Saturday, October 22, 2016

Cubs/Indians -- and Lovie?

We know the Cleveland Indians advanced to the World Series a couple days ago. Yay, Lake Erie. Now the Chicago Cubs have joined them and they did it fair and square by beating the LA Dodgers with ace Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Here, here for the north siders.

The question now becomes -- who to root for? Neither has won a World Series in quite some time. The Indians over a half century ago and the Cubs over a full century. Both are long overdue.

Having grown up and currently still living in a northern Detroit suburb, yours truly finds himself almost equidistant from the two cities so there's no geographical/proximity loyalty. To boot, I like both teams. The players, the managers, the works. I would root for either against just about anybody else, but this match-up is unique. Still, somebody's gotta win the WS and somebody's gotta lose. The curse will go on in one city, while the other will be delirious with joy. So let's look at other factors. Which city is starving for a championship more?

Cleveland is fresh off a somewhat improbable NBA championship. True, the NFL's Browns have long been terrible and absolutely stink this year as well. And they don't even have an NHL team. Still, it would be cool to see the Indians (ala the movie "Major League") get over the top. Give em the heater Rickey.

Conversely, the Cubs have gone a whopping 108 years without a title. Before World War One. Definitely a long time.

But Chicago has had its share of champions in recent years. The dominant Bulls of the Michael Jordan era wren't all that long ago. And the Black Hawks have hoisted three Stanley Cups in the last six years. That's a lot of banners, trophies, and parades for one city. But c'mon man, it's the Cubbies -- right? How can anybody outside of the immediate Cleveland area root against those guys?

Still, it's a tough call. Here's hoping the WS goes seven games and one of them wins the finale 15-14. In at least 12 innings.

Speaking of Illinois, what can the Illini possibly have been thinking? They hired Lovie Smith as the head coach of their football team? Isn't this the same guy that sleep walked through nine long years of mediocrity as the Chicago Bears coach before finally getting fired? The very same that then promptly put up an 8-24 record with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the last two years before getting run out of that town too?

And the Illini grabbed him to turn their program around? Does it get any more boneheaded than that?

First of all, guys with names like Lovie aren't supposed to be football coaches. Neither are Romeos (see Crennell -- another loser). This is a MAN'S game, dammit. We don't need any Wilburs, Dilberts, Theodores, or Felixs either.

Worse, just the very look on Smith's face is enough to give one pause as to his competency. To the average eye, he comes across as----

A. Having just woken up in a strange new alien world.

B. Stewed to the gills and/or stoned to the bone, or

C. Gee, that lobotomy was fun. Who am I now?

In other words, he doesn't exactly project an aura of superior command of what is going on around him with a football team.

To compound their problem, the Illini now have Jeff George Jr. quarterbacking their team. He appears as clueless as his old man. Good luck with all that.

Nevertheless, bring on the World Series. This should be really good, and either way a franchise that is long overdue for glory will finally taste it.

The loser? Sad, but it's not like they haven't experienced it before. Maybe next year.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Boogering the call

Now that was an interesting name. A man named Booger McFarland, evidently a former NFL player and currently one of those dreaded "analysts" was on TV giving his -- what else? -- expert opinions.

Booger? Really? Who might they trot out next? Puke Johnson? Farts Lonnegan? May we someday be treated to the infinite football wisdom of Dingleberry Jones? Please.

If anybody noticed, the WNBA season has officially ended and a champion crowned. These poor girls can't seem to catch a break. It's bad enough they play in mostly empty arenas, are seldom if ever on TV during the regular season, and make a fraction of the minimum wage of any NBA player. Now they appear to have nitwits in charge of their own league.

Why else would they schedule the deciding game of the WNBA Finals in the same time slot as when Thursday night football was airing, and the Cubs and Dodgers were slugging it out in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series?

But hoo boy, they weren't short on controversy. In the end, the LA Sparks would win the Championship over the Minnesota Lynx. But the Lynx got robbed, jobbed, screwed, like that.

With a little over a minute to go in a tight back and forth game, an LA player put up a shot that went through the net. Two points. But it shouldn't have been. The shot clock had clearly expired before the ball left the shooter's hands.

The Minnesota coach noticed this of course and complained loud and long to the officials. Check out the replay, she demanded. But they didn't and the game went on.

In the end, the Sparks margin of victory was a mere one point. If the prior two points had been nullified, as they should have, a different champion (Minnesota) would have resulted. This was the ultimate of the refs deciding not only the game, but the series and a title.

Of course, the league sent out a memo acknowledging the mistake after it was all over. But what good does that do? And naturally, the apologists try to gloss it over as "just one of those things".

But this is not acceptable. It was a reviewable play that should have been, but wasn't. Fining or even firing the incompetent refs does no good either after the fact.

In a perfect world, with so much at stake, both teams should have been put back out on the floor with the score as it was before the blown call and the same amount of time on the clock, even the following night if necessary. Those who were in attendance would be able to come back and sit in the same seats to watch how it played out. Tell me the 4-letter network wouldn't have jumped at the chance to televise it, and I'll tell you you're crazy. They would have hyped it all day today.

True, LA might have still won, but at least the game, and result, would be fairer than how it played out the first time.

It's almost beyond belief such a scenario could happen in, say, the deciding game of the World Series, Stanley Cup, Super Bowl, or the NBA for that matter. The "guys in the booth" would study the replay continuously from all angles until they got the call right. This one was a no-brainer -- not even close. The refs just colossally blew it. Worse, they didn't even bother to check the replay in the first place.

But it will blow over shortly as the next news cycle kicks in. Only because it was the "girls" in a league that continues to struggle for exposure and popularity. But that doesn't make it right. Had the same thing happened in one of the above male mega-events the viewing public would be outraged and heads would roll.

So while the Sparks celebrate and will get their parade -- hope somebody shows up for at least that -- it probably won't be on TV either -- the Lynx are left to wonder what could, and probably should have been.

Yet there are worse things. At least none of the girls was named Booger.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Drake and the Cubs

It seems a whole lot of athletes are tuned into Drake these days.  Though I had a pretty good idea, I wasn't sure so I looked it up. Yep, my suspicions were confirmed. Turns out, it is what it's always been. Which means----

Holy Huey, Duey, and Louie. All these jocks are walking around listening to a duck? Wow. This concussion syndrome is worse than we thought.

Uh oh. The Chicago Cubs find themselves down 2-1 to the LA Dodgers in the NLCS. This wasn't supposed to happen. Aren't the Cubbies the best team in the majors this year? Didn't they win 8 more games than anybody else?

That evokes a sobering thought. What happens if the Cubs, gasp, actually lose? Will the ghost of Mrs. O'Leary's cow come back to start another huge fire and burn the city down? Will all the north siders in the windy city march like lemmings into Lake Michigan to their watery doom? That could get ugly. Would cut down on the crime problem, though.

To pull this off, not even counting the World Series against likely Cleveland, the Cubs need to win 3 out of the next 4 against the Dodgers. That's a formidable task, given the dreaded Clayton Kershaw will start at least one, and possibly two of those games.

For whatever reason, the Cub bats have gone cold in this series. And it turns out the Dodgers are a pretty good team after all. They can hit, pitch, run, and field with the best of them.

As a midwesterner, it's hard to get behind the Dodgers, or anything LA for that matter. And doesn't Magic Johnson hold an owner's stake in the team? More money and fame are the last things he needs. And the last thing WE need is seeing his smiling mug on TV celebrating a championship. Yuck. Anybody but LA.

Boys will be boys

If it wasn't so pitiful, it would be funny.

Exhibit A.

Watching NY Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. celebrate after scoring a touchdown. He appeared to be madly in love with the kicker's practice net. The same one that bonked him in the head a while back, by his own hand, when things weren't going well for the poor dear.

One of the announcers generously said Odell had a little maturing to do. Right. Yours truly thinks he looked more like a bi-polar 4 year old that was off his meds.

Exhibit B.

The Dallas Cowboys quarterback snafu. Dak Prescott, a fourth round draft pick and merely the eighth QB taken overall last spring has done quite well filling in for the injured Tony Romo.. Da Boys are a surprising 5-1. But there's a fly in the ointment. Owner Jerry Jones says the QB job will return to Romo when he's healthy again.

Some pundits are outraged. Given Romo's age (36), history of injuries, and perceived lack of success, they find it unacceptable that Romo should automatically get his job back. Dak is not only the future, they claim, but should retain the starting job now.

Well then. They seem to forget that the owner can play anybody he damned well feels like. And the coach will go along with it if he wants to keep his job. Though not overt, it feels like an undercurrent of racism is being suggested.

Idle thought --- pretend the colors of the "players" involved in this little dust up are reversed. White is black and vice versa. Would this conversation even be taking place? Hmmm.

Exhibit C.

Cam Newton. Mr. Pouty is at it again. We remember his post Super Bowl press conference when it looked liked somebody had stolen his lollipop. After a loss to the Saints, Cam and the Panthers are now 1-5. Kiss returning to the Super Bowl goodbye. Enter Cam with his best impersonation of a spoiled rotten kindergartner that has been told he can't go out and play. Pout, moan, stomp off to his room. And for whatever reason, he seems to insist on wearing clown clothes. A gansta hat with a goofy looking bow tie? C'mon dude.

What is it with these guys?

Can't they act like grown-ups every once in a while when they don't get their way?

Boys. Boys.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Odds and ends

The Houston Texans have a player named Mercilus (Whitney). Now that's a pretty cool name for a linebacker. It probably wouldn't work so well with, say, a babysitter or a grade school teacher, but not bad at all in the NFL.

Line of the day. Former wide receiver turned announcer Cris Collinsworth. The situation ---
Indy Colts playing at above mentioned Texans on Sunday night football. Clinging to a narrow 13-9 lead at the time, the Colts have fourth and inches at the Texans' 5 yard line. Mysteriously, the Colts line up in the shotgun formation. QB Andrew Luck fields the snap, drops back -- and is sacked. No points.

The line --- "Somewhere Vince Lombardi is turning over in his grave". You betcha CC.

What's worse, the game wound up going into overtime, and the Colts lost. Had they booted that gimme field goal.....

This is the kind of thing that gets coaches fired. And Chuck Pagano was already rumored to be on the hot seat.

Interesting some of the pundits are picking Alabama (1), Clemson (2), Ohio State (3), and Washington (4) to make it to the college football playoff for the national championship. Are all worthy teams indeed. Yet there is one glaring omission. Michigan.

Then again, the Wolverines travel to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes in a few weeks. Somebody has to lose. Guess who they think that will be? And it's probably not a bad call. As good as UM is, it's hard to imagine them knocking off Urban Meyer's bunch in their own back yard. Those guys are most definitely the real deal. We'll see.

Afterthought. OSU was terrific last year, lost 11 players to the NFL draft and is even better this year? That's some kind of program Meyer's put together.

And don't look now, but his initials (UM) are pretty ironic. Um.....

You gotta give it up to the Minnesota Vikings. They lost their starting QB (Teddy Bridgewater) before the season started. Also superstar running back Adrian Petersen and their starting left tackle. Yet they're cruising along at 5-0, the only undefeated team remaining in the league. My friend Scott, who was killed (along with his wife) in a horrible motorcycle accident last year, was a lifelong Vikings fan. Wish he was around to see this....

Not to jinx them or anything, but are the Cleveland Indians ever going to lose a game in this postseason? Even the mighty Cubbies have dropped a couple.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Michigan State blues

In the last several years, Michigan State has been somewhat of a football powerhouse. They've certainly owned arch rival Michigan, either won or been in the hunt for the Big Ten championship and once even made it to the Final Four.

And now it appears the wheels have fallen off. Any championship aspirations, Big Ten or otherwise, have gone up in smoke. Before this week's home game against Northwestern it was said the Spartans were just playing to get into the best bowl game they could. But not so fast. More on that later. Let's look back at what happened.

A season opening victory against lowly Furman. The usual patsy.

Then off to Notre Dame, a ranked team (#18) at the time. They would defeat the Irish for what looked then to be a "signature" win. But was it? Turned out, Notre Dame was WAY over rated. They've been clobbered by lesser teams since. So MSU winning at ND wasn't such a big deal after all. And the Spartans haven't won since.

At home, they were shelled by Wisconsin 30-6.
@ Indiana, they came out on the losing end of a 24-21 game -- in overtime. Indiana? Really?
Back home again, BYU would thrash them to the tune of 31-14.
And the Wildcats of Northwestern just went into East Lansing and thoroughly thumped the beleaguered Spartans 54-40. Dang. 54-40 or fight rings a bell. Didn't that have something to do with a dispute over the Oregon border in the pre-civil war days? At any rate, it doesn't appear like MSU has any fight left in them. You don't give up 54 points to an unranked team on your home field and expect to be considered a half way decent football team.

Which brings me back to the bowl game. There's so many of them these days, a team has to be just about awful not to make it into one of them.

But there's the thing. Typically, a team has to win a minimum of 6 games throughout the season to qualify. And there's no guarantee MSU will even make that low standard. Consider their remaining schedule.

@ Maryland. The Terps aren't world beaters, but they're certainly respectable and will be playing at home against a reeling MSU team. Call that iffy for MSU at best.

Then the rejuvenated Michigan comes to town. Ranked #4 nationally, the Wolverines are a great team this year. And nobody wants payback worse than UM. That game could get ugly.

Illinois isn't very good, so the Spartans should probably handle them, even on the road. Maybe.

Rutgers is gawd-awful. Chalk up a win.

Then they get Ohio State. No introduction necessary. The Buckeyes at #2 are definitely the real deal. That game could also get out of hand.

They finish up on the road at Penn State. Certainly no gimme. The Nits can play well at times and their home crowd could easily carry them to a victory.

So add it up and what do you have?

It's entirely possible MSU could wind up 5-7, even 4-8.

Remembering MSU was ranked around #13 nationally in the pre-season, who would have thought it even possible they might not make it to ANY bowl game?

My, how far and how quick the mighty have fallen.....

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Closing the deal

If this were about politics, I'd pose the following question---

Switch the parties (or candidates) whereby Trump is a Democrat and Clinton a Republican. What percentage of blind loyalists do you think would still cast their Presidential ballots along party lines?
Betcha a lot of them. They just don't know any better.

But it's not about politics. It's about the recently concluded NLDS. The LA Dodgers have eliminated the Washington Nationals. Because the Nats have a few guys that can't close the deal.

Start with Dusty Baker, the manager. He's been a skipper for 20 years and had a lot of talent on different clubs. But his teams could never get over the top (win a World Series) even when they were favored to do so. The man with the toothpick has caught some flak over the years because of his tendency to overuse pitchers to the point of burning them out. This can loom large in October after a long regular season. His career managerial record is just a shade over .500. Nothing special by any means. True, the players play the game, but for whatever reason, those on Baker managed teams always seem to come up short in the post season.

Same with start pitcher Max Scherzer. A former Cy Young winner, MS can be as dominant as anybody out there. Yet he can't seem to carry that dominance into the post season. He was the starter earlier tonight in the deciding Game 5. As we know, the Nats lost. The same guy throwing the same stuff can be super tough from April through September, but seems to turn into a journeyman when October rolls around. Go figure.

The story of pitcher Stephen Strasburg is well known. Like Scherzer, SS can be lights out with his commanding stuff, but he only seems to be good for a half, maybe two thirds of a season before his arm gives out every year. It's great that he can rack up the wins and strike outs for a few months. But not so great when he's always on the shelf with a bad wing come crunch time.

By all accounts, Bryce Harper is an extraordinary, if hotheaded player. The outfielder is a premier defender, has a great throwing arm, speed on the bases, and can hit for average and power. Yet his collar seemed to get a little tight when he stepped into the batter's box this postseason. Could it be the usually superior pitching batters face in the playoffs is too much for him?

Add it all up and the Nationals now find themselves on the outside looking in. There's no shame in losing to a quality team like the Dodgers. And any team can beat any other team on any given day in the majors. But the Nats were slight favorites, playing at home, and had their remaining ace (with SS out again) on the mound (Scherzer). Meanwhile, the Dodgers were forced to pitch the game by committee, having already taxed their starting rotation in earlier games. Washington couldn't have asked for a better scenario.

And now they scatter and go home.

Because they couldn't close the deal -- again.