Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Did I just blink and miss China becoming a global diplomatic force?

Last week, I casually followed the little Korean lunatic's nuclear tests and his big talk, as well as the reported apology that he later denied. This week, I woke up, picked up the paper and read that he now wants to engage in multi-lateral talks. That didn't just happen on its own, and the US can't be credited with bringing him to the table. China just bitch slapped that idiot and told him to behave, and it worked.

It seems that the rest of the world's states have generally crafted their foreign policy or Asian policies around China. Their respective plans appear to have been to act in ways that would keep China on the sidelines. For its part, China appeared satisfied to accept its assigned role as the sleeping giant everyone else shouldn't disturb. That may have just changed.

I think China took bold, open and direct action in this instance, and I wonder if this portends a change in how China will engage others in the future.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Old School

Lead plays, traps, and sweeps. Linemen staying on their blocks. A 250 lb. fullback lead blocking. Guards pulling. A running back hitting the hole and pushing the pile. That's what an old school running game looks like, and that's what the Cleveland Browns offense did pretty darn well for most of yesterday's game.

The Browns offense appeared to feature a lot less of the infuriatingly ineffective zone plays that had formed the cornerstone of their anemic rushing attack to date. Yesterday's attack was full of old school stuff that the Browns ran because they had a coach who believed his linemen were physically superior to the Jets defensive line. Jeff Davidson's linemen rewarded his confidence in them with what was clearly their best performance of the season.

It was nice to see a little offense for a change, but the game's real heroes were the guys on defense, and the defensive backs in particular. It's hard to imagine how Holly, Bodden, Jones and Russell could've played any better. Coles had only four receptions for 40 yards. Pennington was a dismal 11/28 for 108 yards and two picks compliments of Sean Jones. The Jets only got into the red zone once, and whiffed. (Thank you, Mike Carey!)

Notwithstanding the win and all the positives from yesterday's game, there were also plenty of reminders of just how far the Browns have to go. You didn't like the way the Browns went into their shell and played Martyball during the last eight minutes of the fourth quarter, did you? Want to know one of the biggest reasons they did that? His name is Charlie Frye.

Right now, Charlie Frye's poor judgment makes him a player that the Browns need to manage late in games, not a guy you want to turn the game over to in tight situations. He's got the ability to make big plays, but he's convinced he can make a big play on every play. For example, Frye got lucky scrambling and then throwing back over the middle to Braylon Edwards on the Browns' first touchdown drive. That encouraged him to try to do something similar from deep in the Browns own territory in the second half. Unfortunately, Unitas in his prime couldn't have hit Josh Cribbs on that play, and the ball was intercepted.

Frye has talent, but plays like that are why I don't trust him when the game is on the line. Neither do the Browns. I applaud the coaching staff for their decision not to put him in a position where he could throw his weekly late fourth quarter interception. The Browns had lousy field position, the line was having trouble picking up the Jets' blitz, and Charlie Frye was an accident waiting to happen. 70,000 people booed Crennel and Davidson for keeping the ball on the ground, but I think putting the game in the hands of the defense was the right thing to do under the circumstances.

Hey, it wasn't always pretty, but it was the definitely the best performance on both sides of the ball that we've seen this season. When you couple it with the Pittsburgh's loss to Oakland, it's hard to imagine a better end to a weekend.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Fearless Prediction

I can't believe I'm writing this, but the Browns will win today 20-13. I have that on good authority.

I was at a party last night, and an attractive neighbor, with a tight little can, stated with certainty that the Browns would win today. Maybe it's all the vino I drank last night; maybe it's because, at long last, Carthon's gone; or maybe it's the tight little can, but I think the Browns will win.

Here's why. The Jets, despite their record, are really a pretty shitty football team. The Browns have been decent on defense, and now public enemy #1 is gone. Jeff Davidson can't be worse than Carthon. Plus, this is essentially the start of his audition for the big time. He should be willing to be aggressive and creative on offense today. I think they'll score enough points to win. Because the defense won't be on the field constantly, it should be able to come up with a few stops and hold the Jets' offense in check.

One last thing could help the offense immensely. If Charlie Frye comes out clean shaven, watch out. I've got to think the eight or nine hairs on his upper lip have to be incredibly distracting in the huddle and while the linemen are getting in their set positions. Come on Charlie, you're not a freshman in high school. Shave that damn thing and score some points.

Fifth Down

My brother is a proud Cornell football alum. He was an All-Ivy League lineman and a member of the Big Red's last championship team. I thought he'd appreciate this video clip. If you're into football history, you might like it too.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

CARDINALS WIN...so what?

Last night the Cardinals won the World Series, and apparently, no one outside of St. Louis and Detroit cared.

I didn't either. I ended up casually rooting for the Tigers because I like their young players and because I don't like how the media generally deifies LaRussa.

The Tigers showed what a middle market team with a committment to winning can do. That was one of the worst organizations in baseball, but Dave Dombrowski made investments in free agents, getting Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez and Kenny Rogers. Then, he spent some dough on the farm system, which produced guys like Verlander, Bonderman, Zumaya and Granderson, who should be tough players for a long time.

That's bad news for the Indians, who are stuck with a well-intentioned GM but a miserly, skinflint of an owner. But, I digress.

The other reason I rooted for the Tigers is that Tony LaRussa is an ass, and the media's love affair with him makes me want to puke. He's got a law degree. So what? I know a lot of people with law degrees and half of them are idiots. If he's so smart, why couldn't he figure out that two of his stars, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, were pumped up on steroids? Didn't that law degree help out when opposing fans would chant "STER-ROIDS! STER-ROIDS!" every time Canseco stepped into the box? Didn't his vaunted intellect engage in a little critical analysis when he saw empty bottles of androstene in McGwire's locker? Maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe LaRussa just stopped being a genius for those 10 years or so.

Anyway, he's an idiot, and as Forrest Gump might say, and that's all I have to say about that.

On the other hand, how 'bout that Jim Leyland. That poor guy loves baseball and apparently he walks a tightrope every game night. According to him, he was so wound up during Wednesday's rain out, he smoked a carton of cigarettes. He described it as "probably the worst day of the year for my lungs." That guy just has stones. I would have loved to have been hanging around the Tigers' dugout watching Jim fire up one butt after another. I'm sure he was pacing around the dugout, with his metal cleats clacking, just swearing about the rain.

His team lost the Series, but Marlboro should do the right thing and throw the guy a bone with some big advertising dollars. If the man's smoking a carton a night, he's earned it.

Throw the Tarp Away and Turn on the Sprinklers

The New York Jets are the kind of team I hoped that the Cleveland Browns had a chance to be this year. A lousy team last year, the Jets have achieved a level of mediocrity this season to which the Browns can only aspire. The Jets currently boast a 4-3 record, and trail division-leader New England by only a single game.

The Jets' improvement has come courtesy of a good bit of offensive firepower and a schedule that is a freaking joke. New York's wins have come against such NFL superpowers as Tennessee, Buffalo, Miami and Detroit. They get to face three of those teams again during the second half of the season, along with Houston, Oakland and Green Bay. Where do the Browns go to sign up for a schedule like that?

To New York's credit, the team also made some pretty good offseason decisions. So far, the best of these appears to have been the decision to hang on to the injury-plagued Chad Pennington, whom they came perilously close to dumping. Pennington has rewarded them by throwing for more yards than anybody else in the AFC except Peyton Manning. Pennington also ranks 5th in the conference in passer rating and has thrown nine touchdown passes. Of course, he's had a little help. Receiver Laveranues Coles has caught 42 balls for 566 yards, and ranks second in the AFC in both receptions and yardage.

The Jets are also reaping the benefits of what looks to be a very solid draft. They used two first round picks to improve their offensive line, adding tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson and former Buckeye center Nick Mangold. Both Mangold and Ferguson have met or exceeded expectations. Another Jets' rookie who has made a big splash so far is fourth round pick Leon Washington. The former Florida State running back has rushed for almost 350 yards and is averaging nearly five yards per carry, and only New England's Laurence Maroney has rushed for more yardage among NFL rookie backs.

Fortunately for the Browns, New York's defense stinks. The Jets have given up a staggering 372 yards per game, ranking them 30th out of 32 NFL teams. What's worse, the team has given up more touchdowns (21) than anyone else in the AFC, and more rushing touchdowns (14) than anyone in football.

In light of these numbers, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out the Browns' game plan for tomorrow-- control the football and keep the Jets' offense off the field. Tony Grossi suggests that new offensive coordinater Jeff Davidson shake things up a bit. I say to hell with that, at least for tomorrow. The forecast calls for more rain today and tonight, and 25-40 m.p.h. winds tomorrow. Keep the tarp off, turn the sprinklers on and give the ball to Droughns 40 times.

This is another game that I've talked myself into believing that the Browns have a shot at. I can't predict a win for the good guys, but if they do pull it off, I won't be too shocked. Jets 20, Browns 13.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Jeff Davidson

Jeff Davidson is the new man on the hot seat as far as Browns fans are concerned. Some media reports have sounded a little skeptical about his elevation to the role of offensive coordinator. That's because the unit for which he is primarily responsible (the offensive line) is one of the worst in football. Despite the offensive line's performance this season, I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt, and not just because I've got absolutely no choice.

Believe it or not, I've actually met Jeff Davidson. Maybe that overstates my interaction with him, but I was fortunate enough to get the chance to observe his coaching style much more closely than most fans ever do, and I like what I've seen. I think Davidson could turn out to be a big upgrade for this team.

Long time readers of this blog may recall my excellent adventure on the Browns sideline during last season's Bengals game. Well, one of my jobs that day was to hand pre-snap and post-snap photos to Davidson when the Browns were on offense. One thing that I noticed about Davidson during that game was that he seemed to spend a lot of one-on-one coaching time with his players. His conversations with his linemen were very intense, but he never seemed to lose his cool. The other thing that I noted was the way his players sought him out, instead of Davidson having to track them down on the bench to communicate with them. I know it was just one game, but the guy obviously had the respect of his players, and he impressed me.

Davidson's controlled demeanor represents a big change from his predecessor, and it will go a long way to improving this team's morale. The bigger question, of course, is to whether he'll be able to improve the offense's performance. Like I've been saying, it all comes down to the offensive line, and it will be very interesting to see how they respond to Davidson this weekend.

The comments coming out of the offensive line suggest that Carthon may have been a big contributor to their problems. I'm a little doubtful about that, because I think the Browns have huge talent issues on the offensive line. On the other hand, if Carthon really was calling plays with the wrong protections and running them out of the wrong formations fairly regularly, then they've got a legitimate beef.

I like Jeff Davidson. Let's hope he can somehow figure out a way to turn this turd into a fudgsicle.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Hudson Strikes Again

I thought that nothing could top The Great Hudson Easter Egg Hunt, but that was before I found out about this. The best part about this mess is that some of these dopes still don't seem to understand why somebody might take offense at rich white people from a snooty suburb dressing up in blackface and afros to support their children's "Black Hawks" football team.

You can almost hear the explanations now, can't you? "This whole thing is ridiculous. I mean the team's called the Black Hawks, get it? Black Hawks, black people? Look, some of my very best friends are black. There's George at the country club who cleans my golf shoes. Why, I gave him a $50 tip just last Christmas. Besides, the refs were terrible and stole the game from us."

There are a lot of very nice, decent people in this town, but obviously, there are also a lot of people who think that this is their planet, and the rest of us ought to just shut up and be grateful that they're willing to share the air.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hasta La Vista, Mo

It's just uncanny the way that things sometimes happen, isn't it? I mean, Romeo Crennel steadfastly refuses to throw Maurice Carthon under the bus over the bye week, and then, all of the sudden, he's gone. Now, we all know that Phil Savage is a good Christian man, so I'm sure that neither he nor anybody else in the front office had anything to do with Tony Grossi's article on Sunday floating the possibility of Jim Tressel as a replacement for Crennel. I'm just as sure that the ensuing speculation about Crennel's own job played no role whatsoever in his quick about-face. Others may have their suspicions, but not me, no siree!

Don't get me wrong. I think Carthon was part of the problem on offense and I'm glad they canned him--although as Barry McBride pointed out last week, we can never be sure about what we know with the Browns, since the paranoia runs deeper in Berea than it did in the Kremlin. But there are a couple of things about the move that bother me.

First of all, like every move the Browns make, the whole thing looks a little sordid. Use of the media by various factions to gain the upper hand in a power struggle has been a common tactic with this franchise, and this obviously has happened once again. I can't imagine that intrigue like this does anything to improve morale or engender loyalty in the organization, and it needs to stop right now. Frankly, it makes the Browns look unprofessional. Hey, if the shoe fits....

Second, and more importantly, I'm afraid that this kind of mid-season move signals that Randy Lerner may be tempted to press the reset button on this franchise yet again. I think that would be a mistake. Is Crennel the second coming of Vince Lombardi? Is Phil Savage another Bill Polian? No, but the more I've watched the NFL, the more I've come to believe that continuity is essential if a team is going to have a chance to compete over the long haul. Right now, the Browns are on their third regime in seven years. If you want to look at the differences between this organization and perennial contenders like the Patriots, Broncos and Steelers, start with that one.

Like most fans, I'm about out of patience with this train wreck of a franchise that I've wasted thousands of dollars on over the last seven years, but there don't appear to be a lot of good options available other than staying the course with Crennel and Savage. There is some talent on this team, and eventually, these two may figure out how to use it. As disappointed as I am, I'd rather give them a chance to do that than start over again. I just don't have the stomach for it.

Monday, October 23, 2006


Hey Randy, here's a glimpse into the future. The Cleveland Browns got exactly what they deserved yesterday--a stadium where the ushers and security people outnumbered the remaining fans well before the end of the game. Rich Swerbinsky nails it better than I ever could. Go read what he has to say.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Nothing new.

Today, the Browns host the Denver Broncos. It will end like 15 of the 20 games the two teams have played, but it will be more like those that are remembered in the deep sorrowful parts of our sports souls. The Browns will lose a game they should have won. I don't think it will be boring. I think it will be painful. The final will be something like 17-14, and we'll have an errant field goal, or a blocked punt, or an interception to feed the brutal resignation that abides near the lake.

If you're looking for a silver lining, it may be that this game dooms Carthon and moves the pumpkin heads one step closer to a top five pick in April's draft. Other than that, maybe George Bernard Shaw had it right:

It is a curious sensation: the sort of pain that goes mercifully beyond our
powers of feeling. When your heart is broken, your boats are burned: nothing
matters any more. It is the end of happiness and the beginning of peace.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Irish writer.

If I Nod Off, Don't Wake Me

The Browns take on the Broncos today in a game that has inexplicably been designated as a 4:05 p.m. start. What makes this match-up one to merit a marquee time slot? Unless you're into the Browncos story line, which I'm not, absolutely nothing. In fact, this thing has all the makings of one of the most boring games of the season. Two of the league's worst offenses match up in a contest that appears destined to end up with a score of something like 5-3.

I already spent several hundred words frothing at the mouth about the Browns during the bye week, so I won't waste time rehashing that bilge. As for today's opponent, suffice it to say that the Broncos are a team of extremes. Their defense is extremely good, and their offense is extremely bad.

How good is the Broncos' defense? It's awesome. Denver has allowed only one touchdown this year. Only one team in NFL history (the 1934 Detroit Lions (0 TDs)) has done better than that through five games. The Broncos lead the NFL in red zone defense (8.3 TD pct.) and have allowed only 19 points (4.8 ppg.) in their last four games. Denver has not allowed more than one third-down conversion in the second half of any game this year. Their opponents have converted only 5-of-33 (15.2%) of their second half third-down attempts.

How bad is the Broncos' offense? It stinks. In terms of scoring, only Oakland's is worse. Denver has scored just 62 points, which is a mere 12 more points than the Raiders have managed to put on the board. Jake Plummer has thrown only three touchdown passes and five interceptions through the first five games of the season. His 63.1 passer rating ranks him 31st in the NFL. In case you're wondering, not only does Charlie Frye (67.5) have a higher passer rating than Plummer, but so does Joey Harrington (63.5). Check it out here.

All that defensive firepower and offensive ineptitude seems likely to make this one agony to sit through, but you never know. My guess is that the Browns will at least make this close, and if they get a turnover or two and another big week out of their special teams, they may have a shot at this game. Jay Novacek thinks so.

Me? Like I said, if I nod off, don't wake me. (Okay, wake me for the kick returns). I'll be wildly optimistic about the offensive potential of this matchup and double my first paragraph prediction of total offensive output. Broncos 10, Browns 6.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Terrorists Threaten to Put Browns Fans Out of Their Misery

Some internet terrorist wannabe has threatened to set off dirty bombs at seven NFL stadiums this weekend. Cleveland Browns Stadium is supposedly on the list, which has prompted a very corporate-type "remain calm, all is well" statement from the Browns.

The Department of Homeland Security says that this threat isn't credible, but I plan to take my duct tape with me anyway, just in case. By the way, if you decide not to attend this game because of this threat, you are one ginormous candy ass. I'm afraid that there will in all likelihood be carnage at the stadium this weekend, but unless you're wearing a brown jersey and an orange helmet, my guess is that you've got very little to worry about.

Remember, if you don't wait in line for an hour to get patted down by the highly-trained stadium temp workers for the privilege of watching the underachieving, incompetent and usually boring Cleveland Browns play, the terrorists win. So don't go to the game for yourselves, do it for America--F--k YEAH!!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Cackling Magpie of Browns Stadium

So anyway, this lady (via SportsFilter) has apparently gotten herself into some hot water with the University of Tennessee for cheering too loudly at the Vols football games this season. Ordinarily, I'd say people were out of their minds to complain about something like this, but that's before I spent two seasons in the same section as the Cackling Magpie of Cleveland Browns Stadium.

She showed up about a year after we moved to the section, and her fingernails on a chalk board voice will forever be seared into my brain. It wasn't so much that the Magpie cackled "c'mon Browns!, c'mon Charlie!" before every single play and during TV timeouts, it was more her overwhelming ignorance of the game coupled with her compulsion to share that ignorance at 165 decibels that drove me insane. As far as she was concerned, every incomplete pass thrown by the Browns since 2004 was solely the result of interference, and the Browns never held, facemasked or jumped offside. Every field goal was good, every spot was bad, and every play call that didn't gain 20 yards or was a running play was stupid. (Okay, she was usually right about the play calling).

I'll admit that the fact that Ms. Magpie was coyote ugly didn't help matters, nor did the fact that she ratted smokers out to the ushers (a classic a-hole move) and insisted that they toss them out. But the most unnerving thing about Ms. Magpie was the Svengali-like hold that she appeared to have over her boyfriend, whom we learned --again at 165 decibels--actually owned the ticket that she used to find her perch in the stadium week after week.

The dynamic between her and her boyfriend was beyond bizarre. I mean, the guy didn't appear to have been the victim of an industrial accident or an illegal alien dating her for a shot at a Green Card, so I'll never understand what he found so irresistible about the Magpie. I guess it's like Woody Allen said when people asked him why he was dating his girlfriend's daughter: "the heart wants what the heart wants." Uh-huh. Well my heart wanted to get the Hell away from her, and thanks to my buddy the Starfish's sweet talking of the Browns ticket office, we did just that.

I went to my first NFL game when I was 9 years old at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo (aka, The Rockpile). At that game, I learned that anti-social behavior and the NFL go together like beer and chicken wings. Somebody lit a program on fire and threw it down toward our section. It hit the lady in front of us, setting her early 70s hairdo ablaze. My dad used his coat to put the fire out. Since then, I've seen just about everything from foul mouthed drunks to section-wide brawls to the beer bottle bowl. I was able to take everything in stride, until I met the Magpie.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Football Purgatory Continues

Since the Browns are coming off a bye, I guess it's time for everybody to weigh in with their thoughts on the team. So, for what they're worth, here are mine. The Cleveland Browns stink, and I hate them. Okay, I don't hate them, but in recent years, being a Browns fan has been about as much fun as a root canal--and they do stink.

It may be unfair to dismiss the Browns with a comment like that, but I'm a pissed off season ticket holder, so what are ya gonna do? I will acknowledge that the schedule the Browns have been handed is absolutely brutal. The Browns' losses have come against teams that are a combined 16-7. Unfortunately, it doesn't get any easier. I hope they've had a relaxing bye week, because they now get to face the Denver Broncos, whose defense has allowed one touchdown this season. In fact, the only teams on their schedule with a sub .500 record right now are the Chiefs, the Bucs and the Steelers. Does anyone really think the Steelers are a sub .500 team?

Offensively, the Browns strengths start and pretty much end with the team's receivers. Winslow and Edwards have to be accounted for by every team that the Browns face. Dennis Northcutt doesn't, and with Jurevicius healthy, I share the view of many others that the Browns need to make him the third wide. Jurevicius isn't a burner, but he scores touchdowns, and along with Winslow, he gives the Browns two receivers who are effective red zone threats.

The most glaring weakness on the offensive side of the ball is the offensive line, which if not the worst in football, is damn close. Most of the Browns' other offensive shortcomings are attributable in large part to how terrible the offensive line is. The magnitude of the line's problems is illustrated by the way that Julius Peppers made mincemeat of the guy generally regarded as the team's best lineman (Ryan Tucker).

The Browns don't have a lot of great options along the offensive line, so at most, we're talking about putting a band aid on a gash that needs at least 30 stitches. My guess is that the most positive impact can be made by taking Joe Andruzzi out of the lineup. He was a really good player, but I think he's been beat up pretty bad and it shows. As others have observed, the only viable fix is to do something with Friedman or Fraley. Both have some experience at the guard position, and either is probably preferrable to rookie Isaac Sowells. My vote would be to keep Fraley at center, give Friedman a shot at guard and hope for the best.

What about a trade? The deadline is tomorrow, but if you want to play guts ball, Leonard Davis is reportedly available. Davis has a big reputation, but he makes over $9 million and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. I doubt very much the Browns want any part of that.

The QB position is a mixed bag. Frye's a great leader with good athletic ability and toughness, but he tries to do too much and makes bad decisions with the game on the line. The coaching staff needs to manage Charlie Frye. He's got the heart of a lion, but the judgment of a teenager, and they need to convince him that Doug Dieken was right a couple of weeks ago when he said that sometimes throwing the ball away and taking an incompletion is the best outcome. I guess that's goes double when your coordinator is Maurice Carthon, huh?

As for the running game, Droughns got off to a slow start, the team has been unable to figure out what to do with Harrison and the play calling has been predictable and uninspiring when it hasn't been laughable. Improving the play of the offensive line will probably make the greatest contribution to improving the Browns' rushing attack. When you can't get your basic running game going because nobody is throwing a block, it's pretty hard to throw in a guy like Harrison. Change of pace players are nice, but you have to have established a pace to change from, if you know what I mean.

There is one X factor that could be added to the Browns' attack, and that's Joshua Cribbs. He's a potentially explosive player who has earned the right to be something more than a fifth receiver. Hey, Maurice, just a thought--how about using a former college QB the next time you want to throw a halfback pass? Cribbs has proven that he's fast, tough and can run through traffic. Give him the ball every now and again. If I were a defensive coordinator, he'd scare me a lot more on third down than Harrison.

Defensively, I think the Browns have been surprisingly strong against the pass and surprisingly weak against the run. McGinest and Washington have been somewhat disappointing, but I think the defense is improving overall. Kamerion Wimbley and D'Qwell Jackson look like they are going to develop into something. I actually feel fairly positive about the direction of the Browns defense. They played well against Baltimore and Carolina, and did a nice job during the second half at Oakland. The most important thing that I think they need to do is get healthy.

So, let's say the Browns do everything that everyone has suggested, and even replace Maurice Carthon. Does that get them a better record than last year's 6-10? I doubt it. Let's face it gang, the bottom line is that we're destined to spend a lot more time in football Purgatory. What fun.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

NBA Rule Changes

The NBA is reportedly advising teams of a number of rule changes that are going to go into effect this season. The league's new anti-whining crusade is probably the rule change that's getting the most attention, but there are several others that may turn out to be important.

Notable changes include crackdowns on traveling, palming (when was the last time you saw that called in the NBA?) and hand and forearm checking. The league is also trying to address my biggest complaint about how basketball is played by limiting teams to one full timeout during the last two minutes of the game.

As should be expected in a league run by a Wall Street lawyer, there are also a number of rule changes that will appeal only to guys who think "casual" means wearing a blazer without a tie. These include requiring players to tuck their shirts in before they approach the scorers table, prohibiting wearing sweatbands anywhere but on the wrist, and banning rubber bands. These changes will undoubtedly prove as popular with the players as the new ball.

Of course, none of these changes addresses the biggest problem with the NBA rules -- the guys who enforce them on the court are the worst officials in all of pro sports. Even after last year's Super Bowl fiasco, I've still got to give the nod to the NBA refs for overall incompetence. I don't think this is a close call -- I mean, when Ralph Nader and Mark Cuban see eye-to-eye on something, then I think we can all agree that it's not a controversial point.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Little Trickeration

I love trick plays--okay, maybe not those involving Lawrence Vickers--but I really do have a soft spot for gridiron eccentricities. The teams that I've helped coach have run a number of different trick plays and formations, and while they haven't always worked, they've always given the other team something to waste practice time on. More importantly, they've made the game more fun for our own players.

Trick plays have seen a resurgence in the NFL during recent years, as teams like the Patriots and Steelers have made them a regular part of their offensive game plan. Just last week, Donovan McNabb put the Eagles ahead to stay against Dallas with this flea flicker to Reggie Brown, while the Dolphins' bizarre attempt at a two point conversion against the Texans has generated a lot of controversy in Miami.

There also seem to have been an unusual number of trick plays run in college football this year, particularly in the SEC. Arkansas pulled off trick plays against Auburn (here) and Alabama (here) this season, and Ole Miss scored its first touchdown of the season off of what has become known as the "McCuster Fluster."

Trick plays may have renewed popularity in the NFL and NCAA, but they've always been a staple of high school football. Given that fact, perhaps it's not surprising that the most surreal trick play I've seen in a long time is "Wrong Ball." Check it out here. While this play is entertaining to watch, I think the guy in the comments section who says that it's illegal under current rules is right. If it isn't, it should be.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


There was an interesting article in last Friday's Washington Post (via Sportsfilter) about the high school game a few weeks back in which that kid from West Virginia rushed for 678 yards. Apparently, the kid had 300 yards rushing and four touchdowns in the first half of the blowout.

Leading 35 to 0 at halftime, he pretty much figured that his night was over. Instead, his coach went to a no huddle offense in an effort to get him the record. Not only that, but the team refused to return punts in order to set the kid up for longer runs. The final score ended up 64-0.

The coach still doesn't seem to understand why everyone is so upset about this, or even why the opposing team refused to shake hands with his team when the game ended. Let me enlighten him--it's about respecting the game and respecting the opponent.

The coach thought it would be "fun" for an undersized back from a small school to set a record. You know what I think would be fun? Having his school celebrate this great accomplishment by being made a part of the Ohio v. USA high school football event next season. I'm sure that St. X, Glenville, St. Ignatius, Moeller, St. Edward, Colerain or Massillon would be delighted to play Mighty Matewan (which appears to have 29 players on its roster) on its own terms.

No huddle and no mercy, right coach? Game on.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Blue Jackets Links

The Blue Jackets whomped the snot out of the Phoenix Coyotes tonight, 5 to 1. I outed myself as a reluctant Jackets fan last season, and now I'm adding some Blue Jackets links, because it's my blog and I like hockey. So there. In addition to the official site, I'm linking to two Blue Jackets blogs, Army of the Ohio and End of the Bench. Both are worth reading if you're interested in the Jackets or the NHL.

Squandered Opportunity

Games like yesterday's show you how far the Cleveland Browns still have to go. Carolina wasn't all that (although I can't say the same for Julius Peppers), and the Browns had a great opportunity to move into the bye week on a roll. They didn't do that, and the biggest reason that they didn't is that the team's offensive line may well be the worst in the NFL.

The Browns obviously have some talent at receiver and running back, and if Charlie Frye has an infuriating tendency to make bad 4th quarter decisions, remember that he's usually making those decisions with 5 guys in his face. Say what you will about Frye, he's still the first physically and mentally tough QB we've seen in this town for at least 15 years. But until somebody throws a friggin' block, that talent and toughness doesn't mean a damn thing. You can't play 6 on 11, and most weeks, that's what the Browns do.

The blame for this can be laid at the feet of Phil Savage. Yes, he got a bad break when Bentley went down, but he's also the guy who continues the Browns' proud tradition of spending high draft picks on faceless wide receivers like Travis Wilson. Do you realize that in two years, the only linemen that Phil Savage has drafted have been 4th rounder Isaac Sowells (a project) and 7th rounder Jonathan Dunn (a stiff)? Hey Phil, wanna win? THEN DRAFT SOME LINEMEN ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE DRAFT!! In fact, draft two or three of them.

The Browns finally look like they've got a core group of guys who can play and who give a damn. The team squandered an opportunity to get a win on Sunday, but if the Browns don't want to squander the long-term opportunity that this core group represents, they better damn well find some linemen who can play the game.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Huh ?

Wow! I just finished reading the Rhino's prediction. He's either Nostradamus, or alien bodysnatchers have kidnapped my friend.

Carolina will beat the Browns like a trailer park wife.

We'll just be witnesses to the crime. The final score will be 34-10, and the inexorable march to a top five pick in next year's draft continues.

I just hope Frye escapes serious injury.

Upset Special

You know, I actually think the Browns have a shot today. Maybe I'm just giddy over an 18 point comeback against the worst team in the league, or maybe I've listened too much to the round-the-clock propaganda broadcasts airing on WTAM, but I think this is one game where an upset is a real possibility.

That seems crazy, doesn't it? After stumbling out of the gate, Carolina's on a bit of a roll. The Panthers have won two straight, and it's probably not a coincidence that those wins occurred after Steve Smith returned from his hamstring injury. Smith caught 10 balls for 87 yards last week against the Soon to be San Antonio Saints, and appears to be healthy again. With a gamebreaker like Smith on the field, it's not just the passing game that improves. The Panthers' ground attack was anemic during Smith's absence, but his return helped pave the way for an impressive 167 rushing yards against the Saints. Those numbers included a 105 yard performance from DeShaun Foster.

Defensively, Carolina is full of big names and big press. Kris Jenkins is a former pro bowler. Julius Peppers is tied for the NFL lead with five sacks. According to the media, DT Damoine Lewis is a force to be reckoned with in passing situations, and overall, the defensive line is one of the NFL's deepest. Hell, the defense is reportedly so ferocious that Chris Simms even exited a game against the Panthers minus one spleen.

Ooohh, scary! But on the other hand, this is a team that Drew Brees lit up for almost 350 yards passing last week, and that still hasn't won a game against a decent opponent. The vaunted Carolina defense ranks 11th in the NFC, and has given up over 340 yards per game.

Now, as for the Browns, we all know the story line. The team's secondary is banged up, and will have to try to slow down Smith with a makeshift group of DBs. That's a big job, but I think the Browns might just have a chance if they can get some kind of a pass rush together on defense, and play a little ball control on offense. I think they've got a chance to do both of those things.

Much has been made of the Browns' injuries, but the Panthers also have injury problems, especially on the offensive line. That could also make things interesting, especially if Kamerion Wimbley continues to be the kind of pass rusher that Cleveland expected Courtney Brown to be when they drafted him. If they can put pressure on Delhomme, the Browns have a shot to contain Smith, or at least minimize the damage that he causes. The Browns may have a tougher job stuffing Carolina's running game, but I'm hoping that what we saw in key situations during the second half of last week's game wasn't a mirage.

A big part of the plan to stop Smith and company has to be to keep the ball out of Carolina's hands. In other words, the Browns have to be able to run the football. Why do I think they've got a chance to do that? Well, believe it or not, Arizona and Tampa Bay are the only NFC teams with worse defenses against the run than Carolina. Furthermore, there's the Reuben Droughns factor. Droughns had a big game against Oakland last week, and he loves to play against Carolina--his career best rushing performance came against the Panthers.

Finally, there's the confidence factor. The Browns are building on two weeks of decent performances, and are starting to think that they can win in the NFL. That's an unusual feeling for this franchise, and based on the recent performances of guys like Frye, Winslow, Edwards and Wimbley, they may have the talent to justify that confidence. Let's hope they can run with it.

Sure, it's a stretch, but I'm picking the upset. Feel free to heap scorn and ridicule on me in six hours, but in the unlikely event that I'm right, you heard it here first.

Browns 17, Panthers 10.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Lost treasure

Buck ONeil, Negro League legend, the first black coach in MLB, and the undisputed star of Ken Burns' doumentary, "Baseball," died yesterday at age 94. Because I love baseball and its history, I was always aware of O'Neil through his numbers and where that put him in a historical context, but like most people, I never knew the man until "Baseball." Since then, I've been charmed and taught by the guy every time he smiled and opened his mouth.

The things that made him such a endearing subject in "Baseball," as a treasured piece of baseball history---his unabashed joy in the game that has not always been kind to him and the air of almost naive innocence that accompanied his words--- even made him more compelling as the game moved farther away from its fans throughout the steroid era. His humility, kindness, and the generous nature of his spirit seemed so out of place amidst the legions of small men who now own and play the game.

In "Field of Dreams," Terrance Mann said: "The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again." If that is at all true, it is only so because of people like Buck O'Neil.

Upon hearing of O'Neil's death, Reggie Jackson compared him to Rachael Robinson, Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa. That might seem like hyperbole, but I think I understand what Reggie meant. Buck taught that, despite the injustices and inevitable bad moments, there is so much joy in baseball and in life, he just had to smile.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

That's a Relief

I wish I could get worked up about this win, I really do, but all I can muster is a little relief. I'll take it though, because at least it keeps alive a glimmer of hope that this season might actually amount to something.

No, by "amount to something," I don't mean a playoff berth, a winning season, or any other utterly unrealistic expectations. I'm not that big of an idiot. What I'm looking for out of this season is something to justify my belief in Savage and Crennel, and that means progress on the field. Specifically, more than six wins. The odds are stacked against that happening, but I think (and hope) that most Browns fans are so fed up with the steady diet of spin and bullshit that the prior regime force fed to us that we'll only believe the team's getting better when we see it in wins and losses.

There were plenty of positives to take away from today's game if you're a "glass is half full" person. The special teams were, in fact, pretty special. Kellen Winslow looks to be a legitimate red zone force. The 2005 edition of Reuben Droughns finally showed up. Joe Jurevicius showed why he caught 10 TDs last season. Charlie Frye was tough and showed a nice touch at times, although if he tries to force another end zone pass late in the fourth quarter I swear I'm going to...um...uh...scream impotently at my TV and have another beer.

Maybe the most astonishing positive of the day was the fact that with the exception of his inexplicable decision to hand the ball off to Droughns on 3rd and 15 in the second quarter, Maurice Carthon was competent, and at times even inventive.

Then again, it was the Raiders. And if, like me, you measure the current regime's progress by wins and losses, then you've got to admit that looking at the schedule, six more Browns' wins are going to be damn hard to find. Come to think of it, the next win is pretty hard to find. But you know what? You can't get seven wins without getting your first one, and the Browns managed to do that today.

Here we go Brownies! Here we go! WOOF ! WOOF!

For the first time in the '06-'07 season, the Browns are prepared for a game in which the outcome is actually somewhat in doubt. Actually, there shouldn't be too much doubt about this one. The Browns should win and win big. I think my pal, the Rhino, has gone back to his pessimistic ways with his prediction. Me, I think this game should be a piece of cake.

The Browns should win 24-10. Chuckles and the boys will get to pretend that they're a big time offense for 60 minutes. The Raiders are the class of the NFL when it comes to ineptitude.

The only real advantages the Raiders have going into the game are home field and Maurice Carthon. Even though their team sucks, the fans will be out and boisterous as hell. After all, the Raiders' fans are just as hungry for a glimmer of hope as those forlorn souls littered around the north coast. The young guys can't let the noise or change in time zones distract them. The second point can't be easily dismissed. To be blunt, Carthon sucks. Admittedly, it's hard to make an offense go with a suspect line, but he knew or should have known what he had on the line from day one or he should have been able to adapt, both in the short term, as well as long. In addition to his poor use of available personnel in important situations, his choice of plays and when he chooses to run them have been strange. That's a pretty lethal combination. Carthon needs to show his next employer that he's not the worthless bum the people in Cleveland think he is. I think he'll do a passable job only because the Raiders will give the offense so many chances.

So, the Browns should win, and the Raiders should have their choice between Brady Quinn and Troy Smith. The Browns are going to be a good bet to be in the spot to get the other one, but that's for another day.