Couch it any way you'd like, but the Browns' highly acclaimed quarterback was not the team's top rookie last season -- his primary receiver was. Once lame-duck starter Ty Detmer gave way to Tim Couch, the lame-duck passes were flying everywhere, and Kevin Johnson made the most of his opportunities. Bright futures appear plentiful on the Browns' roster, but Johnson's emergence in the last year was as pleasant a surprise as we've had since they ponied up for hot water in the stadium.
We've seen this scenario before: A promising Indians farmhand gets his first look at the big time, but can't get enough at-bats in a lineup full of stars. Whaddya do? Ship him someplace else, so he can be a star and make the big dollars, just like his former teammates do. But what's confounding about the loss of Richie Sexson is the immediacy with which he transformed from a .240 hitter with a swing full of holes to a .320 hitter finding holes with his swing. Bob Wickman, Steve Woodard, and Jason Bere -- the players Cleveland received in the trade -- may help us with the short-term gratification of a 2000 postseason appearance, but chances are we'll have more and more reason to regret losing Richie's big bat as the years roll on.
It's difficult to take the scenic route in the gym. Instead, why not guide your gluteus maximus down something a little more natural and picturesque? The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail gives bicyclists that chance by providing more than 30 miles of historic and gorgeous wilderness along the canal banks. Locks, marshes, museums, railroads, and trails are an easy jaunt by bike or foot from the snaking path. For best results, hit the towpath early in the morning, when the heavy fog adds a surreal ambiance to your transcendental outing.
A jump, hop, and a dribble off Euclid Avenue, two basketball courts always sit lined with would-be players. Any Joe can walk up to these two faded red courts and finagle his way into an up-and-coming match. Just make sure you can handle the rock, because your mates plan on running on the court for a while. The place's major fault: no lights. Hoopsters are restricted to the movements of the sun.
Okay, we're sounding redundant, but this time we're not talking about the Towpath Trail. It's really the 125-plus miles of "off-road" trails in the CVNRA that allow hikers to glimpse just about any natural (and man-made) habitat Ohio has to offer: marshes, beaver ponds, quarries, caves, and even an Indian mound. Just pick your poison, park your car, and take a hike.
There's something about Moran's that makes it worth the trip out west. Perhaps it's the old-school factor: This isn't some 62-lane bowl-o-plex family fun center with a 127-foot IMAX theater in the back. There are no disco balls, no rock-n-bowl -- just eight lanes and a healthy respect for the integral relationship a certain malted beverage has with the game. Add to that the fact the building is giving way to a library expansion in a couple of years, and a trip to the old alley takes on a new sense of urgency. Strangely charming Moran's might rightfully be called an Irish tavern that just happens to have bowling lanes, one that serves up a 22-ounce Killian's for, yes, $2. Ahh, bowling as it was meant to be.
The wooded area behind Rocky River Nature Center is no singles bar, but to thousands of male grasshoppers and cicadas, it may as well be. On sultry summer nights, they begin their slow, rhythmic chirping at dusk. By 10:30, they go crazy with their full-blown, staccato catcalls. Attending a naturalist-guided night hike in the cold winter months may not turn up grasshoppers, but other wildlife may make an appearance -- owls, deer, possums, or foxes. Don't worry, though -- the love bugs will come back again in the spring when the forest heats up.
When he arrived in Cleveland three years ago, Shawn Kemp was a skywalking power forward who had nearly denied Michael and the Bulls one of their precious NBA titles. The Cavaliers traded for Kemp and signed him to a huge contract, which he seemingly devoured with a pint of blue-cheese dressing. The NBA's leading sperm donor put up decent numbers, but the Cavs wanted a star, not a sweating plodder who fouled out when he got bored. We hear the Cavs got three guys from Miami in a three-way trade, but the key acquisition was the salary cap room Kemp was set to hog.
In 11 years behind the Tribe's radio microphone, Tom Hamilton has matured from excitable sidekick to the Voice of Summer in Cleveland. As if liberated by the retirement of Herb Score, Hamilton has enough confidence to throw the occasional dagger as well as one of the best home-run calls in the biz (A way back . . . Gone!). Indians broadcasters may toe John Hart's line, but the Era of Almost Champions wouldn't have been the same without Hamilton saying, "So long, everybody."
Watching Catholic boys ripping each other to bits is quite a thrill for the folks in the bleachers clad in blue and gold (Iggie's) or green and gold (Ed's). Even during a full-blown snowstorm, the cheering never stops -- it just goes back and forth from one side of the gridiron to the other. Afraid lest they miss a single play, shivering fans make a halftime pilgrimage en masse to the concession stand. Popcorn and hot cocoa can be very fortifying.