Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Allen Iverson's jewelry tab

According to the Sporting News, a Georgia judge just took over Iverson's Wells Fargo bank account. This is what might eventually happen when someone has purchased roughly $860,000 worth of jewelry on credit, but never pays for it. For some odd reason, merchants get a little testy after a while about those sort of minor details.

But where does the fault really lie? Let's look closer.

The merchant involved is called Aydin and Company, based in Atlanta, Georgia. Amongst other services, Aydin deals in a wide variety of high-priced bling. You name it, they got it, or they'll get it. Over the years, they've tried to appeal to rap artists, pro athletes, and others that might be interested in their products.

But that's where things stop making sense, at least in Iverson's case.

Back in 2010, Aydin sued Iverson for $375,000 over a bill he allegedly hadn't paid. That's a pretty decent chunk of change to most folks. Personally, if someone owed me a measly few hundred bucks for a couple years, and had never attempted to begin paying it off -- I don't think I'd be extending their line of credit -- but that's just me.

Evidently, Aydin saw it differently. Even if the judge threw in court costs (which is a double-dip rip-off anyway, considering they're already paid for by tax dollars), interest, and attorney fees, it's highly doubtful that added up to another $485,000.

Bottom line? They likely let Iverson keep buying even more stuff on credit. How dumb is that? And whose fault is it?

A Google search reveals that a man named David Aydin seems to be in charge of this company.

I wonder if he has silent partners named Abettin, Enayblin, and Suin.....

Iverson's self-adopted nickname is "The Answer". Just a thought, but maybe some people need to start asking him tougher questions....

Monday, January 30, 2012

Locker rooms and tricky business

Please feel free to enlighten me if you know how the following works, because I'm not at all sure.

A couple examples where 2 different teams call the same stadium, or arena, their home field/court, come to mind.

The New York Jets and New York Giants both play in New Jersey, which is weird enough, but they share the Meadowlands stadium as their home field. Unless they're playing each other, when one's playing at home -- the other has to be on the road. That's probably easy enough for the NFL schedule makers to work around. Being the Jets are from the AFC and the Giants the NFC, they can't meet in the playoffs and, trust me -- even if they both got that far the same year -- there will NEVER be a Super Bowl in the Meadowlands.

Keeping that one in mind, consider another situation that isn't so easy to figure out. That would be the LA Lakers and LA Clippers of the NBA, both sharing the Staples Center as their home. They play in the same division, so they meet several times over the course of the year.

Which raises the question --- how do they work out the locker room situation?

Most assume, including yours truly, that the home team's locker room is quite a bit nicer than what is provided for the "visiting" team. When the ultimate goal is to beat their brains out, why give the other bums all the comforts of home? In days of old, it was rumored the Boston Celtics even went so far as to turn off the hot water in the visitors' locker room. If true, yes, the players probably wouldn't shower until after the game, but knowing what might await them would have to be nagging somewhere in their heads during the course of the game itself. Anything for an edge....

Nowadays, such dirty tricks wouldn't be allowed, of course, but it's probably still a safe bet to assume the visitors' locker room facilities aren't on the same luxury level as the home team's.

Let's say the Lakers were having a 5 game homestand while the Clippers were on the road. You've likely seen TV shots of NBA locker rooms. Each player has a cubicle with his name above it. Contained within are normally a couple uniforms, a few different pairs of sneakers and dress shoes, and the player's personal hygiene products. Throw in a couple "civilian" outfits, a hat or 2, and maybe a picture of the player's wife, kids, or even Grandma. Too boot, most pro locker rooms have these cubicles arranged in a certain pecking order. Though they all play for the same team, it just wouldn't do to have Kobe lockering next to some rookie -- ya know?

But what happens when the Clippers come "home" to play the Lakers in the same building, and the Lakers are now the "visiting" team?

Do they take all the Laker stuff out of the home team locker room, nametags, Grandma, and all, and haul it over to the other one?

And what would happen if they played back to back games, certainly not out of the realm of possibility, where the Clippers were the home team one night and the Lakers the following night?

Do they switch it yet again?

I don't know, but I've got a hunch the hot water isn't a problem anymore.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Famous traitors

Throughout history, there have been a lot of people who became traitors for one reason or another. Let's consider a few and what became of them.

Brutus, of ancient Rome, was Julius Caesar's nephew. He was part of the gang that killed Caesar, who's last words were supposedly Et tu, Brute? (You too, Brutus?). Brutus later committed suicide.

Benedict Arnold is infamous. He was an American revolutionary war general that switched sides and went over to the British. Somehow he escaped execution to die in poverty in Canada in 1801.

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were American communists that began spying for the Soviet Union in the middle of World War II, and carried on until they were caught in 1950. They were both tried, convicted, and executed in 1953.

Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent no less, got caught selling secrets to the KGB back in the 80s, and was sentenced to life in prison.

Aldrich Ames was similar. Selling out his country to the same people for a lot of money. He got life, as well.

Perhaps the biggest traitor of them all was Judas Iscariot. He betrayed Jesus to the Romans. We know what eventually happened to Jesus. Oddly, or maybe not, Judas was the first Apostle to die.

It might be fair to say all of the above had prominent positions in life -- but it just wasn't enough. For whatever reasons, they sold out and betrayed those they should have been the most loyal to. The punishments varied, but they all became infamous.

What does this have to do with sports?

There's this guy that is employed by the Ford family. The same Ford family that owns the automobile company. The Ford family has made him very rich. He even plays at Ford Field in Detroit. Ford Motor Company offers umpteen different makes and models of cars and trucks, ranging from luxurious to economical. (General Motors provided me a very good living so I buy and drive GM cars to show my appreciation, but yours truly would be the first to admit Ford has always offered some mighty fine products as well.) One would think this man would at least endorse Ford products to show HIS appreciation. One would be wrong.

He sold out too, but not to the Soviets, Romans, or the British. While professing loyalty to his team, fans, and more importantly the people who sign his monstrous checks, it appears he has betrayed them.

The man's name is Calvin Johnson, a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions. He's doing TV commercials advertising Acura, a car made by Honda, a Japanese company that would likely dearly love to see the American automobile companies crash and burn. No doubt, the Honda people are paying him well to do this. What will his punishment be? Try $22 million dollars next year from the same Ford family and the adoration of Detroit Lions fans.

Living in infamy? Hardly. He might eventually go to the Hall of Fame. Somewhere in Japan, auto executives are sitting back and chuckling about how gullible most Americans are. And guess what? They're right.

I see it more like Julius once did.

Et tu, Calvin?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The NFL Pro Bowl

Fans and reporters can whine and cry all they want about how certain players (usually from their home team) should have been selected to go, but weren't. They'll throw in any numbers of stats about how this guy was better than that guy but, in the end, they fail to see the obvious.

Other than millionaires getting another hefty paycheck and a paid vacation in paradise, it's not about being the best in the preceding season. Just like the baseball, basketball, and hockey All-Star games -- for the most part, it's basically a popularity contest.

True, a player must have been pretty good to get that popular in the first place over the years, but how many times have we seen players, who weren't even in the top 5 at their position, get voted to an All-Star squad based on name recognition only?  It's kind of like politicians. They work like maniacs to get elected, work even more to get re-elected, and after that, we can't get rid of them. Athletes get endorsements and commercials, while politicians get massive contributions and consolidate their power base. The money pours in, and the public winds up being stuck with both of them, even though neither is worthy anymore.

The Pro-Bowl game is a farce anyway. No blitzes allowed. Don't even breathe on the quarterback. There won't be any hard hitting, because the prime objective is to have a good time and make sure nobody gets hurt. It might as well be a pro-am game. Trot out Tom Cruise at wide receiver or Oprah at middle linebacker, and it probably wouldn't make much of a difference, except for better TV ratings.

It's no big secret that "kicker balls" are different than regular game balls. So why not do it up right for the show? Put some helium in them. How cool would it be to see a field goal kicker boot one through the uprights from 90 yards?

As long as it's going to be a girly game anyway, they might as well get rid of the pads and helmets too. You know how they say defenders always check out the QB's eyes when he's getting ready to throw? If Beyonce or Angelena was wearing a bikini as a QB, my guess would be the defenders would be looking at a lot more than just their eyes. Talk about defensive breakdowns..... It wouldn't matter if they could actually throw the ball. They could walk into the end zone for a touchdown. Besides Oprah, in a fit of jealousy, who would dare hit them?

Forget about the traditional head coaches that only got there because they won something last year. Why not make it interesting? Put Newt in charge of one team and Mitt in charge of the other. They didn't win ANYTHING last year, but tell me they wouldn't pull out every trick play in the book for a victory -- and I'll tell you you're mistaken.

Offensive coodinators? How about Jerry Springer and Judge Judy calling the plays? It doesn 't get much more offensive than that. Defensive coordinators? Perhaps a couple members of Jerry Sandusky's legal team.

In the end, who's going to foot the bill? After all, somebody somewhere has to pay a TV network mega-bucks to sponsor this farce. I hope it's not another Japanese or Korean auto company. They seem to be sponsoring all the other sporting events already.

Hmmm. I have it. Whoever makes Nerf balls. Perfect.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Australian Open

If people in the United States want to watch TV in the wee hours of the morning, they can catch live action at the Australian Open. The tourney is winding down to its final stages and the usual suspects have risen to the top.

On the men's side, it looks like Roger Federer of Switzerland, despite his greatness, likely has won his last major tournament. Federer's 30 years old, and while that age might put him in his "prime" in many other sports, in pro tennis, that's the "golden years". True, he's probably still the 3rd best player in the world, and no American player can come close to competing with him, but that pesky Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who's only 25, has his number. Nadal not only has won 2 out of every 3 times they've played, but in the last few years has made a habit of dispatching Federer in the finals of major tournaments. As time marches on -- it's not going to get any better for Roger.

Rafa has it all. Speed, power, stamina, finesse, a big serve, and every shot in the book. But he's only #2. That's because Novac Djokovic seems to have just a little bit more of all of the above. The 24 year old Serb is dominating tennis like Tiger Woods dominated golf a few years ago. Much like when Woods was at his peak, and many would wager on him against the entire "field", Djokovic currently occupies the same lofty status in tennis. One never knows what sort of injuries may pop up to such well-conditioned athletes that push themselves so hard. Yet, barring that, if Novac keeps his own temperament under control, he appears to be virtually unbeatable right now. He's just that good.

The ladies' side is harder to sort out because sometimes yours truly can only stand so much. I'll get back to that. There's Sharapova, Kvitova, Makarova, and Azarenka. It can get confusing. Kim Clijsters I understand. She's from Belgium. Problem is, some people think of her as the Grandma Moses of ladies' tennis. She's 28. See what I mean about that age thing? Then there's Carolyn Wozniacki, who's been ranked #1 for a while, but never seems to win a tournament. That I do NOT understand. Maybe it's like NASCAR. If somebody can finish in the top 5 or 10 of every contest, without ever actually winning anything, it's possible they could be regarded as #1. Somehow that doesn't seem right.

But the main reason I don't know more about the lady tennis players? The screaming from some of them. I can't handle it. There's times and places for screaming. Roller coasters, scary movies, and haunted houses come to mind. Seeing a mouse at their feet or getting into a heated argument might qualify as well. And I dare say most men would greatly appreciate an occasional scream for whatever may happen during the course of intimacy.

But when a shriek happens on every "stroke" -- in, ahem, tennis, of course -- that's a turn off. As in "click" with the remote. As much as I want to appreciate their talents and watch them play -- I can't stand all the screaming. When they watch film of themselves, don't they understand how unladylike that is? Or do they use the "mute" button?

Beats me, but I'm guessing Rod Laver, a gentlemens' gentleman, who is in attendance at the stadium named after him for the current Australian Open (he currently lives in California), in his heart of hearts, is not exactly turned on by it either.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Prince Fielder and the Tigers

Not sure if Detroit Tigers' owner Mike Ilitch has overdosed on his own pepperoni or maybe his right hand man Dave Dombrowski has been in the Florida sun too long, but spending over $200 million for a supposed 9 year deal with Prince Fielder is amazing.

Can he hit? Yeah. So far. So could his dad for a few years before he flamed out a generation ago. If you thought Cecil was slow and overweight, check out Prince. The guy's a semi stuck in first gear.

The only position he can play is first base. That means Miguel Cabrera has to go somewhere else. Cabrera said he wants to play third base. Well, OK. If he gets in better shape, maybe he can handle it. But that would displace Brandon Inge. You know, the .230 hitter that flaps his gums to the press a lot and Tiger fans think is a spectacular fielder but he's never won a Golden Glove? Yeah. That guy. Nobody in their right mind would suggest Inge as a designated hitter -- would they? How Inge has stuck around in the major leagues for so many years, and collected so many millions of dollars for his production, or lack thereof, is the kind of stuff a guy name Ripley might be interested in. Believe it or not. Maybe this will finally get rid of him.

Huh. Maybe that pepperoni isn't so greasy after all. And I can think of worse things than being in Florida right about now.

How American sports are going down

By that, I don't mean the sports themselves, because Americans are addicted to a variety of sports, and likely always will be. With apologies to the late Carl Sagan, billions and billions of dollars change hands every year in the world of American sports. Many people, including yours truly, are avid sports fans.

But that's not the point. Americans became used to thinking they were the best at many sports. Perhaps they were in years past, but nowadays the landscape looks a lot different.

Baseball? It's probably a pretty safe bet to say the Major Leagues represent the game at its highest level. But who plays on those teams anymore? Take away all the "Latino" nationals and chances are you've gutted many teams of their best players. Even the Little League World Series isn't fair, if you think about it. Though the US hosts the tournament, every other country in the world gets to send one team. Meanwhile, on the other side of the bracket, American teams compete against each other until only one is left. Bottom line? The US is always guaranteed a spot in the finals.

Football? Nobody would question the NFL rules. Thing is -- no other countries seem interested in even playing the game. The NFL tried to expand into Europe, but that crashed and burned. People there, and everywhere else in the world, are more interested in soccer.

Speaking of which, men's soccer in this country doesn't fare well against international competition. Ladies soccer is a force, but they don't play much professional football either.

Basketball? It used to be the NBA was the best. Even at the Olympic level, the original "dream team" blew everybody away. It's no slam dunk for the gold medal anymore. Other teams from other countries have not only closed the gap, but when it gets down to maybe the semi-finals or so, the squad from the USA is going to get tested -- hard. Those other guys you never heard of are pretty good too.

Hockey? Not sure, but I think the Canadians have been playing that since before the glaciers receded. They were certainly dominant for a very long time. It's like it's in their DNA or something, and I salute them for being so passionate about the sport. American players always seemed to be a fringe element. One here, a couple there, but their presence has steadily grown over the years. Regardless, take away the Swedes, the Russians, the Slovacs, and a lot of teams would be in serious need of talent.

Golf? It used to be all about Tiger Woods. Once he got married, and the other ugly events subsequently unfolded, he seems to be in nowhere land these days. There might be a few "young guns" coming up, but the Europeans pretty much occupy the top spots. Don't believe me. Check the world rankings.

Tennis? On the men's side, I can't remember a dominant American player since Pete Sampras. When's the last time you heard of an American playing in a men's Final? It's been a while. On the ladies side -- pretty much the same thing. The Williams' sisters are getting old in pro tennis years, and Serena just got blown off the court in the Australian Open by another young girl who last name ends in "ova". Americans are no longer competitive there either.

Other sports? How about bowling? It's still hugely popular in this country, but at the highest levels, it's seldom even televised anymore. Curling? I think the Canadians still rule that, but I'm not sure. I can't get channel 9 on my dish to find out.

Even if American atheletes "ain't what they used to be", there's still one thing in the world of sports that all the other countries combined will never even come close to matching us at.

Talking heads on the 4-letter network.

Hey, even if it's ugly, a win is a win.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How they killed Joe Paterno

Penn State football legend Joe Paterno is dead. Many people are currently debating what his legacy should be and, in the end, I suppose it will be left to historians to sort it all out. Why? Because right now most people don't know what the hell they're talking about. It's all what ifs, shouldas, couldas and wouldas.

The masses love a sensational story, whether it turns out to be true or not, and the media not only knows that, they prey on it.

Many scribes and talking heads have said Joe Pa could and should have done more when the Jerry Sandusky situation came to his attention. He reported what he heard to his superiors at Penn State, yet many claim that wasn't enough. He should have went to the cops.

Though we seem to be inching closer to it, this country isn't Stalin's USSR or the former East Germany just yet. As much as prosecutors would like us to believe it, people are not obligated to run to the police and sing like a canary every time they hear a rumor, or get second or third hand information about something that may or may not constitute a crime, if it ever even happened in the first place.

Since the whole story went viral, Jerry Sandusky has adamantly and steadfastly insisted that he is innocent. He's already been convicted in the court of public opinion, of course, much like OJ Simpson was in his murder trial. Did Simpson or Sandusky do those terrible deeds they were accused of? I don't know. OJ's jury said he didn't. Sandusky's trial hasn't even STARTED yet, but people want to string him up.

That's the thing. As soon as an accusation was made, and the media snowball started rolling, before all the evidence could be examined and presented, and testimony heard in a court of law, the powers that be at Penn State ousted Joe Paterno. Let the heads roll, but their "image" had to be salvaged at all costs.

And, in my opinion, that's when he started to die. Yes, Joe Pa was an elderly man with lung cancer and his long term prognosis was probably not good. But giving him the boot, after all he's done for that university over many decades, for crimes that may or may not have happened -- and he certainly had nothing to do with -- likely caused him to give up his will to live. Might he have endured a few more days, weeks, months, or even years, if he hadn't been subjected to what came about? I suspect no one, including his doctors, can answer that question for sure. The "will" to live can be a very powerful force. How many of us have seen or heard of people recovering from "impossible odds", or emerging from a years long coma to once again enjoy life? It happens. Conversely, we've also seen or heard the sad stories about a parent or grandparent losing their spouse, and though otherwise seemingly healthy, gave up the will to live and perished shortly thereafter themselves. Tragically, that happens too.

I think Joe Pa more closely fell into the latter category. His work was his life, and when that was not only ripped away, but with humiliation piled on by those that can't see or don't care beyond the next column they write, or sound bytes they utter, he just gave up. Nowhere else to go.

They basically killed him.

Here's a thought --- in a year or two, or however long the whole Sandusky trial takes before a jury somewhere renders its verdict -- what happens if they come back with "not guilty"? What then?

Joe Pa will still be dead, but will the scribes and talking heads that pointed fingers at him to begin with retract their statements and/or apologize? Of course not.

They'll be busy trashing somebody else in their latest sensational story, before any facts are in, much less whether it turns out to be true or not in the end.

And THAT, is obscene.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fearless NFL playoff predictions

Hey, if so-called NFL guru Peter King of Sports Illustrated can continue to do it with HIS track record, then I should be able to give it a shot. Good grief, he picked San Diego to go to the Super Bowl in the pre-season and, once the playoffs started, had New Orleans winning it all. It's kind of like Mel Kuyper with his draft picks. He can throw out a 1000 gigs of sound bytes about this and that, but when it finally goes down, he doesn't have the faintest idea what's going to happen either.

The differences between me and those guys? Two things. I flat-out admit I don't have a clue -- and -- they get paid just a wee bit better than I do trying to play Nostradamus. Onward.

In the NFC, the NY Giants will play in San Francisco. What the 49ers have accomplished since firing Mike Singletary and hiring Jim Harbaugh has been remarkable. Normally, it takes a new head coach 2-3 years to establish his system, and get a few players that better fit into it than what the last guy left them. Not Harbaugh. The turnaround was immediate and amazing. QB Alex Smith has been rejuvenated, their defense is amongst the leaders in the NFL, and they don't make silly mistakes to hurt themselves.

The Giants resemble a sine wave. It seems like every time head coach Tom Coughlin has botched yet another game with his strategies, and should be on the hot seat to be fired -- BAM -- they get on a roll. Right now they're probably the hottest team in the NFL.

Yet, if there's a Cinderella still left in the playoffs -- it's probably San Fran. Yes, they wore the glass slipper while beating Drew Brees and the Saints in a classic game, but the clock is getting close to the midnight hour and Eli's coming. Besides, any team that can waltz into Lambeau Field and defeat the mighty Packers in their own backyard gets my vote.

NY Giants 31. SF 49ers 24.

The AFC finals is a tough call. Neither Baltimore nor New England, which both played at home, faced very stiff competition in the conference semis. The Ravens knocked off the Houston Texans who were playing with a 3rd string quarterback, and while Tebowmania had its place for a while, there was no way the Denver Broncos, even though they beat the Steelers the week before on a freak play, were going to survive what mad genius Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Co. had in store for them in Foxborough. It resulted in a predictable blow out.

But this is an intriguing match up. New England's defense is terrible. Many teams have gone up and down the field on them all year long, but Tom Brady and the offense still put up enough points to win. On the other hand, Baltimore isn't exactly known as an offensive juggernaut. They grind it out with running back Ray Rice, and QB Joe Flacco seems to do just enough NOT to lose the game.

The key will likely be Baltimore's defense vs New England's offense. Ray Lewis and the Ravens' defense are getting a little long in the tooth, as they say, and this might be their last go-round for a shot at a (another) ring. But make no mistake -- those guys are savvy veterans and still very good at what they do. Then again, we're talking about the Pats playing at home with arguably the smartest coach and most cold-blooded QB under pressure in the game. From several wide receivers to a pair of tight ends that are probably the best in the league right now, they have offensive weapons galore.

Thing is, Brady has to have time to go through his "reads" to be successful, and I look for the Ravens to take that away. If nothing else, whatever it takes, through various defensive alignments and schemes, the Ravens will bring a ferocious pass rush on Brady. Even if it takes a couple penalties for late hits, one way or the other, they will try to rough Brady up. When Brady's been under extreme heat in the past, sometimes he's made ill-advised throws, that wind up in the hands of the guys wearing the other jerseys. It could be that Belichick would anticipate that and use the Ravens' aggressiveness against them by calling a lot of draw plays, quick slant patterns over the middle, or screen passes. But if the Ravens' veteran defense sniffs those tactics out, it might result in plays for lost yardage or a receiver gasping for air after getting blown up a millisecond after he touched the ball going over the middle.

It should be quite a chess match. Normally, one would give Belichick the advantage in such a game of wits.

But sometimes it just gets down and dirty, and that's how I see this playing out. Nobody does down and dirty better than the Ravens. In an upset....

Ravens 20. Patriots 17.

So there. I just picked both road teams to win.

Who needs Peter King? Anybody can do this stuff.

Road warriors from other leagues

Each professional sports league is vastly different from the others, not only in how they play the sport, but their fans. Especially on the road.

Major league baseball is tough to get a handle on because they play so many games, 81 of them away from home. What team's fans show up the most for road games? Maybe it's the Bronx Bombers. You see those caps with the "NY" on them here and there, even at games involving a different sport. The Bosox? I don't think so. The LA Dodgers might have been a contender until the McCourts ran that once proud franchise into the dirt. Philly, or Detroit? Nah. Many have long said the Cardinal fans in St. Louis are the most loyal, knowledgeable, and even politest in the game, when it comes to opposing teams and players. But you don't see too many StL caps or redbirds on shirts at away games. While tight-knit indeed, they always seemed to be a local bunch. Besides, since their mega-slugger Albert Pujols bailed for California, and future Hall of Fame manager Tony LaRussa went out on top with a World Series championship, who knows what kind of effect that will have on them?

The NBA is different, as well. Which team has the greatest fan road presence? In the "Bad Boy" era over 20 years ago, it was probably the Pistons. Nowadays, they can't come anywhere close to filling their OWN arena for home games. It's like they built a moat around the Palace. For a lot of stretches it might have been the Celtics, but they're in a slow decline these days. Could it be now be the Lakers or what Miami brings with the "Big 3"? Maybe. Here's a weird thought --- in a couple years it might well be the Okla City Thunder and, yes, gasp, the LA Clippers. The Thunder is the only pro team in ANY sport in Oklahoma and don't look now, but those guys are really good, and will get better. The Clips have been the Rodney Dangerfield of LA since forever, but with Blake Griffin, newly acquired Chris Paul, who's probably the best point guard in the league not named Derek Rose, and a strong supporting cast, they're a force to be reckoned with. If they somehow swing a deal for Dwight Howard -- look out. Yours truly admits he hasn't seen their gear shown much in other arenas to date, but if things keep progressing on the current path, chances are those logos will show up in a LOT of places. Time will tell. And aren't a lot of people just a little bit sick and tired of Kobe this, and Lakers that? At least the "Zen Master" has finally faded away to go meditate with the owner's daughter somewhere. Thank you, God, for small favors. The Mavs are the defending champs, but nobody's paying attention to them, much less wearing their gear. Go figure.

The NFL is an animal unlike any other. They're the Godzilla in the room of North American professional sports, and anybody who thinks otherwise is only kidding themselves. From popularity, TV ratings and revenue, advertisements, jerseys and other gear sold, and even money bet on games -- from Vegas books to football squares at a million bars, in one way or another -- they rule. It's not even a close call. But who are the most die-hard fans that will accompany their team when it goes on the road?

Could it be the Cowboys? Not so sure about that. I've never seen a lot of fans in Cowboy gear at opposing stadiums. They may have proclaimed themselves to be "America's Team" a while back, but it seems like for every Cowboy fan outside a 100 mile radius of Big D, there's about a 1000 who hate them. How 'bout dem Cowboys indeed. The giant TV screen in Jerry Jones' $1,500,000,000 apparent shrine to himself is great. Some might even say getting cheerleaders with IQs higher than their bust measurements would be even better. Even others have suggested the same applies to their quarterback, but that's only heresy.

Yet, it doesn't appear like fans from any one team in the NFL stand out from the others when it comes to travelling nationally. For the most part, the "road warriors" travel within their own "division" for games. That probably makes sense for a few reasons.

While every home team is obligated to offer a few thousand tickets for the visiting team's fans to purchase, not too many people can afford the air fare, motels, cabs, rent-a-cars, etc., that would be involved in going to each and every away game.

With a couple exceptions, notably the Cowboys above, whose divisional opponents are Washington, Philly, and the NY Giants, all over a thousand miles away, most divisional opponents are within reasonable driving distance for a 3 day weekend.

More importantly, inter-division rivalries normally attract more fan interest. Consider a couple of them. Steeler fans will show up in Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Baltimore waving their "terrible towels". Oakland's "Raider Nation" will don their black and silver Darth Vader stuff and go to San Diego and Denver; even Luke Skywalker and an army of Yodas couldn't keep them from a game in Kansas City.

In the NFL, "bad blood" has been around for a long time regarding certain teams. Probably nowhere is this more prevalent than in the NFC North. Green Bay, Minnesota, Chicago, and Detroit. In the "black and blue" division, everybody hates everybody else.

But fan loyalty for road games? Again, it's not even a close call. They not only rule the division, but I'll crown them champs in the entire NFL when it comes to following their team away from home.

The Cheeseheads are everywhere.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Red Wings' road warriors

Next time you watch a pro game on TV, check out the people in the crowd, specifically those wearing gear from the visiting team. Some of it isn't so surprising, like when the rabid Steeler fans descend on Cleveland for a game with the Browns, because it's not that far a drive, and tickets are probably readily available. Other times it makes me wonder.... Who's the King of the Road when it comes to fans?

In the NHL, my guess would be the Detroit Red Wings. It seems like no matter where they play, there's always a sizable contingent sporting the winged wheel and cheering on their heroes. That begs the question -- where do they come from? The ones directly behind the visitor's bench can most likely be attributed to friends and family of the players themselves, because every visiting team gets a certain allotment in that regard. But what of those scattered amongst the crowd -- sometimes many?

Do hard core fans spend big bucks on air fare, motels, and scalpers' prices for tickets just to get into the game? Maybe. Is it part of a vacation plan? Could be. Are they former Detroiters that retired and moved into that particular community? Possibly.

I can understand people taking off for a vacation to places like NY, Boston, or LA, because there's a lot of stuff to see and do in those cities. And what better time to plan it than if the Red Wings will be in town? If they can afford the other prices in those cities, then they can afford a hockey game.

Retirees? Being a native Michigander, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that when most people from this state retire and relocate, it's down south -- or out west. Someplace where it's warmer in the wintertime. Places like Tampa Bay, Miami, Dallas, Phoenix, Nashville, Carolina, Colorado, or maybe Anaheim. Even San Jose isn't too bad.

But wait a minute. Nobody takes a vacation in Buffalo, Minnesota, or Vancouver in the wintertime. It's too cold. That would be like vacationing in the blistering heat of Miami in the middle of August. It doesn't make sense.

And what retiree in their right mind, after working 40-50 years in Michigan, would want to spend their golden years in frigid remote outposts like Edmonton or Calgary? If they thought January and February in Michigan were bad, wait until they go through a winter of THAT. Buffalo would start looking good. For that matter, Afghanistan or Iraq might start looking good, hockey or no hockey. Montreal, while cold, is more citified, but if they can't speak fluent French, they'll be ignored, treated like schmucks, and never be able to order anything in a restaurant. What kind of life is that for a retiree?

Yet Red Wings' fans pop up in all these places and every other arena throughout the hockey season. How it all works -- I have no idea -- but it does, and I salute them.

I didn't mention New Jersey. According to my friend Mel, formerly of Brooklyn, NY, and now chasing the pretty girls all over the state of Florida, NOBODY goes to New Jersey -- unless they have to. Like for a Jets game.

A look at Road Kings from other pro sports next time.....

Following up on Calvin Johnson's paychecks

A couple days ago I wrote about Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions, and how much money he stands to make in the near future. As arguably the best receiver in the NFL right now, and barring injury, it will be a very large figure.

Let's look a little closer. Given he stands to make about $22 million next year, I did a little math that maybe the average working stiff (which I was, for over 30 years) might be able to relate to. Breaking down Calvin's money, that comes out to a little over $2500 an hour. That amount of money could probably get one 3 or 4 top flight attorneys if one was in serious legal trouble. Maybe a surgeon to save your life in an operating room. With a few connections, one might even be able to parlay that into an 8x10 autographed glossy of Romney or Obama in this election year. Sorry, got carried away there for a sec.....

Is Calvin Johnson worth $2500 an hour? For what he does on the football field during games, I would say most definitely yes. The "Megatron" is the most exciting player Detroit Lion fans have seen since Barry Sanders.

But that's the thing. That $2500 an hour isn't just about the time he spends on the field.

At $22 million a year, $2500 an hour is what he makes every hour of every day, 365 days a year. That applies when he's playing, practicing, lifting weights, watching film, or attending team meetings.

That ALSO applies in the entire off-season. Whether he's eating, watching TV, taking a shower, sleeping, at the movies, a nightclub, enjoying the company of a lady, travelling wherever for recreation and/or vacation, doing something else, or even on the phone with his agent discussing more money doesn't matter.

All year long, 24/7, every time the big hand on a clock goes around, Calvin just made another $2500. Cha-ching.

If we compare it to just football, then let's talk about actual game time. Even if one includes the 4 preseason games it comes out to around 65 hours. But wait, even assuming Johnson plays every minute available to him (he won't), we have to divide that number in half, because the offense is only on the field roughly half the time.

Bottom line? Doing the math again -- Johnson will be paid roughly $700,000 an hour to be on the field. In today's economy, Calvin can put in one game's worth of active duty, and make more money than most will make in their entire lifetimes. And he'll get a pension too, when he's done. Most common people won't anymore.

And you wonder why the people that are still fortunate enough to still even HAVE homes have to skip a payment to attend a game, with the outrageous prices for tickets and concessions going for what they are?

Maybe just this one time -- I think I have a clue.

Sorry Megatron. I can't afford to go see you play next year, even if I was so inclined -- which I'm not. I'm on a fixed income. My property value has plummeted but they've found a way to increase my taxes. The utilities keep creeping up, and the insurance company keeps giving me a choice between raising my rates or my deductible, even though I haven't put a claim in for over 20 years. On top of that, the governor and the legislators, in their infinite wisdom, have decided to zap my retirement checks for $140 a month. Far be it from them to tax themselves or their rich cronies. They want to lean on poor people and retirees. I don't get any raises. As the cost of living goes up, my purchasing power goes down. You signed up knowing you were going to get hit. A lot of us weren't counting on other hits that were going to come our way. There's a big difference.

If Johnson's feeling underappreciated or underpaid at $22 million next year -- he will get very little sympathy here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A parallel universe and Serena Williams

It seems like everything's backwards. Michigan State has beat Michigan 4 times in a row in football, and UM has knocked off MSU 3 straight in basketball. This...is... not... supposed... to...happen.

With a trip to the Super Bowl on the line in a matchup of his Baltimore Ravens against the New England Patriots, All-Pro safety Ed Reed is dissing his OWN quarterback. What kind of place IS this? And trust me, somewhere Tom Brady, the consummate pro, is privately chuckling.

The Detroit Lions are edging toward being title contenders, while the Pistons are edging toward being punch lines on late night talk shows. What the hell is going on around here?

Tennis' Australian Open is underway. While it's wintertime in the US, it's summertime Down Under. Even though it's backwards, I suspect it's always been that way. It's kind of like rain. If one area if suffering a draught, then someplace else on the planet is getting a whole lot of moisture, because the oceans evaporate up into the atmosphere, the wind blows it around, and the water has to eventually drop somewhere, but I digress.

Show me a tennis "major" and I'll show you at least one of the Williams' sisters finding a way to grab attention. This year it's Serena.

Serena hasn't faced any serious competition yet, but she's found a way to mention she might be playing on a bad ankle -- just in case she loses. So far, no complaints about tummy-aches, dizzy spells, headaches, cramps, bad calls, and nary a broken nail or blister.

Nope, this time she's onto something new. Bugs. She hates bugs. It seems that after dark in Australia, in the summertime, the bugs come out. Imagine that. Nevermind her opponent, the officials, and the audience -- listening to Serena, one might conclude she's the only one in attendance that the bugs are after. Are bugs in Australia racists? Have they all got together and plotted a massive conspiracy to keep Serena from winning? Somehow I doubt that.

While she likely gets her tennis equipment for free, courtesy of sponsors, one would think if Ms. Williams can afford umpteen thousands of dollars on hairdos, clothes, and jewelry -- she might want to consider laying off the $1000 an ounce perfume before a tennis match and spend a measly Hamilton on some Deep Woods Off, or it's Australian equivalent. Presto, problem solved.

Serena said she might request not to be forced to play at night because of this airborne terror. Well gee, even though the rest of the tournament is going on in Melbourne, maybe they should just relocate her matches to her favorite indoor country club facilities in the states. Would that make her happy? If she still got beat, what excuse would be next? Beats me, but it would be something. It always is.

My suggestion is simple. Instead of penthouses, limos, and photo-shoots, Serena and her sister Venus need about 30 days with a couple REAL Crocodile Dundee type guys somewhere in the "outback".

When that was done -- and they returned to the their former world -- they'd never complain again.

And maybe, just maybe, this universe would get a little closer to normal.
Huh. Ya think?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Calvin Johnson and the Detroit Lions

No doubt, the Lions have made some serious progress over the last few years. From 0-16, to 2-14, then 6-10, and now 10-6. This last year, some of their fans, who apparently were chugging the Kool-Aid like a Hummer chugs gas at 100 MPH, even thought the Super Bowl was possible.

They're not even close to that caliber yet. Right now they're smack dab in the middle of the pack. True, they went to the playoffs, but the NFL had handed them an easy schedule to begin with. The NFL gives the good teams tough schedules the following year and the bad teams easy ones, trying to achieve some sort of parity. Even the San Fran game was supposed to be an easy one. Who would have thought they would come so far so fast under rookie coach Jim Harbaugh? The Lions didn't beat a single team all year that wound up with a record over .500.

The Lions' biggest weapon, by far, is Calvin Johnson. Some people might say QB Matthew Stafford is an elite quarterback, because he threw for 5000 yards this year. Those same people tend to forget the Lions had basically no running game -- and if you can't run, you have to throw. If you throw enough, you're going to get serious passage yardage. And guess who was front and center for a great deal of that yardage? Calvin Johnson. Besides, sometimes QBs get too much credit for passing stats. For example, if a QB throws a screen pass to a running back, which is actually completed BEHIND the line of scrimmage, and that running back takes off for a 70 yard run after the catch, the stats will credit the QB with a 70 yard pass. It doesn't seem right, but that's the way it works.

At that, Calvin Johnson has one more year left on his contract with the Lions. If I'm Calvin Johnson, or his agent, I would be thinking real hard about future possibilities. Consider the following:

According to NFL guru Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com, Johnson's projected salary cap number for 2012 is around $22 million. While the Lions might prefer to sign him to a multi-year extension, given Johnson's relatively young age, and current status as probably the best receiver in the game -- the price tag (salary cap hit) would be enormous. Not that the Lions would be dumb enough to let him walk after next year, but can you imagine what this guy would be worth on the open market as a free agent?

Failing to do resign him, the Lions could put the "franchise tag" on him, but that's a yearly deal and would have some major drawbacks as well. As Seifert explained, under the recently signed collective bargaining agreement, the franchise tag figure is determined by whichever is the HIGHEST between the average 5 top salary cap figures at the same position (receiver) over the last 5 years, or 120% of what the player earned the year before.

That comes with a couple serious snags for the Lions' bean counters. First, Johnson's projected $22 million figure for 2012 puts him way over the top of any other receivers over the last 5 years. The nearest one would be Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, checking in at about $15 million. Therefore, the first option wouldn't seem to apply.

Second, if the Lions put the yearly franchise tag on him at 120% increases per year -- by 2014 that number would have risen to almost $32 million -- which would account for about 25% of the Lions' entire allowable player payroll. Giving just one player a quarter of the payroll would cripple them elsewhere. Let's not forget, they have to pay all the other guys, some of them at skill positions quite handsomely, and if they're serious about becoming a Super Bowl contender, they will need upgrades at various positions, have to resign other quality players whose contracts will expire in the meantime, and pay big bucks for future high draft choices in the next 3 years.

No matter how you look at it, if Calvin's a smart guy and has a shrewd agent, all the leverage tilts in their direction. Unless Johnson is willing to take a serious pay cut over the next few years in his loyalty to his current team, which would seem unlikely given the mercenary nature of professional sports these days, the Lions are in a serious bind with this situation.

Or they could trade him. Lions' fans would be outraged, but it might be the best choice. Johnson's coming off a career year, his value will never be higher, and the Lions could probably get a combination of both player upgrades and a couple relatively high draft choices in return. Plus, no matter how much money the Ford family may have, they're only allowed to spend the same as every other team in the NFL under the cap rules.

Let's face it. Matthew to Calvin, with nothing much else going on, will never win a Super Bowl.

And isn't that supposed to be what it's all about?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Harbaugh vs Harbaugh Super Bowl?

It could happen. Rookie 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, a lock for coach of the year, watched his team defeat the Drew Brees led New Orleans Saints, no small feat, in what was likely one of the most exciting games ever played. Particularly in the playoffs.

Next weekend, they'll host the New York Giants, who seem to be peaking at just the right time. They just waltzed into Lambeau Field and humbled the formidable Green Bay Packers. Not to take anything away from Eli Manning and the Giants, because they played a helluva game, but on the Packers' side of the ledger -- when they lose 3 fumbles, give up a Hail Mary for a touchdown at the end of the first half, and their entire receiver corps seemed to develop a mysterious case of the "dropsies" --  getting beat is what happens.

Eli and head coach Tom Coughlin have been there, done that, but there's something magical about this resurgent 49er team. QB Alex Smith, who many wanted to throw on the scrap heap even as recently as last year, has been rejuvenated under Harbaugh. San Fran's got a league-leading defense, and they don't beat themselves with silly mistakes. Plus they're playing at home. It should be a very interesting game, but I'd think the odds-makers would slightly favor the 49ers. If they win, they go to the Super Bowl.

On the AFC side, the Baltimore Ravens, at home, and as battle-tested as they come, knocked off the up and coming Houston Texans, who were playing without their starting QB. No big surprise there. Tom Brady and company blasted Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos, with or without Divine Intervention. That was to be expected.

Now Baltimore goes to New England. Certainly, the Patriots will be favored, but the Ravens likely won't allow Brady to stand back in the pocket like an Emperor surveying his kingdom, waiting for a receiver to finally come open, like the Broncos did. If they can bring enough heat to bear on Brady, and put him on the ground a few times, that game could get very interesting as well. New England also has a very porous defense and, not counting the Denver game, haven't fared well in the playoffs for the last few years. Baltimore might very well pull a minor upset.

If it works out like that, and it's surely not much of a stretch, it would be San Fran vs Balt in the Super Bowl. Harbaugh vs Harbaugh. Big brother vs little brother, though John is only 1 year older than Jim. A guy who was an unheard of defensive back for Miami of Ohio vs a guy who was the star QB at Michigan. One who cut his coaching teeth as an assistant for the Philadelphia Eagles vs the other who successfully moved up through the college ranks as a head coach.

I hope it happens. The Patriots have enough glory in their trophy case, and the Giants won the Super Bowl not long ago. And wouldn't it be interesting to see Harbaugh vs Harbaugh?

The down side? Having to withstand 2 weeks of endless media blather leading up to the game, while cub reporters and talking heads furiously dig up, and present, worthless trivia over their sibling rivalry. That might even include home movies. We could be treated to who won the back yard wiffle-ball game back in 1970, little league baseball stats, graduation, prom, and wedding pictures, and who knows what else? Please spare us the video of the two of them splashing around in a bathtub when they were 3 and 4 years old, because I will fail to see how that is even remotely connected with the Super Bowl showdown that is on the horizon. Is that too much to ask?

Two physical teams that pride themselves on defense and discipline. A game that will be played under a dome in Indianapolis under ideal conditions, which is usually beneficial to offenses.

There's no "Cinderella" team left. All 4 of the above are the real deal, and it should make for 2 very good games. One never knows for sure about such things, but I just can't see a blowout happening in either one. We'll find out next weekend, when it gets pared down to the Final 2.

Harbaugh vs Harbaugh would be a lot more fun than watching Belichick and Coughlin. I'm not sure either one of those guys has ever even smiled, let alone laughed.

Besides, after the game, maybe John and Jim would "indian leg wrestle" at midfield. Just for old times' sake.

Why Tim Tebow is better than Matthew Stafford

Yeah, I know. Many will disagree, but I need a break from looking up all that baseball stuff, that nobody else seems to be interested in anyway. Besides, there's some reasons that can justify that claim. So, with apologies to Letterman, here's a Top Ten list of why Tim Tebow is better than Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions.

10) Tebow can run the triple-option play. Stafford wouldn't have a clue.
 9) Tebow doesn't need a haircut. Stafford does. One has facial hair. The other has Georgia peach fuzz.
 8) Tebow could walk into a restaurant in Detroit and would be given instant VIP treatment. Stafford could walk into a restaurant in Denver, and nobody would know who he was.
 7) Tebow has John Elway as the executive in charge. Stafford has a mystery man named Martin Mayhew.
 6) Tebow plays in Denver, a pretty cool town. Lots to do. Stafford plays in Detroit. Lots sitting vacant.
 5) Tebow has become a national media sensation. Stafford merely stayed healthy.
 4) Tebow has prominent politicians wanting his endorsement. Stafford can't seem to get an ad of any kind.
 3) Tebow has millions of people kneeling. Stafford has thousands of Detroiters drinking blue Kool-Aid.
 2) Tebow has actually won a playoff game.

And the #1 reason why Tim Tebow is better than Matthew Stafford?

During games, Tebow talks to God. Stafford talks to a guy named Schwartz. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mick, Whitey, Billy, and Joe DiMaggio

Besides the Babe, there can be little doubt that Cooperstown has plaques of many guys that drank a lot and enjoyed the ladies.

Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford are enshrined. Their "after hours" escapades with Billy Martin (and others) are well-documented. Martin never got inducted. While the switch-hitting Mantle was racking up very impressive stats with his bat, and Ford with his left arm (while both likely played many games with a hangover) it seemed Martin's role was that of a spark plug to keep his teammates competing at a high level, but he really wasn't all that good as a player.

That would continue in Martin's career as a manager for several teams after his playing days were over. No one could turn a losing team into a winner quicker than Martin. He would get the most out of everybody. Yet, there were problems with that philosophy. Martin managed like every regular season game was the 7th game of the World Series. Besides retaining his fiery temper, which could often lead to being outright combative with owners, players, the press, and others, he pushed his teams so hard he burned them out. Even back then, the players were only going to tolerate so much out of a manager before they turned on him. Starting pitchers came up with lame arms from overwork. As an example -- while Martin was managing the Detroit Tigers -- starting pitcher Mickey Lolich threw 376 innings in 1971, starting a whopping 45 games. To put that in perspective, current Tiger pitcher Justin Verlander, considered a workhorse himself, and reigning American League Cy Young and  MVP winner, pitched 251 innings in 2011, in 34 starts. Does Martin belong in the Hall of Fame? Certainly not as a player. As a manager? Hard to say. He was definitely a winner every place he went, but only for the short term. If he wasn't ticking off his bosses, he was already going to the whip with his horses before they even rounded the first turn.

Joe DiMaggio is most definitely in the Hall. The Yankee Clipper was one helluva a player for a long time, including still holding the all-time record for consecutive games with a hit at 56. Maybe it matters and maybe not, but after that streak was broken, he hit in the next 18 consecutive games. An opposing pitcher once said if he got Joe out the first time at bat, he'd walk him for the rest of the game -- just to be known as the guy that stopped the streak. Joe got a hit his first time up. Will anybody go 57 in a row? Maybe, but yours truly thinks it's highly unlikely.

Joe D is most definitely an American icon, not only for his accomplishments on the field, but his high profile marriage to Marilyn Monroe, though it only lasted less than a year, and happened about 3 years after his playing days were over.

Joe played 13 seasons for the Yankees, the most notable being in 1941 when he set the record mentioned above. That was the same year Ted Williams became the last guy to hit over .400.  401 to be exact. Joe checked in with a measly .357. These days, putting up that number would pretty much guarantee a batting title -- but not back then.

Of course, WWII was raging, and Joe missed 3 seasons to serve his country by enlisting in the military. Some think he was a war hero. They would be wrong. Dimaggio entered the service in 1943. He was stationed in Santa Ana, California, then Hawaii, which 2 years after Pearl Harbor was probably the safest place on the planet, and finally Atlantic City, New Jersey. As a sergeant, Dimaggio was a physical education instructor. Not exactly Audie Murphy stuff. He was finally discharged due to "chronic stomach ulcers" -- which miraculously didn't hinder him from going right back to the the Major Leagues and playing another 6 seasons.

In the late 60s, song-writing genius Paul Simon and his sidekick Art Garfunkel crooned about Dimaggio in a song best known as being associated with the move "The Graduate". Though Joe had been done playing for better than 15 years, the song asked -- "Where have you gone Joe Dimaggio, a nation turns it's lonely eyes to you." At that time, considering America was going through major social upheaval, the likes of which had never been seen before, a new drug culture had made its way onto the scene, the Viet Nam war was raging, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy had been assassinated, and there was rioting in many major cities from coast to coast, it's unclear what Simon's motives were for those lyrics. It would seem America had more important issues to deal with than nostalgia over a retired baseball player. But perhaps that was his point. Returning to the "good old days".

If the nation had indeed turned its lonely eyes to Joe and looked close, they would have discovered that he not only had many of the same vices as Babe Ruth, but that other "lonely" women were turning their eyes to him as well. No one wants to hear about that, of course, and it was hushed up at the time, but some who have probed his history suggest that DiMaggio, while on road trips, and very much married at the time, seemed to have a sailor's equivalent of a girl in every port. He drank booze, smoked, and was known for being rather aloof to not only fans outside of the public eye, but his teammates as well.

Ty Cobb was known for a lot of things. He certainly got a lot of hits in the "dead ball" era, batting over .400 3 times, had a lifetime batting average of .366 over 24 seasons, and his all-time hit record stood for decades until Pete Rose finally surpassed it. Even during his playing career, Cobb was known as a bad guy. Maybe he sharpened his spikes and slid in "high" (never proven), and maybe he did a lot of other things to hurt opposing players as well. Thing is, he was not well-liked -- at all. Most other players, and it seems even many of his own teammates, despised him. He was not a nice man, and didn't care. But Lord, could he hit. Some accounts even suggest Cobb actually killed a man in his younger days, though details remain sketchy, at best.

Possibly including the above, Cooperstown has its fair share of other drunks, womanizers, and possibly even a murderer, and nobody cares. There's no such thing as "unenshrining" someone who's already there, even when some sordid details about their lives emerge later. That's understandable. It might be akin to finding out a decorated soldier buried in Arlington National Cemetery had committed a few war crimes while on duty. Should he be dug up and reburied elsewhere? That would be quite a can of worms to open up.

Expose the truth, take remedial action, or leave the past alone and let bygones be bygones? All depends on how how one wants to look at it.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Hall of Fame III. Babe Ruth

Nobody knows for sure how many players in Cooperstown had vices, and what they were. Yet, it's probably safe to say a lot of them drank excessively, smoked, and enjoyed the ladies, amongst other things.

George Herman (Babe) Ruth not only fell into that category, he flaunted it. Many assume that athletes way back then had higher moral standards. Not necessarily true. The Babe was married twice and had 2 daughters, but even that wasn't all it seemed.

Historical accounts suggest the first daughter was born out of wedlock by an earlier girlfriend of Ruths. She "came with the package" when Babe married his first wife Helen, very early in his career. Then, as he started becoming the baseball icon we know him as today, with all the stardom that went along with it, it seemed other ladies were after his attention, and the Babe was giving it to them. His infidelity eventually caused that marriage to fail. A few years later he married his second wife Claire, who had a daughter from a previous marriage of her own. Babe adopted her. So while Ruth is generally credited with having 2 "daughters", neither of them were by a wife.

People didn't care. He was wildly popular, not only for hitting home runs, but for spending a lot of time with kids, and donating a lot of money to children's causes, sports and otherwise. Add all that up and you've got a great American hero on your hands, and his legend lives on to this day. In modern times, given the same set of circumstances, the media would likely tear him to shreds as an overweight, drunk, tobacco abusing, wife cheater.

All those monster home runs? He must be taking SOMETHING. It's just not natural. Many of our overweight, drunk, tobacco abusing, wife cheating congressmen would probably haul him to Washington DC for a special session to grill him and try to find him guilty of something -- anything -- because this just isn't supposed to be happening. The tabloids would go wild. In a rare display of outrage, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig would call an emergency meeting with all the MLB owners, unanimously pass a resolution to monitor the infidelities of all kids under 15 playing in Babe Ruth baseball leagues, and receive a contract extension as Commisioner until he was 125 years old, dead or alive. Sometimes those owners are a forward thinking bunch.

Even the Baby Ruth candy bar was shrouded in controversy. The Curtiss Candy Company in Chicago, who made it, insisted that the name was derived from former President Grover Cleveland's baby daughter Ruth. That Ruth died in 1904. However, the candy bar didn't make its debut until 16 years later, in 1920, when George Herman was becoming very famous. Kids sent their candy bar wrappers to Ruth hoping he would autograph them and send them back. In turn, the Babe claimed if he was going to endorse a product named after him, he should be entitled to some royalties. Curtiss Candy stuck to their story; sports marketing was in its infancy back then, player agents still many decades away from even being conceived, let alone prevalent, and Ruth eventually lost in a court of law over the entire matter. The candy company wouldn't acknowledge Ruth to avoid paying him a few bucks in royalties, and the kids didn't get their wrappers autographed. You decide who was right.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hall of Fame. Part II

Pete Rose always comes to mind when considering the Hall of Fame. After all, he's the all-time career hits leader. I think it's safe to say that record will never be surpassed. Even if someone could match or outdo his stats over several years, players make too much money these days, so they neither need nor want to stick around as long as it would take to get anywhere near that record. It will never happen again.

Rose got a lifetime ban for betting on baseball, so he's ineligible for the Hall of Fame. Turns out, he was betting on his own team to win, and yours truly sees no harm in that, but the "purists" adamantly maintain he was nonetheless betting, so he's been relegated to purgatory. Every year we'll hear some sports columnists get on their high horse and rail against Rose for the ultimate sin, in their eyes. Yet, those are likely the very same people who closely monitor the Las Vegas betting "line" in their own papers, buy football squares at the office or their local watering hole, fill out multiple brackets for the NCAA hoops tournament, play fantasy football, grab a few lottery tickets every time they're in a party store, and take their spouses or significant others to a casino for a good time. But dammit -- Rose was not supposed to gamble. Can you spell h-y-p-o-c-r-i-t-e?

Will Rose eventually be enshrined in Cooperstown? Of course. It's a shame he might not be alive to see it, because the purists will rant and rave until their, or his, dying breath, but it will happen, because it has to. The all-time career hits leader not being in the Hall? Are you kidding me? There's a huge difference between betting on your own team to win and....

Shoeless Joe Jackson (and others), of 1919 Black Sox notoriety, allegedly throwing a World Series. He was given a lifetime ban as well, which remains in effect to this day. Indeed, the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Chicago White Sox 5 games to 3. For some reason, likely to generate more money, in 1919, along with the years 1903, 1920, and 1921, the World Series was a best of 9, instead of the usual best of 7. Jackson was vilified then, and most still think of him as a scoundrel today.

But a closer look at what really happened shows otherwise. In 1919, the Cincinnati Reds had a regular season record of 96-44. The White Sox had gone 88-52. On paper, the Reds were the better team anyway, so winning the World Series 5 games to 3 shouldn't have come as a great surprise. It wasn't like the Sox rolled over and got steam rolled. At that, Shoeless Joe went 12 for 32, a .375 average, with 5 runs scored, 3 doubles, 1 home run, and 6 RBIs. Do those sound like the sort of numbers a guy would put up in a World Series if he was trying to lose? I don't think so. (For that matter, there WAS no baseball commissioner in 1919. Kenesaw Mountain Landis didn't become Commissioner until 1921. Jackson played another full season before Landis handed him his lifetime ban. Does something seem not quite kosher with that?)

Neither did somebody else back then. The whole mess eventually found its way into court. After hearing all the testimony from various players, other people that were present, and considering all the evidence, or lack thereof, a judge totally absolved Jackson of any wrong doing. Shoeless Joe maintained his innocence until the day he died in 1951. 13 years with a lifetime batting average of .356, a career cut short because of being wrongfully accused, then acquitted, and almost a century later he still remains banned. I don't understand how even the purest of purists can defend that stance, but it's real.

How good was Jackson? Here's a quote from someone yours truly would consider to be fairly knowledgeable about such things.

"I copied Shoeless Joe Jackson's style because I thought he was the greatest hitter I had ever seen. The greatest natural hitter I ever saw. He's the guy who made me a hitter". Babe Ruth.

Good grief. In the days before most major league baseball players became millionaires, in 1979 former Commish Bowie Kuhn handed down lifetime bans to Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays because they dared to make a few bucks off "appearance fees" by playing golf with people a couple of casinos in Atlantic City were trying to impress. No mob connections, nor were the Mick and the Say Hey Kid ever even remotely associated with any actual betting (they didn't even HAVE a sports book in Atlantic City in those days), but baseball's seemingly irrational gambling phobia was still alive and well. It wasn't until after Kuhn died, and new Commish Peter Ueberroth took over, that he saw the wisdom is lifting those ridiculous bans.

These days, players routinely go to casinos for entertainment in the off season. To boot, if you've got enough money and a really good travel agent, you can probably have it arranged to sit down with one or more of them at a gambling event on a island somewhere between Florida and South America. It happens. Some of them are already enshrined, and others likely will be some day.

But Pete Rose is still banned because he made some bets on his team to win. And how about Shoeless Joe finally truly resting in peace? He got the justice, but nobody noticed. When will he get the recognition, and the plaque, that he so much deserves?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Baseball's Hall of Fame. A very strange house. Part I

It seems like the contradictions never end when one takes a closer look at some of the former baseball players now enshrined in Cooperstown, or those that maybe should be -- but aren't.

Everybody remembers Sandy Koufax. He only pitched for 5 or 6 years, was absolutely dominating, and an arm injury cut his career short, right? Not exactly. He pitched for 12 years. The first 6, he had a not-so-good record of 30-40. The final 6 he was indeed dominating, and that's what people remember. He developed arthritis in his pitching arm and retired with a career 165-87 record. He was a shoo-in for Cooperstown when he became eligible, but based on those numbers -- was he worthy?

Compare him to Jack Morris, who played for 18 years, and was the dominating pitcher for an entire decade. Morris was not only known for being able to bring serious " heat" with a fastball, but is sometimes credited as being the first to perfect the "split finger" pitch, which not many hurlers to this day have mastered. They both were on multiple World Series' winning teams, and Morris finished up at 254-186. Yet, 17 years after Morris retired, he's still not in.

On the other hand, Bert Blyleven, who played 22 years and was known for his extraordinary curve ball, and giving up a lot of home runs in the process, wound up at 287-250. He was inducted last year. Is justice, or even fairness, being served here?

No doubt, longevity plays a big part, but even that seems to be twisted.

Consider two shortstops. Alan Trammell of the Detroit Tigers and Ozzie Smith of the St. Louis Cardinals. Tram played 20 years. Oz 19. Tram had more homers, RBIs, and a career batting average of .285. Oz had more Golden Gloves and a career batting average of .262. Both were on one World Series championship team. Oz was flamboyant, back flips and all. Tram was not. Oz has a plaque in Cooperstown and Tram hasn't even come close. Why is that? You need only check something out. Do a Google search, only type in the name Alan, and see what pops up for suggested topics. When I did it, I saw Alan Jackson, Alan Rickman, Alan Colmes, Alan Ladd, Alan Thicke, and Alan Jackson's wife's cancer. Even ALANis Morissette made the list, but no Trammell. I never even heard of some of those people. Talk about no respect for Tram. Type in just Ozzie, and he comes in third, behind Ozzie Nelson, and Ozzie and Harriet, which seems redundant. Evidently, after all these years, he's still more popular than Ozzie Guillen, or Ozzie Osbourne, or even that guy behind the curtain in the Emerald City. Certainly more so than Trammell, to say the least. My personal opinion is I don't care if Smith never made an error in his whole career, and won multiple gold medals as an olympic gymnast, a.262 career batting just flat out isn't good enough for the Hall of Fame. But he's in.

The epitome of longevity would be comparing Lou Gehrig to Cal Ripken Jr. Gehrig went roughly 17 years to set the former mark of consecutive games played. During the course of that time, he had 493 home runs, 1993 RBIs, and wound up with a career batting average of .340. Everyone knows his life was cut short by ALS, an incurable disease to this day that bears his name. What most don't realize is that in the last full year he played, when it now seems quite probable that he was already beginning to suffer the symptoms of that disease -- his performance dropped off -- all the way down to hitting 29 home runs, 114 RBIs, and batting a mere .295. Even when he was stricken, he put up numbers that would likely get him on a modern-day All-Star team. Conversely, Ripken played roughly 21 years, without missing a game to break his record, and if it hadn't been for the strike-shortened 1994-95 seasons, his all-time record number would certainly be higher. But let's not forget that many of those seasons, Cal Jr. had his dad for a manager. Would another manager have given him a day or two off when he was dinged up or in a slump? Maybe. At that, with all the extra games, Ripken wound up with 431 home runs, 1695 RBIs, and a not-so-impressive career batting average of .276. He couldn't have carried Gehrig's jock strap, but he was a nice guy, so first ballot -- bang -- he's in. Was it justified?

Everybody remembers the name Roberto Clemente as well. He began his major league career in the same year as Sandy Koufax -- 1955. Played for 18 years. A 15 time All-Star, 12 Golden Gloves, also was on one World Series championship team with the Pittsburgh Pirates, and was the National League MVP in 1966.  He wasn't known as a big time home run hitter, clubbing only 240 over his career, but he racked up 1305 RBIs, stole a lot of bases, threw out many opposing runners with his rifle arm, and had a lifetime batting average of .317. Very impressive stuff. Though a native Puerto Rican, tragically, he died in an airplane crash, while trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Nicaragua in 1972. To my knowledge, he was the first "latino" player ever inducted into the Hall of Fame. At that, something strange happened. The mandatory 5-year waiting rule for eligibility was waived so he could be immediately inducted. He was the first and, to date, ONLY player that was granted such immunity. Why? He was going to get there anyway in due time. Not to be callous about it, but lots of guys, including the above mentioned Lou Gehrig, got inducted posthumously -- after the 5 year wait. Why should Clemente have been any different? By all accounts, they were both very fine men to be admired. It can't be about suffering. From what we know today about ALS, Gehrig likely suffered horribly in his final weeks, days, hours, and minutes. Plane crashes? In most cases, maybe a minute or so to contemplate doom when it's going down, but then BANG, lights out -- no suffering. It's just the way it is.

Pete Rose, Shoeless Joe Jackson, drunks, womanizers, steroids, and a bad guy next time.

Monday, January 9, 2012

LSU vs Bama. One word. Boring

LSU and Alabama may or may not be the best two collegiate football teams in the country -- we'll never know because if any year ever screamed out for some sort of playoff system, it was this one -- but there's one thing I know about them for sure.

They're no fun to watch when playing against each other. I watched the first game they played, that LSU won 9-6. Some made field goals, some missed field goals, and nary a touchdown in sight. Boring.

This time I made it half way through the second quarter before reaching for the remote. Still not a touchdown. Click.

I can appreciate great defenses, but only to a point. There comes a time when the average football fan, such as yours truly, wants to see a touchdown here or there. (I heard later on that Bama actually scored one in "garbage time", glory hallelujah, but I was long gone.)

How bored was I? You've heard the comparisons about watching grass grow or paint dry. Maybe you've even watched a European soccer game. All that can be fairly boring.

I'm talking about begging my neighbor to bring over his 8 mm home movies, all couple hundred reels of them, firing up his Bell and Howell, popping up a few jars of Orville Redenbacher's finest, and watching his kids tear up everything they could get their hands on, for an all-nighter of good old fashioned family entertainment, while I give my dogs a hair cut -- one hair at a time. That's REALLY being bored.

But I'd have rather done that than watch those two teams play anymore.

Say or think what you will, but you'll have a hard time convincing me that teams such as Stanford, Okla St., Oregon, Boise State, and other schools considered offensive "juggernauts", couldn't have scored touchdowns against either LSU or Bama. And it would have been a lot more fun to watch.

Nevertheless, congrats to that lovable carpetbagger Nick Sabin and Alabama. They're the champs, and may they enjoy the parade in Tuscaloosa in a couple days.

I've been to oceans lots of times. You know what the only thing more boring than grass growing, paint drying, and your neighbor's home movies is?

Crimson or not, watching the tide go in and out.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tim Tebow for President

With a few breaks, he just might be able to pull it off. More about that later.

If you watched the Pittsburgh Steelers - Denver Broncos game, you know that Denver was cruising right along on their way to defeating the highly-favored Steelers until a couple weird things happened in the fourth quarter. A Broncos' running back named McGahee fumbled the ball. Huh? What choo be talkin' bout, Willis? Shortly thereafter a normally sure-handed defensive back named Champ Bailey came oh so close to having that first "a" in his named changed to a "u" when he dropped an easy interception in the end zone, that allowed the Steelers to stay in the game, and eventually tie it. On to overtime, the Steelers had the momentum, and the Broncos' fate seemed sealed.

But Denver won the coin flip and then something even weirder happened. On the first play from scrimmage, Tebow struck for an 80 yard TD pass. Bam. Game over. Just like that. John Elway flashed his famous grin and Mile High Stadium went bonkers. I'm pretty sure the talking heads will be resurrecting the latest rage in the sports world for the next week. Tebowmania will be coming your way, and that right soon.

Now Denver gets a date with the Brady Bunch in Foxborough next weekend. No way can they win that one, right?  Probably not, but they weren't supposed to beat the Steelers either. Yet if they do.....

Tebow should throw his hat in the ring as a Republican candidate for the Presidency. Think about it.

Put TT up on the stage for a debate with Mitt, Newt, Ron, Rick, and whoever else is left. The rest of them could blather on for hours in their typical political-non-speak. All Tebow would need do is take a knee, point his index finger skyward, and say nothing. The crowd would jump to it's feet and give him a standing ovation. Debate over. He wins.

Negative campaigning against him? He's a deeply religious man, the son of missionaries, and a self-confessed virgin. Good luck attacking THAT.

Foreign policy? Tebow would likely advocate world peace. Anyone care to argue the point?

Experience? Run of the mill candidates don't want to be labelled "career politicians", but two breaths later they'll brag about how much experience they have. The hypocrisy screams out while watching the "insiders" pretend they're "outsiders", so they can get back INSIDE, with even more power. Tebow need only smile at them. Try playing QB in the NFL, at altitude, when it's 10 below, in a blizzard. It doesn't get any more "outside" than that. Besides, what's the toughest thing the suits and power dresses have faced in the last few years? The manicure lady coming down sick at the last second before a photo-op? Tebow could roll a film clip showing an all out blitz coming at him, taking the shot, and getting back up. He wins again.

Tebowmania is only for desperate crazy people? Maybe, but how many millions spent big bucks on birth certificates for cabbage patch dolls? And don't get me started on chia-pets or lava lamps, let alone pet rocks. While some things may be in short supply in this country, crazy people is definitely not one of them.

Having to raise big money for campaigning? He wouldn't need to. Sports scribes from Maine to Hawaii, every local TV sports guy or gal, the internet, and the 4-letter network would provide all that for free.

Name recognition? Are you kidding me?

He'd be a lock for that nomination. The REAL election's next November. Tebow doesn't need to do any politicking at all. If he and the Broncos start off next season 7-1 or so, Obama might have something to worry about.

What's that, you say? 35 in the minimum age requirement for a President and Tebow's only 24? Well, that's a dumb rule. It's OK to have senators and judges in their 90's that are babbling incoherently, and are back on diapers, but a guy like this doesn't qualify?

OK. Have it your way -- for now. We'll talk about this again in 2024.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Saints put the Lions in their place

I don't know how many hard-core Lions' fans I heard this last week, nor how many columns I read from supposedly learned sports-writers, telling me all the reasons the Lions could defeat the Saints in a playoff game at the Superdome. It was a lot. Yours truly just nodded or smiled at every one. Optimism is a good thing, but being foolish about it is quite another, especially if one is putting their money where their mouth is. I'll get back to that later.

Saints 45, Lions 28.

In a post-game press conference, Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz sounded like a sore loser. He whined and complained about a call here or a call there, and how his team didn't take advantage of their opportunities. Far be in from him to show a little class and just say they got beat by a better team -- again. If only this, and if only that.......

Hogwash.  For everything that coulda, woulda, shoulda happened to the Lions, the Saints had a touchdown taken away, had to settle for a field goal, and in the closing minutes of the game took a knee while at the Lions' 2 yard line, where they probably could have punched it into the end zone again easily for yet another touchdown. It was the NFL equivalent of the "mercy rule" that's used in prep sports. That's potentially another 11 points that didn't happen, so I don't want to hear any sour grapes from Schwartz.

Look at the stats. Every time the Saints had the ball in the second half, they scored a touchdown, except at the end, where they didn't want to rub it in. No field goals, no punts, just down the field and rack up 6. Drew Brees threw for 466 yards, and the running backs added another 160 or so. The Lions don't have much of a running game, and while Matthew Stafford was trying to play pitch and catch with Calvin Johnson, Drew Brees was playing arena football against their entire defense. And if you watched the game, you know that some wide-open New Orleans receivers dropped a few balls in the first half, or it might have been even worse.

Lions' fans might wonder why Brees seemed to have way too much time to throw, and what happened to their fearsome defensive line -- including the likes of Ndahmukong Suh, Cliff Avril, Nick Fairley, and all.  It had to do with a few guys they never heard of. The Saints have 3 All-Pro offensive linemen in front of Brees, and the other guys are brutes as well. Suh and company got cancelled. (While everybody always hears about defensive linemen, sacks, tackles for losses, etc, the offensive linemen continue to be under the radar, underpaid, and certainly underappreciated -- but nothing happens without them -- for any football team.)

Don't get me wrong. Much credit to the Lions for even reaching the playoffs. Their improvement over the last 2 years has been remarkable. In a year or two -- who knows what they might accomplish?

Yet to think they were a Super Bowl caliber team this year was just foolishness. The Saints, an obviously superior team, took them to the woodshed again.

Let's get real about the Lions. In the NFC, they've come a long way this year, but not as far as the San Francisco 49ers under rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh. San Fran came to Ford Field and handed the Lions their first loss of the year. You might remember Jim Schwartz losing his cool after that game, to say the least. Are the Lions better than the Atlanta Falcons? Hard to say at this time, but Atlanta did beat them earlier this year -- also at Ford Field. Da Bears? Another hard call. They lost starting QB Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, a dominating running back, which doomed their chances. Take away Stafford and Johnson from the Lions a few games ago, and where might they be? Besides, who's considered the class of the NFC field right now? I don't even have to mention the name. You know.

In the AFC, the Lions aren't as good as the Ravens or the Steelers, and does anybody really want to compare Jim Schwartz and Matthew Stafford with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady just yet? Please. And let's not forget those pesky Houston Texans, who are also flying under the radar, but are improving at a rate similar to the Lions. The Lions, who have been playing in the NFL since 1934, are currently among only 4 teams, the other ones being Jacksonville, Cleveland, and Houston, all "expansion" teams, that have never even PLAYED in the Super Bowl, let alone won it. It might be interesting to see who gets there first -- the Lions or the Texans -- or perhaps even one of the others.

But for now, I'll grade the Lions out as about a #10 seed in the entire NFL. That's a lot better than a few years ago when they were #32 -- out of 32. Things are looking up, but let's not get carried away just yet.

The wagering thing I mentioned earlier? The line had the Saints giving 10 and a 1/2. Turned out, a few Lions' fans were willing to bet them even-up to win. Really? Hey, a dime here and a quarter there, and the next thing you know, we're talking about real money.

Oh, may those saints keep marching in.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Miguel Cabrera and a better way

In my opinion, Matt Mowery does a first-class job (Hawkins who?) covering the Detroit Tigers for this newspaper. Here's hoping he doesn't mind too much that I'm going to heavily reference a small article he recently wrote about the outcome of Miguel Cabrera's alcohol related legal problems in Florida.

It seems Cabrera pled no-contest to DUI, which isn't an admission of guilt, but is treated the same for sentencing purposes, while the prosecution agreed to dismiss charges of resisting arrest and having an open intoxicant in the vehicle.

The sentence? No jail time. A couple grand in fines and/or court costs, a year of probation and 50 hours community service. His driver's license will be suspended for 6 months. All nice and tidy, case closed, and it sounds fair enough, right?

Hardly. Let's take a closer look. Cabrera might be able to get out of his probation if he meets the other conditions of his sentence. By the way, he can pay off his community service at $10 an hour.

The end result? Basically no punishment whatsoever. It's a joke. Cabrera made $20 million last year playing baseball. For the purposes of this argument, let's say, after taxes, he netted $15 million. Take home. Does anybody in their right mind think a $2000 fine is going to faze this guy? The pair of shoes he wore into court probably cost more than that. In HIS world, that's chump change. High priced legal-eagles to represent him? Would it surprise anybody if the Tigers were picking up the tab for those services?

Getting rid of 50 hours of community service at $10 an hour? My math says that's $500. So either Cabrera can go back to Florida and spend 50 hours cleaning up trash on the sides of roads, helping out in a soup kitchen, mowing lawns at churches, or perhaps even giving inspirational speeches to kids. Or he can throw 5 C-notes down and forget about the whole thing. What's the next rung below chump change? Decisions, decisions. Gee, I wonder what he will do?

And here's the kicker. He will have fulfilled all his sentence requirements, so his probation will likely be cancelled and he'll get his driver's license back. After almost a year of working it's way through the court system, the end result appears to amount to nothing. So what was the point? The arresting officers in Fort Pierce might as well have asked him for his autograph, swiped his booze, and chauffeured him to wherever he wanted to go.

Consider an "average" citizen in Fort Pierce, or anywhere else, for that matter, getting busted for the same crime(s). Let's assume that guy is making $20,000 a year. Let's even assume he would receive the same sentence that Cabrera did. While it's chump change to Cabrera, a $2000 fine would hurt that guy. That doesn't seem fair.

There's a better way.

Depending on the severity of the crime(s), make the fine a percentage of what they earn -- off the top. Gross income. That way rich people can't have their CPAs figuring out a way to write it off. Let's further say a certain crime was worth 5%. In Cabrera's case, that would have equated to a million bucks. Cough it up. The guy that's making $20,000 would pay a thousand bucks. The clerk/cashier is right down the hall.

That way they would both theoretically suffer the same amount of financial hurt for the same crime. Yes, I understand Joe Citizen would miss his thousand more than Cabrera would miss his million, but you have to start someplace, because the current system is somewhere between rigged and ridiculous.

But what if that citizen was amongst the millions that don't even HAVE jobs? He could be fined a million, a billion, or whatever, but he can't give what he doesn't have, and currently has no way of earning.

THAT is where community service should come into play. If nothing else, the man's got time on his hands. The alternative is to throw him in jail, house him, feed him, all at taxpayer expense, and take away any opportunity he might have had to get a job in the first place. How much sense does THAT make?

One more suggestion. When sentencing rich guys like Cabrera to community service -- forget about 50 hours they can buy out of for the price of a cheap night out. Give them, say, 2000, with the same $10 an hour opt-out clause.

If I could send a message to Cabrera, it would be this ----

Hey Miguel, you have a choice. Do you want to play baseball next year in major league parks, fly on private charters, stay in 5-star motels, and be adored by millions of your fans --  or do you want to spend it putting in 40 hour weeks at a soup kitchen in Florida?
I know you don't like it, but think of it this way, amigo. At $10 an hour, you just created another $20,000 job for a guy that needs one. You're doing your small part to help with the unemployment problem in the country that has made you rich.

Be very thankful you never had the pleasure of meeting a young lady named Kimberly Small. She's a judge, and I'm pretty sure you don't want to get to know her in an official capacity. Trust me on that one.

Say hi to Hugo for me.

UM and the Lions rule Michigan sports

I expect to catch some flak for this, but before you start thinking my very last functional neuron finally gave up the ghost -- bear with me.

First, I attended neither UM nor MSU, so I play no favorites there. I graduated from Oakland University in Rochester. Second, this is in no way meant to ignore all the other fine schools in Michigan, and the myriad of sports programs they offer, but I'm going to keep this about UM/MSU football and basketball. I'll get to the Lions later.

MSU head basketball coach Tom Izzo has built a program to be highly admired. They have a national championship, 6 Final Four appearances, are perennially a Top Ten ranked team, consistently recruit blue-chip prep hoopsters from all over the country, and, well, success breeds more success. In the meantime, UM has gone through scandals, a few head coaches that didn't work out, and dismal records. But honestly ask yourself -- if Michigan's program ever returns to prominence -- who do you think will get the spotlight?

Look at football. Under Mark Dantonio, MSU has beat UM 4 times in a row. MSU went to the Big "Ten" conference title game this year. After the disastrous RichRod era, Michigan hired a new coach, Brady Hoke, who made them at least respectable. But they only came in 3rd in the conference, while suffering yet another defeat at the hands of the Spartans. Yet.when all was said and done, UM got to play in a higher tier bowl game than MSU. More money, more exposure, more everything. I'm not saying it's right -- I'm just saying it's real. Many scribes have said UM is on it's way to reclaiming its "rightful place" at the top of the heap. So what's so righteous about UM and non-righteous about MSU? Beats me, but sometimes it seems like that's just the way it is.

Academics? Both have a lot to offer. At that, what could be more important than health? UM has a first-class teaching hospital, with a burn center likely second to none. You've likely seen many TV commercials where they boast of their prowess in specialized fields, particularly pediatric care. On the flip side -- if you just need a regular doctor for an office call, good luck finding one that came from UM.

MSU offers something different. People that love their pets will take them to a veterinarian for routine check-ups, vaccinations, heart-worm pills, etc. Unless a vet came from another state and somehow transferred their license to practice, all those people in this state went to MSU. There's lots of law schools, med schools, this schools, and that schools, but, to my knowledge, there's only one veterinary school in Michigan. (On that note, I would highly recommend Dr. Richard Hirr, his associates and staff at the Waterford Veterinary Hospital, to take good care of your 4-legged kids.) 

It all depends on what you want or need.

On the pro-level, it would seem absurd to say the Lions rule the state. They haven't won anything since -- what -- the Eisenhower administration?  But stop and think about it.

The Pistons won back to back championships in the late 80s, and another one in 2004. We celebrated all of those. The Tigers haven't won a World Series since 1984, but as Ernie Harwell used to say, hope springs eternal every year. Maybe it's because there's nothing much else to watch in the summertime, but the Tigers' faithful will always be there. Recently, they're at least competitive every year. The Red Wings have won a few Stanley Cups in the not so distant past, had parades, and it's pretty well taken for granted they will make the playoffs every year. After that, it's a crap shoot, as hockey fans know.

But the Lions rule. They always have. Even though they've been mocked and ridiculed for many years, and for many reasons, including the Ford ownership, Matt Millen, various head coaches, draft picks that were busts, and a win-loss record that approached the Washington Nationals' against the Harlem Globetrotters' only a few years ago -- the fan base has always been there simmering barely underneath the surface, year after year, like a volcano that's just trying to find a way to erupt. And look at what's happened.

In only one year, they've gone from joke to merely respectable. Fans have found their fissure to finally just let all that pent up energy, heat, and in the case of some local scribes -- gas -- go. The Lions haven't even won a single playoff game in 20 years, but people from executives on down to bar flies are talking about the Super Bowl. Maybe it will happen. I hope so, for their sake. Then again, maybe Donald Trump will stop by my house tomorrow and hand me a million dollars because he really likes this blog -- but I wouldn't bet on it.

Let's put it this way. It's highly unlikely, but if in the same sports year, the Pistons were to win the NBA championship, the Tigers the World Series, the Red Wings the Stanley Cup, and the Lions went to the Super Bowl, but got beat -- even hammered -- which do you think would inspire the most passion amongst sports fans in Michigan?

These days, sports bars are chock full of Lions' fans that will pay big bucks for drinks, and will jump up and scream at the big screen when it comes to a questionable call against their beloved team. Last year, those same people would probably have been home watching them on TV, while mumbling and grabbing another beer out of a 12 pack.

But they watched. They always watched. They always WILL watch.

It's a passion.

The Lions rule.