Sunday, April 29, 2007

The drafting of a dynasty

What a great day to be a Cleveland Browns fan.

There are not many days I can say that. In fact, I can't think of another day in decades that has made a mark on the franchise quite like Saturday.

There have obviously been plenty of dark days when Browns fandom felt more like a sickness. Too many to list. Some major, some minor. But for the first time since art modell - a name not deserving of capitalization - moved the franchise, there is hope.

Hope can be a dangerous thing, of course, bringing only further despair and descent into the pigskin insanity. But it'd be hard to argue that in this particular case. The Browns got better Saturday. They got better in a hurry. They made a bold freaking move.

Not since Cleveland drafted Ozzie Newsome and Clay Matthews in the first round of the '78 draft has there been this kind of optimism.

Joe Thomas and Brady Quinn? Hallelujaih!

Thomas was the guy I wanted at No. 3 all along. Since the return of the franchise from purgatory, three regimes consistently failed to address the offensive line. After six years of watching quarterbacks flee for their lives, the Browns signed center LeCharles Bently, the first indication the latest regime got it.

Bentley was crippled by the Cleveland Curse and may never play a down for the Browns, but at least they showed interest in correcting the problem.

Now they've got Thomas, a left tackle to dominate for the next decade. Finally. He's going to make an immediate impact. Running and passing games are both immediately upgraded. With Eric Steinbach now at left guard, Kevin Shaffer can switch to his more natural right tackle position. God, if LeCharles can ever play again, it's going to be the best line in football.

But they weren't going anywhere - no matter who the quarterback or tailback were - until they addressed the line.

I wanted Thomas ahead of Quinn at No. 3 for that reason. Also, admittedly, because I'm not entirely sold on Quinn. I haven't seen him step up and win a big game. Quite the opposite, in fact. But that was my same criticism of Peyton Manning eight years ago. He could never beat Florida when it counted.

Shows what I know.

I believe Quinn has Pro Bowl potential. Even if he turns into a middle-of-the-pack NFL starter, this is a great upgrade. Not to mention great story. How many draft prospects come out and say, "I want to play for Clevleand!" (Not since Bernie Kosar).

Cleveland paid a steep price to move up and select Quinn at No. 22. Next year's No. 1. It's a top-10 pick. We know a 6-10 or 7-9 record is probably the best we can hope for from the 2007 team.

But I figure if they had Quinn rated as a top-10 prospect this year, then it's worth it. If they believe he is a franchise quarterback, then it's worth it.

They essentially spent their first-round pick in '08 on Quinn, and paid the price of a second-rounder to get him this year and start the building process that much sooner.

What an opportunity. Even better, Brian Billick was on the phone with Quinn when the Browns slid into the No. 22 spot, up from No. 36. Baltimore was talking trade with Kansas City at No. 23. Always nice to get a small measure of revenge over that creaky bastard in Baltimore.

The Browns roster has been devoid of talent for seven years. In those seasons, they have had exactly one Pro Bowler. Jamir Miller in 2001. One Pro Bowler in seven seasons. There's probably 60 to 80 Pro Bowlers every season.

So the Browns have had 1 in 490 chances? Jesus, what a talenteless team.

Not anymore. Two huge building blocks are in place after Saturday. Maybe three with the cornerback they took out of UNLV in the third round, who had transferred out of Southern Cal after some legal quandaries.

Next year, Quinn will take his lumps. But the foundation is set. For the first time in a long time. Probably for the first time since the Newsome/Matthews draft established the teams that became the Kardiac Kids in the early 80s, then the teams that played Denver a few years later.

Congratulations, Cleveland.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Corzine crash

This entry may make a point so obvious, you wonder why I took the time to actually lend thought to it. You know, like when newspaper editorials proclaim 'cancer is bad' or something of that ilk.

In light of recent events, however, this issue apparently must be addressed.

Reports detailing the investigation into the near-fatal car crash involving New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine indicate that the driver who caused the accident will not be charged because he is, according to reports, a "special-needs driver."

Let me get this straight.

A car illegaly veers from the road's shoulder into oncoming traffic, nearly causing the death of the highest-ranking state official. It's a pretty open-and-shut case. But the conversation among investigators goes something like this:

Investigator 1: "We've solved the case of the missing red pickup truck. This guy should be charged with vehicular homicide should the guv not make it. He should at least be ticketed for a multitude of traffic offenses."

Investigator 2: "Well, the guilty party is retarded."

Investigator 1: "That changes everything. Not only will we give him a free pass on this one, but we'll return him to the roads of the Garden State where he can continue to menace other drivers."

Investigator 2: "Sounds good."

Imagine if your family had been wiped out by a mongoloid on the road. By not charging the guilty party here, it's like state officials are saying we should be like, 'oh, he didn't know any better.' As if that makes the accident any better.

What ridiculous loophole in Jersey law exists that allows retards to have driver's licenses? This is a bad idea. C'mon. That should be obvious.

Pretty soon, The Joker will be taking class trips to assassinate the governor.

The guilty party in this case, 20-year-old Kenneth Potts, seemed unrepentant and unaware of the weight of his actions. The Record of Hackensack reports:

"A neighbor, Linda Tizol, said Potts seemed frazzled when she saw him leaving the house Saturday morning.

“He just screamed at his Dad: ‘What do they want to lock me up for? It’s not my fault he wasn’t wearing his seat belt,’” Tizol said."

The bottom line is this:

If the guy is mentally sound enough to possess a valid driver's license, then he is mentally sound enough to be charged with the consequences of his actions. If he's "special" enough that he cannot be held accountable for his actions, he shouldn't be on the road in the first place.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Charlatan Vivian Stringer

We now know what the "C" stands for.

Charlatan. This is what C. Vivian Stringer has become.

The Rutgers women's basketball coach was once the type of person who wore conviction on her sleeve and fierce determination on her face. A coal miner's daughter. A proud woman, a great woman, who has overcome an unfair share of personal tragedy.

She embodied the type of coach and person you'd want your kids - boys or girls - to play for, to learn life lessons from.

All those admirable qualities haven't up and vanished. But in the wake of this week's Don Imus scandal, C. Vivian Stringer looks like a hypocrite and opportunist.

For anyone who might have missed it, the cantankerous lout of a talk-show host called her Scarlet Knights, fresh off a loss in the NCAA championship game, a bunch of "nappy-headed hos," a phrase oozing of racial and sexist disgracefulness.

The Scarlet Knights, who, like their coach, are proud and fierce, were rightly offended by the crude slander. Stringer and her team called for Imus' firing. His comments, while par for the course of talk radio, were deplorable. No doubt, he should be fired.

The brewing controversy reached its crescendo Wednesday when Stringer and her players held a press conference. Stringer spoke for 30 minutes, and, as others have noted, sounded a little silly and overblown, alternately playing the victim card and grandstanding in what amounted to a recruiting infomercial.

It would have been nice if she reserved some of that contempt for former Rutgers University president Fran Lawrence.

Many of you may remember that Lawrence made a pretty big boo-boo of his own in November of 1994, when he told an audience of academics that minorities did not have the "genetic hereditary background" to compete on standardized tests.

Stringer was still coaching at Iowa when the remark was uttered, but it framed the context of her arrival on The Banks.

Those three words embroiled the campus in strife. Protesters halted play during a Rutgers basketball game against No. 1 UMass. They blocked traffic on Route 18. Marches were organized, rallies held. Lawrence fought for his job. It was a big deal.

Eager to appease the hornet's nest he had stirred, Lawrence searched long and hard for a minority candidate when the women's basketball job opened in the spring of 1995. Rutgers had a problem before his remark - 0 of its 23 coaches were minorities.

Now, Rutgers and Lawrence were desperate to land a minority coach.

So desperate, in fact, they paid Stringer approximately $325,000 to take control of the program. At the time, it was an unheard of sum for a women's coach, a figure that dwarfed what perennial NCAA mastermind Pat Summitt made at Tennessee.

But RU was desperate. And Stringer was all too willing to play along.

Knowing about the controversy that preceded her arrival, she showed no outrage whatsoever. Asked at the time about the fact her new boss ostensibly thought that black people were intellectually inferior, Stringer told the Philadelphia Inquirer that she believed "athletics can have a healing power."

It's an answer that is her prerogative. I won't begrudge her that. But why don't the same sentiments apply to a washed-up talk-show host?

One person made a truly frightening statement. One was a clown making a crass remark. One was a person taken seriously by some of the brightest minds in the country. One toiled as a jester for decades.

Lawrence was in a true position of power. The head of a major university. Someone who shapes policy, guides students. A leader. Removing him from a prestigious office at an academic institution would have confronted real racism at its core. Here was a real chance to make a difference.

But Stringer gives him what amounts to a free pass.

Imus? He's your everyday bigot. A man so irrelevant that his radio show ranked No. 14 in the New York market. Chances are few people would have even heard his remarks had he simply been ignored.

When he asks for forgiveness, he's denied that healing power.

Apparently, forgiveness comes with a price tag of $325,000. The sell-out special.

Sounds cheap for the price of Stringer's soul.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

and we're back

This is the moment I'm sure you have all been waiting for.

The cross-country move is officially complete. The VFR's have found a new home. Boxes have been moved and unpacked. And now that there's at least a hint of spare time, we're pleased to annouce the return of Squawking VFR.

Countless hours of blogging lay ahead.

We would have been blogging sooner, but some technical difficulties brought upon us by the incompetent foofs at Comcast.

After they allegedly returned our service, it took them three days and $264 to actually get us back online. That, and more than 15 phone calls and three hours worth of waiting on hold from yours truly. It is only because I am kind and benevolent that I restrain myself from wishing cancer of the eyes upon their CEO.

Here's the breakdown of my latest encounter with the evil phone/cable/internet cabal.
  • Service cannot simply be transferred from our previous address to our new address. We must pay a fee of $100 to disconnect, then $125 to re-connect here.
The disconnecting Comcast people told us to keep our former modem, only to threaten to destroy our credit because of our failure to return it - this while we were talking with the mortgage lender about qualifying for our home making our credit a most-important issue.
  • The clowns come to our house to install the new service. It is simple, they say. Once they are done monkeying around outside, they give us a disc to run on the computer, which they say will complete the installation.
  • Naturally, said disc does not work.
  • I am told from the installation people not to worry, that the billing department can automatically activate the account from their end. It only takes a phone call.
  • I call billing. After waiting an eternity to talk to a real person, the real person cannot find our account, thus making it difficult to activate our service. Much nonsense, and a lot of holding, ensues. It is decided that I am not a Comcast customer. I am a Comcast Classic customer. I am transferred. More holding ensues.
  • (Note: I called the damned 1-888-Comcast number, and I never was made aware of, nor was given an opportunity to note the regular/Classic distinction upon placing my order).
  • New person cannot locate my account. It is again decided that I cannot possibly be a Comcast Classic customer. I am put on hold again. The gentlemen comes back to the phone only to announce he is transferring me again.
  • Somewhere in this transfer, I am hung up upon.
  • I call back. Repeat steps 1 to 8.
  • After much holding, all Mrs. VFR can hear from the other room is me talking to the person unfortunate enough to be stuck with me. "Can I help you?" "Yes, you can transfer me to your supervisor." "What seems to be the nature of your problem sir?" "Nothing you can help me with. Please switch me to your supervisor." "Can I -" "No. Supervisor! Supervisor! SUPERVISOR! SUPERVISOR!"
After yet another failure, I had been on the phone for an hour and a half. It was time to go to sleep, and try again the next night.

Long story short, I succeeded in finding a competent supervisor at Comcast. It took another hour's worth of calls, but the clowns eventually found our account, transferred me to yet another department, where people actually could activate our service.

Needless to say, a formal letter of complaint will be filed with the Federal Communications Commission about the dangers of monopolies run amok.

But that's not for tonight. Right now, we are happy to be back online. We now return you to your regularly scheduled musings.

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