1 picks have an alarming tendency to...let's see, how can I put this.., um, well, die. Seriously, think about guys like Eric Turner, Don Rogers and, most famously, Ernie Davis. All of these poor souls died well before their time. While Eric Turner had a solid career and even made the Pro Bowl in 1994, Rogers and Davis are on every Browns fan's short list of "what ifs?" It probably isn't too much of a stretch to say that if Cleveland had Ernie Davis to go with Jim Brown back in the 60s, and Don Rogers roaming the secondary with Hanford Dixon and Frank Minnifield back in the 80s, there might well have been a few more titles in this town. What might have been...

Anyway, the Browns game was extremely frustrating, because they certainly had every opportunity to win that game. Lots of positives: a decent job by Frye, the ability to move the ball on the ground some against the Jags, the best performance by the O-line all season, and a nice performance by the defense, with the exception of the 3rd quarter. Even then, you can't fault the D entirely for what happened in the 3rd quarter--field position played a big role in their downfall.

One of biggest problems the Browns had yesterday was their inability to adjust to the blitz in the second half. The Browns' coaching staff is taking some heat from fans for play calling, but I think that's not entirely fair. They tried to make adjustments, but the players didn't execute. They tried to run a screen or two, but those plays depend so much on timing, they are very difficult to run with a makeshift offensive line. They also tried to adjust to the blitz by going to three step drops, but Jacksonville played press coverage and, for the most part, tied up the Browns' receivers very effectively. Meanwhile, Frye became his own worst enemy by holding onto the ball for way too long. You can't sit there with happy feet on a three step drop. If somebody isn't open right away, tuck it in and run or throw it away.

I do think it is fair to criticize the way they approached the running game, both in the first and second half. The Browns don't use a lot of deception or misdirection in their running attack. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for trick plays, but I do think that they need to trap and counter more than they do. They've got a bull as their feature back, and so they opt more for the straight ahead power running game. When they do attack the outside, they rely almost totally on the zone stretch play. That is a particularly questionable decision in conditions like those in which yesterday's game was played. The zone stretch play is designed to stretch the defense laterally, thereby creating cutback lanes for the ball carrier to attack. A slippery field makes it very difficult to cut sharply and attack the gaps created by the play. Droughns is a stud, but I can't help but think they aren't capitalizing on his talent as much as they might.

Still, I don't think their inability to adjust to the blitz or the play calling was as much of a factor in the loss as field position, which I think was critical. Jacksonville played with a short field on each of its first two scoring drives of the second half, starting the first on its own 49 and the second on the Browns' 42. For that matter, even though the final touchdown drive started with Jacksonville on its own 21, a 46 yard pass interference penalty put the Jags in business in Browns' territory. You can't consistently give a playoff team a short field and not pay dearly for it. If nothing else, the Browns learned that lesson yesterday.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Browns v. Jaguars

I started out this blog 3-0 on my Browns predictions, and since then, I'm 2-5. I'm a dismal 1-4 over the last five weeks. I was getting a little depressed when I came to the realization that I stink as bad as the Browns. So, I did what I always do when I'm feelin' a little blue. I went right out and put my "Free to Be You and Me" CD in the stereo. I don't know about you guys, but whenever I listen to Rosey Grier croon, "It's Alright to Cry," well, I just feel so good about myself I just want to burst!

Who needs Stuart Smalley when you've got Marlo Thomas, Alan Alda and Dick Cavett to perk you up?

By the way, in case any of your kids tell you that we had it easy in the 1970s, feel free to remind them that we had to deal with crap like this. Anyway, back to the Browns v. Jags.

It's the 12th game of the season, Leftwich is out, so David Garrard will get the start. Although I've seen Fred Taylor listed as probable, the most recent stuff I've seen says he's out too, so Greg Jones will probably get most of the carries. I've lost interest in who is going to start at QB for the Browns. It's going to be cold and snowy, so I expect both teams lean heavily on the running game.

Unfortunately, the expected game plan doesn't favor the Browns, as their defense ranks 28th against the run in the NFL. Jacksonville's in the middle of the pack on run defense, but if the Browns can't move the ball on the ground, God help them. Jacksonville has the top-rated defense against the pass in the NFL, so this one could get ugly if the Browns fall behind early.

If the Browns do get pass happy, I expect that while Dilfer may start the game, but he won't finish it. Jacksonville is tied with the Steelers for 3rd in the AFC in sacks and ranks second in interceptions.

Jacksonville 19, Browns 3.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Health update

Barry Bonds said that he's going to "lose weight" in an effort to take some pressure off his knee. He wants to drop about 35 pounds to get to an even 200. That's going to be either easier or harder since his "nutritionist," Victor Conte, just began his jail term for distributing illegal steroids. Without Conte's help, I suspect Bonds will use the same "diet" that helped Jason Giambi, Sammy Sosa and Pudge Rodriguez all lose about 35 pounds this past year---the first year of random steroid testing.

I'm sure one has nothing to do with the other.

Fear the Roo

They play in one of college football's strangest venues: a decrepit 65-year old stadium dug into the side of a hill next to the soap box derby track, and across from a blimp hangar. They have one of college football's most inexplicable nicknames, and their mascot is a kangaroo. They get their players by signing the ones no other D-1 program wants, and until very recently, they practiced on a patch of dirt that they had to be bused 25 minutes to reach. Once, when one of the guys I coach with was playing there, the bus actually caught fire on the way back from practice. Ah, the glamor of Division I sports!

But last night, compliments of a thrilling fourth quarter comeback capped by a 36-yard strike from Luke Getsy to Domenik Hixon with 10 seconds left to play, the Akron Zips defeated Northern Illinois 31 to 30 to claim the MAC championship, and a spot in their very first Division I bowl game. Way to go, Zips -- you've done your home town proud.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

NFL Truths and Myths has a series of articles providing a statistical analysis of the truth or falsity of some of football's truisms. The analysis was conducted by Jeremy Green, who was the Browns' director of pro personnel under the old regime. He broke the truisms down into two categories: sins that probably will cost you the game; and myths that frequently won't.

The "sins" category includes few surprises, but it is interesting to note that, statistically speaking, the second biggest indicator of a likely loss was, believe it or not, trailing at the end of the first quarter. Teams that trail after a quarter lose 75% of the time--only teams that lose the turnover battle end up on the losing end of the scoreboard more frequently (81% of the time).

In the "myths" category, the one thing that surprised me is that penalties aren't much of an indicator. The team with the most penalties lost 54% of the time, according to Green's data.

There are three articles, and you can find them here, here and here.

Ho, Ho, Ho

It's December, kiddies, and that means it's time to buy stuff. The first thing you should buy, if you don't already own it, is your very own copy of the heartwarming holiday classic, Bad Santa. As far as I'm concerned, you can keep George Bailey and Ralphie, for me, it ain't Christmas without Billy Bob Thornton. Billy Bob's a drunken reprobate who, along with his midget sidekick, annually gets a department store Santa and elf gig for the sole purpose of robbing the store blind after closing on Christmas Eve.

Thornton's performance was made even more compelling by the fact that he's admitted to being half in the bag during shooting. I love that, but I love most things about Billy Bob. I guess that self-important wind bag who hosts "Inside the Actors Studio" interviewed Thornton on his show. I didn't see it, but when I think of what the interview must have been like, I can't help picturing something like the last scene in Sling Blade.

In addition to Thornton and his sidekick, Tony Cox, the film features hilarious performances by Bernie Mac and John Ritter, as well as the most bizarre kid character ever committed to film. Trust me on this, "Thurman Merman" has to be seen to be believed.

You will hate yourself for watching this nasty, vulgar, crude, foul-mouthed, depraved, prurient masterpiece, but you'll get over it. Oh, and when I say "foul-mouthed," I mean really, really foul-mouthed--to the tune of, according to IMDB's website, an incredible 147 F Bombs amid a total of 243 "profanities"in slightly more than an hour and a half. Do the math--that's almost three profanities per minute. So, definitely send the kids to bed for this one. But once you do, pop some popcorn, throw another log on the fire and put Bad Santa in the DVD player this weekend.

You'll hate yourself in the morning, but you probably would anyway, so you might as well have a few laughs.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Victor Felipe Pellot Pove

Victor Felipe Pellot Pove just passed away. Most people knew him as Vic Power, a former first baseman for the Indians. He was one of the Indians' all-time most colorful characters. He won seven consecutive gold gloves, made four All-Star teams, and played in the one and only Latin All Star game at the Polo Grounds, but no one remembers much or any of that. He will forever be the guy the Indians got for Roger Maris.

Vic Power (1927-2005)


This is (or was) Holleder Stadium. It's now an industrial park, but when I was a kid in Rochester, New York, this is where you went to play the big game.

I played high school football at a place called McQuaid Jesuit, and for us, the games didn't get any bigger than the annual game against our rival, Aquinas Institute.

Aquinas was the other all-boys high school in town, and this was their home field. Aquinas was once known as the "Little Notre Dame of the East," and had a storied tradition of football glory going back to the 1940s. In fact, Holleder Stadium was named after their greatest football player, a true American hero named Don Holleder. (If you've got the time, click on Don Holleder's name and read his story, because he deserves it). McQuaid was the new kid on the block, but by the mid-1970s, we had established ourselves as a force to be reckoned with on the gridiron, posting a 24 game winning streak that ran from 1974 through 1977. We also were basking in the reflected glory of one of our recent alums, Bob Thomas, who kicked the winning field goal against Alabama in the 1973 Sugar Bowl, thus helping to lift Notre Dame to its 9th national championship.

McQuaid and Aquinas went at each ferociously back in the 1970s, and I'm pleased to say, they still do. But back then, we often came into the game ranked #1 and #2 in the area, and the McQ-AQ game usually lived up to expectations. For example, in 1974 and 1975, we won the game by identical 7-6 scores. 1975 was my freshman year, and one of my classmates was actually the field goal kicker for the varsity team (a freshman on the varsity was unheard of, so that ought to tell you something about his talent). He was a very good placekicker, but wasn't the best student in the world, which sets up the story I'm about to tell you.

The Aquinas game was being played at our home field that year, not at Holleder Stadium, in front of a crowd of about 3,000 people. Aquinas scored a touchdown in the second quarter, but missed the PAT. McQuaid scored in the third, and our 14-year old kicker ran onto the field for an extra point attempt. He hit the ball cleanly, and it sailed through the uprights. Unfortunately, McQuaid was hit with a false start penalty and he had to do it again, still 14, still playing in front of 3,000 people, only now, five yards further back. Once again, he split the uprights. Once again, a penalty flag was dropped--this time, for holding. So, now, having already hit two extra points, he needed to hit the equivalent of a 35 yard field goal for McQuaid to take the lead. Without batting an eye, he split the uprights for the third time. This time, it counted. McQuaid held Aquinas scoreless the rest of the game, and took home the win.

The next day was Monday (we usually played the other Catholic schools on Sunday), and we received back a social studies test that we had taken on Friday. The class was taught by a priest who was also Athletics Moderator. Like all of the other priests at the school, he had been at the game, and had witnessed our classmate's heroics. Now, when we got back our tests, the placekicker was sitting in the back of class. Passing at our school was 70%, and when he got back his test, it had 69% written in red ink on it, but right next to that grade, in blue ink, was written "+ 1 for the extra point = 70%."

We beat Aquinas our freshman and sophmore years, but our winning streak came to an end in my junior year, which was the first AQ game I played in. They beat us 19-0 that year. We met them at Holleder Stadium my senior year, but they had our number again, 9-0. But, we got lucky--we won the rest of our games, and ended up facing them again in the Section V Championship Game (also at Holleder). We took a 19-0 lead in that game, and they mounted a furious comeback, that ended only when one of our linebackers preserved a 19-17 victory by intercepting their attempt at a two-point conversion on the last play from scrimmage that would have sent the game into overtime.

Since that time, our two schools' football fortunes have diverged. McQuaid floundered from about the mid-1980s until just recently, realizing much more glory on the basketball court and in hockey arenas than on the gridiron, while Aquinas went on to win several sectional championships and, after New York finally established a state championship playoff, a couple of state championships (they are no longer in the large schools division). They've even been seen out here testing their mettle against Ohio teams, losing to Canton McKinley and Youngstown Mooney a few years back. Fortunately, the McQ v. AQ rivalry has remained a heated one. But I'm sorry to say that it's no longer played at Holleder Stadium, which was torn down in 1985.

It's been almost 30 years, but I can still tell you the names of the guys who played across the ball from me in those games. Nobody ever hit me harder, and I never hit anybody harder. There's nothing like a rivalry.

2005 McQuaid Jesuit Knights

McQuaid 21, Aquinas 7

Monday, November 28, 2005

How come nobody in this town can make decent chicken wings?

I'm from Western New York, so I'm a chicken wing snob. While every now and again you get some decent wings here in Northeast Ohio, most of them pale in comparison to even the most pedestrian versions found in Buffalo and its environs. So, as a public service to my fellow Clevelanders, I'm going to tell you how to make chicken wings the right way.

First, the chicken wings themselves. Under no circumstances should you use the crappy dessicated little sparrow wings that Giant Eagle sells at 5 lbs for $1.00. Those are reserved exclusively for $.10 wing nights at bars. Spring for some nice sized chicken wings. If they aren't as big as your index finger, throw 'em back.

Second, the preparation. Listen, you deep fry the little buggers in hot oil. Deal with it. These things are bad for you. They are little globules of cholesterol. If you don't want to fry them, for god's sake, don't bake 'em, grill 'em or roast 'em--just don't eat 'em.

Another fun thing about deep frying is that it is actually pretty dangerous, and it is made a little more dangerous by the piece of advice I'm about to give you: you shouldn't thaw the wings before you cook them (for some reason, they hold up a lot better if you don't). Cook them in a deep fryer with clean vegetable oil for 12-15 minutes at 375 degrees. If the skin isn't crispy, they aren't done --there's nothing worse than a slimy-skinned chicken wing. Be careful, though, if you're doing this at home. Your fryer will bubble like mad when you first put frozen chicken wings in it, so make sure you lower the fry basket into the fryer very slowly and don't overload it, or the hot oil will overflow and kill you and everyone you love.

Fourth, the sauce. Look, teriyaki sauce, barbeque sauce, garlic sauce and honey mustard sauce are all fine for chicken mcnuggets, but that's not what goes on wings. The only thing that goes on wings is Frank's Original Red Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce. This is what they use at the kabba of the chicken wing, Buffalo's own Anchor Bar. You can buy this stuff through the mail or at most grocery stores. The Anchor Bar slaps its name on some of the versions that are available locally here, but believe me, it's Frank's inside. Get the original though, not the stuff labeled "Buffalo Wing Sauce." That version is okay tasting, but it's got some artificial buttery stuff in it. You don't want to go there--instead, you want to grab one stick of butter and throw that in with a cup of the sauce and melt it. That should be enough for about 18 good sized wings, or two dozen of the dinky ones that I already told you not to buy.

If you want more heat, throw in some habanero sauce or tabasco sauce on top of the Frank's. The thing is, though, you want the heat from those other sauces, not the taste, so make sure to use them sparingly.

Once you've fried up your wings, pour the warmed up sauce and butter combination into a plastic container with a lid. Dry the wings on a paper towel for a second, and then dump them into the container and shake it. Don't let the wings sit in the container once you've got them all coated. Take them out and serve them.

Fifth, the accoutrements. Chicken wings are served with celery and blue cheese dressing, and that's all. You don't get carrots, and you don't get ranch dressing -- celery and blue cheese. Got it?

Sixth, mechanics. No forks, knives or spoons allowed. Before digging in, get about six inches worth of paper napkins and a plate for the carcasses. Then take a look at your wings. You'll note that there are two kinds, the little drumstick things and the little wingy things. It is perfectly acceptable to eat the drumstick like a chicken drumstick, in multiple bites. However, the only acceptable way to eat the little wingy thing is to grab it between two fingers at its base, place it in your mouth and pull it out slowly while scraping the meat off in a single bite. Dunking in blue cheese is optional, but encouraged.

Things you must never, ever do.

  • First, you must never, ever, under any circumstances bread your chicken wings. That's disgusting. If you want fried chicken with batter on it, go to KFC or Church's. Chicken wings are a low carb food.
  • Second, only a jackass would put cajun seasoning or red pepper flakes on chicken wings. Don't be a jackass.
  • Third, do not pour the blue cheese dressing on your wings. This is not a salad, people, it's chicken wings.
  • Finally, you do not drink milk, mineral water or pinot noir with chicken wings. You drink beer. If you want to be authentic, drink either Genny Cream Ale, Labatt's Blue, or Old Vienna Lager.

There you have it. Enjoy, and try not to burn yourself. If you find yourself in Buffalo, make sure to stop in at the Anchor Bar and taste the original. (Gabriel's Gate, on Allen Street in Buffalo, is also reputed to give the Anchor Bar a run for its money.)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Vikings 24, Browns 12

Oh, man, that was awful. All that this truly horrible game needed to be the most disturbing piece of "entertainment" I've ever seen was Gwynneth Paltrow's head in a box.

I think this game may well top the Texans debacle for the Browns' worst performance of the year. There were the usual dismal performances by key players, but what really set this apart was the simply dreadful performance turned in by the coaching staff. Let's review:

  • Game planning -- The Browns panicked, and got away from the running game far too early. Yes, it is disturbing to find yourselves down 17-3 in the second half, but there were still almost seven and a half minutes to play in the third quarter when that happened. That left the Browns more than 22 minutes of football to score two touchdowns. Did they need to pass more frequently? Sure, but did you know that they only ran the ball three times after that, including the two point conversion? When they did that, they effectively took their best player out of the game. Any game plan that doesn't take into account the personnel you've got isn't going to be effective. When the coaches put the game in Dilfer's hands, they essentially benched Reuben Droughns.

  • Play calling -- This was flat out atrocious. Nothing the Browns did all day made much sense. I'm going to bitch about the fiasco at end of the first half elsewhere, but one of the brain dead things that happened in that series involved play calling. As they tried lamely to get into the end zone on first and goal, the Browns were flagged twice for false starts, but not before the linemen had set up and Dilfer had clearly tipped his hand that he was looking to throw a fade. So, what do they do when they finally get a play off? Of course, they throw a fade. That brings us to the second half, which looked like this: naked bootleg pass to Heiden, pass to Bryant or Edwards, ineffective screen or draw, bring Richardson in to punt. Then, just to rub salt in my wounds, on one of their innumerable 3rd and forevers in the fourth quarter, the Browns actually called a play action pass! If I wasn't so furious, I would have laughed. Who did they think they were kidding? Did they really think they'd get any LB or DB to buy a fake run when they abandoned the running game 20 minutes ago?

  • The Abortion at the End of the First Half -- First and goal from the five, 42 seconds left, one time out. The average NFL team would get two solid shots at the end zone, and the ability to call a time out would keep the defense honest, knowing that at least one of those plays could be a run. How many do the Browns get off? One stinking play. Why didn't the Browns have a play called when they picked up the first down? Why didn't Dilfer spike the ball when the Browns didn't have a play called? Why did both receivers, who go on movement of the ball, not sound, jump early? Why did the Browns never change the play after they'd tipped it to the Vikings? Why did they burn the time out after the penalty?

  • Charlie Frye -- Trent Dilfer was obviously playing hurt for much of the second half. His injury, his lack of production, or most probably, a combination of the two factors led Crennel to yank him in favor of Frye. However, Frye threw a pick on his first play from scrimmage and never played another down. That leads to one inescapable question: Is Romeo Crennel %$#%ing retarded? What does he hope to accomplish by jerking his QBs around like that? That's a coaching temper tantrum if I ever saw one. In his post-game press conference, Crennel said he went back to Dilfer because he gave the Browns the best chance to win. I'm not a huge fan of hurrying Frye along, but if a healthy Frye doesn't give the Browns a better chance to win than a journeyman with a sprained knee and wrist, why are they wasting a roster spot on him?

But enough about my problems. Congratulations to the Chicago Bears, a reader favorite who brought glory to themselves and joy to their legions of loyal fans with a hard fought 13-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It is hard not to admire the Bears, who not only have peeled off seven straight wins, but have done so with a quarterback who is uglier than the Hornless Rhino, making them the first team to do so since the 1980 Philadelphia Eagles, who rode the cosmetically challenged Ron Jaworski all the way to the Super Bowl. So, as a tribute to their success, here's a link to the Bears' unofficial fight song, "Bear Down Chicago Bears."

P.S. for CBS Sports. On behalf of all high school and youth football coaches across America, I would like to thank you for going out of your way to glorify every helmet to helmet hit that took place in today's game, thereby undoing years of efforts by coaches to convince young players that "your head is not a weapon." Way to go guys. I commend you on your efforts to reverse that disturbing trend of continuing reductions in serious head and neck injuries among young players, you irresponsible jerks.

Browns v. Vikings

Most people seem to be picking the Vikings in a close one. If the Browns can run the ball, I think they'll win this game. On the other hand, if they need Dilfer to carry them, they're history. The Vikings rank near the bottom of the NFC in most defensive categories, and I'm tired of picking against the Browns, so I'm going to go with Cleveland in a mild upset, 23-17.

Rhino's doin' the happy dance

With Notre Dame slipping by Stanford tonight, you know that the Rhino, wherever he might be, is dancing a victory jig. The boys from the Golden Dome look like they're in line for a big BCS bowl game and an even bigger paypday. If it plays in the BCS, ND will get $14,000,000. That's not bad for an afternoon's work.

The hottest rumor has been that the Fiesta Bowl will host a Notre Dame-Ohio State matchup. That would be great for college football, and I'd love to see it. Keep your fingers crossed.

In the meantime, buy the Rhino a pint of good Irish ale and help him "wake up the echoes cheering her name."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Oh, Canada!

This is the Canadian dollar. They call it a "loony." Here's why.

Jean Schmidt is an ass

I'm a simple guy. I've got to call 'em like I see 'em, and the way I see it, Congresswoman Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) is a gutless harpie. She's an ass for intimating that Congressman Murtha is a coward or that he proposed a course of cowardice. But in some ways, I could see how she easily came to that conclusion. He only served 37 years in the Marines and the Marine Corp Reserve. He retired as a Colonel. He received two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star with combat "V," the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. On the other hand, in her 79 days in office, she's stood on the front line and kept Clermont County safe from terrorists, communists, and hippies (I'm pretty sure about the hippies even though I can't find any proof of it). I suspect members of Al Qaeda run in fear when her name is mentioned. They certainly know better than to try to screw with the hillbillie infested backwater she represents.

Eventually, she apologized.

I'm tired of these craven apologies. If she meant what she said during her speech on the floor of Congress, she should let it stand, as ridiculous as it was. She should be willing to take the heat and the millions of jokes at her expense for her lofty principle. To me, it seemed that in the end, she was the one who "cut and ran."

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


The news is just in that the arbitrator upheld the Eagles' four-game suspension of Terrell Owens. I'm thrilled. As recently as an hour before, writers were reporting that it was going to be reduced to time served. Eagles' fans should be proud of their team. It's not often that sports owners show that they have any stones whatsoever when dealing with issues of principle, especially when they collide with money. Well, the Eagles did just that. I tip my hat to all of the Eagles' decision-makers on this one.

More importantly, a reader pointed out that da' Bears won six in a row and that we failed to mention them. Since this blog is generally related to Cleveland sports, it would have been absolute pandering to mention the Bears. I really hate that.


Then again, I'm not above pandering.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ten Movies that I'd rather have a root canal than have to see again

As I was channel surfing the other night, I noticed that one of my all-time most hated movies, Terms of Endearment, was playing on TV. That estrogen soaked orgy of self-indulgence, self-pity and misandry was livened only by the appearance of Jack Nicholson. Jack, while horribly miscast as an astronaut and the beastly Shirley Maclaine's love interest, at least gave off enough non-verbal signals to male viewers to let us know that he knew it sucked too, and hoped that all of us at least got laid for sitting through it.

Needless to say, I didn't waste a lot of time on that particular channel. But, it got me thinking about some of the really horrible movies that I sat through over the years. I'm not talking about the campy, "so bad they're good" movies like Plan 9 from Outer Space or Pink Flamingos. No, I mean the ones that make you dive for the remote, screaming at your spouse or significant other "NO WAY! NO WAY! There's NO $#!*&@ ing way that I'm going to sit through this piece of crap again!!" Anyway, I came up with ten that I thought it would be good to share with you guys, although we all could come up with a lot more.

10. The Color Purple. Who else could capture the experience of a poor black woman in the rural South better than Stephen Spielberg? This is one of Hollywood's all time bad ideas. Alice Walker's crappy novel that was absolutely unavoidable in p.c. college lit classes during the 1980s was made into an even worse movie. Not only was this two hours of man hating, but for eye candy the guys get what..Oprah?... Whoopie Goldberg? I was embarassed for Danny Glover. By the way, some nitwit just made this into a musical (I kid you not).

9. Jerry Maguire. This is not one of Cameron Crowe's finest writing efforts. "You complete me?" Seriously, gentlemen, would any of you, no matter how desperate and dateless, be able to look yourself in the eye ever again if you said something that lame to a woman in private, much less in front of a roomful of middle-aged yentas? Ladies, be honest, if dealing with a sniveling wus delivering a groaner like that, are you more likely to respond with an equally lame line like "You had me at hello" or a snap kick to the crotch? I'd criticize Rene Zelleweger's performance in this as well, but I'm saving that up for...

8. Bridget Jones Diary. My wife loves this move. I find it unwatchable, as Rene Zellweger utterly fails to convince me that a) she's British, b) she's fat or c) she'd have any difficulty finding a guy on any planet where males had eyes. I also hate Hugh Grant.

7. An Officer and a Gentleman. Damn, I got dragged to this one by a girl I went out with in college. I don't have fond memories of her, and they ain't improved by this cinematic gem. Richard Gere gives me the creeps in all of his movies. Gerbil or no gerbil, there's something that just isn't right about that guy. Then there's my nemesis, Debra Winger. Rosanna Arquette made a film a few years ago called Searching for Debra Winger. Based on her filmography, I've got no idea why anybody would look for her.

6. Reds. Warren Beatty. Diane Keaton. Communists. Three and a half hours of communists. My God, My God, why have you abandoned me? My ass still hurts from this juvenile, pretentious and seemingly endless love letter to the people who brought you Stalin, Mao, and 40 million corpses.

5. Dances with Wolves. Proving that there's hope for everyone, the Plain Dealer actually published an article last week admitting that this movie, which won an Oscar for Best Picture in 1990, is really, really bad. Like Reds, this three hour plus ass numbing cinematic experience was long on pretension, and short on entertainment. We get to see Kevin Kostner shed his white man's ways as he learns to love the forest and the buffalo from the wise Native Americans, all of whom have fun names like "Kicking Bird" and "Wind in his Hair." All of this learning enables him to fall in love with some dopey Indian wannabe white chick named "Stands with a Fist." Whatever. A real stinker.

4. Tootsie. If you want to see guys in drag, watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Some Like it Hot, not this early-80s crappy comedy. I confess to sort of liking this when it came out (Jessica Lange never looked better than she did in this movie), but Dustin Hoffman gives the second worst female imitation in film history. The worst, of course, is Robin Williams in...

3. Mrs. Doubtfire. Okay, I admit it, I've had a crush on Sally Field since I was about 8 years old. Naturally, I think she can do a hell of a lot better than Robin Williams, who has made a career out of making funny noises and chewing the scenery in every movie he's ever been in. That biased me against this movie from the start, but c'mon, even if you're a fan of Williams and you don't mind him making time with Field, this thing isn't really very good.

2. Love Story. This movie is so bad, I truly believe Al Gore when he says that he and Tipper were the models for it. Ali McGraw's death scene ought to have a laugh track. IMDB's website reports that incoming freshmen at Harvard "are traditionally shown a screening of the film at which they indulge in ritualized mass heckling."

1. The Sound of Music. Lord, do I hate this movie. Not only is it vapid, it's a musical! A three hour musical! Honest to God, when forced to sit through this, I actually find myself rooting for the Nazis. When the Von Trapps are hiding, I find myself screaming at the screen, telling the SS where they are.

So, there you have it--more negativity from the Hornless Rhino (I actually did once get marked down on a performance evaluation for "general unpleasantness").

Monday, November 21, 2005

Damn, talk about a great sports weekend!

Ohio State beats Michigan, the Cavs improve to 8-2, and the Browns crush the Dolphins. It doesn't get much better than that around here.

First things first--how about them Bucks? As I've previously stated, I'm a Notre Dame fan, but when it comes to the Michigan game, I'm scarlet and grey all the way. I hope ND takes care of business next week against Stanford, because I would love to see an ND v. Ohio State matchup in a BCS bowl. So, for that matter, would the bowl people. Those two teams guarantee any bowl lucky enough to match them up a full house and huge television ratings. Quick question for Michigan fans: do you miss John Cooper?

Now, on to the Cavs. No, forget it--no NBA until after the Super Bowl.

Finally, the Browns. A lot of guys really stepped up yesterday. I mean, when Alvin McKinley gets a sack, you know it's the Browns' day. The score tells you all you need to know about the defense's performance. Offensively, Droughns was his usual awesome self, and that first play from scrimmage was as memorable a run as I've seen this season. Braylon Edwards showed up to play, Terrelle Smith made a circus catch for a TD, Antonio Bryant made some big plays and the o-line was solid (including LJ Shelton). I was surprised to see Charlie Frye get inserted in the first half--if it were me, I'd have waited until the game was comfortably in hand before playing Frye.

The papers already commented that Frye looked like a rookie, but there was one play that truly showed his potential, or at least his arm strength. I'm speaking of the play in the fourth quarter where Frye stumbled and scrambled around, and then threw threw a strike across his body back toward the middle of the field. Edwards made a nice play on the ball, which was absolutely smoked. I hope that the Browns chewed Frye out for making that throw, because it was stupid--any coach will tell you that the two things a QB should never do are throw back across his body and throw late over the middle, and Frye did both of those things. On the other hand, damn, what an arm! while I've heard lots of people compliment Charlie Frye's intelligence and fundamentals, I haven't heard people rhapsodize about his arm strength. I'll tell you right now, though, there are very few quarterbacks in the NFL with the arm strength to make that kind of play.

All in all, just about a perfect day--until, that is, Trent Dilfer decided to have a temper tantrum in the post-game press conference. Dilfer has not exactly done much in recent weeks to endear himself to Browns' fans, and even yesterday, the man sailed almost every ball he threw, requiring his receivers to make circus catches out of what should have been routine plays. So, the post-game ego trip was just over the top.

It's times like these when I think the Browns could really use a guy with my people skills. Because what I would do is quietly sidle up to Trent, and say "Trent, you seem like a nice guy, but you stink like feet. I'm sorry you stink, but you do. So shut up and cash your check. You are a seat warmer for Frye or, if they decide he's not the guy, the next can't miss QB prospect." I would of course carry a hand gun when I did this, but I would do it. Why? Well, because in difficult situations like this, there's no substitute for the human touch--and I'm famous for my "soft hands."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Browns v. Dolphins

The Browns and Dolphins share 3-6 records, and on paper, they are similar teams. However, Miami's offense is a little more potent, and two of their three victories have come over some of the league's best teams. They opened the season with a 34-14 win over the Broncos, and beat Carolina, 27-24, in week three. Recently, the Dolphins dropped two close games to quality opponents, first losing 17-10 to Atlanta, and then, last week, going down to New England by a score of 23-16 . In last week's game, the Patriots had to rally to beat the Dolphins with a late score. That game also saw Miami drive 70 yards to put itself in position to tie the game, only to have Gus Frerrotte's 4th down pass from the Pats' 5 yard line bounce off Chris Chambers' fingertips in the end zone with less than a minute to play.

Gus Frerrotte is questionable for today. If he can't go, we get something called Sage Rosenfels. Anybody who has followed the Browns for any period of time knows that no-name backup QBs are like Kryptonite to them. In fact, I remember a game about 12 years ago against the Dolphins when Marino tore his achilles tendon in the first half, and Scott Mitchell (who nobody had heard of until then) came in and just lit the Browns up.

On top of everything else, the Browns are banged up where they can least afford to be--the offensive line. Andruzzi is listed as doubtful this week, while Coleman is questionable. Also, L.J. Shelton didn't distinguish himself with last week's performance, and this week, he faces Jason Taylor. Yikes.

The Dolphins aren't world beaters, but my guess is that they're good enough to beat the Browns in a close one, 24-20.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Michigan v. Ohio State Trivia

Congratulations to me, for either stumping or boring everyone. Okay, it was too hard. Sorry. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going home. I think I'll listen to my new Indigo Girls CD on the way.

No, I won't tell you the stinkin' answers. I'm not going to give you the satisfaction. Maybe tomorrow, when my snit is over.

Ohio High School Football

With the Michigan v. Ohio State game coming up and the high school playoffs in full gear, it's probably a good time to talk about what football means in this state. The Buckeyes and the NFL are huge here, but Ohio football is first and foremost about what happens on Friday nights on high school fields throughout the state.

When it comes to high school football, we're all a little nuts. Okay, let me be the first to confess: I stayed up until 1:00 a.m. Wednesday morning because as I was about to go to bed, I noticed that Fox Sports Net Pacific was showing a replay of 1998's game between De La Salle and Mater Dei High School, and I couldn't pass up the chance to watch one of Bob Ladouceur's incredible football teams strut their stuff. But I don't think I'm alone here-- I mean, when the front page of the Plain Dealer's sports section carries an article bemoaning the shocking news that an entire graduating class has passed through St. Ignatius without winning a state championship, and I sit there and read the whole damn thing (bet you did too), something's not right with either the paper or me.

High school football is a big part of Americana. Those who play the game have an experience that few others in life match in terms of joyous intensity, but for most, the experience is tinged with sadness. You can relive your baseball glory on the softball diamond until you're 80 years old, you can keep playing basketball until well into middle age, but most high school football players will play their last game before they turn 19. Football ends too soon, and for most players, its end means the end of some of the fondest dreams of their youth. The games are over, and those who played it are left with memories of past glory.

We all have to deal with this, but 99 out of 100 high school football players go through it when they're 18, instead of when they're 40. Some never get over it, and they've become so familiar that the ex-football jock whose life hit its peak at 18 has become a stock character in works ranging from the sublime (Biff Loman in "Death of a Salesman") to the ridiculous (Al Bundy in "Married with Children" or Uncle Rico in "Napoleon Dynamite").

Like I said, that part of football we share with everyone who ever played the game anywhere, but what sets Ohio high school football apart is the tantalizing possibility of glory at the next level. I played high school football in New York. To us, places like Ohio State or Notre Dame were fantasies -- one kid in a generation went there. If you were a New York high school player when I played, your in-state Division I possibilities were limited to Syracuse and Army, and unless you were a really special player, the out-of-state schools didn't come knocking. While there are a few more options to New York players now (Buffalo, I-AA Hofstra), New York is still shockingly underrepresented on college gridirons. There are a lot of reasons for this, but maybe the most important reason is New York's idiotic rule limiting the season to 10 games, which for years prevented a state championship game. Now that they've finally established a state championship, this rule saddles New York teams with 6 game regular season schedules in order to fit in a state playoff.

In contrast, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan are very real places to an Ohio high school player. Every single week, he plays with and against kids who will go on to play there, or if not there, at Bowling Green, or Akron, or Miami, or Ohio U, or Cincinnati, or Toledo, or Division I-AA Youngstown State, or Division II Ashland, or NAIA Walsh or Malone. ( Because they don't pay your way, I'm not even going to get into the Division III powerhouses like Mount Union or Baldwin-Wallace. )

The abundance of scholarship-paying college football options in this state means that if you're playing high school ball in Ohio, by definition, you're good enough to dream. So generations of Ohio football players have dreamed of college glory, and for many working class families, high school football has symbolized a real, if faint, hope of a shortcut to a better life. As those dreams slipped away for most, the game became a symbol of longing, of lost youth, and of lost possibilities.

There is actually a poem that captures a lot of this, and many of you have probably read it (it was included in the preface to Friday Night Lights). The poem was written by the poet James Wright, a man who grew up in Martin's Ferry and watched Lou Groza play his football there.

Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio

In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other's bodies

--James Wright

That's good stuff. I know this poem is sometimes read by the beret and clove cigarette crowd as an indictment of football's savagery. I'm no critic, but I think Wright's target was a tad bigger than that. I also think that this reading of his poem would probably come as news to James Wright, who at least one biographer reports, played semi-pro football.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Things I hate

Politicians, liver, country music, Star Wars, France, cilantro, Pittsburgh fans, the Olympics, Florida college football, the NCAA, movies where everyone pretends Susan Sarandon is hot looking, musicals, baked chips, sun chips, lite beer, white wine, beef bologna, tuna in oil, Pat Robertson, the State of the Union, phone solicitors, the Plain Dealer, movies with one of the Baldwin brothers in them, flossing, the smelly Axe crap my 13 year old and every other teenage boy in North America friggin' douses themselves in, what a fat pig I am, Duke, the CBS Evening News, going to the doctor, my commute, when you go to Brueggers and the bagel they give you is, like, flat and crusty, the airlines, how I have to buy a new couch again, MTV, emissions testing, mortgage payments, cleaning the garage, long sermons, 60 Minutes, suits with vests, The Olive Garden, camping, how I suck at hockey, tequila, the jerk who ALWAYS sits in front of me on the plane and insists on reclining his friggin' seat, pork tenderloin, tree huggers, anti-smoking crusaders, SUVs, the Ohio Republican Party, the way my kids get maple syrup all over everything, cats, Bryant Gumbel, NASCAR, the Indian mascot nuts, Drew Rosenhaus, Scott Boras, the NFL's sudden death overtime format, people who talk on their cell phones during ball games, people who drive 55 mph in a 55 mph zone, people who hate dogs, Al Gore, the American cheese that comes wrapped in individual plastic envelopes (what the hell is with that, anyway?), my annual neighborhood block party, Columbus (cow town U.S.A.), Cleveland civic cheerleaders, trendy bars, the BCS, holy days of obligation, Christmas shopping, greeting card company holidays, Giant Eagle, Butch Davis, Geena Davis, the Pro Bowl, Miracle Whip, cankles, carpetbagger sports franchises, people who drive 2 miles an hour in a downtown parking garage because at 9:00 a.m. on a weekday they think they're likely to find a spot somewhere before the roof, voice mail, people who send you e-mail at 3:00 a.m. and wonder why you didn't check your blackberry before 6:00 a.m., windsor knots, people who refuse to learn how to use a computer, people who are obsessed with their computer, bobble heads, shopping for clothes (yes, do you have that in a 20" neck and 38" sleeves? Do you have anything bigger than a 52 long?), the fact that my head is too fat and my ears are so far back that the only sunglasses I can wear are the ones old guys wear over their regular glasses, the way my eyebrows keep growing, the Pro Bowlers Tour, the way everyone pretends that Malley's is good candy or that Drew Carey is funny.

But I don't hate the ones who bring you rock and roll...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Hooray for the used car salesman

I've been a vocal critic of Proud to Be Your Bud Selig, but one of the most powerful cartels on the planet caved in and agreed to his proposal to add some teeth to the punishments meted out for violations of the banned substances policy. The Major League Baseball Players' Association today announced that it would go along with Bud's proposal that a first violation gets a 50 game suspension, a second violation results in a 100 game violation, and a third violation wins a lifetime ban for the guilty party.

By the way, I was just goofing around about the union "caving in." There was no caving involved. It just took this long for Don Fehr to realize that Bud was actually giving the players a very nice reach around that will probably prevent Congress (those really useful guys) from taking any action that would have surely screwed a number of ballplayers.

Michigan v. Ohio State Trivia Contest

In honor of Michigan week, Vinny and the Hornless Rhino are pleased to announce the first annual Michigan v. Ohio State trivia contest. Contestants can e-mail their answers to Since even a quick glance at our comments section reveals that we have become the Sarah McLachlan of Cleveland sports blogging, as a tribute to our lesbian readers, the winner of the contest will receive a copy of Rarities, the latest CD by the Indigo Girls.

One entry per person. Employees of Vinny and the Hornless Rhino or any of its affiliated entities are not eligible. In case of a tie, the prize will go to the first person among the tied contestants to send in their answers. In case something comes up that I haven't covered, I'll decide how to deal with it in my unfettered discretion (as far as this contest goes, think of me as God).

Some of these are easy, some are hard, and some you'll only get if you look them up. Here goes:

1. The winner of this Michigan v. Ohio State game did not get a single first down. Name the year of the game and the winning team.

2. From 1970 to 1975, one of the two teams entered every Michigan v. Ohio State game undefeated. Name the team and it's record in those games.

3. Since 1935, how many times has the Big 10 Championship been decided between the Buckeyes and Wolverines based on the outcome of the Michigan v. Ohio State game?

4. Since 1935, how many times has the game's outcome had a direct bearing on who won the Big 10 title?

5. Who played QB for Michigan during the famous 1969 24-12 upset of the #1 ranked Buckeyes?

6. Who won more Michigan v. Ohio State games in which they faced each other, Woody or Bo?

7. Who won more Michigan v. Ohio State games overall, Woody or Bo?

8. Which Ohio State coach started the "gold pants" tradition?

9. In the 1910 game, one team returned a missed field goal 110 yards for a touchdown. Name the team and the player who did it.

10. What was Michigan's largest margin of victory? What was Ohio State's?

Contest closes Friday at 5:00 p.m. Winner and correct answers will be announced as soon as possible thereafter. Have fun, and good luck.