Saturday, May 28, 2016

Cavs give the business on way to second straight Finals

Good times
There was an almost a businesslike atmosphere as Friday night's final buzzer heralded the Cavaliers to their second straight NBA Finals. 


Not to say the team wasn't excited, as hugs were exchanged and daps* given. Locker room footage showed the team dousing each other in water and chocolate milk instead of champagne. Asked by reporters about the lack of post-game bubbly, LeBron James replied matter-of-factly, "We didn't have champagne."

No doubt the celebration got more raucous later in the night, but the team's on-camera demeanor was in some part muted and thoughtful, as if finishing 14-2 in the Eastern Conference playoffs shouldn't be cause for Dom Perignon-spritzing joy.

These Cavs are way past the "glad-to-be-here" stage, even as two members of the Big Three get ready for their first real taste of championship-round basketball. Fully healthy and coming off a series where the average margin of victory was a ridiculous 28 points, this squad is playing the best it ever has a unit.

Obviously, that workmanlike attitude comes from James, who along with teammate James Jones will be tipping off his sixth straight Finals on Thursday. This latest run started two summers ago with a famous 'Coming home' letter, where James and/or his marketing team told a hungry fanbase that nothing is given, everything is earned.

Similar sentiments came from James early this morning after putting the Raptors to bed, as reported by Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com: "We earned the right to be here and represent the Eastern Conference in The Finals," James said. "We're not supposed to be here. We earned our right."

These words echo over a long year that witnessed a mid-season firing as well as stretches of lackadaisical hoopage where the entire roster was seemingly encased in "chill mode." The Cavs play this post-season has been far from chilly, yet the team remains focused, calm and prepared for that next, final step.

*Author's note: "Dap" is street lingo for the knocking of fists together as a form of greeting or respect.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Kyrie Irving's Game One crossover is one for the ages

What a long way the Cavs have come from the subtweeting anxious mess everyone thought they were just three months ago. In their ninth straight playoff win Tuesday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavs unleashed holy hell on the Toronto Raptors. This time, not with a barrage of threes, but instead in the easiest at-the-rim game you will ever see in the NBA. Toronto's utter terror of having hell rained down them from beyond the arc caused them to completely abandon help in the paint, and the Cavs took advantage of it. All of the Cavs.

Most of the Cavs, like maybe LeBron James, just decided to just attack--James went 7-for-7 against the likes of DeMarre Carroll and the Raptors--taking the ball to the rim with ease as Toronto refused to help. Reports are that LeBron actually murdered the basketball ring also.

Back cuts, drives, transition passes, alley-oops. The Cavs did anything they wanted to in the paint, and walked away with a 31-point victory.

But the highlight for me was this Kyrie Irving crossover, in which he hesitates, crosses over behind his back (!), breaks both of Corey Joseph's kneecaps, shins, ankles, and all ten toes, and coasts in for one of his many finishes at the rim. This feels to me like, if it were MJ or LeBron, or if it was a Finals, it would be in non-stop NBA highlight rotation forever. Absolutely beautiful, and amazing, and this team and fan base is clicking like nobody expected.

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What CST thinks about the Indians in 2016


Cleveland Indians 2016 Season
April 4 (whoops, now the 5th) , 2016 



Record: 85-77, 2nd in AL Central, no playoffs

The read on the Indians, for the second straight year, is all over the place. Conventional wisdom seems to be that they would be in a good position if they get to the playoffs, because their rotation is so damn solid. The issue is, of course, scoring enough runs to get there. (And stopping enough runs, but Francisco Lindor's full season should be enough to help.) Can they do it? Could we possibly see a torture series between the Cubs and Indians? Let's just hope so.

                                            



Record: 83-79, 2nd in AL Central, no playoffs

Pitching keeps the Indians in the hunt throughout most of the season. However, the offense will not generate enough runs to keep us in the games where the pitching falters. It's a long season though, and you never know what can happen.


Record: 86-76, 2nd in AL Central, no playoffs

The Tribe's pitching will keep them in the playoff race, but question marks and injuries at several positions make it difficult to consider them a serious contender.



Record: 87-75, 2nd in AL Central, Wild Card


Our baseball club is finally free of Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and the dead weight and bad karma that accompanied their silly attitudes and contracts. Also gone is Spin Dr. Shapiro, who became famous for his silence when the club was struggling, and his opportunistic tweets after the mildest success. Feeling fresh and frisky all season, the Indians manufacture a spot in the one-game playoff.

Record: 90-72, 2nd in AL Central, Wild Card

They will have the same success as Donald Trump, which is to say a glorious rise to prominence, like a golden eagle soaring through a bright and hopeful sky of magnificence.

Record: 92-70, 1st in AL Central

The pitching staff and Lindor's energy puts this team in first place. The presence of Bill Selby at Opening Day also probably has something to do with it. I do, however predict a loss in the ALCS, but am hopeful it leads to many good years ahead.












Record: 83-79, 2nd in AL Central, no playoffs
The Tribe will tread water all summer and miss the playoffs... again.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Indians open season with a lost opportunity to rid itself of an antiquated, racist symbol.

Look, people can disagree on this. In fact, many Indians fans probably disagree with what I am about to write. And what I'm about to write isn't new, or groundbreaking, or if we want to be honest, even very controversial.


Except for those Cleveland Indians fans to whom it is.

What I want to say is, I can't believe the Indians are still using Chief Wahoo, a blatently racist logo, at all, here in 2016.  I know I'm just one voice adding to the choir. The choir that includes the Plain Dealer from 2014, the Sporting News, Fansided, and, most importantly, in a piece I've thought about a lot over the years, from Peter Pattakos from Cleveland Frowns in Scene Magazine . More on that article later. Or this quote, which sums it up perfectly, and is 45 years old, from Russell Means of the Cleveland American Indian Center : 
How long do you think the stadium would stand if it (the team) were called the Cleveland Negroes with a caricature of Aunt Jemima or Little Black Sambo?
From Scene Magazine
When I was a lad, yes, I loved the Chief Wahoo logo. The first years of my life were spent with a boring old "C" on the hat, with Chief Wahoo a secondary logo, and when Chief Wahoo showed up on caps again in 1986, I remember my elementary school self being very excited about it. Shoot, to this day I can easily draw Chief Wahoo from memory, as I have only practiced it a million times. (Just like Jason Lukehart at LetsGoTribe apparently!)

But opinions (and people) can mature, and context can be gained. And that maturation and context has led me to conclude what I see as obvious--in no way is a cartoon image of a red-faced, hook-nosed, ghoulishly grinning Native American appropriate in America, let alone for a professional sports franchise. In fact, it is the only logo in all of professional sports that characterizes a race of people with such a caricature. Yes, other teams have issues with their names, chants, or songs. But even "Washington Redskins" is not as racist as the cartoon logo of the Cleveland Indians.

This is not a new opinion. The very first pitch at Jacobs Field was thrown out by President Clinton 22 years ago, and he sure as hell wasn't going to have that on his hat. I remember some people being annoyed by that. (Then again, some people are annoyed by anything a Democratic president does.) As mentioned, every thoughtpiece for ten years has reached the same conclusion: that Chief Wahoo is racist. Period. 

Certainly nearly every Indians fan who wears a Chief Wahoo logo isn't trying to communicate some passive-aggressive racist message, nor has anything remotely close in their heart, but that is completely irrelevant. At some point in the past 15 years, many people have shared the same realization; that it's not acceptable to wear this cartoon on your person. The Indians know this as well, but for some reason refuse to completely get rid of it. For years it's being less and less a major part of the uniform, the stadium, and the digital presence, but never completely removed. Even this year, when they "officially demoted" Chief Wahoo to secondary status (e.g. not the primary logo, although still on all sleeves and home caps.) Turns out this is just a half-measure, and nowhere near enough.

Again, let's go back to Peter Pattakos' piece from Scene Magazine.  If you haven't read it yet, I implore you to read it now.  In it, he expresses a (mostly) truism: 
For the duration of Chief Wahoo's tenure with the Indians in the post-Civil Rights era, the city's teams have unequivocally sucked. Not just the Indians, but all of the major professional teams, including the Browns and Cavaliers.
Regardless of the absolute truth of that, we all know how long it has been since we've seen a championship, and for all Clevelanders under 51 years old, that means our eternity. 

So if we can take a stab at doing the right thing, and maybe changing our collective karma at the same time, why can't the Dolans just do that for us? Any straw man business argument can be knocked down immediately. This team that isn't selling any merchandise or drawing fans to the ballpark isn't going to see its wonderful success immediately plummet. They can hardly draw less attendance than last year. 

It's not too late. Order some new hats, cut the cartoon off the sleeve. And Go Tribe. I'll proudly wear my team gear. Just not Chief Wahoo.

(And whether that "Go Tribe" expression, or yeah, the name "Indians" for a team, is racist as well, is another discussion. But regardless of that, let's not ignore the bigger immediate issue. The one that's literally staring us right in the face.)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

WrestleMania Live Blog and Comments



Thanks for joining CST for its first live blog of WrestleMania. Renee Young, Booker T., and Lita on the preshow kickoff. Lita looking good and has a surprise for us in hour two.

Kickoff matches:

United States Championship: Kalisto (C) vs. Ryback:
Kalisto makes his way to the ring in a new mask over his normal mask that looks like the Denver Broncos logo, although I'm sure it's a dragon. Ryback follows. Ryback spikes Kalisto and throws him over the top rope with one arm. Jerry Lawler is embracing his new heel persona. Kalisto over the top rope with knees but Ryback comes back and slams Kalisto onto the floor and barricade. Goldberg chants from the crowd and Ryback throws Kalisto like a rag doll as Jerry Lawler says. Commercial break? I guess we need to take a breath from the furious action in the ring. Back at it. Ryback still dominating. Kalisto with kicks but Ryback thwarts all offensive attempts from the luchadore. Lawler calls him the Mexican Mosquito. How good is heel Lawler?  The more this goes, the more I think Kalisto is winning this as Ryback dominates and toys with Kalisto. Lawler continues to rag on Kalisto's small size. Delayed superplex reversed by Kalisto for a two count. Comeback by Ryback again. Kalisto reverses something into a DDT. Corkscrew torpedo thingee off the ropes by Kalisto. Ryback with a spinebuster. Network freezing damn it. Turnbuckle becomes exposed. Kalisto drop toe hold to Ryback on the exposed turnbuckle followed by the Solida del Sol for the three count. That exposed turnbuckle is deadly I tell ya.
Winner: Kalisto

Total Divas vs. Team B.A.D. and Blonde:
Total Divas out first. Daniel Bryan is a lucky man. The heels are out next. Lana's first match along with Emma repackaged from NXT. Alicia Fox and Summer Rae start out. Alicia's pretty good. Tamina Snuka tags in and now all ten divas are in. Commercial break as we settle things down in the ring. Back with Eva Marie and Emma. Eva Marie booed and then gets a nice pop with a nice move I can't spell.  Eva Marie hard tag to Natalya for no reason. Natalya and Naomi . Natalya tags in Paige to a big pop. Hart Foundation closeline by Natalya and Paige. Naomi flying press into the ropes. Emma comes in and takes control. Quite a difference from when she was dancing with Santino a couple years ago. Lana in to a big pop and taunts Brie. Tamina for the pin attempt on Paige. Tamina is a giant compared to the other women. You'd think Tamina would've made a bigger impact in her career. Chaos on the turnbuckle. Paige with a flying cross body to the outside on the heels. Emma back in. Paige tags in Brie. Yes kicks and the crowd pops. Lana saves the pin. All ten women taking turns hitting moves.  Brie mode blocked by Naomi.  Lana throws Brie off top turnbuckle but Brie reverses Naomi with a damn nice move into the Yes Lock for the win. Nikki Bella in neck brace comes out to celebrate with Team Total Divas.
Winners: Team Total Divas

Lita in the ring now with some kind of unveiling, putting over past Divas. Lita seems more comfortable on the mic than in her wrestling days. Lita putting over the triple threat divas title match. Lita unveils the first ever WWE Women's Championship belt, which looks like the WWE Heavyweight Championship belt but red and white. Nice looking belt and it looks like the Diva Era is over in the WWE (about time... a bit of a degrading name if you ask me).

Usos vs. The Dudley Boyz:
Usos out with their dance and chant. Rikishi's sons got themselves over the past few years. The Dudleys out now. Good to see the Dudleys back in the WWE, although I did like the Bully Ray gimmick in TNA. Dudleys take control off the bat. Bubba yells something about Rikishi. Bubba's got some good mic skills. Bubba continues to trash talk. He really improved in TNA. One of the Usos tags in the other and the Usos are in control now. What's Up dive to the nether region from the Dudleys. Superkick by the Usos. Dudley Death Drop and kickout from one of the Usos. Usos win with a superkick in a pretty lame match. Dudleys attack after the match and out comes the table. Network freeze again.  Usos reverse with superkicks, which seems to be their new complete move set. Double dive by the Usos through the tables BY GODDDD!
Winners: The Usos

And now for the Main Card...

Waiting on the main card to begin, with a vignette about Roman Reigns's title hopes. Roman has been heavily booed by smart mark types who didn't enjoy Vince McMahon writing horrible promos about Jack and the Beanstalk and Bugs Bunny. Vince is a great heel and hilarious in ring, but he's tone deaf when it comes to natural conversation.

Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match: 
Two Clevelanders get called out first for the opening event of the main card: Dolph Ziggler and Miz, followed by NXT phenom Sami Zayn. Next is Stardust, wearing polka-dotted attire in homage to his father, the late Dusty Rhodes. Next is Sin Cara, who's been pretty much buried but should be good for a high-spot or two. Kevin Owens rounds out the card. He looks like a guy who plays a lot of softball and yells at the umpires. We're experiencing technical difficulties folks, so please bear with us.

***The WWE Network crapped out on Amazon TV at the home front reducing two 40-something dudes to huddle in front of a laptop for 5 hours, which, unfortunately made it near impossible to continue the riveting, live coverage you fine folks deserve. We at CST apologize... Amazon and WWE will be getting a strongly worded letter.

As to not disappoint our fans, we will continue this post from this point in the card as a review of the show. Buckle up... it's about to get "bumpy"...****

Intercontinental Championship Ladder Match (continued): 
There was a lot of furious action in this match, one of the best of the night. The true stars, in my opinion, were Sin Cara and Sami Zayn, both delivering incredible spots. Sin Cara got pushed off a ladder and managed to spring off the top rope onto a pile of competitors. Later, he fell of a ladder onto Stardust, who was draped across another ladder that was draped from the ring apron to a table I believe. You had to see it. The ladder and Stardust bent in half upon impact. Zayn's spot, although a bit less daring, featured a dive through the ladder, over the top rope and onto the others. It looked really cool. In the surprise of the night, Zack Ryder won the belt taking advantage of the Miz's showboating. That's a life lesson for you all.
Winner: Zack Ryder

AJ Styles vs. Chris Jericho
In my WrestleMania 32 Preview, I said that I would boycott WWE if Styles lost to Jericho here. I've been known to make bold "I will never" statements in regards to my sports teams and I may have been a bit dramatic in that statement, however, I was NOT happy about this finish. Why? It made Styles look like an idiot in my opinion, playing to the crowd which ultimately cost him the match when Jericho caught him with a Code Breaker amidst a Phenomenal Forearm. Memo to WWE... Styles isn't a rookie. Sting losing to Triple H and now this...
Winner: Chris Jericho

The New Day vs. The League of Nations
No titles on the line here. Just a pointless 3 on 4 matchup. New Day's cereal box entrance was okay, other than that, nothing to really talk about here.
Winners: League of Nations

After the match WWE Hall of Famers/Legends Mick Foley, HBK, and Stone Cold Steve Austin came to the ring and took out The League. Rousev sold a stunner amazingly... best since The Rock. New Day came back in the ring to dance with the legends. Xavier Woods received a hellacious Stunner and the legends celebrated with beer.

Brock Lesnar vs. Dean Ambrose (No Holds Barred Street Fight):
How a match between Lesnar and Ambrose was boring is beyond me, much less a no holds barred street fight. In case we didn't know, Brock is a beast. Ambrose got suplexed a gazillion times as to be expected. Suplex City still receives a huge pop, but it's getting old in my humble opinion. Not much of no holds barred here either... a kendo stick, a chain saw that didn't work, and a barbed wire baseball bat that missed... crazy I tell ya. Eventually, Ambrose succumbed to an F5 on a pile of steel chairs.
Winner: Brock Lesnar

WWE Women's Championship Triple Threat Match: Charlotte vs. Becky Lynch vs. Sasha Banks:
Sasha came out with cousin Snoop Dogg and some chick singing her entrance song. Cool moment as Snoop Dogg dropped some rhymes on the way to the ring. Loved the match. Hated the ending. Charlotte hit an insane moonsault from the top turnbuckle to Sasha and Becky on the floor. You never saw her dad do that. Why did I hate the ending? Because I hate what they did with Becky. Not only did she eventually tap out (somewhat) cleanly  to the Figure Eight (Ric Flair held Sahsa back from making the save), she got put in no less than 3 Bank Statements. Becky deserves more than to be the punching bag. I really hope she gets a run with the title someday.
Winner: Charlotte

Hell in a Cell: Shane McMahon vs. The Undertaker:
Undertaker pretty much dominated this one, as he probably should have. We got treated to insane Shane, when he leapt from the top of the cage to (try to) deliver a Macho Man elbow to Taker on a table below. This was scary folks. Shane missed. Taker tombstoned. Game. Set. Match.
Winner: Undertaker

The Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal:
Almost forgot about this one. Not in the review, but during the event. Once slated for the kickoff show, this match FOLLOWED the Hell in a Cell match. Some nice surprises... DDP and Tatanka... and SHAQ! Wow Shaq is humungous. He towers over the Big Show. Shaq and Big Show eliminated a bunch of jobber/midcarders in some cute little spots before being eliminated together. NXT's Baron Corbin eliminated Kane to win this otherwise uneventful time sucker.
Winner: Baron Corbin

The Rock came out next with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and what looked like a T-shirt gun but turned out to be a blow torch. Yes, a blow torch. He lit up his name in flames for some reason. After announcing a new attendance record, the Wyatt Family hit the ring to confront The Rock. Apparently, The Rock knew this was going to happen, because he was dressed in full wrestling gear under his clothes. Suddenly, we're treated to an impromptu Rock match at Mania.

The Rock vs. Erik Rowen:
Stare down, Rock Bottom, new record. 6 second match. The Wyatt family surrounded The Rock and suddenly John Cena's music hit. Say what you will about Cena, this was a pretty cool moment. Cena and Rock fended off the Wyatts and the two former enemies celebrated.
Winner: The Rock

WWE World Heavyweight Championship Match: Triple H vs. Roman Reigns:
Stephanie started with some weird speech dressed in a nice dominatrix outfit. Trips then came out in his traditional over-the-top WrestleMania entrance. Good ol' Triple H... always putting himself over somehow. Reigns followed to a mix of boos and cheers. After beating the crap out of each other for the last month, the two started with.... a collar and elbow lockup. This one was boring and the crowd let them know it. At one point, we thought Triple H had part of his forehead ripped off, but it turned out to be confetti. Seriously, that was the most intriguing part of the match next to Stephanie taking a pretty big bump from a spear. After some shenanigans with the sledgehammer, Reigns won the title clean with a spear.
Winner: Roman Reigns

The show ended blandly with Reigns celebrating his victory.

Overall the show was okay. The matches were good, entertaining matches but as a whole this WrestleMania was pretty lackluster.

---
Second opinions from the DawgCatcha (Includes April 4 Raw results):

--Zack Ryder winning the IC title was a nice surprise. I'm not a huge fan of Ryder's broski shtick, but the way he's built his online fanbase has a certain DIY charm, and I'm glad he got his Wrestlemania moment. A short-lived moment it was, however, as Ryder dropped the strap on Monday's Raw during a match against The Miz, an affair that included Miz's real-life wife Maryse slapping Ryder's over-muscled father right in his tanned face. A longer-term feud among these parties could provide some entertainment value.

--Though Styles will eventually win his war against Jericho, WWE not putting him over on the biggest show of the year is a mistake. These two have already wrestled four times. Their 'Mania match-up could have been a No. 1 Contender bout for the next off-month PPV main event. The fact that Styles won such a match Monday - this one of the four-way-dance variety - does little to alleviate the problem of jobbing him out to a 45-year-old part-timer currently cruising along in "cool dad" mode.

--Ambrose vs. Lesnar may have been the night's biggest disappointment. The chainsaw spot was at least funny, if for nothing else Paul Heyman's horrified schoolmarm reaction when Ambrose tried to rev the thing up. The match's relative restraint made sense for the TV-PG era, I suppose. No blood allowed means no chainsaws, working or otherwise, and no barbed wire bats used for anything else but stage dressing. Which begs the question of why a "no holds barred street fight" was scheduled at all. A simple no-DQ contest would have tamped down expectations and made the match's rather abrupt steel chair coup de grĂ¢ce more palatable.

--The women's contest was my match of the night. Fast paced with some good psychology behind it. The new women's championship belt looks very cool, too. Still, I'd like to see the family aspect of Charlotte's title reign get fazed out. Let Charlotte stand on her own with her old man interfering or otherwise 'woo-ing' up the spotlight.

--The men's championship match was decent enough, and I have no problem with Triple H losing cleanly to Reigns. The  rise of the "Roman Empire" was inevitable, even if smark fans hate it. The trial balloon had to go up some time, and that time is now. However, WWE still has a Reigns problem, if Monday night's Wrestlemania fallout show was any indication.

Reigns was unmercifully booed by what the commentators spin-doctoringly deemed a "passionate" crowd. For WWE, boos are better than apathy, but it's going to be difficult for the Fed to pass along Reigns as a face after the way they've mishandled the character for the last year plus. Fans don't like being told who to like - I'm guessing they see Reigns as WWE's houseboy even as he's spent the last months fighting against the on-screen version of corporate avarice.

The way Reigns was booked Monday night may point to the company's plans moving forward. Reigns responded to the cascade of boos with a smirk and a short statement: "I'm not a bad guy. I'm not a good guy. I'm the guy." He then challenged the entire roster to a match before tossing the mic aside, and was answered by Jericho, Styles, Owens and Zayn. As the foursome fought, Reigns picked up his title and left. This segment accomplished two things: It kept Reigns off the stick, where he's nothing more than mediocre, and established a kind of "I'm the best, so screw the rest" attitude that could work even for a babyface. We shall see.