October 17, 2008
Greetings from Columbus. I am aware that is has been a while since I have given you a football-related update from this melting pot of NFL infidels, but as you know, I have largely forsaken the brown & orange for the black & gold. Wow. It sounds repugnant and amoral when I word it that way. What I mean is that my writing duties for the Columbus Crew have largely distracted me from Browns football so far this fall.
Not that that's a bad thing. It seems that the Crew's rampage through Major League Soccer has spared me much Browns-related anguish, just as the Browns' rejuvenation last year blocked out the final two months of the Crew's sucktacular 2007 campaign. Thanks to the Tribe's playoff run and Derek Anderson's coming out party (which was way more mind-boggling and unexpected than, say, Clay Aiken's), the Crew were the last thing on my mind last fall. Conversely, they have been about the ONLY thing on my mind THIS fall, as they have lit up the scoreboard en route to the league's best record, while the Tribe played out the string and the Browns struggled to even find the string. If these last two years have taught me anything, it's that it's good to have a diversified rooting portfolio. (Strictly adhering to the iron-clad "one team per league" regulations, of course.)
Despite my soccer-centric focus this fall, it's not as if I have been ignoring the Browns or the Columbus football scene. I just haven't had much time to write about it. However, in honor of the Browns' primetime stomping of the undefeated Super Bowl champs, here's the Cliff's Notes version of what I have experienced this fall, to catch you up to speed.
Oh, but before I start, how do you like my new Cow Patties logo? Rob the Bengals Fan's sister, JenJennyJennifer, sent me the following link from the Cincinnati Enquirer's website. I couldn't make this up if I tried…
She's in law school (JenJennyJennifer, not the cow lady), so I am assuming this incident was of legitimate interest to her keen legal mind. Or maybe she just knew it would make me laugh. Either way, I am delighted to have a new Cow Patties logo lifted directly from the pages of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Okay, on to football…
I had the Browns-Cowboys game on in the background while gleefully writing 5800+ words about the Crew's massive 4-0 stomping of second-place New England. Even the Browns couldn't suck the joy out of my soul. Not that that didn't stop them from trying:
- Braylon Edwards had his hands on more dropped balls than the guy doing middle school football physicals. I became irritated when the announcers talked of Braylon's bet with Michael Phelps, whereby Braylon bet he would double Phelps' goal medal count with touchdown receptions. "Too bad you didn't say drops instead," I grumbled after one of his buttery bumbles. Then it occurred to me that if Braylon deliberately tanked my suggested bet and dropped balls on purpose, how would anyone know? It would have been a sucker bet for Phelps.
- With the team trailing by 21 points in the 4th quarter, Romeo sent out the field goal unit to trim a three-possession deficit to…a slightly smaller three-possession deficit. At first I was angry. Then I realized that since 3x7=7x3, Romeo simply misapplied the commutative property of multiplication. I suppose it could happen to anyone in the heat of the moment. And who can be expected to contemplate time-based probability models with all that booing going on?
- Still desecrating the classic white unis by wearing brown socks? I guess we had the 28-10 butt-whupping coming to us.
Of course, the Browns-Cowboys clash was not even the football game of the week for me. The mighty Bobcats from Ohio THE State University nearly knocked off the Buckeyes at the Shoe. Sure, Beanie Wells sat out with the Bobcat flu, but OSU was supposed to destroy OU anyway, right?
At first, I thought the game was fun in the "aww, isn't that cute" sense. Considering that OU has never trailed at halftime in the Shoe in my lifetime, I was rooting for the Bobcats to hold their lead until halftime. They did. And then they held their lead through the end of the third quarter. Somewhere along the way, my mood shifted from bemusement to bloodlust. The Bobcats had a chance to win the game! They could WIN the GAME! In the Horseshoe!
Of course, being the Bobcats, they found a way to lose. Instead of a first down at the 50, trailing by 5, with just minutes to play, a dropped pass forced an OU punt, which was then returned for a touchdown when the referee missed the blatant block in the back that sprung the return. The end result was a 26-14 loss that was much closer than the score would indicate.
When the game was over, I was actually furious. I fumed as I got ready to head to Crew Stadium. On the drive, I realized how silly it was to be mad that the Bobcats lost a game to OSU at the Shoe. It seemed ridiculous to be angry when it was a million-to-one shot in the first place. It would be like getting pissed that Shannon Sharpe didn't win on "Enouncing With The Stars."
Despite my attempts at rationality, I have eventually circled back around to being angry, like I am now as I type these words. The Bobcats brought their "D-" game and still almost upset Ohio State. You'd think a team like OU would have to a play a perfect game to even have a chance, but had they shot themselves in the foot only eight times instead of ten, they would have won the game. It would have been my personal "Miracle on Ice" moment. It could never have been topped. Buckeye Nation would have been my beeyotch for the rest of my life.
But that's okay. As a Browns and Bobcats fan, football and disappoint are inseparable to me.
Thanks to the destructive gusts from formerly-Hurricane Ike, which left hundreds of thousands of Central Ohioans without power one day too late (after OSU's blowout loss to USC), I watched the first half of the Steelers game with a bunch of flea-bitten Yinzers at a local bar. You know you're dealing with classy individuals when they sneak liquor into the very bar that hosts their weekly watch parties.
It was hard to pay attention to the game, what with all of the screeching, grunting, and chest-beating that accompanied every play. Instead, I had to amuse myself by laughing as Yinzers peeked around to the kitchen, located behind the wall-mounted big-screen TV, and wondered where was the football game that they were watching through "dat ginormous winduh on da wall." And you know how a cockatiel will bob its head around trying to fake out the "other" bird in the mirror? I can tell you firsthand that Yinzers behave the exact same way during those Geico caveman commercials.
Having had enough anthropological amusement for the evening, I returned to my re-powered home to watch the second half, which featured another classic Romeo moment. Trailing by 7 with barely 3 minutes to play, Romeo sent out the field goal unit. After cutting the deficit to 10-6, it meant that instead of needing a touchdown, the Browns would only need…a touchdown.
In this instance, I could not ascribe a misapplication of the commutative property of multiplication. The combination of garbled arithmetic and gutless coaching led one to believe that Romeo is the type of guy who would have to drop his boxers just to count to ten-and-a-half.
(The "drop his pants to count to ten-and-a-half" line is courtesy of Rob the Bengals Fan, who coined the saying, spur of the moment, on Friday, October 10, while at lunch with coworkers. When he told me about it, I said that the line was so excellent that I was going to have to steal it and use it in some article in the hope that it would then start to spread. My goal is to see that line in a TV show or movie within the next five years. It didn't take me long to find a legitimate use for it, huh? Now start using it yourself!)
Meanwhile, down in Athens, the Bobcats racked up 531 yard of offense and lost. Comically-named QB Boo Jackson, he of the helmet-spilling afro, "Bynered" what would have been the go-ahead touchdown midway through the fourth quarter in a 31-28 loss to Central Michigan. In addition to the fumble as he crossed the goal line, he then fumbled at midfield on OU's final drive. Boo knows fumbles. The Bobcats, who were about five plays away from being 3-0, fell to 0-3.
I was too busy writing 7,000 words about the Crew's massive 3-1 thumping of New York to pay much attention to the Browns-Ratbirds game, although it's probably safe to assume that Ray Lewis jumped on a lot of piles and then did the Elaine Benes dance after each instance. One thing I do remember is that in the span of completing one paragraph, the game went from 10-7 Browns to 21-10 Ravens. Oh, and I remember thinking that in his career, Ed Reed has probably caught more TDs from Browns quarterbacks than, say, Dennis Northcutt.
The day before the Ratbird game, I learned that Evanston is a much tougher place to play than Columbus, as the Bobcats never led once in a 16-8 loss to Northwestern. With four more giveaways, I became convinced that Bobcat players are deducting the retail value of each football to better qualify for more financial aid.
But enough of my problems. Let's shift our attention to the Bungles. Winless, playing on the road against the undefeated Super Bowl champions, the Bungles, down by three, confidently used the two-minute drill to march all the way down to the Giants' 3-yard line with four seconds to play. With the defense on its heels and a chance to steal an improbable road victory, Bungles coach Marvin Lewis, naturally, settled for the chip shot field goal to force overtime.
Personally, after what I had been through as a Browns fan, I was impressed that Marvin was able to "square peg / square hole" the concept of the field goal and his team's deficit. I was convinced that in a similar situation, Romeo would have devised a plan to somehow go for a safety.
But back to the Bungles. Everyone knew what would happen next. The game went to overtime and the Giants won.
This prompted the following email from Rob the Bengals Fan: "1st and goal, down by three, inside the five yard line, at Giants Stadium, with four seconds remaining, and Marvin Lewis whipped out his Brazilian waxed vagina."
(I guess that means that if he dropped his pants, Marvin could still only count to ten.)
(And how, exactly, does one "whip out" a vagina, Brazilian waxed or otherwise? It's been a while, but I seem to remember the vagina being an "innie".)
Anyway, later that night, Rob and I talked about our awful football teams. At 0-3, I commented that the 2008 Browns were much more fun to root for in April than September. Rob grimly told me that despite my deluded springtime optimism, he knew the Browns were going to suck this year the moment they re-signed Derek Anderson.
"It seemed like a classic ‘sell high' scenario," he said, "and the Browns decided to hold on to him."
"It's easy to say that now," I countered. "But there were only two options. The first was to re-sign him so he could be a cap-killing suckwad in Cleveland. The second was to let him go so he could start 10 consecutive Pro Bowls while winning Super Bowls for someone else. After Bill Belichick, Cleveland decided it was better to self-destruct than let someone else win with our castoffs."
"That's right," he conceded. "I forgot that in Cleveland, those were the only two options."
I can't really blame Rob though. In Cincinnati, there are many more options besides the Suck For Us Option or the Star For Someone Else Option. For example, the Bengals could re-sign a guy, watch him play like an all-pro for half the season, then get stuck with his contract after the player gets arrested for vehicular homicide after killing a bus full of preschoolers while driving drunk and simultaneously snorting a line of cocaine off of an underaged tranny hooker's weiner.
And then Mike Brown could sign the player to a new contract upon his parole as Marvin Lewis retreats to his office and thumbs through a tattered copy of The Anarchist Cookbook while perusing online real estate listings for tiny cabins in rural Montana.
Our way is so much simpler.
The Browns-Bengals game was the first game of the year that I was able to sit down and enjoy, if I may make a mockery of the word "enjoy."
I don't think it's a coincidence that when I held my friend's newborn daughter while watching the game, this innocent little girl, after just a few short minutes of exposure to the broadcast, promptly threw up all over my shirt. She may not be able to track objects with her eyes or even support the weight of her own head, but she's already repulsed by bad football when she's near it.
It's good that the Browns won, but come on. Everyone knew they should have won once it was announced that Carson Palmer would miss the game due to injury, leaving the Bengals offense in the hands of some guy nobody had ever heard of….some Irish name…Patches O'Houlihan or whatever. ("If you can intercept a wrench, you can intercept a ball!")
But since barely beating the shorthanded and winless Bengals is better than losing to the shorthanded and winless Bengals, I'll take it. Besides, I am now convinced that stringing together one good quarter at his personal Waterloo suddenly pushed Derek Anderson over the hump. I just didn't know it at the time.
Meanwhile, in Athens, the Bobcats rolled up 575 yards of offense against the Virginia Military Institute in a 51-31 victory. Boo and the Bobcats fumbled the ball away only once, which leads me to believe that the military men were forced to play without their assault rifles.
This was the bye week, so I did not miss any aggravating Browns action as the David Beckham Jerseyfest, Shriekapalooza, and Flashbulb Jamboree pulled into Central Ohio. Let me tell you, it's hard not to giggle in a press conference when one of the most famous athletes in the world is standing four feet in front of you saying, ‘The thing is, we look at each other in the dressing room and we want to play with each other."
That quote is taken totally out of context, as Beckham was responding at length to a question about the mounting frustration possibly permeating the Galaxy locker room as their losses mount, but it still unleashed my inner Beavis & Butthead.
Butthead: "Huhuh. Hey Beavis….he said they want to play with each other. Huhuhuh."
Beavis: "Hehe. In the dressing room!"
Oh, and did I mention the Crew won that game too?
Since I had writing to do and the Browns were off, I didn't really watch any football. I do know that Ohio State edged Wisconsin to the relief of many, and that OU finally went out and truly lost themselves a ballgame, 41-20 to Western Michigan. Unlike the wusses in the Big Ten, the Bobcats have to play the tougher Michigan football schools, which are easy to spot because they have a directional notation in front of the name "Michigan."
Since I'm on the bye week, I'll use this opportunity to tell some stories about my Steeler Fan co-worker. We no longer sit next to each other, but that doesn't stop us from having fun. To wit:
- One day I shared with her my vision of a Pittsburgh movie theater. If a couple goes to see a movie on a date, I envision three large overpriced popcorn buckets available for purchase at the concession stand. But instead of popcorn, the buckets contain ticks and head lice. Once the couple gets in the theater and the lights go down, they dump the buckets on each other's heads and then spend the entirety of the movie romantically snacking out of each other's hair. If the guy is feeling especially daring, maybe he'd make his move and attempt to nibble the insects directly out of her mustache without picking them out with his fingers first.
- During this bye week, Steeler Fan couldn't believe her luck when Ben Rothlussbergurr had a huge night to lead the Stillers to a comeback victory over Jacksonville. Turns out she benched him that week on her own fantasy team.
- A few days ago, my seat neighbor offered Steeler Fan the other half of her roast beef sandwich since she couldn't eat the whole thing. Steeler Fan accepted. I then chastised my seat neighbor, saying that while it's not uncommon for Yinzers to finish other people's half-eaten sandwiches, they customarily fish them out of the trash on their own. By directly feeding Steeler Fan, there's a chance that Steeler Fan could lose her survival skills and never again be fit for release into the well-dumpstered campgrounds of Pennsylvanian Appalachia.
Earlier in the week, I asked Rob the Bengals Fan and my good buddy Flick for their take on the Bungles season thus far.
"I'm pretty enthusiastic, actually," said Rob. "I've noticed that almost all of the Bengals show up sober, which is more than can be said for Marvin Lewis."
"Hey," added Flick, "at least nobody has been suspended by the league yet...oh, wait. Never mind."
(Earlier that day, reserve linebacker Darryl Blackstock was suspended for four games for using performance-enhancing substances.)
"Would it kill you to recognize the progress here?" Rob countered. "This is a definite step forward. A couple of years ago, it was starters getting suspended. Now it's reserve linebackers."
"I see your point," Flick conceded. "The Bengals' defense has progressed to the point that the only way a reserve is going to crack the lineup is to get a little boost— a boost that mere hard work and determination cannot provide. Such is the life of a reserve linebacker on a vaunted defense."
I have to give Flick credit. He didn't rub it in my face when the Bungles held the Jets to just 418 yards of offense of a few days later.
Meanwhile, on Saturday…
I asked the office Michigan Fan what happened.
"There's nothing I can say," he shrugged. "We lost to a MAC team."
"No, no, no," I corrected. "You lost AT HOME to a ONE-AND-FOUR team from the MAC."
The stunning event got me to thinking about the Big Ten. Between Ohio State's string of humiliating losses in showdown games with top-ranked teams, and Michigan's string of absurd home losses to 1-AA and MAC teams, aren't the other nine schools about ready to revolt over having their names dragged through the mud?
My first thought was that the other Big Ten schools might vote to kick out Ohio State and Michigan, forcing them to change from being embarrassing Big Ten teams to embarrassing independent teams, like Notre Dame. But then I realized that the other schools would probably let OSU and Michigan stick around due to the money they bring in. Principles schminciples.
Then I realized that the member schools have a more cost-effective option at their disposal. Now that everyone finally has the Big Ten Network, couldn't the schools all vote to create a new show called "The Big Two's Most Embarrassing Moments"? Not only could they show things like App State, Toledo, the last two national championship games, but they could also show all the games when crappy teams like Indiana, Northwestern, or Minnesota get their once-a-generation victory over the two Big Ten football factories.
After getting sand kicked in their faces all these years, I think the other schools would delight in airing something like "The Big Two's Most Embarrassing Moments: The 1990 Liberty Bowl—Air Force 23, Ohio State 11."
If it doesn't happen, I can only guess that OSU and Michigan have Big Ten veto power on par with that of the UN Security Council.
How about Monday night, huh? I almost don't even know what to say. Here are some random thoughts…
- I loved the night views of the city. Like most far-flung Clevelanders, I still consider the place home. Man, it was fun to have the spotlight of Monday Night Football again! Although I must admit, it didn't feel as "big" without Al Michaels calling the game. I know he did the Sunday game, but Mondays feel weird without him. It was Monday night, dammit, and I should get to hear Michaels say ‘cLEEveland."
- Actual text conversation between me and my friend, the nefarious numbers runner known as Zman, at 8:51pm:
Z: Good start. Until the red zone.
S: One big play = 3 pts. Ho hum.
Z: Better than no big plays and a punt.
- Anderson looked terrific and Braylon caught every important ball thrown his way. It's amazing how different the offense looks when its two biggest playmakers make plays when plays need to be made in a playmaking situation that calls for making makeable player plays.
- The Browns' offense had more false starts than an old man at a urinal. However, I think that was just wily game-planning by Chud. I could have sworn that on the random plays where the Browns' linemen moved on the actual snap count, the Giants still stood up out of their stances and signaled a penalty in the Browns direction. In this confused state, the Giants were much easier to push around, which opened holes of Jamal Lewis and gave Anderson the time to drill accurate passes to his receivers.
- On that Brandon Jacobs touchdown run, I thought they were going to need the Jaws of Life to extract Mike Adams from his uniform.
- How awesome is Steve Heiden? While everyone fretted over Kellen Winslow's mystery illness, Heiden stepped in and delivered as he always does when the situation calls for it. It's huge to lose an awesome talent like Kellen Winslow, but having Heiden around to pick up the slack is one of those underappreciated gifts. He's everything you could want in a back-up. I don't know if he's in to politics, but I imagine he'd make an excellent vice-president some day. If the president keels over dead, so what? Just plug Heiden into the Oval Office and everything will work out fine.
- I have gotten really annoyed by the media types who act as if the Browns 35-14 triumph was solely because the Giants played terribly. I call bullfeces. The Browns could barely beat the Bengals on the Bengals' worst day. Therefore, the Giants' worst day would have been more than enough to beat the Browns unless the Browns got their game together and did a lot of things right. The national media wants to focus on Eli's three interceptions, but nobody wants to look at the Cleveland side of the equation. Yes, Eli threw three interceptions, but did anyone think to point out that the Browns defense didn't fumble a single one of those picks back to the Giants? Of course not.
- To celebrate the big Monday Night Football rout over the undefeated Super Bowl champions, I went to Steeler Fan's desk when she wasn't there and had some fun with her personal belongings…
Well, that's all for now, Barry. I hope to be tied up with Crew stuff until Thanksgiving, but I thought I'd take a quick break to let you know how things are going down here. I will still be keeping an eye on our beloved Browns, especially now that the pre-season is apparently over at long last.
Steve Sirk, once Art Bietz's co-conspirator at the TruthCenter, has taken to sending occasional letters to OBR Headquarters 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 email@example.com