September means lots and lots of sports for folks like me. Last Saturday I overdosed on college football. In less than a week, the NFL season gets underway. And the Major League Baseball season is drawing to a close… fewer than 25 games remain before playoffs begin.
On Saturday I ensconced myself on the living-room recliner and in front of the HDTV watched the Ohio State football team defeat Oregon State 77-31. I’ll be honest… I actually thought the Buckeyes might lose the game. The Buckeye coach, Urban Meyer, is serving out a three-day suspension for the inept way he handled a spousal abuse allegation made against one of his assistant coaches. Meyer kept the assistant coach on his staff even though the allegation was turned out to be true. After it became public, Ohio State investigated and suspended the head coach for three games and the athletic director until Sept. 16. Plenty of critics think the punishment was laughable and Meyer should have been fired.
With one of the assistant coaches handling the coaching duties, I thought Meyer’s absence might have a more serious impact on the players. It looks like they took it in stride. Next up for the No. 5 Buckeyes is Rutgers. Maybe that will be the game where the players will stumble. But it’s a home game where fans consider the coach a god.
Now onto the NFL. Come Sunday the Cleveland Browns entertain the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’ve been a diehard Browns fan since the mid-1960s when my family moved back to Northeast Ohio. I even remember watching the 1964 championship game (pre-Superbowl era) on CBS when the Browns defeated the Baltimore Colts 27-0 on December 27. It was the last championship for the Browns, and they’ve never made a Superbowl appearance.
For Browns fans, rooting for the hometown has been a dismal experience since the original Browns left for Baltimore in 1996. The city of Cleveland got the name and the colors, and the reborn expansion Browns began their excruciating existence in 1999. They’ve only had two winning seasons since their inaugural season. The last two years have been the worse – 1-15 in 2016 and 0-16 in 2017.
This year the Browns brought in a new, highly respected general manager. I feel hopeful the team will turn things around this year. With some topnotch free-agent signings and a good draft, the general manager has put together a team capable of winning some games, perhaps even string together a winning season – 9-7 or 10-6. The Steelers are a potential playoff team. It’s a home game for the Browns, so I should soon learn if the Browns have shed their losers’ image. When their offensive and defensive units played during the preseason, they looked good, especially the defense. The Steelers game should show if my optimism is misplaced. We Browns fans have been disappointed so many, many times.
If the Browns tank, I can always turn my attention to the winding-down baseball season. I have two favorites – the Cleveland Indians and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Indians are a shoe-in for the playoffs, although I have my doubts they’ll make it to the World Series. The Boston Red Sox are having a season for the ages. As of Sunday, the Red Sox are 94-44 overall. They’ll probably cruise to the World Series, but who knows… the Yankees, defending World Series Champs Houston Astros and the Indians are good teams and any of them could turn out to be spoilers.
With 26 games left as of Saturday night, the Dodgers are in one heck of a pennant race, tied for first place with the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies just a half a game back. Two weeks ago I thought the Dodgers were in trouble. They were struggling, their middle relief pitching suspect and their closure in the hospital with some kind of heart ailment. But their closure is back and they’re winning again. Do they have enough in the gas tank to win the division? Frankly, I don’t know. It’ll probably go down to the last few games before the division is decided. And if they come up short, it’s not a given that they will be a wild-card team in the playoffs. That too is way too close to call.
I’ve been a Dodgers fan since 1962 when I was in elementary school in San Bernardino, California. Like many boys back then, I collected baseball cards. Most mothers threw them away. Mine didn’t. I still have them – Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Maury Will, Jim Gilliam, Willy Davis, Tommy Davis, Ron Fairly. They were the team of my childhood, and I continue to root for the current crop of Dodgers. I began rooting for the Indians in 1965 when the family moved back to Ohio. My Grandpa Frog Franks took me to an Indians-Detroit Tigers game in 1967 in old Municipal Stadium, and soon I found myself turning into a fanatical fan of the Indians. Until the mid-1990s, the Indians were perpetual losers. Not anymore. That’s why I’m hopeful the Indians can win their way into the World Series.
Talking about sports, I took up bowling a couple of weeks ago – the first time since the mid-1980s. Back then, I routinely bowled above 150 and sometimes in the two hundreds. At age 66 I’m struggling to get back my form. I’ve bowled 10 games so far, and do feel I’m getting better. But I’ve yet to bowl 100 or above. I came close last week. I had a score of 95 in the 10th frame, and had just spared. That left me one more ball to roll. Five or better and I would have my 100 game. Hold back the tears please. I put the ball in the gutter. Nerves I guess. I haven’t given up. I’ll be bowling more games at the Sunset Station Casino bowling alley near where I live.
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I’m an author with four published novels that include a sword-and-sorcery fantasy trilogy – The Emperor’s Mistress, Thief’s Coin and Assassins’ Lair. The fourth novel is a historical romance set during the Civil War. It’s called Blessed Shadows Dark and Deep. I’ve begun writing my second Civil War novel – Deepening Homefront Shadows. All my novels can be purchased via the website of my publisher, Wings ePress, as well as the websites of Amazon and Barnes and Noble.