Thursday, February 24
I imagine all of us have wondered to ourselves at one time or another whether we would be more interested in seeing a flop so bad that it destroys whatever miniscule credibility soccer ever had, or michigan losing a heartbreaking game at home on a banked-in three-pointer.. I know I have.
But today, February 24, 2011, we don't have to make that choice. We can have both. Enjoy.
Monday, February 21
I've heard rumors that uniformed professionals are playing baseball in various warm locales in the United States, and from the confines of snowy Norway, this development pleases me. I'm already looking forward to driving home from work on Friday and seeing a smiling Chief Wahoo on a banner proclaiming "46 Days Until Opening Day." You'd best believe FCF will be at that one in full force.
In the meantime, let's get back into thinking about the National Pastime. I've decided to get into the swing of things by deconstructing one of my least favorite sports cliches: the one about baseball being a "game of failure." I've heard this repeated mindlessly enough times as if it's some literary or philosophical chestnut that I finally feel the need to set the record straight.
The typical expression is something along the lines of, "what other line of work can you fail in 2 out of 3 times and still be considered a success?" As witty and hilarious as this may be, it doesn't really hold up. Here's why.
The other side of the equation
If hitters are "failing" 2 out of 3 times, does that not mean pitchers are succeeding 2 out of 3 times? Doesn't this make it a "game of success" when you consider it from a defensive perspective? Also, fielders typically sport fielding percentages of well over 90% - that seems rather successful to me as well. It seems unnecessarily negative to focus only on the low nature of batting averages.
Whoever said that failing two out of three times is a good record of achievement for a batter, anyway? Like so much classical wisdom about baseball, this one needs to be updated in light of our modern understanding of the statstical underpinnings of the game. I'll grant you that the .333 batting average the quipster is romanticizing is a solid job at the plate, but if you only reach base 1 in 3 times, well...you're an almost exactly average MLB hitter. This simplistic notion of failure completely disregards the various degrees of success a batsman can have outside of the uninstructive constraints of batting average: there's a walk, an out that advances a runner, and of course extra-base hits. If you're on my baseball club, you can "fail" four out of five times as far as I'm concerned, as long as you draw 100 walks and every time you "succeed" the ball goes over the fence.
Basketball players on average hit a little bit less than 50% of their field goals, and less than 40% of their three-point attempts. Hockey players find the net with less than twenty percent of their shots. Soccer players fail to score a goal almost literally every single time they touch the ball. So why is it only batters who are singled out as failures? I know the question people ask in this fashion is supposed to be rhetorical, but I'm fond of challenging rhetorical questions, and in the world of sports, there are plenty of places where "failing" two out of three times makes you a star. Show me an NHL'er who scores on 1 in 3 shots (Mario Lemieux career: 19.2%), and I'll show you the greatest player who ever laced up a pair of skates.
So next time you hear this particular piece of wisdom, relate some of these facts to the speaker. Also tell him: Go Tribe!
Friday, February 18
The focus on Cleveland's winter sports season has been on the woeful Cavaliers (improbably leading the Lakers 70-61 as I type this article), but it's worth mentioning that Dan Gilbert's other winter sports team that calls the Q its home is currently in a tie for first place in the AHL's Western Conference North Division. Sure, 10 of the AHL's 30 clubs still sport a better mark than the 28-22-3-5 Monsters, but this is a big step forward for a franchise that's landed in 6th place in its seven-team division each of its three years of existence.
I, for one, am excited at the prospect of Playoff Hockey, especially if it's Playoff Dollar Beer Night Hockey. Go Monsters!
Labels: minor leagues
Wednesday, February 16
No game ticket photo this time - I'm traveling, so this screen grab will have to do. What is it with crummy Cleveland teams taking down championship opponents? The Browns have posted all of 14 wins over the past three seasons but have managed to knock off the defending Super Bowl Champion in each year, while the 10-47 Cavaliers now own victories over the Celtics and Lakers, only the two teams who met in last year's NBA Finals. Unbelievable!
Sunday, February 13
As illustrated by the photo of my game ticket I posted early Saturday morning, I was privileged to attend the Cavs' 126-119 overtime win over the LA Clippers on Friday night, which as you undoubtedly know snapped the Cavs' NBA-record 26-game losing streak. I have to say that it was without a doubt the most exciting and unique Cavaliers game I've ever been to. It was a terrifically-played contest, with the teams battling each other tooth and nail all night and really not looking like two teams who came into the game a combined 28-77 on the season.
The real fun of the game, though, was the fans - I've never seen the atmosphere so electric in the Q, not even for playoff games. I'd compare it favorably to Cleveland Browns Stadium during the Jets game this year. It's really, really easy to be cynical and down about a team whose struggles have become historic (and we'll get to that), but the fans were behind the Cavaliers 100% all game on Friday night. There were moments, of course, where it looked like "uh-oh, here we go again," but even during those rocky times the team and the fans refused to fold.
It was such a rewarding win in part because of what a national laughingstock the Cavaliers had become - the national sports media sort of just ran with the dump-on-Cleveland mentality that the rest of the news media regularly employs, and I think both fans and team were getting a bit annoyed with it. I must admit, however, that both didthecavswinlastnight.com (which for weeks sported simply the word "No" in large Comic Sans font and a photo of a certain former player, and the Onion's hilarious "scared straight" post about the Cavs were pretty funny. My favorite part of The Onion's piece was JJ Hickson's outburst:
You want to end up like me?" said forward JJ Hickson, screaming at the teens. "Broken down, hopeless, and barely able to complete a bounce pass without turning it over? Then you just keep living your life they way you have been. Look at this. This is you in 10 years."
"What are you laughing at?" added Hickson, staring directly at a snickering 14-year-old. "You think getting blown out by the fucking Toronto Raptors is funny? That's what I thought once. But this is some serious shit right here. I wish this life on no man."
Comedy aside, though, it was time to win a game, and who better to break the streak against than the perenially hapless Los Angeles Clippers? It makes perfect cosmic sense. Yes, the Cavaliers haven't had the most successful franchise history, but nothing competes with the ineptitude the Clips and their fans (assuming such people exist) have been through over the last 40 years or so. They've got some hope now in the form of super-rookie Blake Griffin (himself the subject of an amusing Onion piece, but what's easily overlooked in the excitement over Griffin's aerial maneuvers and all-around play is that the Clippers still suck. They're 20-32. Make no mistake: I bought this ticket in large part because the opponent looked vulnerable.
As for Griffin, the guy is undoubtedly a star, a fierce rebounder with a surprisingly developed low-post game and remarkable physical talents. However, on this night, Griffin (despite his 32/13 line) was outplayed by Hickson, who played a monster game on both ends. Griffin was played tough all night long by Hickson and the undersized Cavs, shooting only 42% and only reaching the numbers he did because the referees are apparently already giving him absolutely ever superstar call they can. I hope he signed autographs for them, at the very least. Griffin, unfortunately for the Clips, stays down at the offensive end and whines on the rare occasion he doesn't get a call, which led to a few easy Cavaliers baskets at the other end. This is your first year, son - get back and play defense and worry about talking to the zebras later. This facet of Griffin's game did not impress me.
The Cavaliers won by relying heavily on their best players: Antawn Jamison, Hickson, Daniel Gibson, and Mo Williams, in his long-awaited return to the lineup. Mo wasn't particularly accurate (7-18 from the floor), but gave the team an emotional spark and hit the tough fadeaway jumper to tie the game late in regulation. More importantly, Williams also directed a more efficient Cavalier offense, dihing out 14 assists. His backcourt mate Daniel Gibson poured in a clean 17 points on just 8 shots from the field (4-8, including 3-5 from downtown plus 6-6 from the line).
Williams' return also had a hidden benefit - Manny Harris' DNP-CD. I'm telling you, any time you can take a michigan product out of your lineup, good things will start to happen. It also meant more pine time for Francis Favorite Christian Eyenga, but he'll have time to develop as the season rolls on. Byron Scott was wise to ride his veterans down the stretch in this situation.
Hickson played his most inspired game as a Cavalier - the aforementioned defense on Griffin went along with 27 points on efficient 12-19 shooting (3-3 from the foul line), and 14 rebounds. He also had two HUGE blocks, laying Griffin flat on his back with one powerful stuff (one of this game's many great moments - I was out of my seat on that one), and swatting away at the last possible second a floater by Baron Davis that likely would have given the Clips the win at the end of regulation had it continued on its trajectory. Hickson can be a serious player if he brings this sort of intensity night in and night out. I recognize that this has been said in the past on many occasions by many people.
And, of course, Antawn Jamison, the team's most respected veteran, poured in 35 points and led the team emotionally all night long. Jamison also fortunately found his stroke from deep, as his three-pointer late in overtime sealed a game that looked like it was once again slipping away from Cleveland. Just a tough, smart, complete game from Jamison.
The scene at the Q when time finally ran out in overtime and THE DIFF read +7 was really fun and exciting - confetti finally fell from the rafters again, fans cheered unironically, and every single Cavalier threw a giant monkey off of their back. But the discussion about the game will live on, and I'll make my last point on that note.
As great as the crowd was and Cavaliers are, there are still some real losers out there, most notably the guy who sat in Section 212, Row 3, Seat 12, i.e. right behind me. This guy was garbage. Ostensibly a Cavs fan (he told me he was a season-ticket holder), he sat there in his argyle sweater rooting openly for "Blake," mocking the Cavs every time they missed a foul shot (care to guess if he ever acknowledged their 81.3% mark at the stripe on the night), and letting loose the least funny all-game comedy routine you've ever heard. He was painfully unfunny. I tried to impersonate him, but couldn't reach his elite level of anti-comedy. After an entire game of his fair-weather-fan bullshit (and me taking full advantage before and during the game of my living Downtown and not having to drive home), I turned to him at the end and said "You rooted for the Clippers all game, you said the Cavaliers would never lead by more than a point, and they won. In your face!" I meant every word. I distributed a liberal, Barney Stinson-esque number of high fives throughout the game, but I'll be damned if I ever give a turkey like this guy one. He responded that he's a season ticket holder but is dropping them after this year. Go root for the Lakers or something, dummy.
It's easy to be cynical about a team going through a stretch like this. It's easy to kick a team when they're down. It's easy to dismiss this win and sarcastically point to the troubles that preceded it. Snarky Cleveland bloggers will continue to mock the team, and undoubtedly set their sights on fans like me who were heartened by the long-awaited victory. I hate this. It's the worst kind of stupid, lazy writing and fandom - you stick with your team through bad times and good, and as Cleveland fans we should be quite experienced with backing a bad team by now.
But you have to enjoy the little things. If you're so much of a cynic and a frontrunner that you can't smile at the Cavaliers breaking a twenty-six game losing streak, then just stop watching them. In fact, stop watching Cleveland sports altogether. I don't want you on my team. You have to be able to savor a unique moment like this, otherwise you're just going to be the kind of whiny, mopey fan that Cleveland is in danger of being known for.
Don't mistake this for me saying you have to be a Pollyanna about the state of the club. The Cavs are obviously still not very good, and have a lot of work to do before they return to respectability. This win doesn't change the fact that they will get a high lottery pick this offseason, but complaining about their 9-45 mark won't mitigate their current struggles or accelerate their timeframe for competitiveness. It just makes you look like, frankly, a whiny little bitch. You can do better.
This was a great win for the Cavs, and the team and their fans deserve to enjoy it. And now both of us need to look forward to hopefully better times. Go Cavs!
Wednesday, February 9
For reasons unbeknownst even to me, the one person with mostly full access to the inner workings of my brain, I'm planning on watching the Cavs take on the Grizzlies this evening. Yes, the same Cavs who are currently riding a 22-game losing streak. Did I mention I'm going to the bar for this?
However, I understand that this may not be in the cards for a lot of you - at this point, I'm not sure I could even legitimately label someone a fair-weather fan for not making Los Caballeros appointment TV, because this is a fucking sports blizzard ten times worse than the one that just owned the Midwest (yet mostly spared Cleveland; suck it, Forbes). So, for some fun sports diversion that doesn't include watching an opponent blow by a Cavalier defender for an easy lay-in, here are some fun Cavaliers-related quizzes from Sporcle.com.
Editor's note: holy shit, we're up 26-24!
Editor's note the following day: Damnit.
Can you name the teams of the Big Four U.S. Sports?
Not strictly Cavaliers-related, but a good mental exercise and kickoff quiz. The time pressure on this may get to you. I took this one time and got every one except for Columbus Blue Jackets. I'm a fucking idiot.
Can you name the Top ten most tortured Cleveland sports moments (according to ESPN in 2004)?
Anyone who bothers to read FCF should nail this one, a recap of Cleveland sports' most (in)famous moments. I wanted to keep them fresh in your mind - we might not make a playoff appearance for a while, so you won't get to see that goddamn montage that every network shows every fucking time a Cleveland team reaches the postseason.
Can you name the Cavaliers' retired numbers?
Six retired numbers. No championships. Cavaliers basketball.
Can you name the Cleveland Cavs game 1 starters 1990-2009?
Let's just say there was one Cavalier point guard during the #23 era who I missed, and Nick can't be too impressed by that omission.
Can you name the Top 25 Point Scorers in Cleveland Cavs History?
I like the wine-and-gold coloring of this one. I got everyone in the first column at least. Is there some reason why we can't go through the Cavs' record books and award all of #23's points to Austin Carr? Would anyone oppose this?
Can you name the players who played at least one game for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2000s?
I don't recommend subjecting yourself to this quiz, but take a look: did we really use 23 different players in 2007-08? Wow. I got Kaniel Dickens, though.
Can you name the Cleveland Cavaliers Playoff Series?
This is a layup, pardon my pun. I think FCF readers could tell you the result of each series to boot.
Can you name the Cleveland Cavaliers 1st Round Draft Picks?
Any interest in seeing why we're such a lousy franchise? It's right here.
Can you name the Cavaliers all-time leaders?
You can get 22/34 just by entering two names. Gets harder after that.
Can you name the Cavaliers' scoring leader per season?
I only missed four here and got them all from 1982 on - I'll take it. I bet these are harder for franchises with actual history!
Monday, February 7
My main feeling after Super Bowl XLV is one of relief. I'm glad it's going to be a nice, relaxing off-season; no commemorative steelers Sports Illustrated offers, no Steelers championship merchandise in Ohio stores with stupid plays on the number 7, and no hearing from that obnoxious guy at the gym who's always prattling on about Pittsburgh. Nope, just a normal offseason (perhaps an extended one) and smooth transition to basketball, hockey, and baseball.
The postseason portion of our NFL picks ended in a three-way tie for first at 8-3 between Bucko (keeping the momentum from his regular-season championship), Gopo, and me. Our sterling overall record of 36-19 was buoyed by our aggregate 17-3 mark picking the Packers; half of my correct choices were on Green Bay while I went 4-3 in other contests.
Thanks to everyone for playing and reading this season.
Super Bowl XLV
Nick's Money Picks ($): 1-0
Nick's Money Picks ($): 3-4
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 1-4
Labels: NFL Picks 2010
Saturday, February 5
The Buckeyes basketball team looks good, real good. They currently stand at 23-0 - the only unbeaten team in the nation - and ranked #1. They recently struggled to get wins over Northwestern and michigan, but in the case of the game in Evanston, it’s usually not easy to win conference games on the road - especially in the loaded Big Ten. As for that school up north, a win over them is always fun, no matter the sport. (I don’t really care for the NBA and don’t follow the Cavs nearly as much as their fellow Clevelanders, but I cannot stress enough how much I HATE the fact that scum grad Manny Harris is playing a significant role on the team. He has been my most hated baller since Chris Webber was getting paid up north. But I digress.) Before those two games, you had to be impressed with Ohio St’s domination over a top-notch Purdue team. (Boilermakers forward JaJaun Johnson is for sure on my All-American team, along with Duke's Nolan Smith, UConn's Kemba Walker, BYU's Jimmer Fredette, and of course our very own Jared Sullinger.)
Watching this freshman class, I can’t help but be reminded of the ‘07 squad that lost to Florida in the title game. Stop me if this sounds familiar - a dominant big man, a feisty, do-it-all point guard, and an instant-offense sixth man that is money from beyond the arc. The difference between the Greg Oden/Mike Conley/Daquan Cook team and the Jared Sullinger/Aaron Craft/Deshaun Thomas team is the supporting cast. While I loved Jamar Butler, Ivan Harris and Ron Lewis (remember Lewis’ ridiculous three to beat Xavier? My favorite all-time tournament game.), the current team has a ton of experience, lights out three point shooting, and Dallas Lauderdale.
Speaking of Swat-erdale, he needs to get more minutes. I cannot tell you how frustrated I was watching that michigan game where Dallas got 0 (zero!) minutes in the second half. Jared Sullinger is a stud, and he will be worthy of his top 5 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, but he is not yet ready defensively to go one-on-one with quality big men. michigan freshman Jordan Morgan ate Sully alive in the second half of that game, yet the Swat Team was nowhere to be found. Get the big fella on the court!
If there is one thing to be concerned about with this Buckeyes team, it is foul shooting. Wisconsin tops the conference, shooting 82% as a team from the line. OSU has one player that reaches that mark (barely), and that’s Deshaun Thomas, who comes off the bench and shoots 84%. Jon Diebler and Will Buford shoot around 80%, but the rest of the team is embarrassing. For as a solid, all-around player that Craft is, it’s surprising that he only shoots 70% from the stripe, and the captain and leader of the squad, David Lighty, shoots a paltry 64%. Oh yeah, and my boy Dallas is rockin 28%. No, that’s not a typo, .286 is what he shoots from the line. I will be very nervous in close games come March if they don't improve.
Let’s look on the bright side though. Diebler, Buford, Craft and Lighty all hit over 40% of their 3’s, including a stupid good 48% from Diebs (he will top the Big Ten’s all-time career list by season’s end). Things will get tougher for the Bucks as the regular season comes to a close, as they still have to go to Minnesota, Purdue, and Penn St, have Illinois and Michigan St in Value City, and play Wisconsin twice. I think it will be good for them to lose a game or two before tourney time, just so these freshman know what it’s like and don’t get lackadaisical (and so everyone doesn't pick them in their brackets, because I would like to be the only one). It sure is fun to watch them win though.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is using the high profile of Super Bowl week to keep promoting the idea of expanding the NFL season to 18 games. This time, he's basing his argument on the will of the people:
We started this with the fans. The fans have clearly stated that they don’t like the preseason. We have a 20-game format, 16 regular season games and four preseason games, and the fans have repeatedly said the preseason games don’t meet NFL standards. And that is the basis on which we started this 18-game concept, taking two low-quality preseason games and turning them into two high-quality regular season games.
No, no, no. Nice try, Roger. Here's who favors an 18-game season: team owners. That's about it. Players hate it, and fans are, according to an msnbc.com story, "lukewarm at best." The 18-game season is a way to increase revenues for owners, nothing more.
Frankly, I'm a bit annoyed by Goodell hiding behind the fans like this. He's being completely disingenuous - he knows as well as anyone that fans don't really like the 18-game season - and constructing illogical arguments like the one above. Watch what he does:
We started this with the fans. The fans have clearly stated that they don’t like the preseason.
This is true. No one like the preseason, except maybe the owners who force season-ticket holders to pay regular-season prices for these boring games. The best solution to this particular issue is to charge lower prices for lower-quality games, but somehow I don't see that happening.
We have a 20-game format, 16 regular season games and four preseason games, and the fans have repeatedly said the preseason games don’t meet NFL standards.
Again, we all agree that they don't.
And that is the basis on which we started this 18-game concept,
And now you've cheated. There are any number of ways to solve the problem of charging fans full price for these crappy games - lower the preseason ticket prices, eliminate two of the games altogether, etc. The basis on which you started this 18-game concept was to try to make more money for the owners with no regard for fans or players.
taking two low-quality preseason games and turning them into two high-quality regular season games.
Diluting the regular season, messing up all the record books, and increasing the already-high injury count. Stop pretending that this is the only avenue to escape football's lousy preseason.
Friday, February 4
Packers! Ste$*%#@! Super Bowl 45!
I love the Super Bowl so much that not even the presence of my all-time least favorite organization can bring me down. It's time to party! I'll issue an abbreviated version of my typical commentary on the scale and epicness of the Super Bowl, which is as follows:
If you say that the Super Bowl is "overhyped" or "overblown" or anything like that, then you are a straight-up idiot. It's the single most important sporting event in the nation - would you rather we just sip Diet Coke and watch a condensed version of the game on the Versus network? Anyone who complains about the size and scale of the SB is just looking for something to whine about and has not in any way thought through their point.
OK, onto the Packers versus whoever. I had the only misfire from the Conference Championships, as everyone else went 2-0 and picked up a game on me because I picked the Jets. I did, as I explained, pick the ste*&$%# in my straight-up pool, and thus remain in 1st place there. More on that later.
Nick's Money Picks ($): 1-0
Playoffs so far
Nick's Money Picks ($): 2-4
Figgs' Money Picks ($): 1-4
Super Bowl XLV
PACKERS (-2.5) vs Ste$%^&*
Andy: The Green Bay Packers! I have a number of disorganized thoughts, and I demand you read through all of them before seeing what any of the other FCF'ers wrote. First off, I couldn't be happier for Bucko - after almost nine long, arduous months of being a long-suffering Packers fan, enduring those five or whatever games they lost this season, he'll finally realize that elusive dream he's had for literally hundreds of days: to see his team at long last reach the Super Bowl. I feel like as a Cleveland fan I can sort of understand what he's gone through on his way to the promised land, what with my never having seen a Cleveland team win a title and watching the Browns win 0 playoff games in the past 15 seasons, but that seems like small potatoes compared to Bucko's journey to this point.
Second, I couldn't be happier for Gopo - after seeing his favorite NHL team win the Stanley Cup two years ago, watching his favorite NBA team win six titles in the '90's and currently sitting among the league's elite, having his city's MLB team win the latest World Series, and enjoying his favorite NFL team claiming two of the past five Super Bowls, he'll at long last get the chance to see a team of his...maybe win yet another one. It's about time he got to experience that championship feeling...again, after that traumatic drought of nearly two years. That has to have been tough but Gopo always puts on a brave face. Hey, can you start rooting for the Indians so they'll be guaranteed to win the World Series numerous times? You're a good luck charm!
As for the Packers pick - I'm hedged yet again by having taken Pittsburgh straight-up in my other pool. I honestly do think they'll win - the breaks always seem to go their way and they'll pull out some bullshit to win, I just know it. I won't have them cost me both my sanity and my money - it's gotta be one or the other. Of course they'll still probably fuck me over with a meaningless late TD or something so I lose on the total points tiebreaker (I went with 38 because the most common NFL score is 21-17 and I think the o/u of 44.5 is set a bit high for the #1 and #2 scoring defenses in the NFL), but I gave it my best shot. As for taking the Pack here - well, Gopo leads me by a game in our Postseason Prognosticating, and this is my only chance to grab a share of the lead. Believe me when I say I would be more than happy to lose my shot at the prize money in the other pool to have Pittsburgh lose, so I say without reservation: Go Pack!
Figgs: I immediately was going to pick against shitsburgh, no matter what. Then I saw the line at GB -2.5, and thought the smart money was for sure on that team down south. Then I thought about it for a minute. I may be a drunk, a sexist, a womanizer, and a degenerate gambler, but I have a little thing called pride. PACKERS!
Nick: I will not sacrifice the Super Bowl. We've made too many compromises already; too many retreats. They invade our space, and we fall back. They assimilate entire Ohio counties, and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn HERE! This far, no farther! And I will make them pay for what they've done! Packers.
Bucko: Packers, a pick literally phoned in to Andy. He actually txted "Put me down for the Packers and Rodgers MVP."
Gopo: Steelers. Can't pick against the team at this point, but I'm confident of a strong Steelers game either way. That doesn't mean they'll win, but I think this team will be prepared to play and will play hard the entire time. I can't see this being a blowout by either team as Andy pointed out the defenses have been strong all season in keeping their teams in the game. Both teams have also shown an inability to put teams away when they're up - that leads me to believe this game will come down the last half of the fourth quarter. I also think that the under is the way to go if you're into wagering on such things - Super Bowls generally start out with a slow first quarter, so you're basically betting on the teams scoring 40 points in three quarters. The injuries to the Steelers o-line might decide the game, but that group has rallied all year. I won't be surprised to see them pull it together one more time, but I also wont be surprised for them to finally fold. It's been a good run, and I didn't think this team would get here; I'm hoping for a well played game that Pittsburgh finds a way to pull out. If the D or O can make a key play in the fourth, that might be enough to steal this one. Either way, should be a fantastic game. Go Steelers!
Aaron Rodgers for MVP (7/5)
Labels: NFL Picks 2010