Monday, October 31, 2011

Tony LaRussa goes out on top

Shortly after the World Champion Cardinals enjoyed their parade to celebrate the title, LaRussa called a press conference to announce his retirement. And why not?

He's been in major league baseball for 33 years and after his Cardinals pulled off an improbable, almost magical, comeback in Game 6 of the WS this year, then went on to claim the title at home in Game 7, what else is there really left for him to do?

LaRussa's certainly financially set for life and a plaque in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown awaits him as soon as he's eligible. Besides, he's not the first to do this.

Al MacGuire led Marquette to the NCAA hoops title in 1977, ultimately defeating mighty North Carolina in the finals. Still at a relatively young age, MacGuire called it quits -- at least as a coach.

John  Elway hung up his cleats after winning his second straight Super Bowl.

Bill Russell of Boston  fame called it a career after yet another Celtics' title in 1969.

Jerome Bettis of the Pittsburgh Steelers stepped down after winning a Super Bowl in his hometown of Detroit. If that's not a perfect ending -- it's pretty close.

Opinions may vary, but LaRussa will likely be considered as among the Top 5 baseball managers of all time. Only the legendary Connie Mack and John MacGraw had more career victories. (At that, LaRussa was only about 30 Ws behind MacGraw for second place and would have easily overtaken him had he hung around another year.)  This is some very impressive company.

What better way to "go out" than with a championship?

Like him or not, hats off to Tony LaRussa for a long and distinguished career. Bravo.

Bill Parcells, of football fame, chimed in about LaRussa's retirement. He said, "I'm not a baseball guy, but there comes a time when we all have to get off the train".

No doubt about it.

Even a Tuna knows that.

Wish somebody would tell certain politicians, judges, and doctors, though.

Ndamukong Suh. Dirty player?

That depends on who's doing the talking. Hard-core Detroit Lions' fans think he's merely aggressive, a good thing for a defensive lineman.  Problem is -- the rest of the country seems to disagree. The talking heads have been all over it. Sports columnists not associated with the Detroit area have ripped him. The NFL has fined him repeatedly. One would be hard-pressed to argue Suh isn't on a lot of people's radar screens, and not in a good way.

This is not to single out Suh. Dick Butkus was a wrecking machine for the Bears. Chicago loved him. Everybody else hated him. Recently, James Harrison of the Steelers grabbed a lot of notoriety. "Terrible towels" waved their support in Pittsburgh. No one else seemed to be amused. There's been lots of others over the years. Normally, home town fans will stand behind their players, even if it means putting on the blinders to the obvious. Others that are more objective might see things in a completely different way.

Now Suh has requested an audience with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to, supposedly, get a better understanding of the rules. This is a bad omen -- possibly on a few fronts.

First, it's brought even more national attention to him. Second, he's tacitly admitting there's a problem. Third, he'll likely be in a room with people a whole lot smarter than he is, if and when this meeting ever happens. Fourth, if he wanted to get off the collective radar screen, going to NY to meet with the brain-trust of the NFL is not the way to do it.

How would this meeting be interpreted? These days perception has a nasty habit of becoming reality. On one hand, Suh could be perceived as being genuinely concerned about the finer points of playing his position. Yet on the other, he might come off as being the only player that doesn't seem to understand the rules. Who knows? I would humbly suggest all he needs do is follow a few simple commandments to make the problem go away.

Thou shalt not pick up an opposing quarterback, turn him upside down, and deposit him on his head.

Thou shalt not grab the facemask of an opposing player and try to wring his neck like a chicken.

Thou shalt not make helmet-to helmet contact with the above mentioned QB. Especially from the "blind" side.

When said QB has already thrown the ball, thou shalt put on the brakes. Unavoidable contact is allowed. Attempting to make the QB forever part of mother earth is not acceptable.

Thou has been blessed with the ability to find thy way around 325 pound offensive linemen. Thou shalt use the same ability to avoid all other opponents, especially ball-carriers, after the whistle has blown.

Here's wishing Ndamukong the best of luck with his meeting in NY, and hopefully it all works out to everyone's satisfaction.

So is he a dirty player or just misunderstood with good intentions?

I dunno. Johnny Cash probably said it best.

Life can be rough for a boy named Suh.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nolan Ryan. The down side of a great World Series

Like them or not, hats off to the Cardinals, 2011 World Series champions. Perhaps it was pre-ordained. Remember Game 6 when they were one strike away from being eliminated on a few occasions, but kept clawing back over and over, to finally prevail. One of the announcers uttered a great line. "They.... just.... won't.... go.... away". Now St. Louis is planning a parade, and good for them.

But what of the other side -- specifically Nolan Ryan? As President and CEO of the Texas Rangers, he sat in a box seat and a championship was oh so close for his team. He could smell it, taste it, almost reach out and touch it -- but for the 2nd year in a row -- in the end -- he couldn't have it. It was snatched away -- again.

Even if you don't like all things Texas for whatever reason, there's just.... no... way... Ryan can be considered anything other than a class act.

Consider his playing career. 27 years. 7 no-hitters. 12 one-hitters. The only player to have his number retired by 3 teams, not counting Jackie Robinson, which was a league-wide mandate and for obviously different reasons. 5714 strike-outs, a record that will stand forever. All time win-loss record? 324-292. On the face of it, a .526 career winning percentage might not be that impressive, but remember 2 things -- that's 616 decisions. A modern day starting pitcher might get 35 starts a season. Assuming he stayed healthy throughout -- no small feat -- It would take him 18 years, to even start that many games, let alone get a decision in all of them. That's not going to ever happen again either.

The other thing is Ryan had the misfortune of being on not so good teams. Between the Mets, Angels, Astros, and Rangers, when he was there, he got very little run support, yet he never complained. He just went out and played good old fashioned country hard-ball. Oddly enough, he never won a Cy Young award, and got nowhere near being a World Series champion.

In his short 3-year tenure as Prez of the Texas Rangers, that club has gone from nobodys, to getting to the big dance last year, to being one pitch away from a lot of champagne and a parade this year. Is it all his doing? Probably not. Texans would likely be the first people to say "ya gotta have the horses". Still, Ranger players have been quoted as saying Ryan is the heart and soul of their team. They believe in him and vice versa.

Ryan's been a upstanding righteous guy for a very long time. No crashing cars, running around with bimbos, nightclub incidents, guns, DUIs, steroids, etc. You name something bad, and he hasn't done it.

So congrats to the Cardinals. They earned it and are worthy champions.

But I still want to see Nolan Ryan get a "ring" some year soon -- even if he's not a player anymore.

He's earned it too.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Best World Series ever? Maybe

People out west finally caught a break. It seems like forever that all major televised sporting events have been slaves of the "eastern time zone". While fans in Detroit, Boston, Philly, NY, etc, got together at the local pub to watch a football game starting at 1 PM, those that lived on the west coast would have to show up at 10 AM at a sports bar to watch the same game. That might be a little early for some folks to pop that first brewski. Perhaps, at long last, they got some measure of redemption last night.

Game 6 of the World Series, between the Rangers and the Cardinals, might be the most entertaining game in the Fall Classic I've ever watched -- and that's going back a few decades. The Rangers were 2 runs ahead in the 9th inning and one strike away from being champs. Oops. The Cards tied it up. Texas scored 2 more runs in the 10th and were one strike away again. Yep. St. Louis tied it up again. On to the 11th. By this time, both teams, pulling out all the stops, had used just about every player available. Pinch hitters had come and gone and both bullpens had been used up. With all the trips to the mound and pitching changes, it made for a very long game that lasted into the wee hours.

Quick question -- when's the last time you saw a major leaguer infielder camp under a pop-up, and then drop it when it came down? It's rare, but it happened in this game. Then that same infielder, who hadn't hit a home run in a very long time, stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 11th, and proceeded to club one well over 400 feet to straightaway centerfield -- for a walk-off victory. What's the chances of all that happening?

The point?  Probably most people east of the Missisissippi couldn't stay up late enough to actually watch this classic play out. The people out west could, though, and good for them.

This is the best World Series I've ever seen, and I can't wait to see how it plays out in the finale. It should be quite a spectacle. Starting pitchers that haven't had their proper "rest"? Forget about it. They'll be ready as relievers, maybe even position players. Bullpens used up? Too bad. Tough it out. Line-ups being juggled around? Highly likely. If the hitters prevail and start lighting up the scoreboard, we might see position players taking the mound to try and get an out or 2. Who knows? A one game shoot out with no holds barred. Exactly the way it SHOULD be.

Best case scenario? A 16-17 inning game where the final score is 21-20. Every pitcher and player used. When it's over, the winners are too tired to abuse champagne in the clubhouse. Then we'd know they gave it their all. They'll have a few months to rest after Game 7, and they're certainly being paid well enough. So why not let it all hang out and see what happens?

Not that it matters, but I have no horse in this race. All I need do is consider the neighborhoods those teams call home. One produces a lot of Busch, and the other a lot of Bush. Both have had a way of upsetting my stomach over the years.

On with the show.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Walled Lake hazing incident way overblown

It seems a football player at Walled Lake Western was recently "hazed" by his teammates at the home of a coach. Reports say the player was taped to a pole with his mouth taped shut and beaten with pillows. Other players have been suspended, coaches fired, the cops are involved, prosecutors are likely on-deck, and some lawyer is probably licking his/her chops. People are outraged.

So am I, but for different reasons.

A football player was ganged-up on and hit with pillows? In junior high school, I can remember some of the girls gossiping about similar things. They were called "pajama parties". I don't seem to recall anybody getting in trouble over that, much less it becoming a media spectacle.

They can make all the rules they want, but there will always be bullies. For every group of Potsies there will be a Fonzie. I suspect it's always been that way, and always will be. Trying to change that through legislation has about the same chance of succeeding as banning babies from being born redheads. At that, from my experience, bullies seldom went on to become successful as adults. Life has a way of evening things out like that.

Used to be people would drop their pants and show their butts. It was called "mooning", and everybody laughed. Now the same thing is called indecent exposure, and it's a felony that could land one in prison. If a couple teenagers wanted to swap "hickeys" on their necks, they might have been teased at school. These days they'd probably be labeled sexual deviates. Months of counseling would likely be mandated and no more contact between the two would be allowed. Is this what we've turned into?

Kids need to be allowed to be just that -- kids. They'll fall down, get bumps and bruises, chip a tooth, maybe break a bone and, yes, they'll mess up once in a while. It goes with the territory. Kids used to ring doorbells and soap windows. Those were considered pranks. Nowadays, it might be harassment/stalking and malicious destruction of property. Hello rap sheet. Gimme me a break. Better yet, give THEM a break. Growing up is tough enough. What they DON'T need is to be micro-managed by an army of strangers that have more rules and regs than the IRS tax code. They'll get enough of that when they eventually venture out into the real world. Let them enjoy their childhood, with a healthy dose of tough (parental) love when required, and it just might work out.

Today's bullying was yesterday's hazing and yesteryear's rite of passage. Sometimes the old ways are better, not to mention more effective. Don't believe that and times change, you say? Fine. Surely our founding fathers couldn't have envisioned what modern-day American society has become. Want to tear up the Constitution and start over?

So here we are. Calling all counselors, therapists, cops, prosecutors, social service workers, and lawyers. Suspend the players, fire the coaches, interrogate the parents, sue everybody you can think of, and have the whole Walled Lake school system probed from top to bottom. News at 11. And just exactly what will have been accomplished? Money might change hands, positions will be re-staffed, resumes and reputations forever tarnished, and family relations strained. Other than that -- not much.

Just a thought, but perhaps somebody somewhere can stop this particular tsunami of political correctness running rampant if they really want to.

Two words.

Lighten up.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Big 10. Leaders and Legends

These universities have a lot to offer. Besides hundreds of different fields of study, there's law schools, med schools, veterinary schools, and countless other post-graduate fields that gifted students may pursue.
So why is it that the people in charge can't seem to count to 10?  The Big 10 used to be ten schools, then it went to 11, and now 12, but it's still called the Big 10. If you want to be a doctor, lawyer, or a vet, they have a school for you. Math majors might want to look elsewhere.
But who rakes in the big bucks for these academic wonderlands? Generous rich alumnni aside, it's mostly the football teams.
Once Nebraska came onboard to make it 12 teams, the powers-that-be decided to split them into 2 divisions of 6 each. One would be called the Leaders, and the other the Legends. Why these names? Good question. Then again, what else were they going to call them?

A & B? No, the B teams wouldn't like that.
1 & 2? Same thing.
Left and right?  Too political.
Black and white? No way. Racial overtones.
Red and blue? Nope. Back to the political thing.
North and South? Of what? Chicago? The University of Chitown used to belong to the Big 10 but they got displaced by Northwestern, which is southeast of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Michigan calls itself the "champions of the west" but until Penn State became #11 a while back, near as I can tell, UM sat the farthest east of any school in the conference. When you figure that one out -- please explain it to me.

Hmmm. Maybe studying geography at these places wouldn't be such a good idea either.

Nevertheless, it could be Leaders and Legends were the only names left that wouldn't cause a stir.

At that, Big 10-11-12 schools have spawned both. Dick Butkus came out of Illinois and he's certainly a legend. Chuck Long was a leader at Iowa. A legend? Probably not. Purdue was once known as an NFL quarterback factory. Penn State churned out linebackers, including Matt Millen. He's a legend in Detroit these days, though maybe not how he envisioned it. Michigan was known for QBs, offensive linemen, and receivers. Many have gone on to great success in the NFL. Michigan State featured Magic Johnson. Oops. Wrong sport. Sorry. Wait, they had some guy named Burress. I could be wrong, but isn't he the guy that managed to shoot himself in the leg at an after-hours joint with his own gun and then go to prison for felonious stupidity? Not sure about him being a leader, but I'd bet he's a legend at that club. Ohio State seemingly had highly skilled players that led their teams all over the field year after year, and their ex-head coach, one Jim Tressel, is quickly becoming a legend himself in his own way. Ahem.

That's just a few examples out of the countless people to have roamed the corridors in these institutions of higher learning.

Personally, I don't much care what they call their new "divisions". It sure would be nice if they learned how to count to 10, though. If I can get all the way up to 13 or 14, maybe they'll give me a PhD.

Doctor John. My mom would be so proud.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Indianapolis Colts. They shoot horses, don't they?

Even though the infamous Sports Illustrated "cover jinx" has seemingly reached out yet again and zapped another victim (the Detroit Lions were 5-0 before they made the cover, and have been beat twice at home since), at least long-suffering Lions' fans finally have a decent team to cheer for.
3 years ago that team was a laughing stock and the punch line of many a joke as they stumbled and bumbled their way through an 0-16 season. Guys like Leno and Letterman routinely used them as fodder for punch lines and audiences roared with approval. Nothing could be worse than that, right?
My, how times have changed. Turns out maybe those Lions weren't the worst team ever afterall. That dubious honor might well go to this year's version of the Indianapolis Colts. They're beyond bad. They're terrible.
The Colts can't run the ball, and none of their once renowned receiver corps seems to be able to get "open".
Dwight Freeney, a former dominant pass rushing defensive end, is routinely blocked, the other D linemen and linebackers might as well be cardboard cut-outs, and their secondary appears clueless.
The Drew Brees led New Orleans Saints just went up and down the field on them in a 62-7 beatdown and it likely would have been worse if they hadn't pulled the A-team off the field as a show of mercy. It's rare that an NFL team scores over 50 points, but 60 and counting is ridiculous. Not even the 2008 Lions ever got lit up like that.
Yeah, but Peyton Manning is injured, you say? True, but Peyton never was much of a runner, and he sure as hell couldn't play defense. 62-7 sounds like a score you might expect from Enormous State University playing Northwest Creampuff A&M  -- not an NFL game. Even Peyton on his best day couldn't compensate for that.
Manning suffered a serious neck injury a while back, and has since had 2 surgeries to repair it. He's likely out for the remainder of this season. That begs the question -- why would he want to come back?
His chase for Brett Favre's all-time consecutive starts as a QB is history. He's been the NFL MVP, been to the Super Bowl and won it, and was the MVP there, as well. If he never plays another game, he's a certain first-ballot Hall of Famer. Peyton has more money than he could ever possibly spend, and if that's not good enough, there's little doubt certain companies will accommodate him with added income doing more TV ads for big bucks. Some of those spots he's done before are pretty funny. Better yet, they don't involve blitzing linebackers trying to take his head off. Right now, Peyton's head sits atop a shaky foundation and a disaster could be one play away. And guess what? Opposing defenders don't care. They'll hit him as hard and as often as possible. Perhaps Plaxico Burress, now of the New York Jets, said it best. "We know what we signed up for".
Nevertheless, take heart, Lions fans. While you finally have a good team to root for, something else might be happening that could help erase another bad memory. Indy might well be on it's way to an 0-16 season themselves, so you won't be the only ones that had to go through it.
It gets better. The Colts have hired former Ohio State buckeye head coach Jim Tressel as a consultant. What's he consulting on? Tattoos? How to trash a once mighty program? That would seem to fit. Beats me -- but at least he's in Indianapolis and not Detroit. And you thought Matt Millen was bad.
Count your blessings.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Wisconsin vs MSU

The game's not going to start for a couple more hours and, by the time you read this, it will probably be over.

Who's going to win? Let's break it down.

MSU has home field advantage, but they're without the services of William Gholston, a dominant defensive lineman, because he got suspended for this game due to a couple dirty tactics he used against Michigan.

Wisconsin is ranked #6, which is impressive, plus they demolished Nebraska earlier this year.

MSU is ranked #15 in the nation, plus they've already knocked off Ohio State and Michigan.

Wisconsin is #1 in the country for total offense, averaging over 50 points per game.

MSU is #2 in the country for total defense.

Irresistible force vs immovable object. Something has to give.

Wisconsin might have the best kept secret in the country with QB Russell Wilson. He can run, throw, and improvise with the best of them.

MSU always seems to have intangibles going on -- plus they'll be geeked at home.

But there's another storyline nobody is talking about. If I heard right, Wisconsin's offensive linemen average 6 foot 6, and 330 lbs. That's some serious beef on the hoof. If just one guy 6-6, 330, walks into a bar, he's going to get noticed -- trust me. That's a big dude.

How'd you like to be the proud owner of a small restaurant advertising an "all-you-can-eat for $10" prime rib special on the night before the game, and see 10 or 12 of those godzillas walk through the door?  That could get scary.

I doubt the Spartan football players are intimidated, but somebody somewhere in East Lansing has to feed these guys.

Perhaps they should forego prime rib and any other kind of meat. Forget soup, salad, potatos, and veggies too.

As Marie Antoinette once said, "Let them eat cheese".

Or something like that.

The final score will be ---

MSU (deleted)*
Wisconsin (deleted)*

*(Editor's note: While we give our contributors a great deal of latitude in what they write, it is our policy never to let those with unstable minds predict game outcomes.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

World Series. Rangers vs Cards

In spite of that beast named Albert Pujols, top-to-bottom, Texas likely has the superior baseball team.

Then again, remember the Rangers dispatched an underwhelming Tampa Bay club, then went on to eliminate the Detroit Tigers, who had seemingly been getting by with one great pitcher, one great hitter, and a lot of smoke and mirrors. While the phrase "plug and play" is normally associated with computer related accessories, Tigers' manager Jim Leyland, to his credit, did much the same thing with what he had all year, with great success --  but it was only a matter of time until their luck ran out and reality kicked in. 

Meanwhile, the Cards knocked off the consensus "best team" in the Phillies, then put the hammer down on the smack-talking resurgent Milwaukee Brewers, while giving up home field advantage to both.

Bottom line? When it comes high-pressure crunch time, and the lights go on for the biggest baseball stage of them all  -- do you really want to bet against Tony LaRussa?


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Indy cars. The real deal

Not that I would recommend it, but have you ever gone 110-115 MPH on an interstate? If so, that was pretty fast, right?

Not really.

How about twice as fast? Think you could handle it? Just for grins, let's assume there's another car a foot away on your left, and a third a foot away on your right doing the same speed -- say 230 MPH. Did I forget to mention you might have to ridiculously tailgate another car in front of you -- like a foot off the bumper -- while yet another one is also a foot off YOUR rear bumper, and a turn is coming up?  By the way, you're not allowed to make the slightest contact with any of these cars. If you do, you'll likely crash into the wall. That's another little thing they don't have on the shoulder of the interstate. You might even get airborne. A lot of bad things can happen when you're airborne at over 200 MPH in a car. A decent analogy might be a butterfly in a tornado. It might survive, but who knows where it's going to end up? Even if you somehow managed to navigate your way through all that, I'm thinking a pit stop might be in order. No, not for new tires or more fuel, but to change your underwear, which I'm fairly certain would be, ahem, soiled. 

Can't imagine? Me neither, but that's what Indy car drivers do -- over and over again, for 500 miles.

In years past, I've been to the Indy 500 a few times, but nobody knows more about this than Robbie. He's been there 26 times. I dare say Robbie would tell you TV does absolutely no justice for how fast those cars really are. The average couch tater watching it on the boob tube can't begin to appreciate what's really going on. Even when I was there, you could always pick out the "rookies", or first time spectators. After the parade and pace laps, when the cars finally got up to full speed and came around on the first "green" lap, their jaws would drop open, while their necks whipped back and forth trying to keep up with the action. It's as if their eyes were sending data to their brains that their internal processor was having a hard time computing. I honestly don't remember and perhaps Robbie doesn't either but, chances are, we did the same thing our first times there, as well. The speed is INSANE, and that's just WATCHING them. Actually being a driver in one of those cars is beyond my comprehension. Probably Robbie's too.

Dan Wheldon's recent death driving such a car has brought attention, though likely short-lived, to what these drivers do, yet he was not the first. Others have preceded him to the grave and still others have suffered horrendous injuries. Consider Alex Zanardi, a former Indy car driver. An on-track incident during the course of a race left Zanardi's car in the unenviable position of being sideways on the raceway. Another car coming up from behind at over 200 MPH "T-boned" him and basically sawed his car in half in the the blink of an eye. Problem was, Zanardi's torso wound up in one half, and his legs in the other. Somehow, miraculously, he survived that, and has since been fitted with prosthetic legs.

Why do these drivers do what they do? Fame? Fortune? The "rush"? All of the above? I don't know, but whatever it is, I stand in awe of them.

I'm not the only one. Jimmy Johnson, the 5-time reigning NASCAR champ, was recently asked about it in light of Wheldon's death. You'd probably agree JJ knows a little something about going fast in a race car.
Johnson said, "Those cars are averaging 225? I've never been 225 MPH in my LIFE, and they're AVERAGING it around an oval? There are some very brave men and women who drive those things".

So next year, on the last Sunday in May, think about checking it out. No, not on the tube. Go to Indianapolis and watch it live and up close. Tickets aren't as hard to come by as they used to be, and you'll get a whole new perspective on the real deal.

But be cool about it. Don't let your jaw drop open on the first green lap.

Robbie might be watching.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A quickie on Ozzie Guillen

Nah motta wuh, day steel moose play da gane.

A lot of people may be outraged Matt Millen is still on the air. Be careful what you ask for. Somebody would have to replace him. How about ----


Good luck with THAT.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dan Wheldon. R.I.P.

Indy car racing used to be a big deal. Then the powers that be got into a years long feud which basically destroyed fan interest in the sport. It's never recovered. Back in the day of the names Foyt, Unser, Andretti, Rutherford, Mears, and others, the Indy 500 was THE race. NASCAR was pretty much still a southern phenomenon. Over the years, we all know what happened. NASCAR exploded in popularity while the folks involved with CART, Champ, or IRL cars, take your pick, fell off the radar.

A couple days ago, Dan Wheldon, a Brit, died in a horrific crash in Las Vegas at the age of 33. He leaves behind his wife Susie, and two small children. One was 2 years old, and the other just a baby.

Given the fan popularity and TV ratings of various motorsports these days, many in
America may not even remember Wheldon was the reigning champion of this year's Indy 500. He'd also won it in 2005. Whether you're an Indy car fan or not, this is very impressive stuff. You just don't wake up one day and find yourself with the ability to pilot a car capable of going 240 MPH, much less be able to navigate it through heavy traffic for 500 miles, to win a race. The guys that have done this are a special breed. There's a very select few that have accomplished it more than once.

Dan Wheldon was one of them.

Not only is his untimely passing a tragedy in itself, but it's a shame how quickly he'll likely be forgotten. Like Wheldon, Dale Earnhardt died on a racetrack, but that was over a decade ago. People still talk about him to this day. Somehow that doesn't seem fair, but sadly, sports fans and human nature are what they are.

By all accounts, Dan Wheldon was not only one hell of a race car driver, but a class act, both on and off the track. A dashing young Brit, loving husband, and devoted father. He likely had his wedding ring on when he perished.

The sports world and, for that matter, the world in general, needs more people like him in it.

May he Rest In Peace.

Bears/Vikings & a time warp

Thinking I could settle in with some munchies, a couple brewskis, click back and forth between the St. Louis/Milwaukee NLCS game, and Sunday night football, featuring the Vikings at the Bears -- it should have been just another night. But it wasn't.

It became apparent early on the Cards were beating the Brewers back into the windmill age of grinding grain to make their product, so I zeroed in on the football game. Besides, why is it that when one game goes to a commercial and you click over to the other, they have commercials at the same time? It's one of those massive left or right wing conspiracies, I tell ya, but I digress.

Watching the Vikings/Bears was like stepping through a time warp into another dimension. Everything was backwards. Consider:

Up until this game, the Bears offensive line had resembled a screen door on a submarine. Poor Jay Cutler was getting hammered every time he tried to pass. (If you're one of those people that think he isn't tough -- you're dead wrong. Given the poundings he's taken, and keeps on getting up for more, he might be the toughest guy in the league). All of a sudden Chicago's O line turned into Fort Knox. Nobody could get NEAR Cutler. Turns out he's pretty good when he has more than a microsecond to throw the ball.

This was against the Vikings D line who, previously, was arguably the best unit in the NFL. Despite that team's other shortcomings, their pass rush had been ferocious.

For this game, Rambo turned into Barney Fife on one team, and the opposite happened on the other. Very strange.

Other idle thoughts---

Devon Hester of the Bears returned yet another kickoff for a touchdown and I'm not sure he ever got touched by a Viking defender. I don't know how many kickoffs and punts he's returned for TD's, but it's a lot. Like him or not, the guy's truly amazing.

This might ruffle some feathers, but I've about had it with the pink stuff. Yes, I understand and agree breast cancer research is a noble cause, but ask yourself this -- when viewers are watching an NFL game, with macho-men trying to beat each other's brains out -- do you really think all the pink accessories players are wearing will get people up off the couch, much less sitting in the stands, to ignore the game, and break out their checkbooks or laptops to make a donation? Somehow I doubt that. The point has been made, and the NFL has surely done it's part in promoting a worthy cause, but enough is enough.

At that, there was something even more wrong. Two NFL teams that are coached by guys named Leslie and Lovey? Please. With names like that, they're BOTH supposed to lose.

But I guess I had to root for somebody, so it went to a tie-breaker.

Let's see. One team is owned by a guy named Zygi (pronounced Ziggy). The other has an owner named Virginia. Hmmm. Tough call.

Final tie-breaker?  Featured running backs.

When wanting to talk to them in the huddle or on the sidelines, it's likely Hey Matt vs Yo Adrian.

That did it.

Justice prevailed in the end.

Bears 39 -- Vikings 10

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Detroit Tigers. Outta here.

You can slice it or dice it any which way you want, but Game 6 of the ALCS was a good old-fashioned ass-whupping.  As in cut your own switch and head to the woodshed. The Rangers scored 15 runs on 17 hits. Plus, they left 11 guys on base. With a few more timely hits, it could have become even more ugly.

This was an elimination game. All hands are supposed to be on deck. Instead of throwing in other pitchers, why wasn't Justin Verlander in the bullpen and ready? He's the best they have and he'd had a couple days rest. Maybe he could have come in and stifled the 3rd inning rally before things got out of control. It might have settled down the Tigers and gave them a boost of confidence. I doubt he would have dropped dead from exhaustion, and what good is it to save him for the World Series if there isn't going to BE a World Series for the Tigers? Finally, manager Jim Leyland offered up a sacrificial lamb. Brad Penny. His initials are right. BP. Batting practice.

Other thoughts Dept.
Brandon Inge got a few hits in the series.  After being so bad all year that he finally got demoted to the minor leagues, will he get another 7- 8 million for that? What is it with that guy anyway? In my opinion, not counting David Beckham, he's the most overrated, overpaid athlete for his production in all of sports, but fans can't seem to get enough of him. I don't get it.

What's the deal with the Texas Rangers popping all the champage in the clubhouse? We're not talking Boonesfarm or Mad Dog here. They were breaking out the good stuff and they don't even drink it. It seems like such a waste. Didn't their mothers ever tell them there's sober people in Africa, or China, or somewhere? Besides, they did the same thing last year, then went to the World Series and got beat. So why spray all that fine bubbly around prematurely? This should be reserved for championships only. Further, I think the Commissioner should step in and make a rule. No more champagne, period. Why wouldn't beer suffice? Shake it up and open it, the result will be about the same, and it's a whole lot cheaper. His name IS Bud, right? And he used to own a club called the Brewers? Well, there you go. How about Milwaukee's Finest?  Nobody I know wants to drink that stuff anyway.

Kudos to Tigers' manager Jim Leyland for saying in a post-game interview that the Rangers belong in the World Series. He knew Texas was better going in, and made no excuses when his club lost going out. No sour grapes, no whining about injuries, lucky breaks, bad calls, or anything else. A class act.

Top-to-bottom of the line-up, Texas has better hitters, a lot more speed on the base paths, outfielders with more range and better arms than the Tigers, and a vastly superior bullpen.

Even given the Rangers' physical superiority, one never knows about baseball. Strange things have been known to happen. People talk of the "baseball gods" and who they might smile or frown on.

I'm having trouble getting one of them on the phone for an official statement, but I dare say they had 2 major reasons to bounce the Tigers out of the playoffs.

Who's the President of the Rangers? A guy named Nolan Ryan. Mr. Fastball Express himself. A Hall of Famer. Who's the President of the Tigers? Dombrowski. He shuffles papers and players. If you were a baseball god, which one would you smile on?

Yet, even if all else was the same, there's one obvious reason the immortals preferred Texas over Detroit.

Tiger manager Jim Leyland stands in the dugout and mumbles. Texas manager Ron Washington does the boo-ga-loo.

Even mere mortals can appreciate that.

Friday, October 14, 2011

It's your call. Make it.

Peter King, a senior football writer at Sports Illustrated, picked the Atlanta Falcons to defeat the San Diego Chargers 24-20 in the Super Bowl. A lot of people, including many football reporters and talking heads, seem to think PK is some sort of Nostradamus. Others think King couldn't pick his nose with a power auger. Which is it? You make the call.

Hockey fans in Philadelphia recently booed an ad on the big screen for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, because Sydney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins was one of the spokespeople. They've thrown snowballs at Santa Claus and cheered when opposing players got injured. Philly's the so-called City of Brotherly Love, but evidently only if you're one of THEIR brothers. Conversely, one could say those fans paid big bucks for those seats and can cheer or boo whoever and whatever they feel like. So which is it? You make the call.

If you've been watching the baseball playoffs on TV, you've no doubt seen the computer generated "strike zone" which shows where each pitch was. Thing is, something's wrong here. The umpires are calling balls that the computer says are strikes, and vice versa. The computer is unrelated to the angle we, the viewers, get to see. So are the umps blind or does the computer need some serious recalibrating? You make the call.

Do you believe in jinxes -- specifically the one supposedly connected with whoever's on the cover of Sports Illustrated? In the August 15th issue, Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox was the cover boy. Look what happened to THOSE guys. August 22nd saw the Nebraska Cornhuskers featured as the Big Ten's new bully. Wisconsin beat them like red-headed farmboys. September 19th featured Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers. While being almost super-human during the regular season, he's been merely average since. Uh oh. The Detroit Lions are undefeated and they made the cover on October 10th. Is there really something sinister going on with the SI curse? You make the call.

The NBA is still in lockout mode with no end in sight. Owners say they need a hard salary cap so small market teams can compete. This would obviously mean lower salaries for a lot of players. On one side there's billionaires in a world we'll never comprehend, and on the other side there's multi-millionaires making obscene amounts of money for playing a game. So who's right? You make the call.

On a non-sports related note -- how proud do you think Cher is of Chastity/Chaz right about now? And what would Sonny think? You make the call.

Dammit. Just realized there's no leftovers. Pizza or Chinese?

Hmm. Looks like I have to make a call too.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Detroit Lions, the Fords, and an RV

Recently, my friend RV (not to be confused with an actual recreational vehicle, despite comparisons that may be drawn by others), posed an interesting question, in my humble opinion.

What ever happened to all the Ford bashers?

Indeed, now that the Lions finally seem to have a good team, for the first time since the Eisenhower administration -- when's the last time you heard someone mention the family that owns them?

Blaming the Fords was easy. After all, front office personnel had come and gone, as had a long line of head coaches, and I don't know how many generations of players make up over half a century of futility, but it's at least several. The only common thread seemed to be ownership. Even though nobody could ever come up with any logical reasoning to support this theory -- it had to be somebody's fault -- so the Fords took the hit from some people.

Yours truly wrote an article a few years back where I spoofed the Fords owning the Lions. It had something to do with when the Edsel automobile made it's ill-fated debut -- which just happened to be about the same time the Lions glory days ended and the downward spiral for the football team began. It was a jinx that would haunt them forever. Thing is, it was exactly that -- a spoof. I didn't really believe in that nonsense. Sometimes things just don't work out, for various reasons, over a long period of time.

Despite what happened to them this year -- remember the Boston Red Sox and the supposed Curse of the Bambino that went on for decades? That was all mumbo-jumbo. Just somewhere to put the blame when they couldn't seem to win a title. The Bosox have won 2 World Series' in the last decade. Was it a case of Mr. George Herman Ruth finally forgiving them or did it have to do with finally getting enough good pitching, hitting, and catching the right breaks at the right time? I'm voting for the latter.

Same thing with the Chicago Cubs. They've had some very good teams since they last won a title during Teddy's Roosevelt's tenure (1908), but somebody else always seemed to be just a little bit better. Did you ever hear people trashing the Cubs' ownership? Not me.

But this is about the Lions. Not that long ago guys like Martin Mathew and Tom Lewand were catching a lot of flak. Near as I can tell, Mayhew serves as an underboss of the Ford family. He's in charge of football operations. Lewand's the bookkeeper. He negotiates contracts and other business deals. Mr. Lewand well knows the meaning of the word "cap". Then there's head coach Jim Schwartz, who's seat was getting warmer and warmer up until last December when the Lions started winning.

Winning seems to solve everything. The Fords, Mayhew and Lewand never get mentioned anymore, Schwartz is suddenly a great coach, and the Lions are not only the talk of Detroit, but of the country. Everybody's sitting up and taking notice.

Was it magic? No. Did Edsel reach out from his grave and finally bless these boys? I doubt it.

Combine a strong-armed quarterback that's finally healthy, has enough experience and smarts to read defenses, can make throws on time and accurately, with a freak wide receiver, reminiscent of Randy Moss. Throw it up and he'll go get it. The offensive line isn't so hot, nor is the running game. The other receivers are decent, but not spectacular, and the tight ends seem to be hit and miss. Take away the "Megatron", one Calvin Johnson, and all of this changes in a very large and bad way for the Lions. But as long as he's there....

Toss in a ferocious defensive line. Though the line-backing corps may be average, and the secondary has some issues, the guys up front can hide a lot of those weaknesses if they're stuffing the run and have the opposing QB running for his life on pass plays.

Add a place-kicker that, despite his age, can still consistently boot the ball through the uprights from 50 yards out.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let simmer for a couple years, and guess what? Instant contender.

Yet maybe an even more sinister curse is still there. The Lions never used to have expectations. Now they do. What could be worse than raising them -- only to have them trashed?

OK, Lion's fans, be honest. Who do you think is the one team right now that is likely superior to yours? Unlike the Lions' first 5 opponents, they don't fold up their tent at halftime, but get stronger as the game goes on. They're also the defending Super Bowl champions.   

And guess what division they happen to play in?  I hope they're both undefeated going into the Thanksgiving day game. The Chicago Bears coming to Detroit for Monday Night Football would be a minor footnote compared to THAT scenario.

Regardless, RV was right. It was never about the Fords.

Unless, of course, something goes horribly wrong and the Lions lose the next 10 games in a row and get blown out 49-0 at Lambeau Field in the finale.

I doubt that's going to happen, and certainly hope not. I don't want to have to research that whole Edsel thing again.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A few points about NASCAR

If you're a stock car racing fan, you know the "chase" is on. But how does all this stuff work, anyway?

Near as I can tell, the Top Ten drivers after 20-some races in the "regular season" qualify for a 10 race "playoff". This is all determined by points. Drivers get so many points for a win, finishing 2nd, 3rd, etc. They get points for leading the most laps in a race. They get points for leading just one lap in a race. There's owner points, sponsorship points, and for all I know, maybe the guy with the cutest girlfriend or wife gets a few points for that.

Points can be taken away too. Sometimes it's OK to trash another guy's car at 190 MPH, but if the instigator's car is a quarter of an inch off at post-race inspection, that's gonna cost him points. Ramming a member of his pit crew might be acceptable, but don't run over an air hose.

A NASCAR guy can race at high speeds with a totaled car that a state trooper would pull over on the interstate as being unfit to drive, and that's just fine -- but if a tire-changer missed a lugnut on an otherwise perfect car -- they get busted.

Besides the top 10 drivers, there's 2 "wild cards" in the "chase" field. They had to be in the top 20 for the regular season, and the rest is based on points. Wins score points. Top 5 finishes score points. Top 10 finishes score points. Depending on what team they drive for, that might score some points. If they and their crews were good boys and didn't get in a fight with another driver/team, they might not lose any points. And how dumb are the crew chiefs to think they might get away with using an illegal part these days when it comes inspection time? Those guys tear the whole car apart, engine and all. Do they really think they're going to miss something? That can result in a major loss of points.

Points for this, points for that, and at the end of the day, if you can figure out how all this works, you shouldn't be watching NASCAR. NASA is looking for people like you. Something about rocket science. These folks have more points flying around than a tornado on a cactus farm.

There's a better way, especially when the "chase" begins.

However the qualifiers are determined, it should be just THEM on the track at the last 10 races. The other cars/drivers/teams go home. That's the way it is in every other sport. All the riff-raff is doing is wasting tires, sheet metal, gasoline, sometimes causing wrecks, and mostly getting in the way.

If the also-rans insist on racing, fine. Let them do it a day or 2 earlier on the same track amongst themselves. Preferably when the souped-up "trucks" race. Get rid of that anyway. Ever watch one of those? There's NOBODY in the stands. The only things running are the trucks, the cameras, and the announcers' mouths.

As the 10 race, 12 car "chase" progresses, drop whatever car is last in points after every 2 races. When it comes down to the last 2 contests, there would still be an 8-car field. That's enough cars to allow for drafting, high and low lines around the track, and pit strategy. More important, reset the points. Everybody starts with none. Come playoff time, other teams in pro sports don't get spotted a few points because of what they did in weeks before -- and neither should these guys.

In the next to last race, a win is 8 points, on down to last place being worth one point. Forget laps led and all that other crap. Same for the final race.

We've boiled it down to the best of the best, and whoever racks up the most points in a 2-day competition is the champion.

They do it that way on Jeopardy! and that's good enough for me.

However, if it's STILL a tie after those 2 races amongst 2 or more competitors, then it's time for sudden death. Bring the cars into the pits, let the crews put on fresh tires, make adjustments, and put enough fuel in them for a 5-lap shoot-out. They pick numbers out of a Richard Petty hat for starting positions.

One lap under the yellow and drop the green. Winner take all 5 laps later. Those guys would have run thousands of laps over the year and now it all comes down to the last five to see who gets the pot of gold.

It would be all-out, no holds barred, balls to the wall racing to determine a champion.

In the end, what could be better than that? 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hanging with Hank Jr. and Henry

So ESPN fired Hank Williams Jr over a few political comments. Or maybe Hank quit when they yanked his iconic Monday Night Football song from airing on 10/3. All depends who you want to believe. It doesn't mattter anyway. It's akin to which party filed first for a divorce. When it's over, it's over, so who cares?

I caught some flak over this last time, but I'm digging in. When it comes to Hank vs. politicians, this should be a no-brainer. A few reasons:

Hank may talk about enemies but he can't start wars resulting in massive loss of life. Politicians can and do.

Between Hank and politicians -- ask a straight question and you'll get a straight answer from one of them, and BS from the other. Guess who's who?

Politicians tour the country and hold $1000 a plate fund-raisers, where the people get a plate of good food and a 20 minute boring speech. This is for hard-core partisans.

Hank tours the country, his concert tickets are available for well under a C-note, people sneak in good booze, and get a 2-3 hour kick-ass concert. This is for hard-core partiers.

Hank fell off a mountain once, and suffered life-threatening injuries. It took a lot of operations to put him back together again.

Politicians routinely have affairs, get caught with their hands in other cookie jars, see their popularity falling in polls and consider it career-threatening. It takes a lot of "spin" to put them back together again.

Hank has his bandmates, who are immensely talented at playing a particular instrument and keeping the music flowing. If you don't like the show, you don't have to go to another one.

Politicians have their "closest advisors", who are immensely talented at playing a particular issue and keeping themselves feeding at the trough of taxpayer dollars. If you don't like the show -- tough. You're stuck with them until the next election.

Hank writes most of his own stuff. Politicians don't.

Hank doesn't need a teleprompter. Politicians do.

If Hank breaks a string on his guitar while playing, it's no big deal. He handles it, and the show goes on without missing a beat. Nobody much notices.

If a single hair gets out of place on a politician during a TV interview, the tape is stopped, eventually edited, they go back to the make-up room for some more goop, and the show goes on without missing a commercial. Nobody notices that either.

Hank spoke of Obama, Biden, Hitler, Netanyahu, Boehner, and whomever. They're tossing him off the air for this? If that's the case, then we should silence people named Limbaugh and Stern. Throw in Beck and Carville as well. They all have strong opinions, either liberal or conservative. Take your pick, but if you're going to get rid of one, you have to get rid of the other, to be fair.

Back to Monday Night Football. Hank's gone, so somebody has to fill that spot, right?

My spiritual advisor Henry seems to think Kid Rock is on deck. That would kinda fit, though I still think Kid Rock is a latter-day clone of Ronnie Van Zant, the original lead singer of Lynyrd Skynyrd, who died in a plane crash over 30 years ago. The voice, the hair -- facial and otherwise -- the mannerisms, the stage presence, everything. They even look alike. Check it out. Of course, unlike some other famous Henrys. this one isn't from the House of Tudor. More like the House of 2 More. Despite his genius, sometimes I think maybe he should have stopped at Old No.6,  but that's a story for another day.

Getting back on point here, I've given you a few reasons why I prefer Hank Williams Jr. over any and all politicians and couldn't care less about what he had to say about the whole sorry bunch. It's his opinion, and he's entitled to it.

But the # 1 reason why Hank is better than a politician?

If you go to see Hank, the ladies won't show up in those stupid red "power" dresses, trying to project some sort of "image". The only people that haven't caught on to that little charade yet is THEM.

It's possible my friend Henry might consider saying, "How dumb ARE you anyway, bi---?"

But perhaps it would be better to defer to a certain talking-head NFL panel. If they were viewing tapes of these women, I have little doubt they would reach a unanimous conclusion, and utter those famous words......

"C'mon, man".

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Responding to comments

I truly appreciate any and all people that take the time to read what I have to say in this blog. Some will agree and some won't with my points of view. There's an occasional compliment, perhaps a suggestion for a future topic, which I'm always open to, but sometimes my style of shooting from the hip will get me flat-out chewed up and spit out by people that strongly disagree. That's just the way it goes. As they say, "It ain't personal", at least not to me.

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you've likely noticed that I've responded to a lot of reader comments, especially the ones that are tearing me up. I attempt to do so in a light-hearted manner, acknowledging their point, and maybe poking a little fun back at them, and myself as well. My stuff isn't meant to be taken seriously. I get ideas, throw them out there, and see what happens. It's not like I just came down from the mountain with the tablets -- ya know?

However, technical problems have occured. For some reason, I'm temporarily unable to respond to comments made in my own blog. Nobody seems to know whether the problem lies with Blogger, Google, or even the Oakland Press web site. I'm not tech-savvy and am trying my best to get this problem resolved with people that know a lot more about such things than I do. Time will tell, and yes, I've heard a lot of complaints from people I know that can't seem to get their comments through either, or at best, have to use the "anonymous" option, as a last resort. Sometimes even THAT doesn't work and they've given up entirely.

That being the case, I would like to respond in this post to 2 blog comments I received recently.

To the reader that ripped me for the Justin Verlander bit --

I don't remember being on a banana boat, but I do seem to have a vague memory of riding shotgun in a turnip truck. Anyway, is it a bad sign when I wake up in the middle of the night and belt out Harry Belafonte's "Dayo", for no apparent reason? As for the blog? Not to worry. It will probably get worse. How long will I be doing it? Take that up with OP sports editor Jeff Kuehn. Who do you think got me into this mess in the first place, anyway?

To the reader that tore me up over Hank and Adolph:

That was good stuff. Thing is, if a child of mine were to marry into 10 different scenarios, as you suggest, I think polygamy laws might come into play. This is Michigan, not Saudi Arabia, or maybe Utah. Beyond that, their preferences are their business -- not mine. When they get wings, they'll fly wherever life takes them. Honesty, being respectful, and if you make a mess -- then clean it up yourself, are good things. And there's that little detail about turning the lights off when you leave a room. As for music? Can't think of anything I don't like. Well, maybe when somebody pulls up next to me at a stop light and the bass from their sound system is making my whole car vibrate. That can be annoying. Even went to an opera once. Loved the costumes, and the outfits the performers wore on stage weren't too shabby either, ahem, but I had no idea what they were singing about. Not sure, but I think it was Italian.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The perfect storm, Detroit style

Barring a major earthquake, a monster tornado, or nuclear war, the Detroit Lions will host the Chicago Bears at Ford Field next Monday night on national TV. This will be the first time the Lions have been on MNF since -- hmmm -- I don't remember who was the President then. Maybe one of the Roosevelts or Harrisons. Beats me. At any rate, that game's gonna happen. I dare say Ford Field will be packed and the rest of the nation is beginning to wonder what's up with the Lions anyway? They're supposed to be a punch line, not one of only 2 undefeated teams in the NFL. They'll be watching.

Let's look at the baseball playoffs and consider what could have happened. Yes, Texas eliminated Tampa Bay, but what if the Rays would have won that series? Let's further assume the Detroit Tigers prevail over the NY Yankees in the deciding Game 5 of the playoffs. That would have set up a Detroit - Tampa series with the Tigers having home field advantage. The first 2 games would have been played at Comerica Park.

Sure, the TV gods pretty much decide when games will be played, but as long as I'm making this up, what might have happened if it rained for a couple days in Detroit over the next weekend and the baseball playoffs got delayed? It's the American League Championship Series. That means any games played Mon-Fri will be played at night. The prime time thing. If the National League Championship Series had already played 2 games, that might have forced even the TV people into scheduling a Tiger-Tampa game on Monday night

Now THAT would have been something. Ford Field rocking and rolling with the Lions-Bears -- and right across the street Comerica Park doing the same with the Tigers-Rays. The perfect storm, Detroit style.

However, I suppose there's pros and cons to everything.

That would have been a very good time to own a sports bar anywhere in that neighborhood, or even work at one.

But a very bad time to be looking for a parking space. I mentioned Roosevelts and Harrisons above. Usually parking for a game in Detroit will cost you about a Jackson. If this storm had come together, you'd likely be looking at Grant. Up close and preferred parking might have even gone above the Presidential level.  Try Franklin.

Maybe it's just as well it didn't happen.

Hank Williams Jr. and Adolph Hitler

Hank Williams Jr. has been doing the lead-in song to Monday Night Football for over 20 years. ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL? has become an icon. Any MNF fan not in a coma is aware of it.

Now he's in trouble and they yanked him off the air, at least for now. It seems Hank mentioned the names Obama and Hitler within a few sentences, along with a few others, notably John Boehner, the current Speaker of the House, while giving his opinion on the current state of politics, and in this hyper-sensitive politically correct society, one shouldn't do that, I suppose.

I've been to several Hank Williams' concerts and, think what you will of his music, he's a superb musician. He writes most of his own stuff, sings, and can play the guitar, keyboard and drums. At Pine Knob (it will always be that to me) Hank could get everybody on their feet, people dancing in the aisles, and have the bikers and rednecks screaming at the top of their lungs. 5 minutes later, he might throw a change-up with a ballad and make some of the big girls cry. That's the epitome of a performer.

But I guess it's not about that. People in the public eye aren't supposed to mention the name Hitler, though I don't know why. The dude's been dead for 66 years. Did he commit atrocities? Of course. So did a lot of other people in history. How many millions of his own people did Josef Stalin do away with? How about Genghis Khan? Body count unknown, but likely in the millions. The Spanish Inquisition? Probably the granddaddy of them all was the Crusades. We can talk about all of that stuff but the name Adolph Hitler is off limits, for some reason.

Am I defending Hank? You betcha. He's an American citizen and can exercise his First Amendment freedom of speech rights whenever he wants to. Personally, I agree with him. Obama and Boehner playing golf together doesn't make a lot of sense. While there's a remote chance they might actually agree on something in private, there's probably about the same chance the highest seniority season ticket holders at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park would have of doing the same thing. The odds are slim or none, and Slim died a while back.

So he compared Hitler and recycled current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the same scenario. Big deal. Nevermind that Ben was a little boy when Adolph died, and modern-day Israel wouldn't be created until 3 years later, so obviously the time frame was hypothetical.  Further nevermind there was never a direct comparison between Barack and Adolph. And if there was -- so what? Agree or disagree, but the man's got a right to say it. I'll go a step further. Hitler was white. Obama is considered to be black. Boehner used to be orange, but they fixed that. Can I say those things? I just did, because it's only stating the obvious.

If MNF wants to be closed-minded about it, then they can keep him off the air. That's their call. If YOU want to be closed-minded, then don't go his concerts, buy CDs, shirts, caps, or whatever.

I'm glad that, so far, Hank hasn't given in to the pressure and groveled with an apology like so many others have done before for merely speaking their mind.

If he comes around to Pine Knob again -- I'll be there.

It's a family tradition.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The good, the bad, and predictions

It was a good day for Detroit sports fans. The Tigers beat the Yanks and the Cowboys self-destructed in Arlington to hand the Lions an improbable win. Prognosis: The stars have aligned perfectly for the Lions so far this year. Next week's Monday night game against the Bears will be a big show garnering national attention, but it's really not that important. It won't get interesting until the Packers come to town on Thanksgiving. Aaron Rodgers and Co. won't take them lightly like they did last year. Assuming both teams stay healthy until then -- that will be the true reality check.

It was a bad day in Philly. The Cardinals came back from being down 4-zip to beat the Phillies and the Eagles squandered a 20 point lead to lose to the 49ers. Prognosis: Falling behind by a wide margin early in games seems to be a formula for winning lately -- but I wouldn't recommend pursuing that strategy as a game plan too often.

Over the weekend, UM pulverized Minnesota to the tune of 58-0 and MSU went down to Columbus and finally beat the Buckeyes 10-7 -- minus a certain head coach and QB you probably heard of, plus a few more starters finishing up their suspensions. Prognosis: The UM-MSU game will be hyped in this state, but neither team is even Top Ten caliber on the national landscape. Brady Hoke was a great hire for UM, but depending so much on a running QB won't get it done against good teams. Give him a couple years to get his own personnel and let's see what happens. State fans may get all geeked about UM coming to East Lansing in a couple weeks, but they're not the worry. The following week Wisconsin comes to town, and their QB might be the best kept secret in the country. That guy is a younger version of Michael Vick with his escapability, running, speed, and great throwing arm. The Cheesers are really good on both sides of the ball and their only weakness appears to be the lack of a decent placekicker. The following week the Spartans have to go to Nebraska and those guys are the real deal too. If they beat both those teams they'll likely jump into the Top Ten, but I think they're gonna get hammered 2 weeks in a row. Prognosis: UM and MSU both wind up in lower tier bowl games.

The Red Wings are about to start the season, but that won't become interesting until after the Super Bowl is over. Prognosis: Wake me up when the playoffs start.

The Pistons? Are they still around? Do you care? Prognosis: They're terrible. New owner Tom Gores needs to clean house, including Joe Dumars,  and start over.

I think there was a PGA golf tournament in Las Vegas and somebody's probably playing soccer or tennis somewhere. Prognosis: The US will never be any good at soccer because all our gifted athletic kids dream of playing on a big stage for big bucks. Ain't gonna happen in soccer. As for the other 2 sports, where players can actually use their hands? Next April, at the Master's golf tournament in Augusta, just might be a defining moment for Eldrick "Tiger" Woods. If he's to mount a comeback, that will be the time and place to show it. It he misses the cut, it might be time to stick a fork in him. The best have crashed before. The first tennis major is the Australian Open. I've never seen it. Time zones being what they are -- it must be shown in the middle of the night or something. Funny, I can remember watching the America's Cup yacht races several years ago that happened somewhere around New Zealand, I think, but could never figure out how to tune in the tennis from Down Under. Beats me. Maybe I'll have to wait to see them slip-siding away on the clay at the French Open.

On a personal note -- summer's over. The leaves are starting to fall, the equivalent of a kiddie sized Chinese army will invade my front porch on Halloween, and then things will only get worse. Prognosis: Winter sucks.

(This has no place in a sports blog but so what? Here's a standing ovation to Andy Rooney, the long-time curmudgeon of 60 Minutes, who did his last broadcast earlier tonight at the age of 92. If I ever grow up, I want to be just like him. Prognosis: That ain't gonna happen either.)

NASCAR's "chase" next time. Prognosis: It's too complicated. The KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) method would be a lot better.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Baseball has become wimpy. Exhibit A - Justin Verlander

Poor Justin. All hyped-up for Game 1 of the baseball playoffs against Yankees' ace CC Sabathia at Yankee Stadium and Mother Nature rained on the parade. The story went viral. OMG, how will this affect Justin and when will he pitch again? Break out the ice packs, masseurs, ultra-sounds, geisha girls with their fans, and some beautiful goddess feeding him grapes to soothe the pain and calm his nerves.

To all of which I say -- is this what baseball has come to? Somebody needs to start manning-up.

Verlander threw about 25 pitches before the rain came, and now it's said he'll be back in action on Sunday -- on short rest. What the hell does he need rest for? It's not like he just climbed Mount Everest or ran a marathon. He only threw pitches for one inning in a baseball game, and now he needs a day off?

Evidently, this is what MLB has come to. In olden times, some pitchers would throw both games in a double-header. Starting 50 games a year wasn't unusual because they had "rubber arms".

(They didn't need 8 or 9 guys in the bullpen. One or two were enough. That just takes up roster spots from guys that can actually play. And what's up with long relievers, middle relievers, set-up men, and closers, anyway? If your starter and 2 other pitchers can't get it done -- then you lose the game. Go on to the next one.)

These days, starters are on a "pitch count". Evidently, they have "tiffany" arms. They're expensive and are to be admired, but if one little thing goes wrong, the poor things just might break -- and we couldn't have that-- even though they likely make as much money per start as some neighborhoods make in a year.

Not that long ago, double-headers were routine. Every team had them, and they made for a terrific family outing at the ball park. Typically, the first game would start at about 1 PM,  and finish up at 3 or 3:30. Both teams would go into their locker rooms, take a short breather, put on clean uniforms, and come back out for the second game -- at about 4:00. Not any more.

On the rare occasions double-headers are played these days, it normally involves a make-up game that Mother Nature got in the way of earlier in the season. At that, the first game will go off at 1 PM, but with all the "relief" pitchers involved, usually won't finish until at least 4 PM. Do the players go into the clubhouse, catch their breath, put on clean uniforms and come back out for Game 2? Oh hell no.

That second game isn't going to happen until maybe 7 PM. What are the players doing for those 3 hours? Nobody knows for sure, but I'd guess taking naps, playing cards, and tweeting might be in play. Or maybe this is more ice, massage, geisha, and grape time. More important -- what are the fans supposed to do? Twiddle their thumbs? Eat more hot dogs? Drink more beer?

Everybody forgets that Mom and Dad left home at 11AM for a day at the ballpark with the kids. They likely already knew they'd have to skip a house payment to pull this off, but by the time the second game's over at maybe 11PM, the kids have fallen asleep, and probably have school the next day. Mom and Dad have to load them back in the car, drive home, get to bed well after midnight, and get up the next morning to go to work themselves.

All of this because millionaires want to relax for a few hours in a luxurious clubhouse? Something is horribly wrong with this picture, but I digress.

Look at it this way. In 1968, pitcher Mickey Lolich of the Detroit Tigers took the mound for Game 7 of the World Series on 2 days rest against the mighty Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals -- arguably the best pitcher in the game at that time. Lolich had pitched on 3 days rest the whole year. As you know, Lolich and the Tigers won that game.

Since those days, baseball players are supposedly in much better physical condition. They have weight rooms, trainers, physical therapists, and eat healthier. Most have off-season regimens they follow to stay in shape. In the past, before the money exploded, even the stars of the game were working second jobs selling cars, insurance, or whatever. They smoked, drank, womanized, and carried on in any number of ways. But guess what? When it was game time -- they were ready. The Hall of Fame is full of guys like that.

But now poor beleaguered Justin has thrown 25 pitches, so he must have his due rest. He can't possibly be available for a couple days, at least.

The saddest part of all this is that the media and most fans have bought into it.

Not me. The dude's getting paid more money EVERY YEAR than the average fan and his/her entire family will make in their lifetimes. For that, he should be willing to pitch until his arm falls off, if necessary.

Isn't this the same guy that led the major leagues in innings pitched this year? Are we back to the "rubber arm" thing again?

Evidently not. He needs a few days off to recover from the devastating effect 20-some pitches took out of him.

The poor dear. Bring on the massages and grapes.

But I still think it's wimpy. As fragile as newborns are -- even THEY don't get babied THAT much.