Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tim Tebow and Mel

I've never had the pleasure of meeting Tim Tebow, but he's known as being quite a nice man.
On the other hand, I've crossed pathes with my buddy Mel more times than I can remember, and he's known as being quite a character -- to put it mildly.

Whether Tim and Mel have ever met each other is unknown to yours truly. They both seem to get around -- a lot. Tim is quite famous for football. Mel is quite famous for a lot of things, but I probably shouldn't get into that here. Yet while chances are good Tebow will never see this blog post, it's a sure bet Mel will. Thing is, they seem to have a lot in common in a strange sort of way.

Tebow came out of Florida, specifically the University of. He was a very successful college QB. When it came time to cash in, Tebow eventually landed in New York, as a Jet. He made millions.

Mel came out of New York City, specifically Brooklyn. He was a very successful businessman -- and a Jets fan. When it came to cash out, as in divorce, he eventually landed in Florida. He lost millions.

Tebow was and is known for his sterling reputation.  On the field he did not possess blinding speed, but he signed a lot of autographs. Not long ago, he publicly admitted he was still a virgin.

Mel is well known for his chrome reputation. That had to do with a certain Sportster Mel had outfitted with every chrome accessory that Harley Davidson had to offer. Depending on which way the sun reflected off it, that bike could blind you to look at. Mel became known as the Chrome Cowboy, a name yours truly had a bit to do with. Willie G. Davidson himself once autographed his seat (the one on the bike -- not Mel's posterior gluteous minimus). As for his sex life? No one knows for sure, but let's just say he took a different path in life than Tebow. Remember when Wilt Chamberlain once boasted of having had his way with over 20,000 women? In Mel's world, that's just a rookie.

In Florida, Tebow once had some mighty fine years as a Gator. Alas, he used up his eligibility and it had to come to an end.

Also in Florida, Mel once had some mighty fine years with a guy that went by the name of Gator. They were best buds. That particular Gator rode a trike with an alligator head prominently mounted on it, likely hence the nickname. Sadly, for various reasons that relationship came to an end as well. But maybe it was in the cards. After all, why would a cowboy want to hang out with a gator?

Tebow just recently got cut from the NY Jets. He's now a free agent. Maybe he'll catch on with another team -- and maybe he won't. Hard to say. Tebow has a unique skill set so it would have to be just the right team with the right needs. There's certainly nothing holding him in New York these days.

Conversely, while happily in Florida, and also very much a free agent, Mel keeps getting his butt dragged back to the Big Apple to appear in court. This has to do with a property settlement dispute that has been going on since about the time Tebow was just getting started with the Florida Gators. Evidently, there are some very strange things besides Michael Bloomberg going on in that town. Perhaps Mel will hook up with another woman as well. Provided she has the right skill set herself, of course.

And then there's yet another Mel, but it's a girl. She used to go by the name 'Bama, though I know not why. She married a guy named Tarzan, though I'm almost positive he hasn't swung from vines, or let out any jungle war whoops in at least the last couple years. These are both friends of the original Mel and myself.

If you think Tim Tebow's world is complicated, try hanging out with the Chrome Cowboy for a few years.

Or maybe Tebow has. That might explain why he prays so much.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Notice something different?

Something very different is going on indeed. For the first time since forever, the playoffs are backwards. Normally, the NHL playoffs conclude with the awarding of the Stanley Cup, and the NBA playoffs go on for another few weeks. Not this year. When basketball is over, there's still going to be a bunch of hockey to be played.

Note that the NBA is already deep into the first round of their playoffs, and a couple teams have even already been eliminated. Miami swept Milwaukee 4-zip, no surprise there, and a few hours later the hapless Lakers got the same skunk treatment in their own building courtesy of the San Antonio Spurs. The scene at the Staples Center was laughable. "Celebrity row" had long since headed back to their limos, but there was Kobe Bryant in street clothes and on crutches, barking out instructions to his teammates when they were down 20 points with under 2 minutes left to play. Note to Kobe. Shut up. Nobody outscores the Spurs by 20 points in 2 minutes, and you're not the head coach anyway. Go back to your mansion and soak your swelled leg (and even bigger head) in the cee-ment pond. You're about as relevant as Mitt Romney these days. And did I say shut up?

Meanwhile, the NHL regular season hasn't even concluded yet. With one game left to play, the Detroit Red Wings don't know for sure if they'll even qualify for the playoffs. Evidently, the NHL's "later" season came about from the prolonged owner lock-out last year, when both sides were wrangling (and certainly posturing) over coming to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement.

Eventually, the NHL regular season got reduced to 48 games. At that, the schedule was condensed. They wanted to cram as many games in as they could, which meant not as many "off days".  What nobody seemed to notice was, that even with the shortened regular season and condensed schedule, including the playoffs, hockey was going to last well into June.

And you know what? This is a good thing. After all, in years past, whenever the NBA finally crowned it's champs, there was no pro team sports except baseball. Maybe that's why they call it the "dog days" of summer. It's not about the teams. It's about the fans. Because the fans have nothing else to watch except boring old baseball. That doesn't start getting interesting until maybe September. And by then the mighty NFL is back in full swing, and everybody forgets about baseball until their playoffs start.

It's too bad the NHL and the players' union signed such a long term deal. Next year everything will be back to what it always has been.

I'd like to see a lock-out EVERY year in the NHL, only longer. Nobody cares about their regular season games either until the Super Bowl is over anyway, and if Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr could stretch out the labor strife long enough, maybe they could get us through July and August.

Just a thought.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

NBA playoff rants

The millionaires are dropping like flies. Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles tendon a while back, so he's gone. But with or without the black mamba, the Lakers weren't going far in the playoffs. They're old and getting more dysfunctional by the day, with Dwight Howard leading the clown act. Such a magnificent physical specimen. Such a pinhead.

Jeremy Lin of the Houston Rockets is out with an arm injury, but it doesn't matter. The Rockets had ZERO chance of making it to the finals.

On an innocent enough looking play, Russell Westbrook of the Okla City Thunder suffered a knee injury. He gone. This is a bigger deal. Without Westbrook Okla City becomes somewhat of a one-man show with Kevin Durant. Durant's one of the most dominating players in the game, likely as good or better than Lebron James was at the same age. Plus he's 3 inches taller. But like Lebron couldn't lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to a title all by himself, neither will Durant without Westbrook. It ain't gonna happen. Sure, they'll get by Houston, but somewhere down the playoff line, and I suspect shortly, the Thunder will become a whimper and get bounced by a team they may very have have defeated if Westbrook was still there.

And now a word from our sponsors.

Uh-oh. He's back. The most interesting man in the world. Now he's translating hieroglyphs, leading a flock of geese in his Red Baron plane, and riding on top of a railroad freight car. But I still have one question. If he's so interesting, then why is it that at the end of the day he can still only get flat chested women to hang out with him?  Then again, if one drinks enough of that beer he's hawking, by about 2 in the morning even Roseanne or Judge Judy might start looking good. The moral of the story? Stay wasted, my friends. And good luck when you wake up the next day and see what's in bed next to you.

The eastern conference in the NBA seems to be a foregone conclusion. Seriously, if they stay healthy themselves, who's going to stop the Miami Heat? The Pacers, Knicks, or Nets? Please. The Chicago Bulls are still trying to figure out the case of the mysterious missing Derrick Rose. Though he was medically cleared to play weeks ago, and has been going full-out in practice, including running, cutting, jumping, slam-dunking, etc, for some time, Derrick still says he's not ready. This from a guy who's team is fighting for it's playoff life while making a little north of $30 million bucks this year. Now this is about as sweet as a gig can get. All the pay and none of the play. But Rose says he still doesn't feel quite right. Let's everybody feel sorry for poor Derrick. Oh, boo-hoo-hoo. Perhaps a counselor might be in order to help him get past this traumatic experience. Either that, or he needs somebody to put their foot in his ass and say, "Wake up sunshine. Nappie time is over. LETS GO".

And now another short commercial break. Well, let's see. We've had a duck, some kind of green lizard, and cave men trying to sell us insurance. There's the never-ending adventures of some dopey lady peddling policies out of shoeboxes in what looks to be some sort of sanitarium (don't laugh -- if you start adding up the royalties that chick is making every time one of those ads is aired -- that girl can probably BUY a couple pro sports teams) . Plus there's another guy on the loose destroying houses, cars, boats, you name it, while representing still another insurance company. Not long ago, we saw barbarians running amok tearing up everything they could get their hands on and wanting to know what was in our wallets. Which brings me to another question -- are these companies that stupid or do they think we are? Nevermind. I think I already know the answer to that.

Regardless, yours truly just doesn't see anybody knocking off Miami. If it was a one game series -- then yeah -- any other team could play well and have a "puncher's chance". But in a 7 game series I just don't see it happening.

On a related note, NBA ref Joey Crawford is still out there officiating playoff games, no less. What is it with this guy? Is he commissioner David Stern's brother-in-law, or cousin, or something? Talk about a loose cannon. He not only calls imaginary fouls, but once gave Tim Duncan, of the San Antonio Spurs, a technical foul for merely smiling at him -- while Duncan was sitting on the bench.

Somehow I think Joey has a second career waiting for him when his NBA days are over.

Selling insurance on TV.


Dan Gilbert. A joke

Over the years I've known a lot of Gilberts. I went to school with a set of twins named Pat and Mike. It was hard to tell them apart, until it became obvious one of them was even crazier than the other one. Fast forward a couple years and I had the dubious honor of being in court to support a friend that had to appear before a "hanging judge" named Alice. That was for some trivial trafic violation like getting pulled over for doing 140 MPH in his 1969 427 Corvette down Woodward. Yeah, even though I was only the passenger, we were both underage, and had tossed back a few longnecks, but DAMN -- that car was fast. For whatever reason, Alice didn't seem to be impressed in court. I think she whacked my friend's pee-pee, or wanted to borrow his car. Can't remember for sure how that all worked out.

Then there was a couple of executive editors of the Oakland Press. The first one was named Garry. The current one is named Glenn. Despite the fact they both have an extra consonant in their first name, these men are very smart. As anybody that works for a newspaper well knows, ex-eds are like God. They rule. Unless, of course, the corporate people, in their own infinite wisdom, decide to whack their pee-pees as well. Tough job being an executive editor or owning a 427 Vette. One never knows what might happen next. Someone named Alice might send THEM to the moon with the stroke of a pen.

Which brings me to Dan Gilbert, the head dude of Quicken Loans and the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Obviously, this Gilbert has made a lot of money over the years with whatever it is Quicken Loans does. There was also a company called Rock Financial headed by Gilbert. I knew a few people that took out loans with that outfit, and eventually that's where they found themselves -- right between a rock and a hard place -- losing everything. These might very well be reputable companies but, personally, when I see the name "quick" in anything that has to do with monetary matters, a red flag goes up. Oftentimes, what's quick and easy going in, is costly and painful before it's all over.

Nevertheless, Dan Gilbert recently went public with a statement saying he thinks the Detroit Pistons should move out of their Palace in Auburn Hills and return to somewhere in downtown Detroit. Nevermind new Pistons' owner Tom Gores just shelled out big bucks to have the Palace renovated. And further nevermind that while Gilbert supposedly has a "residence" in the exurbs of Detroit somewhere, this is the same clown who said his Cleveland Cavaliers would win an NBA title before Lebron James would when James dumped Lake Erie and "took his talents" to Miami. Oops. Lebron and company have already won one, and might well win several more.

In the meantime, Gilbert has shown his genius in bringing back a coach named Mike Brown, that couldn't get it done when Lebron was still there, and who also got quickly canned by the Lakers in his next job. And now Brown is returning to a team that is even worse than the Pistons? Incredibly, Mike Brown could have sat back and collected $5 million dollars a year from the Lakers while doing nothing. I don't know about you, but give me five million bucks for a couple years with no responsibilities, and the LAST place I'm going to be is stuck in Cleveland with a hopeless team, NBA head coach or not. I'm going out and seeing parts of the world I've never been to before. Maybe Gilbert and Brown deserve each other in this way.

What's truly laughable is Gilbert's statement that the Pistons should move back to Detroit. After all, the Quicken man says, fans can't appreciate the "downtown experience" when their team has it's arena located out in some god-forsaken place like Auburn Hills. Heaven forbid they should have to walk across a couple hundred yards of asphalt to enter the arena.

While people like Gilbert likely have several different residences, all of which either include highly secure exclusive gated communities, or perhaps a yacht, he seems to have lost sight of the obvious.

Most fans that attend ANY Detroit pro team's games come from the suburbs. The city itself, save for a few very small areas that have been renovated by the likes of Mike Ilitch and Gilbert himself, is for the most part still basically a corrupt, crime-ridden wasteland.

Downtown experience indeed. Yeah, the Fillmore and a couple other joints are pretty cool, but when it comes to shootings, stabbings, car-jackings, muggings, drugs, gangs, and other mayhem that is never far away in Detroit at any time -- coming, going, or just being there -- Auburn Hills still looks pretty good to me.

It's easy for billionaires to talk the talk with the inner city stuff. Yet they're far removed from the reality of actually walking the walk and living it themselves. They have no clue.

For now, methinks owning a team in Cleveland is rather appropriate for the likes of someone like Dan Gilbert. He may own a lot of real estate in Detroit, but he's always played second fiddle to Mike Ilitch. Gilbert's in on the Greektown casino. That gives a whole new meaning to "book em Danno". Cha-ching. But the pizza guy always seems to be a step ahead of him.

Oh well, Toledo isn't that far from Cleveland. If Gilbert wants to see a baseball game, he can always go watch the Mud Hens -- Ilitch's top-ranked minor league team.

Mostly Gilbert just needs to shut up. Though he might well be a shrewd businessman, it seems every time he opens his mouth, the words of a loser come out of it.

Either that, or he sets himself up to be a punch line.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Boston. Enough already

Don't get me wrong. Boston's a great town. There's lots of cool stuff to see and experience there. One can visit Boston Harbor, the site of the original "tea party", where the historic ship US Constitution still remains moored. There's the Old North Church, where church sexton Robert Newman (by most acccounts no relation to Paul or Alfred E ) hung his lamps in the steeple to signal Paul Revere for his famous ride (two -- they were heading to Lexington by sea). The original "Cheers" bar of sitcom fame is still there, as is Harvard, and even ancient artifacts like Larry Bird and Neil Diamond are known to hit town once in a while. Yep, there's a lot of great things about Boston, and the locals will be more than happy to tell you -- if you can decipher that weird language they seem to speak.

But there comes a time when enough is enough. Boston needs to shut up. Earlier tonight, yours truly tuned into the start of the Celtics/Knicks NBA playoff game -- and what did we see? They held up the tip-off to trot out a bunch of Boston cops and firefighters, so they could be recognized as heroes. That's wrong. Those people aren't heroes. Much like soldiers, they voluntarily signed up, were thoroughly trained, given the best equipment, and certainly made aware of the potential perils of the jobs they enlisted for. So since when does doing one's job make them a hero? In that regard, my personal hero is George C. Scott. After his portrayal of famed WWII general George Patton in a movie -- Scott won the Oscar for best actor. He refused to accept it, stating that he saw no reason to be glorified for merely doing his job to the best of his abilities.

Sure, what happened towards the finish line of the Boston Marathon last week was a tragedy. Nobody wants to see stuff like that happen. But let's get real. It was two guys that set off bombs. Three were killed and about 180 injured, many quite seriously. Much was made of the fact one of the deceased was an innocent 8-year old boy. Indeed he was, sadly because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but hey --  it happens to other innocent kids across the country every day for various reasons, sometimes intentionally, by other evil doers. They don't get fancy memorials and national attention -- so what's the difference? An innocent kid is an innocent kid.

Millions are pouring in for the other 180 or so people injured in the Boston disaster, because someone is always quick to set up such a "charity" when such a high-profile bad situation occurs. No donor can ever know for sure where their money eventually winds up, but they give it anyway. At that, 180 people injured could easily happen on an interstate pile up during a blizzard, and has, but such events are typically only one-day stories, local at that, and quickly fade from the media glare. The cops and EMS personnel that are called upon to sort those messes out aren't considered heroes. They're just doing their jobs.

But if Boston wants to get over this and recover, as they keep saying -- then why do they keep dragging it out forever trying to play on public sympathy (cha-ching) and making heroes out of guys that were only doing their jobs in the first place?

You've seen the "slogan" plastered everywhere around that town so it can be captured on TV and broadcast to the masses. "Boston strong". No doubt their ancestors were back in revolutionary times. They should rightfully be proud of what their forefathers accomplished.

But as a supposed bastion of American liberty and independence, the Beaners appear to have missed something of great significance. Last week, within a span of a few hours, their town was overwhelmed and basically turned into a police state, complete with martial law and warrantless house-to-house searches. What's scarier yet is -- they cheered. I suspect Paul Revere and his other true compatriots, wherever they are, rolled over in their graves. Perhaps sometime soon modern day Beaners will wake up one day and realize what the greater tragedy was. They just got exposed as being "Boston weak".

In the meantime, the New York Knicks kicked the Celtics to the curb in their own building to take a commanding 3-0 lead in their playoff series. Good. With any luck, they'll polish them off in game 4. Nice place to visit, but I've had enough of Boston and their whining for a while. Stuff happens. Get over it.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ezekiel Ansah. Good news

So the Lions took defensive end Ezekiel Ansah with their #5 pick -- eh? This is good news on a couple fronts.

First, it benefits the cornerback position. No, the Lions probably won't attempt to convert Ansah to a corner (though never underestimate what that bunch might come up with next). And also no, the existing Lions cornerbacks still probably won't be able to cover anybody, but at least they have a better shot at an NFL job now. It benefits THEM. Because if the Lions had chosen Alabama corner Dee Milliner with that pick, as many projected them to do --  one of those guys would have to go.

The other good news is that Ansah is from BYU. You know, Mormon country. Now while those folks might have been a little shaky on the marriage thing in years past, you don't hear about many of them winding up on police blotters either. This should be an improvement for the Lions. Hey, they have to start somewhere. Maybe some of that upstanding citizen stuff rubbed off on Ansah during his years in Provo.

Whether he can actually be effective in the NFL remains to be seen, but even the name Ezekiel evokes thoughts of high moral character. After all, they don't name a book in the Bible after just anybody. Come to think of it, I didn't catch Ansah's age. Jeez, one certainly hopes he's not the same guy that WROTE that old testament book. That would not be good. But hopefully the oxymoronic "Lions' brain trust", nyuk, nyuk, checked that out.

No doubt, just like all other rookies, Ansah will go through the NFL orientation pep talk. The dos, don'ts, pitfalls, and perils of life in the NFL will be laid out for him. Perhaps it would be wise if they took Ansah aside and gave him some special advice. While he might have to line up on the field next to Ndamukong Suh swapping sweat, attend meetings, and even shower together -- going out and partying with the dude is not necessarily a real good idea.

If I remember correctly, the book Ezekiel in the Bible comes right after Lamentations and precedes the book of Daniel. Lions fans would have reason to lament indeed if all those years of a perfectly fine upbringing were to fall prey to the forces of darkness. Wait a minute -- wasn't Daniel the guy that got thrown into the lion's den? Well, there you have it. This draft pick was not only good -- it was of biblical proportions.

And that's my final Ansah.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Detroit teams and the koolaid

First things first. Though the Detroit Tigers, on paper, appear to have assembled a batting line-up better than they've had in several years -- can we please dispense with the nonsense of comparing them to the Yankees' "murderers row" of the late 20's, and Cincinnati's Big Red Machine future Hall of Fame line-up of the 70's? Those teams went on to be World Series' champions, something the Tigers haven't known since 1984, when the late Ronald Reagan was gearing up for his re-election campaign.

And forget about division championships, or even winning the American League pennant. It doesn't matter. Never did. The only thing that counts is being champions. Ironically, a golfer by the name of "Tiger" once expressed it much the same way. Eldrick said finishing in second place only means you're the top loser. But never underestimate the power of koolaid (aka gullibility -- aka suckahs) in the Detroit area. With the PR departments of the teams themselves peddling concentrated versions of the sweet stuff to the local "homer" media, who in turn perhaps unwittingly distribute it to the masses eager for a quick high -- while making a few bucks themselves -- is it any wonder why Detroit's such a wreck? Crooked politicians and outright corruption aside, when a reasonable person already knows even their sports glass that was broken a long time ago is still peddled as being half-full -- well -- sometimes even junkies figure out they have to crash eventually.

Let's not forget a few things. Two years ago, when the Lions finally made their way to the playoffs again, only to be obliterated by the New Orleans Saints, the junkies, dutifully led on by the koolaid dealers, mentioned the Super Bowl being on the horizon. Last year the Lions went 4-12, including losing their last 8 games in a row. Crash. For that matter, look at them now. Free agents have bailed, the off-season police blotter has yet again begun to snatch up a player here and there, but OMG, they landed Reggie Bush, who will certainly be a stallion to shore up the Honolulu blue and silver's long gone running attack. Please. This is the same guy that got his college USC in so much trouble for having accepted money and gifts for himself or his family. Even his own agent eventually sued him for not repaying a loan. The Miami Dolphins, lately no powerhouse themselves, decided he wasn't worth keeping. So he landed with the Lions. Between character and productivity, he would seem to be a perfect fit for the Lions. And the koolaid has begun to flow -- again.

The Detroit Pistons, under new owner Tom Gore's stewardship, were supposed to make the playoffs this year. Crash. Much has been made of players like Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe coming on strong. Guard Brandon Knight will only get better they say, and other guys like Kyle Singler are solid players. Well guess what? Collectively, in the whole scheme of the NBA, the Pistons are closer to bottom feeders than contenders. And contrary to what the koolaiders would have their fans believe -- it's not going to get better any time soon. Not counting the already established teams -- notably the Miami Heat -- which might well dominate the NBA for the next several years -- there are other teams that are not only younger, but already vastly more talented. To boot, unlike the Pistons, who are currently searching the wilderness for a new head coach to replace the recently fired Lawrence Frank -- at which time the players will have to adapt to a new "system" -- the current up and comers on competitive teams have stability with their coaching staffs. They're getting better. The Pistons have to start over again. This does not bode well for the Palace faithful, what few are left of them.

But never fear -- whatever players the Pistons draft with their two picks -- though most knowledgable basketball folks consider this year's NBA draft to be far below the norm as regards potential star talent -- the local koolaid cartel will start distributing kilos of sweet stuff to make gullible fans once again believe there is always hope. Just one more fix will make everything alright.

Believe it if you will. Personally, I don't do drugs.

Obviously, my mind's screwed up enough already. No need to make a bad thing even worse....

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tigers pitching and the bullshXX pen

So OK, the Tigers are only 9-9. Ya win some, ya lose some. Such is the nature of the big leagues. A fraction of an inch here, or a millisecond there can make a big difference. Look at it this way -- what's the difference between a batter hitting a towering fly ball for an out or a home run? Maybe about an eighth of an inch on where the bat strikes the ball. Along those lines, sometimes a fly ball can be hit 400 feet, only to be caught for just another out. Had the batter made contact with the baseball a fraction of a second earlier (or even later) to send the ball in a little bit different direction, particularly down one the "foul" lines -- that very same ball might wind up 20 rows deep amongst the spectators for a home run. Same thing with pitching, close calls on the basepaths, etc. Despite the fact we are currently bombarded with (sometimes worthless) statistics on every facet of how major league baseball players perform -- at it's core, baseball itself largely remains a game of nuances, and luck. The tiniest little things oftentimes spell the difference between winning and losing a game. And let's not forget -- the last guy on the bench for the last place team in the major leagues -- is REALLY good. He beat out a few thousand other guys just to get there.

Which brings me back to the Tigers. Despite their mediocre 9-9 start, it's widely assumed Detroit will easily win the American League Central Division. After all, with baseball's incredibly long (insufferable?) 162 game schedule, the teams with the "better talent" could be likened to being a Vegas blackjack dealer. They might run "cold" for a while, or even have a losing streak, but over the long haul, given enough games, the built-in advantage/odds, though slight, will eventually work out in their favor.

Yet the much ballyhooed Tigers are an interesting bunch when one looks hard at the players themselves.

Certainly they have a world class pitcher in Justin Verlander. And last year Max Scherzer became a co-ace. He was almost unbeatable. Whether or not Scherzer will perform at that level again remains to be seen. The rest of their starters are about average. For every dominant performance, there will be another where the guy gets lit up like a pinball machine. And a whole lot of average stuff in between.

Their bullpen remains an enigma as well. When one of them enters the game, no one knows for sure whether he'll look like Nolan Ryan, or a batting practice pitcher. A "closer"? The Tigers don't seem to have one, but I totally agree with Jeff Kuehn, the sports editor of this paper, in an article he penned not long ago. What's the big deal about some "specialist" that's only available to pitch in the ninth inning when his team is already ahead? It's like fans have been conditioned to think that such a prima donna might spontaneously combust if he was called upon, multi-million dollar salary and all, to actually pitch in the 3rd, or 5th, or 7th inning. Guess what? The baseball doesn't know the difference, nor do the opposing batters care. It's still the same pitchers' mound located the same distance from home plate.

Worse yet, why are "closers" only good for about 20 pitches or so before they're gassed? To add insult to injury -- most major league teams have 7-8 relief pitchers. Yet when it comes time that one of them might be needed, it always seems to come as a big surprise to the guys in the bullpen. They rush around like they're scrambling fighter jets to repel incoming enemy bogies. Obviously, they had no clue what was actually transpiring in the game. So what were they doing down there? Playing euchre? Sleeping? Texting their girlfriends? In my opinion, every one of those guys should be warmed up and ready to go at a moment's notice. This is what they're getting paid major league big bucks for.

Hey, if fans have to pay 6 bucks for an overcooked hot dog on a soggy bun, then fight their way to the "condiment" table, which is typically maintained in the same sanitary conditions as your average kitchen at a sub-saharan refugee shelter (forget the flies -- I'm telling ya that relish is ALIVE), and 10 bucks for a watered down beer or mixed drink, not counting the ridiculous price of tickets and parking in the first place -- is it too much to ask that players making million dollar guaranteed salaries could at least be ready to -- you know -- play?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Detroit Tigers.

As the late great Ernie Harwell was so fond of saying -- hope always springs eternal for the Tigers. At least Ernie got to witness a couple World Series triumphs over his long career calling the play-by-play for the club. Not so fortunate was his better known counterpart Harry Caray of Chicago Cubs fame. Poor Harry never got to see his beloved Cubbies even make it to a World Series, let alone win it. But hey, who will ever forget how much he would juice the home crowd while leading them in a rousing rendition of "Take me out to the ballgame" during the 7th inning "stretch"? Sorry Ernie, wherever you are, but with all due respect -- compared to that -- you just sat there like the house by the side of the road.

Nevertheless, the Tigers appear to have as good a shot as most any other team this year at reaching and/or winning the World Series. Certainly they should win the woebegone American League Central Division again to qualify for the playoffs, by default if nothing else. The rest of their division rivals are -- how do you say -- not so good.

So what do the Tigers have anyway?

An owner in Mike Ilitch that isn't afraid to spend money on players, though even he is held in check by the salary cap/luxury tax.

A President/GM in Dave Dombrowski that's found a way to pull off some slick deals in the last few years, obtaining a couple fearsome hitters, plugged the hole at second base, got a crowd-pleasing, if aging outfielder, and finally -- FINALLY -- came to the realization that, fellow crowd-favorite and all-around nice guy or not --  Brandon Inge couldn't hit a lick. Never did and never would. He had to go.
And all without Dombrowski having to sacrifice much talent from the Tigers. Pretty impressive.

Of course, there's manager Jim Leyland. Many are convinced Leyland is some sort of managerial genius. A swami, a guru, that always knows the right strings to pull at the right time to maximize his team's potential. One can excuse the hard core fans for getting caught up in such hype, because most of them will believe anything -- but one would also think the local pundits would know better than to swig the same koolaid. Because actually, Leyland's no such thing. Never has been. Over his long career as a skipper, he's about average. Barely.

Consider that during Leyland's last 4 years (1993-96) as the Pittsburgh Pirates manager, they posted a losing record every year. Then he fell into a rose garden when the Florida Marlins hired him. At the time the Marlins basically featured an All-Star team, and they would indeed go on to win the 1997 World Series. After their owner decided to dispense with the ridiculous player salaries he was saddled with, he had a fire sale of several players. The Marlins promptly went 54-108 the following year with Leyland still at the helm.

The following year, 1999, Leyland landed with the Colorado Rockies. They went 72-90 and Leyland flat out quit -- with two years remaining on his contract.

After being on the sidelines for 7 years, somehow the Tigers came to the conclusion that Leyland was the man to be their field general in 2006.

His stat lines:

Pittsburgh Pirates. 11 years. 851 wins, 863 losses. A percentage of .496.
Florida Marlins. 2 years. 146-178. .451
Colorado Rockies. 1 year. 72-90. .444
Detroit Tigers. 8 years. 616-536. .535

Overall, 22 years. 1685-1667. A percentage of .503

Sure, the Tigers made it to the World Series last year before being unceremoniously kicked to the curb by the San Francisco Giants in a sweep. No doubt many, including some of the "homer" media folks, think the Marlboro Man is now the greatest thing since smart phones, hi-def flat screen TVs, and child support payments that have finally expired.

But 22 years at .503 don't lie. Again, Leyland's managerial skills are about average. Barely.

This ran on longer than I thought it would. Sorry.

A further look at the Tigers next time.....


Detroit Sports II. Red Wings

With just a few games remaining in the regular season, the Detroit Red Wings are in a dogfight just to make the playoffs. Maybe they will -- and maybe they won't.

If they do -- even as a lowly #8 seed in the playoffs -- one never knows what might happen. Indeed, last year, the LA Kings barely squeaked into the postseason in much the same scenario, and went on to win the Stanley Cup.

If they don't -- then hey -- the Wings have made it to the playoffs for the last 21 straight years, the longest such streak in all of pro sports. That's pretty impressive stuff. Whether it's this year or not, there will come a time when the Wings don't make the playoffs, because all streaks eventually must end (not counting death, taxes, and the Lions not winning the Super Bowl, of course).

Though Red Wings' owner Mike Ilitch was no doubt a vast improvement over the reigns of his predecessors, much of the credit for the Wings' successful run rightfully belongs to GM Ken Holland. Since 1997, when he came on board, Holland has been absolutely masterful at player procurement, one way or the other, juggling salaries under a reduced salary cap, while seemingly keeping the players satisfied, and basically providing the coaching staff with enough potential talent to make anything possible -- if it came together right.

Sure, the players ultimately play the games, and how they perform determines the outcomes. But during Holland's tenure the Wings have won 3 Stanley Cups, and racked up more wins than any other NHL team since 1997. Not too shabby for a goalie that was drafted in the 12th round by the Maple Leafs in 1975, and played a grand total of 4 NHL games (one for Hartford and 3 for Detroit) before he recognized his true calling.

That was to trade in his skates, union card and seldom worn jerseys for dress shoes, a management position, and a suit. Needless to say, this appears to have been a very prudent career decision -- not only for Holland himself, but more importantly for the Red Wings and their fans as well. Holland has done a fabulous job. Unlike his counterpart Joe Dumars of the Detroit Pistons, Holland has certainly earned a "pass" for a couple years if and when the Red Wings fail to make the playoffs.

Still, as this season winds down, it's up to the players to win games and get the team into the playoffs. For now, there's nothing Holland can do about it. For that matter, head coach Mike Babcock can juggle his lines and defensive pairs here and there, but it still comes down to the players scoring more goals than the teams they face. Period.

At that, hockey is more of a crap shoot game than other team sports. A lot more luck is involved. Consider slap shots that are deflected by bodies, skates, or sticks. They can wind up anywhere, including in the net. A "hot goalie" has always been a misleading term. Sure, that typically means the goaltender is playing out of his mind flopping around with his arms and legs making save after save. Yet the truth really is -- he's just on a lucky streak. When an opposing player snaps a shot at the goal from inside 10 feet, the goalie will typically throw his glove hand up in one direction, and his stick/blocker in the other. He doesn't know where that shot is headed and can't possibly react that fast to make a physically calculated save. If he catches it or blocks it -- it was purely luck. If one of them is fortunate enough to get "on a roll" like that for a few games in a row -- presto -- you have a "hot" goalie. But down deep, I suspect they know better. Remember, there are times when it is said "the goalie didn't have a chance" on some such pucks that wind up in the net behind him. Bull. Of course he had a chance. He just guessed wrong with his arms and legs flailing about. It works both ways.

Nevertheless, in the bigger picture right now the Red Wings are about average in the whole scheme of the NHL. They could make the playoffs and conceivably win the Stanley Cup. It's possible.

Or they could miss the playoffs after 21 straight years. That would be a shame, but it also wouldn't exactly be the end of the world. It might deprive Mike Ilitch of several million bucks in playoff revenue, but he can afford it.

Here's hoping all the bounces and deflections go the Wings' way in their last few games, and well into the playoffs. May the force be with them.

But if it turns out the other way -- it's really not that big of a deal.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A quick Detroit Tiger blurb

Wow. Yours truly just happened to catch the beginning of the Tigers/Angels game and witnessed something extraordinary. The Angels lit up Tiger starting pitcher Rick Porcello for 9 runs, all earned, during just two thirds of their first inning.

I'm not sure what that does to Porcello's ERA, but the stat monsters might have to call upon the spirit of the late Carl Sagan to compute it. Something about billions and billions. Already down 5-zip, and with the bases loaded, Porcello hung a breaking ball over the middle of the plate that Angels' slugger Mike Trout deposited about 450 feet away to dead centerfield for a grand slam.

While he certainly appeared to be a "wild thing" himself during his short outing, making catcher Alex Avila flop around like an NHL goalie facing a 5 on 3 man disadvantage trying to make saves, Porcello obviously didn't heed the age-old wisdom that was offered to pitchers such as himself in the movie "Major League".

When confronted with such a tense situation, there's only one thing to do.

Give him the heater, Ricky.

That hanging breaking ball will get you in trouble every time.

The sorry state of Detroit sports. Part 1

Let's take a quick look at the four major professional sports teams in Detroit. Actually, only 3, because the Pistons haven't played their home games within the city limits since 1978, and certainly show no signs of moving back any time soon. For that matter, the Detroit Lions took a 28 year leave of absence to play in the Pontiac Silverdome --  and might still be there if the greedy, bumbling politicos in Pontiac at the time hadn't, well, greedily bumbled their way into having a major sports franchise deciding they'd rather spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a new stadium of their own elsewhere, rather than tolerate any more of the of the nickel and dime "shakedowns". Did I mention greedy and bumbling?

The Detroit Pistons. Yes, head coach Lawrence Frank just got the axe, and well he should have. Despite the so-called "promise", which was always a mirage anyway, the Pistons weren't getting better. They were getting worse. And GM Joe Dumars needs to get broomed as well. Sure, Joe's a nice guy, pillar of the community, played on a couple of Piston championship teams in days of yore, Hall of Famer, and pulled off a couple of slick deals as a GM about a decade ago that brought yet another championship to the Pistons.

But he's also made some infamously bad decisions on player personnel, and over the course of the last few years the Pistons seem to be a boat that keeps springing more leaks under his guidance. There are those that think Dumars should get a "pass" for now, because of his previous accomplishments. Horse puckey. Be it players, coaches, or front office personnel, professional sports franchises all boil down to the same thing. What have you done for me lately? In Dumars' case, the honest answer would seem to be "not much".

While other teams around the NBA have been rejuvenated into contenders through the draft, trades, free agent signings, etc, the Pistons have kept taking on more water with Joe at the helm. They're much closer to being bottom feeders than contenders. And excuse me, but nice guy and former hero or not, that falls squarely in the lap of Joe Dumars.

Put another way -- relatively new Pistons' owner Tom Gores became a billionaire through shrewd investing. Now what do you think Gores would have done if he discovered one of those investments had become awash in red ink? He'd have dumped it, right?  So why shouldn't he apply the same principle to Joe Dumars? Seen the crowds, or lack thereof, at the Palace lately?

A look at the Detroit Red Wings next time.....

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The NBA and the WNBA

First of all, much like many corporate giants, or "parent companies", own numerous other brand names as subsidiaries, the NBA owns the WNBA. They also own and operate a few of the individual teams. NBA commissioner David Stern and his minions basically call the shots, no pun intended, for everything that goes on in professional ladies' hoops. Big brother -- little sister indeed.

Sure, women's professional basketball doesn't generate anywhere near the public and/or media attention as their male counterparts, yet perhaps there are reasons for this.

The mighty NBA certainly doesn't go out of it's way to advertise and promote the WNBA, though it's technically one of their own. They might very well reason that, after all, most sports fans have a limited entertainment budget, and if they started showing up to watch those pesky ladies showing off their superb skills -- by financial necessity attendance might drop a bit at their male showcase games. Heaven forbid that should ever happen. It would be like people stopped paying big bucks to go see Disney movies at the theater in favor of attending a game which Disney's own adopted step-child ESPN had advertised. On the other hand, there are folks like Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots. Anybody that can save up, beg, borrow, and steal enough money to attend a Patriots' game is likely going to be reduced to eating his Kraft macaroni and cheese for a while after it's over. Talk about a win-win. No wonder he's a billionaire. The man's a marketing genius -- but I digress.

What I'm getting at is if the NBA wanted the WNBA to be more popular -- they would be. Further yet, the NBA sets the salaries for not only individual WNBA players, but the teams as well.

The latest figures yours truly could find reveal the following:

In the WNBA, a player with two years or less seniority, including rookies of course, like Brittney Griner is about to be, has a minimum salary of $37,500. And a max of $55,000. Players with 3 years or more of experience, regardless of team or talent, are capped at $95,000. Nobody in the WNBA makes a 6-figure salary.

At that, the NBA has also determined the ladies' team minimums and maximums. Every WNBA club must spend at least $869,000 per year on player salaries, but cannot exceed $913,000. A rather narrow window. Conversely, the NBA, with it's vast mysterious labyrinth of rules -- and exceptions to those very same rules, seems to know no such bounds. The LA Lakers have a team payroll of over $100,000,000. The Cleveland Cavaliers check in at less than half that. Sure, Cleveland's no good, but the Okla City Thunder are at a $66M payroll. Not to mention the $70M LA Clippers which have recently transformed the Lakers from showtime to no time in the same building. Translation? While throwing scads of money at athletes may bring public attention, it doesn't always guarantee success. The late George Steinbrenner of the NY Yankees might be a good example of that.

In stark contrast to Brittney Griner, even the 20th overall pick in this year's NBA draft will be guaranteed a minimum salary of about $1,134,000. Evidently, though still unproven at the pro level, that guy will be worth more than the combined salaries of any WNBA team. The #1 overall pick in the NBA draft? He'll be guaranteed a minimum of about $4.3 million in his first year, not counting signing bonuses and other financial shenanigans, before he ever even sets foot on an NBA floor.

Most draft analysts predict that young man will be Nerlens Noel, yet another of Kentucky's "one and dones". He's still currently recovering from major knee surgery following a torn ACL a few months ago.

Evidently, a mere male college freshman, and damaged goods at that, is worth more in his first year in the NBA than the total player payrolls of 4 entire WNBA teams.

And excuse me if I think there is something seriously wrong with that picture.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Brittney Griner. Poof

Brittney Griner, the freakishly tall (6'8") and superbly talented former hoopster for the Baylor Lady Bears, is about to go on to the next level. To no one's surprise, Griner was the overall #1 pick in the recently held WNBA draft. Even the famed (or notorious, depending on one's point of view) Bobby Knight, likely a "man's man" if there ever was one, marveled at her abilities.

Griner will suit up as a professional for the Phoenix Mercury. That's the good news. The bad news is after enjoying such a high profile and so much well deserved praise during her years at Baylor, including leading them to a national championship along the way -- she's about to fall off the radar screen in the world of sports.

How can that be? Because, unfair as it may seem, that's the way it works. Unlike some of her superstar male counterparts over the years, making the jump from college to pro ball will guarantee her LESS exposure, not more. Don't believe me? Okay, consider this -- everybody knows the Miami Heat won the NBA championship last season, but quick -- who were the WNBA champs? See what I mean? To be honest, I didn't know either, so I looked it up. The Seattle Storms defeated the Minnesota Lynx 3 game to 1. What's worse is I don't even remember it ever happening.

That has nothing to do with me being a chauvinist. Quite the contrary. I love watching ladies' hoops. No, they can't run as fast or jump as high as the men, and forget about the alley-oop slam dunks that feature the boys on the highlight reels -- the girls play with a precision and execution of the fundamentals that makes them a joy to watch. And when it comes to pure shooting, be it short or long range -- including free throws -- I'll take the gals over the guys every time. While we're at it, let's throw in more sportsmanship, and less whining, crying, and flopping.

The problem is, unlike their NBA counterparts, hardly anybody gets to see the skills the pro lady players have to offer. The WNBA doesn't have lucrative TV deals, and on the rare occasions a game may be broadcast at all -- it will be on some obscure cable channel. To be fair, or perhaps realistic, the ladies don't exactly pack them in at the arenas where they play -- and the media world is definitely ratings-driven. It's understandable why the decision makers in the broadcast world tend to shun putting events on the air that would show a venue almost devoid of ticket paying customers sitting in the stands. How it came to be that the best of lady college hoopsters, once trumpeted all over the airwaves at their various schools, could somehow disappear into a black hole when they went pro and the skill level of their game got even higher -- is a very good question. But such is the unfortunate paradox Brittney Griner is about to experience. In other words -- like so many that came before her, and will likely come after, she was famous yesterday, and tomorrow she'll seemingly vanish into the ether. Somehow, it's not right.

But there are reasons for this. A harder look at how the NBA pulls all the strings of the WNBA next time.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Boston Marathon disaster

As you likely already know, tragedy struck the Boston Marathon earlier today. A couple bombs went off close to the finish line. Three confirmed dead, including an 8 year-old boy, and over a hundred injured, many seriously. There's been wall-to-wall coverage of it every which way you look, or perhaps more appropriately -- click.

No doubt, the hounds are already beating the bushes trying to discover who the culprit or culprits are that would perpetuate such an atrocity. Even the President has chimed in and said, make no mistake, we will find out who did this, why they did it, and they will be brought to justice.

Of course, it didn't take long for the usual buzz phrases to creep into the conversation. "It looked like a war zone". "Possible Al-Qaeda involvement?" etc., etc. And the usual overreaction. Major cities and their police forces the world over went to a heightened state of alert. And hey -- who knows what may become of all this? With a little luck, maybe those happy-go-lucky folks in the Pentagon will get the green light to -- whoopee -- invade another country somewhere.

Don't get me wrong. What happened in Boston was indeed a tragedy, and my heart goes out to the innocent victims and their families that have been so terribly affected by it.

Yet the world of sports goes on -- sort of. Even a conglomerate of cable channels normally dedicated to nothing BUT sports -- bless their 4-lettered little hearts -- eventually seemed to figure that out too. After a while of interrupting all their other regularly scheduled programs to jump in with nothing but mirror image co-coverage news on the bombings, they finally got back around to what they were supposed to be doing in the first place. Cover sports. Let the news people handle the disasters.

Turns out, the Red Sox, Boston Bruins, and the Celtics were all in town. The Bosox had completed their contest earlier in the day against Tampa, so the game was unaffected. The Bruins understandably postponed their night game against Ottawa. And the Celtics/Pacers game set to go on Tuesday night was cancelled, because regardless of the potential outcome, it wouldn't have affected either team's playoff seedings.

Well OK, then. Everything is back in order, right?

Not quite. Despite all the tumultuous events of the day, one small detail seems to have been overlooked.

It all started off as the Boston Marathon, one of best known road races in the world. Athletes train for years and come from all over the globe to compete in it annually. Some 27,000+ entrants (that had to qualify), both men and women, from world-class long distance runners, to everyday folks trying to prove they can do it, to wheelchairs and seniors, made their way to Beantown to participate in the grueling 26.2 mile affair. Not discounting the various "categories" of other participants, the top finishers had crossed the finish line hours before the pandemonium broke out. Winning the Boston Marathon is a big deal.

So at the end of the day, I just have one question. Who won the damn race? Is that too much to ask? Maybe they'll eventually get around to that too.

Jason Hanson and the NFL Hall of Fame

Recently, noted Oakland Press sports columnist Pat Caputo penned an article laying out many reasons why newly retired Detroit Lions' place kicker Jason Hanson should not be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. Caputo makes a compelling argument.

Jan Stenerud, once of Kansas City Chiefs fame way back in yesteryear, is the sole "kicker only" to have ever been enshrined. Though he played for a long time, and was amongst the first of the soccer-style place kickers which unanimously reign in the NFL these days -- his career kicking stats weren't so hot by modern standards. He only made 67% of his field goal attempts over his 19 years in the league, two out of three. Nowadays, 2 out of 3 will get a place kicker a quick ticket out of town. Not good enough. So whether Stenerud righfully belongs in Canton is certainly open to debate. But he's there, and it is what it is.

As Caputo further pointed out -- what about Ray Guy -- arguably the best punter to ever play the game? He's not in the Hall of Fame. And indeed, where was the clamor in Detroit for Morten and Gary Anderson, the two place kickers ahead of Jason Hanson on the NFL's all-time scoring list, to be enshrined? Surely, this is purely a local knee-jerk reaction that will soon pass. Worse yet, what about the likes of Alex Karras, Caputo rightfully asks. Karras was a dominant Lions defensive tackle for a very long time, but along with a few other notable players over the years, he's not in Canton either. And who cares whether Jason Hanson is a scratch golfer and a nice guy? What's that's got to do with the Hall of Fame? Again, Caputo made a compelling argument for keeping Hanson out.


One might consider comparing Hanson to another "specialist" by the name of Mariano Rivera, the long time "closer" for the New York Yankees.

Over 20 or so year careers with the same team, Hanson has made 36 tackles in all -- an average of less than two every season. Still, he actually hit somebody every once in a while. Rivera has batted a grand total of 3 times in the last two decades. Zeroes across the stat sheet. The only thing he ever hit, besides a few batters he was pitching to, was an outfield wall in warm-ups, which put him out for a year.

On a busy day, a mere kicker like Jason Hanson might only be on the field for a dozen plays or so? True enough. But on a normal day, Mariano Rivera couldn't be counted on to throw many more than a dozen pitches before he was maxxed out.

Hanson could be called on at any time during the course of a game for various kicking functions. If the game went into overtime, Hanson might well decide the outcome. Rivera didn't even need to get to the stadium until the 8th inning or so and his only function was to throw a cut-fastball and get a few guys out. If the game went into extra innings -- he was long gone.

As Caputo also noted, Jason Hanson was a player that spent his entire career with a bad team, who enjoyed the luxury of kicking indoors at all his home games under ideal conditions. Point well taken.

Then again, Mariano Rivera was a player that spent his entire career with a competitive club, who enjoyed the luxury of his teammates typically providing him with a lead going into the 9th inning, or else he wouldn't have been in the game in the first place. Ever remember Rivera being summoned from the bullpen when the Yankees were behind by 5 or 6 runs?

It was further stated that players such as Hanson are "specialists". The core of the game are those that can pass, run, catch, block, and tackle. Though he never had to display it during a game, Hanson could throw a football 70 yards, run with the flow, and make an occasional tackle or block. He was never called on to catch much.

Yet likewise, in baseball, the core of the game are those that can hit, run, field, and throw. Nobody knows how fast Rivera could run, or how well he might have fielded a regular positon -- because he never had to attempt it. His only skill was throwing from 60 feet, 6 inches, for about 5 minutes per outing.

But between Hanson and Rivera, one of them is a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame -- and the other will likely never make it. Two specialists indeed.

It all depends on how one wants to look at it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Another meat market

Holy cow. Or pig, or whatever. A meat distributor has recalled almost half a million pounds of their stuff because it could be contaminated with bacteria and possibly cause serious illness, or worse.

If you've eaten any roast beef, ham, turkey, pork, corned beef, or pastrami lately -- you could be in danger. (Also headcheese -- but if you've ever been able to stomach that nasty combination of leftover animal parts -- you might have built up sufficient immunity).

Nevertheless, if you're one of the unfortunate few that may be stricken, you could die a slow, agonizingly death. Who would have ever thought such preferred meat could ever become so potentially sickening?

It's almost like watching a Detroit Pistons' game at the Palace these days.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Kobe Bryant. Achilles and future?

Unfortunately, LA Lakers' star Kobe Bryant suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during the course of a game. There was nothing dirty about it, as in foul play, or intent to injure, from the other team. It was just one of those freakish things that happen once in a while.

The Lakers issued a statement earlier today saying Bryant had undergone successful surgery. Well, of COURSE the surgery was successful. In the world of pro sports athletes -- when's the last time you heard of a surgery that was UNSUCCESSFUL? Can you imagine the team statement in such a case?

"We regret to inform you that the surgeons totally botched the operation on Kobe Bryant. Perhaps in the next couple days, we'll assemble another team of sawbones to see if they can get it right. For reasons unknown to us at this time, Kobe currently has his left foot sutured to his right elbow and is experiencing some slight discomfort and loss of mobility".


Many are already speculating as to what this injury could bode for Bryant's future. There are those that think Kobe, being the never-say-die warrior that he has been over the years, will make an Adrian Petersonesque recovery and be back to his court dominating presence early in 2014. That could very well happen.

Others think his ruptured Achilles may have spelled the end of a glorious career. It could play out that way too.

But other points might bear consideration. First of all, other than Kobe understandably not wanting to "go out like that", what indeed would he have to look forward to by returning to the Lakers?

Another $30 million bucks? He needs that like Bill Gates needs dividends on his Microsoft stock.

He'll be 35 in August, still a young man, but getting a bit long in the tooth by NBA standards. He's been a part of 5 Laker world championship teams, been the league MVP, won Olympic gold medals, and is a shoo-in for the NBA Hall of Fame as soon as he becomes eligible. But the current Lakers look like a team hanging on by its fingernails to respectability, that could lose their grip any second only to plunge into the abyss.

Dwight Howard is an enigma. Some games he'll play like Superman on steroids. A couple nights later, he might turn in a performance like Forrest Gump nursing a bad hangover.

Point guard Steve Nash is 39. Metta World Peace is going on 34. Pao Gasol is approaching 33. Antawn Jamison is closing in on 37. Beyond that, the Lakers have a few young guys that only basketball junkies have heard of. This is not a team looking to trend up. It's a team waiting to crash and burn. And whether he comes back or not, all the Black Mamba's fabled willpower and determination is not going to change that.

To boot, forget NBA domination. The Lakers aren't even the best team in their own building. Last time I looked the Clippers were 11 games ahead of them in the standings. That's a lot.

And what is it with the talking heads and their Laker fetish, anyway? It's like if the Lakers don't make the playoffs, then Armageddon will surely be upon us. Hey, despite all the glitterati fanfare -- they're just another NBA team. They're currently in a battle with Utah for the final playoff spot in the western conference.

So how come Utah never gets any love? I mean, c'mon. Utah has gorgeous Bryce Canyon. California has the La Brea Tar Pits. Utah is home to many Mormons, which have been accused of polygamy. Southern California is home to many morons. This has long been referred to as celebrity marriages. The Great Salt Lake vs Alcatraz. A guy name Brigham Young was once in charge in Utah. A guy named Arnold Schwartzenegger was once in charge of California.

You know why I like Utah so much more than California? At least Brigham never said he'd "be back". Scary thought.

And so is the Lakers' future, with or without Kobe Bryant.

Guan Tianling and Tiger

Golf fans know Guan Tianling is the 14-year-old Chinese phenom that is currently teeing it up with the big boys at the Masters Tournament. Sure, the color barrier fell a long time ago, and even a couple ladies recently joined their ranks -- but a 14-year-old playing Augusta National? Holy Mao. What's next? A democrat?

At that, in a controversial ruling, and the first of its kind to EVER be enforced at the Masters, Tianling was penalized one stroke for slow play. He had been previously warned, but continued to exceed the 40 second time limit to hit his next shot, the officials said.

To which I say -- gimme a break. In any typical pro golf tournament, including the Masters, most players routinely go WAY past that time limit. Witness one on the putting green. He'll study his upcoming putt from behind where his ball lies. Then walk around to study it again from the far side of the hole. Then look at the terrain again from east and west, before returning behind his ball to again meticulously analyze the perilous topography that lies between his ball and the hole. Then he'll go up to the ball, carefully adjust his stance a few times, take several practice "air putts", and finally -- FINALLY -- actually strike the ball, only to miss that 3 foot putt. How slow is slow? A lot of these guys probably couldn't blink their eyes in 40 seconds, and a sneeze might take them a half hour or so. But Tianling got penalized for being too slow.

Perhaps the Masters officials would be wise to take heed of who and what they're dealing with. After all, young Guan is likely a Chinese hero these days. While the folks at Augusta may brush it off as merely enforcing the rules on some kid -- it might just be that the powers that be in Peking didn't find it the least bit amusing. He's THEIR kid, dammit.

Rile them up too much and, considering how much money the US already owes China, they could redeem a few coupons and BUY Augusta National, lock, stock, and Butler's Cabin -- and put Tianling in charge to run the whole operation. Don't tell me it's not for sale. In America, most everything can be bought, if someone brings enough bucks to the table.

And then there's Tiger Woods. It seems he struck a fabulous shot which hit the flagstick on the 15th hole, only to bounce back into the water. Alas, Tiger had to settle for a disappointing bogey, rather than the eagle many thought he deserved. His minions are saying but for that bad break, Tiger could be atop the leader board rather than 3 strokes back. Indeed he could. But what they seem to forget is all the errant golf shots Tiger has hit over the years that bounce off trees and back into the fairway, and no matter how deep he ever hit it into the wilderness, magically, like Moses parting the Red Sea, Woods always seemed to have a clear path for his next shot. The golf gods have a way of evening that sort of stuff out every once in a while.

But for now, I'm rooting for the kid. You go, Guan. And take your time. They wouldn't dare penalize you again. The stodgy old farts at Augusta National might be immune to politics and sabre rattling, but if a few billion dollars hit the table -- I'm thinking they can be bought too.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tiger Woods and Adrian Peterson

No doubt, both are stars in their respective sports of professional golf and football, but it might be interesting to consider what they actually do that warrants such fame.

Just last year, Adrian Peterson came up a mere 9 yards short of setting the all-time single-season NFL rushing record. Nobody talks about that much any more.

Over the last five years, Tiger has remained 4 victories short of catching Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18 major victories. Millions of people talk about the next one every time Tiger tees it up -- and even sometimes when he doesn't tee it up.

Tiger leisurely strolls along pristine golf courses while plying his trade. At the end of the round, he'll retire to a clubhouse, perhaps to enjoy an icy beverage while contemplating whether he should slightly adjust his putting stroke the next day.

Adrian often plays on concrete-hard turf while plying his trade. At the end of the game, he'll also retire to a clubhouse, perhaps to immerse his entire body in ice while contemplating whether he'll be able to get out of bed the next day.

Tiger has a gofer, often referred to as a "caddie", to carry his clubs for him.

Adrian has to carry the football by himself.

At that, such a caddie will often run interference for Tiger. It's just not acceptable for the hordes of adoring fans, aka the hoi polloi, to get too close to his master. Horrors, if one of them actually touched him.

On the other hand, Adrian typically has blockers. They try their best to keep eleven highly conditioned and well paid savages on the opposing team from doing their job -- which is to "bring him down". The more pain the brutes can inflict while doing so -- the better they like it.

If it happens to be raining a bit, Tiger's caddy will dutifully hold an umbrella over his precious head. Under no circumstances should His Highness get wet, lest he melt like the wicked witch of the west. If Mother Nature gets a bit too severe with her pesky precipitation, a siren sounds and golfers such as Tiger are quickly whisked away into the comfort of the above mentioned clubhouse.

If it happens to be an open air stadium, and the wind chill factor is around 40 below, Adrian Peterson has to play on. If Mother Nature gets even more severe with howling winds and a blinding blizzard during the game -- they continue to play on.

There have been times when Tiger Woods needed a bit of energy. He might occasionally eat a banana while on the course. This is a big deal and will be shown on countless replays.

There have been many more times when Adrian Peterson has absorbed a few thousand pounds worth of violent energy from an impact that happened on the gridiron. This is business as usual.

Tiger had a knee scoped a few times. Despite his legions of groupies likely clasping their heads in their hands and wailing OMG, yours truly can attest that this procedure is rather minor and, typically within a week or so, one is back doing what they did before.

However, that should not be confused with reconstructive knee surgery. Both Tiger and Adrian underwent such procedures.

During his rehab, Adrian Peterson humped and humped and busted his balls. He was back in near-record-setting form in under a year. He currently enjoys a $100 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings.

While Eldrick seemed to be busy with his own version of the humping thing on his road to recovery -- he wound up getting his own balls busted for his shenanigans. It cost him about $100 million, payable to his ex and kids.

The moral of the story?

There's men, and then there's boys. See them for what they are and appreciate the difference.

And never cheat on a Swedish girl. Better to take one's chances running head on into a blitzing middle linebacker. That only hurts for a little while.

Yet, not long ago, it was rumored Tiger wanted to remarry Elin Nordegren, the mother of his children. She reportedly countered with a $200 million pre-nup required from Tiger, and an additional $350 million anti-cheating clause had to be a part of the package, before she'd even consider it. Plus she's been dating a billionaire.

Wow. If so, and with all due respect to Adrian Peterson-- yours truly stands corrected. I had no idea golf could be such a brutal game.

The Masters, aka Tiger's playground.

Ah yes. Spring has sprung. It's the second week of April, the glorious magnolias sweetly sing their sound of sirens beckoning the golf world to Augusta National. A green jacket, Rae's Creek, Butler Cabin, Amen Corner, and even a couple lady members are primed and ready to welcome the best of the best to the most prestigious golf tournament in the world. It's all coming at you. Along with likely a couple million camera views of Tiger Woods, and umpteen terabytes of mostly useless information describing his every move. Yep, it must be time for the Masters.

Much has been made of Eldrick once again becoming the #1 ranked golfer, though it appears he's almost claimed that title by default. In other words, Woods hasn't exactly had a spectacular run over the last few months, but the other hot-shots from around the globe that were beating him like a drum not long ago seem to have regressed for whatever reason. Either that, or they've been busy beating each other's brains out in tournaments on other continents that fly under the radar of the attention of the American viewing public. To be fair, Tiger will occasionally play in such a tournament located in a "remote" part of the world -- like Dubai, or Abu Dhabi, or Kemo Sabe, or whoever else will give him a couple million bucks up front just to show up as an "appearance fee". Mighty nice work, if one can get it.

At that, Tiger has the luxury of "cherry-picking" his schedule. Despite whatever other tournament may be going on, Woods will always take the week off prior to a "major", to prepare and hone his game to that particular course. In the meantime, other professionals continue to play on at "lesser" venues and, yes, entertain the fans. Tiger's attitude in such matters could be likened to Kobe Bryant deciding to sit out a game against a bad team like the Charlotte Bobcats, while he studies film for the Lakers' next game against the Miami Heat. Or perhaps Detroit Tigers' ace pitcher Justin Verlander skipping a 3 game road trip to Cleveland, because he just won a big game against the Yankees, and his next start will be against the rival Chicago White Sox in 4-5 days. How would that go over with Tiger fans and the media? But Eldrick has done much the same thing for years, and somehow that's OK.

In my opinion, being a professional, especially one as highly paid as Eldrick Woods, with his endorsements and all, means an athlete should show up for every "game", regardless of the venue and/or level of competition. Even if they can't play due to an injury or whatever, then show up anyway. Greet the fans, pose for pictures, sign autographs, and otherwise be a good will ambasssador for the game. After all, without the fans, any sport would quickly cease to exist. The game of golf was there long before Tiger Woods and will be there long after he's gone. But he never seemed to comprehend that, because he's been too busy trying to build his personal shrine.

No doubt, Tiger was not only groomed for golf (apparently at the expense of parental guidance in other matters) since he was barely potty-trained, but has also built quite a cult following over the years since. Eldrick Woods was, and may still be, a great golfer, one of the best of all time.

Yet when his time is past and all the hoopla he generated starts rapiding fading into the rear view mirror -- only to be replaced by the next sports icon -- golf or otherwise -- as is the nature of how it seems to work these days -- it might be interesting to see how totally objective historians eventually chronicle the life and times of Eldrick Tont Woods for all posterity.

But for now it's the Masters. And get ready for the Tiger show, because regardless of how he fares, you're going to see him every 30 seconds or so whether you like it or not.

Just for grins -- an off-the-wall comparison between Tiger Woods and Minnesota Vikings' star running back Adrian Peterson. Next time.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Trey Burke and what's next

Color him gone, at least from the University of Michigan. Trey Burke has played his last game there. Yes, Burke and his fellow Wolverines made it all the way to the finals only to come up a bit short against Louisville in the NCAA final game, but Burke's gotta go.

Why? Because he'd be crazy not to. As the reigning AP national collegiate player of the year, who did nothing but enhance his already sparkling resume during the NCAA tournament -- Burke's NBA draft stock will never be higher.

What team he'll land with in the pros or whether he can be effective at that level of competition is anybody's guess, but it's his time to find out. Yes, returning to Michigan, a team with so many promising underclassmen that will get better, and might very well compete for a national title again next year, would be a noble cause on Burke's part. But it would also be foolish.

Despite their talent, Michigan is far from a lock to even return to the Final Four next year, let alone win a championship, even if Burke was still in the maize and blue fold. And other than the good old college spirit, which went out the window in favor of megabucks with the likes of Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas a long time ago, and has continued with numerous other "one/two and dones" over the years, what would be the point of Burke even trying?

The only upside for Burke would be helping to bring a national championship to Ann Arbor. Sure, he would be a "big man on campus", but he's already that and, last time I looked, such status didn't pay so well. Plus, there's always the risk of suffering a serious injury, which could possibly be career-ending. One never knows what fate may have in store. To boot, does anyone seriously think Burke has any designs whatsoever on completing the scholastic requirements necessary to get a degree? And even if he did -- what would that sheepskin be worth in the long run?

Likely not as much as what's staring Burke in the eyes right now. The NBA. No, there's no guarantee he'd be a top 5 lottery pick, because "big men" usually get preference over guards. But even if Burke fell to a #10 overall draft pick, the neighborhood where he's currently projected to go -- it would definitely be in his best interest to make himself available at the "next level".

Though NBA rookie contracts are now governed by the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players' union, which prevent even more obscene amounts of money being thrown at an unproven commodity, they also present a fairly lucrative pay scale to a player such as Burke. Even at a #10 pick for whatever team, Burke would likely make in the vicinity of $2,000,000 for each of his first three years under such a contract -- guaranteed. Even if he's a bust in the NBA, with a little common sense, he's financially set for life. No national championship for, or degree from, even a prestigious university like UM comes with that sort of gift wrapping.

His upside can't possibly get any higher than it is now, and there's too much to risk by sticking around in college for another year.

Burke may not have announced it yet -- but color him gone. He may be a lot of things, but he's not crazy.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Louisville and Michigan

While others will likely talk about a "run" here, a crucial time-out to stop momentum there, and dissect any number of what-ifs, actually the game for all the marbles turned out to be pretty simple in the end.

The best team won. Louisville 82, Michigan 76.

While Big 10 supporters argued all year their conference was the toughest in the land, the Big East fans could certainly counter with an equally compelling argument. The Big 10 put seven teams in the tournament. The Big East put eight.

Despite the topsy-turvy regular season when in-conference play was so brutal, and even all the upsets that happened in the NCAA tournament, perhaps the final game played out just like it was supposed to.

For whatever it matters, consider: Louisville not only won the Big East conference, but their tournament as well. They finished the regular season ranked #2 in the country, and entered the NCAA tournament as the overall #1 seed. They steam-rolled Duke along the way and were the team to beat.

Conversely, Michigan didn't win the Big 10, nor its conference tournament, finished the season ranked #10 in the country, and went into the Big Dance as merely a #4 seed. They pulled an improbable overtime upset over Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen round and weren't supposed to get this far.

So forget all the stats and what-ifs in the title game. When the final buzzer sounded, everything seemed to have finally found its equilibrium.

Yep, the best team won. Not only that, but by almost exactly the margin they were supposed to.

The wise guys in Vegas had Louisville as a 4 point favorite.

Watching the game, one thing struck me as rather odd, though. Despite Michigan's sizeable, super-loyal, and ready, willing and able to travel fan base, the crowd at the Georgia Dome sounded overwhelmingly in favor of Louisville.

I wonder why that was?

Ladies hoops. Geno and Pat

This one's for you, Deb.

Interesting that both the Louisville men's and women's basketball teams made it to the NCAA finals. One will be a slight favorite, and the other likely a huge underdog. But you never know how things will play out.

Forget about the boys for now. They get enough publicity. Let's talk about the girls, a little history, and a couple of coaches.

If the UConn Lady Huskies defeat the Louisville Lady Cardinals in the final, which they will be favored to do, then UConn head coach Geno Auriemma will join former Tennessee Lady Vols' head coach Pat Summitt atop the summit indeed -- both having won 8 national titles.

With all due respect to coach Summitt, sometimes it seemed like she had been around forever, and might be old enough to be that sassy puppy dog Geno's mother. Actually, at 61, she's only two years older than Geno at 59.

Pat Summitt was indeed around for a long time, from 1974 to 2012, 39 years worth at Tennessee. Had she not taken ill, she might very well have coached for at least another decade. At that, Summitt can rightfully be credited with putting ladies' college hoops on the map. Back when she started (the age of Watergate, and how long ago does that seem?) girls college hoops was hardly even a blip on the sports radar screen. Many universities didn't even field a team. Schools like Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion ruled the roost of the few that even bothered to seriously compete. Nowadays, it's growing exponentially and everybody has jumped in, pumping time and resources into the programs, and scouring the country for blue chip high school prospects to try and be competitive. None of this would have happened without Pat Summitt. Sure, the girls haven't yet reached the same level as the boys regarding "parity", with different teams coming and going as powerhouses. In fact, it might fairly be said that in the recent past there's only been about 4-5 ladies' teams that can truly compete for a championship every year. But it's growing. Witness Texas A&M seemingly coming out of nowhere to recently win the title.

Pat and Geno have some other similarities. Though it doesn't seem like it, Luigi (Geno) has been at UConn since 1985, hardly a new kid on the block. Also, it might fairly be said that outside of their home stomping grounds of Storrs and Knoxville, both Summitt and Auriemma had more than their fair share of detractors and critics, likely due to jealousy. Success breeds more success, but it also breeds sour grapes amongst others. Both were known to be demanding of their players, played the press like a fiddle, and both could even occasionally be "catty". Plus they didn't seem to like each other much.

Career-wise, Duke men's head coach Mike Krzyzewski is generally credited as being the winningest college basketball coach of all time. He's at 957-297 and counting, a winning percentage of . 763. Pretty impressive. Yet Coach Emeritus Pat still trumps that at 1098-208, a winning % of .841. Coach K would have to put up some mighty impressive numbers in the next few years to even get close to Coach Pat territory.

But the thing is, sadly, Summitt has coached her last game. On the other hand, Auriemma, with a career mark of 833-133, a whopping .862 winning %, seems to be on a perpetual roll with his Huskies. Not only are they again in the championship game this year, with blue-chip prep recruits likely to keep heading to UConn in the foreseeable future, if Geno decides to hang around for another 10-15 years, and keeps putting up 30-some winning seasons -- and wins a few more national championships along the way -- all entirely possible -- he might well shatter all the record books.

For now, Pat Summitt remains the undisputed queen of college basketball. But like that pesky Tiger Woods chasing Jack Nicklaus' all-time records, Geno Auriemma keeps putting up better numbers and might have many more years to go before he starts slowing down.

Between Louisville and UConn, I suspect I know which team my friend Deb will be rooting for.

And hey, if you happen to see this, Deb, don't be such a stranger. It's been a while since somebody tore me up good and proper over the nonsense I write sometimes.

I kinda miss that. I think....

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Detroit Tigers. Over the top

It's almost comical sometimes. That being the incredible good faith leaps some scribes will make when describing their home town team(s) and particularly a few players. A couple years ago, the folks in the Motor City had their Detroit Lions Super Bowl bound the following season. As is their history, the puddy-tats crashed and burned. You'd think they'd learn. Now it's the Detroit Tigers.

After only a handful of games against mediocre competition, the koolaiders have been chugging away and are in full sugar rush mode again making the proverbial mountains out of molehills.

After Miguel Cabrera won the award last year, "Could this be Prince Fielder's turn to be MVP?", they breathlessly suggest. The honest answer is, well, it's possible. If he stays healthy and performs better than he ever has in the past for the whole season, he's got a shot. Along with likely about 30 or 40 other guys. People talking about an MVP award after only a half dozen games out of 162 is not only laughable, it's an insult to knowledgable fans. Would it be too much to ask for the glucose dealers to wait until, say, August, to take another look at Fielder's stats and see if he's even still remotely in the hunt?

One of the predisposed popsicle peddlers even had the audacity to suggest Tiger Drew Smyly could be the next "Yankee killer", obviously a reference to former Tiger pitcher Frank Lary. Lary pitched for the Tigers from 1954 through 1964, when the Yankees were the gold standard of baseball. Otherwise a journeyman pitcher (career record 128-116) Lary seemed to have an improbable knack of defeating the Bronx Bombers. Indeed, he went 27-10 against them.

Currently, the Yankees are an aging team with half their starters out due to injury. But, by god, in a mere single game, Drew Smyly pitched a whole 4 innings of decent relief against their depleted line-up, hence the insulin deficient folks suggested he could be the next Yankee killer. Nevermind a month ago the very same Drew Smyly was far from a given to even make the Tigers roster, and has a rather virginesque career big league pitching record of 4-3 -- he was exalted into Detroit Tiger lore. Please.

These are the same hyperglycemic band of minstrels that had the Lions possibly Super Bowl bound last year, and the Pistons serious playoff contenders this year. As they sing their sweet lullaby while looking through their rose-tinted glasses, they see the glass as eternally being half full. There is always hope, they say. Yeah, and when some Nigerian bank president offers you a can't miss get rich quick pitch on-line, if only you'll give him your credit card number, you can hope to be a millionaire too.

But I wouldn't count on it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

The NCAA finals. Be thankful?

Perhaps it's fitting Louisville and Michigan are the last two men's teams standing. The survivor from the Big East vs the survivor from the Big 10, in all likelihood the two most brutal conferences in the land. It should be a heck of a game.

After the last couple weeks of so much electrifying action, it will almost be a shame to see it all end on Monday night, regardless of who wins. Fans get whipped up into a frenzy, and then WHAM, it's all gone. No more college hoops. What a downer. But there just might be a reason to give thanks.

With a little luck, some of the commercials associated with the games will disappear as well. I don't know about you, but I've just about had it with former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson and Wayne (Trapper John) Rogers hawking "reverse mortgages" to elderly people that own their homes. Call now, and see how much free cash YOU qualify for, they say. What they don't disclose is such companies are slowly purchasing equity in those homes, much like the homeowners did when they originally took out their mortgages. Guess what the end game is?

And I for one am really, I mean REALLY, sick and tired of hearing about Joe Theisman's prostate problems in another ad. That broken lower leg he suffered a while back was definitely bad stuff, but who knew such an injury could eventually reach up into the nether regions and make a person pee like a puppy dog? I hope Kevin Ware, of the Louisville Cardinals, who recently suffered a similar injury, never sees that commercial. He's got enough on his mind already. He doesn't need that sort of aggravation as to what he may be in for in a few years.

How about that guy in a 69 Camaro, with his water temp gauge pegged to the max, pulling over in the middle of nowhere to buy a small bottle of water, drinking half of it, then pouring the remaining few ounces in his radiator -- and everything's just fine. Down the road he goes again. That's not erectile dysfunction. That's mental dysfunction, especially for anybody who watches that commercial and actually believes things could work out that way.

And what sane couple hauls twin bathtubs to lie in at a beach?

ATTENTION!!! If reading this article causes you to experience sudden death, then don't wait. Act now. Call my boss to register your complaint.

See what I mean?

Yep, I'm good with the tournament ending, as long as they get rid of the nitwit commercials at the same time.

Retire Jason Hanson's number?

Wouldn't it be something if the "Detroit Lions' brain trust", and I use that phrase loosely, because it seems to have become oxymoronic over the decades, decided to retire long time place kicker Jason Hanson's #4? No Honolulu blue and silver player could ever wear it again.

After all, the recently retired Hanson played 21 years for them, set a slew of team records, a few NFL marks, and even made a tackle every 10 games or so along the way. Not too shabby for a little dude out of Washington State with a pre-med degree. Jeez, I'd bet his mom was so proud. Her son's going to be a doctor. Oops. Change of plans. Jason decided he'd rather take his career chances kicking a ball amongst ruffians. Moms normally don't approve of such things. And despite their value to a team, historically place kickers have also been amongst the lowest paid players on NFL squads. Had Hanson gone on to indeed become a doctor -- it's anybody's guess whether he would have made more or less money over the last 21 years.

Nevertheless, if the Lions opted to retire his number, he would join some very elite company in sports that have had their #4s retired. Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees. Bobby Orr of the Boston Bruins. Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers. These are household names to any sports fan, and will be remembered forever. Jason Hanson might well be inducted into the pro football Hall of Fame someday, but it's a probably a fair statement to say that in 10 or 20 years he won't have the same name recognition as the others mentioned above that wore #4.

And why shouldn't the Lions retire his number? What else have they got to do? The team's still a train wreck waiting to happen yet again, and it would be a nice gesture for a great guy. Besides, it's not unprecedented. The Lions have retired numbers before. Six of them.

Dutch Clark's #7. He played in the 1930s.
Bobby Layne's #22.
Doak Walker's # 37. They both played mostly in the 1950s.
Joe Schmidt's #56. He played in the 50s and 60s
These were all great players in their time.
Chuck Hughes' #85 will never be worn again. Hughes was hardly a standout. Though listed as a wide receiver, he played mostly on special teams. Indeed, during his 5 year NFL career he only caught 15 passes. Not to be insensitive about it, but his number was only retired because he tragically died on the field of Tiger Stadium (where the Lions used to play) from a massive heart attack during a game against the Chicago Bears in 1971.
The most recent and likely most notable retired number was the #20 Barry Sanders once sported. Yet people often forget that before Barry, there was a guy named Billy Sims that wore the same number, and was a dynamite running back himself, before a tragic knee injury cut his career short. And before Billy, there was an electric cornerback named Lem Barney, a 7-time Pro Bowler and Hall of Fame inductee that also wore #20 for the Lions. Perhaps the retiring of that particular number could be thought of as a triple tribute, or triumvirate, to 3 great players.

Which brings me back to Jason Hanson. Should his number really be retired? Maybe, but he has one huge black mark on his resume. Over the course of those 21 years, Hanson had multiple opportunities to take his talents elsewhere to a Super Bowl contender as a free agent -- yet he chose to stay with the woeful Lions. This does not show good judgment.

You'd think a guy with a 3.8 grade point average in college would have had more sense than that.

Yet, in the end, there's a bit of irony. As is well known, Hanson went prematurely "bald". Perhaps poetic justice was served. After all, Lions fans have been pulling their hair out for the last half century.

Welcome to the follicly challenged club, Jason. It's a lifetime contract.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Handicapping the Final Four

It's not like they were a #15 seed but, as an original #9, few could dispute if there's a "Cinderella" still left in the tournament -- it's Wichita State. The Shockers shocked a lot of people by getting this far. Now they face the daunting task of taking on the overall #1 seed Louisville, who many predicted would cut down the nets at the end of the final game before the tournament even started.

It would seem to be a mismatch, but is it? Louisville's really good. They can run with the best of them, play a half court game, shoot, crash the boards, and have a tenacious defense. Plus they've got a very experienced coach in Rick Pitino. Like him or not, he's been there, done that. Not that they needed any more motivation, but the Cardinals are rallying around their fallen teammate Kevin Ware, who suffered the well publicized horrendous broken leg in their last game against Duke. They're on a mission to win it for #5.

On the other hand, despite being a 10 point underdog in the upcoming game, Wichita State appears to be a on a mission of their own. They weren't supposed to beat #1 seed Gonzaga or #2 Ohio State along the way -- but they did.  The Shockers are peaking at the right time and seem to rise to whatever occasion confronts them. Besides their own talent, they can be very physical, and just play flat out HARD from start to finish.

Prediction? Cinderella only lives happily ever after in fairy tales and Disney movies. This is the big stage, not the big screen. Louisville 72, Wichita State 56.

Michigan and Syracuse have a lot in common. They were both #4 seeds going in. They both knocked off a #1 in the regional semis, and a #3 in the regional finals. What's the chances of that happening? Even their head coaches, John Beilein and Jim Boeheim, are old buddies from way back.

Michigan from the Big 10 and Syracuse from the Big East. Either conference can make a very good argument about being the toughest in the country. Indeed, seven Big 10 teams made it into the tournament, and eight from the Big East. Both the Blue and the Orange have faced a lot of brutal competition over the course of the season.

Also, they're both somewhat unpredictable. Each is capable of beating anybody if they're playing well, and each is also capable of losing to a much lesser team if they underachieve. Both have posted impressive wins and suffered disappointing, head-scratching losses. Up and down the rankings over the season they have gone.

Yet they are vastly different as well. Michigan features the Associated Press player of the year, Trey Burke, and a few other highly touted underclassmen that can shoot the lights out when they're going good. They like to run and gun.

Syracuse can run a little too, but might be more adept at the half court game. They feature a bunch of lesser known guys with more experience.

Forget the occasional dunks. Everybody can dunk these days. This game will boil down to one thing. Syracuse's vaunted defensive 2-3 zone versus how well Michigan shoots. Some say Burke and company will easily penetrate it. I disagree. The Syracuse guys are long, have been playing this zone all year, and are very good at it. They not only smoothly and quickly transition to the movement of the basketball, they anticipate passes which often result in turnovers. Michigan will have a hard time getting easy points in the "paint".

Syracuse is going to get their points regardless -- both inside and out. If Michigan's gunners light it up from 3 point range -- they win. If they don't -- they lose.

Prediction? In a toss-up game, one would normally give the nod to the more experienced coach. Like the above mentioned Rick Pitino, Jim Boeheim has been there, done that. This will be John Beilein's first go-around at the Big Show. But the way Michigan dismantled Florida in the regional finals convinced me the Wolverines are the real deal -- again -- if they shoot well. I think they will. Michigan 74, Syracuse 68.