I want my NFL Network

December 25, 2009

Dear Santa, 

Please give me the NFL Network for Christmas. This is the only thing I want. You see, those grinches at Time Warner Cable are preventing me from seeing it. But I have been really good this year, and think I deserve the NFL Network in my stocking.

Now, Santa, I don’t really need the NFL Network. No, not at all. I’ve followed the NFL quite well this season. Three of my four fantasy football teams made the playoffs. The fourth one lost out due to a tiebreaker. I am also still alive in my NFL survivor pool with just two weeks left. Not having the NFL Network hasn’t hurt me in terms of making my picks. I’ve even been able to see every Browns game this year, even the one where they beat the Steelers on the NFL Network. You see, if you live in the city of one of the teams playing a game on the NFL Network the game will be broadcast on one of your local television stations. So even though I really, really tried I wasn’t able to miss a single Browns broadcast this year. I can even see good portions of most of the games the NFL Network broadcasts by logging into NFL.com. 

So I’ve been blessed, Santa. And Time Warner Cable gives me so much as well. They give me the Hollywood Celebrity Products channel, the ShopNBC channel, Chiller (they got Friday the 13th: The Series on there), SoapNet (despite just about every current soap opera getting canceled), and FitTV. My stocking is stuffed with television channels, Santa. I get the MLB Network and NBATV, no problem. But not the one I really want! 

I know I don’t really need the NFL Network, Santa. But the league has done a masterful job of making me feel left out. Rich Eisen keeps sending me tweets about the things he’s doing on that channel, like popping balloons of whatever team he deems is out of the playoffs. They have this thing called The Red Zone Channel which apparently would put me into a sugar coma if I were ever able to watch it. And what am I going to do without the NFL Network after watching football all day long on Thanksgiving? I won’t be able to watch football all night long. 

It’s like high-school gym class, Santa. Most people don’t want to be the first one picked, but no one wants to be the last one picked. That’s how I feel without the NFL Network. Like I’ve been picked last in gym class. 

Look at all what I’m missing, Santa. Just this morning they had the Football Follies on. And tomorrow they’re going to have this show where they put microphones all over the field and then you get to hear all the stuff the players and coaches and refs say on the sidelines. And next Tuesday? They’re going to pick the Pro Bowl players. The last two years Ryan Pontbriand of the Browns made the Pro Bowl as a long-snapper, and I didn’t find out about for at least an hour after it happened. 

Santa, I can’t help but look ahead. In the distant future, when I’m old and retired, the Browns might have a really good team. They’ll probably have a game on the NFL Network late in the season when they’re playing for a playoff spot. When that happens I’ll most certainly be retired to Florida or Arizona and be saddled with a cable provider sans the NFL Network. There’s no way I’ll be able to watch that awesome Browns team in my old age. Think of the elderly, Santa. What about the elderly? 

So please, Santa, I know you’ve made your rounds already. But it’s still Christmas Day. And really I can probably live without the channel til the end of this season. (I mean the playoff games are all going to be on channels I get, and so is the Super Bowl.) You can tuck this away til next year, Santa. Just not til next Christmas. See what you can do between now and kickoff next September. 


God Hates Cleveland Sports


If it’s Z, it’s for me

December 24, 2009

There’s a beer commercial making the rounds right now where a young woman plays a vapid game of “Would You Rather?” with her date. She posits herself dangling off a cliff with other things presumably important to the man, asking him each time which one he would save. Whenever he gives the answer she wants to hear she makes googly eyes like a 5-year-old on Christmas morning.  

WOMAN: “Me and Buster. Which one would you save first?” (The man’s dog Buster looks on stupidly.)
MAN: “Easy. You.” (Buster’s ears perk up as if he knows he’s just been thrown off the cliff.)
WOMAN: “Me and your mom?”
MAN: “Sorry, Mom!” 

 Then comes the real test.  

WOMAN: “Me, or your Miller Lite.”
MAN: “Uh, how high is the cliff?” 

The woman storms off. The man commiserates with his beer and Buster, who just a moment before he was willing to throw off the cliff for the googly-eyed girl. Lesson? Either that Bud Light is more precious than human life or men are the dumbest creatures in the world.    

Which brings us to this quandary — would you rather have Zydrunas Ilgauskas or an NBA championship?

At least some think that’s the quandary.

See, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Keeping Z does not guarantee the Cavs will fall short of the NBA title. Conversely, trading Z does not guarantee LeBron James and company will parade the Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy through downtown Cleveland in June.

But you’d think that’s the choice. Googly-eyed fans are asking the Cavs if they’d rather stay loyal to their most tenured player in history or throw him off the cliff to get that NBA title. Many have convinced themselves that’s the route the Cavs must take to win it all and keep LeBron James here until he retires.

Here’s the reality. Cleveland Cavalier fans should be heartbroken if Zydrunas Ilgauskas is traded.

Cleveland is a town of blue-collar values which regards loyalty as a virtue. Cleveland fans have made a cottage industry out of their anger over the disloyalty shown by Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Carlos Boozer. Heck, if LeBron himself were a politician there would have been a recall effort after he showed his disloyalty by wearing a Yankees hat to an Indians playoff game. After all that, what hypocrites Cleveland sports fans would be if we willingly went along with a plan to trade away the Cavs longest-tenured player in pursuit of an NBA title.

There’s no one embodies class and grace and blue-collar effort and what Cleveland sports fans stand for more than Zydrunas Ilgauskas. There should be a reward for that.

Seriously, trade Z’s expiring contract for a crackpot like Stephen Jackson, who sabotaged his own team after being named captain? Reward THAT type of behavior? The idea was an insult. 

And this is all before his 25-point, back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers in overtime against the Sacramento Kings in a 117-104 victory Wednesday night. That just shows the guy can still play a little. 

Just remember whom LeBron went to bat for a month ago by speaking out against coach Mike Brown. When Ilgauskas was shafted on the night he was set to break the Cavs all-time games-played record, the league’s best player spoke up for him. That’s the kind of loyalty Z inspires. That’s the kind of loyalty Z has earned. 

Ilgauskas didn’t complain when the Cavs wouldn’t let him play for Lithuania in the 2008 Olympics. Ilgauskas didn’t complain when the team traded for Shaquille O’Neal and relegated Z to a backup role. He barely even complained when he missed out on a chance to celebrate his games-played achievement. (At least not in public.)

There is room for loyalty in sports. Especially when the player still contributes as Z does. So far this season he’s averaging 7.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Those numbers are down off his career totals, but he’s had to adjust to a new role of coming off the bench. His averages are slightly better as a starter this year (8.8 points, 7 rebounds per game). Compare those stats to those of his replacement, Shaq: 10.2 points, 7 rebounds per game. Shaq hasn’t been significantly better.

This isn’t to say that Z is the player he once was and is just hampered by his new role. He’s clearly declined. The days of 14 and nine just two seasons ago are long gone. But he still has value. That value is a lot more than his expiring contract which teams love to trade for in these days of economic hard times in the NBA.

There’s plenty of other creative options for trading. J.J. Hickson? You’re a fine young player and good guy, but you’re expendable. Bend the rules in a sign-and-trade of Wally Szczerbiak’s mending knee? Do it tomorrow. Cut bait on Shaq? We can still follow him on Twitter.

But the googly-eyed “Would You Rather?” questions regarding Z need to stop. We all know that sports are a business. Except that sometimes they’re not. Imagine celebrating winning an NBA title with a parade down Euclid Avenue and Z holding the trophy over his head, 10 feet in the air, as high as a basketball rim. A title WITH Z can be won. Zydrunas Ilgauskas should not be thrown off the cliff so that all the rest of us can have a better chance to get to the finish line. If that trophy storms off in a huff, so be it.

Who WERE these guys?

December 20, 2009

Please visit TheClevelandFan.com for my look at the most irrelevant QBs in the history of the Browns/Steelers rivalry!

Steel hurtin’

December 11, 2009


There’s only one thing better than the Browns beating the Pittsburgh Steelers when they’re the best team in the league — beating them when the Browns are the worst team in the league.

Thursday’s night’s thrilling, shocking, improbable, inconceivable, chances-are-slim-and-none-and-slim-just-left 13-6 victory over the defending Super Bowl champs looks even better in the bright light of day than it did in the dark and cold of night. Sure, it might be the only good moment of the worst Browns season ever. Sure, Browns fans don’t have much good to remember from this dismal season. Sure, it would be an incredible feeling to someday knock off the Steelers when both teams are as good as they can be, maybe in an AFC Championship game.

To get this victory as perhaps the league’s worst team has lead to an all-time meltdown from Pittsburgh fans and media alike. If the Browns were to beat the Steelers for the division title, or in a playoff game, or even with the Super Bowl on the line, no one whose ever said “yinz” would be happy. They’d probably begrudgingly accept the loss and point to their six Super Bowl rings.

But this victory, with a team that allowed 38 points to the Detroit Lions and the guy who scored the game’s only touchdown playing for the practice squad a month ago and the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League a year ago? Not since Ben Roethlisberger drove his motorcycle into a woman’s windshield has Pittsburgh been in such an uproar.

“Losers,” Ron Cook of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette calls them. That’s the thanks Hines Ward gets when he toughs it out and can gain only 21 yards receiving against the Browns. “The most embarrassing performance in franchise history,” wrote his colleague Bob Smizik about a franchise that lost 51-0 to the Browns in the 1989 season opener and took nine years from its inception to post a winning season. Post-Gazette beat writer Ed Bouchette starts his game story by writing that, “the Steelers season sailed into darkness.”

You’ve got writers saying that Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who guided them to a Super Bowl win in his second year, has given up on the season. You’ve got posts on the Steelers official team message board entitled, “Did the Team Quit?” and “Mike Tomlin in denial?” and, of course, “*** FIRE TOMLIN ***”. Because, you know, Bill Cowher and Chuck Noll won Super Bowls their first 10 seasons with the team and then single-handedly built the bridges that span the three rivers that meet in downtown Pittsburgh.

Of course becoming the first Super Bowl champion in more than 20 years to lose to a team with as bad a record as the Browns will do that to you. So will losing to the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders. And becoming just the second defending Super Bowl champion to lose five straight games could send a deluded fan base over the edge.

Funny thing is, Steeler Nation actually thinks it’s hit rock bottom. That’s why it’s so much more fun that the Browns are the worst team in the league when they beat the Steelers rather than the best team. The rabid Steeler nutcases think that winning the Super Bowl twice in four years, then losing for a month means the team needs to be dismantled.

Hey, Pittsburgh, give us a call when you’ve had to start guys like Spergon Wynn and Charlie Frye and Doug Pederson as quarterback against the Browns. Give us a call when you go close to a year without an offensive touchdown. Give us a call when your team moves away, comes back, and gives you a decade of fruitless football.

Until then we’ll be happy to think of Thursday’s night’s absolutely thrilling, fantastic, wonderful, so good, very awesome victory over your Steelers as our personal Super Bowl. After all, you were the defending Super Bowl champions. Now all you are is worse than the Browns.