Monday, September 30, 2013

Fresh out of Texas tea

"...And up through the ground came a-bubbalin crude. Oil that is. Black gold. Texas tea."  Yep, the Beverly Hillbillies was one of my favorite shows of all time.

So what's that got to do with sports? Signs held up by fans in the Rangers' stadium said "Texas Pride".

That seems to beg a question....

What exactly does Texas have to be proud of these days?

(Noteworthy comment on the Rangers by a talking head during the Texas/Tampa game. It's the 6th inning. Texas is down 4-1. If they don't win this game, their season is over. After the September call-ups, they have 18 pitchers on their roster. The reliever they just brought in has quickly given up two doubles and two walks. So how come none of the other sixteen --count em-- 16 pitchers are even warming up? What else do they have to do at this point in time?)

The Rangers are history (though I'll miss manager Ron Washington's occasional boo-ga-loo in the dugout), and the Houston Astros are downright pit-ee-ful, as Jed Clampett was fond of saying.

In the NFL, the Cowboys are mediocre at best, and the Houston Texans just blew a 17 point half-time lead to lose a game at home.

The NHL? Even if they had a good team -- which they don't -- nobody cares about hockey in Texas anyway.

(Idle thought. Is that really the multi-talented Bill Hader of SNL fame doing those stupid T-Mobile commercials? I knew he was leaving the show to pursue other things but.... nah .. couldn't be. It must be one of those look-alike things -- like me and Brad Pitt).

The NBA? The Houston Rockets keep throwing big money at free agents, but does anybody REALLY expect them to be a serious contender?
I get a huge kick out of Dallas Mavs owner Mark Cuban, but his roundball boys aren't going anywhere any year soon either.
The Spurs in Alamoland are always pretty good, and they came within a whisker of winning the championship last year. But yours truly suspects they'll be schussing down the backside of their bell curve in the near future. This is not to say they're getting up in years, but don't be too surprised if the next printing of the King James Bible has a couple additional old testament chapters called DeuterParker and ObaDuncan. Even their head coach could get in on recording their sacred history for all time. How's the book of Popverbs grab you?

It doesn't stop there. Even at the college level, the entire state of Texas, with all their big-time programs, doesn't seem to have a true contender in anything. Not even a politician to be fearful of or taken seriously. And when's the last time THAT happened?

Oh my. For a state that has always prided itself on being big in everything they do -- it would appear Texas has quickly become decidedly small on many fronts.

Nary a "lone star" in sight.

Maybe the yee-hah folks should consider relocating.

"They said Californy is the place you need to be -- so they loaded up their truck and moved to Beverly".

I know that doesn't make any sense and I apologize --  but I loved that show.

Final idle thought: Assuming the poker game that's been all the rage for the last several years really did originate in Texas -- this would seem to be a good time for all the buckeroos and buxomettes to do exactly what the game calls for. Just hold-em for a while. Every little thing will be alright, eventually.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

The amazing Patriots

No, the New England Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl in the last few years, but not many would dispute that the Pats remain a force to be reckoned with, year after year -- including this one. How they continue to do it seems to defy logic.

Sure, they've still got Tom Brady -- arguably amongst the top 3 QBs of all time -- and the mad genius of head coach Bill Belichick should never be underestimated -- but take a current look at them.

Last year they likely had the best tight end tandem in the NFL. Now, one of them (Rob Gronkowski) can't seem to get healthy enough to play, and the other, since cut (Aaron Gonzalez) still sits in jail awaiting a murder trial. Their small-statured, but always pesky, reliable, speedy and dangerous wide receiver Wes Welker bailed to Denver as a free agent.

They don't have a "feature" running back.

If you can name more than one player on their entire defense, you're light years ahead of yours truly. I just watched them play the Atlanta Falcons and I've already forgotten the name of their place-kicker. Some guy I never heard of. Same with their punter.

Brady aside, the Patriots look like they're mostly made up of mid to latter round draft picks, and a few guys that weren't drafted at all -- by anybody. Do the math. With 32 teams in the NFL and the draft consisting of 7 rounds, anybody that went undrafted wasn't even considered amongst the top 200+ college players, let alone having serious pro potential. Yet the Patriots have a bunch of them of their roster, not to mention rookies galore.

It seems like after every year the Patriots lose quality players for whatever reasons and replace them with no-names. Most any sort of logic would seem to dictate that, after a few years of this, the Pats would be a rag-tag bunch that couldn't beat anybody.

But guess what? The Brady Bunch just knocked off the Falcons in Atlanta to go 4-0. Whether it's smoke and mirrors, voodoo, somebody in the front offices in Foxborough sold their soul to the Devil a while back, or yet something else we mere mortal football fans can't comprend -- is unknown.

Yet somehow yours truly suspects it's not dumb luck. How else to explain their continued success year after year after year? It shouldn't be happening -- but it is. Somehow, some way -- these guys know what they're doing.

Will they win the Super Bowl this year?

Probably not. Once again, even more so than during his Indy years, Peyton Manning fell into a rose garden in Denver and finds himself surrounded by a boatload of talent. I think this is Peyton's time to go out on top, much like John Elway did a generation ago in the very same Denver.

But never underestimate the Patriots. As they continue to come together during the season, they will likely get even better.

Except for their owner, Robert Kraft. He seems to be regressing. Seen in a suite as his team closed out the Falcons, Kraft was wearing a sky blue shirt with white cuffs, bright red tie, replete with a high white starched collar. This is an outfit we have come to expect from maybe Don Cherry, not a highly dignified billionaire like Mr. Kraft.

Then again, the football team aside, Kraft DID make his fortune in cheese -- right?

NY Jets bloopers

Maybe the long-beleaguered Mark Sanchez finally caught a break. You remember Sanchez. He used to be the starting QB for the NY Jets. To say he was a mistake-prone underachiever might be putting it mildly. Worse yet, it seems Sanchez's biggest claim to fame was his "butt fumble" a while back. Lord knows, it's been replayed a couple gazillion times. That was when Sanchez somehow managed to run into the butt of one of his own offensive linemen, and bounce off backwards while fumbling the ball, only to watch a defender scoop it up and return it for a touchdown. Very embarrassing stuff.

But perhaps now Sanchez's infamous clown play will finally begin to fade from memory.

Enter his replacement, one Geno Smith.

In the game against the Tennessee Titans, Smith found himself in the unenviable position of dropping back near his own end zone to attempt a pass, but suddenly found a rushing defensive lineman in his face. So what did Mr. Smith do? While in the process of being tackled, Geno attempted to switch the ball from his right (throwing) hand to his left -- BEHIND HIS BACK.

Hey, when a massive defensive lineman has a QB "wrapped up" and a "sack" is in progress, trying to play the shell game with the football is a bad -- repeat BAD -- idea. Of course, Smith fumbled, and the ball was pounced on by the very same defensive lineman in the end zone for a Tennessee touchdown. As he did with the former Sanchez blooper, Jets' head coach Rex Ryan grimaced. Smith finally got up and started looking around like he'd just woke up on the planet Uranus (no reference to Sanchez's butt fumble intended). Whuh happened?

With still a quarter left in the game, Smith had already thrown two interceptions, and had lost another fumble. So chalk up 4 turnovers to Geno. This is the guy that's supposed to be an improvement over Sanchez?  And the Jets are shelling out millions to both these guys, but Tim Tebow wasn't good enough to even make their roster? Really?

Tell ya what. Maybe they should bring TT back. Couldn't hurt. Besides, at least Tebow wasn't afraid to pray during the course of games. And right now, with the personnel they have available at their QB position -- the Jets could likely use a few prayers.

Nevertheless, Geno Smith's boneheaded play will no doubt be reshown a few gazillion times itself as being amongst the Top Ten worst plays, bloopers, whatever, on various TV channels and websites in the future.

And maybe with all that negative attention turned to his replacement being held up for the world to laugh at and mock  -- Mark Sanchez smiled inside -- just a little bit.

Yep, it's nice to catch a break once in a while.

Even if it's for all the wrong reasons.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Good and bad news rants

Some insurance company says they will forgive you if you have an accident. Gee, how nice of them. Personally, I had no idea a trip to a confessional was required if a tornado leveled my house or some lunatic smashed into my car -- but I suppose it's better than eternal damnation. For that matter, perhaps some day I'll find it in my heart to forgive THEM for constantly raising my deductibles -- and premiums -- when I haven't filed a claim in over 20 years. The way I see it, at about $2000 annually, they're into me for over 40 grand. Nevertheless, let's hear it for forgiveness. Break out the rosaries and prayer mats.

While watching the Ohio State/Wisconsin game, a couple things jumped out at me. The guy wearing #1 for OSU, one Bradley Roby, appears to be a multi-talented player. He returns kicks and occasionally gets his number called on an offensive play. But mostly, he's a cat-quick starting cornerback. He can cover receivers like a blanket, except for....

The guy who wears #4 for the Wisconsin Badgers, one Jared Abbrederis. At 6-2 and merely a buck ninety, this white boy's the real deal when it comes to wide receivers. He's really fast, runs precise patterns, has hands of glue, and isn't afraid to "go get it", even if he knows he's going to take a "shot". Roby's a good corner, but Abbrederis beat him like a drum every time they were matched up. Though many have likely never heard of him before, remember the name Jared Abbrederis. As a senior, if he stays healthy, yours truly smells a high first round NFL draft choice next year. He's like a Wes Welker -- only much taller with a longer reach.

A major credit card outfit is also offering forgiveness if you happen to miss a payment for whatever reason. They don't offer a clue about their interest rates but, again, being spared execution is always a good thing. This particular company features a commercial where some lady has finally -- FINALLY -- got connected on the telephone to another real human being to talk about whatever problems she might have.

Eerily, the customer service rep appears to be a clone of the caller. And then they proceed to start gabbing away like a couple old hens on steroids. Cackle, cackle, cackle.

So..... if one had a card from this company, had an issue, tried to call and resolve it, and then found themselves on eternal "hold" because the "operators" were busy -- guess why that might be?

I think I may have discovered why I'll pass on that particular piece of plastic.

The Red Wings' season will start soon, and they're back in the "east" where they've always belonged. How they will fare remains to be seen. Good news and bad news. It's good that the Wings won't have to log so many sky-miles out west anymore. But now they'll have to face the likes of the Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, etc., more often. For that matter, it's good that they'll play the Leafs and Canadiens a few more times -- but it's bad because those old-time rivalry games have a way of becoming really physical. Players often get dinged up, or worse, in brutal contests like that.

It won't be long until the Detroit Pistons fire up for another season. This is good and bad as well. It's good that roundball fans in the 'burbs can go watch their team without the arduous trek into Detroit proper. But it has to be bad knowing even before the season starts -- your team has no shot -- none, zilch, nada, fuhgetaboutit chance of contending for a championship.

Gee. I sure miss those commercials with Yogi Berra. I think that was for some insurance company too, though I have no idea which one it was, nor did I care.

But they sure were funny.

Oh, BTW. Forget about the 3 point spread. The Lions will clobber Da Bears today at Ford Field. Good news for Detroit, bad news for Chicago.

The worst news?

If the Lions are 3-1, I suspect I already know what's going to happen. The good, but historically misguided Lions' faithful will break out their Super Bowl drums and start beating them again. The sky's the limit and anything is possible, they will say.

Maybe it is, the game the following week in their age-old house of horrors called Lambeau Field nothwithstanding. Could they actually -- gasp -- win there? After all, the Lions just broke a 21 game losing streak against the Redskins in DC.

Perhaps miracles can come true after all.

But the Lions in the Super Bowl?

I'll believe that when my insurance company cuts my premiums in half and lowers my deductible back to somewhere around Miguel Cabrera's batting average.

Let's just say yours truly isn't holding his breath........

Friday, September 27, 2013

Detroit Tigers. Over/underrated?

When you think about it, the Tigers are really hard to figure out. Before the 2013 season even started the general consensus, particularly amongst Detroit fans, was the Tigers would easily win the woefully weak AL Central Division -- perhaps by as much as 15-20 games. Fast forward to the present and yes, they have indeed won it, but it took them until the last week of the regular season to finally sew it up. It appears they will finish around 4 games ahead of those pesky Cleveland Indians, who themselves are very much in the wild card race.

Idle thought: At last look, Cleveland had won something like 11-12 games in a row, but they'll fall short of the Division title. The next time you read some "expert" telling you that games in the first few months of the season don't matter -- send them an email and tell them they obviously don't know what the hell they're talking about. It doesn't take a genius to understand every game throughout the season counts the same. At the end, total wins and losses are tallied, and some teams make the playoffs while others don't. This is not rocket science, or even trying to get a Kardashian to go "dutch" on a date.

Yet the Tigers remain mystifying. Many of their local pundits have said the Tigers have the best starting pitching rotation in all of baseball. A quick look at their numbers would seem to bear that out -- but....

Nobody could have foreseen Max Scherzer going an incredible 21-3. He's been a pretty good pitcher for the last few years -- but nowhere near THAT good. Then again, Justin Verlander, the reigning Cy Young winner (who had a breakfast cereal named after him, and signed a long-term contract worth just a little more than your average country's gross national product), has struggled just to post a .500 record. Nobody saw that coming either, so perhaps those two cancel each other out in the whole scheme of things.

Other Tiger starting pitchers, that would normally be considered mediocre, have stepped it up as well. Doug Fister is 14-9. Anabel Sanchez 14-8. Rick Porcello 13-8.

And then there's the hitters. According to the same local scribes -- it's a regular murderer's row. They have a point there, as well.

Miguel Cabrera, last year's Triple Crown winner, hasn't slacked off much. He won't win the home run title, but he's batting a whopping .345, even after a recent slump.
Omar Infante, known to be a slick-fielding 2nd baseman, is pulling a Scherzer while hitting .318.
Recently acquired free agent and aging Torii Hunter checks in at .304.
Victor Martinez came back from a serious injury and was hitting .302.
Even Jhonny Peralta, after serving his 50 game drug-related suspension, has returned to the roster, and was batting .305.
Prince Fielder is batting a very respectable .281, and is always a home run threat and big-time RBI guy.
Throw in a Bryan Pena here (.302) and an Austin Jackson there (.273), and the Tigers' line-up appears to be formidable indeed.

So if they've got the best starting pitching rotation and such a murderer's row batting line-up, then one is left to wonder a couple things.....

Why are they 3 games behind the Red Sox, who have played in a much tougher division all year?

For that matter, why is it that the Tigers, with a team payroll that might have made the late George Steinbrenner choke on his caviar, are a game behind the small-market and fiscally minded Oakland A's?

It wasn't that long ago that the A's came to Tiger Stadium, where Jim Leyland's boys have a very impressive home record, and swatted the puddy-tats aside for the first 3 games in a 4 game series. Save for a last second miracle rally in the finale, the Tigers should have been broomed. Don't think that's been forgotten -- by either team. The A's KNOW they can not only match up with their much higher paid counterparts, but beat them in their own backyard. The same could be said of the Bosox.

Though the Tigers seemed to have their number in recent postseason play, the Yankees have been eliminated. They won't get to kick the Bronx Bombers around this year.

It will be interesting to see how the match-ups unfold when the play-offs start.

And no matter what kind of koolaid your home town scribes try to get you to swig -- know one thing.

Once they start, the playoffs are a crap shoot. Anybody can beat anybody else in a short series. I know it, you know it, and they know it. Which team is better "on paper" becomes about as relevant as waking up to a pair of aces in a game of Texas hold-em. Yep, you've got the best hand going in, but 5 more cards still have to hit the table, and a lot of things can happen.

And sometimes do.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Detroit Lions. Super Bowl this year?

Yeah, I know. The Detroit Lions have been perpetually rebuilding since Dwight Eisenhower was President and, fittingly enough, the Ford Edsel was about to make it's debut. Needless to say, the Lions have, perhaps rightfully, been the butt of many jokes over the last half century or so.

Indeed, out of all the NFL teams, there are only 4 that have never even made an appearance in the Super Bowl, let alone win it. Sure, the Minnesota Vikings and Buffalo Bills never won it either, but at least they GOT there a few times. Besides Detroit, the other no-shows are....

The Jacksonville Jaguars. Though they've been to two AFC championship games, they are currently terrible with no hope in sight.

The Houston Texans are the newest franchise in the NFL, having only been in existence since 2002. Yet since their inception, the competition in the AFC has been brutal. The Steelers. The Patriots. The Indy Colts when Peyton was still there, etc.

And of course, the Cleveland Browns. After the original Browns absconded to Baltimore to become the Ravens, the "new" Browns inherited all of the "old" Browns team win/loss stats. Either way, the Browns have never been to a Super Bowl, and don't look remotely close to getting there any time soon. However, last time I looked, the former Browns (now Ravens) are the defending Super Bowl champs. Funny how those things work out sometimes.

Regardless, the Lions have the dubious distinction of being the only NFC team to never make it to the Super Bowl.

Yet so far this year, the stars seem to be aligning in the Lions' favor to get to the Big Dance. Sure, 3 games do not a season make, and a lot of things can and no doubt will happen in the next 13. But consider....

For various reasons, the normally mighty Packers look beatable.
The San Fran 49ers (last year's Super Bowl runner-ups) seem to have come back down to earth. Yes, they just throttled the St. Louis Rams, but their QB Colin Kaepernick appears to be going through a sophomore slump. And c'mon. It was the Rams.
The Atlanta Falcons, another pre-season favorite, has stumbled to a 1-2 record coming out of the gate.
Eli Manning and the NY Giants, winners of two recent Super Bowls, are winless and got thrashed 38-0 by the Carolina Panthers last week. Oh my.
The Dallas Cowboys? The ever-glib Jerry Jones can talk all the smack he wants, but he's still stuck with Tony Romo as his QB, and there just ain't enough gitty-up in the rest of his horses to make a serious run at the Super Bowl.
The New Orleans Saints are interesting. Head coach Sean Payton is back after serving a year's suspension over the "Bounty-Gate", thing, and the Saints have come marching in winning their first 3 games. Plus, never underestimate Drew Brees. He might be getting older, but the dude still has some serious game left in him. After such a miserable season last year, can the Saints rebound that quickly to become Super Bowl contenders? Paint yours truly skeptical.
Philly's a mess, the Skins are a train wreck, and the Vikings need a QB. Bad.

So by simple process of elimination, the Lions have the best shot they've had in decades of getting to the Super Bowl. No, I didn't forget about the Seattle Seahawks. They are indeed formidable, but yours truly has put a curse on their head coach Pete Carroll. I don't like him, never have, and it's only a matter of time before the "wrath" takes it's toll.

Last but not least is Chicago. Da Bears are 3-0 and will come to Detroit this Sunday for a marquis game. The Lions typically play pretty well at home and they'll be geeked for this one. Should they win (they're 3 point favorites), both teams will be 3-1 and the Lions will have some serious momentum and confidence to build on. Further, as befitting a 4-12 team last year, the NFL schedule-makers gave the Lions a relatively soft schedule for 2013. Sure, there's a couple of good teams lurking down the road, but dang, besides their mandatory division games, they can't all be patsies.

So the way I see it, the Lions will never have a better chance of making it to the Super Bowl then this year. It's right there in front of them if they have the fortitude and true grit necessary to go make it happen. If they can clean up their act a bit in the "bonehead" department, from coaches and coordinators, down to certain players, a glorious season could await them.

Obviously, that begs the big question.

Will the Lions make it to the Super Bowl this year?

And the answer is.....

Of course not. Are you nuts?

If there's a way to screw it up -- they'll find it.

It's the Lions, remember?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Detroit athletes. Pitiful or comical?

Sometimes it's hard to decide whether to feel sympathy, outrage, or just kick back and laugh. The city of Detroit and the athletes that play for their pro teams have certainly provided a wide variety of strange scenarios over the years to be considered.

Yet for the purpose of this rant, let's just mention three that have happened quite recently.

After chasing down a pop-up in foul territory, Detroit Tiger first baseman Prince Fielder found himself face-to-face with a man in a front row seat that happened to be holding a nacho. So what did Fielder do? Grabbed a chip or two, stuffed them into his mouth, and waddled back to his position. He didn't even bother to say thanks. Nevermind that 1) the fan had likely shelled out 7-8 bucks for the already pitiful slop they call nachos at most ballparks, or 2) Fielder makes around $20 million a year -- enough to BUY a few franchises that serve such food, and 3) Every major league clubhouse is chock full of all kinds of various munchies for the coaches and players.....
Fielder just couldn't wait a few minutes until that inning was over to gorge himself privately. He had to have it NOW. Jay Leno rightfully lampooned Fielder and why he has such a "fat ass" on the Tonight Show.

Detroit Lions' receiver Nate Burleson just experienced a "single car accident" which resulted in Burleson breaking an arm. This will require surgery and Burleson's timetable to return to action is unknown. Evidently, this came about because Burleson lost control of his car while "adjusting" a pizza or two on the seat. This is another guy that makes millions of bucks. So what's he doing chasing pizza? Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to just have it delivered? For that matter, Burleson could hire a car and driver for what amounts to chump change to him for any running about town he felt necessary. But no. Somehow Nate found a way to crash his car, break his arm, and land on the disabled list yet again -- all because he had to do it HIS way. Besides the outrageous tabs that will likely be incurred with medical costs and a car repair shop -- perhaps an even greater tragedy has gone unnoticed. Football players come and go, but good fresh pizza is a terrible thing to waste.

Last but hardly least is the ever-volatile Jim Schwartz, head coach of the Detroit Lions. It has been reported that, due to a technical malfunction, the Lions were placed at a disadvantage in their recent game against the Washington Redskins. Thing is, there WAS no such disadvantage. The NFL would never allow one team to have an advantage over the other due to electronic equipment not functioning properly. Both teams were forced to cope with the same scenario.

Yet one of Schwartz's post-game quotes was notable.

"We were flying blind on offense, defense, and special teams".

And I dare say the man unwitting summed up the last half century of the Lions' foibles quite nicely with that one remark. Even Schwartz (he of the 24-43 career coaching record) gets something right once in a while.

So how should one feel when it comes to Detroit and their athletes?

Sympathy? Outrage? Cautiously hopeful? Resigned to the inevitable?

Personally, I choose to kick back, occasionally watch the show from afar, and wait for the next punch line, that will surely come around soon.

Because when one considers their history, recent past, present, and what's likely to happen in the near future -- it becomes difficult to take them too seriously.

Better to have a few yuks, I think. Lord knows, when it comes to Detroit, most of the rest of the country has been trending that way for a long time.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The NFL, ET, and a strange new world

There are certainly those that have said yours truly seems to wake up in a new world everyday. Not quite sure what they mean by that. Personally, I'm of the opinion that every day I DO wake up is a great day. One way or the other, I'll handle whatever else comes along. After all, there are also certainly those that were denied the privilege. If you don't believe that -- check the obits. They had a BAD day.

Yet sometimes it leaves one to wonder --- what the hell is going on around here?

Enter the NFL.

After Week 3 the Pittsburgh Steelers haven't won a game yet, but the KC Chiefs are undefeated? Did I just wake up in the twilight zone?

The Cincinnati Bengals just knocked off the mighty Packers? That would never happen in my world.

The Miami Dolphins are 3-0?  Miami? Really? What sort of strange place is this?

Holy Jedi knights, Lilliputians, and Cousin Itts . The NY Giants just got swamped by the Carolina Panthers to the tune of 38-0? The same Panthers that the geniuses at Sports Illustrated predicted were the only team in the league worse than the Detroit Lions? THOSE Panthers? And OMG, what has become of the younger Manning brother, aka the Giants' quarterback? Perhaps 3 Dog Night should come out of retirement and write a new updated song. Instead of "Eli's Coming", it could aptly be titled "Eli's Going". I'm not sure where, but wherever it is -- it ain't pretty. Talk to me Mr. Spock. I desperately need a dose of your logic to clear my senses.

Speaking of the Lions, they finally broke a 21 game losing streak to the Washington Redskins in DC? I now know for sure that I am longer on the planet Earth that used to be my home. Merciful Lord, please be with me because I do not understand this new world that I just woke up in, and I tremble with fear as to what might come next.

Which would seem to be the woeful Oakland Raiders going into Denver to challenge Peyton Manning and his Super Bowl caliber Broncos on Monday Night Football.

If somehow, some way, the Raiders win this game, then yours truly knows exactly what I have to do.

Find ET. We have something in common and perhaps he could advise me.

Because I really, REALLY need to phone home.

This new place is WAY too strange and scary for me.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Detroit Lions. Magical but confusing

Ding dong, the wicked witch is finally dead. That would be Lions' coach Jim Schwartz leading his band of merry men into Sherwood Forest -- no wait, that was Robin Hood, and this game was played in DC.

At any rate, Dorothy, ahem, Matthew Stafford and his fellow munchkins found their way to Emerald City, oops, the nation's capital, and outsourced, sorry (but it IS Detroit we're talking about), outsorced the Wizards. No, that can't be right either. The Wizards are their basketball team. How did they get into this?

Regardless, after tilting at windmills in their first 21 tries, the Lions finally slew the dragon. Hmmm. It seems somehow Don Quixote and Sinbad have crept into this conversation as well, but the Lions have had a magical way of convincing their fans that "make believe" things might come true every year. As they ride around on their magic carpets, yours truly continues to marvel at their never-say-die Ali Baba "open sesame" attitude towards the Super Bowl, and remain as tightly banded together as Athos, Porthos, and Aramis -- the 3 Musketeers -- not be confused with the candy bar or Annette, Darlene, and Cubby. They were Mouseketeers. Just a slight difference -- or maybe not. Nevertheless, Lions' fans have long since adopted the "one for all and all for one" mantra of the original Three Musketeers. Perhaps for the record, it should be noted that the author of that original novel was named Dumas. Pronounce it however you want and draw your own conclusions.

Still, the Lions somehow found their way into never-never land by winning this game. No wait, that was Peter Pan, or maybe the late Michael Jackson. Seems to me at least one fairy was involved in those magical tales, but I'll leave that to the reader's imagination.

After the final second ticked off the clock, the Lions' head coach threw down his headset and roared towards the heavens. They had finally done it. Jim "Moses" Schwartz had parted the Red Sea -- or at least those pesky Red-skins, and led his team into the promised land. After eons of oppression -- surely salvation must be near at hand. Finally, the Lions threw off the shackles of their nemesis and screamed, "We are free at last". They might even have a dream, but far be it from me to mention the late great Martin Luther King Jr. in the same conversation as the Lions.

So yeah, as you can see from the above, the Lions have a way of causing even the most brilliant of minds to get lost in a magical world of confusion -- let alone someone like your truly who typically thinks on a level best associated with a turnip or green bean.

Either way, congrats are in order for the Lions. And seeing how this article started on a Wizard of Oz note, it should probably finish that way.

The Lions went into DC and played with heart. The Tin Man would have been happy. They showed courage. The Cowardly Lion would have been proud.

Most important of all, despite a few minor gaffes from the Honolulu blue and silver here and there, Ndamukong Suh didn't do anything incredibly stupid or destructive.

And who knows? Maybe somewhere over the rainbow that scarecrow's dream will come true too.

For now, two out of three ain't bad. I really don't want to ever see #90 in those ruby red slippers, though.

Now THAT would definitely be a personal foul......

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Michigan football. Not good

After starting out the season with a rousing 50 point beat-down over mid-major Central Michigan, then following it up by handily dispatching Notre Dame -- something has gone horribly wrong with Michigan football.

True, their record remains unblemished at 4-0, but consider what has happened the last two games. Against the lowlier than low Akron Zips, UM barely escaped with a win -- at home in their Big House. In fact, they likely should have lost that game.

Just a while ago, the Wolverines again barely eked out a 24-21 win against UConn. They probably should have lost that game too. Yet somehow Brady Hoke and his boys managed to win by the peach fuzz on their maize and blue chinny-chin-chins. Prior to this contest, UConn was 0-2, had no running game, a porous defense, and had been beaten by 15 points at home by Towson. Towson?  To boot, Michigan was an 18 point favorite. It was supposed to be a romp, just like the week before against Akron.

Yet heading into one of their "bye" weeks (they have two this year -- talk about a soft schedule), UM looks like a race car with a shaky oil pump and a bunch of loose lug nuts. In other words, it could blow up at any time, and/or the wheels might fall off. In still other words -- these guys aren't very good, and appear to be living on borrowed time.

Many thought QB Devon Gardner would be an improvement over Denard Robinson of last year. With Robinson, UM was basically a one man show. But one trick ponies won't get it done at the higher levels of college football -- hence Michigan's 2012 mediocre 8-5 record. Good enough to qualify for a second-tier bowl game (which they lost), but hardly outstanding.

However, it could certainly be argued Gardner has hardly distinguished himself. The junior QB appears to be a turnover waiting to happen. Even against not-so-good UConn Gardner threw a couple interceptions, likely should have had a couple more picked off, and coughed up the ball with a few fumbles. Some were lost, and some were not, but it's certainly not going to get any easier once the Wolverines are done with the patsy part of their schedule and start playing serious competition in their conference.

A quick look at some of the things UM did against UConn....

Threw 2 interceptions.
Lost 2 fumbles.
Botched a punt return.
Had a kick-off sail out of bounds.
Throw in the usual variety of poorly thrown or dropped passes, bonehead penalties, highly questionable game management by Brady Hoke and his staff, lack of a feature running back, overrated line play on both sides of the ball, a secondary that apparently can't cover ANYBODY, special teams that sometimes look like they belong in the special Olympics, and a few other intangibles -- and what do you have?

I don't know either, but right now Michigan needs to drastically improve in just about all areas of the game before they can be taken seriously as any sort of contender -- in their own conference -- let alone nationally.

They remain in the top 20 by name recognition only. In reality, yours truly suspects they are once again vastly overrated, and likely not amongst the top 40 in the country.

Maybe the Wolverines should cancel one of their bye weeks and play Towson.

That might be an interesting litmus test.....

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tiger and the FedEx Cup

Reports have it that if Henrik Stenson, who has torn it up with his first two rounds of 64 and 66 in the current FedEx tourney, holds on to win -- he could actually lay claim to the Cup itself, the $10 million bucks, a trophy slightly larger than Rhode Island, and maybe even a little personal time with Oprah. Or was that Miley? Regardless, that's one helluva prize package, I dare say.

But obviously, there's been some sort of ghastly mistake. Don't these people know that Tiger Woods is supposed to be the champion? After all, though he hasn't won a major tournament in 5 years, he's still the #1 player in the world. Coming into the PGA's version of the playoffs, Eldrick was the #1 seed, and thanks to a mysterious bonus point system working in his favor that likely not even a panel of former Nobel mathematical laureates would be able to decipher, Woods would have to almost totally collapse NOT to win it.

Let's get real. The media and his throngs of adoring fans want him to win it. They NEED him to win it. Personally, I've never understood this phenomenon. Why so many have elevated (in my opinion) an elitist, rude, boorish, adulterous man to a level of almost sainthood continues to amaze me. Is this the sort of person parents would want their children to look up to as a role model? Really?

At last look, Tiger hadn't won anything in the "playoffs" so far. Not even close. In the current tournament, after two rounds Woods find himself a whopping 14 shots behind the leader and in 26th place -- out of 30 golfers. Basically, he's stinking it up.

But never fear, Tiger fans. If he rolls in a few birdies on the weekend, yours truly has little doubt the powers-that-be will find a way to get your hero back in the hunt to once again be crowned the king.

He doesn't have to actually win anything, of course -- and nobody comes back from being 14 shots behind -- unless they and their caddy break out some kind of AKs and run amok shooting the rest of the competition on the course. But if Tiger even makes some kind of respectable showing on the weekend, yours truly wouldn't be surprised if somehow, some way, he wound up with the dough, the trophy, and twerking a video of his own with Miley. Or was that Oprah? Whatever.

Because how the FedEx scoring system works remains a big mystery to average golf fans. Bonus points here, bonus points there, and after a while, nobody knows what the hell is going on.

Why not just make it like all the playoffs in other sports? If they had a good enough regular season to qualify -- they're in. But then everything is reset to zero. May the best man/woman/team win whatever subsequent contests they participate in.

But tilting the field before it even starts, in favor of any one participant, for whatever reason, is just wrong.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bo Pelini and Brady Hoke. Records and lessons

Back in 2011, Nebraska football coach Bo Pelini went off on a tirade that he didn't know was being recorded. Following his team having rallied to a home win against Ohio State after being 3 touchdowns behind, no small feat, Pelini was upset that some fans had given up and walked out, and was further pissed about how a few local reporters had recently ripped his Cornhuskers. It was "f" the fans, "f" the media, "f" the university, and "f" just about anybody else that came to his mind. He was certainly on a not so good roll.

Definitely not cool -- but few knew about it at the time. This is because Pelini thought it was "off the record". Now, a full TWO YEARS LATER, this recording has not only surfaced publicy, but gone viral. Pelini may or may not survive as the head football at Nebraska, while the powers-that-be in Lincoln deliberate his fate.

Lessons learned? Regardless of who you are and/or what you do -- never assume anything is "off the record". Such things have a way of rearing their ugly heads in the future when it's advantageous for someone else to make it so. Either that, or never trust a reporter to keep their word forever when they've promised something is "off the record". Given the right circumstances, many scribes and/or talking heads would rat out their own mothers if they thought it was an "exclusive". Fair or foul, they can't help it. It's just the nature of the beast.

Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke has been a poster child for hypocrisy, but the faithful Maize and Blue following evidently haven't noticed.

Following the disastrous reign of former coach Rich Rodriguez, Hoke took over in 2011. To his credit, the program quickly turned around. Indeed, Michigan would defeat not only Notre Dame, the aforementioned Nebraska, and finally break a long losing streak to their nemesis Ohio State which had dated back to 2003. The Wolverines would post an 11-2 record including a win in the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech. A very impressive first year for any coach.

But then, like they seem so prone to do in Ann Arbor, the arrogance factor quickly returned. Thinking they were "hot stuff", Michigan decided to challenge defending national champion Alabama in the opening game of the 2012 season. To the surprise of no objective football fan -- Michigan got taken to the woodshed by a far superior team. They were blown out. Michigan would finish the 2012 season a quite mediocre 8-5, including going down at the hands of Ohio State in Urban Meyer's first year on the job in Columbus, and coming up on the short end against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Meyer's track record speaks for itself and he's not going away anytime soon. The Buckeyes are currently ranked #2 in the nation, while UM isn't even in the top 10.

Yet Hoke still found a way to bluster. After Notre Dame announced they were cancelling a few future games with Michigan because of commitments elsewhere -- Hoke was quick to call Notre Dame a "chicken" for backing out. Bawk, bawk, bawk.

But a closer look begins to expose the hypocrisy mentioned above. Look at the schedules. Granted, Notre Dame opened against a patsy in Temple, but then played Michigan on the road. The next week, the Fighting Irish visited cross-town rival Purdue. Next they go up against Michigan State and then host Oklahoma. This isn't exactly a cake walk.

Conversely, Brady's boys welcomed a mid-major (Central Mich) into their "big house" for an opening first game beat-down to the tune of 50 points. After Notre Dame, UM hosted the Akron Zips. Zips might be an appropriate name for that team. As in how many times in their history have they ever been even remotely close to being competitive in big time college football? Zip. Never. At that, UM was lucky to escape with a narrow 28-24 victory. This Saturday, Michigan travels to that ever- fearsome football powerhouse known as UConn. Then they have a bye week.

If their schedule got any softer, Brady and his boys might likely benefit from having a bowl full of Viagra pills available at all team meals. Couldn't hurt.

So, let's see. After getting big heads and thinking they could actually give Alabama a decent game, Michigan thudded back to earth last year.

Lesson learned?

By UM's actions, it would appear to be....... forget those southern boys. They're too tough. We'll go back to scheduling our usual patsies to start off the year and hope another Appalachian State or Toledo disaster doesn't happen.

So while Brady Hoke can disparage Notre Dame for backing out of the rivalry -- who indeed are the chickens when it comes to what other teams they play?

Brady can rant all he wants, but in the end, I only hear one thing coming out of his mouth.


For that matter, Hoke would appear to be no more than the latest in a long line of banty rooster Michigan football coaches, dating back to Bo Schembechler and beyond. While being big on struts and squawks, they were short on meaningful results. Ironically, the lone exception was Lloyd Carr, a rather quiet man. And one of Carr's teams shared a national championship. You'd think the blue-bloods would eventually learn to stop crowing, shut up, and let their play do the talking -- but evidently not.

Brady Hoke reminds me of one of my all-time favorite characters. That would be Foghorn Leghorn of the classic Looney Tune cartoons. They both talk a lot of smack and are definitely yuk-worthy on occasion. Plus they both always seem to have "dogs", I say dawgs, put in front of them to abuse.

But there's a difference of course. No, it's not so much that Mr. Leghorn was only a cartoon while Mr. Hoke is allegedly real.

Even Foghorn wouldn't have put the Chickenhawks on his schedule.

I wouldn't put it past Brady.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Teams, cities, and confusion

There's a few things yours truly could never quite figure out in the world of sports. So in no particular order....

Why is a major league baseball team called the Tampa Bay Rays when they actually play on the other side of Tampa Bay (the lake) in St. Petersburg? Shouldn't they be called the St. Pete Rays? Isn't that a lot like the NY Jets and NY Giants actually playing in New Jersey? What's up with that? And what was the big deal about their original name of Tampa Bay Devil Rays? Evidently the word "devil" isn't allowed anymore. The hell you say. Or perhaps "heaven forbid" would be a better way of putting it. Come to think of it -- with their pitiful attendance at Tropicana Field home games -- maybe the Rays would be better off across the bay. At least then we could say, "For Pete's sake, you've got a pretty good team, so where's all the fans?"

For about a quarter century the Detroit Lions didn't actually play in Detroit. Their home stadium was called the Silverdome and was located in Pontiac, some 25 miles away from Motown city limits. The Silverdome had a capacity of roughly 80,000 fans and regularly sold out Lions' games, even though the team was terrible. Further, it was easy to get into and out of, with several entrances/exits and access to major thoroughfares right on their doorstep.

But then those greedy politicos from Pontiac stepped in and tried to squeeze a few more bucks out of the Ford family, which has owned the Lions since about the time the Beatles made their debut in America. So in their infinite wisdom, the Ford family said no. Rather than cough up a few thousand more bucks in concessions, they decided to spend hundreds of millions of dollars building a new stadium in Detroit. They would call it Ford Field, of course. This stadium seats about 65,000 fans and it's no given that they will sell out all their homes games either. Plus it's a nightmare to get in and out of -- not to mention much more pricey to attend a game. And in case I forgot -- despite the snake oil certain local pundits continue to peddle to the suckers -- the team's still lousy.

But what of the Silverdome? Way back when it was built in 1975, it cost about $56 million. Nowadays it's costs an NFL team more than that to sign a premier player to a long term contract -- but that's the inflation thing. Nevertheless, what was Pontiac going to do with an abandoned stadium? In their own infinite wisdom, they put it up for bids a few years ago. Your guess is as good as mine as to what the fair market price was. Yet they had a bid of $20 million -- which they turned down. Not enough. Somebody will offer more. In the end, the Silverdome wound up going for a measly $583,000 at auction. Is it any wonder Pontiac went broke with geniuses like that in charge? To this day, the Silverdome still sits vacant.

The Detroit Pistons aren't in Detroit either. Far from it, and haven't been for a long time. They moved out of Detroit way back in 1978 to play in the same Silverdome mentioned above. Not content with that, owner Bill Davidson built his own arena for his team -- the Palace of Auburn Hills -- where they play to this day. Unlike the Fords and most other pro team owners in recent years when building a glittery new venue, Davidson paid for the whole thing himself. No tax dollars were extorted from the public and he picked a site where thousands of innocent people wouldn't get thrown out of their homes by the ever dreaded "eminent domain".  The Palace remains a jewel to this day.

There are those that want the Pistons to move back to Detroit. My question would be "why would they even consider that?". They still have a first-class arena with all the necessary amenities that's relatively easy to get in and out of and, needless to say, Auburn Hills isn't exactly Detroit when it comes to crime. So why would new owner Tom Gores want to shell out a few hundred million bucks, taxpayer assisted or not, to move his team into a bankrupt city, rife with corruption and various other mayhem seemingly around every corner? The man didn't get to be a billionaire because he's a fool.

Alas, like the Lions, the Pistons aren't close to being contenders either. But at least a fan doesn't have ro risk life, limb, car, and cough up a house payment to go see them.

Some billionaires and their minions never cease to amaze me. These are the people that think professional sports franchises belong in the heart of the inner-cities they are named after. But the owners sure as hell don't live there -- and most of the people advocating the same live in the burbs themselves.

Can you spell hypocrite?

Personally, I'm still trying figure out where the NFL Patriots play. New England would seem to encompass a lot of territory.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Max Scherzer. 3,2,1....

Not that long ago (see July 27th) your humble, if sometimes crazed, correspondent wrote an article on Detroit Tigers' starting pitcher Max Scherzer. At the time, Scherzer sported an incredible 15-1 record. That particular piece went on to explain how it was impossible for Scherzer, or anybody else for that matter, to ever reach the magical plateau of a 30 win season ever again.

Former Tiger Denny McLain will always be the last to have achieved such a mark. And that was 45 years ago, way back in 1968. This is because latter-day starting pitchers simply don't get enough opportunities to rack up that many wins. As opposed to the "old days" when they started every fourth day, hence having 40 or so chances in a 162 game season -- modern-day starting pitchers only take the mound every fifth game -- at best. Given the same 162 games available, simple math dictates pitchers like Scherzer might be lucky to even GET thirty starts, let alone win them all. Bottom line? It ain't gonna happen.

Nevertheless, Scherzer poses an interesting hypothetical scenario. After starting out 15-1, with still a couple months left in the season -- just how many wins would he chalk up anyway? 24? 25?  He was on a roll, and with the Tigers' fearsome batting line-up normally providing ample run support, it remained to be seen what his final regular season win tally would be.

Since being 15-1, Scherzer has gone a very respectable 4-2 to arrive at his current record of 19-3. Very impressive stuff indeed -- perhaps even Cy Young award worthy.

But then something strange happened. In his last 4 starts Scherzer hasn't found a way to win. He's still stuck on 19. After today the Tigers have 11 games left in the 162 game regular season. Midway between starts, Scherzer likely only has two more opportunities. He could win them, lose them, or suffer another "no decision".

Yet in a worst case scenario -- how incredible would it be if a guy started out 15-1, with two months left to go in the season -- but never even made it to 20 wins?

Could happen. If Max doesn't chalk up his 20th win in his next outing -- he'll only have one shot left.

And if it plays out that way -- who would have believed it way back on July 27th?

I'm just saying........

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Pollyanna talking heads

While watching the Monday night football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, your truly was reminded once again of something that I've always found distasteful -- if not downright pathetic. That would be the announcers continuing to spout their never-ending Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm rhetoric, rather than telling it like it is.

To be sure, former coach and current announcer Jon Gruden likely knows as much or more about professional football than anybody else on the planet. This guy can rattle off the Xs and Os of any offensive or defensive formation, how it's supposed to work, what it's likely to accomplish on any given play, and most times -- he's right on. The man knows what he's talking about. Also likely is Gruden probably "dumbs it down" some so we average football couch taters can understand what's really going on. Maybe we do, and maybe we don't, but it's nice to THINK we do.

The world of TV sports talking heads has exploded in the last decade or so. They're everywhere. Yet before any of these guys/gals actually gets on the air "live" with a microphone, they're sent off to what might best be called "announcer school". In a crash course, future stat-crazed yappy heads are taught a variety of things. A few dos, many more don'ts, how to project themselves in front of a camera, and likely much more about smaller things. Plus they probably learn a thing or three about the world of cosmetics. Making oneself sound and appear believable are good things. Getting caught on camera picking one's nose or furiously scratching one's crotch for whatever reason are no doubt frowned upon.

But it seems they're also taught something else. Thou shalt always sugarcoat and shamelessly hype any action by any player, no matter the reality of what everybody else is also seeing. A few cases in point from Gruden and his sidekick....

Gruden said, "I don't care what anybody says. This Pittsburgh secondary is the best".
(Right Jon. Until you get to your next broadcast, and then one of THOSE teams will likely feature the best.)

After watching a quarterback throw a pass that wasn't within 10 yards of his intended receiver, "It appears the QB and his receivers aren't quite on the same page".
(Baloney. What he should have said is -- These guys are professionals and get paid a lot of money. They've had Organized Team Activities (OTAs), countless practices, scrimmages, team meetings, film study, exhibition games, and even more practices with hundreds of repetitions to get it right. And now, between the QB and receiver, at least one of them can't remember what play was called in the huddle 15 seconds ago? How stupid ARE these guys?)

Gruden and Co. marveled at how Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger was so hard to tackle. "He's like trying to sack an oak tree", they said.
(Well gee, guys. We're not exactly talking a little runt like Drew Brees here. Big Ben stands about 6-6 and goes maybe 260. Very big linebacker or tight end sized, perhaps even a defensive end. Doesn't it make sense he'd be a little harder to bring down than a guy that's 5-10 and a buck ninety wringing wet? Hello?)

On an offsides penalty, the announcers said it was a close call.
(Horsepuckey. Even my grandma could have seen that guy jumped just before the ball was snapped. And she's been dead for 30 years).

The Cincinnati QB tried the "hard count" a few times in attempts to draw the Steelers offsides. Problem was, his own offensive linemen were false-starting. Gruden said that wasn't working out well and maybe they should try something different.
(See explanation above about QBs and receivers being on the same page. 'Nuff said.)

I love football and like to think I know a lot about it. Again, maybe I do, and maybe I don't.

But I don't think it's asking too much for the announcers to get real and tell it like it is. Especially when some things are so obvious. Even yours truly knows the difference between a two and three point field goal -- or was that basketball? Whatever. Close enough.

But spare me the Pollyannas with their constant sickening syrupy rhetoric. Nobody's ever wrong or makes a bone-headed play. They're just temporary a little out of the mainstream but can surely be coached up.

If I want to hear that sort of politically correct non-speak, I'll tune into something else. Namely....

And on the eighth day, God created politicians.
(Boo, hiss -- and talk about personal fouls......)

The Seahawks and Pete Carroll

As mentioned in the previous post -- after watching the game between San Fran and Seattle, yours truly is more impressed than ever with the Seahawks. Those guys are the real deal.  They seem to have just about everything going for them.

Their O-line opens holes for their running game while also doing a great job of protecting 2nd year QB Russell Wilson in pass protection. Wilson doesn't have to be great -- and he's not -- but rather just needs to avoid an abundance of interceptions and fumbles while letting the other 10 guys do what they do quite well. So far, so good.

The Seahawks' defense has become downright formidable. Their D-line stuffs the run and puts on a ferocious pass rush. To boot, their corners and safeties might be the best secondary the NFL has seen in some time. Opposing receivers have a hard time getting any separation, and even when they catch a pass will quickly suffer brutal hits. Collectively, they force a lot of turnovers. Not only that, they're also relatively young as a group, and will likely get even better. This does not bode well for their future opponents. Indeed, they way they manhandled Jim Harbaugh's 49ers, who are pretty darn good themselves, was definitely an eye-opener.

The ever-present rain aside, Seattle's a great town, and it would be easy to get behind the Seahawks. Except for one thing. Their head coach Pete Carroll. While others are free to disagree, yours truly has come to think of Carroll as a vagabond, perhaps even a shyster over the years. To me, there's only one thing that matters in life to Pete Carroll -- and that's Pete Carroll. It is my humble opinion the man has no loyalty to anyone but himself, let alone any sense of honor and/or committment.

Sure, typical of any head coach in the NFL, Carroll didn't just fall off a turnip truck. He bounced around various colleges and other pro teams holding various positions in the past before he took over the reins in Seattle. If you want to know about his football history, Google his coaching career. I won't get into all that here save for one glaring example.

His time as the head coach at the University of Southern California (USC). While wildly successful in Trojanland, including a national championship, Carroll was also at the helm when the whole Reggie Bush (who now plays for the Detroit Lions) affair of illegal cash, cars, and even a house for Bush's parents was about to be exposed by an NCAA investigation.

Sanctions on the university were sure to follow -- and they did. They were stripped of many victories, had to forfeit a bunch of scholarships, were made bowl ineligible, and placed on probation for a few years.

In the face of this, what did Carroll do? Instead of standing up like a man and accepting the same punishment -- he bailed. Carroll told his USC team he quit and was headed to greener pastures in Seattle. So USC was stuck with the consequences of what happened under Carroll's watch, while Pete himself was off to Seattle for roughly twice the salary he had been making in LA. He was, and is, not only head coach, but also an executive vice-president of the Seahawks. I'm sorry, but I find that to be a bit dishonorable, to say the least.

Few would doubt during Carroll's short tenure in Seattle that the Seahawks have made a remarkable transformation from also-ran into serious contenders. Yet on another level, it seems Pete's still up to his old shady ways.

On two occasions during the game against San Fran, a Seattle offensive lineman "chop-blocked" an opposing defensive lineman. Both 49er players had to leave the game -- the extent of their injuries unknown. These sort of things don't normally happen unless players are coached to do them -- and Pete's in charge.

And, oh my, how Carroll loves to rub it in when his team has the upper hand. During his USC years he would routinely run up the score to some ridiculous number against vastly over-matched opponents -- and laugh his head off on the sidelines.

That doesn't appear to have changed either. The Seahawks had dominated the 49ers throughout the game. With an insurmountable lead of 26 points with only 4 minutes to go -- Carroll just couldn't resist one more insult to an already humiliated opponent. He threw a red challenge flag on a controversial play, which turned out to be successful. That's rubbing even more salt into the wound, and totally unneccesary. These sort of things don't go unnoticed by other NFL teams. There will likely come a time when the shoe is on the other foot and vengeance will be exacted.

But it probably doesn't matter. If Pete smells that coming around, the guess here is he'll bail again for even greener pastures. How's Senator Carroll sound to you? Could happen. Hey, from what I've seen, this guy's a born politician. Every place he goes he tells people what they want to hear. The money would pour into his campain coffers. Throw in motivational speeches, lots of handshakes, baby-kissing, and a few thousand back pats to go along with his "contagious" smile -- and who knows? The sky's the limit for a guy like this. We've certainly seen our share of such people before. Still do, for that matter.

I still think Seattle's a great town with great people and lots of cool stuff to see. Plus they've got one helluva good football team going on right now. Also my sympathies on losing their NBA Supersonics, which quickly became wildly successful and are all the rage in Oklahoma City as the Thunder. But excuse me if their head football coach continues to leave a bad taste in my mouth every time I see him.

Some of us have longer memories than others.

And sometimes it matters.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A boring day in sports -- so far

Well, let's see. The San Diego Chargers went into the City of Brotherly Love and narrowly nipped former kennel-master Michael Vick and his Philadelphia Eagles 33-30.  A close game to be sure, but all in all? Boring

Speaking of also-rans -- despite leading for most of the game and the on-field officials apparently trying to help them out with some very mysterious calls (which were rightfully overturned on review), the hapless Detroit Lions still found a way to stumble and bumble their way into yet another road loss at Arizona.  So what else is new? Yawn.

On the PGA front, play was postponed due to rain at the BMW championship. As was...

NASCAR's first "Chase" race in Chicago.  Mother Nature must not have been in the mood for golf or car racing.

Peyton beat little brother Eli again in their third "Manning Bowl". Whatever.

But perhaps such a boring sports day can be salvaged after all. In a little while the San Fran 49ers will tee it up against the Seahawks in Seattle. If there's any town that's become accustomed to rain -- it's Seattle. It ALWAYS rains there. And unless Mother Nature whips up a few tornadoes or starts throwing some serious lightning bolts around, the game will go on.

Unlike their wimpy PGA and NASCAR counterparts, the NFL doesn't sweat a little rain -- or even a lot of rain. Nor high winds, blizzards, or sub-zero temperatures. The only thing that seems capable of cancelling an NFL game is if the stadium falls down -- like it did in Minnesota a few years back. Other than that -- the games go on -- dammit. And that's the way it should be.

Besides, as opposed to the yawner teams mentioned above, San Fran and Seattle are not only both really good and legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but they definitely don't like each other either. In just a few short years, this matchup has become "personal".

Bring it on.

Friday, September 13, 2013

NASCAR's ruling applied to the Detroit Lions

In a first, and presumably one-time deal, the honchos at NASCAR made an exception to their "Chase" format. Normally the top 10 cars in points after 26 races, plus two "wild-cards" qualify for NASCAR's version of the playoffs -- a 10 race shootout.

But NASCAR smelled a rat this year. Through no fault of his own, Jeff "Wonder Boy" Gordon failed to make the Chase by the slimmest of margins. Though they couldn't point to anything conclusive, NASCAR huddled up and determined Gordon had been put at a disadvantage in recent races. This likely had to do with monitored radio communications between certain teams and their drivers, shady deals possibly being struck with other teams for future "favors", a mysterious spin-out on the track for no apparent reason, and a couple other things demed suspicious that allegedly affected who would narrowly make the Chase, and who would be left out.

So when all was said and done, NASCAR decided to make an exception, creating a 3rd wild card spot so Gordon would be in the Chase after all. Again, this was because NASCAR had determined that other forces had unfairly conspired which resulted in Gordon not originally qualifying.

Well then. What if that same line of reasoning had been applied to the Detroit Lions last year?

After posting a regular season record of 4-12, they fell just a bit short of making the NFL's version of the Chase.

But wait a minute. Perhaps other evil forces plotted and schemed as well to put the Honolulu blue and silver at an unfair disadvantage.

All those dropped passes, fumbles, and missed tackles just didn't seem logical. Surely there was a conspiracy afoot. It couldn't have been the Lions' fault.

Head coach Jim Schwartz's repeated mind-boggling game mismanagement, including the ultimate debacle against Houston on Thanksgiving Day when he threw a red flag that ultimately cost his team a win? Schwartz himself would later say he knew the rule, but did it anyway. Well gee. That was not normal behavior. Perhaps Schwartz was posssessed by some sort of demon. Regardless, it couldn't be blamed on Schwartz. The devil made him do it.

For that matter, the Lions seemed to be in a sort of competition with the state of Michigan. Between penalty flags and orange traffic barrels -- who could cause the most groans, frustration, and forehead slaps from Michiganders? It was nip and tuck there for a while. Nevertheless, all those yellow hankies were too much for coincidence. No professional football team could possibly be that undisciplined. Obviously, the officials on the field have conspired against the Lions for decades. That's not fair.

So, like Jeff Gordon, the Lions were put at a disadvantage last year. If Roger Goodell and his NFL honchos had had any sense of fair play -- they would have made an exception for the Lions last year as well, by creating another wild card spot of their own.

4-12 might have looked bad on paper -- but hey -- when so many other evil forces in the universe had come together against them -- it's just not fair that the Lions weren't allowed into the playoffs.

Henceforth, in the name of truth, mom, apple pie, the American way, and maybe even Oprah, the Lions should receive an automatic bid into the playoffs -- regardless of their record. Better yet, given all the misery they and their fans have suffered over the decades -- the Lions should be granted a  first round "bye" in perpetuity when the NFL Chase starts every year. It's the least that can be done to atone for all the injustices inflicted upon them in the past.

That said, please excuse me now -- because I have to go.......


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rex Ryan and Jim Schwartz. A comparison

A person must wiser than I once told me, "It's not necessarily what you actually say or do. How your words and actions are perceived by others is what can get you in trouble sometimes". To this day, yours truly believes truer words were never spoken. Which brings me to Detroit Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz and NY Jets' head coach Rex Ryan.

Both are supposedly on the "hot seat" this year for their jobs if their teams don't show a lot of improvement over last year. Is it fair to lump them into the same category? Let's take a closer look.

Both were named the head coaches of their respective teams beginning in 2009. They're entering their fifth year. Similarly, both their starting quarterbacks also came into the league in 2009, and are entering their fifth years as well.

In the Lions' case, that would be Matthew Stafford. Over the last two years, Stafford has passed for about 10,000 yards. Very impressive stuff. However, it should be noted that Stafford had the luxury of having wide receiver Calvin (Megatron) Johnson on his "go to" list. Johnson set a record for receiving yards himself last year. When in doubt, heave it Calvin's way. Double teams be damned, the Megatron seems to find a way to catch any ball thrown in his zip code area. The man's amazing.

On the other hand, the Jets have had Mark Sanchez as their QB for the same amount of time. Besides not having a Megatron at his disposal, or much else, for that matter, Sanchez himself hasn't exactly shined. Since 2009 when he came into the league, Sanchez is dead last amongst NFL starting QBs in yards per game, touchdown to interception ratio, and overall QB rating. And, of course, there's his infamous, but mostly comical "butt fumble" that still gets replayed from time to time.

Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz is known as a no-nonsense kind of guy. If the man has a sense of humor, he's yet to show it to the public. On the other hand, Rex Ryan can and has yukked it up with the best of them. Wearing a long, curly blond wig to a press conference? Jim Schwartz wouldn't be caught dead in that. For that matter, Ryan used to have long real hair of his own and appeared to have a half barrel of beer tucked under his shirt at belly level. He's since shortened his locks and lost a serious amount of weight. Conversely, Schwartz has always been a slim, trim, crewcut sort. Schwartz's idea of "letting it all hang out" might be watching an old Elvis video while sipping a drink with one those little umbrellas in it. Let's just say he appears to be a bit on the conservative side.

But let's get down to the nitty-gritty.

During the same tenure, Rex Ryan has posted a 35-30 record as head coach of the NY Jets, for a winning % of .538. Not too bad. He's also led his team to 6 playoff games, winning 4. Last year Ryan's boys slipped to a 6-10 record.

In the meantime, Jim Schwartz has posted a 23-42 record as head coach of the Det Lions, for a winning % of .354. That's not only bad -- it's shameful. He has led his team to only 1 playoff game, where they got blown out. Last year Schwartz's boys crashed and burned to a 4-12 record, including losing the last 8 in a row.

So let's see. While having much less talent to work with, Ryan's won a whopping 12 more games than Schwartz during the same short 4-year time frame, been to and won playoff contests --  but somehow he's perceived as a buffoon while Schwartz got more millions of guaranteed money in a contract extension? And they're both on the same hot seat for their jobs?


My old friend was right. That perception thing can be rough sometimes.

Either that, or some cities won't settle for less than a winner -- while others have become so used to losing, they consider being merely mediocre a cause for celebration.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Rafael, Serena, and..... Tiger?

Rafael Nadal recently won the men's US Tennis Open for his 13th major title. At 27 years of age, the Spaniard is only one major title behind retired Pete Sampras' second place career mark of 14. Of course, the still very much active Roger Federer rules the all-time roost with 17 to his credit. Federer might even add to his total, but it's more likely he won't. That's because Father Time seems to accelerate in professional tennis. At 32, Federer is still a young man, but by tennis standards -- he's getting up there.

At 27, after having fully recovered from a lingering leg injury, Nadal appears to be as formidable as ever. The way he blistered #1 ranked Novak Djokovic in the US Open final match was almost jaw-dropping. Barring another injury, or perhaps a premature retirement, it's quite possible, maybe even probable that Nadal will set the all time record.

Of course, the same thing was said about Tiger Woods a few years back. Like tennis, golf has it's own 4 majors every year. There was a time not that long ago in pro golf when there was Tiger -- and the also-rans. He was just that good. It wasn't unusual for people betting on any given tournament, particularly a major, to take Tiger over the rest of the entire field. In hindsight, that showed just how dominant he was. There have certainly been "dynasties" in the world of sports over the years, but betting on one team or player versus the rest of the entire field seems to be a plateau of  superiority only Eldrick Woods has attained.

Back in the day, when Woods was winning everything in sight, it was almost a given he would easily surpass Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18 major titles. He zoomed up to 14, and then.... the wheels seemed to fall off. Whether it was his personal life imploding, various injuries, new clubs, new caddy, new swing coach, and even re-inventing his swing itself -- it doesn't matter. Tiger hasn't won a major in the last 5 years, and he's not getting any younger. Indeed, Woods is 37 now. My, how time flies.

Then again, Father Time slows things down in golf, as compared to tennis. Woods could very well be a major force to be reckoned with for several more years to come -- but like Federer --  as time marches on -- the odds against him keep getting longer. Those other young hot-shot kids that keep sprouting up like dandelions in the spring the world over aren't going away. Worse yet, besides bringing some "serious game" themselves, they don't fear guys like Roger or Eldrick anymore, because they know the once seemingly invincible are now beatable. Confidence is a factor in sports contests. If an "underdog" thinks he/she/they can win, then they'll play that much harder to pull it off. And sometimes they do. Then -- with a win under their belts, they get even more confident. This does not bode well for the established "super-stars" in golf and tennis. The "kids" are getting bigger, stronger, faster, better, and more confident, while the old-guard likely hear a tick-tick-tick somewhere in the recesses of their minds. Like they once stormed onto the scene to run the previous generation of greats into the past tense, it's only a matter of time before it happens to them as well.

So will Tiger ever catch or surpass Jack's major record? Yours truly thinks not. Too much really good competition each time, and it only takes one to get hot for Woods to be denied another major title.

Seems like I forgot something here. Oh yeah. Serena, in the title above. Like Rafael Nadal, Ms. Williams also won the US Tennis Open. This is her 17th major title. Like Roger, Serena will be 32 in a couple weeks. Though her sister is only a year older, Venus seems to have succumbed to Father Time's relentless march. Yes, she's still a very good player, but being a serious threat to capture another major title doesn't appear likely in Venus' future. Of late, she's lucky to get to the quarter-finals, let alone win. It's not gonna happen. Those pesky kids have zoomed past her.

But Serena continues to defy the clock. At the "ripe old age" of 32, she's obviously still the best lady tennis player in the world. She's got as many major titles under her belt as Roger Federer and appears as formidable as ever. How long she can continue at that level of play remains to be seen. Another year? 2? 3?  If she gets to be an old geezer of 35 and is still dominating the tennis world, forget about drug testing. Have her checked out for bionics.

Either way, chances are Serena's not going to set the all-time record for major ladies' titles. That is held by Margaret Court, with a total of 24. Serena would need two a year, quite a feat in itself, for the next 4 years to pass the Aussie.

And in tennis, at her age, 4 years is a very long time.

Don't think it's gonna happen.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ndamukong Suh and his future

Answer to previous trivia question -- The song was "Take Five" by the Dave Brubeck quartet. Tonight some dude named Colby won. He's really smart, but comes across as a little cheesy to me for some reason. Sorry. On to Ndamukong Suh.

Though the Detroit Lions won their opener against the Minnesota Vikings, Suh again finds himself being held up as a bad example on the airwaves. This was for a needless low block against one of the Vikings far behind a play. (Actually, his team scored a touchdown on the play, but it was called back because of Suh's personal foul). Another entry on his growing NFL rap sheet. It's like the man just can't keep from doing something dirty for very long.

In this case, he threw his body into the knees of an offensive lineman. Worst case scenario? Maybe knee surgery, out for the year, or worse yet, the end of a career. Didn't happen, but easily could have.

Suh is best known for his infamous "stomp" on another offensive lineman's arm. Worse case scenario there was probably torn tendons or maybe a compound fracture. Thankfully, that didn't happen either -- but it could have.

Suh's not so glorious resume includes a leg whip into the groin of an opposing quarterback, and smashing another QB's head into the turf.

The scariest incident of all was Suh apparently trying to wring the neck of yet another opposing QB before throwing him to the ground. It was gruesome to watch, and think how it might have played out.....

If he'd snapped that QB's neck, which appeared to be his intention, that guy would have been dead before he hit the ground. And then what would have happened? Besides the obvious horror story it would have been -- lifetime banishment from the NFL would have been the least of Suh's worries. It's entirely possible a prosecutor could have jumped in and Suh might have shortly found himself behind bars for a very long time -- if not life. Thankfully, that didn't happen either -- but it easily could have.

For his latest infraction, Suh just got hit with a $100,000 fine by the NFL. And that's a joke. The man's making around $12,000,000 this year playing for the Lions. That fine is chump change to him. Put another way -- if one was to have an "average" job making about $40,000 a year, it would equate to a fine of about $300. A nuisance, but hardly a game changer -- no pun intended. 

In real life, Suh would be considered an "habitual felon" and the book would be thrown at him. But he continues to get away with slaps on the wrist for his wanton disregard and/or scorn for the well-being and livelihoods of his NFL brethren.

Yes, the NFL is a violent game by it's very nature, but it's like Suh goes out of his way to intentionally wreak havoc and inflict  serious bodily harm.

And don't think it's gone unnoticed. To be sure, his fellow players have repeatedly voted him the dirtiest player in the league. They know -- all to well.

Perhaps former player, coach, and current analyst Herman Edwards summed it up best. The coaches can only do so much when it comes to such a player. They can tell him the dos and don'ts, but if someone like Suh doesn't heed their advice, there's not much more they can do -- other than cut him from the team -- and that doesn't seem likely given Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz appears to be a bit of a loose cannon himself, perhaps even tacitly condoning such behavior.

But as Edwards wisely stated -- the other players around the league know. They can fix this problem if they choose to do so.

So don't be surprised if somewhere in the near future, some other NFL team is watching film of the Lions as their upcoming opponents, and are shown replays of all Suh's dirty and dangerous plays over the years. It's also entirely possible a red laser dot will repeatedly point out Suh on the video screen in such a meeting, and the players, either by a coaching directive or amongst themselves, decide to take him "out".

What would happen then? The player(s) responsible would likely get fined and/or suspended for such a dirty tactic. No doubt the fans in Detroit would scream foul.

But you know what? I suspect the rest of the league, from the players on up to Roger Goodell, and the vast majority of fans outside Detroit would nod their approval. He's had it coming -- for a long time.

And maybe, just maybe, when Suh woke up in a recovery room somewhere after major surgery facing months of rehab, a little light in his head would finally come on telling him to change his ways. That's assuming he even has one -- not a given.

One way or the other, unless something changes, it's only a matter of time before this winds up getting very ugly for somebody somewhere.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Night Football and Jeopardy

I admit it. I'm a football junkie, especially the NFL variety. For the next few months -- right up until the Super Bowl is over -- I'll be in hog heaven.

It used to be the NFL only played its game on Sundays. Then somewhere along the line the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys ushered in once a year games on Thanksgiving. Also, Monday Night Football came about back in the 70's, I think. Now a weekly Thursday NFL game is routine. Once in a while, even a Saturday night game will pop up.

I don't know who's responsible for expanding play to different days of the week -- but whoever it is -- I have one thing to say to them. I LOVE you, man. A hot date? I'll blow it off if the game is a really good one. Dates come and go like buses. One need not fret too much if they missed out on one. Another will be coming along in due time. But the NFL? That has a way of getting into a man's soul. I fell and broke my arm a few years ago, it quickly turned black and blue, swelled up, and hurt like hell. Obviously, it needed to be reset and casted. But a good game was on. The arm could wait until it was over. Probably not the smartest of decisions, but dammit, I WANTED to see that game.

So yes, it could fairly be said yours truly is a big time NFL fan. For that matter, Monday Night Football was featuring a double-header tonight. The Eagle and the Skins, followed by the Texans/Chargers. It would take somebody or something really special to drag me away from that.

But it happened earlier tonight.

The game show Jeopardy! was not only on, but it was their Tournament of Champions. I've been a fan of Jeopardy! since before I could even spell NFL. The T of C on Jeopardy! is kinda like the NFL playoffs. The cream has risen to the top over a full year, and now it's time for the best to start eliminating each other. In the end, only one can be champion. This came under the heading of the "special" category mentioned above, no pun intended.

So I had to put Michael Vick and Robert Griffin III on hold while tuning into Alex Trebek.

Hey. Everybody has their "red lines". That's certainly been in the news lately. But some of us aren't so wishy-washy about it.

I love the NFL.

But Jeopardy! still rules.

Just for kicks -- the Final Jeopardy category was "Classic Jazz Songs". The answer was --

The title of this instrumental is a synonym for "time out", the album on which it first appeared.

So do you know the question?

I didn't. All 3 contestants did. Guess that's why they're on the T of C and I'm not. Sigh.

On a personal note -- maybe it will Rain later. I'd like that.

Back to the games.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Greatest college football rivalries

It's highly debatable which is the greatest college football rivalry. Depending on what part of the country one hails from, hence which team or teams one roots for, opinions are likely to be vastly different.

Last night yours truly watched some of the Michigan -- Notre Dame game. Michigan prevailed with a 41-30 victory. Thing is -- the announcers trumpeted this match up as the greatest college football rivalry. Certainly this series goes back a long ways -- with no love lost on either side for the other all the while. But calling it the best rivalry of them all seems to be quite a stretch.

Then again, we have to remember these were TV announcers spouting their usual hype. They and their kin will say the same thing about other games when they occur later. Like....

The same Notre Dame and USC.
The same Michigan and Ohio State.
The triad of Florida, Florida State and Miami.

For that matter, besides a few others, we can throw in Army/Navy and Harvard/Yale. Those series' go WAY back in history, and to their students, fans and alumni, there's no more important game every year. To paint with a broad brush and call any particular match up the greatest rivalry of them all would seem to be foolish indeed. It all depends on who's rooting for who. Always has and always will.

For the purpose of this article, let's zero in on the above-mentioned Michigan and Notre Dame. First things first. For my own reasons, I've never been a fan of Notre Dame. Good grief, even their name, the Fighting Irish, has never made sense. The real Notre Dame is a cathedral in France. Then again, being called the Fighting French might not have the same pizzazz as the Fighting Irish. But it's still wrong. Nevertheless, to their credit, Notre Dame went all the way to the national championship game last year, before being defeated by an obviously superior Alabama team.

On the other hand, Michigan appears to be one of those either you love them or you hate them schools. Granted, they likely have as big and far reaching a fan base as any other school, but the down side is likely their own fault. Over the years, UM has been perceived by many as being arrogant. Some sort of "blue-blooded" (pun intended) aristocrats that think they're better than everybody else.

Head football coach Brady Hoke hasn't helped that sort of perception any. After being hired on to turn around the disastrous rein of former coach Rich Rodriguez, it didn't take him long to start dishing out the trash talk. Hoke raised more than a few eyebrows when he referred to Michigan's age-old football arch-rival Ohio State as merely Ohio. Yes, Hoke and his Wolverines would defeat the Buckeyes in his first year at the helm -- but Ohio State's program was in total upheaval at the time following a scandal that had rocked the football team, the departure of many star players, and sanctions on the university. Last year, under new coach Urban Meyer, though going undefeated, obviously including beating Michigan, OSU was ineligible for a bowl game. Had they been, it's entirely possible they would have faced Alabama instead of Notre Dame for all the marbles. While OSU went 12-0 last year, UM went 8-5. But that's hindsight.

What is very current is Hoke's continued disdain for some of his school's major rivals. Perhaps it's by design, or perhaps he just doesn't know any better, but either way it's feeding once again into the "arrogance" factor -- and that's not good.

Calling Notre Dame "chickens" for cancelling a couple future games with UM is myopic. Notre Dame recently joined the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for other athletics, but remained an independent in football. But it's more complicated than Brady Hoke seems to know. As a condition of joining the ACC, Notre Dame has to play 5 ACC football opponents every year. Their remaining schedule, as an independent, becomes a numbers game. Only so many to go around. Somebody's gotta go. One of the "cuts" was Michigan and Hoke didn't like it. He might want to rethink his position. If the Michigan game was THAT important to Notre Dame, they would have kept them on their schedule and made cuts elsewhere. But they didn't. One might logically ask -- who needs this match up more? They might further ask -- who indeed is looking down their nose at who?

Despite being a "Michigan man", Brady Hoke might we well advised to stop disrespecting that "Ohio" school in Columbus. Last time I looked, the Buckeyes were ranked #2 in the country, behind only Alabama, and their head coach Urban Meyer doesn't talk a lot of trash. He just wins, wherever he goes, including national championships on his resume.

Brady can do the Hokey-Pokey if he wants. You put your left foot in, you take your left foot out, etc, etc. But if he keeps up with the arrogance, yours truly suspects he's going to wind up with both feet in his mouth -- especially if he keeps taunting Urban Meyer and his formidable Buckeye team.

Hoke's better than Rodriguez, but Urban Meyer he ain't. "Ohio" will be coming to Ann Arbor in November.

We'll see about that.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Seahawks, 49ers, and Lions

Instead of just winging it with my usual genius for such things, yours truly had to actually do some work and look up a bunch of stuff  for the following. I hate it when that happens. But now that I've put in the time -- might as well commit the crime. Onward.

Let's look at three NFL teams which all play in the NFC. The Seattle Seahawks, San Fran 49ers, and Detroit Lions.

Out in Seattle, head coach Pete Carroll has been there for 3 years.
2010. A 7-9 record.
2011. Another 7-9 record.
2012. An 11-5 record.
Three year total -- 25-23.
The Seahawks would defeat the Washington Redskins by 10 points in the wild card playoff game last year, only to be nipped by the then #1 seeded Atlanta Falcons by 2 points in the NFC divisional round, which was played on the Falcons' home field. This -- with a rookie quarterback named Russell Wilson.
Going into the 2013 season, most odds-makers and NFL gurus consider the Seahawks to be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

In San Fran, head coach Jim Harbaugh has only been there for 2 years.
2011. 13-3.
2012. 11-5.
Two year total -- 24-8. A winning percentage of .750.
San Fran would advance all the way to the Super Bowl last year, only to be narrowly defeated by the Baltimore Ravens. This -- with a first year starting QB named Colin Kaepernick.
Going into the 2013 season, the 49ers are also a serious threat to get back to the Super Bowl -- if not win it.

In Detroit, things are a bit different. Head coach Jim Schwartz will be entering his fifth season.
2009. 2-14.
2010. 6-10.
2011. 10-6
2012. 4-12.
Four year total -- 22-42. A winning percentage of .344.
The Lions briefly raised the hopes of their long-suffering faithful in 2011. They would go on to their first playoff game in many years, only to get trashed by the New Orleans Saints. Then mysteriously, or maybe not, they crashed and burned in 2012. Jim Schwartz got a contract extension. Amazing.
The Lions have a hot-shot quarterback in Matthew Stafford who will be entering his fifth year himself. The last two years Stafford has thrown for about 5000 yards each. To boot, the Lions likely have the most potent offensive weapon not named Adrian Peterson in wide receiver Calvin (Megatron) Johnson. The Megatron was busy himself last year -- racking up almost 2000 yards worth of receptions -- a record.
Yet despite all that fire power, the Lions ended up with a miserable 4-12 record, including losing the last 8 in a row.
Going into the 2013 season, the same gurus have tabbed the Lions to finish dead last in their division again, and have forecasted a 6-10 record.
That begs a question.
How can teams like the Seahawks and 49ers become powerhouses so quickly with relatively new head coaches and the different staffs they bring with them, along with rookie QBs at the helm -- while Schwartz has been with the Lions for 4 years, has an established QB entering what should be his prime, the best wide receiver in the game -- but most think they're doomed to another flop of a season?

Beats me. But maybe the Ford family that owns the Lions might want to consider sending a few knowledgeable football people -- if they can find them -- never a given considering their history --  out west to take a harder look at what's been going on. Because whatever it is they're doing in Seattle and San Fran, it sure seems to be working.

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

They've certainly already proven they've mastered the art of losing -- over a very long period of time.

The last time the Lions won anything significant, a popular political slogan of the times was "I like Ike".

Given the many generations of players that have come and gone since then -- and given one needs both their fingers and toes to tally up the number of their head coaches that have come and gone as well -- how can it be that one team can remain so bad for so long? The odds are highly against it. During all those decades, most other teams have risen to to top, fallen on hard times, then rose, fell, and rose again. What with free agency, salary caps, and the draft, the NFL is built to be cyclical.

Teams go up, and they go down. The parity thing. But not the Lions. For over the last half-century, they seem to have been mired in some sort of comatose state, but every few years their vital signs perk up with a couple blips, their fans go crazy, jump on the bandwagon, and believe again.

Just a few more questions.

Believe in what? Something they've never actually seen happen?

Like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy?

Ah yes. There is always hope, some say. Right. Kinda like the Scarecrow keeps hoping for a brain, the Tin Man for a heart, and the Cowardly Lion for courage -- Lions fans keep dreaming of a Super Bowl.

Good luck, but I don't think that's happening any year soon either.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The NFL. Opening ceremonies

Finally, it's here. The NFL in all it's splendor and magnificence it upon us once again. This is not just a big deal -- it's a HUGE deal, monstrous, gargantuan, I dare say even bigger than Chris Christie. Let the world tremble with awe.

Yep, the NFL season kicked off with a match up between the Denver Broncos hosting the Baltimore Ravens. A rematch of last year's AFC title game, which the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens won in overtime. Denver QB Peyton Manning was disappointed. You know, the same Peyton, who along with his brother Eli, never saw a commercial opportunity they didn't like, no matter how dumb it was? Yeah, that Peyton.

How do I know this was a big deal? Well, the pre-game coverage started a couple hours before the actual contest. What a whole panel of talking heads can possibly find to talk about for that long remains a mystery to yours truly -- but somehow they pull it off.

There was Ryan Seacrest trotting out to midfield with a microphone, surrounded by gorgeous cheerleaders, trying to hype the crowd in Denver's stadium. Was this really necessary? If the sell-out crowd in attendance at that stadium got any more hyped, they would have spontaneously combusted. Let's just say they were already good to go -- big time.

The pomp, pomp, and more pomp was unbelievable. Fireworks being shot into the air. Huge sections of fans all around the stadium supporting giant NFL provided banners to announce the NFL was back. Did I mention pomp?

Come to think of it, an all-around international superstar stud like Ryan Seacrest showing up is a big deal in itself. It is rumored that the Olympics tried and failed to book him to light the torch, while paying him the paltry sum of a billion dollars for him to grace the Games with his presence. Maybe RS had better things to do. But that's only heresy. Besides, yours truly has gotten word that the good folks in Sochi, Russia, hosts of the upcoming winter Olympics, are now busy negotiating with Miley Cyrus. You know, the same Miley that headlined the recent VMAs. I think VMA might stand for Vaginal Morons Association, but I'm not at all sure about that. At any rate, not being able to get Seacrest, and with Bieber being, you know, so OLD these days, our friends in Sochi are scrambling for a hot act to highlight their show. I wish them well, but I digress.

Back to the game. The last 30 seconds left before "kickoff" were announced one at a time by former NFL greats popping up on the screen. 30, 29, 28, 27.  There was Barry Sanders. And Joe Namath, Neon Deion, Dan Fouts, Ray Lewis, and.... wait a second. How did Fouts get in there? Whatever. 3,2,1, and then....

Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth, the guys that would call the game, appeared in all THEIR splendor, not to mention blathering on some more. Hey. What happened to the game? We went through hours of worthless stats and trivia, a countdown, and when it finally got to zero, instead of liftoff -- we get MORE talking heads? I'm beginning to understand why some people go "postal" once in a while, and it has nothing to do with the US mail. You can only push a die-hard football fan so far.

Finally, mercifully, thank you God, the game was going to actually start. But no, now it's been delayed. There's a possibility of lightning in the area. Please stay tuned for another half hour.

You know what? By that point, I didn't give a damn about any lightning. I wouldn't have cared if there were 100 tornadoes, an earthquake, a tsunami, the plague, locusts, incoming nukes, or the Klingons and Romulans had teamed up to occupy Denver. It was time for some football -- dammit. Let's GO.

Finally I gave up and decided to write this dumb article. I'm assuming the game finally happened. It would have been nice to watch it -- but a guy can only take so much. You know?

Hi Storm.