Monday, January 30, 2006

Another loss for Kerry
I'd speculate on how this affects his presidential aspirations for 2008, but he had no chance to begin with. He seems to be the only one who has yet to realize that.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

What's on Zach's Ipod- January 2006
1. Tura, Lura, Lural--The Band with Van Morrison
2. Caravan-- The Band with Van Morrison
3. Hickory Wind -- The Byrds
4. Return of the Grievous Angel- Gram Parsons
5. Caravan- Van Morrison
6. The Unfaithful Servant --The Band
7. We Can Talk -- The Band
8. We'll Sweep Out the Ashes -- Gram Parsons
9. You Ain't Goin Nowhere -- The Byrds
10. Pretty Boy Floyd -- The Byrds
11. The Weight -- The Band
12. Troubadours-- Van Morrison
13. In a Station -- The Band
14. Long Black Veil -- The Band
14. Such a Night --The Band with Dr. John
15. Helpless -- CSNY
16. The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down -- The Band
17. That's All it Took -- Gram Parsons
18. Kiss the Children --Gram Parsons
19. Magnet and Steel -- Walter Egan
20. To Kingdom Come --The Band

Sunday Thoughts
First Sunday without outdoor football in months. Personally, I am looking forward to baseball season at this point. My friends appear split on the Coco deal. I have faith in Shapiro. That's about it.
For the record, that will likely be the last wrestling recap I do. Call it a lark.

Royal Rumble, Real Time
For the first time ever (on this site), here is a a review, as it happens, of the Royal Rumble.

-We start with the dramatic oversell of the event.
-Michael Cole, Tazz, Jerry Lawler and Joey Styles host. It's at a show like this where I really miss Jim Ross.

Cruiserweight Tornado match
The particiapants are:
Champion Kid Kash v. Funaki v. Jamie Noble v. Nunzio v. Paul London v. (Geez, how many guys are in this match?) v. Gregory Helms
-You know, everyone in this match can work. I guess the first pin wins. I think Helms is a Raw guy, but I guess it doesn't matter, because there is no continuity in the WWE.

-The way this match is set up, it seems more like a battle royal than a match. The crowd has yet to respond to any of this. Perhaps it's because WWE has given its fans no reason to care about the cruiserweight title.

-The wrestlers are all working hard, but the match itself seems a tad disjointed. And besides, it's nothing that TNA has not done better over the past few years.

-Helms wins the belt with a shining wizard to Funaki. So this creates a dilemma. Oh wait, it's the cruiserwight title. Who cares? **

* Teddie Long chats with Vince backstage. Vince proceeds to hit on a number of young women. Earth to Vince: You are 60, and this is getting sad. Randy Orton and Vince's son-in-law pick numbers. HHH doesn't like his number. Great, so HHH gets to play Iron Man this year.

*Trish chats with Mickie James backstage. Mickie makes another strange pass at Trish.

Women's match
Mickie James vs. Ashley
I have no idea who either of these girls are, or why I should care. This should be bad. Very bad.
Jerry suggests Mickie and Trish go on "Love Connection." I suggest he update his material. What's next? Trish gets a guest spot on "Empty Nest?"

-This match is bad, although James pulls out a perfectplex. Joey Styles is sounding more and more like Cole by the day, and that's not a good thing. Ashley is throwing punches that look about as painful as a bag of gummie bears. This is bad. Bad. Jerry says the fans are turning on Ashley. No, they're turning on the match. Mickie wins with something, but I missed it because I was typing and can't be bothered to rewind. -*

-Good Lord, they're using Peter Gabriel's Big Time to hype Wrestlemania. Peter must be so proud when he opens the royalty check.

* Vince continues to be a sick old man back stage. Big Show draws his number. Rey draws next. Big Show and Rey are buddies, which is funny since Paul spit on Eddy's car two months ago. Ah continuity. Rey talks to Eddy. You know, there's a fine line between tribute and exploitation. They crossed that line a few months ago. And I'm not sure where they're at now.

Singles Match
The Boogey Man v. JBL
This is the first time I have seen the former wrestle. Vivek loves him though. I'd be wrong not to mention a storyline recap by Michael Cole that is so ridiculous I almost want to run for cover for fear I'll actually be made dumber by hearing about it.

-JBL is pretty good these days, but from what I've heard, he'll have his work cut out for him. Boogey Man has worms. This is classic stuff. Boogey Man wins with a pumphandle slam in a squash match. I hope JBL enjoyed his year and a half of prominence. I wonder if he made someone mad backstage, because I certainly thought the match would go to JBL. Ah well. *

* Thea Vidale once had a TV show on ABC. Now she's hitting on Vince McMahon in a fatsuit. Times, they change. Anyway, her "son" Shelton Benjiman draws a number, and is pleased with result. MnM draws numbers. Doesn't matter, neither will do anything. Vince makes a move on Melina, then continues his disgusting behavior.

-We're having the Rumble ... now? That's weird.

*Spirit Squad is out. Imagine seven untalented Will Ferrells doing chants for five minutes, and you get the idea.

Royal Rumble Match
-90 second intervals this year. Lillian called it the "Woyal Rumble."
-HHH draws No. 1. Great, so the bosses son in law gets to stay in for 60 minutes and look like a king. Rey is No.2, driving Eddy's car. I know Rey is sincere, but this stuff just seems uncomfortable.
-Simon Dean is No. 3. I honestly didn't know he was still with WWE. And Dean is out.
-Psycosis is No. 4. And he's out.
-Ric Flair is No. 5. And Flair is out. There seems to be a pattern developing.
- Big Show is No. 6.
-Coach is No. 7. I thought he was No. 30. And Coach is out. The rule seems to be that if your a threat, you'll last. If you're not a top level guy, you're gone less than a minute in. Whoever is laying this out must have done it in 10 minutes.
-Lashley (Looks like a cross between Goldberg and Monty Brown) is No. 8. Another thing here: so far there is only one match going on at a time. Everyone else is laid out.
-Kane is No. 9. Great.
-Sylvan is No. 10. They're really piling up the great workers here. Sylvan is out. Lashley is out following a double-chokeslam from Kane and Show. Cole call's Lashley's debut "great." He entered at eight and was eliminated a little more than three minutes later. Not exactly Ric Flair in 1992. HHH eliminates Show and Kane. Ha. It was like a a camera-ready version of the WWE's pecking order.
-Carlito (My buddy Nick's favorite wrestler) is No. 11. Cole increases his string of greatness by referring to HHH as "one of the dirtiest players in the history of sports entertainment." I wonder what the American Gladiators think of that.
-Chris Benoit is No. 11. Probably the best technical wrestler in this thing.
-Booker T is No. 12, with Sharmell and some WCW-esque tights. Booker is out, probably because he's still hurt. Whoever booked this has a very short attention span.
-Mercury is No. 13. Cole talks about Smackdown setting records on Friday night. That's like buying a used retainer and bragging about the price of it.
-Tatanka is No. 14. Yes, THAT Tatanka. Crowd greets him with the oh-so-supportive Tomahawk Chop.
-Nitro is No. 15. This has got to be the most non-descript rumble in years. Note to Cole: if 30 wrestlers enter at 90-second intervals, that's almost 45 minutes, not 60.
-Trevor Murdoch is No. 16. The crowd responds with silence.
-Eugene is No. 18. The fans don't appear all that thrilled with him.
-Animal is No. 19.
-RVD is No. 20. Lot of guys in right now. Cole says RVD's rumble debut was in 2003 and he lasted over a half hour. Uh, actually, his debut was in 2002 and HHH squashed him after a minute. Animal is gone.
-No 21 is Orlando Jordan.
-Chavo is No. 22. Don't go to the top!! He did. And HHH eliminates Chavo.
-Matt Hardy is No. 23 and gets a nice ovation. Tatanka is out.
-Super Crazy is 24. He'll be out before we get to No. 25.
-Well color me surprised. Crazy is still in and HBK is No. 25. Murdoch is out.
-Chris Masters is 26.
-Viscera is 27. Feel the star power. Matt Hardy is out.
-Shelton is No. 28. That means Orton and one other guy. Eugene is out.
-Goldust is No. 29. So Orton is No. 30.
-And Orton is No. 30. Benoit is out. Cole says we are 50 minutes in. No idea how that could be true. Viscera and Masters are out. Goldust helps himself and gets out. There goes Orlando Jordan.
-MNM are both out thanks to Shawn. Seven left. Shelton is then superkicked out.
-And here comes Vince McMahon. I hope he doesn't blow out his leg again. Shane McMahon (who came from the crowd) eliminates Shawn Michaels, which Cole sells as legit. Come on. The logic gaps here are so obvious it's useless to point them out. Why not just make Shane a surprise entrant and have him do the same thing?
-So now it's RVD, Carlito, Rey, HHH and Orton. Err, there goes Carlito.
-Rey and Rob join forces, only to see RVD (like an idiot) go to the top and then get knocked out by Rey.
-HHH and Randy Orton form an alliance, but sadly, it fairs little better than the WCW/ECW one of four years ago. Lawler then makes what seems like the 90th reference to Eddy Guerrero.
-HHH is eliminated by Rey.
-So now it's Rey and Randy. This actually could go either way, given the positioning of the rumble on the card. HHH beats up Rey afterwards, throwing him into the stairs.
-Orton acts cocky, and Rey flips him out.
Rey Mysterio Jr. wins. *** 1/4

*Rey celebrates with Dean Malenko, Chavo and Chris Benoit. Lots more Eddy references.

Raw title match
Edge v. John Cena
- Yes, Mark Henry is main eventing a WWE show.
-Cena makes an entrance that reminds me of Glacier. Joey Styles says Lita is "capable of anything." Except wrestling.
-Well, Cena won clean. Edge was game for the match, but it wasn't that fun to watch. This doesn't bode well for Adam Copeland's long-term career. A win could have made him a real star. Instead, his title reign looks more like a fluke. * 1/2

* Hacksaw Jim Duggan showed up (in wrestling gear) to mock Lita with his phrase.

Smackdown World Title
Mark Henry v. Kurt Angle
The less said about this, the better. Angle won. *
-After the match, Undertaker returned (I didn't know he was gone).

You know what the worst part is? I missed Grey's Anatomy for this nonsense.

My final grade for the show was a B-, mainly because I bought the show and reviewed it for the Rumble. Phil Prusa gives it a D.
It's 3:30 a.m. and I'm watching a Rodney Dangerfield special from what looks to be from 1987 or so. The comedians on the show included Jeff Foxworthy, Tim Allen and Thea Vidale. All three were considered funny, and all three landed shows on ABC.
But only one now plays a character in World Wrestling Entertainment.

Super Bored
In a strange way, I pity the writers and broadcasters that have been given the Super Bowl beat. It's weird to write that as a struggling journalist, but still, I feel for the men and women who are covering the biggest sporting event of the year.
Even the biggest NFL fan has to tire of the Super Bowl coverage. In the first week of Super Bowl hype, the poor writers were already stretching. Apparently the Steelers have chosen to wear white for the game, despite being the designated home team. This is controversial because the Steelers have always worn black at home.
But Steelers coach Bill Cowher said that since the game wasn't at Heinz Field, he opted to go with the road whites.
If my description of these events makes it sound like a hot news story, I apologize. That was not my intention.
And here's the good news: There is still another week left before the Seahawks and Steelers run through the tunnel.
Perhaps next week we can look forward to stories on Shaun Alexander's tooth brushing habits, or columns on Bill Cowher's shaving methods.
The week break before the Super Bowl has always struck me as unnecessary. I felt that way in January of 1987, when my mother informed a football-ready son the big game was still seven days away, and I feel that way now.
Only now it's worse. Back in 1987, there wasn't as much noise. Now we not only have 24-hour sports channels, but we have 24-hour sports-news channels. We have style-over-substance screamers who actually debate the Steelers jerseys as though they have anything to do with, well, anything.
But most of all, we have a week of nothing, and thousands of reporters to report this to us. If there was ever a time to long for the days of old, this is it.
But hey, there's always hope for an exciting story to emerge. Apparently Texas A&M is upset that the Seahawks have taken to calling their fans their "12th man." Apparently the Aggies have legal rights to the name.
And somewhere, somebody is writing about whether this will distract the Seahawks from the game. If Seattle gets distracted by this, then they deserve to lose.
Still, there will be a game next week to decide the NFL championship for the 2005 season. In that game is a team that hasn't made the Super Bowl in 10 years, and another that has never been there. Even for a cynic like me, there is reason to be intrigued.
I'd advise you not to miss it, but if you do, you can just switch to any news broadcast, where every play and decision will be analyzed.
I just hope Cowher takes extra time when picking out his wardrobe for the sidelines.
This column can also be read at

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Breaking up is hard to do
Frank Thomas has never been one to do well with words. You have to admire a guy who leaves a team, then not only knocks the team for letting him go, but knocks his replacement as well. Class all the way.
Jim Thome didn't respond to Thomas' remarks, which is to be expected. Thome is a thoughtful guy, who thinks before he talks.
Thomas once accused the Indians of being disrespectful to Albert Belle because they didn't want to offer him $55 million over five years. It's hard to imagine using the terms "disrespectful" and Albert Belle in the same sentence and not refer to the slugger himself, but Thomas found a way.
I'll bet the Athletics were just thrilled by the comments. Nothing says loyalty to a new team by bitching about the old one. It's like taking a girl out on a date and her talking about her old boyfriend the whole time.

Crisp deal completed
I'm actually more troubled by the Rhodes deal than by the Crisp one. The Indians bullpen is now missing three pieces from last year's team.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Striped and surrounded
One of the great joys about being a sports writer is being able to tell people what you do for a living. In fact, it may be the greatest joy. You're at a wedding and someone asks you what you do for a living. When you tell them, they immediately start asking questions.
What do you think about the American League this year?
Is LeBron going to be the next Jordan?
Do you think I should get on steroids?

No, someone actually asked me the last one.
The point is, if you ever want to feel like your opinion matters, become a sports writer. It doesn't matter that you know you're full of it half the time (or in my case, 90 percent of the time). It does boost the ego. There is just one thing that happens when you're a sports writer that some may not be able to accept. When you become media, you are no longer a fan.
Well, at least not at the games you cover.
You don't cheer, or heckle. You can't criticize the referees during the game (at least, not loudly) and you are expected to act a certain way. Consider this the first part of the column. Here comes the second part.
I was a fan for 22 years. For the last three, I have been an observer who has a job to do. And what was the first thing I observed? Some fans just don't get it.
I am talking about a small, small percentage when I say some. In fact, let me clarify further. Most of the fans that I am writing about are the ones at the high school level, the 30-somethings (or older) who yell at high school officials. Look, I have no problem with fans being critical of pro officials. They are the best of the best, and they are expected to take some heat. Big time college officials are probably used to it as well.
And you can even expect a degree of crassness from high school students. Maturity only comes with time, in some cases. But at the high school level, I don't understand an older guy accusing the official of throwing a game. Then they ridicule officials for missing every call. Interestingly enough, the calls the officials miss always go against their team. "You'll never get to the NBA," is a taunt they yell a lot.
Well, duh. Most of these men and women are officials because they love the game, or because it pays their heating bills. Most high school officials are not auditioning for David Stern. And the ones that are usually are just getting started anyway. They don't start out great, just as most of us don't when we start at our jobs. Most fans understand of this concept. But there are a few who are not. And usually, they are the loudest ones in the gym or in the stands.
A couple of examples:
* At a soccer match, a fan actually accused the ref (a man in his 20s) of dating some of the (high school) girls on a team, and giving them preferential calls.
* Several times officials have been accused of not understanding the rules (while the fan has the rule book memorized). This example would have made a lot more sense before the playoff game between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.
Still, being an official is a thankless job. Officials travel sometimes long distances for not much pay, just to be ridiculed. And there is no one to congratulate them when they do a good job. I write this in the hope that somewhere, some loudmouth is reading. And I hope that the next time he opens his mouth, he's not sitting behind me.
Oh, and be nice to officials.
For the record, I told the man not to go on steroids.
As seen on

Song quote of the day
Seasons change and so did I
you need not wonder why--The Guess Who

Galloway revealed
I wonder if he can talk his way out of this one.

My wonderful Aunt gave me two seasons of Seinfeld for Christmas. My conclusion is that I need more Seinfeld in my DVD collection. It's just that funny.
Still, there is an episode that struck me as quite strange. Actually, it was kind of chilling.
In the episode, Elaine is dating a guy named Joel Rifkin. The running joke is that it is the same name as a serial killer.
Elaine tries to rectify this problem by trying to get Joel to change his name. One of the names she suggests? O.J.
I don't like using the term "irony," because people always misuse it. But the episode (aired about a year before the whole O.J thing started) seems to define it for me.

The bad guys are losing
According to Hitchens

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

New things
I'd like to congratulate my friend Joel on his new job at Crain's Cleveland Business. I couldn't let another member of the Axis of BG-vil make mention of it and say nothing, after all.

Crisp deal dead?
Well, no. Not dead. Not dead in the way that you see it. It is with us always. Not dead in the way you see it, it is with us always.
Anyway, I was a bit perplexed by Mark Shapiro's "They're human beings," remark earlier this week. As if every reporter has to drop ledes on a trade because he or she might hurt the player's feelings. For God's sake.
So let's see where we stand:
-Guillermo Mota failed his physical. This pleases me in a selfish way, since I would have a real hard time spelling "Guillermo" all season. So in the trade's current form, Coco Crisp will not be heading to Boston.
- OK, so the Indians were going to trade Arthur Rhodes and David Riske? Well, I'd shed no tears over the loss of Riske, but the Rhodes deal would bother me, since Arthur really strengthened the pen after a season where it was the weak spot. Can't we trade someone else?
-I love Austin Kearns, and if the Reds are dumb enough to part with him, fine. But there's a problem. Reds' general manager Dan O'Brien was given his walking papers last week. So who does Cleveland negotiate with? And is there a way to pry Kearns without losing Crisp? I'll tell you right now, I'd trade Westbrook for Kearns, and I also think the Reds, desperate for pitching, wouldn't agree to it.
Can you imagine an outfield with Crisp, Sizemore and Kearns? And no Casey Blake?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Canada going conservative?
We'll see soon enough. Hopefully will cover it on its front page this time.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

This will be in the Panel later, but I'm taking the Steelers and the Seahawks for the Super Bowl.

Crisp to Boston?
ESPN is reporting the sides are close. I have no idea why the Indians would want to trade Coco, although he is up for arbitration, and Dolan is cheap. Very, very cheap. Very, very, very cheap.
But don't worry, Casey Blake will still be on the roster to save the day.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Pat Buchanan loves 24
Or at least that's what I got out of this article. Now, I haven't paid much attention to Buchanan, or his far-right isolationist world view in quite some time. But this article is interesting because:
* It shows Buchanan not only watches the Fox series, but probably tapes it, and takes notes afterwards.
* He takes the fiction quite seriously.
* He takes the shows popularity as some kind of symbol as to what Americans want or believe. Or maybe he's playing a mind-game. Either way, it's interesting.
Of course, like Buchanan, I love 24, but I have to stop short of applying much social significance to it. Having watched four of the five seasons, I've concluded that:
*Jack Bauer cannot be killed.
* CTU (Counter Terrorism Unit) has some really bad hiring records.
* No one (except for Jack, Kim and the late President Palmer) can be trusted.
* Chloe is really, really annoying.
Does 24 have any significance? Probably not. I just think a lot of people like to see bad guys get killed and Jack Bauer triumph ... on TV. When it's over, the viewing public is ready for American Idol.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Song quote of the day
Sometimes I get this crazy dream
that I just take off in my car
but you can travel on 10,000 miles
and still stay where you are-- Harry Chapin

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wilson Pickett dies
A rock legend is gone. Rest in peace.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

ESPN Hollywood gets the axe
Guess how many tears I'm shedding over this? Now if only ESPN can stop doing the ESPYs and stop thinking it can create feature films, we'll be on to something.
Back to basics. Please.

Senator Clinton
Honestly, I don't care about the senator's "Plantation" remarks. I'm not sure that's the best way to make a point, especially on Martin Luther King Day.
What bothered me most about the "plantation" speak was the defense of it. As if because Newt Gingrich used those images 10 years ago, it's OK for the senator to use them now.
I mean, we know how well-respected Gingrich is in Democratic circles, so really, his words inspire Democrats.
What bothered me most is when Clinton said that "I predict to you that this administration will go down in history as one of the worst that has ever governed our country."
I want to be careful here, because I don't mean to imply that Clinton does not have the right to speak her mind, or that it's not permissable to challenge the president in times of war. It's not only her right, but her responsibility.
But the fact is, the country is facing war. Two of them, in fact. America is also facing looming problems in Iran. President Bush will be in power for three more years.
In other words, it's unlikely he's going anywhere. And frankly, I'm tired of Clinton's endless positioning.
I don't expect politicians on both sides of the aisle to like each other. But for god's sake senator, who is your enemy? Is it Bush, or is it the Islamo-fascists? Is it poverty, or is it Republican leadership?
Whether we like it or not, Hillary Clinton is a major player in American politics. It is possible she will succeed President Bush.
But that's three years from now. And Clinton calls our leader's administration one of the worst ever to govern. Is she even concerned about what message this sends to those fighting against America, or is she just worrying about her poll numbers?
In truth, I have few complaints about the senator's record. But statements like that only stiffen my resolve against her potential candidacy.

Hitchens and ACLU
Christopher Hitchens has joined the ACLU in its lawsuit against the NSA spying program. His statement on the matter is well worth reading.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

NFL Thoughts
Courtney Brown, Mike Myers, Gerard Warren, Ebenezer Ekuban, Chris Gardocki, and of course, Quincy Morgan.
All are former Browns, and all will be in the AFC Championship game. Now, let's recap.
-The Browns' last AFC championship game appearance was in 1989. They have had two winning seasons since 1990.
-Cleveland went 6-10 this season, the third straight year they have had a losing season.
-And my hair looks bad today. OK, that really had nothing to do with anything.
Baseball announced part of the roster for the World Baseball Classic. I'm still not entirely certain when it is, where it is or really why it is, but MLB is a part of it, so it's bound to have countless flaws, assuming it does take place.
Hey, Bonds is on the US team. I am now switching my allegiance to Australia. Maybe Tim Blair will blog on it. I hope so.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

"I had the defender catching the ball. Before he got up, he hit it with his leg with his other leg still on the ground. Therefore, he did not complete the catch. And then he lost the ball. It came out, and so we made the play an incomplete pass." -- Referee Pete Morelli

The call was, without question, one of the worst I have ever seen in football. If calls like this are what we get out of replay, then I am in favor of chucking the whole system.
For those who didn't see the game, here's what happened.
With Pittsburgh leading 21-10 with 5:26, Steelers defender TroyPolamalu intercepted a pass, then fumbled it. Watching the game with five others, I looked around and asked the group what, exactly, Colts' coachTony Dungy was challenging, since Polamalu clearly caught the ball, secured it, rolled over with it, then fumbled it when it hit his knee. Then he recovered it.
But somehow, with "indisputable physical evidence," the call was overturned.
Joey Porter was sensing conspiracy, which would seem laughable, except for the fact that there has yet to be an explanation as to why the call was made that makes sense.
When the official uses the word "catch" in his desciption of a play, it's a catch.
I am no Steelers fan, but I am concerned. If that play could get overturned, what next?
Good thing Pittsburgh won. Otherwise I wouldn't have really felt the champion from the AFC had earned the title.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Kennedy info
Here's some nuggets about the Senator's performance at the Alito hearings.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Matter of Confidence
This week I went through a process I have never gone through before, but am sure I will again.
The past few days I sorted through my work for the Associated Press Awards in the state of Ohio. In some ways this means I have been nominated for an award. Of course, I made the nomination, so to make such a claim would be, while accurate, quite hollow.
As mentioned earlier, this is the first time I have gone through this process, despite entering my third year as a professional writer.
I changed jobs around this time last year, making any submissions difficult.
What I found was that going through your work from the year is like looking through a high school yearbook. Only instead of wondering why your hair was so weird looking and questioning your taste in clothes (I write this while wearing a shirt from high school), you are wondering why you wrote certain sentences, why you put a comma in a certain place, and thinking that you made the wrong choice when your mother asked exactly what it was you were going to major in at college.
Awards are (I think) supposed to inspire confidence. Instead, I found mine shot.
“Can’t I write a damn paragraph without using “yet?” I yelled to no one in particular.
The Associated Press asks for six submissions for best writer. At first, I thought I’d have about 20 I’d want to send in. But after rattling through six months of stories, columns and features I had penned, I found myself with no more than three I thought were presentable.
Despite its frustrating moments, the experience wasn’t entirely a downer. I found an article I’d penned after a local coach resigned. I’d totally forgotten about it, but it seemed, seven months later, to be some of my strongest work.
That was perhaps the most interesting thing. I knew the selection process was coming, and had several stories in my head I wanted to submit. Of that list, none were right for the competition after closer scrutiny.
It was instead the articles I had discarded soon after writing them that seemed the best.
Perhaps there’s a deep theme to this, or a story about the ugly duckling that turns into a swan. I don’t know.
All I know is after going through over 50 pieces of work over the last year, I found a few things to be undeniable.
* The first is that I’m no Orson Welles, no child prodigy who can turn any ridiculous premise into Pulitzer Prize material. One has to be comfortable in their abilities, and I certainly am. What I’m not is brilliant. I still have a long way to go.
* The second is that despite going through this process, my focus cannot be lost. You don’t get into an industry to win an award. You get into it because you enjoy it or it satisfies a need. Perhaps Cher got into the movie business to get an Oscar. She even won one. But winning the Oscar didn’t make her a great actress. It just made her exceptional for a piece that she did. In the same way, winning an AP award won’t make me a great writer; it won’t prove it to me, or vindicate my two years in the business. It’s just icing.
* Third is that going through the selection process creates mind numbing issues and causes me to write therapy-inducing columns like this one. Maybe next year I’ll just let my father pick out my best work and be done with it. I trust his judgment better than my own, anyway.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Indians offseason
Erik has his usual sharp take on the Indians and their offseason moves. I won't go move-for-move as he did, but I saw the Indians success or failure this winter as being based on a few major objectives.
* Sign two starting pitchers to replace Kevin Millwood and Scott Elarton.
*Sign a closer and some bullpen help for the late innings
and, most importantly ...
*Sign or trade for an outfielder to make sure that Casey Blake does not play in 147 games in 2006.
Let's see how they did.
*The Indians signed Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson to replace Millwood and Elarton.
*They brought in Steve Karsay and Danny Graves, and re-signed Scott Sauerbeck for the bullpen. If either Graves or Karsay works out, the Indians will be satisfactory in that area.
*The Indians solved their right field problem by signing Todd Hollandsworth and Eduardo Perez. Actually, Perez will play first base (and put pressure on Ben Broussard, who I thought was fine anyway).
The big problem is Casey Blake has not been removed from his starting spot. Erik said Hollandsworth could be a starter in right, and I hope he's right. Why am I so negative about Blake? Lets review:
* He had 23 homers, but drove in just 58 runs. In 147 games, mind you.
* He hit .210 or less in three different months in 2005.
* He has struck out at least 109 times in each of the last three seasons.
But here are the big ones
* He hit .192 (43-224) with runners on base last year
* He hit .171 (22-129) with runners in scoring position
* He hit (I am not making this up) .085 (5-59) with runners in scoring position and two down.
Want more?
* .143 batting average with the bases loaded.
* Of his 23 homers, 18 were solo.
All in all, I am looking forward to Blake patrolling right field only slightly more than I am looking forward to the next round of those "All rise for great taste" Miller Beer commercials. That guy needs a serious beating.
The actor, not Blake.
I want to emphasize that I don't like or mean to underestimate what a great guy Blake is. I have heard nothing but good about him. But I think he has proved he is no starter.

I really only saw a few clips of it on various news shows. But the argument between Sen. Kennedy and Sen. Spector over mail seemed like an improv comedy scene or at least the plot for a Seinfeld episode.
The one part I did see live was this afternoon. There was a quote from Sen. Feinstein that ... well, confused me.
"You've retired the trophy on equanimity."
The trophy of what? Sadly, she never explained the remark.
Samuel Alito has impressed me with his coolness. This has got to be one of the most exhausting periods of his life, where one misstep, one mistake can destroy his candidacy. But why do I get the feeling the Senate is playing political chess instead of honestly wanting to know things?
And does that bother anyone else?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Zach v. fever
The winner by knockout, fever!
Most of the last two days have been spent either drinking ginger ale or sleeping. That's why there haven't been many posts, and perhaps why I may have posted a story that was over a year old, as Aaron suggested.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Bush's Ipod
This article isn't exactly dripping with compliments for the President, but it iss still interesting to see what President Bush likes in music. I knew he was a Van Morrison fan (some reports had the legend slated to play at the President's first innauguration), but Joni Mitchell?
Anyway, interesting on a few levels, I think.

Happy Birthday
To my father. Here's hoping for another year of straight tee shots, good chipping and a lower handicap.
In seriousness, much love, from a grateful son.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Panel Wild Card Saturday
Washington at Tampa Bay
Taking Washington: Zach, Nihar, Aaron, Curtis
Taking Tampa Bay: Phil, Andy, Joel, Vivek (C)

Jacksonville at New England
Taking Jacksonville: Andy
Taking New England: Zach, Aaron, Nihar, Phil, Joel, Vivek (C)l

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hype Machine breaks down in Rose Bowl
Also can be read on
If there is one lesson that needs to be learned by the national pundits after Texas' "shocking" win over Southern California in the Rose Bowl, it is this:
No one knows anything.
The back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners couldn't save the Trojans Wednesday night, and in some ways hindered them.
Reggie Bush inexplicably tried to lateral a ball, and the result was a turnover. Matt Leinart held the ball too long on the game's last play, eliminating any chance of a field goal to tie the game.
OK, to criticize Leinart and Bush after their seasons is unfair. Both are tremendous players. But neither have divine capabilities, something that may have been lost after all the USC hype.
Some called the Trojans the best team in college football history, a topic sports reporters still debate as if a definitive answer is coming and being right on the topic is vital.
This game will not be a wake up call to those who push players and teams as if they cannot be beaten. A true wake up call came three years ago when Ohio State not only played with, but beat Miami. The Buckeyes couldn't stop the hype then, and I doubt the Longhorns will stop it now.
Besides, Texas has a date with the hype machine.
* Leinart said after the game that he believed USC was the better team. I remember Cleveland second baseman Carlos Baerga saying something similar after the Indians lost the World Series in 1995 to the Braves. Actually, you hear the "even though we lost, we're a better team" statement quite a bit. In some ways, I imagine it's a way for players (and fans) to cope with a loss after they had been so certain of victory.
Baerga was wrong 10 years ago, and Leinart is wrong now. To say otherwise is to defeat the whole purpose of sports. Sports are played not on a computer, and not decided by player statistics. They are decided on the field.
The Indians had a chance to prove they were a better team in 1995, but lost in six games. USC had the chance to prove they were better, and lost.Case closed.
* Pete Carroll has never really been my favorite coach. It started a few years ago when he allowed O.J. Simpson on the field during a USC practice. Then we saw footage of O.J. shaking hands with the players. Most of the Trojans looked like they had just met Santa Claus.
Nonetheless, I give Carroll credit for being gracious in the loss. He looked so unaffected while being interviewed that I had to wonder if he ever gets upset about anything not involving college officials.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bad relationship
Have you ever had a friend, a close friend, who is dating someone you don't like? And no matter how many times you tell them "(S)he's wrong for you," they just don't listen?
Even though you know the relationship is a mistake, and even though you imagine that even they have to know you're right?
That's how I feel about the Indians and Casey Blake. The Indians are close to signing Eduardo Perez to a one year deal, but he is expected to platoon with Ben Broussard.
Blake will likely still play 145 games in right field, even if he can't hit over .100 with runners in scoring position and misses the cutoff man on every throw.
Basically, the Indians are married to Blake. He's never going away, no matter how mediocre he is.
And that is so depressing for this Indians fan.

Swann to run in Pennsylvania
I am a huge Browns fan. I am also known to be a die-hard conservative. Thankfully, I don't live in Pennsylvania, or I'd have to make a tough decision. Dah, who am I kidding? Of course I'm pulling for him.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Interview with Andy Barch 1/3
Today I did an interview with West Virginia Power broadcaster and NFL expert Andy Barch on the latest NFL firings.

ZB: What do you think motivated the firing of Mike Sherman?

AB: a 4-12 record, and an embarassing loss on Monday night to the Ravens. As stupid as that may sound, too often in this league one game means too much. This guy won them 3 straight divisional titles, there are only 2 other coaches in team history to do that, and you know who the other two are.

ZB: Right. Was it the right move?

AB: Absolutely not. Favre made it clear that he did not want to play for another coach or learn another offense, and in essence, this tells me that they are FORCING a legend out of town telling him that his opinion does not matter. You look at all of the injuries that this team endured, and you'll be amazed that they were as close as they were against some of the teams they played this season.
They lost their best WR, they started the year short-handed on the o-line, they used 5 different running backs, signing guys off of other teams' practice squads, and yet they still fought hard, taking the Bears down to the final play on Christmas in a game the Bears had to win.
Sherman also won the game against the Lions on Sunday night by convincing the officials that they made an incorrect call.

ZB: I remember that. It was a strange game.

AB: Three straight divisional titles, followed by a 4-12 season which was riddled with injuries, does not warrant a premature firing.

ZB: Now let me ask you ... of all the firings, which one surprised you the most?

AB: Sherman, and Tice.

AB: more so Sherman. Tice a little, just because when that team went into the crapper in October, then lost their star QB, it looked like they were headed to hell in a handbasket, and he got that team to believe and rally behing a journeyman QB and they came a game away from getting to the playoffs
If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that they would have been 9-7, I would have said no way, they are a 12-4 teamBIGAB35: in october if u said 9-7, I would have said no way.

ZB: Do you think the off the field distractions played a roll?

AB: Yes, absolutely, there were too many to deal with, but I think he overcame all of those, and they have something to build on, but now they have to start over with a new staff.

ZB: Next question. Is there anyone else on the block? What about Turner?

AB: He's as good as gone. I heard this morning on the radio that he has already cleaned out his desk, and he is expecting to get the axe, but that Raiders' job really isnt one that is too exciting. You are working directly under a guy who loves to bring in new coaches, players, personnel every year making it difficult to develop any kind of chemistry.

ZB: Of the fired coaches, who has the best shot to be a head coach again?

AB: Other than that, I dont see any other changes; nobody else deserves to get fired. I think all have great chances to be NFL head coaches except for Dom Capers and Norv Turner. They've both had their chances.
I really do like Mike Sherman a lot, but I am a bit biased. Mike Tice is a guy who has been able to prove himself in his first go around as head coach and the others who were shown the door will get chances down the road.

ZB: It's hard to blame the Raiders' struggles on Turner, right?

AB: Well, yeah. I mean Turner hasn't done much with that offense. I don't think they run well enough, and with the injuries to Randy Moss, it was tough to really open up the passing game this year.

ZB: Is Houston Capers' fault?

AB: Yes, he's done very little to help protect David Carr, and he's done little to improve that defense. You've seen how Bill Parcells protects Drew Bledsoe in the Max Protect mode, why don't we see more of that for David Carr?
I don't think Capers ever really allowed Carr to get comfortable.

ZB: Interesting you bring up Parcells. What are the odds he'll be back next year?

AB: I think he'll be back for sure. Another year with the squad he has and they will fix the things that kept them out of the playoffs. These detroit rumors are false.

ZB: One last thing. Is Herman Edwards going to be anywhere but New York next year?

AB: I would be thoroughly amazed if he is not in Kansas City next year. I think Al Saunders is going to get a job somewhere else and Herm Edwards is going to leave the Jets (who are in shambles) and take the KC job, which is a terrific job with Larry Johnson and company.
Herm may want to stay in NY professionally, but realistically, he knows that KC is a much better place for the immediate future.

ZB: Plus the steaks.


ZB: anyway Andy, as always, thanks for joining us

Savage to Stay ... maybe
Friday was certainly interesting. Late in the afternoon, I was under the impression, as was most of Cleveland, that Phil Savage was done as the Browns general manager.
From the reports I listened to, I heard the name "Ray Anderson" used as a replacement. As I was leaving my car, I heard the broadcasters say Savage was "out." There was little reason not to believe them.
I let my feelings on that possiblity known Friday on this blog. The Browns have just been a stick of perpetual dynamite for seven seasons. It goes off, and you think the team will rebuild. Then you discover that the dynamite is still there, ready for another explosion.
Erik wrote last week that fans have more patience for the Browns than for the Indians. He's right. I love the Indians, and love baseball even more than football.
But my favorite moments in sports are all Browns-related. My grandmother would call me after every Browns game and we would go over the key plays. She's been gone for 15 years, but every once in a while I think of something, and I know she's watching.
I think back to the days when the Browns were good, and I long to feel that way about them again. Yes, they made the playoffs in 2002, but did anyone really think they were a Super Bowl team?
The point is that after almost 15 years of mismanagement, distrust, a move, expansion and mediocrity, I finally felt like the Browns were headed in the right direction.
Romeo Crennel and Phil Savage made no promises, but that's what I liked. I actually feel better that the Browns went 6-10 this year instead of 8-8.
At 8-8, I'd be fooled into thinking they could win the AFC next year, even though every piece of rational thought would tell me otherwise.
Crennel just tells it like it is. He says the team still has a long way to go, and I believe him. I know that if the Browns are a playoff contender someday, it won't be with Ray Mickens in the secondary and Frisman Jackson at receiver. Nothing against those guys. It's just what is here now isn't what will be here then.
I assume I have lost some of you, since I started writing about Phil Savage and ended up somewhere else. The point is that after all that had happened, as a fan, I wasn't ready to hear the foundation was about to be ripped up again.
Of course, we were all wrong ... I guess. Savage was secure, we were told. It was all blown out of proportion.
But Savage himself isn't saying he's staying or going. The line seems to favor him staying, but we can hardly be certain of that.
The only thing I am fairly certain of is that Romeo will be here, and that's a relief.

It's the same old song, but with a different meaning since you've been gone -- The Four Tops
Update: As many of you now know by reading Joel's comment, Savage is in, Collins is out. On the upside, John Collins can now reunite Genesis.
Wait a minute. Phil Savage ... John Collins ... Phil Collins.
We should have known the partnership was doomed.