Tag Archives: 2007

Questioning Fanhood

Sometimes, I wonder if I am, indeed, more than a fan. After all, I moved away from the city where all most of my teams reside.

The more I do this stuff, the pods, the writing, the live radio show, I wonder if it actually makes me less than a fan. After all, I’m taking on a stance of less subjectivity. In fact, if all the dysfunction and failure to see my teams reach the pinnacle doesn’t take away from my fanhood1You know, of the Cleveland teams., I’m not sure what will. I’ve come the conclusion that only an obligation, by way of occupation, the whole “no cheering in the press box” will deter me from the tears of joy. Who am I kidding? Cleveland only offers tears of agony.

My father once watched a childish demonstration2I’m not proud to admit he’s witnessed many of these immature displays, mostly when I was an actual child., and in the interest of full disclosure, it wasn’t that long ago that I pouted over a Phil Taylor offsides penalty that reduced the Browns chances of victory from slim to none against the Ravens, that begged the question, “I don’t know why he still cares so much”. I do care, and sometimes it brings me shame to show that, but it always defines my character. We see it so much, why do we settle for this shit show that is the Browns? My answer is simple…I ain’t got no place else to go. Could I shut down shop, and just root for the local Cardinals? Of course, I could, but it’s my decision not to. I don’t want to show my middle finger to my friends and family back home; I’d rather poke my own eye out3In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal I like the Cardinals.  Living vicariously through my local friends, I’m thrilled with their current success.

I could take the cop out, you know, that the “real” Browns left in 1995 and they aren’t coming back. Had I left before this ridiculous knock-off stepped onto the scene, maybe I’d have grounds to do that, not for the approval of others, but for inner-peace, but I don’t go that route.

Putting the Browns on the back-burner for a moment, they’re only a fraction of the agony of my fanhood. I have more history with the Indians, and I marry myself to them more than I probably should. I remember taking on the unfathomable plan of what exactly it was that I would do when they finished the job in 2007. It wasn’t even a matter of “if”, and that was before they’d put away the Yankees in a best-of-5, even before they took a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead over Boston in the best-of-7 in the American League Championship Series, where actuality revealed a much crueler fate for the Sons of Geronimo. I’d gotten married that summer4Ironically, it was on a weekend that saw the Tribe swept by the very Yankees they took down in the playoffs, but I spent more time thinking about renting the tuxedos and limousines to celebrate the Indians’ first World Series win since 1948 than for any of the particulars of my own wedding. There was going to be champagne, and there wasn’t going to be any concern for sustaining employment. I don’t know if it’s accurate to say a state of depression followed, but I promise a very un-Christian period of hatred for all-things-Boston culminated from that point. I have a very dear friend from Cape Cod, and quite frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t kick my ass to the curb in the aftermath of that ALCS and subsequent Red Sox sweep of the Rockies in that World Series, but he’s a fan too, so I’m pretty sure got it/gets it.

If you think it’s just Cleveland, you’d be wrong. I’ve grown an affinity for a few of my new home’s local teams, specifically the Phoenix-turned-Arizona Coyotes. After Game 7 of the NHL’s 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals, things got weird with me and Detroit. I was a little more numb when the Winged CCCP swept my Desert Dogs out of the 2011 Stanley Cup Tournament, but when my hockey team actually started advancing in the playoffs, my hate, and I don’t use that word lightly, shifted to the Kings of Los Angeles. Phoenix had grown on me.

By 2013, I was a partial-season ticket holder with the Arizona Diamondbacks and a full-fledged Arizona State Sun Devil Football season ticket holder. That was the summer that Ian Kennedy put a pitch in Yasiel Puig’s earhole, which included a subsequent brawl that was the flashpoint for the Dodger ascent and Arizona’s fall to the bottom of the pack, a fall they’ve yet to fully recover from.

By the time the Dodgers clinched the National League West at Chase Field that September, I had such a low opinion of that organization, and all of Los Angeles, that the news/rumor of a few Dodgers players draining the main vein in the center field pool had me feeling like Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

I guess the point is, I don’t know how to do casual. I’ve adopted my wife’s Northern Illinois Huskies, and I sometimes feel guilty about not being all-in, not hating Toledo and Western Michigan head coach PJ Fleck5Fleck was a great receiver at NIU when they first stepped on to the national scene, behind the great running Michael “The Burner” Turner, earlier this millennium.. I guess I’m getting there, but I’m pretty far in for a guy that spent the early part of his adulthood just paces away from Kent State, with friends at MAC schools in every part of Ohio.

I think leaving Ohio is as much to blame for my passion as being from there is. I feel like I have some sort of obligation to serve as an ambassador, while 2500 miles from the place I called home for so long. I don’t know how to be anything other than passionate and loyal; while it destroys any hope for normalcy in my life, I feel it can be quite the virtue. If I’m a genuine sports fan, but fake at the other things I do in life, I’m exposed as a fraud.

With Yours Truly, there isn’t anything fraudulent to be revealed. I’m the genuine article, even if it means admitting that I’m not proud. Browns fan? Duh. Tribe fan? You know it. Cavs fan? With or without LeBron, you know I am, and I’m unapologetic for being so against him and the possibility of a return for four years, until it happened. If I want to leave a legacy of any sort, it’s that I root for the home team, just like my father in my love life. He says, if you like her, I like her.

It’s a front of the jersey thing. It says Cleveland, Phoenix, Arizona, or whatever’s important to me, I’m on board. Being a fan is cool; never be ashamed.

I never claimed to be brilliant, but I think that’s a principle that gets you through life, whether that concept is subject to scrutiny or not.

References
1 You know, of the Cleveland teams.
2 I’m not proud to admit he’s witnessed many of these immature displays, mostly when I was an actual child.
3 In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal I like the Cardinals.  Living vicariously through my local friends, I’m thrilled with their current success
4 Ironically, it was on a weekend that saw the Tribe swept by the very Yankees they took down in the playoffs
5 Fleck was a great receiver at NIU when they first stepped on to the national scene, behind the great running Michael “The Burner” Turner, earlier this millennium.

London Games Slight NFL Fans in America

We don’t need the NFL in London. The NFL wants London and the rest of the globe, for the sake of the almighty dollar, or should I say Euro? It seemed innocent enough in the beginning, an occasional exhibition every couple of years, but now we’re playing games that count, and if we take it any farther, it will only get worse.

For the fans, players, and coaches, it’s just a giant pain in the ass. I don’t care who you are, seven hours is a long damn time to be on an airplane, even if the thought of crashing into unknown parts of the Atlantic doesn’t absolutely petrify you. Then, you have to think about the price tag. I don’t know about the average fan, but I don’t think I love football enough to spend $1100 just to spend a week or weekend in the constant drizzle of the land our forefathers once abandoned.

Westminster_fog_-_London_-_UK
It’s a beautiful day for football (and very little else) in London

You don’t bring sand to the beach, just like you don’t open a second restaurant in a new part of town to feed your existing clientele, so grievances to the NFL from its American fans about travel restrictions will likely fall on deaf ears. Roger Goodell and company will just as soon tell you to keep your money, save it for premium NFL exhibition action in your hometown next August. They’ve already got their hands firmly on our wallets. Next up for the NFL is the European Man Purses and all the riches that come along with them.

It’s such an untapped market. Think about it, we can take a group that drools and goes mad over soccer, and sell them on something similar, but a lot more interesting and fun to watch. I’ve never actually been to that part of the world, but based on the cultural lessons I’ve learned from watching the movie Snatch, you’d have to think that adding violence and a finite clock to the game they already love could only be plusses.

The locals across the pond love it. The first “real” game was played there in 2007, and it sold out in a matter of hours, a full nine months before it was played. It didn’t matter who played, 81,176 gathered for the inaugural game that featured Cleo Lemon and the Miami Dolphins against that season’s eventual Super Bowl Champs, the Giants. Champs or not, it didn’t much matter that this one lacked quality, the Giants held off Miami’s late rally to win a 13-10 slopfest in less than ideal conditions. The league scheduled one game a year there thru 2012; a second game was added last season, and we’ll get three this season.

It’s difficult to argue that it’s only a novelty, given the International Series steady attendance in its 8-year run. Wembley Stadium’s capacity for American Football, and you know it pains me to have to make that distinction, is approximately 86,000, and they’ve come close to reaching that in eight of the nine games played there so far. There was a noticeable drop-off in 2011 for Bears v. Bucs, but it bounced back for the Patriots and Rams in the 2012 edition of the series.

The Patriots are a big draw there, and who’d have thunk it? Old England likes New England. The Patriots, or maybe expatriates in this case, have played in the only two games that drew over 84,000 to the pitch, I mean gridiron, with lopsided victories over Tampa Bay in 2009 and St. Louis in 2012. The Rams, on the other hand, were supposed to volunteer to play a home game over there in three consecutive seasons, but had a change of heart before their game with Brady and the gang two years ago.

The league is trying to create some consistency, sending the same teams repeatedly for brand recognition, and they’re targeting anyone dumb enough to give up a home game. With the Rams wise to the scam, Jacksonville was the league’s next target, so the Brits get to see someone smear the Jaguars every fall for three years, unless they can convince the league to put the Browns on the other sideline in 2015.

Maybe Jacksonville fans don’t care about giving up a true home game every year, but I sure would if I was a season ticket holder. Arizona season ticket holders expressed dismay when they lost a home game to Mexico City in 2005. Maybe Jacksonville is different, because do you really need to watch more than seven games a year from your poolside cabana?

Jaguars 2014 Cabana
Nothing says North Florida like T-Shirts and Jorts in the pool at a football stadium

Well, the end game here is obvious and the tale of the tape says it all. We’ve gone from one, to two, to three games in as many years, which means the NFL likes it. For them to like it, it has to be profitable, so let’s deduce that it is. What’s the future here? We’ve heard London Super Bowl and we’ve heard about re-locating a franchise there, and those options sound more logistically sound than the current process of interrupting a season for off-shore neutral-site games.

If it’s just going to continue on its current path of sending teams there for a neutral site game, with someone forfeiting a home game, how long before we expand on three? I suppose it could become a weekly event, but the built-in post-London bye week would make that a bit of a challenge. Even if the whole thing evolved from three games to eight, that would be similar to having a home team without the burden of full-priced August games that don’t count.

Worse than giving up a home game, some proud city of fans could lose its team to this gimmick. I’ve been down that road and time doesn’t heal those wounds, not in the short period of 18 years in my case. And, if they want to put one team there, they could very well make a case for two. With a push for the NFL to return to Los Angeles, perhaps also to the power of two, fans of teams without new stadiums or deep roots in the community may find themselves without a team to root for on Sundays in 2015.

From not having a team at all, to having the best team, the Super Bowl seems to be the most realistic evolution of the London process. This would have the smallest impact on Joe Sixpack and the typical American football fan. Regular people can’t afford to attend the Super Bowl or the accompanying hoopla, so who really cares if they’re not going to Miami or they’re not going to London. The bottom line, they’re not going. The VIPs might have to drop an extra $500-$1000 on airfare, but they’re good for it. As for the rest of us, the highest bidder will be airing a London Super Bowl at 6:37 PM on that first Sunday in February, so we’re good too.

The Dolphins 38-14 win over Oakland at Wembley Stadium last month was the first of three to be played there in 2014, including this Sunday’s tilt between Atlanta and Detroit, which kicks off at 9:30 AM in the east.

With the Super Bowl being the least of our concerns, NFL fans back in the homeland should be concerned with the league’s growing interest in Europe. One year, it’s a home game. The next, it’s the entire home team. Given that we’ve shown no strength as fans in turning our back on Goodell or his faction, I’m sure there’s no concern about abandoning anyone as he looks to grow his customer base.

He knows that his bread and butter on this side of pond will always be exactly how he wants them to be, without shame and ready to throw money at his product.

Did Ferrari get a Good Deal?

One of the biggest driver moves for next season is Raikkonen to Ferrari. The Italian team have finally ditched Felipe Massa after 4 years of being outperformed by team-mate Alonso. Bringing in Raikkonen seems like a good deal… or is it?

Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 world champion has been brought to Ferrari, with the teams hopes of producing impressive results similar to Alonso’s, as Massa would usually finish races a few places down the order. Unlike Alonso, never a championship contender. Raikkonen is no stranger to a Ferrari F1 car, the Finn won his Championship during a 3 year spell at Ferrari from 2007-2009. During this time, Massa was Kimi’s team-mate so this gives us the perfect opportunity to compare Alonso and Raikkonen’s performances compared to Massa.

In 2007, Kimi won the champion with 110 points, one point more than Hamilton on his rookie season. Massa finished the championship 4th with 94 points, 16 less than Kimi who also on average beat Massa in qualifying as well. Kimi’s average starting position is 3.53 whilst Massa on average, qualified 4.24 . Raikkonen’s finishing positions are consistency better than Massa’s. Kimi finished in a better position than Massa 11 times out of the 17 races. Both drivers retired 3 times so neither driver has an advantage when comparing points.

In 2008, the point was decided by one point for the second year in a row, but this time Kimi wasn’t involved. Massa unfortunately lost the title on the last corner – of the last lap – of the last race. As a Lewis Hamilton fan, this was the most intense race I’ve watched to date! Massa finished with 97 points. Compare this to Raikkonen’s haul of 75 points, and the difference of 22 is even greater than Raikkonen’s advantage of 16 in 2007. The graph below shows the finishing positions of the Ferrari drivers in 2008.MassavsRaikkonen

As you can see, Massa picks up 6 wins during the course of the season,  including the controversial win at Belgium due to the winner being penalized. Massa out-races Kimi at 13 of the 18 races of the 2008 season. The figure is proportionally greater than Raikkonen’s advantage over Massa in 2007. However, Kimi suffered 4 retirements in 2008 compared to Massa’s 3. If we assume Raikkonen finished that extra race in his average finishing position, 5th, then Kimi would gain an additional 4 points onto his tally, bringing him within 18 points of Massa. This means that over the two full seasons that the duo were team-mates (Massa sustained a serious head injury in 2009, ruling the Brazilian out for half the season), Raikkonen scored 2 points less than Massa. So according to history, Ferrari are replacing one of their drivers for a slightly weaker one.

This theory may be inaccurate due to some events that took place. In 2009 Massa sustained a serious head injury when a 1 kilogram spring hit his helmet at 120mph. Ruling him out for the season. When he returned for the start of the 2010 season, it seemed some of his confidence had been lost and his driving performance had suffered. Possibly some sort of psychological apprehension, decreasing the will to take risks.

Alonso brushed aside Massa in 2010, finishing with 108 more points (bear in mind the points scoring changes, making the difference in points increase by about 250%. Value would be about 43 points in previous years) This difference has only grown since. In the last two seasons, the final deficit to Alonso has been 149 and 156 points respectively. So recent performances from Alonso statistically suggest that he’s performed better at Ferrari than Raikkonen did. Does this mean he’s better driver?

I don’t know. I don’t think there’s a way to prove one driver is greater than another. Even a team who produces 2 cars will build them in different ways. Different temperatures when bolts are tightened, bringing thermal expansion of materials in as a factor, changing performance. Irregularities in the tyres could cause 0.5% more surface area due to blistering on a particular lap. Even the driver’s recent diet will affect reactions and judgement.

Another reason to suggest Massa is a better driver than his recent results make out to be is that current team-mate Alonso is the highest paid driver of all (Annual salary of €20m if you’re interested) and he’s the main priority for new upgrades and will have the more skilled mechanics working on his car.

RaikkonenAlonsoIn my opinion, Raikkonen will challenge Alonso more than Massa has been, but I fully expect Alonso to come out on top, especially as Raikkonen has to adapt to the car early on. But on the other hand, I hope that Raikkonen will beat Alonso because I admire his “I’m not here to talk” attitude to the press. I look forward to next year to see this epic battle between 2 of the greatest drivers of the era.