Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'm troubled.

I have that weird feeling you get when you're out somewhere and one of your paisans is trying to hard to impress a hot chick and starts to do goofy stuff. The kind of stuff that sort of taints you in the eyes of anyone who knows you're with him. The kind of stuff that he would never want anyone to mention again, ever. The kind of stuff that every single regular guy he knows will bust his grapes about every time they're together with drinks in their hands.

It's pretty funny after the fact, but it's damn strange and somehow pathetic when it's happening. That's why it causes the people around it so much discomfort. Well, that's how I feel after reading the quote: "He has the heart of a poet trapped inside an insanely gorgeous body."

That wasn't said by any of the attractive women who know me or the Rhino. No. That's what the Material Girl said about Alex Rodriguez. Apparently, he's been writing her long rambling love letters and occasional missives about his feelings.

Ok. Ok. I concede that Ms. Ciccione probably has some mad skills when it comes to keeping a guy pretty happy. But, as Tony Soprano lamented on more than a few occasions, "whatever happened to the strong silent type--- Gary Cooper?" Why's Rodriguez got to get all mushy, especially when he should be learning how to hit in the clutch?

Then again, maybe it's just his master plan to hook up with every woman Jose Canseco has had, no matter the cost. After all, Canseco tried to out him about steroids (but that never gained any traction) and bitched about Rodriguez trying to bag the then-Mrs. Canseco. Maybe this is just pure revenge. If that's the case, do you think that, during sex with Madonna, Rodriguez is thinking about Canseco?

I'd appreciate your insights.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

And so it begins...

On this election day, the Browns elected to try a new starting QB. So, much to the glee of 70,000 chanting fans and young girls throughout the state, it looks like the Brady Quinn era dawns in Cleveland. Maybe it's more accurate to say that Brady gets his shot. He'll obviously have to produce. Because if he doesn't, someone will wake Romeo up from his nap to tell him to send Quinn back to the bench.

Why the sarcasm? It sounds like Romeo didn't know about the change. Either that or that sly old dog was just faking us all out.

Well, buckle up and watch the kid play.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fields of Dreams has posted its list of the 14 best high school stadiums in the nation. Ohio is the only state with two stadiums on the list: Canton's Fawcett Stadium, and -- of course -- Massillon's Paul Brown Tiger Stadium. These are both great facilities and worthy representatives of The Buckeye State's proud tradition of high school football.

Of course, when it comes to Ohio high school stadiums, the real problem is narrowing the list of classic venues down to only one or two. We are blessed with some of the greatest high school football stadiums in the nation, and many of those can give Fawcett and Massillion -- as well as the rest of the stadiums that ESPN selected -- a real run for their money.

For example, I think ESPN overlooked what just may be the crown jewel of Ohio high school gridirons -- Steubenville's Reno Saccoccia Field at Harding Stadium, better known as "Death Valley." If you want even better views of Death Valley, go to this website, then click on "Death Valley" on the menu, and then click again on the photo of the stadium. (Yeah, the website designer could've done a better job with navigation, but his photos are worth the effort.)

ESPN also bypassed Cincinnati's Elder Stadium, better known as "The Pit." Home of the legendary Elder Panthers, The Pit was rated one of the nation's top ten high school venues by USA Today.

ESPN selected one field in an urban setting, San Francisco's George White Field. I've seen this place, and it's more quirky than anything else. It is carved into a very small spot of land in San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood and its goal posts are only a few feet from the street. You want a first rate urban stadium? Try St. Vincent-St. Mary's John Cistone Field at Green Street Stadium in Akron, or Toledo Central Catholic's Gallagher Stadium.

There are other gems scattered throughout the state. For example, there's Martin's Ferry's haunting Alumni Stadium, where you can almost hear the poet James Wright's lines as you look out at the field; Dover's Crater Stadium, Lima's Lima Stadium, Toledo-Waite's Jack Mollenkopf Stadium, and Chagrin Falls' C.S. Harris Stadium (which looks like it was designed by Norman Rockwell).

There are other states with some spectacular high school venues, and the list that ESPN has compiled is worth a look. Nevertheless, there's no reason to plan a trip out of state to take any of them in -- there are plenty of fields of dreams right here at home.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Things only get better.

Next week the Browns go to Jacksonville to play the Jaguars at 4:05 pm. The Jags are 3-3 but I think they'll be tough to beat.
The former expansion teams, Jacksonville and Carolina, have been able to assemble some impressive talent. Here's an example of the type of athlete Carolina can run out on the field (LEFT).
How the hell are the Browns supposed to compete with that?
Nuff' said.

O Romeo, Romeo, Wherefore art thou Romeo?

The Browns lost another one yesterday. With six games in the books, they're 2-4. That means that, to get to a ten-win mark, the Browns have to go 8-2 the rest of the way. Ain't gonna happen.

I'm not going to waste time this morning writing about how Braylon dropped a couple more balls; how D.A. just sucked; or how I'm tired of K2 looking for a flag every single time he doesn't catch the ball. I'm more pissed off about the way this team just doesn't seem ready for the season, even though they're seven weeks into it.

The team lacks urgency, organization and discipline. Other than that, Romeo and his staff are doing a helluva job. Actually, RAC, as the players refer to him, must be doing at least one thing right---the guys love him. Through all the false starts, dropped passes, bad passes, poor clock management, and dumb coaching decisions, every single player continues to praise him. That's 'cause RAC has their backs. And I don't mean that he's holding them by the shoulders and sticking a boot in their asses. In RAC's rosy world it seems there's never any fault to go around. One of his favorite post-defeat phrases is "we just didn't get it done." Really? No shit. I thought you did and that the scoreboard just got it wrong.

In light of the high expectations for his team, Savage went out and acquired defensive playmakers and Donte Stallworth for this win it all this year. Although mathematically speaking, the Browns' playoff hopes are still alive, even the most rabid fan has to admit that, other than for four glorious quarters against the Giants, this team hasn't remotely looked like a playoff team, nevermind a champion.

At some point, Savage is going to intervene, call the season a loss, instruct RAC or the interim coach to play Quinn, and start manuevering for April's draft.

It's heartbreaking.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Same Ol' CC

Well, I guess it's fair to say that CC Sabathia is in post season form. He got lit up last night by the Phillies. In 3.2 innings, he gave up 6 hits, 4 walks and 5 earned runs, including a 2nd inning bomb from Shane Victorino.

Fans of the Brewers have to be bummed. After all, the guy pitched like Superman after they acquired him from the Indians. Maybe 252 regular season innings were too many for the big fella.

I'm just glad that he got them to the playoffs. I've always liked the Brewers, even though Proud to Be Your Bud Selig was one of the worst owners in baseball. I like them even more now that he's not around and now that their drafting and player development are both, as Judge Elihu Smails would say, "top notch, top notch!" More importantly, I'm happy the Brewers made the playoffs because it improves Cleveland's choice of minor leaguers for the PTBNL ("player to be named later") from the deal. If Milwaukee hadn't made the playoffs, it would have chosen who the Indians received. Since they're in, the Indians get the choice. The top two candidates are Michael Brantley and Taylor Green. You can read about them here. I suspect they'll grab Brantley; stick him in LF; and let him leadoff.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Now what?

As bad as the Browns have been organizationally since their return, fans could console themselves with the thought that it could be worse. They could be fans of the Detroit Lions. You could bet that each year the Lions would do something truly idiotic and destructive. They made horrible draft choices, bad trades, hired the wrong coaching personnel, and generally meandered around with no idea of how to run a football franchise. All lot of the credit for that consistent crappiness goes to the guy who was running the show---their GM, Matt Millen.

Well, the Ford family had finally had enough, and Millen won't be at the controls in April when the Lions are on the clock. I know Lions' fans are thrilled, but what's that mean for the devoted followers of the pumpkin heads?

It means that there's now plenty of room at the bottom.

Monday, September 22, 2008


That was the sound of a few hundred thousand TV's getting switched away from Sunday's debacle against the Rat-birds. I can't believe that many fans of the Browns toughed it out to watch the end of that one. I didn't. There was nothing to watch. More importantly and more tragically, there was nothing to care about.

For too many people, each Sunday's game is a reason to get out of bed; to be excited; to plan their entire day around the kick-off; to cheer with friends; to plan parties; and to live and die with every play. Not now. As B.B. King sang, "The thrill is gone. The thrill is gone away. The thrill is gone baby. The thrill is gone away. You know you done me wrong baby. And you'll be sorry someday."

I get the feeling that I'm not alone in my indifference to this team. The Rhino, Chocolate Starfish and I went to the Steelers' game together. Afterward, we walked over the bridge that's painted like a football field as Steelers' fans taunted fans of the toothless puppies. No one said anything in response. How could they? If beating the tar out of your so-called rival just about every time you play them doesn't earn you the right to jaw at their fans, what does? The Browns' fans around me just sighed wearily and shuffled on in the unforgiving post-game night. That was all that the Browns had left to them.

Since their schedule is one of the toughest in the NFL this year, the Browns won't have the opportunities they had last year to right the ship against patsies. This year, it looks like the Browns are the patsies. That means that it's going to be a long year with a lot of long, cold post-game walks back to the parking lots.

The fans' rides home won't be much better. After the Steelers' game, I listened to one caller rip unmercifully into Syndric Steptoe. Syndric Steptoe??? You've got to be shitting me. That guy had about as much to do with the outcome of the game as I did. It's not his fault that he's there or that he's asked far too often to block a linebacker in a running play. It's also not his fault that he was on the field for more plays than Kellen Winslow. Who do you think makes those decisions?

It's time for one of the marketing geeks in Berea to take the long walk down to Phil's office to tell him that it's time for the usual cosmetic change to mollify the fans. That means Romeo's ass. In this case, it's probably deserved. Sure, he's a great chum to the players, and that matters if it means the guys play hard for you. But winning matters too, and when you're the head coach, that's more important than being somebody's pal. My impression is that Romeo's just there. "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow, they toil not, neither do they spin."

That's our guy. He never seems to have answers, but he neither toils nor spins.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Olympics update: Don't miss the javelin.

I'm usually pretty interested in the track & field events in the summer games, but this year, you don't want to miss the women's javelin event on August 18th at 9:00 pm. I have no idea who will win, but I'm rooting for one plucky contestant from Paraguay---Leryn Franco. She ended up 42nd in the 2004 games, but she's poised to rocket up the leader board to, at least, the mid-30's. She's 5'8", 119 pounds, and 26 years old.

I've included her photo so you won't miss her.
I'm not sure, but I suspect she's pondering her next throw.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More on Mr. Wonderful.

If you had any doubt that Roger Clemens is an extraordinary individual, check this out. Through some weird and errant magic, the seven-time Cy Young winner has transformed convicted drug dealers, Kirk Radomski and Brian McNamee, into credible guys. That's really something.

He's simply amazin'.

Monday, July 07, 2008

See ya' CC

"A man's got to know his limitations."
~~~Dirty Harry Callahan, Magnum Force

Sometime two weeks ago, Mark Shapiro woke up; read the sports page; stumbled to his bathroom feeling like he was gonna vomit; looked in the mirror; thought about Larry Dolan's empty wallet and preternaturally short arms; and just knew.

He knew the Indians were in last place.
He knew it was a team without its third and fourth hitters and without two of its starting pitchers.
He knew it was a team without heart; without courage; and without character.
He knew it was stuck in the basement and the likelihood of challenging for the playoffs had become a bitter fantasy.
He knew, like he did in February this year, that there was no chance that CC would sign an extension and forgo free agency.
He knew that the two extra compensatory picks he'd get for CC becoming a free agent would be wasted due to inept talent evaluation and Dolan's legendary cheapness.

In short, he knew he had gambled and lost. He'd built this team. He'd promised that it would be built to remain competitive.

He was wrong. His day of reckoning had come.

So, he picked up the phone and let it be known throughout MLB that he'd start returning the calls from other GM's he'd been avoiding. Those guys knew they had him by the short hairs. Low-ball offers started rolling in. Shapiro tried to blow smoke and let rumors circulate that the Indians would make another effort to resign CC. Do you really think that happened?

Nah. Me neither.

In the end, Shapiro grabbed the best prospect he could get---
Matt LaPorta---and some assorted junk that's just potential. LaPorta's not a bad haul. He's a big ugly mug who strikes out way too much, but boy, can that s.o.b. hit. The so-called experts thought Milwaukee overreached when they grabbed him with the 7th pick in the 2007 draft. They said he was a "signability" pick. Well, LaPorta started hitting home runs and made those same experts look like fools. This year, he kept hitting home runs and made himself into a bona fide blue chip prospect. But, don't get like those goofy optimists who think the Tribe just snagged the ever-lovin Babe. The kid is good, but he's got holes in his game. After all, the Southern League managers didn't think he deserved to make the all-star team. So, calm down a little. Having written that, he is good. His massive strikeout totals are offset by his impressive walk rate. He projects as a guy who could hit .270-.290 with 35 + home runs and an on-base average over .380 during his peak years. Folks, that's a real live middle of the order hitter.

The other two pitchers are filler. Each has some potential.

Zach Jackson, LHP, was a Blue Jays first round pick, who's sucked. He's a lefty and those guys get lots of chances. I'm guessing that the Tribe feels like it misjudged and mishandled its own former first round pick, Jeremy Guthrie, and maybe the Blue Jays and Brewers did the same with Jackson. I doubt it, but if that's what keeps Shapiro warm at night, Ok. I suspect he's really just filler for the Buffalo AAA rotation, and that's where he'll rot. Just for kicks, check out his biography. When's the last time a team tried to pawn off a guy with a 7.85 ERA as a building block for the future? That Shapiro really has some stones.

Rob Bryson, RHP, was a draft and follow guy. He was picked in the 31st round of the 2006 draft. He throws hard. He can get his fast ball up to 95, but the scouting reports say that it's incredibly straight and "flat." That means it's pretty hittable. He has a nice slider that can get big-time hitters out. He's a guy who just really needs to find himself and learn a little about pitching. Since he's only 20, he should have an opportunity to do both. This year, he's struck out 73 in 55 innings. That's pretty sweet, and it's those numbers that leave Paul Dolan and his old man giggling that they just nabbed their closer of the future. I'm not giggling, but it's at least an interesting proposition to have a guy who can really throw hard for a change.

The Tribe also gets a PTBL---player to be named later. Sometimes teams do that because they're prohibited from trading a pick until one year after the draft. I don't think that' s the case here. I've heard, but can't confirm, that the Tribe will have its choice at the end of the season between third baseman,
Taylor Green, or outfielder, Michael Brantley.

Green's a stocky third baseman, who resembles Ron Cey---The Penguin. He was Milwaukee's Organizational Player of the Year in 2007 after he hit .327. He has a nice compact left-handed stroke and walks almost as much as he strikes out. He's a nice player, but doesn't project to have a lot of power. If you can live with a 3B who hits for average, has a high on-base percentage, and hits 15-20 homers, he's your guy.

Brantley is one of the fastest guys in the minors. He's 6'2" and after last year was rated as the Brewers' minor league player with the best strike zone discipline. He's true to form in '08. In over 300 at-bats, he's only struck out 18 times. He has twice as many walks as strikeouts this year, and had more walks than strikeouts over two levels last year. He's a prototypical leadoff hitter. His problem is that he's a very mediocre outfielder and has a weak arm. He can only play left.

The best thing about the two of them is that they're both 21. They have a lot of time to fill out and refine their games. Unfortunately, the Tribe is not particularly good at helping players refine their skills. My impression has always been that it's a sink or swim organization, and that's recently been confirmed by a player in the organization. But, that's for another day.

In the end, Shapiro recognized his limitations and made a deal. Everyone hates it, but if LaPorta hits, Shapiro will be a hero. I think he will.

Not with a Bang, But a Whimper (Again)

Today's announcement that the Tribe has offloaded C.C. Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for four prospects officially marks the end of the 2008 baseball season. With a bunch of guys on the DL, and mired in last place in the Division, a woeful 14 games behind the front-running White Sox, the Indians made the unsurprising decision to throw in the towel on the 2008 campaign and make the best deal that they could for the unsignable Sabathia.

So let the recriminations begin!

How did this happen? How did a team that was just one game away from a World Series appearance last season not even manage to make it the All-Star break this year before the wheels came off? The short answer is that they can't hit, they have no bullpen, and their roster looks like a M*A*S*H unit.

But there's more to it than that. This is at least the second time this allegedly talented "core group" of Indians has seen a season of tremendous promise end in a downright embarrassing fashion, and then responded to that challenge by throwing in the towel at the start of the following season.

When the going gets tough, the tough get going, huh?

It's easy to point the finger at the bullpen, or the injuries, or even --if you're a cynic--the crackdown on performance enhancing drugs. But what bothers me more than the numbers is the attitude. This team is not only bad, but it also doesn't seem to play very hard. I think a lot of fans can't figure out whether the team's just lacking in leadership or if the players just don't care if they win or lose.

Personally, I'm tired of trying to figure out the answer. I just want to see them win the World Series, and I've lost faith that this core group of players is ever going to do it. Sure, you can complain about the alleged tight-fistedness of the Dolans, you can bemoan some of the decisions that Shapiro's made in recent seasons, and you can spend hours trying to figure out whatever it is that Eric Wedge actually does to "manage" the ball club. But none of those things explains how infuriatingly passive the players seem to be about this team's performance. Where's the frustration? Where's the anger? Where are the guys knocking over the buffet? Where are the fights? Where are the snarky comments to the media?

Maybe those kind of reactions are all too "old school" to expect from today's players -- although the Red Sox aren't afraid to mix it up with each other, are they? On the other hand, I think there's plenty of anger among the fan base. I had a funny feeling that this season might turn out like this, and I doubt that I was the only one. Unfortunately, my problem isn't that the Indians didn't live up to my expectations, it's that they did.

Over the past four seasons, the Indians have played well when the wind is at their back, but they haven't shown much heart in the face of adversity, and this is just the latest example of that. Yeah, they've had more than their share of problems this season, but their reaction to them has been to quietly wilt. I said they were gutless in April, and they've spent the better part of the last three months proving that I was right.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

You're a Better Man Than I Am, Brady Quinn

For those of you who are long-time readers of my drivel, you know I've never been a big fan of Brady Quinn. Heck, I started bashing the guy even before the Browns drafted him. But I've got to admit, after watching Quinn deal with his situation as a back-up QB for the past year, I think I was wrong about the guy.

To me, Quinn was a guy who, despite smashing almost every ND passing record, never beat USC and never led the Irish to victory in a single bowl game during his career. Quinn's individual achievements against sub-par competition just didn't impress me very much. He came across as a guy who was a creation of the Notre Dame spin machine and its willing accomplices in the national media. What's worse, he also appeared to have "drunk the Kool-aid," and struck me as an arrogant, pampered jock who believed in his own press clippings.

That's the Brady Quinn that I thought the Browns drafted, and it's taken me a long time to shake that image of the guy. Now, however, I think it's time for me to reassess my opinion of Quinn. What's prompted my change of heart? It's simple, really. I've watched and listened to what he's said and done over the course of the past year with the team, and I think he may be a lot more mature and a lot less self-centered than I gave him credit for being.

This was really brought home to me over the past week, as we watched LeCharles Bentley bolt the team when it became apparent to him that the Browns weren't ready to name him as a starter after his first practice in two seasons. At the same time, the media descended upon Quinn, in their endless attempt to stir the pot at the QB position. Quinn didn't take the bait. In fact, he did the exact opposite. You simply could not craft a more positive, team oriented response to questions about his role with the team than the one that Quinn delivered to the media last week.

I'm not intending to bash LeCharles Bentley. This is a guy who had a tremendous setback, heroically battled his way back into the game, and just wasn't willing to accept the idea that the wasn't "The Man" as far as the Browns were concerned. For a guy like Bentley to react like he did isn't a surprise. He's been The Man his whole life. Bentley was an All-American, All-Pro, All-Everything big money free agent when he came here in 2006. Hell, his photo even hangs in the lobby of the Wexner Football Complex at Ohio State (something I found out last week when I took my oldest son there for a long-snapping camp). So when I read that Bentley had asked for his release, I wasn't angry. In fact, I kind of sympathized with the guy. (If you read Sunday's column from Terry Pluto, you might have sympathized with him too).

But regardless of how you feel about LeCharles, his reaction to the adversity that he was facing is very different from Brady Quinn's reaction to his own situation. While Quinn hasn't faced the devastating physical injury that Bentley has dealt with, he's faced some psychological challenges that are perhaps almost as difficult. Maybe the worst of those was the one he faced on draft day in 2007, as he sat among the other elite college players and watched himself passed over by teams he thought certain would select him.

For a player who most had projected to be a top 10 or even a top five pick in the draft, the fall to #21 would have been difficult enough to deal with, but Quinn's humiliation was compounded by the fact that it was broadcast live by ESPN to the nation's football fans. Ultimately, Roger Goodell had the decency to come to Quinn's rescue and have him escorted off stage. Still, imagine if you're everybody's All-American and have to endure that in front of a national television audience? Wow. I mean, talk about a humbling experience.

At the risk of sounding like Bill Livingston, there's a Latin saying that goes "ignis aurum probat, miseria fortes viros." It means that fire is the test of gold; adversity is the test of strong men. Brady Quinn and LeCharles Bentley have faced their share of adversity over the last couple of years. I can't fault Bentley at all for his reaction to it, but I admire Quinn's reaction more. Brady Quinn has been the consummate team player ever since he signed his contract, and while he makes it clear that he wants a chance to compete, he continues to resist every attempt by the media to put his own interests ahead of the Cleveland Browns.

So, maybe I was wrong about Quinn all along, or maybe that miserable draft day in front of the cameras provided him with the kind of perspective about himself that most "Golden Boy" types never manage to get. Whatever the reason, Brady Quinn has earned my respect and the respect of all Browns fans. Don't get me wrong -- I know that like most 25 year-old millionaires, Quinn's not exactly a candidate for sainthood, but I also know that he's handled the challenges he's faced on the professional side of his life with a lot more dignity and class than many others in similar situations. And it's time for Quinn bashers like me to give him a little credit for it.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Huh??? OH SH*T !!!

That's what everyone's favorite seven- time Cy Young award winner must have said when he read this one.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What the hell happened while I was enjoying a little baseball?

Well, it's the off season for football. So, that means some calamity has to strike the Browns. It has.
Ryan Tucker broke his hip and will miss two months, or so SI reports.

Two months is probably the estimate some deluded physician gave, but that's the
normal projected recovery from a break. I'll bet those two months don't include any time for the all-but-certain staph infection that Berea seems to guarantee each year.

It's good that Savage kept Kevin Shaffer around and picked up Rex Hadnot. It looks like the Brownies will need 'em.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Speed Racer

Speed Racer is a pretty cool movie. My kids, who are 8 and 5, loved it and wanted to stick around and see it again. We didn't.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

Christina Ricci looks great as Trixie. I can see why Speed's nuts about her. She's makes a great comic book heroine.

John Goodman looks a lot like Pops, and better yet, he flashes some of the wrestling moves Pops Racer used when surrounded by bad guys.

If you liked the cartoon, you'll love the movie. If not, you'd better have liked playing with Hot Wheels when you were young. Otherwise, you'll probably hate it.

There were more adults than kids, and they loved it. Lots of them were singing the theme song on the way out.

Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer
He's a demon on wheels
He's a demon and he's gonna be chasing after someone
He's gaining on you so you better look alive
He's busy revving up the powerful Mach Five
And when the odds are against him and there's daaangerous work to do
You bet your life Speed Racer's gonna see it through

Go Speed Racer
Go Speed Racer
Go Speed Racer go

He's off and flying as he guns the car around the track
He's jamming down the pedal like he's never coming back
Adventure's waiting just aheeeeeeeeaaaaad

Go Speed Racer
Go Speed Racer
Go Speed Racer Go!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How about that...

I saw a little baseball history last night at the Prog. With runners on first and second and the Blue Jays trying a hit and run, Asdrubal Cabrera snagged a line drive, stepped on second, and then tagged a runner, who'd rounded second and had been heading to third. When the dust cleared, Dru was hanging on to the ball and the inning was over---an unassisted triple play!

That was only the 14th one in the history of Major League Baseball. I was there. It was very cool.

Here's a quick bit of trivia: The Cleveland Indians lead all teams with 3 unassisted triple plays.

Friday, May 09, 2008

CAVS get bounced out of the playoffs.

A few loyal readers have written and pointed out that the Rhino and I haven't been posting as frequently as we had. Guilty. We've both been busy.

But, yesterday, a colleague at work and I had a disagreement about the Cavs. He talked all day about his "good feeling" about the playoffs and the Cavs advancing. Well, they won't. That's why I want to publish the inevitable news of the Cavs' playoff demise while I have a few moments. Let's just say that they'll play better than they did in last year's championship round---Celtics win in five. You can read now or sometime next week. It doesn't matter. The result will be the same.

This team just isn't built to win. It utterly lacks any consistent outside scoring threat, and as great of an individual player as King James is, he hasn't really shown the ability to elevate very average NBA players to a championship level. He's still too much of a one-man gang. Z's a decent complement to LBJ (and he's an above average center due to position talent scarcity), but he does nothing on the outside to spread the floor and create movement. Everyone else on the team is NBA average or worse.

While Mike Brown has done an admirable job teaching and preaching defense, he's done nothing to help create shots for the team when they're desperately needed. There's no real movement to the offense, and as a result, very few open shots are created. That's a big problem because all of the guys other than LeBron need open shots or created scoring opportunities.

Boston doesn't have those flaws. In fact, it has the most valuable player in the NBA, Kevin Garnett. I know Kobe Bryant took home the hardware, but Garnett's been a stud for Boston since he arrived. His supporting cast is strong and versatile. The CAVS just don't match up with Boston's weapons.

Oh, and there's more cheery news for the wine and gold. Here's another story about the clock ticking on LeBron's tenure in Cleveland.

It's not all bad news though. If you were on your toes yesterday, you could have had a Papa John's pizza for 23 cents.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Round 7--- someone the writers don't know

With pick #231, the Browns finally drafted a pass rusher---Alex Hall of St. Augustine, a Division II
All American. Hall's 6'6" and 260 pounds defensive end. He had 7 sacks and 15 tackles for loss in 9 games this past season. His unofficial time in the forty is 4.77. He's a tall, thin guy. I suspect that the Browns will get him in the weight room and have him add some muscle.

Picks 190 and 191

The Browns had back-to-back picks in the 6th round.

They used the first, which they got from Seattle in the Charlie Frye trade, to take a nose tackle, Ahtyba Rubin, of Iowa State. He's 6'3" and weighs 315 pounds. At Iowa State, he clogged up the middle for the Cyclones. He has a chance to play in the Browns' line rotation this year.

The Browns sent their 2009 5th round pick to the Eagles for the next pick, and took a big, strong wide receiver, Paul Hubbard of Wisconsin. He's 6'3," weighs 220, and runs a 4.48 forty. He's big and tough. He knows how to block. Unfortunately, he has trouble at the thing receivers are supposed to do---catching the ball. He reminds me of another Browns' receiver, Quincy Morgan. Morgan was a big underachiever given his bad hands and lofty draft position. The difference is that, if Hubbard makes the team, he'll only be counted on to play some kick-off coverage and occasionally get into the game in a four receiver set. Hubbard's not a bad pick at this point. He would have probably gone higher, but he suffered a leg injury during the season. He's a project with some significant upside. However, I'm surprised that the Browns haven't gotten a cornerback. There were a lot out there.

Here come the Browns---ahead of schedule

Savage did what I thought he would---he jumped up to draft early in the 4th round. He traded his 4th (#122) and 5th (#155) to Dallas for pick #104. With it, he took Beau Bell, a linebacker from UNLV. Bell's a tough guy and a good tackler. There's some question as to whether he'll play inside or outside because he switched between both spots in college. He's 6'1", 244lbs. and runs a 4.75 forty. He can really stick ball carriers and will be a nice addition. I suspect he'll play on special teams and end up gravitating to a rotation where he plays some outside linebacker but mainly plays inside.

Then Savage worked a little more magic and traded next year's third round pick to Dallas to get pick #111. Then he did a curious thing. He took Martin Rucker, a tight end from Missouri. Rucker's 6'4", 251 lbs. and runs a 4.71 forty. Rucker is a pass catching specialist. He's got great hands and can grab the ball in heavy traffic. Playing at Missouri, he lined up as a wide out on occasion. He led all tight ends in receptions per game last year, and his brother, Mike, was a Pro Bowl defensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers. This would be the kind of pick that would usually be a great one, if the Browns didn't have Kellen Winslow, who just also happens to play tight end. I hope this isn't some signal that all the surgeries have worn K2 down or that he's truly unhappy about his contract.

For those who read my earlier post, the Patriots took OLB, Shawn Crable, with the 78th pick, and the Eagles took OL, Mike McGlynn, with the 109th pick.

Well, here we go without the fanfare.

All loyal readers know that NFL Draft Day is one of the favorites around V&THR corporate headquarters. Not so much this year. The Browns first scheduled pick is in round 4 (#122).

All the rags have written that Savage has already had his draft by nabbing Brady Quinn (1st), Corey Williams (2nd) and Shaun Rogers (3rd and Leigh Bodden). I see their point, but Savage has a nice reputation for finding players on day 2 and the Browns still aren't a complete team. This year, the Browns' biggest need for a team that wants to win now is a pass-rushing linebacker to play opposite Kamerion Wimbley. There are a couple floating around out there, and even though Savage has said a few times that he's probably not going to "do anything," I can see him trading into the late 3rd or early 4th to pick Michigan's Shawn Crable. The scouting report on him says that's he's big, fast and dumb. Well, yeah but he's from Michigan. So, up there, they probably call him "Professor."

If you check out NFL Draft Countdown's rankings of outside linebackers, you'll notice that there are a number of available guys who are ranked ahead of Crable, but I think he's the best pass rusher left in the draft. He's over 6'4," weighs 245 pounds, and runs 4.64 in the forty. He played in the Big 10, which has some big-time offensive linemen. This kid could be just what the doctor ordered. He'd require some attention, and opposing offenses would have to pick their poison between Wimbley and Crable. He's from Massillon and would probably love to play for the Browns. Plus, his learning curve on hatred of all things Pittsburgh would be incredibly short.

Beyond a pass rusher, the Browns need a cornerback and a versatile offensive lineman. A cornerback that intrigues me is Brian Witherspoon. He's not a an experienced player, but he's blazing fast with a 4.29 forty. He can cover fast wideouts. Listen, he 's a total crapshoot, but he's the kind of player that I'd take a chance on in the 7th.

An offensive lineman who could help the Browns is Mike McGlynn. He played tackle at Pitt for all four of his years there. He won't play tackle for the Browns, but could be a terrific guard. I've seen him play a number of times. He's really tough and nasty. Plus, he has the added benefit of being from Youngstown, Ohio. I knew his dad and played ball with him. So, I'm a little biased, but he is a hell of a player.

The Browns picks today are: 4th (122), 5th (155), 6th (190) and 7th (231). Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Okay, I'm Back

I know it's been a while. Did anybody miss me? Yeah, I didn't think so. Anyway, why didn't I write anything for almost two months? The answer is that I've been dealing with a severe case of Cleveland sports malaise. For better or worse, I truly haven't given a damn about teams that I usually obsess about. Start of the Tribe's season? Yawn. Cavs playoffs? I think my left foot is asleep. The new Arena team? Jeezes, Bernie, I love you man, but try as you might, there's no way you're going to talk me into Arena-ball.

Even the Browns and their free agent signings didn't stir my interest. Can you imagine?

I think I came down with this ailment when the Tribe collapsed against the Red Sox. Although the onset of symptoms was postponed until after the Browns missed the playoffs, I couldn't forgive the Cleveland Indians for that massive choke job. I was really obsessing about it for awhile, and just kept getting angrier and angrier about the Indians and their complete lack of heart. That led me to ponder the Cavs inability to take a single game from San Antonio in the NBA Finals, and how the Browns managed to overcome almost insurmountable odds to miss the playoffs despite winning 10 games.

At some point this winter, I just said "to hell with it," and decided that these teams simply weren't worth the effort I've put into them. Hey, I still read the sports section and catch the highlights on Sportscenter, and I even sit down and watch entire games from time to time, but neither the Tribe nor the Cavs have constituted must see TV for me over the past couple of months, and since this blog was fueled by that obsession, well, let's just say I haven't had much to write about.

Some people started to worry about me. My mother actually called to see if I was alright. I got a couple of e-mails from readers asking if I was okay. And by a "couple," I mean just that -- two measly e-mails in two months. Thanks a lot. Looks like I'll definitely be needing Life Alert if I make it to my dotage.

My buddies tried to snap me out of my funk. I went to Opening Day with Vinny, Joey Peeps and The Starfish, but while I enjoyed the game, the afternoon was marred by the fact that we got stuck in front of this complete nitwit whose muttonchop sideburns and strange haircut made him the spitting image of Wolverine from X-Men. And true to his Superhero nature, Wolverine was not going to be shy about sharing his baseball insights with all of Section 307. According to Wolverine, every move the Indians made all day was wrong, all six of the White Sox fans in attendance were a-holes who had to be called out at every opportunity, and the three year old sitting with his mom two rows in front of him was no reason not to drop at least five f-bombs in every sentence. The highlight of the afternoon was his five minute soliloquoy about why Casey Blake sucks, which ended just moments before Blake hit his game winning double. Hey, Wolverine, I believe the word I'm looking for is "pwned."

I guess the bottom line is that I still haven't rallied. Cavs v. Wizards? Sorry, I've seen that movie before. Wake me if they win a couple of games from the Celtics. I actually tried to get fired up for the NBA playoffs. I went out and bought Terry Pluto and Brian Windhorst's new book, "The Franchise," about how the Cavs got LeBron and built the team that got them to the NBA Finals last year. You know what? The book blows. The writing is subpar, the proofreading is worse, and the storyline after the Cavs get LeBron is simply not very captivating. In short, it's got all the signs of being a book dashed off to capitalize on last year's post-playoff euphoria. Terry Pluto must have a guilty conscience, because in the author's notes to the book, he starts out by assuring readers that this isn't that kind of book. Uh-huh.

Okay, well, how 'bout that Tribe? Sorry guys, but I've been mad all winter, and so I'm just going to come out and say what I gotta say about this team. There's just something about this Cleveland Indians team that I don't like. This isn't kind, but I'll be blunt -- I think the Indians are gutless. It's not that they missed the playoffs in '05 or that the Red Sox came back from a 3-1 deficit in last year's ALCS, it's the way that it happened in both instances that bothers me. Frankly, the team's performance in both situations can fairly be called cowardly, and I think we all know it.

Good Cleveland teams always falter in the end, but they seldom quit. That's part of the reason they've inspired such devotion on the part of their fans. I'm just not sure I can say that about this incarnation of the Indians. So, while I root for them, I'm not hanging on every pitch -- because I don't think they do, especially when the going gets tough. Maybe I'm wrong and I've misjudged this team, but based on the entire season of underachievement sandwiched by two epic collapses that we've witnessed over the past three seasons, it's going to take a World Series Championship to convince me of that.

I'm sure I'll snap out of this eventually, but since the Browns don't have a draft choice until the 4th round, it's not likely to happen any time before training camp opens. In the meantime, however, I will continue to periodically purge some of the bile that's been building up over the past generation or so onto the pages of this blog. Maybe that will help me shake this funk.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

So You Had a Bad Day

Cheer up, Bunky -- it could be worse. You could be Vesa Toskala.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

SI seems to like one and questions the other.

Don Banks of loves the Browns' acquisition of Corey Williams. Here's what he said:

" One deal that seems like a grand slam to me at first glance is the Browns acquiring Packers defensive tackle Corey Williams for a '08 second-round pick. Williams is an underrated young player who has posted seven sacks in each of the past two seasons. With the free-agent defensive tackle market rather slim, and the draft not having much depth at the position, landing Williams is a good move by Cleveland."

He's not so excited about Shaun Rogers because of Rogers' propensity for coasting on plays:

"When he wants to, Detroit defensive tackle Shaun Rogers can be a truly dominant player. But his inconsistency would scare me if I were the Bengals, who on Friday traded third and fifth-round picks for him. Getting Rogers on his good days at that price is a bargain, but why do we only see him show up in some games? "

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Rust never sleeps. He's at it again.

Apparently, Savage wasn't satisfied giving up his highest pick for a defensive lineman in the early morning on Friday, because he did it again late last night. The Browns traded Leigh Bodden and their 3rd (87th overall) to get talented but sometimes lackadaisical defensive tackle, Shaun Rogers. Rogers is 6'4" , 330 lbs. of fury who's great at clogging up the line by occupying a couple of offensive linemen. Like Corey Williams, Rogers got to the QB 7 times last year. He's a two time All Pro, and when he's motivated, there are few offensive linemen who can stop him. Rogers will likely line up over the center and Williams will line up as a DE.

I like Rogers. He's a nasty S.O.B. The interesting thing about the trade is that the Browns gave up Bodden, who was very productive during his career here. The other interesting thing is that the Bengals had announced that they'd received Rogers for a 3rd and a 5th. That makes it sound like Savage overpaid by substituting Bodden for a 5th, and he very well may have. But, it's no secret that the Browns' inability to stop the run and control the line of scrimmage cost them dearly last year. Rogers can really be disruptive, and Rogers + Williams can be part of a much tougher, much more athletic front seven.

Like I said yesterday, Savage likes playing without a net. The Browns will go into April's draft without a pick in the first three rounds. That takes balls. There's no doubt that Phil's got 'em, but this latest move means he really has to be aggressive in acquiring a free agent. The Browns won't have a pick until #119 and they desperately need a linebacker. It's just my two cents, but wouldn't unrestricted free agent Lance Briggs of the Bears look pretty good in a pumpkin colored helmet? All he'll cost is money.

Come on Phil. You've traded away your first three picks in '08. Go all in and bring home Briggs.

Friday, February 29, 2008

I know absolutely nothing.

The Browns just signed free agent QB, Derek Anderson. Huh ?

I guess my post a couple of hours ago was pretty stupid. So, does this mean that the Browns will really sit out the first day of the draft, or will Savage trade Anderson to a team for something other than the league mandated 1st and 3rd ? If Anderson signed a three-year deal for reasonable money, that contract would probably make him more attractive to another team than having to actually negotiate a new contract that would top the one the Browns offered. Under a free agent scenario, the new team would have almost no leverage. A trade after the Browns have secured Anderson to a three year deal would take away almost all of Anderson's leverage against the new team. I guess that means that the Browns still could trade Anderson.

The other two scenarios are : 1) the Browns could trade Brady Quinn; or 2) they could keep two QB's and see what happens.

Since my earlier post appears to be dead wrong, maybe I'll just stop writing and let the Rhino figure it out.

Savage is off to the races, and the Quinn era begins.

Yesterday, Phil Savage added a pretty tough defensive tackle to the Browns. He traded a precious 2nd round pick to Green Bay for Corey Williams.

First, let's see what they gave up. Right now, the Browns don't have a 1st due to the trade with the Cowboys last year that netted Brady Quinn. So, the 2nd, which would have been 56th overall, was the Browns' highest pick. That means the Browns won't pick until 87th. Plus, Williams was wearing Green Bay's franchise tag. That means the Browns have to give him a multi-year deal. I suspect that will cost the team something like $15-20 Million in guaranteed dough and a total contract in the $40-50 Million range. That's just rank speculation by me, but suffice to say, he's gonna cost the Pumpkin Heads a lot of cash, some of which will count against this year's cap.

Now, what did they get? Williams was a sixth round pick in the 2004 draft. Obviously, he exceeded draft order expectations. He'll be 28 when the season begins. He's listed as 6'4" and 313 lbs. He's been a legitimate sack threat, dropping the opposing QB 7 times in each of the last two years. He's okay against the run, but overall, he's a strong defender and immediately upgrades the Browns' line.

Here's the skinny. Derek Anderson turned down the Browns' three year offer. That probably means that some team wants him and is willing to give him some big dough. So, Savage gave him a $2.5 Million tender. Another team can outbid the Browns, but if they do, they'll owe the Browns a 1st and a 3rd round pick.

Originally, there was some thought that the Packers would simply cut Williams, rather than give him a lot of money. But, it appears that Savage was hovering over this one like a hungry vulture. He struck and the deal was made just after midnight, and by now, we all know Savage likes playing without a net. So, he must have thought that Williams was worth sitting on the sidelines for the first day of the draft.

Or, it could be that Savage is a really smart guy. Savage loves the draft. He had to be counting on getting extra picks for Anderson when he made the deal.

You can book it: February 29, 2008, the real beginning of the Brady Quinn era. Say a novena.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Sometimes, it all comes down to this.

For lots of men, sports and breasts have long been a staple of everyday life. Now, they've been joined, for better or worse, in baseball's serial embarrassment about steroids and human growth hormones.

It seems another "liar," who apparently must be "misremembering" has provided more information that would undercut some of The Rocket's most vehement denials to Congress. For those who were lucky enough not to watch our elected officials stumble through a few hours of questions to a couple of scoundrels, Brian McNamee, Clemens former buddy, trainer, and now, chief accuser, told Congress that the first time Clemens talked to him about steroids was at a party at Jose Canseco's house. Among other things that McNamee said to bolster his credibility on that point was to describe how Mrs. The Rocket and Mrs. Canseco compared the results of their respective breast enhancements surgeries. The Clemens legal team triumphantly produced a receipt from a golf course from the same day and argued that that proved Clemens never attended the party. Well, the proverbial other shoe looks like it's ready to drop. Apparently, another major leaguer told Congress that Clemens often talked about the incident when the two baseball wives were comparing their store-bought knockers.

News leaked earlier in the week that Henry Waxman, the Democratic chair of the committee that conducted the hearings, was going to issue a letter to the Department of Justice calling for a perjury investigation.

This has to be a bitter pill for Mr. The Rocket---perhaps undone by two pairs of boobs.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Best Sports News of the Day

Sorry Cavs. Nice deal, but you just got topped.

Three Team, 10 Player Deal

Okay, here it is.


C Ben Wallace
F Wally Szczerbiak
F Joe Smith
G Delonte West


G Larry Hughes
F Drew Gooden
F Cedric Simmons


G Chris Duhon
F Ira Newble
F Donyell Marshall

Like I said, I'm no expert, but I like getting Delonte West and somebody who can shoot like Szczerbiak. The addition by subtraction aspect of the deal is kind of appealing to me as well.

Cavs Blockbuster?

The Cleveland sports blogosphere is abuzz this morning with Cavs' trade rumors. That's because at halftime of last night's game against the Pacers, Brian Windhorst dropped this little bombshell in his blog:

"Folks, I have not watched a second of the first half as I pursue some hot trade rumors with the Cavs. They are being very active and are in talks over a blockbuster that has not been reported yet. It does not involve Mike Miller. More to come later."

Windhorst later added that this was a trade that would "change the dynamic somewhat" of how the Cavs play, but would "not directly affect the way LeBron plays." He also said that the Cavs were trying to get a first round pick to go with the deal, and that this was the potential hold up with it.

With that to go on, the Internet lit up like a Christmas tree. When he first heard of the rumor, our first stop for Cavs news, Ben Cox, thought the Cavs were once again after Michael Redd, or perhaps Vince Carter or Ron Artest. After Windhorst updated his report, Ben changed his guess to "God damn it," who must be a D-League player or something, because I couldn't find him on any NBA roster.

Windhorst added to the intrigue with an appearance on WKNR, where he reportedly said that the blockbuster is a one-for-one deal, and did not involve a player who previously had been linked to the Cavs in trade speculation.

The guys over at the Cavalier Attitude blog appear to have settled on Z as the Cavalier most likely to be involved in this deal. While noting the possibility of a deal with the Nets for Vince Carter, they think that if Z is in the mix, the deal would most likely involve a Western Conference team. That raises a number of intriguing possibilities, which you can read about on the Cavalier Attitude site.

One poster over at Cavalier Attitude suggested that "a league source" (uh-huh) told him that the trade involves Josh Howard for Z. I find that one hard to believe, but it is true that the Mavs are in the market for a center. The Dallas Morning News is reporting that Dallas is looking for another big man in an effort to keep pace with the rest of the elite teams in the West, several of which have added size to their rosters in the last couple of weeks.

Anyway, all this speculation guarantees that productivity levels in corporate Cleveland will reach all time lows today, as fans spend most of the time refreshing their browsers to see if Danny Ferry is finally able to pull the trigger on a blockbuster. We'll know by 3:00 p.m.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Awesome Prank

Spring training has just started, but it's doubtful that anybody is going to top the prank that the entire Phillies organization just pulled on pitcher Kyle Kendrick. My brother Jason tipped me off to this one. Thanks, bro. Enjoy.

The Ghost is the Real Deal

My pal Vinny's got to be jumping for joy again this morning. That's because his Youngstown paisan, middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, showed the world last night that last year's dramatic victory over Jermain Taylor was no fluke.

While last night's fight didn't have the drama of the earlier bout, Pavlik turned in another solid performance, scoring a unanimous 12 round decision over Taylor. In the eyes of most observers, the outcome wasn't close. True to his reputation, Taylor appeared to tire in the later rounds, and didn't appear to win a single round after the third.

One of the most depressing things that I've witnessed during my life as a sports fan has been the slow decline of boxing, and its replacement by the back alley barbarism of "sports" like the UFC. I grew up in the 1970s, and while boxing wasn't at its most popular point back then in terms of fan appeal, it may have been at its all time best in terms of quality. In the heavyweight ranks, you had not just the great Ali, but also worthy adversaries like Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Ken Norton, Ernie Shavers, Jimmy Ellis and Jerry Quarry. Among the lower weight classes, you had guys like Bob Foster, Carlos Monzon, Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran and Ray Leonard. The talent was deep, and it was spread throughout almost every weight class.

Big fights were enormous events, not merely pay-per-view greed grabs. Sure, you might not have been able to watch the big fight live without paying through the nose for it, but you'd see it on Wide World of Sports the very next week, and you could bet your bottom dollar that you'd have Howard Cosell right there to capture the all the drama. I know that Cosell remains a controversial figure, but the plain truth is that there was never a better ringside announcer than Howard Cosell. Want proof? Check this out. It is Foreman v. Frazier, and may just be Cosell's finest performance (Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!).

Kelly Pavlik may not be able to restore boxing to its former glory, but he reminds us that it is the primal sport, and that at its best, it has the power to captivate us more than just about any other kind of athletic event.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Fascinating Pro Bowl Trivia

Did you know that the combination of orange helmets and red pants has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory mice?

Did you know that the officiating team for the Pro Bowl is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate? Okay, not really.

Did you know that someone actually took the time to write recaps of every Pro Bowl game ever played and post them on the Internet? That sounds like an activity out of a book called "1001 Things to Do When You're Sentenced to Life Without Parole."

Did you know that if you were watching the Pro Bowl and your house was picked up by a tornado and deposited on a wicked witch, and if you took the pair of ruby slippers that she was wearing, put them on, tapped them together three times and said "there's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home," absolutely nothing interesting would happen?

Did you know that Chinese physicians have conducted open heart surgery using only the Pro Bowl telecast as an anesthetic?

Did you know that even with six Cleveland Browns in the Pro Bowl, the game is still unwatchable?

Did you know that with all that, watching the Pro Bowl was still more enjoyable than watching the Cavs play the Nuggets?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Stand by your man.

This is just getting better and better.

Clemens spent the other day walking around the Congressional offices yukkin' it up with and autographing balls for our elected representatives---you know, the same guys who are going to decide in a week if Clemens committed perjury.

Meanwhile, his old pal and erstwhile physician, trainer and chief sycophant, dropped a couple of beautiful nuggets on Clemens. As the Rhino pointed out, in a move reminiscent of Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp, McNamee rolled out some used syringes, gauze and a beer can that his mouthpieces claim will prove his claims.

But, the real bon mot was when McNamee testified that, at Roger's insistence, he also injected Debbie Clemens (that's Mrs. Rocket) with HGH to help her prepare for a swimsuit photo shoot. That's nice. That's really nice.

I suspect Koby's shittin' his pants right about now.

Stay tuned.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Apologies to Leigh Bodden

Last September, in the course of one of my most deranged Browns rants, I sniped at Leigh Bodden for his supposedly anti-social behavior in getting arrested at Hopkins. As you've probably heard by now, Bodden was acquitted of all charges yesterday -- or maybe a better word is "vindicated."

Based on media reports about what transpired at Bodden's trial, it appears that our friend Peter Friedman (his is the second comment to that deranged post) had it right all along when he said that Bodden was arrested for "Driving While Black." So, I sincerely apologize to Leigh Bodden, even though I admit that the odds that he gives a shit about that apology -- or what I said in the first place -- are pretty long.

I also salute him. Faced with an opportunity to avoid trial by accepting what's known as "diversion," Bodden stood his ground and took his chances with a jury. That took some guts, because aside from the discipline that the NFL would have handed out to him if he had been found guilty, the judicial system would have undoubtedly thrown the book at him for having the temerity to exercise his right to a jury trial.

All-Star Sleazefest 2008

With the latest twists and turns in the Roger Clemens and Spygate sagas, I think it's just possible that pro sports are approaching near record levels of sleaze. No, nobody's fixed a championship lately -- that hasn't happened in baseball since the Black Sox, and in football, you've got to go way all the way back to Super Bowl XL before you can find a game where the fix was in.

Nevertheless, Major League Baseball and the NFL are both going through some tough times. Baseball is dealing with the fallout of one of the greatest scandals in its history. Thanks to MLB's decision to look the other way for more than a decade, every record set during the last 15 years will be subject to a mental asterisk among baseball fans. Not only that, but the holder of the game's most hallowed record is under indictment for perjury, and the greatest right handed pitcher of all time is potentially walking the exact same perjury plank. Meanwhile, over in the NFL, the greatest football coach of his generation and the team of the decade have already had their reputations tarnished by a cheating scandal, and are now facing the prospect of having their greatest achievements tarnished by new -- and potentially far worse -- cheating allegations.

To make matters worse, the always helpful United States Congress is getting into the act: Roger Clemens will star in an upcoming Capitol Hill media circus, while the man who gave us the single bullet theory, Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, has decided to poke his nose under the NFL's skirts. Several internet sites have offered an intriguing explanation for Specter's sudden interest in the NFL 's dirty laundry - - Comcast's PAC is listed the second largest contributor to Specter's election campaigns, but in actuality, their financial support of the Distinguished Gentleman is probably quite a bit more extensive than that. Comcast, as you probably know, is the nation's largest cable television company, and along with most of the cable industry, is currently engaged in a death struggle with the NFL over the NFL Network.

In terms of pure theater, I've got to give the nod to The Rocket and his "damn the torpedoes" approach over the always cautious and well-advised suits at the NFL. Personally, I think Clemens is probably guilty, but I also think that Clemens is absolutely convinced that if he proclaims his innocence loudly enough, he'll eventually prevail. In any event, the he said/he said between McNamee and him ought to make for an excellent show -- particularly now that it looks like the proverbial blue dress may have just turned up.

Meanwhile, over on Park Avenue, the NFL is reacting to Specter in its usual slick, corporate way. But the powers that be there can't be too thrilled about the prospects of the league's premier franchise getting dragged through the mud. Oh, and the legal stakes are potentially quite high for the Patriots as well, thanks to something called the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, which made it a federal crime to swipe trade secrets. Some are already speculating that a criminal investigation may be in the offing. There are a lot of issues with trying to apply this statute to the Patriots' alleged taping antics, but let's face it, when was the last time that slowed down an ambitious federal prosecutor for more than a nanosecond?

Sure, these are the worst of times when it comes to the integrity of professional sports. Fortunately for the NFL and MLB, while some pundits may bemoan the moral state of sports and what it says about our society, most fans are so jaded that all that these scandals really mean is that they've just found another way to be entertained by their favorite sports during the most boring stretch of the year's sporting calendar. In the 1970s, the TV networks tried to get through this stretch with stupid events like The Superstars, but who needs that when you've got a show like this one? Pass me some popcorn, I'm fixin' to sit down and watch the All-Star Sleazefest until March Madness starts.

Monday, February 04, 2008

When Bad Things Happen to Bad People

Aside from a championship victory by a Cleveland team, I can't imagine any sporting event coming close to providing me with the sheer joy that New England's defeat by the New York Giants provided me with yesterday. I always thought that someday, karma would catch up with Bill Belichick, and yesterday, it not only caught him, it sacked him for a huge loss.

I was thrilled by the Giants comeback. I was enthralled by the final sack of the game, in which Tom Brady was nearly planted like a tulip bulb by Jay Alford. I was delighted when I saw Brady's final heave fall incomplete.

But what made the moment complete for me was watching that reprehensible little man slither off the field with one second left on the clock, too absorbed with the impact of this game on his legacy to have the common decency to stay until the bitter end. It was so in character for the slimy little dirtbag, who now knows that whatever else he accomplishes, he'll never be mentioned in the same breath as coaches like Walsh, Lombardi and Knoll, who never lost a Super Bowl. Even better, his once in a lifetime Patriot team just went from The Greatest Team Ever to a bitter footnote alongside the 1942 Chicago Bears.

Live with it, Bill. I hope last night haunts you forever.

I've despised Bill Belichick for almost 15 years, ever since he deliberately tanked the Cleveland Browns 1993 season and then tried to pretend that he didn't. That one move showed anyone who was paying attention that it was all about Bill, and his massive, out of control ego. If that alone didn't convince everyone that Belichick was a dirt bag, the shenanigans he pulled to maneuver out of the Jets job and into the Pats job should have. But Bill's a great coach (although the most recent allegations against him may ultimately make you wonder just how great), and that allows people to overlook what a despicable person he is. But for the record, there's ample evidence that Bill's an egomaniac, that he's dishonest, and that he cheats -- in football and, allegedly, in more important areas of life. And now, finally, he lost.

And I rejoice.

"Bill Belichick is a classless turd."

I think I read that somewhere a long time ago. But, it kinda fits his in- game performance last night. With .01 left on the official game clock, Bill hurried across the field for a quick hug to Tom Coughlin and then headed into the tunnel and ignominy. His troops, coachless, headed out for one last play. Then it was over. The ubiquitous Super Bowl confetti rained down. Lots of players thanked God. A few hugged their wives and kids. And then Joe Buck started yammering about something...for a long time. I don't know what the hell he was saying. But, I suspect I wasn't the only one who wasn't listening to him. I was enjoying the moment too much.

Tony Soprano once said, "Revenge is like serving cold cuts." Last night it was. Super Bowl party attendees all over the world (except one guy) got to guffaw their asses off while jamming giant subs in their mouths and as "perfection" went out the window.

The good people of Cleveland have always known that Bill was a miserable, humorless prick. No. Let's go further. Most people here have always known him for a massive dick-head.

This year, the rest of the country found out that he's also a cheat. Roger Goodell fined him a half -million bucks. Sure, there some small feeling of pleasure knowing that the little man had to fork over some dough, but that wasn't enough (Then again, there could be more.).

Bill was unrepentant. He still smirked. He still ran up the score against outmatched opponents. He still spoke to everyone else like he was the smartest man in the world. Unfortunately, he kept winning. He rolled into the Super Bowl undefeated.

Then it all came crashing down.

He doesn't get to be known as the coach of an undefeated Super Bowl champion. He'll forever be known as...well, Bill.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I'm Not Going to Your Super Bowl Party

Thank you for inviting me to your Super Bowl party, but I'm not going. Nothing personal; I just hate Super Bowl parties.

I hate everything about them. I hate hearing you talk about your new HD TV. (It just reminds me that I could be at home watching the game on my new HD TV).

I hate your brother-in-law from Pittsburgh who insists on wearing his Terry Bradshaw jersey and talking about how great the Steelers were, are and always will be. (Yeah, yeah, yeah... tell it to the Jaguars, pal).

I hate the Vegas Guy, who's got a bet on everything from the coin flip to the time the post game show ends and pontificates about the fine points of what you can bet on, like I give a shit.

I hate the NFL expert whose watched every game all season long on NFL Sunday Ticket, spends four hours a day on and can name the entire punting unit of the Miami Dolphins. Dude, I have a sports blog and even I think you should get a life.

I hate the guy who loves Belichick and swears the Browns never would've moved if they hadn't fired him. (I briefly want to walk him through the time line so he can see how screwed up he is, but decide that would require too much effort). I hate the kid who spilled the dip all over the coffee table. I hate the other kid who stole my seat when I went to take a leak.

I hate that all your beer is Bud Light. I hate that Vegas Guy appears to have polished off the entire 12 pack of Labatts that I brought.

I hate the table full of yentas in the kitchen who don't pay attention to the game but spend four and a half hours getting smashed on box wine and cackling so loud you can't hear yourself think, and who interrupt their revelry only long enough to wander in aimlessly five times a quarter to ask what the score is. Sorry ladies, but you've just switched me from "undecided" to "Obama."

I hate that I'll end up wearing more nachos than I've eaten (and I'll have eaten a lot of nachos).

I hate the people who critique the ads. I hate the people who want to watch the halftime show instead of changing the channel.

But I love the fact that I won't be hating any of that this year. Because this year, I'll be sitting on my couch munching my delicious meatball sub while drinking my own beer.

You may say I'm an antisocial jerk, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the Super Bowl party tradition will be done.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Teflon Brett Strikes Again

It's amazing. Despite what everyone saw in last night's NFC Championship Game, this morning, it appears that only a handful of sportswriters had the stones to call out Brett Favre for his typically brainless playoff game performance.

Favre has an uncanny knack for showing up in playoff games and playing like your little brother who is losing to you by three touchdowns in Madden '08. He forces throws, he makes terrible decisions, and he generally loses his shi --err, I mean his composure (if he was playing a video game, he'd undoubtedly throw his controller at the TV). In the end, he makes a play so ugly that a Pop Warner QB would be benched for it, and nobody calls him on it. Instead, we get poignant camera shots of the great man slumping off toward the locker room with his shoulders hunched. These usually alternate with images of his teary-eyed wife. Awww.

I swear, the whole country has a massive man crush on the guy.

Well, if Vinny and I are among the last heterosexuals in America when it comes to Brett Favre, so be it. We've been telling you guys for years that Favre is an overrated player, and he proved that again yesterday. When it came to crunch time, the New York Giants tried everything in their power not to win the NFC Championship, while Brett did all he could to make damn sure that they went home with it.

The interception that he threw in overtime last night ranks with the worst ever. However, as a testimony to his own greatness, it isn't even his own personal best. That honor belongs to the lame duck heave that Teflon Brett tossed up for grabs four years ago against the Eagles. Remember that one?

And yet, does he get raked over the coals for his performance? Of course not. Instead, even the New York media hosts a pity party for the guy. Unbelievable.

Thank goodness for the Internet, one of the few places aside from Philadelphia where the Emperor definitely has no clothes.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Ice Bowl

Looks like they're predicting sub zero temperatures for tomorrow's game in Green Bay. Anyway, since that's the case, I thought some of you might be interested in this series of posts from a Packer blog featuring photographs of fans, players and coaches on the day of the famous Ice Bowl game.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Great Day for the Vikings

You don't have to pinch yourselves, CSU hoops fans. It really happened. Those fans charging the court last night? Yup, they weren't an illusion. The Cleveland State University basketball team really did stick it to #12 Butler, 56-52, for their first win over a ranked opponent since their legendary 1986 NCAA tournament run.

How great was it? So great that even Bill Livingston is pleasant this morning.

Led by J'Nathan Bullock's 14 points and nine rebounds, the Vikings capped their best week of basketball in decades by knocking off Butler, a mid-major superpower more accustomed to slaying college basketball's Goliaths than taking one on the chin from a college basketball David like CSU. The Vikings did it in style, too. They took an early lead and trailed only once in the game, despite the fact that Butler managed to knot the contest up on seven separate occasions.

There were a lot of contributors last night for the Vikings, but this season, there usually have been. In addition to Bullock, Cedric Jackson had 14 points, four assists, and five steals. Warrensville Heights' own Joe Davis came off the bench to score 13 points. Davis was 5 for 7 from the field, which is even more impressive when you consider that he was 3 for 4 from beyond the arc.

Davis's performance was another example of the kind of bench support that the Vikings have been getting this season. Going into last night's game, CSU's bench was averaging 25.6 points per game. They didn't come near to matching that last night, but they did contribute 15 points, while Butler's bench contributed 17. That's not so bad when you consider that Butler has the vaunted three point specialist Pete Campbell coming off the bench for it.

Last night's victory comes off of two straight road upsets of Detroit Mercy and defending Horizon League champion Wright State. The Vikings started this three game swing in sole possession of first place in the Horizon League, but I doubt very many pundits thought they'd be there now. But the Vikings sent a loud and clear message to the rest of the league over the course of the last week, and they added an exclamation point to it last night -- the road to the Horizon League title runs through Cleveland!

It's been a long, long wait for CSU fans, and although there were only 5,300 in attendance last night at the Wolstein Center, that's the most that have been there since they put the curtain up three seasons ago. I've got a feeling that three times that many people will claim to have been there. If that means fans are waking up to what's been going on at CSU this season, then I guess that's okay by me.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Next Best Thing

If the Browns can't be in the playoffs, then the next best thing as far as I'm concerned is an NFC Championship Game between the Giants and the Packers at Lambeau Field.

When I was a kid, I developed this kind of Manichean world view when it came to the NFL. There were a number of teams that I wasn't truly a fan of, but that I classified as belonging to the NFL's "forces of light." The forces of light consisted mostly of old school teams who could trace their origins back to the original NFL or the AAFC. I generally felt positive toward those teams, as long as they weren't playing my team.

On the other hand, most of the AFL teams, along with any team from California, any Southern team, and the Dallas Cowboys, fell into my "forces of darkness" category. For those teams, I wished nothing but misery. In fact, about the only way I could've seen myself rooting for them back in those days would have been if they somehow ended up playing the Soviet Union.

I've pretty much kept this classification system until this day, although I've tinkered with it a bit over the years. For example, I briefly moved the Cowboys into the "forces of light" category the year that Bernie played for them, and I've also updated my worldview to make sure that carpetbagger teams like the Colts, Rams, and Cardinals are appropriately placed in the "forces of darkness" camp.

What about Baltimore? Well, let's put it this way. If we were still in the middle of the Cold War and the Ravens played the Russians, I'd pull for the Russians.

If you're a Browns fan, a classification system like this comes in pretty handy. After all, when your favorite team misses the playoffs in 13 out of its last 15 seasons, you need to figure out somebody to root for just to make the playoffs interesting. For me, it's always easy -- just find the oldest old school team in the playoff tournament and adopt it for however long it makes its run.

That's why this year's NFC Championship game has such an attraction for me. It doesn't get more old school than the Giants and the Packers, playing in single digit temperatures, on real grass. These teams have met five times for NFL championships, but the last time was more than 45 years ago. On Sunday, they'll meet again. Hell, they're even wearing the same uniforms they wore in 1962. I hope it snows.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

"Tell Romeo It Was Strictly Business. I Always Liked Him."

I've often thought that you can learn most things that you need to know about life by watching The Godfather, and it's starting to look like the Cleveland Browns' decision to consign Todd Grantham to the ash heap of history is a case in point.

Browns fans were surprised earlier this week when Grantham, who was given a three-year extension last June and who had been mentioned as a possible successor to Romeo Crennel, was fired from his position as the team's Defensive Coordinator. The surprise was heightened by the fact that Phil Savage had recently made statements about not wanting to make major changes in the coaching staff during the offseason.

Three days ago, John Taylor's column in The Orange and Brown Report clarified the situation, and this morning, The Plain Dealer even figured it out. As Taylor noted, several players reportedly stated that Grantham "'schemed behind RAC’s back' in an effort to get him fired before the bye so that he could take over as the interim head coach and, possibly, secure the position for years to come." The Plain Dealer quoted one insider as saying that "Grantham overplayed his hand and it backfired."

Well, I guess that makes Grantham the NFL's answer to Sal Tessio. Remember Sal? He's the one who tried to betray Michael by setting him up to be killed by the Barzini family after Don Corleone's death. When Tom Hagen told Tessio that it was time to go, and that he should bring his playbook with him, he figured out that he'd overplayed his hand:

Tessio: Can you get me off the hook, Tom? You know, for old times' sake?
Tom Hagen: Can't do it, Sally.
Tessio: Tell Michael it was strictly business. I always liked him.
Tom Hagen: He understands that.
I'm sure Romeo Crennel understands it too, Todd. But the bottom line's the same. As far as the Cleveland Browns are concerned, Todd Grantham sleeps with the fishes.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


There's just no substitute for punching Charlie Bauman right in the kisser.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Hang On Sloopy

I don't have much to add to everything that's been written about Ohio State's clash tonight with LSU, except to say that even for a Notre Dame fan like me, it would be really sweet to see the Buckeyes stick it to the pride of the SEC in their own backyard. I think they are perfectly capable of doing just that, and after last year's humiliation at the hands of Florida, I've got to believe that the Buckeyes are positively frothing at the mouth.

The key thing for Tressel is to effectively channel the team's rage. Football is a game that is best played with controlled fury, but there is such a thing as being too high for a game. If a coach isn't careful, a team on an emotional high can end up running out of gas as soon as the initial adrenaline rush passes. More importantly, teams that are too wound up tend to be brittle, and can collapse when they face the adversity that they'll inevitably confront when playing a quality opponent in a hostile environment.

The best news for Buckeye fans is that Jim Tressel knows all of this better than just about anybody else. Last year's game was about as uncharacteristic a performance as I've ever seen from a Jim Tressel team, and I don't think we're in for a repeat tonight. Ohio State will be ready.

I also like the fact that nobody expects the Buckeyes to win this game, and I'm sure that Tressel likes that too. Conventional wisdom says that LSU is a lot faster, deeper and more talented than Ohio State, which would struggle to remain in the upper echelon of the SEC if it were a member of that exalted conference.

Okay, whatever. All I can say is that I've seen LSU play quite a bit this season, and while they are certainly a good team with some tremendous players (Glenn Dorsey would look mighty good in an orange helmet), they haven't looked like a colossus to me. With the exception of its complete annihilation of Virginia Tech during the second week of the season, LSU didn't run away and hide from the better teams on its schedule. The Bayou Bengals lost games to Kentucky on the road and to Arkansas at home, beat Florida and Auburn on their last possession, and got pushed to the wall by a mediocre Alabama team.

On the other hand, with the exception of the loss to Illinois, Ohio State has been pretty workmanlike in disposing of its foes all season. Sure, Ohio State's Big 10 opponents didn't walk on water like the glorious and all powerful teams in the SEC that LSU faced, but the Bucks went 11-1 while playing four ranked teams, only one less than LSU. Ohio State wasn't as dominant offensively as it was last year, but it didn't suck either.

Even those who say that Ohio State and LSU are a good match tend to give the nod to the Tigers because the game is being played in New Orleans. A lot is being made of the home field advantage that LSU will enjoy in the Superdome, but Ohio State did beat Michigan in The Big House earlier this season, so they aren't exactly strangers to hostile environments. I know, I know -- you just can't replicate the noise in the Superdome, and LSU fans are much more rabid than Wolverine fans, who are the most gracious and polite fans in all of college sports (just ask them). Well, my guess is that LSU's fans were pretty rabid in Baton Rouge during the Arkansas game earlier this season, and yet somehow, the 8-5 Razorbacks managed to get it done.

After last season's football and basketball debacles, I know that a lot of Ohio State fans are a little more subdued than normal at the prospect of playing for a national championship. Actually, based on my conversations with many Buckeye fans, I'd describe some of them as being downright "mopey." Although I intend to throw this gloom (and feeble merchandise sales) in their faces the next time they start up with me about Irish fans being frontrunners, for now we're all on the same team, and I say -- hang on, sloopy. You can beat these guys. In fact, I think you will beat these guys.

Ohio State 28, LSU 23.