Ahead of Schedule?

Cleveland Cavaliers, Darius Garland, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Love, Kevin Porter Jr., NBA, Trae Young, Tristan Thompson, Uncategorized

When a young NBA team expected to lose begins stacking wins together, their confidence level rises. It’s happening right now with the Cavaliers. Regardless of the competition (the Wizards and Knicks are bad) back-to-back road wins by a team supposed to be one of the worst in the league breeds assurance that the system is working, and the effort is worth it.


John Beilein is an excellent coach. This was never in doubt. The questions related to his hiring focused on his age and his ability to sell established NBA players on his “old school” principles. Koby Altman nailed his first coaching hire. Beilein is a master at player development and getting the max out of his roster.


His most important sell, and the reason for the Cavs’ early success, was getting Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love on board. The two title holdovers have grabbed leadership rolls and are taking pride in guiding the young players through the trials of an NBA season. On the court, throughout games, both are teaching, pointing out defensive mistakes to guards Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, while also praising them when they succeed. Coming into the season, each was a prime target for a trade. Trades may still happen, and both are becoming more valuable as they continue to play well, but the organization is in a great position. Their worth to the young players is clear. The opportunity to bounce ideas off ring owners, players who battled with LeBron and Kyrie against one of the greatest teams of all time, is priceless. The rebuild will be less painful with Thompson and Love embracing the situation.


If the front office wants to trade them, however, the price is increasing. Since the Cavs need not trade either, they can afford to hold teams’ feet to the fire. If, say, Portland or Boston get desperate, Cleveland can extract a high price from someone for their playoff tested vets.


Beilein’s best work has been the rookies’ development. Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. are improving. Small changes are paying big dividends. The most obvious is the aggression of the rookies. Both tentative early, they’re finding their footing while gaining confidence. Garland’s playmaking skills are showing; he tallied 12 assists in two games over the weekend, while also scoring 27. He’s started making shots, which has given him the confidence to attack. On those drives, he’s having success throwing lobs to Thompson or shooting floaters over the defense. Though the 3 ball isn’t falling, with his mechanics and quick release, it’s a matter of time.


Porter Jr. is a herky jerky, “No! No! Yes!” type of shooter, who, if he figures out the league, will be a dynamic scorer. He has size, quickness, ball handling skills, and the shooting touch to average 20 a game. Can he harness his bad habits? This will be Beilein’s greatest test. If he turns Porter into the player he has the talent to be, the Cavs’ rebuild will shorten.

Porter Jr. can score at the rim when the mood strikes


Want a stat that illustrates why the Cavaliers have surprised? Cleveland’s starting five man lineup is outscoring opponents by 16 points per 100 possessions. Only Denver’s is better.


Now the bad.


Kevin Love is the Cavs best player, and the offense must run through him to function well. Love needs to cut out the dribbling, however. When he catches in the post, takes 1-2 dribbles and either shoots or passes, he’s fine. When he pounds and pounds the basketball he gets in trouble. The Celtics guarded him with Marcus Smart and, trying to take advantage of the height mismatch, Love took bad shots while allowing Smart to take the ball from him on multiple occasions. Same on Sunday against the Knicks. Taj Gibson and Marcus Morris pestered him into turnovers when he over dribbled. Love’s a better passer than he’s given credit for. He needs to keep the ball moving after he’s drawn the defense’s attention.


If Matthew Dellavedova plays another minute, it’s too many. He isn’t bringing anything of value to the court. He can’t shoot, is turning the ball over, and gets smoked on defense. At least Brandon Knight can knock a 3 down.


An improved defense has resulted from the team trying harder on that end than last year. While Sexton is better and Thompson has been stronger defending the rim, there aren’t enough natural defenders on the roster for them to be an above average unit. Altman’s next challenge will be to draft long, athletic wings capable of guarding multiple positions to mask the deficiencies of the smaller guards. John Henson’s return will help the bench unit tremendously.


Although he’s a dynamic scorer, Jordan Clarkson’s game is a nuisance. Too often he doesn’t have it, yet is firing away. He’s bringing nothing else to the table, so when his shot isn’t falling Clarkson becomes a burden. Maybe Beilein can get him to look for his teammates more often, but there’s been no sign he’s willing to share the rock. On nights when he’s cold early, the Cavs would be better off with him sitting next to Dean Wade during second halves.

 

What’s What Around the League

1. In Utah, Giannis showed the grit and determination that made him an MVP. Two time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert locked him down in the first half, holding Antetokounmpo to 2 points on 0-7 shooting, with a disrespectful rejection at the rim thrown in for good measure. Giannis awoke in the second half, however, dragging the Bucks back from a 20 point deficit by draining 3’s and re-establishing his dominant paint presence. His 28 in the second half was only overcome by a Bojan Bogdanovic 3 at the horn to give Utah the W. While Milwaukee’s roster remains thin, the Bucks will have the best player on the floor in any playoff series in the Eastern Conference. Is Giannis good enough to topple better rosters in Philly and Boston?

2. With a collection of young talent and a bona fide superstar in Jimmy Butler, the Heat are feisty in the East. Though his shooting numbers are poor, 38% from the field and 25% from 3, the playmaking of Justice Winslow is superb. Despite the lack of shooting, his ability to get to the rim draws defenses’ attention in the pick and roll, allowing him to thread pocket pass after pocket pass to the roller. When the weak side defense sags toward the lane to cut that action off, he’ll whip a cross-court pass to an open shooter. An enigma for much of his early career because of injuries and position confusion, Winslow is establishing himself as a top of the rotation player for a dangerous team.

3. The rules of basketball are hard.

4. Orlando has disappointed, and it’s time to throw more responsibility Jonathan Isaac’s way. The Magic offense is a slog; they’re worst in the league in 3 point percentage and 26th in points per game. Isaac owns Orlando’s best shooting numbers, hitting 36% from deep and 58% on twos while only taking 9 shots per game, fifth on the team. More of the offense needs to flow through him. Long and athletic, Isaac possesses the ideal NBA body type, giving him the versatility to guard anyone on the court and score from anywhere on the floor. His stat line against Dallas, 13 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals, and 5 blocks, is an example of the adaptability of his game. Though Orlando is 3-6, he’s 7th in the league in plus/minus rating. His 92.8 defensive rating is fourth. If the Magic are to rebound, realizing who their best player is needs to occur soon.

5. The trade to New Orleans has been a godsend for Brandon Ingram. Out of the L.A. spotlight, where he never seemed comfortable, Ingram has become one of the better scorers in the league. His 25.9 points per game rank 11th in the league on 53% shooting. A career 34% shooter from 3, he’s shooting 47% from deep to this point. Though the Pelicans aren’t winning, just 2-7, Ingram is becoming more consistent. New Orleans’ future will hinge on Ingram and Zion meshing on the court.

6. If you’re a big in the NBA, do your best not to get switched onto Trae Young.

7. Through the injuries and Boston’s drama of last year, it’s been easy to forget about Gordon Hayward. The best player on the East’s best team to this point, Hayward has re-established himself as the All Star he was in Utah. The league overlooks his size and strength. It allows him to find his comfort zones on the floor where he can shoot over his defender or probe closer to the basket. His mid-range shooting touch is elite. The Celtics were dealt a tough break Saturday, however, when Hayward fractured his left hand, putting him out of the lineup indefinitely. Boston may find their way into Finals contention, but they’ll need Hayward to return from this injury at the level he’s played so far.

8. If you could have made a bet before the season started on which NBA player would eat an edible on the team plane and have a panic attack, Dion Waiters would have been the 1:5 favorite, right? Who else is even on the board? JaVale McGee would make for a good exacta wager, I suppose.

9. While the trade for Mike Conley garnered the headlines, the Jazz signing of Bojan Bogdanovic was as important to the team’s title chances. With Giannis leading a Bucks second half comeback Friday, Bogdanovic shouldered the offensive load, scoring 13 straight for the Jazz and drilling a three at the buzzer to seal the win. Though Conley can take some playmaking pressure away from Donovan Mitchell, Bogdanovic’s clutch shooting is as important. The spacing he’ll provide those two in tight playoff games will be key for Utah to score enough to keep up with Houston and the L.A. teams.

10. Pascal Siakam may have won Most Improved Player last year, but how many expected him to develop into an MVP candidate? The Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Siakam is averaging 27, 9, and 3.7 while shooting 50% from the field and 37% from 3. His Raptors are 7-2, and play like this from him gives them a shot at the Eastern Finals. Though most expected a drop off and consequent tear down of the roster, the Raptors’ organization is proving once again that culture matters. Toronto is taking its title defense seriously.

All stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com

 

Will the Real Baker Mayfield Please Stand Up

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns, NFL, Uncategorized

Baker Mayfield is lost, and he’s running from the light. Many want to pin the loss Sunday night on Freddie Kitchens, and he deserves blame. But this L is Mayfield’s.


You cannot win in the NFL with poor quarterback play. The Browns have proved this for 20 years. You can hand wring and fist stomp about the coaching, receivers, offensive linemen, and defense. Success hinges on the quarterback. The good ones are in the playoffs; the great ones win Super Bowls. We’ve seen the results of bad ones.


Right now, Mayfield is bad. I think he will pull himself out of it, but his season has been hard to watch. He is the cause of the 1-2 record and the offense looking lost. Baker is the reason I felt this franchise was ready to overturn 20 years of misery, yet so far, he’s adding to it.


He’s inaccurate. Whether down field, or on check downs, his accuracy has disappeared, completing only 56.9% of his passes, 30th in the league.


He’s not comfortable in the pocket.


He’s been under pressure, but he’s running himself into it as well. Too often, Baker gets spooked at a small push by the defensive front and heads for the exit. Almost exclusively, he drops further back and to his right. This closes off the left side of the field as an option, forcing him into throwing to one side of the field.

He’s bailing. More options if he steps up in the pocket, or shuffles his feet to the right instead of turning and running


Watch Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and Aaron Rodgers. The devil is in the details. Their footwork in the pocket is precise. Instead of scrambling at the first sign of trouble, they adjust their bodies away from the pressure, buying themselves the half second they need to find the open receiver. It’s a small but essential detail the great quarterbacks possess.

Footwork is key to avoiding the rush


He needs to step up in the pocket instead of running backward. When a quarterback backs up, the play is over. Unless they’re a scrambler, by reversing course they are taking themselves out of the play. Russell Wilson is one of the few in history to have success backing up in the pocket. By stepping up, Baker will improve his field vision, passing lanes, and accuracy.


I believe in Baker. He’s smart. A hard worker. He’s been an accurate passer in college and his rookie year. Many great quarterbacks slump their sophomore year. The Browns will not improve until he does, however.

The Browns are in the mist of the toughest part of the schedule. After Baltimore on Sunday, they have the 49ers, Seahawks, the bye, then the Patriots. After that, it eases.


At Broncos
Bills
Steelers
Dolphins
At Steelers
Bengals
At Cardinals
Ravens
At Bengals


Plenty of wins there. If they can hang in the next four weeks, they should begin stacking wins.

The defense was outstanding Sunday night. Missing their captain, Christian Kirksey, and the starting secondary, they forced three turnovers on outstanding plays by Myles Garrett, T. J. Carrie, and Joe Schobert. Mack Wilson held his own replacing Kirksey. Steve Wilks blitzed more often than in the first two games of the year. It led to an average day from Todd Gurley and Jared Goff. With a front four as dominant as the Browns’, it makes the secondary’s job much easier. While the offense is rounding into shape, the defense must continue to carry the team.

It’s a big week. Heading to Baltimore, Kitchens and Mayfield are under the microscope. Both must perform better than they’ve shown. A loss to the Ravens would put them 1-3 and two games behind in the division.


Baltimore lost to Kansas City and looked average. They were out of the game after their first drive of the day yielded a touchdown, despite the final score. Lamar Jackson heaved two prayers that got answered, keeping the score close, and Kansas City seemed to sleepwalk through the second half.


The Ravens are flawed. Their defense lost last season’s leading tackler(C.J. Mosley), sack leader, and a Pro Bowler at safety(Eric Weddle). They did add Earl Thomas, maybe the best safety in the game. The Chiefs and Cardinals moved the ball against them at will. If Baker remains patient, there will be plays on the outside to Beckham and Landry. He needs to put the hype and the pressure behind him. A good outing on Sunday will cure many of his ills.


Offensively, the Ravens are Lamar Jackson. He is a crap shoot. One minute he’ll drop a perfect lob into Marquis Brown’s hands; the next he’ll rifle the ball five feet in front of Mark Andrews. The two Hail Mary balls he heaved Sunday should have been picks. The Browns D is better than Kansas City’s. They must take advantage when Jackson makes mistakes.

Keeping Jackson in the pocket is paramount. The Chiefs shadowed him on passing plays, dropping defensive tackle Xavier Williams off the line of scrimmage at the snap to mirror Jackson on a majority of plays. While Jackson sprinkled in a few highlights, holding him to 46 yards rushing was a victory for the Chiefs. The Browns should use this strategy. Mix it up. Use Mack Wilson, Olivier Vernon, and whichever safeties may play in different situations to shadow Lamar. Confuse him into mistakes. If the Browns can keep Jackson and Mark Ingram in check, and the offense can make improvements, they have a shot at winning in Baltimore.

The Whip Around

1.Chiefs Patriots Rams Saints
These teams are the class of the NFL. Other outfits have shown flashes, but none come close to the dominance of these four. The only loss between them is the Rams victory after Drew Brees’ thumb injury. A lot of season remains, yet, barring injury, it’s tough to foresee anyone other than these guys in the conference championships.

2. Colts Texans Cowboys Eagles Packers
The next tier, if one of the above should falter, these teams would be the best bets to slide up. The Packers defense has been phenomenal to this point. If Aaron Rodgers can put full games together, instead of halves, Green Bay will be a feisty out. The Texans are a high-wire act, and DeShaun Watson may be the best quarterback in the league this side of Patrick Mahomes. I still believe in the Eagles and not the Cowboys.

3. Jacoby Brissett has been outstanding, giving the Colts hope for life after Andrew Luck. Seventh in completion percentage, fourth in touchdowns, and sixth in the league in quarterback rating, Brissett is leading a talented team as well as Luck could have. T. Y. Hilton re-aggravated a quad injury, which could hurt their offense depending on how much time he misses. For a team that was staring at doomsday prophecies a month ago, they look to be one on the better teams in the AFC.

4. The athleticism on display each Sunday is mind-boggling. It’s impossible to keep up with the draw dropping plays. In twenty minutes Sunday, Dalvin Cook, Nelson Agholor, and Demarcus Robinson scored touchdowns that run on loop all week on SportsCenter. Beautiful to watch.

5. The Lions upset of the Eagles in Philadelphia was impressive, though Philly was missing their top two receivers. Still, the Lions are undefeated and threatening to remain in the NFC North race past September. One key reason for Sunday’s victory was their secondary. They smothered the healthy Eagles receivers, giving Carson Wentz little space to make throws, tallying an impressive 10 passes defended. The schedule gets tough, however, with Kansas City, Green Bay, and Minnesota on tap. Their secondary will need more days like Sunday for the Lions to remain competitive.

The Detroit secondary has Philly’s receivers blanketed

6. Get up, Donte Jackson.

7. Mike Evans may be the best receiver in the league no one talks about. His erratic quarterback has a lot to do with that, however. Case in point, his game Sunday. 7 catches, 146 yards, and 3 touchdowns in the first half. 2 catches 44 yards in the second. Jameis Winston is infuriating, wasting Evans’ talent.

8. A pet peeve of mine is the slowness with which teams break the huddle. How many timeouts are wasted and 5 yard delay of game penalties taken each week because of this nonsense? They should have taken care of this stuff of the first week of training camp. It boggles my mind that Aaron Rodgers, after many years in the league, can have three instances a game when he can’t get a play off in time. Hurry up.

9. Kyle Allen made throw after throw in leading Carolina’s destruction of the Cardinals on Sunday. 4 touchdowns and a 144.4 QB rating gets your attention. If he keeps playing this well, the Panthers will have a Cam Newton decision to make.

10. After the aforementioned top teams, the rest of the league is a crap shoot. Quarterback play is unstable week to week, even series to series. There aren’t enough consistent guys under center to know what you’re getting each Sunday. It makes for exciting football during the season and gives quite a few teams hope. The inevitability of the top teams winning in January will become more obvious in November and December, however.

What the Hell

Cleveland Browns, NFL, Uncategorized

This was the worry since they hired Freddie Kitchens to take over as head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Would his lack of experience cost the team games? Would he be able to handle the collection of egos acquired by John Dorsey? Week One wasn’t great.


Too many penalties.


18 is obnoxious. The Browns lacked discipline in all three phases. They showed up on Sunday to win a fight instead of a football game. Myles Garrett threw an open-handed punch. Greg Robinson kicked a guy and got tossed. Devaroe Lawrence cursed out a referee and got the boot. Throw in 5 holding penalties on offense and 3 on defense, along with 2 roughing the passer penalties and you have a disaster. Unacceptable.


182 penalty yards are impossible to overcome. This was the story of the game. They killed their own drives and extended the Titans’. It showed a lack of focus and short fuses on the Browns sideline. The talent upgrades will mean nothing if they cannot clean it up.


Offensively Baker Mayfield had his moments. The opening drive, looking back, was fool’s gold. The offense took chunks of yardage, putting 6 on the board and looking like the juggernaut everyone predicted. The penalties took over after, killing drives and shuffling the offensive line after Robinson’s ejection. They sprinkled in some hurry up after halftime, leading to plus plays and a touchdown. Consistency, however, was nonexistent.


The wide receivers showed glimpses of what they’re expected to be. Beckham was flagged for an offensive pass interference penalty with the team driving for a field goal at the end of the first half, but otherwise showed well in his Browns debut. Jarvis Landry had a big 34 yard reception to set up the 2nd touchdown. Higgins snared a 35 yarder on the first drive and seemed to promise an air show awaiting the fans this week against the blitzes of Gregg Williams, the Jets defensive coordinator and former Browns interim coach. As for Odell wearing a watch, I’ll never understand why anyone gives a shit about that stuff.


Baker held the ball too long In spots, while the line was a sieve at others. Again however, Kitchens deserves his share of the blame. Once flags started flying and injuries and ejections decimated his O-line, adjustments needed to be made that weren’t. Calling quick passes and leaving backs and tight ends in to block could have given his QB and line a better shot. I’m loathe to call for more running of the ball, but in Sunday’s case, it may have slowed down the Titans’ pass rush. After the hole was dug, Baker played hero ball, trying too hard to get it back all at once. Too little, too late, however, and it uglied up the final score.

Quick throws out of your own end zone, instead of 3 vertical routes


Defensively, I’m not as down as others. They generated pressure on 46.7% of Tennessee’s drop backs, according to ESPN’s NFL Matchup, third in the league. The front four will pressure the quarterback.


Denzel Ward was bad. He was a step slow in coverage and whiffed on tackles that would have curtailed the chunk plays from the Titans. Again, however, drives were stopped only to be extended by the yellow flags. I thought Greedy Williams played well in his first outing, his coverage was better than Ward’s, although he missed a tackle on Derrick Henry on his screen pass touchdown.

Da hell is this?


Sunday turned into a disaster. We’ll learn more in the coming weeks if this was a case of buying into their own hype, or if they aren’t ready to play winning football. This falls on the coaching staff, and why I’ve worried about Kitchens. The facts are you don’t know what you don’t know. No matter how long he’s coached NFL players, dealing with the things a head coach must handle on a Sunday is daunting. Will he be up to the task, on top of calling plays? Has he delegated enough to his assistants in order to keep things running smoothly on the sideline?


The Jets are decimated with injuries. Sam Darnold is out with mono and C. J. Mosley, the leader of their defense, is questionable. The Jets D was pitching a shutout against Buffalo until he was injured. The quarterback of that defense, if he is unable to play Monday, Baker should be able to exploit the middle of the field. If Njoku can catch the ball, a huge if, look for him to have a big game.

There are no excuses for this one. We will find out about this team Monday Night. If they are focused and prepared, they will have no trouble. If they are brash, overlook the Jets, and continue with undisciplined mistakes, this game will be close and become a potential loss. If that happens, this season has the chance to take a drastic downturn.


I expect a more prepared Browns team Monday night. The Jets struggled themselves, kicking a game to the Bills on Sunday despite winning the turnover battle 4-0. They have holes in their secondary Mayfield can exploit. The offense should look better under the lights. If it doesn’t, look out.


The D-line will again have success. The Bills got to Sam Darnold 4 times last week. I expect Olivier Vernon, a no show Sunday, and Denzel Ward to have bounce back games. Cutting out the miscues will be imperative. This isn’t a high-powered Jets offense, and they’re starting a backup QB. They cannot give them free yards via penalty and need to force Trevor Siemian into mistakes.


Sunday’s thumping has a chance to be positive. If the coaching staff and the players learn from the nonsense, forget the hype, and play to their talent level, we should see something resembling a competent football team on Monday night. If, however, the penalty flags fly and Kitchens doesn’t make adjustments to better protect Baker, worry. The maturity level may not be high enough for this team to play consistent, winning football.

Whip Around the NFL

1.Yes, the Ravens looked impressive Sunday. That Dolphins team is an abomination, an affront to the NFL, however. I still don’t believe in Lamar Jackson in the long run. He completed 57% of his passes at Louisville. Quarterbacks don’t get more accurate in the NFL. I think this defense has lost too much talent to be as dominating as in year’s past. Last year they beat the Bills 47-3 in the opener, then lost to the Bengals. I’m on record saying they’re no better than 8-8. Prove me wrong.

2. I suppose the Patriots are taking another shot at a perfect season. Their schedule is weak, and the roster loaded. Brady will eventually nose dive, but maybe this isn’t the year? Another AFC North team I don’t believe in, and another reason I still give the Browns a good chance to win the division, is the Steelers. They were an average team last year, lost the best wide receiver in the game, and have another year on Roethlisberger, who seems to contemplate retirement every other week. Yes, the Patriots dominated, and looked outstanding doing so. If they go undefeated and win it all again, it won’t surprise me. Don’t crown them based on this victory, however.

3. Kyler Murray was a mess, and a joy, to watch. His height is still concerning; he had 4-5 passes batted down in the 1st half alone, but damn it was fun to watch him bring his team back in the 4th quarter. His deep ball is a thing of beauty. It’s a precursor to what we will see out of him this year, great moments surrounded by lots of garbage. His supporting cast leaves a lot to be desired.

Gorgeous

4. T.J. Hockenson was impressive. Gronk 2.0?

5. The ESPN announcers calling the Denver v. Oakland game fell all over themselves mentioning Antonio Brown as many times as possible. We get it, guys. Some crazy shit happened over the weekend and you couldn’t wait to splatter his name all over the telecast. This isn’t TMZ. Stick to the players on the field.

6. I don’t mind Joe Tessitore calling play-by-play on Monday Night Football, but he could cut it out with the theatrics. You’re not calling the Miracle on Ice every play.

7. The one AFC North team I expected to be horrid, the Bengals, showed well at Seattle. Zac Taylor’s offense was intriguing, and Andy Dalton looked as good as he has in 2-3 seasons. Could the Bengals have something to say about the division? I still say no, but they’ve at least piqued my interest.

8. Thursday night games continue to be garbage. Tampa v. Carolina had zero flow, though Tampa proved the tougher team and Jameis Winston showed some grit. Their D-line was in Cam’s face all night. Not sure if his shoulder, which he had offseason surgery on, is bothering him, but it’s something to watch. The Panthers look to be in trouble all ready.

9. I feel the same way about the Cowboys and Dak that I do about the Ravens and Lamar. They were playing a AAA team. I don’t trust Dak to make plays in crunch time, and I don’t trust Jason Garrett to pull the right strings in tight games. Elliott is great, but running backs like that don’t win playoff games anymore. Doubt they can overtake the Eagles in that division.

10. If Green Bay’s defense is as good all year as they were last Thursday, Rodgers may get another chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

All in all, an extremely sloppy week of football. Penalty flags everywhere, and most offenses seemed stuck in neutral. By the end of the month, I expect to see a helluva lot better football being played. Week 1 is always a crap shoot, we over-analyze it every year. Here’s hoping for more entertaining games this weekend.

Kramer, the best Seinfeld character

Uncategorized

The best entrance in the history of television. Perhaps patrons yelling “Norm!” each time Norm Peterson entered the bar on Cheers is the most memorable. But for sheer, unpredictable comedy, nothing beats Cosmo Kramer sliding into Jerry’s apartment. The precision with which the door whips open and Kramer slides in is art. When watching episodes as they aired for the first time, viewers were on the edge of their seats, awaiting his entrance with bated breath. Kramer carried Seinfeld in the most important way a character could. He was simply the funniest person in any scene he appeared in.


The reason for Seinfeld’s crown as the greatest comedy of all time is the characters. George, a neurotic, self-loathing buffoon unable to keep a job or his cool. Elaine, a self-confident guy’s gal, her intelligence dragged down by the company she kept. Jerry, a successful narcissist, the straight man in charge of moderating his friend’s poor choices.


While these three squeezed laughs from everyday incompetence, Kramer’s antics pushed the absurdity past the nothingness the show used as a tag line.


A reality bus tour of his life.


A talk show set in his apartment.


An intern to manage his everyday affairs.


The purchase of a chicken for farm fresh eggs, only to learn it was a rooster, leading to involvement in a cockfighting ring.


While the others dealt with bad dates, office mishaps, and parental squabbles, Kramer remained unburdened with these normalcies, free to roam the streets, making countless friends and enemies.


George, the incompetent idiot, causes the viewer to yell at the screen, frustrating them with bad choices and moronic actions. Lacking confidence until the moment calls for tentativeness, he then changes course, self assurance blazing. If only he would have stuck with the opposite.


The best recurring characters were attached to Elaine. David Puddy and J. Peterman parachute in randomly, opposites on the intelligence scale, equals in hilarity. A slight will they or won’t they story arc between her and Jerry, it may have been the only time in television history the viewer rooted for won’t they. Elaine was matter-of-fact funny, frustrated by the incompetence of her idiot friends but too much like them to find, or keep, new ones.


Jerry was left to police the group, the central connection of this ragtag team. He tried to behave as the voice of reason, although his mocking, dismissive tone toward his friend’s zany ideas only functioned to egg them on. His exasperation with his friends’ lives gave way to acceptance, dragging him into their foolishness.


Which leads us to Kramer, and why he is the funniest of the bunch. The absurdity of the character is undeniable. Nothing was out of bounds. It was just as believable that he would lather himself with butter to shave as it was that he could convincingly play a dermatologist, hunting for moles.


The key, however, is the physical comedy. Lanky, athletic yet clumsy, Michael Richard’s devotion to harming himself for laughs is the essence of Kramer. What is funnier in everyday life than watching someone fall down? As long as they aren’t seriously injured, nothing beats it. Whether tumbling to the ground while hauling in groceries to his apartment or hitting the concrete on a rainy afternoon with his pants overstuffed with change, his awkwardness never tires.


Kramer is also, by far, the most likable of the characters. While at times he engages in boorish behavior with the others, he normally remains above the fray, an unlikely moral guidepost for the group. He chastises Elaine for going back on her word by not giving him her bike for rearranging her neck. Tells Jerry he would turn him in for murder. Turns Newman in when he finds out he’s the scofflaw. None of the others carried a moral bone in their body. It was a hole in the finale. While Jerry, Elaine, and George deserved jail time, Kramer was the epitome of a good Samaritan.


What was the show without Kramer? Look back at the beginning episodes, before the character finds himself. While funny, the show does not grab you until Kramer becomes Kramer. In “The Alternate Side,” maybe the most famous line in the show’s history is uttered.


These pretzels are making me thirsty.


Innocuous out of context, they represent the arrival of Kramer as a character. Under used in many episodes in the first two seasons, he’s portrayed as the doofus neighbor, dumb and mistake prone. After landing a role in a Woody Allen movie, however, the character takes a step away from an inept neighbor haphazardly appearing in episodes to the central figure in many of the laughs the show revolves around. While still clumsy and oblivious, Kramer becomes lovable, the one person on the show the viewer roots for, one fall at a time.

Here We Go, Brownies

Uncategorized

December 17, 1995

It was cold that day. There are no warm days in December. On most trips to Cleveland, the weather is part of the story. In a lot of ways, it defines the trip. On this day, however, it was hardly worth remembering. The Cleveland Browns would play their last game, maybe ever, and I needed to be there.

In 1995, before the Internet, information traveled much slower. I sat at a stoplight and listened to a news break on the radio, hearing the news that would devastate a 16-year-old who’d lived and died with a football team since turning 6, watching Bernie Kosar bring the Browns back from the dead in a playoff victory over the Jets. If that game was living, the next week was dying.

I didn’t believe the news the man on the radio read. There must be some mistake.

The report was wrong.

The Cleveland Browns do not move.

Art Modell would change his mind once he faced the wrath of the fans.

The report was right, however, and no one was changing anyone’s mind, not with the amount of money at stake. The only thing that I ever loved, besides my family, was leaving. I needed to go to the wake.

My friend had family in Cleveland, and they found us tickets in the Dawg Pound, which we requested. Neither of us had sat in the infamous section, and we’d never get another chance. It was important for us to see at least one game from there, if nothing else than to validate our fandom.

Yeah, I’ve sat in the Dawg Pound before. At the last game in the old stadium.

Whether it was as wonderful and sad a day as I remember is debatable, with almost 24 years between now and then to play tricks on my memory. I knew that day I belonged, however. I was a tried-and-true Browns fan, just in time to see them walk out the door.

The Dawg Pound lived up to its reputation. I smelled weed for the first time that day, in the second quarter. A man in the row in front of us argued with another guy 10 rows lower, for what seemed like the entire 1st half. The guy in the lower seat had enough, came up to the row, excused himself through 20 people to challenge the shit talker before getting his ass severely beaten, then having to excuse himself to the same 20 people to get back to his seat, head hung low.

Earnest Byner ran roughshod over the Bengals that day, and by the middle of the third quarter the Browns had the game in hand. For the first time, it set in. A quiet overtook the stadium. We were surrounded by the cold; the reality of the situation combined with the weather as 60 some thousand felt it. This was the end.

Then all hell broke loose.

It began to our right. First, a few seats could be seen passed down the rows, then tossed onto the field. Then entire rows cascaded down. Rows upon rows of seats gathered on the field. What started in one section was now occurring all over the stadium. The game became inconsequential. The Browns were leaving dammit, and we would get our pound of flesh.

The wooden bleacher seats in the Dawg Pound were no longer safe. Our entire row stood on the bench and began to jump. When it broke, we all ended up on our asses. A mad scramble occurred, everyone grasping to secure a piece of the crumbling stadium. The fourth quarter was a blur. We couldn’t stop them from leaving, but we damn well would savor one last moment, together. Browns fans as one, saying goodbye, and tearing shit up.

Section 44, Row 30, Seat 14 of Cleveland Municipal Stadium

We’re on the precipice of something. It has taken twenty-five years, but NFL football may truly be back in Cleveland. Other than 2007, no Browns team has given the fans hope that, yes, their Browns will be a factor in the upcoming season.

We know how 2007 turned out. Derek Anderson, Braylon Edwards, Kellen Winslow II and Jamal Lewis would wreak havoc on the league, and would dominate the AFC North. It sounds funny now, but when Super Bowl chants broke out during training camp that year, few were laughing.

It’s different this time around, because of Baker Mayfield. While Anderson was coming off a Pro Bowl season, no one projected greatness onto him. Brady Quinn gave more hope to the fans than Anderson, yet both never amounted to more than adequate backups. It is therefore a frivolous exercise, to bestow greatness on one man, to heap the hopes of an entire franchise on the right arm of Baker Mayfield. In a league where the importance of one player, the quarterback, cannot be overstated, we have given Mayfield this responsibility, and he seems to all the world to be up for it.

He inspires hope.

Remember that night in March, when you heard the news? Odell Beckham Jr. was coming to Cleveland. Maybe it flashed across your television screen. Maybe a friend texted you, or an app alerted you. Remember the pure, unadulterated joy you felt, hearing those words for the first time? Odell Beckham, Cleveland Brown. It is all we’ve ever asked for. Never forget that feeling.

Hope.

It is all we have a right to ask for. Many teams and numerous great players never win championships. It is foolhardy to allow a championship to become the only thing. LeBron came back and won. It was glorious, an unbelievable moment to look up, spread your arms wide, and declare your team a champion; to look in the rafters and see the banner waving. But wasn’t the journey the thing?

Enjoy the wins, and the moments that lead to them. That’s all that will matter. A title may or may not come, but it won’t change your life either way. Savor all the victories, large and small, because damn, this team will be fun as all hell.

Baker has the look of a franchise QB who will dominate for 12-15 years. So before getting swept up in the mania of it all, remember to enjoy the journey. Never forget the long, cold December walks out of First Energy Stadium after another loss to the Steelers. Don’t forget the sea of empty orange seats as another horrid season came to a close. Remember the constant firings and reboots. Remember 0-16.

It can be, and has been, worse. When Baker hits Odell in the numbers on a slant, as he weaves through defenders on his way to the end zone, remember Kevin Johnson. When Myles Garrett lays out Ben Roethlisberger after making another offensive lineman look foolish, remember Jamir Miller. When Denzel Ward reads Lamar Jackson’s eyes for a game saving interception, remember Corey Fuller.

It is time. Everything that Browns fans have hoped for, with every fiber of our being, sits in front of us. The talent is everywhere on the field. In the next few years, the possibilities are endless. It will be more fun than any of us have ever had watching pro football, unless you are old enough to remember Bernie in the ‘80s. It’s about time.

The memories obtained attending games in Cleveland are vivid and awful. Aside from the last game played in old Municipal Stadium, my introduction to the crumbling cathedral was in 1990, as a 12-year-old. My uncle’s friend had season tickets behind the baseball dugout the Browns used to enter and exit the field. Yes, you read that correctly.

After 3 trips to the AFC Championship game in the previous 4 years, ‘90 proved to be a precursor to the future for the team. Bernie Kosar had a bad day, completing less than half of his passes while throwing two interceptions, while Dan Marino, of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective fame, tossed 2 touchdowns in a 30-13 drubbing. Despite being a cold and dreary day, with little to cheer, it was an exciting time for a young fan. Sitting in an NFL stadium, feeling the passion, albeit in a lost season, of the fans in Cleveland will forever remain with me. The energy and atmosphere of the place was indescribable. I’ve been to plenty of sporting events all over the country, indoor and outdoor venues alike. I’m sure I will never experience an atmosphere like it.

You knew you were in Cleveland, and you knew you were at a Browns game. The ambiance suggested more a family gathering than a football game. Watching the team emerge from the dugout, being so close to my heroes I’d only saw before on T.V., allowed me to fall in love all over again. I took it all in, every inch, along with the people.

Whenever the team was entering or exiting the field, a man a few rows above us, inebriated, would stand, cup his hands around his mouth, and yell “You guys suck!”, over and over and over and over again. I will never forget seeing Eric Metcalf staring at the man, wanting to strangle him, yet resigned to agree with him. Family reunion, indeed.

We’re back.

The only thing that made the three years after the Browns left for Baltimore bearable was knowing that they would be back. Would it be the same? No one knew at the time, and most would argue now the answer to that question is no. Football would come back though. Our team, our colors would take the field again, and it would be like they never left. Right?

I knew that I had to be in the stadium for the first game. The rebirth of my childhood, my heroes, my team was not to be missed. I was in the Dawg Pound for the funeral. No way would I miss the christening.

My uncle, cousin, and friend loaded up in my buddy’s Camaro, a car too small for 4 grown men, making the 3 hour trek north to celebrate. Football was back, and this team wouldn’t be a normal expansion squad. Ty Detmer had won a Heisman Trophy. Corey Fuller was a darn good corner. Some other expansion draft picks looked promising. Could this team hit the ground running?

43-0.

After the fireworks, and the flyover, and Drew Carey leading the crowd in welcoming the Browns back, the excitement ended. The Steelers stifled all hope any fan had that this would be a successful and unprecedented comeback. Detmer was awful. Chris Palmer, defying his steadfast promise that Tim Couch would sit and learn, inserted the rookie in the 4th quarter, looking for a spark. Couch threw a pick. Here we go Brownies, here we go.

We sat in our seats for a long time after the game ended, watching the press conference of Palmer and some players on the big screen above the Dawg Pound. So long, in fact, that ushers came by and asked us to leave.

As bad as the game had been, we were glad to be back. Three years was a long time without football, without the opportunity to see the orange helmets in person. Maybe they would not be good quickly, for a few years even. They were back on the field, however, and that was the thing. Soon enough, winning seasons would begin piling up. They would finish what Bernie Kosar had started. The pain of the move, and the ‘80s playoff heartbreaks, and 2-14 and 3-13 expansion seasons would all be worth it. We were the most loyal fan base in the world. Soon, it would be worth it. It had to be. We deserved it.

Reality, however, has a way of setting in.

I was bound and determined to attend at least one Browns game a year. They robbed me of three NFL seasons, and I would not miss anymore. The ride back to the top would be gratifying, and I would miss none of it.

September 9, 2001

Year 3 season opener against Seattle. 9-6 loss. Perched in the first row of the upper deck, I had a perfect view down the north sideline. Late in the game, Dylan McCutcheon picked off a pass, but the refs ruled he didn’t have both feet in bounds. I will swear to this day that I had a better view of the play, and McCutcheon got both feet in. Irate, I beat my hat against the two foot tall plexiglass barrier in front of our seats until the clasp broke. Browns 0-2 since the return in games I’ve attended.

December 1, 2002

Carolina Panthers. 13-6 loss. Browns are in the middle of the playoff hunt. Carolina was a beatable team at home. December in Cleveland, and the weather is predictable. To keep warm before the game, my pregnant cousin and I stood, watching the coin toss. The older season ticket holders found the coin toss to be a must see event and summoned an usher to let us know that we needed to sit down. The blah game the rest of the day does nothing to lower my blood pressure. 0-3.

December 15, 2002

Indianapolis Colts. 28-23 loss. Still in the playoff hunt. Back in the Dawg Pound. Finally, competent Browns football. Couch is leading the offense in our direction for a last second victory. A timeout was taken, and Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’ blares on the in stadium speakers as the teams retake the field. The stadium is bedlam. Everything we’ve wanted as fans is upon us. Couch is about to take down Peyton Manning, already a legend.

Drive stalls at the Colts 9. Turnover on downs. 0-4

September 7, 2003

Opener vs. Indianapolis Colts 9-6 loss. The playoff loss stung, but we’re back. The AFC North would be ours this year. Openers are always exciting, but this is now the 2nd 9-6 stinking opener I’ve sat through. 0-5

December 5, 2004

New England Patriots 42-15 loss. Before we reach our seats, Bethel Johnson takes the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. Most of our party leaves before halftime. 0-5

September 11, 2005

Cincinnati Bengals 27-13 loss. Another home opener, another defeat. A large group of us spent Friday and Saturday night at Put-in-Bay for a bachelor party, before driving to Cleveland to sit in the Dawg Pound on Sunday. While only 83 degrees, it seemed like 100 in the sun. Bad decisions all around that weekend. 0-6

November 19, 2006

Pittsburgh Steelers 24-20 loss. Josh Cribbs returned one kickoff for a touchdown and another deep into Pittsburgh territory. He proved to be the only offense on this day, as we sat in the middle of a busload of Steeler fans from Pittsburgh. 0-7

Eight years in, and I reached my limit. Each disheartening walk out of the stadium kept getting worse. Staring at another three hour, boring drive home down I-71, I vowed that I wasn’t making the journey again, not until something changed. I could watch on television. I would always love this team, but this was too much. What were we seeing on the field each Sunday? How was this possible, to be this inept year after year? Did ownership even care? They were handed the greatest fan base on earth and were sapping its strength. How long before the stadium was half empty on Sundays?

The losing streak ended on December 16, 2007 against the Buffalo Bills. Before Baker Mayfield entered the Thursday Night game against the Jets and led the franchise to their first victory in 19 games, this one may have been the most memorable of the last 12 years. A storm was rolling in, so rather than driving the three hours to Cleveland on Sunday morning, our group began the trek Saturday afternoon. The blizzard conditions that would overtake the northern part of the state on Sunday got a head start down south, and our journey was tedious, taking over 4 hours, snow blowing sideways and ice building on and along I-71 throughout the trip.

Cleveland was spared to that point; only a trace amount of snow settled along the lake. Upon rising Sunday morning, the weather again was no worse for wear. High 30’s, dreary, but no precipitation and little wind greeting us as we set up our tailgate in the Muni Lot. By 10:30, we thought the storm would hold off. For once, the winter weather would spare us.

At 11:00, like a bolt of lightning, Mother Nature snapped.

Temperatures plummeted.

The wind howled.

Ice and snow smothered the streets. As thousands made their way toward the stadium, an ice rink formed. Hundreds ended up on their asses. Cleveland struck again. If the Browns lost today and were booted out of the playoff race….

Jamal Lewis and Phil Dawson had different plans. The former plowed for 163 yards, while the latter made two field goals that had no business leaving the frozen turf, let alone sailing through the uprights. The second, from 49 yards, was and will remain the greatest kick I will ever witness. Wind and snow blowing sideways throughout the stadium, the fans, at least the ones in our section, stood the entire game for warmth. No ushers would pretend to tell anyone to sit on the icy seats today. Beers became slushies in mere moments. I remarked to everyone around me that Dawson had no business being on the field at that moment. Hell, they would be better off throwing a Hail Mary on 4th down. Never had I been more excited to be wrong. Dawson’s legend as a Brown was cemented that day, and he will always be adored for those kicks, and his pride and preservation of living through some of the darkest days in the franchise’s history.

After all the misery, I witnessed a Browns victory. They would pound the lowly Bengals the next week, stamping a berth into the playoffs. Right?

That season was the last time the team sniffed a playoff berth. Strings of 5-11 seasons should have been the bottom until 1-15 and 0-16. As a Browns fan, living through the last two decades has been tough. Another cliff to tumble over waited around the next corner.

Still, many of us have persisted. Not without doubt, mind you. Like many, I’ve sworn off the team, and the Haslam’s, more times than I care to admit. I’ve rooted for losses for better draft positioning. It was always in the hopes of better days. Like today.

When I was 6, I threw pillows at the T.V. as Mark Moseley missed kick after kick before drilling a 27 yarder to beat the Jets in the Divisional Playoff Round.

I cried watching John Elway.

I cried when Earnest Byner fumbled.

I was grounded when I was 11, my punishment being that I could not watch the first 2 Browns games of the season on T.V.

I’ve loved and hated the Cleveland Browns more throughout my lifetime than any reasonable person should. No matter where they were in the standings, though, they’ve always been the bond that brings family and friends closer. They’re a constant that, albeit for a brief time, has always been there. Watching them lose, week after week, year after year, has been excruciating. It is seeing a loved one fail, over and over. No matter what you do or say, you can’t help them. You can only hope that one day, they’ll figure it out.

I don’t know for sure if that day is here, but I believe that it is. The pain, the misery; it may be worth it. When the lights of Sunday and Monday night football shine down on those orange helmets, we will be there.

Nerves tied in knots.

Yelling at the television.

Hoping, praying for one more completion. One more stop.

It is time. The Cleveland Browns are back.

Introduction

Uncategorized

Welcome to my site. I appreciate everyone who visits, and I hope to write interesting content. You may wonder what the focus will be, and I share that with you. I hope to touch on a variety of subjects, everything from sports, to politics, to the wonders of every day life. Some topics may be thought provoking, while others will border on nonsense. My job will be to give you a reason to come back. I will do my best.

Thank you and enjoy!

Troy