It is indeed a Happy New Year. Now that it's 2007, we will no longer have to watch the 2006 Cleveland Browns.
Sure, the frightening spectre of the 2007 Cleveland Browns looms over some distant horizon, but there's plenty of frustrating baseball to watch before then. The Tribe's newly assembled bullpen contains more stitches and metal bolts than Frankenstein's monster. And they even signed a 42-year-old who looks a little too much like Morgan Freeman for my free agent tastes. On the bright side, I'm only 32, which still gives me a few years to damage my arm to the point that I can make millions playing for my hometown team.
But enough about dreams that can come true. Let's talk about dreams that can't come true. Since I spent a lot of last week's letter telling the sorry story of my Bengal-fan friends Rob and Flick, I should briefly revisit their tragic tale.
Given the choice of going to a sports bar to watch the Browns lose, or lounging in the comfort of Rob's living room to watch the Bengals-Steelers game, I chose the latter. Rooting against the Steelers would be just as fun, plus it might help a friend.
This, of course, was completely irrational and stupid. I don't know why both Rob and I seemed to think that my anti-Steeler mojo would have any adverse effect on their performance. In reality, there is an Everest-sized mountain of statistical and empirical evidence supporting the theory that my derision actuallyincreases the probability of a Steelers victory. Honestly, I'm surprised Joey Porter or somebody hasn't kidnapped me and pressed me into locker room servitude as the team's good luck charm, like that little midget fella that Pedro Martinez used to keep as a pet.
By now, we all know how the game turned out. The Steelers dominated until "Fast & Fumblin" Willie Parker gave the Bengals a second life, of which they took advantage. Leading 17-14 inside of two minutes to play, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis decided to squander a timeout to "ice" the kicker, who remained thawed enough to tie the game. Down a timeout, the Bengals still hurried down the field and were able to awkwardly arrange for a final field goal attempt, which turned out to be a Norwood Moment for Shayne Graham. Then the Stillers scored a few plays into overtime. Season over for Cincy.
Rob turned off the TV before they could even kick it back to the studio. Understandably, he was too upset to even find a sliver of joy in the possibility of a Shannon Sharpe-voiced highlight package. ("Now here Thantonio Holme gonna thcore da tushdown fo da Pizthburg. Thinthinatti goin' home fo da playoff." I admire James Brown, Dan Marino, and Boomer Esiason for their composure. It is beyond me how they resist providing a giggling laugh track during any of Sharpe's highlight packages. Maybe the producer cuts off their mics. I used to question the decision-making skills of the individual who listened to Sharpe's audition and decided that, yes, this man should be given a microphone. But now I must admit that it is my favorite part of NFL Sundays. He's the funniest thing to happen to sports highlights since Ray Romano's "Sweet Sassy Molassy" sketch on Saturday Night Live. I can only hope that the same Sharpe-hiring CBS executive takes a job at ESPN by the time Charlie Manuel gets fired from the Phillies. "Baseball Tonight" would instantly become the funniest show on television. I would buy the whole season on DVD, even if it were a 40-disc set.)
Anyway, the point I was making before I got distracted is that not even the thought of Shannon Sharpe could cheer up Rob.
I also got two mopey voice mails from Flick that day. Each began and concluded with the sighed phrase, "You don't have to call me back." I guess it just felt good to pour his troubles into my voice mail. The second message in particular was a beauty: "Sirk, you don't have to call me back. I just wanted to say how awesome it is that Denver lost. I was hoping that at least Denver or Jacksonville would win, so the Bengals loss wouldn't have mattered anyway, but of course Jacksonville lost and Denver choked at home. That means the Bengals really did cost themselves a playoff spot. Awesome. Like I said, you don't have to call me back."
A few days later, Rob was finally willing to talk about it. "You know, I was so excited for the Bengals to actually be a decent team, and they'd been terrible for so long, that I forgot that it's really just a different kind of hell. The apathy is easier to deal with than the disappointment. I was never this angry during the lost decade. This last week was particularly annoying."
Then, like all good friends, Rob did not want to monopolize the conversation, so he let it be known that he's there for me if I wanted to talk…
"And whatever the Browns did, I'm sure it sucked too."
I imagine it did. I didn't even see highlights, such as they were. My only contact with the game came from the ticker at the bottom of the screen, which produced all of one memorable conversation:
ME: "Hey, it looks like we kicked a field goal as time expired at the half. Shocking, considering we were obviously in pooch-punt range."
ROB: "Sounds like you guys were a victim of the clock. It looks like even Romeo understands that trying to pin an opponent deep only works if they get the ball with at least one second remaining. He had no choice but to settle for three there."
With the season behind us, I see that it's Guillotine Week at Berea, and that the first four heads have rolled into their respective baskets.
* Terry Robiskie was the General of the Dropsy Brigade, so I guess that's no shock. With only a few exceptions, Browns receivers treated the football as if the quarterbacks were flinging feral cats in their direction. Robiskie also failed to call in a bomb threat to Hertz Huey Rentals on the day of the OSU-Michigan game. But in all seriousness, this strikes me as a good man going down with the ship. Best of luck, Terry.
* Ben Coates was the tight ends coach, meaning he coached one of the few positions that didn't suck. I am assuming his disastrous coaching prevented Kellen Winslow from shattering Marvin Harrison's record-setting 143-catch season.
* John Lott was the strength and conditioning coach. I know nothing of either strength or conditioning, so I am literally unfit for comment.
* Carl Crennel actually held a position called "Offensive Quality Control Analyst." I'm not sure exactly what that is. In fact, it might have been a joke, just to see if people actually read all the way through the press releases. But in case the Browns were being serious, let it be noted that Cleveland's first nepotistic assistant since the golden age of Stephen Silas has been deemed to be of insufficient quality by the "Offensive Quality Control" Quality Control Analyst.
Now that some assistants have been fired, I am really missing Roger Brown's column in the Plain Dealer. It has been hard to adjust to a world without a thrice-weekly dose of self-important babble, blatant rabble-rousing, racial insinuations, player real estate transactions, and the occasional useful nugget of real information. And I especially miss his penchant for buffering personal opinions and prejudices with the pillowy cloak of collective first-person pronouns.
I mourn the loss of Roger Brown. I can only wistfully dream of opening Sunday's PD and reading something along the lines of:
We hate to pat ourselves on the back, but we correctly predicted that Maurice Carthon was not the problem with the Browns' offense. Offensive line coach Jeff Davidson was promoted after Carthon was forced to resign, and the offense continued to sputter as we publicly (and correctly) predicted it would. So who has taken the fall for Davidson's failure? Three other offensive coaches: wide receivers coach Terry Robiskie, tight ends coach Ben Coates, and offensive quality control analyst Carl Crennel. While some will surely accuse us of reading too much into this, what is the obvious difference between Davidson and Carthon, Robiskie, Coates, and Crennel? If some of us didn't know any better, we'd think Mark Shapiro and Eric Wedge were running the Browns too.
Speaking of Carthon, his Westlake home is still on the market. With four bedrooms, 2 full baths, and 2 half-baths, it has over 3,200 feet of living space. This spacious Colonial has a 1st floor library, family room, utility room, a lovely master suite, and a super lot with pretty plants and trees. The list price is a steal at $319,000! (Former Cavaliers guard Lucious Harris recently sold his similar Westlake home for $342,000.) To make an offer or set up a showing, please use the phone number and e-mail listed at the bottom of this article.
Okay, Barry, the time has come to end this missive, as it has devolved into crazy gibberish. The moment I start babbling about my secret Roger Brown fetish, it's time to fold up the laptop and go to bed. Hopefully I'll feel better in the morning.
I know you're a Buckeye, so I'll wish you well on Monday night. Of course, the game in Tempe is but the after-card for the main event on Sunday night, when Ohio, THE State University, takes on Southern Miss in the GMAC Bowl.
Here's hoping the college season ends with a one-two punch from the Bobcats and Buckeyes.
PS: To be more specific, lest the Football Gods make a fool of me again, I would like these punches to be extended outward, and not at my own gut. (Like Brendan Fraser dealing with Liz Hurley in Bedazzled, you can't leave any room for misinterpretation when making wishes to the Football Gods. I've learned the hard way.)
At some point in his life, Steve Sirk determined that suffering through the nexus, dips, valleys, and various low points of being a Cleveland sports fan within geographic proximity of Cleveland itself did not create sufficient emotional pain. Sneeringly dismissive of even basic survival instincts, Sirk elected to reside in Columbus, Ohio so that he could better be surrounded by fans of winning franchises who could mock his very existence. If you wish to contact an individual of such clearly questionable judgment, you may do so at firstname.lastname@example.org