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More Than A Christmas: The Human Fund

First of all, Merry Christmas everyone. A donation has been made in each of your names to the human fund.

For those of you unfamiliar with Seinfeld and its infamous episode, The Strike1Though the title of the Season 9 episode references Kramer’s labor stoppage at H & H Bagels, it’s more well known for the invented holiday of Festivus., a character is unhappy to learn that in exchange for Yankees tickets, a donation was made in his name to a charity. Because of George’s sadistic nature, he jumped on the idea and gave his office cards indicating a contribution had been made to his fake cause, The Human Fund. That’s not where I’m going with this.

We all have those down periods in life, where it’s either difficult to the see the light at the end of the tunnel or to appreciate how blessed we already are. One of the things I personally take for granted is all of the great people I have in my life. My gift, and it’s really more of a commitment, is to really embrace everything and everyone I have in my life. I’ve made it no secret that I want society to be better, but at the end of the day, the only one I have complete control over is me. I want to be a better son, a better husband, and a better publisher, colleague, social media pal, or whatever.

In my adult life, I haven’t been a big fan of the holidays. Whether it was for the military or the new life I sought out in Arizona, home for the holidays isn’t something I’ve practiced for a long time. People ask if I have bad memories of the holidays, and I really don’t. We were spoiled (but not spoiled rotten), and being a child, there was nothing better than the big family gatherings. I miss it, and getting back to Cleveland at Christmas is just a difficult, expensive option, so I haven’t been in 15 years.

A few years ago, my uncle passed away a few days before the 25th. He spent the last few years of his life in Tucson, so immediate family flew out to spend his final hours by their side. I should stress that he was more than just an uncle to me, we were very much like brothers. Though under morose circumstances, I found myself in the company of family during the holiday season. Truth be told, something about the time of saying good-bye and the early stages of bereavement was actually wonderful.

It saved my life.

I mean that. I was always angry about everything; the Browns, finances, job stress, etc. It was all so silly, getting worked up over the nonsense, even the nonsense that I love unconditionally, every Sunday at 1 PM Eastern, give or take a West Coast game or Thursday night affair. Though I regress at times, and get worked up over getting slaughtered by the Jets in Week 1, I am better about reminding myself about how short life can be.

So, it’s Christmas Day, which means we did our celebrating with friends last night, and the night did not disappoint. I’ve learned to have fun with the stuff I just have to laugh at. A friend’s brother was in from Wisconsin, and decked out in his Packers gear2Green Bay is playing the Cardinals in Glendale on Sunday, and the visiting team is expected to be overwhelmingly better represented among the paying customers., and he is speaking to how content he is that they’re in the playoffs.

I responded, “What’s that word you just used? Plergoffs? Am I pronouncing that right?”

It was at that moment that I realized I didn’t have any Browns gear, or a single thing representing Cleveland on my person. I had to let him know the joke was screwed because it’s a rare occasion that I’m not serving as an ambassador to Cleveland sports in public. I think people, especially new people try not to be mean. So, he dismissed it with a ‘good luck with that’. Fair enough.

I guess it’s like a Super Bowl within a season up there in Oakland for today’s Finals rematch between the Cavs and the Warriors. Vegas says Golden State by 8, and a lot of people that follow the Cavaliers religiously don’t even think they’ll cover. I think it’s a matter of motivation. I also think it’s not a Finals preview, as in San Antonio is probably pretty nice in June.

I’m just rambling now, so best wishes to everyone out there, and on behalf of the entire More Than A Fan family, have a safe and memorable holiday season.

1 Though the title of the Season 9 episode references Kramer’s labor stoppage at H & H Bagels, it’s more well known for the invented holiday of Festivus.
2 Green Bay is playing the Cardinals in Glendale on Sunday, and the visiting team is expected to be overwhelmingly better represented among the paying customers.

More Than A Friday: Is Spaceballs Actually Better Than Star Wars?

Um, no. Though, I do think Spaceballs comes with a cast of more likable characters, the hysteria behind the Star Wars franchise holds water.

What is it that they say? Mockery is the most sincere form of flattery, or something like that. To spoof something, there has to be something worthy spoofing, and Star Wars has it. When you’re not comparing or contrasting it against its source material, something you should not be doing anyways, Spaceballs holds up very well on its own as a comedy.

To prepare for my viewing of The Force Awakens, I, like many others, decided to get a refresher on the George Lucas franchise, going with an unconventional, yet logical order of viewing. It’s called Machete Order, and you start with 4 & 5, the first in order of theatrical release. That tells the story of Luke Skywalker, then you revert back to 2 & 3 to see his father’s story, without the concern of spoiling the reveal in Episode 5, since you’ve already watched it. You skip the Phantom Menace altogether, as it’s really unnecessary to the saga, and watch Luke and Anakin Skywalker’s stories come together in Return of the Jedi. It worked for me, and got me to thinking how complex the sci-fi trilogies are versus the simplicity of the spoof. Imagine how difficult it would be to create the prequel backstories for Vespa, Lonestar1Bill Pullman had to mock the Han Solo and Luke Skywalker characters as one role., and Yogurt. Would there have been a time that Yogurt aided the Mogs at war, and had a previous relationship with Barf, a la Yoda and Chewbacca? How was Helmet beckoned to the dark side of the Shwartz? Were Alderaan and Druidia similar places for princesses to grow up? Who knows? Who cares?

While we’re on the subject of immitation, what’s up with the NFL going with the Oregon model, when it comes to outfitting these professional organizations? Did you see what the Rams and Bucs were rocking for the final installment of the Color Rush games this season? I don’t mind a little color-on-color, in the wake of black & white televisions going the way of the dodo, but drowning us in monochrome is not a good application of games without white jerseys. On the field and in the stands, I began to feel the pain of those old scabs being peeled off, remembering that the Rams victory on Thursday night might very well be the last NFL game ever played in St. Louis. If it was, can the diehard Rams fans in Missouri somehow be pleased with what two decades of a team from Southern California brought them?

They got Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, two Super Bowl appearances, and one title; not bad for twenty years of existence in the Gateway City. Lions, Bills, Jaguars, and Carolina fans would gladly take that. The Browns, on the other hand, would take the perpetual 7-9 run that you get from Jeff Fisher, and they would be glad to have it. That begs the question2Okay, it doesn’t beg anything, but it gave me an opportunity to transition., are the expansion Browns the Spaceballs to their original counterparts (the Browns that existed from 1946-1995)?

For those of you familiar with the new Browns, you’d probably liken the new chapter of Browns to some really low budget porn tie-in or a Lifetime original that cuts too many corners in production. You know how it goes, not funny or good, but for some reason, people tune in. This weekend, Cleveland visits the NFL’s answer to the Death Star, as it exists in the form of Century Link field. The Seahawks organization yields its own darkside characters; the once-wholesome Russ Wilson draws some parallels with Anakin/Vader, while Pete Carroll represents Big Poppa Palpatine, and you can find the Colonel Sanders and Major Asshole types on the Sea Chickens defense. How many assholes are on that team anyways?

The problem with the comparison is that the Browns lack heroes, even accidental ones like Han Solo or Lonestar. That’s not to put down the valiant efforts we’ve seen, but as Episode III reminds us, even the greats like Yoda fail from time to time, and sometimes there’s just no hope3No hope, until A New Hope comes along anyways. Perhaps, the 2016 NFL Draft will provide that hope.. Meanwhile, Browns fans are willing to die on that hill, screaming about how Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, and/or Johnny Manziel was supposed to be the chosen one. In reality, the years of 5-11 seasons and no light at the end of the tunnel gives off that vibe of the love of our lives walking away and being left to burn in molten lava by the only friend we’ve ever had.

Maybe I’ve got that all wrong, and it’s Art Modell that left us all for dead, deeming us unworthy as fans of his team. We needed a Sith like Al Lerner or Jimmy Haslam to give us a new beginning, but despite having the Deathstar destroyed twice and the Emperor being betrayed by his established #2, the Republic had a better run than any Browns fan born after 1983. That story of murder, mayhem, betrayal, and redemption are a little heavy for a Friday morning. That’s where it’s nice to instead live in a world of using strawberry to “jam” a signal, Jedi-type weapons coming from Cracker Jack boxes, and Mr. Coffee being conveniently located next to Mr. Radar. At least we can laugh about our owner looking like a giant penis. You have to laugh.That’s the only option to get through a life that has you stuck in purgatory.

The only changes we know are when they go from “Suck” to “Blow”.

1 Bill Pullman had to mock the Han Solo and Luke Skywalker characters as one role.
2 Okay, it doesn’t beg anything, but it gave me an opportunity to transition.
3 No hope, until A New Hope comes along anyways. Perhaps, the 2016 NFL Draft will provide that hope.

More Than A Friday: A Pedestrian Day of Football

The future is awesome; I think we’ve established that as fans.  You can watch every game, and basically every time slot gives you options.  The internet gives you a voice, and the time saved by technology actually provides the layman with that precious commodity of time to put knowledge behind that opinion.

Here’s an opinion.  Perhaps, we’ve met the point of critical mass or boiling point, or whatever, when it comes to being overwhelmed by things.  On Thanksgiving Day, we’re offered three NFL games and usually big-time College Football showdown involving the University of Texas.  Granted, two of those professional games are going to be home games for the Lions and Cowboys, so buyer beware on the excitement over those contests.  Texas was a better game when A&M was involved, but why would I get hung up on something like that?

It’s an honest question.  I have no skin in the game with the institutions of higher learning in Austin or College Station1While I’m at it, what happens in Norman, Stillwater, Waco, Fort Worth, or anywhere else in Big 12 Country mean much to me either., but I’m somehow predisposed to believe this game lacks an “it” factor, sans the Aggies.  Under Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M is a far cry from the style of play they exhibited as a Big 12 member, and frankly, Texas is currently a name-brand program without the name-brand results.

It’s football on a Thursday night, and I wasn’t watching by accident.  After a slow first quarter, I sent a text to a colleague that said spending my Thanksgiving evening watching that Texas Tech-Texas clash2With the option of watching a Bears-Packers game looming. felt too much like work.  Not a minute passes, and I’m watching the second coming of the Immaculate Reception3Only, this one didn’t hit the ground..  Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant found himself in the right place at the right time after an apparent interception by Holton Hill; only, Grant’s teammate Devin Lauderdale turned into a defender and jarred the ball loose, and Grant took it 65 yards for the score.

As an encore, Texas responded with this 91-yard jaunt by Chris Warren III.

I’m well aware that there’s potential intrigue at every turn, and I enjoyed every bit of awesome that Texas Tech and Texas would yield in the Red Raiders 48-45 victory at the home of the Longhorns.  Still, I remember when football was every bit as much of the pageantry of Thanksgiving as the bird in the oven.  You didn’t care that you were getting crummy Detroit and Dallas games, you watched.  You know you watched?  Because it didn’t happen very often.  Football on a Thursday, then more on Sunday; why would you even care that you were watching Mike McMahon?

The answer is now, it’s because now happened.  By the way NFL, thanks for not troubling any AFC teams for their services today.  Seriously though, if you had things to do, are you going to fight with loved ones over seeing the 4-6 Eagles and 3-7 Lions?  You should probably do the things you don’t want to do for other people, and get your lazy on with Cam Newton getting points in Dallas.  The thing is, I know I’m going to get plenty more Cam, and we should talk about Kuechly and Norman more with that Panthers squad, and unless interrupted by divine intervention, FOX is going to give me a lot more Cowboys4The Cowboys 3-8 record be damned!, so there’s nothing unique to draw me away from the dinner table, but still, I watch.

The night game is easy.  Classic rivalry, and the Bears have shown much more than a faint pulse lately, while we’ve micro analyzed the Packers and torn apart their their losses.  I don’t know what it was, but that game got second screen treatment on this Turkey Day.  Maybe I’m not ready for College Football to end, and had to cram in that Big 12 game that doesn’t affect the big picture.  Maybe I’m as burnt out on the Packers as I previously stated I am on the Cowboys.

I might just need things to be moved around a little.  Getting A&M back to Austin would help.  Rotating the Cowboys and Lions out of the daytime slots on Thanksgiving Thursday might be something to think about.  

Maybe I’m just getting old, but sports are fun.  I’m thankful to have them in my life.

1 While I’m at it, what happens in Norman, Stillwater, Waco, Fort Worth, or anywhere else in Big 12 Country mean much to me either.
2 With the option of watching a Bears-Packers game looming.
3 Only, this one didn’t hit the ground.
4 The Cowboys 3-8 record be damned!

More Than A Friday: Airwaves and Arizona Cardinals

No matter where you go on the AM dial, it’s the time of year where NFL talk simply dominates the airwaves. Oh, it’s hockey season? Well, that incredible hat trick and the pace of 3-on-3 overtime are going to have to wait; we’ll try to shoehorn that 90 seconds of NHL coverage between our fluff interview with the head coach of our local team and our commentary on another team’s quarterback’s reaction to being called names. Oh, there’s basketball too? Let’s see, the playoffs start in April, so we’ll see you at the end of May. The NFL season has made the turn for the back 9, so let’s keep that conversation going, ad nauseum.

Only I’m not nauseous. We only get 17 weeks of these regular season games, so give it to me, from every angle you’ve got. Just about every game serves up its share of intrigue, even if it’s just because the NFL has taken a page out of the Oregon Ducks playbook and decided to make uniforms part of the side show. We have heard a lot of talk about paper tigers, and that kind of thing sells when you’re dealing with more that just the football purists.

Here in Arizona, the tailgate was a bigger deal than the games until the Cardinals started playing respectable football. While the pregame parking lot party lot is still a huge draw, the curtains are really pulled back to start the show once you get inside University of Phoenix Stadium and witness the product the Cardinals are putting on the field.

Sure, we can find our Suns and Coyotes in action on any given night of the week, but the locals suddenly find themselves longing for Sunday in these parts. Let’s face it, there’s a lot more to say about a dysfunctional organization, and that dysfunction was the epitome of the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals for many years after they landed here from St. Louis almost 30 years ago, but the casual fan is more interested in talking about success.

For the Bruce Arians’ Cardinals, defining success and turning the corner from being the team that was blacked out locally for over a decade isn’t about their accomplishments, but their potential. They reached the Super Bowl, and almost won the damn thing, if not for an incredible Santonio Holmes toe-tap to give the Steelers their 6th title, but that’s in the past. What have they done for you lately?

Kurt Warner’s retirement after the 2009 season put the Birds into a bit of a tailspin, leaving people to look back on the team that reached the post-season in consecutive years for the first time since the 70s as a fluke. It’s no wonder; since Warner, the Cardinals marched Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, John Skelton, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley, and Brian Hoyer out under center, with limited to no success for the team in that time frame.

So, why not throw Oakland a 6th-round pick for the services of a washed-up Carson Palmer? He’d spent the better part of two seasons in Oakland, after retiring rather than returning to the Bengals for the 2011 season. Speaking to the numbers, Palmer wasn’t as bad as most of us remember him being in Oakland, it was that his play didn’t add up to Raider wins, but the Cardinals were arguably one Peyton Manning away from being a Super Bowl team, the way the roster was built a year earlier.

Despite starting out 4-0 in 2012, the bottom fell out after the hot start, and the team would go on to lose 11 of their last 12, which equaled a 5-11 record and a pink slip for head coach Ken Whisenhunt. After that, enter Palmer and Bruce Arians, stage left.

At that point, they were playing meaningful football, going into the month of December. That first year, 10 wins weren’t good enough to make the tournament in 2013. Come 2014, you could have made a case for Arizona being that one team in the National Football League that no one wanted to play, provided the Cardinals stayed healthy at key spots. They were not able to do that, and the net result was Ryan Lindley marking himself as one of the worst quarterbacks in post-season history in a loss to the Carolina Panthers.

With a recent history that does garner some looks from football people that wouldn’t normally give their organization the time of day, Palmer and the gang entered this season with a chip on their shoulder. What they’ve done before this season is inconsequential, especially if you want to be taken seriously in discussing their Super Bowl aspirations. Through nine games, a 7-2 mark has given some weight to those thoughts previously thought to be outlandish, but who have they played?

But, They Haven’t Played Anyone

It took a big play or two at the end to put away the New Orleans Saints in Week 1, and the Saints seem to be a continuation of the mess that was the 2014 Saints. Okay, crossing them off the list. How about the Bears in Week 2 on the road? Forget about the Bears you’re seeing now, now that Jay Cutler and Adam Gase have found their groove, the Cardinals are awarded no points for a 48-23 win at Soldier Field.

It wasn’t that long ago that voices behind the microphone your drive home were trying to sell Niners and Cardinals as a rivalry. Sometimes, you have to reach for the narrative in the NFC West, which is seemingly void of natural rivalries1Not having a team in L.A. makes it difficult for fans in San Francisco and Phoenix to see a rival that isn’t a direct drive down the interstate.. Sure, maybe players have told the teams’ flagship stations that they don’t like the other team, and maybe those two teams were at the top of the division, but that pairing never screamed, “throw the records out the window when these teams square off”.

Seattle and San Francisco had a little thing going, when they were the top 2 in the division, with the Cardinals playing games with the likes of Derek Anderson, John Skelton, and Kevin Kolb running the offense. It made for exciting marketing for the games, but the 49ers regressed, and the edge was taken off of all their division games. So, the Cardinals score defensive touchdown after defensive touchdown at home against the Niners, and no one cares about their 3-0 start.

They’d lose to the Rams, obliterate the then-winless Lions in Detroit, and lay an egg in Pittsburgh to fall to 4-2. They still haven’t played anyone and they’re way behind the pace of all these unbeatens we’re covering in the NFL. No denying they were a good football team, but there were just too many great teams to get hung up on the pretty good one in the desert.

Let’s put them on Monday Night Football. The Ravens making their first trip to University of Phoenix Stadium, that should make for compelling TV. I’m sure a 1-5 Ravens team isn’t what ESPN had in mind, but they made it a football game, right up until the end. Kudos to the Ravens for showing up in prime time2Baltimore’s one win at that point came in overtime at Pittsburgh on Thursday Night Football in Week 4, and Gruden and Tirico will be in Cleveland on November 30th, when they visit the Browns., but surviving a 1-6 team at home doesn’t sell anyone on your Super Bowl prospects.

A second half comeback, after trailing 20-10 at the half, in Cleveland had some people inspired, not just in these parts, but on the national scene. There were some skeletons rearing their ugly heads from the loss in Pittsburgh, that this team couldn’t handle adversity, and while the Browns are absolutely nothing to write home about, a 24-0 whitewash in the 3rd and 4th quarters of that game in Cleveland had everyone feeling this team was on the right track headed into their bye week. Even though there was no game to talk about that next weekend, terrestrial radio gave you your fill of Birdspeak, whether you wanted it or not.

Who could blame them? The Seattle game hung in the balance, and at 4-4, the Cardinals could potentially throw something of a knockout punch to the 2-time defending NFC Champions. Now, the Cardinals have been able to crack the code for winning in front of the Sea Chickens rowdy fans, but Carolina figured out that formula in Week 6, so the task may not have seemed so daunting. We’ve learned, from our talk-radio hosts, that you can dismiss some of the negatives with Seattle, namely their mediocre W-L record, and that the Cardinals have not proven they are a better team than the Seahawks until the show they can beat them.

Well, beat them, they did. The 39-32 final score doesn’t really tell the tale of how that affair went. Arizona got out to a big halftime lead, had a complete meltdown with Palmer putting the pigskin on the turf twice, deep in their own territory, and when they needed the big play, Jermaine Gresham and Andre Ellington were happy to oblige.

Leading up to this game, the sister stations up in Washington were calling these Cardinals “paper tigers”. They haven’t played anyone, they said. Now, the joke is on those who reside near the Puget Sound. Those Sea Chickens that went down at home to their division rival, they’re 4-5; at the end of the day, I guess the Cardinals still haven’t played anyone.

Is Anyone Out There?

Remember, what they’ve done means nothing. We see no rings, therefor the job isn’t done. What does 7-2 get you? Nothing, but maybe prime time games. The NFL flexed this weekend’s contest with Cincinnati into Sunday Night Football, the Cardinals second-straight appearance in NBC’s prime time slot and the Bengals third-straight under the lights. The Bengals look a lot less intimidating after their stripes were exposed by the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football, and the big baby that is Andy Dalton showed a complete void of maturity, based on hearsay.

The travel Palmer and company face isn’t as severe as it was in their first nine games, what with Seattle out of the way and those three of their four games in the Eastern time zone in the books. They’ll travel to play the Niners and Rams in consecutive weeks, pretty much with a chance to lock up the division before a lot of people even get their Christmas trees up, but that division title isn’t the long game.

Unlike the old days, where you’d know who was in town because of the dominance of visiting jerseys at Sun Devil Stadium, this team has a distinct home-field advantage, and they want that in January. They’re still two games behind the 9-0 Carolina Panthers in the loss column, but they’re going to see the Vikings and Packers at home, with home playoff games and maybe a first-round bye in the cards, so there are no breaks.

If they take any, they might be stressing over their home finale with those pesky Sea Chickens in Week 17. In that case, I’m sure talking heads on the radio dial will have plenty to talk about, but topics for discussion are never in short supply in an NFL market. Though, you already knew that.

1 Not having a team in L.A. makes it difficult for fans in San Francisco and Phoenix to see a rival that isn’t a direct drive down the interstate.
2 Baltimore’s one win at that point came in overtime at Pittsburgh on Thursday Night Football in Week 4, and Gruden and Tirico will be in Cleveland on November 30th, when they visit the Browns.

More Than A Friday: Cavs, Cups, Coyotes, Keely and Cavuto

There’s so much going on this week, I feared I wouldn’t be able to drop a subtle #MACtion reference into this week’s column1Let’s just say the table is being set nicely for yet another Bowling Green-Northern Illinois showdown in Detroit, for the MAC Championship.. We have civil unrest in Missouri2Again., and it’s such a mess that I’m legitimately uncomfortable talking about it, other than to acknowledge I feel the sports angle is gone from that saga, at them moment. We’ve got three sports in full-swing, as we approach mid-November, and while I usually stick to the entree portion of the menu (football, of the college and professional variety), this week I found myself willing to sample the entire menu.

How to Combat Boredom While Waiting for the Playoffs

There’s been a lot of back and forth about how to deal with the 82-game season, between the Cleveland fans who watch basketball and the basketball fans who like the Cavaliers. Both groups are waiting for that race to 16 wins, which begins in April and ends in June. One side says, the regular season doesn’t matter. The other side says, who cares(!), be entertained.

Neither side is completely wrong, though finding myself somewhere in between, I put a little more stock in the regular season than the casual fan might. It’s not just about staying healthy for the run in the spring, but no matter how much the narrative wants to highlight the individual superstar, these teams need to get a feel for playing with each other.

For 36 minutes on Tuesday, the Utah Jazz were not intimidated by the star-power of the Cavaliers. It isn’t always going to be this way for the 7-1 Cavaliers, but it was one of those nights when everything was going well, but they still needed Lebron James to find a new gear. He won’t always be able to answer the call, but he found a way in the win over the Jazz.

Actually, he found a few ways. When you think about the classic triple double, you wonder if it’s the net result of a well-rounded effort or stat-padding. In the case of James, to the dismay of the visiting Jazz, it was the former, and what led to the Cavs being on the positive end of a 118-114 final. He found and exploited mismatches to score, even when it required an ambidextrous effort on the offensive side of the ball.

When you talk about that feel for playing together, you appreciate the chemistry he’s created with Kevin Love after just a season on the same bench, and you remember why you loved Mo Williams being on the same roster, especially when both are hitting their jumpers.

Lebron owned the glass late, at both ends of the floor on Tuesday, extending possessions for the Cavaliers and putting an abrupt end to Utah’s offensive trips down the floor after one shot. It’s difficult find enough defensive opportunities to lock down that elusive quadruple double, but his two steals3Albeit, versus five turnovers. both came in the fourth quarter, and led to scoring opportunities on the other end, inlcuding an amazing “And 1”, where the shot fell despite James being bear-hugged on his way up.

Save a big night from Jared Cunningham or Joe Harris, nothing from these contenders should surprise you, but it’s still fun to watch…and these games matter, no matter how simple it is to suggest something to the contrary.

Why is the Song Called Cups?

This isn’t about Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect, or the song that mostly just repeats “you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone”4If you watch the video, you’ll see that a plastic cup and clapping of the hands are the only “instruments” in this mostly a capella song.. I guess the point is that cups have nothing to do with that song, and I might add they don’t have anything to with faith or the celebration of holidays.

Of course, I haven’t seen anyone bitching about cups, just people bitching about people bitching about cups. The closest thing I’ve seen, regarding outrage of the now-snowflakeless Starbucks seasonal cups is Donald Trump’s endorsement for the outrage.

Honestly, at this point, if you choose to take Trump with anything more than a grain of salt, I am unable to work through these things with you.

On that note, it’s just matter of aesthetics, and it doesn’t affect the taste of your caffeinated beverage of how you celebrate the holidays, so maybe we just move on from this? Aesthetics don’t affect the result of a football game either, but man, it might affect my decision to watch. I was going to a hockey game on Thursday evening, but I caught a glimpse of the Jets and Bills in their Technicolor garb. I mean, I’m not going to watch that one, willfully, because it’s Jets and Bills, but that color explosion was for the birds.

No McDavid? What Are We, Savages?

Perhaps it’s just a sign of my privilege, but I like sarcastically throwing out that savages line over first world problems that present themselves. November 12th was just a day to go to a Coyotes home game with a friend and some of his clients, the fact that the Edmonton Oilers were in town, and we were promised the next big thing in hockey was just a bonus. Last week, that bonus was taken away, but the kid has a broken clavicle. Honestly, my tale of woe isn’t as bad as Connor McDavid’s, at least in this context.

So, I ended up seeing a below average team from Western Canada take on my5I really do love this hockey team, despite all the turmoil they’re going through and the vitriol from opponents of the NHL in the Sun Belt. I didn’t have a team growing up in Cleveland, and I didn’t just automatically adopt this team. This is about a 12-year relationship, more time than I had with the original Browns (1985-1995). Arizona Coyotes. Unlike the Cavaliers, there are surprises with this club. Some of the usual suspects are still around–Shane Doan, Mike Smith, Dave Tippett–and there are some familiar faces that were traded away and returned via free agency, but you always like to see promising youth. That’s what the Coyotes have, and you can look at teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, and Carolina Panthers6You could throw the Cavaliers in there, when you consider they netted Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson from a dreadful 2010-2011 season., and how they’ve made lemonade from lemons by netting high draft picks after miserable seasons.

While trying to get the imagery of Jets vs. Bills out of my system, the Oilers got a quick one on Thursday night, giving them a 1-0 lead. Oilers fans packed our arena in Glendale, Arizona, with hopes they could be better than their 0-5 mark against the ‘Yotes a season ago. As the game went on, you could see Arizona was having none of that. This is a team that doesn’t have any desire to throw everything on net, but they pick their places for the breakaways and one-timers. The old seems to mesh with the new pretty well, and even with the guy picked two slots after McDavid in last summer’s draft still slumming it in the minors, you have to like the youth on the ice for the NHL club just outside of Phoenix.

4-1 final, Coyotes win on a fun night at the arena.

Some Are Calling It Child Abuse; I Mean, Absolutely

You’re probably going to see it at some point, whether you want to or not. It’s Fox News, so most of you will immediately dismiss it, sight unseen. I know Neil Cavuto, because he does the business report on our local FOX affiliate, not from what he does for the cable channel that’s either a big hit or a big miss, depending on the eye of the beholder. I didn’t know Keely Mullen and I withhold judgement on someone I only became familiar with moments before she faced the firing squad in a now-infamous interview for the right-wing network.

She was supposed to speak to the motive of the Million Student March, but she got tangled up in a web of follow-up questions that she was unable to answer about the “1%”. Going in, she didn’t have a chance; the entire strategy of the conservative news organization was to make sure she didn’t look good in promoting this effort, in the name of today’s student. The point was to undermine the youth not understanding the economics of their demands7Tuition-free public college, cancellation of all student debt, $15 minimum wage for all campus workers, and while I don’t feel there’s a reasonable way to satiate these requests, I’m not applauding the smearing of this young lady, regardless of how confident she appeared to be in supporting her views and this activism we’re seeing this week.

You know who I’m going to call out? It’s your turn to the carpet, Facebook commenters. Le sigh.

This isn’t even exclusive to one side of the argument or the other. I cringe when I look at comments8I have no shame; it’s like rubber-necking a car accident, but as my old man and his pals say at the poker table, “I gots to know.” and see the destruction of this beautiful English language. It’s not so much the ignorance as it is the apathy, with the defense mechanism of calling those who correct “Grammar Nazis”.

Misuse of “their”, “there”, and “they’re”, not to mention improper application of “your” and “you’re”, are just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t even get me started on “would of”, once defended as a Southern thing…gross!

These are the people that live in glass houses and throw stones. The ones saying Cavuto abused this child that was trying to get her message out, if they’re breeding, and they honestly care that little for the English language9Not to mention, how would they feel if their child was the victim of grown folks abusing their young-adult child on social media?, they’re would be the ones abusing America’s youth?

Don’t you think?

1 Let’s just say the table is being set nicely for yet another Bowling Green-Northern Illinois showdown in Detroit, for the MAC Championship.
2 Again.
3 Albeit, versus five turnovers.
4 If you watch the video, you’ll see that a plastic cup and clapping of the hands are the only “instruments” in this mostly a capella song.
5 I really do love this hockey team, despite all the turmoil they’re going through and the vitriol from opponents of the NHL in the Sun Belt. I didn’t have a team growing up in Cleveland, and I didn’t just automatically adopt this team. This is about a 12-year relationship, more time than I had with the original Browns (1985-1995).
6 You could throw the Cavaliers in there, when you consider they netted Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson from a dreadful 2010-2011 season.
7 Tuition-free public college, cancellation of all student debt, $15 minimum wage for all campus workers
8 I have no shame; it’s like rubber-necking a car accident, but as my old man and his pals say at the poker table, “I gots to know.”
9 Not to mention, how would they feel if their child was the victim of grown folks abusing their young-adult child on social media?

More Than A Friday: The Hot Dog-Sandwich Conundrum and Other Things That Aren’t

It was only a matter of time.  I like discussing the trending topics, and I like food.

I am almost ashamed to admit it, but I’ve been drawn into the conversation, just about every time that it’s come up.  Is a hot dog a sandwich?

The short answer from my point of view is that it’s not.  I feel you can take that tubesteak meat, slice it long-ways and place the pieces diagonally across a slice of white bread, put your mustard, relish, cucumber, and sauerkraut or whatever, put another slice of white on top and call it a sandwich.  However, the traditional hot dog, regardless of toppings, the one that comes in a bun, that’s just a hot dog.

The non-sandwich designation isn’t exclusive to the frank.  Frankly, it’s more about the bread and whether it’s one unit that holds it together or two.  Really, it doesn’t matter what you put in that bun; it’s not going to be sandwich, whether it’s a brat, a Polish, or an Oscar Meyer weiner.  The more compelling question starts with the hamburger, because if you replace the hamburger patty with fish or fowl, it’s quite blatantly a sandwich.  And, if you take that burger patty, and put it between two slices of rye or sourdough with melted cheese, you have yourself a patty melt, which is absolutely a sandwich.

We’re scratching the surface here; what about wraps, pitas, tacos, and certain deserts?  Let’s get your weekend started with the legitimacy of things around the world of sports.

Connor McDavid, the Ham & Cheese

For selfish reasons, I was devastated by the news of the #1 overall pick in last summer’s draft sustaining a significant injury.  McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers visit my hometown Arizona Coyotes next Thursday, and yours truly acquired tickets for the affair.  Now, I’m just watching an early-season tilt between two sub-par teams in the Western Conference.  There’s no question about the sandwich status of chopped ham and American Cheese, it’s just been a while since I’ve had it and it will be a while before we see The Next Big Thing on the ice in the NHL.  “What have you done for me lately?” doesn’t apply to McDavid’s situation…yet.

Chicago Bulls, the Gyro

Just because the Greek man in the apron behind the bar, the one that makes a tzatziki sauce that is to die for, calls it a sandwich, it is not a sandwich, not by my standards.  Look, I understand lazy Americans don’t often think of all the applications of that gyro meat and assume that shaved cone of lamb meat is going to come in a pita, and usually with fries on the side, but there’s more to the menu at your typical Mediterranean grill.  In the same way, when we say “whoever comes out of the East”, we mean the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Yes, we saw what happened on Opening Night at the United Center, but think about how far down the list you’d have to go to get to gyro when someone asks what kind of sandwich the should get.  Now replace “gyro” with “2015-16 Bulls” and “sandwich” with “Eastern Conference favorites”.


Carolina Panthers, the Pulled Pork

In the same way that the Vinegar-based barbecue of the Carolina region gets overlooked in favor of its Kansas City or Texas counterpart, there’s not a lot of respect going around for “Riverboat Ron” Rivera, Cam Newton, and the Carolina Panthers, but they’re as legitimate as anything going in the NFL right now.  Sean McDermott has Luke Kuechly on the defensive side of the ball, but that unit is as impressive as anything I’ve seen east of the Rockies.  Yes, that offense misses Kelvin Benjamin like dry ribs miss sauce, but there’s no questioning how Newton is the smoke that makes the meat taste so good.  Whether it’s shoulder or butt, this is undeniably a sandwich, and the #1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft is undeniably a solid MVP candidate this season.

Big 12 Football, the Footlong Hot Dog

A hot dog is not a sandwich, and a winning team that doesn’t play passable defense in Division I College Football is not a juggernaut.  Did you just win a game 70-53?  Well, I’m a lot less impressed by the 70 than I am disgusted by the 53.  If Texas Tech is giving you hard time, while you wait for your offense to get back on the field, it’s fair to say that LSU and Stanford are going unequivocally ruin your day.  Bigger is not always better, and no non-sandwich becomes a sandwich when you make it bigger.  C’mon people!


Kristaps Porzingis and Carmelo Anthony, the Club and the Big Mac

I haven’t seen a lot of the Knicks, but I’ve seen enough of Melo over the years to understand his popularity, though I question the hype behind his game.  The guy is a great scorer, and I enjoy watching his bad team play in more Games of the Week than they deserve, but I wouldn’t want to do it 82 times a year, in the same way I don’t need to eat a Big Mac a couple times a week.  He doesn’t pass or think about his team, like most of us don’t think about the extra bun Mickey D’s puts on their signature menu item, but the extra bun still somehow matters.  The club, with turkey and bacon, is a little more complete, a little better for you, and actually a sandwich.  You wouldn’t order either on a date, but you could make a lot more arguments for the extra bread on the club, like it was a 7’3″ stretch-five with legitimate perimeter ability.  You wouldn’t fries with that, but a side of pasta salad seems fitting if Phil Jackson can find it for him the Big Apple.

New England Patriots, the Steak Sandwich

It’s messy and you can’t get it everywhere, but I honestly can’t think of a better sandwich.  I’ve had this opinion for a long time, and while there’s been a crappy skirt steak that doesn’t get the job done, every now and again, it’s certainly a go-to.  It takes the right amount of fire1Bill Belichick and the right amount of seasoning2Tom Brady, even if you don’t put it between the greatest pieces of bread, but that just makes for a good steak.  The weapons the Patriots currently have in Dion Lewis, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola seem to be the perfect starch to accompany an always reliable protein.  You can argue how ultimately unhealthy New England is for the league in the long-term, but it’s enjoyable to watch them play football in the moment.

Kansas City Royals, the Ice Cream Sandwich

What if there was a guy that legitimately drove a windowless white van and took random kids wherever they wanted to go, perhaps satiating their sweet tooth for the ride?  This could only happen in a world where the parents would trust this guy, sight unseen, to have their child’s well being in mind the whole time and not allow them to overindulge on the sweets.  Of course, the assumption is that world doesn’t exist, so nothing like that could happen, even if the guy driving the van is named Ned Yost.  In today’s world of Major League Baseball, you need the long ball and the dominant starting pitching; stealing bases and small-ball, in general, is just a way to get a late-inning run when you need it.  That’s not supposed to be how you win World Championships.

And the sandwiches, don’t forget the flippin’ sandwiches; it’s supposed to be bread, not fried chicken3We didn’t include the KFC Double Down here, but we’d go with the Chicago Blackhawks.  Sure, get fat and happy now, but remember you’re going to spend some time paying for it or cookies4If we were including Oreos, I’d go with the Houston Astros, a JV version of what the Royals have done. that sandwiches the meat together for clean eating with your hands.  Don’t tell that to Ned Yost, who could be the most notorious man driving the ice cream truck since Big Perm, I mean Big Worm.

The Royals broke all the rules.  You’re supposed to have meat and/or vegetables, or something from a jar?  Cheese is the only acceptable dairy?  Well, here’s some ice cream, so the lactose intolerant5New York Mets need not apply!  In a very “Life is short, eat dessert first” kind of way, the Royals decided that starting pitching an early-inning offense would supplement their bullpen and late-inning heroics.

You don’t think you want that, but you need that in your life.  That’s why these sandwiches are kept in freezers by the cash register, because you don’t plan to buy them, but your impulses entice you to do so.  And you don’t care that it’s just crappy cookies and ice cream, it’s the sandwich you wanted the entire time.

1 Bill Belichick
2 Tom Brady
3 We didn’t include the KFC Double Down here, but we’d go with the Chicago Blackhawks.  Sure, get fat and happy now, but remember you’re going to spend some time paying for it
4 If we were including Oreos, I’d go with the Houston Astros, a JV version of what the Royals have done.
5 New York Mets

More Than A Friday: Kill, Sloppy Football, and Site News

The Golden Gophers have been something of an uncomfortable subject in these parts, at least as a talking point. Understand, this is the Northern Illinois perspective that motivates that feeling of awkward towards the University of Minnesota, and specifically their departing head coach Jerry Kill.

When Kill led our beloved Huskies, he did well. In a classic case of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, NIU named Kill to replace the retiring Joe Novak after a disappointing 2007 season. Novak did many good things in Dekalb, but no one was writing home about what they did during that 2-10 season, which featured a 34-31 home loss to another directional Illinois school, Kill’s Salukis of Southern Illinois.

Kill went 23-16 in his three seasons leading the Huskies. He lost the Independence Bowl and the International Bowl in his first two seasons, and led the team to an 8-0 record in conference play before a devastating loss to Miami in the 2010 MAC Championship, which turned out to be his final game in the mid-major ranks. Were the Huskie faithful upset to be abandoned by their leader prior to the Idaho Potato Humanitarian Bowl? Sure.

Should they have been? Yeah, why not? No one, even a small school in rural Illinios wants to hear their program isn’t good enough for a man to finish what he started. Argue the flaws of the system, or the machine that is College Football as a business, if you will, but no matter how much I support the red and black, Minnesota is a better job than Northern Illinois.

NIU won their bowl game with an interim coach and ended up getting a huge win in the human resources department, poaching Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator Dave Doeren to replace Kill. So, it’s been “screw Minnesota” for the last six seasons, but the next guy did them dirtier.

Now, to be fair, Doeren was a staggering 23-4 in his two MAC Championship-winning seasons at NIU. His 2012 squad was and remains the only Mid-American Conference team to crash the high-major party, but that Orange Bowl berth against Florida State would be another contest the student athletes would take on without their full time head coach. Doeren would see plenty of Florida State in his next gig, with a guaranteed matchup against the ‘Noles in the ACC Atlantic Division. To date, he’s had little success with NC State in that regard, where’s he’s 0-for-2, with 2015 contest yet to be played.

As far as Kill is concerned, it was another “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” case with Minnesota, with Tim Brewster’s 2010 squad failing to achieve victory against the Huskies in Week 4 at home. Raise your hand if you recall anyone coaching the Gophers between Glen Mason and Kill1Note: my hand is not raised.. I suppose we can anticipate Kill having a role on the Big Ten Network in the near future.

Kill isn’t walking away because he cannot win, Minnesota is 29-29 with three bowl appearances since he’s taken over. He hasn’t lost his passion for a game that seems to have threatened to take his life, at least from where I sit. He’s choosing his remaining years over the game, and that’s admirable.

Going back to 2005, his heath issues have been among the world’s worst kept secrets. He had a seizure while leading SIU in 2005, and in 2010, he was treated for dehydration after a game at Northern. From 2011 to 2013, Coach Kill had four gameday seizures, promoting a 2-game leave of absence in 2013, but all seemed well when he returned to the Gophers sideline in 2014, where he seemed to have coached without incident.

Then, this week, he retired, citing health reasons. And, it was admirable. Poof; the animosity from NIU was gone. They felt bad for the guy. You might even say they were grateful for what he did for the Huskie football program and maybe even his mark on the game of College Football. This led me to wonder if we might want to let the Doeren thing become water under the bridge, but no such thing was happening.

“Oh no. NC State can still suck it!” And there you have it.

Whatever I Watched Last Night, It Wasn’t Good Football

I honestly don’t know how, in a vaccuum, I could watch a 3 OT College Football game with a dog in the fight, and come away unentertained or unimpressed, but Oregon and Arizona State did just that on Thursday night in Tempe. The Sun Devils ran 100+ plays on offense, but ignored their bread and butter for the most part, running the football. The ground game is also Oregon’s go-to, but they got away with not going to that well tonight, with a 61-55 road victory.

I prefer physical football, and I think we got that from Oregon’s Royce Freeman and ASU’s Kalen Ballage, who exploited your garden variety poor tackling we’ve become accustomed to in Pac-12 Country. The visiting Ducks didn’t seem to need physical as much, as they relied on explosive plays and defensive breakdowns, and the Sun Devils were happy to yield the latter of just enough occasions to prevent the Ducks from flying back to Eugene with a 4-4 record in a disappointing season.

Oregon’s problems aren’t new. Through this dominant run that seems to have come an end this season, they’ve never been fantastic on defense. It just hasn’t shown because the offense scoring 60 points per game2That’s a perception stat, not a researched one., which masks a lot of defensive deficiencies. The code seems to have been cracked; pick them apart and don’t let them off the field on third down.

Another thing, Vernon Adams, for all he gives you, just isn’t Marcus Mariota. Say what you want about system quarterbacks, but Mariota would thrive in whatever system he played in. Ditto for Mark Helfrich. He isn’t Chip Kelly, and when the Ducks find their backs against the wall, they don’t have that guy on the sideline with the confidence to know they’ll overcome the adversity. It didn’t show so much in Year 1 with Helfrich, but it was there.

As for the Sun Devils, they have turned the corner as a program, but they’re not ready for prime time on a consistent basis. Give it up for Todd Graham, building this program into something better than anyone I’ve ever witnessed, a team that plays with pride and counts on its defense to win, but they’re missing too many pieces to get it done in 2015. It doesn’t mean he should be on a hot seat3Obviously, no hot seat for Helfich either., but he has to keep the Arizona high school talent in state and in Tempe. There are plenty of good quarterbacks in this state, and he’s still still going with Mike Bercovici.

Don’t get me wrong, Berco plays with the heart of a lion, and we saw plenty of that on Thursday night, but they can’t take the next step without more talent at the most important position on the field. Now, we just have to see if this 4-4 start is a slide back to mediocrity or simply a down year for Graham and the program. For a great program, these should be the worst of times, but if we’re back to business as usual at ASU, those three consecutive 10-win seasons we saw from Graham to start his tenure with the Devils will soon be easily forgotten.


I want to take a minute to introduce some additions to our More Than A Fan family. B. George Young, Chase Holik, and Nick Brzezinski joined our staff this month. BG will offer a little bit of local flavor to people in my neck of the woods, as our Arizona columnist, so stay tuned to what’s happening in the World of Sports, here in the desert from Mr. Young. Chase joins us from Austin, Texas, where College Football is kind of a big deal; he’ll opine on what’s happening in the state of Texas and the Big 12. Nick’s column will debut next week, with a zany breakdown on everything from the weekend, and I sincerely hope you look forward to that at least half as much as I do.

Josh Flagner is a familiar name around here, or at least he should be, he launched the site and handed me the keys last month. He’s been around with his football picks, and he’ll continue to do that for rising TV star Jeff Nomina’s NFL Pick ‘Em Contest, but I’ve given Josh a new role. It will be similar to what BG is doing for my local market, but back in Cleveland. Yes, we do have a fantastic regional site for Cleveland sports at MTAF Cleveland, but I felt it was unfair to neglect my native land on an all-sports site, like our publication’s main page is.

That’s all for this week; I wish you all the best for a great weekend, as my two worlds collide at First Energy Stadium in Cleveland on Sunday, where the Cardinals visit the Browns for the first time since 2003.

1 Note: my hand is not raised.
2 That’s a perception stat, not a researched one.
3 Obviously, no hot seat for Helfich either.

More Than A Friday: Cubs in the Movies and For Actual

On Wednesday evening, we said good-bye to the 2015 Chicago Cubs, the latest we’ve ever bid the north-siders adieu in a calendar year, but that didn’t make things any easier for those who have suffered through elimination in ’84, ’89, ’98, ’03, ’07, and 2008. I felt bad for them, and then I made it about myself.

Poooooooooor Cub fans.

Poooooooooor Cleveland fans.

You know what though? It’s just a game, and while we love it, we shouldn’t lose sight of that fact. The players make a lot of money, and sports, in general, make money hand-over-fist. They do that because we pay to be entertained by the games. It’s a lot like the movies, except the joy and anguish we experience at the theater doesn’t stay with us for days, you know, the way the games do.

Back to the Future: Part II lied to us

You buying that?  I sure as hell don’t subscribe.  By now, I’m sure everyone is well aware that October 21, 2015 was the day the 1985 characters from the first installment of the Back to the Future franchise arrived 30 years into their future.  I’m as aware as anyone, as I prepare to attend a theme party about 15 years in the making this Saturday.  So, of course, we watched what Robert Zemeckis envisioned yesterday’s world would be like.  We did so on digital media, a bonus of technology developed a few years back, from “Digital Copy” discs that accompanied our Blu-Ray box set of the trilogy.

The beginning of the movie is basically a series of jokes about what the next 30 years might have brought to the world, and how much of 1985 would be outdated by then.  We didn’t quite make it to flying cars, dehydrated Pizza Hut, or Jaws 19, but we’re far beyond scenes in window screens, fax machines, and printed newspapers.  And while, most Pepsi isn’t going to set you back $50, that Pepsi Perfect promises to fetch quite a bit more.


Today’s news was supposed to feature the beginning of the slamball playoffs, Queen Diana’s arrival in Washington DC, and the Cubs taking down a Miami baseball team to sweep the World Series.  Well, Slamball is a real thing, the late Princess didn’t outlive her mother-in-law, and few months after Diana’s tragic death, not only was there a team in Miami, but they won it all.  In fact, that Miami team has once the whole shebang twice, while the Cubs have a lot of years between them and their last World Championship in 1908.

The joke there was clearly about the contrasting viewpoints of people in the present tense of 2015 being intrigued by the Cubbies finally getting it done, to the point of congratulations somewhere in California, versus Marty’s amazement with the existence of a team in Miami.  While Chicago wasn’t quite the 100-to-1 shot the movie said they were, they are a far cry from what they were when the 2014 season, and in a good way.

Instead of being pissed that it didn’t happen, fans should rejoice that they got to carry the storyline beyond the regular season and three rounds into the post-season.  Remember, this was a third place team that sent the first and second place teams in their division to the golf course, while they got an honest crack at the Mets and were a step closer to the World Series than Pittsburgh or St. Louis.

Mark Grace was Taking Care of Business

We didn’t actually see the World Series in Hilldale, just the reporting of what happened in their fictional world.  Twenty-five years ago, we actually put them on the field in Anaheim against the Angels.  Mark Grace actually hit a home run that Jim Belushi broke out of prison to catch, and the most unreal thing about that premise was the Cubs playing the Angels in the Series.  Down the road a few years, Gracie would hit a World Series bomb, in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, which his Diamondbacks would win in 7 games.


The Rookie of the Year bests the Mets

So, a kid breaks his arm, it heals, and the catches the eye of the Cubs brass when he throws a home run back at Wrigley.  Preposterous?  Perhaps, but no more unrealistic than the Cubs sweeping an American League team in Miami, right?

The Cubs rival in that flick was the Mets, and why?  It’s because we were in the days before interleague play and there was no one exciting enough from the National League back then, so they went with New York’s JV squad.  Of course, the kid loses the magic right before the big inning and manages to get it done anyhow.  Kids movie send viewers home happy.

Actual Cubs make adults cry in their beer.  We actually get to see Mr. Henry Rowengartner later in life, crying to his single high school friends about getting nothing more than head from Tara Reid.  This is the adolescent sex-comedy equivalent to how Cleveland fans ultimately feel seeing the sorrow of Chicago fans.

We get it, the Cubs mean more to most of them than any other sport, if not thing, in the world.  Still, I’m left to think about the last thirty years, which saw the Bears win a Super Bowl, the Bulls win six titles, and the Blackhawks take home three Stanley Cups, even if we disregard the White Sox winning the World Series in 2005.

At least we got the best of the sports movies.

A Major League Hit

I like a lot of sports movies, and I think there are a lot of good ones.  Even the bad ones have their moments, but not the sequels to Major League.  Remember The Titans, Hoosiers, Miracle, and BASEketball are among my favorites.  Kevin Costner movies don’t do it for me, though Tin Cup has its moments.  However, Major League is all the way there for with timeless adult humor and, of course, my Cleveland Indians.

There actually ended up being a lot of real life parallels from the 1989 flick.  We ended up getting our speedy lead-off Willie Mays Hayes-type in Kenny Lofton, our beleaguered power-hitting outfielder in the form of Albert Joey Belle, and our ultimately unlikable third basemen in Jim Thome.  Just imagine the graffiti clean-up on a Roger Dorn statue.

However, while the big screen gave the team that beat Miami, Jim Belushi, and Tara Reid’s sexually predatory high school boyfriend World Series wins, Cleveland still got shit on, with the sequel revealing that magic playoff clincher against the Yankees was followed up by an excruciating sweep at the hands of the White Sox.  Screw you, Hollywood.

Your movies may lie to Cub fans, but you do a number in telling my hometown the truth.  Cleveland can’t catch a break on either side of the camera.

More Than A Friday: Thinking of Lamar Odom During a Busy Week in Sports

Lamar Odom is going to die. We sincerely hope it doesn’t happen today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or even in the next year. For Odom, there is a reality, and doesn’t that word really have some negative connotation to it? The reality is, that I hope he is able to survive from the time between now and whenever this publishes, but only for a life that doesn’t involve suffering.

Why do I care about the mortality of Lamar Odom? As former Arizona Cardinal Darnell Dockett so bluntly stated, he didn’t cross my mind before he was trending, so to speak. I don’t mourn for his situation with a Lakers or Heat flag on my car, and I’m not sympathetic to the character he was presented as to the masses on a show I didn’t watch. I know who he is, because of basketball, and I know how much he loved being a Laker, through the words of his ex-wife during a very brief glimpse of that show that I swear I didn’t watch. I’m sympathetic to his situation, because he is very obviously in the public eye, and it feels like he’s slowly dying in front of all of us.

I don’t feel that he deserves that. He deserves our compassion, but to suffer, with all of those toxins eating away at the very life he’s lived for the past 35 years, 11 months, and change; no one has earned that fate. Everyone in the media seems to be acting appropriately sensitive, walking on egg shells and citing his difficult background, while commending his wildly successful life and hoping for the best. We’re all human enough for that; we should be well wishing Odom for a prolonged life or a merciful death, though most of us don’t know the answers. While we brace ourselves for the inevitable assassination of his character from a few directions, and for various reasons, this is a time to be above the noise and just care.

In Major League Baseball

If you lack a dog in this fight, it’s been an awesome week of watching the field dwindle itself from 8 down to 4. If you had rooting interest in the Division Series, half of you are elated and half of you ain’t.

The Chicago Cubs were the first ones in the clubhouse, waiting to see what the rest of semi-final field would be. They had to win that winner-take-all game, which is always dangerous. It meant burning their best arm, leaving one Jake Arrieta available for just one start in the subsequent best-of-5 series. To survive that do-or-die game in Pittsburgh, it meant taking on baseball’s best regular season team and a long-time arch-rival in what’s been a very lopsided pairing for a very long time.

Give it to the Cubs, for not letting history get the best of them. They were able to bounce back after a poor showing in St. Louis in Game 1, a game that had you thinking the Cubs didn’t have the ammunition to survive the almighty Cardinals, beaten and battered as Mike Matheny’s squad may have been. Lo and behold, they kept hitting the ball out of the park, and when the Cardinals pecked away at a Chicago lead, the Cubs scratched back.

We’ll say good-bye to the Cardinals, and point out that they’re just another great National League team that managed to win at least 100 regular season games on a long list of triple-digit winning National League teams that have failed to win the World Series since the Mets won it all in ’86. The 2015 chapter of the Mets are a little different; they’re not supposed to be here. Blame the Washington Nationals for that, but maybe credit these young Metropolitans for being too dumb to know the stage is too big for them or that they’re not ready yet.

For a while, we’ve known the National League’s chapter of New York baseball was acquiring too much talent to be kept down for long. Remember when Matt Harvey was pretty much the chosen one there? Those days are long gone, with the flowing locks of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard making the Dark Knight (and the Yankees) an afterthought in Gotham. You’ve got Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright earning the headlines for Terry Collins’ team, but it was the efforts of the likes of Michael Conforto and Daniel Murphy that put them in the place they needed to be to host the Cubs on Saturday in Game 1 of the NLCS.

As for the Dodgers, the brilliance of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke for two games apiece wasn’t enough. Chase Utley taking out Ruben Tejada on a questionable double-play breaking slide wasn’t enough. Justin Turner’s .526 batting average wasn’t enough, nor was any other aspect of the roughly $310 million payroll enough to get three wins against these Mets in a best-of-five series. If you’re into math, they were paying about $77 million, per team that advance farther than them in the 2015 Playoffs.

It’s probably not the best of ideas to reduce a best-of-five that goes the distance down to a single inning of an elimination game, but that’s how we’re going to roll with the American League Division Series. The conversation of the day on Wednesday, at around 2:30 PM (Mountain Standard Time) was about whether or not the Astros could rebound from their 8th inning collapse, a few days prior, against the defending AL Champs at home. And maybe the Royals had something to do with that as well, but you had to hold the phone on making Game 5 of Astros-Royals into headline material. Down 6-2 in the eighth inning, on the road, six outs from elimination, the Royals put together one of those innings. They got some bounces and scored enough runs(5) to survive(a 7-6 victory), but needed another win to advance. That was Monday.

Before the Royals could do what they needed to do, back at home on Wednesday evening, there was the issue of settling the other half of the bracket with Game 5 in Toronto. Fast forward to the 7th inning of that one, game tied at 2, with Rougned Odor on 3rd base and Shin-Soo Choo at the plate. On a Russell Martin throw back to Blue Jays’ reliever Aaron Sanchez, the ball hits Choo’s bat and squirts toward the third baseman. Odor scores on the “throwing error”, and all hell breaks loose in Toronto. After a review, the Rangers lead 3-2 and they were 9 outs from another trip to the ALCS. Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus wasn’t prepared to help the cause.

It started with a routine ground ball to short, which he mishandled. Then, there was a double play ball, and well, the ball was thrown poorly by Mitch Moreland at first base, and Andrus couldn’t haul it in. Next batter, it’s a sacrifice bunt not executed well, where a good throw to third should eliminate the lead runner, but Andrus can’t handle it. Bases loaded.

Toronto tied the game on a ball that should be described as a Texas Leaguer, and could have invoked the Infield Fly Rule, floats beyond the reach of the Texas second baseman. It ends up being a fielder’s choice at 2nd base, but the tying run scores. Tie game, runners at first and third for Jose Bautista.

What he did was hit the ball, so far that metaphors would be ineffective for those that don’t know much about Canadian geography. It was a three-run job, giving the home team a 6-3 lead that would stick. After he hit it, he tossed his bat about eight feet in the air, and (we assume) it traveled for kilometers before it reached the ground, well after he’d run the bases.

Blue Jays win, and they’re back in the ALCS, for the first time since 1993. That was the year Joe Carter hit baseball’s second (and most recent) World Series clinching walk-off home run. In a lot of ways, regardless of what happens to the Blue Jays the rest of the way, this Bautista shot may have been a bigger deal.

1908, 1985, 1986, 1993. The last time the Cubs, Royals, Mets, and Blue Jays have won it all, respectively. We’re going to get someone new, while the Giants, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Yankees watch from the couch…and I that’s just fine by me.

In Football

Ohio State is going to stay #1 until they lose. It’s just the way it is. I look forward to them playing Penn State under the lights in Columbus, but I’m not looking forward to seeing them wearing all black, for the sake of wearing all black.

Texas A&M will host Alabama, and the Aggies have a legitimate shot to win that game and establish themselves as a legitimate player in the College Football Playoff talk, while Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines host in-state rival Michigan State with a good chance to finally allow some points and to likely get handed their second loss of the season.

Florida will travel to Baton Rouge for a night game with LSU on Saturday. They will be without their starting quarterback, while South Carolina hosts Vanderbilt and USC travels to Notre Dame, both without their head coaches. You might expect an 0-3 run from that group with those voids.

On Sunday, expect plenty of blood in the water, in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. Bruce Arians didn’t even take the Cardinals back home last week, after thumping Detroit; you can be sure he wants to get his pound of flesh from Mike Tomlin and company, after they kicked him to the curb a few years back. TJ Ward said he wanted to remain with the Browns (and presumably his best friend, Joe Haden) two year ago, but Cleveland wasn’t interested, so he’ll surely be interested in ringing some bells with his Broncos visiting the 2-3 Browns. Finally, they say snitches end up with stitches, so go ahead and find your own shitty air/inflation-related pun to describe what Tom Brady and the Patriots might do to the Colts on Sunday night.

In the National Hockey League

Call it a Stanley Cup Hangover, or call it the distraction of one of your top players being accused of sexual assault, but the Chicago Blackhawks have looked anything but Champions…so far.

It’s obviously early, but we haven’t seen an immediate impact from Mike Babcock joining the Maple Leafs or Connor McDavid joining the Oilers. Both will happen in due time.

The Arizona Coyotes are basically left for dead by anyone who knows anything about this game, but they’re off to a promising start under Dave Tippett in Glendale. Rookies Anthony DuClair and Max Domi look like they have something special budding in the desert, making major contributions to the ‘Yotes 3-1 start.

More Than a Friday: All About Cubs, and Some Other Stuff

There may have been nine other teams eligible for this 2015 post-season, and some great stories behind those teams’ run to get here, but the Chicago Cubs are the story. With the Yankees out of the picture, the St. Louis Cardinals are the only ones left standing with nowhere near three decades, if not all of eternity, between now and their last World Championship. And look, those Cardinals are the next obstacle in the way of the Cubs’ destiny.

It’s a different attitude on the north side of Chicago, this time around. We’re not blessing dugouts, exorcising goats, or doing whatever’s been done in the past to fuel the hysteria that comes with a fan-base that’s gone their entire lives without seeing their beloved baseball team compete for, let alone win, a World Championship. Okay, I concede there’s less than a what I would consider a chunk of Cubbie fans that are old enough to remember the Cubs falling to Detroit in 7 games in 1945, but no one has actually been waiting 107 years for what might happen next.

Give it up for the Ricketts family, for putting the right people in charge of the baseball side, and then getting the hell out of the way until it’s time to open the checkbook. There are only two ways to be a bad owner in sports; one is to meddle, and the other is to be cheap, and this family has done no such thing. They went out and got Theo Epstein to run the show, who in turn, brought in Jed Hoyer to be the General Manager, and eventually Joe Maddon was enlisted to manage the games. This group has done their diligence in serving the fans, by not giving a damn what they think. The first order of business was slamming the door shut on the dream of making Ryne Sandberg the skipper. Sure, Dale Sveum and Rick Renteria never brought the Cubs anywhere near the promised land, but Ryno didn’t tear it up in his first go-around in the bigs, with the Phillies, either.

In addition to Sandberg not possessing the championship pedigree, if you think the fans were pissed he wasn’t considered, imagine the outrage when they had to fire him. The whole “we run the Cubs, not the fans” effect trickles down to the roster too. Cubs fans loved Tony Campana, and while this wasn’t exactly trading away Ernie Banks, Theo and Jed were able to ignore the groans heard when Campana was traded to Arizona for a couple of teenagers. Epstein wasn’t hired to dwell on the 103 years prior to his 2011 hire, but to make the next century of Cubs baseball great. He’s well on his way.

No matter how well you’re able to put the past away, if you have any rooting interest in the Cubs, and mine is tertiary, as I married into it, there’s always a little lack of confidence, if not paranoia, due to precedent. For many, the next hard groundball to first is still going through Leon Durham’s legs and the next 50/50 ball between the left fielder and the spectators represents a prelude to doom. Entering the snakepit that was a blacked-out PNC Park on Wednesday night, Maddon’s Cubs had to strike early and prevent the Pirates from reciprocating. Dexter Fowler and Kyle Schwarber answered the call early and often. They were loose and unintimidated by Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole, almost like someone forgot to tell them the Cubs hadn’t won a post-season game since 2003. Jake Arrieta took the ball, and despite not having his best stuff on the mound, he made sure Schwarber’s RBI single in the top of the first inning was enough. However, Schwarber put one in the Allegheny River and Fowler was a little more modest, instead going to the right-center field seats with his shot, to make the probably Cy Young Award winner comfortable with a 4-run lead. He was able to pitch out of several jams, thanks to several defensive gems behind him, but there is a sour note about Wednesday.

Aside from Schwarber and Fowler, not much offensive production from the Cubs. The probably Rookie of the Year, Kris Bryant looked so lost at the plate, you might have thought he missed the flight to Western Pennsylvania. You also have to take into account, the perils of playing that Wild Card game of the 1-game sort, you’ve exhausted your Ace and he won’t get two starts in the best-of-five division series. Those are bridges they’ll cross when they encounter them in the Gateway City, as they face that next obstacle in the Cardinals. The time to worry about that is today, but a nice little honeymoom was to be had all day Thursday. To paraphrase (What About) Bob(?) Wiley, Baby Steps towards a World Championship. It started in Pittsburgh, and may not have a happy ending for Bill Murray and the rest of Cubs Nation, but it’s a start.


And, in other news…

Texas Rangers fans would probably prefer it, if I stop listening to their big games on the radio while driving down I-8 towards San Diego. For the second time in four years, the previous time being Game 6 of the World Series, my ears were privy to an epic Rangers collapse while en route to California for a Browns game. The last time, it was David Freese of the Cardinals, down to his final strike, who prevented the Rangers from closing out their first-ever World Championship with a double off the wall. The Boys of Arlington would get a shot at redemption in Game 7, but would have no luck in the deciding game. On Saturday, they took a 10-6 lead into the 9th, as I pulled into a Yuma gas station to re-fuel and call my wife. By the time, I got back in the car, the Angels led 11-10, and the assumption I’d had minutes earlier, that the Rangers were going to clinch the American League West had disintegrated. Unlike in 2011, the Rangers were able to take care of business the next day, and all was well in North Texas.

No one knows anything in College Football, a truth that reveals itself to the masses watching each week. On paper, Ohio State should have been able to exercise The Karate Kid III clause, and just waited for a worthy a opponent to take their title from them, in Glendale on January 11th, but they have to play the games. It hasn’t been pretty; you could argue they’re getting everyone’s best shot, but you could probably make a better argument that they’re a lot more flat than the team that impressed us in January. Imagine if it was TCU, and not the Buckeyes, that got to take that magical ride through the inaugural College Football Playoff. Would Ohio State be able to maintain its #1 spot with their play in 2015? If Utah and Florida can hold serve, this point is rendered moot, but how little do we know about the Pac-12 and SEC, and how confusing can the entire College Football Playoff picture be entering the month of December?

Toledo could finish the season undefeated, and there’s a strong possibility that they won’t get the “Group of 5” bid to the Access Bowls, given Boise State’s history and a committee’s tendency to forgive September losses. Rockets fans have to be hoping the stock on the win at Arkansas rises throughout SEC play.

The Browns found a new way to lose in San Diego on Sunday, and I was on hand for the agony. Having watched Josh Lambo’s first attempt sail wide, when my celebration was interrupted by news of the laundry on the field, I assumed someone in a brown jersey ran into the Chargers kicker, but the call was off-sides. I didn’t see off-sides, but the guy in the striped shirt on the field had a better vantage point. I went on with my day in Southern California, overhearing plenty of same ol’ Browns conversations. It was like Tuesday or Wednesday that I was retroactively angry at the linesman on Bill Vinovich’s crew, who guessed wrong and cost Cleveland a chance to take the game in overtime. The Lions are in the same boat with the bad luck of letting an official decide a game. It’s really no wonder, none at all, why neither of these teams have played in a Super Bowl or won a title since 1967.


As a Browns fan, I’ve had faith in both Brandon Weeden and Brian Hoyer, but now that I’m seeing them play in other jerseys, I almost have to slap myself. Difference being, I liked the potential of Weeden, and soon as he put on the orange helmet, he showed he couldn’t play at a high level. Hoyer, on the other hand, won games for the Browns, giving people like me false hope and dismissing poor play as a slump or fluke. It took seeing that punt-looking interception he threw to former Brown Mike Adams on Thursday night, to convince me of his true colors.

Sunday’s New England-Dallas game will get a lot of the headlines, but I’m going to learn a lot more about the landscape of the NFL from Seahawks-Bengals and Rams-Packers on Sunday. I know the Seahawks and Packers are good, but I still need some convincing on 4-0 Cincinnati and the 2-2 Rams.

I’m offering up a lot of chalk with my Division Series predictions in baseball, but I’m looking forward to a Blue Jays-Royals ALCS, and I’m putting the Cubs and Mets in the NLCS. Regarding those National League teams, once they start winning, they don’t stop.

Basketball and hockey, we’ll get to you next week.

Have a great weekend.