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This hasn’t been a good holiday season for the Big Ten. I’m hoping that changes tonight.

With the exception of Iowa, Big Ten teams have been crushed over and over in this year’s bowl games, most notably in the Rose Bowl last week, when Southern Cal buried Penn State.

I have a double shot at redemption tonight, though, when Ohio State plays Texas in the Fiesta Bowl. A win by the Buckeyes would A) boost the fortunes of the conference that’s been everybody’s whipping boy for the past several seasons, B) redeem Ohio State’s program, which has been tarnished by two straight losses in national championship games and that fiasco against USC in September, and C) make Uncle Crappy a very happy boy.

There’s no question that Texas will come into the game with the motivation of a team that feels it should be playing in Thursday’s title game. Another ugly loss for my Buckeyes is a possibility.

But I’m thinking our seniors also are going to have something to play for — like putting two-plus years of brutal criticism behind them. Like setting the table for the youngsters who will have to play Southern Cal again in 2009.

Like making sure I don’t have to spend another off-season answering questions about my football team. Again.

I know Texas quarterback Colt McCoy is much better now than he was in 2006. But I’m wondering whether he’ll see No. 33 and the rest of the Ohio State defense across the line of scrimmage tonight and start having flashbacks to the beating he took in Austin back then.


The score of the 2006 game — 24-7 — wasn’t a true reflection of Ohio State’s domination over the home team that night. And I wouldn’t expect Ohio State to dominate tonight’s game, even in a win.

But: Colt? Those sacks look like they hurt. Try not to get all twitchy tonight, OK?

2008 > 2009

It’s about 11:10 p.m. on Dec. 31. This won’t be posted for another hour, but I have some things I wanted to share about the past year, and I thought this would a good time to get started.

At the moment, I’m sitting on a bright red-orange couch in the middle of my new living room. On the television is a DVD of a 1987 Grateful Dead show in Oakland. The New Year’s Eve show was a tradition for GD for many, many years; it’s now a tradition for me as well, going back as far as the year we were skiing at Breckenridge and I badgered the DJ at KSMT to play an hour of Dead starting at the stroke of midnight Mountain Time. Maybe it’s a little odd, but that brief shot of weirdness always does a nice job of making me feel centered for the year to come.

Come to think of it, I didn’t really have to push the guy all that hard…


In the five years, I’ve kept Uncle Crappy (the blog) alive, I’ve stopped nearly every year, sometime in December or January, and made some kind of statement about what happened the year before and what I was looking for in the year to come. I’m generally an optimistic person, and I usually made grand, but sort of nonspecific predictions about what was to come.

And I was usually wrong.

Last year, though, I was a little more specific, and as it turned out, I did pretty well:

  • I said that I wanted to start a podcast or two; I didn’t do that, although I did tape and edit a show featuring The Wife and me. Let’s go ahead and make this a goal for 2009.
  • I said I would do a better job at posting regularly here. I think I’ve done that, and I think it shows. In the last three months of the year, my daily page views have doubled; I’m not sure who I have to thank for that, but whoever it is: Thanks. That’s pretty cool.
  • I predicted I’d weasel my way into some additional new media projects at work. This has been mildly successful, even with the roadblocks erected by layoffs and other limitations at the paper. We have a 2-month-old Twitter account which already has about 70 followers. We’ve continued to do video, slideshows and audio presentations, even after the newsroom’s biggest proponent of new media tools was switched to a different department.
  • I said we’d buy a house. We did that, and we couldn’t possibly be happier about it. The purchase will mean we have less time and less money than we had before, but to have a place we own … it’s hard to describe, but it feels very good.


There’s one other thing I accomplished this year, something that wasn’t on my list from a year ago. I’ve met a ton of people who have become very good friends in the past 12 months. I’ve always been grateful for the friendships I’ve kept over time, some going back to grade school. But I’m equally grateful for my new friendships, and I think they’re going to go a long way in keeping me young — OK, a little younger, maybe — in the years to come.

How cool are these folks? There may be as many as a dozen of them joining me in a few hours to jump in the Mon, as a commemoration of the start of 2009. No one is doing this because of me, but I asked the question a couple of days ago, and a surprisingly large number of friends — by which I mean idiots, just like me — responded. I may be a bit drunk at the moment, but I mean this with all the sincerity I can muster — I love you guys.


I ended 2007 — and started 2008 — with a bottle of the 2006 version of Gratitude, the barleywine produced every year by East End Brewing. Other than a very small taste of the previous year’s vintage, I hadn’t had Gratitude before; I was not only blown away, but it seemed to set a nice, positive tone for the year that was just getting underway. I’m not particularly superstitious, but listen — Gratitude was my first beer of 2008, and that year turned out to be pretty good. So I’m doing the same thing this time around; it’s about 11:45 p.m. now, and I just cracked open the 2007 Gratitude I picked up a day ago at the brewery. Here’s hoping it brings similar results.

And here’s hoping 2009 is everything you want it to be.

you’re fired.

Browns Steelers Football

The Browns-Steelers game has been over for about two hours, and if Randy Lerner hasn’t started handing out pink slips in the Browns locker room at Heinz Field, he’s inexcusably late.

Yes, I heard the stuff all over ESPN last night and this morning — a meeting on Monday, Phil Savage and Romeo Crennel losing their jobs, perhaps with Romeo staying with the team in some capacity.

That’s what needs to be done, and I hope they don’t stop with those two. I still have crystal-clear memories of the 1995 season, the second half of which I watched knowing that the team was leaving for Baltimore at the end of the year. That was a horrible feeling — the team I had supported for my entire life was being yanked out from under me — but I honestly think this year was worse. Professional football players don’t quit. They do their jobs. They catch footballs. They don’t get shut out in consecutive weeks. I know the Browns returned to the league in 1999, but now that I think about it, I’m not sure that professional football ever came back with them. And that’s a problem with the players, the coaches and everyone who brought them to town.

I don’t care about the injuries. There’s a house in Berea that needs to be cleaned out. Let’s get started. Now.

I’m not going to offer opinions on every player on the Browns roster, but I have some advice for whoever’s left in the front office when the lights are turned off Monday evening. Let’s take a look:


Phil Savage, general manager: Liked picking talented head-cases. His player-personnel moves were fair at best, and getting into an obscene e-mail exchange with a fan, while kind of funny, wasn’t especially smart. Go.

Romeo Crennel, head coach: Nice guy suffering from Dave Wannstadt Disease. Great coordinator. Shouldn’t ever be a head coach. Go.


All of them (with a couple of exceptions): Go.

Willie McGinnist, linebacker. A character guy who, sadly, didn’t have enough character to keep his teammates from quitting. I can’t fault his effort, but with 15 years in the league, it’s time to cut him loose if he’s still bent on playing. If he’s retiring, make him an assistant coach. Go.

Shaun Rogers, defensive lineman. Professional. Solid, consistent effort. Where do we find more of this guy? Stay.


Joshua Cribbs, kick returner/wide receiver: Probably the most talented guy on the roster. Doesn’t quit. Stay.

Braylon Edwards, wide receiver: Recently ranted that Cleveland fans hate him because he played at Michigan, and vowed to never again do charity work in Cleveland. Forgot that professional wide receivers catch footballs, which probably has more to do with his dwindling fan base. A side note: I should have known what we were getting after watching him play for Michigan for years: talented, made spectacular catches but lacked the concentration to make the easy ones. Disappeared in big games. Braylon — you want to be a Michigan guy? Great. Go play for the Lions. Go. GO. GO ALREADY!

Offensive line: Good unit that will get better. Helped Jamal Lewis rush for just short of 100 yards on Sunday, against the second-best rushing defense in the league. Stay.

Kellen Winslow Jr., tight end: Not quite as easy to hate as Braylon. When he’s healthy, he played hard, and he often played hard despite injuries. But when he had extra time on his hands, he turned into an idiot. Motorcycles? Conspiracy theories about the team’s front office? Enough. Go.

Jamal Lewis, running back. It’s a bit odd to think that the team’s convicted felon is perhaps its most professional player. Stay.

Joe Jurevicius, wide receiver. A Cleveland guy who’s spent much more time being hurt than playing. A sentimental fan would lean towards keeping him, but I’m not feeling especially sentimental. Go.

Derek Anderson, quarterback. Used up every bit of his talent playing over his head a year ago. Go.

Ken Dorsey, quarterback. Smart, character guy, but if you don’t have the arm strength to throw a 15-yard out pattern, you don’t belong in the NFL. Go.

Brady Quinn, quarterback. I think he has the tools to be an NFL starter. But after getting into a fight with a teammate a couple weeks ago, I’m not sure he has the head to match. Stay (but start thinking about other options RIGHT NOW).

that’s a wrap.

Well, not quite, although I did get nearly all of The Wife’s presents wrapped, along with a couple of things she needed for her office Christmas party on Tuesday.

I’ve never minded wrapping presents; it’s something my mom taught me to do when I was fairly young, and I’ve always wrapped my own gifts since.

I’ve had professional training, too. During breaks from school, I worked for a chain of Hallmark stores in Columbus. Over the summer, I was part of the warehouse crew, tagging merchandise, delivering to the stores and setting up displays when things needed to be changed. But at Christmas, I was usually assigned to one of the busy mall stores, to kind of do everything: stocking, staging stuff sent from the warehouse, taking inventories and placing orders, helping customers … and wrapping.

You get to be good at wrapping presents when a grumpy customer — and a grumpier cashier who wants to send grumpy customer on his way — is waiting for you to finish. It usually wasn’t hard stuff; Hallmark made gift boxes of every size, so you always had the right box for whatever you were wrapping.

We had two games, usually managed by the chain’s general manager, Scott. First was picking the correct sized box, without measuring, for some oddly shaped thing somebody wanted to buy. The other was race wrapping — starting simultaniously with similar-sized gifts and seeing who gets done first. Neatness counted, too — you could get disqualified if the package was too sloppy.

I got to be good at both. In fact, I was the only staffer at the Westland store to beat Scott — who always claimed that using anything more than three peices of tape to wrap a package was wasteful — the first Christmas I worked there.

So sitting upstairs and wrapping The Wife’s presents is relatively relaxing by comparison. Until this:


Wrapping for time? No problem. Wrapping around a giant cat who doesn’t want to move?

I can’t possibly work in these conditions.

twice. only once.


In 1975, Archie Griffin became the only two-time winner of the Heisman Trophy.

Today, his streak was continued. Thanks, Sam Bradford.

23. all over again.


So on the way out of Columbus this morning, we stopped by the storage unit where we’ve been keeping a bunch of stuff since we got married nine years ago.

We checked for two reasons. First, we have to bring all that crap back to Pittsburgh sometime fairly soon, and we wanted to see exactly how much stuff we had to haul. And second, we’re hosting Thanksgiving for my parents this year, and we wanted to grab some of the dishes and other accessories we had in storage so we didn’t have to serve Thanksgiving dinner on plastic plates.

Unpacking five boxes when we got home tonight was a little like opening our wedding gifts on the night we returned from our honeymoon in Hawaii. We hadn’t seen most of this stuff since 1999, so the sense of surprise was nearly fresh.

And yes — we have at least two pizza stones.