October 4, 2007

The Cuyahoga River is on Fire! (Again)

This is Post #2 from contributor JBrater.

We should've gotten the live chicken

Before giving the 40 acres a brief respite from College Football, I'd like to give a quick shout out to former Wolverine Stevie Breaston, who ripped off a 73-yard punt return TD for the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Texas fans may remember Stevie from a recent New Year's Day, when he did his best "Vince Young in the 2005 Rose Bowl" impression in the... 2005 Rose Bowl. Alas for me but thankfully for y'all, it was not enough. Still, Michigan fans were not surprised to see Stevie hit pay dirt for the following reasons:

We miss you already, steven.

Anyway, to baseball. On Thursday evening, the Cleveland Indians will return to the playoffs, a notion that would have seemed completely ridiculous 30 years ago but not 10 years ago but then ridiculous again 5 years ago. That fact brings up several things I find worth mentioning. In no particular order:

1) The State of Ohio is Kicking the State of Michigan's Ass. In Everything.

There, I said it. Are you happy now?
No? Ok, I'll go on.

When the sweatervest took over as head football coach for the Ohio State Buckeyes and quasi-declared victory over Michigan, nobody took him that seriously. We're listening now. Since then, Ohio State has gone 5-1 against Michigan, as Lloyd (or, as the buckeye fans - or at least, the few buckeye fans who literate - call him, "LLLLL-yod,") is now turning into John Cooper against Tressel. (Uh, I mean,"Tresse-L?" Damn, we haven't even gotten enough wins to mock him by spelling his name improperly.) It looks unlikely that trend will end this year. But hey, a girl can hope. And a fella can, um, buy Depends? (warning: video is rated R).

Additionally, the Cleveland LeBrons officially ended Deeeeetroit Basketball's reign of terror in the the NBA Eastern Finals last season in a particularly excruciating manner. And now the Indians take the AL Central away from the motor city kitties, despite a herculean effort from The Big Tilde. I'm not sure what next season will hold, but the makings of a very strong Indians-Tigers rivalry are definitely there. Unfortunately, the tribe has landed the first punch. Ohio's recent dominance is a fact that ohioians... i mean... ohioites... i mean... ohians? ohioans? Eh, let's just go with "mongrel idiots"... something that those mongrel idiots are all too happy to remind us about. At least the Red Wings are dominating the Blue Jackets.

2) Chief Wahoo is Unbelievably Racist, and Yet...

he continues to be the Indians' (also racist) mascot. As far as the whole "Native Americans as mascots" debate is concerned, count me firmly on the pc side. I was watching a Michigan-Illinois basketball game last year, in what happened to be the Illini's home finale. According to the new NCAA rules, Illinois was required to retire their mascot, Chief Illiniwek, which is roughly translated as "chief white frat boy wearing a headdress and doing a fake tribal dance." The camera kept cutting away to weeping illinois fans watching Illiniwek's retirement dance. This was meant, I suppose, to illicit sympathy from the casual fan at the plight of the poor, victimized Illinois fans. Watching this made me livid. What right did these people have to mourn the fact that they were no longer allowed to cheapen and abuse someone's culture? Should we also feel sorry for a skinhead with hypertrichosis? General rule: if your country's founders murder millions of people, your school dresses someone up like one of said people to compete against teams named lions, badgers, and wildcats, and someone asks you to stop using that mascot, you do it. And you don't cry about it. Do you think these same people were so devastated when they read about the Trail of Tears in school? I doubt it.

Having said that, you can at least make an argument that using the names of tribes for school nicknames is, as opposed to generally offensive names for Native Americans, comparatively benign, particularly if local tribe representatives are ok with it. (I, for one, do not even think this is acceptable. If 95% of the Jewish community in Massachusetts with the last name "Cohen" thought it was ok to name their team the "Boston Cohens," I would still be against it.) Whether or not using a tribal name is ok, however, I think we can all agree that using the term "Indians" and a caricature that blatantly derides the ethnic features of Native Americans is a lot worse. I mean, look at this thing:

How is this still allowed? I just don't understand. Living in D.C., I often say the same thing about the "Redskins," (which, in case you were wondering, does not refer to the potatoes) and am frequently shouted down by local fans. These are just a couple of examples. The whole thing makes me sick. It's disgusting.

3) Major League is Now the Quintessential Baseball Movie.

When did this happen? Has anybody noticed that this film has been steadily gaining street cred since about 2000? I mean, it was always a classic comedy. Hilarious from the get-go. But lately, it seems that it has gained acknowledgement as a baseball movie qua baseball movie, and not just a dumb comedy. On the [Hot Shots - Major League - The Natural] continuum, the movie has moved to the right. I think this has happened for two reasons: First, Charlie Sheen now has a semi-legitimate career as an actor, retroactively rendering his past work less manifestly ridiculous. The same is true, to a lesser extent, of Dennis Haysbert. (Pedro Cerrano. Hat. For bat. Keep bat warm. Gracias.) Second, the recent rash of absolutely ridiculous and horrible mock sports movies (I mean, Balls of Glory? They're not even trying anymore) has made Major League look tame by comparison. And good. Kind of how W has made Reagan look like FDR. You could even argue that Major League is now "the" sports movie. I, for one, am darn happy about this. I've always loved Major League, and the more they show it on TBS and SPIKE, the better. Major League II and III? Well, they still suck. I guess II is ok. At least there's the scene with Omar Epps and Jesse "the Governor" Ventura starring in "White Lightning, Black Thunder" at the beginning. One final point on this: Is there any better vocal encouragement to give the pitcher on your beer league softball team than "forget about the curveball, Ricky... give him the heater"?
The answer is no.

4) Player Subplots

That's right. Enough to make Bob Ley squeal. Enough to make Bryant Gumbel a bit nippy. Enough to give Ahmad Rashad a... ok, I'm gonna stop there.
Let's start with the pitching. First, you have the emergence of Fausto Carmona and the reemergence of C.C. Sabathia. (the "C's" stand for "Cy Young winner- at least he should be" and "chew your food before you swallow, fat man.") Together, they form the best 1-2 pitching combo in baseball. To any whiny Red Sox or Yankees or Angels fans that are saying "hey, what about Beckett/Matsuzaka or Wang/Clemens or Lackey/Escobar!?!?!" I would say the following: you're wrong. Shut up. Jeff, that includes you. These two guys are lights out, and they're a lot of fun to watch on the mound. They also have some absolute killers in the bullpen, including a couple of Rafaels, Perez and Betancourt, who seem to be playing the Zumaya/Rodney set up role to Cleveland's mediocre, Todd Jones-esque Closer, Joe Borowski.

Then you have Kenny Lofton. That's right, Kenny Lofton. He of the 11 teams and the DHL commercial celebrating the fact that he's been on 11 teams. Isn't it cool to see this guy back in Cleveland, where he played his best ball, at the tail end of his career? Don't you hate having him up to bat if your team is facing his team at the end of the game? You should. I don't know if any player has drawn opposing fans' ire to a greater extent than Lofton over his career. It doesn't look like he'll make it to 3000 hits, although he does have a shot, but I hope this guy gets at least some consideration for Cooperstown. He's a career .300 hitter, a 6-time all star, and a 4-time gold glover. Just a guy who knows how to play ball.
In addition, you have the younger, better version of Kenny: Grady Sizemore, Rotisserie League stud and the very definition of "5 tool player." If you haven't seen him play, prepare to be impressed. Much like the Tigers' Curtis Granderson, he gives his all, and he does it all. (I apologize for all the Tigers comparisons, but there are actually a ton of similarities between these teams - it's not just my Midwestern bias. Look out, Yankees.)
All these guys are going to make the Indians fun to watch, but...

5) Most Media Outlets Will Still Focus on the Red Sox and Yankees.

I don't need to go on, because this has been well documented. Let's just hope they both get knocked out quickly (again) and all of said media outlets all get egg in their face (again).
Having said that...

6) The Cleveland Indians Might Very Well be Your 2007 World Champions.

And what a thing that would be. Honestly, has any sports city suffered more than Cleveland? Buffalo? Maybe... but only maybe. With Cleveland, you have 4 major sports teams, (if you count Columbus as Cleveland and hockey as a major sport - both are dubious) and they have all pretty much sucked for most of their existence. Worse still, when their teams haven't sucked, they've been bridesmaids to some of the most spectacular performances in postseason history. Elway: great. Jordan: greater. Jose Mesa: ouch. And worst of all, they had their football team stolen away from them IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT. I can't imagine how crappy that must feel. Some of this misery is abating now, as LeBron has made a title look very possible if he can get, you know, some teammates, and the new Browns are kinda sorta starting to look ok, despite the Brady Quinn thing. And then there are these Indians. On paper, there's no reason they can't do it. But I mean, can they actually do it? Well, I hope not, because...

7) If Anyone but the Angels Comes Out of the AL, I Will Not be Happy Camper.

Why? Well...an AL team is going to win the World Series, because the Tigers aren't around to choke it away to a quadruple-A team. (Sorry for the Bill Simmons reference). The other 3 teams, meanwhile, are not options. The Yankees are the Yankees. The Red Sox are also the Yankees. And with Cleveland, there's the Ohio stuff. The deck is stacked against you, Michigan. Join the Vladimir Guerrero fan club and keep your fingers crossed.

Where can I get a rally monkey?

No comments: