Best Team to Root For
Sure, they might not be very good, and might not have been very good for a long time now, but that doesn't mean Cleveland doesn't love its Brownies. The team has a storied tradition and a history 180 degrees opposite its modern-day track record, but Ohio is the birthplace of football, and the Cleveland Browns, no matter who the quarterback or coach or GM, hold a special place in the heart of the population. If that means having fun at the tailgate and then being depressed every Sunday, so be it.
Best Cleveland Athlete
Kyrie Irving exploded into the NBA's topmost tier with a dazzling sophomore campaign that won him a trip to the All-Star game and endless boners from a moonstruck punditry. His leap in scoring was perhaps most significant, jumping up to 23.0 ppg from 18.5 his rookie season, but his gains in steals and 3-point shooting, to say nothing of his confidence, were also notable. Though his season has fizzled to a close with a nagging shoulder injury, he'll lead an exciting young core to a stronger season next year. Regrettably, Kyrie's superstar status with the Cleveland Cavaliers means one inevitable outcome: an endless chorus of local sports writers speculating about "what it will take to keep him here" and the tiresome butt-ugly fantasies of a union with LeBron James.
Maybe Tito won the category because he has the best track record elsewhere and is relatively new to town, but whatever the cause, Terry Francona brings a breath of fresh air to the Tribe after years of wandering in the lowly basement of the American League. He has verifiable credentials – World Series in Boston – but he also seems like the kind of manager that can wrangle the best out of the rebuilt Indians roster. Hopefully no fried chicken or beer will be involved.
Best Minor League Team
LAKE ERIE MONSTERS
What can we say? Dan Gilbert knows how to run a sports team. The major perk of the Lake Erie Monsters is that they play in the Q, right downtown, so you don't have to haul ass out to Akron or Canton or Lake County to catch a game. The glossy planks of the Cavaliers' court are traded for the zambonified sheen of fresh ice, upon which the grizzled Monsters skate and score and wreak havoc upon their opponents' faces. Even though they're an AHL team (part of the Colorado Avalanche franchise), going to a game is pro-level entertainment. The jerseys are fearsome and the competition is...well, competitive. Every once in a while, it's exciting to root for a team with a chance to win a championship.
Best College Team
Ohio State Buckeyes
Removed from Columbus by a two-hour drive, Cleveland is nevertheless a Buckeye hotbed, what with no other major college teams to root for in the area (on the football field) and a surplus of OSU alums settled in Northeast Ohio. The wake of the tat-gate scandal hung over the team last year, but Urban Meyer still led his squad to an undefeated season. The SEC alum seems poised to help the Buckeyes eclipse the perennial bowl game blunders, and as long as the Browns keep losing, there's only one wining football team in Ohio that Clevelanders root for.
Best High School Team
In a single winter, the Wildcats of St. Ignatius gather more praise and hardware than typical high school athletic programs manage to acquire in most decades. This year the basketball team, led by standout guard Francisco Santiago, cruised to a 21-4 record and earned the PD's #1 ranking. The hockey team was ranked #1 statewide (and everyone knows that outside Minnesota, no one plays hockey like Cuyahoga Catholics.) Even the swimming and wrestling squads achieved milestones in their obscure statistical categories. Chuck Kyle's iconic football program and Mike McLaughlin's perennial soccer powerhouse in the fall make these guys the athletic faces of the region and a thrill to watch year round.
Best Place to get your Zen on
Whether you call it "yoga" or "those bizarre stretches that make my cat all randy," Cleveland Yoga is the place to hone your business. The studio offers dozens of classes each week, ranging from high-intensity, body-sculpting workouts to the more meditative meanderings of the Eastern discipline. Beginner's workshops welcome the uninitiated, and the robust roster of niche maneuvers bring in the more experienced crowd. So, yes, if you're looking to "get your Zen on" as the kids are saying these days, Cleveland Yoga has you covered. Come football season, look out for more brash alternatives like the "Downward-facing Dawg Pound," which is less rejuvenating and more regurgitating. 3355 Richmond Rd., Beachwood, 216-591-1183,
Boasting a mile of gorgeous beachfront (the largest in all of Ohio) and 120 total acres of natural serenity, Headlands Beach State Park in Mentor is the next best thing to hopping a plane south. Better, actually, because you don't actually have to go south. The park is Northeast Ohio's one-stop shop for swimming, tanning, fishing, picnicking, hiking, and, most importantly, sitting and working on that pasty tan. 9601 Headlands Rd., Mentor,
Best Place for Skiing
Ohio's slopes might not hold the allure of Colorado's, but they're nothing to kick snow at. Boston Mills isn't only conveniently located within 30 minutes from just about any winter sports lover in Northeast Ohio, the powder playground offers eight trails that cover all skill levels, from newbie ski bunny to downhill daredevil. 7100 Riverview Rd., Peninsula, 330- 657-2334, bmbw.com
Best Place to Run/< Hike/Bike
Really a no-brainer here. With trails in Bedford, Bay Village, Berea, Brecksville (and plenty of other suburbs that don't start with 'B,' notably Rocky River), the Metroparks brings you a whole lot of nature in close proximity to the urban core. There are over 100 miles of paved shared-use trails for biking, jogging, or even in-line skating, if you've still got your rollerblades from 1996. And the Metroparks have seemingly endless programming for families and spry young singletons. Bird-watching hikes, for instance, which is more of a singles magnet than you'd probably expect. The fact remains: Cleveland has a network of incredibly rich, incredibly diverse, incredibly expansive parks in the region and you'd be silly not to take advantage of them. As the weather warms up, go Ralph Waldo-style on that shit and climb a maple tree or something. clevelandmetroparks.com
Best fitness club
You can't beat the gym's renowned monthly rate of $10. "Toss a Jackson on the counter each month and have at it," they'll tell you. Just don't come in acting like a douchebag. That is, quite literally, the only rule to this place. And it works! Customers have free range of the club's cardio equipment, weight selection and stretching area. In fact, each PF location boasts a "lunk alarm." What? A "lunk alarm!" When rung, the "lunk alarm" alerts all gym-goers to the presence of an overzealous meathead. PF does not take kindly to any sort of head-up-your-ass douchebaggery, making it a comfortable spot to get your elliptical on. The gyms also have those delightful coin-operated massage chairs that make you say "ooohhhh," even when you should be getting your elliptical on. Various locations,
Best Bowling Alley
Yeah, it's old school—you won't find any automated scorekeeping consoles or overhead replay monitors here. Just 20 well-maintained, retro lanes, modest fees (just $3 for a game), and perky staff ready to souse you with mason jars of Sixpoint Sweet Action draft and supply you with well-worn bowling kicks. Manned by the Mahall family for 87 years, new owners Kelly Flamos and Joe Pavlick upgraded the joint last year by restoring its shabby chic vintage digs—original stamped tin ceiling! Faded frescoes! Sixties pool tables! Funky horseshoe booths!—and luring the fixie-and-feather-tat crowd with noise shows, craft cocktails, and vegan tacos. Oh, and they serve up some mean fried chicken, house-made beef jerky, and weirdly addictive Beijing vinegar peanuts. Hey, our average might be 62 (okay, maybe lower—golly, that manual scoring sure is tough!), but this place is as much about good vibes and instant camaraderie as it is about ten-pin heroics. Just grab a drink and you'll fit right in. As for that pesky, much-contested pronunciation: it's Muh-HALL's, not MAY-halls, you cheeseballs. What are you, from Cincinnati? 13200 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-3280, mahalls20lanes.com
Best Cleveland Competition
If bleeding nipples, sweaty backs and blistered feet are the ingredients to your perfect Sunday morning, heck, why even bother with church? The Rite-Aid Cleveland Marathon, notwithstanding the gruesome toll on runners' bodies, is an uplifting and pretty miraculous annual event. Thousands of really courageous really fit recently single women and Kenyans descend upon downtown with an idea to approach the zenith of physical and emotional pain. Runners get cool shirts and medals for participating and families and friends truck their strollers and pennants and shout to high heaven that in America we don't only eat donuts and hot dogs; we exercise to outlandish extremes too! For the runners, completing a marathon occasions a remarkable sense of accomplishment. This year, May 19 is one of 11 days all year in which sun is in the forecast, so lace up and join the fun! clevelandmarathon.com
Best place to play darts
Professor Avenue's eminent neighborhood bar offers a lot of terrific amenities (pizza that will melt your brain with deliciousness, anyone?), but the darts operation here truly is top notch. Grab a pint at the bar up front, then duck into the courtyard for a quick game with your buds. The ambiance of the surrounding flora assists the dart in flowing forth from one's hands, which helps a lot if you otherwise suck at throwing the things. But do not fear! Edison's welcomes even the dart-throwing newbies among us. It's the perfect place to flaunt your skills and the ideal locale for learning the ins and outs of this ancient art. 2373 Professor Ave., 216-522-0006, edisonspub.com
Best place to shoot pool
Fox and Hound
Rack 'em up, ladies and gents. Fox and Hound's penchant for combining the best of two worlds - sports bar aesthetics and a throwback billiards lounge atmosphere - has garnered the chain a steadily awesome reputation throughout the region. Each location boasts more than enough tables for casual play. The place also promotes pool tournaments if you're interesting in taking your craft to a competitive level. Bring the whole gang; there's room enough (and brews enough) for all. Various locations,
Best Reason to be a Cleveland Sports Fan
There was 1921, 1948, and the Browns in the '60s. Then things kinda trailed off a bit around here. But no worries. If the Kosar-era Browns, Lofton-era Indians, and LeBron-era Cavs taught us anything, it's that next year could, should, and actually might be our year. It's a forlorn statement and self-defeatist in its current incarnation, but hell, some year has to be our year, right? Imagine the celebration in Public Square if the Browns won the Super Bowl. The fires would be visible from outer space. And with Haslam now heading the Browns, the Indians opening the pocket books, and Kyrie leading the Cavs, the future is bright for Cleveland sports. It is. Stop snickering.
Best golf course
Any day now, the snowbanks of "Every Street, Cleveland, Ohio," will recede and thousands of duffers across the region will lift their nine irons to the sky and screech: "Golf season is nigh!" Though it may be less dramatic when that moment finally comes around, the simple fact remains that Sleepy Hollow will be there for you, delicately manicured fairways and all. Winding through the Cuyahoga River valley, this course highlights the best in Northeast Ohio nature. Just watch out for those gawddamned greens! Indeed, the play here is tight and competitive, making it the ideal place to a) down a twelver with your pals and see who's got the most pathetic excuse for a drive or b) actually throw down a serious game of golf. Who's covering the cart? (We'll bring the ice!) 9445 Brecksville Rd.,
Best skate park
So you've spent the last decade-plus working Tony Hawk's Pro Skater for PlayStation to death and now you want to try your hand (foot? feet?) at a few kickflips for realz, yo? Well then do your best not to look like an utter square and head over to Lakewood Park, which boasts the area's most bitchin' set of pipes, rails and other suspiciously drug-related terms. The vibe is laid-back enough that any rookie would feel welcome, but the tight-knit flavors of the west-shore skating scene are also plenty capable of fostering a real sense of community. As a city, Lakewood, to its credit, has promoted a really positive atmosphere here. Where other municipalities balk at the word "ollie," Lakewood has embraced the sport and worked to ensure a safe, fun experience for all. The newly installed and nearby basketball hoops also help out the scene.
14532 Lake Ave., 216-529-4474,
Kids, if you want the best bang for your playdate buck, get your parents to truck you and the neighborhood crew on over to Lakewood Park's wooded wonderland. The playground has it all: swings, monkey bars, things that spin, etc. The nautical theme also kinda lends an air of the imaginative. Tucked between tennis courts and a let's-welcome-the-community pavilion, the playground at Lakewood Park really does cater to all desires. And parents, the park itself is a beauty, so you can be guaranteed at least several seconds of peace and tranquility until your son's friend Tucker decides to play Let's Throw Rocks At Ducks and then you've got to - OH MY GOD THERE'S A PACK OF WILD DUCKS CHEWING MY LEG OFF! 14532 Lake Ave., 216-529-4474,