Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dear Madden Curse

Getty Images
After weeks of voting, it is official, Peyton Hillis is the new cover boy for Madden 2012. If you are not into video games, it is one of the most profitable and loved game franchises. Starting in 1999, EA Sports selected an outstanding player for the cover box, and honor in the vein of a Wheaties box or the cover of Sports Illustrated

The player on the cover of the Madden box is rumored to be cursed, and after being on the cover, their play declines (usually due to injury). Eddie George lost the 2001 Playoffs, Daunte Culpepper threw 23 interceptions and broke a record for number of fumbles. Ouch. And of course in 2004, Michael Vick broke his leg in preseason and then eventually got busted for dog fighting.

In 2007, LaDainian Tomlinson's fans were so upset, they started a website to voice their opposition to LT being on the cover. Tomlinson eventually declined the honor.

You know what I say to the curse?
Dear Madden Curse,

This is Cleveland.  

We have the curse of Rocky Colavito. We have the curse of the ESPN Cleveland sports fail reel.  We have lived through Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble and the LeBron.
We have lived through our hearts being ripped out by Art Modell as he waved a wand and turned the Browns into the SuperBowl Champion Baltimore Ravens.

We have watched our teams come to the door of championship to be turned away by a slip, a fumble, a missed shot, an ouchie elbow. 
All due respect Mr. Curse, there is nothing that you can do to Cleveland that we don't already have a t-shirt proclaiming that we have "been there, done that." 

In closing, on behalf of Browns fans all over the world, thank you for forcing Steelers fans to bow down to Peyton Hillis when they want to play your game. We appreciate that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Time to Believe

Josh Cribbs and Randy Hodges. AP Photo
I know it is the Indians time to shine right now, and shining they are by the way, but there is something that happened with the Browns this week that impressed me. And after LeBron, I'm pretty jaded about my sports players, so this is a big deal.

This ridiculous lockout has been going on and back and forth for entirely too long now. The entire NFL season is on the line here. Not to mention the SuperBowl in Indianapolis. With all the self-centered posturing and greed (I'm looking directly at you Mr. James) that coats sports today like the "You Can't Do That on Television" slime, Josh Cribbs renewed my faith in athletes.

The other day, Cribbs and a few other players showed up to the Browns training facility to work out. They were politely turned away by the security team since everything is in legal limbo until the NFL Lockout is settled. And then a funny thing happened. The guys could have gone home to take a nap, or maybe went out to get some waffles, but they didn't.

The guys walked in, looked around and decided that they wanted to get started. The guys went to the Cleveland Metroparks to work out. Previously, they have worked out in Texas with Colt McCoy and are planning on working out at Cribbs' alma mater, Kent State.

I have a good feeling about this season. The Browns are showing that they want to win and now, it looks like they are serious. To that I say, WOOF!
AP Photo  

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What can a little rain hurt?

Last weekend I had the bright idea to go to the Indians game. Mother Nature was telling me that I have been to too many Tribe games of late.

It was a cold and dreary day but the weather said it should clear up by game time, so off I went. The goal was to get whatever cheap seat was a available and then hook up with my friends.

Goal is the operative word in that sentence.

I parked my car in my new favorite creepy garage (by Fat Fish Blue, only 6 bucks) and walked over to the ballpark. I found out my friends were in the club, so I procured a bleacher seat with access to the Terrace Club. Wrong club.

I got a window seat in the Terrace Club and happily chomped on a hot dog and watched as the rain came down in buckets.

The field crew was amazing. They covered the field, uncovered the field and then squeeged the field to get rid of the water. 

Watching the crew roll up the field cover was a feat. It took a couple of tries before they were able to roll the cover around a large pipe.

I wandered out to my seat in the bleachers, because really, it is always better to watch a game from the stands than behind the glass.

The rain started again and I wandered around the park looking for cover and a place to watch the game, since my tweet your seat didn't get me a better seat.

After watching an inning or two I wandered down behind home plate and snagged a seat. Most of the fans had left (or never showed up) so I was confident I wasn't in someone else's seat.

I stayed for the rest of the game, watched a tribe win and hung out with the hardcore fans.

I can't wait for a sunny game.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

BSpot Yo!

The wall o' beer cans at BSpot. I would like to help with the next.
This weekend, I had a grand adventure visiting hometown hero Michael Symon's new BSpot joint in Strongsville. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that most regular everyday situations for me end up being sitcom gold and this day was no different.

Before I carry on, it is important to remember that while I don't consider myself a “foodie”, I’m a restaurant rat. I have worked in restaurants for more years than I am willing to share, as a server, bartender, manager, you name it, I have done it (don’t get me going on my schnitzel butter burns). I’m picky.  There. I said it. I expect good service and a good product. If I get that, I’m your friend for life. If I don’t, well, that is best left alone.

Back to the story...

I made plans with my friends to go to lunch at BSpot. It opens at 11, we get there by 10:45 and we are happy campers. I wanted my friend to be there at 10:45, knowing she and her husband are always late and they would just make it by 11. Good thing I did because there was a line out the door for the place to open. I was giddy. 

Sure enough, my friends showed up at 11 as I was walking through the entrance. Since BSpot only seats complete parties, I was ready to go it alone if they weren’t there in time. Yes, I was that excited. 

The hostess sat us at a booth and we scooted in and opened our menus. And then the hostess told us we were at the wrong table and she scooted us out of our booth and then to another booth across the restaurant.

Ruh rho.

We shrugged and followed her to table #2. I told myself that it wasn’t a sign of things to come. We ordered drinks and checked out the menu. When my soda arrived,  I took a swig and it was flat as a crepe (see, I could have said pancake there, but a crepe is so much flatter).
Balls of crap rolling down hill filled my mind. I didn’t like where things were going.  I told myself that it was opening week, the place looks cool, so it was all going to be cool.
I asked our server his recommendation for wings and he said the lime and cilantro ones were the best. He described them in great detail. Awesome we said. We’ll take them.


So our food arrives and so does my soda (nice and bubbly thank you) and the wings have what appeared to be jalapenos on them. I looked at them. Looked at my friends. Looked at the wings then looked at the server. When he came by, I asked him if this was right. He looked at the wings then at me. Then at the wings and at the kitchen. He said he didn't think so, apologized profusely and off he went.

Again, I shrugged and started to dig in.I went with the Yo! burger burger with fried salami, coppa, hot peppers (I left those off, ick), provolone and shasha hot sauce. Before I go on, let me just say now, that this was the best burger I have ever chowed down on and I would eat it every day of my life until my heart exploded.

I start tweeting away when a guy comes over to the table to tell us about our wings and how they come with the chilies but they are remaking them etc. I said, "No problem man, we just wasn't sure of those were right with the jalapenos and all." The guy was very nice and explaining everything.

And then I looked up...

The man at our table was none other than the Iron Chef himself, one Mr. Michael Symon. Gulp. After he walked away, my face turned every shade of red imaginable. Whew. I giggled like a school girl.

My friend got the Lola burger with fried egg, bacon, pickled red onions, cheddar and mayo which she proclaimed to be the best burger she had ever consumed. I tried it and I admit it was darn tasty, but she likes her burger with its hoofs on, so I stuck with my burger. Her hubby got a Stadium style brat, with you guessed it, stadium mustard on it. Yum.

The other exciting thing about the place is they have a pickle bar. And it isn't just pickles, but it is things pickled. Pickled tomatoes, pickled onions, pickled pickles. There was some amazing relish on there too, so be sure to try it all.

My stalker shot of Michael Symon chatting.
Let's talk about Michael Symon for a second. First, I was amazed that he was in the place. I know he is from Cleveland, but seeing him on the Food Network, you forget that he is still one of us here in town. And he is one of us in case you were wondering. He was walking around the restaurant, talking to the tables, happily taking pictures with old and young alike and even clearing tables.He was naturally friendly, with no sneer as he walked away from people. I would say he genuinely enjoyed being there and chatting with the people.

He joked with us about the opening week at Roast, his restaurant in Detroit. The place has huge rotisseries, with whole pigs, goats, you name it spinning around. A woman walked in, looked around and then passed out. Seems the woman was a vegetarian. We all got a good laugh about that. He talked a little about his family and his mom putting the kibash on him going to LA. It was like talking to your college roommate's awesome friend from back in the day.

I know it is nerdy, but I shook his hand and said we were proud of him. Cleveland is proud of him. I think I took him back a bit, but it is true. We all know I get incredibly sentimental when talking about Cleveland and the fact that this guy loves the city too? He is a good egg in my book.  Then I got off the mushy train and asked his recommendation for a milkshake. He looked at me and said, "You know what I'm going to pick." And I said, "Just checking" and chuckled.

I went with the Vanilla Bean Apple Pie Bacon with Bourbon and my friend got the Chocolate Espresso with Frangelico.

Great googily moogily. 

The milkshake was conceivably the best milkshake I have ever had and if I got hit by a bus on the way out, I would have died happy. I can't even describe how amazing it was. While there was booze in it, it wasn't so much that you were going to fall over. The flavors all mixed in ways I had never imagined. I say this with complete confidence, if you skip this shake, you are missing out and your life is not complete.

My friend loved her chocolate shake and thought the espresso beans was a wonderful touch.  The Frangelico added to the flavor and was very tasty.

Overall, would I recommend BSpot? Without hesitation. The interior is cool and hip without being pretentious. The staff was friendly without being condescending. Strongsville is still the burbs and you will get people that have never even tried anything pickled other than a pickle, so a helpful staff is key.

The food was a-maz-ing. The burgers are made out of the best meat money can buy and it shows. 

And seeing Michael Symon wandering around the joint? Well, that is an added bonus. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Play Ball!

There are few things greater than a sunny day and baseball. Cleveland Indians games are the start of Spring and better things to come. The long winter has been banished and everything starts over. I look at it as a re-do for the year.

Having recently returned from Indians Spring Training, I was, to put it simply, super excited for Opening Day. I have not been to an Opening Day in years. Fortunately for me, I have a very understanding boss and I was able to take half the day off to get to the game.

One of the many things that I love about Cleveland is the excitement for a new season. We are so used to “waiting for next year” that when it finally arrives it is like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus hopping down the street. The city of Cleveland was buzzing about the start of the Tribe’s season. So many people were pumped up for the game that getting to work was a breeze since so many people played hooky. The sun was shining. It had the makings of an awesome day.

It is important to note that I normally have an “I don’t pay for parking” philosophy. In Indianapolis, I know of every secret parking spot or if I have to pay *shudders*, I know of the $3 lots, even on event days. Cleveland? Not so much. After circling round and round and a flurry of words inappropriate for anyone reading my blog at work, I finally found a $10 lot. I love Cleveland, but parking in Cleveland is on my list of things I hate. Although, I could have been trying to park in Chicago, which is hideous, so I decided to be grateful and paid my 10 bucks to hoof it to the ballpark.

I made my way towards the park and with a bit of sadness, watched groups of people taking pictures with the Bob Feller statue. The police officer even got into the spirit and played photographer for the day.  It was nice to see how important Bob Feller is to the fans.
After a trip to the Tribe Wheel of Fun (that is what I call it), and my first hot dog of the season, I made my way to my seats. The seats were great. An amazing view of the park and field. And in the shade. I made a mental note that these would be perfect seats for a sweltering day, all in an attempt to stay positively warm.
The Indians had a video reel of Bob Feller and his wife was later escorted onto the field to place a ball on the pitcher’s mound in honor of her late husband. *sniffles* Major League Baseball was a bit grinchy and would not allow the Indians to wear Feller’s number during the game, so all the players wore #19 during the tribute and then later changed. This was the point that I decided I am going to buy a Tribe jersey with Feller’s number on it. No way to go wrong with that one.

During the game, the Indians were not on top of their game and the crowd started to drink a little more and become a bit more entertaining. I had the interesting pleasure of sitting behind a couple that instantly reminded me of the episode of Rosanne in which Sharon Stone was living in the trailer park with Mark and Becky.  I have never in my life seen two people drink more beer. Both of them had a beer for each hand and they were tossing them back like Kool-Aid. I think their goal was to get slizzerd.

At one point, the woman started screaming at her husband that she was tired of him controlling her and she wanted to get something to eat. The husband, who I don’t believe controls much of anything, offered to buy her a hot dog. Then the show began. The woman started bellowing, “YOU KNOW I DON’T EAT NO DAMN WIENERS!”


This went on for a few more minutes, her barking about wieners and her hatred of wieners, until she grabbed his wallet, took all his money and said she was off to get some real food. Not no damn wieners.
I was just glad I had already eaten my damn wiener and had moved on to my damn peanuts.
The Tribe lost the game, even after a surge toward a comeback. But I was still happy to be at the game.

I’m just happy to be back in Cleveland.
My damn wiener. Sadly, the Tribe took away the relish.