Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Tom Brady debacle

Roger Goodell and the NFL are likely going to eventually lose their battle with Tom Brady, you know. It's only a matter of time. Why? Because they've based their whole prosecutorial case on smoke, mirrors, and unfounded allegations, with little to no hard evidence to back it up. And for all intents and purposes, the appeals process of the NFL has always been a kangaroo court. The Commissioner handing out original punishments he deems appropriate is fine, but the same guy hearing the appeals is a travesty of justice. It's not supposed to work like that in America.

True, in recent times, particulary since 9/11, prosecutors (and Big Brother) have won the biggest victory of them all. They have persuaded the "court of public opinion" to always think anyone accused of a "crime" must be guilty. More often than not the media is happy to jump on board the hang-em high bandwagon. But that doesn't make it right. Far from it. Oftentimes they are eventually proven to be quite wrong, but they never, ever, apologize or try to atone for the damage they have inflicted on innocents during their witch hunts. Much the same principle could well apply in the Tom Brady case.

The Wells report, which Goodell and his minions commissioned (paid for) in the first place, is a primary example. Within it, Wells concluded that Brady "was more likely than not at least generally aware" of some sort of wrongdoing. Stop right there and think about that.

By his own words, Wells had already admitted he couldn't prove anything, so he hazarded a guess to please his masters. And excuse me, but "more likely than not at least generally aware" doesn't cut it, not even close, much less warrant a guilty verdict and punishment. Further, by those same words, Wells is tacitly saying Brady wasn't actively complicit in the "crime" to begin with -- if it even happened at all. Experts on both sides have offered up conflicting scientific "evidence". And, after all, we're talking about one measly pound (or less) of air pressure in a football during a game played in a heavy rainstorm.

Earlier today, Roger Goodell upheld the original 4-game suspension he'd handed down to Brady. Though he still doesn't have any hard evidence Brady was complicit in any wrongdoing, the Commish was desperate to find a way to justify his ruling. He'd been mulling it over for over a month. Then Brady himself gave him something Goodell could sink his teeth into. Brady had destroyed the cell phone which the NFL thought contained incriminating evidence. That in itself is a ludicrous proposition.

First of all, Brady has long been known to switch cell phones every few months, like millions of other people as new and better ones hit the market. To get rid of one for another is hardly earthshaking news and peculiar to Tom Brady. Arm-chair prosecutors say this is a very serious matter and casts Brady as destroying incriminating evidence but, looked at objectively, it proves nothing.

Ah, but some say that texts and phone calls, once out there, are forever -- right? They can be traced to servers, hard drives, and the likes. Unless you're a former IRS honcho or your name is Hillary, that's true enough. But the NFL had a small problem there. Despite being the gorilla in the world of Americans sports, they don't have the subpoena power necessary to obtain such records. And let's get real. Whatever deflategate scenario may or may not have happened, including Brady's involvement or not, did not run afoul of the law. No real "crime" has been committed, no arrests, no criminal charges, etc. The authorities that DO have subpoena power have no basis upon which to act.

That's not even to mention Brady's privacy rights. He was under no obligation to turn over his phone records to his corporate bosses. But by not doing so, Goodell used it against him as a sign of guilt. It's as if Brady was presumed guilty and had to prove himself innocent, which is bass-ackwards from the way the system is supposed to work.

Hypothetically, let's imagine Brady decided to give up his cell phone and call/text records to Goodell and his Court. What would they have? A bunch of numbers but no idea of what conversations took place. This proves nothing again. Incriminating texts showing Tom Brady explicitly directed an equipment manager or ball boy to deflate footballs below the NFL minimum allowed? THAT would be hard evidence, but given how many idiots have gotten into trouble in recent years over texts, and further given Tom Brady is a pretty savvy guy, it's highly doubtful #12 would have done something so stupid. So in the end, it could fairly be argued the whole phone thing was merely Brady standing on his rights, and good for him. For Goodell to make the leap that no phone evidence is a sign of guilt smacks of a kangaroo court indeed.

Some wonder why New England Patriots' owner Robert Kraft was willing to "fall on the sword" and accept the $1 million dollar fine and loss of a couple draft picks over Deflategate. Let's get real again. A million bucks to an NFL owner is chump change, and since when have the Patriots had high draft choices? They're the best there ever was at finding diamonds in the rough, plugging them into their system to become terrific team players, and the beat goes on. And the cheese baron has never been exactly known as a rabble rouser. The defending Super Bowl champions will be just fine, and Kraft knows it.

But this sordid case is far from over. Tom Brady, his agent, and the player's union look at things far differently than Mr. Kraft. They have deemed Goodell's ruling and reasoning behind it to be totally unacceptable. This is going to land in a federal court somewhere, and likely quite soon.

In this respect the Brady camp has an advantage. When it comes to federal courts, given the NFL is a national entity, they can pick one in a state they deem more favorable to their chances. Someplace that generally leans more towards worker's rights than that of management. Liberal, if you will.

The obvious choice would be Massachusetts, home of the Patriots. Or perhaps Minnesota, where a certain federal judge has been sympathetic to union/labor causes in the past.

With time quickly winding down before the start of the NFL season, the Brady camp would be looking for an injunction (postponement) of Goodell's 4 game suspension. And they well might get it. Brady would be allowed to start the season while the court deliberates further. But this comes with risks for both sides.

Federal judges typically take their sweet time before handing down a final decision. It could be weeks, even a couple months.

If Goodell and the NFL crash and burn at the judge's hand, it would be just more egg on the face of a Commissioner that's recently seen many such court findings go against him. He can't make up rules as he goes along and apply them retroactively. No real court is going to uphold such a heavy-handed and unreasonable approach. And in a federal court, an objective judge is going to want to see more than suspicions, allegations, and "non-evidence" before he/she would consider a guilty verdict. His/her Honor could easily toss the case unless the NFL comes up with more than what they appear to have to date against Brady. He could be fully reinstated as if this never happened. If that happens, Robert Kraft will have some egg on HIS face. He already paid a million bucks and gave up a couple draft choices, and those aren't coming back.

But if it goes the other way, it could be big trouble for the Patriots as well. The status quo is Brady will miss the first four games. If he gets a "stay" he'll be able to play. Yet if the judge comes back, after due deliberation (a few months) and rules against Brady, instead of missing September, he might miss December, when the games REALLY count. And good luck throwing a new quarterback into the mix at that point. As mentioned above, Bill Belichick and the Patriots are masters of interchangeable parts, but there's only one Tom Brady. Deleting him as the playoffs loom would likely spell disaster for the Foxborough faithful.

The high-stakes and even higher-profile chess match goes on. You'll hear all about it. Brady v Goodell is a dream come true for the talking heads. They can go on for hours, days, weeks, even months with their speculation, though they know nothing factual. Sort of like Anderson Cooper and his merry band of pseudo-experts chasing and analyzing the latest disaster. Long on talk, but short on substance.

Personally, one way or the other, I hope whoever makes the final call on this whole Brady/Deflategate debacle does so before Labor Day. Either he's in or he's out. Get it before the court quickly, listen to the evidence and/or lack thereof, and dammit, come to a decision. It shouldn't take more than a couple days. This whole charade has gone on WAY too long already.......

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Bonehead Files. Detroit Tigers

Even the most loyal Detroit Tiger fans are likely exasperated by now. They thought their team was supposed to be a lot better than what they've shown this year. After 100 games they're under .500 and much closer to the basement of their division than the top. Despite earlier high expecations, this is not a good baseball team.

The many flaws of the Tigers have become apparent as the season has gone on and been well documented. No need to go into the gory details here.

But against the Boston Red Sox in their latest loss, the Tigers stepped into another dubious world. Welcome to the Bonehead Files, boys. Bad play is one thing, but consider....

Dumb.

Starting pitcher Shane Greene has been getting pin-balled in recent outings. Manager Brad Ausmus said Greene might have success if he keeps the ball down, but will get hit if he grooves pitches to opposing hitters. Well, no kidding, Brad. Did you stay up all night analyzing Greene's sabermetrics to come to that pearl of wisdom? Bob Gibson or Nolan Ryan Greene is not. Just the best you have right now for a fifth starter. And he wasn't that good to start with.

Dumber.

The Tigers, like most teams, put the "shift" on when left-handed hitting Boston slugger David Ortiz comes to bat. Basically, there's no third baseman. Ortiz is expected to "pull" the ball, so the Tigers deployed regular third sacker Nick Castellanos in shallow right field. So why, tell me WHY, did the Tiger catcher call and set up for pitches to be thrown low and outside to Ortiz? The only place a left-handed hitter can hit such a pitch is towards the left side of the infield -- which they've already vacated. Indeed, Ortiz fouled a couple off down the third base line. That was before -- surprise -- Greene finally grooved one into Big Papi's wheelhouse and Ortiz hit a colossal three-run homer. Either way, they were exercises in stupidity. If it's going to be all that much trouble, why not just walk the guy and take your chances with the next batter?

Dumbest.

Per usual, after Greene had been flogged by the Bosox hitters, the Tigers went to their batting-practice pitchers -- sometimes loosely referred to as a bullpen. To nobody's great surprise, the balls started rocketing all over the park. This was great fun for the Bosox hitters and their fans. Not so much so for the Tiger hopefuls, whatever is left of them. By the seventh inning the game had gotten out of hand. Boston was clobbering Detroit 11-1. And then the dumbest thing yours truly has seen in sports in a long time happened.

A Tiger coach came out to the mound to have a chat with the reliever then serving as the latest boxing speed bag for an opponent. So what could he possibly tell him at that point in the game?

Throw strikes? Duh. Don't serve up 450 foot taters? Double duh. Try to keep it close. We're only 10 runs down with six outs to go. Triple duh. The absolute absurdity of a coach going out to the mound for a chat in a game that was already a hopeless blowout just underscores what has already been a very bad season for the Detroit Tigers.

They're not only stinking it up on the field with their play, but now they've spiralled down into a new level of ineptitude. Stupidity on national television.

Here's the clincher. Tiger GM Dave Dombrowski was seen sitting in a luxury box at Fenway Park high above the field. DD had his cell phone out and had made a call. No doubt, he is thinking about the trade deadline that rapidly approaches. Thing is -- nobody seemed to answer his call. Until the cameras mercifully cut to another shot, Dombrowski sat there with a dumb look on his face -- probably listening to the voice mail message of another GM. Now nobody's even taking his calls? Yikes.

For all the above, from the GM, down to the manager, coaches, and players, the Detroit Tigers have certainly earned a place in the Bonehead Files.

Welcome aboard fellas. I have friends in low places too, but at least they answer the phone when I call.....

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Detroit Tigers' dilemma

After such a quick start to the season, including 6-0 and 11-2 records, the wheels appear to have fallen off the Motown baseballers. The high expectations have been all but completely dashed.

The Tigers are over 10 games behind AL Central Division leading Kansas City, and it should probably be even more. Theoretically, Detroit remains in the wild-card hunt for post-season play, but only because the American League has precious few "quality" teams. The rest are all lumped together in the world of "parity". Also theoretically, the Tigers could wind up not only out of the playoffs but finish in the cellar of their own division. Besides being 5 games behind Minnesota for second, they're only a game and a half ahead of Cleveland for fourth, and a mere two games ahead of the White Sox -- the current cellar dwellers. With over 60 games to go, things could swing either way for the Tigers. Of late, they've been finding a way to lose games rather than win them -- and that against sub -.500 teams. Not a good omen.

With the trade deadline rapidly approaching (July 31), much has been made in Detroit (mostly by their sports media) about what the Tigers should do. Basically, it comes down to three choices. Buy, sell, or stand pat. But actually it's not quite that simple.

If the Tigers decide to buy -- who can they purchase and, more importantly, how? If you want a difference making player in a trade, you have to give up something in return. What do the Tigers have to offer? Prospects? They don't have any. They've gutted their farm system for years in "win now" mode, but it hasn't happened. Who do they have that would be attractive to another team? Victor Martinez? He's getting old and is good for one thing and one thing only. A DH. He can't field, throw, or run. Ian Kinsler has a hefty contract and is on the back side of his bell curve. J. D. Martinez has been quite the surprise with his bat -- so the Tigers likely wouldn't want to let him go. Miguel Cabrera is likely untouchable. Third baseman Nick Castellanos is hitting .240, on pace for maybe 10 home runs and 60 RBIs, and average at best fielding his position. Most clubs would expect much more out of a starting third baseman. So who else do the Tigers have with value? Andrew Romine, Rajai Davis, or Anthony Gose? Please. Anybody in the bullpen? Pretty please. Former ace Justin Verlander has yet to win a single game this year and has a whopper long-term contract to boot. No other team would touch him.

They could stand pat with their current roster, but that's likely to change anyway after this season. Star pitcher David Price will be a free agent, as will left fielder Yoenis Cespides. This isn't exactly Price's first rodeo. Though he continues to say all the right things, Price has been around long enough to fully comprehend the current and likely future plight of the Tigers. One way or the other, Price is going to get a mega-contract with somebody, because he's definitely proven he's an ace pitcher and is in the prime of his career agewise. The question then becomes -- why would he stick around with the Tigers rather than go to a legitimate contender that has a decent chance of winning a championship for the next few years? Besides the money, isn't that what all ballplayers want? As a free agent, it's totally his call.

That leaves the "sell" option, and the Tigers might as well. True, if they got rid of a few star players their fans would likely not be happy. They've become used to at least seeing their team being contenders. But there comes a time when hard business decisions have to be made, regardless of how unpopular they are. Overall, there is little question the Tigers are trending down with no help in sight.

To owner Mike Ilitch's credit, the pizza man hasn't shied away from spending big bucks trying to bring a World Series championship to Detroit. They've had some great runs over the years, but the title has always remained just out of reach. Some things just aren't meant to be. The Ford family that has long owned the Detroit Lions are well aware of that concept -- or at least they should be. Between the Lions and the Tigers it's been a whopping 88 years and counting since a championship was brought to Detroit. And it doesn't look to happen any year soon -- for either team.

Bottom line? The Tigers might as well blow it up and start over. A local columnist recently made an astute observation regarding that possibility. He said at least the fans could quit hoping for a while. Nothing is worse than people getting their hopes up every year, only to be disappointed in the end. (It should be noted said columnist was leading the hype parade for years, but has recently flip-flopped like the former never happened). Would the Tigers' attendance at the ballpark suffer? Probably. But that matters little. Given the enormous amount of TV money and other revenue sources major league clubs continue to have pourng in, it's not like one of them is going to go broke if they start building again from scratch. Not being a contender for a few years isn't the end of the world. Ask the Chicago Cubs. The Boston Celtics are in total rebuild mode. They'll be back in due time, because such a proud franchise never stays down for long. And the fans of both these teams remain loyal. Sell-outs every game, even though the fans know their team has little or no chance to be contenders.

In their current state, the Tigers have little chance at success and will likely continue to spiral downward. Their window of opportunity has all but closed while other teams are on the rise. Such is the nature of the game. Some come out of nowhere to become champions (see the San Francisco Giants, L. A. Kings, Seattle Seahawks and Golden State Warriors of late) while others seem to be perennial bridesmaids.

And all the hype in the world will never change it. Hype is for suckers, and the media uses it well to prey on gullible fans.

But they don't play the games -- do they?









Thursday, July 23, 2015

Tour de France madness

Barring something unforeseen, such as a major crash or being beamed up by aliens, Briton Chris Froome appears to be on the cusp of winning another Tour de France. More than three quarters through the grueling three week bicycle race, he has a comfortable lead of almost 4 minutes. That's a lot. Four minutes on a bike for a world class cyclist likely equates to a couple miles. And most of his serious rivals have fallen far back or dropped out for various reasons. Froome is pretty much on cruise control for the last few stages.

But a few days ago something very interesting happened. Froome had opened up his lead on a mountain stage through the Pyrenees. Ever suspicious, some in the French press smelled a rat. One way or the other they suspected Froome was "doping". Though they had no evidence of such, the recent Lance Armstrong debacle likely remains fresh in their minds.

Froome has never failed a drug test, but neither had Armstrong. For that matter, the public at large likely wouldn't know to this day that Armstrong had cheated had he not gone public with it in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. Suspicions abounded, but no smoking gun. For whatever reason, Lance decided to "come clean". On second thought, it was rumored Oprah paid Lance Armstrong $6 million for their tete-a-tete. That could be considered a good reason. He may be disgraced, but he's also rich. A trade off.

Nevertheless, the good French people who are big fans of the Tour de France -- and how many aren't? -- were quick to believe the unfounded allegation against Froome. Riding along, Froome was booed and even had urine thrown at him in their way of protesting what they perceived to be another "doper".

Let's get real. The French have long considered the Tour de France to be "their" race, and are much happier when one of their countrymen wears the yellow jersey as its victor. They have indeed had worthy champions in the past, such as Bernard Hinault. They are not as content when a "foreigner" wins it, but will begrudgingly acknowledge him -- as long as they can't find a reason to suspect foul play. Fair enough, but given this is an international event open to any worthy cyclists from around the globe, it should come as no surprise if and when "outlanders" wind up standing on the podium at the end. France is a great country, but the world is a big place when it comes to athletes competing at the highest levels.

For Froome to be subjected to such treatment by spectators as he pedalled his way along the courses was out of bounds. It was classless, distasteful, and only brought on by a French media outlet floating a rumor likely of their own creation, knowing full well the masses would gobble it up and believe it. It smacks of sour grapes and envy, and they should collectively be ashamed of themselves.

But in today's sports world, especially the Tour de France, Froome and his team felt the pressure of such innuendo and the need to respond. They wanted to dispel any notions the Briton was cheating.

They released medical data concerning Froome, as in his heart rate and respiration on the fateful mountain stage in question. Yours truly knoweth not how such things are monitored. Do they have sensors under the jerseys of the cyclists that constantly beep their vital signs back to command central?

As an ignorant layman, my guess would be the pulses and breathing rates of cylists are going to go up when they pedal hard, especially on brutal mountain climbs. If one guy's pulse is 120 and another's is only 115, it doesn't necessarily mean the latter is a dopehead. Maybe he's in superior condition, or has a somewhat different body metabolism. If the heart rate per minute is -- say -- 30  -- after going up and down a few mountains -- this would be good cause for suspicion. Either he's chock full of roids or some sort of cyborg. Break out the urine cup immediately and rush it off to the lab for analysis. Something is definitely wrong.

Yet for now, I would exhort the good French people to appreciate Chris Froome. Yes, he's one of those dastardly Brits, but the young man appears to be the best on the bike. Stop listening to your press which will always try to sensationalize matters that had little or no substance to begin with. As an American, I understand it completely. Our media does the same thing, and millions of fools believe whatever they see on TV or read in the tabloids.

But they often get it wrong. Worse yet, deep down they know they're wrong, but they do it anyway. Anything for ratings and publicity.

Chris Froome will be a worthy champion. Scorning him only tarnishes your own image abroad. Embrace him. He will have earned it.



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Detroit Lions and some bad career moves

Bad career move #1. Remember Susan Stafford? She thought the TV game show she was on had no future so she quit it to look for greener pastures. Ms. Staffford was promptly replaced by somebody named Vanna White on the Wheel of Fortune over 30 years ago. Bad move Susie. REALLY bad move.

[Idle trivia: Though they make her up to look much younger, Vanna is now 58 years old. Host Pat Sajak is closing in on 69. Surprised? The show that follows them features Alex Trebek on Jeopardy! He looks to be fiftyish, right? Guess again. The Canadian that likes to show off his fluent French is actually 75. Who would have thunk it?]

The Detroit Lions training camp will start shortly and the hype is already in full swing. The club itself, the beat writers that cover them, local talking sports heads, and certainly the latest generation of long-suffering fans have jumped on the bandwagon. Again. BTW, though the Lions haven't even so much as won a playoff game in over 20 years, the ticket prices just went up. Again. And the ever-hopeful, if horribly misguided, Honolulu blue and silver faithful will gladly reach a little deeper into their wallets to see the "show". Phineas Taylor Barnum had it exactly right. There's one born every minute.

The usual koolaiders think the Lions will build on their 11-5 record of last year and be even better. Somewhere P. T. smiles, and for good reasons. Here's a few:

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been hailed in Detroit as some kind of super-hero. Yet most experts have Stafford in the middle of the pack regarding all NFL starting QBs. Yes, he has thrown for a lot of yardage, mostly to Calvin Johnson -- due to the lack of a viable running game -- but he's also prone to making many poor decisions in the pocket. Hanging on to the ball too long has resulted in a lot of sacks. True, he seems to have outgrown his former personna as a "china doll" -- where every time he got hit something broke -- but it's likely not a good idea for the Georgia peach to keep tempting fate. The ferocious on-rushing behemoths on other defenses couldn't care less about Stafford's status in Detroit. They'd just as soon break him into a million pieces. And they might, because....

Of the Lions offensive line. Glass half-fullers will say it's a "new-look" unit. Realists could counter with the fact the Lions don't even know who's playing what position yet, let alone have any cohesiveness that can only come after playing many games together. And that's assuming they possess enough talent in the first place -- hardly a given.

Bad career move #2. Golden Tate. After winning a Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks, Tate decided to leave the gorgeous city of Seattle and come to the crime-ridden wasteland that is Detroit. The Seahawks came within a whisker of winning another Super Bowl 6 months ago and will likely be formidable contenders in the near future. They just added All-World tight end/receiver Jimmy Graham (formerly of the New Orleans Saints) to their arsenal. Nobody would be a bit surprised if the S-Hawks get right back to the Super Bowl again. To go to Detroit? The only non-expansion team -- and one of only four total -- to have never even reached the Super Bowl, let alone win it? To boot, the Lions are a long shot to win their own division, let alone contend for the Lombardi trophy any year soon. Granted, Tate came out of Notre Dame and delusions of grandeur have long been ingrained as a way of life at the college of leprechauns, but what could he possibly have been thinking of once in the NFL? Bad move Golden. Definitely. You won't find any pot-o-gold at the end of the rainbow in Motown. If there ever was one, it was stolen and fenced decades ago.

Some say the Lions won't miss the presence of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley from their defensive line. They should ease off on the crack pipe. While both players had behavioral issues, there is little doubt they were highly effective on the field. You can't just take a couple cast-offs from other teams and plug them into these spots and expect the same productivity. Ain't gonna happen.

The Detroit brood is already trumpeting the arrival of Ameer Abdullah as their next great running back. Hey, the dude was a second round pick out of Nebraska. Maybe he makes a successful jump to the NFL -- and maybe not. The Cornhuskers have long been known for their rushing game behind gigantic offensive lines. The Lions are known for being pass-happy, and their O-line is yet to be determined. BTW again, didn't the same hypsters tout the arrival of Reggie Bush a few years back the same way? He was supposed to be the GUY. How did that work out?

Despite the usual hype, time for a reality check. In 2013 the Lions were terrible. That led to the firing of head coach Jim Schwartz. But because they were so bad, they were handed a patsy schedule in 2014. As we know, they would go 11-5 and lose their opening round playoff game. Again.

But here's the thing. In their own division, the only good team the Lions faced was the Green Bay Packers. Of the ten remaining games, only two were against high caliber opponents. The Lions predictably got blitzed by New England, and lost at Arizona, even though their starting QB Carson Palmer had gone down with a season-ending injury the week before and the Cards had to throw a second-string QB into the fire for his first time all year.

Besides other improbable comebacks where they caught every break imaginable, the Lions won in London against the Atlanta Falcons on a last second penalty against THEMSELVES. Has that ever even happened before?

But they made the playoffs so the league has upgraded their 2015 schedule accordingly. The Lions will be playing in Monday and Thursday night nationally televised games. Just one problem. The gauntlet they will face. Look at it...

@ Chargers
@ Vikings
Broncos
@ Seahawks
Cardinals
Bears
Vikings
@ Bears
@ Packers
Raiders
Eagles
Packers
@ Rams
@ Saints
49ers
@ Bears

How many patsies do you see in that schedule? Maybe the Raiders. The Lions typically don't fare well out west and the Chargers remain pretty good. Forget about the Seahawk game.

Adrian Petersen will be back with the Vikes and QB Teddy Bridgewater has a year of experience under his belt. Not automatics by any means.

The Lions get the Cardinals at Ford Field, but this time Carson Palmer will likely be playing. And the Cards aren't too shabby throughout the rest of their roster either.

The Bears have a new coach in John Fox. He wasn't good enough in Denver, but they have much higher standards than Detroit. Yet he's won wherever he's been.

The Rams and Saints could probably be considered "average", but both those games are on the road.

Hard telling what Chip Kelly is up to in Philly. Is he a mad genius or an idiot for his salary dumps while retooling the roster? Time will tell.

The 49ers have been gutted, so they appear to be the weakest link.

Bottom line? Lions fan have it right. Things will be different than the 11-5 record they posted last year. And being featured on national television will give the whole country several chances to watch them.

But given their unsettled offensive line, loss of a couple brute D-linemen, a secondary that seemingly remains forever in flux, an average linebacker corps, and a brand new untested feature running back, the thought here is the Lions may do well to go 8-8 in 2015. Playoffs? Maybe, if everything goes right. Super Bowl? Not a chance. A good thing is they have a lot of tight ends. Pity none of them is a complete player. One can't catch. Another can't block. It's always something.

Besides, the koolaiders keep saying head coach Jim Caldwell has "changed the attitude" of the team. Perhaps. But look at his history. He's done well as a coordinator under other successful head coaches on other teams, but crashed and burned when finally put in charge. Typically in his second season at the helm.

This will be his sophomore year in Detroit.

We shall see.

Bad career move #3. A multiple tie. There's Lance Armstrong's tell-all interview with Oprah. The whole Bruce/Caitlyn thing -- from Wheaties to Fruit Loops. And, of course, my boss (editor) ever thinking I would become a decent writer when he signed me up in the first place to write this nonsense.



Monday, July 20, 2015

Detroit Tigers and a promotion

It sure looked good, but promos always do at first glance. Like that recent car commercial offering $3000 off a new vehicle. Act now, because it's a limited time offer. Pressure, pressure. Always pressure. But then one might consider -- if they can give you three grand off and still make a decent profit -- and you know they will -- then how outrageous was the mark-up in the first place? Same with a windows company offering buy one and get one free. Simple logic dictates the one you're paying for has likely been marked up 300% over what it costs to make and install it. And remember, no interest for the first four years. Hey, if it's going to take you 5-6-7-8 years to pay off a few windows -- either they cost way too much and/or you couldn't afford it anyway.

Back to the Tigers' promotion for a future game. If I have this right, the offer was as follows:
4 tickets
4 hot dogs
4 bags of chips
4 drinks
All for only $19.99 per person.

This package is obviously aimed at the typical "family of four" demographic. Technically, a few partying dudes could pile into a van, replete with a cooler full of serious stuff and head to Comerica to avail themselves of such an offer, but that's probably not what the PR folks of the Tigers had in mind. This sounds great until one translates it into reality. Here's what mom, dad, Bart and Lisa will actually get:

One nasty hog dog apiece. Nothing like a ball park frank, you say? You've been brainwashed. Ask yourself one question. Would you eat such a leathery thing on a soggy bun at home -- or offer them to guests? And good luck at the condiment stand. Mustard and ketchup are one thing, but may the onions and relish at least not be moving on their own when you're trying to dress your dog. Let's just say from standing in line at the concession stand to finally getting back to your seat can be quite the adventure.

One of those little bar bags of low grade potato chips worth perhaps a quarter.

One small soft drink in a paper cup. Wholesale cost? Maybe a dime.

Ah, but the tickets. Granted, in today's insane world of ticket prices, anything under 20 bucks is almost unheard of. What they don't tell you is that you'll be sitting up in nosebleed section somewhere. True, one can't expect the princely seats for pauper prices, but the team could be a little more forthcoming with their promo and what actually awaits patrons if they choose to pursue it.

[Idle thought. In the old days, there were "box" seats. Everybody knew those were the first few rows, be it in the upper or lower deck. Behind them were "reserve" seats. This is where you would always wind up sitting next to the nuclear powered loudmouth smoking a big cheap cigar. "Grandstands" meant outfield seats and weren't that grand at all. Lowest on the totem pole were the "bleachers". The only thing you could see from there was the number on the center fielder's back -- maybe. There are no more grandstands and bleachers. Nowadays it's all done by "sections". So who's to know whether Section 108 features better seats than 145 or 232? Unless one is careful, they might purchase seats thinking they'll be sitting behind home plate, only to arrive and discover they're closer to the clouds than the infield.]

But let's get real. It's likely going to cost you 20 bucks to park your vehicle. And Bart and Lisa surely won't sit through the typical 3 hour game and be satisfied with a single hot dog, small bag of stale chips, and a Coke. They're going to want an ice cream, or peanuts, or another dog, all at full prices. Throw in a couple "programs" for mom and dad and some team paraphernalia for the brats, and that original 80 bucks likely just went up to at least 200, if not more. Along the way, dad will have to escort the young-uns on a few potty breaks, and that's typically when something great happens on the field. Crack, and a roar from the crowd. Dad missed it. Many moms didn't want to be there in the first place. The kids will squabble in the back seat on the way home, while Ma and Pa give each other the silent treatment up front. Especially if the Tigers lost, which they've been doing a lot lately.

Again, 80 bucks isn't a bad deal on the surface for a family of four to see a game live and in person, but there are hidden costs, in more ways than one.

A much better idea is to stay home. Dad can watch it on the big flat screen in hi-def and get all the replays and slo-mos. The kids can go back to their usual mode and be happy little droids mesmerized with the latest app on their mobile devices. Far be it from them to go outside and actually -- gasp -- play anymore. Horrors!! And if Mom isn't busy running a company somewhere, she might consider whipping up something decent to eat for the family. Good cook or not, it can't be any worse than the ball park slop.

Better yet, if Mom is a busy woman, another option is available. Pick up the phone and order a large pizza, with whatever toppings the brood prefers. That's maybe 25 dollars and feeds the whole family. Much better than blowing a couple hundred and it certainly beats enduring a trying day to, at, and from a ballpark. Everybody will be happy.

To make it right by the Tigers as a loyal fan, order it from Little Caesars. Not that he needs it, but at least that way multi-billionaire owner Mike Ilitch still makes a couple bucks.

On an unrelated note, hats off and congrats to Zach Johnson winning the British Open. Most, but not all, professional golfers are gentlemen and class acts. ZJ is the epitome of such. Humble, soft-spoken, happily married with kids, and even moved to tears over winning the Claret Jug. He thanked his caddy, his wife, the Lord, the staff at St. Andrews (including the groundskeepers), whatever fans he has back home, and even the good people of Scotland for being such gracious hosts. A class act of the highest order and worthy champion indeed. Well done and bravo.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Moving day at the British Open

The third round of the Open saw some major moves on the leaderboard. Some surprising and some not.

Jordan Spieth carded a 6 under 66 to move within one stroke of the lead. The Masters and US Open champ is knocking on the door for his third straight major win. It would surprise few if the soon to be 22 year old Texan actually pulled it off. The dude's got some serious game and pressure doesn't seem to faze him one bit.

Aussie Jason Day is tied for the lead with South African Louis Oosthuizen. No big surprise there. Both all well seasoned international players in their primes and ranked in the top ten in the world. The last time the Open was played at St. Andrews -- guess who won? Oosthuizen. Can't count either one of these guys out.

Somewhat surprisingly, or maybe not, Dustin Johnson had a poor back nine in the third round and ballooned to a score of 3 over 75 for the day. The leader after the first two rounds now finds himself 5 shots back. That's a bunch with only one round to go. Then again, maybe his collar got tight -- again. It was only a month ago he 3-putted from 12 feet on the 18th green at the US Open to choke it away. With a 75, DJ gave away a lot of strokes to a lot of players that were busy shooting in the mid 60s on moving day. One bad round plummeted him from 1st to 17th. He's likely out of it.

Many notables remain within striking range, some former major championship winners. Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, Retief Goosen, and Adam Scott are all lurking within a few shots of the lead.

Yet the biggest surprise of all was that young lad from Ireland working his magic. No, not Rory McIlroy. He's still out rehabbing his soccer injury. This is another 21 year old golfing phenom from the land of shamrocks and leprechauns. Paul Dunne sits atop the leaderboard at 12 under par with Day and Oosthuizen. Three rounds of 69, 69, and 66 is pretty convincing stuff at a major championship playing against the best in the world on a tough course where weather conditions seem to often change, sometimes dramatically.

In a post-round interview, Dunne said he wasn't a bit surprised at how he played. It's like he expected it of himself. No shortage of confidence in this young man on a huge stage, and that's a good thing.

But a much more surprising thing is -- Dunne is an amateur. No amateur has won the British Open since Bobby Jones pulled it off way back in 1930, a very long time ago. True, though Jones is considered amongst the all-time greats -- he was a life-long amateur. He played for the love of the game rather than prize money, which there wasn't a whole lot of back in those days. The title and trophy were much more important. Sure, some players these days will say the same thing, but you won't see any of them donating their mega-buck winnings to charity either. A championship is nice, but a couple million bucks has a way of paying the bills for a while -- ya know?

Can Dunne maintain his composure during the final round of the Open and actually -- gasp -- win this thing? It will be tough staring down the likes of Spieth, Oosthuizen, Day, and the other top pros close behind as the pressure mounts during the final round. He wouldn't get the millions, but the trophy and title would be priceless. Dunne would make history. Imagine. An amateur winning the British Open. How big of a story would that be? The talking heads might get so worked up they'd spontaneously combust on the air. That would be pretty cool to watch as well.

The other guys (pros) in contention are all fine gentlemen and terrific players. Yours truly wishes them all well, and one of them will likely win it. Most are unlikely to fold, especially Spieth, as the tournament reaches its climax. Yet you never know.

But here's hoping Dunne goes out and shoots another 66. How interesting would THAT be?