Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Browns have won respect

The day after my post about the Browns game against Pittsburgh. I wondered if I was too easy on them. They lost a game they could have won. Even if I was convinced they lost to a better team-- maybe I should have been more disappointed.

Then a strange them happened. National writers like lists. At the start of the season, most of them had the Browns ranked in the 30s of the their lists of the 32 teams in the NFL.'s Vic Carucci has the Browns ranked 12th and on his list of teams looking good enough to be a possible playoff team.'s Pete Prisco has them in the same space. ESPN's power rankings have the Browns at 11th (after being 9th last week). The worldwide sports leader's main football writer Mark Mosely has the team one higher at 10th. That is the same rank that fans at SportsNation and Fox Sports on MSN's Pete Schrager have them. USA Today has the Browns at 11th and calls the team "legitimate."

Sports Illustrated's Peter King has them ninth while his colleague (and the man who I respect the most) Dr. z also has them 10th along with the caveat that the Browns learned a lesson in the Steeler game.

Over at Yahoo!, Michael Silver has the Browns at 11th. Charles Robinson has them at ninth after having them ranked eighth last week. Their colleague Jason Cole also had the Browns at eighth last week and after the Steelers loss, he moved them up to sixth.

I usually don't care what the national media thinks. But it has to confirm my growing faith that others are noticing that this is in fact a different team. Are the Browns among the league's elite? Of course not, but the playoffs are no longer just a distant memory.

Of course, this week means a trip to Baltimore where the Browns are a road favorite. The Ravens are a wounded and angry team after being embarrassed the last two weeks against the Steelers and Bengals. The team that had a first round bye last year in the tough AFC has yet to win a division game this season. It will not be an easy win. In fact, it is a game that looks very losable. For the first time, the Browns are no longer an underdog but a team expected to win-- despite a flawed defense.

Let's see how this young team reacts.

Woo Hoo Awards

Hmmm. C.C. Sabathia wins the Cy Young and Eric Wedge wins A.L. manager of the year and yet instead of pride, it just feels like a slap in the face. Nothing against what either man did in the regular season but it just feels so empty.

C.C. has to be happy because he gets another two million bucks for next year but I doubt it adds to his motivation since it was already there in the form of a contract year. Next season, Mr. Sabathia could pitch himself to the biggest contract a pitcher has ever seen. I know he is saying the right things about staying but that is why he has an agent. Maybe A Rod will be enough of a cautionary tale but I doubt it.

On other hand, I get the feeling winning manager of the year means nothing to Eric Wedge. While I am sure he will say the right things, I can't imagine a plaque means anything to him. He knows what slipped away and he knows how hard it will be just to get back in place. While he has to like his chances, I believe he has noticed the Tigers are already better, the White Sox have to be be better and the Yankees and Red Sox still have huge payrolls.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weekend behind the lines

I made my first ever visit to enemy soil as I spent the weekend in Pittsburgh.

Do you know it is illegal to get three six-packs of beer in PA? If you go to a beer store-- you have to buy at least four six-packs or a case, you can't buy less. If you try to get beer to take home from a bar-- you can only buy two six packs- nothing more. If you go to a supermarket or a gas station- you can't buy anything as they don't sell beer there. Seriously silly.

Saturday afternoon I went to Church Works Brewery. It is an old Catholic church that has been refurbished into a brewery/restaurant. It is sort of cool as they kept the stain glass windows and the organ pipes in the balcony but I was really disappointed in the beer. It was no Great Lakes or Rocky River Brew pub. I tried a sampler of their six home brews and I didn't find a single one worth buying a pint of. The food was a major step down from both above mentioned Cleveland locations as well. My friend's cheese steak was burned gristle and my pirogi not only couldn't compete with Mom's- they were barely on the level with frozen Mrs T's.

That night a cabbie obviously took us the long way to the strip of bars. What else would you except though- our friends in the cab behind us said even their driver was "shocked" at what our driver pulled. The first few bars we walked past didn't seem that interesting-- and some Smoking Joe place we went in to meet people wasn't that fun. We ended up a some bar called The Bar. Nice. Simple. Cheap. With a Rock Jukebox. Limited vodka choices but instead of Neanderthal bartenders wearing Yellow one of the bartenders wore Penn State colors while the other had a Ohio State cap.

Finding cab near closing was near impossible as you couldn't get through to the cab company. Ended up getting a ride home in an "unofficial" cab. Strange man but we made it back to the hotel.

On Sunday, we headed to the Browns Backers bar--Pete's Pub. Glad we got there two hours early as it filled up fast. I am bad at estimating but I would say there was a couple of hundred Browns fans there. Maybe half came in from Greater Cleveland just for the game. It is strange how people ask 'where are from' and you say 'Cleveland' and they say 'Where in Cleveland' and you answer 'Um, Cleveland." And they say "But where?" Do you they want my address- I live in the city of Cleveland. And they say 'Oh I am from Mentor/Ravenna/Perry'. Yeah that may be Northeast Ohio but it really isn't Cleveland.

The bar was rocking for most of the game. They had 50/50 raffles and another raffle for Browns stuff. It was a pretty cool atmosphere. It was slightly annoying with the constant turning off the sound so someone could talk at a mike but you can't complain too much as the Browns fans there have to suffer so much. The other thing that bothered me was every time a news camera showed up-- most of the fans would stop watching the game and just scream. That is not being a fan-- you cheer what you see on the field not because someone turns on a camera.

As for the game itself-- that first drive was something beautiful to behold wasn't it. After that almost all of the offense was thanks to Joshua Cribbs and a huge interception that set up a fantastic catch by Braylon Edwards and a great challenge from Romeo. Am I not going to nitpick about other moments or decisions. That penalty on the last punt return was obviously killer and I wish Joe Jurevious had the presence of mind to drop that last pass-- I know he is paid to catch balls but it would have been better to take one more shot down field than to give up third down. As soon as the Browns went for the field goal I believed they had no shot to make. Kickers don't make 50+ yard field goals in the open end at that stadium. A guy next to me cursed out Phil Dawson but you can't ask him to even try that field goal. It was out of his range. It shocked me that it was just barely out his range but I did not think that was a makeable field goal.

After the game I wasn't overly upset. It sucked. I hate losing to these punks over and over. But the Browns had a chance to win and if you look at the stats-- they should not have. Joshua Cribbs almost won that game by himself-- in fact without that penalty I think he does. The defense as it is right now is not good enough to stop Pittsburgh- yet three times in the first half they made a play when needed and forced the Steelers to settle for a field goal. The Steelers as much I as hate to say-- are a good well rounded football team. And the Browns are a lot closer to them now they just at the start of the season.

The second half is now setup for the Brownies. A win next week would put them in the catbird's seat for a wild card slot and a chance for a another shot at the Steelers in the first week of the playoffs. Things can change fast in the NFL but the Pats and Colts seem to have the first two spots locked up. This game while not the ending we wanted-- the Browns showed some fight. The truth is they are not quite ready for that next step-- but let's see what the next seven weeks bring us.