Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Saturday, September 03, 2011

and now for something completely different

i guess this a blog

it started when i was the sports editor at west life
i needed a place to preserve my columns
at the time the paper didnt put much on the internet
i was allowed only one story a week to put on the website
thought it would be selfish if that was my column
so i put a link on the website and used here to archive my columns

when i was fired from there
i pouted for a while then started writing here
mostly about sports
i got linked on bunch of sites
but never did anything to promote it
or make money from it
didnt even bother to proofread or edit myself

it took over three years but i got full time job
this went silent the first few months
but when i started writing columns
this site went back
to being my column archive

i generally assumed no one ever visited
stumbled into finding out today
i actually get a lot of hits
even with nothing new in over a month

people from around the world stumble here somehow


guessing it is mostly by accident
and older columns hijacked by some site for traffic

some jerk stole my red right 88 moniker last year
i asked him nicely just to be the red right 88 chronicles
or something slightly different since i had been using it for years
something he could have learned with one
google search

his response was to buy the website rights
and be a dick
if he used his real name it would be more understandable
but he uses a name he stole from roman history
and he sucks
and it drive me nuts someone might think his crap was mine
dude said it was obvious i was corporate and he was a real fan
me corporate
how funny is that
he said people would not mistake his work for mine
i told him why would you want to use a name
that is already known
dont you want your own voice

sure enough months later
terry pluto
who i have met and interviewed
and occasionally cross paths with
wrote me a thank you email
for review that shithead wrote

i still put my morning journal columns here
even though they were archived at the papers site
earlier this year i thought i was back in the groove
and doing good work
no one noticed
except the good people of winnipeg

the first week of july
a stringer read his schedule wrong
went instead to where i was working
he showed up two minutes before first pitch
i had been there for an hour
trying to get a new company issued laptop to work
but it was a cheap piece of crap and wouldnt
of course i knew that it was going to happen
and went early plus brought my own computer

but i was a little behind getting a blog up and the lineups written out
the stringer acted like the unprofessional he is
he acted like a real jerk
started bad mouthing the company
i had to show him the schedule on my computer
and he still didnt believe me
hurt and embarrassed
and outweighing by double
he decided to be a bully
basically verbally assaulted and made a scene

i told him he was unprofessional and to go to his actual assignment
i didnt back down and got right in his face
he used improper language
i did not

i walked out called my boss
he asked me to not share this and he would take care of it
said we needed the stringer since we were shorthanded

a few days later he called me to say i was suspended
someone told his boss's boss
and it was out of his hands
lost a days pay and my beat

no one talked to me about what happened
and no one talked to anyone who was present in the press box
a witness on his own even emailed the paper
to vouch i did nothing wrong

i guess their silence when i returned to work
was supposed to be the apology

i emailed those who made the decision
saying i would accept the suspension but i believed i did nothing wrong
and that i was humiliated by what happened


if you want to suspend me
talk to me
there was nothing in the handbook
that gave them the right to do it

my vacation was already scheduled in ten days
i took it
came back and told them
i would only stay if i got a raise

in 2003 with no experience
i made $450 a week at a weekly paper as a reporter
when i left west life in 2006 i was making $510 a week

my starting salary in 2009 at the morning journal was $440
in my time there
i took on many extra duties
i made more flip videos than anyone in the company not just the paper
being short staffed we had to work harder and do more

no raise ever
working for less then you are worth sucks
but you can do it
but constantly being treated with disrespect is a lot harder
working under or beside people
whose character is against everything you believe in
is even harder

i wanted and believed i deserved a bigger raise
but would have settled for quarter an hour
that would have been two dollars a day
or ten dollars a week

august is our busiest month
three guys were going on vacation
i was going to be asked to carry the load
getting the paper out
doing previews

what i really wanted was an apology
but i was willing to settle for 10 bucks a week
a bargain rather than bringing in someone new

the editor of the paper refused
so i left

if i couldnt get a 10 dollar a week raise then
i was never going to get a raise

they had spent the last year
overpaying a lazy radio guy to write an insulting column once a week
that provided us no extra readers
everyone in the department could have gotten a $10 a week raise
three times over instead

quitting a job with benefits in this economy
is stupid

i wasnt wrong
but it was stupid

yet i have not regretted it for a second
i heard that threats were made about me leaving
how i would never work anywhere again in the industry

guess i am ok with that

others can judge my work
i am pretty confident i worked hard and did more than was expected
but i am sure no really cares

i couldnt stay and just put in the motions
like others seem capable of doing
i cant work for and along side people i think are shitty human beings
it would have killed me on the inside
(not that everyone was shitty but all it takes is more than one)

i doubt anyone will ever hire me to work at a paper ever again
not sure i want to become a sports blogger
i mean who really cares what i think about jim thome
or the browns

thought i would write a novel
but i have been struggling

rather than going to work some min wage job
so i can pretend to be productive member of society
i am packing up my car and heading west

going to see all the things
i havent seen before

i know my limitations as a writer
i am not a wordsmith
i hate punctuation
grammar rules

but my biggest strength
has always been
i know my voice

i can connect
find that
dude it is like you read my mind and said better it then i would

my dream job would be to be a columnist
for the plain dealer

i maybe not so humbly think i am what they are missing
a cleveland writer with a cleveland voice
sports or metro

unfortunately i didnt go to journalism school
i didnt have the patience to pay to my dues
the foresight to kiss the right asses
basically i was lazy and didnt self promote
lots of people could have done what bill simmons did
to become the sports guy
but he did it
he put in the work
work i didnt

there is no one to blame for being not being a columnist
at the plain dealer but me

should have wanted it back in high school
and worked my ass off until i got it
i didnt

i dont know what i am going to do for a job when i come home
i am not sure i am coming home

i dont know what is going to happen
a complete blank slate

starting a new blog
will add the link here
when it is up
and i am on the road

the plan is to write two posts a day
one to go live each night or when i find an internet connection
another one to show up a year later
with some thoughts i may not want to be read just yet

if you stumbled here thanks
if you read this far

email me if you want
i used to be good at writing letters


Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Final Morning Journal Column

As William Goldman wrote in the Princess Bride, “Life isn’t fair ... We tell our children that it is, but it’s a terrible thing to do. It’s not only a lie, it’s a cruel lie. Life is not fair, and it has never been, and it’s never going to be.”

I like sports, always have. Despite my limited athletic ability, I played as long as I could. For most of my life, my favorite activity was to play pick-up basketball. I could relax and compete at the same time. Being on the court was freeing and most importantly it was fun. However there is nothing worse than playing in a pickup game and becoming a ghost. If you don’t get the ball passed your way, that’s bad.

But when the ball is never passed to the guy you are defending, that’s even worse. At one point, pickup becomes wind sprints and that is no fun. It is only human nature and at some point, you quit running hard and soon after you lose all interest.

I envy the grown-ups I meet that don’t follow sports. Those Indians commercials that STO has been running ad nauseam this year have had the opposite of the desired effect the Indians were hoping for.

What If?

What if I didn’t waste so much of my life following people who play a game I have no impact on? What if John Elway didn’t break my heart?

What if I spent a lovely spring day outside then watch Michael Jordan break Craig Ehlo’s ankles?

What the Indians were never around and I could pick heroes based on skill rather than location?

But I have an addiction — one I can’t seem to give up.

I like talking about sports but I am finding that I don’t like most other people who want to talk about sports. With the big Indians trade, I tried to listen to talk radio or watch “talk” TV. I never last long. Loud men yelling stupid things with no facts or basis in reality — and the callers are pretty bad too.

ESPN and Jim Rome have ruined sports talk. There is no exchange of ideas just shtick.

At a certain point with so many voices yelling so many things, you realize your opinion doesn’t matter.

Take this trade for Ubaldo Jimenez for example. Could I really write anything anyone else hasn’t already said? I feel no need to scream my opinion but honestly I want to watch it play out it.

We all start playing sports for fun. We play catch with our dads. We play whiffle ball with our brothers. We join organized sports and slowly have the fun strained out of it. Those with talent get to keep playing until their dreams get snuffed out.

Maybe it is when they start throwing curve balls, maybe it is that oppressive stage parent, maybe it the coach that can only keep so many. Most of us quit when it quits being fun. If you are lucky, someone pays you some day. Yet the majority of the professional athletes I have met and nearly all of the professional sportswriters I have met are miserable people.

Sportswriters cheer for the clock. They want quick games so deadlines can be met. I am sure they all started out loving sports and it is just human nature that turns watching games into a chore.

I starting to discover that there seems to be three types of people. Those who can live their lives happily without sports; those who can dabble in sports — enjoy the moment — and step back into their lives; and those who use sports as an excuse to act like a jerk. I wish I was the first, I strive to be the second. I fear becoming the third.

Sports are supposed to be fun. Escapism. Incredible thrilling moments that can’t be scripted.

Maybe this trade by Chris Antonetti fails spectacularly. Maybe Jimenez gets hurts and Drew Pomeranz and Alex White turn into David Wells and David Cone.

But for the next three years, the Indians have a real window. Maybe there is just a crack this year and maybe it doesn’t work.

But I want to watch it and enjoy it as a fan. No matter what happens. Not handicapped by a curse, by my anger of never having won before or limited by making a deadline.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mavs title is not ours

I spent the better part of six years living in southeast Michigan. It was my first real exposure to hockey.

At the time, the Red Wings hadn’t won a Stanley Cup since 1955 and every year I lived there, it seemed like the Red Wings would dominate the regular season and get upset in the playoffs.

Felt like home to me.

So it didn’t feel like cheating to start following the team since Cleveland didn’t have a franchise. When the Wings finally broke through and won the Cup in 1997, I took a group of my students to the victory parade.

It seemed like there were a million people there — all deliriously happy. I, on the other, hand had never felt more alone. It was obvious that this wasn’t my parade. It didn’t count. The Red Wings weren’t my team.

When Ken Dorsey’s pass hit the ground at the end of the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, my friends erupted around me yet that same sinking feeling hit me. This wasn’t my championship either. I don’t live in Columbus. I didn’t attend Ohio State.

That feeling of disillusionment multiplied the next day during the Browns fourth quarter playoff meltdown.

I didn’t have much interest in this year’s NBA Finals. Didn’t watch a single second of the first five games and only watched game six in passing since it was on in the office.

I have been perplexed by the reaction of many locals during these finals. I get laughing at LePippen. You want to mock the kid, go ahead he certainly deserves it.

Did I offer a sly smile at another choke job? Did I prefer anyone else but him win a title? Of course, but there is no joy in watching another franchise win a title.

We don’t get to share.

I heard someone call this one of the 10 best Cleveland wins of all time, and frankly that angered me. You have to be at the bottom of the bandwagon to truly believe that.

I thought the Cavs for Mavs campaign and shirts were stupid and embarrassing. The idiot governor proclaiming the Mavs honorary Ohioans was asinine.

If you want to applaud the Mavericks or admire them for their play, fine, but this was not our championship.

I have not won many fights in my life, but I have never asked anyone to fight for me. I can take a punch or even a beating, but I am not going to tag-in a stranger to battle for me.

The pandering part of the Cleveland fan base made us all look like fools, and the national media happily ate it up.

The healing began when the Cavs beat the Heat at home. Winning the lottery helped remove the scab. If Mark Cuban could keep his mouth shut for three weeks, I wish Dan Gilbert could have kept his for one night.

Gilbert did get one thing right: There are no shortcuts.

The Browns, Indians and Cavs may never win a title in my lifetime. It certainly seems that way. But I will accept no substitute, and shame on you if you did.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Winnipeg deserves their Jets

Obviously I am against moving professional franchises. Especially if the main motivation is greed.

This is not a column about he that can’t be named in a family newspaper. I am not open for debate on his dastardly actions.

The best way to enrage me is to spout revisionist history that he had no choice. You always have a choice, and when you make a choice, there are repercussions.

Some wounds should never heal.

If there is any city in North America that can understand Cleveland’s pain at losing the Browns it is Winnipeg.

Hockey is a religion in Canada, and citizens of the Manitoba province are among its fiercest zealots.

It is common — and basically passé now — to see fans of a sports team all wear the same color shirt. During the Cavs recent playoff runs, the team would try to shame fans to putting on a one size fits all shirt but putting them on the JumboTron to be heckled into becoming a trained sheep.

I thought that was poor taste — hey let’s humiliate the guy who just spent two grand to go to our game.

Well Winnipeg fans were the first to embrace the White-out concept. They did it out of civic pride and the love of the game. Real people in love with a team and not just the only ones who could afford a seat.

The Jets started in the World Hockey League and signed legend Bobby Hull. They won league titles in 1976, 1978 and 1979. The WHL then folded and the Jets joined the NHL.

When Browns moved from the AAFC to the NFL, they were allowed to keep their team intact. The Browns defeated the NFL defending champion Eagles in their first NFL game and went on to win the NFL title.

The NHL forced the Jets to give up three of their top six scorers and in the reclamation draft forced to draft 18th out of 21.

They went 20-49-11 their first year in NHL and won only nine games the second. The NHL really screwed them. And it wouldn’t be the last time.

By the mid 1990s, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman had this idea to Americanize the game. He water-downed the talent with too much expansion and wanted franchises in the American south.

Despite a loyal fan base at the end of the 1996, or one year after we lost our beloved Browns, the Jets were moved to Phoenix. It was travesty and without question a mistake like most of Bettman’s decisions.

There was talk in late 1990s that NHL was about to pass the NBA in popularity. Now in 2011 you have to work hard if you want to watch an NHL game on TV. The southern franchises are struggling.

The Coyotes not only stole Winnipeg’s team — they stole the white-out idea. That sight would make me sick to my stomach.

Watching my old team win a title in another city was bad enough, could you imagine watching some slob in Baltimore wearing a dog mask barking up a storm? I would not have handled it well.

The team eventually went into bankruptcy, and there were rumors they would be sold back to Winnipeg last season. That would have been a perfect circle, but it didn’t happen — mostly because of Bettman’s interference.

But the next best thing is about to happen.

Atlanta, one of Bettman’s expansion pets, claims to have lost $150 million dollars and True North ,who own the minor league Manitoba Moose of the AHL, are nearing a deal to bring the NHL back to Winnipeg for next season.

Despite the reported claims of a done deal, Bettman will try any backdoor maneuver he can to keep the team out of Winnipeg. Editorials are popping up all over how a return to Winnipeg is bad for the NHL.

Bad in the sense of money, of wives not wanting to live there, of there not being enough corporations to milk money out of, how TV networks won’t want to televise from there — all reasons that have nothing to do with fans that love the sport.

But if it happens here’s hoping common sense allows the team to become the Winnipeg Jets and not the Moose or some lame cartoony nickname with no history. But Bettman’s heartless villain, I bet if a team does arrive — they vindictively kill the Jets nickname.

If Winnipeg gets a team it will be justice and possibly the greatest underdog story of all time.

When it becomes official, I was going to say I would toast with another Canada’s favorite pastimes — beer. But all their breweries have been sold off to foreign investors as well.

So Crown Royal will have to do. Here’s to our Canadian brothers of Winnipeg.

Go Jets Go.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ping pong balls

I will never forget where I was on May 22, 2003. I was sitting in Jacobs Field along side the first base side foul pole.

After all those years of sellouts, it seemed like it was a really small crowd but everything is relative since there were over 18,000 in the stadium.

It was the last days before everyone had a cell phone. Those that did have them — well, they were merely phones. All the information in the history of the world wasn’t just yet at our fingertips.

It started slow but it spread quickly.

There was one loud yelp but in seconds the murmur grew. Within moments the majority of the crowd was partying as if Tony Pena had just ripped an extra inning home run into bleachers to win a playoff game.

The players on the field were perplexed and by the time the center field scoreboard proclaimed what everyone had already learned the celebration was in full swing.

The Indians won the game in 11 innings that day but I had to look that up. What I do remember is this collective feeling that things were going to get better.

One of our own was going to save us and this was going to be a day we would never forget.

Well, we all know how that turned out.

This year I had honestly I forgotten until the day before when this year’s lottery would take place. I no longer believe in saviors.

On the day of the lottery I was at a bar playing team trivia. The TV in my direct view had the Indians game on. They were winning.

Once again there was a yelp. I looked up and the Indians weren’t scoring so I assumed the Cavs got the top pick.

I continued playing trivia. There was no buzz around the bar. Everyone went on with their lives.

It was maybe an hour later when I checked my phone and saw that indeed the Cavs had won the top pick. I waited another 20 minutes before I clicked on the link to discover that it was the Clippers pick that snagged the top spot and the Cavs own pick was fourth.

So I missed all the awesomeness that was Nick Gilbert.

On that awful day last July, Dan Gilbert who many Clevelanders had seen as a carpetbagger earned his street cred.

The nation mocked his letter. Most of us thought he was nuts as well but it played well with the home base.

Gilbert was certainly not blameless for what transpired last year. He can come off as smug and arrogant. The dude knows how to make money but when you make your living on home loans and convince a state to give you a sweetheart casino deal — it is hard to pass yourself off as a man of the people.

I don’t know if Gilbert wants a title for the good people of Cleveland or out of spite. Frankly I don’t care if he is genuine or merely full of slick Madison Avenue theatrics. The man knows his audience.

Bernie Kosar. Joshua Cribbs. Joe Haden. His courageous and lovable son.
A few high draft picks aren’t going to make the Cavs championship contenders overnight.

In 1986 the Cavs drafted Brad Daugherty, Ron Harper and Mark Price and Hot Rod Williams was let out of purgatory. Still it took six years to get to a conference final and they never did get to the finals. The last lottery ball didn’t pan out either.

However Dan Gilbert is going to do whatever it takes and even if he fails — he isn’t going to quit.

As Clevelanders that is all we ask.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gilligan preempted perfection

I wasn’t there. In fact until yesterday, the only highlight I remember seeing was the final out.

My memories of May 15, 1981, however, are still pretty clear to me.
I was eight years old and already a pretty big Tribe fan. I was a wide-eyed innocent sports fan.

A few months earlier, my heart was broken by a Browns home playoff loss, but I thought a Super Bowl trip was only a matter of time.

The 1981 Indians team is one of my favorites. The team of your childhood always invokes happy memories. My favorite player was Toby Harrah. My brother’s was Mike Hargrove. My mom had a Frito Lay t-shirt with Rick Manning’s face on it. I owned a 45 record of “Go Joe Charboneau.” I loved Thundering Andre Thornton, Miguel Dilone, Duane Kuiper, Cleveland native Jerry Dybzinski and the rest.

And on the morning of May 15, 1981, my Cleveland Indians were in first place.
Yet on that famous Friday, I did not watch the game. My dad worked third shift and my mother and sister had control of the sole television. The only channels available were 3, 5, 8, 43 and the brand new 61, which became pay per view at night. They decided to watch the world premiere of “Harlem Globetrotters visit Gilligan’s Island.”

You can imagine my horror during the climatic basketball game between the Globetrotters and the Robots when the following scroll ran along the bottom of the screen: “The Cleveland Indians’ Len Barker has just thrown a perfect game.”
A piece of history missed and the real Ginger wasn’t even in the movie.
After my anger subsided, I thought for sure the Indians would win the World Series later that year. A few days later the Indians fell out of first place and the players would go on strike less than a month later. The NFL players would go on strike the year after that.

My sporting innocence would evolve into disappointing cynicism.

So yesterday was the 30th anniversary of Large Lenny’s masterpiece. I turned on my television which now features several hundred channels to watch the Indians play the Mariners. Because of the rain, STO instead showed the perfect game. It was a lot of fun to watch.

The Indians haven’t had a no-hitter since that day. Those that are superstitious often blame Indians radio announcer Tom Hamilton. While Joe Tait never uttered the words, “Perfect game” until Manning catches the ball, Hamilton starts saying perfect game as many times as he can if a pitchers gets through the lineup unscathed the first time. Regardless, like most Indians fans, I still adore Hamilton.

On Friday I was out with friends. Since there was a break in the 40 days and nights of rain, we ate outside where there was no television to watch the Tribe game.
After we left, I checked the score on my phone. I saw the Indians were down 4-3 with a runner on third. We put the game on and arrived at our destination with the game still going on. We stayed in the car to listen to the end. His call of Hafner’s hit was more subtle than normal – “A swing and a high fly ball, deep center, Saunders back …”

I said to my friend, “It’s going to be short. Hamilton isn’t going nuts.”

But Hammy finished, “At the track, at the wall, it’s gooooooone”

Hamilton, bless his heart, had the presence of mind to stay silent for the next 32 seconds. He let the faithful fill the air. The roar of the crowd brought me right back to the 90s and Hamilton let listeners revel in it until he screamed, “The magic is back at Progressive Field.”

It is why he is the best in the business.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tribe making NBA playoffs irrevelant in Cleveland

The only reason I am aware that the NBA playoffs are taking place is that I work at a newspaper, and sometimes they ask me to proofread some pages.

So yes I heard that the Lakers got swept and head coach Phil Jackson is now going to have to take his public complaining to the monthly board meetings of his home owners association.

I have vague awareness that some lower seeded teams are making life uncomfortable for TNT, ESPN and ABC with the prospect of the lowest rated conference finals and NBA Finals in quite some time if all the big markets are eliminated.

Simple math indicates that LePippen and his boys have a paved path to the title which thereby will justify their actions.

And I don’t really care.

I haven’t watched a single game. If I happen to be in room with a game on, it has become merely background noise.

All that publicity of Cleveland fans forming temporary fan clubs of whoever was playing that team from the deep south has faded away.

I think that would have been the case regardless but our baseball team has made everything much easier.

I love football and my mood madly fluctuates on whether the Browns win or lose. Nothing makes me happier or angrier depending on what happens every Sunday. However there is nothing more fun than a winning baseball team.

Every game is appointment television. If you can’t watch, you devise ways to hear Tom Hamilton’s call and if that isn’t possible you drain the battery on your cell phone because of constant updates. You can’t wait to read the newspaper in the morning and you surf the Internet looking for highlights at night.

The first 33 games of this Indians season have been like watching the first season of really good but low-rated television show. You are hooked. You follow every episode and you are starting to fall in love. More and more people are hearing about the show and you are hoping it will get renewed and get keep going. You tell your friends but they have been burned before. They fell in love with a show like “Freak and Geeks” or “Terriers” but it got cancelled and they don’t want to go through that pain again.

You understand but you try to explain that maybe this time it will be different.

Before the season, I — like most people — tethered my optimism. It seemed lunacy to speak up and risk ridicule. Am I Charlie Brown once again with Mark Shapiro playing the part of Lucy? So many ifs. If Sizemore? If Hafner? If, if, if.

The remarkable start has been great fun to watch and it’s hard not to fall in love with this team. Even if this season falls apart — there are real building blocks.

The pitchers throw strikes.

The batters follow a game plan.

Every game is close and Manny Acta actively takes a part rather than wait for something to happen.

At the spots where there are stop-gap veterans playing over their heads — in Columbus there are talented players (Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis) gaining experience.

The once barren farm system is starting to produce talented young arms (Alex White, Tony Sipp, Vinnie Pestano) and there are more waiting in the wings (Drew Pomeranz, TJ House, Joe Gardner, Hector Rondon) plus the extra bounty from the Cy Young trades (Jason Knapp, Nick Hagadone).

The future really does seem to have a silver lining. So yes there is real possibility the season will go up in smoke. Our hearts could be broken again. But if this team is the real deal, like “The Wire”, you want to get in on the ground floor and not end being one of those people who had to watch every episode on DVD.

So take a peek, it is worth the risk.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Drink it up Tribe Fans

National and local media have piled on Indians fans about attendance (or the lack thereof), which is ridiculous. I saw one headline that said the Indians were in first place but no one was noticing.
Let’s not equate attendance with being oblivious. In fact, I can’t remember people talking this much about baseball, and the Indians in particular, for a long, long time.
Tribe gear is now a common sight in public, which hasn’t been the case the last few years.
Being an Indians fans is a lot like Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. A long time ago it won an award, then over time it was forgotten and just thought of something only old-timers drank.
It had brief spell when it became chic, and it seemed like everyone who was cool was drinking it before there was a backlash — when PBR returned to just those who liked a cheap, simple beer.
For those of us who love baseball, we are going to watch the games no matter who is watching. Just like how the taste of PBR hasn’t changed 1893. But at the same time, watching winning baseball is always better, just like drinking with friends is better than drinking alone.
The Indians were world champs in 1948, but after 1954 there wasn’t much to cheer about. But from 1994 to 2001, the Indians spoiled the city. The expectation became the Indians would win every home game and it seemed like a World Series title would be just a matter of time.
As the economics of baseball changed, fans now with a taste for winning baseball didn’t want to hear that money was the reason the Indians couldn’t compete every year.
The early 2000s were spent in preparation for a run, and the Indians dropped the ball in 2007 when they had their opportunity. The last two years have been the worst the Indians have ever been record-wise.
Fans had their hearts broken and after watching back-to-back Cy Young winners traded.
It’s understandable that people aren’t going to spend money in sit in the cold and rain. Regardless people are excited about the surprising Indians.
If you became an Indians fans during the Jacobs Field era, the one thing you missed is just how much fun 1994 and 1995 were on a day-to-day basis. Those of us who grew up in the 60s, 70s, 80s couldn’t stop smiling.
I am aware my PBR analogy has a lot of flaws and is rather stupid. It is just rather than dissect whether the Indians are for real, Maybe it will be short, sweet fling or it could be the start of a beautiful summer-long love affair. Regardless I want to savor every day of first place baseball. It is fun again to be a Tribe fan.
Drink it up.
Over-analyzing the draft
For me the NFL draft is a lot like the band Rush. It’s not that I don’t like it but it just doesn’t excite me as much as it does some other people.
If you then added in the overly enthusiastic non-stop talking about it by its hard-core fans that thumb their nose if you don’t agree it is the greatest thing EVER, it really gets annoying.
Sure I would like to hear some information about potential draft picks of the Browns but the overload of analysis by people whose information is mostly watered down versions of someone’s less than in-depth work gets old quick.
So yes, I listened to Moving Pictures in high school and I enjoyed the VH1 documentary on the band but I have no interest in you telling me again why the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame is a joke because they haven’t enshrined Neal Peart and the boys.
The aftermath of the draft is even worse. You can’t even win (or even worse, you are unbeatable) at Madden but you know the Browns messed up drafting Phil Taylor.
The Browns spend millions on scouting for the draft but you read Taylor gets fat and has inoperable bones that grow together. Hey, you never saw Taylor play or met the kid, but that doesn’t stop you from railing about how the Browns are stupid.
How many people this weekend moaned about the Browns trading down and passing on Julio Jones yet couldn’t tell you what number he wore at Alabama?
The reason Mike Holmgren was brought in by Randy Lerner is so that there would be a football man in charge of making football decisions. Holmgren cast his lot with Tom Heckert who bought himself some good will after last year’s draft.
Did Heckert do a good job? I don’t know, and frankly neither do you. More importantly I don’t care what you would have done. I will just take my chances that Heckert knows more than you do.
Flashy wide receivers are nice but often cause more headaches than they score touchdowns. I will gladly take some mean defensive players — thank you very much.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

NBA season is over so is my interest

It’s been a long time since the Cavaliers were finished playing basketball in the month of April. In fact, back then you could still buy a gallon of gas ($2.28) cheaper than you could a gallon of milk ($2.50).

Someone named Gwen Stefani topped the charts with Hollaback Girl. America was transfixed by a little TV show called Lost and eagerly awaiting the opening of Spiderman 3 at the box office.

Yes sir, 2005 was the last time the Cavaliers didn’t make the playoffs. All of these years of exciting basketball and Cleveland fans just have no idea what to do with themselves with no NBA basketball going on downtown.

Much of the media somehow seem convinced in order to fill the void of all those tradition filled spring days of playoff basketball, Cavaliers fans needed to assemble together to cheer against LePippen and his merry band of hired guns.
That sounds like the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. And yes, this is coming from a guy who’s second favorite NFL team has always been whoever was playing the Steelers. I have hated the colors yellow and black since before I got the training wheels off my bike.

I still automatically make a certain gesture whenever I see a bumper sticker for the team that wears those colors, and every time I meet someone from the city of Pittsburgh, there is always an awkward silence after the initial introductions.
Hating the Steelers is a birthright and I was glad to discover recently that people that actually live in the city of Pittsburgh really do still hate Browns fans.

Apparently it is only the media and bandwagon Yellow and Black fans that live in Northeast Ohio that claim there is no rivalry left.

In fact I have much more in common with born and bred Steeler fans than I do with LeGarfunkel who was born in Akron. He grew up cheering for whatever team happened to be the best in their sport at that time.

Even though we considered him one of our own, from early childhood he painted and carried himself as an outsider. LeEdMcMahon never had any loyalty to Cleveland and I suppose it was silly for me to think that he would.

So now LeSanchoPanza has taken his talents to South Beach, I am supposed to what live vicariously through whoever happens to be playing the Heat. I know Evan “The Villain” Turner plays for the 76ers but I really could care less who else is on the roster. I would rather put hot coals on my eyes than cheer for Kevin Garnett, Carlos Boozer or Kobe Bryant.

I am not going to waste any breathe and time watching LeJazzyJeff play basketball.
I am certainly not going to get all worked up on whether LeConstanza wins or loses.
As I wrote a few weeks back beating LeBiden in Cleveland help give some closure. The Cavaliers have the third highest attendance in the NBA this season.

Only Chicago and Portland had more. Yes — nearly all of those tickets were sold before The Decision, but I salute all the fans that still showed up this season. Beating the Heat at home and closing the season out with winning basketball is a just reward for those people, even at the cost of a few ping pong balls.

Bryon Scott appears to be the right coach and after this year’s draft, the Cavaliers can start rebuilding the team into something Cleveland can be proud of.

Listen I am not saying that I won’t boo LeChewy for the rest of his life, that I won’t chuckle every time his mom gets arrested, that I won’t smile every time I watch a highlight of LeBarneyRubble missing a game-winning shot or get knocked on his behind.
I will still immaturely come up with less than clever put-downs of his name. When the Heat get eliminated from the playoffs, I will raise my beer to toast their demise but in truth I don’t really care.

One day, I suspect LeGoose will win an NBA championship. I suspect he will act like everything he did to get it was worth it. He will laugh and cry alligator tears of joy. He will say everything his publicist pre-wrote for him with fake humility.
But as that former owner of the Cleveland Browns found out, the celebration of a title is quick and fleeting. At a certain point, a trophy becomes just a door stop. However once you betray your family, it is never home again.

That kid who would be King gave up his birthright to party with his friends. That was his choice, he gave up chasing Jordan and being beloved to be a second fiddle and to win a title as fast and as easy as possible. Good for him.

Meanwhile, how about that Tribe?

Monday, April 11, 2011

A crash course on your first place Tribe

Shhhhh. The first rule of the Indians’ fast start is you don’t talk about the Indians’ fast start. The second rule of the Indians’ fast start is you don’t talk about the Indians’ fast start.

Sure you can head down to the basement and dig out the old Tribe gear you packed away around Halloween back in 2007. Now I’m sure you packed on a few pounds but that’s all right. The player whose jersey you owned is probably long gone.

Your cap should still fit although the Indians have already gotten rid of the script I. But the good news is the C cap you had from back in the day is back in style.

Dig out your glove and head outside for a game of catch. Of course tonight and tomorrow’s games won’t be on until after your bed time while the Indians are on the West Coast but it will be good to get some exercise.

Don’t talk about contention let alone mention the “P” word. Instead put in your VHS copy of Major League and remember when this town got to pretend to be a baseball town.

Want to look like a tried and true Indians fan and not someone ready to jump on the bandwagon just because the Indians are in sole possession of first place? Here are some handy facts to share around the water cooler to those causal Indians fans that populate your office space.

No, Hammerin’ Jack Hannahan is not a former zoo keeper, but he is in fact from the state of Minnesota where he played for the Golden Gophers. He went to the same high school as Joe Mauer, who you may know from those MLB: The Show commercials. He spent the last season in the minors playing for Tacoma and Pawtucket. But this year has obviously ingested the spirit of Buddy Bell.

Vinnie Pestano is not that catcher we used to have with the cool Fu Manchu mustache. In fact, he was actually a relief pitcher who was on the team briefly last season and picked up a save in September against the Royals.

Travis Buck won a gold medal at the Olympics and was at one time considered the top prospect in the Oakland organization. No it is not true that he was once shot by Barbara Hershey, but yes he does make his own bats.

No, Shin-Soo Choo is not a free agent after this season or the next. He is not scheduled to be traded to the Dodgers until July 30, 2013. So feel free to take your kid to the May 21 game against the Reds when the team is giving away his jersey. Your son will grow out of it by then.

Asdrubal Cabrera and Orlando Cabrera are not in fact related. But yes, Rafael and Chris Perez are twins.

Yes, the Indians got Carlos Santana in a trade for Casey Blake. No, he actually is really good. He even wears the same number that Victor Martinez had, so a quick trip to fabric store and you’ve got a jersey you can actually wear in public.

Sure the Indians were fortunate to play Boston which is stumbling around with expectations and Seattle which is dutifully fulfilling expectations. And yes the Indians missed the Mariners best two starters but this team so much more talented than the team that had Jake Taylor, Ricky Vaughn, Roger Dorn, Pedro Cerrano and Eddie Harris.

That team started the year in front of empty crowds and we love them to this day. This real team is young, they play the right way and should be a blast to watch grow up — regardless of what happens the next few months.

So embrace the moment and wander on down the corner of Carnegie and Ninth on Friday when the team comes back home to play the Orioles. Heck there will even be fireworks.

Unless its cold. If it’s cold, stay home. Because frankly the only people that will tell you have to buy a ticket for a cold weather game in Cleveland are media guys who never have to pay for ticket and sit in a heated press box. So if it’s cold watch the game on TV. The team will still be there in May.

Go Tribe.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Win was needed for healing process

After the embarrassment that was December 2, I imagine that most people — like me — pretended to downplay the importance of the Cavs’ matchup on Tuesday against the Miami Heat.

The date wasn’t circled on a calendar and plans weren’t altered to make sure there were no distractions in watching the game.

In our heart of hearts, we desired vengeance but it seemed silly to ask for, let alone expect.

Someone in the Cavaliers organization held hope and used a scriptwriter’s touch to have the game be Baron Davis’ first start as a Cavalier.

If Cavalier fans are going to identify with a player on this roster, it will be Davis. He has a chance to reinvent himself and the Cavs were hoping this game would cement a love affair waiting to happen.

More karma hung in the air; Joe Tait was back where he belonged in his radio perch. It was his first chance to call a game where LePippen was the enemy.

Tait really has no business being back at work but he refused to let his health end his career. He made a commitment to retire at the end of the season and not in the middle. Tait worked hard to go out on his own terms instead of quitting at the first sign of adversity. Something LeQuitter could have learned from a true Cleveland legend.

A legend which we discovered only after the defection that LeMoron spent the last seven years snubbing.

And then the game started and Davis hit a three. For the rest of the game it was everything Cleveland fans wanted back in December.

Ryan Hollins knocked LePippen to the ground. Some guy named Gee threw down highlight reel dunks. J.J. Hickson showcased his potential. Davis and Anthony Parker provided leadership.

The best part was not the 23-point lead. No, it was the Heat making a run to tie the game at 85 and having the Cavaliers respond down the stretch to win by pulling away.

The best way to describe the afterglow of the victory was that it felt like a Browns win. Even more it felt like a Browns win over the Steelers.

In baseball and basketball, regular season wins lose individual importance. Often the next game is just 24 or 28 hours away.

But with a Browns win — everything becomes better for the rest of the week. Food tastes better. Air smells better. Nothing anyone does can bother you.

It has been a long time since a Cavalier win felt like that. Not since games five and six of the Pistons series in 2007. After that glorious high point, no regular season win for the Cavs could compare. We knew the post-season was the real test.

In 2008 and 2009 the Cavs fell behind early in the playoffs to the Celtics and Magic and it was always about catching back up.

In the grand scheme of things, the Cavs win over the Heat doesn’t mean much. It is just one of 15 wins on the season. Yet on the other hand, it may be the most important win in the history of the franchise.

I heard someone say Tuesday’s win wasn’t big deal because December 2 happened the way it did. I will argue the opposite.

This was better for the city and the franchise. The team needed to be embarrassed. Management needed to wake up and see this as a total rebuild and a not fix on the fly situation.

Bryon Scott looks to be the right choice to lead this team into the future. The team will be young the next few years and they will still lose more than they win. But this win got the fans back on their side. They won’t have to do it alone. The community will stay with them.

The humiliation of this season’s long losing streak will fade fast. A top three draft pick will soothe that pain. But the city of Cleveland needed this win to allow the healing process for the fans to truly begin.

We will always boo LePippen, but watching him slither onto the bench in darkness instead of being introduced will tame the hatred some.

The would-be king had another empty triple-double. He will pile up the money and stats for the rest of his career. He may win a title — thanks to help of others — but he will never be loved. Not like he was. He is to be pitied for that, not hated.

The city, the franchise and the fans got some closure. Hurt will always linger but we are now ready to fall in love with someone else.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Long, harsh winter nears an end

It has been a while since I have written a column. The reasons should be obvious. I have no desire to write the same thing over and over, and I doubt anyone wants to read that as well.

There is not much worse than a sportswriter complaining. It accomplishes nothing and I have no desire to wrap myself in the deep-seated cynicism needed to make it entertaining for you the reader.

Winter is never good in Cleveland, but I can’t remember a worse one. Here in Northeast Ohio, we can handle the cold, the long gray skies and the constant bombardment of snow. Helping pass the days is sports. We love to complain about sports here in Cleveland but this winter it really quit being funny.

Winter started with a vengeance on December 2 when LePippen and his traveling circus rolled into town, and the Cavs laid down without a fight. In an instant, the Cavs reverted to the Stepien Days.

There was a lot of bad basketball in my youth, but none of it prepared me for the dreadfulness of this team. They are unwatchable. Even having the Heat struggle at times has brought little joy. Basketball just isn’t fun anymore.

Cleveland State seemed poised to jump into the void, and the Vikings fell flat on their faces. This was the weakest NCAA field in many years. The Vikings had a marketable star in Norris Cole yet could not get the job done. The conference was theirs to take and they folded down the stretch.

Cleveland could have become a college basketball town, and the opportunity was lost.

But hey there is always our beloved Browns right? They stumbled down the stretch, fired another coach and brought in a unknown quantity to be the new coach. Another new offense and new defense will have to be installed.

The Browns want Colt McCoy and Co. to learn a new offense but the coaches aren’t allowed to teach it because of the lockout. The Browns want to start running a 4-3 defense but only have one defensive lineman who can play it and the front office isn’t allowed to sign any new players.

The longer the lockout goes and it is going to go on throughout the summer, the better the chance the Browns win even less games next season.

But in baseball hope always springs eternal right? My entire childhood was immersed in losing baseball yet I still loved my Tribe.

However — and this stat stunned me, it is so unbelievable — until last season the Indians had never lost 92 or more games in back-to-back years since 1915.

In fact the franchise even back to the Blues-Bronchos-Naps days has never lost 90 or more games three years in a row ever. In1977-1978 the Indians lost 90 both years and in 1914 as the Naps lost 102. They became the Indians in 1915 and lost 95.

So in 2007, the Cavs shocked the Pistons and made the finals. The Indians were one game away from the World Series. Now the Cavs are back to being a punch line and the Indians are on the verge of historic badness.

That it would be this bad less than four years later is inconceivable to me.

But as is said in Princess Bride, apparently that word doesn’t mean what I thought it meant.

I don’t really want to write about this every week so I took a break. But winter always ends.

The first Thursday of every NCAA tournament has always been one of my favorite days of the year. Wall-to-wall basketball but my sports appetite was been diminished. I wasn’t nearly as excited for the tournament as I once was. This year the first Thursday fell on March 17 and I worried amateur hour would ruin it.

Then a St. Patrick’s Day miracle happened. The weather was perfect and all of the places I wandered around downtown Cleveland were filled with happy people glad to freed from the bounds of a heartless winter.

I watched maybe 15 minutes of basketball after being prepared to watch 12 hours worth.

As a life long Clevelander, all it takes is one perfect day of sunshine to forgive the harshest of winters.

So Grady Sizemore still isn’t ready to slide. So Travis Hafner still doesn’t have his power back. So the zoo director that brings the animals onto David Letterman is our starting third baseman.

The team is full of unproven youngsters and several more stashed in the minors year or too away from the majors. There were no major signings in the off-season. Our best player, Shin Soo-Choo’s agent has a countdown calender in his office until free agency.

But I like this team. I think the offense will be better than most expect. The bullpen should be the strength of the team and the starting rotation isn’t that far removed from what the rest of the division.

So I bought my ticket for Opening Day, and I am back on the bandwagon. Call me an optimist but I think the Indians will contend for the playoffs this year.

So when is Opening Day? April 1st.

Well that’s a little too on the nose now isn’t it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Shurmur's fortunes now in the hands of McCoy

What do you think of the Browns hiring Pat Shurmur?

I’ve been asked that question a lot the last few days and I was a bit surprised to discover that I don’t care.

I know nothing about Shurmur. I have no idea how he will project to being as a head coach.

And frankly what I think means nothing. It wasn’t a hiring that will excite the fan base, but seriously what the fan base thinks of a head coach hiring should mean nothing as well.

I’ve heard people say you have to trust Mike Holmgren. I suppose, but how many times have I heard someone in the Browns front office say, “We have to get this right. We can’t afford to do this again.”

But that really isn’t true, is it?

Browns fans are still going to go the games. Browns fans are still going to watch on TV. The Browns can get it wrong again and again and again and they are still going to make money. Randy Lerner is so stinking rich he doesn’t blink at paying people not to work for the Browns anymore.

If you want financial security in life, all you have to do is convince the Browns to hire you, screw up as quickly as you can, and they will pay millions for you to sit at home.

I heard people give examples of coaching hires that didn’t excite the fan base and how great they turned out, including names like John Harbaugh, Mike Smith and Sean Payton. Of course I can counter with Rod Marinelli, Cam Cameron, Scott Linehan and countless more.

In today’s NFL the head coach only means so much. Why are Harbaugh, Smith and Payton successful? I would say Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees have more to do with the success of their team than the head coaches.

Is Bill Belchick the greatest coach in the NFL because of his defensive genius or because he has Tom Brady?

If you have a star quarterback in the NFL you have a chance to win. The success of Shurmur’s coaching career will be tied directly to who starts under center for him.
Shurmur is getting credit for helping Sam Bradford’s development this season for the Rams. While I am sure that was true, it certainly had to help that Bradford was a No. 1 overall draft pick blessed with great athletic abilities.

Colt McCoy is not Bradford.

But Shurmur comes armed with the West Coast Offense, which is supposed to get the most out of McCoy’s natural abilities. If McCoy develops, then Shurmur will keep his job. If McCoy doesn’t, he won’t.

What does interest me some is how Shurmur got the job. While Holmgren is the man who pulled the trigger, one would hope that Tom Heckert’s fingerprints are all over this choice.

Heckert worked with Shurmur when he was in the front office of the Eagles and Shurmur was an assistant coach. If years ago Heckert identified Shurmur as his guy (if he ever got a chance to hire a coach). That would make me a lot more comfortable.
If the two men have a shared vision on the type of players they want in the specific systems they want to run — that can only be good for the Browns.

Good friends working in concert is a good thing, right. Wait, wasn’t that you what we were saying about Eric Mangini and good buddy George Kokinis? Well, at least this time, the general manager picked the coach and not the other way around. The man picking the players should believe in his coach.

However, if Shurmur got hired because he ended up being the only name left on the list (because the big names said no thanks) and even the middle names weren’t interested in franchise with the most players in the NFL over 30 and no history of winning — well then I am not so excited.

Holmgren did not interview nearly as many coaches as he led us to believe. One hopes it is because Shurmur was so convincing and not because no one else was interested in the job.

Either way Shurmur is the new head coach. How long he stays will depend on McCoy.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Once promising season turns back into a pumpkin

I’m sure you remember the moment.

It didn’t last long but it was one of the few seconds of complete joy Browns fans have experienced since the return. For however long it lasted, one, two maybe three seconds, I would argue it was the only moment when I actually believed the Browns had a real future. Sure there have been signs of hope; here in Cleveland we always feign hope. But for those precious seconds, I honestly believed the Browns were for real.

And then of course Chansi Stuckey fumbled the ball.

The win over the Saints was awesome. I felt more shock than joy. A bunch of things went right for the Browns but for most of the game I was waiting for Drew Brees to lead his team to a comeback victory. The win over the Patriots was the most fun I have had during a game as a Browns fan since before Bernie Kosar was unceremoniously sent packing. It was a perfect storm and pasting Belichick and Brady was pretty awesome.

I rationalized the Jets game before it started. I just wanted to be competitive. Winning three weeks in row against the NFL elite seemed to be asking for too much. For most of the game that is exactly how it played it out then Colt McCoy led the Browns down the field for the game-tying touchdown. He even attacked the seemingly unbeatable Darelle Revis during the drive.

In overtime when Stuckey broke free — ever so briefly everything I ever wanted as a Browns fans seemed to be right in front of me. A defense that could stand up to the best the NFL had to offer. A young quarterback unafraid of any challenge who his teammates believed in. A coaching staff that looked to be getting more than was possible out of their team.

Stuckey is not responsible for the free fall that has occurred since then. He was trying to make a play. He stretched past his capabilities and fell short.

But the truth remains that it has been all downhill since then. Even the two Browns wins weren’t a lot of fun. The Browns actually lost the game to Carolina but the Panthers were ever so nice to regift it. The Browns did not play well in Miami but the Dolphins seem to be allergic to winning at home this season. Embarrassing losses to pitiful Buffalo and Cincinnati followed and the season came to a close with our regularly scheduled beatings by Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

A season that at one time seemed to be a road map to a brighter future ended with the same exact record of last season.

A four game winning streak saved the coaching staff last season and it seems only fair a four game losing streak should seal their firings this season.

A Browns fan told me that Browns should have won at least eight games this season and maybe even 10. I would argue that could just easily have won just two or three.

Everything that was once good about this season is now left with a huge dark cloud filled with questions.

Is McCoy the confident quarterback he was against New Orleans and New England or is he the quarterback flinging interceptions against Baltimore and Pittsburgh?

Are our rookie defensive backs the real deal or the two guys that watched Mike Wallace waltz past them?

Is Peyton Hillis the battering ram we all came to love or will his style lead to injuries that will lead to short NFL career?

Ditto for Joshua Cribbs?

Is Scott Fujita really that important to the defense? Can losing one guy destroy a unit like that?

Is Joe Thomas the real pro bowler he was in past seasons or just the sieve that led to three injured quarterbacks? The offensive line was the strength of the team and by the end of the season we saw what happens when a power rushing football team can’t run the ball anymore.

So the Browns season ended just like most of us expected it would back in training camp. The resulting double-digit loss season was no surprise for Browns fans. The way it unfolded however was far from expected.

The Browns started slow losing three straight games they actually led in the second half.

Injuries forced McCoy into the lineup and what followed was probably the most memorable stretch of football since the return. Be honest the year Butch Davis snuck the Browns into the playoffs, they really weren’t worthy and it was readily apparent that Derek Anderson’s miracle season was a house of cards.

That taste of a bright future is what made the beat down from the Steelers even more painful.

For moment, I actually believed in this team. The moment ended quickly and we are back to where we always seem to be in early January — watching other franchises in the playoffs while our Browns are left full of questions and doubts that they will ever be answered correctly.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My thoughts on the Browns ...

bah humbug

Monday, December 20, 2010

Circumstances tough for embattled Mangini

I have made no secret of being on the Eric Mangini bandwagon.

Sure, he did a few things last season that made me waver but with how the team finished and how hard they played for him, I thought he deserved to return.

Mike Holmgren obviously agreed as he surprisingly kept the embattled Mangini on board and paired him with a talented general manager in Tom Heckert.

The Browns’ offseason moves were positive. The team with three new quarterbacks got off to a slow start. When the season seemed lost the Browns coaching staff found ways to beat New Orleans, New England and give the New York Jets all they could handle with rookie Colt McCoy at the helm.

After McCoy was injured, the season sputtered. A loss to Jacksonville that could have been a win was followed by two ugly wins that could have been losses and was topped off with back-to-back pathetic roads losses to teams with two of the worst records in the NFL.

The hot seat is on fire. The assumption is that Mangini will be fired and replaced by Jon Gruden or maybe even Holmgren himself.

My belief is Mangini is a good football coach and that he gets the most out of his talent. Most of the complaints about Mangini have centered on his perceived personality and his choice of offensive coordinators.

Mangini basically acted like a tyrant last season. He was given absolute power and it did not go well. He made a lot of public relations mistakes and many of his personnel decisions did not go well. However it seemed obvious he could coach.

This year Mangini has changed. Able to focus on coaching, his interactions with the media have been solid. He may play some games on naming a starting quarterback but a lot of the Belichick Jr. routine is gone.

As for Brian Daboll, I agree his playing calling has conservative at times and strange at others but you can’t make filet mignon out of bologna. I can’t blame Mangini for refusing to throw his coach under the bus — at least during the season. The team lacks playmakers at receiver and the once strong offensive line has played like crap the last few weeks.

On defense, Rob Ryan used some magic tricks early in the season to hide the defense’s flaws. With the injury to Scott Fujita, the defense lost their quarterback.

The Browns’ problem now is the same it was before the season started. They lack depth to withstand injuries and they lack playmakers that can change a game. The one game-changer they have is Joshua Cribbs and injuries have neutered his effectiveness.

I still think Mangini is a good football coach but I can’t really complain if Holmgren wants a change. I am tired of constantly changing coaches and systems. What the Browns need is stability. Constant and stable leadership is what all of the best franchises in the NFL have. I fear a new coach will have to start things completely over once again.

Jon Gruden seems to be the popular choice to be the new coach. He won with Tony Dungy’s players in Tampa Bay but he won’t be inheriting that kind of talent here. One draw is that he could help McCoy’s development and he has experience with a Peyton Hillis type of running back. But does Gruden really want to coach? If he doesn’t and Mangini is fired then what?

At least if Mangini is fired, the general manager and the scouts would remain and it would not be a complete switch like the last two failed Browns regimes.

Browns owner Randy Lerner has handed the keys to the franchise to Mike Holmgren. The Big Show has mostly stayed behind the scenes this season letting Mangini and Heckert do their jobs.

It has been hard season to evaluate. Many fans believe the Browns should be 9-5. They could easily also be 2-11. The truth is the Browns are what their record says they are — which is 5-9. A team that on their best days can compete with any team in the NFL and on their worst days can lose to anyone.

So it doesn’t matter what sports radio callers or I think, all that matters is who Mike Holmgren believes is the best choice to coach our beloved Browns.

As fans we have no choice but to trust in Holmgren’s pedigree and hope he finally builds in the Browns into a franchise we can be proud of once again.

Despite the past two turds, the future is still brighter than it was two years ago.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Browns take a giant step backwards

There is a quote from former Tampa Bay head coach John McKay that seems appropriate for the Browns’ loss on Sunday.

When asked about his team’s offensive execution, McKay didn’t hesitate and replied, “I am in favor of it.”

I would say Browns fans everywhere know the feeling.

If a team that is below .500 can have a trap game, this Buffalo matchup was one.

I was worried heading into this matchup and I have nothing good to say about it now that it is over.

The whole team with the possible exception of punter Reggie Hodges played like utter crap.

The first drive started out beautifully. The gameplan was to hand the ball to Peyton Hillis and it worked until the drive sputtered inside the 5-yard line and the Browns had to settle for chip-shot field goal.

The defense, however, made a big play and the Browns got the ball back on the 25-yard line.

There has been much to say this season about the rise of Hillis. Given away by his former team for Brady Quinn, Hillis has become a folk hero in Cleveland.

Fans have fallen in love with his bruising style of running. Special attention has been given to his tendency to leap over opponents. Writers and fans alike have waxed poetic about Hillis’ super hero traits.

And, well, apparently Mr. Hillis has been reading about himself.

How else can you explain his stupidity that followed the Browns recovering a fumble? The Bills entered the game 2-10. Hillis had run over them on the first drive.

If they Browns pounded the ball in for a touchdown, maybe they would have rolled over.

We will never know because Hillis lost his mind. He tried to leap a defender standing straight up.

It is one thing to jump over a defender diving at his feet but Hillis tried to impersonate Michael Jordan and fly over a man standing tall.

It led to a fumble and changed the game.

The Buffalo defense smelled blood in the water and dominated the Browns offense for the rest of the game.

Later Hillis would fumble two more times, and luckily, both times the ball wasn’t lost. But if Hillis were any other running back, fans would be running him out of town.

It doesn’t matter how hard you play if you can’t hold onto the ball. Hillis has to be better. And part of being better is playing smarter.

Not that anyone on the Browns offense played well. The play calling was mind-blowingly bad. How many times can you attempt one-yard pass routes?

Delhomme’s mobility is gone. If he had been the Browns quarterback in 2007 with all of those weapons, the Browns would have made the playoffs. But those weapons are gone and so is the sharpness of Delhomme’s skills.

At least all that stupid talk of the playoffs is dead. I don’t even want to hear about should’a, could’a, would’a from the Browns’ early season losses.

The Browns don’t know how to win. They don’t deserve to be in the playoff race.

The defense was just as disappointing.

They let the Bills own the football in this game. When a stop was needed, the defense fell short. T.J. Ward may occasionally hit like Jack Tatum but he tackles like Tatum O’Neal.

While the Browns offense was putrid, at least you could sense the Bills defense rising to the occasion. The Bills saw an opening and took advantage.

The Browns defense, in contrast, was never able to make a game-changing play in the second half. And on the last drive, they rolled over.

For most of the season, the Browns have played hard. Against the Bills, the Browns were flat. It was disgusting to watch and you could sense it from Hillis’ fumble on.

All of the good feelings the Browns built up this season among fans dissipated against the Bills. On Sunday, the Browns were back to being the Browns.

And that sucks.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Since Cavs quit, fans will soon follow

The Browns won on Sunday, but the Cavs have stolen local conversation way from the Browns — maybe for the last time ever.

To say Cleveland sports fans tend to overreact to the ups and downs of their teams is obviously an understatement.

However, I think it is only a slight exaggeration that the Cavs’ humiliating loss on Thursday to the player who left and his new team could, one day, be pointed to as the beginning of the end of the franchise in Cleveland.

Sure it was only a regular season game, just one of 82 and all the significance was only in the hearts and minds of the Cleveland fanbase themselves.

We like to name our losses in this town, but this was something more. We understand losing what we don’t accept is quitting.

It is why fans took LePippen’s game five against Boston last season so personal. Many were ready to say just leave after that game, but having to watch LeBum rub our faces in leaving was too much.

Thursday’s laydown has been the subject of conversation ever since, particularly among people who barely watch sports. Sure there is anger and disgust, and as that fades it is going to be replaced by apathy.

The Cavs did not even need to win against Miami. If they would have played hard and fought the Heat until the final minutes and still come up short, the bandwagon would have swelled.

All of Northeast Ohio was prepared to fall in love on Thursday and instead fans left that game feeling betrayed.

We can understand an egomaniac mega-millionaire thumbing his nose at us and taking his talents elsewhere but how does our team — a group of players thrown under the bus by this punk superstar — roll over with smiles and hugs.

The business model this season for Dan Gilbert was risky enough. Most of the tickets for this season were sold before ‘The Decision’ was made.

Gilbert needed his team this season to play scrappy, earn one of the final playoff spots and hope that this town’s love of the underdog would lead to tickets sales for the 2010-2011 season.

That dream is over. Even if the Cavs would make the playoffs, which seems very unlikely, a large portion of the potential fan base won’t notice because they quit caring.

The Cavs are fortunate that there was a road trip scheduled following the debacle that was Thursday.

If there wasn’t, it seemed likely they would be booed out of the building by their own fans.

I don’t know if irony is the right word, but the only thing that could reduce some of the flames of hatred towards LeFraud was indifference and passivity of his former teammates. Maybe reduce isn’t the right word but at least some of that disgust was transferred.

The last few years outside the Lyin’ King the most popular Cavs among fans were Sideshow Bob and Boobie.

Fans ignored the shortcomings of Anderson Varejao because he played hard. He flopped and took charges. He fought for rebounds, but he exposed himself on Thursday.

I doubt he remains a fan favorite going forward.

His giant hug and playfulness with his former teammate instead of competing woke up a lot of fans to the new reality of the NBA. Players don’t care about winning. They care about their friends.

Well at least on the surface. Daniel Gibson learned a lesson of his own on Thursday. He thought LeJerk was his buddy but learned he was only a pawn.

One would have thought Gibson would have figured that out with how LePunk handled his last week in Cleveland playing pickup downtown while the whole time plotting to embarrass the city on national television.

Gibson tried damage control on Friday but if he wants to remain the most popular Cav, he better step up and show some fight. But frankly, it may be too late.

The Cavs were recently on a verge of a championship. Instead the Chosen One quit in the playoffs. He jumped ship in the off-season branding his teammates as losers.

Those teammates lived up to the moniker on Thursday. They kissed LeVillian’s butt and rolled over and quit without a fight.

Now the fans are going to quit on them.

Apathy is going to blanket the Cavs and soon it will be like the days of Ted Stepien all over again, except with loud music, an obnoxious announcer and various types of groups aiming to pump up the crowd.

So it will be a lot like the player who left, a lot of hype but utterly unsatisfying. However if the Cavs decide to leave town, there won’t be nearly as much anger.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Browns win that feels like a loss

For the first time in three weeks, the Browns won a football game. Yet, it still felt like a loss.

The Carolina Panthers, the team with the worst record in the NFL, rolled into town with a rookie quarterback, Jimmy Clausen, that missed last week’s game with a concussion.

The Browns did their best to lose the game, but won thanks mostly to Panthers kicker John Kasay missing two makeable field goals and the Panthers self-destructing with stupid penalties to extend Browns’ drives.

Once again on a final drive, Browns defenders forgot how to tackle and Clausen put his team in position to win the game. Honestly, the Browns lost the game but Kasay gift-wrapped it back into the win column.

A loss would have been devastating and perhaps all the goodwill Eric Mangini and his team had built this year with the fans would have vanished. Sure the Browns won, but it doesn’t completely mask my disappointment in how the team played.

The game started full of promise. On the Browns’ first four possessions, we caught a glimpse of what the Browns brain trust was thinking when they signed Jake Delhomme to be the starting quarterback in the offseason. The offense looked crisp as the Browns marched up and down the field. Facing the team he once led to the Super Bowl, Delhomme found a way to get the Browns young receivers into the flow. Invisible man Brian Robiskie was a real contributor as he caught seven passes after entering the game with only nine catches in the season and only 16 in his so far ill-fated NFL career. Delhomme was able to use the entire field and that opened up running lanes for Peyton Hillis. The bruising running back from Arkansas scored on three of the Browns first four possessions. The Browns were poised to score on the another possession as well, but Evan Moore was stripped of the ball inside the 5-yard line after catching a pass for what would have been a first down.

But then with the Browns seemingly in command with a 21-7 lead, the dark side of Jake Delhomme came out. As his former team and its fans can attest, there are two sides to Delhomme. He is a nice charming guy. He is a leader in the locker room and on the field. He can still make plays as evidenced by the Browns first four drives of the game. But his dark side is sometimes he just can’t help himself. He thinks he can make every play and that confidence gets him in trouble. It started slowly. Early in the game on one play all Delhomme had to do was throw the ball out of bounds but instead inexplicability Delhomme just tossed it forward. It could have been a disaster instead it was just a dumb grounding penalty.

Late in the half, after Carolina had crept within eight with a pair of field goals, conservative wisdom said the Browns should just run the ball up the middle grind out the clock and a take a lead into halftime. But armed with three timeouts, aggressive wisdom said go get some more points. Mangini let Delhomme try and it almost blew up in his face. Faced with a strong Carolina pass rush, Delhomme just couldn’t help himself. Rather than throw the ball away, he tried to force things. He was stripped of the ball and but fortunately a teammate fell on it.

At halftime, Hillis had 70 yards rushing on only 10 carries. So to start the second half, Delhomme came out gunslinging. His first pass was an interception but the Panthers failed to capitalize because Kasay missed a field goal.

After one Hillis rush, Delhomme went back to the air and Captain Munnerlyn, yes that is his real name, had an easy pick-six. Just like that, the Panthers were back into the game, down 21-20.

One of the reasons fans have attached themselves to Colt McCoy as the quarterback of the future is that despite his youth, McCoy plays smart football. Like all rookies, he makes mistakes but his mistakes haven’t been fatal ones. Delhomme is a veteran quarterback that takes too many chances. When the Browns found themselves down 23-21 with less than seven minutes to play, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll showed his trust in Delhomme opting to pass than run. Delhomme drove the Browns down the field but every time he dropped back to pass, I, and I imagine Browns fans everywhere, held their breathe. But Delhomme got the Browns in field-goal range and the points somehow held up.

Delhomme is a capable quarterback. We saw that in the first half. But it is hard for a player to change his stripes. The Browns aim to be a running football team. They want to pound on and punish defenses, and they need a quarterback that plays it smart. Not passive but intelligently aggressive. McCoy with his accuracy looks to be that kind of quarterback. He has surprised me with his moxie and ability to lead. The keys to the offense should be his once he heals. Delhomme’s dark side confirmed that.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Without Cribbs Browns lack playmakers

I admit, over the last few seasons whenever Josh Cribbs would bring his contract squabbles public, I wasn’t that sympathetic.

Here was a undrafted free agent who wanted security and signed a six-year deal making a million dollars a year. Complaining about being underpaid when you are cashing big checks is never something you want to hear. As much I loved watching Cribbs exciting style of play, I wasn’t sure it was worth playing a special teams player big bucks. He may have been the Browns best player, but if your best player is a special teams player, that team is in trouble.

I was wrong.

In the second half of the Jets game last week and again this week against the Jaguars, Cribbs absence totally altered the game. While Colt McCoy again showed he is the future of the Browns, even a great quarterback like Tom Brady or Peyton Manning needs some weapons. McCoy just didn’t have enough bullets on Sunday against Jacksonsville. Without Cribbs in the game, the Jaguar defense was able to key on Peyton Hillis, and McCoy’s favorite weapon Ben Watson was banged up early and wasn’t much of a factor. Brian Robiske was again mostly invisible and no one is going to mistake Chansi Stuckey and Mo Massaquoi for Dante Lavelli and Mac Speedie or even for that matter Kevin Johnson and Darrin Chiaverini.

When the opposing offense turns the ball over on five straight possessions and six times overall, you have to find a way to score points. The offensive line wasn’t much help to McCoy as the Jaguars sacked him six times and was in his face all game. With Hillis put in check in the second half and no go-to-guy to throw it to, the offense sputtered. Even the usually reliable Phil Dawson couldn’t bail the offense out.

The result was the Browns again lost a game they should have won.

No one on the Browns team is blameless. Without Cribbs, the special teams lost a lot of what makes them special. The Jaguars didn’t have worry about giving up field position. They could just kick it as far as they could without fear of a big return. As for Dawson, 51-yard field goals are never automatic, but man he is paid to make those and by missing both the Jaguars were allowed to stick around.

The defense dominated the third quarter and the start of the fourth as they harassed David Garrard and his mates into five straight turnovers. Abe Elam had an interception in the first half and then made a heads up strip and fumble return of a touchdown that produced the Browns only touchdown of the second half. But for the second straight game missed tackles cost the Browns a win as failing to lasso Maurice Jones-Drew allowed the Jaguars to steal the win.

The NFL is about wins and once again the Browns fell short. But the game also showed promise that the Browns may have finally found a winning front office that knows how to use the draft to change the teams fortunes. First-round pick Joe Haden had a strong game with several great pass defenses and an interception. Second-round pick TJ Ward had two interceptions and is leading the team in tackles. With a little coaching Ward may learn at big moments you have to tackle with both arms and not always go for the haymaker. And third-round pick Colt McCoy again with the game on the line played well. With another draft like this, the Browns will finally close the talent gap that keeps them from being among the NFL’s elite.

How many times over the years have we watched a quarterback barely escape the clutches of a defender and use his feet to keep a drive alive? And how many times was it the other team’s quarterback that did it?

McCoy was great orchestrating a 16-play, 10 minute, 92-yard touchdown drive in the first half. He eluded the rush and pitched it forward to Hillis for a touchdown. It has been a long time since the Browns had a quarterback capable of pulling that kind of play off. But McCoy shined after the Browns had given up the lead. Despite what had been a dormant offense in the second half, McCoy found a way to make plays. He scrambled and found Evan Moore down the sideline and then used his legs to get the Browns into field goal range.

Even after the Browns defense gave the lead back up and left him with no time outs, McCoy got the Browns into a position to win. The young quarterback from Texas calmly led the Browns down the field and his final throw was on the money to Watson, but skipped off him into a defender.

So the result was a disappointing loss. A loss because the Browns lack playmakers on offense. Heal those toes Mr.Cribbs, the Browns need you.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Browns are a team to be proud of despite loss

I am not going to second-guess any decision the Browns coaching staff made in the overtime loss to the Jets. I am not going to blame Chansi Stuckey for the letting the Jets rip the ball of his hands after fighting to get into the field-goal range.

I am not going to rant and rave or throw things around in anger.

Why? Because I have my football team back.

The Browns are relevant again. For the third straight game, they went toe-to-toe with a Super Bowl contender. And the pain that comes with a close loss is welcomed after years being overmatched and out-classed.

It is all right to be disappointed with a loss that could have easily been a win. It should hurt to lose a football game.

However, at the same time, once again I am proud of my football team. Hard-nosed and tough, resilient to the very end, the Browns took the best effort of a very good football team.

The Browns fell short and they got beat. And I would wager they are really ticked off about it. That’s the fight I am looking for.

You could feel the rekindling of a love affair this week. People who never talk about the Browns were talking about the Browns at grocery stores, at water coolers and with random strangers on the street. Despite being 3-5, there was talk of the playoffs.

National pundits started giving the Browns respect and were picking the Browns to beat the Jets, which would have sounded ridiculous at the start of the season. CBS sent their No. 1 announcing team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to call the game instead of the bottom of the barrel announcers usually assigned.

Typical of Browns fans, this made us nervous. How would the team respond? Were they primed for letdown?

Instead, the Browns and Jets played an entertaining football game. In fact, the Jets are exactly what the Browns aim to be — tough as nails on defense a with bruising ball-control offense. The Jets happen to have more playmakers on both sides of the ball, but Browns were worthy adversaries.

While the Browns are well coached and play hard, what they are not is deep. Losing three starters in the first half looked like it would spell doom for the Browns. With cornerback Sheldon Brown and linebacker Scott Fujita out, the Jets opened the second half with 19-play, 10-minute drive but no points.

With Josh Cribbs out, the Browns offense went stale. The Jets could line up nine in the box and take away Peyton Hillis.

But the Browns didn’t back down. The defense got abused most the second half, but found ways to keep the Jets out of the end zone.

After doing nothing in the second half on offense, Colt McCoy drove the Browns down the field in the final minutes to get the tie and force overtime.

The Browns’ quarterback search is over. The kid has earned the right to be the man. I think Eric Mangini knows this as well but will continue to mess with the beat reporters, and I think he also has earned that right.

This is Eric Mangini’s football team. He has built it in his image and what he wants as a coach. He has given the Browns an identity and it is one that fits this town perfectly.

The Cleveland Browns are a flawed football team. They lack depth, playmakers and they need to play perfect to have a chance to win.

But they are tough, they play as hard as they can and fight to the end. The safe thing to do at the end of overtime would have been to run the ball three times into the line and take the tie. The Browns dropped McCoy back to pass twice because they wanted to win.

They didn’t. It allowed the Jets to get the ball back and gave them enough time to make a play and win the game.

I can second-guess that play call, but I respect it. The Browns played to win the game and isn’t that what we have been asking for the last decade?

Welcome back, Browns. Next week is Jacksonville and the Jaguars know they are in for a fight.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Browns now believe they can beat anyone

Belief is a powerful tool.

The Cleveland Browns now believe they are a good football team, and that can carry a team a long way.

I don’t want to hear the words “shocking” or “upset.” The Browns win over the New England Patriots, the team with the best record and supposedly best coach in the NFL was a beatdown. An upset implies luck or fortune — that if two teams played 10 times that this was the one time and probably only time the underdog would win. The Browns did not squeak out a win. They were the better football team as they out-gained New England 404 to 283, dominated possession and were the aggressors in every faction of the game.

End all talk about head coach Eric Mangini’s job security. The Browns can now confidently line up on any given Sunday against any team in the NFL and believe they will win the game.

For the second game in a row, the stars of the Browns’ win were Eric Mangini and his coaching staff. The Browns won all four aspects against New England. Their offense, defense, special teams and coaching was better.

In the first three games of the year, the Browns had second half leads and lost. They were lacking two key ingredients. The Browns did not have a culture of winning to fall back on and they did not have a quarterback who could make plays when needed.

Colt McCoy has firmly entrenched himself as the Browns quarterback of the present. The rookie from Texas was 14 of 19 for 174 yards but most importantly he was mistake free. Three separate times flushed from the pocket, McCoy rolled and on the run threw a perfect strike for positive yardage. We know the Browns are lacking playmakers at receiver but when guys believe in their quarterback, they give maximum effort and the Browns wide outs did just that on Sunday.

McCoy’s 16-yard touchdown run was the type of play that fires up an entire football team. The locker room is now McCoy’s. And how about that block from Joshua Cribbs on McCoy’s touchdown? Cribbs finds ways to help this team week in and week out.

So while McCoy is now the face of the franchise, Peyton Hillis is now its heart. In just eight games, Hillis has become the most beloved Brown since Bernie Kosar. Hillis rumbled for 184 yards on 29 bruising carries. From his first carry where he tried leaping over a New England defender to his back-breaking 35-yard touchdown run, Hillis pounded the Patriots defense into submission. He was also McCoy’s safety valve as a receiver to pick up huge first downs.

Most importantly, the Browns had drives. McCoy and the offense had the ball for 16 minutes more than New England. The media and fans have brutalized Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll during his tenure but he had a perfect day as a play caller. He trusted his rookie quarterback to make plays. He went into his bag of tricks for a huge touchdown with the Chansi Stuckey play call. Daboll’s emotion on the sideline showed how much this game meant for him.

While it was Mangini’s gutsy call to go for it on fourth and one early in the game, it was Daboll who designed the right play to get it done.

The special teams set a tone early in the game by recovering the ball on a short kick that confused the Patriots. All game the coverage was perfect and with the lead, Cribbs was smart enough to play it safe on returns.

There is not much more you can say about Rob Ryan and his defense. It is obvious how much his players adore him. For two weeks in a row, Ryan and his staff have perplexed two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The Browns held the Pats to 68 yards rushing and made Tom Brady look mortal.

When Mike Holmgren was hired, everyone assumed he would clean house. Once he retained Mangini and his staff, the assumption became Holmgren would bid his team and ride in on his white horse to take over as coach to save the franchise. It’s not needed; the Browns have a great coaching staff. Holmgren was smart enough to hire Tom Heckert who already has had an impact on this team with the Brady Quinn for Peyton Hillis trade, the pickups of Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita at linebacker and the drafting of T.J. Ward and Joe Haden in the secondary.

Holmgren is smart man and he knows he has a good thing going. The offensive and defensive systems may not be his but he knows they are working. The key will be knowing when to interject himself like he did when he insisted the Browns draft Colt McCoy. Holmgren was right on that one.

A good thing is happening in this town. Browns fans can now replace hope with belief.

And that is a powerful thing.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Play underdog or rollover

On paper this year’s Cavaliers team seems built for my wheelhouse.

It has all the makings of an underdog sports movie

On the verge of a championship, their superstar teammate quit on them. He took his talents elsewhere and basically called his former teammates a bunch of losers.
What is left in the locker room is collection of role players who are now missing the linchpin. There are a few aging all-stars, some hungry young players with a lot to prove but mostly filler.

They have been written off and disrespected.

Enter a coach who knew what it took to win a ring as a player. As a coach he took his former team to the finals twice before his star player betrayed him and got him fired.

Rather than stand around and watch the hyped chosen one, the new coach is preaching a team concept. Constant movement. Relying on each other as brothers. No one is bigger than the team.

Gone is the flash. No more lighting it up like Las Vegas. It is blue-collar time for a hard knock town.

While Mr. Primadonna is hanging with his new South Beach pals and turning into a complete villain, the team scraps and fights and aims to sneak into the playoffs where they will meet their former foe.

That is the Cleveland sports dream isn’t it?

It is a story that we can certainly buy into.

One national pundit from the largest online sports site has predicted that the Cavs will win 12 games. For a point of reference, the Cavs won 17 games in the 2002-2003 season in a year they tanked in order to get the most ping-pong balls to draft the player formerly believed to “The Chosen One.” Last season the Cavs won 12 or more games in a month three times.

A prediction of 12 wins for a season — never has there been bigger bulletin board material.

This is the type of team Cleveland rallies around.

The truth, however, is I haven’t watched a single second of the Cavs preseason and I watched just about every game of that 2002-2003 season. I spent most of my youth watching really bad basketball.

I am hoping that Wednesday night when the season starts for real, the passion of and grittiness of Byron Scott’s team will spark my enthusiasm.

The 1984-85 Cavs were the favorite team of my youth. They started 2-19 but rallied to make the playoffs where they gave the Boston Celtics all they could handle before losing.

The Cavs have no chance to win a championship this season but I think this season could one where fans fall in love with a team. Gone will be the hype, the fancy handshakes and posturing. There will be no chants of MVP but hopefully a deep respect for a team that doesn’t quit.

Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer is the writer who made the prediction of 12 wins and if you read the whole article he shared the reason for his prediction. He really believes the Cavs are a 28 or so win team. He believes the Cavs need to blow it up completely and trade Mo Williams and Antwan Jamison. That the best thing the Cavs can do as an organization is waive the white flag and play like it is 2002-2003.

They don’t make movies about quitters but Dwyer isn’t wrong. In NBA you need to be contending or at the top of the lottery, the mediocre middle is a wasteland.

So what would you prefer? Blow it up, lose as much as possible and pray the this time the ping pong balls produce the real deal and hope the front office can find the right pieces parts for that superstar? Or have a team of Spartans that give everything they have and die on their swords knowing for certain the season will end with a loss and delay even longer any hope for a crown?

I have lived my whole life without a championship. Rolling over and hoping everything breaks right may be smarter but I don’t like the taste.

Lace ’em up and pass the manual for the Princeton Offense.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Browns coaching staff propels team to victory over Saints

How can one tell when the warm glow of the honeymoon between fans and franchise after a Super Bowl win is over?

When the lowly Browns kick their butt.

For the third straight season, the Cleveland Browns took the defending Super Bowl Champions to the woodshed.

Two years ago, the Browns ambushed the Giants on Monday Night Football. Last season, years of frustration were alleviated on a Thursday night when the Browns took it to the hated Steelers ruining their playoff hopes.

Yesterday, the Browns went into the Superdome and made a loud statement with a road win over the Saints.

Why did the Browns win this football game?

Because Eric Mangini and his coaching staff out-coached the Saints coaching staff.

Special teams coach Brad Seely proved why he is one of the best in the business. Teams have keyed on Josh Cribbs all season. He has found return yards tough to get. With his return from a concussion, everyone thought Cribbs would be keyed up to make a big return. So Seely pulled a trick from his bag and had Cribbs throw across the field to Eric Wright. Nearly a touchdown, it set the Browns offense up with great field position and an early lead.

Later deep in their own territory ready to punt yet again, Seely’s video work paid off once more. He called for a fake punt. Reggie Hodges saw I-90 open up in front of him and scampered 68 yards to set up another field goal. Taking that kind of chance only comes after long hours watching film.

Drew Brees is known for being one of the NFL’s most cerebral quarterbacks. He can carve up some of the best defenses in the league. Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and his staff came up with a game plan that thoroughly confused Brees.

Ryan took the pieces he had and found ways to hide what the Browns wanted to do. Often standing nearly the entire defense at the line scrimmage, Brees had no idea where the rush was coming from and who was sliding into coverage.

Former Saint Scott Fujita set the tone early with a sack and interception. Fujita led the team with nine tackles and has emerged as the leader the unit has been looking for. David Bowens was in the right place at the right time twice. After watching Browns defensive backs drop interception after interception all season, the grizzled veteran Bowens showed what you do when the ball comes your way and took it to the house twice.

The Saints out-gained the Browns 392 to 210. New Orleans had the ball for 11 more minutes, but the Browns offense did their job.

Rookie Colt McCoy did not have impressive numbers. He completed 9 of 16 passes for 74 yards, but most importantly he didn’t turn the ball over.

Peyton Hillis found the rushing yards difficult. Until the very end it seemed like Hodges would be the Browns leading rusher. The Saints scored their first touchdown to make it 20-10 with 13:29 left in the game. The game was in the balance. Eric Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll put the game on Hillis’ shoulders.

Six straight times Hillis blasted into the New Orleans defense gaining 31 yards. After a one-play breather facing third and 6, Hillis took the direct snap and fired a perfect strike to McCoy for a 12-yard gain and a Browns first down. It would lead to another field goal and increase the lead to 13.

I have made no bones about how I like this football team. I like the coaches. I like the team’s character and toughness. The one thing they have been missing is wins, which is all that matters in the National Football League.

The Browns schedule remains the same. Because of their talent limitations, the Browns are going to need to play mistake free football to win every week. This one win doesn’t change that challenge.

But lets end all talk about firing Eric Mangini and his staff. This is a well-coached football team. As Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert continue to gather talent, Mangini and his staff will coach them up.

Rock bottom is over. The climb back up is underway.