Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fireworks to end the summer (literally as well as figuratively, unfortunately)

What a weekend. And the football season hasn't (well, has barely) even begun!

I don't know where to begin. The ups (Ohio State looking quite impressive, as good as they could have, against Akron, no matter what Mark May says.) The downs (Ubaldo Jimenez making one mistake and costing the Indians yet another game in the AL Central standings.) Or the downright confounding (me agreeing with Stephen A Smith twice.)

Tom Heckert: Man of the People. And
non-disastrous drafts. Thank God.
The long "weekend" started for me in Cleveland last Wednesday. As I've mentioned before, I watch most Browns games with a great group of Browns fans at The Red Ivy in Wrigleyville. The day before the final preseason game, Tom Heckert and a few other front office members swung by to have a few pops with some Browns fans. Was a great evening and Tom Heckert seems like a great guy. You can tell he's not 100% familiar with Cleveland fandom, because he didn't fully approve with "torture" as a suitable description of being a Cleveland fan. But I did ask him if he'd trade places with another team if he could, to get out of the Steelers and Ravens' division. And he responded just like I had hoped. Paraphrasing here, but something like "hell no, I want to beat the crap out of them." Most likely more colorful, but this is a family blog.

Plenty of Browns fans were in attendence at Soldier Field on Thursday too. (The stadium, by the way, while looking exceedingly weird from the outside, is extremely nice on the inside.) What did we learn from the game? War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Who cares, let's get the regular season started!

Seems that many bystanders expected Ohio State to lose every game this year because of all the turmoil. It's hard to learn too much from a game against a MAC opponent (although the ESPN announcers did try to lend a little bit of hype to the Toledo matchup this weekend), but one thing is for sure. Joe Bauserman looked good. Real good. I think he's about eligible to run for president, but still. True freshman Braxton Miler got a lot of work at QB also, and I'm sure he had some critics. But he did pretty good himself, and there's reason to hope for good things in Columbus this year.

The weekend proceeded with the Indians taking two of three from the Royals, and then, in what virtually everyone had as a must-win start to a must-sweep series versus That Team Up North, Ubaldo Jimenez served up a fastball to Victor Martinez. Virtually his only mistake of the game, but our old friend Victor made him pay, and now the Tribe finds themselves looking up a very steep hill. Should the Tigers not just fall apart (and that isn't unthinkable--this IS Detroit, after all), the boys of summer seem to be heading into the twilight of fall, far too soon.

And then my Labor Day afternoon had a couple Stephen A. Smith moments. I normally can't stand "Screamin' A Smith." But can't believe that twice in the past 24 hours, through drastically different distribution channels (nerdy media reference, sorry--see following), I saw something from Smith that I liked.

Stephen A. Smith, undoubtedly breaking another microphone
First, I did get my hands on a new copy of Madden 12 for Xbox. I'm no major gamer, but I have a motto I live by--whenever a major video game features a Cleveland athlete on the cover--I'm buying it.  So I fired it up and played a game. And although I don't know what I'm doing, let's just say that Peyton Hillis ended up with an NFL-record 360 yards and five touchdowns, as the Browns laid a smack down on the Vikings 42-17. 

Regardless, while tooling around in my Xbox menu for the first time in about 10 months, I was playing in the ESPN3 channel. Which is pretty sweet--can watch live events and highlights and it's all presented in a fantastic interface. But the headline that caught my eye was "Tressel suspended six games by Colts." I had no freaking clue what this was about...for a second I thought my lack of weekend sleep had caught up to me and I was just confused and this was about Peyton Manning's neck or something. But the video was Stephen A. Smith raging against the Colts and Jim Tressel for the joke of a punishment Tressel will serve before taking the reins of his new role, as "game day consultant" for the Colts.

The jist of the argument was, if Tressel is making $100K or whatever in this role, he's giving back a tiny sum in suspension pay. THEN, when the Colts (presumably) make him a coordinator or something next year, at a million dollar salary, there will be no punishment--or fine--for him. Therefore this six game suspension is nothing but a joke.  I've been on record being very crticial of Tressel's actions. None of what transpired at Ohio State last year was "death penalty" worthy, it was mostly the stupid decisions of players given small trinkets by unscrupulous fans/boosters who aren't subject to sanctions by anyone. But Tressel willfully violated clear rules for administrators and coaches, not to mention his own contract terms. 

That being said, it's hard to argue that the NFL "needs" to suspend Tressel, Pryor, or anyone else. But they have the prerogative to do what they deem fit. This suspension was a Tressel idea, however, it seems. And it seems to be a sanction that has no real teeth. So what is the point? (Not to mention, what is the point of having Jim Tressel as a game-day coach for the Colts? If anyone needs help with the punt game, it's the Bengals. But whatever, it's not my money.)

LeBron normally hides his hairline as good
as he should have hidden his picnic tablecloth shirt.
Later, while browsing ESPN on my phone (and I can't find the link online), I saw Smith raging against LeBron James. While I've mostly gotten over the seething rage versus TGiM, it's still nice to see him get his just rewards for not giving a full effort when it counts. Among other things Smith was raging about, he called LeBron James the "epitome of embarassment" for scoring so little in the NBA finals. Also said that LeBron was "embarassing" and that there is "nothing that LeBron James can do" to reverse Smith's opinion of LeBron (besides winning next year, which shows why I don't like Smith in the first place.) I just want to see the Game 5 effort vs. the Celtics played in a nonstop loop before that first ballot HOF vote for LeBron in 15 years or whenever.

Finally, I loved this snippet from Truehoop. Even though I obviously can't disagree more with the first part of this last sentence, unfortunately I am starting to have to root for the last part: "LeBron played without a headband. As he acknowledged on Twitter, that hairline isn’t getting any fuller....Sure, it’d be great if LeBron won seven titles, but it’d be more impressive if he reversed the stigma associated with male-pattern baldness."