Cleveland Clad

I’ll be leaving in a few minutes to drive up to Cleveland.  I’ve got tickets to watch the Browns today with Russell and two of his buddies.

IMG_7175Here’s an example of how sports fans think:  I’m trying to decide what to wear that might help the Browns win.  And when the opposing team is the Denver Broncos — a franchise that figures prominently in the history of Browns heartbreaks — carefully considered clothing choices are especially important.

I’ve been up to watch a number of Browns games in the new stadium, and for the most part I’ve seen appalling gag jobs and wretched losses.  This means that the Browns haven’t been very good, sure . . . but it also means that most of my Browns gear is now irrevocably tainted.  I’ll give a ball cap or sweatshirt a few shots at bringing home a win, but once they hit multiple losses they obviously can’t be worn again without hurting the team and go into the closet, forever.

As a result of this process, I’ve got no Browns ball cap to wear.  Fortunately, the weather is supposed to be cold, so I can get by with a stocking cap with the Brownie on it.  And my standard sweatshirt has proven to be a dismal failure.  I’ve dug up some vintage stuff that Russell got years ago, reasoning that they not only are weather-appropriate for a chilly day but also are likely to have some good karma still infused into their very fibers.

C’mon Brownies!  I’m running out of licensed gear, here!

Edited to add:  Well, another outfit bites the dust . . . .

Baby Steps

Through the first seven games of the season, Ohio State has established that it’s not the most dominating team in college football history.  It sounds silly, but the expectations before the season started were so high that’s how the team was being measured.

Still, the Buckeyes now stand at 7-0, and last night they hung a pretty convincing win on Penn State, beating the Nittany Lions 38-10.  And if you are an Ohio State fan, you can be forgiven for looking for little signs that the team is improving.  I think the signs are there.

Offensively, the Buckeyes seem to be moving toward making J.T. Barrett the starting quarterback.  The more he plays, the better the offense performs.  Cardale Jones is a fine player with a terrific arm, but with Barrett at the helm the Buckeyes simply seem more fluid, more confident, and more multi-dimensional — and Barrett has an uncanny knack for finding the first-down marker and keeping drives alive.  With Barrett playing increasing minutes, the Buckeyes have now gone two games without drive-killing turnovers and are turning red zone appearances into touchdowns.  And last night, they did it all against a pretty good Penn State defense that features lots of talent.

But we are talking baby steps here, and there are still steps to be made on offense.  Last night, the Buckeyes racked up more than 300 yards on the ground, with both Barrett and Ezekiel Elliott posting more than 100 yards gained, but the passing game suffered.  If Ohio State hopes to compete with the elite, it can’t play with one hand tied behind its back.

On defense, the situation is more difficult to assess.  Joey Bosa and the defensive line did a good job of rushing the passer and physically dominating Christian Hackenberg, when the game was on the line they held Penn State short on a key fourth down, and they forced a turnover that put the game away — but there were lots of negatives.  The D was gashed on the ground and made Saquon Barkley look like the second coming of Jim Brown, showed some really poor tackling and pass defense techniques, and seemed to have scheme failures where Penn State runners were 10 yards downfield before a tackler appeared.  All of this should be concerning, even after a convincing win.  Penn State couldn’t capitalize on these weaknesses, but there are teams from The State Up North who will unless Ohio State gets those problems fixed.

With the “Black Out” and uniform dust-up behind us, let’s focus on some football and continuing improvement and see what this team can really do.