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.

Whoa.

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.