Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What a difference

It’s been a year to the day since I wrote this disgusted diatribe about the then-pathetic state of the Browns. My crabby column came after Cleveland opened the 2009 pre-season with an ugly, altogether boring performance against the Green Bay Packers, a game that would become the harbinger for an equally unsightly and dull regular season.
Twelve months later, the Browns once again traveled to cheese country to kick off a season, and what a difference a year makes. I actually had this odd euphoric feeling while watching the DVR replay of Saturday night’s game, like I was partaking in an activity designed for therapeutic refreshment of one's body and mind – an unfamiliar sensation known in some NFL cities as “fun.”
Yes, watching the Browns score two touchdowns against the Packers’ ones was fun, something that has been sorely lacking with any regularity in Browns’ town since about 1989. A meaningless exhibition matchup should not be cause for myopic, championship-level optimism, but actually enjoying football season again would be a welcome change from the heretofore coma-inducing norm.
And that’s all I really ask of the Browns this year. Realistically, with another new front office working to turn over the mistakes of past regimes, this squad’s talent pool is shallow compared to its three division rivals. Finishing at .500 would be considered a successful season, and rightly so.
As much as we want immediate fulfillment of our worst-to-first Super Bowl dreams, game-to-game competitiveness and player growth should be our benchmark in 2010. Give me exciting, well played games that aren’t decided until the fourth quarter, and I can live with the Browns going 7-9 or even 6-10 this year.
Shooting for mediocrity is not a thrilling prospect, but among the strip club buffet that is the current Cleveland sports scene, the Browns are like that salty, slightly undercooked sirloin steak that's been emulsifying in its own juices for two days: It may not taste great and it’s probably bad for you, but it’s the only edible thing around.
That said, in an NFL era where franchises can turn their fortunes around relatively quickly, a solid, competitive, albeit non-playoff 2010 should rightfully give fans designs on a postseason run the following year. If the Holmgren/Heckert/Mangini trio cannot get the Browns into the playoffs in 2011, that will be the time to start questioning their validity, and high time for Randy Lerner to seriously consider selling the team.
For now, I have cautious optimism that this front office can drag an ever-struggling franchise back to respectability. One preseason game does not cure all ills, but unlike last year, it didn’t make me sick. I count that as a positive first step.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Cleveland's Next Hope?

Bernie Kosar. Brady Quinn. Lebron James. These were supposed to be our "Hometown" saviors. Guys who grew up around here, played here, and were destined to bring our starving city its first championship since 1964. How can we forget our desperate, wishful thinking that University of Akron QB Charlie Frye might be that one glimmer of hope - the "one of our own" that would lift us from despair? There were guys we adopted as our own because they were surely going to lead us to the Promised Land. Guys like Jared Wright, C.C. Sabathia... can't miss studs not yet in their prime. Some of them came close. Some bolted for greener pastures. Some never made it. Some won championships elsewhere. All, in one way or another, (to quote Jake Taylor) "ripped our [hearts] out and shoved them down our f---ing throats!"
So who's next?

  • Josh Cribbs - undrafted Kent State quarterback turned NFL Pro Bowler? The Browns have a long, long, long way to go before we can hang our hats on a Pro Bowl special teamer/wide receiver in training.
  • J.J. Hickson? Raw... and if he's what Cavs fans have to cling to, then as my grandmother used to say "oy vey!"
  • Anyone on the Indians? Not when the most exciting thing of the season has been Grady Sizemore's coffee cup.
Paints a pretty pathetic picture, eh? But wait... there is hope... more than hope... it's money in the bank.
Cleveland... I give to you Parma's own... Michael Mizanin, better known as the egotistical, brash heel of the WWE - "The Miz".
Before ascending the ranks of the WWE main roster, the Normandy High School alum first gained fame on The Real World and later Real World/Road Rules Challenge. He would eventually earn a spot in the WWE, shooting up the ranks quicker than a Justin Gabriel 450 splash. Already a two time and current United States Champion, The Miz shocked the world last month by winning the "Money In The Bank" (MITB) Ladder Match, which guarantees a World Title shot any time, any place. The MITB holder carries a briefcase and can literally "cash-in" whenever, wherever - surprising the unfortunate champion following a grueling hell in the cell match, or at a house show, or in an alley, or in a hotel lobby.
There have been seven MITB winners. All seven have successfully cashed in to become champion. Some were established superstars like Edge. Some were mid-carders who were instantly propelled to main event stardom like C.M. Punk and Jack Swagger. The statistics show it. All logic points to it - The Miz will do it. No quit- I mean elbow injuries. No drives, shots, fumbles, or meltdowns in the ninth. Cleveland will have its champion!
Whoah, whoah whoah. Before we begin to drink the Lake Erie bubbly, I caution you - let's not forget the glorious name of this very blog. If there was ever a time to break the MITB winning streak, it would figure to be when Cleveland was on the verge. There we are - at the top of the ladder, fingers stretched, the ultimate prize at our fingertips - only to get choke slammed to hell.
The Miz's catchphrase is "I'm the Miz and I'm AWESOME!" He is... but needn't he forget... he's from Cleveland as well. Go get' em kid.
Cleveland's own, The Miz, taunts Lakers fans at the Staples Center in L.A...
and then proceeds to beat down John Cena.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010


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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Stay classy, Cleveland

For Cleveland sports fans, the last week has brought another bout of post-Decision ugliness.
First came the Tribe fan from Sandusky with curious fashion sense (and the cultural awareness of a toaster) who decided it would be a great idea to flaunt LeBron’s #6 Miami jersey during a game at Progressive Field.
Later that same week, an Akron marketing company classed up Route 18 eastbound between I-71 and I-77 with an anti-LeBron billboard. Its curt sentiment tells James he'd be wise to sell that mansion in Bath.
The LeBron-centric news cycle reset earlier this week, when James took out an ad in the Akron Beacon-Journal thanking his home city for its support. James then took his Brother word processor to the electronics store to get it fixed, because all the nice things he said about playing in Cleveland for seven years, as well as a heartfelt apology for the crass spectacle of “The Decision,” somehow got erased from the floppy disc he mailed to the ABJ.
All of this points to the obvious conclusion that the LeBron v. Cleveland affair is not going to just fade gracefully into the back of the blogroll. It may dissipate during football season, but the unseemly drama of James’s departure, combined with the wretchedly attractive sob story of Cleveland’s sports history, likely means a hot week’s worth of coverage leading up to LeBron’s return to The Q on Dec. 2.
That’s five or six days of ESPN-baiting and local papers working fans into an angry lather. You will likely read stories about elaborate fan protests - my favorite idea so far involves a knife company sponsoring the game and giving each patron a plastic handle to attach to his or her back for LeBron’s pre-tipoff introduction.
On game night, I can envision streets surrounding the arena lined with enterprising purveyors of LeBron-hating apparel and other novelty items. You may see at least one guy selling a screen printed t-shirt that has Delonte West’s head superimposed on Darth Vader’s body. The catchphrase writes itself: “LeBron, I am your father.”
Inside will be the first sellout of the 2010-11 campaign. Security will be stepped up with extra metal detectors, wand-wielding cops, and maybe even bomb sniffing dogs for that bunny-boiling lunatic fan who’s serious when he says he wants LeBron to suffer a catastrophic injury – or worse.
The game will be secondary to the spectacle. If you attended the final Browns’ game at Municipal Stadium in 1995, then you remember how nobody was paying attention to the action because they were too busy tearing the seats apart or mournfully sawing through the wooden bleachers (yes, people brought saws to the stadium) in the Dawg Pound for a final souvenir. It was the oddest, most surreal sporting event I ever attended, and I still have my piece of bleacher (signed by Steve Everitt) stashed in a closet at my parents’ house.
I don’t expect that kind of destructive madness at the Q, but the atmosphere is going to be similarly strange. Arena-wide “You quit” and “asshole” chants are possible. Lusty booing every time LeBron touches the ball is a certainty.
Still, Dan Gilbert would be wise to take notes from Browns’ president Mike Holmgren, who in last weekend’s Plain Dealer asked football fans to tone down the rowdy and obnoxious behavior that has driven some people away.
Gilbert already fired his canon of outrage across LeBron’s tattooed bow. The scorned hyperbole of Gilbert's infamous LeBron-bashing letter rallied Cleveland fans around what is going to be the first season of a long rebuild. With that accomplished, it’s time for the Cavs’ owner to come out publically and implore vengence-minded Clevelanders to leave the torches and pitchforks at home for LeBron’s return.
As much as we may want to see fire and brimstone rain down on James, ownership must take the high road here. Take a nice, big ad out in the PD that week. Sponsor radio and TV spots telling fans that they must represent Cleveland in a positive light and LeBron in fact was not the linchpin holding our economy together.
I worry Gilbert may instead organize his own anti-LeBron shenanigans. I don’t want to turn on TNT that night and witness 20,000 fans wearing “Down with the King” t-shirts. Zydrunas Ilgauskus will be back that night, too, so some folks want the Cavs to hold a “Z Appreciation Night.” No dice, I say, because even that seemingly noble gesture would in actuality serve as a not-so-subtle jab aimed at LeBron.
I just don’t want the city to look bad on national TV, okay? The nation will be watching with eager anticipation for funny old Cleveland to do something stupid and reckless because LeBron was obviously the only thing we had going for us. They’ll tune in for the same reason that “Jersey Shore” is a smash hit. People naturally want to see other people at their worst. Let’s not give those snobs the satisfaction of seeing us crack up.
Now, some form of fan-sponsored brow beating is unavoidable and God knows LeBron deserves at least a controlled ration of righteous wrath for his clueless jerkitude. By all means, let’s boo our guts out. However, death threats, pornographic Gloria-Delonte apparel, and chucking beers at LeBron’s head are just three of the immature responses we may want to avoid.
Please, for the love of all that is Cleveland, let’s stay classy for this one. LeBron is not worth it.

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