Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Friday, March 23, 2007

Agent Zero

My favorite non-Cleveland athlete is Gilbert Arenas. I feel no shame for loving Gilbert. He has a blog and his latest post about how he loves basketball confirms what I felt about him was true. You can find it at:


God bless Greg Oden

He jumped over his own teammate to block the shot that decided the game. How many minutes he played. How many fouls he committed. How many points he was limited to. All of that was made irrelevant when Greg Oden jumped over his own teammate to vault Ohio State into the final eight.

I have never met young Mr. Oden. I have never even seen him play in person. Yet I am doubly intrigued by him.

First his talent on the court. Last week watching David Robinson as a senior only heightened my expectations of what the young freshman will do as a professional. Oden is already farther along that Robinson was then. Oden is a raw talent that doesn't come along. He is a freight train and yet a tree. His injury will make him a better player in the long run. And even when he had what some would call a nightmare game. Yet he had the confidence and the talent to win the game.

You hear the debate Oden or Kevin Durant. For me there is none. Of course I still believe Houston made the right pick when they took Hakeem Olajuwon. I know, I know Michael Jordan went third and the Bulls one day won six titles. The Dream only brought home two but it wasn't his fault Ralph Sampson got injured. If Jordan had went to Houston, there would be Pippen and no Phil Jackson. As great as Jordan was, it was a process that took years and it needed the pieces parts to make it as we are learning right now with LeBron James. When choosing between two stars, I will take the big man every time. Oden will make some NBA team a contender one day, I have no doubt about that. As general manager I think it will be easier to fill the roles with the big man in place rather than the talented guard or forward.

But what intrigues me just as much is the man Oden is. He looks older than his age. He seems more mature than his age. With one hand almost tied behind his back, he had to learn the college game this year on national TV every week. And with a loss of a close friend, he had to grow up this year faster than any of us would want our teenage son to do.

So when stories are filtering out that he wants to stay in school I believe him. Sources close to him say it is the real deal and not a pr move. Yet I won't be put off if he does leave. College is fun. College is a oasis to the real world. I know you can find stories everywhere of how college athletics is now all big business and maybe it is. But it is still more of a cocoon than life on the road in the NBA. The money is there to take. No risk, guaranteed. The thought he is still not sure says a lot about his character.

I have rambled and lost track of my point. But all you need to know about Greg Oden was summed up in one play.

Saddled with four fouls, with the AP wire guys ready to hit send with the unfair headline "Oden is the goat", he jumped over his own teammate to block a shot and win the game.

He never hesitated.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I started this post before the final seconds even ticked down in the Cavs/Bobcats game.

Has there ever been a team that causes you to scream more ever?

I know the national media today finally noticed the Cavs have been hot. Every television occupied by sportswriter seemed to ask if the Cavs could catch the Pistons. It is great to have lofty goals but one must also remember the Bulls are right in the rear view mirror and the Cavs could fall to the fifth spot just as easy as move up to the top.

The half full view would be teams like the Bobcats will not be in the playoffs. Lottery bound missing three starters. LeBron and company seem to always save their best against the best. I can't imagine a letdown in the playoffs. I would not be surprised to see the Cavs win tomorrow night against the Mavs.

And while a loss like this doesn't erase the good thoughts of the win streak. This team can really ruin a person's blood pressure. For all of Snow's post defense, how can he drive against three defenders with the rest of his team on the other side of half court. If you and I all know in the final minutes of regulation that someone other than Eric Snow needed to drive to the basket, how can they settle for outside shots.

And I am not one to think I know more than an NBA coaching staff like so many on the internet, but why did the Cavs allow the Bobcats dictate who was on the floor rather than stick with our lineup? It bugs me to no end when Gooden and Z are just forgotten after their play helped build the lead.

I am a realist enough to know that this one game in the big picture like most NBA games means nothing. Especially in the East where the goal is just to get in the playoffs as healthy as possible. But it would seem to me that home court means more to the Cavs than it does for teams like Detroit or Miami. The Cavs can not afford to give away too many games like this. And while I know one game doesn't mean that much, I can't remember ever screaming so loud at the television than I did tonight. This has been a frustrating season to watch. It would be easy to imagine the Cavs having a large lead in the conference without several losses to the worst teams in the league.

Maybe as fans we need to learn the same lesson that LeBron learned last year from Miami. All that matters is May and June. The Big Picture still remains in focus but my blood pressure can't take this shit.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Big Ten proved its toughness

Today I heard Michael Wilbon moaning about the Big Ten and their performance in the NCAA Tournament. I could not disagree more with him.

I went into this tournament very cautious about the Big Ten and Ohio State in particular. I wonder if like football, if Ohio State was a great team or just one of two good teams in a bad conference.

Greg Oden's performance in the Big Ten tournament had me believing the Buckeyes could contend for a title. He looked healthy but what was the level of competition.

The Big Ten really impressed me this past weekend. I know the big picture says only Ohio State is still standing and many are arguing Xaiver got screwed because Oden was not called for a flagerent or intentional foul. Many are mocking Wisconsin for being the only second seed to get knocked out. But there is so much more to the story.

First Wisconsin was a two seed in name only and that is a testament to their great coach, Bo Ryan and the intestinal fortitude of their players. Alando Tucker may have been voted the Big Ten Player of the Year but their difference maker was a healthy Brian Butch. He made the Badgers a great team instead of a good team. Wisconsin should have lost in the first round and been blown out in the second round. Again, I credit them for rallying in both games. It is hard to win with no inside presence.

But here is where I really am disgusted with Wilbon. Purdue, Indiana and Michigan Stare were all nine seeds. Each were underdogs and won game one and then gave three of the best teams in the country a scare. North Carolina is the deepest team in the country. Tom Izzo showed again why he is one of the best game coaches in the country as his Spartans battled the Tar Heels. There was no shame in that loss. Florida is the defending champion. Purdue out manned and with no tournament experience hung right in there with the Gators. It took a super human effort from Al Horford to change the outcome of that game. And Kelvin Sampson's team scored just 13 first half points yet still had the defending national runner-ups and Pac-10 regular season champion UCLA on the ropes at the end of the game. Indiana did not quit and almost pulled off a miracle.

Those three Big Ten teams used what they had to push three of the best programs in the nation. Those performances while ultimately failures gives me hope for Ohio State. The Big Ten may not be the best conference in America but it is is competitive. It may not be pretty basketball but it is good basketball.

Wilbon's partner Tony Kornheiser said he didn't like Ohio State's chances because he didn't know if they could score enough. Maybe it was a valid point before the tournament. But did he watch the last eight minutes of the game on Saturday. Ohio State can score when it needs to. Unlike its fallen conference brethren, Ohio State has weapons inside and out. The Buckeyes have several prime time players and I expect them to continue to carry the Big Ten Banner past this next weekend. That is something I was hopeful for before the tournament began but truly believe now.

Sweet Sixteen

In 1986, my parents in their wisdom decided that as a family we would give up television for Lent. Now we didn't have cable and there were only five channels but this was a difficult thing to ask a seventh grader to do.

This was the only time ever they did that. And their timing could not have been worse. See 1986 is the only year ever the Cleveland State Vikings were invited to the NCAA mens basketball tournament.

Sportstime Ohio showed all three games on the eve of this year's tournament. So it was the first time in 21 years I got to see the games as I was forced to listen to all three the first time around.

My true love as kid were the Browns with the Indians a close second. Up until then I don't think I had ever been to a Cavs game. I watched some on TV and I loved World B Free but being so short I wasn't much of a basketball player.

Until that year, my small religious grade school did not offer basketball until the seventh grade. I was on the team that year but my coach did not play me every much. Often when I did go in, he warned me not to shoot. But I played hard. I sat next to him on the bench and started to fall in love with the game. I got my first backboard. I am pretty sure it was one that someone else had thrown out and my Dad rescused from the scrap heap at work. I cut holes in the tips of my gloves and shoot baskets all winter long.

I loved that Cleveland State team and the team that followed the year after. I painted my backboard green. Mouse McFadden was my hero.

Watching the games was like being in a time machine. No three point line. No graphics filling the screen. Shorts being just that... short.

As I watched the Navy game, I wondered if my recollections of them being screwed were correct. I mean I had never seen with my own eyes the two "bad" calls.

Now 21 years later, when they had the lead with eight seconds left. A part of me still believed they would win the game. It looked like Paul Stewart was fouled on that jump ball even the Navy kid acted like he was guilty. As for the charge/no call again it looked like Stewart had position but refs always like the superstars like David Robinson get away with that play at the end of games. It was hard to remember that Stewart would never play another game as he would die in a pickup game over the summer. The other weird thing is I have never in my mind took that lead with eight seconds left and placed it with my other Cleveland sports failures. I never called it the No Call or added it to the list of The Drive, The Fumble, Joe Table or The Shot. My love of sports was still innocent then.

The sweet memory of that year is in stark contrast to how Cleveland State would fad away. First the probation for recruiting Manute Bol and then Kevin Mackey self destructing with a crack pipe. But that would all come later as I will always remember 1986 as the year I fell in love with basketball

A return

Five months of unemployment can change a person. Since I have no family to support the challenges have been merely mental.

Mostly I have holed up in my apartment. I don't talk to many people and I try to avoid the public at large. I went from covering every game possible to cold turkey. I didn't want to talk about or hear about how coverage now sucks without me. No duh.

I ignored most of the positives until just lately. I was able to attend many of my brother's games. He won his last 15 regular season games and gave one of the best programs in the country a real scare in the D-III national tournament. I would have missed all that had I been working. I also saw my nieces several more times than I would have otherwise so that was cool too. Not being surronded by people who just work for paycheck rather than being passionate has been nice as well.

I guess I missed the deadlines and writing the most. It is hard to imagine caring that much. Most of the five months flew by. I was able to let go by avoiding it. If I saw an issue then I would get upset because of the the acceptance of mediocrity and just being like the awful competition. I feel bad about all of the kids who didn't get covered because of I wasn't there.

Soon the unemployment runs out. I can't imagine somewhere hiring me. My resume sucks. My personality has changed enough that I don't know if I can fake an interview. I really have no connections and allies. I know the coaches, politicians and readers liked me but they don't do the hiring. I have no friends in the newspaper business. I know if hired I would turn it on and I would be fine. I just don't see getting the chance.

I haven't posted because I know the truth about me. I am not really a good writer. People think I am because the talent I do have is knowing my audience. I have been blessed with the ability to write in a style that the reader connects with. I wrote my articles knowing they were headed for scrapbooks and being sent to Grandma. Each one was special for some family. As for my columns, I know Cleveland. I wonder if that style could translate to another market. My clips while wonderful for the area are not the kind that impress journalists.

Now my audience is gone, I am not sure I can write still. Plus I suck at proofreading my own stuff.

I am going to try but I don't know how to find you again.