Thursday, March 26, 2009

Browns Town? Ugh...

Killing a pedestrian with your car while possibly intoxicated? Sending explicit text messages to a fan during a game?

How about signing also-rans like Hank Poteat?

If you’re looking for more reasons to turn this Browns Town into a Cavs Metropolis, the folks in Berea will never let you down.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are sporting the best record in basketball. They’re clicking on all cylinders and have a very realistic chance at bringing a trophy and respect back to Northeast Ohio.

But silly me. Of course it’s more fun to call talk radio shows and debate about which 50 percent passer should be our starting quarterback.

It might be hard to tell at this point, but I am a Cleveland Browns fan. However, I’m also a realist. The team has done nothing to remain in at the forefront of our athletic conscious.

Many of the players’ behavior on and off the field has embarrassed us all and caused our friends from other NFL cities to disparage us until we begged for mercy. What’s more, the new general manager/head coach tandem barely speaks to us through any medium. So why, then, do we continue talk about which then next draft pick they’ll likely screw up in Browns fashion?

Another cornerstone of Browns fashion is venting and complaining. That’s exactly what I’m doing here, nothing more. I won’t be withdrawing my fan card anytime soon and I won’t ask you to, either.

What I will ask, though, is that if you’re going to show up downtown to tailgate at odd hours of the day, how about doing it for the team that actually wins?

It’s true, there’s nothing like football, but there’s also nothing like LeBron James. Remember that, in the coming months when he and his teammates make a deep playoff run, but still find themselves sharing ink and airtime with a team that would shock the world by winning half of its games in 2009.

You know it will happen.

-- Brandon C. Baker

--Photos: Getty Images and The Associated Press

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009


So this may be an odd statement, but I miss the Detroit Pistons.

I miss them because I loathe them.

The Cavaliers and the Pistons developed a mini-rivalry in the 2006 and 2007 playoffs but it didn’t last long.

I took pride in wearing my “Detroit Sucks” shirt to the playoff games and listening to 20,000 people chant those same words throughout all the playoff games at the Q vs. those scumbags from Michigan.

There aren’t too many moments in my life that were more satisfying than being at the Q when the Cavs beat the Pistons in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

It’s not only that the Pistons were a great basketball team, they were extremely arrogant as well.

They were the perfect team to hate.

To add more fuel to my hatred for the Pistons, they were ridiculously vocal after the 2007 ECF by saying The Cavs didn’t beat them, they beat themselves, giving their opponent absolutely zero credit.

Fast forward not even two years later and Detroit has nearly fallen off the face of the earth.

They are so awful that they are in jeopardy of not even making the playoffs as they fell to eighth seeded Chicago last night. The Bulls are now just a game back of the Pistons for the seventh seed.

If you don't make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, especially after appearing in six straight Eastern Conference Finals, then you are really bad.

I could put a team together with four other guys and compete for the seventh or eighth seed in the East (mostly because of my LBJ-like skills).

The Pistons have been without Allen Iverson for the past 14 games, Rasheed Wallace for the past eight and Richard Hamilton for the past five. They are 3-7 in their past 10 games.

I should be happy to see this team that I hate unravel before my very own eyes, but at the same time, I miss the rivalry that was brewing between these two teams whose basketball arenas are within three hours of each other.

It looks like the Cavaliers may be playing the Pistons after all in playoffs this year as Detroit looks destined for that eighth seed.

I can assure you it won't have the same intensity as it did in 2006 and 2007 as the series will likely last no more than five games, if that.

Ahh well, there is still Boston, who the Cavs have unfinished business with, to direct my hatred towards.

-Nick Carrabine

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tribe's cuts actually are encouraging

The Indians have optioned star prospects Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley to Columbus, but they have left an impression, at least on me.

These are the two key players in last year's CC Sabathia trade to Milwaukee.

In spring training, LaPorta batted .361 with nine RBI and Brantley went 10-for-32 (.313) in 16 games, according to

Although it was spring training, I take some comfort these guys could be the real deal when they finally get the call to the Big Leagues.

It's just a matter of when, not if, that these two players will be a part of the team.

So at least for now, they didn't stink up Goodyear and have provided a ray of sunshine here in sometimes gloomy Northeast Ohio.

April 6 is the season opener at Texas!

-- John Arthur Hutchison

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Friday, March 20, 2009

I seriously get mad over March Madness

Ahh, the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament is upon us.

Workers everywhere across America are glued to their computer screens, hitting the refresh button every 8.9 seconds to see which games will cause their brackets to implode.

I know a thing or two about atrocious brackets.

I usually never stick around long enough to care about the Sweet 16, because my bracket is ripped up into dozens of pieces at the bottom of some trash can by then.

I might as well take $5 every March and flush it down the toilet instead of wasting other people’s time to check off my bracket’s after every round, knowing I’m already out of it.

I did win a March Madness pool once in 2003 when I was the only person in the whole tournament to pick Carmello Anthony’s No. 3 seed Syracuse team to win it all.

People thought I was crazy. Well I got the last laugh but have been crying ever since.

Since 2003, I’ve been downright terrible at filling brackets.

Two years ago I picked Kevin Durant’s Texas team, who failed to win more than one game in the tournament.

Last year was so bad, I honestly don’t remember which scrub team I picked. I think I picked someone who wasn't even in the tournament.

To win this thing, you have to take some risks.

Risks are what one me the tournament in 2003 but it’s also what caused me to toss away my bracket in 2007 before the second round of games were completed.

This year I filled out two brackets, playing it relatively safe in both, which I rarely do (If you haven't noticed by now, I live on the edge.)

I have Memphis in one, and Louisville in another.

I’m not a big college basketball fan at all but I do appreciate the tournament, which is probably why I didn’t move from my couch between 3 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. Thursday into Friday.

Just don’t expect me to be sitting on that couch watching the games come next week, because I’ll surely be out of it by then.

-Nick Carrabine

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cooley not hip to Positively Cleveland campaign

For those who haven’t yet seen it, Washington Redskins TE Chris Cooley posted a blog addressing trade rumors involving himself, Denver Broncos QB Jay Cutler and the Browns.

Here it is, in its entirety, with edits made for The News-Herald’s family friendly blog:

It is rumored that there is a possible trade in the works for angry Jay Cutler. There were a couple different internet possibilities. The first would be with the Broncos, including Cutler and (TE Tony) Scheffler for (QB Jason) Campbell and myself. Another was a three-way trade between the Browns and in that scenario Campbell and I would go to Cleveland, Cutler/Scheffler would come here and the Broncos would get Brady Quinn, someone else and a draft pick.

Trade talk is a weird wake up at 6:30. Obviously something was said between teams to cause this Internet trading (poop) storm. I would be (very upset) if I got my (butt) shipped to Cleveland. But seriously, when the Internet is the first news I hear about something this big I would hope it to be speculation. Really, it could have been a couple owners (gossiping) and joking around about guys and someone leaked it. No big deal. I would be blown away to hear anything more. It is nice to read extreme skins posts about not wanting me to go. Thanks!

What stands out most here might be Cooley’s thoughts on being traded to Cleveland. Granted, he doesn’t specifically slam the team or city — at least not directly. But it seems fair for Browns fans to assume Cooley isn’t the only NFL player with this point of view. In a league where most players only get a couple of chances in their career to either cash in or win a ring, the constantly rebuilding Cleveland Browns can’t be an attractive destination.

That aside, it’s questionable whether this trade would even be any good for the Browns. Cooley could replace recently traded Kellen Winslow Jr., sure, but Campbell doesn’t seem like much of an upgrade and the Browns would apparently lose a precious draft pick.

-- Michael C. Butz

No. 1 seed all but wrapped up

I usually don’t make too many predictions.

Actually, yeah I do. I make a ton, but I’m never right, so I act as if I never mentioned it.

However I’m willing to bet with last nights victory against the Orlando Magic, the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is all but wrapped up for our Cavaliers.

With only 15 games to play, the Cavs have a 5 game lead over both the Magic and the Boston Celtics in the loss column.

We’ve only lost 13 games in the last 20 weeks, what makes anyone think we’ll lose five more in the next four weeks?

Ten of those 15 games are still at home where we have a breathtaking 30-1 record.

Sorry Celtics and Magic.

Anything can happen of course, and if we learned anything from this miserable sports town it's to never count your chickens before they hatch.

I'd like to think this year is different, if you haven't noticed by now, this may be one of the most special seasons in any sport this city has ever witnessed.

Now the Cavs need to keep their one game lead over the Lakers for the best overall record in the NBA.

Then the season will turn from special to historic.

-Nick Carrabine

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cavs Prepare for Playoff Preview

Last week’s games kept us on the edge or our seats and drowsy each morning after.

If we didn’t know this season was a special one, we found out during that West Coast trip, chock full of games the Cleveland Cavaliers surely would’ve blown last year. They’re 53-13, and surprisingly starting to look back at the Boston Celtics. But now is certainly not the time to get comfortable.

Sure they swept the triumvirate of the L.A. Clippers, Phoenix and Sacramento, but they did so with habits that won’t get the job done this week. The Cavs are prepping themselves for a DEEP (and hopefully “In Da Q”) playoff run, and their upcoming opponents give them a great opportunity to see what they’re working with.

Orlando visits tomorrow, with dominant big man Dwight Howard and a stable of three-point shooters in tow. The Magic’s much-improved point guard Jameer Nelson suffered a season-ending shoulder injury earlier this year, but the team has replaced him with Rafer Alston, a competent point who can make shots and lead a team. The Cavs need to bring their primetime defense to this matchup of beasts in the East.

Sure that sounds like an obvious statement for this game, and really any other. But it needs mentioning, since the Cavs played nothing that resembled D, interior or perimeter, during their Westside swing. They turned it on late in two of the three games, and really relied on monster performances by LeBron James and Mo Williams to outscore the opposition.

The Portland Trailblazers, who come to town on Thursday, won’t stand for that simply because they’re a much more balanced team than the those three Western Conference counterparts or the New York Knicks, who the Cavaliers edged last night. On Saturday, Cleveland takes on the Atlanta Hawks, the fourth-place team that is more than capable of winning a big one (see the Cavs’ loss to them in December for evidence).

All of this is concerning since Cleveland hasn’t fared well against top-tier teams for most of this season. However, in the REAL ‘Season of Dreams,’ Cleveland seems to get “it.” You could see it on James’ face after each win last week — he wasn’t satisfied with a W. Instead he wanted to figure out how to stop smallish guards from waltzing in the lane. He also wanted rookies like Sacramento’s Jason Thompson to stop getting easy slams.

Cleveland should be alright. Just think, at this time last year the team was adjusting to a new roster and attempting to put it all together for the stretch run. This time, the guys know each other and work well with one another, and that will only help in the coming months.

This week will be fun, for sure. We’ll all ‘witness it,’ and without having to stay up until 1 a.m., too.

-- Brandon C. Baker
Photo: The Associated Press

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Mo knows basketball, Larry didn’t

Remember that one guy who we signed for $60 million, got injured a ton, and when he did play made a mockery of the game of basketball?

Yeah, that guy, what was his name again?

He put up 20 shots a game, only to make roughly 30 percent of them...on a good night.
Larry something, right?

Ah well, I can’t recall.

Mo Williams has made me forget everything about that disaster.

The first year Cavalier has been a God-given saint to this years championship contending team.

After somewhat of a “slow start” this season, Mo has been banging on all cylinders averaging career highs in points per game (18.1), three-point percentage (43.8) and free-throw percentage (93.6.)

While he may not be a true point guard like a Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo, this guy can shoot and actually hit shots when we need them.

He also doesn’t embarrass himself bringing the ball down the court or when attempting lay-ups (see: Eric Snow.)

In fact, Mo has perfected what is now called the Mo Flow, which is his running floater a few feet away from the basket.

It’s the first time since Andre Miller that the Cavaliers have had a point guard who can impact a game so positively. Although back then, Miller’s services and accomplishments were completely wasted by garbage players.

Mo has taken so much pressure off LeBron James and has allowed our team to move the ball like we haven’t see in years.

He isn’t selfish, doesn’t clash with teammates and he has taken the role of second fiddle to LBJ perfectly, a role that Larry (what was his last name again?) or Ricky Davis couldn’t accept.

At this point in the season, it seems Mo is getting better game by game.

Even on a rare off night Wednesday where he only shot 4 of 17 from the field, he hit the go ahead three-pointer with 6 seconds left, then two free-throws to seal the deal.

I really expect him to flourish in the playoffs, a player that emerges into a true bonafide star when this season is all said and done with.

I don’t think fans have really come to appreciate or realize how important Mo has been to this team’s record breaking season.

The only thing important thing about Larry is, no one can remember him.

That is something fans should appreciate.

-Nick Carrabine

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Is it opening day yet?

I can't wait for baseball season to start. Spring Training sure is long.

I'm nervous about the Tribe's third through fifth starters, after shaky spring performances so far.

But my experience is that these spring games are meaningless in terms of stats. You just have to hope the guys are getting stronger and ready for opening day.

Wouldn't it be something if that fifth starter, whomever he is, emerged as someone who will win 12-15 games?

I'm not asking for another Cy Young performance like Cliff Lee gave last year, just a solid guy.

The bullpen should be strong with Kerry Wood and other arms available, like Jensen Lewis, in case Wood falters.

I'm excited about the offense, with Victor looking good, Grady and even, dare I say, Peralta appearing like he's ready to build on from last year.

If Hafner is 90 percent of what he used to be, that would be awesome. Maybe I can even dust off my old Pronk jersey I have hanging in my closet.

Is 90 wins in order for this team?

-- John Arthur Hutchison

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Friday, March 6, 2009

I've had enough of Baahston!

I haven’t slept in days.

I’m absolutely salivating at the mouth for tonight’s showdown in Beantown (or should I say Sleaze-town).

The Cavaliers take on the Celtics tonight in Boston at 8 p.m.

Boston is supposed to be without Kevin Garnett tonight but rest assured Boston will be ready to play regardless of whether or not the Big Ticket laces them up.

(Side note: If Garnett does not play, Austin Carr owes Fred McCleod golf clubs.)

If the Cavaliers win tonight, it will most likely be the most impressive victory of the regular season.

On the road against the defending champs with the Number 1 seed on the line.

Both teams enter the game with 48 wins but the Cavaliers have the edge in the winning percentage due to two less losses.

The Cavaliers need this game to put somewhat of a cushion between the number 1 and 2 seed.

Home court advantage throughout the playoffs is a must for the Cavaliers who boast an incredible 27-1 record at the Q.

It is too hard to win on the road in the playoffs, especially against good teams.

The series so far this year is split 1-1, with each victor winning on their home floor.

I’m surprisingly confident that the Cavaliers should pull through tonight.

That is the difference with this year’s team.

The last three seasons, I would have never expected to win a game like tonight but this is a true championship contending team.

Also, if the Cavaliers win tonight, they'll tie a franchise record with most wins on the road in one season (22).

A win would also reduce their magic number to clinch the division to five.

(Detroit also plays tonight, a loss for them will reduce the magic number regardless if Cleveland wins or not.)

-Nick Carrabine

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Talk Smack About Shaq? Good Luck with That

Why bother with Shaquille O’Neal?

That’s my question for, well, pretty much anybody. But this week, that query gets pointed directly at the Phoenix Suns center’s latest two victims, Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors and Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy.

That duo already has enough to worry about, with the former trying to make this season the least bit respectable, and Van Gundy attempting to catch the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics for the all-important No. 1 seed. Now, they challenged the Big Diesel only to get embarrassed all over television, newspapers and the World Wide Web.

After a 133-113 beatdown at the hands of the Suns last Friday, you’d think Bosh would be trying to figure out how his front court yielded 45 points to a player who turns 37 tomorrow. Bosh did just that while talking to reporters, but chalked Shaq’s big game up to his taking advantage of negligent referees and “just camping down in the lane.”

Bosh might be one of the most exciting young players of today’s NBA, but he must not be a very smart one. Two days after his comments, he got served with THIS, Shaqtus-style:

“I heard what Chris Bosh said, and that’s strong words coming from the RuPaul of big men ... I’m going to do the same thing [in their next meeting] I did before -- make him quit. Make ‘em quit and complain. It’s what I do.”

After the laughter wears off (yeah, like that’ll happen anytime soon), it’s important to really analyze this comment. For everything Bosh has accomplished in his five-plus seasons in the league, including multiple all-star appearances and becoming a top-ten scorer, O’Neal reduced him to an over-zealous drag queen — not a typical or respectable description of any professional ball player.

Don’t be surprised if the new moniker follows Bosh to arenas across the Association.

For Van Gundy’s part, the former Heat and Shaq coach poked fun at the big man for taking an obvious flop during his team’s 111-99 defeat of the Suns Tuesday, even though O’Neal chided others for doing the same throughout his career. Specifically, he challenged Shaq to “stand up and play like men.”

You already know what’s coming next — paragraphs and paragraphs that will leave a lasting impression on fans and league members who latch onto O’neal’s every word:

“... As I fell, I realized that it was a flop and it reminded me of Coach Van Gundy’s whole coaching career. The one thing I despise is a frontrunner. First of all, none of his players like him. When it gets tough, he will become the master of panic like he did before and he will quit like he did before. I see him (Dwight Howard) and Stan complaining the whole game because they have to. I’ve done more than him, his brother and Patrick Ewing. Stan Van Gundy reminds me of a broke navigational system. He knows everything about everything but ain’t never been nowhere ... We’ll see when the playoffs start and he (expletive) panics and quits like he did when he was here ...”

So, today’s lesson? Don’t talk smack about Shaq. Actually, that’s an old lesson. Maybe now more NBAers will pay attention.

-- Brandon C. Baker
Photo: The Associated Press

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

More cowbell won’t cure this fever

I woke up this morning and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I’ve got the fever.

It has hit so hard I thought about calling off work but I don’t think they’d understand.

See, it’s not an illness I’m suffering from, it’s Tribe fever.

It happens every spring (did I just say spring?) and it last until October.

If the Indians play their cards right this year, I’ll be diagnosed until November.

The Central Division, in my opinion, is weaker than its been in years and despite what seems to be a very questionable starting rotation, I’m picking the Tribe to win the Central. (Please note that I also picked the Tribe to win the World Series last season. In my defense, who didn’t.)

If all goes well (and we know it never does) the Tribe’s offense should be sizzling as long as Victor Martinez or Travis Hafner decide to show a pulse and we could have the most improved bullpen in the American League with the addition of Kerry Wood and Joe Smith to go along with the always solid Rafael Perez.

If Rafael Betancourt can return to his 2007 form and Jensen Lewis (or J-Lew the Kid as I like to call him) can start off where he left off in 2008, I like our chances.

Starting pitching on the other hand, now that just gives me a real fever.

No way Cliff Lee can duplicate what he did last season. The book is still out on No. 2 starter Fausto Carmona and No. 3 starter, Carl Pavano may break his back if he tries to pick up a book. (Just nine starts in his last two seasons due to injuries.)

As for our fourth and fifth starter, I would be a better option over a scrub like Jeremy Sowers.

There is nothing sweet about Sowers.

Sorry I’m not totally enthused with his 5-13 record over the past two years with a 6.00 E.R.A.

Hopefully our bullpen will shape up so that our starters won’t have the pressure of pitching into the sixth or seventh inning each night because with our starting rotation, we are going to need a reliable bullpen.

Plus I’m expecting this offense to be the cat's pajamas.

With a line-up of Sizemore, DeRosa, V-Mart, Peralta, Hafner, Garko or Shoppach, Choo, Francisco and Cabrera, I expect some pretty good numbers.

The fever is officially in full swing and it's one you may want to catch.

-Nick Carrabine

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The battle of the journeymen

Joe Smith or Drew Gooden?

Both players were bought out before midnight on Sunday allowing them to sign with another NBA team in time to make the playoff roster.

While nothing is official, reports suggest that Smith is coming to Cleveland and the Spurs are interested in Gooden.

Whatever the case, the Cavaliers need someone.

While Gooden might be virtually better in every single statistical category, Smith is without a doubt a better acquisition for what the Cavaliers need.

Gooden is six years younger, far more athletic, a bigger body, can rebound and finish around the rim and can start for the majority of the teams in the NBA.

Smith is on his last legs, a bit scrawny and can’t body up with some of the bigger forwards/centers in the league.

Despite this, Smith is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Cavaliers.

He doesn’t make the same bone-headed mistakes that Gooden made consistently when wearing a Cavaliers uniform. He doesn’t NEED to play 25 to 30 minutes to keep him happy and he doesn’t sport any “rat tails” on the back of his head or ridiculous looking goatees.

He can hit his jump shots and grab some rebounds and won't destroy any team chemistry while doing so either.

This is not to say Gooden was a bad teammate while in Cleveland. He actually seemed like a very nice and down to earth guy but his bone-headed mistakes were often too much to make up for and it's the reason why his next team will be his sixth team in just seven seasons.

Smith will know his role and accept it happily, just as he did at the end of last season for the Cavaliers.

All I ask is for 12-15 minutes a game allowing Z and Andy to rest without having to worry about Darnell Jackson fouling out in that span of time or a person seated in the first row risking injury after JJ Hickson gets another one his shots blocked, again.

-Nick Carrabine

I want to believe, can I?

I have been burned too many times thinking a Cleveland team was going to win a championship.

Never in my lifetime, as I soon will celebrate the 10th anniversary of my 29th birthday, have I experienced basking in the glory of my favorite professional sports time winning it all.

Sure I've been close, most recently in 1997 when the Tribe failed to win Game 7 against the Marlins. Yes we know, Mesa officially blew the save, Nagy lost the game (check the box score the L is by his name).

But the debate on whose fault it was for the Tribe not winning that game is for another time.

Now, we have a great Cavaliers team with King James leading the way and it's exciting. I'm definitely enjoying the ride.

This season, I'm again faced with a real possibility my team can win it all.

What would that be like? I probably would have to go downtown just to experience it with others if the Cavs were to be fortunate enough to be the champs. No, I wouldn't be there to loot or burn cars or get arrested.

But as a seasoned Cleveland fan, I protect myself emotionally. I've learned not to get my hopes too high and I'm trying not to do so again this year, but this time it's really hard and I'm glad that it is.

I want to believe. Can I?

How about you?

Feel free to drop some comments to our new blog.

-- John Arthur Hutchison

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Cleveland is heartbreak city

I’m not a sports writer.

I don’t claim to be one, nor do I want to be one.

I’m the online/video reporter for the News-Herald. I get up in the middle of the night (at least for me) to show up to work to make as many Web updates to our Web site as possible, among many other assignments.

However, I live for Cleveland sports. I literally lose sleep each night after a Cleveland loss.

I throw tantrums, have been known to break items and people tend to shy away from me after a tough loss.

I once devoted about three hours a day for years of my life to a Cleveland Cavaliers Messageboard site (until they made it some absurd social networking site).

Nerd? Yes. Die-hard fan since coming out of the womb in 85? Yes.

My heart has been broken multiple times for multiple reasons. Not by girls (don’t be silly), by Cleveland teams.

While I’m too young to remember “Red Right 88,” “The Drive,” “The Fumble,” “The Shot” or “The (insert breakdown here),” I’ve suffered through the 9th inning Jose Mesa meltdown in ‘97, the Steelers comeback against the Browns during the AFC wild card Playoff game in the ‘02 season, the embarrassing sweep of the Cavaliers in the ‘07 NBA Finals, the unexplainable collapse of the Tribe in the ALCS in ‘07 and the division race in '05, among many other heartbreaking defeats in bizarre and un-typical fashion.

Oh and did I mention one of the most storied franchises was taken from me (as well as from you too) in 1996. And let’s not discuss what that franchise went on to do. (Of course I’m convinced, due to this city’s luck, that we wouldn’t have had the same fate, had we not been “relocated.”)

So being a Cleveland fan brings a lot of heartbreak, you don’t need me to tell you that, but I keep coming back.

I consider myself a realist when it comes to talking/watching sports, while some people mistake it for pessimistic.

I’ll be using this blog to voice my opinion about the current status of these teams.

My thoughts, feelings, reactions, rants, displeasures, expectations, Brady, Grady and LeBron and any more unfortunate, ridiculous defeats that are sure to come to “The Mistake by the Lake.”

-Nick Carrabine