Waiting For Next Year http://www.waitingfornextyear.com ...a tradition of hope, passion, and misery Thu, 27 Nov 2014 18:49:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 What We’re Thankful For http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/wfny-thanksgiving-post/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/wfny-thanksgiving-post/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 14:00:43 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135372 One of my favorite Waiting For Next Year traditions is the annual Thanksgiving post. Each year, we ask all of the writers to share what they are thankful for in the past year. It could be sports related (it usually is because we’re all sports bloggers). It might not be sports related, as we pour

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One of my favorite Waiting For Next Year traditions is the annual Thanksgiving post. Each year, we ask all of the writers to share what they are thankful for in the past year. It could be sports related (it usually is because we’re all sports bloggers). It might not be sports related, as we pour our hearts out to you, our loyal readers.

Reading through the Thanksgiving archives is always a fun treat. Here are links to all of our past editions: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008. Wishing a happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your loved ones today. Stay safe and enjoy the turkey.

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Will Gibson: Family, friends, teachers, coaches, classmates, peers—I’m thankful for everyone who has helped me get to where I am, wherever that is.

I’m thankful for the WFNY clan embracing me into this merry fold. There are few things I like more in this world than writing about the delightfully silliness that is sport. Having the opportunity to do so—and for an audience beyond those who share my last name and/or DNA—reminds me that I’m living quite a charmed life, and that I’m an idiot if I ever complain about anything.

I’m thankful for our friendly rivals at sites like Fear the Sword and Dawgs by Nature who force us to step up our collective game. I hope we do the same for them.

I’m thankful for everyone at Cleveland State University who has welcomed me as I’ve covered Viking basketball. From the parking attendants who brave the cold, to the players and coaches who put on the show, to the ushers and staff who make everything at the Wolstein Center run so smoothly, I am thankful for the genial brand of professionalism that pervades CSU athletics.

I’m thankful for all of the writers, comics, musicians, and creators who make me laugh and think and feel, and who inspire me to try to sniff their level.

Finally, I’m thankful for each and every person who reads anything that I have to say. (I wrote more on this subject at my personal-if-scarcely-updated blog.) No one forces you to read me at gunpoint—I hope—and it means a whole lot to me that you do anyway. I hope you come away from something I’ve written thinking it was worth your time. If not, I’m thankful for the opportunity to get better.

May this Turkey Day be your finest yet. All my best to all of you.

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Craig Lyndall: I usually go short on this, but I didn’t feel like it this year. Like every year, I’ve got so very much to be thankful for, so I decided to actually write it out for once.

I’m especially thankful for my health and for having recovered 100% from neck surgery. At age 35, I still feel every bit as young as I did in my 20’s and maybe even a bit younger. I’m back to running and lifting and playing with my kids to the exact same level I was before the surgery and that’s thanks to the wonderful surgeon and my wife for taking care of everything while I recuperated and got my strength back up. Anytime you can look back on a major surgery and think of it as merely an annoying time in your life, you should feel lucky, and I do.

My wife and kids are second here, but not really because they are the reason my health means anything to me anyway. For me to have such a supportive wonderful wife and two healthy, energetic, inquisitive boys is so much more than I ever could have hoped to have in life.

I’m thankful for all the friends I’ve made here on this site – writers and contributors, readers, commenters and podcast listeners. I thank you for caring what we have to say about Cleveland sports and continuing to make this hobby fun and worthwhile.

For this year in sports I want to thank all those who helped make WFNY a soccer community during the World Cup. I loved the fact that we were able to talk about soccer during one of the world’s biggest events and not have it feel like something we needed to apologize for in terms of content. You readers and commenters made it so much fun to follow this year’s tourney. Thank you.

I’ve been a jerk about the Indians, but I’m thankful for Michael Brantley, Tito Francona and Corey Kluber most of all. I’m thankful that even as we were disappointed by the end result, there’s a reason to look forward to this upcoming year. It doesn’t stop at those three, but it certainly starts with them.

To the Browns, I’m thankful for Joe Banner being on Twitter and not in Berea. I’m thankful for Joe Haden being a great citizen of the city as well as a great player. I’m thankful for Alex Mack going through a difficult negotiation and immediately putting it in the rearview mirror as he didn’t let it impact who he is as a player. I’m thankful for Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel for improving the Cleveland Browns quarterback conversation immeasurably from a year ago. Finally, I’m thankful for the record this team has put together so far. I hope this isn’t the high point for the year.

Lastly, I’m thankful to LeBron James, not for returning to Cleveland as much as for wanting to return to Cleveland. I have a much healthier perspective this second time around with LeBron. I think it will lead to a healthier relationship between him and fans like me who’ve learned so much about putting athletes in proper perspective. Even as that might seem like a back-handed “thanks,” I really don’t mean it that way. I’m truly thankful that LeBron chose Cleveland. I know it was convenient and helpful for him too, but it would have been easy to let bad feelings and grudges persist. In the end, LeBron will win a lot of basketball games for the Cavaliers and give us plenty of things to cheer about, but that’s not what I’m thankful for.

I’m thankful for him choosing this region and letting the world know that he feels it’s worth choosing. Cleveland will never be “better” than any other place, necessarily, and it doesn’t have to be. That’s the point. Home is bigger than some nebulous contest. I’m thankful to LeBron for letting the world know that he thinks our area is worthy of being called “home.”

Oh and shoutout to the Grog Shop for making it the best year of music yet.

Enjoy your Thanksgivings.

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Joe Gilbert: I am most thankful for my family.  My parents and sister have been so supportive of me in my life and have always been there for me through thick and thin.  My family has helped me through my disability and has showed me that I still can be successful in my life despite Spina Bifida.  I am thankful for being part of the WFNY family and getting a chance to voice my views, knowledge, and love of Cleveland sports.  It is great to be a part of a group of people with the same passion of sports and the city of Cleveland as I do.

In sports, I am most thankful for LeBron James and finally a winning professional football team. LeBron’s return has a huge impact on the championship hopes of Cleveland fans, but it also has a big impact on the economy of the local businesses in downtown Cleveland.  It is great to see the city and fan base’s hopes rise because of LBJ coming back home.

The 2014 Browns have me very thankful to finally see a winning football team.  Football is number one in Cleveland and it is great that the diehard fans can be proud of their Browns.  I am thankful for the new regime of general manager Ray Farmer and head coach Mike Pettine.  These two look like they are in tune and working together rather then for one another.  We could be in for a great ride over the next bunch of years and that is something I am thankful for.

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Kyle Welch: It’s hard to write about being thankful for the trivial without indirectly suggesting that you’re not thankful for the truly meaningful; like buying a new car and being overjoyed by the new cup holders. So, consider everything that I’m grateful and not grateful for secondary to the infinite gratitude I feel for being a healthy, accomplished, well-nourished young man with a loving and roof over my head.

In the sports realm, the overarching theme is that I’m grateful for competence. Glorious, consistent, dependable, adequate competence. Competence: unspectacular yet—in the recent history of Cleveland, anyway—cruelly unattainable. Most of this is in the coaching realm. Mike Pettine, despite the occasional screwup, is undeniably a major upgrade over Pat Shurmur, the ex-Browns coach and Facility Scientist from Goldeneye. The Cavs’ early season struggles aside, David Blatt is better than Mike Brown and Byron Scott times infinity; I’m confident he’ll figure it out even if he doesn’t grow into Popovich Jr. Terry Francona is the immovable force steadying the Indians’ ship. Urban Meyer, as the cold-blooded assassin and relentlessly professional face of Ohio State football, ensures the Buckeyes will be a top-five program for the next decade. Brian Hoyer, despite his recent efforts, has (sadly) been the most reliable thing the Browns have had at the quarterback position in sixteen years.

All of our teams have their flaws, and none are verging on perfection. But also, for the first time in ages, none of them will douse themselves in gasoline and light themselves on fire at every opportunity. These people aren’t total imbeciles. I’m setting the bar pretty low here, I know.

Only a few more things. I’m thankful I get to watch the best basketball player in the world again without rooting against his team. I’m thankful my parents didn’t raise me as a Scientologist. I’m not thankful that Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is so damn hard to find on television around Thanksgiving. I’m thankful for GLBC Christmas Ale and other tasty holiday brews. Lastly, I’m thankful for everyone at WFNY for welcoming me on the bus and letting me take the wheel on this weird trip without so much as a map. They’ve allowed me to do crazy things like rank Simpsons episodes and compare Roger Goodell’s NFL to the Nixon administration. And I’m thankful for you, readers, for taking the time to read a single frivolous word I’ve written and entertaining a single manic thought I’ve shared. Thank you and have a gravy-filled Thanksgiving.

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Jacob Rosen: How old were you when you spent your first Thanksgiving away from your parents and family? Have you ever done that before? I’d be intrigued to hear the average responses from folks.

For me, this is my first Thanksgiving without my parents. Whether back home in Akron or some other location, I spent every Thanksgiving with them from 1990-2013. This year, 2014, is my first without them or any family at all. I’ll be celebrating here in my new residence of Eugene, Oregon, with a handful of amazing college friends driving up from the Bay Area.

Which leads me to being thankful for my incredibly caring family and friends, and all of the people who have supported me in my 24 lucky years. It’s pretty wild to say that I’m now in graduate school with a concentration in sports business, inching ever closer to my childhood dream of somehow working in the sports industry. Many thanks go out to some of my long-time mentors, bosses, coaches and all others who pushed me to be learn and grow each day.

On the professional development in sports side of things, I’d love to give some shoutouts to folks who have been particularly helpful for me in 2014. Jonathan Gordon, the college student founder of Sports Analytics Blog, put up with my constant emails and let me write for his site. Ian Levy, the star basketball analytics writer, recruited me to write for his new Nylon Calculus blog for some unknown reason. I’ve helped out Terry Pluto and Andy Glockner with some of their book projects. The director of my Oregon MBA program, Paul Swangard, believed in me enough to accept me out here. And very importantly, Akron RubberDucks owner Ken Babby is much more like a close friend than any kind of “boss” to me.

It’s been a pretty gosh darn fun year to be a proud Akron native and Cleveland sports fan. In the next few weeks, we’ll hit the 50-year anniversary of the 1964 championship. On behalf of the folks waiting much longer than me, here’s to hoping we can be thankful for a new one of those sometime soon.

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Kirk Lammers: This is the fourth one of these for me, and looking back, each one has been unique so far depending on what I was going through at the time.

Let’s start with life outside of this space. I’m thankful that I’m finally living in Northeast Ohio as I’ve always dreamed I would. Seven moves, eight years in Columbus, and three jobs later, I’m here. My sister got married last month, and I’m grateful that my brother-in-law is such a great guy. I thank my mom and dad for all their support and never letting me settle for being average at anything I do. I continue with this endeavor of ours in honor of my Grandma Joyce who I miss everyday.

I’m thankful that a lot of you guys and gals like reading my opinions and analysis on both here and Twitter as well as in person. I am appreciative of those I have had the privilege to meet and now call friends, including Jay, Jack, Alex, and Steve just to name a few. I’m thankful for the opportunity to write for two non-traditional publications this year with the Cavs Zine and the Season of Huh e-book. As always, I’m in awe of our stable of writers and alumni. We have a lot of new blood that is eager to earn your eyeballs and approval.

Sports wise, you have to start with LeBron and coming home. This Cavs team, despite its early struggles, is so much easier than the last four years. I’m blessed to be in this city at this time with all three teams on the upward trajectory. I’m thankful that we’re looking forward to a third straight year of plus-.500 baseball for the Tribe and meaningful December games for the Browns. Scarlet and gray runs through my veins, so as always, I thank Urban Meyer and Thad Matta for making that so easy.

And finally, I’m thankful for the opportunity to go to sleep at night thinking that this time next year, we might just be thankful for something else.

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Scott: Age, as a function of time, often lends us to look back at the past during less fortunate circumstances. Those were the days… The good-old days… Remember that time when… But the best reflections, the ones where you look back and wonder, are born in circumstances or situations that are more fortunate. Romanticizing the past can be fun over beers and laughs, but it’s tracing back the butterflies that all, through physics or metaphysics, led you to where you are today.

I bring this up because this past year has provided me with one of the more challenging yet successful years as a professional. After 10 years at one institution, and several months of attempting to convince myself of making a change despite my complacency, I made one of the best decisions of professional life in choosing a different path, with different teammates, and a lot more in the way of responsibility. But that decision, and preceding internal debates, would not have been possible if not for crossing the paths, however briefly, of others who would later think of me (or ‘call my number’, to borrow a sport-addled phrase) when an opportunity bubbled up. While it has just been on year with my new team, I’m forever thankful for whatever happenstance led to initial engagement, but also for those who made any and all decisions along my path that led me to where I am today. There’s plenty of time left in this journey, and while I’ve had to make plenty of sacrifices along the way (time spent writing, for instance), I’m incredibly grateful for all of those who believed in what I could bring to the table.

I’m infinitely thankful for those who continue to see value in web-based, sharable content. For the spin-offs of unique, reported, brand-based sites like Grantland and Vox and FiveThirtyEight. For the continued proliferation of longform storytelling by some of the best outlets and writers in the world. Being there isn’t always convenient, but it undeniably makes for better work. There is incredible amounts of value in unique, reported content and for those visionaries who are willing to put their money behind such ideas in a time when thoughtless garbage tends to gain more attention—they’re saints of the industry.

It’s old hat by this point (a few clicks of those links above would reiterate this), but I continue to be forever thankful for the very gentlemen who take time out of their otherwise busy lives to ensure that readers of WFNY have some of the most engaging and thoughtful pieces of content this side of Lake Erie. For Andrew and Rick in genesis. For TD and Kirk and Jacob and Jon and Ryan for sticking with this crew despite all of the curve balls that life has thrown. For Craig in his willingness to step up and become part owner of an independent venture all while producing content for the eyes and ears. For Will and Kyle and Colin and Joe for not only reaching out in hopes of joining this good ship, but for stepping in out of the gate and killing it from a literary and content-production standpoint. For Greg and Mitch and Jeff and all of the others (especially Devon McRainey—get home safe, brother) who have submitted work that have not only added value, but been pieces that readers could simply not find anywhere else in this expansive landscape that we call the Internet. We’ve seen a lot of change over the years, but the one thing that remains constant is that I am consistently impressed by how a band of brothers who have largely never engaged outside of a daily email chain can group together and produce work with the consistency and creativity that those under the WFNY masthead have, in addition to the willingness and desire for our readers to keep coming back, daily, to take it all in, keep us in check, challenge our thoughts, yet celebrate and support us in good times and bad. And to the teams and individuals within them (especially Tad, Jeff and BJ over at The Q; Rob in Berea) who continue to see value in what we do on a daily basis for the last six-plus years, providing us access and allowing us to work alongside the best in the business—them saying “yes” continues to provide the fuel for this very fire. WFNY is much, much more than a cavalcade of bylines and drop caps, and I’m thankful for every one of you who have made it possible.

And last, but (as always) certainly not least, all of those who have supported this venture from Day 1 and those who I have encountered along the way. To my incredibly close circle of friends and family, my loving parents and siblings, my wife and two delightful and ever-impressive little girls—I’ve learned more from you all than any professor, writer or advisor can ever teach.

Happy Thanksgiving, you guys. Here’s to being thankful for a parade come this time Next Year.

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Book Excerpt: “Glory Days in Tribe Town” by Terry Pluto and Tom Hamilton http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/albert-belle-terry-pluto-book-excerpt/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/albert-belle-terry-pluto-book-excerpt/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 21:16:23 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135366 Editor’s Note: In the new book “Glory Days in Tribe Town” (softcover $15.95/ebook $9.99), Terry Pluto teams up with legendary broadcaster Tom Hamilton to tell the story of the Cleveland Indians of the 1990s. The 336-page book also includes personal recollections from dozens of Tribe fans. This excerpt looks at Albert Belle’s stunning career and

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Editor’s Note: In the new book “Glory Days in Tribe Town” (softcover $15.95/ebook $9.99), Terry Pluto teams up with legendary broadcaster Tom Hamilton to tell the story of the Cleveland Indians of the 1990s. The 336-page book also includes personal recollections from dozens of Tribe fans. This excerpt looks at Albert Belle’s stunning career and his superstations on and off the field.

Albert Belle.

All you have to do is say that name and Tribe fans have an instant opinion.

Make that a very strong instant opinion.

Albert Belle.

In 1996, Belle was climbing the Tribe’s all-time home run list, passing the likes of Earl Averill (franchise leader at the start of 1996 with 226 career homers from 1929 to 1939), Rocky Colavito, Larry Doby, Andre Thornton and Al Rosen. In 1995, Belle became the first hitter in big-league history to hit 50 homers and 50 doubles in the same season. Those 50 home runs passed the Tribe’s single-season mark of 43 set by Rosen in 1953. For his career, Belle was a .368 hitter with the bases loaded, including 13 grand slams.

“Albert was such a great hitter,” said Tribe broadcaster Tom Hamilton. “I never wanted to miss one of his at-bats. If I was off the air and had to go to the restroom, I’d wait another minute to watch Albert bat. He was the most fearsome slugger in the game. The way he stood at the plate as if he owned it. The way he stared at the pitcher, just glaring. The way he swung the bat, everything was ferocious. I never saw a hitter quite like that.”


One day, Albert got four hits in his first four at-bats. In his last at bat, he popped out. He threw his helmet. We won that game, and went into the clubhouse. I was really hungry, but Albert was still so mad about popping out, he had turned over the table with all the food. He could be a little kid in that way.

— Omar Vizquel

Belle was a regular in the majors from 1991 to 2000. In those 10 years, he averaged 37 homers and 120 RBI. He did it for the Tribe, White Sox and Orioles. He did it in good lineups and bad, and he did it every day. You can also say he did it his way, even if it sometimes happened to be the hard way.

As Mike Hargrove said, “If only Albert had done some things differently, he could have been the Michael Jordan of Cleveland.”

The former Tribe manager is so right. How the fans longed to embrace Belle. The same was true of his teammates. They loved Belle being on their team, even if they didn’t always like being around Belle.

“One day, Albert got four hits in his first four at-bats,” said Omar Vizquel. “In his last at bat, he popped out. He threw his helmet. We won that game, and went into the clubhouse. I was really hungry, but Albert was still so mad about popping out, he had turned over the table with all the food. He could be a little kid in that way.”

Vizquel also had stories about cookies and food tossed around the locker room when Belle was angry. For years, Kenny Lofton’s locker was next to Belle’s.

“He was so superstitious,” said Lofton. “No one was supposed to touch his bats. No one was supposed to touch any of his stuff. If he talked to Hoynsie [Plain Dealer baseball writer Paul Hoynes] and got three hits, then he wanted to talk to him again. If he talked to him and had no hits, then he wanted nothing to do with [him].

Belle had several superstitions. He never left the on-deck circle until his name was announced. He didn’t want any music played when he came to bat. He demanded silence. He immediately erased the back line of the batter’s box. After every pitch, he stepped out of the box and took two swings. Always two swings. Then he stepped back into the batter’s box.

Lofton added, “Albert would say, ‘Don’t touch my stuff, don’t want nobody touching my stuff.'”

In 1995, Plain Dealer columnist Bud Shaw wrote a very flattering article about how Belle kept a notebook with data about opposing pitchers. Hargrove and a couple of Tribe coaches told Shaw about the notebook. Shaw never saw it. Belle read the article and was enraged. He was convinced Shaw had been looking at things in his locker. No matter how many times Shaw said he never touched his locker, Belle refused to believe it. He loathed anyone who seemed to step into his world, even a reporter who tried to write a complimentary story.

One year, Belle said his goal was to break Al Rosen’s team record of 43 homers in a season. He did that with 50 in 1995.

“Hank Greenberg had 100 RBI at the All-Star break,” Belle once said. “I wanted to break that record.”

He never did. But most players in the 1990s had never heard of Greenberg, a star in the 1930s. Or Rosen, a star in the 1950s.

“What I want to be is the best run-producer,” Belle once said. “That’s the guy who drives in more runs than anyone else. That’s what I want.”

Lofton said baseball people now devalue the leadoff man and the stolen base. They forget that for a player to drive in 100 runs, someone has to be on base.

“I was like when you put food on the table and [Belle] has to eat it,” said Lofton. “When we got on base, he was hungry. He wanted all the RBI he could get.”

In his last six years with the Tribe (1991-96), Belle averaged 39 homers and 118 RBI per season.

“He was like a genius with crossword puzzles,” said Lofton. “He had charts about what pitches were thrown to him. He could tell you from this at-bat to the next at-bat, how they pitched him. He was the most intense hitter, and most prepared that I have ever seen. He was never as bad as people made him out to be.”

Book title | Amazon | Publisher | Download book cover photo | Download author photo

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Lyle Alzado, the Heart and Soul of the Kardiac Kids: Reliving Yesteryear http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/lyle-alzado-kardiac-kids-cleveland-browns/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/lyle-alzado-kardiac-kids-cleveland-browns/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 19:45:13 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135360 The years 1979, 1980, and 1981… Are they really thirty years ago? Does it seem so long ago that… In world news: Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Tehran, Iran after nearly 15 years of exile? The move set in motion the Iranian hostage crisis. Saddam Hussein rose to power in Iraq, after his predecessor “resigned” Ronald

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The years 1979, 1980, and 1981… Are they really thirty years ago?

Does it seem so long ago that…

In world news:

In entertainment:

In sports:

The young US hockey team shocked the seasoned Soviet team in the medal round of the 1980 Winter Olympics in the “Miracle on Ice” in Lake Placid. It was during a time of Cold War tension. They went on to defeat Finland for the gold. Speedskater Eric Heiden was another U.S. Olympic hero.

US president Jimmy Carter issued a US boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, and instituted the military draft registration, in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan? The Soviets would return the gesture in 1984, boycotting the LA games.

Major League Baseball resumed from a strike with the All-Star Game in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium

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Yeah… thirty years was a loooong time ago.

Similarities to today are interesting, though. Back then, Chrysler was bailed out with government loan guarantees- a foreshadowing of the more recent auto and bank bailouts. Also, the West carefully monitored an emerging nuclear bully in the Middle East that promised to destroy Israel (today, it is Iran. Then, it was Iraq. The Israeli Air Force would take proactive measures to destroy their nuclear reactor).

Hopefully, another similarity between today and that era is the Browns emerging as a contender after a stretch of bad football.

The Kardiac Kids of 1980 boasted the likes of Brian Sipe, Ozzie Newsome, Doug Dieken, Thom Darden , Ron Bolton… well here, have a listen for yourself.

The player whom some considered the emotional heart and soul of that team: Defensive end, Lyle Alzado.

Alzado had arrived in a deal with the Denver Broncos prior to the 1979 season. Along with the newly-reacquired Jack Gregory, he solidified the defensive end position for the Browns. Previously, that team boasted a potent offense, but no pass rush to speak of. Alzado volunteered to switch from the left side to the right- this fit what the team needed, and he enjoyed a fine season despite playing most of the year with a sprained knee.

Alzado was not only a leader on the field (earning league honors as a player), but also in the locker room. He accepted a role as a go-to source for the media. He constantly challenged teammates to try harder. He dared teammates and fans alike to believe. He had no patience for pessimism. Or whining.

Oh, and the summer before the Browns acquired Alzado? He took on heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in an eight-round boxing match at Mile High Stadium in Denver. ((He’d been a Gold Gloves champion in his youth.)) Others–including Ali–were impressed that while he (of course) lost to the freshly-retired legend, he did not embarrass himself. He employed some of Ali’s own ‘rope-a-dope’, and a couple of times he actually bear-hugged the champ and carried him from away from the ropes! This bout was held during a contentious contract negotiation with the Broncos, and Alzado began to wonder aloud if he should pursue a professional boxing career. The Denver front office was comprised of old-school football men- and anything short of a full commitment to the team was unacceptable. This prompted the deal to the Browns, for a modest return of draft picks. Interestingly, Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano had been an assistant coach in Denver when they had drafted him.

Alzado, however, was also a ‘loose cannon’ while with the Browns. As a carryover from his Bronco days, he was prone to wild and abrupt mood swings. His compassionate side was often on full display while he was assisting youth charities. But with NFL opponents? Or even with teammates? He was liable to be extremely violent and out of control. And unpredictable: he was known to sneak back onto the field after being told to stay out of a game due to injury. And after the gut-wrenching loss to the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs in 1980, a rumor circulated that Brian Sipe had changed the play call from a run to a pass just prior to the fateful Raiders interception in the end zone (Red-Right 88). The source of the rumor has been attributed by some to Lyle Alzado.1

His personal life was reported to be shrouded in a cloud of domestic violence and the neglect of his young son. (His ex-wife recounted multiple times when officers showed up at their house. Alzado greeted them calmly, and the visits “always” ended with the player signing autographs for them.) She spent time in the hospital as a result of the abuse. He had allowed that his own father had been a heavy drinking street fighter in New York City, who left his family when Lyle was in high school.

Nobody from the Browns claims to really have known at the time that Alzado was a heavy anabolic steroid user (also human growth hormone, which was harvested from cadavers). Even his roommate, Jerry Sherk. Later in life, he admitted using oral steroids going back to his junior year at tiny Yankton College (today, a converted correctional facility) in South Dakota. Over the years, he switched to the injected form (never administered in the locker room, and sometimes assisted by his wife). At one point, Alzado mentioned he’d spent $30,000 per year, in gyms around the country, for steroids. As a veteran later in his career, teammates would joke about the “baseball” in his pocket–an enlarged area where he continually stuck himself. He said he distributed steroids to Browns players, who took them at their homes.

In the 1980s,steroids were very common. They were legal if prescribed as a healing aid. I recall one of my roommates in college. He was a wrestler, and began taking oral doses after they’d been offered to him. Not only was he not a high-profile athlete–our wrestling program was only a club sport!

As is apparently common with users, Lyle Alzado was emotionally addicted to steroids. The effect has been compared to anorexics- only instead of the fear of appearing big, steroid addicts fear appearing to be smaller. They also were Alzado’s ticket to the NFL, and to quit using meant quitting the pro football life- which was his identity. Teams tested for steroids, but players easily passed while using. And there was no test for HgH.

Alzado’s 1981 season was hampered by injuries, and the Browns traded the veteran to the Oakland Raiders (a rival of the Broncos) for an eighth round draft pick. He was insulted at the paltry return. Raiders coach Tom Flores has chronicled the low ebb of Alzado’s psyche at the time. He showed confidence in the player, and was rewarded with a classic Raiders reclamation project. Alzado helped the newly-moved Los Angeles Raiders to a Super Bowl victory in 1983.

Raiders roommate Howie Long and his other teammates parroted the comments Alzado’s Browns teammates had made, years earlier. Alzado was mercurial and unpredictable. Long called him “Three-Mile Lyle”, after the nuclear facility that had recently melted down.

Alzado suffered an Achilles injury in 1984, and retired from football. A high-profile comeback was attempted in 1990, at age 41. Alzado was off the steroids, and he surrounded himself with physical trainers, dieticians and herbal specialists. He played in one exhibition game before a knee injury sidelined him for good.

The wild Alzado was highly camera-friendly, appearing in several television commercials, shows, and movies. He was a sought-after interview, and Johnny Carson loved him.

Lyle Alzado died from brain cancer in 1992, after making a passionate, public appeal to eliminate steroid use. He was convinced the drugs were the cause of his terminal condition. Doctors maintained that while steroids were the cause of such complications as liver and kidney damage, they had never been identified as a cause of brain cancer.

Here is footage of the Browns’ 1980 playoff game vs. the Raiders (too soon, fellow Browns fans?). Look for No. 77, Lyle Alzado, lining up at right defensive end for the Browns. (I am not linking the bitter end of that game.)

  1. For the record, Rutigliano has maintained the call was for a pass.

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Cavs have pinpointed the problem, but can they fix it? http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/cleveland-cavaliers-washington-wizards/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/cleveland-cavaliers-washington-wizards/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:46:15 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135357 Is the recipe for victory, once reduced to its most integral grail ingredients, merely toughness and discipline? Several members of the Cleveland Cavaliers appear to feel so as they welcome the Washington Wizards into Quicken Loans Arena just five days after being soundly beaten in Washington, 91-78. “If you look at our season so far,

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Is the recipe for victory, once reduced to its most integral grail ingredients, merely toughness and discipline? Several members of the Cleveland Cavaliers appear to feel so as they welcome the Washington Wizards into Quicken Loans Arena just five days after being soundly beaten in Washington, 91-78.

“If you look at our season so far, we have had high-turnover games and lost, and high-assist, low-turnover games that we have won,” said LeBron James during Wednesday morning’s shootaround. “That’s what it comes down to.”

This past Friday evening, in front of a nationally televised crowd, James and the Cavaliers were beaten in all facets of the game. The Wizards were quicker, moved the ball better and played tougher, more physical defense. The loss was the third in a row at the time, and was compounded by a loss the following night against the Toronto Raptors.

On Monday, the Cavs got things back on track in a dominating win over the Orlando Magic, but the game was hardly a litmus test for the otherwise struggling Cleveland franchise—they were favored by 10 despite having lost their previous four games. Wednesday, however, would undoubtedly serve as a barometer or progress, playing a talented a Wizards team at home.

While the team won’t call it “revenge,” they are undoubtedly looking to make amends for their lack of focus and sub-par start to what has morphed into a 6-7 record to this point.

“We had tons of turnovers in transition, and plays that weren’t normally us,” Irving said of Friday’s loss. “They had a lot of energy and a lot of physicality and we just have to match that tonight–have a ‘hit first’ mentality”

Making matters more interesting is the potential for Cavs head coach David Blatt to make yet another change to his team’s starting five-man unit, with all speculation pointing to veteran Mike Miller soon joining All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving in the Wine and Gold backcourt. Miller, while not necessarily expected to start on Wednesday (depending on who you ask), is likely to see additional playing time after averaging just 11 minutes per game through 11 games to this point and not playing at all in the team’s win over the Magic.

“It’s not always about who’s starting the game,” Blatt said at practice on Tuesday. “It’s about the combinations on the floor that are working and the way they’re playing together.”

With Miller, the team will get a floor-spacing shooter (despite this specific one failing to find much of a rhythm this season) in addition to the added bonus of Shawn Marion, the team’s starting shooting guard to this point, heading to the bench to allow his 36-year-old body to spell LeBron James at the small forward position. What they do not get, however, is the physicality and speed needed to keep up with a high-octane offense like the Wizards.

If Blatt does opt to make the move, the Cavs will be forced to play more of a team-style defense that includes traps, help-side rotations and harder shows on high-post pick-and-roll situations. Through this point in the season, the Cavs lead the league in having their big man hedge toward the hoop in pick-and-roll situations, doing so more than 40 percent of the time (via Vantage Sports). Facing a backcourt composed of Washington’s All-Star point guard John Wall and dead-eye shooting guard Bradley Beal, and active big men like Marcin Gortat and Nene, the team is immediately forced to change how they approach the defensive side of the ball in order to hinder their sets. Factor in the potential for another wave of new rotations, and the team will need to ramp up considerably in an area that has been a struggle for them all season long: Communication.

“We’re our best when our rotations are on point and we’re all communicating and we’re at the right spots at all times,” said Irving. “It’s easy to say now, but we just have to go out and do it and execute it on both ends of the floor.”

The Cavs have used the first few weeks of the 2014-15 season to pinpoint issues, to discuss what they need to do better. Using Monday’s win as a launching point to execute on these words would seem to make sense. But then again, nothing this season really has.

 

 

 

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Solid run defense, shutdown coverage, and the amazing Joel Bitonio- Film Room http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/solid-run-defense-shutdown-coverage-amazing-joel-bitonio-film-room/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/solid-run-defense-shutdown-coverage-amazing-joel-bitonio-film-room/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 15:00:45 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135319 The Cleveland Browns bounced back after a tough loss to the Houston Texans by coming from behind to beat the Atlanta Falcons on a last-second field goal. It was a sloppy game for the Browns, but the team remained calm and came back to win the game with just under a minute to go. The

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The Cleveland Browns bounced back after a tough loss to the Houston Texans by coming from behind to beat the Atlanta Falcons on a last-second field goal. It was a sloppy game for the Browns, but the team remained calm and came back to win the game with just under a minute to go. The Browns defense was able to slow down the high-powered Falcon offense, allowing just 24 points. The defense held Matt Ryan and the Falcons to just 315 yards of offense in the game. It was another solid performance by the Browns defense, improving in multiple facets from last week’s subpar game versus the Texans. So in this week’s film room, I am going to focus on the solid run defense versus the Falcons, the continuing impressive pass coverage, and the play of the game by Joel Bitonio.

Take a seat and enjoy this week’s defensive film room. After you have read through my thoughts on this week’s game, let me know what you saw from the Browns defense this week. Roll the tape!

Cleveland Browns Film Room

Solid Run Defense 

The Browns have struggled defending against the run for pretty much all season. As I wrote in last week’s film room, the Browns defense has been deficient in many aspects causing the below average run defense. Two of those biggest aspects I illustrated last week were the lack of containment and the inability of the defensive line to penetrate to the backfield. But in this week’s win, the Browns showed glimpses of improvement in both of these areas. The improvement was key in the Browns holding the Falcons to only 63 yards rushing. Here are some examples of the improvements.

Improved Contain

Keeping contain is key to defending against rushes toward outside. In the Browns defense, the assignment of keeping contain on the end of the line is most often placed on the outside linebackers. Many times this year, the players in charge of the keeping contain have been too aggressive and shot down the line losing the edge allowing rushers to go outside. In the Falcons game on Sunday, the Browns were much better at containing the Falcons running backs, allowing just 23 yards on 12 carries toward the outside of the offensive tackles. Here is an example of the improved contain.

contain-full-play-compressor

This play was a 1st-and-10 situation midway through the second quarter. Here is how the Browns tackled running back Devonta Freeman for a four-yard loss.

contain preplay

The Falcons are lined up in a single back set with two receivers out wide to the left. The Falcons have an extra lineman and a tight end lined up on the right end of the line. It is a designed run to the right end of the line. The Browns have three defensive linemen down with an outside linebacker rushing on the end of either side of the line. The Browns have two inside linebackers in the box, too.

Kruger containment

As you can see here, outside linebacker Paul Kruger does an excellent job to seal off the edge, forcing Freeman to kick out wide. Kruger is key in making Freeman go sideways rather than up field.

kruger-contain-compressor

Kruger’s excellent push up field shut off the edge for Freeman, forcing him to keep running sideways. This gives the rest of the defense time to get to Freeman and tackle him for the loss. One player sticking to his assignment was the key to stopping the run for a loss. Containing is all about knowing your assignment and not being overly aggressive to get out of position. This is something the Browns can fix without a change in personnel or scheme.

Improved Defensive Line Penetration

The Browns defensive line has been very shaky throughout the season. Injuries up front have had a role in this below average play, but the players who have played have not been able to put pressure in the backfield to disrupt the play. The defensive line has not been able to get push or penetration to the backfield and have for the most part been very weak in staying stout to clog up the running lanes. But in this week’s game, the Browns defensive line showed glimpses of stout play even getting penetration to the backfield. Here is an example of this.

push-full-play-compressor

This play was a 1st-and-10 situation early in the fourth quarter. Here is how the Browns stopped running back Devonta Freeman for no gain.

better DL preplay

The Falcons are lined up in a single back set with three receivers in a bunch in the right slot. The Falcons also have a receiver out wide to the left. The Browns have two defensive linemen in the middle of the line with an outside linebacker on the end of either side of the line. The Browns also have an inside linebacker and a safety in the box.

winn-push-compressor

The penetration by defensive lineman Billy Winn was important in disrupting the running play. Winn gets to the backfield forcing Freeman to run more sideways then up field. Outside linebacker Paul Kruger also made Freeman go around because of his penetration (He also kept contain on the play!). These two players completely disrupted the running play making it develop longer giving the rest of the Browns defense the ability to get to the Freeman for the stop. As you can see in this play, penetration to the backfield is a huge factor in slowing down an opposing offense’s running attack.

The run defense was much better in this victory over the Falcons. The defenders stepped up and played stout against the Atlanta running game. But some of the improved run defense can be attributed to struggling Falcons running game. The Falcons’ rushing game this season ranks in the lower half of the league. So the Browns success in run defense this week cannot all be credited to the improvement of the Browns.

Continuing Impressive Pass Coverage

The Browns continued their very good pass coverage this week against the talented Atlanta passing game. The coverage over the last quarter or so of the season has been very good from the entire defense. The coverage by the entire secondary and linebackers has made it very difficult for the opposing quarterbacks to find receivers. The Browns defense ranks eighth in fewest receiving yards given up, tied for eighth in fewest passing touchdowns given up, and second in most interceptions. The defense has combined close coverage with defensive playmaking. Here are two examples of the great pass coverage.

skrine-full-play-compressor

This play is the first offensive play of the game for the Atlanta Falcons. Here is how the Browns were able to force an incompletion from quarterback Matt Ryan.

skrine preplay

The Falcons line up in I-Formation to the right with a receiver out wide on either side of the line. The offense also has a tight end on the right end of the line. The route that is targeted here is the curl route by receiver Roddy White. The Browns have man coverage on every pass catcher running a route. Safety Tashaun Gipson is covering Julio Jones underneath, while linebacker Craig Robertson is in zone coverage in the middle of the field. Safety Donte Whitner is in zone covering the receivers on the right side of the field.

all covered skrine

As you can see here, the Browns have every single target covered very closely. There is not a really great option here for Ryan, so he chooses White on the curl route.

skrine-on-ball-compressor

The finish to the play makes the defense so good in pass coverage. Skrine makes a great play on the ball to bat the ball away from White. His great shadowing ability puts him in the right position to make a play on the ball.

haden-full-play-compressor

This play is a 3rd-and-9 situation and the first play of the second quarter. Here is how the Browns forced an interception from quarterback Matt Ryan.

haden preplay

The Falcons are lined up in a shotgun formation with a running back to the left of the Ryan. Atlanta has three receivers on the right side of the line and a receiver on the left side of the line. The Browns are playing in a Cover Two with man coverage on every target in the passing game. The route that is targeted by Ryan in this play is the deep out route by receiver Julio Jones.

all covered haden

As you can see here, the five available receivers are all covered very tightly leaving Ryan only a drop off to the running back or forcing in a tight throw.

haden-on-ball-compressor

This is another great play by a Browns secondary player. Joe Haden makes an excellent play on the ball and intercepts the Ryan pass. The shadowing by Haden was so tight that he was in the right position to make a play on the ball.

The Browns pass coverage has been a combination of great shadowing and playmaking to make big plays for the team. Haden has been the true shutdown corner who got the big contract this past offseason. Skrine has looked very good lately playing tight coverage on his man. The emergence of K’Waun Williams has given the Browns three good corners to play man coverage. Justin Gilbert has played better in recent weeks, too.

The safety duo has also been very good for the Browns, especially Tashaun Gipson. His injury will be a huge loss to the secondary because of his ballhawking ability. Safety Donte Whitner will need to step up for the Browns and be the playmaker in the safety group. The linebackers, including Karlos Dansby, Craig Robertson, and Chris Kirksey, have all played pretty well in coverage throughout the season. These players make the Browns a tough team to throw against.

Joel Bitonio’s Play of the Game

As you can see here, offensive lineman Joel Bitonio comes from all the way on the other side of the field to make the saving tackle on the missed field goal. This play by Bitonio was the play of the game. It might have saved the game for the Browns and definitely gave head coach Mike Pettine a reprieve.

Defensive Highlight

The Browns defensive highlight of the game is cornerback Buster Skrine. Skrine has played very well over the last couple weeks of the season. He has really turned into a very good number two cornerback opposite of Joe Haden. On Sunday, Skrine was targeted seven times, giving up just five receptions for 34 yards, according to ProFootballFocus. On the day, he notched three tackles and two passes defended.

Defensive Lowlight

The Browns defensive lowlight of the game is the injury to safety Tashaun Gipson. Gipson has been the true playmaker for the Browns defense, leading the league in interceptions with six. He has been the Browns deep safety for the secondary, covering the backend of the defense. His lost will put more pressure on the other Browns’ secondary players to step up. He is just another loss for the depleted Browns defense.

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Panda, Headley, Gio, and the Hot Stove: While We’re Waiting… http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/pablo-sandoval-mlb-news-rumors-free-agency/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/pablo-sandoval-mlb-news-rumors-free-agency/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135311 Its the day before Thanksgiving and most of you aren’t working. Make sure that you all enjoy your holiday weekend and be safe. Think about what you are thankful for and appreciate it. If you read my piece from Monday about my late father, you know what I am talking about. Eat, drink, be merry,

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Its the day before Thanksgiving and most of you aren’t working. Make sure that you all enjoy your holiday weekend and be safe. Think about what you are thankful for and appreciate it. If you read my piece from Monday about my late father, you know what I am talking about. Eat, drink, be merry, and enjoy your family. I know I will. And I will be hammering food Thursday and Friday. See you at the gym Saturday morning!

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It is Hot Stove season in Baseball, boys and girls. It is also the silly season. For example, 92.3’s Chuck Booms and Kevin Kiley pitched an idea last week (I respect their time filling abilities on this one) that the Indians and Free Agent Third Baseman Pablo Sandoval would be a perfect match. On paper, of course The Panda would be exactly what the Tribe could use. He’s a switch hitting hot corner-man with a hot bat and a dynamic personality. Sandoval was beloved in San Francisco by the fans and his teammates.

Is George Costanza bucking for the assistant GM job again? “I’ve got a way for us to get Bonds and Griffey, and we wouldn’t even have to give up that much!”  In other words, Sandoval to the Indians was an all time pipe dream. The Indians aren’t going to swim in that pool again, especially with the Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn contracts on the books for two more years. The point is moot anyways because the Big Bad Boston Red Sox, the last place Boston Red Sox at that, have swooped in and thrown their money around. An agreement with Sandoval has been apparently agreed upon with would bring him to Beantown for five years and around $90 million. This came right around the same time that the Sox handed Hanley Ramirez, formerly of the Los Angeles Dodgers, four years and $88 million.

Boston, like the Yankees and Dodgers, can spend over mistakes while developing young talent simultaneously. Throwing out big contracts won’t hurt them. Just ask Yahoo! Sports baseball writer Jeff Passan:

Boston always will play in that market, even if the market doesn’t dovetail with its plans to avoid long-term deals with pitchers, because the Red Sox understand even in this offensively neutered environment, bats alone will not win championships. Such is the glory of being a big market in baseball. No matter how hard baseball tried to even the playing field, nothing short of a hard salary cap – which not only won’t happen but shouldn’t – will change the inequity.

Sandoval will take over at third base, which became a black hole with Will Middlebrooks struggling and Xander Bogaerts now the regular shortstop. Ramirez, a shortstop by trade who also played some third base, will most likely move to left field. This leaves the Sox LOADED with parts, some of which have to be moved. Boston needs starting pitching. Their rotation as it sits today is a bleep show. The talk is that they will package a few young players for Philadelphia left-hander Cole Hamels. Or they could send Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to Cincinnati for one of their starters who has one year left before free agency like Mat Latos or Johnny Cueto.

Could the Indians get involved? I could see it happening. More from Passan:

The Red Sox have David Ortiz at DH, Mike Napoli at first base, Dustin Pedroia at second base, Sandoval at third base, Christian Vazquez at catcher and the following players to fit among shortstop and three outfield spots: Ramirez, Yoenis Cespedes, Rusney Castillo, Mookie Betts, Allen Craig, Shane Victorino, Xander Bogaerts, Daniel Nava, Brock Holt, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Will Middlebrooks.

Would you sign up for Cesepedes for one year if it cost you Trevor Bauer or Danny Salazar? I don’t see that happening. Craig may cost you less and is intriguing. In St. Louis, Craig was a fantasic right-handed hitting bad, but defensively challenged. He was money in 2012 (.307/.354/.522/22 HR/92 RBI/2.3 WAR) and 2013 (.315/.373/.457/13 HR/97 RBI/2.6 WAR) but floundered last year (.215/.279/.315/ hR/46 RBI/-0.6 WAR) before being sent to Boston in the John Lackey deal. Unlike Cespedes, Craig is under contract for two more seasons and $20 million, plus a $13 million club option in 2017. If O could get the 12-13 version, sign me up. But can Craig put it back together? In addition, he would have to play right field here with Carlos Santana locked into first base. Craig makes Ryan Raburn look like a gold glover out there.

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It is just an idea, but I know the front office is looking at all options to improve this club within their means. Which brings me to Chase Headley.

The Indians and Headley have been linked in the past. They kicked the tires on him last winter and may be looking at him again now that he is a free agent. There is a rub though. He’s a free agent. Headley is a defensive wizard at third and played well in New York after being dealt over from the Padres. He has not been able to repeat his spectacular 2012 season where he hit 31 homers, drove in a NL leading 115 RBIs, won a Gold Glove, and posted a 6.4 WAR (top five in all of baseball). Like Sandoval, Headley is a switch hitter who would fit perfectly here.

The other tie in with The Panda and Headley hurts the Indians if they are indeed pursuing him. With Sandoval getting a reported $18 million per year and Hanley off the market, Headley is now the top free agent infield bat available. He has become Plan A now for many teams. The Indians are not going to be getting into a bidding war for anyone’s services in free agency.

For a look at Headley’s suitors, look no further than our old friend Anthony Castrovince. Here are his thoughts on the Tribe’s chances:

Indians: It’s hard to see the financials working unless the Indians move mountains (i.e., the Nick Swisher contract) or increase their payroll more than anticipated. But strictly from a defensive perspective, no team would benefit more from Headley’s arrival than the Tribe, which had 2014’s worst defensive performance by just about any objective metric.
Internally, the Indians still aren’t sure what they have in Lonnie Chisenhall, who had a very boom (.915 OPS in the first half) or bust (.591 OPS in the second) bat in 2014. Defensively, Chisenhall showed some improvement after taking over the position full-time from Carlos Santana, but the team still isn’t certain that he’s a lock to remain there long-term, and it’s hard to know if prospect Giovanny Urshela — a stud defender — is ready. The Indians believe they can make a run at the AL Central title behind their strong young starting pitching, but that pitching is going to need considerably more help from the infield defense.

You notice I am talking a lot about third baseman. So what about the incumbent third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall? Like Castrovince said, his second half was more of what we saw of him the previous couple of seasons. If you look at his body of work, the outlier seems to be his hot 2014 start. Plus, as you know, Lonnie’s glove leaves a lot to be desired. The Indians have been developing his replacement in their system; the afformentioned Giovanny Urshela.

The problem there isn’t really a problem, but more of a delay. Urshela was tearing Winter Ball in Venezuela, hitting .396 before injuring his knee sliding. There was  major concern that the ACL could be torn, but after returning to Cleveland, his MRI results came back clear of major damage, just a PCL sprain. He should be ready when Spring Training opens at the end of February.

The 23-year old Urshela is coming off a season that he split between Akron and Columbus and was one fo the organization’s top run producers. He will start the season in AAA, but his glove is Major League ready. An eventual left side of Francisco Lindor and Urshela will make us all forget quickly about the defensive bleep shows we saw the last few seasons with Asdrubal Cabrera and Chisenhall. The question is how soon?

It wouldn’t shock anyone if Chisenhall was a part of a package this winter to bring in either a right-handed stick or more pitching (you can never have enough). Either way, the Indians brass will continue to be creative in their hopes to improve this roster/

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Your Old School Hip Hop Track of the Week:

A Tribe Called Quest, to me, is the gold standard in Hip Hop. It doesn’t get much better. Their second and third albums – The Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders – are the subject of constant debate. They are 1 and 1A. To say one os better than the other is like trying to choose between two children. Gun to my head, if I could only choose one, I go with The Low End Theory, but maybe by a hair.

That said, the song I believe to be their best was off of Midnight Marauders. That track is none other than Electric Relaxation. Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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Ohio State Doesn’t Need Michigan’s Talent http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/michigan-football-nothing-without-ohio-2/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/michigan-football-nothing-without-ohio-2/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 18:24:09 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135279 Sports rivalries are a special thing. An attempt to justify their existence or pretend that they contribute anything meaningful to society is a completely fruitless exercise. Documentarians and generations past can rationalize the energy that teams and fans invest in disliking each other, often relying on a mostly-fabricated anecdote from the 1920s that likely involves a

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Sports rivalries are a special thing. An attempt to justify their existence or pretend that they contribute anything meaningful to society is a completely fruitless exercise. Documentarians and generations past can rationalize the energy that teams and fans invest in disliking each other, often relying on a mostly-fabricated anecdote from the 1920s that likely involves a cow or goat or something. Other excuses include territorial disputes, long-term battles for supremacy over a region and its resources, and divisiveness on friends and families. Most rivalries are chiefly the result of familiarity, geographical proximity, and high stakes.

But that doesn’t make devotion to rivalries any less ridiculous. Sports rivalries are an anachronism; part of a lifestyle that any civilized person shouldn’t take seriously. I’m a well-educated person—although you would never know it if you’ve seen me eat a bowl of chicken wings—and yet I can’t help myself from indulging in the fervor of sports rivalries. I don’t know why. All I know is this: I hate the University of Michigan’s football team, and I love that I hate them so much1.

Yes, yes, it’s exclusively “sports hate.” I don’t want anyone affiliated with the University of Michigan to fall down a mineshaft or into a well or anything heinous like that. The worst I would wish upon any Michigander is a mild case of indigestion. I respect them, but I mostly just hate them. It’s been this way for as long as I remember, and I can’t even remember how it began. There’s no sense in belaboring its “ranking” here, but by any measure the college football rivalry between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines is one of the greatest rivalries in sports. Attending Ohio State allowed me to institute my distaste for Michigan as a permanent part of my lifestyle, a responsibility that I’ve taken seriously.

In the trial on the ultimate supremacy of one over the other, both Ohio State and Michigan’s case-in-chief have a lot of evidence in their favor. Michigan’s football program has 889 wins, the most by any NCAA football team2. Ohio State claims seven national championships, while Michigan purports to have eleven championships—though only one since the discovery of the polio vaccine. Ohio State has won seven Rose Bowls, narrowly trailing Michigan’s eight. Michigan also has eight more Big Ten Championships, winning the conference a ridiculous 42 times. As far as individual awards go, Ohio State and Notre Dame are tied with the most Heisman trophy winners, and the Buckeyes brandish Archie Griffin as the only two-time winner of college football’s greatest individual award. Both program’s have a mass of consensus All-Americans, with 65 Wolverines earning the distinction and 59 Buckeyes doing the same.

As for the rivalry itself, Michigan presently totes what may be a rapidly expiring one-game advantage, leading the series 47-46-4. As far as recent trends go, interested viewers who grew up watching Nickelodeon cartoons only remember coach John Cooper’s Buckeyes being repeatedly embarrassed by Michigan throughout the 90s (Cooper went 2-10-1 against Michigan from 1988-2000) followed by Ohio State dominating 11-2 since Cooper’s banishment. Ohio State won the epic 2006 showdown when the clubs were the top two ranked teams in the sport.

As for the miscellaneous categories, “the Wolverines” may be a better nickname. “The Buckeyes” has a certain charm as a nickname, as long as you don’t actually think too much about what a buckeye actually is. Michigan has the better academic reputation (though Ohio State has become an excellent public school in its own right) but Michigan is far too undeservedly pretentious about this fact, canceling out any goodwill they ought to receive from it.

I’m admittedly biased in certain categories. Michigan’s winged helmets and maize and blue uniforms are odious and nauseating, though many people would disagree on this point. Ohio State’s uniforms blend a classic look with a tasteful and distinct color combo, along with the best pride sticker in sports. I can admit that Michigan has an objectively good fight song, though I’m personally repulsed by it and the mere sound of it requires me to suppress homicidal rage. Ohio State’s band is clearly better (they animated a 50-yard-tall galloping horse out of people. There’s no sense arguing over the better bar scene, campus food, drinking prowess, or other miscellaneous college traditions, because it’s too personal for any rational debate to be viable3.

But for those with an awareness of the programs’ histories, there’s a persistent flaw in logic for the University of Michigan’s case as the superior football program. It starts as a geographical curiosity but steadily grows into an unavoidable and insurmountable hurdle. For instance, a young Ohio State or Michigan fan hears the story about how Ohio State coach Woody Hayes made a conscious effort to increase the animosity in the rivalry. His worthy adversary was Michigan coach Bo Schembechler. Woody, almost as a given, was born in Ohio—Clifton, to be exact. Schembechler, on the other hand, was a former Hayes assistant born in Barberton . . . Barberton, Ohio. Maybe this is nothing more than an interesting bit of trivia. Maybe it’s something more.

Then there’s the matter of Desmond Howard. Michigan wide receiver Desmond Howard tortured the Buckeyes in the early 90s, famously striking the Heisman pose after a touchdown in a 31-3 bashing of Ohio State weeks before capturing the vaunted trophy himself. Desmond Howard was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and attended St. Joseph High School. What about Charles Woodson, another Heisman Trophy winner from Michigan that led the Wolverines to the 1997 National Championship? Woodson is a native of Fremont, Ohio ((To be fair, Fremont, Ohio is awfully close to Toledo, which some Ohioans would consider no better than a Michigan outpost.)).

Before long, Michigan’s disdain for Ohio starts to seem like a recurring defect in reasoning. One starts to hear casual in-game references to “so-and-so from Canton, Ohio” making a tackle or “number whatever from Cleveland” catching passes on Michigan’s behalf. This year, De’Veon Smith of Warren, Ohio, is Michigan’s leading rusher with 515 yards. Third leading tackler safety Jarrod Wilson is from Akron. That’s two 330-ers making a big impact for the Wolverines. Even soon-to-be head coach of a MAC school Brady Hoke hails from Ohio, but he coaches the Wolverines. Is Michigan’s hate for Ohio totally contrived? I endeavored to learn just how indebted the University of Michigan is to the state of Ohio for its success in football, with some revealing results.

We already know all-time Michigan greats like Charles Woodson and Desmond Howard were born and raised in Ohio, but there should be a significant number of Ohioans on Michigan’s current roster if Ohio State fans are going to harass Michigan for siphoning greatness from Ohio. The University of Michigan football team entered this season with 24 players whose hometown is in the Buckeye State4. This is much less than 44 native Michiganders, but still a generous sum. Meanwhile, Ohio State has 67 natives on the team, compared to one lone football player from Michigan.

From 2010-2014, Michigan has had 18 different juniors who call Ohio home5. This is the second most of any state, trailing only Michigan itself. Ohio State has had only two juniors from Michigan since 2010, a meager showing by their rival state. These trends go back some time. The charts below break down how each school’s roster has been constructed over the last 15 seasons. 17 percent of Michigan’s roster has been Ohio talent, three times more than any external state. In the same time, Michiganders have only constituted two percent of Ohio State’s roster.

Data source: ESPN.com.

Data source: ESPN.com.

But regular, ordinary appearances on the roster hardly tell the whole story. No one goes on Youtube to watch someone flip through a souvenir program. So, let’s answer the question, Who puts the points on the board and the butts in the seats? To determine this, I examined every single offensive yard accounted for, tackle made, and fumble or interception created from 2010-2014 by anyone wearing an Ohio State or Michigan uniform6. I then calculated what essentially was a fantasy football score for every player, assigning a point value to each record-able stat7. This is a fair representation of every player’s meaningful contribution to the team. Each state was then given a score totaled from its players’ production, signifying every state’s bottom line contribution to the team’s success. The results are summarized in the charts below.

Data sources: sports-reference.com/cfb and ESPN.com.

Data sources: sports-reference.com/cfb and ESPN.com.

One noticeable fact from the chart is that in each case their in-state talent produces less than their share based on roster proportion. This makes sense: teams recruit more talented players outside the state. Otherwise, why bother going elsewhere. The idea is to keep premium talent in the state, while bringing exceptional talent from outside the state to maximize team potential. But while Ohioans account for nearly half of Ohio State’s total production, Michigan only receives 36 percent of its production from players produced in-state. Ohio’s share of production for Michigan actually exceeds its portion of the roster, indicating that Michigan recruits Ohioans with the hopes of them being valuable players. Michigan relies on Ohio to provide nearly one quarter of its total production, narrowly trailing only Florida, a state bountiful with skill positions. Michigan-bred talent only meets two percent of Ohio State’s needs, a trivial contribution that only narrowly exceeds football powerhouses Missouri and Virginia. Michigan is significantly more reliant on their hated enemies— nearly twelve times more reliant, to approximate Michigan’s dependency on Ohio. The chart below shows the top ten most productive states for each school.

Data sources: sports-reference.com/cfb and ESPN.com.

Data sources: sports-reference.com/cfb and ESPN.com.

Not only does the University of Michigan need Ohio to play its football, but also to teach it how to play its football. Between Michigan legend Schembechler, Gary Moeller, and Brady Hoke, Ohio-born head coaches have coached nearly one-third of Michigan’s 889 wins, the most of any state. Regrettably, only 54 percent of Ohio State’s wins have come with Ohioans at the helm. But at least they’ve never had a coach from Michigan8.

head.coach

These numbers demonstrate fairly convincingly that the the Wolverine football program is largely built by Ohio natives. They confirm what Cris Carter and Chris Spielman said in the HBO documentary The Rivalry. Carter said, “We believe the football in Ohio is a lot better. So the quality of the players are better.” Spielman echoed the point: “Where would Michigan be without players from Ohio? It wouldn’t be where it is today.”

University of Michigan football is very much an Ohio product while Ohio State is very self-sufficient for a premiere program9.

Michigan is an imported program, relying on Ohio for nearly a quarter of its production. It’s like if Biggie sampled a Tupac song in a track dissing his West Coast rap rival. Michigan is so dependent on Ohio to maintain its status that it undermines arguments made for its supremacy over Ohio State. The University of Michigan’s football team needs Ohio, while Ohio State could make up Michigan’s difference with a collection of used appliances10. Ohio natives win Michigan’s Heismans, coach for their wins, make up their rosters, and contribute significantly to their offensive and defensive statistical totals11.

Case in point for emphasis: Ohio State fans have a song they like to sing leading up to the Michigan game and during the Michigan game, but also throughout the rest of the year for no apparent reason. The song (and its general gist) is “We Don’t Give a Damn for the Whole State of Michigan.” It rings out in Ohio Stadium, in tailgate parking lots, in homes, in bars, and anywhere inebriated Ohio State fans gather. It’s fun, and Ohio State fans thoroughly enjoy singing it. And the reason it’s so funny and entertaining is the sincerity and enthusiasm with which they sing it. Wow, these people really do not give a single damn about the state of Michigan. The whole thing! Michigan doesn’t have as catchy a song about the State of Ohio. Because while Ohio doesn’t give a damn for the whole state of Michigan, the whole state of Michigan, the whole state of Michigan, Michigan can’t win much without Ohio.

 

  1. I’m willing to bet Michigan fans don’t think very highly of me, either.
  2. Ohio State has 750 wins, although only 738 wins “count” because of some very costly tattoos. For what it’s worth, Michigan has only 729 wins since Ohio State’s football program began in earnest in 1913, compared to Ohio State’s 744 wins. Ohio State’s win totals also exceed Michigan’s over the last 50, 25, ten, five, and one season stretches. But yes, for the record, the 1898 Wolverines did go 10-0.
  3. Although I defy anyone to listen to Carmen Ohio and not get a little nostalgic.
  4. Or listed as in Buckeye State, anyway. All roster information from 2010-2014 was obtained from ESPN. The results relied on the first roster ESPN posted in September of each season, as the early September roster should adequately represent the team’s roster for the season. For pre-2010 rosters, I used FOX Sports. ESPN’s data is more complete and accurate with regard to each player’s class, but FOX’s should not affect a state’s prevalence and the data was used sparingly nonetheless.
  5. Junior classmen were used because they were upperclassmen who showed a three-year commitment to the program, were probably a contributing member of the team, and were less likely able to go to the NFL as both programs’ most promising athletes will do if there is an immediate opportunity for them to succeed professionally.
  6. I also looked at some special team categories. All this information was obtained via Sports-Reference’s college football page. The data is current through November 8th, so it is missing Michigan’s game against Maryland and Ohio State’s games against Minnesota and Indiana.
  7. The scoring broke down as follows: one point per 20 passing yards; one point per 10 receiving, rushing, or return yards; one point per tackle; an additional one point if it were a tackle for loss; an additional two points per sack; four points per turnover obtained; one point per five points kicked; and six points per touchdown, regardless of context. There’s no sense lessening a quarterback’s contribution by only giving him four points per passing touchdown (like most fantasy scoring systems do). Some would say this scoring system overrates a defensive player’s contribution, but unlike fantasy football, defense is every bit as important as offense, so a point was given for every tackle. If only there were a better way to quantitatively value offensive linemen.
  8. Fun fact, both schools owe significant chunks of wins to coaches from Tennessee, with both Lloyd Carr running Michigan throughout the 90s at the same time Ohio State had John Cooper (shaking head in sadness).
  9. You can look at the geographic spread of the different categories this article examines on an interactive chart here, if you feel like playing around with it. I would be really interested to see how other programs stack up. My hunch: Texas and Florida schools are more self-sufficient than Ohio State, while most SEC teams recruit throughout the region, not overwhelmingly from one state.
  10. Vernon Gholston is an exception to this sentiment. Gholston is a Detroit native who was a destructive force as defensive end and sack machine at Ohio State. He tallied 22.5 sacks at OSU, 14.0 in 2007 alone.
  11. This is probably a significant fact for both schools going forward, and may exacerbate current trends. As the U.S. population and football talent moves south and west, Michigan will likely suffer more if Ohio State continues to gobble up the best in-state recruits. Ohio football cannot sustain the region as well as it once did. Michigan’s recent struggles reflect what the whole Big Ten is confronting. I think Michigan can turn things around, and hope they do. It’s bad for the Big Ten and Ohio State if Michigan struggles to be bowl eligible.

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Cleveland Browns vs. Atlanta Falcons: Behind the Box Score http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/cleveland-browns-vs-atlanta-falcons-behind-box-score/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/cleveland-browns-vs-atlanta-falcons-behind-box-score/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 16:15:03 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135292 Brian Hoyer’s two late, fourth-quarter interceptions nearly gave the game to the Atlanta Falcons as Matt Bryant connected on a 53-yard field goal to give Atlanta the lead with just under 50 seconds to play. But Hoyer rebounded in the final minute, completing four straight passes, and engineering a flawless hurry-up offense to set up Billy Cundiff’s

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Brian Hoyer’s two late, fourth-quarter interceptions nearly gave the game to the Atlanta Falcons as Matt Bryant connected on a 53-yard field goal to give Atlanta the lead with just under 50 seconds to play. But Hoyer rebounded in the final minute, completing four straight passes, and engineering a flawless hurry-up offense to set up Billy Cundiff’s game winning 37-yard field goal. WFNY goes beyond the 26-24 Browns’ win and dives in behind the box score.

2 – Brian Hoyer continues to struggle mightily when under pressure, ranking only ahead of Blake Bortles, Geno Smith, and Eli Manning in terms of completion percentage on throws that are pressured. Last week against Houston, Hoyer was 4-of-17 on passes when he was under duress, and against Atlanta things the Browns’ quarterback continued to struggle. Hoyer saw less pressure against the Falcons and completed a higher percentage of his throws on such plays, going 4-for-9, but threw two near fatal interceptions. Life is difficult for NFL quarterbacks when they’re staring down the gun barrel at an impending rush, but it’s also when the great quarterbacks distinguish themselves from the mediocre quarterbacks. Hoyer doesn’t have to be special when facing pressure for the Browns to win, but he has to eliminate the critical mistakes.

15 – Josh Gordon racked up a team- and Browns’ season-high 15 targets in his return on Sunday. From the early goings Hoyer made it clear he wouldn’t dare dream of being accused of underusing his Pro Bowl receiver. Coach Mike Pettine spoke last week in regards to the need for his quarterback not to force feed the returning Gordon.

“We just have to careful with Brian when Josh is out there so he doesn’t develop tunnel vision, that the ball goes to where the read takes him because, obviously, I think Atlanta’s well aware of Josh and his ability and will set their plans accordingly.”

Pettine’s fears were realized as Hoyer was locked in on Gordon the whole day. On numerous occasions the Browns’ quarterback and his star receiver were clearly on different pages, but can you really blame Hoyer for trying to get Gordon the ball? After throwing to the scat pack of Hawkins, Gabriel, and Benjamin all year long the number 12 on the front of Gordon’s jersey might as well have been a bullseye for Hoyer.

80 – Another reason to throw it to Josh Gordon as often as possible is that he’s really, really good. Gordon’s 120 yards were a season high for any Browns receiver, and what makes Gordon’s contributions that much more special is that 80 of his yards were after the catch. Get the ball in Gordon’s hands and good things will happen. The Browns ran a little rocket screen to Gordon to perfection on several occasions. Hoyer gets it out of his hand quick, Bitonio and Thomas shoot down field to block, and Gordon uses his size and speed to churn up yards and rack up the first down. Look for the Browns to continue to utilize this play until someone proves they can stop it.

8 – Following his two sacks on Matt Ryan, Paul Kruger now has eight sacks on the year, putting him on pace to be the first Browns’ pass rusher in double digits since Kamerion Wimbley’s rookie season back in 2006. Along with his two sacks in Atlanta, Kruger added a hurry and a hit on Matt Ryan. Kruger has split time rushing from the left and right sides of the line, but has found more success coming from the left and thus going up against opposing team’s right tackles. The man with the fluffiest mullet in football ranks 20th among outside linebackers in pure pass rush rating1) from the right side and 12th among outside linebackers from the left. Kruger isn’t consistently dominant week in and week out, but as shown against the likes of Oakland, New Orleans, Atlanta, and during the Ravens’ super bowl run that he possesses the skills to severely impact a game.

19% – Justin Gilbert made one of the biggest plays of the game, batting down Matt Ryan’s pass to Devin Hester on 3rd-and-2 with just 55 seconds to play. Gilbert’s play ensured the Browns’ offense time to retaliate after Matt Bryant’s 53-yard field goal. The Browns’ No. 1 draft pick has steadied his play of late, but in the process has seen his play time drop dramatically. Gilbert has only been on the field for 19% of the defensive snaps in the last three games, allowing the rookie to ease into his role. With Gilbert’s snaps on defense limited, and the Browns lacking a weapon at punt returner, the question remains as to why the return specialist at Oklahoma State has yet to get a chance returning punts in the NFL.

Justin Gilbert's game by game grades according to Pro Football Focus

Justin Gilbert’s game by game grades according to Pro Football Focus

11 - Joe Thomas and Joel Bitonio are Hawaii  Phoenix bound. No left tackle in the league has been better in 2014 than Joe Thomas and only the All-World left guard of Baltimore, Marshall Yanda, has been better at left guard than Bitonio. The Browns continue to find success mashing behind their hogs on the left side, piling up eleven yards carry on runs to the left against Atlanta, including both Crowell touchdowns. In addition to his mauling run blocking, Bitonio changed the game with his touchdown saving tackle on the greatest return man of all time, Devin Hester, as Hester attempted to return Bill Cundiff’s missed field goal at the end of the first half.

4th - Brian Hoyer has arguably been the 4th best quarterback in the AFC North. Andy Dalton was disastrous in the Bengals’ loss to the Browns, Flacco was rough in their loss to Cincy, but over the course of the whole season the Red Rocket and Joe Cool may have been more steady than the Cleveland Kid. One thing is clear though, Big Ben has been in a different stratosphere than Hoyer, Dalton, and Flacco.

Roethlisberger game by game grades according to Pro Football Focus

Roethlisberger game by game grades according to Pro Football Focus

Flacco game by game grades according to Pro Football Focus

Flacco game by game grades according to Pro Football Focus

Dalton game by game grades according to Pro Football Focus

Dalton game by game grades according to Pro Football Focus

Hoyer game by game grades according to Pro Football Focus

Hoyer game by game grades according to Pro Football Focus

  1. (Sacks+.75*hits+.75*hurries)/number of rushes

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Pettine says Johnny Manziel could play Sunday http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/johnny-manziel-cleveland-browns-news/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/johnny-manziel-cleveland-browns-news/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 15:45:42 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135302 When Doug Brown of Scene broke the Johnny Manziel story, it appeared pretty bad for Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel. Much like Ray Farmer said, it’s always disappointing when one of your players finds themselves in the wrong kind of news. But the more we get to know the other party involved in the Manziel fracas, the

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When Doug Brown of Scene broke the Johnny Manziel story, it appeared pretty bad for Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel. Much like Ray Farmer said, it’s always disappointing when one of your players finds themselves in the wrong kind of news. But the more we get to know the other party involved in the Manziel fracas, the more it seems like this isn’t much of a Johnny Manziel issue. The Browns obviously know a lot more than we do, and they’ve apparently determined as much as well.

Mike Pettine spoke to ESPN’s Mike and Mike this morning and indicated that based on what they’ve seen and heard that there’s no reason that Manziel wouldn’t be available to play this weekend when the Browns go to Buffalo. Pettine also added his impressions of Manziel in the building are still good.

“I’ve had a talk with Johnny,” Pettine said. “He was very up-front with us and notified us immediately when it occurred. As far as in the building, he’s been a true professional, he’s done everything that’s been asked of him, but obviously this is something that’s unfortunate.”

Of course the fact that Johnny Manziel hasn’t been eliminated as a viable option on Sunday means very little. Manziel is still firmly behind Brian Hoyer on the quarterback depth chart as the Browns head down the stretch of the season trying to prove to the world that they’re capable of making the playoffs.

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Tashaun Gipson’s loss leaves a big gap in the Browns defense http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/nfl-injury-news-tashaun-gipson-cleveland-browns/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/nfl-injury-news-tashaun-gipson-cleveland-browns/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:45:24 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135266 The Cleveland Browns have had many injuries on the defensive side of the ball this season, but none may be bigger than the loss of free safety Tashaun Gipson. Amidst this Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons, Gipson injured his MCL and possibly the PCL, according to head coach Mike Pettine. The injury occurred early in the

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The Cleveland Browns have had many injuries on the defensive side of the ball this season, but none may be bigger than the loss of free safety Tashaun Gipson. Amidst this Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons, Gipson injured his MCL and possibly the PCL, according to head coach Mike Pettine. The injury occurred early in the fourth quarter when Gipson collided with teammate Joe Haden defending a pass to wide receiver Julio Jones, leading to a penalty on Haden and salt in the wounds with Gipson as he was carted off of the field.

“I didn’t see him until we hit,” Haden would say of his collision with Gipson. “We were both just making a great play on the ball.”

Pettine announced on Monday that Gipson’s recovery timetable to return from the injury will last close to or at the end of the regular season. This timetable is making the team weigh whether or not to place the safety on the IR ending his season as he could potentially return for the playoffs. But for the foreseeable future, the Browns will be without one of their best defenders.

This injury is a huge blow to the Browns’ defense. Tashaun Gipson has played at a Pro Bowl level this season and really has emerged as one of the best safeties in the league. Gipson is the league leader in interceptions this season with six interceptions. He has been a true ballhawk for the Browns secondary. According to ProFootballFocus, Gipson has graded out so far this season as the best Browns defensive player (+10.3). He is also graded as the best Browns defensive player in pass coverage (+8.5).

Tashaun Gipson is oftentimes in charge of the deep safety duties, covering the backend of Browns defense, posing as the team’s center fielder. His assignment as the deep safety is to read the offense and be in the right position to help his fellow corners in coverage. His loss will put more pressure on the Browns cornerbacks to stay with their man, something that has proven to be an issue during times where the defensive front has lacked penetration. Alas, the team may need to adjust their defensive play calling because of Gipson’s absence.

The player who will need to step up the most with Gipson out is his fellow safety Donte Whitner. Whitner has played well this season, but he has not made the big plays like Gipson has. He could be called to help more in coverage because of this injury.

So far this season, Whitner has lined up as the strong safety and been more involved in the run defense rather than the coverage down field. The Cleveland native may be called on to be more of a ballhawk and make plays for the Browns defense in the pass defense. Though because of the struggling run defense, the team may choose to leave Whitner in his same role to help out the struggling run defense and count on the next man stepping up in Gipson’s absence.

In replace of Gipson, the Browns will most likely use a combination of safeties Jordan Poyer and Jim Leonhard. Leonhard may get more snaps because of his experience and familiarity of Pettine’s defensive system. He has played limited snaps for the Browns so far this season as the third safety. Poyer is a younger option for the Browns and someone who has shown promise in playing time during the preseason. But even with these two players, the Browns will not be able to match the level of play that Tashaun Gipson has played at this season.

Can they fill the void left by No. 39? They certainly have big cleats to fill.

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Giving thanks to you, While We’re Waiting http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/giving-thanks-waiting/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/giving-thanks-waiting/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 14:34:09 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135294 Happy Tuesday WFNY! I can already smell the turkey, and the dressing, and the potatoes and gravy, and the ham, and the pie. I love Thanksgiving! It’s truly the best. You get together with family, friends, and loved ones and together you prepare a massive feast and you share in some good food, good conversation,

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Happy Tuesday WFNY!

I can already smell the turkey, and the dressing, and the potatoes and gravy, and the ham, and the pie. I love Thanksgiving! It’s truly the best. You get together with family, friends, and loved ones and together you prepare a massive feast and you share in some good food, good conversation, and laughs. And then you sit down to watch some football for as long as you can hold off the tryptophan1 and enter that beautiful Thursday afternoon football nap. And then you wake up and you eat a little more.

So yes, I love Thanksgiving. I love getting back together with my parents and siblings, seeing my nieces and nephew, and getting together with grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins. But this year, I will take a second to appreciate all of my blessings a little bit more. If by some chance you missed TD’s piece yesterday on his father, please do TD, myself, and yourself a favor and go back and read it.

Life is precious, and life is fragile. We tend to get so wrapped up in our day to day lives, worrying about jobs and bills, thinking about what Black Friday deals we need to make sure we hit up. But life is really about the relationships within our lives. The bonds between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons.

Beyond just our family, we have extended relationships across all walks of life. We have childhood friends, college buddies, our inner circle of friends whom we explicitly trust, and work associates and friends. My favorite thing about WFNY is that relationships are at the core of this site. I truly appreciate and care about every single person who writes for this site. I’ve developed immensely meaningful friendships with so many of the guys who wear or have worn the WFNY badge. And I also cherish the relationship with those of you who choose to take time out of your day to comment on this site and to give us feedback and engage us in discourse on the topics of the day. We may not always see eye to eye on everything, but I mean it when I say that I appreciate each and every one of you. And those who faithfully and dutifully read this site every day but don’t comment on the articles, I see you too. You show up on our radar every day when we look at site statistic reports and I thank each and every one of you for your continued support.

So thank you. Each and every one of you. If you are reading this, I consider you a friend and I wish nothing but health and happiness for you and your loved ones as you enjoy this holiday weekend!

*****

What’s up with the Cavaliers?

I’m feeling off. It’s weird, the Browns are 7-4, the Cavaliers have LeBron James back along with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and the Indians just put together consecutive winning seasons. As Cleveland sports fan, it rarely gets much better than this. Yet while Cleveland sports teams are riding high, I’m in a bit of a valley as a fan. I’ve had a lot going on in my day to day life that has occupied a lot of my thoughts lately, and sports are being squeezed out. And I hate it.

So I’m making a conscious effort to get back into just enjoying sports for what they are a little more. As a Cavs fan, it’s easy to be frustrated and angry right now. But I find myself feeling more confused than anything else right now. I have no logical explanation for what I’ve seen so far out of this team.

We knew the Cavaliers would be a good offensive team, right? They are 6th in Offensive Efficiency, which is pretty good obviously. But they are 12th in points per game. They are 9th in 3P%, but 20th in overall FG%. They are 17th in 3-Point Attempt Rate. They are 16th in eFG% (a stat which gives weight to the fact that 3-Point shots are worth one more point). They are playing at a staggeringly slow pace, 20th in the league.

All of this tells me a couple of things. First of all, they’re not running an offense right now. They aren’t generating enough 3-Point shots and they aren’t using enough ball movement and off-ball cuts to create easy baskets. These are very fixable problems. This tells me that the offense will be ok in the end. There’s just too much talent here. Once they start to trust each other and get more comfortable with each other, the movement will increase, the pace will pick up, and defenses will start to move to try to adjust, which will open up more easy baskets.

The defense, on the other hand, is another story. And this is where the real problem with this team lies. In a game like last night, where the Cavaliers were getting blocks and steals and forcing their opponent into tough shots and misses, it was opening up the offense for everyone. Good offense doesn’t always lead to good defense in basketball, but it usually works pretty well in the other direction. The Cavaliers need to get stops to keep up their energy on offense. Because when this team is engaged, they are next to impossible to stop.

*****

Between the short week and covering the Cavaliers game last night, this is going to be a short WWW today. But I want to end today’s edition by reiterating to everyone how thankful all of us here at WFNY are to you guys for reading this site. It means a lot to us and it allows us to continue down this journey, which is truly a labor of love and passion. So thank you.

Be safe out there this weekend. If you are travelling, please have a safe journey. If you are hosting, please have fun. And in general, I truly hope everyone has the best Thanksgiving ever! Until next week, have a great one!

  1. And before a bunch of Web MD doctors and Snopes sleuths come running in here, yes, I know that tryptophan in turkey isn’t the reason we’re tired after Thanksgiving feast. It’s from engorging ourselves with so much food that our body needs to go into overtime to digest everything. And the alcohol doesn’t hurt, either.

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Cavaliers vs Magic Behind the Box Score: Baby Steps http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/cavaliers-vs-magic-behind-box-score-baby-steps/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/cavaliers-vs-magic-behind-box-score-baby-steps/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 02:43:12 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135273 Orlando Magic 74 Cleveland Cavaliers 106 [Box Score] I know what a lot of people are thinking. What’s the big deal? The Cavaliers are a much better team than the Orlando Magic. They’re supposed to win a game like this. But man, the Cavaliers needed this one. We heard all offense about how effective this

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Orlando Magic 74
Cleveland Cavaliers 106
[Box Score]

I know what a lot of people are thinking. What’s the big deal? The Cavaliers are a much better team than the Orlando Magic. They’re supposed to win a game like this. But man, the Cavaliers needed this one.

We heard all offense about how effective this offense was supposed to be. We knew the defense would struggle, but the offense and the talent level at the top was supposed to rise above. So far this season, the offense has been a bit of a mess much of the time and the defense has been as bad as some had feared.

Tonight, though, the Cavaliers showed really great energy and focus and finally put together another good game from start to finish on both ends of the court. The Cavaliers extended their lead every single quarter in this one, from 10 at the end of the first to 18 at the half to 23 at the end of the third to 32 at the end of the game. You can point to the opponent all you want, but the Cavaliers have played poorly against teams of all types and makeups. Nothing should be taken for granted at this point in the season with the way this team has played. It’s just a matter now of whether or not the team can maintain this level of play on a more consistent basis.

Now lets get into the numbers…

  • 51.2% to 33.3% – The Cavaliers certainly aren’t strangers to getting off to quick starts. We’ve seen the Cavaliers get off to plenty of early leads, only to see them suddenly either stop doing what’s working or else fail to adjust to their opponents’ adjustments. In this game, the Cavaliers managed to stay engaged and shot 51.2% from the field while holding the Magic to just 33.3% shooting. The Cavaliers were pretty active on offense, getting 15 assists on their 22 baskets in the first half as they took a 56-38 lead into halftime. Again, it’s tempting to write this off as things that should happen every game, but with the way this season has gone, you have to look at this stuff as positives in any context.
  • 22 – LeBron scored 22 points in the first half as he seemed determined to back up his pre-game talk about needing to play better. This is the type of leadership that will benefit this team. Not the passive attempts at proving some kind of point. LeBron was aggressive scoring, but he was also setting up teammates and communicating to the team both on and off the court. LeBron finished this game with 29 points on 17 shots with 11 assists and 4 rebounds, all while taking the fourth quarter off. It cannot be stressed enough, for the Cavaliers to continue to grow, develop, and work their way into a contender, they need this version of LeBron James. This is an absolute confidence builder for the whole team for sure, but confidence is only as good as your last game played. Now the Cavaliers need to continue to build on this and LeBron needs to continue to exert his leadership and to change the culture of this team. This game was a great first step in the right direction.
  • 10 – Coming out of the half, one of the things I was most curious to see was how the Cavaliers would respond to their good first half. Would they maintain their energy? Would they extend the lead? Or would they come out flat and give the Magic some hope? Early on, it looked like Victor Oladipo was going to will the Magic back into the game, as he scored the Magic’s first three baskets of the third quarter, followed by a Vucevic layup and the Magic had the lead down to twelve. But Anderson Varejao would come to the rescue. Andy missed his first shot of the quarter, but then he made four huge shots in a row to allow the Cavaliers to maintain their lead. He scored ten points total in the quarter and his energy absolutely set the tone for the team as they pushed their lead to 23 at the end of the third. With so much pressure on the “Big 3” this season, it was good to see Andy show some of his old form we’ve seen from him the past few seasons as he has steadily improved his all around offensive game.
  • 53 – The “other” Cavaliers, meaning the guys not named LeBron James, Kevin Love, or Kyrie Irving had 53 points in this game. It was nice seeing other guys find ways to contribute to the team. It also allowed the Cavaliers to rest the starters for much of the fourth quarter. Anderson Varejao finished with fourteen points and Shawn Marion added nine, while five players scored off the bench including Lou Amundson and James Jones. When you consider that the Magic only scored 74 points total, it means the Cavaliers’ “Big 3” only need to make up 21 points combined to secure the win. Of course, LeBron did that and more himself.
  • 4 – To start the 4th quarter, the Magic had four turnovers including a pair of steals by Kyrie Irving and another one for Will Cherry. The turnovers led to seven points for the Cavaliers as they extended the lead to 30 and really set the tone that there would be no comeback in this game. After so many games in which the Cavaliers seemed to put themselves to sleep, it was just refreshing to see them keep up the activity on the defensive end to setup some easy offense the other way. The Cavaliers had a total of 14 steals and 9 blocked shots, scoring 25 points off turnovers. They had 30 assists on 42 made field goals. This was just such a quality team effort from top to bottom.

Sure, it’s just the Orlando Magic. The Cavaliers only did exactly what they’re supposed to do. They dominated a home game against a weaker opponent from start to finish. This isn’t anything to go overboard celebrating, nor should anyone proclaim an end to the team’s struggles. However, the Magic came into this game with one more win on the season than the Cavaliers. With the way the Cavaliers have played, they can’t take any team for granted. So sure, this was a good win. This was one of those nights where we saw the team laughing again and having a good time. It was refreshing.

But Wednesday everything starts over from scratch as the Cavaliers take on the Washington Wizards again. For the Cavs, they need to figure out how to build on this, not use it as evidence that everything is back to “normal”. It’s time for this team to start putting things together and to start stringing together some nice win streaks and to start avoiding back to back losses.

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Johnny Manziel’s friends decked a touchy-feely fan on Friday http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/nfl-news-johnny-manziel-police-report-douchebagbeatdown/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/nfl-news-johnny-manziel-police-report-douchebagbeatdown/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 19:24:26 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135259 Well, this is one way to celebrate a Victory Monday. The folks over at Cleveland Scene have obtained a police report that indicates that an intoxicated fan saw Johnny Manziel late Friday night and decided he wanted to “hug” the rookie quarterback. The process didn’t unfold as the fan apparently liked as he was soon

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Well, this is one way to celebrate a Victory Monday. The folks over at Cleveland Scene have obtained a police report that indicates that an intoxicated fan saw Johnny Manziel late Friday night and decided he wanted to “hug” the rookie quarterback. The process didn’t unfold as the fan apparently liked as he was soon provided a “swollen lip, right eye swollen, red face.”

The entire incident reportedly happened at The 9, a downtown Cleveland complex in which Manziel (and plenty other local athletes) allegedly lives.

The alleged victim, 33-year-old Sandusky resident Chris Gonos, reported to police that he and his girlfriend spotted Manziel while waiting for an elevator at the high-end apartment complex, where many Cleveland professional athletes live, and professed his love to the rookie quarterback.

Gonos told police he pointed Manziel out to his girlfriend: “That’s Johnny Manziel.” Then he approached him.

According to the report, “at this time victim stated to the unidentified male, ‘I’m the biggest Browns fan ever, I love you, I want to give you a hug.'”

Gonos stepped towards Manziel and was promptly punched in the face, the alleged victim’s account to police says, followed by a beat down by Manziel’s crew, giving the man a “swollen lip, right eye swollen, red face.” A security guard intervened and also was hurt.

So, for those keeping score, a 33-year-old told a 21-year-old that he loves him and asked for a hug, and was then promptly put in his place.

Scene also has comments from Gonos, who admitted that he started the entire fracas.

“Yeah, it actually all started through me. We had a room – it was my brother’s birthday — so we were staying at the Metropolitan at the 9. We partied there, and at the end of the night I was going back up to my room, and I noticed the guy. I was like, ‘Man, that’s Johnny Manziel.’ They were trying to keep it quiet, keep it low, and I was like ‘Johnny Football!’ I was just excited. But anyways, I went to give him like a handshake, or dap or whatever you want to call it, one of his buddies like tackled me. It was going down, a whole bunch of people started fighting. It ended pretty quick.” …

“No [one was arrested], like 20 officers came and I was sitting in the lobby because I did not do anything wrong but be a fan. All these cops run into the lobby, and they’re like, “Who was fighting, who was fighting?” and I just raised my hand, and was like, listen, watch the camera, and stuff like that. I may be guilty of being a fan, but that’s about it.

Gonos also claims that one of his friends “smashed” Manziel in the face and that they were attentively watching Sunday’s game to see if any marks were visible. So much for the “love” thing.

The Browns have also issued a statement saying that they are “aware of the incident and are in the process of gathering additional information in order to gain a complete understanding of what occurred.” The acknowledge that a late-night timestamp is concerning and that they continually stressthe importance of sound decision making in an effort to avoid putting themselves in these types of situations.

Whatever happened to the good old days when you could accost an athlete in the lobby of his own apartment complex due to simply being “a fan?” Man, how times change…

Update: From Johnny Manziel’s agent…

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Ohio State wins; Hudson beats Mentor—again http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/ohio-state-wins-hudson-beats-mentor/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/ohio-state-wins-hudson-beats-mentor/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 18:45:03 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135222 The high school playoffs in Ohio are getting to the final few games of the season. This past week’s games were filled with close and exciting matchups. Hudson won the big rematch versus Mentor in a blowout victory over the Cardinals. St. Edward continued their roll through the playoffs, while Mayfield upset Bedford. In college

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The high school playoffs in Ohio are getting to the final few games of the season. This past week’s games were filled with close and exciting matchups. Hudson won the big rematch versus Mentor in a blowout victory over the Cardinals. St. Edward continued their roll through the playoffs, while Mayfield upset Bedford. In college football, Ohio State continued their winning ways on their run to a possible playoff spot. John Carroll and Mount Union both cruised through their first round matchups in the NCAA Division III playoffs. The MAC is getting tight with Toledo fighting for the top spot in the MAC West Division. This time of year in Ohio the games get more important and exciting each week.

With the high school season winding down, instead of my top 5 Northeast Ohio high school teams rankings, I have included my top 5 candidates for the Ohio Mr. Football award and my championship picks. Comment on my top 5 candidates and championship picks in the comments below. You can view my final top 5 high school teams rankings from last week here. So let’s take a look at Week 13’s installment of the Ohio College and High School Football Roundup!

College Football

Ohio State takes down Indiana 42-27

Ohio State continued their fight to the college football playoffs by beating Indiana on Saturday. In their victory, the Buckeyes were a little shaky, including quarterback JT Barrett. Barrett threw for 302 yards and four touchdowns, but also had two interceptions in the win. He also added 78 yards on the ground. The player of the game was playmaker Jalin Marshall. Marshall had five receptions for 95 yards and three touchdowns, while also scoring on a game changing punt return to regain the lead for the Bucks. Running back Ezekiel Elliot rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown, along with seven receptions for 39 yards. The Buckeyes move to 10-1 on the season and are squarely in the pursuit for one of the four spots in the college football playoffs.

Next Week: Ohio State vs Michigan (Sat. noon)

Akron rolls over Massachusetts 30-6

Akron kept their hopes alive to get to a bowl game with this victory over Massachusetts. Akron quarterback Kyle Pohl threw for 277 yards and two touchdowns on the day. Zips running back Jawon Chisholm ran for 78 yards, while running back Conor Hundley rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Zach D’Orazio caught ten passes for 121 yards to lead the Zips receiving corp. Akron is now 5-6 on the season.

Next Week: Akron @ Kent State (Fri. 1pm)

Toledo slips past Bowling Green 27-20

Toledo remained tied for first place in the MAC West Division with the win over MAC East Division champ Bowling Green. Toledo had unbelievable performance from former Willoughby South running back Kareem Hunt. Hunt rushed for 265 yards and two touchdowns in the victory, while Dwight Macon added two rushing touchdowns for Toledo. Bowling Green running back Ronnie Moore rushed for 64 yards and a touchdown in the loss. Toledo moved to 7-4 and 6-1 in the MAC, while Bowling Green fell to 7-4 and 5-2 in the MAC.

Next Week: Bowling Green vs Ball State (Fri. 1pm)

                   Toledo @ Eastern Michigan (Fri. 1pm)

Ohio falls to Northern Illinois 21-14

Ohio fell to 5-6 and 3-4 in the MAC after losing to Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois quarterback Drew Hare threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns, while also adding 67 yards on the ground. Quarterback Derrius Vick led the Bobcats in the defeat. Vick threw for 141 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, along with 80 yards on the ground.

Next Week: Ohio @ Miami (OH) (Tues. 7pm) 

Kent State at Buffalo was cancelled due to the snowstorm

Youngstown State loses to North Dakota State 27-24

Youngstown State lost their final game of the season to North Dakota State and ended their season at 7-5. North Dakota State had two rushers run for over 100 yards and a touchdown in the victory. Quarterback Hunter Wells, who threw for 135 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions, led the Penguins in defeat. His main target was receiver Andrew Williams, who caught seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown.

Dayton beats Campbell 19-14

Dayton won their final game of the season to Campbell and finished their season 8-3 and second in the Pioneer Football League. Quarterback Will Bardo threw for 239 yards and a touchdown in the victory. The news of the game came from running back Connor Kacsor. Kacsor rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown, passing Sylvester Monroe for the all-time career rushing yard leader for Dayton.

Mount Union rolls over Adrian 63-3

Mount Union started off their playoff run with a dominating win over Adrian. The Purple Raiders were led by former St. Edward quarterback Kevin Burke. Burke threw for 286 yards, four touchdowns, and an interception, while also rushing for 47 yards and a touchdown. Mount Union running back Logan Nemeth rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns, along with running back Jamal Johnson rushing for 104 yards. Tim Kennedy added seven receptions for 127 yards and two touchdowns for the Purple Raiders.

Next Week: Mount Union vs Washington and Jefferson College (Sat. noon)

John Carroll cruises past Centre (Ky.) 63-28

John Carroll began their playoff run with this win over Centre (Ky.). John Carroll and former St. Ignatius quarterback Mark Myers threw for 264 yards and five touchdowns in victory on Saturday. Tommy Michals rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns for the Blue Streaks. Myers was able to spread around his passes in the victory. Former Benedictine receiver Marshall Howell had five receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns, while former St. Ignatius tight end Brendan Carozzoni had five receptions for 67 yards and two touchdowns for John Carroll.

Next Week: John Carroll @ Wheaton (Ill.) (Sat. 1pm)

Top 5 College Teams in D-1

Florida-State-Logo-compressor

  1. Florida St. Seminoles

(11-0)

Florida State continued their Houdini act in this week’s win over Boston College. Quarterback Jameis Winston is a different player in the second half and has led his team back in games all season.

Next Week: FSU vs Florida (Sat. 3:30pm)

        Alabama logo   2. Alabama Crimson Tide

(10-1)

Alabama continued their roll to the playoffs with a win over Western Carolina. The Crimson Tide have a huge matchup next week against their rival Auburn.

Next Week: Alabama vs Auburn (Sat. 7:45pm)

   oregon-ducks-logo-compressor   3. Oregon Ducks 

(10-1)

Oregon rolled past Colorado this week in their run to the college football championship. The Heisman favorite quarterback Marcus Mariota leads the Ducks’ offensive attack.

Next Week: Oregon @ Oregon State (Sat. 8pm)

       426px-TCU_Horned_Frogs_Logo.svg   4. TCU Horned Frogs

(9-1)

TCU was off this week and remains fourth in my rankings. The Horned Frogs offense is one oif the most explosive units in the country.

Next Week: TCU @ Texas (Thur. 7:30pm)

 Ohio-State-Logo   5. Ohio State Buckeyes

(10-1)

Ohio State has continued their winning roll since their big win over Michigan State. The Bucks are in line to make the playoffs if they can win out and win the Big Ten championship game.

Next Week: Ohio State vs Michigan (Sat. noon)

***

High School Football

Hudson cruises past Mentor 41-20

Hudson continued their championship chase with an impressive win over Mentor. Hudson quarterback Mitch Guadagni was exceptional once again this week. Guadagni threw for 144 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown, and also intercepted a pass on defense. Receiver Logan Thomas had two receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown for Hudson. Running back Joe Charpentier added 73 yards and a touchdown on the ground for the Explorers. Mentor quarterback Jake Floriea struggled throwing for just 114 yards and three interceptions in the loss.

Next Week: #1 Hudson vs #2 St. Edward (Sat. 7pm @ University of Akron)

Saint Vincent-Saint Mary overtakes Hubbard 26-23

The Fighting Irish won a miraculous game in beating Hubbard this past weekend. The Irish fumbled a punt down 23-19 with one minute remaining, but Patrick Oliverio recovered the ball and took it 81 yards for the game-winning touchdown. The scoring was hard to come by until the fourth quarter where the Irish outscored Hubbard 20-13.

Next Week: St. Vincent-St. Mary vs The Plains Athens (Fri. 7:30pm @ New Philadelphia HS)

St. Edward rolls over Westerville Central 41-0

St. Edward continued their dominating play by beating Westerville Central on Saturday. St. Edward playmaker Shaun Crawford had two catches, but took both of them all the way to the endzone for a total of 123 yards. Cole Gest added 99 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for the Eagles. The Eagles defense was dominating in the game, shutting out the Westerville Central offense.

Next Week: #2 St. Edward vs #1 Hudson (Sat. 7pm @ University of Akron)

Nordonia cruises past Midview 52-14

Nordonia was impressive this week in their dominating win over Midview. Nordonia put the game away early, leading 42-14 at halftime. The player of the game was Knights quarterback David Murray. Murray threw for 300 yards and six touchdowns in the victory. Murray threw touchdown passes to four different receivers, including two touchdowns each to Denzel Ward and Alex Alders. Midview quarterback Dustin Crum threw for 125 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions in the defeat.

Next Week: Nordonia vs Mayfield (Fri. 7:30pm @ Solon HS)

Benedictine rolls past Bay 35-7

Benedictine continued their roll to the championship with a convincing win over Bay. The Bengals were explosive on the ground once again. Running back Dontez Rash and Ohio State commit Jerome Baker combined for 330 yards rushing. Both players each scored two touchdowns on the ground, too. The Bengals’ defense allowed only a second quarter touchdown to the Bay offense.

Next Week: Benedictine vs Steubenville (Fri. 7:30pm @ Canton Central Catholic)

Bedford falls to Mayfield 34-32

Mayfield took down the top ranked Bearcats in a come from behind win. Wildcats running back Andy Isabella scored on a 69-yard run to give the lead to Mayfield with about five minutes to go in the game. Isabella rushed for 172 yards and a touchdown, while catching two passes for 28 yards and a touchdown. Mayfield quarterback Mario Monastero threw for 205 yards and three touchdowns. In the loss, the Bearcats’ Chawntez Moss had an amazing day, rushing for 331 yards and three touchdowns. London Cloud also added 113 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for Bedford.

Next Week: Mayfield vs Nordonia (Fri. 7:30pm @ Solon HS)

My Top 5 Ohio Mr. Football Candidates

  1. Joe Burrow, QB, Athens (The Plains, OH) High School

The Ohio State quarterback has led his team to a deep playoff run in Division III. In the regular season, Burrow threw for 2,887 yards, 42 touchdowns, and just one interception.

  1. Mitch Guadagni, QB, Hudson High School

The Toledo commit has led Hudson on a perfect season and a long playoff run in Division I. Guadagni threw for 1,838 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions, while also adding 673 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in the regular season.

  1. Demario McCall, RB, North Ridgeville High School

The junior running back was the entire North Ridgeville offense this season. McCall rushed for 2,302 yards and 35 touchdowns in amazing junior season.

  1. LJ Scott, RB, Hubbard High School

The Michigan State Commit was a one man wrecking crew for Hubbard and led his team to deep playoff, losing to St. Vincent-St. Mary in the Division III playoffs this past weekend. In the regular season, Scott rushed for 2,106 yards and 30 touchdowns.

  1. Justin Hilliard, LB, St. Xavier High School

The Ohio State commit was a beast for the talented St. Xavier defense. In the regular season, Hilliard notched 48 tackles, eight tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, and four sacks.

High School Football Playoff Predictions

Just a reminder that these are the seven teams that I have predicted to win the championship in each of Ohio’s seven football divisions.  Two of the teams I have picked have been eliminated from the playoffs so far.  Comment below about my picks and who you see winning it all in each of the divisions.

Division I St. Edward
Division II Bedford
Division III Toledo Central Catholic
Division IV Clarksville Clinton-Massie
Division V Columbus Bishop Hartley
Division VI Kirtland
Division VII Marion Stein Marion Local

 

(Stats courtesy of ESPN, OAC.org, team websites, Cleveland.com, and maxpreps.com, and OHSAA.com)

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Mike Pettine outlasts Mike Smith in bad coaching competition http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/nfl-mike-pettine-mike-smith-holy-crap/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/nfl-mike-pettine-mike-smith-holy-crap/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:00:13 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135215 Sunday’s Cleveland Browns game against the Atlanta Falcons was not a fine showing of head coaching skills. I wondered aloud on Twitter if Falcons coach Mike Smith had been fired yet, and I wasn’t just making a joke. I still like Mike Pettine and his team seems to rally around him and play for him,

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Sunday’s Cleveland Browns game against the Atlanta Falcons was not a fine showing of head coaching skills. I wondered aloud on Twitter if Falcons coach Mike Smith had been fired yet, and I wasn’t just making a joke. I still like Mike Pettine and his team seems to rally around him and play for him, but he’s had some “rookie” moments to be sure from a head coaching standpoint. Pettine hasn’t been a clock star by any means, and his decision-making has waffled between conservative and reckless at the end of halves.

So let’s just start with the play that starred both Mike Smith and Mike Pettine in dueling dumbness. Which play is it to which I could possibly be referring?

The Browns attempted to end the first half with a 60-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff. Sure, the game was indoors, but it was crazy. Pettine was quoted as saying that he spoke to his kicker during the game and Cundiff told him, “I got this.” There are about a million jokes to be had, and it was pretty clear for everyone that Cundiff indeed did not “got this” because he missed a mulligan attempt—which brings me to Mike Smith.

Who—I ask you loudly—ices a kicker at the end of the first half when he’s about to attempt a 60-yarder? Who ices a kicker attempting a 60-yarder who is 8-for-28 lifetime from 50-plus? Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons will ice your kicker at the end of the first half as he’s about to attempt a kick from Savannah, Georgia.

But that’s not even close to the dumbest thing we saw on this very play.

Mike Pettine saw his team snap the ball through Mike Smith’s timeout. He saw his kicker plaster the ball as best he could. He saw the ball come up woefully short as Devin Hester caught it in the end zone. If the timeout hadn’t been called, Pettine knew that Hester could have been using his all-time return abilities to take that ball and let his feet scream in the other direction toward a game-changing score for the Falcons. Mike Pettine saw all this and he still allowed Billy Cundiff to kick it, for real this time, after Mike Smith gave him the gift of all gifts. Mike Pettine got a mulligan on a bad decision, and he Tin Cupped it straight into the water again.

Why? Mike Pettine’s kicker told him, “I’ve got this.”

Thank goodness for the hustle of Joel Bitonio. Thank goodness that Billy Cundiff and Spencer Lanning weren’t hurt in their attempts to cover the return. They were both in harm’s way as Bitonio stopped Hester after 70-ish yards.

Thankfully the Browns won, or maybe people would be calling for Pettine’s head right now. They surely have to be calling for Mike Smith’s. The Browns won the game, technically. Brian Hoyer threw the ball four times on the way to a Browns game-winning field goal, but it was a gift by Mike Smith that they even had the chance. No, I’m not talking about the softest defense I’ve ever seen. I’m talking about the fact that the Browns had far more time and timeouts than they ever should have had, if not for the clock bumbling of Mike Smith. A Twitter sampling…

So, here’s what happened.

The Falcons had the ball with 2:42 left and a two-point deficit, 23-21. They had amazing field position thanks to an awful Brian Hoyer interception at the ATL 45. The Falcons rushed once, passed once, and hit the two-minute warning at the Cleveland 46. They’re in great shape, but the Falcons should have been concentrating on getting into field goal range with as little time left on the clock as possible. In an ideal scenario they’d be snapping the ball for their game-winning field goal attempt with about seven seconds or less.

The drive stalled a bit and on second and nine, the Falcons passed to Harry Douglas for seven. Third down and two from the Cleveland 35 with 0:55 on the clock and that’s when Mike Smith called timeout. Forget the clock, because the Browns surely would have called timeout there (right?). Instead of it costing the Browns one of their three timeouts, they got to keep it. Then Smith doubled down on the clock-saving techniques for the Browns when he threw long for Devin Hester. Justin Gilbert barely got his head around and it fell incomplete.

The Falcons kicked the field goal and went up one point on the Browns, but the Browns had 0:44 seconds to make their move and all three of their timeouts. There’s no way in the world the Browns should have had all three of their timeouts there. I get throwing on third and two. It’s gutsy, but I’d never kill a coach for trying the pass on third down there. Worst case though, the Browns should have only had two of their timeouts.

There’s no telling if the Browns would have been able to navigate the game-winning field goal drive from their own 20, but it would have been incredibly more difficult. As it was, the Browns were able to work the middle of the field because they had timeouts. They were able to comfortably work the middle one last time with 16 seconds left and still had time to spike it with six seconds left. The Browns accepted Mike Smith’s gift and won the game on Billy Cundiff’s 37-yarder.

One more tweet for you. Falcons owner Arthur Blank grabbed a front row seat for Mike Smith’s presser after the game.

You can’t assume that’s good news for Smith, and I honestly wouldn’t be shocked if he was fired. Yes coaches can only do so much as they put players in positions to make plays, but at some point the bad choices by a coach start to submarine the delicate chemistry of confidence. If a team doesn’t believe in the guy setting the stage, they stop performing.

For Mike Pettine Sunday’s win over the Falcons looks like a learning opportunity because the Browns won. For Mike Smith, it’s another match on the seat of the chair he is sitting in—for now.

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A Decade Without Dad http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/wfny-decade-without-dad-essay/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/wfny-decade-without-dad-essay/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 16:00:32 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135190 Where were you ten years ago today? What was your life like? Like you, I was a much different person. I was 28 years old, living in Chicago, happily married to my college sweetheart, and hoping to soon have children. Things were good. Other than my dog recently taking up residency in my bed, I

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Where were you ten years ago today? What was your life like? Like you, I was a much different person. I was 28 years old, living in Chicago, happily married to my college sweetheart, and hoping to soon have children. Things were good. Other than my dog recently taking up residency in my bed, I didn’t have much to complain about. Did I have a “charmed life?” I thought so. Then that day happened, and my life as I knew it changed forever.

Flashback to a month earlier. It was mid-October and I was watching the Boston Red Sox play the New York Yankees in American League Championship Series at my place. The phone rang and it was my mother. To be honest, I was half paying attention to her, though I could tell there was something different. She didn’t know how to convey it to me. It unfolded this way: “We just got some bad news, Dad has cancer.” I was speechless, breathless, numb, nauseous. She went on to tell me that my father was diagnosed with Tonsilar Cancer. The causes of this were smoking and heavy drinking, and my father did neither in his life. The doctors had told her that with chemotherapy and radiation, there was a 85% chance he would be fine. The following week I went back home for my dad’s biopsy and we had found out that the cancer had not spread,  He would start the treatments pretty much right away.

To say that I revered my father would be an understatement. His word was the gospel to me. So when he told me this was going to be no big deal, he would take his treatments, fight hard, and be back healthy in no time, I believed it, lock, stock, and barrel. I never allowed myself to even entertain the thought that he might die.

♦♦♦

I didn’t really know what true hardships were all about. I was always schooled in the ways of appreciating what you have and working hard to get it. My late Grandfather came to the United States from Hungary via Ellis Island. He played on the Hungarian National Soccer team in his late teens and arrived in America, like so many others of his time, looking to start his life, but unable to speak the language. He swept floors and ordered cheese sandwiches because that was all he knew how to say when searching for a meal. He met my grandmother, also of Hungarian Ancestry, here in Cleveland, and the two began a family that I couldn’t be more proud of. They were the Matriarch and Patriarch  in the truest sense of those words. But make no mistake, these were two people who came from nothing and made themselves into something all on their own.

My father was the youngest of three boys. While my Grandfather didn’t grow up in Cleveland, his love for the big three American sports spawned here. In 1946, he purchased a pair of Browns seasons tickets at Municipal Stadium. Section 37, row three, on the aisle. Two seats soon became four as Grandpop took his three sons as often as he could. The four sat together in 1964 to see the city of Cleveland snag an NFL Championship. As a kid, my father would tell me tales of this day in vivid detail. Like everyone else, he thought this was something he would be able to see again in his life.

Like my Grandfather, my pops caught the sports bug almost from the jump. By the time he hit college at Philadelphia Textile (now Philadelphia University), he was skipping classes to go see the Phillies play day baseball games. In addition, my Father fell hard for the game of basketball thanks to one man: Wilt Chamberlain of the then-Philadelphia Warriors. While Bill Russell had all the titles, my dad swore up and down that Wilt was the superior player. “Everyone said Wilt was a ball-hog, so you know what he did? He went out the next year and led the league in assists (67-68 season),” he would say.

A gigantic sports fan, he certainly was. Once he had the means, he had his own Browns, Indians, and Cavs seats. If he could get to a game, he was there. Before the Richfield Coliseum existed, The old Cleveland Arena on Euclid Avenue was where the Cavs called home. It was also where one of my dad’s patented moves was invented. On cold Winter nights, he would park in the lot next to the Arena and give the attendant $2 extra dollars and left him his keys. He’d tell the guy to warm up the car and sit in it during the fourth quarter and it was always ready for when he and my mom would come out. The man was a genius and the little things he did like this became story time with our family and friends. “The Bobby D back-in” is a staple at all sporting events. As he would say, “Anyone who fronts into a space at a sporting event or a concert is an amateur.” You back in to zip right out. Remember the old Coliseum “form two lanes” bit on the one exit off of 271 South? “Waiting in the right lane is for suckers.” It was all about zipping up in the left lane and cutting it over when you get the opening. It is what I have been doing off of the Shoreway every home Browns Sunday since I moved back to Cleveland in 2006.

His Browns game driving exploits were literally the stuff of legend. By the time I was six, my Grandfather’s four seats had become 12. Four were my dad’s, four each to my uncles, and two for my Grandfather. Each Sunday from probably 1978 through when the Browns left after the 1995 season, there would be eight to ten of us in my Uncle’s old Suburban. We met at our house, would all pile in and go. My dad and Uncle Kenny were creatures of habit. Though it was my Uncle’s car, my dad always drove. There is an art to it.

My dad and Uncle were great friends and perfect as brothers. The Yin and the Yang. Dad was rarely the serious guy. He was “on” all of the time. My Uncle is a brilliantly calculated man who lays back and surveys the scene before making his move. A true analytical thinker. But Scotch for Scotch, Uncle K will take you down. The two of them knew how to cut it loose when the time was right and had hearts as big as the sun. One guy you wanted driving you out of that Port of Cleveland lot on Sundays, the other one, you didn’t.

The Suburban was big and being aggressive to get out of that lot was a must. So here is what my father did: If the game was close, he would leave with five minutes to go, run to the lot, and drive the car to the top of the hill. He made friends with all of the freezing cops and somehow managed to have them watch his car, double park it on the side, and run back into the stadium and watch the finish from the end zone. When the game ended, we would bolt out, and he’d be there in the car, at the top of the hill, outsmarting everyone else who would sit stuck in that lot for an hour not moving.

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We all go through adversity in life. Mine came my Freshman Year at the University of Kansas. The motto of the man I idolized was “work hard and play hard.” As he told the guests at my wedding in 2001 “He got that second part right.” Scholastically, I was not exactly top of my class in High School. I always knew how to do just enough to get by. I figured at KU, I could do the same thing. That didn’t work as a Freshman as I flunked out. Two major things happened to me in the Fall of 1995: I learned how to focus on getting my life on the right track and I attended boat loads of Indians games with my dad.

Before Jacobs Field, there was actually baseball played here in Cleveland,. There weren’t many of us, but diehard Indians fans did exist. Every home Saturday afternoon game in the 80’s and early 90’s, my father, brother and I sat together in the upper deck of the old Stadium, about 15 rows up, right at third base. Many times, the three of us and about five others were the only ones in our section. The Indians were bad, but we didn’t care. My father was a baseball-first guy. He played baseball in college and in the Army. His best tale involved facing knuckleballing Hall of Famer Phil Niekro. As the story went, he watched teammate after teammate flail away at this guy who threw junk and he couldn’t understand how they whiffed on pitches so slow. “I’ll be teeing off on this guy” he told his buddies on the bench. Then he stepped to the plate, swung and missed three straight times, and walked back to bench with his tail between his legs.

The memories I have with my father and the game of Baseball could fill a book. Like the time we went to a night Spring Training game in West Palm Beach, Florida between the Mets and the Braves. My brother and I begged for him to get us food so of course he did. While he was gone, Darryl Strawberry, George Foster, and Hubie Brooks went back to back to back. He came back deflated, but of course laughed it off as always.

In Cleveland, we used to wait for the players after the game to get autographs. They all used to walk out the same gate and there would usually be like five-to-ten people waiting. My brother once fell out of the car chasing down Ernie Camacho as we were pulling away. My favorite though was back 1983. Career backup catcher Jim Essian played for the Wahoos. If don’t remember him, lets just say Sandy Alomar Jr 1997 he was not. Anyways, there are like six people waiting for the players and out walks Essian. As he barrels through quickly, my brother and I ask him to sign for us. My father was always a stickler about politeness. He always told us to refer to the players as “Mr.” so and so and follow up with “may I please have your autograph. Not to mention a “thank you” afterwards was a must. So here I am: “Mr. Essian, may I please have your autograph?”

Crickets. He just kept on walking.

We follow him a few steps. My brother tries. He says “sorry kid.” That set my dad off. “That’s nice Jim, deny a couple of kids your signature. We don’t want to ruin your All Star season. Great guy Jim!” And Essian just kept walking. I remember it like it was yesterday.

When 1994 arrived and Jacobs Field opened, a new era of Indians Baseball was about to begin. My father had been going to that old relic on the lake front for probably 45 years. Seeing his face light up as he walked into the park for the first time was something else. The four of us – my parents, my brother, and I – were there on Opening Day 1994 when “Jacobs Field Magic” was born. As we all know, the ’95 Tribe was the most dominant of all of those great Tribe teams. After returning to Cleveland in May as a college failure, I spent the rest of that year doing three things – waiting tables, attending local college classes, and going to Tribe games with my dad and brother, who was now a college graduate working at WHK Radio in Cleveland and living back with my parents for the time being.

While being at home completely humbled me, it would have been very easy for my folks to be even harder on me. Instead, they were all about reinforcing the positive. Throughout the hard fall for me, my dad and I were there, side by side, watching the Tribe. When Alvaro Espinoza chucked it across the diamond to Herb Perry for the out that launched the Indians into their first World Series since 1954, my brother, father, and I embraced in our family room like WE had just accomplished something special together. We had. The Derys were not “Jacobs Field” Indians fans. This was a life long struggle for three guys who bled Wahoo Red, White, and Blue. All of those years of the three of us trekking down to Municipal Stadium, cheering on the likes of Alan Bannister, Jerry Dybzynski, Ron Hassey, and Manny Trillo had been worth it. There was so much more to come.

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My father’s Cancer treatments were two-fold—Chemotherapy and radiation. He required an aggressive treatment, so the plan was five days, 24 hours a day, hooked up to the chemo, then two days off. This was going to go on for three weeks, along with radiation treatments in between. Once the three weeks were up, he was supposed to be be Cancer free. With my brother now in Detroit and me in Chicago, we were going to switch off weeks. So the week before Thanksgiving was my week, we would both be home for Thanksgiving week, then my brother would stay behind for week three of treatment while I headed back to Chicago. Before he entered the hospital, he wanted “The Last Meal.” he was so funny: “The chemo is going to help me lose tons of weight anyways, might as well go out with a bang.” So that Sunday night, I watched him eat an extra large, double cheese, sausage, pepperoni, and mushroom pizza from Donato’s without coming up for air. It was quite impressive.

The first week was a struggle. Watching someone you love so much struggle to get out of bed or even speak because they are too weak, is about as depressing as it gets. He was quiet, but was keeping his spirits up. He watched sports and the Travel channel between snoozes and bouts of vomiting. He told me it was to keep his mind on places he wanted to go when he got out of there. My mother was incredible. What a rock this woman was. You want to talk about an all-time advocate. It was hard to watch, yet throughout the awful week, my mom was so tirelessly strong. Everything was positive, no negative talk or thoughts were even allowed, despite the fact that my father spent most of his time either asleep or throwing up.

Friday afternoon he was to be released from the hospital to spend the weekend at home, feeding tube and all. It didn’t seem right, but the doctors assured us he could go. We didn’t even make it back to our house before he threw up his feeding tube. My mom was exhausted and needed a break, so I told her I would take him back to the ER and she should go home and rest. The next six to eight hours were amongst the worst of my life.1 It was a frantic time. He had no business being in general population of an Emergency Room, nor should he have been waiting two hours to be taken. He was a cancer patient needing his feeding tube put back in, but nobody would help us. Finally I got him into his own room. The EMT who attempted to put in his tube told me “this is so easy, a monkey could do it.” Then he proceeded to fail at the job and I literally was watching my father choke. The whole thing was so awful and most of it a blur. It took hours more to get him into his own room back up in the hospital that saw fit for him to be released earlier in the day, which was a clear mistake.

While I was in the ER watching my dad fight for his life, my brother was at the scorer’s table, court-side in Detroit during the infamous “Malice at the Palace.” He was right next to Rick Mahorn, who was trying to break up the melee. He would later describe that as one of the scariest moments of his life. We were experiencing similar feelings at the same time, only neither of us knew it.

Things finally calmed down and he became stable around 2 a.m. My mother and I went home and slept for a couple of hours and headed back Saturday morning to be with him. We watched the first half of Ohio State-Michigan and flipped over to listen to my brother be interviewed on ESPN News about what he saw during the brawl in Auburn Hills. He couldn’t speak, his eyes were barely open, but he smiled the entire interview.  A proud father, he was. I was headed back to Chicago for a few days of work and had to leave that afternoon. I kissed him on the forehead, told him I loved him, and said, like an NFL coach who had just won a hard-fought Sunday afternoon battle, “See you Wednesday.”

♦♦♦

 

When it involved sports and his children, my father always dove in head first. He was never a head coach of a little league team, but he pitched in as a back-up. Dad was always either the third base coach, the assistant basketball coach, or just there in the stands watching. He traveled for his job, but if he was in town, he was there being the biggest cheerleader for his sons that he could possibly be. The man loved three things more than anything: Family, sports, and food.

When DirecTV first came out, this guy was first in line and every single sports package had to be ordered. In college I would come home from a night out over winter break and stumble in at like 2 a.m. There would be my dad in his customary robe and slippers, watching Canucks-Kings. He always was fascinated by hockey even though Cleveland never had a team. How did he find the love for the game? Naturally, through his kids.

One year he came up with an idea: A Dery boys road trip to Pittsburgh to see a Penguins game. It is a short, two-hour drive; tickets were not hard to come by then; and it was the perfect mini getaway the night before Thanksgiving. That first year he busted out the now famous “Goodie Bag” as he called it. It was loaded for each of us with Football stickers, Madlibs, candy, and more. These kept my brother and I occupied on the drive. We went to an early pre-game dinner, followed by our first NHL game at the Igloo, got a couple of jerseys (Paul Coffey for me and Zarley Zalapski for my bro), then went back to our hotel. We would wake up the next morning, have breakfast and head back to Cleveland for our annual Thanksgiving extravaganza at my Uncle’s house.

Thanksgiving is the most important holiday in my family. On my father’s side, I am the eighth of 10 grandchildren. No matter where we were in our lives, no matter where we lived, all of us come home for Thanksgiving. Nobody misses it, even to this day, The grandchildren range between 33 and 52, from Denver to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Detroit, Michigan to Burlington, Vermont and San Francisco — no matter where we are throughout the country, we descend back to the 216 in late November. This is how my grandparents always wanted it and we genuinely loved it. If you ask all 10 of us about it, 100% would tell you it is “our time,” and it never disappoints. Except for one year: 2004.

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The morning of Wednesday, November 24, 2004, my wife and I were finishing up getting ready to make the five-and-a-half hour drive from Chicago to Cleveland. The phone rang and it was my Uncle Kenny. It was pretty early in the morning, so I knew something wasn’t right. He told me that over night, my father had developed an infection in his blood, a sepsis, and was moved to the intensive care unit. As he always is, my Uncle had a calming nature to his delivery and told me that he would keep me posted as soon as he knew more. I remember relaying the news to my wife and asking her “I have never let this ever enter my mind, but do I have to start thinking about the possibility that he may die?” “Of course not,” she replied and we headed to the car to start our journey.

It was a bitter cold, gray day between Chicago and Cleveland. The conditions were not great, but we soldiered on.  About a half-hour in, its a driving rain and sleet storm and my Uncle called again. I answered. He said “Are you the driver or the passenger?” I said “The Driver” and he said “You need to pull over.” I gave the phone to Leah and blacked out. My father had passed away from the sepsis. The guy was the dad everyone wished they had, and the one I was lucky enough to have, was now gone. I was devastated. The last thing I remember was handing the phone to Leah and listening to her sob. How was I suppose to function? How were we going to get home, still four-plus hours left, as we sat on the side of I-90 in a sleet storm? Thank Goodness for my wife. She called my lifelong friend Jaime who was on the road an hour ahead of us with her husband and they pulled over and waited for us. Leah took the wheel before eventually turning things over to Jaime who safely got us back to home. I am still forever grateful to her for what couldn’t have been a pleasant car ride for her.

As we arrived at my childhood home, the driveway was full of cars. Our family and my mom’s close friends were all there. I don’t remember much outside of walking in and seeing my mom, who immediately hugged me and we shared a moment that changed me. I looked up and saw a room full of familiar faces, all with tears in their eyes. They all had the best of intentions, but I just wanted to be left alone. I went straight into my old room.

His funeral was slated for the day after Thanksgiving. Our favorite family holiday – the one where we gorged ourselves and watched football together – was now going to be tainted forever. I don’t even remember it to be honest. The funeral is another story.

My brother is a sports talk radio host in Detroit. He’s been on he air in some way, shape or form, taking sports or calling games since he was in college. He is three years older than I am. We both decided to eulogize my dad. Coming up with the right words to describe him and our relationship actually came easier than I thought. I wept for hours writing it, but I had so much to say. My brother was always a “wing it” kind of guy.

The temple was packed. It was standing room only. Over 700 people were there to pay their respects to my dad. Since it was Thanksgiving, so many of our friends, past and present, were in the building. My brother and I walked up together and he stepped forward. This was a guy who made his living speaking in public. He couldn’t get himself together. He just pulled out his wallet, put it on the podium and cried, “Take it. Take everything. I just want my father back.” We are both emotional guys. I thought there was no way I was going to make it, yet somehow when I stepped up to take my turn, a calm came over me, and I was able to get it all out. A lot of it centered around sports.

One of the stories I told was how a year earlier, my beloved Kansas Jayhawks were in the regionals of the NCAA Tournament out in Anaheim. I badly wanted to go as it was a mini Final Four of KU, Duke, Arizona, and Notre Dame. The first guy I called was my dad. “I have this great idea.” I told him about it and he asked “Where do I sign up?”

I was sitting on two free Southwest Airlines tickets and a bunch of hotel points, so he met me in Los Angeles and we spent three amazing days together. We shared drinks and greasy food and took in some fantastic basketball. Kansas beat both Duke and Arizona to head to the Final Four and we celebrated almost as we did eight years earlier in our family room watching the Tribe go to the World Series. It was a trip that I will never forget and hold about as dearly as any memory I had of him. Two months later, a package arrived at my door in Chicago. It was a framed tribute to our fantastic weekend in California with pics of us at the game, the ticket stubs, and some newspaper headlines. It sits on the wall in front of my desk and I look at it every day.

The story about him forcing us to leave the Jets game in January of ’87 came up as well. Yes, we left. It was 20-10 with three minutes to go, so pops led the troops out. We were back in time to watch double overtime on television. The next week everyone who had been sitting around us for years in section 37 was all over my dad for leaving early. Of course, we sat in the stands until the bitter end a week later and watched John Elway go 98 yards and then beat the Browns in OT (I still maintain Rich Karlis’s kick was no good, by the way). We walked to the car slowly for the first time I could ever remember that day. We were stuck in that parking lot for hours. He never got a chance to do “his move.” That car ride was unlike any other in my lifetime. Nobody spoke. I mean nobody. Ten of us in pure silence for probably two hours.  The Jets game early departure clung to him for years so I said in the eulogy “I think it is now time we can all forgive him for leaving the Jets game early.”

Somehow I got through it. I turned to my brother, we gave each other a hug, and walked back down to our seats on each side of our mother.

♦♦♦

Ten years later, I am different in many ways, yet still the same to the core. I am married to my best friend and we have two beautiful, healthy children. We raise them right here on the East side of Cleveland, where we have lived since 2006. The decision to move back as soon as I could after my father’s passing was easy. I wanted to raise my family in the place that I loved so much as a kid.  My job situation allowed this to come to fruition and I wanted to be near my mother. Cleveland and the teams I was raised on were such a huge part of my upbringing and this was exactly what I wanted for my kids.

If you are familiar with anything that I have written at WFNY than you know that I am an extremely devoted father and husband. Emulating my father, my hero and role model, is how I try to live my life. The Morris Twins who played at Kansas and now for the Phoenix Suns have a credo that they have lived by for years: “FOE – Family Over Everything.” That was my father and in turn, that is me.  My seven-year old son has been to every Browns game with me since he was four.  This season my four-year-old daughter started going as well. Over the last two years I have probably been to 70 Indians games with both of my kids, They aren’t forced to go kicking and screaming. They love everything about it. And don’t think this is a couple of brats asking for food and not paying attention. My daughter literally sits on my lap for nine innings and doesn’t move.  She is four and she knows more about the Indians than most of you do. My son is Seven, the kid is a walking sports encyclopedia who likes to keep score at the games. Sure they love Slider and the Hot Dog Derby and the ice cream we always get after the sixth inning, but make no mistake, these are two chips off the old block.

If only my father could have seen them.

  1. Getting into specifics is something I haven’t done or thought about in years. I try not to.

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Cleveland Browns Week 12 Winners and Losers http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/cleveland-browns-week-12-winners-losers/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/cleveland-browns-week-12-winners-losers/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:16:10 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135202 When I look at teams like the Atlanta Falcons or Chicago Bears, I see an NFL case study. You have incredibly talented weapons—Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Martellus Bennett, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson—and highly compensated, first-round quarterbacks. You have rosters that are heavily featured on fantasy teams across the league. You have

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When I look at teams like the Atlanta Falcons or Chicago Bears, I see an NFL case study. You have incredibly talented weapons—Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey, Martellus Bennett, Julio Jones, Roddy White, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson—and highly compensated, first-round quarterbacks. You have rosters that are heavily featured on fantasy teams across the league. You have marquee, advertisement-ready faces to gallivant in front of season ticket holders. You have teams that, on paper, should win double-digit games every season they take the field as a unit.

But where teams like New England and Green Bay and Denver are able to morph late-round projects or has-beens into Hawaii-bound number producers large in part to their quarterback play, you don’t have the same excuse with the Atlantas and Chicagos of the world—it’s not like they’re going to battle with Drew Stanton or Josh McCown under center. They’re a conundrum. And I’m not speaking in terms of their win-loss total as the Falcons’ and Bears’ defense has been a relative disaster for years. But even with all of the weapons that would signify a shootout regardless of outcome, you still have teams that look like Pro Bowl contenders on paper, but only go on to leave fans yearning for more every winter as they watch the better teams play beyond Week 17.

The Bears may have won, but anyone who watched that game will tell you that that amount of talent should have led to a complete blowout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And anyone who watched Sunday’s Browns win over the NFC South-leading Falcons will tell you, well, that neither team deserved to win. At least we can gladly say the Good Guys took it home, regardless of what things looked like on paper.

WinnersLosers_WFNY

WINNER: Brian Hoyer Talk about onions. The Destroyer was in the midst of what may have been one of his worst performances to date, stringing along two consecutive weeks of zero touchdowns and a handful of interceptions, only to take the ball with less than a minute remaining and deliver pin-point passes—24 yards to Josh Gordon, 15 yards to Gary Barnidge, 11 yards to Miles Austin—only to get his team gathered, spike the ball and set up Bill Cundiff for the game-winning field goal. So many times though the beginning of the season, it was the Browns who were forced to play defense while their opposition took what little time they had, produced a drive, and a game-winning field goal. It feels great to finally be on the other end of that ledger. The Browns are officially 7-4 heading into Thanksgiving. The Cleveland Cavaliers have to win both of their games this week to equal that total. Who saw that one coming?

LOSER: Brian Hoyer Thought you’d get away with one, did ya? The Destroyer is incredibly lucky that the Falcons left him as much time as they did, or this week’s analysis would be substantially different than what exists ahead. The Browns effectively won this game despite Brian Hoyer. He’s officially credited with a 23-for-40 day, but we’ll give him the spike—that one came in handy. What we won’t give him are the three interceptions and another afternoon of missing receivers badly. The Browns’ QB was horrid when blitzed, completing just seven of his 18 attempts, good enough for 39 percent. And if you want to blame Josh Gordon for the second interception, feel free. I’ll gladly provide this:

Holy crap, Brian Hoyer

Credit to Hoyer for immediately taking blame for the game being as close as it was. It’s refreshing to see someone own their mistakes. It’s crazy that this team continues to be in the hunt for the playoffs, but this home stretch will take improved play from No. 6. Let’s hope he can work out the kinks, and fast.

WINNER: Josh Gordon Man, I almost forgot what it was like to have a pass-catching option with such an incredible radius. If there’s any saving grace to Hoyer’s inaccuracies, it’s that Gordon has the ability to win almost every lob. Gordon was targeted 15 times, playing 54 snaps (so much for 25-30, eh?). He hauled in eight balls for 120 yards, half of which came on Desmond Trufant who was supposed to blanket the Pro Bowler all game long. He didn’t get in the end zone, but was vital in nearly every scoring drive, even when passes were being air-mailed over his head. He also had one of the best incomplete passes of the game. This kid can do it all. It should be a fun few weeks.

WINNER: The NFLPA Hey, you guys. Thanks for fighting the good fight and getting those pesky marijuana rules altered just enough so that No. 12 could rejoin his team for a few games. Yeah, I know it creates a bit of an issue with the contract and all, but I want to win now. Thanks.

LOSER: Mike Pettine Right up there with Brian Hoyer is his head coach thanks to incredible mismanagement of the clock before the first half, coupled with the decision to have Billy Cundiff attempt a field goal that would not have been good with a 30 mile-per-hour tailwind. Had that ball been run back, we would be having a drastically different conversation this morning. Bullet dodged, but certainly not ignored.

WINNER: Joe Haden This game had the makings of being a very long day for the Browns defensive backs. Pregame video showed safety Donte Whitner encouraging his fellow DBs to “make them feel like there’s 10 of us out there.” And while Roddy White hauled in a slew of balls and Julio Jones found the end zone, Haden was a stud on Jones, a player who may very well be one of the top five talents at the position. He held Jones to just two receptions on seven targets for 30 yards. And after giving up a quick out route to the Falcons’ stud, Haden quickly recovered and pulled in his second interception in as many weeks.

Get up, Joe!

Wondering how he was able to get up that high despite giving up a few inches of height? You may have missed this during pregame:

 

He may be Hawaii-bound after all. Tough to say he doesn’t deserve it after how much he’s improved over the course of the year.

LOSER: Tashaun Gipson What a tough, tough loss. A player who was an absolute LOCK for Hawaii is having an MRI on his knee after being carted off late Sunday. It didn’t look good.

WINNER: Paul Kruger Playing in 66 of a possible 71 snaps, Kruger produced what was easily one of his best games of the season, adding two more sacks to his 2014 resume, one of which was strip-sack that led to a Falcons turnover. Factor in his three stops, and you have another complete game from the Browns’ most important pass rusher. After a rough few weeks earlier in the season, let’s hope that this is the player we’ll see through the final few.

WINNER: Joe Thomas I mean, what more can you say about this guy?

WINNER: Isaiah Crowell PIZZA LUNCHABLES ON THE TURF

Good luck stopping this, NFL

A career-best tally in terms of yardage and two touchdowns from an undrafted rookie. The kid showed incredible explosiveness (or “pop” as Mike Pettine would say), sticking his cleat in the ground and hitting the hole with tenacity. His first touchdown was huge; his second was even bigger, starting around the left side and cutting it back before finding the right corner of the end zone.

PIZZA LUNCHABLES!

The Crow has some incredible potential and was a huge find for Ray Farmer and his staff. Not a bad homecoming, kid.

WINNER: BIlly Cundiff I wish he would not have had to have been used so frequently, and I wish Boomer Easiason would’ve known his name during the CBS halftime show, but Not Phil Dawson had one heck of an afternoon.

WINNER: Joel Bitonio Perhaps the play of the game. I’m not sure how a guard was able to track one of the game’s quickest players down from behind, but the second-round rookie is in the midst of an absolutely huge season. His ability to snag Devin Hester before the half was one of the plays that should be rolled on loop in Mike Pettine’s office for the coming days. Get this kid to the Pro Bowl, stat.

Honorable mention (winners): Andrew Hawkins, Desmond Bryant, Chris Kirksey, Buster Skrine, Justin Gilbert, and Barkevious Mingo.

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Women rule the AMAs, and the return of Dave Chappelle: While We’re Waiting… http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/2014-amas-taylor-swift-iggy-azalea-dave-chappelle/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/2014-amas-taylor-swift-iggy-azalea-dave-chappelle/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:27:44 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135203 Another Victory Monday? It’s getting to the point where I don’t know how to respond. As always, we’ll have plenty of Browns coverage over the coming hours (including one amazing essay that you won’t want to miss), but While We’re Waiting… The 2014 American Music Awards were Sunday night. And if you weren’t watching Odell

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Another Victory Monday? It’s getting to the point where I don’t know how to respond. As always, we’ll have plenty of Browns coverage over the coming hours (including one amazing essay that you won’t want to miss), but While We’re Waiting…

The 2014 American Music Awards were Sunday night. And if you weren’t watching Odell Beckham Jr. pull in one of the best catches in the history of football, only to fall victim to Dez Bryant and the Cowboys, you were likely one of the several million to tune in to what typically stands to kick off the annual Award Show Season. Like most others before it, the AMAs are largely a celebratory concert of sorts where the biggest names in pop music (in addition to a few others) perform the hits that allowed them to be a part of this year’s show. Taylor Swift, as expected, was a huge part of the night, leading off the show with a performance. Interestingly, however, it would be Katy Perry and One Direction (two other pop powerhouses) who would take home the biggest awards in that category with the British boy band winning Artist of the Year and Perry taking home Single of the Year with “Dark Horse.”

It was actually a big night for females as Iggy Azalea took home both Favorite Artist and Favorite Album in the Hip-Hop/Rap categories, beating out Eminem and Johnny Manziel’s boy Drake in both. (Much like Macklemore at last year’s Grammy’s, adding a pop flare to a rap album makes it a little more palatable to voters. Good for Iggy.) And to little surprise, Beyoncé brought home both of the same awards in the R&B category, though the world wasn’t treated to a ‘Yonce show this time around.

It was also a huge night for Twitter folks who can’t believe time has passed them by, providing a ton of snark almost every step of the way. Almost as if “pop” wasn’t short for “popular.” Wins all around!

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The last few weeks have provided plenty of discussion surrounding music, artists, and how they are compensated in the new-age day of streaming technology and subscription services. While the merits of services like Spotify can be debated until the next Wu-Tang Clan album gets released, this piece on Pandora (a HUGE service in the smartphone age) and how they fail to pay artists is worth the read. The most interesting part: Pandora’s contract with some of these royalty-based services ends soon, and they’re lobbying to have their payments lowered. This should be fun.

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David Chappelle is back—hopefully for good. One of this generations biggest stories (at least from a comedy standpoint) comes in the way of Chappelle going from the top of the mountain to outright disappearing with little in the way of logical, relatable explanation. Now, thanks to this excellent interview from Mark Anthony Green over at GQ, we have what may very well be the return of the (former? one time?) king of comedy.

For a while, about seven years, we heard little to nothing. We knew he lived on a farm in Yellow Springs, Ohio—a town of 3,500 people. And that he didn’t want to talk to the media. Dave Chappelle seemed to be, like a suede umbrella, an instrument whose very design and makeup is its biggest conflict—the funniest guy in the room who can’t stand to be looked at. About three years ago, he began to appear, impromptu, more frequently for sets at comedy clubs. Then a Twitter account appeared that was actually run by Dave until an impostor took it over. Chris Rock fueled rumors that they would start touring together, which never happened. But it wasn’t until the announcement this spring that Dave would play five—no, eight! no…ten!—shows at Radio City Music Hall that people began to think seeing Dave Chappelle be funny might be part of their lives again.

It could all be a huge tease. Chapelle could either kill it and disappear again, or worse, bomb—and disappear again. But much like the reuniting of a before-their-time band, Chappelle’s return signifies the mutual return of something that led to so much joy and laughter in the lives of others. At the very least, it allows us to go re-watch old footage (The Real World parody, please?), recite old lines with friends (those funny-named neighbors, perhaps?) and hope that maybe, just maybe, the guy has even more genius to share with the world.

I guess, in the end, that’s all we can ask for, right?

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YOU GET A TAKE! AND YOU GET A TAKE! EVERYBODY GETS A TAKE! Here’s this week’s #ActualSportswriting

Carson Palmer’s Lasting Connection” by Dave Fleming (ESPN The Magazine): “Knowing her as they did, there was no question that Julie would want to become an organ and tissue donor; her gift would be to save or improve the lives of others. One of the people she eventually helped turned out to be a famous athlete. Quarterback Carson Palmer, after completely shredding his knee in the 2005 playoffs, was able to make a full recovery thanks to a new ACL reconstructed from De Rossi’s Achilles tendon. ‘It’s amazing that we can even do this,’ Palmer says now, ‘to use part of the body of someone who has passed on to help someone else walk or run or even keep their dream alive of playing sports again.'”1

Travis Kelce Can’t Stop Dancing” by Robert Mays (Grantland): “Little about Kelce — or his second season with the Chiefs — has been quiet. It’s early November, and the temperature has just started to drop in Kansas City. Along with his cream-colored Gucci beanie, he’s wearing a white, long-sleeve Lululemon shirt and a shiny gold Rolex with a face the size of a child’s palm. Since the preseason, each of Kelce’s trips to the end zone has come with a memorable celebration — from handing the ball to Mike McGlynn for a lineman-size spike to a menagerie of meme-friendly dances. Suddenly, Kelce is one of the most exciting young players on one of the hottest teams in the NFL.”2

What the F*** is Fightball?!” by Robert Silverman (The Cauldron): “Keeping in line with the sport’s name, it’s almost impossible to drive to the rim because there’s absolutely no way of knowing if a foul’s going to be called. Evidently, that 11 on the intense-o-meter means beyond-the-pale clutching, grabbing and horse-collar tackles may or may not be whistled. It’s not that they’re encouraging a full-blown scrum or actual combat, but let’s just say they do realize that a certain no-holds-barred, MMA-ish hue is a selling point.”3

Witness to an anticlimax” by Joe Posnanski (Sportsworld): “East 4th Street grows ghostly as the night stretches to morning, and it is easy for a Clevelander’s mind to fall back to all those shattered hopes, to all those times through 50 years we believed that this time it would be Cleveland’s sports turn, this time for sure. Will LeBron’s return become the latest chapter in a half century of sports sadness? A part of me says yes. Will Kyrie and LeBron make beautiful music together? Another part of me says yes. Hope is not among those walking on East 4th Street now – the game is over, and the night is gone, and Hope is undoubtedly asleep along with most of Cleveland. She will wake up tomorrow. Hope always does.”4

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And finally, this week’s Brew du Jour: Holly Jolly from Fathead’s Brewery

There was an intriguing Twitter dialogue going on this past Saturday morning, wherein 92.3 The Fan’s Joe Lull took a page from this very column in discussing Great Lakes Brewery’s Christmas Ale in comparison to Thirsty Dog’s 12 Dogs of Christmas. Thankfully, once the dust settled and the crazies were thinned out, the discussion quickly turned to Fat Head’s Holly Jolly, which may very well be the brew to potentially unseat GLBC’s long-lasting reign.

Fathead’s has  few things going against it, chief of which is distribution. Unless you’re in the local market, it’s unlikely that you can get your hands on a sixer of this delicious creation. It clocks in at 7.4 percent, which is closer to GLBC’s than Thirsty Dog’s. It pours a reddish brown, which may be a little lighter than many other winter warmers, but that thick, foamy head is front and center. The scents and tastes are very similar as both produce hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, caramel and a little ginger—I’ve heard some compare it to a gingerbread cookie. All are very formidable and no unexpected aftertastes creep in, much like one of the big complaints surrounding the new recipe from GLBC.

At $10.99 a six pack, it’s a lower cost than many other crafts (Troegs, for example) and easily places it right in the mix with whatever your favorite Christmas Ale may be. I’ll leave the rest to WTAM’s Will Burge who put it better than I ever could.

Happy Monday, you guys.

  1. I find it adorable that she had to Google Carson Palmer’s name. It’s stories like this that make something as trivial as sports and something as dirty as the last few years of the NFL feel, well, not quite so dirty. Science is spectacular.
  2. An entertaining takeout revolving around one of my favorite players in the NFL. If you’re one of those ‘Browns only’ types, not only do I feel sorry for you, but Kelce is a player worthy of that silly trend being completely bucked. Come for the excellent GIFs of The Nae Nae and Shmoney Dance, stay for the excellent story and quick-witted quips and vivid imagery.
  3. This is just crazy. It’s like Slamball meets Arch Rivals, all taking place in a dark and inconspicuous warehouse.
  4. This one is a bit dated, but still relevant among local basketball talk. Plus, it’s by Joe Posnasnski, which means it’s instantly worthy of your time.

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Browns overcome self-inflicted wounds to beat Falcons 26-24 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/browns-overcome-self-inflicted-wounds-beat-falcons-26-24/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/browns-overcome-self-inflicted-wounds-beat-falcons-26-24/#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 21:30:16 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135211 It seemed like nobody wanted to win this game. Better stated, nobody was willing to take it until the very last second. The teams traded possessions like crazy with the game in the balance. Matt Ryan yielded to his punter. Brian Hoyer threw not one, but two interceptions in the fourth quarter in his attempts

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It seemed like nobody wanted to win this game. Better stated, nobody was willing to take it until the very last second. The teams traded possessions like crazy with the game in the balance. Matt Ryan yielded to his punter. Brian Hoyer threw not one, but two interceptions in the fourth quarter in his attempts to ice the game. One of those interceptions is about as unforgivable as can be as he was intercepted in the end zone. Both of the fourth quarter picks were throws in the direction of newly activated Josh Gordon, so it stands to reason that Hoyer and Gordon might not have been on the same page, but those details won’t matter tomorrow. The fact is that the Cleveland Browns were in position all throughout the second half of a game on the road to win it. They nearly weren’t willing to take advantage of that position, but thanks to some bad clock management by the Atlanta Falcons and the Browns finally took advantage. Brian Hoyer found Miles Austin, Josh Gordon, Gary Barnidge and Austin again, against a soft Falcons defense to give Billy Cundiff a 37-yard attempt. And in the end, the Falcons gave way to the Cleveland Browns 26-24.

Yes they won, and yes they did it thanks to Brian Hoyer’s arm, but this game is not good news for the Brian Hoyer bandwagon. Even at the random party I was watching our fair Browns from there were kids – children – casually concluding that Brian Hoyer stinks and the Browns should go to Johnny Manziel. That’s not to use as expert testimony, but just to point out how thick and wide-reaching the narrative is. And as the Browns’ record falls to climbs to 7-4, the conversations about the AFC North and the playoffs and all those things that benefit the side of the ledger to keeping Brian Hoyer atop the depth chart will start to also rise to the side of switching to the more dynamic Johnny Manziel. I’m not going to be the one saying that the Browns ought to consider it, but I can only do so much to quell the tide after a game – even a victory – where Brian Hoyer throws three interceptions.

But the Browns won the game! Your Cleveland Browns are now 7-4. Your Browns are in a virtual tie atop the AFC North with the Bengals leading because they tied once. Three teams all have seven wins. The Browns are one of them and Baltimore has six.

And welcome back Josh Gordon. Yes, two of Hoyer’s interceptions were in Josh Gordon’s direction, but he had a game. Gordon had eight receptions for 120 yards. He was targeted 16 times and had a long of 24. The Browns worked hard to find Gordon, hitting him on screens to put the ball in his hands and let him run with it. And he did run. He ran so much that we probably won’t even talk about Andrew Hawkins’ excellent day.

None of it was easy.

The Browns gave up a fourth quarter touchdown and were clinging two a two point lead, 23-21. With the game on the line on the road, the Browns started to drive. A pass to Josh Gordon. An impressive set of runs by Isaiah Crowell and Terrance West and then Brian Hoyer lofted a ball toward the end zone where Gordon was in the area only to have it picked off by Desmond Trufant. The team that has become somewhat known for playing better in the second half with an ability to come from behind failed miserably in their attempt to ice the game. The Falcons took over at their own 20 with just under five minutes to go and needing just a field goal to take the lead. The Falcons gave the ball back to the Browns again via punt, but Brian Hoyer’s response was a four-play “drive” that ended in another interception.

The Browns notched another big injury on the day as Tashaun Gipson went down. There’s no telling how badly the Browns might miss Tashaun Gipson though. Gipson collided with Joe Haden and Roddy White near the goal line and rode off in a cart clutching at his right leg. Obviously the worst fears are that he’s suffered the same fate as Alex Mack who was lost for the season with a broken leg. Early on this season and throughout last season there was a sneaking suspicion that maybe Gipson was the king of being in the right place at the right time, but not this year. Gipson came out and showed that he was more than just a beneficiary of play around him. When Gipson exited the game, the Browns had a nine point lead, which quickly became a two point lead with under ten minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

But the Browns won the game. This wasn’t a strong game for the Brownies, but you can’t be too harsh when it comes to road wins in the NFL. Still, I think we all know that the conversation will be dominated by Johnny Manziel talk after Hoyer’s three interceptions become the main topic of conversation. I don’t expect the Browns will entertain that talk, nor do I expect them to make a change, so it’s probably all a waste of breath, but you know it’s going to happen anyway, starting first and foremost with 6 AM on one local sports talk radio show in particular.

Next up? The Browns are supposed to be in Buffalo to play the Bills, but we’ll have to see when and where that game will actually take place. The Bills game was snowed out of its Sunday timeslot this week for a Monday game away from Buffalo against the Jets.

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Jabaal Sheard active in Atlanta; Gordon to play roughly 30 snaps http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/jabaal-sheard-josh-gordon-cleveland-browns-week-12/ http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/11/jabaal-sheard-josh-gordon-cleveland-browns-week-12/#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 17:03:58 +0000 http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/?p=135197 It seemed not that long ago when thoughts were that Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard could be lost for the season thanks to a foot injury. Just days later, the team’s 2011 second-round pick out of Pitt is surprisingly active as the team suits up in Atlanta to face the falcons. Given that Browns

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It seemed not that long ago when thoughts were that Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard could be lost for the season thanks to a foot injury. Just days later, the team’s 2011 second-round pick out of Pitt is surprisingly active as the team suits up in Atlanta to face the falcons.

Given that Browns coach Mike Pettine stated on Monday that Sheard could be Injured Reserve-bound, he will almost certainly be on a snap count, and will be at risk of re-injury. Regardless, for a team that has struggled to get to the passer for much of 2014, having more bodies bodes better for the team’s chances than not.

Conversely, the team will be without two of their stars as tight end Jordan Cameron continues to battle symptoms of a concussion, and inside linebacker Karlos Dansby (who was doubtful heading into the game) will be sitting out due to an injured knee. Also inactive for the Browns: Wide receiver Rodney Smith, cornerbacks Pierre Desir and Robert Nelson, and offensive lineman Vinston Painter.

Joining Sheard on the active side of the coin is Pro Bowl wide receiver Josh Gordon who rejoins the team after serving what was a 10-game suspension in violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy. ESPN’s Adam Schefter was allegedly informed by a league source that Gordon will play 20-30 snaps in his Week 12 debut. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport adds Gordon “will either start or be in quickly” with the Browns “rotating him in and out,” yet they’re open to playing Gordon more “if he’s feeling good.”

Is it coachspeak? Gamesmanship? We’ll soon find out.

[Related: Josh Gordon can have an immediate impact for Browns]

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