Merry-Go-Round Broke Down

Roger Rabbit artfully demonstrating Cleveland Browns fandom.

Ever watch a movie, interested to see how it turns out until some shock twist at the end makes you question the entire point?  That’s the 2013 season for the Browns.

Halfway through the second decade of rebuilding we thought a new owner might get us where we need to be.  With a new coach, we thought he might be given a chance to put his mark on the team.  I don’t know if he even had time to unpack all the boxes in his office before moving through the revolving door of the Browns’ top job.

I really wanted him to work out for us.  The local(ish) boy getting his dream job.  Great story and great drama.  Looking past my interest in the heart-tugging story line, I don’t know which way his career would’ve gone.  He may not turn out to be a Belichick or Harbaugh.  But Belichick didn’t turn out to be Belichick until after his stint in Cleveland.

The irritation comes from the pointlessness this year turned out to be.  None of us expected miracles.  And two games of Weeden confirmed our problem under center.  After the brief ray of hope that was Brian Hoyer, we had no offense.  Gordon and Cameron looked good, but without a quarterback and an effective running game, we were going nowhere.

Dreams of 500 vanished, followed soon after with dreams of winning another game.  So we looked to what we could do under this group with another year and another draft.

Now we’re right where we were a year ago.

What concerns me most is how this reflects on the players.  Worrying reports came out in a Dec. 30 NFL.com article where Browns players vented their thoughts.  With two shock moves between the Richardson trade (admittedly, we got the better of that so far) and Chud’s firing, how does ownership appear to the players?  The ownership deserves to be called out on it.

Right now the team looks all right.  Five Pro Bowlers and a strong defense. With a few more pieces we can compete.  But if ownership then goes and creates a divide between themselves and the players, that is all for naught.  Might as well tear it all down and start re-rebuilding, again.

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Looking in the Mirror of the Past

It’s just about a week since the emotional drop caused by the one-game Wild Card loss.  All the excitement that built over the last three weeks of the season, and hit the peak after that last win against the Twins… snuffed out in nine innings.

After a week, it still hurts a little.  When I flip through and see baseball playoffs instead of Big Bang Theory reruns, my stomach drops.  Going by the Jake, seeing it empty and quiet after electricity not seen for years, I feel that hole in my heart.  Is it spring training yet?

Going into the game I told myself, no matter what happened, the season was a success.  We achieved what we needed, being a competitor again.  But after all that build up the sudden end left us unfulfilled.  A loss in the ALDS, in a five game series…at least we would have had more than one game.

Still, we can look back at this team and see how far we’ve come in just one year.  There is plenty to be proud of and to look forward to in the years to come.

I’ve been reading one of Terry Pluto’s books, a collection of his writing over the years.  The first section is all about the Tribe.  He talks about those mid-90s teams with the kind of disbelief that comes after years of disappointment.

Something he echoes in almost every article, that those teams were misfits in the post-season.  He says it piece after piece.  He couldn’t believe they made the playoffs.  He couldn’t believe they beat the teams they did.  Somehow they did.  They had the right pieces in the right places at the right times.

And they all believed in each other.  They had the chemistry right.

Sound familiar?

Pluto talked about the narrow, stressful wins.  He talked about the team struggling to get hits with runners on base.  As I read I started to wonder.

This current team has the chemistry.  They have the right manager in place.  They have the same frustration and excitement and unbelievability.  Could this year be the start of something special?  Again?

A Cavalier Attitude on Coaching

The Cavs completed the hat-trick, and all three of our teams will have new coaches in 2013.

Listening to WBWC’s SportsPulse two weeks ago, the hosts did discuss why Scott might lose his job.  Of course they also pointed out that unless there is a viable option out there, firing him didn’t make sense.

So is there a viable option out there?

We can all get giddy and hold our breath over Phil Jackson’s name being thrown around, and turn purple while it never happens.  It seems more a pipedream of Cavs management.

Then there’s the Mike Brown discussion.  And I shake my head.

Nothing against Brown.  He had some good years here, and seems like a good enough guy.  Granted his year in L.A. didn’t go well.

What bugs me about that option is the feeling we’re returning to 2007.  As if the rebuilding over the last three years was pointless.  Those years were certainly frustrating, but given the “eggs in one basket” strategy that resulted in egg on the face, they were unavoidable.

Now it seems CavsDan would rather go back on everything.  His rant, his focus on offense over defense, his faith in Scott.

And Scott, given what he had to work with through lack of talent and surplus of injuries, did a damn good job.  The team got better and competed in games against good teams.  March’s game against Miami stings given the 27 point lead, but that team never should’ve been in a game that close against Miami.  Or New York.  Or San Antonio.

Given what we have right now, will any coach really be able to do better?

Guess we’ll see next year.

What About Wahoo?

The Indians home opener always means two things…people will be taking the day off work, and groups will be protesting the Chief Wahoo logo.

100_4019As Clevelanders, we are at the forefront of this controversy while being in the middle of it all, a cyclone whirling around us as we watch the battle being fought.

Growing up in the city, we associate Wahoo with the team rather than an offensive figure.  Wahoo has been in use since the late 40s, so most fans have lived only with that image.  The majority of fans going to games are there to support their home team, not in a meditated attempt to degrade a people.

When I see the Chief Wahoo logo, I see Cleveland baseball rather than an accurate portrayal of Native Americans.

Is Chief Wahoo insensitive?  Yes.  Is it a symbol of hatred?  I don’t think so.

The logo is a product of its time, when caricaturing was common.  Look at Disney’s Peter Pan (released in 1953, two years after the current Wahoo design) with its “What Makes the Red Man Red?” scene, full of similar looking cartoon Indians.

Not that that makes it any less insensitive.  I understand why Native American groups are upset.

Re-branding for sports teams isn’t uncommon, so the possibility is there for a Wahoo-free future for the Indians.  With the introduction of the block-C cap, it seems the team is at least considering a move away from Wahoo.

100_4014If they are to do it, I hope they do it in a way that keeps the Indians tradition, as the block-C does.  It has been used before in both the 80s and in the early years of Cleveland baseball.  Same goes for the script “Indians” the team brought back in the 90s, the original seen here on Bob Feller.

Baseball is a game of tradition, and so much tradition comes in the cap and the wordmark.  Think of the famous combos-Boston, the Yankees, St. Louis-easily recognized.  Caps of simple letters, and wordmarks left unchanged but for a few small modifications.

Simple as that.  The block-C and the script “Indians”, both already entrenched in our history, as the Indians “new” image.  If we still want a Wahoo sleeve patch, why not something like this, modernized and without the red skin to avoid one of the current Wahoo problems.

That said, we need to realize changing team logos or names will not solve the root problem.  Getting rid of Native American branded teams won’t make people less ignorant about the cultures.  And that isn’t as easy as sports re-branding.

We Aren’t the Champions

Another Super Bowl passes without the Browns, the first sports championship of 2013.  Playoffs don’t look too promising for the Cavs.  Unless Terry Francona works wonders, Cleveland will go into 2014 without a championship.

Fifty years without a championship.  Half a century.

As I sat with a few Dortmunders watching the Cavs on Friday night, I thought about that 50 years.  So I went through and looked at the history.  And the numbers.

From 1965 to 2012, thirty-three cities have seen championship teams in the major four sports.  These cities stretch across twenty-two states and D.C., from sea to shining sea.  Even Ohio is represented.  Some of the cities are no-brainers, others you might not expect.  Raleigh, North Carolina, for example, or Uniondale, New York.  California leads the states with four champion cities, Texas is right behind with three.

Of the cities, Boston, New York, and LA have the most championships (18, 17, and 16 respectively).  Boston and LA rely heavily on their basketball teams.  Take away the Celtics and Lakers and those two drop to 8 (Boston) and 5 (LA).  The Bay Area is particularly spoiled, San Francisco and Oakland each with 7 championships.  The rest of the top ten are Pittsburgh (11), Detroit (9), Chicago (9), Dallas and Green Bay (7 each).  Eight cities have only one championship.

Look at championships over the past ten years, and the list is cut to nineteen cities.  Among those, Boston leads again with 6 championships.  They have also won a championship in each of the four sports in that time.  No other city has won in more than two sports.

On the other end, there are eleven cities with teams in the major four that have not seen victory parades since 1964.  But of those eleven, only two cities were represented in 1964, and with one team each.  San Diego (the Chargers) and Buffalo (the Bills).  Most of the other cities are minor markets, often with only one pro team.

So what does all this mean?  It means I need to find better things to do on Friday nights.  It also means that yes, Cleveland is the longest suffering city in sports.

We’re in a period of change for all three teams.  There are lots of questions, and fifty years is a long time.  With a little luck, and a well managed team, one of the three will create some magic and relieve the suffering.  What I want to see?  Being competitive in all three.

Win, Lose, Draw Names From a Hat

So Chip Kelly has decided to stay at Oregon, which is bad news.

That is if you’re one of the sports journalists who made their living following him around this past weekend, or an owner of an Arizona dining establishment.

As for the Browns not getting him?  Meh.

I’m disappointed not so much at not getting Kelly, but more on the PR end.  Haslam took a risk and went after the “big-name” and it didn’t pan out.  Worse off, the focus on said “big-name” might have led to losing out on the second choice.

Luckily, with all that played out in the drama, Kelly himself looks worst.  For a second year, he flirted with NFL teams, got some free meals out of it, and then pulled the carpet from under them when Nike called.

Let’s face it, the coaching search is a crap shoot, especially looking for fresh talent.  For every Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll (who both had previous NFL experience), you’ve got a Butch Davis (cringe) or Steve Spurrier.  Even established talents don’t always play out.

But here we are, still wondering who is out there worth going after.  And in all of this one name has been overlooked.  That could change after tonight.  Was the whole Chip Kelly thing just a clever ruse to throw everybody off the real track?  After all, this other coach does have ties to the Browns…

In the Dawg House

After the excitement of an ugly win, Browns fans endured the pain of an ugly loss.  All that hope and optimism we had going into yesterday, now a punch in the gut.  Will we ever learn?

I won’t pretend I know that much about football.  I also won’t let that stop me from criticizing the Browns this season.

Right now, the team is laughably bad.  There are bright spots in Richardson, Dawson, and the defense.  But some of these mistakes are just embarrassing.  Going from 1st and 10 to 1st and 20 on two straight false starts?!  Not taking a shot at the end-zone on 3rd and 11, opting to run instead?!

It’s bush-league.

Steve Spurrier said Alabama could beat some of the worst NFL teams.   Beat the Browns?  Probably not.  Manage a game better?  Without a doubt.

It’s not that the Browns are losing games, it’s how they are losing.  Bad decisions, wasted timeouts, lack of discipline…these should not be acceptable at the rate we’re seeing them.

All of this was summed up in the shot of Haslam, hand waving in frustration, after the failed 3rd and 11.  He’s not happy with what he sees.  And unlike the rest of us, he has the power to do something about it.

Rivals

Of all the high school football games that will take place in Northeast Ohio this weekend, two stick out.  Two games, two rivalries, both sold out.

Tonight, Berea and Midpark match up at George Finnie Stadium for the Battle for the Grindstone.  This is the rivalry that Jim Tressel, a Berea grad, called bigger than Ohio State-Michigan when he spoke at a Berea High event.

The two teams share not only a stadium, but a school district as well.  Both sides want the Grindstone trophy and to be the best team from the Berea City School District.  This year is different, though.   The importance is bigger.  This will be the last game before the schools merge next year.  The Braves and the Meteors will fade into history, to the chagrin of students and alumni, as they become the Titans.

Yes, the Titans.  Like the movie.  I eagerly wait to see whether the two sides will get through their early division and struggles en route to a state championship.

Midpark currently holds a 25-24 lead in the series.

Another rivalry sees its 50th game this weekend.  And that’s the game taking center stage.

Cleveland’s Holy War.

Ignatius-Ed’s.

#1-#2.

Both teams are comfortably in the post-season and expected to go far.  A loss won’t hurt either team’s playoff situation.  But the pride involved is too important.  The game, of late, shows who is best in Northeast Ohio, if not the whole state.  The past two championships have gone to Ed’s and Ignatius respectively.

Bragging rights are on the line this chilly October weekend, and it should be lots of fun.  Good luck to all teams involved.

Sundays in Orange and Brown

Out and about on fall Sundays, in the suburbs or Cleveland proper, just about everybody is in their Browns colors.  Even the trees are bathed in orange and brown.  The team really is something special here.  Even in another bleak (so far) season.

For home games, just being in the city is fun.  No ticket needed.  Before and after, there are the tailgates in lots across the city.  Masses of fans walk through the streets toward the stadium.  All give off their energy and make Downtown lively.

Sure, the stadium experience is something special, but doing the neighborhood thing can be more fun.  Moving around, from packed bar to packed bar, still in sight of the stadium…all with better food and cheaper beer.  When the game ends, you can head back to a lot for post-game or sit at the bar and watch the traffic go by.  All win-win situations.  And when Brownies win, it’s a win-win-win.

Down On the Farm

Well there will be playoff baseball in Northeast Ohio this year.  Not the Indians, unfortunately.  Instead, the Akron Aeros will be fighting for their fourth Eastern League title.

Yesterday I went to see the team’s final regular season home game.  Sadly, it was my first time to see them play.

As regulars readers will know, I’m in love with the game of baseball.  Watching it at the minor league level is a different experience.  Not better or worse than an MLB game, just different.

To me it’s more pure.  The focus is more on the game.  There are still between inning giveaways and the family-friendly atmosphere that is ever present in sports.  But there isn’t the glitz that goes with major league ball.  No homerun fireworks or DH’s that cost way too much money for too long without doing anything to help the team.

Plus everything around the game is much more laid back, in Akron at least.  Parking for one.  Instead of fighting to find spots in garages that cost up to $20 to park, I could park right on the street, just around the corner from the stadium.  No cost and without the headache of post-game traffic jams.

Then there’s Canal Park itself, which is a beautiful park for a minor league team.  Built during the beginning of this “traditional parks” era, it blends right in with the city around it.  The brick façades house a variety of restaurants.

Just beyond the outfield runs part of the historic Ohio and Erie Canal.  The towpath alongside it makes for a fun walk to the game.

As far as seating, there really are no bad seats.  The main stand is nice and tight to the field.  Sitting in one of the back rows, I still felt right in the action.

Something I thought was fun to watch, the team does a Kiddie Stampede after the 6th.  All kids under 12 are invited to run on the field.  They open the doors in the outfield and a long stream of kids charge out into left field and back.  A sight to see, and I could tell the kids loved it.

The game could have been better.  The Aeros’ bullpen gave up a two-run lead and their bats never really got going.  But Aeros’ starter Toru Murata looked good on the hill (5 shutout innings, 6 Ks) and had a nice curveball.  The Indians do need some pitching after all.