Suckiness Serenity

After last week’s sorry and embarrassing pigskin display I vowed not to watch another Cleveland Browns game, and instead to spend my remaining fall Sundays in some kind of productive, less angst-inducing pursuit.

5628315-dmnadpvs-6However, my lovely and wise wife has encouraged me that I should take another course.  Simple avoidance, she counsels, is not a viable long-term strategy.  The better course, she advises, is acceptance.  In short, she submits, I need to embrace the Browns’ intrinsic suckiness and strive to achieve a state of Frank Costanza-like serenity about the team’s sorry state.  Only then can I hope to be freed from the devilish demons of Cleveland sports fandom and be able to go forward with a cheerful and positive attitude about the franchise and its beleaguered supporters.

I’m not sure this is possible, frankly.  In fact, I think even the most enlightened Buddhist zen-master would struggle to watch a Cleveland Browns game with a calm sense of mental tranquility.  But Kish has convinced me — I’m going to try.

Yeah . . . good luck with that!

Overhyped And Underperforming

Against my better judgment I watched the Cleveland Browns football game yesterday.  I’ve watched a few of their games this year, hoping that we would see a change for the better.

1believelandLast year the Browns won a few games at the end of the season, and during the off-season the team made some personnel moves that made it look like this might just be the year when the Browns were respectable.  Indeed, at least one analyst on one of the network NFL shows picked the Browns to make it to the Super Bowl, for the first time in the team’s history.

I should have known it was all part of the devious plan to elevate the hopes of Browns Backers everywhere.  After years of sad, crushing failure, Browns fans had become almost immune to the inevitable losses — and the evil forces that control the fates of professional football, focused as they are upon inflicting as much pain as possible on the hardy fans of this ill-fated franchise, couldn’t have that.  The hype was all a ruse to get us to start caring and hoping again — because hopes can only be dashed when they are raised in the first place.

So yesterday I found myself yelling at the TV as the Browns lost again, to the mighty New England Patriots, to fall to 2-5 on the season.  Losing to the Patriots isn’t an embarrassment in itself — pretty much everyone loses to the Patriots — but it’s the dismal, humiliating, frustrating way in which the Browns lose.  Turnovers on three straight plays.  A terrific long run ending in a fumble in the red zone.  Countless penalties (some of which seemed pretty iffy, by the way) killing good plays or putting the Browns in too deep a hole.  And so, for all of their talent, the Browns are once more on the outside looking in and heading for another awful year.

Well, at least my Sundays are now clear for more positive and productive activities.

Money And Mouth

LeBron James got into some hot water this week for making some statements about the ongoing protests in Hong Kong.

The drama began when Daryl Morey, the general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, tweeted a message supporting the Hong Kong protesters:  “Fight for Freedom.  Stand with Hong Kong.”  The tweet provoked an angry backlash from the Chinese Communist government, which is trying to figure out how to deal with the pro-democracy protests, and caused it to cancel and change certain events surrounding the NBA’s annual tour of China — which is viewed as a big, and growing, broadcasting, merchandising, and sponsorship market for the NBA.

34siop24cjgffnpmwtq4iwgubqThe Chinese government’s response affected LeBron James, who was in China with  the Los Angeles Lakers to play a basketball game as part of the NBA tour.  James then spoke out, saying that Morey “wasn’t educated” on Hong Kong and had put the Lakers through a “difficult week” in China.  “So many people could have been harmed not only financially but physically, emotionally and spiritually. So just be careful with what we tweet, and we say, and we do,” James said.  He later added:  “Let me clear up the confusion. I do not believe there was any consideration for the consequences and ramifications of (Morey’s) tweet. I’m not discussing the substance. Others can talk About that.”

As a result of the comments, LeBron James has been depicted in some quarters as a kind of sell-out who has kowtowed to the Communist government in the interests of the money that could be made in China.  His comments were popular on official Chinese social media platforms but drew criticism among the Hong Kong protesters, who accused him of supporting totalitarianism.  Some others have risen to James’ defense, arguing that there was nothing wrong with what he said.

One of the more interesting aspects of this little drama is that many people seem to be surprised that a larger-than-life public figure like LeBron James, who has not been shy about speaking out on social issues, might conceivably be motivated in his views by base considerations like making money and his own personal convenience.  I’m not quite sure why this should come as a surprise to anyone.  James is a human being, after all, and as prone to advancing his own interests as any other person.  Perhaps his Hong Kong dust-up will help to remind people who are interested in what Hollywood stars or pro athletes are tweeting about the public issues of the day that the celebrities and sports stars may not be acting altruistically and may well have their own special personal and financial motivations for their public positions.

The old saying refers to “putting your money where your mouth is.”  The reality is that, in many instances, the mouth follows the money.

Rage Rooms

The Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, where the Philadelphia Flyers play, has announced a first for major-league American sports arenas.  It has developed a “rage room” where disappointed, angry sports fans can go and vent their frustration at their team’s performance by smashing things up.

rage-roomThe Disassembly Room — the rage room’s official name — allows users to don some protective gear and then smash plates, throw stemware, splinter mirrors into shards, break the opposing team’s logo, and take a sledgehammer to a television set.  Philadelphia fans apparently endorsed the idea of a rage room as allowing them  to have some “harmless fun.”  Although the linked article doesn’t say, presumably the use of the Disassembly Room comes at a cost — and I expect that only one person at a time gets to use it.  When it’s in use, by the way, other guests can watch the rage in progress via closed-circuit TV and get their violent activities fix remotely.

Speaking as a lifelong Cleveland sports fan who has experienced some of the boiling frustration that comes from failed sports teams, I can understand the impetus for a sports “rage room.”  But, seriously, is giving angry sports fans a place to vent really a good idea that is “harmless fun” — or is it encouraging acting out violent tendencies that people should be trying to control instead?  I’m not sure handing a sledgehammer or tire iron to somebody whose team just lost a crucial game really makes a lot of sense.

Maybe a Calming Room, where soothing lights and music are featured and back and neck massages are administered to users, would be a better idea.

Last Night At The ‘Shoe

We went to see the Ohio State-Michigan State game last night at Ohio Stadium.  It was a great test for the Buckeyes, who prevailed 34-10.  The Spartans are always a tough team, and their physical defense gave the Men of the Scarlet and Gray all they could handle until Ohio State broke some big plays and established a cushion.  MSU, like true Spartans, kept fighting to the end — they are a better team, I think, than many people realize.

While it’s always nice to go to a game at the ‘Shoe, to revisit some of the old traditions, it’s also interesting to see what new features have been added.  Last night’s game was a “black out,” where the fans were supposed to wear black.  Many did, including most of our party, but the concept didn’t really work in my opinion.  The stands really don’t look that much different, and the device certainly doesn’t pack the same punch as the “white outs” that Penn State seems to schedule every time Ohio State visits Happy Valley.  I’d rather see “Scarlet Fever,” where everyone is encouraged to wear their scarlet jerseys and sweatshirts and jackets.  I think that would have a lot more visual impact.

The game also involved some shooting flames and fireworks added to the traditional entrance of the team onto the field, as well as fireworks launched from time to time from the south end of the field and the area above the press box.  That added a little dash to the contest.  And at one point after darkness had totally fallen, everyone pulled out their cellphones, tapped their flashlight apps, and the stadium became a sea of slowly moving lights, like fireflies on a lazy summer evening.  That was also a pretty cool effect.

I don’t mind the OSU athletic department experimenting with innovation, so long as they keep the old traditions, too.  After all, every current tradition was, at some point, a new innovation.  Who knows?  At some point the cellphone flashlight moment may be as enshrined in Buckeye tradition as the band’s ramp entrance or Script Ohio.

Sunday Centennial

The NFL is making a big deal this year about celebrating its 100th anniversary.  Given the momentous occasion, it’s worth pointing out that Columbus played a significant role in the early days of The League.

The NFL started out as the American Professional Football Association, in Canton.  In 1922 it changed its name to the National Football League and moved its headquarters to Columbus.  After several years of the league offices being housed in Columbus homes, the NFL and its Commissioner, the legendary Joe Carr, moved to a proper office building in downtown Columbus, at 18 East Broad Street — an office building I pass by regularly.  In fact, the building is being refurbished, and one of the placeholder signs on the front the building, pictured with this post, commemorates its role in the NFL’s history.  During that Jim Thorpe and Red Grange era, the League struggled financially, with franchises starting up and folding regularly, but it always had a strong Ohio connection.  In 1927, there were NFL teams in Cleveland (the Bulldogs, not the Browns) and Dayton (the Triangles) and other small towns, like Duluth, Frankford, and Pottsville, so having the headquarters in Columbus made sense.  The headquarters remained here until 1941, when they were moved to Chicago.

I suppose if you get to 100 you’ve got to celebrate the occasion, but as I watch some of the promotional materials the NFL has produced I wonder:  is the League going to be around for another 100 years?  With the players growing bigger and faster all the time, and serious injuries becoming more and more the norm — so much so that every year the League rolls out new rules and penalties to try to stem the tide of crippling concussions and devastating hits — how long can the NFL last?  In years to come, a radically different NFL might look back very fondly on its innocent early years, when it found its home in Columbus.

 

Loud And Proud

As the Columbus Blue Jackets have moved forward in the NHL playoffs, there’s been a lot of buzz at the national level about how loud the crowd is during home games at Nationwide Arena.  Between the cannon blasts and the screaming fans, the consensus is that the home crowd gives the CBJ a decided home ice advantage.  My friends who have gone to some of the playoff games — to the extent their ringing ears allow them to understand human speech at all — have confirmed that yes, it’s loud.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Tampa Bay Lightning at Columbus Blue JacketsA story in the local press offered some scientific evidence of just how loud Nationwide Arena has been.  Using a decibel meter to measure the noise level, the article reported that it was 98 decibels — about the noise level of a snowmobile — before the most recent playoff game even started, the noise increased to 111 decibels (chainsaw level) when the teams took the ice, and the pandemonium topped out at 118 decibels (just about the noise of an ambulance siren passing by) when the game ended and the Blue Jackets took home a victory to move into a 2-1 series lead against the Boston Bruins.

It’s pretty impressive, but it’s worth pointing out that the Nationwide Arena fans are still far off the loudest crowd noise ever recorded at a sports event — 142 decibels, during a 2014 NFL playoff game in Kansas City.  That level of deafening noise might be out of reach, but for game 4 of the Boston series, tonight, Blue Jackets fans are aiming to get up to 125 decibels, which is about the level of a jackhammer.

It’s all very interesting to me, because I’m learning something new about my fellow Columbusites.  I wouldn’t say that Columbus sports fans are a sit-on-their-hands group, but I also haven’t thought of them as a raucous mob capable of producing a constant, pulsating ear-splitting din in support of their hometown teams.  Apparently I’ve been wrong all these years — it’s just taken a little NHL playoff run to up the uproar level and bring out the bedlam.

Going to Nationwide Arena for one of these games would be a great experience, but be sure to bring your earplugs.