Friday, September 26, 2014

Pierogies with Earnest

Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner. Photo: Cleveland Browns.

Ahem...sorry, I'll get to that in a second. 

Twitter is a wonderful thing. It can help you stay connected, promote your business and if you are lucky - meet football legends. 

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in a Twitter conversation with Browns great, Earnest Byner. Byner is one of the all time Browns greats and with teammate Kevin Mack, they were only the third set of team mates in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards. 

The conversation was about pierogies. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew, I was with a couple of friends, meeting Earnest Byner and his wife for pierogies at Market Garden Brewery in Ohio City. 

Earnest Byner's SuperBowl ring from his time with the Redskins.
If you are of a certain age, you remember Byner, Mack, Dixon, Kosar and company and the electricity shooting through the fans that can only be brought about by winning.  This may account for why Browns fans can be a bit fanatical about Byner. 

When I knew Pierogies with Earnest was actually going to happen, I offered to ask Byner questions on behalf of the fans.  Here is a great example of how Clevelanders think of Byner: 

A Facebook question for Earnest. 
I can tell you that Byner and his wife were everything you would hope for them to be. They were friendly, patient, and all around awesome people. 

A few awesome points from our chat:
  • Byner has never been offered a Milkbone, and therefore never consumed one
  • He believes Le'Veon Bell is one of the best Running Backs playing the game today
  • Yoga is not something he practices, but understands the importance of breathing 
  • Byner is still connected to his Browns teammates, and while they may not talk everyday, when they get back together, it is like they never left
  • The connection that the fans, the players and the city had was real and it was awesome
  • Everyone at the table got a good laugh about the Browns fans being the most possessive of players
  • Ronnie Lott was one of the toughest players that Byner played against
  • One of Byner's greatest moments was when he met his idol, Marcus Allen
Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner. 
Then, as if things couldn't be more awesome, Kevin Mack dropped by. 

As the night wrapped up, as a testament to how much Browns fans think of Byner, at the end of our meal, our server at Market Garden told Byner what he means to Browns fans and there was a guy that waited I don't know how long outside the restaurant for him. 

I can't thank Earnest Byner enough for being so cool...all I can say is next time, the pierogies are on me. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Taste of the Browns Giveaway

After the win against da Bears, this giveaway is even more exciting. 

Monday, September 15th is the annual Taste of the Browns, a fundraiser for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, co-chaired by Super Joe Haden and Judge Dick "Bam Bam" Ambrose at First Energy Stadium.

Taste of the Browns is the major fundraising event for the Food Bank, last year raising more than $175,000 - which helped the Food Bank distribute over 700,000 meals to agencies in 6 counties.


This year’s event features more than 25 of the region’s finest restaurants and chefs, such as Rocco Whalen (Fahrenheit, Rosie and Rocco’s); Zack Bruell (Chinato, Cowell & Hubbard, L'Albatros Brasserie, Parallax, Table 45); Eric Williams (Momocho and El Carnicero); Jeff Jarrett (AMP 150); Sam McNulty (The Market Garden Brewery, Bar Cento, Speakeasy, Nano Brew and Bier Market); Nick Kostis (Pickwick & Frolick) and more.

Not only will there be awesome food, there will be my favorite part of any fundraiser, a silent auction featuring:
  • Joe Haden “favorite things” gift basket 
  • Autographed Brian Hoyer framed photograph
  • Autographed Johnny Manziel authentic football  
  • Autographed Barkevious Mingo authentic jersey 
  • Signed copy of the Draft Day movie script  
  • Southwest Airlines vouchers 
  • Two tickets to the Broadway performance of Wicked in New York City
General admission tickets are available for $175 ($75.00 of which is tax-deductible) or VIP tickets are available for $250 ($150 of which is tax-deductible).

All proceeds benefit the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. Access to the VIP Lounge will include exclusive tastings, access to Cleveland Browns celebrities and a personalized listing in the scrolling Thank You video played during the event. You can purchase tickets here.

The Greater Cleveland Food Bank and the Browns promote the event as a way to tackle hunger in Greater Cleveland. If you follow me, you know I have a thing for kickers, so let's say we want to kick hunger out of Greater Cleveland. No one should go hungry.

No one.

Want to win a pair of tickets? It is super easy. Since it is super easy, make sure you follow directions. I let the computer pick the winner, so make sure you comment on this post after you complete each task, in a *different* comment. 

1.  Follow @CleveFoodbank and @clevelandchick on Twitter.
2.  Like The Greater Cleveland Food Bank on Facebook.
3.  Leave a comment below after checking out the Taste of the Browns event page - what are you most looking forward to - delicious food or awesome auction items?
4.  Follow the Cleveland Food Bank on Instagram.
5.  Tweet the following: "I want to kick hunger out of CLE @CleveFoodbank's #TasteofTheBrowns from @clevelandchick"

Winner will be selected Monday, September 8, at 6 pm.

Remember, you can tweet once a day, so get to tweeting. But don't do it more than once a day. That will make people angry at both of us.

Disclaimer:  I was offered a pair of General Admission tickets to use and a pair to give away to one of you lucky fans. Words are my own and are currently fueled by the adrenaline zooming through my body after my brakes went out on the interstate. Whew.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Autism Speaks Chef Gala Giveaway WINNER

And the winner of the Autism Speaks Chef Gala tickets is mangovino!

She has been notified. 

Thank you all for participating!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Autism Speaks 2014 Chef Gala Giveaway

Cleveland is an amazing city. 

We have fantastic people, beautiful museums, stunning lake views and of course, deliciously amazing food. 

The Cleveland Chef Gala, hosted by Cleveland's own, Iron Chef Michael Symon, is presented by Autism Speaks, the leading autism science and advocacy organization. The event features Cleveland's finest chefs, all sharing their signature dishes to raise fund and awareness for individuals and families affected by autism.  Chef Symon will bring his Food Network and Chew friend, Mario Batali, for an interactive dinner preparation. 

The Chef Gala is Saturday, August 9th at the fantastic Cleveland Museum of Art. Great food, beautiful art, what more can you ask for? 

One of my favorite parts of the event (after the food of course) is the silent auction and live auction. This year, you can bid on the chance to sit on stage with the Iron Chefs! Very cool.

There are all sorts of sponsorship opportunities available and you can find out everything you want to know about the event as well as purchase tickets here.  I strongly encourage you to support Autism Speaks and this event. 

Participating Chefs:

Michael Symon and Mario Batali 
Tim Bando - Grove Hill 
Jonathan Bennett - Moxie, Red 
Derek Clayton – Michael Symon Resturants 
Britt-Marie Horrocks Culey - Coquette Patisserie 
Brian Doyle - Sow Food &; Beachland Ballroom 
Brandt Evans - Pura Vida, Blue Canyon 
Anna Harouvis - Anna in the Raw 
Chris Hodgson - Hodge's, Cibreo, Driftwood Catering, Bin 216 
Jeff Jarrett – AMP 150 
Douglas Katz - fire, The Katz Club Diner, Provenance 
Tim Monsman – Market District 
Matt Mytro – flour 
Fabio Salerno – Lago & Gusto 
Jonathon Sawyer - Greenhouse Tavern, NoodleCat, & Trentina 
John Selick – University Hospitals – Ahuja Medical Center 
Karen Small – Flying Fig 
Dion Tsevdos – Cheese Shop, Urban Herbs & Classic Seafood 
Jill Vedaa - Rockefeller's 
Rocco Whalen - Fahrenheit, Rosie & Rocco’s Tacos 
Eric Williams – Momocho, El Carnicero

Now my friends, is the part that you have been waiting for.    The awesome people at Autism Speaks have given me a pair of tasting tickets, a $200 value each, to give away! There are a couple of ways to enter to win, so make sure you leave a separate comment for each method of entry. I let a computer pick the winner, so if you don't comment, you lose an entry. 

1. Leave a comment telling me who your favorite Cleveland chef is. 

2. Tweet the following: "I want to go to the @AutismNEO 2014 Chef Gala on 8/9!   #ASCleChefGala @clevelandchick"
3. Follow@AutismNEO on the Twitter. 
4. Follow @clevelandchick on the Twitter.

You have until Tuesday, August 5 at 7 pm to enter.  Start tweeting!

Disclosure: The awesome peeps at Autism Speaks asked me if I would like to giveaway a pair of tickets to you awesome peeps. Of course I do. They also offered a pair of tickets for my personal use, that sadly, I will not be able to use. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tyler, TX is Browns Territory - Interview

Billboard outside of Tyler, Texas. Posted by @mcdaniel_sm on twitter. Please credit appropriately.  
Every season since the Browns returned to Cleveland in 1999 has floated in a murky lake of bitter, angry tears and from a fan base desperate to win.

Always, always waiting for next year. 

Waiting and waiting and waiting. 

Every year we tell ourselves that next year will be different. 

Finally, our promise to ourselves is on the verge of coming true. 

There has not been a 22nd pick in the NFL draft that has been the center of more buzz and hype than Johnny Manziel. The Heisman Trophy winner is full of swagger and confidence in his money play making ability. Exactly what you want in an NFL player. 

Look around Cleveland and you will see and hear football fans of all ages in Manziel gear and talking about Johnny Football. When it was announced Manziel and Justin Gilbert were hopping a plane and coming to Cleveland after the draft, a contingent of fans showed up in Berea, hoping to catch a glimpse of the rookies. One of those fans was my dad. My dad was peeking through the fence with the other fans, trying to see the new potential face of the franchise. 

As Cleveland fans, we love our Browns. We aren't a team that has a bandwagon rolling through town.  There hasn't been a reason for fans outside of Cleveland to even take notice of the team for anything positive. The last time anyone outside of Cleveland cared about a Browns player was Brady Quinn. When I lived in Indianapolis, a few Quinn jerseys were for sale in the mall because of his Notre Dame days. That was it.

Things have changed now.

Journalists and sports talk hosts and bloggers all over the country are now wanting to talk Browns football. They are talking about Cleveland by name. 

Today, in Manziel's home town of Tyler, Texas, a billboard went up, declaring Tyler as Browns Territory, deep in the heart of Texas (clap, clap).

How did that happen?

For the past few years, the Rose Capital Little League association has held a baseball tournament that also raises money to help a sick child. Previous years, it helped a child with cancer. This year, the proceeds from a silent auction at the event went to the Make a Wish Foundation. Awesome idea. One of the silent auction items was for a billboard. That day, 8 friends went in together to win the billboard, with the idea of using it to recognize Johnny Manziel.

Tyler is a town that has followed Manziel's record-breaking athletic career through high school and Texas A&M. Remember how Northeast Ohio followed a certain person's basketball games through his career at St.V/St.M? Imagine that certain person then went to the University of Akron (and Akron was twice the size) and continued breaking records. Now multiply that level of fandom by 2 or 3. Now, friends, you are seeing Texas football and the connection Texas has to Johnny Manziel.

I spoke with Jaime McDaniel, one of 8 people that won the billboard in the silent auction because I had to find out what pieces fell into place to result in that billboard beauty on the side of the highway.

Mr. McDaniel grew up with Johnny's parents and knows Johnny personally. We talked about how the entire town (I'm going to guess most of Texas, as well) couldn't believe that the Cowboys passed up on Johnny Football (I couldn't believe it either). Jerry Jones' loss is now our gain, because Cowboys fans are ditching the center field star for a spot in the Dawg Pound.

For example, Academy Sports, a sporting goods store that is comparable to Dick's Sporting Goods, now carries Browns merchandise, specifically #2 jerseys, and not just in Tyler. Word has it, stores over 3 hours away in Houston, even have Manziel merchandise. Mr. McDaniel's son already has his Browns hat and is ready to cheer for the Browns on Sundays.


Chatting on the phone with someone that knows Johnny, I couldn't hang up and pass up my chance to ask if JFF's Gronk partying and inflatable swan champagne swilling will be a problem. Mr. McDaniel pointed out that on game day, Johnny has always shown up and given it his all. Johnny is going to be prepared and has worked out probably harder than any other rookie.

Manziel has a connection to a young cancer survivor that will make you question his public "party boy" image.

I know that Browns fans are concerned about Johnny's off the field antics.  I say wait and see. We haven't played a game yet. He just signed his contract. Understand me clearly, if he fails to perform on the field because of shenanigans off the field, we will have a problem. But it you think he is the only professional athlete that is cutting loose during his downtime, you are a naive little bunny.

If it weren't for social media and camera phones, would anyone have even know that Johnny was in Vegas? Or would we have known about the swan? If it wasn't for Johnny Football, would we have even known Gronk was in Vegas? Would we have cared?

Joe Namath is a walking blue print for the cocky player that wants to be larger than life and full of swagger. If the world was constantly tweeted and instagramed when he played the way it is now, do you think he would have ever gotten off team probation?

*This* buttercup is going to buckle up and enjoy the ride of Johnny Cleveland mania. It is a different feeling to be this excited about the season and I like it.

While wrapping up our phone call, I asked Mr. McDaniel if he would be coming to Cleveland for a game. He told me they haven't bought tickets yet, but they "would love to come to a game."

Sir, we would love to have you and your family in town. I'm sure you won't have any problem making friends.

Note: I would like to thank the McDaniel family for chatting with me on twitter and over the phone. I appreciated being able to bug them and talk football on a Friday night. They were incredibly sweet and gracious.  I have included a portion of our conversation here, edited for clarity and space. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Running In Indianapolis

Edina and Patsy running. I think it was a vodka run though. 

I've never been a big runner. 

While some see running as a way to connect with nature, the steady thump thump thump of new sneakers on the pavement, I always viewed it as a punishment. 

In school, if you screwed up, your mistake was met by a loud "RUN" from the gym teacher. I dreaded running laps in the school gym. I loved playing basketball until 8th grade. I was never going to be awarded a scholarship for my Mark Price style jump shot, but it was fun, until my 8th grade coach. His philosophy was that we were going to run until someone threw up. Every day. Keep running until someone barfed. Maybe I just didn't have the killer competitive drive in me, but I did not find vomiting on the court to be fun.

Then I got older. 

Something happens when you hit your 30s or 40s. For some reason, there is a desire to run. Run away from things, run to things. Running is a quiet, solo sport. You can be alone with your thoughts or Eminem's through your Beats. In our ever connected life, running is the one thing you can't multitask at. Well, you shouldn't. I once tried to tweet while running. Not my finest moment.

The starting line for the Monumental Mile. 
My Facebook timeline is full of middle aged folks running. Pictures of smiling faces with number tags on their shirts, hair pulled back in pony tails. More pictures of neon colored tennies, ready for that job through the woods. 

So, not to be left out, I gave it a whirl. I participated in my first Run - the Indianapolis Monumental Mile. It looked easy enough. I can walk a mile. Certainly, I can run a mile. 

About 100 yards into the run LEG CRAMPS. Look, I know I poked fun at Lefoolio and his leg cramps, but, wow, was that painful.

I was determined to finish in my run, walk, walk, run fashion. Traffic was halted as I hobbled through intersections. With each step, I contemplated just scooting over to the side of the street and tapping out. 

I'm really not a runner.

I was however, determined to beat the lady pushing a double baby carriage. I think she may have even been breast feeding at the time too. 

I crossed the finish line in a triumphant leap. 

Then, I  had a beer and a cookie. It was what all the other runners were doing. 

After some training, I want to try a 5K. There was a sense of overwhelming pride in walking around with a number safety pinned to my shirt.  It felt nice. It will feel nicer to cross it off my bucket list and move on to something new. Or not. Only time and my shins will tell. 

But more training, and a new sports bra. 

Two very important things I did not properly consider. 

Are you a runner? Tell me about your adventures in the comments. 

The finish line at Monument Circle.

Friday, May 30, 2014

2 For 1 - Josh Gordon and Johnny Manziel

Josh Gordon. (Cleveland Plain Dealer Photo Staff)
I'm struggling with how the Cleveland Browns still have Josh Gordon on the roster.  Josh Gordon is allegedly in the stage three of the NFL substance abuse policy. That particular ring of fire is banishment from the NFL for a *minimum* of one year. 

His latest drug test failure was once again for marijuana, at least his 5th failed drug test since 2010.  Over the holiday weekend, he was busted for speeding. Ok, I'm not going to judge that one, but his "friend" was busted for carrying marijuana. 

This very well could be it for him. 

Read this very carefully, I'm not being all weed judgey pants. I don't care if he blazes up watching Friday while floundering around in a kiddie pool filled with crunchy Cheetos. This isn't a debate about whether it is right or wrong for the NFL to include marijuana in their drug policy. 

These are collectively bargained policies. Just like how long players practice and whether they play with or without pads at training camp. Gordon agreed to this when he signed his $5.3 million rookie contract. 

The Browns were aware enough of his issues, but they still took a chance on him. They should have taken it to the next step and funded a "baby sitter." A mentor or advisor to keep him on track.  At least give him advice, like get a driver. Driving around Cleveland's suburbs in a camo Lamborghini is a big, fast target.    

Gordon needs to get serious about his career. Until he does, he is doomed to make the same mistakes. 

Johnny Manziel, Gronk and the Vegas peeps. 
In addition to Gordon and his issues, #22 Draft Pick, Johnny Manziel took some time off and went to Vegas. He then hooked up with Gronk and a variety of bikini wearing new friends. 

When this picture popped up on Twitter, the first thing I thought was how grateful I was that there was no Twitter when I was 21 and in Vegas. Ahem. Then the Browns fandom exploded. Fans were furious Johnny Football wasn't home studying the playbook. 

Look, at this very moment, I do not give a furry rat's rear if he is slamming tequila shots or slurping bacon vanilla bean apple pie milk shakes. Do. Not. Care. 

Manziel is bringing a frenzy to Browns football that I don't recall ever seeing. This buttercup is all buckled up for a wild ride.  Manziel is full of himself and that will make fun football or sorrow drowning Sundays. 

Once the season starts and if Johnny Football is out being the party boy with the rest of the team circling down the drain, mark my words, I will be all over him like ants on a powdered doughnut. I'm not going to press the panic button on him yet. 

I'm just going to wait and see...and like most years, I'm waiting for THIS to be the year.