Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Literary Event on November 20 at Sokolowski's University Inn

Literary Event November 20 at Sokolowski’s University Inn

A book signing for the Brown Jug Cookbook
Featuring Ed Wolf and Bill Stroud, longtime Jug owners, as well as former semi-famous Jug employees such as Reno Oradini, Joe Blaha, and Steve Hollis

Thursday, November 20, 7:00-9:00

Sokolowski’s University Inn in Historic Tremont

Free munchies, cash bar, music by Cats on Holiday

Co-Sponsored by Pink Flamingo Press and Creative Endeavors and the Cleveland Chapter of the Ohio Wesleyan Alumni Association

$1.00 will be donated to the Cleveland Food Bank for each copy of the cookbook purchased at the event

We’ve had some great events tied in to the publishing/writing projects over the years we have been involved in.  We had a couple of good events at the Harp, and the one at Brothers Lounge for the poetry book was fun. We recently did two down in Delaware at Roops Bar, complete with our friend John Schwab performing. It’s time for another one for our latest writing/publishing project the Brown Jug Cookbook.
If you know me well, sooner or later you have heard me tell stories about the best job I ever had, waiting on tables and bartending at the Brown Jug Restaurant in Delaware, Ohio, during my college years at Ohio Wesleyan University. Two bucks an hour and all the beer you could drink, working with and hanging around a group of characters I will never forget. It was big fun.
The Jug changed a lot after I graduated, as its crowd got older and the drinking age changed. It went from a pizza and pitchers of beer joint, to the first place in Delaware County to serve chicken wings, to the best independent steak house in the state. The place closed several years ago and my old bosses Ed Wolf and Bill Stroud retired from the business.
Recently we got together with Ed and Bill and published the Brown Jug Cookbook, filled with recipes, pictures, stories, and the history of the establishment.
Ed and Bill made many friends in their thirty-one years owning and running the Jug.  Many of them live in Northern Ohio. There is a group of us who worked at the Jug, as well as a lot of old college friends who hung out there. Plus many friends and family members who liked to visit the Jug when they came and visited.
We thought it was a no brainer to have some sort of event in Cleveland about the cookbook. The Ohio Wesleyan Alumni Association thought it was a good idea too, and have agreed to co-sponsor an the event.
So come join us at Sokolowski’s University Inn on November 20 and help us celebrate the Brown Jug Cookbook. Even if you have never been to Delaware, Ohio, or never set foot in the Brown Jug, please come anyway. There will be a lot of good people, a munchies buffet that will include the Inn’s famous perogies, a cash bar, and live music from the guys in Cats on Holiday.
We will have copies of the cookbook to purchase, and Ed and Bill will be on hand and glad to sign them. A dollar will be donated to the Cleveland Food Bank for each cookbook purchased at the event. We will also have copies available of our other recent publishing project, the 2015 Cleveland Little Italy Calendar. It is a beauty, featuring over 60 photos from the Murray Hill neighborhood.
Hopefully see you on November 20. Call or email me if you have any questions. Please pass this information to anyone you think would be interested.
Greg 216.496.8286

View from the Dawg Pound Oakland at Cleveland 26 Oct 2014

The Browns spent most of the game clinging to three field goals that weren’t touchdowns, and you just felt that was going to come back and haunt them. Late in the third quarter just when it looked like that was exactly what was going to happen, a great hit by Dante Witner led to Joe Haden swiping an air born fumble and returning it 34 yards. Four plays later the Browns scored their first touchdown and went ahead by two scores and never looked back.
The game wasn’t all ugliness for the Browns. Paul Kruger and Joe Haden did great things on defense. Tashaun Gipson showed once again why he will be All Pro this season. Justin Gilbert showed flashes of why he was a number one pick.  And even Barkevious Mingo, yes, that Barkevious, played enough to say he contributed. I still don’t see why he was a first round pick, but credit the Browns’ coaches for trying to get the most out of his height and quickness. On offense, you have to wonder were the Browns would be without their over achieving undersized receivers. Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel make catches in traffic and aren’t afraid to go across the middle. They both made big plays against the Raiders.
The game ended with some big questions left unanswered. When and if the offensive line will jell in the rest of this post Alex Mack season?  When will Jordan Cameron return after leaving the game with a concussion in the second quarter? Will the Browns ever play a complete special teams game? And, oh yes, what is the long-term solution at quarterback? Brian Hoyer had another so-so day, including several incomplete passes that could have been interceptions. I am pretty confident that the Browns will go to camp next summer with both current QB’s on the roster. Sooner or later Johnny Manziel has to show what he can do, either to prove he’s the quarterback of the future, or to showcase him to other teams.
But for now the team is trying to prove it deserves a playoff sport, and it’s one game at a time and Tampa is next on the agenda. Ugly or not, I think we will all take another win as the schedule will take a turn into a more challenging direction in the weeks to come.
It was another beautiful late fall day on the lakefront. The late 4:25 start put the crowd in a bit of a laid back mood. Even when the sun went down over the lake in the west it still remained pleasant and comfortable. We took advantage of the weather to once again visit friends tailgating at sights to the west of the stadium. We crossed paths with Sam Rutigliano and Don Cockroft visiting fans, signing hats and t-shirts and copies of Cockroft’s book about the Kardiac Kids of 1980. The weather was of the kind you know you must enjoy, because despite the fact we have had beautiful Browns Sundays, you know ugly weather is coming sooner and later and the gray days of winter will soon be upon us.

One last thought about the Oakland game…I’ve loved the Raiders uniforms since I started watching football in the Sixties as a small boy. The Raiders of today aren’t very good, but their uniforms still say class and remind you of when the Raiders were still the Raiders. The Packers, the Giants since they went back to their classic uniforms, the Chargers in their powder blues, the Cowboys, all of those teams whose uniforms have remained mostly unchanged over the years give off a aura of class about them. And it’s not just a football thing, think of the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Giants, and Cardinals in baseball; the Lakers, Celtics, and Spurs in basketball; the Canadians, Maple Leafs, Black Hawks, and Rangers in hockey. Even when one of the teams is down, their uniforms give them a touch of respect.  The Browns have been on that list too, since the team’s beginnings. But that will soon end. New uniforms from the team’s partner Nike are promised for next year. Filled with gray and pewter and stripes and who knows what else I’m sure. And when sports fans turn on the TV and see those uniforms they for the first time will say, who the hell is that? Instead of saying, Oh look, the Browns are on TV. Just something to think about.

View from the Dawg Pound Game 6: Browns at Jacksonville 19 October 2014

O.K. the Browns played a bad game. Get over it. Yes, it was painful to watch. And, yes, they played poorly all around, but that is going to happen sometimes, a lot of times, in the NFL.
Everyone has heard the cliché before, don’t let the wins get you too high and don’t let the losses get you too low. Every Browns fan should get that tattooed on their foreheads. Last week fans wanted the Browns to franchise Brian Hoyer and sign him to a mega deal, this week they want to cut him and play Johnny Football.
The Browns spent  a little too much time listening to everyone tell them how wonderful they are, and they encountered a Jaguar team that isn’t as bad as their record and was hungry for their first win.
My 82 year old mother called me up and screamed into the phone, “How can those guys play that bad?” It happens, Mom. It is hard to get everything right every week, especially in a league were there is talent on every team and on every sideline.
Everyone needs to learn from the Jaguars game then put it behind him or her. Remember the important thing, for the sixth game in a row the Browns were not out-talented.
It was assumed by too many people that the three game stretch against the Jaguars, Raiders, and Bucs were going to be an easy 3-0 for the Browns. But it already isn’t, with two of the games to come. Records in the NFL can be deceiving, especially before the half way point of the season. Right now the Cowboys are the darlings of the media with a 6-1 record, but it’s a safe bet they won’t be a one-loss team in December. And after seeing them up close this past weekend you can assume the Jaguars will be more than a one win team soon.
The Browns are going to do what they have to do. Work on the things they didn’t do well last week, while keeping their routine and keeping thing positive. However, quietly and behind doors, there will be discipline. Players will be moved up and down the depth chart, someone will be waived and someone will be signed to the practice squad, maybe someone will be fined for stupid or irresponsible play. Some of this will become public knowledge and hosts and listeners will dissect it for hours on sports radio. There will be some ugly moments in film sessions, and some more when position coaches meet with their players. That is expected, and it will happen far away from media and fans. By midweek it will all be behind the team, and it will be all working in anticipation of the Raiders game.
Short term decisions for the Browns: Decide on who is on the post Alex Mack offensive line and get them as much work together in practice this week. Get Hoyer and his receivers back on the same page. Find someone who can think out there as a punt returner.
Long Term Decisions: It is quite obvious when training camp opens next summer both Hoyer and Johnny Manziel won’t both be with the Browns. Will it be Hoyer and possibly a long-term heir apparent? Or will it by Manziel and a respected veteran behind him? Sooner or later sometime this year they have to play Manziel to see what he has or doesn’t have. The team has to find a way to showcase both quarterbacks in case a suitor or two surfaces.
Other long-term decisions: Who is and isn’t in the long term plans, including but not limited to the following: Do they keep all three current running backs? Which of the undersized receivers make the cut next year? Who stays and who goes on defense, especially at linebacker and defensive back?
The fan base has taken the Jaguar loss very hard. Yes, the Browns played poorly, but remember this once again, for the sixth game in a row the Browns were not out-talented. There is too much talent on this team to see the type of collapse we have seen too often since 1999.
(Greg Cielec can be reached at cielec@hotmail.com)

Monday, October 13, 2014

View from the Dawg Pound Steelers at Cleveland 10.12.2014

 Since they have returned, there have been so many Browns Sundays that ended the same way for me. Walking amongst throngs of quiet fans, heads turned down, across the West Third Street Bridge, having to endure pockets of celebrating fans in Steelers or Ravens or Bengals uniforms.
            Not this past Sunday. Beneath a brilliant blue cloudless sky, in a First Energy Stadium filled with electricity, the Cleveland Browns played like what was once the Cleveland Browns as they dismantled a hapless Steelers team 31-10.
            It was the story of two teams passing in the night, each going in a different direction. The youthful Browns looked quicker, stronger, and more talented than the aging Steelers. Did Troy Palumolo make a play yesterday? Where was James Harrison? How many more seasons does Big Ben have left?
            I know it is just one game, but going back to the second half of the season opener in Pittsburgh, it has been six quarters in a row the Browns have dominated the Steelers. The Steelers had no answer to the Browns running game, play action passes, and relentless defense. Not to keep picking on them, but the Steelers have had the reputation of being great with the draft, constantly reloading their team. I don’t see it. They do have some bright young stars at running back, and Antonio Brown is a player, but over all, especially on the offensive line and the defense, there are plenty of holes on this team. Its time for them to rebuild, not reload.
            But that’s their problem, not ours. Our Browns right now are playing very well. Yes, every so often the ugly head of a team that has had four coaches in five years surfaces. And there still a lot of inexperience on both sides of the ball, but this could be the beginning of a very good run for the team and the fans. This is a talented young team that finally has found the right coaching staff and general manager. Making the playoffs this year is a realistic goal, and who knows where they could go with one more strong draft and a key free agent signing or two.
            My notebook from the game is filled with superlatives: “great play,” “nice drive,” “terrific play action,” “depth!” “Hoyer’s block,” “good coverage.”
            Everyone is talking about the second quarter when the Browns exploded for 21 unanswered points, but two events in third quarter are also noteworthy. Early in the quarter on one of many terrific play action pass plays, Brian Hoyer hit Travis Benjamin with what could be considered Hoyer’s best downfield pass of the year. Benjamin did not have to stop or stutter to catch the ball; it was right on the money. Hoyer needs to show he can go long. The other event started at the Pittsburgh six-yard line, and ended with an incomplete pass on fourth down in the Browns end zone after a thirteen-play drive. The Steelers had their chance to score and get back in the game and the Browns wouldn’t let them.
            The 3-2 Browns find themselves in uncharted territory, a three game stretch against teams they should beat. How will they handle it? Will they give one of them away?
There are also games left against teams similar to the Browns, teams like Atlanta, Carolina, Houston, and the Bills who are trying to make the same statement as the Browns. Then there are the games with proven playoff teams who are considered amongst the elite in the league, including the Colts, Ravens, and two against the Bengals. Being 3-2 is nice, but the road to the playoffs is still filled with challenges.
But let us worry about the future when it gets here and enjoy the moment at hand. No matter what happens the rest of the season, the Browns are no longer the doormat of the AFC North. And, at least for now, the hold that the team two hours east on the Turnpike has held over the Browns, is now history. From my seats in the second row of the Dawg Pound, it was the first time I remember in a long time what it felt like in the old stadium in the late 80’s during the Kosar era.
We had a great time both before and after the game checking at the Horseshoe Casino, which I predict when the weather finally turns, will be one of the most popular game day spots in town.  To go along with all that is already there, they have opened TAG Lounge and Bar, a sports bar on the second floor. With beer and drink specials, and all the games being shown on large flat screens, TAGS is a great place to hang out before and after Browns games. Both before and after the Steelers game the casino was filled with Browns fans having a good time.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

View from the Dawg Pound Game #5 Browns at Tennessee

After he had muffed a punt and was not put back on the field for the next one, I thought Travis Benjamin’s days with the Browns were finished. He has not been the return man he once was before injuring his knee last year, and it seemed like he was getting lost in the mix at receiver. On a team with no deep passing game, he became a quiet decoy for the Browns short and medium routes.
            How wrong I was. Benjamin would come back and make two great second half-touchdown catches, both on broken routes, to lead the Browns to a stunning 29-28 come from behind victory over the Tennessee Titans.
In a game very similar to the season opener against the Steelers, it was a tale of two halves. But instead of coming up short, the Browns took a 28-10 half time deficit and turned it into a landmark victory.
            There was plenty of credit to go around for the victory. Credit the coaches with some great half time adjustments that lead to a second half defensive shutout and 16 fourth quarter points for the Browns. They made more productive half time adjustments in this one game than several previous coaching staffs made in a season. Brian Hoyer once again managed the game soundly, and hit some great passes when it counted. Ben Tate came back from injury to rush for 122 yards on 23 carries. There were sacks, clutch catches, and big plays when needed, including a blocked punt that led to a safety. It was a great team win.
            The Browns took advantage of a gift from the Titans late in the fourth quarter. Leading 28-22 with the ball on their own 42, the Titans elected to go for it on fourth and a yard instead of punting it. A punt would have left the Browns with a long field with just three minutes left and a touchdown needed to win the game. The Browns defense stuffed the Titans, and the Browns got the ball back with a short field and scored the winning touchdown with 1:09 remaining. I don’t often criticize coaches, thirty years of coaching will do that to you, but that was not a smart move by Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt. He was playing with his back up quarterback, the Browns were bleeding momentum, and the Browns offense has no long passing game. Punt the ball! Thank God he didn’t.
            Brian Hoyer was very good on short to medium passes. He hit passes in the 19 to 30 yard range to a variety of receivers, including Mike Austin, Jordan Cameron, Taylor Gabriel, and Andrew Hawkins. And don’t forget about those two touchdowns to Travis Benjamin. Like the first three games, he did not hit any long, downfield passes, but at least the Browns attempted a few of them to try and stretch the defense. One lead to a late fourth quarter interception that looked like the end for the Browns, but the Titans gave the ball back on their fourth down miscue.
            Pretty soon the ugly head of the Browns last five seasons and all of its coaching and front office changes will disappear for good, and the team will play four solid quarters of football. I can’t think of a better time to do it then this week at home against the Steelers. I know the fans in the stands will be ready to go at kickoff, lets hope the guys on the field will be too.
            I watched the game with the Central Maryland Browns Backers at La Mexicana, a restaurant in Gaithersburg, Maryland. A great bunch of mostly dislocated Ohioans, they have kept the Browns spirit alive since before the dark times of the late 90’s. Think how bad those three years without the Browns were in Cleveland; imagine spending that time in the heart of Ravens country. Then when the Browns came back they had to live through two Ravens Super Bowls plus endless trouncings of our beloved Browns. And just like those of us here in northern Ohio who have to put up with front running fans who hopped on the nearby Steelers bandwagon, those in Central Maryland also have to put up with Redskins fans. But they have carried on, and they packed the party room at La Mexican with old and new friends and parents and grandparents and babies in strollers.  

            This week we the Browns are home and we will be back in our Dawg Pound seats in section 120, row B. Hopefully it will be another beautiful day. A good day to put all of those Steelers fans who show up, in their Troy Palumolo uniforms and waving their gold towels, back on the Turnpike heading east for good.

Annual Football Road Trip of old frat brothers October 3-5 Ohio State at Maryland

Thanks to Gordon Witkin and Scott Frothingham for a great weekend.