Category Archives: Cleveland

I ain’t never gonna let the man get me down!

Damn, I ain't never gonna let the man get me down, crazy crackers.

Wear it with pride, Madame Secretary. Wear it with pride.


Are We Starting Over Yet?

I bought this hat last time I was in Cleveland. It’s okay for Williamsburg because it is a hat with a picture of a hat on it. That old logo is finally, finally growing on me.

I made a personal decision not long ago, that when the Browns eventually make a Super Bowl, I’m going to book a flight to Cleveland and watch it downtown. It would be a key moment for a city for which I have some very fond memories, and though I’m far from the Scott Raab–level of fandom (The Whore of Akron, though thin, with a big typeface and wide lines, was a grueling slog of self-congratulation and self-loathing from a disgustingly fat man—by his own admission—who gets on-demand handjobs from a nubile second wife), I figure that victory, in that town, would be something to see. But I don’t think I’d take my kid. Something’s going to burn.

So granted, that was a moment of off-season optimism and now we’re back to it—deadening reality, in which Joe Haden, a solid Browns draft pick who, in the absence of an offensive star, has become the face of the franchise, testing positive for something or other. It’s too bad “testing positive” isn’t a good thing, though it sounds like it ought to be. I know when I tried Adderall I walked around a club telling everyone who’d listen that I felt like a hundred dollars. Meh—that one we’ll get over. Maybe more troubling is lingering knee trouble for the man who should step in as the new face of the franchise, TR. That just sucks. You need knees, strong ones, to be a running back, no? It is, as the French say, troubling.

Oh, and we got bought by a Steelers fan who seems pretty primed on having his own people in charge of the team, which seems to signal we’ll be starting over again. Seems like we’ve done a lot of that since Browns 2.0 stumbled on the scene. Not that I’m convinced Holmgren is the answer, but as atlswami says: “that team needs stability.” TR’s knee needs that too.

So let’s be realistic about this thing. It’s probably going to be my son taking me to Cleveland when the Browns make the Super Bowl? Humor the old man, he’s cared about this shit since, like, the ’80s.

I also bought this shirt, because it’s sweet.


So This Is What Misery Feels Like …

The Braves epic September 2011 swoon helped propel Atlanta to the top if Forbes' Most Miserable Sports Cities

This is a blog that basks in the misery that underachieving sports franchises inflict on their respective fan bases, from the rabid, rust-belted Dawg Pound inhabitants of Cleveland to the new moneyed, good ol’ boy transients who fein to support Atlanta teams. The authors, which include a Seattle native still so distraught at losing the Sonics to OKC that he’s yet to post anything, are constantly quibbling about which of their hometowns is in fact the sorriest of sports cities.

On Leap Day 2012, it is I who can claim the title, as an independent arbiter, Forbes magazine has declared that the loss of the NHL Thrashers (honestly, no one cares) and the epic September collapse of the Braves (don’t really want to talk about it) makes Atlanta more pitiable than Sonics-less Seattle. Yay! (I guess.)

Here’s how the Coming Up Small team took the news:

ATLSwami: CAME up small!

ValmiCLE: You can have it. Totally impossible to take that list remotely seriously. Puts Denver ahead of Cleveland. DENVER! With this: “A great run from 1996 to 2001 (four titles) doesn’t quite mitigate a long bridesmaid history for the Mile High City.” Four fucking titles in the last 15 years gets less weight than 0 for 45? Blech. Worst one of these lists I’ve ever seen. Buffalo? Seattle? No problem. But putting Phoenix and Denver up there?

ATLS: Phoenix? They had the one Dbacks series. Anything else?

VCLE: Years and years of the Suns being good. Went to a Super Bowl. Dbags more recent than Atlanta’s.

ATLS: So, y’all have been to multiple World Series and an NBA Finals.

VCLE: This is a zero sum game. Been to 3 championship rounds in my lifetime and lost each in a horrible way. Can’t argue with zero titles in over 40 years. Who cares if the hockey team leaves Atlanta? No one in Atlanta clearly. Let’s not go over what happened when Cleveland lost its most popular team. In that time, ATL’s been to a Super Bowl and as many World Series [5, actually, to the Indians’ 2] and managed to win one. Winning matters. No comparison. Winning before 1964 doesn’t matter unless you’re old enough to remember it. And even then.

ATLS: It’s not about you, dude. It’s about the city.

VCLE: Shut your word hole

ATLS: Cleveland was there before you, and, this might be a stretch, it will outlast you.

GreggySEA (in his first appearance on the blog): Damn, swiped first place from us.

ATLS: If it makes you feel better, I don’t value the loss of the Thrashers as even being in the same ballpark as the loss of the Sonics.

GSEA: It does make me feel better.  And we just lost out next best hope with Sacramento staying put.

ATLS: Did KJ ever frustrate you back in the day? Cause he’s certainly doing it from Sacto’s mayor’s office.

GSEA: Yeah, fuck that guy.

VCLE: Drafted by the Cavs and traded for Larry Nance, if I recall.


Posterized!

My guess is kids today (holy shit I sound old, which is fitting since I’m in the space between being younger than Steve Nash but old enough to be Kyrie Irving’s father) are still high on the posters, right? When I was a teenager, there wasn’t an inch of the gray wood paneling in my bedroom that wasn’t covered in them. This was abetted by both my brother and I working in music stores, where we got loads and loads of promo posters and such. Hell, my brother even had his ceiling covered. But I did supplement those with a couple of sports-related ones. At some point early on, I wanted, but never actually purchased, a few of the posters made by John and Tock Costacos, a couple of T-shirt guys that had the idea of making these bizarrely themed sports posters that sometimes used athletes’ nicknames and sometimes just made em up, so far as I can tell.

“We wanted to make the athletes into comic book heroes. They’re larger than life. They’re Superman. They’re Batman,” one of the Costacos said (Kevin Mitchell literally being Batman in one of them). “They’re Hollywood action stars that kick the shit out of 20 bad guys always living to fight another day.”

Riiiiight. I know that’s what I always thought of Lester Hayes and Steve Largent.

At any rate, there’s an exhibition of these curious abominations that’s about to close at the Country Club and Mondrian in Los Angeles, and Sports Illustrated put up a slideshow of a bunch. More can be seen here. The Costacos are apparently still in the poster business, but not with the same batshit level of dementia that you can find in these. There’s about a million baffling details to parse in each one–from the overall theme (Kirk Gibson as a hunter, James Worthy as an attorney) to tiny things (Chuck Person’s too-small chaps, or the intimate caress between Jim Everett and one of his linemen).

So I naturally gravitated toward the two Cleveland posters: Bob Golic as some kind of greased hair metal canine fetishist with an exploding doghouse, and Cory Snyder as a gunslinger with smoking balls, more tiny balls on his belt, and a general look of confusion about where he is (is it all about his ability to throw out runners—I spent far too long trying to figure it out).


The Cleveland-Duke Conundrum

Championship ring from the last major title of any kind in the city of Cleveland--1964. Dammit. At least it's classier than the newer bling-era Liberace rings.

Before we discuss loser-on-loser violence in response to atlswami’s last post, I must note that it is just after halftime of the Ravens-Pats game for a trip to the Super Bowl. Dear Ravens: Lose please. I hate you. Naturally I’m bitter about that team’s ongoing success, hard-nosed running and defensive identity, even the rivalry with the stupid Steelers (these two teams of remorseless, jackbooted headhunters deserve each other—it blows that they have to constitute one-quarter of the Browns’ schedule every damn year—and it makes the battle for third with Cincinnati our only real rivalry, which is just sad), and, especially, their Super Bowl victory four years after leaving Cleveland. That falls into the expanding category of unique, innovative ways that fortune stabs Cleveland fans in the neck. I certainly can’t think of another beloved franchise stolen from one town that won a chronically elusive title (Browns one of four teams with no Super Bowl appearances) within five years. As big a middle finger at a town I can imagine, worse than The Decision, especially since the WoA is still without a title as yet. Compound this with the fact that my favorite player when I was a child, Ozzie Newsome, is their goddam awesome GM. Another Coming Up Small city, Seattle, is starting to understand what this feels like, but OKC needs to win a title first. Side note: Simmons and his ilk recently discussed somewhere how poetic it would be if Baltimore won a title in Indianapolis (site of this year’s Super Bowl, and I must confess that I freaking love that stadium’s design), the city that stole its Colts franchise in 1983. Blech, who cares. Indianapolis more or less sucked donkey balls until Peyton arrived. Baltimore got its justice. I’m just waiting for the wheel to turn and “hapless Ravens” to enter the SportsCenter lexicon. I wish them ill.

Yes, I did evince a little hope for the Cavs future–there’s a ton of young players on that team, likable guys who are starting to distinguish themselves. Irving, Thompson, Casspi, I like these guys. A couple of pieces and some experience away from being interesting. Play hard, good coach, fun to watch, what’s not to like at the moment? At least we’re not Washington Wiz (the major omission in the Coming Up Small lineup of sports towns at the moment). They’re a cavalcade of awfulness because their young promising players are like torture to watch, hot dogging when they’re getting blown out and ball-hogging all the time. Yech. Concern with the Cavs now is maybe winning too many games and fouling up their lottery ticket in a strong draft. So thanks Hawks for setting us straight. I’m happier with the Cavs situation than I think atlswami is the with the Hawks. Sure, the Hawks make the playoffs every year, but they’re stuck in the ghetto of mediocrity, and it’s costing them an arm and a leg. Sparing Dwight Howard, they’re not getting any further until they blow it up and start over again, I figure. So Cavs, step one in rebuilding the right way under way. Kudos, fellas. We could look like Oklahoma City, Denver, or the Sixers in a few years, and maybe take Miami out of the playoffs once. That’d taste like truffles, man. That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.

Finally, the Duke-bag issue requires some explanation. I came by Duke fandom honestly–I went there for college, and it’s impossible not to absorb some of that culture. If pain is the engine of solidarity in Cleveland, persecution does it for Duke fans. The vitriol that goes their way, delightfully saucy stuff. But yeah, it’s awful weird for a Cleveland fan to also have the Yankees of college basketball in his personal stable (and the two have several connections–Danny Ferry, Trajan Langdon, Carlos Boozer, and now Irving). I actually do know what it’s like to have one of my teams win a title–two, actually, since I matriculated in 1993. Begrudge me that? Meh. Your prerogative, Bobby. I’m not gonna fight you. As much as I enjoyed those Duke titles, that fandom really doesn’t measure up to being a Cleveland fan. Not in the slightest. Being a Duke fan is easy. Being a Cleveland fan is hard.


Friendly Fire

Atlanta wins a battle of Coming Up Small squads. Likely doesn't portend anything positive.

I still don’t think the Hawks have a big season ahead of them without Al Horford on the court. But, they can still beat up on the franchise that represents the only city that Atlanta has defeated in a major sport’s championship game.

Just the other day, valmikcle was telling me how the Cavaliers were looking all right. Probably not good enough to make the playoffs, but trending positive. He also noted that young Kyrie Irving was coming along swimmingly. (In addition to being a long suffering Mistake by the Laker, my fellow blogger and all-around great American is also an unapologetic Duke-bag.)

All evidence to the contrary tonight. The Hawks shredded the Cavs, winning by 27 at home in the Highlight Factory (which often doubles as the Lowlight Factory). I won’t belabor this point, as in the world of Coming Up Small, that would be fool-on-fool violence—especially given that the Hawks have played only two 2011 playoff teams since Horford went out (and lost to one of them, the Sixers, by 14).

I don’t really see big things in store for either of these squads this year—aside from their odds in the draft lottery.


Yelling at Buildings

This video makes me a little uncomfortable for its evocation of an abusive relationship. But well played good man.


Haterade Bath

There’s no legit reason the Tebow-la virus should be gracing this site, which is about withering on the vine, not creating a mile-high vortex where the laws of probability, common sense, and F=ma cease to apply. And yet here he is. Word out of Denver is that he and LeFraud James are chummy. “Us Nike guys stick together,” said the whore of Akron (WoA, let us stop a moment to admire his loyalty). Among the choice nuggets from this interview:

“I can relate to him a lot. I see how the media plays it sometimes and how the critics go at him and to see him continue to prove them wrong.”

“I’m one of those guys who has been in those shoes before . . . I understood a lot of what he’s going through, what he went through, and it’s good to see him success(ful) now.”

Before I get into this, the WoA is a fan of the Cowboys and Yankees and doesn’t that just say it all. Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless had one of their bilingual shoutfests over it, actually agreeing on a few points. They agree that the WoA and Tebow have almost nothing in common. All they share is the hothouse of ESPN complicity in brand awareness. Oh, and each of them turns into a completely different athlete at certain times. The WoA takes an entire season of divine athletic ability, strongman tactics, and neck beards, and then turns it into root marm. Tebow takes 55 minutes of tomfoolery and wounded ducks (his only observable skill being survival until the last 5 minutes) and then appears to be the only man left standing on the field—at least in about half his games. So they’re opposite sides of the same coin, eh? Enough for the WoA to relate to? Or perhaps he’s just sniffing around in the hopes that if they get mentioned together enough, he’ll be able to grab some of that improbability matrix for himself and start ruling the NBA like he should have years ago (or still could, once he extracts himself from under Dwayne Wade’s heel).

Now, I hate—I’m using the word hate here—the entire Tebow phenomenon and have a nauseating, visceral reaction to watching him succeed. I’m an atheist, and you can have any god more invested in the Broncos ineptitude than the earthquake in Haiti. It’s just mortiferous to believe that blindness and ignorance of your own limitations, combined with Rudy-like dedication, is somehow a recipe for success. Storybooks are fiction, man, even though Rudy is now a successful motivational speaker.

Anyway, the WoA brought this comparison on himself. So he needs to own it. For all the nasty things I can say about Tebow (wait, there aren’t any, he’d probably give me his last nickel, which makes him even more infuriating), he’d never, ever have pulled something like “The Decision.” He’d never, through ignorance or malice, gut an entire sports community. The WoA was allowed to leave Cleveland—I did, Thome did, Ilgauskas did (though we’re happy to have you back in the front office, Big Z)—but his greater crime was not understanding the town, not understanding what he meant. Tebow’d never do that shit. He’d never be accused of giving up. He doesn’t check out. I mean Tebow stayed in a fracking game he was losing by 35 points with rib and lung injuries because he wanted to finish the season with his teammates on the field. Jesus! Um, exactly.

One mocks loyalty and doesn’t know when to stop talking. The other mocks his limitations and piles on the sincerity to the point of meaninglessness. It would take the WoA to make me appreciate Captain God Wad. Context is a bitch, ain’t it?


Don’t Hate the Player, Kiddo, Hate the Game

Claes Oldenburg's "Free Stamp"--It's totally in Cleveland, look it up.

Many people now have asked whether I’m going to raise my infant son as a Cleveland sports fan. Bitter legacy and all that. Why not let him fall into the warm, smelly, corrupt embrace of New York fandom, or pick a frontrunner of his own, or devise some random association (like my Cleveland-born-and-raised cousin who lives and dies by the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas Jayhawks basketball—something about the hawks? I never asked him)? Notably, no one who asked me this question is from Cleveland. They’d never even think to ask it, just as I’d never even consider letting this little kid think for himself. He’s going down with the ship, riding on his father’s shoulders, cursing Art Modell, Jose Mesa, and LeFraud James.

Lots of people leave Cleveland, probably more than stay. A few more years and I’ll have been in New York longer than I ever lived in the Midwest. But I’ve observed that people who leave the town (different, in a way, than even the most prideful who still live there), love the place unreasonably. Ask Michael Symon, Drew Carey, or Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (our best and brightest?). People who come from Cleveland wear that shit on their sleeves, man. Maybe it’s an overreaction to the overdiscussed “Mistake by the Lake” days, or because it was a nice place to grow up, or the world-class art museum and symphony (right, that’s totally it). Nah, it’s because of the Browns, Cavs, and Indians. I don’t need to go over the sources of this pain—shit, I will anyway in this space, over time—but no other town claims “Most Tortured Sports City” more vociferously than the Metropolis of the Western Reserve. Stop arguing. We’re winning that shit in a walk. No one knows what it’s like to be us, and dammit if shared pain isn’t the greatest engine of solidarity.

So yeah, the kid is going to grow up with this. It’ll build character and teach him patience for things that may never come. I’ll cross my fingers that it won’t set him to tears like it once did me, pray that he can lay claim to the ground floor when Cleveland has a multiple title–decade like stupid Boston just had, and hope that he doesn’t one day hate me for it. I salute you, little man. Here’s a helmet.

If they ever tell my story, let them say that I rooted for giants. Men rise and fall like the winter wheat, but these names will never die. Let them say I lived in the time of Omar Vizquel, Mark Price, and Ernest Byner. Let them say I lived in the time of Kosar.