The Cleveland Browns return home this weekend to host the Chargers on the lakefront. As always, I have a few thoughts on what will transpire during the game. I also have thoughts on who will perspire during the game but that column will be published on another website that’s probably blocked on your work computer....
Read the full article here:
Browns vs Chargers Predictions.
Saturday, October 20, 2012
I was tired of the Brownies. We’d been together too long. Like a worn out recording, of a favorite song. So while they went 4-12 last year, I read the paper in bed. In the personal columns, there was this letter I read.
It seems to me that the relationship between the Cleveland Browns and their ultra-loyal fan base has turned very much into one like the couple from Rupert Holmes’ classic hit “Escape.” (You didn’t know that’s the real name of the Pina Colada Song, did you?) After fifty years together, most couples speak very little, as they know that nothing has changed. They act the same, they do the same things, they smell the same, so why bother? Look across the breakfast table; he has the same haircut he’s had since 1974, and he’s still clinking that spoon on the side of his coffee cup ... remember when you were dating and you found that little clinking habit cute? Now, after decades together, you spend most mornings trying to find the strength not to shove the spoon handle-first into his temple, don’t you ladies? You’re not alone. Rather than risk a life sentence in SingSing, most couples simply stop paying attention. Who could blame them?
With the Browns sitting at 1-5, too many Browns fans have followed the lead of the national media, who’ve stopped paying attention to the lakefront football franchise after over a decade of misery. Look at any of the major sports websites out there (I dare say, none more major than <Insert Name Of Website For This Column>) and you’ll see they’ve all decided to take the easy way out and say “Same old Browns! Ha Ha!” They are then whisked away in the rich-national-media-hovercraft, to the caviar and lobster brunches with champagne cocktails in the dunes on the cape, or whatever it is that national media types do. (I suspect their lives are very pampered and similar to what I’ve described, and I convince myself of this as I continue to write, hoping that one of them will hire me and pay me in solid gold Pop Tarts or whatever they get.) The problem with the Pina Colada approach is this: these are not the same old Browns. GM Tom Heckert has had several consecutive strong drafts, and has assembled an impressive array of young talent. There are still holes and issues on this roster to be sure, but this team is not the same old wife, so you’d better look again. This wife isn’t into Yoga, and has way more than half a brain. She’s not there yet, but tomorrow at noon is rapidly approaching. So before you make a date with a stranger at a bar called O’Malleys (to plan your escape), you had best give her another look.
What’s different about this 2012 version of the Cleveland Browns? Let’s run it down.
Well, they are still losing. There’s no way to disguise 1-5. However, if you’re really paying attention you can see that they’re losing this year because of mistakes, not a lack of talent. Years past, you knew it would take a minor miracle for the Browns to beat some teams, because they simply didn’t have the talent at enough positions to compete on a level field. Take a look at their schedule this year, and tell me who you think completely outclasses them. Who? Is there one team left that you’re thinking “There’s just no way they can win that one.” Is there? I don’t see any. That’s first and foremost, the attitude is shifting and they are in every game.
Second, let’s look deeper at my claim that their talent level is rising. All twenty two positions are important, but while weakness at some spots on the field can be covered up, you repeatedly hear that all legitimate Super Bowl contenders must have top level players at the following: Quarterback, Running Back, Left Tackle, Wide Receiver, Rush Defensive End/Linebacker, Shutdown Cornerback.
Left Tackle: Check. Joe Thomas is the best in the game. I hear he also likes Pina Coladas.
Shutdown Cornerback: Check. Joe Haden? Top five. At least. Rumor has it he likes getting caught in the rain.
Wide Receiver. Um ... well ... OK, this one needs work. Josh Gordon is emerging, and is showing the skill set that the front office apparently saw when they used a second round supplemental pick on him, but he’s still a raw project. He definitely has a chance to develop into a #1 Wide Receiver - and a legitimate #1 at that - but we won’t know for sure about Gordon, one way or the other, until the end of NEXT season. In my mind, Wide Receiver has to be the #1 position of focus in the upcoming offseason. We’ll be waiting with high hopes, for the #1 to walk in the place.
Rush DE/LB: Not quite. The front office made defensive line a priority this past offseason, and I think they did a credible job at filling the need. Parker and Rucker were two solid free agent signings, and John Hughes & Billy Winn were two excellent draft picks (Winn is the steal of the Browns 2012 draft). It will be interesting to see the domino effect once Phil Taylor returns; his presence will elevate the play of the rest of the defensive line in much the same way as Haden’s return elevates the defensive backfield, but we can’t say anything for sure until Taylor gets out there and performs. The Browns do go seven deep in their rotation now, and all of those players are solid, but there’s a difference between solid and Top 5, and I just don’t think the Browns have a fear-inducing edge rusher. The depth on the DL may provide some 4th quarter pass rush, simply by allowing everyone to stay fresher throughout the game, but they need a guy that the opposing offense has to game plan against. Preferably a guy who’s not much into health food.
Running Back: I say “check,” but admittedly it’s too early to say with 100% certainty. Trent Richardson has show more than flashes of his talent, and I believe he’s going to be the engine of this offense for a decade. However, I hate when sportswriters overreact and try to enshrine rookies into Canton after half a season, so I’m holding myself to the same standard. If TRich stays healthy and continues on his current path, I don’t think anyone can doubt his worthiness, but only time will tell.
***Side Note*** New owner Jimmy Haslam wrote to the paper. Took out a personal ad. Though he’s obviously nobody’s poet, I thought it wasn’t half bad.
Quarterback: Again, I say “check,” but it’s early. This one is tough sell for a few reasons. One, because I was against the Weeden pick. OK, that’s putting it mildly. When the pick was announced, I literally jumped off of my couch, slammed my hat down, and unleashed a string of curse words that would have made longshoremen buy me congratulatory beers in the 1940’s. This was not because I thought Colt McCoy was the answer, but because I knew the Browns were at least a year away. My thinking was, why not use the plethora of picks last year to stock up every other position, and give Colt a shot this season with some actual weapons around him? That way, if 2012 went south again, you could take a QB at the top of the ’13 draft and bring him into a roster that was closer to competing. Reason #2 giving Weeden a “check” is tough, is that he is indeed twenty nine years old. Prevailing NFL wisdom says it takes three years for a QB to learn the game to the point where it “slows down;” this means Weeds will be thirty two before he really “understands” the NFL. Prevailing wisdom also says that an athlete has their physical prime (in any sport) between the ages of 28-32; this means the window for Weeden to know the game while he can still play to the top of his physical talent is very, very small. Finally, this “check” is a tough sell for reason #3: the opening game against Philadelphia. It was about as bad as it can get, and everyone simply wrote him and the Browns off after that game. The game was indefensible, it was horrible, it earned every joke that came it’s way. HOWEVER...
... if you’ve actually paid attention since week two, the guy has show consistent improvement every game. I dare say that if anyone in the WR corps could have caught a pass before two weeks ago, his numbers would be even better than they are, and there just might be another W on the board. More importantly, Weeden passes “the eyeball test.” He doesn’t back down. He doesn’t get afraid. He doesn’t play in fear, even after a mistake, which he has made and will continue to make as a rookie. If you watch his demeanor on the field, he just looks like an NFL quarterback; he has that mystical “it” factor. While I don’t believe that his age will help him learn the game faster, as some have suggested, I do believe that his age and maturity will help him with the psychological part of the NFL - after a certain amount of life experience, everyone learns to shrug things off, no matter your walk of life. Being able to “put a bad one behind you” is a HUGE part of being a successful NFL quarterback, and simply put, most 29-year olds have a better chance at that than most 22-year olds. Do I think he’s guaranteed to be the savior in Cleveland? No, nothing is guaranteed, and as with Richardson I won’t jump to any conclusions after less than half of a season. However, I am firmly convinced that he’s the best shot we’ve had on Lake Erie since Bernie Kosar. The kid has won me over. He also runs better than Bernie. Of course, I run better than Bernie after I’ve put down four tequila shooters and a Yaeger-bomb, but that’s not important.
So looking back at the list, I’ve put checkmarks into four of the six “important” positions, which is pretty solid. Add to this the undeniable fact that the AFC is down, and there might be a leap towards the top in much quicker fashion than anyone could have believed back in August. There are still good teams in the AFC, but no longer any great teams. The talent level between the top and the bottom has closed considerably, which will allow young teams like the Browns to challenge sooner than they could have just two short seasons ago. Tomorrow is here, so folks in the national NFL media should take notice. I’m already on record as saying the Browns will represent the AFC in the Super Bowl in New York in February 2014, and I see no reason to change that prediction.
These are not the same old Browns. This is not the same old wife. You may know the smile in an instant when she walks in the place, but if you’re really paying attention, you’ll laugh for a moment and say “I never knew...” Let me say at this point I am not in the least bit sorry for getting this song stuck in your head for the next three days - last week I had to deal with “MmmBop” after an ill-timed trip to the grocery store.
Yes, I like Pina Coladas, and getting’ caught in the rain...
Sunday, October 7, 2012
It’s an NFL football Sunday, and I’m spending it at 35,000 feet. I’m flying home from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles, and consequently I’m unable to watch the Browns game, or any game for that matter. This season, we have NFL Sunday Ticket in our palatial LA estate, and I hate having money I’ve spent go to waste (Except in Las Vegas, which you may not know is a Spanish name meaning “Suuuuure, you might win! Keep trying, moron!” See, my column is a cornucopia of knowledge). In order to make the most of our purchase, I have my beautiful wife recording the game on the DVR, so I can watch it when get home, with or without the express written consent of the NFL. This situation presents a unique challenge, which some of my faithful readers have likely experienced; it’s something that twenty years ago was unheard of, but is becoming more common in 2012. I have to find a way to get from the airport, to the shuttle, to my car, and to the house (Which from here forward will be referred to as “Stately Thomas Manor”), all without hearing any updates or finding out what happened in the game.
Like some of you, I can’t watch a game if I already know the outcome. This strikes me as odd, since I can watch the same movies or TV shows repeatedly; I’ll watch marathons of Cheers, and laugh each time as if it’s the first viewing. This drives my wife nuts, which as any married person knows only makes it more fun for me. Single people, after you’re married for awhile you’ll learn to appreciate winning the “Annoy your spouse” game. Oh, don’t act high and mighty here ladies, you’re the masters at this game - is there a wife out there who can empty a dishwasher without SLAMMING the silverware into the drawer, making enough noise to send the message “If I couldn’t sleep and am awake at 6:45AM, you’re going to be awake too, mister!” Hello? Ladies? Anyone? Thought not. It’s a fun game of marital thrust and parry. Anyway, what was I talking about? Oh yeah, I can’t watch a game if I know what happens.
Years ago this wouldn’t have been an issue. Back in the 1980’s, a time period in which my thirteen year old daughter is convinced we still fought Mastodons with spears, all you had to do in this situation was simply turn off the car radio, and you were home free. We could be out of touch any time we wanted back then, but in 2012 that ability is gone. Our wish to remain connected at all times has been granted by the smartphone in our pocket, the one my grandmother refers to as “Stevie’s magic phone.” There are ESPN apps that send out automatic updates on our favorite teams, email blasts, Facebook, Twitter ... a myriad of ways I can have my DVR’d game ruined for me, and there’s virtually no way to turn them all off successfully. Even if you do somehow pull that off, there’s still the human element; sports fans always have friends who we are in contact with on game day. In my case, I spend most Sundays texting with my brother in Ohio about the Browns game, so if he doesn’t remember that I’m on a plane today, I’ll power up my phone after landing and be barraged with stored messages from him; some about the game, others which are simply expletive filled diatribes about the Steelers. (The latter becomes more frequent, and far more vulgar, as his beer intake rises. In the past few seasons, he’s taught me several curse words that I never before knew existed, as well as the wide variety of species with whom Ben Roethlesberger apparently copulates in startling frequency. I’m uncertain exactly how my brother acquires this knowledge, but it’s great fun.) For those wondering, yes I must turn on my phone. Not only am I waiting for several work related messages, but I have to let my wife know I’ve landed, and when to bring the car to the shuttle dropoff. It’s a high wire act of technological avoidance, and one mistake will be the equivalent of using the last of the Frankenberries to make breakfast (or dinner), then spilling the entire bowl in your lap. Tragedy.
So I have to generate a plan, a method for avoiding not only all updates via my phone, but any snippets of conversation around me in the airport or on the shuttle, such as people exchanging scores with friends, or the possibility that I could run into another Browns fan in LA. I know there’s a bunch of us out here, but we tend to stay underground and hidden, kind of like the French resistance in Casablanca, except with fewer Nazis and more bathing. So far, the best plan I’ve created is to stick my fingers in my ears and yell “Lalalalalalalalalallalalalalallala I’m not listening I’m not listening I’m not listening Lalalalalalalalalalalalalalallal!” for the entire time period after debarking the plane until I arrive at home. While I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking “Genius! That is utterly foolproof! Honey, let’s send Stephen a pile of cash, to fund that one man Think-Tank he has going over there!” my plan does have a small flaw, in that this type of public behavior can attract the unwanted attention of those annoying, self righteous, do-gooders known as “the authorities.” Add to that the fact that I’ll be in an airport, surrounded by the TSA, and the “LaLaLa” plan could lead to me spending a bit of time in that little back room marked “secondary security.” Now, I’ve always wanted to know what it looks like back there, and I’ve heard rumors they have cookies, so it could be fun. Also, several hours of psychologically probing interrogation questions (“What’s wrong with you, boy?” “You stupid or somethin’?”) would likely offer protection from hearing the Browns score. However, I believe these small advantages are outweighed by the high probability of a tazer being hooked up to my delicate man parts. (I would like to point out at this time that the good folks of the TSA are highly trained, reasonable professionals, who should in no way take this as an impeachment of their skills, or an invitation to pull me aside for a random cavity search. Just ribbing you, guys! Ha ha!) Plus, there might ultimately not be any cookies back there, and I’m not sure I could handle that level of disappointment. As flawed as it may be, this is the best plan I currently have, so I’m going to implement it 100%. Watch for me on the news.
On a side note, I think it might be fun to Live Tweet the game as I watch it on the DVR four hours late, just to confuse my followers into thinking I’ve completely lost it. In fact, that sounds so fun I might do that in the future with other sporting events, or even old episodes of BJ And The Bear.
Anyway, we were just told to put our tray tables in the upright and locked position, because as we all know, an improperly positioned seat tray will almost certainly distract the pilot to the point where he accidentally bypasses LAX, and instead lands us in the parking lot of a TJ Maxx in Walla Walla. So I need to begin preparations for this gauntlet run up the 405 towards home. Wish me luck. If you text me any score updates, I’ll tell the TSA you’re wearing cocaine underwear.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
There’s a growing rumble in Cleveland that the Browns need to get running back Trent Richardson more carries. All I’ve been hearing is, “They need to run more sweeps.”
To read the full article, click here to see my column on MAN BITES DAWG.
To read the full article, click here to see my column on MAN BITES DAWG.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
As we approach the quarter pole of the NFL season, let's take a moment to reflect on our Browns thus far. Let's also take a moment to hop that the quarter pole is made of brass, and has a hot girl swinging around on it./ (I've apparently spent too much time in Vegas lately)...
For the full article, click here and go to AFC North Report.
Friday, September 14, 2012
I was recently told that the general public has combined the attention span of a kitten on meth with the intelligence level of liverwurst, and therefore I need to “dumb down” my writing.
I refuse to do so.
It’s insulting to me as a writer, and to you as a person (or reasonable facsimile thereof), to assume that any topic, joke, or reference made in print is over anyone’s head. I say write what you write, and those that enjoy it will find you. Assuming that your audience is the cast of Road Warrior is like saying that the public is so stupid they’ll vote for a dog act over a hysterical, professional, veteran comic like Tom Cotter on a reality contest show. Wait, that actually happened? Well that completely sucks, but even though mistakes - huge, obvious, glaring mistakes - are occasionally made, my point is still valid. Rather than condescend to my readers, I prefer to give everyone credit for reading at or above a reasonably adult level, and having an IQ at least twice as high as a jar of pickles (Sweet, not dill). It seems to me that the Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo crowd aren’t going to enjoy my writing anyway, so why should I put any effort into appealing to that society destroying demographic?
It seems these days everyone is attempting to promote and market to the lowest level of human intelligence. I am eagerly anticipating the day when “Slacker Chic” is no longer in Vogue, or even in Elle. To my thinking, intentionally writing less than your best falls into the category of negative activity, and I have spent the past year focusing intently on being positive. Positivity produces positive results, and reaching for your best effort every day is most definitely a positive activity. You and I are smarter than they believe, and we need to stick together. This is why you will never see texting abbreviations, lack of capitalization or punctuation, or the catastrophe that is “Imma” in my writing.
You’ll notice that I’m discussing intelligence, and nowhere in this column have I said the word “edgy.” I don’t give a flying squirrel fart about edgy. “Edgy” is for people who are so into not being “mainstream” that they don’t realize they’re simply a slave to the mainstream of another demographic. I write what I think is funny, and I am confident and secure enough to know that those out there who also find it funny, will migrate to my column eventually. My humor is my own, and it ranges from juvenile 8th grade “I know you are but what am I” dialogue, to the most obscure “10%” references that I know when I type them are going to fly under the radar. If you enjoy it, then I am beyond thankful and grateful to you, and I hope you return to my column again and again. If you do not enjoy it, then you are a giant, boogerheaded stinkface, and I hope you return to my column again and again.
Years ago, I worked with Emo Phillips at a comedy club in Fort Lauderdale. Whether or not you enjoy his style on stage, Emo is a brilliant writer, and that week he told me something that I have never forgotten. It’s the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned in comedy, and I’ve applied it to my writing, and my life in general. “The two biggest lessons a comic must learn are these: 1 - Know who you are, and 2 - Know who you are not.” It’s really that simple. Write and perform as YOU, and the rest will fall into place. I know who I am and who I am not, and therefore I have a good understanding of what demographics produce my fans. People who want Hillbilly HandFishing will not read my work. People who can discuss the differences between Big Brother Season Three and Season Nine will not read my published articles. Steelers fans are giant bags of stupid, who smell like something out of a woodchuck’s garbage. These are some of the irrefutable facts through which I try to lead my life.
The basic premise of “dumbing down” writing - or lowering the bar for your chosen pursuits, whatever those may be - is against my nature. Every morning or late afternoon I wake up, and no matter what is on my agenda, I have one overriding goal: to be better than I was yesterday. Better as a writer and a comic, better as a Husband and Father, and better as a man in general. If I’m lowering my standards, then not only am I insulting you, the reader, without whom my writing would have no voice, but I’m also not attempting to improve myself. If I’m not trying to be better than I was yesterday, then I’ve already seen the best I’ll ever be, and that makes for a long, long road ahead.
To you, my readers that consistently return, I say thank you. I am grateful for you, your loyalty, and your constant monetary gifts to my PayPal account at email@example.com. In return for your readership, I promise I will never insult your intelligence by giving anything but my best effort. Whether that effort produces results which make you think and giggle and maybe pee in your pants a little will obviously vary, but the effort will always be consistent. Then I will smack you in the face with booger and fart jokes. That is the relationship which I propose to you.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Sunday, September 9, 2012
As most of my loyal fan base knows and has been discussing over coffee and marmalade for weeks, it has been quite some time since I’ve done a reader mailbag column. In fact, my official guy-who-does-these-kinds-of-things (Code Name: Larry) tells me that I haven’t done a reader mailbag column since “ever,” which is at least before the eclipse, possibly even prior the Hell’s Kitchen swimsuit competition. (Do they do that? I don’t watch that show.) Anyway, it’s apparently been awhile, and this is causing grave consternation amongst my faithful readers, as proven by the following transcript of an actual conversation between two of my imaginary readers from the Washington D.C. area:
Reader #1: “Wow, Stephen has’t done a reader mailbag column in at least a fortnight.”
Reader #2: “Are you consternated about it?”
Reader #1: “Gravely.”
Far be it from me to be the cause of any variety of consternation, so with the NFL season rapidly approaching, let’s do a combination reader mailbag/season prediction column. Oh, and I’ve recently taken to calling myself “King Thunder,” mostly because it’s what my wife calls me. So all future reader mail must be addressed as such, or no Frankenberries for you.
Dear King Thunder,
Is it true that you’re planning to pick the Browns over the Eagles this week? Follow up question, are you planning to bogart the entire bag of whatever you’re smoking?
Eddie from Elyria
Dear Eddie From Elyria,
I am indeed, predicated on two things: One, that TRich plays. Two, that Haden plays. If either of those two things don’t occur, I will change my pick. As of now, however, this just feels like a game where Philly is overlooking the Browns ... as everyone says they should ... and I mean EVERYONE. That’s actually a large factor as to why I’m picking Cleveland - if history has taught us anything it’s that A) Anyone can be assassinated (thanks Michael Corleone) and B) If all the sportswriters in the world agree on something and scoff with incredibly unwarranted sportswriter superiority at anyone who disagrees, it almost always turns out to be wrong. Plus, a power running game makes a four win team at least an eight win team. With TRich, that’s what the Browns have ... potentially. As it relates to this particular game, as many great names as the Eagles have on defense, they were surprisingly soft against the run last year, surrendering 4.4 yds/rush. Oh, and my bag of “stuff” is for medical purposes only. All this reading of mail gives me serious glaucoma. (For all of my weekly NFL picks, go to my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/stephenthomascomic)
Dear King Thunder,
Obviously the Browns are going to go 16-0, but what do you think of the rest of the division? Are there any players on those other three teams that maybe the Browns could pick up for their practice squad or anything?
Tom from Twinsburg
Dear Tom from Twinsburg,
First, please give me back my bag of medically approved stuff. I think the Browns will be much improved, but let’s not get crazy. Thirteen wins, maybe fourteen; anything more than that sounds like a nutty skit from SuperHost. Second, I think there is potential for a step back for at least one of the other teams in the division, and that’s the Ravens. I understand what they’re doing with the Flacco hurry-up offense, and I think it will work. However, with the age on that defense, they’re taking a huge gamble. Understand, they’re not planning to run a no-huddle, but an actual hurry-up, a la the Jim Kelly Buffalo Bills. Those Buffalo defenses wore down at the end of seasons due to all of the extra time on the field, and they were relatively young at their core. This Baltimore defense is long in the tooth, to put it mildly. I think they’ll hold up fine the first half of the season and blast out of the gate at 4-0 or 6-1 or something similar, and then wear down in the stretch run. Fortunately for them, I don’t believe any of the other three AFC North teams have enough in the tank to catch them, so they’ll reign for one more year.
Dear King Thunder,
How can the season be “rapidly approaching?” Doesn’t the passage of time stay at a constant, regardless of impending events?
Aaron from Akron
Dear Aaron from Akron,
You are most likely correct, although I’ve seen several episodes of Star Trek: TNG that raise the possibility of time not being as linear as modern physicists believe. Aren’t you way too smart to be reading my column?
Dear King Thunder,
You didn’t really answer all of Tom from Twinsburg’s question, you just cherry picked one team and then dodged the rest. What are you, a politician or something?
Dave from Dayton
Dear Dave from Dayton,
It’s my prerogative as a professional humor writing type person (PHWTP). What are you, a lawyer or something?
Dear King Thunder,
Yes, actually I am. Now will you answer the question and explain your whereabouts on the night of the OJ murders, please?
Dave from Dayton
Dear Dave from Dayton,
No Hablo Ingles. (Sets off Ninja smoke bomb, escapes through secret floor hatch.)
Dear King Thunder,
So why don’t you just tell us what you think about the 2012 Browns? This is supposed to be a football column, you know.
Mike from Marietta
Dear Mike from Marietta,
First off, that shows what you know about my column; none of my regular readers think I know the first thing about football. Of course, none of my regular readers own more than two pair of pants, and they rarely wear either one except to a formal event such as an arraignment, but that’s for another discussion. Second, OK, here’s my 2012 Browns thoughts, in all seriousness. Or mostly seriousness. Or a 70/30 Seriousness/Polyester blend. I really, truly, honestly believe they’re going to be much, much better than anyone is predicting. Last year, they hung around in almost every game, and could have won at least five more, and that was with virtually no offense. Now, they have (potentially, all based on that knee) a power running game, and some skill and speed at the WR position, raw though it may be. With an improved defensive line (at least on paper) especially after Phil Taylor comes back, the defense should be even better than it was a year ago. Finally, as much as I wanted them to stick with Colt for another year and then go after Barkley next year if things didn’t improve, I’ve liked the little we’ve seen from Weeden. Will they make the playoffs? Even I’m not nutty enough to say that. However, I think 6-8 wins isn’t beyond reasonable to expect. They’re going to surprise some people. So I’m going with 8-8. That’s my prediction. Now get off my back.
Dear King Thunder,
What are you going to say when people reply to this column and call you an idiot and a moron, with poorly spelled curse words, non-existent punctuation, and horrific grammar?
Frank from Columbus
Dear Frank from Columbus,
Don’t you know that all reader mailbag questions MUST come from people who have alliteration in their first name and their hometown? I’m not answering your question until you rectify this situation. Jerk.
Dear King Thunder,
So what are your division, and Super Bowl picks? Come on, I can’t wait any longer - I’ve secretly liquidated my company’s entire 401k fund, and want to go bet it all in Las Vegas based on your psychic abilities.
Carl from Cleveland
Dear Carl from Cleveland,
First, thank you for following the name and hometown rules. If you happen to see Frank from Columbus, kick him repeatedly in the duodenum for me, OK? (What? duodenum is a real thing.) Second, you were wise to make such a bold financial transaction. Sure, people like your bosses and the SEC will be mad at first, but when you put all of the money back plus profit at the end of the season, they’re sure to throw you a parade. Third, here we go: AFC East: New England. AFC North: Baltimore. AFC South: Houston. AFC West: Denver. NFC East: Dallas. NFC North: Green Bay. NFC South: New Orleans. NFC West: San Francisco. Super Bowl: Green Bay over New England.
Friday, August 31, 2012
Sunday, August 12, 2012
My most recent NFL article, "The Cleveland Browns Know You Are, But What Are They?" has been published by AFC North Report and picked up by Fox Sports. After you read it, leave me a great comment, and share the link with your friends because you love it so much, why don't you marry it? I am so serious right now...
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Friday, August 3, 2012
AFC North Report and Yardbarker.com have published another of my NFL columns. It offers conclusive proof that Stephen A Smith might stab Skip Bayless, and Tim Tebow is a space alien. No, really. See for yourself HERE.
Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Yardbarker.com, a part of the Fox Sports Network, has published my column on the past twenty years of Cleveland Browns fans misery. Read it HERE and pass it on!
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
My guest column "Mad Dogs And Mock Drafts" is now published on the sports humor website Draft Day Suit. It's possibly the greatest NFL Mock Draft you will ever read, according to this pantsless guy sitting beside me at the park. Go check it out!
You can also now follow me on Twitter @15stephen15
You can also now follow me on Twitter @15stephen15
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
My guest column "Eighteen Predictions For The Masters" is now published on the sports humor website Draft Day Suit. Go check it out! You can also now follow me on Twitter @15stephen15
For my previous golf articles, click the links below:
I Love You, But If That Goes In...
Of Mice And Golf: Traditions
For my previous golf articles, click the links below:
I Love You, But If That Goes In...
Of Mice And Golf: Traditions
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
The Code Of The Jacket
We had a deep freeze here in Los Angeles this past week. For not one, not two, but four or five days the temperature hovered around a life-threatening 45 degrees. There was a panicked mob of personal assistants clearing all of the canned goods from the grocery stores, which were promptly returned after the mob realized canned goods are not organic and were probably made by some evil 1% corporation. Then there was a run on the prepared soup, pre-mixed salads, and soy burgers at Whole Foods. Then there was a short period of texting, but everyone was driving their car speeding towards home so it was OK. It was such a terrifying ordeal that Governor Moonbeam nearly called out the National Guard - luckily he “found a mellow patch,” and Martial Law was averted. The worst part of the Los Angeles 2012 Olympic Winter Games? I had to wear a jacket. That’s right, a JACKET. For several days. In a ROW! Madness!!! If I wanted to wear a stinkin’ jacket all the time, I’d move back to Ohio and go to Browns playoff games in January! (That’s the most obvious joke on the blog; a Cleveland Browns playoff game? At HOME? What is this, 1988?) However, wearing this jacket (pictured below) while watching the chaos of winter in LA brought me to an understanding, and it was this: very few in this “me first” town live up to what I call The Code Of The Jacket.
Loyal readers are aware that I have been overseas numerous times, doing shows for the military. Despite performing for audiences who are fully trained to use the weapons in their laps, I survive and keep getting asked to return. On one of these trips several years ago with Steve Mazan (of “Dying To Do Letterman” fame) as well as Award Winning Comedian Don Barnhart (who I believe is in the process of legally changing his first name to “Award Winning”) and funnyman Warren B Hall, the airline lost my luggage. OK, this happens, but you have to understand that we were at the termination of what was roughly a 6,487 hour trip, which finished in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan, a country so poor they can barely afford vowels. The temperature when we landed was six degrees, and I had the shorts & t-shirt I was wearing and not much else. It was also 2AM, and our contact informed me that the BX at Manas Air Base was closed until morning. Despite the tingly shrinkage issues, I soldiered on, made it through the night, and purchased a bunch of new stuff the following morning. The folks at Manas were kind enough to lend me a heavy duty winter coat, which was fantastic until I had to turn it back in as we left Manas and headed towards now closed K2 Air Base in Uzbekistan.
The trip to K2 was supposed to be a short flight (we weren’t on Delta so there was no connection in Detroit, which we would have missed anyway), so I figured that while on the plane, I would simply tough it out and wear the fleece sweatshirt that I had purchased, then borrow another winter coat once we arrived. Beautiful plan, until our plane was reassigned to a combat mission and we disembarked to stand on the tarmac, waiting for another to arrive. Along with several dozen soldiers, we stood on tundra that made Lambeau Field seem tropical and waited. Then we waited. After that was some waiting. Then for fun, we waited. Now, we were standing next to military folks, who were heading to K2 and points south in Afghanistan where they would likely be shot at, so there was no way I was complaining. On all of these trips my motto is “If they can do what they do, I can never miss a show even if I’m so sick I have a fever of 104 and am hurling into the desert on the side of the road in Qatar and the base doctors give me an official diagnosis of ‘Dude, you’re sick.’” (A wordy motto, to be sure, but a true story, for another time.)(If you don’t believe me, Barnhart, Mazan, and Hall can confirm) As I stood there, turtling as far down into the hoodless fleece sweatshirt as possible, an unknown soldier in full battle rattle and a ski mask appeared and tapped my shoulder. When I turned to face him, he wordlessly handed me the above pictured jacket. I asked if he was sure, saying I didn’t want to take a jacket from someone else, and he waved me off, again wordlessly. I put on the jacket, which is warmer than it appears, and eventually another plane arrived.
Upon landing at K2, we went to the arrivals building to do paperwork (military folks know that I really mean “we went to the arrivals hut and stood around for awhile, waiting for the guy with our paperwork to get out of bed and arrive”). Once inside, I removed the jacket and began asking around to see whose it was. It belonged to no one, apparently. After about ten minutes of questioning the soldiers, I stood on a bench and loudly asked “Who was it that gave me this jacket? I want to thank you and give it back!” Nothing. No response. I asked if anyone had already left, thinking maybe I’d missed them, and again no one said anything. Eventually I realized that I wasn’t getting an answer because these folks in the military live by a code. Now when I say “code,” I don’t mean a secret James Bond decoder ring code, like if I say “To my old getaway driver, the white ferret is correct, and haha balls,” and someone in Russia knows exactly where I’ve hidden the detonators. No, not that kind of code, although that would be cool, wouldn’t it? (By the way, to the Turkish gentleman I know only as Winston Churchill I say “Captain Funky just passed Uranus.”) No, it’s a different kind of code, the kind you live your life by, a Ghandi-esque thing, and their code is simple: help people. That’s it. That’s all it takes. No grand gesture, major life involvement, or government program needed. This soldier, whoever he or she was, saw someone who was cold and gave them a jacket to keep warm. Humbling, to say the least.
It is amazing how an act so small can have such a profound and far reaching effect. Every time I wonder if what I do matters, I remember that soldier, and it reinforces my positive energy and my belief in living. To this day, whenever I wear that jacket in this desolate, arctic village of Hollywood, I think back to that night, and I wonder who that soldier was. I wonder if they came back from their deployment in one piece and now lead a regular, humdrum life. Do they go bowling on Tuesdays? Are they getting enough natural fiber in their diet? Do they remember that one episode of Cheers where the guys took Diane to the opera? I wonder if they’re out there now, reading this, and if someday I’ll get to meet them, thank them, and give them back their jacket. Of the many items and souvenirs I’ve brought back from trips to the Middle East and Southwest Asia, The Jacket is one of my most prized possessions. It reminds me of all that is good and right in the world, and how every single day is a miracle. It also makes me think. Every time I pull that jacket out of the closet and slip in on, I wonder: Am I living up to The Code?
How about you, can I help you in some way?
Tell you what, loyal readers, here’s my self-challenge goal and my offer to you: I want to help 100 people by the end of the month. Go “like” my Facebook Fan Page HERE, and leave me a message saying how I can help you. If I can help, I will. If I can’t, I’ll do my best to pass you along to someone who can, or at least try to point you in the right direction. All I want back is that you in turn help someone else. That’s it.
The Code Of The Jacket. Pass it on.
Help say thank you to our military men and women by purchasing my comedy DVD on my website HERE - as I have for nearly a decade now, I donate a portion of every DVD sale to a military charity. I’ve recently switched my donations to “The Wounded Warrior Project,” which helps those injured in battle with just about everything upon their return home. Just my way of saying Thank You.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
The dice tumble. As they do, the world is a slow motion jumble of noise, color, and excitement. A crowd has gathered around the craps table in pit five, and you are a rock star, baybee. You are on a run like none you’ve ever been on. The group of young guys with the perpetual five o’clock shadow, dressed like they live in a cologne commercial, have been calling you “One Serious Bastard,” which is apparently a compliment. Heck, even the Dallas businessmen, all donning hats larger than the state of their birth, have made you an honorary Texan. It’s your night, and it’s going to continue. You just know it. The casino has sent a snooper to your table to see if you’re somehow cheating, and the pit boss is watching your every move. You don’t care, you’re not cheating - it’s just one of those lucky Vegas rolls that happens every third light year.
The music thumps, and even though you have no clue who the band is (you stopped listening to popular music shortly after “Full Moon Fever,” thank God for Sirius/XM’s “Eighties On Eight” channel) it doesn’t matter, this is your night and you’re cooler than Sinatra in ’63. As the dice approach the far wall, you’re strangely relaxed, almost as if you can see the numbers coming.
Is it 2PM or 2AM? Does it really matter? You’re the center of the universe! Bring it on, Vegas! This is YOUR night!!! You OWN this town!!! Seven, baybee! I knew it, another seven!! Hey Cologne Boys, not only am I One Serious Bastard, I’m your King! A mighty yell goes up from the crowd!!!
Your eyes snap open, and the crowd has vanished. There are no Cologne Boys, and no Texans, honorary or otherwise. The music has changed from hip and pounding to Enya. Or is it those chanting Monks? You’re laying on a table in a room full of ferns, naked under a towel. You look to your right and there’s your lovely wife, sitting up on a table exactly like yours, wrapped in a towel exactly like yours. There are two other women in the room, dressed in white. Your wife says “The massage is over, you must have fallen asleep. There’s a hot tub break now, before the facials.” Ah yes, now you remember. It’s a spa weekend in Vegas with your lady. It’s Couples Vegas.
Don’t get me wrong, Couples Vegas is not bad, not at all. In fact, it’s actually extremely nice. When my wife Carolyn and I did our last trip, we ate at high end restaurants, got dressed up for the spectacular shows, and did this eight hour “Couples Treatment” at The Spa At Aria, which is one of the top rated spas in the country. All good things, all fun in their own way, and heck, any time I get to spend an entire weekend with my girl, without the child, it’s a good thing. It’s just that this is a different Vegas than the Vegas you’re used to - it seems this trip to Vegas is one where you’ll remember every second, and that’s a bit jarring and unusual for men. You’re used to coming home with hazy memories and clothes that reek of cigar smoke. Couples Vegas is a Vegas where when you wake up, everything is peaceful, and you simply begin your day. This is the part - the daytime part - where as a man, I stepped into a woman’s world and was a bit lost. See, for our anniversary, I had presented my wife with a certificate saying we would go for a long weekend in Vegas, and during this time there would be no poker, no golfing, no cigars, nada. It was a good bluff on my part, but she called me on it - she’s picked up on my tells. This was to be HER weekend, and we would do whatever she wanted to do; she’d earned it. My wife works extremely hard, is a great Mom, and as of this writing has only attempted to murder me in my sleep a couple of times, as far as I know. The dinners and shows on this trip were a bit out of character for us, as we usually low-key it in those areas, but there’s nothing particularly unusual about them. The spa trip was the star of the weekend, and it was a world as foreign to me as victory is to Cleveland.
As I relate the events of Spa Day, I will include side notes to explain the trickier parts to the guys out there among my faithful readers.
On Spa Day, we woke up, had breakfast, showered, and went to the spa, located at Aria. We arrived, checked in, and were shown to our personal spa suite. We were to stay in this suite all day, and the various masseuses and other spa practitioners would be coming to us at scheduled intervals. Apparently, this is a big deal, as Carolyn (along with every subsequent female she’s told about it) was very excited about this fact. (*NOTE FOR GUYS*: I learned that usually during an all-day spa experience, you have to walk from room to room to get the different treatments (massage, facial, manicure, etc). Yeah, I don’t get it either. Since these rooms appeared to be a maximum of five feet apart, I can’t imagine how stressful walking between them could possibly be, but she was thrilled about it, so I was thrilled as well.) After being shown around the suite and its various rooms, our hostess left and Carolyn informed me that step one was to take a shower. Since we had showered at out hotel no more than forty minutes previous, I inquired as to why another was necessary. She informed me, in a tone of voice you might use to explain the space-time continuum to a particularly slow-witted chipmunk, that “It’s just something we have to do, OK?” At this point I knew I should stop asking questions and just roll with it. While she was in the shower, I explored the suite; I must say it’s pretty fantastic, kudos to the folks at Aria. A shower and bathroom roughly the size of the house we’re hopelessly underwater in was on one end, followed by the treatment room, and finally the “family room,” which consisted of a huge sitting area with a high end couch and chairs, a giant hot tub, and a plasma TV that was at least sixty inches. (*NOTE FOR GUYS* I knew the TV could get ESPN. I also instinctively knew that if I attempted to turn it to ESPN, even while she was in the shower, she just might slip a fin-ski to one of the practitioners to “accidentally” punch my manstuff. I’m not a rookie.) After my shower (During which, I could swear my hair said “Didn’t we just do this an hour ago?”), we sat in our robes for awhile until the masseuses arrived, and I was asked to choose which scent of oil I wanted for my massage. When I said I didn’t have any idea, and asked if there were pros or cons to any of the scents, the three women exchanged one of those woman looks where they all but roll their eyes and put a dunce cap on my head. The masseuse then held the tray of oils closer to my face, in the same way you would jingle your keys in front of a screaming infant to pacify him, and when I finally blurted out “Peppermint” I seriously thought she was going to tousle my hair and reward me with a Scooby Snack. The two of them then held up towels, told us to drop our robes and lay on the table, and they then draped the towels over us. (*NOTE FOR GUYS*: If I saw another guy who began to give me guff about going to a “girly spa,” my planned response was “I was naked in a room with three chicks, and I DIDN’T get arrested for it. Top that, jerkface!” You know, to highlight my maturity.) I won’t go into detail about the massage itself, except to say that it was indeed a relaxing situation. I think it lasted nearly an hour, and I dozed off a couple of times. (*NOTE FOR GUYS*: It’s not like the “massage” videos you see on the internet. OK, it’s kind of like the first free clip, but nothing like free clips two through four. If that’s what you’re after, you need to go to a different part of Vegas. FYI, this being a different type of massage is the reason that when I was laying on my back, there were no tents in the room. If you get my drift.) After the massage, we had a break. A break from what, I’m not sure, but we had a break. “Man, I can’t take that lying down relaxing anymore. Let’s go sit for awhile!” As we lounged in the hot tub and on the couch, we noticed that at some point during the massage, our hostess had snuck in and brought a tray of fresh fruit and some sparkling water. The smile on Carolyn’s face was all I needed to tell me that this was exceeding her expectations. Plus there was kiwi, and I love kiwi. Sometimes it makes me a little gassy, but that’s what the bubbles in the hot tub were for, right? Next item on the agenda: the facials. (*NOTE FOR GUYS*: Again, different than those you’ve seen on the ‘net)
Having never been through one of these, I wasn’t sure what to expect. There’s even more oil involved in this than there was in the massage. (Thankfully, I didn’t have to choose a scent this time.) My face was smeared with more oil than Kyle Busch’s pistons. Is there oil on pistons? I’m not a car guy. Anyway, it was pretty oily. After she slathered me in the oil, she rubbed it into my skin in a hard, angry fashion, like I had slept with her sister or something. She would place her thumbs on either side of my nose, and move them outwards in opposite directions, with a force that could only have been designed to split the skin in two and expose my nose cartilage. After my skin valiantly remained in place, she gave up and in an apparent attempt to blind me instead, placed a steaming hot towel over my eyes - think the same level of hot as the one Babu gave Kramer in the Pakistani Dream Cafe episode of Seinfeld. I seriously began to wonder if I owed this woman money or something. After the towel was placed, I laid there for quite awhile with nothing happening. Both of the facial technicians had left, and they were probably in the family room, going through our pockets, spitting in my sparkling water because of whatever it was I did to offend them, and plotting what they were to do to me next. “Hey, let’s put pickles up his nose! We’ll say it’s good for the skin, the idiot won’t know the difference! Haha! Hey, turn it to ESPN so his wife stabs him later.” Well, there were no pickles involved, but this woman really hated my nose, and was out to redeem herself after failing to split the skin. Once they returned, the towel was replaced with a new one (just as hot, in case there were a few remaining rods and cones in my eyes that had somehow not melted) and she began jabbing my nose with what felt like a particularly nasty Cat O’ Nine Tails, or perhaps an experimental military superheated Trident of some kind. I later found out that she was in fact, using industrial tweezers - which she must have recently removed from the surface of the sun - to “excavate the blemishes” from my nose. (*NOTE FOR GUYS*: “Excavate the blemishes” means “pop the blackheads.” I know. Women pay for this, yet they say the stuff WE do is gross.) Either I have a ton of blemishes on my nose, or I slept with her sister AND I owe her money AND I poisoned her Parakeet, because she went after me with the vengeance of a Kraken. Once at football practice, I took the crown of a linebacker’s helmet directly into my mandanglers, and that was a cakewalk by comparison. I fought back the tears as best I could, or maybe I simply couldn’t create any because my tear ducts had been heated to the point of only producing lava. This medieval nose torture technique went on for what seemed like weeks. If it was an inquisition, I would have told them whatever they wanted to know. I would have admitted to being the second gunman on the grassy knoll, writing “Gigli,” and being responsible for The BCS, if she’d promise to stop. I was seriously about ready to jump up, grab this woman by the throat and yell “WHAT’S YOUR FRICKIN’ PROBLEM, LADY?!?” Then, mercifully, it was over. She removed the towel from my eyes (I regained my sight slowly, like Han Solo in Return of The Jedi), and began to slather even more oil on my face. Based on how much this woman hated me, I half expected it to be battery acid, but it was quite soothing. After the technicians had gathered their things and left (and I THANKED them, what the hell is wrong with me?), Carolyn looked at me and said “Wow, facials really agree with you; you look fantastic! You look like you’re wearing makeup!” (*NOTE FOR GUYS*: If a man says this to another man, a throat punch is justified. Several, in fact. However, in woman world this is considered a compliment.) She was extremely happy with the outcome for both of us, so again, I was happy. If all I have to do to give my girl some joy is endure an hour of searing, inhuman pain, I can do that. Although, if I ever see that woman on the street, I’ll have some words for her. After I check to see she doesn’t have her tweezers, of course.
After another hot tub break, we ordered lunch, and it was top shelf. I had a steak salad and some lobster bisque, Carolyn ordered a panini the size of Rhode Island, and we split some sushi and a fruit & nut plate. Every single item was delicious. Again, kudos to Aria for an absolutely magnificent spa suite experience, and I’m not just saying that in the hopes that they’ll send me some free certificates or anything to the address they can easily get by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org or finding me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/stephenthomascomic. Not at all.
The remainder of Spa Day consisted of several hot tub “treatments,” wherein different salts, herbs, and for all I know pastas were dumped into the water and we sat in it. It smelled good, I guess, and my wife thoroughly enjoyed it, so you know what? I enjoyed it too. The last hour in the suite was ours to do with what we wished, so we sat in the hot tub for awhile. I did learn something about hot tubs: as much as guys like to joke about sitting near the jets for certain adolescent reasons, the bigger tubs have jets too powerful for your manstuff to be directly in front of, if you take my meaning. Lesson learned, we stayed in the hot tub until we got a little dizzy, then moved to the couch. She put on her robe, and I sat there in my altogether. Hey, I had an opportunity to be naked in public, I was not going to pass it up. After a bit, Carolyn asked if I wanted to turn the TV to ESPN. Years of marriage alerted me that this was a trap. “No baby, this is your weekend,” was my reply. Seriously? She thought I’d fall for that one? What am I, a rookie? (*NOTE FOR GUYS*: It wasn’t during the playoffs of any major sporting season, so it’s not like I missed anything. Timing, baybee.) I got a smile out of her for that one. NOW ... This is the point where if it was MY spa experience, there would have been sex. You know, as a reward. (Of course, if it was MY choice to go to a spa, I’d have rock hard abs, Carolyn would have actually been a man named Karl or something, and I’d be living an entirely different lifestyle. I’d also probably be a better dresser, and more successful in Hollywood, but I digress.) There was none. After all, it was her weekend, and she deserved seventy two hours of not being pawed at; so even though I had spent an entire day nude in a room surrounded by various women, I parked the car. I love my wife so much, I will not have sex with her. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.
As we were gathering our things, Carolyn asked if I enjoyed the experience. I said yes, and I meant it. I got to spend the day with the woman I adore, doing something that makes her wildly happy - that’s the definition of a good day for me. She asked if I thought she looked better after all of the treatments. Now, I think my wife is beautiful no matter what, but I told her that she did look great, anyway. (*NOTE FOR GUYS*: Notice I said she looked “great,” not “better.” Again, what am I, a rookie?) She was absolutely thrilled with how she looked and felt, so when we got all dolled up and went out that evening, she radiated that confident beauty around the room, and I only had eyes for her. (My eyes having cooled and resumed functioning shortly before dinner)
Let me say this to the guys out there: if you have the opportunity to give a weekend in Couples Vegas to your woman, do it. She’ll appreciate it more than you can possibly imagine. You’ll also have more fun than you think. The Dallas businessmen and the Cologne Boys may try to take away your Vegas man card, but just remind them: Eight hours naked, a dozen women in and out of the room. That’s right, I am One Serious Bastard. I think.
For the two previous Las Vegas Trilogy articles, click HERE for "25 year Old Vegas" and HERE for "Forty Plus Vegas."
For the two previous Las Vegas Trilogy articles, click HERE for "25 year Old Vegas" and HERE for "Forty Plus Vegas."