Sunday, November 30

Visiting fan ethics

I was walking to the grocery store downstairs and passed by a number of people wearing Indianapolis Colts garb in anticipation of today's game. What I thought was: to what degree would I be willing to interact with them?

Consider this situation. I live less than a half-mile from Cleveland Browns Stadium. What if a Colts fan asked me how to get there? Now, I'm normally a very mannered, polite person, but this is gameday, and you are an enemy combatant. I've decided: I would ignore this person.

During last week's Pigskin Classic run, where participants had their choice of Ohio Stae or Michigan garb, I didn't so much as make eye contact with anyone wearing blue and/or yellow. Again: gameday.

Now, these have their limits, right? What if one of the Colts fans this morning had a medical emergency and needed help from the front desk or a call to 911? Of course I'd help them out! Let's not get crazy here - it's just sports.

Steeler or Wolverine fans in the same situation? I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

NFL picks: Week 13

Nick's been up and down the past few weeks like the stock market...wait, I guess that would only be down. An 11-5 showing last week puts him back in contention. Andy turned in his usual 9-7 and, due to technical difficulties, Figgs takes an 0-1 (just the Thursday game).

Last Week
Andy: 9-7
Figgs: 0-1
Nick: 11-5
Nick's Money Picks: 1-0

Year to Date
Andy: 99-72-5
Figgs: 78-78-5
Nick: 92-79-5
Nick's Money Picks: 16-14

Thursday games

LIONS (+11) vs Titans
Andy: An 0-11 team playing a 10-1 team, and only getting 11 points? Give me the Titans, shaking off the Jets hangover.
Figgs: You used to never bet against Detroit on Thanksgiving. But unless Barry's suiting up, the Fighting Fishers roll. Titans.
Nick: Titans. Tennessee is something like 9-2 ATS, and the Lions suck.

COWBOYS (-12.5) vs Seahawks
Andy: Getting Romo back has reinvigorated the Cowboys and I look for them to win big on T-giving. I've already given 23.5 points in just two picks.
Figgs: Cowboys
Nick: (-11.5) Cowboys. Holmgren's clubs get slaughtered at Texas Stadium, and Romo got on a roll last week.

EAGLES (-3) vs Cardinals
Andy: I have a rule: anytime I guess one team will be -3 and it turns out the other team is -3, I take my original guess. The Iggles are in disarray, meaning they could either rally around each other and play a great game or continue a downward spiral. I'm leery of the Cards in cold weather, but I'm taking them anyway.
Figgs: I've loved the Eagles all year, and they screwed me, but I'll give 'em one more shot. Eagles.
Nick: Cardinals.

BROWNS (+4.5) vs Colts
Andy: I've taken the Browns every game this year, going so far as to criticize Nick and Figgs for not doing so against the Giants. After attending Sunday's debacle, I don't feel anymore like I owe it to the franchise to support them in this fashion. Colts, both as a criticism of Cleveland and an endorsement of how well Indy has played.
Figgs: I cannot for the life of my figure out why this spread is so low. I hope I'm wrong, but you'd be an idiot to go against the Colts here.
Nick: Colts. I don't think these last five games are going to be much fun.

BUFFALOES (-7) vs 49ers
Andy: Buffaloes. West Coast teams have trouble winning Sunday afternoon games played in the Eastern time zone. Bad teams like San Francisco have even more trouble, especially when it's cold. I'd give 2 TD's here.
Figgs: You guys make good points, Jills.
Nick: Bills. This isn't a vote of confidence in Buffalo as much as it is a vote of no confidence in San Fran. Also: Andy's reasons above are valid.

BENGALS (+7) vs Ravens
Andy: I feel dirty about how many times I've been right about the Ravens winning this year, so let's go with Cincy.
Figgs: I like to pick against everyone in the Browns' division, so I'm torn in these games. I could see this being a trap game for the ratbirds, Cinncy.
Nick: Ravens. The Ravens are 7-4. Yuck. Fortunately I think that their schedule should keep them out of the playoffs.

PACKERS (-3) vs Panthers
Andy: Nick makes a good point, plus there's concern about Delhomme's shoulder. Pack.
Figgs: Packers.
Nick: Packers. It's getting to be the time of year when it's unwise to pick against GB at home.

JETS (-9) vs Broncos
Andy: Remember what I said about teams traveling across time zones? That goes double for teams with no defense coming off of 21-point losses to Oakland playing a team who has won 7 of 8, including a throttling of a previously 10-0 club. J! E! T! S!
Figgs: The Jets are on a roll, and the Broncos are the worst playoff team I've seen in a long time. Favres.
Nick: Jets. I'm puzzled why the majority of the betting on my site has been on the Broncos.

BUCS (-3.5) vs Saints
Andy: As much as I enjoy taking the Saints, I think they'll struggle. I'll take tuberculosis.
Figgs: Brees' 300 yard game streak could come to an end against this defense. Bucs.
Nick: Bucs. This is the quietest 8-3 team in the league.

REDSKINS (+3.5) vs Giants
Andy: New York is a beast right now. I'm happy to give these points.
Figgs: I would give 6 or 7 in this one. Giants.
Nick: Again, I ask: when will Vegas start to respect the Giants?

CHARGERS (-5.5) vs Falcons
Andy: The Chargers let me down last week, plus more points than I expected. ATL.
Figgs: Turner rushes for 200 yards so Nick and I can set records in our Fantasy league, but SD covers.
Nick: Atlanta. I don't have a good feel for this game, but Atlanta's probably the more consistent club, and they're getting a considerable amount of points here.

PATRIOTS (+1) vs Steelers
Andy: Can they both lose? I'll hedge my bets and take Pittsburgh. Also: I think they're a better team.
Figgs: I don't think it's needed to ask me Steeler games anymore. Pats.
Nick: Steelers. I'm mildly surprised they aren't favored.

RAIDERS (-3) vs Kansas City
Andy: Oakland, easy.
Figgs: The NFL should cancel this game due to lack of talent. Oakland, I guess.
Nick: Chiefs. KC may win this game straight up.

Sunday night
VIKINGS (-3.5) vs Bears
Andy: A puzzler here. Minnesota impressed me last week, so I'll take them.
Figgs: The Vikes are winning the Super Bowl next year once they get McNabb. That has no relevance in this game, but I'll still go with Minny.
Nick: Vikings. The Metrodome provides one of the league's best home field advantages.

Monday night
TEXANS (-3) vs Jags
Andy: What a lousy MNF matchup this is. I'll take Houston, after seeing up close and personal how badly they can play (and win).
Figgs: Jax, for sure.
Nick: Jags. Houston's really, really bad, and I'm getting three? Sign me up.

Saturday, November 29

Sports czar

A couple of weeks ago, ESPN columnist Bill Simmons published a list of improvements he would make to the world of sports if President Obama named him "Sports Czar" for the upcoming administration. Many of them are ideas from his columns over the years; a lot of them are smart and funny, so I thought I'd add them here and make a few comments on them. Real quick:

1) Why in politics is it a thing to call someone a "czar"? The most notable example I can think of is the "Drug Czar." If I remember correctly, czar was like an old Russian autocrat. Why do we want to invoke this model of authority? Incidentally, having a drug czar at all is stupid.

2) I don't think I've written at length about Simmons, but I think his writing is excellent. I don't always agree with his points, but he always takes a logical position and argues it strongly. I also enjoy the cross-referencing he does between the worlds of sports and entertainment, and the freewheeling way he discusses things like porno and gambling with a straight face. It's pretty obvious that he's the star of Sure, no one likes his Boston-centric work, and his baseball writing isn't a strength, but anything he writes about the NFL or NBA is must-read. Onto the list, broken down into categories:

A college football playoff system
Kind of a populist argument and, frankly, one I find short-sighted. I know it’s a minority opinion, but I’m OK with the BCS. Sorry.

A uniform boxing organization
Don’t care at all about boxing, but having all those federations is absurd, so yes. Even the WWF and WCW consolidated.

A better trophy for the World Series
Definitely. That thing is an eyesore. I’m glad George Costanza drove it around the Yankee parking lot.

Championship belts for the defending NBA champs that they must bring to every game
Love this. Remember when Rasheed Wallace made those belts for the Pistons? This is one of the ideas on the list that will never happen because it's simply too perfect.

A hierarchy of alcoholic beverages for baseball celebrations (cheap beer, then good beer, then cheap champagne, then good champagne)
Also a terrific idea. Winning the ALDS doesn’t merit Dom Perignon.

An NBA expansion team in Seattle, effective for the 2010-11 season
Don’t care.

A no-exception three-city rotation for the Super Bowl among New Orleans, Miami and San Diego
Take out “no exception,” because I’d like to see a cold-weather game.

A full-length indoor basketball court in the White House, with all games involving Obama televised on NBA TV

A purple Masters-type sports coat for the winning March Madness coach (presented to him by last year's coach as Jim Nantz orgasmically looks on)
I don’t get this.

Relegation for Major League Baseball (a 30-team league with the bottom two teams forced to move to Triple-A for a year).
Infeasible, plus I oppose anything that makes baseball more like soccer. Would you like to institute ties after 10 innings as well?

So far, I score it as: 5-2-3 (agree, disagree, don't care)

The backstroke, butterfly and breaststroke events in the Olympics
Other than medal inflation, why?

Baseball managers cannot wear uniforms anymore
I can’t support this any more enthusiastically. I've been clamoring for this for years.

No more seat licenses, NIT or Tony Siragusa
Yes, no, yes. The NIT is good for mid-major schools like Cleveland State.

No NFL division champ can make the playoffs unless it wins nine games
Good rule.

No more three-man booths except for Van Gundy, Jackson and Breen
Seems a bit absolutist, but I’m willing to listen.

The bullpens can't empty during a baseball fight
Agreed. Baseball fights are stupid. The NFL is 100 times more violent as a sport, and they manage to keep to their own sidelines.

No NHL ticket can cost more than $75
Semi-arbitrary, but they are way too expensive.

No tax write-offs for season tickets, but you CAN write off luxury suites
I like this.

No more sideline reporters unless they agree to dress like Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman"

No more cell-phone calls by spectators during sporting events (you can only text)
Except during intermission, yes.

No more sunglasses in the World Series of Poker.
I hate televised poker, but sunglasses always seemed to me like cheating. This especially goes for that idiot who had the orange optical illusion sunglasses that looked like eyes. I want to hit that guy.

Score: 9-2-2

The NHL will disband eight teams, move a few more to Canada and form 11-team conferences in the United States and Canada
Great idea as long as the Pens survive.

Fox's No. 1 team for baseball broadcasts will be selected in a vote by the users of
Later, Tim McCarver.

The Nets and Bobcats will merge and move to Vegas next season (and become the Las Vegas Dice)
That would be hilarious.

The Utah Jazz and New Orleans Hornets will switch nicknames
Long overdue.

Gus Johnson will be promoted to CBS' lead play-by-play guy for March Madness and the Final Four
I like this guy; he’s enthusiastic. Still, Simmons' man-crush on the guy is almost obsessive.

Buffalo residents can purchase the Bills in a public trust (like how Sconnies own the Packers)
Can Toronto fans buy shares too? Too bad the NFL outlawed this after Green Bay. Why did they do this? The Pack seem to be doing just fine.

All "live" sporting events will be shown live again and not on a brief tape delay, and if anyone out there can't handle hearing an occasional F-bomb, then don't watch live sporting events
Amen, brother.

A three-game exhibition season for the NFL with two regular-season bye weeks (not one)
Excellent idea but NFL teams will squabble over who gets one or two home preseason games. Alternate year-to-year, I guess.

The entry fee for the WSOP will be raised to $25,000
Who cares?

Two rounds for the Home Run Derby and that's it
For sure.

H-O-R-S-E for NBA All-Star Weekend
This is Simmons’ pet project, and I think it would be incredibly entertaining.

ESPN Classic's budget is tripled
Agreed. How come they never have good games on this channel?

The Olympics and World Cup will happen every three years (not four).
His point here is that it’s not like 100 years ago where it was super-hard to get everyone together; now international travel is easy so we can do this more frequently. I dig it.

Score: 12-0-1

New rules:
No pregame show will be allowed to have more than four people (except for NBC's "Football Night in America," which will shift to a "Hollywood Squares" format)
Pre-game shows have gotten out of hand, I concur. It's all a part of the ESPN-ing of sports TV, where it's moving inexorably to an infinite number of "experts" talking about everything and no actual game play.

If you purchase a player's jersey and that player is traded within 12 months, you can return the jersey and buy a new one for half price
Only seems fair.

Incoming college freshman recruits don't have to honor an NCAA scholarship if their sleaze-bag coach ditched them after he signed them
See above comment.

All professional owners either have to sell their team before they turn 80 or before they start looking like a sea monster
Eh, whatever. It’s their team. What if they own the Lake Erie Monsters?

A forced agreement where the NFL Network is carried by all cable systems
Get this done!

Baseball fans get to vote on the entrance music for their closers
Yes, but at least let the closer offer some selections.

Golfers have to carry their own bags for the PGA Championship
Don’t care.

The "Real World/Road Rules Challenge" will replace the Australian Open as tennis' fourth major (with the top six male and female tennis players competing against MTV cast members)
Easily the worst idea of the whole column.

No more 20/20 flashes on sports radio shows (we move to a 30/30 flash)

The U.S. Olympic basketball team cannot have anyone over 25 years old
Neat idea, I like it.

David Halberstam's "The Breaks of the Game" must be re-released

Chris Rose will be liberated from "The Best Damn Sports Show" and given a better show
We're running out of steam here.

Tropicana Field is immediately blown up
Can we do that and the Metrodome simultaneously? Also, just for fun, M&T Bank Stadium?

Isiah Thomas will replace Donna Orender as the commissioner of the WNBA, effective immediately.
You knew he’d get an Isiah joke in, but this one’s kinda lame. I think he’s referencing how Isiah owned the entire CBA once and crashed it, hoping the same fate would befall the WNBA, but it's a stretch.

Score: 7-2-5

Overall: 33-6-11

Hopefully one of these days I'll get around to putting 10 or so of my own up here. I can't believe he didn't offer an NFL overtime solution! Until then, I'll give Simmons credit for some clever ideas.

Friday, November 28

Most ironic punishment ever

The Knicks' Stephon Marbury has been suspended one game by the team for...wait for it...refusing to play. Ha, that shows him! If you don't want to play for us, then, well, we're making it so you can't play for us!

I get that he loses part of his hard-earned $20 mil out of the deal, but it's still amusing. Now if only the Pistons would bar AI for one practice for having missed practice, everything would be perfect.

Wednesday, November 26

Heroes & Zeroes: Week 11

There were dozens of better ways I could have spent my Sunday. I could have gotten some school work done, gone out to catch the new Bond flick, taken a leisurely jog, or even watched a different football game. But like hundreds of thousands of other Browns fans, I spent it watching one of the most boring and uninspired football games I've seen in years. Why do we do this to ourselves? There must be some kind of masochistic streak in the collective subconscious of Browns fans. I'm told the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem. Well, my name is Nick, and I'm a Cleveland Browns fan.

This Week's Zeroes

Five Demerits: Romeo Crennel
If there was any doubt if Romeo Crennel would be fired, it was erased Sunday. The Browns came out of the tunnel flatter than an old can of Pepsi, as has become a hallmark of Crennel's tenure. There's simply no excuse for losing to the Texans at home, let alone posting just a pair of field goals. The Browns were completely uninspired, and sooner or later, Crennel has to take the blame.

But Crennel's inability to motivate his team is old hat. The real reason he's on this list is how he handled the quarterback situation. Brady Quinn was having a lousy game -- no doubt about it. But pulling Quinn in favor of Anderson to try to give the offense a "spark" was totally ridiculous. Being loyal to Derek Anderson is one thing, and I think we all know that the QB switch prior to the Denver game was forced on Crennel, but Crennel was totally unfair in his treatment of Brady Quinn.

The remainder of this season is about developing and evaluating Quinn, and if Crennel's going to pull Quinn out of the game when he's struggling, it makes it awfully difficult for either of those things to happen. Being loyal is one thing, but showing blatant favoritism is another. I'm not sure what Crennel was thinking. Maybe he really thought Anderson could turn things around, or maybe he thought he had nothing to lose. Maybe Crennel thought that regardless of how Anderson performed, he could use Quinn's injury as an excuse for his decision. Maybe Anderson promised Crennel a dozen Krispy Kremes for after the game. Regardless, it was the wrong decision, and it now serves as more evidence that Crennel should be fired.

Four Demerits: Gary Kubiak
With a 16-6 lead halfway through the fourth quarter, the Texans had the ball on their own 29-yard line. The clock read 7:34, and the Browns had just missed a 39-yard field goal after a shaky possession that was kept alive by a pair of illegal contact penalties on the Texans. The obvious choice for the Houston offense was to run the ball and not even consider putting it in the air, even if it resulted in a punt. Cleveland's offense was playing so poorly and the clock was working against them, so the Texans just had to play conservative and force the Cleveland offense to beat them; an unlikely proposition.

Instead, Kubiak elected to throw on second and third down, resulting in an interception that kept the Browns' chances alive, even if they were on life support. I'd say that we're used to seeing decisions like these in Cleveland, but we'd never see this from the ultra-conservative Romeo Crennel. But just because a decision is aggressive doesn't make it right, and Kubiak's choice to throw was 100-percent wrong.

Three Demerits: Rob Chudzinski
My, how the mighty have fallen. Rob Chudzinski was practically worshiped by Browns fans a year ago, and now he's taking some of the blame for this disappointing season. Chud deserves some of the heat he's taking, and some of it is undeserved. That said, he was completely enamored with the pass against Houston, and if someone can figure out why, maybe he or she should be the Browns' next offensive coordinator.

The Browns only handed off to their running backs (meaning Lewis and Harrison) 17 times, but gained 89 yards, good for 5.2 yards per carry. Quinn and Anderson were 13 of 32 for 145 yards and 3 interceptions. What gives? At no point was this game out of reach, so it's not like the Browns had to throw to catch up. No, this one falls squarely on Chudzinski's shoulders. Had the Browns simply pounded the running game all afternoon, they might be 5-6 right now.

Two Demerits: Brady Quinn
Quinn just didn't have it this week. I'm not sure if it was the finger, or just an off day, but the combined play of Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson probably cost the Browns the football game. Quinn was 8 of 18 for 94 yards. He also threw two interceptions.

What really irked me about Quinn's performance was that he was forcing passes into tight coverage. Quinn is usually an intelligent player, and doesn't typically make those throws. I was interested to see how Quinn would handle the adversity, but Romeo Crennel pulled him before we could really find out.

One Demerit: Derek Anderson
If Derek Anderson had taken more reps with the first team, he'd be higher on this list. In relief of Brady Quinn, Anderson was 5 of 14 for 51 yards. DA also threw one interception and lost a fumble. To say he was ineffective is probably an understatement. Anderson probably would have played better if he'd been given a full week to prepare as the starter, but that's purely speculation.

We saw the same throws forced into tight coverage and the same lack of touch on short passes that ultimately got Anderson benched in the first place. At this point, it almost seems prudent to keep Anderson on the bench to keep his value from declining further.

This Week's Heroes

Five Gold Stars: Shaun Rogers
Normally it would take more than a blocked field goal for me to put a guy in the top spot, but good performances were in short supply this week. Rogers' blocked kick helped keep the Browns in the game during the second quarter.

Shaun Rogers just keeps outdoing himself, and aside from intercepting a pass and taking it to the house, it's difficult to imagine what he can do for an encore. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: it's downright tragic (and at least a little ironic) that Rogers' monster year is coming in the midst of a lost season for the Browns. Hopefully Rogers can maintain this high level of play and stay relatively injury-free for the next few seasons, and hopefully the Browns can build a defense around his considerable girth.

Four Gold Stars: Jamal Lewis
While Lewis has been criticized lately (present company included), he was played a terrific game against Houston. Had Lewis and counterpart Jerome Harrison received more carries, it's a game the Browns may have won. Lewis is a guy who is most potent in the fourth quarter when the defense is a little worn down, but he never really got a chance to tear up the Texans' defense due to Rob Chudzinski's questionable play calling.

Yes, Lewis fumbled early, but he's high on this list because he showed the fans (much to their relief, I'm sure) that he still has some petrol left in the tank. Furthermore, this was the first game that saw Lewis in some semblance of a plowshare with Jerome Harrison, and both seemed to excel in this scenario. It will be interesting to see what happens if the two split carries more evenly in the coming weeks.

Three Gold Stars: Brodney Pool
Facing a 13-6 deficit at the start of the third quarter, the Browns went three and out. With the way the offense had looked up to that point, the defense had to be aware that another Houston touchdown might put the game out of reach. Brodney Pool did more than stop the Texans, he came up with a crucial interception that should have helped swing momentum in the Browns' favor. Unfortunately, the offense didn't cooperate.

Pool, along with Sean Jones, form a very promising young safety tandem for the Browns. Prior to this season, conventional wisdom stated that Jones was clearly the better of the two, and that while Pool was very athletic, he was extremely inconsistent. That was true at one point, but Pool has quietly improved this year, and should be a solid, if unspectacular, part of the defense for a long time to come. Jones' season has been hampered by injuries, and while I'd like to see him back with the Browns next season, who knows what kind of offers will be out there for Jones, who will be a free agent this winter.

Two Gold Stars: Jerome Harrison
One of the few things I liked about this game was that Jerome Harrison and Jamal Lewis almost split carries (7 and 10, respectively). As usual, Harrison played well, gaining 31 yards on his 7 carries and catching one pass for 8 yards. It's a sin that the Browns don't call at least two screen passes for Harrison every game.

As I mentioned above, I'm itching to see a Harrison/Lewis plowshare. It could prove to be the Browns' answer to Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis. Harrison could be used early to wear the defense out a bit and force them to respect stretch plays, and Lewis could be used for short yardage and in the fourth quarter when the Browns are looking to put the game away. I'm not a doctor, so I'm not sure if this would work. But one thing I am sure of is that the Browns need to get a better look at Jerome Harrison before this season is over.

One Gold Star: Steve Slaton
It may be a little unconventional to give a tip of the cap to an opposing player, but it's not like the Browns provided many candidates for kudos this week. Slaton was one of my favorite college players when he played at West Virginia, and I'm glad that he's been so successful at the next level. Lots of teams passed on Slaton; he wasn't drafted until late in the third round, but I'd be willing to bet a few of those teams wish they had pulled the trigger on the shifty little running back from southeastern Pennsylvania. Slaton's speed and receiving ability make him a great fit for a dual-back system, and if the Texans can find a good power runner to pair him with, they'll have an excellent back field on their hands. Also: choosing Steve Slaton in round 17 saved one of my fantasy teams.

Up Next: 11/30, Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns Stadium, 1:00
The last thing the Browns need right now is a Colts team that looks like they're heating up. But there's no rest for the weary, and that's exactly what the Browns will get this Sunday. Regardless of who ends up playing quarterback for Cleveland, Peyton Manning is still running the show for the Colts, and I weep to think of what he'll do to the Browns' defense, which is mediocre on its best day.

Prediction: Colts 34, Browns 17

How Sweet It Is

Domination. That one word describes many things involving the Ohio St-michigan rivalry lately. Domination describes what the Bucks have done to scUM the past few seasons, picking up their first-ever five-game winning streak over that school up north, after putting the boots to michigan on Saturday, 42-7. Domination describes the result of this game, the biggest margin of victory in the rivalry since Woody put a 50-14 beatdown on the Wolverines in 1968. Domination describes Jim Tressel's career against michigan, this win bumping his record to 7-1. Domination is what Chris Wells has done in his three years in this rivalry, running all over michigan in the past three seasons.

michigan's defense held their own, to say the least, in the first half. Terrelle Pryor threw a pick on OSU's first drive, but michigan couldn't capitalize after K.C. Lopata missed a field goal. Each team traded a couple of punts, then Beanie hit the first of many big plays that would decide this game. On the first play of their fourth drive, Wells took it 59 yards to paydirt to put the Buckeyes on top. After another scUM punt, Ohio St was ready for big play number two. TP hooked up with Brian Hartline for a 53 yard touchdown, making it 14-0. Midway through the second quarter, Brandon Minor led a good drive for the Wolverines, capping it off himself from one yard out. More solid D by both teams closed out the half with michigan right there, 14-7.

The second half was a much different story. michigan punted on their first possession of the half, and pinned the Bucks back at their own nine. Bad news, right? Yeah, for michigan. The first play was a 42-yard punishing run by Wells. The play that followed was a 49-yard scamper by Dan Herron right to the end zone. Again, more big plays. michigan was demoralized after this one, and you could tell at this point that the game was over, and it was going to get ugly. Doghouse resident Ray Small took a scUM punt 80 yards inside the michigan 10. Brian Robiskie caught a TD pass on the next play, 28-7.

As the game carried into the fourth quarter, it was same 'ol same 'ol. michigan continued to punt, and OSU continued to get big plays. Dane Sanzenbacher caught a 35 yard pass from TP to set up Boom Herron's second TD in the game to put the Buckeyes up four touchdowns. michigan fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and senior QB Todd Boeckman entered the game to a thundering ovation. Two plays later, Boeckman hit Hartline for an 18 yard touchdown. Maurice Wells did most of the running out the clock, and the Bucks finished with a 42-7 rout. Domination.

Game Notes

- Game ball goes to...Jim Tressel. After enduring what we all did through the John Cooper years, this is something special. The Sweater Vest is now 7-1 against that school up north, and with the shape that the scUM program is in now, this domination only looks to continue.

- Prior to the game, (no pun intended) Terrelle Pryor went into Jim Tressel's office and pulled a scene straight out of Rudy, as he told Tress that he wanted Boeckman to start on Senior Day. TP gets a lot of guff for his arrogance and attitude, but this really showed me something from the 18-year-old. Tressel denied his request, but big ups to Pryor for this gesture.

- Todd Boeckman didn't start, but he played the fourth quarter, and it was great to see. If you've been following my Ohio St posts on this blog this season, you know I have always been a huge Boeckman supporter. He needed to get into this game and leave his final mark here, and that's just what he did. Boeckman went 3-3 for 64 yards and a TD in his quarter of playing time. Boeckman has now beaten michigan 5 times.

- Ohio St's defense was an absolute force. michigan could only manage 198 yards in this game, and was a pitiful 1-17 on third downs. The D really set the tone in this one.

- Chris Wells is a man. Beanie continued to whoop michigan, as he ran 15 times for a 134 yards (8.9 YPC) and a touchdown. His 59-yarder in this game marked his third 50+ yard TD against michigan. It would be fantastic to see him return for his senior year, but it's unlikely, as he would be a sure-fire first round pick this year.

- Congrats are in order to Brain Robiskie, for being named to the Academic All-American team earlier this week. Coming from a school not exactly known for its academic standing, it's good to see a positive like this.

- With Penn St winning and getting the automatic BCS berth, the Bowl picture for Ohio St is still cloudy. I'll make an updated post in the coming weeks as the other teams finish out their schedules.

- Farewell, senior class. One of the winningest Buckeye classes of all-time, as well as holding an undefeated record against michigan, this class includes standouts such as QB Todd Boeckman, OT Alex Boone, LB Marcus Freeman, CB Malcolm Jenkins, LB James Laurinaitis, WR Brian Robiskie, and P A.J. Trapasso. Most of these guys could have been high draft picks last season, but they decided to come back for one more year, because they knew they were part of something special. They wanted their fourth straight Big Ten title (mission accomplished) and a third straight National Championship appearance (not quite). Congrats boys, and good luck at the next level.

The Buckeyes get to sit at home and wait now, and they have over a month off until their Bowl game. Their destination and opponent is currently unknown, but if I were to guess right now I'd say Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.


Photo credit: Marvin Fong,

Big Apple Beatdown

Wow, I bet LeBron can't wait to get to New York and play with that glorified pickup team! That looks like lots of fun, putting up wild 3-pointers every time down the floor and losing lots of games. More fun than the Cavs' boring old "play good defense and advance far into the playoffs every year" style.

Stephen A. Smith the other day said that the NBA "needs a good basketball team in New York." Huh??? Why do pundits feel the need to say things like this? The Knicks are terrible and the league is doing just fine. Hell, the NFL doesn't even have a team in LA, the nation's second-biggest media market, and their balance sheet is pretty strong. Even by SAS standards, this is a head-scratcher.

I wasn't a big fan of the new LeBron shoes, and red is even my favorite color. I didn't care for the Nike "chalk throw" commercial either, since, as much as I love LeBron's game, that's probably the most inane pregame ritual this side of Ray Lewis' ridiculous dance.

What I DID like was the Cavs absolutely destroying the Knicks. Doug will write more on this, I'm sure, but that was sheer domination.

Tuesday, November 25

Happy birthday to Nick

Our resident Browns writer turns Larry Nance (or Brandon McDonald, if you prefer) years old today, sharing the occasion with Bernie Kosar. Man, and I only get Phil Simms on my day.

A football game in name only

In early 2007, I got together with some friends in Albany, NY, and watched the AFC Championship Game, won by the Indianapolis Colts over the New England Patriots. That was an awesome game - it was well-played, dramatic, and relentlessly exciting. A few weeks ago, in the 2008 season, Dallas and Philadelphia got together for a shoot-out that also reminded me of the high quality of play of that AFC title game, and more generally of why the NFL is such an excellent product.

Why do I bring up these games? To prove that yesterday's mind-numbing Browns game somehow did not dislodge all of my recollections of quality football from my memory, despite its finest efforts. The 16-6 loss to the Houston Texans, attended by Nick, John, and I, was about as poorly-played a professional football game as one can imagine. Uninspired, sloppy, filled with mental mistakes and physical ineptitude - I haven't seen this level of ineptitude since the Miami-Cleveland game from back in the Terry Robiskie Era. Ugly stuff. A few notes from the game:

- I was at Browns-Giants. The Browns-Giants crowd was a friend of mine. You, sir, are no Browns-Giants crowd. Seriously, the stadium was totally lifeless from start to finish, as if to validate fully Bill Simmons' excellent article about teams playing badly in their new, sterile stadia over the past decade. Of course, regardless of the venue, watching a team fall to 1-5 at home on the season doesn't do much for fan enthusiasm.

- I feel bad for the woman who has to go on the field and tell everyone what the weather is like early in the game, when we're all already sitting outside in it. It's awkward. I also felt bad for the PA announcer who had to try to make Texan 3rd-and-longs sound exciting. I felt bad for almost everyone in the stadium, including myself, but possibly not Braylon Edwards.

- Brady Quinn was super-bad yesterday, but unless he had injury problems, taking him out was the wrong decision. I'm saying this not because Anderson also performed poorly - even had he led the Browns back to whatever that thing is called where the Browns outscore the other team...uh, the Cavs do it a lot...right, win - this would not have been a good decision. On the other hand, who on Earth was that first Quinn interception intended for? Wow.

- This week on Browns' Practice Insider: Cleveland's tight ends coach explains the push-off rule to Kellen Winslow!

- Braylon Edwards has reclaimed the title of my least favorite Browns player, a mantle he first earned in 2006. Seriously, dude, drop some more passes. And another false start? Please. He's embarrassing. Poor attitude, poor performance. We should never, ever, draft a Michigan player again. Also, have you noticed that any time a Browns QB throws a pass incomplete and it's clear that he and the wideout weren't on the same page, it's always #17 who's closest to the ball?

If we had anything resembling a receiver on the bench I'd be calling for him to sit. As it stands, a Stallworth-Steptoe corps doesn't really strike fear into the hearts of defenses. Oh, that Cleveland Brown roster.

- I know you make your own luck, but all five fumbles on the day went into the arms of Texans. Eh.

- According to the stat sheet, the Browns racked up 86 tackles on the day to Houston's 46. I'm not sure I know what this means, but it seems regrettable. Seven of those tackles were recorded by Andra Davis, who for an NFL linebacker is quite slow these days.

- The game really came down to the Browns' follies in the Red Zone. The Browns made four trips there (fine, I'm counting the 22-yard-line as one) and came away with these results:
Missed FG

There are five games left in this season. I hope the boys show some life over the next month, because that team playing indoors down the street with the orange ball is a hell of a lot more fun right about now.

Monday, November 24

This individual does not give a damn about the whole state of Michigan

Yep, that's a member of your FCF writing team, photographed prior to Ohio State-michigan kickoff this past Saturday morning. I ran in the annual "Pigskin Classic," a tailgate/5K race held in downtown Cleveland the morning of the big game each year. The race is, of course, themed around the game; entrants can even pick between a beautiful scarlet and gray race t-shirt or a hideous blue and yellow one. I left my souvenir at home (it's bad etiquette to wear a race t-shirt during the race itself) and decked myself out in Buckeye garb to the fullest extent possible. I am, in fact, wearing Ohio State Buckeyes boxers in this photograph. I put up a 22:23 in the race - not great, but OK considering the cold conditions. Good enough for 53rd out of 574 sports fans.

As for the game, well, that was outstanding. 42-7. I will never feel bad for Michigan, no matter how many times we beat them down. We've been coming to the same party for five straight years now...and in no way is that depressing.

I'd like to reiterate how silly that pre-game cliche tripe was about how you can "throw the records out the window" for a rivalry game like OSU-michigan. No, you can't, no more than for any other athletic contest. There is a reason why um entered the game 3-8 and OSU 9-2. Michigan is lousy and Ohio State is quite good (Big Ten Co-Champs!), and the Buckeyes crushed them. Michigan never had a chance to win this game. Not a chance.

John and I watched the game at Scorcher's, where there were about four Michigan fans roaming around looking sheepish. They were generally quiet except for this Snoop Dogg-looking character sporting a yellow and blue leather jacket and sunglasses, despite the fact that it is neither cold nor bright in Scorcher's. He got in heated arguments with the barmaids who wouldn't (in fact, couldn't) turn up the TV's to his liking (they were plenty loud, especially since the game was called by my personal broadcast crew from hell, Paul Maguire and Bob Griese). Threatened with forced removal, he angrily proclaimed that he was going to Panini's instead. I'm sure they'll love you there! What a piece of garbage. A better representative for the state of Michigan I cannot imagine.

This game was all about dominant Buckeye defense and big plays for the OSU offense; Wells' 59-yard sprint, Pryor's deep ball to Hartline; the 2-play, 92-yard drive with equal parts Wells and Herron. John kept clamoring for OSU to mount a drive and was consistently thwarted by the Buckeyes instead going straight to the end zone without passing Go or collecting $200. I, personally, approved of the strategy.

I loved seeing Todd Boeckmann close out the game and get the chance to throw a TD pass against Michigan. Very nice.

Figgs will recap the game in greater detail, I'm sure, but for now, a word on the OSU-Michigan rivalry from a historical perspective.

Click on the link above and take a look at the table. The end of it is particularly lovely. Someone ran out of blue ink! Michigan fans will point out how their side leads all-time 57-42-6, a substantial 15-game advantage. I point out that: whatever. Look at the early years: the Wolverines went 13-0-2 in the first 15 editions of the game, probably before teams could even pass. OSU scored 21 points total in those meetings, i.e. 1.4 per game. Wow.

Why do I mention this? I do because: who cares about those ancient games? Michigan is just trying to make themselves feel better, padding their advantage by essentially counting glorified rugby games. Since 1928, the series is 39-38-4 in favor of the Ohio State Buckeyes. So fine, Michigan, enjoy your phantom edge in the overall numbers, but know that over the past 80 years, you're only second best.

Mirror Lake

An experience of a lifetime. Something all Buckeye fans should have the privilege of doing at least once.

Mirror Lake '08

Congrats, Crew!

We don't talk soccer too often here at the FCF, and for good reason, because it blows. However, I do think a quick shout out is in order for the Columbus Crew, who knocked off the New York Red Bulls, 3-1, to win the MLS Cup for the first time in franchise history. Go Columbus!

Sunday, November 23

NFL picks: Week 12

Congratulations to Figgs, who posted a season-beat 10-6 last week to move over .500, though had the officials not blown the call at the end of the Steeler-Charger game, Andy would have been 10-6 instead. Let's see how the FCF crew's doing thus far:

Last Week
Andy: 9-7
Figgs: 10-6
Nick: 6-10
Nick's Money Picks: 2-2

Year to Date
Andy: 90-65-5
Figgs: 78-77-5
Nick: 81-74-5
Nick's Money Picks: 15-14

STEELERS (-10.5) vs Bengals
Andy: Ugh, Steelers. The Bengals have played better, but nothing about this particular matchup seems to favor them.
Figgs: Bengals
Nick: Steelers (-10)

Note: Figgs couldn't get his picks in on time. He'll be assessed a 1-game penalty next week.

BROWNS (-3) vs Texans
Andy: Please explain to me why I should take a Texas team playing in cold weather, 0-5 on the road this year, and quarterbacked by Sage Rosenfels, where I only get 3 points. Browns.
Nick: Browns. For the reasons Andy posted above, but also because I'll be attending this game, and the Force will be with me. The Browns are 7-3 when I'm in the stands, and they're about to move to 8-3 and also provide a cover.

FALCONS (-1) vs Panthers
Andy: Panthers. I guessed the lines great this week, except this one, where I thought Carolina would be favored significantly. Nick warns this may be a trap game, but I'm stepping right into it.
Nick: Panthers. I do feel like this could be a trap game, partially because I'm still not sure if the Falcons are for real or not. I came close to betting this game, but decided to pass. Still, I like the Panthers here.

RAVENS (-1) vs Eagles
Andy: If you can't beat the Bengals on the road, you're not going to beat the Ravens either.
Nick: Ravens. Brian Westbrook's looked awfully mortal lately. His injury appears to be more serious than we were led to believe.

COWBOYS (-10) vs 49ers
Andy: Cowboys have some confidence back and the 49ers seem about ready to start mailing this season in.
Nick: Cowboys. That's a big number, but the Cowboys have alot more to play for at this point.

LIONS (+9) vs Bucs
Andy: The 'Bay plays close games and the Lions are long overdue. I'll take Detroit.
Nick: Bucs. I'd be more comfortable if this line were <7, but I can't take Detroit since they have zero chance to win this game.

JAGUARS (-1) vs Vikings
Andy: Heard a cute-sounding girl on the radio pick JAX, thus so do I.
Nick: Vikings. This is a close one, but give me the team that is better at running the ball and stopping the run.

CHIEVES (+3) vs Bills
Andy: Do I hafta? Bills rebound and take this one.
Nick: Bills. I'm by no means comfortable with the Bills, but I need more points to take the Chiefs.

DOLPHINS (-1) vs Patriots
Andy: My how the times have changed. The Patriots will have revenge and a playoff spot on their minds, so I go with New England.
Nick: Dolphins. I just don't see the Pats' D slowing down the Miami running game.

RAMS (+9) vs Bears
Andy: Chicago has to be the league's most nondescript team, but picking STL at this point frightens me. Bears.
Nick: Bears. Again, too many points, but the StL has lost by double-digits three weeks straight.

TITANS (-5) vs Jets
Andy: When this season is over, I'm going to send Jeff Fisher a thank-you note. Titans. Again.
Nick: Titans. If this line were 3 or less, I'd put money on it.

BRONCOS (-9.5) vs Raiders
Andy: Raiders, more to spite Denver than anything else.
Nick: Donks. Why do I keep picking these jerks? I'm starting to get nervous about all the points I'm giving this week, but Oakland blows.

CARDINALS (+3) vs Giants
Andy: Vegas would have trouble with a Giant-Titan Super Bowl (the two largest team mascots) because they wouldn't be able to underestimate both teams at once. Seriously, Giants.
Nick: Giants. When are the Giants and Titans going to get some respect from Vegas. I'll gladly give the three.

SEAHAWKS (+3.5) vs Redskins
Andy: 'Hawks, oddly enough. They've improved a bit and Hasselbeck and Qwest Field give them enough here.
Nick: Skins. That half point makes me nervous, but the Redskins are the much better club.

CHARGERS (-1) vs Colts
Andy: I'll take the home Chargers in the 2008 Inconsistency Bowl.
Nick: Colts. Indy's finally starting to roll; they've won three straight.

SAINTS (-1) vs Packers
Andy: Saints. I've been riding the Saints all year, see no reason to stop now, no matter how mediocre they are.
Nick: Saints. Both defenses suck, but the Saints have the better offense and they're at home.

Friday, November 21

NBA to Boston: This One's On Us

The Boston Celtics better buy something nice for the NBA Scheduling Committee this Christmas.

Ok, I don't even know if there is a Scheduling Committee. I assume that some computer "randomly" generates the schedule and always has the wherewithal to select contenders/rivals to play on holidays. And of course the algorithm has the best interest of the networks in mind with the quality double- and triple-headers on almost all Sundays after the Super Bowl has been played.

As chance would have it, the top three teams in the East had their schedules collide this week.

First up was the Cleveland Cavaliers, who traveled to New Jersey on Tuesday to apply a serious beatdown on the same awful Nets team that LeBron James supposedly cannot wait to join in 2010 (I refuse to devote an article to the biased reporting of the New York-based Associated Press other than to say that it is extremely unprofessional.) Amidst the media distractions, the Cavs boarded a plane and flew to Detroit to prepare for a solid Pistons team the next night. The result? The Cavs hit the wall in the third quarter and blew a 13-point lead, ultimately losing to a fresh Pistons team by seven.

On Thursday ESPN writers were lauding Detroit for sending a message by beating a fatigued Cavs team. Detroit's celebrations were short-lived.

Like the Cavs before them, the Pistons had to travel to Boston to prepare for a game with a rested Celtics team the very next night. The same Pistons who beat the Cavs the night before were embarrassed at Boston, 98-80. In fact, at no time after the first quarter did Detroit resemble the team who couldn't miss on Wednesday.

Of course, the gods of scheduling have a back-to-back prepared for Boston as well. It isn't very fair, afterall, to make Cleveland and Detroit play road games against elite teams on the second night of a back-to-back and not have Boston do the same, right?

After their dominating win over Detroit, the Celtics travel to Minnesota to take on the 2-8 Timberwolves. The flight may be a bit longer, but the Celtics also gain an extra hour of rest due to the timezone change. Did I mention that they are playing the Minnesota Timberwolves?

So let's sum up...

- The Cavs played the second game of a back-to-back on the road at Detroit.

- The Piston played the second game of their back-to-back on the road at Boston.

- The Celtics play the second game of their back-to-back on the road at Minnesota.

Stranger things have happened, but if the Celtics lose this game then I will drive to the store and buy a Yankee's jersey and wear it every single day for the rest of the year.

Cue the reporting services, Boston is about to gain a game in the standings on both the Cavs and Pistons because they're simply the best that ever was. And they had a little help from the league.

Heroes & Zeroes: Week 10

It was a frustrating game. Yes it was close, and yes, it was entertaining, but between the Bills' turnovers and the Browns' phantom defense, neither team deserved to win this game. But there are good things to take away from this win. Brady Quinn won his first road start. Jerome Harrison is a game breaker. Shaun Rogers might be God. Although there are definitely holes, the Browns have some talent. Now, fire Romeo Crennel, and find us a head coach.

This Week's Heroes

Five Gold Stars: Jerome Harrison

Jerome Harrison had four touches on Monday night. Those four touches resulted in 101 total yards, including a 72-yard run that should have sealed the victory for the Browns. Chud and Romeo can harp on blocking and Harrison's size all they want, but I'm not buying it. A guy who makes this kind of impact has to see the field. Harrison is averaging over 10 yards per carry, for God's sake!

Jamal Lewis still has a place on this team, but he's no longer the stud that he was several years ago in Baltimore. Lewis has lost a step, and his inability to consistently turn the corner greatly hinders Rob Chudzinski's creativity, which is one of the offense's greatest assets. While he was plowing for extra yards early in the season, Lewis is now going down far too easily. It's freaky how frequently you can say "Jamal up the middle for two" before a play begins, and be totally accurate. Like I said, Lewis still has a role, but it's not as a featured back; it's closer to being the Jerome Bettis to Harrison's Willie Parker.

If Harrison were the featured back, he would probably lose some of his effectiveness because he would wear down (the size issue). I don't think anyone is talking about giving Harrison 25-30 carries per game, but 10-15 touches would be very appropriate. With the playoffs out of the picture, the rest of this season is about evaluation, and the Browns need to spend a good deal of time evaluating Harrison to decide whether or not they should draft/sign a running back this off-season. If the Crennel regime can't recognize that Harrison needs to see more of the field, well, then they deserve to head for the unemployment lines.

Four Gold Stars: Shaun Rogers
It was another game in which the defense let the offense down, but as usual, one defender who did not disappoint was Shaun Rogers. As he has done all year, Shaun Rogers played like a bear wearing a man costume. Rogers shoved around Buffalo's linemen and commanded considerable attention in the form of double and even triple teams.

Particularly impressive was the first play of the game, when Rogers was triple-teamed by the Bills, and still managed to bat a Trent Edwards pass into the air, resulting in a Kamerion Wimbley interception. With the defense finding new ways to disappoint on a weekly basis, Rogers remains a consistent bright spot, and it's a shame that the Browns are essentially wasting a great year from Rogers due to their mediocre performance in the standings. I can't remember the last time I said "we're seeing something special" referencing the Browns, but when we watch Rogers we really are witnessing greatness. That's little consolation when contrasted against a season that has been an immense disappointment.

Three Gold Stars: Brady Quinn
Brady Quinn's stat line won't turn any heads, but he performed admirably in his first road start. Ralph Wilson Stadium is a tough place to play, and Bills fans were excited for a Monday nighter. The crowd noise never seemed to bother Quinn, who looked cool as a cucumber. Quinn was able to put the Browns in a position to win late, and the offense is averaging nearly 30 points per game with Quinn at the helm. For the second consecutive game, Quinn managed to play turnover-free football (although he got a break or two with dropped interceptions), a tall order for a second year QB with minimal NFL experience.

Quinn faced heavy pressure from a Buffalo defense that was determined to rattle the young quarterback, and the Bills were in Quinn's face all day with a barrage of overload blitzes. But like the Denver game, Quinn stood tall in the pocket and showed some terrific footwork to elude the Bills and avoid taking a number of sacks. For all the pressure they brought, the Bills only sacked Quinn once, and that absence of sacks was largely due to some nifty footwork on Brady's part.

It wasn't all smooth sailing; Quinn only completed 14 of 36 passes and was erratic at times. Quinn threw down field more than in his first start, which caused more mix ups and miscommunication. Those problems will be straightened out with time. As usual, Braylon Edwards provided his handful of obligatory drops.

Two starts in, it's tough not to like what we've seen from Brady Quinn. Where his ceiling lies still remains to be seen, but it looks more and more like Quinn can at least be a solid signal caller who can put the Browns in a position to win most games. Given the sparsity of competent quarterbacks in the league, that's good news for the Browns.

Two Gold Stars: Brandon McDonald
Brandon McDonald was "benched" due to his lousy game against the Broncos, and his "benching" lasted approximately one play. I doubt it was a response to being taken out of the starting lineup, but McDonald played a good game against Buffalo. Trent Edwards didn't complete many passes to his wide receivers, but that's as much due to Edwards getting gun shy than good coverage by the Browns.

McDonald's on this list because he helped force two of the four Buffalo turnovers, starting with a first quarter interception that left the Browns with a short field. In the third quarter the Bills were driving into Browns territory when McDonald tackled Fred Jackson and knocked the ball loose. Defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin recovered, and a crucial Buffalo drive was stalled.

McDonald's biggest strength -- a desire to make the big play -- is often his undoing. But he's still in his second year, and with experience he will learn when to get aggressive and try for a turnover, and when to play things more conservatively.

One Gold Star: Joshua Cribbs
Josh Cribbs didn't have his usual impact on the game, but the offense's "Flash" package did make an appearance. Cribbs scored the Browns' first touchdown on a two-yard run in the second quarter. Lining up at receiver, Cribbs went in motion from right to left, Hank Fraley snapped the ball to Brady Quinn, and Quinn quickly handed the ball to Cribbs, who easily scored. The Browns need to use Josh Cribbs more on offense. Any time they can find a way to get Cribbs the ball in space, good things tend to happen.

This Week's Zeroes

Five Demerits: Linebackers
Romeo Crennel chastised the defense for its poor tackling, and rightfully so. There was some big talk from Andra Davis, among others, about the linebackers having to "put up or shut up" this year. It's fair to say they've been reduced to a whisper.

The defensive line is pretty good when they're all healthy. Unfortunately, Shaun Rogers, Robaire Smith, Shaun Smith, and Corey Williams have all had their fair share of injury problems, and as a result, more pressure has been placed on the Browns' already suspect linebacking corps. The linebackers have caved.

Earlier this season, the linebackers were still slow, but at least their tackling was sound. The lack of speed could be excused. After all, we knew this group lacked the ideal skills for the 3-4 from the start. But if they're going to start tackling with closed fists, well, these last six games are going to get pretty ugly.

Four Demerits: Romeo Crennel
Let's face it: the Browns should have pounded the Bills. Three interceptions in the first quarter, and just six points to show for it. That's pathetic. The defense couldn't stop a mediocre Buffalo running game. The Browns won the turnover battle 4-0, and still needed Rian Lindell to miss a field goal to ensure a victory. This team is sloppy, and Crennel's fingerprints are all over it.

When's the last time you thought to yourself "wow, the Browns had a great game plan this week"? Has anyone ever thought that? Heck, have you ever been able to identify a game plan, regardless of its effectiveness? At some point, you've got to blame the guy steering the ship.

This team has no passion, no accountability, and no direction with Crennel as captain. Have you ever seen Crennel do any coaching on the sidelines? Screw coaching, I'd settle for seeing him speak a word or two. He generally just stands there stonefaced. There's no reason to even have Romeo out there on game day. Fire Romeo Crennel yesterday.

Three Demerits: Ralph Wilson Stadium
I looked into heading to Buffalo for this game, but it didn't work out. It's probably just as well. Ralph Wilson Stadium is an awful place to watch football, and I feel bad for Bills fans, who actually pay money to enter that dump.

I've only been there once for a pre-season game, and it wasn't a cool experience, even though the Browns won. Let me build a case for you -- here's why Ralph Wilson Stadium sucks:

1) It's in the middle of nowhere. No, I'm serious. It's a rural/suburban area with a two-lane road leading in and out. People sell parking in their back yards. Oh, so the game is over and you want to go home? Enjoy an hour-plus wait of backwoods gridlock!

2) It's freaking old. Walking through the halls of The Ralph felt like walking through the Erie Civic Center, where I frequent Erie Otters minor league hockey games. If you haven't been to Erie, trust me, this isn't a favorable comparison.

3) The design sucks. The age contributes here, but The Ralph is a boring design. A stadium doesn't have to be the Tower of Pisa, but c'mon, try to make it cool. Plus half of the stadium is dug into the ground, so it looks like a high school stadium when you walk up to it. Not cool.

4) One jumbo-tron. (That's right, one.) Lucky for me, I was sitting in an end zone...with the tron right behind me. Unless you're that litle girl from The Exorcist, good luck seeing any highlights.

5) The Bills' "Shout!" song. Okay, every team has their own goofy songs, usually set to popular music, but this one is particularly awful, and it gets played whenever the Bills score a touchdown. Here are the lyrics. It's largely nonsense, and there is no real connection between the "Shout!" song and the Buffalo Bills. Spare me.

6) Subpar insults. If I'm going behind enemy lines with a Browns jersey, I'm fine with taking a little heat. No, actually, I expect it. But if you're going to blast me, do it right. Want some examples of the insults I had tossed my way? "Hey, you took a wrong turn on I-90." Not even remotely clever. "Hey Kosar, you're retired!" Um, your point is what now? "Hey Edwards, you only had like two catches!" It's a pre-season game buddy, the starters are pulled early. Let's go Bills fans, if you're going to bring it, then bring it hard.

Two Demerits: Rob Chudzinski
Chud's doing a pretty good job in the passing game, but the Browns need to re-think the way they're running the ball. First and foremost, get Jerome Harrison the ball, especially early in the game. Jamal Lewis should still be mixed in, but his focus should be short yardage, the goal line, and killing the clock in the second half.

The Browns are simply far more versatile with Jerome Harrison on the field. Harrison has the speed that Lewis now lacks, and he's bulked up enough that he can run between the tackles, too. Sure, blocking is probably still an issue for Harrison, but he's such a step up from Lewis as a runner and a receiver that it's a worthwhile trade off.

One Demerit: Offensive Line
I mentioned earlier that the Bills were bringing a ton of heat Brady Quinn's way. They were. But there was some spotty blocking on the Browns' part, particularly on the right side of that line. I have my doubts about Hank Fraley, and I'm not sure Kevin Shaffer is the long term answer at right tackle, either.

The Browns need to start investing draft picks in their offensive line so they can rebuild it from within, instead of being forced to signed overpriced veterans who will probably become more prone to injury as they age. With the exception of the Isaac Sowells draft pick, it's something Phil Savage hasn't really attempted. Granted, Savage inherited a talentless roster, and had larger fish to fry, but after watching this team last season we can all attest to the difference a good offensive line can make.

Up Next: 11/23, Houston Texans, Cleveland Browns Stadium, 1:00
The Browns are playing sloppy football, but the Texans haven't won a game on the road all year long, and I like the Browns' chances this week. Sagemary Rosenfels is starting at quarterback, and southern teams typically struggle up north in the winter. Let it snow.

Prediction: Browns 34, Texans 20

Thursday, November 20


Yes, the Cavaliers lost to the Pistons last night, 96-89, ending their eight-game winning streak and pulling Detroit within a half game of first place...still behind the Cavs. It was a little disappointing, to be sure; the Cavs let a double-digit halftime lead slip away and lost to arguably their biggest rival. It wasn't cool, but at the same time, why worry?

Consider first of all that the Cavs were on the second night of a road back-to-back, coming off a second-half demolition of the New Jersey Nets in the Izod Center. Such games are always difficult to win, particularly when playing a tough team like Detroit, who had rested the night before. These things happen, even to good teams. The Cavs actually came out stronger than I might have expected, playing their usual tough defense to build a substantial lead until it unraveled late in the 3rd quarter. Though the Cavs players and coaches, and broadcaster Austin Carr, rejected any notion that the Cavs ran out of gas, both radio man Joe Tait and any amount of time actually spent watching the game say otherwise. Cleveland was uncharacteristically slow on both offense and defense, turning the ball over far more than usual and always ending up a setp behind the Pistons when on defense. There's a reason Detroit made 11 straight shots at one point. The Cavs were just a little worn out.

And you know what? I'm alright with this. The Cavs are still 9-3 and have played outstanding basketball this season. They're in first place. They're on pace for 60 wins. Remember six years ago when they won 17 all year? All year? This ain't no thang.

More interesting, from my perspective, is how the Cavs play this Saturday night against the Atlanta Hawks. The ATL opened strong this year, but have now dropped four of five to subpar competition and must play a home game the night before traveling up here to the North Shore. The Cavs have today and tomorrow off before hosting the Hawks. One would expect the Cavs to come out strong and post a solid win against Atlanta; let's see if they can take care of business and remain unbeaten at the Q on Saturday.

More like Phil Savage

So it looks like the Browns' esteemed GM had a heated e-mail exchange with a Browns "fan" the other day. Apparently, this guy had been badgering Savage with e-mails throughout the past few weeks, and sent this gem during last Monday's Bills game:

You are easily the worst GM in the NFL. Chud, Crennel and Tucker should NOT have jobs. How the hell do you play prevent defense the entire game? How do you NOT use Jerome Harrison more? Why the hell would you throw the ball with 6 minutes left? This is officially a regime that is worse than Butch Davis'. By the way, just like last week - this email was written while the Browns still had the lead.

First of all, where does one get Phil Savage's e-mail address? Editor's note: according to Deadspin, it's Second, why not wait until the end? The Browns did, after all, win this game. Third, go make some friends to watch the game with, dude.

At 12:17 AM, Savage decides he's had enough of this guy's trash talk, and fires back this pithily appropriate response:

Go root for Buffalo-f#@* you-

Yeah! Word got out of the e-mail via deadspin and the original e-mail's author, the latter of whom who went on a local radio show (anonymously - lame) to talk about it. Typical pro sports spin control took over; Savage offered, "We have both apologized to each other since..." without actually saying he was sorry, and coach Crennel said in his press conference, "Phil generally, like the rest of us, tries to be professional and hold it in. But sometimes some things slip out. It's unfortunate that it slipped out. Tough times, tough things happen. I'm sure that if we had it to do over again we'd do it a little bit differently."

Would you? It would have been neat to see Crennel come out jolly and say, "Well, you know, f#@* that guy," then chuckle a bit and offer the usual press-conference platitudes. Oh well.

Nevertheless, I fully back Savage's actions here, and I'm glad he didn't publicly say he was sorry. No, the e-mail wasn't the most professional thing for the general manager of an NFL team to do, but on the other hand: f#@* that guy. Seriously, fanboy, if you don't have anything better to do during a Browns game than send Phil Savage stupid e-mails, then we don't want you as a Browns fan. Go root for the Bills. Go root for the Ravens. Go root for nobody. Watch soccer. You're not good enough to be a fan of the same football team as me. We don't want you. Phil was right.

Tuesday, November 18

Sweet Revenge

Somewhere, Woody Hayes was smiling while watching Ohio St go on the road and beat Illinois this past Saturday, 30-20. "3 yards and a cloud of dust" was in full effect; err, more like "6 or 7 yards and a cloud of dust." OSU didn't even pretend like they wanted to throw into the gusty winds, as Chris Wells carried the ball 24 times, Terrelle Pryor 13, and Dan Herron 12. The Illini outgained the Bucks by 100 yards, but made costly mistakes in the first half, which OSU was glad to take full advantage of.

The mistakes began early for Illinois, as Juice Williams fumbled deep in his own territory. Giving Beanie Wells and Terrelle Pryor a short field to work with will not end well for the opposing team. Wells took the ball down to the 1, where TP went in for the score. A couple of 20+ yard runs by Daniel Dufrene set up an Illini TD on the ensuing drive, tying the game at seven.

Late in the first quarter, Malcolm Jenkins had a rare big play (sarcasm) as he blocked an Illinois punt, resulting in a safety. A short kick into the wind led to more great field position for the Bucks, and again they capitalized. Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie each caught a pass, setting up a Beanie short touchdown, putting OSU up 16-7. Juice led a great drive for Illinois, taking them deep into Ohio St territory, until another mistake cost them dearly. Kurt Coleman picked off a Williams pass inside the 10 yard line. Yet again, Ohio St was quick to jump on another opportunity. TP had a big run, and then hooked up with Dane Sanzenbacher for the TD. Illinois stayed in the game by making two late field goals, making it 23-13 at the break.

The second half was about as interesting as How Stella Got Her Groove Back 2. The third quarter saw a lot of Beanie Wells, but his fumble inside the 20 led to a scoreless period. Boom Herron gave Wells a short rest, as he began the 4th quarter scoring from 12 yards out to essentially end the game. The rest of the quarter was pretty much all Herron, as OSU continued to pound away at an exhausted Illini defense. Juice threw a late but meaningless TD pass, making the final 30-20, Ohio St.

Game Notes:

- Game ball goes to...Chris Wells. Illinois linebackers will have bruises for weeks after being run over by the Mack truck that was Beanie on Saturday. Wells took the rock 24 times, picking up 143 yards (good for 6 yards a pop) and a touchdown. His leap over a defender en route to a 30 yard run in the third quarter was yet another addition to his growing highlight reel. Why give the ball to anyone else?

- Oh yeah, we also have a guy named Terrelle Pryor, that's why you give it to someone else. TP ran the ball 13 times for 110 yards and a touchdown. If you're trying quick math in your head, I'll save you the trouble. That's an incredible 8.5 YPC. He only threw the ball 10 times, but as I mentioned earlier, that was the game plan all along. He completed 6 of those passes for a mere 49 yards, but the key numbers are 1 and 0; as in 1 touchdown and 0 picks. That's really what this game came down to, when Ohio St needed a big play TP gave it to them, when Illinois needed one Juice turned it over.

- Looking at the bigger picture, a win this week will mean a share of a fourth straight Big Ten title. (Note: Last week I got a little carried away, claiming it would be 5 straight. I guess I was just anticipating next year's inevitable win.) A Michigan St victory over Penn St along with a Bucks win would send OSU to the Rose Bowl. The Lions head to Pasadena with a win, but a BCS berth for the Buckeyes would still be a possibility. Four at-large bids are up for grabs. You would have to assume one would go to whoever doesn't make it to the title game between Alabama and Florida. Another spot is sure to go to Texas. That leaves two open spots, with the Oklahoma-Texas Tech loser, USC, Utah, Boise St, and our beloved Bucks all fighting for them. If we're not BCS-bound, we'll be heading to the Capital One Bowl (it was better when it was the Citrus Bowl) to face the top non-BCS SEC team, likely Georgia or LSU.

Enough about the Illinois game, and enough about the Bowl situation, lets move on to what we're all really thinking about: next week's war with "that school up north" (Noon, ABC). People who say they would rather go 1-11 with a win over michigan than 11-1 with a National Title but a michigan loss are idiots, but boy do I really hate this team. I love this rivalry, but what I love even more is how much we are dominating it. I lived through the John Cooper years, I saw a great coach get fired (deservingly so) because he couldn't win this game. This is a new era however. An era that includes 4 straight wins for the Bucks, and 6 out of 7. An era which includes the 14-9 Championship clincher in '02, and "The Game of the Century" 42-39 win in '06.

I will be making my annual trip to the 614 this weekend, marking my 4th consecutive michigan Week appearance. After Will Allen's INT in the '02 game to send us to the National Championship (I have a chunk of the 50 yard line from this game), I drunkenly recommended to everyone watching the game with me to join me for a shot over Everclear to celebrate. I walked into the kitchen, poured four shots, and noticed that only one person followed me. All four were already poured, and we did just beat michigan, so I figured, go big or go home. The one kid took one shot, and I went big and had the other three one right after the other. Who knows what's going to happen on michigan weekend? For those that don't know, on every Thursday of michigan Week Ohio St students have a tradition of jumping in Mirror Lake. It's more of a large pond located on campus. On Thursday night, after lots of heavy drinking, thousands of students run to this spot on campus and jump in. As this game is always played in late November, the temperature in Columbus is quite nippy. It's crazy. I can't wait to take part again in a couple of days. Back to the game, Ohio St has beaten much much much better michigan teams than this in the past. The Buckeyes are gonna roll in this one, and they are gonna pour it on. If we can score 100 in this game, we should. No mercy.


Monday, November 17

BUCKEYES (-19) vs Wolverines

Am I the only one who likes the way that looks? That is a lovely spread. I want to travel to Las Vegas to tell sports books personally how much I enjoy that line. One could also write:

Wolverines (+19) at BUCKEYES
OHIO STATE (-19) vs Michigan
Michigan (+19) at OHIO STATE

The possibilities are endless!

Since the matchup so obviously favors OSU this year (not to mention that the game will be played in Columbus), expect to see tons of articles written this week about how "dangerous" Michigan is and how they have "nothing to lose" and how "anything can happen in this rivalry." This is all rubbish.

Look, reporters, I know you need an angle, and I know this game needs some drama interjected into it. This isn't exactly the 2006 game. However, Michigan is not dangerous and they are not scary. They are 3-8. Three and eight. They lost to Toledo at home. They have all of two Big Ten wins. Purdue has won just one Big Ten game - guess whom they beat? Michigan has six common opponents with OSU; the Buckeyes are 5-1 in those games (the only loss being a nail-biter to Penn State) and Michigan is 1-5 (PSU torched them by 29). Michigan sucks. They are a bad football team. They are going to lose to Ohio State. There's a reason the whole "they're worrisome because they're bad" angle seems so counterintuitive: it's because it's dumb.

I've never bought this "nothing to lose" thing either for subpar teams. You're telling me that they're going to come out and play better because...they have nothing to play for? That somehow their performance during this disastrous season gives them an advantage over the BCS-bound Buckeyes? It might make them a little more loose, but does nothing to address the talent and coaching gaps between the teams. I've seen Browns teams with nothing to lose in late-season contests against the Steelers, and it doesn't seem to do them any good. Yes, this game does represent Michigan's only shot to sort-of salvage the season, and that will indeed motivate them, but it's not like the Bucks aren't going to be keyed up as well just because they've enjoyed success.

Finally, don't buy into this notion that the predicted outcome is somehow different because of the rich tradition these schools have. Why should upset victories be any more likely just because the two teams have been playing each other for so long? The history of this rivalry, while fascinating, has no bearing on the present game. There's no mysticism here: as with any game, the team with the superior talent, execution, and luck will win. For the seventh time in eight years, and fifth year in a row, that team will be the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Sunday, November 16

It's Official.

It's michigan Week. Which puts me at a dilemma, as I annually wear my Ann Arbor's a Whore shirt Monday-Friday, but the Browns are playing on Monday night. Do I stick with tradition, or wear a Browns shirt tomorrow? I think I'm gonna go with the anti-michigan gear, because the Bucks trump the Browns, especially when we're 3-6. Plus, I'm broke so I'm waiting for Christmas for a Brady jersey, making Charlie Frye my best option for a Browns jersey. Back to my original point, fuck michigan.

(Note: As I'm writing this, Ted Ginn just took a reverse 40 yards to the barn. As soon as I post this, I'm gonna watch the highlight reel again.)


NFL Picks: Week 11

Wow, Nick really killed it last week, to the tune of 10-3-1, easily the best single-week performance FCF has seen this season. Too bad he put money on two of the losses! Figgs also had a strong week at 8-5-1 while Andy kept alive his streak of .500 or better weeks.

Last Week
Andy: 7-6-1
Figgs: 8-5-1
Nick: 10-3-1
Nick's Money Picks: 2-2

Year to Date
Andy: 81-58-5
Figgs: 68-71-5
Nick: 75-64-5
Nick's Money Picks: 13-12

PATS (-3) vs Jets
Andy: Pats. I was surprised when Nick told me where this line was.
Figgs: Lets go nuts. Jets.
Nick: Pats. Love this line. I could see a number of things happening tonight, but I don't see a scenario where the Jets win the game.

BILLS (-4.5) vs Browns
Andy: Los Cafes, purely for reasons of honor.
Figgs: Beer we go Brownies.
Nick: (+5) Browns. Turned this one green at the last minute. When Trent Edwards struggles, the Bills can't win. He's been struggling the last three weeks or so, and I suspect it may continue.

FALCONS (-6) vs Broncos
Andy: Finally, some Vegas love for the Dirty Birds. The Falcons are 4-0 at home and putting up 32 a game in the Georgia Dome, while the Broncos allow 30 a game on the road. I'll take Los Alcones.
Figgs: If we're gonna quote rappers, make it a good one. "I wanna get you in the Georgia Dome on the fifty yard line while the Dirty Birds kick for t'ree." ATL.
Nick: Atlanta. I'm like the Ying Yang Twins: "GIMME GEORGIA DOME!"

PANTHERS (-14) vs Lions
Andy: The Lions average game this season is exactly a 14-point loss, same as this line. This game happens to be one where Daunte Culpepper is starting, the Lions are on the road, and their opponent is 7-2. Las Panteras.
Figgs: Daunte's gonna get his roll on. Lions.
Nick: Panthers. Big spread, big cover. The Panthers are the second best team in the NFC.

BENGALS (+9.5) vs Eagles
Andy: Las Aguilas. Thought I'd have to give a few more here. I'm sticking with Simmons' plan to take the Eagles against bad teams but not against quality opponents. The Bengals are bad.
Figgs: Philly. Hey Andy, whats with the espanol?
Nick: (-8.5) E! A! G! L! E! S! EAGLES! I agree with Andy. I thought this would be a 2 touchdown spread, and Brian Westbrook's playing, and he's worth at least 7 points on his own (that's hyperbole, but probably pretty accurate).

PACKERS (-3.5) vs Bears
Andy: It's Sunday morning and I'm making this pick - it was off when I made my other picks. Not that Nick doesn't do well, but any time I follow his lead I lose. Los Empacadores.
Figgs: Pack.
Nick: Bears. I've been talked both ways here, but since it's more than a field goal, gimme da bears.

COLTS (-9) vs Texans
Andy: A matchup of the Browns' next two opponents. The Texans are 0-4 on the road and I don't see them breaking through against a rejuvenated Colt team who downed Pittsburgh on the road last week. Los Potros.
Figgs: This might be a little closer than the experts think, but I've been going with the Fighting Dungy's all year. Colts.
Nick: Colts. I feel like the Colts might be getting it together. Maybe.

JAGUARS (-3) vs Titans
Andy: Seriously, what is Vegas' deal with the Titans? A 3-point line for a 9-0 team playing a club who within the past three weeks has lost to both Ohio teams? Los Colosos.
Figgs: I agree. Who doesn't love the Titans? My entire life the NFL has been dominated by very hateable teams, (Cowboys, Steelers, Pats) it's time for a likeable team to do well. Titans.
Nick: (-2.5) Titans. Tennessee's 9-0, and (I think) 8-0-1 Against the Spread. I'm giving less than a field goal here, are you kidding me? This bet's way too easy.

CHIEVES (+5) vs Saints
Andy: Darn, the bookmakers finally figured out that their KC lines were too big and that even a lousy team like the Chieves could cover them. Now I actually have to make a decision. Los Santos.
Figgs: I'll take the over on this one. Saints cover, 77-65.
Nick: Chiefs. I feel like the Saints are getting by on reputation, and I'm taking a gamble on Tyler Thigpen's continued development here.

DOLPHINS (-10.5) vs Raiders
Andy: These are two teams I struggle with. Los Cazadores.
Figgs: OK, I don't even know who Andy picked on this one, this Spanish thing is getting out of control. USA, USA! Oh, and I'll take the Raiders, mainly because I love their uniforms.
Nick: Raiders. Gimme points.

GIANTS (-6.5) vs Ravens
Andy: Intriguing matchup here. The Ravens have quietly put together a 4-game win streak with average margin of victory of 25 points while maintaining their edge as the league's most reprehensible bunch of idiots. I was going to take them anyway, but I'm making a Sunday switch to Los Gigantes.
Figgs: I hate that ratbirds. G-Men.
Nick: Giants. Ravens just don't have a chance to win.

BUCS (-3.5) vs Vikings
Andy: Las Piratas. I thought I'd have to give a TD here.
Figgs: Vikings win.
Nick: Bucs. I agree with Andy.

49ERS (-6.5) vs Rams
Andy: Does this game seriously need to be played? The battle for 3-8? I'll take Los Cuarenta y Nueves.
Figgs: Did the Rams really give up 40 points in a half? What the hell, STL. (That wasn't supposed to rhyme.)
Nick: 49ers. Damn.

SEAHAWKS (+3) vs Cards
Andy: Damnit, just when I was ready to fully commit to the Cardinals' bandwagon after years of disdaining them, they go and do that on MNF. Yeah, I know they won, so what. Still, I'm going to stay the course with Los Pajaros Rojos.
Figgs: Arz. I'm gonna gain so many games on you guys this week.
Nick: Seahawks. This feels like a bad game for the Cardinals, and Hasselbeck's back...

STEELERS (-4.5) vs Chargers
Andy: As usual, I'll take Los Acereros. The Chargers are getting by on reputation at this point. Well, that and that time they smacked the Patriots around.
Figgs: I think I've picked against shitsburgh every week, why stop now? Bolts.
Nick: Steelers. Even if the Steelers are beat up, the Chargers are frauds.

REDSKINS (+1) vs Cowboys
Andy: Las Pielas Rojas. I thought this would be a -6 line until I saw Tony Romo was playing, but I still don't see why Dallas should be favored.
Figgs: There is no reason for Dallas to be favored. Skins.
Nick: Redskins. Dallas is overhyped and overrated, even with Homo at QB.

Saturday, November 15

Thank you, Fox Sports Ohio

Last March, I published in this forum an open letter asking Fox Sports Network Ohio to change the font they use for showing the Cavaliers' in-game scores. The font was far too curvy and it was hard to tell apart the numerals 3, 5, 6, 8, and 9, which was perpetually annoying.

Well, I doubt FSN Ohio's Cavs production team reads FCF, but they may have read my note and taken my advice, because this year they have a much-improved design. The letters are straight and clear, and there's no mistaking one digit for another. It's great!

So, regardless of how they arrived at the decision to change the font, I'd like to sincerely thank FSN Ohio for making this change for the better. You've made at least one regular viewer of Cavs telecasts happy.

Talkin' smack

I'd like to quickly dispense with the myth that in sports, opponents' pre-game comments have anything to do with a team's gameday performance.

Writers and broadcasters love this played-out story angle. Here's how it happens. First, a player says something like "I guarantee we're gonna win" or "those guys aren't very physically tough," or "what a bunch of pansies." The comments are then published in a newspaper or on TV. The other team then gets wind of what the guy said and maybe someone posts a clipping on the locker room wall. Maybe they even use highlighter. For this reason, such comments are often known as "bulletin-board material." I wonder if locker rooms really have bulletin boards? Finally, the story of the day becomes how the one team is suddenly so fired-up because they feel slighted by what the other guy said, and are thus going to come out and play great with all this extra motivation they have.

Please. This is ridiculous.

First of all, players at college and professional levels get super-jacked up for big games no matter what. They really, really don't need further motivation to want to go out and win. That's why they're elite athletes in the first place; athletic talent plus a strong competitive spirit. Have you seen, for example, Kevin Garnett? That guy head-butts the basket support before every game. He admitted to having insomnia during the playoffs. How much extra motivation does that guy need? Sure, Garnett's an extreme case, but pro and college athletes are crazy-competitive. When they get in the game and they're trying to score baskets or catch passes, no one's thinking about some boast an opposing player made five days ago.

Second of all, high-level sports games always come down to talent and execution (and some luck). It doesn't matter how much smack anyone talks - the team who performs better and gets the right breaks wins the game. Let's say that I've got a 1-on-1 matchup scheduled against LeBron James. The King can talk big all he wants, break out all sorts of smack on me, and I can get absolutely crunked for the game and have this incredible burning desire to win and prove LeBron wrong, and he's still going to absolutely destroy me at basketball.

Finally, there's some confirmation bias supporting the school of thought that "bulletin-board material" has any effect on the game. Anytime a guy does some jawing and his team comes out and plays poorly and loses, you've got a story that basically writes itself. "Hey, look, this dummy ran his mouth and his team lost." You, the fan, are going to hear about this development ad nauseum. But when a player says stuff that supposedly motivates his opponents but that player's team rolls anyway, what kind of a story is that? It's kinda like how you never hear about all the planes that land.

Next time you read or hear a sports analyst trying to work this angle, please don't believe it. These guys are plenty motivated to win regardless of what any opponent says, and sports games will continue to come down to which team performs best regardless of any pre-game sniping in the press.

Friday, November 14

Contingency plans

The Cleveland sports teams that we support here on FCF are all on pretty solid ground financially and appear to be rooted in C-town for the foreseeable future. This is very good news for the FCF staff and for you, the reader. The Buckeyes, obviously, aren't going anywhere either. There was a time when this wasn't true; the Indians were certainly a candidate for contraction or relocation prior to the Jacobs Field era, and we all know what happened to the Browns some 12 years ago. I'm also a Pittsburgh Penguins fan, and just a couple of years ago there was serious concern that they might become the Portland Penguins or Kansas City Penguins. It's nice that things are stable for my clubs at the moment, but what if one of them was either discontinued or relocated? That's the question I'd like to discuss today.

My first rule is, in case of a relocation: do not root for the team in its new location. Case in point: the Baltimore Ravens. Fuck the Baltimore Ravens. Whatever city got your team stole it from you and doesn't deserve your support. You won't see a lot of SuperSonic fans pulling for the Thunder this season, nor should you. In all these cases, if we're talking about a team moving to a different city, we shall assume that I hate the new team passionately.

We also have a bit of actual historical data here, so this isn't a purely speculative exercise. When the Browns were taken away from 1996-1998, I responded by basically getting out of the sporting world for a while. I kept tabs on the Cavs very loosely, and the Tribe was still making playoff runs, but the loss of the Browns sent shockwaves through my whole sports scheme. A number of other factors contributed here:
1) I moved to Pittsburgh, which distanced me physically from Ohio. Remember, this was before the Internet as we've come to know it.
2) At CMU, I got into more college-y pursuits, and pro sports took a back seat.
3) The Tribe's devastating '97 World Series loss was hard to come back from.
4) I started watching pro wrestling.

Nowadays, I'm more vested in pro sports, and would keep active even if one of my clubs skipped town or was disbanded. Naturally, my interest in that particular league would wane considerably; without a stake in the game, it's not the same. But I've put together some contingency plans. What would I do?

Not having baseball in Cleveland would be a dreadful thing, but if it happened, I'd shift my support to the Pittsburgh Pirates, though far less enthusiastically. I'm already a casual Pirate fan from my years in Pittsburgh (they're a distant #2 to the Tribe), and they're such a moribund franchise that it's easy to get behind them without making a significant emotional investment. I would be bitterly angry at MLB for stealing my Indians, but at the same time, I love the game, and I could still keep tabs on a team at a low-maintenance level. I'd also look into minor league games in Columbus, Lake County, and Akron, though if they remained affiliates of the relocated Indians that wouldn't be nearly as cool.

Seriously, fuck the Baltimore Ravens. What was the question here? Right, losing the Browns (again). I suppose I'd do the same thing as in the previous question, except with the Cincinnati Bengals. Yeah, I know they're a division rival, but they're a fairly benign one, and there's some Ohio solidarity there. Plus, and this is a major point, I could still root against the Steelers and Ravens four times a year. This holds great appeal to me. I wouldn't be a huge Bengal fan like I am with the Browns, but I'd probably watch most of their games. I'd also keep my loose tie to the Philadelphia Eagles from way back when, as I was once a New Philadelphia Eagle and Randall Cunningham is my all-time favorite player.

This is the one where I'd probably just give up. I think the NBA is a good league with a solid product, especially in the postseason. Still, my interest here is more strongly dependent on my favorite team than it is for the NFL or MLB. I might take a passing interest in a nearby team, like the Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, or Milwaukee Bucks, but more than likely I'd stop watching pro ball except for the playoffs. Sorry, David Stern.

Ohio State Buckeyes
I'd go for Michigan, all the way. Just kidding. This question is ridiculous, as you can't very well relocate a university sports team. Not even going to answer it.

Hello, Columbus Blue Jackets! This would be the smoothest transition of them all; if the Pens jetted out of the 'Burgh, I've got an Ohio team with almost no prior history ready and waiting to take their place. No, it wouldn't quite be the same, but I could consolidate to an all-Ohio roster and catch more games on TV. As someone who used to have half-season tickets to the Penguins, I'd be sad to see Pittsburgh lose their local hockey club, but I'd be able to bounce back pretty well.