Saturday, December 16, 2017

Part III. The Lions

It's almost easy to foresee what may become of the 2017 version of the long suffering Motown puddy-tats. There are three possible scenarios. I'll get back to that.

First up, as has been noted in this space in the past, the Lions have been the beneficiaries of every conceivable break (aka dumb luck) to date this season. From scheduling to star players on other teams being injured when the Lions have faced them.

The schedule.

The Arizona Cardinals, a win, aren't any good this year.
The NY Giants, another W, are absolutely horrible.
They defeated Minnesota when the Vikings were freshly down to their third string quarterback.
(Of course that same guy, one Case Keenum, after a few games under his belt, promptly marched into Detroit and spanked the Lions on Thanksgiving day.)
They caught the Green Bay Packers with all-world QB Aaron Rodgers having recently suffered a broken collar bone. A win, but tainted.
Beating Cleveland? The Campfire Girls could beat the Browns.
Two games against the always woeful Chicago Bears.
Another versus the sorry Tampa Bay Bucs.
Next week it will be Cincinnati. If Marvin Lewis is still the head coach there, the Bengals will still be awful. He is, and they are.

Could it possibly have been any easier for the Lions along the way? It borders on the incredible.

It should be noted they have yet to defeat a team with a winning record, the above-mentioned first go-round with Minnesota aside.

Scenario #1 has the Lions defeating the Bengals to set up a showdown with the Packers in the final regular season game, quite possibly for a wild card berth.

But hang on. In Aaron Rodgers' first game back, the Pack has to go to Carolina, a team known for it's ferocious pass rush. Then the Cheesers have to face Minnesota, which is sailing along at the top of the NFC north division, and also possesses a top notch defense. Rough sledding indeed. Should the Packers lose either of those games, even if Rodgers stays healthy throughout, coming back so soon from his injury, Green Bay would likely shut him down for the year. What's the point in risking your star QB, though medically "cleared to play", when he probably isn't 100% fully mended? If that happens, the Lions would get the Packers minus Rodgers once again. Another unbelievable stroke of luck.

But if, a big IF, Rodgers and the Pack get through that two game gauntlet against good teams, while the Lions are, as noted, feasting on more bad ones, Scenario #2 comes into play.

With the Lions and Packers both having 9-6 records and a wild-card berth possibly on the line, people in Detroit would be worked up to the proverbial fever pitch when the Packers came-a-calling in Week 17.

And you just know what would happen. With their entire season on the line, the Lions and their fans would be left gasping in frustration/disbelief/shock/horror -- take your pick -- after the Packers and Rodgers came to Ford Field and knocked them off.

It would be a fitting end for just another year of the same old Lions story. Up, up, up, they go -- hype/hope city all the way -- only to crash and burn one more year. Down, down, down they plummet when it matters most.

However, if they get that far, Scenario #3 is possible.

The Lions actually stumble and bumble their way into the playoffs. As a commenter on this blog once noted, even when they win, they look bad.

And that potential playoff game would be on the road with a -- gasp -- winning team. Which the Lions have proven all year they can't hang with.

That's when their primrose path, dumb luck, and all the other breaks not of their own doing suddenly come to a simultaneous screeching halt.

Can you spell b-l-o-w-o-u-t?

Know why?

Because as sure as the sun (and new lovers) are hot, ice (and exes) are cold, and it gets dark at night, the Lions's season is going to end ugly again, whichever of the three scenarios plays out.  The ever-gullible Motown faithful can root, root, root for their Honolulu blue and silver boys to get to a (cough, gag, choke, barf, puhleeze) Super Bowl every year, with their always super-homerish media peddling their usual snake oil every step of the way, but the chances of that happening are about as good as Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow deciding to get married and have a bunch of kids. Some things just aren't meant to be. It's the natural, or perhaps unnatural order of things.

And hey, while the players turn over every year and the coaches occasionally change, it's still the Lions and the Ford family that owns them -- right? An "estate planner" was recently named president of this NFL franchise by the doddering old widow that still owns them? One who admitted he knew nothing about pro football? Really? What does he do? Make out the last wills and testaments for the players?

Well, there you go. It's the Lion way. Always has been.

What's one more year on the already half century plus scrap heap of futility?

Friday, December 15, 2017

Part II. The Pistons

The Pistons.

Sure, they got off to a fast start this season, but does anybody really seriously believe the Detroit hoopsters are anywhere near contenders?

It seemed almost inevitable they would come crashing back to earth -- and they have -- having lost 7 of their last 8.

Only because the Eastern Conference of the NBA is such a weak sister when compared to the West, will the Pistons likely hover around the playoff cut-off line. They might get in as a seventh of eighth seed, only to get blown out in the first round of the post-season by a club like Boston or Cleveland.

One must remember this is the same franchise that gave Andre Drummond a "max" contract. That's right. He's getting paid roughly the same amount of do-re-mi that players like Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and James Hardin are making. The latter are super-stars. Meanwhile, Andre Drummond is basically useless more than 4 feet away from the basket -- on either end of the floor -- offensively or defensively. No decent jump shot, continues to shoot free throws like a blind man, a pitiful defender away from the rim, and his ball handling skills could be likened to those of a bull elephant trying to play the piano.

Only in Detroit could a guy like Stan VanGundy be the president of basketball operations and head coach at the same time, with two -- count-em TWO -- general managers in between. So who's in charge of who? Nobody seems to know.

And what give with dear Stan taking all the blame for the Pistons' poor play? Hey, there comes a time to call a spade a spade. Stan's not playing the game. The players are. So if they're stinking it up on the court, then just say so.

The Pistons even have a guy named Reggie Jackson on their roster. What? No Willie Mays, Bob Gibson, or Mickey Mantle? Maybe they'll find a way to get a couple of those next on the payroll. Don't put it past them. Sheesh.

Relatively new owner Tom Gores overpaid for the Pistons to late owner Bill Davidson's widow Karen. She was no doubt happy. And as part of the deal, Gores acquired a world class facility -- the Palace of Auburn Hills, which had been completely paid for by his predecessor out of his own pockets. This arena was/is located in a prime location. A crime free suburb with easy in and out access, and the interstate I-75, that fed into other major highways just a couple blocks away. Further, Mr. Gores invested somewhere around $10-15 million bucks of his own money to provide this already superb venue with a few upgrades.

So what did he do?

Turned right around and moved his team back to Detroit. Yep, the same crime-ridden, blighted metropolis it's been for decades. Where he has to, incredibly, pay RENT. Does this make sense?

Fair enough that the brand new sparkling Little Caesar's Arena, originally built for the Detroit Red Wings, is in the "Fox" district, which is pretty much like the "Green Zone" in Iraq America carved out after invading same over WMDs that turned out not to exist. Oops. (Hey, what's a few billion bucks and a few thousand lives -- right?) It's safe alright, once one gets there, but wander just a block or two outside the perimeter, and folks will find themselves right back in very dangerous territory, where the "natives" remain, shall we say, restless, perhaps even life, limb, and car threatening.

Meanwhile, nobody seems to know what will become of the Palace. Sure, it might still a host a rock or country band here or there, but chances are the magnificent facility will go to seed in the future. And that's a colossal waste whose blame will fall squarely at the feet of the above-mentioned Tom Gores. Given his evident wrong-footed approach and botching of the whole scenario in recent times, one is left to ask the question -- how in the hell did this guy get so rich to begin with?

But then one has to remember only one thing.

It's Detroit.

That city is just about enough to make anybody go off their proverbial rocker.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The sorry state of Detroit sports. Part 1. The Tigers

So Ian Kinsler of the Detroit Tigers is the latest to leave town. A good glove, decent bat, average speed, but overall a steady player.

Remember the Tigers could't keep Max Scherzer. He's since won a couple Cy Young awards for the Washington Nats. Same with young Rick Porcello. He departed the Tigers and promptly won the same award for the Bosox the following year.

J.D. Martinez, a terrific slugger, if a bit of a liability in the outfield, got traded off for "prospects".

No other team is interested in dinosaur Victor Martinez. Fat contract, but can't play a position, and you can time his base path speed with a sundial.

Miguel Cabrera, former slugger supreme, is getting older and constantly battling health issues. But the Tigers are on the hook for his bazillion dollar contract -- and who else would want an aging slugger in obvious decline at such a ridiculous price?

Just last year, young starting pitcher Michael Fullmer, won the Rookie of the Year. Really? Sure, he started out strong, but towards the end of the season was getting shelled like Pearl Harbor on 12/07/41, finishing up a not-so-good 10-12. That doesn't say much for the other rookies around the American League. He's being dangled as trade bait too. Will anybody want him -- and at what price?

Justin Verlander trotted off to Houston mid-year, where he promptly won a World Series. Beyond him, the Tiger starting rotation was shaky, to say the least.

Their bullpen remains flat-out pitiful, unless you're an opposing hitter. Then you love it when those guys come in and start pitching batting practice.

There's "rebuilding", and then there's "totally blowing it up". The Tigers would seem to fit into the latter category.

If you thought they were bad towards the end of the 2017 season, this once proud, but with precious few results over the years, franchise is most likely going to get downright embarrassing in the near future. 100+ loss seasons could easily become a reality.

While other teams around the league were already much better, and continue to find ways to improve their personnel, the Tigers have become a no-talent zero.

Worse, they recently hired Ron Gardenhire, an "old school" by the seat of his pants manager by any measure, while the rest of the teams, at least the smart ones, turned to modern statistical analysis (sabermetrics) years ago. Typically, Detroit remains far behind the times.

This is not only going to get ugly, but referring to the Pearl Harbor bit above, may indeed turn out to be an era "that will live in infamy".

Monday, December 11, 2017

Tom Brady's Miami jinx

Few would doubt Tom Brady is indeed the GOAT (greatest of all time) at the quarterback position. Five Super Bowl rings, a couple others he got to but came up short, four MVPs, and he long ago blew past all Joe Montana's career passing statistics -- by a mile.

If he plays a couple more years, entirely probable, Brady will likely be #1 in ALL the pro quarterback stats.

But he's always seemed to have this little problem playing at Miami. As in, a career losing record there.

Going into Monday night's game, he was only 6-7 in the current home of the Dolphins. And let's face it, the Dolphins haven't been particularly good in recent times.

Yet sure enough, the Dolphins slew the Patriots again, 27-20. Even in the absence of Rob Gronkowski, beast tight-end supreme out serving a one game suspension for a cheap shot on a Buffalo defender a week ago, the Pats were heavy favorites to win. I mean, c'mon, they were 10-2 going in, cruising along, and what did Miami have to offer? Jay Cutler? Please.

But down they went again. This is what happens when your team is out-rushed by a wide margin, out-passed by an even wider one, and the opponents more than double your total yards gained over the course of the game. Throw in a couple turnovers, while the other guys had none -- and there you go. You EARNED that big L.

It also might very well have larger implications for the Patriots. Instead of improving to 11-2, as most thought they would, this loss puts them a game behind the Pittsburgh Steelers, who seem to be on auto-pilot for the playoffs as well.

True, both teams have three regular season games yet to play, and anything can happen and sometimes does, but if the current situation holds until the playoffs start, the Steelers would have home field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. That means if both teams advance that far, the Pats would have to travel to Pittsburgh, a formidable place to play indeed.

Had the Patriots won the game against Miami, the Steelers might have had to go to Foxborough down the road, also a very tough venue to win at. No doubt, Big Ben, Mike Tomlin, and that crew would much prefer to get the Pats at home rather than on the road with a whole bunch of marbles on the line.

So it just might be that this seemingly inexplicable loss to an obviously inferior team could wind up costing the New England Patriots big time before all is said and done this season.

Jinx indeed.

We'll see.......

Sunday, December 10, 2017

NFL chuckleheads

You gotta love Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens. Or laugh at him. No stranger to personal fouls and other goonish behavior himself over the years, Suggs was asked what it would take for the Ravens to defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Sunday night game.

Stop right there. The Ravens aren't going to beat the Steelers -- especially in Pittsburgh. Forget that. If there's a way to blow the game -- they'll find it against their long time nemesis.

But dear Terrell spoke right up and said, "We have to stop #23."

Just one little problem with that.

There IS no #23 on the Pittsburgh roster. Perhaps he was referring to running back Le'Veon Bell, who wears #26. Hey, if Suggs and his teammates are busy trying to chase a phantom player, no wonder they've historically struggled against the Steelers. It would appear head coach John Harbaugh and his staff have a bit of work to do -- like -- explaining to chuckleheads such as Suggs who's who on opposing teams.

While briefly in a local watering hole, shortly after the Detroit Lions game, a Latino gentleman I never met before, having evidently watched the game there, made a comment to yours truly regarding the Motown puddy-tats. To wit: "Even when they win, they look bad". To which I replied, "Truer words were never spoken, amigo". His drop-dead gorgeous female companion seemed to think that was funny for some reason. Always happy to put a smile on a woman's face, especially a beauty like that one. Wow, lucky man.

Forget the sad-sack Lions taking on the equally woeful Tampa Bay Bucs. I was much more interested in the Philly/LA Ram game. You know, two GOOD teams going at it. And it turned out to be quite the exciting game, not decided until the closing seconds. As you know, the Eagles prevailed and locked up the NFC East division title with three games left to play.

Alas, starting Eagle QB Carson Wentz went out with a knee injury, severity and possible length of absence unknown. If he's officially zapped, so are the Eagles' chances of going far in the post-season. Ask the Green Bay Packers, a  pre-season pick to be a Super Bowl contender, how things have gone since Aaron Rodgers went down with a broken collar bone. They just barely -- BARELY -- got by the Cleveland Browns -- in overtime.

Nonetheless, the always breathless announcers, who never saw a player or coach that wasn't the greatest at something, had Wentz right up there as a possible NFL MVP candidate.

Fast forward to the Baltimore/Pittsburgh game. Now it's wide receiver Antonio Brown who just might be the MVP.

Pick any two teams, even bottom-feeding ones, and the play-by-play guys will figure out a way to make a case for an MVP on at least one of them -- maybe both. Talk about chuckleheads. Have they no shame, or have the "politically correct" gods they all seem to worship these days turned whatever brains they once had into borscht?

Since when is it so wrong to just tell it like it is?

The Cleveland Browns stink, from ownership on down to the lowliest assistant -- players included. Period.

Detroit Lions' fans seem forever doomed to lifetimes of idiocy thinking their team in going to be contenders every year.

The difference between the Browns and the Lions? In Cleveland, the people know and accept the fact their team sucks.

And yes, Colin Kaepernick, whether one considers his "kneeling" cause to be righteous or offensive, committed career suicide by doing so. He may or may not be a capable NFL quarterback -- opinions vary -- but the chances of any team offering him a contract -- especially after he sued the league for "collusion", are virtually nil, nada, ain't gonna happen. Only a chucklehead thinks this guy is going to get another shot. Forget that. With apologies to Mr. Spock of original Star Trek fame, may dear Colin live long and prosper, but the man made his bed, and he's going to have to sleep in it. It's only, ahem, logical. Sorry for the lame play on words.

Interesting how Sports Illustrated came out with their "Sportsperson of the year" issue and featured two co-winners.

J.J. Watt and Jose Altuve, with respective articles singing their praises. Both of which play(ed) for Houston teams, the Texans and Astros respectively. What are the chances of that happening?

It appears even the chuckleheads at SI can't pick a winner and stick to it.

But the chucklehead of the year award should rightfully go to Danica Patrick.

Years ago, the hero-makers anointed her the greatest thing to happen in Indy car racing. Problem was, despite having first class gear, she couldn't win squat.

Never fear, it was on to NASCAR, and even more acclaim. Plopped into another top-flite car, with pit crew to match, Ms. Patrick was nothing more than a wreck waiting to happen every week. Her main sponsor -- Go Daddy -- finally went. It had to get tiresome, not to mention expensive, building her a brand new $400,000 race car almost every week. And that's not even to mention how many other drivers she "took out" along the way. The total carnage was well up into the multi-millions. She never won anything on the NASCAR circuit either.

It seemed her main claim to fame was an occasional foot-stomping hissy fit on pit row.

Now finally, mercifully, dear Danica has decided to retire from that venture. Or she couldn't find anybody else with deep pockets and shallow common sense to keep throwing their money away on an obviously futile enterprise doomed to destruction from the onset.

To all of which, no doubt the other drivers on the NASCAR circuit breathe a sigh of relief. The wrecking machine with an attitude is finally gone. Whew!

No doubt, some will find a way to make Danica a hero, despite being a loser her whole career.

Hard to say which is/are the bigger chucklehead(s). Her, or those folks that will continue to worship her.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The great American implosion

Well OK. They were supposed to announce this year's winner of the Heisman Trophy at 8:00 PM, But we knew that was a lie. A show which should have lasted no more than 5 minutes is dragged out to an hour.

All they had to do was say, "Here are your three finalists. Bryce Love, a running back from Stanford, Lemar Jackson, a quarterback from Louisville, and Baker Mayfield, another quarterback from Oklahoma".

"And the winner is, envelope please..." -- whichever. Make that two minutes. Who wants to slog through almost an hour of talking heads spouting their usual nonsense about stats and supposedly greatest this or that, with a ridiculous amount of commercials mixed in along the way, when what has long since been decided was available for announcement when the show first started?

Thing is, the Heisman is awarded to the best AMERICAN college football player every year.

So why is it brought to us by ----

Nissan? A Japanese auto company?

NASCAR stands for NATIONAL Association of Stock Car Automobile Racing -- not INTERNATIONAL.

So why have Toyota cars and motors been allowed to infest it?

Same with Indy racing and Honda trying to run Chevy out of business. Why do they put up with this obvious anti-American onslaught?

Here's a good one. While catching a brief glimpse of the annual Army/Navy football bore-a-thon, a stat popped up that the Navy quarterback had only thrown two passes ALL YEAR.

So what, pray tell, is the point of their wide receivers even bothering to split out and take their positions? They're never going to touch the ball anyway. That would be a little bit like making future Navy ensigns participate in ten mile runs -- only to assign them to confined quarters on submarine duty. Hello?

Go back to auto racing. Roger Penske, forever a Chevy man, recently bailed to Ford in his NASCAR entries. What's up with that?

Joe Gibbs, a deeply religious man, red,white, and blue American through and through, long ago sold out and became a Toyota guy. Almost a century ago, the phrase "say it ain't so, Joe" came to light. That had to do with Shoeless Joe Jackson and the Blacksox scandal. (He was later totally exonerated, but nobody wants to remember that part). Gibbs should hang his head in shame. Say it ain't so Joe indeed.

American sports fans need only pay attention to what companies are sponsoring so many of their events and even TV shows.

Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, and their ilk are seemingly everywhere. Very few sightings of Chevy, Ford, Pontiac, Chrysler or Dodge. Oldsmobile went out of business long ago and the Buick Open golf tournament vanished into the ether as well. True, at last look, Cadillac was still a proud sponsor of the Masters at Augusta National. Could it be that even those stodgy old curmudgeons might some day sell out to Asian influence? Hey, it was a men's club since its inception way back in the pre-WWII days. But they caved to the incessant nagging of the fairer sex a couple decades ago, and admitted a few.

Same with the Citadel, another name for a fortress. Their walls have been breached like those of the Alamo way back in 1836. Everybody wants to "remember the Alamo", but nobody wants to talk about the Citadel getting p-whipped. At least Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and Will Travis went down fighting.

All the while, lady reporters have been given access to men's locker rooms, but not vice-versa. Little girls have even infiltrated the Boy Scouts, amazing, but also not vice-versa. Fraternities are under siege to admit female members, but sororities face no such pressure from their male counterparts.

How is it that the NAACP can stand for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, when the public at large has long been chastised that "colored" is a word they aren't supposed to say anymore? How does that work?

Finally, how is it that the United States, the only country to ever detonate nuclear weapons on civilian populations -- twice -- now has the audacity to declare others a "threat" if they were ever to obtain the same technology?

When one looks at the bigger picture over the years, they are left to wonder -- what, pray tell, other than massive hypocrisy and selling out to the highest bidder (patriotism be damned), has been going on here?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Roger Goodell's victory lap

So after all the wrangling, the NFL Commish got re-upped for another five years. Is anybody really surprised? Even the amount, reportedly $200 million -- roughly 40 mil a year -- isn't totally out of line.

I mean c'mon. If he's going to be the head honcho of the league, shouldn't he at least be paid more than any low-life player?

Want to gripe about something? Try Matthew Stafford, of the perennially, and still sorry Detroit Lions being the highest paid player in the entire league. It's outrageous and, only in Detroit could they find a way to foist that off on their long suffering paying fans. To boot, Tom Brady of the Patriots, arguably the best QB of all time, with a hand full of Super Bowl rings and MVPs, makes SEVEN MILLION dollars LESS a year than Stafford -- who is yet to win a single playoff game and has a career losing record? How the hell is that even possible?

While it is true that Goodell and his minions have likely botched a few things over the years, particularly their waffling and flip-flopping on disciplinary issues, there is no denying the league has prospered under his leadership. A decade ago, when he first became top dog, the NFL was roughly a $4 billion dollar a year industry. Now it's up somewhere around $16 billion. Show me a financial adviser that can quadruple your investments over ten years, and I'll show you a guy/gal that will be in high demand.

Any talk of the NFL recently"slumping", due to whatever reasons, is purely hogwash. Boycotts? Get outta here. The stadiums are still packed, even for the sad-sack teams. TV ad rates have never been higher, with companies climbing all over themselves trying to get air time, price be damned.

Not long ago, one Jerry Jones, owner, president, general manager, and head bottle washer of the Dallas Cowboys, was dissatisfied with Roger Goodell. This likely had something to do with the Commish bouncing Jones's star running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games. Something about "conduct unbecoming" and "detrimental" to the league. Though EE was never even charged with a crime, much less convicted, he and his union lawyers finally gave up the court battle and swallowed their medicine, deserved or not. JJ said shortly thereafter that he would be coming for Roger with "everything he had".

Evidently, Jones didn't have much, let alone sway with the other billionaire owners. The rest of them voting to keep Goodell on for another five years pretty much says it all.

So if I'm Roger Goodell, I think about a Trump tweet or text moment, specifically aimed at Jones down in Big D. To wit ---

Still loving these Manhattan penthouse offices you will help pay for over the next five years. Sorry, LOL, to hear your Boys aren't doing so well during the current campaign. But hey, you've still got that giant video screen/scoreboard over the field in your palace -- right? It's something, even if your team isn't this year. But that's just kind of the way it goes sometimes, ya know? Ya win some, ya lose some. Know what the really bad news is? I'm much younger than you are and get to hold the hammer over your shyster head the next time you or one of your boys crosses a line I don't approve of. I will do my darndest to be fair and equitable in such matters, but you really should consider toning down your uppity language regarding me. I'm the boss -- not you. The others owners said so. Other than that, y'all have a nice day and this is nuttin' more then a liddle bidnuh to be taken care of. Surely you understand that.

And if not, in the immortal words of Rhett Butler, frankly, dear JJ, I don't give a damn.