Friday, November 30, 2012

Is it time to panic?

How many times have you heard those words before from others when their team isn't performing as well as they think they should be? Probably a lot.

Yet, in the sports world, sometimes one has just cause to set their hair on fire and run naked through the streets clutching a life-sized blow up doll of one's favorite Muppet, cabbage patch doll, or, in extreme cases, Honey Boo Boo. For example if, before the season started, you went all-in and wagered everything you own, or ever will, that the Lions would win the Super Bowl this season, then -- as they say -- you be in a heap of trouble boy/girl. It is most DEFINITELY time to panic.

Just stay out of my neighborhood. I've got yorkie pups. While they might enjoy looking out the window at someone running by with their hair on fire, that Honey Boo Boo thing might traumatize their innocent little doggy brains for life. And no fatheads of Michael Vick are allowed either. Somehow I think the little tykes know. How else to explain them growling at the TV every time I clicked on an Eagles game? Click over to something else and they'll go run and play. Click Back to the Eagles game and -- zoom --  they were back on the couch growling again.

At that, even we mature 2-legged sports fans, and I use that phrase loosely, including yours truly, might soon have a time to panic ourselves. After this weekend, when the college football conference championship games are played, what are we going to be left with?

The bowl games won't start for a few weeks. Nobody cares about NBA games just yet. The NHL isn't even playing. College basketball? Much hoopla will be generated about that for the next few months over who is ranked at what number and why, but doesn't all that go out the proverbial window when March Madness starts, Cinderella stories and all? For now, it's a non-entity.

The NASCAR boys and girls, fresh off the "Chase", are enjoying what little time off they get every year. They'll be back at Daytona testing things out in January. If you're into watching one car at time, with no fancy paint job, decals, sponsor logos, etc, with interminable stretches before the next one takes the track -- then Daytona Speedway is the place for you in January. Been there, done that, but the museum's pretty cool. Regardless, the Daytona 500 won't drop the green flag until mid-February. Nothing much happening there for a while.

There's probably golf tournaments going on in such places as Abu Dhabi or Kemo Sabe, but few will get interested in that until the Master's Tournament. That's not until April.

Same with tennis. They're playing someplace. Does anybody know where? Does it matter?

Yours truly has been an Indy car fan for decades and wouldn't miss the big race for anything, well, almost anything, because the pure speeds those cars achieve makes NASCAR racers look like they're in slow motion.  But the Indy 500, what's left of it after the infamous "feud" a while back, won't happen until the last weekend in May.

Baseball? Wake me up in September.

European soccer? They seem to come up with a few new teams every week that nobody in the New World ever heard of. Worse, one can plant seeds in the garden, have them germinate and blossom into veggies, and they might STILL be waiting for a goal to be scored. Did I mention boring? Worse yet, those teams we never heard of are probably better than any team the USA can scrape together.

Alas. For the next few weeks we're basically left with the NFL. That's only on Sundays, and Monday and Thursday nights. That leaves 4 days a week with pretty much a total void.

So is it truly time to panic? It depends on how prepared one is.

Following up on that next time.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lions' fans and fair questions

Fan loyalty to various teams and players has been around since the dawn of sports -- maybe even before Regis babbled his first words in public. It would probably be a fair statement to say without such loyalties, most sports wouldn't even exist. Sports need fans, and fans need teams and players to root for.

But there comes a time when fans should look in the mirror, ask themselves some questions, and give themselves some honest answers. This means you -- Detroit Lions' fans. Here's a few.....

After they went 10-6 last year (getting blown out in the first playoff game notwithstanding) did you really truly believe in your heart that they were a Super Bowl caliber team? Or that it was going to happen any year soon, for that matter? Do you honestly think you could pass a polygraph test if that question was posed to you?

Few would dispute that Ndamukong Suh is a polarizing figure across the spectrum of the NFL and it's fans. His teammates praise him, while a majority of the other players throughout the league think he's "dirty".

Suh's latest on-field incident of kicking Houston Texans' QB Matt Schaub in the groin is still being debated by many. Was it intentional or not? Nobody really knows the answer to that question except Suh himself. All the rest is just conjecture. (Yours truly highly doubts Mr. Suh is going to walk into the NFL offices anytime soon and submit to a lie-detector test regarding his latest alleged infraction.) In the end, the NFL decided not to suspend him yet again, but levy a $30,000 fine. Was that fair? It depends on how one wishes to look at it.

$30K in Suh's world is chump change. Had he been suspended and lost a "game check", that would have been several hundred thousand dollars. Suh is happy with the outcome, and well he should be, yet some of the Lions' faithful and homer media types still object. They miss the bigger picture.

Even if Suh's groin kick was an accident, somebody got hurt, thankfully not seriously, but "pain and suffering" due to "negligence" were involved just the same. The authorities in the NFL thoroughly reviewed the incident and basically gave Suh a "ticket". The point has been made by the Honolulu blue and silver spinmeisters that either it was intentional or not. If not, Suh shouldn't have been fined at all.

But here's the thing they don't want to consider. In the real world, if you cause an accident resulting in someone else being hurt, the "authorities" are going to look at your "record". If it's spotless, or even fairly clean, than you'll probably be given the benefit of the doubt. It was just an accident. Things happen. But if you've got a long rap sheet of similar behavior, the powers that be normally tend to view you in a different not-so-good light. Chances are, they'll put you under a microscope just looking for something, anything, they can bang you with. Guess which category Suh falls under? Perhaps that's not fair, but it's real and everybody knows it. Further, in Suh's case, ultimately whose fault is that anyway?

So here's the hard question Lions' fans really need to ask themselves. If Suh were playing for any other team, especially a division rival like Green Bay, Chicago, or Minnesota -- would you still be giving him the benefit of the doubt and defending him? Or would you be trashing him every which way you could, and want his head on a (goal)post? 

C'mon. At least be honest with yourself. Mirrors won't tell others, but they have a way of looking back and seeing right through you sometimes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Marvin Miller. Difference maker

Sadly, Marvin Miller has passed away at the age of 95. Most will remember him as being the driving force behind revolutionary changes in Major League Baseball. Things are a lot different now than they were before Miller arrived on the scene. Some of those changes were long overdue and very much justified, yet in hindsight one is left to wonder if perhaps Miller's original good intentions didn't wind up opening a sort of Pandora's box, from which there appears to be no return. Let's look at some positives and negatives that have came about.

Before the 1960's not only pro baseball, but basketball, football, and hockey were basically caucasian plantations with the owners as the slave-masters. While the owners were raking in the big bucks, the most highly skilled athletes in the world in their various sports were toiling away for chump change. No benefits, no retirement plan, no nothing. Good grief, even the "star" athletes had to supplement their income in the off-season by doing such things as selling used cars -- just to make ends meet for them and their families. That was wrong. It was a fertile ground well deserving of a union seed to be planted and grow. Miller did that. Conversely, these days many pro athletes make more money PER GAME than a lot of "normal" people make over the course of their lifetimes. That's wrong too.

Major league baseball had long held the "reserve clause" over the players. Basically, that meant that even after a player had completed his existing contract, he was still owned by his team for another year. Play for them or don't play at all. Even if they sat out the required year, which the owners knew they couldn't afford to do, no other owner would touch them anyway. Though the term "collusion" wouldn't come about until much later, perhaps that's where it had it's origins. In other words, players didn't even have the right to migrate to other plantations. In hindsight, objective minds would deem that as ludicrous and grossly unfair, but that's the way it was. After years of hard-nosed negotiating, which culminated in a federal court decison, the ridiculous reserve clause was finally struck down.

Miller was behind all that. That cracked the door to "free agency" as we now know it. The down side? Free agency as we now know it. It's out of control. Players have no allegiance to anything these days except the almighty dollar. Hundreds of millions of them. They don't sell used cars in the off-season anymore. Some might very well own a fleet of dealerships serving up luxury models. Something is very wrong with that as well.

In days of yore, there was no such thing as salary arbitration. The owner made an offer and the player had two choices. Take it, or go find another job -- except there aren't any other jobs available in your line of work (insert patronizing sneer and a puff on a big cigar). That was wrong. Finally the slave-masters agreed to a primitive form of arbitration. Both sides could take their cases and plead them to -- the Commissioner of baseball. The Commish was hired by the owners to represent their interests in the first place, so guess which side won those cases? That was wrong too. Marvin Miller was the driving force in getting such salary disputes decided by an impartial arbitrator, which both sides had to approve in the first place. He/she would weigh the arguments of both sides and make a ruling. Few could dispute the fairness of such a procedure.

The down side? That eventually led to hideous creatures rising up from the bowels of hell which terrorize the sports world to this day. I believe the politically correct term for them in modern times is "agents". Sure, the owners always had lawyers and CPAs to look after their money. And yes, it was inherently unfair that their sharks would be talking contract terms with a player, who might have brought his wife or father-in-law along to help represent them, but the pendulum seems to have swung the opposite way somewhere along the line. Now it's the owners getting fleeced. In the end, it's hard to say who's right and who's wrong. Agents can be a despicable bunch but, after all, none of those insane contracts happen unless the owners agree to them. Let's call that one wrong both ways.

Here's what I know. Many moons ago, when I had a job flipping burgers as a high school kid -- with a rattletrap old 1965 Pontiac Tempest as my first car -- I could afford to go to games once in a while. And along with a girl dumb enough to date me -- I did. Lots of them. I saw the Lions when they still played at Tiger Stadium, the Pistons when they played at Cobo Hall, the Red Wings at Olympia, and of course the Detroit Tigers themselves many times. Why? Because even a kid making $1.35 an hour could afford it and it was a good time.

If I REALLY wanted to impress my date, I might even splurge for "box seats" at Tiger Stadium. They were only about 4 bucks a pop, parking was free down the block, and even a couple hot dogs, ice creams, and cokes were manageable on my meager budget. To boot, the players were friendly and would often give autographs and chat with the fans in the box seats before the game. That sometimes had a way of paying dividends with a date later on, but I won't get into that here. Those were all good things.

All that's gone now. No kid will ever know the special atmosphere of Olympia where the Wings played. Nor Cobo Hall watching the Pistons. They now reside in the Palace. The Lions moved to the Silverdome, which now sits vacant, and eventually back to Detroit. Even Tiger stadium is gone, to be replaced by Ford Field, which is right across the street from Comerica Park, where the Tigers currently play.

Guess what? Short of robbing a bank on the way to a game, there's no way a kid flipping burgers at a fast food joint can afford to go to any of it. Further, even if he got away with the bank heist -- which is definitely not recommended -- and was able to get the best seats in the house -- most of the players couldn't cares less about being fan friendly. They're to busy thinking about their next endorsements. And that's just wrong on several levels.

So indeed, may he rest in peace, Marvin Miller was a difference maker and he righted some wrongs.

Yet, in fairness, perhaps in some ways, he was also the original seed that blossomed and ran amok to create the ever-spreading briar patch we currently know as the world of professional sports. Owners still make a ton of money of course, because if nothing else, they're paid billions by the TV people for the rights to broadcast the games. Players have not only been emancipated from slavery, but make obscene salaries, and will gladly endorse seemingly any product, regardless of how ridiculous it is, as long as there's a major cha-ching that goes along with it.

And what are we fans stuck with? Outrageous ticket prices, $6 nasty hot dogs, and $8 a cup for watered down beer. Then you can take them over to the self-serve "condiment" table. If the mustard comes out yellow, the ketchup red, and the relish isn't moving, then you're having a good day. The onions are usually like a Stephen King novel. One never knows what will happen, but they can sometimes wind up being the cause of recurrent nightmares. Ice cream and a souvenir or two for your sweetie? Most people can't afford that, unless they're willing to skip two house payments instead of just one.

These are the demons we sports fans have to currently cope with. Again, to his credit, Marvin Miller accomplished some things that were long overdue.

Yet, yours truly doubts even Miller could have foreseen the possible long term effects of the Pandora's box he dared to pry open. The lid of that box will never be put back in place. But perhaps some year soon somebody will figure out a way to at least put a screen over it, to at least slow down the flow a bit of what's flooding out of it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ndamukong Suh. Time to go

No, I don't mean it's time for Suh to get going and perform better on the field. I mean it's time for the Lions to get rid of the clown act he has become. As in cut him, release him, turn him loose, and don't even bother with a bus ticket. Suh can afford his own.

Suh was the #2 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft by the Lions. He wound up signing a 5-year deal worth roughly $65 million dollars. So he's making about $13 million a year, with $8 million a year of that guaranteed over the life of the contract. On a lot of other NFL teams, that's starting quarterback type money. To justify a defensive tackle making the same amount of do-re-mi as a starting QB, he'd better turn out to be a dominant force, to say the least. To his credit, Suh has indeed accomplished that feat. The bad news is -- it's for all the wrong reasons.

Let's get real. Nobody knows the NFL players better than the other players. The last two years, Suh has been elected in a landslide -- by a jury of his peers -- as the NFL's dirtiest player. Further, amongst many knowledgable football people, Suh also ranks right up there as the NFL's most overpaid and overrated player. In the humble opinion of yours truly, being thought of as overpaid, overrated, and having won re-election as the dirtiest player in all of football is not a particularly admirable combination to hang one's helmet on.

It's not just his infamous "stomp" of a downed Green Bay Packer on Thanksgiving day last year that caught so much attention. Everyone seems to have forgotten about that car crash out in Portland, Oregon, where Suh was allegedly driving at high speeds, crashed into a utility pole, and turned out to have had a couple mysterious female passengers in the car, at least one of whom was injured, but magically disappeared before the cops showed up. Suh wasn't breathylized or otherwise tested (imagine that), but one of the "ladies" eventually showed up, claiming Suh had bribed her to get out of the car and never talk to the police. Likely smelling money, she eventually did turn up and a lawsuit was filed, but how quickly that seemed to disappear from the radar. PR damage control folks and lawyers can work miracles sometimes on those with short attention spans -- which are most. But it happened.

Now he's embroiled in a civil case over not returning a $100,000 security deposit on a house he rented to others that have since vacated the premises, on a home that some say wasn't worth that much to begin with. If all true, yours truly can't decide who's dumber. Suh quibbling over chump change in his world, or the people that were stupid enough to put up that amount of money in the first place. Especially with a guy like Ndamukong Suh. Maybe the judge should take them into chambers to stomp and kick all the above in the groin in the interest of equal justice, then dismiss the cases. Works for me.

In the world of professional sports, there's a harsh question that often comes into play. What have you done for me lately?

Lately, the only thing Suh seems to have done that's noteworthy is kick the Houston Texans' QB in the groin. Strangely enough, on Thanksgiving day again. Not only is Ndamukong not getting any quarterback sacks, he's not getting anywhere close to them. What's worse, Suh is racking up games without making a single tackle on a running back. No sacks, no tackles, no nothing. He's been a non-factor.

Sure, the Lions' apologists will say poor old Ndammy is always double teamed, so his contributions don't always show up on the stat sheet. Yeah? Well, so is Calvin Johnson, but he still makes plays, because the truly great ones find a way. And CJ doesn't stomp, or kick, or crash cars, or try to wring an opposing player's neck like a chicken in a slaughterhouse, or get fined and suspended, and he sure as hell will never top the "dirty" list amongst his peers, let alone two years in a row. There's a whole lot of big differences going on here.

Yet that raises the question -- what would happen if the Lions just severed ties with Suh and kicked him to the curb? Remember, the Lions would still be on the hook for $8 million a year for the guaranteed money through the 2014 season if Suh decided to kick back and do nothing. I dare say even one year with $8M coming in would be more than sufficient to keep most people quite happy and comfortable for the rest of their lives. But we all know it doesn't work that way with pro athletes.

Right now, given his reputation, the bad pub and baggage he'd bring with him, and the money he'd likely command, what other teams would even want Suh? When the late Al Davis was the majority owner of the Oakland Raiders, he thrived on bringing in the "outlaws". Just win, baby, he used to say. Suh would have been a perfect fit there, but Al's passed on to a different kind of Raider nation now. Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots has been known to take in a controversial player now and again, but only on the condition they straighten up in a hurry. If they don't, they're gone -- in a hurry. Not sure Ndummy, oops Ndammy, would last long there. Owner Jerry Jones of the Cowboys loves nothing more than publicity, good or bad. Well, maybe money, but that sort of goes hand in hand with his schtick. He's already got a few otherwise very talented athletes on his team with the IQs of a brick. Might that work?

Of course, there will always be NFL owners with more money than brains, especially football common sense, so surely NS would find a roster spot somewhere. He might even get a raise. Even though they be billionaires, never underestimate the stupidity of desperate NFL owners.

Let's get even more real. The Detroit Lions have been known as losers for a very long time. Despite their little upward hiccup last year, until they got blown out in a playoff game -- not that much has changed. Their head coach is quickly starting to appear clueless again, and the player roster still has more holes than substance. The "front office" execs that couldn't wait to give interviews when the team won a few games last year have once again gone into deep hibernation and, per the last half century, owner William Clay Ford might as well be in the witness protection program, because nobody seems to know where he is or what he's doing. Losers, losers, and more losers.

The last thing Lions fans need is yet another loser laying an additional layer of scorn upon their team.

It's high time for "Suh--eey" to go slop with hogs somewhere else.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Fair or foul II

So OK, presumably all the culprits in the Penn State affair have either been charged, are already in jail, or dead. Likewise, at Ohio State, the head coach that presided over the tattoo-gate affair is gone, as are the players that took part in it. For vastly different reasons, both schools are still under NCAA imposed sanctions and, given their won-loss records, would both be going to a bowl game this year. In Ohio State's case, perhaps even the national championship game could lie ahead. Which brings me to the point --- Like the man said, if you do the crime, you have to do the time, but who indeed now finds themselves behind "bars"?

Near as yours truly can tell, it's a lot of coaches and players that had absolutely no involvement whatsoever with whatever may have happened, other than being employed or playing at the same university after the misdeeds took place by others. Is that fair?  Depends how one looks at it.

Purely hypothetically, let's assume you're a current player at either PSU or OSU. Like many other schools around the country, no one would seriously doubt PSU and OSU are steeped in tradition and loyalties. It could be that your grandparents, parents, and even older siblings have a decades long history of attending that particular school -- perhaps even as athletes. Your childhood dream was to eventually follow in their footsteps. Let's further assume you inherited or were blessed with God-given talent, kept your nose clean through adolescence, and through good old-fashioned hard work became a high school star. You got a full-ride scholarship to go play football at that same school and, after all that hard work, finally you've made it to the "promised land". And what do you find when you get there?

Even if your team is really good, and you're a large part of it, you won't be able to participate in any post-season activities, where the real glory is, because other people messed up.

Sure, schools have to be punished when they're caught in wrong-doing, hence sanctions, because if not we might just as well forget the rules and let everybody run wild. I get that. Still, the point remains that most times innocent people wind up serving the punishment through no fault of their own. The list is long of the offending coaches going on to other jobs and star players that willingly participated winding up in the pros making millions while others that come after them have to do the time.

Some would say that if the innocent players are that good, then there will be a lot of other schools interested in their talents, and they can transfer out to stardom elsewhere. In the Penn State case, without even losing a year of eligibility. That sounds nice, but it's also myopic. It's easy for them to lay back and say you've got a choice, but they haven't walked all those miles in your shoes for so many years or generations either. They don't have a clue what you're going through right now, nor do they seemingly care. Further, they miss a couple important points.

You could have gone to a lot colleges coming out of high school, but your dream was to play for THAT college. Going somewhere else after you're already there just wouldn't be the same. You would have no loyalties or tradition at the next school, you'll have to get used to different teammates and a different system, live in a different city/dormitory, learn a new fight song that you never cared about, etc, etc, etc. This is NOT how it was supposed to turn out because you didn't do anything wrong.

Further, if you're THAT good, you might be displacing another guy on your next team and ruining HIS dream of glory that he also worked his entire childhood for. He didn't do anything wrong either. Your new teammates might resent that a bit.

OK, end of hypothetical story. There can be no doubt that wrong-doings have occurred and punishment is warranted. Yet it's also a fact that sometimes the crooks get to move on to greener pastures while innocent others left behind find themselves absorbing the punishment.

So how can that be fixed to be righteous for all?

I suppose scrapping the whole system, complete with the billions it currently rakes in, and returning all the sports to an intra-mural level probably isn't going to happen, though it would cure the problem.

Other than that, beats the hell out of me. Matters this important should be left in the hands of those with ultimate wisdom, and I don't qualify.

Call your Congressperson. Surely he/she will come up with an ingenious idea and act on it immediately. Congress will rally with bi-partisan support behind this cause and you will have been the catalyst to finally break the gridlock in Washington DC. United, with our heads held high, we will move forward as a nation to become stronger than ever. Once again you will be a star.

On second thought, maybe you'd be better off transferring to Podunk State and taking your chances.....

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Football sanctions. Fair or foul?

And so it came to pass. Notre Dame and Ohio State finished the regular season as the only undefeated major college football teams. A 2012 pre-season poll had OSU at #18, and Notre Dame barely hanging on at #25. It would likely be a fair statement to say that, when the dust cleared, few would have foreseen these two teams to be the only ones without a loss.

No doubt, Notre Dame will be heading to Miami for a shot at the national title. While remaining "independent", the Irish football program doesn't have to worry about a conference championship game still being in the way. They're in.

In a normal year, Ohio State would play in the Big 10 conference championship game and, if they won that, they'd be in too.

But this isn't a normal year. Ohio State's done for the season. No conference championship game, no bowl game, no nothing. They're not going anywhere because of those pesky sanctions handed down a while back by the NCAA on their program over the whole "tattoo-gate" fiasco during the course of their 2010 season. Though for vastly different reasons, like Penn State, the Buckeyes can't go "bowling" this year. 

A look at Penn State first. Though he still maintains his innocence, most everybody knows Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 40+ counts of criminal sexual conduct with various young boys. He's in prison and will never get out -- at least alive. Other members of that Penn State football chain of command are currently under indictment and awaiting trial. The once beloved icon Joe Paterno was forced out and died shortly thereafter. Some say Joe Pa knew about those atrocities but kept quiet. Others, notably his family, vehemently deny such accusations. So who's right? The correct answer is "none of the above". Only one person knew how much Joe Paterno knew -- and when -- and that person was Joe Paterno. I dare say Joe Pa isn't likely to take a polygraph or give a sworn deposition anytime soon. Bottom line? While everybody is entitled to their own opinion -- we'll never know for sure. It's like Ronald Reagan and the highly illegal Iran-Contra affair a few decades ago that cost countless lives. Was the "Gipper" in it up to his eyeballs and let a mere lieutenant colonel named Ollie North take all the heat, or was he truly oblivious to everything that finally came to light? If one buys into the theory that the boss is ultimately responsible for whatever happens on their "watch", then Reagan should have been forced out too. One had airports and libraries named after him, and remains a beloved figure to this day. The other had his statue torn down at the university he loved and served for decades, and will likely never have his name cleared. In the end, we STILL don't know what happened in both instances. Funny, or maybe not, how that works out sometimes.

Of course, comparing Penn State and Ohio State in their current states of "probation" isn't apples and oranges. Given what happened to get them both into trouble in the first place, it's more like hammers and marshmallows.

Yet, there are still comparisons to be made, on certain levels, regarding neither of them being eligible for post-season play this year. Some may be fair, and some may be foul. It all depends on whose eyes one is attempting to see things through.

This has run on long enough. A closer look at such things and certain attitudes next time.

Detroit Lions 2012 season

Attempting to be objective here, the way yours truly sees it, the Lions are exactly where they should be. No, I'm not talking about the wouldas, couldas, and shouldas the Pollyannas have been feeding the Honolulu blue and silver koolaided masses for over a year.

They would have you believe that but for a penalty here, a dropped pass there, a controversial call, and a few untimely fumbles and interceptions, things might have been different. While we're at it let's throw in special teams' breakdowns, bone-headed coaching decisions, lack of quality depth at just about every position, and attitude problems.

But oh my. Everybody knew they would beat Minnesota and Tennessee, they said. The Lions lost those games. Turned out, the Lions were lucky to defeat the St. Louis Rams in their home opener. Since then, they've beaten a Philadelphia Eagles team that seems to be coming apart at the seams, an average Seattle Seahawks team, and rolled over the woeful Jax Jaguars. That's it. Other than that, they've lost them all. Yes, they've been competitive in most of those games, keeping the scores reasonably close, but instead of finding a way to win, they find a way to lose. Sound familiar?

Unlike college football with their pollsters and computers ranking everybody by every stat known to mankind and software, in the NFL, it doesn't matter. Whether a team wins by one point or 50 -- nothing counts except wins and losses. Good teams find a way to win the close contests. Not so good teams wind up losing. In the Lions' case, QB Matthew Stafford can throw for 400 passing yards, and Megatron Calvin Johnson might rack up 200 receiving yards and a few touchdown catches. Impressive stats. But you know what? Reality check. In the NFL it means absolutely nothing if the other team winds up winning the game.

Last year the Lions did fairly well through the course of the regular season, posting a 10-6 record. They had a weaker schedule, caught a few breaks, some teams probably overlooked them because they were "only the Lions" of course, and presto, they're in the playoffs. Then they were exposed as the impostors they were by the New Orleans Saints in a beatdown. Still, the desperate never-say-die Lions' faithful took that as a good sign. They finally made the playoffs, and better things will come next year. The sky's the limit, and even the Super Bowl might be possible, they ranted. They ignored the obvious.

Second, being a playoff team the year before, in the name of "parity", the NFL would toughen up the Lions' schedule a bit this year. Look at what's happened. The Lions haven't defeated a "good" team this year to date and, other than Jacksonville, were fortunate indeed to defeat a couple of "bad" ones.

So here's a little tidbit you'll never read in the Detroit area papers or see on-line from any of the Honolulu blue and silver beat writers or columnists.

While they will likely continue to try and explain away why the Lions aren't faring so well this season, they never considered another possibility.

The Lions were vastly overrated last year. Their 2011 season was an anomaly, an aberration. A UFO that turned out to be another weather balloon.

Bottom line? They weren't that good then, and now they're getting exposed again this year for STILL not being that good. It's really no big deal. Just another year in the long sorry history of the Lions. To any that may have actually thought they had a shot of going to the Super Bowl any time soon --  those guys on a certain pre-game NFL show have a way of summing it up best.


Friday, November 23, 2012

Dominic Raiola. A loser being a loudmouth

One way or the other, Dominic Raiola, the starting center for the Detroit Lions, always seems to have something to say. Sometimes it's good -- and sometimes not so good. Perhaps it's just frustration, because for most of his adult life he's been a loser -- at least as far as football goes. Wrong place at the wrong time.

Born in Hawaii, the high school he played for in aloha-land was undefeated during his last 3 seasons there. Very impressive stuff, and Raiola was no doubt riding high. Then he got a scholarship to the Univ of Nebraska, long known as a football powerhouse. What could be better than that, right? Problem was he didn't start playing there until the year after Nebraska shared a national title with Michigan. Raiola won many personal accolades during his time in Cornhusker land, but his team was never a champion. Bad timing. As Maxwell Smart used to say -- missed it by THAT much.

Then in 2001, Raiola got drafted by the Detroit Lions. The following year Raiola won the Lions' Chuck Hughes Award for the most improved player. (Former wide-receiver Chuck Hughes died on the field  of Tiger Stadium during a Lions' game with the Chicago Bears in 1971. Not to be insensitive, but only the Lions could figure out a way to name a most improved award after somebody that died while playing the game. That was improvement?).

That was just about the time the Lions were beginning their downward spiral which would culminate with an 0-16 season in 2008. The Lions were the laughingstock of not only the NFL, but the entire sports world, not to mention being a punch line for many a comedian. Raiola was there for all of it. He had gone from being unbeaten for 3 years in high school, to playing pro-ball where his team couldn't win a single game all year. One can only imagine the frustration he felt.

Indeed, late in that winless season, Raiola got fined $7.500 by his own team, for flipping the bird to the Lions' own fans, in the confines of their own home field. The following year, 2009, Dominic went at it again with the fans. They were jeering "his" quarterback, Matthew Stafford, and Raiola directed a few expletives to those doing the heckling.

That's just wrong. High school athletes know better than that. So do college players. Good grief, even when yours truly was playing slo-pitch softball, of all things, we knew better than to respond to, or even acknowledge, the taunts, and I dare say some of those were probably much worse than anything Raiola's ever heard on a football field. That stuff could get downright personal at times. One would think a professional athlete should act like one and be far above such interaction with the fans. Sure, a lot is at stake and emotions run high with the players. In the heat of the moment, it's understandable how a visiting player might go through an on-field celebratory routine to rub it in a bit to the fans of his opponents. But Dominic Raiola is the only guy I ever heard of that will talk trash to his HOMETOWN fans when they dare to say something he doesn't like. Again, that probably goes along with the frustration of being a loser for so long in the NFL, but it's certainly no excuse.

A friend of yours truly was at the Houston/Detroit game today. Somehow she scored excellent seats for herself and a friend. They were roughly at the 50 yard line, and only a few rows back from the field itself. They could hear some of the player chatter going on. She later related to me how another heckler, close to where she was sitting, was getting after the Lions. Enter Dom again. Evidently, during a verbal exchange, Raiola had a few things to say back to the fan, several of which words started with the letter F. Needless to say, we likely won't be seeing that particular replay anytime soon, complete with audio. Regardless, it was low class and totally unprofessional on Raiola's part. To boot, before the game Raiola had called out Houston's explosive defensive lineman J.J. Watt in the press, daring Watt to "bring it". Upon being made aware of Raiola's comments, Watt replied, "Just watch the game". On the Lions' very first offensive play, QB Matthew Stafford was sacked by -- guess who? Watt would go on to get 2 more sacks. For any one D-lineman to get 3 sacks during a single game is a very impressive performance indeed. I guess he "brought it". Sometimes Raiola just doesn't know when to shut up.

Maybe it has something to do with the air in Detroit. Raiola's always got a few quotes for the press. They love this guy. So since when should an offensive lineman be a player spokesman for his team?

I'm thinking Brandon Inge of the Tigers set that precedent. He was a fan favorite and the media loved him as well, because he too would always offer up a few quotes for their articles. Yet like Raiola, he was a long time loser too, and I won't even get into his hitting stats over all those years. Only in Detroit do chronic losers wind up speaking for their team.

But even if Inge couldn't hit a baseball very consistently, he was at least professional enough not to hit on the fans, especially the "home town" variety.

There's a difference.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Buckeyes and Obama

No one would seriously doubt the President Of The United States has awesome powers. As commander-in-chief of all the armed forces, he can order up targeted air strikes and/or missile launches, massive bombings, naval bombardments and/or blockades, quickie in and out special forces stealth operations, and even invade a foreign country with ground troops. Regardless of what others may think about it, all it takes is a couple phone calls. Indeed, in the last half century or so, many a POTUS has done just that.

The POTUS can also grant amnesty, or even full pardons, to any individual or group that has been convicted of wrong-doing, regardless of what their crimes may have been. Right or wrong, it's a phone call and a signature away if he wants it to happen. That's been done too.

And now here comes Ohio State pleading their case to the Prez. It seems the Buckeye faithful are requesting a pardon regarding that whole "tattoo-gate" affair a couple years ago involving their football team. As you may remember, that involved OSU football players trading team memorabilia for tattoos and cash, getting paid quite well for jobs some say they never even showed up at, and a few other perks tossed in by a misguided booster here or there. To boot, it was later discovered the head coach knew about it all along but he, along with the OSU administration, tried to pretend like it never happened. Some would call that a "cover-up". Enter those ever-present pesky media folks. Once they got a whiff of it, the siege was on and they eventually blew the story wide open, as well they should have. Ohio State football got slapped with several penalties, currently the most notable one being they are ineligible for post-season play this year. No bowl game.

Yet a few things seemed to converge this year that yours truly doubts many could have foreseen. After former coach Jim Tressel got the boot, OSU managed to hire Urban Meyer. Meyer is not only well known as a terrific college football coach, but also running spiffy clean programs in the past. Who would have thought he'd be interested in inheriting the mess at OSU? Yeah, there's the money thing, but still....

All the pollsters and pundits fell in line with the NCAA sanctions for the great majority of the year and pretended Ohio State didn't even exist. Surely, even given Urban Meyer, there was no way that program would be relevant in his first year, they tacitly thought. Ignore, ignore, ignore. But guess what? The Buckeyes have so far run the table, with only a home game against arch-rival Michigan standing between them and finishing the "regular" season being undefeated.  Last time I looked the people that supposedly know about such things had OSU as a 3.5 point favorite. Let's get real. If UM wins that game, a whole lot of people, especially the NCAA, will breathe a sigh of relief, because OSU is no longer relevant in the big picture, which is what they wanted all along. HOWEVER, if OSU prevails -- things might get a little dicey. Foreseeing that possibility, the above mentioned POTUS has been presented with a petition from the never-say die folks at OSU. It reads as follows:

“The Ohio State University football team is one win away from an undefeated season. However, due to imposed sanctions, they are not allowed to participate in their conference’s championship game or the following bowl season. While a punishment for past indiscretions is to be expected, a bowl season ban is too harsh for a few young men trading memorabilia for tattoos and some change. The offending players and coach who covered it up are no longer part of the program. Please exercise your executive power to pardon the NCAA’s excessive sanctions placed on The Ohio State Buckeyes to enable a rightful, satisfying culmination to the college football season for the American people.”

Make of that what you will, and credit to the Buckeye faithful for their undying loyalty, but c'mon. Like him or not, Obama might be the commander-in-chief with a suitcase of nuclear launch codes never far from him, but yours truly isn't at all sure even HE has the authority to overrule/veto NCAA sanctions. And holy Rush Limbaugh and John Boehner, can you imagine the political fall-out if he attempted to? He's got enough on his plate with the economy, immigration, the doomsday "fiscal cliff" we're all about to tumble over like lemmings, and the Hatfields and McCoys in the Middle East having another one of their little dust-ups. Besides, he's a Chicago boy. He doesn't care anything about Ohio, much less the Buckeyes, now that the electoral votes are in. Bottom line? It ain't gonna happen.

On a related note, I find it comical seeing local "homer" sports reports referring to the Buckeyes as "hairless nuts". While a real buckeye closely resembles a chestnut, their zeal to trash an opposing team over their nickname raises a couple points. I know about peanuts, cashews, pistachios, pecans, walnuts, almonds, hickory nuts, and a few others. But I've never seen hair on any of them yet. So what kind of nuts have those folks that write or talk about such things been eating all along anyway? Whatever they are, if one has to shave them first, I don't want any. Secondly, there's actually real buckeye trees in Ohio. The only real wolverines in Michigan are in a zoo. But they somehow overlook that minor detail too. Sometimes I think the "hairless nuts" might have to do with the reporters themselves. Perhaps in more ways than one, but I don't want to see that either.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Leftover rants

OMG. Hostess is about to go out of business? No, no, a thousand times NO. Somebody please wake me up and tell me it was all just a nightmare. What is to become of us without our beloved cupcakes? Then again, most college football powerhouses always schedule a few cupcakes at the beginning of their season. So maybe we'll be OK there.
Good grief, I even shacked up once with a girl named Suzy, because her last name started with a Q. That didn't turn out so sweet. But she's probably been busy with other Ding Dongs ever since, so I guess it all worked out for the best.
How will we possibly survive without Twinkies? Easy. We don't have to. Watch the Pistons.

Despite their commercials, does anybody actually believe Peyton and Shaq really drive Buicks? They might have a complimentary one in their 10 or 20 car garage somewhere, but trust me, if they forego the limo, a high profile athlete, or even a former one, with upwards of $100 million in his back pocket, won't be tooling around town in a Buick. (Yours truly has heard rumors that Buick dealerships "card" people, much like bars. In a tavern one has to prove they're over 21 to partake -- but at Buick one has to prove they're over 50  -- but that's just idle gossip). That's kind of like the old commercials of Wilt Chamberlain advertising Volkswagen beetles. He showed he could cram himself into one, but did anybody really believe a slug bug was Wilt the Stilt's everyday car? Please. Perhaps it's time for a new law. If famous people aren't using a product, then it should be a crime for them to advertise it. If they're guilty of such a thing, sentence them like everybody else -- with a twist. The drunks and druggies have to blow and drop for a couple years while on probation to prove they are no longer using the product. Sometimes every day. Why not make the false advertisers prove they are actually USING the products every day for the same amount of time? Seems fair enough.

Ed Reed, a safety for the Baltimore Ravens, just caught a break. Reed's been around a long time and is known for being a hard hitter. With his credentials, he may very well wind up in the NFL Hall of Fame someday. It's likely a very good idea for any opposing receiver to know where Reed is on any given play when the football is thrown in his direction, because if he doesn't, sometimes the ensuing hit may be devastating. The problem is, Reed's also been known for going a little too far, as in committing blatant personal fouls, and has been fined by the league repeatedly for such actions. Against the Pittsburgh Steelers last Sunday, Baltimore's arch-rival, Reed leveled a Pittsburgh receiver shortly after he caught the ball. There was helmet-to-helmet contact, which is a no-no these days, but in fairness, if a defender is coming up to make a hit, they all lower their heads and drive through with their shoulders. If the receiver happens to lower his own head anticipating the hit a tenth of a second before it happens in a bang-bang play, which results in helmet-to-helmet contact, it doesn't seem fair the hitter should be held accountable for it. It's the NFL. Things happen fast, and mayhem is going on everywhere. Yet much like Ndahmukong Suh of the Detroit Lions, Reed was on double secret probation with the NFL gods. Reed was not only whistled for a personal foul, but subsequently suspended for the next game. That would have cost him over $400,000 -- you know-- a typical game check. (And you wonder why you have to pay 6 bucks for a stale hot dog and 8 bucks for a watered down beer. Hello?)  Within 2 days Reed not only got an emergency appeal, but the one game suspension was cancelled and the fine reduced to $50,000. It still sounds like a lot of money, but take it in context. If the average person was in court and got slapped with a $400 fine for some wrongdoing, they'd likely be a happy camper if it got reduced to $50. And when's the last time you heard of a person with a "record" being sentenced, only to be granted an appeal within a couple days and receive leniency from a higher court? You haven't. It doesn't happen. Except in the world of professional sports.

Back to Peyton. Those pizza commercials with Papa John are almost as shameless as the "cut that meat" thing he did for a fast food franchise a while back.

On the eve of turkey day, we should all give thanks that Danica Patrick wasn't in the deciding race for the NASCAR championship a few days ago. Who knows how the green wrecking machine may have affected the outcome if she had been allowed out there?

OK, I think the rants are out of my system now. Back to the usual insanity from now on.

Monday, November 19, 2012

More weird idle thoughts

So OK, Jim Leyland got another year on his contract with the Detroit Tigers, and aging outfielder Torii Hunter came aboard as a free agent. The Tigers were the runners-up this year. The glass half full says they were oh-so-close to being World Champions. The glass half empty says they were lucky to get that far, because there were a few other teams that were better than them. Either way, can we finally please stuff them in a closet for a while until, like maybe next September, when the games start to matter again? The Pistons are terrible, the Wings aren't even playing and, dammit, it's football season.

Big time congrats to Rochester Hills native Brad Keselowski for becoming the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. A local boy found a way to disprove all the nay-sayers during the course of his meteoric rise in NASCAR racing, and now sits as king. The MAN. Very cool. Kind of weird how a related matter played out, though. Roger Penske, the owner of Keselowski's team, seems to have had success in just about every venture he embarks on. Besides his fame as an Indy car owner, where he can boast many champions, he's had car dealerships, established his own fleet of  vehicles in the do-it -yourself moving business, has his own brand of motor oil -- Pennzoil -- and a national chain of quicky oil change joints that will gladly pump it into your crankcase. Major cha-chings every which way -- but he'd never won the major title in NASCAR. Now he has. Yet, there's major irony afoot. Penske, and hence Keselowski were operating with Dodge equipment. A while back this year, Dodge made the corporate decision to bow out of NASCAR when the 2012 racing season was complete. So while the Dodge folks can briefly celebrate a championship that they probably never thought would happen, Penske and Keselowski are left in the unenviable position of starting next season with completely new gear. Penske was historically a Chevy guy at heart, but somehow wound up with Dodge in NASCAR. So what will it be for him and Brad next year? Ford? Toyota? Back to Chevy? Will Keselowski jump ship to another team? Something has to give. We'll see.

Definitely an eye-opener watching the San Fran 49ers demolish (sorry Deb) Da Bears on Monday Night Football. Both teams were without their starting QBs, due to concussions, so that was a push. Thing is, though San Fran doesn't have a lot of guys with name recognition, when they're firing on all cylinders, those guys are really, and I mean REALLY good. O-line, D-line, linebackers that can chase down running backs, shut-down corners, brutal safeties, a featured running back of their own, receivers, and outstanding special teams' play. You name it, and they've pretty much got it. Given what head coach Jim Harbaugh has already accomplished out there in such a short time, don't be surprised if a couple more Lombardi trophies wind up in the Bay area in the next few years. Unlike the Detroit Lions, which too often rely on the Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson show, the 49ers are a complete team, and will likely keep getting better.

On a nonsports note, Jay Leno showed a pic of an Asian restaurant with an interesting name. Pho King Way. So if one gets asked to go there and doesn't want to -- does one say No Pho King Way? And what is it with Ricky Minor and the Tonight show band? Every time they fire up, it's like 10 or 12 guys all playing a different song at the same time. They don't create music. They make noise. And somebody tell Ricky he's allowed to go above the A string on his bass guitar. Those other two are there for a reason.

Sorry, got off track there for a second.

Anybody seen Tiger Woods lately? It's way too quiet in Eldrickland. He must be up to something.....

Michigan/Ohio State.

The classic match-up set to happen one more time next Saturday could prove interesting on several levels. Let's look at a few.


After the disastrous Rich Rodriguez years, which brought a once proud program to it's knees, Michigan hired Brady Hoke. In his very first year he quickly turned that team around and posted an 11-2 record, including a bowl win. Remember, other than his incoming "true" freshmen class, Hoke accomplished this with players he had inherited from RichRod. Definitely very impressive. The Wolverines were back in a big way. Then, as UM always seems prone to do, they got cocky. Somebody somewhere decided to schedule the reigning national champions Alabama for their first game in 2012. Even though it was played at a neutral site (Cowboys Stadium down in Big D), the result was predictable. A blowout. They wanted too much too fast and they got properly taken to the woodshed by a far superior team.
But to their credit, Michigan rebounded quite nicely. Sure, they were narrowly beaten by Notre Dame in South Bend, but look at where the Irish are now. #1 in the country. True, the Cornhuskers of Nebraska shucked the Maize and made them blue in Lincoln, but those things happen. Nebraska's pretty darn good, especially at home. Other than that, UM has much to be proud of this season. They didn't lose a game to a "patsy" along the way, which Michigan teams have had a history of doing. They found a way to win the close games, and blew out the weaker teams. Plus, they finally beat arch-rival Michigan State for the first time in 5 years. In his first two years as head coach, Brady Hoke has yet to suffer a defeat in the Big House in Ann Arbor. Hats off to Brady. Well done indeed. Now comes.....

Ohio State

Like UM's RichRod years, the Buckeyes have recently had their trials and tribulations as well. After the 2010 season, a few players were discovered to have been swapping OSU memorabilia for free tattoos and cash, a Cleveland area booster had been paying them for jobs they evidently never worked at, ineligible players had been allowed to play during the season, free use of luxury cars and other perks seemed to show up out of nowhere, and all along then head coach Jim Tressel knew about it -- but never reported it -- to his superiors at OSU, to the NCAA, to anybody. For some unknown reason, those were the sort of pesky little antics that draw the attention and ire of the NCAA folks that oversee such things. Imagine that. When the dust cleared, Tressel had been booted, a few star players fell off the radar, OSU had been placed on 3 years "probation", whatever that means, and can't participate in any post-season action this year. As in no bowl game. There were a couple other minor details about returning some money and vacating their 2010 record, but those were all toothless little penalties that nobody in Columbus likely cares about anyway.
Needless to say, Ohio State's football program was in a state of disarray in 2011. But then they went out and hired a guy named Urban Meyer. Yours truly doesn't know if Urban's any relation to a guy named Oscar, but there's no baloney about the fact Urban Meyer is one helluva college head football coach. His track record speaks for itself. In HIS very first year at OSU, he's even outdone Brady Hoke from that school "up north", as Woody Hayes used to say. The Buckeyes are 11-0. Brady Hoke finally overcame the OSU nemesis last year, beating them in Ann Arbor, while OSU was still trying to sort out who's who after such a major upheaval. Brady had talked a lot of smack, the most notable of which was referring to Ohio State as merely "Ohio" leading up to the game. There was no need for that, because it was disrespectful of a university that is every bit Michigan's equal, if not more so in some regards. It seems Brady has quickly taken to the blue-blooded arrogant nature that UM is perceived to have by so many others. Don't think for a second this has been lost on Urban Meyer and his current team. Meyer has never talked smack . He just has a way of getting it done. And lord knows, the Ohio State folks will be jacked up to the max for a serious dose of payback when UM comes a-calling. No matter how that game turns out, UM will still be going to a bowl game somewhere, and Ohio State won't.


Right now Notre Dame is the only major college football team in the country that is undefeated. Sort of. Though Ohio State can say the same, nobody seems to be allowed to talk about that. Yours truly wasn't aware that the NCAA sanctions involved them not being able to be ranked in the polls, but evidently that must be in the fine print somewhere.

So wouldn't it be something if Ohio State beat Michigan, Notre Dame lost at USC or in a bowl game, and the Buckeyes turned out to be the only undefeated team in the country, under a first year head coach that inherited a mess -- but officially nobody could even acknowledge them?

Oh my. It could very well happen. The talking heads would be chattering away on a frequency only bats, mice, and very small dogs could hear. Right up until the NFL playoffs started -- of course -- mercifully only a matter of a few days. Then they would forget about it.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

College football and a family tradition

Some things are just no-brainers. Only an utterly mindless fool would ignore the obvious and fail to see the inevitable. Yours truly stated a while back there was no way Alabama could be beaten this season. Furthermore, any idiot knew Oregon and Kansas State would run the table. To boot, even a potted plant had enough sense to know Notre Dame was over-hyped and had no business becoming #2 and sneaking into the national championship game.

On second thought, perhaps yours truly is dumber than all the above. I'm not at all sure what that makes me, but you name a prediction I make, and the best thing you can do is put all your money on the other team. I think I inherited that from my late father. Way back in yesteryear, Friday night at the fights was a holy thing in our house. Dad would settle in with a couple E&B's, or maybe it was Pfeiffer's, and give us a pre-fight lecture as to why Joe Palooka would easily defeat Rocky Maraschino. Within a few rounds, down would go Joe -- KO-ed -- outta here. It never failed. That was a good time for a young boy to be vewy, vewy quiet, as Elmer Fudd used to say. It was definitely NOT a good time to ask for a raise in my allowance. At any rate, I suspect I inherited his "talent" for handicapping sports contests, so it's certainly not my fault I get one wrong, or maybe all of them, when I make predictions.

Regardless, there was quite a shake-up at the top of college football today. #1 Kansas State got beat 52-24, as in four touchdowns worth by, Baylor, an unranked team. Consider the Wildcats Joe Palooked. Outta here. #2 Oregon went down 17-14, in overtime, at home, to Stanford. The Cardinal were the #13 ranked team, not too shabby, but still, a loss at home by the Ducks will send them migrating southward in the polls too.

#3 Notre Dame took care of of business, exorcising the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest 38-0. As did Alabama, thrashing Western Carolina to the tune of 49-0.

It's very likely that when the next rankings come out tomorrow, Notre Dame will be #1, and Bama will be #2. No, it's not a done deal just yet that they'll meet in the championship game. ND still has to go to USC for their regular season closer. The Trojans were the preseason #1 in the polls, yet they've woefully underachieved, getting beat yet again today by their cross-town rival UCLA.  But anything can happen when those two teams get together. Bama will likely have to face Georgia in the SEC championship game, which will be played in Atlanta. The Bulldogs were flying under the radar at #5 before today, and will likely be #3 when the new polls come out. Both teams have one loss. Whoever wins THAT game likely goes on to the BCS championship bowl. Many thought the SEC's 6 year reign on the national championship was over after Alabama went down a while back. Perhaps not. The fat lady is biding her time in the wings.

Here's a prediction you can count on. Lou Holtz will be all smiles for at least the next week when he's on TV.

And in deference to my late beloved father, here's one more.

The Packers will thoroughly trounce the Lions at Ford Field today and the Lions have absolutely no shot at making the playoffs.

There. Given that I'm always wrong, that ought to do it. If you're a Lions' fan.

Dad might even be proud of me to carry on the family tradition of picking losers. There was this girl I almost married once, and she turned out to be.... well, this probably isn't the place for that -- but let's just say, back in the day, people always used to say I sure could pick em. Never was sure what they meant by that.

This picking stuff is hard. Life was a lot simpler when I was dad's remote control, watching the Joe Palooka of the week get knocked out, and fetching him a bottle of Drewry's. Or was that Carling Black Label?

Beats me, and I never did get that raise in my allowance either. Dad made me mow lawns, shovel snow, and even get a paper route. Like real jobs. Having endured the mental anguish of such an abusive childhood -- no wonder I'm so screwed up today.

The green blood of Lou Holtz

Louis Leo Holtz has always been a pretty slick dude. He's been a lot of places, made a lot of people feel good, then rode off into the sunset -- straight for the next gig -- and greener pastures, in more ways than one.

No doubt Holtz has an admirable record as a college head football coach. 249-132-7 over the course of 36 years is impressive indeed. It took Lou many jobs at diferent schools to accomplish that feat, and now that he's almost 76 years old, it appears he remains loyal to only one. It should be no great surprise, and I'll get back that.

Holtz coached at William and Mary (1969-71), then North Carolina State (72-75), then Arkansas (77-83, then Minnesota (84-85), then Notre Dame (86-96), and then finally South Carolina (99-04). Notice the year 1976 was not included in that resume. That's because Holtz decided to give the pros a whirl, coaching the New York Jets that year. They were 3-10, the ever-present hounds in NY were nipping at his heels, and he resigned, with one game left in the season. Like Steve Spurrier, some guys are terrific college coaches, but are clueless when they get to the pros as a head coach, even if they were a former player. Apples and oranges.

Holtz has also been a motivational speaker for quite some time -- for anybody that wants to pony up the bucks to get him to appear. Yours truly had the privilege of being in the audience for one of those speeches many moons ago. By the time he was done, Lou had everybody wanting to work together as "teammates", and we were all revved up to charge back out into the real world and make a difference.

But not long after it was all over, when Lou had likely departed in his limo to board a jet for his next high-paying gig, many of us looked at each other and realized we'd been given the equivalent of one of those instant energy drinks. It makes you feel good for a short while, but there's very little substance to it in the long run.

Now Holtz is on ESPN as a college football analyst. Whenever Lou is talking on the air, it's a pretty safe bet Notre Dame will be part of his dialogue. Despite all the other stops he's made in his career, progressively collecting more and more of the "green stuff", there's something about Notre Dame which still enchants him, even though it's been 16 years since he roamed those sidelines. Once indoctrinated with a transfusion of Irish blood, it seems to have lifelong after effects. Hence, his only seeming loyalty.

Holtz is predicting Stanford will beat Oregon this Saturday and Kansas State will lose to Texas next weekend. Of course he is. The only way his beloved Notre Dame can reach the title game is if one of those teams loses. It's nothing more than thinly disguised bias.

Somehow, Lou Holtz even became a member of the prestigious Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters tournament. This is a club that includes the likes of Lions' owner William Clay Ford, auto racing magnate Roger Penske, beer baron Peter Coors, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, investment genius Warren Buffet, former Secretaries of Defense, State, and Treasury, and a couple golfers named Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, amongst many other notables. As the story goes, one is not allowed to campaign for a membership in that club. If one does, they will immediately be removed from the "potential" list from the powers that be at Augusta. It comes about by invitation only, based on the merits of such a candidate, as deemed appropriate by the infinite wisdom of the tribal elders. Right.

Lou Holtz seems to be all about the green. He's made scads of money coaching football, giving pep-talks here and there, and for whatever reason has become a member of a prestigious golf club that is famous for its green jackets.

And now he's cha-chinging ESPN for even more greenbacks, while trying to find a reason why his Shamrock Kids of yesteryear will somehow wind up in the title game. It's certainly possible, but yours truly hopes it doesn't happen, if for no other reason than the shameless hype. Hey, has everybody forgotten that the real Notre Dame is a cathedral in France, and has nothing to to with Ireland? Hello?  But I guess somewhere along the line the people in South Bend decided the "Fighting French" wouldn't work for them. Go figure.

Still, some may compare Lou Holtz to an STD. Being a eunuch myself, I don't completely understand these things, but from what I've heard, just one little moment of pleasure, much less 11 years at Notre Dame, can sometimes turn into a very bad thing that never goes away.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Green Bay/Detroit game

The Packers will come a-calling to Ford Field in Detroit this weekend for a game with the Lions. While others may say this or sugar coat that, make no mistake. This game is crucial for the Lions.

Currently at 4-5, and facing a brutal schedule the rest of the year, if the Cheeseheads knock them off in their own house to put them at 4-6 -- then stick a fork in them. They're done, as far as playoff aspirations go. Yes, I've seen the storylines about how recent Super Bowl champions were only 7-7 before they got on a roll, sneaked into the playoffs, and eventually won it all. But that scenario doesn't apply to the Lions. Championship pedigree teams have a way of rising to the occasion when the going gets tough. What happened in the regular season doesn't much matter. All they need is a chip and a chair at the final table, and they might just win the poker tournament.

Conversely, one can usually count on the Lions to fold on the rare occasions they get into a game with the big boys. Witness their playoff history, which features a grand total of ONE victory since a guy named Eisenhower was President -- long before the Super Bowl even existed. The Lions were riding high last year, going into the post-season with a 10-6 record. Right up until they visited New Orleans in the opening round of the playoffs, where they were promptly blown away like a wind chime in a hurricane. Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle.

The Packers enter the game 6-3. They should be 7-2, save for them getting jobbed out in Seattle way back in Week 3 by an outrageous game-ending call that cost them a win. But hey, how can you root against a team that had to bite the bullet but ultimately served as the impetus to get rid of those bozo "replacement" refs? One of those striped clowns actually honed his dubious skills in the "lingerie league", and he was out there calling NFL games? Please.

The Packers got off to a slow start this year, but seem to have recovered quite nicely. Green Bay knows a little something about championship pedigree. They went into Houston and trounced the Texans, who some consider the best team in the NFL. Very impressive. Plus never underestimate Aaron Rodgers when the going gets tough -- except for his commercials on TV. They're worse than the replacment refs. Who came up with those ideas anyway? Matt Millen?

On the other hand, the Lions haven't defeated a single good team this year to date. In fact, they've lost to some their faithful thought they should defeat. The Minnesota Vikings serve as a prime example. In the first game at Ford Field, the Detroit homers whined about how the Vikings returned a punt and a kickoff return for touchdowns. If not for that....  Hey, BS. If the shoe would have been on the other foot and Lions did the same to the Vikings, the koolaiders would have been trumpeting the special teams' play of the Honolulu blue and silver. Who's kidding who here?

In the rematch last week in Minnesota, much was made about how Lions' superstar receiver Calvin Johnson couldn't practice all week because of a bum knee. Few would doubt that CJ is the Lions best player. Then he went out and had a career day with receptions and yardage. The Lions still lost.

Little attention was paid by the Detroit media to the fact that the Vikings' equivalent of Calvin Johnson, and a much more versatile player to boot, one Percy Harvin, was injured and couldn't even play in that game. Lions' fans might want to consider where their team would be if the Megatron got hurt.

Regardless, the Packers are the superior team and are favored to win at Ford Field this Sunday.

So you know what's going to happen, right? The Lions will beat them to improve their record to a whopping 5-5, the koolaiders will go berserk again, and everybody will count down the following 4 days anticipating the Houstons Texans arriving for the Thanksgiving day game. We're on a roll now, they'll say. Bring em on.

Every time yours truly sees the Lions' hype machine get amped up, only to eventually blow a fuse, I'm reminded of something a wise old man told me many years ago.

"Only fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

Bet he knew about the Lions' playoff history too.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A post for the Princess

Yours truly is going to make a rare exception and step outside my usual realm of sports insanity. There are those that say I'm quite a character. Others say I have no character. All my taste is in my mouth, some claim. Well, of course it is. Where else would it be? Doh.

Sometimes I make a decent point. Other times I'm a clueless moron. Throw in everything else in between and over time, between in-person stuff, phone calls, emails, and comments on the blog itself, yours truly has pretty well heard the full range of feedback regarding my rants.

And then there's the Princess. This one's for you.

First, I very much appreciate you taking the time to read my nonsense. Also, for slogging through the sometimes not-so-easy procedure to comment on many of the articles. I understand you like to tweak me and I get a kick out of it as well. As you know, I've responded to many of your comments, but I prefer to keep it light. All in good fun, as it were.

However, you and I need to get one thing straight.

Recently, you've suggested "just give it up, John". With all due respect, Your Highness, I also humbly suggest you be careful what you ask for, lest it happens.

Yes, there have been times when I've considered walking away from this blog for my own reasons, but I can't. That's because a far nobler cause continues to call and must be served.

I am the only thing standing between you and the koolaiders. Your last line of defense to keep the politically correct sports people from running amok. I stand as your knight in shining armor to protect you from total sports anarchy storming your palace. Like the people that think the Lions are going to the Super Bowl anytime soon. Or the Pistons being contenders. You know, the heathens.

I encourage your continued input, even if it's criticism, but do you really want the truth?


While you're being tended to by man and maid-servants in the lap of luxury, I eat my meals every day 3 feet away from yorkies that would kill me over a slice of bacon or a hot dog, and not bat an eye.

I risk life, limb, and other body parts in my never-ending quest to bring you truth, justice, the American way -- and OK, maybe a little BS too.

So before you ask me to give it up again, you might want to reconsider the ramifications if I really did.

You WANT me on this website.

You NEED me on this website.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go slay a few more dragons. All in a day's work.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The BCS title game. An analysis

Depending on which poll or computer one wishes to believe, Oregon and Kansas State are currently #1 and #2, with the also undefeated Notre Dame nipping at their heels in the #3 spot. The once mighty Alabama has dropped to #4. Let's take a look at each team, their records, remaining schedules, and how this may very well play out, with a surprise prediction later on in this article.


Many, including yours truly, thought they would never get beat. We were wrong. They did. Bama has a patsy coming to town for the next game in the personna of Western Carolina. It will probably be brutal -- for Carolina. That game's irrelevant. Even if Bama beats them 1000 -0, they won't get any style points for stomping a cream puff. The following week they get Auburn, and they're not very good either. What might get interesting is the SEC championship game, which is shaping up to look like a Georgia/Alabama contest. It will be played in the Georgia Dome. If the Tide crushes the current #5 Dawgs in their own backyard, they'd certainly get style points for that, but it still might not be enough. Unless two out the three still unbeatens go down in the next couple weeks, which is highly unlikely, Nick Saban and Co. can't get to the promised land. After all, Alabama broke the first commandment of a #1 team. Thou shalt not be beaten, by anybody, especially at home. And more especially late in the season, when there's not enough time and games left in the season for pollsters to forget about it.

Notre Dame.

Head coach Brian Kelly has recently jumped on his soapbox and is shamelessly saying his team should be considered amongst the Top 2. Vote for us, cries Kelly, we've got the best defense in the land. (Geez, and just when we thought all that political self-serving nonsense was finally over for a while.) The Fighting Irish may very well have the best defense. Yet Kelly neglects to mention his offense is about as exciting as watching a team of horses drag a plow through a field. Sure, the job gets done eventually, but it's not exactly inspiring stuff -- ya know? Besides, it took Notre Dame 3 overtimes, at home, to finally defeat a not-so-good Pittsburgh team. They escaped by the red peach fuzz on their leprechaun chinny chin chins. Subtract a few style points. Notre Dame has patsy Wake Forest next week and then USC to finish out the season. Because the Irish wish to remain independent in football, they won't have the benefit of playing in a conference championship game to score more style points against a good team. It seems that independent thing can cut both ways.


Without question, the Ducks are an offensive juggernaut. They've got speed demons galore, and oh my, do they rack up the points. Oregon has scored over 40 points in every single game this year. Sometimes over 50. Sometimes over 60. Even 70 once. Offense is not a problem. But their defense is suspect. Sure, they put up a whopping 62 points against USC on the road, but they also gave up 51 to the Trojans. Oregon gets Stanford, a Top 20 ranked team, next week, and then patsy Oregon State. Style points if they convincingly beat Stanford. No points for damming up the Beavers. Yet it just seems like a really good defensive team that can put up points of their own might pose a problem for the Ducks. Which brings me to....

Kansas State.

The Wildcats can put up serious points themselves and have a very stout defense. During the course of the season, even an undefeated team won't blow out everybody, but the closest anybody has come to competing with K-State was Oklahoma, and Iowa State. They're both pretty good teams, and K-State found a way to beat them on the road. The Wildcats go to Baylor next week, and will likely put a whupping on Waco not seen since the Branch Davidians squared off against the Feds. No style points in either case. But then they return home to face Texas. The Longhorns were cruising right along until they lost a close one to West Virginny, then got blasted by Oklahoma the following week (both teams that K-State beat), to fall hopelessly out of national contention, but they still got game. Style points are at stake for the Wildcats against Texas.

So for the sake of argument, let's assume Alabama is out of it. Let's further assume Oregon knocks off Stanford and Oregon State. Further, let's say K-State wallops Baylor and gets by Texas. No great stretches of imagination needed for all that to play out.

It's also a pretty safe bet to also assume Notre Dame will slaughter Wake Forest.

All of those games will have already been played -- and then comes Notre Dame @USC. Two of the most high-profile teams in the country. Everybody will be watching, definitely including the pollsters. Remember, in the pre-season polls, some had USC ranked as high as #1. Yes, they've certainly not lived up to those expectations, having been beaten three times already, and fell out of national contention some time ago. But it's still USC/Notre Dame and that game will be hyped to the max.

If USC beats Notre Dame, or even stays close, then it will be Oregon and K-State in the championship game, as well it should be.

However, and here's the possible prediction --- if Notre Dame struts into LA and thoroughly trounces the Trojans in front of a national TV audience and the network executives, the pollsters and computers will somehow magically find a way to nudge the Irish up to #2, and off they'll go to the championship contest. You just know they're looking for a reason -- ANY reason -- to get Notre Dame into it. It's likely that Oregon would run wild against them, or K-State would flat-out demolish the Irish in such a game, but style points on the field cease to matter at that point.

It's about ratings and cha-chings. Notre Dame would bring it. Not so much K-State or Oregon. One of them might have to be a sacrificial lamb to the network gods. It would be an outrage, of course, but look around. Outrages seem to happen every day. The people that commit them know our attention span lasts only until the next news cycle, when we'll be distracted by something else, so it's no big deal to them. Another outrage will come along in a day or two, and we'll quickly forget about this one. Just the way it works these days.

Just a thought. We'll see. I still think K-State is the best of the bunch, though.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Good news and bad news

For Detroit Lions' fans, the good news is the Houston Texans just whipped the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The Lions didn't lose any ground on the division leading Bears.

The bad news is the Lions got whipped themselves in Minnesota and are still floundering around in the cellar of the same division.

The even worse news is the Houston Texans, arguably the best team in the NFL, comes a-calling to Detroit on Thanksgiving day, where they might very well do some serious turkey carving of their own in front of a national TV audience.

Overdue epiphany news. Get used to it Lions' fans. While flying under the radar, the Lions played a week schedule last year, but finally got exposed in the placeoffs. This year the schedule's tougher, and other teams are taking them seriously. Look at the results. They weren't that good then -- and they aren't that good now. Yes, there is indeed always hope. Yet I would suggest a consultation with a Chicago Cubs fan over the age of 90. Perhaps that will bring things a little bit more into focus.

Good news. After Jimmy Johnson blew a tire and crashed, Brad Keselowski, a Rochester Hills native, now has a 20 point lead in NASCAR's "chase" for the championship with only one race remaining. BK need only finish 15th or higher at Homestead in the finale to be crowned king of the roundy-rounds.

Bad news. A long simmering feud between Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer, both hopelessly out of contention, finally erupted on the track. They wrecked each other for no good reason. If I'm one of the people paying for those $300,000 race cars, I'm not too happy about this.

Worse news. If that wasn't bad enough, the JG and CB pit crews decided to get into a little Cripps vs Bloods action after the race. Worse yet, Bowyer ran towards Gordon's "hauler", evidently to put a "whuppin" on Wonder Boy, but was thankfully restrained.

C' mon boys. You're supposed to be professionals -- remember? Can you please quit with the personal stuff that others have to pay for? Is that asking too much?

Almost bad news. The ever marketable Danica Patrick blew a motor on the last lap throwing oil all over the track. Had it happened earlier, who knows what sort of mayhem that may have caused, or how it might have affected the outcome of such an important race? Leave it to Danica. It's always going to be something, and usually not good. She's not even competitive in the (minor league) Nationwide Series, let alone the (major league) Sprint Cup series.  A wreck waiting to happen. Yours truly has a couple questions about that... Why would they even allow the loose cannon green machine on the track with so much at stake in the first place? She was never that good at Indy car racing, worse in the Nationwide Series, and now she's out there running around with the Sprint Cup championship on the line? Can't she just go pose for swimsuit companies or something and leave the real race car drivers alone to sort this out? They could make a movie about her performances on the NASCAR tracks. Clear and Present Danger of a Different Kind. Carbusters? The Long Green Wreck? Better yet, how about instead of "Patton", just call it "Patrick". While others are being slaughtered all around her, she marches off to glory in the end. Or at least endorsements.

Idle thought.... The only way Jimmy Johnson wins the championship is if Brad Keselowski has a very bad day. JJ has teammates Gordon, Dale Jr., and Kasey Kahne, all hopelessly out of contention. I wonder what the reaction would be if one of those 3 guys somehow "accidentally" managed to wreck Keselowski during the race?

Good news. The Detroit Pistons started last year with a 4-20 record. The chances of that happening again this year are slim.

Bad news. It might be even worse.

Good news. The so and so I spoke of last time is having technical difficulties logging on to this website to read my nonsense. Last I heard she was venting her wrath at Comcast. Those poor devils.

Bad news. She'll figure it out eventually, and that same wrath will eventually be turned my way.

Reality. Sigh.

Down goes Alabama!!!!

Yours truly admits he messed up on this one. I didn't think anybody would knock off Bama. The only question that seemed to remain was who would face them in the national championship game. Oops. My bad.

Rallying here -- I'm not wrong all that often. Even my Significant Other and Seldom Ordinary (aka SO and SO) would likely vouch for that. I have been repeatedly informed that I'm only wrong when I say something or do something. But what does so and so know anyway? Silly girls. That is, unless she reads this -- then my rally will probably be short lived, and you might have to imagine my next rant being given in a soprano voice. Life can be rough sometimes, ya know?

At any rate, while all my body parts are still without major pain and functioning somewhat normally, I dare say things have become interesting in the chase for the college football national championship game.

Yep, Bama got knocked off at home, courtesy of Texas A&M. It could well be that after the emotional victory at LSU last week (which they were lucky to win), the Crimson Tide had a mental let-down and underestimated the Aggies. They shouldn't have. A&M was a very respectable #15 ranked team, and everybody going up against a #1 is going to bring their A-game. No sympathy here for the Crimson Tide, because they likely had it coming. At that, how in the hell does Alabama schedule a patsy towards the end of the season when everybody else around the country is slugging it out in conference play? Next week Bama hosts Western Carolina. Woe be it to the Catamounts, because Alabama head coach Nick Saban is, how do you say -- pissed. Look for something like a 72-0 score. Yet, the only way Bama gets back in the title game is if they get a bunch of help elsewhere.

Oregon, Kansas State, and Notre Dame remain undefeated. Despite the hype, Paul "Bear" Bryant himself could come back from the grave replete with his porkpie hat to exert his considerable influence and cheer them on, but there's no way a team like Bama, with one loss, at home, no less, gets another shot at a national championship unless some very strange things happen in the next couple weeks.

At that. even if they all go undefeated, between Oregon, K-State, and Notre Dame, somebody would have to be left out. A closer look at the possibilities tomorrow.

If the print's a little smaller, then you'll know so and so, bless her sweet little heart, had occasion to read this, and yours truly suffered the consequences. Ain't love grand?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Be good or be gone

For some teams, losing is not an option. Further, from preps, to college, to the pros, some teams won't even tolerate mediocrity -- at least for very long.  No doubt, there's untold thousands of prep programs in various sports that have been good for so long, that nobody remembers them ever being bad.

In college, men's Kentucky basketball comes to mind, as does Ohio State football. They may not win it all every year, but you'll never see them suffer through years long slumps of being noncompetitive. That's because if whoever's in charge isn't getting it done -- then he's gone. Not good enough.

In the pros, the New York Yankees certainly fit the mold. The late George Steinbrenner simply wouldn't tolerate a loser for very long. Likely neither would the Detroit Red Wings, nor the Green Bay Packers or the New England Patriots. Not winning a championship is OK, because nobody does that every year, but missing the playoffs a couple years in a row will get somebody's head on the block -- in a hurry. Proud franchises with a winning tradition simply won't tolerate less than "very good", and they'll do whatever it takes to "restore the roar". Most times, the head coach or manager is the first one to go.

Conversely, there are other teams that have been losers for so long, that not much is expected of them. The Chicago Cubs would be the epitome, and until recently, perhaps the LA Clippers and Detroit Lions fell into the same category.

It all starts and ends with ownership, of course. If an owner wants a winner bad enough, he can have one. Yes, it might take a couple years to bring it all together, and he has to have very smart people making personnel decisions and juggling the numbers, but the winners always find a way to get it done. The losers don't. When it comes to hiring and firing managers or head coaches, many times the team GM and/or President will make the announcement, but let's not kid ourselves. The owner has to sign off on all such decisions.

Bottom line? If the billionaire cares and pays attention, his team will be good. If he doesn't, they won't.

Jerry Buss, the owner of the LA Lakers, cares. When's the last time you heard of the LA Lakers being lousy? You haven't. They were good way before Phil Jackson, the Zen Master himself, arrived on the scene to win a few championships. Donald Sterling, the owner of the LA Clippers, that plays in the same Staples Center as the Lakers, evidently didn't care. Same building and same salary cap, but one was a perennial winner and the other a perennial loser. Owners can make a big difference -- if they want to.

And now Lakers' head coach Mike Brown just got canned. Brown spent a lot of years as the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and had Lebron James, arguably the most talented all-around player to play the game -- ever --  and did OK. Yet it's highly unlikely that no matter how terrific any one player is -- the team will win a championship without a fairly good supporting cast. Players like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird fell into that category, and they'd likely be the first to admit it.

But the LA Lakers weren't anywhere near the one man show Brown had with the Cavaliers. Quite the opposite. Besides Kobe Bryant, they had pulled off a deal for Pao Gasol, a very talented big man, and recently added Superman himself, in the person of Dwight Howard. Throw in Metta World Peace, the artist formerly known as Ron Artest. People think MWP is getting old. He's 32, and Kobe's 34. They almost had superstar guard Chris Paul last year, until Commish David Stern nixed the trade for his own reasons. To boot, though they don't get much attention, the Lakers supporting cast is very good as well. The point is, Jerry Buss is much like George Steinbrenner used to be. Their teams will find a way to get good players or the GM will probably be gone. Anything less just isn't good enough.

To be fair, it takes time for a coach and new players to gel and come together. But let's get real. Like every other team, the Lakers had scores of practices to work this out. Then they had 8 preseason games against "live" competition to make adjustments. The Lakers were 0-8 in the preseason.

Maybe that was excusable, but after being unceremoniously dumped in the playoffs last year -- when the bell rang this year and Brown's team came out of the gate 1-4 in the real games with all that talent -- well -- Jerry Buss isn't the sort of owner that will sit back and tolerate mediocrity, much less losing, for very long. He's the polar opposite of someone like Detroit Lions' owner William Clay Ford, that could put up with a guy like Matt Millen for 7-8 years running his team, while clueless about draft choices and hiring clown coaches -- while his team is swirling down the porcelain receptacle. To repeat -- owners matter.

Mike Brown is going to make $11 million of Jerry Buss's money for doing nothing. That's the cost of buying out his contract. But to Buss, winning is more important.

When the team didn't perform well under Brown -- he gone.

Maybe the next guy will do better and maybe he won't. But make no mistake, he'll be on a short leash.

Jerry Buss will settle for no less. This is a proud franchise, GM Mitch Kupchak has done a superb job of procuring immense talent, and dammit, either they win -- and pretty quick -- or the next coach be gone too.

One can only hope new Detroit Pistons' owner Tom Gores can get his head out of those equity funds long enough to pay attention to how a successful franchise owner operates. Being a self-made billionaire, Gores should certainly understand the concept of Business 101. If it's going to be an asset -- keep it. If it becomes a liability -- get rid of it.

The really smart folks aren't afraid to take a short term hit, if it enhances their chances of long term success.

So sayeth yours truly, the undisputed master of different ways to combine TV dinners and raimen noodles.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lee Corso and Deliverance

Most college football fans know who Lee Corso is. He's the guy on the Saturday ESPN pre-game show that comes up with all sorts of antics to entertain the fans while doing a TV broadcast as well. Corso is playfully famous, or infamous, depending on who's rooting for who at the time, for donning various team paraphernalia, up to and including  "mascot" costumes, of the school he picks to win the upcoming game. But it's all done in good fun. As they say, nobody hates merriLee -- or something like that.

Corso knows a lot about college football. He was a player himself at Florida St., and eventually became the head coach at a few universities, notably Indiana for 10 years. Problem was, as witty as he was -- his record was lousy.

So it might be fair to say Corso not only fell into a pretty sweet gig as a TV analyst -- he's highly entertaining, really good at it, and appears to have found his niche. One never knows what he'll come up with next, perhaps even his co-panelists. But then I saw something tonight that scared me.....

While channel surfing, mostly switching back and forth from the early stages of the Indy Colts/Jax Jaguars, and Florida St./Virginia Tech games, I caught the tail end of a commercial. Evidently, Lee Corso is endorsing products these days. No surprise there. Heck, everybody else is.

This product had to do with those slanted boxes that have a hole on top that people lob bean bags at, and whoever gets the most bean bags to fall into the hole -- wins. I think. Or maybe it's like horseshoes. If you get a leaner over the hole, that counts for something too. Beats me. Yours truly played it once in a campground after a 6 hour canoe trip -- where every alcoholic beverage known to mankind was shared amongst a few dozen paddlers going down the river, and I barely remember being back in the campground that night. So I never did know what that game was called, but I digress.

At any rate, it must be pretty popular these days amongst the sane people that weren't on that trip. Nevertheless, what I saw at the very end of that commercial gave me cause for alarm.

Not only is Corso endorsing the product, but it appears there's some sort of contest involved. I didn't catch the details of all that. What made me flinch was the name of it.

Corso's Cornhole Challenge.

Now, I'm an old school kind of guy, and I understand different people interpret different things in different ways.

Still..... With no other information to go on, that sort of phrase can be downright scary, depending on how one interprets it. I don't want to know the rules of the game or who may sign up to participate.

Just in case.