Tuesday, June 28

Actually, it's pronounced "mill-e-wah-QUE," which is Algonquin for "The Good Land."

As Alice Cooper memorably reminded us in Wayne's World, Milwaukee has had its share of visitors, and this past weekend, it added Kim and I to the list. I had only two requests for the trip:

1) We go to a Brewers game
2) We see the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion

Due to an unfortunate delay in travel, Kim was unable to join me on Friday evening, so I decided to head on out to Miller Park to catch the Brewers game. At right is a photo of Miller Park taken from the city bus, with a lovely blue tint characteristic of all the photos I took last weekend up until I realized that I had the DROID set on incandescent lighting mode. Good times.

What you'll notice in the area surrounding Miller Park is: nothing. And not the figurative nothing of, "there's nothing to do around here," or the nothing of the area in Detroit around Comerica Park looking like nothing simply because all of the establishments were buried under piles of rubble. No, there are literally no establishments around Miller Park, located as it is several miles outside of downtown. The 90 bus is a convenient way to get there, but the pre-gaming once there is lame.

Unless you drove, of course, in which case you can take part in Milwaukee's impressive tailgating scene. I'd heard rumors that Brewers fans tailgated before baseball games, a practice not common to baseball fans, and it's very true and entertaining - they're got their own little Muni Lot set up in the parking spaces around the stadium, which is cool. I think the scene arose from a combination of Milwaukeeans' well-documented taste for beer and the aforementioned nothing surrounding the field. I guess I should have photographed it, but you likely know what a tailgate looks like. Being early for the game, I walked all the way around the park to get the lay of the land and bumped into a few of the participants in the Brewers' Sausage Race. I wish I had taken a photo of my favorite, Chorizo. I need to hire a photographer or something.

Eventually I found my way into the park with a surprisingly expensive $20 nosebleed seat. Miller Park has a retractable roof, and even though the dome was open both nights I went, it felt a lot more like an indoor venue than an outdoor one. It was big and dome-y, and the lack of a compelling view (with apologies to I-94 and those warehouses and trees) doesn't help.

The interior of the park was really cool - heavy on the sausage and Leinenkugel, as one might imagine, just a well-appointed place with cool bars and stands throughout. I grabbed myself a 24-oz PBR and a vegetarian dog and took my seat. The Brewer fans were great too - I saw an impressive amount of Brewer gear as I walked around town even before the contest, and they were geared up inside the park. They all seem to love the classic glove logo (shown at left), and rightfully so. In case you've never seen it before, it's remarkably clever - the fingers of the glove make an "m" and the thumb and ball form a "b" - "mb," for Milwaukee Brewers. The Sconnies seem totally indifferent to the fact that this hasn't been their main logo for over 15 years, and frankly, even I wanted to buy some of their stuff too. Good choice, Brewer people.

it didn't hurt that they were playing the Twinkies either - hordes of Minnesota fans invaded the park, contributing to both nights I went being sellouts. As an Indians fan, I had no problem supporting the home team against a division rival. I didn't see any other Chief Wahoos (I was sporting my cap, of course), but did talk with a few Friends of the Feather. I liked hearing Bob Uecker call the game when I walked through the catacombs of Miller Park, as well - shades of Major League. I was seated (alone, mind you) next to three Milwaukeeites, chicks with an amazing lack of baseball knowledge (two did not, apparently, know what a strike was) but who very much found Rickie Weeks to be an attractive fellow. Behind me were two Twins fans, a dopey guy and his domineering woman. In front was a group of obnoxious fratboy Twins fans and this Ed Hardy dummy who wouldn't sit down. Finally, near the end of the contest, some fun people sat next to me. I had this exchange with the girl:

Her: Are you a Brewers fan or Twins fan?
Me: [Points to Indians hat]
Her: Are you a Brewers fan or Twins fan?
Me: Neither - I'm an Indians fan.

Things got better after that in both the conversation and the game, as Prince Fielder rallied the Brew Crew to a 4-3 win and everyone went home happy. I went to a bar to watch the Indians, and immediately afterwards regretted having done so. Can we just pretend that Giants series didn't happen?

After trips to Veteran's Park and the Pabst Mansion, and an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to eat the world's largest pretzel, we headed to the park once again. Hey, I already had these tickets. I'm not a fortune teller. Immediately upon entering the park, I saw that the Indians had suffered a 1-0 loss. Ugh. Only later did I discover that the "1" was courtesy of a balk.

The second game was a laugher in favor of the Brewers, who clubbed a few home runs and generally ran all over the hapless Minnesoteans. Kim and I left a bit early to check out some nightlife, while steering clear of the rowdy post-Mötley Crüe cröwd sure to be teeming around the Bradley Center.

Miller Park was a cool experience - loved the locals and the park, even if it was a bit cavernous and remotely located. A nice, modern park, not quite up to the standards of AT&T Park or Camden Yards. Thanks for the hospitality, Cream City.

Sunday, June 26

Bernie and Me

Friday, June 24

The title drought

My posts from a week ago mocking the Miami Heat's downfall might have my three readers thinking that I'm more of a negative fan than I really am. In fact, I consider myself a very positive fan - as much as I enjoyed the outcome of the 2011 NBA Finals, I'd trade it in a second for even an AL Central title for the Indians. Sure, I root fervently against my archrivals when they advance in the playoffs, and relish their defeats, but I really don't want to see them there in the first place. I want the Cleveland teams there.

As you may or may not have heard, however, the Cleveland teams haven't experienced a whole lot of championship success in recent years. I know, it's surprising, especially since national TV never mentions it every time Cleveland makes the postseason. Nevertheless, it's true - we haven't been on top since the Browns' NFL title in '64. The Indians have baseball's second-longest winless streak, having not won since '48. And the Cavs have yet to take home the NBA's top honors. These are the facts.

But what should we have seen by now? What's a reasonable expectation for the number of championships a fan of my seasoning and experience in a three-sport town should have seen by now? We can safely say it's more than zero without even running the numbers, but hey, I like running the numbers. Let's answer two questions: how many championships should I have enjoyed by now, and what are the odds of the current championship-less scenario having developed?

We'll make one key assumption at the outset: every team, every year, has an equal probability of winning it all. I realize that this is not true, for several reasons, but it's an appropriate basis for this sort of calculation. We will also assume that I started watching sports in the summer of '86, because this is indeed what happened. We will also omit the Buckeyes (not pro) and Penguins (not Cleveland) from my analysis.

First, let's look at the number of seasons. I've been through 25 Indians campaigns (1986-2010), 25 Cavaliers seasons (ending 1987-2011), and 22 Browns seasons (1986-1995, 1999-2010). If we wanted to do a quick and dirty analysis, we say that's 72 aggregate seasons, estimate 30 teams per league each year, and say that Clevelanders should have had two or three victory parades during this span. I suspect this won't be far off from the actual answer.

Calculating the expected value of total wins is actually as simple as summing the expected value of a championship for each team-season (i.e. 1/30 for the 2011 Indians) - the only real legwork is figuring out exactly how many teams populated a given league in a given year. Stupidly, I actually did this, and it came out to 2.50. I could have left it at "two or three" and saved us all some time.

Calculating the odds of never having won a title is done a little differently. The approach I take is to determine the product of the odds of not winning a championship for each season. What we're saying is that, every season, our favorite club's expectation of not taking home the title is, let's approximate again, 29/30. The odds of them doing so in n consecutive years, treating each season as an independent event, is (29/30)n. Using our league estimate of 30 teams per league per season, a quick approximation of us having lost for every one of the 72 seasons that I've been a fan is (29/30)72. This works out to 8.7% (8.3% using actual numbers of teams, again proving the utility of my estimate).

Didn't you think that would be a bit lower? Doesn't it seem a bit more improbable than a 1/12 shot that we would never have taken home a title? Think about how many Boston, Chicago, and New York have - granted, they have four or more teams, but still. This surprised me. Meanwhile, readers in Buffalo, San Diego, and Kansas City are trying to figure out what I'm confused about.

What does this mean for the next decade of Cleveland sports? Well, if you tack on the rest of the '10's to my original calculation, bringing us up to 100 total seasons or so, the odds of not claiming a title during the entire span are around 3.3%, or just a 1/30 shot. That sounds better to me. But wait! Unfortunately, the previous 72 are already in the books - if we were predicting the next 35 years, this would be accurate, but a lot of the heavy lifting has already been done. Just isolating the next decade of activity, we're looking at a 36% chance, a bit greater than 1/3, of extending the drought even further.

And for the record, the odds of the current streak having happened are slightly less than half a percent.

Tuesday, June 21

Downtown Report

My work odyssey in West Virginia has mostly wrapped up after four months, so I can once again slap the seal of the great City of Cleveland on one of my Downtown Reports. Having already enjoyed the lovely Lake Erie June weather and gone for a run today (two runs, in fact), I'm comfortably ensconced in my Downtown stronghold with a big glass of water (soon to be a PBR), a double fake chicken sandwich, and the Wahoos battling the Rox on my standard-definition television. Things are good.

It is somewhat difficult for me to describe how completely uninteresting I find any and all news regarding the ongoing, tedious NFL "labor" negotations. (I use the sarcastic quotes because it's not like this is a fucking pipefitters union - it's a bunch of millionaires vs a bunch of billionaires). It's like my disinterest in the Draft multiplied by...my disinterest in the Draft. Then squared. Hearing names like "Jeff Pash" and "DeMaurice Smith" just shut off my brain. I think by now it's fairly well-established that the entire dispute is manufactured by the owners and is pretty much a straight-up money grab by a group of guys who have more money than you or I will ever see. Exciting stuff.

But the news and reports, man do I need some way to filter that out of the sports consciousness, because man does it not ever matter. I don't care if they've made "progress" or are negotiating with the league instead of the owners, or if they've decertified, or if Roger Goodell had dinner with Tom Brady, or whatever the fuck is happening. I just don't care. Tell me if and when it's over so I can calibrate my interest in the 2011 season - nothing else in this saga is of concern. I still run around Browns Stadium frequently, and haven't even bothered to look at their schedule. I like the game, but I'll be fine without an NFL season, and I refuse to waste any time worrying about these nonsense "negotiations."

I've explained in the past that I find the NBA Draft more compelling than the NFL Draft because of the immediate impact a top pick can have on a franchise. This certainly doesn't mean I think drafting well is more of a success factor in the NBA than the NFL, just that I think it's a better spectator event. Even at that, I don't typically make it a point to tune in the NBA Draft, but with the Cavs holding the #1 and #4 overall slots, I think I'll check out the first hour.

I've enjoyed the rumors that the Cavs are waffling on the first pick, that just maybe they're not certain about taking Kyrie Irving #1. Yeah, sure they're not. Teams love to send these mixed messages to increase their leverage in potential trades - why would the Cavs bother to come out and say that they're going to take Irving? Make Minnesota sweat a little bit, maybe panic and overvalue their #2 pick. Can't hurt, though if I'm running Minnesota, I'm not buying it.

As for my Thursday, well, I kind of want to go play trivia that night, but the sign in Pacer's downstairs says they're having a Draft Party there. Are there any special guests, you ask? Oh, there's one - a certain Austin "Mr Cavalier" Carr. Throwin' the hammer down right here in my joint.

I had Nick and Figgs up for the Saturday game of the recent three-game sweep of the Pirates, which was a really solid night at the ballpark. The Pirate fans weren't nearly as obnoxious as they might have been expected to be - not many steeler jerseys, and generally not annoying me a whole lot. Granted, this may have had something to do with them losing, but still. I did have a brief exchange with a Pirate fan in the Your Dad's Beer line - one of the Yinzers excitedly spotted Iron City Beer ("Arn") and tried to point it out to a friend who struggled to locate it. I picked up the display can to help out and the first guy said, "hey look, we got Vanna White here." Hilarious. I pointed out that Pirates fans aren't typically very good at reading and was just trying to help out, and then the conversation ended.

For all the consternation over the recent struggles by the Tribe, we're still sitting in first place in the AL Central, 39-31 as I type this and one game up on the Detroit Tigers. The Indians aren't as bad as their recent slide made them look, nor were they as good as their blazing start, but the question now is what is their actual midpoint. Baseball Prospectus takes a dim view - our Postseason Odds there are just 17%, considerably lower than even the third-place Black Socks. The parts are still there for the Indians to continue to contend, I don't doubt that, but they will really need enhanced contributions from a number of their players to do so. Let's look at the club's numbers a bit.

Despite some reports to the contrary, the Indians aren't really appreciably stronger offensively or defensively than on the other side of the bal. The Tribe is currently 7th in the AL in runs scored/game at 4.38 (league average 4.29) and 8th in the AL in runs allowed at 4.25 (league average 4.25 - shouldn't the two averages be the same?). We have a team OPS+ of 102 and ERA+ of 97. Balanced mediocrity.

The Indians' run total may be a bit skewed by a few outbursts (like 19 vs KC in one game), but so is the pitching. I'd suggest that the Indians' success is pretty much equal parts batting and pitching (and defense, back when we used to be good at that).

The losing period was equal measures poor pitching and batting, as our starters were boasting a staff ERA over six for a few weeks and the offense was putting up less than three a game, including a span of ten games in which the lineup absorbed five shutouts. Even the bullpen gave up a run once! Probably. Maybe they didn't. But still.

Fausto Carmona is straight-up bad. He had the worst ERA among all AL starters coming into tonight's game at 5.79 (ERA+ 65), and just allowed seven tallies to the Rockies in 4 2/3 innings in an extremely frustrating performance. This guy is simply killing us once every five days. Look at his recent earned runs allowed per start: 4, 6, 4, 7, 4, 8, 4, averaging all of 5 2/3 a start. Let's move on.

Mitch Talbot hasn't been much better, at 5.02 (76). Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco have settled to near league-average at 3.93 (96) and 3.87 (98) respectively, though Carrasco has been a buzzsaw in his last three outings, giving up just one earned run TOTAL in the three starts. Justin Masterson (3.18, 119) remains the staff ace, his unimpressive 5-5 W-L record simply a product of the Tribe hitters plating six runs (total, not average) in his nine starts prior to Sunday. The bottom line is that the Indians cannot win this division with 40% of their rotation pitching as ineffectively as Carmona and Talbot are. We'll see if Jeanmar Gomez and Zach McAllister are called upon to improve matters.

The Tribe's Bullpen Mafia is ill:

Chris Perez 2.39 (160), 17/18 saves
Rafael Perez 1.27 (300)
Tony Sipp 2.03 (188)
Vinnie "Vinnie" Pestano 1.38 (276)
Joe Smith 1.13 (240)

And because I care about all of you readers, not just as readers but as people, I have not included Chad Durbin's work.

Batting-wise, it's still the same story: Asdrubal Cabrera (OPS+ 136) is playing at an All-Star level offensively and defensively, and Michael Brantley has played a smooth outfield and on-based at a .345 clip. Having Travis Hafner back in the lineup is clearly a key to the Tribe's success as well, as Pronk's power (OPS+ 169) and selectivity (OBP .412) set the tone for the Indian attack.

Carlos Santana has been coming around with the bat as well (115) - he's been walking at a prodigious rate all year, on-basing .354 despite a lowly .228 batting average. He has over seven times as many walks as Orlando Cabrera, in case you were wondering. His power appears to be coming back around as well, with tape-measure home runs in each of the past two contests.

Shin-Soo Choo, well, it's been written too many times already that this fellow simply needs to play better for the Tribe offense to reach its potential. But it's still true. He's not Fausto, but an OPS+ of 96 simply isn't good enough for a dude that's posted 151, 136, and 146 over the past three campaigns. Also, you're not going to believe this, but Choo is stepping to the plate with the bases loaded as I finish this paragraph. Let's pause...two-run single, nice!

Elsewhere along the Indians' nine, Hannahan can't hit (OPS+ 90) but plays great defense, Orlando Cabrera simply needs to be removed from the lineup permanently (OBP .270, porous defensively), Grady Sizemore looks lost at the plate, Matt LaPorta is on the DL, Cord Phelps has too few PA's to truly evaluate (though I enjoyed him wielding the broom that swept Pittsburgh out of town), and you pretty much know what Lou Marson and Travis Buck can do at this point.

We can contend in the AL Central. We probably don't have the talent of the Tigers or maybe the White Sox, but we have some guys who I think can step up and get us to 85 wins or so, which just might do it, especially if we can hold our own against our intradivision rivals. All that's left to say is:

Go Tribe!

Saturday, June 18

Tribe Trivia Answers

Round 7: Final
1) What rank does Wahoo hold?

2) What was the most recent Indians minor-league affiliate to win a league championship?
Columbus Clippers, 2011

3) What number does Jack Hannahan wear?

4) Who owns the Indians in Major League?
Rachel Phelps

5) Where is the Spring Training home of the Indians?
Goodyear, AZ

6) How many home runs did Duane Kuiper hit in his 3754 career plate appearances?

7) Who is the Indians' third-base coach?
Steve Smith

8) Progressive Field's address is at 2401 _________? (State, City, and zip not necessary)
Ontario St

9) Amuse me with something Indians-related.
Various answers acceptable. I'll go with that time a bunch of birds were on the field and the game-winning hit kicked off of one before Coco Crisp of the Royals could field it.

10) Name the seven years the Indians have claimed AL Central championships.
1995-2000, 01, 07

Round 6: Potent Potables

1) How big is the biggest unit of beer one can buy at Progressive Field this year?
24 oz

2) What product's advertisement on the LF scoreboard did Mark McGwire memorably tag with a 1997 home run estimated at 523 feet?

3) Whose "Honey Brown" is available at Progressive Field this year?
JW Dundee

4) What local (Ohio) brewer (other than Great Lakes)'s wares are available at the ballpark?
Brew Kettle

5) What beer did Major League star Bob Uecker shill for back in the '80's?
Miller Lite

Round 4: From the Archives

1) What Indians player recorded an unassisted triple play in the club's first World Series? (Bonus for correct spelling).
Bill Wambsganss

2) Who preceded Mike Hargrove as Tribe manager?
John McNamara

3) What former Indian broke the color barrier in the American League?
Larry Doby

4) What two years were the Indians World Series Champions? (1 point for each)
1920, 1948

5) Who was the last primarily knuckleball starter to pitch for Cleveland?
Tom Candiotti

6) Who was the last Indian to be named league MVP?
Al Rosen

7) For how long did the Indians' longest pennant drought last?
41 years (1954-1995)

8) Where did the Wahoos call home before Municipal Stadium?
League Park

9) What was the Akron Aeros franchise called from 1989-1996?
Canton-Akron Indians

10) Name as many of the Indians' six AL batting champions as you can (six names only).
Bobby Avila, Lou Boudreau, Lew Fonseca, Lou Marson (kidding), Lou Brown (still kidding!), Tris Speaker, Nap Lajoie, Elmer Flick

Round 3: 2012

1) What Tribe reliever struck out a batter in each of his first 21 appearances this season?
Vinnie Pestano

2) Among the 14 AL teams, where do the Indians rank in attendance?

3) What is the former Fausto Carmona's real name?
Roberto Hernandez

4 )Which Indians regular currently sports the highest OBP (fyi Travis Hafner does not have enough plate appearances)?
Asdrubal Cabrera

5) Who leads the club in both HR and RBI?
Jason Kipnis

6) Which Indians starter leads the club in ERA (Hint: it's not Ubaldo Jimenez)?
Justin Masterson

7) Two Indian position players put up OPS+ values of 4 in limited duty this year. Name them (1 point each)
Jason Donald, Matt LaPorta

8) What is the Indians' record?

9) Which two players have walk-off hits for the Indians in 2012? (1 point each)
Cabrera, Carlos Santana

10) Do the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox suck?
Anything affirmative counts

Round 2: Photos

1) Jason Kipnis
2) Cory Snyder
3) Dennis Eckersley
4) Alex Cole
5) Justin Masterson
6) Albert Belle (and Fernando Vina)
7) Rocky Colavito
8) Jody Gerut
9) Omar Vizquel
10) Cliff Lee

Round 1: General

1) Who hit the home run off of Jose Canseco's head in 1993? (Bonus: what word does Canseco end many of his tweets with)?
Carlos Martinez, and "hugs"

2) For what university does Tom Hamilton's son, Nick, play baseball?
Kent State

3) What color did the Indians phase out of their uniforms in the 2000's?

4) Who is the Tribe fan who has been pummeling his bass drum at games since 1973?
John Adams

5) Who won the 1995 AL MVP in a criminally unfair vote over Albert Belle?
Mo Vaughn

6) Which of the 8 primary compass directions does a ball struck to CF in Progressive Field travel?
North (look it up!)

7) Who holds the Tribe's single-season mark for home runs, with 52?
Jim Thome

8) What is the name of the Indians' Class-A affiliate in Carolina?
Carolina Mudcats

9) What is the Indians-Reds season series nicknamed?
The Ohio Cup

10) Who is the Indians' General Manager?
Chris Antonetti

Tuesday, June 14


By now, you've probably seen the gaffe made by the Miami Herald in running the wrong Macy's ad the day after the Heat's defeat in the 2011 playoffs. Yep, they actually ran a full-page ad promoting Heat championship gear.

Am I the only one who wants a "Raise Another Banner" Heat shirt?

Monday, June 13

Not 2. Not 3. Not 4. Not 5. Not 6. Not 7.

I honestly don't think I've ever experienced this much schadenfreude in my entire sporting life, and yes, I'm saying this just four short months after experiencing the joy and relief of watching the steelers lose in the Super Bowl. Yes, sports fans, the Miami Heat's 2011 season is over, they are not the NBA Champions, and the whole thing feels very good to this Cavaliers fan. Hey, anyone want to watch the Heat's preseason championship dance party again? It's way more funny now that Dirk and His Merry Mavericks have dispatched the Three Egos.

That was fun!

There's no doubt that a lot of my enthusiasm for the result of this year's NBA Finals was simply enjoyment at watching the Heat's sinister ploy fall short - how else to explain Cleveland ranking as the #3 market for this year's Finals. But on the other hand, big congratulations to the Dallas Mavericks. As someone who's never seen one of his Cleveland teams win it all, I loathe dynasties and I love seeing players and fans celebrate their first championships. Mark Cuban, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Rick Carlisle - those are all reasonably likeable individuals who finally got a taste at glory, and it's fun to see their hard work rewarded. Especially Dirk - it's hard to think of a superstar who's gotten more unfair criticism over the years, with the possible exception in recent years of, yes, #6 who plays for his Finals opponent. Watching Dirk try to stay in the moment as the Mavericks iced the title was amazing - can you imagine working that hard for 20 years of your life and having your ultimate goal realized fully? Remarkable. Every time I watch another fan's team hoist the sport's most coveted hardware, year after year, there's a twinge of disappointment as I realize that once again it's not my club, but this time I just genuinely felt happy for the Mavs. Would anyone have felt happy had the Heat gone on to win?

In addition to the good feelings inspired by the Mavericks' victory, there is, naturally, the delight that I have no compunction in taking in watching the Miami Heat lose. (Before I forget, check out the Twitter hashtag #heatlockerroomplaylist Good times. My choice is, simply, Beck's "Loser.") I just haven't ever hated a team quite like I hate the Miami Heat - Wade's endless flying to the hoop for bailout calls, LeBron's flopping, Bosh's posing, the whole team's constant bitching about calls, their irksome defiance and lack of self-awareness, the Decision, the Welcome Party - it's simply the least likeable team in my sports memory. Considering how flaky Miami "fans" are and how much antagonism the Heat's unholy alliance generated, it's safe to say that fewer people are mourning this championship round loss than any I can recall.

It's also terrific the way in which the Heat managed to bungle their first shot at a ring post-Decision. Do not forget this: they should have won this series. The key moment came back in Game 2: if Dwyane Wade could have checked his ego even slightly in Game 2 instead of preening with his hand in the air in front of Dallas' bench for three seconds after hitting that three-pointer, Dallas doesn't get inspired for their epic comeback, and today we'd be lamenting the bad guys winning. It really is that simple. Dallas almost certainly would not have rallied from down 2-0. For as great as he played, and even with a previous championship to fall back on, it has to eat at Wade that his ego cost Miami a title this year. That's assuming he realizes these facts, which is not a given.

Consider what else transpired to allow Dallas to prevail in later games. LeBron disappeared completely in Game 4 and for stretches in 5 and 6 as well. I've seen hundreds of that guy's games, and very seldom did I ever have to wonder whether or not he was on the floor, as I did for the first time during Game 5 vs Boston a year ago and many times in this series. If that cat even sort of plays hard in the closing period of Game 4, maybe scores one more basket, Dallas doesn't win, Miami goes up 3-1, and probably closes it out last night.

Then we have LeBron and Wade's hilarious antics before Game 5, where they mocked Nowitzki's Game 4 illness in their pregame tunnel walk. Such comedy! Can we get LeBron back on SNL? Can he and Wade co-host? I wonder what sort of routines they're working on today - I bet LeBron has developed a spot-on impersonation of Nowitzki hoisting the Larry O'Brien trophy and accepting the Finals MVP award on Miami's home floor. Can we get a video of that? No, what they did before Game 5 wasn't the worst thing in the world (again, see video above for the actual worst thing), but it was really pathetic and uncalled for. Nowitzki wisely took the high road, asking his teammates not to join the fray and responding only with a short, pointed statement about the eventual Finals runners-up being "a little childish, a little ignorant" before going about his business and winning the NBA. (Nowitzki's self-restraint in not rubbing the victory in the Heat's collective faces is as impressive as his high-arcing jumpers - I'm not even trying to hold back and they haven't said a thing about me). Wade made himself look even dumber after the incident by insinuating that there's nothing heroic or impressive about playing hurt, even though Wade used to have those commercials bragging about how he played hurt. There guys' sense of self-perspective is incredibly shallow.

Yet there are those who would have us forgive and forget with LeBron. Noted sportswriter/jerk "Buzz" Bissinger wrote an ill-timed and ill-titled piece on the Daily Beast where he talks of #6's "vindication" and blasts Cleveland fans who still want(ed) to see the Heat go down in flames (pun intended):

The waves of fans who still hate him need to give it a rest. The fans of Cleveland in particular have to seriously get a life. They were right in feeling terribly shunned. But it’s over now. The continued whining has become noxiously pathetic. And how good a sports town is Cleveland anyway when the Indians, first in the American League Central by five games, have an average attendance in the bottom five of Major League Baseball?
When you're someone who writes about sports professionally, you simply don't have the right to tell sports fans, the people who make your work viable, to "get a life," nor call me "noxiously pathetic." We have our lives, thanks very much, and a part of those lives is sports, and we're well within our bounds to oppose the Heat's march to the Finals. Who's "whining," anyway, other than the Heat every single time any infraction is called against them? What are we supposed to do, just wave the white flag and start supporting the Heat? The postscript dig on Tribe fans is moronic as well - it's a small market in a depressed economy with two years of last-place-caliber play eroding at season-ticket sales, and you know it.

No matter what ends up being written about the Mavericks' true vindication, or the six games of great basketball played in this year's Finals, by far the most compelling angle remains one LeBron Raymone James. As usual, Brian Windhorst has the best inside take on the situation, in a piece filled with some eyebrow-raising quotes from the King hisself, including a postgame Twitter missive:

The Greater Man upstairs know [sic] when it's my time. Right now isn't the time.
This is as wrong as it is cowardly. You and your team just didn't play well enough and Dallas beat you. There's no "greater man," no time. You just didn't play well enough. Take some responsibility, would you?

But the real gem is his childish, defensive jab at his critics:

All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before. They have the same personal problems they had to today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.
I've heard WWE Superstars say less inflammatory things about fans than this. Did The Rock pen this gleefully defiant anti-spectator bomb? Really, #6, that's where you want to go, playing the "I Have a Better Life Than You" card? You're right, LeBron, I did wake up today with the same life and personal problems as yesterday, minus a rather small one. And that's the thing - the NBA really isn't that important to us as humans like it is to you. The failure of the 2011 Heat is fun, but it doesn't define us. LeBron, like a horde of other national commentators, have grossly overstated how much this means to people. Yeah, it's cool, but we still have our lives, and most of us don't have to live with the burden of turning our backs on an entire city, failing in our most public professional moment, or pompously calling out those less athletically and financially gifted than us. Enjoy your summer.

Wednesday, June 8


"I'm askin, as if I'm qualified to analyze. You're lookin at a bitch who specialize in tellin lies." While Tupac and Nate Dogg were rapping about scandalous hoes back in 1996, their lyrics fittingly describe the current Ohio St football program, and coach Jim Tressel in particular. Andy wrote a good piece regarding Tressel last week, but I just wanted to throw my two cents in, especially after Terrelle Pryor's decision to leave school.

As I mentioned in a post back when the merch-for-ink scandal broke and as Andy said in his article, I'm not going to get into whether the infractions that Ohio St committed should be wrong. People have their opinions on whether collegiate athletes should be compensated or not, but that's not what this post is about. The fact of the matter is simple - Jim Tressel and his players knew the NCAA rules (Tressel even has to sign something each year saying that he knows the rules, and that his program has not violated them to his knowledge) and they blatantly broke them.

I also am not going to go in depth about what happened, since most people know the story by now. If you don't, let SI fill you in, they're better writers than I. What I want to talk about is what this means for the Ohio St program and how it will affect their immediate and long-term future.

Sports Ill nailed it when they said that Jim Tressel has always been viewed as a man of integrity, when now we see that that isn't really true. That is what bothers me the most about this whole situation - we were supposed to be different. OSU wasn't like michigan or USC, they were the standard. The program to look to when yours went wrong and say, "That's what we need to strive to become." Clearly, this was not the case, and certainly a large portion of this opinion was naivety on the part of me and the millions of other members of Buckeye Nation that shared my view. For years I have made jokes about michigan and the Fag Five and how none of those games even counted because they were all wiped clean. I would make fun of them not just because they suck and are a bunch of bitches and because Ann Arbor is a whore (all still true statements), but also because that wasn't us. We were better than that. It is a tough pill to swallow to realize now that we are not.

(Let me just point out that by that last statement I am only referring to when it comes to players receiving improper benefits. Ohio St is still better than michigan in EVERY single other way, including football, basketball, academics, snorkeling, brick laying, getting chicks, and every other aspect in the entire universe. I digress.)

So what does this all mean for the Ohio St football program? Well, for starters, expect many wins, both regular season and Bowl games, and Big Ten titles in the Jim Tressel era to be forfeited, possibly including the 2002 National Title. This is significant only in the record books. The violations had nothing to do with the football field, myself and the rest of the Buckeye faithful will still remember these teams for how great they were. (I still watch a video of the '02 title win at least twice a year to make sure I don't forget. I love you, Craig Krenzel.) More importantly, going forward the Bucks are looking at some heavy NCAA sanctions, certainly including the lost of scholarships, and possibly Bowl ineligibility.

Looking at the near future - exit Jim Tressel/Terrelle Pryor, enter Luke Fickell/Braxton Miller. Don't know much about Luke Fickell? Me neither. Read this. Fickell takes over as interim coach of the Buckeyes, and the message here is pretty simple - do the best you can this season, then go back to assistant so we can get a high profile name. Anything short of a National Championship this season and I doubt Fickell is asked back. Even with a 10-2, Big Ten title season, Fick (Can we call him "Fick"? Do we want to?) is bounced if Urban Meyer comes a-knockin'.

Which brings me to my next topic - the future, more permanent replacement. Meyer is certainly at the top of OSU's wish list, as is current Nebraska head man and Ohio St grad Bo Pelini. Another name I've heard pop up a couple of times is Jon Gruden, but that seems unlikely. The big question here is, how attractive is the Buckeye job after the NCAA enforces its sanctions? Sure, Ohio St is one of the best and most storied programs in the country, but does Urban want to leave a cozy retirement to coach a team that can't make a Bowl game for the next three years? This will certainly be a big storyline in the year to come.

But let's take a look at what will be happening on the field in the 2011-12 season. Pryor has left the team, and there are still the five-game suspensions of four other Buckeyes, most notably RB Dan Herron and WR DeVier Posey. Before this whole scandal erupted, the buzz in the Spring on the Ohio St campus was about incoming freshman QB Braxton Miller. Just as dangerous with his legs as he is with his arm, the 6'2, 190-pound Ohio native is a very similar player to TP - let's just hope he's not as much of an ass. He certainly has the physical tools, (see for yourself), how much he plays and how effective he will be this season will depend on his maturity and leadership skills. Unless Miller just wows everyone in practice, I expect Fickell to handle this situation just as Tressel did three years ago when Pryor was a freshman - start the veteran (Joe Bauserman) until he gives you the slightest reason to pull him, then go with the young gun. (It took Todd Boeckman all of 1 1/2 games to get pulled in favor of TP.)

So the Buckeyes will attempt to rise up from the turmoil, ignore all the distractions, and succeed with a new coach and a new quarterback in a conference that just added another top 10 team. While this season may not be as successful as we have become accustomed to in Columbus, I'm still going to cheer my ass off watching them try.


Foul shots

After writing later last week about a baseball article in the PD that strangely veered into the merits of underhanded free throws, I thought I should investigate that phenomenon a little deeper, and found this article in Discover from a couple years ago in favor of the granny shot. I don't think they make a particularly strong case.

Physics Proves It: Everyone Should Shoot Granny-Style
Shooting a basketball underhand gives your shot far better arc and spin.
by Curtis Rist

I gotta say, I'm a bit skeptical of the premise laid out in this subtitle. I'm always a little wary of people who advocate underhand shots anyway, because it seems like they're trying too hard to be quirky, counterculture, and contrarian. I mean, Rick Reilly did a piece in favor of it - that should give you an idea.

As a boy in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in the 1950s, basketball legend Rick Barry got some painful coaching lessons from his father, a semipro.
Of course Rick Barry is here. Everything positive ever written about granny shots references Barry, probably because he was the only good underhand free throw shooter in NBA history. This article is supposed to be about the science of underhanded free throws, so why fall back on the one anecdotal piece of information backing them? btw, the Cavs' Mark Price is the best foul shooter of all time, and he shot normal style.

Also, Barry's career FG% was .456 - as much bizarre enjoyment as people get from citing his underhand foul shooting as the sole reason for his success, the guy was really talented. No reason to suspect he wouldn't have been a fantastic standard foul shooter.

Judging by mechanics alone, just about every foul shot should be a winner. "There’s nothing simpler in basketball, because you can take all the time you want to make it, and there’s nobody waving his arms in front of you trying to block you," says Peter Brancazio, a physics professor emeritus from Brooklyn College and author of SportsScience: Physical Laws and Optimum Performance "I’m convinced that from a physics standpoint, if everyone learned to throw underhand you’d see these statistics rise dramatically,” Brancazio says.
Using the verb "throw" here makes me even more suspect.

The key to a successful foul shot lies in the arc of the ball — in general, the higher the better. While an official-size basket is 18 inches in diameter, the basketball itself is only about 9 1/2 inches, which gives a margin of 8 1/2 inches. But when the ball is thrown nearly straight at the basket, in the style of Shaq, the margin disappears because the rim of the basket, from the perspective of the ball, resembles a tight ellipse. "That’s why these guys miss so much," Brancazio says. "Because of the sharp angle of the typical overhand throw, there ends up being a much smaller window for the ball to go in."
"Shot." Please stop calling it a "throw."

If the ball comes down at the basket from a steeper angle, the way it does if tossed up in the high arc characteristic of an underhand throw, the margin reappears. "That means there’s a far greater chance of making the basket,” he says. Using lots of trigonometry, Brancazio calculated the optimal angle of the arc from the free throw line. If tossed at 32 degrees or less, the ball will most likely hit the back of the rim. "That doesn’t mean it won’t go in, but it will certainly bounce off the metal and reduce the chance of success," Brancazio says. At angles greater than that, the ball has a chance of making a nice swish. The optimum angle for the shot, he finds, is 45 degrees — plus half the angle from the top of the player’s hand to the rim. "The shorter you are, the steeper that angle has to get to give you the best chance of making the shot,"he says.
So why advocate an even lower release point?

Of course, lobbing a ball very high so that it comes down nearly straight into the basket would be the most efficient technique, but a shot like that "is almost impossible to aim," Brancazio says. Instead, he says, his formula makes it possible for a player to shoot with the largest possible margin for error.
I don't disagree with anything Brancazio has laid out here. However: what does this have to do with an underhand vs an overhand free throw? I fail to see why one couldn't achieve this optimum arc with a standard free throw just as easily as with a granny shot. This article, unfortunately, doesn't make that connection. It just explains the ideal shot arc, then declares the granny shot better.

Another reason why the granny shot helps a free thrower win cheers rather than jeers: It gives a backward spin to the ball. If a ball with backspin happens to hit the metal rim of the basket, the friction of contact suddenly reduces its forward velocity. “It’s like a drop shot in tennis. The ball bounces, but it doesn’t have a forward motion on it,” Brancazio says. This effect tends to freeze the ball at the rim and greatly increases the chance that it will tip into the basket rather than ricochet off.
Again: why is this an argument in favor of shooting underhanded? Proper release and rotation on an overhand shot gives the ball plenty of backspin. So far here, we've seen two factors in a successful free throw, neither of which is enhanced by an underhand shot, cited as evidence in favor of such a shot.

The underhand throw can also minimize the drift of the ball. "A little sideward nudge at the start of the throw will translate into a big movement toward the end," says Tom Steiger, a researcher who taught basketball physics at the University of Washington in Seattle.
True, regardless of the release point.

The trick to keeping the ball moving along a single plane toward the basket lies in "minimizing the sideways motion," he says. "In other words, you have to keep your elbows tucked in." If they are sticking out, that can easily add an unwanted nudge to the ball, which results in a missed shot.
Wow, I'm starting to bore myself. Good form from either variety of shot involves keeping one's elbows in and arms straight.

The underhand throw provides better stability than the overhand "because you’re holding the ball with both hands," Steiger says. This helps players balance the subtle motor muscles in the hands and keeps them more relaxed.
I hold my foul shots with both hands as well.

The movement of the underhand throw is a simple, easy-to-control upward pendulum motion. By contrast, the more conventional overhand free throw shot involves separate movements of the wrist, elbow, and shoulder that can add errors, Steiger says.
This, I can possibly buy. You may indeed be minimizing the number of moving parts with an underhand shot.

"If the ball ends up rolling off one side of your hand even a little bit, you’ll miss."
And we're quickly back to saying things that apply no matter how you shoot.

Despite the logic of a granny approach to foul shooting,
Eh, not convinced of this "logic" at all.

no NBA player has used it since Barry retired in 1980. "That baffles me," Barry says. "With the underhand shot, I could make 80 percent of my throws with my eyes closed. And I do mean closed." Over the years he has tried to convert everyone from four of his sons who have played professionally to Shaq to Chris Dudley—but nobody has paid any attention. "A lot of guys who are lousy at the free throw would be prime candidates for this, but they just won’t do it," says Barry, whom the NBA identified as one of the 50 Greatest Players in history in 1996. "I mean, how can guys call themselves professionals when they can’t even make 60 percent of their free throws? Where’s their sense of pride?"
Improvement on this front has more to do with simply practicing than switching over to Barry's goofy shooting style. One thing completely omitted from this post is the element of practice. Basketball spend endless hours practicing shooting, and pretty much every shot they take from the field is, of course, overhand. All of that practice translates to the foul line. If you're a granny shooter, however, you have to learn and develop an entirely different skill, and receive no mutual reinforcement when practicing the two disciplines.

Also, and I kinda saved this for the end: you look like a total nerd shooting granny style.

Saturday, June 4


The PD's Bill Livingston has written a fairly predictable piece in his column, romanticizing the bunt in baseball and crediting much of the Indians' early-season success to their willingness to play "Smallball." I know he's not the only one - lots of fans adore the idea of bunting, moving runners over, and other such selfless out-making, regardless of the actual bearing such plays have on team success. I grant that the Indians have effectively used bunting strategies on several occasions this season, and there are spots (very limited ones) where it's a good strategic call to do so. Spots, I should add, that Manny Acta has selected expertly.

That having been said about Acta's work at the helm, it's really, really easy for a manager to be viewed in a positive light by playing "Smallball" (famously derided by firejoemorgan.com as "Outball") and to "be aggressive" and all those things that look like good "fundamentals" (as if hitting the ball hard and throwing strikes don't require fundamentals?) but don't necessarily contribute to winning baseball. Fan approval of such a manager is always going to be high, irrespective of whether his moves are right, because it gives the appearance of being the aggressor, and we tend to remember the successful plays like Cabrera's squeeze and Carrera's drag more than all the times we've been caught stealing already.

Anyway, as much as some of us like the notion of bunting and not being overly macho (Livy's weird angle), the Indians have the best record in the AL largely because they are 3rd in the AL in OBP, 3rd in HR, and 2nd in SLG, translating into a league best OPS+ of 119 (adjusted for Progressive Field being a pitcher's park). But Livy is looking for a different explanation:

Bunting is a lost art in baseball. At times, it is also a reviled one.
Bunting is most definitely not a lost art - guys still bunt all the time. Why do people write things like this? They always say the same in basketball about mid-range shooting every time a guy makes a mid-range jumper to prove the exact opposite point. And bunting is reviled only because it's been demonstrated time and time again, through conclusive statistical analysis, to be countereffective towards an offense's goal of scoring runs.

Acta's predecessor, Eric Wedge, had an unreasonable bias against the bunt in all aspects but the sacrifice. "That's not real baseball," he said of squeeze bunts and other surprise short-ball plays.
Bias against bunting is not unreasonable - it's backed up strongly by statistics. Bias in favor of bunting is (literally) unreasonable, in that it's a position not supported by facts. That Wedge quote is weird - I'd be interested to see its context.

The sacrifice bunt, because everyone knows it is coming, is probably harder to execute than a bunt that is intended to be a hit.
Maybe, though the element of surprise of bunting for a hit is offset by its more difficult criterion for success, i.e. reaching base safely.

Many of the new metrics in baseball argue that the sac bunt is overrated because with it a team gives up one-third of its outs in an inning to move a player one base closer to home.
Correct. Why isn't this the focus of your article?

On the great Indians teams of the 1990s, Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel and Roberto Alomar were all good bunters. No one thought the ploy weakened their competitive fiber. But the lure of the three-run homer was greater in a power lineup.
Lofton's job was to get on base and he was good at it. Anything he did to reach safely was fine in my book. I'm not sure what point is being made here.

In the old days, when players policed the game and umpires issued far fewer warnings for brushback pitches
I'll never understand why old guys romanticize throwing at batters as much as they do, but they all do it. Can one of you drop me a line and explain this?

As for Acta, he is an adaptable man who tailors his offense to his players' talents. He did not bunt much in two seasons and part of a third as Washington Nationals manager. He had the same station-to-station, slow team there as Wedge did during most of his Indians tenure.
Agreed on Acta - I've read him talk about not liking to give up outs. Did I already mention that this team is good because they hit the ball hard, not because they bunt a lot? I want to be clear on that.

But Acta was not doctrinally opposed to the surprise bunt, and certainly not for the testosterone-fueled reasons of Wedge.
Weird anti-Wedgeness here. People can have different opinions of Wedge if they choose, but it's bizarre to suggest that he made the decisions he did for any reason other than trying to give the club the best chance to win baseball games.

The squeeze was an effective play by manager Ozzie Guillen's Chicago White Sox in their world championship season of 2005.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Guillen gave away a prodigious amount of outs that year with his poor offensive decisions and philosophy, and the White Socks finished 9th of 14 AL teams in run scoring that season. Their pitching staff's league-leading ERA was why they won that title, and anyone who credits Guillen's Outball with their success simply hasn't even tried to understand the game. Even Crazy Ozzie himself fell back on 2005 during another one of his ridiculous postgame tirades. This guy is such a buffoon and such a hindrance to his team's chances to success, and, wait, what am I saying? Give the guy an extension!

The grotesque obsession of some players with their image is the problem. They put an unfair connotation on the play. This is not confined to baseball.
This makes no sense. I wonder if the bunting thing was just a pretense, a Trojan Horse in which to hide a criticism of athletes' egos.

The physics of basketball demonstrate that an underhand free throw produces a softer shot with a higher arc, making the ball more likely to go in, than an overhand shot.
Perhaps, but players practice overhand shots almost constantly, from all spots on the floor, and should have great familiarity with that motion. This seems to me a better strategy than learning an entirely different skill, the granny shot.

Yet because it is sneeringly called a "granny" shot,
Ha, I did that. But is that, or is that not, how one would expect their grandmother to shoot a foul shot?

manly players persist in their sub-50 percent efforts with the set-shot approach. Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Dudley and Jerome Lane, former Cavalier bricklayers all, are ready examples.
Dirk Nowitzki shoots 90% overhand. So did Mark Price and Reggie Miller. Cherry-picking three of the NBA's all-time worst foul shooters doesn't bolster your granny shot argument, nor the bunting point you were making before.

There is less of a stigma to "bunting," in the form of laying up, on par-5 holes in golf.
[Falls asleep]

...with offense down in baseball and the value of every base increasing, smartness courts finesse. The people devoted to macho posturing should get over themselves.
This is awful. First off, no one is "devoted to macho posturing." That sentence is pure hackwork.

More importantly, with offense down in baseball, the value of every out increases as well - this is why people like me don't like giving them away. The people devoted to not understanding the counterproductive effect most bunting has on run-scoring should get over themselves. It's not about image, or posturing, or manliness. It's about scoring the most runs and winning baseball games, something a team achieves best by conserving its outs instead of bunting them away.

Maybe you like the aesthetics of bunting, the team aspect of it or what not, but it's annoying to be put on the defensive by suggesting that the only reason I like employing optimal run-scoring strategies is because of some overdeveloped sense of machismo. That's not fair.

Thursday, June 2

On Jim Tressel

On my Memorial Day drive down to West Virginia for work, I listened to quite a bit of sports talk radio, nearly all of which, of course, focused on the resignation of former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel. As I listened to caller after caller thank the troops (Armed Forces Day was 10 days prior, btw) and give their take on the Tressel saga, something struck me about the situation: how little there actually is to discuss.

It's weird because this is such a major story - Tressel is one of the most successful college coaches in the nation, beloved by Buckeye fans and holder of what appeared to be the safest seat in major college football, and his downfall is naturally by far the dominant story for Buckeye fans. Yet despite that, it's relatively easy to sum up the tale and dispense with it. Tressel covered up things he knew about player ineligibility, lied to the school and the NCAA, and ended up resigning because of it. There appears to be no doubt that Tressel acted improperly and deserved to lose his job because of it. Put it this way: if I had done something comparably unethical in my job and it had been discovered, I would have been fired the very next day. No keeping my job for a couple of months and eventually allowed to resign. Fired. Immediately. Tressel was probably "asked to resign" more than doing so voluntarily, but that's still more courtesy than you or I would be extended in an analogous scenario.

It's such a straightforward story, but since it's such an important one, there's a desire among fans (myself included) to discuss it ad infinitum as if there were more there. The good news is this allows me to go all meta and give my opinions on other people's opinions, which is what I like to do anyway.

"Tressel was a scapegoat"
Nonsense. Tressel knowingly broke the NCAA's rules and lied about it by signing the NCAA's compliance forms when he knew full well those players were ineligible. Being punished for intentionally breaking serious rules is not being scapegoated. I fully reject this claim. Yes, the players created the situation with their actions, but that most definitely does not exculpate JT.

"Tattoos are stupid"
OK, that's just my opinion. But wouldn't you feel like a jackass if you got the team's coach fired just so you could get free tattoos? I would.

"The players should be kicked off the team"
Going forward, now that Tressel has moved on, the only real topic of discussion is the fate of the five (or more) players whose tremendously stupid decisions created the entire situation to begin with. As it stands, the five ringleaders have been suspended for the first five games of 2011, but what to do after that? WKNR host Kenny Roda actually broke down the options pretty clearly - either you let them rejoin the team after their suspensions, or you give them the following option: transfer to another school (and miss a year) or stay at OSU and finish their education (retaining their scholarship), but inform them that they may not rejoin the football team. Roda was inexplicably berated by a caller for presenting these options ("sour grapes" according to the aggressive caller, which makes no sense), but they are, in fact, the only options available.

Personally, I think they should offer the players the second set of options - in other words, dismiss them from the Ohio State football team but allow them to continue to study if they like. They knew what they were doing - you hear their teammates talk about having to attend compliance meeting after compliance meeting - and went ahead and did it anyway, knowing fully that they were putting their team and their coaches at risk. They simply do not deserve to be on the team anymore. As much as I enjoyed the Sugar Bowl win, I'd give up that memory in an instant (the NCAA will be taking it from me in August anyway) now knowing that those players should not have played.

Imagine the divisions the return of the five offenders will cause in the locker room. How would you receive them, if you were one of the 100 Buckeyes who managed to follow the rules and didn't get the coach fired? I would be highly resentful. Their return might help the club on-field, but it sends the wrong message to all the other student-athletes.

Of course, the common defense to that suggestion is...

"They're young, they made mistakes"
Yes, we all make mistakes. But these guys were told again and again the repercussions of doing things like what they did, things that were clearly wrong, and they went ahead anyway. We all have had our youthful discretions (I've passed out in three different lawns), but most of us avoided things of this magnitude. Compared to what happened to their embattled former coach, missing a season of football and being able to complete their degrees on scholarship doesn't seem like a particularly harsh punishment.

"The players should be able to accept gifts/get paid"
I sigh every time I hear someone make this point with respect to this particular situation, because it has absolutely no bearing on what is happening at Ohio State. With respect to dealing with the trangressions of Tressel and the players, it's completely irrelevant what you think the rules regarding payment of student-athletes should be. 100%, completely, irrelevant. The fact is, the rules state clearly that you cannot do such things, and everyone involved knew that, and elected to violate those rules and will be disciplined. I didn't (and still don't) care for the rules when I got my underage citation (nor did I care for the fact that I got an underage citation without having actually drank anything), but didn't suggest that opinion as a defense.

Going forward, can we have the conversation about compensating student-athletes? Sure - I'm interested in arguments on both sides. But it plays no role in this present discussion.

"michigan still sucks"
Surprisingly, no one bothered to make this point, but it's true and always worth a mention.

"Tressel wasn't a very good coach anyway"
Believe it or not, a fair amount of callers actually said this, to varying degrees. And they're stupid. 106-22. 7 Big Ten titles (including 6 straight). 9-1 against michigan. 8 BCS Bowls (5 wins). 3 BCS Title Games. 1 National Title. To criticize Tressel's record at the helm of the Buckeye football program is to reveal that one will never be satisfied with any level of accomplishment and success. Unbelievable. Take what you will from this scandal, but these numbers speak for themselves. Tressel wasn't perfect - he was seriously outcoached against USC in 2009, for example - but he was without a doubt one of the greatest coaches in the country and the second-most successful OSU coach ever.

You know who made this incorrect point the most strongly? WTAM's Mike Trivisonno, who reveals himself to be a weak critical thinker with many of the things he says. He called Tressel "very mediocre" and said that Tressel's failure to ever recruit an elite quarterback (Troy Smith won a Heisman Trophy at OSU) or running back (Beanie Wells, anyone?) stopped OSU from winning "a couple more championships." Ridiculous. Trivisonno also went on to explain how the Indians losing a game to Toronto and Detroit winning their game would be like the Tigers gaining two games on the Indians. It's one, captain.

So despite all the digital ink I've spilled, what I said at the outset remains true - there isn't truly a whole lot to this story. Tressel was a wildly successful and popular coach, and a well-respected man, who made a major mistake that cost him his career. Certainly a lot of fans are very surprised and disillusioned to see this happen to a fellow who projected such an air of integrity and righteousness, which I think prompts people to seek some deeper explanation where one may not be there to find. Of course, had I known he authored a book called Life Promises for Success: Promises from God on Achieving Your Best, I would have been more suspicious in the first place.

What's left to discuss is the fallout, how it affects the Buckeye program going forward, and what it means for the players already in trouble and those who may face discipline in the near future. As fans, I think we're best served by backing Coach Fickell and the Buckeyes who managed to stay out of trouble in 2011, and hope the next leader of the Buckeyes restores the integrity and on-field success we all expect from Ohio State Football. Go Bucks.

Wednesday, June 1

Cavs for Mavs

For whatever reason, after having never appeared on ESPN in the first 30-odd years of my life, I've been all over The Worldwide Leader this past week. First was my nonchalant performance watching Carl Crawford's home run sail a few feet away from me at an Indians game, and now we have my first appearance in print on the site, on ESPN Dallas, of all places.

The story from the PD's Jodie Valade is about Clevelanders pulling for the Dallas Mavericks to defeat the vile Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, with one industrious Clevelander designing the cool "Cavs for Mavs" shirt shown at right. I like that slogan - it reminds me of Pedro Cerrano saying "hats for bats." I'm quoted as "Cleveland resident Andy Francis," which is both accurate and cool-sounding. I'm going to start introducing myself as such. My first quote is solid, I think: "I've already been a 76ers fan, a Celtics fan, and a Bulls fan within the past two months - no reason I can't pull for the Mavericks now."

But it's my second salvo where I think I really represented FCF. Even in a story about basketball, located on a site expressly for Dallas fans, I managed to stick it to the steelers a little bit (Cowboys fans have no love for Pittsburgh either): "It's the same principle as Browns backers everywhere rooting for Green Bay in the Super Bowl - you support anyone with a chance to knock off your arch-nemesis. Let's hope the Mavericks are as successful as the Packers."

After last night, the Mavs are down a TD early, but hopefully Dirk Nowitzki has a little Aaron Rodgers in him.