Thursday, April 16, 2015

Jordan Spieth. Let the idiocy begin -- again

As we all know, Jordan Spieth won the Masters golf tournament last week. Along the way, he equalled or bettered several scoring records. Very impressive stuff indeed.

To boot, Spieth has been on quite a roll over the last few months. Virtually unknown and buried in the world golf rankings a scant year ago, JS has become the hot topic in golf and zoomed into the Top Five. Again, credit where credit is due.

But these days, you just know what's going to happen next -- and it's already begun. With apologies to the Bard, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of hype. The create-a-hero maniacs are up to their usual shenanigans. Appreciating a run of very fine play isn't enough for them. They're always looking for ways to make it into something more -- and sell it to the masses. Evidently, they think the sporting public would wither away if they didn't have a hero, real or created. There MUST be a #1 sensation at all times. While many have claimed nature abhors a vacuum, it could also be argued that filling it with empty sound bytes and pseudo-hype isn't the best scenario either.

The cover of the latest edition of Sports Illustrated is a good example. Ignoring the obvious groaner pun -- JORDAN RULES, they say. The Spieth era begins now.

Well, maybe it does, but maybe it doesn't either. Jordan Spieth has been on a hot streak of late, winning a few tournaments, coming close in others, and just chalked up his first Major, replete with the coveted green jacket. And he's still only 21 years old. Did I mention impressive stuff?

But the dogs of hype are out of control -- again. It's like they expect Spieth to continue a run of dominance for the next several years on the PGA tour. Could it happen? Sure. Odds against it? High.

The competition is too ferocious, with new young guns popping up like dandelions every spring. Remember not long ago, much the same was said about Rory McIlroy. Yes, he's still the #1 ranked player in the world, but it's not like he's blitzing the field every week. Far from it. He misses cuts in some tournaments, finishes in the pack in others, and occasionally wins one. After he went on a hot streak a few years back, including winning a couple Majors by wide margins, he was anointed as some sort of golf god by the hero-makers. These days, Rory's just another good player. Creating false idols can be tricky business, especially when a new object of worship seems to pop up every few months.

The same hype-droids are still clinging to their biggest hero of all. Tiger Woods. They will force feed us Tiger highlights, even if he's hopelessly out of contention in any given tournament. We still see the obligatory Tiger press conferences with the media hanging on his every word -- though he might be 15 shots back. They are pulling out all the stops to resurrect their hero of yesteryear. Never mind the game is better than ever since Eldrick went in the tank a few years back, it's like they just -- can't -- let -- him -- go.

So here's an idea. How about holding off on elevating a 21 year old phenom like Spieth into golf's version of future sainthood and give the kid a chance to breathe and just play the game?

Is that asking too much?

It would be fitting if the media monsters that continue to peddle their sensationalism of sports figures were held to the same standards. After writing a good article or doing a TV interview with an athlete that was an eye-opener -- maybe we should expect them to win a Pulitzer or an Emmy every year. After all, if they want to put pressure on those they cover by creating ridiculous standards -- why shouldn't they be subjected to the same themselves? Anything less would deem them as not having lived up to their potential.

Seems fair enough.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Aaron Hernandez gets convicted

No big surprise here. The verdict was as expected. Whether or not he really did it -- only Hernandez knows for sure -- will forever remain a moot point. The jury coming back "hung" would have been a stunner, and an OJ-ish not guilty finding would certainly have set the talking heads and legal analysts into warp-drive speak for a few months. But the 12 people in the box found differently and so be it. Guilty of first degree murder. A mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.

That should be just about that -- right? Game over. Not exactly. When given such a chance, people always want to get their licks in, however misguided, illogical, and dumb they may be. The horse is dead, but they want to keep kicking it anyway. Consider.....

After the Murder 1 verdict was announced, the court allowed "victim impact" statements. Relatives of the victim could come forward to express their grief and outrage to the judge. Most courts are already hopelessly backlogged and this is a colossal waste of the court's time. The sentence is mandatory. He's never getting out, so emotional pleas will make ZERO difference. If they want to whine, take it to the media outside, who will typically be more than happy to listen to them for hours, days, weeks, or until another big story breaks in 5 minutes.

There are those crowing that Hernandez also got convicted on 5 weapons charges. Again, what difference does it make? After he dies in prison for the murder charge, will they let him rot in his cell for a few extra years on the weapons charges before disposing of his remains? What's the point in tacking on a few more years to a natural life sentence? Just how dead does a convicted murderer have to be before he's paid his debt to society in full? Such overkill, pun maybe intended, is stupid, when one thinks about it.

Yet sometimes the crowing is taken to heights of ignorance as people gleefully celebrate what should be considered a very sad case all around. At least one young man was murdered. A former star athlete will spend the rest of his life behind bars after being found responsible. This is not funny, on any level.

But as irony would have it, Hernandez will spend his time at the Walpole max-security prison located only three scant miles away from Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, where he was a star not long ago.

Some pundits find this amusing in their vengeful ways of thinking. Hernandez will be able to hear the roar of the crowds at the place he once played in, they say while the venom continues to ooze from their fangs. Life behind bars isn't good enough for them. They have to rub it in.

But they just show their ignorance. Three miles is a long way for sound to travel. Even a rocking NFL stadium isn't heard three miles away -- the sound is channeled up, not outward --  much less in a walled maximum security prison.

So Hernandez did the crime, and now he's gotta do the time. The jury and judge said so.

All the rest of the hoopla is just people taking advantage of their "15 minutes" to flap their gums when the opportunity arose surrounding a tragic situation.

Bottom line. Now in the "system", Hernandez will be "disappeared" and quickly forgotten as just another number.

Heard anything about OJ lately? Likely not. He's still doing his time in a podunk town of northwestern Nevada, appropriately enough named Lovelock.

See what I mean? Big news today is no news tomorrow.

But there's no reason to gloat about the outcomes of such scenarios. It's not funny, never was. It's just sad and tragic that certain things happened in the first place.

NFL teams and the duh factor

As mentioned in my previous post, with the draft drawing nigh, the NFL experts are dissecting every college player wannabe with a precision a microbiologist would be proud of. They know EVERYTHING. And that's just the mainstream sports media, along with the usual TV talking head swamis that make a fortune predicting the future to those gullible enough to listen and believe it as gospel. The suckers were, are, and will always remain many -- and the pseudo-shamans know it.

Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they get it wrong. It's kind of like your average tarot card reader, astrologer, or first marriage. Maybe it works out as hoped. Maybe not.

But if one can look beyond the self-professed geniuses, they will find another group of people that know a little bit about football. This would be the NFL itself and its various teams. Though some have historically enjoyed much more success than others over the years, theoretically every franchise devotes vast resources to being the best team they can be.

Besides the head coach and the offensive/defensive coordinators, name the position and the team has a coach for it. Name an injury and they have world class doctors to repair it. They have trainers. shrinks, counselors, personal assistants, masseurs, and pretty much everything imaginable to keep their players in tip-top form. On the business side, they typically have a general manager, assistant GM, director of player personnel, and a room full of bean counters. There's media relations folks, advertising/marketing folks, human relations folks, the sales department, and likely another room or two full of support staff that perform various functions we never hear about. And lord knows, every team has an army of scouts out looking for potential talent 24/7/365. In other words, they have all the bases covered to the best of their ability.

Further, every team has watched extensive film on any player of possible interest, were there at the meat-market NFL combine in Indianapolis to poke, prod, measure, and psychoanalyze everything from prime ribs to chuck roasts, depending on their possible needs.

Yet very strange things are happening with some teams and potential draft picks. Consider:

It's all but a given QB Jameis Winston of Florida State will wind up being drafted #1 by the Tampa Bay Bucs. They need a QB, JW would be a fan favorite having played his college ball upstate, and it would be stunning if they traded that pick away.

Consider further the "war rooms" of every NFL team have had ample time to do their homework and put their draft boards together. They know who they want, how much they can afford with salary cap implications, and pretty much what the other teams are looking for as well. In short, they likely have a very good idea who will still be available when it's their turn to pick, last minute trades up/down aside.

Enter the duh factor. Why would the Chicago Bears bring Jameis Winston in for a workout? They pick 7th. Not a chance Winston falls that far. A potential trade? What have the Duh Bears got to offer the Bucs that they would give up a potential franchise QB? Ain't gonna happen. So what's the point of bringing him in? Sure, if I'm Winston, I'll fly first class to Chitown on a private jet to be treated like royalty while checking out the sights on their dime. If they're dumb enough to pay for it -- why not?

Same with Marcus Mariota, the recent Heisman trophy winner from Oregon. He'll likely be the second QB off the board. The San Diego Chargers recently sent their "brain trust" up to Oregon to work him out. The Chargers have the 17th pick in the draft. Mariota may or may not fall out of the Top 5, but he sure as hell will be long gone before the #17 pick rolls around. So what's the point other than wasting a bunch of man-hours and jet fuel sending people on a wild goose chase? Duh.

But you just know how it's going to work out in the end. The perennial "duh" franchises like the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, and Jacksonville Jaguars will all crow about how they made a killing in the draft. Their local media will spread the propaganda because that's what they do. And the local suckers will believe it and buy more tickets -- because that's what THEY do. These teams are all about selling hope, but make no mistake -- you won't see any of them in a Super Bowl soon -- if ever. Too much duh factor.

On the other hand, smart teams like the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, and Seattle Seahawks will quietly find "diamonds in the rough" and quickly turn them into solid players at the NFL level. For every lost star to free agency, they have a way of finding another to plug in and not miss a beat -- because that's what THEY do.

A difference.

No duh about it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

More dumb things. Please

What a surprise to see the top paying jobs in America. Who knew that a brain surgeon typically hauls in more annual loot than a garbage collector? And what a stunner that lawyers charging $300-400 an hour make more than the folks that deliver pizzas or super-size you? Please.

That most interesting guy in the world is back again. Not sure what he drinks, but whatever it is seems to still have the magical ability to attract brain dead stick girls the world over. His motto should be -- stay wasted, my friends, and the moronic bimbos will keep on coming. Please.

A few more guys in Major League Baseball have recently been given 80 game suspensions when the steroid Stanozolol was found in their system. It's hard to say who's dumber. The players themselves, when it's long been known that steroid is easily detectable through the most basic urine test, or new Commissioner Rob Manfred who is shocked -- SHOCKED -- that over the counter pharmaceuticals in the home countries of many Latino players might turn up in their systems at some point. Please.

Of course those players say they have no idea how such a thing could happen. They would never knowingly put such a banned substance into their body. Either they're liars, or just.... that... dumb. At any rate, in modern times this excuse ranks right up there with the dog ate my homework alibi of old. Nobody believed such nonsense then or now. Pretty please.

It's not enough that Jordan Spieth won the 2015 Masters, while setting a few scoring records along the way. Oh no, we must always have the Tiger comparisons. Tiger once did this. Tiger once did that. Well, guess what? Tiger finished a whopping 13 strokes behind and isn't even in the Top 100 golfers in the world anymore. So why does the fascination about a once great player that is obviously on the back side of his bell curve continue? Gimme a break. He had his ten years of dominance and it's over. Stick a fork in him. Please.

Why do veterinarians push year-round monthly heartworm pills for pets in Michigan, when it's a mosquito borne disease? Show me a mosquito in Michigan from Dec.1 to April 1 -- and I'll eat it. There aren't any. So why should people pay for four pills -- and they're not cheap -- that their pets don't need? The cha-chings for the shots are bad enough.

Idle thought: Given many such shots cost about $25, and they typically contain about 1 CC of medicine, and further given there are roughly 3700 CCs in a gallon -- simple math will tell you a single gallon of rabies and/or distemper vaccine winds up fetching a colossal $92,500. So theoretically a jug of this stuff is worth 3 brand new cars? Something is very wrong with this picture. Puh-leeze. Did I mention vets are among the top paying jobs as well? Imagine that.

The NFL draft is approaching and the usual annual hype is already everywhere and will reach the also usual fever pitch before it's over. Some college players will go on to be pro stars and others will be busts. We've seen plenty of both over the years, regardless of where in the draft they are taken.

But there's another really dumb thing going on right now with a few teams and college prospects.

More on that next time out......

Monday, April 13, 2015

NBA, stars and teams. Part II

In my previous post I attempted to outline why a "superstar" player on any given NBA team doesn't necessarily translate into a championship. Names such as James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul were mentioned.

Consider what some superstars have accomplished, or not, during their careers.

Bill Russell of the long ago Boston Celtics won lots of championships, but he had a terrific supporting cast as well.

So did Michael Jordan of Chicago Bulls fame, on both fronts.

Kobe had Shaq, Kareem had Magic, and all four enjoyed the luxury of very talented teammates when the Lakers were all the rage.

Bird had McHale, Parrish, and a couple mighty fine guards when the Celtics peaked again back in the late 80s.

For all his talents, Dr. J and his 76ers couldn't win until they acquired Moses Malone.

A phenomenal talent himself, the late Pistol Pete Maravich never did sniff a championship in all his years in New Orleans. He didn't have any help.

Arguably the best player of all time, Lebron James, couldn't get over the hump in his first go-round with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He would eventually win championships in Miami, but without the likes of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and others, that likely wouldn't have happened either. Superstars are a good thing, but standing alone aren't enough to win championships.

There have been exceptions, notably the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons of the late 80s. It was thought they just out-muscled, out-willed, and out-toughed everybody. But that's not exactly accurate. They had two future Hall of Famers in Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars at the time, plus a terrific supporting cast of their own. Everybody knew their roles, did them well, and they had the perfect coach in the late Chuck Daly to bring it all together.

Back to the present. Certainly the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks have all but lapped the field during the regular season in their respective conferences. But can either close the deal in the next several weeks of the playoffs? Maybe. Maybe not.

Here's two teams to watch out for.

San Antonio. As defending champs and a veteran team, the Spurs have been there, done that. Plus they have the best head coach in the game. They have a mixture of aging stars and terrific young players. On both ends of the court, nobody plays better team basketball than the Spurs. While others have grabbed the limelight, San Antonio is quite content to fly under the radar. And don't look now, but they've won their last 10 in a row and might well wind up the #2 seed in the West. Bet against Coach Pop and his Spurs in the playoffs at your own peril.

The name Lebron always rings a bell. A superstar indeed, maybe even the best all-around player ever. Yet just last year in the NBA Finals, the King and his band of Miami Heat mercenaries were humbled at the hands of the Spurs. So he went back home to Cleveland. Nothing wrong with that.

The Cavs themselves have been flying under the radar all year as well. But after a slow start, they finally gelled, and have put together a very impressive record of 51-28 at the time of this writing. True, Lebron doesn't have D-Wade and Chris to help him anymore, but he might have something even better. Kyrie and and Kevin. Also true is the Cavs hired a nitwit coach with zero NBA credentials on any level, appropriately enough named Blatt. But hey, they're owned by Dan Gilbert. It has been said even an incompetent clueless boob can occasionally strike it rich in America. People are free to draw their own conclusions about such things. Is this a great country, or what?

But in the East, there really isn't that much serious competition. After a quick start, the Toronto Raptors have been wilting in the last couple months. The Chicago Bulls, with or without Derrick Rose, appear to be a good, but not really good team. The Washington Wizards? Please.

It appears only Atlanta and Cleveland will be serious contenders in the playoffs. And who do you think would win that series, even given the Hawks would have home court advantage? Did I mention betting against Lebron and the resurgent Cavs at your own peril?

Who will eventually advance to slug it out in the NBA Finals is anybody's guess. Possible future injuries aside, I'm just saying that star players are a terrific asset, and the talking heads will continue to rant and rave over them. That's what they teach them in talking head school. But without a very good supporting cast, and a coach that has the wisdom to put all the pieces together in the right places at the right times, even the best of players will find themselves kicked to the curb somewhere during the course of the playoffs. Scoring titles, MVPs, and a bazillion endorsements and/or more moronic TV ads are one thing. Winning a ring is quite another.

Sometimes the low profile guys that work the hardest wind up coming out on top. You didn't see Coach Pop or any of his Spurs selling insurance last year. Likewise, we haven't witnessed Lebron James or any of his Cavs teammates in any dopey commercials lately either for a few more bucks they don't need.

And all in the above paragraph continue to fly under the radar of the terabyte-per-second talking hypester droid machines.

Idle thought: Do these guys and gals rant like that when they go home? Is it any wonder wedding rings on their fingers appear to be scarce? Who would put up with that crap for long?

Bottom line. Listen to the hype if you will, but in a month or so, don't be surprised if a couple teams that have been patiently working and planning for the playoffs all along wind up clashing in the Finals for all the marbles.

I'm just saying.......

Sunday, April 12, 2015

NBA. Stars today, gone soon. Part I

It's interesting to note some of the things that have been going on around the NBA lately. Not the least of which is the typical media hype over certain star players. The talking heads need their heroes even more than the fans.

While terrific players are, duh, necessary to a team's success, a media created superstar doesn't necessarily translate to playoff success, much less winning a championship. Let's look at a few.

Just last night, Russell Westbrook of the Okla City Thunder poured in a whopping 54 points. His team would lose by 12 to the lowly Indiana Pacers. Granted, teammate "superstar" Kevin Durant is on the shelf again with another injury. KD seems to have a little Murphyish Tiger Woods in him. For a guy in such terrific shape, if something can go physically wrong, it probably will. But even if Durant was still there, the chances of OKC reaching the NBA Finals were slim or none. That's because a while back they made the incredibly bone-headed mistake of letting a key player get away in free agency.

Enter James Harden, the younger clone of Grady from the Sanford and Son comedy series of old. Like Westbrook, Harden's been lighting it up on the court with his scoring. See him drill 3 pointers. See him dribble his way through four defenders like Curly Neal of the Harlem Globetrotters for improbable baskets. See him neck and neck with Westbrook for the scoring title and MVP consideration. See him and his Houston Rockets likely make an early exit from the playoffs. When one guy's hoisting up 40-some shots per game, it doesn't say a whole lot about his supporting cast.

There's Batman and Robin, sometimes known as the Splash Brothers, for Golden State. When it comes to pure shooting, few would doubt the tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are a dynamic duo indeed. Perhaps the best ever. It should also be noted the Warriors have the best record in the entire NBA and will enjoy home court advantage throughout the playoffs. But when the defenses start tightening the screws in the playoffs -- does anybody really think these guys can run the formidable gauntlet of the West? Not I. Steph and Klay might well get splashed out of the post-season in the first couple rounds of play.

Notice we haven't heard much about Chris Paul and the Clippers lately. Maybe that's because dear Chris is still recuperating from having his ankles broken by the above-mentioned Curry in a recent game. Ouch. And mercifully, those moronic insurance TV ads Chris did with his twin brother Cliff seem to finally have run their course. Yes, the Clips are pretty good, what with the likes of Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan prowling the court. But Sir Charles Barkley hit it on the nose when he said, "If your best player is only 6 feet tall, you're not going to win a championship". Anybody that swings a golf club like Chuck gets my attention, though some of his stupid commercials can go away any time now -- please. Nevertheless, let's scratch the Clips from serious consideration to go far.

The Atlanta Hawks won the East by a wide margin and will enjoy home court advantage as well. Conversely, they don't feature any "superstars" and have relied on team basketball to get them in the position they're in. But again, does anybody really think they'll make it through to the Finals, let alone win it? Count yours truly as highly skeptical.

So when push comes to shove with the big boys and the refs start swallowing their whistles in the playoffs, who can we look to see still playing in June?

The likely possibilities might surprise you, because they've been flying under the radar all year long while the yappy heads have been ranting about superstar players and their individual accomplishments. But when one really thinks about it, such an outcome wouldn't be surprising at all.

On to the real deal, next time. Working.....

Detroit sports. Good news and bad news

Let's start with the Detroit Tigers. The good news is they're off to a terrific 5-0 start, having so far out-scored their opponents by a whopping 28 runs.

The bad news is -- the Kansas City Royals in the same division are also 5-0. Remember last year? Pundits said the Tigers had the "best starting rotation in baseball", sluggers galore, and were a shoo-in to reach the post season. Indeed they did, only to be broomed out of the playoffs by Baltimore. In the end, guess who wound up going to the World Series? Yep, the very same KC.

The moral of the story? Wake me up in October and we'll all see who's who.

The Detroit Red Wings have reached the post-season for a record 24th straight year. Impressive? Sure. Any record is noteworthy. But making the playoffs in the NHL is a watered down stat. Fully half the teams in the league qualify for the post-season every year. A squad has to be pretty bad NOT to make it.

The good news is -- when it comes to the annual chase for Lord Stanley's cup, anything can happen. Top seeds can, and have been bounced early. Lesser teams like the Wings can get hot and roll to the Cup. The NHL playoffs are a total crapshoot, so Detroit has as good a chance as anybody else.

The bad news? The Wings can't seem to figure out who their goalie is. Everybody they throw in can be brilliant one day and get lit up like a pinball machine the next. Few would doubt that brilliant goaltending is a must to get far in the NHL playoffs. They will be tested -- severely. We'll see.....

When it comes to the Detroit Pistons, good news is tough to come by. It appears they're going to finish about 30 games behind in the Eastern Conference (it would be 35 in the West) and any delusions about making the playoffs have long since been quashed.

The really bad news? The few players they have with any talent are nearing the ends of their contracts. Given the first opportunity, chances are these guys will look to go somewhere else to play for a contender. The Pistons and their hype machine can spin things all they want, but if you think they're bad now, wait a couple years. It's likely going to get even worse.

For what it's worth, the good news is -- the season is almost mercifully over for the woeful Pistons.

Idle thought: Given an 82 game regular season, you have to be bad -- REALLY bad -- to finish 30 games behind.

Last but not least are the Detroit Lions. The good news is -- like the Red Wings -- the Lions have a 24 year playoff streak of their own that remains intact.

The bad news is -- that's how long it's been since they last won a playoff game.

Good news. The Lions de-thugged themselves somewhat when Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley left town to play elsewhere.

More good news. The NFL draft is approaching and we all know the Lions "braintrust" will select either "can't miss" players, or "diamonds in the rough", that somehow all the other teams overlooked. How will we know this? Because the club and its ever-faithful local media will tell us so. It happens every year.

The really good news? Spring has sprung and the next thing you know, Honolulu blue and silver koolaid stands will start popping up everywhere in southeastern Michigan. Powerful stuff, that brew. Some have been addicted to it for over 50 years. They have to have their fix. Sadly, few ever find their way out of the madness that goes along with thinking every year is going to be THE year. The dream of the Lions getting to the Super Bowl, much less winning it, is kind of like thinking the Loch Ness monster will be reeled in by a fisherman any day now. Or Bigfoot will parachute into Washington DC and announce he's running for President next year. Now THAT would be an interesting development. Given the current field of wannabes -- he might not be a bad choice -- but I digress.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the Lions, there's always bad news. Good grief, over a half century and counting of futility and bumbling is ample evidence that only the hardest of hard core Hono BS koolaiders could ignore. Then again, it's their time, money and fantasies. If they want to keep chasing rainbows looking for a pot of gold at the end -- more power to them. The world is a big place and it needs all kinds. After all, who would doubt successful people would be much less so if their legions of loyal, brainwashed droids ever became self-aware and realized they'd been conned all along?

In sum, depending on how one wishes to look at it -- perhaps there is good news for the Lions. The hopelessly addicted koolaiders will no doubt line up for their fixes once again this fall.

But the bad news can also be summed up in six scant words.

It's still the Lions.