Thursday, June 28, 2012

Jerry Sandusky's pension

Jerry Sandusky's currently in jail. When he gets sentenced in a few months, he'll likely eventually die in prison. But then there's the matter of his pension.

For whatever reasons, it seems Sandusky's employment while at Penn State in various -- ahem -- capacities, qualifies him to receive $59,000 annually as a pension. Many are outraged.

"It's tax payers' money" they cry.
They miss the obvious. It wouldn't matter if it was 59 cents, 59 thousand, or 59 million. If that's what his tenure of employment entitled him to, and there was no "out" clause for being convicted of child molesting -- then guess what? The pension has to be paid. Unsavory as it may seem -- a deal's a deal, and it must be honored.

Now the Pennsylvania legislature wants to pass a new law to make sure something like this never happens again. That's typical of most politicians. They're normally at least a few years, and sometimes decades, behind the real world. Even if they pass such a law, there's no way they can make it retroactive to affect Sandusky's pension. At that, depending on how it's written, a court might eventually strike it down as being unconstitutional. While many think depriving Sandusky of his pension would be justified, they might want to consider what other implications such a law could have. Would there be a certain set of rules, whereby if an employee broke one of them, their employer could nullify their pension?  Who gets to make the rules? Regardless, the potential for abuse by employers can hardly be overlooked. This could become a very slippery slope.

So where will the 59K go? I doubt it will deposited in Sandusky's commissary account in prison. He'll likely be kept in some sort of isolated confinement, because given his crimes, if exposed to the "general population", his life span might become very short. For some reason, serial child molesters seem to have fatal "accidents" while in prison. Go figure.

His wife Dorothy will probably collect it, and well she should. If a woman stayed married to, and stood by a man like Sandusky for as long as she did, her nickname Dottie starts to make a little more sense, when you think about it.

Besides, $59K is chump change in the world of major college athletics. Let her have it, because she did it the old fashioned way --- she earned it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Major League All-Star voting is a fraud

Just a little while ago, yours truly was watching the game between the Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers. While I normally try my best to ignore the ads and promos between innings or during other stoppages in play during the course of a normal game -- one thing jumped out at me.

The homers of all homers announcers, Mario Impemba and Rod Allen, were urging people to vote for Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder to make the All-Star team. That in itself is fine. There's nothing wrong with asking the fans to support their home town baseball stars.

Then it happened.

Viewers were told they could vote up to 25 times a day by merely logging on to Consider the possible implications ----

If a fan votes via computer 25 times a day, and does it for a month, that's potentially 750 votes. It gets worse. Alternate screen names are certainly simple enough to create. Let's assume that same hard core fan had 3 additional computer identities. If they wanted to sit at their Mac or PC for a while, switching user IDs and voting, that 750 could turn into 3000 votes during the course of the same month. All from one fan.

And no matter how you slice it or dice it -- that's not only wrong, but getting dangerously close to being outright fraudulent. Let's not forget there's a whole lot of people out there who don't even HAVE a computer, but they might very well be just as ardent about baseball -- perhaps more than those who do. There's alternatives.

Some have suggested returning the All-Star voting to the players. They could vote for who they think is the best at each position, but not on anybody from their own team. Nobody knows the players better than the players themselves. Or -- many in the media could spew reams of stats from hell claiming to be better qualified to make the selections. Or -- it could be left in the hands of the fans. After all, in the end, they're the people that are paying for all of it.

It's a tough call. The players themselves might have biases and buddies here and there around the leagues, so that wouldn't be perfect. Letting the sports writers do it is a joke. Not only are they more likely to have biases, which many of them have shown over the years, they get the best seats in the house for free, up in the air-conditioned press box, while the real fans plunk down their hard earned money to sweat it out wherever they can afford to get a seat. If it starts raining, people either get wet, or head for cover under the stands. This is not a problem in the press box. Those people make a living talking a lot, but they're never right down in the nitty-gritty. If for that reason only -- All-Star voting should NOT be put in the hands of the media.

Again, the fans foot the bill for everything, so they should have a say-so. Yes, TV contracts add millions to the pot, but let's get real. They sell air time (commercials) to various people advertising their products but, in the end, the only way they recoup their investments is for the fans to buy the stuff they're advertising. It must work, because some of the contracts the TV people sign on for are mind-boggling. Billions.

No matter what, voting on line needs to be abolished. The potential for abuse is just too great. One guy sitting at home with a computer, that knows little about the players, could vote thousands of times, while another lady who saved up all month to go to one game -- gets one vote. Maybe. In some stadiums they'll pass out as many ballots as a fan wants. Ballot box stuffing in political elections is illegal, and so it should be in baseball. One fan, one vote. The current system is rife with corruption.

Personally, I think the players should decide. It would no longer be a popularity contest, nor would bigger market cities with more fans rule the day. How many times have we seen guys selected to the All-Star team that USED to be good, and are household names, get the nod over lesser known players that are clearly superior at their position? I dare say -- a lot.

Being an All-Star shouldn't be about what a player accomplished over the course of his career. It's supposed to be about who is performing the best at that position THIS year. Can anyone possibly objectively argue that? The players would know, and cast their ballots accordingly.

This would have another benefit. You've likely noticed that over the years, many players have been selected to the All-Star game, but decided not to participate. Various reasons have been offered. They need the rest. They want to spend time with their families. As a rule, these are the older players with long careers behind them (and the most ridiculous salaries still in effect), that got selected in the popularity contest I mentioned above. Been there, done that, and even if they show up, they won't play hard. Consequently, the All-Star game has become somewhat of a joke. All that might change for the better if it was truly the best of the best, especially if it involved some young guys that had never been there before, but were tearing it up in the first half of the season. Compensating them? Please. Those guys would probably pay for their own air fare and motel rooms just for the privilege of being there. Then they'd go out and play like Pete Rose used to.

And maybe, just maybe, it might be worth watching again like it was in the old days. You know, like when it actually mattered.....

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Derek Jeter and Larry Bird

A one day late happy 38th birthday to Derek Jeter, of the New York Yankees. It seems most people either love or hate the Bronx Bombers, but Jeter's definitely been a class act for a long time, both on and off the field. He's a first ballot shoo-in to the Hall of Fame as soon as he becomes eligible, and deservedly so.

Yours truly heard a TV talking head throw out an interesting stat today. Jeter actually has more hits at 38 than Ty Cobb did at the same age. Can that be right? Jeter might be a .300 hitter for his career, but damn, for a few years Cobb hit over .400, and his lifetime average was around .370. Beats me. I'm too lazy to look it all up right now.

Larry Bird's says he's stepping down as President of the Indiana Pacers. Many are speculating just what exactly he'll do next. Surely, it must have something to do with basketball, right? Not so fast.

Bird's an Indiana home boy from the small town of French Lick. He was recruited by legendary Indiana University head coach Bobby Knight, but Bird wasn't comfortable with that situation and went to Indiana State instead. He probably could have went anywhere -- but he stayed close to home.

As everybody knows, he was drafted by the Boston Celtics, where he went on to have a long, glorious professional career as a player. When his playing days were over, he promptly returned to Indiana and hooked up with the Pacers. Roots.

What he has accomplished in basketball is incredible. Over the years he was an NBA champion, the MVP, won an Olympic gold medal, is a Hall of Famer, was coach of the year, and is currently the reigning NBA executive of the year for how he has transformed the Pacers from doormats to contenders, while still being a young team. To my knowledge, no one can even come close to matching his entire resume.

Nobody seems to know why Bird would step down as the Pacers' President. He's a man of few words and doesn't crave the limelight like so many others. When he talks -- it matters. That's just one more reason he's so highly respected.

It's been noted that Bird's entire adult life has been devoted to basketball in either Boston or Indiana. He likely wouldn't go anywhere else for work. Yet the pundits are dumbfounded because they see no place or position for him to go in either of those two cities. He was already as high as one can get in the Pacers' organization, short of being the owner. Doc Rivers, and Danny Ainge, the head coach and Pres/GM of the Celtics, respectively, are secure, so it can't be that. What will he do next, people ask?

The answer might be very simple. Retire. And why not? Bird's done everything there is to do in the game of professional basketball, and been the best at every stop along the way. The man's 55 years old, no doubt has many millions in the bank, and loves to play golf. Sounds like a decent retirement plan to me, if he so chooses.

Besides, after a 3 decade run of being successful at everything he endeavors to do, perhaps he shouldn't push his luck. After all, Bird was born on Dec. 7, aka Pearl Harbor day.

While the chances of Tora, Tora, Tora repeating itself are about the same as Isiah Thomas ever being named executive of the year in anything, there's something far scarier Bird should worry about.

Having the occasion to play 18 holes with Charles Barkley, and being forced to watch his swing over and over and over all day long, while listening to the non-stop BS that came along with it.

Bird's not easy to rattle, but that would be enough to make a statue come out of retirement.

Anything but that.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Notre Dame and the B(C)S

It appears the people in charge of deciding the format for determining a national championship in Division 1 college football are slowly emerging from the dark ages. Well, it's about time. Though progress will no doubt happen at a glacial pace, at least there's a little movement.

As college football has evolved, the rationale and reasons for changing the current system have become obvious, most importantly -- the overwhelming majority of fans want it.

The movers and shakers that control all this have met to discuss future options, and hopefully will continue to meet. Perhaps eventually, by popular demand, they'll be dragged, kicking and screaming, into modern times.

Near as I can tell, when they gather at the round table, all the major players get one equal vote. One vote each from the representative of the Big 10, Pac 10, SEC, Notre Dame, ACC, Big 12, ........

Wait a minute. Something's very wrong with this picture. Notre Dame is just one school. How in the hell do they rate an equal say-so with other entire conferences?

Yes, they have a lot of tradition. Everything from Knute Rockne and the Gipper, to Joe Montana and  leprechauns. They also have their own lucrative TV deal worth millions.

But they're an independent. As in one. They've had offers to join conferences over the years, notably the Big 10, but steadfastly turned them down. They want to call their own shots. That's fine, but as just one school, it's outrageous they get a seat at the same table to decide the future of the BCS.

The thought here is -- this Touchdown Jesus thing has gotten out of control. TJ needs to be sacked in his own end zone for the "safety" of all other college football fans that aren't addicted to the Lucky Charms they're shooting up in South Bend.

Or -- in the words of the immortal Glenn "Bo" Schembechler ----

The hell with Notre Dame.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

How the Detroit Pistons stack up

If you watched the NBA Finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the eventual champion Miami Heat, I dare say you saw a lot of ridiculously talented athletes playing the game at it's highest level. That was great stuff.

Given potential free agency, salary caps, and the like, one never knows how long the "cores" of those teams might remain intact, but if they do for a few years, it would not bode well for the rest of the teams in the NBA. Lebron and Co. in Miami no doubt want to win multiple championships, and they very well might. On the other hand, Kevin Durant and the other young guns from OKC got their first sniff of being a champion, and they will likely be back with a vengeance.

After all, who's going to stop them? In the East, the Celtics are definitely getting old, and the Bulls depend on the fragile health of Derrick Rose, but even with him still seem to be a tad shy of championship caliber. The Pacers are the wild card. They're young, very good, will likely get better, and have been flying under the radar. Yet does any neutral observer think they'll pose a serious threat to the Heat in the near future? I doubt it.

In the West, the Spurs exhibit the ultimate in team play, but they're getting old too. The youthful legs of the Thunder exposed that and eventually ran them out of the gym. The previous defending champion Dallas Mavericks have taken a giant step backwards as well. In LA, despite all the celebrities and media hoopla, Kobe Bryant and the artists formerly known as "show time", are quickly becoming second class citizens. Former coach Phil Jackson, the Zen Master himself, is gone and won't be coming back. The Lakers will have a hard enough time staving off the once doormat, but now up and coming Clippers, that they share the same building with -- let alone seriously challenge the Thunder in the next few years.

Yep, if the Heat and Thunder stay healthy and intact, the Finals might very well feature those same two teams for the next few years.

So where do the Detroit Pistons stack up in all this?

The short answer would be -- they don't -- not even close, nor will they be any time soon.

Again, though it was only 5 games, remember the intensity of the Finals between the Thunder and the Heat. Just for grins, pick either of those two teams and imagine the Pistons playing against them under the same circumstances. Come up with whatever words you wish, but sweep, blowouts, and embarrassment occur to yours truly. That would have been seriously ugly.

Yes, the Pistons are getting better, but they're light years away from competing at an NBA championship level. How far away is that? Take the top 2 or 3 Pistons players, and they might, repeat MIGHT, make the roster of teams such as OKC or Miami as being available to come off the bench, but they certainly wouldn't be starters, and might be lucky to see any game action at all.

The guy responsible for the Pistons' personnel is Joe Dumars, once a great Piston player and champion himself. Joe D has made some very shrewd moves over the years, but also a couple bone-headed blunders. Joe's a good man, doing much for the community as well. But in the end, the team he has currently built has ZERO chance of competing for a title in the next several years.

Watching a Pistons' game at the Palace in Auburn Hills is a good time. Those guys put on a great show and are the best hoopsters in town. But see it for what it really is, because there's a few other towns where the teams are vastly superior.

And it's not even a close call.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Jerry Sandusky. Guilty!!!

The jury has spoken. Sandusky was found guilty on 45 out of 48 counts relating to various sexual abuses of young boys in years past.

While countless others will write and talk about this tragedy in serious tones, somebody has to have the audacity and/or unmitigated gall to spoof it. Given the gravity of the situation, some might say only an insensitive jackass with the brains of a dandelion would do such a thing. I would agree, and welcome to my world. Onward.

Sandusky, currently 68, could potentially face 442 years in prison. That's a long time. Back in 1670, 442 years ago, George Washington hadn't even been born yet, though there are rumors that Regis Philbin began talking at approximately that time.

Things look mighty bleak for Sandusky right about now, but perhaps there's a bright side. If he gets sentenced to 442 years in prison, he'll likely be eligible for parole after a couple hundred, and surely Larry King will get the first exclusive interview upon his release.

Then again, maybe it won't come to that. Nobody knows what sentence the judge will hand down. Just a thought, but if Judge Cleland dispenses with jail time, and merely mandates Sandusky to perform a few hundred hours of community service benefiting neighborhood youths -- there's a possibility many would be outraged. No sense of humor -- those people.

Poor Piers Morgan. He's the Brit with a nightly hour-long show on CNN. When the verdicts came in, but had yet to be made public, Morgan's hour was getting towards the end. He had to twist in the wind, eventually going off the air and giving way to Anderson Cooper, who would get the major "scoop" by announcing the verdicts. Was it planned that way or tape-delayed for a few minutes? We'll never know, but while the chap from "across the pond" is quite likeable, let's not forget Cooper comes from the Vanderbilt family. Vanderbilts have historically seemed to have a way with getting whatever they want.

It was also interesting to hear an attorney representing one of the "victims", before the verdicts were announced. Asked if a Sandusky "not guilty" verdict would be a "hammer blow", he responded, not necessarily. Then he went on to reference the OJ murder trial, where Simpson was acquitted of criminal charges, but the ensuing civil suits of "wrongful death" were successful.

And there it was.

The money. Eventually, it's always about the money. The guilty verdicts made it easier for them, but make no mistake. These people were lying in wait like a school of hungry piranhas in the Amazon. By the time they're done, the Sandusky bones will likely be picked clean.

Seriously, that begs another question. Chances are, Jerry will never get out of prison. He'll get his "3 hots and a cot" until he dies. His house, furniture, bank accounts, cars, investments, and whatever other belongings he accumulated over his lifetime are irrelevant -- at least to him.

But what of his wife Dottie, and even his kids/grandkids? No one has remotely suggested any of them were in any way responsible for his crimes. Yet, when the piranhas get done, they might find themselves homeless, broke, and with nothing left to inherit.

Is that fair?

Food for thought.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

NBA Finals, ETs, and a chump

First, congrats to the Miami Heat, the 2012 NBA Champions. Though they will proclaim themselves as such, and all the caps, shirts, and other paraphernalia that will shortly fly off the shelves will say the same -- you'll notice I didn't say World Champions.  That's because outside of the NBA, no other teams the world over were allowed to participate. Could the Heat have dispatched any other team from any other country? Probably, but we really don't know, do we? So in reality, they're NBA champs, not world champs.

It was good to see Lebron finally get his ring for a couple reasons. First, at least some of the enormous expectations he has had to endure since jumping from high school to the NBA have been lifted from his shoulders. Far more importantly, we average fans will be spared the on-going tera-quinta-bazillion sound bytes and written words about James never reaching his potential. It's been a long haul, but we made it. Whew.

We even got to see what Micky Arison, the owner of the Heat, looks like. Arison made his fortune through Carnival Corporation, the world's largest cruise ship operator. Though he officially goes by the title "managing general partner", don't be fooled. He owns that team, lock, stock, and ports of call. Arison lives on a 200 foot yacht. To put that in perspective, the strongest armed NFL quarterbacks could wind up and heave a football as far as they could and they might, just might, be able to throw it from stem to stern. That's a serious boat.

Nevertheless, just seeing Arison's face was a revelation. For many years, yours truly wondered if he actually existed as a real human being. Could the name just be fictitious? Could he have been from another world like ET, Mr. Spock, and maybe the Kardashians? Nobody could be sure. I understand billionaires have a habit of being reclusive, but when one is in charge of the Carnival, ahem, the Heat, you'd think he'd have shown up once in a while, if only to reassure the masses. Another dilemma solved. Whew II.

Of course, after the Heat won the NBA championship, the talking heads went on and on dissecting every stat and trivial detail to the point it would make a microbiologist proud. Hey guys. The Heat won. The Thunder lost. Does any of the rest really matter?

Then I saw Stuart Scott, another talking head under the Disney owned ESPN and ABC umbrella, doing a post-game interview with Mike Miller, a Miami player who had come off the bench and pumped in seven 3-point shots during the game. Simply put, the Heat might not have won that game without Miller's contributions -- 23 points in all.

At the conclusion of the interview, Miller, a white guy, stuck out his hand for Scott, a black guy, to shake it. Men have shaken hands for countless centuries upon greeting each other, departing, or merely a gesture of respect.

Sure, many other forms have arisen. There's high fives, low fives, chest, side, and butt bumps, dancing, and a lot of other things.

But when a man extends his hand to another to be shaken -- it's supposed to be grasped and shaken. This goes to the very roots of respecting your fellow man.

Scott looked down at Miller's outstretched hand and smirked, instead merely offering a token fist bump. Arguments could likely be made by some that had the colors been reversed, the dreaded "racism" accusation might have reared it's ugly head. The hard cores are out there just waiting to pounce on such a thing.

I won't say that, but not shaking Miller's hand when offered made Scott look like something else in my book.

A chump.

Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Jerry Sandusky

Roger Clemens was acquitted of all the charges against him. The feds blew yet another one, along with countless millions of our taxpayer dollars. Did Clemens really use performance enhancing drugs and lie about it? I have no idea, nor do I care. Only the most close-minded cynics could possibly doubt his greatness over the course of his 24 year career, the vast majority of which occurred before such things were even available.

Yet there are those that say they still oppose Clemens being enshrined in baseball's  Hall of Fame. Evidently they have more incriminating information at their disposal than Clemens' jury was made privy to over 9 weeks of testimony in his trial. Either that, or such people are incapable of being objective, and would rather attempt to impose their own set of "principles", and I use the word loosely, on others.

The same goes for Barry Bonds. Let's not forget that after years of being dragged through the muck by prosecutors, the only thing he was convicted of was a minor obstruction of justice charge. Like Clemens, the feds couln't convince Bonds' jury either that he had used PEDs. The sentence? 30 days home confinement -- in his own mansion. I don't know whether Bonds actually used the "cream", the "clear", and whatever else either. There's something far more important afoot.

In America, it's an old adage that one is "presumed innocent until proven guilty". Neither Clemens nor Bonds was found guilty of any drug related charges. Therefore, the law itself says they must continued to be presumed innocent. How phrases such as "not guilty" and "acquitted" somehow crept into existence, while "innocent" goes out the window forever upon merely being charged with a crime, would seem to contradict the law. Innocent going in -- not convicted -- should be innocent coming out. But it doesn't work that way anymore -- does it?

Certainly, we all have our own prejudices here and there about various things. It's human nature. Only a liar would deny that. Yet it becomes offensive when the very people we trust to provide us information -- the media -- start to show their prejudices in what they write or say publicly. Sure, there's always going to be radical whack-jobs on both the left and right spewing their venom, but dammit, the "mainstream media" is supposed to be objective, and not let their own inner biases outshine the issue itself when they are presenting it to the public.

That especially holds true when such folks have a "say-so" in whether a great athlete like Clemens or Bonds gets elected to the Hall of Fame. Many of them get a vote. The numbers these guys put up suggest a no-brainer. For various reasons, no other future pitcher will ever surpass Clemens' 354 career wins. A-Rod of the Yankees, himself somewhat implicated in PEDs, has a shot at surpassing Bonds' record of 762 home runs, but after that, it will never be approached again. Like Cal Ripken's 2632 record of consecutive games played -- it's a simple matter of longevity. Players don't play that long anymore.

We can throw Pete Rose into the discussion. He's the all-time hit leader in major league history -- another record that will never be approached. No PEDs for Pete, but alas, he bet on baseball. Never on his own team to lose, mind you, but rather win. Yours truly is yet to understand what was so terribly wrong with that, but many in the media needed only to hear the word "gambling" and somehow decided Rose was akin to the infamous Chicago Black Sox of 1919. (By the way, after hearing all the so-called evidence, a court eventually completely exonerated Shoeless Joe Jackson and his teammates of any wrong-doing, but the public perception of guilt remains to this day -- and that's just wrong). Even though Rose was "banned" from baseball, hence ineligible for the Hall of Fame, every year when it came time for ballots to be cast, some pundits with their own agendas would spout off about how he didn't deserve it. An objective person might ask -- well gee, if Rose isn't even on the ballot, then what's the point of ranting about their reasons for not voting for him?

Thing is -- Rose is going into Cooperstown eventually. He may not live to see it, but it will happen someday -- because it has to. Personally, I didn't, and don't care much for Rose as a man, but I certainly respect him for what he accomplished on the field of play. The all-time hits leader not in the Hall of Fame? Are you kidding me?

Yet some will persistently disagree. They remain subjective rather than objective -- a cardinal sin in journalism. Shame on them.

As I write this, Jerry Sandusky's jury is about to go into deliberations to decide whether he molested young boys years ago. Did he do it? Beats me. I wasn't there and didn't hear the testimony. Contrary to what many think -- he's still presumed innocent unless and until the jury comes back and says "guilty". Like most of you, I'm only privy to what the talking head analysts have been saying on TV. In this corner, we have Marcia Clarke, advocate for the prosecution, and if I remember right, the same prosecutor that many thought bungled the OJ Simpson murder trial. In the other corner, we have some guy that seems to make a living giving commentary but nobody knows the last time he was an active attorney in a courtroom. Those who can -- do. Those who can't -- preach.

Unlike so many others, I would never have drawn any conclusions about Sandusky's guilt or innocence until the jury has spoken. Isn't that the way it should be?

But many others don't see it that way. These are the same people that will gladly accept various awards for "hard-biting" journalism which involved tearing up somebody's else's life, and will even brag about them. If the "accused" is eventually exonerated, these people will never ever write or utter a retraction saying they were wrong and apologizing. Oh no. They'll just look around for their next target to smear, regardless of what people with all the relevant information at their disposal have decided.

In a perfect world, some agency would come along that put those reporters and talking heads under the very same microscope they put others. What could be fairer than that?

That probably won't happen anytime soon, but here's at least hoping for a little more objectivity and a lot less personal agendas.

Is that asking too much?


Monday, June 18, 2012

A Las Vegas fairy tale

While the following will start out on a factual basis, it will eventually lead into the world of fantasy. A fairy tale, if you will. It didn't happen, and like Goldilocks and the Three Bears or Hansel and Gretel, it's highly unlikely such a thing will ever come true.

But imagine if it did.

Last weekend, Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley squared off in Las Vegas for a boxing showdown with Pacquiao's championship belt(s) on the line. When the fight was over, seemingly everyone who witnessed the bout assumed Pacquiao had "decisioned" Bradley by a wide margin. All the ringside reporters, boxing analysts, the announcers, and subsequently most talking heads and scribes that watched it on TV would echo the same sentiment. Everybody knew Bradley had lost.

Even Bradley. Chris Mannix, of Sports Illustrated, penned an article in this week's issue that said Bradley, after the fight was over, but before the scores were announced, was talking in the ring to Bob Arum, his promoter. According to Mannix, Bradley told Arum that he knew he had come up short. It seemed everybody knew the obvious, except for 2 of the 3 judges that scored the fight. As you know, a very controversial split decision was awarded to Bradley. Even Arum himself was outraged at the verdict. Of course, Arum is also Pacquiao's promoter, so make of that what you will.

Upon hearing the decison, Bradley, being the honorable young man that he is -- did something extraordinary. Knowing he had been beaten fair and square, Bradley refused to take the belts, walked across the ring, held up Pacquiao's hand, and proclaimed him to STILL be a worthy champion.

The world blinked in disbelief. Talking heads and scribes went berserk trying to figure it out. What could possibly possess an athlete to deny himself a win? Had he become mentally unstable? Could he present a threat to society?

Talk show hosts immediately booked the world's most eminent psychiatric gurus to get their opinion on such a bizarre act. Some suggested that Bradley should be confined until he could be thoroughly examined for weeks to determine if he's mentally competent. Various boxing authorities put his license to fight on hold pending the outcome of such treatment. Luminaries from all the major networks ratcheted up the pressure for an in-depth interview with Bradley. Mad magazine did a spoof on crazy boxers. Editorial cartoonists had a field day. The US Senate convened another one of their "special" sessions, and Bradley was hauled before them to be grilled for hours by a bunch of people that wouldn't know a left hook from a left turn.

But in the end -- it turned out Bradley was very much OK. As he would say later, "It was just the honorable thing to do".

Millions of children the world over, that will someday become notable athletes themselves, were paying attention and learned a life-lesson. A new trend quickly went viral. It's cool to be honorable.

The end.

Imagine that.

Doing such a thing probably never occurred to Bradley, but maybe someday the light bulb will go on with somebody that can make a major statement by setting an example.

Everybody living happily ever after in the sporting world is never going to happen, but a little more honor surely couldn't hurt.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Whatever happened to honor?

Look around. After the prep (high school) level, how much honor is left in sports these days? My observation is -- not much. The erosion of that once valued principle seems to begin in college and only grows far worse in the pros.

In basketball and hockey, players routinely take "dives" trying to draw a call from the refs for a foul that never happened. No honor.

Football players are notorious for using whatever dirty tactics they think they can get away with. No honor.

Even the once "civilized" sport of tennis has badly digressed over the years. It started with the men hollering, throwing temper tantrums and rackets on the court, and mixing in a few obscenities here and there over calls they didn't agree with. Now the women are doing it too. The honor is gone.

Baseball is a little different, but still the same in some ways. While it's tough to get away with "cheating" in baseball, players now routinely argue close plays with the umpire that made the call. Certainly the umps are fallible, and will blow one here and there, but for the most part they get them right. The point is -- other than managers -- players didn't used to go ballistic on the field over a call they didn't like. They do now. Managers have always been a breed unto themselves. For some unknown reason, it became woven into the thread of baseball that managers are expected to charge out on to the field, scream, spit, throw their caps, kick dirt, gesture wildly, and otherwise act like 12 year old filthy rich kids that somebody finally said no to. That's never been honorable. It's always been bratty kid stuff, but somehow we've come to not only accept it, but enjoy and applaud it. Shame on us.

Perhaps golf is the last bastion of honor and decorum in sports. The PGA has more rules than the IRS manual, but the players do their best to abide by them. No way can they cheat, nor would they even attempt to. Every move they make is closely scrutinized not only by the officials on the course, but also millions of people watching on TV. When a golfer inadvertently commits an infraction -- even though he/she might not have been aware of it at the time -- hundreds of emails and texts will pour in from the couch "stool pigeons" alerting the people in charge of what they might have missed. While golf is still an honorable game for the most part, from kids to pros, none other than the famed Tiger Woods may have started a downward spiral. Nobody used to throw clubs or curse on the course. It was a gentleman's game. Eldrick started all that. Ask yourself this --- given that Tiger has inspired a whole new generation of young golfers to take up the game -- doesn't it seem likely they will emulate such bad behavior as well? This is not a good omen for the future of golf. Further, will the ladies be far behind and also see their honor and decorum slip-slide away? I sure hope not, but they eventually probably will. We can thank Tiger for peeing in the pool in front of all the kids. He'll hop on his Lear and jet away to somewhere else, but now the local kids might think it's cool to do the same thing. It's not. And a little bit more honor is lost.

Other than pro wrestling, which was always a joke, pro boxing takes the cake when it comes to lack of honor. From seedy promoters, to incompetent judges, to maybe even the "fix" being in, boxing has been a very shady world for a very long time. The popularity of the sport has taken a nose-dive over the last couple decades. They need a few genuine heroes to rally around to possibly revive the sport.

There was a perfect opportunity missed just a few days ago that might have started just that.

Next time.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tiger Woods and God

Despite all the adulation and worship coming from his seemingly billions of fans around the world --  I'm pretty sure Eldrick (Tiger) Woods isn't really God himself. If I'm wrong about that, two things come immediately to mind. First, I've been praying to and asking forgiveness from the wrong entity for my entire life. Secondly, given all the satire and lampooning I've done regarding Woods over the years -- I'm in big trouble for a very long time when judgement day arrives.

Even though his hard core faithful on courses scream out, "You da man", I don't think he's really
THE MAN. Yet sometimes it seems like he at least has access to some of the Almighty's "inner circle"  of favorite sons -- particularly Moses. I'll get back to that.

Tiger's a great golfer. No doubt about it. Besides his obvious physical talents for the game, he's like Thomas Edison in a way, at least on a golf course. When it comes to making difficult shots, Woods sees things that others would never even imagine. Then he not only invents them -- but makes them work. Here's giving all due credit to Woods for certainly being the best all-around golfer on the planet for the last 15 years or so, and he might well be the best ever, though many would dispute that at this point in time.

But he's also incredibly lucky.

Ever played golf? I did, for decades, until a bad disc in my back retired me. I never broke 40 for 9 holes, or 85 for 18 on the "easy" public courses, let alone a PGA set-up, but it was fun. If you're anything like me, you've likely discovered that whoever's in charge "upstairs" didn't smile on us like they do Tiger.

In a pro-golf tournament, like the US Open going on right now, after a couple days of practice and a couple rounds of the tournament itself -- fairways have literally hundreds of divots from the players hitting iron shots. Hitting out of a divot makes the shot much harder. Many players' balls will settle into one them and they have to deal with it. Somehow Tiger's ball never seems to find one of them.

I've seen Tiger hit errant tee shots into the woods, have them bounce off a couple trees, and carom back into the fairway. That ever happen to you? I doubt it. Hit it into the woods and that ball's history. You might find a few others while poking around the poison ivy, critters, and lord knows what else, but it's never YOUR ball, is it?

Of course, on the PGA tour, there's not a whole lot of poison ivy and critters going on, but there's certainly heavily wooded areas. If you or I hit a ball there, it would either get snagged in a tree like the whale swallowed Jonah, or likely come to rest approximately one millimeter from the tree trunk itself. Jonah eventually got out. Our balls didn't.

Not Tiger. He can hit it into the same dense cluster of trees, but like Moses parting the Red Sea, he always seems to have an opening for his next shot. Concidence and dumb luck are one thing -- but after so many such occurrences it leaves one to wonder about Divine intervention.

Be skeptical if you wish about all that, but in the 3rd round of the US Open in San Francisco -- something very bizarre occurred. Remember, this was being televised by NBC, as major as major networks get. Few would doubt that NBC has the latest and greatest in TV technology. From cameras, to audio, to various satellites, to multiple back-up systems, and a lot of other things I'm ignorant about -- they have the best equipment available. And this is the US Open -- a big deal in the never ending battle for ratings.

The weather was clear in San Francisco, and also where I live. There should have been no problems with satellite "dish" feeds to our TVs.

Yet on the 18th hole, from a yard or so off the green, Tiger Woods hit a shot that even an announcer called "embarrassing".  He chumped a chip shot and wound up in worse shape than before. Most of us duffers could have done better than that.

Before the ball even came to rest -- it happened. Pictures on TVs started flickering and rolling, with a bunch of static mixed in. It was like we got time-warped back to the Outer Limits or Altered States. I thought flickering, rolling, and static went out with tubes and knobs on TVs. Given the perfect conditions, all the technology and back- up systems, this would seem to be impossible. But it happened.

Could the Almighty himself have been briefly showing his displeasure at such a thing? I surely think He has more important things to consider than a poorly played chip shot by some golfer.

Tiger's in the hunt to win the US Open. 4 shots back, I think, heading into Sunday's final round. He might pull it off.

Tell you what, though. If he misses a 1 foot putt on the 18th green, it costs him the championship, and all our TVs spontaneously combust -- we should be scared.

Very scared.

NASCAR and Indy. Who's the wimps?

NASCAR's Sprint Cup racers are at Michigan International Speedway this week. Though MIS is only 2 miles in length, a half-mile shorter than the famed Indy track, it's much higher banked in the turns, which means race speeds are typically faster than what goes on when they visit the "Brickyard".

(An aside. People watching on TV, or even in attendance, can't fully appreciate the "banking" at MIS. Several years ago, through a Shriner sponsored event, yours truly and a pack of others were able to take their Harleys out on the track to run a few laps. Those turns are much steeper than they appear. By necessity, a minimum speed of 60-70 MPH was required to get through them, or else the sheer slope and gravity might become a problem. Some of us twisted the throttle to kick our speed up well into triple digits -- because we could. No speed limit, no cops, a very wide (for bikers) high banked smooth surface -- and why not? Not sure if that's the coolest thing I was ever able to participate in -- but it's in the Top 5.)

Recently, the folks at MIS resurfaced the whole track, which has made it even faster yet. Some of the cars are turning practice laps at over 200 MPH. Of course, as the "rubber" gets laid down on the surface over time, it will make the track a little slicker -- hence slower -- and speeds during the actual race will likely be considerably less than 200. Nevertheless, somebody blinked.

Greg Biffle, known to be a "hard charger", expressed concerns about the speeds, and how they might be pushing the envelope regarding safety. So far, other drivers seemed to have kept such possible concerns to themselves, but if they feel anything like Biffle -- there's a name for them. Wimps.

Let's not forget that in NASCAR racing, one car side-swiping another in a race is a common occurrence. They call it "swapping paint". No harm, no foul. Faster cars routinely ram into the back of slower cars, to get them out of the way. That's called a "bump". It's just a part of their racing. Scraping the outside wall isn't necessarily a big deal. In fact, at some tracks, the majority of cars will experience exactly that during the course of the race, but it doesn't deter them. There's a reason the phrase "Darlington stripe" has become famous in the NASCAR world.

That's what sets Indy car drivers far apart from their distant NASCAR kinfolk. Indy car drivers don't complain about high speeds. In their world, 200 MPH on an oval means you're going home -- because you weren't fast enough to qualify. If they swap paint -- both cars are gone. They might be able to occasionally "tickle" the outside wall and race on, but any serious contact means their done. I don't have to elaborate on what would happen if a faster Indy car deliberately rammed into the back of a slower one to gain track position.

So let's see if I have this right. Sprint Cup racers can basically play bumper cars. On occasion, one driver can intentionally wreck another due to some sort of feud or "payback", and race on. They're surrounded by hundreds of pounds of reinforced sheet metal in their machines, but when the speeds get up over 200 MPH -- some of them have safety concerns?  Please.

Indy car drivers would scoff at that. If they have contact with another car or a wall -- they're history. They're surrounded by carbon fiber car bodies that obliterate when an accident occurs. Most importantly, you've never heard an Indy car driver whine about having to go too fast. You name the track, and Indy cars will run a whole lot faster than the best NASCAR is capable of. The only concern I ever heard from the Indy folks was at the Texas Speedway a few years ago. Shorter, but similar to MIS regarding high banking, the Indy cars were pushing the envelope to the point where "G-forces" became a problem. Evidently, they were going through the turns so fast the drivers were approaching the point of blacking out. Now THAT was a legitimate concern.

No doubt Sprint Cup racing is infinitely more popular these days than Indy car racing. Certainly many former Indy car drivers have jumped to NASCAR, but I would suspect that all boils down to money, fame and exposure, endorsements -- the usual bag of tricks.

But when it comes to pure racing, and no fear of flat-out going fast -- there's really no comparison.

Whining about going 200 MPH?

So much for the "good ole boys".

They're starting to sound a little wimpy.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Who's doing drugs anyway?

Running back Mikel Leshoure of the Detroit Lions got caught a couple times with weed a while back, and besides whatever legal consequences become of that, was just suspended by the NFL for the first two games of the upcoming season for violating their substance abuse policy. Sounds about right. In a twist yours truly never heard of before -- he also has to forfeit two more game checks. Unless I'm missing something here, that means he'll be playing two games for free. Assuming he's physically able to play, no given, it might be interesting to see what kind of workload the Lions give him -- and how hard he tries. Leshoure might be wise to  "step it up" if and when he gets a chance in real games, playing gratis or not, or all that supposed "potential" might get run out of town faster than you can spell B-U-S-T.

In their not so infinite wisdom the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) has decided to once again go after former cycling legend Lance Armstrong. Just the allegations have resulted in Armstrong being banned from competing in triathlons -- his latest passion. How ridiculously unfair is that? Some faceless bureaucrats accuse somebody of something, and before a shred of supposed evidence is presented -- they get kicked out of their sport? 

Nevermind that Armstrong's been retired from competitive cycling for many years, and passed over 500 drug tests when he was an active participant. Like Barry Bonds a while back, and Roger Clemens right now -- the only people that seem to care about forever dredging up the past looking for some dirt on their target of the month -- are federal agencies. Perhaps the relentless, though seemingly clueless, people behind these never-ending persecutions should be drug tested themselves. Check them for meth, speed, K2, Spice, and LSD usage. Maybe even crack. They're obviously whacked out on something that makes them either aggressive or downright off-the-wall.

Though I don't partake, in a perfect world, maybe the best thing that could happen would be forcing these people to smoke a little high grade cannabis themselves. That might mellow them out a bit, and perhaps they would stop trying to ruin people's lives, finances, and reputations over things most of us couldn't care less about anyway. (Idle thought: while we're at it, make every Republican and Democratic politician from the federal down to local level, have a 3 joint minimum per day. Though we might wind up with some amusing laws, at least it would stop the incessant partisan, childish bickering and gridlock. Everybody would get along just fine. Maybe not a bad trade off.)

Further, "anti" drug test them. If they DON'T come up positive for weed, suspend them without pay for a few weeks and send them off to a clinic somewhere. Not sure what an "anti" rehab center would consist of, but whatever it is -- these bullies would have had it coming.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Terry Bradshaw and Mike Tyson

There's cool, and then there's not cool.

I dare say most American sports fans know who Terry Bradshaw is. He won a few Super Bowls as the QB of the Pittsburgh Steelers back in the 70s and, oh my, what a character he still is to this day. From being a panelist on an NFL pre-game show to occasionally appearing on the late night talk show circuit, the man's good humor is infectious. He's not only funny, but actually seems to relish being the butt of other people's jokes. Bradshaw laughs at himself far more than he does others, and that's a very rare commodity these days. How can anybody not like him?

He just made another appearance on Leno's Tonight Show, where him and Jay were yukking it up as usual. Yet, this time he brought along his daughter Rachel, a beautiful young lady and an aspiring singer and songwriter. At the very end of the show, dad and daughter sang a duet. As they crooned away, the mutual love for each other in their eyes was not only obvious, but heart warming. And the singing itself? It was good -- REALLY good. The live crowd gave them a well deserved standing O.

That was definitely cool.

Earlier, I had witnessed Iron Mike Tyson trying his own attempt at singing. This is not to say Mr. Tyson's skills as a vocalist aren't so hot, and perhaps it was just a coincidence, but some very strange things happened around here when his singing started to come out of the speakers. My yorkies charged up the stairs and hid under the bed. I don't know if my neighbors were tuned into the same channel, but I could faintly hear their dogs barking and cats screeching from inside their houses. Somewhere off in the distance mournful howls could be heard -- like wolves baying at the moon. The fish in my aquarium started trying to burrow into the pea gravel at the bottom of the tank. The flue to the fireplace snapped open all by itself and the toilets flushed. And since when do all the birds start chirping in the middle of the night? Very strange indeed.

But definitely NOT cool.

Quick hits

Congrats to the LA Kings for winning the Stanley Cup. Just goes to show ya that seeding doesn't mean jack when the NHL playoffs start.

Also congrats to Rafael Nadal for winning the French Open yet again. What is it with him and clay courts anyway? The dude's virtually unbeatable on that surface.

Much was made about the slip-sliding away Detroit Tigers fattening up a bit on their current series with the "woebegone, hapless, perhaps the worst team in baseball",  Chicago Cubs. The Cubs just knocked them off in the first game, in no small part due to the Tigers woebegone, hapless play of their own. How many different ways can you say "one good pitcher, two good hitters, the rest mediocre at best, koolaid, and overrated"?

Hard to believe, but Kobe Bryant of the LA Lakers may shortly become irrelevant. Sure, Kobe turning 34 in a couple months doesn't exactly make him old by NBA standards, but what's going on in Oklahoma City with their Thunder reshapes the landscape. The Thunder is already superior to the Lakers, and all their "big guns" are under 25 years old. Despite all the glitter and celebrities, "Showtime" seems to have moved to Oklahoma City. The Thunder are ridiculously skilled and athletic, have a great coach, and if their front office can somehow keep them together, while adding another player here and there, despite future potential free agency and the salary cap -- this could be a dynasty in the making. No doubt Kobe will eventually be a Hall-of-Famer, but if this plays out, he'll never get anywhere close to sniffing another championship.

Something's wrong. The US (golf) Open is going to start tomorrow in San Francisco, and we haven't been bombarded yet with Tiger Woods' highlights from years and tournaments past? I always thought that was mandatory programming for some reason. But not to worry, faithful Eldrickoids. From the minute your hero steps onto the first tee, until the last putt is holed on Sunday afternoon, it will be the Tiger show. It always is. Every shot he hits and everything he does will be shown live, and replayed a few hundred times. For days. And if he wins -- it will go on for weeks -- maybe months, or even years. John Lennon of the Beatles once said, "We're more popular than Jesus". Eldrick seems to be the same way amongst a lot of golf fans, for reasons I'll never understand.

Obviously, ESPN is reaching out to a global audience. How else to explain their recent coverage of the European soccer playoffs? That's great, but other than prep players and their soccer moms, more people in America are into foosbol than futbol. Betcha their North American Nielsen ratings aren't so hot.

At this time a year ago, the Dallas Mavericks were crowned NBA champions, having defeated Lebron James and the Miami Heat. This year, after management/union strife to reach an agreement, the season was supposedly "condensed". In other words, they tried to cram as many games into the season as they possibly could, which was beneficial to owners' bottom lines, but tough on the players, with so many games jammed into a shortened schedule. So the question becomes -- if the season was "condensed", then why will it last 2 weeks longer than it ever did in the past? OKC and Miami are just getting started in the finals. If it goes the full 7 games, we're getting close to July. How long is enough?

Then again, if they could stretch it out just a few more weeks, that would get us into the NFL preseason. In popularity, comparing the NFL to the NBA would be like comparing a T-Rex to a gerbil. There can only be one king, and his name isn't Lebron. Besides, we wouldn't have to be bored with nothing else to watch besides the dog-days of baseball. Too expensive, too hot to go cook in a stadium, and even certain columnists will tell you the games don't matter until September -- though I've never understood that logic either. I thought they all counted the same.

In a few days, after a marathon "show-trial", the jurors in the Roger Clemens case will finally be able to deliberate, render their verdict, and go home to resume the lives they had before they got dragged into this mess in the first place. Or will they?  What happens if they become a "hung jury" and can't reach a verdict? The judge would have to declare another mistrial. Would the prosecutors dare to insist on a third trial, while spending a few more million tax-payer dollars just because some guy supposedly lied to a bunch of politicians in the first place? The feds are a persistent bunch, but one would think even they would have the common sense not to pursue such a thing. They'd get eaten alive by negative popular sentiment.

The Jerry Sandusky trial about child molesting just started, and it got ugly in a hurry. Now young men giving graphic testimony about how they were allegedly sexually victimized by Sandusky years ago. Like the Clemens trial, this will likely drag on for many weeks. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will both muddy the waters through various means trying to sway the jury. Like most other high profile trials, the prosecution will put people on the "witness" stand to say one thing -- and the defense will attempt to shred their credibility. It's not about justice anymore. It's about thoroughly researching the 12 men and women in the jury box, and saying or doing whatever it takes to get them to agree with you. Justice took a hike a long time ago. Now it's about winning and losing. Period.

Oh yeah. Oklahoma City won Game 1 of the NBA Finals over the Miami Heat, in convincing fashion. But I've maintained for months that this is Lebron's year.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Was Pacquiao/Bradley "fixed"?

That would seem to be a very interesting question. After all, professional boxing has never exactly been known for its ethics. There's been some very shady goings-on over the years, to say the least.

In the Pacquiao/Bradley bout, most boxing analysts had Pacquiao winning 10 rounds out of 12. Though he never came close to knocking Bradley down, people who keep track of such stats said Pacquiao hit Bradley about 100 times more than Bradley hit him. I dare say most who watched it would agree that Manny won handily. Promoter Bob Arum was outraged at the result, even though, oddly enough, he promotes both fighters.
And let's not forget, right or wrong, it's always been an unwritten rule in boxing that a challenger has to beat the champ convincingly to take his title(s). That didn't happen by any stretch of the imagination.

Two ringside judges scored the bout 115-113 for Bradley, while the third scored it 115-113 for Pacquiao. Other than Bradley fans, most were shocked the tallies were even that close.

That's where the plot thickens. After the fight, Manny didn't seem the least bit upset with the result, even though he apparently "was robbed". That seemed strange. He said it would only make him better for the rematch, which is supposed to happen in November.

But wait a second. Allegedly, the rematch was only agreed to by the camps of both fighters, and the boxers themselves, mere hours before they both climbed in the ring in Las Vegas. They signed on for this fight several months ago, and agreed to a rematch just hours before it began, which resulted in a huge upset? Hmmm.

Actually, in the the world of boxing, it makes sense. Had Pacquiao got the victory he evidently deserved, Bradley, no longer undefeated and not exactly a household name, would have been thrown back into the pack of other contenders to slug it out for another possible title shot. There's some tough customers out there Bradley hasn't fought yet, and there would be no guarantee he could get through them for another crack at a championship.

But with the "fix" for the rematch mysteriously appearing at the 11th hour, and Bradley somehow being declared the winner of the fight -- it sets up another superbout that people the world over will highly anticipate. Cha-ching, in a large way, perhaps the biggest ever.

I suspect Manny will put a beating on Timothy in November. If that happens, there has to be a "rubber match" -- right? Did I mention cha-ching?  Yet there's a couple things I could never understand..

Manny's a native Filipino. So why does he train for the last month or so before a big fight in LA? Further, as the champ he was -- why did he always agree to come to a casino in Las Vegas to actually fight? I always wondered why he didn't insist on another "Thrilla in Manilla". Champions sometimes go into the challenger's country to prove their worthiness, but shouldn't they get to fight at home once in a while?

Money wouldn't be a problem. They would have packed that arena chock full at big buck ticket prices, and the millions of pay-per-view customers around the world shelling out $69.95 or whatever wouldn't care where the fight was at. Security? Are you kidding? Manny's a national hero in the Phillipines. It would likely be easier to slap Barack Obama around in the White House, than to get anywhere near Manny in his home country with evil intent -- especially at a high profile event.

What of Floyd Mayweather? He's still sitting in his jail cell outside of Las Vegas. He probably liked Manny being "decisioned", but when he gets out in a few weeks -- what's he going to do? He always seemed to be scared of Pacquiao, and now Bradley could care less about him while he prepares for the rematch in November.

And that's the thing. Win or lose, Floyd's arrogance cost him more than he seems to realize. Had he fought Pacquiao in the fight the whole world wanted to see -- and defeated him -- Mayweather could have rode off into the sunset claiming to be the greatest boxer of all-time in his weight divisions, and it might be hard to argue that. Even if he lost to Pacquiao, he likely would have made $70-80 million on the fight. Even after paying off Uncle Sam, his posse, and throwing Justin Bieber a couple autographed C-notes to placate the little nerdy white boy, that's a whole lot of money.

Either way, he would have won. For the next 5 months the hype for the Pacquiao/Bradley rematch will slowly build. Mayweather craves attention, but few will think of him. He lost, in more ways than one.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Fire Jim Leyland?

It might actually be a prudent move by the Detroit Tigers to send him packing in the very near future. If you think this is a knee-jerk reaction to Tigers' recent slump -- please consider the following.

A recent article by a terrific reporter that covers the Tigers listed a few reasons why firing Leyland now would make no sense. Yet with all due respect, I think the reasons laid out in that article are exactly why he SHOULD be fired -- soon. Let's play point - counterpoint.

Point. Firing Leyland in mid-season would do nothing do improve the Tigers' playoff chances.

Counterpoint. Maybe, maybe not, but other than fattening up owner Mike Ilitch's coffers, just making the playoffs is overrated. Even if the Tigers were playing to the best of their abilities, they might barely crack the Top 5 teams in the American League. Them making it to World Series this year, let alone winning it, is a long shot, to say the least. And in pro sports -- what's the only end result that's satisfactory? Winning the championship.

Point. Leyland knows the players and bringing in a new manager in the middle of the season, whether he's a retread from another team, or up from the minor leagues, would constitute "throwing in the towel". No way could the new guy connect with the players that fast to possibly turn the season around.

Counterpoint. Given the Tigers certainly don't appear to be World Series caliber this year, what BETTER time to bring in a new skipper? He'd have the rest of the season to familiarize himself with the players, and vice-versa. Would it be better to wait until the end of the year to hire a new guy so they can all begin "brand new" in 2013 spring training? I think not.

Point. Getting rid of Leyland means his coaching staff, all 6 of them, would have to go too. They've been with him since his Pittsburgh Pirate days.

Counterpoint. What's the big deal? When a political candidate defeats an incumbent, or a new CEO takes over a company, the "old guard" gets broomed. The new guy wants his own aides and staffers. That's just business as usual.

Point. Leyland's not a potential lame duck because he's in the last year of his contract. It was Leyland's decision to have it that way.

Counterpoint. Baloney. Those calls are made by the GM/Pres, with the approval of the owner. If they wanted him signed to a long term deal -- trust me -- he'd BE signed to a long term deal. Those salaries are guaranteed. Even if the Tigers fired Leyland in mid-contract -- they'd still have to pay him. Leyland may be a lot of things, but he's no fool. Only a fool WOULDN'T sign such a contract -- unless they were considering retirement -- and Leyland has made no mention of that.

Yes, like the man said, there's plenty of blame to go around. The players haven't performed up to expectations, but perhaps they were unrealistic to start with. After all, the Tigers have one great pitcher and two great sluggers. That's about it. All the rest of the hype seems to assume a bunch of average players will turn in optimum performances. It usually doesn't work out that way.

Injuries happen to all teams so that's no excuse. The Toledo-Detroit bus route has been busy lately. Both ways, with players going up and down. It appears the Tigers have depleted their farm system of most good "prospects" through front office decisions over the recent years. That falls squarely in the lap of GM/Pres Dave Dombrowski. On top of that, he's got half of the salary cap committed to 3 players out of 25. This does not smack of fiscal responsibility. Maybe he should get fired too.

It's hard to feel sorry for owner Mike Ilitch. The man's a billionaire and he's enjoyed his fair share of glory with his other team, the Detroit Red Wings, winning a few Stanley Cups. But good intentions or not, it's doubtful he'll ever see his Tigers win a World Series. While some never-say-die local pundits bombard the fans with their eternal optimism, somewhere along the line reality creeps in to those with objective minds. Contrary to some local sentiment, the Tigers aren't the epicenter of the universe when it comes to baseball. Every year, some other teams get better, and some get worse. Right now, the Tigers appear to be amongst the latter. Given the above mentioned salary cap and minor league situations, it wouldn't seem like help will be coming any time soon.

So why not just clean house and start over?

Of course, that begs the question of who would replace Jim Leyland as manager. I suggest Brandon Inge. He'd hang up his spikes in a heartbeat for a chance to be a manager. Besides, it wouldn't be that much of a transition for the Tiger players. Leyland couldn't hit either. That's why he got into managing. Inge certainly knows the players and the town. And unlike Leyland, Inge is a nice guy with the press and fans. Despite his career statistics, he's always been hugely popular in Detroit.

Who would be the perfect replacement for Dave Dombrowksi as GM/Pres is a tough call. It's a multi-faceted job, so why not have it done by committee? Bring in Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, and Barry Bonds as co-GMs.

The Tigers might not fare so well on the field, but wow, it sure would make things more interesting.

And just a hunch, but I'm guessing that reporter's interviews might get a lot more interesting as well.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pacquiao/Bradley and consequences

So Timothy Bradley won a controversial split decision over Manny Pacquiao. It matters in some ways, but not in others.

It became apparent a while back that the highly anticipated Pacquiao -- Floyd Mayweather fight was unlikely to ever happen. Who was to blame for that can be debated forever, but in that respect, it didn't matter that Pacquiao lost to Bradley.

Perhaps now Manny will retire from the ring, and get back to his day job as a Filipino congressman. He's a national hero in the Phillipines and it's been suggested he might even become President of that country some day. Lord knows, he's got a few boxcar loads full of money to tide him over. That would matter.

In the meantime Floyd Mayweather is sitting in a 7 by 12 foot cell in Clark county jail, just outside of Las Vegas, while serving a 3 month sentence for domestic battery. That probably matters to Floyd. Media reports said that Mayweather wouldn't be allowed to watch the Pacquiao/Bradley fight on TV, but it doesn't matter. While the guards likely enjoyed watching the fight on pay-per-view, courtesy of tax payer dollars, there can be little doubt that Mayweather was kept informed of the action. But that doesn't matter either. Floyd raked in about $30 million for his last fight just before going to jail, and boxers of that caliber normally take at least 6 months off between fights anyway. It's his down time -- in a couple ways.

Despite the myriad of excuses and/or reasons put forth by the Mayweather camp over the years -- many, including yours truly, thought Floyd was afraid of getting in the ring with Manny. After all, Floyd was, and is, undefeated in his professional career. 43-0. While some might dispute it, Floyd can claim to be the best ever at his weight because he's not only dispatched many world class fighters along the way -- but undefeated is undefeated. Further, despite Manny's prowess in the ring the last few years, and racking up 54 wins, he had 4 losses and a couple draws earlier in his career before the fight with Bradley. Make that 5 losses now. Does that disqualify him from being one of the greatest of all time? Hardly. Cassius Clay/Mohammed Ali got whupped 5 times too over the course of his career, even by Leon Spinks , and many still consider him The Greatest.

All that doesn't matter now because the chances of Floyd and Manny ever getting it on just went from slim to none.

But Mayweather might have another problem. Seeing as how Bradley just beat Pacquiao to become a world champ, and is undefeated as well, Bradley might well start calling out Mayweather. Let's get it on and see who's the best. When Floyd gets out of the 7 by 12, the public will clamor for the fight. It would appear that Mayweather has only two choices. Fight Bradley or retire. At this point, Bradley has all the leverage. He doesn't need to fight anybody else to prove he's worthy of a "supermatch". He's the undefeated champ. He can sit back and wait for Mayweather to come to him.

Whether Floyd will is a good question. He's 35, and Bradley will be 30 in August. In the world of professional boxing, sometimes that matters.

Here's hoping the fight happens in the next year or so, but I wouldn't count on it, because it would make too much sense. And in the world of boxing -- nothing makes sense anymore.

Then again, maybe Floyd has another option. Even if he chooses to retire -- as slick as he is, maybe he can come up with another handy-dandy kitchen item that will fly off the shelves by the millions. He could make megabucks without having to train or suffer all the abuse in the boxing ring.

Yep. I'm talking about George Foreman's grill. I don't care about "rope a dope" or "rumble in the jungle" back in the day. This has to be the best invention since "shake and bake". Or maybe teflon. Foreman's the champ in a more important way.

Perhaps Mayweather will think of something that's equally useful. Maybe even fighting Bradley.

But I wouldn't bet on it.

In the whole scheme of things, it probably doesn't matter anyway.

Friday, June 8, 2012

I'll Have Another -- won't.

It's really a shame I'll Have Another, the winning horse at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, won't be running in the Belmont Stakes. We'll never know whether that colt could have pulled off the ultimate trifecta in horse racing -- the Triple Crown. Evidently, this has something to do tendinitis in one of his front legs, and his owner and trainer didn't want to risk serious, or perhaps catastrophic injury by subjecting him to the grueling mile and a half track at Belmont. Sadly, we all know what they do with horses that "break down".

Let's be honest. Thoroughbred horse racing, much like Indy car racing, has seen the popularity of their sport severely decline in the last couple decades or so. What better way to give horse racing another jump start than to have a Triple Crown Winner? Back in the 70s, the mighty Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed all accomplished this feat. It hasn't happened since. 34 years and counting.

Not only will I'll Have Another not participate in the Belmont Stakes -- he'll never race again. He's been retired. While that's bad news in one way, it's very good news in a few others -- especially for the horse.


Horses that run the Derby, Preakness and Belmont are all 3 years old. After that, they can run in other lesser known races, but are barred from the Big 3. Too old. I'm somewhat surprised a horse lawyer doesn't speak up like Mr. Ed used to and file an age discrimination lawsuit. But maybe I'm getting a little off track here -- excuse the pun.

Depending on the breed, and generally speaking, most horses live to be somewhere between 20 and 30 years old. It might be safe to say the majority of humans live to be somewhere between 60 and 90 years old. Following that logic, the average horse year is equal to roughly 3 human years.

That would mean they're "peaking out" as "athletes" in competition when they're about 10 in human years. Kind of like Chinese Olympic gymnasts. Ahem.

Don't feel sorry for I'll Have Another. In human years -- how many of us get to retire into a life of luxury before we've even experienced our first decent kiss?

What will he do for the rest of his life? Stay in 5 star accommodations, eat the best food, be waited on hand and foot, and then there's the "stud" thing.

The prettiest, Grade AAA fillies from around the world will be presented to him hoping to get pregnant. And THEY will pay big bucks for the privilege of his services. He'll have no worries about marriage, nagging, diapers, clothes, paying college tuition, possible divorce, alimony, custody, child support, visitation rights, and the like.

Nope. No strings, no ties, just leisurely strolling around the pasture waiting for the next Neighmate of the Month to show up so he can have his way with her. I'll Have Another might just be a very appropriate name considering what likely awaits him in the near future.

Not many human males ever get to experience such a lifestyle. Maybe some Arab sheiks with their harems, or Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner in his younger years.

I'll Have Another doesn't know anything about the millions he could have won at Belmont, or the place in horseracing history that he won't get a chance at.

But you know what? Right about now life is good for him -- and will get better.

A pretty sweet gig.

I wonder what Mr. Ed would say about all that. Not sure, but betcha he would be jealous. I'll Have Another is about to go prime time with the ladies, and poor Ed only got to talk to Wilbur.

The Detroit Tigers. Clap on, clap off

Last year, the Tigers won the AL central division by about 15 games, and went on to beat the Yankees in the playoffs, before being eliminated by the Texas Rangers. Hopes were high for this season. Then during the off-season, owner Mike Ilitch decided to open up his considerable vault and pay megabucks to get Cecil Fielder's boy, Prince, quite a slugger. Hopes skyrocketed. Against the likes of Cleveland, Minnesota, KC, and the Chisox, who many pundits said was the worst division in baseball, the Tigers were a lock to win that division going away. The regular season was a mere formality, they said. Bring on the playoffs.

Sure, there's still about a 100 games to go, anything can happen, and the Tigers might indeed wind up winning the central division, but let's take a hard look at what the Tigers actually bring to the plate, pun intended.

When Fielder came on board, Miguel Cabrera got moved to 3rd base. That put Brandon Inge in "nowhereland". He was -- and is -- a great guy. Fan and media friendly, a hard worker, his teammates loved him, and he "gave back" to the community in various ways. Inge was also a pretty slick fielding 3rd baseman. But he couldn't hit, at least nowhere near as well as his replacement, Cabrera, can. The downside is Cabrera is a defensive liability at 3rd base. Pros and cons.

Here's what the hypesters didn't tell you. Take an objective look at the other positions on the Tigers, and you just might find them to be much less than was advertised.

They have no second baseman that's even half way decent. Period. Jhonny Perallta at shortstop overachieved last year, but he's basically a journeyman type player. Alex Avila, the original starting catcher this year, hit pretty well in 2011, but it was likely an anomaly. To boot, base runners knew they could "steal" on him, and they surely did.

In the outfield, the Tigers had let Curtis Granderson get away to the Yankees, and replaced him with Austin Jackson. Granderson's lighting it up in the Big Apple while Jackson has "potential", if he can stay healthy. Not counting another journeyman player, that can hopefully stay out of trouble with the law, the rest of them are a mishmash of young guys that are good on some days, and stink it up on others, both hitting and fielding. They'll shine brightly, then go dark for a while. It's like a random clap on, clap off. You never know.

The Tigers have ZERO team speed. The hypesters would have you believe Prince Fielder is faster than we think. Well OK, so is a tank, but it would leave a little bit to be desired on a major league baseball field.

Regarding pitching, Justin Verlander is a superstar. Beyond that, what did they have? Doug Pfister, a kid with supposedly "great stuff", that also can't seem to stay healthy. Maybe he'll develop into a long term stalwart. Or maybe he'll supernova like Mark, The Bird,  Fidrych did a few decades ago. Nobody knows. Same with Rick Porcello. Maybe he'll blossom and maybe he'll wilt away. The jury's still out. Max Scherzer, another starter, is, again, no more than a journeyman pitcher. Overhyped, but nothing special. The other starters they've plugged in are a crap shoot as well. Some days they shine. Some days they don't. Clap on. Clap off.

As to the bullpen, last year's premier closer, Jose Valverde, who went the entire season without blowing a save opportunity, has thudded back to earth. He was great in 2011, so naturally the Koolaiders expected the same this year. It doesn't always work out that way. He's been merely average. The rest of them seem to be a conglomeration of guys coming and going that nobody's ever heard of.

It's no big secret the Tigers don't have much in the way of really good prospects in their minor league system. That's because they either traded them away or called them up to the big leagues to fill a hole before they were fully developed. Sometimes it works. Most times it doesn't. Regardless, the cupboard is fairly bare down on the farm these days.

Yes, the Tigers have certainly seen their share of players get sidelined by injuries. Maybe it was freak things, or maybe they were trying too hard to do more than they were ready to do.

People can debate the Tigers' current plight foreverafter, but let's cut to the chase.

They entered this season with one great starting pitcher and two terrific sluggers. That's about it. All the rest of the hype was built on hope, looking at the best of 2011 from various players and expecting them to be even better this year. It's sort of like the economy. Every time somebody is making money somewhere, somebody else has to lose the same amount of money. For every winner there has to be a loser.

I suppose it's the same in every major league baseball city. The local pundits will don their rose-tinted glasses, chug the Koolaid, and try to pass it off to their readers that the local team is WAY better than they actually are. In the Tigers' case, at least so far, they seem to have been vastly overrated.

The local scribes are always going to be "homers". After all, they can't rip their teams too much, because doing so might result in a harder time gaining access to certain things, like players for exclusive interviews. Even the jocks read the papers.

But just because they have to drink the Koolaid, and advertise it -- doesn't mean we have to consume the same product.

Bottom line? Maybe, just maybe, the Tigers ain't all they're cracked up to be.

They better hope they can clap it back on pretty quick, because if they continue bumbling through the rest of this season, only to supposedly woefully underachieve -- then something else will probably happen.

Manager Jim Leyland will get clapped off.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Baseball and the KISS method

For whatever it's worth, I dedicate the following to a guy named Al that I've never met. All I know is he reads my nonsense once in a while, and can be a pretty sharp critic at times -- which is a good thing. At any rate, his comment on my previous post got me thinking about the "old days".

I don't know who first came up with it, but there's a lot to be said about the KISS method. Keep It Simple Stupid.

Especially when it comes to major league baseball. Like every other pro sport, certain statistics are kept on players to judge their performance, but this has gotten out of control.

It used to be pretty simple. If a batter had an average over .300, he was a good hitter. More than 30 home runs and/or 100 RBIs during the course of a season made him a "slugger".  If he stole more than, say, 30 bases, he was fast. Everybody understood this.

Pitchers were judged on their win/loss records and earned run average. Everybody understood that as well.

Not any more. The people that cover MLB now have "stats from hell" coming at us. You name a way to twist numbers into indecipherable gibberish, and if they haven't found it yet, they're likely working on it.

They came out with "slugging percentage" a while back. I think I figured that one out. Take the number of total bases a batter racked up and divide it by how many "at-bats" he had. But that could be deceiving. If a batter struck out 3 times, then hit a homer in his last at-bat, his slugging percentage would be 1.000. 4 times up, 4 total bases. But batting 1.000 sounds pretty good -- right? Maybe, maybe not.

"On base percentage" was a little trickier. Hits and walks are to the batter's credit, but getting hit by a pitched ball doesn't show any skill, nor does reaching base only because an opposing player made an error in the field. When a batter grounds into a "force play", whereby another base runner is out, but the batter reaches first base by default, does it still count as getting "on base"? Beats me, but I wouldn't doubt it. Chalk up another stat.

Then the stat monsters came out with OPS. The baseball writers, columnists here and there, and the talking heads will tell you all about it, but I doubt they have a clue how it's actually calculated. All they know is .700 is pretty good, and anything above that is excellent. Albert Einstein himself would have probably had a tough time grasping the actual formula, and exactly how it translates to a player's value, which is shown at the end of this article.

Pitchers are now judged on WHIP. I think this has something to do with their average number of walks and hits allowed for every inning pitched. More worthless stats. If a pitcher walks a batter and gives up a hit every inning, his WHIP would probably be lousy. But if he bears down and is capable of holding the other team to no runs during that inning -- then who cares? Maybe the people that should be WHIPed are the folks that dream up these stats in the first place.

And somebody please tell me why a starting pitcher is normally good to throw well over 100 pitches in a game, but a reliever is burned out after maybe 30? Consider Justin Verlander. If he's still there in the 9th inning, he can continue to throw 100 MPH heat, along with a curve ball, split-finger pitch, slider, and change-up. He's been out there for hours. Bring in a relief pitcher, and he'll normally have a fastball and maybe one other pitch. Within 10 minutes, he'll be totally gassed. Doesn't that seem weird somehow? 

I agree with the legendary Nolan Ryan. Pitch counts should be irrelevant. When players are making the ridiculous amounts of money they currently do -- they're supposed to be in tip-top physical condition. If a starter's going good, forget the pitch count. Let him carry on. If a reliever is only good for one inning before needing to ice his arm down, then he's not in good enough shape. These days, we see middle relievers, set-up men, and closers. Evidently, some guys can only be effective pitchers from the 5th through 7th innings, other guys can only perform during the 8th, and the prima donna closers would likely spontaneously combust if they were ever called upon to actually, you know, pitch, before the 9th inning. Lest we forget, they have their own precious stats from Hades. I think they get a "save" if they enter the game, and don't allow all runners currently on base, the batter, the guy standing "on deck", and maybe the bat boy of the opposing club to score. Opposing batters can be hitting rockets all over the park, but if his team still wins -- he gets a save. It's just one more stupid stat that means nothing.

I take solace in two things. Cutting through the crap and always applying the KISS method is one.

The other is -- Al is older than I am. Hee hee.

Here's the formula for OPS that I promised. If you can sort this out, and make it easily understandable for the average baseball fan, then get your passport in order, because you have a trip to Oslo, Norway in your future. That's where they hand out the Nobel prizes. You will have definitely earned it.

The basic formula is
OPS = OBP + SLG \,
where OBP is on-base percentage and SLG is slugging average. These averages are defined
SLG = \frac{TB} {AB}
OBP = \frac{H+BB+HBP} {AB+BB+SF+HBP}
Although OBP and SLG have different denominators, it is possible to rewrite the expression for OPS using a common denominator. This expression is mathematically identical to the simple sum of OBP and SLG:

The next time you read a column by some sportswriter that refers to OPS, ask yourself just one question. Do you really think they have the slightest idea what they're talking about?


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Eating crow.

Well, let's see. A few weeks back, I picked the New Jersey Devils to win the Stanley Cup. Now they're down 3-zip to the LA Kings, who have been on an unbelievable roll, with Game 4 coming up in LA. New Jersey storming back to win 4 in a row is theoretically possible, but so's winning the lotto. The fat lady's warming up. A #8 seed is going to win it? Where did these guys come from? Regardless, looks like I was wrong.

In my previous post, I predicted the Boston Celtics could never win a game in Miami. They just did. I was wrong. Can Miami go into Beantown, win Game 6, then come back home again to win Game 7 as well? The last 4 games those teams have played against each other have been "coin-flips", so who knows? Then again, I predicted all along that Miami would win the NBA championship this year, because Lebron would not be denied. I'll probably turn out to be wrong about that too.

I think I inherited it from my late father. It seemed like whoever he rooted for was going down. The man was somehow jinxed in that way. Back in the day, before remote controls were conceived, I WAS the remote control. Put it on Channel 4 boy. Switch it to 7 boy. Get me a beer boy.

Dad loved to watch boxing. Though I'm not positive, I think way back then it was called Gillette's Friday Night at the Fights. This was almost sacred in our house. A hallowed time frame. As a comparison -- you could combine the enthusiam of the most ardent Tiger Woods' fan with the adrenaline of a pumped-up NASCAR maniac on the last lap of the Daytona 500, pump him chock full of steroids, throw in a little fire and brimstone from a Baptist preacher on speed, and that's pretty much how my dad felt about boxing night. This was not a good time for a young boy to get out of line.

But it never failed. Faster than you could say left, right, left, whoever he rooted for always seemed to wind up getting knocked out. That was REALLY a good time to be quiet.

So, God rest his soul, me getting all my picks wrong is simply a matter of heredity. It's HIS fault. Just kidding. But you know what? Unlike most others that try to predict games, only to be proven wrong later -- I'll own it. No excuses. I was wrong.

Given my heritage and personal track record of always getting it bass-ackwards, there's only one thing to do.

I hereby predict the Detroit Tigers will NOT make the playoffs, let alone win the World Series.

So there. I've done my part.

Hey Deb. Many thanks for the Pat Summitt Harley shirt. Pretty cool. Catch up with ya down the road....

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tracking the NBA playoffs

With apologies to our late, great forefather Benjamin Franklin, besides death and taxes, maybe some things in sports are inevitable as well. Tiger Woods was bound to win another tournament sooner or later -- and so he did. Strike up the marching bands and send in the clowns.

But this is about the NBA.

The Oklahoma City -- San Antonio series features a youthful team with ridiculous talent, speed, and athleticism going up against the "old pros", who have been there, done that, rarely make mistakes, play smart, and likely have the wiliest head coach in the game. Both teams are formidable in their own way and it always seemed like whichever squad blinked first -- was going to lose. San Antonio blinked by losing Game 5 at home. That means the Thunder can close out the series in Game 6 back in Okieland, where they have been very dominant all year long, especially in the playoffs. They likely will. It's too bad in a way, because I dare say San Antonio was the sentimental favorite amongst the majority of NBA hoop fans without a home team in the hunt. How can you root against a guy like Tim Duncan?

Thing is, this might very well spell the end of an era in San Antonio. Their superstars are getting a little long in the tooth by NBA standards, and if Okla City can keep their team together while dealing with the salary cap, potential free agency, and add another piece or two along the way -- they could become the next dynasty. Betcha some people in Seattle are having second thoughts right about now about not building the former Supersonics a new arena, and the team leaving town.

Similar comparisons could be made to the Boston Celtics -- Miami Heat series. Boston plays hard-nosed, physical, up in your face basketball, and on any given night, they can beat anybody. But if San Antonio's getting old -- the Celtics, with the exception of their point guard, Rajon Rondo, are getting ancient. The end of their era is getting closer and closer. The Heat aren't as youthful as the Thunder, but rather seem to be in their "prime" right now. They have a couple of superstars named Lebron and D-Wade, and a pretty good supporting cast to boot. If they get Chris Bosh back from injury, they'll be just that much better. That series is tied 2-2, but Miami has home court advantage, and I just don't see the Celtics winning a game in South Beach.

It sure looks like it's going to be Miami and Okla City in the NBA Finals. With all due respect to the other teams, the older guys will likely get kicked to the curb by the current prime time players. Again, sometimes it's just inevitable.

Who will win? I've maintained all along that this is Lebron's year. The man's on a mission. Then again, Okla City will have home court advantage, where they seem unbeatable. Little Havana has to win at least one game in Dustbowlville to be crowned champs. Whether they can pull that off is a good question.

But here's a not so fearless prediction. Given those two teams, the NBA Finals would set an all-time record -- for dunks. Watching Celtic coach Doc Rivers match wits with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich would have been more cerebral, but if you're into slam dunks every which way, the Heat/Thunder series should be quite a spectacle.