Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mistake On The Lake!

I lived in Cleveland for almost 2 years during two different stints between 1990 and 1996. So I bring a somewhat different appreciation for Cleveland than most Oklahomans.

And, that fact is especially relevant with Coach Stoops' "you never know" quote post-Sugar Bowl, which had everyone on edge about his NFL coaching aspirations. This situation was further compounded by the rumor of his interest in the Browns open job and combined with his nearby Youngstown, Ohio roots sent the Sooner Nation into panic-mode.

However, rest assured Sooner Nation. I still have contacts in Cleveland and my sources there tell me the Browns organization is just as dysfunctional as they were when I left in 1996 (well, maybe not so bad as they didn't have a team in 1996!)

The team owner is embroiled in a federal rebate fraud investigation with his "real" company, they have a non-football guy who was run out of Philadelphia in charge of football operations and they can't draft worth a damn! So the distractions there are real and not imagined.

So without further adieu, here is my list of the top 5 things Coach Stoops won't miss about Cleveland.

1. Weather

Ok, I realize Oklahoma is experiencing an unseasonable severe winter chill for this time of the year that is making many very uncomfortable with the record low temperatures.

Welcome to Cleveland Coach Stoops!

This type of weather is exactly what you get on a daily basis with winters in Cleveland.

I know firsthand because I lived in ground-zero: downtown Cleveland.

Cleveland is located at the northern end of Ohio right up against one of the Great Lakes: Lake Erie.

As such, Cleveland is the last city before you get to Canada.

Affectionately, known as the "North Coast," northeastern Ohioans know full-well what that location means: arctic Canadian-winter winds sweep down across Lake Erie and bring almost a daily event onto the streets of downtown Cleveland called "lake-effect snow."

And, Cleveland being a pretty much non-public transportation city, except for inner-city RTA lines and busses, means most Clevelanders travel by private car which results in a lot of walking.

Heavy top coats, hats, gloves and galoshes are standard attire from basically November to early April. Leave home without one of these essential elements at your own risk.

Also, since Ohio is located in the middle of the snow-belt, transportation officials are deftly prepared to maintain and clear area highways and roads.

This means much ice and sand strategically placed on roadways which ends up on your vehicles and creates a mess of your shiny new car not to say the potential rust erosion later that diminishes its life cycle.

Yes folks, Cleveland is cold. Just how cold you might ask?

I attended opening day of the Major League Baseball season in 1991 at venerable Municipal Stadium on April 16, 1991 and it snowed!

2. On A Clear Day You Can See Canada

I lived on the 19th floor of the Reserve Square building at the eastern edge of downtown at 12th and Superior and just a few blocks from the lake.

Actually, although not built during my first stay, Reserve Square is just a handful of blocks from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The 19th floor of any building is high enough to give one a spectacular overview of any area.

Here's the view from my 19th floor apartment overlooking Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport and beautiful Lake Erie.

See what I mean? Coach Stoops won't miss this view will he?

3. Gretchen Carlson

Ok, I know Gretchen Carlson is no longer in Cleveland.

Actually, Gretchen is from Minnesota and represented that state as the Miss America winner in 1989.

But hey, in the early 90's she was the hottest thing on local television!

No Coach Stoops won't miss Gretchen by not moving to Cleveland but he can still catch her daily on Fox News!

4. Cleveland Crack

No this is not the local "crack-house" located in east Cleveland.

Actually, this is a universal sighting all over the North Coast.

I think a picture says a thousand words but I'll let your imagination do the work for you!

5. Oklahoma Is OK!

And finally, Coach Stoops won't miss being constantly asked where in the hell Oklahoma is located?

For many Ohioans, Oklahoma might as well be located in Timbuktu!

Most Clevelanders and many Ohioans have lived in the Buckeye state all of their lives.

And that is not a bad thing as the area and state have much to offer.

However, most don't know and don't care where Oklahoma is but do know it isn't in Ohio and they could care less.

So Coach Stoops won't get inundated with the inquisitive minds every time he meets a stranger who asks him: "where?"


So in the final analysis, I don't think Coach Stoops ever really seriously considered the Browns job or the prospect of moving to Cleveland from Norman.

And, certainly my tongue-in-cheek list doesn't even begin to capture all of the great things association with the North Coast namely:

1. More golf courses per capita than any other location in the U.S. (yes you can play golf in the summer!)

2. Fabulous restaurants.

3. A vibrant, thriving downtown arts district.

4. Breathtaking summer sunsets over Lake Erie.

5. Three really great professional sports brands in the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers all located in the heart of downtown Cleveland featuring some of the most loyal and long-suffering fans in the world.

I hope my personal experience does provide some sort of humor associated with the only American city that I know of where the downtown river and the mayor's hair once caught on fire and a city I was fortunate to once call home twice! (true!)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Sweet Home Alabama!

One of my favorite writers is Jay Cronley who is a columnist for my hometown paper, the Tulsa World.

Recently, Jay wrote a column about a stranger he met who responded "I am a columnist" when asked what she did for a living.

Cronley went on to summarize in his column that everyone was a "columnist" in today's wired world.

Cronley said that to qualify as a "columnist" one must have a story to tell that is based upon an experience, idea or opinion.

So with access to the internet, in Cronley's world, everyone with an idea, experience or opinion is a "columnist!"

So with that said, here is my "columnist" story for the 2014 Sugar Bowl.

Sugar Bowl Redux

Admittedly, I am a a bit more qualified for Cronleys' "Columnist" description. I do have an official Journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and was a staff writer for my college newspaper, The Baker Orange, my freshman year in college.

I even have a certificate for my coverage of President Reagan's assassination attempt in 1981 to prove my bona fide credentials!

So, here is my story based upon my "experience, idea and opinion!"

In 2004, I was one of the over 72,000 fans in the Louisiana Super Dome when Bob Stoops' Oklahoma Sooners faced Nick Sabans' LSU tigers for the BCS National Championship.

I witnessed a stellar LSU defensive effort throttle one of the "best" teams in NCAA history as Sports Illustrated claimed as Stoops' Sooners lost to Saban's Tigers 21-14.

This was a classic "heavyweight" match between two excellent, well-coached teams.

But it wasn't what happened on the field as much as what I witnessed off the field that caught my attention.

Late in the first half of a 14-7 game, my binoculars caught some activity behind the Oklahoma bench that caught my eye.

A nattily attired man in a navy blazer and slacks was attempting to persuade a Super Dome usher to allow him access to the Oklahoma bench.

After a few minutes of standoff, the man gained access to the field, immediately proceeded to the huddle during an Oklahoma timeout, removed the headset of an Oklahoma assistant, pushed defensive coordinator Brent Venables aside and began screaming at the Oklahoma defensive players!


A closer look revealed the man in a hurry was Mike Stoops, younger brother of Big Game Bob and the recently named head coach of the University of Arizona!

It seems that the younger Stoops had seen enough and was anxious to help his big brother Bob!

Perhaps he knew that his big brother was outmanned.

Nick Saban had a young offensive coordinator named Jimbo Fisher and a Saban-clone defensive coordinator named Will Muschamp calling the shots.

Big Game Bob was outnumbered off the field and his Sooners succumbed to a stronger LSU defense on the field despite some peculiar play calls on the final drive.

Fast-Forward to 2014

So after a bizarre finish to the Auburn game and a miraculous finish to the OSU game, Big Game Bob and Nick Saban find themselves in a similar rematch in 2014!

Except this time, Stoops might just have the mismatch on the sidelines to Saban's #3 ranked Crimson Tide!
You see not only does Big Game Bob have little brother Mike on his sidelines this time but he also has two other secret weapons to use against Nick Saban!

In 2009, Bob Stoops and his staff spent a week visiting Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban's Crimson Tide as they prepared for their BCS National Championship game against Texas.

This act did not sit well with the Sooners arch rival in Austin.

Many Longhorns thought that Stoops was telling state secrets against Texas to Saban to sabotage a potential Longhorn upset in the Rose Bowl.

But Stoops maintained that was the furthest thing from his mind. He was only visiting Alabama to learn more about the Crimson Tide 3-man front and downfield rushing game.

But this was not the only thing Stoops stole from Nick Saban.

Later, Stoops would hire Alabama's quality control guru Chad Walker away from Saban.

Walker has been instrumental in not only installing the Bama 3-4 defense but also allowing the Stoops brothers to peek inside the Saban-led Crimson Tide and steal the "secret sauce" to Bama's success.

According to the Daily Oklahoman this week, Mike Stoops credits Walker with not so much as just installing the Bama 3-4 defense but "we had a lot of information" on the Alabama personnel, coaches and tendencies.

So much so that Stoops said that the Alabama coaches would "recognize a lot of stuff that's going on when we play."

A Game Changer?

So will the Stoops brothers advantage help Big Game Bob against Nick Saban?

Perhaps Walker's presence just reaffirms what the Stoops brothers already know about Alabama: the Crimson Tide is a well-oiled machine, angry over their last second loss to arch-rival Auburn and will be chomping at the bit to crush Bob Stoops Sooners.

Or, perhaps the Stoops brothers have another secret weapon up their sleeve?

You see, mama Stoops has a younger son named Mark who is the head coach of the University of Kentucky who lost to Alabama 48-7 this year.

Do you think that big brother Bob has talked to kid brother Mark about his thoughts on how to stop Nick Saban's Crimson Tide?

Of course, they have talked. That is what brothers do. And, what about Stoops mentor at South Carolina? Don't you think Big Game Bob has talked to his mentor Steve Spurrier on how to stop Bama's vaunted attack?


Yes, on paper this game is a mismatch for the Stoops brothers.

Alabama should just line up and run roughshod over the faster, smaller Sooners.

But a funny thing this game football is.

These are college-age kids 18, 19, 20 and 21 years old.

Emotion and coaching play big factors on motivation for these younger players.

The team that is the best on paper does not always win.

And, when there is a sibling rivalry involved and inside information from the enemy in play, anything is possible.

For the Sooner Nation and the Stoops brothers of Youngstown, here's hoping the Oklahoma Sooners finally have Nick Sabans' number!

Boomer Sooner!