Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Kissing the 00s Goodbye

Dear McBoners,

McBone is shutting it down for the rest of the year, but don't worry; McBone has plenty of bloggin' to do in 2010. 

Happy new year!

nwb

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On This Christmas

It's holiday time, and what would a trip back home to Akron be without a hamburger?  Check out this picture of me and a Sky Way cheeseburger with everything (pickles, mustard and onions).  Sky Way, like Swensons, has been peddling top notch burgers to hungry Akronites for decades.  When it comes to these drive ins, loyalties are divided.  Some swear by Swensons.  Others live and die with Sky Way.  At McBone, we prefer to think of them not as competitors but kindred souls, two relics of a better, bygone era of hot rods and poodle skirts and Hollywood witch hunts.  In those days, young men were gentlemen and, doggone it, you could trust your daughter to keep it in her pants.

Anyhow, when it comes to Sky Way and Swensons, I can't tell you which is better.  All I can tell you for sure is that, seconds after this photo was snapped, I ate the hell out of this delicious burger. 

Also, please take a moment to notice my Cleveland Cavaliers winter hat, signifying my loyalty to the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team.

nwb

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy Holidays from Hell!

Straight out of hell, this giant Santa Claus is terrifying.


Fifty feet tall and itching to destroy a city, we knew we were taking a chance by getting this close.  The Jolly Old Elf, held captive within a body of molded plastic, is just waiting for a bolt of lightning to set him in motion and on a murdering Christmas rampage.  What reason could Santa possibly have to rampage?  Well, with war raging, progress stalling at Copenhagen and Joe Lieberman running amok, we've been very naughty, and all the milk and cookies in the world won't set things right.  Santa Claus is pissed, he's as big as a house, and there's gonna be a reckoning. 

Whatever you celebrate, McBone urges you to stock up on canned goods and avoid major metropolitan areas this holiday season.

nwb

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Case for Josh Cribbs

Last week I wrote about how Joshua Cribbs was the Browns MVP since their rebirth in 1999.  Hard to dispute that, and yesterday's stunning performance against the K.C. Chiefs merely drove home that point.  Cribbs returned one kickoff in the first quarter to become the NFL's all-time leader for kick return touchdowns.  Then, for good measure, he returned another in the second quarter to distance himself from the pack.  Considering he has done this in less than five pro seasons, we can safely say there has never been a player quite like Josh Cribbs.

Browns owner Randy Lerner has signed some very expensive contracts in the hope of building a good football team.  Josh Cribbs does not own one of those contracts.  The one sticking point in his time as a Brown has been the deal that will pay him about 1 million per year though 2012.  He's unhappy and he's been very vocal about it.  Normally professional athletes who bitch about the contracts they've signed get zero sympathy from me.  You're already overpaid, children are starving in the world, so shut up and play.  However, Cribbs, who has gone from undrafted free-agent to superstar, is a different matter.  For two seasons, he has been the only reason to watch the Browns.  Never once has his loyalty to the team been in question.  He loves his teammates and they love him.  He plays each down as if the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.  His four kick returns for touchdowns this season still match the total rushing touchdowns for the Browns as a team.  He is at once the most valuable and most undervalued player on the team.  Most importantly, he gives the poor suckers who shell out for tickets and concessions and parking and those unholy PSLs something to watch besides a weekly dose of mayonnaise-filled misery.

The life of a professional football player is very short.  One hit can end a career.  By 2012, Cribbs' legs may be shot.  He is setting records right now; he should be getting paid right now.  With all signs pointing to Mike Holmgren becoming football czar (or tsar, if you prefer), let's hope a new deal can be struck, one that pays Cribbs in proportion to what he brings to his team.

nwb

Oh, and we would be remiss if we did not reserve a few lines for Jerome Harrison, the seldom used running back who yesterday exploded for 286 yards rushing.  Yes, it was against the lowly Chiefs, but those yards simultaneously smash Jim Brown's 38-year-old team record and represent the third highest single game rushing total in NFL history! 

For all the futility the Browns have shown all season, we at least can pluck a few gems from the muck.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sprucing Up the Old Place

Friends, if McBone is looking a bit different these days, don't adjust that dial!  Never ones to stand idle, we've done bit of remodeling, and we've got a brand new banner decorating the place.  Call it a new look for a new era, though perhaps you'll find it somewhat familiar as well.  You should!  It was designed by none other than the official cartoonist of McBone, and partner blogger, Kid Shay.  That's right, my buddy Josh accepted the challenging commission (the terms of which have yet to be hashed out in their entirety), and came up with a design that I think you'll agree is positively corking.

Always a talented artist, Josh has risen to greatness ever since selling his soul to the devil a couple of years ago.  Though he may regret that decision in the hereafter, we're glad he did it!  He's slapped a generous coating of his unique and ill-gotten ability right here, and we thank him for it.  Hey, hey, there's Stabbone and McGraw themselves, fully moustashioed and arrayed as they were before their mysterious disappearance in 1967.  Behold the skyline of the greatest city in the Midwest, Cleveland. Terminal Tower, Key Tower, the AT&T Building, Jacob's Field...it's all there in painstaking detail.  The historic Hope Memorial Bridge spans the foreground, linking downtown to the west side and the warehouse where Stabbone made his infamous last stand.

And there, like Godzilla walking among the skyscrapers, is Chan Marshall, watching over our little blog and making sure that everything in the McBoniverse reamains, as it has been since 2007, mayonnaise-free.  Don't cross her!  This gal breathes fire.

McBone is honored to have Josh's art gracing the top of our blog.  We couldn't be happier with it and we hope you like it too.  For those of you who hate change, don't worry.  We're still chock full of that good old-fashioned, extra chewy McBone wisdom.  Come get it while it's hot!

nwb

Monday, December 14, 2009

With Your Moustache, Evan, You Travel the Paths of Pain

This is my friend Evan, rocking a moustache that would have set the world on fire in 1976.  Evan would look perfectly at home in a Corvette Stingray, Pam Grier in the passenger's seat and a vial of cocaine in the glove compartment.  But this isn't the seventies.  Evan does not, to my knowledge, own a Corvette.  His evil wife doesn't approve of the moustache, and he well knows the perils of the coca plant in its refined, powder form.  Yes, the world has changed.  Moustache acceptance has steadily degenerated in the last 30 years.  No matter!  See how well it holds up in these days of moustache persecution?  Evan's moustache is real, and you can tell he didn't just trim this thing all willy-nilly.  This moustache makes a statement--full enough to show he is a man, untamed enough to say fuck you! to the the man.  Short of getting a neck tattoo or throwing your shoes at the president, I can't think of any better way to express that sentiment.

Very few guys can get away with a moustache anymore; even fewer have the guts to try.  Trust me, Evan hears the whispers, he sees the pointed fingers.  He's had to surrender his scoutmaster badge permanently.  He's been called a douchebag so many times he's lost count, and still he walks tall.  That's why it's a no brainer to give Evan's moustache the official McBone Seal of Approval: McB



McBone, the NOML, the NIML and all subsidiary groups are proud of you, Evan, for your bold decision to go against the grain, against your friends and family, and choose moustache.  You have taken the road less traveled by, and we salute you!

nwb

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dear Recording Academy, Homophobia is NOT Okay

I'll admit that the guy to the left here is pretty cool looking, but trust you me, cool he is not.  He is an admitted homophobe who once spouted these words, "This is a fight, and as I said in one of my songs 'there is no end to the war between me and faggot' and it's clear."

Homosexuality is not amoral behavior; it is human behavior.  For as long as there have been humans, there has been homosexuality.  That will never change, nor is there any good reason why it should have to.  What needs to change is our general attitude toward LBGT lifestyles, that includes rejecting those who espouse a anti-gay sentiments.

Hey, Grammy Awards, with so many musicians out there, and so many of them advocating for peace, love and understanding, what could you possibly be thinking, nominating a known gay hater for one of your awards?  Does a guy who has sung about wanting gays to burn like tires and be shot in the head and have acid poured on them deserve to be rewarded?  Doesn't he belong more among the ranks of Nazis and others who think extermination and torture is a great outlet for fear and hate?

McBoners, I urge you to sign this petition telling the Recording Academy that honoring Buju Banton is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.  Afterward, watch some classic Michael Moore, who, with a pink bus and a bunch of gay guys, sticks it to Fred Phelps and his band of hatemongering degenerates from the Westboro Baptist Church:



nwb

Reason #95 to Love Cleveland Sports: Josh Cribbs

The Browns are 2-11 this season.  Even by the rock-bottom standards of Cleveland football, that's downright embarrassing. With two wins,  they're bad enough that low-lying owner Randy Lerner met with a pair of season ticket holders to discuss the state of things.  Hell, they're bad enough that Rolling Stone has noticed.  Hells bells, they're bad enough that they lost to the Detroit Lions.  The Lions!  Truly, there is little to be proud of in a season that was over almost as soon as it began.

One of the cool things about the NFL, though--if you win, you get a week to bask in it.  If it's a Thursday night game, you get nearly a week and a half.  I intend to savor the hell out of this one.

Thursday night's line reads like this: Browns 13, Steelers 6.  The win spared us all the ignominy of setting the team record for losses in a season.  Also, goddam it all, the gut wrenching 12 game losing streak to the Steelers is over.  The last Cleveland quarterback to beat the Steelers?  Tim Couch, who after 5 seasons of unrelenting punishment as a Cleveland QB had to retire with the body of a 97-year-old and a throwing shoulder that no amount of surgery could ever repair.  That 33-13 drubbing was back 2003.

Beating the Steelers in a season like this is NOT like winning the Super Bowl, as some would claim (as if I would know), but it is pretty damned sweet. If they don't win again this year, the Browns beat the Steelers!  As usual, the best player on the field wearing orange and brown was Josh Cribbs.

For five seasons, the undrafted Kent State graduate has been the best, and often only, reason to watch the Browns each week.  Even in that "good" 10-6 year, when Derek Anderson, Kellen Winslow, Braylon Edwards and Jamal Lewis were piling up stats and scoring in bunches, the most exciting moment in any given game was when the ball was kicked toward Josh Cribbs.

The same holds true today, and if you flip things around a bit, Cribbs has also been the best special teams tackler, hawking the opponent's return man as if he can't bear to be outdone.  He plays all out at all times.  He plays hurt.  He is as tough as any Brown I've ever seen and certainly the greatest Brown of the modern era.  He's never been much of a receiver, but more and more he's proving his value (pay the guy already!) running the ball in the offense.

But returns--that's where he's all world.  In the open field, he is perhaps the most dangerous runner in the NFL.  He finds seams, and if he sniffs a bit of breathing room, forget it.  In five seasons, he has scored more touchdowns on kick returns than any Brown in history.  This year, he has twice as many touchdowns on kick returns (2) as the Browns have rushing (1).   He has never been better than he was on Thursday, when it was cold enough to shatter teeth, when the Steelers HAD to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, when the Browns may as well have mailed it in.  Instead, Josh Cribbs had 200 all-purpose yards.  He was all over the place, running the ball out of the wildcat and making the Steelers pay for kicking to him with returns of 55 and 32 yards to set up scores.  For the fans who braved the conditions, they were treated to a great show.

So, here's to the Browns hiring a GM who can actually find some good players, and a coach* who can lead them.  Josh Cribbs deserves better than whatever the Browns record will be this year.  So do all the guys on this list:

The complete list of Browns players who are good
Josh Cribbs
Joe Thomas
Eric Steinbach
David Bowens
Shaun Rogers
Phil Dawson
Dave Zastudil
Ryan Pontbriand

nwb

*That the Browns are still hustling tells me that they haven't quit on "hated" coach Mangini.  I maintain that he will be back next season.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Nate Bowler vs. Carlo Rossi; It's a Stalemate!

In the end, after what had become an epic battle between one man and a giant jug of Carlo Rossi Burgundy, no one can lay claim to victory.  On the one hand, the jug is empty, every last drop of that wine-dark ocean, yea worthy to challenge Odysseus himself, having found its way to my belly, my bloodstream, my brain.  But you couldn't break me, Carlo!  Do you hear me, old man?  Your gallons couldn't break me!

On the other hand, I'm prostrate on the floor and possibly dead.  Just look at me, rolling around under the Christmas tree like some kind of a-hole.  If I had any kids, I'd be setting just a horrible example right now.  Wow, sure hope I don't barf!

I'm down, but don't count me out just yet.  I took one on the chin, but like Rocky in Rocky III (my favorite of all Rocky comebacks), I will rise up to drink again.  When that day comes, you, gentle McBoners, will be the first to know.

nwb

Photo by Alex

My Wife's Popularity...

is up 263% this week.

No, I'll never get sick of this.

nwb

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

McBone Certified Christmas Movies

I was a little grumpy last holiday season, McBoners.  Sorry about that.  I guess that poor guy getting trampled at Wal-Mart sort of set me off.  Happily, this year all is well with the world.  Without anything negative to blog about, it's about time to start popping the Christmas movies into the old DVD player, pull on that favorite sweater and throw a few logs on the fire.  Eggnog anyone?  

Unlike Christmas music, which basically turns my stomach with very, very, very few exceptions, I actually enjoy Christmas movies.  You have to be careful, though.  Getting stuck with the wrong Christmas movie can be a fatal mistake.

However, some Christmas movies I look forward to watching with my gal every year.  Here is a short list of McBone-certified Christmas flicks:

1. It's a Wonderful Life - The quintessential expression of Capra-corn and the ultimate Christmas movie, Alex and I have watched this one about 8 years in a row.  I love it more every time.  Who wouldn't love the sight of Jimmy Stewart alternately defending his town against that scoundrel Potter (second only to Darth Vader on my list of movie villains), inadvertently(?) removing the robe of a nubile Donna Reed, cussing out his four brats and tearing like a crazed lunatic through Bedford Falls shouting "Merry Christmas!" to every Tom, Dick and Harry (and Bert and Ernie) he happens upon?  No one I can think of.  Too many great moments to count.  Official McBone Rating: 5.0 McBones.

2. A Christmas Story - The desires of a child burn with the fire of a million suns, and few films capture that terrible, wonderful emotion so well as A Christmas Story.  I first saw this picture as a kid coveting a holy grail present of my own...



...so I can really relate to Ralphie and his yen for a Red Rider BB gun with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time.  Scott Farkus (Yellow eyes!  He had yellow eyes!  So help me god, yellow eyes!) once dined at the restaurant where I worked (his eyes were not yellow, disappointingly).  That it was filmed in Cleveland only seals its rating: 5.0 McBones.

3. Miracle on 34th St. - Edmund Gwenn is an acting genius, and casting him in the role of Santa Claus was an equal stroke of genius.  Maureen O'Hara's acting, on the other hand, is so exquisitely wooden, so amateurish, so bad, that it actually reaches the transcendent.  This movie has a near perfect balance of cloying sweetness and genuine hilarity, and you simply can't beat the trailer.  4.5 McBones.



4. Bad Santa - Billy Bob Thornton boozing, cussing and pissing himself as the ultimate Mall Santa/ thief/ sociopath who meets his match in a hopeless, doughy dope of kid.  The most vile and offensive of Christmas movies somehow has a heart, granted it is a diseased and rotten heart covered with flies and maggots.  4.0 McBones.

5. Scrooge - Ugh.  I can't believe this is on my list.  I hate musicals almost as much as I hate Christmas music, and some of the songs in this movie really make me sick, but with Albert Finney as Scrooge and my all-time favorite actor, Alec Guinness, as Jacob Marley, Scrooge has to be my no. 1 take on a too-oft-told story.  3.5 McBones.

6. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  The Dr. Seuss classic narrated by Boris Karloff!  These songs don't bother me partly because I could never hate a song about a triple-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich, with arsenic sauce.  4.0 McBones.

7. Black Christmas.  An unseen killer whacks Margot Kidder and then terrorizes the most beautiful woman to ever grace a film, Olivia Hussey3.5 McBones.

nwb

Sunday, December 6, 2009

This Jug of Carlo Rossi Burgundy Just Won't Go Away!

Gentle McBoners, I write to you in a state of desperation, a man almost done in by pride.  You see, I've been working on a giant jug of Carlo Rossi Burgundy for a few weeks now, and no matter what I do, the stuff just won't go away.  Glass after glass I pour and quaff, to no avail!  Honestly, I think I've met my match.  Carlo, you are the better man.

I bought the giant jug of Carlo Rossi Burgundy because I had been watching some old commercials starring Charles 'Carlo' Rossi himself.  He's a man of many words and an even bigger thirst, and, perhaps caught up in Carlo's no-nonsense brand of joie de vivre, I was persuaded to slap 12 dollars down at the Kroger for a jug of my own. I admit to being a little put off at its boast of being '100% grape wine,' and its instructions to 'refrigerate after opening,' but mostly I was upbeat about the prospect of drinking, as Carlo put it, an 'honest wine for real people.'  It so happens that I am a real person, though the checkout guy must have had his doubts, because he asked for some ID to prove it.

I managed to get the ungainly jug home all right, but I knew I was going to need help once the cap was unscrewed.  Alex joined me initially, but after one glass she excused herself from any further obligation to the Carlo Rossi Project.  'You're on your own,' she declared and ventured into the cellar to retrieve a dusty 1961 Château Latour.

I thought I was up to the challenge.  You know me, McBoners; my love of alcoholic beverages is well documented.  But this humongous jug of Carlo Rossi Burgundy, this was a different sort of monster.  Still, I slipped on my drinkin' shoes, and, lo!, the die was cast: two men, one jug, and enough Burgundy to to make my liver want to run and hide.  The showdown would be epic, but I knew in my heart of hearts that I would prevail.

Over a month later, old Carlo Rossi, long dead, is having the first of the last laughs.  It's not that Carlo Rossi Burgundy, which is something like Nyquil mellowed with grape Kool-aid, is terrible, over even that bad.  It's just that there's so damned much of it!  Look at what's left after weeks of hard work (also note my Cleveland Cavaliers hat, indicating my loyalty to the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team):

I swear I've poured a thousand glasses of this stuff, but it just keeps coming.  What's that?  Pour it down the drain, you say?  Bite your tongues!  Many billions of grapes gave their lives to make this ultracheap jug of wine, and I won't desecrate their memory.  I also will never buy a jug (or box!) of Carlo Rossi Burgundy again.  Or Carlo Rossi Chablis, Chianti, or Vin Rosé for that matter.

Still, a flicker of hope remains.  I'm not ready to back down quite yet.  You may be winning, Carlo, you old bastard, but you haven't broken me...yet.

nwb

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Reason #96 to Love Cleveland Sports: Zydrunas Ilgauskas

As a Cleveland Cavaliers fan, I love Zydrunas Ilgauskas.  You should too!  Here's why:

The Cavaliers drafted Kaunas, Lithuania native Zydrunas Ilguaskas in 1996, back when the team was a collection of well-coached, blue collar semi-stiffs that were just good enough to make the playoffs each year, yet bad enough to be eliminated in the first round every single time.  That was a pretty crappy formula, and the Cavs brass knew it.  Here they were, the leftover scraps from the salad days of Price, Daugherty, Nance, Hot Rod and Ehlo, playing in an widely unpopular, brand spanking new arena, going nowhere fast, and wearing the worst uniforms in the NBA.  Drafting the 7'3" center (along with the 6'11" Vitaly "Ukraine Train" Potopenko) was meant to give the Cavs an inside presence that would fill the void left by perennial all-star Brad Daugherty when a spinal injury cut Daugherty's career short.

Nobody knew much about Ilguaskas at the time, except that he was tall, gangly, pasty and, according to scouting reports, had all the "skills" to be an proficient NBA player.  In NBA Draft parlance, that translates roughly into the common tongue as "will probably never amount to anything."  Not that we'd get the chance to see how well we had spent the 20th pick, because however blessed he was with height and athleticism, Ilgauskas was cursed twofold with the feet of a 123-year-old with a calcium deficiency.  He had his first foot operation before he ever put on a Cavs uniform, and wouldn't be ready to play NBA basketball until the 1997-98 season.  That year he played all 82 games, averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds for a young playoff team and looked every bit the anchor a legitimate squad needs in the middle.  With his quickness and agility (oh yes, there was a time when he was quick and agile), a soft shooting touch and rebounding ability, there was no reason to think Z wouldn't be the Cavs starting center for the next dozen years.

Then the trouble with Z's crispy, crunchy feet really began, and with it came the demise of the once promising team.  Z would miss the better part of the next four seasons with foot injuries that required another four surgeries.  The last one had the big man mulling retirement at the ripe old age of 25, a year after he had signed a six-year contract that would pay him more money than I could possibly earn in 10,000 lifetimes.  Ilguaskas could easily have called it a career and spent the rest of his life living like a god.  No one would have blamed him, really, not after an endless cycle of injury, surgery, rehab, injury, etc.  Any professional athlete will tell you that the process of coming back from an operation is long and punishing.  Even when you are healthy enough to play, it takes weeks or months to regain your top form, if you ever do.  Big Z never did quite regain the speed and footwork that had him running up and down the court, even leading fast breaks, when he entered the league.  Growing up he had been a point guard, until a growth spurt turned him into a 7'3" guy.  The surgeon's blade then turned him into a earthbound plodder who was still good enough to start on a team that would go all the way to the NBA finals in 2007.  Ah, but Cavs fans and teammates will never really know what could have been.  Those four lost years and all those fractures really cost him, and us.

That's why Z's breaking the Cavaliers team record for games played tonight against Phoenix is so remarkable.  His last foot operation was a new and controversial procedure that involved a combination of tiny screws, krazy glue, spit, velcro and 1.21 gigawatts of electricity.  It worked so well that he became, astonishingly, one of the most durable players in the NBA.  Part man, part machine, Ilgauskas blossomed into a two-time all-star and one of the best centers of his era.

However, not all was well at Gund Arena.  The team he came back to had somehow metamorphosed into a laughingstock.  After that playoff season in '98, all-star forward Shawn Kemp traded fame and glory for fast food and cocaine. While Z rehabbed, Kemp was ballooning into an amorphous blob with all the athleticism of a tub of mayonnaise.  Cast off was one set of young players, replaced with fools gold like Ricky Davis and Darius Miles.  Through it all, Z played.  The horrific teambuilding strategy, orchestrated by the great Jim Paxson, culminated in a 17-win season in 2002-2003, just bad enough to earn the first pick in the 2003 draft, also known as LeBron James.

Along the road to that low point, Z was steadily earning the adoration of fans who appreciated a guy who always worked hard, played right and never once complained about Ricky Davis and Darius Miles chucking up shots that mostly missed.  Losses mounted.  Z played.  Fans stayed away.  Z played. He was rewarded by ending up on what has become one of the most formidable teams of the decade, and certainly the best in Cavs history.  This record is great, yes, but there's no beating the embrace that Z and LeBron shared when the final buzzer sounded in the 2007 Eastern Conference Finals, when the Cavs advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time ever.  This year, the Cavs have another legitimate chance at the title.  When they brought in an even older Shaquille O'Neal to replace Big Z as the starting center, Ilgauskas didn't bitch or whine.  He kept playing, as he has done, almost uninterrupted, for the past 9 years.

Z's career has been of particular interest to me because we're exactly the same age, and more than any other Cavs player, I have followed him.  Alex and I were in Cleveland, at Quicken Loans Arena, when he was slated to break the record.  Inexplicably, unforgivably, coach Mike Brown chose NOT TO PLAY HIM on what was to be his record breaking night, when his family was in attendance, when 20,000 fans were ready to stand up and cheer for a guy who for 14 years had gone through everything good and bad a professional athlete can go through, when Z himself declared a couple of days before that this was the record that meant the most to him, more than his team record for rebounds or blocked shots, when years of hard work and loyalty were about to pay off in the form of a landmark that no one, NO ONE, would have given him a chance to break ten years ago.  It was the first time in Z's career that he was available to play and was benched.  If ever there was a call for a WTF, this is it. Z was hurt bad by that mind-boggling benching.  He was right to be.  Thanks, coach Brown, for taking a piss on that particularly important moment.

So Z had to wait another few days to break the record--held by former teammate and good friend Danny Ferry--at home against the awful, awful (yes, I say awful) Phoenix Suns.  Not only did Big Z break the record, he did it in style.  His team-high 14 points off the bench (and in thumping victory over that crap team) bumped him into third place on the Cavs all-time scoring list, ahead of Austin Carr and behind LeBron James and Brad Daugherty.  That's damned good company to be in.  Here is a brief, emotional interview that basically sums up what Cleveland and the Cavs mean to him:



I look forward to seeing Ilguaskas' no. 11 raised to the rafters of Quicken Loans arena one day.  He will retire (hopefully not after this season) as the Cavs leader in games played, rebounds, blocked shots, and he will be second in points scored when he surpasses Daugherty sometime this year.  All that's missing is the ring.

In honor of Big Z's big accomplishment, McBone declares that December 2nd will henceforth be known as Zydrunas Ilgauskas Day.

McBone and Cleveland thank you, Big Z, for keeping Cleveland basketball afloat in the dark times and bringing us to the brink of a title.  As it turns out, you were the starting center for the next dozen years, and, with apologies to LeBron, I am glad to have been a Witness.

nwb

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Sorry, Whitey

Perhaps you've noticed that your friendly neighborhood bloggerman has been theming pretty hard in one direction lately. That's because I positively adore hamburgers, and I can't stop thinking about them.  In fact, I love hamburgers so much that I pledge my undying devotion to them, right here, right now, on this very blog.  If you could see me now, you'd see a guy who is down on one knee, because that's how really serious pledges are made.  Incidentally, I was not on one knee when I asked Alex to marry me.  I was in a hammock in Venezuela, which is even better.  But I'm not marrying hamburgers, for chrissake, I'm pledging my devotion to them, not in balmy Venezuela, but in frigid Indiana.  That's a different kind of commitment, though NOT one I make lightly.

Being from Akron, which is something of a Mecca when it comes to great burgers, I know the importance of having a reliably delicious burger joint nearby.  Here in West Lafayette, Indiana we have Triple XXX, where you can get a world-class hamburger.  Thank god, because the way I see it, any town where you can't get a good burger is no better than a cesspool.  A reeking, bubbling, gaseous, noxious, slime-filled cesspool.  No, none of these goddam disgusting places count:

McDonald's
Wendy's
Burger King
Any other similar, shitty establishment serving toxic, prefabricated deathburgers

It pains me that we did NOT go to Whitey's last week as planned.  We ended up slumming at the Cavs/Mavs game, watching the Cavaliers run the Mavericks out of the building.  Sure it was great fun to see a win, but there was a day when Whitey's Booze n' Burgers and Cavs basketball were virtually synonymous.

That's material I'll save for another day.

nwb

Thursday, November 26, 2009

On This Thanksgiving

Here's a picture of me with a Swensons cheesburger with everything (pickles, mustard and onions), which is just moments away from becoming intimately acquainted with my digestive juices.  Also, notice that I'm wearning a Cleveland Browns winter hat (ca. 1985), signifying my loyalty to the Cleveland Browns football team.


McBone will be settling for turkey and gravy today.  Tomorrow, we take our act to another legendary Akron burger joint: Whitey's.  Stay tuned.

nwb

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Swensons, Here We Come!

Thanksgiving is drawing near, gentle McBoners, and of course this is the time of year when we are taught to reflect on everything we have to be thankful for.  This year, I choose Swensons.  Swensons!  Positively the greatest burger joint in the known McBoniverse.

2009 marks the 75th year that Swensons Drive-ins have been feeding hungry motorists in the greater Akron area.  I can only imagine what an empty, desolate, horrible place the world must have been before 1934, when Pop Swenson started selling his slightly sweet, buttery burgers on the western edge of town.  Thankfully, I didn't have to live through that.  Hopefully, no one will ever have to again.

It may seem odd to gush about hamburgers when a Thanksgiving feast is on the horizon, but any Akronite living in exile will surely sympathize--once you've had Swensons, life without it hardly seems worth living.  So this Wednesday at lunch, I will simultaneously be giving thanks for and devouring:

A cheeseburger with everything
A second cheeseburger with everything
A side of rings
A small mocha milkshake

Have a happy thanksgiving everyone, and don't forget to stop at your favorite burger joint* soon.

nwb

*McDonald's doesn't count

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Forget Dasher and Dancer; Only Vixens Here

My loyalty to Bob Dylan runs deep.  There's no record of his that I don't own, and some of them are really pretty awful.  I've even got that crummy album from when he got all saved on us.

His latest album, however, is not Christian Rock. No sir, it's something far more frightening.  It is, god help us, Christmas Music.

I enjoy Christmas music about as much as I enjoy a poke in the eye.  My wife, however, adores the stuff, and she ordered Dylan's Christmas in the Heart as soon as it was available on Amazon.  Due to our household embargo on Christmas music that runs from January 1st to November 30th, she has yet to pop Bob's new release into the old hi-fi.  Them's the rules 'round here.

However, I have had a chance to peruse the contents of the packaging, and I have to say that, while Bob's picture is nowhere to be found, I approve wholeheartedly:

In fact, I'm going to just go ahead and dust off the old McBone Seal of Approval for this one: McB.

Ah, Christmas, Bob Dylan and sex.  You know, just this once, we may have to lift that embargo.
nwb

Saturday, November 21, 2009

McBone: 20,000 and Counting

Sometime today, the McBone hit counter will crack 20,000.  Though I'm sure there are blogs out there that register twenty thousand hits in about five minutes, McBone is overwhelmed by the continued and growing support of the McBoners.  Truly you are the stars of the McBoniverse.  Every day our little counter assures me that we're not just throwing these words to the wind. 

After almost 3 years and some 400 posts, we continue to stand behind:

The eradication of mayonnaise and mayonnaise-based foods
Cleveland sports
Liberal politics
Alcohol consumption
Moustaches
Northeast Ohio
Welcome to Falling Rock National Park
Gay rights
Anything else we feel like blogging about

We thank you, McBoners.  Here's to 20 thou' and counting.

nwb

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Here's a New Moon for You

As a wintry drear settles over the Midwest, we naturally lament the summer days when we could shed layers and bask in a warm wealth of sunlight.

However, some layers are better left unshed.  Check out this waxing gibbous, spotted downtown in Lafayette, Indiana on a broiling summer afternoon:


Short days and lousy weather still got you down?  Look closer.  If that deep, dark, fetid chasm doesn't make you pine for sweaters and coats and a -30 wind chill, nothing will.

nwb

Photo courtesy of Jessica

Shaquille Foliglio

The McBoners have spoken!  Allow us to introduce you to little Shaquille Foliglio, although maybe little isn't the right word.  Click the photo to see just what we mean:


Baby Shaq should be sliding his way through the birth canal sometime next April, just in time to watch his namesake in the playoffs.  In honor of this naming ceremony, we present one of the early (only) works of his father, McBone Poet Laureate Micheal Foliglio, from The Diz-aster Book of Poems:

"Lony"

lony lony lony
lony lony lony
OH what a lony
I hate lonies
lony lony lony
lony lony lony
lony lony lony

Though scholars remain divided as to what exactly a lony is, this short piece remains among the most admired in his canon.  Lyrical and blithely dark, "Lony" distills the fears and follies of a generation in seven lines of apparent whimsy.  As with most of his work, the fluttering, staccato gaity is but a costume that thinly shrouds a world gone wrong, at least in the eyes of the famously irascible bard.

May young Shaquille be blessed with a less tortured soul than his father's.

nwb

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mephistopheles 1997-2009

I knew a 3 AM phone call that jerked me from my slumber could have only meant terrible news.  Sure enough, Mom's voice, a thin, weepy whistle, confirmed my fears.

Mephistopheles, my cat, was dead.

Alex, in a not unprecedented moment of clairvoyance, had asked me not 48 hours earlier how long I thought my cat would live.  A few more years, was my reply.  Little did I know, she was already on the brink of death.

Mephisto came to me as a kitten during my junior year at Ohio University, the bright idea of a onetime flame.  I was reading Faust at the time, and thought the name of Satan's imp perfect for a cat.  The girl didn't stick around.  The cat did, and for the next 12 years, Mephisto was my faithful friend. Though a string of moves and Alex's allergies kept Mephisto at Mom's house, our intermittent reunions were always loving and affectionate.  I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't always there for Mephisto.  To her credit, she never held it against me.  Late at night, as I watched a ballgame, she would nestle into my reclining torso, her claws kneading, kneading my skin into a raw, bloody patch.

I always felt guilty whenever we packed up for a new adventure, knowing it could be a year or more before I saw my cat again.  Not that she had it bad, mind you.  No, with the whole of McBone Headquarters to roam, she was free to stalk all critters she pleased.  Chipmunks were her favorite.  On more than one occasion she would bring a dead rodent from the woods, limp in the grip of her jaw, and devour it right in front of us.  Crunch, crunch went the bones.  Inevitably, she would regurgitate the semi-digested blob of fur and muscle.  Sure it was an ooey-gooey mess, but the dog was always there to scarf it up again.

I'll never forget the time Mephisto gave birth to stillborn kittens on my then-girldfriend Kendra's lap.  We didn't know who knocked her up, or that she was even pregnant--my bad for not having had her fixed. Kendra, whose jeans and sweatshirt absorbed much of the slime, was a real sport about it.  I have no idea what kind of memory cats have about such things, but it never seemed to phase her.  Nothing did, not even when she got stuck in the muddy hole the neighbors had dug for a swimming pool (I always think of that scene in Poltergeist).  True to her species, Mephisto dragged herself out and crawled home, too tired to groom herself for days.  I supposed she used up two or three lives in that episode, but she just kept on keepin' on.

Finally, though, the lives ran out.  A series of spasms brought Mephisto to the brink of death.  Lethal injection finished her off.  I should have liked to say goodbye to my cat in person.  Instead I'll send her off McBone style.  I don't know how long it will be before I can exhume her little skull and claim it as a desk ornament, but hopefully not long.

Adieu, Mephisto.  Until we meet again, my dear, neglected friend.

nwb

Monday, November 16, 2009

McBone Presents: The 2009-2010 Aunt and Uncle Standings

With the polls closed, the ballots cast and counted, it's time to unveil the 2009-2010 Aunt and Uncle Standings.  While rumors of widespread corruption made a costly and drawn-out recall vote seem probable, McBone-appointed diplomats have managed to avert such a crisis.

As always, the results, based on the judgment of a nonpartisan panel, are absolute.  However, with the holiday season just around the corner, McBone would like to remind all eligible aunts and uncles that it's never too early to start thinking about next November.

Aunts

1. Gail - Single-handedly put on one of the most bitchin' weddings in recent memory.  The 40 gallon vat of clam chowder she concocted for the event remains the single best soup ever made by humankind.

2. Fay - This high water mark in her aunting career has a rejuvenated Aunt Fay sniffing next year's title.

3. Susan J. - Eroding skills?  Another pedestrian finish for a three-time champ.

4. Denise - Plenty of talent.  Needs to work on fundamentals.

*5. Ann - A hot apple pie bought her last year's title.  This year's banana-lime Jell-O mold with Cool Whip could not hold onto it.

6. Susan G. - In fact, her all-around aunting performance was much improved after last year's dismal finish.  Would have placed higher but for unsightly goiter.

Uncles

1. Don S. (no longer in family) - I haven't seen former Uncle Don for like 25 years.  But sometimes, less is more.

2. Al - Remains the tallest of the uncles.  Also, the only uncle who can breakdance.

3. Ed - Impressive finish after finally retiring Fun in the Sun 1982 t-shirt earlier this year.



*4. Glen - A serious dip for funneling money to the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party.

5. Jeff - His recent, loud declaration of loyalty to "Team Edward" left family members stunned and disturbed.

6. Pete - Steep decline reflects his decision to salvage long-coveted Fun in the Sun 1982 t-shirt for himself.

7. Don H. - Widely regarded as the LA Clippers of uncles, 2009-2010 figured to be the year Uncle Don climbed out of the cellar for the first time.  Indeed, an hour's worth of sound financial advice last summer was factored in to the final tally.  Uncle Don's mind boggling 19th straight year in the basement represents a continuing refusal to stop dipping the mayonnaise knife in the mustard jar.

Past results

2008-2009
2007-2008

nwb

*Denotes last year's winner

Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Wife's Popularity...

is up 163% this week.

nwb

You Win, Leaves

Hey, leaves, I give up.  You not only win, you own my ass.  You are the Steelers, I the Browns.  There isn't a single one of you left in the trees, and yet, by some unholy curse, the lawn keeps filling up.  Armed with my trusty rake, I have now been gathering you into large piles for the past 5 weekends.  Oak, maple, birch, ash...it matters not, for the trees are in league against me.  Did Sisyphus suffer so?

So here I am, bowing down, a true supplicant kneeling before his Masters.  You may be thin and brittle, but by sheer numbers you become a mighty force of nature.  Like the million drops of rain that make the flood, you have turned my lawn into a parti-colored sea that even Moses would be helpless to part.  I beg you to stop, have mercy, desist, but know you answer to no earthly entreaties.



Truly, this day I am humbled.  I am bound to this task, and I await next Saturday not with dread, but resignation.

nwb

Friday, November 13, 2009

What Happens When You Mix Leather Goods with Crystal Meth?

I'm not sure why this stuff always happens when you combine Nate, Alex, Craig and Jessica with some sort of fair--state, county or otherwise.  I was going to just let this one go.  Take the high road.  Forgive and forget.  Turn the other cheek.  Let bygones be bygones.  Live and let live.

Can't do it.

Sweating, smelly and belligerent, this guy ran the Leon Leather shop at the Indianapolis State Fair with all the welcoming warmth and charm of a kick to the groin, and he must forever live with the wrath of McBone.



'NO PITCHERS!'  He barked as Jessica snapped this photo.  Meanwhile, he swatted the hands, sticky with fairgrounds comestibles, of customers who browsed through the panoply of leather goods--purses, vests, chaps, belts, wallets and, the object of our visit, cowboy hats.  He was like the perfect hybrid of a den mother and a big, sweaty asshole.

"How much is this one?" Alex asked.  The question was innocent enough, but it set off a firestorm.

"Fifty dollars," he growled, his bloodshot eyes darting here and there in a sort of frenzied malice, barely contained. 

'That's expensive,' one client noted under her breath.

'IT'S LEATHER!' boomed the voice of our bellicose friend.  'LEATHER COSTS MORE!'  His moustache bristled.  Sweat poured from his sun-broasted face.  For one fearful moment, I thought he was going to slug the poor woman for the affront. 

As he became more and more unhinged, it was clear that this purveyor of leather goods was in dire need of something to huff.  In terror, his clientele scattered, fairgoers in search of friendlier confines than Leon Leather.

We don't know what became of our leather peddling misanthrope.  We can only hope some merciful soul has put that poor t-shirt out of its misery.

Pictured: Alex risks life and limb by trying on a Leon Leather cowboy hat.

nwb

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The McBone Babe Award

Though my brother and I (and Google) wield total power at McBone, we like to think of ourselves as a democracy first and foremost.  So when the idea suddenly hit me to select the first ever McBone Babe of the Month, I naturally gravitated toward running a monthlong poll.  Let the McBoners decide, I thought.  That's the McBone way.  Then it occurred to me that it really was no contest.  And then I wondered why on earth I would ever qualify this thing.  Babe of the month?  Preposterous!  To a star that pierces the firmament, one month is as the life of a lit match, and ne'er shall this star burn out of the McBoniverse.

Loyal readers remember her best as the former vice presidential nominee and current member of the revamped Cleveland Indians.  Oh yes! Yes, you know who she is.  Maybe she occupies your dreams as well.  She is a part of McBone lore, our near-mythic fairgrounds gamine.  Without her, the McBone babes are but a ragged ensemble of pretenders.

She is the Sheffield Lake Girl.



McBone is proud to bestow the first and only McBone Babe Award upon the Sheffield Lake Girl.  Wheresoever she tramps, we know not, but of this we are certain: where the Tilt-a-Whirl tilts (and whirls), she is there; her spirit leans ever toward the vast, paved places where funnel cakes and corndogs fry.

nwb

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Spammers Beware

Ok, spammer who tried to post Viagra ads in the comment section yesterday, I don't know what kind of asshole blog you think this is, but you are now officially on notice.  Just what sort of operation do you think we're running here?  This isn't some ordinary, everyday, halfpenny blog you're dealing with, and we don't conduct business in the back alleys and basements of cyberspace.  This is McBone, and you know what?  McBone is pissed.

Hear me and hear me good, you mayonnaise chugging, Yankees loving, McDonald's grubbing piece of shit--the comment board is for McBoners only, not scrubs with nothing better to do than harass bloggers and the readers of blogs.  I'm not sure what you were trying to accomplish here anyway, because McBoners are smart; if they need Viagra, they're not going to click on some virus-ridden link embedded in the comment section of a blog.  

So I'm calling you out, fucker.  I dare you to try that again.  In fact I want you to try again, because I'm telling you now, there will be consquences the next time you attempt to post your Viagra links on McBone.  In the words of Liam Neeson from the greatest godawful movie of all time:

soundboard.com

That's a promise.  Are you listening, shithead?  Me and a very special set of skills are waiting.

nwb

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Dark Day for Akron

McBone is proud of its Akron roots, but today the disappointment we feel in our hometown is profound, as incumbent Akron Municipal Court Judge Stephen Fallis, who has been like a second father to me for all of my 34 years, lost his seat to some no account challenger named McCarty.

A man of unshakable integrity, Steve has held the post since his appointment by Governor Ted Strickland in February.  Nowhere will you find a person better suited for a job that demands fairness, honesty and impartiality.  Guess those weren't the qualities that Akronites were looking for today.

I regret that I am not a registered Summit County voter.  Casting a vote for Steve would have been one of the honors of my life.

Your loss, Akron.

nwb

Monday, November 2, 2009

This is Why I Want Kids

Trees can be serious a-holes sometimes.  Yes, I know how important they are with this business of inhaling carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen.  Obviously you gotta love how they breathe in what we breathe out, and vice versa; it's kind of like one of those symbiotic things they kept trying to tell us about in Star Wars, Episode I when all we wanted was for the movie to stop sucking so bad.

Let's also not forget that trees give us much of the fruit we eat and all that paper and wood for our daily needs.  Best yet, trees provide the shade that those barefoot dudes in flannel shirts liked to sit in at Ohio University while they strummed the guitar.  Oh, trees are beautiful too, no doubt about it.

But for a few weeks every year the trees (I'm talking to you, deciduous) decide to get shitty and make us pay for all that good stuff.  Take a look at my weekend:



Here's the wrath of the trees from another angle:



And that's just the front yard.  Seriously, is there a better excuse for having children than the sea of leaves that these douchebag trees annually deposit on our yards?  I can't wait until I get to yank the cord of Junior's PlayStation 8 from the wall and tell that kid to get off his lazy ass and rake those goddam leaves and get me a beer while you're at it!

In a related note, here is our Concord grapevine, still alive after more than 2 months.



Why is this significant?  Probably because everything I've ever planted has an average lifespan of about 10 days.  Here's a quick breakdown of my herb garden as we near the first frost of the dormant season:

Basil - dead
Jalepenos - dead
Cilantro - deceased
Rosemary - ransacked by chipmunks
Sage - dead
Thyme - way dead
Oregano - on life support
Parsley - dying

I'm frustrated, but the word 'quit' isn't in the vocabulary of the NOML 2007 moustache growing champion.

nwb

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are; A McBone Mini-Review

Boring.  That's the criticism I keep hearing and reading about Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze's brilliant, haunting adaptation of Maurice Sendak's seminal tale of Max and his there-and-back-again voyage over oceans and through time.  

I should preface this by asserting how much I was anticipating this movie, probably more than any this year.  I can hardly overstate the effect the book had on my young, impressionable mind.  I know that puts me in rarefied company with some 35 billion other kids, but many of my loves can be traced directly back to that source: monsters, darkness, teddy bears strung up by the neck:


I won't say that I was as wild as Max, but I did have wallpaper that looked vaguely like Sendak's forests, and if I squinted just right...ah, but I ramble.

What I want to say is this: WTWTA is no children's movie.  Or rather I should say that the movie respects the intelligence of children instead of pandering to it.  Intellectually, Jonze asks his audience not to settle for cheap gags and lowbrow humor; anyone seeking a smorgasbord of mere visual delights and an infusion of potty jokes will be sorely let down.  That's why this is such great work, and that's why it will last.  Screenwriter Dave Eggers takes the high road by not stuffing his adaptation with a lot of dialogue.  The book was sparsely worded and so is the screenplay.  That's a good thing.  The imagination of the boy (really good work by Max Records in his first role) and the monsters and the monsters inside the boy speak all speak loudly enough.  The metaphor of the book is famous and lovely for its simplicity.  To pollute it with words would seem a sin.

Now, back to that word, boring.  I'm not sure what these critics were expecting.  No, it's not an action packed thrill-ride, but I want to know what could be more exciting than sailing to a world full of very large, dangerous, razor-clawed monsters, becoming their king and then demanding that the wild rumpus start!!!  I guess people wanted all rumpus, all the time.  Not happening.  The movie flows at a pace that at times is as gentle as a soft pile of sleeping, snoring monsters (ah, but with the constant risk of being squished!).  Max's world has, gasp, emotions in it--complex ones.  Relationships too.  And quiet times.  Because you know what?  Kids, even the wildest ones, have complex emotions.  And relationships.  And quiet times.  Those silent moments, when Max is trying to sort things out, only make the rumpus more profound.  The ties Max makes with the monsters are more protracted in the film, and the monsters themselves have names and personalities and a certain societal code that predates Max's discovery of their island, suggesting that maybe, just maybe, this journey isn't so imaginary after all.  That's how I prefer to see it, anyway. 

Nice additions abound.  After all, it is a challenge to make a feature length movie from a book of ten sentences.  Katherine Keener (is there a better actor alive?) excels as Max's mom, a role mirrored by the female monster lead, KW (voiced beautifully by Lauren Ambrose).  The fort that Max and his monster subjects build is at once breathtaking and in perfect alignment with the source material.  The actors chosen to portray the monsters are brilliant, none more than James Gandolfini as Carol--Max's best friend and most terrible adversary.  Also, look for perhaps the greatest screen dismemberment of all time.

Of course as renowned as the story is Sendak's art.  Monster costumes with GCI faces may sound like a recipe for ridiculousness, but this crew gets the look just right, from our hero, the forest and the creatures that have become so essential to our culture.  The effects are seamless and subtle enough that we forget they are there.

Are there disappointments?  Sure, but not many.  Mostly I miss what to me was always the most magical moment in the book, when Max's bedroom transforms by degrees into a forest.  I don't want to quibble, though, not with such a masterful take on a masterful book.  Sendak himself has expressed his admiration of this adaptation. Who's a better judge?

Official McBone Rating: 4.5 McBones

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Broken Heart

When my beloved sister told me on Facebook the other day how delicious she thought homemade mayonnaise was, and when she said how much she loved making her own mayonnaise and serving it to her husband and children, and when my sister told me that she could barely palate a sandwich anymore without the 'rich and creamy taste of yummy homemade mayonnaise,' I knew at that moment how Michael Corleone must have felt when he discovered that he had been betrayed by his brother Fredo:




That betrayal led to an assassination attempt.  This one hurt just as bad.  While I have no intention of kissing my sister on the lips or exacting a punishment like the one Michael designed for Fredo, I would like to tell her, if she's out there reading, that she broke my heart.

Do you hear me, sister?  You broke my heart!  You broke my heart!!!

nwb

Friday, October 23, 2009

Big Buck Hunting in Indiana

Ever get the urge to just up and blow something away?  Sure, we all do.  And about the only thing more satisfying than a violent impulse is a shared violent impulse.  That's why whenever Craig and Jessica journey over from Cleveland for a weekend of unbridled decadence, we make it a point to swing by the Knickerbocker bar for some hard drinkin' and a few bloodlusting games of Big Buck Hunter.

Not many video games celebrate the savage thrill of destroying wildlife like Big Buck Hunter.  Armed with an orange rifle, BBH allows the virtual hunter to fire in rapid chamber-loading succession at some truly majestic ten-point bucks.  Supercharged on Pabst Blue Ribbon and thirsting for the kill, the four of us took turns gunning down those fucking deer.

Here Craig and Alex admire a bulls-eye as I send a round screaming into the dome of an unsuspecting buck:


Alex squeezes off some textbook hip shots.  The purse dangling from her trigger hand didn't stop her from bagging a buck in this round:


Teeth gritted and upper lip curled into a murderous snarl, Jessica plugs a pair of darting bucks.  That's how it's DONE, bitches! she screamed before shotgunning another PBR:


"Eagle-eye" Craig nabbed more deer than anyone on this afternoon.  Here he is calmly splattering the brains of some doomed buck over the placid landscape:


Here's to good friends, good beer and Big Buck Hunter--all the thrill of the kill, none of the messy cleanup.

nwb

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

McBone Presents: The 2009-10 Cavaliers Season Preview

Team Capsule

Hello: Shaquille O'Neal, Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker, Leon Powe, Danny Green

Goodbye: Sasha Pavlovic, Joe Smith, Ben Wallace, Tarance Kinsey, Wally Szczerbiak, Lorenzen Wright

Last season: Finished 66-16, lost to the Orlando Magic 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals

Head coach: Mike Brown, fifth season.  Career record: 211-117.  Playoffs: 36-24

Overview

Finally, finally, basketball season is upon us again.  With the '09 Indians dead, buried and forgotten, and the Browns with one foot already in the grave, it's time to reflect on the basketball season to come.

The Cavs did not stand pat after a record setting season in which they won 66 games and were dismissed unceremoniously from the playoffs by the revolting Orlando Magic.  That series exposed some serious flaws in the team's makeup, including a lack of perimeter defensive size and the inability to defend a major low post scoring threat.  The Cavs vaunted defense had no answer for the Magic, who scored at will all series long.  Had they prevailed (and they might have, if not for blowing game one at home), the Lakers were waiting with the same set of challenges.

This season figures to play out in similar fashion.  The Cavs will win many games, perhaps enough to take the Eastern Conference for the second year in a row.  And here's the thing about that: while I believe the Cavs have gotten better, I'm not sure about the rest of the East.

The East's Elite

The Magic are, no doubt in my mind, the primary obstacle between the Cavs and the finals.  In the Magic the Cavs ran into a perfect mismatch in the form of long, tall, sweet shooting perimeter players and a low post powerhouse who basically swatted our big men out of the way.  What I can't for the life of me understand is why the Magic let their second best player, Hedo Turkoglu, get away.  The guy basically dissected opponents throughout the playoffs with a high pick and roll and proved an impossible guard for everyone except the Lakers.  Worse yet, who did they replace him with?  That active member of the all-time fool's gold team, Vince Carter.  This is a decided downgrade, though some are still drinking the Vince Kool-aid.  I'll never forget the '07 playoffs against the Nets, when Sasha Pavlovic reduced him to a puddle of quivering goo.

I'm also not sure why Orlando let go of talented second year guard Courtney Lee.  I do know they will be damned good regardless.  Enough to win the East again?  Doubt it.

By the way, Dwight Howard is possibly the dirtiest player in the league.  Don't let his cornball off-court geniality fool you.  The guy is dirty and, yes, I hate him. 

The Celtics added erstwhile superstar Rasheed Wallace and all of a sudden have been reanointed by many the Team to Beat in the East.  Forget the fact that it's been two years since Wallace has been interested in basketball, or any good. The Celtics didn't do themselves any favors by aging a year, either.  The quartet of seniors citizens--Garnett, Pierce, Allen and Wallace--can't possibly stay healthy all season long without some sort of remarkable luck (never in short supply in Boston).  With the exception of maybe Pierce, all of these guys are on a downward slide.  Did you see that crew collectively run out of gas in the second round of the playoffs?  Also not helping is that fact that, for a second consecutive year, the Celtics lost their best bench player.  Last year it was James Posey.  This year, Leon Powe.  Super spazz Marquis Daniels won't quite measure up in that role, though he is a decent pickup.

Still, throw Rajon Rondo (one of the more odious Celtics in recent memory) into the mix, and this is a team that wins many, many games.

The Playoff Contenders

The main challengers most likely will be Miami, Chicago, Washington, Altanta, Philadelphia and, yes, Detroit.  Not a one of them scares me.

Starting Five

PG: Mo Williams.  The Cavs won 66 games last year largely because all-star Mo Williams brought a long-needed dimension: reliable scoring (18 PPG), competent playmaking and lights out shooting.  And then?  Then the Cavs lost to the Magic largely because Mo could not defend the perimeter, shoot or make plays.  His floater abandoned him, and then went his willingness to drive to the hoop.  Whatever confidence he had during the season seemed to whither as the playoffs progressed.  Having watched Mo all season, and in seasons past, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and predict that postseason history won't repeat itself.  The Mo Williams I watched in the regular season was fearless and gritty and always confident enough to take the next shot, certain it would go in.  What he lacked was much playoff experience.  That's all over.  Time for Mo to take the next step.  He is 26, just entering his prime.  Let's hope he took those playoff failings personally.

SG: Delonte West.  Delonte was arguably the Cavs' second best player in the playoffs last year.  Though his size hurt him against Orlando, Delonte is strong, quick and committed to defense.  Can he handle Vince Carter?  Yes.  Can he handle bipolar disorder?  Based on last year's revelations that he was suffering from the disease and how he conducted himself afterwards, yes.  That he was recently arrested for packing enough weaponry to outfit a small military unit indicates that he may have temporarily misplaced his medication.  He's dealing with it. The Cavs are dealing with it.  Bipolar disorder is a scary disease, and all parties are treating it as such.  Expect Delonte to be ready to play once the season starts.  He may not be in the starting lineup, but then that may not be such a bad thing.

Here's why we need him.  He is a gifted athlete whose intelligence, speed and length bother the bejeezus out of opposing guards.  He's blossomed into a capable shooter who keeps defenders honest enough that he can blow by them and make the pass to a cutting big man, or simply throw the ball down.  He's also competitive as hell and will fill any role that results in a win.  Will it continue to be a problem that, along with Mo, the Cavs start two undersized guards?  Probably in the playoffs it will be, and that's why Delonte off the bench may not be a bad thing.  Until further notice, he is the starting two.

C: Shaquille O'Neal

For the first time in 11 years, this slot will be occupied by someone other than the venerable Zydrunas Ilgauskas.  Everyone, including Z, seems to be ok with that.  Though 37 and every last ounce of a 325 pounder who has played a billion NBA minutes, Shaquille O'Neal is still a dominant force, and Dwight Howard won't be pushing him anywhere.  No more one and two-foot baby hooks for the Magic center; Howard will have to work for his points, and he will also have to work on the defensive end too.  Should he stray from his man to try and clog the paint, his man will be ramming the ball through the hoop every single time.  I love Z, but he could never make Howard pay for cheating like O'Neal will be able to.  I loved the effort Ben Wallace gave last year, but my mom might as well have been guarding Dwight Howard.  Same story with Varejao.  Can't do it.  Won't have to.

This acquisition changes everything.  The idea that O'Neal will somehow be getting in LeBron James' way is preposterous.  O'Neal has 4 rings.  He knows how to play basketball.  Scoring, rebounding, passing, defending--the package is diminished, but firmly intact, as evidenced by last season's all-star play.  I have been cursing O'Neal since I was 17 years old.  Now I get to cheer for him.  And guess what?  He's motivated too.  Can't wait to see this.


SF: LeBron James.  Pairing the game's best player with one of the greatest centers in the history of the game will transform this team from a regular season wonder into a postseason monster.

The way I see it, there is one area in which LBJ could get vastly better: adding a low post game.  Want to see a guy strong enough to back his man down?  Want to see a guy skilled enough to demand a double team?  Want to see a guy with great court vision pass out of the double team?  That's LeBron.  Happily, a low post game is exactly what LeBron has been working on all offseason, and it will make him complete.  Paired with Shaq, it also makes the Cavs as tough as anyone in the block.  LeBron is entering the beginning stages of his prime years.  He wants to win.  Watch out.

Look for him to nab a second straight MVP award, too.


PF: Anderson Varejao.  The trio of Varejao, James and O'Neal will prove a formidable frontcourt, particularly on the defensive end.  Anderson's main value on offense is his ability to roll to the hoop and finish.  He is not a shooter and not much of a passer, but he's gotten better by degrees in each of these areas over the past few seasons.  His improved shot selection is evidenced in a team high 53 percent field goal shooting.  He'll never be great, but he's no longer a liability.

But let's be honest; we all know why he's out there.  The team's most committed defender, his job is to get in the face and under the skin of opponents, grabbing rebounds all the while.  Folks in the media snickered when Varejao was signed to what seemed an exhorbitent six-year contract.  That noise has died down somewhat, partially because the deal is laden with incentives and mostly the dude is a damned good player.  There are exactly three players left from the team that went to the finals in '07--James, Ilgauskas and Andy.  This is no coincidence.

Bench

The Cavs bench was absolutely brutalized against the Magic and Mikael Pietrus in the conference finals, who outscored the Cavaliers reserves by himself for the whole series.  Danny Ferry was not idle in directly addressing these concerns.


G: Anthony Parker.  I love this signing.  Parker is a knock down shooter with size who will buy right into Mike Brown's demand for defensive intensity.  Parker is just the kind of player the Cavs were missing when Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Mikael Pietrus were shooting threes like they were layups during the ECFs.  Though he's no spring chicken, he is a late bloomer who seems to have a lot left in the tank.  Fans should also like his ability to create his own shot when the offense breaks down.  Think of him as filling the role of Szczerbiak, only longer, quicker, less rickety and not terrible.

Parker has been a capable starter in the NBA.  Don't be surprised to see him steal minutes when opponents exploit our short backcourt.

F: Jamario Moon.  Another late bloomer.  Another great signing!  Seriously, I think we got this guy at just the right time.  Always an emphatic dunker, Moon has been showing signs of maturity by displaying a (yes, it is ug-ly) competent three point shot.  Not that we want him to stop running the break and throwing 'em down, which he will have ample opportunity to do.  Most importantly, he is a rangy defender who would have given the Magic shooters something to think about last season.

C: Zydrunas Ilguaskas.  Big Z is now a backup center.  Think about this.  Our best midrange jumpshooter.  Our best offensive rebounder.  The third best center in the East.  Will he be traded during the middle of the season?  His large expiring contract tells me...possibly?  But I doubt a team with two aging centers will put all their eggs in one basket by dumping one of them.

*All right, here is where I take a bit of space to gush about Zydrunas Ilgauskas and why he belongs among the all time athletes ever to don a Cleveland jersey.  When they drafted Ilgauskas, the Cavs acquired a rare talent.  A blend of speed, agility and size that we had never seen in a Cavs uniform before.  Three foot surgeries reduced this freakish athlete to a mere NBA all-star, the lone bright spot on a team that, until winning a draft lottery, had no prospect of winning except by grace of the talents of a towering Lithuanian center.  McBone salutes you, Big Z, and hopes to see you remain and retire a Cavalier.

G: Daniel Gibson.  I don't know.  I just don't know.  Boobie is perhaps the purest shooter since the days of Mark Price and Steve Kerr.  Unfortunately, he is closer to Steve Kerr than Mark Price, and that means he is a shooter only.  Except I don't think he's actually made a shot since the '07 finals.  For two (injury marred) seasons, Gibson has displayed that he is only marginally better than me as a ballhandler, and his defense will never be strong.  I have a feeling that this guy will fade into obscurity unless he can prove himself more durable and more capable of hitting a wide open shot.  If he shoots less than 38 percent from behind the arc, he is basically useless to us.

F: J.J. Hickson.  J.J. trained with LeBron all summer long.  Smart move and a good way to ingratiate yourself with coaches who, more than anything, wanted to see hard work and maturity from their talented second-year forward.  Combine that and his insane athleticism and you get THE player to watch this season.  Should become a member of the rotation, provided coach is pleased with his defense and rebounding efforts.  Added to his arsenal of low post moves (let's hope he can cut out the traveling calls) is a nifty 15-foot jumper--my absolute favorite shot in basketball.  Hickson is also a gifted shot blocker who has shown flashes of the kind of defender he can be.

F: Darnell Jackson: In direct contrast to Hickson, Darnell Jackson is a hard-working big man with a very (based on last season) limited ceiling.  A marginal rebounder, defender and shooter, Darnell's biggest asset may be his sheer size, but so far what I've seen is a guy who plays smaller than his height.  He could have decent value as a bench defender, but I can't get too high on him in spite of his rugged, blue collar ethic.  Perhaps I'm undervaluing him, but I don't think so.

F: Leon Powe.  Maybe the most intriguing free agent signing in Danny Ferry's short tenure.  Powe starts the season on the injured list due to another knee surgery, but he was a major force on Boston's championship team in '08.  A nasty around the rim player, Powe absolutely destroyed the Cavs every time they played the Celts.  I hated him then.  By the time the playoffs roll around, he should be in top form.  If he's close to the player he was before--a gritty rebounder, defender and low block scorer--the Celtics' loss will be the Cavs' gain.

G: Danny Green.  The Cavs second round draft pick wasn't all that impressive in the summer league and he's been injured most of the preseason.  I don't know what to expect from him, except that he's a long, athletic wing player.  Whether he can duplicate his success at North Carolina at the next level remains to be seen, and it won't happen this season anyway.

F: Jawad Williams.  I have a feeling this guy can be a serviceable role player in the NBA, I'm just hoping we don't see a lot of him this year.

Coach: Mike Brown.  There is no nice way to put this: Mike Brown got the shit coached out of him by Orlando's Stan van Gundy last year, whose clever offensive schemes ran circles around the sets of his defense-minded counterpart.  Brown couldn't have liked that.  Making matters more complicated, offensive whiz John Kuester departs to assume head coaching duties in Toronto Detroit.  Though he has his work cut out, Brown has never made excuses, and has never stopped improving himself as a coach.   Should he fall short this year, though, a change could be on its way.

Prediction

Though they may not break as many records as they did last year, the Cavs will win in excess of 60 games, enough to easily capture the Central Division and possibly the East.  They will beat the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals rematch, 4-2.

The Cavaliers will then end Cleveland's 46-year-old drought by winning the NBA finals, topping the Lakers in a legendary seven-game series.

And yes, LeBron James will stay in Cleveland, regardless of whether the Cavs win it all this year.

nwb

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ode on Beef Jerky

Ah, beef jerky,
Leath'ry meat...
Strips of heaven,
What a treat!

Zesty, salty,
Dried-out cow,
Don't want it later,
I want it now!

So many flavors,
Oh, how they mock me!
Pepper, garlic,
Ter-i-yock-ee.

Other beasts,
Can be jerky too,
Rabbit, deer
And kangaroo.

But you, beef jerky,
are jerky king,
Smoky, chewy,
To you I sing.

So buy a package,
Toss the wrapper,
It's jerky time,
Now shut yer yapper!

nwb

Click here to read my other foray into bad poetry about a food of dubious merit.