Friday, December 31, 2010

Everybody's sorry when they get caught

The five Buckeye juniors - DeVier Posey, Mike Adams, Dan Herron, Terrelle Pryor and Solomon Thomas – sat in a row at the long table as flashbulbs popped and harried beat reporters hammered away on their laptops. Tuesday’s press conference, where the five players offered apologies for violating NCAA rules, had an odd, almost pre-trial vibe, as if these student-athletes were about to stand in front of a jury of their peers.

Of course, these young men are not criminals, but what should not be lost in all the hand-wringing about NCAA incompetence and BCS greed is that they’re not exactly victims, either. Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith can dissemble all he wants about the quintet selling Buckeyes’ memorabilia to help their families, or portray the players as naive little lambs who knew not what they did. My response to these statements is as follows.

How many loaves of bread did those discounted tattoos buy, I wonder? Come on, now. It’s much easier apologizing than to do the right thing in the first place, and I have zero sympathy for guys who flush away an incredible opportunity for cash and some bargain-priced ink. No crimes were committed, but these guys did break NCAA rules, and as NCAA student-athletes, they are, fairly or not, held to a higher standard than the “ordinary” students at Ohio State University.

The NCAA prohibitions for “student-athletes selling items received for participation in intercollegiate athletics” seem to read the same across the board:

“A student-athlete shall not sell any (game) item or exchange or assign such an item for another item of value, even if the student-athlete's name or picture does not appear on the item received for intercollegiate athletics participation.”

Kind of stodgy and lawyerly in the wording, but I’d say that’s pretty clear. Did Pryor and friends sleep through that day’s compliance meeting? Could someone have at least given them the gist of it?

Smith’s implausible excuses for the players not knowing the rules because the school “failed to make the rules clear” was even called out by Coach Tressel, who found it hard to believe that the five were blissfully unaware of the coin their names held among sleazy tattoo artists and dorky memorabilia hounds alike.

Not to go all grumpy old man here, but what happened to personal responsibility, dagnabbit? It’s not even about loyalty or tradition, as those concepts have faded into oblivion thanks to the “get me mine” attitude of the modern athlete – a behavior typified by our old buddy Señor South Beach, whom Pryor himself holds in high esteem.

But I’ll be damned if the players didn’t have an inkling that selling their trinkets could come back and bite them and by extension the team. Discussions about archaic NCAA rules, stipends and the huge money major football programs make off of these young athletes is certainly a valid conversation. However, those topics should not be used as a smokescreen to obscure the selfish, foolish actions of nearly grown men who should have known better.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Tressel says suspended players returning, but I don't believe him. Plus, what is up with Kirk Herbstreit?

Upon departure of the Ohio State Buckeyes to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl, Jim Tressel commented that each of the five Buckeyes suspended for next year have pledged to him that they will return for 2011.  And if they hadn't pledged that, Tressel says he would have left them in Columbus instead of letting them skate on their punishments.

Now, while that could be the truth, it seems to just be more weird comments from high-profile persons related to the Ohio State program.  First, Kirk Herbstreit continues his juvinile whining about Terrelle Pryor by suggesting, of all things, that Ohio State would be "better" without the five players in 2011:
I don’t know Terrelle Pryor as an individual, just watching him grow as a player on and off the field, I think all of us have said he has grown on the field. My problem has always been on his actions off the field, on the sidelines, kicking water bottles, frustrated, disgusted, just not being a great leader.
True poor behavior
Now nobody likes a crybaby on the court, but before this incident, I hardly think Pryor's "off the field" actions have been offensive to anyone.  And if they have been, OSU hasn't said a word about it.  The only negative thing Pryor has done is worn jeans to have Prime Rib in LA last year.

Finally, Herbstreit issues a bizarre condemnation of players who want to make it to the next level.
Don’t forget, the reason he selected Ohio State over Michigan and Oregon, offenses more suited to his skill set coming out of high school. Don’t forget, his quote was, 'Ohio State will get me ready for the NFL.' So that was the thinking from the very beginning, that is, in my opinion, a disaster. If that is your goal, to get ready for the NFL, that’s a disaster.
You want to hear guys say, ‘I want to go to Ohio State, to play in the Big 10 and play for Coach Tressel and I want to win Big 10 Championships, I want to go the Rose Bowl and I want to win national championships.’ That’s what you want to hear and if you make it to the NFL, great. But you do not walk in, you may think that in your mind, but you don't go somewhere and say they are going to get me ready for the NFL.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tressel Leaving Ohio State?

Unconfirmed report from Daily Chicago Sports Tab says recruits have been told Jim Tressel will no longer be coach of the Buckeyes following the Sugar Bowl. CST connot confirm the legitimacy of this report or the site from which it originated.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Movie Review: The Fighter

In a 2007 interview, Mark Wahlberg espoused his love for boxing movies and admitted to have watched “Rocky” upwards of 30 times. The influence from that bellwether of cinematic pugilism is more than evident in “The Fighter,” a biographical glimpse into the career of champion welterweight “Irish” Micky Ward.

As it’s based on a true story, “The Fighter” can’t delve into the haymaking excesses that made Stallone’s franchise – up to “Rocky IV,” at least - so much campy fun. Even so, director David O. Russell doesn’t shy away from the “against-all-odds” clichés of Micky’s humble life in working class Lowell, Mass., where as the film begins he’s desperately trying to slug his way out of a three-fight losing streak.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A CST Twist on a Timeless Holiday Classic

No doubt parents everywhere (yours truly included) will be reading the classic Christmas poem "The Night Before Christmas" as they tuck their little ones into bed tonight and tomorrow night. But loyal CST readers may choose this twisted version instead - because nothing says Christmas Joy like Cleveland Sports Torture:

Coal in OSU's stockings: five players to be suspended. But not immediately.

Well by now Buckeye Nation has had a couple hours to digest the news that five Ohio State football players will be suspended for selling some of their personal memorabilia, including Big Ten championship rings, jerseys, and Gold Pants awards, all for a couple thousand dollars.

Five players were found to have sold awards, gifts and university apparel, plus receive improper benefits in 2009. In addition to missing five games next season, Terrell Pryor, Mike Adams, Daniel Herron, Devier Posey and Solomon Thomas must repay money and benefits ranging in value from $1,000 to $2,500. The repayments must be made to a charity.

Pryor must repay $2,500 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring, a 2009 Fiesta Bowl sportsmanship award and his 2008 Gold Pants, a gift from the university for players on a team which beat arch-rival Michigan.
Herron must repay $1,150 for selling his football jersey, pants and shoes for $1,000 and receiving discounted services worth $150.
Posey must repay $1,250 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,200 and receiving discounted services worth $50.
Adams must repay $1,000 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring.
Thomas must repay $1,505 for selling his 2008 Big Ten championship ring for $1,000, his 2008 Gold Pants for $350 and receiving discounted services worth $155.
This sucks.

For everyone involved.

Terrell Pryor pays for his tattoos. I hope.

Pryor shows off his Block O tattoo
Ohio State AD Gene Smith is set to hold a news conference at noon eastern, to address possible violations in which OSU players traded autographs for tattoos.  For Pete's sake, I hope that's not true.  Please.  Please please.

Initially suspected widely was QB Terrell Pryor.  The Columbus Dispatch reported that on his twitter account (@tpeezy2), Terrell issued a crystal clear statement:  "I paid for my tattoos. GoBucks".

Unfortunately that tweet seems to have disappeared.

Well, one hour to find out if there is early coal in our stockings.

UPDATE: Five players, including Pryor, will be suspended the first five games of 2011, for selling awards, rings, and GOLD PANTS (!!!!).  How this affects decisions to return for the 2011 season is still to come.  All players are eligible for the Sugar Bowl.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

"Stop whining about LeBron." Well, I think we have.

In his blog about "Politics, Sports, Media, Stuff", Tom Scocca says to Clevelanders what a lot of people are probably thinking.

Stop whining about LeBron James.

He does mention that he (like all of America except about 100 NBA Players and Miami Heat "fans") that he enjoyed the LeBron bashing, the remix of the commercials, the Scott Raab eviscerating of LeBron, the universal panning of "The Decision", and not to mention the early-season (and apparently past) struggles of the Miami Heat.

But he says enough is enough.  I guess maybe it's because of this documentary that got funded, called "Losing LeBron", to chronicle the sad state of affairs in Northeast Ohio post-LeBron.  The way it's described is:

LOSING LEBRON will go deep into the homes and workplaces of Cleveland residents to find out how they have been affected by this move, why basketball is so important to them, and watch as they adjust to a season without LeBron. Think Hoop Dreams meets Roger & Me. Fans and foes alike will document themselves through user-generated content as we experience this unique chapter in sports history. We will provide selected participants with HD Flip Cams so they can interview themselves, their family, and their friends, and become a part of the film's production.
Okay, I agree...this is silly.  Truly, enough is enough.

Greatest letter ever to a fan? You decide.

Cleveland Scene posted this absolutely hilarious 1974 letter exchange from the Cleveland Browns to a season ticket holder.  I'm curious on the similar sanctimonious letters the Browns must have gotten after bottles were thrown onto the field. Not to mention the weekly occurrence when hot dogs and 15 beers are "thrown" up in the Dawg Pound each week.

Phil Savage would be proud.  Of course much more "to the point."

And, of course, Dan Gilbert would have used quite a few more words, in a nice pretty font, not just to a fan but to any old ex player.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Knicks looking at Gibson, Varejao?

Daniel Gibson playing with the Cleveland CavaliersImage via Wikipedia

LeBron James mouthpiece Chris Broussard reports that the New York Knicks might have some interest in Cavaliers Anderson Varejao and Daniel Gibson.  "Some" in this case meaning "Oh crap, Carmelo is playing in Newark, not Madison Square Garden."

If the Cavs would also consider trading their two best players, it would show that the trade exemption that Cleveland got from the Heat in the screwjob of the century is not going to be used, and neither are thousands of seats at the Q for the next two or three years.

NBC Sports makes me wonder, what would the Knicks want to give up, which would fit the Cavaliers apparent long term rebuilding strategy?  Draft picks alone?  They're not going to want to trade their young studs to add Anderson and Boobie, are they?
The only real trade chips the Knicks have in these deals, assuming they’re not willing to part with Landry Fields or Wilson Chandler, are Eddy Curry and the talented but mercurial Anthony Randolph. With a lockout looming, financial flexibility may not be as attractive as it once was, so we’ll see if the Knicks can land a player who hasn’t made it publicly known that he wants out.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Rookie QBs Everywhere! How did they do?

On Sunday, four rookie quarterbacks started in the NFL, including the Browns’ very own Colt McCoy.  I thought it would be interesting to see how they each did.  Some have gotten (much) more attention than others, and some are being looked at as a possible savior of their franchise.

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams.  Not great.  40.9 rating, 21-43 for 181 yards (4.2 yard average, his lowest of the year), zero touchdowns, and two INTs in a loss to their cross-state rivals, the Kansas City Chiefs.  Year to date rating 76.0, 17 TDs, 14 INTs, Bradford is considered the favorite for Rookie of the Year, and the Rams are pretty happy with their first pick.

Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos (University of Florida).  You may have heard of this guy too.  Had some good marks, and made some mistakes, going 9-17 for 141 yards, 1 TD and no INTs, for a passer rating of 100.5.  Reports were that his well-documented mechanics issues definitely were apparent at some points during the game.  But his legs paid off, as he ran for a 40-yard touchdown as well.  Tebow’s season-to-date rating is 120.0, but the sample size overall is minuscule, he only had one pass (completed for a touchdown) prior to yesterday’s start.  Still, Broncos lost 39-23 to the Raiders.  

Keep Mangini!!

Why does everyone hate Eric Mangini? Did I miss something; were we supposed to be contending for the Super Bowl this year? Am I the only one who realizes we need major upgrades at several positions in order to consistently win?

Two years ago, Eric Mangini took over a horrendous team. Last year wasn’t pretty but with four wins to end the year, you could see there was some hope and that maybe the players were starting to buy into the coach's philosophy. When Mike Holmgren was brought in, everyone thought Mangini was done, but he obviously impressed the heck out of Holmgren and saved his job.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Coach Mangini Running Out of Chances

About a month ago, following consecutive wins over the defending Superbowl Champion Saints and the Patriots, and an overtime loss to the Jets, I was on board with Coach Mangini and the direction his team was headed. A tough-nosed, gut-it-out group who it seemed, could not only play with - but beat - anyone on any given Sunday.

Then came a blown opportunity against the Jaguars, followed by an uninspired too-close-for-comfort win (at home) against the 1-win Panthers. And except for a nice little win against an average Dolphins team, the Browns have regressed ever since, with stunning losses to two of the NFL's doormats - the Bills last week and a clunker today against the previously 2-win Bengals.

Last week in Buffalo, after rumbling down the field on the back of Peyton Hillis, the Browns had first and goal. This would've been the PERFECT opportunity for a play action pass to the tight end. Instead the Browns went run, run, run. And ended up with a field goal. From that opening drive, it seemed the Browns would score at will. They ended the game with only six. The same paper-thin offensive game plan was seen in the "victory" (barely) against the lowly Panthers a few weeks prior.

Hear the bell, Coach, for it tolls for thee

I wish I had a screen capture of the sad kitten face Coach Mangini made in the waning seconds of this afternoon’s deflating loss to the Bengals. What I saw as the clock ticked down to zero was a beaten man who knows his ship has sailed.

And sailed it has, Browns fans. If last week’s dull defeat to Buffalo didn’t cement Mangini’s fate, today’s depressingly similar “effort” - and I use that word loosely- against Cincinnati certainly did. A victory today, along with some home cooking against either Baltimore or Pittsburgh, may have barely saved Mangini’s job - with the caveat that he would need to replace a couple of his coordinators if he wanted to keep the position.

What we think will happen today....

Week 15, Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals

BrianBrowns 27
Bengals 13
Colt again performs mistake-free (or close to it), something Carson Palmer certainly can never say.
TomBrowns 17
Bengals 13
McCoy comes back and doesn't miss a beat, but it doesn't solidify the thin ice Mangini is on.
DougBrowns 17
Bengals 13
McCoy back under center, Bengals' general lousiness means a 'W' for the good guys.
KevinBrowns 23
Bengals 20
The Browns have yet to learn how to win consistently and seize crucial opportunities. They are the Evan Bourne of the NFL. Still, they cannot lose to the lowly Bengals can they? Coach Mangini's job may depend on it.
RyanBrowns 27
Bengals 13
Marvin Lewis' days in Cincinnati are numbered; hopefully, Eric Mangini's in Cleveland are not.
SamVoxBengals 27
Browns 20
Holmgren doesn't mind the result, as it gives him a higher draft pick plus more ammunition to fire Mangini.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Big Ten reconsidering "Legends" and "Leaders"

Unlike the US Congress, perhaps the Big Ten really does get their feelings hurt when a majority of people think their idea is terrible.  And especially unlike congress, maybe they reconsider their decisions.

On Thursday, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney, in an interview with WGN-AM in Chicago, commented that the names may be changed, due in no small part to the extreme dislike the Big Ten fans seem to have for the division names.  (Of course, maybe it was the t-shirt designs the names might inspire.) 

Would the Browns take a re-do on the draft? Not a chance...

Sports Illustrated's Don Banks took a new look at the 2010 NFL Draft, and to the credit of many of the teams drafting high, he didn't think many of them would draft differently if the draft was done over at this point.

But none, perhaps, got as good grades as the Browns. Banks slated Colt McCoy going to the (gasp!) Browns with the 7th pick (Haden's spot), TJ Ward at the 14th spot, and Joe Haden at 17.

Given that nobody is complaining in Berea about the Haden pick at 7, and Ward and McCoy were taken in the second and third rounds, respectively, I'd say that early returns are good. And there's the matter of this running back named Hardesty...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Mangini "consults" with Holmgren, McCoy now starting

NEW ORLEANS - OCTOBER 24:  Colt McCoy #12 of t...Image by Getty Images
On Thursday, a decision was made.

By whom, we don't know.  But, barring injury (which, given the Browns quarterback situation this year, is far from sure), the Jake Delhomme era in Cleveland is over.  Colt McCoy will start the remainder of the season for the Browns.  It will be quite unusual for him to face a team like the Bengals this week, until getting back into his routine of facing juggernauts, in this case, the much-beloved Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.

As well observed around the Browns fandom, the decision to pull Delhomme could have been made long ago.  It's even speculated now that Seneca Wallace may be named as the second quarterback, which would allow for some non-Cribbs-Wildcat formations.

So here we go. Three games to once again see what the Browns have at the QB position.

The measure of a man

Much will be written about Bob Feller in the upcoming days and weeks following his death last night at age 92. Feller’s stratospheric pitching stats will be paired with sepia-toned images of a man who wore a military uniform as comfortably as he did the Chief Wahoo-emblazoned gear of the Cleveland Indians.

Of all the accolades and superlatives surrounding the Hall of Famer’s life and career, there’s one thing that may be said with relative certainty: Feller was not a person who suffered fools lightly. An outspoken critic of Pete Rose’s possible reinstatement into baseball, for example, he told The Associated Press in his usual straight-shooting style, “I'm tired of talking about it. I'm fed up. (Rose) is history.”

The Rose quote seemed typical of Feller’s unabashed old school nature – a fiercely patriotic former Iowa farm boy who as gun captain of the USS Alabama stared down Japanese kamikazes as they came barreling toward his position. In a two-part interview with The Plain Dealer last spring, Feller called joining the Navy two days after Pearl Harbor the “best decision” of his life. In the wake of his death, online commenters are calling Feller “an American hero."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tornado Alley inspiration

Another night and another blowout defeat for your reeling Cavaliers. However, unlike the other thumpings the Cavs have taken over the course of an eight-game losing streak, Sunday’s 106-77 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder can at least provide a teachable moment for Cleveland fans.

That moment is this: When it comes to salvaging this quickly sinking franchise, owner Dan Gilbert and GM Christ Grant should be using the Oklahoma City model for inspiration. The Thunder, like the Cavaliers, don’t play in a glamorous city that’s going to attract prima donna free agents looking to party with the rapping singer "Akorn" or whoever the kids are "Spacebooking" (my mom's word) about these days. Nor is Tornado Alley the place where $600 sunglasses-indoors types are flocking to in order to “grow their brand.” Remember when Chris Webber complained about Sacramento having no good soul food restaurants? That's the NBA star secret shoe phone code for, "This place is boring." Like it or not, that's how big shot free agent athletes view our city.

Big Ten proclaims division names, Michigan will never be a "Leader"

I'll assume that the Big Ten ran through lots of naming scenarios for their new divisions.  My personal preference would have been traditional--such as North and South, or East and West.   But given the fact that there appears to be no geographical relevance whatsoever in the divisions, they've decided on "Legends" and "Leaders".  "Legends" because the memory of football success for teams like Northwestern and Michigan has been lost through the generations, and is now merely "legend."  "Leaders" because Wisconsin, Ohio State, and Penn State will take turns sharing the Big Ten title going forward.   I assume.  Either way, a bit awkward, and I imagine nobody is really thrilled with the names.  Get ready for the inevitable jokes about both divisions "starting with L".

Also, the conference got rid of the "hidden eleven" old logo, in favor of a new uninteresting logo.  Like it matters.  I'm not sure where the bright blue and black color scheme came from, but I suppose that was the result of having to pick a color which doesn't appear to favor any of the ten eleven twelve teams in the Big Ten.  Better than fuchsia, I guess.

And finally, the conference announced eighteen new trophies, with such catch cringe-including, dash-including names as the "Griese-Brees" Quarterback of the Year trophy, or the "Thompson-Randle El" Freshman of the year.  Gotta say, the inability to make a decisive call on these award names, instead having a hyphenated name for each-and-every award-- just seems like the easy way out, making each member school happy.  INCLUDING NEBRASKA which hasn't had a single snap in Big Ten football play yet.  Oy.  On the bright side, as Buckeye Sports Bulletin writer Jeff Svoboda (@JeffSvoboda) pointed out in his tweet, "OSU had 5 figures among the 36 names on the new trophies, most in league. Wisky and Mich had four each. Nebraska and Chicago get one each".

Ugly times for Browns offense, coaching staff, fans

Well "mud" as I suspected the visibility of the Browns short-term future was last week, wasn't the proper viscous  semi-liquid, unfortunately. 

The offensive production of the Browns versus the former two-win Buffalo Bills was an abomination.  The blame?  Where does it fall?  The ineffective play calling by offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and coach Eric Mangini?  The (supposed) lack of wide receiver talent that led (supposed) NFL quarterback Jake Delhomme to reduce the passing offense, yet again, to a series of 4 yard out patterns?  The front office?  Was Mangini forced to stay with Delhomme instead of giving Seneca Wallace a chance in the second half, when the Browns' offensive ineptitude was apparent?  The sheer edge-of-your-seat drama every time a Brown touched the ball, given the 27-or-so fumbles the Browns had on Sunday?

Regardless, it's apparent to everyone that, no matter what a good guy Delhomme is, he is not even the short term solution for the Browns.  If McCoy isn't healthy enough to go next week versus the Bengals, Wallace needs to get the snaps.

Interesting statistical analysis from  They  have a stat called "Win Probability Added" and can rank skill players on they add the probability for their teams to win.  Unfortunately, among quarterbacks, Jake Delhomme is so far in last place in this stats, he can't even smell the jocks of such luminaries as Clausen, (2010 edition) Favre, and Palmer.  See the ranking tables here, and click on the header to sort by WPA/G, or see a snapshot below.


































































































































































Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Brad Daugherty has a bee in his bonnet

Brad Daugherty
Vince Grzegorek pulls up a couple interesting Brad Daugherty comments from a Dime interview about "the LeBron situation."

Or maybe what I would have called "Cleveland gets intentionally embarrassed and humiliated by its beloved hometown hero, who threw away his vow to finally return a championship to Cleveland and become an eternal hero in Northeast Ohio in order to just go to 'South Beach' with his friends."

Seems Brad would not agree with me.

(Plus, follow Vince at his great blog, '64 And Counting, and on twitter.
Dime: You’re as closely associated with the Cleveland Cavaliers as any player. What’s your view of the LeBron James situation? 
BD: You know, you have to look at both sides of the alley. The only thing I had an issue with was “The Decision” show. I didn’t appreciate that, and I think as LeBron gets older he’ll look back and realize maybe he could have done that differently. Other than that my view of the whole situation is, he worked hard, he became a free agent, he left: Get over it. Why does he owe Cleveland anything? That’s one thing about pro sports that pisses me off is this whole idea of loyalty, how a player is supposed to be loyal. But you take another guy on the team — say he’s from Cleveland but he’s the 12th guy on the team — is there a big uproar when they cut him? If a guy is averaging one point a game, is there an uproar?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Four games to go, and it's clear as mud.

After the ups and downs of the sports year in Cleveland, one could say that the Browns season is a relief.  Not only are they getting some respect across the league, but there could be a bona fide superstar hiding right in our backfield.

That is exactly why I thought, at the beginning of the season, that the 5.5 over/under for Browns season wins was an easy "over" bet.  I basically said (to many laughs) that the Browns could go anywhere from 5-11 to 10-6.  Of course, the reason I was confident was a different running back, James Harrison.  And the inkling that Jake Delhomme might just be the veteran we needed.

Of course, both of those assumptions were incorrect.  But yet this season has been a good one, albeit, in typical Cleveland style, one full of stomach-punch moments.  Even after losing their first 2 games--games universally (in Cuyahoga county at least) thought to be "must-win" games to make this a successful season--and then falling to the Ravens in a close game, there was positive signs.  After six weeks, the Browns were 1-5, and yet they had only gotten beat up once, by the Steelers.  Naturally.

Anyone watching those games was thinking one of two things.  (a) They're not that freaking bad, or (b) How many quarterbacks have we started over the last decade, again?  Yes, Jake Delhomme was hurt, Seneca Wallace came in and was okay, but then he got hurt, and the Browns were forced to turn to Colt McCoy.  Anyone who didn't think of Tim Couch's rookie shelling at that point, must be just too young to remember it.  (Can't believe I just typed that.)

Regardless, everyone knows what happened.  A great--but in retrospect a bit fluky--win on the road against the Saints, and then an epic ass-kicking of the New England Patriots.  Immeidately folllowed up by Games We Should Have Won (trademark pending) to the Jets and Jacksonville.  Tough teams, and blown opportunities.

So after 11 games, the Browns had the second toughest schedule in the league, to only Pittsburgh.  Conventional wisdom could say that the Browns could have easily been 6-5 or better, but alas, they sat at 3-7.  Now the easy part of the schedule, right?  Well, yes, but these Browns apparently play down to their competition, and eek out ugly wins versus the Panthers and Dolphins.

So now what?  Four more games to go.  And does anyone have any idea what they will do?

2 crappy teams.   Buffalo and Cincinnati.
2 awesome teams.  Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
It won't surprise me if they win 2 of those games.  Or zero.  Or four.  Not that I have any idea which ones are which.

We'll see.  But you can't say it hasn't been interesting.  And it looks like we'll have Mangini back for another year.  Regardless, the future is bright.  Brighter than the muddy road ahead over the next four games.  Not necessarily treacherous...but you never know.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Waiting on a giant leap

Cleveland’s sports scene needed an infusion of good news after the pants-splitting pratfall the Cavaliers took this week. The Browns delivered that pick-me-up today with a 13-10 victory over the Dolphins; a game that fans hope is a trendsetter of sorts - one that pushes the Browns from mere competitiveness to the airy realm of some-day playoff contention.

The playoff dream will remain unrequited this year. Nonetheless, we can see a team that’s growing, albeit slowly, with an emerging foundation of playmakers on both sides of the ball. Unlike past seasons, the 2010 Browns are in every game, with a play or two often being the deciding factor in victory or defeat.

Viability is certainly a good and necessary phase for the franchise. Still, in the development of a team, not being terrible anymore is probably the easiest step to take. Becoming an established playoff contender is a much larger leap, and that means the Browns can’t continue to operate on the razor-thin margin of error that has led to too many defeats in close contests this season.

The Browns seemed to be in for another hard-luck loss as the 4th quarter unreeled today. It was great seeing the Delhomme-to-Watson combo finally put the Browns into the end zone, but when a stop was needed on the ensuing Dolphins’ drive, the defense let the combination of a dreadful Chad Henne and Miami’s funky wildcat formation vex them into giving up a tying touchdown. These Browns simply don’t know yet how to handle success, and they’ll need to breach that at least somewhat psychological gap to finally get parallel with the Steelers, Ravens and Patriots of the world.

Maybe today’s happy finish was a small stride in that direction. A decisive win next week against a not-as-bad-as-their-record Buffalo team would be yet another one. We all know how long and rocky this road has been stretching all the way back to 1999. With just a little more patience and a few more tweaks to the engine, Browns fans could be cruising along smoother pavement before they know it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cavaliers, You Failed Us...

It’s been a day now since the “The Return” and I am still disappointed in our Cavs. I was up in Loudville yesterday, just like I was in Game 5, lingering with the final few thousand fans with a familiar, sour taste.

I was not all that surprised by the typical manhug-lovefest before the tip and really could not see the "friendly" dialogue between teams during the game that I am hearing about on the radio. But the Cavs' lack of...I'm not sure what word I am looking for here...effort/passion/empathy really brought me down. We got run out of our own place and that’s OK, I guess. Our team really isn’t that good. But those players and the entire Cavs organization missed a really big opportunity. To have that wave of crowd support behind them and then let the opportunity flounder was pathetic. I am sure Gilbert is steaming today. I can’t help but wonder how fringe fans (the ones with one leg off the old bandwagon), are reacting now? And how they would have reacted had we won, competed, or played with an ounce of passion or, dare I say, anger? Mo, Boobie, Jawad, or even Joey Graham could have become instant fan favorites (if not legends) simply by not shaking a hand, playing hard, or playing with a Red-Ass- attitude. You let the guy drop 25 in the 3rd quarter without knocking him on his ass? I'm sure Austin had something to say on that. I play with more passion in my Tuesday night pick-up games amongst friends.

I guess the pro-athletes have a fraternity of their own and we are just on the outside looking in. Their mentality seems to be Athlete, League, Team, then Fan/City (Team is often, and unfortunately, separate from City). As a lifelong fan, never have I felt so much distance between me and the player. Growing up, sure, I was naive to think that the player was just like the fan. I could bump into a pro around town or get their autograph at the local car dealership. Seemed to me like they were one of us, and I just figured they must love Cleveland, too. Now I am older and more realistic, and know that's not the case...but, come on, play with passion or at least pretend to have passion!

Last night, it was like the Cavs were gaming with some gangster/bully/popular kid that they were afraid to cross, in fear of him holding a grudge against them. Maybe, he'd refuse them as a teammate down the road or Nike would not offer a contract if they crossed That Guy. Oh, and Byron’s post-game presser was pathetic. Did anyone tell him that #6 used to play for the Cavs and left on bad terms?

Maybe I'm still naive, maybe times have changed, and maybe our teams don't love us as much as we love them. Damn it, give this Hard-Working Town the Hard-Working Team it deserves.

WWE Champ: "I Hate LeBron James"

So before today, I had never heard of The Miz.  Then Bill Simmons hosted The Miz on his podcast, I found out he was from Cleveland, and it turns out (sorry, I don't watch wrestling) that Cleveland's first title since 1964 did come back to Cleveland!  And it wasn't by the man from Akron who promised to do so.

It was by this guy.  The Miz.  From Parma.  Who took the opportunity in Miami to slam LBJ, and did the same on the podcast.

Parting Words for LeBron

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Heartaches by the number

It’s said that figures don’t lie, but liars figure. Indeed, the sports world is full of stat-spewing BS artists. Ex-Browns coach Butch Davis, one of the most egregious number-crunching spin-meisters in football, infamously pooh-poohed Jamal Lewis’s 295-yard rushing performance against his team by claiming his defense held Lewis in check, minus a few measly little long touchdown runs, of course.

Still, when framed honestly, numbers can be instructive and even eye-opening. Below are a handful of figures from the local sports scene to sink your brain into as you finish off that leftover Butterball this week:


2- Coach Mangini's job may have been saved (for now) by two feet last Sunday. Did you see his stony, emotionless face after Carolina’s game-ending field goal attempt clanged off the left upright? The man famous for rarely cracking a smile had no reason to celebrate after the Browns eked out an underwhelming win against the 1-9 Panthers, and he knew it. That kick drifts a little to the right and the hot seat Mangini’s already sitting on gets cranked up to “flame-broil.”

59- Just a tick under a minute to go in a game the Browns are leading by a single point, the Panthers are on their own four-yard-line, have no timeouts, and a rookie QB under center. May as well turn off the ol’ Philco, ‘cause this one’s all but over, right pa? You ain’t been watching this team long enough, ma. The Browns, not content with making things easy against a bad team, give up yet another long pass play to a running back and come within a sharp intake of the sellout crowd’s breath from an inexcusable loss.

131- Another huge ground game for Peyton Hillis. The man runs like a tank –one of those fast Abrams ones – and boasts some surprising athleticism to boot. Get another solid back in here (Montario Hardesty?) to spell the should-be 2010 Pro Bowler and the Browns could open 2011 with a sick one-two backfield punch.

3– The Browns’ trio of quarterbacks has been fitted for a self-same set of matching walking boots this season. The prospect of a recently de-booted Jake Delhomme starting the next few games has me utterly uninspired. Get well soon, Gunslinger McCoy.

4-7– As an old friend of CST was once heard to remark, “It is what it is, dude.” Maybe with a few plays turning in their favor, the Browns’ record could be 6-5 or 7-4. The grim reality, however, is another playoff-starved season on the lakefront. Holmgren/Heckert had a very good draft, but there’s still a glaring talent/depth deficiency on this roster that’s been further exposed by the recent rash of injuries. The off-season will hopefully bring that much-needed second infusion of playmakers. Whether Mangini and his crew will be here to coach up that talent remains to be seen.


28- The Cavaliers rank near the bottom of the league in scoring (94.9 points per contest), a disappointment even in light of a roster carrying no real impact players. Coach Scott’s up-tempo style is not going to bear fruit until he gets a guy not named Mo who can create his own shot. Otherwise, after a few nice wins early in the year, the Cavs are shaping up to be the mediocre 35-win-team predicted by most NBA analysts.

5- With the glaring roster hole created by That Guy in Miami, there was some hope that JJ Hickson would serve as the All Star-caliber foundation for a rebuilding franchise. That hasn’t exactly happened yet, as Hickson’s decidedly average numbers (12 points, 5 rebounds) per game have been further eroded by single-digit scoring efforts in five of his last six outings. Early on at least, the young forward appears to be a JAG (Just Another Guy) on a roster already full of them.

7:08- This was the approximate time left in the second quarter when the bar I was handing out Watchtower Society tracts at last week finally decided to turn on the Cavs-Bucks game. Not surprising that the Cavs are no longer appointment TV for many Clevelanders, but annoying nonetheless.

12/2- The same watering hole that ignored the actually pretty exciting Cavs-Bucks tilt will no doubt have every available HD flat screen blaring for That Guy’s return to Cleveland on Thursday. If schadenfreude must be the basis of our fandom this basketball season, then it will give me great “shameful joy” to watch the Cavs send the bickering Heat back to South Beach with yet another doubt-inducing loss.


5 (again)- General admission cost for “Snow Days,” a month-long promotion at Progressive Field that includes such family-friendly activities as snow tubing and ice skating. The logical part of my brain says this is a nice idea that will bring people downtown. But logic is soon overridden by grinchy, cynical thoughts of a bad franchise that needs to cobble together gimmicky promotions to distract from an unwatchable core product. For most Tribe fans, I imagine taking their kids to see good baseball in the summer would be preferable to skating around the outfield for a few weeks this winter.

$50-$59 million- Such is the projected payroll for the Indians in 2011, according to team CEO Paul Dolan. He delivered this season ticket-selling bit of news during last month’s general mangers/owners meetings in Orlando, further stating that the club has no plans on bidding on any impact free agents this winter.

And here I thought the Tribe was going to give Cliff Lee $20M per to come back to Cleveland. OK, so Dolan’s statement is no surprise. Baseball’s financial system is grossly unbalanced, etc. Unfortunately, the average ticket-buying fan will view Dolan’s words as just another excuse from a cheapskate, ambitionless franchise complacent with contending once every five years. That’s the other reality that ownership must deal with. If they think fans don’t care about the team now, just wait until next season when even less bodies are projected to be pushing through Progressive Field’s turnstiles.

If the team wants to go with its current model of putting revenue into scouting and draft prospects, fine, but if a handful of those prospects grow into All Stars, the front office must step up and pay at least one of those guys, or the cycle of fan cynicism and empty seats will continue ad infinitum.


100-24- It’s supposed to be fun when Ohio State beats Michigan, but check out that lopsided aggregate score from the last three contests. Beating Michigan these days is akin to the annual mid-October dismantling of a Minnesota or Indiana, and feels almost as hollow. I’m one of those annoying people who actually want Michigan to be good again for the sake of The Rivalry and the conference. Rich Rodriguez getting fired and Jim Harbaugh coming in would be the start of getting me truly pumped again for that last game of the season.

10- The amount of socks it would take for “haters” to fill the shoes of Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor, according to the man himself via his Twitter feed following the game against Iowa. The tweet was soon taken down, and replaced this week with another mature observation: “Damn I must be the worst Qb/ player. I might quit football.”

Maybe I’m taking these remarks out of context, but it seems Pryor is chafing against disparagement from pundits and some fans. Whether the criticism is fair or not, Pryor is a high-profile athlete leading one of the most storied programs in college football. He already had a “punk” reputation coming out of high school, and tweeting idiotic remarks will only further fuel that standing as well as critics’ ire. And who still says “hater,” anyway? What year is this, 2003? Unless you’re a character in a movie about crunk dancing or competitive cheerleading, nobody should ever use that word, ever.

It's all Cleveland (and Miami), all the time this week.

ESPN kicks it off with a feature about "Believeland" from Outside the Lines right now.  Poignant and often true.

It starts with love.

Cleveland is a town that loves. It loves its own history, and the harsh winters, and parish bake sales, but, mostly, it loves to root. Clevelanders root for new stadiums and old teams, for shiny halls of fame, for jobs and urban gardens, for gritty, blue-collar athletes.

Rooting is their civic disease.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Jason Whitlock again eviscerates LeBron

Starting with "I give up", and then bestowing a nickname I'd never heard LeBron called before.

So I give up. I'm just going to accept his immaturity and stubbornness and bullying. He's an immense talent I'll never fully enjoy or appreciate. I'll tune in Thursday night and root for the Cavaliers.
James is a lost cause. He'll never man up and apologize. His bank account says he doesn't have to. His friends say he shouldn't. His coworkers and peers, besides Spoelstra, are too fearful to tell James what they really think. He's a bully. Team LeBron's next media leak could be about how Chris Bosh needs to be traded or Dwyane Wade must shoot less.


King Blames can't hear us. Not any of us who ask him to rule the basketball world with grace, class, fairness and eye toward greatness. We don't need him. And he doesn't need us.
I give up.