Sunday, February 18, 2018

Detroit Lions gag reflex

Call me weird (trust me, I've been called worse), but I never have liked coffee, or tea for that matter. My wake up drink has long been a tall glass of V8 juice, a healthy shot of lemon juice, and a tablespoon or so of black pepper stirred in.

So there I was sipping away at my morning cocktail as I began to check out a few sports stories.

Lo and behold, I came across one written by a Detroit area scribe (long known for being more "homerish" than Babe Ruth, the Iliad, Odyssey, or Bart and Marge's boy), as he attempted to assess the current state of the Lions. OK, let's see.

Just a couple paragraphs in, there it was. "The Lions have a good nucleus".

I almost spit out my juice. Say WHAT???

Near as I've been able to discern over the last several years, they have Matthew Stafford, a quarterback who throws for a lot of yards, a couple decent, but hardly great defensive backs, and a really good place kicker. And that's pretty much it.

At that, yon scribe said Stafford was a "franchise" QB in his prime. True enough, if that franchise is the Detroit Lions. They seem to think a guy with a career win/loss record of 60-65 is the greatest thing since hi-def TV.

Let's throw in Detroit's version of the Georgia Peach is an abysmal 3-32 against teams with a winning record, and has yet to win a single playoff game after a decade of playing. Oh, he's in his prime alright. The question is -- prime of what?

But it didn't stop there. As mentioned above, the defensive backs, namely Glover Quin, Darius Slay, and Quandre Diggs, seem to be great -- in their own minds. How else to explain the Lions defense being ranked 27th out of 32 teams in passing yards allowed last season? One way or the other, these guys are getting torched.

Ah, but there are "no signs of wide receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones slowing down". Indeed. At best, they're B-grade receivers in the first place. How many other teams around the league do you think either or both of them could start for?

The offensive line remains Keystone Koppish. Nobody seems to know who's playing where on any given game day. And they give up a ton of quarterback sacks to boot.

Running game? WHAT running game? They haven't had a decent back since Barry Sanders took an early retirement 20 years ago. That's why Stafford racks up so many passing yards. Because he throws a lot. Because the Lions have had no rushing attack.

"All tight end Eric Ebron has to do is hang onto the ball"? Well, duh. Having a tight end that can actually, OMG, catch, is probably a good idea. So far EE has yet to fit the bill, and that's when he can stay healthy, which isn't often.

The defensive line hasn't been a factor since Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley departed for the greener pastures of free agency a few years back. Granted, they were both thugs (dirty players), but at least they were effective.

Linebackers? Quick, name one of the starters for the Lions. Even if you can, chances are good these guys wouldn't start for any other team. Good grief, they probably wouldn't even be on the roster of good ones.

However, yon scribe was correct when he said the Minnesota Vikings, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Super Bowl winning Philadelphia Eagles had turned things around dramatically since the year before.

It's theoretically possible.

Except for one thing.

They're not the Lions. The forevermore C- minus flat-liners of the NFL. In a good year -- for them.

But the thing that makes yours truly gag the most -- V8 or not -- isn't so much the team or the homer scribes that keep peddling the same snake oil/koolaid every year.

Those are to be expected.

What's REALLY sickening are the hordes of Honolulu blue and silver faithful that keep buying the same old schtick -- year, after year, after year, after decade, after decade.

WHATSAMATTUH with these people?

Are they just..... that..... dumb?

I mean, how many times does one have to be kicked in the head (and wallet) before they realize what they're doing is painful? And stop doing it?

Seems simple enough.

Maybe it's something in the Detroit air or water supply. They seem to think the NBA's Pistons have some sort of shot at being relevant as well. Next it will be the Major League Tigers, also a sad sack bunch. Hope springs eternal, right?

Yep, but especially in Detroit.

Mr. T of A-Team fame probably summed it up best years ago.

I pity the fools.

Weird stuff

Well now, that was about a scary commercial. Some drug (I forget what ailment it's supposed to help) claims to cause less major bleeding than its competitors.

Hey, I don't want ANY major bleeding. Hello? In fact, none at all would be highly preferable, thank you very much. And that's not even to mention the possible side effects of numb lips, tingly feeling limbs, nausea, irregular heartbeat, and other stuff in the small print at the bottom of the screen. Who in their right mind would gobble a few of those pills?

I'm still trying to get my head around the ad a while back that said if you experience a fatal event, call your doctor right away.

Ah yes, His Highness was back. That would be one Eldrick Tont Woods, sometimes known as Tiger.

In the current golf tournament going on in California (Genesis Open), per usual the viewing public was bombarded with Tiger this and Tiger that.

Never mind he was 5 strokes off the lead after one round.

Key up the Tiger highlights, dammit. And make sure to get an interview. So sayeth the networks.

Also never mind that after the cut came, he was another whopping 5 strokes behind qualifying (having butchered his second round), there were more -- and more -- and more clips of Eldrick.

Yours truly was watching ESPN's sportscenter at about 10 PM when I dozed off. Tiger, Tiger, Tiger. Dude gives me nightmares any more. Then I woke up a few hours later. Guess what? They were STILL talking about Woods.

Hey, didn't this guy bomb out of yet another tournament? Isn't he the same has been that's not even ranked in the top 500 in the world anymore? So why do they keep devoting so much air time to him? Great once? Sure. Nowadays? A hack. Get used to it.

The ongoing idolatry practiced by the Tiger groupies is some weird stuff indeed.

What is it with these people?

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Lebron James dilemma

OK. A lot of people consider Lebron James to be the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) basketball player. And he might well be. Everything Michael Jordan could do, LJ could and can do, and a lot of it better. Besides, he's bigger and taller.

To judge a player in a team sport like basketball is a bad gauge. Sure, Mike's got more rings than Lebron, but if championships are all that counts, Bill Russell of the long ago Boston Celtics would be the GOAT. Nobody entertains that idea.

We all know that James started off in Cleveland, couldn't quite get them over the hump for a title, and subsequently joined forces with D-Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami to capture the ring he so coveted. Actually two. Then back to Cleveland, his "home" town, to do the same. A feel good story -- kinda.

But lately, LJ has boxed himself in. If he pursues free agency and goes elsewhere in quest of yet another title, instead of being of thought of as the home town boy -- he'll be considered a mercenary.

On that note, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been struggling this year, at least as far as their standards are concerned. They find themselves 5-6 games behind the Celtics and Toronto Raptors in the eastern conference of the NBA. True, they remain on top in the Central Division, but the rest of the teams there are a sorry bunch.

Yet rumors abound that LJ might find his way to Houston or Golden State sometime soon. If either scenario plays out, that club would be the next "super team", much like the Warriors were when Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City to join them.

But there's the rub. James has a no-trade clause in his contract. The Cavs can't deal him for a few players and draft picks if they decide to go the rebuild route. And the age factor is against him as well. While James is still playing at a very high level, it's only a matter of time before he starts slowing down. Likely soon.

The only way he goes elsewhere is to waive the no-trade clause.

But if he does that, many, especially Cavs fans, will rightly interpret it as James signaling for a trade, even if he doesn't come out and say so.

So it would appear he has two choices.

For better or worse, ride it out in Cleveland, which doesn't look especially promising, given Kevin Love is out again, the continuing rise of the Celtics and Raptors, and likely either the Warriors or Rockets -- both formidable waiting for them in the Finals -- with home court to boot.

Or make a ton of money (which is already is -- and given sponsors -- he doesn't need any more) going elsewhere in pursuit of another ring or three. But in that case his once sterling reputation as a "home town" boy would go up in flames. The only people that WOULDN'T be sniping are those fans of the team he went to.

Sure, he's a lock for the Hall Of Fame.

But how will his legacy, which will last much longer than his playing career, play out? And how important is it to him?

Tough call.

But that's why he gets paid the big bucks -- right?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Idle rants

The recent Heineken beer commercials featuring former Formula 1 driver Jackie Stewart are pretty cool. "No thanks", to a free beer, he says. "I'm still driving", as a valet brings his super-duper sports car to the curb. WAY better than that limp-wristed (Neil Patrick Harris?) spokesperson that preceded him. Still, it's a beer commercial, not champagne or one of those sissy drinks with an umbrella sticking out of a glass. Hey, man up Heinecken. You're not helping your cause here.

What's worse than the sorry city of Detroit constructing a shiny new state of the art -- for a few years anyway -- arena for the pitiful Detroit Pistons and Red Wings (that they can't even come close to selling out because the teams are so bad)? The old one, Joe Louis Arena. He was a boxer, dumber than a rock, from Alabama, that wound up a broken stumble bum after his career in the ring, which ended over a half century ago. So they named a hockey arena after this guy? Only in Detroit.

Interesting how new Detroit Lions' head coach Matt Patricia used to look like Grizzly Adams with his unkempt beard while the defensive coordinator for the New England Patriots. Once he showed up in Detroit, he'd spiffed up and appeared almost gentleman-worthy. Almost. Hint to Matt. Lose the pencil over your ear, dude. I mean, whether in Foxborough or Motown, what good was a pencil when you never had anything in your hands to write on? Hello? (He called the defensive formations for the Patriots from a list -- that was laminated. Try to use a pencil to write on a piece of paper that's been laminated and see how well that works.)

Still, the good Mr. P faces a daunting task. No, not because other than a pretty good quarterback and an excellent place kicker the Lions are a mishmash of second/third rate talent. Thing is, with the ridiculously soft schedule -- and catching every break possible along the way -- they managed to win nine games last year. So anything short of ten wins in 2018 will make Matty P look like a step backwards. And good luck coaxing 10 Ws out of that sorry crew. He should enjoy the dough, because like all the others before, he just wandered into the graveyard for NFL head coaches. This is where they go to die. The Detroit Lions have been around since before WWII, but no head coach, once there, EVER got another head coaching job in the NFL. Odd, or maybe not, given the good-ole-boys coaching carousel we've seen so much of in recent times. EVERYBODY gets another crack. Unless they passed through the Lions' twilight zone.

It's laughable how Lebron James -- and so many of the media and fans -- think he's somehow in charge of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hey, he's a player. A very good one, arguably the best -- but still a player. He doesn't get to decide who his teammates are. That's the purview of the general manager, via the draft, trades, and free agent signings. We all remember how dear Lebron wanted to come "home" and win a title for Cleveland. And so he did a couple years back.

But here's the thing. Why would Lebron come out publicly to say he was exercising the "no trade" clause in his contract if he didn't think the front office might be considering shipping him out? It might be the best thing they could do. Get a few serviceable players and draft picks in return to build for the future while he's still playing at a high level -- before Father Time takes his inevitable toll. And if he keeps mouthing off, maybe we'll have to change James to Jimmy. Just shut up and play. Only the groupies and idiots care about what he has to say.

The Daytona 500 in going off this Sunday. A great race. Sorta. The first few laps are always exciting, and we can count on a big pile up towards the end. The 400+ miles in between? Maybe not so exciting. Anyone want to guess when Danica Patrick will be involved in a wreck? You know it's going to happen. Let's just hope she doesn't take out some of the guys that have a legitimate shot at winning this thing.

BTW. Why is NASCAR the only sports entity that puts its biggest event at the start of the season, rather than at the end?

Can that be right? The Cleveland Browns of the NFL have $104 million bucks worth of cap space and 12 draft picks this year? Dang, they should be able to load up their roster and actually be competitive this year. Hmm. Nah, Hugh Jackson is still the head coach and it's still Cleveland. They'll find a way to screw it up, because that's just what they do. Only in Cleveland (or maybe Detroit) can a head coach go 0-16 and have their fans think he'll be the answer -- eventually. Sigh. As the noted Mr. T once famously uttered -- I pity the fools.

Uh oh. Eldrick must have entered another PGA tournament. How else to explain the nauseating Tiger "highlights" that keep popping up on the sports channels? But it's different than in years past. Used to be, the trendy bet of the day was whether or not Woods would conquer the entire field to win a championship. Nowadays, it's whether he'll make the cut or not.

Oh my. How the mighty have fallen indeed.

How many times do I have to say it?

Stick a fork in him. He's been done for years. The young guns on tour these days will smoke him like he once did the former generation. And that's just the way it goes.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Sports blahs

Idle thought. Why is it we call them a "pair" of pants. By that very statement I've fallen into the same trap by using "them", a plural word. After all, it's a singular item. Pairs of socks, shoes, eyes, make sense. But not pants. Nor trousers for that matter. Who came up with this nonsense?

OK, enough of that. Onward.

This is the slow time of year in American sports.

Major League baseball teams are just getting ready to report to spring training, so nothing's going on there.

The college football bowl games and the Super Bowl are recent memories. No action in store for a few more months.

The NBA and NHL are slogging through the dog days of the middle of another season. They won't heat up until the playoffs start in a couple months.

Same with college basketball. What the rankings are now, and how they've changed in the last couple months, have never been of any consequence. That won't get interesting until the NCAA tourney starts. And even then, rankings won't matter, other than seeding the tournament. Win six games and a school is champs. Anything less, and you lose. Period. The Final Four is definitely overrated, a media creation. Where else in sports are the semi-finalists hyped to this insane degree? Put another way -- does anybody really care who finishes tied for third, or even runner-up for that matter? Good grief, a few months after it's over, many have a hard time remembering who the champs were.

Yep, the roundy round folks are practicing at Dayton getting ready for the 500.

Idle thought II. Why is it NASCAR is the only sport that plays their version of the Super Bowl as the first race of the year? Seems bass-ackwards. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense that, instead of Homestead, the Daytona 500 was the LAST race of the year before their version of the playoffs? Better yet, the FINAL race to determine the champion at the END of those playoffs?

Golf is puttering along, but few pay much attention until the Masters tournament, which happens in early April.

The Indy cars are probably racing somewhere every week, but does anybody care until the Indy 500 rolls around in late May? Further, how many people pay attention to their other races once the granddaddy is over?

Pro tennis just saw the Australian Open end. "Old man" Roger Federer is still amazing. They'll play every week too, but not counting tennis groupies, most divergent sports fans only tune into the majors anyway. Wake them up when Wimbledon starts in a few months. Or is it the French Open next?

Ah yes, the Olympics. Is it just me or have they seemed to get more boring every four years as time goes on?


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Goodbye Danica Patrick

And for that matter, good riddance.

Yours truly is hard pressed to think of any individual in the history of sports that was more over-hyped and under performing. Basically, Danica Patrick was a media darling, but a terrible race car driver.

Like Kyle Petty once said (and got torched by the politically correct crowd for), she can go fast but she'll never be an accomplished racer. Truer words were never spoken.

A certain crowd wanted, wanted, wanted Patrick to win races. They NEEDED her to win.

And all along the way, dear Danica was provided with the best equipment and crews. But she couldn't win.

Her only checked flag in the Indy car circuit came in an obscure race in Japan that most of the top teams and drivers didn't even bother to show up for.

It was laughable how biased the broadcasters were when DP was racing at the Indy 500. Typically, when most contending cars would come into pit, for more fuel, adjustments, and new tires, Patrick would stay out for another lap or two.

The announcers would breathlessly scream -- OMG, DANICA PATRICK IS LEADING THE INDIANAPOLIS 500!!!

Indeed she was -- until she had to pit herself and the field reset itself, which would find her far back in the pack.

In all her years of driving in the NASCAR circuit, she never won a single race.

However, she did have the not-so-good distinction of wrecking the most cars. Not only her own, but taking slews of other drivers with her in such pile-ups that she so often caused. The official count is unknown, but it's likely in the hundreds. At roughly $400,000 a pop to build new race cars, this could get pretty expensive for the sponsors that had to pay for them. It's no wonder her sponsor Go Daddy -- went. If you had a daughter that wrecked your car every time you let her drive one, how long would it take you to keep the keys away from her in the future?

I read the Wikipedia account on Danica Patrick, along with a few others. In trying to rationalize how she was involved in so many wrecks, they divided it into two categories.

1) Wrecked unintentionally. This they attributed to bad "racing luck".
2) Wrecked intentionally. Chalk that up to being "targeted".

Yet they omitted the most obvious.

3) Wrecked due to her own incompetence and luck had nothing to do with it.

As for being targeted, the other drivers on the track likely held their collective breaths while the wrecking machine was still among them, lest they be caught up in another one of her $400K a pop gaffes.

Multiply that figure by all the cars she was responsible for taking out one way or the other, and the figure might well be in the billions. What a colossal waste of high tech racing equipment. And all this because the PCers so desperately wanted a woman to be competitive in a sport long dominated by men?

We can remember her foot-stomping hissy fits. We can remember the fawning talking heads and their seemingly mandatory -- and endless -- interviews with Patrick, trying to boost her image. We can remember -- or hopefully forget -- her pitiful attempts at modeling. (If people wanted to see stick girls dressed in leather, they could go to an anorexic biker show).

But wreck, after wreck, after wreck, with no wins to show for it would seem to be her true legacy.

Hence, to no great surprise, Danica finds herself without a major sponsor this year. Of course this is being spun as her planning to retire all along. Please.

Yet ever seeking another 15 minutes, Ms. Patrick somehow plans on racing at the two marquis events this year. The Daytona and Indy 500s.

All I can say is good luck to the other guys and/or gals that find themselves on the same tracks as the one woman demolition derby. Always be aware where she's at lest you become her latest victim.

In sum, this finally, mercifully, appears to spell the end of Danica Patrick's so-called racing career.

And it can't happen a moment too soon.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Josh McDaniels caper

Football fans know Josh McDaniels. He's currently the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots. The guy that calls the plays for Tom Brady and Co., and reports to head coach Bill Belichick.

Even before the Pats lost the Super Bowl, most everybody thought McDaniels was headed to the Indianapolis Colts to assume the head coaching duties (Chuck Pagano having been fired on New Year's eve), immediately after the game. It appeared to be a done deal.

Indeed, the Colts had even announced the hire and scheduled the usual press conference to trumpet their latest and greatest field general.

But not so fast.

Evidently, McDaniels changed his mind at the last second. That's his prerogative, of course, but it sure caused an ongoing uproar. People are sniping at McDaniels and the Patriots from every direction.

Yet nobody seems to know just exactly what happened to cause this to occur. Some speculate Pats owner Robert Kraft offered him a hefty raise and/or promised him the head coaching position in Foxborough when Belichick steps down/retires. The latter is signed for another year, and might just hang around as long as Brady does. Or not. Another mystery.

Thing is, a raise itself wouldn't explain it if money were the only thing in play. In this day and age any head coach, especially a new one, would receive upwards of $5 million bucks a year. No way is a coordinator going to paid anywhere near that. So in effect, if we can assume that while McD got a raise in the short run, he actually took a sizable pay cut in the long one. Odd.

Few would doubt the Patriots are very much contenders to go right back to the Super Bowl next year. To that end, the wise guys in Vegas have them as the favorite, odds-wise.

And the Colts aren't a very good team. True, they didn't have the services of quarterback Andrew Luck, out with an injury all year, but it's no sure thing Luck can turn a 4-12 record into something respectable either. Nor is it a certainty he'll ever be as good as he was before after fully healing from said injury. The jury most definitely remains out.

It should be noted that even if McD had taken the Indy job, this wouldn't be his first go-round as a head coach. In 2009 he was the head coach of the Denver Broncos who went a mediocre 8-8. The following year they were a miserable 3-9 when he was fired mid-season.

Could there be some dirty tricks/bad blood afoot here? Possibly. Let's not forget the Colts organization were leading the "deflategate" charge against Brady and the Pats just a few short years ago. Whether it had merit or not is debatable, but it was an embarrassment to the Pats in any case.

It could well be Kraft saw a chance to get back at them. Screw them out of their head coach at the last second. Of course, that is only one of many theories, none of which have been proved or disproved to date. The public at large may never know what happened and why. It's not like the Pats did anything illegal and could be subpoenaed to testify regarding same. And if there's anything more secretive than that Kim guy in N. Korea, it's the inner workings of the Patriots.

We should also consider that McD took a page out of his boss Belichick's book with this little caper, only not quite as drastic. Back in 2000, Belichick had signed on to be the NY Jets head coach, officially, but only one day later, abruptly resigned. One could logically ask, why bother going through the interview process and signing the contract to quit the very next day? Very strange. Did Kraft, even way back then, make Belichick an offer he couldn't refuse? Eighteen years and eight Super Bowl appearances later, including five victories, it's pretty tough to argue Belichick didn't make the right decision. But it stunk at the time.

Regarding McDaniels, many are outraged, including Tony Dungy, a former head coach of the same Colts, who was quite successful. But TD needs to shut up. He's been out of the game for quite a while and is just an analyst (talking head) of late. His opinion doesn't count any more than a guy on a bar stool somewhere.

But here's the kicker. If indeed McD is in line to replace BB when he finally steps down, he'll inherit a team that is likely without Tom Brady. Take him away and the Pats might get quite ordinary in a hurry. In that regard, his move doesn't make a lot of sense. He turned down big bucks to stay with an unsure future at best. Yes, he has a wife and kids, and moving them from the Boston area to the Indianapolis area would be a hassle, but coaches (and athletes) do that all the time.

However, there's another detail, quite blatant, that nobody seems to have considered yet.

Think what you will of McDaniels and/or the Pats/Kraft, but the bottom line is this mess is entirely the fault of the Colts.

How so? Any prudent business person (or lawyer) will tell you coming to a verbal agreement is a good thing. But a contract is not a contract until the parties have signed on the proverbial dotted line.

Evidently the Colts had signed off on it and assumed McDaniels would shortly as well. A mere formality. But it's foolish to announce a done deal to the world when it isn't officially done yet at all.

That little formality came back to bite them in the butt. They remain without a head coach and have to start the process all over again. Ouch.

Then again, though he's under contract, it's not a certainty either that Belichick will return for another season. He could walk away as well, immediately elevating McDaniels to the head coach of the Pats. Maybe that was part of the Kraft deal. Another unknown, but some are speculating it might be the case. We'll find out when training camp starts next year, if not before.

In the end, though many may disapprove, what McDaniels did is just another day of business. He exercised one of his options.

But he better hope things work out well with the Patriots, because the other 31 teams in the NFL probably don't think too highly of him right about now. And like he changed his mind, so could Kraft regarding his future employment. Ya never know. Ask the Colts about that. That scenario would leave McDaniels out on an island somewhere.

Perhaps in a way, it would be fitting. What goes around -- comes around sometimes.