Saturday, November 30, 2013

College football. Major shake-up

What a day amongst the top of the rankings. As the late Bear Bryant probably rolled over in his grave, and Joe Namath's bad knees twitched, the Crimson Tide of Alabama crashed and burned at Auburn. While the announcers remained ever-breathless in finding a way to compliment everybody, this was a game decided by major bone-headed plays. The Iron Bowl indeed. At times it looked like a few players had nothing BUT iron between their ears.

Most will forget how an Auburn safety seemed to go brain-dead, and allow an Alabama receiver to get wide open on a 99 yard touchdown pass to give Nick Saban's boys new life. At that, Alabama was quick to return the favor. One of their own safeties went into cerebral freeze and let an Auburn receiver trot unguarded and untouched into the end zone as well.

But then came the defining moment. With the score tied and time expiring, Alabama eschewed overtime and decided to go for a whopping 57 yard field goal. Nevermind their place-kicker had already badly missed a couple field goal tries from much shorter range, and had another blocked. Away the kick went. It fell far short of the goalposts, and an Auburn player caught it deep in the end zone and tried to run it out. Run it out he did indeed. All the way to the other zone for a game winning touchdown. Assuming Alabama had the usual contingent of 11 players on the field for that  play, one is left to wonder how only 3 or 4 of them were even on the same side of the field as the Auburn returner waltzed his way 105 yards into the other end zone for the winning touchdown. Good grief -- what were they thinking on the Alabama sideline?

So scratch Alabama from the national championship picture. They blew it. Unless, of course......

Something happens to Ohio State, and it well might. I'll get back to that. Though 16 point favorites at arch-rival Michigan, the Wolverines gave them all they could handle. Yes, the Buckeyes racked up 42 points against a not-so-good Michigan defense but, in the process, their defense, or lack thereof, was exposed as well. Michigan routinely gouged them for big plays and put a slew of their own points on the scoreboard.

That game had a defining moment as well. With Michigan trailing 42-35 in the waning moments of the game, they scored a touchdown. 42-41. An extra point away from tying it up and likely sending the game into overtime. Then Michigan head coach Brady Hoke made a curious decision. He decided to go for a 2-point conversion. It was basically all or nothing. Though he will surely catch some flak for that decision, the Hokester should be given credit for having the guts to make it. As the old saying goes -- go for a tie on the road, but go for the win at home. And so he did. It didn't work out, and his team lost 42-41. But they really had nothing to lose. Michigan will still go to some lower-tier bowl game somewhere, but had that particular 2-point conversion attempt succeeded, and the unranked Wolverines had knocked off the #3 Buckeyes, it would have been HUGE news.

In the meantime, #2 Florida State predictably blitzed Florida. With Bama losing, FSU will no doubt now be #1. They'll likely cruise into the BCS title game, and will be a formidable opponent for whoever else makes it.

Which brings me back to Ohio State. Though they barely squeaked by Michigan, they ARE still the only other major college team to remain undefeated. Kudos to Northern Illinois, undefeated as well, but mid-majors are never going to get a shot at the big dance for all the glory. Right or wrong, that's just the way the system works.

Yet given Ohio State's performance not only at Michigan, but during a couple other games throughout the regular season -- they certainly seem vulnerable if the right team comes along. And that just might be.....

Michigan State, who the Buckeyes will face in the Big 10 championship game in Indianapolis on December 7th, Pearl Harbor day. No home field advantage for either team. Ohio State has shown they can score a lot of points, but Michigan State has the #1 defense in the country. In fact, in 5 out their last 6 games, they haven't allowed the opposing team to score a single touchdown.

Something's gotta give. OSU head coach Urban Meyer is yet to lose since he took over 2 years ago at Ohio State, and the Buckeyes will likely be favored in this game. But, what if....

Michigan State, certainly no slouches themselves, happen to pull off a mild upset? What then?

Ohio State would plummet from their likely #2 ranking, and who would face Florida State in the national championship game?

This could get interesting. 

Stay tuned......

Clarkston sports. Excellent but jinxed?

Once upon a time, yours truly went to a high school called Pontiac Central. Back in the day, we had great prep hoop teams year after year. Though PC would often dominate the district during the playoffs, there always seemed to be a team from Flint or Detroit that would come along and knock them off in the regionals or states. They never won a state title.

On that note, not too many years later, we "Chiefs" had to eat the ultimate crow as our cross-town arch-rival Pontiac Northern went on to win TWO state championships, back-to-back, if I remember correctly. Oh my, did we hear about it from the "Huskies".

Now, neither school technically exists anymore. There are no more Chiefs or Huskies. They merged into one school that calls it's team the Phoenix. Problem is, instead of rising from the ashes, what's left of these once proud programs seems to be on the verge of extinction. Even having combined their once formidable talent pool, they aren't very good anymore.

Certainly, other forces have been in play. Student enrollment is a fraction of what it once was, state funding has been slashed, the facilities have eroded, etc, etc. Some say they struggle to merely keep the heat on during the cold months. Translation? What is now Pontiac High will likely never see another state title again. For that matter, tt could well be in the not too distant future, this high school will fold entirely, dispersing whatever students are left into surrounding communities. A sorry state of affairs indeed.

On the other hand, Clarkston is very much alive and well. Yet, much like their Pontiac Central counterparts of old, their boys basketball team was always very good, particularly under head coach Dan Fife -- but they could never get over the hump either as they got deeper into the playoffs. Yes, Clarkston is a much more affluent community than the Pontiac district, and the tax dollars and resulting athletic facilities certainly reflect that. But in the end, it's also a small town, and despite getting kids into the "program" to slowly develop them when they've barely learned their ABC's, Clarkston has always eventually run into the same wall. Some urban school somewhere will have assembled a team that is just too much for them to handle when the pressure ratchets up in later playoff games. Same with their football team. Always good, but never quite good enough for glory. They've never won a state title either.

Today, they have a chance to change that. Clarkston will square off against Novi Detroit Catholic Central in a football final at Ford Field. You know, where those other highly paid brutes play half-way decent once in a while.

Idle thought: Why does a school located in Novi have the name Detroit as part of it's name? Beats me. Novi's in Oakland County. Detroit is in Wayne County. Somebody needs to straighten this out, but enough about that.

At any rate, the Clarkston faithful no doubt think this is finally -- FINALLY --  their year to break through with a state title. After an opening game loss months ago, the Wolves have been pretty well steamrolling everybody to arrive at this point. These guys are really good.

Besides the rabid Clarkston fans, even the all-knowing prognosticating Kosmo from this same newspaper predicts they will win it -- but yours truly begs to differ. Novi CC is the real deal, and methinks despite the speed and talent of Clarkston -- they're destined to fall short once again.

Like my alma mater of many years ago, some things just aren't meant to be.

I hope I'm wrong.

We'll see.....

Friday, November 29, 2013

Detroit Lions. Sink or swim time

Well OK, the Lions just blasted the Packers 40-10. Though the final score was definitely more lop-sided than most would have predicted, it's no big surprise they won the game. What would have raised many an eyebrow would have been if the Lions had found a way to lose it.

Thing is, it was hardly even a fair fight. Forget the home field advantage. That happens every week, one way or the other. The Lions were relatively healthy for this game, while the Packers continue to be the walking wounded. Everybody knows starting QB Aaron Rodgers is still on the shelf, but their offensive line is banged up and their receiver corps has been decimated. They've also had some key injuries on defense. The Packers are basically trying to tread water until they can get a few of their starters back. While Lions' fans are no doubt celebrating their first victory on Thanksgiving in 10 years to climb atop the NFC north division, they might want to consider where their team would be if Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson came up lame, and they had to go deep on their depth chart to man a few positions elsewhere. But no sad tears for the Packers. That's the way it goes in the NFL sometimes.

Right now, the Lions would seem to be at the proverbial crossroad. At 7-5, and atop their division with 4 games remaining, they can do one of three things.

The glass half full scenario. Let's say they win 3 out of the last 4 to finish 10-6, and get a home playoff game. In a perfect world, they could actually run the table to finish 11-5, and maybe even get two home playoff games.

The glass half empty scenario. They lose 3 out of their last 4 to finish 8-8. Maybe they get into the playoffs -- and maybe not. They could also actually run the anti-table to finish 7-9, miss the playoffs entirely, and another year of the "same old Lions" chants would thunder down upon their heads.

Splitting the difference scenario. They finish 9-7, which might well be good enough to win their division, given how bad or banged-up the rest of the teams in the division are, and make the playoffs to host a first round game. No, getting a bye is out of the question. Those two spots appear to be already reserved by New Orleans and Seattle.

Not to overstate the obvious, but the true test for the Lions begins next week when they have to travel to Philly. At that, the Lions will have enjoyed the advantage of three more days rest between games, seeing as how the Eagles have to play Arizona on Sunday. But the City of Brotherly Love will afford the Lions no picnic. Besides the raucous fans, the Lions aren't known for playing well outdoors in adverse weather conditions, which Philly might well offer in December. And new coach Chip Kelly's Eagles seem to be quietly holding their own out in the NFC east division. They're slugging it out for a division championship as well.

Following that game, the Lions return home to host the Baltimore Ravens, followed by the NY Giants. Both those teams started out the season horribly, but both also have not only righted their ships, but are coming on strongly of late. The Ravens in particular seem to have regained their championship swagger, and who knows what will happen when "Eli's coming"?  One thing for sure.... These guys aren't the patsies they were a month ago. Far from it. The both "got game" these days.

This trifecta of games will make or break the Lions this year. If they win 2 out of 3 (yours truly thinks a sweep is highly unlikely), they'll be in decent shape heading into Minnesota for the season finale. The Vikes have been pretty bad.

But drop 2 out of 3, entirely possible, to fall to 8-7, needing a win in Adrian Peterson land, and things might get a little dicey for the Honolulu blue and silver.

Yep, it's down to sink or swim time now, and the reality check starts next week.

On a  personal note.... Many thanks Crystal, for the superb Thanksgiving dinner. That's the best meal I've had since -- well -- maybe I should be careful about burning any bridges. Let's just say it was light years better than anything yours truly could have whipped up on my best day EVER in the kitchen. Love ya, girl.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Here's hoping anybody that reads this has a terrific day with family and/or friends gathered around for their annual pig-out day. Or at least one of them. May you gorge yourselves on turkey, taters and gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, pies, and an assortment of other goodies. Then wash it all down with a couple diet Cokes, because one must be aware of ingesting too many calories, you know. Right.

And of course, along the way, there's a whole bunch of stuff to watch on TV, if one can get away from the squabbling in-laws, outlaws, and bratty kids long enough at the dinner table to enjoy it.

First, there's the Detroit Thanksgiving day parade. Most men I know would rather be water-boarded than forced to watch a parade, but it always seems to be a big hit amongst the fairer sex and the young-uns that have yet to become addicted to video games, smart phones, iPads, and the like. So yeah, the kids under 5 get a kick out of it too.

Yet yours truly wonders about that parade. Earlier tonight, I saw the floats lined up on Woodward Ave. getting ready. That would seem to beg a few questions.....

Does anybody know where they even build these floats? It must be a very big building somewhere.
How do they keep them secret until they're unveiled for whatever parade they're in?
What happens to them after the particular parade is over? They must be dismantled in perhaps the same big secret building, because we'll never see the same float twice.
More important yet -- how much do these things cost to build in the first place, when their useful lifespan seems to be only about an hour?
Given how many such floats there are in a typical Thanksgiving day parade -- how many millions of dollars are spent on such pomp and circumstance?
Isn't Detroit the same major city that just went bankrupt a while back, wallowing in billions of red ink?
But now corporate sponsors, other groups looking to push their own causes (see donations), and "celebrities" along for a free ride wanting to get a few photo-ops find a way to spend countless millions on a parade for a measly couple hours? While the rest of the city remains a vast wasteland, and can't seem to dispose of their own garbage or keep the streetlights on? Something is seriously wrong with this picture.

OK, enough about raining on the parade.

The Detroit Lions face the Green Bay Packers today. Without Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have become quite mediocre. The Lions are favored by 5-6 points, as well they should be. If Rodgers was playing, this game would likely be a toss-up in the minds of the handicappers.

But never underestimate the Lions when it comes to their futility on Thanksgiving day games. They've lost the last nine in a row -- all at home. Last year, they had the game all but won against the Houston Texans, until Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz pulled the ultimate bone-headed move of throwing a red challenge flag on a play he would later say he knew was the wrong decision on his part at the time, but -- he did it anyway, and ultimately cost his team the game they should have won. There's being aggressive and trying to impose one's will -- and then there's being stupid about it. There's a difference. A big one.

Nevertheless, yours truly suspects the Lions will finally break their long turkey day losing streak, and pull out a win against the Packers.

They better, or they can kiss yet another season goodbye, because if they go down at home to the Packers, minus Rodgers and most of their starting receiver corps, yours truly thinks players like Nate Burleson and Dominic Raiola can flap their gums all they want, but the Lions will be in serious trouble. Not that that's anything new, by any means, because the Lions' faithful, bless their misguided and delusional hearts, will continue to believe there is hope. There is always hope, they say.

They are wrong, and have been for a very long time. When it comes to the Super Bowl, the only thing that really matters, the Lions are nowhere near good enough to even be in a serious conversation about such a thing, nor will they be any year soon. Besides Calvin Johnson, likely the best receiver in the game these days, they have a few good players, but most of the rest likely couldn't even start on most other NFL teams. Plus Jim Schwartz is not the answer either. They will never get over the hump with him in charge. Check out his record in the NFL. It speaks for itself. He's a career loser. Only the owning Ford family of the Lions would find a way to sign Schwartz to a contract extension after the team went a bottom-feeding 4-12 last year, including losing the last eight games in a row.

But hey. Enjoy the parade and root your Lions on. Maybe something good will come of it all -- somehow.

My dear friend Crystal said she would bring me a full plate of Thanksgiving goodies tomorrow after she fed her own family. Sometimes when one does a favor or two for another -- it has a way of coming around in a good way.

And forget the diet Coke. I got a couple Miller Lites set aside for such an occasion.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The things people say

Apparently, Mohammed Ali has come out of seclusion to pen a touching tribute to a man he considers a living legend. For most of his boxing career, Clay/Ali was only concerned with drawing attention to himself. "I'm the greatest", he was known to thunder to those that would listen, and there were many, though yours truly never bought into that. Excuse me, but when he got whupped fair and square in his prime by Leon Spinks, of all people, all that "greatest" stuff went out the window in my humble opinion.

Nevertheless, who could inspire Ali to confer the accolades of "one name, one man, one mission"? Turns out it was Nelson Mandela.

Well OK. From his point of view -- I can understand that. Had Ali bestowed that honor on, say, Rush Limbaugh or Dick Cheney, we'd be talking some serious shock and awe value indeed.

Just before they clash on Thanksgiving day in Detroit, some offensive lineman from the Green Bay Packers has publicly stated the Lions are a bunch of scum bags. As in dirty players that are out of control. He went on to imply head coach Jim Schwartz was of the same mold.

This will likely be "bulletin board" material in the Lions' locker room. As I write this in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I have little doubt the Detroit area newspapers will jump all over it and fan the flames in the editions that will start being delivered in a few hours.

But you know what? It really doesn't matter. It's a rivalry game between two teams in the same division with playoff implications at stake. Besides that, it's the NFL, as in professional players. They're getting paid big bucks to perform at their highest level in any given game. And with or without players taking pot shots at the other team before they lock horns on the gridiron itself -- guys on both sides work themselves into a frenzy in their locker rooms just prior to ANY game.

After both offenses and defenses have been on the field for a series or two, cracked pads/helmets. etc., and the initial adrenaline has worn off -- do you really think any of them are dwelling on what some guy from the other team might have said a couple days ago? Somehow, I seriously doubt that. If they are, they're not acting like professionals -- with their heads in the game -- and that works in the other team's favor.

Then again, that lineman from Green Bay might have a valid point. The Lions certainly haven't been above cheap shots here and there, particularly with a couple members of their defensive line. Further, as a team, they seem to have an ongoing penchant for taking stupid penalties. This responsibility ultimately rests on the shoulders of head coach Jim Schwartz. Now in his fifth year with the Lions, if Schwartz had wanted these shenanigans to stop -- they WOULD have stopped -- years ago. It's almost like he tacitly condones it.

Good grief, Schwartz himself has been known to be a loose cannon here and there. A while back, he all but challenged San Fran 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh to a fight on the field after a game. Good thing security was there to prevent it from happening or Schwartz might STILL be in rehab. This is the same guy that threw a challenge flag last year on Thanksgiving against a game with the Houston Texans, that wound up costing his team the game. Schwartz later said he knew the rules prevented his challenge -- but he did it anyway. How loose of a cannon is that?

Players pick up on this sort of behavior. If their head coach is running around out of control, they likely figure they can do the same sort of things. And in the long run, that simply won't get it done in a highly competitive environment like the NFL. The "zebras" seem to see things quite differently. And they're right when they keep tossing those yellow hankies in the direction of the Lions.

Finally, yours truly had the pleasure of meeting a beautiful woman earlier today. She actually said she thought I was quite a handsome guy. Yeah, I know. The poor thing likely needs to be checked for some sort of concussion syndrome. Obviously, she was delirious.

But hey. Crazy or not, every once in a while even a blind squirrel finds.... well... you know the rest.

Perhaps the late Art Linkletter said it best. Sometimes people say the darndest things.....

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

UM/MSU. Little brother/sister indeed

Much was made about a former Michigan running back referring to cross-state rival Michigan State as "little brother" several years ago after UM had once again defeated MSU. It seemed like the Wolverines had owned the Spartans forever on the gridiron. But oh my, how the worm has turned.

There can be no doubt these days which of those schools is lording over the other not only in football, but in (men's) basketball as well. And it's not even a close call.

UM is bowl-eligible with a 7-4 overall record (in large part due to a few patsies they played earlier in their schedule -- including a couple of games they well should have lost), but is only 3-4 in conference play. That will likely become 3-5 when the #3 Ohio State Buckeyes come-a-calling this Saturday in Ann Arbor.

On the other hand, MSU has suffered only one narrow defeat this season, on the road -- that at the hands of those pesky Fighting Irish from Notre Dame. In the conference they remain unbeaten, including a thorough thrashing of Michigan a few weeks ago.

MSU will square off against OSU in the Big 10 championship game in Indianapolis, fittingly enough to be played on Pearl Harbor day. Bombs away. Certainly the high-flying Buckeyes will be favored, but the slow and steady Spartans shouldn't be totally discounted either. After all, they have the #1 defense in the country, are well-coached/disciplined, aren't above pulling a few trick plays themselves, and if they catch a break here or there -- well -- stranger things have happened. And what if MSU were indeed to upset OSU? The NCAA would no doubt breathe a sigh of relief, because then they'd likely be left once again with only two undefeated teams (Alabama and Florida State) to play in their championship game.

But an upset of this magnitude would vault the Spartans into national prominence, where they likely belong anyway. These guys aren't flashy, but they're very good. Even if they lose to Ohio State -- which is likely -- unless it's a total blow-out -- which is unlikely -- the future looks promising for Spartan football.

Conversely, Michigan's football program, their enormous pride notwithstanding, seems to be swirling deeper and deeper into the toilet bowl. The huge stadium, cool helmets, and hype based on generations past only goes so far. Their program is beginning to look Blue indeed. Head coach Brady Hoke would be well advised not to bring up his former "Ohio" dis of OSU this week. Urban Meyer and his Buckeyes don't need any more locker room motivation. If they trample the Wolverines as expected, the folks in Columbus might start calling that school in Ann Arbor Miss -igan. Ouch.

And it's not just football. It's basketball too. Yes, Michigan made an improbable run all the way to the NCAA finals last year before being dispatched by a superior Louisville team. They deserve credit for that accomplishment. Yet for the most part in recent years, few would doubt that MSU basketball under head coach Tom Izzo has been a vastly superior program to what their counterparts at UM have been able to attain. Year in and year out, the Spartans are always in the conversation when it comes to being national contenders.

For that matter, look at what has already transpired early this year in the college hoops world. Sports Illustrated had defending champ Louisville ranked #1, Kentucky #2, and Michigan State #3. Louisville got upended by then #24 North Carolina, and Michigan State knocked off Kentucky to assume the #1 spot. Michigan was originally ranked #7, but even with their usual early season non-conference patsy games, they've already lost to Iowa State and Charlotte to sport a not-so-impressive 4-2 record. They're a long way south of #7 now. After another patsy game at home against Coppin State, the Wolverines have to travel to #6 Duke, where they'll likely get hammered. Perhaps falling out of the top 25 entirely.

So let me see if I have this right. Win or lose against OSU, Michigan State will be heading to a very respectable bowl game to face another quality opponent. They are trending up. Michigan will be heading to a bowl game as well, but likely of the bottom-feeding variety as bowl games go, and even if they prevail against whoever else shows up -- they are still most definitely trending down.

Michigan State is currently the #1 ranked basketball team in the country. How they will ultimately fare in the NCAA tournament -- which is really all that matters in the end -- remains to be seen. But they'll be a force to be reckoned with. Michigan basketball appears to be slip-sliding away already. Yours truly would be highly surprised if MSU didn't blister UM in both their regular season meetings this year.

But when it comes to the whole little brother/little sister routine between these two schools -- at least in football and men's basketball -- it appears the "farmer" college has showed up on the beach and is kicking sand in the faces of the once mighty "blue bloods".

Maybe in a few years, this rivalry will again turn the other way.

But for right now, MSU rules -- and again -- it's not even a close call.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Detroit Lions. Wheels coming off?

Just two short weeks ago, the Detroit Lions were comfortably sitting atop the NFC north division with a 6-3 record. All-world Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers was out for a few weeks with a broken collar bone, and Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay were next on their schedule. These were both supposed to be very winnable games, and no doubt the Lions and their fans looked forward to being 8-3, with all but a lock on their division. There was much buzz in the Motor City about hosting at least one playoff game -- and maybe even two. "The sky's the limit", the Honolulu blue and faithful proclaimed.

After 50 years of a combination of lackluster ownership, inept front-office personnel, incompetent coaches, bad drafts, bone-headed decisions and plays, and Murphy's Law, you'd think they'd learn. How many times do I have to say it? It's the Lions. Hello? Of COURSE they were going to find a way to drive their followers crazy -- again.. This is what they do. Always have.

But in fairness, other forces have been working against the Lions as well. Pittsburgh had started out the season a very un-Steeler like 2-6, including getting trashed by New England for their 6th loss. Then somehow they started turning it around. They beat Buffalo, no big deal, then the Lions came to town. They would dump the Lions 37-27.

Well, OK. Those things happen in the NFL. A blip on the Lions' radar. They were going home to face the Tampa Bay Bucs, they of the 2-8 record. This should be a piece of cake. Thing is, after starting 0-8, amazingly the Bucs seemed to have turned it around too. They went into Seattle, which is a house of horrors to visiting teams, got ahead 21-0, and barely lost the game at the end. The Bucs would go on to win their next two contests. A little momentum was afoot. Then they had to go to Detroit, where they were a 9 point underdog. By now, you know Tampa Bay defeated the Lions 24-21. No, this doesn't put the Bucs back in the playoff picture, but it spoke volumes about the Lions.

Could it be that, much like last year, the puddy-tats will pull another el-foldo in November and December? It's certainly possible.

Now at a not-so-impressive 6-5, the Lions will host the Packers on Thanksgiving in a few days. Aaron Rodgers' status for that game remains unknown. Without him, the Pack has been terrible, going 0-3-1 in the interim, with the tie being a game earlier today against the lowly Minnesota Vikings, at home in Cheeserland. Even if Rodgers is cleared to play against Detroit, chances are he'll be rusty. The Lions should be favored in this game as well, with Rodgers, and especially without him. But again, it's the Lions, and their recent record on turkey day at home isn't exactly stellar. In fact, they've lost the last nine in a row. For that matter, the Lions have only won ONE Thanksgiving game since the year 2000, against the very same Green Bay Packers. There's been a lot of November gobble gobble poultry indigestion in Lions land since George W. Bush was first elected President. And how ago does THAT seem?

Here's what I think I know --- the Lions lost a winnable game in Pittsburgh, then came home with a golden opportunity to redeem themselves against the Buccaneers to right their ship. They blew it.

The Green Bay game is quite likely crucial to their chances of even MAKING the playoffs, a given a few short weeks ago. Win it, and they're still very much in the hunt. Lose that one to go 6-6 on a 3 game slide, and their wheels might fall off yet again. Going into Philly the following week is no bargain. Since the Eagles have benched Michael Vick, they seem to be playing some pretty good football under new coach Chip Kelly.

Then the Lions host the Baltimore Ravens and NY Giants -- both teams that started off the season terribly, ala Pittsburgh, but have come to life in recent weeks and are fighting for playoff spots of their own. Neither of these games will be a gimme. Far from it.

However the Lions come out of that gaunlet remains to be seen. They could be anywhere from 10-5, to 6-9, or any number in between. When it comes to the Lions, nobody knows. Anything can happen.

For their finale, they travel to Minnesota. The Vikings have stunk it up all season. But Lions fans might want to ask themselves a Dirty Harryish question. Do you really want to go into Minnesota needing to win that game to get into the playoffs?

Certainly, Lions fans have been disappointed enough over the last half century, but the ultimate question remains....

Do you feel lucky this year?

Well, do you, punk?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

College football. Who's going to blink?

Things are getting down to the nitty-gritty in college football and, unless a major upset occurs in the next couple weeks, somebody's going to get shafted.

Because now we're down to three undefeated teams. Previously unbeaten Baylor just got hammered by Okla St., leaving only Alabama, Florida State, and Ohio State with unblemished records. So what happens if they all win out, definitely a high probability? Which two get to go to the national championship game? Let's look at each.

Fresh off a national championship last season, Bama came in ranked #1 this year, and really hasn't done anything to merit losing their lofty status. Next week they travel to arch-rival Auburn, who's currently #6. After losing @ LSU way back in September, the Tigers have reeled off seven consecutive victories, including four over ranked opponents. Chances are, the Crimson Tide will have their hands full with these guys, especially on the road. But Bama should prevail, because they're just that good.

Florida State plays at Florida next weekend. Normally this would be a good game, but it turns out the Gators are terrible. They just got beat by Georgia Southern, of all things, and won't even be going to a bowl this season, breaking the longest such streak in college football history. The Seminoles will likely absolutely trash Florida to remain unbeaten and ranked #2. But that's the thing. If one looks back at the preseason rankings, Florida State was only #11. Yes, they've been impressive, but how in the world did they overtake.....

Ohio State, which entered the season ranked #2? The Buckeyes have been taking care of business as well. Ohio State goes to arch-rival Michigan next weekend and, like Florida, the Wolverines are also terrible. Michigan is below .500 in their own conference, and just got thumped by Iowa. Had UM not caught a few lucky breaks earlier in the season, while they were playing their usual patsies like Akron and UConn, both games they likely should have lost, the Wolverines might not be going to a bowl either. They're just that overrated. And these days, there's so many bowls, about all a team need do is have a pulse to qualify for one. Look for the Ohio State juggernaut offense to run up and down the field scoring points galore against UM's woeful porous defense. There's certainly no love lost between these two teams, and this game could get ugly, not to mention highly embarrassing for the Maize and Blue faithful in their own Big House. Then Ohio State will face Michigan State in the Big 10 championship game. The Spartans have the nation's top ranked defense, and certainly appear to be a solid and well-coached team, but yours truly suspects when they lock horns with the Buckeyes in Indianapolis for the Big 10 crown, they're going to come out on the short end of it.

So assuming the above-mentioned top 3 all hold serve, only two of them can go to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 6, 2014, to slug it out for the national title. One of them will be left holding the proverbial bag, and have a very good reason to cry foul.

Here's the way yours truly looks at it. Alabama is the defending champion, came in ranked #1, and have done nothing to warrant losing that ranking. They should be in.

Ohio State is currently riding the longest winning streak in the nation in major college football. They have yet to taste defeat since Urban Meyer took over the head coaching reins at the beginning of the 2012 season. No, they weren't eligible for a bowl last year in the wake of the tattoo-gate scandal that plagued them the year before. And they were ranked #2 in the preseason polls for this year. If they dispatch both the major Michigan teams in the next couple weeks -- highly likely -- how can they be denied a shot at the Big Dance having gone undefeated for two whole years? They should be in as well.

Florida State has been a steamroller all year, and might very well be the best team in the country. But when a team starts off the season ranked #11, I don't care how bad they beat up on inferior competition -- there's no way they should be able to jump all the way up to #2, while leap-frogging Ohio State. They should be out.

But right now, if nothing changes, it's looking like the Buckeyes might get the short straw. It doesn't seem fair somehow.

The NCAA has been lucky in years past. When it comes down to the mythical national championship, things have always seemed to fall their way to leave two teams standing on top. (Remember, if Ohio State hadn't been on probation last year, they likely would have faced Notre Dame in the title game. Bama could rightfully have been left out, having lost at home to Johnny Football and his Texas A&M Aggies). But this year could be different, with 3 worthy competitors vying for 2 spots.

If all this plays out in the next few weeks like is highly probable -- strap yourselves in for what's coming next month. The scribes and talking heads will go bonkers with stats from hell debating which two teams should get a trip to Pasadena, and which should be left out. And in the end, somebody's going to be rightfully pissed.

At least this is the last year of this nonsense from the woefully archaic NCAA. Beginning next year, they'll expand their playoff format to 4 teams. Remember, the NCAA is about as hip with the times as, say, the Amish, the Vatican, Tibetan monks, and certain radio talk show hosts.

But it's a start.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thinking of JFK

Excuse me for stepping away from sports, but on the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination in Dallas, yours truly is going to chip in with his own two cents worth. Hell, everybody else has, including a lot of folks that weren't even born yet when it happened.

The old saying goes, "Everybody remembers where they were and what they were doing when they got word of that tragic event". Yours truly is no exception, I was sitting in 7th grade Engish class when the principal announced over the PA (public address) system (that was piped into every classroom and hallway) that the President had been killed. Do schools even have PA systems anymore? Beats me, but even if so, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't announce such a thing these days to the kids. First they'd call in an army of counselors, which we never seemed to need back then. We had one for the whole school. An old lady who sat in a room, and nobody wanted to go see her. Whatever happened, sometimes very bad things -- like a fellow student getting killed in a car wreck -- we handled it. We didn't need to be analyzed, probed and prodded, which seems to have become the recent norm. No wonder so many kids wind up being dysfunctional these days. If the system left them alone to their own devices, they'd be just fine. Children are amazingly resilient until adults start messing with their heads.

As a 12 year old, I didn't know what to make of it, though I seem to remember my teacher started crying. My mom, like most other moms back then, couldn't wait to rush to school and fetch me back home under her protective wings, though to this day I still don't understand the reasoning behind that. I mean, c'mon. Shots rang out in Dallas, but I was in Pontiac, Michigan, thousands of miles away. It's not like our student body was in danger from any further gunfire down there. But that's just sort of the way it was back then. We kids were just fine, but all the adults panicked. Of course, this was also back in the days when we'd have routine "nuclear war" drills. Everybody out into the hallway, sit down and lean up against the wall, draw both legs up next to your chest with both arms, and tuck your head deeply between your knees. In hindsight, other than to kiss your butt goodbye if the nukes really did start falling, it's laughable to look back at some of the procedures we followed back then, thinking they somehow made us safer.

Kennedy himself had his ups and downs to be sure. The positive was always accentuated. He was a war hero that swam for miles while rescuing a crew mate after his PT boat was sunk. Truth is, his much faster and more mobile PT boat was rammed and cut in half by a Japanese destroyer in the first place. How could he have allowed that to happen? But nobody wanted to talk about that.

JFK was rightfully credited for staring down the Soviets during the whole "12 days of October" thing when they had put nuclear missiles on Cuba, within easy and quick striking range of the US. Yet just a year and a half earlier, he had totally botched the "Bay of Pigs" invasion, which resulted in Cuban "nationalists" trying to overthrow Fidel Castro being slaughtered. US citizens have been treated to many documentaries about one of these incidents, but scant few regarding the other.

Back in those days, the news media wasn't what it is now. Out of some sort of misguided respect, they ignored a lot of things they likely knew about, and didn't divulge them to the public. Certainly, there is credible evidence that JFK, and even his brother RFK, weren't exactly totally faithful to their marriages during the time of "Camelot". The name Marilyn Monroe comes to mind. But this sort of dirt was ignored back then, supposedly for the good of the country. In recent times, though many still try, high-profile figures, let alone a President, can't get away with any such hanky-panky. The media would swarm all over them, and couldn't wait to blast it out to the public.

It's been said JFK never would have allowed the ill-fated Viet Nam war debacle to happen. Maybe. Maybe not. We'll never know. Could it be that had he lived, the cultural revolution that yours truly grew up in during the 60's would never have happened either? You know, guys with long hair, sexual promiscuity, drugs everywhere, Woodstock, the race riots, and all that? Would we still be back in Happy Days, with a modern day version of Wally and the Beave drawing families together to watch them on TV? Somehow, I doubt that. For that matter, I'm still trying to figure out what Ozzie Nelson did for a living. But hey, as long as Harriett and the boys were happy -- who cared? Another round of milkshakes, please.

And how about the assassination itself 50 years ago? We all know about Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, and the Warren commission's ultimate findings. Oswald acted alone. Yet over the years, many other questions have been raised and theories put forth that have been worth considering. A second shooter, the grassy knoll, the magic bullet that went left-right-left in mid-air, etc. None of this has been proven, of course, and never will be. Thing is, back then, the Warren commission had to come up with a definitive answer, because the public demanded it. Their President had just been killed, fer chrissakes, and they wanted this case solved. And so they did, whether one chooses to believe the validity of their findings -- or not.

I'm a long way from that 7th grade English class now, but some things still make me wonder about that fateful day in Dallas.

Much of the official "evidence" was quickly sealed for 75 years. In other words, if one was old enough to be even dimly aware of what transpired on 11/22/63, much like myself, chances are 75 years later, we would all be dead. Other than historians, and those that would pursue them for their own selfish interests, not too many people get worked up about things that happened that they weren't alive themselves to experience. Presidents Garfield and McKinley got shot and killed too, but you don't hear a whole lot of folks still talking about those incidents.

Yet there's one thing that really jumps out at me about the whole sordid JFK affair. The former President's brain seems to be missing. Officially, nobody knows what ever became of it in the aftermath of what happened a half century ago. Given the magnitude of the situation back then, one would think every last piece of evidence would have been thoroughly examined, and meticulously filed away for future reference, if need be. Yes, JFK was quickly put to rest with all the honors deserving of a President. But he was also autopsied. So what happened to his brain?

The well-known Zapruder film has spawned much debate over the decades, as to whether the gruesome "kill shot" came from the front or the back. But let's get real. This age-old mystery would be solved quickly to a 100% certainty -- if JFK's brain was available to be examined. Any modern day forensic pathology team would easily determine which way that bullet travelled through it.

But perhaps some things are better left unsolved, at least in the government's eyes. If it turned out there was indeed a second shooter from likely the grassy knoll, then what? The Warren commission would be exposed as a farce, and good luck trying to identify a culprit, who would quite likely be dead as well by this time, whose very existence has officially been denied for a half century. That could get complicated -- on a whole lot of fronts.

The following morning, like any other day back then, yours truly was out and about doing his early morning Detroit Free Press paperboy route, before I went to school. Load the pile of papers at the drop-off point into my paper bags, then start walking down the sidewalks folding them up and throwing them on porches. But I'll never forget how HUGE the headline was. I was reading the story a bit at a time as one paper after another came out of my bags. I wish I had saved one of those papers, but I didn't think about such things back then. But I also remember it was quite cold that morning.

So yes, many of us have distinct memories as to where we were and what we were doing on 11/22/63. Even the morning after.

Nevertheless, here's to John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 50 years later. While he certainly had his faults and made many powerful enemies along the way, he was also very much an inspirational leader. The United States hasn't seen a figure quite like him since, and most likely never will again.

God rest his soul.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Detroit Lions and shifting sands

Just a couple weeks ago, the Detroit Lions seemed to be on cruise control heading into the playoffs. Pretty much everything that could have went their way -- did.

And due to a very weird year in the NFL, even the Lions' schedule appeared to change from a gauntlet of thorns into a path of rose petals. Consider:

The Minnesota Vikings have turned out to be terrible.
Though they finally broke their forever jinx in Washington, the Skins have rolled out a product akin to Obamacare. High expectations, but so far a bust.
Cleveland? Puh-leeze. Everybody beats Cleveland.
The Lions lucked up and beat the Cowboys in the waning seconds of their game on a surprise QB sneak/jump by Matthew Stafford.
Sure, the Lions got beat at home by Cinci, but the Bengals are pretty good. And they got trashed again in Green Bay, but that's just business as usual.

After going 6-3, even the rest of their schedule looked promising. Who would have guessed the Pittsburgh Steelers would come stumbling out of the gate with a 2-6 record? Yet the Steelers seem to have righted their ship and thumped the Lions just last Sunday.

The same goes for Philly, Baltimore, and the NY Giants, all still remaining on the Lions' schedule. They all had a terrible first half of the season, but seem to have found their way and are playing much better of late.

What once looked like a formidable schedule for the Lions, which magically turned into a presumed cakewalk, has suddenly shifted back into probably being not so easy. None of these teams can currently be chalked up as automatic wins for the Lions.

This weekend they host the Tampa Bay Bucs. They started out the season 0-8. Just a few weeks ago, this game seemed like a gimme for the Lions. But now, maybe not.

Out of nowhere, the Bucs went into Seattle three weeks back and gave the Seahawks all they wanted. Seattle (10-1) is probably the toughest place in the league to play for a visiting team. Like highly respected former player, head coach, and current NFL analyst Herman Edwards once said -- I don't know what it is they put in their coffee up there before a home game -- but whatever it is sure seems to work. This is a house of horrors for any team that has to play there. Tampa Bay was supposed to get blistered by 28 points. But something happened, and they only lost by 3. Since then, they've won their last two games, and looked pretty good doing so.

What does this mean for the Lions? The Bucs aren't the patsies they were earlier in the season. They've found a little bit of "game" these days. The Lions are 9 point favorites, which seems about right, but make no mistake. This is not the walkover that the members of the Honolulu BASS (blue and silver slappies) fan club might think it is. This Sunday at Ford Field will be a pivotal point in the Lions' season. If they win, they go to 7-4, and have Green Bay, likely still without all-world QB Aaron Rodgers coming to town 4 days later on Thanksgiving. Green Bay without Rodgers is like the Lions without Calvin Johnson. Take either player away, and all of a sudden that team becomes very beatable -- by anybody.

But if the Lions lose to the Bucs to go 6-5, entirely possible, then their wheels might start falling off again. After Green Bay, with or without Rodgers, the Lions get Philly, Baltimore and the NY Giants, all teams that have seen a recent resurgence, and fighting for playoff spots themselves.

The glass "half fullers" of the BASS club likely think their Lions will wind up at least 10-6, or maybe 11-5, while hosting one home playoff game, and maybe two. They could be right.

They could also be wrong. Given the quickly shifting sands of the NFL, the Lions could also wind up 8-8, or maybe even 7-9, and miss the playoffs entirely. Stranger things have happened and, after all, it IS the Lions.

I'm pretty sure they don't want to go into Minnesota, despite how bad that team has been so far, on the last week of the season needing a win to get into the playoffs. Amongst others, a guy named Adrian Peterson will await them there, and he's no slouch.

Yep, though favored, the Lions better win the next game against the Bucs. Because if they don't, yours truly suspects their collective lug nuts will become very loose, very fast.

Tigers trade Prince Fielder

Yep, off to Texas he goes. In return, the Tigers will receive 2nd baseman Ian Kinsler from the Rangers. Yeah, there's other small details and a little money shuffling involved, but that's pretty much the gist of it.

Tiger fans are probably aghast at such a trade, but they shouldn't be. Actually their team seems to have gotten the better end of the bargain.

Fielder will be 30 years old next May. Kinsler is 31, so the age factor is basically a push.

Fielder was OK defensively at 1st base, but nothing special. A lot of guys can play first base in a pinch. Second basemen need to have a lot more fielding skills, and Kinsler appears to have them. The Tigers' current second sacker, Omar Infante, which I believe roughly translates into see ya later baby, now likely finds himself without a place to play. The late Wally Pipp found out about that when a guy named Gehrig came along. Such is life in the big leagues. And let's face it. Infante, while a decent player, was the best the Tigers could come up with to fill a gaping hole at second base a while back. But he's no Ian Kinsler either.

Money-wise, if that even matters anymore, this is even a better bargain for the Tigers. Kinsler is under contract through 2017, and will cost the Tigers about $14 million a year over that time. For reasons yours truly will never understand, Tigers' GM Dave Dombrowski, undoubtedly with pizza man owner Mike Ilitch's blessing, once signed Prince Fielder to a whopping $214 million contract spanning nine years. The fifth largest contract in baseball history. For Prince Fielder? Are you kidding me? Starting in 2014, and running through 2020, this is going to cost somebody $24 million a year. Do the math and that's a lot of 6 dollar hot dogs and 10 dollar watered down draft beers. And you wonder why ticket prices are so high?

Besides, what has come to be the most important thing when considering an everyday player? Hitting, of course. Miguel Cabrera recently just won another MVP award because he's a terrific hitter. He can't do much else on the field, ala say, Mike Trout, but keep pounding the ball, and most people will overlook the other deficiencies in his game. Hell, even Babe Ruth could pitch.

More important yet is hitting when it counts the most. On that front, Prince Fielder has been a miserable failure. Despite usually batting behind the above-mentioned Cabrera, which should be advantageous, Cecil's boy has always seemed to choke up like Barney Fife when a serious criminal comes to Mayberry, or at least when the playoffs start and the pressure is on. In post-season play, he's been a bust for his whole career.

On the other hand, Ian Kinsler seems to handle himself quite well in such situations, batting nearly .300.

So let's hypothesize. Fielder is gone. Cabrera will likely move back to first base. Kinsler will step right into the starting second baseman position. Omar Infante will become some sort of utility player, if he's not dealt as well to shore up other needs. Like left field, or help in the bullpen.

Better yet, the Tigers' #1 hot-shot prospect Nick Castellanos, a natural third baseman, that was never going to be able to play there as long as Cabrera lumbered around the hot corner, might finally get his well-deserved shot at what he does best. Maybe he'll work out -- and maybe he won't. But it's high time the Tigers brought him up to the big leagues to see what he can do. Forcing Castellanos to learn how to be an outfielder in the minor leagues was always a dumb idea anyway. Let him play his natural position and let's see what happens. He'll certainly be an upgrade defensively over Cabrera.

Though time will tell, and there's no sure things, all-in-all yours truly thinks this was a good trade for the Tigers.

We shall see.....

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thoughts while I was hurt

Per the last post, yours truly suffered a freak injury which left me unable to rant with my usual insanity via this medium for a while. However, that didn't keep my feeble brain from noticing a few things going on in the sports world. So, in no particular order, here's a few idle thoughts on what happened during the last week.

The University of Michigan got lucky in winning the game at Northwestern. But make no mistake. The Wolverines are not a high caliber college football team. Brady Hoke can bluster all he wants about Michigan this and Michigan that -- but in the end, they are no more than average at best. Look for them to get blistered in their own Big House in Ann Arbor when Ohio State comes to town, then limp off to some third-tier bowl game somewhere. Tradition seems to have trumped reality. In recent years, Michigan has ALWAYS been overrated.

On the other hand, Michigan State appears to be the real deal. Not national championship caliber, ala Bama or Florida State, but pretty solid. Problem is, they'll likely have to face Ohio State in the Big 10 championship game. Most people think MSU will get blown out. They might indeed, but yours truly thinks the Spartans will give the Buckeyes a better game than conventional wisdom would seem to dictate. A big time upset is not out of the question.

Congrats to Jimmy Johnson on winning his 6th NASCAR title. That leaves him one behind only Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhart. Let's not forget, unlike some of the "kids" that have arrived on the scene in recent years, JJ was already 26 as a rookie back in 2002. Six titles in 12 years is dominating stuff. Now at 38 years old, Johnson might have a decade of good racing left in him before Father Time starts to pull at his reflexes. And with a top flight organization like Hendricks Motorsports behind him -- he might well win several more championships before he's done. Like him or not -- he's just that good.

Pretty cool how they had a giant American flag draped across the field before the Monday night football game between the Patriots and Panthers in the shape of the country. Except for one major gaffe. There was Florida sticking out at the bottom right. There was Texas jutting down at the bottom center. There was Maine at the top right. But no "mitten", much less the upper peninsula. They totally forgot Michigan. I understand Detroit's been a train wreck for a long time -- but omitting the whole state that is blatantly obvious on any other national map? Something was seriously wrong with that picture.

During the same game, DirecTV was one of the sponsors. They featured their logo magically flying over the stadium during commercials. DirecTV is OK in it's own right and I once subscribed to it for many years, but I'm glad they're not in charge of televising major sports contests. Because if a thundercloud comes along, the viewer loses the signal until it blows by. There's pros and cons to all that satellite stuff.

Idle thought on Nate Burleson, wide-receiver for the Detroit Lions. Nate seems to be quite the spokesman. He's always available whenever a camera and a microphone are in the room. Thing is, Nate's always talked the talk, to put it mildly, but never been able to walk the walk for very long. After getting drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, where he had one good year, he bailed for big bucks in Seattle. $49 million worth. He tore a ligament in Seattle in the opening game and was lost for the season. On to the Lions. Last year he broke a leg, gone again, and this year somehow managed to wreck his car and break an arm in the process while nobly trying to rescue a damsel pizza in distress. Out for another two months. As a receiver, he ain't all that anyway. Never was. Earth to Nate.... Shut up, until you prove yourself as a worthwhile player that has a little more staying power than a container of cottage cheese left out on a hot summer day. Let the good players do the talking. And tell your buddy Dominic Raiola to zip it too. He's been a verbal loose cannon loser since he came out of Nebraska.

Ah. I feel much better now having got those rants off my chest.

I really didn't want to come back this quick, because I'm still hurting quite a bit. But during a confab with the boss, I was made to see the light. Who knew that sports editors had cattle prods? Ouch. There ought to be a law against such things. Nevertheless, it made me forget about my other injury, at least temporarily.

Tough job sometimes, but somebody's gotta do it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

On the IR

Somone else is typing this post for me. I have suffered an injury and am on the mend. Timetable to return unknown. Hopefully ASAP.

Thank you for reading


Monday, November 11, 2013

The Philippine typhoon and Michigan State hoops

I might get in trouble for this with the boss but, before I get back to sports, I'm going to devote a paragraph towards the disastrous typhoon that recently hit the Philippines.

Obviously, Mother Nature has served them up a world of trouble. The final casualty count won't be know for some time, but it's safe to say this was a serious disaster. Umpteen thousands, if not millions of people are in dire need of relief efforts. Yours truly would be more than happy to contribute what I could, just as soon as -- all the millions of people in my country that are homeless and dying on the streets every day have been given food and shelter. Though I sympathize with the plight of the Filipinos, why would I send my money overseas when so many of my countrymen are still without the basic necessities of life? And where is China? After all, they're right next door to the Philippines, they certainly have the manpower, and their economy is booming. They can afford it. How come they don't jump in to help out? Why is the US always so quick to help others abroad, while they continue to leave so many of their own in dire straits? It really doesn't make sense. Never has. OK, end of that rant.

In college hoops, #2 ranked Michigan State squares off against #1 ranked Kentucky tonight. Sure, the season is just starting and, from now to next March, the rankings will likely ebb and flow. For that matter, despite all the hype that fans will hear as the season wears on -- none of it really matters. It's all about the NCAA tournament in the spring. Who was ranked where in November will be totally forgotten.

Nonetheless, this presents an interesting early match up. MSU head coach Tom Izzo is known for cultivating toughness and sheer will with his teams. The Spartans typically have several upper-classmen leading the way. They have learned through experience.

On the other hand, UK head coach John Calipari has become famous, or infamous, for how many "one and dones" that briefly pass through his program before jumping to the NBA. The Wildcats typically have several freshmen on their team. They don't know anything about experience at the major college level -- but the school seems to successfully recruit a handful of 5-star blue chip prep players every year. Put them all together and give them a while to mesh, and it turns out they can be really good. It's almost like Kentucky recruits the equivalent of the University of Michigan's 1991 Fab Five EVERY year. And hey, a lot of people must think they're doing something right -- hence the #1 early ranking.

The line has UK as a 2.5 point favorite. Some folks think it should be the other way around.

Either way, it's projected as being a close game.

We shall see.

Besides, what else is there worth watching in the sports world on a Tuesday?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

To whine, or not to whine

With apologies to the Bard of Avon, and more specifically Hamlet, that would seem to be the question when it comes to Detroit Lions or Michigan Wolverines football fans. Let's look at them one at a time.

First, the Lions. Their fans will remember when wide receiver Calvin Johnson got "robbed" of a touchdown catch in Chicago way back on 9/12/2010. This would make the difference in the game. The Lions would go on to lose 19-14. Honolulu blue and silver fans have whined about it ever since. When it happened, yours truly tended to agree. I'd never heard of that rule before either.

Fast forward to yesterday. The same Lions were playing the same Bears in the same Soldier Field in Chicago. On an eerily similar play, a Bears wide receiver got "jobbed" out of a touchdown as well. He caught the ball, both feet in bounds in the end zone, and it should have been 6 points. Like Johnson's catch 3 years ago -- it was ruled a touchdown on the field. But then those dreaded guys "in the booth" came into play. After further review, it was deemed an incomplete pass. The Bears lost today's game 21-19. That call cost THEM a win.

Bottom line? Same two teams, same field, and what goes around finally came around. Note to Lions fans. Three years is WAY too long to whine about anything, but now the shoe is on the other foot. And one more thing ---  did I mention your heroes have been avenged and you can (PLEASE) stop whining now?

On the other hand, the University of Michigan is quite different. That historically proud program seems to be in free fall. And trust me -- there's been no shortage of pride at UM over the decades.

After getting blistered by in-state rival Michigan State last week, the Wolverines came home and got punched in the mouth again by Nebraska.

UM fans scoffed not long ago at the old days under Bo Schembechler that featured "three yards and a cloud of dust". Surely they had evolved into something much better and more sophisticated than that. Just one problem. Their running game has evolved all right -- into going backwards. Three yards and a few bits of turf is starting to look pretty good.

Indeed, Michigan's once vaunted running game racked up a grand total of minus 48 yards against the Spartans, then turned around and chalked up another minus 21 yards against the Cornhuskers. During their latest flop against Nebraska, UM's featured running backs Fitzgerald Toussaint and Derrick Green combined for 17 yards on 17 carries. Even yours truly can do that math. That's averaging one yard per run.

But the negative running yard totals are what happens when their quarterback keeps getting sacked. A loss of 8 yards here, and a loss of 12 yards there, and next thing you know this starts adding up -- in the wrong direction. Especially when one considers the Spartans and Cornhuskers sacked UM quarterback Devin Gardner 7 times -- each. Fourteen sacks in two games????  Didn't Michigan used to be noted for their great offensive line every year?  So what happened? It seems like recently defenders are running around them like very large cardboard cut-outs to hammer their quarterback. Devin Gardner may be a lot of things and quite talented, but it's pretty tough to makes plays when he's getting pounded into the turf.

And how about their schedule? Could it possibly have been any weaker? Good grief, after blitzing mid-major Central Michigan and getting by a so-so Notre Dame team at home, they barely beat Akron, and should have lost to still winless UConn. Penn State lost to Central Florida at home, but were good enough to knock off the Wolverines. Lowly Indiana put up 47 -- count em -- 47 points against Michigan, which doesn't speak much for their defense. On top of that -- what gives with these "byes" nowadays that college football teams have built into their schedules? It never used to be that way. They played every week -- period. Somehow, incredibly, Michigan had TWO byes this season, including an extra week to get ready for the MSU game, where they were promptly thrashed. How little sisterish is that?

So now the Maize and Blue go on the road to face surprisingly underachieving Northwestern, and then Iowa. They might win both those games.

But then they have to come back home and face the Scarlet and Gray crew from Ohio State. If Michigan fans thought it was bad against Michigan State and Nebraska, wait until they get a load of the Buckeyes. These guys are the real deal, and might very well be the best team in the country. And yes, that includes Alabama. Unless Urban Meyer's boys suffer a rash of injuries over the next couple weeks, or somehow lose their way travelling from Columbus to Ann Arbor for the game on Nov. 30 -- given what both teams have shown of themselves so far this year -- that contest has all the makings of a blowout. Talent against misplaced pride. Men against boys. A tsunami against a village of tents.

This game could get ugly -- very ugly if one is a Michigan fan. And remember, there's no love lost between OSU and UM. If the Buckeyes get a chance, they'll run the score up as high as they can, national rankings notwithstanding.

If it plays out that way, which seems likely, Michigan might suffer a horrendous beatdown at home at the hands of their arch-rival, then limp off to some third tier bowl game somewhere.

But hey, this is what happens when you hire a guy like Brady Hoke as your head football coach. He's not a coach -- he's a fat cheerleader, and uppity at that. He thinks his pom-poms don't stink. Problem is -- while Brady's doing all the sis-boom-bah stuff, his team is swirling around in the toilet bowl heading down. Final destination for that sort of stuff? Beats me, but I'm pretty sure it stinks.

So unlike Detroit Lions' fans, it would appear the Michigan faithful will soon have a very good reason to moan, groan, and complain.

Might as well start it now, because it's inevitable anyway.

Let the whining begin.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Alabama and Animal House

Ever notice how all those guys in Texas have names like Mack, Clint, Colt, Buck, Troy, and yes, even Tex? You won't find a Leslie, Romeo, and definitely not a Lovey in the bunch. Good grief, even though he was born, raised, and went to high school in Texas, current Minnesota Viking superstar Adrian Peterson wound up shipping out to Oklahoma when it came college time. Texas ain't gonna put up with no Adrians forever either. Y'all git, now. But enough about that.

In case you missed it -- #1 Alabama wore out #13 LSU in the second half and the Tide rolled to a 38-17 victory. No big surprise there, but something else brought up during the broadcast was.

Turns out Alabama has 13 players on their current team that have already graduated. Maybe this is typical for many other college football programs as well -- but it raises a few questions nonetheless.

Unless I miss my guess, it is currently November, midway through the fall semester of every school in the country. Nobody's received their degree in the last couple months. It had to have happened earlier, most likely in May or June (though it's possible a few kids finished up during "summer school").

Regardless, when it comes to college football, something is wrong with this picture. If some players already have their degrees, then what are they doing still playing months later? Yes, yours truly is aware of freshmen routinely being "red-shirted" to give them another year to mature before becoming bonafide players. And yeah, we've all heard about 5th, and even 6th year seniors for a long time now.

But you know what? This has not only gotten out of control, but flies in the face of the whole original purpose of athletic scholarships. When a kid was good enough in high school, a university would offer them a 4 year scholarship to come and play for them. Free room and board, free tuition, free books, free everything. A "full ride". If kids weren't quite ready as a freshman, they still had 3 more years of eligibility to play. But it was expected that, after 4 years, they would complete the academic requirements to earn their Bachelor's degree. If they became stars on the gridiron in the meantime, then more power to them. Perhaps the megabucks of becoming a pro would become available. Either way, the deal was for 4 years. When the sands in that hourglass ran out, if the kid wasn't good enough to go pro (and the vast majority aren't), then it was time to go find a real job. After all, the university just provided them with the opportunity of 4 years of higher education. If they were too busy partying and chasing skirts along the way to take advantage of what had been offered to them -- then tough. They had a shot most kids will never have -- and they blew it. No sympathy here if they wind up cooking fries at Mickey D's or being a Walmart greeter. Somebody's gotta do it.

But back to Alabama football, which seems to be a paradox. It's a good thing 13 guys have already graduated. That speaks well for the academic side. But if they've already graduated, then the university has fulfilled it's end of the scholarship bargain, and shouldn't be forking out another year's worth of tuition and the like, just because some older football players technically remain "eligible" under current rules. This is wrong.

It reminds me of the movie Animal House. You remember that. Dean Wormer, and Otter, Pinto, Flounder, etc. The late John Belushi played a character called Bluto. Turns out, he'd been at Faber college for 7, count-em 7 years with a total grade point average of 0.0. But damn, could he party. Food fight.

It seems to be much the same with 6th year seniors these days. Why are they still allowed to play, and where does it end? Will we someday see 10th year seniors? Guys that are old enough to have kids of their own in middle school, while STILL on scholarship at a university? This could get out of control.

Yours truly humbly suggests the schools need to get back to the old days. Hey kid. You're really good, so we're going to give you 4 free years. We'll throw in the best housing we have, and the best coaches we can find to make you even better. You'll have the best equipment, and play in stadiums that most other kids will only ever get to see on TV. And BTW, we've got some pretty sharp professors that will teach you a whole lot in the classrooms if you pay attention. Make the best of those 4 years. Because when that clock goes ding -- out you go. Good luck and God bless, but a deal's a deal. Just like it once was with you coming out of high school -- so it is with the current crop of hot-shot peach fuzzers. It's their turn now. So no hard feelings -- but like Adrian -- you gotta git.

Obamacare and the Detroit Lions

Idle thought: I wonder if the Detroit Lions and their NFL brethren have to sign up for Obamacare like most everybody else? Lord knows, NFL players rack up some serious medical bills here and there.

Like the almighty Prez (the one in the oval office -- not Roger Goodell) once said -- if you like your team, you can keep your team -- or something like that. Maybe on some level he was referring to Detroit Lions fans.

And what would happen if Lions fans spent hours, days, weeks, forever on-line trying to sign up for tickets, only to find out the only seats available were in Chicago, Minnesota, or Green Bay -- when da Bears, Vikes, and Packers were playing a team OTHER than the Lions? That could get ugly.

At that, it appears the Lions have certainly been blessed this year with an Affordable Care Act custom made for them.

When their schedule was first released before the season even started -- it appeared to be somewhat formidable. But look at how it's turned out.

Who would have thought the Steelers, NY Giants, and Baltimore Ravens would be as bad as they are? Though they fell to the Cincinnati Bengals, the Lions lucked-up and beat the Cowboys in the last minute of their game. They finally broke their jinx in DC, but the Skins have gone downhill since RGIII trashed his knee last year. Yes, they lost a close one in Arizona and got trashed in Green Bay -- but the Lions always get thumped in Cheeserland. Throw in the usual couple patsies like Cleveland and Tampa Bay, and things could hardly have worked out better for the Honolulu blue and silver.

They've even lucked out in their own division. The Vikings have turned out to be even worse than expected, and the Lions travel to Soldier Field in Chicago this weekend to face off with da Bears. This has never been an easy place to play for the Lions, and Chicago starting QB Jay Cutler is trying to come back early from a groin injury. Advantage Lions.

The only really good team they have left on their schedule is the Packers. But the Lions get them at home on Thanksgiving, and the Pack will likely still be without the services of all-world QB Aaron Rodgers, who recently suffered a broken collar bone.

The Lions fans that would pooh-pooh such a thing -- saying that injuries happen to every team -- might want to consider where their team would be if their former "china doll" QB Matthew Stafford was to get broken again. It could happen. And trust me -- the guys in the other uniforms would like nothing better than to put Matthew back into the shop for more repairs.

The Lions are currently 5-3, tied with the Bears and Packers atop the NFC central division. But the rest of the schedule, for one unlikely reason after another, seems to heavily favor Detroit. Going into the season, even the Lions themselves probably would have thought a 10-6 record would be outstanding. Now, that mark not only appears reachable, but they could well do even better. 11-5, 12-4 aren't out of the question either.

Then again, neither is 8-8 or 7-9 if things go horribly wrong. If Stafford, Megatron receiver Calvin Johnson, and running back Reggie Bush all went down in Chicago due to injuries, the Lions would be in big trouble in a hurry. Unlikely, but possible. Ya never know. And c'mon. It IS the Lions. Never underestimate the power of Murphy's law when it comes to that team.

But given everything that has fallen in the Lions' favor so far, let's assume a reasonable outcome and say they win the NFC central division with a record of 10-6.

The Lions might (gasp) host their first playoff game in over 20 years. The crowd at Ford Field would be insane with excitement -- at least until they got back home and the reality of ramen noodles and tuna fish for the next month set in after they realized how much money they'd blown for 3 hours worth of entertainment. You think prices are too high now? Wait until a playoff game. It will get worse -- a lot worse.

But here's the bottom line. Even if the best reasonable scenario plays itself out -- and the Lions host and win a home playoff game -- that's as far as they go.

Because coming up next will likely be a team like San Fran, New Orleans, or even the Packers with a healthy Aaron Rodgers. And does any Lion fan really think their team wouldn't get blasted by the Seattle Seahawks?

Note to Lions fans. Enjoy the ride while it lasts, but don't get too caught up in the hype. You'll hear it from the Lion coaches, the players, and surely their koolaided local media that could spin a round steak into filet mignon -- and continue to do so. Remember -- they get in for free to sit in the press box. You don't, and I think I already mentioned ramen noodles.

The Lions are already better than they were last year, which isn't saying a whole lot -- but let's not get carried away.

No. Repeat NO, they are not going to the Super Bowl this year, much less winning it.

Because while they may have a couple outstanding players -- as an overall team they're nowhere near good enough. They have too many weaknesses that will be exposed when the pressure ratchets up under playoff competition and the other team is just flat-out better across the board.

Maybe next year. Hmmm. When it comes to the Detroit Lions, it seems I've been hearing that for a LOOOOOONG time.

Some things just aren't meant to be.

Kind of like yours truly trying to figure out this on-line health care thing. Do I really have to go to Afghanistan for a flu shot? That doesn't seem right.....  

Friday, November 8, 2013

The case for Ohio State

Growing up in Michigan, yours truly had no love lost for the Ohio State Buckeyes -- to say the least. But as I've gotten older, I sometimes look back and wonder how and why such allegiances and/or dislikes come about. After all, I never went to Michigan or Michigan State, and Ohio State never did anything bad to me personally. In fact, many moons ago, I hooked up with this OSU coed in the back of a van in the infield of the Indianapolis speedway while the 500 was going on around us for our own few high-speed laps  -- but I'm getting a little off track here, no pun intended.

Yet trying to be objective these days, OSU football seems to be getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment. In no particular order, consider the following:

Before the 2013 season even started, OSU was ranked #2 behind only Alabama.
Depending on which poll one wants to look back at --
Oregon was #4.
Stanford #9.
Florida State #10.
Baylor -- unranked.

I omit some teams because they've already fallen far out of national contention, but include the above as they currently relate to Ohio State.

Oregon just got beat by Stanford for their first loss. But about a month ago Stanford was defeated by unranked Utah. There are already whispers that Stanford, ranked #5 going into the Oregon game, may leap-frog OSU in the ratings.

With a very impressive first two months of the season, undefeated Baylor had climbed all the way up to #6 in the current ratings, and they just blistered #10 Oklahoma. It was mentioned that the Waco boys might jump over OSU as well. Perhaps the Branch Davidians shall rise again. Just kidding.

Florida State has already surpassed OSU in the polls. They're currently #2.

In the meantime, what has Ohio State done? Remain undefeated.

Sure, arguments could be made about strength of schedule, point differentials, and the like. Last time out the 'Noles trashed arch-rival and then ranked #7 Miami 41-14. A couple weeks earlier they obliterated then #3 ranked Clemson on the road to the tune of 51-14. This is very impressive stuff.

In the last two games, OSU beat Penn State 63-14, and Purdue 56-0. Granted, the competition wasn't as stiff as what FSU faced, but what are the Buckeyes to do? Shouldn't a combined score of 119-14 over two games be good enough to at least hold your own in the rankings?

Let's take it one step further and talk about what happened -- and didn't happen last year. As we all know, Alabama went on to win the national championship. But they were a 1-loss team, having been beaten earlier in their own backyard by Texas A&M, with Johnny "football" Manzeil leading the Aggies. The Crimson Tide had their way with undefeated Notre Dame in the championship game. Best team won -- no doubt about it.

But here's the kicker. Ohio State was bowl ineligible last year after the tattoo-gate fiasco of the year before under former coach Jim Tressel's watch. Under new coach Urban Meyer, they went undefeated in 2012. So if OSU hadn't been under NCAA sanctions, Alabama, with a loss on their record, would have never even got to play in the championship game. It would have been the undefeated Buckeyes facing off against the undefeated Fighting Irish.

For that matter, since Urban Meyer arrived on the scene in Columbus, that team has yet to be beaten -- by anybody. Yes, they've won a game here by only a touchdown, or a game there by 10 points, but they're still undefeated under Meyer's watch.

Given their remaining schedule, they'll likely wallop lowly Illinois and Indiana, then waltz into Michigan (who was obviously overrated at #8 in the preseason rankings, but has fallen faster than Congress in the polls) to easily dispatch the Maize and Blue.

Michigan State, with their #1 ranked defense, likely awaits them in the Big 10 championship game. Methinks the Sparties may be stout of heart, but they won't be able to withstand the onslaught the Buckeyes will bring for the whole game. Toughness is one thing, but most times flat-out talent across the board will trump it.

So even if Ohio State runs the table, and remains undefeated for two whole years -- there's still a very good chance they won't get to play for the national championship.

Everybody seems to be trying to find ways to deny them the opportunity. And let's face it -- like them or not -- OSU isn't exactly Northeast Podunk U. They've been a football powerhouse for many decades, and might well be the best team in the country right now.

Old allegiances or not -- if they indeed run the table -- I, for one, think they will have earned their shot.

They started out #2, and keep winning every week. Other teams leap-frogging them is just wrong.

And who wouldn't want to see a showdown between Urban Meyer and Nick Saban for all the marbles?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

More leftover rants

Yours truly has never smoked crack. For that matter, to my knowledge, I've never been in the same room with someone who was participating -- so I don't even know what it smells like. Most people who know me would likely agree I'm dumb enough already. I don't need to cook what few functional brain cells I still have remaining. Not so, the Mayor of Toronto -- one Rob Ford. He finally admitted to smoking crack, which was quite a startling revelation, the damning video evidence notwithstanding. But at least he offered up a good reason. This only happened because he was in another of his drunken stupors. So Toronto natives can rest a bit easier now, knowing their fearless leader had things under control all along. Whew. That was a close one.

Why is it that football is the only game where the on-field referee will turn on his microphone and announce to the audience in attendance, and those watching on TV, what has just occurred on such things as penalties, rules involved, and plays being reviewed? The refs in basketball and hockey don't do that, nor do the umps in baseball. We're left trying to decipher a bunch of hand signals and jaws flapping up and down. And c'mon -- it's no big secret that oftentimes these folks indeed have microphones on them. We've seen proof of it. Months, sometimes years after the fact, some TV station will air the audio of an on-ice/court/field conversation. It's all recorded. But when it's "live", we're not allowed to hear it. That doesn't seem right.

In an Adidas commercial, Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose says they can take away the money, and take away the lifestyle, but in the end basketball will always remain. Apparently, he's inferring he would play just for his love of the game. Well, OK then. Hey Derrick, tear up your multi-bazillion dollar contract and resign with the Bulls for the league minimum, which you will donate to worthy charities. Until then -- shut up and enjoy your free fancy tennis shoes. Who do you think you're kidding?

Clicked over to CNN for a second and heard an interesting conversation on the pros and cons of nuclear power. One of the main concerns is how we dispose of the highly radioactive nuclear waste. Evidently we put it in barrels and bury it deep within super-thick concrete bunkers, hoping they never spring a leak. Some "expert" said this stuff takes 35,000 years, or roughly 7 times as long as recorded human history on our planet to decompose. That's a very long time.

But there was a better way. Remember all those since moth-balled reusable space shuttles like Columbia, Discovery, and Endeavor? They had a giant cargo bay that opened up with a huge robotic arm to take things out of it and put them in space. Like the Hubbell telescope, and probably a few thousand spy satellites. All that needed to be done was load the spent nuclear fuel into those cargo bays, have the robot pluck it out -- and give it a gentle nudge towards the sun, which is a huge nuclear fireball itself. Gravity and physics would take care of the rest and our nuclear waste problem would have been solved.

Back to sports. During telecasts of various games, I wonder if the folks in Japan and South Korea are bombarded with GM, Ford, and Chrysler car commercials like Americans are with Honda, Toyota, and Hyundai ads? Somehow I seriously doubt that, and I don't like it one bit.

OK, I feel better now having got those rants off my chest. And speaking of crack, I think I left the slider open a bit and haven't seen my yorkies in a while. Better go check. I'm pretty sure they're not capable of building a nuclear power plant in the backyard, but they know what to do with their waste.

And they do their jobs for the minimum salary too while going barefoot. Can you hear me now, Derrick?

Richie Incognito. Hang on.....

Miami Dolphins' offensive guard Richie Incognito has certainly been in the sports news lately. Further, he's been suspended indefinitely by the team while they, the NFL, the players union, and the usual horde of scribes and talking heads continue to dig deeper into exactly what happened between Incognito and offensive tackle teammate Jonathan Martin.

Several days ago, Martin took a leave of absence from the Dolphins, apparently because he felt threatened/bullied/intimidated by Incognito. Indeed, an electronic communication from Incognito to Martin, which has gone "viral", includes several expletives, something about slapping Martin's mother, and even the dreaded "N" word itself.

Quick physical stats on the two.

Incognito is 6-3, about 320 pounds, and 30 years old.
Martin is 6-5, about 310 pounds, and will turn 24 next month.
We're not talking about a Hulk Hogan vs Barney Fife scenario here.
These are both very big dudes.

In a perfect world, it shouldn't matter what color either of them are, but we all know this world is far from perfect and such biases continue to raise their ugly heads in certain quarters. It just so happens that Incognito is caucasian and Martin is an African American.

Per the current norm, the allegations and innuendos were quick to fly. Incognito's a racist, a bigot, a bully, etc. In their ever-vigilant quest for the next juicy story, scandal, etc., most of the media was quick to pounce on Incognito. Given he has a checkered past, it's quite understandable they would draw conclusions and start firing away. Tar and feather the bum and run him out of town -- or at least the NFL. And that may yet happen. It's the typical knee-jerk reaction we have seen so many times over the recent years before all the facts are in. Everybody's an arm-chair prosecutor these days.

But hang on. Something else seems to be emerging. Some former NFL players, and even members of the current Dolphins, are coming to Incognito's defense. And guess what? They're black. Surprise.

I think I can state with a reasonable degree of certainty that not too many people reading this post have ever been privy to what really goes on behind the scenes in an NFL locker room. Certainly not yours truly. Only the players really know. Not coaches, not owners, not the fans, and surely not the media, although they would typically have you believe otherwise. How the players interact privately amongst themselves is a domain known only to them. Could it be that many words and actions that mainstream society has come to abhor are not only commonplace in some NFL locker rooms -- but are accepted amongst the team as being just another part of the brotherhood ? The honest answer is -- we don't know.

Back to Incognito and Martin. Incognito is a 9 year NFL veteran while Martin is basically a rookie. Historically in the NFL, rookies have been subjected to a hazing process by their older teammates. Carry pads, bring donuts to meetings, chase phantom free turkeys just prior to Thanksgiving, perhaps pick up a dinner tab for the vets, etc. This is nothing new.

The operative questions would seem to be -- when does it become too much, and where should the line be drawn? Is shaving a rookie's head out of bounds? Should a cap be placed on a dinner tab?  More to the current Incognito/Martin snafu, should the language police have the final say over internal team communications that get leaked to the public?

It should be noted that, so far, the usual gang of suspects that typically swoop in to further fan the flames when an "offender" and a "victim" are different colors (you know who they are) have yet to make an appearance. Indeed, the NFL and players' unions themselves are taking a wait and see attitude.

Unlikely as it seemed when the story first began to break, there are now even NFL players questioning Jonathan Martin's behavior more than that of Richie Incognito's. There are those that seem to think Martin "wimped out" when he walked way from the team because he felt "intimidated".

Yours truly has no idea how one intimidates a guys that stands 6-5 and weighs 310 lbs, especially a teammate when there's a whole locker room full of other big tough guys looking on -- but unless your name's Corleone and an "offer you can't refuse" comes into play -- it just doesn't seem logical. And I'm pretty sure Don Vito hasn't been around for a while.

For that matter, nobody seemed to know anything about this whole mess until Martin took his hike from the Dolphins and the voice mail, text, whatever, from Incognito was brought to light.

So what have we learned from all this so far?  A few things. The media will continue to jump head first with guns blazing into any story they think can be sensationalized. Whatever truth may eventually come out down the road doesn't matter. It's all about NOW. Though they may be proven wrong later when all the facts have finally come in -- you'll seldom, if ever, see them look back over their shoulders and apologize for wrongfully trashing somebody. By then, they're on to their next hot scoop. I recently read a sports columnist say he would not vote for Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz ever being elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, because Big Papi was once "implicated" in the whole "performing enhancing drugs" baseball scandal a while back. Nevermind that Ortiz, and others, were eventually exonerated from such baseless allegations -- much less found guilty -- the attitude remains. It's akin to someone being accused of child molesting. Even if the accused can prove they were 100 miles away if and when it occurred, they will be forevever tainted. He/she must have done SOMETHING wrong. Though they were totally innocent, people will always look upon them with a suspicious eye. A sorry state of affairs indeed -- not to mention totally unfair. But that's where we seem to find ourselves these days.

Along the same line, there will always be the hordes of lemmings that believe anything they hear or read from the media. Most times this involves bad things, because "feel good" stories aren't nearly as popular.

So how will this all play out with Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin? Is Incognito a racist bigot that has gone way over the line even by NFL locker room standareds? Or is Martin just a big mama's boy that wimped out when it came to the harsh realities of what goes on behind the scenes in the NFL? Hard to say, but it's a good thing that the people who will ultimately make such judgments are taking their time before jumping to any conclusions.

Yours truly thinks this story has a few more chapters that have already been written but, like any good novel, it's usually a good idea to read it one page at a time as it unfolds to fully grasp it.

This whole scenario may turn out to be a big deal, or much ado about nothing. How about we let it play itself out before we decide how it's supposed to end?

Is that asking too much?

One thing is for sure, though.

Mr. Incognito is anything but these days.............

Sunday, November 3, 2013

How Jim Leyland meets his Maker?

Yours truly has been a subscriber to Mad magazine for over 40 years. Still am, and proud of it. I imagine those piles of back issues I've saved and stored away over the decades would fetch a handsome price if I were to advertise them on eBay or the like. But I just can't make myself do it. Everybody has their loyalties, and one of mine is to the "usual gang of idiots" at Mad. Lord knows how much they've made me laugh over the years with their brilliant, if irreverent satire. Some things just aren't meant to be for sale. Priceless.

Why do I mention this? Because Mad has a regular feature in their mag that I'm going to swipe for the purpose of this article. They'll pick out somebody quite well known and, in a very tongue-in-cheek manner, handicap the various ways they envision that particular person might die. It's all in good fun, of course.

So with apologies to my heroes at Mad, I offer the following:

Celebrity cause-of-death betting odds.

Jim Leyland.

Defective Marlboro flares up, setting moustache on fire, which spreads to hair, which leads to head being engulfed in flames.............. 4:1

Returns to Miami (Little Cuba) to relive his only World Series championship and is last seen on a banana boat headed back south with Ozzie Guillen at the helm...............8:1

Falls off float during Detroit's Thanksgiving day parade and is trampled by high school marching bands...............15:1

After so many near misses with umpires -- bulging jugular veins finally rupture during heated rhubarb with a waitress at Denny's...............20:1

Skull breaks in half while trying to actually smile during Hall of Fame induction ceremony..........35:1

Has glorious, but fatal orgasm after winning Dancing With the Stars.............50 million:1