Wednesday, December 31, 2014

SEC football. Overrated?

For the last few years we've all heard about how the mighty SEC is heads and shoulders above any other conference when it comes to college football. But are they really? Let's take a look at this year, including things that have already happened, with others yet to play out.

The SEC consists of 14 teams. Seven each in two different divisions. Out of those fourteen, fully half of them wound up in the Top 25 after the regular season, including Alabama at #1. Very impressive indeed, not to mention that along the way both Mississippi and Mississippi St. temporarily spent some time on the throne as well.

Further, out of 14 SEC teams, only two of them wouldn't qualify for a bowl. Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Kentucky likely doesn't care. They've always been more basketball oriented and have the nation's #1 team as we speak. And Vandy is Vandy. 'Nuff said. Still, from top to bottom in the conference, one has to tip their hat at 12 out of 14 teams reaching the post season.

But that begs questions. How can that many teams in the same conference have winning records? For every winner, doesn't there have be a loser? The answer is yes and no. If teams in the SEC only played each other, their records would even out. But they don't. Like other big football schools around the country, SEC teams will schedule five non-confererence patsy games every year, basically walkovers, to pad their win columns. One need look no further than Texas A&M and Arkansas as perfect examples. The Aggies were a mere 3-5 in conference play, but finished 8-5 overall. The Razorbacks were even worse. 2-6 in the conference and 7-6 overall. Yet they both went 5-0 in the "weak sister" games to finish with the records they did. And nowadays, there's so many garbage bowls -- see cha-ching -- any team only needs 6 wins to qualify and likely be invited to one. This is great for the players/coaches, marching bands, cheerleaders, and even the student body. They get a shot at another game to play and root for their teams while on national TV. Sis-boom-bah. Plus the schools themselves get a big fat check to participate. You won't see any administrators complaining. But is it right to have watered down the bowl field to the point where even mediocrity is championed? It depends on who one is and where they sit. Remember, once upon a time, there were only 4 bowl games. The Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Cotton. The Cotton doesn't even exist anymore, but it's been replaced with 36 other bowls over the years, and that number may well grow in the future. While it may be about the old college spirit, it's also very much about the money.

But back to the SEC. How have they fared in bowl games so far this year? Let's look.

Arkansas (SEC) 31 -- Texas 7
South Carolina (SEC) 24 -- Miami 21
Texas A&M (SEC) 45 -- W. Virginia 37
Georgia (SEC) 37 -- Louisville 14.

So far, so good. But....

Notre Dame 31 -- LSU (SEC) 28
TCU 42 -- Ole Miss (SEC) 3
Georgia Tech 49 -- Miss. St. (SEC) 34

After seven bowl games the SEC has posted a 4-3 record. Not so impressive.

Soon to come will be Auburn (SEC) vs. Wisconsin
Missouri (SEC) vs Minnesota
Tennessee (SEC) vs Iowa
Florida (SEC) vs E. Carolina

And of course Alabama (SEC) vs Ohio State in one of the national semi-playoff games.

Five more SEC bowl games to go. How will they finish as a conference? We'll all know shortly.

Some Top 25 SEC ranked teams have already been walloped, particularly the Mississippi schools who were both in the Top 3 at one time.

Then again, they could run the table to finish 9-3. But if it goes the other way and the SEC winds up, say, 6-6 or 5-7 in bowl games, they and their ever-faithful media would have a hard time continuing to sell how dominant they are.

We'll see....

Ndamukong Suh's fine. Number crunching

To the great surprise of most, Detroit Lion defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh won his appeal over his latest stomp of an opposing player. He will, after all, be allowed to participate in the Lions' playoff game this weekend against the Dallas Cowboys.

To the great surprise of absolutely nobody, the Lions and their fans are pleased with the outcome. After all, he's one of their own and they'll forever stand behind their behemoth even if he "slips up" here and there. NFL football is a tough game and boys will be boys, they say.

It's also no great surprise that the attitude of football fans elsewhere around the country contrasts sharply with the view held in Detroit. Suh's a thug, the dirtiest player in the game, and unworthy of wearing a uniform for ANY team. Forget the suspension. Bring on the tar and feathers and send him back into whatever evil hole he crawled out of, countless others maintain.

To date, it hasn't been made public who the arbitrator was that overturned Suh's suspension, but it will come out eventually.

Nevertheless, it is what it is. Instead of being suspended for the playoff game, Suh was reinstated and fined $70,000.  Sound like a lot of money, right? It is and it isn't.

Suh's salary cap hit for this season with the Lions was over $22,000,000. Fining him $70,000 represents a mere three tenths of one percent of his salary. In high level professional athletic circles, this is known as chump change.

Looked at another way, let's say one had a pretty decent job making $50,000 a year, and that person had a history of physical abuse in the workplace. He had been given time off without pay and had deductions withheld from his check in the past for such behavior, but was considered very good at his job -- at least by his own employers. And now he just "acted up" again.

What would it cost him? A mere hundred and fifty bucks and no time off. A nuisance, but again, basically chump change. Yet ironically, by being allowed to stay on the job, that employee just qualified for a bonus. This is called a playoff check in the NFL world. Cha-ching.

So if you were that employee just what, pray tell, would deter you from continuing your not-so-good old ways in the future? Want to slug, take out the knees, wring the neck, stomp, or otherwise wreak havoc on a competing employee when he pisses you off? Have at it. Cost ya $150. And there might even wind up being a bonus in it for you.

This is the world Ndamukong Suh lives in. No apologies, no remorse, evidently no conscience or moral compass, and certainly never owning up to one's own abusive behavior, though the evidence has been overwhelming.

Just keep trucking on and throwing out some chump change once in a while to make these little problems disappear. They never happened -- at least in his own mind.

And I for one not only find that offensive and egregious, but downright scary. Left to his own ways, it's likely only a matter of time before Suh causes a career and/or life threatening injury to an opposing player.

Hopefully that never happens. But if it does, no objective person can say the red flags and warning signs weren't there all along.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Rants on rants and other dumb things

In the Whatever Bowl, Georgia had thoroughly clobbered Louisville. They were ahead by over 3 touchdowns with the final seconds ticking down. But true to their very strange nature, the TV announcers were still screaming with excitement. "HE CAME THAT  CLOSE TO AN INTERCEPTION!!!  As if it would have made the slighest difference.

One is left to wonder if these guys act the same way at home with their families.

Example #1. At the dinner table. "OMG, honey, your game planning that led up to this meatloaf was INCREDIBLE. It has the potential to someday be inducted into the ground beef Hall of Fame. And I haven't tasted cheesy potatoes so yummy since that road trip to Wisconsin way back in 2007."

Example #2. Watching through the window as their teenaged daughter arrives home after her first date. As the car pulls to a stop -- "Uh oh. Harold's shifting around showing multiple looks. Holy Jon Gruden, this could be a double A-gap blitz!!! Let's hope our dear Belinda keeps a tight formation, or this could easily result in her being sacked!!!. He COULD -- GO -- ALL --THE --WAY!!!!"


Peyton Manning is still at it with his dumb commercials. It's not like he needs the money. The dude's making almost $20 million a year to play football. Has the man no shame? You don't see Tom Brady doing such moronic ad spots. Aaron Rodgers? Well, hang out in Cheeserland long enough, and ANYBODY will get pumped up. Or at least their arteries.

Stanford put a serious beatdown on Maryland in the Whozit Bowl. This took place in Santa Clara, the new home of the San Fran 49ers. The distances both teams had to travel? For Maryland, roughly 2500 miles, all the way across the country. For Stanford, 14 miles. They could have walked to the stadium. Talk about home field advantage....

And what gives with both their names anyway? Terrapins are turtles. Aren't most turtles known for being slow and clumsy? This is what they want to call their student-athletes?

The very name Stanford Cardinal, as in singular, has always been a mystery. Do they consider themselves like the Borg of Star Trek fame? Once in Palo Alto, are all athletes assimilated into one entity and brainwashed to serve a prime directive? Beats me, but it doesn't sound right.

Adding insult to eardrum department. It is now the wee hours of the morning and all the games are long over. But you'd never know it by the 4-letter network. The talking heads in the studio are busy screaming away and otherwise hyperventilating -- over REPLAYS.

What is it with these people?

Idle thought: Maybe THEY should be tested for performance enhancing drugs, because this sort of behavior just isn't normal......

Detroit Lions. Rotating stompers

Detroit Lions' center Dominic Raiola got suspended last week for one game after blatantly stomping on an opponent. He would tell his coach Jim Caldwell it was "inadvertent". That made him not only a stomper, but a liar. Caldwell bought it. After preaching responsibility all year, that made him not only a hypocrite, but a fool. The video left ZERO doubt that it was intentional.

The current NFL rule of thumb, or foot, suggested Raiola should be bounced for two games. But he caught a break and it was only one. In the meantime, Raiola had the utter gall to appeal his suspension, but it was rightfully upheld. He would miss the most important game the Lions had played in many years in their regular season finale against the Green Bay Packers.

In his place, the Lions started young center Travis Swanson. Though Detroit would lose again at Green Bay, Swanson played very well. How do we know this? Because we didn't hear his name mentioned by the TV announcers. Typically, offensive linemen only get noticed for bad things. Like holding, false starts, missing a blocking assignment that gets their QB decked, personal fouls and/or unsportsmanlike conduct. Swanson performed admirably in a tough environment against a tough team. The question now becomes -- why do the Lions need Raiola anyway? He's just a loud-mouthed loosed cannon and likely the losingest player in the history of the NFL. Plus he's 36 years old -- geezerish by NFL standards. But he'll be back when the Lions take on the Cowboys down in Big D in the opening round of the playoffs next Sunday.

One stomper back, another repeat stomper back out. That would be Ndamukong Suh. In the game against Green Bay, Suh stepped not just once, but twice, on the widely known injured left calf of Packer QB Aaron Rodgers while he lay helplessly on the turf. The boy named Suh denied intent to injure, of course, and Preacher Caldwell once again turned the other cheek -- praise the lord and pass the playoff offering plate. After all, this was a member of his own flock, fer chrissakes. One could make a case Raiola, Suh, and Caldwell resemble the three wise monkeys. Hear no evil, see no evil, and speak no evil -- at least as long as they're all on the same team. All was forgiven. Again.

Not so with the NFL. Upon further review, the league office suspended Suh for one game. Given his sordid history, that seemed fair enough. That means he'll miss the Lions first playoff game in three years. Or will he?

Suh had three days to appeal the suspension and he exercised that right almost immediately. A supposedly neutral arbitrator will review the tape, hear arguments from both sides, and make a final decision. Will Suh be back in, or remain out? We'll all know within a few days. It's amazing how fast final justice can be expedicted in the NFL when average citizens typically have to wait months, and even years for some of their cases to crawl through the labyrinth of the legal system.

Of course Suh was going to appeal. After all, he has nothing to lose. Between the lawyers from the Players' Union and his own agent, it's not like he has to fork over big bucks for representation like average working stiffs do. And what's the worst that can happen? The suspension is upheld, as I suspect it will be. But you never know which way an arbitrator will jump. It's entirely possible both Lions stompers will be back on the field against the Cowboys.

But there's other irony afoot as well. In recent weeks the Lions have been playing mediocre football at best. Da Boys have been on a roll. Certainly Dallas will be favored. It might well be the curtain call for the Lions' 2014 season.

The irony is, it might also be the last games both Raiola and Suh (assuming he's even available -- no given) play for the Honolulu blue and silver. He can flap his gums all he wants, but Raiola's expiration date has come and gone. In short, the Lions don't need him anymore. He's just baggage waiting to drag them down again.

On the other hand, Suh will be a free agent after this year. He might have already played his last game for Detroit. Where he will land is anybody's guess, but the Lions would be foolish to resign him, given the huge salary cap hit they would have to take. And that for a player whose personal stats have eroded in the last couple years. Throw in the ticking time-bomb that could go off again at any time -- either on the field or off -- plus his not-so-good reputation -- and why would the Lions do such a thing?

Funny, or maybe not, how only the Lions seem to have stompers in their midst. They come and they go, especially the last couple weeks.

With any luck, they'll both be gone in 2015.

And Jim Caldwell will be able to go back to his pulpit to preach his sermons about honor, decency, and owning up to one's sins. In the absence of the stompers, maybe next time around they might even become believable.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Clemson, defense, and cups

Well OK then. In Orlando, the Clemson Tigers absolutely demolished Oklahoma to the tune of 40-6. The boomer Sooners were given the see ya later treatment. A good old-fashioned ass-whupping. This happened in the Athletic Cup Bowl, or something like that. You know there's too many bowl games when the only thing they can figure out to name one is "Athletic". I mean, what's next? The Nerd Bowl or the Spaz Bowl featuring brainy, but twitchy guys whose teams finished last in their conferences?

But back to Clemson. They have/had the #1 college football defense in the country. Being #1 at anything is pretty impressive. I'll have you know I'm the #1 ranked Oakland Press sports blogger on my entire block. Further, I have the power to truly, and literally move people with my words. When I took up residence years ago and started chatting up the neighbors, for sale signs started popped up in front yards everywhere. Eat your heart out, Bob Costas. Lightweight.

Getting a little off track here. Sorry. Where was I? Clemson. Right.

To be the #1 defense in the country means a team can not only stuff the run, but shut down passing attacks as well. They guard everything.

Apparently even their own coach. They assigned a tall beefy guy (300 poundish) to follow behind the coach on the sidelines, to ensure he didn't run on to the field. And lord knows, he kept trying, only to be repeatedly hauled back by the brute that was shadowing him. Yours truly never did know what "graduate assistants" actually do to earn their keep, but maybe this is an example.

Yet it leaves one to wonder -- what was it with this coach that he needs a hulkster to prevent him from going onto the field of play? Does he have that little self control?

As the cameras repeatedly zoomed in on him, it became apparent the Clemson coach was far beyond your typical hyper. Besides talking into his headset and pacing the sidelines motor-mouthing to others, he kept flailing his arms like the late Joe Cocker, contorting his face into expressions that would have shamed even Steve Spurrier, and chewing gum at roughly 300 chomps per minute. This guy doesn't need a Mr. Beefy holding him back . He needs meds. Serious ones. If one can imagine combining the personality of Barney Fife with a murderer on the loose in Mayberry and after taking a couple hits of "engage maximum warp drive Scottie" type speed -- well -- that's what the Clemson coach came off as. Sure, like the good deputy, he's a little guy and harmless enough, but good grief, there comes a time to chill and get a grip. If it requires heavy doses of pharmaceuticals, so be it.

[Idle thought. Yet another passenger plane went down over an Asian sea without a trace. That ought to keep the CNN yappy heads and their merry band of "experts" busy for another month or so. Remember the last one several months ago?  They still haven't found it, but CNN's ratings went up as they talked about things they were clueless about, week after week. Something was wrong with that picture.]

Besides, behemoths like Mr. Beefy could be put to better use elsewhere. I dare say guys like Ray Rice and Adrien Petersen could have benefited if a 300 pounder had been shadowing them to keep them from doing something rash.

And think of the possibilities elsewhere in the NFL. Station a couple beef-steaks on every sideline. Not necessarily to hold back out of control coaches, though it wouldn't hurt. But they could fill a more crucial role. We've seen instances of cheap shot artists on the field attempting to hurt opposing players with stomps and the like. Sometimes they get fined or even suspended, and that's a good thing.

But when they eventually return to the sidelines and are standing there complaining and acting like they did nothing wrong -- have a fellow 300 pounder walk up behind them and deliver a thundering kick to their athletic cup. Appeal THAT.

And on the subject of Athletic Cup, I think that's where I came in...

Ndamukong Suh. Slicker, but still a thug

During the regular season finale pitting the Detroit Lions against the Green Bay Packers, a lot of things happened. The game featured a little bit of everything. There were some terrific plays, some bone-headed ones, and pretty much everything else in between.

Yet one particular play, that will likely fly under the radar, especially in the Detroit area, jumped out at yours truly. It involved Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

It's no big secret Suh has a history of thuggish behavior on the field. Though his infamous "stomp" on a fallen Green Bay Packer lineman a few years ago is his biggest claim to shame, it's not like he hasn't dished out other cheap, and potentially life and limb threatening cheap shots along the way. One doesn't try to wring an opposing quarterback's neck like a chicken unless one has absolutely no moral compass on the field of play. Such an act, amongst others, could be likened to sociopathic, even psychopathic tendencies. Yes, the NFL, by its very nature, is a violent game. High speed collisions between players happen on most every play, and people will get hurt -- sometimes seriously. It goes with the territory, and all the players know and willingly accept that reality. But somewhere there's a line between playing hard and intentionally trying to cause undue injury to an opponent. Especially when such acts serve no other purpose in the course of a game than trying to disable another player.

Suh was up to his not-so-good tricks again at Lambeau Field. Everyone in the NFL universe knew Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a lingering left calf injury. Though the Packers' staff and medical personnel had worked feverishly throughout the week to get him ready for the game, it was obvious Rodgers was still a bit gimpy. For that matter, on an innocent enough play, Rodgers re-aggravated his injury and had to briefly leave the game. What they do in NFL locker rooms for injured players remains akin to "eyes only" top secret information at the highest levels of government. Needless to say, this has never been, and never will be shared with the public. Let's just say if there's any way possible to quickly get an injured player back on the field, especially a star, they'll find it.

Rodgers would indeed return, and eventually lead the Packers to victory. But along the way, the "play" mentioned above happened. Rodgers had been knocked to the turf after he threw a pass. It happens all the time to quarterbacks. But what happened next is where Suh came in. Again.

As Rodgers was lying on the turf, Suh stepped on -- guess where -- the very same left calf that he and everybody else knew was ailing the Green Bay quarterback. All 305 pounds of him. Rodgers grimaced in pain.

Was it intentional? Suh will likely forever deny it, but he originally denied his more infamous stomp until overwhelming video evidence proved his guilt.

In the case at hand, at that point Suh could possibly have been given the benefit of the doubt. People get "accidentally" stepped on all the time in the NFL. It was just a coincidence the guy with the history of goonish behavior just "happened" to walk on the exact same body part he and everybody else knew was already ailing Rodgers.

But what happened next was telling. While the action was happening down the field, Suh managed to step on the very same calf with his OTHER foot. It was pretty slick, and no penalty flag was thrown, but it was still meant to cause injury.

Look at it this way. If a normal person, or any other animal for that matter, steps on something, their instinctive reaction is to look down to see what it is. They don't just step on it with their other foot and keep moving along like it never happened without having checked it out. But that's what Suh did to Rodgers. Ndummy will likely maintain he had no idea that Rodgers was at his feet, and stepping on his injured calf not once, but twice, was purely an accident.

And if you believe that -- then you must be a hard-core Lions fan. Because if Suh was playing for any other team than yours, and pulled the same act of thuggery against Matthew Stafford, I dare say you'd be screaming bloody murder. Funny, or maybe not, how fans can embrace thugs, as long as they're on their team. Ironically, Suh will be a free agent after this year and might well wind up elsewhere starting next year. Will Detroit fans still think they same way of him in hindsight? If Suh comes back in a future game to physically trash one of their own, will the Honolulu blue and silver faithful fondly remember his presence as a Lion and give him a pass? I don't think so. Who's kidding who?

But make no mistake. A thug is a thug, regardless of what team he plays for, especially one with a rap sheet as long as Suh's. It's almost scary how mild-mannered and gentlemanly Suh can present himself as when talking to the media. But the demon continues to lurk not far beneath the surface. The dude's going to be 28 years old next week, and if he hasn't changed his ways by now -- he never will. It just is what it is.

Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has remained a literary classic since he wrote it in 1886. The mild-mannered doctor who would occasionally turn into a monster. We've all heard of "split personalities", sometimes known as dissociative identity disorder, where within one body two vastly different personalities can exist. One is good, the other evil.

That's all well and good in the world of literature, and even sometimes briefly tolerable in the world of significant others and politicians, but has its limits when it comes to intentional mayhem on the football field.

In any case, enough is enough, and Suh has proven himself to be too much. He's getting slicker with his cheap shots, so as not to raise the public awareness as he once did. But their is no doubt the Mr. Hyde in him rages on.

It's outrageous in one way -- but mostly just sad.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Lions smell the cheese. Again

It was likely only a matter of time before the luck finally ran out for the Detroit Lions. Are they better than last year? Definitely. But they've also had a magical season. Seemingly everything that could fall their way, DID fall their way. In no particular order, considering the following:

Befitting of a team that totally collapsed in the second half of last season to once again miss the playoffs -- the NFL handed them a relatively soft schedule this year. But it turned out to be far softer than they could have imagined.

Of course, like any other team, the Lions had to play 6 games within their own division. Home and home with the other three. Look what happened in the NFC North. Other than Week 1, which wasn't against the Lions, the Minnesota Vikings were forced to play without all-world running back Adrian Petersen for the entire year. After a decent start, the Chicago Bears pulled a 2013 Lions' act. The whole team appeared to lose it's way, including QB Jay Cutler. That left only the Packers as decent competition within the Lions own division. I'll get back to that.

Of the other ten games, it turned out only two Lions opponents would wind up with winning records. So counting the Bears and Vikes, out of 16 games the Lions would only play four against good teams. (Two with the Packers and games against Arizona and New England on the road -- the only other tough ones). Schedules just don't get any softer than that. To boot, in the week before the Lions were to face the Cards out west, Arizona starting QB Carson Palmer went down with a season-ending injury. Definitely advantage Lions. They lost anyway but, still, it was a huge break. They would predictably get trashed in New England. No surprise there.

The improbable comeback dept. Even against sub-par teams the Lions staged several improbable late-game comebacks to eke out victories, some bordering on miracles. Was it talent, poise, skill, and finding a way to win? Maybe. Or were other factors involved? Like questionable calls that always went against the Lions in the past suddenly turning out in their favor. Like last second desperation heaves by QB Matthew Stafford that against all odds were caught. Like having lost a game in jolly old London against the Atlanta Falcons on a last second missed field goal -- only to be given a second chance on a penalty against THEMSELVES to finally prevail. Has that ever even happened before?

Even in the recently concluded regular season finale @ Green Bay the Lions caught a break. All-Pro QB Aaron Rodgers was visibly hobbled by a calf injury. On the flip side, considering how many quarterbacks have gone down over the year around the league, the Lions were blessed that Stafford wasn't one of them. Once known as a "china doll", because he seemed to break so easily upon contact, Stafford survived the entire season without a majory injury. This, despite him being one of the most sacked QBs in the league. That's just luck.

Much has been said and written about how these aren't the SOL, Same Old Lions, but they've been SOL (I'd dearly love to spell it out, but I think a certain editor would not be amused) in a different way at Lambeau since 1991. Twenty two chances and twenty two losses. After the recently concluded game -- make it 23 -- both ways. The Packers defeated the Lions 30-20, even covering the point spread.

Much has also been said and written about how new coach Jim Caldwell has transformed the current Lions. Maybe. He preaches this, he preaches that, and everybody has bought into his philsophy. So why is it that in the biggest game the Lions have played since they got blasted out of their last playoff appearance a few years ago, they reverted back to the boneheads they had become infamous for in years past? Offense, defense, special teams, you name it, when the pressure was on in their biggest game of the year -- they reverted right back to SOL. They've seen improvement under Caldwell, but it's like the bonehead gene remains in their collective DNA. Throw in incredible good fortune, as mentioned above, and it can be disguised for a while. But it's still there.

So in their best chance to be division champions in two decades (and finally break that pesky 22-game losing streak), against a team with a hobbled quarterback, the Lions came up short. Again.

The consequences were huge. Instead of being a #2 playoff seed, getting a bye-week to heal up and then a home game, the Lions have to hit the road as a #6 seed next Sunday. They'll face the Cowboys down in Big D. Not an enviable task.

Da Boys have been coming on of late. Instead of Tony Romo pulling his usual December swoon, he seems to be getting better. They've got Demarco Murray, the league's leading rusher, and terrific line play on both sides of the ball. Throw in Dez Bryant and Jason Witton, arguably amongst the top 3 at their positions, other talented players all over the field, and beating Jerry Jones' crew at his palace, cheerleaders and all, presents a daunting challenge indeed.

And let's not forget that while the Cowboys appear to be peaking at just the right time -- the Lions had been squeaking out improbable victories by the peach fuzz of their chinny chin chins. Will another miracle happen for the Lions in Big D? It's possible, but not likely.

Consider: Though he's put up some gaudy passing stats in the last few years (mostly due to heaving it in the general direction of Calvin Johnson), Matthew Stafford hardly lives up to the billing of a top quarterback. Why? Because in his career 16 road starts against teams with winning records, he has ZERO wins. Looking at those numbers a different way -- Stafford has played for 6 full seasons. Not counting the games he was injured along the way, six seasons time eight road games each equals 48 games -- and only 16 of them were against teams with winning records? That's further testimony as to how weak the Lions' schedules have been during that time.

Ah hell, it probably doesn't matter anyway. After a couple early stumbles, the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks have regained their form and look to be as formidable as last year's version. They're the #1 NFC seed and will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

And who's going to beat the Legion of Boom is their own backyard?

The Lions, even assuming the Georgia Peach finally wins a road game against a winning team and they eventually get that far? Please. That could get ugly.

Though, like Dorothy, the Lions have merrily skipped along the yellow brick road this season, magically avoiding one peril after another (and sold another few billion gallons of Honolulu blue and silver Kool-Aid enroute to the die-hard suckahs), they are simply not a Super Bowl caliber team. Not even close.

Yet on the other hand, yours truly almost hopes they find a way to face the Seahawks down the road.

The logic is simple. What was Dorothy's destination? Emerald City, right? And what did she find when she finally got there? It was all a dream, and she just wanted to go home.

If the Lions ever make it to Seattle, the Emerald City in it's own right, they won't find a kindly old Wizard awaiting them. Not only would they face reality, but their dream woud likely turn into a nightmare. Even Jim (Glinda) Caldwell, the good witch of the NFC north, would be powerless to help them. To the Lions, "there's no place like home" as well. They went 7-1 this season. On the road, they went a mediocre 4-4, with all four wins against teams with losing records.

Yet in the end, Dorothy Gale, an appropriate surname considering a tornado got that whole Ozfest started, just wanted to be back in the loving arms of Auntie Em. It worked out.

Over the years, the Lions have been in the not-so-capable arms of a few ems themselves. There were Marty Mornhinweg, Mariotti, Mariucci, and Matt Millen. Even today, the team president is Martin Mayhew. Their collective history would strongly suggest this Daddy Em thing has NOT worked out so well. And who, pray tell, was Dorothy's daddy anyway? Did he bail out of Kansas for free agency when the precocious brat started singing about rainbows? And what happened to mom? Did she run off too? That must have been one ugly baby.

Alas, so many questions we don't know the answers to. Sigh.

Kind of like the NFL playoffs, until they actually start happening. Anything's possible. But some things are highly improbable.....

Kentucky basketball. Best ever?

That would be saying quite a mouthful and likely unjustified, at least at this point. After all, they were only runners-up in last year's NCAA tourney, having BARELY squeaked by a few teams to even reach that point. Then, typically, a few of their players jumped to the NBA. They would have been crazy not to. Having the old college spirit and being "big" men on campus is fine and dandy in it's own right, but returning for another year of campus glory when millions of guaranteed dollars are only a signature away comes with risks. Have a bad year, or worse yet, blow out a knee -- it happens -- and kiss the millions good-bye.

Kentucky is rightfully ranked #1 in the country, and it could be argued they have the best starting five in the nation as well. Yet right now, the Wildcats have something going on no other college hoops team in history (men's or women's) has ever had before. Another five players that can enter the game enmasse to replace the starters -- who are just as good as a unit.

Why substitute for a starter here and there to give them a breather when you can send in another entire fivesome to give them ALL a rest, with no drop off in talent? Even the best of the best NBA teams never had that sort of depth. Not counting "garbage time" at the end of blowout games, pro teams might use 9-10 players over the course of a game -- but when's the last time you saw one yank all five to replace them with another five that could play at the same level throughout the entire contest?  It's been said that Wildcat Team A and Wildcat Team B even practice separately to keep their respective cohesiveness as units.

Sure, they've got 6 other guys on the roster who are available in case of injury, foul trouble, or the like. But by and large, save the garbage time mentioned above, they rarely see action. No need.

Head coach John Calpari has become (in)famous for his program's reputation as a "one and done" basketball factory. To an extent that's true. Calipari is typically able to recruit cream of the crop prep stars from all over the country, and it's no great surprise some of them make the jump to the pros and the millions after only one year in Lexington. It's entirely possible, maybe probable, that several more of them will leave after the NCAA tourney next spring.

But it's not like Calipari goes out and gets ten new high school McDonald's All - Americans every year to replace the 10 one-and-doners that left. Currently, the Wildcats' roster consists of the following:

Four freshmen.
Seven sophomores.
Two juniors.
Three seniors.

Granted, the seniors will be leaving by rule after this season. Contrary to the classic movie "Animal House", one cannot be a lifer in a fraternity -- at least not remaining on a sports scholarship. They will have to take their Bachlelors' degrees out into the real world and fend for themselves. They might discover the grass is not always bluer away from their old Kentucky homies. Ahem.

Let's ignore the juniors. I have a yorkie named Junior and he's in his third year of hanging out too enjoying the life of being pampered, and nobody knows what he's going to do next either.

That leaves the eleven underclassmen, who play most of the minutes on the hardcourt. How many will leave after this season? Three? Five? Eight? Depends on how well they perform. The NBA scouts are watching.

Kentucky may or may not wind up winning the NCAA championship next spring -- they were favored last year but went down to Connecticut in the finals. Sometimes those old dudes, you know, 21 and 22 year-olds, have a few tricks of their own. And who knew that the talent of a college basketball player was not necessarily directly proportional to number of tats he has? Amazing.

How many players will the Wildcats lose after this season? Let's count them up. The three seniors. Nobody knows about juniors, whether they're yorkies or Wildcats. Let's say one out of two. Between Team A and Team B of the underclassmen, let's say half go pro. That's a total of nine. I don't want to hear about redshirts. Those are for zealots like Urban Meyer and Nick Sabin to wear. I think the likes of Bobby Knight and Woody Hayes planted those dastardly seeds decades ago. And don't get me started on how stupid the ladies make themselves look when they wear their red "power" dresses. We get it, alright.

So out of a current 16 man roster, it could well be John Calipari is going to have to replace at least half of them for next season.

But you know what? It won't be a problem. JC and his minions are master recruiters, and as long as Kentucky continues to be at or near the top of college basketball -- and no end appears to be in sight -- four and five star preps will get in line hoping for a chance to play there. Especially when they not only have a great chance to win a college championship, but also see guys only a couple years older signing lucrative NBA contracts.

And the beat goes on......

Friday, December 26, 2014

Marshawn Lynch and the "gesture"

The star Seattle Seahawks' running back appears to have a bit of a problem. Upon reaching the end zone after finishing off a 79-yard touchdown run against the Arizona Cardinals, Lynch did a 180 and grabbed his crotch as he was falling to the ground.

Though not penalized on the play, upon further review, the NFL offices assumed a more Victorian stance. They were not amused. Lynch would be fined $11,500 for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Coincidentally, or probably not, Lynch had pulled (no pun intended) the same stunt after a similar long run against the New Orleans Saints back in 2011.

Well then. How can such "ding-a-ling" behavior be semi-rationally explained, and what would the solutions be?

Let's consider a few possibilities. Both Phoenix and New Orleans typically feature very warm climates. Even in sub-freezing temperatures in, say, Green Bay, all NFL players are going to work up quite a sweat during the course of a game. Maybe the added exertion involved in a long run in an already hot stadium sends Lynch's nether region perspiration index over the top. A sudden attack of the itchy scratchies. The solution? Have a talk with Shaq and get some of that body powder he advertises. A "cup" full before the game might just take care of this problem. Not buying that? Me neither.

He's trying to strut his junk. The question then becomes -- to who? The cheerleaders? Pretty girls in the stands? Those watching at home on TV in the next road city the Seahawks visit? Nah. That might work if he was a Chippendale with a few layers of socks on his dangling participal, but he's a pro football player in full gear. See the cup mentioned above.

Lynch just can't resist "rubbing it" in when his team is already far ahead and he's just made a big play. This seems much more likely. At that, what's his point? A 28 year old acting like a spoiled third grader after a victorious romp on the playground his teammates made possible in the first place? If so, at that point there is no solution. Proper upbringing, or lack thereof, and DNA are what they are and there ain't no changing it. It was what is was and is what it is.

Here's wishing Marshawn Lynch nothing but the best in both football and real life. But despite his development in some ways, he's still got some serious growing up to do in others. Public crotch-grabbing -- for whatever reason -- never has been, and never will be cool. Typically, only "small" people exhibit such behavior.

Of course, Lynch could appeal his latest fine. And wouldn't you love to be the fly on the wall when he and/or his representatives tries to justify his action(s) on the video(s) to an arbitrator? One can only hope such an arbitrator is a woman. Methinks she just might cop a Victorian attitude as well.

Good luck with that.

Maybe he should powder-up, or down, anyway. Couldn't hurt....

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Dan Enos and the Central Michigan Chips. Bravo

In the Popeyes Bahama, or maybe it was the Olive Oyl Jamaica Bowl -- does it matter -- the Central Michigan Chippewas squared off against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.

The game looked to be a rout. Going into the fourth quarter, WK had a commanding 49-14 lead. If there was a "mercy" rule in college football, that would have been a good time to invoke it. The game was getting out of hand. Though my own daughter is a graduate of Central Michigan, hence I root for them -- sorta -- yours truly was reaching for the remote. Time to click before this thing gets REALLY ugly. But then something very unusual happened.

The Chippewas came storming back to rack up five, count-em, FIVE touchdowns in the fourth quarter while holding the Hilltoppers scoreless. On the last play of the game, still down a touchdown and with time running out, the Chip quarterback heaved a long pass from inside his own 20 yard line. A receiver caught it. Three laterals and a mad scramble later, they had finally tied the score as time expired. Almost. Only a gimme extra point stood in the way of sending the game into overtime. It was a comeback for the ages.

The Chippewas were rolling with momentum while the Hilltoppers were reeling. It almost seemed a foregone conclusion CM would prevail in overtime. But then something else unusual happened.

Instead of going for the tie and forcing overtime, CM head coach Dan Enos went for a two-point conversion after the final touchdown. After 97 points had been put on the scoreboard by both teams, it all boiled down to one play. There would be no overtime.

Alas, the two-point conversion attempt failed and WK escaped with a 49-48 victory. Congrats to the Hilltoppers.

But by going for the win, Enos showed some very large cajones. Though they were outplayed for three quarters, Enos, his staff, and especially the players have nothing to be ashamed of. They did their school and fans right proud in that final quarter. Quite the amazing display of football.

And when they finally had a chance to cap off arguably the most astounding comeback in college football history -- they went for it.


Merry Christmas


The NFL's appeal process. A major flaw

We've seen it over and over again. For various reasons, ranging from drug policy violations to thuggish behavior both on and off the field, NFL players have been suspended. Sometimes it's one game, sometimes two, maybe 4,6,8, or an entire season. It depends on the severity of their actions and whether they were a repeat offender. Boys will be boys and occasionally they need their pee-pees whacked -- or at least their wallets -- to get them to straighten up and act right. We all get that.

But it's not quite that simple. Once a suspension has been handed down from the league offices, the player, rightfully so, can appeal it. It used to be that the appeal would be heard by the very same people (see Roger Goodell) that handed down the original punishment. This sort of policy might be expected in a banana republic dictatorship, but it flew in the face of long-accepted American legal standards. For the most part, nowadays such appeals wind up in front of neutral arbitrators, and that's a good thing.

With few exceptions, players will always appeal any suspension and/or fine, and why wouldn't they? Basically, they've had nothing to lose. It's not like they have to fork over big bucks to hire an attorney to represent them. The Players Union takes care of that -- free of charge. They have legions of lawyers. Throw in player agents who are mostly lawyers themselves, and any jocks appealing a "conviction" have no worries when it comes to mouthpieces arguing their case.  All the player has to do is show up -- and sometimes even THAT isn't necessary.

But one major flaw remains with the process. Let's look at a recent case as an example. Center Dominic Raiola of the Detroit Lions. He just got suspended for one game for stomping on the leg of an opponent that was face down on the field. The "stompee" was one Ego Ferguson, a rookie lineman of the Chicago Bears. In similar past cases, such an action has resulted in a two game suspension, and they've stuck. For whatever reason, Raiola got off easy. Yet he can appeal and could conceivably have his one game suspension waived, as the Lions prepare to face the Green Bay Packers in their biggest game of the season to date.

Raiola has much to gain and nothing to lose. The worst that can happen to him is his original suspension is upheld. What he did to Ferguson was obvious, blatant, intentional (he looked right down at him and aimed before stomping) and the video is damning evidence of same.

Just for fun, pretend you're the arbitrator that is hearing his appeal. Like any other perp, his past "rap sheet" will be admitted into evidence. And it is long. Over the years, Raiola has clubbed an opposing player in the back of the head as time was running out in a game. He attempted to take out the knees of another in the waning seconds of a different contest. He's flipped off and yelled obscenities at fans in his OWN stadium, and even abused a member of a college marching band, of all things. Throw in various other personal fouls and cheap shots over the years, and to say he's had a checkered past would be putting it mildly. Basically, he's been a serial thug that knows how to bend over, snap the ball to a quarterback and block once in a while. Further, he's been a trash-talker for his whole career. And now he, or at least his legal-eagles, stand before you and ask you to commute his one game suspension for the latest atrocity. What would you do?

This is where the system is flawed. When hearing an appeal, an arbitrator should not only consider the options of reducing the "sentence" or leaving it as is, but also INCREASING it.

Let's get real. In any other court in the land, if a defendant admits his/her guilt and cops a plea, they typically receive a lighter sentence. However, if they insist on a full-blown trial and wind up losing anyway, they'll get banged harder.

Why shouldn't it be the same when it comes to NFL players appealing fines and/or suspensions?

If a guy like Raiola wants to drag it out through the appeal process, that is certainly his right. But if he loses, he should face the same consequences any other citizen would. The penalty becomes harsher. Instead of the original slap on the wrist one game suspension, make it at least two, like others before him have received for similar incidents. And in light of his "rap sheet", recidivism rate, and total lack of remorse along the way, as an arbitrator, yours truly might bump up his suspension to 6 or 8 games.

While the Lions would lose an aging loose-cannon center until likely next October, consider the up-sides.

The Lions would likely be better off without him anyway. He continues to be a distraction and will be pushing 37 when the 2015 season starts. That's getting up there in NFL years and Raiola will shortly need replacing regardless.

But there's an even greater up-side to be had if an arbitrator increased Raiola's penalty as mentioned above.

Instead of the other players around the league that are obviously guilty of various infractions frivolously pursuing an appeal with everything to gain and nothing to lose -- it will have been made known there indeed is something to lose if they decide to roll the dice in such a manner. If one thinks they are the victim of an injustice, then by all means pursue it. But if one knows they did the evil deed and are just trying to play the system for a break -- that is something else entirely.

They might win -- or they might lose. But there will be consequences either way. An olive branch or a hammer. As Dirty Harry once said, do you feel lucky, punk?

Sounds fair enough to me........

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Jim Caldwell shows his dark side

New Lions' head coach Jim Caldwell has certainly preached all the right things so far this season to the players. Practice hard, study hard, keep your nose clean, act like the professionals you are and, most importantly, everyone will be held accountable for his actions -- on and off the field. Perhaps a cross between Mother Teresa and Wyatt Earp, by god he was going to clean this mess up once and for all. A model of virtue and a straight-shooting guy. Unlike his predecessor Jim Schwartz, who seemed to not only condone mayhem but actually participate in it himself -- Caldwell was supposed to be a steadying influence. A pro's pro.

But then he finally blinked and showed himself to be less than, shall we say, above reproach. In other words, Caldwell has a dark side.

Like cops and partisan politicians, he can preach truth, justice, and the so-called American way, but when a culprit is one of their own, they definitely have a way of closing their ranks to protect him. We see it all the time, and it goes so far as to them spinning the obvious evidence and even sometimes outright lies. They will fight, fight, fight to do the right thing -- and everybody should be treated equally -- until and/or unless the perpetrator is a member of their own clan. Then all the rules seem to go out the window. There's really no other way to define it short of flat-out hypocrisy.

Enter the latest episode with Lions' center Dominic Raiola. He stomped on the back of the leg of fallen Chicago Bear Ego Ferguson. The tape doesn't lie. It was willful, intentional, and certainly malicious. Luckily, Ferguson wasn't seriously injured.

Incredibly, after the game Raiola said it was an accident. Any objective person who has seen the video obviously knows better. Such a statement is a slap in the face to the league, the teams, the fans, and the media. Cops and politicians aside, pull such a stunt in real life and one is going to jail on assault charges. The video would be enough to convince any jury to render a guilty verdict.

[For his latest act of thuggery (which I'll delve into in my next post) Raiola was suspended for 1 game, though the typical penalty for such a cheap shot is 2 games. He got off lightly.]

Nonetheless, Caldwell was going to have to weigh in on his thoughts involving the "incident". He did, and thereby showed his dark side. Turns out, Jimbo isn't quite the model of virtue he has sold himself as over the season.

Raiola would tell his coach the stomp was "inadvertent". An accident. Whether such an outrageous statement was said with a straight face or a wink was involved, we will never know.

But we DO know that, at least on the record, Caldwell bought it. The man is either a fool or thinks we are. It brings to mind partial lyrics from an old classic song....

                           Stand by your man, and show the world you love him
                                          Keep giving all the love you can
                                                    Stand by your man

Tammy Wynette would be so proud of Jim Caldwell. But this is 2014 in the NFL, not 1968 in the country music world. Everything is captured on video.

And Jim Caldwell has just shown himself to be a hypocrite.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Monday night football. TV hanky-panky?

The recently concluded Monday night football game between the Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals was interesting in more ways than one.

Denver was hoping to lock up a first round bye in the playoffs, while Cinci was scrambling just to stay alive. As we now know, the Bengals would prevail. This is what happens when a certain Mr. Potato Head quarterback (you know who I mean) that never saw a stupid commercial endorsement he wouldn't do for a few more bucks that he doesn't need throws 4 interceptions. Plus, the game was played in a torrential downpour. To their credit, the Cincinnati fans who had packed the stadium remained throughout, even while getting drenched.

Then something very strange happened.

About 10 minutes after the game was over, the usual gang of TV talking heads gathered on the field to "analyze" what we had just watched. (Evidently, we're too stupid to comprehend a football game. It must be explained to us). There was the play-by-play man, former QB Steve Young, some bald dude in tennis shoes, and the ever-lovable Ray Lewis. While the other guys sported modest suit coats and ties, Ray-Ray was decked out in hybrid gangsta/pimp mode. The full length coat, the uptown hat, all the way down to his size 12 and a half spit polished brown shoes. He was STYLING. Beats a murder rap, pun intended, but that's old news. Ahem.

In and of itself such a post-game show wasn't the least bit strange. We've come to expect panels of drones telling us what we're about to watch in pre-game shows as well. They get it right about as often as Joe Couchtater could with a 12-pack already half gone and a meat-eaters special pizza on the way.

But this particular post-game show jumped out at yours truly for a couple reasons. Again, this was only minutes after the game had concluded. Something was wrong.

In the background, Paul Brown stadium had gone from a fan in every seat to completely empty. It seats over 65,000 people and it was packed a few minutes before. I've been to my fair share of sold out football stadiums, and there's no way it totally empties out in that short of time. You couldn't get that amount of people out of a stadium that fast if it had been rehearsed, a credible bomb threat was announced, or Judge Judy showed up on the Jumbotron to give them a "talking to". It's physically impossible. Hmm.

Plus, after raining throughout the game, it had magically stopped. OK, that can happen. But in an on-field post-game interview with Cincinnati running back Jeremy Hill -- he was completely dry. He'd played in the rain for the last three hours, and 10 minutes later he doesn't have a drop on him anywhere? Hmm.

The field itself looked fairly dry. This, 10 minutes after 3 hours of hard rain? Hmm.

Something very strange was afoot. Most unusual, and almost impossible to logically explain.

Were the TV folks playing a little time-delay hanky-panky with their viewers?

Lions/Packers and lots of marbles

When the Detroit Lions visit the Green Bay Packers next weekend in the regular season finale, a lot of things will, or might, be at stake.

Though at home the Lions defeated the Packers earlier in the season, it really doesn't matter at this point. With identical 11-4 records going in -- one is going to be 12-4 and the other 11-5 when it's over.

The Lions haven't won in Green Bay since 1991. That was way back in the pre-Billary days when Daddy Bush was still President and talking about his "thousand points of light". Nobody ever figured out what the hell he was talking about, and the Lions haven't figured out the Packers at Lambeau in the meantime either. Twenty three years is quite a while for any particular losing streak.

The NFC North division championship will be up for grabs. Both teams have already qualified for the playoffs, but the difference between winning the division and merely getting a wild-card spot is huge -- especially for the Lions. Consider the different scenarios.

If the Lions lose that game (and they'll certainly be at least slight underdogs) they would become a wild card team. That would dictate a road game the following week (wild card teams can't play at home -- even if their record is better than the division champion they're facing). It's been done, but getting to the Super Bowl as a wild card team is a mighty tough road. More importantly, being a wild card team means they have to play an "extra" game. After a grueling regular season, ANY team would dearly love to have a week off to lick their wounds and heal up a bit. Which brings me to the other scenario----

If the Lions can finally break the Lambeau jinx and defeat the Packers, not only would they be division champs, but have a very good shot at becoming the overall #2 NFC seed. If THAT were to play out, they'd get a bye in the first week of the playoffs and have home field advantage the following week against an opponent to be determined. How big would THAT be? The Honolulu blue and silver faithful would rock the house down at Ford Field.

Coincidentally, this would be the Lions' first home playoff victory since 1991, the very same year they last beat the Packers at Lambeau. And also the same season they trashed the Dallas Cowboys 38-6 at their former Silverdome home for the only playoff win in their long history. Yours truly was there for that game, and I've never heard anything louder in my life. The excitement and electricity in the air were incredible. Alas, the Lions would get trashed 41-10 by the Washington Redskins the following week in the NFC championship game.

To their credit, sort of, from 1994 until 2000 the Lions would play six more playoff games, five on the road -- and lose every one of them. All-time great Barry Sanders had given up on them following the 1998 season, walking away from $8 million (in 1999 dollars) into retirement because he didn't foresee the Lions reaching the Super Bowl any year soon. Barry not only got out with his brain and body intact, he was more prophetic than he knew.

Beginning in 2001 (enter Matt Millen calling all the shots) the Lions had one of the worst decades in sports history, culminating with the disgraceful record-setting 0-16 season in 2008. Overall, they were a pitiful 39-111. Bad drafts, a parade of clown coaches, a clueless front office, and oblivious ownership will get you there. They had become a laughingstock. A punchline for late night TV talk show comedians.

Yet as they say, every dog has his day eventually. It might take over a half century, which would make it by far the world's oldest dog not named the Chicago Cubs, and a few hundred million people never lived long enough to see it happen.

But maybe, just maybe, this is "the year" for the Lions. Everything has worked out in their favor so far.

Did I mention the game in Green Bay is huge?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Dominic Raiola. Even more low class

When a cannon is loose enough for a long enough period of time, nobody knows in what direction the shot will be fired -- but it's going to happen eventually. Enter Detroit Lions' center Dominic Raiola.

Raiola is supposedly a "leader" on the Lions' roster. They'll tell you so. He's also the losingest player in the history of the NFL. Even back in college at Nebraska, fresh off a national title, the team tanked when Raiola came on board the following year, and haven't been the same since. But all along, Dom has been yapping and yapping. This is who the Lions allow to be a spokesman?

A couple years ago on Thanksgiving day, Raiola yelled obscenities at the Lions' own fans in their own stadium as he was walking off the field after yet another defeat. They had just totally botched a game against the Houston Texans, the fans weren't happy, and they were letting the Lions know about it.  How do I know this? Because two of those fans were young ladies, friends of yours truly, who happened to be sitting in the front row as Dom exited the field. When they arrived back home for turkey dinner an hour later with "mom" and I, we heard all about it. This was a low class move. For a professional athlete to shout obscenities at fans, even on the road, is a no-no. But to do it to one's own fans when they express their disapproval of their team's poor play is even lower.

Finally the loose cannon went off, again. This time he stomped a Chicago Bear who was down on the field. No doubt, the league will review the incident and Raiola could be facing a two game suspension. If so, that would put him out of the Lions' season finale at Green Bay and the first playoff game.

Teammate Ndamukong Suh made the infamous list a few years ago with his own stomp of a Green Bay Packer on Thanksgiving. He would follow that up the following year by kicking a Houston Texan quarterback in the groin, again on turkey day -- which was the very same day Raiola went off on the pretty girls mentioned above. Suh's never won anything either. Funny, or maybe not, how both Raiola and Suh played at Nebraska in college. Is this what they teach in Lincoln? Stomp, kick, deny, and trash talk? Or does that only happen once they've been in Detroit for a while? Granted, Detroit's an armpit city as big cities go but, c'mon, these guys are pros and are getting paid millions of dollars to act like it.

New head coach Jim Caldwell seems to be a virtuous guy. He's preaching all the right things to his team, and their record has certainly improved in his first year. And to his further credit, we haven't seen a parade of Lions on police blotters lately for various reasons.

But when you have a loose cannon (dirty player/cheap shot history) in your midst, especially one that has absorbed as many losses as Raiola has over the years, it's only a matter of time before the damn thing goes off again.

And I think that's where I came in.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Detroit Lions. Gasp -- Super Bowl?

It boggles the mind to think of how fortunate the Detroit Lions have been this year. Yes, they're a decent team, maybe even slightly above average, but every possible break that could fall their way -- HAS fallen their way. Not only in the games they participated in, but amongst their competion elsewhere in the NFC. Consider in no particular order ----

Before the season even began, the Lions had an incredibly weak schedule handed to them. Besides their mandatory 6 NFC North division games, the remaining 10 only had them playing two really good teams. Arizona and New England. Even at Arizona, Cardinals starting QB Carson Palmer went down with a season-ending injury just prior to the Lions game. Arizona would win anyway. In New England, the Lions got thrashed.

They've had 4 -- count em -- 4 games where they staged improbable last minute comebacks to win, including one where they got a second chance after a penalty against THEMSELVES. Lions' fans would say they've found different ways to win. Perhaps. But some highly questionable calls by the refs that went their way and Lady Luck continuing to smile on them hasn't hurt either.

Besides the weak non-division schedule, look at the NFC North itself. The Packers are predictably in the playoff hunt, though they've shown some chinks in their armor here and there. Aaron Rodgers played horribly in his last game against Buffalo, and the Pack got beat. An anomaly? Maybe. This week the Cheesers are on the road against a terrible Tampa team. If they bounce back with a win, it sets up a showdown in Lambeau with the Lions in the final regular season game. If they lose again, the Lions are division champs. The way this magical season has gone so far for the Lions, yours truly wouldn't be a bit surprised if the Bucs find a way to knock off the Packers.

The Lions themselves played horribly at home against the Minnesota Vikings and were lucky to squeak out another last second win. And let's not forget Adrian Petersen wasn't available for the Vikes.

The Chicago Bears have gotten so bad, they've benched Jay Cutler, he of the whopping $127 million 7 -year contract signed less than a year ago.

Look around at the rest of the NFC. It's playing right into the Lions' hands as well.

After starting out 9-3, the Philadelphia Eagles seem to be imploding. They've lost three in a row, including the last against the lowly Redskins. Perhaps it was only a matter of time. Despite head coach Chip Kelly's high-paced offense -- somehow he wound up with Jets' castoff Mark Sanchez as his quarterback. A ticking bone-headed time bomb that was bound to go off sooner or later.

The Cowboys are in the mix. Surprisingly, Tony Romo has yet to pull his usual December swoon. But December isn't over. A loss against the not-too-shabby Indy Colts in their next game, entirely possible, would be beneficial to the Lions. Don't be surprised if it happens.

The entire NFC South is a joke. Somebody has to win the division and qualify for the playoffs, but does anybody really think the likes of New Orleans, Atlanta, or Carolina will go far in the postseason? Please.

Out in the West, like Philly, the San Fran 49ers have gone into a death spiral. They were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs last week. Who would have ever guessed that would happen when the season began?

That leaves the dogfight between Arizona and Seattle. After a slow start, the Seahawks have returned to form in recent weeks. But guess what? These two teams square off this week. Somebody has to lose. Either way, it would be beneficial to the Lions. If Arizona wins, they lock up home field advantage throughout the playoffs. But due to injuries, they're on their back-up, back-up, back-up quarterback. Even at home, they would likely be vulnerable in the playoffs. If the Seahawks prevail (they're an 8 point favorite), they would only remain tied with the Lions (assuming Detroit dispatches the aforementioned free-fall Bears).

In short, the Lions have caught every break possible with their own schedule and game results, while everything else around the NFC seems to be falling their way as well. The Lions clinched a playoff spot by virtue of the Eagles losing to the Redskins. They're in.

So add it all up and what do you have? If the Lions win out and things continue to fall just right around the rest of the conference, they could conceivably have home-field advantage in the playoffs, and only have one semi-tough team standing between them and the Super Bowl. With even MORE luck, it won't be Seattle. That would likely be a problem.

But just think. The Lions finally in the Super Bowl?

O                                            M                                    G

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Titans/Jags. A pitiful game

One would think the NFL could have done better than the garbage game they presented Thursday night. Tennessee vs Jacksonville, both with 2-12 records.

Sure, any "stand alone" NFL game will attract TV viewers from the cities of both participating teams, and the hard-core demographic. But lately, Thursday night games have been broadcast on the NFL's own cable channel, which not everybody has access to.  If they're looking for ratings --  and what station isn't? -- it would only seem logical they feature a game with at least ONE good team, and preferably both. That would attract other viewers from neutral cities that had ponied up the bucks to get the NFL channel on their 50 inch screens.

Further, when the season schedule was originally made, it was no big secret that both the Titans and Jags were expected to be bottom feeders this year. Sure enough, they've delivered.

Games scheduled in advance can't be changed, you say? Balderdash. It happens all the time. Not only the days they're played on, but even changing venues to another city. Remember a few years ago when the dome collapsed under the weight of snow at the Minnesota Vikings' stadium? They moved the game to Detroit. Just recently, the Buffalo Bills got hit with 8 feet of snow, and their game was moved to Detroit -- a day later than originally scheduled -- as well. The NFL, TV folks, and even teams can adjust quickly when necessity requires.

And when a "prime-time" broadcast on Thursday night winds up featuring two 2-12 teams, then yours truly says -- change it. What happened in Minnesota and Buffalo were sudden occurrences -- but it was handled. The league and their network knew both Tenn and Jax were 2-12 after last Sunday. Plenty of time to make an adjustment. The options were there.

As we get towards the end of the NFL regular season, they're about to start featuring Saturday games. This weekend there are two. Philly at Wash and San Diego at San Fran for the nightcap. The Eagles are still very much in the playoff hunt, and football fans are certainly curious about the future of 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh. Either of those games could have been moved to Thursday prime-time, while switching places with the Tenn/Jax yawn-a-thon. Roger Goodell and company could have notified the four teams involved last Sunday night of the move. It wouldn't have been that big of a deal. Planes and hotel reservations can be changed within hours. The fans with tickets to the game? Moving the games up or back two days might be a slight inconvenience, but they'd show up. Anybody that's pre-paid NFL ticket prices will find a way to be there. Trust me.

And how many folks outside the Nashville and Jaxville area actually tuned in to watch this game? 100,000? 500? 3? I'm a hard core NFL junkie myself, but have no idea who won the game, because I didn't tune in either. That would be like watching the Philly 76ers play the Detroit Pistons. Who cares? There's bad, there's terrible, and there's 1000 other channels to choose from. An eskimo cooking show. A praise the lord and pass the offering plate evangelist. Reruns of Wally and the Beave would have been far more exciting. Anything but Titans and Jags.

C'mon Mr. Goodell. You don't seem to mind changing all the other rules as you go in the name of public relations. So when you've got a stone loser game on your hands scheduled to be broadcast in prime time -- change THAT in the name of public relations. Football fans across the country would be grateful.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rachel Maddow, Cialis, and Adrian Petersen

The Rachel Maddow show is sponsored by Cialis? Interesting. I wonder if Rachel even knows that? And, if so, if she can appreciate the yuk-yuk irony.

Then again, if while reading this blog, one breaks out in hives, develops a rash and swollen lips, can't swallow, experiences nausea and/or bowel misfunction, difficulty breathing, and a strange desire to lug his and her bathtubs to a beach somewhere, then taking Cialis and/or Rachel will likely only make matters worse. In extreme circumstances, if one develops an erection, and it's still there next Easter, by all means stop reading this blog. This would be particularly alarming if one happens to be a lady. And one more thing. Stay the hell away from me. But enough of that nonsense. Onward.

In the on-going Adrian Petersen case, an arbitrator has ruled that Roger Goodell's suspension until at least next April 15 is valid. These are taxing times. Sorry. Ahem. Adrian switched his kid back in May, and Roger has been switching his mind on discipline ever since. Now the NFL Players' Union has filed suit in federal court on behalf of Petersen looking to overturn the arbitrator's ruling.

At first glance, it would seem to be a no-brainer for a federal judge. After all, both sides already had their say in front of a neutral arbiter, he made his ruling, and that's that. But is it?

Turns out, the arbitrator that was appointed to hear Petersen's appeal is one Harold Henderson. Henderson's former job? NFL executive vice-president for labor relations. A "company" man. This is not to suggest such an arbitrator should be a "union" man either, but doesn't it seem only logical such a "neutral" decider should be just that? Neutral?

Henderson might well be an unbiased person at this point in time, but perception has a way of becoming reality. And the union's perception is Henderson's history suggests he'll be biased in favor of management.

They have a point. As Dave Campbell of the AP noted, Henderson backed Goodell's assertion that Petersen has yet to show remorse for the incident. (Remorse is big these days. Doing the time for the "crime" isn't enough. One must grovel.) But Petersen has already publicly apologized. So that doesn't hold water.

Also remember, the original switching incident happened last May. Goodell didn't stiffen up the "player misconduct" penalties until he finally saw the Ray Rice elevator video many months later. At that, it was done without consulting the union on such changes, which would seem to be a violation of their Collective Bargaining Agreement. The union can't change the rules in midstream -- so why should management be able to? Worse, Goodell made Petersen's case retroactive -- long before he unilaterally changed the rules. How can anybody that is supposedly neutral not see and object to such things?

Even nowadays, the penalty for a first time offender of the player misconduct code in such a matter faces a 6 game suspension. Petersen played the first game of the season back in September, and has been suspended ever since. The Minnesota Vikings have been deprived of their star running back for the last 13 games, and it will likely be 15 until their season ends. That equates to a full two and a half times the existing penalty of 6 games. How can this be fair?

Yes, Petersen received his salary during the initial weeks of his suspension when he was placed on a mysterious thing called the "Commissioner's exempt list". But even THAT came with the blessing of Goodell. It's the Commissioner's list -- not the Union's list. Yet with Goodell's latest ruling, Petersen has been officially suspended -- without pay -- for the final six games of the season.

Basically, AP has been forced to miss the entire year. Would the Vikings have been playoff contenders had Petersen been playing all along? Maybe, maybe not. Nobody can say for sure, but they certainly would have been better with arguably the best running back in the league.

But one year in the typical "life expectancy" of an NFL running back is a big deal. AP had already missed another one with a serious leg injury. He's been pilloried in the media and been subjected to a Commissioner's whims -- which seem to change every month depending on public opinion, fanned by the aforementioned media. All this for a misdemeanor he pled guilty to, apologized, received his sentence, and is free and clear regarding the real court system.

Then he had to face a kangaroo court arbitrator, where he never had a chance.

Who indeed is the whipping boy?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Jay Cutler

Did you know Jay Cutler is actually 41 years old, and a 4-time Mr. Olympia as late as 2010? He's got muscles on top of more muscles. When he oils up and goes into a rip pose, veins a-popping, even Arnold Schwarzenegger nods his head in appreciation. Yet either his NFL jersey covers up a whole lot, or it seems he atrophied something awful in the last few years....

Wait a sec. What's that? That's a different Jay Cutler than the one who plays quarterback for the Chicago Bears? Well OK, then. Nevermind. Where was I?

Right. Jay Cutler. The football version. This Jay Cutler is very tough to figure out. He seems to have always been, and still is, an on-going paradox.

In high school, JC was lights out talented -- but most future pros were. In college at Vanderbilt, Cutler set all kinds of records, but his team was a sorry 11-35 during his tenure there, including a woeful a 5-27 mark against conference foes in the SEC. But Vandy has never been known as a football power. The Commodores are more like the Commosnores when it comes to the gridiron. Not good.

Then off to the Denver Broncos in the NFL draft. By most accounts, Cutler was happy there, but became upset when the mere rumor of him possibly being traded was floated by some. Though his GM at the time reassured him he was not on the trading block, Cutler, perhaps on misguided principle, demanded a trade anyway. His request was granted. Off to the Chicago Bears.

Few would question Cutler's arm strength and toughness. He can sling it with the best of them and has certainly absorbed his share of beatings (and injuries) over the last few years.

Yet all in all, his stats suggest he's a slightly better than average quarterback. While at Denver he compiled a record of 17-20. Since joining the Bears, 44-36 -- for a grand career total of 61-56. Sure, a quarterback does not make a team (unless his name is Tom Brady), but fair or not, wins and losses are pretty much what he'll be judged on.

Further, over his career, Cutler will normally throw in the 3000+ yard range per year, average about 7 yards per reception with a 60% completion rate, and toss 3 touchdown passes for every 2 interceptions. The latter statistic is not very good.

Being unflappable is a good thing for quarterbacks when things aren't going well -- to a point. But of late, it almost appears as if Cutler is bored with it all. While most other quarterbacks around the league typically get amped up after a big play -- or pissed, if something goes horribly wrong -- Cutler seems to shrug it all off, both ways. It's almost like he saying, "I'm doing my job the best I can, the results are what they are, and it's no big deal". Pass the salt.

Thing is, the Bears are in a death spiral. They're stinking it up bad. Is all this Cutler's fault? Of course not. But as the "leader" of the team, Cutler appears to be regressing badly himself. Over and over again we'll see him go into a 5-7 step drop going back to pass, scan the field, and not throw the ball. Bad things happen when a quarterback hangs on to the pigskin too long. Can it be that none of his receivers are good enough to get open time after time? Or has Cutler become dysfunctional?

Even when he throws the ball, oftentimes it's over the head, behind, or at the feet of a receiver. A 31 year old QB, that's in his ninth NFL year, should be peaking with precision when it comes to such things -- not being indecisive and throwing the ball helter-skelter like a rookie fresh off the bench. This is very strange. And the appearance Cutler doesn't much seem to care one way or the other, be it on the field or in press conferences afterward, certainly isn't helping his image.

But credit where credit is due. Jay Cutler does a lot of things off the field to help others. A diabetic himself, who requires daily insulin shots, Cutler has teamed up with a big pharma company to donate money in the cause of hopefully helping out with childrens' diabetes. Further, he's established his own foundation to assist "at risk" youths. Very commendable efforts indeed.

And perhaps the fire to win really does burn inside Jay Cutler, but he just doesn't show it to the outside world. Some guys (and gals) are like that. The emotion is there, but they internalize things and deal with them in their own private ways. Different strokes.

Here's hoping that's the case. Because if Cutler's public personna translates to his personal life, one is left to wonder how he ever got married, to a reality star no less, let alone have a couple kids. If he always showed the same nonchalant attitude regarding "performance" in his private life -- there might not BE any kids.

Different strokes indeed. Ahem.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Kobe's #3

Lo and behold, Kobe Bean Bryant is now #3 on the all-time NBA scoring list, having passed his alleged hero Michael Jordan. The only two remaining above him are Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Were all the above great players? Sure, but a couple things should be noted.

Bryant has already played 200 more games than Jordan ever did. This roughly equates to the lost seasons when MJ thought he could play major league baseball. He couldn't. Over the course of their careers, Jordan averaged better than 30 points a game. Kobe checks in just north of 25.

And while both have won multiple NBA championships, there's a big difference in their games. Besides being a prolific scorer, Jordan was known as a tenacious defender as well. Kobe -- not so much.

Jabbar was certainly known for his unstoppable "sky hook". And he played a little bit of defense in his own way. That is to say when one is far and away the tallest player on the court, they're going to block a few shots and grab a bunch of rebounds along the way, almost by default. While Bryant and Jordan are/were supreme ball handlers, Jabbar was not. Kareen dribbling the ball in the open court was a turnover waiting to happen. His job was to sky hook or dunk on one end, then lug his lanky frame the length of the court and post up underneath the basket on the other in a defensive position. But he was very good at these things, and did them for a very long time -- he played until he was 42 --hence he remains #1 on the scoring list. His list of career accomplishments is long. His championships, All-Star teams, blocks, rebounds, and MVPs is impressive indeed. But like Kobe, he wasn't much of an "assist" man. When either got the ball, they were likely going to shoot it one way or the other. Passing to an open teammate wasn't their first choice. They could rightfully be called "ball hogs". Throw up enough shots every game for enough years, and the points will eventually add up.

Karl Malone, currently #2 on the scoring list, was a terrific player. But for all his years with the Utah Jazz, he had a built-in advantage named John Stockton. They had mastered the "pick and roll" like no others before or since. Stockton was a supreme ball handler himself -- and could not only shoot in his own right, but was deadly from the free throw line. Yet he spent the majority of his career passing the ball to Malone, who would score. There's a reason why Stockton remains far and away the all-time assist leader in the NBA. Stockton made the passes and Malone took the shots. Multiply that by enough years and it's little wonder both achieved the career stats they did. They're both in the Hall of Fame, though one is left to wonder if either would have made it without the other.

But all these guys were in times past, and Kobe is now. Maybe he'll catch Malone to be #2. Perhaps even Jabbar, if he hangs around long enough and keeps throwing up a ridiculous amount of shots a game. Kobe's career shooting percentage is .452, so he makes slightly less than half his shots. A decent percentage, but hardly eye-popping. And he's only 36. Imagine if he hangs out until he's 42 like Jabbar. Six more years and another bazillion off-balance, contortionist, double/triple teamed falling away shots and anything's possible. Some of them are going to wind up in the basket. And hey, if one can continue to con ownership out of $24 million a year, while being a one-dimensional player on an otherwise terrible team, who WOULDN'T continue to hang out for as long as possible?

Kobe is still highly relevant. Just ask him.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Idle NFL rants

It was probably the worst game of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers' pro career. And his teammates weren't much help either. On the road against the Buffalo Bills, Rodgers fumbled into his own end zone, resulting in a safety. He threw two interceptions, and likely should have had at least two more picked off. Normally ultra-reliable receiver Jordy Nelson dropped a gimme touchdown pass. The Packers had a field goal attempt blocked, and allowed a Bills' player to return a kick the length of the field for a touchdown. The Cheesers would lose 21-13. They likely should have lost by 30. How can they be so dominant at home and stink it up so bad on the road? Of course, this played right into the hands of....

The Detroit Lions. Against the not-so-good Minnesota Vikings, still without the services of All-World running back Adrian Petersen, the Lions were expected to cruise at home. But they struggled, falling behind 14-0. Yet Vikes QB Teddy Bridgewater was kind enough to throw a couple of ridiculous interceptions, Minnesota had a field goal blocked as well, missed a long one at the end of game and -- presto -- the Lions lucked-up and squeaked out another win. Everything seems to be going their way this year. Next up, they have a game in Chicago, and the Bears are in free-fall.

Dallas played at Philly and raced out to a 21-0 lead. There was Jerry Jones in the visitor's luxury box clacking his dentures with glee. How 'bout dem Cowboys? Yippee-ki-ay. The the Eagles came roaring back to take the lead. No TV shots of JJ and his minions. Strangely enough, no shots of the Eagles' owner's suite either. Was anybody even THERE? While Jones is owner, CEO, Prez, GM, and head pitch-man, for the Cowboys, Eagles' owner Jeff Lurie is rarely seen.

Nevertheless, the Cowboys would re-rally to win the game. It was almost predictable for a couple reasons. First, strangely enough, the Cowboys seem to play much better on the road than they do at home. They're the only NFL that is undefeated in road games, having gone 7-0 so far. Yet they've lost 4 at home. Go figure. Secondly, despite new Eagle head coach Chip Kelly's high-paced offense, somehow he wound up with Mark Sanchez as his quarterback. You know, the same guy that wasn't good enough for the Keystone Kop NY Jets? The very same QB that made his claim to shame with the infamous "butt fumble" a while back? Give Sanchez enough time, and he'll find a way to screw up a game. And he did. Again.

While the Lions are likely headed for the playoffs, the San Fran 49ers have been eliminated with 2 games still to play. Who would have thought that combination possible at the beginning of the year?

After head coach Jim Harbaugh quickly resurrected the 49ers from nowhere to conference championship games and even a Super Bowl appearance, it appears he and his team have become demoralized. They can't beat the Seattle Seahawks in their own division. And they just went down to Pete Carroll's bunch again. The Seahawks are rounding back into playoff form, while the 49ers are back in nowhereville. The former was almost to be expected, but latter imploding is quite the surprise.

Given the last two regular season games constitute no more than Harbaugh and the 49ers "going through the motions", maybe this would be a good time for Harbaugh to consider his coaching future.

Things likely aren't going to get any better in San Fran any year soon, and might well get worse.

He could opt out, and the head coaching job at Michigan is still open -- where he once starred as a player. Look at it this way. While the Niners may or may not bottom out -- Michigan already has. A full 76 college teams will be going to bowl games this year -- and another 6 that were "eligible" won't be. That means the once proud Michigan program isn't even in the Top 82 in the country. There's nowhere to go but up.

Money wouldn't be a problem. In fact, he'd likely get a hefty raise. His current San Fran base salary is $5 million a year. Good grief, Michigan was paying the inept Brady Hoke $8 million to lead them into oblivion.

If Harbaugh wants a chance for people to "hail him as a conquering hero" at his alma mater by bringing them back to glory, his agent needs to make a discreet phone call -- and quickly -- before the dunderheads in Ann Arbor hire somebody else. Don't put it past them.

Johnny "football" Manziel finally got his chance to start for the Cleveland Browns. And he was a rousing -- failure. Zero points, 107 total yards of offense in the entire game and a QB rating of 1.0 out of a possible 100? Sure, he's a rookie and many future greats had rough starts. He could wind up anywhere from busting out of the league in a year or two, to becoming a Hall of Famer. Time will tell. But for now, here's hoping we've seen the last of his "money" hotdog routine. It was bad enough on draft night, and he's got a long ways to go before he earns the respect of competing pros.

Like Dorothy once said in the Wizard of Oz -- "We're not at Texas A&M anymore, Toto".

Or something like that. Close enough.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Heisman yawn-a-thon

For anybody that watched, the 2014 Heisman Trophy presentation was quite the extravaganza. If one considers a foregone conclusion that is dragged out for hour after excruciating hour stimulating -- this was the show for you.

As we know, and fully expected all along, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota walked off with the iron. In fact, he got over 90% of the votes. A landslide of historic proportions.

Thing is, this is not like your run-of-the-mill election, where as soon as the polls close, results start coming in quickly. Within a few hours everybody knows who won and who lost.

Heisman voting had taken place some time ago. The results had long since been in -- but they were kept a secret until they could go on national TV and drone on and on for hours. Babies were born, people died, and Congress actually accomplished something during the time it took the Heisman folks to present a trophy.

Officially, the public didn't know the outcome until the very end. Neither did the sports reporters or past Heisman winners that get to vote.

Per usual, they had roped in a cast of former winners to stand in the background like potted plants and occasionally politely applaud.

There was Tony Dorsett, and Billy Sims, Charlie White, George Rogers, Marcus Allen, Tim Brown, Desmond Howard, Charlie Ward, and even Tim Tebow, to name a few. It's almost a miracle Tebow didn't drop to his knees and pray -- for the dog and pony show to mercifully finally conclude.

Even John Huarte was highlighted. He won the trophy back in 1964 -- a full 50 years ago. Does anybody care?

Oddly enough, Orenthal James Simpson, the 1968 winner, was noticeably absent. Perhaps OJ had another engagement he couldn't get out of.

The Heisman folks will tell you, and they did again, that they're rich on tradition. For 80 years they've been giving out this trophy to the most deserving college gridder. And they'll also tell you how many millions of dollars they have contributed to worthwhile causes along the way.

That's just great, but what they won't tell you is that their "club" is akin to Augusta National, home of the Masters golf tourney. A whole bunch of uppity filthy rich guys that live in the lap of luxury. A million here or there is chump change, and tax deductible to boot.

But the whole process begs a question -- given these guys already know who the winner of the Heisman is -- then why invite a few other also-rans from around the country -- only to disappoint them on national TV?

Yours truly figured it out a while back. No sense watching the whole show. Click on it every half hour or so to see if anything interesting is going on. Usually not. Just more blather about times long past. To me, it's like being at a friend's house and having them fire up old family movies. Very interesting to them. Torture for anyone else.

The key is to click back on it 5 minutes before the program is scheduled to end. That's when they'll finally announce who the winner is -- even if we've known it all along. At that, they still go through the rigmarole of "unsealing the envelope", like it's an Academy Award or something. And those folks know too in advance who won.

So why drag it out so long? Instead of hours, the Heisman show could be done in 5 minutes. Announce the winner and let him give a 2-3 minute speech, thanking everybody from his Pop Warner coach, to his grandma and Uncle Gus, to his teammates and favorite professor -- if he ever went to class.

Two hours of programming, pseudo suspense, and insufferable analysis, all while the jury had returned its verdict long before?

Please. Just get on with it. The dude's going to be a first round pick and sign a pro contract for millions. Maybe he'll be a star in the NFL, and maybe he'll be a bust. Heisman winners have been both over the years.

It's just a trophy that guarantees zip at the next level.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Phil Jackson and the Wall

A lot of players and teams have been great in their own rights over the years, only to run into a wall they could never seem to overcome.

Dan Marino was one of the most prolific passing quarterbacks in the history of the NFL, but he never won a Super Bowl.

Same with Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills. They made it there four times and lost them all.
Likewise for the Minnesota Vikings.

John Stockton remains the all-time assist leader in the NBA. His long-time Utah Jazz teammate Karl Malone is second in all-time scoring, behind only Abdul Jabbar. But they never won a championship.

The Detroit Lions are one of only four NFL teams to have never even REACHED the Super Bowl, let alone win it. The other three are expansion teams (Cleveland, Jacksonville, Houston) that didn't even exist while the Motowners floundered for decades. Over the years, the Lions have annually hit the wall like an Indy car that blows a tire in Turn 2. Pop, crash, outta here.

And the Chicago Cubs? They last won the World Series when a guy named Theodore Roosevelt was President. They've walked softly but didn't carry nearly big enough sticks for over a century. This is a serious wall. Maybe it has something to do with the ivy at Wrigley Field. Come to think of it -- when's the last time you saw a Wrigley's store?  Besides their doublemint and spearmint gum, are they even still around?

But with apologies to the late Martin Luther King, Phil Jackson has been to the mountaintop. As a player, he was a winner in high school. A winner in college. After doing his "apprenticeship", he became a huge winner as an NBA coach.

Six world championships while with the Chicago Bulls, including two 3-peats. There are those that think it might have been an octo-peat, 8 in a row, had Michael Jordan not decided to try his hand at professional baseball for a couple years. His Airness flamed out like the Hindenberg trying to hit breaking pitches. Not a pretty sight -- unless one was the opposing pitcher.

Then on to the Los Angeles Lakers, where he would inherit another talent-laden roster. Five more NBA championships would come, for a total of 11, the most of all-time. To boot, besides making mega-bucks, he was shacked up with the owner's quite beautiful daughter. Gigs just don't get any sweeter than that.

It's like he was Confucius with the King Midas touch. Pretty impressive for a kid from Montana whose parents were ultra-religious, and likely expected Philip Douglas to follow in their footsteps to become a humble man of the cloth. No doubt, his offering plate has runneth over in the ensuing years.

Yet not long ago, Jackson took on another challenge. He signed on with the NY Knicks as President. A five year contract worth the same $12 million a year he had sought, but was unable to obtain from the Lakers. It was fun, fun, fun, but Daddy Buss had finally taken his Z(en)-Bird away.

This is good news and bad news for Jackson. First, $60 million guaranteed bucks is hardly chump change, the Pentagon aside. And second, his team isn't in last place in their division. That dubious honor is held by the Philadelphia 76ers who currently sport a league worst record of 2-19.

The bad news is -- Phil's Knicks aren't much better at 4-20. Only the cannon-fodder Detroit Pistons also have a worse record (barely) at 3-19. Even the woebegone Lakers, who consist of Kobe and a variety of potted plants, have 6 wins.

It would appear Phil Jackson has finally hit his wall. No amount of meditation and triangle offenses (whatever that ever meant) will rescue him from the mess he jumped into this time. This team is just plain bad, and are further strapped with some ridiculous player salaries that makes them unlikely able to improve their roster any time soon. That pesky salary cap is very much alive and well.

But hey, who wouldn't take a a job worth $60 million for five years -- even if one has NO shot at producing a championship contender over that time? And last time yours truly looked -- that former owner's daughter was still in tow as well. Then again, a recent heiress to a multi-billlion dollar fortune likely isn't exactly hard up when it comes to male suitors.

Phil is 69. Hmm. Something about that number rings a vague bell when it comes to satisfying a much younger woman. Connect your own dots.

But I still think he's hit his wall. Surely you've heard of the Peter Principle, whether it be in basketball or other rousing ventures. Ahem.