Greetings from Klumbis, Ahia. It's been a little while since we've last corresponded, but you have to understand that in the wake of Ohio State's humbling in the national title game, martial law has been declared in Central Ohio. During this time, football discussions were legally limited to the following:
A.) Angrily bemoaning that Jim Tressel is not as great as he thinks he is, that Troy Smith was totally overrated, and that the Buckeye football team in general is an embarrassment to all those who have loyally supported them this year. Tressel, Smith, and company OWE it to Columbus to explain -- possibly in a prime time television address that pre-empts American Idol -- why they were so terrible in Glendale.
B.) Wistfully suggesting that even the best team in the country can have an off day and an inferior team can get lucky once in a while and win by 27 points. The Buckeyes are the true #1, but Florida caught all the breaks. The Big Ten won its other two bowl games against the SEC, so that's all the proof you need.
C.) Arguments between Group A and Group B over who is a "real" fan.
D.) Anyone who leaves Ohio State early to make millions in the NFL is ungrateful.
All four of these topics have been discussed exhaustively by the scarlet-wearing populace. I think things are finally starting to return to normal. I imagine soon we'll be back to getting in-depth reports on the nightly news about the 3rd-string middle linebacker's choice of breakfast cereal, and how it could impact next year's Michigan game. Buckeye Nation will be happy and unified once again. O-H! I-O!
One of the more disappointing aspects of the OSU loss is that it has deprived me of a million Tressel-to-Cleveland conversations. People were freaked out as it was, based on the presupposed knowledge that OSU would destroy Florida, making Tressel a free agent. I would have loved to have seen how frantic they would have been had his free agency been official instead of just assumed.
As it was, I enjoyed riling people up by saying he'd move to the Browns in a heartbeat. They'd get all indignant and say there's no way any coach would leave THE Ohio State University for the Cleveland Browns.
Then I would share some relevant facts about Tressel being raised in Berea and being a life-long Browns fan, and until you've lived in Cleveland, you can't understand what that means.
Then they'd twitch.
Then I'd mention how he could follow in Paul Brown's footsteps and coach at the high school level (Youngstown St.), Ohio State, and then the Cleveland Browns.
Then they'd twitch some more.
Then I'd make stuff up. "Paul Brown used to come over to the Tressel home for dinner every week when Jim's dad coached at Baldwin Wallace. They became family friends, and young Jim, in his Otto Graham jersey, used to sit on Paul Brown's lap and pepper him with coaching questions. Paul Brown confided to Lee Tressel that,‘It's good to know the Browns will be in good hands long after I'm gone.' Brown may have been joking, and Tressel never really talks about it, but you can't tell me that doesn't carry a lot of emotional weight."
I think at one point I even told someone that Tressel was working as a ball boy in the 1964 title game, and Blanton Collier, knowing that young Tressel was Paul Brown's child prodigy protégé, let 12-year-old Tressel suggest a play once the Browns were comfortably ahead of the Colts. The result was Gary Collins' third touchdown catch of the game. However, to this day, Tressel is much too modest to admit it.
No scenario was too preposterous. Amidst the twitching, people would invariably respond that despite whatever story I told them, Tressel would never leave Ohio State. Their voices were always more fearful than forceful.
But I can't even do that for kicks anymore. Now these same people tell me that if Tressel can't even motivate a bunch of college kids to not embarrass themselves in the biggest game of their lives, there's no way he can motivate overpaid professional players on a crappy team like the Browns.
Ohio Football Fever—Catch it!
Before getting to some NFL playoff talk, I'd remiss if I didn't mention that my Ohio Bobcats got trounced in their first bowl appearance since Vietnam. As we watched the carnage, my friend Zman kept consoling me by saying, "Remember, you're a party school, not a football school, so this is okay."
I would, however, like to point out that during the broadcast, the announcers reviewed the bowl week activities, and it was mentioned that the Bobcats throttled Southern Miss by over 1500 pins in the bowling competition. As if that's not enough, our guys had to overcome the handicap of bowling while sober.
I am blaming our defeat on inexperience. Having never dreamed of going to a "bowl" game, it must be odd to find that you have been invited to a "bowl" game, and then when you get to the location of the "bowl" game, you are asked to engage in the "bowl" game known as "bowling." Fired up for their "bowl" game, our guys really took it Southern Miss.
Then they found out the "bowl" game was actually a football game a few nights later. Sadly, their mojo had already been expended on converting 7-10 splits instead of 3rd-and-7s.
Oh well. Such is the price of naiveté. It's one to grow on. This lesson will come in handy during the Bobcats' next bowl appearance in 2044.
On to some NFL playoff talk…
How about that Tony Romo hold, huh? My friend Rob, he of the Bengals persuasion, was ecstatic. "Now that Romo fumbled the hold and cost his team a playoff victory, everyone will forget about how a bad extra point snap pretty much cost us a playoff spot. It's one less thing we'll have to hear about now."
What a bunch of crap. Couldn't there have been a 99-yard, 2-minute drive right after The Drive? Couldn't there have been a guy fumbling the winning score on the one yard line right after The Fumble? My team's blunders live forever whereas his team's blunders get swept under the rug in a matter of weeks.
Oh, hey, wait. Another Bengal just got arrested.
Remember how HBO used to do those Hard Knocks documentaries about training camp? Can't they do something similar whereby they place the entire Bengals roster in prison and then follow them around with cameras? It will be like a cross between Hard Knocks and Oz. ("On the next ‘Hard Knocks: Lucasville'…Chris Henry is not afraid to go over the middle…but is he afraid to go in the shower?......And Warden Lewis must get tough on the rioting inmates….'Murdering a security guard is an embarrassment. That's not what we're about.'")
Poor Marty Schottenheimer. He was six-plus minutes away from hosting the AFC title game. His team led the Patriots 21-13 when safety Marlon McCree stupidly decided to intercept a 4th down pass instead of knocking it down. Not only that, he fumbled his return, giving the Pats the ball and the momentum. We all know the rest.
Even when things go right for Marty they go wrong.
I felt awful for him, but my boss had a different perspective. "I'm glad the Chargers ended up blowing that game," he said. "That just proves it's Marty. The Drive and The Fumble, those were all Marty's fault. It's not some sort of Cleveland Jinx. It's not us. It was all him."
And to think that Phil Savage has the gall to say there's some sort of "woe is me" attitude that permeates the crisp Cleveland air.
Here's something I thought about as the NFC title game kicked off: If the Saints made it to the Super Bowl one year after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city, how many Browns fans would be wishing some disaster upon Cleveland if it meant finally getting to the Super Bowl? Would another river fire be worth it? Maybe some sort of Lake Erie tsunami? A month-long blizzard with 10 feet of snow?
I already knew my answer was none of the above because it wouldn't matter. And I am not talking in the rational sense that it wouldn't matter because there is no cause and effect associated with natural disasters and Super Bowl football teams. No, my answer was none of the above because of the irrational assumption that things would just get worse.
Sportscenter: "A year after the city of Cleveland was destroyed by unrelenting, Hitchcockian flocks of crazed Canada Geese, the football fans of Cleveland were looking forward to having the first pick in the draft after the 1-15 season that followed. The team gambled with its first round pick, selecting a player whose knees were being held together by, as one team doctor described it, ‘a maximum of three ACL molecules.' Today, the Browns received word that the player tore both ACLs while getting up from the bargaining table, seconds after signing a contract that contained a $30 million signing bonus. He is never expected to play again."
(Seriously, if Phil Savage reads this, he is going to shudder as if I were the Hannibal Lecter of woe-is-me-ism.)
You know how members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins allegedly have a champagne toast after the last undefeated team falls each season? I've always wondered if Dan Marino does something similar when Peyton Manning loses a playoff game.
Marino is in quite the pickle now. If you're Dan Marino, your choices are to root for Peyton Manning to shake the "next Dan Marino" tag and finally win a Super Bowl…or to root for the abominable Rex Grossman to win the ring that eluded you during your Hall of Fame career.
Out of those two choices, Marino is probably better off creating a third choice, such as asking O.J. Simpson to write a fictional account of how he would prevent Manning and Grossman from making it to the stadium on Super Bowl Sunday.
That's all I have to babble about for now, Barry. Oh, except to tell you that when Colts tackle Ryan Diem was called for holding in the AFC title game, I immediately turned to Rob and said, "Carpe jersey." (I may be a dork, but such is the price for being the world's foremost practitioner of Latin football jokes.)
Anyway, I hope you have a festive Super Bowl Sunday. May the beer be cold and the commercials funny.
My pick: Colts 27, Bears 13, O.J./Marino 0.
Until next time,
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