Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Who are those people on the bandwagon?

Now that the NBA post-season is underway, I thought it was time for a breakdown. Not of the teams that the Cavs may play but for some of the types of fans that will watch the Cavs play this post season.

Mother Hen

Became a Cavs fan: Not really one but knows everyone else is and wants the community to be happy.

Wears: An apron while she makes wings and snacks for the game.

Answer to what is the shot?: Something from the doctor.

Regular season games watched: 0

Cavs they can name: LeBron, Z and that guy with the hair

Reaction to Cavs losing game six to Magic in ’09: Does this mean there are no more games?

Thoughts on LeBron’s contract status: Unaware it is expiring.

Answer to will the Cavs win the NBA title this year?: Hopes so.

If the Cavs won the title would be most happy for: The city.

Johnny Bandwagon

Became a Cavs fan: When the Cavs went to the finals in 2007.

Wears: LeBron jersey or the free shirt left on their seat at the Q.

Answer to what is the shot?: Cherry Bomb

Regular season games watched: A few minutes here and there.

Cavs they can name: most of this year’s roster

Reaction to Cavs losing game six to Magic in ’09: It was Mike Brown’s fault, really angry then 10 minutes later dancing to the Superman Song on the dance floor.

Thoughts on LeBron’s contract status: Knows LeBron will stay in Cleveland because he is from here and he can make more money here and Cleveland is the best location in the nation.

Answer to will the Cavs win the NBA title this year?: No doubt

If the Cavs won the title would be most happy for: Z

Corporate Big Shot

Became a Cavs fan: When LeBron was drafted.

Wears: Shirt and tie with free shirt from the Q.

Answer to what is the shot?: Well back then I was a Bulls fan so ...

Regular season games watched: Home games at the Q.

Cavs they can name: Players since LeBron joined the team

Reaction to losing Cavs losing game six to Magic in ’09: Sad but believed next year would be the year.

Thoughts on LeBron’ contract status: Mood goes up and down based on what ESPN or other media is reporting.

Answer to will the Cavs win the NBA title this year?: They better.

If the Cavs won the title would be most happy for: Improved business climate in area.

Radio Show Caller

Became a Cavs fan: Because the Browns don’t play year round.

Wears: Depending on age, a Bingo Smith, World B Free, or a Mark Price jersey.

Answer to what is the shot?: “Expletive”

Regular season games watched: Most of them.

Cavs they can name: Just about every one of them since he started following the team.

Reaction to Cavs losing game six to Magic in ’09: Knew it would happen because God hates Cleveland.

Thoughts on LeBron’s contract status: He’s gone

Answer to will the Cavs win the NBA title this year?: Not a chance.

If the Cavs won the title would be most happy for: Would still be angry that the Browns haven’t won a championship since 1964.

Cleveland Sports Guy

Became a Cavs fan: shortly after birth

Wears: Whatever is in his closet but never a jersey with another man’s name on it.

Answer to what is the shot?: Shakes head tries to talk and then shakes head again.

Regular season games watched: All that he can.

Cavs they can name: Everyone whoever played for them

Reaction to Cavs losing game six to Magic in ’09: The better team won (Mike Brown’s a idiot)

Thoughts on LeBron’s contract status: Win this year and would drive LeBron to New York himself.

Answer to will the Cavs win the NBA title this year?: Afraid to answer because they don’t want to jinx it.

If the Cavs won the title would be most happy for: Himself.

Supporting Big Ben is unacceptable

In my heart of hearts, I would have bet a month’s pay that no matter how long of a suspension NFL commissioner Roger Goodell handed Ben Roethlisberger that his first game back would be against the Browns.

Never in my wildest imagination would I have believed that the NFL schedule makers would also grant the Steelers a bye week to help Big Ben get back into the flow of things.

Wait, you are saying that it is actually a six game suspension? Yeah right. No. 7 will be suited up and ready to play the Browns on Oct. 17 at Ketchup Stadium.

Unless of course our rivals who pride themselves on doing things the right way trade the posterchild for bad decisions as word has come down that the Steelers would accept a top-10 pick for Big Ben.

A few Browns fans have even floated the idea that the Browns should surrender the seventh pick in the draft to bring the Findlay native back to Ohio.

It would never happen. Ben is not a Mangini kind of guy. Even Holmgren would have a hard time selling it to the faithful and the Steelers would never trade him in the division let alone to the Browns.

But it does give me thought.

I have always wondered just what it would take for me to stop being a Browns fan. They broke my heart nearly every year of my childhood. They left town and since the bad clone version has come back, it has been nothing but a decade-plus nightmare. The only thing more ridiculous than how they have performed on the field is how they have performed in the front office.

And yet I watch every game. If last year couldn’t kill my Browns fan heart, just what could?

Trading for that awful man would.

Yes I am saying that trading for a Pro Bowl in his prime two-time Super Bowl champion would end forever my fanship of my beloved Cleveland Browns.

I could never cheer for that man. And it is not just because he wore those black and puke colored uniforms.

I have always suspected that he was a below-average human being but reading the police report confirmed it. I don’t care if he hasn’t been convicted of a crime. I don’t want that guy on my team.

Call me a hypocrite but his alleged transgressions trump any other crime of anyone who has played for the Browns except of course that idiot Donte Stallworth. If he came back and played for the Browns I would feel almost as strongly.

In my lifetime, I have only missed two Browns games by choice. They were the last two starts that Jeff Garcia made for the Browns. In fact they were probably his best two starts as a Brown. But I drew a line in the sand; I said I wouldn’t watch again until he was gone.

Now it wasn’t because of Terrell Owens’ definition of a duck. But rather a combination of a police report Garcia was involved in just before he left California for the Browns, the way he threw his teammates under the bus and some behind-closed-doors information I had learned.

My team represents me. Their quarterback — more than any other player — represents the team. It is one thing if my quarterback is awful; it is a completely other thing if he is an awful human being.

I can’t cheer for a despicable person no matter what colors he wears.

I understand that football players aren’t saints. They have flaws. No can’t have a team of angels. But like it or not, the player that most defines any team is the man who is taking the snaps under center.

People wonder why Bernie Kosar is so beloved in Cleveland. It is because he seemed on the field to represent just what this community loves so much. Scrappy, determined and playing above expectations. And well — he beat the Steelers more often then he lost to them.

I have never liked Big Ben. I’ve begrudgingly tipped my cap to him way too many times. But I will never cheer for him. And I won’t support any team that employs him. Even if that team became the Browns.

Media whiles NFL into changing OT rules

With Sports Illustrated’s Peter King leading the charge, the NFL has changed their “archaic” overtime rules for the playoffs.

The media has changed football.

Who else wanted this change?

Honestly I haven’t heard any fans demanding a change in overtime. There are no polls I have found online saying it needs to be change. I have read no comments from players or a head coach that the system needs must be altered.

King and his like have used this year’s NFC Championship game as the classic example of what they perceive what’s wrong with the system the NFL has used for the past 36 years.

A kickoff was returned to the 39-yard line, two defensive penalties moved the ball forward and then a 40-yard field goal sent the Saints to the Super Bowl and King’s beloved Brett Favre never got to touch the ball.

And that, according to King and many other media members, was not fair.

Life isn’t fair. But Favre never touching the ball in overtime doesn’t fit the bill.

Football, as every coach will tell you, is three phases - offense, defense and special teams. If you don’t want to lose a game the way the Vikings did then have your special teams stop the return and don’t have your defense commit penalties.

But maybe even more importantly, don’t let the game go to overtime where a coin flip can hurt you. I mean Favre and the Vikings had the ball late in regulation with a chance to win and he threw an interception. It was one of five turnovers that the Vikings had. Not getting the ball in overtime was not the reason Minnesota lost the game. I believe their owner agrees as he was only one of four to vote against the proposal.

These new rules the NFL passed will be just for the playoffs. Bill McKay for the Falcons led the charge, and his reasoning was statistics. Since 1994, when the NFL moved kickoffs from the 35 to the 30, statistics showed that teams winning the coin toss win the game 59.8 percent of the time.

The team that lost the toss won the game 38.5 percent. McKay and others believe that the accuracy of kickers make overtime unfair, there is that word again, in favor of the team that wins a random coin flip.

Again that doesn’t bother me, teams make their own fate. If you don’t want to get screwed by a coin then win in regulation. If you play solid special teams and defense, losing the coin flip is not a death sentence.

But the new rules seem stupid to me. If the team that gets the ball first scores a touchdown then the game is over. Just like now.

If the team that gets the ball first doesn’t score, you play until someone scores just like now. But if the team that gets the ball first kicks a field goal then they have to kick off and the other team gets the ball. And they get a huge advantage. If the second scores a touchdown they win. They also get four downs to use instead of three.

There is no reason to play it safe like the first team had to. And if the first team didn’t score at all they can kick a field goal to win. Even if they got field position based on special teams or penalties. I won’t say it is unfair because again a team must make its own breaks but it does seem slanted to me.

Not that it won’t be interesting because it will open a huge bag of worms for coaches. Do you take the ball if you win the flip? Tell your offense to go down and score a touchdown to end it? Or play it safe that your defense will hold the other team to a field goal or less? Coaches will go from wanting to win the coin flip to hoping they lose it.

I think overtime should have stayed the same. I am glad at least it won’t go the way of college or high school. Giving teams the ball on the 25-yard line is just as dumb as having soccer and hockey players have a shoot-out. It is exciting for fans but it is a video game version of the real game being played

If you insist on giving both teams the ball then play an entire 15 minute quarter to the end. If the rule is only for the playoffs, it would make for riveting TV as coaches would have to decide in regulation to try for the tie and face a grueling extra quarter or to go for the win right away with their seasons on the line. The integrity of the game would stay intact. Both teams would get a shot and all three phases of the game will still in play.

Football is a team sport. It takes a team to win. The media should not have encouraged the NFL to change its rule so a quarterback can get a chance to win a game he could have won in regulation. As Denver Broncos receiver Brandon Stokley told the Associated Press.

“I just think that they should keep it like it is,” he said. “It makes things interesting. Some people don’t like the coin toss, but that’s just the way it goes. If you’re on defense first and you don’t have the ball, you’ve just got to stop them.”

March Madness creates magical memories

Published: Thursday, March 18, 2010

My first exposure to the NCAA tournament took place at a Lenten dinner at church. While my parents doled out bowls of soup to parishioners, I was behind a curtain on the stage playing Nerf ball basketball.

One of the older kids was pretending to be Patrick Ewing and swatting all us little kids shots away.

I had no idea who Ewing was or where Georgetown was located. It was only years later that I had any appreciation of what Villanova accomplished that season.

The following year I fell in love with March Madness. Cleveland State had a young freshman named Mouse and shocked the world with its “Run and Stun” style under coach Kevin Mackey.

Unfortunately that was the year my parents decided to give up TV for Lent. I never got to watch the Sweet Sixteen game against Navy until STO reshowed it a few years ago.

My brother and I would shovel the driveway, cut the finge tips off our gloves and play basketball from the time school ended until my mom would turn off the backyard light and force us inside to go to bed.

Starting that season and for several years after, my brother and I would recreate the entire bracket. We had an old egg timer and would play the final minutes of each game.

It took forever to do this because more often than not the game would break down into fisticuffs and we would be forced into a mom’s timeout before we could sneak away to play some more.

One year we had it exactly right as in both the backyard and real life Indiana beat Syracuse with a buzzer beater. Other years schools like Wyoming or Austin Peay would be playing for “our” title.

The Monday after the Sunday Selection show used to be one of my favorite days. It was the one day of the year I would buy a USA Today and then several local papers.

Of course this was pre-Internet and I would pour through all the information I could find to fill out my brackets. I was always too heavy on upsets.

Every year I would have one or two shocking first round upsets right but I was too young to realize that Cinderellas may be beautiful on day one but the magic wears off by the time the Final Four rolls around.

Through all of high school and college I would strangely develop a cough on the first Thursday of the wtournament. It was my favorite day of the year. Watching basketball, cheering for underdogs and just enjoying the bliss that is March Madness.

After college I was a school teacher. In order to not miss any games, I would use the tournament as a learning tool. I would create a study guide and ask my grader schoolers questions.

If they got it right then they would get to pull a team from a hat. The winning team would earn some lucky student a prize. It gave me an excuse to have the games on in the background and kids would develop a new favorite team.

One year as athletic director we sold mugs with NFL, MLB, NBA and NCAA logos. My principal was surprised so many kids were buying out of state NCAA teams. I just smiled.

Another year I was on break and went to Daytona Beach. What I remember most is that while I was out in the sun on the beach, I missed watching Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew drain his famous buzzer beater.

Now I am older. The Internet allows you to discover almost too much information.

ESPN just overwhelms you with so many talking heads much of the joy drains out of you. There is little mystery left. I find myself picking more and more chalk every year. And getting less and less excited.

That is until the games start and some low seed starts hanging with a big dog and Gus Johnson begins babbling with excitement. And I get transported back to my backyard, my finger tips frozen standing on the line with the front end of one and one.

Canada needed hockey gold more than US

Imagine after "The Drive", the Browns had pulled it out and won in overtime. Or what if after "Joe Table" blew the game in the ninth inning on that fateful day a dozen Octobers ago, Manny Ramirez would’ve gone deep in the tenth.

Well multiply that by 25 million and you get Canada’s reaction to the Olympic Gold Medal game.

I read a report that 80 percent of the population of Canada watched at least a part of the game on Sunday. And when Zach Parise scored with 24 seconds left, you could feel the air being taken away from an entire nation.

If Team USA had won in overtime, I would have let out a cheer and celebrated with a Pabst or two. But 20 minutes later, I would have moved on.

Instead when Team USA lost in overtime, I commiserated with a Pabst or two and then 20 minutes later, I moved on.

But for that nation up North, Sidney Crosby’s goal was the difference between a funeral plus the most awkward closing Ceremonies ever and the greatest party in the history of Canada.

Our friendly neighbors got punched in the stomach at the end of regulation. As a Clevelander, I know what that feels like. A sense of impending doom that you know is only going to get worse. But in one instant an entire nation was freed from that mental prison when Sid the Kid scored.

Here in Cleveland, we got a taste of that last year in game two against the Magic when LeBron made that last second shot. But, of course an unhappier ending has taken away the joy from that moment.

For Canada, winning the gold medal on home ice is something they had to have. They weren’t getting another chance. It was Sunday night — or never. This season for the Cavs may feel that way for our city and it may actually end up being our last chance to win, but in theory we will get other chances in other sports.

For Canada, there is only hockey and this was the only chance. It is hard to argue that they didn’t deserve it.

Hockey Night in Canada has been special for a long time. But the NHL in pursuit of more money and greener pastures has really hurt the sport. Smaller Canadian cities lost their teams to warm weather American cities and expansion diluted the talent. Canada’s game moved their corporate offices to New York City and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has so mismanaged the sport that most of the games are played on a channel people can’t watch. A Canadian team hasn’t won the Stanley Cup since 1993. It has been a long 17 years for Canadians to watch America mess with their national past time.

A loss to the Americans would have been devastating.

Canadians love the game so much. I can’t help but smile that their unbridled joy.

I respect the nation of Canada a great deal. Not living there, it is easy to romance the place as everything we are not: polite, able to laugh at itself, low-key and peaceful.

In 2006, some Americans booed the Canadian Anthem during a playoff game. Do you remember how the Canadians reacted? Go to You Tube and type in Edmonton Stanley Cup O Canada.

It still gives me chills. Those people meant it when they sang their song.

It is easy to be cynical as a sports fan. It is easy to get caught up in the negative side of sports. So it is lot of fun to watch a game mean so much to so many people and provide a happy ending.

It reminds you why you started following and playing sports in the first place.

Miracle on Ice stands test of time

The United States’ stunning upset of the Russians took place in the afternoon but ABC had earlier decided to broadcast the game in primetime.

By that time, my 7-year-old self was tucked safely asleep.

My memory can trick me into believing I watched the game because I have learned so much about it since.

Starting with the Karl Malden and Steve Guttenberg TV movie in 1981, the excellent HBO documentary about the game and the very enjoyable 2004 “Miracle” starring Kurt Russell. A game I never watched is ingrained into my head.

But for me, the first hockey game I ever watched was the game against Finland that took place on Sunday.

I remember it as the Gold Medal game, but as I learned this week, the finals in 1980 were actually a round robin. It was possible for the U.S. team to lose and not win any medal.

I watched the game at my father’s brother’s house. It may have been the only hockey game the two of them have ever watched together.

There are two things I clearly remember from that Sunday afternoon 30 years ago. The first was the utter disbelief that the team trailed after two periods.

I remember my uncle shaking his head and muttering, “I can’t believe they are going to lose this game.”

More than 500 miles away, the U.S. coach Herb Brooks was feeling the same way. He told his team what has become a classic quote that can’t be reprinted in a family newspaper.

But Herb’s boys responded and rallied to defeat Finland and win the gold medal. Which leads to my second memory, Jim Craig with the American Flag wrapped around him skating around the ice looking for his father.

Just thinking of that moment, the eyes get a little misty.

In fact the Miracle on Ice is one of those few subjects where any guy gets a pass getting emotional about.

Not only was it a stunning moment and an incredible victory but it also happened in a much different world.

It was a simpler time before the Internet, cell phones and mass media. It is impossible to relate how much the world has changed.

Thirty years later and America is involved in two real wars. Terrorism is a real threat. The country is divided by politics and colors. The economy is failing. Things aren’t going exactly peachy but America still has its confidence.

Maybe we shouldn’t be we feel really safe. There is no doubt that we aren’t the underdogs.

But in 1980, America was not feeling its oats. Nuclear war seemed imminent. Fear was in the air. Fear that things were going to get worse and not better.

That the American way of life was in trouble. Maybe it was because I was a child but the world seemed a lot scarier back then.

And when I compare and contrast then and now, maybe I should be more scared now.

But that hockey game did something that I am not sure is possible today. It changed perspective. It brought pride and hope. It united the country.

A true leader led a bunch of fresh-faced college boys. They worked harder than anyone else and relied on their preparation and love for each to dethrone the best hockey team in the world.

Al Michaels coined it as a miracle and in many senses it was but it is also a misnomer.

Brooks planned for it to happen and his team put in the work despite all the odds stacked against them.

The 1980 Hockey team is everything America wishes it could be: innocent, determined and able to accomplish anything.

Simply America at it’s best.

Published: February 24, 2010