Saturday, November 29, 2008

Everything Is Broken

- Bob Dylan

Whenever a situation strikes me as full of uncertainty, complexity or ambiguity, I go to a reliable source to ferret through the static - Bob Dylan.

Now I am sure that the Twentieth Century Troubadour was weighing in on far more socially impactful issues than the status of a professional football team when he wrote the above, but it still has that clear finality when applied to the status of the Cleveland Browns.

Everything is broken.

Sound familiar? Doesn't it have that 'Oh Gawd here we go again' discordant ring to it? 1991. 1999. 2001. 2005. I swear they should rename the franchise to the Cleveland Cicadas with its rhythmical pursuit of putridity. Our president-elect ran his successful presidential campaign with the message 'Change We Can Believe In'. With the Browns, it's 'Change We Can Set Our Watches By'. Whether the team exhibits success on the field (The firing of Schottenheimer after the 1988 season) or presents another lesson in Murphy's Law On Steroids, this team will embrace change as its mantra.

Look, I'm not here to proffer solutions - at least not in this post - but rather to vent my spleen. This is not about Bring In The Chin or Phil Must Go. It's about that extremely familiar yet still disconcerting feeling deep within my bones that comes with being a Cleveland sports fan. A feeling I do not enjoy, but have come to accept as my lot in life

So I have to find a scapegoat. And I have one. My parents. Do they deserve it? No, they're great people. But they conceived me in Akron Ohio. I had no choice in this. When I was seven years old, my dad said to me, during a Browns-Steelers game, 'Son, see those guys in the black helmets? That's the enemy." Okay Dad. I believe you. And at the time - 1965 or so - it was a true statement. Cleveland owned Pittsburgh. Sunday spaghetti dinners included the Browns on TV with Ken Coleman & Jim Graner. Touch the dial and you die. My choices were root for the Browns or go to my room.
So here we are at the tail end of another Browns season that has inextricably yet almost predictably spun out of control. And yeah, the Cavs are kicking ass & taking names at the moment but the buzz is not how good they're playing or whether they can bring Cleveland a ridiculously-overdue championship...but whether LeBron is going to the Knicks or Nets in two years (Who else but Cleveland fans are already apoplectic over their star leaving two years before the event actually occurs? It's Pavlovian conditioning). And the Tribe - I'm still wondering how a team with All Stars at every position lost a World Series to a bunch of mercenaries eleven years ago. I still cannot get past 'Two Outs To The Title I Hate You Jose Mesa Edgar Renteria Must Die' mental block.

So bring on the latest reboot of the Browns. Clear the cookies, erase the Temporary Internet Files, hit Control-Alt-Delete. Once the screen comes back up, I'll expect to see an improved performance...but I know it won't last. In four years we'll be doing it again.

Ain't no use jivin'
Ain't no use jokin'
Everything is broken.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tiger's Intermission

(Originally written June 18, 2008)

Much is being written about the knee injury that Tiger Woods exacerbated at the U.S. Open, which has resulted in shutting it down for the balance of the 2008 season. Did he press his body too far? Will he be able to pick up where he left off? Will he have to change the swing that has resulted in 14 majors & 65 wins? For that matter, will he even be able to play golf at the highest level anymore?

A note to everyone - relax.

First off, we are talking about the most mentally disciplined athlete of our generation, if not of all time. We are also talking about an athlete that borders on the edge of obsession in his chase to catch and surpass Jack’s 18 majors. His season now ends just four shy of tying that mark. Thankfully.



Here is an athlete that nothing stops – not his so-called competitors, not juiced-up golf courses, not history. But now something has – temporarily. And it could not have come at a better time. At 32, we are in the smack middle of The Tiger Era. He has been on tour for twelve years now, and the injury bug has finally caught up on him. An injury that will force him – FORCE him – to hang it up for about six months. The longest period of time in his career.

Those of a ‘certain’ age will remember when movies in the theatre were so long that they would have an intermission – a period of time of about 15 minutes or so where patrons could stretch their legs, have a smoke or bathroom break whist the screen displayed dancing jujubees singing ‘Let’s go out to the lobby…’

This is Tiger’s intermission. And it had to happen lest burnout took its toll. It seems odd to consider a torn ACL and fractured tibia a blessing, but I think they are in this instance. Tiger has an adorable one-year-old daughter, a new home to be built on Jupiter Island, a knockout wife that I would imagine does not see enough of him, and a sweet yacht that is just dying to be filled up with $5 a gallon diesel fuel for a few laps around Bermuda. Tiger does not seem the type to stop and smell the roses, but he has the toys, the family…and now the TIME to do just that.

When the calendar turns to 2009 and the only physical ailment Tiger has to deal with is scar tissue, look out. A rested, restless and hungry Tiger will be ready to pick up right where he left off – sans limp & painful grimace. Do not think for a second that his swing will be affected by the surgery – he will not allow it. But even if it somehow does, well, that will just be swing change number 4 (I believe) he will perform in a career that by the time it is done will obliterate every meaningful record.

He goes into his forced intermission with 14 and 65 – majors and wins. Twelve years from now, at age 44, look for those numbers to be doubled. And a career with 28 majors and 130 wins is not only not too shabby, it is downright obscenely inhuman.

Just the way Tiger likes it. Enjoy the intermission.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Baby With A Chainsaw

(Note: It was not my intent in creating this blog to have it serve as an overtly political forum. Having said that, I would be remiss if I didn't make at least one post on the subject of the American Tragedy that was the George W. Bush presidency. This will be my first and last post on this subject)

As the days wind down on the Bush presidency, I am fairly confident that there is not enough time for his administration to inflict any further damage to the Constitution, or to trump up perceived threats from a distant land to substantiate a preemptive strike in the name of national defense.

But hey, you never know.

I realize there’s not much of a future in Bush-Bashing. Anyway, the electorate gave a far stronger repudiation on November 4 than I could ever muster. And as an aside, I have to say that the election results extinguished what had been a long-festering resentment I have had as to the ability of Americans to elect competence. But that’s not the focus of this article.

Instead, it is – in the waning days if a disastrous presidency – a look back on what I thought was the most abject act of hubris that I thought that even Bush could not dare try. First, let’s get the obvious gaffes out of the way: A preemptive war against a perceived enemy that did not attack us, an erosion or outright removal of carefully-constructed civil liberties, an inexcusable dithering while an American city flooded, removal of regulatory firewalls that resulted in the largest financial meltdown since 1929…and the hits just kept coming.

But there was one act Bush committed that, to me, trumped all of those in terms of in-the-bubble cluelessness: The nomination of his personal attorney to the Supreme Court. Talk about bundling arrogance, contempt & idiocy into one nice neat little package. Think about that for a second. It can be debated that the most influential power that a president wields is nominating Supreme Court Justices. Much is made about policy decisions that a president makes whether militarily or economically in nature, but the true enduring impact a president has on the national landscape is shaping the makeup of the Supreme Court - it literally touches our lives for decades.

Thus the President’s choice has to be a sober, reflective, clearly-though-out decision. Usually a President has advisors report back with a list of candidates, & policy briefs on each one is provided, other judges & lawyers’ opinions are sought, the list is winnowed down & eventually a decision is arrived at.

Why do I get the impression that Bush's ‘search’ consisted of looking around in every corner of the West Wing, then hitting the com button on his phone & saying ‘Hey Harriett, wanna be on the Supreme Court?’ Does anyone truly understand the shallowness & contempt of this decision? My Gawd, it’s one thing to believe in a cause that turns out to blow up in your face (Iraq) or to be hamstrung by bureaucracy to the point of ineffectiveness (Katrina), but the true measure of someone’s intellect is the quality of their decisions when given ample time and counsel. Under this standard, Bush is a baby with a chainsaw - too immature to be given such powers, and too feeble to avoid disastrous results with it.

I am thrilled his days of using the Oval Office as his personal sandbox are almost over.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Red State/Blue State?

It sounds like the title of a Dr. Seuss book.
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It seems appropriate that our presidential election has been dummied down to the point of using primary colors to denote the complexities of our country’s collective electorate. We have fifty states, hundreds of urbanized areas, a few dozen religions, about a hundred nationalities represented (and all the blended permutations within), sexual preferences spanning the spectrum…not to mention geographic proclivities.
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So we categorize all of this into two colors. So what is lost in nuanced difference is made up for in simplicity. Hey, don’t want to confuse the gun and religion clinging crowd, eh?
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Yeah yeah…I get that the election was the choice between two individuals, or more specifically, the ideals of the parties they represent, so I guess the choice of between two entities should have two very bright shiny colors as representation.
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Is it me, or does anyone else resent this oversimplification? Wait, let me put it another way – is anyone else alarmed at our degenerating collective intelligence? Have we gotten to the point that the average American’s cranium can only grasp red or blue? Sadly, I think the answer to that question is yes.
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I can tell you this – Democrats & Republicans LOVE the current two-color system, since they are the occupants of those colors. It makes qualification to hold office brutally simple – be better than the other person. Thus, the strategy of winning office is equally simple – bash the other person. Repeatedly. Into oblivion. “He’s a Marxist” – “She can see Russia from her house”…
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Does not such a diverse electorate deserve better?
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What I want to see is more colors. I want Yellow states. Green states. A nice shade of Ecru perhaps. I want more choices. A viable third party? How about a viable fourth, fifth & sixth party? How about a political structure more representative of us than this guy or that guy?
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Beyond having more choices, I’ll tell you what having, say, six parties will do. It will stop the negative bashing. When you only have opponent, ‘don’t vote for him’ is a viable strategy. When you have FIVE opponents, such a strategy is impracticable & politically suicidal.
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The ultimate irony of the most diverse, melting-pot society in the world is that we are only given two people to choose from. My God, the McDonald’s Dollar Menu gives me more choices. And choosing the next leader of the free world is a bit more important than Double Cheeseburger versus McChicken.
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Well, at least to me it is. Check your own moral compass for the answer that best fits.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hurts So Good

Don't worry, I am not going to take you on another trip down nostalgia lane by invoking long-lost cheesy rock songs. Polls show that I went over the head of 87 percent of my audience with the Aldo Nova reference a few weeks back.

But you are now humming that John Cougar (after he was & before he became again Mellencamp) aren't ya? "C'mon Baby, Make It Hurt So Good..."

All right All right...I'll get to the point. In the NFL, injuries happen. And I realize that every franchise that drafted Tom Brady has now nominated that for the Most Inane Comment Of The Year.

But my point is, for every Tom Brady that goes down, a Matt Cassel emerges. This is what makes fantasy football such a hair-pulling exercise in vice avoidance...and waiver wire scouring. We are now heading into Week 11 of the NFL season & names like BenJarvis Green-Ellis, Tyler Thigpen and Ryan Torain are cascading off the lips of snake-bitten fantasy owners everywhere. Heck, these guys may even be the players that make the difference in making the playoffs for some fantasy teams.

Tune in this week to FANTASY FOCUS this Thursday, November 13th on Prime Sports Network. Our guest co-host this week is Paul "Crimson Tide" Bogin, a veteran of over 15 years of the fantasy football wars...with the scars to provde it & we're gonna talk about these unsung heroes & how they are reviving the snuffed dreams of fantasy team owners across the globe.
Join us at 6pm! Just go to the Prime Sports Network website -
and click on the Listen Live link. Call in with your fantasy football questions, concerns & dilemmas. Hum a little 'Jack and Diane' and we'll give you bonus points.
- Jerry "Rozelle" Bryan

Phil Hellmuth is a Dick (This is for you, Sandra)

Okay, let me first say that anyone that has won the championship of his profession eleven times is: a) Pretty damn good, and b) Deserves respect as a result. Fine. I respect Phil Hellmuth…as a poker player. As a human being he’s a 100% Grade A USDA Prime Turdburger.

Yes I know, he wears that ‘Poker Brat’ label proudly, but unfortunately he has spawned a generation of ‘entitled’ poker players through his table histrionics. If you’ve ever played Texas Hold-Em at a bar or casino, you know this kind of player.

Say you got 7-8 off-suit & Hellmuth Wannabe over there raises pre-flop & you call. The hand plays out & you end up cracking his pocket kings with two pair. Instead of a half-hearted ‘Nice hand’ from DickHead, you’re met with an explosion of Vesuvian proportions – “I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU CALLED ME WITH 7-8 OFF!!! WHY DON’T YOU LEARN TO PLAY THIS GAME YOU DONKEY SUCK-OUT!!!” as he chucks his card & chips into the middle of the table & does a spastic, apoplectic Watusi dance reeking of cheesy fake incredulity.

See, here’s what these so-called ‘professional’ players are thinking: When they pre-flop raise, they are expecting you to fold your 7-8 off. The pre-flop raise is a strategic maneuver to weed out players – like you – trying to make their hands on the flop. So when you call the pre-flop raise, you have thwarted their strategy. Now, if you’re a novice player, you may not know this. If you’re an advanced player, you recognize this, but are willing to risk chips by calling the raise in the hopes of making your hand. In other words, you know HellBaby over there has a pocket pair and you’re trying to beat it with the flop.So the flop comes, say it’s 4-7-8. You’ve made your hand. Now we’re playing poker my friend. You can see the color drain out of Soon-to-LoseMuth over there. He checks angrily. So do you. Turn card – check/check. River – check/check. Cards exposed, rage ensues.

I heard someone once say that any chips put into the middle of the table are AT RISK. Period. I’ve seen 2-4 off beat pocket aces. That’s why they call it gambling, and those that try a strategy of pre-flop raising have to understand that the strategy may blow up in their face. Because the random element of any poker game is the other players, getting upset that they didn’t conform to your strategy is not their fault, but yours. So sit your crybaby ass down – and post the big blind, Jackhole.


I have a theory on how some fans perceive what they see, like for example, those that think Derek Anderson is a good QB.

I'm old enough to know not only when this team was good, but was consistently good. I mean, like win 6 out of 7 & call that normal. So while I may not be the smartest guy around, I do have the perspective of longevity. So here goes.

We have not had a truly good team in 20 years (with the exception of the 1994 squad), so those that are about 32 years old or younger truly don't know good when they see it. That sounds like an insult & feel free to take it that way if you wish, but I think it's true. Not once did I think, when DA was chucking the ball all over the place that he was "good" - I thought he was a pleasant surprise but needed some longevity in order to move into the "good" category. He never did. His "good" period lasted two months.

That's a very low bar of competence, and one that fans of, for example, the Steelers, would find laughable. And it's why they laugh at us. Because we've lost our perspective of what "good" is. Trust me, the Browns teams of the 1960s - those ones that were churning out 10-win seasons (in 14 game seasons) - those teams knew what "good" was.

In short, this long period of losing has warped our perspective. To the point that we're pointing fingers over who's to blame over a missed 4th down pass & over whether it was too high. The old Browns would laugh at that.

So in summary, DA is not good. Never was. He was Clint Longley-good (Cowboy fans will get that reference). He excited a fan base that was desperate to embrace any player that just stopped the sucking. And for weeks 2 thru 9 last year, DA did that. But he's not good. Be clear on that.

Honestly, there's only a handful of players on this team that are truly worthy of the old-school Browns tradition of "good" - Winslow, Lewis, Thomas, Steinbach, Rogers. That's about it. Others have potential, like Quinn, Edwards & S. Jones. The rest would have a hard time carrying Leroy Kelly's jockstrap.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thoughts on an Unraveling Season


· Jamal Lewis has clearly lost a step…at least. It’s time to give the bulk of carries to Jerome Harrison & look to draft or free agency in the upcoming offseason for a RB. I don’t see Lewis in a Browns uni in 2009.

· The Quinn Era is here and, as Savage said before this season, once it starts there’s no going back. Amen. Try to restructure DA’s contract to that fitting of a backup QB & see if he bites. If not, get the most you can for him in a trade.

· Benching or trading Edwards would be stupid. He is a force. They way you fix his drops is to get a possession WR to play opposite him or in the slot. Jurevicius, whether he comes back in 2009 or not, is an iffy gamble to fill that role so seek one thru the draft or free agency.

· The drafting of Martin Rucker was a clear signal to Kellen Winslow. And ‘StaphGate’ exposed the rift between him & Savage (if the Rucker pick didn’t already). I think the best move, for the ‘good of the team’ as it were, would be to trade Winslow after the season for picks & players.

· What to do with those picks & what players? Simple. Guys who can tackle. The Denver game totally ripped the mask off of the biggest weaknesses of this team – mediocre LBs who consistently seem out of position to either break up the play or lay the lumber after a catch. To see a lumbering, gimpy TE get past the LBs in the Denver game for catches is inexcusable.

· McDonald & Wright will be solid CBs. The problem is the Bodden trade & season-ending injury to Holly forced them to be starters before they were ready. They’re green bananas that should ripen nicely.

· Ditto for Pool. The secondary was most effective when Brian Russell was back there, so a vet presence would go a long way.

· Offseason priorities are, in order: 1) Linebackers who would decapitate their mothers, 2) A RB who hits the hole hard & fast, 3) CB & S depth via a vet free agent signings, 4) A possession WR if Sanders or Steptoe aren’t already considered the answer.

Trent Dilfer eats bitter pills for breakfast

So former Browns great (yes that was sarcasm) Trent Dilfer says that the move to Brady Quinn showed a 'dysfunctional' orgainzation controlled by the fans. Whatever, Mister Couldn't-Hold-Off-Charlie-Frye.

I saw his rant & he made the switch to Quinn seem like an irrational kneejerk reaction to a close loss, that DA's only culpability therein was the pick-6 interception. Spoken like a true ex-Quarterback sticking up for one of his brethren...who just happens to have the same agent.

The REAL truth, that Dilfer instantly tossed aside in favor of an edgy Jim Rome-esque 'take' was that starting Quinn was an inevitable event, the only question being when. This wasn't an emotional heat-of-the-moment 'screw it' decision, but rather the front office finally making the decision which was, frankly, long overdue.

If Crennel is known for one thing, it certainly isn't kneejerk reactions. It is, instead, REFUSING to make decisions until they become the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Case in point, the Cincinnati game earlier this year. He publicly stated that he was "thinking" about putting Quinn in but gave DA one more chance. That 'one more' chance has lasted over a month with only slightly improved play from DA as vindication. In Crennel's world, it's ten strikes and you're out. He doesn't knee-jerk. Two words should crystallize this point: Mo Carthon.

This is not to say that all is well in Berea, it clearly is not. There is a malfunction of message & the decision-making structure is severely flawed. Crennel says one thing & hours later something entirely different happens. Twice now he has had kness chopped out from under him - first the Carthon incident, now the DA benching. Honestly, if I were him I would tender my resignation because it's clear his bosses do not have his back.

And as a fan, I say THANK GOD TO THAT. Crennel has proven to be on the wrong side of two key issues. Let me be clear - it's not that he was on the 'unpopular' side of those issues that has done him in, as I do not believe for a second the fans have as much pull as Dilfer thinks, but Crennel has proved himself to be cluelessly inflexible. He does not address problems, but instead goes James Buchanan (Google that name for historical reference) & hopes they resolve themselves so he does not have to intervene. If Dilfer thinks the fans run the Browns, it's only because in two key instances the fans were right & the coach was wrong. If Crennel had his way, Mo Carthon would be running a Derek Anderson-led offense & our leading rusher would be Lawrence Vickers.

So what Dilfer lacked in his take was perspective. Well, here it is. In the 2007 draft, Phil Savage traded away a future #1 pick in order to take Brady Quinn. When he did that, he had Derek Anderson on his roster. Therefore, Savage had concluded that Anderson was not the future QB of the Browns & that Brady Quinn was. And finally, a year and a half later, it happened. Knee-jerk? it's the exact opposite. It was an overdue implementation of what the plan was all along.

Dilfer may get points for instant-gratification edginess (which in the medium he is in counts for something), but it lacks any semblance of substance. And it also smacks of bitterness over his benching in 2005 in favor of Charlie Frye. So just to drive the point home, starting the guy that we paid dearly for is hardly knee-jerk. But lambasting the franchise for doing so is.

If Trent Dilfer wants to see a knee-jerk reaction all he has to do is watch the tape of his take.

My name is Jerry & I'm a Browns fan...

Hi Jerry.

Seriously, are there 12-step programs for this? One would think that years of physical, emotional & mental abuse would qualify for a gathering of twitchy, chain-smoking dog-mask-wearing, coffee-swilling people. If not, I'll start one.