Friday, November 18, 2005

Mr. Popular

Popularity is a fickle mistress. A lot of it depends on things you can't control.
In the case of Cleveland's professional athletes, much of it rides on your last game, or in the case of Charlie Frye, the game of the guy ahead of you.
Stats count more with the guys. Looks get factored in with the ladies. With that in mind, I'm going to rank the top 10 most popular athletes right now in Cleveland sports as I see it.
(Note: I'm only considering active Cleveland athletes. No write-in votes for Bernie Kosar, please.)

1. LeBron James
What doesn't this guy have? He's the only legit superstar in Cleveland. Superlative basketball talent, stuffs a stat sheet like Oscar Robertson, 6'-8" and bulging, tattooed biceps for the women. Filthy rich, and only going to get richer.

2. Grady Sizemore
If he had played eight fewer games in 2004, he would have easily won the AL Rookie of the Year award this year. He combines good speed with good bat control and hustle. The guys will remember his slam-against-the-wall catch in a September blowout of Minnesota. The girls, well, they just think he's downright hunky, referencing the number of "marry me Grady" signs at Jacobs Field.

3. Charlie Frye
Joe Montana was drafted in the third round. So was Frye. Coincidence? Not if you ask legions of Browns fans. The old axiom is that the most popular player in the town of a struggling football team is the backup quarterback. This is especially true in the case of Frye, a Willard, Ohio native and University of Akron alum.

4. Reuben Droughns
His DUI charge wasn't bad publicity. It merely got his name in lights. It looks like he's going to be the first Browns rusher in 20 years to post a 1,000-yard season. To harken back to Kevin Mack and Earnest Byner, that will always win --ahem -- brownie points in Cleveland.

5. Braylon Edwards
His "throw me the ball" rant was well-timed, after Dennis Northcutt and Antonio Bryant needed Velcro straps to hang on in Sunday's embarrassment against the Steelers. Whining won't win you points with the media, but when a supposed Pro Bowl receiver in the making says he's not being given enough of a chance to help his losing team win games, the fans will rally around that.

6. Damon Jones
He's a bench player who thinks he should be starting and is in a self-imposed media exile because of it. But he landed in Cleveland with a bang, declaring himself one of the top five shooters in the world. That gets people talking. Averaging 10 points a game coming off a Cavs bench that was dead weight last year helps, too.

7. Travis Hafner
His nickname is "Pronk." He followed up a .311 season last year with a .305 season this year and finished fifth in AL MVP voting. His beefcake physique probably gets him glances from the ladies, too.

8. C.C. Sabathia
He's built like a defensive lineman and throws 95 mph. He was christened an ace at age 21. He dated Serena Williams, is friends with Drew Gooden, as was robbed (allegedly) by former Cleveland State basketball player Damon Stringer. No matter his ups and downs on the field, C.C. always draws attention.

9. Kellen Winslow Jr.
He's a first-round draft pick who nearly killed himself buzzing a crotch rocket around a parking lot. He has an overprotective Hall-of-Famer for a father, who once threatened a diminuative local sportcaster who was pressing him for a comment. He had such an epic holdout prior to his rookie season, people seem to forget it was actually shorter than that of Edwards this year. All this, and he's only played in two games for the Browns.

10. Coco Crisp
Because of the name. Yes, he hit .290 this year, but mostly because of the name.

Also considered: Donyell Marshall, Aaron Shea, Larry Hughes, Victor Martinez, Bob Wickman, Kevin Millwood.


Abrasivist said...

Why are the Browns favored by two points on Sunday?

Dan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dan said...

Mainly because the Browns are at home. The teams are pretty much evenly matched, so it comes down to home field advantage.

Nice list Erik, though I would have had Hafner a little higher on the list.

Check out my Cleveland Sports blog at

Erik said...

The Browns are favored by two points because some oddsmaker in Vegas had pictures of Sage Rosenfels and Trent Dilfer taped to a wall, blindfolded himself and threw darts. Trent Dilfer's head is a little bigger, I guess. Playing for Brian Billick will do that to you.

Zach said...

It's too bad the Browns are favored. If Miami was, the Browns could use it for motivation. Look at how well that worked the last time.