tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-51734903411650675232016-04-10T06:21:58.199-04:00Rebuilding Since 1964A Cleveland Sports BlogMike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.comBlogger2296125tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-72379084215775864352015-04-11T18:17:00.003-04:002015-12-01T17:46:35.664-05:00Tiger Woods in the role of the underdogI didn't care much for golf until Tiger Woods came along. In 1997, at the age of 21, he won the Masters -- a tournament organized by a golf club that hadn't admitted its first black member until seven years earlier -- by 12 strokes. What young American sports fan wouldn't be drawn to a story like that?<br /><br />As the years progressed, he proved that he was much more than just hype. It's unfortunate that there might be an entire generation of kids growing up now who will only know Tiger Woods as a cautionary tale: a once-great golfer who made even greater mistakes. Those who weren't alive at the time, or who were too young to remember, won't be able to appreciate just how good he actually was. They can look up his performance in majors on Wikipedia, but you kind of had to be there.<br /><br />It's one thing to read about how he won the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 strokes; it was quite another to watch it unfold. To know that nobody could touch him. To see the look in his competitors' eyes, because they knew they were up against an unstoppable force. History will show that he won four majors in a row, and five out of seven from the PGA Championship in 1999 through the Masters in 2001. But to have actually watched it in those days was to watch something we knew we might never see again. I was too young to appreciate Michael Jordan's peak years, so Tiger was the closest thing I'd ever seen to a great artist at the top of his craft.<br /><br />It was then, during the early 2000s, when he was at his most dominant. Each victory felt inevitable. I suppose that's why I started to root against him. Not because I didn't want him to make history, but because making history was simply a foregone conclusion. There was no doubt he was going break Jack Nicklaus's record of 18 majors, so I went ahead and pulled for the likes of Bob May (who briefly matched Tiger shot for shot during a playoff after the 2000 PGA Championship) and Chris DiMarco (who pushed him to a playoff at the 2005 Masters). Rooting for the underdog is always more fun.<br /><br />Now, Tiger Woods is the underdog. He hasn't won a major since 2008. His struggles are partly the result of his own selfish choices, partly the cruelty of time and age. The record of 18 majors that once felt inevitable now seems like it might be impossible.<br /><br />And that means, for the first time in a long time, rooting for Tiger Woods is fun again. If he were to win another major, it wouldn't be just another step on the road to 18. It would be his redemption. It would be a comeback story for the ages. It would be exactly what every kid needed to realize that Tiger is so much more than a cautionary tale. He was the greatest athlete of his time. He made an entire generation care about golf, and maybe he can do it again.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-19216673526804809132015-01-06T15:48:00.001-05:002015-01-06T22:08:27.034-05:00What skeptical Cavs fans can learn from Ohio State's football teamIn late October, Ohio State played a night game against Penn State in front of 108,000 people in Happy Valley. The Buckeyes, despite a home loss to Virginia Tech a few weeks earlier, came into the game as double-digit favorites. They raced out to a 17-point lead at halftime.<br /><br />But then, the wheels kind of came off. JT Barrett threw a pick six, Sean Nuernberger missed a field goal, and the Nittany Lions came roaring back to send the game into overtime.<br /><br />Ohio State ultimately pulled the game out in a second overtime, but this game was proof that the Buckeyes were a flawed team. The fact that they blew a lead against Penn State, a team that had just lost to Michigan and Northwestern, meant that they were going to be in for a long season.<br /><br />Or so we thought at the time. It turned out that Ohio State's season was long, but only in the literal sense -- they are going to end up playing more games than other teams.<br /><br />Now, on the verge of playing for the National Championship, Urban Meyer points to that game in Happy Valley as a crucial turning point for his team. <br /><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en">Urban Meyer said the second overtime in Penn State is when he really felt this team start to come together.<br />— Land-Grant Holy Land (@Landgrant33) <a href="https://twitter.com/Landgrant33/status/551478887306522624">January 3, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" charset="utf-8" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"></script> <br /><blockquote class="twitter-tweet" lang="en">Meyer has brought the Penn State game up a number of times today as a turning point for the team. Played very poorly and won.<br />— Blake Williams (@BWilliamsBSB) <a href="https://twitter.com/BWilliamsBSB/status/552551070858485761">January 6, 2015</a></blockquote><script async="" charset="utf-8" src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"></script>In the moment, it seemed like that game was evidence of something. And it was, just not of what we thought. It wasn't evidence of a bad football team, it was evidence of a team that can find a way to win under very difficult circumstances.<br /><br />A narrative can change that quickly.<br /><br />There is always a desire to begin assessing a team from the first moment it steps on the field. But teams are never complete on day one. Even if the roster itself doesn't change much over the season, the players on it inevitably do. They grow, individually and collectively. Challenging nights in October can lead to celebratory ones in January. Sometimes fans' patience pays off.<br /><br />Keep that in mind while watching the Cavaliers over these next few weeks. LeBron James, David Blatt, and David Griffin will not ultimately be judged by how the team plays this winter. They will only be judged in June.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-39554837112843274932014-09-15T19:13:00.001-04:002014-09-15T21:05:31.911-04:00The moral dilemma of watching footballSometimes when I find myself still awake at night, I will scour YouTube for long videos that will hopefully be interesting enough to distract me from the fact that I can't sleep. A few months ago, I clicked on this lecture that Malcolm Gladwell gave in 2013 at the University of Pennsylvania, without knowing what it was about. (It's over an hour long, so you don't have to watch it right at this moment. But I suggest that you do at some point.)<br /><div><br /></div><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="270" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/EWaPXzTDEDw" width="480"></iframe><br /><br />During this lecture, Gladwell discussed the risks associated with playing football. He talked about the link between getting hit in the head repeatedly and the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is the disease that likely caused Junior Seau to commit suicide in 2012. And he told the story of another player, less famous than Seau, who likely suffered from CTE, and committed suicide in 2010. His name was Owen Thomas, and he had been a collegiate player at the same university where Gladwell now gave this lecture three years later. (This was obviously a controversial tactic for Gladwell to use, and you can read the school newspaper's account of it all <a href="http://www.thedp.com/article/2013/02/gladwells-condemnation-of-football-raises-eyebrows" target="_blank">here</a>.)<br /><br />To Gladwell, this is a straightforward issue. We know that playing football is bad for a person's brain. We don't necessarily know how bad, or if anything can be done to mitigate the impact, or how pervasive a disease like CTE actually is. But it's pretty clear that football was responsible for the premature deaths of Seau, Thomas, and others. If not for "tradition" (and, of course, money), an institution like the University of Pennsylvania would never sponsor something that was known to potentially cause serious brain injuries. No academic institution would.<br /><br />As more time passes, we're getting an even better idea of just how bad the problem is. This is from <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/13/sports/football/actuarial-reports-in-nfl-concussion-deal-are-released.html?_r=0" target="_blank">Friday's New York Times</a>:<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq">The National Football League, which for years disputed evidence that its players had a high rate of severe brain damage, has stated in federal court documents that it expects nearly a third of retired players to develop long-term cognitive problems and that the conditions are likely to emerge at “notably younger ages” than in the general population.</blockquote>One out of every three players. It's one thing for professional players, who are well-compensated, to assume such a risk. It's quite another for a college to subject its own students to those risks, without fairly compensating them, or providing them with any long-term medical care, all while the coaches and the athletic directors and the university presidents bathe in <a href="http://deadspin.com/infographic-is-your-states-highest-paid-employee-a-co-489635228" target="_blank">pools of money</a>.<br /><br />So it would seem that college football is a morally corrupt enterprise.<br /><br />But what about the NFL? Can the health risks assumed by the players be justified by their salaries? Maybe. I honestly don't have a good answer to that question.<br /><br />What we've learned over the last couple of weeks, though, is that the NFL has a whole other set of moral failings. They're soft on players who beat up women (and it's <a href="http://centralnc.twcnews.com/content/sports/711868/panthers-head-coach--greg-hardy-s-playing-status-unclear/" target="_blank">not just Ray Rice</a>) and players who <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/adrian-peterson-reinstated-by-vikings/" target="_blank">beat up their kids</a>. These issues were discussed on television by a former player who just had a statue built in his honor despite his <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Lewis#Murder_trial" target="_blank">involvement in a double murder</a> 14 years ago. The owner of my favorite team allegedly made some of his money by <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/briansolomon/2013/04/19/fbi-says-billionaire-jimmy-haslam-knew-of-pilot-flying-j-fraud-secret-recordings-expose-jacking-the-discount-scheme/" target="_blank">defrauding his own customers</a>.<br /><br />All of this has led <a href="http://www.vice.com/read/its-officially-time-to-start-boycotting-the-nfl-912?utm_source=vicefbus" target="_blank">some to suggest</a> that it's time for reasonable people to boycott football. I must admit that the part of my brain that is able to think about things in a logical manner finds this argument compelling. Whether we're talking about the NCAA or the NFL, supporting these entities that are run by corrupt men who are making millions of dollars off of athletes who are risking their own lives feels morally wrong.<br /><br />And yet...<br /><br />I was at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, along with 104,403 other people, to watch Ohio State destroy Kent State. And it was awesome. On Sunday, I drank beer and sat on my coach with some friends and watched the Browns pull off an improbable win against the Saints. It, too, was awesome.<br /><br />I love football. I love the camaraderie that comes with sharing a communal experience with thousands of other people. I love thinking about and discussing the extensive strategy that goes into every single play. I love that it gives me something to do on weekends in the fall.<br /><br />No matter how much the logical part of my brain thinks that I should give up football, I'm not sure that I ever could. And I don't think that this country ever will. Emotion is always a stronger pull than logic. For better or worse, this uniquely American sport is part of who we are, and it's here to stay.<br /><br />That doesn't mean, though, that we shouldn't think very critically about the issues that surround this game. Ignoring them won't make them go away. And acknowledging those moral questions is not, on its own, a justification that should allow us to be comfortable with giving more of our money to the NCAA or the NFL. But that acknowledgment is at least where we have to start.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-87654085638285628412014-07-15T12:11:00.000-04:002014-07-15T12:11:36.017-04:00Why the Cavs won’t win a title this year, or next year<a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/--YO1qLhvask/U8VSgeWv5yI/AAAAAAAAAAM/asWgv4a-N5I/s1600/lebron+cavs.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/--YO1qLhvask/U8VSgeWv5yI/AAAAAAAAAAM/asWgv4a-N5I/s1600/lebron+cavs.jpg" height="320" width="212" /></a><em>Since I am not a normal contributor to this site, I feel like a slight introduction is in order. My name is Ryan Spruill and I am from Dayton, Ohio, but I have always been a Cavaliers fan. I went to school at the University of Toledo, where I was fortunate to meet Chris Donovan, and after graduating, went on to receive my MBA at Wright State University.</em><br />--<br /><br />So, at around noon Friday, I was sitting at my office in Cincinnati, Ohio, when I heard a sound of disappointment. At my office, ESPN is always on, so I was a bit curious. To my surprise, I found out that LeBron James had decided to come back home. I was very excited, not because he was coming home,&nbsp;but because of&nbsp;the fact that this puts the Cavs right back on the brink of a championship. <br /><br />Obviously, my mind was racing because they are clearly a very good team with LeBron on the team, along with young talent in Kyrie Irving and others. Irving has improved each year that he has been with the team, although this past year seemed to be a little disappointing one for him. The good news is that I feel like he played poorly due many uncertainties, such as where this team was headed with a GM in Chris Grant and a head coach in Mike Brown. It also stems from him having his third head coach in four years, and with that comes three new systems.&nbsp;There had to have been talks between him, new GM Griffin, and new head coach Blatt about the system they were implementing and the future of the Cavs’ roster. He must have been happy, as Dan Gilbert tweeted that there was a verbal agreement between him and the Cavs, with him tweeting about it well before July 10.<br /><br />The Cavs&nbsp;also have two unproven number one picks. We all know about Anthony Bennett’s disappointing season, where he looked a bit out of shape and struggled to find his shot. I have heard rumors that he is having a great summer camp, but I want to see it to believe it when it matters at the beginning of November.&nbsp;They just drafted Andrew Wiggins, who played one season at Kansas. He had a fantastic year; however, he seemed to disappear when it mattered most. He has a very good shot, but not a consistent one. Personally, I wished the Cavs would have drafted Jabari Parker, who I thought was a little more consistent and had an ability to take over games in the final two minutes.<br /><br />Dion Waiters seems to have a killer instinct, but he also seems to be inconsistent and takes plays off. Tristian Thompson has improved every season, but I question whether he can become a star of this league, not that averaging 16&nbsp;points&nbsp;and 8 rebounds per game&nbsp;would not be bad. It is just that is all I see Thompson becoming.<br /><br />Nonetheless, the Cavs, who are basically an all-star college team outside of LeBron and Anderson Varejao, now have Vegas odds of 3 to 1 to win it all next season. I do not see them winning it this year at all, or even next year.<br /><br />Yes, I know this may come as a shock to a lot of people, and yes, I do want to be that person that says they can’t win it first, but I really do not see them winning it all.&nbsp;For one thing,&nbsp;I feel like they don’t have a great rim protecting center. Sure, Varejao is great for hustle plays, but he does not have that killer instinct, particularly on offense. They also have the young guys, who are expected big contributions this year in Irving, Wiggins, Waiters, and Thompson. The problem is, none of these guys have playoff experience. I am adamant on this, as I always feel like you become better because of your failure in playoffs. I feel like there is a reason&nbsp; it took LeBron nine&nbsp;years to win a title, or it took Michael Jordan&nbsp;seven years to win his first. You have to face your failures, own up to them by using them as a teaching tool.<br /><br />The Cavs&nbsp;are still entertaining the idea of trading for Kevin Love. The problem is, it may cause&nbsp;them to give up probably a Waiters/Bennett/Wiggins combination, and even a first rounder. Granted, they have&nbsp;three first rounders in next year’s draft, so giving up one of them might not be so bad. Waiters has somewhat proven himself, but I feel like he lacks discipline on the court with his shot as well as in the locker room. Wiggins and Bennett have all the potential in the world, but they could also be a flop as well. Personally, I would hold onto Wiggins and Waiters and see if they could do something with one first rounder and Bennett, but that is just me.<br /><br />The Cavs are also very interested in Mike Miller and Ray Allen. Both are&nbsp;three-point specialists, but have a lot of miles on their legs and are liabilities on defense. If I were to pick one, I would likely go with Miller, just because he is younger. But neither one excites me.<br /><br />So, after all this, you have to take a look at the Eastern Conference. The East was extremely weak last season, and I expect more of the same. I think the Cavs are early favorites, with Indiana an easy second, and then some up and coming teams. I really like Washington with their young backcourt in Wall and Beal. They could be the dark horse in the East along with Chicago, who still has Derrick Rose with an unknown injury status.<br /><br />Again, as I said before, I like the Cavs to make it to the Finals, but we all know that is easier said than done. Out West they have serious competition in the Spurs, the Thunder, and the Clippers. I feel like all three of those teams could take on the Cavs and beat them handily. My early pick is the Thunder, as I feel like they match up extremely well against the Clippers, and we all know how difficult it is to repeat as champs in any professional sport. The Thunder are in the exact same position the Cavs were in 2009-2010, with the possibility of Kevin Durant leaving for better pastures in Washington in 2016. I actually see them getting it done this year with a more mature Westbrook, a polished Ibaka, and a steady backup in Steve Adams.<br /><br />Do I think the Cavs will win it all? Well, there are no guarantees, and LeBron seems to realize that. However, I think if they stay the course and keep healthy, year three of LeBron’s return might be the one. Get ready Cleveland, this is exciting couple of years! Ryan Spruillhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/04201082696847439378noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-65081788013113715182014-06-22T11:48:00.002-04:002014-06-22T11:49:13.679-04:00Browns beat writer thinks Johnny Manziel needs to be evaluated for chemical dependencyThe Plain Dealer's many sportswriters love to do the shtick where they answer questions from regular fans like you and me. In <a href="http://www.cleveland.com/browns/index.ssf/2014/06/is_it_time_for_johnny_manziel.html" target="_blank">today's edition</a>, Browns beat reporter Mary Kay Cabot fielded a question from a "longtime Browns fan" about Johnny Manziel: Is it time for Johnny to "man up and act like a Brown?"<br /><br />Unfortunately, we need to leave aside the absurdity of the question itself. (What exactly does it mean to act like a Brown? How does one act like he plays for a team that has made the playoffs one time in 15 years?)<br /><br />The really shocking statement came from Cabot's answer: "With the pattern Manziel has shown since being drafted, it's time to have him evaluated by a chemical dependency counselor to make sure he doesn't have a problem." Whoa.<br /><br />Reasonable people can disagree about Manziel's behavior up to this point. Personally, I think the bigger issue is the fact that the off-the-field activities of a kid who is 21 years old are being breathlessly reported as if they matter. If this were ten years ago, we'd have no idea what Manziel was doing during his days off. As long as it doesn't impact his play on the field (as of now there is no reason to believe that it will), it doesn't matter. Other people have argued that it would be nice if he were using some of his party time to study his playbook or whatever, and I guess that's a reasonable opinion.<br /><br />What is not reasonable, however, is for a reporter to question whether or not somebody has a chemical dependency based on some photos that have been posted on the internet. That's a serious thing, not something that should be tossed out in a "Hey Mary Kay" article.<br /><br />This city's media has proven itself incapable of covering the circus that is Johnny Football in a reasonable manner.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-82168693533418443262014-06-10T15:41:00.000-04:002014-06-10T15:44:24.758-04:00In Jurgen Klinsmann we trust<a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-_LFx9Qvdy-M/U5dfA_48MbI/AAAAAAAADak/62cVKCul7SQ/s1600/klinsmann.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-_LFx9Qvdy-M/U5dfA_48MbI/AAAAAAAADak/62cVKCul7SQ/s1600/klinsmann.jpg" height="320" width="252" /></a>I thought that Jurgen Klinsmann's decision to leave Landon Donovan off of the USMNT's World Cup roster was dumb. It&nbsp;seemed to be&nbsp;based on <a href="http://soccer.si.com/soccer/planet-futbol/2014/05/22/landon-donovan-jurgen-klinsmann-world-cup-usa-roster-gamble" target="_blank">things other than soccer ability</a>, because even an out-of-shape Donovan&nbsp;should to have some value to this team, if only as a sub. And even if Donovan truly wasn't good enough, he at least deserved a chance to go out on his own&nbsp;terms after being the face of American soccer for a decade.<br /><br />I also thought that it was a mistake for Klinsmann to <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2014/06/05/u-s-soccer-coach-juergen-klinsmann-we-cannot-win-this-world-cup/" target="_blank">say that the UMNT</a> "cannot win this World Cup." It may have been a true statement, but it doesn't really reflect the American spirit. Maybe the "American spirit" is just a BS term that a&nbsp;man from Germany doesn't really have to care about, but I don't think it's ever a good idea for a coach to tell his players&nbsp;that they have no chance to win the tournament they're about to play in.<br /><br />The&nbsp;decision to cut Donovan, combined with that quote, have&nbsp;hurt Klinsmann's standing a bit among some&nbsp;American soccer fans. I include myself in that camp. (Although I do not include myself in the camp with Michael Wilbon, who <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2014/06/06/michael-wilbon-tells-u-s-soccer-coach-juergen-klinsmann-to-get-out-of-america/" target="_blank">told Klinsmann to</a> "get the hell out" of America. Calm down, bro.)<br /><br />And yet, I&nbsp;have not lost the trust I have in him. I continue to feel optimistic about the future of the USMNT, both immediately and in the long term.<br /><br />Part&nbsp;of my confidence comes from the fact that&nbsp;we really have no other choice. Klinsmann was not brought in to win the 2014 World Cup; he was brought in to re-shape the entire system. He's got the credentials to suggest that&nbsp;he should be given every opportunity to do so.<br /><br />But it's more than that. Whatever he's doing is working. The results speak for themselves, up to this point. I <a href="/2013/07/a-brief-summary-of-jurgen-klinsmanns.html" target="_blank">wrote about some of them</a> last year: the USMNT's first ever win against Italy, their first ever win in Estadio Azteca, a win over Germany, and&nbsp;a record-setting winning streak. I understand that all of those big wins came with caveats attached, but the fact remains that the wins in Italy and Mexico City&nbsp;had never happened before. Ever. Under any circumstance.&nbsp;In the history of soccer in the United States.<br /><br />Now, you can add this to the list: For the first time ever, the USMNT went undefeated in their sendoff games leading up to the World Cup. Go ahead and say whatever you need to say about how the games are meaningless or whatever; it's still yet another thing that had&nbsp;never happened before. This team is heading to the World Cup hotter than any of their predecessors.<br /><br />Obviously the challenges&nbsp;awaiting them in Brazil are enormous. Ghana, Portugal, Germany. It will take some amazing performances, and a bit of good luck, for this team to even get into the next stage.<br /><br />Nonetheless, I believe in this team and its coach. It's the World Cup and&nbsp;anything is possible.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-39041217591770263322014-05-30T13:25:00.003-04:002014-05-30T13:27:10.677-04:00The difference between Johnny Manziel and LeBronYou have probably heard about Johnny Manziel's recent trip to Las Vegas. Everybody has an opinion about it, <a href="http://q.usatoday.com/2014/05/27/brady-quinn-offers-johnny-manziel-some-advice-cleveland-browns/" target="_blank">even Brady Quinn</a>. Personally, I&nbsp;think it is a little silly that we spent so much time talking about a dude's vacation, but I guess that comes with the territory of being Johnny Football.<br /><br />Some people even wrote articles&nbsp;about which seat Manziel sat in on his&nbsp;flight&nbsp;back from Las Vegas. That's how ridiculous this Vegas story got.<br /><br />How do we even know which seat he sat in? Because he <a href="http://msn.foxsports.com/buzzer/story/johnny-manziel-middle-seat-on-flight-photo-052714?cmpid=tsmtw:fscom:nflonfox" target="_blank">posed for pictures with the people he was sitting next to</a>:<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: left;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-l1ubSFlENc8/U4i4F5uYuUI/AAAAAAAADaI/a9DS6J6tXUE/s1600/johnny+manziel+plane+flight.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-l1ubSFlENc8/U4i4F5uYuUI/AAAAAAAADaI/a9DS6J6tXUE/s1600/johnny+manziel+plane+flight.jpg" height="320" width="240" /></a></div><br />In fact, it seems like he is willing to pose for pictures with just about everybody who asks. <a href="https://twitter.com/steakNstiffarms/status/470367825769816064" target="_blank">Girls at the pool in Vegas</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/swboni/status/471732220391333888" target="_blank">Little boys at the mall</a>. <a href="https://twitter.com/joejizzle4/status/470791054904815616" target="_blank">This guy</a>. Anybody.<br /><br />Contrast that with our former sports icon, LeBron James. This story came up on Twitter via <a href="https://twitter.com/WayneEmbrysKids/status/472414663045427200" target="_blank">@WayneEmbrysKids</a>&nbsp;(click on it to enlarge):<br /><br /><div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: left;"><a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-1P8vfmRSHa8/U4i-HP3N28I/AAAAAAAADaQ/PBhSbF9hyFA/s1600/lebron+is+a+tool.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-1P8vfmRSHa8/U4i-HP3N28I/AAAAAAAADaQ/PBhSbF9hyFA/s1600/lebron+is+a+tool.jpg" height="320" width="179" /></a></div><br />For all that we've always&nbsp;been told&nbsp;about how well LeBron handles himself, and the media,&nbsp;we haven't heard&nbsp;a lot of stories about him being particularly gracious&nbsp;to his&nbsp;fans. Which I guess is his right. It would just be nice if somebody who calls himself "King James" remembered that he only gets to be the king on the shoulders of ordinary&nbsp;folks like you and me. He is who he is because&nbsp;fans appreciate&nbsp;his greatness, not simply because he possesses greatness.<br /><br />So far, it seems like Johnny Football gets that. He's handled everything -- the media's dumb questions, fans&nbsp;asking for pictures of&nbsp;him everywhere -- with remarkable poise.<br /><br />Let's hope he can handle blitzing linebackers with a similar poise.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-47148799044808876132014-05-17T09:54:00.001-04:002014-05-29T16:14:08.820-04:00The five dumbest news stories about Johnny Manziel<a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-pGrY3m1fL4A/U3dqDrK4xnI/AAAAAAAADZ0/ErIH_nhIlWU/s1600/johnny+manziel+browns.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-pGrY3m1fL4A/U3dqDrK4xnI/AAAAAAAADZ0/ErIH_nhIlWU/s1600/johnny+manziel+browns.jpg" height="320" width="247" /></a>Johnny Manziel has only been a member of the Browns for a little over a week, but we have already seen some great journalists create some really intelligent narratives. There are going to be some Pulitzers won by the people who cover this guy, I can just tell.<br /><br />5. &nbsp;Manziel is <a href="http://www.cleveland.com/browns/index.ssf/2014/05/cleveland_browns_release_quart.html#incart_2box" target="_blank">going to be the backup quarterback</a> because the owner said so in May. Also, Cleveland (which is a city in Ohio) is apparently not the same place as Hollywood (which is in California).<br /><br />4. &nbsp;After one of the most important days of his life, 21-year-old Manziel <a href="http://www.cleveland.com/browns/index.ssf/2014/05/johnny_manziel_celebrates_nfl.html" target="_blank">celebrated by drinking champagne</a>. I can't believe this. Champagne is French. They don't even have football in France. Or at least not the right kind of football.<br /><br />3. &nbsp;Jimmy Haslam told a <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/espn-reporter-homeless-man-convinced-browns-manziel-article-1.1785508" target="_blank">silly anecdote about a homeless man</a>&nbsp;saying the team should draft Manziel. Then, Haslam told Ray Farmer to disregard all of the scouting reports because the homeless guy gets to decide.<br /><br />2. &nbsp;The Browns <a href="http://nypost.com/2014/05/14/browns-have-already-made-first-mistake-with-johnny-football/" target="_blank">denied the New York Post's request</a> for a media credential to cover rookie minicamp. How dare the Browns deny a credential to the <a href="http://www.cjr.org/the_audit/the_new_york_posts_disgrace.php?utm_source=feedly" target="_blank">most esteemed newspaper</a> in the world that was just trying to cover the rookie minicamp of a team 500 miles away that they usually ignore?<br /><br />1. &nbsp;Manziel <a href="http://www.cleveland.com/browns/index.ssf/2014/05/johnnys_manziels_hurry_up_and.html" target="_blank">sent a text message</a> to Cleveland's QB coach during the draft. Forget the homeless man. This text message sealed the deal. If it had been a suggestive Snapchat, the Browns probably would have just gone ahead and selected him fourth overall.<br /><br />Did I forget anything?Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com2tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-12081498213410581412014-05-13T09:14:00.000-04:002014-05-13T14:35:46.167-04:00Talking Josh Gordon, Johnny Football, and more<i>My friend Brett Clancy is one of the most&nbsp;knowledgeable&nbsp;football fans that I know. Even though he's a 49ers fan, I'm always interested to get his take on whatever the Browns are doing. Yesterday, following one of the most interesting weekends the Browns have had in some time, Brett and I exchanged a couple of emails about Josh Gordon, the draft, and more. You can read our exchange below. If you find&nbsp;Brett's insight as informed as I do, you can follow&nbsp;him on Twitter: <a href="https://twitter.com/thebrettclancy" target="_blank">@thebrettclancy</a>.</i><br /><br /><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-FKgjKjUxXzs/U3IadsUruSI/AAAAAAAADZg/aU-9McuD4is/s1600/josh+gordon+suspended.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-FKgjKjUxXzs/U3IadsUruSI/AAAAAAAADZg/aU-9McuD4is/s1600/josh+gordon+suspended.jpg" height="320" width="228" /></a>On Thursday night, the Browns drafted the most exciting quarterback available. I think every Browns fan was feeling really good and hopeful about Johnny Manziel. But, because it's the Browns and everything good must be followed by a strong kick in the balls, we found out less than 24 hours later that Josh Gordon may be suspended for the entire upcoming season.<br /><br />So before we discuss the draft, let's start with this: Assuming Gordon is indeed going to miss the season, what do you think the Browns should do? They completely ignored any and all of the wide receivers who were available in the later rounds of the draft.<br /><br /><b><u>Brett:</u></b> The first thing, which I think the Browns understand, is that you can't just replace Josh Gordon. He's a top&nbsp;five talent and if he is indeed lost for the season, that changes up the entire approach to the passing game. With Gordon, the Browns offense could have looked a lot like Kyle Shanahan's Texans days with Andre Johnson, but without Gordon it's more like Shanahan's early years in Washington when Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney and Anthony Armstrong topped the depth chart.<br /><br />The most interesting name still available on the free agent market is Miles Austin, who's a 30 year old with injury concerns, but the lack of interest surrounding him could make it easy to get him on a team friendly one-year deal. As of right now the Browns really don't have any proven veteran pass catchers outside of Nate Burleson and Austin could be a nice fit if the Browns are intending to put together a rag tag group of receiver who's sum is greater than the whole of it's parts. I'll also float Josh Morgan's name out there. He struggled to separate himself from the competition in Washington, but he's a versatile receiver who's played in Kyle Shanahan's offense, so he could have some value. One more name that I'm only putting on here because he played his college ball at Ohio State: Santonio Holmes.<br /><br />Of course, that receiver pool could grow in the next few months, as there were 33 receivers taken in the 2014 draft and while not all of them will stick, their roster spots will have to come from somewhere. Some names to watch for are Stephen Hill, who's wearing out his welcome in New York, but he's still young and his size/speed combo is hard to pass up. Brandon Lloyd signed with the 49ers recently, but after trading for Stevie Johnson and drafting Bruce Ellington in the 5th round, Lloyd could quickly find himself the odd man out in San Francisco. Similarly, the Colts pick of Ole Miss WR Donte Moncrief in the 2nd round could be an indication that LaVon Brazill is on the hot seat. There's some off field concerns with Brazill, but he's also flashed on field promise.<br /><br />I might be jumping the gun a bit, but I'd also like to mention what the Browns have done at the position, signing four undrafted rookies who have a chance to impress in an otherwise thin group:<br /><br />-Ball State's Willie Snead IV is the best candidate of the four to make an immediate contribution. Snead graded out as a day three pick after he rewrote the record books at Ball State on his way to posting back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons (106 rec 1516 yds and 15 TDs in 2013) before declaring for the draft as a junior. Snead projects as a possession receiver who relies on his natural hands and precise route running to beat corners rather than blazing speed. At 5'11 195 lbs he can play inside or outside and is likely to see time at both spots during training camp.<br /><br />-Vanderbilt WR Johnathan Krause is a 6'1 215 lbs burner (runs a sub 4.4) and can develop into a legitimate deep threat on the outside. His route running is pretty clean, he’s was a willing blocker and his production at Vandy was solid playing across from second round pick Jordan Matthews.<br /><br />-San Jose State’s Chandler Jones measures 5'9 180 lbs on scouting reports, but SJSU had him listed at 5'11. Like Krause he ran sub 4.4 at his pro day and was a favorite target of David Fales, racking up 1356 yards and 15 TDs on 79 receptions. He was a pro day snub with a chip on his shoulder. Without trying to raise the bar too high, I see him as a poor man's DeSean Jackson. He can contribute immediately on special teams and has the pure speed to take the top off the defense, but won't shy away from contact going over the middle.<br /><br />-They also added Kenny Shaw from Florida State who clocks in at 6'0 170lbs so he'll need to bulk up a bit if he wants to stick in the NFL, but he’s played tough against tough competition.<br /><br /><b><u>Mayer:</u></b> I'd definitely feel a little better about the situation if they do sign somebody like Austin, or another veteran who they can feel pretty confident about. Undrafted rookies can be interesting, but they're also obviously a crapshoot. And you're right, regardless of what they do, there's really no way to replace what Gordon provided. I was surprised that so many fans seemed to be outraged that the team didn't draft a receiver. It's almost like they thought that drafting Marqise Lee would magically make everything alright.<br /><br />So speaking of the draft, the Browns ended up with Justin Gilbert, Johnny Manziel, Joel Bitonio, Christian Kirksey, Terrance West, and Pierre Desir. Feel free to chime in about any of the guys if you know something about them, but clearly the marquee name here is Manziel. The Browns have spent the last 15 years looking for a franchise quarterback, and now all of the pressure that comes with filling that spot falls on his shoulders.<br /><br />I'm not going to lie, I was pretty excited that they went for him. Obviously there are a lot of questions about his size and how well his style of football will translate to the NFL. I get all of that. I'm not naïve about this. But there's just something about him. His personality is captivating. In addition to not having a quarterback, the Browns have also never really had an identity. For better or worse, Johnny Manziel gives them an identity. And it's not like they used a top ten pick on him, so I think the risk of drafting him was relatively low.<br /><br />What say you?<br /><br /><b><u>Brett:</u></b> I really think Austin can be a good fit, and the undrafted free agents are a complete crapshoot, but I think it was encouraging to see the Browns go after some guys who may not have been as highly rated, but who clearly have talent and all seemed to fit the mold of being reliable pass catchers, and willing blockers who aren't afraid to make the contested catch.<br /><br />On to the draft. I'll be honest, I was in the Marquise Lee camp. I loved the talent, I thought he had the skills to step up in Josh Gordon's absence (not on the same level, but provide a clearer number one), and then slip back into a support role when Gordon returns. That said, I think they absolutely made the right call taking Joel Bitonio from Nevada. He's an analyst favorite, specifically Mike Mayock of NFL Network was very high on Bitonio. He's expected to play RT in the NFL, but he also has the ability to slide inside and play guard. He's just one of those guys who's 6'4 and 302 lbs but he runs a sub 5 second 40 and was a top performer across the board at the combine, and the game tape backs up his athleticism.<br /><br />Terrence West is a nice pick, and a little underrated coming out of Towson. He's a a between the tackles power type runner with solid hands out of the backfield, so he's a perfect fit for what Kyle Shanahan likes to do in the running game and with Ben Tate's injury history he could see the field sooner rather than later. After being a workhorse in college though, I do think he'll benefit from rookie year more along the lines of Montee Ball last year. Give him time to adjust to the NFL level and improve his pass blocking, and in a few years he could be the guy.<br /><br />I don't know much about Kirksey, but he seems to fit the formula of finding well built, highly athletic guys with good college production and leadership traits. He's seen as being a little too small and not quite powerful enough to hold down a spot as an outside linebacker in the NFL, but he's an intelligent player with a nose for the ball so a move inside could work out nicely.<br /><br />Cornerback Pierre DeSir is a small school guy who proved he could hang with the big boys at the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl. He's got great size at 6'1, 198 lbs and he plays to his size. He's not a burner like Gilbert, but he's quick and he's tough.<br /><br />Speaking of Gilbert, I loved the pick, and actually had a feeling that Cleveland might be coveting this year's top corner. So much to like about this guy: 6'0, 204 lbs blazed a 4.37 40 yard dash at the combine, he so well and he's a born playmaker. Just to temper expectations a tad here, while Gilbert is an extremely talented cover corner I worry about opposing QBs picking on him. Gilbert will no longer be the best corner on the team and QBs are going to want to test him and the knock on Gilbert is that he's not a great tackler. To be clear, I really like this guy, but it makes me nervous when I hear people (including GM Ray Farmer) say he could be the next Patrick Peterson.<br /><br />And of course, Johnny Manziel. My favorite part about this pick for the Browns is how it happened. It would have been so easy for the Browns to jump at Manziel at fourth overall, especially considering the Jaguars had just thrown every draft analyst a curveball by passing on WR Sammy Watkins and OLB Khalil Mack to draft QB Blake Bortles (who I actually thought the Browns might be targeting). Instead the Browns stayed patient, traded down, added first and fourth round picks for 2015, got Gilbert, and waited for their moment to take Manziel.<br /><br />There's enough out there about Johnny Manziel that I don't have to break down much of his game. There's no question about his arm talent, he silenced any critics on that front at his pro day. It's all about if he can become patient and learn to throw from the pocket with defenders at his feet. And I think he can. I wasn't a fan of Manziel for a long time, I thought he was overrated after hearing so many people talk up his performance in this year's loss to Alabama ('Bama was up by at least 14 points each of the five times Manziel threw a TD in that game, if it were anyone else you'd say it was soft coverage, but since it was Manziel it was considered dominance). But after hearing some of his pre-draft comments about wanting to impress Texans head coach Bill O'Brien with his football knowledge I realized that he is a football junkie, and he is a guy who wants to do whatever it takes to win football games.<br /><br />I think he understands that's what he will need to do to be successful in the NFL, but understanding it and reprogramming your brain to run to buy to make a throw rather than just running for the first down marker are two different things. I think it helps that Kyle Shanahan is the OC in Cleveland. He worked with Robert Griffin III in Washington and while that didn't end well, I have to assume he was encouraged by his pre-draft meetings with Manziel that this could be different.<br /><br /><b><u>Mayer:</u></b> Kyle Shanahan's experience with Griffin is interesting, and I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot about that. The Redskins went from 5-11 in 2011 to 10-6 during RG3's rookie year, which is exactly what Browns fans are hoping Manziel can do. (Although apparently Jimmy Halsam has been going around <a href="https://twitter.com/MaryKayCabot/status/465901250660556801" target="_blank">telling people</a> that Brian Hoyer is the quarterback right now.)<br /><br />I guess to maybe begin wrapping this up, I'd just like to get a sense of how you see the AFC North shaking out next season. I know rosters are a long way from being finalized, and we still don't know for sure exactly what Josh Gordon's situation will be. But right now, how realistic do you think it is that the Browns can make a jump to 9-7 or 10-6 and get into the playoffs?<br /><br /><b><u>Brett:</u></b> I'm sure the Shanahan angle will be talked to death by the time we get to week one, but I really think having that one year of success followed by a year of failure with RG3 will positively impact how Manziel is handled in Cleveland. As for keeping Hoyer the intended starter, it's actually a smart move by Haslam. I know Manziel's the one selling all the jerseys, but Hoyer's brief performance can't be overlooked and if Johnny Manziel doesn't look like the better QB by the end of training camp or has issues picking up the playbook the Browns would be wise to let Brian Hoyer start the season (especially if Gordon is suspended and Nate Burleson is still the top receiver). That said, Hoyer's coming off an ACL tear and will have a bit of a ways to go himself. And while we're discussing the QB position, I just want to make quick mention of Connor Shaw who went undrafted out of South Carolina. He's another undersized mobile QB with good mobility who seemed to specialize in winning games in college, I think he'll make a nice fit as the third QB behind Hoyer and Manziel if he can beat out Alex Tanney.<br /><br />The AFC North is really one of the more interesting divisions to me right now because it seems almost wide open, and yet I would not be surprised to see almost any of these teams end up running away with the division, each teams roster is seems someway in flux. The Steelers are coming off a rough year, but they're also coming off a nice draft and if the line can stay healthy they'll be very dangerous. The Bengals lost their offensive and defensive coordinators, a top pass rusher, and a starting lineman and yet don't seem any worse for it, but I could still see a small step back for them. The Ravens have been consistently good but outside of their Super Bowl run not consistently great. The needle is point up for the Browns, but without Gordon, with a first year head coach, with a rookie QB, I think 10-6 is asking a little too much, but 8-8, or 9-7 are definite possibilities.<br /><br />I think the early part of the season will be most critical. Even if Johnny Manziel wins the starting job the run game and defense will have to be what carries this team until he can get up to NFL speed (think the first six games of Russell Wilson's career).Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-67839013927275832752014-05-07T10:14:00.001-04:002014-05-07T12:16:50.139-04:00My first visit to the Kentucky Derby<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-q9F5HZ-hgZA/U2o_G-k-hPI/AAAAAAAADY8/o-QmZ5a-lw4/s1600/main+downs.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-q9F5HZ-hgZA/U2o_G-k-hPI/AAAAAAAADY8/o-QmZ5a-lw4/s1600/main+downs.jpg" height="195" width="400" /></a></div><em></em><br /><em>Regardless of whether or not he goes on to win the Triple Crown, California Chrome is already a great American story. In a sport dominated by wealthy dudes who spend millions of dollars to secure horses from the most pristine bloodlines, Chrome was born in 2011 to a mare that cost $8,000.</em><br /><em></em><br /><em>On Saturday, he dominated the Kentucky Derby with 164,906 people in attendance at Churchill Downs. Donovan and I were two of those people.</em><br /><br />In Britain, horse racing is considered “the sport of kings.” Across many beaten down racetracks in the United States, however, it might more appropriately be called “the sport of degenerate gamblers.”<br /><br />But Churchill Downs is certainly a venue worthy of kings. It is immaculate, from its famous twin spires overlooking the grandstand to its regal main entrance gate. Walking into Churchill Downs feels like walking into a palace, not a racetrack.<br /><br /><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-DJPR_4XweUg/U2o_Sh6-D3I/AAAAAAAADZE/VhFXsSYG65o/s1600/gate.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-DJPR_4XweUg/U2o_Sh6-D3I/AAAAAAAADZE/VhFXsSYG65o/s1600/gate.jpg" height="320" width="219" /></a>The track’s infield sits in the shadow of a new HD video board, 171 feet long, on which patrons can watch the action. This is good, because the infield offers patrons very few views of the actual racing surface. The grandstand is for the bourgeois, the infield is for the working man. If California Chrome were a human attending the Derby, I’d imagine that he would be in the infield.<br /><br />The infield is also for people who like to accompany their horse racing with a few (or a dozen) alcoholic beverages. Although, with mint juleps selling for $12 (but you get to keep the glass!) and domestic beers for $8, the working men and women of the infield (who also pay $50 just to get in the door) are wise to enjoy a few beverages at home or on their way into Churchill Downs.<br /><br />With regard to this latter point, it wasn’t clear to me if Louisville relaxes their open container laws on Derby weekend, or if the police just don’t bother enforcing them. Either way, there was plenty of drinking and selling of alcohol on the sidewalks outside the track.<br /><br />On the day of the Derby, which is always the first Saturday in May, racing begins at 10:30 am. In the morning, races go off about every half hour. Eventually, that slows to about every hour. The Kentucky Derby was the eleventh (but not final) race of the day, and it went off at about 6:30 pm.<br /><br />So how does one pass the time in the infield between arriving at Churchill Downs and the main event? Donovan and I had a pretty standardized cycle: We’d visit the betting windows (the lines were fairly long), stop in the restroom (the lines were fortunately not very long at all), grab a drink (again, no lines), and then return to our spot in the grass where we’d watch the next race on the video board. After pretty much every race, we’d repeat that cycle.<br /><br /><a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-lU65AmNExxg/U2o_Z_gU5CI/AAAAAAAADZM/1K4piLfvXDs/s1600/betting.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: left; float: left; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-right: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-lU65AmNExxg/U2o_Z_gU5CI/AAAAAAAADZM/1K4piLfvXDs/s1600/betting.jpg" height="320" width="192" /></a>Other possible activities included sampling a wide variety of food vendors, visiting the paddock area behind the grandstand (which is extremely crowded), and chatting up the rest of the people who were there, which included a large number of people from the greater Cleveland area.<br /><br />Besides all that, the infield is a great place to kick back, relax, and enjoy the fine Kentucky weather. We were fortunate to be there on a day when it was 70 degrees and sunny.<br /><br />When that sun finally did begin to set, and the 140th Kentucky Derby began, the infield, the grandstand, and the millions of people watching on television anxiously awaited an answer to the same question: Is this horse from California the real deal?<br /><br />Two minutes and three seconds after the start of the race, we all had our answer: YES. He hadn’t lost a race all year, but he came to Kentucky with plenty of question marks. I, for one, was very curious about how a horse would respond to a dramatic change in time zones. But the way that he simply ran away from the rest of the elite field when he needed to answered any and all of those questions.<br /><br />I would love nothing more than for my first Kentucky Derby experience to have been an historic one. If California Chrome can win his next two races, that will be exactly what it was.<br /><br /><em>[On a personal note, I want to thank my friend Kate who was awesome enough to drive me to Kentucky, and also host us at her mom's house.]</em>Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-47839033179636601952014-04-29T11:54:00.000-04:002014-04-29T11:54:33.022-04:00Some thoughts about Donald Sterling, and AmericaI have&nbsp;some thoughts&nbsp;about the comments that&nbsp;Donald Sterling made on that phone call. Or allegedly made, or whatever.&nbsp;It's too many thoughts&nbsp;for me to just put them out&nbsp;in 140 character increments on Twitter, and&nbsp;they're too strong to simply keep them to&nbsp;myself. So I'm going to&nbsp;write them here, even though this blog is about Cleveland and this story really isn't.<br /><br />Then again, I guess this story is about Cleveland in the sense that it is about America, and about humanity in general, and Cleveland is part of America and full of humans.<br /><br />When I first heard the audio recording of Sterling saying those awful things about African-Americans, I wasn't particularly surprised. I knew a little bit about Sterling's history. More importantly, I knew a little bit about this country.<br /><br />I've seen a lot of people say that they were shocked to learn that somebody in this day and age could still&nbsp;hold such abhorrent views, and say such terrible things.&nbsp;For those who were shocked, I have some questions:&nbsp; Are you new here? You've never heard an 80 year old white man say something like that in private before?<br /><br />This is not to say that all old white people are racist. I shouldn't even really have to clarify that.<br /><br />It just&nbsp;shouldn't surprise anybody that this kind of thinking still exists in this country. It probably doesn't exist as much as it did 40 years ago, or 20 years ago, or even just a few years ago. But it exists. I mean, this Sterling tape surfaced literally <em>just a few days</em> after Cliven Bundy, former conservative political hero, questioned whether or not black people were better off as slaves.<br /><br />It sucks,&nbsp;but a lot of white people still hold very antiquated views toward minorities. I've heard plenty of people say things equally as offensive as what Sterling or Bundy said in my own private life. So, instead of being outraged that one person who happens to own a basketball team thinks like that, we should be outraged that many other people also do.<br /><br />And we should probably be outraged that, again literally <em>just a few days ago</em>, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld a ban on affirmative action in Michigan.&nbsp;This&nbsp;was one year after&nbsp;they stripped key components of the Voting Rights Act. The Court's logic (particularly in the latter case) was that minorities are now apparently on equal footing with white people (I realize I'm oversimplifying). America, in the Court's eyes, has moved beyond having to deal with issues of race.<br /><br />Clearly, America has not&nbsp;moved beyond race. And it's not just Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy. It's also your crazy uncle who forwards you emails depicting the President as a monkey. It's the banks that charged higher fees on mortgages to borrowers who were black or Hispanic. It's&nbsp;our legal system,&nbsp;which punishes users of crack more severely than users of regular cocaine. This stuff is still out there. America has come a long way, but it's not all of the way there yet.<br /><br />Rather than just&nbsp;being outraged at Sterling, we should remember the&nbsp;bigger picture.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-61596252015876721112014-04-28T14:04:00.001-04:002014-04-28T22:04:05.308-04:00Who should Cavs fans be rooting for?Obviously, the Cavaliers are not participating&nbsp;in this year's NBA playoffs. Which is a shame, because these playoffs have been highly entertaining. If you haven't been watching, you're really kind of missing out.<br /><br />Now, some of you might be thinking,<em>&nbsp;I don't know man, I don't really like watching basketball without having a team to root for</em>.<br /><br />Fair enough! (Kind of.) The good news is that, if you are a fan of the Cavaliers,&nbsp;you can potentially have several different rooting interests during these&nbsp;playoffs.<br /><br />For your convenience, I've ranked the teams for you:<br /><br /><strong>1.&nbsp; Washington Wizards (lead Chicago 3-1)</strong><br /><br />Randy Wittman! Andre Miller! Drew Gooden! I can't believe that they didn't dig up, say,&nbsp;Eric Snow, at some point this season.<br /><br />I can also tell you that, as somebody who has lived in D.C. for several years now, the sports fans here are good people. Nobody thinks of Washington as being one of those tortured cities, but they haven't had a title since the R**sk*ns won Super Bowl XXVI.&nbsp;Cleveland fans can&nbsp;almost empathize. Almost.<br /><br />Obviously the Wizards were once one of the Cavaliers chief rivals in the East. Now, they're in&nbsp;the place where our team is trying to get to. I have a healthy respect for them, and hope the rivalry can return one day (Irving and Wall secretly hate each other, I'm pretty sure).<br /><strong></strong><br /><strong>2.&nbsp; Portland Trail Blazers (lead Houston 3-1)</strong><br /><br />The only positive memory I have from July 8, 2010 was Mo Williams's <a href="http://www.cleveland.com/cavs/index.ssf/2010/07/mo_williams_reacts_on_twitter.html" target="_blank">reaction to everything on Twitter</a>. I know it's silly to ever think that millionaire professional athletes "understand" or "get"&nbsp;us, but it really felt like Mo did. At least&nbsp;for that one&nbsp;night. I'm glad he's getting to play a role in some meaningful games again.<br /><strong></strong><br /><strong>3.&nbsp; San Antonio Spurs (trail Dallas 2-1)</strong><br /><br />You may recall that Danny Green played in 20 games as a member of the Cavaliers in 2009-2010. I <a href="/2013/06/the-other-former-cavalier-in-nba-finals.html" target="_blank">wrote about him</a> during last year's Finals. He seems like a good dude to root for, because he's earned the opportunity he's been given in San Antonio.<br /><br />Also, Mike Brown was previously an assistant coach under Greg Popovich, so there's that.<br /><br /><strong>4.&nbsp; Dallas Mavericks (lead San Antonio 2-1)</strong><br /><br />Even though it's mostly a different team, Dirk Nowitzki and Rick Carlisle still hold a special place in our hearts for the 2011 Finals. To at least a small&nbsp;extent, they will always be the <a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-TFbueJf3Zwk/TeWJjVyqAZI/AAAAAAAAAO0/8YJWwZfRgUM/s1600/lets-go-mavs-shirt.jpg" target="_blank">Mavaliers</a>. At least until Dirk is gone.<br /><br /><strong>5.&nbsp; Los Angeles Clippers (tied with Golden State 2-2)</strong><br /><br />Two words: Ryan Hollins.<br /><br /><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/mfbnUuIBbNw" width="459"></iframe> <br /><br />Also, their owner is clearly a huge&nbsp;turd and&nbsp;it's hard&nbsp;not to&nbsp;feel bad for the guys playing for him (even though they&nbsp;probably already knew&nbsp;he&nbsp;was a huge turd before this past weekend).<br /><br /><strong>6.&nbsp; Memphis Grizzlies (tied with OKC 2-2)</strong><br /><br />For those of us who are Ohio State fans, watching Mike Conley excel has been really fun.<br /><br /><strong>7.&nbsp; Oklahoma City Thunder (tied with Memphis 2-2)</strong><br /><strong></strong><br />Scott Brooks ended his career by playing 43 games for Cleveland in 1997-1998. If OKC loses this series, he could lose his job, and that would be sad.<br /><br /><strong>8.&nbsp; Brooklyn Nets (tied with Toronto 2-2)</strong><br /><br />Shaun Livingston's comeback is a pretty incredible story. Jason Collins is also a great story. For me, that's enough to override any salty feelings I still have toward Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from their battles with the Cavaliers a few years ago.<br /><br /><strong>9.&nbsp; Atlanta Hawks (tied with Indiana 2-2)</strong><br /><br />Danny Ferry, their General Manager, played in 723 games as a Cavalier (second-most all-time). And you can say what you want about Ferry's personnel moves when he was the GM here, but they did win a whole lot of games when he was in charge.<br /><br /><strong>10.&nbsp; Golden State Warriors (tied with Clippers 2-2)</strong><br /><br />Ummm. Marreese Speights? The brothers of two other guys the Cavaliers tried briefly?<br /><br /><strong>11.&nbsp; Charlotte Bobcats (trail Miami 3-0)</strong><br /><strong></strong><br />Tyler Zeller's brother?<br /><br /><strong>12.&nbsp; Indiana Pacers (tied with Atlanta 2-2)</strong><br /><br />Donald Sloan and Ohio State's Evan Turner are cancelled out by the fact that this team was willing to pay money to Andrew Bynum.<br /><br /><strong>13.&nbsp; Toronto Raptors (tied with Brooklyn 2-2)</strong><br /><br />No real Cavaliers connections here. I guess Canada is cool though.<br /><br /><strong>14.&nbsp; Chicago Bulls (trail Washington 3-1)</strong><br /><br />I mean, thanks for Luol Deng, but I still haven't forgotten about this:<br /><br /><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="344" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/AN0WqSeCKW8" width="459"></iframe> <br /><br />Or <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=1836318" target="_blank">this</a>.<br /><br /><strong>15.&nbsp; Houston Rockets (trail Portland 3-1)</strong><br /><br />Dwight Howard is a goofball who helped knock the best Cavaliers team of my lifetime out of the playoffs. Omri Casspi sucked during his time here and then <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nba--sources--cavs--omri-casspi-requests-trade-175312160.html" target="_blank">demanded a trade</a>. I won't be shedding any tears for those guys when Houston is eliminated.<br /><br /><strong>16.&nbsp; Miami Heat (lead Charlotte 3-0)</strong><br /><br />No words necessary here.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-69265397414295235452014-04-22T12:54:00.000-04:002014-04-22T13:52:12.757-04:00When in doubt, blame Chris Grant<a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ZLNNMMNbXIo/U1adYB7ggUI/AAAAAAAADYg/W39NvHNCSj4/s1600/david+griffin+cavs.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-ZLNNMMNbXIo/U1adYB7ggUI/AAAAAAAADYg/W39NvHNCSj4/s1600/david+griffin+cavs.jpg" height="320" width="264" /></a>It began with this nugget in an <a href="http://msn.foxsports.com/ohio/story/cavs-report-changes-coming-but-not-yet-clear-where-041514" target="_blank">article</a> by Sam Amico last week:<br /><blockquote class="tr_bq">Gilbert is said to be "still steaming" over the trade for forward Luol Deng, in which the Cavs sent center Andrew Bynum, a first-round draft pick, two second-rounders and the right to swap first-rounders in 2015 to Chicago. Gilbert isn't upset with having Deng on the team (by all accounts, the Cavs will attempt to re-sign Deng), but was less-than-thrilled Grant surrendered future picks for a player who is an unrestricted free agent and could leave.</blockquote><br />In other words, that trade (and presumably the other personnel moves made leading up to the season) were Chris Grant's doing, not Dan Gilbert's. And thus this past season's failure was Grant's fault, not Gilbert's.<br /><br />One problem with that logic: Gilbert <em>owns the freaking team</em>. There is no&nbsp;question that he would have had to personally approve the trade for Deng, so I'm not sure why he's suddenly decided to "steam" over it.<br /><br />You can be sure that Gilbert&nbsp;was also involved in&nbsp;every other personnel move, at least to an extent. Again, he's the owner.&nbsp;Zach Lowe even&nbsp;<a href="http://grantland.com/the-triangle/grant-runs-out-of-luck-and-time-in-cleveland/" target="_blank">previously reported</a> that Gilbert was the "driving force" behind the disastrous signing of Andrew Bynum.<br /><br />Obviously, Grant&nbsp;did make&nbsp;mistakes on his own. He amassed plenty of assets, but&nbsp;he seemed pretty much&nbsp;clueless about how to actually build a team. But there's just no way that Gilbert&nbsp;should get away with pretending like he didn't have a hand in the way this current roster was constructed.<br /><br />Like Gilbert, Acting General Manager David Griffin also talks about the roster&nbsp;like he just showed up yesterday.&nbsp;At a press conference this morning, he talked about the need to add shooting, and size, and toughness. I agree with all of that. I just wish that Griffin had been pushing for those things <em>last</em> summer.<br /><br />I guess we don't really know how much influence he actually had over Grant's decisions, but it's hard for me to believe that he was just sitting in the corner shaking his head while Grant went off on his own building a team with a small front court and no shooters (apologies to CJ Miles). Griffin was Grant's number two guy, so he shares some of the blame for where things are right now.<br /><br />That doesn't necessarily mean that&nbsp;he doesn't deserve to be the full-time General Manager. Like I said, he's a smart guy, and he was a part of building some good teams in Phoenix. He may well be the best guy Gilbert can hope to get.<br /><br />However, the fact that he was a part of the last front office, which failed, is worth at least some reflection.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-80360601887280760702014-04-17T11:58:00.001-04:002014-04-17T11:59:14.668-04:00Fan appreciation, indeed<a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-i_U8Ibc7ks4/U0_6H05hXhI/AAAAAAAADYQ/kPuB_G3EH40/s1600/kyrie+irving+cavs+fan+appreciation.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-i_U8Ibc7ks4/U0_6H05hXhI/AAAAAAAADYQ/kPuB_G3EH40/s1600/kyrie+irving+cavs+fan+appreciation.jpg" height="320" width="316" /></a>When it was all said and done on Fan Appreciation Night, the Cavaliers had clobbered&nbsp;a group of second-rate NBA players that the Nets had decided to throw out there on the regular&nbsp;season's final night. It wasn't surprising, but&nbsp;it was certainly better than the alternative.<br /><br />In the building were&nbsp;19,842 Clevelanders who stood and applauded the victory.&nbsp;It was a&nbsp;sellout crowd cheering on a&nbsp;group of underachievers who nearly lost 50 games for the &nbsp;fourth straight year. (Technically they didn't lose 50 games in 2012-2013, but that was because they only played 66.)<br /><br />For the season, the Cavaliers averaged 17,329 fans per home game. That puts them right in the middle of the league, ahead of some&nbsp;pretty good teams like the Nets, Wizards, and Grizzlies.<br /><br />There is an argument to be made that the team probably inflates that number by giving out free tickets to school groups or whatever. Still, the Q never looked empty on TV the way that arenas in Sacramento or Charlotte often do. People came to see this team even when the product on the floor was nearly unwatchable.<br /><br />And the&nbsp;people who didn't come watched on TV. I can't find the exact numbers, but Fred McLeod mentioned during the broadcast last night that the Cavaliers were once again in the top ten in the NBA in local TV ratings.<br /><br />The point, obviously, is that Cavs fans are absolutely the best. Nobody ever thinks of Cleveland as being a great basketball town, but it has absolutely become one. The LeBron years probably had a lot to do with that, but the fact that there is still so much interest and enthusiasm for this team after four awful seasons is a real testament to all of us. A less hearty bunch would have given up a long time ago.<br /><br />Now, we just need the organization to build us the team that we deserve.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-57703854790418907372014-04-14T10:36:00.000-04:002014-04-14T10:36:09.070-04:00Despite last two games, the future still looks good<a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-YzJfXOwn0Cs/U0vxbElo4EI/AAAAAAAADYA/jQ3WIsIZK3o/s1600/cavs+kyrie+dion.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-YzJfXOwn0Cs/U0vxbElo4EI/AAAAAAAADYA/jQ3WIsIZK3o/s1600/cavs+kyrie+dion.jpg" height="275" width="320" /></a>The Cavaliers were officially eliminated from the playoffs on Wednesday last week, and then the bottom kind of fell out. They were subsequently beaten by the worst team in the NBA in Milwaukee, and then blown out at home by the 25-win Celtics.<br /><br />After that game against Boston on Saturday, Mike Brown was asked whether or not his team had mailed in the season. His answer (via <a href="http://www.ohio.com/news/break-news/celtics-111-cavs-99-ryan-lewis-final-thoughts-1.480451" target="_blank">Ryan Lewis</a>) was, "I don't know." Not exactly a resounding endorsement.<br /><br />For fans, it is frustrating to watch our favorite team give up like this. We'd obviously prefer that they act like the professionals that they are and at least pretend to care about the outcome of games, even with the postseason out of reach. Their performance these last two games was nothing short of embarrassing.<br /><br />That&nbsp;does not mean, however,&nbsp;that this is a "complete joke of a franchise,"&nbsp;which is what former play-by-play man <a href="https://twitter.com/MichaelReghi/status/455155948743442432" target="_blank">Michael Reghi called them on Saturday</a>.<br /><br />I get that there is&nbsp;a lot of frustration here, and nobody should be satisfied with how this season played out. But let's be real about this. It is really hard to go from being bad to good in the NBA. I mean, this is a league that is known for its <a href="http://wagesofwins.com/2011/09/23/nba-parity-is-impossible/" target="_blank">lack of parity</a> <a href="http://squeezetheorange.com/parity-and-disparity-how-nba-champions-stack-up-against-other-leagues/" target="_blank">compared to other professional leagues</a>.<br /><br />While progress has not come as quickly as we would have hoped, it isn't as though there has been no progress at all. This team won 19 games in 2010-2011. They have won 32 this season. They were last in the league in opponent field goal percentage just last season. They are 12th in the league this season. There should be absolutely no question that this is still a team on its way up.<br /><br />It was a mistake for Dan Gilbert to guarantee that&nbsp;his team would not be back in the lottery this summer, and it was an even bigger mistake for us all to believe him. Going from being terrible to being a playoff team isn't easy, even in this very mediocre conference.<br /><br />Michael Reghi is entitled to his opinion. I just worry that the outrage from more casual fans will put pressure on Gilbert to, once again, completely revamp the organization. Franchises that reinvent&nbsp;themselves&nbsp;every few years rarely find the success that they are looking for.<br /><br />Gilbert initially fired Brown in 2010 so that he could hire a more offensive-minded coach with playing experience (mostly because that's what he thought LeBron would want). Then, he fired Byron Scott after last season because the team's defense was horrible. He brought back Brown, and he actually did improve the defense. But would anybody be surprised if he's fired again in favor of another offensive-minded guy? How many times is Gilbert going to go back and forth on this?<br /><br />(This is the part where I need to make it clear that I am in no way endorsing bringing back Mike Brown next season simply for the sake of continuity. I thought it was a mistake to re-hire him in the first place, although I did eventually talk myself into it. If he does come back, I'm sure I could talk myself into it again, but that's not necessarily my preference.)<br /><br />Despite everything that they've done wrong in the post-Decision&nbsp;years, this is still a franchise with a ton of upside. They are not a complete joke. Would any&nbsp;of us&nbsp;want to trade places with the Kings? Jazz? 76ers? Bucks?<br /><br />The Cavaliers at least have their franchise point guard. Yes, he needs to mature, but I'm no longer going to even entertain the idea that they shouldn't be building around him. They also seem to have something in Dion Waiters (and by "something" I&nbsp;mostly mean a very a valuable trade asset). Hopefully Anthony Bennett becomes something as well, and&nbsp;hopefully&nbsp;they hit on their lottery pick this summer (or flip it for another piece).<br /><br />When all is said and done, the future still seems very bright. They have the assets to make the necessary improvements this summer, Gilbert just needs to decide who will be making those improvements (I'm probably alright with keeping David Griffin). If they play everything well, they should be a playoff team next season.<br /><br />It's been very slow,&nbsp;incremental progress, but that's still&nbsp;better than the alternative.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-31116650426170774692014-04-07T10:26:00.002-04:002014-04-07T10:26:11.399-04:00Faint playoff hopes die a quiet death<a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-wiK3drhxIaA/U0K1QtWKe-I/AAAAAAAADXw/qhn1L76jGME/s1600/cavs+bobcats+kyrie+irving.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-wiK3drhxIaA/U0K1QtWKe-I/AAAAAAAADXw/qhn1L76jGME/s1600/cavs+bobcats+kyrie+irving.jpg" height="320" width="213" /></a>On Saturday night, with a bunch of <a href="http://www.cavstheblog.com/?p=25410" target="_blank">off-the-court nonsense</a> hanging in the air, Kyrie Irving played one of the games of his life in front of 18,179 fans at Quicken Loans Arena. Irving scored 44 points on 16-31 shooting, to go along with eight&nbsp;assists and seven rebounds.<br /><br />It wasn't enough.<br /><br />The Bobcats topped the Cavaliers in overtime. Irving, as brilliant as he was, missed a pretty open three in the final seconds that would have given Cleveland the lead and possibly the game.<br /><br />With the loss, the team's playoff chances (which were already quite long) basically ended. Not that we should be too disappointed with that; I'm still amazed that they had any playoff chances at all after everything that's happened this season.<br /><br />Now it is time to really begin thinking about next season. There will be a lot of discussion about Irving's future with the team this summer. The front office will almost certainly offer him the maximum extension possible. Whether he takes it, or negotiates something shorter,&nbsp;remains to be seen. Either way, Irving will almost certainly be back next season.<br /><br />Dion Waiters will most likely be back as well. We saw bits of how he and Irving could co-exist this season, but not nearly enough to make me feel great about this backcourt going forward.<br /><br />Luol Deng is a free agent, and indications are that he will go out and sign with a contender. Spencer Hawes is free as well, and while I'd love to see him back, I doubt the Cavaliers will be willing to pay the price that it will probably take. But we'll see.<br /><br />Anderson Varejao could very likely be back, but his contract offers the team a lot of flexibility.<br /><br />There's also the issue of Mike Brown. It seems like he may have saved his job by turning things around a bit of late, and his contract certainly would make it tough to let him go. You can just never be sure of anything when it comes to Dan Gilbert, though.<br /><br />Before any of these questions are answered, of course, Gilbert needs to decide who his General Manager is going to be. David Griffin certainly deserves a hard look, but I get the sense that Gilbert will want to try and lure a bigger name.<br /><br />Whoever ends up taking the job will have to make a few moves to get the Cavaliers into the postseason next year. The current roster certainly offers&nbsp;some hope, as all of the young players will have another season under their belts. And there will be yet another lottery pick&nbsp;who is brought into the fold.<br /><br />But just relying on development from Waiters/Thompson/Bennett/Zeller and another pick won't be enough. This team needs shooting, interior defense, and a real small forward.<br /><br />Getting into the playoffs in the East shouldn't be so hard, but they can't expect it to happen automatically.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-25331178996131764782014-04-03T09:52:00.002-04:002014-04-03T09:52:30.399-04:00Even if the playoffs are a longshot, these games matter for the players and fans alike<a href="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-q8q3noJt40A/Uz1mH_Io6KI/AAAAAAAADXc/7zZivnaaiwM/s1600/kyrie+cavs+magic.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-q8q3noJt40A/Uz1mH_Io6KI/AAAAAAAADXc/7zZivnaaiwM/s1600/kyrie+cavs+magic.jpg" height="320" width="245" /></a>At some point this season, we all gave up on the Cavaliers. Some of us did it earlier than others, but reality eventually sank in for all of us equally. This was not a good&nbsp;team, and they didn't appear to have much of a future.<br /><br />Then, on February 6, Dan Gilbert fired Chris Grant. The next night, I saw the Cavaliers in person against the Wizards here in Washington.&nbsp;They looked like a completely different team. The bench was more engaged than usual, and there was this confidence to them&nbsp;that almost seemed out of place. At the time, <a href="/2014/02/thoughts-after-watching-cavswizards.html" target="_blank">I wrote</a> that it probably didn't have anything to do with Grant's firing.<br /><br />But as the sample size has become larger, it is hard to argue with an obvious trend. Before Grant was fired, the Cavaliers were 16-33. Since the change, they're 15-12.<br /><br />I have no idea why getting rid of Grant was the catalyst that&nbsp;this team apparently needed. I didn't even think that it was the right move at the time. Maybe it just served as&nbsp;a wake-up call, or maybe there was something about Grant's personality that needed to be removed from the equation in order for the young guys to feel and play a little more freely.<br /><br />Whatever the case may be, the team has&nbsp;won five of their last six games. They did so mostly without Irving, who was seamlessly reintegrated into the lineup last night in Orlando. As they continue to win, they keep their slim playoff chances alive.<br /><br />Make not mistake, those chances are indeed very, very slim. The Cavaliers trail the Knicks by two games with just six left, and the Knicks will likely hold the tiebreaker. So even if New York goes 2-4 down the stretch, Cleveland would have to go&nbsp;5-1. Oh, and the Hawks are still in the mix as well, and they also own the tiebreaker over the Cavaliers.<br /><br />So it is a longshot. But after everything that's happened this season, the fact that we can even talk about playoff possibilities with six games to go is remarkable. Mike Brown never quit, and contrary to what <a href="http://grantland.com/the-triangle/nba-bag-figuring-out-the-ever-changing-pick-swapping-2014-draft/" target="_blank">Bill Simmons wrote</a> a couple of weeks ago, this team didn't quit on him. A lot of weird stuff has already happened this season, so I'm willing to believe than anything is still possible.<br /><br />All that I wanted coming into the season was to be able to have a rooting interest in a meaningful basketball game again. Those of us who follow the team fairly closely have had fun over the last few years rooting for the likes of Manny Harris and Samardo Samuels against all the odds. At a certain point, though, it becomes really hard to keep&nbsp;doing that. Like Chris Ryan <a href="http://grantland.com/the-triangle/nba-shootaround-cats/" target="_blank">wrote on Grantland</a> a couple of weeks ago (about the Bobcats): "That’s what's hard about tanking&nbsp;-- if you cheer for a team that's doing it, you get taken out of the league, entirely. You just feel like you're missing out on an entire season." I think we can all relate to that.<br /><br />Now, however, the Cavaliers will play in games that definitely matter. They are relevant, at least sto the&nbsp;extent that the&nbsp;race for the eighth seed in a crappy conference is relevant.<br /><br />There are still fans who will tell you that a lottery pick would be more valuable than winning these next six games. I could not disagree more. Having Irving, Waiters, Thompson, and Zeller play in must-win basketball games -- and succeed -- would be far more valuable to the future of this franchise than any hope provided by the uncertainty of the NBA Draft.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-29159706210158607002014-03-26T10:14:00.001-04:002014-03-26T10:15:32.787-04:00Can Dion Waiters continue to play like this when Kyrie Irving returns?<a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-dn7cWYfQCGs/UzLguWxMZZI/AAAAAAAADXI/0ldXd6JCaH0/s1600/dion+waiters+cavs+raptors.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-dn7cWYfQCGs/UzLguWxMZZI/AAAAAAAADXI/0ldXd6JCaH0/s1600/dion+waiters+cavs+raptors.jpg" height="320" width="190" /></a>Dion Waiters has been getting a lot of praise lately (see <a href="http://www.waitingfornextyear.com/2014/03/has-dion-waiters-finally-arrived/" target="_blank">here</a> and <a href="http://www.ohio.com/sports/cavs/dion-waiters-growing-up-taking-on-more-responsibility-in-wake-of-kyrie-irving-s-injury-1.475770" target="_blank">here</a>), and he absolutely deserves it. In&nbsp;his last&nbsp;five games, all without Kyrie Irving,&nbsp;he's averaging 23.8 points and 6.4 assists per game, while&nbsp;shooting 47% from the floor.<br /><br />You&nbsp;are probably&nbsp;thinking, <em>Wow! That's great! </em>You might even be thinking, <em>Mayer, I bet you feel like an idiot for </em><a href="/2014/02/cavs-have-less-than-17-days-to-trade.html" target="_blank"><em>saying</em></a><em> that the Cavs should trade him</em>.<br /><br />That is where you would be wrong.<br /><br />I agree that his recent play has been outstanding. But, unfortunately, it is irrelevant to his future as a member of the Cavaliers.<br /><br />My argument for trading&nbsp;Waiters was never about whether or not he could be a good&nbsp;NBA player. I think that&nbsp;he is a uniquely-talented basketball player. I love his game, and I would definitely want him on my team in almost every case.<br /><br />In this case, however, this team needs to be built around Irving (I'm not going to waste any more time trying to explain why that's a true statement). And so it doesn't really&nbsp;matter that Waiters plays well when Irving is down with an injury. In order for him to have value to this team, he needs to be able to play well alongside Irving.<br /><br />The good news is that Waiters has actually been playing pretty well since the All-Star break (53.6% true shooting in 12 games), not just in the last five games. So there were some signs that maybe he and Irving could co-exist (Waiters was coming off of the bench, though, so not a ton of their minutes overlapped).<br /><br />I guess&nbsp;I'm&nbsp;just trying&nbsp;to qualify some of the enthusiasm that everyone seems to have right now. It's awesome that&nbsp;Waiters is&nbsp;playing so well, and I really do think he may have figured some things out.<br /><br />But until he can figure out the last piece of the puzzle --&nbsp;how to play with the franchise point guard --&nbsp;this team still has a lot of question marks going forward.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-27755642655891141792014-03-24T11:01:00.001-04:002014-03-25T09:29:34.503-04:00Optimism about the future of Ohio State basketball<a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-nOQ-vvY0fqM/UzBIt_O3eCI/AAAAAAAADW0/s2f3qWD1d6A/s1600/shannon+scott.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-nOQ-vvY0fqM/UzBIt_O3eCI/AAAAAAAADW0/s2f3qWD1d6A/s1600/shannon+scott.jpg" /></a>Aaron Craft's college basketball career did not end the way he had hoped. He didn't lead&nbsp;his team to the Final Four, or even to the Sweet 16.&nbsp;Instead, his career&nbsp;ended in the Round of 64, against a double-digit seed, with a missed shot as time expired.<br /><br />Next year, Craft and Lenzelle Smith will be gone. LaQuinton Ross <a href="http://www.landgrantholyland.com/2014/3/22/5538194/ohio-state-basketball-laquinton-ross-nba-draft-2014" target="_blank">may also</a> be gone, and it looks like Amedeo Della Valle is <a href="http://www.cbssports.com/collegebasketball/eye-on-college-basketball/24496491/ohio-state-guard-amedeo-della-valle-going-pro-in-europe" target="_blank">taking his talents</a> to Europe. But the Buckeyes will be returning plenty of talent, and they should be much better than they were this season.<br /><br />Even if Ross and Della Valle&nbsp;leave, Ohio State will return five players who played significant roles this season: Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, Amir Williams, Marc Loving, and Trey McDonald. Loving should be ready to play a much bigger role next season as a sophomore. Another highly-touted recruit from that class, guard Kam Williams, should also be ready to step in.<br /><br />In addition to these returning players, Thad Matta has his best recruiting class in a some time coming to Columbus. That class is led by D'Angelo Russell, who is rated as the top shooting guard and 13th overall prospect by ESPN. Russell is a scorer, and he should give the team some of the offensive punch they've been missing. The other incoming prospects include Keita Bates-Diop (ranked as the #6 small forward by ESPN) and Jae'Sean Tate (#8 small forward).<br /><br />In theory, next year's starting lineup would probably look like this:<br /><br />Shannon Scott<br />D'Angelo Russell<br />Sam Thompson<br />Marc Loving<br />Amir Williams<br /><br />The Buckeyes won't have a ton of depth (what else is new?), but that lineup could be good enough to win the Big Ten, in my opinion. I think Scott will look much better now that he doesn't&nbsp;have to worry about&nbsp;sharing the point guard duties with Craft, and maybe Williams will finally turn into at least a solid big man.<br /><br />While the loss to Dayton on Thursday was frustrating, this season always felt like it was kind of a throw-away anyway. Next season, Matta should have this team back to its normal place atop the conference, and the national polls.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-55070318667290841612014-03-19T11:04:00.002-04:002014-03-19T11:04:39.394-04:00Cavs show some heart in defeat<a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8DUY3MFkhP4/UymxEVI4eMI/AAAAAAAADWk/wQnBq_QeB9Q/s1600/zeller+birdman.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-8DUY3MFkhP4/UymxEVI4eMI/AAAAAAAADWk/wQnBq_QeB9Q/s1600/zeller+birdman.jpg" height="320" width="213" /></a>Last night, the stage was set for a blowout. The Cavaliers were missing their best player, Kyrie Irving.&nbsp;They were also missing their best wing&nbsp;defender, Luol Deng,&nbsp;who would normally&nbsp;have been&nbsp;tasked with defending LeBron James. They came into the night essentially out of playoff contention. A fraction of their&nbsp;home crowd was only there&nbsp;so they could&nbsp;root for the other team.<br /><br />If they had been run out of the building, nobody would have been surprised. And after the first quarter, it looked as if that is exactly what would happen.<br /><br />Then,&nbsp;they fought back. They acted like they gave&nbsp;a shit, which I know is a pretty low standard for professional athletes, but it was still fun to watch.<br /><br />In the end, it was just another close loss on the way to another Draft Lottery.<br /><br />But it was nice to see the players who were out there have some pride, and play to win. I don't want to take too much away from one ultimately meaningless game in March, but it does seem like these guys haven't quit on Mike Brown.<br /><br />Again, that's a low standard. With this team though, low standards are probably just fine.<br /><br />In a way, last night's game was&nbsp;a throwback to the first couple of seasons post-LeBron, when they didn't have near enough talent to compete and all we could root for were moral victories. Sometimes rooting for a scrappy group of underdogs can be just as much fun as rooting for a real contender. Sometimes.<br /><br />I just can't stand the thought that being the scrappy underdog is going to become the norm.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-11690848871229371252014-03-16T23:52:00.002-04:002014-03-16T23:52:57.819-04:00Big challenges ahead for the Buckeyes<a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-WPMIM-CXSx4/UyZxatDCTpI/AAAAAAAADWU/QdNEVVHEBfs/s1600/ohio+state+thad+matta.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-WPMIM-CXSx4/UyZxatDCTpI/AAAAAAAADWU/QdNEVVHEBfs/s1600/ohio+state+thad+matta.jpg" height="320" width="213" /></a>ESPN's Joe Lunardi had projected Ohio State as a five seed before they beat Nebraska in the Big Ten Tournament on Friday. He kept them as a five even after they lost to Michigan on Saturday.<br /><br />However, the committee ended up seeding them sixth in the South Region. Far more important than the seed, though, are the opponents they will face.<br /><br />The Buckeyes will start with Dayton on Thursday afternoon. The Flyers are one of six teams from the Atlantic 10 that made it into the tournament. They are led by guard Jordan Sibert, who of course spent two seasons at Ohio State before tr<br />ansferring.<br /><br />The early line has Ohio State favored by only five points. Make no mistake, it is going to be tough for the Buckeyes just to get through to the round of 32.<br /><br />If they do, Syracuse will likely await them. Considering that they are a six seed, the Buckeyes really couldn't ask for a better opponent at that point than then Orange, who lost four of their last six regular season games before losing in their first ACC Tournament game. It would be an understatement to say that they are limping into this tournament. Their zone defense would give Ohio State's pedestrian offense some trouble, but it's the same zone that the Buckeyes were able to overcome in the Elite Eight two years ago.<br /><br />Still, it would be a surprise if Ohio State got back to the Sweet 16 for a fifth consecutive year. If they do, Kansas would likely be their opponent.<br /><br />So, temper your expectations. Losing in the Sweet 16 is usually a disappointment for Thad Matta's teams. This year, it would be a pretty big accomplishment.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-86223855491222636682014-03-15T15:43:00.000-04:002014-03-15T15:43:40.505-04:00Browns sign former Houston running back Ben Tate<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-_8u1mM4Xlrs/UySslwAUiNI/AAAAAAAABU8/7ueG2hlvdgQ/s1600/images.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-_8u1mM4Xlrs/UySslwAUiNI/AAAAAAAABU8/7ueG2hlvdgQ/s1600/images.jpg" /></a></div>It was only a matter of time before a deal was announced between the Cleveland Browns and former Houston Texans running back Ben Tate.<br /><br />According to Adam Schefter, Tate's deal with the Browns is for two-years and could be worth up to $7 million.<br /><br />Tate, 25, is coming off a season in which he ran for 771 yards and scored four touchdowns. His 4.3 yds/carry was good enough for 20th in the NFL among eligible running backs. He also caught 34 balls for 140 yards.<br /><br />Tate will likely share carries with Dion Lewis this season unless the Browns decide to draft a running back in this May's NFL Draft.Chris Donovanhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05823522614725418955noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-63057446381631720642014-03-12T18:06:00.001-04:002014-03-12T18:08:38.003-04:00Weeden, Campbell released by Browns<a href="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/--84haR9TeZ8/UyDayn1-cWI/AAAAAAAABUs/TqrHwYlPQ1o/s1600/Brandon-Weeden-American-flag.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://1.bp.blogspot.com/--84haR9TeZ8/UyDayn1-cWI/AAAAAAAABUs/TqrHwYlPQ1o/s1600/Brandon-Weeden-American-flag.jpg" height="320" width="192" /></a>I'm surprised it took this long, but the Browns have officially released former first-round&nbsp;pick <br />Brandon Weeden and veteran backup Jason Campbell.<br /><br />Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, finishes his two-year career in Cleveland with 23 touchdowns, 26 interceptions and a passer rating of 71.8. Weeden appeared in 23 games for the Browns, starting in the majority, but coming off the bench in a few. Weeden's 24.7 QBR rating in 2013 was second worst in the NFL behind only Matt Flynn of the Raiders.<br /><br />Drafted by&nbsp;an old regime in Cleveland, and&nbsp;for the fact that he's not a&nbsp;very good quarterback, it was essentially a known fact that the Browns were not going to retain the services of Weeden. I think he could go somewhere and be a serviceable backup, but that's about it. Good luck to you, Brandon.<br /><br />&nbsp;But it doesn't stop with just Weeden.<br /><br />The Browns also cut ties with journeyman backup quarterback Jason Campbell.<br /><br />Campbell, signed by the Browns almost a year ago, was brought in to compete with Brandon Weeden for the starting job in 2013. Campbell appeared in 9 games for the Browns last season, compiling 11 touchdowns, 8 interceptions and a passer rating of almost 77. <br /><br />Campbell proved to be serviceable, but the 32-year-old, 10-year veteran was due a $250,000 roster bonus if he was on the&nbsp;squad past 4:00 pm today. A bit too much, if you ask general manager&nbsp;Ray Farmer.<br /><br />The release of Weeden and Campbell leaves the Browns with just two quarterbacks on the roster: Brian Hoyer and Alex Tanney. But that could change soon.<br /><br />Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk thinks the Browns may try to bring in former Kyle Shanahan pupil Rex Grossman. Yay! <br /><br />Whatever happens, I know a lot of people are glad to see the underhand-tossing Weeden leave Cleveland. But&nbsp;we need to remember, not many people thought Weeden was any good to begin with. But Tom Heckert and Pat Shurmur did. They deserve&nbsp;just as much criticism as&nbsp;Weeden. Thank God those guys are gone.Chris Donovanhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05823522614725418955noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-47800930369495073872014-03-11T19:36:00.000-04:002014-03-11T19:36:13.522-04:00Browns sign safety Whitner, linebacker Dansby<a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-6j63n26nWjY/Ux-dcfTIBxI/AAAAAAAABUQ/Fk3O2DgfeeM/s1600/untitled.png" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-6j63n26nWjY/Ux-dcfTIBxI/AAAAAAAABUQ/Fk3O2DgfeeM/s1600/untitled.png" /></a>Cleveland, welcome home former Glenville and Ohio State star Donte Whitner.<br /><br />According to&nbsp;multiple reports, Whitner has agreed to a four-year, $28 million deal to return home&nbsp;and play for the orange and brown.<br /><br />Whitner, 28, who may or may not be changing his last name to Hitner this offseason, will have to immediately step in and replace former safety T.J. Ward, who signed with the Denver Broncos&nbsp;earlier this&nbsp;evening.<br /><br />Whitner is arguably one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the league and was known as the leader of a 49ers secondary that finished top-ten last season.<br /><br />He, like Ward, is an aggressive, ball-hawking safety that will occasionally get beat in coverage, but will also deliver a blow that will leave you feeling woozy for days.<br /><br />It's not immediately known exactly how much of Whitner's contract is guaranteed, but I would say it's going to fairly substantial. <br /><br />The Browns also signed Karlos Dansby, formerly of the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins, to a four-year deal worth about $6 million per season, with $10 million guaranteed.<br /><br />Dansby, 32, will have to step in for former mainstay D'Qwell Jackson, who signed a four-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts. <br /><br />Dansby will bring a physical presence to the inside linebacker position while also being mobile enough to drop into coverage.<br /><br />The deal is a bit surprising, given the age of Dansby, but the Browns are banking on the thought that he'll be able to replicate his 2013 season over the next few years. Dansby finished 2013 with 114 solo tackles and 6.5 sacks. He also recorded 4 interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.<br /><br />Both Dansby and Whitner will play a huge role on the Browns defense next season, and have to provide this young roster with the leadership and experience they both possess. <br /><br />I like both signings, but the Browns had to make these moves. I don't think we gained all that much from a year ago, but we also didn't lose anything. Hopefully the Browns have a bit more up their sleeve.Chris Donovanhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/05823522614725418955noreply@blogger.com0tag:blogger.com,1999:blog-5173490341165067523.post-79716576808383461052014-03-10T10:31:00.002-04:002014-03-10T10:32:24.655-04:00Final 30 seconds of Senior Day were a microcosm of Aaron Craft's career<a href="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-iJ7wjo-idtY/Ux3K9Yr00LI/AAAAAAAADWA/GLz2PoCOvuc/s1600/ohio+state+aaron+craft+michigan+state.jpg" imageanchor="1" style="clear: right; float: right; margin-bottom: 1em; margin-left: 1em;"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-iJ7wjo-idtY/Ux3K9Yr00LI/AAAAAAAADWA/GLz2PoCOvuc/s1600/ohio+state+aaron+craft+michigan+state.jpg" height="400" width="243" /></a>There couldn't have been a more fitting ending for Aaron Craft, who was playing in his final collegiate home game. With less than 30 seconds left and his team up by just a point, Craft dove to the floor to secure a loose defensive rebound. It was one of those "hustle plays" that old people love to talk about, and&nbsp;it really did seem like he wanted it more than anybody else.<br /><br />Then, a few seconds later, he was at the line with a chance to put his team up by three. He clanked the first free thrown.<br /><br />And that, ladies and gentlemen, was Craft's career in a nutshell. He made a tremendous play that helped win the game, and immediately followed it&nbsp;with a lackluster performance on the offensive end.<br /><br />Still, I think I'd take Craft over just about every recent Buckeye, other than Jared Sullinger. Whatever&nbsp;Craft may lack on offense, he more than makes up for it on the other end, in my opinion.<br /><br />For the Buckeyes, this was a really nice win to end the regular season. Rather than heading into the Big Ten Tournament with three straight losses, they get to head into it with a bit of momentum. They won't have a first round bye, but the matchups seem to set up nicely. They'll play Purdue on Thursday afternoon, and if they advance, they'll get Nebraska on Friday. The Buckeyes owe the Cornhuskers a bit of payback after losing to them in Lincoln in January.<br /><br />As for the tournament that will start the following week, I have to admit that I feel decent about this team's chances to make a run to at least the Sweet 16. They play stellar defense, and they&nbsp;have veterans who have won plenty of tournament games over the last few years. Obviously they don't score points easily, so some shooters will have to get hot. And they'll need to make free throws (they were 19-31 from the line yesterday, and 2-6 in the final minute).<br /><br />Last week, ESPN's Joe Lunardi had them projected as a&nbsp;six seed, which I think would be fine. As always, it will depend less on their seed, and more on how they matchup with their opponents.Mike Mayerhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/17116565875071457029noreply@blogger.com0