Saturday, August 30, 2008

One of my friends asked me yesterday if I planned to blog on the Sarah Palin selection.

I said I wouldn't since I didn't know enough about her to write with much substance.

My friend said I should write what I think, in terms of my "initial" reaction.

Here it is:

Sen. John McCain is facing an uphill battle. Not only does he face a popular opponent, but he runs with the party of an unpopular president. He's also older and not as exciting as Barack Obama. The network news are all slanted against him. The late night talk show hosts are afraid to even make fun of his opponent.

The polls indicate people don't like the direction the country is heading. After what was termed by virtually everyone as a successful convention, McCain is trailing Obama by as much as eight points in some polls.

Frankly, McCain could not afford to play it safe. Most seem to think McCain chose Palin so that he can appeal to Hillary Clinton's supporters.

While having a woman on the ticket may not hurt, it probably won't help either. Supporters of Hillary Clinton didn't vote for her just because she was a woman; they did so because they agreed with her ideals, which are quite different than Palin's.

This choice was about shoring up the socially conservative wing of the party. It seems to be working in that regard.

As for me, I'm glad McCain picked someone that made some people angry. CNN's Jack Cafferty said was appalled at the pick, which only means he loves it because he can do his favorite thing -- complain.

(Sidebar: How can Wolf Blitzer call CNN's panelists of Jack Cafferty, Paul Begala and James Carville "the best political team in television?" If by "best" he means liberal and hate-filled, I agree. Then again, Carville's not as bad as the others. And MSNBC will always have the corner on liberal anger as long as Keith Olbermann's around.)

But if McCain was looking for congratulations from the mainstream media for picking a woman, well, no dice. That only works for Democrats. A Republican who picks a woman or minority for a major position is pandering.

But the bottom line for me is I want McCain to win. I didn't think picking a run-of -the-mill Republican who has been in the senate for 20 years would help him do that. If he had, the networks would be calling the pick uninspiring.

Republican VPs in my lifetime have always been uninspiring. George Bush, Dan Quayle, Jack Kemp and Dick Cheney all, in one way or another, reinforced the stereotype about the GOP.

One of Obama's biggest strengths is that he can play himself off as different because he's young and doesn't have much of a track record.

Palin helps McCain fight off those stereotypes. The party isn't just for rich old guys, and it's nice to see that represented.

So, I like the pick, at least at first glance.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The best Browns, 1999-present
This is not a ranking, because it's stupid to compare linebackers to wide receivers. But as we enter the 10th season of the "new Browns," it seems appropriate to look back at some of the best players from what has been a mostly forgettable period.

Jamir Miller, ILB (1999-2001): What could have been. Miller's 2001 season was remarkable. Thirteen sacks, 83 tackles, four fumbles forced.

If he'd have played in 2002, the Browns may have won 11 games instead of 9. Instead, his career ended after an injury in the 2002 preseason. It was at that time that Butch Davis brilliantly referred to Miller's 2001 season as a "product of the system."

Darrin Hambrick replaced Miller, and he lasted all of one season. Miller also had two strong seasons under Chris Palmer. He was the best free agent signing of the Dwight Clark era, and even though his career with the Browns was brief, he was often the only light on a consistently pitiful defense.

Until 2007, Miller was the franchise's only pro bowler since coming back.

Ryan Tucker RT, RG (2002-present): Tucker's career in Cleveland has been steady on the field, unsteady off it. Aside from the injuries which have kept him out during this injuries and the ones that hamper most players, he's had some other issues.

He missed time because of a mental issue, then was suspended in 2007 for a violation of the NFL's drug policy.

But when he has played, he's been very good, and last season he bordered on outstanding. While Joe Thomas and Eric Steinbach got the coverage, it may have been Tucker that was the most crucial. At least if we judge by the preseason games.

Phil Dawson (1999-present): Every year people wonder about Dawson, and almost every year he remains one of the most consistent kickers in the league.

Last year he kicked two game winning field goals in overtime. He made 26 of 30 kicks last year, and has a career success rate of 82.7 percent.

Here's another intersting stat. In 1999, he attempted 12 field goals all year, making eight. It's easy to forget how inept the 1999 offense was.

Kevin Johnson WR (1999-2002): Between 1999-2002, the Browns didn't have a superstar on offense (actually, they really didn't until last year). Kevin Johnson was the closest thing the Browns had to a star, so he filled the role.

I liked Johnson then, and I still do, because he caught passes. It sounds so simple, but after years of Quincy Morgan and Dennis Northcutt, it is oh-so-important to note.

He also made some the most memorable plays in the early years of the new Browns. His last-second TD catch against New Orleans in 1999, his TD reception in the 2002 game against Atlanta, his first TD reception in Tennessee in 1999, when half my dorm room erupted because the Browns actually scored.

His two best years were in 1999 and 2001.

In 1999, as pretty much the only receiver Tim Couch trusted, he caught 66 passes for 986 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2001 (Tim Couch's only healthy season), he caught 84 passes for 1,097 yards and nine scores.

Orpheus Roye DE/DT (2000-2007): Quietly consistent, this former (and current) Steeler started all 16 regular season games four times for the Browns. He had 65 tackles and three sacks in 2005, but last year, it appeared age and injuries were taking their toll.

Josh Cribbs KR/PR/WR (2005-present): If you have to ask why, you haven't paid attention.

Kellen Winslow TE (2004-present): If it seems like he hasn't been around that long, well, he really hasn't. But when he has been on the field, he's been a beast. He had 89 catches in what was an atrocious 2006 for the Browns, and last year, put up one of the best receiving seasons in team history. Eighty-nine catches, more than 1,100 yards, five TDs.

Butch could usually spot talent. He struggled with everything else, but he could spot talent.

Other guys worth mentioning:
Leigh Bodden (2003-2007): Best thing that ever happened to him was being name checked by Chad Johnson, leading people to believe he was really good instead of just good. But he could be missed badly this season.

Reuben Droughns (2005-2006): One great year, but he was the team's first 1,000 yard rusher in two decades.

Chris Gardocki(1999-2003): Very good punter who was on the field more than the offense in the early years.

Dennis Northcutt (2000-2006): To this day, he's dangerous on special teams. He's never been more than an average receiver, though he did have one great year, in 2002, when Butch Davis used him in multiple ways.

I didn't mention the 2007 wonders like Joe Thomas, Braylon Edwards and Derek Anderson because there isn't much of a record beyond one year.

Plus, I wanted this to be more recognition for guys here during the lean years.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Remember when everyone was scared of the way the Browns played on Monday night against the Giants?

Remember how everyone was worried because the Giants defense was beating the Browns on seemingly every play?

Remember how the ESPN announcers were praising the Giants because of how their guys looked in a meaningless preseason game?

Well, Saturday night, in another meaningless preseason game (redundant, I know) star Giants' defensive end Osi Umenyiora injured his knee against the Jets and is out for the season.
No, this isn't a moment to be completely comfortable about the Browns after their last two games. But all of the sudden, the Browns are having a better preseason than the Giants.

This is just a reminder that even though the preseason's results don't count, the injuries do. The Browns have been bad in the preseason, but I'd rather have an 0-4 preseason with no season-ending injuries than a promising one where one of your team's best players gets hurt.

Remember Jamir Miller? How good would the Browns have been in 2002 with him on the field? Instead, the Browns best player was injured in the first preseason game, and just like that, his season and career were over.

You don't measure a preseason by wins and losses, or even by how your first teamers played.

You measure it by seeing how many players are on the active roster for week 1 of the regular season.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

George Will vs. Sen. Obama's sense of reality
A point to make here is that I first accessed this column at, and was a tad concerned about posting it.

Way back, in the early days of this site (you know, when the blog averaged three hits a day instead of four), Townhall was on my blog roll.

I took it off because I found some of the columns to socially conservative for my liking. Since, I have tried to stay fiscally conservative and socially moderate.

But if you don't check Townhall at least occasionally, you miss out on George Will, who is up there with Christopher Hitchens and John Steinbeck as one of my favorite writers, ever.

The reason I post this article is because I think everyone needs to read it, to get an idea of what Obama is saying, and how realistic it is.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Something I thought was cool
The Olympics are not something I write about much. After watching so many of the so-called "top athletes in the world" get caught using things they shouldn't have, I am unable to get too excited about what I'm seeing.

But Wednesday night, I saw something that made me feel really good.

It was great to see Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor win the Beach Volleyball gold. They wanted the title so bad, and won it in a rain-soaked beach against the home-favorites, the Chinese.

When they won the gold, the two women thanked their families, their coaches, then did something totally unexpected: They thanked the president.

There was nothing sarcastic about it, either. It was a thank you for his support (Bush visited the pair earlier in the Olympics) and for "everything you do."

Everyone who reads this blog knows my political leanings, and that I have never stopped supporting the president, despite how many times I get upset with him.

But this wasn't political to me. It was a chance for two gold medalists to show pride in their country, and pride in their country's leader.

It was refreshing to see two people go to another country and say something kind to President Bush, rather than use the platform to bash him.

So to May-Treanor and Walsh, I can only say:

Thank you. And congratulations.


The stupidest thing, ever
Bad actor and general fool Ben Affleck will not be giving a speech at the Democratic national convention, "because he doesn't want to steal Barack Obama's thunder."

Article's wording, not Ben's, to be fair.

Still, if Obama has to worry about the star of Reindeer Games taking the spotlight away from him, he's in worse shape than we all think.

And if Affleck thinks any of us want to hear what he has to say, he's a worse judge of reality than previously thought, which I wasn't sure was even possible.

As long as he doesn't try to "enervate" the base, again, though, we should all be OK.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

OK, deep breath
It was a preseason game.

Just keep repeating that sentence to yourself until you fall asleep.

The Browns are better than they played, and better than they looked. Those brown pants were ugly. I want to know whose idea that was.

"No, see that's the thing. The pants are just brown. No stripes, no white, no orange. They are cheap, though."

I won't stress about this team until the regular season.

It was a preseason game.

Now I'm gonna lay down and pretend this never, ever happened.

And that those pants will find a good home.

In a halfway house.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Brown pants and my lifelong obsession with the Browns uniforms
What would be a dream job?

Well, I'm a sports writer, so many assume it would be to hold that position for a big paper and write stories about my favorite sports team -- the Browns.

Or I could be a play-by-play man for the Indians or the Reds.

Then again, maybe I could be an actor who never has to show up for rehersals and hit every scene in one take.

Or a musician who travels around with an acoustic guitar, stuns the locals and has a mysterious charisma.

No, my dream job is a simple one:

I want to be the one to pick out what the Browns wear for home games.

Despite constant searches on the Internet, I have never been able to figure out which member of an NFL franchise chooses what color uniform a team wears at home. But whomever it is must have clout, because they get everyone to go along with it.

There's more to this, though. It dates back to when I first started watching the Browns in 1985.

Between 1985-1988, the Browns always wore white uniforms at home. White tops, white pants. A classic look to be sure, but as a kid, I was always fascinated by the brown tops, which during that period showed up maybe once a year.

Most teams wear color tops at home, which meant the Browns wore white almost all the time.

In 1986, the Browns played 18 games (two playoff games), never once donning brown.

So the brown uniform came to be something of a white (or is it brown?) whale for me. When the Browns played road games against Phoenix and Washington in 1988, they wore brown, which was a big moment for me -- I was eight, remember.

By 1989, the Browns started wearing brown at home -- five times in 1989 and four times in 1990. By the time Bill Belichick arrived in 1991, the Browns were wearing the dark uniforms for every home game.

With the exception of two seasons, (the Browns wore white at home for all their games in 1995 and for all but one in 2001) Cleveland has normally worn brown at home.

Of course, I was thrilled when the Browns started wearing orange pants for select games from 2003-2004, because it was a nod to the Kardiac Kids, which I was not old enough to remember.

For the record, I hated the orange jerseys. Is there anything less inspiring than running out on the field and reminding opponents of the 1988 Buccaneers?

But for the last few years, the Browns have been about tradition -- pumpkin orange helmets, white pants, brown jerseys at home. The only alternate is a "throwback uniform," which has numbers on the helmets and slight differences.

But today, the Browns are going with a major change.

I remember getting a call last year from Phil Prusa, who was complaining about his Madden '08 video game.

"For some reason," he told me, "the Browns are wearing brown pants with their white tops."

The Browns have never worn brown pants, ever. But I did a little research, and discovered that, indeed, the Browns had ordered brown pants, but had never worn them.

Now, aside from being a good waste of a few hundred (or thousand?) dollars, the pants would probably annoy about 80 percent of the team's fans, who refuse to accept any change from tradition. Maybe this is why the team kept the pants in the equipment room.

Until tonight, in a preseason game against the Giants.

I am willing to bet the pants will be the talk of the town Tuesday morning. Nothing that can happen in the game will overshadow the pants. As passionate as the fans are about the Browns, they only are slightly less so about the uniforms.

I'm willing to take a wait and see approach here. As long as the Browns don't come out looking like the Redskins, it'll be OK, at least for a one-shot deal in the preseason.

Oh, and if I were annointed my dream job this season, here's what it would look like:

Sept. 7 against the Cowboys:
White tops, white pants, for the (supposed) heat.

Sept. 14 against the Steelers:
White tops, orange pants ... anything to change the luck against that team. The last time the Browns beat Pittsburgh, it was a Sunday night game in 2003, and Cleveland wore orange pants. This is also a Sunday night game.

Oct. 13 against the Giants:
White tops, white pants. The Giants are a wonderful road team; put them in their home jerseys.

Nov. 2 against the Ravens
Brown tops, white pants. Good time to break out the brown, since it should be cooler.

Nov. 6 against the Broncos
Brown tops, white pants, but use the throwback 50s uniform with the numbers on the helmet. The Browns have always struggled against the Broncos in the modern uniforms.

Nov. 23 against the Texans
Brown tops, orange pants. Good time to bring that look back for a week.

Nov. 30 against the Colts
Brown tops, white pants.

Dec. 21 against the Bengals
Brown tops, brown pants, just for the hell of it.

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Obama says abortion question 'above my paygrade.'
Expect this one to be played over and over again. I watched a little of McCain's question-and-answer session, and he came off very well.

I don't agree that marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman, and I've made that point numerous times over the past 4 1/2 years.

But McCain answered that question directly. He answered every question directly. That's his strength. Sen. Barack Obama tries to impress you. McCain answers you.

Not sure how this will play out, but anyone who thinks McCain will be toast in the debates is underestimating the former.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Why Obama hasn't broken away
It's been a while since I read Andrew Sullivan regularly.

He's on my blogroll, and there was a time when I read his site every day, even though I disagreed with many things he was writing.

What was disappointing to me is how his blog became, and I could read and see that anywhere, so I cut back on my visits.

Still, in Sullivan's latest column, he makes what I think is a valid point about why Obama still is in a tight race with John McCain:

The choice has evolved to that between an all-Democratic government, headed by a senator whose newness is still one of the most striking things about him, and an old, familiar warhorse who irritated all the right Republicans at one point or another and has a record of bipartisan achievement.

This is important: No one is thrilled about giving the Democrats the houses and the executive branch. History tells us that usually leads to corruption, and the voters are aware of it.

Besides, the Democratic-controlled congress has a lower approval rating than even President Bush.

My guess is Obama will get a sizable bounce after the convention. McCain's challenge will be to keep the deficit manageable so he can grab a slight lead after the Republican Convention.

I don't think it will happen, which is why I still think Obama will win.

But who knows.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Bernie Mac dies
A clever, charismatic and interesting performer. His death is a shock, simply because he seemed so full of energy.

The saddest thing about Mac's death (from the audience's perspective, anyway) is that he seemed to be capable of so much, and would have probably entertained for years to come.

Thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.

Rest in peace.

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A sign your campaign is in trouble ...
An Al Franken event draws one person.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

McCarthy and Favre
This wasn't a franchise disrespecting its legendary quarterback.

If the accounts are to be believed, it was Brett Favre thinking he ought to be able to come and go as he pleased, and the Packers should cater to his every whim.

No matter how great he was, no football player can ever be afforded such a luxury. Mike McCarthy, the Packers coach who has 70-some other players to worry about and a season to prepare for, could not be expected to give Favre everything he wanted.

So Favre is going to play in New Jersey this fall. When Favre announced his retirement, I really thought he'd be back.

I didn't think he would be wearing a Jets jersey.

But Favre's inability to keep his mouth shut and make up his mind created a messy divorce. It's too early to determine which side wins.

The Jets now have an aging quarterback to lead a team that went 4-12 in 2007.

The Packers are placing the football in the hands of Aaron Rodgers, who has never started a pro game.

The Packers have alienated some of their fan base, at least temporarily.

The Browns scored a touchdown on their first offensive drive, with their first-team starters. A great way to start 2008.

Had to throw that in.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

In what has been a miserable season for Indians' first baseman Ryan Garko, Wednesday would have to be the low point.

At least one would hope it is.

Garko was removed during the Indians 10-7 loss to the Rays for standing at home plate after hitting a ball he thought would go foul.
It did not.

Garko's been in a tight race with Rafael Betancourt and Asdrubal Cabrera for Most Disappointing Indian This Season.

There are several other candidates, to be sure, but the three listed above have stood out.

After batting .289 with 21 homers last season, Garko has regressed in 2008. His power numbers are way down (he has eight homers) and his average is .239.

The reason Garko can separate himself from the other two on the list is because his fall was so unexpected.

Relievers blow up all the time. Betancourt is just another one in a long line of pitchers who have struggled (or in Rafael's case, imploded) trying to string two quality seasons together.

Cabrera was up for so little time last season, you wondered what would happen when pitchers got a book on him. The pitchers adjusted, he didn't in his sophomore season. Such a thing happens to many rookies.

But Garko's problems are hard to figure out.

He came up late in the lost season of 2006, and hit. He continued to do so in 2007, winning the first base job.

This season, the 27-year old player looks lost.

With his struggles, he has opened up another hole that the Indians will need to plug in the offseason. Maybe Garko can rebound, but it would be foolish for the Indians to assume he will.

They took that approach with Travis Hafner, and look what happened.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Why not: Peralta at first base
Jhonny Peralta is not a good defensive shortstop. Frankly, I doubt he'd be a good defensive anything.

But, once the disappointment of this season becomes such a routine gripe it's no longer worth discussing, people will look at the guy's stats at the plate and realize he's had a pretty productive year.

Peralta is on pace for 26 homers and 90 RBIs, which would each be career highs. He has settled in nicely at the cleanup spot in the batting order.

Most, if they are willing to discuss a Peralta move, seem to want to put him at third. People who saw him play there in Buffalo have said he was worse there than at short.

Assuming Travis Hafner returns at designated hitter (which, granted, is assuming a lot) and the Indians are serious about playing Josh Barfield at second and Asdrubal Cabrera at shortstop, Peralta will need a position.

First base was DH before DH was cool. It's where you used to stick bad fielders who could rake. Peralta could find a home there.

Peralta is listed at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds. He's 26. His range will only get worse.

Moving him to first could benefit the Indians defense, which would probably still be rough with Peralta at third.

Just something to think about.