Saturday, March 29, 2008

hope springs eternal??/

Monday the Indians will begin their quest for their first World Championship in sixty years. I remember just a decade ago feeling that this year, this golden anniversary of Boudreau's win over the Spahn and Sane Braves would surely be the year. Hell, we were three outs away the year before, and we've only gotten better. But the 116 win Yankees had other plans that year.
I remember four oh so long months ago last year when we had to endure three straight losses as our championship hopes fell to the same pit where we found Lebron in June, and DA in December, and we were reminded again exactly why Bill Livingston, Paul Hoynes and the rest of the crabby and cantankerous sports writers are even employed.
But again, the pain that was four months ago is being overtaken by this anticipation. To call it "giddy" or "hopeful" would seem so normal, so cliché, and at times, insufficient. This discussion of eternal spring and fervent optimism has been noted by everyone from Whitman to Gammons. The combination of opening day, and the dawn of spring is been brought up over and over again, but every March, every year around this time, no matter how meaningless or painful the previous October was, always provides the same skip to our collective heart beat.
The season will start Monday in Cleveland (weather permitting) and even if Grady leads off the game with a triple, it won't be as good as last year's start. Even if we put up six runs in the first inning of the year, it won't match last year's first. And even if April is spent atop the AL Central standings, it won't have anything on last year. But somehow, despite the almost impossible expectations established by last year's club, despite the six month, 162 game gauntlet that lies ahead, our optimism will have to defeat our cynicism, our hope will have to counter our bitterness, and hopefully (again, weather permitting) we can prepare ourselves for another summer long adventure back into the somewhat unfamiliar arms of baseball's greatest gift: October.
As the eve of the longest, and often cruelest stretch of sports approaches, we are reminded what it is like to embrace the palpable feeling of freedom and pleasure that baseball can provide. The season is a narrative, beginning in the hot, steamy, multi-field complexes of Florida and Arizona, the season's start is a flighty and loose month of what seems like a never ending circle of stretching and calisthenics. The season is a long and grueling trek through the heart of half of the year that includes "the spring", "the dog days", "the stretch" and "the pennant chase", all culminating in the cold, packed houses of the league's best teams. The season starts when spring is reminding us just how much fun the summer will be and ends amidst the chilly reminder of how important winning can be. The fall reminds us all how lucky we can be to have to endure three series of Tim McCarver, biased media and Frank TV ads. The fall reminds us that as long as there are leaves on the trees, as long as there are enough snowplows, snow blowers and snow shoes in the city, it's still baseball season.
And most of all the fall reminds us of just how perfect the spring can be. When we can sit outside, watch a ballgame, and pray that in six months, we can still be doing just that.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I'm still not over October

As spring training approaches and opening day is a mere seven weeks away, everyone is talking about the upcoming baseball season. All over there is talk about Santana and the Tigers, The Red Sox and the Yankees - Two Toris have invaded LA - one will play center down in Anaheim, one will be managing up the street for the Dodgers. In Cleveland all anyone wants to talk about is a guy that isn't a free agent for a year - the same guy who 11 months ago was hearing noise about not being an ace - and now 18 mil a year isn't enough.

There's a lot to talk about after the Super Bowl and before opening day. That's what this time is - a lot of talk. We're still months away from baseball's first pitch, Tiger teeing on on Thursday at Augusta or the NFL draft.

We're still months away from the Final Four, The NBA stretch run or anything that has to do with sports mattering. Which means that the talk, which has been growing on a level that would make Roger Clemens forehead blush gets a 2 month spotlight. No games or important things to interrupt hours of talk about everything from LSU's Glenn Dorsey to LSU's Glen Davis.

But here's the thing. I'm not listening.

In fact, I haven't paid attention to a single morsel of MLB news since October 28th. I'm sure there was a World Series played, and judging by the incessant shots of Jonathan Paplebon celebrating like he's have an enema, I gathered that Boston won. I'm sure the Rockies put up a great fight, but it appears now that Beckett, Papi and Dusting Fucking Pedroia were too much for the outclassed champs of the other league.

I gathered Santana was traded to the Mets, but for whom I couldn't tell you.
I know about the Miggy Cabrera/Dontrelle trade only for fantasy purposes (the biggest loser here is Andrew Miller owners).
I'm sure a lot of stuff (Joe Torre, Torri Hunter, A-Rod, whoever is managing the Yankees now, talk about the Red Sox repeating (or as far as most of their fan base is concerned: going for their 5th in a row), has been topics of conversation between the Wilbons, Kornheisers, Patricks, and Rodas of the world.
I'm sure this whole CC scenario is mighty interesting, and I'm sure the pressure is on Wedge to progress past his 96 win season, MOY award and almost reaching the World Series (but they said we'd be contending by now!!!) - but i'm not over October yet.

I'm not over Pedroia, Youklis, Beckett, Dice-K, whoever the hell started game 6 (that blonde guy?).
I'm not over Westbrook, CC, Fausto, and Lofton.
I am not over thinking that we were going to win the World Series.
I'm not over the "December 27th 1964" texts I got on October 28th.
I'm not over that Saturday, after I LEFT, because I couldn't watch anymore, seeing the 8th inning playing out through the window at a bar in Korea Town thinking, it's ok, we've got tomorrow.
I'm not over my favorite team of the last 20 years, the team I followed every day, KNOWING that if they can catch some breaks, steal a game, and get hot at the right time, that they were the best team in the league.
I'm not over rooting against The Yankees, the Red Sox, the Umpires, TBS, Fox, and Red Sox nation all in the same month. I couldn't tell you who I end up despising most, but lets just say Tim McCarver.
I'm not over the 3-1 lead, or Kenny's home run.
I'm not over the bug game, the Byrd game, the 11th inning game, or the 7 run inning off of Wakefield.
I want next year to start, not because it could be our year, but because I want to have a new memory to replace the ones that are already stored and filed under "the year the Tribe won the world series" in my brain.

And while I'm sure there are a lot of great story lines to discuss for 2008, I can't join yet - I'm still not over 2007.


Monday, February 4, 2008

What a moment!

Ok, so I haven't read the blogosphere or the news wire today that much. So this article may have been written 20 times already, but here is my share of opinion.

In my lifetime, the closest I have ever come to a Cleveland championship is the 1997 Indians (though I believe the 2007 Indians were almost as close) - and I have never really experienced the absolute joy of a championship. My favorite moments are a sports fan include regular season games (Metcalf's punt returns, the 02 Falcons game) as well as important playoff games (Lebron's 48 pointer, The Bug Game, Alomar and Rivera) but never a championship clinching game.

Because of this lack, because of this inferiority I am forced to speak of the 48's and 64's with nostalgic memoriam. Those dates have become caricatures not unlike September 11th 2001 or November 22 1963. A simple championship would undeify these dates for me and change the outlook of how I view championship games in general.

But last night I kind of felt it. I know how different it would be if the Browns were involved. I know that the degree of my joy and catharsis were exponentially smaller than a potential Cleveland championship. But it was a different kind of joy.

Sandy Alomar tying game 4 of the 1997 division series was amazing. It was one of my favorite moments as a sports fan. The joy was greater than many of the most memorable moments of my life. But that joy is specific. It is organizable. It was a joy that the game was tied, we have momentum and a chance to win THIS game, which gives us momentum for tomorrow night.

The key here was that there was a tomorrow night.
When the Cavs vanquished the Pistons, as great as it was, there was a tomorrow.
When Metcalf avoided 546 black and gold cock suckers to score and take a lead in 93, it was amazing. It was "Pandemonium Palace". But that game was one of 16. It meant 1/16th of the season.

That's the difference with this joy that we have not yet experienced. NO TOMORROW. ITS OVER.

Then last night: Giants ball, 17-14, 1 second remaining and walking off the field was Bill Belichick. The most evil villain I have ever known as a sports fan. Not just a loser. Not just a failure. But a shamed and beaten loser. A loser without the courtesy to show his rival the satisfaction of winning. He couldn't lose. Not because he's a sore loser. Not because he's a bad sport. But because he's a bad person.

Losing is one thing. Trust me, we as Clevelanders know a lot about it. Losing happens. In every game, one coach loses. But this man was shamed.

This evil and hated man who now will be remembered more for scandal and unsportsmanlike behavior more than his historic 18 game winning streak, walked off of that field with no air of tragedy or drama. He had no one to run to. His "genius" was proved to not only be a house of cards, but a house of cards waiting to crumble. And he knew it. He knew that the only thing worse than losing is acknowledging failure. Accepting it.

And he couldn't. And he never will. That is why you shake hands after the game. A concession hand shake implies "I lost, and I will now have to accept that." He can't. And he never will. And that is the closest I have ever come to feeling that specific type of joy. Because with my joy, and Belichick's failure: There is no tomorrow.

Go Browns

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Super Bowl as Disney Land

In less than an hour, more than half the country will be watching the same thing. They will be watching a football game in which one team is favored by more than 11 points. This means that the true handicapping experts believe that if the game was played 10 times, The Patriots would win nine of those times - this does not make for gripping suspense or a thrilling prediction. Granted the role of the underdog being enhanced can raise the interest, so can the fact that the two teams hail from New York and Boston, and obviously the Patriots quest for 19-0 is a fine story line - but boiled down to it's most pure form - This shouldn't be a good game.

But everyone and their parents will be watching. There will be fans of the teams' rivals rooting against them - there will be casual NFL fans tuning in for the story lines - there will be people who haven't watched a football game all year - people tuning in for the commercials, the half time show, the spectacle. There will be renegades boycotting and hanging out with friends for the specific reason of NOT watching.

What other event bands people together and forms a community by NOT participating. And all for a game that Vegas odds say shouldn't even be close.

This angle has been analyzed, torn apart, pieced back together, seen from every angle, for every facet, and every argument to be had on the spectacle of the Super Bowl, and for good reason.

My stance though is not one of investigation, however, but one of admiration.

The overproduction of the Super Bowl is America's 4 hour family trip to Disney Land. Once a year, during the cold, damp and dark days of winter - on a Sunday night, the time that corresponds to the single most depressing part of the week - more than 60 million Americans hop into the family station wagon and go to Disney Land.

Why does Disneyland exist? or more importantly, why is Disneyland relevant. Jean Baudrillard says that "Disneyland exists in order to hide that it is the 'real' country, all of 'real' America that IS Disneyland...Disneyland is presented as imaginary to make us believe that the rest is real...It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real..." (Baudrillard 1981, 11-12)

Americans go to Disneyland to remember reassure them their lives are indeed real. People go to a park in the biggest city in the country to remember that that city they live in is reality, and the fantasy world within the confines are a departure from reality. If Disneyland WASN'T a fantasy representation of the real America, (frontier land, tomorrow land, main street USA) then what would the draw be. We can goto a REAL Main street, we don't need to go to fantasy frontier land, because a REAL frontier exists. We go for the fantasy.

And so goes the Super Bowl. Tonight we will all watch an event in which the content is irrelevant. Whether it is a football game, or a cooking show, tonight we will all tune in NOT to find out who wins, but to go to that fantasy world for four hours. We will drink beer, we will commiserate with friends and we will all willingly subject our self to the man and the machine - all for a 4 hour annual vacation away from reality.

Baudrillard also says "What every society looks for in continuing to produce, and to over-produce, is to restore the real that escapes it. That is why today this 'material' [in this case the Super Bowl] production is that of the hyperreal itself." (Baudriallard, 23)

This event is presented as real. It will be produced like every other football game. The same announcers, the same graphics, and the same players that played 18 times already. Like Disneyland, we are told that this is real, we are told that this is tangible. But in reality, this is not a football game. The Pirates of the Carribean are not presented as true pirates, but as fantasy pirates. Tonight, when Tom Brady and Eli Manning are presented as fantasy (excuse the expression) football players, we will willingly buy into that claim.

Enjoy the game, and enjoy the ride. Just remember where you parked.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Things Change

Remember October 1997. Game 7, middle of 9, Tribe clinging to a 2-1 lead. Did you feel safe? Did anyone feel safe? This wasn't about Mesa trotting in from the humid lat summer Florida bullpen. This wasn't about the potent Marlins lineup, or the stranded runner at third base with 1 out. That feeling of dread was related to what we've all come to accept as the Cleveland Sports Experience.

Not only fearing the worst, but expecting the worst, and usually witnessing the worst. In the last 12 years alone:

Dave Justice, Robbie Alomar, Albert Belle, Shawn Kemp, Edgar Renteria, Pedro Martinez, The last game of 2000 Tribe Season, Tim Couch, Chris Palmer, Ichiro, Dwayne Rudd, Tommy Maddux, John Hart.

Our worst fears came true. Every time. In a given contest, there is always a winner and a loser. When it's all boiled down, it's generally about 50/50 in the long term. By the long term I mean that if they were to play in 2005 the Steelers would obviously beat the Browns more often than now, but if they were to play in 1968, it would be the other way around. So if you were to say The Browns against the Steelers, there's about a 50 % chance we'll win. (Unless Foge Fazio is involved)

However, all of the luck of the above tribulations, went against Cleveland. I know about the curses, and the cheap owners, and the diaspora from the city. But over a given period of time, something good is bound to happen. When those 80,000 walked away from Cleveland Stadium on December 27th 1964, they had to feel confident about the next 44 years, not because of their solid football team, and hall of fame fullback - but because sometime the chips fall your way. Even in Cleveland.

That's what happened 4 and a half years ago. It wasn't a new coach, a great play, or a ticker tape parade. It was a set of ping pong balls, and it affected the town, and the mentality more than anyone has stopped to realize.

The mentality took some time to matriculate, but at least this optimistic blogger feels different.

Tonight, there were 4.9 seconds left, and the Cavs were down 1. All things being equal, odds were about 20% that they would score. But I think we felt confident. 5 years ago, we would have been up 1, and the other team would have had the ball. 5 years ago, our guy might have gotten tripped and no whistle would be heard on the home court. The result doesn't matter. Whether or not Lebron snaked his way through 3 NBA starters, changed his shot in mid-air, and shot a reverse lay-up, blind, with his left hand - and the game on the line is irrelevant.

What's important is that we expected him to do it.

Remember the Seahawks game. Overtime. 4th and 1 for the Seahawks on the brink of field goal range. Think about how it even GOT to that moment. Hassleback GOT the first down. They were marching. 5 years ago, the review doesn't come down from the booth. 5 years ago it definitely doesn't get reversed. And 5 years ago Sean Jones doesn't drag down an NFL running back behind the line of scrimmage. But again that's not the point.

Once we got the ball; once DA trotted back onto the field; we all knew we would win. The final drive was irrelevant, we believed we would win. I know this has more to do with the offensive line and the rejuvenated team spirit than Lebron James, but not to our mentality. We expect to win now.

I'm not saying we have reason to breathe now. We're still damn far from a championship. Will the Tribe be able to outlast the Tigers again. Will the Browns be able to make the jump from a good team to a great one with a tough schedule. Howabout the Cavs getting over the hump. This stuff is the real meat, but the attitude has changed.

We feel good about the future, we feel confident about what's next. Put the ball in Lebron's hands and let him light this shit up. It feels good to be here today.

Now will pitchers and catchers please report.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Romeo is on squad

So Romeo Crennell signed an extension and he's on squad until 2011. Despite what some writers, bloggers and narrow minded friends of mine think, this can only be a good thing. The couple of mil a year they're paying him doesn't count against the cap, the team seems to be going in the right direction and if worse comes to worse, and we start 0-6 next year, WHO CARES.

Chud becomes the coach and we have to buy out Romeo. As if this is the first time this has ever happened. When you sign a QB to a long term deal it matters. If the guy starts to suck, you have to pay him amounts of guaranteed money, the contract could lead to controversy (see Philadelphia), and it could play out ugly.

In the case of the coach, it seems the only effect this has is that his owner gave him a vote of confidence TODAY.

And in his defense, what is the issue. Its funny to me how people get on Crennel and Wedge. Transposed to a baseball season, Crennel just won the equivalent of 100 games. Not bad for a team that won the equivalent of 40 the year before. And look how he's done it.

In his first two years he was subject to not only Butch Davis's mistakes; but many of Phil Savage's too. His two QB's those years were Trent Dilfer and THIRD ROUND PICK Charlie Frye. He didn't have Kellen in year one, and the ENTIRE DEFENSE from 2005 was basically turned over save Roye and Davis. He inherited one of the worst O-Line's I've ever seen, and in two years, the biggest O-line addition he received (LeChuck doesn't count) was Block Faker Kevin Schaeffer.

Schaeffer's first play was a holding penalty that nullified what would have been the longest TD of the year.

It was Romeo's call to put in DA in week 1. It was Romeo's call to stick with him all year. Chud is a genius, and an offensive mastermind, but Romeo put him there.

I admire Phil Savage for bringing in guys like Steinbach, Lewis and Jurevicious. I applaud his drafting of Thomas, Quinn, Pool and Braylon. And of course who can forget signing JC. But it was Romeo's job to establish a winning culture.

Which he has done.

Ask Willie McGinest. The Willie McGinest who admittedly spent most of the year chasing guys half his age and probably was more responsible for the second Pittsburgh loss than anyone, but who also has played for Parcells and Bellichek. Been to 4 super bowls. I think he knows a good coach. He loves Ro.

Ask rookie Joe Thomas who is considered by many (including me) to be the missing link to the Browns' woes. He likes Ro.

The guy is a winner. Blame him for calling time out in the Pittsburgh game (even though it was Leon Williams). Blame him for starting Frye this year (even though the decision probably came from upstairs considering Frye's draft investment and local ties). But if you do blame him for these things. Then give him credit too.

Give him credit for taking a team many considered to be the worst in football after week 1, a team who had lost their starting QB, and who was down 7-0 at home to a division opponent. When Rudi Johnson scampered around Eric Wright down the left sideline and curled in for a score, what were the odds of the Browns ending up 10-6?

The very next week, when the Browns blew a winnable game on the road, sat at 1-2, just ended a teams long losing streak and were on a 5 hour flight home knowing they had the 2-1 Ravens and the 3-0 Pats up next, did you think they'd be 10-6?

The guy succeeded. Like his counterpart at the Jake, fans continue to argue that they won despite his coaching. I'm here to tell you that over 162 game baseball season, and a gruelling 17 week football season - THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN.

You win because of your coach. Like him or not, Romeo's done a hell of a job and now has a brand new deal because of it.

Congrats Coach,
Now take us up to 12 wins.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dirty Pool

I know this entry is a little late, and I know that my one of the stages of loss is bitterness and I will keep that in mind as I write this entry with full confidence that its content and timing are perfect. But here is the idea.

The last game of the NFL regular season between the Colts and the Titans was not only played under shady circumstances, but there is more than enough reason to believe that the Colts lost intentionally.

Now, I don’t think that Dungy and the Colts went out with the intention to lose, but I do think that towards the end of the game, with winning a reasonable option, they decided against winning and folded on purpose.

The obvious claim is that with more than 30 seconds to go in the game and a 6 point deficit, the Colts could have called time out, and forced the Titans (on 4th down) to kick a field goal. This field goal could have resulted in a bad snap returned for a score, a block, a miss, or perhaps a game-icing dagger right down Main Street. We don’t know. What we do know is that whether or not he was resting his best players or not, Tony Dungy is paid to win football games, and one of the jobs of a head coach when attempting to win a game is to manage the clock. He DELIBERATELY and EXPLICITLY did not.

This was not resting players, or running the ball with a lead. By NOT doing what a coach has to do in that situation, he was making a statement. The statement was “we do not want to win this game.” Which is somewhat understandable. Well no, wait, it’s not.

“We do not want to win this game at the risk of injuring a key player” is reasonable.

“We do not want to win” is downright shady.

But wait there’s more:

I have read several places that the traditional method of “resting your players” really doesn’t make sense. You play the Peyton Mannings, Dallas Clarks and Reggie Waynes in the first quarter, when the game is not in question and there is no way to know how the other team will be reacting. This kind of gets them game play, but you would think that if they were going to play for 15 minutes – you would want them playing the final 15 minutes, for practice in pressure situations.

But Dungy gets a pass on this because it is the traditional method and he was just following tradition.

But the way they played that second half, allowing Kerry Collins to turn into Bart Starr. Why were they in soft coverage, in the second half of a one score game? Why were they giving Tennessee’s below average receivers big cushions like they were lining up against Moss and Owens? Even if you are resting your starters, you do want to give your backups real game experience right. What better time to break in young corners than playing against division receivers (who aren’t very good) in a playoff game for them, with no repercussions. To me this doesn’t make sense.

Unless you consider some more facts: The Colts benefited (albeit slightly) from losing the game.

1. I have read elsewhere and believe it to be true that the Colts considered their first opponent in the playoffs. The Titans would HAVE to be considered by anyone (including Dungy) as significantly weaker than the Browns. Indy considered Cleveland a better match up with San Diego and perhaps a better candidate to upset the Chargers. Had the Chargers been upset (by either team), The Colts would have met the red hot Jaguars (or the Steelers, a team built on defense and knocked out the Colts in their building 2 years ago) as opposed to San Diego. Therefore, putting the weaker of the two teams (Tennessee) in the playoffs instead of Cleveland, increases their chances of seeing who we had to believe was the weakest of their three potential playoff opponents.

2. Draft choices! A loss potentially moves them up one spot (despite not having a first rounder), but more importantly it significantly affects Tennessee’s choice. A Titans win brings their draft choice from potentially 19, up to 25. Indy’s division foe now has to watch 6 teams draft in front of them thanks to that loss. And when they will be losing their best defensive player (Haynesworth), replacing him becomes that much harder.

It no doubt benefits the Colts to lose that game.

But hey, they got what was coming to them. Look at the teams that rested their players significantly at the end of the year – Indy, Dallas, Tampa. How are they looking? Meanwhile, the other locked in playoff contender, New England, looked great and fresh despite a two week layover. Suits them.

But still, even with all of this “they got what was coming to them” I still think that intentionally losing a game, in front of 65,000 people who paid ridiculous amounts of money to watch you try to win, and when you are paid a lot of money to win football games is shady.

Remember when Pete Rose said “I never bet against my team.” And the response was “well if you bet on your team on Friday and Saturday, and didn’t on Sunday, then you were essentially betting against your team on Sunday.”

That’s what this Dungy thing is. If you didn’t try to win, that is – put your team in the position to win without risking the health of one of your key contributors – then you essentially tried to lose. Super shady.

And furthermore, in a 1 score game, against a playoff hungry foe, don’t you think Manning (who’s not exactly known as Mr. 4th quarter) could have used one more 2 minute drill. Maybe a little more work in the 4th quarter, pressure situation, would have helped him when he was put to that same challenge 2 weeks later. So Dungy again, did not do his job.

By not calling time out, and by not game planning to win the game (with whatever personnel was on the field) was a violation of what I believe to be Dungy’s integrity, and I believe that it cost him his season.

This game was bullshit, and I hate that we had to watch it.

One thing we did learn from this game though, is that Indy can use their improved draft position to draft a new backup QB, because I don’t think Jim Sorgi can cut it. Unless it was Sorgi who through the game….

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The year after the tribe won 111 games

OK, so I'm watching Back to the Future for the 4,543,221st time, and every time I find some anachronistic error, or something that doesn't make sense. The viewing of any time travel movie always brings up questions.

For instance, if Doc ended up opening the letter saying that the Libyans were coming, and he had the wherewithall to suit up with a bullet proof vest, wouldn't it just make sense to not show up at the mall that night - avoiding the Libyans and arming yourself.

But that's not what this is about. This is not about time travel questions, but about the state of the world in 1955.

Ok, so the whole plot of the film relies upon channeling 1.21 gigawatts of electricity into the time machine. Unfortunately, the only ways to do this are either a nuclear reaction or a bolt of lightning. Doc's admission that the nuclear option is impossible due to the lack of ability to secure plutonium, which he assumes is easy in 1985.

So they obviously construct a harebrained scheme to harness the bolt of lightning which lasts a fraction of a second and relies on all sorts of things going right, which almost kills Doc (which would set off all sorts of problems in the space time continuum)

But wait, was plutonium readily available in 1985? Doc lied and cheated his way to the plutonium, but it still wasn't every day activity. Here's all I'm saying:

Lets say the lightning bolt scheme doesn't work. I don't think that all is lost. I mean, I'm not saying they need to con the Soviets, or steal it from Area 51, but I mean - it was the era of nuclear warfare. Is it not feasable that an appeal to the US government could yield a success.

I mean, they take the time machine to the feds, they tell them the story, eventually, after they all accuse them of being nutjobs, Marty uses the same methods he's already used (knowledge of the future, the picture of his family, artifacts brought back) to convince SOMEONE that this is real, and that he needs plutonium, and if the government wants to monitor everything, that's fine - but can they still have it.

I don't think that this is a crazy idea. The plutonium in 1985 was just as hard to secure in 1955 and they got it.

All I'm saying

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

NFL Culture

I have been a fan of the Cleveland Browns for as long as I can remember. I mean that too. I have pictures of me at my first birthday wearing a Browns sweatshirt. I have always loved the Browns.

I also love the sport of football. In all its incarnations. I associate football with autumn, with playoff baseball, the first cold winds coming down from Canada, the drums of the band on a Friday night or Saturday morning. I associate football with personal things: college, personal happiness, and camaraderie.

But the NFL is a different subject. I don't know if it is possible to love the Browns and the sport as much as I do and loathe the NFL as much as I do. Does that work? There are tons of things I can't stand about the NFL, from the way it is presented (on national television with a dizzying array of incompetence), I hate the amount of commercials, I hate the 3 months of discussion about the draft that starts in February. I can't stand the coverage, on almost every level form the putridness of Tony Grossi and the PD, all the way through Sean Salisbury at ESPN. I find it all offensive and repugnant.

But I look around myself and I am alone. The NFL is the most popular league in the world. People through giant tissy fits about their inability to watch a Packers Cowboys regular season game. Who were they mad at? The cable companies have made a business decision that the exorbitant amount that the NFL network is asking for is too much. I didn't hear anyone saying "why is this greedy company playing the game on Thursday night anyways." Had the game been on Sunday afternoon, like all other games, I'm sure FOX would have loved to have carried it.

People eat up the draft coverage. Just because I get mad at ESPN for shoving Mel Kiper in our faces in February to talk about who the Dolphins MIGHT draft, doesn't mean people aren't eating it up.

The problem is with the culture. The culture of the NFL. It is a frat boy, testosterone driven culture that has been developing over the past ten years with the explosion of the NFL from Sunday afternoons to 24/7 365. People aren't necessarily fans of teams, but of the league itself. I hate to get academic here, but the exposure of the NFL leads to its popularity. Its straight forward Marshall McLuhan or Jean Baudrillard. If we put Sean Salisbury up talking about the NFL all day, and then we start treating a Thursday night game (that's on in every bar in America) as a news story, eventually we as a culture will begin to accept it.

Its not that the NFL draft is so important that we better start covering it 3 months early. Its BECAUSE we cover it 3 months early, that it is important. Like the Red Sox/Yankees "division race" last year. It was unimportant, they were both in the playoffs, and who they played was more dependent on the other 2 teams. But Bristol covered it, it became important, and next thing you know, it was part of our culture.

The NFL is gross. But it will continue to be gross with offensive production, insane amounts of commercials, and repugnant coverage because that's how they create this culture. The NFL culture that I feel ashamed to be a part of.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


It was just over two and a half weeks ago that I wrote on this blog that December 29th, 2002 was the greatest day of my life. That was the day that the Browns beat the Falcons to get into the playoffs. I wrote that I was unashamed that a sporting event can provide as much or more joy than a real event that actually happened to me. I have graduated twice, been in several great relationships, and have had successes of my own athletically, but I was completely convinced that a sporting event, A REGULAR SEASON SPORTING EVENT, could be and was the greatest day of my adult life.

Five days after I made that post, I experienced what was unequivocally the worst day of my adult life. It put things in perspective. In case you didn’t notice, I didn’t make a post for almost two weeks. The reason is because on Thursday, December 27th, I lost two grandparents. Two completely unrelated illnesses brought upon two people only related by marriage, and they had to hit on the same day. To lose two people who are that close to you, a mere fourteen hours apart, is an unlikely tragedy that few can even comprehend.

Ironically, this day occurred three days before the third gigantic Cleveland Sports heartbreak of the year, the Browns elimination from postseason contention. Two weeks ago, I would have told you that nothing would be as bad as a ten win playoff miss. Two weeks ago I would have told you that a Browns loss to the Bengals would be a heartbreak only trumped by games 5, 6 and 7 of the ALCS. Now here I am trying to cope with the loss of two of the most formative figures of my life, and I’m supposed to “put the rest in perspective” and remember that it’s just a game.

I couldn’t help but think that I believed that 5 years earlier was the best day of my life because the Browns beat the Falcons, now I have to acknowledge the dichotomy between the best and the worst. A football victory and the death of two family members.

But guess what???

I realized something in all this. That Titans/Colts game still drove me nuts. I still had trouble sleeping that night knowing that the season was over. And eight days later, Les Miles' undressing of Jim Tressell made me fucking crazy. I still don’t want to think about late October, and the fact that I have to watch the NFL playoffs without who I believe would be one of the top 6 teams left is absolutely getting the best of me.

So…I put things in perspective. I buried two grandparents, and will always believe that Dec 27th 2007 was the worst day of my life. But does that mean that sports don’t matter? Does that mean that December 29, 2002 can’t be the best day of my life?

I ask you this, what was worse, your absolute worst breakup – the one that got away, or watching Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youklis and Josh Beckett dance all over Fenway in Game 7?

What was worse, the day you lost your best job, the day you got a DUI, the time you lost a ton of money, or realizing that the last 5 months of emotional investment and reallocation of Brown and Orange hope was tossed out the window by a guy named Jim Sorgi?

These questions are easy for me. I have braved the worst day of my life, and I have “put things in perspective” and I am still not ashamed. Next New Years, when I’m back in Cleveland for two stone settings, remembering the pain and misery that was last year, I will feel A LOT more comfortable if I’m also home for a home playoff game. Against Pittsburgh, in the cold, and in the snow.

And if we win that day, I guess I’ll need to make a new adjustment to “the best day of my life”

Monday, January 7, 2008

Buckeye Shame?

I never attended The Ohio State University. I no longer live in the state of Ohio, and I no longer possess an Ohio Drivers License. In fact, in the fall I plan on applying to the University of Michigan’s PhD program. But tonight, like last year, and like every third Saturday of every October as far back as I can remember – I will be wearing scarlet and gray and pulling for the Ohio State Buckeyes.

For whatever reason, pulling for the Buckeyes has become a sort of faux pas in the last several years. Perhaps it is their success on the national stage (and accompanying domination of the Midwest recruiting pool) that has turned them into the Yankees of the Big 10.

Perhaps it is the obnoxious and viral behavior of many Buckeyes fans that has followed the success – a feeling not familiar to fans of Ohio sports teams.

Maybe it is merely friendly competition between friends that root against each other in all matters, regardless of whether Heismans, Bowl Victories or sweater vests are involved.

All of these reasons to loathe all things scarlet and gray are valid. But these arguments are valid with the hatred of any fan base or team, collegiate or pro. But one of the more common reasons has really irked me.

The idea that because I didn’t attend Ohio State and therefore have no right to root for them, is ridiculous. First off, I was an Ohio State fan long before I applied to Kent State. So one day, when I’m already a mature eighteen year old, with years of scars and beliefs in a team or concept, I’m supposed to abandon this allegiance in favor of a lesser team, in a non-competitive league, even though I know NOTHING about the history, tradition or culture of this team. I find this stupid.

In 1996 The Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore. My Sunday’s were given up to practicing guitar and running around outside. But I still loved football. I had always watched and rooted for the Buckeyes, but now, without an alternative to direct my rabid football allegiance, my focus turned to the red hot Ohio State Buckeyes. Eddie George, Orlando Pace, Terry Glenn and David Boston. This will be an easy team to root for (boy was I wrong)

In January 1997 I got my first scarlet jersey, a 75 Pace jersey with the Rose emblem on the shoulder. Ohio State beat Jake Plummer’s Arizona State Sun Devil’s that day to finish #2 in the nation. I was in 9th grade and had no earthly idea where Kent State was. I was a Buckeyes fan.

I consider the 2002 Fiesta Bowl a high point of my sports fandom career. I saved newspaper clippings of Troy Smith’s Heisman run, and I have ventured from Cleveland to Columbus many times to merely be in the city for a big Buckeyes game.

Why should I feel guilty about this. The players on the team went to high schools that my friends and I went to. My parents and their parents rooted for the Buckeyes. I own the same amount of scarlet and gray jerseys as I do brown and orange. I am a Buckeyes fan – and I’m proud of it.

So when the Buckeyes take on another school I never considered going to tonight, I won’t feel guilty that I’m donning the same Big Ten Championship shirt I wore on January 3rd 2003, right beneath my scarlet 2 jersey that my college girlfriend had branded with the letters “Doss” on the back to honor my favorite player.

From the lots outside the horseshoe, through the bowels of the SuperDome, all the way to my home, minutes from the Pacific Ocean – shout Go Bucks – and do so with no shame.