Monday, December 31, 2012

South Carolina will wear you out

Anyone that watched the Chick Fil-A Bowl pitting a very good LSU team against the Clemson Tigers couldn't help but notice what was happening towards the end. It seemed like on every play, another LSU player was down on the field, gasping or grimacing. That's because the Clemson Tigers flat wore their butts OUT. Though Clemson only won that game on a last second field goal, the score shouldn't have been anywhere near that close. Clemson dominated throughout in just about every statistical category, including time of possession, sacks, first downs, and passing and rushing yardage. It finally caught up to LSU in the fourth quarter, with their players going down like the Rockettes during the Little Drummer Boy routine.

On New Year's day, the Michigan Wolverines will square off against another team from the Palmetto state that is even better in the Outback Bowl. The South Carolina Gamecocks. Yours truly suspects the same scenario might very well repeat itself. Those dudes from South Carolina will get after you for the WHOLE game, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see the Wolverines gasping and grimacing in the fourth quarter as well.

The Gamecocks are vastly superior to the Wolverines in a couple quality/quantities that can't be taught. Overall team speed. Speed kills, and the Gamecocks are not only fast, but extremely athletic on both sides of the ball. Plus they play hard from start to finish.

On a related note, I find it comical there are those that suggest Michigan is carrying some sort of torch into this game for the Big 10, or 12, or 14, or whatever they are these days. Oh really? Last time I looked Wisconsin was the Big 10 champion and will be playing in the Rose Bowl against Stanford. Further, Ohio State went undefeated this year and, if they weren't banned from post-season play due to infractions committed by others before them, would quite likely be playing in the national championship game against Notre Dame. How could the pollsters keep an undefeated Ohio State team out of such a game in favor of Alabama, which got knocked off -- at home -- by Texas A&M?
I don't want to hear about how close the scores of some of their games were. They won -- all of them. At the end of the regular season, the Buckeyes and Fighting Irish were the only two major college football powers to be undefeated. What else matters?

To boot, Ohio State now has Urban Meyer as their head coach. His track record speaks for itself. Michigan has Brady Hoke, who seems to come across more like a high school gym coach, but quickly got into the typically arrogant Maize and Blue mode, even as a rookie. Which would you rather have recruiting for and coaching up YOUR team in the foreseeable future?

At best, right now Michigan is the 3rd best team in the Big 10, playing in a second tier bowl game. Hardly what an objective fan would consider flag bearers for the conference.

And yours truly suspects the Gamecocks will wear THEIR butts out too by the 4th quarter.

We'll see.

No matter what ----


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Why the Detroit Lions are losing

Basically it's because the whole organization, from top to bottom, consists of individuals that wouldn't be tolerated in any other NFL city. Consider ----

Owner William Clay Ford. A half century of the Lions' folly under his ownership speaks volumes and nothing more need be said.

General manager Martin Mayhew. He was front and center when the Lions showed a tad of false promise last year, and has since gone into hiding again, as well he should. This is the guy that used a 1st round draft pick to select an offensive tackle -- one Riley Reiff -- that can't even start. On any other NFL team, 1st round picks are supposed to immediately step in and be difference makers. In years past, it was standard procedure to spend a 1st round pick on a QB, while he sat back and learned for a couple years under the current starter. Not any more. Look at Andrew Luck in Indianpolis and Robert Griffin III in DC. They not only started immediately, but led their teams into the playoffs. Mayhew picked an offensive tackle to ride the pine. Only the Lions.

President Tom Lewand. The bean counter. It doesn't take a CPA to figure out Lewand's put his team in a financial bind. Even though they're coming off yet another woeful season (4-12), he had 7 players that ate up a full 58% of the salary cap. Calvin Johnson made $20 million. Matthew Stafford 12. Ndamukong Suh another 12. Aging defensive lineman Kyle Vanden Bosch 6. Mediocre at best linebacker Stephen Tulloch 5. Ever-yappy center Dominic Raiola another 5. For reasons that perhaps only the Lions' "brain trust" can comprehend, they saw fit to throw another $10 million at defensive tackle Cliff Avril for a year. Add it all up and it comes to about $70 million. The NFL salary cap in roughly $120 million. Bottom line? The Lions were left with 42% of the salary cap to pay the other 85% (46 players) on their team. It's not that the Lions wouldn't like to procure more talent -- they don't have the cap room to pay for it. Lewand's mysteriously disappeared too. Imagine that.

Head coach Jim Schwartz. What can one say? He's a loser. After 4 seasons as the Lions' coach, Schwartz is a whopping 20 games under .500. That's a bunch when the seasons are only 16 games long. Put another way, if the Lions were to go a perfect 16-0 next season, after 5 years Schwartz would STILL be a career loser. The chances of that happening? Well, here's a promise. If the Lions go 16-0 next season, yours truly will stand bare-ass naked on the sidewalk outside the Oakland Press building handing out Honolulu blue kool-aid until the authorities drag me off somewhere -- or the boss just shoots me. Actually, the latter might be preferable, but I'm fairly confident it won't come to that.

The coordinators. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has been around the NFL for a very long time. He put in many years with the KC Chiefs, the LA Raiders, and San Diego Chargers before being dragged along by Jim Schwartz. He's mostly been associated with losing teams too.
Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was recently praised by Jim Schwartz as having done a great job. Well, what else would Schwartz say? I hired him and he has the creativity of a potted plant? It's not too hard to imagine how Linehan goes about calling plays. Put yourself in his spot. "Let's see. I've got a below average offensive line, a sorry-ass corps of running backs, tight ends that can't catch, and a few receivers that weren't good enough to stick with any other team. Eureka!! I have it. Hey Matthew, throw it in the general direction of Calvin and maybe he can catch it." After all, that's pretty much what the Lions' offensive strategy has been -- and look where it's got them. Calvin has a record, but the team loses and loses, and loses some more.

The players. Look at the Lions' roster. As a receiver, Calvin Johnson would start on any NFL team. But when other bean counters take a look at the massive salary cap hit that CJ brings along with him, many might not be so interested.
Mattthew Stafford could start for a few teams, but the majority of them already have QBs in place that they wouldn't trade even up for him. Stafford passes for a lot of yards only because Calvin Johnson is on his team. Put him somewhere else, and I suspect he'd be about average.
Placekicker Jason Hanson remains one of the most reliable in the league at his position, but I'm not at all sure how many teams would be interested in a 42 year old kicker.
Beyond that, who else do the Lions have on their entire roster that would be a sure-fire starter on another team? They've got a few guys with some talent, but those same guys either can't stay healthy, or have "issues". Either way, they're damaged goods in the eyes of general managers elsewhere.

So there you have it. The entire Lions' culture is STILL infested with people that wouldn't be good enough to participate in the league anywhere else. Certainly not by any city or franchise with an iota of pride, not to mention self-respect.

As I've stated on many occasions for umpteen years -- including 2011 when the Lions' faithful thought their team was finally going to be a contender -- what happened to the Lions this year was not only predictable, but highly probable.

Given their current sorry state of affairs, they're not going anywhere in the next few years either.

In my opinion, the only way the Lions can finally become competitive is to blow up the whole team. Get rid of the front office personnel, all the coaches and, yes, even the players. Start with a clean slate. The Fords could afford to eat all those contracts. Then they need to find one no-nonsense guy with a brilliant football mind to start building it from scratch, and put him in charge of the whole operation. The name Jon Gruden comes to mind. Gruden would laugh at coming to Detroit you say? Maybe, but if he was offered $10 million a year for 5 years and given the authority to hire his own coaches and have final say on draft picks and/or free agent signings, and further charged with the challenge of building a contender starting off with nothing -- he just might listen. Sure, they'd probably go 0-16 the first year, just like they did in 2008. Jim Schwartz came in and got the Lions to 2 wins, then 6, and then 10 last year. But that's where Schwartz maxed out. This year the Lions are once again heading back to the bottom of the barrel. The stupefying 3 year contract extension that Schwartz received aside -- he's pretty well outlived his usefulness. Anyone that thinks the Lions will become perennial contenders in the foreseeable future with what they have in place now is only fooling themselves. They have WAY too much downside; it was exposed once again this year, and it's not going away any time soon.

Blow it up and start over. After all, what do they have to lose? They've quickly become a laughingstock again. And give Gruden a call. If he's busy, check out a guy named Bill Cowher.

Dumb football rules -intentional grounding

Whether it's one's home town hero, or the quarterback for the other team  -- you know it when you see it -- because it's obvious. By that, I mean "intentional grounding".

When a QB drops back to pass and finds himself "under pressure", about to be sacked for a loss, perhaps even for a safety in his own end zone, at times they'll just throw the ball where nobody can possibly catch it, sometimes even into the stands. It's no big secret. We all know they do that to have the "pass" ruled incomplete, so they can trot back up to the original line of scrimmage and get on with the next play, their team having not suffered the loss of yardage that would have happened if they were sacked. It happens all the time, both in professional and college football.

And that's just wrong.

The "experts" will tell you there are a couple different reasons for QBs getting away with such shenanigans.

First, they might say he was outside the "tackle box", and therefore no penalty is warranted. That begs a question. Just where is this tackle box? And does anybody know exactly what the boundaries are? There certainly aren't any lines on the field to define it. Yours truly would further respond by saying, "Tackle box? The whole damn FIELD is a tackle box. HELLO? By that logic, should linebackers only be allowed to take down a running back between the hash marks? Wide receivers aren't allowed to run INSIDE the same hash marks? What's the difference? ANYBODY HOME?"

Or they might say the QB managed to throw the ball past the line of scrimmage. Near as I can tell, it's an incomplete pass if the ball sails into Row 5, as long as when it was airborne the ball went "out of bounds" a yard PAST the original line of scrimmage. But it just might be intentional grounding if the same ball went out of bounds a yard BEHIND the same line of scrimmage. How stupid is THAT?

Besides, every pro QB, and most of those in college, can flip the ball 50 yards off their back foot anytime they feel like it. Heaving it past the line of scrimmage is hardly a problem, even though there might not be a receiver nor defender within 20 yards of where the ball sailed out of bounds.

So forget the tackle box, the line of scrimmage, and all the other excuses, and just call it like it is. I know it, you know it, the players and coaches know it, and anybody else watching a game knows it. The only people that don't seem to understand it is the people making the rules in the NFL. It's not the refs' fault. Though they likely don't quite understand them either, they're bound by those very rules, but I suspect they privately look upon them with the same disdain as I do.

When a QB is under pressure and throws the ball away without the remotest chance of it ever being caught -- in my book, that's intentional grounding, and should be called as such.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The assault rifle debate

Normally, I wouldn't broach such a subject, because it has little if anything to do with sports. Yet an OP blogging colleague recently wrote an article which started off about hunting, then opened up into his own opinion on whether such weapons should be banned from citizen ownership -- or not. Given it appears to be "open season" on this issue, no pun intended -- if he can do it, then I might as well get my 2 cents worth in too, before I return to my usual sports nonsense.

Hunting for food, and even sport, has been around in this country since before it even WAS a country. Whether it's necessary or not these days is an entirely different issue, but do we need machine-gun type automatic weapons to riddle Bambi or Bullwinkle with a hundred bullets? Of course not. That's not hunting. That's like fishing in an aquarium. Hardly sportsmanlike.

Semi-automatic weapons (as in each pull of the trigger fires one shot -- and the one used in the latest horrific episode in Connecticut) are quite a different thing. Should law-abiding citizens be allowed to possess them?

In my opinion, yes, at least for now. Hunting for certain game aside, consider self defense. If one is at home with perhaps a spouse and/or children, and armed intruders enter one's residence intending mayhem, or worse, perhaps in the middle of the night, one has every right to defend themselves. That might entail shooting. If there are several of them, and one only has a single shot weapon, then one won't have time to reload if and when gunfire breaks out. You might get one of them, but you and your family will likely die in the next few seconds because you didn't have enough fire power at hand to stand a fighting chance.

Secondly, there's much truth in the bumper stickers you've likely seen which say... "When they take our guns away, only the criminals will have guns". Indeed, why would criminals, by their very definition, care about new gun laws? They will attempt to get them regardless.

Even given such new laws, would anyone seriously dispute that such weapons will continue to be manufactured abroad and our borders also continue to remain porous? Given Mexico, Canada, boats, airplanes, you name it, things many of us might not care for pour into this country every day. From heroin, cocaine, other drugs, pornography, and yes, weapons; if there's a market for it, which the US is, then the sellers will find a way to get it here. Every time the authorities crow about making a huge "bust" involving any of the above, all they really did was the equivalent of putting an ordinary household mosquito zapper in the middle of the Everglades. Who's kidding who?

There's still another point that has been taken for granted on the weapons debate. Most everybody says only the military and police should have them. Yours truly says -- hold on right there. Sure, the military should have them. Wars are all about killing people, and whoever runs out of ammunition or bodies first -- loses.

But the cops are a different story. Why should they be allowed to have such weapons when citizens cannot? They already have armored vehicles, helicopters, robot drones, bullet-proof vests, tasers, mace/pepper spray, tear gas, stun grenades/flash-bangs, attack dogs, night-vision goggles, snipers, and likely other things we don't even know of.

Consider a scenario that happens all too often: Police get a report of a shooter, or potential shooter. They will typically respond with a small army of their own, most of which will be manning assault rifles. That leads to a pertinent question -- assuming the "perpetrator" has to to "neutralized", as cop-speak goes, how many times do they need to shoot him? A few thousand? Wouldn't one think perhaps two or three would suffice?

Even if it was a well-armed group of criminals that out-gunned the cops -- that's what the National Guard exists for.

The point is, while it's seemingly flying under the radar, and taken for granted by those that aren't paying attention, there's a huge distinction to be made between the military and the police, regarding having such weapons. One needs them. The other does not. It's overkill.

Yours truly would get behind denying the citizenry access to semi-automatic weapons given a few conditions.

First, we have to know the criminals no longer possess, or will have future access to them. How that would ever be accomplished -- I have no idea.

Second, the cops, from the feds on down to small local police forces, have to agree to give them up as well. Good luck with that too.

The current politically correct rage amongst many is to deny the citizenry the right to possess such weapons. Sure, the Founding Fathers had no way of knowing how sophisticated and lethal weapons would become, but one might presume their whole intent with the Second Amendment was to ensure the citizens would never be disarmed, and thereby rendered basically defenseless. Like bringing a knife to a gunfight is mostly useless as a defense, so too is trying to ward off evil-doers when they possess far superior firepower. Would Thomas Jefferson and Co. approve of modern day citizens possessing such weapons, given everything else that's going on? We don't know, but I'm thinking that's a definite maybe.

There's another old saying that goes -- "the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun" -- preferably a bigger one.

Everything's ass-backwards. Law-abiding citizens should be the LAST to lay down such weapons -- not the FIRST.

That's not only Orwellian, it defies self-preservation amongst the good people that made and continue to make this country the great nation it is.

And in my opinion, something is horribly wrong with that picture.

Remember Matt Barkley of USC?

Not that long ago, QB Matt Barkley of the USC Trojans was in the catbird seat. After finishing up his junior season last year, Barkley seemed to have a couple very enviable choices to pick from.

He could have declared for the NFL draft. Whether or not he would have been chosen ahead of guys like Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III is certainly debatable, but there's little doubt he would have at least been a Top 10 pick. After all, he had finished the 2011 season on a very high note, including beating the always tough Oregon Ducks, in Oregon, then walloping cross town rival UCLA to the tune of 50-0 in the finale. Due to sanctions imposed on USC for things that happened in the past, Barkley and the Trojans weren't eligible for a bowl game. At the time, many NFL prognosticators were saying Barkley was the prototype QB, and was a "can't miss" proposition.

Who knows which team would have drafted him, but SOMEBODY would have, and Barkley would now have millions of dollars in the bank. Even if he didn't become an instant starter, he'd have been financially set for life.

But Barkley chose the other option -- to return to USC for his senior year. That certainly appeared to  have its upsides, as well. USC was ranked #1 in some pre-season polls for the 2012 campaign, and Barkley himself was projected as a Heisman hopeful. To boot, consider Barkley's stature at that time. A tall, handsome, blond-haired guy with perfect teeth, that just happened to be the star QB of  the football team, with countless millions and untold fame certainly awaiting him. It's probably a fair statement to say that not only was MB the BMOC in Trojanland, but he likely would have had use for a boxcar load of another kind of trojans, to deal with all the exquisite "cuisine" that would volunteer itself for the approval of his palate. That's a pretty sweet gig too for a 21 year old dude in LA.

But, oh my, how things have changed. The USC Trojans went into a tail-spin towards the end of this year, losing 4 out of their last 5. That included the penultimate regular season contest where UCLA not only avenged the beatdown they had received last year, by handily beating USC, but also knocking Barkley out of the game with a shoulder injury. He was not available for the next game against Notre Dame, which the Trojans also lost -- at home.

The words Barkley and Heisman stopped being used in the same sentence months ago. Now, with USC gearing up for a bowl game against Georgia Tech on New Year's Eve, Barkley won't even be playing, because the doctors still don't think his shoulder has sufficiently healed. So he's done -- at least as far as college football is concerned.

That could mean even worse news for Barkley. Pro scouts pay close attention to these sort of things when they report back to their bosses, and pro teams are always very leery when the draft comes around about "damaged goods". Fair or not, few would dispute it's a meat market, and it doesn't matter how good a kid was last year. They not only want to know what he's done lately, but what he can do NOW.

In that respect, Matt Barkley might not exactly be Enron, but his stock has dropped considerably. He went out a loser, and now he has a serious injury that keeps him from playing. It would seem his only chance at redemption will come when the NFL "combine" is held in Indianapolis towards the end of February.

Barkley better hope his shoulder not only totally heals in the next 2 months before the pros put him through all those drills in Indy -- because he's gone from "can't miss" to "show me what you got".  The megabucks and fame are no longer guaranteed. Now he has to prove something to even be given a chance.

It may have been the finest of cuisine, but like they say -- there ain't really no such thing as a free lunch.

Somehow, someway, you always wind up paying for it in the end.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl

Congrats to the Central Michigan Chippewas on their victory over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in this year's Pizza Bowl, played at Ford Field in Detroit. Yours truly has a long lost daughter out there lurking about somewhere who is an alumus of CMU. If she wasn't actually at the game, I have little doubt she was tuned in while clad in maroon and gold, or at least eating maroon and gold M&M's, and is whooping it up. Hail hail to brats and Chips, always a great combination, no pun intended. Well, maybe a little.

The Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl used to be called the Motor City Bowl, but the automobile industry around the Detroit area went in the tank many years ago. It's a skeleton of what it once was.

Enter Mike Ilitch, who not only was the founder of the Little Caesar's pizza empire, but currently owns both the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Red Wings. Ilitch has done a lot for certain neighborhoods in Detroit with his restoration projects, notably the "Fox" district, and certainly hasn't been a cheapskate when it comes to shelling out big bucks to obtain the players necessary to enable his teams to be in the hunt for championships. His Red Wings have won a few Stanley Cups, and the Tigers made it to the World Series last year.

A guy like Ilitch knows a lot about marketing his product, or he wouldn't be the billionaire he is. And that's where I think he missed a golden opportunity. Anyone that watched the Cent Mich/West Ken game on TV likely noticed there were thousands of empty seats. Yes, there was a snowstorm in progress at the time in the area, but since when would that keep dedicated fans from attending? If they really wanted to be there, they would have found a way.

All Ilitch had to do was further advertise what made him wealthy in the first place. Leading up to the game, he could have made it known to the public through the media that anybody that attended the contest would be treated to all the free Little Caesar's pizza they could eat inside the stadium. The concessionaires are already in place. What could that have cost him? Maybe a few hundred thousand -- tops. That's chump change to a billionaire, and his bean counters could write it off as advertisement or a charitable donation anyway.

At that, a few things seem ironic, especially regarding Central Michigan. They still proudly call themselves the Chippewas, but much has been made in recent years about such nicknames possibly being offensive to the history and descendants of the Native American tribes they were named after. One needs look no further than Eastern Michigan University, located in Ypsilanti, Mich. For many moons they were called the Hurons, but they came under "politically correct" fire and changed their name to the Eagles.

Yet the Chippewas of Mount Pleasant live on. Maybe that's because they have a gambling casino in that town that rakes in more millions than Ilitch, while being overseen (see big bucks) by the "natives". But it's called Soaring Eagle. Wait a minute -- Eagle? Shouldn't that be in Ypsilanti? Beats me. This can get confusing sometimes.

And given all the politically correct nonsense we're bombarded with these days -- when you figure out how the Washington Redskins, located in the most politically oriented town on the planet, haven't caught any flak yet -- let me know.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chicago Bears/Detroit Lions game

The regular season finale, at least for the hapless Detroit Lions, will happen this Sunday at Ford Field, when they host the Chicago Bears. Detroit doesn't have much to play for, except maybe pride, but even that seemed to have been fed into a wood chipper when they got blown out by New Orleans last year in a playoff game. They've been slip-sliding away into oblivion ever since. Look at the standings in the NFL. The only two teams in the entire league with worse records than the Lions are the KC Chiefs and the Jax Jaguars. That's it.

At least the Bears have something to play for. Theoretically, they still have an outside chance of making the playoffs, but they don't completely control their own destiny. Obviously, they would have to beat the Lions, and then hope a couple other things around the league turned out in their favor. Chances may be slim of all that happening, but you never know. It's possible, but the first order of business for Da Bears is to win in Detroit. Last time I looked the Bears were a 3 point favorite. Sounds about right.

But there will be a game within the game that could get interesting. As everybody knows, Calvin Johnson, aka Megatron, broke Jerry Rice's all-time single-season record for most receiving yards last week while the Lions were being otherwise trashed by the Atlanta Falcons.

Having already surpassed Rice, Johnson needs 108 receiving yards against the Bears to reach the 2000 yard plateau. Sounds easy enough, right?

Not so fast. The last time the Lions played the Bears, back on October 22, a cornerback by the name of Charles Tillman pretty much took on Johnson head-up. Man to man. Tillman didn't play "soft" like so many others have tried, while ceding small to medium chunks of yardage, to prevent a big play. Rather, he was up in Johnson's face playing him very physically all game long and -- shut him down. Johnson wound up with a grand total of 3 catches for 34 yards. The Lions only managed to score 7 points in that game, likely largely in part to Tillman single-handedly taking away their #1 offensive weapon, while freeing up some of his defensive teammates to concentrate elsewhere. Sure, that was then, and this is now a couple months later. Things have changed. Or have they?

True, Tillman isn't regarded as being in the same lofty atmosphere that Johnson is. After all, defensive backs don't get the media and fan attention wide receivers do, anymore then offensive linemen will get the same over their defensive counterparts. Right or wrong, that's just the way it is. Yet, there are times when a certain player, even though he's supposedly going up against superior competition -- just seems to have the other guy's "number". It defies the odds and there's really no rational explanation for it, but it's happened a lot over the years in various sports.

So will the Megatron catch a slew of passes, run wild, and easily surpass the 2000 yard mark, to the delight of Detroit fans? Or will Tillman throw a ball and chain on him like he did the last time?

Who knows? As is often said -- that's why they play the games.

Most of the attention will be focused on Johnson, of course. If he gets past the two millennia milestone, the scribes and talking heads will rant and rave for weeks. Yet, if Tillman shuts him down again, he'll be lucky to get his 15 seconds, let alone 15 minutes of fame/credit. And so it goes.

Yours truly will be watching that particular match-up, though.......

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Sound of Music

Yours truly just watched that movie again for the umpteenth time, and it never ceases to move me. And no, I'm not talking about from the couch to the john, to the refrigerator, and back  It's such a heart-warming story. What a classic. It ranks right up there with The Wizard of Oz, Old Yeller, Love Story, and The Blues Brothers. Powerful stuff.

Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer were masterful in their roles, though I'm not at all sure after proposing to a lovely lady in a tender moment, I would want her to belt out a song. Especially when she was backed up by an invisible orchestra. That would be scary.

Even the child actors were terrific. There was Dreidl, and Marta, and Petr, and Doc, and Sneezy, and Bashful, and... oops, wrong movie -- but that one was pretty good too. Maybe not as good as The Shawshank Redemption or Caddyshack, but not too shabby.

In the end, the superbly talented Von Trapp family managed to escape the evil clutches of the Nazis and made their way to Switzerland, where they could be happy and sing on. Hurray for the good guys.

There were many terrific songs featured in that movie, but many of us remember the most famous one. So please get yourself in a Sound of Music mood and sing along....

Climb every mountain
Ford every stream
Follow every rainbow
Till you find your dream.

What can all this possibly have to do with sports? Simple.

If you've been a Lions' fan since about the time the Sound of Music came out (1965), then you've already tried to climb every mountain, but they kept rolling boulders down at you.

A guy named Ford knows all about streams -- of your money.

Since when are you going to see a rainbow while inside a domed stadium, like Ford Field, or the Silverdome before it? When you get out, you'll be lucky to find your vehicle still there, let alone a pot of gold.

Ah, but there are always dreams, you say. Indeed there are. I dream that next season Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer will not only star in a long overdue sequel to The Sound of Music, but win Dancing With The Stars, then immediately go into training to eventually claim gold medals at the next Winter Olympics, while shocking the world as a figure skating team. Julie recently turned 79, and Christopher 82.

Anything's possible. Even the Lions winning the Super Bowl.

But if I was a betting man, my money would be on Julie and Christopher simultaneously doing quadruple toe-loops, axels, and even back-flips on the ice, before the Lions sniff the Lombardi trophy.

Bottom line? Lions' fans can smoke all the Edelweis they want and sing songs, but if they ever come down, they'll realize the glorious mountaintop in Switzerland has always been an illusion. They've been in the La Brea Tar Pits all along.

No, the Lions definitely don't qualify as one of my Most Favorite Things.

And don't get me started on the Do-Re-Mi tune.

I can hear William Clay Ford singing it....

Dough, so dear, so ever dear
Ray, my team shown Monday night
Me, that's Sir, to those I see
Far, so long since we've been right

Etc, etc........

Yep, The Sound of Music remains a classic. Great stuff.

The Lions remain a classic too. If one is into B movies.

Speaking of cult followings, the Lions could likely be compared to The Rocky Horror Picture Show in several ways.

Hmm. I'll get back to you on that. Working. It's a Wonderful Life.

Huh, another great movie that gave me another dumb idea. If nothing else, those Lions have a way of keeping the creative juices flowing during the holidays.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Tis truly the season
To wish all much cheer
There's Santa and presents
Plus football and beer.

The bells could chime soon for
Dear Chris and Randy
They're both such fine folks, and
That sounds just dandy.

My good friend and Bears fan
The lovely Ms. B
T'was always a treat when
She sat next to me.

A bow to the Princess
For her many views
May jolly St. Nick bring
Her new tennis shoes.

With homage, Your Highness
You seem quite the gal
May you find fulfillment
Perhaps you and Al?

Here's thanking you too, Al
Whoever you are
For zapping me often
Tis such fun to spar.

For all those who have read
The nonsense I write
May Santa be gen'rous
On Christmas Eve night.

And here's to the boss, who
Knows what I'm doin'
Sports eds need love too, e'en
Head Grinch Jeff Kuehn.

Merry Christmas to one and all.

Welcome back, Detroit Lions.

The Lions are about to retake their rightful place, and they've earned every bit of it. That would be as a punch line, of course. Writers for people like Leno and Letterman are no doubt coming up with such one-liners as this is written.

Even the most optimistic Lions fans, at least those that have a few functioning neurons left, would likely admit their team has once again become a joke. Anyone possessing an ounce of objectivity, that has watched them of late, certainly could see they've gone from vastly overrated (last year, and into the beginning of this year), to mediocre, to bad, and now they appear to be little more than slapstick comedy. Turn on the TV cameras and send in the clowns. Even the announcers are at a loss to explain some of the things the Lions do. You name it, and the Lions will find a way to screw it up. It's reminiscent of the 3 Stooges or the Keystone Kops, but at least they were SUPPOSED to be funny. The Lions have taken it to another level. They're hilarious, at times.

Here's an example: Late in the game against the Atlanta Falcons, while trailing them by 15 points, after turning the ball over on downs at the Falcons 1 yard line, the Lions managed to tackle an Atlanta running back in his own end zone for a safety. 2 points for the Honolulu blue. Pursuant to a safety, the Falcons punter booms a whopping 76 yard kick that comes down at the Lions own 4 yard line. Remember, this was not a normal punt, where the "gunners" for the punting team were already racing down field before the ball was kicked. They had to start at their own 20, AFTER the ball was kicked. The Lions' punt receiver catches the ball at his own 4 yard line and, without a Falcon within 30 yards of him -- takes a knee. Even the best comedy writers couldn't make stuff like this up. Only the Lions. That ranks right up there with Moe, Larry, Cheese. Great stuff for slapstick, but not so great when it's supposed to be a professional football team.

Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz appeared to agree on the sidelines. If I read his lips correctly, the man said that was the dumbest play he had ever seen. Well, guess who's been running the show for the last few years? If his players have turned into the Marx Brothers, shouldn't the ultimate responsibility fall on him?

Sure, after the Lions went 0-16 in 2008, the only way to go was up. Schwartz got 2 wins the following season. Then 6. Then 10. Now he's back to 4. It appears he's slip-sliding away on the down side of his bell curve. His team is not only getting defeated every week, they've become embarrassing.

Yet, leave it to the infinite wisdom of the Ford family, which owns the Lions, to sign Schwartz to a 3 year contract extension not long ago. How's that working out?

What was even more hilarious is back in April of this year, a poll taken amongst Lions' fans said many thought their team would go 15-1 this year. I know there's a Ford hospital in Detroit that has a very good reputation for patient care. Perhaps they should revamp that institution and turn it into a massive rehab clinic for Lions' fans (and local reporters) that continue to think their team is just to being a contender. That's like a junkie saying tomorrow will be better, as they're shooting up again. As an analogy, one might say -- Hey, the dope dealers don't care, and will continue to make big money off such fools, until they're willing to admit they have a problem, and take the hard steps necessary on the road to recovery.

On a related note, congrats to Calvin Johnson on breaking Jerry Rice's all-time single season record for passing yards gained by an NFL receiver. CJ still has one game to go, and might likely even top the 2000 yard mark. Very impressive stuff.

But that's good news and bad news -- for Calvin. He'll rightfully have his place in the record books. That's the good news, along with the fact that CJ recently signed a multi-year extension worth roughly $132 million, with about $60 million guaranteed. He's financially set for life in a big way.

The bad news is -- he's owned by the Detroit Lions until the year 2019.  Right now, it appears as if Calvin is the only thing the Lions have going for them. Quarterback Matthew Stafford throws and throws and throws some more at Johnson, so of course he's going to rack up big time yardage. This is not to say Calvin isn't a premier receiver. He most certainly is. The Megatron was blessed with height, speed, and venus fly-trap type hands whenever a football is in his vicinity. He's tough too, having played through many games with a lingering leg injury, which doesn't allow him to even practice much.

But this can't continue. If the Lions don't develop other offensive options, like a running game, a tight end that can catch, and/or other reliable receivers to spread the ball around to, and continue to work Calvin Johnson like a dog -- there's no way he'll last until 2019. Hell, he might be lucky to make it through another year or two. Sure, Calvin has shown his brilliance by being able to cope with being double or triple teamed and still coming down with the ball, but those guys in the other uniforms keep hitting, and hitting, and hitting him some more. A team can't keep going to the same guy that much, especially when all the other teams know it's coming and will punish him for it. It will take its toll, maybe even next season, let alone 2019.

To boot, one is left to wonder whether the Lions and their supporters ever stopped to consider that all the other teams know Calvin Johnson is going to catch a lot of balls, and gain a bunch of yards, but they're OK with that --- because by the end of the game -- if that's all the Lions have to offer -- they know they will prevail. And at the end of the day, in the NFL, the only thing that matters is winning.

Look at what's happened this year. Calvin set a record, but the team around him, along with their coaching staff, have become a joke.

On the bright side, if the Lions finish out the string and get walloped yet again at home by Da Bears next week -- entirely possible, if not probable, given their current free fall, something good will become of it.

At least Leno, Letterman, Kimmel, Fallon, the Saturday Night Live folks, every other comedian on the planet, and maybe even the usual gang of idiots from MAD magazine will be happy. They just got new material to work with. Yes, it would be retro stuff, considering the Lions a few years ago, but I suspect they'll find a way to get a few laughs.

Like the Lions are doing now......

Friday, December 21, 2012

Suzy Favor Hamilton. Shameful

Olympic track and field buffs might remember Suzy Favor as the girl who collapsed about 200 meters short of the finish line, while leading the 1500 meter race at the Sydney Olympics back in 2000. She would eventually get up, finish last, and collapse again after crossing the finish line.

A sad story, right? Hardly. And it recently got much worse.

After being a standout runner in high school, and at the Univ of Wisconsin, where she had garnered many awards along the way, Suzy was not only an Olympian, but considered by many to be the best female middle distance runner in the world. The gold medals were there for the taking, and the sky was the limit.

Indeed, even though she crashed and burned at those Olympics, Suzy would become the beneficiary of much sympathy, and would go on to become a motivational speaker, cha-ching, not to mention receiving many endorsements, cha-ching part 2, along the way.

And it now appears it was all horribly wrong.

Suzy has since admitted that she "took a dive" in that race due to many reasons. Her body couldn't hold up for the 3 rounds (races) of competition required in that particular event to possibly win a medal. She had suffered from anxiety, depression, bouts of anorexia, and self-doubt. Well OK, but if she apparently knew all that at the time, then what was she doing out there on the biggest athletic stage in the world representing the US? Oh, right. The cha-ching factor.

Suzy married her college sweetheart, Mark Hamilton, about a week after she graduated from UW, and she was a pretty young lady with the blond haired midwestern wholesome looks that sponsors would drool over.

Fast forward. Suzy is now 44 years old and she and her husband Mark have a 7 year old daughter. They still reside in Madison, Wisc. and, by most accounts, continue to run a successful real estate brokerage firm. Further, they live in a $600,000 home. Not exactly Buckingham Palace, but not too shabby either, considering the current economy. Suzy has been quoted as saying financial concerns were never a problem.

So WHY, somebody tell me WHY, Suzy would do what she did starting in 2011?  She has recently fessed up to being a $600 an hour "call girl" that worked for a Las Vegas "escort service". That's the politically correct way of stating it. Others might call it being an overpriced "hooker".

Are we to believe that (presumably) gentlemen desirous of such service(s) would shell out $600 an hour to have a 43 year old woman as "arm candy" only? What's truly astonishing is it appears Suzy's husband Mark knew of her recent "secret life" all along. Evidently, he was OK with it, because had it not recently been brought to light by investigative journalists, who knows what might still be going on -- or coming off?

Now they're in counselling. Oh boo hoo hoo. So what's to counsel? Even though they didn't need the money, as if that should matter, she went to work as a call girl in Vegas and he was OK with it. They don't need counselling. That poor little girl of theirs will likely be the one that needs counselling when she starts trying to comprehend and sort all this out in a few years. Can you imagine the taunts she may be subjected to when she gets to, say, junior high school, where kids have a history of being cruel in such ways?

Experiencing anxiety, panic attacks, depression, etc etc during the course of an Olympic competition is one thing. Eleven years later to do the "favors" Suzy did, is quite another, and there is no excuse for it.

It's shameful.

An added note. One of Suzy's sponsors was Disney. Given that company's long standing reputation, somehow yours truly thinks they will not approve either.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Seven Signs of the Apocalypse

There are those that say the world will end tomorrow. If they're right, then I'm going to try and get this last rant in under the wire.

Rivers and seas will turn to blood. There will be massive cyclones, famine, drought, locusts, raging infernos, earthquakes, and colossal icebergs the size of Chris Christie breaking off from the Antarctic shelf. A scary scenario indeed.

But sports fans, at least this one, look at things a little differently. How will we know when the end is truly near? When our own Seven Signs of the Apocalypse come about. In case you haven't brushed up on your sports scriptures lately -- here they are.....

1) Soccer fever overwhelms America, putting the NFL and college football out of business.
2) Kobe Bryant dishes out more assists over the course of a season than he takes shots.
3) Detroit Tigers' manager Jim Leyland chucks baseball, returns to his original true love, and becomes an internationally acclaimed operatic tenor.
4) Management and union representatives from all American professional sports enterprises come to agreements and sign binding contracts that last -- forever -- or at least until the end of the world.
5) The NFL holds it's own version of a beauty pageant and Ndamukong Suh is unanimously voted Mr. Congeniality by his fellow players.
6) Charles Barkley takes the PGA by storm and wins all 4 major tournaments.

And, of course.....

7) The Detroit Lions win the Super Bowl.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The NFL's all-time best running back. (Single season)

YO ADRIAN!!  Sorry, even though they were hokey and quite far-fetched, yours truly was always a sucker for Rocky movies. Besides, Talia Shire was a whole lot better looking than...

Adrian Peterson, currently the super-star running back for the Minnesota Vikings. #28 of the purple gang has an outside shot at breaking the all-time NFL single-season rushing record. He needs to run for an average of 157 yards per game, no small feat, over the last two regular season contests to claim the all-time single season championship. Will he do it? Probably not, because those last two games involve going to Houston, where the Texans can be brutal to visitors, and then coming back home to face the Green Bay Packers, never an easy task.

But he only needs 188 yards to break into the 2000 yard club. At 94 yards per game, that sounds much more doable.

So who was the greatest single-season running back in the history of the NFL? The answer may surpise, disappoint, and maybe even outrage you, but yours truly submits that stats don't lie, at least in this case.

Here's a list of the 2000 yard club, with the player, his team, how many total yards, what year, and how it averaged out in rushing yards per game............

1) Eric Dickerson. Los Angeles Rams. 2105 yards. 1984. Average per game -- 131.5.
2) Jamal Lewis. Baltimore Ravens. 2066 yards. 2003. APG --- 129.1.
3) Barry Sanders. Detroit Lions. 2053 yards. 1997. APG --- 128.3.
4) Terrell Davis. Denver Broncos. 2008 yards. 1998. APG --- 125.5.
5) Chris Johnson. Tennessee Titans. 2006 yards. 2009. APG --- 125.3.

Currently, Adrian Peterson has averaged 129.4 rushing yards per game over his first 14 games. Very impressive stuff indeed, especially considering he's coming off a knee injury last year that in days of yore likely would have been career-ending. What he'll accomplish against the Texans and Packers in the final two weeks is anybody's guess. Maybe he runs wild, or maybe he gets shut down. Either way, you can bet he'll be high on the attention list of those teams' defensive coordinators when they're coming up with a game plan.

Of course, there was a notable omission in the 2000 yard club listed above. That running back was not only the first to accomplish the feat, but yours truly would maintain he remains to this day far above all the rest.

He's now 65 years old and his name was/is Orenthal James (OJ) Simpson. Sure, over the last couple decades OJ hasn't exactly endeared himself to the public at large with how he is perceived for various reasons, but this is not the venue for such a debate. This is about what he once did as a football player. Here is his stat line....

OJ Simpson. Buffalo Bills. 2003 yards. 1973. APG --- 143.1.

I emphasize that last stat for it's significance. From #1 Dickerson, to #5 Johnson, there's about a 6 yard difference per game. OJ was a whopping 12 yards per game ahead of even Dickerson. Like Tiger Woods stood head and shoulders above the field during his heyday several years ago, so too did OJ in 1973 and, for that matter, to this day.

How can that be? Because OJ did it when the NFL still only had a 14 game regular season. The NFL didn't go to the 16 game format until 1978.

Averaging 143 yards per game through the first 14, OJ would have merely needed to average 52 yards per game over another two that he didn't get to play to be the all-time record holder. Few would doubt he would have easily accomplished that and likely much more.

So the next time you hear about the all-time NFL single-season rushing leader, whether Peterson eclipses Dickerson's record this year, or even becomes a member of the 2000 yard club, or not, remember one thing....

He may still be currently #6 on that list, and maybe even #1 on the hate list of some people, but once upon a time, OJ was simply the best for a year running the football -- by a wide margin.

It's really not even a close call.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dumb commercials

If you thought the Jets/Titans game was bad, you should have checked out the Lions/Cardinals -- or was it the other way around? Beats me, but the Titans already beat the Lions this year, the Cardinals scorched them by 4 touchdowns, and even though the Jets appear to be completely clueless, it's probably lucky for the Lions they don't have to play them this year. By the way, all 3 of those teams have better records than the Lions. While the Lions' local media recently referred to the Cardinals as "hapless" -- perhaps they fail to realize that is exactly the same word scribes in other NFL towns use to describe their beloved puddy- tats. The Lions local kool-aiders can diagnose and analyze it all they want with columns and sound bytes but, in the end, Jed Clampett of the Beverly Hillbillies could have summed up their team in just one word. Piiit-eee-ful.

And now a word from our sponsors. Geico has featured the always loveable Gallagher with his Sledge-o-matic doing his watermelon thing at a farmer's market. Also, a slinky on an escalator. Two pitchmen say it's almost as much fun saving money by switching to Geico as Gallagher and the slinky have in the commercials. Cute, but yours truly has a few questions about that. I've looked high and low for a Geico office and can't seem to find one. So if I sign on with those folks to save a few bucks on insurance premiums, then an accident happens and I wish to make a claim -- who do I call? Gallagher? A slinky?

Big time congrats to Syracuse mens' basketball coach Jim Boeheim on winning his 900th career game. That particular milestone was set against the Univ of Detroit, with Dave Bing, the former Syracuse and Detroit Piston great, and current mayor of Detroit on hand. Boeheim will easily surpass Bobby Knight's 902 career victories, but he remains about 36 behind Duke coach Mike Krzyewski who is still rolling along with a premier program himself and given no signs of retiring. Coach K of Duke is 2 years younger than Coach B of Syracuse. Boeheim could conceivably win 1000 games, but he might still wind up in second place. Then again, there was some irony in Dave Bing being on hand. While Boeheim is attempting to overhaul the record books and chasing Coach K, Bing is trying to overhaul his city, while trying to chase away the state from moving in and making him obsolete. I like Boeheim's chances better.

Another commercial break. Have you noticed who's been sponsoring nationally televised games and sports talk shows lately? It's mostly either Toyota, Nissan, or Hyundai. This costs big bucks. Could it be because our Japanese and South Korean friends wish to show their continued appreciation over the US still providing them with the protection of our armed forces at the cost of billions, even though those particular conflicts have been over for 67 and 59 years, respectively? Or could they possibly have another motive? Like preying on gullible Americans that are all too willing to sell out their fellow Americans to save a few bucks? Well, gee.That's a tough one.

Just a little while ago during the Jets/Titans game I found out something new. Santa Claus is now rolling Mercedes' off his North Pole assembly line. That's amazing. Near as I can tell, the people that will get these "presents" must have REALLY big chimneys. Silly me, I'd have a very merry Christmas indeed if I found the car keys to a 2-year old Chevy in my stocking.

Uh oh. Geico's back. There's a dude on a motorcycle riding down the rode covered in money. It's blowing off every which way. People don't know what to make of it. Tell ya what. Obviously, that commercial wasn't shot in certain neighborhoods of Detroit. Had it been, not only would the motorcycle have been gone, but that poor devil might have found himself skinned and slowly rotating over a barbecue pit to see if any more money fell out. Who's kidding who here? Good luck putting in a claim with THAT guy.

Ah, at long last, finally a GM commercial. They were advertising a heavy-duty truck while showing it slogging through mounds of snow. Up and down it went. From airborne to bottoming out. THUD, but it kept right on going. Their theme was the "nutcracker". And that is EXACTLY what might happen to a guy driving that thing when it went thud. No thanks. I've had my cajones busted enough during the course of my lifetime for various reasons, so why, pray tell, would I want to do that? But many might rush right out and buy it.

And somewhere in boardrooms spanning Japan and South Korea, billionaires likely chuckled when they saw it. Stupid Americans. One can only imagine the guffaws if they've been monitoring Lions' fans.

The Detroit Lions and Shakespeare

As the three witches chimed together during the first scene of Macbeth --
"Fair is foul and foul is fair
Hover through the fog and filthy air."

Things didn't turn out so hot for Macbeth in the end.

Everybody knows who William (the Bard of Avon) Shakespeare was. Including Macbeth, he wrote 37 entire plays, a bunch of sonnets and other stuff, and his works not only remain famous to this day, almost 400 years after he died in 1616, they're required reading in many courses of study.

For all his brilliance, yours truly would offer up the notion that William Shakespeare somehow had the Detroit Lions in mind when he was penning his works.

After all, he wrote both tragedies and comedies. There have been times when the Lions fit both categories.

In the tragedy department, Julius Caesar could easily be compared to Lions' owner William Clay Ford. They both had wealth and power beyond the imagination of most common people, but didn't have a clue what was really going on right under their uppity noses. King Lear? Try Matt Millen.

The comedies (farces) should be obvious when it comes to the Lions. Name a fan or a year they've been rooting for that team and I'll give you "Love's Labour's Lost" when the season is over.

Yet they will always be back the following year. How do they get the ridiculous notion that an historical  "A Comedy of Errors" will magically transform itself into a contender when the curtain goes up for the next performance? There can only be one explanation. It came to them in "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Personally, I think maybe they need a fan in their bedrooms to keep the air moving around during the dog days of summer, because this goes beyond night sweats -- these people are getting delirious. Next thing you know, they'll think Romeo and Juliet honeymooned in Vegas, hit the lotto, and are still living happily ever after in a mansion in the Hamptons on Long Island. Too much heat and hype can do that to people. But that's just my opinion.

Last year the Lions went 10-6 and, FINALLY, screamed the Honolulu blue and silver junkies, it will be glorious next year. A really good "fix" is on the way. As it turned out, look at the Lions this year. Who would dispute last season was "Much Ado About Nothing"?

Shakespeare only lived to be 52. The body of work he churned out over his liftime is incredible. Yet there's a certain cruel irony that comes into play. It's been right around 52 years since the Lions were competitive. Over the course of all that time they've written a lot of tragedies and, of course, comedies as well.

Their latest farce was just getting blown out to the tune of 4 touchdowns worth, by the Arizona Cardinals, who themselves were stampeded 58-0 last week. How bad is THAT?

What's truly hilarious is seeing others maintain that the Lions are "disappointing" this season. Though there are laws against such things nowadays, back in Shakespeare's time, one could have justifiably taken such a nincompoop by the shoulders, shook them until their eyes bugged out, and screamed in their faces -- "What strange kingdom dost thy come from that breeds such fools? The Lions have been disappointing EVERY season for over 50 years. Hast thee been blinder than Sophocles' Oedipus to the obvious? Hello? Anybody home between your ears? ". Then bitch-slap them a couple times for good measure just because they had it coming for continuing to spout stupidity --  but that's not allowed these days. Alas, we must suffer the fools. Tis a pity.

Which brings me back to the witches. "Fair is foul and foul is fair" somehow reminds yours truly of a guy named Ndamukong Suh, and "hover through the fog and filthy air" would seem to be appropriate for the Lions' entire Super-Bowl era team history.

Once upon a time, I took a course in college that required me to read all 37 Shakespeare plays. That was a whole lot of reading on top of the other courses I was taking. I didn't understand some of it then, and I've forgotten a great deal since, but Shakespeare's works live on, as well they should.

Perhaps someday, 400 years from now, the Lions' body of work will still be required reading.

It should be as well. "How NOT to run a professional sports franchise -- volumes one through ongoing".

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Patrick Peterson vs Calvin Johnson

Patrick Peterson, of the Arizona Cardinals, says he's he best cornerback in the NFL. Is he? Maybe, maybe not, but he's certainly amongst the top 3 or 4.

Calvin Johnson, a wide receiver of the Detroit Lions, doesn't mouth off much and/or claim to be the best at his position, but it's generally accepted CJ is also amongst the top 3 or 4 in the league.

No matter who may be rooting for who, it could fairly be said both these guys are REALLY good at what they do. And now they will get to go up against each other when the Lions play at Arizona on Sunday. Maybe.

PP has stated he's been looking forward to going up against CJ one-on-one since he saw the schedule come out. Of course the hypesters (media) have tried to fan the flames by insinuating Peterson called Johnson out. Actually, he did no such thing. Peterson merely stated he has looked forward to going up against one of the best. Well, good grief, what is the man supposed to say? He's been dreading this day and quivering with fear over the prospect of facing a vastly superior athlete? Gimme a break.

Peterson's doing exactly the right thing. If he's one of the best, then he should want to test himself against one of the best. It appears Peterson would like to be "out on an island" all alone against Johnson -- and let's see what happens. That goes back to the "maybe" mentioned above. The defensive coordinator of the Cardinals will make those calls. Every NFL defense features different "looks" and/or coverages at times trying to keep the opposing offense, especially the QB, off-balance. It's a never-ending guessing game, both ways, and whoever adapts the quickest, and executes the best, will normally come out on top.

Yet chances are pretty good PP will get his wish on at least several plays to go mano e mano with CJ. Can he handle him?

The advantages are always with the receiver. They know where their route will take them, as does their QB, and as the defensive back reacts, the ball is already in the air. Few would doubt the receivers are given much more latitude as to "incidental contact" than the DBs, without drawing a penalty flag. To boot, the Megatron always has a serious height, weight, and reach advantage over the opposing DB.

Premier cornerbacks, such as Peterson, have to rely on cat-quick reflexes and proper technique.

And being really fast doesn't hurt. Peterson ran a 4.34 forty yard dash in the NFL combine a year and a half ago, despite being the biggest cornerback there at about 6', 220 pounds, before the Cardinals made him the fifth overall selection in the 2011 draft. A cornerback being picked that high speaks for itself. If the Lions' brain trust, and I use those words lossly, oops loosely, thinks Calvin Johnson will just blow by Peterson on deep routes -- they would be mistaken. PP is every bit as fast as CJ, if not faster.

Sure. the Cardinals came out of the gate 4-0 this year, and have lost all 9 games since. Then again, while so many (suckah!) Lions' fans thought they would improve on last year's 10-6 record, they currently find themselves 4-9 as well, having not won a game since before the Presidential election.

The Detroit/Arizona game means little in the whole scheme of the NFL this year, but here's hoping two of the best, Patrick Peterson and Calvin Johnson, indeed get a chance to duel it out.

Maybe Calvin lights Patrick up for a couple hundred yards and 2-3 touchdowns. He's done it to others. Or maybe PP shuts down the Megatron singlehandedly. On 10/22/12, at Soldier Field in Chicago, a Bears' cornerback named Charles Tillman limited Calvin Johnson to 3 catches for a grand total of 34 yards, while largely playing him "head-up". It can also be done.

My prediction? The Lions should win the game, and of course Johnson's going to catch some balls. QB Matthew Stafford will keep throwing and throwing and throwing at him no matter what. That's been the Lions' modus operandi all year. But don't be surprised if Peterson, knowing that, comes up with a couple plays to make the highlight reels himself. A "pick 6" or punt return for a TD certainly aren't out of the realm of possibility. It's the Lions, remember? Anything's possible, except maybe the Lombardi trophy.

Regardless, PP vs CJ would be interesting to watch. Alas, yours truly won't be able to. Being the fan of all games I am, that pesky NFL schedule comes into play. At the same time the Lions and Cardinals are going at it, there's a few other games going on. Let's see. Seattle/Buffalo in Toronto. What the hell are they doing in Toronto? Forget that. Kansas City @ Oakland. Two bottom feeders. Blecch. But wait a minute, the Steelers are playing The Boys down in Big D. That's pretty much a win or kiss the playoffs good-bye game. Unlike Detroit/Arizona --  it matters.

Sorry Patrick and Calvin. Here's wishing you both well, but both your teams started swirling in the porcelain receptacle a few weeks back, so I'll have to catch your personal exploits on the 4-letter network's highlights later on.

A fan has to have his priorities.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Jim Schwartz dare

Detroit Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz doesn't seem like the kind of guy to back down. Even though his team would have to post winning records every season until maybe the year 2020 to get his career record over .500 as the Lions' head coach (and it's getting worse by the week), Jimbo continues to remain defiant. Bring em on, he says.

Well, OK then, but perhaps Schwartz should put something on the line as well. No, this isn't about the oblivious Ford family having wasted a few more million dollars to once again fire a coach that can't produce a winner, and buy out the remaining years on his contract. That's chump change to billionaires and we've already seen enough of that anyway over the years.

This is about Schwartz manning up. If we wants his team to put it all on the line every week, then Schwartz should too.

Way back in Week 8 of the NFL season, around Halloween time, the Lions defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24. A couple days ago those same Seahawks steamrolled the Arizona Cardinals to the tune of 58-0. The Cardinals started out the season 4-0, but have been slip-sliding away ever since, losing the last 9 in a row. They finally appear to have bottomed out. 58-0 is about as bad as it gets in the NFL.

And now the Lions travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals. Yes, the Lions are on a (surprise!) losing streak of their own, but surely they should be able to beat the lowly free-falling Cardinals -- right? 

Betcha Jim Schwartz thinks they will. As the Lions' head coach, Schwartz has dealt with many things, including injuries and discipline problems, both on and off the field. But that's always been about the players. It's easy for him to talk the talk, because it's always been about somebody else.

Now it's time for him to walk the walk, because it should now be about him. So if he wants to truly man up, then here's what he should do....

Come out to the press and say, "If we don't beat Arizona, I'll not only have my budding mustache and goatee shaved off, but my head and the rest of my body as well. Further, I'll keep it all shaved until we win another game. Further yet, I'll make all my coaches do the same".

The upcoming game would normally be a yawner. It's just between two teams playing out the season with no hope of going to the playoffs.

But throw down THAT gauntlet, and methinks the ratings might spike a bit.

Even if the Lions were to lose the game, all that would all grow back in time. On the other hand, the Lions seem to have been stuck in the "peach fuzz" stage of adolescence for the last half century.

Somehow it would all seem fitting......

Monday, December 10, 2012

Manny Pacquiao. Time to quit

Idle thought: Most everybody has seen the pic of Mitt Romney with his jaw having dropped to the floor, while his lovely wife Ann sat beside him grimacing in horror. So where was that photo taken? Ringside at the Pacquiao--Marquez fight in Vegas, or watching the election results coming in a month ago? Either way, I'm thinking Mitt can sympathize with Manny. They both got knocked out by Latinos. Sorry, couldn't resist. Onward...

So there was Pacquiao, face down on the canvas at the end of the 6th round, after having taken a thundering right hand from Marquez. He was out colder than a cucumber in the Yukon. Once he became coherent again, he and Marquez were talking about having yet another fight. This is getting to be like Rocky movies. Granted, they're highly entertaining, but the sequels never seem to end. How many times are too much?

Pacquiao's been boxing professionally for 17 years. That's a mighty long time in that sport. He's won hundreds of millions of dollars and garnered several world championships along the way. Yes, there have been others that have hung around, sometimes until they're AARP eligible, looking for one more shot at glory (and another big payday), but they don't seem to have anything else to do. Manny does.

He's a congressman in his native Phillipines and a national hero. Some say even becoming President of the Phillipines could be in his future. You never know how those things might work out. Hey, he's probably got more C-notes laying around than Imelda Marcos had pairs of shoes, and look how far she went. For that matter, if Newt Gingrich had 6-pack abs, could float like a butterly and sting like a bee, and had played a little rope-a-dope with Mitt, he might have done better in the primaries. You never know, but I digress.

But that's the thing with Pacquiao. In his previous fight before Marquez, he was decisioned by Timothy Bradley. Manny lost. The enduring image of this recent fight with Marquez is Pacquiao getting cold-cocked and landing on his face. That's two in a row. How that affects his status as a national hero in the Phillipines is a question you'd have to ask the Filipino populace, but it certainly can't be helpful. So what happens if Manny gets yet another rematch with Marquez and winds up face down again while the whole world is watching? He'd make a few million more bucks, but his national hero status, much less any aspirations of ever becoming President, would take a serious hit, no pun intended.

(Another idle thought -- if during one of the debates, Mitt had bob and weaved his way over to Barack's podium and dropped Obama face down on the red carpet with a thundering right hand of his own, we might have a different guy in the White House for the next four years. You never know. Bet you'd have ponied up $59.95 to see the possibility of THAT on pay-per-view.)

Regardless, heroes become heroes because they were winners, not losers. Manny was indeed a great champion in the past, but he needs to get out of the ring before his image suffers any further, both as a boxer and whatever political future he may aspire to in his homeland. The ever-present younger fighters coming up from around the world don't care about what he used to be, nor will they be the slightest bit intimidated. He's just another notch on their belts waiting to happen. Look at what happened to Joe Louis, arguably the greatest heavyweight champion of all time. He held the undisputed title for 12 years, but he hung around too long. Though many still consider him to be a hero, and indeed he was, given the different times back then, he eventually turned into a bum in the boxing ring, getting turned into not much more than a punching bag for upcoming fighters. In 1951 Louis found himself with his face a mess, thoroughly beaten up, and flat on his back while a guy named Rocky Marciano stood over him in the 8th round. The Brown Bomber didn't know when to quit, and he paid the price -- in the ring and in real life.

The same could fairly be said of Muhammed Ali, who others consider to be the greatest heavyweight in history. He hung around too long. In 1980, after a 2 year "retirement", at the age of 38, he decided to come back and fight Larry Holmes, his former sparring partner, who at 30 was at his peak. Over the course of 10 rounds, Ali landed less than 10 punches, while Holmes landed hundreds. Ali was beaten and bruised, and couldn't answer the bell for the 11th round. Some have suggested the horrific beating he took in that fight might have contributed to the onset of Parkinson's disease which Ali suffers from terribly to this day. Sadly, he didn't know when to quit either.

The list is long of guys that hung around too long and paid a heavy price for it.

Here's hoping Manny doesn't become one of them. It's time for him to hang up the gloves and get back to being a national hero while he still can.

And who knows? President Pacquiao has a nice ring to it. Hope he doesn't get carried away with the shoes, though......

The Detroit Lions losing culture

Yours truly was saying it over and over last year to anybody that would listen. Few would. Most were too busy in their pursuit of unicorns, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and the fountain of youth to pay heed. And then there were the Detroit Lions' fans that thought their team was Super Bowl caliber. I kept trying to tell them all these things are only fantasies, but I was mocked and cast aside as their conversation turned to Atlantis, the Loch Ness monster, and Bigfoot.

So now I'll say it yet again. The Lions were vastly overrated last year. As they cruised along through a weak schedule to post a 10-6 record and qualify for the playoffs, they were finally exposed by the New Orleans Saints, which blew them out in that playoff game.

The Lions' fans saw a bright future. Their team would be even better this year. Yours truly saw a mirage, and another crash back to reality awaiting them this season.

Lions' fans whined earlier this season about if only a punt or kickoff return hadn't been returned for a touchdown here and there. If only head coach Jim Schwartz would haven't thrown that red flag when he already knew the rule, if only a pass hadn't been dropped, if only a fumble or interception didn't happen, if only their team hadn't committed a stupid penalty at a crucial moment in the game, if only the refs weren't all against them, if only this, and if only that. They could have been contenders. WRONG. They were never even close. More than anything, this year has exposed them even further for what they actually are. A mediocre at best team, that even when in a position to win -- will find a way to lose.

Earlier tonight, they played the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. The Lions hadn't won a road game against the Packers in 21 years. At that, the Packers likely played their worst half of football in recent memory during the first half against the Lions. The Lions had a 3-1 ratio in time of possession, had far more rushing and passing yards, and the Packers only had 16 offensive plays during the first half. The Cheesers were stinking it up -- bad. Yet at halftime, the Lions were ahead only 14-10.

Here's a guess at what was said by the head coach in the Packers' locker room at halftime. "Hey guys, that's the worst I've ever seen you play. The weather's terrible and we ought to be behind by a lot more than we are. But never forget, those are the Detroit Lions in the other locker room whooping it up right now. Just go out there and play hard for the second half, because those guys will find a way to lose. It's in their DNA. Trust me."

And that's pretty much how it went down. The Packers weren't spectacular in the second half, but the Lions only seem capable of playing one decent half of football per game this season. It's almost comical how some of their home town kool-aided reporters have said that in earlier games the Lions got off to a slow start and could never quite catch up. In other games, like this one, they've jumped out to a lead, but couldn't hold it. The Lions were oh-so-close, they continue to say.

What was typically Lionesque in tonight's game with the Packers was the last couple minutes. With no time-outs left, QB Matthew Stafford led his team down the field with crisp passes to put them in field goal position, with only a few seconds left in the game. Chalk up some more yardage for the modern version of the Georgia peach. Jason Hanson successfully kicked the field goal. The problem? They were behind by 10 points. It was sadly comical to watch it play out but, again, it's the Lions.

Hey, not all is lost for Lions' fans. Head coach Jim Schwartz is growing a mustache and goatee. If he got a few tats, piercings and some serious bling, the dude might even start to fit in with the team culture he seems to have created.

After so many expected the Lions to get even better after last season's 10-6 record, they are currently 4-9. The Arizona Cardinals, which just got absolutely trashed by the Seattle Seahawks to the tune of 58-0 are next on the Lions' schedule. If the Lions can't beat the Cardinals, then what would that say about them? But let's say they do. Then they come home to face the Atlanta Falcons. They'll be the underdogs in that game. In the finale, they get Da Bears at home. That's a toss-up.

But if the Lions continue their free-fall and somehow wind up 5-11, or even 4-12, than yours truly suspects Jim Schwartz might well find himself on the hot seat like a few other NFL coaches currently sit on. Last year he was a hero. This year he could turn out to be just another coach that's fired at the end of the season. Could happen.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Miracles. They can happen

Without getting into biblical passages, or trying to explain how Brandon Inge once hit 27 home runs in a season and made an All-Star team, other miracles have been known to happen.

A bunch of American college kids once defeated the mighty Soviet Red Army team in an olympic hockey game. That was over 30 years ago, and Americans still call it the "miracle on ice" to this day. I would imagine the good people that currently inhabit the various states the USSR once consisted of probably have somewhat of a different nostalgic take on it. Like..."dumb luck", or "one in a million". But it happened.

In the NHL negotiations, union prez Donald Fehr and commish Gary Bettman have a history of being bull-headed with outrageous demands. They've both been behind professional sports work stoppages in the past. Be they owners' lockouts or players' strikes --  fans have been deprived of their beloved games. This is what typically happens when two opposing war hawks are put in charge of reaching a truce. Like so many of our beloved partisan politicians, it appears Fehr and Bettman would rather let things go up in flames, than to lose face. Maybe it's just me, but I've never quite understood how "scorched earth" policies are ever beneficial to the masses/fans in the long run. These two guys can't even find a way to sit down and negotiate anymore. With them remaining in charge, will there be any sort of NHL season at all this year? It would take a miracle.

The Detroit Lions play at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night. The Lions have lost 21 years in a row on the road against the Packers. Could the Motown puddy-tats win that game? Sure, anything's possible. Ralph Nader might still get elected President of the United States someday. Yours truly could co-star in a blockbuster action movie with Angelena Jolie and woo her away from Brad during the process, while leaving him stuck with the kids. This blog could win a Pulitzer Prize for literature. The "Princess" might start wearing tennis shoes. But I wouldn't exactly count on any of that happening. It would indeed take miracles.

The Detroit Pistons could win the NBA championship this season. Detroit Tigers' manager Jim Leyland could host Saturday Night Live and finally show his comedic genius to the world. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa could stand atop the podium spraying champagne in Paris as the top 3 finishers in next year's Tour de France. Kobe Bryant could become humble and, OMG, even pass the basketball to a teammate for a better shot a few times a game. Tiger Woods could "tap-out", say "no mas" and become Rory McIlroy's caddie. My yorkies will start giving ME back scratchings and belly rubs instead of the other way around.

But probably not. Some things are beyond even miracles.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Jerry Sandusky claims unfair treatment

As we all know, Jerry Sandusky of Penn State notoriety was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse involving boys/young men as his victims. He was eventually sentenced to 30-60 years in prison. Currently 68, in effect, that amounts to a life sentence. He's never getting out of prison, at least alive.

Yet sometimes one is left to wonder about how our justice system, in it's infinite, ahem, wisdom, actually goes about their business in dealing with certain convicted criminals.

Sandusky is currently housed at the Greene State Prison, in southwestern Pennsylvania. This is the same place where the majority of Pennsylvania's death-row inmates reside, for their various crimes. Like most other jails and/or prisons, Greene State classifies their inmates based on what level of security risk (how dangerous) they deem them to be. At Greene State this ranges from Level 1 to Level 5, with Level 5 being the worst of the worst. Prisoners on death row are Level 5, as well they should be.

Amongst other things, like a restriction on phone calls, visitors, and the like, that entails spending 23 hours a day in their cells, including being fed, with only 1 hour a day to possibly see sunlight or get some exercise. Do those that have committed such heinous crimes to land them in this prison as Level 5s deserve this sort of treatment? In my opinion, damn right they do.

Nevermind that Pennsylvania's entire death-row scenario is a joke anyway. Other than 3 prisoners that waived their rights to appeals, they haven't actually executed anyone for 47 years. They die on death-row alright, from old age, while the state continues to spend countless millions to keep up the charade, but I digress.

Does Sandusky deserve the same Level 5 treatment? Again, in my opinion, hell yes. He wasn't given the death penalty, not that it would have ever happened, but the atrocities he committed deserve the harshest treatment possible.

That's where things get a little sticky. Greene State Prison classified Sandusky as a Level 2 inmate. Level 2 is probably just a shade worse than serial child-support neglecters or white collar embezzlers -- hardly a menace to society. That would seem to be outrageous. Hey, don't abuse the messenger. I didn't classify him. THEY did.

Sandusky and his lawyers are crying foul. Why should a Level 2 inmate get Level 5 treatment? It's a hard pill to swallow for those of us that are still outraged by what Sandusky did to those kids, but they might have a valid point. If a guy is classified by the authorities at one level, but given the same treatment as those classified at a far worse level, then something is obviously wrong.

How that will play out in the courts is anybody's guess, but Sandusky has nothing to lose by pursuing it. After all, what's the worst that could happen for us? Sandusky's still never getting out, so maybe he's allowed a few more phone calls or visitors a month. Big deal. Perhaps the powers that be could split the difference between Level 2 and 5, and rate Sandusky as a 3.5. That way he might have the pleasure of dining with armed robbers, rapists, carjackers, tattooed gang members, and maybe even a couple of those big-time white-collar crooks who are related to one of the boys Sandusky was convicted of abusing. Like those boys, they have numbers too -- and likely long memories as well.

For my part, I would fully support a certain motion Sandusky and his legal team say they may bring before a court. Evidently, Sandusky wants to be allowed to roam amongst the "general population" of the rest of the inmates.

If granted, I dare say Sandusky might quickly find himself experiencing a whole new "level" indeed. From most accounts, the good old boys in the general population seem to have their own way of giving child molesters a little love. A kind of in-house justice system, if you will.

So don't be against Sandusky's appeal. Let him have his way. He would have even begged the legal system to allow it to happen to him.

And THAT'S what I would call justice finally being served.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Peyton Manning. Overrated?

Just today the NFL stat monsters were all agog because Peyton Manning chalked up his 5000th career completed pass. It's unbelievable, they said, in hushed tones of reverence. Actually, that's not exactly right. The talking heads appeared to be nearly orgasmic as they breathlessly screamed this miraculous achievement into their microphones to all that would surely drop everything else they were doing to go out and plop down a couple C-notes to buy yet another #18 "original" jersey.

Yet when one looks at Manning's whole body of work in the NFL, is it really that impressive? On some levels yes, and on other levels maybe not.

Manning is in his 15th season in the NFL, actually 14th because he missed last year with a neck injury. That's impressive, because very few players last that long. These days, the money for QBs is so obscene and the risk of life-changing serious injury happening in any given game so real, that it is doubtful we'll ever see another NFL QB the likes of Manning, Favre, Brady, Brees, etc, ever again. Combine the two, and future QBs have no need to hang around that long.

But back to Manning. 5000 career completions sounds like a lot, and it is, until one crunches a few numbers. Then maybe it's not so impressive. Do the math on his 14 seasons with 16 games each (no playoff stats included). Those 5000 completions average out to about 22 per game. And let's not forget, during all Manning's years with the Indy Colts, for the most part they ran a pass-happy offense, and Manning had a bevy of first-class receivers to throw to. It wasn't unusual for him to throw the ball thirty-some times a game. Nevertheless, Manning has a career completion rate of about 65% and, as they say, two out of three ain't bad, unless one is playing Russian roulette. Then it's not so good. Anybody that can play 16 games of THAT every year and still be around 15 years later is not only impressive, but should be voted into a Hall of Fame SOMEWHERE, but I digress.

However, one is left to wonder just how good Peyton Manning is, and ever was. Yes, he's been a Super Bowl champion and the NFL MVP. Few would doubt he's become a very cerebral QB over the years. Nobody comes more mentally prepared to a game than Peyton. At a glance, he can dissect a defense and audible a different play at the line of scrimmage, if need be. Impressive.

Yet Peyton's never had a cannon arm such as John Elway, nor has he ever been much of a running threat, like perhaps Steve Young. Peyton throws wobbly passes and is slow and awkward. But somehow he gets it done.

There's only one reason all that has happened over the years. Through all his Indy years, and even this year with the Denver Broncos, Peyton has always been blessed with a terrific offensive line to protect him when he drops back to pass.

Dial up any replay you want during his Indy years, or better yet tune into a Broncos game this season, and you'll see the same thing. Peyton will fall back into the "pocket", have time to look at his first, second, third, fourth, and maybe back to the first option, all the while doing his little happy feet dance, before he finally throws the ball. Give most any other NFL QB that amount of time and he'll pick apart a defense too. In that respect, perhaps Manning has been overrated.

No, I don't know the names of those offensive linemen either, and typically they've never been given the credit they are due, but had Manning ever played on a team with a porous offensive line, it is highly unlikely he'd have lasted as long as he has. Those brutes on the opposing defense coming after him don't care about how famous he is or how many silly commercials he makes even more money from. They'd just as soon plow him under like last year's bean plants or the next hot-shot rookie coming out of college. Perhaps even more so. They have a job to do too.

So here's giving credit to Peyton Manning for his longevity, and all the other milestones he has reached as an NFL QB along the way. No doubt, he's a lock for the NFL Hall of Fame as soon as he becomes eligible.

Yet consider this --- when it became apparent the Indy Colts were going to take Andrew Luck with the overall #1 draft pick last year, which meant Manning was about to be phased out -- Peyton could have taken his still considerable talents to a lot of teams. He chose the Denver Broncos. There was a reason for that. No, forget about the Tebow thing -- that was never relevant, as has proven itself out with his tenure with the Jets. Sure, the Broncos had young talented receivers that would get better and better under Peyton's tutelage. But mostly it was about the offensive line. Like Indy, the Broncos have a good one that nobody's ever heard of, and most times Peyton can still dance in the pocket waiting for somebody to come open.

At that, on the rare occasion one of those defensive beasts gets loose and is about to actually make contact with #18, Peyton quickly assumes the fetal position. Well, let's see. He never could run, has a very iffy chicken neck, is chasing still more all-time NFL records, likely has countless more silly commercials awaiting him in the future, and the TV folks can't wait to hire him as an analyst once his playing days are done. Money, money, and more money.

But that only happens if Peyton is still coherent. Though many would deem it to be unmanly for a pro football player, maybe that fetal position isn't such a bad idea after all.

Did I say overrated? I take it back. This dude's been way ahead of the game all along.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Kobe Bryant. The latest episode

What are the differences between LA Laker player Kobe Bryant and Detroit Lion center Dominic Raiola? One's black and one's white. One plays basketball and the other plays football. One has tasted the thrill of victory, while the other has known only the agony of defeat.

What do they have in common? Well, speaking of da feet, they both seem to have a way of sticking them in their own mouths sometimes. In other words, they don't know when to shut up. For over a decade Dominic Raiola has been a team leader and spokesman for -- arguably the sorriest professional franchise in the history of sports. His team is currently in yet another death spiral, but yet Raiola yammers on, calling out teammates and even some of the Lions' home town fans when they dare to say something he doesn't like. He appears to be a member of a very special outfit. The few, the proud, the clueless. Here's a semper fi up Dom's -- now the loser should shut up, and go hold somebody else he can't block. Better yet, hit that Suh guy that he practices against with a few cheap shots, stomp him when he's on the ground, then point at him, trash talk, and laugh as he's writhing in pain. Not only would poetic justice be done, but instead of being known as a lifelong sore loser, Raiola would be instantly transformed into a national hero. Can you imagine the media coverage that would get? Just a thought.

But this is about Kobe. Bryant's a hybrid between a flopper and a flapper. He'll flop on the basketball floor over like he's just been shot if an opposing player even breathes on him, and his gums never seem to quit flapping. He remind yours truly of a character played by the late, great Gilda Radner on Saturday Night Live from yesteryear. Roseanne Roseannadannah. Like RR used to say -- it's always something, then go off on another nonsensical incoherent rant -- much like this one, I suppose.

After yet another Lakers' loss to a team (Orlando Magic) they were supposed to be superior to, Kobe has called out teammate Pao Gasol and told him to "put his big boy pants on". During the latter stages of that game, when the Lakers were coming apart at the seams, Kobe thought Gasol could have played better. Problem is, while all that was happening, Gasol wasn't even in the game. Maybe I'm missing something here, but it would seem to be pretty tough for a player to make a difference in the game while he's sitting on the bench. Sure, Kobe would like to play every minute of every game, and he'd likely hoist up 20 shots for every assist he attempted to pass out, but big guys like Gasol need some rest once in a while. They get beat up near the basket by the other team's big guys, while Kobe stays out on the perimeter waiting for his next opportunity to throw up a long-distance off-balance shot, and hoping somebody dares to touch him, so he can pretend he just got clocked by a blitzing middle linebacker and go into another spasmodic flop of pseudo-agony -- only to miraculously hop up and go shoot free throws a few seconds later, as if nothing ever happened. And most times it didn't anyway.

My take? If Kobe wants Gasol to "put his big boy pants on", then Kobe should "shut his little boy mouth", especially when he doesn't know what he's talking about, which seems to be often.

Kobe seems to think the LA Lakers are "his" team. In that respect, he's delusional. They belong to a guy named Jerry Buss, and JB can throw KB under the bus in LA-LA land any time he feels like it. He needs only make one phone call and the flopper/flapper would have played his last game for the Lakers.

Don't think for a minute Jerry Buss doesn't have the cajones to do just that if he wearies of Kobe and his antics. He most certainly does. Kobe's costing him about $30 million a year, serious change even to a billionaire, and if Bryant gets to be more trouble than he's worth, Buss might just make that phone call.

Look at what happened just recently with the Laker head coaching position. After Mike Brown quickly showed himself incapable of leading the team, he was shown out of town. See ya. Former LA coach Phil Jackson, who had proven himself capable of not only managing the circus act and egos in LA, but guiding them to championships, was considering doing a Brett Favre style return act, to once again lead them to the promised land. Most everybody thought that was a given. Good grief, the Zen Master has even been shacking up with owner Jerry Buss's daughter Jeanie for several years. Buss could be considered almost like a father-in-law to him. But guess what? Phil wanted to think about it for a while. He got cocky, just like Kobe is now. We know what happened or, more properly, didn't happen to Phil. Snooze ya lose, and the job was given to Mark Dantonio. Whether MD turns out to be a successful coach with that team remains to be seen, but Phil's history.

Such are the business decisions billionaires make sometimes. They may have a genuine personal fondness for a player, or perhaps it might even be a member of their family (sort of), but hey, it's business. One way or the other, just about everybody's expendable.

Including Kobe Bean Bryant. Obviously he hasn't figured that out yet. The "black mamba" still thinks he rules in LA. If he wakes up one day and finds himself traded to, say, Cleveland, Washington or Charlotte, then maybe whatever lightbulb he has between his ears will finally start to illuminate his brain, rather than power his mouth -- but it will be too late. Over is over.

In the meantime, for the sake of their fans, the sake of their teammates, the sake of their ownership, the sake of the sports world, and for the sake of all mankind in general, here's hoping Kobe Bryant, Dominic Raiola, and others like them can do just one little thing that seems simple enough.

They're making obscene amounts of money for playing a game. So go play, and play hard.

But shut up.