Thursday, September 29, 2005


I put together an excellent post Sunday, mentioning the improving Buckeyes, the impressive Bengals, the growing Browns and the finger-crossing Indians, but it all was deleted because I let the post screen sit up for too long! The worst part is I can't recover anything I wrote! Not that it matters now. It's Thursday, and all those insights are obsolete. Additionally, I was slated to have my first print edition of "Keeping Score" run in The Chimes today, but a lack of room on the page kept it sitting on the sidelines. However, the great thing about this blog is that I can post it here. Enjoy!


Over the summer, a friend and I would periodically navigate the Columbus bicycle trails for about 20 miles, and I can remember thinking to myself when we finished, “Wow, my legs hurt. I’m glad we’re done.”

I cannot imagine riding four times that far at a much faster pace over significantly more rugged terrain every day for three weeks. But what really boggles my mind is that someone has not only done all that but has done it better than anyone else in the world for seven straight years.

Lance Armstrong added his seventh consecutive Tour de France title this summer and completed arguably the greatest individual athletic achievement in the history of sports. Not only did Armstrong do what no cyclist had ever done before, he did it after pushing cancer into remission. But as soon as Armstrong finished the tour and announced his official retirement, a writer from the French daily sports newspaper L’Equipe had to go and accuse him of cheating.

In an article titled “The Armstrong Lie,” the writer, alleged that Armstrong took the performance-enhancing drug Erythropoietin (EPO) in 1999 while he was training for his second Tour de France.

This is not the first time Armstrong has been the center of drug controversy. Also in 1999 he tested positive for a topical steroid that with a doctor’s prescription is legal in cycling, upon producing the prescription, Armstrong was cleared of wrongdoing and allowed to race.

The L’Equipe writer had a French laboratory, Châtenay-Malabry, supporting his claim, saying that cycling’s testing process before 1999 was flawed because many cyclists’ test samples, including some of Armstrong’s, sat long enough in the laboratory that the EPO proteins deteriorate, and that created a negative test. The lab claimed it was possible that the negative results regarding Armstrong are inaccurate.

It is also possible that O.J. Simpson killed his ex-wife, but the criminal court found him not guilty because not enough proof existed against him. Similarly, what is missing in all of these Armstrong allegations is proof.

Another possibility is that the French media is jealous that an American has so thoroughly dominated “their sport” for seven years. I cannot prove that, but it is possible.

“Possible” is not enough for me to judge, and it is not enough for cycling, either. The sport has not discredited any of Armstrong’s accomplishments. Their official organization, UCI, released a statement September 9 saying neither Châtenay-Malabry nor the World Anti-Doping Agency has provided any conclusive data. Armstrong has vehemently denied the allegations throughout his career.

The best thing to come out of these allegations may be a possible comeback. Armstrong told The American Statesman in August that he might ride the tour in 2006 “just to piss the French off.” Armstrong, however, reported through his Web site September 15 that he does not intend to race another Tour de France.

Which Armstrong comment is the truth? Will he come back and try for an eighth title? I do not know how likely it is, but it is possible.


Saturday, September 24, 2005


Since I last posted, claiming the Chicago White Sox faced the true pressure in the last game of their series with the Indians, the Tribe not only won that game 8-0 but have won the first two games in their series with Kansas City. Travis Hafner has homered in six straight games, and Scott Elarton, in that third game of the Chicago series, had probably the best big-game performance of his career. As it stands, the Indians trail the ChiSox by 1.5 games in the division with another three-game series--this time in Cleveland--on the slate to close the regular season next week. You cannot help but be excited as an Indians fan. Playoff tickets go on sale as I am typing this.

The national media has finally warmed up to the Tribe, but deep down you know that ESPN and FOX are quietly pulling for both the Yankees and Red Sox to make the playoffs. Why? The highest-rated baseball games on television are consistently Yankees/Red Sox grduge matches. I, however, am sick of it. Putting aside my pro-Cleveland bias, I am utterly exasperated with having the baseball experts ram the New York/Boston matchup down my throat. Were the series in the last two years exciting? Sure, no one will argue that. But if the biggest complaint against baseball is that the game has been lacking parity, wouldn't it be great to see a small-market, low-payroll, "cinderella" team like the Tribe get into the playoffs and make some noise? Also, there are closet Indians fans all over the country just like there are closet Browns fans. They are all native Clevelanders who moved away when their job got raped from NE Ohio (wait, this is a sports blog, I'll stop right there.) Regardless of what I say, though, the major networks who cover the postseason, especially FOX who has the primetime rights, are pulling hard for the Red Sox. Unfortunately, they could be grossly unhappy.

To my Reds-fan readers, I promise the year is almost over. Last night, the Reds imploded, blowing a 10-6 lead in the ninth to the contending Phillies, and the Phillies won 11-10. The Reds' don't seem to be relishing their spoiler role, and I don't blame them. With Griffey out for the rest of the season, there isn't really a good reason to watch them. My advice is hop on the Benglas bandwagon and buckle your seatbelt. The Reds desperately need to rebuild, as last night's game was a microchosm of the whole season.

Ohio State will be playing in its second-biggest game of the season today against No. 21 Iowa. (No, the biggest was not against Texas.) Last year the Hawkeyes completely handed it to the Buckeyes, so revenge is necessary. In order to win, the Buckeyes will have to play their best game of the season. That means hanging onto the football, picking up those big first downs on third and short and getting Ginn as many touches as humanly possible. I'll take the Buckeyes 17-14.

I won't get a chance to see the game, though, because I'm covering Capital at home against Heidelberg. Though the rain might slow the scoring down a bit, I would give you Heidelberg and 30 points in a bet. They're terrible, and if Collins is any kind of coach at all, Capital should be angry from the way they gave the Otterbein game away.

Enjoy the weekend, and of the Buckeyes, Browns and Bengals, at least one team has to win, right?

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005


If you watched the Indians game last night, you know they lost 7-6. We won't get into the nitty gritty of why or how it happened (Jose Hernandez! Leaving Riske in too long!); instead, we'll move on to tonight--Scott Elarton "Big Start Scott" and Jon Garland.

In tonight's game, the pressure is still on Chicago, not Cleveland. Some of you are thinking, "What kind of backwards logic is that? The White Sox have their 3.5-game lead back. They have the momentum of a walk-off home run! The Indians now only have a .5 game lead in the wildcard again! And the pressure is still on the Sox?" Yep.

The Sox are supposed to win tonight. They are supposed to win this division after cushion they built. The Indians aren't even supposed to be in the playoffs, let along chasing after Chicago's heels. Who do the Indians get to play next? Kansas City and Tampa Bay, the teams with the two worst records in the American League. (Say what you want about Tampa and a resurgence; I'd still take playing them over a lot of teams.) I truly think the Indians can take a wildcard lead into their final series at home with Chicago next weekend, regardless of what happens in tonight's game. However, if the Sox lose, they have to face the fact that Cleveland came into their stadium for three games and left one game closer to them than when they came in. In other words, a Cleveland win means Chicago just keeps blowing it, slowly but surely.

The Tribe just needs to do what it has been doing all year--staying relaxed and having fun. Close losses happen, but so do bounce-back wins.

My apologies to everyone wanting to hear more commentary than that JUST of the Cleveland Indians. During mid-week, though, this series is the focus of not just Ohio and Cleveland attention, but national attention. My thoughts on New Orleans sports, fantasy football booms and busts, and other notable issure are coming. Just bear with me.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005


To the casual baseball fan, a single up the middle might not be as sexy as a grand slam or a 500-foot tape measure home run. It is tough, though, to find a bigger hit in the Indians' season than the one Aaron Boone got last night--not his early-game home run to left but instead his two-out, two-strike single to center to bring in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning. The result? The Indians win 7-5 over the White Sox. The divisional gap now sits at 2.5 games.

This guy might have not have hit his weight in April or May, and even lately he has been slumping, but he is exactly what the Indians will need for the stretch run and/or playoffs. A clutch, ice water-in-the-veins, hitter. The Indians may be hitting a lot of home runs lately, but it will be singles to center that win the ones that count the most.

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Monday, September 19, 2005


Sunday was a good day to be an Ohio sports fan. The Indians pounded the Royals 11-0, the Bengals make a statement with a 37-8 victory over the Vikings and the Browns picked up their first win under Romeo Crennel, 26-24 over Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers.

The Indians have won 12 of 13. Last year, the Indians were a streaky team. They would win five and then immediately lose six. They're streaky again this year, also, only in 2005 they put together a lot more winning streaks than losing ones. In fact, this recent streak cannot be chaulked up to "They're just hot right now." Maybe they're just good? Really, really good. They will face their biggest test of the season tonight in a huge series with the White Sox, who won yesterday, in Chicago. Kevin Millwood will face Freddy Garcia, who like all of the other Sox starters has dominated the Tribe this year. First pitch is 8:05, and you can bet that only an emergency will keep me from watching.

I told you the Cincinnati Bengals and Minnesota Vikings would be the game to watch this weekend, and in a way I was right. Though the score was lopsided, it exclaimed something to the media around here: The Bengals are for real. The Vikings were my Super Bowl pick, but their supposedly improved defense was no match for Carson, Johnson, Johnson and T.J. Not only that, but the Minnesota quarterback is playing more like Dante Bichette than Daunte Culpepper. If the Bengals can eliminate turnovers and reduce mental errors, they could be the Pittsburgh, or at least Indianapolis of this year. They have as much talent as anybody, and my prediction for 10 wins may not be enough.

Romeo Crennel and his staff probably enjoyed a nice toast after the ballgame yesterday, and they deserved it. The Browns 26-24 win in Lambeau is a huge step for the franchise. I realize the Packers are down this year and Favre still managed to carve up the Browns secondary, the Browns have to be excited for their big play potential. Braylon Edwards' long touchdown yesterday along with Heiden add a dimension to the offense I didn't think they had: The ability to go deep on every play. If Trent Dilfer can perform even close to the way he did yesterday and do it against better defenses, the Browns will score points. Don't get ahead of yourselves, yet, Browns fans. They are still inexperienced, over-penalized and nowhere near a playoff contender. Revel in the fact, though, that you've got a .500 team, if only for a week.

I called out the Marlins and they responded, beating Philadelphia last night. Florida still has a shot, in my opinion, but I called last night a must-win for them. The NL wildcard is wide open, and the AL one is still up for grabs (as are all the divisions.) The picture changes every night, and that is what is so much fun about September baseball. The real winners are people like you and me, who get to watch it all unfold.

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Sunday, September 18, 2005


God told us to honor to the sabbath and keep it holy (for some this means watching the NFL.) As a result, Saturdays, especially in September when college football is heating up and the wildcard race is coming down to the wire, have to be the most eventful day of the sports week. One week after the OSU/Texas hoopla, the 17th proved to be another day full of bliss and disappointment; here's my take on it.

First of all, I was able to take in my second Indians game in a week, and once again, it was a huge win. After taking an early 5-0 lead, the woeful KC Royals added four runs off Cliff Lee, who was again solid, making it 5-4. Though the Indians offense couldn't push across another run, the bullpen held on for the Tribe's 5-4 victory; Wickman recorded his 43rd save. 30,000+ made it out to the game, and for my second game in a row, the crowd was loud and into the game. The atmosphere is back, the talent is back and I have a feeling that October magic will be back, as well. The White Sox loss earlier in the day makes the Tribe, who were once 15 games behind Chicago, now only 3.5 back. After the Indians finish off Kansas City today, they head to Chi-town for an enormous series with the Sox. If you would've asked me in July if the two series with Chicago in September would have division implications, I would've said, "No way."

People saying "no way" is what has fueled this team's drive for the playoffs.

The way this team has responded so far to the pressure of a playoff push has been astounding. Thanks to my generous roommate, I was able to take in the ballgame from directly beyond home plate, five rows from the protective screen--by far the best seats I have ever had at the Jake. I have some terrific photos that I will post as soon as I get them developed.

At the request of a loyal reader, I will also share my thoughts about the NL wildcard race. My pick all along--the fashionable pick among the experts--has been the Florida Marlins because of their three-headed starting pitching monster of Willis, Beckett and Burnett. However, it's the Astros tribunal of Clemens, Oswalt and Pettite that now has a .5 game lead over the Phillies, and the Marlins have slid back to 2.5 games back. Yesterday, with the Marlins leading 2-0 in the 9th at home, closer Todd Jones blew the save and the rest of the bullpen allowed the Phillies to score ten runs in ninth. The result was a 10-2 loss for the Marlins and a ruined brilliant start by Willis. Today is a must-win for Florida. After blowing the game in a demoralizing fashion like Florida did, they need to bounce back today, or, I feel, the NL will become a two-horse race of Houston and Philly.

...Now for the really bad news for my Capital readers. What do five fumbles and some bad luck get you in a rivalry game on the road? It gets you beat. The Crusaders, who led 14-2 (strange score, I know) at the end of the three quarters in what was a sloppy and bizarre game to that point, blew that 12-point lead to Otterbein and ended up losing 17-14. Paul Stetzler, Ricardo Lenhart and the Otterbein offense took a page out of the Capital playbook. They threw efficient short passes and lulled the Capital defense, who was playing "not to lose," to sleep. With about three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Otterbein made the score 14-9. Capital STILL should've had the game in control at this point, but receiver Kive Kraft fumbled on the Cap 43-yard line on the Capital possession, which put incredible pressure on the Cap defense to hold up again. They couldn't. After Otterbein scored the go-ahead touchdown and two-point conversion, Capital didn't have enough time to set up a field goal. Instead, they settled for an unsuccessful hail mary. Then the Otterbein fans commenced their upset ruccous and "over-rated" cheers.

I hope the Crusaders regroup and refocus before their home opener this week, but I have to reiterate what I have been saying from August. Capital is probably not going to beat Mount Union on the road, so for them to make the playoffs as an at-large team, they would need to go 9-1, winning every other game. Unfortunately, that is not possible now. It will be interesting to see how they react.

One team that bounced back was the Ohio State Buckeyes, winning 27-6 yesterday over San Diego State. What was missing from this win was an exclamation point. OSU played sloppy, espcially early. They turned the ball over, were penalized a lot and looked like a team who is still trying to find itself. They have another week to find themselves before another huge game at home: Iowa. Troy Smith's mentally weak performance yesterday results has made me realize one thing: No one can be critical of Tressel's choices regarding his quarterbacks because neither has stood out. They both have been mediocre at best in the past two games. Who will start this Saturday? Who knows. A win against the Hawkeyes might require a blocked punt, a kick return for a touchdown and a defense holding Iowa under ten points. If OSU does all of that, they might have a chance to win.

In the meantime, enjoy the nice weather while we still have it. Cleveland fans, head up to the Jake if you get the chance. Trust me, these guys are special. You won't be disappointed.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005


Though I haven't been living up to the "daily sports chronicle" billing of this Web site, partly because I'm ashamed I actually picked the Browns over the Bengals and partly because homework got in the way, I am back, insightful and profound as ever for your reading pleasure.

I'll start with the Browns' debauchle to get it out of the way. Bengals fans, rejoice. Browns fans, get used to it. The Bengals offense, lead by coming-into-his-own Carson Palmer, is poised to propel to the Bengals to 10-11 wins. Barring injuries, I think the Bengals will be a fun team to watch, especially when they have the ball. Can they beat Minnesota this weekend? Well, they are at home and Minnesota looked absolutely terrible last week. I'm not predicting anything, but I will make the Bengals/Vikings game my "NFL must-see game of the week." Cleveland might want to consider throwing all of their support behind the Indians, at least until mid-October. The Browns are going to have growing pains in the early going. Reuben Droughns was a great acquisition, Braylon Edwards, I'm confident, was a much better pick than Kellen Winslow, and Trent Dilfer proved with 270 yards passing that he won't be terrible. Some experts think the Browns actually have a chance to beat the Packers this weekend. What does that say about the Packers?

Tennis, anyone? Andre Agassi lost to Roger Federer in the final in four sets. Federer, the machine that he is, was playing even with Agassi through three sets. It was teasing enough for the viewers to think that Agassi actually had a chance. Then Federer blows Agassi away in the third-set tiebreak and never looked back. Good tennis players win a lot of points. Great tennis players win a lot of points that matter (break points, set points, match points, etc.) The greatest of all time, however, wins the points that matter against other great players. Roger Federer's consistency doing this makes him, right now, the best male tennis player I have ever seen. Sampras should enjoy having the most titles in men's tennis now because Federer will eclipse that accolade.

To hell with the inverted pyramid, I'm saving the best for last! THE TRIBE beat Oakland twice out of three games, losing the first but rebounding to take the next two. I was fortunate enough to be there for the middle game of the series, a game which some are calling the Indians' biggest win of the year. Trailing 2-0 with Kevin "I get no run support" Millwood, Eric Wedge was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, the Indians had made three errors, two by Ben Broussard, and the lights went out. Sitting by the visitors' bullpen, I was fortunate enough to hear Oakland closer Huston Street's taunts of "Why don't you pay the electric bill?" Funny, Huston. Broussard supplied all the power Cleveland would need the rest of the game, smacking two home runs, including a three-run blast in the bottom of the eighth, en route to the victory. I don't care that there were only 21,000 fans there. At least the feeble 21,000 were loud, cheering and having fun. To top it all off, I took a souvenir home courtesy right fielder Casey Blake, who tossed a ball right into my mitt.

Last night, Jake Westbrook outdueled Barry Zito and the Tribe won 6-3. With the win, the Indians are a season-best 22 games over .500. They have a one game lead in the wildcard over the Yankees (now 3.5 over Oakland) and they have trimmed a once 15-game deficit to Chicago to five games. Even if the Indians don't make the playoffs, the stretch run has been so fun to watch and will continue to be that way.

It's an exciting time for sports. If only it were my real job to write about it.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005


I'm sure for many OSU fans, when the Buckeyes' 25-22 loss to Texas became official, it seemed like tomorrow would never come. Well, here it is. Life goes on, the Buckeyes are 1-1, and if they take this loss and use it to their advantage, they could go 10-1 and 8-0 in the Big Ten.. Even though I'll admit the game last night had huge implications, it isn't even the biggest game on our schedule; Michigan is, and Iowa is a close second.

I have no doubt that the Buckeyes are the most talented team in the Big Ten. The goal should be revised at this point: Instead of a national title, let's just focus on winning an outright conference championship. After all, Ohio State hasn't won one since 1984.

The Indians won 7-5 over the Twins, giving them their sixth win in a row. With a Yankee loss to Boston, the Tribe now has a 1.5 game lead in the wildcard with their ace--in my opinion anyway--Cliff Lee starting tonight's game. The Tribe's sucess has numbed my Ohio State pain.

Finally, the Browns and Bengals are set to start as I type this. I think the Bengals will win ten games this year, but one of them will not be today. The Browns are very tough on opening days at home. I think a fired up crowd and an improved running game will lead to a close victory for the Browns.

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Friday, September 09, 2005


It's OK. You can call me Nostradamus if you would like. I know you are all dazzled by my prediction regarding Andre Agassi's thrilling victory in five sets over James Blake in the U.S. Open quarterfinals Wednesday night.

I hope you're not repulsed by this pseudo-arrogance because though I take satisfaction in knowing I was right, that's nothing compared to what I felt watching the Agassi/Blake match, which didn't finish until about 1:15 a.m. I said that Blake had the best chance to win if he was able to take it in straight sets, which he almost did. For two sets, James Blake looked dominant, Agassi was flat, and even I started to count out Andre. Lesson learned: Don't ever count out Andre.

Blake wasn't getting quite as much pace on his serve in the third set, and Agassi started playing more agressively, going for winners off of Blake's second serve. Agassi knew he was going to have to legitimately beat Blake because Blake is for real. He came to play, and it was going to take near perfection for three consecutive sets to beat him. That's exactly what Andre did.

This was a match where I didn't want to see either player lose. I wish it could have been the final, ended in a tie and we could have two deserving U.S. Open champions. Unfortunately, that's not sport. I am convinced though that Blake, who in the past year has lost his father, broken his neck and suffered from facial paralysis, will someday win a major. It could be at Flushing Meadows, too. The hometown kid could not fend off the fateful charge of Andre Agassi, though. In the post-match interviews, both players showed tremendous class. If anyone has said that American men's tennis is dead, I believe the game busted open its coffin door Wednesday night. The next challenge is for someone, anyone to beat Roger Federer in the final. It could be Agassi or Robby Ginepri for that matter, but please, somebody beat that guy!

If you haven't noticed, the new AL wildcard leaders are the Cleveland Indians. The trash talking of general manager Mark Shapiro and the organization needs to stop! They are completely legitimate contenders now. At 79-61, the Indians have won four in a row over the Tigers. Yesterday, after being no-hit for five innings, the Tribe slugged three home runs courtesy Aaron Boone, Casey Blake and Coco Crisp. This is a perfect time for that "one-through-nine" philosophy to truly come to frution. As a sidethought, the past three World Series have been won by a wildcard team. Just a thought. The Indians are at home against tonight but unfortunately have to face Johan Santana and the Twins again. Jake Westbrook will start for the Indians.

I almost forgot! Ohio State and Texas are playing this weekend! If you really thought I forgot, you highly underestimate me. It's time for Nostradamus to look into the crystal ball one more time. I'm seeing a final of OSU 28, Texas 20. I'm seeing a kick return for a touchdown by Ginn, Zwick and Smith sharing a lot of time and the OSU defense will make one huge play which will overshadow a strong but not stellar performance from Vincent Young. Hey, I was right about the tennis, wasn't I?

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Wednesday, September 07, 2005


If you like brevity, you'll love this post. The Cleveland Indians won 6-1 last night over Detroit, improving their record to 77-61 and leaving them only half a game behind the Yankees, who are 77-60. Peralta is still scuffling, but Sizemore smacked a three-run home run and Crisp hit a two-run home run. Tonight, C.C. Sabathia takes the mound for the Tribe. Look for the team's "ace" to have another strong outing tonight and lead them back to where they belong: at the top of the wildcard.

Agassi plays Blake tonight in a matchup of "lots of power" versus "some power, experience and tremendous athleticism." Blake's only shot is to win in three sets. He's got a lot of game, but no one can compete physically with the 35-year-old anomaly Agassi. My prediction? Andre in five sets. I think it's his year.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005


NFL fans, rejoice. Not only am I finally bringing the subject to the forefront of discussion, but you only have to wait another couple of days for the regular season to start. The defending champion Patriots and Raiders will kickoff at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Though I have always preferred college football to the pros, I'm particularly excited about this season. New England is trying to become the first team ever to three-peat (I, personally, don't think they'll do it,) the Steelers are looking to leapfrog the Pats and head to the Super Bowl, the Eagles will try to win one (No more T.O. drama, please!) the Bengals look to make the playoffs for the first time since 1990, and the Browns under Romeo Crennel, have nowhere to go but up.

Week 1 presents the first of the all-Ohio matchups with Cincinnati visiting Cleveland. Though a 58-48 shootout would be fun again, don't expect it, as both teams defenses aren't THAT terrible anymore, and neither team's offense is clicking well enough yet to light up the scoreboard like that. It will be interesting to see if the Browns can actually mount a running attack this year with their three-headed monster of Green, Suggs (who's injured, not surprisingly) and Reuben Droughns. Expect Droughns, who rushed for 1,200+ yards last year with Denver, to emerge as the feature back, and expect William Green to have another drug conviction. Dilfer will start, but expect Charlie Frye, the Akron product and graduate of my high school's rival Willard, to get his shot as a starter sometime late in the year.

I am going to boldly predict that the often-coined "Bungles" will leave that dubious nickname in the dust this year. They WILL make the playoffs. At this point, I'll say 10 wins and a wildcard, finishing behind Pittsburgh. Get used to hearing "Palmer complete to Johnson" or "Palmer complete to Houshmandzadeh." Barring injuries, this offense is going to put up a lot of points. They won't neccessarily do it on Week 1, though. More on this coming later this week.

Make sure you tune into the U.S. Open Wednesday evening. James Blake, who beat Robredo to keep his momentum going, will face Andre Agassi. Two Americans will battle it out on an American stage. Does it make me a hyper-patriot to be really excited for this?

To the AL Wildcard--the Tribe beats the Tigers 2-0 on Labor Day behind a terrific outing from "Big Start Scott" Elarton. The A's lost, so the Indians are tied with Oakland for second in the race, 1.5 games behind the evil empire in New York. The Tribe will send up Cliff Lee tonight in Detroit, and the offense always seems to hit for him. Cleveland is 6-1 in Detroit so far this year.

Thanks for reading, and if you get the chance, drop me a comment with your preseason choices to make the Super Bowl. Mine? The Steelers out of the AFC, and the Vikings out of the NFC.

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Monday, September 05, 2005


As an optimistic Cleveland Indians fan, I predicted in March the Tribe would win their first division title since 2001 this year and advance to the postseason. Well, it's September 5, and the Chicago White Sox stand 9.5 games in front of the Indians, thanks in part to the Sox's continued phenomenal pitching and clutch hitting. Though my prediction is a pipe dream at best now, all hope is not lost. Major League Baseball's greatest invention ever--the wildcard--has the Indians' playoff hopes alive and well.

Yesterday the Tribe dropped a 7-5 decision to the Twins, who are probably the Tribe's biggest division rival and who are five games out of the wildcard themselves. The day before that, after surviving a terrific performance from Twins ace Johan Santana and taking a 2-2 tie into the bottom of the ninth, two throwing errors allowed the Twins to cruise to a 3-2 victory. The losses, combined with a Yankee win over the Oakland A's, have Cleveland sitting in third in the wildcard, two games behing leading NY and one game behind Oakland. The Indians will have a chance to gain ground on Oakland September 13-15 in a series in Cleveland but will not meet the Yankees and their $200 million+ payroll again.

What does all this mean? It means that the Indians, who were absolutely terrific in August going 19-8, cannot afford to go into a slide. It almost seems unfair that such an amazing month of baseball didn't catapult the Indians into first, giving them some margin for error. Unfortunately, that's how competative the wildcard is. The competing teams just keep winning and putting the pressure on one another. Standing at two games back, the Tribe is in striking distance but if they lose any more ground, it may be too much to catch up with not one, but two teams. I thought going into the series in Minnesota "as long as they don't get swept, they'll be OK." C.C Sabathia made sure of that, throwing a gem Friday night. On Saturday and Sunday though, the Indians showed signs of mental fatigue, making several costly throwing and baserunning errors: two things that if they become recurring issues, will keep the Indians out of it. In addition, Jhonny Peralta, who was a poor man's Miguel Tejada in August and has produced significantly more than anyone expected this year, has started to come back down to Earth. The Indians get a chance to snap the twp-game skid at 1 p.m. today as they travel to Detroit. Scott Elarton, who was been solid all year but slumping lately, will start for the Indians, and Mike Maroth, who beat Cleveland last week at Jacobs Field, will start for the Tigers. New York is off today, and Oakland plays Seattle.

A nice article by Scott Miller on the Indians and closer Bob Wickman is headlining CBS Sportsline's home page today. To read, go here:

...or you could just hit up the link to CBS Sportsline under my links.

I saw yesterday where the Reds continued their quest for respectability by beating the Braves 8-3 in extra innings on a pinch-hit grand slam by Jason LaRue. Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 35th home run, quietly putting together a fantastic year. The home run tied Griffey with Mickey Mantle on the all-time list. To me, this is an incredible story. So many of the baseball media have written Griffey off as a has-been or have called him a "borderline hall-of-famer," but he has silenced many of them this year. Through trade rumors, Griffey has put together his best year ever in Cincinnati. A slim and smooth player, no one has ever accused Griffey of using steroids because we all know he's never messed with any of them. I'm not even sure if he even lifts weights. Griffey has such a smooth stroke that he is destined to hit home runs, no juice necessary. I think it's a great story for Reds fans to follow, as a terrible first half of the season have left the team far out of playoff contention. Of course, in true Griffey fashion, the slugger sprained his foot in the 12th inning. He's listed as day-to-day.

Shifting gears, the U.S. Open has already offered some drama. On the men's side, Andy Roddick, the 2003 champion and the golden boy of American tennis, has been seen more on those stupid "Andy's Mojo" American Express commercials than on the courts. He bowed out in the first round 6-7, 6-7, 6-7, to Gilles Muller, an up-and-comer from Luxembourg. It really pains me to see this because I was rooting for Roddick to get another shot at Roger "The Machine" Federer, and also, a major tournament just isn't the same without Roddick's colorful post-match commentary.

Though it's tempting for Americans-only tennis fans to ignore the rest of the men's play since Roddick is out, James Blake, Robby Ginepri and Andre Agassi are still around. Blake is playing the best tennis of his life, as he just bested the second-seeded Rafael Nadal in four sets. If he can get by Spaniard Tommy Robredo, it could set up an amazing semi-final match between Agassi and him. Agassi, who could be playing in his last open, is the sentimental favorite to win. Of course Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt, two players I love to hate, are still around in the top half. In short, there is still a reason to pay attention.

The Williams sisters have already met, but shockingly, it wasn't in the final; it was in the round of 16. Also different from recent years, Venus won! Serena, who two years ago was the Tiger Woods of the sport, has slid back and left the door open for her sister to regain supremacy. Venus will have to beat Kim Clijsters, though, if she wants to continue toward a second straight major. Sharapova, Davenport, Mauresmo, Henin-Hardenne and Mary Pierce (or as I know her, Roberto Alomar's wife) are all still around, meaning the best tennis on the women's side is probably yet to come.

Check back tomorrow for baseball and tennis updates, and maybe, just maybe, some NFL.

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Sunday, September 04, 2005


In a nation and world where people are dealing with war and natural disaster, I use a combination of my two favorite pastimes as a therapeutic diversion: writing and sports. Here, as well as in my weekly sports column in Capital University’s student paper, The Chimes, you will see them fuse together. I plan on posting every day, if only a few sentences, but every column or story I publish will also appear here. Though many see only a mere entertainment value in sport, I believe the values of teamwork, sportsmanship and dedication all help participants achieve in lives outside of sports. For spectators, sports provide unparalled catharsis, something everyone needs whether they realize it or not. Events like Hurricane Katrina and 9/11, approaching its fourth anniversary, make us realize that the aspects of life that bring us the most joy are the ones we most cherish.

Now, moving beyond the introduction, let’s delve into hot topics of the Labor Day sports weekend, beginning first with what’s most dear to us here in Ohio: OSU football. For those of you who actually realized Earth was still spinning between noon and about 4 p.m. yesterday and didn’t watch or attend the game, the Buckeyes defeated the Miami University Red Hawks 34-14. OSU led at one point 34-0 before Miami added two late touchdowns. Quite honestly, I believed it would be a much closer game as three years of “Tressel ball” have jaded me into thinking Ohio State’s offense just isn’t that good. I highly underestimated them as they took the kickoff and scored a touchdown, Zwick to Holmes, to cap a long opening drive. The spread offense with between three and five wide receivers kept the defense off balance. Zwick threw short slants and out patterns, the defensive middle was soft for Antonio Pittman—who ended up with 100 yards rushing for the game—and, basically, the offense ran like a well-oiled machine. It reminded me of the Purdue offense led by Drew Brees a few years ago that carved up the Buckeyes among many other Big Ten teams.

As good as the offense was—Ginn was…well, Ginn, Holmes had a great game and Zwick limited his mistakes to one interception on a busted play—the defense was even better. The Buckeyes limited Miami to 48 yards rushing, most of which was gained on the second team defense. Carpenter, Hawk and Schlegel all look Texas-ready, as does Donte Whitmer, who returned an interception for a touchdown.

It was a tremendous performance all around, and I am now very confident in the Buckeyes ability to best Texas next weekend, especially because it’s at home in primetime. The question which will have call-in shows and newspaper columnists in Columbus buzzing all week is: Zwick or Smith? It’s a question that has lingered since the beginning of the 2004 season and is now more important than ever. Troy Smith, having served his one-game suspension for accepting funds from an athletic booster, is eligible to play, and more than likely will. I, however, differ from most of the Buckeye fans I’ve asked about this. Everyone overwhelmingly chooses Smith. I like Zwick. The offense was in command this week under him. It was tremendous in the Alamo Bowl, also. I think he has earned the right to start, especially with his commitment to the program and his stay-out-of-trouble, businesslike approach. I think Smith should get some snaps, perhaps in the second quarter, but Zwick has proved he belongs under center just as much, if not more than, Smith does. Post a comment on this if you’d like, leaving me with your vote for starter. Then we’ll see what Tressel does.

In Division III, the Capital Crusaders went on the road and throttled Wittenberg, a team ranked higher than them in the national rankings, 54-0. This is completely staggering. You just don’t go into Witt, a school with a lot of tradition and a few national championships in Division III, and embarrass them in their home opener. The Cap passing attack was unstoppable, the Cap defense forced turnovers and the rout was on. After the first quarter, the Crusaders had their opponents completely demoralized. They had a mental edge, and they never gave it up. It’s almost sad they have a bye week coming this Saturday because after you cream a great team like Wittenberg, you probably have a fair amount of momentum. The next game is at 1 p.m., Saturday, September 17, at Otterbein. They will be christening their new stadium that day, also. I hope that have the light bulbs working in their scoreboard; they’ll need them under the word “visitor."

In other college football news, Notre Dame, under new coach Charlie Weis, destroyed Pitt on the road. The Irish will deservedly be ranked next week, and they get to go to Michigan. Seventh-ranked Oklahoma was beaten at home by TCU.

The major league baseball wildcard chase has become so exciting that it’s almost overshadowed Rafael Palmeiro and the steroid scandal. As I write this, the AL has a three-way tie for the wildcard with my beloved Cleveland Indians only one game behind. They go for a series win today in Minnesota. The Philadelphia Phillies lead the NL race by a half game over the Marlins and Astros. Still in striking distance are the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets. September baseball will make it particularly hard for me to get homework done in the evening.

I could keep going, but I want to give you a reason to read tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy the remainder of the weekend.

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