Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All of the screaming in volleyball is difficult to comprehend

Can someone please explain to me why there is so much screaming in volleyball?
When did the tradition start? I mean, exactly what year did it begin?
Players scream while warming up. They scream when they take the court, during the match and after the match.
They scream after every point. They scream when a substitution is made. They scream just to scream.
And it isn't just the players.
Parents and fans scream from the stands and some coaches scream from the sidelines.
I've seen screaming in sports before, but never like this.
One Saturday morning while covering a tournament, it was so bad I had to put my headphones on and listen to Pandora.
But the screams overpowered my music. It was incredible.
There isn't that much screaming in cross country, which I covered during the fall for the past few years so I wasn't prepared for all of the screaming in volleyball.
Does it have to do with momentum swings?
Or aren't players, fans, parents and coaches just wearing themselves out?
I'd like to cover a volleyball team just once that doesn't make a sound. Maybe they clap hands a few times, give a few high fives, but they don't overwork their lungs every other minute.
I wonder if that would give them more energy to focus on hitting, digging, assisting and serving?
Feel free to use the strategy. Especially when I'm out there covering one of your matches.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia


Monday, October 29, 2012

World's most expensive hoodie?

On Sunday, I got the chance to see the Browns win in person for the first time since 2007, 7-6 over the Chargers. One of my buddies and I were two of the brave souls/gluttons for punishment who stayed until the bitter end amid the monsoon that enveloped Cleveland Browns Stadium.

Watching a Browns win was gift enough, but considering the weather conditions faced I think I deserve one shot at creative license.

Walking to our seats, I happened to glance over at the Browns' merchandise counter, with its normal assortment of hats, t-shirts, etc.

Granted, it's a live event, not a trip to the store, so prices will inevitably be higher. But this one I could not believe: There was a gray Browns hoodie, with what appeared to be a price tag of $86. Eighty ... six ... dollars.

Does the hoodie have hidden robotic arms that can make you breakfast every morning? It better if you're charging $86 for it, when it's no secret you can go online or to a local store and get a similar Browns hoodie for around $40 or maybe less.

Part of it must be based on demand, because there was indeed a line at the merchandise counter. But I'm guessing, with all due respect, the hoodie wasn't exactly flying off the shelves for that price.

That aside, go Browns.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, October 26, 2012

So that's what BSTW stands for

When I first came across the North football team's slogan, BSTW4LIFE, I couldn't figure it out.
It was well after deadline that night during the summer, so calling someone who would know was not an option until a waking hour. 
So I thought about it for a while, and then it dawned on me: Beat South This Week. Do something in each practice toward beating the rival Rebels in Week 10, right?
Actually, no. Not even in the ballpark -- any ballpark, even the one where Friday's edition of the Civil War will be held.
BSTW stands for:
Believe in yourself.
Believe in your teammates.
Believe you will win.
But it could stand for "Beat South This Week" one game out of the season, right?
- Howard Primer

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Week 9 football picks

Each week during the football season, Sports Editor Mark Podolski will pick NFL, college and high school games.

It was a nice rebound week, going 4-1, so let's make it two weeks in a row. The season mark is 15-24-1. Here we go:


Lake Catholic at NDCL, Friday: These are the type of games football fans love in Week 10. There's a conference title on the line, and a spot in the Division III playoffs. The Cougars need this one more, but the feeling here is the Lions, at home, have just a bit more offense. PICK: NDCL, 21-17


Ohio State at Penn State (+3), Saturday: Tough game to call here, as the Nittany Lions are playing well since losing their first two games of the year. Buckeyes QB Braxton Miller is expected to start and if he's 100 percent, go with Ohio State. PICK: Ohio State, 27-21

Notre Dame (+9) at Oklahoma, Saturday: Does the bubble burst for the 7-0 Fighting Irish? 
With that defense, the answer is no. PICK: Notre Dame, 20-17


Chargers at Browns (+2.5), Sunday: News-Herald beat writer Jeff Schudel put it best when he wrote the Browns are good enough to not get blown out, but not good enough to win. PICK: Chargers, 24-20

Saints (+4.5) at Broncos, Sunday: Footballs will be sailing in this one. Expect the Broncos and QB Peyton Manning to make a few more plays. PICK: Broncos, 41-31

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Podcast: Brush football coach Josh Wells

Brush football coach Josh Wells talks with John Kampf about the Arcs' breakthrough season and the importance of ending the season on a high note this Friday.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

One wish for Week 10

By the time Saturday rolls around, it looks like the News-Herald area will boast nine, possibly 10, football teams heading to the playoffs. Some have their playoff fate already locked up in some form.

Seeing N-H teams qualify for Week 11 is great regardless of where it happens across our area, but this week, I have one wish that has nothing to do with the playoffs.

There's not much everyone can agree upon with area high school football - and that will never change. But one point perhaps we can all share is a wish of not wanting to see anyone go an entire season winless.

With that in mind, I'm not ashamed to say I hope for good fortune for 0-9 Harvey this week when it travels to Orange.

This wish would extend to any N-H school facing the same situation heading into Week 10, but this one admittedly rings with a little more conviction for me as a Painesville native and 1998 Harvey graduate.

Since 1919, Harvey has never had a winless season. There have been a handful of one-win campaigns, but never one without a single victory.

Orange is 3-6 after a competitive 22-13 loss at Chagrin Falls in Week 9 - there's certainly no shame for the Lions in playing Chagrin that close, and they have been playing better in the second half of 2012.

That means it'll be an uphill battle for sure for the Red Raiders, and admittedly it's going to make it tough to not pick Orange in the Way We See Em this week.

That does not mean, however, I can't hope to be wrong this one time should that be the choice.

So while much of the area rightfully focuses on playoff implication, one game involving an N-H team with little to no effect on anyone's computer points will be on my radar as well.

Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, October 19, 2012

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'When Saturday Mattered Most' relives Army football's last great team

These days, the Army football team shows up on the national scene once a year, when it takes on Navy in one of the best rivalries in sports. It hasn't gone well recently, as the Midshipmen have won 10 in a row.

We're left to reminisce about the glory days of football in West Point, N.Y., and there were plenty of them in the first half of the 20th century, before pro football began to overtake the college game in popularity.

Army's last great team was in 1958. That season is detailed in Sports Illustrated writer Mark Beech's book "When Saturday Mattered Most." The title refers to when the college game was bigger than pro football.

Coach Red Blaik is the main figure, and the book explains the challenges he faced first with the cheating scandal of 1951, then with coaching at a service academy and through his retirement at the end of the 1958 season.

That year, he installed a new offense that called for an end -- Bill Carpenter -- to line up about 15 yards wide of the line, which was a big deal back then. Because substitution rules were strict, Carpenter, called the Lonesome End, didn't come back to the huddle between plays to conserve energy. Instead, he watched for a series of signals from his teammates.

It worked so well in the first game against South Carolina that Gamecocks defenders didn't notice what formations the Black Knights were using because they were baffled at how Carpenter was receiving the plays.

On the season went. Only a tie with a tough sophomore named Mike Ditka and Pittsburgh kept Army from a perfect record and a potential national championship. (A quibble: I wish the book had included a roster and the dates and results of the games. It would have been good for reference).

The last part of the book details what the main players have been doing since then. It also goes into the reasons Army succumbed from being a perennial top-10 team to being somewhat competitive -- since going 10-2 in 1996, the Black Knights have only been over .500 once.

It was almost disheartening reading about the divisiveness between Blaik’s supporters and detractors and how quickly Army’s winning percentage descended. Opponents should be as fearful to play the United States Military Academy as they are going against an SEC school.

Alas, that's not the case. Not even close. The Black Knights lost to Kent State, 31-17, on Saturday. Kent is having a resurgent year at 5-1. But let's not kid ourselves. Army's national championship teams of the 1940s would have only scheduled Kent as a breather between Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Michigan and the like.

In 2009, the Army-Navy game was pushed back to the second Saturday in December, a week after the bowl pairings are announced. It would be nice one year if either team was in contention for a BCS bowl, because Army-Navy is the only FBS game on the college football schedule that day. It would make it that much more important.

It's doubtful that will happen, though. As Beech explained in an interview with the Sherman Report: "They’ll never again be No. 1, as they were for about three weeks after they beat the Fighting Irish in 1958. Those days are gone. The same kind of guy still goes to West Point to play football at Army as in 1958 -- a driven, duty-conscious kid who’s interested in a challenge and in being part of something bigger than just a football team. But because of the pull of professional football, the same kind of athlete does not go to West Point, which requires five years of service in the army after graduation."

If you're the type of sports fan who's disillusioned with the big business college athletics has become, maybe rooting for a service academy is the way to go. The equipment and styles of play have changed. But, as the author said, the players haven't.

- Howard Primer

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Week 8 football picks

Each week during the football season, Sports Editor Mark Podolski will pick NFL, college and high school games.

I've hit a new low, going 0-4-1 last week. The season mark is at a woeful 11-23-1. Good thing no money is on the line. How pathetic, but the beat goes on:


South at Riverside, Friday: There's no doubt Kareem Hunt's teammates wants to get their buddy the Mr. Football award. The Rebels roll toward a PAC title and the playoffs, and do does Hunt. PiCK: South 42-17


Purdue (+14.5) at Ohio State, Saturday: Can the Buckeyes' defense stop the Boilermakers? In Ohio Stadium, it might not matter because Purdue won't stop Braxton Miller and Co. PICK: Ohio State, 55-24

Kansas State (+4.5) at West Virginia, Saturday: Take this with a grain of salt (just look at my record this season), but the Wildcats and QB Collin Klein are my darkhorse team to play for the BCS national championshp. PICK: Kansas State 38-34


Browns (+3.5) at Colts, Sunday: This game has shootout written all over it. QB Andrew Luck and the Colts have played well at home. PICK: Colts, 38-31

Steelers at Bengals (pick), Sunday: It's difficult to pick against Ben Roethlisberger, but the Bengals keep it close at home. PICK: Steelers 27-24

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Podcast: Kenston football coach Jeff Grubich

Kenston coach Jeff Grubich talks about the Bombers’ six-game winning streak and goals for the season, as well as the work ethic of his program.

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

The art of watching cross country

Saturday marked the second time in nearly 14 years at The News-Herald that I covered a cross country event, this one being the Chagrin Valley Conference meet at Hawken.

In both instances, easily the most fascinating part of cross country's dynamic is, without a doubt, the challenge for fans and coaches striving to watch as much of the races as they can.

Even if you've never watched the sport, it's not that difficult to imagine. Picture a start line with, say, 100 runners. The gun goes off, and the field all disappears down a hill or around a corner.

A scramble ensues. Parents, teammates and coaches make a mad dash for the next corner to catch a glimpse. Then a few seconds after that goal, as the athletes proceed down the course, the fans move on their way to perform that task again. And again. And again.

The fastest scramble then comes toward the finish chute. It's a mass of people moving in unison for the same spot, just to see a few seconds of athletes crossing the line.

This all happens, mind you, in an average of about 15-25 minutes for high school varsity races. All this movement occurs in, say, a 20-minute window for maybe 3-4 minutes of action they're able to catch up with and watch.

It leads me to a few conclusions: No. 1, I defy anyone to come up with a sport with more of a unique challenge for spectating. No. 2, the best experience for those involved in the sport obviously has to belong to the athlete. You get to go out for a competitive run with a course that is never the same.

No. 3, the perfect course - for spectators and coaches - would have a people mover. Think about it: Set up a rail line or one of those transportation systems from a ski slope so people could follow the action throughout. Now that would be a sight.

I say this all in good fun, of course, knowing many of the great folks involved in area cross country from covering track and field all these years.

It's just hard not to find the spectating part of the sport fascinating.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, October 12, 2012

Look out, Aaron Craft, on Athlon Sports cover

Aaron Craft will never know what hit him.

The cover of the Athlon Sports college basketball preview magazine for this season has an interesting juxtaposition of Ohio State players on the cover.

Craft, the Buckeyes' point guard, is in the foreground, looking indifferent while doing the "I just grabbed a rebound in traffic" pose.

Behind him, teammate Deshaun Thomas appears ready to dunk the ball directly into Craft's head.

Separately, the photos would have looked pretty cool. But put together for the cover, they didn't really mesh at all.

- Howard Primer

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Week 7 football picks

Each week during the football season, Sports Editor Mark Podolski will pick NFL, college and high school games.

That's more like it. A 4-1 week improves the season mark to 11-19, which is nothing to brag about, so it's time to get back to work. Here we go:


Chardon at Riverside, Friday: The Hilltoppers will be tested in this one but should have enough to improve to 7-1. PICK: Chardon, 31-27


South Carolina (+4) at LSU, Saturday: Tough game to call here. LSU is wounded after a loss at Florida last week, while South Carolina hammered Georgia. I'll take the Tigers in Baton Rogue, La., at night. PICK: LSU, 17-10.

Stanford (+7) at Notre Dame, Saturday: The Fighting Irish's magical season continues because of its tough defense. PICK: Notre Dame, 23-13.


Bengals at Browns (+3), Sunday: In most cases, I take the home underdog, but this is the Browns we're talking about. PICK: Bengals, 27-21.

N.Y. Giants (+5.5) at 49ers, Sunday: I'll take the Giants to hang around and cover, but the San Fran pulls it out late. PICK: 49ers, 27-24.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo  

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Putting a stat-keeping debate to rest

In high school football, it is a lock if you have four different people keeping track of statistics, you're going to have four varying sets of numbers. A running back, depending on interpretation, could have 19 carries for 100 yards, or 18 carries for 97 yards, or 20 carries for 102 yards ... you get the point.

A lot of times, this situation occurs when there aren't hashmarks for every yard. So if someone catches a pass and advances midway between the 40 and the 45, it comes down to interpretation whether the receiver advanced to the 42 or the 43.

One instance that seems to guarantee differentiation is what to do with rushing yards on a holding penalty. For example, it's first-and-10 at your own 25. A running back takes the handoff and goes 8 yards to the 33. Hang on, though, because there was a hold - so 10 yards from the spot of the foul. The hold occurred at the 29, so the penalty is marched off to the 19.

This is where it gets murky. Some statisticians will not count any rushing yardage on that play. Some won't count yardage or an attempt because of the penalty.

My understanding over the years has always been the rusher still gets credit, in the example used, for the 4 yards of progress to the 29, since that's where the hold took place.

This year, after a couple such examples, and subsequent varying rushing totals from good folks who keep stats around the area, I figured it was time to settle this once and for all.

As luck would have it - allowing for a sigh of relief on my part in the process - my interpretation apparently hasn't been wrong this whole time.

Granted it's a higher level of football, but the NCAA puts out a manual for statisticians, which can be found here. Section 14 (a) explains: "The basic enforcement spot for fouls in the field of play or in the end zone on a running play is where the run ends beyond the line of scrimmage. If the foul is by the team in possession and it occurs behind the spot where the run ends and as long as it is beyond the previous spot, the enforcement is from the spot of the foul."

Article 1 of Section 14 then states examples of a rushing play in which a penalty occurs, the third example stating: "A.R. 3. Team A’s ball on its 30. Adams rushes for 20 yards to the 50. A clipping penalty is called against Team A on Team A’s 47. The enforcement spot is the 47 (where the foul occurred), and Team A is penalized 15 yards to its 32. Credit Adams with a rush of 17 yards and charge Team A with a penalty of 15 yards. This accounts for the forward movement of the ball by a net of two yards."

If it's good enough for college football - in a manual specifically produced for keeping statistics - then it's good enough for me.

It's not a major point, of course - the chase for Week 11 around the area is what really matters.

But hopefully this helps put to rest what has been a slight point of contention.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Friday, October 5, 2012

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Browns coach Pat Shurmur is right about "Cleveland '95"

Browns coach Pat Shurmur said he didn't instruct players to watch the "Cleveland '95" documentary about the team's move to Baltimore because he wants them focusing on their game against the Giants on Sunday.

"I'm not insensitive to it," Shurmur said. "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."

He's correct.

Sometimes I wonder what players' first impressions of Cleveland are when they get here.

They will hear about the history of the franchise and the great players and coaches. Then they'll hear about the move, and how bad the team has been since 1999.

Then they'll keep hearing about it, because that's all anyone ever talks about with the Browns. Well, except during three-month build-up to the draft. Then you can add getting playmakers on offense. But it never ends. If I were Shurmur, I would want players insulated from all the gloom and doom.

Going back to Shurmur's comment, "I don't know what to tell you, other than the fact I get it." What do you want him to say? Do you want him to stop preparing for the Giants game, require all players and coaches to watch the show, and then write a 400-word essay about their feelings?

Starting running back Trent Richardson turned 4 in 1995. I would be expect him to be aware of what happened that year because it involves the company he works for. But he doesn't need to live and breathe the move in order to do his job to the best of his ability.

Yes, the players should see it when they have some free time. That's what DVRs are for.

But stopping what they're doing to watch that documentary isn't necessary for them to be ready for Sunday.

- Howard Primer

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Week 6 football picks

Each week during the football season, Sports Editor Mark Podolski will pick NFL, college and high school games.

Last week produced a 2-3 mark, so there's still plenty of room for improvement. The season mark stands at 7-18. Here we go:


Solon at Mentor, Friday: The Cardinals are rolling, especially after a huge win at tough Brunswick last week. Last year, Mentor beat the Comets twice, and expect another W here. PICK: Mentor, 45-21.


Nebraska (+3.5) at Ohio State, Saturday: The Buckeyes showed me something last week in East Lansing, Mich. The Buckeyes aren't great, but they play hard and are taking on the personality of its coach, Urban Meyer. PICK: Ohio State, 24-20.

Georgia (+2) at South Carolina, Saturday: This should be a fun game with plenty of points, just like last season when South Carolina won at Georgia. The road team wins for the second straight season. PICK: Georgia, 38-31.


Browns (+9) at N.Y. Giants, Sunday: The Browns have played well enough to win in three of their four games, but the feeling is the worn-out secondary takes a beating in New York. PICK: Giants: 34-21.

Broncos (+6.5) at Patriots, Sunday: When the Patriots fell behind, 21-7, to the Bills last week, I thought to myself, "New Engalnd will be 1-3. Wow." Final, Patriots, 52-28. PICK: Patriots, 27-17.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

NFL Network's "Cleveland '95" misleading

It was titled, "A Football Life: Cleveland '95," but should have been named, "Bill Belichick '95."

The NFL Network's look at the Browns' darkest hour was a bit misleading. True, the sorrow and agony of the final Browns game at the old Municipal Stadium on Dec. 17, 1995 was portrayed well in the documentary.

But the ones hurt most by Art Modell's decision to move the Browns to Baltimore - the fans - were not the focus of the hour-long documentary.

Its was Belichick, the former coach Browns fans loved to hate. However, with the passage of time and the death of Modell last month, Belichick shined throughout. It was also clear, after the decision of the move, he and his boss did not get along.

Belichick called the decision "very unfair" and that afterward said "the owner was no where to be found." Browns fans would have loved to hear that from their coach in '95.

Instead, the NFL Network's look at that forgettable '95 season was yet another example how the city and its fans were left behind on so many levels.

Belichick's staff was littered with individuals who have shaped the game of football into the new century. It included college coaches Nick Saban at Alabama, Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, four current NFL general managers, Scott Pioli (Chiefs), Mike Tannebaum (Jets), Thomas Dimitroff (Falcons) and Ozzie Newsome (Ravens) and many more.

Save Eric Mangini and Phil Savage (some good, mostly bad), the Browns were unable to reap the benefits of that front-office and coaching talent and things only got worse. The year after the Browns were moved and renamed the Ravens, it drafted future Hall of Famers Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis, two players that paved the way to a Super Bowl championship. Talk about two sucker punches to the gut.

Of course, there's also Belichick, fired by Modell in February after the 1995 season. We all know what he accomplished at New England. No reminder is needed.

All it's done is add to the sadness. A current Browns franchise stuck in mud only makes the hurt sting more. The bitterness remains.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Podcast: Euclid football coach Tom Gibbons

Euclid football coach Tom Gibbons talks about his team’s 4-2 start, this weekend’s game against Warren Harding and the excitement surrounding the Euclid football program in the midst of a conference title and playoff positioning run.

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