In My Ohio

On the Costumes of Every Team

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Darren C. Demaree
My daughter is a princess again, but I have no royal blood. My son is the beast from Beauty & the Beast, and though in the wrong light I appear more animal than human, he has no canine or lion DNA. My wife dressed as an angel…nevermind. The point is that we use Halloween to drape ourselves in the otherworldly, and the same vernacular is used when we talk about our favorite sports teams. Our assumptions are supercharged when it comes to our fandom, and this creates a season-long crisis of what are teams actually are.

The Cleveland Cavaliers as a Championship Contender

Championship teams function like a finely tuned watch. The San Antonio Spurs continue to combine aging greatness, a dash of youthful talent, and self-aware role players into contention every year. That is not how the Cavs are put together. The Cavs have giant gears attempting to find the right speed to click the teeth of the process into place. It’s going to take a great effort, sacrifice, and beatings to even fit underneath the face of a watch for this collection. Any cohesive unit with a defense is going to give them fits. A championship-level team will take them by double digits. Now, Lebron, Love, Kyrie, and so forth have more talent than any other team in the league, but that won’t mean much if they can’t find a way to push forward into the rhythm they need to function.

Actually: The #2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Cincinnati Bengals as a Playoff Team

Four weeks ago they were the best team in the AFC. Now, they are hurt, losing, and have almost no momentum. Even when they win, it’s a boxing match now. So, if they have A.J. Green, Giovanni Bernard, Vontaze Burfict all stay healthy for five or six straight weeks then maybe they can turn this thing around. I think their Offensive Coordinator, Hue Jackson is best used as a position coach and not a play-caller, and over sixteen games that is enough to come up one game short.

Actually: An 8-8 team that misses the playoffs.

The Ohio State Buckeyes as a College Football Playoff Team

The Buckeyes debuted as the #16 team in the playoff rankings, which all but dooms them in regards of being one of the final four. They continue to simply sneak past weak opponents, and their Virginia Tech loss is now just embarrassing. They can beat every team left on their schedule (including Michigan State) by double digits and they won’t end up higher than #6 or #7.

Actually: The Big Ten Champion.

The Cleveland Indians as Next Year’s Kansas City Royals

I was rooting for the Royals in the World Series as a kind of proxy rooting for the Indians. The Royals came up short, but their combination of great pitching, young, talented position players, and Midwestern moxy was a beam of hope for the Cleveland Baseballers. Here’s the problem: the Indians had one of the worst defenses in team history. If they hadn’t traded Asdrubal Cabrera and inserted Jose Ramirez at shortstop they would have been among the worst defenses in all of MLB history. They have a hole at third-base after Lonnie Chisenhall’s bat disappeared and his glove remained lost. They need one more starting pitcher because Zach McAllister best fits in the mythical AAAA league. Basically they will need to work some trade magic this off-season to come close to being ready to contend next year. They have a deep list of prospects they could move, but that kind of low-cost talent would have to be pried out of their hands by a sure thing acquisition.

Actually: Another 80+ win team that misses the playoffs.

The Cincinnati Reds as a Team with Any Hope at All

Outside of Aroldis Chapman, Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto, and Billy Hamilton, the Reds are all past their prime and getting paid way too much money. They wrapped up Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, and Homer Bailey with huge, multi-year contracts during what looked like a big championship window. Well, now that window is all but closed and those players are all making way too much money for what they offer health and production-wise. The real problem for the Reds is that the three pitchers I mentioned in the opening sentence are all due for big arbitration raises, or their own mega-deal soon. They can’t afford to keep them and carry those other, burdensome contracts. Some players are about to get moved, and I don’t see the Reds making a splash in free agency, so the rebuild might be on very soon. Look for Latos and/or Cueto to be moved for prospects before the beginning of spring training.

Actually: About to bottom out with 70-75 wins.

The Cleveland Browns as a Team Trying to Keep it Together

The last six games of the season the Browns will have a healthy Phil Taylor on the defensive line and last year’s best receiver in football, Josh Gordon, catching passes. I think whether this team has Brian Hoyer or Johnny Manziel playing quarterback they are a playoff team. The great flaw is their ability to stop teams from running the football, but few teams actually do that very well anymore. The Browns are one of those teams, and they have three talented running backs that cover up for the hemming and hawing of Mike Pettine in regards to his quarterback. They have one more cupcake on the schedule, and then we will find out who this team really is. 

Actually: A playoff team.