Thursday, July 31, 2014

Tigers get David Price. Smart move or not?

No doubt, Detroit Tiger fans are thrilled that former Tampa Bay Ray pitcher David Price will be joining their club via trade. After all, Price is one of the best starting pitchers in the game and, he's a southpaw -- a lefty -- which the Tigers' normal starting rotation didn't have before.

Added to their current crop of starters, which many already thought was the best staff in baseball, they just became a little more formidable. They now have 5 top-notch starters. No weak spots.

Yes, former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander is having a bit of an "average" season, but reigning Cyster Max Scherzer continues to be dominant. Youngster Rick Porcello is near the top in overall wins across both leagues, and Anabel Sanchez remains his reliable, and sometimes terrific self.

An old baseball adage states a team can never have enough pitching. Perhaps that's true, but as Isaac Newton long ago proved, for every action there has to be an equal and opposite reaction. Major league teams are limited as to their roster size, and for every take, there has to be a give.

The Tigers gave up center fielder Austin Jackson and pitcher Drew Smyly to get Price. Was this smart? Maybe. Jackson wasn't having the best of seasons, but Smyly was a sort of 'tweener when it came to their pitching staff. He could spot-start, or come out of the bullpen in a middle to late relief role. Even the Tigers and their fans have acknowledged their bullpen is their Achilles heel at times. Set-up man Joba Chamberlain is hit or miss, no pun intended, and aging close Joe Nathan is a "hold your breath" kind of guy when he comes in attempting to get the last few outs. Recently acquired reliever Joakim Soria has been lit up like the proverbial pin-ball machine since he joined the Tigers.

The point is -- the Tigers didn't need another starting pitcher, especially at the cost of Jackson and Smyly. Those guys filled valuable roles, and now they're gone.

Given the mediocre competition in the AL Central division, it's almost a given the Tigers will win it and advance to the post-season. Price is a great pitcher, but....

Here's the kicker. When the playoffs start -- a team actually has no use for a fifth quality starter -- and perhaps not even a fourth one. With the "travel" and rest days that are built into 5 and 7 game playoff series', most times only the three top starting pitchers are really necessary. In other words, if they advance that far, the Tigers will have a couple very good starting pitchers that will never see a start in the post-season.

Could somebody like a Verlander or a Sanchez be relegated to the bullpen to be used as needed in pressure-packed must-win post-season games? Sure. But then what's the point of having all the other guys in the pen that will never see duty?

Assuming the Tigers cruise into the playoffs, it will be interesting to see which among their "Fab 5" actually gets the starts, and which others find themselves in roles they're not accustomed to, if they have any roles at all.

So yeah, in the short term, the acquisition of Price is a smart move. But it cost the Tigers a fairly good every day player plus a versatile pitcher. Which would come in more handy when the playoffs start?

In that respect, this may have been a dumb move.

Good luck to rookie manager Brad Ausmus sorting all that out in October. When the playoffs start, he'll have to cut back his September "call-ups" and pare his roster back to the same 25 best guys that can help his team win as every other manager does.

With the addition of Price -- that could get interesting.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Derek Jeter vs Hall of Fame incumbents

No doubt, Derek Jeter deserves all the accolades he's getting this year as he visits various major league ball parks as a player for the last time. The man has not only had a sensational career on the field -- he's shown himself to be the epitome of a class act off the field as well. Most would think he'll be a unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown when he becomes eligible in five years. I mean, what nitwit voter would leave him off his/her ballot?

Yet that probably won't happen. Sure, Jeter will garner the necessary 75% of the votes in his first go-round at induction, but no way will it be unanimous. Why? Tradition. Because nobody's ever done it before, there will be one or two "rogues" that stand on tradition and fail to vote for the obvious. Yes, it seems silly but, after all, should Jeter be honored moreso than other "bigger" names that have preceded him? Consider the Top 5 vote getters, percentage-wise in their first year of eligibility.

5. George Brett. 98.19%
4. Ty Cobb. 98.23
3. Cal Ripken Jr. 98.53
2. Nolan Ryan 98.79
1. Tom Seaver 98.84

Given all the other greats the game has featured over the many decades, it's certainly debatable whether the above were worthy of being the top five vote-getters of all time.

Further consider that in the very first Hall of Fame induction vote back in 1936, not even the likes of Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Christie Mathewson, Walter Johnson, and Cobb were inducted unanimously. With the exception of Cobb, none of them got over 96%. How this came to be back in the day is a very good question (likely voters from other towns and sour grapes), but it indeed happened. So to expect Jeter to be a 100%-er is likely unrealistic. He'll get his plaque, but who could objectively claim he is more worthy than the likes of Ruth, Cobb, and Johnson, who over his 21 year career had 417 wins and a career ERA of 2.17? How impressive is that?

Maybe not so much as Cy Young, who the American and National league pitching awards remain named after to this day. Denton True Young (nicknamed Cyclone, shortened to Cy) chalked up an astounding 511 wins over his 22 year career, almost 100 more than any other pitcher -- ever.

Yet Cy Young himself barely squeaked into the Hall of Fame's second class in 1937, garnering 76.12% of the vote. Seems crazy. How could anybody in their right mind leave him off their ballot? But a lot of them did.

Nevertheless, here's to Derek Jeter, who has had a stellar career indeed, both as a player and a man. If my math is right (unless he pulls a Brett Favre), he'll be taking his rightful place in Cooperstown in 2020 with the other greats of the game.

But 100% on the first ballot for the first time in history? Not a chance. Who would not vote for him is another very good question -- but it will happen.

Because in baseball, even the long-time Yankee Captain isn't bigger than the tradition that has long preceded him.

And maybe that's a good thing.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Stephen A. Smith and Marshawn Lynch. Bang.

A couple sports-related guys are in hot water these days. One for what he said, and the other for what he's NOT doing.

First up, Stephen A. Smith, one in a long line of ESPN talking heads. His initials, SAS, would seem to be appropriate, because there are few SAS-ier than this little dude. He's made a living talking from on high, or perhaps from down low, all the while dishing on various people in the sports world. This guy is a hero. That guy is a bum. Stephen A. has never been short on opinions, and occasionally playing the race card. And most times he gets away with it.

But not this time. Stevie finally stepped into no-no land with his mouth. Regarding the NFL suspending Ray Rice for two games following a domestic dispute with his lady, Smith pretty much said there are times when a woman provokes physical violence through her own actions and/or mouth. In other words, they have it coming.

Oops. Though there are likely many men that would agree with Smith's view, you can't say that publicly. The honchos at ESPN were not amused. SAS was yanked from the air for a week. Bang. Interestingly, the four letter network wouldn't comment as to whether SAS was on paid, or unpaid leave. If the former, then what's the point of the "punishment"? A week's paid vacation hardly sounds like a deterrent. Like all the rest that find themselves banged for various misdeeds or statements, Smith quickly issued an apology. He'll be back in a week, and eventually this will all die down and go away.  But as SAS would say, make no mistake about it. He showed his true colors.

Idle thought: After the week time-out is over, will ESPN have Smith on some sort of double-secret probation ala the Delta Tau Chi fraternity in Animal House in case he messes up again? Unknown, but they should. And while they're at it, make him blow and drop for a year or so to prove he remains clean and sober. Whether warranted or not, it's nothing an average citizen wouldn't typically get banged with these days.

Second up is Marshawn Lynch, running back for the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Marshawn's holding out of training camp. This, despite being under contract. Back in 2012, he signed a 4-year deal worth $30 million. Obviously, two years remain on that contract, but Lynch wants his deal "restructured" -- see big raise.

To which I say -- tough. His agent negotiated the contract and, unless Lynch is a total moron, he knew damn good and well what the financial terms were. He signed it. What similar players on other teams are currently getting paid is irrelevant. A deal is a deal. So live with it. And an average of over $7 million a year ain't exactly chump change.

So far, his hold-out has cost him roughly $450,000, and every day will cost him another $30,000. Good. Bang him to the max. You don't see teams reneging on contracts, so players shouldn't be allowed to do so either. What's good for the goose......

Sure, Lynch has proven himself as a terrific running back, and if he was a free agent he'd likely get a lot more money with his next contract. But he's not. Plus, let's not forget the other side of the equation. As an NFL running back, his career could end on any given play if he suffered a horrendous injury. It happens. But the Seahawks would still be on the hook to pay off the remainder of his $30M contract. It works both ways.

But there's no excuse -- NONE -- for Lynch to be holding out of training camp. He needs to step up and be a man -- honoring his end of the deal. If not, continue banging him. The Seahawks will be fine with or without him.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Baseball. Top to bottom

Despite the endless mind-numbing array of statistics our loveable media is fond of blathering on about, major league baseball remains quite an unpredictable entity. These days they've got stats from hell that most people don't understand, and don't much care about if they do. WAR (wins above replacement) is what's going on in the middle east. And Sabermetrics sounds like something Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader would have been concerned about -- not baseball fans.

In baseball, like most other sports, the talking heads and scribes can slice/dice, and crunch the numbers any which way they want to, but only one thing matters in the end. Wins and losses. And major league baseball is a fickle game indeed when it comes to that.

Consider the San Francisco Giants. Two years ago in 2012, they swept the Detroit Tigers 4-0 in the World Series to become champions. Last year, they finished at the bottom of their division. This year, they're slugging it out with the LA Dodgers for supremacy in the NL west conference. Top, to bottom, to maybe top again. Weird.

Same with the Boston Red Sox. They're the reigning World Series champs, but currently find themselves in last place in the AL east conference, a whopping 11 games behind division leading Baltimore. And who thought the Orioles would be leading that division by a few games at the end of July? Sabermetric THAT.

Another enigma is the Detroit Tigers/Oakland As. Currently the As have the best record in baseball, some 7 games better than the Tigers. But the Motowners have owned the Moneyballers in the post-season in recent years. Which team is better is certainly debatable, but the Tigers seem to have a way of knocking off the As when the playoffs start.

Yet the Tigers are a mystery themselves. They, and their local media would have us believe they have the best starting rotation in all of baseball, and a regular murderer's row batting lineup. And they just might be right. To their credit, the Tigers' organization has shrewdly obtained some terrific players via trades and free agent signings over the years. They pitch well, they hit a ton, but.....

The Tigers can't seem to close the deal. They haven't won the World Series since Orwellian days -- 1984. Back when the 20 mule team Gipper was occupying the Oval Office in his first term dreaming of his own "Star Wars" initiative, and long before Al Gore invented the internet and Bill Clinton had that little stain on a blue dress problem. Let's just say it's been quite a while. As in 30 years and counting.

The Tigers have been close -- sort of. Besides the brooming they took from the Giants in 2012, they made it to the Fall Classic in 2006. Alas, they were drubbed 4-1 by the St. Louis Cardinals. But nobody cares about second place finishes. For that matter, even past champions are quickly forgotten, save for the occasional nostalgia. Right or wrong, it's all about NOW in sports.

Detroit teams present a mixed bag of possibilities. The Tigers certainly have a shot, but the playoffs and/or World Series is a crap shoot. Sometimes the "best" team doesn't win, despite the above-mentioned stats from hell. The Red Wings look to be a middle of the pack team in the near future. Despite the expected optimism of new president and heach coach Stan Van Gundy, the Detroit Pistons are light-years away from being title contenders.

And the Lions just started training camp, the last team to report. Yet, never fear, the annual Honolulu blue and silver Pollyanna propaganda vehicle has been started, is warming up, and will no doubt crank out some serious horsepower. Their always gullible fans will go wild with excitment -- until they realize their race car is a few laps behind in December. Good grief, it's happened most every year since "I like Ike" buttons were popular. The Lions know about the bottom. They're the only NFL team in history to go 0-16. What they don't know about is the top. They've never been there. Not even runner-up. If the Lions win the Super Bowl this year, yours truly will print out and eat a copy of this blog post. It -- ain't -- gonna -- happen. They'll be lucky to win their own division, let alone bump heads with the big boys in the postseason.

But back to baseball. Personally, I'm rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers, who somewhat surprisingly are also leading their NL central division. After all, Milwaukee is famous for two things. Making a lot of beer and the home of Harley Davidson.

Everybody has their priorities and preferences......

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Cooperstown hypocrisy

Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and Frank Thomas are in. Were they worthy? Opinions vary, but after last year when no player got inducted, the geniuses that vote on such matters probably figured they had to do something.

Maddux won 355 games. Though not over-powering, he had pin-point control. He belongs. Tom Glavine won 305, but some of us haven't forgotten the key to his success. While having pin-point control as well, Glavine would constantly throw pitches 3-4 inches outside. Over and over and over again. It's like the home plate umpires were brainwashed. If a guy can keep painting the same spot -- they must be strikes, and they would call them as such. But they weren't strikes. They were outside. Glavine knows this, but he'll never admit it. Nor will the talking heads ever raise the issue, though the videos over the years made it obvious.

Frank "the Big Hurt" Thomas likely merited induction. Over a 19 year career he had 521 home runs, 1704 RBIs, and a career batting average of .301. Nowhere near the top in any category, but taken together pretty impressive stuff. And hey -- if a guy like Al Kaline could get enshrined long ago, while only having 399 home runs, 1583 RBIs, and a .297 average over the same two decades himself -- then how could Thomas NOT get in with vastly superior numbers?

Which brings me to the hypocrisy. Guys like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, and Pete Rose should be no-brainers for the Hall of Fame. Rose is the all-time hit leader in the entire history of baseball. Ah, but he was a gambler and dared to even bet on baseball, you say. Indeed he did, on his own team to win. In hindsight -- what was so terribly wrong about that? Major League Baseball is like the Vatican, stuck in it's old ways, and always a few decades or centuries behind what's going on and has been accepted in the real world. For Charlie Hustle to be denied his rightful plaque in Cooperstown is a travesty. He will get in eventually, as the fuddy-duddy old-schoolers fade away and more objective voters take their places. But it would be nice to see it happen while he's still alive. The man earned it on the field over a stellar career. Period.

Roger Clemens chalked up 354 victories, far more than Glavine, and one shy of Maddux, over a long career himself. Barry Bonds remains the all-time home run leader. But neither came close to the induction they deserve. Why? Because they were associated with the dreaded PEDs, performance enhancing drugs. Clemens was eventually hauled before Congress to testify. Our "best and brightest" elected representatives didn't believe him. He was subsequently indicted on six felony counts, including perjury, and obstructing Congress -- as if they need obstructing. Ahem. Alas, the pesky prosecutors committed a little misconduct of their own, and a mistrial was declared. In the second go-round, Clemens was acquitted, as in not guilty, of all charges. But nobody wants to remember it that way. He remains guilty in the minds of the knee-jerkers/arm-chair prosecutors. So if he was found not guilty of PED use, why isn't he in the Hall of Fame?

Same with Barry Bonds. He went through a full-blown trial himself. The prosecution spent millions of taxpayer money trying to nail Barry on PED use. When it was all over, like the Clemens case, they came up empty. Bonds was never convicted on any PED charge whatsover. And unless things have dramatically changed in our jurisprudence system, any defendant is "presumed innocent until proven guilty". So if the juries couldn't find guilt with Clemens or Bonds, simple logic -- not to mention the law itself -- dictates they must remain innocent.

But that's not how it works -- is it? People still think they're guilty of something. They just don't know exactly what.

Maddux deserved induction. Glavine, probably, despite what he got away with over the years with all those outside pitches. Thomas? Sure. If Kaline's in with his stats, the Big Hurt belongs.

But to continue to deprive the likes of Pete Rose, Roger Clemens, and Barry Bonds their rightful place amongst the other immortals of the game, including various drunks, adulterers, racists, and even an alleged murderer (Ty Cobb) in Cooperstown is just wrong.

They earned it, so give them their plaque and marble bust. The people holding this up are the BBWAA (BaseBall Writers Assoc. of America). In order to get a Hall Of Fame vote, these writers have to be members for at least 10 years. In other words, most of them are old-school, and won't even consider any player remotely connected to PEDs, though they didn't seem to have any problem inducting an admitted "spitballer" (Gaylord Perry), and constantly write articles why some of their home team former players should be enshrined, though everybody else around the country obviously disagrees. This makes them popular amongst their home town fans, but doesn't necessarily make them objective.

Lance Armstrong copped to cheating on the Oprah show. All the other guys, including A-Rod and a few others, are guilty of suspicion only.

There's a big difference. In the meantime all the rest can mostly be summed up in one word


Fights in baseball. Stop it.

If you're a baseball fan -- and who isn't -- somewhere along the line you've seen a fight break out. Usually, this has to do with a pitcher "plunking" an opposing batter. Or throwing behind him. Or a little "chin music". Sometimes a pitcher just glaring at a batter will set him off.

We know the drill. The batter charges the mound and everybody in both dugouts, including elderly coaches, wants to "jump in". Relief pitchers that were playing cards, napping, or sexting their girlfriends in the bullpens, over a football field away, will come running as well, though they likely have no idea what started the whole mess. Unless they were awake and saw it on the Jumbotron.

And then what happens? Pretty much nothing. Major league baseball players are pitiful when it comes to fighting. I'm guessing the ladies on the LPGA or pro tennis tours could get most of these guys to "tap out" within 20 seconds or so in hand-to-hand combat. Did I mention pitiful?

So a whole bunch of milling around goes on, insults and threats are exchanged, the umpires finally restore order, and the game goes on. No TKOs, arm bars, submission holds, and nary a drop of blood is spilled. The Campfire Girls squaring off against the Cub Scouts would offer a better fight. At least the millionaires in the bullpen wake up and get a little exercise. But it's all so futile. A colossal waste of time and energy.

There's a better way. Much like the rules the NBA, NFL, and NHL have instituted, any player coming off the bench (or bullpen) to join a fray should be banged in a big way. Make it like drug tests. First offense -- 50 game suspension -- without pay. That would stop this wimpy nonsense. But what would happen if all the wannabes charged the field anyway, you ask? After all, one can't suspend the whole team.

BS. Sure you can. Everybody in the minor leagues moves up a notch. It would take a team out of contention and potentially cost them umpteen millions and potential glory? Tough. The players should have been more disciplined and professional. It would only take one example for everybody else to fall in line. And consider the money that could be put to good use. 30-40 players making millions that violate this policy would have to forfeit some serious bucks over the course of 50 games. That could provide a lot of shelters for the homeless, feed starving children and, in a perfect world, maybe even lower ticket and concession prices for a couple months. Couldn't hurt.

Yet these days, everything is hi-tech monitored designed to keep an eye on people. Cameras everywhere, phone taps, drones, tethers, even the GPS in your car and phone works the other way as well. They know where you are.

So why not put technology to use in baseball? Most of those guys like to wear some "bling" around their necks anyway. Implant a chip in all that gold that acts like a dog collar when a canine approaches an "invisible", underground fence. If they're getting close to someplace they shouldn't be -- zap them. They'll learn. If guys attempt to come out of the dugouts or bullpens to wimp it up, a properly programmed computer could quickly immobilize them before the situation escalates. Plus, in the long run, even the players would likely be happy. It saved them a 50 game suspension and a pile of dough.

While we're at it -- let's go a step further. With the same collars, get rid of the "warning tracks" and put an underground fence all around the outer perimeter of the playing field. When players get close, they'd feel a little buzz. This would have the additional advantage of stopping them from leaning into the seats trying to catch a fly ball. Doing so would be very painful as they got seriously zapped. And good grief, why not let that poor fan that shelled out a few hundred bucks to be at the game catch the ball rather than robbing it from them at the last second, along with trashing their $10 cup of beer and $8 moldy hot dog? Seems fair enough.

Same with the managers and umpires. Put collars on them. When they get into one of their childish "rhubarbs" throwing hissy fits -- and it's hard to tell which is the more immature -- spazz them both back into adulthood. They'll learn too.

This is a game for grown-ups. You don't see any 12 year olds on the field, nor any gang colors -- though there is an abundance of tattoos and "look at me, I'm the greatest" moments. That schtick worked for Mohammed Ali and Jackie Gleason back in the day, and maybe they deserved it. But nowadays, baseball players should start acting like the highly paid professional athletes they are, rather than a busload of kids turned loose on an Easter egg hunt when something happens on the field they had nothing to do with.

Baseball players and fights are like Sumo wrestlers and 6-pack abs. Some things just aren't meant to go together. Stop it.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Weird teams, cities, and names

The San Fran 49ers are scheduled to start play in their new stadium this year. Candlestick is out. Levi's stadium is in. Evidently, they wear a lot of blue jeans in San Jose. Wait a second.... San Jose? Why is a San Francisco team playing its home games in San Jose -- some 45 miles away?

And that's the thing. If a team moves out of the metropolis it was named after -- they should change their name accordingly. Why not the San Jose 49ers?

But we've seen it elsewhere for quite some time. The Dallas Cowboys don't actually play in Dallas. Their home has long been Arlington. Yet perhaps the "Big D" sounds better to Cowboys fans than the "little A", but enough about the owner of the team. Ahem.

The New York Giants and New York Jets both play in New Jersey, in a place called the Meadowlands. This is wrong every which way. If a team is playing in a different state, than they should be required to change their names accordingly. And there's no meadows around that stadium. Just a bunch of seedy neighborhoods.

At least the New Jersey Nets had the common sense and decency to change their name to Brooklyn when they moved into the borough.

The New England Patriots play in a place called Foxborough. So when they moved out of Boston a while back, how did they come up with the name "New England"? Why not the Foxborough Patriots? Besides, there's nothing "new" about York and Jersey. They're amongst the oldest European settlements in America. And New England? Didn't our forefathers fight a war to rid ourselves of English dominance back in the 1700s? The very term New England has never made sense. Why not call the entire region New America?

The Detroit Lions finally returned to Detroit, but they spent over a quarter century in a suburb 25 miles away called Pontiac. They should have been the Pontiac Lions. The Detroit Pistons remain in Auburn Hills, even further away from Motown city limits. Change the name of the community where the venue is located, or change the name of the team that plays there. But either way, they should match up. Towns have changed their names before for various reasons, and certainly teams have.

The Washington Bullets became the Wizards. Between New Orleans, Charlotte, and a hurricane called Katrina, there were Hornets, Bobcats, and now Pelicans. They can't seem to make up their minds.

A long time ago, the Minneapolis Lakers moved to Los Angeles. "Lakers" was a great name for a team from Minnesota. They rightfully boast over 10,000 of them in their pristine state. Conversely. there's no lakes in Los Angeles. Going through LA, 10,000 is roughly the number of cars you will see bumper to bumper in front of you on the interstate, at any given time. Maybe they should have renamed that team the Jams, or the Gridlocks.

The Tampa Bay Devil Rays had to drop the "devil" from their name, but the Blue Devils of Duke and Demon Deacons of Wake Forest remain. Hypocrisy, anyone? And just where exactly do you think the name Tar Heels got its origins? Pretty sure it didn't have anything to do with resurfacing roads.

Contrary to what they would have us believe, there's no "tides" in Birmingham, Alabama. It's quite far inland. Maybe an occasional tornado, frat party, or football rally, but no lunar generated ocean movements back and forth every day.

Things were must simpler back in the old days. The Yankees were the Yankees. Everybody in the Bronx loved them, and everybody else hated them.

Come to think of it -- it's still that way. Sometimes continuity is a good thing.....

Friday, July 25, 2014

Buffalo Bills vs Detroit Lions

It was interesting to note the Buffalo Bills were the first NFL team to report to training camp. Sure, all the other teams would officially come together in the next few days -- but Buffalo was the first domino to fall.

And that was a pretty smart move. Being the only NFL team in training camp meant all the cameras, microphones, and talking sports heads would be covering the Bills -- at least for one day. The 4-letter network was all over it. Publicity in a positive way, especially the free type, is always a good thing for ANY team.

Whether reporting a day or three earlier than most other teams will make a difference in how the Bills fare this season is open to debate. Some would say -- It's still only July, and what's the big deal about one team showing up for camp a little sooner than the others? Point noted.

Yet others, including studious players, and especially head coaches and their staffs, constantly tell us the more practice a team has together, the better it will be. Reps, reps, and more reps is their Holy Grail. Even a day or two might make a difference in how their team performs.

So which is it? Likely neither. Yes, every NFL team needs a serious amount of practice time together, coaching, conditioning, film study, etc, etc, to be competitive. But does a day or two really matter before the pre-season yawner games even start? They have a whole month of those to sort things out, while paring down their rosters to the best of the available. Will Buffalo win the Super Bowl this year because they were the first team to report? Of course not. They don't have a prayer.

On the other hand, the Detroit Lions were the last team to gather together, a full week after the Bills. This, despite a new head coach and his coordinators installing an entirely new system both on offense and defense. One would think the Lions would have been amongst the first to get together and start ironing out the new wrinkles -- not the last. Will a missed week matter to the Honolulu blue and silver? Likely not. After all, they've been AWOL for over half a century. One -- count it -- ONE playoff victory since Super Bowls even started back when LBJ was President and the Viet Nam war was raging? Before we put a man on the moon in '69 -- before Watergate -- before home PCs, much less the internet, and cell phones? Before the likes of Derek Jeter, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and the Kardashians were even born, and OMG, even before anybody had ever heard of a Clinton or a Bush? And way before dopey blogs like this one were possible. Let's just say it's been quite a while.

But in the meantime, hats off to the Bills for getting a bit of a head start. No, they won't be going to the Super Bowl, but they've been there 4 times before in their history. Alas, ala the Minnesota Vikings, they lost all four. But at least they were there.

Conversely, the Lions are one of only 4 teams that has NEVER been to the Super Bowl. And the other 3 are expansion teams -- namely the new Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Houston Texans.

It would seem logical, given the wholesale changes mentioned above, that the Lions would want every day and minute of practice they could get. Reps, reps, reps. Instead, they were the last NFL team to report to training camp. Not as many reps.

But after all, it's the Lions. Just another year......

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Why the Detroit Lions should trade Ndahmukong Suh

Ndahmukong Suh, defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions, has been in and out of the news lately. As time goes on, and the next season approaches, we'll likely hear a lot more about the "stomper".

With only one year left on his contract, the Lions want to sign him to a long term extension. Their local media and ever-koolaided fans want it as well. Pay Suh big bucks, they say. He's worth it.

Actually, no he's not, and never has been. His downsides far outweigh his upside.

Giving Suh a mega-contract would put the Lions in a salary cap bind in years to come. Sure, their bean counters can do the front-office financial two-step with such things as bonuses and deferments, but in the long run, there's only so much dough to go around, and the Lions need serious help at multiple positions.

And let's face it. Besides Detroit being Detroit, their franchise isn't exactly considered a preferred destination amongst most talented players that serious want to compete for a Super Bowl championship. One need only look at their long sordid history. From clueless ownership, to incompetent upper management, to a long string of wacky head coaches, to botched drafts, and even down to their sometimes mind-numbing boneheaded play on the field -- the Lions have developed a reputation over the decades. And it ain't good.

To boot, Suh is hardly a game changer, even when on the field. His modus operandi seems to be -- seek out and destroy -- whatever it takes. Wring neck, stomp, commit other personal foul, thump chest like crazed gorilla, then be meek and mild mannered to the press when being interviewed.

At that, during the course of most games, Suh typically makes only one or two plays that are even above average of any other defensive tackle in the league.

If the Lions were smart, and don't hold your breath (see history above), they'd trade him while he still has some value. They could get a decent player and/or future draft picks in return, and likely have some money left over to help out in other places as well. Let somebody else worry about the next not-so-good Suh incident that will likely come about while juggling their OWN salary cap to accommodate him, his merry-go-round of agents, and other antics. Like leopards never change their spots, loose cannons never seem to get bolted down either. With Suh, it just is what it is. But he's just another in a long line of example why the Lions have remained the Lions for so long.

And let's get real. Only the hard cores that are mainlining the Honolulu blue and silver opiates can possibly believe the Lions are remotely near Super Bowl caliber. Good grief, they'll be lucky to win their own division (see Green Bay) let alone compete with the likes of Seattle and San Fran once the playoffs start -- if they even qualify.

Bottom line is the Lions need serious upgrades at a lot of different positions before they'll ever be able to compete with the big boys in the playoffs. Ironically, the defensive line appears to be one of their strengths. They have depth there.

Now is the time to trade Suh. The Lions aren't going to sniff the Super Bowl this year -- so why not unload a headache, financially and otherwise, to build for the future? While they can still get something worthwhile (see badly needed high draft choices) back in return? Suh's not going to take them to the Super Bowl this year, and if nothing happens -- he'll be an unrestricted free agent after this season. He'll walk, to whatever greener and dumber pastures will have him, and the Lions will get nothing in return.

Forget the long-term extension with this guy. He's more trouble than he's worth.

Trade him -- NOW.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Doc Rivers and a poker game

After all the well-documented hoopla swirling around the Sterlings and who's going to wind up owning the LA Clippers, head coach Glenn "Doc" Rivers has made his presence known at the poker table. Not only that -- he just went "all in" with a recent remark.

The good "doctor" said he would resign his position if the Sterlings wound up retaining ownership of the Clips. As we all know, the court battle rages on, with both sides trying to out-ludicrous the other. This is what happens when lawyers get involved and there's a couple billion dollars at stake. In the meantime, NBA Commish Adam Silver and his minions, along with the always politically correct mainstream media, continue to fan the flames of discontent. Sterling must go, they say, though to date, yours truly still fails to comprehend what he supposedly did wrong in the first place.

Last time I looked, espousing an opinion was not only protected by First Amendment freedom of speech rights, but who among us can truthfully say they have never participated in a private conversation that was meant to be just that -- private? We all say things, even tell and laugh at jokes that debase others, whether it's gender, race, religious, national origin, physical attributes or lack thereof, political, or otherwise. This has been around forever, and likely always will be. The language police have their limitations.

Sterling never intended his original remarks to be made public. That only happened because his "arm candy" at the time, one V. Stiviano, illegally recorded him and turned the tape over to the media. Ironically, Sterling is on the hot seat, but Ms. Stiviano has disappeared from the radar, though she's the one that apparently committed a crime in the first place. But logic is often skewed in today's politically correct world.

Nonetheless, Doc Rivers has pushed his pile of chips into the middle of the table. No dummy, he's gambling that the Sterlings -- one way or the other -- won't own the team when the 2014 season starts in a few months. He might be right.

Then again, it might be a colossal bluff as well. Other than New England Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick, who earns a $7.5 million yearly salary, Doc Rivers ranks second of ALL head coaches/managers in pro sports at $7 million. Belichick has won multiple Super Bowls. Rivers has won nothing since he's been with the Clips. Sure, there are many that vouch for Doc. He's a father figure to the Clips players, they respect him, and he knows how to maximize their potential. Like Sara Lee, nobody doesn't like Doc.

But what happens if the Sterlings still own the team when the 2014 NBA season starts? After all, given the legal system and the appellate process, it's entirely possible this could drag on at least that long, if not much longer. Adam Silver can thunder from on high all he wants about the NBA possibly confiscating the LA Clippers and putting them up for auction -- and the media can buy into it as well to further peddle their propaganda to a gullible public. But Adam doesn't get to make that call -- nor does the mainstream media. It's up to a judge. And regardless of that ruling, it will certainly be appealed. This could take a while, perhaps even years, before it's all over.

In a way, yours truly hopes it plays out that way, just to see what Doc Rivers would do. Would he walk away from $7 million a year as the highest paid NBA coach because Donald Sterling, his owner that has been signing those paychecks all along, made some private comments that offended him?

Or is he bluffing? Doc could probably find another head coaching job, but he'd take a paycut. Nobody else is going to pay him Belichick money because he hasn't earned it. And once the season starts, every team already has a head coach and their staff in place. It's highly unlikely any other owner/front office would kick them to the curb just because Doc became available. Very bad timing, to say the least.

Thing is, given his public statement -- if the Sterling matter remains unresolved -- then Rivers has two choices. Be a man of his word and walk away from mega-money and the team he has shaped into a contender, or stay on collecting the Sterling paychecks and try to spin the story into something the media and public will buy into.

Glenn Rivers has gone all in at the table. The only way this becomes fun to viewers is if somebody calls him, and we get to see the rest of the cards.

If the status quo remains for a few more months and the next season gets underway, one character much more famous than the Sterlings, Silver, Rivers, and all the other NBA players that have been chiming in, may have to come forward and pose the only question that really counts.

As Elmer Fudd would say -- that wascally wabbit. And, of course, Bugs Bunny would ask what he's always asked. This time of Rivers.

What's up Doc?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lebron and Jason

Sometimes only a first name is necessary, and everybody knows who you're talking about. Lebron qualifies, as does Barack, Oprah, Khloe, and the late Osama. Nevermind that nobody's ever heard of anybody else with these first names -- no surname need be added. We get it.

On the other hand, the name Jason doesn't exactly bring a singular individual to mind. There's been a lot of Jasons. There was the Greek mythological hero that led the Argonauts in their quest for the golden fleece. Also the dude in the horror movies. Jason Robards once did a great acting job as Al Capone, Jason Kidd could play some serious hoops, and I think there's even a modern day actor named Jason Preacherly, Pastorly, or something like that.

But in this case, we're referring to Jason Whitlock. He's a sports reporter/talking head. This Jason's been around. He worked for the Kansas City Star for several years, even winning an award for his journalism. It was said Whitlock had the "ability to seamlessly integrate sports commentary with social commentary and to challenge widely held assumptions along the racial divide".

In other words, as a black man, he played the race card. Things didn't work out between him and the paper, so they parted company. Then he went into TV. While at ESPN, he disparaged a couple of his colleagues and, oops, they don't care for that much in Bristol. He was fired.

On to another TV gig at Fox. In 2012, after then NY Knick guard Jeremy Lin put up 38 points against the LA Lakers, Whitlock tweeted that some lucky lady in NYC would feel a couple of inches of pain tonight -- evidently a stereotypical reference to Asian men having small "equipment" in their netheregions. Even Fox -- FOX! -- objected to one minority slighting another in this fashion. Whitlock doesn't work there anymore either.

Now it appears that Jason's bouncing around for whatever gigs he can get, and pops up on the second-tier sports channels once in a while to offer a commentary.

And just hours ago, in the opinion of yours truly, he said something stupid again. When asked about the impact Lebron's return to Cleveland would have -- Whitlock seemed to have elevated James to god-like status. Not only would he help the Cavaliers, duh, but he could also show Johnny Manzeil, recent first round draftee of the Browns, how to be successful.

First of all, Lebron knows about as much about being a star collegiate and potential NFL starting quarterback as Johnny Football knows about achieving triple-doubles in NBA games. Easy to watch and appreciate for both, but neither could do what the other does. Yet Whitlock seems to think James can step in, wave his magic wand, and turn Johnny into a "man".

Second, football is bigger than basketball, just about everywhere -- including Cleveland. While it would be a great story if Lebron were able to lead the Cavaliers to their first NBA title -- it would dwarf in comparison to Johnny leading the Browns to a Super Bowl victory somewhere down the road. Who's kidding who?

And what's next on Whitlock's King James' hero to-do list? Will he show the Cleveland Indians how to win the World Series for the first time since 1948? Single-handedly get rid of all those pesky zebra mussels in Lake Erie? Turn Cleveland -- CLEVELAND! -- into a mecca that A-listers the world over will be drawn to for fun and excitement? Not likely.

Lebron James is a basketball player. A very good one -- perhaps the best of all time -- but let's not get carried away here. Let's look at reality.

Sure, he's been given a hero's welcome back to Cleveland. The same fans that burned his jersey when he ditched them 4 years ago have done an about face in a big way. Fans of the Heat in Miami likely feel a bit differently, to say the least.

Around the country, this has become a feel good story. The prodigal son returned to his roots. But did he sacrifice fame and fortune? Hardly. He's more famous now than he was as an NBA champion -- and he'll make a whopping $20 million a year to play the game he "loves". If he loved the game and his home town so much, he'd play for a fraction of that, freeing up serious salary cap money for the Cavs to sign a couple other top-flight players in their quest for a title. Without that help, it will be like his first go-round with the Cavs. They'll be a lot better, but not win a championship. And it's not like Lebron needs the dough. The dude's making over $40 million a year in endorsements alone.

And here's the kicker. Most other NBA players and teams have said they're happy for Lebron. He looked within himself and made the right decison. Of course they're happy. Minus James, the Miami Heat just got deleted from the championship equation and the NBA eastern conference is a lot more wide open than it was a year ago.

A smiling Chris Paul of the LA Clippers recently stepped in front of the cameras and said he thought Lebron did the right thing as well. That's great, in between making his own dopey commercials (cha-ching) with his twin brother. But had James signed on with, say, the Lakers, Warriors, or Blazers, much less the Okla City Thunder out in the west, methinks Paul wouldn't be the least bit amused.

And while all the super-hype of the free agent market has been going on -- guess who you haven't heard one peep out of? The San Antonio Spurs, BTW the current NBA champs. And they just quitely signed likely the best head coach of all time Gregg Popovich to a contract extension. They don't talk -- they just do -- from within. That's class.

Lebron is well on his way to displaying such an attribute. Time will tell when the going gets tough, as it likely will in Cleveland.

As for Jason? With apologies to the great Robert Frost, Whitlock's woods might be lovely, dark, and deep, be he has miles to go before a lot of us can sleep after he's had another go-round with a microphone and/or TV camera.

Sometimes the things he says are just dumb......

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Place your bets, please

You can win a pile of money too. All it takes is a small wager, faith, and patience. That, and having a son grow up to win a few golfing majors.

Once upon a time Rory McIlroy's dad and some friends pooled their quid, or was that pounds sterling?  Guineas? Euros? Anyway, they scraped together a few hundred bucks and placed a gentlemen's wager with Ladbrokes, the British based bookmaker, that young Rory would win 3 majors, including the British Open, before he was 26 years old.

About 10 years ago, when the bet was made (and Rory was only 15), this seemed preposterous. After all, only two men in history had accomplished that feat. Jack Nicklaus at the age of 23, and Tiger Woods at the age of 24. So Ladbroke's not only gladly took the bet, they gave long odds. 500:1.

Oops, by just winning the British Open at the age of 25, Rory McIlory pulled it off. To their credit, Ladbroke's has publicly stated they will honor the wager and be paying the elder McIlroy and friends roughly $180,000.

That's a whole bunch of shillings, bob, and/or farthings with perhaps a thruppence or 3 left over. Maybe even equivalent to a crown or two, but I doubt Queen Lizzie the Deuce will be donating hers to Rory just because he won the Claret Jug on her turf.

At any rate, let's just say $180K will likely tide the elder Irish lads over for a while with their pints at the local pubs. Or was that quarts? Litres? And, by the way, do the Irish dye their beer green on St. Patricks's day, or is that only a dopey American tradition?

Nevertheless, since the younger McIlroy has come to his senses and dumped that lady tennis player he was busy following around the world with goo goo eyes -- to the detriment of his own game --  he seems to have rediscovered his own phenomenal golfing skills. After three rounds at The Open, he enjoyed a comfortable 6 shot lead. Either Rory would have to crash on Sunday, or somebody else would have to go "really low" to catch him.

But yet it got interesting for a while. Sergio Garcia carded a 66 to put a little heat on him. But Senor Garcia started off 7 shots back. American Rickie Fowler would post a 67, but he faced a 6 shot deficit going in. They would tie for second place. Under the radar, Jim Furyk shot a superb 65 to claim 4th. As did Marc Leishman with his own 65, and Adam Scott with a 66 to finish tied for 5th. Several world-class golfers were making birdies galore, with an occasional eagle -- but it wasn't enough for any of them to catch McIlroy. He would shoot a modest one under 71 to win by two strokes. But it's a four day tournament, and when one has kicked the field's behind -- or is that bum -- for the first three days to build up a huge lead, one need only avert a total meltdown to cruise to the title on Sunday. And despite the heroics and phenomenal play by the above-mentioned golfers -- that's pretty much what happened.

On a related note, Tiger Woods would card a 75 to finish a whopping 23 shots back. Fourth from last. Curiously, even Eldrick would better reigning US Open champion Martin Kaymer by 2 strokes. Little more than a month ago, Kaymer won the Yank Open by an equally whopping 8 shots over the field. In Liverpool, the German came unraveled like the Griswold family in the movie European Vacation. A final round 79 to finish third from last? Oh my, how quick the mighty can fall at times.

Idle thought: After once being an odds-on favorite to accomplish such a feat -- I wonder what sort of odds Ladbrokes are giving right now regarding Tiger Woods ever catching and/or surpassing Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18 major victories? 2:1? 10:1? 100:1? A McIlroyish 500:1?

Beats me, but gather up whatever farthings you can spare and make your wager with Ladbrokes while the odds remain a lot longer than they used to be. At least we know they pay off when a long shot comes in.

Are you willing to risk a house payment on such a gamble, with the chance of reaping a fortune in the future?

So with apologies to Dirty Harry -- one of my heroes -- do you feel lucky punk?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Quick hits. Who knew?

Wow. The WNBA has started their playoffs? Who knew they had even started a regular season, let alone completed it? Did you hear anything about it? Not me. No TV, nothing in the papers or on the Net in the last few months. How are we supposed to know these things? And that's the sad thing with the WNBA. Those girls make quite a name for themselves while in college, but once they graduate to the pros, it's as if they disappear. And the pay isn't all that great either. More in line with your average teacher, firefighter, beat cop, or plumber than with their NBA counterparts.

Pro soccer is back again already in the USA? Who knew? I thought they only played that every 4 years at the World Cup. These guys get about the same amount of exposure as the WNBA. But they make a whole lot more money.

And talk about goals getting players geeked up. I just saw a guy that plays for the X-Boxes, city unknown, that ran around the field sucking his thumb after scoring a goal. Well OK. Maybe that's understandable. Folks can get a bit carried away with such electronic amusement. I once knew a guy that would wet his pants every time he won a game of Pong. Finally, he grew up a little bit. If he you beat you at Pac-Man, he was able to control his bladder, but sadly had this thing about armpit farts to celebrate. Don't know what ever became of him. Maybe he's playing in an over 50 soccer league somewhere.

After his much ballyhooed return to his first major following surgery, Tiger Woods went from 3 shots back after the first round, to 14 shots back after the second, and is now 19 -- count em -- 19 behind going into the final round. Who knew he was going to stink it up this bad? Then again the leader, Rory McIlroy, continues to play lights out golf. His putting has been incredible. Yet entering the round, Tiger still thought he had a chance to win. Let's put it this way. If Tiger were to go out and shoot a course record 63, and Rory horribly stumbled all the way to an 80, Eldrick would still come up two shots short of catching him. Forget that. Ain't gonna happen. For that matter, if they both hold true to form in the final round, how far out of the lead might Tiger wind up? 25 strokes? 30? It's getting to the point of being embarrassing. Who knew it would ever come to this? Yikes.

What's that? The Israelis don't like the Arabs and vice versa? The Republicans and Democrats loathe each other?  Fox despises MSNBC and the same back at them? This is out of control. Next thing ya know, Red Sox and Yankee fans won't get along. Who knew?

Lebron James' new number

No doubt, the good folks in Cleveland are jubilant over their hometown (sort of -- he's from Akron -- close enough) hero returning to play for their basketball team. So pardon the pun, but in a quite cavalier way himself, King James is trying to stir up even more interest amongst the northeast Ohioan hoop fans before he even sets foot on their hardcourt.

He wants them to choose what number he will wear on his uniform. A couple theories have already been put forth. James wore #23 during his former tenure with the Cavs, and #6 while with the Miami Heat. So 23 + 6 = 29. Or 23 - 6 = 17. Tweet and Instagram away to Lebron and the majority will supposedly rule. Nothing like a little more publicity along the way -- as if he needs it.

We can likely rule out both #6 and # 23. Cavs fans wouldn't want him wearing the same #6 he did while in South Beach. And Lebron himself has suggested the NBA retire #23 in honor of Michael Jordan. This is ridiculous of course, as was Major League Baseball mandating the league-wide retirement of Jackie Robinson's #42. Why should all the teams that competed against the likes of Jordan and Robinson be forced to honor their numbers forevermore? They wanted to beat them and their teams while they were playing. Making them icons in their own home towns was the furthest thing from their minds. But this is what happens when bureaucrats more concerned about being politically correct than seeing the obvious get to make the rules.

So what should Lebron Ramone James' new number be? How about a dose of reality? Even Nate Robinson of the Denver Nuggets has suggested that NBA players be allowed to wear numbers in the triple digits. Nate has said he'd gladly wear #206 to represent the area code of his home town of Seattle.

So why stop at three digits? Let there be as many as necessary to properly represent a player. Lebron James is set to make a $20,644,400 salary next year. Add the 7 years he previously spent with Cleveland, subtract the 4 he spent with the Heat and, just for good measure, throw in the two NBA titles he won.

By my math, the logical number on his new Cleveland jersey should be 20,644,405. Then 82 times a year, plus the playoffs, everybody would know EXACTLY what he represents. There's a reason, actually millions of them, for those $10 watered-down beers and $8 nasty hot dogs.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Rory goes low -- again

Poor Dustin Johnson. The dude just went out and fired a blistering 65, one off the course record, and still finds himself trailing Rory McIlroy by 4 shots after two rounds of the British Open. At that, Johnson missed a few makeable birdie putts along the way, else the Yank might be neck and neck with the Irish lad.

In his much anticipated first major appearance after recovering from back surgery, Tiger Woods didn't fare so well after an opening round 69. He ballooned all the way up to a 77 on day 2, and finds himself a whopping 14 shots behind. Normally, being 14 shots behind the leader won't allow a player to survive the cut. It's usually around 10.

But McIlroy has posted back-to-back 66s to distance himself from the field. So much for the theory that McIlroy plays well on Thursday, but folds on Friday. Indeed, everything seems to be going his way. Even after a rare errant shot, RM would brilliantly recover with the next, and his putting stroke appears to be deadly. Anything inside of 10-12 feet he repeatedly knocked into the cup.

Meanwhile, Tiger was thrashing around in the wilderness. The statistic that stood out was Woods was 6 over par on holes where he opted to use his driver off the tee. Perhaps the Woods man should put that particular #1 wood back in his bag -- and leave it there. Yes, he can hit the ball a long ways with that club, but apparently has no idea which direction it's going to go. Out of bounds here, a double or triple bogey there, and repeatedly having to chop his way through the high grass is not conducive to scoring well. By making a birdie on the 18th hole, a fairly easy par 5, Tiger qualified to play on the weekend -- barely. So he'll get a paycheck, but his chances of winning while currently 14 shots behind are slim to none. It will be interesting to see if he mounts a mini-charge in the last two rounds or falls even further back.

In a sense, the same could be said for McIlroy. Can he keep up his hot play? Or will he crash and burn on the weekend? After all, there are many outstanding players within 6-8 shots of him with 36 holes still to play. A lot can happen, either way, in 36 holes.

And can that be right? McIlroy hit a drive 394 yards on the 17th hole, smack dab down the middle of the fairway? Wow. Downwind or not, that's an incredible blast off the tee.

We'll see. Dustin Johnson lurks, as does Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, and a few others. All quite capable of shooting low scores on the weekend as well. If Rory falters, much less pulls a Tiger and throws up a 77 on Saturday, the tournament could be wide open and any number of players could win.

But if he keeps putting up 66s, fuhgetaboutit. Nobody's going to catch him.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

E.T. is back

Yep, the loveable alien, that really needs to phone home a little more often, has graced our planet with his presence once again. But this time around, it's an ever bigger event. The media is going ga-ga. This is HUGE. More spectacular than anything Steven Spielberg could come up with in his wildest dreams. Billions of people the world over are glued to their TVs waiting to see what happens next. The masses are once again absolutely enchanted, enthralled, and mesmerized by this cute little rascal.

Yessirree, Eldrick Tont (sometimes referred to as Tiger Woods) is alive, well, and playing golf in the British Open. Though his birth certificate may state otherwise, it's become apparent over the years that Woods is an extra-terrestrial as well. How do I know this? Because no earthling, be it the Pope, President, or even Anderson Cooper, can spellbind the walking, talking, and sometimes thinking carbon units on this planet like the E.T. that swings golf clubs.

Pshaw, that's ridiculous, and I'm an idiot, you say? Perhaps the latter has some merit -- opinions vary-- but consider what just happened. Woods hasn't won a major in 6 long years. Coming off yet another surgery, he badly missed the cut in his first outing back on tour a few weeks back. This E.T. has long since tumbled from his #1 world ranking. Yet just the fact he showed up to play in this year's Open has somehow sent the media into another state of rapture and adulation.

How else to explain the 4-letter network devoting a channel to nothing but following Tiger's every move in Liverpool? Evidently, the otherwise good people in Bristol, Conn., who have offered such fine objective sports programming for so many years, have fallen under the spell and succumbed as well. An entire TV channel devoted to one guy, who hasn't won anything notable in 6 years? Oh my, somebody call an exorcist. They're obviously possessed.

Yet there are a couple of sub-demons that could be at work as well. The dashing young Irish laddie, one Rory McIlroy, leads the tournament after the first round of action. E.T. is 3 shots back. Rory is #1 for his play on Thursdays, but bombs out at #181 for his play on Fridays. Then again, in recent years, Woods has been know for getting off to fast starts, but choking on the weekends in majors.

And there's a whole slew of other young studs, (and a few veterans) out there with some serious game that could be front and center on the back nine on Sunday. We shall see.

For now, it's good that E.T. is back. It definitely contributes to the entertainment value of the show.

But how about we dial back the hero worship just a tad until this guy -- you know -- actually wins something again? Is that asking too much?

The one and only John Daly

Love him or hide the kids -- he's back. The one and only John Daly has made his presence known at this year's British Open as only he would dare do. And personally, I think it's great stuff.

Daly showed up to play a practice round wearing SpongeBob Square Pants. And puffing on cigs, of course. The ramblin-gamblin man that has seen so many highs and lows over the last couple decades is about to tee it up at the oldest golf tournament on earth one more time.

Some would likely wonder -- how in the hell did Daly qualify to play in the Open? After all, he hasn't been remotely competitive in pro golf for quite some time. The dude's missed more cuts than your average big city autopsy "surgeon" on an extended vacation.

But there's a catch. JD has a life-long pass to participate in the Open. That's because he won it back in 1995 at St. Andrews, which is arguably the oldest golf course on the planet, dating all the way back to the 1400s, or approximately the same time when the fore-fathers of Republicans and Democrats initially began to argue like third graders. Or Larry King interviewed his first guest.

Nevertheless, St. Andrews might be considered as being just a tad stodgier and old fashioned than the good folks that run Augusta National -- home of the Masters. Let's just say neither of these fine historic venues have in the past, or likely will soon, be throwing wild parties celebrating a golfer that shows up in SpongeBob pants.

But this tournament isn't at St. Andrews. It's in Liverpool. Home of the Beatles. Back in the day, though adored by the younger crowd, they were considered heathens as well by the curmudgeonly folks. All that long hair and suggestive love music? Surely they would turn a whole generation into sex-craving degenerate maniacs. We all know how that worked out.

So are the folks in Liverpool running this Open a bunch of long-haired, hippie-type pinkos, offering free pot to all that attend, including the players themselves? Likely not, though that sort of tournament would be highly entertaining if so to the average TV viewer. It would be even more interesting to see which sponsors signed on to advertise their wares. Though I don't partake myself, how hilarious would it be to hear golf commentary from a crew of normally straight-laced guys that were stoned? Pip, pip, and bowls of cheerios. Jolly good fun indeed.

Anyway, here's hoping John Daly makes the cut to play into the weekend. Sure, a lot of attention will be on Tiger Woods. His groupies want him to win. They NEED him to win, much as teenagers craved the next songs written by Lennon and McCartney back in the 60s.

But Lebron James has changed teams twice since Woods last won a major. It's been that long and more. And like the Beatles experienced roughly their decade of outrageous success, so did Tiger. No matter how much people wished otherwise, the original Fab Four never got back together again, and it's highly likely Eldrick Tont Woods will ever return to dominate the world-wide pro golf circuit either.

Here's hoping Woods fares well in the British Open. But I think he needs to change with the times. Even if he's in contention on the weekend, he should take a lesson from John Daly. Forget his traditional red shirt and black pants on Sunday. That's getting REALLY old and quite boring. Though a SpongeBob outfit might be pushing his envelope a bit, he needs to try something new. How about switching it? Red pants and black shirt?

But mostly yours truly is rooting for Daly. How cool would it be to see him in contention on the back nine on Sunday, smoking cigs, perhaps taking a wee nip here and there, and garbed as.... who knows? Barney the Dinosaur, Fred Flintstone, Queen Elizabeth, Foghorn Leghorn or Yosemite Sam? Who cares? The man provides a whole lot more entertainment value than all the others combined. While the "field", including Woods, is so concerned about being politically correct and, OMG, careful not to say or do anything that might offend any sensitivities amongst the modern-day omni-whiners -- Daly doesn't give a damn. Like him or not -- he just does his own thing.

No, he probably won't seriously contend for the Claret Jug. But I like his style....

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

All-Star game observations

I'm thinking that when Yasiel Puig was able to defect from Cuba back in 2012, he never dreamed he would wind up in Minneapolis joining the Klan on All-Star game night a couple years later. Three times at bat -- three strikeouts. Whiff, whiff, whiff. KKK. Plus, he botched a catchable fly ball while playing right field. Definitely not a good day for the artful Dodger.

Derek Jeter continued his amazing run of non-stop class. Now 40, and playing his 20th and last season, Jeter went 2 for 2, including a double, scored a run, and made a sparkling play in the field. He was given a well-deserved standing O when he first came up to bat, and another when he exited the game in the fourth inning. Yours truly is unaware of what products Jeter may endorse, but one of them ought to be Sara Lee, because nobody doesn't like this guy either. So let's see. He's still only 40, a handsome rascal, definitely a multi-millionaire a few times over, and an all-around nice guy. Once retired from baseball, he'll have the time and resources to travel the world and pretty much see and do whatever he wants. Plus, he remains an eligible bachelor. Just a hunch, but the thought here is the soon-to-be former #2 pinstriper will have few problems getting dates. He's lived the "field of dreams" for 20 years. And after this season, when he will no longer be so devoted to the game he loves, and that love becomes available on other fronts, oh my, will they ever come, no pun intended. Ahem.

The Detroit Tiger contingent fared well. Pitcher Max Scherzer got the official win for the AL in the game. Slugger Miguel Cabrera screamed a line drive into the left field stands for a home run. Former Tiger reliever Fernando Rodney (now with the Seattle Mariners) made an appearance and promptly walked the first batter he faced on 4 pitches. Maybe that's why he's a former Tiger. Plus, that thing with wearing his cap crooked has always been stupid. Then again, his name is Rodney, right? He's not supposed to get any respect.

In the very cool deparment was how it worked out for Glen Perkins, and hats off to AL manager John Ferrell of the Bosox for how he handled it. Perkins was born and raised in Minnesota, and now plays for the Twins. Though maybe not so well known elsewhere, Perkins was sort of a home town hero. He came in and pitched a flawless ninth inning to get the save.

All in all, a terrific game that featured a little bit of everything. A homer, doubles, a triple, stolen base, good pitching, good hitting, a crazy wild pitch that bounced off the backstop and right back to the catcher, and both great and not-so-great defensive plays.

Alas, not all was well. Former Yankee super-star Robinson Cano, now Rodney's teammate in Seattle, struck out on a pitch that bounced up to the plate. Not much respect warranted there either. Here's to you Mr. Robinson -- Jesus loves you more than you will know, wo, wo, wo, but methinks he made a big mistake trading in the Yankee pinstripes to go to Seattle. All for a few extra million bucks he doesn't need. I mean, what's the difference between $20 and $24 million dollars a year? No sane person can possibly spend that much money, and it's obscene either way. But Pete Rose put it best a while back. Charlie Hustle said Cano not only got a big raise, but also another month of vacation every year. It's called October. Touche. In the meantime, it's Seattle. The raindrops keep falling on his head. I wonder if he had B. J. Thomas as an agent?

The wacky world of.....


Evidently, some clothes company is offering a new 000 size for its lady customers. This is a great idea. One never knows when an anorexic epidemic may sweep the nation, or a few million women will escape after having spent years in a concentration camp. Other than that, who can wear this stuff that's over 12 years of age? Some women don't like it, because they feel it pressures them into being skinny. Not to worry, girls. Most men prefer a little meat on the bones, and elsewhere. Hey, there's a reason, actually a couple prominent ones, why folks like Kate Upton grace the covers of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, and not an Asian gymnast.

The Home Run Derby preceding the All-Star game.

It's getting wimpier every year. Now they've even got rid of the home plate umpire. Sure, any ball swung at that does NOT result in a home run is considered an out. But it used to be any ball taken and not swung at that was in the strike zone was an out as well. Nowadays, these guys wait for the "perfect pitch". They typically let several go by that would be called strikes by an umpire, but they weren't "just right". Technically, these "sluggers" could be at bat forever. Even the balls have been wimpified. The age old color of white isn't good enough anymore. Now they have to be a "special" color so the poor multi-millionaire dears can see them better with what amounts to them facing batting practice pitching. To boot, yours truly wouldn't be a bit surprised if those "special" balls used in the Home Run Derby wouldn't pass inspection for a typical major league game. In other words, I suspect they're a little more juiced than your average person getting struck by lightning. Wound up tighter than Judge Judy after a long night at a meth lab. Like that. And what's with the announcers going ballistic over every home run? They'll ooh and ahh over a homer that drops into the first couple rows of seats. Maybe 350-360 feet, depending on if it was hit down the right or left field lines. 350 feet? I used to play slo-pitch softball with guys that could hit it that far. And anything over 400 feet in the HRD is considered a "monster shot", though in many ball parks it would be caught for an out in centerfield. Wake me up when they start hitting them 500+ feet like they did back in the old days, without the benefit of customized bats and juiced balls. Whatever happened in the meantime? How can guys supposedly be so much stronger, have better equipment, better training regimens and coaches, but can't hit balls nearly as far as their predecessors from decades ago? Very strange.

Typical government.

Remember the octo-mom? They've got her jammed up because she appeared in a porno movie, posed for a couple mags, and danced at a strip club, but didn't pay taxes on that income. Hey, the woman has 14 kids in all. If anybody needs a break -- it's her.

The NFL.

Wow, can that be right? Five Baltimore Ravens have been arrested in the off-season for various offenses? Who do these guys think they are? The former Portland Jailblazers? The defense of the Detroit Lions under loose cannon ex-coach Jim Schwartz? I thought he shuffled off to Buffalo. If you didn't have enough problems already, good luck with that, Bills' fans.

Justin Verlander.

Once amongst the most dominating starting pitchers in the game, including a recent Cy Young award, the "fastball flakes" man seems to be slip-sliding away into mere mediocrity. Since 2011, he's gone from 24-5, to 17-8, to 13-12, and is only 8-8 this season with an ERA of a rather high 4.88. This is definitely a downward trend. JV can still show flashes of brilliance, but at other times he gets hammered by opposing hitters. So, which is he? Still really good, but not getting any breaks, or have the other guys finally figured him out and things will get worse in the future? We'll see.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Deutschland uber alles!!

A disclaimer. Yours truly is of German heritage, so the levity, and perhaps poor taste expressed below can as much be considered poking fun at myself, as any others. So don't get your liederhosen in a knot, OK? Onward.

Nein. The slogan "Deutschland uber alles", which roughly translates to "Germany kicks everybody's ass", didn't work out so well for them back in the early 1940s. There was that little dust-up called World War II and, when it was all over, the Fatherland was in ruins. They would see their country divided in half by the former "allied" powers, and a wall built splitting their capital city of Berlin. The US and the USSR had begun the "cold war" and Germany was caught in the middle. It would take almost a half century before Deutschlanders were able to fully reunite again, and be free -- mostly -- of external powers jerking them around.

But ach du lieber. Look at them now. After just defeating Argentina in the finals of the World Cup, they are the undisputed heavyweight champs of soccer. "Deutschland uber alles" seems appropriate indeed. If one is German, ja, das ist sehr gut (which roughly translates to "very cool and let's party").

Idle thought: If Lebron James and the Miami Heat had three-peated instead of getting blown out by San Antonio in the Finals, would he still be going "home" to Cleveland or staying in South Beach looking to keep the streak of NBA titles alive, as was his prediction four years ago? Hmmm.

But for now, the Teutonic descendants reign supreme in the world of FIFA (which roughly translates to "Futbol Is F***ing Awesome"). Methinks the biergartens and rathskellers will be quite busy in the near future. Sehr gut indeed.

In a climactic moment that basically decided the game, Mario, who had replaced Miroslav, scored a goal that was set up by Andre. Wait a second. The Germans are naming guys Mario, Miroslav, and Andre these days? Really? Sounds Italian, Serbian, and Spanish to me. Whatever happened to the good old traditional names like Hans, Dieter, Johann, Ludwig, Fritz, Gunther, and -- dare I say it -- Adolph? Dude still makes a great meat marinade. Buy it all the time. Geez, and the USA thinks THEY have an immigration problem.

And that's the thing about soccer in Deutschland. It's a HUGE deal and winning the World Cup is certainly cause for national celebration. Americans can't fully appreciate this. It would be like all politicians simultaneously declared they would set aside their petty partisan differences, and to show their dedication to a higher cause -- work for free for the betterment of the country as a whole. Nein, that's not likely to happen. But talk about a national uplifting of the spirit if it did....

But enough about that. I bid thee "auf wiedersehen" (which roughly translates to "this stupidity has ran on long enough and I'm outta here").

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dumb things

Some college girl takes a nude picture of herself intending to sext it to her boyfriend. Oops. Wrong address. It goes to her dad. Realizing the mistake, her idea of damage control is to start tweeting about it. Idiot.

Some dude in Washington state just had to be amongst the first in line when recreational pot was legalized. Just one problem. His boss saw him on TV, made him take a drug test -- which he failed -- and now the guy's out of a job. Here's an idea. Wait a couple days until the reporters and cameras go away. Hello? Moron.

Stan Van Gundy was hired by the Detroit Pistons as not only head coach, but president of basketball operations. He's got the front office covered from top to bottom. But then he hired a general manager. Who's reporting to who and just exactly what are this GM's responsibilities? Nobody seems to know. If that wasn't dumb enough, Stan just hired an assistant GM to help out the other guy, who will apparently do nothing, but cost a lot of money. This is starting to sound like the federal government, not an NBA franchise. Relatively new billionaire owner Tom Gores must have a few million bucks he doesn't care about. Either that, or he's not paying attention. Even the mega-rich can do dumb things sometimes.

Another dude's body was just recently discovered on Mont Blanc in the Alps after having been frozen in the ice for 32 years? Sounds like a cold case to me.

A former Harry Potter movie villain keeled over and died from heat stroke while hiking in Death Valley? Wow. Now there's a hot story.

Wide receiver Calvin "Megatron" Johnson of the Detroit Lions thinks they can go to the Super Bowl this year? Maybe he's been spending a little too much time out in the heat as well. Quick, somebody rehydrate this guy. The poor soul has become delirious. Yet, to be fair, CJ is hardly the first to fall into the trap. Millions have preceded him in and around Detroit over the decades. Partake of the Honolulu blue and silver kool-aid a leee-tle bit too long, and the madness will turn the best of minds into mush.

Johnson needs to come to grips with his destiny. If he spends his entire career with the Lions (and it looks like he might, because they have him under contract through the 2019 season, at which time CJ will be 35 years old -- a ripe old age for an NFL wide receiver), he's going to be like Ernie Banks, the late Tony Gwynne, Dan Marino, and the Utah dynamic duo of John Stockton and Karl Malone. A great player, and the Hall of Fame likely awaits him several years down the road. But like the greats mentioned above remained loyal to their teams throughout their careers, he'll never know what it feels like to be a champion. Some things for some players for some teams in some towns just aren't meant to be.

The Motown football kool-aid is very good at dumbing down the masses, and even working them into a fever pitch every year as the season starts, but it doesn't change reality. To think otherwise is, well, like lemmings getting in line for the exciting march up the hill. Problem is, the ending is always the same -- and it ain't good.

But despite all the dumb things going on, there are occasional flashes of brilliance. Consider the following bumper sticker recently spotted ---

Don't drink and park. Accidents cause people.

Makes sense to me.......

Friday, July 11, 2014

The maturing of Lebron James

It didn't go down this time like it did four years ago. There was no press conference, no smoke and pyrotechnics, and certainly not three guys on stage mugging up the cameras. Back in 2010, Lebron James intentionally made a big splash when he proclaimed from on high that he was leaving Cleveland and "taking his talents" to South Beach to play for the Miami Heat.

With Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh sharing the podium, James announced they would win not one (championship), not two, not three..... not seven. And the holy, or not, hoop triumvirate smugly yukked it up. It was cocky, arrogant, and most of all childish. At roughly the same time, Cavaliers' owner Dan Gilbert was blistering Lebron as being a quitter, coward and a traitor. In essence, it was a billionaire throwing a temper tantrum when he couldn't have his way. Quite childish as well.

But this time it was different. Lebron Ramone James quitely issued a press release through Sports Illustrated merely saying it was time for him to go home. He would be re-joining the Cavaliers, likely for the rest of his career. It was a big splash indeed, but not of James' making. The media took care of that. James uttered not one word about his "talents" or predicted any championships. Indeed, quite the contrary. He said he was ready for the challenge, and hoped sometime in the future he could lead the Cavs to greatness.

Unlike so many other pro athletes that make obscene amounts of money in their mercenary ways never do, Lebron James has achieved yet another milestone. He's grown up. He's a man. He's reached full maturity. James may or may not ever win another title in Cleveland, and certainly he'll make scads of money, but how can you not respect a guy that has been to the mountaintop, but now just wants to go home and do the best he can?

Let's not forget that James never spent a day playing in college. Before the NBA changed its rules to the one and done collegiate requirement, Lebron was drafted right out of high school by the Cavs as the overall #1 pick in 2003 when he was only 18 years old. He would spend 7 years with the Cavs, once leading them to the NBA Finals in 2007. Alas, they were swept by San Antonio. Sounds somewhat familiar. While with the Heat, they would go to 4 consecutive NBA Finals, winning two championships. Also along the way, James would win 4 NBA MVP awards, and 2 Olympic gold medals, amongst other various hardware. It seems like he's been around a long time, and perhaps he has, considering he will be entering his 12th NBA season this fall.

But here's the thing. Lebron James is still only 29 years old. Currently, he's only approaching the peak of where his physical skills and mental understanding of the game will intersect. Yes, he'll get wiser in subsequent years, but he'll also "lose a step". That's how it works in most all sports. Mother Nature and Father Time seldom allow exceptions.

And forget basketball. Consider Lebron, the person. He's been happily married for quite some time, with two children, and a third on the way. No Tiger Woods-ish running around. By all accounts, he's a faithful husband and devoted father. No wrecking cars, positive drug tests, assaultive behavior, DUIs, and nary a gun incident. Plus, he goes the extra miles in various charitable ways and conducting kids' basketball camps to boot. The man's almost too squeaky clean. The tabloids must hate him. No dirt to sensationalize.

Few would doubt Lebron could have picked most any team not named the San Antonio Spurs and that club would have a found a way to create enough cap space while shedding other players to welcome him.

But he just wanted to go home.

I hope he and the Cavs do well. Cleveland needs a break. They've been waiting a very long time since they were able to celebrate a championship -- in any sport.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Adam Silver's circus

With apologies to Neil Diamond, pack up the babies and grab the old ladies. The Brother Love (aka  Adam Silver) travelling salvation show will be coming to a town near you soon. Actually, it already has, if one considers the media hype.

In his rookie year as NBA Commish, Silver seems to be offering the "greatest show on earth". Yessirree, step right up and buy your tickets now. There's something for everybody. Men, women, children, potted plants, even politicians. The Ringling Brothers would be so proud.

There are free agents galore out touring the country like an aging rock band. A gig in a different town every few days. Most notable amongst them are Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony. Everybody wants to book these guys. Money appears to be no problem. Most towns are not only willing, but begging to give them as much dough as they possibly can. One might think John Lennon and George Harrison have come back from the dead, and the Beatles have been re-united and are for hire.

Then there are the second-tier entertainers, lots of them, that are waiting to see where the headliners are going so they can get in line to be the warm-up acts. Not to mention making a few serious bucks of their own. Any of them showing loyalty to one city? Fuhgettaboutit. It's about the money, fame, and chance to win a championship -- which means more fame, exposure, endorsements, etc. Did I mention obscene amounts of money?

In the meanwhile, the head coach carousel continues to go round and round, with everybody from the "good ole boy" network to brand newbies hopping on and trying to grab a brass ring. It's like a deranged version of multi-million dollar musical chairs.

Incredibly, given expired contracts, opt-out clauses, and the free-agent jockeying for position, some teams only had a couple players still under contract. The Miami Heat had but one. Norris Coles. The guy with the Kim Jong Un haircut. This could be problematic if Pat Riley and the Heat can't sign a few other guys before the next season starts. Coles is a fine player, but his chances of winning games while being the only Miami player on the court aren't exactly good.

Let's not forget the little dust-up still going on in LA with the whole Sterling affair. Combine an 80 year old billionaire owner, a bimbo, supposedly racist comments made during a private conversation, divorce proceedings, allegations of dementia, an army of lawyers, and yet another billionaire willing to pay three times the market value to purchase the team -- and what do you have? Quite the side-show. Beats the heck out of the elephant man or bearded lady behind the curtain.

Yep, if former Commish David Stern oversaw the NBA rising to greater heights during his tenure, his protege Adam Silver has taken it to a new level. The theatre of the absurd.

But none of this happens without the two key ingredients. First is the media, particularly the talking heads, which seem to be multiplying faster than your average school of guppies. Of course, in order to keep their jobs, they have to find something to talk about. Problem is, these folks can go on for hours, days, weeks, forever, breathlessly rambling on about something that was quite trivial to begin with.

Yet they could not exist without those that hang on their every word. Enter the second and most crucial ingredient. A lemming-esque viewing public that apparently has nothing better to do with their lives than worry about which town or team gets to have the dubious privilege of paying some basketball player $20 million a year.

Personally, yours truly couldn't care less where James, Anthony, and the rest of them wind up playing. They can "take their talents" to Miami, NY, Chicago, LA, Cleveland, or any other NBA team. They can go to Europe, Asia, Neptune, or sign on with the Klingon D-league if the money is right. Or they can retire tomorrow. Players and coaches have always come and gone. Even franchises have relocated from one city to another. Contrary to what the yappy heads would have many believe, the current NBA sub-plots are hardly earth-shaking news. Stuff happens. Life goes on. For that matter, most of the spectacles have been a media creation in the first place. Without their constant droning of theories, possibilities, analyses, opinions, predictions, and a gullible public to sell them to, none of this would be big news.

But that seems to be the problem indeed. P.T. Barnum was absolutely right back in his day when he said a sucker was born every minute. Nowadays, there's thousands of them hatching every time the latest "breaking news" flash comes along -- which is about every five minutes.

Phineas Taylor Barnum became a very rich man, but he died in 1891, long before television was even dreamed of. Yet he would likely be proud of the NBA circus that is currently going on under Adam Silver's watch. Give P.T. the same amount of cable channels with their talking heads, and internet sensationalism today, and forget about being the NBA Commish. With that kind of pub, he might be sitting in the Oval Office.

The people that typically reside there also depend on suckers to buy into what they're selling. But that's a story for another day....

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A dark day in Brazil

The Brazilian national futbol team was without their best player due to injury, and their captain due to being suspended. Still, nobody could have foreseen what would happen to them in their World Cup semi-final match against Germany.

7-1? Nobody scores seven goals in soccer, from little kids, to preps, to college, to pros. And certainly not at the elite level of the World Cup. But it happened.

This went beyond a rout. It was a beatdown, a blow-out, a slaughter. What comes after slaughter? Beats me, but whatever it is, it was that too. Brutal.

On a bit of a lighter note, the Brazilians have long been known for their futbollers' going by a single name. In years past they featured such greats as Pele and Ronaldo. Nobody seemed to know their last names and nobody cared. For the record, Pele's real name was Edson Arantes do Nascimento. How that got shortened to Pele is a very good question. The Brazilians once even featured a Socrates on their team. Socrates? Holy hemlock. Really? They had another great player that went by the name of Kaka. The possible origin of that name tempts a devious mind, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to go there. One never knows when God, sometimes known as an editor, might be checking out their stuff.

Indeed, this year, the Brazilians had a Hulk, a Fred, and an Oscar starting for their soccer team. It is unknown whether they are related to, or descendants of, Mr. Hogan, Mr. Flintstone, and that grouchy muppet, respectively.

Yet given the trouncing their national team just took, things are not good in Brazil right now, and might get a lot worse in the days to come.

Consider that thousands, if not millions of the natives were already quite restless. Prior to the World Cup starting in their country, hordes of common folks were protesting across the nation because their government was spending billions preparing for the Cup and upcoming 2016 summer Olympics they will also host, while a large percentage of their citizens continue to remain impoverished.

Had Brazil won the World Cup, all such differences would have likely been put aside -- at least for a little while. In soccer crazy Brazil, the celebration would have been incredible. Americans still fondly remember the "Miracle On Ice", when a conglomeration of their college kids improbably defeated the might Soviet Red Army team during the semi-finals of the 1980 Olympics. The red, white, and blue was everywhere in the USA. National pride ruled. Democrats and Republicans even, gasp, hugged each other. Yet all that would have paled in comparison to the ultimate ecstasy Brazilians would have experienced had their soccer team gone on to be crowned champions of the quadrennial world futbol tournament, particularly winning it in their own country.

But as we all now know, it didn't go down that way. Instead, the Brazilian team was humiliated at home by the Germans with the whole world watching. 7-1? Wow. Quite the drubbing.

What will happen next in Brazil after such a crushing defeat, as the populace turns their thoughts away from futbol and get back to the realities of every day life remains to be seen.

But there's a very good chance it won't be a pretty sight. Yes, they still have to play a "consolation" match against the loser of the Argentina/Netherlands game, but in Brazil, the difference between coming in 3rd or 4th in futbol is totally irrelevant. It would be like an American "dream team" losing in the basketball semis of the Olympics. Anything short of the gold would be deemed a colossal failure.

Such are the expectations of the Brazilians in soccer. And considering their other societal issues, their dream team being humbled the way they were likely won't sit very well with the masses.

Here's wishing them all the best, but methinks dark days, and nights, might be heading their way -- and that right soon.

The amazing parity of Major League Baseball

This season in MLB has been interesting. The Detroit Tigers came roaring out of the gate and established a 7 game lead in their division. They would then go into a slump and give it all back. Then they got hot again for a short while to climb back to the top, but just recently they dropped 3 out of 4, at home, to the last place Tampa Bays Rays (who just went 10-2 on a road trip -- go figure).

The same can be said for San Francisco. They started out like Giants indeed opening up a big lead in the NL west, then went into a tail-spin, and currently find themselves in a nip and tuck battle with the LA Dodgers for first place.

In the AL East, the Toronto Blue Jays were once sitting comfortably on top, but they tanked, the Baltimore Orioles quietly got semi-hot while everybody else was mediocre, and now the O birds find themselves on top by a couple games.

Similar battles are going on between the Oakland As and LA Angels in the AL West, and the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals in the NL East.

For a while the Milwaukee Brewers were heads and shoulders above everybody else percentage wise, but they've come back to earth somewhat and only lead the NL Central by 4 1/2. Hardly an insurmountable lead with over 70 games remaining.

With roughly half the season yet to be played, which teams will wind up in the playoffs is anybody's guess. Teams like the Yankees, Cardinals , Red, Marlins, Indians, Pirates, are all no more than a handful of games out their division leads. If any one of them gets on a roll -- who knows?

And that's the thing about MLB. Parity. Sure, on paper, one team can supposedly have the best pitching staff in the game, another might be the best hitting team, still another might be the most talented overall, considering defense, speed, and other intangibles. But when any game actually starts, nobody would doubt who will win is little more than a coin flip. The team with the best record in all of MLB might well get swept in a series by the team with the worst record. It happens.

Consider that a baseball team that wins 97 games over the course of the season would be hailed as excellent. That would be a winning percentage of .600. Yes, occasionally a team will win over 100 games, but it's getting rarer in recent years.

Further consider just exactly what a winning % of .600 consists of. Out of every 10 games, the really good teams win 6. If just one of those games goes the other way, they drop to .500, the epitome of mediocre.

The really "bad" teams check in somewhere in the .400 range. One more win out of ten and they become average. It's not like they're getting slaughtered every time out. For that matter, as mentioned above, a last place team in MLB can knock off a first place team on any given night, and it comes as no great surprise. Happens all the time.

Look around the league(s). Right now, the Oakland As are the best of the bunch while posting a 55-33 record. The media would crow they're a whopping 22 games over .500, and technically they have a point. But actually, over the course of 88 games, they've won 11 more than they've lost, for a winning % of .625. Looked at from that perspective, it doesn't seem so impressive. Winning 6 out of 10 is the best in all of MLB? While being excellent in baseball, merely winning almost 6 out of 10 every year might get coaches fired elsewhere in sports. Like several NBA and NFL teams and their fans that have become accustomed to a standard of excellence far higher than a mere .625.

And right now, the Houston Astros are bringing up the rear in all of MLB with a .400 winning percentage. The difference between them and top dogs Oakland? About two games in ten. On any given day or night between any two teams in MLB -- ya never know. A recent Cy Young award winning pitcher might get out-dueled by some kid recently called up from the minors. A team with a bunch of sluggers leading the league in home runs and/or batting average might get beat 10-0 by another team known for their anemic hitting and "small ball". That happens sometimes too.

Whether or not parity in MLB is a good thing is certainly open to debate. It's probably good that some teams can't buy their way into championships anymore. And it's nice to see "new blood" win a title here and there. Even blood that's older than Dracula's can be a refreshing change of pace if they somehow manage to win a World Series after a long drought. Loved the Bosox a few years ago, and never lose the faith, Chi-town northsiders. One century soon, your Cubbies will rise from the ashes like the Phoenix and -- hmm --  the Suns are almost as bad as the Diamondbacks. Bad analogy. Sorry.

Odds are the parity thing has to fall your way eventually. But it will happen if you live long enough and keep believing. Yes, you might have to have the longevity of, say, a giant sequoia tree or an old testament biblical patriarch, but things could be worse, ya know.

You could be a Detroit Lions' fan. At least Cubs' fans have learned not to expect to win, and don't have a local media trying to sell them snake oil every year as to the grand possibilities of their team if everything falls just right. Football fans around Motown are suckers for that. Always have been. But they're not going to get within sniffing range of a championship any year soon either. Most times accepting reality is a good thing in the long run. Saves the inevitable heartbreak later.

If you know in your mind and heart that your team is a loser, then why not just kick back and enjoy it for what it is? That's why they remain the loveable Cubbies, while the Lions wind up as punch lines on late night TV. They take themselves too seriously, with their kool-aided media fanning the flames every year, when they know, or should know, the Lions have ZERO chance at winning the Super Bowl. But I digress.

No doubt, teams will go up and teams will go down in the second half of the MLB season. Winning streaks here, and losing streaks there. Such is the nature of the game. The "best" team doesn't always win, because the difference between best and worst is pretty thin at the major league level. Everybody on a big league roster beat out thousand of other guys just to get there. In other words, the last player on the bench or in the bullpen for the last place team is really good.

The stat monsters can keep coming up with stats from hell that nobody ever heard of before. There's something called sabermetrics which is all the rage these days, though the average fan has no idea what it consists of, and mostly doesn't care, because it doesn't matter.

In the end, the only thing that matters, like it has since the inception of MLB well over 100 years ago, is wins and losses. Win 6 out of 10 for the whole season, and guaranteed that team is going to the playoffs. Win 4 out of 10, and guaranteed that team won't. Post somewhere near a .500 record and, depending on what division a team is playing in -- they could actually qualify. In other words, mediocrity, see parity, is sometimes good enough.

And once the playoffs start, MLB's ridiculous one-game knockout preliminary aside, anybody can beat anybody else in the best 4 out of 7 series. Yes, in the NFL, a lower seed can rise up on any given Sunday to knock off a favorite in a playoff game. One or two unlikely plays here and there can often make the difference. The NHL has certainly seen its share of lower seeds go on to win the Stanley Cup in recent years. In the NBA -- not so much. Everybody knows going into the playoffs that only 3-4 teams have a legitimate chance of winning the title, and higher seeds typically prevail over those same 7 game series'.

But baseball is different. Come October, it truly is a crap shoot. A team that won their division by 15 games can sometimes go down to a team that barely qualified as a wild card. Ya never know....