Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Fighters of Foo Make Me Spew Goo!

"Why don't you turn me loose? Turn me loose? Turn me loose? I've got to do it my way ...OR NO WAY AT ALL. Why don't you turn me loose? Turn me loose? Turn me loose? I've got to do it my way. I wanna fly..."

So I staggered in very late Friday night, riding a wave of excited enthusiam from watching the ever-evolving Cleveland Browns team and super nova exploding in a fit of joy because my favorite band in the universe, The Foo Fighters, will be coming to town here in Cleveland on Oct. 8th!!!

And I got tickets! Not only will the Fighters of Foo be stopping in my hometown, they'll also be playing at the $55 million dollar fishbowl down at my old alma mater, The Cleveland State University Convocation Center (I just knew that building had some other important purpose besides being built solely for my college graduation ceremony!).

And then it happened. That flashing red light on my answering machine happened. Blinking and blaring at me like my own personal Batsignal in the dark Gotham sky - like the red phone in stately Wayne Manor that Commissioner Gordon used exclusively to contact Adam West and Burt Ward back in the day. I don't suppose that this could be some late night Bat-booty call, could it-? Nope, it couldn't. It wasn't. It was just a blast from the past...

"Hey, this is Pete," the voice announced innocently enough, shredding the silence of my townhouse. "I'm calling from The Beachland Ballroom..." And I'm afraid I've got some bad news, The Riddler's back in town, I imagined he might add.

Pete is an old friend from college. We've come up through the ranks - and sank down to the depths - of local Cleveland "journalism" together. Until recently, I hadn't spoken much to him for the last 2 years - He became a newlywed and ditched his rock n' roll writing career for a lucrative, but mind-numbing, grinding corporate gig. I, in the meantime, took my meager "golden parachute" and went spelunking off the top of The Jane Scott Memorial Tower (um, formerly the BP Building) and into the satirical safety net of The Second City - that saved and restored what's left of my questionable sanity - after the Enron-in-arms accounting firm I worked for ran out of things for me to shred...

"Plum Island Journalism Disease Research Center. Sounds charming..."

But that's all water under the Detroit-Superior Bridge. Just like Hannibal Lecter and Agent Clarise Starling, Pete and I just can't seem to get enough of each other when it comes to the world of writing. I'll phone him from some unnassuming Tiki bar patio just as he is accepting the "Edward R. Murrow/Maury Povich Award" for excellence in journalism down at The Society of Professional Journalists and Loyal Order of Water Buffalos lodge...

He'll come running to my plexiglass cell with his cheap shoes and good computer handbag, carrying a plate of extra-rare lamb chops when he needs advice about something - it's all fun and good in the end. Just as I often used to back in the day, this fateful evening Pete left a heavy-hearted soliloquy about the state of Cleveland jounalism on my unsuspecting answering machine. It's all good - I am guilty of the same crime.

The state of Cleveland journalism, I wondered??? You mean just because we've got Eartha Kitt covering Browns' games and giving her "in-depth analysis" about it-? Why, the way I see it, Pete, the state of Cleveland journalism is absloutely "purr-fect!" (Cough). Just like England used to send their convicts to Austrialia, so it goes with the rest of the U.S. sending their castoffs to Cleveland...

Pete goes on with his inner and outer monlogue as I listen as intently as one can focus at 2 am on a Friday night. "What do you want, Clarise-?" I ask the answering machine matter-of-factly.

"I don't know anymore-" Pete interjects from the little black box.

"You want what everybody wants! What everybody craves! Advancement..." I reply, washing out the dried-up remnants of Coca-Cola Zero from my Ohio State Buckeyes' mug in the kitchen sink. Hey, even the chronically insane have chores!

"I need your help, Dr. Lecter!" Pete shouts from the machine.

"What do you want, Clarise-? That lucrative writing job for Rolling Stone-? Do you want Buffalo Bill, Clarise-? I'll help you catch him!" I imagine is what he wants me to say, but at this point I am just tired now, both literally and figuratively.

I have stepped in and out of the writing world circle so many times - mostly because, after awhile, I just got sick of hearing myself talk - saying the same things over and over again (Hey, even now I'm just getting nauseous typing this entry into my blog!). Don't get me wrong - whether I'm good at it or not, I love writing. And I've been extremely lucky to get paid actual money to write hundreds of articles on subjects I love, like sports, movies and pop culture. But there just comes a point when you need to try something new.

And trying something new isn't such a bad thing - after seeing my words acted out on a stage at the old Second City theater before my very eyes was a dream come true. But it never would have happened if I hadn't shut the door - or it closed on me - and was forced to take another path down Bob Hope Way.

Even now I have friends who constantly implore me to move to Chicago. "You'll love Chicago!" the exclaim with glee. "It's your kind of town! There are so many more opportunities there - it will make your head spin compared to Cleveland!"

Hey, I love my hometown - born and bred here - but at times it becomes tiresome, especially in it's current sad state of disrepair. But as long as I am here, I make do with what I have: The Browns, the Indians, the Cavaliers ...Mentor Headlands ...the rock n' roll venues ...the serenity of the May 4th memorial in Kent ...and, most importantly, all my close Cleveland friends.

So I guess when my old buddy, Pete, calls me again, I hope it's not to dwell on something as foolish and frivolous as "a journalism career." If you like to write, there are many other venues, and half the fun is just exploring them if you're willing to just "let go" and take that chance. Hey, look at it this way: You WOULD go crazy doing the same thing over and over again for the last ten years, no matter what the profession, let alone one where your words float around your head constantly like some bubble in a Far Side cartoon.

I have no problem discussing writing - or anthing else - in or out of Cleveland, so bring it on! And when I say "I'm having an old friend for dinner" ...I want to mean it in the most traditional sort of way - with actual food, appetizers and drinks at Around the Corner or something!

I mean, if you don't know Pete and I, than you wouldn't know that we are the sometimes-scary spitting images of the Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer characters on Two and a Half Men. I, the shallow one of this dynamic duo, drink too much and whittle my life and talents away as my sidekick in journalism constantly frets over nothing and childes me to "grow up" - AND he hides my ice cold Coronas from me as punishment when we squabble over petty things, say, writing careers.

As Charlie would so often eloquently say: "Life is short, little brother why not have a little fun?" Actually, I think Dr. Lecter said something to that effect to Agent Starling, as well. Huh, go figure!

In the meantime, I have a fantasy football draft and outdoor barbecue party to get to in Mentor. And since no one will read this because they all have their noses stuck in a fantasy football magazine somewhere, I'll let you in a little secret: I think running backs Julius Jones (Dallas Cowboys) and Kevin Jones (Detroit Lions) are going to be the steal of the draft! And I'm going to steal them!

Just don't be foolish enough to draft Michael Vick unless you are into fantasy track and field. Go Tribe! Good night and good luck...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Grady Sizemore: You're A God (And I Am Not) - And I Just Thought That You Should Know!

"An enemy will often agree, but a friend will always argue." - an old Irish proverb.

The Ewoks and I shake our collective furry fists (and spears) at The ESPN Death Star...

"...And all those national journalistic jugheads be damned! Mike Lupica and his "sudden praise" for The Chicago White Sox opitimizes the sychophant mentality his profession breeds - "no ones going to stop The White Sox," he babbled on ESPN that Sunday morning. This was the same guy who said Ohio State "had no chance" against Miami - the year OSU won The National Championship! Well, I'm going to say it just to spite Lupica and his journalistic lemmings: The White Sox are going to DERAIL the second-half of the year and it will be The Cleveland Indians who sweep in and win the feeble AL Central - count on it!" -- (Republished from "Do You, Um, Wahoo?" in The Id and I, June 26, 2005).

Vertical Horizon: Hey, kids, they're like Fall Out Boy for old folks!

Just like Vertical Horizon was an underappreciated and often-overlooked rock band back in the '90's, so it goes the same fate with your 2005 Cleveland Indians...

While the national media happensto be fawning over the Oakland A's and L.A. Angels, and the other half are busy slurping George Steinbrenner and his Frankenstein-like Yankees, the Tribe - just like Thorton Melon in Back to School - is getting no respect! (But you have to remember that these talking heads on TV are a tad crazy - and not the cute "Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs" kind of crazy either. More like the creepy One Hour Photo kind of crazy... look no further than the always-screaming-to be heard used-car salesman, Stephen A. Smith, on ESPN. Quite Frankly, I'd rather chew glass than watch his show... give me Jason Whitlock, any day - Him I'll follow to the ends of the earth.)

How can you not market this team-??? Geez, Cleveland, get with it - Do I have to do EVERYTHING for you! Start with a catchy tune, like: "Here's the story. Of a man named 'Grady'..." You could have Slider star in the role of "Alice" the meddling asexual housemaid with a heart of gold! And, like, maybe have a Larry Dolan cameo as "Sam the Butcher" and ...and... well, I really haven't storyboarded anything yet, it's just an idea but... oh, nevermind, they'll never go for it. It's probably not "Republican" enough for them down there...

Sure the Indians have their flaws - but not as many as the other teams! And what of all the naysayers who say that the 2005 Tribe has no "superstars" on their roster-? Grady Sizemore ...Jhonny Peralta ...Victor Martinez ...Travis Hafner ...Cliff Lee? Ever heard of these guys, national brain stems? You will...

If you play the stock market like I do, the first thing you learn is to spot emerging talent ...before it fully blooms. And also you need to gain the ability to sidestep potential landmines before they blow up in your face - let's just hope that Bob Wickman isn't that big, loveable landmine, folks.

Grab your Flux Capacitor and hang onto your Jigawatts, kids, 'cause we're going back to the future!

Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez and Omar Vizquel were not "household names" back in early 1995 either - they were just young players with a ton of potential - just like the 2005 Cleveland Indians!

Now it's time for this 21st century crop of kids to step up to the bat and swing for the fences at Jacob's Field. We've got the superstars - they're here! - all the critics who refuse to acknowledge this just have the "vision" of Mr. Magoo, is all.

Even the "supporting cast" of players like Coco Crisp, Ben Broussard and (gulp!) Casey Blake have come on strong - and you are only as good as your weakest link in team sports. Aaron Boone is providing veteran leadership and C.C. Sabathia is (finally) pitching like the ace he was always to projected to be by management.

Sure, I've been critical of owner Larry Dolan for being a ...a ...(Hey, what's the nice way of saying "a cheapskate" again...?). But The Plan has brought us a boatload of exciting young talent - it's up to our "Daddy Warbucks on welfare" to sign them and keep them here!

But the real mystery here is why the Tribe fans are not out and about - supporting our team down at The Jake? Maybe it's our city mayor's money-grubbing traffic light cameras used to nab speedsters that are keeping fans away (and can you blame them when our elected mental-defectives come up with ideas like these? I mean, when they're not putting "party plates" on their cars...). Hey, maybe Jane Campbell's traffic cameras can snap a picture of those Office Max moving trucks speeding out of town-?

Or maybe the Clevelanders who live in the surrounding suburbs are not as enamored with those "cuddly panhandlers with tin cups" as some are in the local PBS media - or happen to feel that those "happy-go-lucky homeless" add some "local flavor" to the otherwise scenic surroundings in downtown Cleveland. Go figure!

Whatever the case, I and a lot of other Clevelanders recognize the potential this team possesses - and just like the baseball equivalent of Pavlov's dog, I'll come running when the Cleveland Indians ring that possibility of a playoff berth bell! This is Cleveland - this is what we natives do. We cheer for our local underdogs - whatever the often wince-inducing outcome.

And to all the Darth Lupica's out there in the galaxy, I have this to say: "Tay-Chooie-Wak-Puhtah-Chee-Wah-Tooie!" (Um, that's Ewok for: "A Plague of Verbal Constipation Upon You and YOUR Tribe for 12 Consecutive Blue Moons, You Dweeb!")

And I mean that in the nicest, most-non-threatening Ewok sort of way...

To contact - or throw rocks and spears at - The Id and I:

"Am I more than you bargained for yet...? I've been dying to tell you anything you want to hear - Cause that's just who I am this week. Lie in the grass, next to the mausoleum. I'm just a notch in your bedpost - But you're just a line in a song (A notch in your bedpost, but you're just a line in a song). Drop a heart, break a name. We're always sleeping in, and sleeping for the wrong team. We're going down, down in an earlier round. And Sugar, we're going down swinging. I'll be your number one with a bullet. A loaded gun complex, cock it and pull it..."

Thursday, August 11, 2005

We Interrupt this ESPN Program for a Terrell Owens' Bowel Movement...

The Id and I - "More fun than a barrel of journalists!"

Does anyone else on the planet care as much about Terrell Owens and his every micro-managed movements more than ESPN??? It's so sad - and annoying - all rolled up into one! There must be some more deserving stories on NFL players out there (like Seattle's own unappreciated - and often ignored by the national media - speedster, Shaun Alexander, who continues to amass amazing statistical records with barely a notice or a nod?). How does this happen in the upper echelon - nay, the world leader - of sports broadcast journalism? Do they have lobotomized lab monkeys in charge of programming up in Bristol, Connecticut or what...?

Anyway, I'm pushing the proverbial deadline envelope on my Browns' preview for North Coast Voice Magazine, my friends, and I need to wrap it up before the Tribe-Royals/Chargers-Packers doubleheader tonight at my fave watering hole...

So, this is "the Indiana Jones of journalism" signing off for now - tune in next week for hopefully more wacky adventures as my dear old uncle, Dick Feagler (who has a true PASSION for archaeology!), and I go off in search of The Holy Grail... (cue the coconuts!)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

What's Eating Dan Gilbert's Grapes?

The Id and I - "If web blogs were cereals, we'd be The King Vitamin of cyberspace!"

You couldn't imagine my utter shock and horror the other day when I heard the announcement that our dear old Gund Arena was being renamed: Quicken Loans Arena.

Granted, Gund Arena sounds like something that should come with a free shot of penicilin, but Quicken Loans Arena...? What - was A-B-C Check Cashing Coliseum already taken???

I realize that it's Dan Gilbert's money and he can name "The Cleveland Cavaliers Stadium" anything he wants, that it's not my money nor my business, and I should probably just keep my mouth shut - but I'm not going to! Because outside of just being a shameless plug for the billionaire's business, I think it would have been a much more humble gesture towards the Cleveland Community if Richie Rich had named it something, uh, the rest of us could enjoy...

Even the previous bounced around name, The Rock (after Rock Financial) Arena, would have been a gracious nod towards our musical heritage and tied in with - between all the tumbling tumbleweeds - that other Rock Hall thing down by the Lake Erie shoreline.

But, no, that would make too much sense. After all, Dan Gilbert didn't want to lose a sale by that one stray brainstem who happens to stumble upon Quicken Loans Arena up there in flashing neon lights and calls them for a "Cleveland special" (A 3rd home mortgage loan to feed one's starving family - or pay for stuff bought on eBay) - and a damn fast one at that!

Meanwhile, across the alley "...on the Boulevard of Broken Baseball Dreams" lies our old friend, Larry Dolan, clutching his piggy bank with clenched fists like C. Montgomery Burns on holiday. Now that The Cleveland Indians have moved into 2nd place in the AL Central division - past The Minnesota Twins and are in serious contention of a playoff birth - Larry Dolan has pulled out his checkbook - and all the stops, Tribe fans! - for the option year on 3rd baseman, Aaron Boone. Woot! Woot!

I have applaueded Mark Shapiro and the Tribe organization in the recent past for their amazing turnaround time on trades and talent that produced Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Travis Hafner, Jhonny Peralta and Victor Martinez. But enough is enough with the teasing and the dangling of these talented tater tots in front of our collective faces, Napoleon Dynamite - it's time for the main course here in Cleveland 2005!

If Larry Dolan does not - or cannot - "pony up the dough" to at least attempt to put the Tribe over the top (and 1st place in the AL Central would be a fine start), then he owes it to the fans and the city of Cleveland to sell the team to some other Daddy Warbucks in waiting. A new owner with an MBNA credit line (wink, wink) - that can at least match the Minnesota Twins, if not surpass it, and doesn't need to wait for "triple coupon day" at Tops to purchase a high-priced bat to fill in for an often bad - and battered - Casey Blake.

But what do I know, huh-? I'm just a lowly graduate of Cleveland State University - "where the city is our campus" - the Cleveland school system is our shambles - and the nefarious Cleveland panhandlers holding out a tin cup are our playground bullies ...even the ones NOT named "Larry Dolan."

Chris McVetta is a serious sports journalist like Dennis Kucinich is a serious presidential candidate for the 2008 (or any!) election. He is available for weddings, bar mitzvahs, and to just boost your sagging newspaper circulation or television ratings (because, hey, you're sure not going to do it!). When sober, Mr. McVetta can be reached at: