Tuesday, November 27

Mega-sports blowout all-rivalry super-weekend

Among the many, many things I had to give thanks for during this Thanksgiving holiday season was just a humongous dose of sports. My goodness did I watch a lot of sports over the past four days, and I loved it. I'll try my best to recap the whirlwind action, highlighted of course by another magnificent Ohio State Buckeye victory over the dastardly michigan wolverines and a rare, satisfying win over the demonic Pittsburgh steelers. This was one to remember.

First on the list: a plate of NFL action piled high on Thanksgiving day. Without cable, I haven't followed the NFL as closely as in years past, and it was nice to have the opportunity to catch all three games (and spend time with friends and family, of course). I was psyched enough at the concept that I even made a mediocre return to our weekly NFL picks article.

First up was Detroit's amazing botching of a golden opportunity to claim their first T-Day win in nine years, eventually losing 34-31 in OT to the Houston Texans. As someone who wanted nothing but ill fortune to descend on the entire state where the game was being held, I was pleased by this result, taking it as a positive sign of things to come.

Next was the Redskins taking the Cowboys in Big D, and as I suspected, Bob Griffin ran wild on the hapless Cowboys in a 38-31 win. Better luck next time, America's team. In another positive development, my hangover from Blackout Wednesday was fully erased by the tie this one kicked off.

The night game was great for Patriots fans, not so great for Jets fans or anyone else who likes even vaguely competitive football. I mean, with 10 minutes left in the first half, the Patriots were on offense at their own 20, holding a 7-0 lead. In less than seven minutes, the Patriots were up 35-0 (no, really), and TV sets across the nation were retuned. I think maybe I tried to be a bit too fancy with my Jets pick, huh?

After a tedious eight hours of driving, much of which was self-imposed by me forgetting some stuff at my Dad's, I managed to traverse some windy highways and get back in time for the Lake Erie Monsters game at the Q.

The once-again-so-so Monsters were taking on the mighty (?) Rockford Icehogs, and managed to fall behind 2-0 in the second period. With the help of two power play goals, the Monsters knotted it up in the third, though a Rockford goal on a superb individual effort put the visitors back up by a tally. Lake Erie's last best chance was an extended 5-on-3 power play where, I believe, they didn't get a shot on goal despite having the puck in Rockford's end the entire time. Way, way too many blocked shots. Rockford added an empty-netter for the final 4-2 margin. Oh well.

I wondered if perhaps the quality of AHL play would be improved with the NHL lockout ongoing, an I believe that it was. It's typically a good on-ice product, but you can tell it's a clear step below, as passes aren't as crisp, skating not as fluid, shooting not as sharp. I wondered if perhaps the presence of a lot of upper-level AHL'ers who might otherwise be filling out NHL rosters would improve the level of competition, and I think that it did. That having been said, wow is the NHL ever inept at actually getting teams to play. Two lockouts in a decade? Lame.

The main event was, as always, The Game, Ohio State vs michigan, being played this year for the 108th time. Prior to that was, as is my tradition, the Pigskin Classic 5k and Tailgate Party. I posted a 21:39, breaking a 7-minute pace for the first time in a while (despite blustery conditions), and good enough for a 38th-place finish out of 328 runners and 8th of 54 in my age bracket. Not bad for a guy with shaky knees who missed six months of training this year.

During the race, I noticed a girl sporting ugly um blue and yellow garb who was running off to the side, the wrong way, away from the course. I thought, of course: typical michigan fan, can't even figure out the course. Amazingly, she turned out to be a friend of a friend, we talked at the tailgate, and that was exactly what happened. I love when things work out like that. She actually watched the game with my crew and turned out to be a nice enough person, other than the whole um thing.

I'll let Figgs have at the Buckeyes' 26-21 win over the weasels, though I did make some post-game remarks in a post-game article, but in this space I'll just say: what a performance by the defense. In a game where an astounding number of questionable calls went against OSU and the offense struggled to convert its opportunities, the once-maligned defensive unit shut out the michigan offense for the entire second half. Solid.

I also was able to put the bow on a season-long tradition; txting Figgs after each game that "We're [# wins]-0, and we're not michigan fans." Saturday's was the sweetest.

Oh, and we have Braxton Miller for two more years. Maybe you'll have a shot in the 2015 game, michigan fans!

More good news from the Saturday gridiron! This wasn't technically a rivalry game, since my high school New Philadelphia was eliminated from the postseason weeks ago, but I'm not too old to enjoy watching a rival lose a postseason game even if my alma mater isn't involved.

Thus, I was pleased to learn that dover was dispatched by a humbling score of 48-13 by Saint-Vincent-Saint Mary high school. Wait, haven't I heard of that school from somewhere? Don't they have a famous alumnus that sports fans are familiar? Oh yeah...

After I woke up from a post-tailgate nap, I saw that the Cavs were hanging in there against the hated Miami Heat and former Cavalier #6. Could they do the improbable and waltz into South Beach on the second night of a back-to-back and topple the defending champions?


But damned if they weren't close, leading by seven points with less than two minutes to play. Then, I think, the Sporting Gods remembered hey, we like to fuck with Northeast Ohio more than anything, and a late Ray Allen three-pointer sent Los Caballeros to a 110-108 defeat. I tried (and mostly succeeded) in not letting this put a damper on what was otherwise a day to remember.

With the Buckeye game in our back pocket, FCF turned their attention to the pro game, where the Browns were taking on the hated pittsburgh steelers. It was hard to turn it around less than 24 hours after the OSU win, but that's why we're Browns fans.

The narrative all week leading up to the game focused on the steelers' injuries, especially to QB Ben Roethlisberger and his backup Byron Leftwich, forcing Charlie Batch into the starting role. This generated two storylines: 1) a rare golden opportunity for the Browns to snatch a win from the rivals that have dominated them over the years, and 2) that Batch is a veteran who won't be expected to do too much but is smart and won't lose the game for the steelers. Only #1 turned out to be correct, as Batch's three interceptions complemented five steeler fumbles as Pittsburgh handed Cleveland a 20-14 win, the first for the Browns since the Ice Bowl in 2009.

I'm sure "steeler nation" is already concocting excuse after excuse for the loss - Big Ben was out, the turnovers cost us, Richardson's carry late in the game should have been a fumble. To all of those I say: whatever. 20-14.

I'm not going to worry about any of that - the Browns not capitalizing on many of their chances, the injury situation, none of it. I'm just enjoying this win. The Browns are 3-8, but hey, they beat the steelers, and today, that's good enough.

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