Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thoughts Heading into Final Four Weekend

It's been another incredible, and perhaps more than ever, unpredictable NCAA tournament. As we head into Final Four weekend, I'm here to share some of my thoughts of the latest edition of what I believe is the best sporting event of the year.

1. View From the Top
Being a staff member of one of the most revolutionary and popular blogs from South Euclid to Lyndhurst and everywhere in between, you get certain media privileges and perks, like attending the opening round's (okay second round technically) Friday games and seeing THE Ohio State Buckeyes lay the hammer down on a #16 seed in Cleveland. The CST media crew was in force as myself and fellow CST contributors Doug, SamVox, and Sean descended... or I should say ascended... upon the Q to observe the game from a unique perspective. And by media privileges and perks I mean paying over $100 on the internet for the two afternoon games, and by unique perspective I mean sitting top row... in the upper deck. Ah yes, it's good to be a part of CST.

The CST Media Box - Top Row at the Q - 2011 NCAA Tournament

The experience was definitely unique. Ticket packages were available for either the afternoon games or the evening games, so you get two games per ticket. After downing a couple cold ones at a nearby establishment, we made our way over to the arena. The George Mason fans were in full effect as clusters of yellow and green could be seen and heard as the close game against Villanova wound down. The best part may have been listening to CST contributor SamVox angrily chastise the fans (who he perceived as not being real Mason fans) for rooting for George Mason, inexplicably yelling "We have to play them next. I hope we don't lose to them!" We at CST love SamVox's passion, but have to wonder if he realized that we'd also have to play 'Nova if they won, so it didn't really matter who the fans rooted for. One of those teams was going to win. After the Bucks swatted away the Roadrunners from San Antonio, everyone exited the arena so that the evening games' crowd could enter. I have no idea how they got everyone out of the Q in time... but my bigger question is where did the evening crowd park considering every lot was full when I parked for the afternoon games? That will always be as big of a mystery to me as the creation of the universe.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The always useful, seldom enjoyable website is quite the place to visit, today...

Spring in the Cavs' step

Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
Even though weather that feels like "Winter, Part Two" has settled over much of the US, to me it's finally feeling like spring.  But I don't think it's the fact that Opening Day is only two days away 

Maybe it's the spring in people's step, the tulips poking through the dirt, the birds singing a little bit louder, the sun trying just a little bit harder to seep through the clouds.  And why?

Because something good happened to Cleveland fans last night.  Because the Cavs electrified a sold-out Q crowd last night and beat the Heat in one of the most satisfying wins in a while.  And because the team made good on the bill the Cavs fans presented for showing up en force so often this season.

Great win.  Brian Windhorst opined today that Cavs fans are "too stubborn to be disenchanted."  Well that might sum us up better than any prose written earlier.

And proud of it.

Highlights after the break.  Don't usually do this, but figure I'll want to watch this a few times.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Tressel we trust?

Tressel's OSU future is a big, fat unknown.

Safe to say it’s not been a pleasant few days to be an Ohio State fan. On Friday night, the basketball Buckeyes let an arguably inferior opponent set the tempo in one of the most frustrating games I’ve ever had the displeasure to watch.

The team’s foreshortened tourney run did well to mask what could be a much larger issue for the school’s athletics’ program; that is, the so-called “Tattoogate” that finds Coach Jim Tressel falling deeper into a rabbit hole of lies related to his knowledge of wrongdoings perpetrated by football players including quarterback Terrelle Pryor and wideout DeVier Posey.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The worst sports fans in America

GQ Magazine's Adam Winer ran down the fifteen "Worst Sports Fans in America" recently.  What, pray tell, makes up a bad sports fanbase?  Well, according to Winer, trangressions could include insufferable arrogance, bandwagoning, projectile launching, vicious taunting, rampant drunkenness, physical assaults, and/or rioting.  These are all fantastic descriptors to list in your profile, FYI.

Although I want to make clear that I think fans of the Browns, Buckeyes, Tribe, and Cavs are VERY FAR from the worst, I'm actually surprised that the national opinion doesn't throw one of those teams in there.  Probably Ohio State, purely based on the recent success of the football and (to a lesser extent) basketball programs.  Although OSU fans don't usually exhibit "insufferable arrogance," the sheer quantity and enthusiasm of Scarlet-and-Grey clad Americans has got to annoy some people.

Additionally, I would think the Browns fans have got to be somewhere close to the top of the list, just based on long ago (battery or beer throwing) stories, or more recent (unproven child-tackling) stories.  Then again, arrogance and bandwagonning are not exactly two of the descriptions I would use for Browns fans.  Even though this year's Cavaliers numbers have been strong, the fate of the Indians seems to be in the short-term future for the Cavs, with attendance and TV ratings almost sure to fall next year.  But then again, we'll see.

Here, however, is the list put together by Duke graduate Winer, and their main transgressions.
  • 15.  LA Lakers.  Bandwagonning.  And starf****ing.
  • 14. U of Oregon basketball:  General jackassedness.
  • 13. U of Wisconsin football.  Drunkenness.  Gotta guess this isn't unique, but they do administer breathalyzers to some fans in order to gain entry.
  • 12.  Dallas Cowboys:  misplaced arrogance, for sure.

Misery loves company

Dispatch/Neal C. Lauron
Well, Ohio State fans, we are not alone.

The early giant-kiling winds I sensed with Duke and SDSU's losses on Thursday turned into a full-blown cyclone over the weekend.

For the first time in my memory, absolutely none of the top eight seeds (#1s and #2s) will be playing this weekend in the Final Four in Houston.  The last time even no #1s made it was 2006, and before that, it was 1980.  In both of those years, there was a 2 seed playing, so I'm not sure this has ever happened.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hard to describe, but so familiar


Hurt like this makes me not have the energy to even turn my computer on so this pain is being sent from my Android app.

I haven't felt like this in a while.  But this time was different.  It wasn't a beautiful game stabbed by a miracle from the opposing side. It was a forty minute gut punch, interrupted briefly by gutsy strong play by Sully inside, the too-infrequent threes by Diebler, the all out pesky wonderfulness of Aaron Craft, and the silky smooth moves of David Lighty.

But those interruptions were way too brief.  Kentucky is good, no doubt. But the fact that Ohio State played like crap (what, a dozen blocks?) and still lost by two makes me ill.  And what was with the "try to draw a charge" defense?

As I said to an inconsolable friend after the game, the Cavs won tonight at least. For some reason I peeked at the interwebs before I hit send on my resurrected phone, and the fact that Sullinger and Buford vowing to return make me happy and a bit confused for the Cavs. 

But nevertheless, I'll fall asleep tonight like many times before. Emotions fighting for prominence. And the calculation of life benefits without sport weighing heavy on my mind.

Good night, and Good luck.  Getting over this.

William Buford - 2 for 16

Good to see him take the last shot. That's all I have to say about that.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ohio State tries to break the trend, and everybody's watching

Big boys are falling in the Sweet Sixteen. 

Like most of America, my brackets are totally wrecked now.  Not "wrecked" like everyone always says when one of their Elite 8 teams goes down, "wrecked" as in right now I only have three teams alive out of 12 right now.  Ouch.  Damn you Purdue, San Diego State, Pitt, and BYU.    (And yes, I completely realize that nobody cares about anyone else's bracket any more than about anyone else's fantasy football team.  Oh well, deal with it.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The most boring play in football

Josh Cribbs - now with more touchbacks!
Josh Cribbs is not a happy man.

The Browns kickoff specialist is chafing against newly instated changes to kickoffs that will likely lead to more touchbacks and therefore fewer chances for guys like Cribbs to take it to the house.

Per the modifications, the kickoff line will be moved up five yards from the 30-yard-line to the 35 (where it was until 1994), although a touchback will still bring the ball back to the 20. (An original proposal bringing touchbacks to the 25 was nixed.) A kickoff out of bounds will still result in an offense beginning a drive at the 40.

“It's just eliminating a lot of the opportunities for returners to make their names in the NFL,” Cribbs said in an interview with ESPN.

Monday, March 21, 2011

David Lighty's Cleveland Clinic, and the Buckeyes look Sweet

AP Photo/Amy Sancetta
What can you possibly say about Sunday's 32-point dismantling of George Mason University?  Sometimes you just have to lean back and enjoy a work of art, without trying to explain why it is beautiful.

The Buckeyes were beautiful on Sunday.  Ohio State, of course, has been playing at such a high level lately that more and more of the national media are backing off their "no great teams in college basketball" claim this year.

Rick Pitino, who I am sure is confused right now on good teams vs. bad teams, could barely contain himself in the studio, gushing about how great Ohio State is, on their best day looking like they have no weaknesses, and that they are far-and-away the best team in college basketball right now.

While naturally I am thrilled about the weekend--much more than I am about my decimated bracket--caution still reigns supreme for me.  I mean, when Ohio State is clicking, it certainly is a work of art.  Inside, outside, rebounding, three pointers, assists, defense, everything is executed with perfection.  But at rare times this year, they seem to slack a little bit, and make games way closer than they should be.  It happened against Northwestern twice in the past couple months, and certainly appeared likely in the early minutes against George Mason.  Perhaps that has been put behind them by now.  Thad Matta seems to know exactly what to do with this team, and once they put their foot on the gas (and , like Sunday, on the throats of their opponents), as Jared Sullinger said, "It's over, yo."

Haiku of the Day

Since I know at least one of the writers of this blog hates haikus as much as they hate Michigan:

Lighty from downtown
Bucks senior gets hometown love
"Sweet" blowout Sunday.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What we think will happen... March Madness Edition

March Madness Edition
NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship

Ohio State: National Champs
Ohio State over Kansas in the finals.  Pittsburgh and San Diego State in the Final Four.  Picking against Ohio State right now would be the worst karma I can imagine.
Final Four
Kansas over San Diego State in the championship.  Ohio State and Pitt in the Final Four.
Final FourConnecticut over Kansas in the finals.  Ohio State and Kansas State as national semifinalists. OSU has a hard row to plow if they want to get to the Final. Still, as I'm historically lousy in the field of bracketology, my picks should be taken with a grain of salt as big as a chihuahua's head.
National ChampionsOhio State avenges previous championship losses against Florida, while Duke and Louisville round out the Final Four.
National ChampionsOhio State over Kansas for the title.  Duke and Kansas State in the Final Four.
National ChampionsOhio State beats Pitt for the title.  Purdue and Duke round out the Final Four.
National Champions
Ohio State over Notre Dame in the championship.  Duke and Wisconsin or UNC-Ashville in the Final Four.

The best sports days of the year....

Murray State beats Vandy in 2010 /
Well it's here, my favorite sports day of the year.  There are plenty of good and bad days (or months) in the sports year (I'm looking at you February, July, and August.)  But to me, a few days really stand out to make you want to get out the foam finger and the beer koozie, and just soak it in.

1.  The first round (and by this, I mean Thursday, no matter how the NCAA rephrases the rounds) of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.  MARCH MADNESS!  I suppose Friday can be thrown in there too, but Thursday is the first day, 16 games, four at a time, staggered just so, to make for frenetic finish after frenetic finish.  All day long.  Nothing beats it.

2.  Championship Sunday in the NFL.  Barring personal experience, the day where the AFC and NFC Championships are played back to back, with the right to potential Super Bowl glory hanging in the balance, nothing really beats it.  I've heard whispers of moving both championship games to prime time (perhaps Sunday and Monday night) in the future.  That might lessen the all-day football bonanza we have now...but all in all this would only be good for fans, networks, and advertisers, and so I think this is a pretty obvious future move.

3. Opening Day. Baseball may have its critics, but there really is somethin, about getting outside for the first time in what seems like an eternity, to watch the Indians (or whatever team you may care for) take the field.  Still good on television, but in person, there's nothing like it.  The wide swath of perfect green grass, which no homeowner in the US has in early April, the smell of hot dogs, the sunshine on your face as you sip a beer.  I can't wait.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

They like us. This sucks.

Each of Yahoo's four experts pick Ohio State to win the national championship.  That makes me feel sick to my stomach.


Rebounds and hot-dogs

A couple good buddies of mine--well,one in particular--have always been enamored with some of the subtler stats in the game of basketball. Sure, scoring is fine, a three-pointer is great (dunking is not an option in our little group), but nothing is better than an assist.  And if the assist is the sweet payoff from a great finish from a teammate, the rebound is the salty snack that got you there.  Actually, I don't know if saltiness had anything to do with it, but for some reason rebounds were called "hot dogs" when I was growing up playing basketball in my mid-twenties.

Regardless what you call them, there could be a sour issue if Texas-San Antonio wins their play-in game and the right to play Ohio State on Friday.  Texas-SA is ranked 260th in the country in offensive rebounding, and 214th in defensive rebounding.  Jared Sullinger may pull down about 43 rebounds.  Could be interesting.

A little Gus Johnson/Ron Lewis to brighten your day...

Three days until Ohio State tips off in Cleveland as the #1 seed in the East.  I don't think many Ohio State fans can forget this shot from three years ago....something to satisfy you on this Tuesday in case Texas-San Antonio vs. Alabama State leaves you wanting more.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Movie Review: Kill the Irishman

This review may contain spoilers. Readers beware.

“Kill the Irishman” is a movie that seems in danger of collapsing under the weight of genre clich├ęs. The chronicle of Cleveland gangster Danny Greene (Ray Stevenson) is stamped with the usual mob-film hallmarks of bloody turf battles, exploding Cadillacs and debtors getting punched out to period music.

These shopworn gangster-flick themes, along with a host of recognizable faces from “Goodfellas” and “The Sopranos,” cannot override what is a solidly performed and refreshingly unglamorous framing of the life of Greene, an upstart longshoreman and union rep who rose to infamous prominence in the world of organized crime during the 1970s.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bernie Kosar, Superpowered Movie Star

Well, a beagle named Bernie at least.

In the new Dreamworks movie "I am Number Four," one of the main characters names his pet beagle Bernie Kosar, after the poster on his bedroom wall.  Of course, they mention Bernie's speed being remarkable--but this is science fiction, remember.  Although, maybe not.  Check the video below.

Named for the legendary Cleveland Browns quarterback, Bernie is John’s dog. He suddenly shows up on John and Henri’s doorstep one night…and the mystery surrounding him grows from there. More than man’s best friend, Bernie is extremely protective of John and also seems to have some paranormal superpowers of his own. Never before has John known a dog that could outpace even him in a footrace.

The movie is based on the book by Pittacus Lore, and stars Alex Pettyfer and Timothy Olyphant. 

Thanks to the Chicago-based Red Ivy Browns Backers for pointing this out!  And the full trailer (and beautiful Kosar highlight) is after the jump.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Some thoughts on the Tressel mess, missing names, and .... punctuation !!

Jonathan Quilter | DISPATCH
Well now everyone knows the gist of the story. Some things happened. Jim Tressel knew about some of these things. He didn't tell some important people about some of the suspicious things that some of his players were doing for some other, really bad people. And because of that, he's being fined $250,000 and suspended for a couple huge games against incredible competition a couple MAC teams.

Naturally, this is a black eye on Tressel, his holier-than-thou reputation, and on the university, and the tone of the press conference did not help at all. President Gee and AD Smith were effusive in their compliments of Tressel, "Are you kidding?" remarked Gee, "I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't dismiss me. His integrity and the body of his work is quite remarkable." Settle down, sir.  At this moment his integrity is not remarkable at all.  That's what is justifying the suspension and the outrage.

A couple thoughts from the emails that came out. For reference, WTVN Radio has put the emails up on their webite here.  And the entire self report from Ohio State, in the Columbus Dispatch, can be found here.
  • First, Coach Tressel notwithstanding, I want to make it very clear that some players giving/selling their championship rings/cleats/jerseys away in exchange for (hundreds to thousands) of dollars or services (like tattoos) is not a "high crime." One could even argue (as Ohio State did in December, however hard-to-believe it might be) that a player may well have been confused on whether it's his right to sell his own rings and old jerseys for whatever he may want. Certainly after they leave school, it's their right. Of course, the players should have known better, but at least it's comprehensible that they didn't think they were breaking any rules.
  • But this infraction by the players is not even in the same LEAGUE as a school's booster giving players money to attend a school, or a player shaving points, or other acts that directly influence the game. The reason players can't sell their things lends itself to this point; it could easily lead to abuse, like a booster giving a player $20,000 for his jersey. (As you might guess, I have the same opinion on drug abuse vs. gambling in pro sports. Gambling threatens the very legitimacy of the competition, and that's why Pete Rose is right to be banned.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Buckeyes Hoops: Good to Great

Many who've watched Ohio State throughout the season already suspected there was something a bit off with the "there are no great teams in college basketball this season" argument.  Perhaps that is just some confusion with the fact that there may be no obvious standout superstar pro prospect in college basketball this season.

War of words

I recently received an invitation to a banquet in honor of a young Cleveland native killed in 2005 while serving as a gunner in Iraq. Last week, meanwhile, an Akron native now plying his trade in Miami sent the following tweet:

A certain Akron native's Miami mansion- not exactly a Baghdad shanty.

“20+ games left in phase 2. I’m ReFOCUSED! No prisoners, I have no friends when at WAR besides (sic) my Soldiers.”

Unlike the tragically killed Clevelander, the former Akronite has never been to war, and in fact when not playing professional basketball lives quite comfortably in his $9 million, six-bedroom mansion overlooking Biscayne Bay outside of South Beach. I don’t know the guy personally, although I’d bet green money that he dashed off his “war” missive without a second thought of its ramifications or meaning - this despite numerous examples over the years of his athletic contemporaries getting scolded for using military imagery when it comes to their far safer professions.

Uh Oh. Report suggests big trouble for Tressel, Ohio State.

A few months ago, when the controversy over Ohio State players selling memorabilia blew up, something didn't seem right to me.  I wasn't sure exactly what it was, but I did make the comment (prompted by Jim Tressel's claim that all the players were returning in 2011) that: "Sometimes (Tressel) really reminds me of a car salesman, or at least an SEC coach."  What I meant, and have stated in the past, is that I don't trust most of what Tressel says to the press, and since that's the only way I know him, basically I don't trust him all that much. I took some heat for the comparison, perhaps for not being a blindly loyal homer, or for daring to question the coach. But truth be told, I'm not a cynic, and I certainly don't wish ill on my alma mater Ohio State.  But when something smells fishy, something usually is fishy.

According to a report Monday from Yahoo! Sports, the SEC comparison might have been too close for comfort.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Epic summary of the Heat by Jim Rome...

"Fans just don't like stars shutting it down in the playoffs, and then stabbing an entire city in its back by announcing on live TV that they're 'taking their talents to South Beach.' Fans are funny that way."

Sucks to be a Browns fan in Berlin...

Courtesy of the blog "Sucks to be you".  Become a fan of them on Facebook here as well.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Kim Kardashian vs. A Gummy Bear

I have to take a few moments to stop protesting against today's NBA athlete and ask an important non sports-related question:

Is it me or does Kim Kardashian's new song "Jam" sound a lot like my 5 and 2 year old's favorite You Tube sensation "The Gummy Bear Song"?

Below are both songs for your listening pleasure. "The Gummy Bear Song" can get a bit annoying after playing it five times in a row.... but seeing your kids dance and sing along makes it a little tolerable. If my kids dance and sing along to Kim Kardashian's "Jam" they will be locked in their rooms for a long time.

Listen to both and decide. They sound awfully similar to me:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

At least we're not Detroit

"So a guy walks into a psychiatrist's office with Saran Wrap pants..."

Thanks to last week’s trade with the Clippers for Baron Davis and more importantly an unprotected draft pick, the Cavaliers finally seem to have some direction in what had been a season in purgatory.

You could argue as some gloomy national scribes have about Davis’s cancerous locker room presence as well as an upcoming NBA draft deemed to be the worst in years, but naysayers aside and as awful as this season has been, at least the franchise has some ever-so-tiny bit of momentum going forward.

If you want to feel better about the Cavs in the meantime, train your tired eyes north, past Lake Erie and to the Palace at Auburn Hills. There plays a team in worse straits, arguably far worse, than Cleveland's. The once proud Pistons, a club that hosted a Larry O'Brien trophy not long ago, are now dealing with an alleged player revolt by a roster of over-the-hill veterans.