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, June 29, 2006

NOTE: This column originally ran in Capital University's student paper "The Chimes" several days after the Super Bowl and is being re-published here.

How fitting that the Rolling Stones performed at halftime of Super Bowl XL. Much like Mick Jagger, I didn’t get any satisfaction out of the game, either.

The match-up between Pittsburgh and Seattle interested me about as much as reading Shakespeare, and the only Bard I’m a fan of is former Indians catcher Josh Bard.

In fact, I almost felt like a 50-year old woman, who only tolerated the football game to watch the Super Bowl commercials. Yes, it was that bad for me.

So why did I feel so disappointed and disenchanted about the biggest sporting event in America? Allow me to count the reasons:

1. I am a Cleveland native and a die-hard Cleveland sports fan. Seeing the Steelers play in, and win, the Super Bowl, just months after the hated White Sox won the World Series, kills me a little bit on the inside every day.

2. The NFL schedules an off-week between the league championships and the Super Bowl to build up the hype. This results in 137 different SportsCenter segments on Jerome Bettis growing up 4.726 miles away from Detroit, as well as the overkill on "Last stop for the Bus" puns.

3. During the game (which I had no idea that ABC was televising until an hour before kickoff) we were treated to lovely statistics such as "Referee Bill Leavy has overturned 23 percent of replay challenges, the lowest rate in the league." Thanks, guys. Did ABC run out of Steelers highlights to run during the game?

Speaking of ABC, it seemed like Al Michaels really mailed in his performance. He sounded as thrilled announcing this game as I did watching it, though I do give him credit for shameless self-promotion, comparing the pro-Pittsburgh crowd to the 1980 U.S. hockey team’s home advantage. Sorry, Al, it would have taken a larger miracle than that to make this game interesting. As for John Madden, well, he just acted like John Madden.

As my friend Chris pointed out, watching Super Bowl XL had the same feel as a Monday Night Football game, and not just because ABC televised it. Over the past few years, MNF has been plagued by bad match-ups (we’ve been treated to such gems as Browns-Dolphins last year and Packers-Ravens this year). In essence, this was the final MNF broadcast (ESPN will carry MNF next year), and once again fans were treated with a stinker.

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I love football and I love the NFL; this season, and Super Bowl in particular, just didn’t do it for me. I’m glad the city of Seattle finally got to experience a championship atmosphere, even if it came before the Browns. For Pittsburgh, well, let’s just say I’m less than thrilled with their victory, and I will forever refer to that city by their moniker which starts with an "S" and rhymes with "Chittsburgh."

But that’s sports. And, as the Rolling Stones say, you can’t always get what you want. Hopefully next year I’ll get what I need – a Cleveland championship.

I work at a sports facility in Twinsburg, and this week we've hosted a basketball camp. During a break today I heard some of the campers playing trivia, and one question was: "Who did the Cavs pick in the first round last night?"

While my first impulse was to shout out "Shannon Brown, guard, Michigan State!" (and my second to ask him "What the hell kind of trivia question is that?"), I kept my mouth shut. But soon I got to thinking. Five years from now, who will remember the 25th pick in the 2006 NBA Draft?

In the weeks and months leading up to a draft in any sport (well, except hockey, soccer and the WNBA, because no one really cares about those "sports"), all we hear about are rants and raves about so-and-so. He runs a 4.3 40. His fastball tops out at 96 mph. He's got a killer crossover dribble. The prognosticators fill out their "mock drafts" and the nation's top sports journalists debate on ESPN on what each team needs. But five years from now, who is the top player?

It would be great if there was a LeBron James in every draft. A player who you know is the real deal. But for every LeBron James, there's a Tim Couch. A Courtney Brown. Guys who you think, think, have all the "tools" to be a franchise player. But be it injuries, bad luck, or the fact that they just aren't that good, and BOOM! Tens of millions of dollars, wasted. Fans, still waiting for next year.

But there's a difference between James, Couch, Courtney Brown and now Shannon Brown. The first three were top overall picks. Picks you can't afford to waste on guys who can't or won't cut it, because you know what? Your team is already terrible, that's why you have the first pick. But what's the pressure on Shannon Brown? Twenty-plus teams passed on him or felt that better players were available. So what if he breaks his leg in the preseason? He wasn't the top pick.

All that being said, I liked what the Cavs did - almost. By drafting Brown and Daniel Gibson, they addressed the team's biggest deficiency: backcourt scoring. These guys put up good numbers in college (Brown = 17.2 ppg, Gibson = 13.4 ppg). They both played for good programs in tough conferences. I do have one problem with our draft, though, a problem that cost me almost a half hour of sleep last night.

With the 55th pick, which occurred at roughly 11:45 p.m., the Cavs selected Ejike Ugboaja, a 6'-9" forward from Nigeria. Huh? Who? According to his draft profile on NBA.com, Ugboaja is a "raw athlete who currently specializes in rebounding and defense, but is developing on the offensive end of the floor". Who, exactly, is he rebounding and defending against in Nigeria?

I know what you're saying. "Scott, who cares? It was the fifth last pick." Well, I do care. Every single pick counts, because you never know who you'll find later in a draft. For example, Jim Thome was picked in the 13th round. Remember Carlos Boozer, a second-rounder just a few years ago? Why not draft, say, Terence Dials, an Ohio native who played at OSU and won the Big Ten Player of the Year award. I'll go out on a limb and say Dials is more ready to help LeBron than Ejike Ugboaja, who averaged 5 ppg in the Nigeria Premier League last year.

Oh well. After all, these drafts are just big crapshoots. Maybe in five years, the trivia question that future basketball campers ask will be: "When did 2010 NBA MVP Ejike Ugboaja get drafted?"

Monday, June 26, 2006

By now, every man, woman and child is well aware of the curses that surrounded the Boston Red Sox ("Bambino") and the Chicago Cubs ("Billy Goat"), as well as the dearth of championships for the Chicago White Sox and Cleveland Indians. Many, though, seemed unaware of yet another tragic curse: that of myself, Scott Miles, attending Cleveland sporting events.

While both Sox teams have done their part, winning the past two World Series titles, the Cubs, the Indians and myself seemed destined towards incessant agony. The Cubs have not won a title since 1908 - 1908!!! - and the Indians are now staring at their 58th straight season without glory. As for me, well, I'd gone roughly four years (25-30 games) without attending an Indians victory, and I'd seen the Cavs win just once - last year, needing an improbable 15+ point fourth quarter rally to beat the Suns - in that same time frame.

(Note: I've only been to one Browns game - go figure, they lost to the Jets last season - since the team returned in 1999, so I won't necessarily count that.)

The Scott Miles Curse quickly turned into a legend among my friends and family. Many begged me to stay away, permanently, from Jacobs Field and Gund Arena/"The Q". Many claimed to be good luck charms, requesting to go to games with me, believing they could break the streak. And the losses kept piling up.

Easily the lowest point occurred near the end of last summer, when the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays came to Cleveland. The Indians were playing better than just about any other team in the majors, so it appeared as good an opportunity as ever to see a win.

We went to the games on Friday and Sunday. The Devil Rays swept the three-game series. My morale was lower than both the Stanley Cup Finals ratings and Bush's approval percentage.

This past Saturday, my friends Sean and Jess came to visit me from Columbus. With them decked out in Reds garb, we went to the Jake for interleague play between the Tribe and the Reds. The night before, my dad joked about calling Vegas and putting money on Cincinnati. I love my family.

Sitting in the bleachers (section 181, row R, seats 28-30), I just wanted to enjoy the day, catch up with my friends, and see a good ballgame. The Indians were, and still are, mired in fourth place in the division and the Reds have played surprisingly well this season, so I had low expectations for a Cleveland victory.

But then Todd Hollandsworth, who only has about seven more hits than I do during this major league season, blasted a two-run homer. Then Victor Martinez added a sac fly, and Grady Sizemore hit a solo shot in the seventh to give Cleveland a 4-0 lead. And Paul Byrd benefited repeatedly from "at'em" balls - the Reds hit the ball hard, but right "at'em".

Still, I'd seen the Indians blow late leads too many times to feel comfortable. It could have been 20-0 and I wouldn't have felt safe. Yet the outs kept coming, and suddenly I was standing and cheering Bob Wickman on with two outs in the ninth, and there's a fly ball to Hollandsworth, and he's running under it, and I think he's caught it but I can't see with all the people in front of me, and the Jake is going nuts and I see the Indians celebrating their victory on the pitcher's mound.
I'll never forget June 24th, 2006. I'll never forget sitting in Section 181, Row R, seat 28. I'll never forget all the drunk Reds fans sitting behind us. And even if the Indians never lose another game I attend, I will never forget the Scott Miles Curse.