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.

Monday, November 14, 2005


What a waste of a Sunday evening that was, huh? After a nice first drive, the Browns stumbled, bumbled and fumbled through three quarters of inept football, while the Pittsburgh Steelers generally whomped the snot out of them. The Steelers ran, they threw, they did generally whatever the hell they wanted to do, even managing to score two touchdowns with Tommy Maddox--the one QB in the league I wouldn't trade Dilfer for--at the helm.

Of course, with all the weapons they had, I think they might have scored a couple touchdowns with me at QB. After all, I can reverse pivot and stick the ball in Jerome Bettis' or Duce Staley's ample gut as well as the next guy. Speaking of ample guts, that appears to have been the only thing that slowed the Steelers' rushing game all night. Bettis, in particular, seemed to be able to gain seven yards whenever he felt like it, pausing only for periodic doses of oxygen and bites of his Primanti Brothers sandwich (pictured above, and highly recommended by the Rhino).

With the notable exception of Reuben Droughns, who is a stud, the Browns were their inept selves last night. One of the things you've got to admire about the Pumpkin Helmets is their ability to rise to the occasion--the bigger the stage, the more embarrassing their performance. This started, of course, with their unforgettable first game back in 1999, where a Sunday night national TV audience learned that these new guys sure weren't your father's Cleveland Browns (nothing drives that point home quite like 43 to zippity doo da).

The Browns certainly upheld this grand tradition of ineptitude last night. There were so many examples: a QB who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, receivers who were absolutely terrified--I mean peeing-their-pants-just-seen- a- ghost- plane- plummeting-from-the- sky petrified-- to catch balls over the middle, a left tackle whose highest and best use appears to be as a Sponge Bob Square Pants balloon in a Thanksgiving Day parade, etc. On the defensive side of the ball, you had the amazin' stumblin' safeties, the human blocking sled, Alvin McKinley, up front, and the clueless linebacking crew wandering around aimlessly five to seven yards behind the line of scrimmage, wondering just exactly what they're supposed to do in a 3-4 scheme.

You know, I don't expect much from this team, at least not this year, but I do wish they'd figure out a way to be less boring. The boredom factor was brought home to me again last night, when Paul Maguire mentioned something about the Jaguars coming close to tying the new Browns record streak of games in which the team scored less than 30 points. I wasn't aware of that record, but it sure didn't surprise me. The Browns have been the most boring team in football for so long that fans who used to lose sleep over the team now find themselves struggling to stay awake during games. So, Phil and Romeo, add another objective to your list--if you can't win with the personnel you've got, at least figure out a way to keep us awake.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

College Football's Best Coach

A number of names could plausibly be put forward in response to the question "who is college football's best coach?" Pete Carroll has turned a moribund USC program into the juggernaut that it was back in the 1960s and 1970s. In only his second year on the job, Jim Tressel won the National Championship that the Buckeyes sought for 35 years, and has kept Ohio State near the top of the rankings ever since. Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno and Steve Spurrier are all living legends, and in his first year, Charlie Weiss has delighted the Irish faithful with the kind of offensive football that hasn't been seen in South Bend in decades.

All of these guys are worthy candidates, but to me, you've got to give the nod to a man whose team got thumped, 42-21, by my beloved Fighting Irish yesterday afternoon. That's right, Paul Johnson, head coach of the United States Naval Academy, gets my vote for the best coach in college football. What's he done? Well, he took a team that went 1-20 during the two seasons before his arrival, and after a 2-10 start, posted records of 8-5 and 10-2. This year, he's 5-4, one win away from bowl eligibility, and one victory over a pathetic Army team away from his third straight Commander-in-Chief's Trophy.

He's also led the Midshipmen to two straight bowl appearances, winning last year's Emerald Bowl in San Francisco 34-19 over New Mexico. That victory was highlighted by one of the greatest drives in college football history, a 26 play epic that began on Navy's one yard line late in the 3rd quarter, consumed 14:26 and culminated in a field goal that stabbed a knife into New Mexico's hopes and catapulted the Midshipmen to a #24 ranking in the final AP poll for last season.

Johnson's not the only service academy coach to go toe-to-toe with the big boys. Fisher DeBerry's Air Force Academy squads have been putting the fear of God into football factories for a long time, and along the way, Air Force has chopped down some mighty tall trees, including three wins against Notre Dame and a Liberty Bowl victory over Ohio State. Still, the Air Force program was in great shape when DeBerry took over in 1983, when coach Ken Hatfield took the head coaching position at Arkansas and left DeBerry with a squad that had gone 10-2 the previous year.

While DeBerry's accomplishments since becoming head coach are impressive, Johnson's accomplishments during his tenure are nothing short of miraculous. What's even more amazing is, the guy's done it twice.

Paul Johnson's last coaching stop was Georgia Southern, a one-time Division I-AA powerhouse that had fallen on hard times. Georgia Southern finished 4-7 in 1996, the year before he took over. In 1997, they went 10-3; the next year, they went 14-1, losing only in the National Championship game. That apparently left a bad taste in Johnson's mouth, which he washed out by posting back-to-back National Championships the following two seasons. After one more 12-2 season, it was off to Annapolis.

Johnson's career shows that one of the things that has made football such a great sport over the years is still true today: the race is not always to the swift, and the fight is not always to the strong. When discipline, execution and heart are combined with a game plan designed to put a team in a position to win, they can not only make a team like Navy competitive, but a team to be feared.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Indians' Free Agents

Just to bust up all the usual chest thumping and teeth gnashing that precedes the two annual Browns---Steelers matchups, I thought I'd drop in a few lines about the Tribe's free agents.

To start off the free agent season, the Elias Sports Bureau published its player rankings. The rankings mean very little in the real world, but they mean the world in evaluating free agents. Type A players are considered to be in the top 30% of players. Those teams who lose Type A free agents get compensated with a low first or high second round pick in the amateur draft plus a supplemental pick after the first round. Type B free agents, who are supposed to be in the next 20% of the free agents, net a low first or high second round pick for the teams they leave. The loss of a Type C free agent results in his team getting a supplement pick after the second round. Elias ranks the Indians free agents as follows:


If all four guys get picked up by other teams, the Indians will get 2 picks each for Wickman and Howry and one pick each for Millwood and Elarton. Those picks will be set off by any picks the Indians lose for any free agents they sign. Maybe Dolan's grand plan is to let all his free agents go, sign a few nondescript Type C guys, and load up on extra draft picks. That'd be great except the Indians' first round picks generally suck. I've said before that I think that's because our head man is too cheap and won't shell out the dough necessary for true impact players. I hope it's not just that Shapiro and his crew suck at evaluating talent. I don't think it's Shapiro. He seems a pretty decent judge of talent and the Tribe has passed on too many guys in the draft who were obvious studs. Most notably, the Indians abhor first round talent represented by Devil Boras.

So, what's all this mean? Sadly, I suspect that it foreshadows the type of Hot Stove season to which any loyal Tribe fan has become brutally accustomed. There will be a lot of sound and fury from the Tribe's front office but damn little to show for it when April rolls around.

Browns v. Steelers

Did you enjoy the newspaper columns this week about how the Browns v. Steelers rivalry has lost its luster because the Browns always stink? How about the articles on the same topic that were written last year? How about the ones written the year before that? And the year before that?

Reading the sports sections (PD and Beacon Journal) in this town, it's hard not to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. There's a seasonality to the media coverage of Cleveland sports. Right now, we're transitioning from the annual bout of frustration about the Browns to the annual premature euphoria about the Cavs (You know how this plays out, right? Can LeBron turn things around? Yes!... [2 months pass] Well, maybe... [2 more months] Oh no! We suck again!) During this transition period--usually just in time for the holidays--we have the bitter recriminations when, as Vinny predicts will happen again this year, the Indians inevitably fail to sign key players. 'Tis the season to be jolly.

Anyway, here's the prediction. I know Big Ben's out, and that Duce Staley is going to get most of the action at RB, but the Browns defense still isn't good enough (28th against the run) to stop Pittsburgh's running game (3rd best in the AFC). This is not a game in which the Browns can afford to play catch up. They need to establish their own running game, get the lead, and make Charlie Batch, who is starting in place of Roethlisberger, throw the ball. Otherwise, Pittsburgh will chew up huge chunks of clock on the ground and the result will be the usual one.

I don't think the Browns get it done this week. Pittsburgh 21, Cleveland 9.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Armistice Day

Today is Veterans' Day, originally known as Armistice Day. While the holiday now honors all war veterans, it is important to remember what it originally commemorated. At 11:00 a.m. on November 11, 1918 (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month), the guns fell silent on the Western Front, and World War I came to a close.

While World War II certainly was more horrific in terms of the numbers of people killed, I think World War I is appropriately regarded as the greatest cataclysm of the 20th Century. Because of it, Bolshevism came to Russia, Nazism came to Germany, and a century long period of peace and stability in Europe was replaced by three quarters of a century of conflict and uncertainty.

I wanted to remind people of this fact, because I'm surprised how little attention is paid to World War I and its fallout outside of the community of professional historians. That fact was driven home to me in a telephone conversation that I had yesterday with a guy in Toronto. We were working on a business transaction, and when he was reminded that today was a legal holiday in the U.S., he noted that this shouldn't cause us any problems, because it wasn't a holiday in Ontario. That surprised me, because the valor of Canadian troops at a place called Vimy Ridge during the Nivelle Offensive of 1917 was one of the key experiences in forging Canadians' national identity. At one time, Vimy Ridge was almost as central to what it meant to be a Canadian as Gallipoli was to what it meant to be an Australian.

Americans are forgetful as well. The United States entered the war late, when the allies were near exhaustion. The French wanted to split the American Expeditionary Force up among existing French and British units, but General Pershing refused. They would fight under their own flag, and fight they did. By the Summer of 1918, the Americans had proven themselves to be quite ferocious. During the Battle of Chateau Thierry, elite Prussian storm troops got behind a group of American soldiers. The Americans turned on them, fixed bayonets, and by the time the dust settled, there were only three Germans left alive.

"How did you do it?" asked a Prussian officer. "We are storm troops."

"Storm hell!" the American responded. "I come from Kansas, where we have tornadoes."

When Marshal Foch began the offensive that would win the war in 1918, he selected the units in which he had the most faith to lead it. Those troops were the French Foreign Legion, two divisions of the United States Army, and the United States Marine Corps.

So, think of all who served our country today, but spare a special thought for the men of The Great War. The horror they lived through, the valor they demonstrated, and the sacrifice they made should always remain in our memories.

They got it right

The Sporting News got it right. Its writers selected Mark Shapiro as the Executive of the Year, as I said should happen in my first post on October 8th entitled, "He's just that kind of fun guy."

Rather than being pleased that our guy received a little recognition, the award only heightens my concern. I have been reading that the devil, Scott Boras, keeps saying that almost all teams are interested in giving Kevin Millwood a five-year deal. That's devil code for "the Indians are out of the picture." That's a problem. This will be perhaps the weakest free agent group in the last 10 years. There aren't a lot of options for team improvement who will be available. That's why Dolan's unwillingness or inability to grab a top player last year is inexcusable.

I suspect that, after the Hot Stove season ends, Larry Dolan will still have his hands in his empty pockets and mumble something about the market not cooperating with Shapiro's plan. That's bull. The teams and MLB know what the free agent market will be like years in advance. All player contracts are filed with the league. All teams know who will be a free agent and when. The only exceptions are those players who rework contracts during their terms.

Here's a safe prediction: Dolan blows it and lets Shapiro take the hit. Don't let him. Put the blame where it deserves to be.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Coolest Ritual in Sports

What's the coolest ritual in sports? Is it the Miami Hurricanes crashing through the fog to enter the stadium? How about the Florida State's Chief Osceola driving his flaming spear into the 50 yard line before the game? Maybe it's Script Ohio? Midnight Madness at Chapel Hill? The Cameron Crazies' antics when a Duke opponent's at the charity stripe? Cubs fans throwing the other team's dingers back? Pick any one of them you like. For my money, the New Zealand All-Blacks rugby team takes the prize. Before each game, they do a Maori dance called "The Haka." It's way cool, and intimidating as hell.

Take a look at the effect of The Haka on England's team (the reigning World Champs) just before a 2004 match. You'll need Real Player for this one, and it's kind of a lengthy download, but I think it's worth it.

The Haka's fairly menacing, and the other teams know it. Most try to look impassive, which is what England does, rather unconvincingly, in the attached clip. However, according to the New Zealand Rugby Museum, that isn't always the case: "in 1989 Irish captain Willie Anderson led his team forward to a virtual face to face confrontation. Newport that year retired behind their goalline, so the All Blacks advanced to the 22 to issue their challenge. English hooker Richard Cockerill eyeballed Norm Hewitt as he led the haka at Manchester in late 1997. There have too been various Australian reactions."

"Just Win Baby"

I really wanted to call this post "Smokin' Hot Wet Lesbian Cheerleaders" but thought that was a little much for a family-oriented blog like ours. As noted, the Rhino and I did have a few drinks and brought our bartender to a place of enlightenment by the end of the evening. She was great. She's twenty-five years old and is preparing to use her very valuable Political Science degree from CSU to launch her career in electoral politics. Having a great deal of expertise in this area, since the Rhino and I are both proud Poli Sci graduates, and because we'd been drinking for a while when she told us about her ambitions, we gave her some unsolicited advice. Good luck darling. Don't let anyone dissuade you. You have certain attributes that no Political Science professor can teach. I don't know if that makes you electable, but it's far better than the alternative.

Anyway, back to football. Those of you who follow the Raiders know that "Just Win Baby" is the slogan of the owner, Al Davis. It came from his days as the coach of the outlaw AFL Oakland Raiders. It meant that he didn't really care what you did all week long, as long as you strapped it up on Sunday and played 60 minutes of smash mouth football. The Raiders have always used the slogan as a source of pride and a means to attract otherwise troubled souls to the Silver and Black. The list of wild players who found a home and prospered with the Raiders is huge, but perhaps no one lived the slogan more than Big John Matuszak. At 6'8" and 280 pounds, he was one of the dominant defensive players of his era and led the Raider defense to two Super Bowl victories. He died at age 38 of heart failure, which people attribute to his wild and reckless life, including the use of recreational drugs and anabolic steroids. The reason I was thinking about the Raiders and The Tooz, is all this nonsense about the TopCats (you know, the hot lesbian cheerleaders ---see I can play too, Rhino ). You see, The Tooz apparently had a penchant for The Raiderettes, and usually two of them at a time. So, with all the hypocrisy surrounding the the discovery that cheerleaders, in this case the TopCats, might not be entirely so demure, I thought I'd check in on my favorite professional football cheerleaders, The Raiderettes. If you check out their official website, you'll be pleased to see that The Raiderettes are all about T & A, and provide no illusions about supporting the community or doing anything other than providing a little titillation in between tackles. Let's face it. Americans love football, and all real Americans love football when it's accompanied by smokin' hot women in revealing costumes.

Check out The Raiderettes' website. A "Committment to Excellence," indeed.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Rhino + Vinny + Alcohol = Brett Favre is Overrated

I sat in my office this evening, doing the Lord's work and generally making the world safe for large American corporations, when Vinny called to inform me that he was in my building's lobby, and that it was time for me to buy him a beer. That sounded reasonable to me. As we imbibed we discussed a wide range of topics: foreign policy, the war, taxes--in other words, lots of stuff we knew nothing whatsoever about.

Fortunately, I'll spare you those bloviations. If you want that crap, there are only about a trillion other places on the Internet where you can get. You come here looking for sports drivel or, if you're like the 1,100 people who've been here since yesterday afternoon, lesbian cheerleaders. Make that hot, naked, lesbian cheerleaders (that ought to give us another 5,000 hits!).

Anyway, eventually the topic turned to sports, and after a few diversions relating to bad Cavs draft picks (think Tragic Langdon), we somehow stumbled onto Brent Favre, and specifically onto how overrated this guy is as a quarterback.

Now, don't get me wrong, there's a lot to like about Brett Favre, but people who think he's in the same class with the likes of Joe Montana, Horseface, Tarkenton, Broadway Joe or The Great Johnny Unitas, peace be upon him, are smoking crack. Like many of today's QBs with inflated stats (think Marino), Favre owes quite a bit to rule changes that have stacked the deck against defenses for much of the last 25 years. For example, think of the illegal chuck rule, the changes in blocking rules that "legalized" holding, the ability to avoid an intentional grounding call by getting outside the tackle box and throwing the ball away, the stupid interpretations that result in roughing the passer calls if a defensive player hits a QB a split-second after he releases the ball.

I will give Favre credit. He is one tough hombre and a very good--borderline great even--NFL QB. He's got a ring and three MVPs, and is a lock for Canton, but he has hung around for way too long and been given way too much slack by a media that has absolutely fallen in love with him. Boomer Esiason was the first member of the media with the stones to point out that the Emperor has no clothes, when he called Favre out for his truly bizarre decision to throw an underhand shovel pass on the last play of the Packers' final drive against the Bengals a few weeks back.

I saw that play too, and it reminded of a bigger gaffe by Favre in a bigger game--one that was so bad that any other QB would have heard about it all offseason.

What I'm talking about is the play that took place just before halftime in the Packers' playoff game against the Vikings last season. Green Bay was down by 14 and had driven deep into Minnesota territory. On third and five from about the 15 yard line, Favre dropped back to pass, got pressure and then started to run. For some inexplicable reason, about a yard short of a Packer first down, the Great One threw a weird underhand basketball pass across his body to a receiver for a touchdown. Brilliant improvisation, but the problem was that Favre was past the line of scrimmage--way past--when he did this. That meant no touchdown, no first down, no fourth and short, no chance to close the Viking lead to a touchdown at halftime. Instead, Favre got a penalty, and the Packers had to try a field goal, which they missed.

AND NOBODY SAID ANYTHING!!! This may be the stupidest thing I've ever seen on a football field, but because it was Brett Favre, nobody mentioned it. Sure, it was overshadowed by the jackassery of Randy Moss, who chose to moon the Green Bay faithful that day, but c'mon--this is a really, really bad decision that the guy should have been called on the carpet for. But, because he's The Great Brett Favre, nobody said squat.

Come to think of it, I will have another beer.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Vinny blows a golden opportunity to catapult us to the top of the search engine rankings

Last year, something called the British Council conducted a survey that concluded the most beautiful word in the English language is "Mother." Awwww, that's nice.

Nobody's conducted a survey on the most popular phrase in the English language among men ages 18-35, because there's just no reason to do that. Everybody knows that among that segment of the populace, there is no combination of words that could possibly be more appealing than "lesbian cheerleaders."

My pal Vinny blew it. He puts up a solid post on the antics of the Carolina Panthers' cheerleaders, but not once does he use the magic words that would be guaranteed to get Vinny and the Hornless Rhino 200,000 hits per day. What was he thinking?

Okay, Google, here it goes:

lesbian cheerleaders
lesbian cheerleaders
lesbian cheerleaders
lesbian cheerleaders

Monday, November 07, 2005

Boys will be boys.

And girls most definitely will be girls. That includes the spirited beautiful woman who occasionally diddles another woman in public. What's the big deal? That's the kind of thing that guys read about in articles that begin, "I attend a major midwestern college; and I never thought this would happen to me; but...." As has been said, that's the stuff that dreams are made of.

Apparently, it's not and I'm sadly out of step with the rest of America because a couple of the TopCats, the Carolina Panthers' cheerleaders, were arrested this weekend for having sex in a public bathroom. Their mug shots are above. I'm still trying to figure out who reported them. I know that a disgruntled customer complained that they were tying up the bathroom with their antics, but for cryin' out loud, it was at a Banana Joe's in Tampa. Do you think that was the first time two people had sex there? Do you think it was even the first time last week that someone had sex there?

Stuff like that happens all the time. Lots of us wish and hope against hope that it would happen to us. So, why the outrage and an arrest? Is it just that this is fine for us to think about or even do but not acknowledge in polite company? This whole experience left me a little confused, but then I thought about Colonel Jessup. He may have said it best:

You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about
at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall.

---Colonel Nathan R. Jessup
A Few Good Men

Browns 20, Titans 14

Well, I'll take it! It wasn't pretty, and it frequently wasn't very good, but it was a win featuring some hard nosed performances by the Browns' defense and Reuben Droughns, who overcame the distraction of his DUI arrest to give the Browns the most gutsy performance from a running back that they've seen since they returned to town.

Right now, I'm blogging from LaGuardia airport, so I'm not going to say much more. I was at the game yesterday, and there are a few thumbs-ups and thumbs-downs that I want to give out before I get on my plane.

Thumbs way, WAY up for Reuben Droughns, who literally left it all on the field for the Browns.
Thumbs up for Dennis Northcutt for the catch and the double reverse. Welcome back to the Cleveland offense, Dennis.
Thumbs up for the Browns' defense, which shut down the Titans when it had to do so.
Thumbs up for Kyle Richardson, whom I've crucified over the last two weeks. He deserved crucifixion then and he deserves praise now.
Thumbs down for Phil Dawson. I don't care if you were 14 for 14--you get paid to hit a 39 yard field goal in the clutch, and you didn't.
Thumbs down for Steve Heiden. Talk about untimely penalties!
Thumb up his ass--again--for Trent Dilfer. What was he thinking when he once again made a decision (the third down pass behind the line of scrimmage) that took the Browns out of field goal range late in the 4th quarter?
Thumbs down for the Rhino, who managed to fit his ample head up his ass once again with this weekend's prediction (jeez, I had cool stats and everything!)
Thumbs up for the stadium entrepreneuer who came up with the "Kellen Knievel" tee shirt being hawked outside the game yesterday. Outstanding!

Finally, a BIG thumbs up for the truth in advertising homeless guy I saw on the way out of the game, who held up a sign that read: "Why Lie? I need money for beer" as he jingled his cup full of coins.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Browns v. Titans

Okay, here we go again. The Rhino is trotting out his bruised ego and will try to do a little better with his prognosticating than he did last weekend.

The Browns host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday. On paper, the Titans are just as putrid as the Browns. Like Cleveland, Tennessee is reeling from three straight losses. While the Browns' losses are attributable to several factors, one problem in particular stands out for the Titans: turnovers.

The Titans lead the AFC in turnovers with 17 and have the conference's worst turnover ratio (-8). During their three game skid, Titan turnovers have resulted in 41 total points for the opposition. That number's big enough, but when you consider that the total margin of victory in those games was 27 points, it shows the devastating effect that turnovers have had on the Titans so far this season.

Even though they've been pegged as three point favorites, I don't like the Browns' chances, and I'll tell you why. First, there's the distraction factor. The Browns' needed Reuben Droughns' arrest and the QB controversy this week like they needed a hole in the head. Second, and more importantly, Tennessee's going to almost have to give this game away with turnovers, because the Browns just don't match up well with them. In fact, the areas of the game in which the Titans are the strongest are the ones in which the Browns are the weakest. For instance:

  • Cleveland ranks 15th out of 16 teams in the AFC in third down percentage, converting on only 31.6% of its attempts. In contrast, Tennessee's defense ranks 2nd in the AFC and fourth in the NFL on third down percentage. Titans' opponents have converted only 30.4% of all third downs. On 3rd-and-4 or less, Tennessee's opponents are only 10 for 36.

  • The Browns need to run the ball against the Titans, but they rank an anemic 13th in the conference, with an average of 92.1 yards per game. In contrast, Tennessee's defense ranks 6th in the AFC against the rush.

  • While the Browns struggled in the kicking game last week, the Titans' Pacman Jones is 3rd in the NFL in kick returns with a 28.6 average, while Courtney Roby is 16th with a 24 yard per return average.

Tennessee is vulnerable to the pass, and has given up an AFC leading 17 touchdowns through the air, but you tell me if anything the Browns have done in the past three weeks leads you to believe that they're going to light up anybody's secondary right about now.

Offensively, putting the turnovers aside, Tennessee's been pretty effective passing the ball, ranking 4th in the AFC in both yardage and completion percentage. Their running game stinks, but not as bad as the Pumpkin Helmets' rushing game does.

The Titans are dealing with a number of injuries to key players (9 players sat out practice on Wednesday, including Steve McNair), and they are the youngest team in football. Still, when you look at the numbers, Tennessee isn't as bad a team as their record suggests. I'm not so sure the same can be said for the Browns. Titans 23, Browns 16.

Here's hoping I'm wrong again this week.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Pity Party

Sometimes, you've just got to shake your head at the arrogance of the average NFL owner. My new pal, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, is at it again. Apparently, people who are trying to put their lives back together after seeing their city destroyed don't take too kindly to a fat cat looking to move his team to greener pastures, and aren't afraid to let him know it.

Like everyone in Northeast Ohio, I've got no sympathy for Mr. Benson's bruised feelings. Go ahead, Tom, make everyone's day and stay away from the Saints' home games--such as they are--for the rest of the season. Then, when you skedaddle with your team for San Antonio, be sure to blame the politicians and say things like "I had no choice."

Oh, and by the way, isn't it great to see the umbrage this clown takes at the thugs who he contends were threatening him? Hey, bud, welcome to the average NFL fan's typical Sunday experience. Thanks to the level of boorish behavior that you and your colleagues have tolerated for years, you've managed to drive everyone else's wives and kids from the stadiums, so turnabout is fair play.

Cheer up, Tom--unlike everybody else who has been subjected to this behavior at an NFL game, at least you get the beer revenues.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Life's little certainties

It has been suggested that death and taxes are the only two certainties in life. I would like to propose a third--- the annual arrest of the Browns' feature back for DUI. It's a little early this year, though, isn't it?

In Reuben's defense, after Sunday's game, wouldn't you drink too?

Speaking of drunks, Vinny's post reminded me of my favorite incident involving a fan running on to the field. Back in the early 1970s, the Colts were playing a playoff game, and some drunk fan ran onto the field and decided to help himself to the football. That didn't sit well with Colts' linebacker Mike Curtis, who knocked the fan out cold with a tremendous forearm to the head.

By the way, Mike Curtis went to Duke, which is probably why Marty Schottenheimer thought fellow Duke alum and Browns' #1 pick Mike Junkin would be -- let's say it together now--- "A Mad Dog in a Meat Market." Ah, memories!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

On field etiquette

I was watching the replays of the goof in Cincinnati who ran on the field and grabbed the ball from Brett Favre. He's pretty lucky that it was the paunchy security guard who gave him a pile driver into the turf, as opposed to a pissed-off player. With 22 world class athletes standing around in armor, that guy's lucky he didn't get killed.

Although I tend to believe that athletes are generally overpaid, thin-skinned, pampered prima donnas, I do think they have the right to kick someone's ass who enters the playing field. In addition to being fundamentally fair, it's pretty damn entertaining.

Remember the guy who parachuted into the Evander Holyfield---Riddick Bowe boxing match and received a heavyweight ass-kicking for his trouble? I loved that. He claimed the moniker "Fan Man," and used a motorized parachute to drop in on the fight to protest the "senseless violence of boxing." Unfortunately for Fan Man, the protest didn't really have its desired effect. You see, the other fans, who paid a lot of dough to watch a heavyweight fight not some jackass with a parachute, beat him senseless. When he recovered consciousness, he was jailed That's the kind of sports memory that sadly doesn't get included in ESPN's Most Exciting Sports Moments, even though it was exciting and funny as hell.

Of course, the grandaddy of them all may be the time, in April of 1975, when Rick Monday of the Dodgers shoved a protester down and wrenched the American flag away from him before he could burn it. Monday became an instant hero; received a boatload of congratulatory letters; and had a career year to boot. The protester, on the other hand, was jailed.

Although I generally enjoy watching the occasional overzealous fan receive a televised beating from one of his sports heroes, I'll pass along a quick suggestion that might save a loyal Vinny and the Hornless Rhino reader from that fate: First and foremost, I think it's safe to say that you should not, under any circumstance, enter the field of play during a game. That rule, however, doesn't apply at all if you have really big jugs. If you've got 'em, go for it. The world is your oyster. Of course, you don't need me to tell you that. You've probably known that since the eighth grade. But, to be clear, I don't mean to imply that, if you're merely "buxom," you have a free pass to run out onto the field or court. Oh no. I mean you have to have really BIG JUGS to get away with it. They have to be big enough to stop a guy in his tracks on the street. They have to be big enough to be seen from a good distance. For example, the outfielders have to know in a glance that you're some hot chick running out on the field toward home plate and not some deranged nut trying to offer violence to a teammate. Morgana the Kissing Bandit never seemed to get into trouble, even though she was routinely violating ballpark rules. Perhaps that's because her stated measurements were 60-23-35.

I know I wouldn't have the heart to convict someone like that for criminal trespassing, but that's just me. I'm old-fashioned.

There he goes again with the "one play" thing!

Like I said before, it isn't just one play.

How the NFL Works

The NFL has earned a reputation as the nation's best-run professional sports league. Here are two incidents that illustrate the thinking that underlies NFL's vaunted management style.

In early October, Baltimore's Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed were fined $15,000 a piece for making contact with officials during the Ravens loss to the Lions. While Reed shoved the official, Suggs' contact involved his face mask touching the bill of the ref's cap while he was arguing over a roughing the passer call. Suggs' contact may have been unintentional, but the NFL is to be applauded for cracking down on this type of conduct. After all, the integrity of the league is at stake in these situations.

Now, just to show you that the NFL isn't afraid to exercise some discretion, it announced yesterday that no action would be taken against Saints owner Tom Benson, who went on a teensy weensy rampage after the Saints' loss to the Dolphins last week. Benson reportedly smacked and grabbed at a television camera (with a cameraman attached to it). This was followed shortly by
Benson reportedly "cursing and stepping toward a fan who was taunting him before members of Benson's entourage pulled him back."

NFL mouthpiece Greg Aiello announced the league's decision not to take action against Benson yesterday. He noted that he reviewed the tape, and the incident "appears to be nothing more than a brief heated exchange with a member of the media that was caught on camera" and that "it's not the first time in the world of sports and entertainment that something like this has occurred." Greg, you're so right. After all, Mr. Benson's been under tremendous stress lately, as the liquid H-bomb that was dropped on New Orleans put a crimp in his plans to pull a Modell on the Crescent City and move his team to San Antonio or Los Angeles.

Now, some of you probably can't understand the distinction between fining a player whose contact with the official involved touching the bill of his cap $15,000 and not fining an immature jerk of an owner who attacks a cameraman and has to be restrained from going after a fan. Let me explain the distinction to you: Tom Benson is a rich white owner, and Terrell Suggs is a rich black player. That's how things work down on the NFL plantation.