Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Big Baseball Trade

Did anyone notice that Kris Benson, one of last year's free agent "gems," was recently traded from the Mets to the Orioles? If not, you should investigate it.

Start with his wife, Anna Benson. That's her over there, and there, and there.

She loves herself. Happily, she also makes love to herself fairly often and writes or speaks about it---incessantly. Check out all her wisdom at http://www.annabenson.net Don't miss Anna's Scarlett Letters where sadly she shows her "intelligence" rather than her boobs.

Also, check out "Ask Anna Anything," where she discusses, in her words, her "funbags." Obviously, this was a big acquisition for the Orioles. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Mathias Kiwanuka

Another guy already showing up in a few mock drafts as a possible Browns' first round pick is Boston College defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. Kiwanuka is 6'7" but only 260 lbs, which means he could probably put on another 20 lbs without losing any of his quicks, of which he has plenty (4.75 forty). The scouting reports on him say he's a natural pass rusher with a lot of upside, but is not yet a solid run defender and has trouble shedding blocks. Depending on who you listen to, Kiwanuka is either the first or second ranked DE in the draft.

Kiwanuka scares me. He is an incredible physical specimen but has a lot of question marks. I'm afraid that the Browns might want to convert a guy like him to OLB, which would make the pick even more risky.

Interestingly, he's the grandson of Uganda's first prime minister, Benedicto Kiwanuka, who was assassinated by Idi Amin in 1972.

Kelly Shoppach

Kelly Shoppach was a nice piece to the Coco Crisp trade. He'll be a pretty solid big league catcher. But, don't believe the Jason Varitek comparisons that have been thrown around. He's not Varitek and won't be unless he exhibits a big growth spike. Right now he projects to be more like Benjie Molina than Varitek. His projected major league equivalency based upon his minor league performance looks like this: .242 average; .320 on-base; and .419 slugging. He's capable of 18 homers and a similar number of doubles. If you compare him offensively to the other MLB catchers, he'd end up in the top 35%. On the other hand, Victor Martinez would grade out as a top three catcher in anyone's scenario.

But the reason Shopppach's addition to the deal generates a little excitement is that he controls the running game. Last year in AAA, he threw out 44% of the runners who tried to steal against him. Typically, anything over 33% is considered very good. His caught stealing rate will likely go down in the majors, but the bottom line is that, as the cliche goes, he has very good catch and throw skills. When you combine Shoppach's excellent defensive skills with his above average (for the position) hitting, he presents as a good major leaguer.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Blogger and Media Reactions to the Crisp Deal

Cleveland fans are supposedly upset by the Crisp deal. If that's so, none of those fans appear to be on the Internet. Reaction among Tribe bloggers is uniformly favorable. Check these out.

Of course, the Red Sox are spinning the deal hard, and if Epstein's as high on it as he sounds, we ought to worry a little, because he's no dummy. Reaction among the Sox fans appears mixed, with some guys going so far as to say that Coco will quickly make fans stop missing Johnny Damon. Others are a little more wary.

The local media has some analysis of the deal, starting with The Beacon-Journal's Terry Pluto, who wrote about the deal in-depth and is generally favorable toward it. In The News-Herald, Jim Ingraham's column focuses on the other prospect included in the deal, catcher Kelly Shoppach. What about The Plain Dealer? While the PD devotes a lot of newsprint to covering the trade itself, aside from a brief Paul Hoynes soundbite about the deal, the only Tribe analysis this morning was contained in Roger Brown's column, where he discussed Casey Blake. Go figure.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Haloti Ngata

Oregon nose tackle Haloti Ngata is getting a lot of buzz as a possible Browns' first round pick. Here's what the Canton Repository's Steve Doerschuk said in his team report on the Browns at The Sporting News.com:

"The Browns are taking a hard look at Oregon T Haloti Ngata. His listed size of 6-3 3/4, 336 pounds could change at the NFL Scouting Combine, but there's no doubt his body type fits Crennel's scheme. Ngata declared for the draft early, but he's not too young, having turned 22 on Jan. 21. As a junior at Orgeon, he learned not to rely only on his incredible strength. He found new ways to get leverage and use his feet to consistently tie up more than one blocker. His knack for blocking kicks speaks to his ability to get an inside push as a pass rusher, an element the Browns sorely lacked in 2005. Ngata would make sense for the Browns at the No. 12 position in Round 1, and early projections suggest he could be there."

I saw this guy play a couple of times this year (against Oregon St. and in the Holiday Bowl), and he can be a terror when he wants to be. If anything, he looks bigger than his listed size. Another thing that I love about this guy is that he was once kicked out of a national championship high school rugby game for unnecessary roughness. Ever see a rugby game? You've got to commit felony assault in order to get tossed out for unnecessary roughness. The Browns could sure use somebody like that to shore up the porous middle of that defensive line.

Here's a profile of Ngata. I don't know enough about him right now to have an opinion of him as a prospect, other than to say that it sounds like he's definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Coco Crisp Trade

The Tribe pulled the trigger on the Coco Crisp deal last night, but only after Boston sweetened it a bit by throwing in more cash and a player to be named later and more cash. Did I mention more cash? Now Larry Dolan can afford to buy the baseballs for Spring Training.

Shapiro's take on all of this is "trust me," and he's certainly earned that much from Tribe fans. With the Sox desperate to replace Damon, Crisp's value may never have been higher. There's a lot of upside potential in this trade, although most of it is long-term. Based on what Shapiro's saying, my guess is that stud 3rd base prospect Andy Marte, whom the trade is all about, isn't likely to make a big impact until 2007. (Sorry gang, it looks like the Aaron Boone and Casey Blake show again at the hot corner this year).

Guillermo Mota could be a nice pick-up if healthy, but the jury's out on whether Jason Michaels is an every day player. The guy certainly put up decent offensive numbers as a part-timer for the Phillies last year. He doesn't have Coco's speed, but you can't steal first, and Michaels' OBP is 60 points higher than Crisp's. However, the rap on him in Philly was that he was better suited to play left or right field, but with Abreu and Burrell on the roster, he was never going to get that chance. If that's right, then maybe he'll be able to come into his own in Cleveland (and if he posts the kind of numbers that Vinny thinks he might, I'll be happy). Unfortunately, there's also evidence to suggest that Michaels is a bit of a knucklehead, as demonstrated by his arrest last season for taking a poke at a Philly cop.

Like Vinny said, it's a shame that the Tribe's only able to make roster moves by giving up young talent. Without the resources to play effectively in the free agent market, Shapiro really does have to do his job with one hand tied behind his back. That's too bad, because he deserves better. Come to think of it, so do we.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Check out this Cool Website

What if the 1965 NFL Championship was played in Cleveland, instead of Green Bay? What if the 1964 NFL Champion Browns played the AFL Champion Buffalo Bills? Could the Miracle at Richfield Cavs have beaten the Celtics if Jim Chones hadn't broken his foot?

To find the answers to these questions, or any other NFL, MLB, NBA or NHL "what ifs?" that have been bugging you, go to WhatIfSports.com and click on "Sim Matchup."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Chuck Norris Internet Meme

Okay, this is admittedly off-topic, but my brain is still trying to process the concept of LeBron in white panty hose.

Over the past month or so, I've been e-mailed various versions of all sorts of facts about actor and martial artist Chuck Norris, and have dutifully forwarded those on to others. If you haven't received an e-mail version of "Chuck Norris Facts," then you're probably the only person in English-speaking world who hasn't. However, the rate at which they're appearing has accelerated, and the Chuck Norris Internet meme appears to be expanding into new media. For example, yesterday, I got this, which is a tape of Tony Danza reading "Chuck Norris Facts" to Chuck Norris. This morning, a friend of mine sent me this, from last week's episode of Saturday Night Live. Then somebody else sent me this.

If you Google "Chuck Norris Facts," you will turn up over 500,000 results. My guess is that every site on the Internet may reference Chuck Norris in less than a week.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Hockey Night in Canada

I like hockey, but it's hard to blog about it without dredging up bitter memories of Cleveland's catastrophic NHL hockey experience, so I usually don't. On the other hand, it's a slow news day in Cleveland sports, and it might be fun to talk about something a little bit off the beaten path.

Over the last month, a lot of media attention has been devoted to the "end" of Monday Night Football, but that program is a mere infant compared to North America's longest running sports broadcast. I'm referring to the legendary Hockey Night in Canada, which, if you live close enough to the lake and haven't thrown out your old antenna, you can pick up on Saturday nights during the NHL season.

People got all dewy-eyed when Monday Night Football changed networks after 35 years. Hockey Night in Canada has been on the air for an incredible 75 years, first on CBC Radio and, since 1952, on television (usually, but not always, CBC TV). Hockey Night in Canada is the nation's highest rated domestic program, but ratings don't fully reflect how iconic this program is to Canadians. For example, HNIC's theme song has been referred to as "Canada's second national anthem." Not only that, but Don Cherry, who hosts the highly entertaining Coach's Corner segment that airs after the first period, actually finished seventh in voting for the title "The Greatest Canadian," beating out, among others, Alexander Graham Bell. By the way, Cherry's Coach's Corner segment is reportedly the single highest rated show on Canadian television, regardless of whether U.S. programming is factored into the mix.

Why would people tune in to watch Cherry if they weren't already watching the game? Nobody who's watched him would ever ask such a question. Click on the Coach's Corner link and you'll get a taste of the Don Cherry experience. Cherry played for and subsequently coached the Rochester Amerks for a few years when I was growing up, so I've always had a soft spot for him. Plus, there's just a lot to like about the guy.

Don Cherry is a one man war on political correctness ("Anybody who says they don't like fighting in the NHL has to be out of their mind"). He's a bellicose Canadian patriot, which makes him a rare commodity, and aggressively pro-American, which makes him practically an endangered species north of the border. He gets in trouble with the media or his network quite a bit, usually either for sticking up for Americans or for offending the French (or the French speaking).

Okay, that's it for hockey for a while. If I say more, I'll lapse into a rant about the injustice of Columbus having an NHL franchise while we're stuck with a rotating series of underfunded AHL teams.

Al Gore or The Unabomber? Part II

Former Vice President Al Gore is writing a new book on the environment. This one, called An Inconvenient Truth, will focus on Global Warming. This book is a hotly awaited sequel to Gore's last enviro-tome, Earth in the Balance.

The earlier book was a best seller and source of great pride to the Vice President, until it became notorious for being almost indistinguishable from the writings of Ted Kaczynski, better known as The Unabomber.

Take the famous online quiz and see if you can tell which quotes came from Earth in the Balance and which came from The Unabomber Manifesto.

In a completely unrelated development, it snowed in Hawaii today.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Heath Shuler

Remember former Redskins QB Heath Shuler? Some Skins fans sure do, and their long memories are bad news for Shuler's efforts to get himself elected to Congress. Shuler may think he's got a future in politics, but the fans who put together this website have other ideas. In fact, they don't want him anywhere near D.C. ever again.

Many pro athletes have found their way into Congress over the years, but I think anyone would be hard pressed to find an athlete who built a successful political career on the basis of a pro athletic career as undistinguished as Shuler's. The closest I can think of are local politicians like Frank Gaul of Cleveland, who played for the New York Bulldogs, and subsequently served as Cuyahoga County's Treasurer, and Ed Rutkowski of Buffalo, who played several years with the Bills and then served as the County Executive of Erie County, New York. These guys were both Notre Dame grads-- a fact that couldn't have hurt their chances with the electorate in cities like Cleveland and Buffalo.

Never hear of the New York Bulldogs? Me either.

Let's Wallow in It

Vinny commented in an earlier post about how miserable the prospect of a Denver v. Pittsburgh AFC Championship game was. That prospect was miserable, but I think the outcome is even worse.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are now about to make their 6th Super Bowl appearance and boast a 4-1 record in those games. Since the merger, the Steelers have appeared in 12 AFC Championship Games and five Super Bowls. The Browns have appeared in three AFC Championship games during that same period, and have lost them all.

The Browns are one of six teams in the NFL that have yet to appear in a Super Bowl. Those other teams are the Arizona Cardinals, the New Orleans Saints, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Houston Texans and the Detroit Lions. Pretty exclusive company, huh?

Art Modell has a Super Bowl ring. Bill Belichick has three. John Elway has two. Ernest Byner has one.

It has been 41 years since the Browns last won the NFL Championship. The last time they won, Cleveland was the 8th largest city in the United States, with a population of 876,000. It was larger than Washington, Boston, San Francisco, Dallas, Seattle and San Diego.

The Acme in Hudson, Ohio has Steelers t-shirts and terrible towels on sale for 20% off. I haven't checked whether Giant Eagle in Stow, Ohio has their festive black and yellow cupcakes out in the front of the store (Perfect for Super Bowl Parties!), but I'll let you know.

In his post, Vinny talked about the Second Circle of Hell. That gives me an idea. How about adopting the inscription on Hell's front gate --Abandon hope, all ye who enter here--as Cleveland's official motto?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Buon Anniversario

Today, Pope Benedict began the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the first 150 Swiss Guards on January 22nd, 1506.

Pope Julius II requested that Swiss mercenaries be summoned to protect the Vatican in his war with Venice to restore and expand the papal states.
Ever since, the Swiss Guards have remained.

Incidentally, though he's known as the "Warrior Pope," Julius is better known as one of the foremost patrons of the arts in Renaissance Italy. He commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel, Raphael to paint four rooms in the Vatican, and Bramante to build a new St. Peter's Basilica.

Tribe Trade???

Various media have bandied stories of trade rumors between the Indians and the BoSox. Everything I've read seems to point in the direction of a trade being finalized shortly that will send Coco Crisp to Boston for Andy Marte and Guillermo Mota.

Coco solves an immediate need for Boston. He'll be the starting centerfielder and lead-off hitter. The Indians' haul may be less apparent, but it is considerable.

For starters, many analysts think Andy Marte (that's him to the left) is one of the top five prospects in the game. He is projected to hit .280 and show increasing power. What's that mean? It means that he won't win batting titles, but he could approach 40 homers while playing solid 3B. Last year in Richmond (AAA) at age 21, he posted a .275 Average, .372 On Base, and .506 Slugging. Only Delmon Young of Tampa Bay projects to have Marte's power right now.

But why Guillermo Mota? He's a righthanded set-up man, and he has to take the place of Rafael Betancourt, whose allegedly going to the Phillies in exchange for Jason Michaels. Michaels is a 30 year old outfielder who will play LF. He always has hit for a high average .281 (lifetime). He's not averse to taking a walk and has some power. Phillie has never figured out how to use him. As a result, he's never had 300 official at-bats in the bigs. If I had to project him for 150 games, I'd say he'll bat .280, post a .375 on base, and hit 20 homeruns.

Do I like the trade? Yes. As far as purely baseball trades go, it makes sense, and if you believe in Marte, the Tribe is getting a bundle. But, it makes me sick that the Indians had to make a trade. That's right, Shapiro was forced into giving up Coco because that cheap S.O.B. Dolan can't afford to operate a major league team.

This is just all rumor at this point, but keep reading for more details if it happens.

Coco, we hardly knew ye.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

A Real Conversation

Mrs. Rhino: "You changed your blog."

Me: "Yes."

Mrs. Rhino: "Isn't it Vinny's blog too?"

Me: "Yes."

Mrs. Rhino: "Did you ask him before you did it?"

Me: "No."

Mrs. Rhino: "Why not?"

Me: "Because he is a guy."

New Links

I added a bunch of new links. These are mostly Cleveland sports blogs that I've run across, but I've also linked to the online versions of the Northeast Ohio papers' sports sections. Be sure to take a look at NFL Crimes.

Have fun.

Ten Years Later, He's Still Full of Crap

Earlier this week, Art Modell gave an interview to WTAM's Mike Trivisonno. I didn't hear the interview when it originally aired, but listened to it this morning on the WTAM website. (You can download the entire thing here. ) Art came across as he always does--a truly odd combination of bluster, arrogance, bitterness and pathos.

Art spent most of the interview telling us all what a great man he is and how evil his enemies are. He and his wife are the world's greatest philanthropists.... Every problem he's ever experienced has been the result of him trying to help somebody else out.... Nobody ever loved Cleveland more than he did --stop me if you've heard this before.

While local and state politicians, businessmen and even Paul Brown all catch heat from Modell, he saves his greatest wrath for Tony Grossi, whom Modell accuses of spearheading the effort to keep Modell out of the Hall of Fame. Grossi has reportedly been a leader in these efforts, and ought to receive a medal for them.

Modell traces the Browns' move back to what he sees as his selfless offer to take over the Stadium in order to help the City of Cleveland keep the Indians in town back in the 1970s. According to Modell's version of the truth, this move was a financial disaster from day one that ultimately cost him the Browns. Really? I think not.

Modell rented the stadium from the City for $1 per year beginning in 1973. In doing so, he picked up all operating and repair costs, but also picked up the Tribe as a tenant, with 81 dates a year to add to the Browns' 10 home dates. Not only did he pick up the Indians, but he was more than willing to use the Stadium as a venue for concerts and other events. I remember seeing Springsteen, U2 and Paul McCartney at the Stadium, and as far back as the mid 1970s, events like the "World Series of Rock" generated huge crowds at the Stadium. Modell also built luxury suites, and the money from suite rentals went to his Stadium Corporation alone. The Tribe never saw a penny.

Most people agree that Art's decision to take over the Stadium was a good business decision, and it generated tons of revenue for him over the years. But no landlord could afford to lose his biggest tenant, and when the Indians left for Gateway, there's no doubt that Modell took a big hit to his wallet. When you add on the fact that the Stadium was becoming increasingly decrepit, then yes, I think it's fair to say that the Stadium led to his downfall. But it's a much more complex story than the one Art tells, and it leaves out all the bad business decisions along the way that led him to squander 20 plus years of revenues generated by the Stadium.

Art's statement that former Gov. George Voinovich (or some other very prominent Ohio politician with a wife named Janet) told him to move the team is attracting a lot of attention, most of all from Voinovich, who has made a political career out of never having an identifiable position on any issue. Boy, is he ever squirming now.

Ultimately, the best that we can hope for from this is that Modell's transparent effort to resurrect his Hall of Fame candidacy through a media blitz will fail. Fortunately, Art didn't make the list of finalists again this year, and if he doesn't make it soon, he'll have to wait 20 years before being considered again by the Veterans Committee. That's a small price to pay for the damage he did to the Cleveland Browns during his 35 years as their owner, and an even smaller price to pay for the dagger he stabbed in the City's heart 10 years ago.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Don't adjust your computer

I got tired of the old look, so I thought I'd try something new.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Why didn't we think of that?

Remember a couple of months ago, when I chewed Vinny out for missing a golden opportunity to catapult us up the search engine rankings? Well, it turns out that I really was onto something. In fact, somebody else just did a successful variation on it, by hijacking an abandoned weblog called "Lesbian Therapy." I'll let her explain it all to you.

The Embraer ERJ-145: Brazil's Flying Torture Chamber

One of the few things in air travel that's improved over the past decade is the switch from turboprops to regional jets for short-hop flights. Flying to Indianapolis or Dayton in a little turboprop used to be a hair raising experience, with the pilot often reshuffling passengers from one side of the plane to the other in order to get an even enough weight distribution to take off safely. Even a little wind could turn a flight into a roller coaster ride, while more forceful turbulence made the flight a truly religious experience.

These flights have gotten a lot better since the airlines switched to jets, but the airlines can't help but ruin a good thing. Desperate to keep their businesses afloat until they're eligible to file bankruptcy again, the airlines are always looking to cut costs, and they've found that these regional jets provide a perfect opportunity to do just that. So, instead of using these planes exclusively on short-hops from flyover state to flyover state, it seems like the airlines switch you to one of these planes whenever they can't fill a 737. In recent years, I've found myself flying these planes to and from Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago and New York. That really sucks, because while the flight times to and from these cities are comparable to many short-hop flights, the time you spend on the tarmack sure as hell isn't.

The next time you fly to New York, look at your ticket. If you've got a 6:00 p.m. departure time from Newark or LaGuardia, you'll find your scheduled arrival in Cleveland is 8:30 p.m. Does it take two and a half hours to fly from New York to Cleveland? No, it takes between 60 and 90 minutes, but in setting the arrival time, they factor in the hour you're going to spend waiting for a runway after your plane pushes back from the gate.

Waiting for a runway always sucks, but doing it in the commuter jet of choice, the Embraer ERJ-145, is pure, unadulterated torture. The plane is made by a Brazilian manufacturer that apparently got into aviation during a slow period in sales of its bondage gear product lines. The Embraer's passenger compartment is about as wide as a casket, less than six feet tall and has no ventilation to speak of. The plane's seats appear to have been designed with the intention of causing permanent, crippling damage to the human ass if sat upon for longer than 9o minutes.

I got stuck on this plane for my return trip from New York yesterday. I should have known that I was in for trouble when I tried to check in with my e-ticket and got the message "special attention required." This usually means that I've been selected for extra screening. (I get selected for extra screening pretty frequently. Since I'm generally the whitest guy on the flight, I think they do this as a defense to a racial profiling complaint--they figure if they get me, then Muhammad, Ahmad and the other eight dark skinned guys they cavity search along with me won't be able to complain.)

Yesterday, however, I wasn't selected for extra screening. The special attention that I needed was to be informed by the person at the counter that my flight was cancelled, but that they could put me on an earlier flight. When I asked why my flight was cancelled, they said "mechanical problems." Uh-huh. In this case, "mechanical problems" translates as "if we put you in the 737 as scheduled, we'll lose money. If we shove you into the Embraer with a shoe horn, we're in the clover." In any case, into the Embraer I went.

Consistent with my enhanced profitability scenario, the plane was packed to the gills. There was no room left in the overhead storage, and I was stuck in window seat next to a guy who was also rhino-like, with my computer and carry-on kinda shoved under the seat, and with my overcoat in my lap. We pushed off from the gate, and sat. And sat. And sat. My ass started to burn, but I couldn't move. Getting up to stretch my legs was an impossibility. Even assuming I could get my fellow rhino to move over, I'd end-up hunch backed in the aisle with the flight attendant screaming at me to get back in my seat.

Finally, we took off. The flight itself was uneventful, aside from the fact that the guy in front of me did what the guy in front of me always does--yup, you guessed it, he reclined his seat. This further added to my misery, but was mitigated somewhat when the flight attendant took pity on me and gave me a whole can of diet coke, not the traditional thimble full.

Anyway, we landed and I got off the plane as fast as I could. I'm flying to Washington next week, so when I got back to the office, I checked to see what kind of plane I was on. Sure enough, ERJ-145's both ways. Lucky me.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Media Potshots at LeBron

This morning's Plain Dealer has an article by Burt Graeff that discusses the recent media criticism of LeBron James. The buzz is that LeBron's game is flawed because he can't take control of close games in crunch time and make the clutch shots needed to win. Graeff points out that this accusation is based on one missed three-point attempt on the current road trip, together with three other missed opportunities during his previous two seasons with the Cavs. That's a total of four game winning shots that he's missed in his career. LeBron's decision to pass to Eric Snow instead of taking a shot himself during the Cavs' recent loss to Portland also factors into the mix, but that's still not much to go by.

I think this negative buzz is largely the product of sportswriters staring at blank sheets of paper or talking heads staring at cameras and trying to come up with something interesting to say. Lord knows, a writer or broadcaster who is looking to trash the Cavs is never short of material, but this stuff about James is just dumb. I think you can legitimately criticize LeBron's often indifferent defense, but at this point, who knows if he's going to be Mr. Clutch or not? As the numbers make clear, it's not like the kid's had anything close to a legitimate chance to show his stuff in pressure situations during his NBA career. He's been too busy watching his teammates fold down the stretch or gazing in horror at the last few acts of former GM Jim Paxson's eight-year long Ted Stepien impersonation.

I'm blogging this afternoon from New York, where I just finished a meeting and checked into my hotel. Since I've got to be here overnight, I've managed to get some tickets to tonight's Louisville vs. St. John's game at Madison Square Garden, so look for me on ESPN2 at 9:00 p.m. It should be easy to find me -- I'll be the fat, bald, white guy in a button down shirt sitting in a crappy seat that he paid too much for.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Blown Call

This is yet another reason for the NFL to adopt the college version of instant replay. In the Rose Bowl, the only call that the replay officials blew was one where there was a technical problem that didn't allow them to see the replay in time. If you want to get it right in a critical situation, I think it just makes more sense for officials in the booth to make the call, away from the pressure of the crowd and on-field hysterics from players and coaches.

Peyton Manning

Hey Peyton, your in-game performance and post-game antics aren't playing well on the Internet. Whether it's the mainstream media, big time sites like ESPN.com or the other schlubs like us in the Blogosphere, Manning's getting trashed by everybody. Here's a sampling:

The bottom line is that Peyton Manning came up with another poor performance in a playoff game. What's more, his sideline reaction to Vanderjagt's missed field goal and his postgame "I'm trying to be a good teammate here (but it's everyone else's fault)" line of crap shows the kind of guy he is when times are tough. Nobody has a more carefully cultivated "good guy" image than Peyton Manning, but that's all it is, an image. He's as big a jerk as they come when the chips are down.

Remember that the next time you watch one of his commercials where he's asking some ordinary person for an autograph. Those commercials have always bothered me--when you think about it, the joke in the commercial's on the poor guy in the bread aisle, or the other working stiffs he's asking for autographs from. You can almost feel the contempt as Manning practically sneers at them (see, I have to deal with jerks like you all the time, how do you like it?). I guess that's not a surprise--after all, he's allegedly got a history of contempt for ordinary people trying to do their jobs. The message of those ads is that this is Peyton's world, and we're just living in it. I guess that goes for his teammates too.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Why not?

It would be a cold miserable day in Cleveland otherwise.

Circle Two of the Inferno

Surely by now, you must have realized that this weekend ushered us to Dante's second circle of hell. It's a place mute of all light where the wind blows like a tempest. Sinners are blown about eternity by unquenchable winds of desire, buffetting the souls as punishment for their transgressions. In this case, the transgressions that put us all here are our blind loyalty to the Cleveland Browns and our sentimental belief that somehow good---the Browns and their fans---will triumph over evil: the Steelers, the Bengals and the Ravens. The souls stuck in the second level are there because they betrayed reason in pursuit of pleasure. If you're a Browns fan, you qualify. For those of us who have followed the Pumpkin Heads for some time, what is worse than an AFC Championship game between the hated Steelers and the team that kept the Browns from going to a Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos?

That's what just happened. I feel like driving a nail into my head.

Peyton Manning is Stupid

Yeah. He piles up the numbers every year, but the guy's failures in the postseason are becoming legion. He can still end up like Elway by winning something before he retires, but Peyton Manning is his own worst enemy. His clock management in the last 90 seconds was terrible. His decision not to run the ball on 3rd and 2 on Pittsburgh's 30 was idiotic. The last minute and a half of this game provides a microcosm of why this talented quarterback is only consistent in his losing the biggest games.

The Dutch Hall of Fame

"You look at those (career statistical) categories and say---I'm going to be honest with you---why the hell am I not in the Hall of Fame? I'm not going to kiss the asses of the writers. I put up numbers that are Hall of Fame numbers. Until they recognize that, you can only look at January sixth, and say, "It's another year."

----Rik Aalbert "Bert" Blyleven

Yeah. That pretty much says it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the cold cut warriors who vote baseball players into the Hall of Fame once again didn't find Blyleven worthy of the call. I'm trying to figure out why that keeps happening. From 1970 to 1992, the guy was 287-250 with a career era of 3.31, while pitching with the Twins, Rangers, Pirates, Indians and Angels. He's 17th on the total wins list. He logged 3,701 strikeouts, which puts him 5th on the all-time list after Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton. He's immediately ahead of Hall of Famers, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Gaylord Perry and Walter Johnson. He also had 242 complete games and 60 shutouts (8th all time). Only 8 guys in the history of the major leagues have finished in the top 20 in Wins, Strikeouts and Shutouts. In addition to Blyleven, they are Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton, Ferguson Jenkins, Walter Johnson, Gaylord Perry, Don Sutton and Nolan Ryan. When you compare him statistically to the guys in the Hall, Blyleven looks like all of them.

Most hitters who faced him would say that he had the best curveball they ever saw. He gripped the ball like two of his idols---Sandy Koufax and Bob Feller. When the ball broke, it had that beautiful 12-6 motion, straight down. It just disappeared from the strike zone. All other righthanded curveballs are compared to his.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Blyleven was known for the hot foot. For some reason, old-time baseball guys loved to set someone's foot on fire. No one did it as often as Blyleven. His teammates loved it. Some of the reporters he got weren't as amused.

There is a strong belief amongst other players of his time that Bert was too rough on the writers when he was a young guy. Funny. I didn't realize that that was one of the criteria for admission. I know it's cliche, but if the Hall went by personality, it would have Christy Mathewson, Lou Gehrig, Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron and about a couple dozen other guys.

The great Bambino once said about his greatest rival, "Cobb is a prick. But he sure can hit. God Almighty, that man can hit." Can't that wisdom be applied to the Dutchman?

Patriot Schadenfreude

The dictionary says that "schadenfreude" is "a malicious satisfaction in the misfortune of others." Well, I'm all about schadenfreude this morning.

As you may have guessed from my earlier review of David Halberstam's book on Bill Belichick, the Little Man isn't my favorite guy. Not surprisingly, the Patriots aren't exactly my favorite team either. That's why it was so satisfying to not only see them go down in flames to the Broncos last night, but to also watch them lose their composure (I originally used a word other than composure) while doing it.

I enjoyed it, and I'm sure the Broncos' fans did too. But I guarantee you that nobody enjoyed it as much as Mike Shanahan. Shanahan's star has faded in recent years, while Belichick's has ascended. I think it's fair to say that Shanahan outcoached the Little Man at key points during last night's game, and I think it's also fair to say that both men know it.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Bad Childhood Defense

Gene Wojciechowski has an ESPN.com column titled "Common lives, plenty of questions for Vick, Clarett." This particular column, which deals with the travails of Maurice Clarett and Marcus Vick, is a classic example of cliched sportswriting about how the troubles that sociopathic jocks face are all attributable to their traumatic childhoods.

The column is about what you'd expect. It's full of existential angst (
"they share a childhood, a confusion, a confluence of circumstances that should give you pause before dismissing them as knuckleheads who deserve whatever bed they've short-sheeted"), bad metaphors ("Vick grew up in a part of Newport News, Va., that was harder than the back of your father's hand") and the inevitable self-serving quote from one of the sociopaths himself ("You don't know what I've been through, so you can't judge me"). Wojciechowski lets you know he really has nothing to say about either Vick or Clarett by concluding his column like the lazy man on deadline that he is: "But whatever happens, I'm not going to judge. That's for someone else to do."

Ah, yes, the old "Sermon on the Mount" punt, much beloved by muddy headed thinkers and bleeding hearts everywhere. Isn't it funny how frequently this part of the Sermon on the Mount gets tossed around, and how infrequently you see references to some of the other parts of it? Like, for example, the part where Jesus says "by their fruits ye shall know them."

I find it remarkable that sportswriters like Wojciechowski are so willing to excuse or explain away bad conduct by guys who, unlike millions of other people in this country with equally tragic childhoods, have been singled out for special treatment because of their athletic ability since before they started high school. Where's the sympathy for the poor black kid from a broken home who doesn't run a 4.5 forty? If you don't mind, I'll save the kind hearts and coronets for that kid. Clarett and Vick had opportunities that go to one kid in a million, and because of their talent, had second chance after second chance from teachers, coaches, the justice system--you name it.

Tell me, what would you say the chances are for a kid from Youngstown with three stints in a juvenile detention center to get Ohio State to not only admit him, but pick up the tab for his college education and provide him with personal tutors to make sure he passes his classes? Unless that kid's an athlete like Maurice Clarett, I'd say they're about zero. Oh sure, they don't do it out of the goodness of their hearts; they do it for the money that the football program generates. But so what? The point is that they do it.

You're not being compassionate when you refuse to pass judgment on guys like Clarett and Vick--you're being an enabler, which is the last thing an 18 year old pumped full of ego and testosterone needs. Remember, college and pro sports are full of guys with backgrounds like Clarett and Vick's, but the vast majority of those guys somehow manage to make good decisions and go on to successful lives. Sure, there's a lot that's screwed up about college athletics and American society, but when somebody's handed a golden ticket, it's his own damn fault if he tears it up.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Screamin' Memey

The Screamin' Memey is a blog written by a woman who is a student at Trinity College in Hartford. It has nothing to do with sports or the other nonsense we talk about here, but I'm giving her some love anyway. Why? Because I just discovered that she gave some to us back in November. I particularly like the way she phrased it:

"Ever think about Cleveland Sports? this guy does. He does a great job chatting up something that I care nothing about."

Thanks Memey. That's exactly the kind of back handed compliment that only guys from Cleveland could appreciate.


"This individuality stuff is a bunch of crap. The bilious bastards who wrote that stuff about individuality for the Saturday Evening Post don't know anything more about real battle than they do about fornicating."

---General George S. Patton, Third Army

By an earlier post, the Rhino mentioned that I thought Sutter getting into the Hall of Fame while Goose Gossage was again passed over was utter lunacy. I stand by that.

I think the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (the BBWAA), who select Hall of Famers, dropped the ball. I won't rehash what Tom Verducci said because he mostly got it right. The bottom line is that the Goose was the original gunslinger. I think 23 other managers would have loved to have that guy on their rosters in the '70's. Goose had a fastball and location---not much else but a lot of guts. Every batter he faced with the game on the line knew what pitch he was going to throw. Neither his manager nor his catcher had to call it. Munson just had to drop his glove down and wait. Everyone in the stadium and watching on TV knew what was coming. He didn't care. He just pumped it in. If you beat him, you beat him. You beat his good stuff. No excuses. No second guesses.

The game and relievers have changed. Saves ain't what they used to be. Tony LaRussa and The Eck saw to that. There have been a number of relievers since about whom it's been said , "have great stuff." Baseball writers who say that are talking about the fabled "out pitch." Writers like to talk lovingly about guys who "learn to pitch," as contrasted with "throwers." They're talking about guile---using other pitches to set a strikeout pitch up. I admit, the Goose wasn't long on guile. I don't think he had that luxury. See, unlike today's closers who pitch their 60 or so innings (much of which are in uncontested 9th innings with no scoring threats), Goose was busy logging multiple innings in games with runners on base. He and other relievers of his era were busy putting out fires. That's why those guys became known as "firemen." That doesn't happen too much today. And most of today's relievers don't have half of Gossage's guts.

Can you imagine the Goose , in game 7 of the 1997 World Series, having his moment of doubt and shaking off his catcher while trying to find his "out pitch" for a banjo hitter? I can't. But that's what Joe Table did and he was supposedly one of the best closers in baseball that year. He just forgot one thing: you gotta throw strikes but you gotta have balls.

Now, back to the BBWAA. You qualify for that august body by being a baseball writer for at least ten years before you vote. That means that, before you get to join in on the big personality contest called Hall of Fame balloting, you have to be a clubhouse spread warrior. You need to do your research by wandering down to the clubhouse buffett and gorging yourself before and afer each game. In the old days, cold cuts and fried chicken were generally served. Now, healthier choices are provided. Anyway, enough about the BBWAA's gruelling work days and nights.

They just don't get it. No one has put forth a rational argument why the Goose and Bert Blyleven (more on him in a later post) haven't been elected. They're really no-brainers. Just compare them to other guys who have been elected.

Let's face it. My hero Patton's statement is right on the money when it comes to baseball writers. They're generally a bunch of pimps and panderers. Worse, they're a bunch of lemmings. The first time one of the bunch comes up with an original thought will be akin to a revolution. Well, the writers had their big day. I guess it doesn't matter how wrong they are, as long as the cold cuts keep coming.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Freddie Award for Excellence in Athletic Self-Delusion

Vinny and the Hornless Rhino proudly announces the establishment of the Freddie Award for Excellence in Athletic Self-Delusion. The award will be bestowed periodically upon a professional athlete whose on-field performance contrasts most sharply and humorously with his off-field trash talking. Nominations for the Freddie Award from readers are welcome.

The Freddie Award is named after "The People's Champ," former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Freddie Mitchell. After four years as an underachieving first round pick, Freddie gained notoriety during last year's NFL playoffs and Super Bowl by making wildly outrageous claims about his own ability and what he was going to do to the Patriots' secondary. As events transpired, Mitchell was not a factor in the game, seeing limited playing time and catching only a single 11 yard pass. That didn't slow his mouth down a bit, however, as he criticized the Patriots for reacting to his earlier comments, and then contended that the Eagles would have beaten New England eight out of 10 times. Mitchell was released by the Eagles and later the Chiefs, and is currently out of football.

It is a real pleasure to announce that the inaugural Freddie Award goes to a Cleveland athlete: Damon Jones of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Jones, in a recent interview published on Insidehoops.com, staked his claim to being "the best shooter in the World." Jones also asserted that he was not only the best three-point shooter on the planet, but that younger versions of himself were the planet's second, third and fourth best three-point shooters. Teammate Donyell Marshall finished fifth in Jones' list.

Jones is currently 7 for his last 39 three point attempts, and ranks 67th in the NBA in three point percentage. Befitting his status as the world's best three point shooter, the fact that you could build a skyscraper out of the bricks he throws up hasn't deterred Damon from launching from long range: Jones currently ranks 12th in the league in three point attempts, despite ranking 132nd in minutes played. In the Cavs' most recent loss to the Knicks, Jones went 1-5 in three point attempts, while Jamal Crawford lit him up for 26 points. In the five games played since his comments to InsideHoops.com, Jones is 4 for 30 from the field, and is averaging less than three points per game.

In short, Damon Jones embodies everything that the Freddie Award is about, and he is truly a worthy first recipient.

Messier Meltdown

Former Edmonton Oiler and New York Ranger great Mark Messier apparently didn't get the memo about men crying (see Stop Your Sobbing). At a press conference held in advance of a ceremony retiring his number before tonight's Oilers v. Rangers game, Messier bawled like a Frenchman. Even the media, which usually eats this stuff up, was unnerved by Messier's eccentric performance.

While he may be a weeper, there's no doubt that Messier's deserving of this honor. Messier ranks second all-time in points, third in assists and seventh in goals, and he's arguably the greatest playoff hockey player who ever lived.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Good News...

for ME!! I think I'll go eat a can of frosting.

Bruce Sutter?

By now, everybody's heard that Bruce Sutter was selected to the Hall of Fame yesterday. Sutter had a great career, and was clearly baseball's dominant reliever for at least half a decade. Nevertheless, I was shocked by his selection, especially since Goose Gossage, a much more worthy candidate, was on the ballot.

Whenever I'm puzzled by something in baseball, I turn to The Oracle (Vinny). I sent Vinny an e-mail asking how Sutter got in over Gossage, and he responded with the view that Sutter's selection was "utter lunacy." The man has a way with words.

Anyway, instead of boring you with my reasons for preferring Goose, I thought I'd link you to this article by Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, who lays out the case for Gossage over Sutter very well. Verducci thinks the Goose will eventually get in, and so do I, but there's no way Sutter should've gotten in first.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

We're Number 1

No surprise here. Your guess is as good as mine as to why they continue to do these things when the answer is always the same.

Marcus Vick Will Fit Right In

Looks like Marcus Vick managed to get himself in a little more hot water, this time with the police. Gee, why doesn't his brother take him aside and give him a little tough love? Maybe it's because Michael Vick is too busy fighting the lawsuit that was brought against him for allegedly giving a woman herpes.

At least one scribe has said that Marcus' latest antics should disqualify him from the NFL until he gets his head together. I disagree. Marcus will fit in very well in the NFL, where criminal charges and generally anti-social conduct are as much a part of life as signing bonuses. If you don't believe me, check out the list that appears here. When you do look at that list, bear in mind that it hasn't been updated in more than two years, and also note how well the Browns are represented. In addition to William Green's well known problems, Antonio Bryant, Cosey Coleman and Ryan Tucker have all had run-ins with the law--and I'm not even counting DUIs, like the one Reuben Droughns got nabbed for last fall.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Cincinnati Bengals and the Ghost of Greg Cook

Even if you don't like the Bengals--and I don't--you had to feel a little sick to your stomach as you watched their franchise QB writhing in pain with what everyone instantly knew was a serious knee injury. But for Bengals fans, the injury was probably even more traumatic than it would be for fans of another team in a similar situation.

Why? Well, as Carson Palmer lay on the turf at Paul Brown Stadium yesterday, I guarantee you that thoughts of a young QB named Greg Cook passed through the minds of more than a few long-time Bengals fans. If you don't know his story, then listen up, because Greg Cook is one of the NFL's great "might have beens."

Greg Cook was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1st round of the 1969 draft. He was a hometown kid who played his college ball at the University of Cincinnati, and many say he was the most naturally gifted QB they ever saw. They say he could throw the long ball like nobody before or since--reportedly throwing a touchdown pass to Bob Trumpy that covered 70 yards in the air.

Cook was the AFL's rookie of the year in 1969, and his 9.41 yards per passing attempt that year not only led the league, but remains the Bengals' longest-standing record. His performance becomes even more impressive when you consider that long-ball guys like Namath, Lamonica and Hadl were at the peak of their careers at that time, and that he did it despite missing three games and part of a fourth with the injury that would bring his career to an end.

Cook felt a pop in his shoulder in a game against Kansas City. The Bengals thought he simply dislocated the shoulder, and Cook took cortisone shots that allowed him to play after a few weeks. He actually had torn a rotator cuff, and the additional damage he did to his arm by playing with it effectively ended his career. He hung around for a few years, eventually retiring in 1973, but his career was basically over after 1969.

An interesting twist to this story is that Cook's injury led to the development of what became known as the West Coast Offense. The Bengals' offensive coordinator at the time was Bill Walsh, and when Cook went down, they traded for Virgil Carter. Carter was a small, smart and quick player, and as Walsh adapted their offense to meet his skills, the deep pass was deemphasized, and the ball control passing game that characterizes the West Coast Offense was born.

So, spare a thought for the Bungles fans today. Sometimes we think that Cleveland fans have a monopoly on heartbreak, but it's hard to find a story to top Cook's. I said hard, but not impossible, at least for America's Sports Misery Capital: We'll see your Greg Cook with our Herb Score, and raise you Ernie Davis.

Click here for an interesting article about all this from Sport's Illustrated's Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

NFL Playoffs

If yesterday's NFL wild card games are any indication, it's time to start watching college basketball in earnest. The Redskins managed to muster a grand total of 120 yards of offense in their victory over Tampa Bay, but the Skins offense still looked better than Jacksonville and its peg legged QB, Byron Leftwich. About all you can say for the Jaguars is that they did manage to outpunt New England, and Jack Del Rio is a sharper dresser than Belichick.

Meanwhile, the NFLcontinued its descent into barbarism when Redskins' safety Sean Taylor spit in the face of Bucs' running back Michael Pittman. Taylor was ejected for the incident, but I think that's a dumb way to handle it. I think that if somebody spits in your face, the referee ought to hand you a baseball bat and make the other guy take his helmet off. This approach would not only help to deter such conduct, but would also make these incidents much more entertaining from a fan's perspective when they did occur.

On the bright side, it looks like Marcus Vick, who declared for the NFL draft only moments after Frank Beamer kicked him off of Virginia Tech's football team, is going to fit right in. You'll remember that when we last saw Marcus, he was "accidentally" stomping the crap out of the leg of a Louisville defensive player in the Gator Bowl. You should click on the link above, if for no other reason than to read Vick's "non-apology apology" for his conduct.

Let's hope today's games are a little more entertaining and a little less thuggish.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Check this site out

There's nothing more bizarre and wonderful than the Internet. Watch all three of these (G rated) from a site called "It's Jerry Time." This guy's got some talent.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Breaking News: Men and Women Have Different Tastes in Movies

I'm a big fan of the Internet Movie Database, and tonight as I was surfing the web, I decided to investigate the film preferences of men and women, as reflected on IMDB's database. In case you're not familiar with IMDB, it is the most comprehensive film site on the web, providing detailed information about movies, actors, directors, producers, etc. for countless films going back more than 100 years.

One of the things that IMDB does is ask members to rank movies that they've seen on a 1 to 10 scale. IMDB uses these votes to generate lists of the top movies of all time, the top movies for each decade and--what I was interested in--the top movies by gender.

If you look at the men's top 50 films list and the women's top 50 films list, the first thing you'll notice is that there's quite a bit of overlap. In fact, 29 films on each list are identical, although the rankings differ in ways that are sometimes interesting. For example, The Godfather tops the men's list, but doesn't crack the top ten among women (#11). That discrepancy surprised me a little, but not anywhere near as much as the fact that Monty Python and the Holy Grail ranked higher among women (#26) than among men (#46). Women also aren't necessarily put off by violence and gore--films like Fight Club and The Silence of the Lambs make both lists.

So, what films do men like that don't make the cut with women? Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson and Sergio Leone apparently don't do it for the ladies. While men rank The Good, The Bad and The Ugly #8 and Once Upon a Time in the West #24, these movies are absent from the women's list. Women also aren't crazy about Orson Welles. Men rank Citizen Kane #20 and The Third Man #50, but women shut Welles out entirely. Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas (#22) and Taxi Driver (#36) placed in the guys' top 50, as did Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (#14), A Clockwork Orange (#43) and Paths of Glory (#40). Martin and Stanley get to join Clint and Orson at the sausage fest, because women don't like their movies either.

What movies made the women's list but not the men's? Women may not like Clint Eastwood, but they're crazy about Johnny Depp--Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl ranks #14, and Finding Neverland comes in at #27. Women also appear to enjoy animated features, with Finding Nemo (#8), Shrek (#47) and Beauty and the Beast (#50) all in their top 50. In fact, movies aimed at younger audiences in general are disproportionately popular among female viewers. For example, the women's top 50 list includes The Princess Bride (#17), The Wizard of Oz (#28), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (#43), and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (#45).

While I don't know for sure why these children's movies rank so high with women, I can hazard a guess. Being the lousy parent that I am, I know that most of the time when our kids go to a movie, it's my wife who takes them. My guess is that my crappy parenting skills are a common problem among my brethren, and so this is a fairly typical pattern among moviegoers. If I'm right, then mothers probably tend to overrate these movies. Why? Because to adults who've endured the likes of The Rugrats Movie or the dreaded Pokémon: The First Movie, stumbling across a kids' movie with even an ounce of wit is like finding an oasis after being lost in a desert without a canteen: Even if the water's fetid, you'll remember it as the sweetest you've ever tasted.

Okay, which films that guys like have no business being in anyone's top 50? I would nuke the spaghetti westerns (sorry Vinny), Lawrence of Arabia, all of the Kubrick films except Dr. Strangelove, 12 Angry Men, Requiem for a Dream, Goodfellas and maybe Apocalypse Now. There's some bizarre Japanese anime movie that crept in there at #44, which I'll dump on principle, even though I've never seen it.

As for you, ladies, I've got a question: Do you really think Finding Freaking Nemo is the 8th best film every made? Sorry, but all the cartoons and kiddie movies have got to go, with the exception of The Wizard of Oz. You can have Johnny Depp, but not Pirates of the Caribbean.

Which films on the women's list did men overlook? I'd say Gone with the Wind, Singing in the Rain (I hate musicals, but this is one that's on every critic's list of the top 50-100 movies), Some Like it Hot and maybe The Wizard of Oz. Which films on the men's list did the women miss out on? Well, my votes go to Pulp Fiction, Citizen Kane, The Seven Samurai, Chinatown, Sunset Boulevard and Taxi Driver?

Now there are some films that make it to both lists that, well, suck. From my perspective, these include all of the space operas and fantasy films like Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back, not to mention the interminable Lord of the Rings movies. Also, please, people -- I liked The Shawshank Redemption too, but we should all be able to agree that it's nothing more than a good TV movie of the week, not one of the two or three best films of all time.

Anyway, there you have it. I don't know if there are any profound conclusions to draw from this little exercise, other than I'm pretty pathetic if the best thing I can find to do on a Friday night is to waste a couple of hours screwing around on this blog. On the other hand, you've just spent the time to read this post, so your life must not exactly be a thrill ride either, huh?

Jack Abramoff's New Hat

That's more like it Jack! Very "man of the people." You can't tell from this photo, but he dumped the trenchcoat too.

Terry Pluto on the Browns' Front Office Shake-Up

Here's a link to Terry Pluto's analysis of the Browns' recent front office shenanigans. This article wasn't in this morning's Beacon Journal, but instead appears in the "Direct from Pluto" e-mail newsletter that you can sign up for it at the Ohio.com website. (It's free). Suffice it to say that Terry Pluto makes swiss cheese out of Collins' argument that Savage is a budget buster, and makes it pretty clear that he believes this was a naked power grab by Collins. Here's a quote:

"The Collins-Savage problem was about power. Collins was telling media reporters that Savage 'never had a job this big before.' He said that for the record last Friday, and it was reported in the Beacon Journal. Savage had been working in player personnel duties for Ozzie Newsome with the Baltimore Ravens before being offered the Browns' GM job. Well, Collins never had a job this big before, either. If the Browns were $25 million over the cap, or even at cap level -- then Collins might have had a point. But the team is more than $25 million UNDER the NFL cap. They didn't get there by accident. Someone did something right. It started the year before Savage arrived and continued this season under Savage."

Savage comes off very well in Pluto's analysis. In fact, Pluto notes that one of the reasons that the media appears to have taken Savage's side is that he never once said a bad word about Collins.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Cutting edge

The Rhino really is at the crest of the wave of pop culture. Scant minutes ago, Keith Olberman, on MSNBC's Countdown, described Jack Abramoff as looking like Boris Badenoff.

Unlike the Rhino, Olberman neglected to juxtapose Abramoff's photo with a picture of Badenoff. Only Vinny & The Hornless Rhino provides that kind of journalistic excellence.

Goat Boy

Hi! My name's Pete Carroll. I love to call fake punts when I'm up by 31 points in the 4th quarter. Running up the score is fun, fun, fun!

I also love to go for it when my team's got a 4th and 2 around midfield and is trying to protect a five point lead in the National Championship Game. Gee, that sure didn't turn out to be as much fun as running up the score.

But hey, how was I supposed to know that giving Vince Young a short field tonight wasn't such a great idea?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Rose Bowl Prediction

Attempting to predict the outcome of tonight's Rose Bowl is a wonderful opportunity for me to show how little I know about college football. I follow the Browns obsessively, but struggle to keep my head above water when predicting the outcome of their games. So, God help me in trying to predict college games involving two teams that I follow only by watching ESPN College Gameday.

Aside from the weekly Reggie Bush and Vince Young highlight reels, I saw only two USC games (Notre Dame and Fresno State), and two Texas games (Ohio State and Texas A&M) all season. Both teams impressed me in the first game that I saw them play, but showed real weaknesses in the second.

Before my prediction, here's what I think about these teams:

  • Both USC and Texas are over-hyped. They are two very good teams from two very bad conferences, and with the exception of a couple of games, didn't need to break much of a sweat this season.

  • Based on the performance that Ohio State turned in during the Fiesta Bowl, the Buckeyes would probably beat either of these teams right now. Hell, the Buckeyes should have beat Texas back in September.

  • Texas' defense is good, but it isn't invincible. A sub-.500 Texas A&M team led by a second-string freshman QB managed to put up almost 30 points on the Longhorns.

  • USC's defense is flat out suspect. Sure, UCLA didn't bother to show up for its game against USC, and managed to go down 66-19, but Fresno State is the game that sticks in my mind. That game turned into a 50-42 track meet due to the USC defense's inability to shut down mighty Fresno State-- a team that turned right around and lost to Nevada the very next week.

  • Vince Young is capable of laying an egg. He was terrible against A&M. Reggie Bush has yet to do that. Young's honked off because the Heisman voters disrespected him, which should help motivate him.

  • Texas won last year in Pasadena, but this is a home game for USC. I think that's a huge factor. They just don't lose Rose Bowls, do they? (21 wins and 8 losses, to be exact) Da-da, da-dum-da-da, da, da, dada da-dum... (Man, I hate that song).

  • Pete Carroll is an NFL washout, but you can't argue with his results at the college level. On the other hand, Mac Brown is the Lone Star State's answer to John Cooper. I just can't see this guy winning it all.

So, I mix all of these random thoughts together, put my thumb in the air and my head up my ass and fearlessly predict that USC will defeat Texas 35-24. You can take that to the bank, but you're an idiot if you do.

Jack Abramoff = Boris Badenoff

As a rule, I find politics and politicians revolting, so this is as close to a political post as you're likely to see from me.

The guy in the photo to the left is lobbyist Jack Abramoff (whom Vinny introduced you to last week) as he emerged from a courtroom in D.C. after pleading guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud arising out of a Capitol Hill influence peddling investigation.

Okay, so what? Well, just one thing--if you were this guy's wife, his lawyer or his PR flack, do you think you'd let him go out of the house dressed like a cartoon supervillain? I mean, the guy's a dead ringer for Boris Badenoff (see below).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Random Musings

  • Congratulations to the Buckeyes, who whipped my Fighting Irish's ass last night in a game that was not as close as the score indicated. I really didn't enjoy the game; not just because the Irish lost, but also because for the first time in my memory, I was rooting against the Buckeyes. Maybe Woody Hayes was onto something when he adamantly opposed adding Notre Dame to Ohio State's schedule.

  • Regardless of their differences, I think Buckeye and Irish fans can all agree that Brady Quinn's sister appears to be higher maintenance than an Alpha Romeo. (Okay, this is officially retracted. One commenter suggested I was too hard on her, and after thinking about it, I agree. In hindsight, the fault here lies with Brent and ABC, who for some inexplicable reason couldn't get enough of this story line and kept putting the camera on this woman and shoving a microphone in front of her face.)

  • What terrible thing have we done to deserve Brent Musberger?

  • With Collins' resignation, it looks like the suit is out as the Browns' new uniform. It seems that at the last possible moment, Randy Lerner realized that he was about to make a critical decision about the Browns' future based on the advice of the man who gave America Janet Jackson's Super Bowl halftime nipple extravaganza.

  • Nobody will believe me, but a friend of mine called me yesterday and asked about what I thought the Fiesta Bowl score would be. I said Ohio State, 37-21.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Little Known Football Rules: The Fair Catch Kick

Vinny's mention of Doug Flutie's drop kick in yesterday's Patriots v. Dolphins game reminds me of my favorite obscure football rule--the fair catch kick. Under NFL and NFSHAA rules (but not under NCAA rules), after a fair catch has been called, a team may put the ball in play in one of two ways. The receiving team may either run a play from scrimmage, or it may take a free kick. This kick may be a drop kick or a place kick without a tee, and if it goes through the uprights, it's 3 points.

With the power in the legs of many of today's kickers, the fair catch kick is a play that NFL teams should think more seriously about, because the fair catch kick rule provides an opportunity to kick an uncontested field goal. There's no limit on how many steps a kicker takes, and there's no rush allowed, so it isn't hard to envision somebody making one of these from 65 yards or longer (it's basically a kickoff without a tee).

You will see high school teams use this play from time to time. The last NFL team to make one of these was the Chicago Bears, when Mac Percival kicked one against the Packers in 1968. However, the Tennessee Titans tried one this season against the Texans (they missed), so don't be surprised if you see more teams giving it a shot in the future.

Of course, then the John Collinses of the world will intervene and outlaw the play, which is why they call it the No Fun League.

How Do You Like the Browns' New Uniform?

After 50 plus years of brown and orange, this may take a bit of getting used to, but based on what I've read from Randy Lerner and John Collins over the past couple of days, this is what the Browns will be wearing when they take the field next season.

Vinny's worried that yesterday's win will deprive the Browns of an opportunity to pick another impact player like Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, William Green, Jeff Faine, Kellen Knievel or Braylon Edwards in the first round of the draft. Unfortunately, Vinny just doesn't see the big picture.

Unlike my misguided pal, Browns' insiders know that the key to the future lies not in the draft, but in filling another critical personnel need. They inadvertently tipped their hand about this on Friday, when John Collins, under pressure from the media because of the Savage situation, blurted out the position that tops the list of Browns' off-season needs. "We need a Chief Counsel," Collins said. "I don't know that we have a Chief Counsel in the building. We have a couple junior lawyers, but we don't have a Chief Counsel. We may need that. And maybe that person should or shouldn't have player-negotiating experience.''

Exactly. If the Browns are going to seriously contend for a Super Bowl, there's just no substitute for finding the right guy to put their law department in order. And that guy really, really needs to have player-negotiating experience. Or not.

You can't make this stuff up.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Big moment in football

Yeah, the Browns won a meaningless game today. The most significant things in it were that the defense played well against a lousy quarterback and that Charlie Frye came back strong in the second half after spending big parts of the first half flat on his back.

The Browns followed suit in winning their final and meaningless game for the third straight year. Last year they beat the Texans 22-14. The year before, they beat Cincinnati 22-14. In '02, they beat Atlanta 24-16 (that one wasn't meaningless). I guess that given their recent history the new Browns are good for 20 points or more in their final game.

Once again, the final game victory will drop them down on draft day. On this point, I disagree with my Hornless friend. Then again, unlike the Rhino, I didn't pony up for an overpriced PSL. While I savor any victory over the Ravens, I'll be disappointed about this one on draft day.
But hell, they won, and they beat Art's former team. So, hip hip hooray. Pass me another Rolling Rock and I'll toast the undefeated 2006 Browns.

Now, the big moment in football had nothing to do with the Browns. It was in the Patriots game, or as Howard Cosell might have said, "the suddenly resurgent Patriots' game." During the Pats' attempt to get back into the game against the Dolphins, 43-year-old Doug Flutie successfully drop-kicked the point after. That hadn't been done for 64 years. That's impressive. Doug, this 'Rock's for you.