July 2012

Woe is CLE

I understand why some people aren’t interested in sports.  You already have to deal with the highs and lows that real life brings, why compound that with the trials and tribulations of a sports life as well? So many years of my life have been chipped away by the eternal hope and heart-crippling agony that following my teams has brought me.  Who knows, maybe I could have been a doctor or something if I’d have used all my sports brain cells on something else.  I’m not sure how knowing that Mo Vaughn was the 1995 AL MVP is ever going to help me out in life, but it’s up there anyway. (Albert Belle was flat-out robbed.  Also, I was 7.)

Originally, this was going to be a happy post.  My favorite team of all favorite teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers, held 4 of the first 34 picks in the NBA draft.  With Rookie of the Year (and commercial funny man) Kyrie Irving already in place as the cornerstone of the franchise, this was our chance to set us up for a decade of winning and May basketball at the Gund.  (As with Jacobs Field, it will always be Gund Arena to me.)  Instead, Cleveland did what Cleveland teams do.  First, they spent the #4 pick on a 6’4″ shooting guard who rode the pine for 40% of his team’s games in Dion Waiters.  Then, to make matters worse, the Cavs traded all 3 of their other picks for the 17th pick to draft a player whom espn.com compared to Jamaal Magloire (!?!?!) in Tyler Zeller.  I’m sure you can already tell I was less than pleased.  Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.  After all, there is a reason why I’m wrapping hot dogs and not running an NBA franchise right now.  Maybe Waiters is the next Dwyane Wade or Russell Westbrook who becomes the ultimate second banana, a scoring machine who forms the best backcourt in the league.  Maybe Zeller isn’t some backup center stiff and scores at will on the low block as he did at UNC.  Maybe one day I will get to stand on E. 9th and cheer on my heroes who finally brought a championship to Cleveland.  Maybe.

I am turning a quarter of a century old in December, and I have yet to see a winner in Cleveland.  This story has been told many times by far better scribes than I, but I’ll try my best to educate you.  The city of Cleveland has not been home to a champion since the Browns brought home the hardware in 1964.  That’s a long time ago.  As if that’s not cruel enough, every time we get close the sports gods find a creative new way to torture Cleveland fans.  You already know these lowlights because ABC/ESPN always shows them whenever there is a nationally televised Cleveland game, but we’ll run through them anyway just for old times’ sake. 

Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Move, The Blown Save, The Decision.

So depressing. The last two were the ones that hurt me most, if only because they were the two that I was old enough to care about.  I don’t think Cleveland will ever see teams as good as those Indians teams of the mid to late 90’s.  A classic “things were so much better back in my day” pronouncement, but those lineups were quite a sight to behold.  There simply were no breathers for pitchers.  Kenny Lofton.  Albert Belle.  Manny Ramirez.  Jim Thome.  Matt Williams.  David Justice.   Just masher after masher.  The ’97 lineup was so loaded that All-Star game MVP Sandy Alomar Jr. hit 7th and should-be future hall of famer Omar Vizquel hit 9th!  Unfortunately, the pitching could never quite measure up and so we were always left standing at the altar.

Then there is LeBron.  Oh, LeBron.  I could write a whole blog on LeBron.  (Maybe I will).  I will always remember watching the 2004 draft lottery, jumping and fist-pumping with my brother, knowing that we were getting the “Chosen One.”  Watching one of the best basketball players of all-time on a nightly basis was a pure bliss.  LeBron ripping apart Detroit in crunch time of game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals is the greatest moment I have had as a sports fan.  His duel the next year with Paul Pierce in game 7 of the conference finals was just as legendary.  I understand that sports is a business and they don’t care about teams the way we do, and that we would change our jobs too if we were presented a better opportunity for success.  (Except for me.  Yay Crawdads!  Wooo!)  But to go on TV and make an hour long spectacle and embarrass the city that adored him while leaving the team no time to sign any free agents is unforgivable.  He was loved so much that we were ready to build statues and rename the city LeBronland if he came through.  Some people seem to think LeBron will someday come back to the Cavs.  I pray that never happens.  I would rather hate him for eternity.  (What if your significant other made an hour long announcement at the neighborhood cookout that they were leaving you for someone else? Would you want them back in a few years?  I know I wouldn’t.  I’d rather heckle them as they worked on their garden or something.)

Being a sports fan is tough.  There is only one winner and 29 or so losers every year.  Luckily, the years don’t stop coming.  It only takes one where the big time player wants to spend his season on Lake Erie, where the breaks go our way, and the sports gods finally smile upon Cleveland, Ohio.  As I write this, the Tribe sits 1 game out of a playoff spot.  Who knows, maybe I’ll be dancing in confetti come November.

Luke is beginning his first year with the Hickory Crawdads as a concessions assistant.  Previously, Luke has worked in baseball with the Akron Aeros, the Cleveland Indians Double A – Affiliate.  He was born and raised in Uhrichsville, OH and attended Kent State University where he earned a degree in Sports Administration and a minor in Business.  Luke has simple tastes, enjoying warm weather, funny jokes, and dancing

Road Trips

By: Jeff Dunlap, Media Relations Assistant

I have been thinking about it, and Road Trips are like an art form.  They need vision, hard work, and a little bit of luck.  It’s like Nolan Ryan throwing a no-no or maybe Van Gogh painting one of his famous pieces of work like “Café Terrace at Night” (my personal favorite).  You may think I’m being a little ridiculous when I compare a road trip to these things or even a no-hitter to a famous painting, but the truth of it is, anything that is done above and beyond the expected or standard should be considered an art form.  Hitting a perfect drive down the center of the fairway… art.  Filling out tax forms to make sure you get that perfect, giant return… art.  Writing a children’s book that the old or young alike can enjoy… art.  Or I suppose I can use a better known phrase to describe it; art is in the eye of the beholder.

I recently took such a trip when I drove from Hickory, NC to Waukesha, WI and then back, all in four and a half days.  That is roughly 1,656 miles.  This particular road trip I took had a little bit of what I’m talking about.  First, I planned.  I knew I only had four days to enjoy before I had to be back before work, so I mapped out how I would get from point A to point B and back.  Pretty basic stuff since these days all you need to do is throw it into a GPS, but nonetheless I did that and decided if I wanted to use any highways to go along with the freeways I would be taking.  Another important thing to plan is food.  And I’m not talking about stopping at a fast food place for a bite to eat.  I’m talking snacks for the ride.  You need three types of snacks for a long road trip. 

Snack 1: Hearty or meaty snacks that can sometimes substitute for meals.  These are things like beef jerky, cheese sticks, or maybe something like a lunchable.  The importance of having these snacks is simple, sometimes the decision needs to be made to “power through” and stopping is just not in the cards.  Thank you for staying open 24/7 McDonald’s, but I’ve got half a tank, some beef sticks, and only 2 more hours to go.

Snack 2: These are your drinks.  Drinks can serve two main purposes of road trips.  The first is simple; drinks are delicious and can keep you hydrated.  The second purpose is to keep you awake.  These are your coffees and energy drinks.  Drinks are dangerous as well though.  Drinking too much can make for unwanted pit stops to the john so you need to plan around that.

Snack 3:  Nuts and anything crunchy.  Crunchy snacks don’t necessarily stop your hunger, but they keep you busy and help pass the time.  It’s the action of going back into the bag again and again that keeps you as active as you can be within the limits of your car.  My personal favorite of these types of snacks… pistachios.  Not only are they delicious, but they make you work for it.  You have to take it out of the container, crack the shell, eat the nut, and then get rid of the shell.  It’s a whole process.

The next step is putting in the work.  You’ve got to rack up the miles to make the most of the time you have.  Whether you’re going the speed limit or 10 over, it doesn’t really matter.  You just have to put some distance between your starting point and your finish line.  The other aspect of putting in the work involves what you do when you get to where you’re going.  It’s a waste of a road trip if you finally get to your destination and waste time in your hotel room or watch TV the whole time.  If you are going to take the time to get there, make it worth it.  Being tired from the road is not an excuse.  Go out on the town, grill out, see the sights, do something.  It’s all one big trip so if you don’t make the most of the time you have at your destination it’s a failed trip.

The last thing, and maybe most important part of the trip, is leaving some room for spontaneous decisions.  Everyone has seen the movies; if everything goes to plan you didn’t make the most of your trip.  Now, this aspect of the trip is different for everybody on every road trip.  These are things like stopping to see the largest ball of yarn in the U.S., sleeping at a rest stop because you can’t afford a hotel room, or maybe your car breaks down in rural Indiana and you’re stranded for a while.  These are only examples of the things that you don’t plan that make a road trip complete.  It is important to embrace them and make the most of the situation.  Staying positive and creating an adventure is much better than sitting on the side of the road feeling sorry for yourself. 

Quick example of this from my recent trip was a little game I played with my roommate called, “how many Red Bulls does it take to make it from Indianapolis to Waukesha on virtually no sleep?”  The answer, we found out, was four.  But it didn’t stop there.  We had the chance to hang out for another night in my hometown and probably take it easy.  What did we do instead?  Found out we had a buddy who could make it up for a Cubs game in Chicago, so we bought tickets and met him in Wrigleyville for the game and a night in the big city.  The last mini adventure we experienced during this road trip was the last 100 miles home.  I am not exaggerating when I say that for 100 miles I drove through monsoon rains at 2 a.m. in the morning going 20mph on a 70mph road to get home.  It was both miserable and impressive.

Now, I’m not saying that I took the best road trip of all time or that I’m the Nolan Ryan or Van Gogh of road trips.  What I am saying is that there is a way to do it and a way not to do it.  I may not be Nolan Ryan or Van Gogh, but feel free to compare me to Zach Greinke or Grant Wood. 

Jeff enters his first season as media relations assistant with the Crawdads.  Born and raised in Waukesha, WI, Jeff graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in Communications while also playing baseball for the Huskies during his time there.  He has previously worked with 1250 Sports Radio in Milwaukee, WI as well as Comcast Cable at their Cambridge studio.  He is an avid Wisconsin sports fan who stays busy playing sports, watching movies, and enjoying various outdoor activities. 

The Glory of Clean Clothes

By Andrew Buchbinder, Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations

Greetings from lovely Salisbury, MD!  The ‘Dads are here on the Eastern Shore getting set to wrap up the road trip in Delmarva tonight, which is good news because I am down to my carefully-calculated final pair of clean socks.  I’m convinced that packing is a science, and depending on the day, I’m not very good at it.

Actually, I typically overpack.  Through six years of packing for road trips, you would think I’d be better at doing this, but, alas, I am not.  I think the problem lies in the possibility that I think too much. Ok, the probability that I think too much. 

I think, “what if I go for a run and use two pairs in one day?” (a rare occurence); “what if I leave a pair in hotel #1 and don’t have enough for the back end of the trip”; “what if…” well, those are really the only two scenarios of atypical sock depletion, but you get my point.

Don’t even get me started on shirts and shorts.  You need t-shirts, polo shirts and shorts.  And you need extras.  The first time you don’t pack extra shirts and shorts will be the last time, because you are just about guaranteed, with universal laws being as twisted as they are, to have some sort of food or beverage take out a garment. 

I like to think of myself as a borderline obsessively neat eater, but you have to take into account your surroundings and, most importantly, the surrounding eaters.  More often than a rational human being might think, collateral damage occurs when food consumption is involved.  Don’t believe me?  Just you wait.  Just you wait for some lemon juice to come spritzing your way on to your previously spotless white Crawdads polo, just you wait for a Pepsi to be spilled on your khaki shorts, just you wait for a member of the waitstaff to drop a thing of ranch on any color shirt, just you wait…

Not only will spills happen, but they always happen on day one or two of the trip, so you are forced to wear spotted articles for the rest of the week.  Which brings us back to packing spare pairs, and the essential nature of this.  Well, the typically essential nature of this, which is the thought process that usually leads me to overpacking.  Not this trip, though.  I threw caution to the wind.  I packed only the bare minimum of what I needed, down to the day.  And now I need to come home… and do laundry.