Jack City

My name is Scott Miles. I'm a Cleveland native and a die-hard Cleveland sports fan. I am in my second year at Capital University where I write for the school paper, work in the Sports Information Department, and used to play baseball and golf. This blog focuses on Cleveland and Ohio State sports, along with Capital. Feel free to give me feedback!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Blog Officially Moved (For Now)

Well, if you couldn't tell, this thing hasn't been active for awhile. It doesn't mean I've stopped writing - quite the contrary, I've been posting blogs more frequently than before. However, because I already post to Facebook and the Capital University student paper's site, www.capitalchimes.com, I thought it was just too redundant to post them to a third site as well, especially since entirely my entire readership looks at those places first and here second. So if you want to keep reading Jack City - and trust me, you'll want to - go to those sites first and foremost (add me as a friend on Facebook and go to the 'Notes' section.) If you're not on Facebook, well, like I said, you can read 'em online at www.capitalchimes.com. If, for whatever reason, that's not enough for you, send me an e-mail and we can work something else out.

Adios, amigos.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Weekend Recap

Currently, there are two big questions in the Cleveland sports scene: Who the heck is going to play quarterback for the Browns, and what the heck happened to the once-potent Indians offense?

In my last column, I briefly addressed the first situation. Basically, you can win games with any old bum under center who has a pulse and can tell the difference between a Cover Two and a man-to-man defense. You don’t have to put up gaudy numbers to get to and win the Super Bowl – ask Dan Marino about that. You have to run the ball, don’t make turnovers, and play solid defense.

Now, I hate to pass judgment after one meaningless preseason game…but dear God, did Derek Anderson and Charlie Frye look awful Saturday night. Absolutely awful. Frye’s numbers looked good at the end of the night, but he made three dumb plays: his first pass of the night should have been picked off; that backwards pass/lateral to Jerome Harrison (whom I don’t think would have gotten to the ball even if he tried); and his gallop to the end zone before halftime with no timeouts left.

In the NFL, you can probably get away with one dumb play per game – look at Brett Favre’s career. But Frye is nowhere near the caliber of quarterback as Favre, and he stunk Saturday. And Anderson was just as bad, completing a low percentage of passes and throwing a few balls that should have been picked. Ken Dorsey – Ken Freaking Dorsey – was the bright spot at QB, albeit against the Chiefs freshman squad at the end of the game.

(I wonder what Brady Quinn was thinking on the sidelines during the game. Probably one of two things: “Gosh, if only I’d signed earlier, I’d be starting over these idiots by now.” Or, “I should have held out until after this game…Phil Savage would have given me $50 million to come in.” I also think it would have been hilarious, and an absolute slap to Quinn’s face, if Romeo Crennel put him in the game to take a knee at the end.)

Again, I think stats put up in preseason and exhibition games, regardless of the sport, are worthless. The games bear little semblance to the real action. But you still want your guys to play well and show some glimpses of what they can do in the regular season. Saturday night, we saw no real glimpses of positive play from the quarterbacks, and that could mean (another) long season for Browns fans.


Sportswriters and broadcasters across the North Shore have worn out their thesauruses trying to describe how poorly the Tribe’s offense has performed the past few weeks. I am particular to “anemic”, though “putrid” and “insipid” are also strong candidates.

Or as my dad, who has been an Indians fan since the womb, put it: “I haven’t seen the team hit this bad, for this long, in a long, long time.”

Basically, if you haven’t been paying attention, we stink right now.

I was trying to think of a way to approach this topic in a different manner than what everyone sees in the local papers and hears on the local sports talk shows. Of course, here at Jack City, we pride ourselves on giving you the reader a totally different perspective, so you know what that means – it’s poetry time!

(And ignore the fact that the last time we presented this perspective, Ohio State got spanked by Florida in the BCS championship game. Thanks.)

Anyway, enjoy:

Can't Buy A Hit

We’re in the dog days of August
And our bats are showing signs of rust.
No one knows when our lumber
Will break out of this month-long slumber.

Not much contact, not much power
The pennant race has turned quite sour.
Can the offense, mired in such a terrible state,
Turn it around before it’s too late?

Everyone’s stuck in a long and nasty slump
We’re playing like some Little League chump.
Who’ll give the stern kick in the rump
To get us out of this offensive dump?

Grady Sizemore really whiffs a lot
Hafner’s been tied up in a knot.
Victor’s struggled, but overall he’s great
Trot Nixon can barely hit his weight.

Peralta still can’t hit the curve
Heaven forbid they throw him the slurve.
All year, Blake’s been up and down,
At least we’re done with that Rouse clown.

Michaels already reached his peak.
Barfield’s starting to really reek.
Can’t believe we’ve gotten this meek
Batting average dropping as we speak.

Still unsure on Kenny Lofton,
Forty years old, but he can still run.
Kelly Shoppach’s returned to Earth
Ryan Garko’s still proving his worth.

Wedge insists that nothing’s wrong -
Wonder who’s passing him the bong?
According to him, our hitting is strong.
But we haven’t scored any runs in oh-so-long.

If anyone out there can hit the ball
Please give Mark Shapiro a call.
I’d hate to waste another chance
To reach the October Baseball Dance.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

All Hail the Mighty Quinn

Amid much hoopla and fanfare, Brady Quinn is officially a Cleveland Brown now.


(Crickets chirping.)

Oh, that’s right – I, along with the rest of the city and Browns Backers nationwide, are supposed to hail Mr. Quinn as the next coming of, well, Touchdown Jesus himself.

Excuse me for my indifference. It’s just that we’ve heard this same old song and dance with the Browns and their quarterbacks since the Bernie Kosar era. And how many of those quarterbacks have panned out or played anywhere close to expectations?

(Go ahead and check. I’ll wait. I’ve got nothing but time.)

Did you find any? Tim Couch or Kelly Holcomb? Trent Dilfer or Jeff Garcia? Charlie Frye?
All of those quarterbacks were supposed to be the cornerstone of the franchise (Couch), or the emerging NFL-ready starter (Holcomb), the cagey veteran to put us over the top (Dilfer/Garcia), or the gritty hometown hero come to turn around the organization’s fortunes (you get the point).

Now we’ve got Quinn, who only cost us a first-round pick next year and over $20 million (at least) in guaranteed money. Don’t get me wrong – I mean, I want the guy to be a Hall of Fame quarterback and lead us to like nine championships.

But he hasn’t even taken one pre-season snap yet!!!

Remember, this is the same guy who was blasted constantly in college for never being able to win, or generally perform well, in the big game. Ohio State overmatched him in the Fiesta Bowl. This past season, Michigan knocked him silly. He did put up great numbers against the service academies and a bad Michigan State team, though.

Conveniently, many of the same people who held that over his head now believe he’s the savior. I will reserve judgment for when I see him in pads in the regular season.

Can Quinn turn out to be a great quarterback? Of course. There’s no question about his skills. And neither Frye nor Derek Anderson have really distinguished themselves yet, according to everything out of Berea.

But honestly, it doesn’t even take a great quarterback to win games (see: Grossman, Rex.) It takes a great team. That’s the problem the Browns need to solve, not the contract escalators and bonuses for a rookie quarterback.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Offseason No Time For Rest For Cavs

In my 20 years on Earth, I can’t recall a time when there has been so much buzz surrounding an NBA offseason and the draft as there has been in the past few weeks. Trade rumors are everywhere – it seems like Kobe and KG have been linked to every team in the country except for the Columbus Blue Jackets. And obviously there’s the whole Durant-Oden question at the top of the draft.

The biggest question, though, for us Cavs fans is: how the heck can we improve this team? For a team that won 50 games and advanced to the NBA Finals, there are bright, glaring weaknesses, such as:

1. No one can run an offense effectively
2. No one can consistently hit a jump shot
3. No one can block shots

Well, those should be easy enough to fix, right? We’ll just use our first-round draft pick on…

(Oh, right, we traded that for the incomparable Jiri Welsch two seasons ago. He played – oh, you’ll love this – 192 minutes in a Cavs uniform, which was about as long and dreadful as Pirates of the Caribbean 3).

OK, so without a first-rounder, we’ll just get a second-round steal like Boozer or Gibson and…

(That’s gone too? Really? The Gooden and Varejao trade? All righty then.)

Thank God we’ve got free agency, then. Lots of cap room and…

(2006-07 NBA Salary Cap: $53.135 million. 2006-07 Cavs Payroll: $62,992,728, according to espn.com. I’m not a math major, but those numbers don’t add up so well.)

So it looks like Danny Ferry will have to get creative, a thought that makes me shudder. After all, this is the man who gave Donyell Marshall $5.6 million per year, Damon Jones $3.8 million…well, just look at this roster and salary numbers yourself and let me know what you think:

Thankfully, Brian Windhorst, arguably one of the best beat writers in the country, reported earlier that Ferry has Dan Gilbert’s approval to spend into the luxury tax. So that does give the Cavs some options. Since I’m not an “NBA Insider” and privy to all those swirling draft and trade rumors, here’s how I think the Cavs should address their needs through free agency and other offseason improvements.

Let’s Get To The Point

I liked Windhorst’s suggestion that we go after a point guard like Steve Blake – his production stepped up after being traded to the Nuggets and playing with Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson. He can run an offense (6.6 assists per game), shoot the three decently enough (34 percent), plus he’s a scrappy kind of player and still young enough (27) that I wouldn’t mind giving him a three or four year deal. Steve, I hated you at Maryland, but I’d be willing to let bygones be bygones if you become a Cavalier.

I know a lot has been made about Earl Boykins, a Cleveland native who is an intriguing prospect to fill the point guard role. He’s a good outside shooter (39 percent from downtown) and scorer (over 14 points per game last year). But he’s already 31 years old, has only started 33 games in his career, and has never averaged more than 4.5 assists per game.

And let’s not get started with Chauncey Billups. He’s 30 years old and will want more than the $6.5 million he got from Detroit last year. He’s a marginally better shooter than Larry Hughes. (The stats don’t lie: go to ‘Compare Players’ and select Chauncey Billups). Between him, LeBron, Hughes, Gooden, Z and Pavlovic/Gibson, there’s just not enough shots to go around.

I don’t think Daniel Gibson functions well as a true point guard. Hughes, remember, played great at the position when he first started there this season, then went back to his regular Larry Hughes form.

‘The Shooter’, Not Starring Mark Wahlberg

Problem number two, I believe, can be addressed internally, and it starts with Number 23. LeBron’s offensive game still needs a lot of work. If he can find some kind of rhythm from 15-18 feet out and also learn how to be an effective post player – I mean, watch out. He could average 35 or 40 a night, easily. He made his biggest improvement as a player between his second and third years, when he learned how to hit a few jumpers and threes, and now needs to make a similar leap between years four and five to take his game to new heights.

Granted, that’s all easier said than done – after all, LeBron is only 22. But I think he’s smart enough to know that he has room for improvement, and as he displayed in Game 5 against Detroit, he has the ability to do that every night. He averages 27 a night on mostly driving to the hole and getting to the free throw line. We don’t even know what he’s capable of down the road.

Then you also have to look at guys like Sasha Pavlovic, who is a restricted free agent but will likely remain with the Cavs, and Daniel Gibson. They both emerged as solid offensive players this year. And how about Shannon Brown? Sure, he didn’t exactly light the world on fire, but didn’t play poorly either. (The treatment of Shannon Brown this year deserves its own column. Just check out his game log, and you’ll see. He basically played in about 7 or 8 games, wouldn’t play for 10 or 15, then get in another 7 or 8. That bizarre rotation courtesy of Mike Brown.)

Finally, should the Cavs sign a real point guard and move Hughes back to the two, let’s see if he can put the “shooting” back in “shooting guard”. For over $13 million a year, hopefully he can figure that out.

Center of Attention

Now, to solve our depth along the frontline and add someone who can swat some shots. Z, Gooden, and restricted free agent Anderson Varejao are quality players, but they’re not intimidating defensive players by any means. And don’t get me started on Donyell Marshall. Scot Pollard is also a free agent, and I never understood why he never got a chance in the rotation.

I was looking at the list of free agents and some of the centers I see include Michael Olowokandi, Dikembe Mutombo (an interesting prospect, but he’s all but assured to stay with Houston), Dale Davis, Chris Webber, Jake Tsakalidis, Chris Mihm, Kelvin Cato and Jamaal Magloire. Not exactly an awe-inspiring collection of big men. Webber’s clearly the best player out of that group, but he got real old, real fast, last season. And I couldn’t find anything online about what his intentions are for this offseason, but I would have to figure he wants a lot of money and to start, and I don’t think he’s better than Gooden or Z right now.

Windhorst said that he thinks the Cavs would let Andy walk if another team offers him a big contract (he’s a restricted free agent, which means the Cavs have the right to match any offer), and I tend to agree. He’s been a valuable contributor, but he is by no means a starter, and you can’t pay him that kind of money to play 20-25 minutes per game off the bench and not score.

That being said, though, the Cavs will have some problems if Andy doesn’t come back. Then the only centers and power forwards we would have under contract next season would be Z, Gooden and Marshall. Even Dwayne Jones (the big guy in the suit at the end of the bench, in case you didn’t know) is a restricted free agent.

So I don’t see how we can add a shotblocker when we would just be struggling to get enough bigs out on the court. Defensively, we played great without having to block shots, but as we saw early in the Detroit series and against San Antonio how valuable interior defenders can be when they protect the rim.

Can We Put It Together?

This will be a critical few weeks for the future of the Cavs. I don’t know if a league runner-up has ever had so many question marks heading into the next season, but the Cavs certainly do. Some things are pretty clear right now: LeBron is a darned good player. Larry Hughes is no Scottie Pippen (he’s barely even Pippi Longstocking). And the roster, which was left largely intact last year, needs improvement.

It’s the offseason and Danny Ferry, you’re on the clock.

Update Update

All right well it's been a long time since I've updated this thing, mostly because the website changed its login and I couldn't get in for awhile. Then, since all of you guys mostly read on Facebook, I was just posting it straight to there.

From now on, I'll try to keep posting to both, starting with my breakdown of the Cavs offseason needs.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Gross Play from Grossman

If I were Rex Grossman, I'd be staying away from Chicago city limits for a few weeks. Probably a few months, actually.

The much-maligned Bears quarterback was at it again last night, and he did it on the biggest stage in professional sports. If, for some reason, you didn't have the Super Bowl on, you missed a dominating performance by Peyton Manning (often maligned himself) and the Colts, while Grossman and the Bears lacked the swagger that many had thought would carry them to the championships.

In many football games, you can look at the quarterbacks' numbers and tell who won the game. Though Grossman completed 20-of-28 passes (71.3 percent), he threw for only 165 yards - about 40 on the final drive when the game was all but over - to go along with one touchdown and two picks, both of which came at critical junctures in the game. He also lost a pair of fumbled snaps and slipped dropping back on a pass, costing the team crucial yards and field position.

While Manning was far from his spectacular self - 247 yards, one touchdown, one pick - he also completed a high percentage of his passes, completing the throws that the Bears left open and did a great job managing the game. Chicago often dropped both of its safeties 18-20 yards back, allowing Manning to complete as many short and medium routes as he wanted. Conversely, the Colts packed the line of scrimmage on defense, daring Grossman to beat them deep. As far as I can remember, Grossman only threw one deep ball, to Bernard Berrian that Bob Sanders picked off in the fourth quarter, and the throw was so poor, you would have thought it was receiving welfare checks every month.

The Colts slowly, methodically, wore down the vaunted Bears defense, converting eight of 18 third downs, rushing for 191 yards and holding onto the ball for 38 minutes. The Bears offense, so one-dimensional the entire season, managed just one big play - a 52 yard run by Thomas Jones in the first quarter - as Tony Dungy proved that Indy's defensive flaws earlier in the season could be corrected. Grossman made only a couple of good throws, including his touchdown pass, but didn't make nearly enough plays to make the Colts respect his ability to throw the ball.

I predicted Thursday during our radio show that the Colts would exploit Grossman's weaknesses, and that the Bears would need their defense or special teams to carry them. Well, Devin Hester returned a kickoff for a touchdown, the Colts turned the ball over three times...and it still wasn't enough.

If I were a Chicago Bears fan, I'd have homicidal feelings towards Grossman. Watching the game last night, my friends and I were joking about which of Tank Johnson's guns he was going to use to shoot Grossman. And what about Lovie Smith? He's had Brian Griese sitting on the bench all season, almost like that old convertible that you store away in the winter months to keep it clean, keep the mileage down, save it from more wear and tear. But Lovie, in his shining moment, the first day of spring, the first sunny day, the Super freaking Bowl, stuck with his Pinto. And his Pinto broke down on the side of road.

And I think that Pinto is going to be sitting on the side of the road for a long, long time.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Legend of the Alaskan Assassin

In the summer of 1998, my friend Steve Valentino and I attended a basketball camp at Duke University. This was back in the "hey-day" of my athletic career, when I was bigger and stronger than most kids my age. I was 11 years old.

It was a phenomenal experience, and though some memories have grown hazy over the years, the week at Duke played a major impact in the course of my life.

I remember Steve's mom driving us down the day before camp started, because Steve's grandparents lived in North Carolina - we would just spend the night there to shorten the drive. We stopped and ate at a Ponderosa on the way down. Once in North Carolina, Steve's grandparents took us on a brief visit to the campus of Wake Forest University. That night, we had watched an NBA playoff game with Tim Duncan and the Spurs, (I can't recall if they were playing Phoenix or Utah), and slept in their living room.

The next day, we drove out to Durham. That's where the legend begins...


Steve and I had gone to plenty of basketball camps together in those days, through the Shooting Stars basketball program. Of course, those overnight, weekly camps were held at places like Oberlin College and Hiram College - not Duke University.

I had never had any particular feelings towards Duke's men's basketball team beforehand. Didn't like 'em, didn't dislike 'em. A lot of sports fans around the country dislike Duke because the basketball team is always, well, really good. Steve had always been a big fan - before our YMCA or travel games, he'd always be checking the score to their games. That's why we ventured out of Ohio's borders and went to the camp down there.

As soon as we walked onto campus, I became hooked. It felt like the biggest place in the world, much larger than Oberlin or Hiram, larger than the two together, it seemed to my young eyes. The buildings were beautiful, historic. The weather was perfect. I was in love - and we hadn't even seen the Holy Grail of our trip.


Duke Indoor Stadium opened in 1940. It cost roughly $400,000 to build and at the time was the second-largest gymnasium in the country, with 8,000 seats and standing room capability to hold 12,000 fans. In 1972, the building was renamed Cameron Indoor Stadium after legendary coach and athletic director Eddie Cameron. Throughout the years, the men's basketball program, Cameron Indoor Stadium and a rabid student fan base known as the "Cameron Crazies" have become synonymous with the name Duke University.

The building reminded me of a cathedral, an interesting comparison, I thought, for an 11-year old who had never really gone to church all that much. The exterior, comprised of beautiful stone, was stunning. Stepping inside, the halls contained memorabilia and memories from over 60 years of basketball tradition - you could feel the history and tradition wash over you. The gym itself was tiny compared to many of the new structures around the nation, but it felt like just the right size to me, being there and imagining playing a game on that court in front of thousands of fans.

If you couldn't tell the age of the building from looking at it from outside, or from the years of wear and tear at places on the inside, you could certainly tell from stepping into the men's bathrooms. They didn't have individual urinals, just a giant trough to relieve yourself. I haven't been back since, so I don't know what the current bathrooms look like, if they've changed. What I do know is that I'd never peed in a trough until then, and to my recollection have never peed in one since.


After we got ourselves checked in, registered, moved into our dorm room for the week and all that good stuff, Steve and I headed back to the gym. With all the campers sitting on the hallowed court, Mike Kryszewski ("Coach K") gave his opening speech. I don't remember what he said, but I remember feeling the goosebumps run through my body as I soaked in the atmosphere and thinking about how awesome it would be to receive instruction from the legendary coach. Alas, the only other time we saw Coach K that week was during the closing ceremonies of the camp, but that didn't really diminish much from the entire experience.

Like I said before, I can only recall a few specific memories from the rest of that week. Steve and I had messed around with the air conditioning in our room, and the room was frigid, colder than a January breeze off Lake Erie, the entire week. I was a pretty big kid back then, and was actually about as big as any of the kids in our age group, which surprised me. I also remember coming away from the camp not overly impressed with any of the other big guys, though some of the guards were pretty quick and could shoot.

(Of course, I ended up getting cut from the seventh and eighth grade school teams, stopped growing, and never really played competitive basketball after that point. I'm sure a lot of those kids at that camp had much more illustrious basketball careers than me, and some are likely still playing in college somewhere. I did end up second in scoring in our intramural basketball league senior year of high school, though, one of the finer achievements of my athletic career. For his part, Steve ran the point guard on the most successful boy's basketball teams in Solon High School history and now plays football at the University of Dayton.)

One memory, though, remains sharper than a steak knife in my mind, a memory that has helped define my life and who I am today. That, my friends, is the arrival of the Alaskan Assassin: Trajan Langdon.


A famous sports quote says that while amateurs practice until they get it right, professionals practice until they can't get it wrong. While some certainly can get by and achieve greatness purely through superior skill or athletic ability, the factor that sets most professional athletes from the rest of the pack is their willingness to spend extra hours in the gym, the weight room, the batting cages, honing their craft, improving their strength, milking everything they can from their bodies to become the best.

One night during our week at Duke, the daily session was running a little long, games were going late - pretty typical for a camp. My team - we were "Iowa", I don't know why, nor was I very happy about being on a Big 10 team that wasn't Ohio State - had already finished our games for the day, so I was just sitting around, watching some of the action on the court, and waiting for us to be dismissed for the evening.

As things were wrapping up, whispers began circulating throughout the assembled campers. "Trajan's here", "He's in the hallway", "They're kicking us out so he can play".

Trajan Langdon had arrived. Nicknamed the "Alaskan Assassin" because he went to high school in Anchorage and had a reputation as a deadly shooter, Trajan was one of the biggest names in college basketball at the time.

Streams of kids exited the court into the main lobby outside the gym. Never the quickest nor the slightest of foot, I was caught near the back of the crowd, but still managed to reach the hallway.

He was out there, all right, smiling and shaking hands. Some of the instructors tried to ebb the flow of kids swarming him, but he didn't mind. It was late at night, probably 10 or 10:30, and he had come to work out after we finished. At the time, I was shocked that someone would be so willing to sacrifice his time, to come to practice so late, and to be so generous as to spend some time with us - it amazed me. Never before in my life had I been so close to an athlete of his stature. Flush in my newfound Duke glory and desperate to meet my new hero, I struggled to make my way up to him.

But it was too late. Our instructors had essentially formed a wall around him, and he made his way into the gymnasium, likely one of his countless summer workouts, preparing for his senior season. Discouraged but not disappointed, I resolved to be the most faithful follower of Duke basketball and of the team's star player, Trajan Langdon.


The rest of camp passed rather uneventfully. As part of our package, we each received a Duke Basketball T-Shirt and a hardbound yearbook for the upcoming season, with Trajan gracing the cover. I hoped, prayed, he would make another appearance before the end of the week, but those hopes and prayers went unfulfilled.

I watched as many Duke games as I could that season (and have continued to do so now). Trajan ended the season as the team's second-leading scorer, and the Blue Devils advanced to the NCAA championship, losing 77-74 to the University of Connecticut. With just a few seconds left, Duke had to go the length of the court to attempt a shot to tie the game, and Trajan was called for traveling near halfcourt. My heart went out for him, and I felt like crying.

Now, here's the part of the story that would be remiss without me telling it. As I'm sure most of you know, I'm a diehard Cleveland sports fan. The mid-to-late 90's was an interesting period in Cleveland sporting history, just as I came into my own, if you will, as a person who lived and died with the successes and failures of his sports teams.

The Cleveland Indians, longtime doormats of Major League Baseball, had suddenly emerged as perennial contenders, playing in two World Series in three years (1995, 1997 - should have won it in 1997, but that's for another time). Art Modell ripped the heart out of the entire city, the entire Cleveland Browns fanbase, moving the team to Baltimore after the 1995 season. And the Cleveland Cavaliers were on the tail-end of some great teams from the late 80's and early 90's, trying to regain that identity as the NBA struggled with labor issues and the re-retirement of Michael Jordan.

The 1999 NBA Draft approached, and the Cavs held two first-round selections, the number eight and number 11 picks. I didn't think there was anyway that the Cavs would take Trajan with one of those picks, because everyone was talking about his limitations on defense, and how his only offensive threat was the three-point shot (17.3 ppg, 44.1 percent three-point shooter as a senior). Everyone figured he'd get taken in the late first round, maybe second round.

With the first pick, the Chicago Bulls took Duke forward Elton Brand, who left school early as a sophomore. Before the Cavs' eighth pick, other notable players to go included Steve Francis (Maryland - Vancouver), Baron Davis (UCLA - Charlotte), Lamar Odom (Rhode Island - LA Clippers), Wally Szczerbiak (Miami, OH - Minnesota), Richard Hamilton (UConn - Washington).

With the eighth pick, the Cavs took Utah point guard Andre Miller. Watching the draft, I was happy because we really needed a point guard. But who would we take next?

Two more very good players, Shawn Marion (UNLV - Phoenix) and Jason Terry (Arizona - Atlanta) went ninth and tenth, respectively (Man, what a draft class!) This put the Cavs on the clock with the eleventh pick.

They took Trajan Langdon.

Now, there were plenty of good "Dukies" available in that draft - in fact, a total of four (Brand, Langdon, Corey Maggette, William Avery) would be selected in the first 14 picks. What were the odds, I mused then, that the Cavs would not only take a player from my favorite college basketball team, but my favorite player of all-time? It was a fairy-tale moment for an adolescent - the only bittersweet moment came when I realized that Derek Anderson, who played the same position as Trajan on the Cavs and was my favorite player on the team, would be traded. But I figured that Trajan would easily fill his shoes. I mean, it was a lock, right? Right?


In his rookie season, 1999-2000, Trajan played in 10 games off the bench, averaging 4.9 points per game in less than 15 minutes per ballgame and shooting 42.1 percent from beyond the arc. An injury ended his season, though, and the Cavs, coached by Randy Wittman and led by an out-of-shape Shawn Kemp, finished with an inglorious 32-50 record.

His second season, though, seemed poised for a breakout. Despite his continued limited minutes, Trajan played in 65 games, with five starts, and bumped his scoring average up to six points per game and shot 41.1 percent from three-point range. I clearly remember his best game of the season, a 31-point outburst against the Pistons, because I was sick that day. So sick, in fact, that I went to bed early and didn't watch any of the game. How did I remember the game, then? Well, I stayed home from school the next day so I could watch the replay of the game on Fox Sports that afternoon.

But the Cavs once again finished with a 30-52 record, and there were grumblings not only about the coaching staff, but also about the lack of production out of the organization's eleventh pick from the 1999 draft. How could that be, I wondered, that everyone complains about him when he doesn't even get a chance to play? How can you just carelessly discard a deadly outside shooter? Didn't they watch him at the All-Star game, playing in the "2-Ball" competition with Eva Nemcova of the WNBA's Cleveland Rockers, where they finished in second place?

During the course of the 2001-2002 season, it became evident that Trajan's days as a Cavalier were numbered. John Lucas took over the team, which managed to finish even worse than it had in the past few years, with a 29-53 mark. Trajan played in just 44 games, averaging fewer minutes than he did during his rookie and second-seasons, and his numbers dropped slightly. I remember Lucas being quoted in the Plain Dealer, saying that Trajan was the best "Monday-Wednesday-Friday" player on the team - NBA teams usually have those days off, meaning that Trajan excelled in practice but not in the game. But coach, you only played him 10 minutes a night, giving backcourt minutes to guys like Bryant Stith, Jeff Trepagnier, and the immortal Bimbo Coles? Was I the only one to see this, to realize this?

My friend Stu and his dad had season tickets, around halfcourt, maybe eight rows up on the same side as the team benches. Now, in those days of Cavs basketball, you had maybe 9,000 fans showing up to games. Maybe. You could hear the players and coaches talking, swearing at the refs, laughing...it was pretty cool, and back then at Gund Arena, they didn't overwhelm you with artificial sound and noise like they do now at "The Q".

Anyway, Stu and his dad took me to a game at the end of the season, when not only was the writing all over the wall for the end of Trajan's career in a Cavs uniform, you might as well have been staring at a graffiti-covered building in the Bronx. I decided to make a sign, the first sign I'd ever made for a sporting event, to bring to the game in homage of Trajan's career. My sister helped me with the lettering, which read "SAVE TRAJAN LANGDON", colored in the blue and orange that the Cavs wore on their jersey' at the time. In addition, I printed out some pictures I could find of Trajan from the internet and glued them on, and brought my Duke yearbook with me from camp, the one with Trajan on the cover, in hopes that he would sign it.

Fans at the game loved my sign. Rest assured, they'd never seen anything like it, nor will they likely ever see anything like it again. I waved my sign at every opportunity I could (during timeouts and such, so as not to disrupt anyone's view - I was very conscience of that) towards the Cavs bench, towards my hero. It went unnoticed, and as the game clock wound down into the fourth quarter, I doubted that anything would come of my efforts.

A timeout was called sometime in the fourth qaurter. The Cavs, who were probably getting killed at that point, huddled around Lucas as he went over some strategy that hadn't worked before nor would work again for the rest of his tenure as Cavs coach. I stood up, as always, and pointed my sign directly at the bench.

Cavs guard Wesley Person, paying no mind to Lucas' clipboard, was gazing into the audience and saw me. He smiled and laughed. He tapped Trajan, who was also somewhat outside the interior of the huddled players, on the shoulder and pointed directly at me.

I almost fainted.

I locked eyes with my hero. He smiled and laughed, too. Oh my God, I thought. He's looking right at me. Me!

The huddle broke up and the game resumed. I sat down, unsure of what to say or think. Stu and his dad were laughing, I think a bit shocked at what had just happened, drawing the attention of two NBA players into the stands, looking at us.

The huddle broke up and the game resumed. But I had stopped paying attention to the game and just focused on the end of the Cavs bench where Trajan sat. I caught him peeking at me and I waved. He peeked again, later, and I held up the Duke yearbook.

He laughed yet again. I felt like crying.

The game finally, mercifully, drew to a close, and I hustled to the Cavs bench, trying desperately to get Trajan to sign my yearbook. But I was too late - the players had already entered the locker room. I pleaded my case to a security guard who was standing nearby, and he just stared blankly right back at me. We waited around for a few minutes, hoping he would reappear, finally giving up and heading back home.

As expected, the Cavs did not re-sign Trajan after the season. The dream was over.


I don't know when exactly, but it was some time long after the season had ended and Trajan had left that my dad and I went to Champs Sports in Solon, the one by where Tops used to be, when it was having its big closing sale. They were basically giving stuff away, and the inside of the store was a mess. We were just looking around when my eyes caught a glimpse of a rack full of "21" Cleveland Cavaliers jerseys. It couldn't be, I thought. No way.

Yup. They were Trajan Langdon jerseys, dozens of them, on sale for like $5 or $10, I can't remember exactly how much. My dad asked me how many I wanted to buy, three or four. To this day, I'm not sure if he was joking or not. I bought one.

Around that time, I wrote to "Glad You Asked", a part of the Plain Dealer's sports section where fans would ask questions about old Cleveland teams, players, trivia, etc. In my Duke yearbook, I had noticed that Trajan was drafted by the San Diego Padres out of high school and played minor league baseball for a few seasons, and I wanted to know what his stats were.

The writer misinterpreted my request, thinking that I had said "minor league BASKET-ball", not "baseball". He printed it anyway, making a crack about me calling college basketball a minor league sport, and reproduced Trajan's collegiate stats.

A bit miffed, I wrote back, explaining the true intentions of my request. This, too, was also published, with a very brief retraction and Trajan's minor league baseball stats. I was a minor hero in the eyes of some of my family and friends for having my name in the Plain Dealer not just once, but twice.


It was at that point that I decided to write Trajan a fan letter. It had been many years since I'd sent one to an athlete (I think Grant Hill, in his Pistons days, was the last one I had sent prior to Trajan - as it would turn out, I wouldn't send out another until a few weeks back, to Browns receiver Joe Jurevicius). I explained how much I thought of him as a player, my near-encounter with him at Duke, and disclosed that I was the fan at the Cavs game with the sign and yearbook. I thanked him for his time in Cleveland and wished him the best of luck down the road. To top it off, I enclosed a picture that my sister took of me at home, posing with my yearbook and sign.

I sent it care of the Cleveland Cavaliers, not really sure how or if it would even get to him. A few months later, I received a letter back, addressed to me in a plain white envelope, with a return address from Alexandria, Virginia. Inside, there was no note, no letter, nothing - except for a handful of Trajan Langdon rookie cards.

In my sophomore year of high school, my friends and I started an intramural basketball team. There were only a few team names that we were allowed to choose from, and we ended up being the "Hawaii Rainbows" with green jerseys.

We decided to get our names and numbers put on the backs of our jerseys. One of our friend's mom did the lettering and it only cost a couple of bucks to get it done. I wanted number 17, my baseball number, and the name "Alaskan Assassin" above it on the back.

A few days later, my friend called me. I wasn't allowed to put "Assassin" on the back of the jersey. I think the school felt I was going to go around shooting up the hallways that week or something. I opted to put "AA" on the back instead. Parents watching our games must have thought I was a recovering alcoholic.


After leaving the Cavs, Trajan spent some time in Italy and Turkey, playing professional ball there. In 2003, the Clippers brought him in during the preseason, but he didn't make the final roster and went back overseas. As the Cavs roster continued to turn over more than an insomniac at night, and as fans cried over the lack of an outside shooting threat, I constantly wondered what if we still had the Alaskan Assassin in a Cavalier uniform. But with LeBron now in town, Trajan slowly slipped from the forefront of my mind.

Last fall, a lot of NBA teams played exhibition games overseas against top European clubs. Gazing through those pre-season boxscores and stories, I laughed when I saw the Clippers got smoked by some team called CSKA Moscow. Then I read the rest of the story to see this...

"Trajan Langdon scored a game-high 17 points..."

I showed that clip to everyone who would look. The list was limited to my dad and my friends Stu and Rosen. I didn't care. He was back. My hero was back.

Poking around today for some more information on him, I saw that he's twenty-fourth in the league in scoring (14.5 ppg), leading CSKA Moscow to a 12-1 record, first place in their group, and a spot in the Euroleague Final Four. Here's an interview with Trajan that I found: http://www.euroleague.net/news/fanmail/i/732/184/fan-mail-trajan-langdon-cska-moscow?smid=223

After reading that, I smiled and laughed a little, fondly thinking back to my exuberance with every shot he hit, cheering louder than a drunk fan in the Dawg Pound.


We all have our heroes, our role models, the people we look up to the most. Over the years, it's amazing how much grief I've gotten for the fact that Trajan Langdon is not only my favorite basketball player, but probably my favorite athlete of all-time. People also laugh when I suggest that Trajan could still compete in the NBA.

(For the record, Trajan was a career 39.6 percent three-point shooter. As of Jan. 26, Larry Hughes is shooting 40.6 percent from three point-range for the Cavs this season. Damon Jones, the player on the Cavs who most closely resembles Trajan's game in terms of strengths and weaknesses, is shooting 39.6 percent from beyond the arc and is in the middle of a $16.1 million contract. For his career, he's a 38.7 percent three-point shooter, not too mention the fact that his defense is shakier than a dog in a thunderstorm- not picking on Damon, but just proving a point because he is supposedly the team's sharpshooter.)

It's tough hearing your idol get ridiculed constantly, people telling you to get over him, telling you that he was never that good to begin with. That's fine - I've heard it all before and will likely hear it again. It bothers me a little but I'm used to it.

I think back to that quote, that amateurs practice until they get it right, while professionals practice until they can't get it wrong, and think back to Trajan on that summer night in Durham, working tirelessly on his jump shot and trying to improve his game.

That's the kind of player I look up to the most.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


"When you believe in things that you don't understand/Then you suffer/Superstition ain't the way..."
Stevie Wonder - "Superstitious"

While most college-aged students here in central Ohio spent their Saturday night carousing the town, I was lying in bed, surrounded by Kleenex, Halls cough drops, water bottles and Tylenol PM.

I watched the end of Ohio State's demolition of Iowa in men's basketball, then planned on catching some of the Cavs' West Coast road trip finale against Golden State. The game tipped off at 10:30 here in Ohio, and I figured the medication would set in soon enough, putting me in a blissful, LeBron-induced coma.

I had the TV on mute to avoid the ramblings of new Cavs TV announcer Fred McLeod, who's a bigger homer than Bart Simpson's dad, and was listening to music from my iPod speaker. The Warriors went on a 20-4 run right before halftime and led 62-44 going into the break. I considered turning the game off but decided to see if the Cavs could rally early in the second half, even though I was exhausted and my eyelids had grown heavier than Rosie O'Donnell and Oprah Winfrey combined.

(Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all night! Although I'm on the lookout for some crazed feminists and Book Club members wanting to throw their purses at me.)

Anyway, halftime finally ended just as "Still Fly" from the Big Tymers came on my iPod. I was lying on my bed with my right ankle crossed over my left, and both hands behind my head. My mouth was slightly open to help my breathe because my nose was so clogged.

The Cavs started the half on a big run, cutting the 18-point deficit to two. I hadn't moved an inch. Everytime "Still Fly" ended, I would use my remote to start it up again.

But the Warriors responded with a run of their own, pushing their lead back up to double digits. Desperate, I switched to the next song, "I Feel Free" by Cream, and kind of rolled over onto my right side, trying to reverse the momentum. The Warriors kept on scoring. I put "Still Fly" back on and held my breath.

Now, if you're any kind of sports fan or took part in competitive athletics before, you have some type of superstitions. That's just how it works. You always hear about athletes eating the same pregame meal and the different rituals that they have to prepare themselves for games. When I played baseball, I would always trim my nails on days I knew I would pitch. Don't ask me why because I don't know. I devoutly followed the old baseball principle to never step on the foul line running on and off the field. After my final warmup pitch before an inning, I would always crouch low in front of the mound while the catcher threw down to second, then circle the mound clockwise - always clockwise - while the infielders tossed the ball "around the horn."

A few years back, in 2001, the Indians played the Seattle Mariners on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Trailing by 12 runs - 12 runs! - the Tribe staged a remarkable rally, winning the ballgame. I watched that game in my bedroom at home, lying flat on my stomach with my legs in the air, leaning against my doorway. Then, too, I dared not move an inch, lest the comeback be halted. When Ohio State beat Michigan this year, I had worn my lucky Ohio State boxers and vowed not to wear them again until the title game. It wasn't until halftime against Florida that I realized I didn't have them on. Racing back to my dorm room, I put them on just as the second half kicked off, but it was too little, too late. Even now, I wonder what if...

Last night, the Cavs trailed by 12 - irony? coincidence? - entering the fourth quarter. I had switched positions once again, rolling over onto my back, but this time with my left ankle crossed over my right, and with just my left hand behind my head.

Firmly entrenched in my belief that my actions 3,000 miles away had everything to do with the Cavs' success or failures in California, I knew I had to stick with "Still Fly" on the iPod. I freaked out everytime I heard the opening chords of "I Feel Free" when I was just a second slow in hitting the repeat button. Near the start of the fourth, I felt my bladder expanding faster than Charles Barkley's waistline after he retired. But I was glued in my position. Schaaf Hall could have been burning down and all of the RA's in the world couldn't have dragged me out of my room.

The Cavs rallied again. My physical condition was deteriorating. I honestly feared wetting myself. My entire left arm was throbbing in pain. My bladder screamed bloody murder at me. My eyes were glazing over, my vision blurred, and I could feel that "sleep" stuff crusting up in the corners of my eyes. For some reason, I really craved buying some "Gator boots with a pimped out Gucci suit."

LeBron hit a three to give Cleveland its first lead of the second half with about four minutes left. I was praying vehemently against overtime. I was exhausted, and my chest was starting to hurt too. With the score tied with 27 seconds left and the Cavs holding the ball, I knew this was it. I had nothing left to give.

Sasha Pavlovic missed a wide-open jumper. David Wesley, who I think was in a suit and tie during pregame warmups, grabbed the offensive rebound. LeBron attempted a jumpshot as the clock expired.

He missed. I bolted out of bed and raced to the bathroom. I got back just as the overtime period started. I had butterflies in my stomach for the first time watching a Cavs game since the Pistons series last year. Diving onto my bed, I hopped under my blanket and simply watched. I had done my part to get the boys into overtime; this was their time to do the rest. But I did keep replaying "Still Fly" - I must have listened to it roughly 20 times.

My friends returned from their night out about midway through overtime. I stared blankly at them as they described their evening, then returned my focus to LeBron and the Big Tymers.

I won't rehash the extra period. You can read the official recap everywhere. But as the Warriors' Stephen Jackson's three-point attempt at the buzzer rimmed out, I simply threw my hands up in the air in triumph...then went to bed.

(JACK CITY READERS: Do you have any crazy superstitions, sports-related or not, that you follow? Post them as comments or e-mail!)