Sunday, April 29, 2012

Taking a break

First, thanks to all that have contributed, commented, or even read my rants, whether one agrees or disagrees. However, at this time, a couple different  issues have arisen in my personal life in a very bad way. If I ever could think straight while writing this blog, and no doubt opinions vary on that, I can't now. Without getting into details, other more important things currently have my mind totally occupied. Hopefully, one way or the other, there will be "closure" on these matters soon, but until then I can't even begin to think of anything to write about. So I'm going to take some time off from my usual nonsense here until circumstances and destiny play themselves out. Sometimes it just is what it is and we have to deal with it. I'll get back to this as soon as I'm able. Thanks for the kind words, Deb and Chrissie. They mean more to me than you know.....

Friday, April 27, 2012

Detroit updates. Not a pretty picture

Let's take a hard, objective look at how the 4 major professional sports teams in Detroit stack up right about now.

The Red Wings, perennial contenders, were the first team eliminated in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs. Many are concerned whether 42 year old future Hall of Famer Nick Lidstrom will return for yet another season. It doesn't matter. Despite their success over the last couple decades, the Wings' style of play is getting rather stale, they don't seem to have any up and coming impact players from the "farm", and I suspect things will only get worse in the next few years, as other teams continue to pass them by.

The Detroit Tigers started out the season with a bang, but are now in a slump. It's a long season, and nobody knows how it will all play out. Objectively, it could be said they have one dominating pitcher, two fearsome sluggers, and the rest is a crap shoot. Maybe other pitchers and players shine on any given day -- and maybe they don't. The Tigers won the AL central division by a wide margin last year and are expected to do the same this year, but unless they're successful in October, and march on to win the World Series, how much does all the other hype during the regular season really matter anyway? Likely even the staunchest Tiger fans couldn't care less right now as to what happened last season. Hope springs eternal, and if certain things fall their way -- they have a shot at pulling it off this year. No more, and no less. There's several other pretty good teams out there too. We'll see.

The Detroit Pistons started the season horrendously, but have rebounded, no pun intended, to be almost, but not quite, respectable. Sometimes they play well. Other times they stink up the gym. They have a new coach in Lawrence Frank, and maybe it will take him a year or two to get everybody on the same page, so to speak. Regardless, they have a major problem that coaching can't solve. While they have an abundance of young, hot-shot guards, they lack a "front court" presence, as in big guys, that can dominate the "paint". Until they get that -- they're going nowhere. The best thing that could happen to the Pistons would be if an NBA draft lottery ball popped up and gave them Anthony Davis, out of Kentucky. They wouldn't become an elite team overnight, far from it, but it would be a step in the right direction. At best, the Pistons would appear to be at least a few years away from being championship contenders.

The Detroit Lions just drafted an offensive tackle from Iowa with their first NFL pick. Assuming Riley Reiff turns out better than Tony Mandarich did, perhaps that will work out in the long run. Having another quality offensive tackle in the "pipeline" to replace ageing veterans might be a good idea. Yet one could make the point that the Lions have much more pressing needs elsewhere. After all, QB Matthew Stafford threw for over 5000 yards last year, one of a select few to ever do so. Yes, the NFL is getting pass-happier as every year goes by, but Stafford, Megatron to throw to or not, doesn't put up that stat unless his existing linemen were protecting him fairly well. Again, take an objective look at the Lions, and what do you see? Besides a really good QB, a freak wide receiver, an over-hyped safety that might or might not start for any other NFL team, and an abundance of brutes at defensive tackle, what do they have? Needs at almost every position. Sure, the Lions went a respectable 10-6 last year, but they were nowhere near Super Bowl caliber. The eternal optimists say they're returning 21 of 22 starters from last year, with only cornerback Eric Wright having bailed for big money with the Tampa Bay Bucs. That's the classic glass half full/half empty routine. Half full means continuity. Half empty means they won't be good enough this year either. Hopefully, the Lions will draft other players in the later rounds that will make an impact on their team. But an offensive tackle in the first round is hardly a game changer and/or difference maker when it comes to the pursuit of the Lombardi trophy.

To sum it all up -- pro sports don't look so hot in Detroit right about now. Then again, it could be a lot worse. Like in Kansas City, or Oakland, or Cleveland.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Calvin Johnson and the John Madden curse

Congrats to Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions for having been voted onto the cover of John Madden's latest edition of his video football game. It seems he beat out Cam Newton in the finals to win the contest. Wait a minute. Cam Newton? How the hell did he ever make it to the finals? Hasn't he only been in the league for one year, and is currently the QB on a "nowhere" team?  Hmm. Come to think of it, the Lions haven't won squat since Eisenhower was President, so maybe that's a bad point. Nevermind.

Madden's video game is well known for its supposed "curse". Indeed, strange things have happened to many that were featured on its cover.

Barry Sanders. After being chosen, Sanders never played another game, instead opting to retire. Coincidence? Probably.

Michael Vick. The very next day after his video version hit the market, he suffered a broken leg. I think it would also be safe to say that Mr. Vick's career also took a turn for the worse regarding other matters.

Donovan McNabb. Torn ACL in his first post-video game.

Vince Young. He'd never missed a game from junior high all the way through to the NFL. Enter Madden. Bang. Right quadracep injury, and Young's never seemed to be the same since.

Brett Favre. The all-time record holder for consecutive games played at QB. Here comes Madden. There goes Favre. Torn bicep ligament.

Calvin Johnson says he doesn't believe in curses, and I hope he's right. Yet consider -- every time there's a Friday the 13th, people expect the worst. Most people have seen the movie "Apollo 13", which was a true saga based on a failed moon mission, where the astronauts were lucky to escape with their lives. And guess what version of Madden's video game Calvin is going to be featured on? Yep. The 13th. If there's such a thing as tempting fate -- this might not bode well for the Megatron.

Even if all the above can be written off as coincidence, a couple other things are beyond doubt.

Johnson's in the last year of his contract, and his projected salary is about $22,500,000 for the upcoming season. He's already regarded as a superstar in Detroit, and despite the NFL salary cap reality, fans would be outraged if the Lions let him get away. His agent, one James "Bus" Cook, certainly knows that.

Shortly, when the new video game sells a few bazillion copies, as it likely will, the Megatron will reach an entire new dimension in fame.

Johnson has said he's glad to be on the Madden cover because it will be good for Detroit, the Lions, their fans, and his foundation in Atlanta, which reaches out to help many folks in need. He's also considering expanding his foundation into the Detroit area to do even more charitable work -- and that would be a good thing.

But there's another reality. The Lions' front office had been trying to figure out a way to keep Johnson while still having enough money under the salary cap to pay a lot of other quality players they need to be a Super Bowl quality team. "Franchise tag" or not, they were in a bind. Now, with the Madden game, the Megatron is about to go global.

And somewhere, Bus Cook is likely salivating. There's leverage, and then there's holding all the marbles.

Until all that gets sorted out, Johnson would be well advised not to step on any cracks, walk under ladders, and make sure the mirrors in his house are securely fastened. With apologies to the SPCA, a rabbit's foot might not be a bad idea either. Maybe he should even eat Lucky Charms for breakfast every day.

He signed on for Madden the 13th -- and counter measures couldn't hurt.

Ya never know.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ron Artest's latest thuggery

Yeah, I know. He changed his name to Metta World Peace a while back, but it just doesn't come off the same as a few other guys -- like Lew Alcindor becoming Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Cassius Clay being universally accepted as Mohammed Ali. It just seems -- I don't know -- hokey -- or something.

Regardless, it wouldn't have mattered if he'd changed his name to Mother Teresa, given what he did to Okla City Thunder guard James Harden. Namely, knocking Harden into nowhere land with an elbow that looked like something straight out of a mixed martial arts cage match. It happened on the court, in the middle of a game, in front of the crowd, cheerleaders, other players, refs, coaches, and probably a dozen or so TV cameras that were rolling -- and taping.

Some of the LA Laker faithful have said it was an accident. MWP was merely being over-exuberant by swinging his arms over a dunk he had just made, and didn't realize the proximity of Harden. To which I say -- baloney, hogwash, balderdash, and get real. Every NBA player, much less a seasoned vet like Artest, is acutely tuned in to where the other players are on the court. All those "no-look" or seemingly "blind" passes don't happen by coincidence. If that's not enough, consider Harden had his hands on Artest less than a second before the elbow was thrown. Ron-Ron HAD to know he was standing next to him.

Yet there are those that claim MWP has been a model citizen since he arrived in LA, and perhaps he has, so he should be cut a little slack. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he'd "seen the light" and changed his ways after the Malice at the Palace a few years back. Given what he did to Harden -- it doesn't matter. There's a lot of people in the world that have been law-abiding and model citizens for their entire lives, not so much as a parking ticket -- but if they commit a violent act for whatever reason -- they're still going to jail. Depending on the severity of the injuries inflicted, sometimes just through negligence, years behind bars can result.

This is not to say WMP should be shipped off to the "big house" for what he did, but punishment was certainly in order. The NBA handed him a 7 game suspension. That will cost him a few hundred thousand dollars, which to most people is a lot of money, but not to an NBA guy. Monetarily, it's a slap on the wrist. Those who have purely basketball agendas are already debating what effect his absence will have on the Lakers during the upcoming first round of the playoffs.

Reality check. After the elbow happened, the refs called WMP for a "flagrant 2" foul, which means a deliberate attempt to injure, results in immediate ejection from the game, and the incident will be subject to league review for further disciplinary action. Evidently, the league was convinced it was deliberate, hence the suspension. Does anyone who's seen the tape and is not a Laker fan dispute that?

In the meantime, other than in Okla City, Harden doesn't seem to matter. He damn well should. Not only is he every bit as valuable to the Thunder as Artest is to the Lakers, let's not lose sight of the much more important fact that he's the guy that got hurt. A concussion, severity unknown. As is the nature of such injuries, Harden's timetable to return to action perfectly healthy is also unknown. No pun intended, but even in this age of modern medical science, concussions remain somewhat of a grey area. Nobody knows for sure how long the symtoms may linger. It could be a few days, or it could be a very long time.

Artest will be back for the second round of the playoffs, if the Lakers get that far, and likely they will. Harden may or may not be ready to play by then.

Over the years, be it the NBA, NHL, NFL, and perhaps even some preps and college sports, many have debated what sort of punishment should be handed down to the perpetrator when an opposing player is injured. I submit there are two different scenarios, and how they should be treated.

First, sometimes accidents just happen. Given the speed and contact of some sports, injuries are inevitable. Sometimes they can be career-ending, or even tragic. The guy that inflicted the damage was just playing hard, Murphy's Law popped up, and something went horribly wrong. He had no desire or intent for things to turn out like they did. Given the same play to do over, he wouldn't do what he did. While we can sympathize with the injured player, that's just part of the game, and let whatever the officials call at the time be good enough.

Then there's the deliberate ones. I dare say most sports fans have seen a few of those as well. They knew full what they were doing, with malice and aforethought, as they say, and it was no accident when they caused an injury to an opponent. A different set of rules should apply to these people.

Here's my suggestion. When the evidence is overwhelming that the injury was intentional, then let the appropriate league officials take a long look at it and a hefty fine. Suspensions are another matter.

Artest got 7 games. Having been found guilty of "intent" by the league, in my opinion he should be suspended without pay until Harden is healthy enough to return to action, and then 7 MORE games. However long it takes -- it takes.

Some guys that are still playing have ended other guys' careers with intentional thuggery. When that happens, why not give them a lifetime ban as well? To let them stay out there and continue to draw obscene paychecks only gives them an opportunity, and perhaps the motive, to do it again to somebody else.

Championships, trophies, and parades are terrific things for their fans and communities. Many times not only the teams, but their followers, get caught up in  a "win at all cost" philosophy. They're quick to forget, if they ever cared at all, about some very bad things their heroes might have done to others along the way to get them there. While they celebrate their team's success, there might be a couple guys that are quietly re-habbing, with the hope of ever just playing again at the high level they once enjoyed.

And if their injuries were intentionally inflicted? Most have heard of Deuteronomy, Chapter 20, verse 21. Life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Why not games missed for games missed?  And THEN the additional suspension? If it's forever -- well -- they shouldn't have done that. Mine eye shalt not pity. Go get a real job now, if anybody will hire you.

THAT would stop the thuggery.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The New Orleans Saints and potential HUGE trouble

It seems like not that long ago, the Saints were the feel good story of the year. In the aftermath of the horrendous destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, despite government ineptitude and political promises that were never kept, somehow the Saints became a ray of hope for their community. The people desperately needed something -- anything -- good to happen in their lives, so they looked to the Saints to provide it. In turn, the Saints were equally eager to give it to them. Shortly thereafter, as we all know, Drew Brees led the Saints on a glorious march to the Super Bowl Championship. The town was delirious with joy and, I dare say, down deep, even fans of opposing teams were happy for them, on some level. They finally caught a break, and hurray for them.

But the halo disappeared with the recent "bounty" thing. Those are no longer merely allegations. Hard evidence has been brought to light, many have admitted their roles, and suspensions, fines, and other punishments have been handed down from the Commissioner's office. The players involved are still awaiting "sentencing", and that will likely be coming soon. While called the Saints, it appears they had a few devils amongst them in recent years. Close the book on the above-mentioned feel good story. It was over.

Now, new allegations have arisen claiming the Saints had somehow "bugged" their stadium, over a period of years, whereby they could listen in on the conversations of their football opponents. Front and center is one Mickey Loomis, the general manager of the Saints. Loomis was just recently suspended for several games in the upcoming season over his involvment with the bounty thing. He vehemently denies the current allegations, as do other Saints' spokespeople.

I hope Mick and the Saints are vindicated of this, because if it turns out to be true, the ramifications will make the bounty system look like swiping a lollipop from a candy store. Again, and I emphasize, IF this is eventually proven to have happened, it will absolutely explode on many levels, heretofore unknown in the history of sports.

Consider..... If the Saints had been "bugging" their opponents for years, that's not an isolated incident like the recent New England PatriotGate when they got busted for just filming, not listening, to an opposing team. They got hammered from the Commish. If true, the Saints will have gone way beyond "loss of institutional control", to the point of intentional corruption from the top down. Besides the obvious "cheating" factor, many would call into question the results of games in years past. Should they be forfeited? Should the Lombardi Trophy be taken away? It would be Roger Goodell's biggest nightmare. Handing down lifetime NFL bans for the culprits would be the easy part. But what would he do with Saints' owner Tom Benson? He was absolved as being unaware of the bounty system, but if this turns out to be true, did he not know about this either? If so, just what DOES he know about? As the owner, isn't he supposed to be ultimately responsible for what his employees do? Isn't the buck supposed to stop with him?

And that's just the football aspect of it. If these allegations turn out to be true, we're talking about illegal wire-tapping. That would be in violation of state and federal laws. Given the far reaching implications of such activities, the attorney general of Louisiana and the Justice Department might jump in. Congress could summon witnesses and hold another special session. The worst case scenario might result in subpoenas, juries, trials, and even eventual prison sentences. This could get very ugly.

The Saints won't come marching in. They'll be marching out.

I hope they didn't do it.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Brandon Inge and the Kool-Aid

Kool-Aid is a fine product, and countless millions of people have enjoyed it over the years. The following is in no way meant to suggest anything sinister about the product itself, but is merely a spoof on how others have used that brand name in the world of sports.

I haven't drank Kool-Aid since I was a kid, but that stuff must have been pretty potent the last few years. How else to explain what some fans and reporters come up with regarding their home teams and players?

We've all heard of such people "drinking too much Kool-Aid" regarding their perception of their local sports heroes, sometimes to the point of being laughable.

Such would seem to have been the case with Brandon Inge, of the Detroit Tigers. For about a decade, all the "homers" have been swilling the sweet stuff in a desperate attempt to find a reason -- ANY reason -- why Inge deserves a spot on the Tigers' roster.

Let's look back at reality. From the minute he arrived in the major leagues, he couldn't hit. He was a pretty good, but not spectacular, defensive third baseman. Then he did a stint as a catcher. He was passable there, but he still couldn't hit. He whined and cried his way back into playing third base. And guess what? He still couldn't hit.

Along the way, Inge did spot duty as an outfielder here and there as the supposed necessity arose. That's no big deal. Any high school player can catch fly balls and throw them back into the infield. That's not to disparage the real deal major league outfielders, whose range, arms, and other skills are extraordinary, but those guys don't make major league rosters unless they can -- yep -- you got it -- hit.

When Inge finally did get his hits, he wasn't exactly a "burner" on the basepaths. Actually, he was quite slow compared to most others.

Brandon was always accessible to the media, where he'd entertain them with sound bytes, and came across as a personable guy. People loved him and kept guzzling the sweet stuff. But he still couldn't hit.

Then Prince Fielder hit town, taking over 1st base, which moved Miguel Cabrera, another fearsome slugger, to 3rd base. Inge was out of a regular position. Brandon wanted to try 2nd base and the Kool-Aiders chugged another pitcher. After all, he was a shortstop in college, they said. Playing second base shouldn't be a problem. In their sugar stupor, they overlooked the little detail that a lot of people could do certain things in college very well, like maybe playing the flute, but that surely doesn't mean 15 years later they can pick up a clarinet and become "first chair" in an orchestra the next day. There's a big difference.

Inge doesn't seem to be working out well as a 2nd baseman, and did I mention he still can't hit -- and is getting even slower?

Now, after a decade of trying to rationalize Inge's presence at the major league level --  the sugar high seems to be wearing off most of  the Kool-Aiders. Begrudgingly, inch by agonizing inch, they're finally starting to see what's been obvious for a very long time. It isn't about Inge being a nice guy. If you're in the major leagues and not a pitcher -- you're supposed to hit. Period. Inge hasn't. Period.

My solution to this problem is simple. They should drink rum, vodka, tequila, Mad Dog, or even moonshine, but for God's sake, stay away from overdosing on the Kool-Aid. Getting rid of those rose tinted glasses wouldn't hurt either. They went out of style with the hippies.

Next thing you know, they'll be predicting the Lions to win the Super Bowl.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lebron James never a champion? Maybe.

Not long ago, most NBA fans would have considered that notion ridiculous. Of COURSE he's going to win titles. Lots of them. They remember "King" James himself saying so on a much hyped video with D-Wade and Chris Bosh, when the former Cleveland Cavalier announced "the decision" to take his talents to South Beach -- as in play for the Miami Heat.

During that highly choreographed publicity stunt, replete with seemingly magical smoke and lights everywhere, Lebron prophetically exclaimed that they would win "not one, not two, not three, not four, etc", titles, and left the rest to others' imagination. While the "Big 3" shimmied and smirked for the cameras, the basketball fans in Miami went wild. So did the media in trumpeting the soon to be coronation of the King.

But it hasn't happened. During Lebron's Cleveland years, and even to the present day, we've all seen him dip his hands into talcum powder just before a game, then slap them together to create his "magical" dust cloud, as if something special is about to occur.

Many times it does. James might well be the most overall gifted athlete to ever play the game. He can score, rebound, pass, run, defend, and one never knows what bit of basketball wizardry he'll come up with next. Combine his height, build, conditioning, extraordinary skill, and dedication to the game -- and that adds up to something very special.

Yet, despite all the bluster and hype, Lebron has yet to be a champion. He led the Cavaliers to a title shot years ago -- but they lost. Same with Miami, just last year, when the Dallas Mavericks conquered them for the NBA crown. Close but no cigar, as they say.

Look around. These days the Chicago Bulls sit atop the East, and they're not going away any time soon. The Boston Celtics, with their own ageing "Big 3", plus a sensational point guard in Rajon Rondo, can't be entirely discounted for one more go-around when the playoffs start. And don't look now, but under the never-ending genius of Larry Bird, the Indiana Pacers are perhaps the youngest team in the league, flying very quietly below the radar screen as the #3 team in the East, and will continue to get better.

In the West, it's another crap shoot. The Okla City Thunder is getting a lot of attention, as are the Clippers, likely for their "newness" to being a contender. The Lakers are the Lakers, and there's a couple other teams that could be dangerous come playoff time. Meanwhile, San Antonio quietly sits atop the heap. Whatever team survives that gauntlet will present a formidable opponent indeed to whoever comes out of the East.

And that's the thing when it comes to Lebron. Forget about the "decision", the talcum powder, the highlights, dunks, and everything else he brings. It doesn't matter. Forget about his predictions of multiple championships like they were some sort of "gimmes" as well.

Lebron James is indeed a sly fox when it comes to basketball, but it might just be that he'll never get into the hen house.

And the hounds are coming.......


Friday, April 20, 2012

Dynasties and the inevitable fall

There's been countless dynasties over the course of history. The Romanovs in Russia, the Shah of Iran, Hitler, Gadaffi, Napoleon, Genghis Khan, the Roman Empire, and kings galore, to mention a few. Some were relatively short-lived reigns, while others went on for decades and, in the case of the Romans, centuries. Yet, they all had something in common. Eventually, they fell.

Perhaps an analogy can be made to sports, because "dynasties" have existed there also.

The Montreal Canadiens, the New York Yankees, the Boston Celtics, and certainly John Wooden's UCLA hoops teams were all dynasties once upon a time in days of old. Going forward, there have also been many "mini-dynasties" as well. Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers, Bobby Clarke's Philadelphia Flyers, Mike Bossy's New York Islanders, Bradshaw's Pittsburgh Steelers, Tom Landry's Dallas Cowboys, the Soviet Red Army hockey team, Brazilian soccer teams, and perhaps even the recently retired Pat Summitt's Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball program, or Geno Auriemma's UConn lady hoopsters. No doubt, there are several others which I failed to mention, but the point is -- their time came -- and then it went. Some other team or teams came along and dethroned them. It seems to be inevitable. Nothing lasts forever.

The decline of those teams varied. Some are still very good, but are no longer unbeatable. Some eventually "rebuilt" and are at least contenders again. Others hit bottom and have never seemingly recovered. Thing is, the days of dynasties are likely over. The competition has become too fierce. The "draft", free agency, and salary caps for the pros have combined to produce a degree of parity. At the college level, activities that used to be considered "fringe" sports, like ladies' basketball, have garnered national attention. With that comes serious recruiting and highly knowledgeable coaches that are really good at developing players.

Add all that up and, these days, you name the sport, and when the playoffs or tournaments start, for the most part, it's a crap shoot. Sure, there's exceptions, like Brittney Griner and the Baylor Bears that steamrolled everybody on their way to a national championship, but BG will be gone soon, and Baylor will likely fall back into the pack again. Hardly a dynasty.

There are some teams that never seem to bottom out. Year after year, though they might not win the championship -- they're always amongst the elite in their particular sport. Like the New England Patriots. Of course, when Tom Brady hangs up his cleats, or coach Bill Belichick calls it quits, maybe they'll go into a death spiral. Who knows, but even given their success over the years, the word "dynasty" hardly seems appropriate.

Yet, every once in a while, the unthinkable happens. That's when a team has not only won championships, but been so good for so long, seems to find itself in an elevator with only a "down" button.

Enter the Detroit Red Wings. Their owner, Mike Ilitch, has spared no expense to make them as good as they can be in his quest to attain championships. General Manager Ken Holland has been absolutely brilliant during his tenure in searching the world over for talent, and somehow getting them into a Red Wings' uniform, while juggling the salary cap. It all paid off. Detroit has hoisted the Stanley Cup four times in their era. Though the Red Wings certainly weren't champions every year, it seems like they've made the playoffs since forever. Yes, perhaps the playoff format for the NHL is a bit watered down, because over half the teams make it these days -- I get that -- but still the Red Wings always seem to be a contender.

Until now. Once again, they just got bounced in an early round of the playoffs by a team (the Nashville Predators) that few would consider to be elite at this time. If the Preds go on to win the Cup, I suppose I'll have to eat those words, but I don't think that's going to happen. There's too many other really good teams still in the way.

Despite all their success over so many years, I think the Wings are finally starting to slip-slide away. I also think their descent is going to be quite rapid over the next couple years. Their really good players are getting older, hence a step slower and less effective, and the rest of the league has figured out how to negate their skills. They don't appear to have any "diamonds in the rough" in their farm system, and many other teams just continue to get flat-out better.

I hope I'm wrong, but I suspect their inevitable "fall" is coming, and further suspect it will be hard -- and soon.

An NFL player tells it like it is

That would be Dominic Raiola, the starting center for the Detroit Lions. Raiola, born in Hawaii, and college career at Nebraska, has been a fixture at center for the Lions since about the time the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan started. That's a good while, in the NFL. It's probably a safe bet to say that, as a center, Raiola has crashed into a defensive lineman on thousands of plays over the years. The man knows about serious contact. No doubt, in the course of his duties, he's had his "bell rung" a few times as well.

NFL fans know that many former players have a class action lawsuit pending against the league regarding injuries they suffered over their careers. A great deal of their individual complaints involve the long term effects on their brains after having endured so many collisions during their "playing days".  It's been well documented that a lot of those guys are very prematurely suffering from symptoms that are normally associated with much older age, if ever.

They have a good point. Without getting into how much the pads, helmets, and even the rules have changed over the years attempting to maximize safety in a brutal sport -- the fact remains the NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry. One would think the fat-cat owners would at least see fit to take care of the medical costs and needs of those that laid the foundation for the success and riches they now enjoy. A few million here or there amongst a conglomerate of billionaire owners would seem to be chump change in their world, yet they resist.

The modern day players might not be much bigger than those that played in the last few decades, but given the conditioning regimens they go through, pumping iron and such, they're certainly a lot stronger. "Faster" is indisputable. Nowadays, even the huge linemen are impressive with their open-field speed. Add all that up and the collisions that take place on every play, in every game, in the NFL are more violent than ever. Guys get hurt sometimes. It goes with the territory. At that, in recent years, a lot of the players come into the league like they're Evel Knievel, especially on "special teams". They're more than willing to throw their bodies around at high speeds, and even get wrecked here and there in their pursuit of glory, while not considering what might happen later. It's not like they're ignorant of what's really going on, like their forefathers in the NFL. These guys have agents, advisors, and are even advised at rookie orientation of the perils that come with the job. If that's what they want to do -- then fine -- but no whining about it later if something terrible happens. Besides that, also unlike their forefathers, these guys are making big bucks. If they want to blow it all on clubs, women, fancy cars and houses, and the like, instead of saving some of it for what comes after football -- which could be their next game -- then that's THEIR fault.

Enter Dominic Raiola again. He's gone on the record as saying that while he's well aware of the possible not-so-good consequences that may await him at a still relatively young age when he's done playing NFL football, he wants to keep doing it anyway -- because he loves the game so much. No matter what might happen later in his life -- it will be worth it to have had done what he's doing now.

Some might call that dedication. Others might say Dom should get out while his brains are still intact, because the very next play from scrimmage could change that.

Me? I call it "telling it like it is".

Bravo to Mr. Raiola, and here's hoping he gets to taste a Super Bowl -- soon. Of course retiring back to the friendly confines of Hawaii wouldn't be all bad either. It would surely beat the hell out of living out one's golden years in Nebraska.

If he ever decides to opt for corn over hula girls, then I'm afraid the damage has already been done. Alas.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Can the Red Wings make a comeback?

Hard to say, but strange things have been happening around the league. A pre-playoff favorite to compete for the Stanley Cup, the Vancouver Canucks, found themselves down 0-3 to the LA Kings in the first round, and on the road for Game 4. Not good. Then they went into LA's Staples Center and convincingly beat the Kings. Now they go back home for Game 5 with some new-found confidence and anything could happen. It's been done before.

Same with the Pittsburgh Penguins, another pre-playoff favorite. They found themselves down 0-3 to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Pens had looked completely at a loss as to what the heck was going on in the first three games. A lot of people had already written them off, and folks in Philly had their brooms out anticipating a sweep. Then something extraordinary happened. In Game 4, the Pens put up a 10-spot, as in a Hamilton, scoring 10 goals against the Flyers at Philly's Wells Fargo arena, in a rout of the home team. Any NHL team scoring 10 goals in a game is certainly a rarity, but in the playoffs, when everything supposedly tightens up? That's unheard of. Now, like Vancouver, they go back home with a whole new perspective. Win the next game, keep the momentum going, and who knows?

(A couple idle thoughts..... Not to temper the enthusiasm of Penguins' fans, but it should be noted the Flyers are 7-1 this year in YOUR building, which might not bode well for your chances. And Wells Fargo is in Philly? Really? Aren't they supposed to be out west in charge of stagecoaches and the Pony Express, and stuff like that?)

The Red Wings find themselves in a similar situation. They're down 1-3 to the Nashville Predators, with the next game in Nashville. Obviously, Detroit is facing elimination. Lose and the season's over. That record-setting 23 game home-ice winning streak they had earlier this year will become a mere footnote. Poof. It doesn't matter.

Will they come out and score 10 goals like the Pens did in a hostile arena? Probably not, but can they win the game? Maybe, yet they need to do more than that. Squeaking by with a 2-1, or 3-2 score isn't good enough. They need to make a "statement" and dominate the game from start to finish. They have the talent to do so if they can somehow pull it all together and play hard for the full 60 minutes, something they haven't done yet since the playoffs began. I don't want to hear about how many more shots on goal the Wings have had then the Preds, because most of those shots aren't even relevant. They're "gimmes" to a world-class goaltender like Pekka Rinne of Nashville. Detroit fans might relate it to throwing batting practice pitches to Miguel Cabrera. Miggy might miss one of those once in a while too, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it to happen. Like Cabrera, Rinne's a tough out, but he can be had if the opposing "pitchers" bring enough heat, give him different "looks", and maintain constant movement.

Will the Canucks and Pens eventually triumph over the Kings and Flyers, respectively? Odds are, probably not.

Same with the Wings even if they win Game 5 in Nashville. But if they can make it a "statement" game, boosting their own morale, while putting some doubt in the heads of the Predators -- then their odds get a little better. You never know.....

Another idle thought..... Wells Fargo in Philly is weird enough, but why, pray tell, is the NHL hockey venue in Detroit (Joe Louis Arena) named after a boxer? Wouldn't Gordie Howe Arena have made more sense?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Comparing Nicklas Lidstrom to Bobby Orr is a joke

I understand Nicklas Lidstrom has been a premier defenseman for the Detroit Red Wings for many years, having won his fair share of awards along the way. Lidstrom has certainly shown longevity by still playing at a high standard after the age of 40. Now, as his career winds down, some Detroit fans seem to think he was the best NHL defenseman of all time. And that's a joke on many levels, particularly when it comes to the accomplishments of Bobby Orr.

No, Orr didn't play as many years as Lidstrom, but in Orr's era, a lot of things were different. It's well known Orr had chronic knee (and other) problems which required many surgeries (12). Back then, there were no MRI's, arthroscopic techniques, and modern day medicine makes the procedures of that time appear barbaric. They cut them open, repaired it the best they could, sewed them back up, and hoped for the best. There can be little doubt Orr played through a lot of pain for most of his career.

Much more importantly, Orr revolutionized the game in a few different ways. Before Orr, NHL players were pretty much stuck with whatever salary their club decided they were worth. It was basically a meat market, and the butchers were in charge of setting the prices. Orr hooked up with a man named Alan Eagleson, by some accounts the first "agent", (who would go on to become the first head of the NHL players union, and subsequently be disgraced) and was the first "rookie" to become the NHL's highest paid player. In his second contract, he became the league's first million dollar man. On the ice, Orr changed the game even more. He was the first defenseman to become a constant offensive threat. So much so, that Orr remains the only defenseman to lead the league not just once, but twice winning the Art Ross trophy for the league scoring title.

It didn't seem to hamper his defense. He went eight consecutive years winning the Norris Trophy for the NHL's best defenseman.  Overall? During that time Orr won the the Hart Trophy three years in a row as the league's MVP. He hoisted the Stanley Cup, and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP, as well.

Likely due to his injuries, Orr retired at a relatively young age. At that, he then became the youngest player ever inducted into the NHL Hall of Fame when he was only 31 years old. Over three decades after he retired, hockey purists still speak of Orr in reverential tones. 

Lidstrom? He's won a few Norris Trophies and hoisted the Cup too. Currently, as a savvy veteran, he's steady and doesn't make many mistakes. He's even put up decent numbers over the years for a defenseman, with goals and assists. But Lidstrom does not, and never did, possess anywhere near the same amount of talent Robert Gordon Orr once displayed.

Bobby has been ranked by some very knowledgeable aficionados as the second greatest player in the history of the game, behind Wayne Gretzky at #1, and ahead of Gordie Howe at #3. His name and impact on the game will never be forgotten. Everybody remembers his jersey #4.

Nicklas Lidstrom might very well have his jersey number retired by the Red Wings and make it into the Hall of Fame, but 30 years from now very few will remember him, much less his uniform number, which is probably not even known much now amongst hockey fans outside of Detroit.

Surely, people that mention Nicklas Lidstrom in the same breath as Bobby Orr, let alone twist their minds into somehow believing the former will ever be considered superior to the latter, must be joking. It's a bad joke, and I don't even want to hear the punch line.

Speaking of which, when it came to toughness, another facet of the game, Bobby could have punched Nick's lights out whenever he got ready.

This isn't like comparing apples and oranges.

It's like comparing the first Apollo moon-shot landing to putting yet another communications satellite in orbit. One might be there for a long time doing it's job, but nobody thinks about it much. The other, while relatively short-lived, was historic, and nobody will ever forget it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Son meets war dad, Roger Clemens and cool/not cool

Some 13 year old boy, participating in an on-field contest during a break in a Seattle Mariners' home came, was stopped by a major league umpire. Thing is, it wasn't really an umpire. It was the kid's dad, dressed up to look like one -- just home from a military tour in Afghanistan. The kid didn't even know his dad was back, much less what the Mariners had arranged to surprise him. To be reunited with his father, in the middle of a major league baseball field, with the PA announcer calling the play-by-play of what had really happened, while the thousands of fans in attendance roared their approval? Now how cool is THAT? It's something the kid will never forget for as long as he lives.

Yet, I suppose there's a law of physics somewhere dictating that for every cool thing that happens -- something equally not cool has to occur. That would seem to be the case with the Roger Clemens fiasco. The never-say-die feds are back for Round 2 with the Rocket Man. Jury selection is about to begin once again. Most everybody knows Clemens was originally accused of taking "performance enhancing drugs" many years ago while still a player. He denied it.

In the media-generated fervor that gripped the sports world back then about the "users", incredibly, Congress decided to get involved, as if they didn't have anything better to do. Clemens was hauled before a bunch of politicians, where he once again denied it. To be clear, back when Clemens was allegedly using the stuff -- it was legal. That's not what this travesty is all about. His supposed crime is lying --  to the same bunch of politicians. Even if so, wouldn't that be like giving an arsonist a "hot foot"?

At any rate, Round 1 ended in a mistrial, because the prosecution tried to sneak in some illegal "evidence". Imagine that.  Chalk up thousands of bucks out of Clemens' pocket for his lawyers, and who knows how much of our tax-payer money the feds spent on the initial charade. At this point, I doubt if one person in a hundred really cares about it, but the feds insist on doing it all over again. They don't care. After all, they have an unlimited budget that you and I are paying for.

And here's the kicker. Even if the feds finally manage to pin something on Clemens, one needs only to remember what eventually happened to Barry Bonds, not long ago. After years of persecution and spending a bazillion tax-payer dollars, Bonds was ultimately convicted of only some minor obstruction of justice charge. His sentence? 30 days of home confinement -- in his own mansion.

Clemens would appear to fit the same scenario. After all the time, energy, and megabucks spent on this fiasco, posssibly resulting in Roger getting grounded to his ranch for a month -- was it really worth it?

My answer would be -- No. This is definitely not cool.

The kid and his dad in Seattle was heart warming. Cool.

If the feds remain true to form, they might charge the returning vet with crossing state lines to impersonate an official of major league ball. Not cool.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tom Cruise, Prince Harry, Cheney, Kardashian, and Philly/Pitt

Well, let's see. Tom Cruise spent $20 million on a gift for his sweetie, a Kardashian is back in the news, Prince Harry might have had a date, the ever-lovable Dick Cheney, new heart and all, is blasting Obama, the Taliban are up to their usual highjinx in Afghanistan, those pesky Iranians and North Koreans might hook up any second now to pose a "clear and present danger" to the USA, and Republicans and Democrats still hate each other. One congressman even seems to think the Girl Scouts are some sort of subversive terrorist organization. Just another day. Yawn.

And then there's the Philadelphia Flyers squaring off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup playoffs. That's an attention grabber. While those two teams might not have the historic rivalry of say, the Yankees and Red Sox, make no mistake about it. They currently hate each other. Also, unlike many other historic rivalries, when two teams of highly conditioned, seriously Type A personality athletes are rotating players on and off the ice, and the very nature of the game requires frequent, and many times severe bodily contact -- as in hard checks -- then add sticks, two heaping tablespoons of playoff intensity, and a dash of Sidney Crosby. Stir in a cup of vintage Broad Street Bullies, smother in mayhem, bring to a boil, and you have the Philly/Pitt series.

Sports Illustrated predicted the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup, but we all know how well their predictions have worked out over the years -- in every sport. Now the Penguins find themselves in an 0-3 hole against the Flyers, with the next game to be played in Philadelphia. Chances are better than average the Pens won't survive the first round, let alone win the Cup.

I dare say most knowledgeable hockey fans would agree Pittsburgh possesses superior talent than what the Flyers have, but Sid and his boys have been caught up in the trap of trying to out-bully a bully, or out-con a master mind gamer. That strategy rarely works. The Pens seem to have lost their way, appear thoroughly confused, and may very well exit stage right, or wrong, from the playoffs in a couple days.

But a Game 3 that featured a slew of goals, fights and mayhem galore? How Brendan Shanahan, the current NHL disciplinarian, sorts it all out with fines and suspensions is anybody's guess.

Regardless, call me old-school, but I wouldn't miss Game 4 on a bet. I hope the Penguins win it. Not because I'm necessarily a Pittsburgh fan, but if there was ever a series I wanted to see prolonged -- it's this one. Just for the pure intensity of it.

Then again, I suppose if Tom had bought Dick that $20 million love gift, Harry's date was revealed to be Barack, the Kardashian joined the Taliban, and the Girl Scouts took over both houses of Congress in the next election -- I might have to rethink my priorities.

But for now, I'm liking Philly/Pitt.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Updates, the Princess, and Tyler

The NHL playoffs are underway. The NBA regular season is winding down, with their playoffs soon to come, and Major League Baseball is in the infancy of the 2012 season. Same with NASCAR. With apologies to the late Robert Frost, they have miles to go before they sleep. The next "major" for golf and tennis buffs is a while off, as are the Olympics, and I don't know a damn thing about soccer, except they run around a lot, and goals seem to come as often as bipartisanship, or maybe Halley's comet. Wake me up when the USA team gets into the semi-finals of the World Cup. Yachting and the America's Cup? There's a much easier way to participate. Go buy a fancy sailor's outfit, put it on, and stand in your shower, cold water only, tearing up $100 bills. You're yachting. Close enough.

Sports are great and this blog is devoted to them. Yet, other things happen too, so I'm going to take a time out here to thank a few people.

Oakland Press sports editor Jeff Kuehn, who gave me the opportunity to write this nonsense in the first place over lunch one day. No doubt, he's had second thoughts about that on occasion.

Deb. You know who you are. Thanks for both a few ideas and the constructive criticism when I screw it up.

Thanks to everybody local, and especially those overseas, that have read my rants. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate it.

A special thanks to the Princess for her contributions, though I suspect deep down she knows how I really feel about her.

On a totally unrelated note -- here's a shout out to Tyler, and the guys at Belle Tire, on Dixie Highway, in Waterford. They may never see this, but I thank them anyway for the way I was treated when I walked in there a couple days ago with a tire problem. Polite, professional, quick in and out, and a great price. Those guys treat you right, and I highly recommend them.



Friday, April 13, 2012

Richard Hamilton. He's a winner.

Remember "Rip"? He was an integral part of the team the last time the Pistons won the NBA championship, back in 2004. As the starting "shooting guard", he could ball handle, pass, grab a few rebounds, was lethal at the free-throw line, and did I mention he could shoot the lights out?

While on the court, the man never seemed to stop running, especially without the ball. His motor never ran out of gas. Even after suffering a couple broken noses -- which resulted in him eventually wearing a protective mask -- he took the licking and kept on ticking -- just like the old Timex commercials.

Hamilton was used to winning. After all, in college at UConn they'd won the NCAA title in 1999, and he was the MVP of the tournament. After 3 years of purgatory with the Washington Wizards in the NBA, he got a big break being traded to the Pistons, where their fairly new GM, Joe Dumars, once a shooting guard himself, was in the process of building a champion. Passing on some guy you've probably heard of named Dwyane Wade to take "Darko" in the draft was a huge blunder, of course, but other than that, Joe D made some pretty shrewd moves to obtain other players that everyone else around the league seemed to undervalue. And it worked. Rip would be a champion again.

Following 2004, the Pistons remained pretty good for a few years, but could never quite seem to get over the hump to another championship. Somebody else was always just a little bit better. Along the way, Hamilton surpassed Isiah Thomas as the leading playoff scorer in Piston history. No small feat.

But then things started to go wrong. The Pistons began their not-so-slow descent from the mountaintop to the ditch. Fingers were pointed every which way, and Hamilton got caught up in it. Some say he quit hustling, and maybe even became a locker room "cancer". Regardless, there was definitely serious friction between him and the coaching staff. Rip went from a starter to the last guy on the bench. The "doghouse", if you will. Many games, they wouldn't even throw him a bone during garbage time of "blowouts", either way. Something had to give.

And it did. Just last December, the Pistons waived him. As in waving him good-bye. See ya. They got absolutely nothing in return. Three days later, the Chicago Bulls signed him to a 3-year $15 million dollar contract.

No, barring injuries, Rip likely won't start for them either, because they're loaded with young talent at the guard positions, notably Derrick Rose, the reigning MVP. Yet Hamilton has become seriously relevant again coming off their bench to contribute in a large way. At the not-so-ripe old age of 34, it's as if someone has put some octane booster in his tank because, on the court, he's back to running just like he once did for the Pistons.

The Pistons are still in the ditch, and Hamilton finds himself with an elite team that has as good a chance as any to win an NBA championship in Chicago. And $15 million isn't exactly chump change.

Yep. He's a winner.

Perhaps the next time the Pistons visit the Chicago Bulls' United Center, and are getting blown out by 20-30 points, in no small part due to Rip's contributions, the person in charge of the sound system could fire up a song for poetic justice. No, not Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust". The Detroit Lions tried that a while back, and that's just what they eventually did -- for a very long time.

I'm thinking Patsy Cline's "Who's Sorry Now?" would be very appropriate, in more ways than one.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Detroit Red Wings and the playoffs

Though having an unfair advantage at this moment, given the Red Wings lost the first game of their series against Nashville, unlike many in the Detroit area, my prediction was the Predators would ultimately prevail in the series. Watching the first game merely reinforced that notion. The Wings seemingly haven't recovered from their regular season ending swoon, and I don't see them flipping some magical switch to turn it around in the next few games.

Some "locals" have said history is on Detroit's side. After all, that franchise has won a few Stanley Cups in the not so distant past, and Nashville has only won one playoff series in the history of their own franchise. That's all nonsense, of course, because what happened years ago is irrelevant. That was then, and this iis now, and that's all the matters.

If one buys into that logic, then one would also have to assume the New York Yankees would win the World Series every year, because they're arguably the most storied franchise of them all. Somehow, it doesn't always work that way.

Let's cut to the chase. Even if the Red Wings come back and beat the Predators in the opening round of the playoffs -- in their heart of hearts -- does even their most die-hard fan or over kool-aided reporter really think they have a legitimate shot at going on to eliminate two more superior teams from the west -- then conquering whatever beast from the east survives, to win the Stanley Cup? REALLY?

It's not going to happen for one simple reason. They're not good enough. Upsets can happen in a single game, but given the four best of 7 gauntlet series' they would have to skate through and survive to capture Lord Stanley's prize --  not a chance. And in the world of pro sports, isn't a championship all that supposedly matters?

Maybe not. There's someone else who has a keen interest in how far the Red Wings get in the playoffs. That would be their owner, one Mike Ilitch, the Little Caesar's pizza magnate. No doubt, like the fans and reporters, Ilitch would like nothing better than to have his team win another championship, but there's another reason going on too.

Major league baseball, the NFL, and the NBA all have "revenue-sharing" agreements when it comes to dividing up the money pool accumulated from fan attendance at games. That applies in the regular season, and the playoffs as well. The NHL is a little different. During the regular season they do pretty much the same thing, but once the playoffs start, the rules change. It's every owner for himself. Whatever "gate" they take in at their home venue -- they get to keep all to themselves. Given sold out arenas at ramped up playoff ticket prices -- that's big bucks. While fans and reporters would likely love to see their team "sweep" the opposition in 4 straight games, nothing is better for an owner than having the series prolonged for at least another home game, or two, in which their team finally prevails. Cha-ching. On to the next round, where they're guaranteed at least two more. That can buy a lot of cheese and pepperoni, or maybe even a free agent. Ba-da-boom.

But the Red Wings winning the Cup this year? Sorry, but massive amounts of Kool-Aid won't make it happen. Besides, Kool-Aid is owned by Kraft. Last time I looked the magnate of THAT empire was named Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots. Not sure about pepperoni, but that man surely knows his cheese.

So here's the deal. I'll get on the Red Wings' Stanley Cup winning bandwagon when I see Robert Kraft throw an octopus on the ice at Joe Louis Arena.

Until then, I ain't buying it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Bobby Petrino scandal

University of Arkansas head football coach Bobby Petrino got fired. Did he deserve it? Absolutely.

As a long-time motorcycle rider myself, I can sympathize with him laying a bike down. I wouldn't wish that on anybody. I did it once, as a young man, and it hurt -- a lot. Yours truly is unaware of the current helmet laws, or lack thereof, in the state of Arkansas, but if he chose not to wear one, along with his passenger, and something bad happens -- well -- to each their own, but sometimes there's consequences. In a not so funny way, the news pix of Bobby show him with a bit of road rash and a neck brace, while showing his passenger like she's posing for her senior picture. That's unfair media coverage. There's no way she looked like that after the bike went down, so why not show the same sort of post-accident photo of her as they did Petrino?

Petrino is, for now, a married man, with four kids. He's 51 years old. His passenger, Jessica Dorrell, is a 25 year old blond beauty, who he's alleged to have had an on-going "affair" with for some time. It's further alleged that Petrino not only put her on his (the university's/state) payroll, but gave her some sort of  $20,000 "bonus" along the way.

That was bad enough, but when confronted with the initial allegations by his superiors, he sealed his fate by originally adopting a Nixon-esque posture of lying and trying to cover it up. We all remember how Watergate eventually turned out, and now Bobbygate has gone down the same path.

As a football coach, Petrino was excellent at Arkansas. The Razorbacks were, and are, a top-ten caliber team.

Thing is, the only people that get away with this sort of nonsense reside on Wall Street, not the gridiron. There will be no golden parachute for Bobby Petrino. All he got was a lead boot in the behind kicking him out the door and, in my opinion, deservedly so.

But in the "good ole boy" merry-go-round network of football coaches, don't be surprised if Petrino pops up on another campus in a year or two.

I certainly don't condone a married father having an affair. Using other people's money to finance it, and then lying about it, makes it even worse. In the end, even the football crazy people in Fayetteville knew this was way too big to be swept under the rug, It wasn't going to go away, and they did what they had to do with Petrino. I would venture a guess that his "missus" isn't exactly proud of him right about now either. He may have another problem coming up soon.

If I could send a message to Bobby, it would be this: If there's ever a next time -- wear a helmet. Laws or not, only the young studs that think they're Superman go without them these days. I support their right to do so, and wish them well but, like you, they're not indestructible either. They just haven't figured it out yet. If they're out there long enough, see enough stuff, and live through it, they will -- eventually. One never knows what the next mile will bring.

And forget about any future bimbos, at least on the bike. All they want to do is yap in your ear and won't sit still. You know football. I know riding. Trust me on this one.

Following up on Ozzie Guillen

In my last post I neglected to address something, and it seems others have been quick to mention it. Originally, the point was not about whether people agreed or disagreed with Ozzie's comments about Fidel Castro, but rather his right to say them in the United States of America. I'll stand on that forevermore.

Of course, his dissenters, whether in Little Havana or elsewhere, are also free to speak their minds. Like Ozzie, they have every right to express their opinions. They can rant and rave, write newspaper columns, spew sound bytes on TV or talk radio, and even peacefully protest, via boycotts, marches, and other means. Rights go both ways, and well they should.

The problem arises when certain people want to punish an individual for speaking his/her own opinion, because they disagree with it. In the business world, it would be akin to a boss disciplining an employee because they liked apples, and he/she preferred oranges. One might logically ask -- what, pray tell, does that have to do with workplace efficiency?

That appears to be the case with Ozzie Guillen, though he's flip-flopping like a politician facing re-election on his Castro stance. First he loves and respects him. Facing a "constituent" uprising over those remarks, he decided he misspoke and has since apologized -- repeatedly.

Let's not kid ourselves. Like Detroit Tigers' manager Jim Leyland once said, Ozzie is dumb like a fox. Ozzie knew damn good and well what he was saying originally, but sometimes being a fox will bring the hounds into play, and that usually doesn't work out well for the fox by the end of the day.

In what appears to be somewhat of a compromise, Guillen got suspended for 5 games, likely with no pay. Perhaps that's enough meat to placate the hounds, and they can get on to mercilessly chasing other prey on another day.

Thing is -- unlike Ozzie -- the hounds are never penalized for writing or speaking a point of view that others disagree with. They're exempt. It might be interesting to see what would happen if a columnist had $100 deducted from his/her salary for every negative opinion that came in over what they wrote. As they are so fond of saying -- that would take things to a whole new level. Indeed, perhaps they would get a different perspective of what they put others through with their words.

Ozzie recently signed a 4-year deal with the Florida Marlins, worth about $10 million dollars. At roughly $2.5 million a year, suspending him for 5 games gets into his wallet to the tune of about $77,000 dollars.

To Ozzie, that's chump change, and he'll be back in about a week. Story over. Put 77 pounds of meat in the middle of a field, and hungry hounds will get after it. They won't care where that meat came from, or what it used to be. They'll dig in anyway, because it's their nature.

There's a difference.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ozzie Guillen and Fidel Castro

Ozzie Guillen's recent remarks about Fidel Castro have landed him in hot water. Evidently Ozzie was quoted as saying he respected Fidel, because people have been trying to kill him for 60 years and that (expletive) is still here. His math, and language, might be a little off, but he's basically right. Fidel's lasted through 11 -- count em -- 11 US Presidents, from Eisenhower to the present day.

Ozzie's problem is being in the wrong place to make such statements. As the new manager of the Florida Marlins, which play in Miami, Oz stirred up a hornet's nest amongst the locals. It's no big secret that Miami is commonly referred to as Little Cuba, because about a million people there have roots to the island nation 90 miles away from Key West, and are vehemently anti-Castro.

But that misses the bigger point. Guillen is Venezuelan and became a naturalized US citizen in 2006. Whether one likes him and his latest remarks or not, being a citizen comes with that pesky little thing called freedom of speech. In other words, he has a right to express his opinion.

Sure, the Marlins could fine, or even fire him, because of the local backlash, but if the matter winds up in the courts -- Ozzie will win -- because he has to. The first Amendment of the Constitution demands it. Some might counter that argument and say his words were detrimental to the Florida Marlins franchise, which resulted in fans staying away from the games, and the subsequent loss of revenue that resulted. If so, they haven't been paying attention to reality. The Marlins have historically ranked towards the bottom of major league baseball teams in attendance. They were 29th out of 30 last year. It appears that many of the people that are currently bashing a baseball manager haven't gone to the games over the years to support their home team anyway. So who indeed has a right to trash talk?

Yet, unlike the Ozzie we have come to know, he has fallen into the old trap by apologizing, in an attempt to appease those who he may have offended. Not once, but twice, and a third apology is scheduled. It's always been a bad move. Short of saying something way out of bounds regarding race, religion, etc., --which this was not -- he should have stuck to his guns. He had/has a right. The wolves are always lurking, and apologizing shows weakness, which means more wolves will smell the scent and come. It's a recipe for eventually being eaten alive.

Someone said his remarks were akin to praising Hitler in New York's Jewish district. To which I say -- so what? Ozzie can go to San Fran's China Town handing out pictures of Mao, or Dearborn, Michigan, a predominantly Arab community, with the Star of David tattooed on his forehead. It shouldn't matter. If they don't like it -- that's THEIR problem.

In the end, he's a manager of a major league baseball club. He should be judged on how his team performs on the field, not on his personal opinions of unrelated matters.

Personally, I hope he sticks around for a while. Again, some like him, and some don't -- but his antics sure are fun to watch.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Sports nicknames. American style

Once upon a time, there was a baseball player named "The Mick". Everybody knows who that was. Same with "The Babe", or "The Georgia Peach", or "The Yankee Clipper". The list is long.

There was a boxer a while back that called himself "The Truth". He found out exactly that when a left hook connected to the side of his head, courtesy of a guy that was nicknamed "Iron Mike".

There were the "Golden Bear" and "The Shark" in golf. Another guy even had an "army". In basketball, a guy called himself "The Answer", though it appears he currently doesn't have one as to what happened to his career. Maybe he should get together with "The Truth" and have a long talk. Even an ancient Greek philosopher found his way onto the court. How else to explain "The Big Aristotle"?

Not to be confused with my ex, but tennis once even featured "The Ice Queen". They both won a lot of money, but only one has a room full of trophies -- I think. 

Like Plato, Socrates, and Confucious, some modern day athletes only need one name to be instantly recognized. How about Kobe, Lebron, and Eldri.....  ahem, Tiger? I doubt there's very many of those running around in the average neighborhood, at least for now. No telling how many of their fans have named their kids after them.

Regardless, I dare say Americans will always come up with nicknames for their sports heroes. At that, as the politically correct mind-warp propaganda continues to change our language, perhaps we will have to become more sensitive in the future regarding such things. "The Hit Man" probably wouldn't go over too well these days. And "The Bronx Bombers"? After 9/11 -- definitely not cool.

We have to be careful about that, but there's hope. A new hero has emerged, complete with nickname. Gerry Lester Watson. He just won a golf tournament called the Masters.

Ya gotta love a guy named Bubba.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Masters Tournament

Something was very wrong with the TV coverage of this tournament during third round action. It felt as if the earth had shifted on it's axis, or perhaps we'd entered into some sort of twilight zone. In the furthest reaches of my mind -- which, granted, is likely akin to a one inch putt -- there was an eerie, ominous sense of something being horribly out of whack. Adding to the mounting dread of experiencing this strange new world was the fact I couldn't quite put my finger on what was out of place. Outwardly, everything appeared normal watching the best golfers in the world take on Augusta National, yet somehow it just -- wasn't.

Under very good playing conditions, it was quite the golfing extravaganza to watch. A little bit of everything was going on. Spectacular shots, and putts, abounded. Everything from eagles to quadruple bogies were on display. Some players fell back, while others charged up the leader board. Sentimental favorite Fast Freddie Couples, the co-leader after two rounds, didn't have a completely terrible day. He just couldn't keep pace with a few other guys that were blistering the course.

(Something's still wrong here.....)

One of the chargers was Phil Mickelson. At the end of the day, the always lovable lefty found himself merely one shot out of the lead, going into the finale on Sunday. Shooting 30 on the back nine at Augusta, under Masters' tournament pressure?  That's not just good. That's awesome.

As the TV coverage progressed, CBS did a masterful job, no pun intended, of providing the viewers with blanket coverage of the action. From group to group, and hole to hole, complete with replays that were merely seconds old, it was like we could see everything going on at once.

And here's a shout-out to the people that actually run the tournament. They don't have to beg for TV sponsors. They can pick and choose who they "allow" to be associated with their crown jewel. Being a blue-chip championship, it only makes sense they would go with blue-chip sponsors. Like IBM and Exxon. No Japanese or Korean car companies allowed, and certainly no heathens running around hawking a credit card. Now THAT was a breath of magnolia-scented air. Thank you, whoever you are.

(That eerie feeling persisted. Something was out of place.....)

Then, toward the very end of the telecast, as the last of the players were finishing up their rounds -- it happened.

The mandatory Tiger Woods highlights. See Tiger make a good shot. See Tiger roll in a birdie putt. See Tiger smile. See Tiger frown. See Tiger floundering around 12 strokes back and hopelessly out of contention. But dammit, at least we got to see Tiger. How could we mere mortals possibly survive without our Tiger fix?

And now everything is back to normal in the world.

Whew. I'm sure glad THAT ordeal is over.

Solving the Detroit Lions marijuana problems

It seems the Lions have a small problem going on with some of their players getting caught with weed recently. Should this be a concern? Maybe. Linebacker Bobby Carpenter, a versatile and valuable member of the team, recently left to join the New England Patriots. Perhaps he's squeaky clean and had a second hand smoke issue. Who knows?

But there's a better way. Get rid of head coach Jim Schwartz. He's never won anything anyway. Replace him with Ricky Williams as a player/head coach, for the best of several worlds. The Lions need help at the running back position, and talk about commitment, besides being a pretty good back, Williams was once so committed to his smoke, he quit the league to enjoy it. Put him in charge and let the whole team smoke dope. No worries about Roger Goodell and his NFL drug policies. Fed-Ex him an ounce of Hawaiian, and watch him mellow out in a hurry.

Pass out joints at the turnstiles of Ford Field to every entering fan, and make bong usage mandatory in the press box for every reporter. Their columns could get very entertaining -- and that would be a good thing, if everybody would get on the stone train.

Even better, it would be helpful to the economy. Can you imagine the sales at the concession stands?

The Lions probably still won't get to the Super Bowl, but nobody in Detroit would care. The days of contract hold-outs for a couple more million would be over. Give them a brick from Maui and they'd sign for the minimum. Ticket prices would go down, which means the average fan could not only attend more games, but bring their own dope, which would cut down on the overhead costs for the Lions. It's a win-win-win.

Concussion symptoms? Who's going to know the difference -- or even care? Another problem solved.

If it had been this way before, Ndahmukong Suh would have never stomped that Green Bay Packer. He might have curled up next to him and said, "I think we're supposed to win, but down deep, I've always loved you, my brother. Got major pizza going on at my place later. Get your guys together and come on over". Hey, it would have beat getting suspended and crashing cars.

According to some, there's way too much rage going on. We need to be more civilized and always show kindness and respect to our fellow human beings, even during historically brutal athletic contests.

But then they always make a big deal about how important winning is. I wish they'd make up their minds.

Ricky Williams would be a good start to level the playing field for all.

If that were to happen, what could be better than having muted a Lions TV broadcast -- and using Cheech and Chongs' "Big Bamboo" for the audio play-by-play? Perfect.

I'm getting hungry already just thinking about it.....

Friday, April 6, 2012

Isiah Thomas. A strange story

Certainly no one doubts Isiah Thomas was a great basketball player. He was born in Chicago and led his high school team to the state finals in his junior year. Then on to Indiana University, where, as only a sophomore, he was instrumental in guiding coach Bob Knight's Hoosiers to a national title in 1981, also winning the MVP award of the tournament.

Following that, Thomas went pro, and the Detroit Pistons drafted him with the overall #2 selection. Several years later, the Pistons would go on to win back-to-back NBA Championships, with Isiah being a perennial All-Star along the way. Wildly popular with Pistons' fans, Thomas eventually had his number retired and his jersey hoisted up into the rafters of the Palace, the Pistons' home arena. Further, he was enshrined in the basketball Hall of Fame in 2000. He had retired as a player in 1994.

And then the wheels came off.

In 1994, somehow he became part owner and Executive VP of the Toronto Raptors. They were a colossal failure while he was there. In 1998, he supposedly "left".

Then he tried his hand at TV broadcasting. Not so good.

Somehow, in 1998, Thomas bought the Continental Basketball Association, then basically the minor leagues of the NBA. By 2001, under his ownership, that league was further underwater than the Titanic. Poof. It disappeared like the Mayans. Gone without a trace.

Just prior to the CBA pulling what would later be called an "Enron", Thomas talked his way into the head coaching job of the Indiana Pacers. He succeeded Larry Bird, who in the previous year had guided the Pacers to the NBA eastern conference title. For the next 2 years, Thomas couldn't get the Pacers past the first round of the playoffs, though they still had ample talent. Evidently, that was enough for the Pacers' ownership to bring back Bird as President of the club. Bird's first act on the job? Getting rid of Isiah.

Never to be deterred, in 2003 Thomas landed in New York, where he was named President of basketball operations for the Knicks. By 2006, the Knicks had the highest payroll in the NBA, the second worst record, and Isiah had managed to trade away several future draft picks. That's a fairly ugly scenario for a once-proud pro sports franchise to find itself in. By 2008, having compiled a .341 winning percentage, compounded by a sexual harassment lawsuit by a former female Knicks executive (which was quietly settled for about $11 million), and the fans at Madison Square Garden routinely chanting for him to be fired --  Thomas was "reassigned" within the organization to be a "consultant". What's REALLY weird was a condition of his being a consultant was he have no contact with the players, and only report to the guy that put him in the broom closet to start with. But, by god, he was still receiving a hefty paycheck.

That would never do for Isiah. Along came the basketball head coaching job at Florida International University, in Miami. At least Isiah would be in charge of something again. Another chance for redemption. After 3 seasons there, FIU's record was 26-65. What normally happens to a coach with a record like that?

Yet Thomas seems perplexed. He claims it's the first time he ever got fired for basketball reasons.

Really? If not basketball, I wonder what sport he thinks his bio, including all the management failures listed above, is at issue here. Having confidence is a good thing, but this seems to be the worst case of denial in the history of the sports world.

C'mon Zeke. Own it. You were great in a uniform, but once you put on a suit, you stunk it up worse than Pepe Le Pew.

April 5th. A glorious sports day

What's a sports fan to do? Go to Opening Day at the local major league ballpark? Nah, too cold. Getting in to a sold out game wouldn't have been much of a problem, given the ever-present scalpers. Trust me, the cops in Detroit have way more important things to worry about than somebody making a few bucks selling baseball tickets. Besides, what's so important about the first game? They've got another 161 to go, and better seats at cheaper prices will soon become available.

The Masters golf tournament got underway, and flying down there to check out the best of the best would definitely have been interesting. But I didn't have a ticket to that either, and I suspect those fun loving guys in charge of Augusta National, in cahoots with the county-mounties, would look upon ticket-scalpers and their clients as being akin to your average terrorist. Detroit's bad enough, and even though the weather's considerably warmer in Georgia, I'd just as soon pass on a lovely stay at the Guantanamo Hilton for the next few years.

On other fronts, Gregg Williams, the alleged architect of the New Orleans Saints bounty system, is heard on a locker room audio tape, which has gone viral, saying some things to his players before a game that could be very incriminating. Have other defensive coaches said similar things to their players over the years? We don't know. Maybe it's always been this way, but never exposed before. Again, we don't know. The media frenzy aside, the only thing that really matters is how NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell perceives it. Given the whole league image thing that RG has been trying to project in his tenure, I suspect this will not bode well for Mr. Williams.

Maybe I should have just went to Disneyworld again. What could go wrong with that? But even in Mickey and Minnie's neighborhood things seem to be in turmoil. Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy says Dwight Howard tried to get him fired. Then Howard crashes a Van Gundy press conference and acts as innocent as a newborn, though somewhat cocky, lamb. Later on, it appeared Howard totally mailed it in with a game against the New York Knicks, then laughed about it. I'm not saying it's right, but Van Gundy is a coach that may have lost his team's respect, and Howard is an All-Pro center, that would be coveted league-wide. They both have guaranteed contracts, but when push comes to shove, I'm pretty sure I know which one will be riding the monorail out of the Magic Kingdom some day soon.

Yes, it was a glorious day in the sports world, and I hope everybody that went to watch the Tigers in Detroit had a great experience. I also hope all that went to Augusta National to watch another Tiger had a good time too. He's only 5 shots back. Not bad, considering.

But there was another place that turned out to be far more interesting.

At home, where I could watch it all. Click, click, click.

The upside is -- I saved at least a few hundred bucks and didn't get waterboarded -- always a good thing.

The downside is -- Detroit Tiger fans will likely only watch replays of that game once, and then move on. At home, we can click all we want, but the other Tiger replays are everywhere. There's no escaping them. The DUDE is back.

God help us if he ever makes it onto the leader board. Food channels will whip up Tiger recipes. A new religious channel might well make it's debut preaching the gospel of the Church of Latter Day Eldricks. CNN, in an unprecedented move, might temporarily abandon world news and politics, and instead pony up big bucks to have Anderson Cooper be Tiger's caddy -- with Wolf Blitzer "embedded" inside the golf bag. And if Woods somehow wins the Masters -- what better time for Mitt Romney to tab him as his vice-presidential running mate? Can you imagine what a bump in the polls that would give the etch-a-sketch guy?

This could get out of control, remote or otherwise.

Either that, or all the above was just a spoof. Many people consider Tiger Woods as their hero. I've always been more into guys like Al Jaffee. If you wish, Google that name to get a better understanding of the people yours truly looks up to. There's a big difference...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Opening Day and hope

Ah yes. Once again, the time has come for baseball fans to emerge from their winter slumber and enjoy the boys of summer as they embark on yet another campaign. In the immortal words of legendary announcer Ernie Harwell, "Hope springs eternal, and a lady named Mary Sue from Keego Harbor snagged that last foul ball" -- or something like that. Hope is everywhere.

Unless maybe you're a fan of the Royals, Indians, Nationals, Orioles, or Padres -- in which case you can forget about that. You don't have any hope. Might as well go back into hibernation and take another peek in, say, a generation or so, because right now you're not looking at lilies, tulips and daffodils reaching up to embrace the warm sun. You've got baseball tundra -- arctic wasteland. Not even a dandelion. But you never know. Miracles have been known to happen, like in....

Detroit, of course, where the ageless Brandon Inge has once again defied the odds and made the team. Yet even hope has it limits. Though Inge has his faithful, if perhaps delusional fans, any of them hoping Inge is going to break out of his career-long slump and suddenly become a productive hitter, let alone post a batting average approaching .300, needs to be treated in a very special way. Like locked in a padded room and heavily medicated. There's no hope for them either, and they might eventually even pose a danger to society if left to run around freely on the streets. We semi-sane people don't need that aggravation, and what is it with this guy anyway? Does he have some compromising videos of  Tigers' owner Mike Ilitch or something?

Nevertheless, spring has sprung and hope is always a good thing.

Bet the Detroit Lions' brass hopes their players will stop getting busted with marijuana.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Baylor/Notre Dame. Fashion won

I'll probably get in trouble for this, but that's nothing new. In the NCAA ladies hoops finals, the right team won -- for fashion reasons.

Consider the two head coaches, Kim Mulkey of Baylor, and Muffet McGraw of Notre Dame. Given they're both women, and the game was going to be televised pretty much world-wide, it should come as no surprise that both had their hair perfectly coiffed, and the make-up people likely spent a few hours before the game sprucing them up for the TV cameras -- from the neck up. Nothing wrong with that, but one of them doomed her team before the game even got started -- a little further down.

In a tasteful show of her team's colors, Kim Mulkey was clad in a stylish grey-tinged jacket, over a yellow top, which revealed just the right amount of skin. No cleavage, mind you. Horrors, that would be SO hoi-polloi, in such a setting. Complementing her bodice arrangement, Ms. Mulkey sported casual looking white slacks, that were tailored just so at the cuff level to almost, but not quite, conceal a pair of rather comfortable looking white shoes. For a basketball game, she had the perfect blend of eloquence and practicality. A most divine presence, indeed.

Not to be outdone, Muffet McGraw wore a very chic pastel green blouse to accentuate her own team's primary color. But going south from there is where things started to go wrong. Due to the high pressure atmosphere surrounding the game, perhaps Ms. McGraw, being likely the only person in the building wearing a tight black skirt and panty hose, could be overlooked. Pressure can do funny things to people sometimes in their decision making process. But those 6-inch spikey heels, on the court at a basketball game is, simply put, unforgivable. How am I doing so far pretending to be a typical limp-wristed male fashion critic?

If Brittney Griner and the Baylor Lady Bears weren't already enough to deal with, Ms. McGraw sealed her own fate by enraging the fashion gods. Now Miss Muffet can sit back on her tuffet for the next year and contemplate being only the 3rd head coach in history, men's or women's, to lose back-to-back title games. This is not to say she should stick strictly to curds and whey, but hey Muff -- if you get there again -- lose the high heels. Couldn't hurt. There's a time and a place, ya know?

Oh yeah. Almost forgot about the game. All hail Baylor, the newly crowned ladies' NCAA hoops champions. It turned out to be a rout.

But what would you expect to happen when leprechauns want to throw down with bears, and the spritely little elves have somebody in charge wearing spikey high heels?

Even princesses would understand that. I think. I hope. Maybe. Nah, probably not. It's likely even that wicked witch blond girl I mentioned a while back will be hopping on her broom and cackling overhead any minute now. Hope she doesn't bring those damn monkeys with her again. Such are the perils of a man trying to talk about things that have to do with women.

And I think that's where I came in. Like I said, I'll probably get in trouble for this.....

Monday, April 2, 2012

Kentucky's champions. But what if....

Congrats to the Kentucky Wildcats, the 2012 men's NCAA basketball champs. If I remember right, they were the pre-season #1, and despite a couple hiccups during the course of a long season, they appeared to be the class of the field all along. Like them or not, they're certainly worthy champions.

Head coach John Calipari has come under fire here and there for running a "one and done" program at Kentucky, but perhaps that's unfair criticism. After all, Calipari and his staff just try to recruit the most talented prep hoopsters they can every year, the same as any other college team. Further, rather than being faulted, Calipari should be given credit for having many of those young kids NBA worthy after just a year -- or sometimes two -- under his system.

Calipari has had his scrapes with bending the rules in previous coaching stops, but no one should doubt he's a terrific college basketball coach when it comes to the players and how they perform on the court. Sure, Kentucky is legendary when it comes to men's basketball, and they probably have quite an advantage as far as getting 5-star recruits out of high schools -- but there's more to it than that.

If you watched some Kentucky games throughout the year, then into the tournament, then beating Louisville and Kansas in the Final Four, no small feat, it's obvious the Kentucky young-uns were not only talented, but had come together as a team. Let's not forget, their starting 5, for the most part, were freshmen and sophomores. Offensively, defensively, you name it, they flowed as one. And that's coaching.

Calipari is correct in saying it's not his fault many of his athletes "go pro" before receiving their degrees. That set of rules was set up by the NBA, and their players' union, not to mention the legal system weighing in with rulings about denying someone the right to make a living at their profession just because of their age.

Again, to Calipari's credit, he doesn't stand in the way of his athletes going pro. Far from it. He encourages it, if he believes they're ready.

And why not? Take Kentucky player Anthony Davis, only a freshman, for example. He's a newly crowned national champ, pretty much the consensus best player in college hoops, and likely to be the first overall pick in the next NBA draft. He'll probably get millions of dollars -- up front -- in a signing bonus from an NBA team, plus more millions in a guaranteed contract, before he ever sets foot on their court.

If that was YOUR kid, would you want him to go back to Kentucky, where a blown out knee or a ruptured Achilles tendon might be the next game away -- and watch all the millions vanish into the ether -- or take the money now? He'd have to be CRAZY to go back there, like some of his current teammates, and those that came before.

Still, it makes one wonder. If these guys are THAT good as freshmen and sophomores, can you imagine what kind of team they'd be as juniors and seniors, if they had to stay in school?

Dominant doesn't do it justice.

They'd be flat-out scary.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Wacky World of Stanford

There's no doubt Stanford is a highly respected institution of higher learning. While other universities have enjoyed more glory over the years in college athletics, Stanford ranks right up there in the world of academia.  It might be fair to call them the class of the field in that regard, when it comes to the Pac 10, or 12, or whatever they are now -- much like Northwestern in the Big Ten, or 12, and whatever THEY are now. You'd think a math major somewhere would step forward and sort this stuff out, but I digress.

At any rate, sometimes I wonder about Stanford. Like -- what's going on there anyway?

The current issue of Sports Illustrated has their soon-to-be former QB Andrew Luck, the likely #1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft by the Indy Colts, saying it's really not that big a deal on campus to be the star QB. After all, Andy says, royalty has gone there -- like the Clintons.

Tweet. Time out. Sure, while Willy could be pretty slick at times during his two terms as Prez, and Hillary's currently chasing all over the world as the US SecState trying to tell everybody else how to act, but that was/is the White House -- not the House of Tudor. And besides, wasn't the whole point of the Revolutionary War to get rid of  being dominated by royalty?

Ladies' college hoops fans know that Stanford just got knocked off in Denver by Baylor in the national semis. Robert Griffin III, the star QB of Baylor, and likely the #2 NFL draft choice, was shown on camera as being in attendance to cheer on his female student-athlete comrades. Didn't see Andrew Luck. If RG III can get there from Waco, then how come AL couldn't make it from Palo Alto? It's not like these guys are exactly hitchhiking these days.....

Former heavy hitter of the Bush administration Condoleezza Rice was there, but contrary to popular opinion, she was never a student at Stanford. Remember, the game was in Denver. Rice got her Bachelor's degree from the Univ Denver, then a Master's from Notre Dame, then back to Denver for her PhD in 1981. That same year she became a poly-sci professor at Stanford, then later went on to become a provost, whatever that is. Just for grins, let's throw in she was born in Birmingham, Ala.

So let's see. The Crimson Tide won the National Championship in football a few months ago; the Stanford lady hoopsters made it to the semis; and now Notre Dame will be playing Baylor in the Finals. Seems to me, Ms. Rice is having a pretty good run here, in the world of sports, familiar territory, and photo-ops. Funny thing about those politicos and how they always seem to be in the right place at the right time......

But alas, Stanford went down to the Baylor Lady Bears, even though it appeared their superstar Brittney Griner was at less than full capacity. Not knowing the "line", I would guess Baylor would be favored over Notre Dame as well in the championship game.

(Note to Condy. It's sort of like your former boss and those pesky little wars he started. You can't win em all. Actually, it looks like the USA is going to chalk up an 0-2 record in those games, but not to worry. Somebody else is taking the heat for that now.)

And somebody please tell me -- what is it with "The Cardinal", as in singular, anyway? I understand fans, teams, and schools coming together for a common cause -- but it sounds like "The Borg" from Star Trek fame. Are all these people somehow hooked together in some sort of communal mind-meld?

Royalty indeed. Jim Plunkett was pretty good back in the day, and John Elway may be considered the King of Denver Bronco football.

But I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want Chelsea as a point guard, much less a QB, on MY team.

It's time to revisit Oakland University

Though it's my alma mater, I caught some flak over a blog post I wrote a while back, comparing Oakland to Duke and North Carolina in the sports world. Though my original intent was for it to be a spoof -- somewhere along the line it morphed into being serious. No doubt, much of that falls on me for generating the article in the first place.

Besides the on-line comments, I've heard much more through other means of communication. As a writer, that's all water on a duck's back. Some will like it and some won't. Most times, the dislikers are more apt to express their opinion than the people that may agree. That's just the way it is. I dare say that's especially true in my case because I'm not a "homer", like so many others. Any yahoo can write puff pieces about their local sports heroes, but it takes a little audacity to go against the grain, knowing full well you're going to catch some heat over it. Either that, or you have to be an idiot. I suppose I qualify for both, at times, but somebody's gotta do it.

A commenter named Corey S was kind enough to do some homework regarding the earlier post and enlightened me on a few facts of life. No, not THOSE kind of facts of life. Even yours truly understands THAT -- I think. Rather, Corey provided some very keen insight into the sports situation as it involves Oakland University, when compared to other higher profile schools, particularly Duke and North Carolina, specifically the financial realities.

Yet, unlike what I consider to be an objective, if sometimes non-sensical, mindset of a writer, Oakland U is still indeed my alma mater, and always will be. I'm happy and proud I had the opportunity to spend 4 years there, and will always be appreciative of the fine education they provided me, not to mention all the good times I had on campus. After all, it's not THEIR fault I turned out to be a whack-job. They did the best they could. Then again -- that degree I received in engineering? It was called a BS. Huh. Depending on how you want to interpret those initials, maybe that's where I started going wrong in the first place. Enablers, that gave me a subliminal suggestion, before I could even get out of my cap and gown, that has shaped me to this day. Just kidding.

Still, in hindsight, on a personal level, I somehow feel like I betrayed an old friend with the earlier post. As I've explained -- that was not my original intention, and no, it has nothing to do with the negative feedback -- but it gnaws at me for some reason.

There's only one thing to do. I've got to go back. It's been quite a while since I've set foot on that campus, and no doubt many things have changed in the interim. Perhaps spending an entire day walking around and checking things out will give me a whole new perspective on just how far OU has progressed.

So for any OU students and the like that may read this -- if you see an old dude on a black Harley roll up -- don't shoot him. I'm just passing through, like I did so many years ago.

I feel this unresistable calling to revisit my alma mater, so I can be better informed the next time I write about it. The first thing I want to find out is if they have signs posted that say "Welcome to Auburn Hills" on one side, and "Welcome to Rochester Hills" on the other, in the middle of the campus. In my day, it was all just Rochester. Seemed simple enough, and nobody cared anyway. Questions. Questions.

And who knows? Maybe I'll even bump into Corey S.