hopeful cleveland sports.

Browns Jets Football

Waaaaaaay back in 2007, I said I was retiring the tag “Hopeless Cleveland Sports” from Uncle Crappy. I made the decision based on a sudden rash of tolerable performance by the Cavs and the Indians and a draft by the Browns that included now-certain Hall of Famer Joe Thomas. It got even better later that year, when the Browns actually finished with a winning record for the season.

But then? More of the same.

There have been peaks since then — the Cavs title that brought grown men to tears (and by “grown men,” I mean me) and the frustrating, maddening and ridiculous — and awesome — World Series run by the Indians later that same year. But that marvelous year coincided with a 1-15 season by the Browns and a winless season the following year. The Indians got stomped by the Yankees. And there was another inevitable departure — albeit a much less acrimonious one — by King James.

But then last year happened. And things truly felt different.

It’s not perfect, not even close. The Cavs are rebuilding without LeBron, and the Indians can’t quite catch the Twins, although they still have a shot at the AL wild card.

But last night, I sat in my living room and watched the Browns win their first MNF game since 2008. A friend in Cleveland remarked that we weren’t aware that Hank Williams Jr. was still coherent enough to sing the MNF intro … although it struck both of us that we hadn’t really had a reason to pay attention to MNF for a while.

But now we do. And that’s the point. The team that beat the Jets last night isn’t good enough to win the division, but when you recall that the Browns finished last year 5-3, you understand — It’s a long season. Things can improve.

And if they do — if Baker Mayfield understands that he doesn’t have to throw for 30 yards on every play; if Freddie Kitchens finds a running game; if Myles Garrett can maybe not try to actually end the life of the opposing quarterbacks he hits — they could get to the post season for the first time since 2002.

That’s a loooooong drought, boys and girls, and I’m ready for a drink.

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ok. fine.

North Carolina v Duke

The traffic on Uncle Crappy always seems to bump up a bit about the middle of March, even when I haven’t posted anything here in … let’s see … JESUS CHRIST, NOT SINCE LAST YEAR’S TOURNAMENT ENDED.

Sigh.

I am no longer good at this blogging thing — mostly because that part of my brain is currently occupied by newsletters — but I think I can still run a pretty decent college basketball pool.

(Note: I’m going to be a terrible college basketball bettor this year — as in, even worse than usual — because my only real interest has been in making sure Zion Williamson is healthy when the Cavs draft him in June)

So. Here is your formal announcement of the Thirteenth Practically Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought To You By Piper’s Pub), or what we’ll refer to as TPAUCNFFC (BTYBPP).

If you’ve done this before you know the drill. And if you haven’t (or if you need a refresher)? I present … the drill:

  • Once the tournament is set on Sunday, find yourself a copy of the bracket. If you can’t manage that, I should probably disqualify you from the TPAUCNFFC (BTYBPP) right now. Print it and fill it out, using whatever method you prefer.
  • After consulting your bracket, pick the four teams — one from each region — that you think will win the regional championships and travel to the Final Four in Minneapolis.
  • After consulting your bracket again, pick the two teams you think will win the national semi-final games on April 6.
  • Consult your bracket once more, and pick the team from your semi-finalists who will win the title game April 8.
  • How do I figure out who wins? You get two points for picking a correct Final Four team, four points for a correct semi-finalist and six points for a correct national championship pick. Assuming I can add correctly (and there is no guarantee of that, boys and girls), the entry with the highest point total is our winner.
  • Yes, there is a tie-breaker and, yes, as we’ve seen several times, tiebreakers are important. When you submit your pick, please also include your projected score for the championship game. If it’s necessary, the entry whose total score is closest to the real thing will be our winner. Note: We do NOT follow the Price Is Right rule; the closest total, over or under, wins.

Still confused? I’ll be back on Monday with examples, along with a series of nagging posts to make sure I get as many entries as possible. Until then, here are a couple of other things to keep in mind:

  • One thing to make sure you don’t do: Send me money to enter. As has always been the case, TPAUCNFFC (BTYBPP) is free.
  • In the first four years of the contest, we were competing for cheesy trinkets and I usually included a disclaimer that our FABULOUS PRIZES weren’t actually fabulous. And then Chris at Bocktown Beer and Grill blew that out of the water by putting up a gift card to the contest’s winner. As my beloved Bocktowns have since closed — one very big factor in the decision to take a year off — I am putting up a similarly Actually Fabulous Prize — a $50 gift card at Piper’s Pub, on Pittsburgh’s Historic South Side. And I make this promise without any actual knowledge if Piper’s actually offer gift cards. Whatever. We’ll figure it out.
  • Note: If you’re an out-of-town contestant, you may opt for the equivalent cash value of the gift card, which is, uh, approximately $50.
  • The tournament’s real games (the ones that used to be called the first-round games) get underway around 12:15 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, March 21; I’m not a huge stickler, but I’ll need to have your entries by noonish that day for you to be eligible (see the Melo Rule below).
  • How do you enter? Comment. Email. Twitter. DM. Text. Facebook. Carrier pigeon. Please feel free adding whatever commentary you wish regarding how you arrived at your picks; each entry will be listed in a comprehensive post that’ll show up at some point Thursday, not unlike this example from a year ago.

And finally, the fine-printy things:

The Juan Rule: As is tradition, Juan, oh he of very little basketball knowledge, will once again be entered against his will, using either the Phil’s Mom Method or, if Phil’s mom isn’t picking this year, the Penny-Flipping Method.

The Melo Rule: Should an unforeseen thing happen with a player, a coach or a booster that might, in your opinion, have an impact on your already-completed entry, fear not. You may tinker as much as you like until I close the entries at noon on the tournament’s opening day.

The Crappy Rule: If I were to come out on top of my own contest (and believe me, boys and girls, there is very little chance of that happening), the Piper’s gift card would be awarded to the next runner up (although I retain full bragging rights, which I would exercise almost daily until next year’s contest). Mrs. Crappy, should she remember to get her entry in on time, does her own work and is therefore eligible to win the Piper’s gift card (as long as she uses it to take me to dinner).

To summarize:

  • Free.
  • Easy.
  • Deadline is noon Thursday.
  • Fifty bucks at Piper’s for the winner.

Have any questions? Let me know. Otherwise, good luck to everyone — especially me Mrs. Crappy.

30. rare.

 

I’m watching the Browns play the Ravens in a Monday Night Football matchup that actually sounded decent when you looked at the schedule back in the summer. And this question occurs to me: Which is more unusual: the Browns scoring a touchdown or Uncle Crappy successfully finishing a National Blog Posting Month?

And we’re not going to find out today … because both just happened.

I can’t speak for any progress being made by the “professional” football team in Cleveland — actually, I can, but we’re going to save the angry #factoryofsadness rant for another time — but I’ve had a blast coming up with 30 blog posts this month. I’m not going to go back and look, but I can say with certainty that it’s been at least several years since I completed a full NaBloPoMo.

This also felt familiar, once I got into it. I often did these in November — that used to be the regular NaBloPoMo month — so the rhythm of the month definitely came back, especially with Ohio State’s regular season reaching a peak and reaching Thanksgiving, one of my favorite posts of any year.

charlie sleeep

And we had some new stuff too, especially with the adoption of Mr. Charlie, who has been passed out on the couch after an especially vicious mousie-hunting session.

This has been fun. As much fun as I’ve had here in quite a while. Blogging sometimes feels like a chore these days, and I definitely felt that way when I fell behind about halfway through the month. But I’ve also re-discovered the process that makes daily posting possible; even if I don’t keep this up every day going forward, it’s nice to know that I still have it in me.

It’s also nice to know that you guys are still paying attention. I’ve always known that consistent production of semi-coherent content is the best way to gain and maintain readers — do I do this enough that I’ve actually kept any of you guys around? — but it’s cool to have that reinforced. As I said yesterday, you’re the best part of this whole operation, and I’ll keep writing if you keep reading.

IMG_3686

The cat is awake, and that’s all I got for the month of November. Thanks, yinz guys, for your help. See you in December.

18. shouting.

Y’all want a crack at a Super Bowl trip, right?

Have I got a deal for you.

If you head over to Draft Day Suit, you’ll find details about a contest, sponsored by Vicks — the Dayquil people, not the dog-abusing, whining quarterback — that gives you a shot at showing your commitment to your chosen NFL team for a shot at a trip to this season’s Super Bowl — which, granted, is in Indianapolis, but still…

Need an idea of what you’re required to do? The Draft Day Suiters — specifically Laurie, Kristabella and yours truly — have helpfully provided a couple of suggestions for the tone that Vicks is looking for. Go take a look.

And once you’ve read, go enter the contest. You’ll have a shot at that magical trip to, ahem, Indianapolis, and you’ll be helping out DDS as well.

mysterious.

Stuff that arrived in the mail today:

1) A coupon from Right by Nature.

2) Address labels from a charity I haven’t given money to for years.

3) This:

No. 3 was something of a surprise, because I didn’t order it and Mrs. Crappy said she didn’t either. It’s a really nice jersey — all the stuff that comes with one of the NFL Authentics — and I have no idea where it came from.

I assume this is someone’s reaction to my questions last week about my NFL fandom; maybe whoever sent this wanted to reinforce my decision to stay with my Browns, no matter how ugly things get.

Those would be decent reasons for the why; I still don’t have any idea about the who. I have some guesses in mind (coughfredahem) but they are just that — guesses — at this point.

To my benefactor: Thank you. It means a lot. And I am totally wearing this on Super Bowl Sunday.

DISCLOSURE: I know I’m supposed to disclose gifts I’ve received because of my blog, so I suppose I need to say that here. This jersey, apparently, was a gift. But I don’t know who I’m thanking, which makes this disclosure a little weird. Sorry about that.

not happening.

I look good in black. But I’m a lot more comfortable in brown and orange.

I had a Moment of Weakness on Friday, and it led to ask a question that had never hit me in the 16 years I’ve lived in western Pennsylvania. I also asked you guys for advice about how to handle this question about my pro football identity, and most of you came through with honest, thoughtful responses.

Before I get to those, though, I should tell you about my test on Saturday. After I finished up a work assignment in the morning, Mrs. Crappy and I headed to the Strip, to get some lunch and find some Aloha kitsch for our upcoming Groundhog weekend. To further set the scene:

  • My lifelong commitment to Cleveland Browns football is apparently wavering.
  • I live in Pittsburgh — not just the area, mind you, but I own a house in the freaking City of Pittsburgh — and it would be awfully easy, convenient and fun to jump on the Stillers’ bandwagon.
  • I’m in the Strip on the day before the AFC championship game. There is cheap Stillers gear everywhere — everywhere — and if I were to ever make the leap, I could have outfitted myself right then, head to toe, for less than 40 bucks.

And you know what happened?

Nothing.

I helped Mrs. Crappy look for a black and gold scarf. We stopped at many of the tables set up along Penn to check out the new stuff. Although I had plenty of opportunities, I wasn’t tempted to buy a single fucking thing.

– – – –

The comments I got on Friday’s post — here and on Facebook — were somewhat predictable, but also helpful. Most of the Stiller fans said they were ready to welcome me to the fold. The people who have a more thorough idea of my football past said I should know better than to even consider changing my mind.

But the one comment that resonated the most came from Kim, a lifelong Red Sox fan who A) knows a little bit about suffering for your team and B) knows how good the payoff is when it comes. Her point? Jumping on that black-and-gold bandwagon would be fun; it would also inevitably become hollow, because that’s not where my heart is.

– – – –

I also found this. That’s the front and back of my old Pittsburgh Browns Backers T-shirt. Between regular Sunday shifts for several years and our travel to Columbus for those other football games, I haven’t been able to watch a game with the club for years; the two seasons I was able to hang out with those folks were among the most fun I’ve had as a pro football fan (and yes, those were after the team returned to the league). The team was probably even worse back then, but being with like-minded people helped a bunch; it also made those rare wins even better.

That is who I am. I may still be pissed about the current state of the team, but it is still my team. And it always will be.

On Friday I asked you guys if I was loyal or stupid.

The answer? Yes.

And if you don’t like it, you can kiss my brown-and-orange ass.