Greetings from North Olmsted. So this week's Cow Patties aren't technically from Columbus. Also, I don't think there are technically any cows in North Olmsted anyway, so I guess this week is Mall Patties From North Olmsted.
(I don't even know what a "mall patty" is, but if such a thing exists, it would surely exist in North Olmsted, where 77% of the city's surface area is covered by Great Northern Mall and several thousand orbiting strip malls. Only 20% of the city's land area is available for parking, which is why parking spots at Great Northern can be difficult to find unless you are committed to endlessly driving up and down and all around until you finally get lucky and locate an open parking space at a convenience store in Rocky River. Of course, not everybody is willing to walk that far, which is why some shoppers opt to snap their own legs Theismann-style in an effort to get access to those precious handicapped parking spaces, some of which are available as close as Westlake. The remaining 3% of North Olmsted consists of houses, where entrepreneurial homeowners rent out their driveways and run a shuttle to the mall.)
I have to tell you Barry, my brain is a little fried as I type these words. It is now the wee hours of the morning, after I spent a good portion of the evening amusing my niece by imitating Donkey from "Shrek." Also, I was required to repeat, on command, random lines from our viewing of "Toy Story 7: Woody and Buzz Go Straight to DVD Like All Those New ‘American Pie' Movies Featuring Characters Like ‘Stiffler's 3rd Cousin By Marriage' and Still Starring Eugene Levy, Who Apparently Got A 9-to-5 Job Cashing ‘American Pie' Checks To Tide Him Over Until Christopher Guest Calls Again."But it was fun to visit my niece and nephew. They also gave me the perfect excuse not to think about this Sunday's game, which was a blessing because the more I think about it, the worse I get.
Is there scarier crappy team than the Bengals? Sure, their defense is terrible, their coach has been neutered, and three of their biggest offensive stars have underperformed this season. But they're still capable of clicking on any given Sunday, such as when they did us a favor and dismantled the Oiltans a few weeks ago. And while they may sleepwalk through a road game against the Niners, I don't see that happening during a home game with the Browns. And the Bengals still feel, no matter how outrageous it is, that if week two had gone their way, the Browns and Bengals would be entering this game with opposite records.
While I definitely think the 51-45 game was a huge part in making this Browns season possible, the Bengals are kidding themselves if they think a week two loss derailed what would have been a playoff season. No playoff-caliber team wilts for the season after losing one game. (Well, in the Bengals' defense, maybe the Patriots would have, but we've never had a chance to find out.)
"Logic" and "Bengals" rarely go together, so revenge will definitely be a factor. Not only will the Bengals look to avenge their week two loss, but they'll also want to avenge their upset loss to the spoiler Browns a few years ago. The Bengals lost a playoff spot in the final week by losing at home to a horrible Browns team, killing what would have been their own unexpected return to prominence.
I asked Rob the Bengals Fan if he remembered that game.
"2003," he said, before I could even get the words out of my mouth. "Cleveland 22, Cincy 14. Lee Suggs had 186 yards and two long TDs. It sucked."
Sunday's game is going to be memorable. I just hope it's a happy memory and not a Rob memory.
Speaking of memorable games, last week's snow bowl was one for the ages. I was giddy when the pre-game show sent it to Gus Johnson and Steve Tasker for "first on the field." Instead of a window view of the stadium, it looked like Tasker and Johnson were standing in front of a white screen. However, if you stared long enough, you could vaguely make out a fuzzy apparition that appeared to be a haunted "ghost deck" on the other side of the stadium.
Some thoughts on the game…
* Tasker's prediction that it could be a 52-50 game was only off by 94 points, which I am assuming set numerous records, including "largest over/under variance on a predicted score" and "most points predicted for a team that got shut out."
* There's comedy, there's high comedy, and then there's the referees taking several minutes and three different spots before they could finally locate the 50-yard line. I spent the rest of the game trembling in terror that Romeo was eventually going to challenge the spot of the ball on a play. Then again, maybe it would have worked. ("Cleveland has challenged that the runner did not reach the first down marker at the 40ish-yard-line"…."After further review, the runner's knee hit while the ball was at the 38 or 27 or something, so it will be 4th down and whatever in roughly that approximate area. Cleveland is not charged with a timeout.")
* Memorable field goal attempts are almost always memorable because of their context, not because of the actual kick itself. Somehow, Phil Dawson has produced to two memorable KICKS in one season. No Browns fan will ever forget every last detail of The Baltimore Bank Shot, and likewise, no Browns fan will ever forget every last detail of Dawson's Blizzardy Wizardry. 49 yards away. 2-3 inches of snow on the ground. 40+ mph winds blowing left to right across the field. Perfect snap. Perfect hold. And then Dawson unleashed a low line drive with a Beckham-esque bend that appeared to be heading well wide before swerving 90 degrees back on target and skimming off the Dawson Bar just inches behind the crossbar. The degree of difficulty on that kick, on a scale of 1-10, was 386. Not only was it the most amazing kick I have ever seen in a football game, it was one of the most amazing PLAYS, even if I include everything else. Hats off to Dawson for producing two legendary kicks in one season. Incredible.
* Let's give Shannon Sharpe a hand for this comment on the 8-0 halftime score:
"Grayda Sthizsthmo gran sthlam Travisth Hafna gran sthlam eight nuthin' CLEVELAN'!"
(Note: I didn't think the highlight package could have gotten any funnier after Sharpe attempted to say "Joe Jurevicius", but it did.)
* Jamal Lewis had a huge game, but of all his runs, none was bigger than the 13-yarder he rattled off from the Browns' 3 late in the 4th quarter. In the minutes before that run, the Browns owned the field position battle and it looked like they could kill the clock by playing for field position the rest of the way. The Browns had the ball at the Buffalo 48 and looked to pin Buffalo deep again, but Dave Zastudil slipped and got off a 7-yard punt. Instead of starting at their 10 or so, the Bills started at their own 41. The Browns held them, of course, and then Brian Moorman's punt pinned the Browns at their three. In the span of five plays, the Browns went from killing the game with field position to suddenly being in a risky predicament as a result of field position.
But then Lewis broke through for 13 yards on first down, setting the stage for a drive that would get them out to midfield before punting again. What a huge run and a huge drive for the offense. As a result of that drive, Buffalo was forced to go 70 yards in less than two minutes if they were going to tie the game.
* When I talked to Ed the Bills Fan on Monday at the office, we had a slightly different view of the Bills' final march toward the end zone. I, being a Browns fan, was convinced that despite being out of the game for 58 minutes, the Bills would score on the final play and get the 2-point conversion, leading to a Browns overtime loss or an 8-8 tie. Ed, being a Bills fan, was convinced that the Bills would score a touchdown on the final play, but get stopped on the 2-point conversion, meaning they'd let him down for 58 minutes, give him a glimmer of hope, and then still screw it up. As a Browns fan and a Bills fan, Ed and I were both shocked that the game ended on the 10-yard line. How does a Cleveland-Buffalo game not reach its full torture potential?
* I think NFL Films should sell the Browns-Bills 8-0 blizzard game and the Steelers-Dolphins 3-0 mud wrestling match on one DVD. "NFL Xtreme Weather" or something. I'd buy it.
* Oh, and every time the television cameras showed of shot of Romeo frozen in place on the sideline, I'd giggle. He was collecting more snow than Snoopy's doghouse.
So Kellen Winslow shot his mouth off about the Browns getting new uniforms, possibly looking like the Denver Donkeys. Well, as a guy who wrote just a few weeks ago about the evilness of wearing brown socks with our classic white uniforms, this sent me into a panic.
Kellen, you're a great player, but some things aren't yours to mess with. That's why A-Rod doesn't get to re-design the Yankees uniforms so that the pinstripes are gone and the Yankee logo is removed and replaced with "Yanks" across the chest. In an era of constant tinkering and merchandising and making gear more hip for the kids, there are certain classics that have remained largely untouched for decades. In football, there is a contingent of teams in the Midwest that cling to this tradition, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, and perhaps most of all, the Cleveland Browns.
This is the football heartland, Kellen. It's in our blood, and has been for generations. Our team has no tangible name, no logo, plain helmets, and "ugly" colors. We're fiercely proud of that. And fiercely protective of it too.
We appreciate the sentiment that you and Braylon want to change things and create something new in Cleveland. Maybe you associate the traditional uniforms with losing. But we don't. The way to change things and to build something new is to do it on the field on Sundays. And you and Braylon have been doing just that. Surely you've noticed the difference as the season has gone along.
Those uniforms were winners when worn by Jim Brown in the 1960s. They were winners when worn by Bernie Kosar in 1980s. And if you guys keep doing what you're doing, they will be winners in 2007 and beyond.
Kellen, you are well on your way to becoming a Browns legend, and to be a Browns legend, you have to dress the part. Rather than giving the Browns a new look, we hope that you will continue your yeoman's effort to restore pride and luster to the traditional uniforms that have been ours for generations.
(Barry-- I'm not sure why I started addressing Kellen directly when this is a letter to you. If he ever stops by your house or something, maybe leave it out where he can see it.)
I know I already mentioned how much fun I am having with the Mitchell Report and its aftermath, but I can't help myself. I mean, it was only a matter of time until Pete Rose took the opportunity to use the report for his own selfish means. My favorite part is when he said that if they had steroids in his day, he'd have 5,000 hits. Which, um, makes it sound like he would have taken them.
And really, if steroid use was as prevalent in his era as it was in the last 12 years, is there any doubt he would have taken them? This is a man so narcissistic and driven by his own exploits and the building his own legend, I have a hard time believing he'd sit idly by if half the players in the league were juicing. And what would have stopped him? The man brazenly broke the cardinal rule of baseball, which is prominently published in every clubhouse, and the punishment for which is a permanent ban from the game. It was THE rule, and he thought himself above it. With no formal policy against steroids, I am to believe that he would have remained pure out of "respect for the game"?
And, um, didn't Pete Rose, Jr., get busted for distributing steroids in clubhouses? The apple must fall very far from the tree. (Well, Pete Junior's playing career already makes a pretty strong case for that. Never mind.)
Anyway, my other favorite part of the week is how players are coming out of the woodwork to give the "I only tried HGH, not steroids, and I only tried HGH because I was injured and I wasn't seeking to gain an edge, but was seeking to get back on the field to help my team and it's the only time I ever tried it and it didn't work so I stopped taking it because that's not the type of player or person I am" excuse. (And if you saw Fernando Vina set the world speed-blinking record while getting grilled by Bob Ley, you'd know how entertaining this excuse has become.)
I figure we're another week or two away from a Clintonesque "I didn't inhale" type of defense. Maybe if a slimmed-down Roger Clemens ever comes out of hiding, he'll say something like, "It is true that I injected steroids once. I injected, but I did not circulate. I had applied a tourniquet so that the steroid-tainted blood could not circulate to the rest of my body. Then I sucked the blood out of the needle-mark as if I had suffered a venomous snake-bite. So while I may have injected steroids, I want to stress that I did not circulate that blood, and therefore gained no competitive advantage."
I can't wait!
Well, that's all for now, Barry. I will be back in Columbus for the big game. My brother-in-law has tried to convince me to stay and watch the game in North Olmsted, but here are the scores of the four games I have ever watched at my sister's house:
* Cincinnati 58, Cleveland 48
* Pittsburgh 41, Cleveland 0
* Cincinnati 30, Cleveland 0
* Tampa Bay 22, Cleveland 6
This is clearly not the place where I should be spending my Sunday afternoon. Not for a game this big. And not with a niece and nephew that young.
I hope you and the family have a Merry Christmas, Barry, and I'll cross my fingers that the Browns get you that playoff appearance that you had asked Santa for. (And next time, to avoid causing a scene, just pay one of the little kids in line to ask on your behalf.)
Until next week,
Steve Sirk, once Art Bietz's co-conspirator at the TruthCenter, has taken to sending a weekly letter to "home base" about life as a Browns fan struggling in the NFL mixing pot of Central Ohio. At some point in life, 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