Monday, September 5, 2011

Ready for Some Browns Football?

Hello Browns and Sports fans! As most of you know, I am an avid (and frequently disappointed) Cleveland Sports fan. Thus, I spend many of my free hours (and sometimes not so free hours) consuming any information I can about the teams, and this time of year that’s the Browns, NFL, and the preseason. Also, I think I am perfect person to give an accurate view of the upcoming season as I am simultaneously an optimist, a realist, and a cynic. Thus, here are my thoughts on the team for this year.

Applauding Progress…I am excited about the new coaching staff. I like the new offensive system, and I like the quick progress that Colt McCoy has made picking it up. I like that Holgrem and Heckert are building through the draft. That is the strategy of most teams that are successful for long periods of time, like the Steelers and the Colts. Meanwhile, the teams that make big splashes in free agency, such as the Redskins, continue to have up-and-down, and mostly down, results.

…While Tempering the Excitement. That being said, Colt is still a second year QB. He has no proven receivers, and even the ones with talent have flaws and lack break-away speed. The defense has some good young pieces, but there are plenty of holes and almost no depth. ESPN scouts did a list of the top 200 NFL players right now based on a summation of the ratings. The good news: Joe Thomas was #9 overall. The bad news: the next Brown came in at 171, which was Alex Mack. Peyton Hillis snuck into the 190s. With 32 teams, each team should average about 6 players on that list, with 3 being in the top 100. You just don’t make up that type of talent gap overnight in the NFL, no matter how well coached and disciplined you are.

Top Ten Browns Players

1. Joe Thomas – No contest. So glad they locked him up for the foreseeable future.

2. Alex Mack – I’m torn. The offensive line is extremely important, and plenty of teams need help at these two very important positions. On the other hand, you’d like one of your top 2 guys to be a skill player of some sort.

3. Joe Haden – You could put so many guys in this spot, but I think Haden showed a lot his first year and will be a Pro Bowler either this season or next.

4. Peyton Hillis – Absolutely love the way he plays. He’s a totally blue-collar guy, which is what Clevelanders gravitate towards. Unfortunately, that style also scares the crap out of me for a RB, as it leads to increased fumbles and injuries.

5. Josh Cribbs – Best special teams player in the league. Holds the record for most career kickoff TD returns. Returns punts well, and is the first to the ball on most kick coverage teams. Runs the Wildcat effectively when they call it. Oh, and he catches the occasional ball at WR too!

6. T.J. Ward – Probably not the best cover safety by any stretch of the imagination, but boy will he knock the crap out of you in open space. He’ll pay out a few fines in his career for it, but fun to watch. Still has room to grow and develop too.

7. Scott Fujita – You got to have a solid veteran like him on your team, and he’s consummate pro.

8. Colt McCoy – I hope I’m right here, and that he deserves this spot. Has lots of developing to still do, but the kid just seems like a winner to me. He finds ways to make plans and do what he has to do for his team. Has to prove he can play in bad weather though, because…you know…it’s Cleveland!

9. Phil Dawson – So glad they held on to him. One of the most underrated and consistent kickers in the league, especially consider the stadium/weather he kicks in for half his games (more than half if you consider Pit/Cin stadiums)!

10. Phil Taylor – Hope I’m right here as well. I think this kid is stud, and I’m glad the Browns took him while getting MORE draft picks out of it.

Honorable Mentions: Ben Watson (Another key veteran), Evan Moore (great when healthy), D’Qwell Jackson (having a great camp), Greg Little (someone has to step up at WR)

Prediction. I’ll do better than a prediction, I’ll point to the games that they will win, lose, and a few that are toss-ups. On the bright side, they have a very manageable schedule, especially early on. The bad part, 4 of the last 5 games are against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, and as I mentioned, I don’t think they are quite there to compete for the playoffs just yet in this division. Also, I don’t think people realize how big the losses of Eric Steinbach and Reggie Hodges for the year are.

Wins: Cin, Mia, Ten, Sea, @SF, Jax

Losses: Bal, @Bal, Pit, @Pit, @Hou

Tossups: @Ind (Wk 2, if Manning plays, move to loss), @Oak, StL, @Cin, @Ari

So, if they win two of those tossups (my money is on @Cin and either Oak or Ari), that’s an 8-8 season. But I’m guessing they lose one of the one’s I have under wins and aren’t able to make it up from the losses column, so I’m going to put my official prediction at 7-9. Hope for better, but it’s a step in the right direction and another year of development for the young guys.

Monday, August 29, 2011

3 For Your Ears, 3 For Your Eyes

…Ok, your ears will be involved in watching the movies too, but you get the idea! Thought I would provide my reviews of 3 albums I recently got and liked, as well as 3 movies I’ve watched in the past week with mixed success. Maybe they will help you find something you like, avoid something you won’t, or just waste 10 minutes of your work day.


1. Owl City – All Things Bright and Beautiful. When I first got this album, I thought it wasn’t as good as the past stuff by Owl City. But to be fair, that’s a tall order, and the number of semi-famous collaborators on this album (rapper Shawn Chrystopher, Matthew Thiessen from Relient K) lead me to believe he was forced in a slightly more commercial direction. But its grown on me as I’ve listened to it more, and there are still some really great tracks here. I particularly recommend “Deer In the Headlights”, “Dreams Don’t Turn to Dust”, and “Galaxies”.

2. Adele – 21. I try to avoid diving too far into Top 40 music, and I especially stay away from the latest female, bluesy flavor of the month (see past nominees Norah Jones and Amy Winehouse, may she rest in peace). Nonetheless, I took the plunge on this one, and it has been well worth it. Adele is supremely talented, and she didn’t have the popularity yet where she took herself too seriously on this album. In addition to “Rolling in the Deep”, which is what got her the attention in the first place, I really like “Rumor Has It” and “Set Fire to the Rain”. She also joins a long list of people to make a great cover of “Love Song”, although I still maintain that the 311 version is the best one!

3. O.A.R. – King. Great to see Of A Revolution getting back to their jam rock roots. I will make a quick shout out to the fact that I saw this Columbus, OH-based band back in my freshman year of college. I will also thank Melissa Lehman for pointing me to the fact that they had a new album coming out. The first single, “Heaven”, is not only a great song, but the lyrics are a perfect expression of my thoughts on the idea of heaven and people who want to say their worship-style is the only way to get there. “Gotta Be Wrong Sometimes” is another song that makes a great point, this time about settling arguments in a serious relationship. Also check out “Taking On the World Today” and “Are You Low?”. I also heard they play some song about poker...


1. Limitless (3 out of 5 stars) – I’m still not sure how I felt about this movie. The concept was interesting. It had a fair amount of action and psychological components, which I enjoy. But I’m still not sure about Bradley Cooper’s ability to carry a movie, and the whole thing seemed to end abruptly. In short, worth watching, but temper your expectations.

2. Insidious (3 stars) – The only reason this climbs to 3 stars is because I like horror movies, and this had enough scares and turns to keep me interested (at least on a Sunday morning when I was unmotivated to do anything productive). If you’re into horror, particularly the dimensional/demon stuff, like Paranormal Activity minus the shaking cam, then give it a watch. Otherwise, it’s your typical, relatively predictable horror flick. Side Note: I rarely finish watching a horror movie saying “that was a legitimately great movie”, not just a fun, random horror one. The last time that happened was “A Haunting in Connecticut”. So check that one out if you haven’t!

3. Ink (4 stars) – This a pretty artsy flick, with a lot of great visual imagery and scene-matching, so if that’s not your thing, I wouldn’t recommend it. But I found there were a lot of great little things going on this movie, several interesting and intersecting storylines, an imagination world with cool creatures, and dimensional travelers who “flashbulb” pop when they come across (one of my favorite things about the movie). I watched it on Hulu (not sure if its Plus or regular), and I know I saw it on Netflix Instant as well,

so perhaps a recommendation you might not have otherwise come across.

Sometime this week/weekend, I plan to get up my Browns preview. It likely won’t be as optimistic as some of you may hope, but there are some positive signs for once.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

From OK to Great!

As many of you know, I was an avid blog writer for a while. I decided to break from it about a year and a half ago, for various reasons, and I know many, many of you were extremely disappointed. And if you weren’t, just let me know have this one. Well, new town, new life, and why not, new blog. Except by new, I mean The Barker, the same blog I used to write. So no promises this time on how often I will post, or on what, or if it will even be funny (it will be hilarious!), but I’ll do my best. I hope you enjoy!

I thought I would start by giving you the highlights of my 22+ hours driving, 1300+ miles, spread out over 3 days drive from Tulsa, OK to Myrtle Beach, SC. Life on the road can interesting, or at least you have to make it interesting to avoid going completely insane.

-Stopped the first night in Nashville to visit my friend Amanda, which was about a 10-hour drive. Got to see a little of the city, including the outside of the football stadium (I always like seeing where teams played). Seems like a nice place to live, especially if you like country music (which I didn’t used to, but do now). Also had an interesting first. While we were having dinner on the patio of a local brewery, a beggar hit me up for money during our meal! I’m very sympathetic to people who are having a rough time, and try to help out when I can. But seriously!? Wait until I come out the door, bothering me mid-bite is not going to help your case.

-Turns out you take I-40 for almost all of the drive from OK to the Carolinas. This makes for a simple, albeit boring drive. However, when you go from TN to NC on that highway, you go through this beautiful (although winding) stretch that is in the valley between the Appalachian Mountains. There are even some tunnels cut through the rock that go through. Despite the temporary loss of XM, it was the definite highlight of the driving portion.

-On the 2nd night, got to visit my good friends Greg and Xtina and hit up the Chapel Hill nightlife. We had a great time and sampled many a great brew (and a PBR or two). I had a lot of fun (despite my near comatose-ness from 18 hrs of driving), but I was left wondering why UNC people say Duke is so preppy. The places/people I saw there seemed pretty damn preppy to me! I guess that blind loyalty is what makes rivalries so awesome…Go Blue Devils!

-Greg and I walked most of the way back from the bar barefoot in the ra

in. Not as romantic as it sounds, but quite fun despite some minor injuries. I think we’ll both avoid the DL though.

-Quick music review (if you’re new to the blog, my thoughts on music are a common theme): I bought the new O.A.R. album, “King”, on iTunes before I left and absorbed it on the way. Overall, quite good, and sounds much more jam band and less poppy, so going back to their old “Crazy Game of Poker” roots. I highly recommend the first single “Heaven” (thanks Melissa for the tip), not only as a great tune, but as the lyrics describe my religious thoughts near perfectly. The other one I love (and I think is bound to be the 2nd single) is “Gotta Be Wrong Sometimes”. Download now, thank later.

-To my pleasant surprise, the weather was mostly great on the drive. Towards the end of the first day, I hit a small rainstorm, and it was honestly the first time I’d seen rain in about a month! Lesson for those of you not from OK: Tulsa is hot and dry in the summer! However, on the last morning, I drove through a pretty big rainstorm, which including several traffic jams because of people who had gotten into accidents and/or skidded of the road. The more important lesson here: Drive safely, particularly in inclement weather.

You won’t save that much time if you crash, and you sure as hell better not slow me up!

-This sign is from a different time I drove through SC, but it's still funny. "That's what she said."

-To help pass the time, I decided to see how many different state license plates I could find on cars (trucks don’t count, since they drive all over and often have out of state plates anyway). I was surprised to find that I reached 33, plus D.C. and Ontario. I got the whole South and most of the Midwest, as well as a few random surprises (New Mexico, Vermont, Wisconsin). It was a fun game, and I probably got more obsessed with it than I should have, but you should have seen by 4 pm on Friday or Saturday. It was the alternative to zombie.

-I left OK at 9am on Thursday, I got to Myrtle Beach apartment at 3pm on Saturday. I got my key and signed the lease in a short amount of time. I checked out the place (its nice, I’ll have pictures up soon), and walked outside to unpack my car (particularly my air mattress and sheets to take a much needed nap). And it starts pouring! I mean really pouring. So I ended up having to wait another hour and a half to unpack and get settled. But all and all, a great trip considering all the driving and I’m happy and excited to be in SC! I’m sure there will be much more to come on that subject…

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009 in Review

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Wonderful Kwanzaa, Jolly Saturnalia, and a Most Joyous Festivus to all of you! Let me start by thanking everyone for their feedback on the comedy debut, whether it be positive, honest, or the preferred choice, both! As mentioned, I really enjoyed doing it, and I am hoping to get up there again very soon. I am tentatively penciled in for Jan. 10, but my schedule is crazy in January, so I will let you know as soon as I do. Speaking of January, part of what will make that month so crazy is several job interviews and starting my last semester at USF. But before we can look forward, we have to look back. Thus, I've decided to review my 2009, putting it in simplest terms with little to no explanation, in an effort to make it much shorter and relatively funnier.

January: Who the hell remembers?!? It was 12 months ago!
February: Interviewed at Kennesaw State, Pick up guitar, Sprained my ankle playing soccer
March: Did not get job at Kennesaw State, resprained ankle by coming back too soon, March sucks
April: Met Abby
May: Several friends graduated from the program, Most move, Becca stayed
June: Summer begins, Cavs eliminated from Playoffs, Put down guitar, Greg and Xtina move, You bastards
July: Abby and I travel to Ohio, Ankle finally healthy enough to play soccer again, Indians eliminated from playoffs (basically), Decide to start writing jokes for eventual standup, Move in with Abby, Get first job offer at Middle Tennessee State
August: Turn down first job offer, Move out of apartment with Abby and into first own apartment, Browns eliminated from playoffs (might have well been), Start teaching research methods
September: Travel to Ohio, One of best friends weds my former girlfriend, Many jokes are written
October: I turn 28, Son of a Bitch, I sprain ankle again, Son of a Bitch, Interview with Hastings and Angelo State, Get eliminated from said job openings, Son of a Bitch!
November: Go to Puerto Rico for conference, Interview with Creighton
December: Interview with Fairleigh Dickinson, Prep for future interviews with Central Michigan and Houston-Clear Lake, Do first Open-Mic, Hilarity Ensues

Friday, December 18, 2009

Making with the Funny

By popular demand, here is the video of my comedic debut. The first joke gets cut off just a bit and you may have to turn it up to make sure you can hear, but overall, its good quality for a camera phone in the last row. Personally, I think the set hits it stride about midway, but I'll let you be the judge. I put the URL at the bottom in case you want to watch it directly on YouTube or send it to other people, let's take this thing viral! Oh, and Debbie and Derek, you know I love, but the wedding was self-admittedly a funny and awkward situation, how could I not put it in my act! Nothing but love for you both. :) I hope everyone enjoys it, and if you don't, give me a break, it was my first try!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

That was Pretty F-ing Sweet!

So last night was my first attempt at standup comedy in front of a real audience (see picture of me, standing up, in front of other people, hereafter labeled “the audience”). I would say there were about 70 people in the crowd when I went up, my set end up being about 5 minutes long, and without sounding too cocky, considering it was my first time, I killed it! Here is a short reason list of reasons of why I loved every minute of last night:

1) I finally really got up there and did it. I got that first performance monkey off of my back. Considering I announced that I was going to start doing standup comedy on June 23rd (see blog archive…I can’t believe it was that long ago, I thought for sure it was like in September!), I am glad I waited this long. I really did the necessary prep work, worked on my material and delivery, and was really ready when the time came. I got a lot of feedback and ideas from a lot of people during that time, and I thank everyone who had a hand in this with all of my heart!

2) Despite being nervous and excited (who wouldn’t be?), I was poised and had a strong, steady voice while I was up there. I hit almost all the punchlines I wanted to, didn’t forget anything, and didn’t have any major pauses, verbal or otherwise.

3) Despite having at least 10 other people from the area who wanted to come but could not, I had 20 people show up to support me. My friends freaking rock! Most of the other performers only had the requisite 4 people needed to take the stage.

4) People laughed. Seems like a small thing, but considering the goal of anyone who gets up there is to entertain people, you don’t know how good it feels to have an audience really feeling what you are throwing out there. And those that were there know that some of the other performers were not as lucky…we had a couple of real tank jobs up there.

5) Several of other open-mic performers, the MC, and the open mic director all told me I did a great job.

6) The headliner of the night, Pretty Pauly Parsons, a vulgar and mostly hilarious old man who was performing in the main dining room later in the night, came up to me immediately after I got off the stage and said, and I quote, “Great mothaf*$#ing set, man. Seriously.”

7) The MC, who you could tell was funny but was not having the best night in terms of generating laughs, came up to introduce the next performer, and said, “What's up? My name is Joe Mazzola…what? I got to take laughs anyway I can get them!”

8) Last, but certainly not least, I was one of the two people chosen by audience applause to make it to the Opportunity Knox round for an opportunity to win a trip to Knoxville for the Sidesplitters final. Now, a couple things about that. First, I can’t even perform in the show I qualified for because it’s the 26th of this month, and I will be in Ohio. But the manager seemed genuinely disappointed that I couldn’t make it, and he said there were some other events coming up, and they would try to get me back soon to do a set. Second, I realize I won in part because I brought 20 people. J But I really was one of the better sets of the night, and plenty of people other than just my friends were cheering for me when the voting was going on. This was also evident when I told the other lady who won that I couldn’t make the next show it but wished her good luck. She turns to me, and says, “I wish I could say I’m sorry to hear that, but I’m really glad you won’t be there.”

As a final note, I can’t describe the rush it was being up there. I’ve always thought of teaching as a type of performance as well, and it definitely gives me a natural high, but doing comedy was like that times 10. For those of you worried, no, I am not going to quit my day job (I still love teaching and academia, and in fact, I should have a job interviews' update posted in the next week or so). But it is nice to know that I have a little (probably very little) talent in stand-up. I can see this as a real hobby for me, and possibly as a way to make a little (probably very little) extra money on the side some day.

Alright, for those that were hoping for a video of the performance. I promise I will have that up here tomorrow for sure. I think I have tracked down a video of the actual performance, and I am waiting to get that and make sure it can actually be heard. If it works, I will post that tomorrow. If not, I will post the practice I did in front of my computer before the show, but fingers crossed for the real thing!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Show Has Almost Arrived…

Well, it took longer than I thought it would, but it looks like it will finally happen. On Wednesday, December 16th, at Sidesplitters in Tampa, I will make my comedic debut at an open mic. It is only a 6 minute set, but it will be my first performance with an audience of more than 10. For those of you in Tampa, that is awesome news because you get to come out and see me, plus other young comics and Pretty Paul Parsons, for only $5! I need to have at least 4 fans come to be able to go on stage, so let me know if you are definitely going or planning on going. The show starts at 6:30pm, but I have to be signed in at 6pm, and if anyone wants to ride with me or meet at my place first, let me know. For those of you who want to attend, go to the link below, click on the Dec. 16th Open Mic show, and buy tix. The promo code to get the $5 tickets is ‘DOMINOS’.

In honor of my first show, I decided to share some “Ruminations” with you that I have been posting the last few months. What are ruminations, you ask? They are short, funny observations (250 words or less), and there is website where people post them hosted by comedian Aaron Karo and inspired by his bi-weekly column. Some of you may have even got a chain email that had several of these ruminations (such as, why doesn’t Google have an ‘avoid ghetto’ feature?), although they were not appropriately labeled and credited to their true authors. You can find these and more at, if you are interested. So here are some of my posts to the site, some funnier than others. And don’t worry possible show-goers, I took out any punch lines that might be part of the set next week.

-When I see little kids running around like crazy at Target, I think their parents should rein those brats in. Of course, when I was a kid, I used to turn the clothes racks into my own little forts. But that's different...because my Mom was the best!

-When I was a kid, I couldn't figure out how libraries stayed in business.

-I saw a recent NBA injury report that listed a player being out with a "glute contusion"...that's the nicest way I've ever heard of to say "ass bruise".

-"Why does love always feel like a battlefield?" What a profound statement, Jordin Sparks. If only someone else had thought of that metaphor, oh, I don't know...25 years ago!

-The upper limit for cat ownership is 2. Anything over that, and you automatically become a crazy cat person.

-Shaving from a full beard to clean shaven should be a process that includes no less than 3 different ridiculous beard/mustache combinations.

-Do you suppose the Trojan Horse was anatomically correct? If not, they totally missed out, they could have fit 5-6 more soldiers in that thing.

-A friend just posted a Facebook status about what a great time he is having on his beach vacation. What happened to the days when a vacation actually meant getting away from technology and constant communication for awhile?

-I have a theory that once you get a neck tattoo, you have narrowed down your possible careers to NBA basketball player, rapper, or mechanic. On a positive note, I am much more confident in my mechanic's ability if he has a neck tattoo.

-Yesterday, I had to slam on my brakes, and I instinctively put my arm across the case of beer in the passenger seat to protect it as if it was my kid. I can't decide if this bodes well for my future children or not.