Sunday, April 22, 2018

Idle choking thoughts, NBA style

You just know which teams are going to choke, because they always do. In the Toronto Raptors/Washington Wizards first round match-up, look for the collective Wiz to gag. Why? Because everything in Washington DC chokes.

How many times have we seen the NHL Washington Capitals compile the best season record, thereby winning the President's Cup, only to choke in the early rounds of the playoffs?

Ditto for the Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball. Every year, it's talent galore, but they can't get out of the first round in the postseason.

There was probably a reason the cannon fodder teams that always faced the Harlem Globetrotters were named the Washington Generals. It could have been any city, but Washington best represented their choking/losing ways.

Speaking of choking, how about Congress, when it comes to doing something worthwhile for the people? Trump doesn't choke. He just makes billions of other people around the world gag on a daily basis. A difference -- sort of.

So let's cross off the Wizards from going anywhere in the playoffs. Even the Raptors should be able to handle that. Thing is, Toronto has long been known as chokers themselves. Whoever survives the Cleveland Cavalier/Indiana Pacer series, and it's a lot more competitive than many thought it would be, will likely dispatch the hosers from the north in the next round.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are just a shade better than laughable. While they may or may not get past the Utah Jazz in the opening round, those guys aren't going far. This is what happens when you let such mega-talents like James Hardin and Kevin Durant get away to free agency elsewhere.

What they have now is the Russell Westbrook show,. See Russell score 40. 50. Whatever. See Russell talk trash. See Russell about to experience another quick exit from the playoffs. Why? Because he, and fellow aging "superstars" --  and I use that term loosely -- Carmelo Anthony and Paul George can't seem to be bothered with playing any coherent form of defense. Defense matters these days.

Not to be outdone, see Russell's "fabulous" (LOL) wardrobe off the court. It's truly magnificent if one is auditioning for a show called Dancing with the Pimps, or perhaps American Ghetto Idol.  What does Westbrook have that Huggy Bear of the old Beretta TV show didn't? A multi-million dollar contract, a shoe endorsement, and a few inches in height. The gaudy clothes between both are a wash. Speaking of wash, they make yours truly want to take a shower every time I see the next outrageous version. Does anybody really wear this stuff on the street?

The last bit of choking belongs to teams not named the Cleveland Cavaliers the league over. I never cease to be amazed at how they continue to allow one Lebron James to cruise into the basket for a lay-up or dunk. Like Michael Jordan before him, it's like the other players are afraid to get physical with His Majesty.

Guys like Rick Mahorn, Wes Unseld, and the ever-lovable Charles Barkley in the past wouldn't have had this problem. If an opponent dude is constantly going to the basket for an easy two, put him on the floor, and let him have his free throws. Ker-thud. At least he'd know the cakewalk days are over and a price will be paid every time he drives to the hoop. After a while he'd get the message, not to mention being mighty sore.

And that goes double for one Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. How many thunderous kicks to the groin or elbows to the face has he delivered over recent years? Worse, Green seems to think it's worth celebrating when he's caused an opponent to writhe on the floor in pain.

Give him some of his own medicine and see how HE likes it. What's good for the goose.....

And Green's mayhem would STOP. Ain't nothing special about him either, except he keeps getting away with it.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Sports Illustrated and the wacky NBA

So Sports Illustrated recently ran a feature article on Portland Trail Blazer Damian Lillard and, as is their ever-politically correct way, praised him and the team to the heavens. "Dame Time" and the Blazers just might be this year's sleeper in the playoffs, quoth the mag.

WHAM. Out they go, swept in 4 straight by the New Orleans Pelicans in the very first round. The SI jinx is alive and well.

Nobody seems to know what to make of the Cleveland Cavaliers this year. They didn't come anywhere close to their usual dominant selves during the regular season. True, they got into the playoffs, but only as a #4 seed in the Eastern Conference.

What is curious is the influence of Tyronn Lue, their head coach. A while back, dear Ty took a leave of absence for "health reasons". While gone, the Cavs went on a 9-1 tear.

Upon his return to the bench, they went 1-2, and are now the same 1-2 against the Indiana Pacers in the first round of their playoff series. The #5 seed Pacers have stolen home court advantage from Lebron and Co., and it appears they have a fair to midland shot of knocking them off early -- see Portland above -- as well.

That would seem to beg the question -----

Why is Cleveland paying Lue big bucks to coach them, when they appear to play better when he's gone?

Surprisingly, the Toronto Raptors wound up the #1 seed in the East. But they're doomed. How do I know this?

Because the same SI did a feature article on their head coach Dwane Casey a while back as well. That, and Toronto always chokes in the playoffs.

The East is certainly wide open this year. The Boston Celtics were likely toast when Gordon Hayward suffered a tragic foot injury just as the season was starting. Now Kyrie Irving is on the shelf, duration unknown. With them, the Celts had a decent shot at going far. Without them -- fuhgettaboutit. Ain't gonna happen. Not this year. Maybe next.

Still flying under the radar are the Philadelphia 76ers. If both of their big men -- Joel Embid and Ben Simmons -- can stay healthy -- never a given -- they could well find themselves in the Finals. They're as good as anybody in the semi-watered down East.

Out west, the Golden State Warriors have had their problems. Steph Curry remains on the DL. It always seems to be something with SC. Hand, ankle, knee, thigh. Something. And Draymond Green, probably the dirtiest player to come along in recent memory, is a double-tech, ejection/suspension waiting to happen.

Even if the Warriors are fully healthy, it's beginning to appear like this is the Houston Rockets' year. Though sporting the regular season's best record in the league is never any guarantee of playoff success, much less a championship, it's pretty tough to bet against them. Barring key injuries themselves, what other team out there, including the Warriors, is likely to knock them off in a seven game series? Especially when Houston has home court throughout?

But ya never know. Wouldn't it be something if the young Sixers were to stun the hoops world and roll to a championship?

On the heels of the Philadelphia Eagles zapping the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII just a few months ago, and Villanova capturing the NCAA hoops crown, the "City of Brotherly Love" would have much to be proud of indeed. Yeah, the baseball Phillies are going to suck but, all in all, pretty impressive stuff for one town in the world of sports.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Detroit's next generation sports blues

It is interesting to note, at least to a feeble mind such as my own, how the Detroit professional sports teams have changed ownership in recent years -- and gone splat. The long-time patriarchs having gone on to the billionaire club in the sky -- or somewhere -- what used to be proud, sort of, franchises, have quickly gone downhill.

Consider the Detroit Pistons. Once owned by Bill Davidson, who had the decency and generosity to build and fund a new arena (The Palace) out of his own pocket, passed on and left the works to his daughter Karen. She in turn, as kids often do, decided she didn't need the hassle and cashed out. Enter Tom Gores, originally a Michigan native, to purchase the Davidson enterprise. During the elder Davidson's tenure as owner, the Pistons won a few NBA titles and were pretty much contenders in most years. Now they stink, and the near future doesn't look any better. The Palace, still a world class facility, sits idle because Gores, in his infinite wisdom, moved the team back to Detroit -- where he can pay rent to play at Little Caesar's Arena -- built for a hockey team.

Decades ago, one Mike Ilitch purchased the Detroit Red Wings. Under his leadership, the Wings went from bottom feeders to winning a handful of Stanley Cups. Then he died. Enter the kids that inherited. After a record-setting quarter century of always making the playoffs, the Wings are now among the plankton of the NHL.

Same goes for the Detroit Tigers, which the elder Ilitch bought many moons ago. No, they never won a World Series under his watch, but he wasn't afraid to spend a ton of dough trying to get the best players available, and the Tigers were always at least contenders. Fast forward upon Mr. Ilitch's demise. The Tigers are in full-blown rebuild mode. That translates into terrible. The kids have managed to totally screw up the baseball team as well.

Of course, that leaves the Detroit Lions. The original William Clay Ford closed the deal for ownership on the same day John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, way back in 1963. A dark day indeed, in more ways than one.

For the next half century, fifty+ -- count-em -- FIFTY+ years the Lions were likely the sorriest franchise in all of American professional sports. A laughingstock. It's one thing for 52 Super Bowls to have been played and the Lions never even getting there. But it's another when they've only won one -- count it -- ONE playoff game over all that time. Pitiful.

Alas, dear William Clay passed on as well. So what happened?

That left the team in the hands of, wait for it, his now 90+ year old widow Martha and their daughters, not exactly spring chickens themselves. Apparently, son Mustang Billy is too busy trying to run the Ford Motor Company to be bothered with a football team.

The daughters.

Martha Jr. aka "Muffy" was supposedly an academic "high achiever". That's nice.

Sheila was a state tennis champ and an honor student at Yale. Great.

Elizabeth married a money manager and stock broker. Well, duh.

Taken collectively, their wisdom regarding running an NFL team probably approaches my own when it comes to brain surgery or designing a spaceship to travel to Mars. Would you want ME operating on your head or be willing to blast off on a rocket ship I drew up the specs for? If so, you'd fit right in with the hard-core fans the Lions seem to still have. Hmmm. Maybe massive brain surgeries (lobotomies) are in order there as well. A thought.

And dear Willie Jr. mentioned above, seems to have been torn over the years as to what his calling was/is. He was into Buddhism, ecological issues, and had over a dozen jobs while bouncing around the Ford Motor Co. What to do indeed?

Then finally an offer he couldn't refuse. Run the whole car company. It's good to be a male heir sometimes.

Bottom line? If you thought the Lions had clueless leadership over the the past 50 years under the elder Willie, the current ownership makes him look like a genius.

One of Martha Sr.'s first moves was to name a President of the Lions. Who did she pick? An "estate manager", a guy who's expertise was in handling wills, trust funds, and the like. And a guy who freely admitted he knew nothing about running a professional football franchise. Heckuva move Martha.

All in all, Detroit sports fans should feel grateful for what the former owners of their teams were able to provide. Championships here and there, and at least contenders most years, not counting the Lions.

Because now that the next generation has taken over, it's all gone to the proverbial hell in a hand basket.

Know when you should be scared if you're a professional sports fan from any particular city?

When as team such as the historically sad-sack Lions represent your best hope across the sports spectrum at respectability.

I mean -- how low can you go?


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Really dumb "highlights"

Every night, sports fans see pretty much the same thing. So-called highlights of the events of the day. Evidently, the bar has become very low to qualify as such.

There will always be a dunk or two in basketball. This is no big deal. Every player in the NBA can dunk. And we've already seen every variety possible. It's like making a 6-inch putt on a golfing green. The only highlight, or lowlight, would be if the player missed it.

See the baseball outfielder run and leap to make a catch. Some are better than others, but many are plays your average high school player could make. No big deal.

On that note, we'll always see a few home runs. Lately, the ever-breathless announcers will call them "monster shots", or some other equally inane superlative. Such "colossal" home runs aren't what they used to be. In this day and age of custom made bats, supposedly juiced baseballs, and hitters benefiting from all manner of high-tech training -- why is that none of them can seem to hit a baseball over 500 feet any more? It used to happen all the time back in 50s, 60s, and 70s. Way before anything like steroids came along. By roly-poly guys that probably couldn't bench press a case of whatever booze they were consuming at the time.

Show me a hole-in-one on a golf course. That's a highlight. Some guy draining a 30 foot putt or chipping in from off the green is not. Yawn.

Soccer goals are always a highlight. Maybe that's because you can wait for hours, days, for one to happen. The only thing more boring than watching a soccer game might be a reality show featuring some sort of puritan family. Nobody's going to score much there either.

Why is it that the so-called experts put so much faith in the 40-yard dash time when it comes to certain football players? Or their vertical jumps? Former Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday hit it right on the nose when he said -- show me an offensive tackle/guard/center that can move a yard and a half to either side while keeping his man in front of him, and I don't care how fast he can run or how high he can jump. I mean, what's the point? That would be like grading out a hockey goalie based on his psychological profile. Hey, you gotta be a little nuts to play that position in the first place.

These days, the talking heads are into "firsts" in a large way. It seems every day a new "record" is set. See this guy. He's the first 23 year old from Peoria, with an Aunt Delores and a three-legged dog named Delta to ever score a touchdown in Denver, while his mother named Gertrude was being escorted out of the stadium for drunken behavior.

Or see this gal. She's the first Belinda from Northwest Whozit, Arkansas, to actually -- gasp -- run a sub-five minute mile with her sports bra on backwards.

Please. We don't need this trivial aggravation.

Show me a full, or at least three quarters court shot at the buzzer to win a basketball game.

Show me a baseball hit completely out the stadium.

Show me a golfer holing a shot from 250 yards away.

Show me a race car driver that will refer to a rival by his name rather than car number.

Show me an announcer -- ANY announcer -- that will say -- "Wow, he/she pretty much stunk it up with that one", rather than always resorting to the politically correct blather of finding a way to compliment a lousy effort.

These would be highlights.

As would be a post in this forum that actually reflected any manner of deep thinking.

Don't hold your breath waiting for that to happen either.


Friday, April 13, 2018

The Detroit Pistons cluster****

Once upon a time, there was a man named Bill Davidson. Like many uber-rich guys of old (see Joe Kennedy, Sam Walton, the Rockefellers, etc.) he'd made his fortune through what now might be called unsavory business practices.

Regardless, old Willie was loaded. So he bought an NBA basketball team, which we now know as the Detroit Pistons. After spending many years at Cobo Hall in Detroit, a sorry venue in an even sorrier town, they relocated to play in -- wait for it -- a football stadium. This was known as the Silverdome, which the city of Pontiac, in their infinite wisdom, turned down a $20 million dollar offer for after the Pistons had left -- to settle for $583 thousand. Roughly a fortieth of what they could have had. But Pontiac hasn't exactly been known as the land of financial geniuses over the years either.

To his credit, Davidson built a brand new state of the art arena for his basketball team which he dubbed the Palace. This was all out of his own money -- no taxpayer dollars required, like most other arenas these days. And in a place where hundreds/thousands of people didn't get thrown out of their own homes via the dreaded "eminent domain" to make room for it. Easy in and out access to the Palace with major highways very close by for fans and their automobiles. What could go wrong?

Answer -- Mr. Davidson dying. Which left his estate to his daughter Karen. Apparently not interested in the hassle of such business, she decided to "cash out". The team, the arena, a concert facility nearby, and a few other goodies. Big bucks and no worries. Can't blame her.

Enter Tom Gores, a former Michigan native who had struck it rich in California maneuvering other people's money around via something called equity funds. Let's just say Mr. Gores was loaded himself, and he wanted in on the professional sports team ownership club.

So a mega-deal was struck. Nobody's heard much of Karen Davidson since. She's probably off to a tropical paradise with man and maidservants galore, living in the proverbial lap of luxury for ever after. This is what can happen when your daddy is rich, gets old and dies, and you inherit the works. More power to her. You go girl.

It should be noted that after a period of sustained success, including an NBA championship, the Pistons were obviously headed into a decline. So Karen got Tom to bite on a high price, and walked away with a smile on her face.

But dear Mr. Gores had to hire some people to actually run the basketball team. And this is where it started to get ridiculous. For the last few years a guy named Stan Van Gundy has been both the president and head coach of the Pistons -- with not one -- but two general managers in between. So who's in charge of whom? The president can typically hire/fire a general manager, and the GM can typically hire/fire a head coach. Unless he happens to also be the president, which he reports to. In other words, the Pistons chain of command is  a colossal cluster****. It's like the classic Abbott and Costello "who's on first", etc. routine that never seems to end.

Which might have been okay, had the Pistons returned to NBA relevance, as in even semi-contenders. But they haven't. Worse, they're in the worst position possible. Finishing just out of the playoffs, but not a bottom feeder with a decent chance of getting a high lottery draft pick. Not that it would make much of a difference with what they've become over the last few years -- which is ugly. As in, they can't seem to get many people to show up for their games, even with cheap trick promotions.

And here's the kicker. With the Palace totally bought and paid for by the above-mentioned Bill Davidson, still a world class facility by any measure, with the also above-mentioned easy access, Tom Gores decided to move them back to Detroit. To an arena built for a hockey team (Detroit Red Wings) where he has to pay rent. Where it's a nightmare getting to and from. An oasis in a town still chock full of drugs, gangs, murderers, thieves, car-jackers, and urban blight pretty much everywhere else. In what magical financial world does that make sense?

Unlike the Palace, n the peaceful prospering community it's always been located in, which now sits empty awaiting bids. Perhaps even the dreaded demolition balls, implosives, and front end loaders/garbage trucks to scoop it up and haul it away to a land fill, as if it never existed.

This would not only be a colossal waste, but equally colossal stupidity at work. Alas, it's too late to remedy those obvious bone-headed missteps.

Does Stan Van Gundy need to go? That's like asking if you want to stick with your regular lawn maintenance guy when the grass is a foot high and chock full of weeds. All the BS he might offer for explanations doesn't change what's really been going on. It is what it is -- and it ain't pretty.

While Tom Gores is no doubt in quest of his next billion, he's obviously lost sight of -- if he ever had it -- the plight of the Detroit Pistons. They're not only bad, but will probably get worse in the short term.

And somewhere Karen Davidson likely sips from fancy cocktails with umbrellas and chuckles.


Did I mention -- you go girl?

Saturday, April 7, 2018

OK, I'm an idiot

After my last posting (see "Tiger Woods, the madness" -- stage right), a friend pointed out I had made a blunder. (Yes, believe it or not, even a low-life such as myself has a few friends.)

When comparing Tiger Woods' scores to the leader, and how far back he was after the first two rounds, I screwed up the numbers. That's odd, given that math was one of the few things I did well at in school. Trig, analytic geometry, even four semesters of calculus in college while pursuing my engineering degree-- no prob.

[Idle thought. Is it just me, or have you never used algebra even once since you got out of school? So what's the point of teaching how to solve those silly equations?]

But evidently I never got simple addition down pat.

After the second round of the Masters, I looked at leader Patrick Reed's score of nine under par, compared it to Woods' score of four over par, and....

Only a doofus like me could add nine to four and come up with Eldrick being fifteen shots behind. So yeah. I'm an idiot. I'll own that.

Thing is, after now three rounds having been played, Tiger is yet to break par on the course -- for any of them. After an even par 72 today, he remains at four over.

Meanwhile, many others have been killing it. Fifty four hole leader Reed shot a very impressive five under 67 in the third round, to zoom to 14 under par. He's three shots clear of...

Rory McIlroy, who who blistered the course with a 7-under 65. (The Masters is the only "major" the young Irishman has yet to win to accomplish the career "grand slam". And he's certainly in contention for this one.)

As did Ricky Fowler.

Jon Rahm, the young Spaniard that has taken the tour by storm of late, fired a 66.

As did Tommy Fleetwood, another up and coming star.

This, while dear Tiger could only manage a ho-hum round of even par 72, his best so far, as he watched so many others basically lap him.

So, here we go with the math again. Given Reed is at 14 under, and Woods is at 4 over, my colossal Jethro brain does the ciphering and comes up with -- an eighteen shot differential. That's the equivalent of losing by a whopping six strokes every day so far.

Further, out of the 53 players to make the cut, Eldrick Tont has only been able to stay ahead of eleven of them. He's mired in a tie for 40th place, and will be getting an early Sunday tee-off time, so he'll be out of the way before the contenders come marching through. That is, if I can count correctly, no given (see the title of this post above).

For those that wanted, NEEDED Tiger to come roaring back as a force on tour, that ought to pretty much put to rest any such delusions.

All along, the hype has been growing. Tiger this, and Tiger that. See him building towards this year's Masters. See his legions of faithful, if hopelessly naive, fans and media eagerly anticipating this would be a re-coronation of King Tiger back on his throne.

Well, maybe another type of "throne" is where he more appropriately belongs. The kind with the handle you reach around with your right hand to flush when you're done doing your business every day. There he can ponder how and why, at what was supposed to be the apex of his latest "comeback", he's floundering around a whopping 18 shots behind.

And it will probably get a lot worse by the time the final round is over. Could he go for 25? Or maybe he'll pull out again, citing a mysterious injury, to avoid the embarrassment.

This is what happens when the young stud "big boys" show up with their A game at a course like Augusta National, and an aging has-been tries to compete with them.

It can get ugly.

And so it has, at least for Eldrick. How much uglier before it's all over remains to be seen.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Tiger Woods. The madness

In the weeks leading up to this year's Master's Tournament, there was no getting away from it. On-line, talking TV heads, newspapers, EVERYBODY was talking about Tiger Woods. Could he be -- sound the trumpets -- OMG -- BACK?

You know, the golf god he once was to those that adopted him as their hero of heroes, sometimes known as suckers?

It would appear not. After the first round of the Masters, see dear Eldrick seven shots behind the leader. That's a bunch for 18 holes of golf. Yet with a couple late birdies, Tiger said he was right back in the tourney. Right, and his groupies flogged themselves with ecstasy.

After round two, see Eldrick a whopping fifteen shots behind. Strangely enough, he barely, BARELY made the cut. This was because one small herd of players had separated itself from a much larger herd of those floundering on the very difficult Augusta National course. Typically, only those within 10 shots of the lead after two rounds of play make the cut.

Yet his unwavering, if hopelessly naive faithful, think he has a shot of actually winning. These people are delusional. Their hopes were no doubt buoyed by his showings in a couple other recent tournaments where he finished in a respectable position. No wins, mind you, but in the Top Ten. It should be noted that many of the world's top ranked players didn't bother to show up to play in these lesser tournaments.

No, he will not win this year's Masters.

No, he will not win another major this year or any other year in the future.

Forget that -- ain't gonna happen. These days he's lucky to make a cut when the big boys show up.

And they are many. Depending on whose ratings one wants to believe, Eldrick Tont Woods isn't generally regarded as among the top 100 players in the world anymore. The constant attention and hype given to such an also-ran is baffling indeed. What is the MATTER with these people? They can wish and root all they want, but NO, Tiger is never going to be #1 in the world again either.

Forget that too. That's like thinking aging Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers might win another Triple Crown in the Major Leagues. Or Brett Favre will come out of retirement -- again -- and lead a team to a Super Bowl victory.

Did I mention forget that, ain't gonna happen?

One should remember that even during Woods' decade of dominance, now well over a decade past, he came along at the right time -- for himself.

Gone or hopelessly past their primes was the "old guard", consisting of names like Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Trevino, Watson, Kite, Floyd, and a few others.

But it was before the emergence of current stars, consisting of names like Johnson, Stenson, Bubba Watson, Fowler, Day, Spieth, Rahm, Rose, Thomas, and many others.

It seems like new golf studs are popping up from all over the world every day, and it's likely to continue.

Put them all together on the same course for the same tournament, and Tiger (and his fans) is way over his head thinking he can possibly prevail after 72 holes of golf. That ain't gonna happen again either.

So let the suckers continue to worship him, and the media try to resurrect another "hero" of their making. They can delude themselves into believing whatever they want, but it isn't going to work.

Eldrick Tont Woods is past his prime, WAY past his prime. And all the other young guns on tour these days may give him homage for PR reasons, but they know he poses little, if any threat. Not over the course of an entire tournament. Let him have his throngs of lemming followers, the TV folks cover his every move - while missing so much other action around the course -  and the post match interviews, evidently mandated from the media powers that be.

Tiger this, Tiger that. Tiger everywhere. It's going to be about Tiger. At least for now.

But he's done. Stick a fork in him. He had his great decade of golf, perhaps the best ever, but that's far in the rear view mirror.

And I, for one, have become thoroughly sick and tired of being bombarded with Tiger mania. By devoting so much attention to Eldrick, those that should know better are missing out on the true golf stories of the day.

Again, if he isn't even ranked in the top 100 in the world, where is the sense and/or logic in paying so much attention to him, while it detracts from others far more deserving?

And that's not even to mention his less than admirable qualities involving Tiger as a person over the years. In these times of political correctness and women's rights, how does it come to be a serial wife-cheater has been exalted to the heavens? It makes no sense whatsoever.

So yes, like every other year, yours truly will be tuned into the Masters as well.

But my fondest wish is that someday soon, this guy will just go away. Better yet, the media and lemmings will come to their senses and realize they've long been worshiping a false god.

Could it be that because Eldrick is a half-black man playing in predominantly a white man's sport is why so many cheer for him? Perhaps.

But I don't care about that. Win something, anything, which he hasn't done in several years, or shut up. Tiger is like Danica Patrick in that regard of late. All kinds of press coverage making them into heroes, but can't seem to win anything.

At least Danica finally, mercifully, retired. Or couldn't find anybody else to keep building her $400,000 race cars to keep wrecking.

I eagerly await the day when Eldrick finally bows out as well.

Enough is enough of this guy, and lately it's been WAY too much.