Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Super Bowl. Too much hype

Are you sick and tired yet of all the endless blather on TV about the Super Bowl and just wish they'd get on with it already? Me too.

I, for one, couldn't care less about what Ma and Pa Harbaugh think about the upcoming contest between their two sons. Give them both a couple tall glasses of Geritol, reruns of I Love Lucy or the Honeymooners to watch, and a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle to keep them otherwise occupied, and they'll be just fine. Out of sight, out of mind. Just get them off the air.

And I don't care about Ray Lewis' former alleged complicity in a double murder either. That's 12 year old news, and nobody got convicted of anything anyway. It hasn't been important since it happened, so why is it a big deal now?

Because the Super Bowl is coming up, the head coaches and players have to dedicate a day to press conferences. This is called media day. Hell, every day is media day. Who's kidding who? It's like when I used to ask my mom on mother's day how come there isn't a kids day? She used to say every day is kids day. In hindsight, she had a point. She had to tolerate my sorry butt every day just like athletes have to tolerate the media. Same thing. (I swear if I hear Stuart Scott say "boo-ya" one more time, I'm going to hunt that dude down and -- no better yet -- I'll turn my ex loose on him. Two can play the game of slow torture. Bwahaha)

And who came up with the absolutely dumb idea of putting an extra week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl? The only thing that seems to accomplish is giving the talking heads more time to dissect worthless trivia -- and maybe a few of the players themselves going on TV to talk about stuff nobody cares about anyway. I could give a rat's ass about how much love there is in the Baltimore locker room, or what former 49er starting QB Alex Smith has to say about the game. I don't want to hear about some male bonding lovefest or listen to some dude making $5 million that's not even going to play in the game. Nor do I care about Randy Moss proclaiming himself to be the best receiver of all time. He was great back in his prime, but that's long gone and he's probably not going to play much either. So what's HE doing on TV flapping his gums?

It gives them extra time to practice and prepare, you say? Not really. If you look at their schedules and all the other obligations that go along with the lead up to the Super Bowl, both teams might get one or two more practices. That's about it. Besides, while the players are busy putting their mugs on TV trying to blow their own horns, or twittering away to give the media and brain-dead fans more worthless fodder to ramble on about, they're not concentrating on the task at hand. Perhaps that's why the Super Bowl is so anti-climactic on many occasions. Give them an extra week off and they lose a bit of the fire in their bellies that was raging just a week before. Why not just schedule the Super Bowl for the next Sunday after the conference championships when both teams would be in "rhythm"?  It's just another road game. A big one that counts a lot, to be sure, but just another game.

They say it's going to cost about $4 million dollars for a 30 second ad spot in this year's Super Bowl. That's one helluvan hourly wage in my book. Evidently, it must be worth it because companies have been slugging it out for a chance to strut their wares in the big game. Personally, I don't understand that. I'm not going to run out and buy a car or a truck just because it was advertised during the Super Bowl. Nor will I change the brand of beer I drink, my insurance company, or anything else.

It's all just a waste of time and money, as far as I'm concerned. I just want to see the game -- dammit. Is that asking too much?

Can we please just get on with it?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Ray Lewis and PEDs

So where does this nonsense end anyway? Now they're saying Ray Lewis supposedly ingested a banned substance. Deer antler extract, of all things. Are we testing for that these days? Please. I mean, c'mon, Lewis has what -- 6 kids by 4 different women? One would think the ruttin' buck theory regarding Mr. Lewis had already been firmly established.

Sure, the media continues to be on their never-ending quest to dig up dirt wherever and whenever they can, but in this case it would seem to be pointless. Even if it's true, just what, pray tell, is to be done about it?

It's now 4 days before the Super Bowl. Even if the NFL thought there was enough evidence of wrong-doing on Lewis' part to warrant a suspension, Lewis would certainly appeal it and be allowed to play in the Super Bowl anyway before a final decision was rendered. That could take months. Remember how long "Bountygate" dragged on and on?

To boot, Lewis has already announced he's going to retire after this season. So win or lose the Super Bowl, wouldn't it seem rather stupid to suspend a player that has no intention of playing anymore anyway? Hello?

This whole PED thing is getting out of control. Deer antler extract indeed. What's next? Will essence of porcupine urine become the next, groan, thorny issue? And who cares? If that's what they want to do, then let them have at it. Historically, there's always been a lot of "foreign substances" involved in the NFL. Greenies, other uppers, cortisone shots, pain killers, you name it. Anything to get the max performance on game day. And now deer antler extract is a big deal? Gimme a break.

Of course, when confronted on camera with possibly using a banned substance, Lewis said he wouldn't even justify such an accusation with an answer. His team, the Baltimore Ravens, immediately issued a statement saying Lewis had never failed a drug test in all his years of competition. Hmmm. Where have we heard that before? I wonder if Oprah is lining up another exclusive interview behind the scenes right now. Nah, it couldn't be -- could it?

That leaves the hypocrisy factor, which always seems to be close by in such instances. It's no big secret Ray Lewis has aspirations of becoming a football "analyst" on TV after he hangs up his cleats. If and when that happens, he'll likely have no qualms about dissecting other players for possible wrong-doing. But right now, while it's him, he doesn't want to talk about it. Something's wrong with that picture.

And the game goes on -- such as it is......

Monday, January 28, 2013

How to pick football games

There's no shortage of theories and supposedly fool-proof methods of picking the winners of football games, particularly in the NFL. Yet, there's only one that has proven to be tried and true over the years.

No, it doesn't have anything to do with analyzing a zillion stats, sabermetrics, trends, histories, or even your Uncle Fred's lucky penny. The wise guy oddsmakers in Vegas? Forget about them. They couldn't pick their nose with a power auger. Good grief, in the Baltimore/New England game, throw in the point spread and they missed it by over 3 touchdown. Three touchdowns!!! Shows you what they know.

There are those that rely on other "experts" when making their own not-so-bold predictions. You'd think that some otherwise respectable sportswriters would know better than to do such a thing. After all, if they were worth their weight in Enron stock, the scribes wouldn't cite other pseudo-gurus as if they were infallible, because when one looks closely at their record -- most times the people that have made a reputation for themselves picking games turn out to be as clueless as a male guest on "The View".

Sports Illustrated's own Peter King seems to fall into that category of so-called experts that scribes reverentially refer to now and then. If Peter King says it's so, then it must be true, right?

Well, let's see. Not long ago, the omniscient Mr. King had the Denver Broncos beating the Baltimore Ravens, the Seattle Seahawks downing the Atlanta Falcons, and the Green Bay Packers defeating the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL playoffs. Mercifully, he got one right by saying the New England Patriots would dispatch the Houston Texans. King went on to predict the Packers would defeat the Seahawks and the Broncos would triumph over the Patriots to get to the Super Bowl, which he had Green Bay winning 33-30 over Denver.

Obviously, King didn't know what he was talking about. So much for gurus.

No, there's only one method that's foolproof, and it involves yours truly. My entire family history, going back centuries, has been absolutely consistent when it comes to such things. Fresh off the boat, my earliest ancestor in this country predicted the British would slam-dunk the Minutemen in the Revolutionary War. Davey Crockett, Jim Bowie and their pals were a no-brainer to prevail at the Alamo. We had the South in the Civil War. Custer was a lock at the Little Big Horn. Remember that headline about Dewey defeating Truman? That was my grandpa's doing. My own dad was giving long odds on Sonny Liston easily knocking out that punk Cassius Clay. And we have steadfastly maintained the Detroit Lions were going to win the Super Bowl every year since that nice man and visionary extrordinaire William Clay Ford bought the team.

Yep, if nothing else, we've been consistent. So if you want to make a lot of money picking games, there's really a very simple way to do it.

Allow me to do all the heavy lifting. I'll crunch every conceivable stat, get into deep analysis of individual players and how they match up against their opponents, game strategies, and even thoroughly dissect any intangibles that may come into play. At the end of the day, I'll put it all together and it will be obvious which team is going to win the game.

And then all you have to do is bet on the other one.

I'm liking the 49ers in the Super Bowl. Do what you will...... 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hail Michigan. Champions of the what?

Hats off to the Michigan Wolverine men's basketball team. After former #1 Duke bit the dust in a large way (a 27 point loss) and UM knocked off Illinois on the road -- it's a mere formality that the Wolverines will wake up being the top-ranked team in the nation. Hail, hail. But something's wrong, and has been for quite a while. I'll get back to that.

The University of Michigan has been around for a very long time. It goes all the way back to 1817, when a guy named James Monroe was the President, and about 20 years before Michigan even became a state. Hard telling what they did for sports back then. It certainly wasn't football or basketball. American football didn't come into existence until about 1876, and hoops was invented by a Canadian doctor names James Naismith in 1891. They didn't have a famous fight song back then, because they didn't play any sports to fight over.

But that changed in 1898. By then, football had become the rage. The Michigan team travelled to their arch-rival Univ of Chicago for a championship game, which they eventually won 12-11. Along the way, a music student from UM named Louis Elbel got so caught up in the excitement, he sat down and penned the Michigan fight song that we are all so familiar with to this day.

The actual lyrics are quite lengthy, but most of us remember the refrain the best.

Hail to the Victors valiant
Hail to the conquering heroes
Hail, Hail, to Michigan
The Champions of the West.

And that's the thing. Back then Ann Arbor and Chicago might have been on the western edge of "civilization", but that hardly applies these days.

Champions of the West? Just what are they west OF? Michigan's east of the Mississippi. It's in the eastern time zone. Until Penn State came into the conference a few years ago, the Univ of Michigan was the easternmost school in the Big 10.

Nevertheless, congrats to Michigan for being #1 in men's college hoops, if only for a little while. They seem to be as good as anybody, but the way things are going this year, every time somebody gets to #1, they quickly get knocked off and the merry-go-round continues. There's probably at least a dozen top teams in the country that could beat each other on any given day. How all that will play out in the NCAA tournament is anybody's guess.

Here's wishing Michigan the best, though yours truly somehow isn't convinced they're an elite team. Though they're highly skilled, well coached, and have a lot of things going for them, when watching them it just seems like there's "something" that isn't quite right.

Or maybe it just that stupid "champions of the west" thing I keep hearing.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tiger Woods. Is he back?

It sure looks like it. In the Farmers Insurance golf tournament currently going on, Tiger went out and fired a 4-under 68 for his first round, then followed it up with a blistering 65. At eleven under par he's in the lead by 2 shots heading into the weekend.

No, this tourney didn't draw the strongest field there ever was. A lot of the top players in the world aren't participating, notably a certain Irish kid named McIlroy. Still, Tiger's looking like he's back to his old self, especially tearing up the par 5s with an eagle thrown in here and there. So far, he hasn't been hitting any of his tee shots into the next county, thrown a club, or whiffed a 2 foot putt. Nary a cuss word either. Maybe he's finally got his game back together and is about to break out of the miserable slump he's been in since the wheels came off his personal life a while back.

Of course, these are only tune-up tournaments right now. His real test will come at the Masters in April when all the big boys will be there.

Tiger seems to have cruised along rather nicely the last couple days, but wait a minute. Haven't we seen this movie before a bunch of times over the last few years? You know, where Tiger comes out on Thursday and Friday tearing up the course, then gets a chicken bone stuck in his throat when it comes to playing on the weekend and collapses like a house of cards in a hurricane?

Few would doubt Woods still possesses the skills to be a world class player, and maybe even return to dominating the tour like he once did. It could be the only thing that's been holding him back of late is what's between his ears. He needs to prove he can finish, more to himself than anybody else.

While yours truly has never been much of a Tiger groupie (hey, this is America, I can root for who I want to), it would be nice to see him go out on the weekend and put together two more solid rounds of golf to polish off the Farmers tournament in style. It would also likely give him a boost of confidence for his future. He needs a spark to get him going again.

Then again, if Tiger comes out on the weekend and slips back into crash and burn mode, who knows what kind of effect it would have on him? Not good, that's for sure.

If he wants to get back to the mountaintop, he's got to start somewhere. Might as well be right now.

We'll see how it plays out......

Friday, January 25, 2013

The full Manti

Somebody needs to tell Manti Te'o, former linebacker of Notre Dame, and he of the on-going "girlfriend" hoax -- to shut up. It was bad enough when the story first broke, but Te'o just keeps digging his hole deeper and deeper.

Falling in love with someone you've never seen, touched, or spoken to in person is one thing. Given that, it's probably not much of a stretch to mourn their supposed death.

But since then, this story keeps getting weirder and weirder, and Manti's taking more hits than a speed bag in a boxing gym. Now it's becoming apparent the voice he became so enamored with didn't even belong to a woman. It was a dude PRETENDING to be a woman. Well, OK, some of those impersonators are pretty good, but DAMN, that's a whole lot different than getting emotionally involved with one.

That was likely all going to come out anyway, and it would have blown over, but Manti just keeps pouring gas on the fire. He certainly didn't do himself any favors by granting Katie Couric a televised interview. Couric played some of the voice mails from his "girlfriend" and then even went so far as to ask Te'o if he was gay. Of course, this has been replayed over and over on the air, and gone viral through other media, so anybody that didn't know about it before sure as hell does now. Te'o's gone from a stud college linebacker and likely first round NFL draft pick to being perceived as a buffoon that has to defend his very sexual orientation. My oh my, I'm guessing even Touchdown Jesus back in South Bend is getting a little red-faced over this one. The Gipper would not be proud. Remember that movie Rudy? Will they come out with another one for Te'o and call it Trudy?

Talk show comedians are having a field day with poor Manti. Jay Leno's people took the Couric clip and plugged in a normal sounding man's voice in place of the "female" voice. The crowd roared. This is getting ugly.

I suppose it could be worse. In some cultures, marriages are arranged sight unseen. Can you imagine how absurd this whole situation would be right now if that had been the case? Would Te'o now be a widower? Because the woman was a man, would the marriage have been legal in the first place? Beats me. That could get messy -- not to mention highly embarrassing. How would the leprechauns explain THAT to their kids?

Regardless, if no more not-so-nice surprises come out of this, and Te'o learns to shut up, it will gradually fade away and some NFL team will still draft him. That's good news and bad news for Manti Te'o.

The good news is he'll probably become a millionaire. The bad news is what the veteran players on that pro team will likely put him through during his rookie hazing behind closed doors. They'll remember all this nonsense -- guaranteed.

If Te'o thought the abuse he suffered at the hands of Alabama in the national championship game was bad -- I shudder to think what his new teammates might have in store for him. That could get REALLY ugly.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Michigan basketball #1?

Currently #2, the Wolverines have another shot at sitting on top of the heap. All they have to do is take care of business with unranked Purdue at home and presto, they get to be king of the hill for a while. (Though I suppose technically they also have to knock off Illinois on the road this Sunday and then wait for next week's "official" rankings to come out on Monday.)

They had a similar opportunity earlier this year when then top-ranked Indiana got beat, but the Wolverines lost a heart-breaker to the Buckeyes in Columbus shortly thereafter to fall back themselves.

This comes about because something unbelievable just happened to former #1 Duke. Given so many good teams these days, it's not so surprising anymore when just about anybody suffers a loss, but the amazing thing is HOW Coach K's boys lost. Miami (Fl) 90, Duke 63. Twenty seven points? Can that be right? As in 13 buckets and a free-throw worth? Wow, who would have believed it?

Of course, it matters little at this point of the season who #1 is. After all, once the NCAA tournament starts in March, other than going in as a #1 seed and possibly getting to play the first couple games close to home, it's all just "make-believe" right now anyway. Nonetheless, it has to be a pretty good feeling knowing you're #1, if even for a little while.

It's highly unlikely Michigan will "run the table" the rest of the regular season. There's too many good teams they have to face yet in their own conference. Two with arch-rival Michigan State, two with Indiana, another one with OSU, and even though they beat Minnesota on the road, there's no guarantee the Golden Gophers won't come into Ann Arbor and return the favor. Wisconsin's pretty good too. There's 6-7 other teams in the Big 10 that could get hot on any given night and knock off the Wolverines. It's a tough conference, and that's assuming the Wolverines don't suffer any injuries to key players along the way -- never a given.

Let's just hope they don't revert back to their usual default mode like they have so many times over the years when they experience success. That would be the "arrogant/cocky" thing rearing its ugly head again. There must be something in the air in Ann Arbor. It seems like every time one of their teams gets a little fame -- WHAM -- it goes right to their heads and they start strutting around like trash-talking peacocks thinking they're royalty or something, only to get knocked off themselves shortly thereafter by a hungrier team. How many times have we seen THAT happen?

Yep, it's a long way from the Final Four, let alone a championship (and don't think Tom Izzo of Michigan State is exactly shaking in his boots), but for now, congrats to the Wolverines for being in the position they're in. Go Blue.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

LA Lakers twistin' in the wind

Am I the only one that gets some sort of smug satisfaction seeing the LA Lakers twisting in the wind this year? It seems like they've been so good for so long, it's hard to remember when they weren't considered a force to be reckoned with in the NBA.

No, they didn't always win the championship, although they've won several, but nobody ever dared count out the Lakers until they had officially been eliminated in the playoffs. The Lakers were, and perhaps still are to a certain degree, what the NY Yankees are in major league baseball. Besides their own home town fans, there are thousands, maybe even millions of people around the country that root for them and buy their gear. When they come to town, stadiums and arenas sell out. People flock to see them live and in person.

Of course, that works both ways. For every Lakers/Yankees fan, there's probably 1 or 2 that hate them with an equal passion. Either way, it's always been almost impossible NOT to pay attention to what they're doing or where they are in the standings. It comes with being good for such a long time. When's the last time you heard of the Lakers or Yankees NOT being competitive? It just never seems to happen. Until maybe now.

At the midway point in the season, the Lakers currently find themselves 17-24, and about 5 games out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the NBA western conference. Forget about being the best in the west. They're 14 1/2 games back of being the best in their own building. The perennial bottom-feeding LA Clippers have risen to become a power, while making the Lakers the "little brothers" of the Staples Center. Who would have believed that possible just a couple years ago?

Sure, the Clips have super-star Blake Griffin and all-world point guard Chris Paul, but it wasn't like the Lakers were watching the scenery go by. They went out and got Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. Though aging a bit, Nash can still handle and distribute the basketball with the best of them, and Howard was supposed to dominate around the basket with his height and strength. Coupled with Pao Gasol, who they obtained a couple years ago, the ever-present Kobe Bryant, and a pretty fair cast of supporting characters, the Lakers were supposed to roll themselves. Surprisingly, they seem to have collapsed.

After replacing legendary coach Phil Jackson, Mike Brown, formerly of the Cleveland Cavaliers when Lebron James was there putting on his one-man show, started off this season 1-4 and was promptly fired. Not good enough. After a brief transition period, which included interim coach Bernie Bickerstaff going 4-1, the Lakers hired Mike D'Antoni. He has since gone 12-19. Could his head be inching closer to the chopping block as well? Good grief, the Lakers are still paying Mike Brown millions to not coach. Would they do the same to D'Antoni and go out and get yet ANOTHER coach? If his name wasn't Phil Jackson, would it make a difference? For that matter, assuming he would even be interested after a perceived snub the last time around, could even the Zen master turn this mess around? Hard to say.

Recently, besides the Lakers appearing dysfunctional on the court, there have been hints of dissention amongst the troops. Kobe has sniped here and there at teammates trying to get them to pick up their play. Of course, it's never Kobe's fault. Just ask Kobe.

To boot, now rumors are swirling the Lakers might turn around and try to trade Dwight Howard. Well, good luck with that. He's got a monster contract and has so far shown himself to be a shell of the player he once was, plus he can't seem to stay healthy. What other team would gut themselves of the players and money necessarily to bring Howard to town?

Some knowledgeable basketball people have projected the Lakers will have to play at about a .700 clip for the second half of the season --- just to make the playoffs. Seeing as how they're now cruising along at .415, and appear to be getting worse if anything -- it would appear to be nothing short of miraculous if they could pull it off. It's not like all those other good teams in the west are going to lie down for these guys and let them catch back up.

And now we're treated to Kobe playing the piano. How quaint. It is said he was playing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. That's a beautiful piece of work. The song, not Kobe. He's just a piece of work -- period. Yours truly is a piano player that was taught in the classical style, and I've banged that tune out a few times myself over the years. Though I'm not at all sure how tickling the ebonies and ivories is relevant to improving the Lakers' plight, one way or the other, you just know Kobe's always going to find a way to get his mug on the cameras somehow.

Nevertheless, my rendition of Ludwig Von B's classic sounded different than Kobe's. When I saw him play that, somehow all I could hear was a cross between Dandy Don Meredith crooning about turning out the lights, and Leadbelly once again sorrowfully saying goodnight to his beloved Irene.

He can trash talk the piano too, but it's not going to play any better all by itself. Not many assists to be had there either.

But for now, I'm getting a perverse sense of satisfaction watching "showtime" morph into the Jerry Springer show.

It couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Enough with Lance Armstrong

Before his stunning confession on Oprah's show, yours truly steadfastly refused to jump on the bandwagon so many others had in assuming Lance Armstrong had "doped" during his 7 Tour de France wins. For the record, I never claimed he DIDN'T do it, but merely it had yet to be proven that he DID. I didn't know either way and therefore remained neutral.

While various federal and international "agencies" offered up arrays of allegations, reports, and "evidence" claiming Armstrong was guilty, none of that had passed what I've always considered to be the standard for determining guilt in such matters -- that being all such evidence and testimony being fully examined and cross-examined in a court of law. Let it all hang out, both sides have their say, and at the end of the day, a jury of (hopefully) neutral people get to make the final call. That's the way it's supposed to work. To me, all the hype and speculation was nothing more than arm-chair prosecuting.

Well, that still never happened, but given Armstrong's confession, it ceases to matter. He did it, and then he lied about it for years to a lot of people.

Yet to some, that's not enough. They want Armstrong to go under oath and repeat his confession. They say he wasn't contrite enough, or didn't show sufficient remorse. They want more.

First, the only possible reason yours truly can think of that the authorities would want Armstrong to repeat his confession under oath would be so they could find a way to prosecute him. If so, why, pray tell, would Armstrong want to put that gun to his head? If not, then what's the point in sworn testimony? It becomes nothing more than redundant. As for contrition and remorse, what do they expect out of the guy? Would Armstrong breaking down into a sobbing mass of tears satisfy them? Should it make a difference?

Let's look at the penalties he's already paid and those that are likely in his future. He was stripped of his 7 Tour titles. Well, OK, that's a "paper" penalty, a slap on the wrist. His approval rating has dropped from that of a hero to likely about the level of Congress. Still no tangible punishment, you say?

Armstrong has likely lost just about all future sources of income. That's real, and that hurts. It's also likely he'll never be "reinstated" as eligible to compete in any sanctioned competition. Though he's too old to compete at the top levels like the Tour anymore, there are other things he may have wanted to do (triathlons have been mentioned), but never will be allowed to. In effect, he's been handed a lifetime ban, ala Pete Rose, only worse. His seems to extend to sports he's never even competed in before. But cycling was his true passion. Consider an analogy. A top pro bowler gets kicked off the PBA tour for misdeeds of some sort. Besides being stripped of his titles, he can't even bowl in a Friday night beer league with his buddies, forever, because he's no longer "sanctioned". How much would that hurt someone who's lifelong passion had been bowling? Probably a lot.

By his confession, a TV legal "analyst" has surmised Armstrong might have also opened himself up to various civil litigation. Remember all those sponsors that once showered him with millions? Some of them are going to want it back, he said. That could very well boil down to the terms of each individual contract. If it was specifically spelled out in the fine print that such sponsorship was contingent on Armstrong never "cheating", then Lance could find himself in a very expensive legal bind. Such a company could claim fraud, and sometimes such plaintiffs are rewarded triple the original damages. In other words, if a company gave Armstrong $25 million over the years, they might be able to turn around and sock him for $75 million in a judgment. That $100 million Armstrong is reportedly worth could go bye-bye, and then some, in a hurry. It's theoretically possible Armstrong could go from a very rich man to bankruptcy in the next few years. Whether that ever comes to pass remains to be seen, but it would certainly be tangible punishment.

He's been forced out of Livestrong, the very foundation he himself established to help cancer victims and promote research. No one can seriously doubt Livestrong is a very benevolent organization that has already helped many who otherwise would have received no such assistance. Now he can't even be a part of that.

It's probably also a fairly safe assumption to say we won't be seeing Lance on Dancing With the Stars or American Idol anytime soon either.

In my opinion, Armstrong has already been punished and will continue to be, likely for the rest of his life.

But no, the dead-horse beaters want to get in a few more lashes and, while they're at it, waste a few more million tax-payer dollars to accomplish -- exactly what? Just what is it that will satisfy their blood lust? Jail time? Exile to some barren remote island? A public hanging?

Armstrong was wrong for what he did. He's admitted it and he'll likely spend the rest of his life trying to atone for it in various ways.

However, something seems out of kilter here...... Armstrong may or may not be a lot of things, but he's no fool. He also certainly has a top-flight legal team of his own, and it would only seem logical they wouldn't have allowed that confession to take place if it would expose their client to potential ruin. Somehow, they must think they already have those bases covered. Beats me. I'm not a lawyer, but it makes sense.  

Regardless -- to me, that's enough of the blame game. Time to let it go and move on. This country has much more pressing issues to be concerned with than what some cyclist did on another continent several years ago. This isn't exactly Jack the Ripper we're talking about here.....

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NFL playoffs. Odds are.....

When you stop and think about it, there were a lot of similarities between the San Fran/Atlanta and Baltimore/New England games. Plus one big difference.

Both visiting teams won. So much for home field advantage.

Both winners shut out their opponents in the second half of the games.

A Harbaugh was the head coach of both winning teams. Let the 2-week build-up to the "Harbowl" begin.

In the SF/Atl game, the early line had SF as a 3.5 point favorite. By game time it had edged up to 4 points. And that's exactly how it turned out. 28-24. The oddsmakers hit it right on the money, pun intended. They love it when that happens. Cha-ching for the wise guys.

The early line on the Bal/NE game had the Patriots giving 9.5 points. That number jumped off the page when yours truly first saw it. Sure, beating Bill Belichick and the Brady Bunch in Foxborough is a daunting task, but it seemed like everybody forgot what the Ravens did to Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Denver just last week. Yes, that game went into overtime before the Ravens finally prevailed, but it really wasn't that close. Denver had scored a couple touchdowns on special teams play, or the result might have been similar to what happened in Foxborough. Evidently, the bookies were getting some serious Baltimore money rolling in taking the points, because it dropped to 8 by game time.

And what a difference. Where the oddsmakers were dead on in the NFC game, they were over 3 touchdowns off for the AFC match-up. With a final score of Bal 28 -- NE 13, tack on the 8 point spread, and it comes out to 23. That's a bunch.

Ever since noted Raven linebacker Ray Lewis announced his retirement after this season, Baltimore seems to have kicked their play into another gear. They beat New England quite handily in their own house. Offense, defense, you name it, and they pretty well rolled the Patriots. Fair and square. No fluke about it.

Obviously, a Harbaugh, either Jim or John, will be a Super Bowl champion two weeks from now. But on the flip side, one of them has to lose, as well. One will enjoy a hero's parade, and the other will go home and sulk.

So that leaves a dilemma. Which one of their sons will Ma and Pa Harbaugh root for? Will they flip a coin and one takes Bal while the other takes SF? Surely, the media will ask them about that in the next couple weeks. Yet, I suppose if one is to have a problem, that's not an all-bad one to have.

Nevertheless, it appears the two best teams are heading to New Orleans for the big dance, as it should be. Thankfully, there were no crazy game-ending plays or highly controversial calls involved in the conference championship games that could have potentially changed their outcomes. I doubt many of us would look forward to hearing the talking heads rehashing "what-if" scenarios a zillion times in the next two weeks.

Who's going to win the Super Bowl is a good question. Yours truly would imagine the 49ers will be made a slight favorite by the odd-makers, but with these two teams, and the rolls they're on -- who knows how it will turn out? Not me.

Here's a pretty safe bet ---- when the 49ers and the Ravens finally have at each other -- it will not be for the faint of heart. Both are smash-mouth teams, and both will be amped to the max. The hitting in the Super Bowl will be ferocious. Both Jim and John Harbaugh are well-known for their hyper-competitive natures. Besides the players, the organizations, and the cities they represent, don't think for one minute family bragging rights won't be a part of this on some level, as well.

It should be one helluva game.

On an added note, remember the famous "handshake" incident between Jim Harbaugh and Detroit Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz? At that time, many Lions fans said they thought Schwartz was a better coach. Well, let's see. Jim Harbaugh was one play away from going to the Super Bowl last year, and he's in it this year. In the meantime, the Lions have settled into more familiar territory -- for them. Like somewhere between Atlantis and the Titanic. It would be interesting to see what those same people would say if they were asked the same question right now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Manti Te'o

Manti Te'o, the linebacker from Notre Dame, is/was one helluva good college football player. Right up until his Fighting Irish got stomped in the national championship game by Alabama, Te'o was quite a force on the field, not to mention being the runner-up to the Heisman trophy.

Like them or not, it's hard to dispute Notre Dame is as rich with tradition as anybody.

They once had the "four horsemen", and Knute Rockne with the Gipper thing. Nowadays, they still feature elves, leprechauns, and even a Touchdown Jesus. That's all fun and games to stoke up their faithful fans. Nothing wrong with that, though I still don't understand Notre Dame calling themselves the Fighting Irish, when the real Notre Dame is a cathedral in France. Then again, the name Fighting French doesn't seem to have quite the same ring to it.

But Te'o had an imaginary girlfriend whose death caused him and his team to go into mourning? That seems to be pushing the envelope a little bit even for Touchdown Jesus. Of course, now the PR folks at Notre Dame are in full damage control mode, trying to spin their way out of this fairy tale, and preserve the reputation of their star linebacker. Problem is, the media has all those pesky videos on file of Te'o when the "hoax" was still going on. And they keep playing them, and playing them some more.

Sure, they'll figure out a "reasonable" explanation and it will all blow over in due time, like most everything else. But make no mistake. Manti still has a problem in his future.

That would be at the NFL "combine" in Indianapolis prior to the 2013 NFL draft. Everybody knows that's a meat market. Pro coaches and scouts want to know EVERYTHING about a player they're considering drafting. Height, weight, vertical jump, 40 yard dash time, strength, percentage of body fat -- you name it -- and they want to know.

And then there's that little thing called a psychological evaluation. Before a pro team showers some kid with millions, it stands to reason they'd also want to make sure the young man isn't looney tunes.

Yes, some NFL teams do more due diligence checking these things out than others, but still.....

An imaginary girlfriend might raise a few eyebrows. I mean, where could it go from there? Te'o running around the field trying to tackle imaginary running backs and receivers? Pumping imaginary iron in the weight room?

Those would most definitely not be good things for the pro team.

If will be interesting to see how this plays out.....

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Detroit Lions. Kiss prime-time goodbye

My oh my. How quickly things can change. After the Detroit Lions posted an improbable 10-6 regular season record during their 2011 campaign, the TV network execs, in conjunction with the NFL, evidently jumped face first with mouths wide open into the same hog trough of kool-aid the Lions' fans and their local reporters had been chugging for decades. FINALLY, they had an excuse to showcase an historically sad-sack franchise in prime time.

And showcase them they did. After all those years of the Lions being treated like proverbial dysfunctional red-headed stepchildren, which BTW they had earned every bit of, they were going to get their chance to strut their stuff on national TV.

Sure, they'd always had their Thanksgiving day game since forever (yours truly doesn't know how that originally came about, but suspects it had something to do with honoring turkeys) but this was different. The Lions were scheduled for 4 other national TV games. Movin' on up to the east side. Gettin' a piece of the pie -- and all that.

At the time, Lions' ever all-knowing receiver Nate Burleson said, " It just shows people want to see us. We're starting to make a splash. People are starting to respect the direction this organization is headed in".

Indeed, the Lions got two Sunday night games. Week 2 in San Fran -- where they got trashed. Week 14 against the Packers. Same thing.

Also two Monday night football games -- sort of. In Week 7 against the Bears on MNF, they lost again. Week 16 against the Falcons was supposed to be a Monday night game, but that would have fallen on Christmas Eve. Bad idea. So the NFL/TV folks, in their infinite wisdom, came up with an even better plan. Have the Lions and Falcons play on Saturday night, Dec, 22. A regular season NFL game on Saturday night would be a national showcase indeed. The Lions got trashed again.

When all was said and done, the Lions had gone into yet another one of their death spirals and finished the regular season at 4-12. They'd made a splash alright, like a cinder block dropped out of an airplane would in the middle of the ocean-- but guess where it's going to wind up?

After having suffered the indignity of all that, ask yourself a question, and give yourself an honest answer. If you were a TV network exec, where ratings are second only to God -- maybe -- that has to answer to deep-pocketed sponsors, and were sitting in a room with NFL honchos planning out which teams are going to be showcased next year on prime time national broadcasts -- would the Lions even be in the conversation? Or would you recommend returning them to their former stepchild status? Out of sight, out of mind, etc.

Other than turkey day, yours truly is thinking the Honolulu blue and silver puddy-tats can once again kiss prime-time goodbye for the foreseeable future.

When NFL fans across the country tune into a prime time game, they want to see two good teams battling it out. Not one good one taking the field against a clown act, although they can be comical at times.

There's a difference, and the people in charge of such things notice.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Conflicts from hell

I really wanted to watch the Mich/Ohio State men's basketball game. After all, then #2 Michigan was in Columbus to tangle with their arch-enemy Buckeyes, then ranked about #15.

Just the day before, #1 Duke had lost to North Carolina State. At 16-0, and the last undefeated major college team in the nation, UM was primed to assume the throne, if they could only dispatch the Buckeyes. Turned out it was a helluva game.

But I didn't see any of it. Actually, I forgot all about it and didn't find out that OSU had knocked off the Wolverines until much later. Why can be summed up in two words.....

NFL playoffs.

Don't get me wrong. I love big time college hoops, men's and women's both, but let's be honest. Over the course of their regular seasons, the rankings will ebb and flow. Every week somebody goes up and somebody goes down. They don't really rev up in popularity until March Madness, when the NCAA playoff tournament kicks in. By then, the NFL Super Bowl is a distant memory.

Thing is, the NFL has been the gorilla in the room of sports for a very long time. No other American sport comes remotely close to approaching the overall fan interest and/or revenue the NFL routinely generates every year. Sure, the Super Bowl itself draws billions of viewers world-wide, but that's just one game. For an NFL junkie like yours truly, the best weekends of the year happen during the playoffs which lead up to the "blessed event". That's when there are two such playoff games on Saturday, and another two on Sunday.

Nothing else matters. Significant others can go find something else to do. A dog or cat just ran away? Big deal. They'll come back or they won't. A child or grandchild just got kidnapped by a bunch of guys in ski-masks? Hey, that's up to the cops to figure out. Nothing I can do about it. I've got games to watch. It's the NFL playoffs -- dammit. Then again, if one's house spontaneously combusted for some odd reason, that could POSSIBLY give a true NFL fan cause to consider implementing Plan B. Depends if the TV was still working or not.

(Note. Lest anyone think I am a callous, insensitive beast with the conscience of a piranha, due to the previous paragraph, be assured that is not the case. I would move heaven, earth, and Chris Christie to rescue one of my beloved doggies. Hmm. This levity thing isn't working out so well. Nevermind.)

But watching a college hoops game on such a weekend, even one like Mich/OSU, isn't even on our radar. That raises a few other questions.....

Who are the idiots that scheduled that game? Whether or not they knew at the time the UM/OSU hoops matchup would be such a good one -- they surely had to know they'd be bumping heads with the mighty NFL during it's playoff season, especially on a Sunday afternoon. Good luck with the TV ratings. After that NFL game was over and another one followed it, yours truly finally remembered the basketball game had already happened, so I tuned into ESPN's quickie update channel. It even took THEM a while to get around to announcing the outcome in Columbus. It seemed to be little more than a minor footnote. Like it or not, gorillas rule.

One more question....  Why couldn't the college hoop schedule makers have merely pushed the UM/OSU game back one day? It's now Monday, the day after, and nothing much else is going on. It could have been played in prime time and drawn a huge TV audience.

I really would have liked to have watched it. But we all have our priorities.

The Milk Bone Awards

Never heard of them? That's because I just made it up, and why not? They give awards away for everything else these days. Teachers, cops, firefighters, reporters, TV and movie actors, singers, authors, Broadway plays, business execs -- you name it and a bunch of people get a trophy or a plaque every other day or so. The sports world is probably the worst culprit of the bunch. They dish out more hardware than your average Home Depot. I heard there's even an award coming up for the best fictitious reality show. When you figure THAT one out -- let me know.

But nobody ever seems to have gotten around to handing out "bonehead" awards in that same world of sports. Don't get me wrong. This is not to disparage Milk Bones by any means. It's a terrific product. They clean teeth, freshen breath, are chock full of vitamins and minerals, and are wholesome and tasty. My household goes through at least a box a week, and I even let my yorkies have one occasionally, although personally I find them rather on the dry side.

Earlier tonight, yours truly saw a couple NFL coaches that deserved Milk Bone awards. Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks and Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons. Towards the end of the game, they both turned into boneheads. Seattle had the ball late in the 4th quarter with Atlanta leading 27-21. The Falcons went into what we have all come to know as a "prevent defense". That's another way of saying they were willing to give up big chunks of yardage on every play and hope the Seahawks wouldn't find their way into the end zone for a touchdown before time expired. How many times have we seen THAT so-called strategy backfire in the past?

The Seahawks readily took advantage of what was being given to them, easily marched down the field to score the tying touchdown, then kick the extra point to lead 28-27. Here's a Milk Bone for you Mike Smith.

There was only about 30 seconds left in the game when Seattle kicked off to Atlanta. After a decent runback and a couple quick passes, the Falcons were looking at a 52 yard field goal to win it with about 20 seconds still left on the clock. At that point, Pete Carroll had earned a Milk Bone for employing his own version of a prevent defense and allowing the Falcons to get within striking range. They were a long field goal away from ending the Seahawks' season.

The field goal unit trotted on, the ball was snapped, the hold was good, and the kick was away. It had plenty of length -- but sailed wide right. Game over -- right? Nope. Pete Carroll had decided to call time out in an attempt to "freeze" the Atlanta place kicker. The replays clearly showed Carroll standing next to a ref and calling the time out, but after the kick was wide, he protested like he never did it. Three more Milk Bones for Pete. One for the shameless con he was trying to put over on the officials, another for trying to get into the head of a long time professional place kicker over a kick that was maybe 50-50 to start with, and a 3rd for giving that same kicker a "practice shot".

The clock was reset, the ball was snapped, the hold was good, and the kick was away again. That time it sailed through the uprights. Atlanta was ahead 30-28, with just several seconds left on the clock. Surely, it was over then. Not so fast. Enter Falcons coach Mike Smith to earn his own Milk Bone. On the ensuring kickoff back to the Seahawks, instead of having his own kicker just boom it out of the end zone, so the Seahawks would have to gain at least 40 yards in a few seconds to get within field goal range of their own -- his kicker dribbled it off the tee and Seattle covered it at near midfield.

Then the Seahawks only needed one quick pass to a receiver catching the ball and going out of bounds to be in position for some last second field goal heroics of their own. That's exactly what happened, except instead of the 15 yard route they needed, the receiver ran a 5 yard route, which left them still hopelessly out of field goal range. Hang another Milk Bone on Pete Carroll's collar. Sure, his offensive coordinator likely made the call, but Carroll damn sure heard it on his headset, and could have overruled it if he wanted to. He didn't.

There were plenty of Milk Bone awards to be handed out in this game. Woof woof. It's going to be a long flight from Atlanta to Seattle for Pete Carroll, so he'll have plenty of time to munch on them while he meditates his bone-headed strategies that ended his team's season. No sympathy here for him. After all the shenanigans that went on under his watch at Southern Cal which left USC saddled with sanctions, Carroll bailed for greener pastures, rather than take responsibility. Even in week 3 of this NFL season, back on Sept. 24, on a nationally televised game, the whole country saw the Green Bay Packers get "jobbed" on a last second call by what were then "replacement" refs, only to see Pete Carroll, the ultimate shill-meister, later look straight into the cameras and claim the call was correct. He deserved a Milk Bone right then. Of course, the Milk Bone company churns out thousands, if not millions of their dog treats every day, but it's doubtful even THEY could keep up with the demand that was warranted by the scab refs back then.

Falcons' coach Mike Smith has to scarf them quickly, because Jim Harbaugh's crazed dogs are coming to his town next week. After the demolition the 49ers put on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers just the day before, the good Mr. Smith might be wise to start planning a few better strategies than those he employed against the Seahawks, else he and his team find themselves being chased out of their own house by a pack of rabid mutts.

Though unconfirmed, word has it the 49ers will try to eat anything they can get hold of. Perhaps the Milk Bone company should consider boosting production a bit so enough of their product will be available for the awards that are likely to come about next weekend.

Memo to the Milk Bone company. If it's not asking too much -- get rid of the green ones. Nobody wants a green bone. My yorkies take them outside and bury them. I've seen starving squirrels dig them up, check them out and -- rebury them. And besides -- dry I can handle -- but those things just taste BAD.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

A quickie for Debbie B

Once every hundred rants or so, yours truly takes the liberty of dedicating one to a friend. This would be one of those times.

Here's to you Deb. Many thanks for all the conversations we have had over the years regarding various sports stuff. Also thanks for suggesting a few topics for me to expound on. As you know, sometimes I run with them, and sometimes I don't. Being the world renowned journalist I am -- surely you can understand someone in my lofty position must exercise a great deal of discretion when it comes to such matters.

That tribute I wrote a while back to legendary Tennessee Lady Vols hoops coach Pat Summitt likely never would have happened if you hadn't nagged-- oops-- I mean given me a few logical reasons for doing so.

More than that, I truly appreciate the constructive criticism you continue to offer. Even international super-stud literary giants like yours truly occasionally take heed of such opinions.

Nevertheless, I find your latest suggestion totally without merit. An article on shuffleboard and/or curling? Surely you jest. The only thing I know about shuffleboard is I vaguely remember playing it a couple times in a bar back in my younger days, after likely having way too much to drink. Curling is nothing more than putting the same game on ice with a bunch of brooms.

If you want an article about shuffleboard and curling -- do it yourself. Here's how.....

Call or email the sports editor of the Oakland Press and tell him you're interested in writing a sports blog. You'll have to go down to headquarters for an interview. If you make it through the bright lights in your eyes, beatings with a rubber hose, water-boarding, and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" like I did -- and still have a couple decent ideas about what to write about, then maybe, just maybe, they will give you a blog of your own.

Then you can rant about such things to your heart's content.

Getting to be a sports blogger for the OP is like making it to the Navy Seals. The applicants that are weak will be quickly weeded out during the rigorous process, and only the strong, the ELITE, survive.

But just think.... If you're good enough, and tough enough, and have the mental fortitude to persevere through the tortuous gauntlet you will be subjected to -- and survive to enjoy the acclaim someone like yours truly does to this day...

Then things would change.

But you have to earn it first.

Until then -- forget shuffleboard and curling.

Ain't gonna happen.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

NFL playoffs. Crazy

It was the second best thing that could have happened to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots this weekend. That being when the Baltimore Ravens waltzed into Denver and knocked off the #1 AFC seed Broncos. With the resurgent Peyton Manning and a stout defense -- that wasn't supposed to happen -- but it did.

Of course, the best thing for the Brady Bunch would be to defeat the visiting Houston Texans on Sunday. Most think the Pats will make easy work of them. After all, just a few scant weeks ago, New England demolished Houston by about 4 touchdowns worth in a regular season game. But you never know. It's the NFL. Any given Sunday, and all that.

Still, assuming the Patriots prevail, they no longer have to go to Denver the following week, and instead would gain home field advantage themselves against the Ravens in the AFC championship game. Home field is by no means a lock (see the NY Giants' brutal playoff schedule on their "road trip" to the Lombardi Trophy last year), but I dare say most teams, including the Pats, would much rather play at home than on the road in a big game.

Something equally unexpected happened in the NFC playoffs. Many, including yours truly, thought the Green Bay @ San Fran game would be the best of the bunch. Two outstanding teams slugging it out. A toss-up. Wow, was I wrong. It was a rout.

All that talk about Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP, having his full complement of receivers to throw to didn't seem to matter. Evidently, somebody didn't do their homework in "cheeserland", because they seemed to totally forget about that little thing called playing defense. The 49ers racked up almost 600 yards of total offense. Good grief, their QB alone, in his first year as a starter, let alone being in a playoff game, ran for almost 200 himself, an NFL record. He threw for 200+ more. Their feature running back had over a 100. Time of possession, line play, and the other intangibles? Forget about it. Even more dominating.

Note to the Packers -- those same 49ers came into your house, Lambeau Field, at the start of the season, and thumped you. In this last game, they flat-out trashed you. Bookends. A suggestion -- whatever it takes -- stay away from those guys. They've got your number in a big way.

Regardless of how the Houston/New England, Seattle/Atlanta games play out -- the Harbaugh boys, Jim and John, are both heading to their respective conference championship games. Could we have an all-Harbaugh Super Bowl match-up?

Maybe, but wait a minute. Didn't we go through that same scenario last year about this time in the playoffs? And then the H&H teams both got broomed and neither one of them even made it to the Super Bowl?

Guess that's why they play the games. You never know.

What I do know is a couple famous guys named Peyton and Aaron won't be there either this year. Besides Brady, there's two Matts, a Joe, a Russell, and a Colin still left in the hunt.

Funny, or maybe not, how that works out sometimes.

Bosses, Big 10, and the SEC

Earlier tonight, yours truly was in an on-line mini-chat with Jeff Kuehn, the sports editor of this paper. He is known as (cue drum roll), The Boss. I, and everyone else that rants on this page, ultimately have to answer to him when we screw up. It happens. We clash on certain issues once in a while, but were in agreement on one thing -- whether you liked them or not, Alabama was clearly the class of the field and deserved to be national college football champions. That, and we both like it when the other one is paying for lunch. Make that two things.

It's been noted that had Ohio State not been on "probation", and therefore bowl ineligible, Alabama likely wouldn't have been in the championship game at all. Notre Dame and Ohio State were the only two undefeated teams, and Bama had suffered one loss at the hands of Texas A&M, with eventual Heisman trophy winner QB Johnny "Football" Manziel at the helm of the Aggies doing the honors. Who would have won an ND/OSU game is highly debatable, but given the beatdown the Crimson Tide put on the Fighting Irish, I dare say they would have done much the same thing to the Buckeyes. Bama was just WAY better than either one of them.

The Big 10, once a proud football conference, now appears to be in the minor leagues when it comes to national prominence. Just a few years ago, Mich and Mich State traded barbs over who was the "little brother" and who was the "little sister". Question --  how laughable do you think that was to the teams in the Southeast Conference (SEC) as they were rolling along to one national title after another -- and still are? If they even noticed, chances are they watched it with the same amusement most of us would have seeing a couple first-graders squabbling on a playground somewhere.

Here's a comparison of the Big 10 and the SEC. Big 10 schools will typically schedule what they consider to be a couple "patsies" at the beginning of their seasons, just to have live "scrimmages" and get their acts together before facing tougher conference competition. Many SEC schools would gladly schedule a couple Big 10 schools to start off their seasons for much the same reason. To them, the Big 10 teams ARE the patsies. Remember what Alabama did to Michigan (then ranked #8) in the season opener in Dallas -- a neutral site? The Wolverines got taken to the woodshed for the proverbial good old fashioned whuppin'.

Alabama is a mini-dynasty right now, having won 3 championships in the last 4 years. But collectively, the SEC is even MORE of a football dynasty. That conference has won the last 6 titles in a row, and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.  Winning begets more winning. Where do you think elite prep stars would rather go?  To a Big 10 school with an outside chance of playing in the Rose Bowl, at best -- or an SEC school with a decent shot at a national championship?

I live in Michigan myself, and Mich and Mich State fans will likely disagree -- but there's only one guy out there that can make the Big 10 relevant again. It ain't gonna happen with Mark Dantonio in East Lansing, nor with Brady Hoke in Ann Arbor. They may both be fine coaches, but it's highly unlikely either will ever put together a football team worthy of national championship consideration.

The only guy I see bringing the Big 10 back into prominence is named Urban Meyer, the coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes. His track record speaks for itself. Like Alabama coach Nick Saban, wherever he goes, they win -- quickly, and a lot. In just his first year at OSU, he went undefeated, as mentioned above. Was his team as good as Alabama this year? Of course not. But give him a couple more years to get his own system firmly established with the players he recruited to execute it, and the Buckeyes might very well make at least one team in the Big 10 a force to be reckoned with on the national landscape.

That would not bode well for Brady and Mark when it came to recruiting the blue-chippers, much less the rest of the Big 10.

It's a tough call for a Michigander like me. Should I root for a school I always considered an arch-rival, the enemy, just so they can make the conference respectable again? Or do I hope they crash and burn and remain content continuing to watch my in-state teams settle for 2nd and 3rd tier bowl games as a climax to their seasons, and then tell us how good they're going to be next year, which is like a grainy video that keeps repeating itself in an endless loop?

I dunno. I just hope this flies under the radar of The Boss. He bought lunch last time. If he notices, I'm pretty sure I know what's coming next.....


Friday, January 11, 2013

The "right to work" and pro sports

First things first. JB (known on the streets as DH, for reasons I won't get into) came up with this idea. JB and I go back many moons. He's always been my bro, my amigo, and I'd trust him with anything -- although he's been known to wreak some havoc on what I have in the refrigerator once in a while.

He stopped by earlier, and while we were solving all the problems in the world at our latest summit meeting over a couple brewskis, JB pointed out something that had never occurred to the feeble mind of yours truly.

Recently, Michigan, where we both live, became a "right to work" state. The problem is -- it's a selective law. Some will be affected, and some won't. Cops and firefighters are exempt. It doesn't take Einstein to figure out being a cop or a firefighter will still require mandatory union participation. Yet anybody familiar with the labor history in the state of Michigan knows full well this new law was to further hammer the UAW and the "shop rats" it has represented since before WWII. The UAW was born here, and there are those that want to see it die here.

But JB made another point. What if the right to work laws applied to professional sports?

Want to play major league baseball? You have to join a union. Same with the NFL. And the NBA. And the NHL. At the exact same moment they sign a pro contract, they also join a players' association. There are no exceptions. Want to make the big bucks, perks, and enjoy all the benefits that come with being a pro? Pay your dues. Golf is different. They're all independent contractors. Every man/woman for himself. Same with tennis. Soccer? Who cares?

For an example, let's just look at the NHL. Sure, they just resolved a long labor dispute that cost a lot of people a lot of money. Owners, players, people that work at the arenas, local pubs, merchandise retailers, and a lot of other folks took a big hit.

But what would have happened if the NHL was a "right to work" league? Let's say half the players belonged to the union and the other half didn't. Would the "scabs" have been locked out by the owners too, or would they have had access to skate, practice, and enjoy all the other first-class amenities that go along with an NHL arena? Like the weight room, and coaches, and trainers, and jacuzzis? Hard to say. Would they expect the same benefits that their union teammates just suffered to get when the dust finally cleared -- while drawing their own salaries all along? Probably. They would likely say, "Hey, it's not my fault. I just wanted to play hockey. And oh, by the way, I scored 10 more goals last year than the guy with the locker next to me that just happens to belong to the union. I should at least get everything he got out of that contract".

Further, depending on one's point of view, would one root for a union player when he had the puck and boo a nonunion one -- or vice-versa? Would one need to buy a special program to sort them out? In a fast moving game like hockey, that could get confusing in a hurry.

What morons like that player never seem to realize is that without the players' union, in any of the big 4 sports, they'd probably still be selling used cars in the off season to make ends meet, let alone making millions. There would be no pensions, nor family health plans, nor a lot of other things that are taken for granted these days. Free agency never would have come to be. Once drafted by a team, their butts would be owned by that team, like slaves on a plantation once were. The owners would work them until they were no longer useful -- then throw them on a scrap heap somewhere.

It used to be that way, not just in pro sports, but just about everywhere -- until the brethren finally rose up and demanded a say-so. Do you think for one minute such things as ear and eye protection, respirators, gloves, protective clothing, and various other safety measures would have ever happened in the "shops" without unions? And how about that little thing called "seniority"? Getting older and can't move as fast as you used to? Nevermind your 30 years of faithful service with no vacation or sick days. You're gone, because this 20 year old young stud can do more work. Not even a cheap watch, let alone a pension on your way out the door. Just get.

As the working stiffs in the shops have seen their wages slashed in half, lost dental and vision coverage, along with most of the other traditional medical benefits -- most can't attend many pro sports games anymore, because they can't afford it. Those pesky little items like rent, food, and keeping the heat and lights on keep getting in the way. The "right to work" law just drove another dagger into the heart of the unions that once made it possible for them to do such things. It's much the same people doing much the same jobs, but at half the pay without any of the "bennies" they used to have. Prices keep going up and wages keep going down. Somebody's getting rich somewhere -- and it's sure as hell not the people doing the actual work.

But you know what's truly ironic, and ridiculously hypocritical? The people that stand to benefit the most from the "right to work" law in Michigan are likely the very same people that will be sitting in the "prime" seats at Joe Louis Arena for the Red Wings, Ford Field for the Lions, Comerica Park for the Tigers, and the Palace for the Pistons. They'll pay big bucks for those seats.

And all the while, they'll be cheering on workers that still belong to a union. Hello?

I'm thinking JB had it right.

But if he ever shows up at your house -- keep an eye on the fridge. I love him like the brother he is -- but that man can do some serious damage in a hurry.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Oprah Winfrey and Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong, a legend in bicycle racing, for more reasons than one, has agreed to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. That will be televised Jan 17 on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), which is actually a pretty fitting moniker for her cable channel. That girl owns a whole bunch of stuff.

Many have surmised that Armstrong will finally "come clean", admit to all his alleged use of performance enhancing drugs, disallowed blood transfusions, and other shenanigans while winning all those Tour de France titles. He might even break down, cry, and beg for forgiveness.

Don't count on it.

Why? Because Armstrong would have to be crazy to do such a thing. Armstrong may or may not be a lot of things -- but unless he's gone off the deep end in the last few days -- he's no fool, by a long shot.

If Armstrong were to say he was guilty of the storm of allegations that have been directed his way for the last several years -- having been stripped of his titles, lost sponsors, and even been forced out of the cancer research foundation he himself established would be the least of his worries. Nor would how he was perceived by the court of public opinion be relevant. He's already been convicted there.

Because if he did that, various civil law suits against him would likely quickly follow. It's been estimated Lance is worth about $100 million right now. Some of those very same sponsors that once showered him with money would claim they had been duped, and never would have put that money up in the first place if they knew Armstrong was a "doper". They'd want their money back -- plus interest. Armstrong would have no defense, having already admitted to the crimes. By the time the lawyers got done carving him up, that $100 million would probably go poof in a hurry.

That would be bad enough, but there's something much worse. If Armstrong fesses up now, tears and heartfelt apology or not, he'd expose himself to perjury charges. Sure, people lie in courtrooms every day all over the country, but both prosecutors and defense attorneys usually let that slide, because it's not worth the time and energy to pursue it -- and damn tough to prove, as well.

Such would not be the case for Armstrong. Having battled the mighty feds and an international agency to a draw over several years, they'd go back after him with guns blazing, and have plenty of his own previous statements on record as evidence to back it up. Sometimes perjury is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. And it's probably a pretty safe bet to say the once foiled persecutors would be going for the max.

In a way, it's like the OJ Simpson saga. What he did in Vegas wasn't all that big of a deal, but he'll probably never get out of prison. Why? Because the powers-that-be were looking for a reason -- ANY reason -- to nail him, after they were embarrassed the first time around. Once he was dumb enough to give them one, they probably gobbled a handful of Viagra and headed off to court with the resulting, ahem, attitude. They finally had their man over a barrel.

Yours truly never got caught up in all the PED mania anyway. Some guys used, some didn't, and it will never all be definitively sorted out. It was a sign of the times, like others that have come and gone before. In my opinion, dwelling on such things serves no purpose other than to jack up one's own blood pressure. It happened, and now it's over. Let's move on.

But I doubt the prosecutors would have the same altruistic outlook if Lance tells Oprah what many people think he will.

Those good ole Texas boys, like guys named Clemens, or even Bush and Cheney, usually aren't too quick to get in line with the rest of the herd being marched off to the slaughterhouse.

And I'd be highly surprised if Lance Armstrong puts himself in the same position.

Surely, he's a little wilier than OJ -- right?

We'll see.....

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rob Ryan, nukes, and the circus

Extra, extra, read all about it, the newsboys used to yell back when newspapers would print a special edition for a notable event, before the corporate bean-counters took over. These days, nuclear war likely wouldn't budge them from their daily deadlines. The mushroom clouds can wait until regular business hours tomorrow.

But make no mistake. An earth-shaking event just happened in Dallas. Cowboys' defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired, and the Robster appeared absolutely radioactive with the fall-out he was generating.

When I got here, this defense was near the bottom of league, and I made them better, Ryan snorted, while attempting to puff out his plumage like some sort of deranged peacock.

"I won't be out of work for 5 minutes", he sneered.

Well, he was wrong about that. The 5 minutes has come and gone, along with several hours, and it might well turn into several days.

But I have little doubt he'll remain unemployed for very long. There are always people in need of the services he can provide, and would gladly hire him in a heartbeat.

Like the Ringling Bros/Barnum and Bailey travelling circus. The pay might not be so hot, but they're always open to new side-show acts.

If he could only somehow manage to take his twin brother Rex along from the NY Jets, they could become a sensation.

I'd gladly fork over a few bucks to see what they were up to "behind the curtain".

Denard Robinson. Pro prospects

Few would doubt that former Univ of Mich QB Denard Robinson is an exceptionally gifted athlete. He seems to be one of those guys (or girls) that comes along every once in a great while that can be very good at just about any sport they try their hand at. Yours truly wouldn't be a bit surprised if Denard could do very well at baseball, hoops, golf, tennis, bowling, you name it -- if he put his mind to it. He's one in a million. A natural.

Yet that only goes so far. Being a lot better than the average John/Jane Schmo is lights years away from competing at the top levels of any sport. Some of the best in their respective games tried their hands at other sports and couldn't cut it. Michael Jordan thought he could play major league baseball. He wasn't good enough. Seen Charles Barkley's golf swing? His own word "turrible" doesn't give it justice. Guys like Danny Ainge and Bo Jackson that were good enough to compete at the pro level in two different sports are more like one in a billion.

Even in the same sport, at the pro level, things get highly specialized. An NHL goalie wouldn't be much use as a right/left winger, nor vice-versa. Even a Triple Crown winning baseball slugger like Miguel Cabrera would get shelled if he ever took the pitching mound. And I'm pretty sure we won't see point guards like Chris Paul or Rajon Rondo posting up underneath the basket anytime soon. But nowhere is the degree of specialization more prominent than it is in the NFL.

And that means Denard Robinson might have a problem. He's certainly multi-talented, but is he good enough at just one position to justify his presence on an NFL team? The competition is ferocious for every last roster spot and, just where exactly, might Denard find his niche?

Many knowledgable football people say that Robinson won't even be considered as a QB in the NFL. We can also probably rule out linebacker or even tight end. He's nowhere near big enough.

Could he withstand the pounding an NFL running back gets every game? Hard to say, but call yours truly skeptical.

A wide receiver? He's certainly fast enough, but he's only 6 feet tall. Pro teams these days prefer their wide-outs to have much longer reaches. Further, does Robinson possess the hands of glue and/or the intestinal fortitude to run a route across the middle into a zone, knowing a hard charging safety bigger than he is will rock his world a nano-second after the ball arrives? Unknown.

Becoming a defensive back is a possibility, but that requires an entirely different skill set too. During his college days, Robinson could run and the other guys would have to react. As a cornerback, the tables would be turned. Not only are most pro receivers every bit as fast as Robinson, if not faster, they know where they're going on their routes, and Denard would have to become the reactor. One split second of indecision might well result in the wide receiver trotting into the end zone for a touchdown. Even All-Pro corners get burned once in a while. Could Robinson step in and be competitive at a brand new position to him going up against the finest in the world on the other side? Nobody knows for sure.

Robinson could likely play on "special teams", either as a kamikaze covering kicks, or better yet as a punt and kickoff returner himself. Yet with the very nature of the high speed contact that goes along with those positions, players get "blown up" all the time. The other guys are playing for keeps too, remember?

Denard Robinson will definitely get drafted by a pro team. Which one is a total crap shoot, but I'll take a wild guess and say he'll go in the 2nd round. Despite his all-around athleticism, right now, he's not good enough at any particular skill position to be a 1st rounder, because 1st rounders are supposed to immediately step in and be difference makers.

Regardless, here's wishing him the best, wherever he lands. Can't be any worse than Sir Charles' golf swing, or Michael Jordan trying to hit a curve ball -- right?

Notre Dame/Bama. An ass-whuppin'

Though Notre Dame and Alabama most certainly have their faithful followings, would anyone really dispute they're also #1 and #2, not necessarily in that order, the most disliked college football teams in America nationwide?

Nevertheless, if you watched the game, how else can you put it? A mismatch. Men against boys. Worms against robins. Kitty cats against pit bulls. Barney Fifes against Rambos. What the Crimson Tide did to the Fighting Irish was a flat-out beatdown.

Notre Dame's vaunted defense, which was statistically amongst the best in the nation regarding allowing points scored, rushing, passing, and total yards against -- was shredded. Bama had not one, but two running backs that gained over 100 yards. When Notre Dame tried to stuff the run, Alabama's sure-handed wide receivers made catches for big chunks of yardage. They not only dominated every facet of the game, including both sides of the line of scrimmage, but even had veteran announcer Brent Musberger throw out the comment -- "If this were a boxing match, they'd call it off". And that was only towards the end of the FIRST HALF, when Alabama was cruising along to the tune of 28-0.

To start the 3rd quarter, after intercepting a Notre Dame pass, Alabama stuffed a 97-yard touchdown drive down the throats of the leprechauns to make it 35-0. By then, the fat lady was into her encores. The late Dandy Don Meredith had turned out the lights. Even Yogi Berra likely would have said it was over.

Then it appeared Bama lost a bit of their intensity. That was understandable. It's tough to stay geeked when you already know you can swat your opponent down like a pesky mosquito anytime you feel like it. Though the Crimson Tide faithful were no doubt rooting for a shut-out, and complete humiliation, the boys from South Bend finally scored a touchdown. Alabama would match it with yet another of their own -- just to remind them that while they were kicking back a bit, they could still light them up whenever they felt like it. Towards the end Notre Dame scored a meaningless touchdown in "garbage time". Final score 42-14, and it wasn't even that close.

A couple interesting things happened, though. Alabama still had some fight left in them. They'd become bored with Notre Dame, so their QB A.J. McCarron got into an altercation with Barrett Jones, his own center, of all people. Evidently, Jones didn't snap the ball when A.J. wanted him to so the QB got up into his face. Most times an offensive lineman would take such abuse, but not Jones. He shoved his own QB away on national TV, and who knows what he said.... but I'd guess it was something like -- get outta my face boy. Probably good advice, given that Jones outweighed him by about 100 lbs, and is likely a first round NFL draft pick, while A.J. doesn't seem to have the pro scouts aflutter just yet.

Of course, there's the ever-lovable Alabama head coach Nick Saban, that seems to have made a career out of displaying the loyalty of a vulture. Many times Saban will allow himself to be interviewed in what looks a lot like Butler's Cabin at the famed Augusta National golf course, home of the Masters Tournament. A nice quiet setting, the fireplace softly burning in the background, Nick comfortably clad in casual attire, replete with leisure shoes and no socks, and fielding "softball" questions that are offered up to him by the suck-ass reporter of the day. Perhaps the only thing that would be better is if the good Mr. Saban would be quoting Gandhi or Mother Teresa while thoughtfully smoking a pipe between his eloquent responses. Aah. How peaceful.

But then see him on the sidelines of a football field, where he can turn into a neck-vein-bulging, spit-spraying, name your cuss word raving lunatic while berating officials over a call he didn't particularly care for. Oh my. It appears the little mercenary has his dark side indeed.

Regardless, congrats to Alabama after trashing Notre Dame and becoming national champions once again. Three times in 4 years is truly impressive.

But if I was one of those officials on the sidelines that was suffering the wrath of Saban, here's what I'd do -- For his first infraction, give him a warning that I'm only doing my job and back off. The second time around -- throw a penalty flag. A 15 yard penalty would be asssessed for unsportsmanlike conduct. Third time? Another 15 yard unsportsmanlike and immediate ejection from the game. Like many high profile head coaches, Saban seems to think he can abuse whoever he feels like at the time and get away with it.

Like his team put Notre Dame in their place, so should the officials step up and put people like Nick Saban in their place when they get start getting out of control and start thinking they're above reproach.

Do I hear any nay votes?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The NFL playoffs

It's time to start sorting out the men from the boys -- or at least take a few wild guesses.

The Cincinnati Bengals were ousted by the Houston Texans. Did anybody really think the Bengals had a Libertarian Presidential candidate's chance of getting to the oval office, ahem, Super Bowl? Nah.

Yet the Texans seem to have faded a bit over the last half of the season.

Nobody thought the Minnesota Vikings would make much noise this year, but they did. Still, even with Adrian Peterson, the best running back in the league, and regardless of whether starting QB Christian Ponder was available (he wasn't), it's probably a fair statement to say they weren't legitimate Lombardi trophy contenders either. They overachieved this year, and good for them, but they got dumped by....

The Green Bay Packers. For the first time in what seems like forever, the Cheesers had everybody healthy. That not only included cornerback Charles Woodson and tasmanian devil linebacker Clay Matthews, but their full complement of receivers. Besides having Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP, throwing the ball, when a guy like Donald Driver sits about 6th or 7th on the depth chart, that's one helluva corps of receivers.

Both highly touted rookie QBs Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and Robert Griffin III are gone. In Griffin's case, he was playing on a bad leg to start with. Then the Redskins' rode him and rode him some more until his knee finally gave out. Playoffs or not -- that's what back-up QBs are for. To boot, former Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins had already proven he was more than capable of directing that team when RG III was hurt earlier in the season. There is no excuse for this. Shame on 'Skins head coach Mike Shanahan, and may the media roast him alive if it turns out Griffin's knee is in need of major surgical repair.

Ironically, the other rookie QB which flew under the radar, Russell Wilson and his Seattle Seahawks, move on. The Seahawks seem to be getting stronger and stronger as the season progresses. Head coach Pete Carroll has done a great job with that club. Yes, the same Pete Carroll that got fired by the NY Jets and then bailed from the USC Trojans leaving that team saddled with sanctions for things that happened under his watch. Yours truly is of the opinion that Pete Carroll has a little bit of snake oil salesman/mercenary in his DNA, but to each their own. The Seahawks next go to....

Atlanta, where the Falcons have quietly earned the #1 seed in the NFC, and will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Falcons are certainly a solid team, and will be tough to beat at home, but am I the only one that just can't envision them getting to the Super Bowl?

Ray Lewis, of the Baltimore Ravens, says this will be his last year. Next, the Ravens have to go to...

Denver, where the ageless Peyton Manning seems to have the Broncos on cruise control. Plus a pretty stout defense, along with being a #1 seed themselves. All roads to the AFC championship go through Denver. Want to bet against Peyton at home? Not me.

The San Fran 49ers will host the Packers next week. Like Houston, SF seems to have lost some of their ferocity in recent weeks and Green Bay's on a roll. Should be a brutal game, and a tough one to call.

Houston goes to New England in the next round, the same place they got blown out 42-14 just a few weeks ago. Want to bet against Tom Brady, Bill Bellichick and Co., at home again in the rematch? Good luck.

It's a shame that all but 2 of the remaining teams in the hunt have to lose before the Super Bowl comes about. Some REALLY good ones have to go down. That's just the way it works.

Who will get to the Super Bowl? Beats the hell out of me. Not a clue, but it makes for some mighty interesting games in the next couple weeks.

Here's what I do know. Next year, the Detroit Lions will still have the same owner, William Clay Ford. They'll also have the same general manager, Martin Mayhew, who recently said he's not going to change his draft philosophy, even though the players he has drafted either can't stay healthy or are walking time bombs regarding both on, and off the field incidents.  Could it be that the owner has been tutoring the GM on the side in his ivory tower? Night classes of Clueless 101?

Throw in the same loose cannon head coach, Jim Schwartz, who seems to know just about enough rules of the game to make a mockery of it. He would have been summarily fired by any self-respecting franchise after how his team performed this year. In Lionesque fashion, besides giving a career loser a mind-boggling 3-year contract extension before he'd even won a single playoff game, and who proceeded to proudly lead his current team straight to the dumpster, add most of the same gang of misfit players likely returning next year, and what will you have?

A few new gags and different props here and there, but still a clown act. The difference between the 3 Stooges and the Lions? Larry, Moe, and Curly made people laugh. William, Martin, and Jim make Lions' fans cry. The players themselves are like the extras in a Stooges clip throwing the pies and cream puffs around. Once one learns to see the Lions for what they've really been for the last half century, they become equally hilarious, with one minor difference. We've all seen the Stooges' routines enough times to KNOW what's going to happen next -- but somehow it's still funny. The Lions keep adding new material. One never knows what zany antics they'll come up with next, but it will be comical, if one can kick back and appreciate it for what it is.

But this is not the time for Bud and Lou's "who's on first, what's on second" routine, like the Lions.

It's NFL pare down time amongst good teams facing other good teams. Serious business.

I love this time of year.....

Saturday, January 5, 2013

LA Clippers/Lakers

The Clippers just beat the Lakers -- again. Despite the purple and gold crew having shelled out Pentagon type money to acquire a couple free agents, the Lakers can't seem to find their way to the .500 mark, and now find themselves over 10 games behind those same Clips, who are cruising along with the beat record in the league. Who would have thought it possible -- just a couple years ago?

The Lakers have always been about "showtime". Whether it was the actual premier players that seemed to come in a never-ending supply to LA-LA Land, to the glitterati that were in attendance at the games -- the Lakers were a must see. Their list of superstars and championships is long. Even owner Jerry Buss has been known to sit in on high-stakes poker games with some of the best professional card sharks in the world.

Conversely, the LA Clippers have been known as sad-sacks of the league since forever. Not long ago, they remained the punch line of many a joke for comedians. Their owner Donald Tokowitz, the son of Jewish immigrants (he legally added the name "Sterling" later) was known for being a cheapskate. The "other" Donald seemed to be in a never-ending penny-ante game of "go fish".

Watching a Clippers/Lakers game is chock full of irony. After all, they share the same arena, the Staples Center in LA. Technically, one of them has to be the home team, and the other the visitor. They both have their own "home" locker rooms, so nothing changes there. Whether it's true or not, yours truly knoweth not, but I was once told the Staples Center has 11, count em, 11 locker rooms. If so, good grief, who can they all be for? Sure, a true visiting team from another city would warrant their own, but what about the other 8? Well OK, the refs probably get a little one. Does Jack Nicholson have his own? The cheerleaders? Magic or Kareem when they're in town? Maybe Kobe has 2 or 3 for his entourage. When free agents like Dwight Howard, Pao Gasol and Steve Nash signed on, was their own locker room included as part of their contracts? Beats me, but 11 sounds like WAY too many.

What's even weirder is the court itself. When the Lakers and Clippers play against each other, how the hardwood is decorated all depends on which team is the "home" team. If it's Kobe and Co., the middle of the court will feature a giant decal that says "Lakers", and the "paint" from the free throw line to the basket will be painted yellow. If Blake Griffin and the Clips are the "home" team, the giant decal will say "Clippers", and the same "lanes" will be blue. If they play back-to-back games, "home and home", if you will, even though nobody's gone anywhere, somebody's busy changing all that stuff. How dumb is that?

It's the same damn court, with the same teams occupying the same locker rooms they have for years. Why not just put a giant "Los Angeles" decal in the middle of the court and be done with it? The free throw lanes? What do you get when you mix yellow and blue? Paint them green and be done with that too. Or paint them pink, or black, or chartreuse, or whatever. Who cares what color they are anyway? HELLO?

Hard telling how the season will play out, let alone what will happen in the playoffs. But right now, with the Clips tearing it up and the Lakers limping along, that little corner of the sports world has been turned upside down. This is not supposed to happen. The Lakers have historically been a marquis team that draws sell-out crowds wherever they go. Nobody went out of their way to see the
Clippers come to town to face their home team.

Though they won't come out and say so -- the media wants to see the Lakers win. Countless deep-pocketed sponsors want the Lakers to win. Celebrities and politicians galore want the Lakers to win. And trust me, TV network executives want the Lakers to win. The ratings thing. All is right in the world when the Lakers win.

Yet now, despite the recent typical "blockbuster" free agent signings, the lights seem to be dimming rapidly on "showtime". Not only are they getting beat by teams they would have crushed in the past, they've become the "little brother" in their own building.

Who would have thunk it?

But it's real. The Clips are not only good, but they're young and will likely get better. Besides a couple superstars of their own, they've got that magical thing called chemistry -- and a great coach -- Vinny del Negro -- that doesn't care about the limelight. He just quietly goes about his game strategy and gets it done. The Lakers seem to have a bunch of divas that are all talented in their own way, but can't seem to come together and function as a unit. By most accounts, their new coach, Mark D-Antoni is a funny guy. The players love him, but he quickly took a back seat to the ever-present super-sized egos on his team, and they don't appear to have a clue what's coming next -- other than Kobe taking 40 or 50 shots a game, while clueless himself when it comes to playing any sort of defense. The Lakers seem to miss the Zen Master, Phil Jackson. He was a high-profile guy himself, who loved the limelight, but improbably, somehow it worked.

Bottom line? They need to decide how the court at Staples Center is going to look, and stick to it. And if they have that many locker rooms, they should donate a few to worthy causes. Like the Boy/Girl scouts, or the Humane Society. Lord knows there's plenty of dogs running around LA. Why not put them up in nice digs? How about the Campfire Girls? Who's going to notice one more fire in LA anyway?  Perhaps the Rotary Club? No, that's for fired head coaches going to another team. They'll be getting a new locker room anyway. Bad idea. Forget that. The Lions' Club? Don't even get me started on that one. Still, it seems like there ought to be a better way to make use of all those facilities.

In the meantime, excuse me for being a wrong-thinker -- but I love it when Blake dunks on Kobe.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Jim Schwartz and jewelry

Detroit Lions' head coach Jim Schwartz is making a few extra bucks on the side these days. Now he's on TV commercials pitching the wares of a jewelry store.

Jewelry stores have lots of fancy stuff. There's blue stones and green stones, and red stones, and purple stones. You name the color, and they've got pricey stones available. Lots of gold and silver too -- to mount them on in an infinite variety of ways. Rings, bracelets, necklaces, anklets, earrings, even piercings. They've pretty well got something for everybody. If you've got the dough, they'll get you good to go. They even have black pearls and white gold. That doesn't make much sense. Do they paint that stuff or is it fake? Beats me. Besides, why would anybody want such things? Would you pay big bucks for a green labrador retriever or a shiny new fluorescent orange toilet?

Of course, they always have a bazillion or so diamonds. Sometimes I wonder where all these diamonds keep coming from. Most experts will tell you it takes at least tens of thousands of years under extreme pressure from deep in the earth for small pieces of carbon to become diamonds. It's not like they're a renewable resource. Then again, if one was to dig a hole about 100 miles deep in their backyard, plant some pieces of carbon, cover them up, and live to be maybe 50,000 years old, then one could have their very own diamond mine. Personally, I have enough trouble planting, and hoping those Yukon Gold spuds will grow in the garden, but I've only been waiting for 175 years, so perhaps I'm rushing things a bit. Did I forget to say my pic on this blog makes me look much younger than I really am? That Grover Cleveland was a hoot, I tell ya. The stories I could tell you about him when he used to stop by, but I digress.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Jim Schwartz in the jewelry store. Right.

That would seem to be an appropriate place for him. Perhaps he's looking for a couple more "diamonds in the rough". Lord knows he's had to deal with enough of them on the Lions over the last few years. Consider stomping, neck-wringing, and dope smoking. Then throw in car crashes, law suits, sucker-punching a teammate, and intentionally lining up in the wrong spot on the field. Add a heaping spoonful of a yappy veteran center that hasn't won anything since high school, and yells obscenities at his home town fans. Season to taste with the clown act of the week, with everything from special teams giving up multiple touchdowns, to a QB that said he wasn't trying to force the ball to a particular wide receiver, even though the guy had 5 defenders around him at the time.

Jimbo has had plenty of diamonds in the rough going on -- including himself. He once went berserk over a post-game handshake with the opposing coach, then later cost his team a touchdown, and likely a win, by throwing the red challenge flag at the wrong time. Afterwards he said he knew about that rule, but did it anyway. Confidence is a good thing. Belligerent ignorance is not. Cockiness, sometimes, but only if you're a winner. Career losers like Schwartz aren't supposed to be cocky, else they run the risk of being perceived as a buffoon. A very rich one, to be sure, but still an arrogant buffoon.

So besides the cha-ching Schwartz got from being a pitchman for that particular jewelry store, here's hoping they showed him what some highly polished finished products really look like.

Couldn't hurt.

The Lions? Owner William Clay Ford doesn't need diamond mines. He's got assembly lines passed down from his granddaddy Henry to keep him rolling in the dough. He married Martha Firestone, the daughter of Harvey, so they likely won't run out of tires anytime soon either.

But as far as a professional football team is concerned, William Clay might as well have planted those same Yukon Gold tater spuds I did.

He's been waiting for almost 50 years. I check in at about 175, as I mentioned before. Millions of years can pass, but it doesn't matter.

Neither will ever turn into diamonds. There's miracles and then there's miracles, but some things just ain't meant to be.....