Sunday, March 25, 2012

Why Cleveland Needs a Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow.
The Cleveland Browns need Tim Tebow.

The city of Cleveland needs Tim Tebow.

Or, we at least a reasonable facsimile.

Play along on this one...

Colt McCoy doesn't have what it takes to lead the Cleveland Browns.

I think Colt McCoy is a nice kid, but I think Tebow would crush him in the role of quarterback. I'm just going to put it on the line here, after that punishing blow by James Harrison last year,  I don't think McCoy will ever be the same.

McCoy getting flattened.
The concussion that resulted was *at least* the second major one for McCoy. The last one was so bad that he was out of commission for an unusually long period of time. McCoy will be hesitant on the field and he will get hurt this season because of it.

Not only that, but the medical staff on the sidelines that is supposed to protect him failed. Yes, they were tending to other players, but no coaches saw the hit? No one in the booth? Or heavens to Murgatroid, Holmgren didn't see it?

McCoy is going to carry all of that the next time he trots out onto the field. I will happily chomp each megabyte I type if he is a success. But, I'm sorry, he doesn't have it.

That is the easy answer as to why the Browns needed to go after Tebow. McCoy isn't the guy we need at quarterback. But it goes much deeper than that.

My pic from the NFL Experience.
The Browns needed Tebow to be relevant. At the NFL Experience this year in Indianapolis, the most talked about photo opportunity was Tebow's locker. I couldn't get a clear shot of the Browns' Joe Thomas stuff without someone Tebowing.

The only time I had ever seen Browns jerseys for sale outside of Cleveland was in Indianapolis when Brady Quinn, the Notre Dame quarterback was drafted.

This isn't just about selling jerseys. It is about having someone that can rally the city, or better yet, that the city can rally behind and be proud of.

With all his faults and lack of break up skills, LeFoolio did give the city something. I still get a tear, albeit an angry one now, at those Nike commercials. The old folks showing their pride cheering from the nursing home or little kids getting 23 painted on their faces. I hadn't seen anything like that since the Kardic Kids.

Kardiac Kids shirt that all the cool kids had.

I begged and pleaded for that damn Kardiac Kids tshirt. It had my elementary school name on the back. It was a great time. The whole city was behind the team. It was a phenomenon.

And then..nothing until the Cavs drafted some kid out of St. Vincent-St. Mary high school.

LeFoolio left a void in the city landscape, and I don't just mean the Nike banner across from the Q.

When he was bringing everyone to town to dance in front of him, the city bonded together to do everything they could to make him stay.

For crying out loud, Dick Goddard was in a video for him.  Dick. Goddard.

Everyone got involved not only because we wanted a winning basketball team, which don't get it twisted, so do I, but it was about making Cleveland relevant again.

Who else on the Cavs could do that? No one. Sure, Kyrie Irving is great, but he isn't a superstar.

What about the Indians? We briefly had super slugger Jim Thome home. You couldn't find a red knee high sock in the city last year. Sadly though, he moved on.  While we have our local favorites, there isn't anyone on the tribe that brings the city together. It isn't like we traded for Albert Pujois.

That brings us back to the Browns. Even though I love Phil Dawson, Josh Cribbs and the rest of the guys, no one else cares. Sure, Joe Haden is a great fan favorite, but until my mom can pick him out, it isn't a big enough deal. We had a brief flash of recognition with our Madden cover boy, Peyton Hillis, but that ended in a hot mess. 

Even though the Tebow deal is going back and forth and is being finalized with the Jets, we didn't even try to get him. As a fan, it makes me want to pull each of the hairs in my eyebrows out, one by one. The Browns need to get the team back on track with someone.

The city's fanbase is a demoralized mess.

I would like for Cleveland to be known for something other than not chucking car batteries onto the court at LeFoolio and a puppet re-enactment of a major trial.

I'm holding out for a hero.

Or at least another Iron Chef.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Indians Spring Training

Asdrubal's hat and shades.

There are a few places that I could go every year for vacation and be perfectly content. Indians Spring Training in Goodyear, Arizona is one of those places.

The sky is bright blue, the sun is shining and there is barely a wispy cloud floating by. 

The atmosphere is perfect for any baseball fan. All of the teams play within 30 minutes or so of one another, so it is easy to follow your favorite team from park to park. Each park tries to take on some of the characteristics of the home team. At Goodyear, home of the Indians, you will find stadium mustard. Camelback, home of the White Sox has all the fixins for Chicago dogs.

For me though, the best part is the easy vibe that wafts over the stands. The ushers are OK if you wander around to take pictures. Players sign autographs. Fans chit chat with one another. It is incredibly relaxing.

While I love seeing the games, the best part for me is watching practice.The guys are laid back and you have up close access to them.

Choo and Kipnis having a laugh.

The players are chatty, some of them and you can joke around with them. Choo was especially funny when fans gave him a little grief about his bats. He has a special bag for each bat, and then he puts each bagged bat into his bag.

There is a short chain link fence at the practice facility that fans hang on, hoping their favorite player will stop by to sign something. In the interest of full disclosure, I am an autograph hound. Somehow I missed that phase as a kid, so I am making up for it now. 

The folks hanging out for autographs are mostly fans and dealers. I was getting signatures for my own personal excitement, while a few guys were doing it for eBay.

Travis Hafner signing autographs.
I know it has to be weird. These guys are at "work" and people are constantly breaking their concentration by pleading for a chicken scratch across a ball. Most of the players were awesome. Some, well, some are rumored to be jerks. Stories on the fence circulated about who was tough to get (Mr. Always Owie Sizemore for one) and who was amazing (Manny Acta). There were some awful stories, one in particular about a player I won't name. A kid (the kid told the story) asked him for an autograph. He said later. The player came by again, and the kid asked again. The player said no. The player walked by again and the kid asked again. The player walked straight up to the kid and barked, "I told you NO! I mean NO!" Yikes.

But, in all fairness, there are days at work I am cranky and am doing everything I can not to scratch out the eyes of my co-workers. I can only imagine the carnage if people were yelling at me and God forbid harassing me while I was trying to go to the bathroom. 

So, I get it. As Mr. Asdrubal Cabrera told me, he was working. Eeek. 

Super Jack Hannahan signing.
Fortunately for me though, I was able to meet all the players that I wanted and they all signed my sign.
I originally had a gold sharpie paint pen but that ended up being a big fat fail, so I fell back on my pocket full of silver sharpies. I think it turned out awesome. 

On a side note, if you are trying to get baseballs autographed, I have a few hints. First, if it is a new ball, rub it down with alcohol and let it dry. Then, use a basic trusty ol blue ball point pen for the autographs. Sharpies will fade after time on the ball, but the blue ball point will last decades.

Sharpies work best on photos and bats. In case you were wondering.

Since I returned from Spring Training, every one asks me what the team looks like and my predictions. 

I will tell you the same thing I say every year. 

This my friends, is the year.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tweeting NASA Style

When I was a kid, my favorite field trip was to NASA Lewis Research Center. A day of learning about science, dreaming of space and scarfing down astronaut ice cream. A kid's perfect day.

My parents however, would dread those trips because it meant more Tang in the house. Thankfully, they played along. I grew up loving everything space, from TV shows like Lost in Space, Star Trek and even the Jetsons to movies and books.

As an adult, I have come to realize how amazing NASA really is and how getting to space was and is more than clicking your heels and making it so.

Twitter has afforded me many things since I jumped into the nest. Free hotel rooms, ball games, swag, but nothing better than and official NASA Tweet up.

For those not surrounded by the Twitter landscape, a Tweet Up is an opportunity to meet people face to face that you have been conversing with in cyberspace. Usually a bar or restaurant will host tweeters for a few hours in hopes of getting the name of their business repeated fast and furiously. They are great, fun events that help you to put name to avatar.

NASA has started to have Tweet Ups around the country and the one in Cleveland was to honor the 50th anniversary of John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth. John Glenn is a true American hero. And if you are an Ohioan, he is a favorite son.

The event started with issuing of government badges and a bus tour of NASA Glenn Research Center.

The first stop for our group was the hanger will all sorts of planes and equipment including an ejection seat. It was at this stop that I learned that of the 100 people invited to the event, less than 30 were from Cleveland. There were folks that drove from all over to be a part of this program.  While wandering around the massive hanger, looking at planes and chatting with the staff, I noticed that these people love their job. Everyone from the pilots to the souvenir stand folks love what they do. Most of them had no idea how to tweet, but that was OK. Everyone was happy to show them.

Not only did NASA have lots of staffers for us to talk to, they also set up a charging station so everyone could keep their phones and laptops alive.

As the tour continued, we visited a couple of labs. This was the Exercise Countermeasures Lab, and Jeff hooked up to the treadmill. This contraption tests what it is like to walk in space. It looked incredibly uncomfortable, but he assured us that he was fine.

Again, the staff was friendly and chatty. The best part of this section was a story they told us about the crew on the space station. It seemed that the guys were tired of taking sponge baths, so in an area that was not covered by cameras, they built a shower. Shortly after there was a problem with mold on the station and the guys had to come clean about their build. Ingenious.

After leaving this lab, we went on to see the largest zero gravity chamber in the world and then we hustled on to the Great Lakes Science Center.

While at the GLSC, we were able to grab some lunch and take a quick tour of the NASA artifacts there, including the capsule from Skylab.

Most of the museum type pieces that used to be at NASA Glenn, are now at the Great Lakes Science Center. One advantage to the items being there is accessibility. With NASA being a government facility, if you are not a US citizen, you were previously unable to visit the museum. In their new home, any tourist or space fan can enjoy them.

Since we were on such a tight schedule, the people at the GLSC were nice enough to give everyone a free pass to come back and visit another time. With so many interactive exhibits, I can't wait to go back.

The next stop was Cleveland State University, where the ceremony honoring John Glenn was taking place. The audience was full of NASA and government muckity mucks and 100 social media fiends. During the presentation, there was a video honoring Glenn and it struck me how different a time it was 50 years ago. The capsule that Glenn left the Earth in was the size of a VW beetle and had less computing power.

When Glenn returned from orbit, he was welcomed a hero with a parade sitting next to President Kennedy. His trip to space helped change the future. As I sat in the audience, I couldn't help but wonder if there will ever be another American Hero like Glenn.

The highlight of the program was John Glenn speaking to the audience about the importance of education and funding NASA for the US to stay competitive.

I thought that was the highlight of the day.

After the program, we were escorted to the media room for a press conference featuring NASA brass, John Glenn and astronauts.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, John Glenn, and NASA Glenn Director Ray  Lugo

Surprisingly, the media had few questions. The twitter attendees however could have gone on for hours and hours.

Seated left to right are Steve Lindsey, Box Johnson, Mike Foreman and Mike Good
After Glenn and the NASA chiefs left, a panel of astronauts sat through a Q & A. Again, the social media folks could have asked questions for hours. What struck me as incredibly funny was astronaut "Box" Johnson. The guys were joking a bit about nicknames and how he wanted to go by his nickname.

I could not for the life of me get the Big Bang Theory out of my head and the episode where Wolowitz tries to get a cool astronaut nickname.

As everyone scrambled to get a picture with an astronaut or an autograph, I realized how incredibly lucky I was for this opportunity.

On the return bus trip, one of our guides thanked us for our excitement and enthusiasm. She said that we were a reminder for how incredibly awesome their jobs were.

I wonder if NASA will hire me and if there is Tang in the break room.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Clipper Darrell

Clipper Darrell posing with his Clippermobile.
If there was one thing that I learned by being a Cleveland fan, it is that it is dog gone tough being a fan. Having to go through season after season of agony and defeat, while coaches and managers babble on incessantly about something called rebuilding.

But, there is a certain joy that comes out of banding together with other fans... a misery loves company situation.  And when there are fans that have jumped to the level of SuperFan, that makes losing fun. Ok, not really fun, but not as gut wrenching.  The Indians have John Adams, the Jets have Fireman Ed, and the Clippers have "Clipper Darrell"

They had Clipper Darrell.

For at least the past 15 years, Clipper Darrell, otherwise known as Darrell Bailey has been going to Clippers games and being that guy. The guy that goes all out, in a ridiculous half red half blue suit, leading cheers to nowhere. This is the guy that is known all through the city, at all of the games as the Clippers SuperFan. A SuperFan of a team that since 1993, and I'm baffeled as I type this, a team that has had one season where they won more games than they lost. Since 1993. 



So I am befuddled when the Clippers finally have a team in contention with players like Chris Paul and dunkmaster Blake Griffin that they would tell him to tone it down. The Clippers wanted him to just go back to being good ol Darrell. The Clippers claimed that he was making a profit off of his name and association with the team.  

He made this announcement:
It is with great sadness that I must report to all those in NBA NATION that I have been told by Clipper management they no longer want me to be Clipper Darrell, a name that was given to me by the media because of my unwavering support and team spirit. I am devastated!!!!

I'm sure SuperFans make so much money having drunks scream at them from the balconies for a picture and visiting sick kids at the hospital.

In their defense, the Clippers organization issued a statement. For all of you Browns fans, you might see a similarity between the PR team of Peyton Hillis and the Clippers. 

It is so ridiculous, I am going to post the whole thing.
“The Clippers have done absolutely nothing wrong or inappropriate as it concerns Darrell Bailey. His claims are absurd and unfounded. He has never been an employee or representative of the Clippers organization, and therefore cannot be terminated. The Clippers have never engaged Mr. Bailey’s services. When he has been in need, the organization has regularly provided him a seat for games. No good deed goes unpunished.

We have had multiple conversations with him concerning his inappropriate use of the Clippers’ team name and trademark for his own unmonitored commercial gain. We have spoken to him repeatedly about his desire to make public appearances in ways which improperly suggest that he is officially affiliated with our organization. In all cases and over a long period of time, he has consistently rejected our efforts to operate in consultation.

In a conversation with an authoritative and tenured Clippers’ executive last week, he was asked again to either consult with the team on all public appearances and/or commercial ventures, or stop undertaking those opportunities representing himself inappropriately. His response was an offer to stop representing himself commercially in that way and his offer was accepted in principle.
The next thing we heard was the baseless claims he has made today and the ensuing media rush to judgment.

We hold all of our fans in the highest esteem and we have been patient and generous with Mr. Bailey. He has not returned our support in an honorable way. He is not actually a fan of the Clippers, but a fan of what he can make off of the Clippers.  We are no longer interested in that kind of association with him, and that is why we accepted his offer to remove our team name from his stage name.”
I think everyone that every commented on Dan Gilbert's comic sans work of art and called it crazy, needs to take a look at the Clippers' press release. I imagine it was written in glitterfied bold purple comic sans with a flashing unicorn in the corner. 

Some of the Clippers took to Twitter and showed their support of Clipper Darrell. But I wonder is it too little too late?

The last thing that fans want is to feel unappreciated.

As a fan, you show up rain or shine, saving your money for the new jersey and game tickets. Depending on the price of gas and your job situation, actually going to the stadium or the arena is a luxury. Some people may never be able to afford to take their family to a game.

So when a team says to a fan, someone that has been there when the team was losing...for years, that burns me up.

Where do the Clippers think their revenue is coming from?

But, I guess they said it a fan, no good deed goes unpunished.