Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Song quote of the day
I seek to cure what's deep inside
frightened of this thing that I've become -- Toto


Sunday, January 27, 2008

March 4
If you live in Ohio, you are about to be assaulted by ads.

Television. Radio. Newspaper.

The primary is coming. Ohio has always been crucial to deciding national elections, and it's difficult to forsee a time when that won't be the case.

So the circus in South Carolina last week is on its way here. Bill, Hillary, Huck, Barack and Mitt are all on their way.

So is Dennis Kucinich, who has finally ended his out-of-this-world presidential candidacy. The congressman will likely be around a lot more now, trying to convince voters in Northeast Ohio that he is still working for their best interests.

You know it's getting bad for Kucinich when The Plain Dealer tells its readers they should think twice before voting for him. Naturally, that article was filled with praise, which I assume is so the hardcore Kucinich supporters don't end their subscriptions.

Kucinich supporters seem to be a fiercely loyal bunch, I'll say that for them. But hopefully they will be outnumbered.

Then again,the worst thing that may happen for conservatives is for Kucinich to lose. Then he may get a show on HBO or Comedy Central and get praised by Bruce Springsteen on a History Channel documentary hosted by Tom Brokaw.

But back to the national elections. It will be the first primary for me that meant something since 2000, when I voted for Sen. John McCain. While I can certainly see that happening again in a few weeks, I'm still undecided.

I just hope Senator Clinton and her husband find a different strategy, because it sure seemed to get ugly last week, and I'd hate to see that type of thing here.

Still, it can't be worse than celebrities descending on our state, telling us they are Buckeyes while playing the president on an NBC dramedy. Maybe this year I won't get calls from Martin Sheen and Arnold Schwarzenegger "pumping me up" to vote for their candidates.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Moment of Truth
I don't know what I find more troubling. The fact that Fox's Moment of Truth did so well in the ratings, or that I, finding nothing else worth while on TV, watched it.

Probably the latter.


Kucinich drops out of Presidential race
It has long been my position that Dennis Kucinich has all but abdicated his congressional seat by spending the better part of the last eight years chasing his pipe dream.

For that alone, I think he deserves to be rebuffed in his attempt to hold his spot in congress.

For most of my life, I lived in the district Kucinich "represents." I have since moved west, but my interest in that area's politics remain.

At this point, I find myself not caring if it's a Democrat or Republican that eventually vanquishes Kucinich. I just hope someone does.

That's a dangerous philosophy, I know. But I simply can't see how anyone could be worse than the former "Boy Wonder" who somehow still gets represented as "couragous" for his ridiculous and area-destroying run as Cleveland's mayor. At least then, he was -- in some capacity -- serving the voters who elected him.

The same can't be said now. But at the same time, if his district still supports his de facto leadership, more power (or is it less power?) to it.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One of the interesting things (perhaps THE interesting thing) about the Indians' offseason is their arbitration hearings.

There are two players the Indians appear to be going to arbitration with: reliever Rafael Betancourt and infielder Casey Blake.

Betancourt filed for a deal worth about $2.5 million. For anyone who watched him last season, that number sounds like a bargain. If he were a free agent, I imagine he could get at least $7 million, just because of how many teams are starved for pitching help.

The Indians countered with a $1.75 million offer. This for a man who went 5-1 with a 1.47 earned run average in 2007.

I was about to call the Indians cheap, but then I read about the Blake negotiations.

The Indians are offering Blake a deal worth $5.4 million for one season. If you read this blog at all, you probably know how I feel about Blake. He had some great moments last season. He almost had me turned on him entirely.

Then came Game 7 of the ALCS.

I don't blame Blake for the loss of the game or the series. But it's undeniable that in the most important moments of the season, he failed twice -- first at bat, then in the field. In some ways, he was like Derek Anderson for the Browns: He did a lot of good things, but in the crucial game didn't come through.

Blake hit .270 with 18 homers and 78 RBIs last year. Is he valuable? No question. But he's going to be 35, a time when most non-steroid using players (which I believe Blake is one of)decline.

I think $5.4 is overpaying for a guy who generally does not drive in runs.

Blake wants almost $7 million for 2008. I almost spit out my orange juice when I read that.

My gut feeling is the Indians will find common ground with both players, which I think will be good for all involved. But the Betancourt deals have me confused.

First off, I can't believe he'd ask for so little. But I also can't believe the Indians won't try to lock him up for two or three years. It's unlikely he'll be as dominant as he was last season.

But he doesn't have to be dominant to be useful to the club.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Phil's NFL Picks
Chargers (13-5) @ Patriots (17-0)
A look at San Diego:
THE CHARGERS WIN BECAUSE OF - Depth. Injuries San Diego have taken to their quarterback, running back, and tight end position would have crippled most NFL teams. The Chargers, however, were able to use Michael Turner and BIlly Volek last week to upset the favored Colts in the divisional round. Shawne Merriman gets a lot of the attention, but the Bolts defense over is still one of the league's better units.

THE CHARGERS LOSE BECAUSE OF - Injuries. If Volek has to start this game at QB, it needs to be noted that he has not thrown a touchdown pass since 2005. LaDainian Tomlinson may not be at full strength, which is not good heading into this game. Also, as far as coaching goes, Norv Turner vs Bill Bellichick is a huge mismatch. San Diego might just be happy to be here, which will not be good enough to win.

CHARGERS FAST FACT - This is San Diego's first trip to the AFC Championship Game since 1994.

A look at New England:
THE PATRIOTS WIN BECAUSE OF - The fact they are the best team in the NFL. Like them or not, New England has not just won, they have dominated most teams in the NFL this year. Tom Brady is having his best year by far ever since he was given receivers to throw the ball to. Camera-gate aside, Bill Bellichick is still widely considered the best coach in the league. Finally, how can we forget the 38-14 thumping New England gave San Diego in Week 2?

THE PATRIOTS LOSE BECAUSE OF - The upset of the year takes place. Take nothing away from the Chargers, but the Patriots are clearly the better team here. No matter what opposing teams try to do, New England adjusts their game accordingly.

PATRIOTS FAST FACT - Tom Brady has never lost a home playoff game.

Zach's thought: I had the Patriots, despite cheering for the Chargers.

Date: Sunday - January 20, 2008
Kickoff: 6:30 PM ET
Station: FOX

Giants (12-6) @ Packers (14-3)
A look at New York:
THE GIANTS WIN BECAUSE OF: Their defense. Eli Manning gets all the attention because he's the quarterback, but the Giants have made their name this year on the other side of the ball. Their pass rush is critical in slowing down Brett Favre. Michael Strahan had 11 sacks this year while teammate Justin Tuck had 10. That production will be needed on Sunday.

THE GIANTS LOSE BECAUSE OF: The return of bad Eli. To his credit, Manning has put together three games in a row that were mistake free. In those contests, he showed why he was a first round draft talent. However, Manning has also been incredibly inconsistent throughout his career and this will be his biggest test in his young career. It will be interesting to see how the hostile road environment will affect him.

GIANTS FAST FACT: The Giants were 7-1 on the road in the 2007 regular season.

A look at Green Bay:
THE PACKERS WIN BECAUSE OF: Brett Favre. The man is 38 years young and having arguably the best season of his 17 year career. His long pass has been rediscovered with amazing accuracy, putting him back in the NFC Championship game. While he clashed with head coach Mike McCarthy at first, it is clear that their relationship has resulted in Favre's return to the elite standings of quarterbacks.

THE PACKERS LOSE BECAUSE OF: Turnovers. Ryan Grant coughed up two fumbles last week which led to Seattle taking a quick 14-0. Green Bay must be protective of the football as New York will be looking to strip the Packers of the ball every chance they get. As good as Green Bay has been, you cannot keep spotting your opponent easy points.

PACKERS FAST FACT: Green Bay last won the NFC Championship 10 years ago in 1997

Zach's thought: I took the Packers, against my better judgement.

LAST WEEK: 3-1 Z: 2-2
OVERALL: 173-91 Z: Who cares? There's one game left and Phil's been leading all season by at least five games. For god's sake, this is my blog, and I never win. Losing to Phil is one thing, but I lost to a DENTIST in the elimination game. Sigh.


Friday, January 18, 2008

Hitchens hits another home run
Though I often complain about it, the long, long journey that is an election year does have one positive effect: There's plenty of interesting Christopher Hitchens articles to read.

In this instance, Hitchens takes on the issue of identity politics. As usual, he gets his digs in at Hillary Clinton, but the part of the article that drew my interest was a section that began with a rather interesting quote from Madeline Albright. I'll remember it, because it might be useful down the line.


Shuffling the Ipod
Five songs at random. Here we go.
1. Sunset Woman -B.W Stevenson
I picked this album off Amazon when I first got out of college. Mostly independent, my first order was to get the original "My Maria" on CD. What happened was discovering a wonderful artist who died young but in a rather short career put out some stunning music. Stevenson had a passionate voice, and an ability to mix country and rock to perfection. When I hear this album, I am reminded of my early days as a rookie reporter in somewhat rural Ohio.

2. King Harvest has Surely Come (Alternate Performance)-- The Band
It was my brother who introduced me to The Band. I can only imagine it was his fiancee that introduced them to him. King Harvest is, itself a brilliant performance, but this alternate take is a bit more raw, complete with a bit of a jam leading into it. Richard Manuel influenced a number of singers with his raw voice. Seriously, if you listen to Eric Clapton, you get the feeling he's trying to emulate Manuel's voice. Clapton does an OK job of it, but the genuine article is worth listening to. Sadly, Manuel committed suicide in 1986. In fact, there are only three remaining band members. "I think we're warmed up," says what sounds like Levon Helm at the end of the recording.

3. Jumpin' Jack Flash -- The Rolling Stones
It is probably a safe bet that if you don't like this song, or don't at least appreciate it, you don't like rock and roll. A great lead guitar, bass line and gritty sound. This song is one of many where the Stones are performing at their peak. I personally believe it to be one of Mick Jaggar's best vocal recordings. Certainly a rock anthem that resonates with me, and I was born 12 years after the song's release.

4. China Girl --David Bowie
Let's just say this is not one of my favorite Bowie songs. He has such a great voice, but it almost seems as if he sometimes undersings. I could be wrong about this, but for much of the track, he sounds like he cares more about the style than singing his best. Of course, he tests his range later in the song, which is more to my liking. I love Bowie's music for the most part, but this is one song I don't really care for. I've never heard Iggy Pop's version, which someone once told me was better. Either way, I doubt Bowie cares what I think.

5. There Never was a Train -- Clint Black
If there's one singer I wish I could sing like (saving perhaps the late Roy Orbison), Black would be my pick. This song has a pleasant sound to it, but isn't exactly memorable. That's not a bad thing, since Black's voice is usually meant to ache or break the heart. I stopped listening to modern country when I was about 13, but Black's music continues to be an influence to me, whether I'm playing, singing or just pretending I haven't completely abandoned my artistic side.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

(Richard) Justice for Selig
So Bud Selig gets an extension, and Richard Justice is calling the old, old, commissioner the best baseball has ever had.

I am of the belief that Selig is the worst commissioner ever, and should not even be allowed to run baseball anymore. That would be like the people who ran Enron being left in charge after its fallout.

But let's look at some of Justice's points:

Thanks to him, baseball has labor peace. This isn't a big deal to people of a certain age because they don't remember that for about 20 years baseball's players and owners tried to kill the game every four or five years.

Yeah. Back then, we'd have 20-day lockouts and seasons that finished with the World Series. Thanks to Selig and Donald Fehr, an entire postseason was wiped out -- something that hadn't happened despite two world wars, The Great Depression and other labor problems.

He led the charge for interleague play and an additional round of the playoffs.

I know I'm in the minority here, but I hate interleague play. Baseball was the only sport where two leagues never played except in the World Series and the All-Star Game. That made those things special.This season, we had two teams play in the Fall Classic who had actually met in the regular season.

The All-Star game has become so pointless that they have added World Series homefield advantage to try to add intrigue. That is, in itself, stupid on dozens of levels.

All the additional round of playoffs have done is make the regular season's first half entirely meaningless. A team can sit at around .500, make a few quick deals and get into the playoffs with a little more than 80 wins. Then you have a team like 2006's Cardinals win the World Series. What's the point of such a long season if so many mediocre teams can have a shot at the postseason?

Selig also pushed for the revenue sharing that has given more teams the chance to be competitive. Fifteen of baseball's 30 teams have played at least one post-season series the last two seasons. That's parity by any definition.

And the Yankees and Red Sox can still buy themselves into the postseason every year. The Yankees spent over $20 million to bring in (alleged) steroid user Roger Clemens for half the season. That lone transaction speaks to so many of the game's problems.

And there's steroids. Baseball wasn't hurt in any financial sense by steroids, but baseball was embarrassed. It took far too long to recognize the problem. The Mitchell Report hangs over the game like a mushroom cloud. Baseball's two biggest stars--Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds--have been accused of being cheats.

The fact that this part of the column is six paragraphs is mind-boggling, since it is THE Selig legacy.

Selig and union chief Don Fehr were the men in charge so they should be held accountable. On the other hand, Selig has worked furiously to rid the game of performance-enhancing drugs.

Fifteen to 20 years too late. The entire culture, the entire integrity of the game has been destroyed. Selig was leading baseball through most of that. If he knew about the scope of the problem and hid the truth, that's almost criminal. If Selig didn't know, then he was out of touch.

Bottom line, he should have been leading the sport, and shouldn't be leading it now.

Selig deserves to be on the job for as long as he wants to be. He's a man of decency and honor, and baseball has been lucky to have him.

Decency and honor? He's not John McCain or even George Mitchell. He's a commissioner who presided over an illigal drug-filled era, denied there was a problem (see Andro) and then acted late.

And what was the price of this labor peace? That treatment-first drug testing program?

I enjoy Justice and admire him as a writer. But I disagree with his assessment of Selig. Baseball sent a clear message today by extending the commissioner: everything is just fine.

But it's not, and everyone should realize that.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Resting the starters
There were two teams sitting in an interesting position going into the final week of the NFL's regular season -- the Giants and the Colts.

The Giants had locked up their playoff spot as an NFC Wild Card, with a 10-5 record. Nothing they did the the final week -- against the unbeaten Patriots, would change their playoff position. The Giants knew they had the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay, eight days after the Patriots game.

They had an opportunity to rest their players. To play backups. To treat the game as meaningless.

But instead, coach Tom Coughlin had his team go all out. In my opinion, it was respect for the game and its history. They may not be able to keep the Patriots from the first perfect regular season in the league since 1972, but they'd sure give it a try.

As it turned out, the Giants played a great game that Saturday night, with most of America watching. They lost the game, and the Patriots completed their perfect season. But somehow, the Giants seemed to gain momentum from the game.

Less than 24 hours after that game ended, Tony Dungy led his aching Colts into a home game against their division rival, the Titans.

The game was meaningless for the Colts, who had already wrapped up the No. 2 seed in the AFC. It was far from meaningless for the Titans, who could clinch a playoff spot -- the league's final one -- with a win.

While a Colts win meant little to Indianapolis, it meant everything to a team to the northeast. The Browns finished their season 10-6, but needed the Colts to win to get a playoff spot.

But the Colts were cautious. Star quarterback Peyton Manning sat after one quarter, and most of their starters were gone by halftime. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the Titans, playing for their playoff lives, won -- barely.

Here we are two weeks later. The Giants, the second lowest seed in the NFC, are still in the hunt. After beating Tampa Bay and Dallas -- both on the road, New York will challenge Green Bay for the NFC title Sunday.

The Colts were bounced in the divisional round by the Chargers.

Maybe the extra rest had nothing to do with the Colts losing. But all I know is this: The Giants played every game to win, even when they didn't need one.

The Colts -- for the second time in three years -- took a deep breath.

It's possible, maybe even likely, that the decisions made by the respective coaches in the final weeks of the season have nothing to do with where their teams are now.

But, then again ...


Monday, January 14, 2008

Hitchens' case against Hillary Clinton
It was in June of 2004 that I first began to appreciate the writings of Christopher Hitchens. That was when he brilliantly took Michael Moore to task for the unbelievable -- as in, not believable-- film that so many gushed over.

Perhaps the right had found an ally, I thought, in this right-minded Englishman.

The next week, I read a piece by him called The Stupidity of Ronald Reagan, which was written just days after the former president had died.

Since then, I have read almost every article of his I could find. I soon realized that you don't have to agree with Hitchens to enjoy him and appreciate him as a writer. On the contrary, it would seem difficult to find someone who agrees with Hitchens on every issue, simply because he is all over the place.

The first book of his that I read was No One Left to Lie to, a rather scathing attack on Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and the the entire machine that ran the country for eight years.

The book took the the former president on mainly from the left, which is something I wasn't used to, and many of those criticisms were ones I didn't share.

But there were also things in that book that forever altered the way I looked at the former president and his wife. I tell people who ask (and more than a few who don't) that my biggest problems with the Clintons are not political.

What I was sure of is that wherever Hillary went as she tried to present herself as electable, Hitchens wouldn't be far behind.

In other words, I knew this was coming.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Grantham fired
Really, this was inevitable.

Most thought that when Romeo Crennel was fired halfway through the 2007 season, the team's defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, would take his place.

Both men had to be aware of this speculation. You can imagine the tension it must have created, especially since Grantham, like almost everyone in his profession, likely has aspirations to be a head coach.

Of course, the defense was a disappointment, but the Browns were not. Plus, Crennel and GM Phil Savage had to be intrigued about the possibilities of what a new coordinator could do, in light of what Rod Chudzinski accomplished with the offense this season.

Like I said, it was inevitable.


Phil's NFL Picks
FOX - 4:30 PM ET
Seahawks (11-6) @ Packers (13-3)
Curious that the point spread for this game is seven points. Seattle should be able to cover but their offense will have a lot of question marks. How will their running game fare in Green Bay? Look for Matt Hasselbeck to try to air it out against the Packers defense. Meanwhile, Brett Favre is going to have his hands full with a Seattle defense that gave Washington fits last week. The end of the regular season was rough for Green Bay, but they are at home and rested.
Zach's thought: Seattle isn't a good road team. Packers.

CBS - 8:00 PM ET
Jaguars (12-5) @ Patriots (16-0)
Of all the teams that had a bye week during the Wildcard round, no team may have benefited more than New England. With five starters on defense over the age of 30, the Patriots defense looked tired the past few weeks. In the last few games of the season, teams began running straight up the middle on New England's defense. Meanwhile, Jacksonville is coming off a physical game against Pittsburgh were they coughed up an 18 point lead. Yes David Gerrard virtually won the game on his QB draw, but his two interceptions were awful throws.
Zach's thought: Jacksonville is really good, but the Patriots will cause too many problems. I don't want the Patriots to win, but I think they will. Patriots.

CBS - 1:00 PM ET
Chargers (12-5) @ Colts (13-3)
San Diego had been looking like a team that was getting hot for the playoffs, but then they really seemed to struggle against Tennessee last week. Both teams are going into this game with injury concerns. The Jaguars may not have the services of tight end Antonio Gates and Pro Bowl blocker Lorenzo Neal is coming off a broken leg. Meanwhile, the Colts have lost Dwight Freeney is on injured reserve and Marvin Harrison has only played one game since Sept. 30th. Just cannot see Peyton Manning being one and done in the postseason this year.
Zach's thought: The Chargers didn't play all that well last week, and I don't expect them to play well this week, either. Colts.

FOX - 4:30 PM ET
Giants (11-6) @ Cowboys (13-3)
Suddenly, the Cowboys offense has question marks with Terrell Owens playing or not (signs point to him being active for the game). If Dallas loses this game, Tony Romo's Mexico trip during the bye week will be heavily debated. Does the Giants playoff season rests on the arm on Eli Manning, who can win or lose the game for you? Probably not because New York's defense should also have a big day. Whether or not they can stop Marion Barber will go a long way in determining this game's winner. Upset Special here.
Zach's thought: New York has one road loss this year. Guess who it's against. Cowboys.

LAST WEEK: 3-1 Z:3-1
OVERALL: 170-90 Z:167-94


Friday, January 11, 2008

Kucinich wants a recount
Your congressman, northeast Ohio.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Andy Barch Playoff Interview

Z: What are the chances of Pete Carroll going to Atlanta?

AB: He will obviously entertain the idea, but in the end, I'd be SHOCKED if he takes that job.

Z: Would he even be a good fit in the NFL?

AB: Anymore I'm not sure. You'd think some guys would learn their lesson after seeing Petrino, Saban and Spurrier fail. Of course, Carroll is different because I believe he has a 34-33 record with the Jets and Patriots. However, he's built a dynasty over the last 7 years with USC, and he's a celebrity down there. I wouldn't leave a great opportunity for an opportunity that has the potential to be great.

Z: Were you surprised Joe Gibbs stepped down?

AB: Not at all, I think he did as much as he could with the Redskins and brought them throug a VERY difficult time. Getting young men who are struck with adversity and tragedy to use their grief in a positive manner which resulted in a tremendous amount of momentum, is a VERY difficult task.

Z: Who do you like in the games this week?

AB: As much as I hate to say it, I have to pick the Patriots. About five weeks ago, Jeremy Green of ESPN said he thought the Jags were a team that could give the Pats some problems because they run the ball well, they stop the run well and they are a team that could win road games in the cold, rain, snow, etc.

I just dont know if they can stop the Patriots passing game, and David Gerrard looked less than impressive against the Steelers, so htat concerns me. I really want to say the Jags, but I"ll pick the Patriots.

In the other Saturday game, I like the Packers, but if the weather is real nice, and Hasslebeck can open up the passing game, GB could be in real trouble. However, Green Bay can run on Seattle, and though Seattle's pass rush looked great against the Skins, Favre has done a great job of getting the ball out early and letting his WRs do the rest.

I like Green Bay, but I think it will be very close, much like the '04 playoff game

Sunday, I like the Chargers. I think they got hot at the right time and I think this team is poised to do some special things this year. Last week, they proved that they could win without LT going nuts, and this week, I think they can do some damage against Indy's defense, which is a bit banged up.

I also like the Giants, if nothing else, because TO will not be 100% and their passing game hasn't looked all that great during the final few weeks of the season. Wade Phillips has never been a great playoff coach, and the Giants are a great road team. Not to mention, it's VERY difficult to beat the same team three times the same season

Now onto the colts. Resting players is never a good idea unless they are really dinged up and actually need the rest. The season is routine for these guys and you never want to risk injury, but as Coach Ditka always says, you cannot turn it on and turn it off week after week. Last year, the Colts didn't rest their guys and look what happened. However, I dont know if there's a team riddled with more injuries than these guys left in the playoffs, so they did need it badly. They're in for a tough matchup this week, though.

Z: Super Bowl pick?

AB: Patriots-Giants, rematch of Week 17's thriller. I cannot pick the Packers; it's bad kharma. For the same reason, I'm picking the Patriots. nothing would make me happier than seeing those guys lose in the playoffs after going unbeaten in the regular season. That, and I don't know who can beat those guys.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Hillary wins New Hampshire
But the important thing is John McCain won. What happens from here is anyone's guess. As for me, I'm still undecided.

No, really. I have two months, after all.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Great moments in broadcasting history
ESPN's Neil Everett (No, I'm not sure which one of the screaming maniacs at the network he is)when talking doing highlights of the debacle that was the GMAC Bowl, gets a tad confused:

From the Futon:

EXCEPT. During that particular highlight (loosely quoted, until video surfaces, if ever):

Josh Cribbs, the Cleveland Browns kick returner, you know, he went to Bowling Green. He never returned kicks there, though.

Not that us at BG wouldn't have wanted Cribbs on our team, because he was excellent at Kent State. But like Matt Sussman, I'm pretty sure Everett got Cribbs confused with BG quarterback Josh Harris.

You'd think you'd research that before blurting it out on the air. In fairness to Everett, he was probably stretching to say something noteworthy about the game, which, for Falcon alums like myself, wasn't noteworthy at all.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Reliving the 2007 Browns season
We went from Romeo on the hot seat to a coach of the year candidate.

We went from Charlie Frye to "When will Brady play?" to "Who cares?" to "When will Brady play?" to "What's up with D.A.?"

I'm starting to rhyme and I like it.

We went from bad to passable to good to almost fantastic.

All in four months.

Let's re-live it.

Week 1
Browns lose to Steelers, implosion imminent

What I said:This may have been Charlie Frye's final NFL start. Frye looked overmatched physically and mentally by Pittsburgh. He was pulled some 23 minutes into the first game of the season, a feat not even Ty Detmer can claim.

What it meant: It was the end of Charlie Frye in a Browns uniform. He was traded two days later to Seattle, and the Browns gave the job to some guy from Oregon State.

Week 2
What the Hell? Browns offense feasts, defense can't quite choke it away against Bengals

What I said: No one's ready to call Derek Anderson a long term starter. But for one day, he looked like one. He made a few bad passes, and was intercepted on the first play of the second half.

But he was more effective than he has ever been in his life. The numbers are amazing. He threw for 328 yards. He threw five touchdowns. He didn't get sacked.

What it meant: At the time, it meant the Browns wouldn't go winless. But it did two things: it brought confidence in Anderson, and it sent the Bengals into a season-long slump.

Week 3
Back to reality? Browns blocked out in Oakland

What I said: Yes, the Browns didn't play well. But if Dawson makes the kick, as he has done so many times before, we're all happy.

What it meant: We had no way of knowing at the time, but the blocked kick became a huge factor in the Browns missing the playoffs.

Week 4
Something strange is going on: Browns win against "powerful" Ravens

What I said: This win is more satisfying than the Bengals game, because it didn't feel like a fluke. The Browns won because they deserved to. They played with more energy than the Ravens, and played like winners, instead of like a team hoping to pull an upset.

What it meant: This was the win where we started to wonder if we had more than a four-win team on our hands.

Week 5
Browns don't get humiliated against NFL's best

What I said: But the time for moral victories is over, and no matter what the final score was, the game was never close.

What it meant: It showed Derek Anderson still had moments of mediocrity, which came back to haunt him, albeit not for several weeks.

Week 6
Browns hold off hapless Dolphins

What I said: The Browns offense hasn't been this energized since Bernie Kosar and Webster Slaughter donned the colors at the old stadium.

What it meant: The players started talking playoffs after this one. I was just thankful the Browns hadn't lost to a winless team.

Week 8
Braylon has arrived: Receiver downs Rams

What I said: This was Braylon Edwards' game. He was the star, the big-budget leading man, an action-movie protagonist. He had a great supporting cast: Derek Anderson, Kellen Winslow, Joe Jurevicious and Jamal Lewis all played significant roles.

But if the field turf at whatever they call that dome in St. Louis was a stage, Edwards deserved the curtain call.

What it meant: Braylon Edwards was becoming a force, and he was far from done.

Week 9
Time to believe after OT win over Seattle

What I said: No one knows where this will lead. But when Dawson's chip shot went through the uprights, I had a strange feeling. It was a feeling I'd had before, but not for a long time.

I felt like the Browns were a real football team. Not a bunch of imposters in orange helmets who were thrown together after Art Modell skipped town.

What it meant: This was the game when fans realized they had a pretty decent team. A win over a playoff team was huge for everyone's esteem.

Week 10: Browns can't break Pittsburgh

What I said: Is there progress? Yes. But the close loss only means something if the Browns beat Baltimore next week. If the Browns play the way they did after the last time they lost a close game to Pittsburgh (remember Braylon Edwards grabbing Charlie Frye?), this promising season could be nothing more than a tease.

What it meant: It made winning the division almost impossible. It also raised questions about what Jamal Lewis had left. He answered those the next week.

Week 11
Browns get a lucky bounce; effectively end Ravens' season

What I said: I called my parents after the Phil Dawson kick at the end of regulation. By the time I was done complaining, the referees had reversed themselves. Interesting.

What it meant: It was the beginning of the end for Brian Billick in Baltimore, which is justice for any old-time fan. More importantly, Josh Cribbs broke out like never before, and teams had to at least consider not kicking to him. It also showed you could never, ever turn a Browns game off.

Week 12
No drama: Browns close out Texans

What I said: A few weeks ago, some wondered if Jamal Lewis was done. Well, he's not. In the second half, he wore down a tired Texans defense and scored a clinching touchdown. He saw the finish line after Brandon McDonald's fourth quarter interception, and decided it was up to him to send the Browns fans home happy.

What it meant: It moved the Browns into the upper echelon of contenders in the AFC at 7-4. It also showed they could win a game without sending us out for anti-anxiety drugs.

Week 13
Pushed around Browns can't get out of their own way in Arizona

What I said: When it started, you hoped the game would be the like the one against the Rams. Down 14-0, the Browns would rally and win. Instead, the game was like week 3 against the Raiders, where the Browns did everything to give the game away, but still had a chance to win on the final play.

What it meant: The Browns were not quite there, showing they could still lose to teams worse than them. It was also a bit of foreshadowing, with Derek Anderson playing (to that point) his worst game of the season. It was remarkable, however that by the letter of NFL rules, the Browns should have beat the Cardinals.

Week 14
Jamal carries Browns over Jets

What I said: Jamal Lewis has earned all his money this year. Barring a disaster (always possible with this franchise) he will rush for 1,000 yards. But the most important plays are not the ones that always show up.

What it meant: The Browns 5-0 after a loss. But it also showed what Lewis was capable of, as he carried the Browns (and a few Jets defenders) into a good spot.

Week 15
While I freeze, Browns please against Bills

What I said: And why not believe? If the Browns can win in a December blizzard, if that defense --that defense -- can shut out Buffalo without forcing a turnover, why can't this team do something great.

What it meant: The Browns appeared to be on the verge of a playoff run after surviving blizzard conditions. There was no one in that frozen stadium who didn't think the Browns were at least a wild card team.

Week 16
Bad Derek returns, crushes Browns playoff hopes

What I said: The memory I'll have of this game is Anderson grabbing his head after another ridiculous interception. He was "bad Derek," today, no doubt.

What it meant: The Browns lost control of their destiny, and for that matter, their season. The game really was a must-win, and everyone played like it except Anderson, starting whispers for Brady Quinn -- which had not been heard since September.

Week 17
Season ends when Indianapolis throws in towel

What I said: The Browns did more than any of us could have expected this year. And maybe it was better for the fans if the last memory of this season was Derek Anderson and the offense in victory formation.

What it meant: The Browns' 20-7 win over the 49ers was meaningless, but the season ended on something of a high note. Hopefully this is the start of a run, and not a blip on the radar.

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My last post was done about 15 seconds before scrambling into work. So I think I need to elaborate on Keith Olbermann's remark and why I found it wrong.

My beef in this case is not with Olbermann himself. He is simply the latest offender in a media which are desperate to find "great stories" in dire circumstances.

To me, the Washington Redskins were not a great story, because to tell it, it would have to include an innocent 24-year old man being shot down in his own home. His grief-stricken teammates and coaches won their last three games of the season to make the playoffs, which I suppose is admirable considering the pain they went through.

But winning football games can't turn the Sean Taylor tragedy into a great story. Even had the Redskins won the Super Bowl, it wouldn't bring their friend back. It wouldn't help his child and family with the pain they are going through, and will continue to go through.

His teammates, I'm sure, would trade all their wins to have their friend back.

The point is, sports can provide an escape. It can't solve problems. The Saints' success last season may have been inspiring to the people of New Orleans, but it didn't rebuild one house or rectify damage done by Hurricane Katrina.

I have written about this topic before. My problem is that when some in the media use terms like "great" to describe miniscule events in real tragedy, they run the risk of missing what's important.

Football can be a diversion. It's results can't make real problems have happy endings.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Olbermann on the Redskins
"It's the best story in football this year." -- Keith Olbermann, Saturday on NBC's Football Night in America.

Yeah, just ask Sean Taylor's family and friends how great a story it is. I'll have more on this later.

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Phil's Wild Card Picks
NBC - 4:30 PM ET
Redskins (9-7) @ Seattle (10-6)
Shaun Alexander has become a non factor this year.
Zach's thought: Seattle is still tough at home. Seahawks.

NBC - 8:00 PM ET
Jaguars (11-5) @ Steelers (10-6)
Injuries will derail Pittsburgh in what should be a hard hitting affair.
Zach's thought: When was the last time a team won twice in Pittsburgh? Steelers

FOX - 1:00 PM ET
Giants (10-6) @ Buccaneers (9-7)
Eli Manning can knock some critics off his back with a win.
Zach's thought: And now ladies and gentlemen, the most uninspiring division winner this season. Giants.

CBS - 4:30 PM ET
Titans (10-6) @ Chargers (11-5)
San Diego has gotten hot just in time for the postseason.
Zach's thought: Anyone get the feeling that the aura is off Vince Young? Chargers.

LAST WEEK: 8-8 Z: 8-8
OVERALL: 167-89 Z: 163-93


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Browns 20, 49ers 7
It was, perhaps, a fitting end to a season.

The Browns did more than any of us could have expected this year. And maybe it was better for the fans if the last memory of this season was Derek Anderson and the offense in victory formation.

The Colts game later that night drained three hours out of my life that I'll never get back. But had the Colts knocked the Titans out, maybe the Browns would have been pounded in San Diego.

But I think there there is more to this season than what happened on the field. Joel Hammond was frustrated by Terry Pluto's column, which he thought was the product of self pity.

Personally, I am not about to cry over a 10-6 football season. But I think Pluto was just writing his honest feelings as he watched helplessly on Sunday night. That's what makes Pluto special in Northeast Ohio. Very few in the area write with his passion and honesty. A lot of us were pissed Sunday night, but we didn't have the opportunity to write about it.

As far as the "woe is me" attitude of some Cleveland fans, I'm getting rather tired of it. The problem with self pity -- even if it is justified -- is that is makes the person expressing it sound like a loser. But Cleveland is not a loser city anymore. It has LeBron James, perhaps the best player in the NBA.

It has the defending American League Central champions.

It has one of the best stories of the NFL season, the 10-6 Browns.

There's no reason to hang your head after what was a thrilling 2007. Maybe the city didn't win a national title (though Ohio State may win one Monday). But the future remains bright for all three teams, most of all the Browns.

Next season may not be as good as this one. But at least fans won't go into the 2008 football season wondering what is on the Cooking channel at 3 p.m. on Sundays.

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