A Love Too Intense: Why I’m a Bragwagon Sports Fan

How one Cleveland sports fan jumped on the Bragwagon and fell in love with sports again.

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I’ve discovered a glitch in the sports Matrix, and I’m exploiting the hell out of it. Teams I’ve supported for years inevitably go down in flames, either in single games (’86 and ’87 Browns, ’97 Indians) or as a franchise (Browns since 1999, Cavs since The Decision). But teams I cheer for during a brief period of time–teams I have never cared about before in my life–they tend to have spectacular success.

Some people call this being a bandwagon fan. That’s fine. Thing is, when you’ve watched as much atrocious Cleveland sports as I have, and you keep coming back, you know you’re not a bandwagon fan. You’re a really loyal fan who is looking for a reason to enjoy watching sports again. We need a name for this–Bragwagon. I’m a Bragwagon Fan.

As far as my happiness as a sports fan goes, I’m at an all-time low, which is saying something, because I have been a Cleveland sports fan for 30-some years now. The Browns, Cavs and Indians are terrible. I know–the Indians were OK last year and are knocking on the door of mediocrity this year. The fact that they could be good and aren’t actually makes it worse.

I like sports, and desperate times call for desperate measures, so…

On June 1, with the Kings facing the Blackhawks in Game 7 and a trip to the finals on the line, I declared myself a Los Angeles Kings fan and watched my first hockey game on television from start to finish. The Kings won in overtime in what was an amazing game, and then they went on to win the Stanley Cup. This is one of the most fun teams I’ve ever watched. Every game seemed to go to overtime, and you never felt like the Kings were ever out of it. Will I ruin a potential Kings’ dynasty by following them next season? Hell, no. Regular season hockey is boring. The dynasty is safe until next post-season, when I will care again. That’s life on the Bragwagon.

Then on June 5 I started rooting for another team I didn’t care about–the Spurs. They beat the Heat to win the NBA Finals. I know the Spurs are great, but they’re not one of those teams like the old Celtics, Bulls or Lakers where you know something exciting could happen at any moment and so you have to watch them and after a while you dig their style. The Spurs are the sports equivalent of accounting. I’ve never been drawn to them, in spite of their greatness. But the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And this year we did great things together, the Spurs and me.

I realized last week I was on a roll, so I turned my allegiance to the USA World Cup team. I don’t care about soccer. If I have to choose between non-World Cup soccer and watching “Pretty Little Liars” with my wife, well, we’re going to get to the bottom of who killed Alison DiLaurentis. But I like the World Cup, and I declared Team USA my Team of Destiny, and the Bragwagon rolled on with a win against Ghana.

When my friend Dave asked how come my sports cheering is so bad for Cleveland teams and so good for everyone else, I told him it’s because my sports loyalty is so intense that to be exposed to it for too long causes teams to melt down, like Icarus’s wings when he flew too close to the sun. But my support, received in brief bursts, supplies teams with the extra boost they need to win championships.

If Team USA advances out of Group Play–which would be a championship of sorts for a long-suffering national team–let’s remember amid all of the back-patting and congratulations that the players had something to do with it, too.

@joedonatelli

Image via FIFA

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The Puppy Bowl is Terrible

It’s time someone said it. The Puppy Bowl is terrible. Small dogs are not good athletes.

puppy-bowl

The Super Bowl is this Sunday, and like most Americans I will watch the Denver Broncos play the Seattle Seahawks while drinking beer, eating chicken wings and yelling at the TV, often simultaneously.

I will watch the pre-game show, because I’m a fan of any TV program in which five millionaires sit around a desk and fake-laugh while veiling their mutual contempt. I will watch the commercials because some of them are more entertaining than whole movies. I will watch the halftime show in case there are nipples. But I will not watch The Puppy Bowl. The Puppy Bowl is terrible.

The Puppy Bowl launched on Animal Planet in 2005. Like a sucker, I tune in every year expecting improvement from the puppies, but they continue to disappoint.

Animal Planet, it’s time someone said it: puppies are terrible at football.

I hardly know where to begin. Let’s start on offense. The puppies have no offensive strategy. There is no huddle. No plays are called. Is there a quarterback? No one seems to want the responsibility. Worse, the ball is often left unattended in a corner with no effort made to retrieve it. As a Cleveland Browns fan, I’m used to that. I expect more from puppies.

The defense is a joke. Most of the players seem more interested in socializing than stopping the opposing team. Defense wins championships. It’s about tenacity. It’s about the will to win. It’s about scratching and clawing and breaking the opponent before you. You cannot break an opponent’s will by sniffing his derriere, especially if he’s open to it.

What’s sad is that all of this terrible play might be prevented if the referee un-swallowed his whistle and called a foul once in a while. Every play is a laundry list of penalties – illegal formation, offsides, encroachment, clipping, holding, late hits, you name it. And I’m sorry, but Unnecessary Ruff-Ness, Illegal Use of the Paws and Illegal Retriever Down Field are not real penalties. The ref only seems to blow his whistle to call attention to when something adorable is happening.

Since when can you bite and then hump your own teammate during a game and it’s OK?!? (Outside of Oakland.)

The problem, I very much believe, is the Puppy Bowl culture. In Puppy Bowl VI, Jake the Chihuahua Pug was awarded the game’s MVP award by Animal Planet (see video) for nothing more than running around. Jake didn’t score, kick a field goal or make a goal-line stand. This teaches the impressionable puppies watching at home to value the absence of skill, teamwork and sportsmanship. It’s probably why most puppies today are so immature and most of the puppies who make it to the big game don’t know how to handle the spotlight.

What can be done? Well, we can’t ignore the Puppy Bowl. It’s too big. It’s ingrained in our popular culture. So we have to fix it.

Before these puppies are ever put on national television, they should be taught how to block, run, pass, receive and tackle as a team unit. We’ll need to start puppy football teams on college campuses or create developmental leagues where puppies learn that the gridiron is more than just a place to run around like a fool.

For the puppies who have the right stuff, the Puppy Bowl and perhaps even a roster spot on the Cleveland Browns await.

Joe Donatelli is the author of Full Griswold: Stories from a Honeymoon in Italy. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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Sochi Double Toilet: Explained

Why is there a double toilet at the Sochi Olympic Center? Former Olympics reporter Joe Donatelli has a few theories.

toilets-sochi
Behold one of nature’s rarest spectacles–the double toilet. This pic was snapped at the Olympic Biathalon Center in Sochi, Russia, right before the Winter Olympics.

Now I know what you’re thinking.

Big deal. So what? We’ve seen this before on “Saturday Night Live.”

No, that was the Love Toilet you’re remembering, which is an altogether different type of double toilet. Whereas the Love Toilet is romantic, the Sochi Double Toilet is functional. It’s all business–two Russian rings of Olympic Zdravstvuj.

love-toilet

A reasonable person might wonder, “How could such a thing happen? How could any professional build two toilets next to each other, thus defying all of the international laws of toilet privacy as set forth in Geneva in 1957?”

I have two theories.

To explain the first theory, I will have to share with you an unsavory experience I had while covering the 2002 Winter Olympics. Mitt Romney ran the Salt Lake City Games, and unlike Vladimir Putin, Romney enacted a sensible single-toilet policy. (Had Romney played up his public bathroom policy in 2012, I’m fairly certain he could have won the election.)

As a reporter for Scripps-Howard, I covered  a variety of events, including some skiing and snowboarding. It was while covering one of these outdoor events that I nearly lost all faith in the Olympics’ dedication to international peace through athletic competition.

Something was clearly amiss from the moment I entered the men’s room. The men’s room, as men know, is not a room where you ever want anything to go amiss. Men’s rooms should be predictable, always. There should always be toilet paper. It should always be reasonably clean. No strangers should ever talk to you, even if some of your clothes happen to be on fire. But this men’s room wasn’t predictable. It took a moment to register, because it’s not something you expect to see, but there he was–a member of the Russian press seated on the toilet with the stall door wide open.

The man made no attempt to close the door. He offered no apology. When he saw me looking at him, he looked at me like I was the jerk. I left the men’s room, walked outside and held it for three days.

When I explained this situation to some of my friends in the press, no one was surprised. Apparently–and this is the lesson to be learned here–there are nations on earth where closing a bathroom stall door is considered high-falutin’.

So that’s theory No. 1 – the double toilet is a cultural choice, an homage to Russia’s gritty, leave-the-stall-door-open style of living.

Theory No. 2 is that when any government that is routinely elected with more than 99 percent of the vote gives out billions of dollars worth of contract work, corners will be cut. For example, an ice skating venue might be built entirely out of corrugated cardboard.

One envisions a Russian contractor being told to install a certain number of toilets in a sports venue. The work orders do not specify that there should be any stall doors. So, no stall doors. Nobody on the crew objects because installing stall doors sounds like more work, and what are we? Canadian? It should shock no one if we learn in coming days of triple and quadruple Sochi toilets.

At moments such as these, and by that I mean global bathroom fixture crises, we gain insight into nations and leaders and even ourselves.

Much ado was made before the start of these Olympic Games about Vladimir Putin’s controversial views regarding homosexuality. Talking heads railed against him. Organizations protested. Our president heroically responded by kind of doing something. But perhaps we judged the Russian leader too harshly.

His words say that two men should not be naked together.

But what do his toilets say?

That is the measure by which you judge a man.

Joe Donatelli is the author of Full Griswold: Stories from a Honeymoon in Italy.

UPDATE: Some nice double-toilet coverage here from the Los Angeles Times and Conan O’Brien.

UPDATE: Someone found an audience toilet in Sochi. It’s like someone is making an Olympics out of my nightmares.

audience-toilet

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I’m in Muscle & Fitness…As a Writer

Muscle & Fitness asked me to compile the top 10 worst workout fails of all time. Here are 10 videos that will convince you to never work out again.

m&f

Muscle & Fitness asked me to compile the top 10 worst workout fails of all time. Not my own workout fails. It’s hard to fail when your workout consists of jumping rope and curling 15 pounds. Though I have done it. These are other people’s fails, and I just want to say thank you to each of these guys for having the good sense to post their most epic physical fails online.

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The Rocky IV Training Montage Workout

A trainer and a journalist explore whether or not the “Rocky IV” training montage workout is actually a good workout.

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The “Rocky IV” training montage is probably the greatest training montage in movie history. (It’s so great they had to break it up into two montages, folks. Two.) But is it actually a good workout? Is it good enough to beat Drago, end the Cold War and get you in shape?

The answer: USA! USA! USA!

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