by Ryan Isley
I ended 2012 with a piece that capsulized my favorite 10 columns of the year, and figured I would do the same this year. Only in 2013, I didn’t want to limit it to just 10. Not because I felt that I wrote that many better pieces this year, but because I had a hard time deciding what to cut and some made the list for reasons different than others.
Anyway, I thank you the readers once again because without you, I wouldn’t be doing this and I wouldn’t have the great outlet like I have in More Than A Fan.
I hope you enjoy these as much the second time around as you did the first. Hell, I hope you enjoy them more as time has passed. Either way, thank you again. If there is something you know I have written hat wasn’t included here, you can always look it up in my More Than A Fan archive.
All columns are posted in chronological order and the hyperlinks are in the titles.
Browns Fans and Media Continue Ignoring Facts and Revising History – January 23rd
This one came after watching Browns fans and media continually tweet about Julio Jones as he was having a great day in the NFL playoffs. I decided to take a look back at exactly what the 2011 draft day trade between the Browns and Falcons meant for each team.
As this was all happening, Twitter was blowing up from Browns fans who were harping on the fact that the Browns traded the No.6 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft to the Falcons, allowing the Falcons to draft Jones. These same people were killing the Browns for making the trade because of how good Jones is – he has become one of the best receivers in the league in just two seasons.
Of course, I can’t blame this all on Browns fans. Some of them are just repeating what they hear or read from some of the Cleveland media. Instead of actually forming their own opinion, some fans constantly rely on the media to feed them their opinions and then take that as the gospel. The media knows this and continues to use their power in what some would call an irresponsible manner.
Akron’s Zeke Marshall Not Your Typical College Athlete – March 8th
One of my favorite players I got to cover last season at the University of Akron, Zeke Marshall showed that he wasn’t your normal athlete who only went to college to play sports. If anything, he cared as much about academics as he did basketball, making him unique in today’s world of college athletics.
“I like having other passions other than basketball because after basketball you still have a life to live,” Marshall said. “You have to have something else you enjoy doing other than basketball because your body isn’t going to hold up forever.”
But why computers? Marshall, who says he is currently learning the Cisco Academy, says that is easy – learning about computers is something he truly enjoys.
“I wholeheartedly love doing that,” Marshall said. “Even though basketball is definitely taking priority right now, what I first fell in love with was computers.”
Marshall realizes that this way of thinking may not be what people see as the norm from college athletes, but he is perfectly fine with that. Actually, that is what he wants – to be something more than just a typical college basketball player.
Keith Dambrot is a Great Coach, But an Even Better Person – March 13th
While most were trying to distance themselves as quickly as possible from Akron point guard Alex Abreu following his arrest, Keith Dambrot again showed how much love he has for his players. Meeting with the media, it was obvious how much he was hurt because of the situation but also that he was going to try to help Abreu as much as he could.
It would have been easy for Dambrot to avoid all of the questions about Abreu and just give a simple “no comment” or “we are not going to speak about that at this time.” In fact, that is something a lot of coaches probably would have done in that situation. For Dambrot, it may have even been deemed acceptable. After all, where were these cameras and extra reporters when the Zips were 13-0 in MAC play, or when they were riding the nation’s longest winning streak? Throw adversity into the mix, and everyone comes out.
But Dambrot did what he does – he answered every question thrown his way. And he didn’t do so by trying to hide his emotions or his feelings for Abreu. This is the thing about Dambrot – you know that when he speaks, he means the words he is saying. That may sound simplistic or even borderline idiotic, but in the world of sports, it is refreshing. Ask anyone who has ever interviewed Dambrot and they will probably say that he is one of the coaches they enjoy the most because he answers every question and does so with a style only he can, wearing his emotions on his sleeve. So when he says that he will be standing behind Abreu, you feel that he is speaking from the heart and telling only how he really feels.
Media Members and Social Media – April 17th
This all came about when I was asked by Jason Whitlock if I would like him to block me or if I would like to unfollow after a tweet I sent to him. It got me to thinking about how media members react and respond to people on Twitter.
Sometimes, it seems that reporters, writers, talk show hosts, etc. forget that they are public figures, not completely unlike the athletes that they cover. The problem with being in the public is that you are going to get criticism – it comes with the territory.
I am sure there are more tweets than I would want to read that are sent to these media members that are of a tasteless nature. Hell, I get some of them myself and I don’t get that many tweets. Not compared to guys like Whitlock, at least. What gets to me is when people threaten to block – or do block – followers when they are just sending a harmless tweet.
Browns Quarterback Brandon Weeden Needs Thicker Skin – May 8th
Speaking of social media, I was blocked on Twitter by Brandon Weeden. Why? I have no idea. I took the Browns quarterback to task in this piece, stating that to be the leader of a team, he needs to lose the rabbit ears.
What Weeden needs to do is learn to ignore the criticism and focus on improving his game and in the process, his team. As a quarterback, you are going to get more blame than you deserve when the team struggles and more praise than you deserve when the team wins.
If Weeden can’t understand that, he has a couple of options. He can quit football and try another sport – there just aren’t a lot left for him to try. Or he can ignore the newspapers, blogs, social media, etc. and concern himself with playing football and only playing football. That is the best way to get rid of the criticism and start turning it into praise.
One of LeBron’s Greatest Strengths May Also be His Biggest Perceived Weakness – June 12th
This was the one in which I questioned the definition of “clutch.” I make the argument that LeBron’s unselfishness might be the best part of his game and also the trait that makes him clutch.
When people look at the word “clutch” and try to define it, they always see who is scoring the points in the last minutes of the game. They look at guys like Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, etc. and see these guys putting points in the scoring column so they think LeBron is less clutch than guys like that, which is a fallacy.
Sometimes, it is the guys who make the plays and set up the scores that should be considered clutch. I would rather have someone who is willing to give the ball up for an open shot to a teammate than take a bad low-percentage shot just because they are the best player. After all, basketball is a team game. Why have four other guys out on the floor if you can’t trust them to hit shots?
One Akron Guy Rooting for Another – Why I Still Support LeBron James – June 26th
The Miami Heat had just won their second straight NBA championship and LeBron lifted his second straight NBA Finals MVP before making the statement that he was just a kid from Akron, Ohio. While most Cavs fans hate LeBron, I have been one who continues to root for him – because we are both from Akron.
Of course when LeBron held his ESPN special on July 8, 2010 and left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the sun and fun of South Beach and the Miami Heat, I was upset like all Cavaliers fans. I let that bitterness resonate for the 2010-11 season and was thrilled when the Dallas Mavericks came back in the NBA Finals to beat the Heat and deny LeBron his first NBA championship.
But something happened after that season. LeBron held to his commitments in the city of Akron. He showed that despite leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was still a kid from Akron who would take care of his hometown. And mine. I was born and raised in Akron, just like LeBron. My wife and I now live in my childhood home in Akron and if we have children, they will be raised here as well. They will be raised in the city that LeBron continually gives back to, the city he embraces.
My Two Cents on Michael Brantley, Bobbleheads and a Life Lost Too Soon – July 12th
This one was more on a personal level for me. While two stories were on sports, the third was on a childhood friend who lost her life too soon. I couldn’t look back at 2013 without including this one.
You may have noticed that last week I took an unexpected week off from writing for More Than A Fan, including the weekly My Two Cents on Friday. I actually had planned to write my piece about Cliff Lee that ran this Wednesday for last Thursday, but something happened as I was starting to work on it. Some of you may have seen the following tweet from me on Wednesday last week but I really did not give an explanation as to what was happening.
There was a reason I was vague until now. I was trying to be respectful of the family that this pertained to as to not give any information before they were able to so themselves. I can now explain that tweet and why I didn’t write last week.
A friend – and neighbor – of mine passed away unexpected and suddenly last Wednesday morning. Valerie (Haynes) Smith was just 24 years old and was nearly 33 weeks pregnant. She was en route to Texas to live with her husband Donte Smith, who is in the United States Air Force. Valerie and her unborn son were just one day from finally being reunited with Donte.
Ryan Braun is Only Sorry He Got Caught – July 24th
Oh, Ryan Braun. The guy who denied, denied, denied that he ever took performance enhancing drugs. Once he had been caught and suspended by Major League Baseball, he was all apologies. For me, it was too little, too late.
He didn’t come clean and admit that he has made mistakes. He didn’t go to Major League Baseball of his own free will and ask to be suspended. He didn’t just wake up all of a sudden and feel that the strain on his family was too much to handle. The ghost of baseball past didn’t visit Braun in a dream and tell him that was he was doing was bad for the game he loved.
Major League Baseball had finally gathered enough evidence to approach Braun and threaten a suspension, so Braun reluctantly had to backtrack on his prior statements and take his punishment. His arrogance finally caught up with him and when it did, he had no choice but to take his medicine, even if it had to be forced through him intravenously. The notion that Braun “came clean” or “accepted” his punishment or anything along those lines is purely farcical.
What happened was that he got busted. Plain and simple.
Alex Rodriguez Needs to Learn Some Perspective – August 7th
Quite possibly my favorite piece I wrote in 2013 – if only for the personal story I shared. Alex Rodriguez had made the mistake of saying he was fighting for his life with his impending suspension for PEDs. Alex Rodriguez has NO IDEA what fighting for your life means. But I do.
I can tell him about September 18, 1982. It was just two weeks before my 2nd birthday. We were visiting my grandparents, which meant my brother would be giving me a ride around the yard. Those rides consisted of me sitting in a wagon that was attached to back of the riding lawnmower. Unfortunately on this day, the ride wasn’t fun. The mower jumped gears, putting itself into reverse and flipping the wagon. When the mower was finally stopped, I was underneath it.
Let that sink in for a minute. Here is an infant who is not yet two years old and he is now stuck under a riding lawnmower with severe cuts to his head.
That is a fight for life.
If My Wife Divorces Me, Blame College Football – August 30th
A funny piece. Well I think. The longer the football season goes, I wonder how much truth there was written in these words. Basically, I really like football. My wife? Not so much right now.
Last year, I went up to our bedroom and became oblivious to anything other than football for the next 10 hours, watching bits and pieces of each and every game on television, thanks to picture-in-picture. And if we had an extra television, it would have been set up in the bedroom to help out with the schedule.
I watch with my Phil Steele college football magazine and my remote control, flipping channels at each commercial. I also have my laptop open to the ESPN and CBS Sports scoreboards so that I know when there is a crucial moment in any other game in order to be able to flip to that game when needed.
I only leave the bedroom to take a bathroom break, grab a drink refill or maybe a snack. I have been known to watch football straight through the evening hours without even thinking about dinner. In fact, there was a Saturday last season where I received a text message from my wife (who was in the living room) that dinner was here. I didn’t even know she had called and ordered pizza and wings.
Understanding the Trent Richardson Trade – September 20th
As everyone was ripping the Browns for trading Trent Richardson, I was praising them. I never liked the pick of Richardson (or the trade they made to take him) and felt that cutting ties with him now was a good idea. Hey what do you know – I get one right every now and then.
As much as Browns fans don’t want to hear it, the team is in a rebuilding mode once again. This time it is with new ownership plus a new front office and coaching staff. This staff has to be able to do what they feel needs to be done to get their players and plan in place to move forward.
By trading Richardson, they give themselves another pick in the first round of the draft which could be more valuable to them at this point than the running back was. You have to figure that the new regime will be looking for their quarterback of the very near future in this upcoming draft, plus the team has many other holes to fill. Stockpiling draft picks allows them to not only get better through the draft, but also gives them the option to package picks to move up if need be to get the player they want.
NFL Drops the Ball on Prostate Cancer Awareness – October 11th
As much as I appreciate the incredible effort that the NFL puts forth on breast cancer awareness, I feel that they could do a better job of promoting awareness for prostate cancer as well.
And even as the NFL is growing in popularity with women, their main audience is still men.
For that reason, the NFL needs to treat September the same way they treat October. Only instead of pink, the field and uniforms should be highlighted with light blue. What do I mean by that? September is prostate cancer awareness month.
Like with breast cancer in women, 230,000 new cases of prostate cancer will be diagnosed in men this year, with 1 in 6 men eventually being diagnosed in their life. Also as with breast cancer in women, prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in men.
If it makes sense for the NFL to promote breast cancer awareness because their female audience is growing, it would then in the same breath make sense for the NFL to promote prostate cancer awareness. The league is made up of around 67% of black players and black males are more at risk for prostate cancer than white males.
The Most Important Tree in Akron Keeps Growing – November 1st
The Akron Zips look to win their third consecutive MAC championship and if they do, it will be in part because of Demetrius “Tree” Treadwell stepping up. The player that was used in their preseason ads, Treadwell was last season’s MAC Tournament MVP and is only getting better.
“That skill level is great, but he is a junkyard dog,” Dambrot said. “So he’s still gotta be the toughest, meanest, nastiest, lead the nation in rebounding, be the best defender and not forget what he is.”
That junkyard dog mentality is what led Treadwell to being named the MAC Tournament MVP in 2013, averaging 13.5 points and 11 rebounds in the two contests against Kent State and Ohio that led the Zips to the MAC championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in five seasons.
One thing that will be different for Treadwell this season will be the absence of Zeke Marshall from the front court. Marshall – the MAC and Akron career leader in blocked shots with 368 – was a security blanket for the Akron defense over the last four seasons. While Treadwell admits that it will be a little different playing without Marshall, he is confident that the defense will still be solid.
Jameis Winston Situation is About Much More Than Football – November 22nd
The most talked about offseason college football story in the last month of the regular season was whether or not Jameis Winston would be charged with sexual assault after allegations from a female that he assaulted her. While people were worried about Winston’s Heisman Trophy hopes and Florida State’s chances at a national championship, I wanted people to remember there were more important things in this story.
Unlike previous cases in college football, whether it be Cam Newton allegedly being paid to play at Auburn, the Ohio State tattoo scandal or the Johnny Manziel autograph situation, this case is about more than football in the long run. Newton, Manziel and the Ohio State players never faced jail time, just the possibility of having their eligibility stripped. Those cases involved alleged transgressions against the NCAA rule book, while this one involves actual laws possibly being broken.
In this particular case, should Winston be charged, he would likely be charged with a second-degree felony count of sexual battery. In the state of Florida, that could carry a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
While this is still a fluid case and the state attorney’s office is still collecting information and doing their due diligence in determining whether the sex between Winston and the accuser was consensual or indeed was a case of sexual assault, there are real lives being affected. And no matter the outcome, there will be a real victim.
Akron Zips Making Strides, Give Terry Bowden a Deserved Extension – November 29th
The Akron Zips gave Terry Bowden a contract extension after seeing progress in the second year under their new head coach. While some questioned the timing, I felt that Akron got it right.
All in all, Akron finished the season reeling off four wins in five games to finish the season 5-7 with a 3-4 record in the MAC. For a team who had won just two games total in the two seasons before Bowden arrived – just one of those wins being against FBS competition – and a team whose only win in Bowden’s first season was against FCS opponent Morgan State, that was a huge momentum building stretch to take into the offseason and 2014. That was another reason that Wistrcill felt the extension was done at the proper time.
“Obviously we are winning more games which is important,” Wistrcill said. “From the recruiting standpoint, giving him that shot in the arm was really important.”
This is something that Akron has needed for their football program, as the team had gone just 6-18 at home in the first four seasons at InfoCision Stadium and were just 6-42 overall since the stadium was built. The football team showing the start of a turnaround will only help the rest of the sports in the athletic program.
Thank you again for all of your time you have spent on the More Than A Fan website and time you have spent reading my columns. I look forward to a great 2014 (well maybe not for Cleveland teams) that consist of more columns and more podcasts as well. The More Than A Fan site has grown and continues to grow, so you never know what 2014 might hold.
Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at email@example.com. You can also connect with him on Twitter @isley23.