Category Archives: Culture

Review: Marvel’s The Defenders

Before we get into reviewing The Defenders, I’m going to ask probably the number one question that people have been asking: do you need to watch all the other series before watching this one? The answer is that no, you don’t. If you’ve watched both seasons of Daredevil, then you’re pretty much good to go on the plot. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are unrelated to the overall plot. They’re probably the two best since Daredevil gets a little weird in season 2 but not essential for knowing what’s going on if you know who the characters are already.

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Disney and ESPN are Making Television Worse by taking Content Inhouse

I’m not prepared to go all doom and gloom like some people and say it’s all over for Netflix, but unless they take corrective action now, they’re likely to lose a great deal of significance in the coming years. Disney announced yesterday on its earnings call that company is accelerating its purchase plan of BAMTech, and launching a paid streaming service for the Mouse and for ESPN. ESPN’s service will launch in 2018 and Disney’s streaming will launch in 2019. Disney will then remove its content from Netflix, and I have to assume ESPN will want to reduce access or completely remove WatchESPN access to cable subscribers.

Continue reading Disney and ESPN are Making Television Worse by taking Content Inhouse

MTAF Best of Cleveland: The East Side Strikes Back

About a month ago Cleveland SCENE Magazine blessed us with their annual ‘Best Of’ issue. This issue is always a fun read to find the hottest up and coming restaurants, bars and concert venues in the city. And just about every year, surprise, MELT Bar & Grilled wins EVERYTHING. Best Sandwich? MELT. Best Value? MELT. Best Place to Raise a Family? MELT. And if there’s a business on Lorain or West 25th you’re pretty much guaranteed to win some sort of award. Best jawlines & symmetrical faces would probably go to Market Garden Brewery.

I love SCENE Magazine, I really do (and not just because of the bulimic models who appear in the American Apparel Ads on the back page….seriously, when is Liam Neeson going to rescue these girls?!). A couple years ago they were kind enough to write a story on my small business, Laugh Staff, and they also let me write a long overdue best man speech to our fair city. SCENE is a liberal magazine, I get it. All the cool kids either live Downtown, in Tremont, Ohio City or Lakewood.  I love these areas! I’m not a regular bar patron but I heard the craft beer scene is quite nice. Any establishment that gets people out of the house, socializing and spending money is a good thing. I’ll count Christie’s and The Executive’s Den in that category too.

So what am I getting at? Well, there’s a little chunk of land called the east side that many Clevelanders either ignore or choose not to acknowledge. It’s hard to get to, it’s far away, the streets are confusing, AND there are these weird people over there called Jews, Italians and black people (most of them don’t bite)! If you look real, real close you MIGHT find a hipster or two… probably on Coventry Road. For many east-siders, Mayfield Road is our 8 Mile.

It’s funny that the east side of Cleveland is considered boring, slow and conservative but actually represents a more diverse population.  Pretty much all of my friends in comedy are downtown or west-side dwellers, but there’s a small group of us on the other side of the tracks that love this area.

Cleveland’s east side is a great mix of grit and charm. The grit being the blue-collar, Pabst Blue Ribbon vibe of Downtown Willoughby and the charm being places like Main Street in Chagrin Falls or the community atmosphere of cities like Mentor or Mayfield Village.

I grew up on the east side (Mayfield Heights) but lived in Lakewood for three years and am now back on this side of town in Mayfield Village(the postal code is actually Gates Mills, that’s what I tell people to make them view me as more successful, but for this article I thought I’d stick to the facts).

This is for the questions that I don’t have any answers, the midnight glancers and the topless dancers. Wait, hold on…that was the beginning verse of Kid Rock’s Bawitdaba…never mind.

This is for the east siders who choose to live here and raise families here. I feel like we are like Hugh Grant’s character in Love Actually who is bullied by the American president played by Billy Bob Thornton. We are long overdue in standing up for ourselves.  I recruited some special friends to help me articulate the great things our side of town has to offer.

Believe me, I know I left some things out, but hopefully this article paints a picture of what we’re all about.  Enjoy!

Best Bar to Prowl for Cougars

Willoughby Brewing Company

Willoughby

If you haven’t been to Downtown Willoughby do yourself a favor and head over. From the swankiness of Ballantine’s to the pub feel of Mullarkey’s, Downtown Willoughby has been a staple for east-siders for decades. Where else can you find hardcore motorcycle guys relaxing in front of an Arabica?!

The establishment that glues it all together is Willoughby Brewing Company. Known for live bands Friday and Saturday night, Willoughby Brewing Company provides great beer and even better people-watching. The cougar scene is ridiculous. They come out of the woodwork anytime The Spazmatics, Disco Inferno or Post Road comes out to play. Most of Lake County’s 40 and over women have made bad choices in their life and Willoughby Brewing Company is your chance to capitalize. The cougars usually run in packs and anytime a local cover band butchers ‘Pour Some Sugar on Me,” the whole place goes into heat. You’ll have to maneuver around the dudes rocking basketball jerseys and gold chains, but we think you’re up for the challenge. -Josh Womack, Mayfield Village, follow him at @joshuawomack82.

Best Festival for Running into People You Never Want to See Again

The Feast of the Assumption

Little Italy

The Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy may as well be the night before Thanksgiving, only amplified by multiple nights and warmer weather. The event started in 1898 as a sacred tribute for the observance of the Assumption of Mary. The feast still represents that…but with a lot more ‘Tap Out’ shirts in the crowd. Anyone who lives on the east side has that ONE friend who LIVES for the feast. They go every night because they swear, “The hottest chick works at this one cavatelli booth.”  So that friend ends up spending $15 every night on four ounces of cavatelli and no phone number. Seen it a million times.

Getting serious though, Little Italy remains one of Cleveland’s best spots for a date night. Its atmosphere and the old people who sit on the sidewalks just enjoying life make you realize how simple times once were.

(For a bit of history on the area and the organized crime that was associated with the area back in the day, pick up Cleveland author Rick Porrello’s Corn, Sugar and Blood: The Rise and Fall of the Cleveland Mafia. A great read for anyone looking to get some historical insight on the area). – Josh Womack, Mayfield Village, follow him at @joshuawomack82.

Best Pizza because it’s Closest to My House

Pizzazz

Mayfield Village & University Heights

Pizzazz started at the SOM Center location back in 1975 and when you hit the SOM Center and Wilson Mills intersection, you can’t help but smile at the nostalgic Pizzazz sign hanging outside the building. Pizzazz gained a reputation for their awesome pizza, great calzones and of course, their chicken salad. The dressing on the salad is an east-side staple as well, and don’t worry, you can buy it at the restaurant.

This is more of a self-serving mention in the hopes of getting a free calzone. – Josh Womack, Mayfield Village, follow him at @joshuawomack82.

Best Baseball Outside of Progressive Field

Classic Park – Lake County Captains

Eastlake

You can’t beat the family-friendly experience and warm feeling when you walk into Classic Park. Every game is like a big family reunion. Since opening in 2003, Classic Park has provided affordable professional baseball when you don’t feel like making the trek downtown. With a capacity of just over 6,000, it feels like Major League Baseball Unplugged, stripped down to its purest form.

Progressive Field simply can’t match the intimacy Classic Park offers.  Do you want the players to actually hear you, hecklers??  If so, this is the place for you.  What’s that sound you hear?  It’s baseball’s next big thing.  Your chance to say, “I saw that guy play before anyone ever heard of him” is at Classic Park.  Sort of like that drunk uncle who brings up the Springsteen Agora show in ’78 EVERY Thanksgiving.

Warm weather, cold brews and baseball.  Does anything represent summer better than that?  Even better – Classic Park offers Thirsty Thursdays, featuring $.25 cent pre-game happy hours and half price beers during the game.  LaBatter up! – Steve Sova, formerly of Mayfield Village, follow him at @SteveSova.

Best Place to See a Movie That Isn’t Regal or Atlas Cinemas  

Case Western Reserve University’s Film Society at Strosacker Auditorium

Cleveland

Case Western isn’t just a great university with Indian & Asiana students who are ten times smarter than you that go on to be doctors and lawyers. It’s a place to see great, cheap movies!

 

Formed on the campus of Case Western Reserve in 1970 and staffed by the students, The Film Society is a great place besides the Cedar-Lee Theater in Cleveland Heights to see classic and cult films on the cheap. Screenings are every semester except summer, on Friday and Saturday nights (three showings a night) and admission is only $4 and sometimes the Saturday screenings are free.

 

To give you an idea of what they show, March and April of this year saw Donnie Darko, A Clockwork Orange, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Nosferatu, and Hook to name a few. The two-level theater is never full so you don’t have to worry about people talking or using their phones. It’s also one of the only theaters left in town that shows 35mm prints, along with digital. Also when the staff is talking at the beginning you are allowed to throw paper airplanes at them and if you hit them you get free popcorn! And you will never see a cheaper concession stand around; a large popcorn is $2, drink $2, and boxed candy is $1.50. I’ll see you there! – Eric Kazen, Richmond Heights, follow him at @ekazen.

 

Best Historical Site to Walk Around, Crash Homecoming Photos or Smoke Weed and probably not get caught

Squire’s Castle

North Chagrin Reservation – Willoughby

Built in the 1890’s by former Vice President of Standard Oil Feargus B. Squire, Squire’s Castle has been a fixture of the east side for as long as we can remember. The Cleveland Metroparks bought the property in 1925 and has since been a place for all sorts of activity.

Usually on sunny Saturday afternoons starting in May you can see Lake County’s finest all-stars taking wedding photos or a group of high school students getting prom photos snapped. Yeah I know I can’t believe mothers let their daughters wear these dresses either.

The front lawn of Squire’s Castle will definitely make you smile. You’ll see couples on picnics, kids playing whiffle ball and soccer moms walking the trails nearby. Usually there is a couple motorcycles purring around too, but they’re mostly harmless. – Celina Colombo, Willoughby, follow her at @cctweets09.

Best Place to Worship Food Instead of God

Jack’s Deli

University Heights

It’s no coincidence that Jack’s Deli anchors the corner of Cedar and Green Road, which I’ve dubbed the “Hebrew-da Triangle”–a junction of the historically Jewish communities of University Heights, South Euclid, and Beachwood. Jack’s has been the keystone of Cleveland’s eastside Jewish gastronomy for 35 years.

 

Throughout the years, Jack’s has undergone a handful of facelifts, remodels, and even a relocation within the shopping plaza. For instance, there was a time when Jack’s walls were adorned with a framed movie poster for Whoopi Goldberg’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”. This isn’t the Goldberg you’d expect to see at a Jewish deli, and ultimately the mistake was rectified. And despite all of Jack’s cosmetic changes, this well-oiled deli machine has continued to consistently churn out sandwiches that rival anything I’ve eaten at our country’s most lauded deli institutions.

 

Just try to walk past Jack’s unassuming storefront without being lured inside by the savory siren of corned beef aroma. After you’ve entered, your friends and family will need to send a search party once you’ve inevitably vanished between slices of rye bread. Trust me, I know. My temple was just across the street from Jack’s. A few of my fellow Sunday school classmates and I would regularly play hooky from studying prayer books in favor of studying Jack’s menu. We figured if God really was omniscient, he’d understand our choice. – Jordan Likover, formerly of Mayfield Heights now residing in Los Angeles, follow him at @likover.

Best Place to Catch the Cleveland Sunset & a Whiff of Urban Fisherman:

The Pier at Sims Park in Euclid

Euclid

 

Recently renovated and catering to families and lonely fisherman, the Pier at Sims Park in Euclid is one of the best places to see a Lake Erie sunset east of the Cleveland. The stench of fish and squawking of angry seagulls will complete the ambience. The huge boulders that make up the break walls add interesting texture to your photos for Instagram, in addition to guaranteeing that if you drop your smartphone over the pier, it will be smashed to bits before you can retrieve it. Not that I recommend entering the waters of Lake Erie. One should only do so by boat or armed with some kind of barrier that prevents the water and discarded McDonald’s cups from touching your skin directly. . – Shay Hazen, Euclid, follower her at @SHAYZEN.

 

Best Place to be Reminded of How Poor You Are & How Plebian your Dessert Tastes Are:

Jeni’s Ice Cream & the Shoppes at Chagrin Falls

Chagrin Falls

It’s always nice to see how the other half lives. When I want to remember how much I can’t afford at the age of 32, I head over to Chagrin Falls. I look through the windows of custom furniture boutiques where an end table costs as much as my last vacation. Then I remember how my last actual vacation was more than a decade ago and need some comfort food. Two options at this point – the awesome Popcorn Shop, where you can’t go wrong with the simple options and old world charm. I can’t make a sarcastic remark about that place, I love it and its proximity to the view of the Falls.

 

If you’re in more of an ice cream mood and enjoy feeling intimidated when making dairy decisions, you can venture to the other end of the Main Street bridge and visit Jeni’s; it is Splendid indeed and their flavors are as unorthodox as the spelling of their name. Flavors like Sweet Corn & Black Raspberry and Wheatgrass Pear Vinho Verde Sorbet may make you break out into a cold sweat if you’re not an adventurous eater. If they don’t though, the Queen City Cayenne (Chocolate with an afterburn) is sure to get you feeling all hot & bothered. Grab a spoon and enjoy, even if it’s not silver. . – Shay Hazen, Euclid, follower her at @SHAYZEN.

 

 

Best Place to Relive the Good Ol’ Days & Rethink the Actual Value of Family-time:

A Day Trip to Geneva-on-the Lake

Geneva

Are you one of those people who lives in past? Well knock it off, your constant complaining and stories about “how great life used to be” annoys pretty much everyone around you. But, if you want to enjoy the retro-wonderful-ness of the 50’s without irritating everyone within ear shot, pack the family uncomfortably tight into that minivan and head east on Rt. 90 for a daytrip. The former vacation mecca of Geneva-on-the-Lake is your destination… complete with defunct cabins, overpriced knick knacks and more biker bars than your little heart could fathom! My folks and I usually make the hour-plus journey a couple times each summer. The more people we involve in the trip, the more chaotic it becomes, so it’s actually possible to experience the anxiety of a weeklong lakeside family excursion in only a few short hours on a Saturday. Ohio is amazing like that.

 

The best part of the strip is Eddie’s Grill – you’ll feel like you stepped onto the set of Happy Days. There is a Jukebox, simple menu with hamburgers, hot dogs and fries, as well as indoor and outdoor seating. Afterwards, walk down towards all the fun of makeshift kiddie rides, the oldest Putt-Putt golf course in America, outdoor karaoke that will make you question why you can’t stop listening to the terrible and Grumpy’s Lemonade stand – run by the adorable namesake himself and the best fresh-squeezed, hand-shaken lemonade in the nation. Don’t forget to order a cone at Katie’s Korner for that last sugar rush on your way out and pick up Madsen donuts to have with your coffee on Sunday morning. You won’t regret it.

 

*Word to the wise, check the annual calendar and avoid Wine Weekend (unless you’re on the prowl for a cougar) and Biker Weekend (unless you are a biker). They are fun in their own right, but not the most family-friendly weekends of the season.

A Special Thanks to The Troops, and What is going on in Cleveland and Major League Baseball

Before I begin my weekly sports ranting, I want to take time to acknowledge the men and women of our United States Armed Forces, and say thank you, for everything you do, or have given. Please, while we enjoy spending Memorial Day weekend with our family and friends, take time to remember the brave souls who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the United States of America. We are able to enjoy the freedoms and imagesliberties many take for granted because of their efforts, and the blood they have spilled. If you have the opportunity, don’t hesitate to say a simple “Thanks for your service,” it may be a small gesture, but in todays “head down” society it’s the simple gestures that have the greatest impact. Now, on to much less serious and unimportant topics!

What is going on in my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio? I can’t for the life of me ever remember a time in my life where Cleveland is the center of the sports universe like it is today, at least not for good reasons. First, the Browns drafted Johnny Manziel in the NFL draft, and a day hasn’t passed since where there hasn’t been a Manziel story headlining the airwaves. The most recent headlines have involved a hoax $25 Million lawsuit, followed up by Johnny making a trip to Las Vegas for a UFC fight with some fun on the side. While some in the media have already taken to twitter calling out Manziel for not focusing more on trying to win the starting Quarterback job for the Browns, I won’t be following in their footsteps. Personally, I don’t care what Johnny Manziel does, as long as it’s not illegal or affect what he does on Sundays. If either of those situations come into play, then I’ll have something to say, otherwise, enjoy yourself Johnny, but be ready to work on Tuesday and try not to embarrass yourself or your new city. (I left the Browns out of that statement, because they are experts at embarrassing themselves all on their own!)

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On top of the Manziel mania ongoing in Cleveland, the Cleveland Cavaliers became a huge national sports news story again when they won the NBA Draft Lottery for the third time in four years and will have the first overall pick on June 26th. The Cavaliers came into the lottery process only having a 1.7% chance of winning the lottery, and yet somehow managed to have the Ping-Pong balls fall their way.

While some in the media were crying the lottery was fixed or unfair after the Cavs won, the truth is the lottery worked exactly as it’s supposed to. The Cavs finished with the 9th worst record in the league, and in fact, were somehow in playoff contention going into the last two weeks of the season, while other teams seemed to be going out of their way to try and lose in hope of gaining the first overall pick. (see Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers) Besides, if the draft lottery was fixed, The Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, or Boston Celtics would have been the team to get the first pick due to their enormous popularity and market size.Cavs win!
While receiving the first overall pick is terrific, the real question becomes what do the Cavs do with the pick? Do they choose one of the perceived top three college players available (Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, & Joel Embiid) or do they use the pick to trade for an established star player, such as Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves or LaMarcus Aldridge of the Portland Trailblazers. Either way, the decision could be a franchise changer for the Cavs, as they already have loads of uncertainty in the organization. Currently, they’re looking for their third head coach in three years, their All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving is eligible for a contract extension, and of course, the ever-present ”giant pink elephant in the room,” also known as Lebron James, could opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat and become a free-agent. Will he or won’t he? Who knows, and in some fans eyes, who cares? I used to hope the Cavs would become good enough that they wouldn’t need James. Unfortunately, that hasn’t exactly worked out to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s plan. In the end, if he comes back, I’ll root for the team, and if he doesn’t, I’ll still root for them! No matter what happens with the Cavs, this summer is the most important since 2010, and could make or break the franchise moving forward.
Wiggins Parker EmbiidMoving away from the Cleveland sports scene. I see the Derek Jeter retirement tour is in full throttle, as I saw a picture on twitter of the “gift” the Chicago White Sox granted Jeter. For those of you that weren’t as blessed as I, the White Sox gave Jeter a bench made out of bats, balls, and bases. (Don’t worry, I’ve attached a photo for your viewing pleasure!) I’m not sure what bothers me more about this whole retirement “procession” that’s becoming a tradition, (See Mariano Rivera 2013), the fact that millionaire baseball players get their ego’s stroked even more with “gifts” they don’t need, or that every Major League Baseball team that Jeter hasn’t ever played for feels the need to willfully participate. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have an issue if the teams made a simple announcement when Jeter was in town, so fans can clap and recognize his accomplishments as a player, but offering “parting gifts” are you freaking kidding me?? What is this? The Oprah Winfrey Show?? The best solution to this train-wreck came from my friend and colleague on the MTAF Tavern Podcast, Mark Skog. (@MarkSkog) He suggested, in lieu of gifts, the teams make a small donation to the players’ charity of choice. If they are going to continue this travesty, then I could at least get behind that, but for the love of god, enough with the gifts!

Derek Jeter's retirement gift from the White Sox
Derek Jeter’s retirement gift from the White Sox

All right, I have rambled on for long enough. Thanks again for taking the time to indulge in my weekly therapy session, and I look forward to coming up with more mindless jabbering for you next week. As always, please feel free to comment below or leave me a nasty message on facebook or twitter. (links are below)
One final note: Unlike Derek Jeter, I’m not a millionaire, so please feel free to send me gifts or donations!

Something New, Something Borrowed, and Lots of Fan’s Blues

My column is going in a different direction this week. I’m summarizing a few big stories from this past week, and depending on the response, I may make it a regular occurrence.

The sports world, and the National Football League in particular, was turned on its ears this past week when University of Missouri All-American Defensive Lineman and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam announced publicly that he was homosexual. Sam, who is preparing for the upcoming NFL Combine in Indianapolis, is expected to be drafted somewhere in the middle rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft. If he is drafted or signed by an NFL team, Sam will become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

I commend Mr. Sam for his courage and resolve to publicly announce his sexuality to the world. Even though the world’s, and especially our great country’s, attitudes with regard to sexuality have changed dramatically in the past decade, he will still face many challenges. Will he be accepted by his teammates in the locker room? Will fans accept him? And, most importantly, will the reaction he receives lead to other athletes feeling comfortable enough to come out? Or, if the reaction is negative, does this set back gay athletes? Only time will tell, but if the immediate reaction is any indication of what’s to come, I think Michael Sam’s decision will only lead to good.

New York Yankee fans everywhere were crushed on Wednesday when shortstop Derek Jeter announced via Facebook that the 2014 season would be his last. Jeter, the captain of the Yankees, will turn 40 in June and cited the challenges of getting ready physically along with the game now feeling like a “job” as his reasons for hanging up his cleats.

As a lifetime Cleveland Indians fan, I feel no sympathy or sorrow for Yankee fans, as I’m sure they’ll be able to buy a suitable replacement next season. That being said, I respect the way Jeter played the game all out, all of the time. He was never linked to steroids, stayed out of trouble, and treated the game with respect. Jeter has accumulated over 3000 hits and 4 World Series Championships and will likely be heading to Cooperstown in 2019 to be enshrined alongside other Yankee greats.

On a side note, since Jeter announced his retirement before the season, odds are likely that he’ll receive a “farewell tour” similar to what his former teammate Mariano Rivera received in 2013. Can Major League Baseball stop with the “farewell tours” already? I have no problem with the fans giving Jeter standing ovations if they choose, but if any team that isn’t the Yankees gives him “parting gifts” I may just vomit! Give him respect, but he doesn’t need any gifts!

While the NFL is gearing up for the Draft Combine and Major League Baseball spring training heats up in Arizona and Florida, the NBA All-Star Weekend has invaded New Orleans.

Friday night started off with the Sprint “Celebrity” game. I use the term “celebrity” loosely because, though the participants may somehow be famous, I’ve never heard of half of them. The BBVA Compass Rising Stars challenge may have caught my attention for a little bit since Dion Waiters was representing the Cavaliers, but alas, I passed.

On Saturday night, the 3-point shootout, shooting stars contest, dunk contest, and skill’s challenge all took place. Once again, I skipped watching the events live and instead monitored via Twitter. From what I read, I really didn’t miss much anyway. Confession time, I haven’t watched the dunk contest in several years because, in the words of Charles Barkley, it’s “turrible.”

Personally, I really miss the days when the superstars of the NBA actually participated in All Star Weekend events other than the game. I enjoyed it more when there weren’t 10 events and concerts leading up to Sunday’s game. Maybe I’m in the minority, or come off as crotchety and old, but All-Star Weekends just don’t have the same luster for me anymore.

As they say in show business, “that’s a wrap” for this week. Please let me know what you think of this week’s format. I’ll be experimenting and trying new things while I continue to find my writing “style.” If you have any topic suggestions, questions, or comments, leave them below or send me a message on twitter or Facebook.

Thanksgiving Thank You

I like Thanksgiving more than most. I take pictures of my filled plate so I can remember it once the day is gone, I don’t drink hot liquids in the days leading up (burnt tongue = dulled taste buds), and I drink these by the caseload (not really). I fully understand how freaking odd all that is – my wife is not a woman who holds back her feelings about my “quirks” (that’s what I call them – it sounds endearing to me – she calls them something else entirely).

I tell you this only so I can excuse what I’m about to do. Rather than write something I’ve thought about for a while and turned into a debate-worthy opinion, I’m going to write a bunch of quick-hit thoughts about what I’m thankful for.

I’m thankful for Daniel Ray Ainge. The guy has built a Celtics team that’s not only fun to root for, but also bad enough to end up in the lottery. He dealt for 3 (and probably 4) first rounders from a Nets team that looks like it might be in the lottery for that entire time span. He hired a coach with the ability to be a once in a generation type guy. And he did it all without alienating players or the fan-base (at least the ones who can think). I realize I’ve said all this before about Danny, I realize my wife is a little concerned with the fact that I carry his picture around in my wallet, but it’s Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for Dan.

I’m thankful that someone like Matt Kline actually gives a flying crap about steroid abuse in professional sports, rather than just glomming on to it when it’s a popular opinion. This one might need to turn into a fully fleshed column at some point, but the duplicity of the “war on PEDs” has really got me flummoxed. Tell me again how all these “journalists” are so upset by concussions in football and steroids in baseball, but not steroids in football. THAT’S ONE BIG REASON FOR WHY THERE’S SO MANY CONCUSSIONS. If the players are 20% faster and 20% stronger than they should be, that’s probably going to get taken out on a few receivers’ heads once in a while.

I’m thankful that I don’t claim to be a journalist, I have no access to anything, and I have a full-time job that doesn’t require me to uncover stories. That way I get to take shots from the cheap seats.

I’m thankful for that freshly signed Kobe Bryant contract, and I’m thankful it looks like he’s coming back this year. If LA ended up with Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart or even Dante Exum, I was going to have to take everything purple out of my daughters’ rooms. That would not have gone well.

I’m thankful that Philip Rivers has led me to the playoffs in my fantasy football league. I realize that he’ll lay an egg in my first round matchup, but it’s been a fun ride.

I’m thankful for Avery Bradley’s on-ball defense and Rajon Rondo’s on-ball offense.

I’m thankful for the rumor going around that Carmelo Anthony might sign in LA after this season to play with Kobe and the Lakers. I can’t express the amount of joy I’d glean from watching 2 aging ball hogs decline together out in Hollywood.

I’m thankful that it’s been a few weeks since Bob Costas has lectured me during a Sunday Night Football game. He might still be bloviating about something political every week, but I make sure not to watch any pre-game, halftime, or post-game shows during that NBC game. See, kids? You don’t have to lose your collective crap when some arrogant jackass injects their political opinion where it doesn’t belong – you can just stop watching.

I’m thankful Dave Stern’s almost done.

I’m (begrudgingly) thankful to Mr Stern that the recent rule changes and new CBA have professional basketball on the proper path, at least as far as in-game play goes. Swinging the ball has never been more important, team defense hasn’t been this important since at least the early 90s, and the ridiculous contracts that unproven kids were getting have been brought under control.

I’m thankful to Matt Kline for telling Josh Flagner that he has an opinionated friend who knows how to use Microsoft Word.

I’m thankful to be a part of the MTAF site, and proud that my name is next to a lot of really fun writers.

I’m thankful to anyone still reading. I hope you’re entertained, but even if you aren’t, I appreciate your time. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thank you for reading.

A Child’s First Game

The first professional game I ever went to was a Boston Red Sox game in 1987.  Enough time has transpired between that game and present day that the Red Sox have smashed the Curse of the Bambino while adding 2 more World Series titles to their legacy.  That game was a long enough period of time ago that the phrase ‘pink hat’ hadn’t even been conceived.  In fact, one of the the things that I remember most vividly from my first game is that Fenway Park wasn’t even sold out, despite the fact that it was still early enough in the season that the magic from the ’86 World Series run should have still been lingering in the air.

Another thing that I remember is coming out of the concourse and first setting eyes on the field at Fenway Park.  I never wanted that moment to end.  I remember now standing stone still for far too long as my friend and his father began to nudge me towards our seats.  I did my very best to capture the image of the field on that day, sure that the magic I felt might disappear if I turned my head away for even one brief moment. Continue reading A Child’s First Game

Pearl Jam Now and Then

If Pearl Jam were an athlete, you’d swear they were on PEDs.  In fact, I’d be leading the charge for a full-on PED investigation.  I won’t pretend to be knowledgeable enough, nor have I been alive long enough to make such a sweeping statement as “Pearl Jam is the greatest band in the history of music”, but I do know that while I’ve been alive, they surely have been the best band I’ve ever seen/heard.

If Pearl Jam were an athlete, they’d be Roger Clemens[1. I thought about doing a band comparison for them, and in case you were wondering, I had them matching up with the Beatles.  That’ll be a story for another day, though.].  Their monster debut album Ten would line up with Clemens’ coming out party of 1986[2. 24-4, 2.48 ERA, a 0.969 WHIP, and oh yeah- the first pitcher to strike out 20 batters in one 9 inning game.  He also became only the 3rd pitcher to win both the Cy Young and MVP in the same season.  Denny McClain and Willie Hernandez had done it previously.], and Clemens’ follow up season in 1987 compares nicely with Pearl Jam’s second disc Vs.  As a fan of both, I couldn’t tell which season or album I think is better, but they are both amongst the greats of the last 30 years.

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So Long Baltimore, It’s Been Fun

Baltimore Skyline. Photo by Eammon, Flickr.
Baltimore Skyline. Photo by Eammon, Flickr.

In March of 2006 I reported to duty at Navy Information Operations Command Maryland.  This new duty station was located perfectly in between Washington D.C. and Baltimore, MD.  Quickly I found my way to Baltimore, an east coast port city with the work ethic and blue collar-ness of the great Midwest.  A common factor among those cities is that they love their sports teams.  The feel of the city echos that of its sports teams.

Before moving to Baltimore I had lived in basically two places.  I grew up in Columbus and my first duty station in the Navy was onboard the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75) stationed in Norfolk, VA.  Neither of these cities is home to a professional team in any of the three major sports.  So my move to Baltimore was my first where there truly was a “hometown team.”

As I spent time in both Baltimore and D.C. I quickly learned where to find the fans at.  As is typical of most east coast cities, you have a lot of transplant fans.  While there are obviously a large Ravens and Skins following, you see your fair share of Giants, Eagles, Bears and yes even Browns fans.  Watching a game at a local bar would sure to be 4 out of 5 Ravens fan, but that every 5th fan was a diehard for his team and they didn’t mind being “out of place.”

Baltimore also delivered something more than the NFL fans.  It delivered Major League Baseball with a proud die-hard fan base.  I fell in love with the Orioles and their fans.  While the Tribe will always be my team, the Orioles were a team that I enjoyed pulling for the last several seasons.  Last year’s playoff run was an especially fun thing to be a part of.  Culminating with taking in my first ever playoff game.

My Navy obligations have returned me to the Norfolk area.  While I am beyond excited for the next chapter of life, I will always cherish the time I spent in Baltimore.  Baltimore is more than just a sports town, it’s the city in which I met my wife.  So I guess you could say that it has a special place in my heart.

I truly enjoyed the seven plus years that I spent there.  While we may have had our differences Ravens fans, we sure did have some fun.  Thanks for the memories B-More, maybe we can make some more down the road.