3/4ths of TwentyTen is officially down the tubes, and not a memorable Cleveland Sports moment in the books. Brown, Indian or Cavalier- these are sad times to kick off a new era. The 1980s gave us The Gleam, and a hat trick of AFC Championship Sundays. In the 90s, we fancied a baseball renaissance: one new park, two pennants and five consecutive playoff appearances. And last decade-- a love affair with our local basketball team- still a virgin in her mid-thirties, but suddenly very attractive after winning the lottery in May 2003. Alas, to quote Cocktail Bartender Doug Coughlin: All things end badly, or else they wouldn't end
What's in store for us over the next 10 years? Don't know; do I look like a damn fortune teller? OK, I'll play. Madame Ruby saw a bicycle in her crystal ball, but I don't even see a cheap thrill ride. I see losses mounting like Raymond Babbit sees Queens coming in a six-deck chute. I'm vulnerable and desperate, now. I've been hurt, and I'll take up with anyone. Sell me the dream, Coach Scott. Here I am, ready to believe in Ramon Sessions and pushing the rock up the court. Two earned runs in 34 innings? Closer Chris Perez is the GenY Goose Gossage! Be careful with me Chris, I'm fragile. And we all have a brewing bro-mance with Peyton Hillis. (Peyton and I flirted innocently in 2008 when the Las Vegas Vox picked him up mid-season and went on to win their first fantasy crown. Never even knew what Hillis looked like until the Quinn trade- in fact, going by his position and name, I was certain he was black). After seeing him run over Ray Lewis, we're hooked. Have your way with us, Peyton. Please. Just don't quit on us, ditch us on national television, and then cry racism. Our last boyfriend did something like that.
So, before I turn into Miss Havisham, I'm begging for something sustaining and substantive. I'm going to be 36 soon, or 40. And then it's a slippery slope. I need an overdose of success, now. When I'm still young enough to bottle it and sell off its riches. I want to be pre-9/11 Tony Soprano, down at the Bing. Not a bitter, nostalgic William Butler Years, down by the Salley Gardens. I won't be Voxing-out forever, you know. This column isn't an entitlement, it's an entrapment from game and circumstance that has scorned us. These words come from jilt, not joy. But, As of This Paragraph, I will no longer wear our prison sentence like a badge. Whether we win or lose in northeast Ohio, I am officially free of the plagues that have tortured us. Enter the romance:
1. Unites States 1 Algeria 0, June 23, 2010
It was a long summer for the Vox, and that's an understatement. Exchanging angry texts with Mrs. ExVox, sleeping with my law books, viewing every shitty apartment complex and rental home on the east side (and even a few on the west), and dealing with The Decision...nothing seemed to make sense anymore. But on that World Cup Wednesday morning, I experienced a euphoria I hadn't felt since the Force eliminated the Blast from the MISL playoffs twenty four years ago. Literally seconds away from elimination, and Landon Donovan lifts our spirits with an opportunistic, well-placed strike to the lower left corner.
Even with Donovan's heroics, a semi-healthy pro league, the wonders of HD, and ESPN cramming the sport down our throats, Soccer will never rank as a major sport in America. We've known that for years, and I'm fine with it. All that matters is it's back in my life. After Ghana ended Sam's Army's dream, I knew I couldn't wait forty eight months for my next fix. I also knew Cleveland will never land an MLS team and my beloved indoor game is long since dead. So I did the only thing I could do. I decided to adopt an English Premier League team, remembering The Sports Guy's column from four years ago. For two weeks, I obsessed over the EPL- read their wiki histories and visited each team's official site (which was ridiculously helpful in gaining an insight into the culture of a particular club; I enjoyed the hell out of the process).
In the end, it was an easy pick. Like thousands of other wagon-hoppers, I started watching L.A. Galaxy games a few years back when David Beckham signed with MLS. I'll always be a fan of Beckham and his precise passing and shot-placement, but I started to admire the passionate and imaginative play of Beckham's teammate (and rival), Landon Donovan. After the World Cup, I was even more infatuated. So when I learned that Landon had previously been on loan to Everton of the EPL, the Toffees were my obvious choice. It helped that their biggest fan is Sir Paul McCartney, and their goalkeeper is Team USA's Tim Howard. Also, Everton exists in working-class Liverpool and has a long, lively, but, overall, disappointing heritage. I can relate. We finally won our first game of the season, yesterday. Go Toffees!! Nil Satis Nisi Optimum!!!!!!
2. Ohio State 26 Oregon 17, January 1, 2010
Had to have it. Normally I have a strong distaste for consolation Bowl Games, even when it's the Granddaddy. Anything less than a national title is a crushing disappointment and rarely worth the breath I use to cheer, but this game was a springboard to our #2 pre-season ranking. Win out, and we're in. See you in Tempe. Bring your tostitos and your bong.
3. East Dillon Lions 25 West Dillon Panthers 24
I'm a critic to the bone, but no stranger to suspending my disbelief for the sake of fiction. When Daniel LaRusso won the Under 18 All Valley Karate Tournament and Scott Howard led his team to the city championship without becoming The Wolf and the Bears shocked the dominant Toros in the AstroDome...well, I knew real life was nowhere to be found in those instances. But East Dillon's victory and Landry Clark's 45-yard game-wining FG stretched me like a rubber band. Normally, I don't like being manipulated by televsion dramas but I savored every second of Coach Taylor's revenge.
4. Gypsy Tears 7 South Euclid Gold 7, January 27, 2010. Well, almost. That's probably a #6 or #7. Actually-
Ohio State 69 Wolverines 68, March 12, 2010
Evan Turner, at the buzzer. The Big 10 post-season tournament is a bit of a non-event when you're already headed to the Dance, but this quarterfinal win rates because we stole a win from That School Up North. Thad Matta had the Player of the Year but would let us down again when it really counted. If it wasn't for a missed free throw by Xavier plus a subsequent huge three from Ron Lewis, then a brain fart from UT boss Bruce Pearl in the Sweet 16, Coach Matta would have early exits in all four of his NCAA tourneys with Ohio State. Coach Tressel takes occasional heat for little shit, but Matta's incompetence gets completely overlooked. Simply put, he is one of the worst coaches at the Division 1 level. He may be a world class recruiter, but that's meaningless when you're losing to Siena in the first round because you forget to instruct your team to foul when you're up three and less than 7 seconds remain.
5. Browns 21 Bengals 20, This Afternoon.
Down by twenty at the half, I was prepared to never watch this team again. Rumor has it, Mangini was fired at halftime. Coach Ryan rips off a few obscenities, a stomach bump or two, and saves our season. It's only one win. It's only Cincinnati. But you take what you can get, 'cause it's all that you can find. And you know there's something more...
Browns (+3.5) over Bengals, 3 dimes (I bet this before the line moved; If your book won't give you the half point, than buy it)
Texans (-3) over Oakland, 2 dimes
Colts (-7) over Jaguars, 2 dimes
Last week: 2-2 (-2 dimes)
Season: 3-6-1 (-8 dimes)