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In Cleveland, hope dies last

Archive for the category “Ohio State”

On the playoffs and the downside of veteran QBs

Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis ColtsIf Sunday really was the last time we see Peyton Manning on an NFL field as an active player – and it yesterday wasn’t the end, it certainly is coming soon – then the Denver Broncos are about to learn the same hard lesson that teams, including Minnesota and Kansas City, have learned before.

It is also a lesson that the Cleveland Browns and certain corners of the fan base should heed.

When you sign an aging veteran quarterback, no matter how good they are, rather than develop a quarterback, and don’t end up winning a Super Bowl, you run the risk of setting your franchise back even further than you were before you signed said quarterback.

The Chiefs learned that lesson back in the day with Joe Montana, the Vikings learned it a few years ago with Brett Favre, and now the Broncos are about to learn it as well.

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World Cup draw may not be so bad for USMNT after all

world cup drawIt was a rough day for the U.S. Men’s National Team when the groups were drawn on Friday for next summer’s World Cup in Brazil.

The U.S. landed in Group G with Germany (ranked No. 2 in the world) Portugal (No. 5) and Ghana (No. 24).

It’s not going to be easy, but after thinking about it over the weekend, it may not be as bad for the U.S. as we first feared.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann took the approach that if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.

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From the editor’s notebook …

Chris DavisSaturday was one of those days that make college football so enjoyable.

The fun actually started on Friday night, when Marcus Mariota got some of his swag back, leading Oregon to a game-winning touchdown with 29 seconds left to beat Oregon State. (And while we have been a proponent of the Browns exploring a chrome orange helmet, we may have to reassess our position after seeing Oregon State’s helmets. Although they may just have had too much red in them.)

That was just a prelude to Saturday, when the game of the year took place between Alabama and Auburn. The Tigers took down the defending champs in the most improbable way possible (and aided a bit by Alabama coach Nick Saban’s hubris), as Auburn’s Chris Davis returned a missed 57-yard field goal the entire length of the field for the game-winning score on the final play of the game.

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With Ohio State out, it’s safe to watch March Madness again

5157d8c64fe90.preview-620We had to chuckle Saturday night during the second half of Ohio State’s regional final loss to Wichita State.

After seeing our Twitter timeline littered all week with comments by Buckeye fans about how Wichita State would be nothing more than a speed bump (if that) on the way to a certain Final Four appearance, it was funny to see how quickly things turned as Wichita State put the finishing touches on a Shocker to the Bucknuts of Brutus Buckeye.

Over-confidence quickly turned to excuses, with comments ranging from how fans “didn’t really expect the Buckeyes to get this far” to “Thad Matta isn’t a big-time coach” and “(fill in the blank) is a horrible player.”

Snerk.

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Flashes are golden on the links

Kent State continues to prove you can have a successful athletic program without cheating, as the men’s golf team is on the verge of its second-consecutive Top 20 finish on the season.

The Golden Flashes posted their best round of the 2011 NCAA Men’s Golf Championship on Thursday, shooting a final-round 8-over 296. Kent ended the NCAA Finals with a 54-hole total of 902 (304-302-296).

“I’m extremely proud of this group, the wind picked up today and our guys went out and shot not only our best round of the tournament, but one of the best final rounds by the entire field,” said coach Herb Page. “All of the young guys played well today and senior (John) Hahn capped off a wonderful career. It was a great way to finish the year and I’m really happy for all the players.”

A Top 20 finish would be the sixth in the program’s history.

The men’s basketball team was also in the news this week, as ESPN.com’s Pat Forde named Kent State as one of the top 10 schools that get the most out of their basketball programs.

Ford wrote that: In a league full of boom-and-bust cycles, the Golden Flashes are remarkably consistent, riding a streak of 13 winning seasons. They’ve won at least 20 games in 12 of those seasons, one of just 10 programs that can make that claim during that stretch. The highlight came in 2002, when they advanced to the Elite Eight as a No. 10 seed.

Since 1998-99, Kent State is tied for 15th nationally with 306 wins which places the program ahead of more than 61 BCS schools and ranks 5th nationally among the 272 mid-major schools. Additionally Kent State, Kansas, Gonzaga and Creighton are the only four schools in the country to win at least 10 league games in each of the last 13 years.

During that same span, Kent State has put together the most outstanding postseason run in the history of the Mid-American Conference with 12 appearances in the past 13 years. The stretch includes five MAC regular season titles all while appearing in five NCAA Tournaments, six NITs and the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.

Finally, the No.24-ranked baseball team is in Austin, Texas, where they will take on Texas State on Friday in regional play of the 2011 NCAA Championships.

With all the good things coming out of Kent recently, maybe Ohio State president E. Gordon Gee and athletic director Gene Smith should take a ride up from Columbus this summer and take some notes on how to run a clean program.

They could certainly use some help
.

On irony, Ohio State and Jim Tressel

Some final thoughts on the Jim Tressel situation at Ohio State.

It’s ironic that Ohio State has only itself to blame in all this. The NCAA does not make the rules, the governing body only enforces the rules that its member schools put in place.

So because people like Ohio State President Gordon Gee cling to an antiquated fairytale of college athletics as some kind of pure amateurism, the NCAA must enforce a host of silly rules – like the one saying you can’t sell memorabilia that has been given to you if you are a player.

Maybe if the schools weren’t so interested in trying to create a utopian society in college sports, they could get rid of the little things that bog down the NCAA and drive fans batty and let them take on the types of serious violations that really matter.

College football analyst, and former Browns quarterback, Gary Danielson was on Chris Russo’s Sirius radio show on Tuesday and he made some really good points about the situation at Ohio State and college athletics in general.

First off, he rightly pointed out that players selling items has been going on for decades, probably as long as there have been college athletics. Danielson said that when he was at Purdue, players knew not only who to go to when they wanted to sell their game tickets, but who would pay the most money.

The difference now, he said, is that today’s players aren’t happy with just a little extra spending cash, they have a sense of entitlement and a need for more – money, cars, jewelry, etc. – that leads to bigger trouble with the NCAA.

He also pointed out that athletes at most, if not all, schools learn quickly where the black market is in their town for the types of services they want. The generational and cultural gap between coaches and players is too great nowadays for coaches to know all the games players run and corners they cut.

Danielson came up with a solution that actually makes a lot of sense – college athletes should be treated like Olympic athletes and be allowed to sign endorsement deals with corporate sponsors.

If Nike wants to sign Vince Young to a shoe contract while he is at Texas, or if Ford wants to support Reggie Bush, why not allow it?

The big money would go to the superstars, of course, but even if you are a back-up, in most college towns you could get a sponsorship from Bob’s Automart of Crazy Carl’s Appliance Store.

It certainly wouldn’t eliminate every problem, but would it really make things worse? Like Danielson said, the Olympics are doing it and the last time we checked, the world hadn’t come to an end.

The idea probably makes too much sense to actually be implemented; after all, we’re talking about a group of people, in college presidents, that can’t see the hypocrisy of not having a playoff at the top level of college football because it would hurt the players’ studying – but somehow it is OK for every other sport at every level in college.

But we can certainly dream of a better day. And until that day comes, stay classy Buckeye fans.

***

There’s no World Cup this summer, and the next European Championship is still a year away, but there is still plenty of soccer action coming this summer.

Life lessons from Jim Tressel

Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Wow, we certainly did not see this one coming.

Jim Tressel “resigned” on Monday as football coach at Ohio State, possibly at the urging of the university. You know, the old “you should quit because we are going to fire you” move.

What makes this all the more bizarre is that it never had to come to this.

If Tressel had just told his bosses that some players were up to shenanigans when he first learned about it, life would have gone on at Ohio State. The way life went on at Georgia following A.J. Green’s four-game suspension last season for selling memorabilia.

But he didn’t want to lose some of his best players to suspension so he sat on the information.

So that’s life lesson No. 1: What we do when no one is watching is the true reflection of our character.

It’s easy to “honor” players from the Naval Academy with a stadium full of people and the TV cameras focused on you. The same with singing the alma mater – which when you really look at it is a pointless gesture.

But when a situation came that called for Tressel to show true character, he shrunk from the moment.

He only made things worse by continuing to lie and deny that he knew something was wrong. Signing off on the players before the season started by claiming they were clean, denying he knew anything before the Sugar Bowl, lying about how he was trying to “protect” the players involved.

Once those lies started piling up, it got harder to keep them straight and, just like a loose thread on a sweater vest, everything started to unravel.

That’s life lesson No. 2: Don’t lie. We all learn that at an early age.

While we were surprised at first to learn that it was Ohio State that made the call to let Tressel go, the more we think about it the more that makes sense.

Ohio State tries to set itself up as being a program that is better than everyone else; one that doesn’t do things like “schools in the SEC.”

But for the school to continue to do nothing, or impose cosmetic punishments, would reveal it as having a win at all cost mentality. Throw in the fact that coaches who willingly lie to the NCAA – which is clearly what Tressel did – rarely keep their jobs and Ohio State was finally left with no way to spin this.

And a Sports Illustrated article detailing how this been going on for years should come as no surprise. The first time you get caught doing something wrong is rarely – if ever – the first time you committed a crime.

So now the apologists will be out looking to shoot the messenger – the media, the NCAA, Kirk Herbstreit, the players, whoever they can find – because they don’t like the message. And on some level we can understand their frustration.

They were sold a fairy tale about Tressel being a saint among sinners in college football and, it turns out, their false idol is no better than anyone else.

But above everything else, there’s no denying that Tressel has no one to blame but himself.

The Interchangeable Fan

In the past few months, as Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel’s web of lies have unraveled and more shenanigans have been exposed in the football program, we’ve realized something that had previously escaped us:

Ohio State fans are college football’s equivalent of Pittsburgh Steeler fans.

They both have an irrational sense of entitlement, they both think their team’s you-know-what doesn’t stink, and no matter what their coach, owner, athletic director or player says or does, they always fall back on the argument that “(fill in the blank) did something worse” or that critics are just “haters.”

They both stagger through life with blinders on, seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil.

And both carry a paranoia that someone is always out to get them.

With OSU fans it’s the NCAA or the media, primarily The Columbus Dispatch. We know it is hard for some people to understand, but The Dispatch is not a public relations arm of the university, existing only to write fawning pieces about the latest recruiting class.

With Steeler fans, the NFL is the boogeyman.

And you truly haven’t experienced paranoia and irrational thinking until you’ve heard Adrian from the Burgh on Sirius NFL Radio. Words simply cannot do him justice.

After taking a closer look, Scarlet and Gray & Black and Gold are closer on the color wheel than most would want to admit.

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We’re sure the Bengals were happy when they made wide receiver A.J. Green their first pick in last month’s NFL Draft.

But being the Bengals, they apparently forgot how Browns corner back Joe Haden shut down Green in college:

  • In 2009, the Gators won a blowout over the Bulldogs, 41-17. Green was a non-factor. Haden held the receiver to just three catches for 50 yards and zero touchdowns. Green’s biggest play in the game was a 19-yard reception. But other than that, Green had trouble shaking Haden.
  • In 2008, Florida won another blowout, 49-10. Green had more success this time, with five receptions for 91 yards. Probably worth noting is Green’s quarterback that year was Matthew Stafford, who turned out to be the No. 1 overall pick of the Detroit Lions. To Haden’s credit, he intercepted Stafford in the game and returned the pick 88 yards.

Of course, that’s what make the Bengals the Bengals.

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The ’70s were a strange, strange decade. (h/t UniWatch)

Should Browns tackle the defensive line?

The Browns need help on the defensive line – that’s no secret – and, for once, luck may be on their side as this year’s draft class is deep in defensive line talent.

If the Browns decide to pick a defensive linemen with the No. 6 pick Thursday night in the opening round of the NFL Draft, the question then becomes: do they go for a defensive end or a tackle to pair with Ahtyba Rubin inside? If they go inside, the top two tackles are Alabama’s Marcell Dareus and Auburn’s Nick Fairley.

We’d be cool with the Browns taking Dareus, who has been described as someone who “can be the backbone of an elite defensive line, and his run defense is the key. Takes momentum blocking – especially slide protection – very well. Strong enough to go against the grain and split gaps. Agile enough to redirect in space and extends the play to the sideline. Blows up piles and can be dominant in power situations.”

Unfortunately, Dareus is expected to be one of the first players off the board.

Less certain is Fairley, who makes us uneasy: “In addition to the late hits, Fairley can be drawn offside and this could be a bigger problem in the NFL when he’s dealing with quarterbacks who have great cadences and can trip up defenders with their snap counts. Concerns about his work ethic have dogged Fairley for a long time; not known to be a gym rat or an exceptionally interested student of the game.”

Does that really sound like someone we want the Browns to take a chance on?

No, it does not.*

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“Potential major violations”

“failed to deport himself … [with] honesty and integrity”

“violated ethical-conduct legislation”

Not the kinds of things you generally want to hear about your football coach, but that’s what Ohio State is hearing about Jim Tressel after the NCAA presented its notice of allegations to the school about Tressel lying to cover up violations of seven players.

The NCAA also warned that it could treat Ohio State as a repeat offender stemming from the violations involving former quarterback Troy Smith, who took $500 from a booster and former men’s basketball coach Jim O’Brien, who gave $6,000 to a recruit.

Repeat offenders face post-season bans, the entire coaching staff could be suspended and the school could lose scholarships, according to NCAA rules.

Uh-oh, somebody is in big trouble.

Former Ohio State quarterback and current ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who had to move out of state because the hoopleheads in Columbus couldn’t handle him telling the truth, summed up the current situation perfectly.

“The Ohio State fan base blindly is supporting Ohio State and Jim Tressel. It’s almost gotten to the point that he beats Michigan, he wins 10 games, he goes to BCS bowl games, they’ll support him no matter what he does as far as the fan base,” Herbstreit told ESPN. “If this would have happened to John Cooper [Herbstreit’s coach], not only would they have fired him, they would have actually lined it up and had a firing squad and fired him.”

Hmmm, you’d think someone who wraps themselves in the cloak of Christianity, like Tressel repeatedly does, would have known right from wrong.

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Reason No. 152 why we are so very glad the Browns didn’t make the mistake of hiring Jon Gruden as head coach comes from Peter King, writing in his Monday Morning QB column.

King tries to answer the question that has puzzle many of us: why does everyone treat Gruden as some kind of quarterback guru?

I think in the wake of Jon Gruden sitting with quarterbacks and working out quarterbacks and examining their mental and physical games, this has been the common question: If Gruden is so good with young quarterbacks, why didn’t he ever develop a great one himself?

In his second year as Raider coach in 1999, he got the kind of quarterback he felt was best to win with immediately, Rich Gannon. Early in his Buc tenure, he duplicated that with Brad Johnson. Two veteran quarterbacks, both of whom Gruden used to take those teams deep into the playoffs; he won a Super Bowl, obviously, with Johnson. So that became the way he thought best to win big. Later in his Tampa term, it stopped working, and he suffered for it. Gruden’s not going to be one of the patient guys who says, “Let’s take our lumps with the young kids.” He’s going to be a win-now guy.

I also think Gruden likes to be known as the fixer, the guy who wins quicker than the other coaches. He fixed the Raiders, then got the Bucs a championship Tony Dungy never got. Gruden’s not going to be the guy who you want coaching your team for 12 years, but he’s going to be the guy who takes over a pretty good team, gives it shock therapy and a sense of urgency, and has a chance to win quickly.

The last thing the Browns need is a quick-fix guy. They need someone who will build the team in the right way. Gruden is obviously not that guy.

***

*If the Browns do end up drafting Fairley, we are 100 percent behind the pick. If the player is wearing a jersey that says Cleveland on it then we want them to succeed. We just won’t be disappointed if the Browns pass on him.

Breaking down the Tribe’s rotation

Now that the Indians have finalized their roster, we know what the starting rotation will look like heading into the 2011 season.

But can the five-man rotation of Fausto Carmona, Carlos Carrasco, Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin and Mitch Talbot pitch the Tribe back to a winning season?

Let’s use math and history to try and find an answer.

For arguments sake, lets assume the rotation will make it through the season intact (we know, not likely). Based on their career numbers, this is what we could expect:

  • Carmona has won 46 games in 118 career starts. If he made 33 starts this season, he would end up with 13 wins.
  • Carrasco would win 5.5 games in his 33 starts (based on two wins in 12 career starts)
  • Masterson would finish with 9.5 wins from 32 starts (16 wins in 54 career starts)
  • Tomlin would have a breakout season with 16 wins in 32 starts (six wins in 12 career starts)
  • Talbot would notch 11 wins in 32 starts (10 career wins in 29 starts)

Add that up and the starters would combine for 55 wins on the season.

The Indians have had eight winning seasons since 1995. In those seasons, the starters, on average, have earned 63 percent of the team’s wins in a given season.

So, if this year’s rotation puts up 55 wins and that represents 63 percent of the Tribe’s win total, the Indians will win 87 games this year.

See how simple that was?

OK, we know there are some flaws in all this. It’s highly unlikely the Indians will only use five starters this year; and the sample size for everyone but Carmona is pretty small.

But other than Tomlin winning 16 games, are the win totals for the rest of the staff that far off? Is it too much to think Masterson will win 10 games? Maybe you take a couple of wins off Talbot’s total, but it wouldn’t be unrealistic to add a couple to Carrasco’s win column. Or Carmona’s.

Who knows? Give these guys half a chance and maybe they will surprise us all.

***

Pete Thamel at The New York Times looks at one of the reasons why Jared Sullinger is coming back for his sophomore year at Ohio State:

Satch Sullinger, the father of the Ohio State star Jared Sullinger, is a human fortune cookie. A retired high school and college coach in Ohio, the elder Sullinger speaks in coaching nuggets.

One of his favorite sayings sums up his son’s decision to return to Ohio State for his sophomore year, despite being projected as a top-five pick in the N.B.A. draft.

“Yesterday is history,” Satch likes to say. “Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.”

Satch Sullinger said his son had two goals. The first was to win a national title, which Ohio State was favored to do this season, coming into the N.C.A.A. tournament as the No. 1 overall seed.

“That’s exactly why he’s coming back,” Satch said. “He’s coming back because his goal is to win a national championship. He’s won A.A.U. and high school championships, and he wants to win a national championship.”

***

We all know how passionate we can be as Cleveland fans, but we’ve never seen anything like this in Cleveland:

Fans of the Colombian soccer team Cucuta Deportivo brought in a coffin to General Santander Stadium for a match Sunday between Deportivo and Envigado.

The story, which comes from Colombia Reports via Dirty Tackle, says 17-year-old hardcore fan Cristofer Alexander Jacome was murdered while playing soccer in his local neighborhood. Jacome was part of the fan group Barra del Indio that’s supposedly known for its crazy antics at soccer matches.

That beats the old keg in the dog house trick they used to pull at the old Stadium. (h/t Larry Brown Sports)

***

Former Great Plains vocalist Ron House, backed by Columbus’ own Moviola, with Fire Tressel, Not Teachers.

Ugh, that’s pretty crappy. (h/t UniWatch)

***

Finally, happy birthday to … us!

It was a year ago today we started this blog. A lot has changed in Cleveland sports over the past year, we can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

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