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!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Wait 'Till Next Year...or the Year After...or the Year After That...

"I can't, I can't, I can't stand losing" - The Police

Here we are, three days removed from it, and people here in Cleveland are still talking about the Christmas Eve Massacre down at the lakefront. Mercifully, the NFL regular season ends this Sunday, and while about half of the teams still have a fighting shot at the postseason, the Browns players already have their one-way plane tickets punched for home after the Texans game.

(Overheard at last Sunday's massacre, from a drunken Browns fan to some Tampa fans sitting behind us who were cheering exuberantly: "Congratulations for winning the pillow fight, you losers.")

I actually think many of the players had their tickets punched before last week's game, Fan Appreciation Day for the fans at the Stadium. Over 69,000 fans spent part of their Christmas Eve for a team that 1:) Pooch-punted on its opening possession, instead of kicking a 44-yard field goal; 2:) Failed to score an offensive touchdown and threw four interceptions; 3:) Saw top receiver Braylon Edwards suspended for most of the first half for reportedly being late for a team meeting, than drop two passes that Captain Hook could have held onto, and finish with seven more yards than I did for the game; 4:) Allow Tampa to win its first road game of the year, with third-string quarterback and Cleveland native Tim Rattay leading the way.

To make things better, second-string quarterback Derek Anderson injured his shoulder and will miss the finale against Houston. Ken Dorsey will start in his place. Ken Dorsey. Excuse me for a moment while I stab myself in the spleen.

(Intermission, part two: Braylon Edwards, he who had two catches for seven yards Sunday, has his own website, www.braylonedwards.com. I am begging you to go to his site. Watch the intro video. Check out his photo galleries. Listen to the rap song about him, "B-Easy", playing in the background. Then look at his career stats. Even people in the Browns organization are laughing at this. Hey, Braylon? How many games have you played in, bud? And how many have we won? And what have you done to help this team win those handful of games?

The team gave away a bunch of free stuff to random fans. On the video board, one "lucky" fan received a game-worn, and autographed, Braylon Edwards jersey. It was booed quite loudly. One fan even joked that the jersey was probably pretty clean, seeing as how he hardly played Sunday and sure as heck didn't put forth much effort.)

Some time ago I put together a playlist on iTunes that I call my "Browns Losing Music". (You can also insert Cavs, Indians, Buckeyes or your team of choice into the title.) These are some of the songs in my collection that make me contemplate hurling myself off the Valley View bridge or driving my car into the Olentangy. Here's a sampling of some songs (I have 69 total, over 5 hours!) and why they made the cut. If you have any suggestions of more songs, let me know. And yes, I realize I'm too emotionally attached to my teams - it's called being a single, college-aged guy. Deal with it. Anyway:

"100 Years" by Five For Fighting: 100 years. Hmm. Probably the next time a Cleveland team wins a title.

"The Long and Winding Road" by The Beatles: "And still they lead me back..." Paul McCartney sings. Yeah, the Browns led me and 69,000 other fans back to the Stadium last Sunday and that was how we were rewarded.

"I'm A Loser" by The Beatles: Kinda self-explanatory there.

"Life Ain't Always Beautiful" by Gary Allan: Especially if you root for Cleveland teams. Plus, what's a playlist for depressing music without some country?

"The Unforgiven" by Metallic: "New blood joins this earth/And quickly he's subdued/Through constant pain disgrace.../Deprived of all his thoughts/The young man struggles on and on." Basically, any child who grew up in Cleveland after 1964.

"Jumper" by Third Eye Blind: Also self-explanatory.

"Changes" by Tupac: You know what, Tupac? Still I see no changes here, either. Just losing season after losing season.

"Mad World" by Michael Andrews: This song is more famous for being on the "Gears of War" video game ad. Just haunting, absolutely haunting. Kind of like the thought of starting Ken Dorsey at quarterback. I think fans are actually clamoring to have the likes of Todd Philcox, Mike Phipps and Spergon Wynn back. Ken Dorsey...I just threw up on my keyboard thinking about him starting this week. I really don't mind him playing, though - it should just be with the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL or the Berlin Thunder in NFL Europe, that's all.

"What Hurts the Most" by Rascal Flatts: (with apologies to Rascal Flatts) "It's hard to deal with the pain of losing every week/But I'm doin' it/It's hard knowing that the future's always lookin' bleak/Still harder/Gettin' up, gettin' dressed, knowin' that your team's regressed/But I know I can't do it all over/We would trade, give away, all our good players/All that's left are total strangers..."

Needless to say, this will be a very interesting day of football. Will it ever be necessary for me to create a "Browns Winning Music" playlist? We'll save that for another day. For now, let's see if the Browns can win their final pillow fight of the season.

Friday, December 22, 2006

2006 Year In Review

First of all, a very happy holiday season to all the folks out there - yes, even you Michigan fans. I want to thank everyone for their comments on the last post, "Life on the Other Side" - if you couldn't tell, it was pretty fun writing that and I'm glad everyone enjoyed it. Actually, the biggest disappointment was a lack of reaction from fans of those "other" franchises. Perhaps because they know I'm hitting the truth? Hmmm...

Now, some things to add on:

* Ken Griffey Jr. injured again: It appears he broke his hand in an accident at home. I mean, this is just getting ridiculous. This is a player who was arguably the second-best athlete of the entire 1990's, behind that Michael Jordan character. An article I read on foxsports.com said he's been on the DL eight times since joining the Reds in 2000. It's getting to the point where everyone's thrilled that he trotted out there 123 times last year, which was the second-most games he played in a season with the team in six years. I joked the other day that my grandmothers were more durable than Ken, but it appears I'm going to have dig a little deeper than that - after all, they've never broken any bones in home accidents, and both are pushing 90. Hmm, 90...maybe the number of games Ken plays in this year? Anyone care to bet an over-under on this?

* Pittsburgh Penguins on way out?: So let me get this straight - a casino company offers to build the team a new arena, for free, with no taxpayer's money involved...and the state government said no??? Mario Lemieux looks more frustrated right now than Emilio Estevaz at the beginning of the first Mighty Ducks movie. You've gotta love the NHL...actually, I take that back - I'm counting down the days until professional hockey folds.

All right, since I've gotten that out of the way, the true purpose of today's column is to examine the year 2006 in all its sporting glory, as always emphasizing the home boys. As is usually the case around this time of year, you can't seem to escape these year-end wrapups: top 10 lists, quotes, moments, blah blah blah. Of course, "Jack City" will be touching on these same points, but only in the way that we can: lyrical poetry. Enjoy...

Revisit, Rewind

Late December, almost Christmas time,
Warm and rainy, here’s another rhyme:
Northeast Ohio, the only Snow we have here
Plays point guard for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Thank God for LeBron and Company,
Who sometimes play like a symphony.
Other times, not so much –
Game Seven, Pistons, they got crushed.

But in that Wizards series!
Yes, there were some queries.
James quickly put them to rest,
Showing who’s the best of the best.

A new “Wild Thing” is often seen,
No, I’m not talking about Charlie Sheen.
With big, curly hair, and hails from Brazil,
Proves hard work can overcome superior skill.

Sluggish start this season,
No one has any reason.
Hopefully for coach Mike Brown
At the end, we’ll wear the crown.

The Indians also had their struggles,
Facing major bullpen juggles.
At third base, man, what a loon,
We won’t miss you, Aaron Boone.

Will C.C. stay healthy?
Is Dolan too wealthy?
Travis Hafner, what a stud!
Guillermo Mota, what a dud!

Eric Wedge, looking over his shoulder.
(Hey, we’re going after Mark Mulder!)
But if the Tribe continues to falter,
In will step Buck Showalter.

2007, likely a new story.
2006, often times gory.
Grady, Victor, Casey “at the bat”,
This team really shouldn’t fall flat.

As for the Browns, oh where do I start?
Constantly causing pain in our hearts.
One whom I’m glad that is gone
Calling the plays, Mr. Maurice Carthon.

Close games, blow outs, it don’t matter,
On the scoreboard, we’re usually the latter.
Kellen and Braylon sometimes look dull.
Four words: “CATCH THE DAMN BALL!”

Charlie or Derek, who will it be?
Maybe the winner of the Heisman Trophy?
Our QB’s always have a clean clock –
Our offensive linemen don’t know how to block.

Romeo Crennel captains this ship.
And here’s where I’ll take a major rip:
2007, over .500, that’s where we need to appear.
Else we’ll send Romeo back to Shakespeare.

Ahh, things are bright in the center of the state,
January 8, of course, is the date.
Glendale, Arizona, under the shining sun,
Where the championship will be won.

Florida’s the next opponent,
Number two in BCS judgment.
Leaping over hated Michigan –
HAHAHA, let’s laugh again!

The Bucks, though, should take the cake,
Assuming they avoid a big mistake.
Another title for Jim Tressel,
Without the whole Clarett-media wrestle.

So, too, the boys on the hardwood,
Right now are looking pretty good.
Thanks to a man named Thad,
And Greg Oden, who I think’s older than my dad.

Now for the Capital Crusaders,
Home at Bernlohr, fended off all invaders.
At season’s end, number three in the country,
With no doubt, that’s reason for glee.

What if Larry Kehres had missed?
What if Nate Kmic didn’t exist?
Tough ending for our quarterback fellow,
Gracing jersey number two, Rocky Pentello.

Hit the road with the volleyball team,
St. Louis really was a dream.
Played well but fell under the Arch,
Our girls did make an impressive march.

Also spent some time with the Captains,
Who sadly didn’t record many wins.
I’ll miss the fish races, that’s no rue-
Ran ‘em with the shortstop at JCU.

That’s it for all of this year’s bliss,
So have yourselves a Merry Christmas.
(Don’t think I forgot about ya –
Guys, enjoy the rest of Hanukkah.)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Sometimes after Browns games, which have ended in losses 71.4 percent of the time this season, my friends and I question why it is exactly that we continue to support a team that, well, generally loses 71.4 percent of its games each year.

Personally, I blame my great-grandparents, or whoever it was that decided to settle in this beautiful swath of land known as Cleveland all those years ago. Geography, I say, plays the largest factor - no matter how much the Browns, Indians or Cavs suck, my pride in the city of Cleveland overrides all other factors.

One day, we mused as to what it would be like to root for teams in other cities. Who would we pick to pour our hearts and souls into? Whose website would we be checking every day for the latest free agent news, trade rumors or draft buzz? What fans would we associate most closely with?

Well, no need to fear, "Jack City" readers, for here is a guide into what life would be like on the other side! I've compiled a list of some geographically-local (to Cleveland) cities that support professional franchises who could be rooted for, if Cleveland had none. No college teams here, either. Enter...if you dare...

If I were...
A Cincinnati sports fan: Hoo-boy. Where to start? Well, if I were a football fan, I would have disowned my team for the better part of a decade. Then, when years of top draft picks finally pan out, I would start to have some interest in them again. In the case of the 2006 season, I would be a hardcore fan for the first few weeks, then hide in a closet during a mid-season losing streak and re-emerge after a recent stretch of good play. After Monday's loss against the Colts, who knows how I would feel. Since I'm under the age of 25, I'll have no appreciation for players such as Harold Green, Ken Riley, Carl Pickens or Darnay Scott who graced the uniform in the past. I do love Boomer, though.

The mayor of the city has also ordered all women and children off the streets when the Bengals aren't at practice or playing games, for fear of their safety. Eight players arrested, including one (Chris Henry) four times just himself, since last December? Those DUI's are just harmless fun, that's all. Our fine, upstanding young men have set a positive influence for the children of southwest Ohio and Kentucky. That's why the commissioner has talked to our team twice this year, right?

When baseball season rolls around, I can root for a team that's recently wasted the career of one of the best shortstops of all-time (Barry Larkin) and seen the transformation of one of the all-time best centerfielders (Ken Griffey, Jr.) into a player who has roughly the same durability as my grandmother. But at least we have Bronson Arroyo as our staff ace!

And during the winter, I can hold onto a composite-leather basketball in my driveway and try to impersonate the moves of Oscar Robertson or any of the other all-time great Cincy basketball players, past and present. Wait, the team moved out how long ago? No pro basketball now? That's so depressing, I'll do my best Deltha O'Neal impression (he's my hero, what a class guy) and pound a few cold ones before hitting the road.

If I were...
A Pittsburgh sports fan: I can be as arrogant as I want, because our team has five Super Bowl rings. Never mind that all of our players from those 70's teams are dying from complications of steroid abuse, broke and penniless, damnit, because we "just got one for the thumb!" Hell, right now we're the "best 7-7 team ever." We can finish every season 6-10 but it'll be all right because we're still the best team in the NFL. To paraphrase legendary philosopher Ricky Bobby, our team wakes up every morning and pisses excellence.

We also have a real nice baseball stadium, but sadly our team hasn't been relevant since about 1990. Now that I think about it, our star player from those past teams (Barry Bonds) probably scored his steroids from our former offensive linemen. So generous of them. I don't know about you, though, but I'm excited for the Freddy Sanchez era, and we have a Canadian (Jason Bay) who doesn't play hockey!

We don't have pro basketball, either. James Naismith didn't make it out to this part of the country, I guess. For now we have a hockey team, but no one wants to own it unless they can move it away from here.

If I were...
A Detroit sports fan: Things are going pretty well for us, actually. We have an exciting young baseball team that just lost the World Series against the heavily-underdogged St. Louis Cardinals, in which our star relief pitcher (Joel Zumaya) may have limited himself because of arm injuries sustained while playing "Guitar Hero." I wish I could make this stuff up.

Our basketball team has had a pretty nice run of success, too. Our hard-nosed style of play makes me proud of the way we play - now, can we just do something about Rasheed Wallace's bald spot? And his anger management program?

As for the football team, well...yeah, let's just move on to the next city.

If I were...
An Indianapolis sports fan: As my roommate Dan pointed out, it must be great to be a Colts fan. "It's 10 wins a year, guaranteed," he said. You know what, Dan? You're right. It is great being a Colts fan right now. Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison are a better combination than peanut butter and jelly. Dwight Freeney is an absolute monster. And if Nick Harper hadn't been stabbed in the leg last year by his wife before that AFC Championship game against the Steelers, he would have outrun Ben "Sloth"-lisberger to the end zone. But you know what? It's OK, because we know we're going to the playoffs every year that Manning is around - one of these times we'll break through to the Super Bowl.

Our basketball team has also been a model of consistency for quite some time, save for some bumps-in-the-road with Ron Artest. That brawl a few years back was a bit of a black eye for the organization, but you'll have those. If only Reggie Miller hadn't retired...we need to bring him, Rik Smits and Chris Mullin back.

If I were...
A Columbus sports fan: Umm...when does that Ohio State game kickoff???

So there you have it, Cleveland-residents. Now that you are more informed about the situation, go out and wisely choose another fan-base to join, should the Cavs, Indians and Browns ever leave us.

On a side note, this led to me thinking about what I did between 1996 and 1999, with no Browns around. Young, lost and confused, I had a smorgasboard of football teams catching my fancy - I still have an old Cowboys pillow and a Dolphins bath towel. On "Madden '98" for PlayStation, I would always play as the Lions - I loved Barry Sanders, to go along with Scott Mitchell, Herman Moore and Robert Porsche. And on Sunday's, they would always show either the Lions or Bengals on TV, and a lot of Steelers games too. Of course, I always hated the Steelers, and the Bengals were kinda cute back then (read: no annoying bandwagon fans or "Who Dey" chants).

As far as the Browns go, I will continue to accept the grief (and sympathy, sometimes mixed into the same message) for a 4-10 team. After all, they are still my team.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Over the weekend, I had the chance to watch parts of three college football championship games: Division 1-AA (or the Football Championship Subdivision, as the NCAA phrases it) and the Divisions II and III games. All three games were entertaining as the six participants wrapped up their 15-game schedules that stretched from the end of August or beginning of September.

Somehow, the NCAA has it all right for these "lesser" divisions, yet has it all wrong for their showcase league, the Football Bowl Subdivision (or Division 1-A, or the biggest reason why the NCAA grosses over $4 billion - yes, billion - a year).

For some reason, the bigwigs at the NCAA don't feel that a playoff is the best way to determine the rightful national champion in D-1 college football, even though that's how it determines the champions in every other sport in every other division that it runs.

They've made the argument that it will extend the season for too long (the National Championship game will be played on January 8, a full three weeks after the other divisions have wrapped up), that it will hurt the academics and studies of the students (I guess that Division 1-AA, II and III football players don't study) and that it makes players more susceptible to injuries (again, different standards for the different divisions - apparently, the other student-athletes don't get hurt).

As it is, the NCAA just stipulated this year that the schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision add a 12th regular season game to their schedules. This means that schools such as Florida, Ohio State's national title game opponent, will finish their season with 14 games played, because their conference has an additional championship game. That ends being just one fewer than schools like Appalachian State, Grand Valley State and Mount Union played this year.

(Random Note: Who is in charge of coming up with the names like the "Football Championship Subdivision" or the "Football Bowl Subdivision", Dick Vitale? Chris Berman? I can't wait for Tuesday's "Super Scintillating Spectacular" matchup between Northern Illinois and Texas Christian in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, which is part of the Football Bowl Subdivision's postseason schedule. Anyway, back to the column.)

Look, everyone knows that the BCS is a joke. Everyone also knows that a playoff is the only true way to crown a national champion - this way, we can avoid the whole USC-Auburn tilt from a few years back.

So if I was in charge of the NCAA, here's my solution to this whole Football Bowl Subdivision (I love how this rolls off my tongue) mess:

1. Eliminate the whole BCS system of "1 vs. 2": Poof. Gone. See ya. However, I will keep the computer rankings - more on that in a second.

2. Eliminate pre-season polls: Completely worthless. You can't judge a team by how it looks in spring practices, or on how good you think the returning talent it (see: Notre Dame, 2006). No polls come out until after the third week of the season.

3. Eliminate the "12th game": I don't know about you, but I'm just not that excited to watch OSU play Youngstown State, or Michigan to play Ball State, or Florida to play Western Carolina, or...well, you get the point.

4. An eight-team playoff: Oh, I said it. Playoffs. Or, as Jim Mora would say it, "Playoffs? Playoffs?" Here's where I'd take the computer rankings used in the BCS to determine the top-eight teams. Is it perfect? No. There will be debate from the ninth and tenth teams left out, but you can't avoid that. I'd rather have the complaining from teams left out of those bottom spots than the situation we're in now, where only two teams have a shot at the top spot.

And even for those teams who play in a conference championship game, the maximum of three games that they'd have in a playoff situation would leave them at...15. Same as Appalachian State. Same as Grand Valley State. Same as Mount Union.

That eight-team playoff would leave us first-round matchups such as OSU-Boise State, Florida-Wisconsin, Michigan-Louisville, and USC-LSU this year. And look at some potential second-round battles: No.1 OSU against either No. 4 or 5 USC or LSU, and No. 2 Florida against No. 3 Michigan, all leading up to a national title game??? Wow.

It sure as heck beats the endless debate over who (arbitrarily) deserves the top two spots and three weeks of games like San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.