Monday, September 25, 2006

Choke on THIS

Hahahahahahahaha, Ozzie Guillen. We are going to show you!!! Your White Sox are in town for the Tribe's final homestand this week, and guess what -- WE AREN'T GOING TO CHOKE! Nope, not a chance.

No way we go just 1-6 this week and blow our chance at the playoffs. No way we let the Tampa Bay Devil Rays walk all over us this weekend and ruin our postseason dreams. No way we score just 20 runs this week and lose five one-run ballgames.

In short, no way we choke. Nah, took care of that months ago.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Stover and out

Once again the score was 14-12, and once again the pass fluttered into the end zone in a Browns home game, and once again everyone in attendance gasped as they saw a Browns receiver stumbling around. And as the ghost of Red Right 88 possessed the body of Baltimore Ravens defensive back Chris McAllister and picked off Charlie Frye's pass, we already knew how this story would end. With the ghost of the real Cleveland Browns kicking us square in the groin.

The original Red Right 88 ended with a 14-12 score, but not this one. Not when there was still 3:21 remaining in the game. Not when the hated Baltimore Ravens were looking at 3-0 for the first time in "franchise history." (Really, just because they say they started the franchise when they moved to Baltimore doesn't mean they did!) Not when all the Ravens needed to do was move into field-goal range for one of the NFL's most accurate kickers, Matt Stover, the last man standing from when Art Modell stole the Browns off to Baltimore.

It couldn't just be a simple chip shot, though. It had to Stover's longest field goal since 1993, the third-longest of his career, and the first one of more than 50 yards that he's hit since 2002. It had to be a low-trajectory kick that knifed through the swirling winds, a kick to our collective gut as well as a game-winning field goal. And also the longest kick Stover had even TRIED since the turn of the century.

But take the combination of NFL's most devout player going up against the team that God hates, and was there any question that the Browns would collapse like Michigan State in the fourth quarter? Stover points to the sky and gives thanks to God after every field-goal attempt, make or miss. Of course he'd get to point Heavenward after a successful kick this time.

Before Sunday, Matt Stover was 33-for-36 in his career against the Browns, his best percentage against any team. Now he's 36-for-39, a 92.3 percent accuracy rate, a full 10 percent better than his overall career mark. It figures that the guy who holds Browns records for most field goals and second-most field goals in a season (29 in 1995, 26 in 1994), most field goals in a game (5, 10/29/1995, tied with Phil Dawson and Don Cockroft), and best field-goal percentage in a season (92.86 percent in 1994) would come through.

And we can't even be all that made at Matt Stover since his foundation donates $100,000 per year to Baltimore charities.

The only thing that would make Stover's winning kick acceptable for Browns' fans is if Art Modell suffered a heart attack while watching the ball sail through the uprights.

The Browns can't even win when Charlie Frye throws for nearly 300 yards, Kellen Winslow catches almost 100 yards worth of balls, and Braylon Edwards goes for almost 200 yards and a touchdown. They can't even win when (for the second time) they limit a team to just one touchdown. They can't even win when everything goes right on game day following a week where everything went wrong. Kellen Winslow runs his mouth, Daylor McCutcheon goes on IR, Gary Baxter and Reuben Droughns go on the inactive list -- seemingly no hope, right?

Oh, but there was. All the way up until the 14-12 score woke up the ghost of Red Right 88 and the original Browns and gave Charlie his own bitter Browns memory. And God another good laugh.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The face of Cleveland sports

It's time.

This year, we celebrate the 60th anniversary of Cleveland Browns football. (And the 42nd anniversary of winning no championships in anything in this city, but who's counting?) We celebrate the 60th anniversary of a franchise that brought us legends such as Paul Brown, Jim Brown, Lou Groza, Otto Graham and Tim Couch. We have 60 years of memories such as Ozzie Newsome's pass-catching streak, the Kardiac Kids, the heyday of the Dawg Pound, and the domination of the old AAFC.

And we celebrate 60 years of the logoless helmet. For 60 years the Browns have worn a plain brown helmet. Nothing else needed. Nothing else wanted.

Until now.

It is time to advocate for the Browns to put a logo on their helmets. And that logo should be a silhouette of Braylon Edwards.

Who else symbolizes the Cleveland Browns and Cleveland sports as succinctly as Braylon Edwards, especially the Braylon Edwards we saw in Sunday's season-opening 19-14 loss to the New Orleans Saints? He's our top draft pick from two years ago, a guy from whom we have seen some big things and expect bigger things. And that's what we saw on the first play of the game, when he broke behind the Saints defense as if he had the Invisible Woman's superpowers and caught a 74-yard touchdown pass to start the season.

Except he didn't. Except that Kevin Shaffer held Saints defender Will Smith -- yes, the Will Smith from Ohio State -- the play was nullified, and Braylon Edwards got no closer to the end zone that Big Dawg did the rest of the day. Then on the Browns last offensive play, Charlie Frye hit Braylon in the numbers with a pass. Except that he really DID hit Braylon in the numbers with a pass. The ball bounced into the air and safety Josh Bullocks grabbed it for an interception to seal the loss.

So there it is. Braylon started with an exciting touchdown catch that wasn't, and ended it with a ball bouncing off his hands and into that great maw of Cleveland sports history where dreams go to die. No one was more fired up than Braylon was when the players exited the tunnel onto the Cleveland Browns Stadium field Sunday. He leaped, he pumped his fist, he smacked his teammates' helmets. He acted as excited as any average Joe fan would have been had he suddenly been asked to suit up and start at wide receiver for the Browns. All this from someone who suffered a major knee injury toward the end of last season and put his full heart and effort into making a return to the field because he was THAT excited and THAT convinced that this year would be the year.

Sound familiar?

Heck, let's make a motion that Braylon Edwards becomes the new official mascot for all Cleveland teams. Get rid of Chief Wahoo and put a grinning Braylon Edwards there. No more swashbuckling swords for the Cavs; let's get Braylon and his SUV up there. The City of Cleveland doesn't have a logo -- let's make it a picture of Braylon Edwards! On "his" MySpace page "Braylon" even says "he" hates the Steelers!

We like to call ourselves the Comeback City, which is kind of like calling ourselves Super Bowl champions. Just because we say it doesn't make it true. But aren't we really the Braylon City?

Think about it. Work hard for the next season. Get yourself pumped up. Be as excited as anyone. Love the atmosphere, drink it in, and know, just KNOW, that you won't be stopped. Then catch a 74-yard touchdown pass ON THE FIRST PLAY.

Then watch as someone pulls the carpet out from under you, just like someone's been pulling the carpet out from under us Cleveland fans for the past four decades. Then watch when you're put back on the carpet in crunch time, only to suffer from a cruel bounce of the ball that breaks the heart of Braylon Edwards and everyone Cleveland Browns fan.

It's time to embrace our fate. We are all Braylon Edwards. We are all merely God's plaything.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Saint that a shame

Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou offense, Romeo?

THIS is what we've been waiting for ever since the Indians took a 10-foot walk of a nine-foot pier back in June? This is what a sea of orange and brown that filled the parking lots around Cleveland Browns Stadium hours before game time like knights laying siege to a castle gets for its troubles?

Fourteen points. Three turnovers, including one that bounced off Braylon Edwards' chest in the final minutes and turned into an interception to seal the deal. 186 total yards. Reuben Droughns, last year's 1,200-yard man, held to 27 yards by 2005's worst rushing defense. Five sacks of Charlie Frye. Joe Jurevicius breaking his ribs ON A PLAY THAT DIDN'T EVEN COUNT!

The Browns didn't just lose to the Saints (you know, the team with the NFL's second-worst record last year). They barely beat Reggie Bush (141 total yards). But then again, doesn't Bush always win in Ohio? It took only til halftime for a fired-up crowd to start booing. That's partly because the Browns had just three first downs in the first half, and partly because the scoreboard listed one of the keys to victory for the second half (right behind "More offense") as "More crowd noise."

And the Browns' big plays weren't just erased, they were punished for even having them. On the first offensive play of the game -- a more fitting start to a season could not occur for a Cleveland team -- Charlie Frye hit Braylon Edwards for a 74-yard touchdown pass. But not really! Offseason signee Kevin Shaffer proved his worth with a holding penalty. Later, Joe Jurevicius caught a 20-yard pass to convert a fourth-down play, but a Cosey Coleman hold erased that gain. It didn't erase the broken ribs Jurevicius suffered on the play, though.

Hey, at least Bay Village native Dave Zastudil got plenty of playing time. Of course, since he's the punter, he's the last guy anyone other than his family and maybe a Bay High School high school football coach or two wants to see on the field.

A season forecast that looked anywhere from optimistic to hopeful changed to downright dreary in about three hours Sunday afternoon. Not only did the Browns lose (at home!) to their weakest opponent of the season, but everyone else in the AFC North won by at least 10 points (leaving the Browns in last), and Week 3 home opponent Baltimore posted an impressive road shutout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Suddenly the Browns are playing Staredown with 0-4, and 0-4 ain't blinking. And neither is God.

But at least the Indians beat the White Sox Sunday. Only 17 games out of first! When does the Cavs season start again?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Steeled with
a kiss

Apparently Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher loves football players almost as much as he loves football.

During last night's season-opening victory over the Miami Dolphins, Steeler linebacker Joey Porter gave Cowher a little kiss on the neck in celebration of Porter's interception return for a touchdown that sealed the deal.

And it's not even the first time Cowher kissed one of his players on the sideline. Following a 1997 comeback victory over the Baltimore Ravens, Cowher ran down then-quarterback Kordell Stewart and planted a big one on his cheek.

The worst thing about it is that here in Cleveland we can't even make fun of Cowher. The Browns haven't even started their season yet, and thanks to the Steelers' victory, we're already in last place. Plus there's the fact that last night the Steelers were celebrating last year's Super Bowl championship while beginning their quest for One For The Other Thumb. It began quite triumphantly. Because of all that, we can't even ask if Porter turned into a vampire after his touchdown, or wonder if he thought he was with Kordell. We can't try and figure out if Bill Cowher was whispering sweet nothings into Joey Porter's ear. And we can't ask Bill Cowher if he indeed does like football player as much as he likes football.

We can't do any of this because they are the damn Pittsburgh Steelers and we are the crummy Cleveland Browns. We don't have any coaches who kiss (or get kissed by) their players, but we don't have any Lombardi Trophies either. Or World Series rings. Or NBA titles. Or really anything signifying anything good from the last 40 years or so.

Maybe by Sunday evening we'll at least have a team tied for first place one week into the season. But then again, it's the Saints who are marching in, and God does hate Cleveland sports. So go right ahead and pick the Browns, if you dare.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Go to hell, Florida Marlins

It will be on the front page of the sports section of your Plain Dealer this morning, greeting you over Fruity Pebbles, scrambled eggs, bagels, or whatever your breakfast of champions is. There it will be looking you straight in the eye. A picture of an ecstatic Anibal Sanchez, most likely being carried off the field by his teammates.

What is an Anibal Sanchez, you ask? Well, he's a pitcher for the Florida Marlins. A rookie pitcher for the Florida Marlins. A rookie pitcher who before Wednesday night had started all of 12 games and thrown all of 78.1 innings in his major league career. A rookie pitcher who joined the Marlins in the offseason, along with Hanley Ramirez, when the Marlins traded Josh Beckett to the Boston Red Sox.

And now a rookie pitcher, who in his lucky 13th start in the bigs, has thrown a no-hitter. Which is the most disgusting thing a Cleveland Indians fan can hear. Especially while eating Fruity Pebbles, scrambled eggs, a bagel, or whatever his or her breakfast of champions.

More than the Pittsburgh Steelers, more than the Baltimore Ravens, more than the Detroit Pistons, even more than the Chicago White Sox -- that's how disgusted the Florida Marlins should make us Cleveland fans.

For a moment let's just forget about the 1997 World Series, where the upstart Marlins -- just five years old at the time -- handed our town one of the most devastating psychological blows in sports history. The Mesa! The only time a team ever held the lead in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 of the World Series YET LOST. It could only be done by a Cleveland team. And it was. But let's put that aside.

Let's think about the stinking four no-hitters the Marlins have thrown in just 13½ years of existence. That's one every about every three years. The Indians have 14 no-hitters in their history, which spans almost 105 years. That's a no-hitter every 7½ years. And none since 1981. The Marlins have four since their debut in 1992.

Then there's not just the disgusting World Series victory over the Indians, but their is the SECOND Marlins world championship. That came in 2003, and even though it was against the dreaded New York Yankees, what Cleveland fan could take solace in it? Do you root for the Yankees, which was like rooting for U.S. Steel as comedian Joe E. Lewis said in the 1950s (or like cheering on Exxon today), or do you root for the cocky new kid on the block WHO ALREADY HAS AN UNDESERVED WORLD SERIES trophy? Ugh, Jigsaw couldn't come up with a worse trap in Saw III.

But wait, there's more. Despite starting 11-31, the Marlins have become the first team in more than 100 years to work their way back to a winning record after being 20 games under .500. Right now they're 70-69, just three games out of the wild card lead. The Indians, with four less wins, are farther from civilization than the gang from Lost, 14 games out of the wild card lead.

Oh, and we are SO PROUD of the Marlins, because they snapped the longest no-hitter drought in the history of baseball. Never mind that three days ago Washington Nationals pitcher Ramon Ortiz almost did it, taking a no-hitter into the ninth.

Nope, baseball's new (and old) darlings, the Florida Marlins have done it. And they're right in the wild-card hunt. And they remain rammed in the craw of every Indians fan everywhere who roots for things to be done the right way, who roots for effort, who patiently sits by his radio and waits for the Indians to finally do SOMETHING besides make God angry.

But, hey, the Indians have one of baseball's best records over the last month, which leaves them at exactly six games under .500.

Six under, there's a fitting number for everything Cleveland.