Monday, January 29, 2007

Totally irrelevent

By now you know who the 25 Most Important people in the Cleveland sports world are. You know that LeBron is No. 1 (and probably No. 1-10 in reality), that our team owners are in the Top 5, that our GMs are all in the Top 10, Ted Ginn Sr. is more important than Eric Wedge, and LeBron James' buddies are more important than any athlete in Cleveland save LeBron.

And you know why our teams just aren't all that good, since Cavs radio announcer Joe Tait made the list before Grady Sizemore, before Travis Hafner, before C.C. Sabathia, before Kellen Winslow Jr., before Charlie Frye, before Braylon Edwards, heck, before any athlete other than LeBron. When play-by-play guys and talk-show hosts (like No. 18 Mike Trivisonno) are making your city's most-important-people-in-sports lists before all but one of your athletes, well, you need a few more athletes. Heck, Jim Brown, who retired 40 years ago, is more important than any current Brown or Indian!

But what about the other side of the equation? What about the people who DON'T matter? What about the LEAST important people on the Cleveland sports scene?

Look no further. Well, no further than the end of this entry. Because here's the Top 10 Plus One LEAST Important People in Cleveland sports:

11. Lake Erie Monsters owner Dan Gilbert
-- OK, OK, Dan Gilbert was third on the PD's list of most important people in Cleveland sports. But that was Dan Gilbert, Cavs owner! If Dan Gilbert, Lake Erie Monsters AHL franchise founder, were ranked, he'd probably come in at #474, right after Beachwood High School basketball scorekeeper and P.A. announcer. How many times has hockey failed in this town? There were the Cleveland Barons, who lasted two years in the mid-1970s. Then there were the Lumberjacks, who shared Richfield Coliseum with the Cavs before moving to The Q and playing in front of miserable crowds until dying in 2001. Then there were the ill-fated AHL Cleveland Barons, who picked up where the Lumberjacks left off, right down to the sucky crowds. Now, two seasons after the Barons II folded, we've got the Monsters to look forward. The team history even includes the brand-new legend of the Lake Erie Monster, which has been sighted in Lake Erie several times over the past 75 years. Don't be surprised if that's about as many people as see the Lake Erie Monsters hockey team in action.

10. Usher
-- What happened to you, Usher? You joined forces with Dan Gilbert (presumably) when it came time to buy the Cavs. You supposedly had input into the in-game entertainment that's now all over The Q. You even introduced us to a new symbol (The Double C) almost two years ago by crossing your arms over your head and circling your hands into big "C"s. Then you vanished. Rumors flew that you never paid your bills, that you were out, that you and Dan Gilbert had a falling out. Maybe your Double C was actually your way of saying C U Later, cuz no one has! Every once in awhile we'll hear one of your songs at The Q, but that's about it. Actually, we hear your songs now more when high school basketball teams warm up, so at least you've still got some juice on that level.

9. King Headspin
-- Believe it or not, that guy on the Cavs' Scream Team who can spin on his head actually has a name. He's King Headspin. Boy, just like King James. You know, your trick was impressive once. For a week. Back in 1983, when breakdancing first broke. But spinning around on your head at center court of the Cavs game while we wait for LeBron to come back on the court really doesn't do much for us. Chicks in skimpy clothes dancing around before they head over to Christie's or Diamond's Men's Club before they go to work for the rest of the evening -- that we can get into. But, dude, YOU SPIN AROUND ON YOUR HEAD! You're a human top. Your overall unimportance keeps you from the top ranks of this list because you have a name (unlike some of the others on this list), and by writing this it allows a picture of your hot teammate to be posted. Congrats.

8. The cotton candy vendor at Cleveland Browns Stadium
-- Look, no one buys cotton candy at football games in the first place. IT'S A FREAKING FOOTBALL GAME! You should be buying beer or hot dogs or beer dogs or something along those lines. Cotton candy? Cotton candy should be sold in three places and three places only -- a county fair, a beach, and a church festival (and only if there are clowns there). Cotton candy has no place anywhere else, especially at a football game. Have you ever seen anyone buy cotton candy from the cotton candy guy at a football game? No, you haven't. This guy is totally irrelevent.

7. Jennie Finch
-- Jennie Finch has nothing to do with Cleveland sports. She led the U.S. Olympic Softball Team to the gold medal in 2004 and enjoyed a stellar pitching career at Arizona State University. She married Caisey Daigle, who was once a pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks. None of these things have anything to do with Cleveland sports. Yet Jennie Finch is only sixth on the list, because she is much more important to Cleveland sports than the next five people on this list. Plus it's a chance to post a cute picture of her.

6. Jeff Uhlenhake, Browns assistant offensive line coach
-- This requires a double-take. The Browns actually have an ASSISTANT offensive line coach? The team with one of the most maligned offensive lines of the 21st century actually uses more than one coach to get the worst out of the line? And not only is Jeff Uhlenhake an assistant offensive line coach, he's entering his THIRD YEAR in that position with the Browns. Apparently he has no voice in draft decisions, since the Browns have drafted just one offensive lineman during Uhlenhake's tenure. Jeff Uhlenhake has so little power, he would be made to wait for a table at Denny's.

5. That guy at the beer concession stand on the concourse behind Section 511 at Jacobs Field
-- One Bud after another, with the occasional Bud Light mixed in. At least they are poured smoothly. But, dude -- there's beer all over the concession stand! You're always overpouring! You have to wipe up the counter in between each pour! Watch out, or Larry Dolan's gonna get rid of you. You're costing him one beer for every five you pour.

4. The guy who calls WKNR every day to demand that the Browns fire Romeo Crennell and hire Bill Parcells, the Cavs trade Eric Snow and Ira Newble and a second-round draft pick for Kevin Garnett
-- Dude, IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN! None of it. Stop calling. No one wants to hear you. You haven't said anything important since 1993.

3. The copy editor of the "For the Record" at The Plain Dealer
-- Beer-league softball scores! Division III basketball standings -- for men AND women! Ski-race results! THE TRANSACTIONS!! Well, at least they put point spreads on this page, making this guy not totally unimportant, but very close.

2.) Slider
-- The Indians official mascot (apparently no one would go for a guy dressed in red face with a feather in his slicked-back dark hair smiling a big, toothy grin) turns 17 this year. And nobody cares. Not when he's best known for falling off the outfield wall during the 1995 playoffs, tearing knee ligaments. THAT'S what he's best known for -- not his 12 appearances at the All-Star Game, not for his cameo on The Drew Carey Show, not for covering bald men's heads with his enormous beak, and for being nominated to the 2006 Mascot Hall of Fame. His description as a "big, purple-colored, hairy giant with yellow spots and eyebrows" does not help things. Let's face it, Slider has no power at all, not even over Cavs mascot Moondawg.

1.) Scott Pollard
-- The Cavs forward, signed in the offseason, has had more hairdos than points this season. The three points he scored Tuesday night give him a total of four for the season. He averaged 17½ minutes per game in his career before this year; his 27 minutes played so far this season have already knocked that down to close to an even 17. Even Alan Henderson, three years older and the guy who Pollard replaced, averaged 10 minutes per game for the Cavs and is getting almost 12 minutes a game with the 76ers. Not since Keith Hernandez has a free agent made less noise on the Cleveland sports scene. Scott Pollard has no power, not even at the McDonald's drive-thru.

Friday, January 26, 2007

An ouchie for LeBron

You'll see LeBron James wearing this uniform during the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas Feb. 18. As the leading vote-getter with more than 2.5 million, LeBron has the honor of showing what the EastErn Conference uniforms look like this year.

You won't see LeBron James wearing this uniform or any uniform tonight when the Cavs visit the Philadelphia 76ers for their big revenge match. That's because LeBron's big toe hurts.

He will play against the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, or say they say. Since the Suns are good (currently riding their second 15-game winning streak are the season), the Cavs will presumably need LeBron to avoid losing by 40. Of course, they WON'T need LeBron to avoid losing to the 76ers tonight. Right??

So don't worry, it's just a little thing, this big toe injury. All LeBron needs is a day of rest. Just like God. Or Atlas; he's tired from carrying this team like the weight of the world on his back. And we all know nothing like this ever turns into a long-term problem, not here in Cleveland.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

RIP, Cavs

The Cleveland Cavaliers, an NBA basketball franchise founded by one-time Cleveland Indians owner Nick Mileti that was known for the "Miracle of Richfield", losing to Michael Jordan over and over again, and wasting a good portion of LeBron James' career, died Wednesday at home in their sleep. They were 37.

The Cavs, as they were affectionately known, died during a loss to the NBA's worst team, the Philadelphia 76ers. Initial reports labeled the cause of death as poor free-throw shooting, awful defense, and an inability to stop Andre Iguodala from scoring more than double his season average of 16.7 points per game. Many other excuses abounded, such as they were tired or it was just one of those things.

Many times during their 37 years the Cavaliers made the playoffs, only to bring heartbreak to their fans. The "Miracle of Richfield" team advanced to the Eastern Conference finals in the 1975-76 season, only to lose to the Boston Celtics in a series of dramatic finishes. Some blamed the loss on a broken foot that kept star center Jim Chones off the court. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Cavs suffered a series of losses to Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. The most memorable was labeled "The Shot", when Jordan's 20-footer over Craig Ehlo in Game 5 of the first-round Eastern Conference playoffs gave the Bulls a 100-99 win at the buzzer. Just one season ago, the Cavs had a chance to upset the defending champion Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but their inability to grab even one rebound among four missed Pistons shots in the final two minutes of Game 6 cost them the series. At the time, Cleveland said it would have many more chances and that they were an up-and-coming team.

But the chances were few. After a promising start to this season, the Cavs were sent on a seven-game West Coast trip earlier this month where they caught lazyitis. After winning two of their first three games on the trip, chartered flights with recliners, first-class hotels, and NBA groupies caught up with the team. They complained of tired legs as they lost games to the Seattle SuperSonics and Portland Trail Blazers, the two worst teams in the Northwest Division. The long flight that covered the 173 miles from Seattle to Portland and the fact that the Cavaliers were forced to play AGAIN on back-to-back nights was blamed for the loss to the Trail Blazers.

Upon returning home at the beginning of the week, again on a first-class flight, the Cavaliers remained tired and lethargic while trailing from start to finish against the Orlando Magic. It was the Magic's only win in its last six games.

Then, at 9:52 p.m. on Wednesday night, the lethargic Cavaliers finally died.

The team is survived by approximately 414,000 angry Clevelanders and six times that many in the Greater Cleveland area, and LeBron James' mother. It will be buried in a ceremony Saturday at Lake View Cemetary, next to the body of former Cleveland Indian Ray Chapman, who died after being struck by a pitch in the head in a 1920 baseball game.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sodom -v- Gomorrah

Sodom and Gomorrah meet in the NFL playoffs today when the BaltimoreIndianapolis Colts visit the Cleveland BrownsBaltimore Ravens. No one in Cleveland will be turned into a pillar of salt for watching. Instead, we will be turned into seething little balls of hate, filled to the lips with bile and anger, fueled by the rage of watching eight years of bad Browns football coupled with visions of Art Modell, Bill Cowher, and Bill Belichick holding the Lombarty Trophy high over their heads.

Coming two days after the 20th anniversary of The Drive, it's all just too much.

Apparently we're supposed to feel sorry for Baltimore fans and root for them to get their revenge by whipping the Colts today. After all, then-owner Bob Irsay stole the Colts from Baltimore in the dead of night nearly 23 years. The Mayflower moving trucks used for the late-night theft immediately became a symbol of the screwed-over fan. Baltimore fans cursed their fate.

Thirteen years later, Art Modell moved the Browns there. Baltimore became what it hated, a city that would steal another city's team and have a good laugh about it. There were Art Modell and Maryland governor Paris Glendenning laughing it up on the podium announcing the Browns' move. Now, nearly 13 years after that, the Ravens play host to the team that moved from Baltimore in a playoff game.

Now the Ravens are beloved in Baltimore.

Perhaps if Cleveland stole some other city's teams, such as was rumored with the Minnesota Vikings in the late 1990s, we would be enjoying the success Ravens' fans are enjoying. Maybe if we didn't have to start over and instead nabbed a team like the New Orleans Saints whose owner has long wanted to move we would be back in the playoffs again. Heck, maybe if we made Ozzie Newsome stay here when the Browns left, we'd have a chance to make our second Super Bowl in the 21st century.

But no, we're left out in the cold again. The best we can root for is for Ray Lewis to be arrested on the field at halftime as the murder case in Atlanta in which he was involved seven years ago is reopened. Or for the egg that Peyton Manning bursts from in that Gatorade commercial to roll onto the field, scoop him up, and roll away. Or for Art Modell to suffer a heart attack in the first quarter -- unless the Ravens lose, in which case we want the heart attack to come at the end of the game.

Most likely, this will be the most entertaining playoff game of them all, one that is talked about for decades. It will probably be labeled an instant classic, as the Ravens defense scores a late touchdown, and then Peyton Manning overcomes his troubles to lead the Colts to the winning score at the buzzer.

And all Ravens fans will collapse in a fake malaise, while all Clevelanders continue to suffer in silence.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Root, root, root for which team?

The NFL playoffs have a distinctive Cleveland flavor, and it's the kind that makes us want to throw up like Nicole Richie after Thanksgiving dinner.

Just who do we root for this time around? Newly beloved Eagles quarterback Jeff Garcia, who actually embarrassed the embarrassing Browns during his short time here? The disgusting Baltimore Ravens? The always-ready-to-disappoint Marty Schottenheimer, whose teams have flamed out spectacularly in the playoffs not only here, but in Kansas City and San Diego as well? Or how about the New Orleans Saints, whose offensive line is anchored by center Jeff Faine, cast off by the Browns just before signing old New Orleans Saints center LeCharles Bentley? The Indianapolis Colts, whose move from Baltimore way back when opened the door for Art Modell to move our Browns there in the first place? Good ole Bill Belichick, the NFL's newest genius????

At least the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't make the playoffs. This year.

Browns fans have been dumped on so many times, we can't turn around without bumping into someone who's kicked us in the rear. We're like a puppy that was beaten for the first six months of its life; there's no one we trust. Except in our case, we've been beaten for the last 43 years or so.

But we can't spend our lives being bitter. We'll end up like those angry sports talk radio callers who are always yelling for the coach to be fired or the backup quarterback to start. We have to find the path to enlightment.

With that in mind, here's your guide for the rest of the playoffs -- the reasons both to root for and against each of the remaining teams.


Pros: Marty Schottenheimer's really one of us. He suffered the playoff losses to the Denver Broncos and held his head high. He's carried the stink of "Martyball" with him from the time he made Bernie Kosar hand the ball off to Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner over and over again. The label's hung with him as he's posted a 5-12 career playoff record. And tight end Antonio Gates is a Kent State product.

Cons: Rooting for Marty Schottenheimer is hazardous to your health. All Chargers games -- heck, all games Marty coaches -- should carry a Surgeon General's warning. Expect the worst when you root for one of Marty's teams, and you won't be disappointed.


Pros: We treated Bill Belichick like a leper when he was here and would have chased him out of town if Art Modell didn't take our team away first. But he's reinvented himself in New England, and there's no questioning three Super Bowl titles in four years. You might not like Belichick, but the Patriots have been a class act led by quarterback Tom Brady. Plus offensive coordinator/quarterbacks Josh McDaniels is a John Carroll grad and Canton product.

Cons: The Patriots have won plenty already. And Bill Belichick WAS a real ass when he was here.


Pros: It's nice to see Jeff Garcia rise from the dead along with the Eagles. He's on the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated. And if we're lucky and the Eagles keep winning we'll get to see more pictures of Garcia's fiancee, Avon Lake native Carmela DeCesare. Plus the Eagles have cool univorms.

Cons: Until this year, Jeff Garcia had won just one game after leaving Cleveland, and that was AGAINST the Browns as quarterback of the Detroit Lions last year. And when he found himself in the middle of a catfight between his old and new girlfriends in the Warehouse District during the 2004 season, he did something no one thought could be done -- he embarrassed one of the NFL's most dysfunctional franchises.


Pros: They're the new America's team. Reggie Bush is a rising star. The offensive is the best in league and fun to watch. And maybe the Browns did have a good offensive lineman after all in Faine.

Cons: It's just not fair. Why can teams continually go from worst to first, as long as they don't play the majority of their games in Cleveland. Plus, Jeff Faine anchors the offensive line. We all know the Browns haven't had any good offensive lineman since they returned!


Pros: Uh, they're nice guys? Starbucks is yummy?

Cons: They were just there last year!


Pros: A kick-ass defense is what football is all about. Chicago is almost a sister city to Cleveland. Or at least a parent city, cuz it's the city we want to grow up to be. And though the Bears is one of the NFL's storied franchises, they've been fairly downtrodden over the last 10 years or so for their 1985 Super Bowl championship.

Cons: The Bears are still living off of that 1985 Super Bowl championship. Then there's the White Sox, Michael Jordan, and the World's Largest Tavern a.k.a Wrigley Field, where the Cubs perennially disappoint. They got plenty in Chicago, they don't need another Super Bowl title.


Pros: Peyton Manning is one of the NFL's good guys, even if he does throw his offensive line or defense or idiot kicker under the bus every now and then. Tony Dungy is a class act. And they've been a fun offense to watch for years.

Cons: It's the Colts fault the Browns moved to Baltimore to begin with. First, they drafted John Elway, then didn't want to pay him enough money, so he held out and went to Denver. While there, he crushed Browns fans dreams. Then the Colts snuck out of Baltimore, leaving a gaping hole that Art Modell eventually filled.


Pros: You've got to be kidding me! Screw the Ravens!!!!!

So here's your choices of who to root for -- either the Chargers, Bears, or Seahawks. It'll be just like rooting for the Browns if you root for the Chargers, since Marty Schottenheimer is sure to break your heart. If you don't want your heart broken, root for the Bears. One of you friends or one of your friends' kids is sure to move there for a job soon anyway and become a Bears fans. Safest of all is the Seahawks. They're the guilt-free choice in 2007.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Year in Review
Part 2

Not much went right in the Cleveland sports world in 2006. Even the Cavs, who gave us our most excitement by winning a playoff series, started the year with a 14-15 record in January and February. Really, we enjoyed two-and-a-half good months in 2006 -- March, April, and part of May -- before everything spun out of control like Ricky Bobby in a NASCAR race.

Not only could our teams not do anything right, our players couldn't say anything right. Kellen Winslow Jr., our poster child for foot-in-mouth disease, contributed more than his share of outlandish quotes in 2006. But Braylon Edwards threatened to pass his teammate with what seemed like weekly proclamations.

The old standbys weren't the only ones to make our jaws drop by making their jaws drop, though. Mark Shapiro, Paul Dolan, Ramon Vazquez and plenty of others had something to say, and we soon had something to laugh at.

So here are the Top Cleveland Sports Quotes of 2006:

"We have an emotionally traumatized fan base. It's nothing that happened recently. It was when they went 40 years before winning. So now, they think:
'Oh, goodness! We're not going to win again for 40 years.'"
-- Mark Shapiro, quoted in a Bill Livingston column in The Plain Dealer in February

That's Cleveland sports, summed up in three sentences. Sad thing is, Mark Shapiro's probably right.

"This is my ultimate dream. Every day, I wished this could've happened. This is where my roots are and where I want to blossom… This is absolutely a dream come true. This is it for me right here. Now I can die happy ... I grew up watching Bernie Kosar and Webster Slaughter. I idolized those guys. I want to be that guy. I feel right now I'm going to be that guy." -- LeCharles Bentley upon signing with the Browns

Like every Cleveland sports dream, LeCharles Bentley's turned into a nightmare. When the turf jumped up to bite his knee on the first day of training camp it most likely ended his playing career. No one associated with the team will say anything, but rumors are that a staph infection has settled in and LeCharles won't be back for 2007. No other event symbolized this city's sports lucks more than this.

“I predict Jim Thome is going to have a Jim Thome year (in 2006). He’s in top-notch shape and is still as good a hitter as he ever was.” -- Philadelphia Phillies manager Charlie Manual.

“I’m disappointed to see him in our division. The White Sox gave up a lot. They took a risk, but it’s a trade that could have a very high ceiling.” -- Shapiro

Jim Thome's final stats for the Chicago White Sox: .288 average, 42 HRs, 109 RBI, 108 runs scored. He only hit .214 against the Indians, but knocked in 14 runs.

"What was inexcusable tonight was for me to give up. I'd like to apologize to my teammates, the fans, my family and whoever else was in the stands. That's the first time in my career that's happened to me. I just lost focus." -- Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia after giving up eight runs in the third inning of a June game against the Chicago Cubs.

Don't worry, C.C., we gave up on the team long before you did.

''I hate to be brash, but I think my 90 percent is still better than every tight end out there.'' -- Kellen Winslow Jr.

Winslow did finish ninth in the NFL in receptions, but he didn't make the Pro Bowl. And he does not hate to be brash.

"I guess I'm shocked by it. I'm not sure I understand the economics of such a deal. It demonstrates that we have more work to do on the economic disparity within the game." -- Indians president Paul Dolan's reaction to the Boston Red Sox's payment of $51.1 million for the rights to negotiate with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Of course Paul Dolan was shocked -- it involved a bundle of money!

"I don't feel like I embarrassed my teammates. I embarrassed myself to some extent. That's not my character. That's not me. Nobody knows me as that type of guy. I've always been the clean cut, quiet, well-spoken guy, so that wasn't me. I embarrassed myself a little bit and I feel I embarrassed this organization to some extent. I wish I could do it back, but I can't."

"All I did was show I cared about the game. All I did was show my passion for the game. It's not like I fought anybody. It's not like I gave the bird to somebody in the stands or anything like that. I was just showing passion about the game." -- Braylon Edwards, after getting into Browns QB Charlie Frye's face on the sidelines during a game

"We're coming after (the Steelers') ass," -- Braylon Edwards after the Browns beat the Atlanta Falcons

SILENCE -- Braylon Edwards by the end of the season

"If we're ahead by 30, then I would like to see some of (Derek Anderson)," -- Browns head coach Derek Anderson, before he actually had to use Derek Anderson

Hey, Romeo, all the rest of us would like to see the Browns ahead by 30. First you have to SCORE 30, though.

Jason Johnson is a "durable innings eater." -- Shapiro upon signing the journeyman pitcher.

All that eating gave us indigestion. Johnson went 3-8 with the Tribe before getting his release waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too late in the season. For some reason, after watching him post a 5.96 ERA with the Tribe, the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds thought Johnson could still pitch. Both tried him out. Johnson went 0-4 for Boston and didn't post a decision for the Reds. He finished with a 6.10 ERA.


And the most ridiculous quote uttered by anyone wearing a Cleveland uniform this past year:

"I never got a fair shot here. Not this year or last year." -- Indians utility infielder Ramon Vazquez, upon being sent to Buffalo after hitting .209 in 67 at-bats and costing the Tribe Brandon Phillips

At least Vazquez got it right moments later when he said, "This has been a horrible year." Yes, Ramon, it sure has!