Thursday, October 23, 2014

Detroit Lions vs God

In the NFL's infinite wisdom, the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons will find themselves playing a game this Sunday in England. Pip pip, cheerio, and perhaps a jolly good time will be had by all -- the inevitable jet-lag for the players notwithstanding. Yet it poses a dilemma for their fans back stateside.

Due to the time change, the game will start at roughly 9:30 AM in both Atlanta and Detroit (eastern time zone).

Granted, your typical NFL fan is pretty much a heathen. How else to explain not only the rowdy behavior and outrageous outfits in most stadiums on game day, but also much the same in thousands of bars jam-packed with folks rooting on their home teams? Infidels indeed.

It's common practice for many of these establishments to offer up game-day "specials", whereby they'll provide free food (often catered by a hard-core "regular" patron), and discounted beer when their team scores. Most all hawk football "squares" every week, ranging from a buck a pop to 5, 10, even 20 dollars per square. Oftentimes, the same bar will have a variety of different square sheets of differing values in play at the same time. Winners will typically be paid after each quarter and upon the final score. Do you feel lucky, and how much do you want to gamble?

Also, it's certainly not uncommon for a bartender or waitress to offer a "50-50" raffle. Step up and buy your tickets. A buck apiece or six for five dollars. The "lucky" winner is usually drawn at halftime, but this has always been a rip-off. Why? Because even if you win, you only get half. The other half goes into the wallet or purse of the bartender or waitress. I can see 10% to pay for the tickets and the trouble of taking up the collection-- but half? No way. And it's amazing how many times the boyfriend of the bartender or a slobbery drunk (who will give his share of the winnings right back to her in an attempt to impress) seems to win these things. At any rate -- it's a sucker bet. If you just have to, much better to plop those same bucks down on Keno easy picks. At least that way you know it's on the up and up. I think. Would the governor and the state lie to you? Hmmm. Nevermind. But I digress.

Back to the game this Sunday. Few would question Lions' fans have kept the faith for a very long time. The last time they won the NFL championship was way back in 1957. Eisenhower was President and the Edsel was about to make its debut. This was a full decade before Super Bowls even started. In the ensuing 57 years, the Lions have won a grand total of one playoff game, and remain the only non-expansion team to have never reached the Super Bowl.

Yet the Honolulu blue and silver heathens continue to fanatically support their team. This is most definitely keeping the faith.

However, faith comes in a different variety as well. As in worshipping on Sunday mornings at the religious establishment of one's choice. It's likely not too much of a stretch to assume even some Lions' fans are God-fearing people and would normally be getting "churched up" on Sunday mornings.

But with the game in London starting at 9:30 AM local time, they have to make a tough choice. Do they put on their suits and dresses, spiff up the kids, and head to the local tabernacle to hear Pastor Smith's sermon, sing songs of praise, pray, and drop a few bucks in the offering plate? Or do they arrange for the baby-sitter ahead of time, put on their Lions gear, and head to the local saloon to start getting loaded while scarfing up a breakfast buffet at 9 in the morning, and checking out which numbers they drew on their square sheets?

It would appear different faiths can present a dilemma at times......

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Recent outrageous bytes

As the saying goes, 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on your insurance. Everybody knows that.

Just one problem. Yours truly has been looking for 15 MONTHs for one of their offices to talk things over in person, but still can't find one. Evidently, the Tasmanian devil doesn't even HAVE a phone and Icky Woods isn't returning my calls -- even though I offered to throw in cold cuts. So what's a guy to do? Guess I'm stuck with my old insurance company of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe for a while longer. Maybe not the most reputable, but at least I know where to find them.

The World Series is getting interesting. KC roared back to tie it at one game apiece. But some silly things were said in the "booth". Maybe this is what happens when you combine an announcer (Joe Buck) and a sports scribe (Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated) with a washed-up baseball player (Harold Reynolds). Joe likely wouldn't be there at all if it wasn't for his daddy Jack, and methinks Tom would be better served keeping his day job writing an occasional Michener-esque sports piece for SI. And Harold? What's he supposed to be? The comic relief?

Got a yuk out of a couple of their comments, though. Over and over again, one would breathlessly say the current batter "took a big rip at that one" as he whiffed on his swing. Tell ya what. I could take a big rip, you could take a big rip, heck, your average Supreme Court justice could take a big rip. We likely wouldn't hit anything but air either. So what's the big deal about swinging a bat?

After it became apparent the series would be knotted up 1-all, one of them ventured to say it could be a long series. Really. Unless one of the teams decides to forfeit in the next few days -- I'd say chances are very good it's going to go at least 5 games. Barring a sweep by either in San Fran for the next 3 games (not likely), throw in the travel days, and presto, we'll likely have World Series baseball into next week. This is a good thing.

Either way, this Sunday should be quite the couch tater extravaganza. The NFL will feature its typical triple-header, the NASCAR boys (and that pesky Danica) will be at the short track in Martinsville, and Game 5 of the World Series will be on. Happy clicking.

Can that be right? Some sellers (scalpers) were asking over 10 grand a pop for seats close to the visiting dugout in KC? Wow. Did they get it? Dunno, but I didn't see any empty seats.

If you think that's bad -- consider San Fran. Rumors have it some seats are on the market for over a whopping $100,000 apiece. Will they get it? Beats me. I know the price of real estate in San Fran has been exorbitant for some time -- but if true -- this is ridiculous. A hundred grand to watch a single baseball game? Double it if you want to take your significant other? And how much are the hot dogs? $500? $1000?  Get outta here. Maybe that's why God throws them an earthquake every once in a while -- to jolt them back into reality.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The enigma of starting pitching

The Detroit Tigers (and their local media), perhaps rightfully so, boasted all year long about having the best starting rotation in all of baseball. After all, they had the reigning Cy Young winner in Max Scherzer, former Cyster Justin Verlander, and even added a third past winner in David Price at the trade deadline. Anabel Sanchez was excellent, as was Rick Porcello. Quite the formidable five -- at least on paper.

But after winning the American League central division yet again, the Tigers were unceremoniously broomed by the Baltimore Orioles in one of the ALDS match ups. There would be no World Series in Motown. In fact, despite three Cy Young winners in a row taking the mound, they failed to win a single playoff game. So much for "dominant" starting pitching. In turn, the Orioles themselves would be swept away by the KC Royals in the ALCS.

A couple years ago, KC made a trade to obtain James Shields from the Tampa Bay Rays. He was going to be the "ace" of their staff, a leader in the clubhouse, and all that. Shields has even been dubbed "Big Game James" by the KC faithful and their own local media. But is he really? Let's take a peek at his career stats.

Over 7 seasons with TB and 2 with KC, Shields compiled a 114-90 win/loss record with a respectable 3.72 ERA in the regular seasons. Not too shabby, but hardly the stuff of Cooperstown. Yet in the post-season, he had a record of 3-4, with a whopping 5.19 ERA. In all his playoff starts, he had never managed to record a single out after the sixth inning. It leaves one to wonder how in the hell he became known as Big Game James, when he seems to falter so much in the most important contests. Earlier tonight, in Game One of the World Series against the San Fran Giants, he didn't even make it to the fourth inning. He would eventually take the loss in that game as well.

Yet SF is the true enigma when it comes to just how important starting pitching is. Sure, they have ace Madison Bumgarner who posted a regular season record of 18-10. Very impressive. And he cruised through the Royals' line-up for 8 innings in the opener of the Fall Classic.

But after MadBum, look at what the Giants have for starting pitchers. Tim Hudson? He was 9-13 during the regular season. Ryan Vogelsong? 8-13. Jake Peavy is a respectable 6-4 since coming to the Giants in a mid-season trade, but overall he was 7-13 in 2014. Former hot-shot pitcher Tim Lincecum, even after throwing a no-hitter earlier this year, has since crashed and burned. He's been buried deep in the bullpen, and may well not see any action at all in the World Series.

So add it all up. The Tigers had a fantastic starting rotation -- but went nowhere in October.

Conversely, the Giants had one good starting pitcher in MadBum, but the rest of them were shaky at best. But guess who's in the World Series (and leading 1-0) and who's not?

That's likely because the Giants are a team that finds a way to win in many different ways. While the Tigers relied on starting pitchers and a couple sluggers to carry the day, consider their shortcomings.

Their bullpen was shakier than Barney Fife. They don't know how to bunt when the situation calls for it to advance runners, and had little, if any, team speed on the basepathes. Defensively, it's not just centerfield -- the Tigers are below average at several positions.

Now the Tigers face the very real prospect of losing Scherzer to free agency. Aging outfielder Torii Hunter might well retire, or not even be invited back. Former ace Justin Verlander and slugger Miguel Cabrera had "off" years by their standards, and many blame this on the surgery to their "core" muscles last off-season. Balderdash. They had the finest medical care in the world, months to recover, and the experts pronounced them 100% good to go before the season even started. It might just be they're getting older and on the back side of their career bell curves as athletes. It happens earlier to some than others, especially when they already have a few hundred million bucks in the bank.

Between SF and KC, who will ultimately win the World Series is anybody's guess, though the Giants definitely have an advantage having won the first game.

As for the Tigers? President/GM Dave Dombrowski and their local media can spout all the platitudes they wish to the contrary about their "window of opportunity" closing -- but it appears that is exactly what is happening -- and quickly.

Look at it this way. After a fast start, the Tigers faded badly down the stretch, and barely hung on to qualify for the playoffs. Delete Scherzer from the equation, (and does anybody really expect J.D. Martinez, merely a cast-off from the lowly Houston Astros to put up the same numbers next year?) and no matter who the Tigers plug into his spot from within or without, it's likely going to cost them a few wins. Just two less wins and the Tigers wouldn't have made the playoffs at all this year.

Methinks their window is indeed closing, and if Mad Max takes a walk, it will pretty much be nailed shut. Even Dombrowski, with all his slick maneuvering, will be left with the unenviable task of trying to stop the bleeding from gaping wounds when he only has a few band-aids in his pocket.

But ya never know. Maybe it will work out for the Tigers next year.

Hope springs eternal, right?

In the meantime, let's enjoy the World Series which features two teams without dominant starting pitching. They just find a way.

Maybe the Tigers will too. Someday. It's only been 30 years and counting......

Monday, October 20, 2014

The NFL's boneheaded London gambit

Next Sunday the NFL will once again ship two teams over to jolly old England for a game. You'd think they'd learn.

Though the NFL continues to be the gorilla in the room of American sports, it has long since been proven that England, and the rest of the world for that matter, has little interest in American football, real or fantasy. Remember how the NFL tried to expand it's brand a few years ago with the NFL Europe experiment? It crashed and burned like the Hindenberg.

For reasons most sane Americans, and even the not so sane (see yours truly) can't comprehend, the vast majority of earthling sports fans find soccer (futbol) much more captivating. Spanning the globe -- for every yankee doodle dandy football fan, there are legions of soccer fanatics elsewhere. But it is what it is and different strokes for different cultures.

Yet still the NFL persists in sending a game here and there overseas. This is dumb on many levels.

First, it's a colossal waste of jet fuel.

Second, even the blokes and blokettes of England that pay the admission price to attend such a contest view it as a novelty. A circus act, a freak-show. Like other American foreign policies, this is not to be taken seriously.

Third, even fanatical American NFL fans don't understand half the rules and complexities of the game. To people in the UK, who don't understand ANY of the rules and regs, it likely looks like a game of human pinball. Nevertheless, if I was a British subject that could spare a few pounds sterling, such an event could hold a certain allure. Once. It would be like visiting the San Diego zoo to see the pandas. That's a much hyped exhibit as well. Pretty cool, but once is enough. No need to go back.

Most importantly, if the NFL wants to make an impression in England, why are they sending the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons overseas to represent them? Sure, the Brits likely won't know the difference, but c'mon. A contest between the Motown meltdowners and the Tara tweety-birds is the best they could do?

If Roger Goodell and company want to make a splash in a foreign market, here's a suggestion....
Don't send a couple historical also-rans. Send your best.

Remember last year's Super Bowl was played between the eventual champion Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. As this year's schedule would have it, way back in Week 3, on Sept. 21, the Hawks and Broncs played a rematch. It was quite a thrilling game with Seattle narrowing prevailing by a 26-20 score.

THAT'S the game that should have been played in London. Not some contest between the Lions and the Falcons. And consider:

If you were a UK citizen and did a quickie internet search on Detroit and Atlanta, what do you think would pop up?

Both are crime-ridden cities. Murders, carjackings, gangs, drugs, and corruption. One is even bankrupt.

On the other hand, Denver and Seattle are both beautiful thriving cities, with much better football teams to boot.

So if the NFL absolutely insists on sending two teams (roughly 22,000 lbs. or 10,000 kilos) of ruffians to play in your back yard -- which would you rather spend your hard-earned quid to see?

Foreclosing on the Pope and the Detroit Lions

Home foreclosures are at an 8 year low. Well, duh. Everybody that could have lost their house in the great recession already DID lose their house. OF COURSE the percentages are going to go down. There's nobody left to foreclose on.

The current Pope is making a hero out of one of his long dead predecessors. OF COURSE he is. This is what Popes do. They beatify, canonize, and even confer sainthood on their fallen brothers from times past. Too bad they're typically a couple centuries behind what's going on in the real world.

But on to sports.

The Detroit Lions lucked up and pulled off an improbable win against the New Orleans Saints -- with no small amount of help from the refs. A couple phantom (BS) pass interference calls against the Saints made the difference. Sure, the Lions have suffered from equally bone-headed calls in the past, and what goes around comes around. Now the Lions are 5-2. Let the feverish Honolulu blue and silver masses jump on the bandwagon yet again. Careful. Over 50 years and counting, including last season, should make them wary. Speaking of Popes, Alexander the poet continues to have it right when it comes to Lions' fans.

"For fools rush in where angels fear to tread".

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Michigan State. Movin' on up?

Remember, this is the first year four college football teams will qualify for a shot at the national title in a mini-playoff. Were it still the same usual two, Michigan State would likely not get invited, even if they "run the table" for the rest the season.

But things have, and continue to fall in place for the Spartans to make it into the "final four". After an early loss to Oregon, consider what has taken place elsewhere with the usual suspects.

The Ducks themselves have been beaten. So has Auburn. Oklahoma just fell for the second time. Baylor got blitzed by unranked West Virginia. Alabama has lost one game, and barely hung on to win another by one point over also unranked Arkansas. To their credit, the Tide just tsunamied Texas A&M 59-0. It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature or Nick Sabin.

Shockingly, two historically door-mat teams find themselves in the Top 3. Mississippi State is #1, and Ole Miss #3. Both remain undefeated. But consider the games yet to be played. Miss State has to go to both Alabama and Ole Miss. Somebody has to lose those games. Then there's the SEC championship game itself. Only two can play, and somebody has to lose that too.

In the meantime, Michigan State has been taking care of business. In back-to-back road games they convincingly won at Purdue, and just throttled Indiana by 40 points. Next up for the Spartans is welcoming the floundering Michigan Wolverines. You just know the former "little brother" will be super-geeked to give their one-time nemesis an Adrian Petersen type switching. And they likely will.

Then Ohio State visits East Lansing. While the Buckeyes have certainly remained respectable in the wake of losing star quarterback Braxton Miller for the season -- it would be quite the upset if OSU were to knock off MSU. Besides, even when OSU has been at full strength in the last few years -- the Spartans seem to have their number.

After that, the Spartans pretty much have a cakewalk schedule until the Big 10 conference championship game. And if they stay healthy who's going to beat them?

Ah, but defending champ Florida State and media darling Notre Dame remain ahead of them as well in the standings you say?

True enough, but as yours truly signs off on this post, those two teams are about to play each other. Somebody has to lose. And you also know, given the alleged shenanigans swirling around Seminole quarterback Jameis Winston, the pollsters are just itching for a way to bury FSU in the rankings -- should they lose.

Nevertheless, when you add it all up, Michigan State has a terrific chance of going to the "final four".

They just have to take care of business, while the other usual suspects are knocking each other off.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Silly surgery talk

Reports have it that Okla City superstar forward Kevin Durant underwent successful surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot. This was at the base of his little toe. That sort of injury can occur (it happened to yours truly) when one is walking around the house barefoot and snags their little toe on the edge of a wall, piece of furniture, etc. As soon as it happens, one knows they messed up. This is going to hurt. Count a-thousand one, a-thousand two as the foot nerves are sending the message to your brain -- and then YOW.

But sometimes this surgery talk with pro athletes gets downright silly. OF COURSE Durant's surgery was successful. When's the last time you heard of a surgery on an athlete being a failure? Can you imagine what they might say?

"It it with deepest regrets we inform you that despite having a world-class surgical team, they totally botched the procedure on Mr. Durant. Though the initial goal was to repair a minor fracture, something appears to have gone amiss in the operating room. How Mr. Durant wound up with his foot-bone connected to his jaw-bone is unknown at this time but, despite finding himself in somewhat of an awkward position, the patient is recovering quite nicely. A second surgery to correct this minor oversight is currently under consideration". Right.

Almost a full year ago the Detroit Tigers had two players, pitcher Justin Verlander and slugger Miguel Cabrera, that underwent "strikingly similar" surgeries to repair their "core muscles".

A question: Just what exactly does "core muscles" mean? Abs? Diaphragm? Something in the pelvic area? The dreaded gluteous maximus out of jointus syndrome? Nobody seems to know, but their local sports writers keep using it as an excuse as to why they had "off" years and eventually crashed and burned in the first round of the playoffs.

It's entirely possible even the Fastball Flakes man and the Venezuelan hitting machine didn't know either. Something hurt and the team docs said they had to have an operation to make it better. And let's face it, if you've ever been in the OR for whatever procedure, you had no clue what happened after the anesthesiologist "turned out the lights". Even if it was only an "out-patient" procedure, you're going to wake up groggy in a strange room, with a bandage and a bunch of stitches somewhere, plus a handful of scripts to fill. Pills to pop later. But you really have no idea what actually went on in the OR, or whether your surgery was successful -- or not. Time will tell.

As one is waiting to get wheeled down to a pick-up area so they can go home, it's always a good sign that the surgeon makes an appearance and assures one that everything went just fine. If he/she doesn't show up -- that's a bad sign.

But if you initially went in for minor toe surgery and come out with your foot bones connected to your jaw bone -- that's a sign something went horribly wrong in the operating room. A second opinion from another doctor is probably a very good idea.

And don't get me started on "high ankle sprains". Just how high does the ankle go anyway?