Sunday, December 30, 2012

Might be time to retire from bowl pools

Among my ventures into fantasy sports and pools, I think I have discovered my Achilles' heel - college football bowl pools.

It never fails. I do some research, compare stats and schedules and make my picks, including some supposedly calculated gambles. Then it all goes south.

January hasn't even come yet, and for the umpteenth consecutive year the math will not add up.

At 10-9, there is absolutely no chance to be a pool factor. In the one pool, prior to Thursday's games, my board could have run the table to the national championship game - and I would have finished second under the pool's unorthodox scoring system.

Perhaps on the next go-around, a coin flip will be a better option. 

One aspect during this time of year that has seen improvement is my ability to cope with being bad at it. There have been years in which that admittedly has not been the case. This year, it feels a lot better just being indifferent about it.

So to fans of Vanderbilt, USC, Tulsa, Clemson, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Georgia, Stanford, Florida, Louisville, Oregon, Oklahoma, Ole Miss, Arkansas State and Alabama, my apologies.You have been selected, and as a result of my mediocrity you have been warned.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Saturday, December 29, 2012

For a laugh, follow Shooter McGavin

One of the greatest, most wonderful sports movie villains of all-time is the fictional pro golfer Shooter McGavin (played by Christopher McDonald) from the Adam Sandler movie "Happy Gilmore."

If you're like me and love Shooter, there's no need to watch the single- and double-pistol pointing arrogant golfer in the film. Just follow his parody Twitter account, @ShooterMcGavin_.

A sampling of Shooter's recent tweets. Enjoy:

Dec. 25: "When you get out of bed today *single pistol mirror* *jog downstairs/double pistols/thumbs to chest* *look at gifts* “MERRY CHRISTMAS BABAY”

Dec. 20: "If the world does end tomorrow, we should all look forward to some Chubbs Peterson concerts with him playing his white piano."

Dec. 17: "Retweet if you think ESPN should play ‘Happy Gilmore’ instead of Jets-Titans tonight."

Dec. 9: "Just seeing all those idiots at Lambeau wearing no shirts reminds me of the galleries I had to put up with when Gilmore was on the tour."

Dec. 9: "Looks like the Packers wised up and hired someone to yell “JACKASS” during Stafford’s throws"

Nov. 30: "Too bad David Stern wasn’t the PGA Commissioner when Gilmore fought Barker. He would have kicked him off the tour and Id have my gold jacket"

- Mark Podolski | @MPodo

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Cleveland sports quotes of the year

Here's a look at the best quotes from the Browns, Cavaliers, Indians, Ohio State, local colleges and area high school sports in 2012.

- Howard Primer

Jan. 2: “My thing is, if you’re dependent on a draft pick to come in here and change your life, then you’re kidding yourself. This game is too hard. There’s too big of a jump to come in from college and think that he’s going to come in … Who does it? Maybe Randy Moss did it.” Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown.

Jan. 5: “I want to emphasize this again. We are building this a certain way. I have the utmost confidence in Pat to get this done. No one’s on the hot seat.” Browns president Mike Holmgren, on Coach Pat Shurmur.

Jan. 7: “They beat us three times. They’re the better team. I hate to say it, but they are.” Madison wrestling coach Ryan Wirtzberger, after Perry beat Madison in the Pin City Invitational.

Jan. 19: “I thought about going out the side door, but I couldn’t find one.” Lakeland women’s coach Gary Hicks, after the Lakers lost to Columbus State, 83-59.

Feb. 9: “Nine layups! We missed nine layups! That’s either a lack of focus, or being uptight. And there was no reason to be uptight because we were playing at home.” Cleveland State coach Gary Waters, after the Vikings lost to Valpraiso, 59-41.

Feb. 17: “It looked like we were scared to death. The lights were too bright for a lot of our guys. I was surprised we didn’t take the fight to them. It’s tough to accept we didn’t come out and fight.” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, after the Cavs lost to Miami, 111-87.

Feb. 21: “People don’t see everything that is going on with a program. They only see the record, but these kids work their tails off, and I love this group as much as any I have ever coached. I’ve been a slug around here the last week, and these guys have kept me going.” Outgoing Perry boys basketball coach Chad Frazier.

March 2: “Brad Marshall, he’s got eight staples out of his head, and he can’t go through a metal detector because of his wrist. The kid is gutsy.” University hockey coach Bill Beard, after the Preppers beat Gilmour in the Kent District final.

March 23: “Some years, when the season ends, it’s not the end of the world, for whatever reason, and you just move on. But this really feels like a family, and I’m just not ready to say goodbye to this team.” Lake Catholic boys basketball coach Mark Chicone, after the Cougars lost to Dayton Dunbar in a Division II state semifinal.

March 26: “Since I’m the coach, and I know the offense, and I see when you don’t know it, I think my opinion is a lot more important than his. He can disagree all he wants. I know what I see every day in practice.” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, on Omri Casspi not knowing all the team’s plays 46 games into the season.

March 30: “One of those nights where I can’t find the words to match my emotions (at least non-profane words. Cavs fans deserve better; much better.” Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, on Twitter, after a 121-84 home loss to Milwaukee.

April 19: “Oh, you have no idea. It’s been talked about all week here. We’re going to get after him and make him play scared. We’ll get the job done.” Mentor defensive lineman Tom Strobel, on facing Mr. Football Maty Mauk in the Ohio North-South all-star football game. Mauk ended up sitting out with a hamstring injury.

April 25: “It’s time for me to move on. I don’t know what the future holds. I have a good feeling this is my last home game and tomorrow my last game with the Cavs in general. I think it’s on the wall. I wish these guys great luck.” Antawn Jamison

April 26: “This is bigger than winning the national championship. I’m on Cloud Nine right now.” Alabama running back Trent Richardson, after being drafted by the Browns.

May 20: “I’m tired of getting booed at home, so I figured I’d throw strikes today. … It doesn’t bother me, it (ticks) me off. I don’t think they have a reason to boo me. They booed me against the Mariners when I had two guys on. It feels like I can’t even give up a baserunner without people booing me. It’s even worse when there’s only 5,000 in the stands, because then you can hear it. It (ticks) me off.” Indians closer Chris Perez, after closing out a 2-0 victory against the Marlins at Progressive Field.

May 24: “Did he forget his ID?” Indians starter Justin Masterson, after reliever Joe Smith ran out to replace him during a 2-1 win over the Tigers before realizing he hadn’t been called into the game. Earlier in the week, Smith had reportedly tried to gain entry into a bar by saying he didn’t have any identification, but that he pitched for the Indians.

May 25: “I said, ‘Lord, if you’ve got one more miracle for us. Next pitch, BAM!” Lake Catholic baseball coach Dennis Woods, after the Cougars won the regional championship on a walkoff home run by Zach Hawkins.

May 25: “This whole year has been for our community. Not just for us or just for our families, but for everybody. I won’t forget a single day of this season. Not a single inning of it. I’ll never go through anything like this again.” Chardon baseball player Tanner Dovsek, after the Hilltoppers lost a regional final to Massillon Perry.

June 2: “We’re back, and I’m very proud to say that.” VASJ boys track and field coach Dan LaRocco, after the Vikings won the 4x200 relay and finished second as a team at the state track and field meet.

June 9: “Step in the right direction. That’s great. It took over two-something months for us to get shut out. It’s a credit to the guys. They’ve been battling. It had to happen.” Indians manager Manny Acta, while giving two thumbs up, after the Tribe was shut out for the first time in 2012, 2-0 in St. Louis.

June 10: “I drank some warm water and I ran out there and it just didn’t settle well. What am I going to do, call time out and run into the dugout?" Indians closer Chris Perez, after spitting up fluid between pitches during a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals.

June 17: “There is a reason why ball clubs want cities to build stadiums for them. If it was a wise investment, they’d do it themselves.’’ Steve Komarjanski, the lone member of Eastlake City Council who consistently opposed a stadium project that is now Classic Park

June 29: “There’s only one other player we would have (taken). That’s the one that went No. 1 (Kentucky’s Anthony Davis)." Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, on the team picking Dion Waiters with the fourth pick in the NBA draft.

July 5: “Mom, does this mean I get to play football for Ohio State?” Boy at Buckeyes football coach Urban Meyer’s free camp at SPIRE Institute in Geneva.

July 15: “I asked guys on the bench for advice. I changed mechanically probably 50 times, just trying to find anything. The ball wasn’t coming out too good, so it was just try to invent stuff to keep yourself in the game.” Indians starter Derek Lowe, after losing to the Blue Jays, 3-0.

July 22: “I wanted the opportunity to sign. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be able to sign.” Roberto Hernandez, after returning to the Indians, on why he used the identity of Fausto Carmona.

July 29: “I’d be lying if I told you this doesn’t deflate you a little bit. It’s one of those things where this time of year you start to scoreboard watch a little bit.” Indians outfielder Shelley Duncan, after the Tribe was swept by the Twins to fall to 50-52.

Aug. 3: “There’s no reason why this can’t be a winning franchise. Everything is here. If they don’t, I accept the blame. Every other piece is in place. Great fan base. We have the money. We just have to execute.” Incoming Browns owner Jimmy Haslam III, at his introductory news conference.

Aug. 6: “I’m very happy with the job Manny has done. He’s provided good leadership for this team. He is part of the solution, not part of the problem.” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, after an 0-9 trip.

Aug. 8: “It’s finally over with. It was like a disease or a virus. It was tough to kick, but we finally did.” Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano, after the Tribe broke an 11-game losing streak with a 6-2 win over the Twins.

Aug. 13: “You know how I feel about tweets and twitters, No. 1. I told you what happened, and that’s what happened, so I don’t know. I only hear what gets tweeted, but he had a concussion and we’re treating it as such.” Browns coach Pat Shurmur, after receiver Mohamed Massaquoi tweeted about a head injury.

Aug. 16: “It’s no secret. We’re going to need to improve our offense. We’re going to have to find a solution in left field, we’re going to have to find a solution at first base and we’re going to have to find a solution at DH. That’s pretty obvious. And the third-base situation is not determined, either. Lonnie (Chisenhall) has a broken arm. The guys that are here right now are fine and doing what they can, but we expect more.” Indians manager Manny Acta

Aug. 22: “It’s never been done in the history of the game where 25 guys are released. They should relax. If one guy is going to go, it’s going to be me, not them.” Indians manager Manny Acta, after the Indians lost their eighth game in a row.

Aug. 30: “I’ve never been through a month like this anywhere — in the minors, in winter ball, or in the majors as a coach or manager.” Indians manager Manny Acta, after the Tribe lost to the A’s 12-7, to fall to 5-23 in August.

Sept. 5: “I asked Jim if that was a makeup call from two years ago, and he told me that I was going to give him a heart attack if I kept doing that here.” The Indians’ Jason Donald, after being called out by umpire Jim Joyce on a close play at first base in a game played at Detroit. Donald was called safe by Joyce on a close play that cost Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game in 2010.

Sept. 5: “Different owners. It comes down to that. They are spending money. He (Detroit owner Mike Ilitch) wants to win. Even when the economy was down (in Detroit), he spent money. He’s got a team to show for it. You get what you pay for in baseball. Sometimes you don’t. But most of the time you do.” Indians closer Chris Perez

Sept. 12: “Brandon Weeden is our starter, and he’s going to get better.” Browns coach Pat Shurmur

Sept. 19: “It’s something I’ve been praying for for 14 years.” Browns kicker Phil Dawson, after incoming owner Jimmy Haslam III said he would look at potentially putting a retractable roof on Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Sept. 22: “I’ve got a diploma made up on the sideline with his name on it. I’d be glad to give it to him right now.” University football coach Jim Stephens, before South running back Kareem Hunt rushed for 330 yards and six touchdowns in the Rebels’ 53-21 victory over the Preppers.

Sept. 22: “My responsibility is to get them ready to play. Again, I did not get that done.” Lake Erie College football coach Mark McNellie, after a 51-24 loss to Saginaw Valley State.

Sept. 23: “Some of these guys hadn’t beaten Chagrin since they were in third or fourth grade. Some of the seniors were in tears. It made me realize how special this rivalry is.” Kenston football coach Jeff Grubich, on the Bombers’ 28-17 win over Chagrin Falls.

Sept. 27: “This is a tough day because I know I’m also responsible. The accountability lies with me.” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, after Manager Manny Acta was fired.

Oct. 3: “A lot of that (frustration) went out the door last week. The Manny you see and the Manny we see are different.” Indians closer Chris Perez, on former Indians manager Manny Acta.

Oct. 4: “I’m not insensitive to it. I live here. I was told (about the move) before I got here. I eat in Cleveland restaurants. I don’t know what to tell you, other than the fact I get it. But I think it’s important as head coach to keep their eye on the ball going forward.” Browns coach Pat Shurmur, on why he didn’t tell players to watch a documentary about the 1995 Browns.

Oct 8: “I want everyone to know I sincerely apologize from the bottom of my heart. It’s no script. Nobody is telling me what to say. It was a mistake. Everybody makes mistakes, but my mistake hurt a lot more people than I ever would have thought.” Browns cornerback Joe Haden, upon returning from a four-game suspension for using a performance-enhancer.

Oct. 12: “This program has a lot of great tradition. But in terms of the last four or five years, there’s no doubt about it — this is a signature win.” Riverside football coach Dave Bors, after the Beavers beat Chardon, 21-13.

Oct. 17: “I’ll be in a straightjacket if it takes that long.” Incoming Browns CEO Joe Banner, on a five-year plan to rebuild the team.

Oct. 18: “I got off a cruise boat and somebody said we signed Josh Gordon. I said, ‘Who’s Josh Gordon?’ ” Browns offensive coordinator Brad Childress, recalling how he learned about the team’s selection in the supplemental draft.

Oct. 20: “I’m still trying to figure this bad boy out. We won, right?” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, after the Buckeyes beat Purdue, 29-22, in overtime.

Oct. 26: “We knew three years ago when we played eight sophomores we were going to take some lumps. Now look at them, they’re seniors and they’re champions.” NDCL football coach Byron Morgan, after the Lions defeated Lake Catholic, 21-0, to win the NCL Blue Division.

Oct. 30: “Looking back, it wasn’t the most brilliant thing I’ve ever done.” Cavs owner Gilbert, on the letter he sent out in the immediate aftermath of LeBron James announcing he would sign with the Miami Heat.

Nov. 10: “Mr. Football, if he doesn’t get it, it’s a crime. And you can tell everybody I said that.” Mentor football coach Steve Trivisonno, on quarterback Mitch Trubisky, after the Cardinals beat St. Edward in a Division I regional semifinal.

Nov. 12: “That quarterback, Trubisky, he’s the real deal. He performed great.” Browns coach Pat Shurmur on Mentor quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Shurmur’s son plays for St. Edward, which lost to the Cardinals in a Division I regional semifinal.

Nov. 17: “People may have counted us out, but we’re the Kirtland Hornets. We wear these jerseys with pride every week.” Kirtland quarterback Scott Eilerman, after the Hornets beat Youngstown Ursuline, 38-37, in a Division V regional final, including a rally from 24-0 down at halftime.

Nov. 18: “I think our kids were like, ‘Listen, these guys aren’t that good.’ They weren’t sitting there thinking Ursuline was so much better than us. They were ticked off that we were self-destructing.” Kirtland football coach Tiger LaVerde, a day after the Hornets beat Youngstown Ursuline, 38-37, in a Division V regional final.

Nov. 24: “We’re 12-0, and I’m going to see to it when you walk into that Woody Hayes facility, that this team will never be forgotten because they deserve that.” Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer, after the Buckeyes defeated Michigan.

Nov. 27: “I’ll make this a real quick statement. Anderson Varejao was fantastic. Everyone else sucked tonight. Anything else you want to know?” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, after a 91-78 loss to the Suns.

Dec. 7: “I’m trying to figure out a way to say this without getting fined. It was that bad. It really was. It was that bad. I mean I understand we’re playing in Minnesota, but 35-9, we went to the basket just as much as they did. I think we had 38 attempts in the paint to their 34, we get nine free throws, I think that speaks for itself.” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott, after a 91-73 loss at Minnesota.

Dec. 10: “He took a chunk out of there. I thought they were going to stop the game and bring out a dump truck. Being a baseball player, I thought it would look a little easier.” Browns coach Pat Shurmur, on quarterback Brandon Weeden’s attempt to slide against the Chiefs a day earlier.

Dec. 16: “Today we let ourselves down, and we let the whole city of Cleveland down. Everybody, especially season-ticket holders, I feel bad for them and want to come to them and apologize.” Browns running back Trent Richardson, after losing to Washington, 38-21.

Dec. 21: “I’ve got my master’s in sports psychology, and I need to start using it. We need to regroup and focus on some of the mistakes we’ve been making. I’ve got to get in their head and have them get over this loss.” Mentor wrestling coach Jim Capel, after the Cardinals fell to Lake Catholic, 42-19.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

College bowl picks

It's time to go bowling, as in college football, so I'll take a stab at picking my top 5 most interesting matchups:

1. BCS National Championship, Notre Dame (+9.5) vs. Alabama, Jan. 7: Considering the way these teams play defense, the Fighting Irish getting 9.5 points is baffling. The SEC makes it seven national titles in a row, but Notre Dame covers. PICK: Alabama, 17-13.

2. Cotton, Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma (+3), Jan. 4: This one looks like a shootout from the get-go. All eyes will be on Heisman winner Johnny Manziel of the Aggies, but the Sooners can score plenty of points too. PICK: Oklahoma 41-35

3. Rose, Stanford vs. Wisconsin (+6.5), Jan. 1: The matchup to watch is Stanford's front seven vs. the running game of the Badgers. I'll take the Cardinal in that matchup. PICK: Stanford, 28-17

4. Fiesta, Oregon vs. Kansas State (+8.5), Jan. 3: The Wildcats must play at their pace to have a chance here, but the guess is the Wildcats' defense won't slow down the Ducks. PICK: Oregon, 31-21

5. Chic-fil-A, LSU vs. Clemson (+3), Dec. 31: This will be a classic offense (Clemson) vs. defense (LSU) matchup, but don't sleep on the Tigers' ability to score points. PICK: LSU, 30-20

- Mark Podolski | @MPodo

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Mayfield girls basketball team has memorable Christmas tradition

The Mayfield girls basketball team has a special tradition that has carried on over Tony Ware's 28 years as head coach.
Every Christmas Eve morning, the current team members meet with Ware, their assistant coaches and any alumni that would like to join them.
This year 18 alumni were at the annual event to share old memories and create new ones.
Once again, the alumni team came out with a victory (with a little help from Rich Banish, an assistant coach and annual referee). Despite current junior point guard Halle Rubino's half-court runner as the buzzer sounded, the alumni hung on for a 65-62 win.
Afterward, the women exchanged presents, had their pictures taken and enjoyed lunch.
Mayfield's tradition exemplifies what high school sports is all about.
It's about building lasting friendships, making your mark, meeting new friends and being the best you can be.
As you can tell from the list below, many of the alumni are currently studying in college or have graduated from college and are now in the working world.
What a great example they are to the current members of the Wildcat team.
It has to mean so much to the high schoolers to welcome the alumni back year after year. There is so much they can learn from them and so much the alumni can learn from the high schoolers.
The credit should not only go to current and former players, but also the Wildcat coaches who care enough to make this annual event possible.
Ware and his assistants are class acts. They instill a family-type atmosphere in their program and that camaraderie they foster touches every girl who has ever been a part of the Wildcat team.
It's what the spirit of Christmas is all about.
Luckily, in a world where the negative can sometimes take center stage, positive events like the annual alumni game are still taking place.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Mayfield alumni who participated in this year's annual Christmas Eve game:
Helen Daher - '07 - grad of Mount Union - Athletic Trainer @ Brookside High
Danielle Deininger - '07 - grad of Cal U of PA - Spec. Ed
Min-Yee Deng (statistician) - '11 - current student of Aerospace Engineering @ U ILL
Danielle (Ruggieri) DeSatnik - '04 - played @ Lake Erie - accountant
Katie Dolciato - '08 - grad of BGSU in Graphic Design
Lauren Gatto - '09 - grad of Niagara Univ - currently playing there pursuing MBA 
Britt Grimes - '06 - grad of BGSU (phys ed major)
Jenna Grimes - '12 - current Spec Ed major @ KSU
Tara Henderson - current student of Exercise Physiology @ KSU 
Jacquee Herron - '11 - current student of Chem Engineering @ OSU
Sammy Markel - '07 - grad of Malone - nurse @ CCF 

Desirae (Thomas) Parker - '00 - current JV Coach and CCF employee
SaSha Seals - '10 - current student @ Akron - Exercise Science 
Becky Steele - '06 - grad of Portland Art Institute - Bent Images Lab (animator)
Katie Whidden - '04 - played @ Elon Univ - works @ Athletic Mentors (Kzoo, MI)
Nicki VanHorne - '08 - grad of OU - current Med student @ OU
Kristen (Carver) Winovich - '06 - grad of BGSU - graphic designer in Toledo
Shu Wu - '10 - current radiology student @ Akron


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Don't like it? Don't watch it

Much has been made, especially it seems in the last couple years, about aspects of the way ESPN goes about being, well, ESPN.

That was on full display recently with the controversy involving "First Take" panelist Rob Parker and his comments regarding Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. Let's leave well enough alone on that subject, because plenty has already rightfully been said about that.

One thing, though, that is worth expounding on is this: As much as people complain about certain shows or the oversaturation on ESPN of subjects such as Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin or the Miami Heat, if you dislike it that much, then don't watch it. Just ignore it.

Personally, I'm not a fan of "First Take" - the opinion basis of the show is far too purposely inflammatory for my taste. So I don't watch it. There are people who clearly enjoy that show - that's their choice.

There are ESPN personalities whose broadcasting style generally annoys me. That doesn't mean they're bad people or they deserve ill will - it just means change the channel when they come on the air.

Shows such as "First Take" succeed and the use of Tebow as a subject in every way imaginable, for example, succeeds because it drives ratings. People react. If people didn't react, then ESPN would find something else to grab your attention.

Nothing solves overwhelming hype of a subject quite like indifference.

This one is really simple: Don't like it? Don't watch it.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ranking rookie six-pack for 2013

The race to be the NFL's top rookie in 2012 is an impressive list, but let's look beyond that.

If you landed any of these six rookies in fantasy football, they likely helped your team big time. The list consists of quarterbacks Andrew Luck (Colts), Robert Griffin III (Redskins) and Russell Wilson (Seahawks) and running backs Alfred Morris (Redskins), Trent Richardson (Browns) and Doug Martin (Buccaneers).

Looking ahead to the 2013 season, let's rank this six-pack from a fantasy perspective:

1. Trent Richardson: Of the three rookie RBs from this pool, Richardson has the least amount of rushing yards, but is on pace for 1,025 yards, plus a nice total of receptions (55) and 400 more receiving yards. He's also on pace for 14 touchdowns, which would lead that pack. It wasn't an easy year for Richardson, who missed all of traning camp with an injury. Expect better numbers across the board in 2013.

2. Robert Griffin III: The only thing not to like about RG3 is the potential for injury, but that can be said for every NFL skill position player. What there is to like is projected numbers of 3,317 passing yards, 21 TD passes and 748 rushing yards and six TDs. Like Richardson, expect those numbers to increase in 2013.

3. Doug Martin: Because of the limited number of top-flight fantasy RBs, Martin won't last long during your fantasy draft next season. Martin has had a few big games this season, none bigger than a 251-yard, 4-TD game against the Raiders. Plus, he's involved in Tampa Bay's passing attack. He's projected to have more than 1,800 yards rushing and receiving and 11 TDs.

4. Andrew Luck: The Colts QB sure looks like the second coming of the Packers' Aaron Rodgers. The only drawback this season has been turnovers (21 interceptions, five fumbles lost), but don't forget Peyton Manning threw more than 20 picks his rookie season. The upside: Luck is projected to throw for more than 4,500 yards and account for 28 total touchdowns as a rookie, so it's not far-fetched to expect 5,000 passing yards and 30-plus TDs each season, starting in 2013.

5. Albert Morris: The Redskins late-round gem out of Florida Atlantic is quietly leading all rushers in yards and is projected to total 1,511 and 10 rushing TDs. The only negative to his game is Morris does not factor at all in the passing game.

6. Russell Wilson: The Seahawks QB is putting up quality numbers (projections: 3,000 passing yards, 24 TDs, 400 rushing yards, 3 TDs), but until Coach Pete Carroll's team opens up the offense, Wilson will likely be a borderline starter for most fantasy owners, depending on the size of your league.

- Mark Podolski | @MPodo

Friday, December 21, 2012

NFL draft prospects in bad bowls: Don't get hurt

It has to be a weird time for an NFL draft prospect whose college team is playing in a lower-tier bowl game.

There isn't much to gain. But there is plenty to lose.

If the player isn't going to enroll in classes for the spring semester, he's already checked out on that end.

So it's just football, and it's one game before starting training for the NFL scouting combine and other workouts.

Because it's a lower-tier game, an outstanding performance against a so-so opponent  isn't going to sway a player's draft stock.

Then the incentive becomes simple: Don't get hurt. Loyalty to teammates and pride are incentives, too, of course.

But I know if I was in that position, it would be hard to fight off the urges to start thinking ahead about what I need to do to move up the draft boards.

That might sound selfish. But that's what the bowl season is all about. Bowls make money off schools. Coaches move to other teams. Schools entertain boosters. Players should be able to look out for themselves, too.

-- Howard Primer

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Big-time game at The Schott

If memory serves me, I've probably seen less than five Ohio State men's basketball games in person.

The ones I have seen haven't been much to talk about. Here's hoping Saturday is different.

A college friend landed two tickets to Saturday's Kansas at Ohio State game. It's a rematch of one of last season's Final Four games, and both teams haven't missed a beat so far this season. The Buckeyes and Jayhawks are ranked in the top 10 this week.

I'm interested the buzz this game will generate. The Schottenstein Center in Columbus has been criticized for being too cavernous, but that seems to be changing. Efforts to bring students closer to the floor has helped make gameday more raucous, at least from a TV viewer's perspective. How it plays out watching from the stands could be something entirely different.

As for the Buckeyes men's basketball program, it's firmly in place as a perennial top 10 program with two Final Four appearances since 2007, but this year feels different. Without a marquee player on the roster such as Jared Sullinger, now with the Celtics, the buzz for the team outside of Columbus seems lacking. That's strange since DeShaun Thomas looks like a legit All-American candidate. Point guard Aaron Craft is as steady as they come.   

If this game were the equivalent of a non-conference college football game, the excitement level across the state would be incredible. The bottom line: it's not March, so the Madness is still months away.

Still, Saturday at The Schott should be fun.

- Mark Podolski | @MPodo

Running can teach you a lot about yourself

It's been almost a year now since I consistently started running.
When I started out in January, I could only run one mile without stopping.
Twelve months later, I'm up to running six miles straight without stopping. That's a big accomplishment for me because honestly, I didn't think I could ever run that far.
But once you get hooked, you just want more.
You want to see how far you can push yourself. You want to see how fast you can go. You want to see if you can run more than the previous day.
It's very motivating.
For years, I've been lifting weights, swimming, biking, doing the elliptical, workout classes at the YMCA and more. But once you get older, it doesn't seem to be enough. You have to do more to maintain your weight.
That's why I started running.
Now, I love it.
It took me a few months before I realized I should start out slow and finish fast. For months, I was starting fast and struggling to finish.
There is plenty more I need to learn, specifically, how to use a running watch which I'm guessing isn't all that difficult. For now, I'll use my iPod which has a fitness app. It's very helpful to know how far you've run and what pace you are going.
Along with the mechanics of running, I've learned a lot about myself.
I've learned I can push myself even further than I ever thought imaginable. I've learned to run in snow, rain, extreme heat and stiff winds. Running is so mental. You just have to keep telling yourself you can do it. You have to believe you can finish what you started.
That theory holds true in all areas of life.
My goal in 2013 is to run a half marathon. From there, I plan to run a full marathon.
It's not going to be easy, I know.
But the training has made me a stronger person, physically and mentally.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Keeping Nationwide busy

The NHL labor dispute dragging on got me thinking: What exactly is Nationwide Arena hosting these days with the Blue Jackets (figuratively) on ice, from now until the state high school hockey final four March 9-10?

The answer: Not a lot.

As far as sports - and that's why we're here, isn't it - there are a couple sporting events coming up at Nationwide.

On Dec. 28, the Harlem Globetrotters will host a doubleheader at 2 p.m. and at 7 p.m. No wonder the Washington Generals are having such a difficult time beating the Globetrotters - they're running them out there twice in a day, for crying out loud.

Then we have World's Toughest Rodeo on Jan. 12. Not only will there be rodeo and "American style bull fighting", but there's also a Kids Zone, in which your children can learn how to lasso a steer and barrel race. It's not my thing, but if you draws you down to Columbus, I'm happy for you.

Obviously there's concerts and other events, but nothing else in sports.

In other words, and in all seriousness, for the sake of the good people who work down there at that arena and every NHL arena across North America, and for the sake of the people who follow the NHL, get back to the bargaining table and get a labor deal done.

With only two non-Blue Jackets sporting events going on between now and early March, Nationwide Arena is not going to be running at its full capability, and that doesn't help anybody, particularly those who rely on the arena's function to make a living.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, December 14, 2012

LeBron James as SI's Sportsman of the Year

After reading some of the back and forth between Northeast Ohio fans about LeBron James being named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year, I did something a little outside-the-box in today's micro-attention-span society: I read the story.

That's right, I read it. The whole thing. I didn't just glance at a retweet or skim the first few paragraphs and skip to the anonymous online comments.

SI makes its case. It gushes a little too much over James' basketball acumen at times. But it also details his work with students in Akron and the amount of resources he's put into education in his hometown.

Like most everyone else around here, I was mad at the way "The Decision" went down in 2010. But at some point you have to get on with your life. It doesn't mean you have to like James. But you have to let the anger go at some point, don't you?

Maybe not. We hold onto our sports bitterness longer here. That's the way it is. But it doesn't mean James was the wrong pick for SI's award.

- Howard Primer

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Indians should bring back Thome

Jim Thome told a writer from this week that he is not retired.

The Cleveland Indians should pay attention.

Is Jim Thome the player he was back in the 1990s or early 2000s? No. ... Is he a player that is going to push the Indians into the playoffs this year? No.

But Jim Thome is what the Indians want and need on their 2013 team. He is a fan favorite who will help put butts in seats. He is a veteran presence that a young team like the Indians need. And he can still hit the laces off the ball, probably better than many of the other options the Tribe has to play designated hitter this season.

Those seem like three pretty good reasons to me to offer Thome, say, a one-year, $1.5 million, incentives-included contract.

The Indians signed Mark Reynolds to a free agent contract this week to play first base. Maybe even a little third base. Reports on Tuesday evening had the Indians close to trading Shin Soo Choo to the Reds for outfielder Drew Stubbs and a young shortstop.

Reynolds and Stubbs are absolute flailers at the plate. Stubbs has struck out a staggering 539 times in the past THREE seasons, including 205 times in 2010. Reynolds has whiffed 1,122 times in 2,973 career at-bats.

If there's anyone who could benefit from the presence of a professional hitter like Jim Thome, it's Reynolds and Stubbs.

Signing Thome as a three-quarters-time DH and a pinch-hitter gives the Indians a veteran presence that the fans love at a reasonable price.

As the son of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert said, "What's not to like?"

- John Kampf

Season's first top of the crop isn't easy to put together

I have a confession to make.
Because it's so early in the season, I have not seen every team that has played in the top of the crop. I've seen a few, but not all.
That is why it was so difficult for me to put together the first girls basketball crop of the season.
I'll give you an example.
Last Wednesday, I covered Lake Catholic's come-from-behind 56-51 overtime win against Magnificat. But the Cougars also have three losses to North Royalton, St. Vincent-St. Mary and Archbishop Hoban. They play one heck of a schedule.
In my opinion, strength of schedule matters when putting together the crop.
You can't tell me a 4-0 team that plays a weak schedule is better than a 1-3 team that plays a strong schedule.
It's very obvious when postseason hits and the teams that went undefeated in the regular season lose in the first round. Teams that play a stronger schedule are usually the ones that last the longest in the postseason.
Mentor is another example.
The talented Division I team is 4-1. I watched the Cardinals defeat Chagrin Falls, 60-35, last Monday.  The Cardinals' only loss is to Twinsburg, the defending Division I state champions. Now where does Mentor belong in the crop? It's obvious they should be ahead of Chagrin Falls, but do they belong ahead of Kenston which is 5-0?
The Bombers are playing well with wins over Ravenna, North Royalton, Orange, Euclid and Chagrin Falls. I'm going to watch them play for the first time on Friday at Perry.
For now, I'm putting them in the No. 1 spot.
This is just the first of many crops so I'm hoping for a little leeway here. We have a long way to go.
Here's to lots of good basketball in the coming months.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Browns' lopsided W pleasant rarity

It almost seemed too good to be true.

The Browns, late in the fourth quarter Sunday against the Chiefs, firmly in control of a lopsided victory, 30-7. As a Browns fan, allow me to repeat that - firmly in control of a lopsided victory.

This is one we should enjoy, because needless to say it hasn't happened all that often since the Browns' return in 1999. In fact, here is a list of Browns wins by at least 14 points in the last 14 seasons:

Week 14: Defeated Chiefs, 30-7
Week 9: Defeated Patriots, 34-14
Week 16: Defeated Raiders, 23-9
Week 6: Defeated Giants, 35-14
Week 4: Defeated Ravens, 27-13
Week 11: Defeated Dolphins, 22-0
Week 1: Defeated Ravens, 20-3
Week 6: Defeated Bengals, 34-17
Week 5: Defeated Steelers, 33-13
Week 11: Defeated Cardinals, 44-6
Week 7: Defeated Texans, 34-17
Week 11: Defeated Bengals, 18-0
Week 2: Defeated Bengals, 24-7

So if it's only been 13 times in 14 seasons, chances are I'm not alone in wanting to savor this one.

Here's to hoping there's many more to come in the not-too-distant future.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Legend of Bo lacking in Cleveland

If you plan to watch ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary on the legend of Bo Jackson or have already seen "You Don't Know Bo" you might be wondering how the two-sport superstar fared against the Indians and Browns.

Here you go:

Jackson played in the NFL for the Los Angeles Raiders from 1987 to 1990, but never faced the Browns. Cleveland did play the Raiders in the second-to-last game in '87, and won, 24-17, but Jackson did not play in the game.

Jackson played baseball for the Royals from 1986 to 1994, but a hip injury in 1991 while playing football derailed his career on the diamond. He was mostly a part-time player after the injury with the White Sox and Angels, so we'll only look back at how he fared against the Indians up to the 1990 season, when he was a full-time player for the Royals.

In 42 games vs. the Indians from 1987 to 1990, Jackson hit .270 (40 of 148) with six home runs and 50 strikeouts.

The most memorable Bo vs. the Indians moment occurred in 1987 in Kansas City when (and this is so unfair) Jackson and Tribe catcher Rick Dempsey, who was near the end of his solid career, collided on a play at home plate. News-Herald Indians beat writer Jim Ingraham covered the game that night and compared the collision to a 50-feet tidal wave throwing a surfer back to shore. Sounds about right.

Jackson slid into Dempsey as if he was about to tackle him, but credit the Indians catcher for holding onto the ball and tagging Jackson out. The play came with a price, as Dempsey broke his thumb on the play. Luckily, his knee was OK, as on first look it appeared Jackson sliding head first into Dempsey's legs would cause serious damage.

Check out the video below:

- Mark Podolski | @MPodo

Friday, December 7, 2012

Northern Illinois-Florida State Orange Bowl: Better than poker reruns

If the Orange Bowl matchup of Northern Illinois vs. Florida State was a playoff game, I'd be all in, like rooting for a No. 14 seed on the opening weekend of March Madness.

But it's not. It's a faux spectacle that gives the bowl organizers an opportunity to wring more than $2 million in required ticket sales out of NIU.

When the matchup was announced on Sunday, there was a lot of hot air being pushed back and forth between ESPN talking heads ripping NIU for making it into a BCS bowl and fans defending the little guy.

But because every bowl after the BCS national championship is basically an exhibition, I can't get worked up over this so-called controversy, for either side.

The bowl season is good for one thing: With the exception of Christmas, I can turn on my TV every day between Dec. 20 and Jan. 7 and a pro or college game will be on. I don't know how the teams were picked, nor do I care. But I do know that football will be on a nearly constant loop, and that's what matters most in TV land.

That's also what allows bowl games to extort money from mandatory ticket allotments from participating schools. You would think colleges and universities, which employ some of the smartest people in America, would look at a situation in which they are guaranteed to lose money and say, "This isn't a good idea."

But they don't. Why? Perceived recruiting advantages, for one. If they get to spend Christmas in Shreveport, La., practicing for the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl, we need to get into a bowl game, too.

So even though there will be enough football on in the next month to have the yard lines permanently embossed in your TV screen, it also means we're stuck with a lot of matchups featuring middling teams in games that don't count for much. It's better than poker reruns, I guess.

If NIU were to upset Florida State in the NCAA tournament, it would be great because it would mean something, like all those March upsets helped Gonzaga build a new arena and Butler join a better conference.

What happens if the Huskies win the Orange Bowl? Are they on their way to being the next Boise State, becoming nomads searching the conference frontier for a league that will take them? How much money would have to be poured into the football program to do it?

In basketball, the tournament sells itself. In football games, the bowls need popular teams to sell their games. It's nice having all these games on TV because you can stumble across one that turns into a great game, like the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl. But having teams with national profiles will put a lot more butts in seats and eyeballs in front of TVs to begin with.

It would seem unfair that NIU needed planets to realign and has to come up with all that money in ticket sales just for the right to play a Florida State team that advanced via the ACC's automatic bid. But bowl games aren't fair. They're businesses, non-profit status or not.

- Howard Primer

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Fantasy football top 10 for 2013

Most fantasy football leagues are in Week 1 of their playoffs, so half of you playing in leagues this season are eliminated and looking ahead to 2013.

Here's one man's early look at the top 10 fantasy football players for 2013:

1. Adrian Peterson, RB, Vikings: The safest pick out there.

2. Aaron Rodgers, QB, Packers: Even if Greg Jennings leaves in free agency, the Green Bay offense shouldn't miss a beat.

3. Arien Foster, RB, Texans: Tough pick here, because Foster has been really good, but not outstanding this season. He is a TD machine.

4. Drew Brees, QB, Saints: Even in New Orleans' lost 2012 season, Brees is producing big fantasy points.

5. Trent Richardson, RB, Browns: T-Rich will emerge in fantasy circles because he's young, carries the load, catches passes and plays almost every down.

6. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: The lack of top-flight fantasy running backs will make your first round QB-heavy.

7. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions: By far, Johnson is the best fantasy wide receiver.

8. Ray Rice, RB, Ravens: Rice's volume of touches has varied this season, but as long as he produces as a receiver, he's a top 10 fantasy player.

9. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins: RG3's production as a runner is the No. 1 reason why he breaks the top 10.

10. A.J. Green, WR, Bengals: Green is No. 2 to the Lions' Johnson, but it's getting closer.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Players must take personal responsibility and stay in shape

It's early in the girls basketball season, but I've noticed a trend I'm a little disappointed with.
It seems like some teams are not nearly as conditioned as I thought they would be in their opening games.
Without proper conditioning, teams suffer. It's obvious when girls are sucking wind at the halftime they did not prepare properly for the start of the season.
I understand some girls are making the transition from fall sports to winter sports and that is not easy. But for the girls who did not compete in a sport in the fall, conditioning should not be a struggle.
It not only puts you behind, it puts the entire team behind.
It is not a coach's responsibility to make sure their kids are properly in shape heading into a season. Sure, they have open gyms, conditioning, weight lifting sessions and more, but ultimately, the player must take personal responsibility for herself and make sure she can run in a game for the full 32 minutes.
In a few games I've covered, it appears several players have not put in the time to make themselves better.
I realize teenagers are pulled in many directions today. There are job commitments, family commitments and personal commitments.
But when you make a commitment to be a part of the team, you should bring your best self to the table. You should be ready to go in game one. Not midway through the season when your team is already off to a poor start.
To the girls that have properly prepared, I give you credit. Nice job. You have not only helped yourselves, but also your teammates. You have put yourself in the proper position to be successful.
Training is not easy.
That's why not everyone does it.
But it does pay off and it does matter.
Even in the offseason when no one is looking.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia

Monday, December 3, 2012

Way We See 'Em crowns a new #nhfootball champion

The Masked Marvel, after finishing fourth
Before Week 1 of high school football season, the Masked Marvel boasted of his picking prowess in the  Way We See 'Em, stating: "I have a whole family of trophies sitting on the shelves of my mahogany-drenched office, and I plan on welcoming a new member of the bunch three months from now."

 To the Marvel's dismay, it will be Staff Writer Chris Lillstrung who can admire a gleaming trophy on his desk this holiday season.

Lillstrung correctly picked 195 of 242 games this season to wrap up his first See 'Ems title. The Marvel finished a disappointing fourth, behind Howard Primer (second), John Kampf (third), and ahead of Cory Schuett, Theresa Neuhoff Audia and Sports Editor Mark Podolski.

The Marvel congratulated Lillstrung on his championship, but vowed to come back in 2013. From his winter vacation residence in Bel Air, Calif., he released the following statement: "Fourth place suits the Marvel about as well as an off-the-rack sport coat from a department store. A thorough and complete analysis of the 2012 season will be done this weekend, and the Marvelous One will emerge next August ready to reclaim his title."

A source close to the Marvel said members of his entourage have reached out to representatives of statistical expert Nate Silver, author of the Five Thirty Eight blog, who accurately predicted the presidential election.

 2012 Way We See 'Em standings: Chris Lillstrung 195-47, Howard Primer -3, John Kampf -4, Masked Marvel -5, Cory Schuett -7, Theresa Neuhoff Audia -8, Mark Podolski -9

Previous Way We See 'Em champions:

2011: Theresa Neuhoff Audia
2010: Masked Marvel
2009: Howard Primer
2008: Masked Marvel
2007: John Kampf
2006: Howard Primer
2005: Howard Primer
2004: Howard Primer
2003: Mark Koestner

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Area athletes on national TV always exciting

Sunday afternoon was spent flipping between the Browns game in Oakland on WOIO and the NCAA women's soccer Division I national championship match on ESPNU.

That may seem a little random, except for the fact that the soccer involved Penn State, and that meant a chance to see West Geauga graduate Kori Chapic play on national TV.

Things did not go very well for the Nittany Lions in a 4-1 loss to North Carolina, certainly one of the signature programs in all of collegiate sports under Coach Anson Dorrance. Penn State had a tough time in the second half with its zonal marking on set pieces, allowing two goals on corners as the Tar Heels pulled away, including a strike right after halftime. Chapic started at left back and played hard, but North Carolina wasn't going to be denied this time.

Even though the ending of Chapic's sophomore campaign in State College was not ideal, it elicits so much pride to see a local product competing on a national stage.

It doesn't seem like that long ago covering her brilliant career at West G, in which she led the Wolverines to a D-I regional final and a school record for wins in 2010 and was named News-Herald player of the year three times. After watching her play a lot of soccer through the years, it is absolutely no surprise to see Chapic become a dependable and key cog on a national finalist side at the collegiate level. She may be the most technically gifted female soccer player in N-H area history and is a class act on top of it.

Regardless of who or in what sport it may be, if you have the chance to see a former local standout compete on a national-caliber stage, don't let it go by without enjoying it. As is always the case when it does happen, it shows another generation of young local athletes that it's possible to aspire for the same thing.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH