Monday, March 26, 2012

Final Four, March Madness... don't be scared!

What more can be said about the Buckeyes Sweet 16 and Elite 8 games that hasn't already been said? How about that I sat on the absolute edge of my seat and at times was pacing the living room during the second half of the Syracuse game. Did I mention that my neighbors are now very well aware that the Buckeye logo's on my car aren't just for show?

So onward they go. Off to the New Orleans Superdome to face the Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday night, and (God willing) a matchup with Kentucky on Monday night for all the marbles. Like most of you, I was elated. I couldn't stop repeating to myself "Final Four" until I finally fell asleep. And when I woke up Sunday morning, it started all over again.

I think that despite earning a two seed, most find this years tournament run to be a surprise. And in a lot of ways, that factor may be what has made this years Final Four team so special. We heard how great Gonzaga was, and how if they got past Robby Sacre (his face, my fist, they will meet!) and the Bulldogs there was no way they'd beat Florida State or Vanderbilt and especially Syracuse. Well guess what? Here we are, standing tall and climbing ladders to cut down nets.

I can honestly say that once again I have no idea what to expect this weekend. If the Kansas team that played NC State shows up, the Bucks will blow their doors off. If the Kansas team that played in an instant classic with North Carolina shows up, it'll be one of those long, back and forth nights where anything can happen. But isn't there something about that that makes this so great? Would you honestly want it any other way? What's that you say, a nice comfortable but fun 8-10 point win? Yeah, alright, you got me.

Did anyone notice how downright angry Jared Sullinger looked while being interviewed at halftime of the Kansas-NC game? That kids muscle mass, with his footwork and ability, mixed in with that kind of attitude may be the recipe for success in the Superdome. I think Jared Sullinger is looking forward to letting Kansas know what they were missing on December 10th when he was not on the floor. I also think that, while I'm sure he respects his game, Jared Sullinger just may be a little bit tired of hearing about Anthony Davis and his uni-brow.

Chris Jent

How awesome is it that Chris Jent, in his first year on Thad Matta's staff, gets to go to the Final Four? Most of you are too young and only remember Jent as LeBron's shooting coach and as a former Buckeye player. A lot of you don't recall or lived through the 1992 NCAA tournament. Jent was a starter for my all-time favorite Buckeye hoops team.

Chris Jent was part of a starting five that included Jamaal Brown, Mark Baker, Jimmy Jackson and Lawrence Funderburke. Those guys... man! Funderburke was so intimidating. JJ was the player of the year. And when the tournament started, will anyone ever forget them coming out on the court in the shiny grey jersey's and the red, black and mostly grey Nikes? And what a tournament that year! That was year of the Laettner shot vs Kentucky. And down in the Southeast region, played in Lexington, Kentucky at Rupp Arena were the number one seeded Ohio State Buckeyes.

Ohio State played fourth seeded North Carolina in the 7 o'clock game on the Friday night of the Sweet 16. A somewhat close score doesn't truly depict what went on in that ballgame. I still laugh every time I see Hubert Davis on ESPN. The Buckeyes flew high and rocked Carolina right out of the tournament. I wish so badly I could find that picture of Lawrence Funderburke hanging on the rim and pointing at Eric Montross! My friends and I (in 9th grade!) had a massive blowout in my parents living room. We chanted like we were at the game. Dean Smith be damned, our boys were moving on that night!

We didn't even bother to watch the second game in the Southeast regional, which pit Oklahoma State (with Big Country Brian Reeves) and... dun dun dun... Michigan. A Michigan team that started five freshman, that the Buckeyes had ran roughshod over twice in the regular season.

What turned out to be one of the best games of the tournament that year, wound up in the waning seconds of regulation with the score tied and the ball in Chris Jent's hands. Jent stepped to the low block and missed what most would consider a "bunny" of a shot that sent the game into overtime. I vividly remember that moment, the empty stomach feeling when the ball went up and then banged off the rim. True, the game was tied, but you could tell Michigan had the momentum. The 91-92 Ohio State team, as great as it was, never realized their Final Four dream or the countries most anticipated and talked about matchup of them vs Duke. The Blue Devils subsequently went on to beat Michigan in the national championship.

I was never mad at Chris Jent. In Fact, I always felt so terrible for him. Jent was the guy who mopped the floor with his jersey, dove in the stands for loose balls, played the game like it was drawn up to be played a long time ago. For him to be the guy to be blamed for the 91-92 team never reaching its goal, I have always found unfair.

Twenty years later, Chris Jent is a part of an Ohio State team in the Final Four. Some would say twenty years too late. And that's a fair statement, the 91-92 team as a whole will tell you that. And I'd wager not one of them has ever blamed Chris Jent... because it was Randy Ayers fault! (I'm just kidding... maybe.)

Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote an excellent article about Jent prior to Saturday's regional final with Syracuse. Copy and paste the link below to read it... after you finish reading my blog, of course.

Now, I in no way want to get ahead, but...

"You see?! You see?! He's not a machine, he's a man! He's a man!" Duke to Rocky in "Rocky IV"

That's the madness level with which I feel this whole Kentucky hysteria has gotten. Someone needs to remind them that they are mortal! I think anyone (I'm talking to you Rick Pitino!) who wants to beat Kentucky is going to have to beat them in their own heads first. Kentucky will face two of the three out of Louisville, Kansas and, of course, Ohio State. Whichever one of those teams isn't intimidated by the beast that the national media has turned Kentucky into, will have a good shot at beating them. Are they good? Absolutely. But they're talked about like the UNLV team of 1991, as being unstoppable... until they ran into Duke, who wasn't intimidated, found a weakness and exploited it. This Kentucky team is talked about like the 1985 Georgetown Hoyas... who happened to run into Villanova, who wasn't intimidated, and came up with and executed a sinister gameplan. And Kentucky isn't nearly as good or intimidating as that UNLV or Georgetown team.

We likely won't talk again before the championship game on Monday night. Just know that if our Buckeyes are fortunate enough to be in it, and they are playing Kentucky, they need to walk on the floor like stone cold killers! As if they are in no way, shape or form even impressed with Kentucky, regardless of the respect being given on the inside. But I don't want to get ahead, Kansas first!

Football? This is a basketball school, no?

Spring is in the air and sweat is about to be poured out in bucket loads at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center as spring practice gets underway on Wednesday. Obviously, we won't get to see much until the Spring Game. If you're a spring-ball junky like me, make sure you're following on twitter the Dispatch's Tim May @TIM_MAYsports, the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises @PDBuckeyes and Brandon Castel @BCastOzone and Tony Gerdeman @GerdOzone of They'll have on the scene reports and links to their stories. They are where I go for the best information!

Anyone else ready to see Braxton Miller become the most dangerous force in college football?

Who's ready to see Jake Stoneburner become a first round draft pick after he has an Aaron Hernandez-like season?

Have you seen how bulked up Ryan Shazier has gotten since Mickey Marotti took over the strength program?

Despite not having a bowl game, there is nothing but pure optimism for this season's team. They'll hit bumps in the road. There will be times when people wonder if Urban Meyer is truly committed and other various forms of nonsense that people who hate Ohio State (and some fans who just want to be a turd in the punch bowl) love to try and make stories out of. Of course it won't be smooth sailing for twelve games. But we're on our way up. Count on it!

The closing moments...

Be sure, whatever you do, and ENJOY Saturday night! Get with some friends, go to a local hangout, invite people to your house, wherever. Just get with some like-minded people, put on your scarlet and grey and have a blast! And if someone wants to be that guy who has to try and temper everyone's emotions by saying things like "I'm just stating the facts, even if they win, Kentucky is too good", well throw his ass out! This is about us and living in the moment!

And please, please, (please!) remember that William Buford is giving his all and wants so badly to be a positive reason that his team wins, for his teammates and for us. I know how we all can get, but look at the name on the front of his jersey. If that kid can do it, he will. And if can't, he'll go down fighting like crazy to get it done. For his teammates. And for us.


Metallica track of the week

One Cause in the end, there can only be one team left standing when "One Shining Moment" is played. And I'm hoping it's THE Ohio State Buckeyes. And of course, the song is a pure thrash classic!

Here's a video of One in Sofia, Bulgaria from "The Big Four" dvd... and by the way, if you've never actually seen this live, like in front of you, I promise it changes your life!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Just plain nuts!

Unless you live under a rock, today was one of the absolute nuttiest days in the world of sports in quite some time. As one situation unfolded, another popped up, each with profound impact on the national and Ohio sports scenes.

"Sources are indicating"...

Today we had yet another website come out with "sources" claiming top ten draft picks and/or their agents told them that they will not play in Cleveland should the Browns deem them worthy of the number four pick in April.

According to Matt Miller (who is a Senior NFL Draft Lead Writer at Bleacher Report and Founder of New Era Scouting... whatever THAT is supposed to mean I'm not sure, but it would be more impressive if it were for, say, the worldwide leader), agents for top draft picks have told him their clients do not want the Browns to draft them. Miller claims that "I have now heard from three agents, all with top ten picks, who don’t want to play for the Browns.”

Where do I begin... That an agent or a player, in this day and age, would say that is not shocking. It isn't an unbelievable statement or something he may have made up. I truly believe him. I'd bet three agents told him that and a there is a handful of others that are thinking it. After "The Decision" and seeing Eli Manning refuse to go to San Diego and countless other ridiculous "I'm taking my ball and going home" statements and actions from athletes, this doesn't surprise me at all.

It also doesn't surprise me that it is the Cleveland Browns these players/agents are wishing to be clear of. What, with their one playoff appearance, one ten win season, countless amounts of ruined or missed top five draft picks, coaching carousel, GM carousel, alleged "football czars" and a fanbase that will burn your house down if you aren't in the Pro Bowl yearly (and not just there or have backed your way in, you have to have dominated, we see through that crap) why wouldn't every draft prospect be clamoring for the Browns to select them as this years "chosen one"?

I don't doubt Miller's statement. While I do homer for my teams, I'm not blind. What is upsetting about Miller's comment's are twofold: That he won't name the players and by doing so it seems more like an attempt to rack up website hits.

I understand "sources". I understand that to be an insider, you can't give up your sources. That being said, there is a reason ESPN, Tony Grossi and whoever pays him now or any other major sports outlet, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer until late this afternoon when Terry Pluto briefly touched on the reasons a player would not want to be drafted or sign in Cleveland as a free agent may have, have thus far made no comment on and ignored this story. The reason is that until you name the players or agents, there is no story. All you have is a guy saying "I can't tell you who, but top players do not want to play in Cleveland... and I can't tell you who told me."

How can you name the players or agents and not "out" your sources? The way that I'm sure any of the big time insiders do, they let the agent decide. If the agent is the one saying it, the insider can tell the agent "I'll report the story, but I'm saying the players name, however I won't say you are the source" thereby putting it out that player X doesn't want Cleveland and the kid has no idea who told the reporter. Or, to the agent, "I'm reporting that one of your clients has said he doesn't want Cleveland, per your comments, and you can deal with the media blitz but keep the pressure off the kid." Either way works for me.

I don't think people like Miller realize how bad rumors like this can be for an organization trying to rebuild its integrity and product on the field. They're out interviewing players, watching workouts, studying film, trying to make the pick that will turnaround the fortunes of their franchise. Having a rumor such as this (and don't think it can't spread or get out of control, it was just last week that it was rumored only one player had said he didn't want to play in Cleveland, now it's three!)can sabotage that whole process. Serious questions arise: Who are we wasting our time scouting? If we ask this kid straight up, will he lie to us? Is this kid going to come around and warm up to this organization once he's here, or will he be a cancer in the locker room and destroy team chemistry?

Miller, how can you have an agent tell you something that damaging to the front office of an organization and sit on it or not name either of the principal parties names? And if the agent doesn't want to take the heat for the comment, then he shouldn't have said it in the first place or YOU shouldn't have reported it at all!

Maybe the problem is that your writing as a whole, well, just isn't very good. Maybe the problem is that you need garbage like this, otherwise maybe nobody would go to your website. And if you were a good writer, you wouldn't need TMZ stories with unnamed participants trying to drag an organization working its tail off to give its fans some wins, through the mud so you can accumulate website clicks. Instead, you'd write a blistering piece on the agent or the player, what's wrong in Cleveland, how this affects the draft, it goes on and on the possibilities of truly compelling stories that can come from information like this.

And that's how you could get ahead Mr. Miller. Report some real news, write it from the heart, and give an honest unbiased evaluation of the situation. But I have a feeling you're afraid to take that chance... probably because you don't write so well, afterall.


I won't spend a lot of time talking about Tim Tebow tonight, you've heard enough about him since he was a freshman at Florida and helped ruin a perfectly good championship season for our Buckeyes. I will say this: I like him.

My admiration has nothing to do with his work ethic. The drive and determination of this kid is like nobody we have ever seen. It has nothing to do with his always being team first, like the way he handled things in Denver when John Elway called and told him Peyton Manning was on his way. And more to the point of that phone call, the class the kid exudes. It has nothing to do with his religion, though I do admire his commitment to faith and not being afraid to put it on his sleeve for everyone to see.

No, I like/admire/root for Tim Tebow for one solo reason: I have never seen one player, in my lifetime, elicit the type of venomous hate from Steeler fans that is directed toward Tim Tebow. Ask a Steeler fan about Tebow and watch the instant borderline crazed insanity that comes over them! It is a thing of pure beauty rivaled only by the likes of Sophia Vergara or Kate Upton!

My question is, why? I understand he beat them in the playoffs. Don't most fans respect an opponent that beats them? It's not like Tebow was using smoke and mirrors that day. They found a weakness in Puke's secondary and exploited it. More than a weakness, it was an arrogance. And they got toasted in the process. Game over.

I just don't understand a fanbase that supposedly supports the blue collar hard workers becoming so enraged at the hardest worker of them all. Of course, and you know where this is going, these are the same people who give standing ovations to the guy who wears seven and isn't allowed within 100 miles of a Georgia restroom.

In all seriousness (auto-correct let 'seriousness' go, thought I'd get flagged on that one) I wish Tebow the best. I'd give the Browns fourth round pick for him for no other reason than his leadership and ability to get the team to focus and commit to the cause of winning. Besides, nobody wants drafted by the Browns, so that fourth rounder would be a waste anyway.

The Saints go marching out...

What more can be said about Sean Payton being suspending for a year and Greg Williams suspended indefinitely other than wow! To quote Cleveland's own Bone Thugs'n Harmony, Roger Goodell was "takin' no shorts and no losses" when he threw this punishment down this afternoon. This had to, absolutely had to, send shock-waves throughout front offices around the league.

If you're not familiar, in quick summation: at the conclusion of a three year investigation into the New Orleans Saints coaching staff, notably head coach Sean Payton and defensive coordinator Greg Williams, for allegations that they were running a "bounty" program whereby players were financially rewarded for inflicting harm with illegal hits and taking opponents physically out of the game, were found to be guilty of the charges but also of lying to the commish Roger Goodell and attempting to cover it up. The organization was fined $500,000.00 and two second round draft choices, along with a few other coaches and executives being suspended.

I love rough football. I love the trench war, seeing guys get rocked and get back up to give out some of their own. There's something empowering about a running back plowing through defenders, dragging would-be tacklers. Nothing like guys getting shoulders crushed into their ribs and chest and violently driven to the ground. But you have to do it legally.

And not only does purposely attempting to take a player out of a game risk serious injury to said player, in my humble opinion it makes the "bounty hunter" look like a coward. I want to beat you on my own merit, with my own skill, with the gameplan of my coaches. And I want your absolute best. Like Goodell, no shorts and no losses, I want it all or I don't want it. I don't want an excuse when you're beat, other than for you to say you got beat. The Saints decided the integrity of the game wasn't important and decided to try and cheat. Turns out, they won a Super Bowl with the bounty ongoing. The punishment fits the crime.

Sweet 16 and Cinci-tucky

And if all THAT isn't enough, tomorrow Sully, Craft and the boys take on the Cincinnati Bearcats in the NCAA Sweet 16. An ages old basketball rivalry is renewed on the biggest of stages. I have to admit, even with a 9:50 east coast start time, I'm fired up!

I don't want to sit here and break down matchups or give keys to victory, I'll leave that for the hoops experts, or at least the guys who know a little something about basketball x's and o's. All I'll say is enjoy it! Sit back, put on your colors, cheer like crazy. And if Will Buford starts getting hot, and Deshaun Thomas is already hot...

What else could there be?

Simple answer is not much. Tristan Thompson is looking like a future all-star. Kyrie Irving is a future all-star and maybe one day an MVP candidate. Chris Grant got a first rounder for Ramon Sessions. Yeah, I know there was more to the deal, so what?

On a personal note, Charlotte is a pretty great city. I live minutes from Uptown Charlotte, which is what we in Ohio would call "Downtown Charlotte". They don't call it downtown, and actually are quick to correct you if you make the mistake of calling uptown "downtown". I'm around ten minutes from Bank of America Stadium (home of the Carolina Panthers) and Time Warner Cable Arena (home of the dreadful Charlotte Bobcats). There is literally so much to do here it is going to take me years to figure it all out and make a dent in seeing it all. It's a busy city!

Until next time... Goodnight now!

Metallica track of the week
Damage Inc.

"We chew and spit you out. We laugh you scream and shout. All flee with fear you run. You'll know just where we come from. Damage Incorporated."

Seems fitting for Thursday night! And if this don't get the neck sore, you're a lost cause!

Here's a video of Damage Inc. live from Lisbon, Portugal in 2010. Copy and paste that beast!!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It's been too long...

Greetings from Charlotte, North Carolina! Yes, you read that correctly, Charlotte, North Carolina. A lot has happened since we last met on August 25th of last year. It's been a long time! But, here I am. All in one piece, of good mind and health, ready to resume telling you how things are and should be, and of course discussing sports in our great state of OHIO.

Spring Ball

The NCAA tournament field has been drawn and the field of 64 (call me a purist but those "first 4" games are nothing but boring play-ins, which is why they are held in Dayton) tips off on Thursday at noon, yet all I can think about is Urban Meyer and spring practice getting underway.

Let's recap a little since we last spoke: A bowl ban and scholarship reduction was levied onto the program as punishment for "tatoo-gate". Gene Smith (miraculously) still has a job. Pretty much the entire staff has been replaced. Nobody bolted for the NFL despite the sanctions. We lost to that team up north. Brady Hoke gained 35lbs... in his chin.

Oh, and we have a new sheriff in town. Urban Meyer, an enemy from the south come to bring SEC football to the Big Ten and lead our Buckeyes into the future. What's that? Mickey Maroti came too? The guy who perfected "Florida speed" and churned out incredible athlete after incredible athlete? Well, isn't that a hoot!

I want to preface this next paragraph with this statement: I love Jim Tressel. I'll always remember what he did at Ohio State. Turning a lopsided rivalry back the other way. National title game appearances. A genuinely good man who had the school and his players in his thoughts first and always. But this guy we got now...

Urban Meyer has been my dream coach for Ohio State for as long as I can remember. Maybe not him specifically in name, but his style. The "we will out recruit and out work everyone" approach that has been lacking in the program, maybe since Woody and Earl. Urban is a "they wouldn't let me go for three" kind of guy.

As for recruiting, the crop he was able to put together at the 11th hour is absolutely stunning. He's been relentless and sold Ohio State to some of the country's top players in the face of sanctions and a bowl ban. He's gone the extra mile to get the five star instead of settling for the four star. In a lot of ways, his recruiting has caused me to be disappointed in Jim Tressel's efforts on the recruiting trail the last ten years. I can't recall Bert (I know it's Brett, but I call him Bert to mock) Bielema and Mark Dantonio crying to the press about JT flipping guys they thought were locked up. Meyer took the Big Ten's "gentleman's agreement", glanced at it for a second, then wadded it up, tossed it in the toilet and flushed that S.O.B. down! And that's how it should be. Like Meyer said, if a player tells them he's committed and doesn't want to be bothered any longer, back off and stop recruiting. But if he makes no indications that he is the lock Bert and Mark thing he is? Go get'em!

Anyone else wonder just how many points the Buckeyes are going to score at Camp Randall this year? I'm foaming at the mouth for it!


As previously mentioned, the Big Dance opens up Thursday at noon. Ohio State enters the party that night at 9:50 against Loyola on TNT. Looking at the bracket, I can't see the Buckeyes getting knocked off early. West Virginia (Sorry Ben!) nor Gonzaga scare me in the second round. Cincy doesn't really leave me in awe, and Florida State is 100% a bluff.

Yes, I said it. FSU is a bluff, and I'm willing to eat my words if I'm wrong, that's how strongly I feel about it. Living here in ACC country these days, I've heard a LOT about FSU on the radio. Yeah, they'd be a formidable opponent, but nothing Sully, Craft and the boys can't handle. Ohio State is just too good on defense for the Noles. If not for the three ball, FSU doesn't beat North Carolina in the ACC title game. As a matter of fact, they get whipped. And Carolina was without it's best defender. But more on the Elite 8 in later days. Confidence and bravado aside, let's just get there first!

No "Flynn to Win"

Am I the only sane person wearing orange and brown these days? Matt Flynn? The same "game manager" Matt Flynn who they were worried about being a liability against Ohio State in the National Championship when he was at LSU? Why is that relevant? Cause aside from two meaningless games and mop up time, that was the last game this guy played with anything on the line! As I write this, thankfully, we all now know that Browns president Mike Holmgren and GM Tom Heckert aren't going after him, despite what the media and "sources" may have been indicating. But the amount of folks clamoring for this guy and hoping they signed him was nearing unbearable proportions. Matt Flynn will get a GM fired somewhere. Luckily, Tom Heckert realized it.

We'll spend a lot more time discussing the draft in the coming weeks. I like the draft... hell I love the draft. It brings hope to us. For a few nights, everything looks on the up and up. Future superstars are ready to hold out of training camp and drive us all insane err I mean lead us into the next great generation of and rekindle the magic that was Browns football. The draft, where we're all experts!

Wrap it up dummy

In summation: it's great to be back! I look back where I was one year ago, then look back at where I was the last time I posted, it's been a crazy ride. I'm in Charlotte. Still weird saying that. I've been here three and a half weeks and it's still weird waking every morning and not being in Ohio. It's certainly warmer, sunnier, and a lot dryer, but still odd and taking some time to adjust to. And I'm only going to say this one time, I want and need only positive people in my life right now. Debbie Downers need not apply, take that shit to Michigan!

Metallica track of the week

Outlaw Torn

One of these nights I'll have to do a "non sports blog" and discuss my trip to San Francisco to see Metallica's 30th anniversary party/show back in December. That show was unreal! Aside from the guest appearances, just being in the historic Fillmore theater, seeing Metallica in the historic Fillmore theater, the artifacts, meeting other fanclub members from across the country and the world, seeing them crush Outlaw Torn was the highlight of the evening! This has long been one of my favorite 'tallica ballads. It has exceptional lyrics by James, it's just an under-appreciated masterpiece. And that night they brought it to life.

I don't know how to add links to these blogs, so cut and paste into your browser the following address if you want to see the actual performance I'm talking about from December 9th at the Fillmore.

Hear me
And if I close my mind in fear
Please pry it open
See me
And if my face becomes sincere
Hold me
And when I start to come undone
Stitch me together
Save me
And when you see me strut
Remind me of what left this outlaw torn

Goodnight now!