Tomorrow the Cleveland Browns play the Bengals in Cincinnati. The game is called the Battle of Ohio, but this year it is little more than a mild skirmish. The Browns are mediocre at best, and the Bengals are downright terrible. There is so little interest in Cincinnati that the game isn’t even a sellout and will be blacked out. How pathetic — a rivalry game that isn’t even a sellout!
As disappointing as the Browns’ season has been, the Bengals’ has been disastrous. Their fans thought the Bengals would be a playoff team and perhaps a Super Bowl contender. Instead, they are awful. At 2-11, the Bengals have the worst record in the AFC. They’ve lost 10 games in a row, their offense is mediocre, their running game is terrible, and their defense has given up yards and points by the truckload. The team is riddled with dissension, and the bland head coach, Marvin Lewis, presumably is on his way out at the end of the year.
Secretly, every Browns fan is not surprised by what has happened to the Bengals this year. Most Browns fans have always viewed the Bengals as the gloryhound flyboys who lack the character and toughness to win. When challenges arise, they fold up and then start fighting amongst themselves. Cleveland fans like traditional football, where a solid running game and a tough defense are the foundations for success. The Bengals always seem to go for easy yards through the air and offensive gimmicks — Sam Wyche was famous for them — and they haven’t fielded a strong defense for decades. Even worse, their fans are of the fair-weather variety, which is why tomorrow’s game isn’t a sellout.
I’m hoping that Colt McCoy returns to the lineup tomorrow, and that the Browns go back to an offense that is less predictable and more instructive about the team’s future. Let’s give McCoy the opportunity to use the full offensive playbook. Let’s see if our wideouts can make tough catches and beat defenses deep. And while the Browns will want to use Peyton Hillis, let’s see if the other running backs can move the ball on the ground. On defense, let’s focus on shutting out Chad Ochocinco, an overrated loudmouth whose reputation is built mainly on marketing and easy catches. I’d like to see the Browns thump the Bengals physically. Those crybaby quitters from the south, and their fans who won’t even come out to support the team, deserve nothing less.
The court-appointed trustee for the victims of Bernie Madoff’s fraud scheme delivered some good news yesterday. He worked out a settlement with the estate of Madoff’s friend, Jeffry Picard, that will add $7.2 billion to the pot to be distributed to fraud victims. The $7.2 billion — yes, that is billion, with a b — represents every penny of Picard’s profit from his investment with Madoff. It is the largest forfeiture recovery in U.S. history, and it demonstrates that, in most financial fraud schemes, the ill-gotten gains can be traced and, in some cases, recovered.
It has now been two years since Madoff was arrested, and still his story remains intriguing. It is amazing that so many people were gulled by Madoff’s trickery, and it is appalling that regulators ignored so many danger signs about the nature and extent of his fraud. (People who have unreasoning confidence that federal regulation will prevent problems should be mindful of the Madoff story). And it is astonishing that Madoff would prey so extensively on the Jewish community and on charities. How did he sleep at night?
The fact that Picard made $7.2 billion investing with Madoff is staggering. Picard’s widow denies that he had any involvement in the scheme, however, and says that she hopes the agreement to refund the profits will help ease the victims’ suffering. Adding $7.2 billion in the pot is certain to add some cheer to the victims’ holiday season.