Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ryan Braun. Somebody's lying, but who?

As most sports fans, and certainly those that follow pro baseball, know, reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers recently had his "doping" case "dismissed" by an arbitrator. Given the stringent new rules laid down in the (hopefully) post-performance enhancing drugs era -- after a "positive" test, this was a first in Major League Baseball. Until the Braun case, they way it worked was -- once you test up, you're going down. For 50 games on the first offense.

Major League Baseball, basically the prosecutor, was outraged at the decision. Braun, the defendant, felt vindicated for a crime he claimed he never committed. So who's right?

I don't know. Unlike so many others, from bar flies to highly respected journalists, I refuse to be caught up in what's going on these days. That being that once someone is accused of something, the common theme of the day seems to be to presume they're guilty. And that's not only wrong -- it goes against one of the fundamental precepts of our jurisprudence system. Presumed innocent until proven guilty. Somewhere along the way we've lost sight of that. To the contrary, nowadays, as soon as an allegation is made, everybody and their uncle becomes "witnesses for the prosecution", most times when they don't have a clue as to the facts in the case. And that's scary.

Let's look at what we know about Braun's case. His testosterone level tested out at over 3 times the limit to make it "positive". I found that strange. Braun's a very bright guy, and is certainly aware of the drug testing going on in his sport these days. Had that sample graded out at just a tad over the limit, that would have been one thing. But triple the threshold? Surely Braun would have known that amount of testosterone would not only have thrown up a red flag, but set off whistles, bells, alarms, and everything else. Something didn't smell right about that.

The person who collected his sample said he stored it for a couple of days in his home because no FedEx office was open within 50 miles of the ball park at that time. Braun and his people claim there were at least 5 such offices open at the time, all within 5 miles of the ball park, and further, one of them offered 24 hour service. Maybe I'm missing something here, but it would seem to be a simple matter for an impartial investigator to have checked all that out. I'm still amazed the arbitrator didn't insist on having that information before rendering a judgment. Or perhaps she did, but that information was never made public. But that wouldn't square with the collector's post-judgment stance of standing by his story. Surely, the MLB execs would eventually be privy to all the inside info, and if this guy was found to be lying, not only would he be out of a job, but likely facing prosecution himself. Why would he say such a thing that might ultimately expose him to such unpleasantries?

Conversely, while, in a sense, this was a first for Braun, the sample collector was a veteran, by his own admission having handled hundreds of other samples in the past. His job was to collect it, properly package it, and send it off to the drug lab in Montreal -- ASAP. That said, if Braun and his people were right about various FedEx locations nearby being open at the time -- as a veteran -- the collector should have known about it, and would have had no justification in taking that sample home. So who's right? We may never know, because like most other things that are media-worthy, this will quickly disappear from their radar. But somebody didn't do their homework.

That raises another question. Exactly where, in the chain of custody of such a sample, does an athlete cease to become a name, and become a number? Surely the collector knew it came from Ryan Braun, but the actual testers in the Montreal drug lab are supposed to deal only with numbers, so no possible bias, personal, professional, or otherwise can enter into the testing. Unless I'm missing something again, this responsibility would seem to fall on the collector. He can watch an athlete actually urinating in a cup or bottle, but once he packages it up and gives it over to FedEx to head to Montreal -- well -- who else could have put the "tamper-proof" seals on it after changing the name to a number? To take it a step further -- how does that number get changed back into a name when a red flag pops up?  What kind of chain of custody goes on there? We don't know. Of course, there's the question of what may have happened to that sample for the missing 2 days before it was shipped. Who knows?

Finally, while I have little doubt I'm in the minority here, it continues to amaze me how so many can keep holding up people like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens as the epitome of bad examples, to compare someone like Ryan Braun to.

Here's what I know. Bonds and Clemens are innocent on any performance enhancing drug charges. Why? Because they haven't been proven guilty. Contrary to popular opinion, that pesky little thing called the "law" is still supposed to have some importance.

My hunch is that those very same people that are always in a rush to judgment when it involves others, would quickly change their tune if it was happening to them, their spouses, kids, family, or friends.

It's easy when it's somebody else. But that still doesn't make it right.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Daytona 500. Crazy

To borrow a line that one of the announcers borrowed from James Taylor -- I've seen fire, and I've seen rain. But this was off the charts.

First, the race got rained out on Sunday. It was the first time that happened in the 54 years of the Daytona 500, which is amazing. That probably put a lot of people in a bind, particularly those with flights to catch or many miles to drive, to get back to their jobs or other responsibilities on Monday. NASCAR may be a multi-billion dollar enterprise, but even they can't order Mother Nature around. She can be fickle, at times.

After being pushed back several hours on Monday for weather conditions again, the race finally started. Then the insanity began. I was in a sports bar checking it out on a big screen.

After the very first lap, Jimmy Johnson got wrecked, apparently by Elliott Sadler. Who would have ever thought JJ would go out that quick? I heard shouts of astonishment.

Danica Patrick, further back in the pack, somehow got caught up in that, but appeared to get through it with minor damage. Yet, she left the track and headed to the garage area for repairs.

Shortly thereafter, a talking head said something about how her crew was working on her rear end. That statement gave me pause. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to see live coverage of that or not. Silly me, I thought it was supposed to be about racing. Then they said her crew had to put a gear in it. Whoa, that sounded like it might be painful. I understand it takes a huge commitment to participate in this sport, but that's getting a little over the top. The poor thing.

Then Jeff Gordon appeared to blow an engine and the sports bar erupted in joy. They jeered the former "Rainbow Warrior". Why do so many people root against Gordon? He's always seemed to be a personable guy, and for the most part races "clean". Yeah, he went through a divorce a while back, but it wasn't like he had pulled a "Tiger". I have a theory. It goes back to the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. The Intimidator used to wreck a lot of guys, but he was a fan favorite. Then up came this kid, that Earnhardt himself used to sneeringly call "wonder boy". Problem was, the "kid" was beating him fair and square and a lot of people didn't like it, especially Dale. I think that lingers to this day, hence Dale Jr.'s immense popularity, though he hasn't won much.

The strangest thing of all came next. While under the yellow caution flag, Juan Pablo Montoya came out of the pits and wanted to catch back up to the rear of the field. He needn't have been in any big hurry, because those trucks with the jet-powered blowers to clean debris off the track were crawling around at their usual snail's pace. But Montoya came whipping around the track, all the while radioing to his crew that he had a very strange vibration going on his car. Just before he got to the trucks, he lost it and crashed into one of them, at a high rate of speed. Montoya's car was destroyed, as well as the truck, and 200 gallons of jet fuel started spewing onto the track. The result was an inferno. Luckily, Montoya survived that, and even more luckily the driver of the truck who probably never knew what hit him. Whoever heard of a race car driver crashing into a "support" vehicle? It took over a couple hours to sort that mess out.

After the flames had finally been extinguished, the NASCAR folks decided to "wash" that area of the track by dumping huge quantities of "Tide" on the area. In this "Era" of "All" the detergents available, perhaps it was only a coincidence that brand was used. Perhaps not. Darrell Waltrip, one of the announcers, used to drive a car sponsored by Tide. A good-ole-boy conspiracy? Beats me. Boogety, boogety boogety on.

Other new ground was broken. Brad Keselowski, of Rochester Hills, became the first to tweet from a race car during the course of the action. Maybe we should stop worrying about teenagers texting while driving. If this guy can do it during the Daytona 500, it can't be that much of a distraction, right?

There was a down side, at least to me. The above mentioned Jimmy Johnson, who I had the ultimate respect for, was featured in a commercial advertising Honda riding lawn mowers. He's always driven a Chevy. He's a former 5-time NASCAR champion. He wants to be the All-American guy. This was the Great American race. He's got umpteen millions of dollars, and counting. And he's advertising a Honda product? Something is very wrong with that, and he just lost a fan. Me. Besides, JJ is in the business of running fast. You'd think he'd know -- nothing runs like a Deere.

In the end, Matt Kenseth won the race, and somebody else chimed in with how Danica spent her "period" in the garage.

I wouldn't touch that line with a 10 foot pole.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The ghost of Rasheed Wallace

Is he back? Maybe. It seems Wallace wants to come out of retirement and play again, most likely with the LA Lakers. At 37, can he do it? Who knows?

Over his 15 year career in the NBA, Sheed played for Washington, Portland, Atlanta, Detroit, and finally Boston, before retiring after game 7 of the 2010 NBA finals with the Celtics.

There's no question that for a "big man", he possessed multiple talents. Besides being a tenacious defender all over the court, he could play in "the paint" with the other big guys, or step out and make long range jump shots. Also, unlike many other "big men", his free throw shooting was pretty good. And lord, could he trash talk.

Sometimes that got him in trouble, not so much with the opposing players, as with the refs. Wallace is the all-time leader, by a wide margin, for racking up technical fouls --  324 in his career. That averages out to over 20 a season, and that's ALOT. Thing was, he was so good on the court that teams (and fans) overlooked that because he was worth it.

Many Pistons' fans in Detroit thought GM Joe Dumars was asking for big trouble when he traded for Wallace in February of 2004. Due in no small part to Wallace's presence on that team, a few months later the Pistons would win the world championship, defeating the heavily-favored LA Lakers 4 games to 1. Wallace may have been a lot of things, not all good, but it's probably a fair statement to say he is still thought of fondly amongst Detroit basketball fans to this day.

And now he wants to give it one more go-round. Reports say he's worked out like a maniac and is in better shape right now than he was when he initially retired. 37 might be getting up there in NBA years, but look at the Boston Celtics. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce, their Big 3, tally over a century between them. Are they still championship caliber? Maybe not, given what's going on in a few other cities, but they can sure as hell walk into another team's building on any given night and win the game. So one never knows.

Of course, if Sheed were to hook up with the LA Lakers, there's always the Kobe factor. It's no big secret that the Lakers have been shopping center Pao Gasol. The good Mr. Bryant has recently decreed that the Lakers must do something quickly. Either trade Gasol, or make a commitment to keeping him. Funny thing is -- the last time I looked Kobe was a player, not the head coach, and certainly not the GM. Bryant can generate all the sound bytes and photo-ops he wants, and though an outstanding one, he's still just a player. Sometimes he acts like he owns the team, and I dare say a man named Jerry Buss might not quite see it the same way.

Personally, I hope Rasheed Wallace is indeed successful in his comeback attempt for a few reasons.
Despite all the former supposed "character" issues, he's proven himself to be a pretty good dude. That's worth something.
Second, whether he needs the money or not, knowing he worked so hard for another chance that, if successful, could turn out to be an inspirational type story that may pay dividends down the road not only to himself, but to others as well.
Though not a Laker fan myself, if he joins that team and still possesses some of his former talent, a power shift may occur in the western conference of the NBA. Even if he's not a starter, which is doubtful, his mere presence coming off the bench would create a lot of problems for other teams. That would be well worth the price of admission just to see how it played out.
But mostly, the things we won't see would be the best. Remember how Kobe and Shaq had their little feud a few years ago? All the little barbs here and there?
Imagine Kobe trying to do the same dis and smack talk routine with Sheed. He might be 37, but I'm pretty sure he can still bring THAT.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Danica Patrick and the Daytona 500

After a brief stint in the "minors" of NASCAR racing, Danica Patrick is going to run in this year's Daytona 500. Why the folks that oversee NASCAR put their "Super Bowl" first on the schedule has always been a mystery to me, but then again, they call it "stock car" racing, and I doubt if a single part on any of those cars is a stock item at your local auto parts store or dealership. Go figure.

At any rate, Danica's going to be piloting the #10 car, as they say, and it will be green. How will she do? Hard to tell.

Patrick has an Indy car racing background, so the NASCAR speeds are certainly no big deal to her. Her car will have to have the "rookie stripe" across it's back bumper, so the others will know, but that's really unnecessary. Every other racer will know full well who's driving the green car.

At Indianapolis, legend had it that the color green was taboo, though I don't know why. It was probably a silly myth, but Danica never really came close to winning there either, even though she had top-notch equipment. Sure, she would always lead a lap or two here and there, her uninformed fans in the stands would roar, and the talking heads on TV hype it to the max -- but that was usually when her crew left her out on the track while the superior cars and drivers had came into the pits. Once things all got sorted out, she never really came close to taking the checkered flag. In all her years of Indy car racing, to my knowledge, Danica only won one obscure race over in Japan somewhere. Yet the endorsements poured in.

It probably should have been no great surprise. After all, Indy car racing had gone through a years long feud amongst those that wished to rule the sport and, in the end, they had basically destroyed it. Fans were no longer interested. The Indy car people needed a face to put the sport back on the map. And no doubt, Danica was well-spoken and had a pretty face. Yes, she could be moody and throw hissy fits, but ask yourself this -- if Dario Franchitti, or Scott Dixon, both former winners of the Indy 500 sat down next to you -- would you recognize them?

In Indy's glory years of old, no doubt they would have scoffed at Danica advertising beauty products and the like, but those were desperate times, from which they've never completely recovered, and likely never will. I suppose a cynic might say Danica could have endorsed a plywood company from the neck down, but that would be counter-productive.

Now she's jumping in with the "big boys". Whether they respect that or not remains to be seen. They can accept that and let her race fair and square, or they can make it impossible for her. I hope it's the former.

Danica was OK as an Indy car driver, but that was polite racing. Even though the speeds were vastly superior to anything she'll ever see in NASCAR, no contact was allowed. You bump another car, you both wreck, and probably take others with you. Despite all the safety features, at well over 200 MPH this is not a laughing matter. People can get airborne, and even die. RIP Dan Wheldon, a world-class racer and multiple Indy 500 champion, that got caught up in such an incident, in Las Vegas, a scant few months ago.

Chances are, Patrick is going to get bumped a lot in the Daytona 500. Yes, she's raced that type of car a few times before and experienced some of that already, but this is the big race in the big leagues. As a comparison, just because she got a hit here and there against a really good Triple A minor league pitcher doesn't mean she'll fare so well against someone like Justin Verlander staring her down on the mound.

And make no mistake. If she makes it that far, there's no mercy on the final laps on the Daytona 500, even between teammates, let alone a rookie driver, woman or not.

That rookie stripe will probably have been erased a long time before that. Hopefully, the bumper is still there.

There may be a time for chivalry, but I'm pretty sure the Great American Race isn't it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Having Justin Verlander for breakfast

It seems the ace pitcher of the Detroit Tigers has just come out with a new breakfast cereal. It features Verlander's picture on the box and the product is called "Fastball Flakes".

Ya know.....if you kick back and think about that for a second -- it could be perceived in a couple different ways.........

Here's hoping it works out well for JV but, either way, I'm pretty sure Tony the (other) Tiger, with his Frosted Flakes, won't be getting too worked up about the competition anytime soon.

Brandon Inge. An objective look

Much has been said recently about Brandon Inge's hope of playing 2nd base for the Detroit Tigers this coming year. Some defended Inge's right to at least give it a "shot", while others would just as soon see him leave town -- permanently. Now that all the hoopla's died down, at least until the Tigers start playing their spring training games and sorting out who's who, let's take an objective look at Inge.

Here's what I know I know. I neither like nor dislike Inge. He is, and has been, a highly paid pro athlete and, as such, should be rightfully judged on his performance. No other sport cooks up more statistics than major league baseball to keep track of such things. Here's a few: Inge has played for the Detroit Tigers for 11 years. 139 home runs, 587 RBIS, 1183 strike outs, and a career batting average of .235.

Here's what I think I know. Inge being a shortstop in college is totally irrelevant over a decade later. It doesn't matter whether he was a middle linebacker, a point guard, or a goalie. When the Tigers got him, they tried to make him a catcher. He was OK behind the plate, but he couldn't hit a lick.

After a few years he got a shot at third base. Besides doing spot duty here and there in the outfield, as the occasion arose, Inge performed reasonably well there defensively. Over the long haul, he wasn't spectacular, but probably above average. Yet he still couldn't hit much.

No doubt his best season was 2009. Inge hit 27 home runs, had 84 RBIs, and was selected to the All-Star team, likely because he was very popular in Detroit at that time. He even entered the Home Run Derby contest, where he proceeded to embarrass himself by not hitting any. Ouch.

Inge struck out 170 times that year. And his batting average? .230. Then he got a contract extension somewhere in the neighborhood of $5,500,000 a year -- guaranteed money.

Last year his batting average was so bad (around the .150  mark) the Tigers sent him down to the minors. But he still got his money. At that point, Inge basically had two choices. He could go to Toledo and hope for another shot in the "bigs", or go home and STILL collect the millions. Yet, had he chosen the latter, it likely would have spelled the end of his career in the big leagues. Not that he should ever need the money because, after all, Inge has made upwards of $35 million dollars playing pro baseball, and if that isn't enough to get by on for a lifetime, then he's been whiffing on his finances even worse than he did standing in the batter's box. I dare say in today's economy, most of us would gladly take just one measly little million and be happy as clams foreverafter.

But with Inge, there always seems to be a "kicker". Sure enough, last year, when the rosters expanded in September, he got called back up from Toledo. Many looking for something -- anything -- to bolster Inge have recently said he batted .324 in September, and .318 in the post-season. They throw out stats like Inge having an OPS of around .900 for that time. I for one, had no idea what OPS was, so I looked it up. It follows.....

The basic formula is
OPS = OBP + SLG \,
where OBP is on-base percentage and SLG is slugging average. These averages are defined
SLG = \frac{TB} {AB}
OBP = \frac{H+BB+HBP} {AB+BB+SF+HBP}
Now, if you can decipher all of that, you're way ahead of me, but evidently .900 is supposed to be a really good number.

Me being one that always tries to cut through the "bull", I see Inge's proponents saying he hit really well for about a month and a half at the end of last year. Further, they say he's always been accessible to the media, as if that should matter. (If I'm a fan, give me a guy hitting .300, that shuns the press, over a .230 guy flapping his gums any day). Good for them, and they can cheer him on if they wish, but given the bigger picture, along with his history -- if that's all they have to bring to the table -- their argument is very weak. It might be interesting to look back and see if those same people thought Matt Millen was a "great hire" for the Detroit Lions when it first happened. 

My take?  If I was Inge, I'd try to hang on too. Even for the same money, private charter flights and 5-star motels beat the hell out of buses and sleazy easies.

But nice guy or not, .235 over 11 years is what it is. Maybe a really slick fielding shortstop could get away with Inge's offensive stats, but somebody playing catcher and/or 3rd base in the major leagues is expected to put up bigger numbers. How Inge has hung on for this long is a total mystery to me.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Jeremy Lin and the "chink" thing

Most sports fans know Jeremy Lin has recently become a sensation as a guard for the NBA's New York Knicks. Then he had a bad game. Some on-line affiliate of ESPN slapped the headline "a chink in the armor?" on an article, and because Lin is of Asian ancestrry, many went berserk over the supposed racial slur.

Gimme a break. Are we really that touchy-feely, sensitive, and yes, that stupid?

No wonder we haven't won a war since WWII. We've become too wimpy.

ESPN quickly took the post down and subsequently issued an apology. It seems everybody's afraid of everything these days, particularly when it comes to the spoken or written word, lest they, gasp, possibly offend somebody. To all of which I say -- grow up and get a life because it happens. Always has and always will. Don't sweat the small stuff.

My name's John Leach. A leech is a blood sucking parasite. Back in junior high school, I was taunted mercilessly about that. A "john leach" must mean I go around sucking on toilets. It was tough for a while, but that was just kids being kids. Fast forward a few decades and occasionally someone else will still make such a reference. I just smile -- because it doesn't matter.

Same thing with Lin. That headline didn't matter, other than wimpy losers looking to pounce upon something, anything, to create a sensation. Besides, for anybody that actually, heaven forbid, wants to look up definitions, a "chink" is a small weakness. Obviously, this is what ESPN intended with their headline, not the derogatory other meaning of the word.

So where does it end? If I were to say Michael Jordan has been acting "niggardly" in his majority ownership of the Charlotte Bobcats, would people be outraged? Probably. Would I be taken to task by my editor and possibly sued by yet others? No. Editors and astute attorneys know better. A "niggard" is a cheapskate. Look it up.

But just coming even close to a so-called no-no word gets people in trouble these days.

Let's get real. Anyone who thinks derogatory words have been extinguished by the language police is a fool. Some people will always use them.

Something rather unique happened to me earlier today. I went to a local watering hole, sat down on a bar stool, and ordered a beer. The female bartender said, "yes sir". Next to me was a young gentleman I'd never seen before. When the beer came I said "thank you dear" back to the bartender. Evidently, the young man needed someone to talk to, so I listened and responded politely. It had become quickly apparent that his mental faculties appeared to be what many would not consider "normal". Then he looked me right in the eyes and said something that totally caught me off guard.

"The bartender called you 'sir', and you called her 'dear'. People call me 'retarded'".

I told him, "The only people that are retarded are the ones that think YOU are. You've always been better than them, but you just haven't figured it out yet. Someday you will". We chatted some more.

Then what I asssumed were his parents walked in. After a brief talk with them, the young man rushed back up to me and said, "John, I'm going to the movies. Wish I could take you with me"

In today's world, some people would get all homophobic about that. Maybe even consider it stalking. That might partially explain why there's 107 pages of attorneys in my Yellow Pages. Check that out at your leisure. A lot of supposed "normal" people would have moved away from that young man in the first place, or worse, poked fun at him.

Not me. That kid taught me more in a half hour than other "smarter" people have taught me in a lifetime.

And others want to go ballistic over some obscure on-line blurb concerning Jeremy Lin?

Perhaps they should remember Lin is a Harvard grad. From what little I know, the fine folks in Cambridge aren't in the habit of handing out degrees to just anybody. Translation? Lin gets it.

Too bad other people still don't.

Maybe they should have been sitting on my bar stool next to that kid. They just might have learned something too.......

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lions to trade Stafford for Tebow?

So says a source, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, because she was not authorized to officially discuss the sensitive nature of the negotiations. Sound familiar? More about that after this commercial break, that may ring a bell....

If some maniac intentionally jumps in front of my car while I'm going down the road, and slamming on the brakes means I'll get whacked by a few other vehicles -- to hell with that. I'm going to run his ass over. He shouldn't have done that.

Recently, former NFL running back Marshall Faulk said Matthew Stafford was "nothin' special" just cuz he threw for over 5000 yards last season. Nationally, chances are most would agree with him. Further, former receiver Cris Carter said Lions' current receiver Calvin Johnson wasn't in the top 5 in the NFL. That's certainly debatable.  But in the Detroit area -- oh my. From scribes, to talking heads, to fans -- they were/are outraged. They're tweeting away like somebody put steroids in the birdseed at the Detroit Zoo aviary exhibit.

And that's the thing. The Lions have been a laughingstock for decades, and now that they're finally respectable, their followers are blowing it by being so sensitive to the least little bit of criticism from others. They should be proud. Instead, they come off as still being insecure. In doing so, they only continue to make themselves fodder for critics. Confident teams, individual players, their local media, and fans, shrug off criticism from others because they KNOW they're good. Conversely, the Lions and their faithful seem stuck in the Rodney Dangerfield mode of getting no respect. While no doubt well intentioned, they continue to shoot themselves in the foot when it comes to perception in the bigger picture. Now another word from our sponsors.

I'm out here stranded with a wrecked car, and it's going to be 97 minutes before I talk to a claim representative on my cell phone? If I live through this and ever make it into your office, repairing the car will be the least of your worries. You wanted a jihad? You got it.

Faulk and Carter can say whatever they want. The former is already a Hall of Famer and the latter is on the cusp of being enshrined. People from the Detroit area can write and tweet, and talk all they want about Faulk not knowing anything about being a quarterback, or Carter having a case of sour grapes with Johnson. It only shows their continuing insecurity to remain so touchy about what others say. Perhaps some day they can get past that, because it's only hurting their team. As long as they're still whining and crying about no respect -- the Lions won't get any. That's just the way it works. You'd think they'd figure that out, but not yet. They can say what they will about Faulk and Carter, but those guys both played the game at a very high level for a very long time.

Faulk probably knows more about being an NFL quarterback than the average fan or scribe knows about their own kids. Same with Carter. If he took Johnson aside to give him a couple tips -- do you think the Megatron would listen? Damn right, he would. A short pause and we'll be right back....

Oh no. The barbarians are back and still want to know what I have in my wallet. Can the cavemen be far behind?

All of which brings me back to the beginning. The possible Stafford for Tebow trade.

While Lions' fans may howl about such a suggestion, perhaps they should consider the upside, if only for 3 reasons.

In only a partial first year as a starting QB, Tebow won a playoff game against the always formidable Steelers. Stafford? Nada, after 3 years.

Tebow brings instant national attention, not the least being amongst millions of pretty girls. Yours truly thinks a mere few thousand more pretty girls at Ford Field would be a good thing.

The most important one should be obvious. No one doubts Tebow is a man of deep Christian faith.
He'd be a natural for Detroit Lions' fans. If there's one thing they've learned over the last half century or so -- it's how to pray.

I miss Yogi and the duck. Don't remember what they were advertising, but at least it was fun to watch.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Best teams champions? Not always

The Detroit Red Wings recently set the all-time record for most consecutive wins on their "home ice". Some will say that mark may be tainted because of overtime and shoot-out wins along the way. In the old days, those games would have been considered a tie and the streak broken long before they approached the record. That's certainly debatable, but given the modern day sports world, where the geeks invent stats for just about everything, particularly in baseball, while the average fan understands about half of them, let's at least give credit to the Wings for being on a remarkable roll at home. They currently find themselves on top of the NHL point standings, but not by that much, because of their not-so-good road record. Nevertheless, they have a majority of their remaining games at home, which means they have a pretty good shot at winning the President's trophy for being the best regular season team.

Claiming that honor would mean the Red Wings will enjoy home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs. But what does it REALLY mean? Not much. Once the playoffs start, what happened in the regular season does't matter; it's a different brand of hockey, everything tightens up, and it's basically a crap shoot. Hockey fans in Detroit likely remember that the Wings have been in that position before -- only to get bounced out of the playoffs in the early rounds. Translation? When the pressure got cranked up -- they got beat at home, somewhere along the way.

The so-called "best" team doesn't always prevail. Look at the New York Giants, current Super Bowl champs. They barely made the playoffs with a 9-7 record. Defeating the Atlanta Falcons on the road was one thing. Waltzing into Lambeau Field and putting a beat-down on the mighty Packers was quite another. Then off to San Fran, where Jim Harbaugh had the 49ers playing smash-mouth football, to win yet again. Who amongst you would have wagered the Giants could run that gauntlet and survive, much less beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl? But it happened.  Four years ago, when the Patriots were 18-0, nobody gave the Giants a chance at beating them in the Super Bowl. But it happened.

Last year the St. Louis Cardinals barely made the playoffs. We know who eventually won the World Series.

Weird things have happened to determine titles in the past. The Miracle Mets. The late Jim Valvano's NC State squad winning the NCAA hoops tourney. It could be the best example is the 1980 "Miracle On Ice", where the US olympic squad, made up of a bunch of college kids, defeated the formidable Russian Red Army team. (That same team, from the then USSR, had breezed through many NHL teams while touring North America.) If that would have been a best of 7 series, I doubt many would question the Red Army team would have embarrassed those kids for the next 4 games. The guys in red were obviously the vastly superior team and shouldn't have lost. But they did.

Most times, heavily favored teams win, but not always. Once in a while an underdog comes through with an unforeseen spectacular performance and pulls an upset.

In baseball, the difference between a slugger hitting a grand slam home run, a pop-up, or grounding into an inning ending double play is probably about half an inch either way in how the bat strikes the ball. Hockey? A deflected puck here, clanging the goal post there, and who knows? Similar comparisons could be made about basketball, football, golf, tennis, soccer, you name it.

Sometimes it might involve hundreds of feet -- and other times it's a game where a fraction of an inch can be crucial.

That's the best part about sports. Nobody knows what's going to happen -- until it happens.

Come to think of it, that's pretty much what goes on around here most of the time. But this is a sports blog, so I'll leave it right there.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Randy Moss and the Detroit Lions

Moss just announced his intention to come out of retirement and play again in the NFL. Near as I can tell, he's an unrestricted free agent and can pretty much entertain any and all offers from various teams.

No doubt, many are wondering if Moss still has anything left in his "tank" to once again compete at that level. After all, he just turned 35 years old -- not exactly still in his prime -- but what if he's still got it?

Few would question that back in his day, Moss was the freak of all freaks when it came to the wide receiver position. He had speed, length, athleticism, hands of glue, toughness/durability, and definitely big play capability on any given down. Sure, he had his mood swings, but as a pure talent as a receiver on the field, I can't think of anyone who was a bigger nightmare for defensive coordinators, let alone defensive backs. Calvin Johnson of the Lions? I'll get back to that.

Assuming Moss still has a couple of good years left in him, it's likely he wouldn't play for just anybody. He'd want to go someplace where a team was "on the rise", not quite Super Bowl ready yet, but perhaps he could put them over the top and get them there. What better way to cement his legacy then going out on top with a "ring"?

That's why I think the Lions' brain trust should think long and hard about this guy. The least they could do would be ask him in for a workout, and if he's still showing some of the old magic, float a one or two year contract offer.

Look at it from Randy's possible point of view. The Lions are pretty good, getting closer to championship caliber, and will likely get better. In Matthew Stafford, he'd have a QB that can make all the throws, and certainly isn't shy about doing so. Though Detroit as a city may have it's shortcomings, the football fans there remain fanatical and have been craving a winner for seemingly eons. If he's the guy that gets them to promised land -- he'd become an icon.

But the best thing? Another freak named Calvin Johnson would be lined up on the other side of the field.

It's a numbers reality. One of them would certainly draw double coverage, but the other would be licking his chops in one-on-one. Zones? Wouldn't matter. The corners and safeties have to commit to a certain area. Throw in a third or fourth receiver, possibly a tight end running a pattern, and maybe a running back coming out of the backfield -- and somebody's going to be wide open somewhere.

Matthew Stafford has enough experience under his belt where he would quickly figure that out. He threw for over 5000 yards last year -- which puts him in elite company. He can get it done. Other than Johnson, most of that was accomplished with an underwhelming group of wide receivers.

Imagine if he had another freak in his arsenal, if only for a year or two.

People can talk all they want about rebuilding this and future draft choices that, but let's not kid ourselves. In pro sports, nothing else matters except winning championships. Sometimes the window is only open for a short while to get a title, and then it closes. Some teams throw caution to the wind and go for it NOW. Others are more conservative and hope their building blocks pay dividends in the future. Many times that future never comes.

Here's an example. Remember that so-called trouble making locker room cancer that Joe Dumars of the Pistons took a wild gamble on about a decade ago? His name was Rasheed Wallace. He put them over the top and the Pistons won a world championship.

So why not Moss? Go for it NOW. What do they have to lose?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Pebble Beach. Mr. Bill and the Tiger show

I don't get it. Unless it's one of the "major" tournaments, which this is not, normally most golf fans don't get interested in a tournament until after the "cut" is made and the real competition starts on the weekend with the TV coverage.

It seems this one is different. Why? Tiger Woods and Bill Murray were on the course.

Don't get me wrong. Murray is a funny guy -- or at least he used to be. Yet, at Pebble Beach, he's just another "celebrity" getting a chance to hang out with the real golf pros while hacking around the course. One would think some of their antics would drive the pros crazy. After all, the PGA guys are trying to concentrate on their game to do well in the tournament. It may be amateur hour to some, but it's not to THEM.  Further, of all people, I'm not sure why Murray's allowed on that course, or any other one, for that matter, after what he did to hallowed Bushwood in Caddyshack with his plastic explosives. That was only make-believe you say? Well, OK, I'll begrudgingly admit that, but I still think he poses a "clear and present danger". At any rate, I don't understand why the TV people think Murray's wise-cracking on a golf course is worthy of air time.

And then there's Tiger. He's back. Sort of. Eldrick hasn't won squat yet, but just the fact that he's playing seems to be good enough for the media hounds -- not to mention hordes of his adoring lemming fans. He could be flailing away near the bottom of the field but, by god, the replays will be coming at ya.

See Tiger drive. See Tiger take a divot. See Tiger putt. See Tiger make a birdie. See Tiger 6 strokes back. It doesn't matter. The dude's going to be everywhere on the tube. Uh oh. Tiger's making a charge. Sound the trumpets. Now he's only 4 strokes back, in 4th place.

Thankfully, the TV people finally deigned to mention who was actually leading the tournament -- but only briefly. Who's in 2nd and 3rd place ahead of Tiger? Nobody knows, because it doesn't matter. It's the Tiger Woods show. Roll his highlights again, and again -- and again.

No doubt, Tiger was once the King of the golfing world. He struck fear into others when he donned the red shirt and black pants on Sunday afternoon. There was a time when many would take Tiger over the entire field in a wager.

But here's the little dirty secret. Those days are gone. Tiger's 36 years old. Like it or not, he's on the down side of his "prime", in the pro golfing world. From Peyton Manning, to Roger Federer, to Michael Jordan, to every other superstar in pro sports -- Father Time is unrelenting. Many jocks have reached the mountain top -- and even stayed there for a while -- but eventually there's only one way to go.

What's even worse for Tiger is he doesn't intimidate anybody anymore. There's young guns popping up from all over the world that couldn't care less about him, his past achievements, and legacy. These guys are really good and will get better. To them, Tiger's just another old dude in the way between them and glory. It's also no secret that Tiger has been recently stared down by some of these young guns on Sunday afternoon, and folded. That's what Tiger used to do to THEM. Now they're doing it to HIM.

Will any of them emerge to rule the sport like Tiger once did? Who knows? When Jack Nicklaus set his record for winning "majors" nobody thought somebody like Tiger Woods would come around to challenge it. It happened then, and it could happen again.

But that's the thing. There's so many of them these days that are not only great players, but have the confidence of a winner. It only takes one to get hot in any given tournament -- and Tiger can't win.

The Masters' in April will tell us something about Tiger's stature in the pro golf world, but far from all. If he gets blasted out of that tournament, it will not be a good omen for his golfing future. But that won't be his true test. After all, a player has to have won something to even qualify for that tournament. Many of the young guns won't be there.

The true test will be the other tournaments, specifically the British and US Opens, and the PGA. The hot shots will likely be there to strut their stuff.

And make no mistake, they're not only coming on now, but will continue to multiply in the future.

This does not bode well for Tiger.

Yours truly has never quite understood the phenomenon behind Tigermania, but I started to get sick of all the media hype a few years back. Enough is enough, especially for a guy that can't seem to win anymore. Now watch, just because I said that, he'll storm back and win at Pebble Beach.

If so, there will be countless millions that will hyperventilate in their excitement, and the replays will go into ridiculous mode.

But I suggest Tiger fans don't get too used to it.

Like Father Time, those other guys aren't going away either.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ndahmukong Suh. Hero, villain, and....

In my opinion, Paula Pasche, the Oakland Press beat writer for the Detroit Lions, does a terrific job of covering them. Paula reported that Suh, after being enormously popular last year, was currently the 4th most disliked athlete in pro sports, according to a recent Forbes survey. So with apologies to Ms. Pasche, I'm going to take her original idea and delve into it a little further.

As she noted, Michael Vick topped the list, followed by Tiger Woods, Plaxico Burress, and then Suh. All of which begs the question -- why these guys?

Certainly they're all black men, but I find it extremely difficult to believe the results of such a poll could possibly be racially motivated. Is there a common thread? Perhaps. Let's examine how each probably attained notoriety.

Michael Vick. That's obvious. Millions of people were outraged, including myself, over the dog-fighting thing. When all was said and done, Vick had to do some "hard time" for that in prison, and justifiably so. Some people bought into Vick eventually showing remorse, and some thought it was all an act. Hard to say what was in the man's heart, but it's likely a fair statement to say many dog-lovers will never forgive him. Yet all that happened "off the field".

Tiger Woods. Since he first burst onto the PGA scene about 15 years ago, I dare say Eldrick has been a polarizing figure. It seemed most golf fans loved him -- but don't kid yourself -- there were many that felt exactly the opposite. Racial? Maybe. Let's get real. A black man dominating a predominantly white man's game is going to have his detractors. Did I agree with it? No. Did I understand it? Yes. Like it or not, that's just the real world. Prejudices have always been there among some, and always will be. It's just the nature of our species. But what ultimately landed Woods as the #2 villain? His infidelity to his wife. Opinions vary as to how many women may have been involved, but it's probably a safe statement to say this wasn't exactly a one-night-stand, with just one woman. Throw in the fact he and his wife had 2 little children and, well, good luck with that when the story comes out. But again, all this happened "off the course".

Plaxico Buress. Why he ranks #3 is a total mystery to me. Near as I can tell, he got in trouble with the court of public opinion for accidentally shooting himself in the leg at a nightclub. Stupid? Definitely. He had to go to prison as well, though to this day I don't quite understand that. It's not like he was there to do bodily harm to someone else. Did he ruffle feathers amongst fans with some of his on-field antics during NFL games? Sure. But there's lots of guys that do, or have done that. Thing is, he eventually owned it, and whether you believed his "remorse" or not, which seems to be mandatory these days for another reason I don't understand (if you do the crime and do the time, then it should be over, no begging necessary), it didn't happen on the gridiron.

That's where Suh is different. People tend to forget his earlier flagrant attempts to cause bodily harm to an opposing player on the field, for apparently no other reason than being a thug. He was fined a few times for those infractions and, luckily, no serious injury, or worse, resulted. What led Suh from favorite son to #4 villain was obviously the Thanksgiving day "stomp".

The difference? I dare say not too many sports fans have seen actual footage of what may have gone on at Michael Vick's dog compounds. It's also highly doubtful that whatever Tiger Woods was doing with other women was ever captured on video, must less uploaded to a web site for those so inclined to peruse at their leisure. Even if it had been on film, what's to see about the Plaxico Burress incident? A guy reaches into his pocket, something goes bang, and then he limps out. Not exactly the stuff of Academy Awards.

But Suh did it on Thanksgiving day in an exclusively televised NFL game, when hundreds of millions of people the world over were watching. Bad, bad, BAD idea. Then he wouldn't own up to it. That added fuel to the fire.

In the end, I agree with Paula. Suh's still young and hopefully has enough time to turn his reputation around.

After all, he's only #4. It could be a lot worse.

Imagine a video showing Suh stomping Vick's dogs when they were down and finally putting them out of their misery with Burress' gun. If digital eyes caught him abusing the "bitches", as some have suggested about Tiger Woods, then Suh would not be merely #4 on the bad guy list.

Oh no. As they say in the sporting world, the man would have reached a whole new level.

Like #1.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gisele Bundchen. Stand by your man

So the Patriots lost the Super Bowl. Contrary to what some may think, this is not the end of the world.

Was Gisele Bunchen, Tom Brady's wife, out of line for comments about New England wide receivers dropping balls they should have caught? Of course not. Anybody that watched the game knows that happened. Further, she can say whatever she damn well feels like. That's her right.

Of course, there's a few details about her husband bungling a few plays as well during the course of the contest, which she seemed to have overlooked, but hey, she's just standing by her man.

Conversely, Brandon Jacobs, a member of the victorious New York Giants, apparently responded with something about Bundchen being cute, but she should shut up. It seems likely Jacobs was implying that the lovely Gisele should "know her place", keep out of it, and let the players do the talking. Jacobs immediately came under fire and apologized for his statement. I don't see why. He had the same right to express his opinion as she did. The motives and logic on both sides for their statements should be irrelevant. Short of being outright slanderous or threatening, Gisele, Brandon, and everybody else are free to say whatever they want. Some people will agree, and some will disagree. That's just the way it is. So what's the problem here?

On a related note, former Patriot defensive back Rodney Harrison is dumping all over Rob Gronkowski, for partying after his team lost the Super Bowl. Where have I heard that story line before?

Harrison was "old school". It's all about being pissed and holding grudges -- forever. Personally, the only thing I can see that results in is jacking up one's own blood pressure, while accomplishing nothing.

If I could send a message to Mr. Harrison it would be this -- there's a time and a place for adrenaline and getting jacked-up. On the field during the game. When it's over, let it go, and enjoy the other things you have been blessed with in life. Or perhaps you're still stewing because you never won a "ring". Beats me, but it isn't cool to rag on an upcoming star that plays for the same team you used to, just because he's having a good time off the field.

Judging by the feedback I've seen, Rodney might want to quit with his current rhetoric, put on a too tight red tie, and do stand up comedy. There was another guy with that first name that didn't get too much respect either....

I have a right too, ya know.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Party on Rob Gronkowski

Some people are criticizing Rob Gronkowski, the All-World tight end of the New England Patriots, for dancing at a club shortly after his team lost the Super Bowl. How could he possibly be dancing after such a heart-breaking loss, they ask.

Well, what is the man supposed to do?

Sob uncontrollably in front of the TV cameras?

Go meditate on top of a mountain in Tibet for a few months begging for forgiveness from a higher power?

Here's a weird thought. How about considering that he might be just a man. One hell of a football player that gave it all he had, but he and his team came up short in the Super Bowl. Yet, in the end, still a man.

Others chime in with such inane comments as, "I thought his ankle was hurt. Didn't look like it on the dance floor". For anyone to equate playing in an NFL game to dancing only shows their ignorance. It's one thing to tango, rumba, and whatever the night away, but I dare say most of them have never experienced engaging a rushing defensive end, going head-to-head with a linebacker, or catching a football in full stride when a hard-charging safety has every intent of knocking them into nowhere land a millisecond after the ball gets there. The 2-step is a great dance in a club, but sometimes after catching the football in the NFL, a guy only gets one. Then he finds himself looking out of the earhole of his helmet wondering what just hit him. Just a slight difference.

At that, Gronkowski suited up for the game, and while he gave it all he had, it was obvious he wasn't at 100%. Playing through injuries in the NFL happens all the time. Players attempt to get through it and do the best they can, but few of the ever-present critics seem to realize, or care, how tough that really is on them, much less what they go through after the game is over.

Compared to that, dancing in a club is probably like re-hab for an ankle injury.

Party on Rob, and see you next year.

Besides, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't meet too many pretty girls on mountaintops.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Clint Eastwood Super Bowl ad

First, the ad was paid for by Chrysler. This was an American founded company that goes back to the early days of the very existence of automobiles. Yes, they got bought out a while back by the Mercedes-Benz people and had German bosses for several years. Currently, their head honcho is Italian born, Canadian educated Sergio Marchionne, who's also in charge of Fiat. Everything in the corporate world seems to be global these days, and there's no doubt SM is a very astute and shrewd businessman.

But in the end, I dare say most Americans, much like GM and Ford, would like to consider Chrysler an American company.

Let's get real. Does anybody believe for one second that Clint Eastwood needed the money that he was probably paid to film that ad spot? My guess is he did it out of patriotism. Yet, others will be quick to look for ulterior motives, especially politically. It's an election year, remember?

And that's a joke with no punch line.

Just once, can't we look beyond Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, pot parties and tea parties, Arab this and Jewish that, bailouts here and Wall Street there, and embrace a pro-American message?

If we can't, we're in deeper trouble than we know.

As sports fans, all we need do is pay closer attention to what we've been watching on TV for quite some time. It's right in front of our faces, but nobody's been seeing it. Look at who's sponsoring all the games and talking-head sports shows.

Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, and Audi, amongst others, are coming at you constantly -- everyday.

And people want to take Clint Eastwood to task for standing behind Chrysler in a Super Bowl ad?

Is this what it's come to? If so, something is seriously wrong in this country.

Personally, I applauded his commercial. He didn't need a "fistful of dollars" to do it, but somewhere down the line I hope it comes to "for a few dollars more", to inspire similar efforts.

Bravo (Dirty) Harry. You made MY day.

The world of sports. Now what?

OK, the Super Bowl is over. Congratulations to the New York Giants and may they enjoy their parade in New Jersey, however that works. Of course, the politicians, in their never-ending quest for photo-ops, will attempt to grab some glory. Giants' principal owner John Mara might be well-advised to keep an eye out for Chris Christie, the governor. This is not to say he's fat, but rumor has it CC might adorn himself with flowers, balloons, and streamers, then try to pass himself off as a "float" in the parade as he rolls down the road. But I digress...

For hard core sports fans -- now what?

Pro basketball and hockey? Be honest. Does it really get all that interesting until the playoffs start?

In the Major Leagues of baseball, they're just getting ready to report to "spring training" in such places as Florida and Arizona. They'll play their "grapefruit" and "cactus" games that don't matter, then start the regular season. They play a very long season. As an aside, I still can't understand how some "home team" sports writers say a loss in April or May doesn't matter, but will get all worked up in the fall when their team is still a game out of making the playoffs. I thought all the regular season games counted the same, but that's just me. At any rate, that doesn't get really serious until maybe October.

March Madness in college hoops is a big deal. Most everybody with a pulse gets on that bandwagon in one way or the other. Until then, the Top 10 or so teams will flip-flop rankings, up one week with a big win -- and drop a couple spots the next week with a disappointing loss. None of that really matters anyway. All those teams are a lock for the tournament and, once that starts, we can probably cull the herd down to the Top 5 or 6 that realistically have a chance of winning it.

Golf? Yeah, there's tournaments going on here and there, but c'mon, isn't the Masters' Tournament in April the one golf fans are waiting for?

Same with tennis. No doubt tournaments are being held constantly somewhere in the world at all times, but their next big stage is the French Open, which is a while off yet.

Like baseball, NASCAR has a long season. They're gearing up for the Daytona 500, the most prestigious race on their circuit. So why do they schedule it as their "opener"? Shouldn't it come at the end when all the marbles are on the line? What better venue could there possibly be to decide the Cup champion then the Daytona 500 in the last race? Why not swap the end of season Homestead race for the Daytona premier? They're both in Florida so the logistics wouldn't seem to be a major problem. I must be missing something here....

Look at it this way. Daytona has the 24 hours of LeMans. Then all the practice sessions for the big race. Then the Bud Shootouts. Then the 500. Then bike week. Then spring break for the college kids. Then the "time-share" people start showing up. All of the above create a lot of messes. If nothing else, how about giving the maids a little time to catch their breaths?

Me? I love sports, but mostly I can't wait until spring gets here. Planting the garden, grilling almost every day on the deck when I'm home, and rolling down the road on the bike, sometimes with no particular destination in mind when I'm not, has a way of jump-starting my season.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jan and the Super Bowl

According to Jan, the Giants are going to win the Super Bowl.  She's a highly respectable lady that I hear has been married to a friend of mine since one of the Roosevelts was President, though I'm not for sure which one. Let's just say her and Dave have been happily married for quite a few years and leave it at that.

At any rate, for her own reasons, Jan doesn't seem to care much for that "other" team -- the Brady Bunch from New England.

Far be it from me to disagree with her. Even though the Patriots were favored by 3 points last time I looked, how can one ignore what the Giants have recently accomplished? Yes, they barely squeaked into the playoffs, but consider what they've done since then. Going into Green Bay and beating the mighty Packers in their back yard was very impressive stuff. Same with going to San Fran the following week and knocking off the resurgent 49ers.

The Giants have been weird this year. They went into New England and beat the Pats, then went on a 4 game losing streak, including losing to the not-so-good Washington Redskins. Then somehow they seemed to get their act together, and made it into the playoffs. But there's something to be said about peaking at the right time, and the Giants appear to be doing exactly that. Can they beat the Pats yet again in a rematch of a former Super Bowl?

The Vegas wise-guys say no.

Personally, I say I'm not about to debate the matter with anyone that can pound down that much sloe gin and orange juice and still be the smartest person at the table.

So here's a vote for the Giants. There's a lot of reasons why they should prevail.

Yet somehow, I get this feeling that mad genius Bill Belichick is up to something....

Shhh. Don't tell Jan.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Really bad boys

I'd heard the Detroit Pistons weren't very good, and their record so far this year would certainly seem to reflect that. But I hadn't really checked them out -- until last night when they played the Milwaukee Bucks.

These are not the Bad Boys. It's way past that. They're terrible.

Of course, George Blah Blah, their announcer, will rant, rave, and scream about any rare perceived highlight -- but he gets paid to be a "homer". I get that.

I could only stand to watch it for so long, so I never did see who his sidekick was, but it sounded a lot like Greg Kelser, the ex-MSU star hoopster turned broadcaster wannabe. Whoever it was said the Pistons were playing good defense. Defense? WHAT defense? The Bucks were getting wide open shots time after time, but they just couldn't "knock them down".

Idle thought.... Maybe that's where the term "buckshot" comes from. You just shoot it out there and hope it hits something.

At any rate, the Pistons weren't any better. Give a contractor the same number of "bricks" those 2 teams threw up (which I was getting close to doing) and he'll build you a tornado-proof house.

The Pistons are bad. Really bad. Yeah, they have a couple guys that are hurt, but they're not difference makers either.

Forget college teams. I'm thinking Dan Fife's boys from Clarkston would give the Pistons all they could handle. At least the Wolves understand discipline, team play, defense, and hit open shots.

OK, Mr.Tom Gores, new owner, you wanted this so bad. You got it. Now it appears you couldn't fill your own arena (the Palace) if admission was free and you were standing at the turnstiles handing out C-notes.

That's how bad your team is. Maybe former owner Bill Davidson's widow Karen, who inherited all this, then peddled you the bill of goods, wasn't such a dumb broad after all, eh?

Funny how something called Platinum Equity made you rich, but now you've traded it in for tin.

Joe Dumars? He's a terrific man, but c'mon. Look at what has become of this team under his watch over the last several years. It's time.

Most importantly, change DTE back to Pine Knob, allow the coolers again, and maybe the basketball gods will smile upon you. I know the concert-goers would. Seems to me the attendance is down there too.

After all, at this point, what do you have to lose?

The World According to Peyton (Manning)

I think I can state with a fair amount of certainty that most sports fans are aware the Super Bowl is going to be played this Sunday in Indianapolis. The New York Giants vs The New England Patriots.

As in previous years, there's a 2 week build-up to this mega-event. A lot of things happen during those 2 weeks.

Coaches study film and develop a game plan. Players practice and study film as well. They also have an extra week for minor injuries to heal -- or at least get them well enough to play in the big game.

And, of course, the media goes crazy. They'll dissect every possible aspect of the game to the point where microbiologists would hang their heads in shame. Officially, the Tuesday before the Super Bowl is called "media day", but that's bull. EVERY day is media day during the course of those 2 weeks. Every relevant question known in the history of mankind will be asked of players and coaches -- and when they run out of those -- they'll start asking stupid ones. Do they really think anybody cares about what some tight end's favorite Madonna song is?

Getting beyond that, one would think the focus of attention would at least be on the teams, individual players, and coaches that will participate in the upcoming Super Bowl. It doesn't seem to be turning out that way. Why?  Because it happens to be in Indianapolis, whose NFL team used to feature a man named....

Peyton Manning. This is a guy that didn't play a single down last year, but he's everywhere. During the course of an interview Peyton first professed the Super Bowl shouldn't be about him -- duh -- but then went on and on about his personal career.

See a few sound bytes from Tom Brady. See a Peyton commercial. See Giants' head coach Tom Coughlin responding to questions. See another Peyton commercial -- different product. See former NFLers discuss whether Eli Manning is an elite quarterback. The trailer at the bottom of the screen informs us that Peyton has been medically cleared to play.

Stupid questions or not, isn't it supposed to be about the Super Bowl?

So why is so much discussion centered on Peyton and the $28 million dollar bonus he's due in a month or so?

Who cares? He's already got umpteen millions in the bank and the royalties from endorsements and sales of his #18 jersey show no signs of letting up soon. If the dude never plays again, he's a lock for the Hall of Fame and has enough money to ensure the next few generations of toeheads won't exactly be homeless and hungry.

Besides that, Indianpolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has cleaned house. That head coach Peyton was buddy-buddy with? Gone. The general manager that he had wrapped around his little finger? History.

Don't forget about that $28 million dollar cha-ching staring Irsay in the face. Irsay doesn't even know for sure if soon to be 36 year old Peyton can play again, much less be productive, at his age. Just a guess, but I'd think even an NFL owner would sit up and pay attention to that amount of money before he forks it over. Especially when the Colts own the #1 draft choice and the consensus pick is Andrew Luck, the hot-shot QB from Stanford. It should be a no-brainer. Broom the geezer, take the kid, and build for the future around him.

Of all people, Peyton should understand it's a ruthless business. Players begin, get better, excel, peak, and if they're fortunate enough to have avoided being retired early by a major injury during the course of their careers, they eventually experience the down side. And then they're gone. That's just the way it is.

Huh. Seems like I got caught up talking about Peyton too in the final days leading up to the Super Bowl.

That's just wrong. The commercials are dumb, and his interviews self-serving. I've never remotely been a Colts fan, and the thing I've enjoyed most in Indianapolis over the years was the Indy 500 on Memorial day weekend. Obviously, I'm missing something here.

What is it with this guy anyway?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Martha Stewart's Super Bowl tips

What planet is this woman from anyway? Yes, I understand she became a billionaire hawking everything from quiche to quilts, but sometimes a man has to stand up and say, "Dammit, shut up". This is one of those times.

Martha wants to talk about appetizers to be the hostess with the mostest for a Super Bowl party. If they're prepared just so, these delectable little canapes, which are even, OMG, microwaveable, will get things started in a superb fashion.......

Two words. Shut up.

Earth to Martha. Most of the ladies in attendance won't care about the game anyway. If you want to keep the men happy, there's only 3 things you need to do for a successful Super Bowl party.

1) Forget the finger food. Order up a dozen pizzas with everything -- double meat -- no anchovies.

2) Never run out of beer.

3) Don't walk between the men and big screen while the game is going on.

Better yet, if you want to make it absolutely perfect for the men -- take all the ladies out to a fancy restaurant and/or a show, so the guys can enjoy the game by themselves.

You and the girls might be pleasantly surprised at the dessert they whip up for you later to show their appreciation.

Believe it or not, most men know a little bit about fine cuisine, as well.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An unbiased view of Ndamukong Suh

Suh's back in the news. It seems he's joined the seemingly endless string of talking sports heads on the tube and even offered up an interview to ESPN reporter Hannah Storm. That will likely be aired repeatedly until either people watching at home go on a jihad, and storm Bristol, Conn. -- home of the 4-letter network, or they find somebody or something else more interesting. In today's rapidly evolving news cycles, I'd bet on the latter. Besides, nobody knows where the hell Bristol is anyway. Hmm. Maybe there's a method to their madness, but I digress.

Suh seems to think he's just misunderstood. He also claims he would never intentionally attempt to hurt another player on the field. The problem with that is -- the videos don't lie. We've all seen them -- and those were no accidents. Ndamukong, in his latest lame excuse, tried to say he was a nice guy because he doesn't beat up people in bars. Whether or not he attempts to do that is irrelevant. Besides, if he tried that stuff in the wrong bar, Suh himself might be the one that found himself on his back getting stomped on. It all depends. He may be a lot of things, but Suhperman, he is not.

Consider Warren Sapp, a former defensive tackle himself, and a probable future Hall of Famer. Sapp wouldn't appear to have any "axe to grind" with Suh, personally or professionally. Also, when someone like Sapp brings his career credentials to the table for an interview, and gets into some detail about playing defensive tackle in the NFL, one would be hard put to argue the credibility of what he has to say. Been there, done that. Pro Bowl appearances galore. The man knows what he's talking about.

Recently Sapp suggested Suh is basically a one-trick-pony. He's a very strong guy with an impressive "bull rush". That enabled Suh to rack up some impressive performances and stats in his rookie year. Yet Sapp went on to explain that Suh didn't develop anything new for his second season. At about 6' 4" and 300 pounds, there's little doubt Suh can bring a lot of force by lowering his head and charging.

Thing is, the opposing offensive linemen aren't exactly Barney Fifes. 6' 4" and 300 is probably about average and they're pros too. While they may have underestimated Suh as a rookie -- given all the film study they do -- there's no way that same tactic, all by itself, was going to be successful the next year. They adjust. If Suh didn't learn anything new, it should come as no surprise that his stats plummeted during his second season. Like Sapp said -- if all an offensive lineman has to worry about is a bull rush, then he just needs to establish a "base" and stand the other guy up for a couple seconds. By then, the play's over.

Suh has claimed that reports labeling him a dirty player are without substance. Certainly the man is entitled to his own opinion, as are fans, whether they be from Detroit or elsewhere. But who can offer the most objective view? The other players. Want to talk about substance? In a recent poll, fellow NFL players voted Suh the dirtiest player in the league by over a 4 to 1 margin. That's not only substantial -- it's a landslide -- that speaks volumes.

Further, some reporters that have done some serious digging, have apparently discovered Suh was perceived much the same way in his years at Nebraska. Whether the Detroit Lion brain trust knew this or not when they made him a top draft choice is unknown. They certainly should have.

Here's wishing Ndahmukong the best, and a long and glorious career in the NFL.

Forget anger management classes. Near as I can tell, the only thing they accomplish is lining the pockets of a "counselor" somewhere while further pissing off the person that has to attend them.

Suh just needs to quit with the excuses, own what he has done, learn from his mistakes, and don't repeat them. I think that's called growing up.

Might happen. Might not.

Time will tell.