Thursday, April 24, 2014

Red Wings and classic songs

According to Mick Jaggger and the Rolling Stones, you don't always get what you want, but ya get what ya need. Or more properly put in the case of the Detroit Red Wings going up against the Boston Bruins in a playoff series -- ya pretty much get what ya got coming.

Yes, Boston scored the game-winning goal in overtime to take a commanding 3-1 series lead on a fluke play. An otherwise innocent enough looking shot deflected off the leg of a Detroit player into his own goal. Certainly, that was a fluke play but, in hockey, sometimes those things happen -- both ways.

In the waning minutes of the opening game in Boston, Pavel Datysuk of the Wings scored what could also be deemed an unlikely goal to give the Wings a 1-0 series advantage.

Thing is, since then, Boston has dominated the following three games, and it's really not even a close call. Though they've outscored Detroit 10-3 over that period, it likely should and could have been a lot worse.

Indeed, in Game 4 on their home ice, the Wings got off to a quick start, taking a 2-0 lead. But after that Boston came at them in waves. Along the way, the normally sharp-shooting Bruins inexplicably missed a few wide open nets from close range, else this game never should have went to overtime in the first place.

And let's face it. From top to bottom, the Bruins are vastly superior to the Red Wings. One needs only look at how both teams fared during the course of the regular season. While playing in the same conference, hence facing much the same competition, the stats are quite revealing.

Disregarding overtimes and shootout win/losses, Boston won 54 games, and lost 19. They accumulated 117 points, scored 261 goals, and gave up 177 goals.
Detroit won a mere 39 games, lost 28, accumulated 93 points, scored 222 and surrendered 230.

When one compares the numbers, the differences are startling. Boston racked up a whopping 24 more points, 39 more goals, and surrendered 53 less than Detroit? The Wings gave up 8 more goals than they scored all year long, while the Bruins were a plus 84? Against the same competition? That would explain why Boston is the #1 overall seed and Detroit snuck into the playoffs as the second wild card.

Forget rocket science, or even the wondrous, yet baffling world of my ex. When it comes to the Red Wings and Bruins -- the eventual outcome of this matchup should have been a no-brainer going in. When one is way over his head from the get-go, chances are they're not going to prevail when the going eventually gets tough in the long run.

Can the Wings storm back from a 3-1 deficit and actually win this series? Sure. And maybe my ex will give me back the truck I paid for.

But I wouldn't count on it.

When it comes to the Red Wings this season, another rock song by Bob Seger comes to mind.

Turn the page.

And don't get me started on Led Zeppelin. There will be no stairway to Lord Stanley's heaven this year. Forget about that.

Then again, it could be worse for the Wings. In Detroit, only the Lions find themselves stuck with a boy named Suh.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Michael Pineda and pine tar

Yours truly knoweth not how sophisticated TV cameras and the like are in the Dominican Republic. But in America, particularly at sporting contests like Major League Baseball games, the typical vast array of cameras work REALLY well -- and they don't miss much. Throw in zoom lenses and high def -- and one can count the stitches on a baseball, or nose hairs on an umpire from hundreds of feet away.

Enter Michael Francisco Pineda Paulino, a 25 year old pitcher for the NY Yankees, who hails from the Dominican Republic. As they say -- this boy is in a heap of trouble right about now with MLB, and it has to do with pine tar.

Pitching against the Boston Red Sox back on April 10, the cameras zoomed in and easily picked up a glob of pine tar on -- of all things -- his pitching hand. It was obvious to anybody watching the game on TV yet, for some reason, the folks in the Bosox dugout (and the supposed eagle-eye umpiring crew) were oblivious to it. By the time it was brought to their attention in a later inning, likely by some Boston video tech that finally emerged from his coma, the pine tar had magically disappeared from Pineda's hand. At that point, there was nothing to be done about it. There's no such thing as retroactive calls in sports. But make no mistake -- it was there. They just missed it at the time.

Given all the subsequent publicity on TV and the Net, and further given MLB looks upon doctoring baseballs in much the same manner as corked bats and those pesky steroids -- one would think Pineda would consider himself fortunate to have gotten away with it -- once. Surely, he wouldn't do such a dumb thing again.

But he did, just earlier tonight, against the same Bosox, in a nationally televised game. And the same zoom/high def brought it to the viewers in millions of living pixels. Only this time, the folks in the Red Sox dugout happened to notice it. It was pretty hard not to -- given Pineda had a highly visible glob of pine tar on the side of his neck -- of all places.

That also leaves one to wonder -- even if Pineda is that dumb to think he could get away with it again -- how could Yankee manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff NOT know what was going on? Good grief, the pitching coach's job is to thoroughly check out his pitcher every time he returns to the dugout to make sure he's OK. And somehow he missed his guy getting the Brylcreem treatment of yesteryear, as in "a little dab will do ya", on the side of his neck before returning to the mound? That's preposterous. Either they knew all along, or the whole lot of them should be fired for gross incompetence. I would bet on the former, but it still doesn't make any sense. A nationally televised game between two historic rivals, and a pitcher that had been exposed only a couple weeks ago trying the same illegal stunt again? Very strange.

But this time Pineda got busted. Bosox manager John Ferrell approached the home plate ump and asked him to check out Pineda for illegal substances which might be used to doctor a baseball. The ump did, the goop was obvious, and Pineda was promptly ejected from the game. Joe Girardi offered little argument and meekly returned to the Yankee dugout. Imagine that.

Major League Baseball rule 8:02 pretty well spells it out. The pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the baseball. A pitcher found breaking this rule shall be immediately suspended. The length of such suspension to be determined by MLB.

If we can safely assume Pineda didn't use pine tar on his hand and/or neck as a cologne or aphrodisiac while he's on the mound, but rather it was there for other nefarious purposes, than the original conclusion of yours truly would seem to be quite valid.

When the powers that be in baseball get done with their review of Pineda's not-so-good antics of late, and consider how long his mandatory suspension should be -- yep -- that boy just might be in a heap of trouble.

Idle thoughts and Oscar Pistorius

So Kate and Willy are wrapping up their 3 week "holiday" by visiting the outback in Australia? It must be nice to have no job, an unlimited expense account, and have millions of groupies the world over swoon in anticipation if and when a blue blood manages to knock up his old lady. Throw in the universal red-carpet treatment -- and this is a really sweet gig.

Some dropout loser type dude suffered head trauma after getting beat up while leaving a karaoke bar. Then somehow the "experts" say his brain overcompensated while healing and accessed areas that very few humans have ever been able to do. Now, he's considered a mathematical genius. He sees things that are far beyond the comprehension of us every day hoi polloi. Well gee. During my younger, wilder years, yours truly was hit in the head a lot of times. So how come I'm still an idiot? Doesn't seem fair.

The Oscar Pistorius murder trial in South Africa continues to drag on -- and on -- and on. The judge that will eventually decide his fate has seen all the forensic evidence, and heard all the testimony, including Oscar himself taking the witness stand and being examined and grilled on cross-examination for several days.

Acccounts of what others think they may have heard are irrelevant. So too, are character witnesses, both pro and con. And anything that happened in Oscar's or Reeva Steenkamp's past matters not one whit. The only thing that counts is what happened on Valentine's day in 2013 when shots were fired through a bathroom door by Pistorius, which resulted in Steenkamp being fatally wounded.

The prosecution paints the scenario that Oscar knew Reeva was behind that door and willfully murdered her. Pistorius claims that, suspecting an intruder in violent crime-ridden South Africa, he fired in fear for his life.

Where does the actual truth lie? Only Oscar Pistorius knows for sure.

Lawyers for both sides have attempted to "spin" things in their favor and, lord knows, the arm-chair public has certainly chimed in with their two cents worth. And now the trial has been mysteriously adjourned for a few weeks, for reasons unclear.

This has gone on way too long already. Time for the Honorable Thokozile Masipa to get her butt back on the bench and make the call. Either way, some will be happy, some will not, and that's just the way it goes. But it's one defendant, and one judge that has seen and heard everything of relevance she needs to hand down her verdict. Nothing's going to change while the trial is put on hold. It was what it was, and remains what it is. So get on with it already. And let's get real. If Oscar is found innocent, he walks. If found guilty, the appeals will likely drag on for years.

Masipa is a judge on what's known as a High Court in South Africa. In America, this would be the same level of court that tries most felony cases. Above that is the Supreme Court of Appeals, similar to American appellate courts. The final judicial say-so in South Africa rests with their Constitutional Court, akin to the Supreme Court in the US. Given somewhat similar legal systems, last time I looked, even if a defendant if found guilty, a high-profile case such as the Pistorius affair will certainly not be a done deal at the level of the trial court. The appeals process could well take many years before a final judgement in rendered.

But for now, c'mon Judge. It's time to make the call. We'll worry about the replays later......

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Red Wings update

Not long ago, yours truly wrote he had no idea how the series between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings would turn out. The Beantowners had put up the best record in the NHL over the regular season, but the Motowners had knocked them off in 3 out of their 4 meetings. And..... Detroit went into Boston and defeated the Bruins yet again in Game 1 of their playoff series.

That gave the Wings confidence, momentum, and home-ice advantage. Maybe a lowly #8 seed could indeed prevail over the winners of the President's Cup -- right? Not so fast. It's time to reassess and, actually, the obvious has been there all along.

Idle thought: If you watched the game, you saw a commercial advertising Red Wings tickets for next year. If you act soon, you can get in on the low-low price of just $340 to attend the games. Of course, they neglect to mention those pesky shipping and handling charges, sometimes referred to as parking and concessions. Nevertheless, how can one pass up a once in a lifetime deal like that? There's only one logical thing to do. Get hold of that Fred Thompson guy and apply for one of them thar reverse mortgages. In other words, pawn your house to get enough money to attend, and maybe I'll see ya at the Joe in the nosebleed section. Tissues not included.

But back to the series. While the Wings won the opener 1-0 on an improbable goal by Pavel Datsyuk, they've been outscored 7-1 in the last two games. And that scoring pretty well reflects how the Bruins have dominated them all over the ice.

Now down 2-1 in the series, can the Wings come back and win it? It's possible, but highly unlikely. That's because the Wings are basically a team of speedy talented little guys, with a decent but not great goaltender. They're not going to out-physical anybody.

Conversely, the Bruins are big, physical, and quite talented themselves, with a better than average goalie. It could even be argued the Wings winning Game 1 was a fluke.

Thing is, even assuming the same talent level, when a team of speedy little guys meets a team that is vastly physically superior, in the long run the brutes usually prevail. Sure, anybody can luck up and win one game, and if this was a one game series the Red Wings would be moving on. But it's not. It's a best 4 out of 7 series. And when the same teams are playing each other over and over, the big guys typically have a way of wearing out the little guys eventually.

Detroit is without their captain, one Henrik Zetterburg, you say? True enough, and he's a phenomenally gifted player. But he's also a little guy. Though he's due to return to the ice soon after back surgery, do you think for one second the Boston bullies wouldn't pound him every chance they got? Of course they would. That's life in the NHL playoffs.

Let's cut to the chase. It's maybe live or certainly die time for the Red Wings in Game 4 on their home ice. They need to bring their AAA game to the rink and hope somehow they can not only win, but send a message to the Bruins that it ain't over yet. You may be bigger and stronger, but we'll find a way to beat you.

Because if that doesn't happen and they go down 3-1, no need for the fat lady to show up or Yogi Berra drop a few more words of wisdom. It's over. The big guys will have once again pounded sand in the face of the little fellas. And I suspect that's exactly how it's going to play out....

Monday, April 21, 2014

Peyton Manning, Nick Saban, and a dumb rule

Peyton Manning is under a bit of scrutiny these days. That's because he, and Denver Bronco offensive coordinator Adam Gase were in Tuscaloosa, Alabama at the same time to talk with Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban. Under the current collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the Players Union, it's against the rules for coaches and players to get together before the start of the off-season workout programs, which haven't happened yet.

There's so many things wrong with this. First of all, it's an incredibly dumb rule. Peyton may be a QB and Gase his offensive coordinator, but they're also human beings and American citizens. Short of a restraining order, which has to be signed by a judge, and which usually follows some sort of intimidating or violent behavior, since when can't two citizens be in the same location at the same time? And it's not like Manning and Gase were in Denver's practice facility hashing out game plans. They were in Tuscaloosa to chat with Saban. Saban himself says the three of them were never in the same room at the same time -- but who cares? Splitting hairs like this regarding who's allowed to talk to who at any particular time is downright stupid.

Equally important, one is left to wonder just what sort of useful knowledge could be gleaned by Manning and Saban meeting in the first place.

Manning went to the Univ of Tenn, had his heyday in the NFL with the Indy Colts, and is spending his twilight years with the Denver Broncos. Along the way, he's been a multiple MVP winner and has one Super Bowl victory on his resume.

Saban has been a mercenary. From Toledo to Mich State, to LSU, and now Alabama, he is held in high regard when it comes to college football coaches. After all, he's won national championships with both LSU and Bama, though his earlier career stats, particularly with Mich State, were decidedly mediocre. How he kept getting one higher paying gig after another is a very good question.

And then there was his ill-fated stint in the NFL as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. The "Peter Principle" appeared to be at work. Some guys, like Jim Harbaugh, can be great college coaches and make a successful jump to the NFL as well. But other guys, like Saban, Rick Pitino, etc., just don't have the "right stuff" when it comes to dealing with professionals. They try, but they crash and burn. Major universities are their glass ceiling. Saban was woefully over his head while with the Dolphins, and though he said the Alabama job didn't interest him at the time -- no way was he going to do that -- well -- we know what happened.

But there's the rub. While Saban bombed as an NFL head coach, why would Manning (now 38) and considered one of the best NFL QBs of all time, seek out his advice?  What can Nick tell Peyton he doesn't already know?

It was reported that Saban gave Manning a few tips about defense. In return, Peyton imparted a few words of wisdom to Nick regarding hurry-up offenses that have given Alabama problems in the past.

How dumb is this? Manning's been studying film, reading, analyzing, and adjusting to pro defenses since forever. See his constant audibles at the line of scrimmage, flapping his arms like a chicken, and his peculiar love for Omaha. However it works, it can fairly be said Manning has been quite successful over the years in the NFL, his lone Super Bowl victory notwithstanding. A lot of very good QBs, including some Hall of Famers never even got to hoist one Lombardi trophy (see Fran Tarkenton, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino).

And who is Manning to tell Saban how to improve one of the best college defenses in the country against a hurry-up offense?

Peyton ran a hurry-up offense and the Broncos were absolutely crushed 43-8 by the Seattle Seahawks in the recent February Super Bowl. If Nick wants some advice on defense, it only makes sense he'd be far better off talking to the Seattle defensive coordinator, not some aging quarterback that's apparently never seen a dumb endorsement/cha-ching opportunity he doesn't like.

From the dumb original rule, to who's talking to who about what and when -- everything about this is just wrong.

Then again, all these guys are making mega-bucks and most of us are not. Throw in the absurdity of our equally rich politicians these days and -- is this a great country or what?


Oklahoma City and who let the dogs out?

In an NBA playoff game between the Okla City Thunder and the Memp Grizzlies (played in OKC), all the fans in attendance were wearing shirts obviously handed out to them as they arrived at the arena. One entire section featured blue, the next white, and it alternated around the entire venue. Yet whether they were blue with white letters, or white with blue letters, every last person in there wore a shirt that said "we are committed" on the front.

Well then. That seemed appropriate. When 20,000 people come together in the same place to line up like rabid lemmings on steroids -- they OUGHT to have been committed somewhere along the line.

The question then becomes -- who unlocked the doors of all the padded cells and turned this horde of lunatics loose in the first place?

Given the Thunder would go on to lose the game to the Grizzlies in overtime, it's likely all those "committed" people were hitting the streets in a foul mood. It would appear those folks in the white institutional uniforms, sporting their handy-dandy hypos of la-la land juice, will have their work cut out for them rounding this crazed herd back up again and putting them back where they belong.

Here's hoping Okla City learned a lesson from this. If they ever try to pull a publicity stunt like that again, forget the blue and white tee shirt color scheme. Make it something more easily identifiable to the unsuspecting public. Like jail-house orange. Or black and white stripes. Better yet, forget the shirts entirely. Put them in handcuffs and leg-irons as they pass through the turnstiles. The lives of innocent women, children, grandmas and puppy dogs might well depend on it before the night is done.

Houston Rockets, ownership, and hypocrisy

Last time I looked, Houston, the home of the NBA Rockets, was still located in eastern Texas. The good people in Texas will tell you there's nothing more American than, well, Texas. Plus everything's supposedly big. Yessiree Billy Bob, everything from ranches, to saloons, to steaks, to the, ahem, pom-poms of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders are quite sizable indeed. Also their collective egos, but we'll let that little detail slide.

However, for a state that is so fiercely proud to be American, there appears to be some serious hypocrisy that has gone on in Houston for quite some time. Enter Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander.

Alexander, now 70, was originally a bond trader from New Jersey. Obviously, he knew when to hold-em and when to fold-em, because he became a billionaire.

Back in 1993, Alexander bought the Houston Rockets for $85 million. At the time, they shared the same arena with the now long defunct Houston Aeros of the NHL. It was pretty much agreed all-around that a new venue was necessary. After much haggling between the Rockets, Aeros, and local government officials in Houston, finally a deal was struck.

A new arena would indeed be built. Also at the time, assurances were given that "no new taxes" (sound familiar?) would be assessed. It's probably a coincidence that a guy named Bush (George W.) happened to be the governor that signed off on it.

At any rate, when all was said and done, the new arena cost $235 million to build. Of that sum, the Houston Rockets (see Alexander) contributed $43 million. The city of Houston (see taxpayers) had to pony up $182 million. The spare change was kicked in by other donors, notably a company called Enron, their CEO at the time being one Kenneth Lay. As you will remember, Enron imploded and cost a lot of honest people a whole lot of money. Lay himself was convicted of 10 counts of securities fraud and other charges and faced up to 20-30 years in prison. Alas, he died of a "heart attack" while vacationing in Colorado, before he could be officially sentenced -- though rumors surfaced his demise may have been orchestrated by others.

Fast forward. Not long ago, Rockets' owner Leslie Alexander purchased a penthouse in Manhattan. $42 million worth for basically a condo occupying the 17th and 18th floors. And, oh my, talk about fancy. Besides the 6300 square feet, it features four terraces, an outdoor "infinity" pool (whatever that means), a heated whirlpool, 5 bedrooms, 5 and a half baths, a library, salon, formal dining room, and a gallery, amongst other amenities.

Nothing wrong with that. If you've got the bucks to spend $88 million on a basketball player like Dwight Howard, then spending less than half of that on oneself to live in luxury is totally understandable. It's the American way.

Alexander's net worth is now estimated at roughly $1.2 billion. That's 1200 million.

So let's see. We've got a filthy rich dude that started off in New Jersey, bought the Houston Rockets, had a new arena built that soaked the Texas taxpayers, even though promises were given otherwise, and recently just bought a Donald Trump style condo in Manhattan.

With all that money, guys like Alexander can pretty well do whatever they please to make them happy.

But that leaves one question. After the completion of the new arena in Houston to house his Rockets, again, mostly at the taxpayers' expense, obviously the venue itself needed a name. It could have been Houston this or Rocket that, but no.

Alexander sold out to a foreign company and accepted $100 million from Toyota for the naming rights. The Rockets now play in the Toyota Center, in Texas of all places, because guys like Leslie only have loyalty to one thing -- and it's colored green.

Shame on him, and the people that even go there to see the games. I thought the proud American people of Houston would reject the obvious slap in their faces and see through such typical one-percenter hypocrisy playing them as fools. NBA team or not, there comes a time when one has to make a stand.

Either you're an American and stand by your country and companies -- or you're for sale and can be bought by the highest (or lowest) bidder, despite the fact such foreign people are themselves in the process of attempting to destroy American companies for their own benefit.

It's hardly rocket science. I don't care who's in the building. No way is yours truly walking into something called the Toyota Center, let alone spending a dime there. Leslie Alexander could easily have taken bids, even if a bit lower, from many American companies for those same naming rights. Or better yet, don't sell the naming rights at all. Just name it after the team that plays there. It's not like guys like Alexander need the extra money that comes with selling out.

Actually, it's just shameful.....