Welcome to the week of March Madness, when the Shamrock Shakes are flowing and basketball is on the television endlessly as we all stare at countless brackets while we calculate our odds of winning whatever pool we’re in.
This has always been one of my two or three most eagerly anticipated sports weeks of the year, despite my waning interest in college basketball as a whole. However, a lot of that disinterest in the sport is a specific result of just how good the tournament is. It makes everything else feel kind of pointless to me, and furthermore, I generally dislike many college basketball rules anyway1. But when the tournament comes around, nothing else matters. It’s pure competition, excitement, and pageantry. I can’t wait.
And while we’re waiting2 for the tournament to start, let’s take a quick trip around some random sports thoughts in my head on this Tuesday.
We start here because this is still the most exciting thing in my sports world right now. The trade for Odell Beckham, Jr has energized me in a way I have not felt since the Browns returned. Sure, the Browns making the playoffs was supremely exciting in 2002, the unexpected 10-6 season in 2007 was neat, and even the Brian Hoyer 6-3 start in 2014 has us all buzzing. But all of those seasons had something in common. They all involved an unsolved QB situation.
The 2002 Browns were led to the playoffs mostly by Tim Couch, who went 8-6 in his 14 starts before being injured in the famous “Run William, Run” game against the Atlanta Falcons in the last game of the season. Kelly Holcomb then broke the Browns single-game postseason passing record in the Wild Card game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, which led to him being named the starter the next season, kickstarting a wild string of QB controversies in Cleveland.
The 2007 season was fun and full of hope. The Browns had drafted Joe Thomas and Brady Quinn to be the cornerstones of the offense for years to come. But first, Charlie Frye was named the starter following a holdout by Quinn. When Frye was traded after the first game of the season, DA was the starter and Quinn was on the sidelines despite many fans wanting to see Quinn thrown to the fire. After the success of the team in 2007, the Browns had the option to trade one of their QBs, but instead re-signed DA and held on to both QBs, leading to a three-year back-and-forth affair between the QBs.
In 2014, despite the team’s success with Hoyer, the ownership and front office were growing impatient. They wanted Johnny Manziel to be the guy. Who knows to what degree the coaches were forced to play Manziel, but it’s pretty clear from numerous reports over the years that there was intense pressure from above for the Browns to play Manziel instead of Hoyer. Regardless of Hoyer’s ability or the Manziel eventual flameout, the fact remains, the glimpse of success the team had was mired in QB turmoil.
This time, the excitement is different. For the first time, gosh, I don’t even know when, the Browns feel comfortable in their starting QB for the long term. Baker Mayfield showed us everything we wanted to see in a franchise QB who was the first overall pick in the draft. The Browns feel strongly that they have their guy, and the proof of that is the OBJ trade. That trade never happens if the Browns weren’t secure in their QB.
I’ve seen some pundits starting to pump the brakes on the Browns hype, and no doubt, the hype is a runaway train right now. They point out that this has happened before. Bad teams have made big offseason splashes to bolster their talent, only to see the team fall flat. Learning how to win in the NFL is hard. But the teams who fell flat after making big moves all had the same problem: they didn’t have their franchise QB in place. When the Los Angeles Rams made their big moves last year, they did so with their QB in place. And it worked pretty well for them.
I’m not saying the Browns are making the Super Bowl. I’m content just competing for the division title for now. But there’s no reason to temper the excitement. Enjoy this, Browns fans! We’ve waited so long to have a team with this kind of talent. Just enjoy the ride and don’t let anyone tell us to slow down that fun!
I’ve been pretty hard on Collin Sexton this season. I started to write him off as being anything more than a complementary bench piece on a good team. However, the growth he has shown since the All-Star break has been inspirational.
Since the break, he is averaging 20.4 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.5 rebounds per game while shooting 45.8 percent from three-point range. He has now scored 20 points or more in six straight games, with five of those being over 25 points. He’s shooting an insane 56.4 percent from three over that stretch.
Coming into this season, I was pretty worried about his shooting. Turns out, shooting has been his strength all season. As he has begun looking more comfortable in the flow of the offense, it’s opening up possibilities for how he could be an impact player on a good team.
His defense is still pretty lackluster, and I’m still not sure how well his court vision or feel for the game is. There’s still plenty for him to work on to improve his overall game and to become a more efficient player, but I’m impressed by his resilience and the willingness to learn that he has shown. His improvement from earlier this season deserves to be called out and applauded.
I’m not sure what his future holds. I’m not sure PG is really the best position for him. I’m starting to wonder if he might be a better shooting Allen Iverson-type player3, a shooting guard in the body of a PG. It feels good to feel excitement for his future and to see how he develops.
I watched the final group of episodes of Arrested Development Season 5 that dropped on Netflix this weekend. I was apprehensive because the reviews have been absolutely killing them. But I was very pleasantly surprised.
I think a couple of the later episodes ran out of steam a bit, perhaps, but I thought the episodes mostly worked. The shows hit on the pacing that longtime AD watchers are used to, with callbacks, inside jokes, and running bits. I found myself audibly laughing out loud several times per episode. I enjoyed the story and found it generally entertaining.
I’m a little bit annoyed at the groupthink echo chamber that has developed surrounding the show. It feels a bit like an early review gave it a poor review, and so suddenly everyone was watching it looking for reasons to dislike it. And if you want to dislike it, you can certainly find reasons to back up your feelings.
And I suppose I’m just as biased. Arrested Development has meant a lot to me. I want to like it. I wanted the new episodes to be good. So perhaps I watched them seeing only the good parts that I wanted to see. But you know what? I’m ok with that. I prefer living life looking for the best parts instead of trying to nitpick and find the worst parts.
The ending of the season felt like a series finale, even though no word has been given one way or the other about the future of the show. I’d assume it’s probably the end. The reviews have been bad, the actors have found success with other projects, and some of the cast have either quit acting completely (Portia De Rossi) or expressed that they’re not interested in doing the show anymore (Alia Shawkat). Not to mention the fallout of the embarrassing NY Times interview last year in which Jessica Walter talked about being verbally harassed by Jeffrey Tambor only to be told by the rest of the male cast that she was overreacting and that Tambor’s behavior was somewhat normal.
It feels like the show is going away in disgrace, and that bums me out. But I would encourage anyone who ever liked the show to give Season 5 a watch. It won’t go down as the best season, but there is plenty to enjoy here if you just accept that things are different now. The actors are different, the characters are older, and the material is a bit convoluted. But the spirit of the show is still there. I enjoyed Season 5 overall, and if this really is the end, I’m going to miss this show a lot.