All posts by Josh Flagner

Josh says things. Here and at Josh Flagner {dot} com. #MTAF #CavsZine

Kyrie Irving Cares, but He Can’t Win

“No, I didn’t consult LeBron, or any of my Cavs teammates before I made the decision to ask for a trade. I thought about my future, and decided I needed to make that decision on my own. It isn’t because I have a bad relationship with anyone on the team or in the organization, I’ll always remember Cleveland for the great team, fans, and my first championship. But it was time for me to move on, and I couldn’t be happier than I am to start the next chapter of my career in Boston, playing with great teammates, under a great coach, and in a city where legends were made.”

 

Continue reading Kyrie Irving Cares, but He Can’t Win

Becoming a NASCAR Fan Again

I have been treating NASCAR and professional wrestling as mirror images of fanhood for decades. I watched them the same way; it was fun when the two sports were shiny and evolving, dominated by stars I recognized telling stories I cared about, but when those two sports started to settle into their identities, I drifted away. Suddenly I realized I didn’t know the young talent so well, and it felt like I had seen every kind of match, and every outcome possible. Like the memory of an old flame, the need to dial into the race slowly faded into nothing, until it was nothing more than a thing you vaguely remembered when a friend mentioned a keyword in conversation.

Continue reading Becoming a NASCAR Fan Again

On Ghosts and GOATs: LeBron’s Singular Chase

Only the most stubborn fans and writers refuse to acknowledge LeBron James’ place in NBA history. They cling to greatness past with their eyes pressed shut, it’s the only way to avoid seeing what’s become of their beloved record books, to not see what’s happened to very definition of greatness. Shut eyes can’t see efficiency statistics or defensive ratings. Shut eyes don’t have to acknowledge 3-1 leads or switch flips. You can’t see a man defending five positions, chasing down lay-ups, or even eight years of *uninterrupted* dominance blindly clinging to Michael Jordan like Jeff van Gundy under a fist fight.

Continue reading On Ghosts and GOATs: LeBron’s Singular Chase

Our Kids are Champions

Cleveland had just won its first championship in 52 years. LeBron James, exhausted after three games of cementing his legacy, of chiseling away at the foundation of Michael Jordan’s mythology, slumped on the floor at Oracle Arena. The room I was in was dark, but I could hear my neighbors screaming, I didn’t move, but my heart was jumping in my chest.

I was thinking about everything and nothing. I didn’t know what to do. At some point, in this euphoric stupor, I got a text from a friend.

Continue reading Our Kids are Champions

Who Even Needs Bad NFL Picks Anymore?

I just got finished volunteering at a Christmas party for the resident kids at OhioGuidestone. With the backing of my fantastic day job, I was able to help provide a meal, party, and Christmas gifts to a bunch of great kids. Zoup! catered, the kids played, and I walked around having the best night I’ve had in a long time.

I’m not putting this on More Than a Fan because I want you to acknowledge me. I’m tossing this story up on the header of a sports column because it’s proof that all of us can make a difference. I tell too many stupid jokes on twitter, I drink too much coffee and vent about bad days, I have a few too many adult beverages at a party and break out a joke that makes people cringe… I do all of those things we all do. And, if I can manage to help people, you can. Trust me. I’m bad at almost everything.

Donate some money, drop off some Christmas gifts to a church, buy a cheap winter coat at Walmart and give it to someone you see shivering. Little things aren’t little to the person who gets the gift.

Johnny Manziel is starting again. This is the right decision, since Josh McCown is a walking M.A.S.H. unit and Austin Davis knows less of the offense than Johnny did last season, at this point. Is Johnny going to play well these last four games and convince us all that he’s our savior again? Maybe. I don’t know. It’s incredibly unlikely, but I survived my 20s, so anything is possible.

I will say this; don’t trust anyone who is convinced Manziel is going to be the man. Not because I think it’s impossible, but because someone with good judgment wouldn’t allow himself to be obsessively all-in with someone who’s failed for so many different reasons so recently.

I listened to some of Mike Pettine’s press conference from Monday:

I did a poor job of listening. I own that. But there weren’t a lot of loafs, so I’m satisfied with the effort.

Gary Barnidge signed an extension. That’s very good news. Now, we just need to get one done with Travis Benjamin, get Josh Gordon back on the field, and the offense will have a chance with whatever new quarterback, head coach, and offensive coordinator combination will be on the sidelines.

Indians Twitter has had a fun week. Follow the conversation that our resident commercial actor started about trading for Todd Frazier. I mean, the Indians aren’t going to trade for Todd Frazier, or anyone else, probably, but the winter meetings happened and we do this to ourselves every year.

This guy.

https://twitter.com/3rdBaseWithMort/status/674716068460535811

The Cavs are awesome. Look, there are things I don’t like that happen during losses. There are rotations I don’t always get. There are moments when LeBron James dribbles too much, or Timofey Mozgov can’t jump over a quarter, or Matthew Dellavadova throws a guys to the ground like a pro wrestler. Those moments suck.

Ok, fine, the Delly moment is awesome.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, I get it. I get the frustration with the Cavs. I just don’t think the first two months of any season dictate how good teams play down the stretch. ESPECIALLY a team like the 2016 Cavs, who are working hard to get healthy and have been able to be at the top of the Eastern Conference without their superstar point guard and best defensive back court player. By the middle of January, Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert are going to allow LeBron and Kevin Love to rest more, change the offensive spacing, and create opportunities on the floor this Cavs team hasn’t had yet this season.

The formula for 2016 was to be good in the beginning, really good down the stretch, and great in the playoffs. I can’t guarantee the last two, but they started right on plan.

In short; the Cavs are fine.

Picks Notes:

My picks are horrible. There’s no hope for me. Listen to my podcast instead. 

Job Security, Health, and Midges Dominate Cleveland

Welcome back to my little corner of More Than a Fan. I took last week off from the column for the holidays, but don’t worry, my terrible record of picking games this season kept right on chugging.

On Johnny ManzielHis time in Cleveland is through. Maybe he’ll end up on the field in a Browns uniform at some point to finish out 2015, but I can’t see any plausible scenario in which Johnny sticks around, regardless of anything at all that takes place on the football field…

…Unless Mike Pettine and Ray Farmer get fired. I have flip-flopped on my opinion of whether these two should get canned, whether only one of them should be shown the door, and, if one of the other, I can’t decide which should get the pink slip1Get fired. Terminated. Shit-canned..

[Read – The Browns Broke Me – by Jeff Rich]

Sometimes I think that Pettine really has the veterans in the locker room. That he gets their respect because he holds players accountable and rewards guys who work hard. The flip side of that coin is the perception2/pərˈsepSH(ə)n/ noun – the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. that Pettine won’t play Farmer’s guys out of spite, because the two can’t get on the same page.

Oh, there’s also the terrible clock management, his buddy Jim’s terrible defense, and the offensive coordinator doing everything he can to not pass the buck while passing the buck.

Let’s also not forget that this headline happened today; “Browns coach Mike Pettine acknowledges discussion about his future could be in Jimmy Haslam’s plans.3This is also by Nate Ulrich. Not on purpose, but dude was first on my feed today.

Ray Farmer is terrible at picking players, and considering that’s his most important job, things aren’t looking good the former prodigy. No, Bernie Kosar could not be the GM of a football team. I would love to see him working with scouts, though.

[Subscribe – Railbird’s Nest Podcast. Recent guests include Ken Carman, Hayden Grove, and Tony Mazur.]

Someday the Cavs will be healthy. With health will come more meaningful rest for LeBron James, Love, and the back court crew that started the season playing heavier than normal minutes due to Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert‘s injuries.

When isn’t important. There are plenty of things that happen in losses that can be pointed to and harped on for improvement, and the Cavs five losses so far this year are no exceptions to that rule4Although, I would really only call this most recent loss to the Wizards a stinker.. The Cavs are NOT a perfect team that sometimes takes a loss just because. Yes, there is real room for improvement.

That improvement will come. The players and coaching staff will settle in more each week, especially as the team’s health starts to improve. Glorious revenge will be ours.

Alright. Maybe I’m getting carried away.

I think Timofey Mozgov‘s knee is still messed up. This is a completely unsubstantiated opinion based on nothing but the fact that I’ve wasted thousands of hours watching basketball games. Maybe Mozzy’s knee is fine, but I remember trying to tell people Kevin Love looked like an old man with a back issue last season, and it turned out he was. 

The Indians signed Joba Chamberlain.  There’s no punchline.

Mark Shapiro lured Indians VP of Player Personnel Ross Atkins away to become the General Manager in Toronto. This is a cool promotion for Atkins, who gets to put GM in front of his name, and work with a colleague with whom he’s comfortable in the process.

This looks like bad news for Blue Jays fans. Don’t believe me?

“But increasingly, front-office executives with GM experience, like Shapiro, are hiring GMs who function, in many ways, like an assistant would in the old model.” – Brendan Kennedy Toronto Star

Mark Shapiro, the not-GM who will act like a GM, even though he hired a GM.

I’m sorry, Canada.

Picks

Packers @Lions
Jets @Giants
Cardinals @Rams
Falcons @Buccaneers
Panthers @Saints
Seahawks @Vikings
Texans @Bills
Ravens @Dolphins
Bengals @Browns
Jaguars @Titans
49ers @Bears
Broncos @Chargers
Chiefs @Raiders
Eagles @Patriots
Colts @Steelers
Cowboys @Redskins

 

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1. Get fired. Terminated. Shit-canned.
2. /pərˈsepSH(ə)n/ noun – the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
3. This is also by Nate Ulrich. Not on purpose, but dude was first on my feed today.
4. Although, I would really only call this most recent loss to the Wizards a stinker.

Josh’s NFL Picks Week 11: Don’t Even Read These

This season has been junk. I felt good about the start of the year, and my picks showed it. But the last few weeks have been as bad as these Thursday Night Football jerseys.

I think the root of my problem this season is the AFC South. The Colts, Texans, Jaguars, and Titans are all almost the same trash. I miss so many games from this division, I can’t keep them straight any more.

 

hydratedThe Good news for me is that the Cavs are fine. It’s weird that I have to say this in November of a basketball season, but two losses in a row makes people crazy, I guess. The Cavs are going to be SO FINE that I’m not sure of my sure thing bet of under 56.5 wins this season. I even started calling the Cavs the No Cover Squad, until a two game losing streak pissed them off so badly that the covered against the Bucks Thursday night.

It was a beautiful thing, really. Efficient LeBron and double-doubles from Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson is a hallmark of this Cavs team, especially when the squad went into the game with its three best back court players watching in suits.

Also, if you’re ever at a game, keep an eye on Love when it’s time to dap.

The Browns are on a bye and the Indians are on vacation, so I’m going to plug a great podcast I did with Cleveland sports beat reporter Hayden Grove (@H_Grove). Hayden is on the Browns, Cavs, AND Indians beat for The OBR, Wine and Gold Report, and Indians Baseball Insider. Hayden was a first year hire here at More Than a Fan, and his insights into being a Cleveland media member made us here at MTAF look smart.

Picks Notes

I can’t quit the Packers. I should, but Aaron Rodgers’ leadership prevents me from giving up on his team. On the road at Minnesota is a tall task, so this is my pick most likely to go wrong.

The Raiders are a playoff team. I’m excited to see them prove it on the road.

That’s it. There are no more picks notes. I’ll just be depressed about them next week, anyway.

Titans @Jaguars
Raiders @Lions
Colts @Falcons
Jets @Texans
Buccaneers @Eagles
Broncos @Bears
Packers @Vikings
Rams @Ravens
Cowboys @Dolphins
Redskins @Panthers
Bengals @Cardinals
49ers @Seahawks
Chiefs @Chargers
Bills @Patriots

 

Josh’s NFL Picks Week 10: Fail Gif

I don’t want to talk about last week’s picks1Stop it.. Ever2No. Stop.. Don’t even bother3Jesus. Leave me alone. I sucked..

via GIPHY

It’s Uncle Drew time, Cavs fans. Chapter four would have been better without a knee injury, but you don’t need to run to get buckets.

There are actual in game things happening, too. Mainly, that the Cavs are great.

The Cavs are rolling 11 deep so far this season. Sure, small sample size arguments stack up here, but it’s pretty difficult to look at the per-36 stat box below and not get excited. Then, think about where Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert will squeeze in there4Holy shit.

Oh. Browns.

I’m talking about this piece on the OBR. It’s a subscription only article, so allow me to lift a few quotes from Waiting For Next Year, who lifted them from the original5Web thievery is no problem, until the cease and desist shows up.. The OBR is fantastic, so make sure to give them your money and go read this in full.

“There are many in this building that believe the [head coach] gets too personal, too invested in his beliefs and immediacy to take necessary steps with some younger talent which may not be what he wants.

“Pettine never wanted [Johnny] Manziel from [Day 1]. He certainly didn’t want him, did not want to deal with bringing him along after Manziel’s issues in his first season. Pettine was directly involved in [Justin] Gilbert being here, but was turned-off rather quickly, didn’t like how immature the young man was and he’s never been too receptive in seeing the young man through. You see this type of issue throughout the ‘playing’ roster.

“Pettine plays who he wants, when he wants and how he wants, which is within his rights — some within these walls believe that may not be what is in the best interests of the Cleveland Browns as an organization overall. Some in this building believe Pettine has made some playing decisions to spite Farmer.”

There’s also the whole Johnny Manziel thing floating around. If I were running the team, I would start Manziel. Not because I think he’s going to be head and shoulders about McCown6We all know Johnny isn’t taller than anybody besides his wide receivers., but because the franchise can’t afford another rinse and repeat on an offseason of talking Johnny vs whomever in a quarterback battle.

None of that really matters, though, if the aforementioned OBR article holds any water. Pettine will be out of here, and Farmer will probably get a chance to work with a coach he’s going to hand pick to cooperate. Maybe Bernie Kosar will be around, too.

But probably not.

Picks Notes:

Seriously, did you see my picks last week? What makes you think I should have any sort of explanations for any of these probably terrible picks.

Kansas City, Detroit, Cleveland, Miami, Dallas, Houston, Washington, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Tennessee, San Diego, Kansas City, and San Francisco are done. They’re out. Cross them off. That’s 14 teams with no chance just over halfway through the season. Let’s all jump on the Oakland Raiders bandwagon. Not because we want to, but because hanging out with the crazies is the best way to stay safe when they’re loose.

 

Bills @Jets
Lions @Packers
Cowboys @Buccaneers
Panthers @Titans
Bears @Rams
Saints @Redskins
Dolphins @Eagles
Browns @Steelers
Jaguars @Ravens
Vikings @Raiders
Patriots @Giants
Chiefs @Broncos
Cardinals @Seahawks
Texans @Bengals

 

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1. Stop it.
2. No. Stop.
3. Jesus. Leave me alone. I sucked.
4. Holy shit
5. Web thievery is no problem, until the cease and desist shows up.
6. We all know Johnny isn’t taller than anybody besides his wide receivers.

Josh’s NFL Picks Week Nine: Two Browns Losses for the Price of One

After a nine win week eight, I’m pretty depressed. I never feel good when I have to start off the picks column with a number so low; I have to spell it out instead of use the numerals1Bet you degenerates didn’t think you’d get a grammar lesson today.. I’m off to a (depressingly) strong start this week after picking the Bengals to beat the Browns on Thursday night. Ho hum. My favorite football team is terrible again. I’ll just have to drown my sorrows in Cavaliers basketball.

Don’t bet on the Cavs2I’m listening to Odelay as I write this. I forgot how cool Beck was. Don’t get me wrong, Cleveland’s swashbuckling heroes are going to win a lot of games3my preseason bet was less than 56.5, but 55 is still a lot., but betting on the Cavs to cover point spreads is a risky proposition. Slow starts and managing minutes is going to leave bettors feeling differently than fans.

I know LeBron James downplayed the moment he tore the sleeves off the awful Adidas uniforms the Cavs wore against the Knicks, but I suspect LeBron is being a little less than honest in that Uninterrupted video. Not that I blame him; losing your cool at a tee shirt isn’t always the best look. Speaking of bad looks; those uniforms are the worst look. They’re tee shirts that teams should give away to fans before a playoff game. They’re not basketball uniforms.

I wish there were fantastic Indians news to share, but there isn’t. Alas, it’s not all fire and brimstone at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. How could it be, if the folks over at Tribe Time Now are still recording podcasts? Take a trip over there and sit down with episode 35: Ryan Raburn: Key to World Series Victory.

We have two Browns games to lament since my last column. Mike Pettine said the Cardinals game was “a tale of two halves… frustrating because we’re capable of being better for longer.”

I don’t buy that at all, especially since the Thursday night game in Cincinnati was no different. Moreover; the Browns weren’t that good in the first half of either game, anyway.

In the Cardinals game the Browns secondary was abused as much in the first half as they were in the second, but was bailed out by Karlos Dansby and K’Waun Williams forcing key turnovers. At best, the Browns defense could be called “Big Play,” considering their four forced turnovers. But, in reality, they’re just a high risk unit. Specifically, it’s risky for the Browns that this is the unit.

Against the Bengals, the only thing preventing an uglier defensive output was two seemingly miraculous scoring drives that combined to eat up 10:58 seconds of game clock. Not including Carson Palmer taking knees to end the first half and the game, the Browns defense only forced one three and out Thursday. Guys; the defense is the problem.

Not playing Duke Johnson in the second half against Arizona because that’s how the game flowed is the biggest load of garbage I’ve seen since the Voyage of the Mobro 40004There’s a new “Most watched load of garbage in town,” Mobro.

I would love to harp on Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell only combining for 13 carries Thursday night, but the Browns got in such a huge hole so early in the second half, they had to start throwing the ball around like a Madden game. I’m sure Duke would rather run pass routes than keep up that torrid Thursday pace of 0.0 yards per carry.

I don’t know what Jimmy Haslam wants. I don’t know what Mike Pettine wants. If it were my money, I’d have to stop paying Jim O’Neil.

Picks Notes:

I’m not breaking down anyone’s doors to wager roses this week. My favorite is a big favorite, the Patriots covering against the Redskins.

I’m comfortable admitting I was wrong about not liking Teddy Bridgewater. Honestly, being so right about not liking Colin Kaepernick really eases that sting. Quarterbacks make the world go round, and they shall continue in their two matchups. The Vikings will win easily, and the 49ers will lose ugly.

I had the hardest time with the matchup between the Raiders and Steelers. I’m taking the upset. It feels right.

Happy picking!

Browns @Bengals
Packers @Panthers
Redskins @Patriots
Titans @Saints
Dolphins @Bills
Rams @Vikings
Jaguars @Jets
Raiders @Steelers
Giants @Buccaneers
Falcons @49ers
Broncos @Colts
Eagles @Cowboys
Bears @Chargers

 

 

 

 

Follow me on Twitter @RailbirdJ for more senseless sports talk and occasional conversations about being a new dad. Tweet about this using #MTAFPicks and #NomPickem to talk trash to me, the rest of the MTAF NFL crew, and all of the sad sacks who got suckered into @Sportsnom‘s shady pick’em league

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1. Bet you degenerates didn’t think you’d get a grammar lesson today.
2. I’m listening to Odelay as I write this. I forgot how cool Beck was
3. my preseason bet was less than 56.5, but 55 is still a lot.
4. There’s a new “Most watched load of garbage in town,” Mobro

Josh’s NFL Picks Week Eight: Sort Of

Congratulations on clicking on an experiment here at More Than a Fan. Before you flip out because you unknowingly clicked on some sort of internet test, don’t worry. We’re not the Stanford Psychology Department. We don’t do crazy things like follow the scientific method or set up control groups to test variables. We yell into the internet until enough of you listen. That’s how we set the volume around here, and we’re in the middle of finding the right level.

If you came for my NFL picks, they’re still here! Somewhere. Probably way down at the bottom, which means you have to read the rest of this stuff. The rest of the stuff here that you’re probably not used to yet is some Friday morning riffing on Cleveland sports. I haven’t quite decided on the best format for doing this on a weekly basis, but I’m sure I’ll be on solid ground by the time football season is over and there aren’t any more picks to make.

I’ll probably change the title structure of these columns, too, but too much change at once might break the internet.

The Cavs are good. Like, really good. David Blatt’s crew is merely 1-1 at this point, after a close loss to open the season in Chicago and a trip to Memphis to crush the Grizzlies, but this Cavs team is different from any other team we’ve seen here in Cleveland. Even different than last seasons’ second first season with LeBron.

You won’t hear any Mike Miller or Shawn Marion hate here1Okay, you MIGHT. But not right now., but Richard Jefferson and Mo Williams bring depth to the Cavs roster that didn’t exist last season, even during the 34-9 run that turned around a sub-.500 start.

An early season word of caution to Cavs fans: we’re not going to see the Cavs trouncing through the regular season, eviscerating teams and winning 65 games. Or 60 games. Or 56.5 games2Cavs over/under for 2015-16. David Blatt’s first priority is keeping LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving healthy and rested. Williams, Jefferson, Tristan Thompson, and the rest of the bench are going to allow Blatt to go to the bench early and often during this season. So, don’t lose your mind over losses. There will probably always be fair criticism after bad games, but 16 wins in May and June matter far more than playing the starters heavy minutes against the Knicks in December. Let Carmelo try out for the Celtics3Carmelo should get traded this season. Not as hard as Boogie Cousins should get traded, but it’s close.

Allowing Mark Shapiro to go to Toronto may have actually been a savvy move by the Cleveland Indians ownership, as the first big thing to happen under his watch is the resignation of 2015 GM of the Year Alex Anthopoulos. You heard that right. The man who JUST WON GM OF THE YEAR saw Mark Shapiro coming and bailed, without even having another GM job in his sights. It looks like the Blue Jays needed to go cheap, and Shapiro is the perfect man for the job.

Francisco Lindor got jobbed. Not snubbed, but jobbed. Major League Baseball’s Gold Glove eligibility rules are… I don’t know. Unexplainable? Confusing?

HIS DELAYED CALLUP!

via GIPHY

Don’t make me talk about the Browns. Just get to the picks already. I don’t have anything nice to say about the Browns. Except, I’m apparently the only person in Cleveland who doesn’t hate the 2015 uniforms.

Some Picks Notes: The proof of my Thursday night picks are always on Twitter. If you don’t follow me there, you’re missing out.

One of the Tie-breakers in the #NomPickem League is which team will score the most and fewest points. I chose Seahawks for most and Cowboys for fewest. I really think this one will blow the roof off of Jerry World.

The Packers will be the team that finally exposes Peyton Manning‘s noodle arm, and the fact that Gary Kubiak is making a mistake trying to shoehorn an offensive system onto the golden years of the most cerebral quarterback who’s ever played the game. Manning is still more Peyton than Eli, but only when he’s running the place.

Cam Newton will continue to be an MVP candidate against the Colts. I just can’t wait to see what this week’s Andrew Luck “Dearest Martha” memes will be like.

Dolphins @Patriots
Lions @Chiefs
Buccaneers @Falcons
Cardinals @Browns
49ers @Rams
Giants @Saints
Vikings @Bears
Chargers @Ravens
Bengals @Steelers
Titans @Texans
Jets @Raiders
Seahawks @Cowboys
Packers @Broncos
Colts @Panthers

Follow me on Twitter @RailbirdJ for more senseless sports talk and occasional conversations about being a new dad. Tweet about this using #MTAFPicks and #NomPickem to talk trash to me, the rest of the MTAF NFL crew, and all of the sad sacks who got suckered into @Sportsnom‘s shady pick’em league

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1. Okay, you MIGHT. But not right now.
2. Cavs over/under for 2015-16
3. Carmelo should get traded this season. Not as hard as Boogie Cousins should get traded, but it’s close.