Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween!!! Here's a few handy-dandy suggestions for last minute outfits.

For Al -- c'mon man, give it up. You know you want to do it. Go disguised as Tiger. If you don't get the candy you want -- cuss the big people out at the door and throw a 9-iron at them.

For that mysterious blond girl -- nah, you won't be out there anyway. Never heard of anybody calling in sick for trick-or-treat before, but you'll figure out a way. But D2 might want to consider going door to door dressed up as the daily TV lottery machine. Something about all those balls.....

For Mel -- wherever you go, may they be handing out chrome candy bars. Enough said.

For Deb -- a Chicago Bears and Tennessee Lady Vols fan. I'm thinking there's a whole lot of black and orange already involved anyway. Do a collage. Perfect. And if you get really lucky, maybe somebody will be handing out shots of tequila.

For Chrissy, Lynn, Mary, Pete, and Robin -- get together as a wandering band of bartenders pretending to be polite to their customers. Nobody will EVER see through that disguise. Trust me.

For the Princess, wherever you are -- ah well -- just go as yourself, and keep on doing what you're doing. You might want to consider going a little easier on us peasants, though. We're doing the best we can.

For my boss, Jeff Kuehn, the sports editor at the Oakland Press  -- um, no, I probably shouldn't go there. He might actually have occasion to read this. Still, Simon Legree -- nah -- nevermind.

For anyone else that may be reading my stuff -- I thank you very much, but obviously, like me, you aren't very bright. Perhaps you should go trick-or-treating disguised as a brick.

Me? I'll be the big ugly guy out there ringing your doorbell and trying to pass myself off as a REAL sports reporter. What an ingenious disguise. Nobody will believe that either.

But hold a couple Reese's cups back just in case I find my way on to your porch. Always did like those things....

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dickie and Emanuel Steward

Sadly, Emanuel Steward, the famed boxing trainer, recently died after a short illness at the age of 68.

And I've got a long time friend named Dickie that earlier today related a story to yours truly about a chance encounter with the same Emanuel Steward many years ago. So this one's personal.

Old school sports fans in Michigan might remember that once upon a time, back in the early 1980's, there was such a thing called the USFL (United States Football League) and the Michigan Panthers were one of the teams. A guy named Bobby Hebert (pronounced ay-bear) was their QB and they had a former hot-shot receiver from the Univ of Mich named Anthony Carter.

At the time, Emanuel Steward was in charge of the Kronk gym in Detroit, and he was busy churning out world-class boxers that would win many championships, the most notable likely being Tommy "Hit Man" Hearns. In subsequent years, Steward's experience and expertise were coveted by others and would lead him far away from his beloved Kronk; he would be found in the corners of several other very famous fighters for the next few decades, until his untimely passing.

But this is about 1983.

I don't know for sure what Dickie was doing back then, but for some reason, he and a couple buds made a last second decison to drive to Denver for the USFL title game, which would pit the Michigan Panthers against the Philadelphia Stars in Mile High Stadium. As it turned out, the Panthers would win that game and become USFL champions. It also turned out that driving from the Detroit area to Denver, starting off a day and a half before game time means you've got to do it quick. So Dickey got a speeding ticket in Nebraska.

That's no big deal. Even getting to the game on time and scoring last second tickets isn't particularly notable. But something else is......

Somewhere along the line, Dickie found a way to be in the private company of the Michigan Panther cheerleaders. Now not just any dude can pull THAT one off. Dickie is a man of many talents, and I dare say being a smooth talking devil sometimes is high on the list.

But guess who was also in the same room? Emanuel Steward. He was playfully giving the cheerleaders boxing lessons. So Dickie and Emanuel got to know each other a little bit. Pretty cool the way it worked out back then.

The USFL died after the following year, likely because the mighty NFL had wearied of that particular stepchild's sassiness, and in their own ways sent it off to a foster home that didn't even exist.

Now Emanuel Steward is gone as well. May he rest in peace.

We'll never know for sure what Emanuel thought of him, and those cheerleaders are probably grandmas by now, but Dickie is still very much alive, semi-well, and out and about. One never knows where he may pop up at.

Hey girls. If a handsome rascal in a NASCAR jacket and baseball cap approaches you with a great line -- beware. It might be him. Remember, during Emanuel's tenure as a boxing guru, a ounce here or there could make the difference as to whether a fighter was at the required weight to qualify for a bout. Perhaps Dickie picked up on that tactic all those years ago out in Denver. Reliable sources have it that he is not only picky about his meat these days -- but measures it right down to the ounce, as well.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Detroit Lions' illusion

So the Detroit Lions squeaked out a last second victory over the Seattle Seahawks to raise their record to 3-4. Had they lost, given their brutal schedule that remains, even the Lion die-hards might have grudgingly conceded any chance of glory this season was gone.

Guess what? They never had a chance at glory in the first place. They ain't all that. They weren't all that last year either. They ain't NEVER been all that, and yours truly doesn't see them sniffing the Super Bowl any year soon. Presently, they've got one great receiver, an overrated QB, and all the rest is mediocre -- at best. Forget miles. The Lions have light years to go before any thoughts of Vince Lombardi's trophy should even be vaguely entertained.

Other teams rise to the top, fall back down, then rise again to glory. Like Pittsburgh, San Francisco, the NY Giants, Dallas, Green Bay, etc. The Lions had been flat-liners for a very long time, then finally showed a blip on their EKG last year. No more and no less. Then they got blown out in their first playoff game. Despite that reality, the Detroit Lion bandwagon was rolling again and, oh my, did the people jump on it. Next season will be better. We're contenders now and the sky's the limit.

Correction. No. They weren't "for real" contenders then, and they aren't now either. The illusion has become more sophisticated, but it's not real.

What the Lions are extremely good at is doing just enough to keep their fans desperately grasping for the brass ring that isn't even there. It's still an illusion. It's like believing a magician is really flying through the air over the audience during his performance. Some people will actually buy into that and go home to tell their friends about how it was real. Please.

In the Lions' case, the Detroit area sports bars love it. Cha-ching. The Lions' bean counters love it. Cha-ching. The kool-aided Detroit sports reporters love it. Lots of printed words and sound bytes. Once the Honolulu blue and silver sweet stuff overwhelms their systems, there appears to be no known antidote. After all this time, year after decade after half-century, you'd think they'd learn. But they never do.

One word to y'all. Suckahs.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

San Francisco. World Series champs

So it all came down to that. Two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning, his team trailing by a single run, a 2-2 count, and the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years at bat. The windup, the pitch, and..... alas, there will be no joy in Motor Cityville because the mighty Miguel Cabrera watched a fastball right smack dab down the middle of the plate whiz by without even bothering to swing at it. As Ernie Harwell used to say, "he stood there like the house by the side of the road". Strike 3.

Somewhere Dandy Don Meredith turned out the lights. Fat ladies the world over belted into a song. Yogi Berra officially proclaimed it over. And so it was.

After having swept the Yankees to get into the World Series, the Tigers in turn were swept away by the San Francisco Giants in the Fall Classic. The broom giveth and the broom taketh away.

It could be noted that the Tigers caught the Yankees at a bad time -- for the Yankees. A few of their usual sluggers were slumping, Derek Jeter was injured, and their pitching dropped off. But that's no excuse. Stuff happens.

Conversely the Tigers caught the Giants at an equally bad time -- for the Tigers. The San Franners were on a roll. They'd just come back from a 3-1 deficit to the St. Louis Cardinals to win the series. Counting the 4-game sweep of the Tigers, that's 7 wins in a row in the post-season, supposedly against the best competition. Pretty impressive stuff.

On paper, many thought the Tigers were a superior club to the Giants. They were, and they weren't. The Tigers had a better starting pitching staff, and certainly a more potent batting lineup. The Giants had a better bullpen, better defense, more team speed, and that mysterious thing that counts the most sometimes -- intangibles. Whatever it took, when it counted, they found a way to win.

The World Series played out oddly in a way. In the first game, the Giants hammered the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander, chasing him after only 4 innings. After that, when many expected the Giants to keep swinging their hot bats -- they didn't. Many also expected the Tigers potent lineup to break loose any minute of any game. They didn't either. Games 2, 3, and 4 were low-scoring. Intangibles won.

One more thing most Tiger fans don't seem to have considered --- the Giants did this without their best hitter, one Melky Cabrera, who was well on his way to becoming the National League batting champion before he was suspended a while back. If the Tigers' version of Cabrera had been out for whatever reason during the last couple months of the season, it might very well have been the Tigers never would have sniffed the post-season to begin with. In that respect, they don't have any excuses either. Sometimes stuff happens, and sometimes it doesn't. They really can't complain. Though Tiger fans are no doubt disappointed, all things considered, their team did quite well.

On a lighter note, one is left to ponder the final "move" Tigers' manager Jim Leyland made in this World Series. If one was watching closely, they noticed that during the course of the Series everybody in the Tiger dugout was wearing Tiger gear and everybody in the San Fran dugout was wearing SF gear. Except Leyland. He had on a World Series jacket. It said so right across his chest in big letters. When that final pitch Cabrera watched go by thudded into the catcher's mitt for strike 3, game, set, and match, Leyland immediately left the dugout.

Was it to congratulate the opposing manager, Bruce Bochy, which would be the honorable thing to do?

Nope, he headed down the tunnel into his own clubhouse. Gone in 60 milliseconds. Some might consider that poor sportsmanship but yours truly has a different theory.

If he had any sense he was getting rid of that damn jacket. I mean, c'mon, what good is a World Series jacket if you would up being the loser? And WHAT, pray tell, was he doing wearing it in the first place? Isn't he supposed to be representing the Tigers? If so, then why wasn't he in Tiger gear like everybody else? Ah well, nobody cares or will remember who the runner-up was anyway. Maybe he can sell it on eBay for a few bucks.

At any rate, congrats to the San Francisco Giants, the 2012 World Champions. This was no fluke. It was there, and they took it. Convincingly.

And somewhere a broom factory is working overtime.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Yours truly had to run out and tend to a few minor errands. You see, Mitt and Barack had me on this conference call and I was asked to fix the economy, cure world hunger, and peacefully solve that minor little dust-up in the Middle East. No biggie. Always glad to serve my country.

Problem was, I didn't get to see how the MSU/Wisconsin football game ended. After logging those miles on Air Force One, and the motorcade finally dropping me back at my house, I quickly tuned into the 4-letter network to check the results. Evidently, MSU beat Wisconsin in overtime. That's OK, I guess, unless one is a cheesehead.

MSU might have won, but they have a bigger problem. The same one Rodney Dangerfield used to have. The same one Aretha Franklin spelled out in a hit song. You know what I'm talking about....
How do I know this applies to Michigan State football? Because while watching the scores trail across the bottom of the screeen, they showed the scores of the Kent State/Rutgers and Ohio U/Miami(Ohio) games -- TWICE -- before getting around to MSU and Wisconsin. Talk about no respect.....

At that, the entire Big 10, or whatever they are these days, may very well suffer from the same malady. Here's a few not so random factoids for your consideration. Put them all together and draw your own conclusions......

The Univ of Michigan football team just got whomped out in Nebraska. (There's probably a pun to be made about what Cornhuskers can do with the Maize, but I won't go there).

Nebraska recently severed football ties with the conference they'd been in since forever and joined the Big 10. Why would they do that? More money and easier competition? Yes/no/maybe?

After flirting with the Big 10 for a while, Notre Dame opted to remain an independent in football.

Conference or not, traditionally Notre Dame and Michigan played each other every year. This was a big game -- for both schools. Whether it was played in Ann Arbor or South Bend, the stadium would be jam-packed to overflow capacity, national exposure on TV was a given, and surely both institutions raked in millions. Now Notre Dame has opted out of that series. Why would they do that?

Yours truly suggests a closer look at Notre Dame. They've got a new head coach named Brian Kelly who's probably amongst the top 5 college football coaches in the country. Further, check out their schedule this year. The only military patsy game that remained was Navy. Well OK, maybe Purdue, but that's a game played in the same 'hood, so it's never going to be easy. After bulldozing the two major Michigan schools, they had Miami of Florida, Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma, Pitt, Boston College, and USC. If anybody in the country is playing a tougher schedule than that, I don't know who it is. They just disposed of Okla out in Sooner country, no small feat, to remain undefeated. If they can run the table with their remaining schedule, they could have a shot at the "big one" in the second week of January.

Where am I going with this? Brady Hoke at Michigan is doing better than his predecessor Rich Rodriguez, but a guy or girl off the street could probably do that. Yet, Hoke remains an unknown long-term quantity. Kelly at Notre Dame is the real deal. Could it be that Notre Dame has set it's sights higher looking for tougher competition than what Michigan will likely provide in the near future? Yes/no/maybe?

Don't laugh, Sparty fans. If Mark Dantonio doesn't get his act together pretty soon, the leprechauns might plant your team at the wrong end of the rainbow next. In Notre Dame's mind, they might be thinking -- why fool around with these second-tier teams from Michigan when there's bigger fish to fry, and strength of schedule matters to the pollsters and computers? Yes/no/maybe?

Regarding Notre Dame once joining the Big 10, the legendary Bo Schembechler once said, "The hell with Notre Dame". Obviously he didn't think they were worthy and gave them no respect.

Times have changed and perhaps the worm has turned. It might just be that these days Notre Dame is looking down their collective Irish noses and saying, "The hell with the Big 10", and no longer consider THEM worthy opponents. Yes/no/maybe?

Beats me. Draw your own conclusions about the football stuff. I'm still trying to figure out how to get a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T from the Princess.

Have you noticed?

Everybody knows the Tigers trail the Giants 2-0 in the Fall Classic. It's the World Series, and even the most casual sports fan stays abreast of that.

Anybody with the slightest interest in stock car racing is aware that NASCAR's "Chase" for the title is winding down to the last few races. As the pressure mounts, relatively new kid on the block Brad Keselowski and old-pro Jimmy Johnson will be dueling it out for the trophy, champagne and a few million bucks -- unless something very strange happens, a possibility that can never be totally discounted in NASCAR.

Idle thought: Keep that damn green car off the track. It's getting down to the nitty-gritty and this no time to have a loose cannon running around. People notice her alright -- but for the wrong reasons.

Lions's fans have no doubt noticed their team is 2-4. Most thought their record would be better than that at this point. Quick question-- were/are they as good as last year or as bad as this year all along?

In the meantime, the NBA has started it's preseason games. Has anybody really noticed? Does anybody care?

The NHL owners and players, through their representatives, don't even appear to be interested in talking lately about reaching a deal on a collective bargaining agreement to allow the season to get underway. They don't seem to care, and guess what? From what yours truly can tell -- other than hockey purists -- the average sports fan doesn't seem to care much either. They haven't noticed, because other things are going on.

Have you noticed the absence of golf? Tiger, Rory, and all that? Some do, most don't.

How about no tennis with Roger, Rafael, Novac, and Serena? Do you miss them? Again, some do, but most don't.

Let's face it. After the World Series and the "Chase" are over shortly, most eyes will turn to the mighty NFL, long the King Kong in the chimpanzee cage of sports. Even though it's their mid-season, most generic sports fans could care less about the NBA and NHL until the Super Bowl has been played in February.

At that, ever notice what else is available at that time of year? Spring training in baseball? Get real. Nobody cares. Granted, NASCAR's Daytona 500 goes on in February, a big deal indeed, but after that's over, multi-sports fans understand their "regular season" is just beginning and look elsewhere. The Masters at Augusta doesn't happen until April. The Indy 500 until the end of May. Not sure, but I think the first "major" in tennis, the Australian Open, occurs somewhere in that purgatory time frame of sports as well. Few in America notice, because watching something "live" in the wee hours of the morning isn't an option for most. And who cares about slogging through tape delays? We can know the results in a couple minutes anyway as soon as we boot up our PCs or click around the myriad of ESPN channels.

Typically, that is about the time the NBA and NHL ratings ramp up. The playoffs are underway and they're getting down to the nitty-gritty too. The overall quality of competition, and certainly the intensity of the games picks up. This is great stuff.

But ever notice what happens after the NBA and NHL champs have been crowned?

The "high" wears off, and it's a huge downer. Nothing else is left except baseball, and even baseball writers have told you games in June and July don't matter -- though their logic continues to elude me. (I thought all the games counted the same, but what do I know?)

THOSE are the "dog days" of a true sports fan, until the NFL begins to rouse from it's slumber and their die-hard lemming fans get ripped off for pre-season tickets again to begin another new year. Still....

It would be a lot more interesting if Danica dumped her hubby for Tiger. Or maybe John Daly shacked up with Serena Williams. Can you imagine the interest if Dale Earnhart Jr. and Ndahmukong Suh came out and announced a "bromance"? Yellow flags could take on a whole new meaning. How about Roger Goodell mandating a Honey Boo Boo face pic be stitched on every NFL uniform? The possibilities are endless.....

But if any of that happens, yours truly doesn't want to know about it.

Or at least, I'll pretend not to have noticed. Maybe......

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Game 2. Crises narrowly averted

Wow. Detroit Tigers's starting pitcher Doug Fister had a batted line drive come back and hit him in the head. That was a scary moment, and could well have become a crisis. Thankfully, Fister seemed to suffer no ill effects from the blow, stayed in the game, and performed very well.

Nevertheless, sometimes head injuries aren't always immediately apparent, and can have a delayed reaction. So, if in a couple days, the artist formerly known as Mr. Fister starts showing signs of morphing into Uncle Fester, the Tigers would be well-advised to put him through a battery of EEGs, MRIs, CATscans and the like -- just to be on the safe side. If all that fails, then emergency measures may be required. Schedule him for a segment on Dr. Phil to get him straightened out.

And now a word from our sponsors. Here comes the one and only Brad Pitt, that world-wide movie star, macho-stud and sultry devil that gets all the ladies' body parts a-tingle. Brad says it's with him wherever he goes. Chanel No. 5. The pretty girls swoon.

Yeah? Big deal. I'm never far from Channel No. 206, ESPN on DirecTV, and they've got a helluva bigger following then Brad ever will. Hey Brad. Go back to Italy with Angelena and all those adopted rug-rats and be happy. We ain't got time for no wimpy perfume. There's games to watch and beer to drink.

Sorry. Got carried away there for a second. Where was I? Oh yeah. Now back to our regular programming.

During the course of the game, Prince Fielder of the Tigers launched his rather sizable girth through the air in a failed attempt to catch a pop-up. What goes up, must come down, and so it did as it crashed back to Earth with a mighty THUD. Needles jumped on Richter scales the world over. This is no laughing matter. Remember, we're talking San Francisco here. Earthquake country. The San Andreas Fault and all that. Geologists are in agreement those tectonic plates beneath the ground hang in a very delicate balance these days. They could shift and cause a crisis of extreme proportions. Another seismic catalyst like that from Fielder could well result in the bottom half of California floating off into the Pacific somewhere. Martin Sheen, the Kardashians, and maybe the LA Clippers aside, I dare say not too many people want to see THAT happen. Whew. Another disaster narrowly averted.

So now the Detroit Tigers find themselves on Orange Alert. Their ace pitcher got lit up like a pinball machine in the opener, and a bunch of San Fran pitchers Detroit folks likely never heard of combined to throw a 2-hit shutout at their team in Game 2.

Can the Tigers win 4 out of the remaining 5 against those pests from the west to become champions? Stranger things have happened, but if they drop Game 3 at home in a couple days, it goes to Red Alert, and the fat lady starts warming up.

But at least Fielder can dive away all he wants in Detroit for the next couple games. Sure, the seismographs will still take note of the event(s), but the chances of him causing an earthquake in southeastern Michigan are about the same as.... hmmm....

This started off about the World Series. How did the Lions winning the Super Bowl get in here?

World Series game 1.

There was Justin Verlander, the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young award winner, staring down Pablo Sandoval, who was at bat for the San Francisco Giants. A high and inside 95 MPH fastball and, crack, gone for a homer to right field. Fast forward a couple innings. Same match-up. A low and outside 95 MPH heater. Crack, gone to left field for a two run shot. Many Detroit Tiger fans probably had no idea who this Sandoval dude was. They do now, and he can hit some.

Evidently, the rest of the Giants didn't get the memo either about how Verlander is an intimidating pitcher. They worked him over like a boxer does a heavy bag. The "Fastball Flakes" man, known for always going at least 7 or 8 innings, if not completing the game, didn't make it into the 5th inning. Though he departed after only the 4th, with the Tigers down 5-0, the Giants had pretty much worn him out. Every hitter seemed to take him deep into the pitch count. Verlander's typical variety of "strike-out" pitches were continually fouled off. When the Giants' batters finally got a good one to hit -- they did. Hard.

Pitch counts for starters is a big deal these days with most major league clubs. Usually around 125 or so is where they draw the line. Verlander recently scoffed at that notion, saying he had never hit "the wall", and estimated he might be good for 175 or so. Well, at the rate he was going, he might have found out -- by about the 7th inning. Rather than being intimidated, the Giants were feasting on him.

Sure, JV will be back, likely in Game 4, and he might very well turn in a dominating performance. Thing is, the "fear factor", if there ever was one, is long gone. The Giants now know he can be had. On some level -- that counts.

Idle thought: Harkon back to this year's All-Star game when Verlander had a serious dose of "shock and awe" visited upon him by the NL batters. Apparently, a lot of those guys didn't get the memo either.

On a related note, there's something yours truly can't figure. Bruce Bochy, the manager of the SF Giants, obviously knows what he's doing. He must, because not counting guys named Valentine, Trammel, Gibson, and maybe Guillen, a major league team isn't going to hire a manager that has no clue how to run a clubhouse. Regardless, whatever Bochy is doing seems to be working. He and his team are in the World Series, after all. No small feat.

Yet sometimes one is left to wonder what voices this latest version of Bruce Almighty may be hearing in his head. During the 7th and deciding game in the National League championship against the St. Louis Cardinals, Bochy came out of the dugout to make a pitching change. That's not so unusual, until one considers this was done in the 9th inning, with his team leading 9-0, in a POURING DOWN RAIN. The series is over. Umps, a sell-out crowd of fans, and even his own players on the field are getting drenched, and everybody just wants to go home, but NO, Bochy insists on a pitching change, holding up the inevitable for another 20 minutes or so. What was he thinking?

Even in this first game of the World Series, with his team ahead by 7 runs in the 9th inning, Bochy found a way to use 3 pitchers. By the time they arrive from the bullpen, take their warm-up tosses, la-dee-dah, that adds another 20-25 minutes to a game that was already basically over. I'm glad one of the Tigers popped a 2-run homer. Served him right for prolonging the agony -- of the viewing audience.

I have no idea what is going through Bochy's mind when he does such things, but it should be a crime.

Win or lose, when this World Series is over, Bochy should be held accountable for these travesties he's visited upon us fans. But what would be an appropriate punishment? Hmmm.

Well OK. He's in San Fran, and a mile or so off the coast of Fisherman's Wharf still sits Alcatraz. Though it was closed down as a prison during the Kennedy administration, it remains a very interesting tourist attraction to this day. Yours truly has been there a couple times. No, not as an inmate. I'm old, and have done some bad things in my life, but I'm not THAT old, and those things weren't all THAT bad.

I'm thinking maybe they should re-open D block, where they used to keep the troublemakers back in the day. Put Bochy in the Birdman's old cell for a week or two, and let the tourism continue.

It seems eminently fair. The public will still get charged the price of admission, and if Bochy wants everyone to look at him, while justice is being served as well -- then why not?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Updates, predictions, and the usual III

Update: Another race in NASCAR's "Chase" was run in Kansas City and, when the smoke cleared, and the checkered flag finally waved, local native Brad Keselowski remains narrowly ahead of the always formidable Jimmy Johnson in the quest for this year's championship. Go Brad. Running a limited schedule in this year's series of races, the always lovable Danica Patrick was amongst the competitors.
Prediction: Hard to say. Keselowski has top-notch gear and crew, and has certainly quickly proven in the last couple years that he's matured to the point where he's as good as anybody else out there when it comes to on-track racing, from super-speedways to bumper cars on the short tracks. But who dares count out the wily old vet JJ, a former 5 year in a row champion? He's got the experience and a top-flight team behind him as well.
The usual: Danica was driving another brand new green car -- and Danica totalled another brand new green car. Apparently, she experienced another one of her hissy fits after another driver, far behind the race leaders as well, had the unmitigated gall to make incidental contact with her own car a few laps before. The NERVE of that guy -- so she tried to wreck him. She wound up wrecking her own car. It's about $300,000 a pop to build such cars, and the lovely Danica seems to have no qualms over throwing them away like last week's beef stew. I'm thinking if this trend continues, those "Go Daddy" folks that sponsor her might be crying for their "mommies" before long when they read the financial bottom line of the destruction she continues to wreak. Yours truly has long thought there was something else going on with that particular Go Daddy logo on her car, but could never tell for sure as that car was speeding around. If so, it's in the fine print. Between the words "Go" and "Daddy" in big letters, I suspect there are very tiny letters that have always said "Sugar".

Updates, predictions, and the usual II

Update: The Chicago Bears just spanked the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. The Lions appeared inept throughout and, in a comical moment, though harmlessly falling to the turf, Lions QB Matthew Stafford somehow managed to have his face mask dig up a divot reminiscent of John Daly hitting  a fat wedge shot. The funny part was -- that rather large piece of turf wound up INSIDE his face mask. I mean, c'mon, other Lions' players may have had their issues with "grass" before, but this was ridiculous.
Prediction: The Lions barely squeaked by the St. Louis Rams in their opener. Then got predictably got smoked by the 49ers. Many in the Detroit area thought the following Tenn Titans and Minn Vikings games were gimmes. They became losses. They lucked out in Philly last week for a win. Seattle's coming to town next, and don't look now, but those guys have gotten pretty good, pretty fast, much like the SF 49ers. Look at the remaining schedule. Atlanta comes to town, and last time I looked, they were undefeated. The Houston Texans, possibly the best team in the AFC, visits on Thanksgiving. Home and away with the Packers, who have come to life after a slow start. Another one in Minnesota, who has already beaten the Lions at Ford Field. The Indy Colts, who aren't too shabby with new QB Andrew Luck. Out in Arizona, where the Cardinals are a force to be reckoned with. Another one with Da Bears. The only patsy they seem to have on their remaining schedule is the Jax Jaguars. Currently sitting at 2-4, the Lions will be very lucky indeed to get to 8-8. Last year was nothing more than an anomaly where a lot of things fell into place for the Honolulu blue and silver right up until they got to the playoffs, were exposed as the smoke and mirrors they were, and BTW continue to be, and predictably got blown out.
The usual: Hope will continue to spring eternal amongst some. These are likely the same sort of people that continue to think Ralph Nader will be elected President someday. And somebody please tell me WHY, pray tell, that a person would go out and spend a C-note or two to buy a shirt or jersey that has somebody's else's name on the back that always ended up being a loser? I never did quite understand that. Some folks think Lions' owner William Clay Ford is a recluse, because he rarely shows his face at Lions' games. Yours truly has a different theory. WCF gets a cut on any item sold associated with the Lions. He can't stop laughing long enough to show up and act serious.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Updates, predictions, and the usual I

Update: Romney and Obama had their last presidential debate before the general election.
Prediction: Somebody's going to win, somebody's going to lose, and though we put men on the moon over 40 years ago, we still won't have figured out how to count the votes without somebody somewhere crying foul play.
The usual: Regardless of who wins, what will benefit the American people most is when this whole election season circus is over.

On to sports.....

Update: The Detroit Tigers start the World Series on Wednesday. After trailing the Chisox in the AL central division by 3 games with only 16 to go, and hopelessly out of  "wild card" contention, somehow they pulled it off to get to the "fall classic". They will have had 5 days off after sweeping the Yankees in the "semis". Their starting pitching rotation has been reset with plenty of rest, and ace pitcher Justin Verlander could conceivably pitch 3 games in the WS, if need be. Advantage Tigers. But is it?  On the flip side, the San Fran Giants came roaring back from a 3-1 deficit to knock off the defending world champ St. Louis Cardinals. They're on a roll. Whoever gets hot, and maybe catches a break or two, in the World Series will win.
Prediction: How the hell would I know? This isn't the Harlem Globetrotters taking on the Washington Generals. It's major league baseball. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day.
The usual: Long time season ticket holders in both cities will get booted out of their usual seats to make room for various celebrities and polticians -- who know and/or care as much about baseball as yours truly does about where they bought their outfit --  and will quickly depart back to their limos, Lears and Gulfstreams, as soon as the cameras and microphones turn away from them.

This is bass-ackwards. If all the glittery types want to REALLY be there, then let THEM participate in a raffle -- for bleacher seats. They might even learn something up there sitting with the hard core fans. Regardless, leave the season-ticket holders alone in their seats. They've earned it.

The Steelers and other rants

The Pittsburgh Steelers are a proud, storied franchise in the NFL. They've got a fistful of Super Bowl rings and scads of former players in the Hall of Fame. Like them or not, it's probably fair to say most every NFL fan at least respects them. They've earned it. That said, it's on to the rants.

It's high time for some serious fines to start happening in the NFL. Remember Steelers' linebacker James Harrison getting fined $25,000 here and $50,000 there for some of his vicious hits in recent years? It was a joke. That's chump change to a guy making millions. Want to get serious? Make the first flagrant offense 20% of a player's yearly salary, the second one 30%, the third the remaining 50%. That will make them sit up and pay attention. Yet, there JH was again, launching himself at the head of an opposing player when the Steelers were playing the Cincinnatti Bengals. Thankfully, the player ducked out of the way and nothing bad happened. He should be zapped with 20% anyway, particularly as a repeat offender, whatever the number is. In the real world, that's like shooting at somebody but missing. Guess what? You're still going to jail, because you had intent to cause great bodily harm, or worse.

Then there was #88 for the Steelers, a wide receiver named Sanders, in the same game. He wasn't vicious, but rather a shyster. When the Steelers found themselves in a situation late in the game where they weren't quite sure what to do, Sanders took the dive of all dives. While standing in the huddle, he suddenly collapsed. Trainers and medical staff rushed out to tend to him. After a long break in the action, while the Steelers got their act together on the sidelines, Sanders hopped on his right leg all the way across the field to the Steelers bench, while grimacing in pain and holding a hand to his left hamstring. Hop, hop, hop. Yours truly never heard of a delayed reaction to a pulled hammy. I've had a couple, and they hurt like hell right away, not a couple minutes later when it's convenient. If that wasn't ridiculous enough, one play later Sanders was not only back in action, but running down the field with blazing speed covering a Steelers' punt. I say hit him with the 20% fine for running a con game. And nail everybody else on the Steelers, from the head coach on down to the water boys, with 10%, for aiding, abetting, and conspiracy. For that matter, is insulting the intelligence of a national viewing audience a crime?  Politicians aside, if it's not, it ought to be. Throw in another 5% for that on general principles. This stuff has to STOP.

Other suggested fines.....

From now on, every time Stuart Scott of ESPN says "BOO-YA" -- take 10% out of his salary.

If Chris "The Boomer" Berman, also of ESPN, says the word "back" anymore, zap him $10K for each offense. Next time he's calling the replay of a fly ball in a baseball game, and goes into his signature, "Back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back, back" spiel, it'll cost him 100 large. He'll not only quit that, but we'll have the added benefit of saving on the cost of buying new remotes, because we wore out the mute buttons on the old ones.

For every dumb Peyton Manning commercial hyping whatever his endorsement of the day is -- I think it should cost just a nickel. If a mere five cents were to be made payable every single time a TV station anywhere broadcast such a thing, we could probably pay off the national debt in a couple months.

After swami, guru, and all-around super-analyst Mel Kuyper has thoroughly done all his research and goes on the air for hour after hour to inform us which teams will pick which players in which order during an NFL draft? Pay him a thousand bucks for every one he gets right, and dock him a measly $20 for every one he gets wrong. Further, dock him another $20 for every ounce of hair gel he uses annually. Those are pretty good odds -- for us. After a couple years, that could add up to serious money.

Finally, there's probably little to be gained by fining Detroit area sports reporters for using the words "Detroit Lions" and "Super Bowl" in the same article, regardless of what time of year -- ANY year --  they wrote it.  First, they can't help it. The koolaid overwhelmed their system long ago. Second, with a few notable exceptions, they don't make that much money anyway. Still, a punishment would seem to be in order.

Hmmm. Maybe a year in Cleveland would be appropriate. They could get a whole new perspective on things and also add another few lines to their resumes. Seems reasonable enough, and if anyplace will get rid of the rose tints -- it's Cleveland. If during the course of that year, they used the words "Browns" and "Super Bowl" in the same article? Well, as they say, there just ain't no fixin' some things. Leave em there.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Getting a ticket at the UM/MSU game

Technically, by the peach fuzz of their maize and blue chinny-chin-chins, the Michigan Wolverines somehow managed to scratch out a last-second, come-from behind win over Michigan State. Yet, if there was any justice, this game should have been declared a draw. Why? Because neither team deserved to win.

It was terrible. They stunk it up. Both of them. Somewhere during the course of the second half, the "mercy" rule should have been invoked and the game stopped -- for the benefit of the fans that were watching it. Please, show us a little mercy. You're KILLING us with this yawnfest.

Besides being supremely boring, it was flat-out ugly. Between those two teams, there likely hasn't been that much sloppy execution since Henry VIII was going through his wives, or maybe the French Revolution.

Good grief. If this is supposed to be the epitome of college football in the state of Michigan, then we've got a lot more problems than just the economy.

Though State fans won't agree, the only positive thing that came out of that game was UM QB Dennard Robinson finally getting the monkey off his back to beat his green nemesis at least once, so good for him. Not that he deserved it, because his play was erratic at best, as well.

State had lots of chances to seal a victory, but they bumbled them away, particularly at the end. And Michigan? Hey, if they couldn't even score one single touchdown in their own house, then they didn't deserve to win either.

It should have been a draw.

Nevertheless, sometimes miracles happen. Yours truly had been invited by a beautiful woman to not only watch the game in a private club, but spend those hours in her company. In my world, that sort of thing happens about as often as the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl. To boot, it was only $3 for all-you-can-eat of delicious food and my drinks were comped -- courtesy of the BW mentioned above. It doesn't get any better than that, right?

Ah, but there was a catch. There's always a catch. While the game was going on, the club was raising money for charity, always a good thing. Besides a few 50-50 drawings, they had some pretty cool stuff to raffle off, including some UM and MSU gear. Problem was, it seemed like just about every time UM or MSU did something dumb on the field, which was a lot, here would come another ticket lady. Five bucks here, five bucks there, another five bucks..... I'm telling ya those folks had a thing about pieces of paper with Abraham Lincoln's picture on them. If you didn't have one, they'd take a Jackson of course, and give you back 3 Abes -- which they would be coming back for right soon. Geez, they even had an ATM inside. ATMs only dispense Jacksons, right? Though thankfully I never had to use that ATM, I had this very strong suspicion that if I had tried to get a hundred bucks out of it, it wouldn't spit out 5 Jacksons. Oh no, it would have been 20 Abes. And the Lincoln sharks would smell blood and go into another feeding frenzy. More tickets. It must have cost them a fortune just to buy the damn tickets. I'm surprised they didn't sell me more tickets to pay for the tickets.

I'm unlucky when it comes to raffles. I NEVER win anything, but that's OK. You get used to it after a while. Incredibly, this time I actually had one of my tickets drawn, and I won -- the only thing out of all that cool stuff that I didn't really want. Figured.

So yeah, it was a boring game, and maybe my wallet's a little thinner, but it was for charity, and I got to hang out with a BW. All in all, a terrific day.

And I drove very safely on the way back home.

The LAST thing I wanted to see was ANOTHER ticket.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Roger Goodell chronicles

Here's what I know. Roger Goodell is currently the commissioner of the National Football League. Regarding the whole New Orleans Saints' "bounty" snafu a while back, all the rest seems to be up for grabs. Where this on-going circus will stop is anybody's guess.

Here's what I think I know. In most businesses, management has the right to discipline their employees when they have done something that violates "shop rules". Depending on the business, that can encompass a wide variety of such offenses. Still, it's probably fair to say most, if not all employees were made well-aware of these rules when they hired in. If they decide to "step over the line", they do so at their own peril. Basically, they KNEW it was wrong, but for whatever reasons they did it anyway. It's difficult to have much sympathy for such offenders when they receive the appropriate punishment.

However, much like our judicial system, employees represented by a union have a built in appeal process they can go through whereby they can take their case to a higher, supposedly impartial power and have it re-examined to make sure justice has been fairly dispensed. That can involve a likewise wide variety of issues, indeed including whether a "crime" was committed in the first place and, if so, whether the accused was the actual perpetrator. That seems eminently fair. Before the "powers that be" bang somebody, sometimes greatly impacting their life in a negative way, it should be determined they "got it right".

The NFL is a unique and very strange business model. Roger Goodell is chairman of the board, and he represents 32 different subsidiaries, each with their own owners, that on the one hand try to collaborate for their common good, but on the other, try to beat each other's brains out. To boot, the NFL has an exemption from the federal anti-trust laws that apply to all other companies doing business in the US, or the league couldn't exist in the first place. And OMG, do they ever rake in the money.

Conversely, NFL players have their own union that represents them in various ways, including the right to an appeals process mentioned above if wrongdoing is suspected.

But this is where everything seems to stop making sense, particularly in the "Bountygate" case.

When the original allegations came out, several Saints players (in some cases former players), coaches, and even the general manager were handed down various degrees of punishment ranging from hefty fines to different lengths of suspensions from the game. Unpaid leaves of absence. These punishments were officially sanctioned by the Commish, Roger Goodell. It seems odd that the chairman of the board would get involved in such matters, but good luck having one of the subsidiary owners discipline his own, especially if they were star players, which would put his team at a disadvantage on game days. That would NEVER happen.

So OK, Roger banged the alleged perps, but wait, they have an appeal process. What's REALLY crazy is -- when the players go back to have their cases re-examined, guess who the judge is? Yep, Roger Goodell. That's NUTS. Ah, but that process was agreed to in the collective bargaining agreement that was endorsed by the union and ratified by the players, you say? True enough, but yours truly thinks they should quit worrying so much about players getting concussions and have the union lawyers checked out. Obviously they bumped their heads somewhere along the way. What, in the name of Forrest Gump, were they thinking?

After all the brouhaha of the last several months, with Goodell trying to stand his ground, and the players complaining they couldn't get a fair hearing, something finally gave.

To his credit, Roger Goodell has formally agreed to recuse himself from overseeing the final dispensation of the Bountygate matter, and let another "visiting" judge don the robes and preside over this particular case. Seems like a good idea in the interest of impartiality and fairness.

Right up until you consider who that judge is. Paul Tagliabue, the former commissioner of the NFL that Roger replaced. The NFL office is trumpeting Tagliabue as having a reputation of being very patient, and will take however long is necessary to render his final judgment. That all sounds great, if the players get to play and get paid while he's deliberating for who knows how long. Players' NFL careers are a very fragile thing. On any given day, for yet another variety of reasons -- they can abruptly end.

Here's the kangaroo court kicker. Ex-Commish Paul Tagliabue currently works for the same law firm as Roger Goodell used to before he assumed the throne. And among other clients, that firm's likely most notable one is -- yep -- the NFL. Forget about crazy, nuts, and yet another possible kangaroo court, and let's assume Tagliabue can have an open mind regarding the task he has taken on.

It doesn't matter because he's in a no-win situation, riddled with conflicts of interest. If he rules in favor of the players, that will fly in the face of the policy of the very firm he'll be going back to when this case is over, who is tasked with representing NFL management. If he rules against the players, they will likely claim the "fix" was in again, and the battle will continue to rage on in another forum in the future.

This has dragged on for way too long. They need to find somebody that's impartial, and couldn't care less about the NFL or the players, or anybody else for that matter. Give them all the evidence pro and con, and let them sort it out once and for all. And there will be no appeal process when that judge has rendered a verdict and rapped the gavel. Better yet, that judge should be oblivious to reality, have an attitude and raise hell with both sides while screaming from the bench to teach both a lesson. Shouldn't take more than a half hour or so.

ALL RISE. The courtroom of the Honorable Judge Judy is now in session.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Michigan/Michigan State game

Despite the fact that this is a big time rivalry game, and will be nationally televised -- it's probably fair to say, at this point, that few outside the state of Michigan, specifically the bottom half of the lower peninsula, will have much interest in how it turns out.

That's because the football teams of both schools fell off the national radar some time ago. Fair or not, this is what happens when a team racks up 2 or 3 losses in the first half of the season. Sure, they might very well both go on to have respectable years and wind up in a second-tier bowl game somewhere, but any chance of a BCS bowl, much less a national championship shot is loooooong gone, as Ernie Harwell used to say.

Head coach Brady Hoke of Michigan did a remarkable job last year of turning that team around after the disastrous reign of Rich Rodriguez. But ranking them in the preseason Top 10 this year? That was not only an incredible stretch, but just wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. I repeat, wrong. That wasn't even a close call. What in the hell were those people thinking?

Yours truly doesn't know who scheduled the Michigan/Alabama game as this year's season opener -- or even how far in advance that decision was made -- but it turned out to be a very bad scenario for the Wolverine faithful. Just when their program had begun to show signs of life, they found themselves in the unenviable position of taking on the defending national champs, and still a vastly superior team, in a much hyped game. In front of a national TV audience, they predictably got blown out. Pop, went the maize and blue balloon. Since then, it might also be fair to say Michigan football has returned to the days of old in a sense. They obliterate the patsies, but good teams that aren't intimidated, and stare them down, have a way of coming out on top. Like Notre Dame did a few weeks ago. Now here comes Michigan State....

Likewise, head coach Mark Dantonio has done a great job with the Spartans at MSU during his tenure. The "little brother" from East Lansing has grown up to put a whuppin' on his Ann Arbor sibling that tormented him for so long -- 4 years in a row. While likely few thought the Sparties would have national relevance at this season's end, much was expected by many of MSU this year. They were tough, and getting better. But since then they've barely squeezed by a couple patsies of their own. To boot, they got thumped by Notre Dame, went down to Ohio State, and lost an overtime game to Iowa -- all on the Spartans home field. So much for THAT balloon. See ya. But now here comes Michigan....

It's a really tough call. Like the Detroit Lions seem to depend on Calvin Johnson so much, so do the Michigan Wolverines on their QB Dennard Robinson. When in doubt, heave it Calvin's way. Or in UM's case, forget about the set plays they practiced all week. Just let Dennard run wild. Sometimes it works -- against the bad teams. Against the good ones -- it won't. Take away those guys, and both teams become quite ordinary, at best.

MSU has certainly demonstrated they can negate Dennard Robinson's running game the last 3 years, and likely will again this Saturday. If UM's going to win, they'll have to rely on everybody else stepping up and getting the job done. As a senior, this is Dennard's last shot to beat his green nemesis from East Lansing. Extraordinary athlete that he's been, your truly is pretty sure he doesn't want his UM legacy to be the guy that could never beat MSU. Sure, it's a team game, and that shouldn't matter. But it will. I know it, you know it, and Dennard damn well knows it. The media's already talking about it. Fair? No. Real? You betcha. That's just the way it works.

Conversely, Michigan State seems to be on the downside of their current bell curve. They look ripe for the taking by a fairly good team. The game's in Ann Arbor, and they'll have their usual crowd of 100,000+ maize and blue fanatics cheering them on, but home field doesn't seem to matter much against these two teams.

In the big picture it's just two also-ran teams playing an in-state rivalry game. So who's going to win?

Methinks Dennard still won't be able to run against MSU, but in the end, what I consider to be an ever so slightly better squad comes out on top due to team play. People in Ann Arbor rejoice, Dennard finally sheds that gorilla on his back, and goes on to be maybe a 2nd round draft choice in the NFL. Because despite his talent, they won't quite know how to utilize it either. He won't be a QB, but like Brady Hoke this Saturday -- they'll figure out something.

Michigan by 7.

PS. Thanks for the idea MP. Hope I didn't screw it up too bad.

Monday, October 15, 2012

In the year 2050

I've been what you consider dead for a long time, of course, having spontaneously combusted when Brandon Inge was enshrined in Cooperstown, but I just couldn't resist coming back to let you know what's happening these days.

Pistol "Bam Bam" Palin, the great-great granddaughter of you know who, occupies the Oval Office as the President. Funny, or maybe not, how those things work out.

The Democrats and Republicans finally have some competition from a hybrid party called the Pubocrats. Alas, they haven't gained much traction, because it turns out they have aptly named themselves. All they seem to be interested in is going from bar to bar on a bus on Sundays during the NFL season. Yes, alcohol is still very much prevalent, and even though the technology has been upgraded whereby fans in such establishments can enjoy the thrill of being in the middle of the action as it's projected in 3-D around the room -- much like the aforementioned Pubs and Crats that you know now -- the never ending battle continues to rage. You know how that is. The NASCAR fans slug it out with the football fans over the viewing experience at such places. I mean, what difference does it make if one gets run over by a middle linebacking droid that can run the 40 yard dash in .217963 seconds, or NASCAR's latest edition of cars that travel at Mach 2? Either way, you're still left feeling virtually dead -- kind of like during the election season you are now experiencing.

Indeed, it was a rough transition for some a while back, when the NFL stopped using human players and replaced them with droids, but we got used to it. In hindsight, it made sense on a lot of levels. No more management-union strife haggling over collective bargaining agreements. No more ridiculous salaries for players. No more DUI's, crashing cars, paternity suits, positive drug tests, and all that nonsense. No more house payments missed to attend a game. No more shyster agents. All those guys that used to get hurt, go on the disabled list, and rack up millions of dollars worth of medical bills? Gone.

While you're still trying to figure out what's going on with helmet-to-helmet contact, concussions, pass interference calls, horse-collar tackles, and the league changing the rules every 5 minutes, we no longer have that problem. Replacement refs? We don't need ANY refs, because there are no more infractions committed. It's all in the software. You think the NFL is fast and hard-hitting now? You have no clue what these machines are capable of. Back in ancient times a human player named Dick Butkus once said the only thing better than watching an opposing player's helmet roll down the field, would be if his head was still in it. Butkus turned out be to prophetic. These days, the participants are not only quite literally expendable and easily replaced, but "body parts" fly all over the field on every play. If you can imagine watching two teams of what you knew as "Terminators" getting after each other in fast-forward, you get the picture. Great fun, watching those bots.

You Detroit Lions' fans might be interested in knowing that your team will still be confounding 38 years later. Sorry to break the news to you, but William Clay Ford still owns them. If that's not amazing enough, as the lone leftover human player in this age of the droids, at the age of 80 Jason Hanson is STILL kicking field goals for the Lions. Not so amazingly, the Lions have yet to make it to the Super Bowl. Alas, but hope springs eternal. (That's a little angel humor for you current season ticket holders. Nyuk, nyuk. Ernie Harwell still roars over that one when the subject turns to the Lions. It's a laugh a minute up there, I tell ya).

On a related note, back where I come from, there was a long discussion about Matt Millen several years ago. After a highly contentious debate, God (no, not Roger Goodell -- the REAL one), in an act of Supreme forgiveness, decided to bestow angel's wings upon Millen and put him in charge of the heavenly football department. Problem was, Millen had the whole place in a shambles after a few years, so the Boss (no, not George Steinbrenner or Bruce Springsteen, or even Jeff Kuehn -- the REAL one) gave him another assignment. You may or may not be happy to know that in 2050 Matt Millen can't fly anymore and continues his eternal task of talking into a microphone, while nobody's paying the slightest bit of attention as to what he's blathering on about. Everybody seems satisfied with that arrangement. I dare say that was an example of His infinite wisdom at it's finest.

It also saddens me to tell you what's in store for the Detroit Red Wings. A couple generations after owner Mike Ilitch passed on, the controlling heir, Ahduhknowathingolis Ilitch, having wearied of all the nonsense about hockey and keeping the books, got rid of the ice and, on a trillionaire's whim, turned the surface of  Joe Louis Arena into the world's largest pizza pie, with the former cooling system beneath converted into heating coils. It seems Ahduh had this bright idea about an all-you-can-eat business instead, but when former Red Wings' fans started exploding from the experience, he was forced to abandon it. Nevertheless, those Zamboni machines that dispensed cheese and pepperoni were a stroke of genius. But you know how it eventually goes with kids when they inherit a business. He had better things to do.

Like becoming the First Gentleman of the United States. Yep, you guessed it. He wound up married to Bam Bam. To make matters worse, a few months ago they both swore allegiance to the Pubocrats.

You think you've got problems in 2012?

Ha. You have no idea.

See you on the flip side. Ignore the droning in the background. That's just Matt.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Say it ain't so

I think all the pink paraphernalia going on in pro sports these days is to show their support for the ladies' breast cancer cause. We've seen pink gloves, pink shoes, pink socks, pink wristbands, pink towels, pink patches and decals, and just about every pink accessory they can come up with. Some old school hard cores probably aren't too fond of all that, be they athletes or fans, but hey, it's kind of cool the "macho-men" themselves have shown they can think with the other "head" for a change, while showing appreciation for their fairer sex counterparts.

To a point.

Now I ask you -- what could be more macho than playing football for the Cowboys down in Big D? In the land formerly inhabited by the "doomsday" defense, toughness had always gone without saying. A few teeth knocked out or a broken bone? No problem. It's just a scratch. Put me back in, coach.

The Cowboys' old stadium was unique in that it had a small opening in the dome, supposedly so even God could watch the "boys". As we all know, that stadium's history, and Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones built his bazillion dollar mega-palace to replace it, replete with the world's largest overhead TV screen inside for the fans' further entertainment. And of course, a similar opening for the Almighty to have an unobstructed view.

The Cowboys have won multiple Super Bowls, have a long list of former players enshrined in the NFL Hall of Fame, probably the most famous cheerleaders in the world, and long ago dubbed themselves "America's Team". It seems modesty and humility weren't high on the list down in Big D.

Nevertheless, one thing always remained. That team was about men, dammit. Ain't got no place for sissies, now.  If ya ain't willin' to step up and be a man, then y'all best get on down the road and go play hopscotch or sumthin, cuz we got some serious bidnuh that needs tendin to.

Yessiree Bob, the Cowboys have always been about as macho as it gets. Now they're wearing a few little pink things here and there to support the ladies. Well OK, it's pretty much widely accepted that every woman born after 1970 or so was likely created from one of Roger Staubach's ribs, so giving the babydolls a little credit now and then probably doesn't hurt too much.

But now it's been revealed that something has gone terribly wrong in the kingdom of testosterone.

According to Sports Illustrated, the Dallas Cowboys opened a Victoria's Secret Pink Store inside Cowboy Stadium. If so, SI is right. Surely this would be a sign of the Apocalypse.

C'mon boys. Say it ain't so.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The baseball playoffs and Xanax

The wise guys in Vegas that set the odds on sporting events are probably eating Xanax like popcorn. Just when you think you have a "line" on something, WHAM, the unexpected happens. What a weird year in the world of the major league playoffs.

Consider the Oakland A's. Where did those guys come from? They weren't supposed to be contenders. Back on June 30 they were 13 games behind the two-time defending AL champion Texas Rangers. With only 10 games to go, they were still 5 games behind -- and look what happened. The mighty Rangers faltered, the A's got hot, and capped it off by sweeping a final regular season 3-game series at home against Texas to win the AL West. Apparently dazed, Texas was sent to the canvas for the count by the Baltimore Orioles in the one-game knockout wild-card game. My, how fast the mighty can fall.

The Orioles weren't supposed to be all that good either. Sure, they started out the season with a bang, but everybody figured they'd go back to their usual nesting place towards the bottom of the division before the year was over. They didn't. They got better. Where did THOSE guys come from?

In the NL, the Cincinnati Reds were on cruise-control, as were the Washington Nationals. Wait a minute. Washington?? Since when do they win anything in Washington except elections, tax dollars and free country club memberships? Where did THOSE guys come from?

Then everything went crazy. The San Fran Giants, already down 2-0 in a NLDS, waltzed into Cinci and did something that hadn't been done all year. Beat the Reds 3 straight. Right about now, Reds' manager Dusty Baker might be having a heckuva time trying to pass that toothpick he always chews on, and swallowed when the Reds' whole glorious season came crashing down. And a sports book at Caesar's Palace popped a pill.

The Detroit Tigers, heavy pre-season favorites to easily win what was widely perceived as the weakest division in baseball, barely squeaked into the playoffs in the final days of the season. A wise guy at Bally's heaved a sigh of relief. Poor guy. It seems when they have to pay off on long odds, his bosses don't like it one bit, and his thoughts turn to what it might be like at the bottom of Lake Mead, so he took a couple pills just thinking about the possibility.

Then bang, bang, the Tigers go up 2-0 in their ALDS against the A's. All they had to do was win one out of 3 in Oakland. But remember, small payroll Oakland had swept the once mighty squad of mega-buck Rangers at home under similar pressure, and appeared to be a team of destiny. Could they do it again to the Tigers with all their multi-millionaires? The A's won game 3, then game 4, and probably the ghost of Charlie Finley himself was tuned into game 5. It would be the deciding game, with the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young award winning Justin Verlander taking on the team that seemingly wouldn't be denied. But denied they were. Turns out, an ace pitcher on his A-game, who throws a 4-hit shutout, with 11 strikeouts along the way, has a way of trumping destiny sometimes. Evidently, this Verlander guy is pretty good. Who knew? But a guy in the back room of Bellagio re-upped his script just in case.

So now the Tigers will square off against the NY Yankees, who were taken to 5 games themselves by the upstart Orioles. Like the Tigers and Verlander, the Bronx Bombers also had to use their ace pitcher, one C.C. Sabathia, just to get to where they are now. Justin and C.C. will both start off the next series at the bottom of the rotation, so in that respect, neither has an advantage. Sometimes the odds work out that way. And the pharmacies in Vegas experience a short lull.

Things are a bit different in the NL. San Fran was fully expected to be a dominant team this year. Problem is, that team is coached by Jim Harbaugh and plays football. The team that plays baseball, the Giants I think they're called, were quietly putting an end to the swan-song season of Larry Wayne "Chipper" Jones and his Atlanta Braves. As a lock for the Hall of Fame, Chipper has no worries, so he doesn't need a bunch of pills. On second thought, he's got four kids and is going through a divorce -- so maybe a couple. Beats Lake Mead though -- I think.

It also turns out that this is the first year all 4 division series' had went to the full 5 games in the 18 years the format has been in existence. The odds on that happening? According to the experts that compute such things -- about 2%. A long shot, but it came in. No doubt, some people bet on it somewhere, and maybe a young "book" at the Rio struggled with the child-proof cap on his bottle of 1000 milligram goodies.

And the Washington Nationals mentioned above? They shut down their ace pitcher Stephen Strasburg just prior to the playoffs, because after having "Tommy John" surgery last year on his throwing arm, it was predetermined that he only be allowed to throw so many innings this year.  Given the folks in DC hadn't seen a contending baseball team since maybe the days gold coins were still used as currency, that's a crying shame. That would be like the Detroit Tigers losing Verlander -- and then where would they be? Nevertheless, they hung in there, and had a game 5 of their own at home, and were leading 6-0 after 3 innings. Hurray for the Generals, they might finally win somethi....oops, that was the Globetrotter thing. Sorry, wrong doormats. At any rate, the game and series seemed well in hand. But it was not to be.

As birds do, those pesky St. Louis Cardinals kept peck-pecking away at the lead. And in the end, the Nationals wound up just like the Generals always did. Losing.

The Cardinals seemed to fly under the radar all season, much like they did last year -- but in the end -- we all know who won the 2011 World Series. That wasn't supposed to happen. The good people that make Xanax might have been working overtime to provide the sudden demand in pills from the MGM and Monterrey Bay on one end, to the Stratosphere on the other, where the wise guys were crunching numbers along the Vegas strip in back rooms. Their colleagues on Fremont St, the old downtown under the roof, were probably gulping their own not-so healthy dosages as well.

And now here we/they are. Tigers/Yanks and Giants/Cardinals. Who will win either series, let alone the World Series? If I knew that, I wouldn't be writing a sports blog for the Oakland Press in my spare time. I'd be in Vegas with whatever money I could get together, looking up those pill-poppers. It's a crap shoot, and yours truly never did quite understand all the nuances of that game either.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lance Armstrong, witchhunts, and Superman

And so it goes on -- and on -- and on. The US Anti-Doping Agency continues to pursue Lance Armstrong over allegations he used illgegal substances, or techniques, or SOMETHING, when he was winning all those Tour de France titles so many years ago.

Lance has denied it all along, of course, and you know what? His loyalists will always stand by him, no matter what, others will assume he is guilty, no matter what, and chances are those of us that have no dog in this hunt will never know what actually happened or didn't happen -- no matter what.

It's been well documented, even by the USADA itself, that during the course of Armstrong's cycling career he was tested, by blood and/or urine samples, over 500 times, and each test came back clean as a whistle. That doesn't seem to matter to the witchhunters. It certainly appears obvious they're hell-bent on finding SOMETHING they can nail him with.

As is widely known, after years of trying to fight "the system", Armstrong ultimately decided not to exercise his "final option" and appear before the "arbitration" court. Yours truly isn't sure, but I suspect if one were to dig out Roget's thesaurus and look up the word "arbitration", one would find the word "kangaroo" as a synonym. I mean, what's the point in wasting one's time, not to mention a ton of money on legal expenses, if one knows a guilty verdict has already been rendered before one even walks into the courtroom? Thwarted at that turn, the USADA stripped Armstrong of his titles. That should have been the end of it, right? Oh no. The hunt continues. They want blood.

Here's an analogy to ponder, if you please. Lance Armstrong once dominated cycling much like Tiger Woods did golf, and as coincidence would have it, roughly during the same time frame. Like Tiger, he was the best. The MAN. Now what do you think would happen if rumors surfaced that Tiger had been using an illegal driver back then? The PGA never actually SAW that driver, mind you, despite inspecting his clubs at each tournament, but a lot of other players came forth and said Tiger had an ingenious way of disguising that club to make it appear legal? Like Armstrong, Woods vehemently denied it. Would it be a big story? No doubt. Would they strip Woods of all his major titles? Maybe. Would they ban him from the PGA for a year or two, or even life? Perhaps. But then it would be over. Tiger could still play golf, just not at the highest sanctioned levels. As the years rolled by, and Mother Nature gradually took her toll, in both instances, it would become academic anyway. But would they continue to persecute Woods to the four corners of the earth in a relentless pursuit to completely destroy him and his name? Somehow, I doubt that.

Yet that appears to be what's going on with Armstrong. The question that still remains unanswered, if it's ever been asked at all, would seem to be -- what's the end game? What is it the USADA ultimately hopes to accomplish before they put this whole matter to rest?

Have Armstrong break down in tears, say he was a bad boy, and beg for mercy? Will they throw him in a dungeon somewhere, waterboard him, burn him at the stake? What, exactly, will satisfy the "authorities" before they call off the hunt?

I, for one, don't know whether Lance Armstrong cheated or not. And you know what else? After all this time, money, legal wrangling, print and sound bytes, and other hype -- I weary of the hunt, even as a spectator. It just doesn't matter anymore and I don't care. I further dare say Armstrong reached much the same conclusion when he decided to stop being an active combatant in this whole sordid affair, and get on with his life elsewhere.

It would be nice if others would stop spending tax-payer dollars trying to get Clark Kent to finally admit he had a magic potion that turned him into Superman, and find something better to do with our money.

This whole thing is starting to get like the never-ending quest to find Jimmy Hoffa's remains, with one notable difference. Lance Armstrong is very much alive and currently doing a lot of good things for a lot of people, particularly children, through his foundation. THIS is who they want to paint as something evil?  Those that would say that he cheated at bike races and the on-going charitable work are entirely two different things, apples and oranges if you will, might want to consider that without his cycling career, dirty or not, there likely wouldn't BE any such foundation.  So in that respect, they are indeed related, and in the end, something very good became of it.

No one in their right mind would seriously consider Armstrong to be any sort of threat to society. Leave the man alone, and not only will he be just fine, but he'll help countless others to get better too.

Enough with the persecution of Armstrong already. Like the original Salem witch trials, the only people it seems to matter to are those that have nothing better to do with their lives than make someone else's life miserable.

In hindsight, who indeed turned out to be the evil ones when all that happened back in 1692?

This current madness needs to STOP.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

If I'm Ryan, I'm dying

There's been a lot of famous Ryans over the years, in various capacities, but you know what? With few exceptions, they're all pretty much overrated.

I think Ryan Seacrest started off as a deejay in LA, and now he's everywhere. Overrated.
Everybody knows who Ryan O'Neal is. He made the classic movie "Love Story" with Ali McGraw, another flick named "Paper Moon" with his kid Tatum, and married Farrah Fawcett. That's pretty much it. Big deal.

Now Nolan Ryan was one of the exceptions. During his long career in the major leagues, the Hall of Famer and all-time strike out king could intimidate just about any batter with the heat he could bring. But there was another Ryan that was always even more intimidating. I'll get back to that.

There's the Ryans currently in the NFL. Rex is the head coach of the NY Jets. He's been known to dress up like a clown, amongst other antics, and certainly gives very entertaining press conferences, but what's he ever won? Nuttin. His twin brother Rob is the defensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys. Anybody watching a Cowboys game on TV would think he's the head coach, with the way he prowls the sidelines, rants and raves at the officials, and basically finds a way to get the TV cameras focused on him during the course of a game. Actually, Dallas' head coach is Jason Garrett, but one would never know it, because he stands there like a cardboard cut-out. Kind of like that guy holding the pitchfork in Grant Woods' classic painting "American Gothic". Garrett would seem to be a perfect fit to do Bartles and James commercials on TV, but I digress. By the way, when's the last time Rob won anything?

At any rate, the NFL's Ryan boys always seem to grab the most attention, even though their ultimate work product isn't so hot -- as in wins and losses -- the only thing that really matters in the NFL. Entertaining guys? Sure. But guess what? Yep. Overrated. Chances are, if it wasn't for their daddy Buddy, they wouldn't even BE in the NFL. And even HE got all the media attention back in his day, when he was merely a lieutenant in the Chicago Bears organization. Long time NFL fans will remember the 1985-86 Bears squad that won the Super Bowl. What's the first thing that comes to mind? Buddy Ryan's vaunted 46 defense, featuring Mike Singletary, Richard Dent, William "the refrigerator" Perry, etc. Sure they were good, but Buddy was only the defensive coordinator. A very fiery guy himself named Mike Ditka was actually the head coach, but like Buddy's boy in Dallas right now, it was all about Ryan.

Anyplace a Ryan goes, they seem to have a way of taking over, regardless of whether they're any good or not. Sometimes I wonder if they're not all inter-connected  like the "Borg" of Star Trek fame. A massive conspiracy to take over everything they come in contact with. If we're not careful, we could all be "absorbed". Holy death star, my fellow worthy Jedi Knights and Knightesses, our very continued existence as a civilization might well rest on our remaining united, vigilant and fighting back against this nemesis.

Good grief, there's even a Ryan that might be elected Vice President of the United States next month. I have little doubt he'd find a way to take over too. They're everywhere, I tell ya. (Lest anyone think yours truly is showing partisanship in any way, I can assure you that is not the case. It is noted that Obama has enough problems lugging along his own running mate, one Jethro Bodine, ahem, Joe Biden). Which brings me to....

In my humble opinion, other than Nolan, there was only one other Ryan that knew how to take charge and, one way or the other, get things done to the benefit of all, while still knowing their place. That would be the late Irene Ryan. As "Granny" of the "Beverly Hillbillies", her character Daisy Moses just wouldn't tolerate failure. She got things done, while always deferring to "Uncle Jed".

This is the kind of Ryan we need these days. Granny knew how to get her kinfolk, and just about everybody else, in line. While playing good old fashioned country hardball like Nolan once did, she would have scoffed at the likes of Seacrest and O'Neal. Rex and Rob would have been sent out to do chores somewhere, and Buddy would likely be stoned on rheumatiz medicine, while tending the cee-ment pond. And that long wild-man looking hair the boys have been known to sport? Fuhgetaboutit. Never would have happened.

And what could be better than having a Granny Ryan as the Vice President? People say Romney is out of touch? No problem. Granny would have him chopping firewood on the White House lawn the day after they were inaugurated. If Mitt got uppity about it, a "switch" would come into play, and wouldn't it be fun to see THAT on CNN?  From Bain to pain, while scampering through the rose garden on the way to the woodshed. Not sure what she'd do with Barack, but all the other nonsense about being an international playboy one day, a double nought spy the next, a brain surgeon the following day, and maybe a fry cook the day after that, would have been dispensed with. So much for Joe Biden.

Maybe there's an upside to this Ryan thing after all.

We just need the right one.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Jim Leyland

Way back on June 11th, yours truly wrote an article suggesting the Detroit Tigers fire Jim Leyland. I caught a lot of flak over that. Much has happened in the 4 months since then. The Tigers have been up and down, but eventually prevailed to win the American League central division, and currently hold a 2-0 lead over the Oakland Athletics in the first round of the playoffs. How far the Tigers go in the postseason is anybody's guess, and ultimately winning the World Series certainly isn't out of the question.

Common sense would seem to dictate that I eat crow over that article, but there's just one problem with that. If you've read some my other rants, you already know I don't have any common sense. Ever wonder why the price of the Oakland Press keeps going up? It might be because the paper is paying me Prince Fielder type money to rant like a lunatic. Or maybe I exaggerated that just a little bit. Only Caputo gets that kind of dough. Whatever.

Nevertheless, I'll stick by that June rant and here's why ---

Jim Leyland doesn't know anything hitting or pitching. Like most other major league managers, he has specialized coaches that tutor the players in such things. Though he has sometimes said so, from the dugout he can't tell whether a pitch was an inch outside or not. If one of his pitchers serves up a monster home run to an opposing batter, Leyland will say he made a bad pitch. Yet, if on the same pitch, the opposing batter had struck out -- he'll say it was a good pitch. This is all baloney. Sometimes they hit them, and sometimes they don't.

Leyland's job as a manager is to put the right players in the right positions to give the Tigers the best chance of winning any particular game. He makes out the "line-up" card before the game, decides on a starting pitcher, brings in pinch-hitters and relievers from the bullpen as he sees fit, and can signal in such plays as a hit-and run or sacrifice bunt, given any particular situation.

And in that regard, many knowledgeable baseball people, that are impartial to the Tigers, have found Leyland to be sorely lacking in his judgment.  Many times, he's had players playing positions they're not familiar with, and bungled his pitchers.

Leyland, and I dare say many Tiger fans, have become fond of him spouting his post-game pseudo-platitudes to the press, which seems to be intimidated by him for some unknown reason.

Yet, I would still maintain the Tigers continue to win DESPITE Leyland, foibles, gruff attitude, and all.

His contract expires after this year, so the Tigers don't even need to fire him. Just don't renew his contract and let him go back home to Pennsylvania and live happily ever after with his millions in the bank. It's time to move on.

Of course, in the unlikely event the Tigers indeed go on to win the World Series, Leyland will be a hero in the eyes of many, and they'll clamor for a long-term extension to his contract. In my opinion, they would be mistaken, and I hope Tigers' owner Mike Ilitch has the wisdom to see through all that.

Just because Leyland has been around the major leagues for a long time, enjoying the "good ole boy" rotation system that seems to be prevalent amongst head coaches and managers in various pro sports, doesn't necessarily mean he's any good.

And who knows? If the Tigers become world champs, maybe Leyland will take a cue from another manager that was always light years ahead of him in baseball strategy. Tony LaRussa of the St. Louis Cardinals, also a long-shot to win the World Series last year, did so and promptly announced his retirement. He went out on top.

That would be a win-win. Perfect.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Who's who in college football

Down goes LSU at the hands of Florida. Down goes Texas in their own back yard courtesy of West Virginia. Down goes Georgia at the hands of South Carolina. Down goes Florida St. having succumbed to the Wolfpack of NC State. Geez, some of the top teams were falling like yours truly once did for Angelena Jolie, before that dastardly Brad Pitt swooped in and stole her away. Rats, foiled again.

So who's left? South Carolina's pretty good, but they have a built in Peter Principle problem. That would be their head coach, Steve Spurrier. While the self-described "old ball coach" can make more faces than Marcel Marceau, and ham it up on the sidelines to the point that would make even William Shatner (Captain Kirk) blush, they are not, repeat NOT, going to win a national title. When crunch time comes, the Gamecocks have a way of being batted around like shuttlecocks.

USC, the preseason #1 in some polls, complete with Heisman hopeful, big man on campus, and all-around super-stud QB Matt Barkley, had already been knocked off by that pesky Stanford, who in turn lost to Washington, then barely survived Arizona. So much for the wild west.

Except maybe for Oregon. They're currently #2 and undefeated. The Ducks always seem to feature a whole bunch of really speedy guys. Could they win it?

Maybe, if it weren't for one thing. Alabama. The defending champion Crimson Tide seems to be picking up where they left off last year. Oregon has speedy little guys. Bama has speedy big and tough guys. As they say -- the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong -- but that's the way to bet.

Like them or not, yours truly just doesn't see anybody derailing the freight train head coach Nick Saban has under a full head of steam rolling down the tracks in Tuscaloosa.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The baseball playoffs. Fair or foul??

The major league playoffs start tonight with "wild card" games.. Texas and Baltimore square off as do Atlanta and St. Louis. Whoever loses those games goes home. The survivors move on to meet a division winner in basically a quarterfinal on the way to the championship (World Series).  Is that fair?

Depends how one looks at it. For many decades there were no such playoffs. The team with the best regular season record in the National League met their counterparts from the American League in the World Series to decide the championship. Best 4 out of 7 wins. Period. End of story.

But then came "expansion" with the creation of many more teams. Then somebody figured out there was a ton of money to be made by classifying the glut of teams from both leagues into "divisions", and expanding the playoffs as well. Also, these divisions were supposed to have teams within them in relatively close geographical proximity, and the schedule was weighted so they would play each other more than other teams, hopefully to create rivalries. To boot, it would cut down on travel miles, jet lag for the players, and those sort of things. Like the designated hitter rule and inter-league play, whether or not it's enhanced the overall game is certainly debatable.

But given the right circumstances, the current playoff format could be considered quite unfair. As an example, let's say the NY Yankees won the American League East Division with the best record in the AL. The Baltimore Orioles finished one game back of them, with the second best record in the league. Let's further assume that particular division featured the toughest competition that, with the weighted schedule, they would have to fight through over the course of the year. In the meanwhile, it could be that a team such as the Chisox in the AL Central won their division not only playing many more games against much weaker teams, but also finished the season under .500. There could be a 20 game difference in win-loss records between Baltimore and Chicago. It's entirely possible.

If that were to happen, despite having the second best overall record against superior competition, the Orioles would find themselves facing the equivalent of the NCAA tournament's basketball "play-in" game between the two bottom seeds while, in effect, being a #2 seed when the tournament started. While they're slugging it out with another team in a "one and done" that might also very well have compiled a vastly superior record to Chicago, the White Sox get a bye. Something is wrong with this picture.

Sure, teams can get hot at the right time and carry it through to an unlikely championship. The St. Louis Cardinals, who barely squeaked into the playoffs last year, are proof positive of that.

The division alignments are all well and good, and let the champs of those divisions get a trophy and a pennant, even if they're under .500. But when it comes to the playoffs, things should be set up differently.

Division champs or not, let the teams with the two worst records amongst the qualifiers in the entire league play a one game knockout for the right to advance further in the playoffs. What could be fairer than that?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Planet Sims of the Detroit Lions

Rob Sims, a starting offensive guard for the Detroit Lions, is a very good football player. He must be, because not just any Tom, Dick, or Robbie makes it to the NFL. It takes exceptional talent, toughness, and desire, though being 6-3 and about 315 pounds doesn't hurt either.

There are those that think pro football players are just big, dumb, overpaid jocks. No doubt some of them are, but it's probably fair to say they're just like everybody else in the sense that given any snapshot of society, some people are smarter than others. That's just the way it is.

However, a very recent interview Sims gave the press leaves one to wonder just what's going on "upstairs" with him.

When asked about the Lions' slide the last few weeks, Sims was quoted as saying, "We've got to go play with that chip on our shoulders like the Lions had for years and years and years".

Now yours truly isn't quite sure what Lions the good Mr. Sims is talking about, but if it's the ones that play in Ford Field, and the Silverdome before that, then something is terribly wrong with that statement. THOSE Lions didn't play with a chip on their shoulders. It was more like a boulder on their backs. This is what he wants to go back to? Huh?

"We maybe lost some of our recklessness and playing with reckless abandon -- and we need to get that back", said Sims. Timeout. It seems to me that playing reckless, ala stupid penalties, missed blocks and tackles, dropped passes, blown assignments, etc., is what got them into this mess in the first place. Pro football is hardly about mass mayhem, but rather precise execution. There's blocking and coverage schemes, crucial timing, and basically every player has a job to do on every play. If a team flows with discipline and execution, chances are they'll be successful. If they throw caution to the wind and run around like a bunch of lunatics, chances are they won't.

Sims said, "I think we were just out there trying to be perfect". Whoa. Perfect? Since Sims came over from the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, the Lions record is 17-19. In his first 4 seasons with the Seahawks, that team went 28-36, making Sims' career record as a pro 45-55. Just a thought, but maybe he and his teams should aspire to be merely average in the NFL before talking about perfection. Let's get real. The Lions had a halfway decent season last year, only to get blown out in their first playoff game. Currently, they sit at 1-3 in 2012. This is hardly the stuff of which legends are made, so what is the man thinking? Or is he?

"Tee it high and let it fly", he said. It would appear that's what the Lions have done for a very long time. After being weekend duffer golfers for so many years, the Lions finally made a birdie last year, and all of a sudden they think they're ready to jump in with Tiger and Rory. Problem is, the ensuing drives have been landing deep in the woods. Every time they experience just a little taste of success, they let it go to their heads, get cocky, and inevitably crash and burn.

As an example, harkon back to the Wayne Fontes days. Back in 1991, after an opening game 45-0 beatdown at the hands of the Washington Redskins, the Lions rattled off 5 wins in a row, with a superstar named Barry Sanders, and look what happened. The Queen classic "Another One Bites the Dust" blared from the Silverdome speakers, Fontes was riding around in a golf cart smoking big fat cigars, and the Lions had a safety that seemed to be on a mission to impregnate every woman he came in contact with. He was nicknamed "Spider". I mean, there's having 8 appendages, but that was ridiculous. After a bye week, they were thumped 35-3 out in San Francisco. Yes, they recovered and went on to post a 12-4 record and trash the Dallas Cowboys 38-6 in a playoff game. The Lions were talking smack galore, and reverted back to peacock mode. Enter the Redskins for a rematch. Exit the Lions, 41-10. In other words, they got cocky and the downward spiral began again. They would eventually fall like Humpty Dumpty and all William Clay Ford's horses, men and millions couldn't put them back together again for many years.

Fast forward to 2011 when they started off 5-0, with a superstar named Calvin Johnson. In a strange twist of fate, after being unceremoniously dumped at home by the very same San Fran 49ers mentioned above, head coach Jim Schwartz went berserk over a simple post-game handshake and clap on the back from the opposing coach. He was cocky. Since then, they're 6-10. Deja vu?

Now we have Rob Sims saying, "We need to hold true to ourselves, and that's just playing the way we play. We can't play like anybody else. I think we just have to be ourselves".

Perhaps it never occurred to him that THAT seems to be the very problem which has haunted the Lions for decades. A grand total of one playoff victory in 45 years worth of chances is more than a rut. It's the Grand Canyon.

Some maintain these are not "the same old Lions". I would disagree and cite their history as evidence. Give that team a bottle of Mad Dog and wham, they'll chug it and start strutting around like they own a French vineyard. They never seem to learn that worhipping the "porcelain receptacle" will be "coming up" shortly. From my perspective, these are EXACTLY the same old Lions.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

USA vs Europe

As everybody knows, the Europeans retained the Ryder Cup -- again. This after having once been down 10-4 in scoring, only to roar back and win 14 1/2 - 13 1/2.  That might be akin to an NFL team leading by three touchdowns at halftime, at home, then having the visiting team dominate them in the second half, and ultimately win the game on a last second field goal. Ouch.

Did the Americans choke or are the Europeans just that good? An argument could be made either way. Of course, the American apologists are trying to play it down by saying it was more important to the Europeans than to the Americans. Hogwash. The last time the US won the Ryder Cup, the players were celebrating like a team that had just won the World Series. The "Yanks" wanted it -- bad. Who's kidding who here?

At that, it leaves one to wonder -- just what are we Americans better at in sports than the Europeans these days?

Certainly men's basketball. The US Olympic team routinely cruises to the gold medal. The ladies have more of a dogfight (or is that catfight?) on their hands.

Definitely pro baseball, but that's not a fair comparison. Europeans basically don't even compete in the sport.

Hockey? The Americans are actually a minority in the NHL. Besides Canadians, most NHL squads have a liberal sprinkling of European players on them. Put the top US born players together as a team, and many European national teams would likely beat them. Even the "Miracle on Ice" over 30 years ago was truly that -- a miracle. Regardless, nowadays it could fairly be said the Americans are far from dominant.

In ladies' tennis, Serena Williams is still as good or better than anybody else. Yet on the mens' side the US doesn't even seem to have a serious contender. The last few years, guys named Nadal, Federer, and Djokovic have won just about everything. They're from Spain, Switzerland, and Czechoslovakia, respectively, all European countries.

Football is a trick question. Certainly the NFL is the pinnacle of American-style football, but again, the Europeans don't have much interest in that particular game. Even the mighty NFL's efforts to start a European league fizzled out. They're just not into it. On the other hand, the Europeans have their own variety, futbol, aka soccer, which they are equally passionate about. For whatever reasons, when it comes to soccer, the US doesn't measure up to the Europeans at the highest level.

But for now it's about golf. On the ladies' side, the Asians have become dominant, leaving both Europe and the US in the dust -- so that's a push for this topic. Looking at the top 5 in the world rankings for men reveals 3 Brits, Tiger Woods checking in at #2, and that pesky Irish kid McIlroy standing on top of the heap. Advantage definitely Europe.

On a related note, Tiger himself seems to be quite the paradox when it comes to golf. On the American tour he was once all but unbeatable. Yet even then he became quite mortal in Ryder Cup competition. In other words, in Ryder Cup matches, he actually lost more than he won. During this year's Cup competition, Woods went a miserable 0-3-1, to bring his all time Ryder Cup record to 13-16-3. Being the #2 golfer in the world is still very impressive, but Tiger seems to function much better as a lone wolf against the pack. When he's on a team, much less being stared down in a one on one competition, the wheels seem to come off his game. Weird.

Ah well, there's always hope for us Yanks. How long until the next Summer Olympics anyway?