Sunday, June 30, 2013

Why are some people just better?

No, this has nothing to do with race, gender, religion, politics, or any other such nonsense. I'm talking about sports. It seems certain peoples are just better at some athletic endeavors than others.

There's a few things I think I understand. For it's size, the Dominican Republic certainly churns out it's fair share of major league baseball players. That might well be, at least in part, because due to the climate young boys can, and do play the game year-round. It's almost a way of life. By the time they're 20 years old or so, it should be no surprise the cream of the Dominican crop is REALLY good. I get that.

But there's a lot more things I don't understand.

In recent years, South Korean women have been dominant on the ladies pro golf tour (LPGA). But wait a minute. They can't play and practice year-round in their homeland. Last time I looked, South Korea has some pretty brutal winters. So how do they do that?

Why is it that Kenyans, both men and women, seem to win every big-time marathon that takes place? One might logically assume that other distance runners the world over are going through the same training regimens. Do the Kenyans have some sort of built-in genetic advantage? Beats me.

There's several other examples.

Mexico has produced a slew of boxing champions over the years, though mostly in the lighter weight classes.

The Russians are good at a lot of things, but does anybody doubt their supremacy in the game of chess?

The Chinese rule ping-pong.

The Bulgarians used to rule weightlifting. Is Bulgaria still around or is it called something else these days? I dunno.

The French make great wine, the Polish great sausages, and the Italians great pasta dishes. And the Germans know a thing or two about beer. Those aren't sports? Well, they ought to be. I won't get into the Scottish and that delicacy they call "haggis". If you don't know what it is -- look it up. Give me a cold pizza or 3 day old KFC anyday over that stuff, but I digress.

For that matter, tastes in sports the world over seem to greatly differ in some cases.

Few outside the US give a rat's behind about American style football. Yet much of the rest of the world is futbol (soccer) crazy. Conversely, no matter how hard the soccer proponents have tried over the years to promote it in the States, for the most part it has been met with a collective yawn -- at least at it's highest levels. To be sure, millions of boys and girls avidly participate throughout elhi -- but after that --  the popularity of soccer in the US takes a nosedive, unless it's something special like the Olympics.

Why are the folks down under so good at Australian rules football, while nobody else seems willing to even participate? Because they're the only ones crazy enough to play that sport. Ever seen it? This is not for the faint of heart. A man's game if there ever was one. It's positively brutal. Imagine an NFL game with the same hard hitting, but no helmets or pads, and you're getting close. Those guys make Crocodile Dundee look like Barney Fife.

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie.

Ya gotta love em. It seems they know a bit about sailing, swimming, and playing poker too. Or was that the New Zealanders? I don't know. They all look alike to me.

Regardless, let the rest of the world sort these things out. I have enough problems of my own in the ongoing cage match with J as to who makes the best lasagna.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Boston/Brooklyn. Now and the future

Though the trade can't officially be completed until July 10, when the new salary cap is announced and teams find out how much money they're allowed to spend, it appears the Boston/Brooklyn trade will consist of the following:

The Nets will get Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry from the Celtics. In return, the Celtics will get Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, and Kris Humphries, plus maybe Marshon Brooks and Keith Bogus.

Wait a minute -- Kris Humphries? Wasn't he married to a Kardashian for about 5 minutes? Or was that a Gabor? Different generation and hair color, but the same species. Whatever.

But the big deal is Boston gets 3 first-round draft picks from the Nets as part of the package. Yes, they're spread out over a few years, and shy of a can't miss talent like Lebron James the draft can be a crap shoot -- but still -- these are valuable commodities indeed.

Let's look at possible, even probable scenarios of both teams, next year and into the future.

Boston. GM Danny Ainge is no fool. He certainly realized his Celtics were going nowhere soon with what they had. After all, they'd only qualified for this year's playoffs as a #7 seed, only to be eliminated in the first round by the NY Knicks. The glory days with the existing talent in Beantown were over. To his credit, rather than trying to limp the Celtics along to respectability for the next couple years, with ZERO chance of winning a title, Ainge decided to blow it up and start over. Sure, the Celtics will likely be terrible for a while, but Ainge has his eye on the future. Smart front office personnel know when to hold-em, and know when to fold-em. And let's face it -- the Celtics were running on fumes of glory days past. Again, nobody knows how the draft will work out for them in the future, along with various free agent signings that may happen along the way -- but they really didn't have much to lose. Given the storied history of the Boston Celtics, somehow I just don't see them staying down for very long. It may take a while, but they'll be back.

Brooklyn. Certainly they'll be better for a short while after this trade. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce represent major upgrades in what they already had. And Jason Terry is no slouch himself. But beyond that, it's difficult to understand why they would do this deal. Sure, fairly new owner Mikhail Prokhorov may want to win NOW, but guess what? He won't. It's not even a close call.

Consider:  Kevin Garnett is 37 years old and Paul Pierce will soon turn 36. Yes, they've had magnificent careers and will be shoo-ins to the NBA Hall of Fame when they become eligible. But the harsh reality is -- they're getting old by NBA standards. It's highly unlikely either will be able to play for much more than a couple more years.

More importantly, even if KG and PP have great debuts with Nets -- it probably doesn't matter anyway. The cross-town Knicks will be a handful for them. How about the Chicago Bulls when superstar Derrick Rose returns from his injury next year? Remember those guys? They were pretty good without Rose. They'll be a heck of a lot better with him. The Indiana Pacers are a young, well rounded team that are already good and look to get better. And then there's the gorilla in the room. The 2-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat. Lebron and Co. don't show any signs of slowing down any year soon. And that's just in the eastern conference. If by some miracle the Nets were to make it through to the Finals, does anybody really think they could defeat whatever "best of the west" team survived their own formidable playoff gauntlet and emerged to meet them? Not me.

How Mr. Prokhorov and Nets' GM Billy King think they will be serious contenders by adding a couple aging superstars that are far past their prime would seem to be a mystery. Throw in the fact the Nets have a brand new coach in one Jason Kidd. Sure, Kidd was arguably amongst the top 5 point guards to ever play the game -- but he's never coached before, at any level, let alone taking over the reins of a team that's been radically altered. How all that will play out is anybody's guess.

Final analysis. While Boston is looking to the future, which is certainly unknown, the Nets appear to have crippled themselves, not just for now with taking on the huge contracts of KG and PP (by the way, Jason Terry will soon be 36 himself, not exactly a youngster) , while having a minimal chance at a title -- but have traded their future away by giving up all those draft picks.

Then again, I'm probably missing something. After all, Nets' owner Mikhail Prokhorov is a billionaire and I'm still growing my own vegetables in the back yard. Just a slight difference. It would seem to be a reasonable assumption that the good Mr. Prokhorov thinks on a bit of a higher plane than yours truly. Da? Nyet?

Like I said in the previous post -- a Russian always has a plan.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Boston/Brooklyn blockbuster trade

One thing's for sure. Nobody can accuse Boston Celtics' GM Danny Ainge of being gun shy when it comes to pulling the trigger on some major trades involving high profile personnel.

First, he basically traded long time Boston head coach Doc Rivers to the LA Clippers for a draft choice. Yes, there are those that say Rivers "quit" on the team and forced the trade, but that's asinine. Rivers wasn't in a position to force anything. He was still under contract to the Celtics. They owned his butt. The only way Rivers gets out of that is to flat-out resign, forfeiting the many millions still owed to him, and starting over as a "free agent". Doc may or may not have made suggestions behind the scenes to his own front office, but he's way too smart to walk away from that much guaranteed money.

And just recently, the Celtics and the Brooklyn Nets have agreed on a blockbuster trade, involving a lot of players -- plus a few draft picks.

Thing is -- while general managers of pro teams usually hammer out the details of any trade, let alone a big one like this -- there's no way they happen without their respective ownerships signing off on it. Danny Ainge of the Celtics and GM Billy King of the Brooklyn Nets may have done the negotiating, but they have behind the scenes bosses to report to as well.

A little bit about the owners. In Boston's case, it appears to be a conglomerate. There's a guy named Wycliffe Grousbeck, who is listed as managing partner, Governor and CEO of the team. Wait a minute. Governor? Really? I thought that was a title reserved for the head political dude or dudette of each state in the union -- not a pro sports owner. At that, the honorable Wycliffe is joined by another Grousbeck, a Pagliuca, and an Epstein -- evidently as minority partners in the ownership of the Celtics. Excuse me, but somehow Grousbeck, Grousbeck, Paliuca, and Epstein sounds like a law firm from a John Grisholm novel that has gone terribly wrong. Then again, it couldn't be any worse than the one I heard a fried of mine hired a while back to represent him. I believe their names were Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe.

On the Brooklyn Nets' side, the owner is one Mikhail Prokhorov, a Russian national, that became a billionaire in the medals industry after the former USSR crumbled. It should be noted he ran against Vladimir Putin in a recent "election" to become the honcho of Russia  -- and lost. Reports say he wants to run again, but Russian law forbids him from doing so as long as Prokhorov has holdings in a foreign based commodity. So as owner of the former New Jersey, and now Brooklyn Nets -- what is the guy to do? Simple. He's going to transfer the "offices" of the Nets to somewhere in Russia, thereby getting around the statute. Perhaps unbelievably, Commissioner David Stern and the NBA appear to have given him full permission to do just that. Prokhorov may be a lot of things, but I doubt anyone considers him a fool. Obviously, he knows what he's doing. It reminds yours truly of the immortal line uttered by an Admiral (played by Fred Thompson) in the movie The Hunt For Red October, when they were trying to figure out the motives of a renegade nuclear submarine commander.

"A Russian doesn't take a dump without a plan, son".

Speaking of plans -- I didn't plan to run on so long with background stuff. Sorry.

Will follow up tomorrow with the details of the players, draft picks, and who were the winners and losers in the Boston/Brooklyn trade. It seems to make complete sense for one team, but one is left to wonder -- what the hell was the other one thinking of when they signed off on this?

Hi J. Still here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

And the Detroit Pistons select....

Kentavius Caldwell-Pope, a guard, from the University of Georgia. Personally, I never heard of the guy, but tracking college basketball hoops isn't one of my strong points, if indeed I have any at all.

They say he was the SEC conference player of the year. That sounds impressive. Then again, while the SEC has certainly been a powerhouse football conference in recent years -- it hasn't exactly been known (Kentucky aside, and even the Wildcats ain't what they used to be) for it's premier roundball play either. Guess you can't have everything.

Nevertheless, Detroit Pistons' GM Joe Dumars definitely rolled the dice with this pick. Why? Because southeastern Michigan area favorite Trey Burke (OK, maybe not in East Lansing), of the Univ of Mich, was still on the board. (Burke would be taken with the very next pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves and subsequently traded to the Utah Jazz). Dumars passed him over to take Caldwell-Pope. Certainly, Joe D has forgot more about basketball than yours truly will ever know, and I hope his wealth of basketball knowledge served him well in making the choice he did. Just minutes after the pick was announced, Dumars was already under fire from the local media. They didn't seem to get it either.

Make no mistake. Joe Dumars has a very impressive resume. A two-time world champion as a player, a member of the NBA Hall of Fame, and as a GM putting together the right pieces to get the Pistons to yet another world championship. Maybe more important yet -- Joe D is about as good as it gets when it comes to being an upstanding honorable man and giving back to the community in many ways. Like they say -- nobody doesn't like Joe D. Or is that Sara Lee? Whatever. Close enough.

Thing is, the Pistons are likely at least a few years away from being serious NBA title contenders -- even if things go well for them. Despite all their various promotions and gimmicks, they still struggle to put fans in the seats at the Palace, where they play. This is what happens when the team is lousy for an extended period of time. Fans can only be led on for so long until they say enough. Show me a winner. Or at least a competitor. The presence of Kentavius Caldwell-Pope likely won't cause a spike in attendance at the Palace. Trey Burke would have.

To be fair, one never knows how draft picks will pan out. Some eventually rise to greatness and others crash and burn. Regardless of how he fares, Trey Burke will likely be quickly forgotten by Pistons fans after he quietly disappears into the abyss of Utah. (Quick, how many former Jazz players can you think of not named John Stockton and Karl Malone? See what I mean?)

Maybe Caldwell-Pope will become a terrific NBA player. Joe Dumars better hope so. Because if this guy winds up being another Darko Milicic draft pick, where Joe D passed over the likes of Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh, to snatch another relative unknown (that none of the "experts" had on their draft boards going anywhere NEAR that high) for reasons known only to him -- and he flames out like Darko --  methinks the curtain will quickly fall on Mr. Dumars' last act at the Palace. No encores.

That's just the way it goes in pro sports. Even nice guys like Dumars aren't immune from the question that seems to rule over all else these days.....

What have you done for me lately?

As far as Joe Dumars running the Pistons and how that team has perfomed over the last few years -- the answer to that question isn't pretty.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

It's just not sporting

So a small crew of tourists were terrified because a rogue giraffe started chasing them in their vehicle while on a safari in South Africa? These are probably the same sort of people that live in gated communities whose biggest fear is their purebred Afghans shedding a few hairs in their deluxe swimming pools. Hey people. It wasn't a T-Rex, a hungry lion, or even a charging rhino. By the look of terror in their eyes, it appeared the ignorant tourists thought they might be torn asunder and digested as food if the mighty beast had caught up to their vehicle. Please. It was a giraffe. What a bunch of wimps. They should have gone to the San Diego Safari Park about an hour's drive north of the famed zoo. At that place they could ride around in the back of a truck and feed the giraffes directly from hand to mouth -- even pet them.

Not sure what to make of the Volkswagen commercials that are sprinkled amongst so many sporting contests. They may be fine cars indeed, but do the VW dealers really insist on sending a chaperone along in the back seat for every adult couple that wants to take one of their vehicles for a test drive? Good grief. Surely all that fine German engineering they boast of includes an onstar or GPS system of some sort. It's not like people would get far if they actually attempted to steal the car.

Shaq is back with his Buick commercials, but they've still never shown him getting into or out of one of those little cars. While pictured inside and singing the praises of such a fine automobile, he reminds yours truly of a bass in a goldfish bowl. It just doesn't seem like a good fit somehow. At the end of these spots, Shaq likes to quote what his dear mother might have said when she got her first look at him after giving birth.

Stuff like -- Wow, that boy's gonna grow up to eat the whole state of New Jersey.
And -- Wow, look at the HEAD on that thing.

Of course, my hearing isn't so good anymore, and I might have heard those wrong.

Idle thought: Bet you haven't noticed the San Antonio Spurs lately. That's because there's nothing to notice. Once again, they've shown their class. After being defeated in the NBA Finals, they quietly disappeared. Had the series played out the other way, with the Miami Heat as the losers -- tell me Lebron, Dwyane and Chris wouldn't still be out there in front of the cameras churning out sound bytes -- and I'll tell you I don't believe it. Bravo to the Heat and give them their rings. But I'm old school, and will continue to root for class over brass every time.

Congrats to the Chicago Blackhawks on a well-deserved Stanley Cup triumph. But careful boys. You might be champions and represent President Obama's home town, but you're also known as a rather conservative bunch. Celebrate too much, and he might turn those fun-loving folks at the IRS loose to audit you back to demanding a receipt for who paid for your skates and sticks when you were 5 years old -- and everything since. Politicians can indeed be unsportsmanlike at times.

Interesting how the Aaron Hernandez case has played out so far. Some things seem very fishy. Watching closely. More later.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Gary Player in the nude

No, you won't see any pix here, but according to news reports, the 77 year old South African golfing legend is going to lay it all out there in an upcoming issue of a sporting magazine. Well, kiss my grits and greats balls of fire. This is ground-breaking stuff. It's not just every day something like this happens. Especially coming from a guy that has heretofore been known as the ultimate gentleman's gentleman.

Yeah, one can already imagine the sort of stuff the jokesters will generate over this in the near future. Throw in a few golf items/terms like driver, wedge, balls, putter, dog-leg, bunk(her), etc., and no doubt the people that dream up such one-liners will tee-off on Mr. Player. There will be a million of them.

But you know what? I give the man major credit for having the, oops, I almost said it, ahem, courage to do such a thing. And why not? Where is it etched in stone that there's an age limit on what some people find sexy?

It's easy for younger people to poke fun at their elders. I did it myself. Thing is, as the years have rolled by and God has allowed me to hang around -- those old jokes don't seem nearly as funny as they once were. Imagine that.

For that matter, it's also been reported that Gary Player routinely does 1000 sit-ups a day. Though slight of stature, Player has always appeared fit over the years -- but 1000 daily sit-ups? He might be 77, but we're talking about some seriously ripped 6-pack abs going on here.

No, I probably won't buy the magazine, because I'm not much into male models, regardless of their age. Different strokes.

But if this can happen, then yours truly can only hope it opens the door to others willing to do much the same thing.

In a perfect world, Hugh Hefner and his Playboy folks have taken notice, and have contacted Betty White for a centerfold extravaganza of their own in the near future.

THAT one I'd buy. Forget the usual bimbos. They're a dime a dozen. Betty White is in a class by herself. What a woman.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hot dogs and long shots

First, the hot dogs. That would be the Miami Heat. Congrats are in order for winning another world championship, but.....

During the official celebration, Lebron James was introduced as the greatest player in the universe. Maybe he is. What was offensive was James wearing a T-shirt that said "witness" (as in his magnificence), while spreading his hands like he was the Messiah. He's good, but not THAT good. Then came Dwyane Wade strutting like a peacock with a big fat cigar in his mouth. Sure, to the winners go the spoils, but these guys aren't exactly endearing themselves to many objective fans out there in the basketball world. A little humility might be nice. Is that asking too much?

On to the long shots. There were lots of them.

Spaniard Rafael Nadal got knocked off in straight sets at the opening round of the Wimbledon tennis tournament by a guy named Steve Darcis. Right away the apologists and excuse makers were out in full force. The grass was a little wet, hence a bit slippery. (Nevermind both players had to play on the same surface). Nadal might have still been weary from his recent French Open championship. Perhaps his recent leg injury is showing some lingering effects, etc. This is all baloney, of course. Darcis, a Belgian, though ranked somewhere around 135th in the world, played a superb match from start to finish. The talking heads were saying it was an embarrassing display by Nadal. No, it wasn't. He played OK. The other guy just beat him fair and square. Hey, it happens.

On the PGA tour, some guy named Ken Duke won the Travelers Championship in Connecticut. He's 44 years old, has been a pro since 1994, was ranked 144th in the world, and it took him 187 tournaments to finally win one. But he finally did, and good for him. It happens.

Martin Truex Jr. just snapped a 218 race losing streak by winning on the road course in Sonoma, CA. It's only his second NASCAR win ever, and first since 2007. Keep plugging away, and ya never know when a win might happen.

In somewhat of a shocker, the Chicago Blackhawks scored two goals in the last minute and a half or so of Game 6, in Boston, no less, to capture Lord Stanley's cup. That series has been such great hockey and yours truly was really looking forward to a Game 7 in Chicago.

I'm sure my friend Deb, a big-time Chitown sports fan, is happy. We shouldn't be surprised. After all, the windy city is Obamaturf, right? And that guy always seems to have a way of coming out on top in the end. If there was any justice I'd get a free beer out of this deal somehow.... but probably not.

On another note, it's been comical to watch tennis stars Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova engage in a battle of words. Williams has owned Sharapova on the court whenever they've met over the years. But when it comes to two tennis divas, with the gigantic female egos that go with the packages, the odds were short indeed that a cat fight would break out someday. Hiss. Scratch. Girls, girls. You're both professionals. Please act like it. Young kids are watching.

Courtney Force, daughter of John Force, the renowned funny car racer, recently beat her daddy in a funny car final at an NHRA event. When she finally climbed out of the car, took off her helmet, and faced the TV folks -- there was no doubt she was daddy's girl. Same wide smile, same crazy eyes, same big teeth, and she immediately started yammering away at a rate that would have left Dick Vitale trying to back it up and slow it down on his DVR. I think we can safely rule out the mailman when it comes to any paternity issue. She's chock full of daddy's DNA. Top funny cars typically run quarter miles in about 4 seconds -- which is roughly the same amount of time it takes Courtney or her dad to rattle off a few paragraphs when they get in front of the TV cameras. May the "force" be with them, I suppose -- but dang -- slowing down the verbals to the average range of human comprehension couldn't hurt either.

Good to hear from you again, JD. Don't be such a stranger. Things that are important enough have a way of working themselves out eventually.

Doc Rivers and trade possibilities

Evidently, the Boston Celtics just traded their head coach, Doc Rivers, to the Los Angeles Clippers for their 2015 first round draft choice. NBA insiders are surmising that may open up other possibilities between the two teams -- perhaps something involving aging Celtic center Kevin Garnett.

Personally, I find this fascinating. If head coaches can be traded for draft picks, then why not think outside the box as to where this could eventually lead?

For that matter, where is it written in stone that teams from one professional sport can't make trades with teams from another sport? If it suits both franchises for whatever reasons -- then why not?

Remember when Matt Millen was screwing up the Lions' franchise as it's Prez? Eventually, even the Ford family came out of another one it's comas and got rid of him. But they still owed him millions of dollars. There was a better way. They could have traded him to another NFL team as a live tackling dummy. How many teams have one of those, and what would it be worth to them? Indeed, even if the "blue oval" folks had wanted to keep it "in house", they had other options to get at least a little bang for their bucks with Millen. Why not take him out to the Ford Motor Company proving grounds and strap him in as a crash test mannequin? Those fake ones with all the sensors are OK, but what could be better than a live one? Vroom. Screech. BANG!!!  "Tell us how that felt Matt, and our engineers will get to work on making it a little less painful for our real customers in the future". At least he would have earned some of his money.

The Detroit Tigers don't know what to do with former closer, and lately ninth inning batting practice pitcher Jose Valverde. They should have traded him when he still had some value. NASA might have gladly picked up his salary. These days, nobody knows more about "moon shots", except maybe Lori, than Valverde.

The Detroit Pistons dumped head coach Lawrence Frank a few months ago. They still owe him $4 million bucks. Frank can sit around and do absolutely nothing, but Pistons' owner Tom Gores will pay him more money next year than the average hard working family will likely earn in the next decade. Why not get some use out of him? Trade him to Tiger Woods. He might get a kick out of a red-headed caddy he could boss around, and $4 million is chump change to Eldrick. Either that, or Tom Gores could also keep it "in house". As the owner of Palace Entertainment, he rules over Pine Knob (yes, it will always be that to me, the over-charging smart-meter electric company aside). Give Frank an official looking uniform with a badge, a whistle, and let him patrol biker's alley while the concert is going on. I'm not at all sure how much his authority would be respected amongst the riders, but even a guy like Frank patrolling around ala Barney Fife couldn't hurt. I think. Worth $4 million? Hell no. But it's better than nothing.

Ken Holland, the GM of the Detroit Red Wings, doesn't know what to do with all the young players and free agent possibilities that await his attention? No problem. Put them all on E-bay. Up for bids. Owner Mike Ilitch is probably too busy worrying about working out the finances for the new arena that will house the Red Wings that he wants to add to his growing kingdom in the Fox district. And who's to say Ken Holland himself is off-limits when it comes to trade bait? But most accounts, he's done a masterful job over the years. Maybe another NHL team would cough up enough money for his services so the taxpayers in the Detroit area (and you know it's going to happen, one way or the other) don't get banged yet again for another new pro sports venue by a billionaire and his family, who will reap enormous profits in the future by having it built, while booting an untold number of families out of their houses that will be razed under the "eminent domain" thing. There's absolutely nothing wrong with Joe Louis Arena, other than the fact it's "old" by modern-day sports standards. In other words, there's more money to be made elsewhere with a new-fangled arena that will more properly cater to the corporate sponsor type folks. Cha-ching, and watch the ticket prices go up. Who's kidding who? For many years running, attending a Red Wings' hockey game has been beyond the financial reach of many thousands of their long-time faithful. It seems ironic. Not that long ago, during contract negotiations between the NHL and the players' union -- the salary cap was basically cut in half. One would have thought if the teams could only pay half as much money to the players as what they used to -- ticket prices and concessions would surely go down accordingly. One would have been wrong. It's become even MORE outrageous.

So OK. Doc Rivers got shipped from the east to the west coast. If enough of us came together, perhaps we could make the same thing happen with certain owners.

I'm thinking the Fords, Ilitches, and Gores should be traded to the Middle East somewhere. Why? Because they're always in rebuilding mode too and we always end up paying for it, one way or the other.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Jim Leyland. Smoke and mirrors

Ever listen to what the Detroit Tigers' manager has to say in his interviews with the press? If so, you may have noticed this man can't seem to put two consecutive sentences together without defying logic. He'll say one thing, then immediately turn around and contradict himself. When the interview is over, one is left to scratch their head and wonder -- what the hell was he talking about? He's a like a politician in the neanderthal days.

Amazingly, the reporters seem to fear him. They appear scared to death of asking a tough question that might make the Skipper mad. I don't know why. It's their job to do such things, yet they seem to cower in his presence.

Sure, Leyland's an old-school type of guy. He's gruff and certainly has shown he has a temper over the years. To which I say -- so what? He's the manager of a major league baseball team and tough questions from the media go with the territory -- or at least should. Yet they continue to walk on eggshells when in his presence, as if he might come roaring out of his chair at any second having morphed into a Terminator.

This is all nonsense, of course. Way back in the 1960s Leyland wanted to be a major league player himself, but he wasn't nearly good enough. A .222 batting average in only the minor leagues pretty well proved that out. Evidently having no other job skills in the real world, somehow Leyland hooked on as a third base coach for Tony LaRussa, then managing the Chicago White during the early 1980s. Incredibly, this also somehow led to Leyland being offered the manager's position of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Fast forward a few teams and a couple decades, over which time his body of work (see win/loss record) have shown him to be decidedly mediocre as a manager, and presto, now he rules the roost in Detroit.

Some have credited him with "developing" such stars as Barry Bonds while still with the Pirates in the pre-steroid era. That would seem to raise an obvious question. What could a putz of a player like himself possibly have to contribute to the emergence of a budding superstar? Some guys got it, and some guys don't. Bonds did. Leyland didn't. Get out of the way and let the talented guys do their thing. Seems simple enough. Next thing you know, with the current pseudo-fascination over Leyland, they'll be saying he taught Miguel Cabrera how to hit or Justin Verlander how to pitch. Maybe he'll even get credited with pitcher Max Scherzer starting this season with a 10-0 record. One word. Please.

In the game against the Red Sox yesterday, a Boston player was called safe on a close play at home plate. Leyland walked out to confront the umpire. Basically, the ump told Leyland the runner beat the tag, and Leyland nodded in agreement and walked back to the dugout. The ump was looking at the play from 3 feet away and Leyland was still down in the dugout when it happened. I'm guessing the umpire had a lot better view of that play than Leyland. So what was the point in Leyland holding up the game to go out there in the first place? Photo-ops?

Leyland's managerial philosophy seems simple enough. If one guy is stinking it up, put another guy in and hope he does better. Hell, you or I could do that. It ain't exactly brain science or rocket surgery, as they say.

For every "brilliant" decision Leyland makes, there will be an equally perceived "bone-headed" move.

Yet in the end, it's alway boiled down to one thing. Players play. The team with the better ones usually win more than they lose.

Guys like Leyland, especially given his long track record, are vastly overrated.

The dude's 68 years old and he growls at questions he doesn't like. Yet reporters come to him on bended knee waiting for a pearl of wisdom. Well, guess what? He doesn't have any. Never did, and never will. He tries to intimidate and the scribes still foolishly buy into it.

In my opinion, Leyland's nothing more than a guy that found a way to not only stay in baseball, but make several million bucks along the way. Nice work if one can get it. He could just as easily have been taking your order at a drive-through window at a fast food place over the last couple decades.

Sometimes fate just works out that way.

But please. Stop being intimidated by this guy. He ain't all that. Never was. If you buy into the image he tries to project -- it's YOUR fault. See it for what it is, and hope someday he'll be able to put a few sentences together that actually make sense.

That doesn't seem like too much to ask of a guy that's making more per year than most of us will in a lifetime.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cruising Florida and NBC idiots

So the Miami Heat won another title. Yuk. I've been to a lot of places in Florida over the years. Jacksonville's the home of Lynard Skynard, my favorite band of all time. The bike week madness in the first week of March in Daytona a dozen or so times. There's the Disney thing outside Orlando, and Silver Springs with their glass-bottom boats. Pretty cool. On the west side, there's the Tampa/St. Pete area and Clearwater. Went "deep sea" fishing on a charter out of Clearwater once, but nobody told me about Dramamine. Wish they had. That was miserable.

Heading south from there, if I remember right, there's a greyhound dog-racing track in Bonita Springs and the ultra high-rent district of Naples. Only blue tick, or is that blueblood hounds there. If one goes further south yet, they'll get into my mom's neighborhood of Fort Myers. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford have their former winter homes side by side in Fort Myers, and it's pretty interesting to visit them. But be careful. If you go a little bit further south to Fort Myers beach, you might run into my mom, and she'll put your butt to work pruning palm trees and make you play 4-5 rounds of putt-putt golf every day. There's a lot of putt-putt courses around Fort Myers, and she knows them all. Trust me.

On the east side, once can head south from Daytona and go through some more pretty cool places -- like my buddy Joe's place on Nettles Island, and then West Palm and Lauderdale. There's some serious boats going on offshore in Lauderdale.

But then comes Miami. What's the best thing about Little Cuba? Watching it disappear in the rear view mirror on the way down to the Keys on US 1. Other than that, I've never seen any redeeming qualities about that town.

On to the NBC idiots. Evidently, some NBC affiliates decided to go to commercial during overtime of the Boston Bruins/Chicago Black Hawks Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals . The winning goal was scored just a few seconds later while those nitwits were on the air making a few bucks selling products. When the game came back on -- it was over. Yeah, the NBC folks apologized, but it didn't ring true. They said it was an accident. Horsepucky. In this day and age, technology being what it is -- that was no accident. They tried to sneak one in and got burned. Why not just say it like it is?

For that matter, isn't NBC the same network that is phasing Jay Leno out, while he's dominating the ratings in his late night time slot? Seems to me they tried that once before with Conan O'Brien. He bombed terribly, and they couldn't wait to get Leno back. Next year it's going to be Jimmy Fallon. You'd think the over-all bottom rated network would learn from it's blunders. I guess not. Fallon's currently doing moronic commercials for a credit card company. C'mon Jimmy. You're already making big bucks with your late-late show, and are about to step into the 10-20 million dollar a year neighborhood when you take over Jay's spot next year. Do you really need to be doing this? No other host in the history of Tonight Show would have been caught dead being a shill for a few bucks on the side.

On the NBC local level in Detroit, sportscaster Bernie Smilovitz continues his wacky ways. Over the years, it has become apparent that Smilovitz remains convinced that reporting on sports news should somehow be directly tied to his very own Vaudeville show. It's always about Bernie and his mundane skits that are decidedly not funny. Every time I see that clown say, "Here's a little bit we call (insert upcoming groan of the day), I always think, "Yeah, well here's a little bit I call click, Bernie. You're outta here". What is it with that guy, anyway? Doesn't he realize Marx Brothers type humor went out of style a few decades ago and is no longer knee-slapping hilarious? At that, what kind of self-respecting comedian laughs at their own jokes?

Of course, Smilovitz will always find a way to get some celebrity or jock on camera to ask what's going on with a "weekend at Bernie's?" Often times, it's probably safe to say those people have never met Smilovitz, have no idea who he is, and sometimes don't even get his name right. Yet somehow they get put up to asking the question.

Spending a weekend at Bernie's? If I was limited to such a choice, I'd rather spent a weekend with the Taliban in the mountains of Afghanistan. At least I'd probably be put out of my misery quickly rather than being slowly tortured to death with dumb jokes and video clips that might, repeat MIGHT be amusing to your average 2nd grader.

So OK. End of rant. I had a bad day for a few reasons, and I vented here. I feel much better now and can get back to my usual routine of peaceful, tranquil settings.

A spot of tea -- only Earl Grey will suffice -- while busying myself ever so gently massaging the oriental lily bulbs that are about to spring forth with their magnificence in the flower gardens. Perhaps the daintiest of crumpets or a poached egg when hunger calls. Yours truly must remain mindful of his boyish figure. I could even buy some cracked corn and go back to my "secret spot" to feed the duckies while once again spending hours poring over Renaissance era art work, with all it's intricacies and, what a connoisseur, such as myself, can derive from the works of the old masters.

Either that, or it's back to kick-ass hockey between the Bruins and the Hawks.

Hmm. Decisions, decisions.



Mo Cheeks and the sorry state of the Pistons

The Detroit Pistons recently hired Maurice Cheeks as their head coach. This is good for Mo, cuz he'll get several million bucks of owner Tom Gores' guaranteed money for a multi-year contract. But let's get real. Cheeks himself will likely be gone in a couple years, because even if he's the best coach in the world -- which he's obviously not -- there's no way he'll take a rag-tag team with minimal talent, and likely little chance to get nearly enough of it any time soon, to be seriously competitive in the NBA in the next couple years. There's at least a dozen teams that are currently far superior to the Pistons in the NBA, and many of them show potential to get even better.

For that matter, comparing the Pistons to what's currently going on between San Antonio and Miami in the NBA Finals is like comparing a ninth grade track star to Usain Bolt. Maybe, just maybe, someday that kid will be good enough to compete at a world-class level -- but it isn't going to be for at least a few years, if ever. The clock in pro sports management definitely runs fast.

And while on that note -- yours truly wonders just how much longer Pistons GM Joe Dumars will be tolerated by the new owner. The Pistons seem light years away from being an elite team and, one way or the other, Dumars is responsible for what they are. Joe D has drafted the players, dabbled in free agency, and negotiated the contracts (see salary cap). The responsibility for their current plight falls entirely on him.

Taking into account the established elite -- and given so many teams that are up and coming, while the Pistons look to be bottom feeders for at least several more years -- yours truly just doesn't see any way new owner Tom Gores can avoid brooming him for much longer. Joe Dumars was indeed a great player in his day, and he made some brilliant moves when he first became GM, the Darko fiasco aside. But when it comes to the "what have you done for me lately" question -- Joe D has been stinking it up for the last few years. Nice guy or not, it is what it is. If Gores is serious about wanting a winner -- then Joe's gotta go. He's not going to get them there again.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Scoring and boring

Now THAT'S what I call a great hockey game. In Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, The Chicago Black Hawks defeated the Boston Bruins 6-5, in overtime, to even the series at 2 games apiece. Finally, at long last, a bunch of goals were scored. Though some hockey purists may disagree, yours truly maintains hockey is a lot more fun to watch when the players put the puck in the net several times a game. I don't want to hear about some goalie making 36 saves to record a shutout. I want to see goals.

I've been to hundreds of games in various sports over the years, but I've never understood how people find "low-scoring" contests exciting. In baseball, they call it a "pitcher's duel". Forget that. It's boring. Sure, there's nothing wrong with a good pitcher striking out a few opposing batters, but I want to see the ball get banged around the ballpark as well. Stolen bases and hit-and-run plays are exciting too, but they can't happen if a pitcher is working on a no-hitter. Boring.

In football, they might call it a "defensive struggle". Well, would you really want to drop a few C-notes to attend an NFL contest only to watch a 3-0, or 6-3 game? Give me a few touchdowns any day. And throw in a long punt or kickoff return while you're at it. I want my money's worth -- dammit.

If you like watching a game for hours waiting for a score, watch soccer. Ever wonder why there's always a futbol clip featured on ESPN's top 10 plays of the day? Because ANY goal is a highlight. Those guys/girls probably collectively run for 500 miles during the course of any soccer game -- and they might only score one goal? How boring is THAT?.

Better yet, watch a soap opera. As a young man, many moons ago, I tore up my left knee playing ball and went under the knife. I also lived in a second story apartment in Rochester -- no elevator -- just stairs. I was going to be off work for several weeks. To boot, I had a 454 Chevy SS Chevelle with a 4-speed, and a stiff clutch. Even if I could have made it down the stairs on crutches, there was no way I could drive my own car. So basically, I was landlocked -- not going anywhere, and at the mercy of my then-wife, who was gone during the day at her own job. So I picked a couple soap operas and started watching them every day. Fast forward a month, and I think those shows had moved forward about 2 days worth in their time. I finally realized that unless I had about 20 years to devote to watching those shows -- I'd never actually see a plot play out. Can't remember which ones they were for sure. "Search for tomorrow" sounds close, because tomorrow never seemed to come on those programs. General Hospital? I'd have settled for Private First Class Hospital, as long as they kept things moving along. I was being force fed the guiding light to insanity. Remember Jack Nicholson in "The Shining"? It was starting to get like that. As I was growing my hockey playoff beard, and hair, thankfully my ex, God rest her soul (no, I didn't kill her -- we eventually divorced and she died of cancer many years later), saw the wisdom in getting yours truly out and about before she experienced a "Here's Johnny" moment. Somehow it worked out, but enough about that.

At any rate, the Blackhawks have regained home-ice advantage after their Game 4 win in Boston. Now it's the best 2 out of 3. Both teams are REALLY good, and I wouldn't even venture a guess as to which is going to come away with the Stanley Cup in the next several days. I really didn't think Chicago could go into Boston and win a game, but obviously I was wrong, again. Now it's pretty much a coin flip.

I'm still rooting for the Hawks, Deb, but those Bruins are the real deal. We'll see.

Either way -- let there be goals.

Lots of them.

Regardless, it beats the hell out of soap operas. Huh. I wonder if maybe some of those TV "judges" were ever laid up like I was and went through the same ordeal. That might explain some of their bizarre, aggressive behavior. Same with major league baseball umps, come to think of it.

Just a thought.

The Spurs. From champs to big trouble

They had them. It was over. With under 20 seconds left in the game and a 3 point lead, all it took was one measly free throw to put the game out of reach. San Antonio would return as NBA champions. Lebron James and his Miami Heat brethren would have been defeated on their own court and watched as the Spurs celebrated yet another championship. Surely, the scribes and talking heads would ramble on for days -- weeks -- months -- all the while painting the Miami Heat as over-hyped underachievers.

But the Spurs' player missed the free throw. Oops. Miami headed down the court the other way and, after Lebron threw up a brick, the ball got batted around and found it's way to Ray Allen in the corner. Up went the 3-point shot. Swish. Game tied.

And at that exact point in time, yours truly thought -- uh oh -- the Spurs are in trouble. Not just for this game, but for the series. Sure enough, Miami prevailed in overtime to force a Game 7. The Spurs had the O'Brien trophy, rings, subsequent parade, etc.,  in their grasp -- and let it get away.

At that, with only a few seconds left in the overtime period and Miami ahead by 3 points, Spurs' player Danny Green, who's already set an all-time record for 3 point baskets made in an NBA Finals hoisted up a desperation shot from the corner himself in an attempt to re-tie it. Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh jumped out on him and blocked the shot. Thing was -- in the follow-through after the shot, Bosh pretty much bulldozed Green out of  bounds with his body. Excuse me, but by any basketball standards -- that's an obvious foul. Granted, Green would have had to make all 3 free throws to send the game into yet another overtime, but it was a blatant foul and should have been called. Yet the refs swallowed their whistles. Miami wins. Lo and behold, who was the crew chief of the referees? Yep, good old Joey Crawford. The same guy that once called a technical foul on Tim Duncan, one of the most laid back, low-profile guys to ever play in the NBA, for merely smiling at him, amongst his myriad of other loose cannon antics over the years. When it comes to bizarre behavior, one Crawford can trump the triumvirate of a Busey/Sheen/Lohan, or Howard/Fine/Howard, and perhaps even the last 3 (hmm.... counting the Quaylester -- make that 4) Vice-Presidents the USA has had to endure.

Yes, though I've never been to San Antonio, I freely admit I'm a Spurs fan. Why? Because the entire organization exudes class from top to bottom. Sure, most pro franchise owners not named Jerry Jones normally stay above the fray -- and are perhaps even aloof. Typically billionaires are like that. After all -- how many have YOU hung out with lately?

But look at the rest of the Miami/San Antonio organizations as a comparison. As a high profile kind of guy, Heat president and GM Pat Reilly always shows up on the TV cameras. His counterpart in San Antonio is named R.C. Buford. Bet you don't even know what he looks like. For that matter, nobody even seems to know what the initials R.C. are short for. That's low profile.

Miami head coach Erik Spoelstrah gets a lot of air time and looks like he likes it. Conversely, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has to be damn near dragged in front of the cameras for mandatory appearances.

The Big 3 of Miami were already yapping on a widely publicized TV spot before they'd won anything. Not just one title, but two, or 4, or 7, or whatever, they smirked. The Big 3 in San Antonio had already won 3 together, and Tim Duncan yet another one years ago, but you'd never see them blowing their own horns. There's class, and then there's brass. I prefer the former.

For that matter, it certainly appears as if the media, by and large, are rooting for the Heat to repeat as champions. No doubt, they could write all kinds of sexy Lebron stories, replete with infinite interviews, and fantasize about how many more championships will be in store. The talk show hosts would drool over getting a few Heat players on their programs. Shoe companies would put their minor children staffed Chinese factories on overtime to crank out yet another version of sneakers that would cost the average consumer an average house payment per pair.

If San Antonio wins the championship -- probably none of that happens. They just play the ultimate team version of basketball , and would quietly disperse after the parade in Alamoland. No muss, no fuss. And somehow, yours truly finds that extremely respect-worthy. That's why I root for them.

The deciding Game 7 goes off Thursday night in Miami. The last time a visiting team won a Game 7 on the road in the NBA Finals? Try 1978, when the Washington Bullets knocked off the Seattle Supersonics. The Bullets have since changed their name to the Wizards and the Seattle franchise doesn't even exist anymore, having become the Okla City Thunder. In other words, if history is any indication, I fear the Spurs are in deep trouble.

The dude should have made the free throw. If the series plays out like I now suspect it will -- he'll have a long time to think about that.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Random rants

For decades Roger Penske has been a dyed in the wool Chevy man. So what's he doing running Fords in NASCAR these days?

Now they think they have yet another lead on the long lost Jimmy Hoffa. It's been almost 40 years since he was presumed dead. A flurry of quicky questions..... Even if they find his remains -- what then? Exhume his skeleton just to rebury it somewhere else? They'll still never know who killed him. And even if they found out -- those people are dead too -- of old age. So what's the point in wasting all the man hours and money looking for him? Don't they have better things to do with our tax dollars? Like fixing a few pot holes or something?

As much as I'm rooting for the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup finals, mostly cuz I like their uniforms, I think the Boston Bruins have got on a roll and are just too good right now. When Chicago had an extra man on the ice due to penalties -- Boston was STILL carrying the play with better scoring chances. Sorry Deb. I fear there will be no joy in the Obamahood when it's all over. He might have got his former right hand man Rahm elected mayor, but even the mighty Prez won't be able to bring Lord Stanley's cup to Chitown. The Beaners are stifling them like Archie used to do to Edith.

Starting pitcher Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers just improved to 10-0 on the season. He's racked up 116 strikeouts, posts a 3.08 ERA, and opposing batters are hitting a measly .189 against him.

In the meantime, superstud and Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander is only 8-4, has chalked up fifteen fewer strikeouts (101), posts a 3.41 ERA, and the other guys are batting .253 against him.

So tell me one more time who the ace of the Tigers' staff is this year.

Verlander got a breakfast cereal (Fastball Flakes) named for him. I wonder what might be in store for Scherzer in the endorsement department if he keeps this up. His own brand of kielbasa?

Weird story. My hot water heater starting leaking out of the bottom. So I called a plumber buddy of mine that's a pro at such things. He came over, put his hands on it and said a few magic words -- and incredibly, the damn thing stopped leaking. Dry as a popcorn fart. Yeah, I know, it was only a temporary fix, but still.......  I think the Detroit Lions could use a guy like this. If he can stop hot water heaters from leaking with a few words, who's to say he couldn't get them to win a playoff game if they were to tap into his magic as well?

Nah. Next thing ya know, they'd be back into delusional mode and ranting about going to the Super Bowl again.

There's sort of miracles and then there's real miracles. I dare say hot water heaters are a far cry from the Lombardi trophy. Despite his magic touch, and as smart as he is -- even my buddy couldn't pull that one off.

I think....

Monday, June 17, 2013

Tiger Woods and Jimmy Soul

Everybody knows who Tiger Woods is, but how many remember Jimmy Soul? I'll get back to that.

It's probably fair to say Tigers Woods' career, and life, have taken some strange twists and turns over the years. There was a time, not long ago, when he was all but unbeatable on the PGA tour. Tiger was winning seemingly everything, including one major title after another. When Tiger was "on", most of the other pro golfers conceded they were playing for second place. He was just that good.

There's little doubt that with his world-wide fame, good looks, and yes, megabucks rolling in, Tiger could choose amongst prime "cuisine" when it came to the fairer sex. They were likely standing in line hoping for the chance to enjoy his company.

And then he did something that puzzles yours truly to this day. He got married and presto, out pops a couple of kids. Granted, his wife, Elin Nordegren, was drop dead gorgeous -- but still -- why would a guy in the prime of his sexual virility, that could pretty much have anybody he wanted -- want to settle down? Wouldn't it have made more sense for Tiger to get all that "wanderlust" out of his system before heading to the altar? Alas, evidently some of the wanderlust remained. And when Elin found out -- oh boy. Big trouble, which he very much deserved.

Nevertheless, even before all that exploded, it's notable that Tiger's march to Jack Nicklaus' all-time major record seemed to come to a halt just about the time he got married. Coincidence? Or was Elin the Delilah that cut off Tiger's Samson locks?

Don't get me wrong. I think marriage is a great thing. I've tried it a couple times myself. But it's certainly been known to happen that when a guy -- or gal -- is cruising along at the peak of a professional sports career -- shortly after the "I do" thing -- they seem to lose focus.

Indeed, Tiger tumbled from his #1 ranking in the golf world. Yet a couple years later, after that messy divorce had finally been put to bed -- he regained it. Make of that what you will. Thing is -- even though Tiger's again winning tournaments here and there -- he still flounders in the majors, which were once his forte. Sure, he's still the #1 player in the world, mostly because nobody else can win with any consistency, but when it comes to majors -- instead of his inevitable charge in days of yore -- it's almost like he's a disaster waiting to happen. It seems backwards from what it once was.

Of course, recently, Tiger has taken up with Lindsey Vonn, a world-class skier herself. No, she might not be in the Elin class, but as far as looks go -- Lindsey ain't exactly shabby.

And I think that's where Tiger has gone wrong over the years. Which brings me back to Jimmy Soul. Tiger should have heeded the lyrics of Soul's famous song, which came out way back in 1963. For that matter, in my opinion, it's good advice for ANY man. Chances are you've heard the song over the years here or there. Sing along if you will----

If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty woman your wife
So from my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you.

A pretty woman makes her husband look small
And very often causes his downfall
As soon as he marries her then she starts
To do the things that will break his heart.

But if you make an ugly woman your wife
You'll be happy for the rest of your life
An ugly woman cooks meal on time
And she'll always give you peace of mind

Say man!
Hey baby!
I saw your wife the other day!
Yeah, and she's ug-leeeee!
Yeah, she's ugly, but she sure can cook, baby!
Yeah, alright!

If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life -- well -- there it is guys. Jimmy Soul's been telling you all along.

Of course, my beloved J is an exception to the rule.

On a related note, here's a shout-out to Pete. I recently met your young-un. Not too shabby, but I hear she can't cook a lick either.

And so it goes. It's always something. Sigh.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Sunday odds and ends

It was not a good day for Hendricks Motorsports at MIS Speedway. Of their 4 cars entered in the race, Jeff Gordon got caught up in a wreck in the first few laps, Dale Jr. blew an engine while leading, Kasey Kahne had a flat tire while leading that took him into the wall, and just when Jimmy Johnson was closing on leader Greg Biffle in the closing laps -- he got a flat tire too. So what are the odds that Danica Patrick would not only run the whole race without somehow wrecking her car -- but also finish ahead of all 4 Hendricks drivers? Maybe about the same as Brandon Inge winning the Triple Crown? Me writing a Pulitzer winning column?

Phil Mickelson choked it away at yet another major. If ever there was a walking enigma as a golfer -- it's Mickelson. The man seemingly has every shot there is on any golf course. He's not only an extremely good ball striker -- he can create shots that most pros wouldn't even think about -- and do them well. In the final round of the US Open, Phil even knocked one in the hole from the fairway for an improbable eagle. His bunker and iron play are supreme. Problem is -- he can't seem to make a putt from inside 8 feet. He missed several earlier today, and several more over the first 3 days of the tournament. If he makes even half of those, he wins the Open going away. But for some reason, the hole shrinks up into pea-size when Phil is standing over a 6-footer. Either that, or his collar gets tight. You know what they say.....  drive for show -- putt for dough. Poor Phil's still got a serious case of the yips.

On a related front -- Tiger Woods quickly hacked and whacked himself into oblivion. Last time I looked, he was over 10 strokes back. Hmmm. That gives me another idea for a blog post tomorrow.

Talk the talk before walking the walk Dept.

It seems first year Detroit Tiger Torii Hunter has become the spokeman for the team. In a way, he sort of replaced the above-mentioned Brandon Inge. Great smile, terrific personality, ultimate pro, always open to the fans and media --- it's hard NOT to like the guy. Alas, like Inge, Hunter has had a long career -- but never won squat either. No, division championships and gold gloves don't count. That's like giving out an award for the longest driver on the PGA tour, even though the guy has never won a major. Who cares?

Even worse, Detroit Lions newcomer Reggie Bush has assumed the role of a "leader".  How the hell can a guy be a leader when he hasn't played a single down for the team yet? Are they THAT devoid of leadership everywhere else? This is not a good sign. The local media is trumpeting Bush's skills to high heaven, though incredibly he has yet to see game action as a Lion, because that's what they do -- but yours truly thinks there was a reason the Miami Dolphins -- not exactly a powerhouse themselves -- didn't make much of an attempt to retain his services. Nor did any other NFL teams clamor for Reggie. So now he's a Lion. Would it be asking to much for Bush to actually accomplish something on the field during real games like, you know, running and catching before he starts flapping his gums?

Idle thought: It's been reported that many of the Lions' players are coaching up other players that play the same position. It's one big happy family and everybody wants the best for the team. Stop right there. If it was you, would you REALLY give a bunch of important tips to someone else competing for your job, so when the boss has to make a choice -- YOU might be the one out the door? Only a crazy person would do such a thing. Huh. On second thought, it IS the Lions. Nevermind.

San Antonio thumped the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. What a weird series it's been. Blowouts back and forth. Now the Spurs have 2 games to win one for a championship. Yet if it holds true to form -- Miami will romp in Game 6 at home. Obviously, that would set up a Game 7 for all the marbles -- again in South Beach. Miami would definitely be favored.

But give wily Spurs' head coach Gregg Popovich a shot at a one game takes all scenario -- especially given he would have seen the other team 6 times already --  and I wouldn't be so sure about the outcome. If there's any rabbits left in the hat -- he'll find them. Yeah, I still think Miami will win it -- but underestimating Coach Pop.......

And a belated Happy Father's day to Roy. Hope you enjoy the dish I sent along. The one in the corning ware that tastes good -- not the other..... well -- you know.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The U.S. Open and other rants

See Phil Mickelson pound 300+ plus yard drives down the middle of the fairway. See Phil hit gorgeous approach shots into greens with holes in tough locations. Even see Phil roll in a 30 foot birdy putt on the 18th, and arguably toughest hole. See Phil merely tied for the lead in the US Open after two rounds of play. Why? Because it's Phil -- and despite all his skills -- the man still hasn't figured out how to make 3 foot straight-in putts on a regular basis. Once again, he got a case of the yips, missing several of them.

Sure, it's only the second round, and a lot can change on the weekend, and probably will. Though Tiger Woods seemed to be struggling around the course, at the end of the day he was still only a handful of shots back -- well within striking range. If one's into stats and history, Tiger has never won a major when in his current position, but you never know.

A couple things about this tournament struck me as being odd. First, the course itself is a shade under 7000 yards, actually quite short for a PGA/USGA venue, let alone the US Open. One would think the best players in the world would be shooting way under par. Not so. Typically, the rough is US Open style brutal, and at this particular golf course -- Merion, on the outskirts of Philly -- the greens are relatively small. Throw in some devilish pin placements, which will likely get even tougher on the weekend -- and once again even par might just be a winning score at this US Open. Maybe Phil will hang on. Maybe Tiger will make a charge. Or maybe someone else will get hot over the weekend and pocket a major championship. Who knows? They're all pretty bunched up half way through the tournament.

The other weird thing was the lack of Tiger on TV. It's not like he was terrible. In fact, while the course was playing about 5 over par to the entire field, Woods carded a very respectable even par round of 70 on Friday to remain in the hunt. Thing is, over the last decade or so, it seems we (including yours truly) have become accustomed to watching endless highlights of this guy, even if he's not playing well, and not a factor in the tournament. This time, they were kept at a minimum, while spreading the TV coverage around the rest of the field. I have long railed against turning every PGA tournament into the Tiger Show, but now that it finally happened -- it just seemed weird. Maybe it's like guys getting "institutionalized" during long prison stretches. The one thing they want most is to be let out -- but when shown the door to freedom -- they don't know what to do. But I think I can get used to less Tiger air time rather quickly. In fact, I found it quite refreshing. C'mon, the dude's tied for 17th. That means there's 16 other guys that merit more on-air time. Of course, there was still the obligatory post-round TV interview with Woods. So some work remains to be done in the interest of being competitive, but at least this was a start. Bottom line? If Woods is amongst the leaders, or has won the tournament -- then by all means trumpet it to the heavens and splash his face and words everywhere. But if he's hopelessly floundering about several strokes behind -- keep his mug off the airwaves and show us the guys that are excelling. Seems fair enough.

Speaking of withdrawal symptoms -- a sports junkie like me had a problem last night. It seemed like every night for quite a while, there was either an NBA or NHL playoff game going on. Last night -- nothing. Cold turkey. Yes, I knew their playoffs would end in a week or two, but still, it's just not right for those dastardly TV folks to prematurely deprive us of our fix before we're ready to "kick". I know about rehab, because I've entered it every June for a long as I can remember. That's when basketball and hockey are over, and for two agonizing months big-time addicts like me are stuck with the placebo of baseball until the NFL and the college kids start showing up on the gridiron. No wonder they call it the dog days of summer.

I'll pay attention to baseball in September, when the pennant races and playoff possibilities start getting interesting. The problem with that is -- it's typically the same time hard-core Detroit Lions' fans start shooting up with megadoses of Honolulu blue and silver "junk". Once they get that stuff coursing through their veins, there's no telling how they might act. They've even been known to hallucinate about the Super Bowl. Those poor addicted souls. They just can't help themselves.

But for now, there's lots of goodies coming up on the weekend. Hockey, roundball, a NASCAR race at the repaved superspeedway in Michigan where track records for speed are likely to be broken, and yes, the conclusion of the US Open.

Boogety, boogety, boogety. I'll worry about rehab later.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Tit for tat, bring it on, and a tweak

And so the game strategies continue. Between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, it seems like a total crap shoot what's going to happen next. First a close game, then a blow-out one way, followed by a blow-out the other, followed yet again by Miami retaking home court advantage by soundly defeating SA in Alamoland. Game 5 comes our way Sunday. Prediction? I'd refer anyone who wants to wager on it to the immoral, oops, immortal line uttered once uttered by Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry. Do ya feel lucky, punk? This series must be driving the Vegas odds-makers crazy.

Yours truly thinks Miami brought their A game with an attitude for the thumping they put on SA in Game 4. After getting embarrassed the game before, it stood to reason the Heat would bring everything they had for the next contest.

And when Miami plays like that -- tenacious defense, blocking shots, crashing the boards -- and is allowed to get out on the fast break for easy buckets -- nobody can beat them. It was heat, heat, and more heat -- and finally San Antonio wilted.

Spurs' head coach Gregg Popovich certainly knows that. Look for him to make adjustments for Game 5. If they work, and the Spurs prevail, the series gets interesting again with the last two games in Miami. If not, Game 6 might well be another rout with Miami successfully defending it's championship. Either way, if nothing else, this series has definitely been unpredictable so far.

The NHL Finals are quite the opposite. There was never any doubt that the Chicago Black Hawks and Boston Bruins matchup was going to be a rock-em, sock-em affair. Not only do both teams have an abundance of skilled players -- they're both very physical. Triple overtime in the first game, before Chicago eventually prevailed 4-3? Tell ya what, with all the skating and hitting that went on in that game, it's amazing how those guys can keep going sometimes. I have no idea who will win this series -- see Dirty Harry above -- but there's a few things I do know. When it's over, the playoff beards will be a little longer, and it will probably take the players on both teams a month to fully recover from the physical beating they've taken so far in the playoffs. And it's only going to get worse for the next 4-5-6, whatever games. These guys are getting after each other. Disagree if you will, but for my money, no other athletes are tougher and in better shape than those in the NHL. I love playoff hockey. Bring it on.

Of course, there's injuries, and then there's injuries. Alas, Tiger Woods looked like he tweaked his left wrist/elbow while hacking the ball out of the rough in the opening round of the US Open. Due to inclement weather, Tiger was only able to get through 10 holes. So, he'll have to play 26 holes on Friday. Long day. He's a few strokes back of the leaders, and while he made a couple brilliant shots, for the most part Tiger didn't look like he was anywhere near comfortable. Whether his arm injury is serious -- nobody knows. But hey, isn't the same guy that won the US Open a few years back when he supposedly had a broken leg? I wouldn't count him out just yet.

But I surely hope Eldrick never thinks he's tough enough to be an NHL player.


Nah. That would be a very bad idea. If he thought that leg, divorce court, and his current arm problem hurt -- trying to compare that to what NHL players endure on a regular basis might be akin to complaining about an ingrown toenail -- to a paraplegic. Somehow, I don't think it would invoke much sympathy. It's best Tiger stick to walking around posh country clubs and doing commercials for megabucks. Put another way -- hockey players can play golf, even while they're rehabbing from injuries. Golfers would get destroyed within 10 seconds of skating on the ice, even if they were perfectly healthy to start off with. There's pain -- and then there's pain.

I suppose it's kind of like if my editor reads this column. He might have to take a few extra-strength Tylenols to ease the agony. But hey, he's a hockey player. He can take it. I hope....

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Miami. Welcome to the woodshed

Holy hickory switches. I haven't seen a whuppin like that since Granny used to get after Jethro. Or maybe since Elin caught Tiger cheating on her. This was painful stuff -- even to watch.

After thumping the San Antonio Spurs in Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the Miami Heat got a serious dose of backwards deja vu in Game 3. In other words, the game was fairly close until the middle of the third quarter, and then it quickly turned into a blowout.

San Antonio 113, Miami 77?  As in a 36 point difference? There's routs. There's beatdowns, and  -- well I don't know. What comes after beatdown? Whatever it is happened to the Miami Heat in San Antonio. When's the last time anybody can remember the Heat, at least in the Lebron James era -- getting trashed like that? Especially during a playoff game, let alone the Finals. Wow.

Turns out, when San Antonio gets it revved up, they're every bit as formidable as Miami. After Game 2, many, including yours truly, thought the tide had swung in Miami's favor. And then San Antonio comes out and blisters their South Beach butts in Game 3.

This series was predicted to be highly competitive from the start, but I doubt many thought a couple of blow-outs would happen -- one by one team -- and then the other returning the favor the very next game.

All the pressure just shifted to Miami. Sure, they might well come out in Game 4 and play a lot better -- maybe even win. They better, because if they get trashed again and go down 3-1 with San Antonio hosting Game 5 to close them out for a championship -- I dare say even the Heat -- despite all their talent and expectations -- don't want to face San Antonio on a roll and their home crowd at a fever pitch with all the marbles on the line.

And you know what? Though some may disagree -- unless you're specifically a Miami fan -- how can you root against San Antonio? They don't get all the press and hype that Miami does, while playing in a much smaller market. But from top to bottom, they're a class act. You won't see their players flopping trying to draw referee whistles for fouls that didn't happen. Nor will they partake in the occasional physical intimidation tactics (see dirty) that the Miami Heat and so many other teams do when they get frustrated. They just play the game the way it's supposed to be played. At a very high level in all the fundamentals, I might add. Further, from head coach on down to the last player on the bench -- unlike certain Heat players -- they'd rather shy away from the TV cameras and interviews on or off the court. They do their talking with their play. How refreshing.

No, it's certainly not over yet. I, for one, would never underestimate what the Miami Heat are capable of in the next few games. They might well get back on a roll of their own and repeat as champions.

But I know who I'm rooting for.

Anymore, I'll take class over brass anytime. It took a very long time for yours truly to finally figure that out.

Either that, or I must be geting old. Sigh.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Detroit Lions Super Bowl -- what???

I can't believe what I saw earlier on the 4-letter network. Granted, I'm dumber than a stick and, further granted, the NFL football "experts" know a heck of a lot more about the game than I do -- but some of them are picking the Detroit Lions to -- gasp -- win the Super Bowl this coming year? Somebody's on drugs, and it isn't me. I won't even associate with anybody that does drugs, let alone partake myself. No way.

Yet somehow -- and it boggles my mind -- there are those that think the Lions will go to the Super Bowl next year. Local media koolaid I understand, but unless the Ford family has been handing out some serious Honolulu blue hallucinogens amongst the talking heads -- obviously yours truly is missing something. Here's what I think I know. Last time I looked this was the same team that...

Went 4-12 last year, losing the last 8 in a row.
Didn't win a single game within their division.
Didn't noticeably upgrade themselves during the off-season through the draft or free agency.
Has a grand total of 2 starters on the offensive line -- and the rest is still up in the air.
Had no noticeable running game. Reggie Bush is in town now? Hey, the Miami Dolphins, not exactly a powerhouse, let him walk. Bush is thrilled to be in Detroit, and well he should be. It's not like other teams were clamoring for his services.

Sure, Matthew Stafford might throw for another 5000 yards and Megatron Calvin Johnson might catch 2000 more yards worth of his heaves. But beyond that....

The Lions cut one receiver because he was a nut case, and the others are recovering from injuries.
They don't have a tight end that can, you know, actually catch the ball with any degree of frequency.
One starting defensive lineman bailed for free agency, and another was put out to pasture. Yet another is doing well if he can stay off the police blotter, and a fourth has been voted the dirtiest player in the league by his fellow NFLers.
Linebackers? Could even a single one of them on the Lions roster start for another NFL team? I have my doubts.
Between cornerbacks and safeties, the defensive backfield looks like some sort of Chinese fire drill running around. And that's the guys that can stay healthy -- which most of them have shown they can't.
Even their reliable place kicker, Jason Hanson, is gone. The Lions are entertaining some guy named "kickalicious". See the stunts he can do kicking a football by himself. See him crawl into the fetal position and cry for his mama when a bunch of snarling big guys are bearing down on him in an NFL game. Good luck with that.

Head coach Jim Schwartz has, by far, at 22-42, the worst record in the NFL. Yes, he took over a team that set an all-time record for futility in 2008, going 0-16. Obviously, it couldn't get any worse. Sure enough, he made progress. In 2009 the Lions went 2-14. A little better. In 2010 6-10. Definitely showing improvement. Most coaches are given a 3 year window to get things done, and in 2011 Schwartz led the Lions to a 10-6 record and the playoffs. Nevermind they got blown out by the New Orleans Saints in that opening playoff game -- things were looking up. Until 2012. Going from a playoff team to 4-12 and finishing dead last in the division, while beating NOBODY within it all year would be a recipe for any other self-respecting team to fire the head coach. In their infinite wisdom, Detroit gave Schwartz got a contract extension. Only the Lions would do something like that. Unbelievable.

So basically, the way I see it, the Lions will still have the Matthew to Calvin show going on, but if anything, the rest has got worse.

Here's a few more reasons why they won't get to the Super Bowl. The...

San Francisco 49ers.
Atlanta Falcons.
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings
Chicago Bears
Seattle Seahawks
New York Giants

All those teams and more will be better in the NFC than the Lions.

But some of the experts pick the Lions to go to the big dance?

Wow. That's almost enough to make yours truly want to do the same drugs so I can fathom what the hell they're talking about.

Nah. I'll stick to being an idiot, but a clean one. Given the "weaker" schedule afforded to losing teams, methinks the Lions, with a few breaks, might go 8-8.

Super Bowl? That's like saying the Cubs are going to win the World Series.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Miami/San Antonio, and an alien amongst us

Over all these years, have you ever noticed how noted sports columnist Mitch Albom always has his hair in such a way that hides the tops of his ears? Yours truly has long suspected there was a secret reason for this. I mean, c'mon, the dude's 55 years old. Nobody wears their hair like that anymore -- unless they're hiding something. Throw in the dark hair and unwavering eyes his people are known for and there can be only one conclusion....

He's a Vulcan. That would explain him never showing his ears. He even looks like Mr. Spock. Hey, I suspect every inhabited planet has its short people -- right? Or maybe Spock was one of the tall ones. Not sure. I've never been to Vulcan, and never will. Last I heard the whole planet got blown up a few years ago.

Nevertheless -- there you have it. You now know the origin of Mitch Albom. Logical, flawlessly logical.

In other sports news, Miami clobbered San Antonio in Game 2 to even the NBA finals at one game apiece. That game featured a somewhat surprising turn of events. While the Spurs and the Heat are both known for their "Big 3s", it wasn't the stars that made the difference. They had played pretty well even up until the middle of the 3rd quarter, when both teams gave their starters a rest and sent in the reserves. One would have thought San Antonio would have the advantage due to their supposed superior depth, but evidently not true. The Miami bench blistered their San Antonio counterparts for several minutes. By the time the starters got back on the floor, the game was already decided. The rest was basically just garbage time. I doubt many saw THAT coming. Go figure. Regardless, Miami definitely sent a message and I suspect Spurs' head coach Greg Popovich had a bunch on his mind on the flight back to San Antonio for the next three games. His subs getting outplayed that bad wasn't supposed to happen. It might be time for Plan B.

Not to overstate the obvious, but Game 3 is crucial. If Miami waltzes into Alamoland and wins that game -- I think it's basically over. Miami will repeat as champs. But if San Antonio comes back with a convincing victory -- then the plot thickens, and who knows how it will all wind up?

Either way, Mitch Albom might well be there to cover it. Given his station in life, he can pretty well pick and choose amongst which plum sporting events he wishes to attend and write about.

I don't begrudge him that. After all, none of us knows how it feels to learn his home planet was destroyed while living on another.

Live long and prosper, Mitch.

Serena, Rafael, Helio, and KFC

Idle thought: Why do they call it Saturday Night Live when the show is pre-recorded? Because it's done in front of a live audience? Big deal. So are game and talk shows. Then again, I guess that's a whole lot better than doing it in front of a dead audience. That would be kind of spooky. Not many laughs either, I dare say.

So Serena Williams won the French Open. No big surprise there. Lately, the ladies' tennis finals always seem to boil down to Serena vs some Russian girl. Thing is, in pro tennis, Father Time seems to speed things up a lot as far as how long careers last. Whereas in other sports reaching the age of 30 usually means a player is in his/her prime, in pro tennis it's almost considered old age. Serena's approaching 32. It likely won't be long before the fall (or retirement) comes. It will be interesting to see which lady players rise to the forefront when that happens.

Much the same is going on in men's pro tennis. Rafael Nadal just won the French Open for the umpteenth time. He's almost unbeatable on clay courts. On hard courts or grass, besides Nadal, it seems like only Novac Djokovic or Roger Federer win everything. And Federer's getting old too.

It's kind of like when Tiger Woods was so dominant a few years back. There's the top dog, and then there's everybody else. If one is a fan of a top dog, this is great. If one likes to see new faces emerge as champions once in a while -- it's not so great.

Idle thought: Love those KFC commercials where the guy thinks he ate the bones. The actors are just perfect for the part.

Helio Castroneves just won an Indy car race in Texas. In all of sports, I can't remember another person that shows such unbridled joy and excitement when they win. You have to like the guy.

And I didn't get to go riding today because I promised myself I'd get a few things done around the house. Boo, hiss. However, LJ (you know who you are) showed up and didn't fall down even once. Things are definitely improving -- at least on some fronts.

On to the Stanley Cup Finals. Boston vs Chicago. Should be a helluva series.

Hi, J. Missed ya.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Pittsburgh, a THUD, and Don Cherry

Who would have believed it? The high-flying Pittsburgh Penguins just got broomed by the Boston Bruins. Yours truly knoweth not what kind of odds the wise guys in Vegas were giving on that happening before the series started -- but I surely wish I'd had a C-note bet on it. I might be able to afford gas for the next couple weeks. No cracks about already being an overinflated gasbag, please.

With all the talent the Penguins possessed, they only managed to score 2 measly goals in the whole series. Unbelievable. Superstar Sid Crosby and fellow sharpshooter Evgeny Malkin didn't register a single point.

It seemed like Boston was everywhere. Indeed, one of the TV commentators noted that Boston featured layers of defense. If a Penguin got past a Bruin, another one was waiting for him. And another after that. No wonder they couldn't score. Yet there's a flaw in that logic.

If a second Boston player covered any particular Penguin, another Penguin had to be open somewhere. You'd think they would have figured that out after a game or two, but evidently not.

Back in days of yore, opposing teams often put a "shadow" on the Great One himself, Wayne Gretzky. Wherever Gretzky went -- the other guy went. But Gretzky and his teammates used it to their advantage. Gretzky once said that whenever he found himself being "shadowed", he would merely shadow a different player on the other team. That meant wherever he went, there would be one of him -- and two of them. That left Gretzky's teammates in a 4 on 3 advantage all over the rest of the ice, which he would take every time.

For every advantage, there has to be a corresponding disadvantage. I think that's one of Newton's laws of physics or something. It's sort of like Don Cherry buying all your clothes for you. Free is nice, but do you really want to be seen in some of that stuff? Whoa.

Nevertheless, while the Pittsburgh Penguins are history, the Boston Bruins await the winner of the Chicago/LA series to play for the Stanley Cup. The Black Hawks currently lead that series 3-1 and could close out LA on Saturday night in Chicago. If so, that would put two "original 6" teams in the Stanley Cup Finals, which would be kind of cool. Can't remember the last time that happened.

What's not so cool is what's likely to happen in Pittsburgh pretty quick. Given all the talent the Penguins have, and after all the high expectations all year long, including going into the playoffs -- to be unceremoniously broomed and kicked to the curb likely won't sit well with Pittsburgh ownership/upper management.

Methinks Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma might just be joining the ranks of the unemployed in the very near future. Though travelling from Boston to Pittsburgh can't be much more than an hour by air, I suspect it's going to be a mighty long plane ride for Mr. Bylsma.

And that meeting that awaits him in the next few days won't be a walk in the park either.

Oh well, that's just the way it goes in professional sports.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go put on my fluorescent paisley pajamas, with base colors of pink in the front and lime green in the back. And they've got a collar you wouldn't believe.

Don Cherry bought them for me. Just kidding.

I think.....

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Can Miami do it again?

Well OK. The San Antonio Spurs swooped into Miami and "stole" a game. This gives them home court advantage. Theoretically, given the 2-3-2 game format of the NBA Finals as to home courts, even assuming the Heat win Game 2, if San Antonio doesn't lose at home, this series will over in 5 games with the Spurs as the new champs.

But nobody really expects that to happen -- do they? After all, the Indiana Pacers "stole" an early game from the Heat in the semi-finals, and look how that worked out. There's little doubt Miami remains a formidable team. If they get it going......

Then again, the Spurs are a whole different animal than the Pacers were. The core of their team has a few championships under their belts in years past, so it's unlikely they'll wilt under pressure. To boot, most would agree the Spurs are fundamentally the soundest team in basketball. They're smart, disciplined, deep, and do everything well.  Magic Johnson probably said it best -- The Spurs aren't going to lose by themselves with mistakes. Another team has to BEAT them. Throw in the fact that most also consider Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich the wiliest coach in the game, and Miami definitely has their work cut out for them. It's not going to be easy.

Can Miami come back to beat them? It's certainly possible, and many likely think it's probable. But I wouldn't bet the farm on that. Miami has to win Game 2 first, and that's no given. If they go down 2-zip with the next 3 games in San Antonio, Lebron and Co. might be in a heap of trouble.

Some say Miami got tired in the fourth quarter of this recent loss to the Spurs. That led to the Heat uncharacteristically committing a slew of late turnovers that San Antonio capitalized on, and -- presto --  a 4 point victory. To be sure, Miami was coming off a brutal 7 game series with Indiana, while San Antonio had enjoyed a week off to rest after sweeping the Memphis Grizzlies in their own semis.

Yet there's two schools of thought on that. Some also maintain that playing games in a regular rhythm is beneficial, because it keeps the team sharp. A team having a long rest loses their edge. It all depends on how one wants to look at it. Glass half empty -- or half full?

In the end, yours truly still expects this series to go at least 6 games, if not 7.

The best thing about it? Though they have different styles of play -- most objective NBA fans would also agree the two best teams are slugging it out for the championship.

And that's the way it should be.

This is basketball at it's finest.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

National Anthems. Get it right

No, I don't go around draped in the Stars and Stripes, but I suppose I'm as patriotic as the next guy or gal. Though I have little use for the self-serving political clowns that sometimes run it -- I really do love my country. While it certainly has its flaws, I honestly can't think of another country where I'd rather live. Visit? Sure. Live full time? Don't think so. It could well be yours truly is brain-washed when it comes to such a thing. After all, I have no doubt there are billions of other people around the globe that would say the same thing about their own countries. Where you stand depends on where you sit -- or something like that.

Which brings me to national anthems, specifically those of the United States and Canada, the two I know rather well. Yes, they're technically only songs, but they represent an entire country and, in my opinion, should not be taken lightly, much less abused. I'll get back to that.

Even a dummy like me knew the Star Spangled Banner was composed by Francis Scott Key as he watched a British naval bombardment on America during the War of 1812. Yet despite how many times I'd heard O Canada, the Canadian national anthem, over the years -- I had no idea where it originated from. So I looked it up.

Turns out, it's kind of complicated. Rather than trying to explain it -- here's what I found on Wikipedia---

"O Canada" is the national anthem of Canada. The song was originally commissioned by Lieutenant Governor of Quebec Théodore Robitaille for the 1880 Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony; Calixa Lavallée wrote the music as a setting of a French Canadian patriotic poem composed by poet and judge Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier. The lyrics were originally in French and translated into English in 1906.[1] Robert Stanley Weir wrote in 1908 another English version, which is the official and most popular version, one that is not a literal translation of the French. Weir's lyrics have been revised twice, taking their present form in 1980, but the French lyrics remain unaltered. "O Canada" had served as a de facto national anthem since 1939, officially becoming Canada's national anthem in 1980 when the Act of Parliament making it so received Royal Assent and became effective on July 1 as part of that year's Dominion Day celebrations.

If you can figure all that out -- you're a heckuva lot smarter than yours truly, but I still think the version I've heard over the last few decades is pretty cool. Thing is -- though it may have been tweaked a few times in years past, nobody much messes with O Canada when it comes to sporting events. It's sung the way it's written.

Not necessarily so, when it comes to the Star Spangled Banner. Over the years it's been mangled in every which way. As an American, I didn't and don't want to see or hear.....

Jose Feliciano strumming his guitar and trying to turn our national anthem into some sort of Latino folk song.

Roseanne Barr grabbing her rather sizeable crotch, in a crass display of vulgar humor, while singing it at a ball game.

The celebrity bimbo of the month, with a cup size higher than her IQ, butchering it prior to any sporting contest.

Trotting out anybody that hasn't even bothered to memorize the lyrics.

Trotting out anybody that carries a tune about as well as your average railroad locomotive.

It's the Star Spangled Banner. I don't want to see it jazzed up, blues up, rapped up, souled up, yee-hawed up, heavy metaled up, or otherwise messed up. Just sing the damn song the way it was written. Is that asking too much?

But to their credit -- bravo -- Canadians don't tolerate that sort of nonsense. Despite the twists and turns their national anthem has taken in it's history, it's THEIR song now, dammit, and anybody that sings it better get it right.

They have no patience for some clueless "celebrity", or the nepotism thing with sports executives or other powerful people trying to get a relative some TV exposure. That's not good enough. Not even close.

A lot of times, they'll trot out a world class operatic tenor, who not only knows the lyrics, but can sing both The Star Spangled Banner and O Canada in both English and French, whichever is called for. As he belts them out, the crowd gets worked up into a fever pitch. It's goose bump stuff, even watching on TV. If only for a short while -- it rekindles nationalistic pride -- always a good thing. This is the way it's supposed to be.

Please carry on Canada. Perhaps someday we dumb arrogant Americans will realize you've had it right all along.

Just so you know -- watching the likes of some fat ugly broad that can't sing a lick while groping herself, isn't exactly inspiring for some of us folks south of the border.