Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Spring for Detroit sports

Technically, spring sprung a few weeks ago. After a record-setting year for snowfall, all that nasty white stuff has finally melted and gone away. The early perennials are blooming, and the birds will be back soon from their southern migration. Trees will start sprouting their leaves anew, and the epic battle for supremacy in the back yard between the squirrels, chipmunks, and my toy yorkies is already in full swing -- again. Several marathons worth of 4-legged miles will be run in that yard over the next 6-7 months or so -- and that's a good thing. Alas, this also means the mosquitoes are likely hatching by the gazillions, and those beautiful leaves won't seem so pretty when they cover the yard again in October, but we'll worry about that later. Also, if this is spring, how come I can open the doors and windows one day for some glorious fresh air, but have to close them down the next while the furnace chugs away trying to get a little heat back in this joint? Only in Michigan, such as it is.

On to the sports front. The Red Wings were dispatched by the Boston Bruins in their opening round playoff series. No big surprise there. Will the Wings be better next year? Maybe, even probably, but genuine Stanley Cup contenders? Likely not. They appear to be going through one of those team phases (rebuilding?) where a lot of young guys need to get a couple more seasons under their belts before they finally gel and become a legitimate threat. Or not. Hard to say.

No word lately out of the Detroit Pistons camp. Long-time Prez Joe Dumars was relieved of his duties calling the personnel shots, but reportedly will stay on with the organization in another capacity, though nobody seems to know exactly what it is. Fairly new owner Tom Gores and his executive inner-circle have been silent as to who will take Joe D's spot. With the NBA draft coming up in June, the apparent need for a new head coach, and negotiating all those pesky contracts, while dancing around the salary cap -- it would seem Gores and company need to do something thing fairly soon.

The Detrroit Tigers once again sit atop the AL Central Division. Hey, while hope springs eternal, it's still April. A lot of things can and will likely happen in the next 5-6 months. Maybe the Tigers win the division by 20 games. Or maybe they don't win it at all. Right now they're playing slightly above average. No better and no worse. Here's what I DO know. Despite all the hype they continue to generate over such star players as Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera, and even recent free agent addition Ian Kinsler amongst others, they haven't won the World Series since Orwellian times. 1984. Thirty years ago. Lots of individual awards, but no championships.

And, of course, there's the Lions. No offense, Honolulu Blue and Silver faithful, but yours truly continues to find them a never-ending source of amusement. With the recent passing of long-time owner William Clay Ford, who's in charge anyway? His widow Martha? And just how much do you think she knows about football? She came from the Firestone family. Bet she doesn't know much about tires either. Mustang Billy has his hands full trying to run the Ford Motor company, but he remains some sort of executive vice-president regarding the Lions. And that's the same guy that convinced his pop that Matt Millen could ride into town and finally turn their long-hapless franchise around. How did that work out?

No doubt, Lions fans will be sitting on the edge of their seats when the NFL draft rolls around. Who should they take? A corner here, a safety there, another wide receiver, a tackle, linebacker, running back, or a backup to starting QB Matthew Stafford? Hey, the Lions have a lot of needs, including a place kicker.

Their fans will fret, stew, and second-guess the Lions' "brain-trust" regardless of who they pick. But it will certainly be hyped to the max, especially by their local media. And the fans will buy into the kool-aid yet again. We could be a contender.

Just one question. Do they really think their team will be better than the Green Bay Packers within their own division, let alone such teams as the San Fran 49ers and the reigning Super Bowl champ Seattle Seahawks next year? Please.

There's always hope, you say? Indeed. One can hope there will be no more wars or bloodshed anywhere -- ever. Everybody will just get along. Or every politician will be open, honest, and truthful. Or yours truly can hope a Pulitzer is headed my way soon for my brilliant writing in this forum.

But I wouldn't bet on any of the above, especially the latter.

Like the Lions, some things just aren't meant to be.....

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Doc Rivers and the Clipper dilemma

Glenn Anton (Doc) Rivers is the head coach of the LA Clippers. He also has a major problem right about now -- as do the Clip players.

Certainly everyone has heard of the alleged racist comments attributed to Clipper owner Donald Sterling. For the purpose of this article, let's ignore the complicated web of freedom of speech rights versus political correctness, bigotry and the backlash that usually results, and even what sanctions may or may not be imposed on Sterling in the near future by the NBA.

This is about Doc and the players. They're fighting for their playoff lives against the Golden State Warriors in the opening round with the series knotted 2-2 and headed back to LA for Game 5. Which team will ultimately prevail and move on is anybody's guess.

Yet before Game 4, at Golden State, the Clipper players decided to stage their own sort of protest in response to their owner's remarks. They took off their warm-up jackets and deposited them in a heap at midcourt. Underneath, they were all wearing their team shirts inside-out, so as not to display their own team's name. Doc would later say he was aware of what his players were going to do, but was careful to take somewhat of a neutral stance. He neither encouraged, nor discouraged it.

And there lies the dilemma Doc Rivers faces. As a black man, Doc was no doubt highly offended by Sterling's words, which were secretly recorded by his girlfriend (who happens to be black/latino herself -- go figure) and quickly went viral.

But on the other hand, Rivers is making about $7 million a year to coach the Clips -- and guess who's been signing those paychecks?

So if you were Doc Rivers, what would you do? Stand on principle, which would necessitate him resigning from his high-paying gig, or keep taking the money and hope others find a way to punish his owner?

But maybe it's not that simple. After all, Doc Rivers is a pro's pro, and he likely feels an obligation to stand by his team (players) and attempt to guide them through the perils of the playoffs. But let's get real. The Clips are a very good team but, even if they get past Golden State, no given, it's unlikely they'll go on to be Western Conference champions, let alone defeating the Miami Heat which will also likely emerge from the east in the Finals. In other words, the odds against the Clips becoming champions this year are extremely long. Somewhere along the line -- maybe sooner than later -- they're going down. And what will Doc do then?

Sanctions or not, unless Sterling himself decides otherwise, he will still own the LA Clippers. And Doc will still be one of his hired hands -- along with all the players under contract. Despite the indignant and yes, ignorant chatter by some -- Sterling can no more be forced to sell his team than the average John/Jane Doe can be forced to sell their family business if they made similar remarks. One is certainly free to boycott such an establishment and not partake of their product, but even people many find despicable have their rights. Short of committing a crime -- and no one thinks Sterling actually broke any laws -- if they wish to stay in business -- no court anywhere is going to deny them the right to do so.

Thing is, Doc Rivers and the Clipper players are all professionals. They get paid a whole lot of money to coach and play basketball. Rather than getting caught up and spouting off about what the guy who signs all their paychecks said in a private conversation, that was covertly recorded, they should act like professionals and get back to what they're getting paid big bucks to do. Score more points than the other guys and win the games. And isn't that what sports always boils down to?

Regarding the Clips and their protest at Golden State? It was stupid, childish, and accomplished nothing.

As to Sterling's remarks -- the NBA -- with rookie Commish Adam Silver -- is supposed to address the matter in a press conference later today. That will likely be interesting. Betcha recently retired Commish David Stern is glad he doesn't have to deal with this mess.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Red Wings. A definite maybe

As everyone knows, the Boston Bruins polished off the Detroit Red Wings in their opening round Stanley Cup playoff series 4 games to 1. This hardly came as a surprise in most parts. After all, the Bruins had the best regular season record, while the Wings needed a semi-hot streak towards the end of the season to merely MAKE the playoffs as a #8 seed. Throw in Boston having home-ice advantage, for what it's worth these days, and the Wheeled Wingers were a long shot indeed to get past the Beantowners.

Most, likely even Detroit fans, will concede that Boston was a better team going in. They were bigger, stronger, deeper, and certainly had more Stanley Cup playoff experience. After all, just last year they made it all the way to the Finals before being nipped by the Chicago Black Hawks, and the year before had won the Cup. In the category of "been there, done that (recently)", the Bruins definitely qualified.

Sure, the Red Wings suffered a rash of injuries during the year to some star players, else they may have finished higher in the standings and avoided the Bruins in the first place. Perhaps they could have had a more favorable match-up against another team in the opening round, and possibly moved on. But that's all hindsight and shoulda, coulda, wouldas. In other words -- a definite maybe.

And let's get real. Not counting owners getting a few more home dates if their team proceeds to the next round, and the major cha-chings that come with them, every team has the same ultimate objective. Win the Cup. To do that, any team has to successfully slog through four series'. Only one will achieve the magic number of 16 playoff wins and hoist Lord Stanley's beloved trophy. So whether or not the Red Wings might have avoided the Bruins in the opening round becomes a moot point. Eventually, they were likely going to have to face them anyway. Most times, to be the best, you have to beat the best, as it should be.

Yet NHL playoff hockey is an unpredictable thing, and sometimes strange things happen. Not that long ago, the LA Kings, merely a #8 seed (like the Red Wings this year) going into the playoffs, got hot and rolled to the Cup.

The point is -- any given NHL game, playoffs or not, is akin to a crapshoot. Obviously, all the players are phenomenally skilled or they wouldn't be there. Major league baseball, the NBA, and the NFL are similar in that respect. The last guy on the bench is REALLY good, because he beat out ferocious competition just to earn his spot on the roster.

But NHL hockey seems to be an animal unto itself when it comes to the slightest of margins. Shooters rattle pucks off goalposts. A half inch one way or the other, and maybe the red light comes on -- which might decide the game. Conversely, when hopelessly out of position -- sometimes goalies can fling up an arm or leg to make a miraculous, if lucky save. Routine wrist shots from 40-50 feet away might be deflected into the goal, while a slap shot blast from 10 feet is slightly off the mark. You never know.

Back to the Bruins and Red Wings. Yep, Boston handily won the series 4-1. For that matter, they outscored Detroit 14-6 during the course of those 5 games. Both those stats seem to dovetail nicely with the eventual outcome.

Yours truly closely followed that series. So why is it I always thought during every one of those games that the Wings were "right there" with the mighty Bruins, and a lucky break, bounce, or deflection here or there might have resulted in different final scores? For the most part, the Wings gave Boston all they could handle.

Then again, over the long haul, few would doubt Boston was clearly the superior team, and dispatching the Red Wings was to be expected.

The Bruins may or may not go on to win the Cup. Three more series' await them and funny things can happen. The winnners of the President's Cup for accumulating the most points in the regular season don't have a very good track record when it comes to going on to win the Cup. Since the 1985-86 season, 28 years ago, only seven teams that racked up the most points in the regular season went on to win the Cup. For that matter, 3 of the last 4 have been knocked out in the opening round.

But not the Bruins this year. They move on to face the Montreal Canadiens in round 2. What will happen there is anybody's guess.

As for the Wings? In Detroit, hope springs eternal. They just might be contenders next year. (Where have we heard that before? Ah yes, those loveable Lions).

Thing is, despite a couple aging superstars and a couple of free agent signings earlier in the year that didn't yield much production, the Wings have a nucleus of talented young players. They're fast, they're hungry, and they play hard. Will they come together, and have the "right stuff" to mature into champions in the next few years?

A definite maybe. But let's not forget. All the other teams are grooming their young studs as well.

How it will all turn out next year, and further into the future -- is anybody's guess.

To use an old cliche -- that's why they play the games......

Friday, April 25, 2014

What happened to home court/ice?

NBA and NHL teams slog through their regular seasons of 80+ games trying to finish with the best record they can, hence getting into the playoffs and enjoying home court/ice advantage once they start. This is supposed to be a big deal. But evidently, this year's teams didn't get the memo.

Rather than playing at home being a blessing, it almost seems like it's been more of a curse. The road warriors have risen up indeed.

Check out the NBA. In the series between the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, the visiting team has won the first three games. Same with the Houston Rockets/Portland Trailblazers match-up. The Dallas Mavs, merely a #8 seed, waltzed into #1 San Antonio and clobbered them by 21 points. Same with the #8 Atlanta Hawks having their way at #1 Indianapolis. Memphis has won a game at Okla City, as has Golden State at the LA Clippers.

In the NHL, 4 games have been played between the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings, and the home team has gone down 3 times. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets have traded road victories, as have the Chicago Black Hawks and St. Louis Blues.

So what's going on here? Is there a rip in the time-space continuum that has allowed the anti-matter world to enter our sports universe? These things defy the imagination and are not supposed to be happening. Could it be that Commissioners Adam Silver and Gary Bettman have been replaced by Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry, of Twilight Zone and Star Trek fame, respectively?

Yeah, I know, both those guys are dead.

But so too, appears to be the home court/ice advantage.

Very strange......

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Red Wings and classic songs

According to Mick Jaggger and the Rolling Stones, you don't always get what you want, but ya get what ya need. Or more properly put in the case of the Detroit Red Wings going up against the Boston Bruins in a playoff series -- ya pretty much get what ya got coming.

Yes, Boston scored the game-winning goal in overtime to take a commanding 3-1 series lead on a fluke play. An otherwise innocent enough looking shot deflected off the leg of a Detroit player into his own goal. Certainly, that was a fluke play but, in hockey, sometimes those things happen -- both ways.

In the waning minutes of the opening game in Boston, Pavel Datysuk of the Wings scored what could also be deemed an unlikely goal to give the Wings a 1-0 series advantage.

Thing is, since then, Boston has dominated the following three games, and it's really not even a close call. Though they've outscored Detroit 10-3 over that period, it likely should and could have been a lot worse.

Indeed, in Game 4 on their home ice, the Wings got off to a quick start, taking a 2-0 lead. But after that Boston came at them in waves. Along the way, the normally sharp-shooting Bruins inexplicably missed a few wide open nets from close range, else this game never should have went to overtime in the first place.

And let's face it. From top to bottom, the Bruins are vastly superior to the Red Wings. One needs only look at how both teams fared during the course of the regular season. While playing in the same conference, hence facing much the same competition, the stats are quite revealing.

Disregarding overtimes and shootout win/losses, Boston won 54 games, and lost 19. They accumulated 117 points, scored 261 goals, and gave up 177 goals.
Detroit won a mere 39 games, lost 28, accumulated 93 points, scored 222 and surrendered 230.

When one compares the numbers, the differences are startling. Boston racked up a whopping 24 more points, 39 more goals, and surrendered 53 less than Detroit? The Wings gave up 8 more goals than they scored all year long, while the Bruins were a plus 84? Against the same competition? That would explain why Boston is the #1 overall seed and Detroit snuck into the playoffs as the second wild card.

Forget rocket science, or even the wondrous, yet baffling world of my ex. When it comes to the Red Wings and Bruins -- the eventual outcome of this matchup should have been a no-brainer going in. When one is way over his head from the get-go, chances are they're not going to prevail when the going eventually gets tough in the long run.

Can the Wings storm back from a 3-1 deficit and actually win this series? Sure. And maybe my ex will give me back the truck I paid for.

But I wouldn't count on it.

When it comes to the Red Wings this season, another classic song by Bob Seger comes to mind.

Turn the page.

And don't get me started on Led Zeppelin. There will be no stairway to Lord Stanley's heaven this year. Forget about that.

Then again, it could be worse for the Wings. In Detroit, only the Lions find themselves stuck with a boy named Suh.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Michael Pineda and pine tar

Yours truly knoweth not how sophisticated TV cameras and the like are in the Dominican Republic. But in America, particularly at sporting contests like Major League Baseball games, the typical vast array of cameras work REALLY well -- and they don't miss much. Throw in zoom lenses and high def -- and one can count the stitches on a baseball, or nose hairs on an umpire from hundreds of feet away.

Enter Michael Francisco Pineda Paulino, a 25 year old pitcher for the NY Yankees, who hails from the Dominican Republic. As they say -- this boy is in a heap of trouble right about now with MLB, and it has to do with pine tar.

Pitching against the Boston Red Sox back on April 10, the cameras zoomed in and easily picked up a glob of pine tar on -- of all things -- his pitching hand. It was obvious to anybody watching the game on TV yet, for some reason, the folks in the Bosox dugout (and the supposed eagle-eye umpiring crew) were oblivious to it. By the time it was brought to their attention in a later inning, likely by some Boston video tech that finally emerged from his coma, the pine tar had magically disappeared from Pineda's hand. At that point, there was nothing to be done about it. There's no such thing as retroactive calls in sports. But make no mistake -- it was there. They just missed it at the time.

Given all the subsequent publicity on TV and the Net, and further given MLB looks upon doctoring baseballs in much the same manner as corked bats and those pesky steroids -- one would think Pineda would consider himself fortunate to have gotten away with it -- once. Surely, he wouldn't do such a dumb thing again.

But he did, just earlier tonight, against the same Bosox, in a nationally televised game. And the same zoom/high def brought it to the viewers in millions of living pixels. Only this time, the folks in the Red Sox dugout happened to notice it. It was pretty hard not to -- given Pineda had a highly visible glob of pine tar on the side of his neck -- of all places.

That also leaves one to wonder -- even if Pineda is that dumb to think he could get away with it again -- how could Yankee manager Joe Girardi and his coaching staff NOT know what was going on? Good grief, the pitching coach's job is to thoroughly check out his pitcher every time he returns to the dugout to make sure he's OK. And somehow he missed his guy getting the Brylcreem treatment of yesteryear, as in "a little dab will do ya", on the side of his neck before returning to the mound? That's preposterous. Either they knew all along, or the whole lot of them should be fired for gross incompetence. I would bet on the former, but it still doesn't make any sense. A nationally televised game between two historic rivals, and a pitcher that had been exposed only a couple weeks ago trying the same illegal stunt again? Very strange.

But this time Pineda got busted. Bosox manager John Ferrell approached the home plate ump and asked him to check out Pineda for illegal substances which might be used to doctor a baseball. The ump did, the goop was obvious, and Pineda was promptly ejected from the game. Joe Girardi offered little argument and meekly returned to the Yankee dugout. Imagine that.

Major League Baseball rule 8:02 pretty well spells it out. The pitcher shall not apply a foreign substance of any kind to the baseball. A pitcher found breaking this rule shall be immediately suspended. The length of such suspension to be determined by MLB.

If we can safely assume Pineda didn't use pine tar on his hand and/or neck as a cologne or aphrodisiac while he's on the mound, but rather it was there for other nefarious purposes, than the original conclusion of yours truly would seem to be quite valid.

When the powers that be in baseball get done with their review of Pineda's not-so-good antics of late, and consider how long his mandatory suspension should be -- yep -- that boy just might be in a heap of trouble.

Idle thoughts and Oscar Pistorius

So Kate and Willy are wrapping up their 3 week "holiday" by visiting the outback in Australia? It must be nice to have no job, an unlimited expense account, and have millions of groupies the world over swoon in anticipation if and when a blue blood manages to knock up his old lady. Throw in the universal red-carpet treatment -- and this is a really sweet gig.

Some dropout loser type dude suffered head trauma after getting beat up while leaving a karaoke bar. Then somehow the "experts" say his brain overcompensated while healing and accessed areas that very few humans have ever been able to do. Now, he's considered a mathematical genius. He sees things that are far beyond the comprehension of us every day hoi polloi. Well gee. During my younger, wilder years, yours truly was hit in the head a lot of times. So how come I'm still an idiot? Doesn't seem fair.

The Oscar Pistorius murder trial in South Africa continues to drag on -- and on -- and on. The judge that will eventually decide his fate has seen all the forensic evidence, and heard all the testimony, including Oscar himself taking the witness stand and being examined and grilled on cross-examination for several days.

Acccounts of what others think they may have heard are irrelevant. So too, are character witnesses, both pro and con. And anything that happened in Oscar's or Reeva Steenkamp's past matters not one whit. The only thing that counts is what happened on Valentine's day in 2013 when shots were fired through a bathroom door by Pistorius, which resulted in Steenkamp being fatally wounded.

The prosecution paints the scenario that Oscar knew Reeva was behind that door and willfully murdered her. Pistorius claims that, suspecting an intruder in violent crime-ridden South Africa, he fired in fear for his life.

Where does the actual truth lie? Only Oscar Pistorius knows for sure.

Lawyers for both sides have attempted to "spin" things in their favor and, lord knows, the arm-chair public has certainly chimed in with their two cents worth. And now the trial has been mysteriously adjourned for a few weeks, for reasons unclear.

This has gone on way too long already. Time for the Honorable Thokozile Masipa to get her butt back on the bench and make the call. Either way, some will be happy, some will not, and that's just the way it goes. But it's one defendant, and one judge that has seen and heard everything of relevance she needs to hand down her verdict. Nothing's going to change while the trial is put on hold. It was what it was, and remains what it is. So get on with it already. And let's get real. If Oscar is found innocent, he walks. If found guilty, the appeals will likely drag on for years.

Masipa is a judge on what's known as a High Court in South Africa. In America, this would be the same level of court that tries most felony cases. Above that is the Supreme Court of Appeals, similar to American appellate courts. The final judicial say-so in South Africa rests with their Constitutional Court, akin to the Supreme Court in the US. Given somewhat similar legal systems, last time I looked, even if a defendant if found guilty, a high-profile case such as the Pistorius affair will certainly not be a done deal at the level of the trial court. The appeals process could well take many years before a final judgement in rendered.

But for now, c'mon Judge. It's time to make the call. We'll worry about the replays later......

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Red Wings update

Not long ago, yours truly wrote he had no idea how the series between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings would turn out. The Beantowners had put up the best record in the NHL over the regular season, but the Motowners had knocked them off in 3 out of their 4 meetings. And..... Detroit went into Boston and defeated the Bruins yet again in Game 1 of their playoff series.

That gave the Wings confidence, momentum, and home-ice advantage. Maybe a lowly #8 seed could indeed prevail over the winners of the President's Cup -- right? Not so fast. It's time to reassess and, actually, the obvious has been there all along.

Idle thought: If you watched the game, you saw a commercial advertising Red Wings tickets for next year. If you act soon, you can get in on the low-low price of just $340 to attend the games. Of course, they neglect to mention those pesky shipping and handling charges, sometimes referred to as parking and concessions. Nevertheless, how can one pass up a once in a lifetime deal like that? There's only one logical thing to do. Get hold of that Fred Thompson guy and apply for one of them thar reverse mortgages. In other words, pawn your house to get enough money to attend, and maybe I'll see ya at the Joe in the nosebleed section. Tissues not included.

But back to the series. While the Wings won the opener 1-0 on an improbable goal by Pavel Datsyuk, they've been outscored 7-1 in the last two games. And that scoring pretty well reflects how the Bruins have dominated them all over the ice.

Now down 2-1 in the series, can the Wings come back and win it? It's possible, but highly unlikely. That's because the Wings are basically a team of speedy talented little guys, with a decent but not great goaltender. They're not going to out-physical anybody.

Conversely, the Bruins are big, physical, and quite talented themselves, with a better than average goalie. It could even be argued the Wings winning Game 1 was a fluke.

Thing is, even assuming the same talent level, when a team of speedy little guys meets a team that is vastly physically superior, in the long run the brutes usually prevail. Sure, anybody can luck up and win one game, and if this was a one game series the Red Wings would be moving on. But it's not. It's a best 4 out of 7 series. And when the same teams are playing each other over and over, the big guys typically have a way of wearing out the little guys eventually.

Detroit is without their captain, one Henrik Zetterburg, you say? True enough, and he's a phenomenally gifted player. But he's also a little guy. Though he's due to return to the ice soon after back surgery, do you think for one second the Boston bullies wouldn't pound him every chance they got? Of course they would. That's life in the NHL playoffs.

Let's cut to the chase. It's maybe live or certainly die time for the Red Wings in Game 4 on their home ice. They need to bring their AAA game to the rink and hope somehow they can not only win, but send a message to the Bruins that it ain't over yet. You may be bigger and stronger, but we'll find a way to beat you.

Because if that doesn't happen and they go down 3-1, no need for the fat lady to show up or Yogi Berra drop a few more words of wisdom. It's over. The big guys will have once again pounded sand in the face of the little fellas. And I suspect that's exactly how it's going to play out....

Monday, April 21, 2014

Peyton Manning, Nick Saban, and a dumb rule

Peyton Manning is under a bit of scrutiny these days. That's because he, and Denver Bronco offensive coordinator Adam Gase were in Tuscaloosa, Alabama at the same time to talk with Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban. Under the current collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the Players Union, it's against the rules for coaches and players to get together before the start of the off-season workout programs, which haven't happened yet.

There's so many things wrong with this. First of all, it's an incredibly dumb rule. Peyton may be a QB and Gase his offensive coordinator, but they're also human beings and American citizens. Short of a restraining order, which has to be signed by a judge, and which usually follows some sort of intimidating or violent behavior, since when can't two citizens be in the same location at the same time? And it's not like Manning and Gase were in Denver's practice facility hashing out game plans. They were in Tuscaloosa to chat with Saban. Saban himself says the three of them were never in the same room at the same time -- but who cares? Splitting hairs like this regarding who's allowed to talk to who at any particular time is downright stupid.

Equally important, one is left to wonder just what sort of useful knowledge could be gleaned by Manning and Saban meeting in the first place.

Manning went to the Univ of Tenn, had his heyday in the NFL with the Indy Colts, and is spending his twilight years with the Denver Broncos. Along the way, he's been a multiple MVP winner and has one Super Bowl victory on his resume.

Saban has been a mercenary. From Toledo to Mich State, to LSU, and now Alabama, he is held in high regard when it comes to college football coaches. After all, he's won national championships with both LSU and Bama, though his earlier career stats, particularly with Mich State, were decidedly mediocre. How he kept getting one higher paying gig after another is a very good question.

And then there was his ill-fated stint in the NFL as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. The "Peter Principle" appeared to be at work. Some guys, like Jim Harbaugh, can be great college coaches and make a successful jump to the NFL as well. But other guys, like Saban, Rick Pitino, etc., just don't have the "right stuff" when it comes to dealing with professionals. They try, but they crash and burn. Major universities are their glass ceiling. Saban was woefully over his head while with the Dolphins, and though he said the Alabama job didn't interest him at the time -- no way was he going to do that -- well -- we know what happened.

But there's the rub. While Saban bombed as an NFL head coach, why would Manning (now 38) and considered one of the best NFL QBs of all time, seek out his advice?  What can Nick tell Peyton he doesn't already know?

It was reported that Saban gave Manning a few tips about defense. In return, Peyton imparted a few words of wisdom to Nick regarding hurry-up offenses that have given Alabama problems in the past.

How dumb is this? Manning's been studying film, reading, analyzing, and adjusting to pro defenses since forever. See his constant audibles at the line of scrimmage, flapping his arms like a chicken, and his peculiar love for Omaha. However it works, it can fairly be said Manning has been quite successful over the years in the NFL, his lone Super Bowl victory notwithstanding. A lot of very good QBs, including some Hall of Famers never even got to hoist one Lombardi trophy (see Fran Tarkenton, Jim Kelly, Dan Marino).

And who is Manning to tell Saban how to improve one of the best college defenses in the country against a hurry-up offense?

Peyton ran a hurry-up offense and the Broncos were absolutely crushed 43-8 by the Seattle Seahawks in the recent February Super Bowl. If Nick wants some advice on defense, it only makes sense he'd be far better off talking to the Seattle defensive coordinator, not some aging quarterback that's apparently never seen a dumb endorsement/cha-ching opportunity he doesn't like.

From the dumb original rule, to who's talking to who about what and when -- everything about this is just wrong.

Then again, all these guys are making mega-bucks and most of us are not. Throw in the absurdity of our equally rich politicians these days and -- is this a great country or what?


Oklahoma City and who let the dogs out?

In an NBA playoff game between the Okla City Thunder and the Memp Grizzlies (played in OKC), all the fans in attendance were wearing shirts obviously handed out to them as they arrived at the arena. One entire section featured blue, the next white, and it alternated around the entire venue. Yet whether they were blue with white letters, or white with blue letters, every last person in there wore a shirt that said "we are committed" on the front.

Well then. That seemed appropriate. When 20,000 people come together in the same place to line up like rabid lemmings on steroids -- they OUGHT to have been committed somewhere along the line.

The question then becomes -- who unlocked the doors of all the padded cells and turned this horde of lunatics loose in the first place?

Given the Thunder would go on to lose the game to the Grizzlies in overtime, it's likely all those "committed" people were hitting the streets in a foul mood. It would appear those folks in the white institutional uniforms, sporting their handy-dandy hypos of la-la land juice, will have their work cut out for them rounding this crazed herd back up again and putting them back where they belong.

Here's hoping Okla City learned a lesson from this. If they ever try to pull a publicity stunt like that again, forget the blue and white tee shirt color scheme. Make it something more easily identifiable to the unsuspecting public. Like jail-house orange. Or black and white stripes. Better yet, forget the shirts entirely. Put them in handcuffs and leg-irons as they pass through the turnstiles. The lives of innocent women, children, grandmas and puppy dogs might well depend on it before the night is done.

Houston Rockets, ownership, and hypocrisy

Last time I looked, Houston, the home of the NBA Rockets, was still located in eastern Texas. The good people in Texas will tell you there's nothing more American than, well, Texas. Plus everything's supposedly big. Yessiree Billy Bob, everything from ranches, to saloons, to steaks, to the, ahem, pom-poms of the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders are quite sizable indeed. Also their collective egos, but we'll let that little detail slide.

However, for a state that is so fiercely proud to be American, there appears to be some serious hypocrisy that has gone on in Houston for quite some time. Enter Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander.

Alexander, now 70, was originally a bond trader from New Jersey. Obviously, he knew when to hold-em and when to fold-em, because he became a billionaire.

Back in 1993, Alexander bought the Houston Rockets for $85 million. At the time, they shared the same arena with the now long defunct Houston Aeros of the NHL. It was pretty much agreed all-around that a new venue was necessary. After much haggling between the Rockets, Aeros, and local government officials in Houston, finally a deal was struck.

A new arena would indeed be built. Also at the time, assurances were given that "no new taxes" (sound familiar?) would be assessed. It's probably a coincidence that a guy named Bush (George W.) happened to be the governor that signed off on it.

At any rate, when all was said and done, the new arena cost $235 million to build. Of that sum, the Houston Rockets (see Alexander) contributed $43 million. The city of Houston (see taxpayers) had to pony up $182 million. The spare change was kicked in by other donors, notably a company called Enron, their CEO at the time being one Kenneth Lay. As you will remember, Enron imploded and cost a lot of honest people a whole lot of money. Lay himself was convicted of 10 counts of securities fraud and other charges and faced up to 20-30 years in prison. Alas, he died of a "heart attack" while vacationing in Colorado, before he could be officially sentenced -- though rumors surfaced his demise may have been orchestrated by others.

Fast forward. Not long ago, Rockets' owner Leslie Alexander purchased a penthouse in Manhattan. $42 million worth for basically a condo occupying the 17th and 18th floors. And, oh my, talk about fancy. Besides the 6300 square feet, it features four terraces, an outdoor "infinity" pool (whatever that means), a heated whirlpool, 5 bedrooms, 5 and a half baths, a library, salon, formal dining room, and a gallery, amongst other amenities.

Nothing wrong with that. If you've got the bucks to spend $88 million on a basketball player like Dwight Howard, then spending less than half of that on oneself to live in luxury is totally understandable. It's the American way.

Alexander's net worth is now estimated at roughly $1.2 billion. That's 1200 million.

So let's see. We've got a filthy rich dude that started off in New Jersey, bought the Houston Rockets, had a new arena built that soaked the Texas taxpayers, even though promises were given otherwise, and recently just bought a Donald Trump style condo in Manhattan.

With all that money, guys like Alexander can pretty well do whatever they please to make them happy.

But that leaves one question. After the completion of the new arena in Houston to house his Rockets, again, mostly at the taxpayers' expense, obviously the venue itself needed a name. It could have been Houston this or Rocket that, but no.

Alexander sold out to a foreign company and accepted $100 million from Toyota for the naming rights. The Rockets now play in the Toyota Center, in Texas of all places, because guys like Leslie only have loyalty to one thing -- and it's colored green.

Shame on him, and the people that even go there to see the games. I thought the proud American people of Houston would reject the obvious slap in their faces and see through such typical one-percenter hypocrisy playing them as fools. NBA team or not, there comes a time when one has to make a stand.

Either you're an American and stand by your country and companies -- or you're for sale and can be bought by the highest (or lowest) bidder, despite the fact such foreign people are themselves in the process of attempting to destroy American companies for their own benefit.

It's hardly rocket science. I don't care who's in the building. No way is yours truly walking into something called the Toyota Center, let alone spending a dime there. Leslie Alexander could easily have taken bids, even if a bit lower, from many American companies for those same naming rights. Or better yet, don't sell the naming rights at all. Just name it after the team that plays there. It's not like guys like Alexander need the extra money that comes with selling out.

Actually, it's just shameful.....

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Planes, trains, and hornets?

The good people of Malaysia just can't seem to catch a break. First they lose an airplane, and now they've got a rogue swarm of hornets running amok on the golf course in their Malaysian Open.

Spanish golfer Pablo Larrazabal found this out the hard way on the 14th hole. He had to jump into a lake to escape the pesky buggers when they gang-buzzed him. Pablo said they were huge -- at least 3 times the size of Aunt Bee -- or something like that. He went on to say it was the scariest thing that ever happened to him. Obviously, the poor dear has never been to divorce court, or he'd know what truly terrifying really is.

Something like this would never happen to Tiger Woods. Maybe swarms of bimbos, adoring groupies, and even the above-mentioned horde of divorce lawyers, but hornets? No way. When it comes to being a thorn in the -- insert body part here -- to certain others, this is sometimes referred to as professional courtesy. Even the genus stingus maximus has a code of honor.

Speaking of the Detroit Red Wings, they barely squeaked into the Stanley Cup playoffs only to discover they would be facing the overall #1 seed Boston Bruins in the opening round. Boston was bigger, tougher, more physical, quoth the experts. Even some of Detroit's home-town scribes predicted Boston to win the series in 6 games.

But then something funny happened. The Wings won the opener in Boston. In an extremely boring game (1-0 contests are like that -- see soccer) Red Wing Pavel Datsyuk scored the only goal. Some ranted it was one of the greatest goals of all time. These are the same sort of people that thought the Detroit Pistons would be playoff contenders, and think the Lions are capable of going to the Super Bowl every year. In other words, they remain delirious under the effects of the Motown kool-aid.

Datsyuk indeed made a good play on the puck, reaching back to gather it in while maintaining full stride, but the shot itself was a wrist shot from 20 feet out. Normally a routine save for a goaltender. However, as the bodies were criss-crossing in front of him, the Boston goalie was "screened" at the time of the shot, and never saw it. A good play to start, and a bit of luck at the end, but hardly a classic goal.

Improbably, the Red Wings went 3-1 against the Bruins during the regular season. Now they're 4-1, and have regained home-ice advantage in the playoff series.

Now, after only one game, some scribes that had Boston in 6 have jumped trains. In order to pull that off, the Bruins have to win 4 out of the next 5, including at least two in Detroit. Surprise -- the Motown koolaid is back. Time for them to jump on the winged wheel express. Unless the Bruins win Game 2, of course. If that happens, they will likely go back to their original theory. Sometimes you're right and sometimes you're wrong, but I wish they'd make up their minds and stick to it. This wishy-washy stuff belongs in politics, not playoff predictions.

My prediction? The Pistons will suck again next year, the Tigers will make it to the post-season but not win the World Series, and the Lions? Well, it's the Lions. 'Nuff said.

As for the Bruins and the Wings right now? Not a clue.

Friday, April 18, 2014

To tank, or not to tank

It doesn't matter now, because the playoff seedings have been set. Yet not long ago in the NBA, there was considerable buzz as to whether some NBA teams were "tanking it" for various reasons. In other words, losing games they might well have won had they put forth their best effort.

A lot of this conversation centered around teams that weren't contenders in their "race for the bottom" to improve their chances regarding the draft lottery. The worse their record, the more ping-pong balls they get, and their odds go up to get a higher pick. Even if true (which is extremely hard to prove, because head coaches are definitely free to play anybody on their rosters and call strategies as they see fit), sometimes it works out -- and sometimes it backfires.

Just because someone has the odds in their favor, in a game of chance that hardly guarantees a win. And as a team loses game after game, they're also likely eroding their home fan base. Besides the Chicago Cubs and the Detroit Lions, most fans are only going to tolerate perennial losers for so long, before they turn their backs on them. The Detroit Pistons have found this out of late. Despite umpteen shameless promotions, they have struggled mightily to lure people into the seats at their Palace. Such are the not-so-good spoils of being a loser.

But what about the winners? A case could be made that some of them have tanked as well towards the end of the regular season. This gets into another hard to prove shady area as well. With berths in the playoffs already locked up, it's understandable a team might want to rest their starters more than usual so they can be fresher for the grind of the playoffs. But when losing a game or two they would likely otherwise win might cost them home court advantage in a future series -- why would they do it? Home court advantage is supposed to be a big deal -- right?

Probably so, but yours truly would submit other forces are at work as well. The top two seeded teams in both conferences know they will basically have walk-overs in the first round. #1 faces #8, and #2 faces #7. An upset is always remotely possible, but highly unlikely. And that's where the plot thickens.

High caliber teams are looking ahead to the next likely match-up in the second round. They're projecting who's going to win in other opening round series' as well. Perhaps by semi-intentionally falling to the #2 seed when they could have been #1, the second round will be against a team they better match up with, and are confident they can beat to move on to the conference finals. A calculated risk to be sure, but don't think for a minute people in NBA front offices don't discuss such things.

Consider what's at stake. Moving on to another series guarantees ownership some mega cha-chings from packed houses at astronomical playoff ticket prices. Throw in the continued TV exposure with all the money that comes with it, add in the bump in sales of team paraphernalia that will also result -- and next thing you know -- we're talking about almost as much dough as my editor rakes in every year.

Yet in the end, to be victorious, whether it be the conference finals or the NBA Finals, a team is going to have to eventually square off and prevail against the best competition anyway. Home court is nice, but true champions are road warriors when they have to be and it counts the most.

But jockeying for position and/or doing a little strategic tanking along the way might just have its advantages as well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stepping out of character

Though this is a sports blog, once in a great while yours truly gets this overwhelming need to vent on other topics. This is one of those times.

What is it with this nonsense? While watching your typical attack ad on TV during an election year, there were the magic words -- right on the screen. This content is "mostly true". Well obviously, that means at least some of it was lies. My theory on voting is simple. Whichever candidate's minions are the last to robo-call me, leave a flyer, come to my door, or attack the opposition before election day -- guarantees my vote for the other guy/gal. No doubt, I'll be switching back and forth a lot between now and November.

With Easter coming up, a lot of people will be buying hams. $1.37 a pound for semi-boneless ham? Not a bad deal. Wait a minute. Semi-boneless? What the hell is that? Is that anything like semi-pregnant? Either it has a bone in it or it doesn't. How to deal with people like this? Give them a dose of their own medicine. Load up on the ham and tell them you're writing them a check that's semi-cashable at the bank.

Turns out, that dude that's spent so much time in a flight simulator with a CNN reporter discussing every conceivable possibility about de plane, de plane, de missing plane, is a Canadian based in Toronto. And he just got fired. Not by CNN, by the guy that owns the simulator, which is also in Toronto. The boss man said his pilot employee was embarrassing all Canadians by the way he dressed on TV. After all, pilots don't wear shorts and sandals, right? They wear those fancy white uniforms with all the stripes on their shoulders and sleeves, and those spiffy caps like the Skipper on Gilligan's Island. But hang on again. This was only a simulator, as in -- not real. For that matter, who cares what REAL pilots wear anyway? If I'm sitting in that tube going 500 MPH at 35,000 feet, I want somebody that knows how to fly the damn plane, not a fashion plate. Once they lock the door to the cockpit, they might get naked for all we know. Who cares? Get me from point A to point B in one piece, and I'm a happy camper, with or without the little bag of stale peanuts.

Speaking of Toronto, isn't that the same city where that loveable Rob Ford still reigns as mayor? Maybe the owner of that flight simulator needs to have a little pep talk with him regarding embarrassing Canadians -- eh?

And if this clown is so worried about a dress code in Canada, how come he's been silent for the last 40 years when it comes to Don Cherry, whose outfits got more and more outrageous on TV every year? That's OK on Canada's flagship station, but a dude dressing casually in a flight simulator humiliates his countrymen while being a guest on an American cable channel? Something is very wrong with this picture.

Attitudes like that are almost enough to convince yours truly to wear more than a sparkly fluorescent thong when he sits down to right these posts. Almost.

Back to sports next time. The NHL playoffs are starting, with the NBA not far behind. And as the murder trial winds down I, for one, am highly interested in how the Oscar Pistorius case turns out. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Phil Ivey. Did he cheat?

Though it's definitely growing, professional poker, particularly at its highest levels, almost has a cult type following. Either one is really into it or one likely knows, or cares, very little about it.

But aficionados definitely know who Phil Ivey is. Some claim he's the best poker player in the world. Like many other high-profile players in other games (sports), whether or not he's the best of the best is certainly debatable, but few would doubt he's world-class.

So when a player of Ivey's status gets caught up in not just one, but two alleged "cheating" scandals at casinos, this is big news in the poker world. One involves a casino in England, and the other is in Atlantic City. Actually, both these events happened in 2012 and may never have to come light at all, except the latter casino recently filed suit to recover the almost $10 million Ivey took them for. The former case still pending in the UK is quite the opposite. Ivey sued them for millions he won, but they wouldn't pay, though, strangely enough, they gave him a receipt for his winnings.

Yet both instances involve the same technique, or modus operandi, if you will. It's something called "edge sorting". This is when a deck, or decks of cards are flawed in the manufacturing process. Basically, to the highly trained eye -- they're "marked", to a certain degree. One edge of certain values of cards is ever so slightly different than those of other numerical values. While it's not a slam dunk guarantee to success like x-ray vision would be, even tipping the odds a few percentage points in the favor of a world-class player like Ivey is a recipe for disaster -- for the house.

But the question is -- did he cheat, or merely take advantage of an opportunity the casino itself afforded him?

After all, Ivey didn't make those cards. The card company did. Nor did he bring them with him. The casino bought them from the card company and provided them. A dealer employed by the casino shuffled and dealt them. In that respect, it's tough to accuse Ivey of cheating anymore than it is a player with a good memory (card counter) having an advantage in blackjack.

And let's face it -- folks trying to "cheat" the system in sports to their own advantage is certainly nothing new. In baseball alone, players and coaches routinely try to steal the other team's signs. Catchers "frame" pitches for strikes they know are not, infielders pretend they tagged out a runner on a close play when they know damn good and well he beat the tag. Outfielders will hold up the ball like they caught it, when they also know full well they short-hopped it, etc, etc.

Much the same sort of shenanigans go on in football. In basketball, hockey and soccer, players routinely flop on phantom fouls trying to draw calls from the refs. They know what they're claiming is a lie, but they do it anyway, just to see it they can get away with it. And sometimes they do.

Yet somehow all this has been tacitly condoned as just part of the game over the years. Get away with whatever you can, because nothing matters more than winning, even if you had to run a scam here and there to pull it off. It's probably even coached, but that doesn't make it righteous.

Even in poker, world-class players probe their opponents for "tells". Anything from a hand gesture, to tone of voice, to an eye movement, and beyond, can yield "information" when one is being "scanned" by a top-notch professional. Besides their computer brains constantly remembering the actions of past hands and recalculating the odds of the present one as it progresses, that's what makes world-class players what they are. All of this is accepted as the norm as well. Just part of the game.

It seems only in professional golf will a player call a foul on himself when he knows he broke a rule, even if unintentionally, and willingly accept the penalty.

But back to where this started. Phil Ivey. Where should he stand in the whole scheme of where the line is between gaining a competitive advantage and cheating?

According to reports, at the Atlantic City casino, Ivey was accompanied by a female Chinese companion. They had gamed for one night and said they would only come back if the same deck of cards was used the following night. Red flag #1. Ivey wanted his per-hand betting limit doubled. Red flag #2. His lady companion requested a Chinese dealer so she could speak in Mandarin to him, which the pit boss wouldn't understand. Red flag #3. She allegedly requested the cards be shuffled in a certain way. Red flag #4.

In that respect, it can certainly be argued Ivey was cheating indeed, though it was the casino itself that presented him the opportunity to do so through their own incompetence.

So what would be a fair and equitable solution to this whole mess? Elementary, my dear Watsons.

Ivey says the Brits owe him $10 million and won't pay, even though he has a receipt. Atlantic City wants their $10 million back from Ivey. So have the Brits pay Atlantic City the same $10 million, give or take an ante or two, and call it a draw.

Plus a couple other details just to tidy things up in the future. First, find a new company to supply the cards. Second, have pit bosses that can understand whatever language is being spoken at their tables.

And lastly, if a guy like Phil Ivey wants the same deck of cards with double the betting limit the following night -- get a freaking clue that something might just be wrong with the picture......

Monday, April 14, 2014

Flight MH370, and Aldon Smith. Dumb things

While yours truly still maintains that missing Malaysian jet liner was locked onto and towed off by a Klingon tractor beam to their home planet for cheap labor -- apparently the search in the Indian Ocean continues. A persistent, if woefully misguided bunch -- those earthlings.

Now they've sent down a "submersible" to explore the ocean floor. This vessel is called the Bluefin. So why is it painted yellow? Seems dumb. Dumber yet, the humanoids already knew the max diving depth of the Bluefin was 15,000 feet, but the area they were searching in the Native American ocean was much deeper. So what's the point of deploying it in the first place? Hello? Anybody home?

Aldon Smith, of the San Fran 49ers, finds himself a few fathoms below the surface as well these days in the court of public opinion. Many have been quick to point out that a dominant player like Smith isn't easily replaced. Well, let's see.

Over his 3 year NFL career, he's averaged a little better than 2 tackles per game, and a little less than 1 sack. In a team game like the NFL, these are actually fairly good numbers for a defensive end/linebacker.

But the flip side is somewhat telling itself. In January 2012, Smith got popped for a DUI. Five months later, in June, he allegedly suffered stab wounds while trying to break up a fight during a party at his own house.

Fast forward a year to September 2013. He wrecked his vehicle all by himself, and was jammed up again on suspicion of another DUI and possession of weed.
Less than 3 weeks later, in October, he got hit with 3 felony counts of illegal possession of assault weapons, related to the party incident the year before.
Here's a good question..... If one has assault weapons, how dumb do you have to be to lose a fight to a guy with a knife?

And just a few days ago, on April 13, dear Aldon was in Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) when he got into a scuffle with those pesky airport authorities, that seem to be a little picky about safety procedures since 9/11, for some reason.

So what did Smith do? Claimed he had a bomb. Other than sticks, bricks, a box of rocks, and possibly this blog -- is there anything dumber in the whole world than saying you have a bomb in an airport?

Yep, they were right about one thing. Guys like Aldon Smith don't come along just every day.

Just a thought, but perhaps they should put Aldon in charge of finding that plane, because it appears he doesn't have a clue either. Better yet, maybe that Klingon starship will come back and beam him up as well. Nothing like spreading diversity and equal (dumb) employment opportunities around the universe.....

Boston Marathon

Yep, the endurance race in Beantown once again draws near. Roughly 36,000 runners and wheelers participated last year. That's a whole lot of folks trying to cover 26.2 miles. To put that in perspective, 36,000 is about....

1) The maximum crowd Fenway Park can accommodate.
2) The number of times the average urban American is seen on various cameras every day.
3) Chris Christie's all-time record for chili dogs consumed in one sitting.
4) How many hours CNN has droned on about that Malaysian plane, while still knowing nothing.
5) My editor's (boss) typical lunch tab when it's my turn to buy.
6) How many dumb ideas yours truly has put forth in this blog, to date.

And like that. Let's just say it's a bunch.

So now we're getting bombarded with stories recounting last year's Boston Marathon. As you recall, a pair of lunatics set off a couple bombs killing a few people and seriously injuring many others. One of the culprits was eventually killed by the cops, and the other one will never see the light of day again.

It was over. Let the healing begin. But that's not how it works -- is it?

In America, we can never seem to let go of bad things of note. Remember the Maine. Remember the Alamo. Remember Pearl Harbor. Good grief, there are those that still complain about the "holocaust", though it happened on another continent back in the 1940s, not to mention slavery -- which was abolished 150 years ago. And now Boston seems to have joined the list. Remember last year. And next year it will be remember two years ago, and then five, ten, twenty, fifty, one hundred more might well follow.

To all of which I say -- get over it. Sometimes bad stuff just happens. Since the bombs went off in Beantown last year, there's been countless thousands of shootings, stabbings, rapes, strangulations, child molestations, etc., etc. across the country. And like the Boston bombers, these things were no accident. They were done on purpose, with malice and aforethought, and all that. Many suffered and/or died at the hands of other bad people.

Sure, every life is precious, and when they are snuffed out and/or horribly altered by evil doers, it is a tragedy indeed. But just because such a thing happens during a high-profile televised event like the Boston Marathon, doesn't make the victims any more special than those mentioned above.

Boston would be a great place to be this year to watch the marathon. That is, if you don't mind hob-nobbing with a few thousand feds and every east coast cop they could pry away from doughnut shop duty watching your every move.

And yes, looking back at a tragic event that happened a year ago is understandable. Many run an "in memorium" entry on the obit page of their local newspaper, visit and/or plant flowers at a gravesite, or otherwise re-acknowledge their loss. Yours truly has certainly buried enough friends and family over the years to be quite mindful of the emotions that are involved. But there's also one very hard truth I learned over that time. While many others will sympathize when something bad happens -- it doesn't last for long. Their lives quickly go on, as well they should, because they have enough problems of their own to deal with.

Here's hoping the good folks in Boston get the message. What happened last year at their race was horrific indeed, and a one year memorial is appropriate. But after that, they need to get over it. Again, bad stuff continues to happen to people the world over, and their grief is no less important.

If the Beaners keep bringing this up year after year at race time, they will not be "Boston strong" as they have professed. Quite the contrary. Strong people handle it and move on. Only the wimpy and whiny looking for handouts continue to play the sympathy card every chance they get.....

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Masters. Jordan and Miguel

Jordan Spieth is big news at the Masters. Born in Dallas, went to a Catholic high school, a Jesuit prep school, and on to the longhorns of the Univ of Texas. Just your average boy from Big D trying to scratch out a living playing golf. Or is he?

After the third round (moving day), Spieth shares the lead at 5 under par with former winner Bubba Watson, with a few others nipping at their heels. But here's the rub..... Spieth is only 20 years old. If he goes on to win the Masters, he'd be the youngest champion ever.

Will his nerves, and game, hold up on what's sure to be the most pressure-packed day of his golfing life during the final round at Augusta? Hard to say. Through the first three rounds, he's been the model of consistency, carding scores of 71, 70, and 70. Another 70 might just get him to the promised land of the green jackets.

Despite an early eagle, Bubba fell back a few shots to tighten the field, while others were making a bit of a charge. No one more so than Spaniard Miguel Jiminez, who blistered the course for a 6 under 66. You know Miguel. He's that 50 year old dude that looks like Gene Hackman with a blond ponytail that, holy hide the kids, dares to have a smoke on the course once in a while.

Jonas Blixt is right there, but few noticed. Such is the low profile nature of the Swedes. They just quietly get it done. So is American Ricky Fowler, always distinguishable by the extra long bills on his golf caps. Same for Matt Kuchar, though the special K man with the rosy cheeks and Leave It To Beaver wholesome smile has become known as somewhat of a choker on Sundays of late.

And never count out the guy with the goofy golf swing. Jim Furyk is only a few strokes behind, though his collar has had a way of tightening up on the Sabbath in recent times as well.

Though this Masters is wide open going into the final round and anything can happen, and probably will, any 20 year old kid that escaped the clutches of those dastardly nuns to top the leader board at the Masters after three rounds has got my vote. Just do it Jordan.

But if I was a betting man, my money would be on Bubba. Been there, won that, just a couple years ago, so he knows all about the pressure of Sunday on the back nine at Augusta. Besides, the little dude can hit driver and then a short iron into par 5 greens? Unbelievable.

Regardless, it should be a very exciting finish. And if Jordan can't win it, and Bubba falters, then let it be Gene Hack--, sorry, Miguel Jiminez.

While accepting the green jacket, how I would dearly love to see him fire up a cigarette and blow smoke in the faces of the uppity schmucks at Augusta. How cool would that be? Magnificent golf course and great tournament, but this holier-than-thou stuff needs to be taken down a notch or two once in a while. Just a thought.....

Friday, April 11, 2014

Idle thoughts

Well OK. General Motors is facing scrutiny over faulty ignition switches. It appears they were a bit tardy in reporting the problem -- like 10 years worth. But new CEO Mary Barra has vowed to punish those that were responsible. So what did they do? Put a couple engineers on paid leave. Hey, when you want to send a strong message wrongdoing won't be tolerated -- nothing like giving the still unnamed scapegoats a paid vacation. Yeah, that'll teach em. Please.

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh has yet to report for the team's voluntary workouts. Maybe that's why they call them voluntary. Yet yours truly still maintains the Lions need to off this guy, because he's another incident waiting to happen. They should trade him before the draft next month for another pick or two. If no other team is interested, just cut him and let somebody else worry about the salary cap nightmare he continues to present. Yeah, I know, he's supposedly a dominant force, and was even a team captain last year. But that doesn't outweigh his liabilities. Suh was easily neutralized last year by opposing offensive lines, and only a loose cannon coach himself, the recently fired Jim Schwartz, would allow such a bad clown to be a captain. With him or without him, the Lions aren't going anywhere anyway, so why wait for his next shoe to drop, on or off the field? Better to get something in return while Suh still has some value -- or at least save some big bucks better spent elsewhere in the future.

Uh oh. Bubba, pink driver and all, is leading the Masters again. Pretty sure Mr.Watson won it just a couple years ago, so I wouldn't look for him to exactly fold on the weekend. The other notable lefty, some guy named Phil, missed the cut. A couple triple bogeys at Augusta have a way of doing that sometimes.

The Detroit Tigers, whose bullpen has long been suspect, signed free-agent Joe Nathan for big bucks in the offseason, supposedly to be their "closer" to save the day, no pun intended -- well, maybe. Well, let's see. In four appearances, spanning a grand total of 3 2/3 innings, Nathan has given up 6 hits, 5 earned runs, issued 4 walks, and recorded 2 strikeouts. His ERA? 12.27. And all this for a measly $10 million a year. What a bargain. On top of that, now Nathan supposedly has a "dead" arm. Hey, the dude's 39 years old and his best days are long behind him. What was Tigers' GM Dave Dombrowski thinking when he brought this guy in? For every great move he pulls, like getting Miguel Cabrera, he seems to pull a bone-head like this one, or it taking him a few years to finally figure out the obvious. Brandon Inge couldn't hit, and he grossly overpaid for a one dimensional player like Prince Fielder.

My gosh, what has become of the Indiana Pacers? So dominant earlier in the year, and thought to be championship contenders, they appear to be totally collapsing in recent times with the playoffs looming soon.

On a much more positive note -- the old Harley fired right up again for another year of riding. God bless whoever invented trickle chargers for the winter months.

Oscar Pistorius on trial

Certainly everyone knows that double amputee and Olympic "blade runner" Oscar Pistorius has been on trial for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. The only relevant question is whether he did it intentionally, or if the shooting was a tragic accident.

Though the incident itself took place well over a year ago on Valentine's day, with Pistorius himself finally taking the witness stand for the last few days, the trial is at its climax. Because there's no jury system in South Africa where this is taking place, it all boils down to what lady Judge Thokozile Masipa chooses to believe.

Let's face it. Only Oscar knows for sure if he fired those bullets through the bathroom door knowing Reeva was behind it -- or whether he indeed suspected it to be an intruder in violent crime-ridden South Africa.

Enter a typical rabid prosecutor, throwing various guilty scenarios at the wall hoping one of them will stick. First up, he accused Pistorius of being an egotist. He might well be, but that's hardly relevant to making one a murderer. If such were the case, most professional athletes, everybody in Hollywood, and every last politician would be serving a life sentence. So let's dismiss that nonsense.

Ah, but Oscar allegedly discharged a firearm through the sun-roof of a vehicle a few years ago. Though Oscar denied it ever happened, this juicy tidbit comes courtesy of a former girlfriend (and one of HER "friends") he dumped a while back. Hell hath no fury like -- but draw your own conclusions.

The bull-dog prosecutor, one Gerrie Nel, has seized on Oscar's emotional testimony. Because Oscar has broken down and cried while having to relive that horrible night under cross-examination, Nel maintains he's faking it for effect. Think about that, and the alternative. If Pistorius was to remain stoic, the prosecutor would no doubt accuse him of being stone cold and showing no remorse over the death of his girlfriend. In other words, Oscar's demeanor while testifying makes no difference. The prosecutor's going to paint him as guilty either way. Heads I win -- tails you lose.

Whether Pistorius had his prosthetic legs on at the time, hence the angle of the bullets going through the door, is also irrelevant. So is the fact bumbling cops contaminated the "crime" scene. None of this matters. Everyone on all sides universally accepts that Oscar fired four shots through that door, and Reeva was behind it, causing her to suffer fatal wounds.

The most important question is why, but there are a few others as well. One can believe Oscar feared for his (and Reeva's) life and justifiably shot at what he thought was in intruder in their home. Or one can believe Oscar knew it was Reeva behind that door all along.

But what possible motive would he have to intentionally kill her in such a fashion? Perhaps because they had an argument? Please. Couples occasionally arguing is certainly nothing out of the ordinary. It happens all the time. And even prosecutor Nel hasn't insinuated Oscar is stupid. Surely, Pistorius would have known discharging his weapon at whoever was behind the door in such a manner would bring incredible scrutiny from the cops.

To boot, if he wanted shed of Steenkamp for whatever reasons, intentionally killing her in his own house is probably the dumbest possible thing he could have done. Also, even the prosecutor can't seem to find other typical motives -- like the faintest hint of any "blackmail" thing Reeva could have been holding over Oscar's head. Much easier to just show her the door. It's over. Hit the road. And it's not like a guy like Pistorius wouldn't have other beautiful women standing in line wanting to hook up with him.

Such prosecutorial arguments based on "guilty" theories, without evidence to back them up, can and have swayed juries in the past into voting for a conviction. And let's face it -- these days as soon as someone is charged with a crime -- hordes of knee-jerk, lemming arm-chair prosecutors presume they're guilty -- before all the evidence, or lack thereof, has even been presented in a court of law. While prosecutors no doubt love this phenomenon -- it hardly makes it righteous in the whole scheme of how the justice system is supposed to work.

But as mentioned above, there is no jury of laypeople to be swayed in the Pistorius murder trial by Nel's accusations and unfounded theories. Judge Masipa has a sterling reputation as being respected, competent, eloquent, and reserved. She is also unlikely to be swayed by frivolous arguments from either side. In the end, the long term future of Oscar Pistorius will rest in her hands.

Was it a tragic accident, as Pistorius has claimed? Or was it an intentional act of murder, as the prosecutor is desperately trying to prove?

Beats me, but assuming he's innocent until proven guilty going in, so far I've seen nothing anywhere near close enough to be convincing at the trial to warrant Oscar being convicted of murder.

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

No Tiger? Better Masters

Here's wishing him a speedy recovery and all, and nothing against Eldrick Tont Woods, but for some reason yours truly has never been a fan of his. Why that is, I really don't know. Perhaps it's akin to different tastes in other things. Some like certain foods, cars, etc., while others don't. Same with the age-old dog versus cat debate. There's really no right or wrong about it. Just different strokes.

But nowhere is it spelled out in the Constitution, much less etched in stone, that a sports fan has to root for any particular player/team/personality just because so many others choose to do so. One is free to boo Derek Jeter or Oprah if they wish. Though likely not a popular choice -- it indeed remains a choice, like watching the weather channel when the Super Bowl is going on. Horrors!

Nonetheless, I would submit this year's Master's golf tourney is more interesting because of the absence of Tiger Woods. Sacrilege and blasphemy, you say? Not so fast.

How Tiger would have fared in the opening round is a matter of speculation. Maybe he would have shot a lights-out 64 to storm into the lead. Or maybe he would have carded a 77 and had his fans wondering if he could rally to merely make the cut. That's all hypothetical nonsense and doesn't matter, because he's not there.

What is indisputable is the difference in TV coverage. During this particular opening round, golf fans were treated to seeing the whole spectrum of the field. Some big name players like Mickelson, Scott, Ousthuizen, Westwood, and McIlroy got their air time. But so did a lot of other "no-names" as well. The cameras, and announcers, spread their time evenly trying to cover as much as possible.

This has not been the case when Woods has been playing any tournament, let alone the Masters. Besides zeroing in on his every move, to the detraction of action elsewhere, TV viewers have often been force fed highlights of Woods during past tournaments, while live action is going on at the present contest. It's like the TV folks, and the media in general, have a fetish for Tiger. They can't get enough of him. Seemingly every other camera shot is of Tiger. And oh, the countless replays if he makes a good shot.

Sure, Woods was a phenomenal golfer for about a 10 stretch. He was not only racking up one major after another, but winning a slew of other tournaments as well. Hats off to probably the most dominant decade in the history of golf.

Tiger hasn't won a major since 2008. And hey, any guy can be a serial adulterer, have his ex-wife take $100 million in a divorce, and move to a foreign nation thousands of miles away with his two little kids, where the guy is held in national contempt -- right?

But the point is -- if Tiger had been playing in this Master's, viewers wouldn't have got to see much of what they did amongst the other players. It never seemed right to me that watching Tiger eat a banana or chat with his caddy should take TV precedence over some other guy putting for an eagle or making a spectacular shot at the same time elsewhere on the course.

Since Woods came on the golf scene almost 20 years ago, it's been wall-to-wall coverage of his every move. That's great, if one is a Tiger junkie. But some of us aren't. During the time the action is going on, there's only so much the TV folks can show. If they zero in on one thing, the fans are missing out on others.

I don't want to see Jeter or Winfrey eating bananas either, much less highlights of their past performances when other really good stuff is going on live elsewhere. Boo, hiss, click.

Again, godspeed to Tiger, and may he regain his old form in the near future. But in the meantime, I'm really liking watching this Master's without him, because we get to see a lot of players and their shots that never would have seen the light of day had Woods been there hogging up the cameras.

Adam Jones. Clueless

Baltimore Oriole Adam Jones recently went on a rant about fans running on the field. Amongst other things, he said the players should have a chance to kick such fans with their metal spikes and hoped they would shatter their femurs. Well gee, that sounds a bit over the top, if not downright sadistic.  Besides, it's not like players such as Jones have to chase these rowdy fans down and subdue them. That's left up to beer-bellied cops and security guards.

Yet Jones went on to say he gets it. Idiot fans get all drunked up and want to be on Sports Center. Further, players like himself don't attend other events, much less go to other people's workplaces and disrupt things, so he thinks the punishment should be a lot harsher than whatever it is these days when somebody runs on the field. Hard telling what he might have in mind. Perhaps waterboarding? A public flogging? Or maybe he would find just an old-fashioned beat-down by him and his teammates after the poor devil was handcuffed and helpless to be appropriate. To boot, he doesn't find such things to be the least bit funny, though normally the crowd in attendance gets a huge kick out of it.

There's a lot of things seriously wrong with Jones' attitude.

First of all, Jones not only doesn't get it -- he doesn't have a clue. The dude's making $8,833,000 this year to play baseball -- guaranteed. If he played all 162 games, highly unlikely, that would translate into roughly $55,000 a pop. It doesn't matter if he goes 0-5, striking out four times, and makes a couple errors. He's still getting his $55K for that game.

Conversely, what he makes for one game is likely more than the average fan makes for an entire year. Many of these fans not only scrimp and save, but also let other little details like a rent/house payment slide for a month just so they can afford to attend a ballgame. Between ticket prices, parking, and concessions, it can cost the average family of four a few hundred bucks for a single day at the ballpark. That's because somebody has to pay for the outrageous salaries guys like Jones are making.

And what do they find when they get there? Besides $10 watered-down beers, try $6 hot dogs you wouldn't feed your neighbor's dog. A couple pops and ice creams for the kids? You'll shell out enough to finance your average birthday party. Worse yet, uppity millionaire athletes like Jones that think they're above it all. They can't spare any of their precious time just before or just after a game to sign autographs anymore for the wide-eyed kids that look up to them as heroes.

Maybe the game is just flat-out boring. No home runs, no runners zooming around the basepathes, no spectacular plays of any kind. A 0-0 yawner with each team only getting a couple hits.

Throw in a possible rain delay -- perhaps for hours. The kids are getting hungry/thirsty again and Mom wants another equally watered-down $10 mixed drink to wash down a pretzel to tide her over. Dad might as well drink a couple more beers. Nothing better to do. Cha-ching. There's goes next month's light bill. And all those trips escorting the brats to the by now quite unsanitary restrooms take their toll as well. Meanwhile, Jones and Co. have been in the clubhouse playing cards or taking a nap while the fans that can't find cover continue to get soaked. You'd think that would be a perfect time for the players, even if they sported umbrellas to cover their precious heads, to approach the box seats and shake hands, sign stuff, etc., for the kids that would flock to them. But no. They're above that. Much better to get a massage from a trainer, listen to some tunes, or maybe talk to their agent about an endorsement deal.

Given any combination of the above, it should be no great surprise when an occasional fan snaps a cog and runs on the field. Does it make any sense? Probably not, but maybe they feel like they're finally getting their money's worth in a weird sort of way. And since when has any such fan ever threatened an athlete, much less attempted to do them bodily harm? Never. They just want to run around and blow off a little steam for a couple minutes. No big deal, and the rest of the crowd always loves it.

It holds up the game, you say? Please. So does pitchers shaking off four signs when they only have two pitches, then stepping off the rubber, grabbing the rosin bag, only to start all over. Or batters stepping out of the batter's box after every pitch to re-velcrow their batting gloves and scratch themselves. Or how about all the trips to the mound a coach or manager makes when considering changing pitchers? All the infielders have to gather around too for some reason. They don't have a clue about pitching, but this confab will go on forever until the home plate ump comes out to break it up. And what's with every relief pitcher getting 8 practice throws when he comes into the game? The dude has already thrown 40-50 pitches in the bullpen to get warmed up, and the mound and plate are the same distance apart on the field. Eliminate all that game delaying nonsense first, then we'll talk about a fan or two that runs on the field for a minute or two -- which is usually between innings anyway. You know, when the first baseman is throwing practice ground balls to the other infielders, the outfielders are playing catch, and the pitcher gets another 8 practice throws. It's nuts when you think about it.   

So let those poor frustrated and future ramen noodle eating souls have their brief time to have a little fun. Lord knows, they've certainly paid for it. No harm done, and the donut shop freeloaders will corral them eventually.

But Adam Jones is right in one sense when he called such fans idiots.

Indeed they are. Anybody that would sacrifice so much, and put up with all the aggravation/rip offs at a ballpark just to be part of a crowd that pays the likes of Jones $55,000 every day can't be too bright to begin with.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

UConn. Royalty of college hoops

Like him or not, Lady Huskies' coach Geno Auriemma probably summed it up best a while back when he said, "If we play our A game, nobody can beat us". And so it came to pass in the championship game against Notre Dame. The Huskies embarrassed the previously undefeated Lady Irish, 74-53.

Being absolutely dominant in the "paint", superior ball movement and execution, and crashing the boards coupled with a shut-down defense that forced turnover after turnover led to what basically became a blow-out.

Though the talking heads wouldn't dare say such a thing during the course of the regular season  -- and even earlier in the tournament --  because they have to hype every game like it's the Super Bowl -- they finally gave up the obvious in the end. All year long there was a big gap between Notre Dame and UConn compared with everybody else. And as it turned out, there was also a big gap between ND and UConn themselves. One was clearly the cream of the crop, while the other was merely better than all the other also-rans.

Notre Dame, 37-0 going in, has to take a puddle-jumper flight from Nashville back home to South Bend while licking their wounds, after suffering a total beat-down on national TV by a vastly superior UConn team, who finished off a perfect 40-0 season in style. The plane ride home to Storrs will certainly be a lot more joyous.

And don't look now, but coach Geno Auriemma is getting into some very elite company when it comes to all-time championships. This was his 9th at UConn, surpassing Pat Summitt's 8 at UTenn.

The all-time leader in the world of sports? Phil Jackson, of NBA fame. Between the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers, the Zen Master won 11 titles. The late John Wooden of UCLA fame won 10. Scottie Bowman of the NHL won 9, as did Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics.

Thing is, for various reasons, none of the above will ever coach again. But barring the unforeseen, Auriemma could well coach at least another 10 years if he wishes. Besides being the juggernaut they've been over the last decade or so, the way the UConn program is set up -- championship caliber teams could well be in place for many years. Their roster is spread out between freshmen, sophs, jrs. and srs. For every couple seniors they graduate every year, a couple freshmen phenoms take their place and get indoctrinated into the system under the wings of the girls that have preceded them. For that matter, given their championship pedigree,would anyone seriously doubt that 5-star ultra-blue chip prep recruits are standing in line hoping to be able to play for UConn? Success breeds success and, in that regard, Geno has the luxury of reloading a couple vacant spots every year with young, but superbly talented players. And the beat goes on.

It's entirely possible Auriemma could win many more championships with his Lady Huskies in years to come. He could not only pass Phil Jackson for titles, but set the bar so high, nobody will ever get close to it again. It's sort of like Cal Ripken's consecutive game playing record will never be broken. Because even if somebody can avoid an injury for 20+ years, it's highly unlikely any athlete (or coach) will even WANT to hang out that long ever again. No need, because they make too much money. Folks like Derek Jeter, Coach K at Duke, Jim Boeheim at Syracuse, and a few others, are a dying breed.

Yet Geno Auriemma appears to be different. He clearly loves coaching his beloved girls year after year, and the players seem to love him right back. Plus, that program has become the epitome of success under his guidance. Auriemma recently turned 60. Not a spring chicken by any means, but not exactly a geezer either. If the love affair and the success continues, he could be around for another 10 years, and rack up 6,7,8, who knows how many more championships?

But for right now, given UConn's men are also national champions, I suspect they're going to have one helluva parade in Storrs in the next few days -- and good for them. They are both worthy champions.

Idle thought: What if the boy and girl hoopsters at UConn start inter-breeding? How good would those kids be at hoops in 15 years or so? Scary.

Monday, April 7, 2014

NCAA finals and Jed Clampett

Uh oh. Taylor (not so) Swift has been dancing again. How to describe it? Hmm. "Spastic" is close, but that's a politically incorrect word these days. So when in doubt, I always fall back on one of the brightest minds in the history of mankind, and what he might likely have said about it. Uncle Jed Clampett probably could have summed it up in one word -- pit-ee-ful. OK, enough of that nonsense. On to hoops.

As you know, UConn knocked off Kentucky 60-54 for the men's college championship. Congrats to coach Kevin Ollie and his Huskies on a job well done. Many considered this an upset. But was it really? Technically, as a #7 seed, UConn was supposed to narrowly prevail over #8 seed Kentucky.

Time out. Want to hear hypocrisy and/or short memories at their finest/worst? Check out the talking heads. Before UConn had even finished cutting down the net, these clowns were saying everybody knew both UConn and UK deserved much higher seedings entering the tournament. Further, it was obvious both teams were easily in the Top 10 of the country all along. Yeah? So how come none of these geniuses of the moment mentioned either team as possible contenders for the championship when the tourney started two weeks ago? Pit-ee-ful.

Nevertheless, how the game played out shouldn't have been all that surprising. Kentucky, with all their freshmen phenoms, had pretty much established themselves as a "showtime" type team over the course of the tournament. They can run, they can jump out of the building, they can crash the boards, and they certainly had the slamma-jamma thing down pat. Let them get on a roll, and it's big trouble for the other team. Plus they had a player that made a few improbable long-range bombs towards the ends of some close games that proved to be the difference.

On the other hand, UConn had other things going on. Older players with more experience, for one thing. Every time UK made a run, they had an answer. The Huskies refused to be rattled. More importantly, they had better discipline and execution. Make the slightest mistake against them, and they'll turn it into a bucket in a hurry.

Over the course of 40 minutes of game time, it could certainly be argued the superior "team" wound up getting the best of the individual superior "athletes". Plus one other stat stood out. Both teams shot about the same percentage, even including 3-point attempts. Rebounds and turnovers were close as well. The quiet difference was at the free-throw line. UConn is deadly, and they went 10-10. Kentucky had many more chances, but only went 13-24. Eleven free throws missed and they lost the game by 6 points. Perhaps the Wildcats were too busy practicing their slam-dunks and didn't put in their homework at the charity stripe. Young guys do that. Older guys know better.

So now the focus shifts to the UConn women. Their male counterparts weren't supposed to win -- but just did. The ladies have been ranked #1 in the country all year and were not only expected to get to the final game, but win it. Most years, this would be almost a given. But this year is different. They have to face the lady Irish of Notre Dame, who have gone undefeated all year as well. Other than winning yet another national title -- the lady Huskies of UConn don't have much to prove. Been there, done that -- 8 times before.

But if anybody has a chip on their shoulders -- it's Notre Dame. Even Irish coach Muffet McGraw earlier called out Huskie coach Geno Auriemma for not being able to find a way to put Notre Dame on UConn's regular season schedule. Of course, that was irrelevant back then, and certainly doesn't matter now. Because it's show time for all the marbles. Few would doubt Notre Dame has been on a mission, a jihad, a holy war if you will, to show they can finally knock off UConn when it matters.

Can they finally pull it off? We'll see, but Geno's bambinos not only have a championship pedigree, but have been blitzing their way through other teams all year long themselves. An average winning margin of a ridiculous 35 points.

Note to the UConn Lady Huskies. Nevermind Notre Dame has had you on their minds all year long and are absolutely desperate to finally beat you when it counts. Nevermind your male counterparts just improbably won the men's championship. And also nevermind you have been expected to win all along. Anything short of that will be considered a colossal failure. If you lose, the men will have a parade, but you have to tuck your collective tails between your legs and slither off somewhere?

And guess what Uncle Jed would say if you go down to those pesky leprechauns in Nashville?

No pressure.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Clash of the Titans

It's King Kong vs Godzilla again. It's the Bushes vs the Clintons on Family Feud. It's Rush Limbaugh vs Rachel Maddow in a cage match. Well, OK, maybe it's not that much fun, but UConn vs Notre Dame in the ladies' hoops finals ain't bad. It's the first time in history, be it boys or girls, two undefeated teams have squared off for the big prize.

In the red corner we have (Little Miss) Muffet McGraw and her 37-0 Fighting Irish. According to their own web site, the lady leprechauns have a very impressive resume. This is their 17th NCAA tourney in a row, they made the Sweet 16 ten out of 16 times during that period, and they're one of only seven schools to make it to the Final Four five times. In other words, six others have done it as well.

Bottom line? Blah, blah, blah. They've won exactly one championship in the 27 years the lovely Ms. McGraw has been coaching them. That was back in 2001, when a guy named W (remember him?) was first settling into the Oval Office. They've been close a lot, but only one cigar. Lots of leaners, but only one ringer. Perhaps they weren't eating enough Lucky Charms.

In the blue corner we have the Canoli Kid, who sometimes goes by the name Geno Auriemma, and his 39-0 Huskies. The lady sled-pullers have established a standard of excellence, even dynasty, that hasn't been seen since Pat Summit's Lady Vols and the late John Wooden's UCLA Bruins were perennially steamrolling the field in years of yore. Indeed, Auriemma already has 8 national titles under his belt, tied with Summit, and only trails Wooden's 10.

Bottom line? UConn likely considers Sweet 16s and Final Fours as merely a necessary step in the process to reach the top -- again. It would appear they serve the girls in Storrs a lot of Wheaties. The breakfast of champions.

Either way, just the fact two unbeatens will square off for the first time to decide the national title makes this game a must see on Tuesday night. By definition, one will run the table to complete a perfect season, hoist the trophy, and have a parade -- and the other has to go down.

Forget the wild tigers. Not even a thundering herd of rabid Anderson Coopers and Charles Barkleys storming my modest abode would keep yours truly from being tuned in -- though that's a scary thought. Then again, if those pesky Playmates happen to drop by one more time for a little fun-- well -- it IS only a basketball game -- right?

And it should be a great one. Definitely not as interesting as seeing a Rush and Rachel death match in the octagon would be -- but really good stuff.

On a personal note, hi Lynette, and thanks.