Blackout that preseason

August 30, 2009

This Personal Browns Blackout stuff is serious business.

Would I go out for a half-hour run during a Browns game if I wasn’t serious? Sure, it’s a preseason game and all. But a half-hour is the most I’ve run at one time since Bernie Kosar was the Browns quarterback.

Plus the Indians were playing at the same time. That’s two Cleveland teams for the price of one. And I was running around the block.

Oh, the Personal Browns Blackout is real. All that awful play at the end of last season has to be punished. A couple of preseason wins won’t let the Browns out of their room early. They need to stay in there until they score a regular-season touchdown. On offense. Josh Cribbs’ kick returns don’t count. Interception returns don’t count. (Save that for the regular season, Mr. Hall.) Phil Dawson field goals don’t count. Saw enough of them  in the final six games last season to last a lifetime. No, the Browns need to score an offensive touchdown in the regular season in order for me to start watching their games again. Someone’s going to have to call me up and tell me it’s safe to turn on the TV again, cuz I’ll probably be out running again when Brett Favre makes his latest comeback in the opening game of the season. I’ll be nowhere near a television.

Really, though, a Personal Browns Blackout during the preseason isn’t much of a punishment. It’s kind of like taking the car keys away from your 14-year-old daughter. It might sound good, it might make you feel good, but c’mon, just how effective is it? She can’t drive anyway.

Because really, you don’t need to watch a single minute of the Browns preseason games in order to know that:

* Brady Quinn must absolutely be the Browns starting quarterback. He’s the Matt LaPorta of the Indians. If drafting Quinn three years ago was a mistake, the Browns will be starting over yet again next season. Getting LaPorta for CC Sabathia a year ago was the signature move of the Indians as they head into a new era. Similarly, Quinn is the future for the Browns. Derek Anderson has had plenty of time to prove that he’s as effective as a flyswatter without a handle. Come on, a 54.6 career completion percentage? A career 75.1 passer rating? He’s settled into mediocrity. If Quinn didn’t prove that he’s ready with his 11-for-15, 128-yard, one-touchdown performance in Saturday’s 23-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans then the jury is rigged.

* Shaun Rogers must be healthy and perform at a Pro Bowl level again for the Browns to have a decent defense. So far he’s stood on the sideline and watched. You don’t need to watch a game to know his 6-foot-4, 350-pound body needs to be in there for the Browns to even pretend they’ll have a decent pass rush. Defensive ends Corey Williams and Kenyon Coleman combined for 103 tackles and one whole sack last year. Rogers contributed 76 tackles and 4½ sacks himself. Rogers’ backup is second-year man Ahtyba Rubin, who is as likely to be driving a cab as making a sack in the NFL at this time next year.

* Braylon Edwards can’t lead the league in drops again. Someone said he caught a touchdown pass from Brady Quinn tonight. Quinn to Edwards. If the Browns are to do anything other than drive even more people from their seats this year, Quinn to Edwards must become as musical a phrase as Kosar to Slaughter or even Montana to Rice. OK, maybe not quite that musical. But it needs to be the theme song of the Browns. Another 55-catch season won’t get it done.

* Head coach Eric Mangini has to go Patti LaBelle on this team and instill a new attitude. Last year the players got a bit too cozy at Camp Crenell. This year reports are that some players are liking their new taskmaster coach too much. This following the banishment of Kellen Winslow and Shaun Smith. Mangini’s in control and while his worries aren’t few, a new attitude can only move this team forward.

* Someone needs to emerge as a legitimate second receiver threat, and it can’t be Joshua Cribbs. The Browns need his spark on the kick return teams. Of 2008’s top return men, only Darren Sproles, Leon Washington, Andre Davis, and Ahmad Bradshaw played any type of notable role on offense. And for all of them it was as a complementary player. Perhaps Washington could be used as a model for Cribbs’ usage. Last year he was the Jets’ second-leading rusher and fourth-leading receiver based on number of catches. You know who coached the Jets last year, right? In other words, one of the Browns rookie receivers or perhaps Steve Heiden or even veteran receiver Mike Furrey must make himself into a legitimate threat this season. Cribbs caught two passes and got a touch in the running game. Four others caught more passes, and that sound just about right.

* No pass rush means no chance. The Browns have only two sacks in their three preseason games. After finishing next-to-last in sacks last season, the Browns must find a way to change this. At least Kamerion Wimbley landed Saturday night’s sack. But guess how many sacks two in three games comes out to over a 16-game season? Just 10½, which is only a half-sack more than the Browns had a year ago. If this doesn’t improve, neither do the Browns.

* Phil Dawson is good. Really, does anyone pay attention to kickers in the preseason? Except in the case of injury, they might as well just show up the weekend the regular season starts. Seriously, the Bengals pretty much plan to let Shayne Graham rest his strained groin all preseason. The Saints are going with 45-year-old John Carney. Dawson was 3-for-3 on field goals Saturday night and is 5-for-6 overall. Hey, Phil, let’s go out for a run during the game next week!

So there you have it, all the reasons why everyone should install a Personal Browns Blackout during the preseason. What are you really missing out on? Next week you’ll see Brett Ratliff throw more passes than he will for the rest of his Browns career. (At least we hope so, because his next regular-season pass in the NFL will be his first.) Next Thursday night at 8 p.m., make plans to do something other than watch the Browns. Go out for a run, read a book, watch a movie, heck, take a nap. When you wake up, it will be the regular season and whatever the Browns have to do to win, well, you’ll already have known it.


The city of meaningless wins

August 24, 2009

It was Throw Back the Clock Weekend in downtown Cleveland the last couple of days.

The Browns scored an offensive touchdown. The last time they did that nearly predates the time this nation had a black president, Nov. 17 of last year against the Buffalo Bills. No scores and seven games ago. Obviously the Browns were not created equal.

Then Fausto Carmona picked up a victory. He hadn’t earned a win since May 14 over the Tampa Bay Rays. Of course, you have to look even deeper into the time capsule to find the last time Carmona actually pitched really well and earned a victory. Sunday’s eight-strikeout, one-walk, five-hit, one-run performance was his best since his complete-game, 2-1 victory over the New York Yankees in the 2007 American League Division Series. Carmona’s eight whiffs were the most he’s put up since striking out nine Royals in a 6-0 victory on Sept. 15, 2007, and the one walk was only the second time in 17 starts this season that he’s allowed so few.

A Browns offensive touchdown and victory. TWO Indians victories. Never before in the history of sport have three meaningless games brought one city so much joy. The last time two of our teams won in the same weekend was when both the Cavs and Indians won at home on Sunday, April 12. Even one of those games was basically meaningless as the Indians won their first of the season against the Blue Jays after six straight losses while the Cavs whipped the Celtics 107-76 to cement home-court advantage throughtout the playoffs. At least neither was a preseason game.

You actually have to go back to April 14, 2007 for two meaningful wins in the same weekend day by Cleveland teams. On that day in Cleveland sports history the Indians beat the Chicago White Sox at home 4-0. The Cavs followed with a 110-76 win at the Q over the Atlanta Hawks. Those were the days. The Cavs were heading to the NBA Finals while the Indians were heading for Game 7 of the ALCS.

Now we’re just heading over a cliff, getting excited over preseason touchdowns in a win over a team that went 0-16 the previous year. And more people enjoyed the Tribe’s 2009 Rock ‘n Blast fireworks show after Saturday’s win than enjoyed either of the two weekend victories. Or at least they should have, considering that even with the two weekend wins the Indians are 15 games under .500. Or more accurately, six feet under. But at least they are two days closer to getting rid of manager Eric Wedge.

The Indians are now on a 10-game road trip and certain to be forgotten once they return home Labor Day weekend. Even if they win all 10 they’ll still be five games under and not nearly as close as they would appear in the Detroit Tigers’ side-view mirror. The Browns will be wrapping up preseason and the Cavs will be at least moving to the tip of our tongues.

Until then we’ll recount Braylon Edwards’ one catch against the Lions, the 81-yard touchdown run straight up the middle by rookie running back James Davis, and an actual passing grade for quarterback Derek Anderson. All against the Lions! (Hey, at least we’re not Detroit — in football.)


We’re not ready for some football

August 16, 2009

If we’re lucky, Saturday’s Browns’ exhibition game against the Detroit Lions will be blacked out.

This being Cleveland, we never get our desired result. Therefore rest assured you’ll be able to see the tilt despite the fact that it is not yet sold out. Yes, for the first time since the Browns returned from the dead in 1999 there’s a chance that one of their games will be blacked out locally. Half-price tickets are currently on sale. The Browns are also offering a family four-pack that includes hot dogs and sodas for $99. Apparently someone thinks this is a good deal to see the Browns play the Lions in a game that doesn’t count.

After last night’s atrocious 17-0 loss to Green Bay in the exhibition opener, Browns fans should be rooting for the blackout.


Where the hell have you been?

August 16, 2009

Hi there. Again. Welcome to God Hates Cleveland Sports.

Or welcome back.

You may be new to this site. Or maybe not.

You see, this is really God Hates Cleveland Sports 2.0. Call it a rebirth.

Back in January 2006 (even I didn’t realize it was that long ago) I started God Hates Cleveland Sports on Blogger. January 25, 2006 to be exact. The inspiration? The Pittsburgh Steelers had just made the Super Bowl. One For the Thumb was only a week and a half away. Cleveland looked nowhere near just one. The Browns had wrapped up a 6-10 season with a 41-0 loss to the Steelers in the next-to-last home game. The Indians were still hacking after choking away a playoff spot against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the final week of the season. The Cavs were in the middle of a solid season in which they’d go 50-32 and make the Eastern Conference semifinals, but they hadn’t made the playoffs in seven years at that point.

And my girlfriend had just decided she didn’t like me anymore.

Art2_0cowher-super-bowlSo what better way to wallow in my misery than to wallow in Cleveland sports misery? The first God Hates Cleveland Sports post featured a picture of Art Modell celebrating with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the Ravens won Super Bowl XXXV. Freud would say posting that picture symbolized the ultimate breakup. It was like looking at your ex-girlfriend’s wedding pictures just to make yourself angry.

Problem is when it comes to Cleveland sports we’re looking at an old girlfriend’s wedding photos almost every day. Leave us and fare better. Right, Charlie Manuel?

The Steelers went on to win Super Bowl XL, beating the Seattle Seahawks. Now we had a picture of a beaming Bill Cowher celebrating a Super Bowl victory to go along with those of Art Modell. Stomachs in Cleveland churned.

It grew from there. LeBron James gave us some moments. But ultimately the Cleveland in him rose to the occasion. The Cavs made the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons but began a stretch of four straight disappointing playoff defeats that many believe simply serve as a countdown to LeBron leaving town. Meanwhile the Indians played through a dismal 2006 season — who can forget Fausto Carmona losing four straight games as the closer in July and August? — before truly ripping our hearts out by choking against the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS. The Browns have been just plain bad since GHCS began, save for a false-hope, 10-win season in 2007 which saw them fittingly miss the playoffs despite posting the same record as the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

God Hates Cleveland Sports was there, all throughout 2006 with 108 posts and for most of 2007 with 73 posts. We were recognized with mentions on Andrew Siciliano’s FOX Sports radio show, the Akron Beacon Journal, the Denver Post, The St. Petersburg Times, even a short feature on WKYC, Cleveland’s NBC station. We crossed into Canada with a mention in The Toronto Star. Oh, and one of my posts has been appropriated by a virus. Don’t go to any sites that feature a GHCS interview with the Magic Number, even though it’s damn funny.

And then, pfft, we was gone. Wallowing in Cleveland sports misery could only go on for so long. The plan was to celebrate an Indians World Series victory in 2007 then wrap up the blog in a big bow because God obviously didn’t hate Cleveland sports anymore. And even though it was fun, I sure as hell didn’t want to keep looking for the dark cloud in front of every silver Cleveland sports lining. And what with LeBron James in town and the Indians looking like an up-and-coming team, the silver lining was overtaking the dark cloud anyway. I mean, how can a blog focus on God hating Cleveland sports when the world’s best basketball player was right here?

Except.

Except the Indians didn’t win that World Series. They didn’t even make that World Series. Instead the last two posts for 2007 featured a list of area bridges from which Indians fans could jump, followed by a PDF file of my 2007 World Series tickets for Jacobs Fields. Sigh. My plan was thwarted. But I didn’t have the will to go on. I didn’t throw myself off one of those bridges, no. But I basically threw the blog off. A half-hearted attempt at a comeback during the Cavs playoff run earlier this year was as successful as the Knight Rider remake.

But here we are again. It’s a brand that just won’t die. God hates Cleveland sports sums up everything so well when it comes to our teams. It’s an end-all, be-all answer. Seriously, can you think of a better answer than “God hates Cleveland sports” to these questions:

* “Why did the Indians trade Cy Young winners in two straight seasons?”
* “Why haven’t the Browns scored an offensive touchdown in over a month?”
* “Why didn’t that shot that LeBron made in the playoffs mean anything in the long run?”
* “Why does everyone say LeBron’s leaving Cleveland when his contract is up?”
* “Why won’t the Indians fire Eric Wedge?”
* “Why did the Browns pass up Mark Sanchez in order to draft Alex Mack?”

Why, God hates Cleveland sports, of course.

What we’ll be doing in version 2.0 is presenting new material, of course. We’re back at 2006 levels for that, even with the Cavs as one of the NBA’s premier franchises. And we’ll be archiving some of the best posts of GHCS Version 1.0.

A lot has changed since GHCS began. Facebook has exploded. Twitter is growing. Embedded videos have become easier to use. The web has become much more mobile thanks to improvements in cell phones. But there’s one thing that hasn’t changed. Cleveland sports teams still make their fans miserable. Here’s to using all the new social media to share our pain. Hope you come along for the next ride.


Can I get a touchdown?

August 15, 2009

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The Cleveland Browns are starting their season tonight with an exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers.

I have no idea what’s happening.

It’s not because I don’t have a TV. Nothing like that. In fact, I love my TV. I love the things I watch on my TV. It’s old — got it in the fall of 1991, pretty close to exactly 18 years ago today — but it still works just fine. Heck, I watch all kinds of Browns stuff on it. Watched that game against the Buffalo Bills last year where Phil Dawson made a career-long 56-yard field goal with a minute left and then Bills kicker Rian Lindell missed one at the buzzer. Saw the game a couple years ago against the Arizona Cardinals when Kellen Winslow caught the ball in the end zone on the last play but was knocked out of bounds before he could land; Browns lose. Laughed my ass off trying to figure out what Bernie Kosar was saying on last year’s preseason broadcasts.

And I’ve got a radio. Not tuning in hoping to hear Jim Donovan proclaim, “Touchdown, Browns!” I’ve got internet access, too; that’s obvious. I could phone a friend, or at least text someone, to get an update. Heck, maybe I could even go on Facebook; some of my friends have to be status-updating the Browns. I’m not following Zac Jackson’s tweets, either. I’m trying — trying, I say — to stay away from message boards (although in a moment of weakness I did find out another die-hard is prepared not to watch any games this season either if Derek Anderson is the quarterback).

Why have I declared a blackout on the Browns preseason game tonight? It’s quite simple. I’m boycotting the Browns.

I haven’t forgotten how the Browns finished last year. Following the Buffalo game where Dawson played hero, the Browns lost six straight while scoring only 31 points. Six of those came on a Brandon McDonald interception return. The other 25 came from eight Dawson field goals and one extra point. Not an offensive touchdown to be found. The last two games were embarrassing shutout defeats at the hands of division rivals Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. It was the first time the franchise suffered back-to-back shutouts. Six games in a row without an offensive touchdown — no, six games in a row WITHOUT GETTING INTO THE RED ZONE! Jamal Lewis called it the worst season he’d ever played in. No one argued.

Now don’t throw your shoe through your computer screen. It’s not a total boycott. The Browns do have an opportunity to win me back. No, not by hiring a new coach and treating outspoken players like the Soviet Union used to treat political dissidents. Heck, if that’s all they had to do I’d already be watching again. Actually, there’s nothing the Browns can do between now and the start of the regular season to get me to end my Browns-watching boycott. I have drawn that line in the sand.

In order to win me back — in order to get me to watch another minute of Browns football, another dropped pass by Braylon Edwards, another Lawrence Vickers sweep on third-and-2, another Derek Anderson interception in the red zone — the Browns need do only one thing. They’ve got to score a touchdown. On offense. During the regular season.

After enduring six games to end the 2008 season that were worse that any trap sprung on a “Saw” victim, I’ve had to turn my back on the Browns. They’re used to being the pretty girl in the room who gets attention no matter how awful she acts. But no more. In 2009 the Cleveland Browns have to do something to regain my fan loyalty. To do that they have to do something they haven’t done for 20 straight quarters. Score a touchdown.

This being Cleveland and all, the most likely scenario is this: Browns take the opening kickoff in the first game against Minnesota. Josh Cribbs returns the ball to the 35. Brady Quinn starts and throws a couple nice short passes to Braylon Edwards and Steve Heiden that get the ball past the 50. Jamal Lewis busts off a nice gainer to set up a Quinn-to-Brian Robieskie completion off play action into the red zone. A couple of plays later Lewis barrels over from  yards out and five minutes into the season the Browns are up 7-0.

And then they don’t score another touchdown for 3½ games, all while I’m watching.

Oh, and it’s 14-0 Packers. Both Anderson and Quinn have thrown interceptions. Doesn’t seem like my boycott’s all that effective. Oh, well, there’s always next year.