Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tis the football season

n week 16 of the NFL season, I finally saw my first Browns game of the year. And I have now seen enough.

Knowing that Cleveland could secure a playoff spot with a win over the lowly Bengals, Mrs. VFR and I made a trip to a local gin mill to see the game. We arrived in the middle of the second quarter -- as it turns out, just in time to witness a sloppy implosion.

Here's the sequence of the first few place we saw:
  • As we sit down in a booth, Anderson is intercepted going across the middle of the field. On The Nati's next play, Palmer hits Houshmanzadeh on a fade in the end zone. Cincinnati 13, Cleveland 0.
  • Right after the ensuing kickoff, Anderson rears back to throw and intercepted across the middle of the field. The Nati returns it for a touchdown. Cincinnati 20, Cleveland 0.
My mere presence caused a karma catastrophe. If it wasn't for the Blue Moon just placed in front of me, I think we would have got up and left.

In the second half, Anderson threw two more interceptions, including one in the end zone that ended a Cleveland scoring threat. On the final drive, poor clock management and a horseshit penalty contributed more to what one disgruntled former N.J. Turnpike toll collector might term, in a raspy, whispered tone "disaster."

As it happens so often with the Browns, the outcome was decided on the last play. Anderson sent a stray bullet through the end zone toward, inexplicably, no one in particular as time expired. Cincinnati 19, Cleveland 14.

In short, it was Cleveland Browns football. Always good enough to torture me to the very end. Never good enough to win the ones that matter.

Glad to see nothing changed in my 14-game absence.

There a couple of factors, incidentally, that led to this drought.
  • With college football occupying my Saturdays in a six-day work week during the fall, Sundays became the default day to do everything else.
  • I've grown tired of dropping cash at a gin mill to watch the Browns lose and come home smelling like an ash tray. And we only get the Lions at home on TV.
You would think my inability to glean NFL knowledge from anything more than ESPN highlights would hurt the performance of my fantasy football teams, but you'd be wrong. On the contrary, while the Browns have faltered down the stretch, I've gotten great satisfaction from my two fantasy squads, Chester Copperpot and Augustus Gloop.

Before discussing these teams, I hereby acknowledge my awareness of the fact that someday anthropologists will study our geeky fascination with this game and enjoy much laughter at the seriousness with which we take the drafts and seasons.

Duly noted. Guilty as charged. Onto the teams.

Chester Copperpot (11-3) ran away with the regular-season crown in a 12-team league, finishing with the best record and a league-high 1,572 points.

Chet's success can be attributed to impeccable drafting. While I picked up Frank Gore in round one and Edgerrin James in round two, they were mere bit players on a team that also featured third-round pick Tom Brady and fourth-rounder Adrian Peterson, who I stole ahead of W.A. Wilson in a brilliant draft-day maneuver.

Sadly, Brady and Peterson both picked Week 15 to have their worst games of the season -- the start of the postseason in the Not Quite Senile league, leading to an upset. Without its two stalwarts, top-ranked Copperpots sunk faster than the Lusitania, a premature end to a fantastic season.

Luckily, the news was much better with team Augustus Gloop, whose unlikely rise can be measured only in Rocky- and Rudy-like terms.

I started the season with incredibly high hopes for this team. With Larry Johnson and Edgerrin James in the backfield, resurgent Drew Brees at quarterback and Antonio Gates serving as the man-among-tight ends, I thought this team ranked among the top three in a 10-team league.

This was true; it just took a little faith and a lot of time to realize it.

Gloop kicked off the season with a thrilling win over John Oates' Mustache by the narrowest of margins, 91.29 to 91.04.

It was the last win Gloop would see for a long time.

The team lost its next six games, eked out a win and lost two more. Three weeks remained in the regular season and Augustus held a 2-8 record. The playoffs remained a possibility in mathematics only.

Then No. 1 pick Larry Johnson was lost with a season-ending injury.

Rock bottom had been reached.

I had to place untested Earnest Graham, a free-agent pickup, into a tattered lineup that counted Shaun McDonald, Donald Driver and Dwayne Bowe among its starters. (Driver and Bowe combined for one touchdown over the season's final 10 games).

Gloop rattled off two wins over middle-of-the-pack squads to improve to 4-8 entering the regular season's final week, but still sat in ninth place -- with a contest against No. 1-ranked Breukelen Skramble ahead.

Cue the Bill Conti and Jerry Goldsmith tunes.

With everything on the line, Gloop pulled out the improbable 100.71 to 97.49 victory over Goliath. At 5-8, Gloop also scored 15 more points over the course of the season than Longmont refugee M. Kelly to win the tiebreak and secure the eighth and final playoff spot.

The reward for this remarkable run? Another matchup against top-ranked Skramble.

This time in the playoffs. No. 1 vs. No. 8. Could Gloop do it two weeks in a row?

Brees shed some more of his season-long slump. Graham punched in two touchdowns. The Minnesota defense vexed San Francisco. And the Pacific Northwest saw its craziest 1 versus 8 postseason matchup since Dikembe Mutombo surprised the Sonics. Gloop beat Skramble for the second week in a row, this time 126.47 to 112.29, in a playoff masterpiece.

From there, Gloop gathered steam.

The same Brady collapse that dogged Chester Copperpot helped here. Tom Terrific caused The Duke Boys to collapse in the 8-4 matchup one week later, 117.88 to 110.28, and Gloop earned a golden ticket to the championship game.

On Sunday, Augustus faced the league's second-ranked team in the championship game. Team Gloop won, 62.76 to 49.79.

It was complete.

A lineup filled with castaways patched together a run unparalleled in sports history.

It just goes to show you that with a little determination and perseverance, even a fat kid can accomplish his dreams.



At 4:02 PM, Blogger Joependleton said...

Cat, that Browns-Bengals game was on in NYC.

Two points:

1. After the first Anderson INT at the end of the half, Romeo should've sat on the ball, got out of the half down, 13-0 and lived with it.

As for Romeo: I thought a key part of that game was him no going for two when the Brownies make it 19-6 late in the third.

Think about it, if he makes it, he's only down 11 (a TD+2 and a FG). If he doesn't make it, he's down 13, which is pretty much the same as being down 12. When he kicked the ball there, he put himself in a situation where he needs two more TDs to win. ANd lo and behold, he has the ball on the Bengal 30 in the waning seconds. If he had gone for two and made it twice - not impossible, but improbable - he would've been down 3.

As for Anderson, I picked him up on my fantasy team after week 2 and thanks to him, ended up finishing third in the league, which netted me and my partner some lettucke.

At 8:52 AM, Blogger SJPSandman said...

Bengals-Browns was a great game. I bet Cincy on the moneyline (Brown were favs) and cashed in.

All hail Cleveland.

And while we're on the topic, I had three fantasy football teams this season, didn't make the fucking playoff in any of the three.

I guess that's what happens when the likes of Steve Smith, Willie "what's an end zone?" Parker, Marc Bulger, and Reggie Bush litter one's roster.

Cheer up, six weeks until pitchers and catchers!

At 9:59 AM, Blogger Todd Cohen said...

Congrats on the fantasy championship. I had a similar team to the Gloops but didn't snatch up Graham and that my friend, made all the difference.

I had to deal with a bunch of injured RBs as well. I hadn't seen this many people banged up since Aurora came to town.

LJ in round 1 (even though I wanted Westbrook but was too fearful to grab him at the 3rd spot), Cedric Benson in rd 3, Marshawn Lynch in round 4 and his backup Anthony Thomas.

After a 133.48-133.28 victory (we were ALL surprised), I tied for the division lead. However, another kid beat me in a tiebreaker. My first season sans playoffs.

At least Augustus got a golden ticket.

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Pete said...


If only your running backs all had the same birthdays, all would have worked out well. ...

As for the Browns, finding a way to agonizingly suck at the last minute of anything important is what they do best.

At 4:08 PM, Blogger SJPSandman said...


I failed to mention this in my first comment here, but nice job on The Goonies reference.


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