Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Vox Victory one for Out-of-the-Box Ownership

He was a Spice Girl among Renaissance composers, or the guy in the draft room nobody respected; an easy mark and surely not to be taken seriously. While other owners and GMs poured over statistics, Cleveland native SamVox was watching porn. Or playing poker. Or speed chess. Or a hundred and one other useless stunts not related to homers, wins and saves.

He was always a poor drafter, and his franchise would suffer for twelve years. But the Vox was the only game in town, and the apathetic majority trumped those hardcore Van Nuys fans begging SamVox to sell the team. The lack of interest gave him leeway to chase after his mission statement: win it with my guys. Those guys, of course, were the Virgin Pimps-- an aging collection of stylish, big-ass ballplayers that had peaked in the 1980s. As the losing seasons began to mount, so did the VP retirements-- and the team was renamed in late 2006.

The summer of '06 actually brought two turning points: The implementation of the free-agent auction and an anonymous GM poll that asked 'who is the worst owner?' The Vox was one of only three choices, and he hasn't forgotten the sting of catching a few votes. "What really burns me, said Sam, "is that I was up against two owners that aren't even in the league anymore. They were cellar-dwellars without fail. That was a kick in the face to our club. Now, those GMs that voted for me may have hurt their necks looking up at me in the standings the last two years."

Shortly after the poll, the Vox won the month of June. Last summer, they contended until early September. This season, Van Nuys became the greatest pitching staff in league history. Says one scout; "There is simply nobody in baseball that plays the waiver wire like the Vox. Every week, he is scouting two-start pitchers or undervalued position players. You could say he's overly aggressive and spends too much on free agents, but it's no coincidence that the team's success coincided with the change in how our league does pickups."

At the winter meetings, the Vox is always lobbying for reform-- a keeper format, an auction with salaries, and any other modification that can strategically shake up the league. He's usually ignored. When I suggest that his status as defending champion will open more doors, the always loquacious Vox scoffs at the sentiment. "Look Bill, I'm a fucking founding member of this league. I shouldn't have to earn credibility by what happens on the diamond. I was in that kitchen on Chittenden Avenue in April of '96 when we were still doing stats by hand."

In '98, he drafted Doc and Daryl in the tenth round, and he's equally sensitive about that subject. "Yeah, I took'em a bit early, but the draft is a fucking formality for me now. Next year, I may just skip it. I can build my roster from just free agents. Look at what happened this year. I got nothing from my 4th, 6th, 7th and 8th pick. I drafted the ace of my staff (Chien-Ming Wang) in the 11th round and he was out for the season by June. I traded away Kazmir before the All-Star break and I still dominated pitching."

Most of the team will be back in '09. The Vox is loyal, and never more so than the final week of this season when everything was on the line and he benched the always-effective Josh Johnson in favor of two starts from Tim Wakefield, who had given up 6 runs in 2.1 innings in his previous start. "Tim's been with me since '96," said Sam, about to embark on a rant that will probably be tuned out by his peers. But I reckon the Vox likes it that way.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Vox Pix (4)

Good grief...did you notice the sad irony in last week's column? The Vox cursed his own fan blindness in backing the Buckeyes against SC, and then went ahead and picked the Browns to cover. The very team that he reasoned was the one to bet against in his football preview because of the national media's unrealistic expectations. Oh my, must I keep making homer mistakes? The Browns were a bitter bettor's pill last sunday, especially when you consider that they account for my only gambling loss of the '08 NFL season.

Here's what's gone right:
* 3 straight winning weeks to start the NFL season
* Two more bookie busters under my belt as the Niners and Chargers easily exposed inaccurate point spreads
* Up 40 dimes of profit

Most of the nation's handicappers warned that you don't bet against Brett Favre on Monday Night, much less give him 9 points. But when I set my own line for this game, I gave Brett 12.5. When it moved to 8 on sportsbook.com a few hours before kickoff, I couldn't bet it fast enough. It was my favorite kind of oddsmaker error: Vegas adjusting the line to reflect the public's crazy affinity for Brett the Jet.

Look, my customers and I have our Man in the hole and we're going for the jugular this week with three Vulcan nerve pinches:

Rams (+8) over Buffalo
Titans (-3) over Minnesota
Chargers (-7) over Oakland

2008 Presidential Debate:
Senator Barack Obama (-14.5) over Senator John McCain
Ok, this is happening as I'm writing this-- and it looks like Barry is going to cover.

Last week: 2-1
Season: 4-1-1


Who is the Vox?

SamVox is not a professional handicapper, but a premier one. He has been gambling his entire adult life and has experienced every sickening turn and nasty twist of fate that occurs during a football season. What distinguishes the Vox is his amazing intuition, astoundingly long memory, attention to detail and preparation, aversion to propaganda and access to the industry's sharpest bettors. He is a two time Pick'Em champion and went 20-12-2 against the spread with his Vox Pix in 2007. His critically-dismissed Vox in the Box column also appears here at clevelandsportstorture.blogspot.com.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Vox Pix (3)

Goodness gracious, I am knee deep in Time Warner's MLB Package. I ordered it for the final two weeks of the season, so I could follow every pulsating pitch and hellacious hit as the Vox of Van Nuys sweat out our first fantasy pennant race. It's not easy flipping between all 14 MLB channels; I stay logged on to the CBS GameCenter so I know when one of my players is at bat or on the mound, and then I switch over to that game. And I'm all the better for it. If I hadn't purchased the package, I'd never know that Hall of Fame Virgin Pimp Mark McLemore is the color man for the Rangers broadcasts. (By the way, I asked Time Warner when the Sunday Ticket will be available even though I know the answer. The phone rep said they're still negotiating. I said I'm gonna have to get DirecTV if it doesn't happen soon...MoreSports&LesLevine will no longer keep me hostage.)

You didn't need The Ticket, though, to see the end of the Broncos v Chargers last weekend. A miracle cover by Denver as the line moved to San Diego -1.5 on game day. And even though I won my bet, since the line was Broncos -1 when I advised my clients in this space...I will consider it a push. Unfortunately, I let you down with my NCAA pick. Not because I lost- like I told you when we started this journey together, I will not win every game. I let you down because I made a homer pick. I didn't know much about SC, and I don't follow college football closely enough to successfully handicap it on my own.

The first rule of sports betting is never wager on your favorite teams, as most fans can't be objective. I can honestly state I don't drink the kool-aid when it comes to the Browns, Cavaliers and Indians. But I have a major weakness for The Ohio State Buckeyes. I lost big on the Bucks, just as I did against LSU and Florida and the '05 debacle vs. Texas and the '06 showdown win over Michigan when we didn't cover the -7. Going forward, I will not rely on my own hunch for NCAA picks; I will only release a play if there is a consensus from my network of college handicappers.

Of course, Sunday Football is another matter. I like three games this week. I'm throwing in the monday-nighter to make up for the Ravens/Texans postponement. (Doug, you may want to start your own NFL column for the J-News while you are picking winners like Vinny Chase picks up smoking hot chicks.)

Browns (+2.5) over Baltimore
49ers (-4) over Detroit
Chargers (-9) over the Jets

Last week: 0-0-1
Season: 2-0-1


Who is the Vox?

SamVox is not a professional handicapper, but a premier one. He has been gambling his entire adult life and has experienced every sickening turn and nasty twist of fate that occurs during a football season. What distinguishes the Vox is his amazing intuition, astoundingly long memory, attention to detail and preparation, aversion to propaganda and access to the industry's sharpest bettors. He is a two time Pick'Em champion and went 20-12-2 against the spread with his Vox Pix in 2007. His critically-dismissed Vox in the Box column also appears here at clevelandsportstorture.blogspot.com.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Something's Gotta Change

Of all the talk from Obama (and now hijacked by the Republicans) about the change that the US needs (oh yeah, sometime explain how McCain would be a change...), "change" seems to be a good theme for tonight, after one of the most embarassing, disheartening, sickening, maddening football weekends I can remember.

Sure, the Browns have had much worse outings, and even more disappointing ones, but layered on top of the utterly embarassing Ohio State blowout loss to USC Saturday night, 35-3, the fact that the Browns failed to score a touchdown just rubs it in.

Some quick thoughts:

  • It took one weekend for me to go from "excited about 2008 football in Cleveland and Columbus" to "realization that OSU will be lucky to play a January bowl game and the Central Division title is gone after week 2."
  • For a few years now, I've been off the Tressell bandwagon. And I don't know why. I think the main reason is that I don't trust or like him one bit. I always feel like he is lying, and the fact that he tries to look like a choirboy all the time just seems to me like a taunting insult. The fact is, I trust him so little that I was reasonably sure Chris Wells was going to play Saturday, until I saw him in sweats. This game has given me a clarity that maybe Jim Tressel isn't a good coach. Or, to put it nicer, as ESPN did, "There's still not nearly enough creativity in the scheme." Of course, they meant "offensive scheme", and I mean "the wool he's pulled over your eyes."
  • Did it not occur to anyone to maybe throw downfield a bit more? And what's his name, that quarterback who was actually making some plays? (Hint: It wasn't Todd Boeckman.) Why wasn't Terrell Pryor in there a hell of a lot more? (Pryor's snaps averaged 4.6 yards, Boeckman's averaged 1.9)
  • It was coaching, as much as anything that cost this game. Okay, it was a lot coaching, and a lot lack of discipline, killing Ohio State's drive in the second quarter with penalties. 14-10 was within grasp, and instead, a missed field goal and an idiotic interception by Boeckman made it 21-3.
  • I feel you, Alex Boone. "Every big game we end up blowing it." Of course, I had no way to directly impact the game, and you did.
  • Doug Lesmardes ranked OSU 18th on his ballot. They ended up around 13th. But the argument could be legitimately made that they could be left off the ballot. Ohio State would have had a tough time making the BCS championship game, even if they were undefeated or had one loss to USC. But now--even if they run the table and every other team loses 3 games, I guarantee they won't be there.
  • Now on to the Browns. Al Michaels must have a contractual stipulation that he isn't allowed to directly criticize coaches, but he came damn close Sunday night. Obviously Romeo is out of his league. A field goal, down by 7, with 3 minutes to go, on 4th and 7 or whatever? How exactly does that help you? No clock management at all? I'm sure Romeo must be able to do something well, you don't coach for 20-something years if you can't. But I'm not sure being a head coach is one of them.
  • That being said, the Cowboys and Steelers games were ones that everybody knew would be a tall order for the Brownies. But one touchdown in two home games? From the "Prime Time" offense that the Browns have? Terrible, and this doesn't look good all of a sudden.
  • How utterly embarassing, this "rivalry" with Pittsburgh. Ten in a row? Something like 23 of 25?
  • I wish I had a stat on "wasted" timeouts early in halves. The Browns need to be leading that category, right?
  • By the way, you can vote on Romeo (every week) here.
Thirty Five to Three.
That Penn State game is starting
to make me nervous.

Romeo Crennell.
You may see an obese coach.
I see Butch Davis.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Vox Pix (2)

Good God, I am worked up like Catherine Trammell for the football in our immediate future. I'll hold off on the hyperbole for this weekend, since we all know what's at stake. What you want from me is more winners to supplement your bankroll. After two straight winning weeks, we are now happily gambling with the book's money.

In the past fifteen years, I can recall only three times when our Bucks were double-digit dogs. 1994, against a powerhouse Penn State team featuring Kerry Collins and Curtis Enis that destroyed us on Halloween weekend. 1999 vs. The School Up North; the spread was eleven, I believe, and OSU covered thanks to a gritty performance by Steve Bellisari. 2003, the title game against Miami. Vegas gave us two touchdowns, and we know what happened.

If you lay ten or more points to Tressel, you are going to get burned.
Ohio State (+11) over USC

Last week: 0-1
Season: 1-1

Last week, I picked up where I left off in 2007. I am now 22-12-2 in my last 36 NFL wagers. The Browns-Cowboys line, as I noted, was one of the easiest plays in week 1 history. And Bufallo laid a no-doubt cover on the weaker Seahawks. Here are your week 2 plays: (I loved the Chiefs at -2.5 against Oakland on Monday morning, After the Raiders played poorly on Monday Night, the line moved to -3.5 on Tuesday, and I can't recommend my clients lay that extra point. If you bought K.C. at -2.5, you are an astute 'capper.)

Broncos (-1) over San Diego
Texans (-4.5) over Baltimore

Last week: 2-0
Season: 2-0


Who is the Vox?

SamVox is not a professional handicapper, but a premier one. He has been gambling his entire adult life and has experienced every sickening turn and nasty twist of fate that occurs during a football season. What distinguishes the Vox is his amazing intuition, astoundingly long memory, attention to detail and preparation, aversion to propaganda and access to the industry's sharpest bettors. He is a two time Pick'Em champion and went 20-12-2 against the spread with his Vox Pix in 2007. His critically-dismissed Vox in the Box column also appears here at clevelandsportstorture.blogspot.com.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The sum of all fears

Stop me if you've heard this one, Dear Reader:

Can't stop the run..no pressure on the quarterback..the opposing offense ripping off huge chunks of yardage..manhandled at the line of srimmage, the team seemingly playing with a general lack of preparedness overall..crippled by injuries..

How many times have those words been written or said about the Browns since their inglorious return to the NFL? I'm far from ready to bail on the 2008 Browns..but today's game had the hallmarks of all the bad games we've watched since 1999. What's worse, it gives ammunition to all the naysayers who watched the Browns stumble through the preseason

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Vox Pix (1)

Good day, readers. It's a little strange being out of that box of mine. Exhilarating, but strange. That box can be somewhat constraining, so I've created this weekly blurb-- a quick rundown of my football wagers. Last season, I released many of my picks on The Daily Dose but the show was unfortunately cancelled. Now, this website will validate the Vox as northeast Ohio's premier handicapper and, best of all, my selections are completely complimentary! All we ask is that you read Vox religiously, bet responsibly, and realize that I cannot and will not win every game. Anybody in this business that claims they can is a fraud. What I will do is build your bankroll through disciplined decisions. While you are up nights worrying about whether to start Laverneous Coles or Joey Galloway for your fantasy team, I will be doing the necessary legwork to expose each week's oddsmaker error(s).

Too bad I missed out against OU getting +35. Even when OSU does manhandle a foe, Tressel won't run it up too bad-- especially against an in-stater. Let's go with the over (52 points) in the Florida v Miami match-up.

Last week; 1-0 (Missouri -9)

Cowboys (-5.5) over Browns. I typically have little confidence in week 1 prognostications, since no real precedent has been set, but this is probably the surest first week play you'll ever find. The loaded and hungry Cowboys against an injured, overrated and poorly coached Browns squad. The name on the door is Cleveland? That's what I'm afraid of, Phil.

Bills (-1) over Seahawks. I typically like home teams that are a virtual pick against an evenly matched opponent. Buffalo will probably win a wild card and Seattle will finally catch some bad karma this season-- retribution, no doubt, for that commercial featuring Hasselbeck's slap-the-face dance move. And his annoying social conservative sister-in-law.

Last week: N/A


Who is the Vox?

SamVox is not a professional handicapper, but a premier one. He has been gambling his entire adult life and has experienced every sickening turn and nasty twist of fate that occurs during a football season. What distinguishes the Vox is his amazing intuition, astoundingly long memory, attention to detail and preparation, aversion to propaganda and access to the industry's sharpest bettors. He is a two time Pick'Em champion and went 20-12-2 against the spread with his Vox Pix in 2007. His critically-dismissed Vox in the Box column also appears here at clevelandsportstorture.blogspot.com.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Vox in the Box (20)

Football Preview 2008

"You're a lemon. Like a bad car. There is something...there is something inherently defective in you, and you, and you, and me, and all of us. We're all lemons. We look like everyone else, but what makes us different is our defect. See, most gamblers, when they go to gamble, they go to win. When we go to gamble, we go to lose. Subconsciously. Me, I never feel better than when they're raking the chips away; not bringing them in. And everyone here knows what I'm talking about. Hell, even when we win it's just a matter of time before we give it all back. But when we lose, that's another story. When we lose, and I'm talking about the kind of loss that makes your asshole pucker to the size of a decimal point - you know what I mean - You've just recreated the worst possible nightmare this side of malignant cancer, for the twentieth goddamn time; and you're standing there and you suddenly realize, Hey, I'm still... here. I'm still breathing. I'm still alive. Us lemons, we fuck shit up all the time on purpose. Because we constantly need to remind ourselves we're alive. Gambling's not your problem. It's this fucked up need to feel something. To convince yourself you exist. That's the problem."-- Walter Abrams

Every time I make a bet, I try and remember that speech. I make sure to remind myself that I'm the sourest of lemons. That I know nothing. That picking winners is a losing proposition, especially when the bettor always lays 11-10. A gambler has to pick 52.4% winners just to break even. Statistics prove over and over that you cannot beat a bookmaker in the long term. I tell myself, before every wager, "you have lost thousands in a lifetime of bad bets; why keep torturing yourself and your wallet?" And after I have successfully convinced myself that the task at hand is largely insurmountable, I am finally at a clear place in my head where I can make my best picks. Unlike the ESPN analysts and the fantasy gurus and sports junkies at your office that really seem to understand football, I know that it is impossible to know anything about the NFL. The second you think you do, the league will inadvertently humble you. There's only one thing I know for sure: beating the spread is an art, not a science.

With great humility, I must admit that my approach has worked 3 of the last 4 years. I have beaten my book in '04, '06. and last season, highlighted by an astonishing 20-12-2 mark with my NFL picks of the week. I had some help, thanks to the blowhard national media that ignorantly tabbed the Patriots as the greatest NFL team ever. While the NE offense was incredibly dynamic and unstoppable when Brady found a rhythm, their defense was average and aging fast. All you had to do was watch the Pats a few times to surmise they could never compete with the all-time great teams (i.e., the '85 Bears) and would eventually slip up against a good offense that slowed the game down and exposed Belicheat's struggling secondary. I was all over the Patriots the second half of the season. In their last eleven games, including the playoffs, mighty New England went a ridiculous 1-10 against the spread, covering only against Pittspuke. The problem wasn't the Patriots, it was the weekend bettors and studio analysts that made the Pats a double-digit favorite almost every single week, like they were some dominant college team playing an inferior conference. The NFL thrives because the difference between winning and losing is so minute, a botched field goal, a crazy penalty, an injury or wasted timeout. When you see a double-digit spread in a league now famous for parity, there's an excellent chance it's an oddsmaker error. For years, the NFL stood for NoFaultyLines but thanks to the country's hard-on for the fraudulent Patriots, handicappers made a fortune from midseason to the SuperBowl, even pouncing on the +375 Giants money line.

Of course, it's a new season now and, like David Coverdale, here I go again in my quest to exploit defective point spreads. So which team will sport the bad lines in 2008? It pains me to say it, but it may be our beloved Brownies. The preseason probably saved Vegas from making the Browns v Cowboys a coin-flip (Browns are now +5), but it's too late for the NFL to change their TV schedule. I'd like to meet the chump in the league office that feels Cleveland is a quality football club. The Browns may have been the worst 10-6 team in league history. I am not trying to be controversial or obtuse; only realistic. Wins against the Jets, Bills, Dolphins, Rams, Niners, Bengals, Texans, and Ravens twice. We beat the worst teams in the NFL. We also lost to the worst teams in the NFL-- the Raiders, Cardinals and Bengals. We defeated only ONE team with a winning record-- the Seahawks...and we needed a couple of breaks and overtime to do it. The pass coverage was non-existent, and we dealt our most opportunistic defender to Detroit. What does it say about our defense when Leigh Bodden may not even start for the Lions? The Browns are in trouble, and that may include the offense. DA was miserable in the second half of last year. It seemed like he got contract bonuses for missing open receivers and making dumb decisions. In the Pro Bowl, where defensive pressure is an afterthought, he was the only AFC QB who couldn't produce a scoring drive. Don't forget about our clown coach. Not only will the Browns come out flat in the beginning of both halves, Romeo will also mismanage the clock without fail and make sure he conveys a buffoonish thought or two in each post-game press conference. It's going to be an ugly 16 games. 6-10.

I treat NFL handicapping as a money-making venture. It is a hobby, yes, but one that I take very seriously. Picking winners will become a second job for me the next six months. But I cannot bring myself to bet against the Browns, just as I could not bet against my own children. So even though I love the Cowboys laying five on Sunday and will formally release it to my customers as one of my plays of the week, I will not place my own wager. Speaking of Dallas, they seem to be the consensus preseason SuperBowl favorite-- and I'm in complete agreement. If last season of Hard Knocks will be remembered for the unintentional comedy of Coach Herm Edwards and the delusional Chiefs, then this year's no-frills Cowboy camp has the opposite theme-- a well organized and sharply focused team with no weaknesses. With Romo, TO and Witten, their passing game, paired with a pro bowl RB, is second only to New England. They're solid against the run with LBs Greg Ellis, the Comeback Player of the Year in '07, and Bobby Carpenter. Pacman reinstated, opposite the very underrated Anthony Henry, might comprise the best secondary in football.

But you have ESPN.com, theclevelandfan.com and a zillion other sources for all this standard bullshit. The day Vox reads like a typical sports column is the day I chuck my laptop. And that last paragraph was dangerously fucking close. I have to remind myself that Vox exists to serve the alternative, to uninspire the inspired, to have sex with all those unrepresented subjects that don't have a mainstream voice. These words carry no paycheck for me, so Vox is pro-bono in more ways than just the obvious. Which brings us to the meat of Vox 20-- a partial release of the Vox gambling manifesto. I read two books on handicapping this summer. MJ always developed a new part of his game in the offseason to make himself even more lethal, and I'll continue to borrow and learn from the legends of handicapping as the offshore sportsbooks strive to set a new bookmaking precedent by setting tighter lines than Vegas. What I took away from my reading was the illumination of what I already knew: you don't have to know a damn thing about American professional football to beat the spread. You don't need to know the difference between a nickel and dime; you don't even need to know who plays QB for the Indianapolis Colts. You only have to understand the market, find the book that offers the best pricing, know why and when the line moves (was it the sharp bettors moving hard on one side or the dumbass general public betting into it?), and most importantly: know where the smart money lays. The "smart money" represents the .00001% of the population that makes a living betting sports. It's a small syndicate that single-handedly shakes up a point spread with an enormous wager, and scares the oddsmakers shitless. Bookies won't even take bets from gamblers consistently playing the "sharp" side, unless they need the action to even out. And that's rarely the case, as smart money sums are bet by wealthy wiseguys and their dollar amounts always dwarf the other, weaker side. For three years, I've been studying how to identify the smart money. But fuck it, this season...I am the smart money. And you can piggyback the Vox on this blog as I release my weekly plays under Vox Pix, clevelandsportstorture's newest feature.


We can't escape high school football in this area, much to my dismay. The local news puts a creepy emphasis on this unwatchable and awkward game. For me, high school football revolves around only one out-of-state team, the Permean I mean Dylan Panthers.

After one of the best debut seasons in network television history, Friday Night Lights became borderline-unbearable. I say 'borderline' because Lyla Garrity, Tyra Collete, Coach's daughter and Coach's wife are so ridiculously hot, they transform the show from Dawson's Creek in Texas to a slightly above-average night-time soap opera. Here's all you need to know about the misguided second season: NBC execs told the writers to cool it with the football scenes, so instead...we got a murder by the town geek (which was actually more believable than said town geek somehow walking on to a state championship football team and bagging the hottest chick in school), Mrs. Taylor becoming the varsity volleyball coach just a week after she couldn't handle working full time and taking care of her newborn, a tornado that merged two high schools which resulted in a coach running onto the field to make a game-saving tackle, Tim Riggins stealing from a drug dealer, ditching practice whenever he felt like it, getting hammered and hanging out in strip clubs (wait, that was actually pretty cool), and my favorite character, Buddy Garrity, finding time to mentor a delinquent hispanic kid that was so clumsy he couldn't tie his own shoes but was reincarnated into a young Michael Strahan after a few tough practices. And I haven't even mentioned Saracen, who finds time to study, work at Dairy Queen, take care of his Grandma, bang the hired help, and be QB-1. Blogger-hater Buzz Bissinger is no doubt wondering what they mean in the credits when they say FNL is based on his book. NBC took a great show with no audience and turned into a crappy show with no audience. Then they cancelled it midway thru the season, so we'll never know the fate of Jason Street's unborn child. Now, they're suddenly bringing it back for a third season, but only if you have DirecTV. I can't get my favorite non-HBO show or the NFL network from my cable provider. This is fucking unconstitutional.


Other than the game of the year one week from tomorrow and that ritual the Saturday before Thanksgiving, I also have very little time for college football...although I will be highlighting certain NCAA wagering opportunities, as I did with my first play of the season-- Missouri -9 over Illinois. Pucky asked for the Vox Top 10 Football Buckeyes, and I'm happy to oblige Random Top 10 requests. Apologies to Greg Frey, Tom Tupa, Chris Gamble, Nate Clements and my man, Stanley Jackson. (No apologies to my most hated Buckeye ever, Mike Vrabel.)

1. Chris Spielman, LB, 1984-87
In my eyes, he's the definitive Buckeye. I remember visiting Columbus in 1986, and being fascinated with how an entire city worshipped him. I hadn't seen anything like this in Cleveland. Keep in my mind, Kosar hadn't achieved superstardom just yet, so the biggest local athlete in my 11 years was either Brian Sipe, Andy Thorton or Super Joe Charboneau, for one summer anyway. But Chris Spielman was Jesus Christ in the campus area. In 1985, he had two picks in one of the biggest games in Buckeye history, when we knocked off the undefeated and eventual conference champs, Iowa.

My first Buckeye Football game was the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, December 28, 1985. OSU toppled BYU, 10-7. My mom, MJVox, and her cousin and I sat in the alumni section. I don't recall anything about the game other than this old guy sitting next to me who was Class of '35. I told him I was headed to OSU one day and he shared a bag of unsalted pretzels with me that he had smuggled into the stadium. To this day, those were the greatest pretzels I've ever tasted for some reason. He loved when Spielman put a hat on somebody.

2. Mike Tomczak, QB, 1982-84
in 1984, he led OSU to its first Rose Bowl appearance in what seemed to be an eternity. After we beat Michigan to clinch it, I remember my family exploding with happiness but I couldn't appreciate it as much being a new Buckeye fan. Eighteen years later a drunk Mike Tomczak, toasted after a Buckeye win, walked into a C-bus bar where my brother was bussing tables and put his press pass around Ronnie's neck. Little did Mike know that Ronnie didn't have a clue. He called me up the next night and said "Sammy, who is Mike Tomcat?"

3. Keith Byars, TB, 1982-85
The 1984 Heisman Trophy ceremony had to be the most memorable in NCAA history. Three finalists: Byars, Bernie the J Kosar and the winner, Doug Flutie.

4. Tito Paul, CB, 1992-94
Eddie George carry. Fire up the troops, Coop. Theresa, go down and get me a Coke. Tito, running around the 'Shoe in those tight pants, making up for Marlon "Toast" Kerner's blown coverage once again. Images from a fall Saturday in Columbus, mid 1990s.

5. David Boston, WR, 1996-98
Arguably the best talent to come out of Wide Receiver U, Boston's catch to clinch the 1997 Rose Bowl is in my Top 3 plays in OSU Football History The other two? Clarret's strip after Krenzel's INT against Miami and Will Allen picking off Navarre in '02 to send us to the National Championship.

6. Robert Smith, RB, 1990, 1992
When Robert Smith made his highly anticipated decision to attend the Ohio State University, nobody in that press conference could have fully comprehended that Robert Smith really was going to attend the Ohio State University. And after he almost brought the entire program down in a public allegiance to academics, he left early. Oh Robert, we hardly knew you. Until you gave me your camera at Bar Cleveland and asked me to snap a photo of you and your friend.

7. Donnie Nickey, S, 2000-03
Was it just me or was Donnie Nickey always in the right place at the right time? Donnie Nickey, national champion. I like the sound of that. And it ruled when he got in a fist fight with Vince Young.

8. The Brothers Bellisari, LB, 1997-98, QB & DB 1998-01
Steve was one of the most disrespected Buckeyes ever. He played his ass off on special teams for the '98 Bucks, maybe the greatest college football team ever. Coach Cooper made him QB by default because Bellisari, with his super versatility and athleticism, accidently beat out the guys Cooper actually recruited to play the position. As for his brother-- you're in a lotta trouble, Greg!

9. Troy Smith, QB, 2004-06
All right, I lied. Troy Smith is on my list. I was reduced to a babbling, blushing school girl after he stole victory from the jaws of defeat in Ann Arbor in 2005. Won't be long until he does the same at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Actually, November 2nd.

10. Malcolm Jenkins, CB, 2006-08
When it's all said and done, the fastest man in college football will have played in three straight national title games and won the last by returning two interceptions for scores. He will be drafted #6 in the 2008 NFL draft by your Cleveland Browns.


I am Go Mojo in the box.
Parting is...inevitable.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Bill Simmons--not too hot on the Browns

Among other predictions The Sports Guy makes in his NFL preview is a possibly painful, everyone-afraid-of one for Cleveland...

Prediction No. 4: Cleveland will stink.

I'm not a big fan of this formula: Artificially high expectations + too many nationally televised games (five in all) + brutal schedule + too much luck last season (what are the odds of them getting 32 games from Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards again?) + brewing QB controversy + horrible preseason = Yikes.

Also, their two biggest offseason moves were fundamentally illogical: Trading for Shaun Rogers and keeping Derek Anderson. In the salary-cap era, you can't keep Anderson (who had two good months and tailed off) after dealing a future No. 1 and committing all that money to Brady Quinn. It's like drafting QBs in the first two rounds of a fantasy draft -- yeah, you can do it, but it never works. Why not trade Anderson for two draft picks and back the guy who you loved so much a year before? And why compound the error by trading your 2nd and 3rd round picks plus a valuable cornerback (Leigh Bodden) for expensive and possibly shaky defensive linemen (Corey Williams and Shaun Rogers). That's a swing of four draft picks plus Bodden! Didn't they see what happened with the Giants last year? If you made a "How to win the Super Bowl" formula, would "Pay two quarterbacks big money" and "Don't get anything from your draft" be two of the pieces? OF COURSE NOT!!! On the bright side, "taking the Browns to the Super Bowl" remains my favorite euphemism for making a doody.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Haiku Haiku Hai. Why not a haiku right now? Start showing your brains.

Ok--in honor of my one-time-favorite and still-readable-if-I-just-had-the-time columnist Gregg Easterbrook, let's start weekly Haikus to celebrate the current sports scene.

(By the way, here's TMQ's NFL Preview, all-haiku style. For the Browns it reads:

Quarterbacks many,
Playoff appearances few.
Old-new Cleveland Browns.

Forecast finish: 9-7)

Ok, I'll start 'em off:

Forty-three to zip;

You call this college football?

How 'bout a real foe?

Lots of prime time games,

Cleveland can show off to all;

Or else smell like Brown.

Pittsburgh opener

last year, me: "2 and 14"

Better start this year?

Monday, September 1, 2008

When did Ohio Stadium become an NBA arena?

Well, I made a trip to Columbus for my annual Alumni-association tickets (gee, thanks, I've been out of school ten years, and only once have I even got a Big Eleven Ten game, let alone Michigan. Maybe if I donate a couple hundred large to the university, I can at least get tickets between the end zones. And maybe when I'm out of school for 50 years, I'll get Michigan tickets. Anyway.

First, the game. A bit disappointing, if a 43-0 game can be called disappointing. The offense, while showing some flashes, just didn't seem to click. All those red zone possessions that end in our 29-year-old kicker putting three points on the board can not be called successful, especially against a I-AA team of all things! There were a couple fantastic fakes with Maurice Wells that fooled the whole stadium, I'd like to know whether the TV cameras could follow along. Terrell Pryor looked very solid, for a true freshman, and his touchdown had lasting effects--USC certainly needs to think twice during defensive practice the next two weeks. And, of course, Chris Wells' injury--let's wait and see on that one.

But the main thing I noticed was the noticeable stadium aura. I don't think I went to a game last year, so maybe this isn't brand new. But some of it is, I can tell. When the heck did The university decide they had to make Ohio State games, long understated ("Eddie George carry") into the next incarnation of an NBA game? I half expected fireworks after touchdowns and maybe a unicycling-plate juggling-halftime show. Some low-lights:

  • What certainly appeared to be a new addition--the stadium announcer punctuating all Ohio State first downs--and unfortunately for the crowd, against Youngstown State there were a ton of them--with an enthusiastic, annoying, "FIRST DOWN!!!" cry. As in, "Maurice Wells carry, 4 yards to the Ohio State 47.............and that's another Ohio State......FIRST DOWN!!!!!" Obviously done to draw crowd heat, it took two or three first downs to catch on, and then a noticable portion of the stadium yelled along with the announcer. Certainly not the entire stadium, let's just say a portion of the fans are very used to shouting along with the stadium, such as "because Stone Cold said so!!" But enough people to make it annoying. At one point I think the "official" announcer didn't even say it, just primed the crowd to say it for him. Uggh.
  • Before every Ohio State kickoff, the beats of the White Stripes' Seven Nation Army permeate throughout the stadium, all the way until the ball is received. The first time, for the opening kickoff, I thought, "fine," but that quickly got old. If you need to blast rock music to get the crowd pumped, you have bigger problems than a shoddy red zone offense. Maybe limit it to the beginning of halves, like the Browns with Enter Sandman. Ugggh.
  • Another kickoff note, as the White Stripes were playing before the opening kickoff, I was hearing the crowd road (or the "ohhhhhhhhhh" sound done on kickoffs) possibly being piped through the speakers, and it was certainly louder than the crowd was actually doing at that point. I hope that was just a live mike on the field picking it up, but let's just say I didn't hear that sound again.
  • Finally, the long tradition of the band playing Hang on Sloopy was now introduced by the announcer, with great fanfare. Made it seem contrived. And then, apparently (my alumni tickets had me in the south stands, back to the scoreboard), Archie Griffin came on to intone them to do it again. Lame. Let tradition be tradition, don't make it seem like you're introducing 100,000 new fans to what goes on at Buckeyes games.
Give me the standard OSU traditions, the dorks in Block O leading the O-H-I-O stadium thunder, and the band splitting up and spreading out throughout the stadium in the second half, and leave the rock music to Hineygate across the street.