Monday, January 7, 2008

Out with the old, in with the new...

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us...

--Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Now I don't know what that quote means for sure, maybe one of you more literary types can expand, but to me, it seems to sum up 2007 pretty well.

Just short of 14 months ago, I wrote a post called "It is Time", trying to capture the excitement and anticipation I (as well as Buckeye Nation) had leading up to the #1 vs. #2 OSU-Michigan showdown. Although I had been excited, I wrote at the time that I wasn't nearly as excited as I should be, or expected to be, and didn't know why. At the time I surmised that maybe it was just being spoiled in the time of OSU excess. But wow have times changed on this board.

2007 brought us some of the close-to-highest-highs, and some of the most crushing lows possible for a sports town.

The feeling of "not being scared" evaporated soon into the BCS Championship game against the University of Florida in 2007, as the near riotious celebration after Ginn's opening touchdown turned quickly into "okay, this possession they're going to turn it on," and "no way Chris Leek can convert another third down." Fortunately for me, I think a
combination of Arizona heat and St. Louis brew helped numb the pain for me a bit. So much so that I wasn't that bummed during or after the game--and didn't realize until I got home that Ohio State had gained less than 90 yards on offense. Uggh. Singlehandedly, this game would provide ammunition for an entire year how Ohio State sucks and the SEC is God's gift to football. Ugggh.

The Ohio State men's basketball season, on the other hand, finally started getting some real attention after the football season ended, and we could watch Oden and Conley mature so fast into a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately 80% of the games were on some channel that only grandma's with roof antennas could pull in. Regardless, they finish with a fantastic run (punctuated by Ron Lewis and that thriller on St. Patty's day vs. Xavier--in which I was drinking green beer during--do you sense a theme?) and end up getting beat down by...guess who...the Florida Gators. Gee thanks, first the 2000 election, and now this. Just fall into the ocean or something. (Just kidding everybody!) Ugggh.

The Cavs slogged through most of a season, with the national press openly ripping LeBron James for phoning it in. Then, inexplicably, he throws some kind of switch, puts the entire team (and, it turns out, the entire city) on his back, buries the Pistons in one of the all-time greatest performances in team sports history, and, in turn, sends the entire city into some kind of hysteria. The night the Cavaliers clinched the East crown, everybody was hugging, jumping around, toasting, high fiving, and grinning bigger than Hines Ward after a first down. But that was only in Mayfield Heights, where I watched the game. From what I hear, downtown was a similar scene. And wow!, no burning cars, looting, etc. A great night.

Unfortunately, the Cavaliers were exposed--big time--for their deficiencies against the San Antonio Spurs, getting swept out of the playoffs in four games. I'll still contest that those games were closer than people remember, and the Cavs could have easily won a couple. Ah, the fond memories of paying through the nose for upper deck seats to the first home finals game in Cavaliers history, and then watch Anderson (if I dribble or shoot a jumper, bad things are happening) Varajao attempt what I think was supposed to be at turnaround jumper. Not even 10 feet away, LeBron
was calling his agent. Ball game. Ugggh.

The Indians actually live up to their expectations. Even exceed them, in some ways. Somehow underrated after the 2006 disaster of a season, they storm out to cinch the Central Division. CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona are absolute studs*. Victor Martinez and Grady and Travis** are awesome. Kick ass bullpen, a closer who makes us nervous (again), young talent, and the ability to win a ton of games with barely any corner outfield or third base offensive production. An amazing season, and a tragic end when they fail to close out the game. Highlights include a great series against the Yankees. Seemly aided by the Almighty when midges storm the field, drive Joba Chamberlin crazy, and don't affect Fausto a bit.*** Against the Red Sox, the Tribe storms ahead 3-1, only to choke like few teams have choked before, aided by an unexplicable "stop" sign thrown up by Joel Skinner. Ugggh.

*Until the postseason
**Awesome once, hopefully awesome again
***Until a week later

The Browns (predicted by this humble fan to finish 3-13), kick off the season with one of the most embarassing losses ever, at home, to the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Immediately after which I revised my prediction to 2-14.) Virtually immediately after the game, they decide to shit-can their starting quarterback, who had just won an open competition in training camp. Now, normally, I am of the camp of "dance with who brung ya", and don't like messing around with the roster too much, but in this case it was glaringly apparent to anyone not dressed as a McDonald's side item that Charlie Frye sucked. What wasn't glaringly apparent is that Derek Anderson was going to come in and take the team by storm, even so much as to invite conversation on whether the Browns would trade their apprent savior-in-waiting, Brady Quinn. Despite an embarassingly obese coach, the Browns go on to win 10 games in a season filled with crazy bounces that for once, went our way. Unfortunately, three of the six losses were to the inept Raiders, the battered Cardinals, and the Cincinnati team which we thought had no defense. Due to that, the Browns spent January wondering what could have been, instead of taking their rightful place of the leaders in this new year of miracles, 2008. Ugggh.

On the other hand, the Buckeyes also were playing with an unknown at quarterback. Todd Boeckmann had to step into the shoes of an all time Buckeye Legend, Troy Smith. And step in to the shoes he did. Despite being different in every single way than Smith, and playing without the two first round NFL draft pick WRs who left early, Todd managed to make the OSU offense better in 2008. Despite losing to a team they should have killed, Ohio State saw the bounces go their way again, and find themselves playing tonight for the National Championship.

Yes, tonight. The calendar says 2008, and we're no longer lamenting the year that could've been, 2007, but looking forward to 2008. Ohio State has the position of leader now in this new mission, and must set the tone for the entire year. Losing two collegiate national championship games? One NBA finals? One ALCS? Your NFL team failing to make the playoffs due to Indianapolis benching their stars? That is so last year. It's on. So while last year, I was underenthused due to the spoils of excess, now I am slightly underenthused due to the repeated heartbreak. Crushing, even on the Cleveland-level.

After 2007, I'd almost lost that lovin' feeling. But maybe, just maybe, it can come back.
Oh come let's sing Ohio's praise
And songs to Alma Mater raise
While our hearts resounding thrill
With joy which death alone can still
Summer's heat or winter's cold
The seasons pass the years will roll
Time and change will surely show
How firm thy friendship ... OHIO!