Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Legend of Peyton Hillis

Peyton flexing his guns. photo: Getty Images.
The legend of Peyton Hillis continues.

Last season, Cleveland Browns fans were thrilled to receive Hillis in a trade with the Denver Broncos, all for draft picks and quarterback Brady Quinn. Hillis immediately became a fan favorite with his hard hitting, high flying running style. A blocker was in the way? No problem, Hillis would just leapfrog over them... or bulldoze through them. Add on top of that his good looks and charming "aww shucks" demeanor, and we have a winner.

From a fan's perspective, Hillis appears grateful for the attention and appreciative to the fans, which after dealing with LeBron and his "decision," Hillis is a refreshing change for Cleveland fans.Hillis wants to be here and he wants to win.

US Army half-ton truck. Photo: Public images.
During the NFL lockout, some players are doing wacky things. The Colts' Dallas Clark flexed his acting chops on Criminal Minds.  The Eagles' Kevin Kolb was trying to become the bass master by entering fishing tournaments. And what has Peyton Hillis been up to? The man is harnessing up to a half-ton truck and dragging it through his neighborhood.

Yes, you read that correctly. Like something out of one of the Rocky movies, Hillis is dragging a half-ton truck through Conway, Arkansas. On a light day, he drops the truck in exchange for a small car or atv.  A much easier workout.

My favorite thing that he is doing during the lock out is paying people to take the football away from him. As much as I love Hillis, he had several costly fumbles last season, something he knew had to change. So, to remedy his ball dropping, he is carrying a football around with him all day and telling people to knock it out when he least expects it. If you do, you get cash money. Let's face it sports fans, in this economy, I'm sure he has a lot of takers. Hillis admitted a few people got the ball away, but not many. This guy is doing everything possible to be a better ball carrier.

Hillis told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, "I'm not going to be happy until Cleveland wins a Super Bowl," he said. "Those individual goals come and go, but Super Bowls and the relationships you make with coaches, teammates and fans last forever."

I like the sound of that.

Hillis at his Football camp. Photo: Spotted-Conway, Arkansas.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Rudy and Buddy. No, I did not name them.
Growing up, I always had a pet. It was usually a dog and a cat, but there were always pets in the house. Somehow I always brought the cat home. I was five or so when I brought home our first kitten. We already had a dog (the best dog ever) but I thought a little kitten was what we really needed.

I was at my friend Bobby's house where his mom was giving away kittens to all of the neighborhood kids. She asked me if I wanted one and of course I said yes. After a full day of playing with my friends and our respective kittens, I remember strolling into the house with the kitten under my arm. My parents watched as I poured myself some apple juice and poured some milk for the kitten. We both sat on the floor and drank our beverages.

The conversation went a little something like this:
Dad: Hey kiddo, what are you doing?
Me:  Drinking my apple juice *eyeroll*
Dad: Whose kitten is that?
Me: Mine *eyeroll*
Dad: No, I mean where did you get it?
Me: Bobby's mom gave him to me.
Dad: I'll be right back.
Mom called Bobby's mom and it seems it was a "no takebacks" situation. I then threw some sort of hissy fit crying about if they could give the little kitten away, they would probably give a little kid like me away. And...we had our first cat.

After he passed away, the next kitten came when a cat had a litter in our garage. I snuck the cutest little orange puffball into the house and poof, cat #2. Kitty #2 had a long life until he passed away in his sleep. Mom was distraught, crying that they had just watched Judging Amy the night before.

About 8 years ago for Christmas, I brought home 2 kittens. I rescued them from the PetsMart, and since it was Christmas Eve, there was a discount if I took both.

My folks have kept the cats while I have been in Indiana and they have become a part of the family. I would even say that I like the cats more than I like some people. Last week, I had to do the most grown up gut wrenching god awful thing.

I had stayed home from work because I had a migraine and felt like all around poo. Shuffling around the house in my jammies, I couldn't find the little cat anywhere. After two hours of tearing apart the house, I found the little guy hiding in a closet in the ever flooded basement. He had meowed himself horse. His back legs were paralyzed.

Or course, I started to cry and scooped him up in his Indians snuggie and put him in a clothes basket so I could take him to the animal emergency room. I drove way too fast, one hand on the wheel, and the other trying to pet the kitty on our way to the Metropolitan Veterinary Hospital in Akron.

The vet was quick to get me in and I could tell things weren't going well. The poor cat couldn't move his back legs and by the look on the first doctor's face, this was not going to end well. The second vet came in and told me that the cat had a blood clot that went down his spine and the entire back half of his body was ice cold and not getting circulation.

Then, I had to make the call.

She told me that there was absolutely nothing that could be done to save the kitty and there was no surgery or miracle that could cure him. All while he was trying to crawl across the table, dragging his little body to rest his head on my arm.

I know it was best for the kitty, but I have never had to put a pet to sleep. It was the most awful decision I have ever had to make. On the way home I thought about my aunt and cousin, who both, randomly put their pets down when they tire of them. People like that have no soul. None.

Saddest post I have ever composed.

I still like that little cat more than a lot of people.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Indians, John Adams, and Me

A Cleveland Indians home game isn't official until John Adams arrives.
Memories are funny little things.

The things that your mind holds on to and you remember vividly like it happened before lunch and the things that disappear into the fog of yesterday are sometimes random. I can remember what my first bike looked like (blue with an awesome blue glittery banana seat) but I can't for the life of me remember anything about my fourth grade teacher.

Some of the best memories that I have are of me hanging out with my dad. maybe it was going to the Car Show and meeting Adam West (in full Batman costume mind you) or my favorite thing... going to Cleveland Indians games with him. We would sit in the bleachers at the old stadium or once and awhile in the reserved seats. I remember running up and down the crumbling cement stairs looking for our seats. I remember holding my dad's hand as we walked through the streets from the car to the stadium.  I remember napping on top of the dug out during a game against the Royals.

At one of those games, I learned a very important rule. At every game, you must eat a hot dog. And it *must* have stadium mustard on it. I must admit that it was a very good rule that I still follow to this day. Traditions are important you know.

If I rub my head, I can still feel the little dents made from the hard plastic from my Indians batting helmet poking into the top of my head. If you ever had one, you know that after a bit of playing and wear, the adjustable headband would break and you were stuck with a plastic hat with hard pieces sticking into your head.

I always associate Indians games with my dad and John Adams, the guy I affectionately referred to as the "Tom-Tom Guy." As a kid, I never knew his name. I just knew he was at every game I was and he had the best job on Earth. During one game, while pointing to the bleachers with my hot dog, I proudly announced that I decided what I wanted to do with my life. My dad looked down at me settling in for whatever was coming next. I proclaimed to the entire section, "I'm going to be the first Tom Tom Girl!" I don't think he had the heart to tell me that John Adams was just a fan and he didn't get paid for playing his drum at games.

Last weekend, I was wandering around the ball park and I saw John Adams carrying his drum in the concourse  and I couldn't help myself. I introduced myself, rambled on about how awesome he was and how I wanted to be him when I grew up and I begged him to let me hit the drum. John and his guest (I feel like such an idiot because I can't for the life of me remember her name) were incredibly gracious and polite. John gave me a big hug and said I should look for him in the bleachers and he would see what he could do.

As I walked away, I was smiling so much I was certain my face was going to crack. I felt like I hit the powerball. He must get asked that question thousands of times throughout the season, and he was going to let me take part in the tradition.

I sat in my seat and hurriedly texted and tweeted while waiting for John to get settled with his drum and for the game to begin. Finally, the game began and I sprinted to the top of the bleachers to meet John and his drum.

It was clear that John had done this before. He smiled as he welcomed me up to his perch and posed for pictures. As he handed over the drum stick to me and instructed me how to hit the drum without breaking my hand. I was giddy, raising the stick and then BOOM!

I couldn't help but laugh. I looked at John and told him this was a dream come true. And then I started crying. Not sobbing or wailing (thank God), but just tears streaming down my face, sneaking past my sunglasses. I have no idea why. Maybe it was because I was so happy. Maybe it was because the sound of the drum reminded me of a simpler time - just a dad and a daughter hanging out and watching a game and eating hot dogs. Either way, John gave me a big hug and thanked me.

Before I even made it down the bleachers I had called my dad.

All I can think about is how great it is to be back in Cleveland.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Family Jewels - When Reality is Real

Gene Simmons & Family. (photo: A&E)
I don't believe it is any big secret that I adore so- called reality TV. Anyone that follows me on twitter (@clevelandchick) has seen my "Survivor Mom tweets." I love shows that I call Docu-Reality. These programs follow regular people on a regular day in their regular life. Shows like Parking Wars,  The Real World (season 1),  and a favorite of mine - Gene Simmons Family Jewels.

I first started watching the show, unsure of what to expect. After a few episodes I was hooked. Interwoven into the "story" of each episode are home movies of Shannon (Gene's long time girlfriend) and their two children, Nick and Sophie. The program then cuts to present day and off we go to a sold out Kiss concert or to a nail salon.

What I find most endearing about Family Jewels, is the same thing that won my heart with the Osbournes... at the end of the day, they have the same problems as I do, except in a much nicer home. How many times have we had a neighbor that drove us to the edge? Sharon Osbourne did. She chucked a ham over the fence at a "techno blaring late into the night" neighbor. Classic.

On the season premiere of Family Jewels, Shannon welcomes Nick and Sophie home from college for dinner and is waiting for Gene to show up for dinner. And waiting. And waiting. Finally the kids dig in and Shannon goes to bed. Meanwhile, there are cut aways to Gene at a business meeting with lots of floozies. And then someone sends Shannon a text. She checks online and sees that TMZ has posted a pic of Gene leaving the restaurant, floozy under each arm.


Something for Shannon finally snapped. She confronts Gene about the women, and he mumbles along, and eventually agrees to go to see, in his words, a shrink.

The episode ends with Gene out of the house and  Shannon packing up heading for the door. She was upset and crying and trying to get out the door that was stuck shut. Ugh. At that point, the show was no longer mere entertainment. There was nothing funny about what I was watching. It was like watching Intervention - someone's life was raw and exposed in front of you. There was no director telling Shannon to keep crying and tugging on a door you can't unlock, trapping her in front of the cameras a little too long.

In the past couple of days, Shannon and Gene have been on a few awkward news programs doing publicity for the show. One of the programs even resulted in Shannon walking off in the middle of the interview. Folks jumped online and claimed it was all a show. More publicity from the master Gene Simmons.

I'm here to tell you that I'm about as jaded as they come. But, I didn't see a scripted performance. The emotions from the family were real. All due respect to the family, I don't think they are that good of actors to pull it off.

Will I be watching next week? Absolutely. But this time, I'm not watching for shenanigans. This time, I'm watching to see if the family can come back together and make it work.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cleveland + LeBron James = Complicated

AP Photo.
After the Dallas Mavericks won the NBA Championship, Cleveland fans celebrated as much as Mavericks fans did - maybe a little more. Most of the country "got" it. Most people finally - finally understood why Cleveland had been so upset with LeBron, particularly after his press conference. 

After the game, Lebron was asked by a reporter if it bothered him that people (Cleveland) wanted him to fail. Here was his response:
"Absolutely not. Because at the end of the day, all the people that was rooting on me to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today. They have the same personal problems they had today. I'm going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want to do with me and my family and be happy with that.
They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal, but they have to get back to the real world at some point."
Thank you LeBron for helping to prove our point.

But still, there are some people that are calling Cleveland whiny and to cut LeBron a break. To understand Cleveland's relationship with LeBron, let me first describe it in a way that most people can understand and then we can go from there.

Picture it...we are kids together, LeBron and Cleveland. We knew each other since elementary school and we are finally high school seniors. All along, we have always had a little crush on LeBron. Over the years, we did his homework, decorated his locker, cheered for him at all of his games. We knew he would go far before anyone else did. We were proud of him.

He wasn't always grateful to the time we put sweet-tarts in his locker instead of nerds. He said he was going to transfer schools over it and we panicked...we bought nerds for the *whole* team. Whew. But he was one of us...a classmate, so we put up with his behavior. We told ourselves that it was ok. He was under pressure or it was our fault we forgot the nerds. When it came down to it, at long last, people all over the state would look at our school. They would see how awesome we are.

When it came to the end of our senior year, we were giddy with excitement. We thought for sure LeBron wanted to go to prom with us. So, we asked. And then we waited and waited and waited for his answer. We asked all of our friends to help nudge him along. There really was no other option we thought. He would totally go to prom with us. All those other girls that were going after him had nothing on us.

At the last moment, we got an answer. LeBron called and said that on the day of prom, to meet him in front of the Dairy Queen and he would pick us up. Yayyy! We bought the most beautiful dress, dipping into our college fund to pay for it. All of those years baby sitting little brats and shoveling out the manure from the horse stalls was totally worth it.

Mom and dad, Uncle Dan, and our cousins from Columbus chipped in and we got our hair and nails done, a purse and shoes dyed to match our dress perfectly.   We left nothing to chance. We were at our most stunning. We stood in front of the Dairy Queen in the middle of town, looking our best, grinning from ear to ear.

And we waited.

And waited.

As the afternoon wore on, people started to point and laugh, but we still thought he was coming for us. Teams of little leaguers started to stream in for their dilly bars. And still,  we waited.

Then the kid from study hall came over to us and then hopped on the picnic table with a megaphone, "Yo! Bron isn't going to prom with you. He is going chill with his boys instead."

Clouds started to swirl in the sky as it turned dark and started to rain. We had to walk home through the downpour in our uncomfortable, yet stylish shoes, as everyone laughed and pointed at us. "What a fool!" people yelled.

My question is who is the fool now?

Cleveland loved LeBron in a way no other city ever will. Had he stayed, ring or no ring, one day he would have had a statue in front of the Q and his jersey would have hung from the rafters.

LeBron made his decision and if he doesn't like the consequences of his decision, all I have to say is "tough." 

Welcome to the real world LeBron.

Getty images.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thank You Mark Cuban

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban celebrates with his team. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Dear Mark Cuban,

Thank you.

Much like Cleveland's Dan Gilbert, you are not only an owner of an NBA team, you are a fan. You understand that nothing can unite a city quicker than a win from their favorite team. Or bond them in misery with a loss.

You also love the game.

You cheer and yell and shout yourself until your voice is silent. You are passionate and vocal about your team.

As fans, we appreciate that. We are more than a dollar sign in the seats to you. We respect that. We are your friends and neighbors hitching along for the ride.

If there is a bad call, you are with us asking the ref if he forgot his glasses. But, like you, we want the game to be fair.

That, sir, is what made The Decision from LeBron and his pals so frustrating. It wasn't fair. It wasn't the way the game is supposed to be. LeBron and Wade didn't want to work hard and build a team. He wanted one out of the box. It's the difference between building a beautiful bookshelf with your own hands or buying one at Wal-Mart.

Cleveland loved and supported LeBron James and overlooked his poor behavior in the quest to win a title. We were blinded by the far off glint of a trophy.

You have shown us all that hard work and a true love of the game can triumph over greed and selfishness.

A short cut is just a quick way to get lost.

Thank you sir and congratulations to the Mavericks!

Note: In honor of Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert, this blog is in comic sans. As much as it hurts my head, it was the right thing to do.

Edited to add: This post was in comic sans and so was all of the other posts in my blog. I was forced to change it back. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Great Lakes Brewing Company - Sometimes A Beer Is More Than A Beer

Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland, Ohio

Sometimes, a beer is more than just a frosty tasty adult beverage.

In all the years I lived away from Cleveland, there would be days that I got homesick.When you are hundreds of miles away from friends and family, it happens. I'm not made of stone here people. Maybe a big game was on and I had no one to share a win with or commiserate a loss with, or maybe it was Tuesday. So, on those days, I would do anything I could to feel a little more connected to home.

Maybe that meant breaking out a bottle of Stadium Mustard and making a hot dog while trying to watch a grainy feed of the Cleveland Indians on the internet.Or maybe watching the opening credits of the Drew Carey Show when he was running through Cleveland. Sometimes, if I were exceptionally lucky, I would find a 6 pack of Great Lakes Brewing Company Dortmunder Gold. I can tell you that on more than one occasion, that beer would have enough dust on it that I could make a little smiley face in it before happily drinking it down.

On the weekends or holidays that I would return to Cleveland, it was spent with my folks in the burbs or in Akron visiting my friends. Time was short and I had to make the most of it.

When I decided to find a job and get back to Cleveland, a process that took *years,* part of what kept me motivated was things like going to Cavs/Indians/Browns games any time I wanted. Rolling around in the back of my head was the idea that I could go to the Rock Hall and have lunch with Little Richard. The awesome scenarios were endless. But the most exciting thing for me was envisioning the cool places I would hang out in and make my own.

Great Lakes Brewing Company is one of those places. Not only is it the first microbrewery in Ohio, but the Taproom bar has bullet holes in it rumored to be from Eliot Ness. And I thought Indianapolis' Slippery Noodle was cool.

Each time I have visited Great Lakes Brewing Company, it has been a great experience. The history of the bar is intertwined with the city of Cleveland. The beers are exceptional and the food is darn tasty (I'm a big fan of the Italian Market pizza or the pierogies of course).

Last night, I met some friends for happy hour in the bar and it was exactly how I had pictured it in my head, all those years living in Tennessee and Indiana.

What can I say?

I'm happy in Cleveland.