Sunday, August 31, 2014

Michigan State national champs? Could happen

Well OK. MSU blistered patsy Jacksonville State in their opening game -- at home. No big surprise. As is well known, next week the Spartans travel to Oregon. The Ducks are ranked #3 in the country while MSU checks in between #6 and #8 depending on different polls.

Typically, Oregon has been a house of horrors for visiting teams. But ya know what? Methinks the Sparties are going to knock them off. Why? Because while the Ducks have become famous for their fast-paced play -- sometimes running other teams out of the building -- the Spartans are a more well-rounded, and certainly more physical team. They can play with anybody on both sides of the ball, and I look for MSU to wear out OU in the latter stages of the game.

But still, MSU isn't even in the top 5 -- right? How can they wind up being champions when only the supposed top 4 qualify for the "playoffs"? Elementary, my dear fellow lunatics. Look at who's in front of them in the pre-season polls.

Reigning national champ Florida State sits at #1, as well they should. But repeating as champs is highly unlikely. In the last 54 years, only one team has won back to back consensus national titles. Tom Osborne's 1994-95 Nebraska Cornhuskers. At that, the Seminoles barely held on to defeat unranked Okla State in their opener. They have a target on their backs -- goes with the territory --  and there's always the complacency thing.

The mighty SEC? Enter Alabama and Auburn -- both ranked above Michigan State. Thing is, when they play each other -- somebody's gotta lose. And in the SEC conference championship game -- somebody's gotta lose again.

UCLA?  They were lucky to squeak by unranked Virginia in their opener.

Ohio State? When QB Braxton Miller was lost for the season, so were any chances of the Buckeyes making the "playoffs", let alone winning the whole shebang -- if they ever had a legitimate shot in the first place.

Oklahoma? After beating the equivalent of a  girls basketball team from Louisiana Tech, they next face their in-state rival powerhouse Tulsa. Please. They should be ashamed of themselves scheduling such pitiful competition. Nevertheless, when they get into their Big 12 schedule, methinks the Sooners will get knocked off a time or three. They ain't all that.

So it all boils down to Michigan State themselves. Clearly, they're the class of the Big 10, or 12, or whatever they consist of these days. Barring a rash of injuries, there's no reason MSU can't run the table in the conference like they did last year. Head coach Mark Dantonio has done wonders with that program over the last few years. Even if the national pollsters are loathe to give them the respect they are due, the Sparties are for real, and look to be for the near future.

While the other "power" conferences are busy beating each other up over the course of the year, if MSU can continue to play up to their capabilities, they could well make the Final Four. And after that -- it's a crapshoot. At that level -- everybody's really good.

We'll all know how it shakes out around Thanksgiving time, and a lot of things can happen between now and then -- but don't underestimate the Spartans.

They've got a legitimate shot to win the whole deal.

And wouldn't that be something?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tony Stewart returns

Tony Stewart, the brash NASCAR driver, is finally returning to racing. He'll be in his familiar #14 car in Atlanta speeding around the track at 180 MPH and making a lot of left turns. Is this the right thing for him to do? My answer would be -- absolutely.

Sure, we all remember the tragedy that happened on a dirt track about a month ago when young Kevin Ward lost his life. Bluntly put, Kevin Ward is dead. And Tony Stewart was driving the car that hit and killed him.

Yes, there will always be differing opinions as to who -- if anybody -- was responsible for the fatal incident. Maybe one? Maybe the other? Maybe both? Maybe neither? Believe what you will, but such opinions really don't matter. Sadly, Kevin Ward can't relate his version of what happened, and only Tony Stewart knows for sure what was going through his head in the moments preceding the deadly impact. All the rest is just speculation.

Granted, being involved in such an incident would be enough to shake anyone to their core. I dare say few of us have experienced what it feels like to be driving an automobile that strikes and kills a "pedestrian". Even if not at fault, it could be fairly said this would trigger a wide range of emotions. Remorse, sympathy, perhaps even guilt thinking about -- could I have done anything differently to avoid it? Sleepless nights to be sure.

But what was "Smoke" to do in the wake, no pun intended, of such a tragedy? He's a race car driver. Has been since forever. It's how he makes his living.

So OK, he took a few weeks off from racing. This is totally understandable. Stewart may be a lot of things, but he's still a human being with a conscience. It seemed only logical for him to need some time to get his head right again. This is nothing the average person wouldn't experience. Many years ago, yours truly splattered a little dog that ran out in front of my car on the interstate, and it haunts me to this day. Besides the dog itself, that little pooch belonged to somebody. I can't even imagine what it would feel like to kill a human being with my car, even if it wasn't my fault.

But let's get real. Even if such an unfortunate incident were to befall me, it's not like I'd never drive a car again. It's pretty much a necessity -- ya know? Would I feel terrible for the "victim" and/or his/her family? Absolutely. Would I ever forget what happened? Absolutely not. But you can't just curl up into the fetal position for the rest of your life. In my younger days, I did a lot of stupid and dangerous things that I probably shouldn't have lived through. Tragedies and accidents happen every day everywhere. But for the grace....

Yet life goes on for the fortunate. Like the famous line in the movie Shawshank Redemption -- one can get busy living, or get busy dying.

Tony Stewart's just trying to get his life back. He's a race car driver. It's what he does, and has for a long time. Recently, he came out with a public statement and said all the right things. Sure, he read from a prepared note in front of him -- but who doesn't these days? When athletes get in trouble for various reasons, an eloquent prepared statement is always released to the press. Do you really think any of those guys actually wrote it? Of course not. A lot of them couldn't spell "cat" if you spotted them two consonants and a vowel. Even high ranking politicians, the slickest of the slick, up to and including the President, read from statements prepared by others. Who's kidding who?

May Kevin Ward rest in peace, but it's time for Tony Stewart to get back to living.

On a related note -- the cops never cease to amaze me. After all this time since the dirt track fiasco, they say their "investigation" will go on for at least another couple weeks. They're still trying to figure out whether they can charge Tony Stewart with any criminal wrong-doing.

Hey, they've seen the track videos of the incident. They've interviewed Stewart and all the other drivers that were in that race. They've probably even got multiple cell-phone videos from people that were in the stands.

So other than wasting the tax-payers money yet again, just what exactly is the reason for this "investigation" to continue? If they think Tony Stewart mowed down Kevin Ward on purpose, then charge him as such. Good luck trying to prove that. If they think he was "negligent" with his car causing death, then charge him with that.

But the facts -- and speculation -- are all in and have been for some time. Another two weeks of asking the same questions again aren't going to change anything.

Either charge Smoke with a crime, or shut up and butt out. He's got a life. Time for the cops and prosecutors to get one as well.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Larry the cable guy and other random hits

I never had heartburn before. But now I know what it feels like. How did this come about? By watching Larry the Cable Guy advertise a product called Prilosec that is supposed to GET RID of heartburn. By that commercial logic, Larry could hawk a lot of things. Like Tums, milk of magnesia, migraine pills, and even Preparation H. Nothing like causing the malady then selling you meds to ease the pain.

Josh Gordon of the Cleveland Browns has been suspended for the entire 2014 NFL season. Josh was the leading receiver in the entire league last year. A major talent. Alas, he got busted, again, on a positive drug test. Gordon said he was disappointed that the league office didn't show more discretion and better judgment regarding his appeal of such suspension. Josh needs to do two things. One is shut up.

Hey, he's only been in the NFL since 2012, and he already got popped once before for substance abuse. Throw in a DUI along the way and second positive test, and what did he think was going to happen? Roger Goodell and company are clamping down hard on such "offenses" these days. Everybody knows that. BTW, the other thing Gordon needs to do is quit smoking weed. Recreational use is fine in Colorado and Washington for average citizens, but the NFL sees things a bit differently amongst their own. If Gordon gets popped a third time -- he can pretty well kiss his butt goodbye in the NFL. He has to make a choice between millions of dollars and smoking dope. They appear to be mutually exclusive in the modern day professional sports world. Decisions, decisions.

Still can't figure out those Cialis commercials. Evidently, this is another wonder drug to enhance the male libido. Thought about trying it but one thing holds me back. According to the ads -- to fully appreciate the effects -- one has to lug his and her matching bath tubs to a beach somewhere. First, besides the expense, I have no idea how to pull that off, no pun intended. And second, if you and your significant other are lying naked in a couple bath tubs on a public beach -- chances are real good you're going to wind up in jail. There are those that don't exactly approve of such behavior. Yet I'd bet a couple bath tubs would be a first for impound lots.

Really dumb things dept.

Point spreads, and those that bet on them, for NFL preseason games. See the lowly Oakland Raiders smoking the defending Super Bowl champ Seattle Seahawks.

Josh Shaw (what is it with these Joshes?) of USC, who incurred two sprained ankles, basking in the role of a hero for saving his nephew from supposedly drowning, while all along it was a lie. Did he not think he would eventually be exposed? Now he's suspended indefinitely, as well he should be. Going to the press and public selling a lie is the purview of slick politicians -- not college football players. That never works anymore.

After the KC Royals went 21-6 to put the Detroit Tigers a few games behind them in the central division of the AL -- rookie Tiger manager Brad Ausmus saying if KC goes 21-6 again during September, they would be tough to catch. Well, no kidding Brad. I wonder if he studied under Yogi, or maybe Sparky.

The Detroit Lions open the 2014 season with a Monday night game at home against the not-so-good NY Giants. It will be sold out. The Honolulu blue and silver faithful will be at a fever pitch, both in the stadium and around TVs in the metro Detroit area, be it at sports bars or at home.

We've got major talent and this is the year we finally rise to glory, they will thunder. Playoffs here we come and with a few breaks, maybe even the Super Bowl.

And that's not just dumb -- it's delusional. Like the Lions over the years, William Shakespeare's play A Comedy Of Errors has had many different actors playing the same roles. But no matter how many times one watches it, the script never changes. A farce is meant to be a farce.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The talking head epidemic

While watching a pre-season game on the NFL network, the trailer across the bottom of the screen delivered an astounding news flash. Evidently, during the regular season, a panel of four (or was that five?) comprised of ex-players/coaches and, of course, the usual talking head moderator, would be providing 4 hour pre-game shows. To which I say....

You gotta be defecating me. 4 HOURS??? They could make a documentary chronicling the entire history of the NFL that took up the same amount of time. To make matters even worse, another panel of "experts" would come on post-game for two more hours of highlights, analysis, and even MORE blather.

Good grief. Games themselves only last 3, maybe 3 and a half hours. If you watch the game(s), you know what happened. Do we really need a panel of talking heads to tell us about what we just watched for 2 more hours?

To be fair, with the recent explosion of niche sports channels, a good thing for couch taters, pizza joints, and the beer industry, they have to show SOMETHING. And granted, audio is usually a good thing to go along with those 50 inch hi-def flat screens. (I recently bought one. When the picture first came up, the feeling reminded me of getting my driver's license, or what happened a few hours after the senior prom. Needless to say -- a very pleasant sensation. Throw in a dynamite surround-sound system in the man cave, and yours truly can watch the games in style.)

Also granted, I can tater it up with the best, or worst of them on occasion, depending on what else is going on -- or not.

But if anyone ever gets to the point where they devote 4 hours to a pre-game show, then another 2 hours of post-game with talking heads rambling on -- then drastic measures need to be taken. They should be dragged, kicking and screaming, away from their panoramas, Bose speakers, and made to do a few hours of community service. A game is one thing, but anybody that would watch 6 more hours of talking heads blathering on before and after it obviously has way too much time on their hands. Some of it could be better spent elsewhere for the good of mankind.

This could even become a national security issue. Listening to talking sports heads 10 hours a day is enough to make anybody snap eventually. And who knows what havoc such crazed people might wreak on the public?

My advice? Tune into the game about 15 minutes after they say it's going to start. That's when it really does start. The talking heads will eat up the first 15 minutes telling you how great it's going to be. Along with a few commercials, of course.

And when it's over, either click on another channel or go do something else.

All the rest, before and after, is nothing but worthless chatter.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cool... and not cool

The Philadelphia Phillies brought the Little League team from their area that recently made a splash in the Little League World Series onto their field to be honored. Pretty cool.

The Philly Phanatic is always cool with his, or maybe her antics. Nobody knows who's under that green outfit. But this time one of the umpires decided to join the fun. He put on a pair of shades, twisted his cap sideways, and started boogeying with the Phanatic on the field. Very cool. Not done, the umpire went on to toss a few long stem roses to some pretty girls in the stands. Definitely cool.

Unless the Detroit Tigers and NY Yankees meet in the playoffs, not likely, Derek Jeter is playing his last series in Detroit. The Tigers honored him before the game. Everybody from the players on up to Pres/GM Dave Dombrowski was on hand. Cool. One would have thought even Tiger owner Mike Ilitch could have deigned to emerge from his ivory palace for such an occasion. But he didn't. Not so cool.

Even former Tiger star and Hall of Famer Al Kaline was on hand. Though Kaline, now 79, retired from the game before Jeter was even born, it was pretty cool of him to show up to honor another certain future Hall of Famer. Which brings me to a personal story that happened a long time ago. It was cool -- and not cool.

When I was a little boy, my dad used to occasionally take me to a Tigers game at the old Tiger stadium. I'm guessing this was somewhere in the mid 1960s. At any rate, back in those days the Tigers used to feature a "camera day" once a year. Before the game on camera day, the Tiger players would come out and line up along the foul lines, much like teams do now when they're being introduced for the All-Star game or World Series.

But back then, on that day, the fans were welcome on the field at Tiger stadium to socialize with their local baseball heroes. Lots of up-close pictures, hence camera day, but also getting to chat briefly with the players. Of course, this was always a sold out game, and the line of fans had to keep moving along so everybody could have their chance. I was there on one of those occasions. Being on the field at Tiger stadium and walking by up-close to my baseball heroes was a little boy's dream come true.
The coolest.

All these years later, I remember three things from that day. Gates Brown, a back-up outfielder and dynamic pinch-hitter, was a scary looking man to a little boy like myself. But he was very friendly. Cool.

At that time the Tigers had a journeyman second baseman named Jerry Lumpe. He was the friendliest of them all. Chatting, smiling, posing for pix with kids and adults alike, shaking hands, taking a knee to talk to kids face-to-face, autographing anything put in front of him -- the whole good guy package. On that day, Jerry Lumpe was the coolest guy I'd ever met. I never forgot that.

But of course, we all wanted to get to the great Al Kaline, who was further down the line. Eventually we did. And what did we find?

Kaline didn't have time to talk to fans or adoring little kids. He was busy with a reporter and some other guy in a suit. The kids, including myself, wanted so badly to shake his hand and have him autograph our programs, but Kaline totally ignored us as if we weren't even there. This, on camera day, which by it's very definition was supposed to be about interacting with the fans, and especially the kids that so looked up to him -- and Al Kaline blew us all off. The ultimate of not cool. I never forgot that either.

On an unrelated note, some 9 year old girl on a shooting range in Arizona got an Uzi put in her hands with a clip of live ammo and the gun set to shoot on full automatic. She pulled the trigger and, oops, the weapon ratcheted up, as machine guns are prone to do, and the little girl wound up shooting her instructor, who was standing next to her, in the head, killing him.

That went far beyond not cool. Legal or not in Arizona, letting a 9 year old wield a machine gun, under any circumstances, is just flat out stupid.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Michael Sam update

You remember Michael Sam. He's the highly touted defensive end out of Missouri that was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round. He's also the first openly gay player to cast his lot in the NFL. There might well be others already on NFL rosters but, if so, they haven't "come out" yet. In his own way, Michael Sam is a first.

Actually, any football fan would have had to be a coma NOT to have heard of Sam. Such was -- and is -- they hype surrounding his every move and word since his "declaration" and subsequent odyssey.

Just yesterday, all NFL teams had to cut their rosters to 75 players. Sam made it with the Rams.

But this Saturday another cut comes, when the teams have to pare down to the final 53 that will be on their active rosters when the regular season starts. In other words, 22 more guys on every squad gotta go.

Whether Sam makes that final cut is a close call. Head coach Jeff Fisher has publicly said Sam is considered a defensive end, and possible special teams' contributions will not enter into any decision making. Currently, out of seven defensive ends remaining on the Rams' roster, Sam finds himself 5th or 6th on the depth chart. Depending on their defensive line/linebacker scheme, most NFL teams will carry at least 4, and maybe 5 defensive ends during regular season games. So basically Sam is on the "bubble". He has from now until Saturday to shine a little bit more, or lose some luster. It will likely determine his fate, at least for now.

Lost in all the hype over Sam is the tough position Jeff Fisher finds himself in. He's certainly been around the league long enough to know the media will scrutinize the final cuts, dissecting them every which way. But again, Sam is a first, and the (mostly liberal -- see pro-gay) media has him under a microscope. The easy (and "politically correct") thing for Fisher to do would be letting Sam survive the final cut and be a member of the active roster going into the regular season. At that, Sam may well have earned it.

But...... what if in their football heart of hearts, not to mention after all the practices, film sessions, and pre-season games have been analyzed --Fisher and his staff think another defensive end has beat out Sam for the last spot? Would he dare cut him?

Certainly Fisher is aware that cutting Sam would bring the media down on him like a swarm of locusts. A bazillion questions would be forthcoming. Responsible journalists would ask responsible questions. Yet who would doubt there would also be an army of them with their own agendas trying to paint Fisher into a corner?

Even the national news outlets would likely jump in. Remember when Anderson Cooper of CNN spent an entire month interviewing "experts" trying to figure out what happened to that Malaysian plane that disappeared? They didn't know anything then, and still don't know anything months later. The plane remains missing, but their ratings went up. Anderson Cooper being a gay man himself, it would come as little surprise if he jumped all over the Michael Sam story if he got cut. More experts. Lawyers, shrinks, and various advocates would be on display for a few more weeks. Nevermind most of them wouldn't have the faintest clue about football itself -- let alone the intracacies of defensive line play in the NFL-- it would be a story they could run with. The scary part is -- their ratings would probably jump again. Yours truly has become convinced that for every independent thinker in this country -- there's at least 1000 lemmings that will believe anything they are told. And DO anything they are told. Scary indeed.

One way or the other, here's hoping Michael Sam makes it into the NFL on his own merit and abilities, or not.

Yeah, he might be a "first", but in the end he's just another player trying to earn a job. Pretty sure Sam himself would agree with that. Though Sam is attempting to break "new ground", there can be little doubt others will follow. Some will make it -- some won't.

And that's the thing. If it's supposed to be about size, strength, speed, toughness, brains, and other abilities to make the NFL -- then let it be about that -- not a player's sexual orientation. And let the coaches decide who the best 53 players are.

If gay players are ever to be accepted as just other guys on the roster, then here's an idea.....

Quit shining such a spotlight on them, their teams, and their coaches. As long as that continues, there will be controversy -- which people like Anderson Cooper thrive on. The players themselves are just dudes trying to make a living doing a very tough job against even tougher competition.

So how about we just let them compete, and may the best men make the cut?

Is that asking too much?


Monday, August 25, 2014

The wacky AL playoff picture

It sure looks like the American League will go right down to the wire before the playoff teams are finally sorted out. Consider the three divisions.

In the west, the Oakland A's and LA Angels are tied for the division lead. Certainly one of them will win it, and the other appears to be almost, but not quite, a lock for a wild card spot.

In the east, the high-flying Orioles keep belting home runs and maintain a semi-comfortable lead over the Yankees and Blue Jays.

The central division has tightened up. The Detroit Tigers were supposed to win it handily, but it's not working out that way. In fact, they've been passed, again, by the recently hot KC Royals for the division lead, though it remains nip and tuck. Unless the Cleveland Indians get super-hot, either Detroit or KC will come out on top.

But what's really getting interesting is the wild card race. Only two from the combined three divisions will qualify. Then they'll have the pressure-packed honor of a one-game knockout between them. Somebody will move on. The other will go home for the season.

Sure, with 30-some games remaining, a lot can happen and sometimes does. Yet as they approach the final month of the regular season, a serious dogfight is shaping up.

For the sake of argument, let's assume the Angels win the west. The A's would likely be a wild card team. Let's give Baltimore the east crown. Let's further assume KC hangs on in the central (they're currently a slim game and a half ahead of Detroit). That would mean the only avenue for the Tigers to make the playoffs would be as the second wild-card. (They currently trail both Oakland and LA by 6 games.)

But quitely, the Seattle Mariners have slipped into the wild card picture as well. They're actually a game ahead of the Tigers. And don't look now, but the Bronx Bombers have fought through a rash of injuries and are only a couple games back themselves.

So if the above scenario happens, whereby LA, Baltimore, and KC wind up division champs, the race for the second wild card spot could wind up going down to the last game. Between Detroit, Seattle, and the Yanks, all basically neck and neck, it becomes a game of musical chairs with three players still alive but only one seat left.

When the music stops in another month or so, two of them are going to be SOL which, as we all know, means "sent off lamenting". Right. Ahem.

Yep, this could literally be a fight to the finish during September. High drama indeed. Just one problem. Baseball's ratings are about to take another nosedive. Why? Because the gorilla, sometimes known as the NFL, is about to move into the room again when their own regular season starts in a couple weeks. Even exciting division races and wild card chases in baseball will get shoved to the back burner media-wise. Right or wrong, that's just the way it is, and has been for quite some time in America. There can only be one king, the NFL rules, and it's not even a close call.

But in baseball circles, September should be interesting to see how it all plays out. Maybe we can catch it on ESPN2.

Detroit Pistons/Cleveland Cavaliers

The city of Cleveland hasn't celebrated a major sports championship since 1964. LBJ was just taking over for JFK after the gunshots in Dallas, and the Beatles made their debut appearance on the Ed Sullivan show. Color TVs were rare in households and everybody either had an antenna on their roof or fiddled with "rabbit ears" trying to get decent reception. A very long time ago indeed.

In the interim, Detroit has celebrated many world titles. The Tigers won the World Series in 1968 and again in 1984. The Pistons chalked up 3 NBA titles and the Red Wings several Stanley Cups. The Lions? Well, as former Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell used to say -- hope springs eternal -- but they've been "standing like the house at the side of the road" since the Eisenhower years. Some things just aren't meant to be. Still, three out of four teams ain't bad.

At that, many major cities don't even have the luxury of representation in all the four major sports. San Fran, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and LA come to mind. The Oklahoma City Thunder is the only pro team in the entire Sooner state. Portland has their Trailblazers, and that's it for Oregon as well. Even Cleveland is lacking an NHL team.

But the Lake Erie-ites may soon have something to cheer for. Lebron James has come back home, and the Cavs recently acquired star Kevin Love through a trade. Combined with all-star point guard Kyrie Irving, and free agent signings like Mike Miller, Shawn Marion, and James Jones -- all veterans with NBA titles on their resumes -- the Cavs will definitely be contenders next year. They've risen from obscurity to 3:1 odds to win the NBA title in 2015. In other words, one of the favorites. And good for them. Cleveland has long needed a break in the world of major sports.

On the other hand are the Detroit Pistons. Once popular player and Pres/GM Joe Dumars is gone. Over the last few years, Joe D pretty well ran the franchise into the ground with boneheaded trades and mis-managing draft picks, plus hiring a couple head coaches that appeared clueless. Dumars is a great guy, a pillar of the community, but it was time for him to go running the Pistons.

Things certainly didn't get any better for the Pistons considering the flurry of activity in Cleveland. While the Cavs were busy loading their roster, the Pistons, already with little talent, drafted some guy out of Colorado named Spencer Dimwittie, sorry, Dinwiddie. Whatever. I believe it was Sir Charles Barkley that once said -- the only good thing to ever come out of Colorado was Chauncey Billups. And that's been a while ago as well.

But never fear, the long empty chalice at the Palace has a Van Gundy running the show these days. Stan the Man is President, head coach, and will be calling all the shots. Mysteriously, or maybe not, he brought in a few of his former cronies and gave them positions. Like GM, assistant GM, and whatever other titles he could dream up. Their duties and responsibilities remain unclear, but if relatively new billionaire owner Tom Gores doesn't care about shelling out a few more million bucks in the name of bureaucracy, then why should we?

Yessirree, Stan can talk the talk. But that's the thing. The Van Gundys are like the acting Baldwin brothers, and the Gumbels on sports talk shows. Just when you think you've mercifully seen the last of them, another one pops up in front of a camera with a microphone. It's like they just.... won't.... go.... away. Of course the King of lingering is William Shatner. The original Star Trek TV series ran from 1966-1969. Only three years. But after all the subsequent Star Trek movies, and various other hit TV shows, some of which he torpedoed with his mere presence, the now 83 year old former Captain Kirk is still out their hawking whatever he can on dopey commercials. Despite the hundreds of millions he has made over that time -- anything to stay in the limelight, however dim it has become.

Interesting question...... Who has logged more total TV hours? William Shatner or Regis Philbin?

Bottom line. Barring injuries, or something else unforeseen happening, the Cavaliers are going to be contenders for the next few years. Likely favorites to win the Eastern Conference. Even Dan Gilbert couldn't screw this up. Probably. Whether they can actually win an NBA title remains to be seen. Whoever survives the wild, wild west to make it to the Finals is going to be REALLY good. San Antonio showed that just a few months ago when they demolished Lebron's former Heat team.

But the Pistons look to be in historic Detroit Lions mode for the foreseeable future. They'll run their promotions, giveaways and gimmicks to get people in the stands -- good luck -- but in the end, a bottom feeder is still a bottom feeder.

And without major talent, all the Van Gundys, Baldwins, Gumbels, T.J. Hookers, and even a few life-lines from Regis isn't going to change that.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Nick Fairley. Player or joke?

The Detroit Lions have a defensive tackle named Nick Fairley. He was a first round pick by the Lions out of Auburn in 2011 -- 13th overall. Fairley had participated on a national championship team during his tenure at Auburn, and some projected him as the overall #1 pick in the draft when he "came out" after his junior year. The dude could be a force on a defensive line. Alas, at the NFL combine, it was discovered Fairley wasn't nearly as tall, or didn't weigh as much as he had been advertised while at Auburn. Weight can go up and down, but height? Not likely. The pro scouts are sticklers for that sort of thing at their annual meat market. So he fell to 13th. Not an all bad deal. Fairley would sign a 4-year rookie contract for $10 million with the Lions, with a huge signing bonus thrown in.

Since then, Fairley's play, and behavior, has certainly been questionable. There are times when he will make outstanding plays on the field. Yet there are others when he seems to revert to the goon philosophy shared with his linemate Ndamukong Suh. Both have become somewhat infamous for cheap shots, late hits, and other thuggery over the last few years.

Fairley's also had his brushes with the law. Possession of marijuana on one occasion. On another, DUI, fleeing and eluding, reckless driving, having an open container of alcohol, and no proof of insurance will typically get a cop's attention after finally making a traffic stop. The average citizen would have had his/her car impounded and gone straight to jail. Do not pass Go, and forget collecting the $200. But Fairley was/is a multi-millionaire pro athlete, so most of this was quietly swept under the rug, which is pretty much standard procedure in this day and age. Only the average schmos get slapped with years of probation, wearing a GPS/alcohol tether, driver's license yanked, blowing and dropping for a year or two, community service, whatever else the courts can dream up to milk their wallets/purses dry and otherwise make their lives a living hell for as long as they can. But not Fairley. He was quickly back playing for the Lions.

Fast forward to the present. It's no big secret Fairley has a weight problem. Sure, by definition, NFL defensive tackles have to be somewhat in the behemoth category to even play the position. Going against offensive linemen that typically weigh over 300 pounds isn't exactly an easy job. I dare say Barney Fife or Jimmy Fallon types would find life very difficult indeed as an NFL defensive tackle.

But like most any job not being a sumo wrestler or a contestant on The Biggest Loser, being too fat can be detrimental to one's chosen profession. And Fairley definitely qualifies. His big gut hangs way over his waist. Yes, this is more weight to grapple with those huge offensive guards -- but somebody please explain to me how 40-50 pounds of blubber around the midsection can make any athlete more effective.

The Lions front office themselves once said, rather politically correctly, that Fairley needed to "shift" some of his weight. In other words, get rid of the huge belly and start developing some muscle elsewhere. But Fairley hasn't.

You know what's truly comical? Fairley blames his recent weight gain on eating too much. Well, no kidding Nick. We would have never guessed. This man doesn't eat a few wings -- he evidently eats the whole hen house -- eggs, feathers, bones and all.

[Here's a tip. If you're ever in a position to take Fairley out to dinner -- make sure it's at one of those $10 all you can eat joints. Or even $20. In a real restaurant, he'll likely cost you a house payment before the feeding frenzy is over. Not recommended.]

It was also laughable how Fairley recently went into pout mode when he didn't get all the reps as a starter. While the rest of the defensive linemen were busy with their coaches on the field and at meetings trying to get better as a team -- poor abused Nick stood off to the side with his lower lip protruding not quite as far as his gut -- but still in a 3rd grade "everybody hates me and no fair" demeanor.

Is it any wonder even the Lions, long not exactly known for front-office genius, to say the least, didn't pick up the option on Fairley's 5th year?

Fairley's playing out his contract this year. Maybe he'll "shift" some weight, avoid further trouble on the field or off, and be a force on the D line. He might even actually, gasp, show some maturity. The dude's 26. If it doesn't come pretty soon, then it's never going to happen. He could develop into a star player, or keep on being a joke where only Lions' fans fail to grasp the punch line.

But just to be on the safe side, keep him in the weight room, and away from the henhouse. Couldn't hurt.....

Little League loyalties

In the red corner, sometimes known as the international bracket, we had South Korea squaring off against Japan. As an American, who was I supposed to root for? My country has staunchly defended both these nations against any foreign threats, including the deployment of our armed forces, for well over half a century. This has come at a cost of countless billions of dollars to American taxpayers.

What have they given us in return? Both have flooded my country with their exported automobiles at great damage to American manufacturers. In the meantime, they've slapped tariffs on American auto exports, making them all but unaffordable in their native lands. One -- do I really need to tell you which? -- has obliterated American television, camera, audio equipment, and other electronic gear producers over the decades.

Gee, thanks guys. Nothing like true allies, but excuse me if I don't get too worked up over cheering for your Little League teams.

Hyundai and Kia prevailed over Toyota and Honda.

In the blue corner, sometimes known as the American bracket, we had Team Illinois taking on Team Nevada. Again, being a native of neither state, who was I supposed to root for? Harry Reid's Las Vegas boys or Obama's homies? Not so good things happen fast in both Las Vegas and Chicago.

An example? Count a-thousand one, a-thousand two, a-thousand three. Some poor soul likely just went bankrupt and ruined his/her financial life at a casino. Conversely, count the same a-thousand three, and somebody likely got shot in Chicago. Bullets have a way of ruining lives too.

Though Nevada had earlier "mercied" Illinois in the tournament, turnabout is fair play. In the American finals, the Windys would get their revenge over the Neons. Yet that raises an interesting point.

Vegas cruised through the "winners" bracket undefeated. Chicago already had one loss, at the hands of Vegas, as mentioned above. So in a supposed double-elimination tournament -- as in two losses and you're out -- why was Nevada eliminated after suffering their first defeat? At that time, both teams had one loss. Shouldn't they have had to play a rubber match? Yours truly has played in many a softball tournament with the same format. Come the "finals", the survivor of the loser's bracket had to beat the survivor of the winner's bracket twice before being crowned champions. The "winners" had two games to win one. If that required a double-header, so be it. Been there, done that. So why is Little League different?

At any rate, now it's South Korea vs Chicago for all the marbles, and probably a few future dates with the pretty girls on both sides of the Pacific. Who to root for? Because I'm an American, it would seem obvious -- but not so fast. Never been much of a Chitown fan and, like Obama, I prefer to keep my options open.

Maybe I'll watch the Barclay's golf tournament instead. Or, better yet, fire up the bike and go for a ride. Weather's supposed to be nice, and I've been hearing about this joint with some killer stromboli on Sundays a couple counties away.

Here's wishing all the best to the Little Leaguers, regardless of who wins. I can catch that in the paper tomorrow, ESPN highlights, or on the Net. But like a typical man, my stomach overrules most other things -- including sports loyalties. And gourmet stromboli doesn't come around just every day -- ya know?

Decisions, decisions.....


Friday, August 22, 2014

Detroit Lions. Same old

Well OK. Pre-season games aren't supposed to matter. Indeed, when the Lions became the only team in NFL history to chalk up a 0-16 record back in 2008, they had gone 4-0 in the pre-season. So much for the "practice" games.

Nevertheless, all the mini-camps and organized team activities, and especially the pre-season games, are supposed to be about a team coming together as a well-oiled machine when the regular season starts.

Granted, the first couple exhibition games can pretty well be ignored. They typically feature few of the players that will start the regular season --for more than a few plays -- and are more about taking a look at a lot of players that likely won't be around in September. But you never know. Every once in a while a long-shot impresses the coaches enough to eventually make the team.

The Lions opened the pre-season at home against the usually hapless Cleveland Browns, and barely squeezed out a victory. Then on to Oakland. The Raiders are a mess, but they found a way to beat the Lions. Back home for the Honolulu blue and silver crew for pre-season game 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Though it's only pre-season, could the Lions schedule have been any patsier? Good grief. Who's up next? The Campfire Girls from Trinidad and Tobago? Actually, it's the Buffalo Bills. Pretty much the same..... hmmm....nevermind.

But historically the third pre-season game is when NFL teams come closest to playing for real. Their projected starters will typically play at least the entire first half, and the kid gloves come off -- somewhat.

In that respect -- against the Jags -- Detroit appeared to be, well, the same old Lions. Despite their supposed "high-powered offense", Matthew Stafford and company would manage to score only 7 points.

New coach Jim Caldwell and his staff have instituted new systems for the Lions. Alas, it seems JC and his minions, like all their predecessors, remain incapable of solving the age-old Detroit Lions' enigma. This is sometimes referred to as the Bonehead Syndrome.

Typical symptoms include false-starts, illegal procedures, holding penalties, a few fumbles, and an occasional late hit and/or personal foul. Particularly by a certain goonish defensive tackle that has a long history of such. All were on display against Jacksonville.

Yet despite their pitiful play, the hapless Lions managed to scrape out a late win against the even more hapless Jags. It was difficult to determine which team looked sorrier. Both stunk it up -- big time.

On a related note -- Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson saw his first action of the year. Supposedly, the Lions held him out of the first two games to keep him healthy. Say what? Hey, this is NFL, not tea and crumpets in a china shop. If the Megatron is that Megafragile, then something's wrong. He's a wide receiver, not Queen Elizabeth. He's supposed to be out there getting his reps with the rest of them.

Yours truly LOLed at something the "homer" announcers said on the air. Johnson had a major impact on the game. Really? He caught two passes for a grand total of 27 yards. That didn't exactly fall into the shock and awe category.

Come the regular season, we'll see. Other than their mandatory 6 division games, the NFL has handed the Lions about the easiest schedule possible. It's almost like even the league offices want them to win something -- anything -- finally.

But they better bring a whole lot more to the table from September through December than what they've shown so far. Their first order of business should be exorcising the demons of the Bonehead Syndrome. Easier said than done. Though the bodies have changed, tt appears ingrained in the soul of this franchise. Part of their spiritual DNA.

Or they can forget about playing into January. Ah heck. It's only been 50 years. What's one more?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Sports Illustrated jinx and other bad luck

They've done it again. Sports Illustrated has a long history of jinxing various athletes after featuring them on the cover of their mag. In the latest edition, Mo'ne Davis, she of the Philly Little League team.was front and center. Remember her name (as if we could ever forget), quoth the SI geniuses.

The same day that issue arrived in my mailbox, Mo'ne Davis and her "Mid-Atlantic" team were eliminated from the Little League World Series. Outta here. And what's up with the term Mid-Atlantic anyway? The only thing going on in the mid-Atlantic is a whole bunch of salt water, and maybe a few nuclear subs. Why not just call that team what it is? They're from Philly. Last time I looked Philadelphia was land based. "East Coast" would have done just fine on their uniforms and made a lot more sense.

And "remember her name"? We'll see about that. Davis is 13, which means she's maxed out on the age limit for little league baseball. How time flies. One day she's throwing shutouts at opposing batters, and the next the little league has put her out to pasture with the rest of the teen-aged geriatric bunch. Poor old hag.

Mo'ne is about to enter the 8th grade. This is called "middle-school" these days, though it was "junior high school" for decades, even centuries. And what was so wrong with that? Why do we have to keep changing the names of the obvious? No matter.

At any rate, maybe Davis will keep playing baseball competitively -- or not. It remains to be seen how she will fare as the boys around her get bigger and stronger. When kids are 12-13, there's not that much of a physical difference between boys and girls. Fast forward to 17-18, and that's a whole different story.

Even Davis herself has said baseball isn't her favorite sport. She wants to be a hoops star and go to UConn. Will she be good enough to atrract the interest of Geno Auriemma, assuming he's still there in five years or so? Time will tell, but the odds are highly against that as well. Mo'ne would have to develop into a blue-chip high school basketball player before Geno would even give her a sniff. That's a pretty tall order.

Bottom line is -- contrary to the SI hype -- Mo'ne Davis might very well fade away, never to be heard from again on the sports scene. Even in her last game as a little leaguer, she was a total non-factor.

As for other bad luck? David Price of the Detroit Tigers just threw a complete game one-hitter against his former team -- the Tampa Bay Rays. And he got beat.

Everybody has heard about Paul George of the Indiana Pacers recently suffering a compound fracture of his right leg on a freak play. That's just bad luck.

Yet wide receiver Golden Tate left the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks via free-agency to sign with the Detroit Lions, presumably for a few extra bucks. When you get into the multi-millions, does one or two more really matter? Seattle is favored by the oddsmakers to repeat. Meanwhile, despite all the the typical chatter/hype/koolaid coming out of Detroit, some knowledgeable football people predict the Lions to finish last in their division.

How does this relate to Tate? That's not bad luck.That's just dumb. There's a difference.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mo'ne Davis and the hype

Anyone who has paid the slightest bit of attention to this year's Little League World Series tournament knows who Mo'ne Davis is. An adorable little 13-year old with waist length hair that plays for a team out of Philadelphia. The LLWS itself is played in South Williamsport, PA, only about a three hour drive from Phillie, so Davis has lots of fans.

And one more thing -- Mo'ne Davis just happens to be a girl. Hence the reason for all the hype. And it's everywhere. To her credit, Davis comes across as a modest barely-teenager that just enjoys playing baseball and wants to fit in with her teammates. But because Mo'ne wasn't blessed -- or cursed -- with a Y chromosome when she was conceived, Davis is now big news in the media. In other words, she's a girl playing a boys' sport, and seems to be doing very well. Being a star pitcher on a team that made it to the LLWS tournament is a notable accomplishment indeed.

But there comes a time for a dose of reality. Sure, Davis can throw 70 MPH fastballs, but so can every other pitcher in the tournament. Would she be big news if she was just another boy? Likely not. Let's not forget there are many that have long clamored for "equal rights" across the gender board. Whether that day has arrived is open to debate, but because Davis finds herself on the national TV stage, she has become a mini-icon. And good for her. But along that line of reasoning, why should it make a difference that Davis is a girl? Equal is supposed to be equal.

Of course, there are those that currently wonder -- could she be the "one" that finally makes it into the major leagues? Is she that good? And the answer is -- anything's possible, but gimme a break. The odds against any little leaguer making it to the major leagues are astronomical. The media can create their hero of the day and hype her all they want, but for every little leaguer that eventually signs a pro contract, there are thousands of others that will never make it that far. Davis is no different.

During last night's game against a Las Vegas team, Mo'ne struck out several opposing batters. But she also had a few rockets hit against her pitching. By the third inning, she had reached her "pitch count" and had to be pulled. Supposedly this was because her coach wanted to keep her available to pitch in the championship game on Saturday. Hey, the other good teams already know she's quite hittable. Mo'ne would wind up being the losing pitcher. So she went to first base, where she badly misplayed a routine ground ball. Later in the game, she would wind up in right field. Later yet, she would come up to bat only to be called out on strikes.
Her hitting stats? One for seven in the series, while the Vegas boys have been busy pounding out a collective team average of over .400.

No, none of the hype is Mo'ne's fault. That's on the media. She's just trying to do the best she can, and more power to her. But if equal is equal, then she never should have been thrust under such a spotlight in the first place. Let a little leaguer named Davis contribute, along with the rest of them. None of the boys that are walloping home runs are getting near the attention Davis is, just because she's a girl. And that's wrong. There will only be one champion come this weekend, be it an American or foreign team, and most of the other kids will likely never be heard of again.

So how about we stop with the hype because one of them just so happens to lack a Y chromosome, and just let them play?

Pretty sure Mo'ne Davis herself would want it that way........

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Braxton Miller and Ohio State football

This is kind of a good news/bad news deal -- most of it being bad. The outstanding quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes is going to miss the 2014 season due to a shoulder injury. That's bad news.

They'll be forced to start a red-shirt freshman, one J. T. Barnett in his place. That's even worse news for Buckeye fans. Despite the spin the team is attempting to put on it, you can't replace a senior QB that threw for over 2000 yards last year, including 24 touchdowns, and ran for over 1000 more yards with an additional 12 TDs, with an untested new guy and expect anywhere near the same productivity. Ain't gonna happen.

The good news? Mostly for the rest of the Big 10 conference teams, especially Michigan State. Yes, MSU defeated Ohio State fair and square in last year's conference championship game and went on to win the Rose Bowl over Stanford. The Spartans are definitely for real.

But their chances of repeating just went up with Miller out for the year. Sure, no team would dare gloat over an injury on another team, but get real. College football, like the pros, is a dog eat dog world anymore. Any little advantage one team can find over another will be exploited. And the loss of Braxton Miller is definitely advantageous to other teams.

Consider -- preseason polls had OSU ranked #4. A 12:1 shot to win the national championship, but a favorite to make the Final Four in this year's revamped version (it's about time) of the playoffs. With Miller out, they plummeted to 50:1 odds at winning the national title. And Michigan State, who was ranked 6th to 8th in the preseason polls, just saw their chances of repeating as Big 10, 12, 14, whatever they are now, champions get a lot better. This is good news for the Spartans. And who knows? If between top-ranked and defending champion Florida State, the usual suspects from the SEC, Oklahoma, and those quacks from Oregon, a couple of them somehow falter, the Sparties could be in the Big January Dance as well. Stranger things have happened. After all, Braxton Miller himself incurred his season-ending injury while lobbing a 7 yard pass in a non-contact practice drill. How weird is that?

But the worst news of all lands on Braxton Miller. His NFL draft stock just crashed and burned. If he would have "came out" after his terrific 2013 campaign, the young man would have been drafted by an NFL team somewhere. Besides the typical signing bonus, throw in even a rookie contract, and Miller would likely be a multi-millionaire right now. Sure, he might be on the shelf now for a pro team like he is now with the Buckeyes -- but at least he'd have bucks.

The only way the pros will even look at him is if he comes back in 2015 and tears it up again like he did last year. And takes his hits and remains fully healthy for the whole year. No given.

Here's wishing him well, but count yours truly skeptical.......

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Little League and politics

Here we are in another election year, and of course the silly season has begun. Smears, accusations, denials, goofy commercials, shameless fund-raising, politicians taking summer vacations rather than addressing pressing issues, and polls on top of polls from hell. You know, the usual. So if you can't beat them, we might as well jump into the madness and thrash about with the rest of them. Which brings me to.....

The Little League World Series going on. And how they relate to politics. A team from Chicago, Obama's home town, staved off elimination by defeating a team from Rhode Island. Earlier in the double-elimination tournament, the Chitowners had been "mercied" by senator Harry Reid's Nevada team. Unlike their political counterparts, the Las Vegas boys were willing to step up to the plate, take their cuts, and actually produce some useful results.

A Texas team remained alive by eliminating a squad from Washington state. The Bushes are likely happy about that. Yee-hah, a thousand points of light, and "mission accomplished", so far. Ahem. But the northwesterners need not hang their heads. After all, they'll still Super Bowl champions and hail from one of the two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Maybe their little leaguers will change gears and take up football, which could result in Frito-Lay, Hostess, Nabisco, and Hershey stocks getting a huge boost. Know what I mean, dude?

Some team from Pennsylvania remains undefeated as well. They have a pitcher with long hair that has to be the most sissified looking dude I've ever seen this side of Richard Simmons. What's that? It's a girl? The hell you say. How did she get in there? Yeah, she's really good, but still. Aren't women supposed to know their places anymore? This Title IX thing is out of control. Good grief, next thing ya know, one will be running for President. Arrgh.

On the international side of the bracket, one thing jumps out as interesting. Sure, there's a lot of good teams from around the world participating. But there is a notable exception. No team from Taiwan. Not that long ago, the Taiwanese were a dominant force in the Little League World Series. They would field a formidable squad every year. Well OK, they got caught cheating on the age thing here and there, but so did other teams, including Americans. But these days they don't even bother to enter the LLWS? What's going on?

Who will survive the international bracket to advance to the final game is a good question. Lots of good Latino teams, and the Japanese are no slouches. Consider how many major league stars have come out of their systems in recent years.

On the American side, yours truly must admit he has a preference. Nothing against the Obamas, Bushes, or anybody else around the country.

But c'mon. For excitement, there's nothing like Vegas. I'll try not to think about Harry Reid.....

Saturday, August 16, 2014

UM/MSU, and a dumpster

Now that was interesting. Did you know the value of an average house in the US is about $212,000? Me neither. I thought I had a nice home but evidently I'm still slumming. And the ever-lovable Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway company's stock just went over 200 grand -- per share. So if you're average, you can off your house and, after all the fees and commissions, maybe have enough left over to almost buy a share. One. Such a deal. Where you live in the meanwhile waiting for your dividend checks would appear to be another problem. But fear not. At 10-12% a year, you'll own that dumpster in no time.

Speaking of slumming, or is that slumping, the Univ of Michigan football program comes to mind. The once proud (and arrogant) program hasn't won much of anything in recent years. Back in the day, when Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes of Ohio State annually slugged it out for Big 10 supremacy on the gridiron, everything had a bit of order to it. There was UM, OSU, and the Little 8. Whoever won the November showdown in the annual three yards and a cloud of dust game between the Big 2 got to go to the Rose Bowl, where either was most often trashed by a Pac 10 team. It seemed those hippy dippy west-coasters had developed a couple radical new concepts foreign to the Big 10. Something about the forward pass and overall team speed.

In the interim, several head coaches have come and gone at both schools. Some were successful, and others got ran out of town for various reasons. Rich Rodriguez was supposed to bring the Wolverines into the 20th century with a high-octane offense. His teams flopped badly. Ironically, he's now at Arizona. Out west.

Ohio State's Jim Tressel was extremely successful, until he got caught up in the "tattoogate" scandal in Columbus. He was forced to resign. After a brief stint with the Indy Colts as a consultant, Tressel would return to where his career started. At Akron. Incredibly, as Vice President of Student Success and Strategic Engagement. It seemed tats were rather important in Akron. Then again, their home-town hero, one Lebron James, is pretty well inked up, and he's done well, so OK. What's Tressel doing these days? He was quietly, QUIETLY named President, yes President, of Youngstown State University a few months ago. From presiding over cheating football players to being the President of another university, all within a couple years. Think of them as you will, but Ohioans have a way of closing ranks, and not only protecting, but promoting their own.

Michigan State has had its share of clown football coaches. From the mid 1960s until just recently, better than four decades, their football team has pretty much been second rate. State rival Michigan normally had their way with them, and the Spartans were hardly a factor in the Big 10. Nationally, they weren't even on the radar screen.

But no more. Since Mark Dantonio came on as head coach in 2006, the Spartans have made remarkable progress. Granted, there were a few hiccups along the way, even a bunch of players getting in trouble a few years back. Ah, but Dantonio had served under Tressell at Ohio State as his defensive coordinator while coming up through the ranks. (Did some not-so-good player discipline stuff rub off on Dantonio? Hard to say.) Indeed, he was the architect of their super-stingy defense when the Buckeyes won the national title in 2002.

Yet after cycling through Cincinnatti as their head coach, few would doubt Dantonio's 63-29 record at MSU is very impressive. They are "little brother" no more in the state and have even become a national force to be reckoned with.

Just last season, they defeated Urban Meyer's unbeaten OSU team in the Big 10 championship game, and went on to beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl. They finished the season ranked #4 in the entire country. Though they lost a few key players to the NFL, all pre-season bowls have them solidly in the Top 10 entering this season. Sports Illustrated has them at #6.

In the meanwhile, Michigan seemed to go into the above-mentioned dumpster last year. Though starting out "ranked", they barely squeaked by patsies Akron and Connecticutt. The Wolverines would go on to lose 5 out of their last 6 games, including getting thumped 31-14 by an unranked Kansas State team in the 2nd/3rd tier Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Earlier in the season, MSU had waltzed into Michigan stadium and methodically given them a 29-6 drubbing. Despite their history of normally being overrated, it should come as no surprise that Michigan is nowhere to be found in the 2014 Top 25 preseason polls.

Besides MSU at #6, the Buckeyes are ranked #4, Notre Dame #13, Wisconsin #15, and even little Marshall, MARSHALL, rounds out the Top 25, while Michigan is nowhere in sight?

Oh my. Wherever he is, I suspect Bo Schembechler is twitching. He most definitely would not have approved.

But this is what happens when one school hires a no-nonsense guy that definitely knows football, while the other brings in yet another in a long line of coaches that tells the fans and alumni how great and proud -- heavy on the proud -- the program remains.

Give them both a few years to get their programs firmly in place, and the results will speak for themselves.

And so they have. One has come from also-ran to national contender. The other has become "little sister" in their own state.

How the worm has turned indeed......

Detroit Lions assessment

After returning from the eve of the Dream Cruise, what a blast, yours truly caught a bit of the Detroit Lions/Oakland Raiders game. In no particular order -- a few random thoughts-----

Yes, it was a local broadcast, but can't they find a couple announcers that can be a little more objective? These guys were bigger homers than anything Babe Ruth ever swatted.

A Lions' place-kicker missed an extra point, then bombed a 56 yard field goal that looked like it would have been good from 65. So how do you grade him out?

Evidently, a new head coach, coordinators, and new systems haven't changed one thing with the Lions. A few bone-headed penalties every game are still mandatory. It's like it's in the franchise's DNA or something. False starts have to be the stupidest penalties of them all. Hey, the O-line just heard the snap count in the huddle 10 seconds before, so why, tell me WHY, do some of these behemoths continue to prematurely jump before the play has started? Once set, don't move until the center snaps the ball. Can the coaches not get them to comprehend this simple concept?

And speaking of dumb -- which is worse? The Raiders facing third and one deep in Lions territory, with 25 seconds left on the game clock and trailing by 6 points -- only to see their QB get called for delay of game, which made it third and six? Or a Lion defensive back commit blatant interference on the ensuing pass play to give them another first down. Or perhaps the Lions dropping 7 guys into red zone pass coverage, only to see a Raider receiver stand wide open at the goal line to receive the winning touchdown pass. This was some seriously dumb football going on. By both sides.

Much like President Obama, new Lions' head coach Jim Caldwell's hair seems to be turning gray in a hurry. This is understandable for the POTUS. He's been in office for 5 1/2 years and has/had to deal with a lot of thorny issues. Illegal immigration, those pesky foreign wars, the economy, and a dysfunctional Congress to name a few. That Oval Office gig is a really high stress job. It would likely turn anybody's hair gray.

But Caldwell has no idea what he signed up for. Yes, like all his predecessors that have crashed and burned before him, he'll make big bucks while being convinced he can lead the Lions to Super Bowl glory. I'll give him three years, four max, before he becomes just another addition to the Lions' ex-coaching scrap heap -- never to be a head coach elsewhere again. The Lions are where head coaches go to die. And despite the Detroit hype, Caldwell's record already suggests he was very effective at being a coordinator under another successful head coach, but not so hot when he assumed the reins of command himself. Forget the gray hairs, Caldwell will be lucky if he doesn't require some serious daily meds to calm his nerves in a few years. It's the Lions, remember? They could get the Pope to start eating xanax like popcorn.

It seems odd that while, on the one hand, coaches stress the importance of practice repetitions to get guys ready for the real games. But on the other hand, the Lions keep giving a handful of their "starters" a free pass from having to participate in practice. This guy has a personal excuse. That guy is being "brought along slowly". With still others, they won't risk the chance of injury before the games really count. So which way do they want it? It can't be both.

They've got a defensive tackle, one Nick Fairley, that has gone into serious pout mode because he hasn't got all the first team reps in practice. Nevermind that Fairley has been an underachiever in his  time with the team, and further nevermind that because of his huge belly hanging over his waist he still can't see his nether regions, or probably feet, without the benefit of a mirror. His pride has been hurt. Poor Nick. Oh boo hoo hoo. Do you think good teams around the league would put up with this nonsense? Please.

It will be interesting to see how the Lions' season plays out. They start off with a Monday night home game against the NY Giants on national TV. Big exposure. They even have to go to London later on in their schedule to play the Atlanta Falcons. Pip, pip, and tally-ho. Yet neither of these opponents were remotely competitive last year, and likely won't be this year.

And the Lions couldn't have asked for an easier schedule. Besides their obligatory division games, the only really tough contest they appear to have is against the New England Patriots in Foxborough.

Given all the talent they supposedly have, and given their star players, practice reps or not, are entering the "prime" of their careers -- if they don't make the playoffs this year, and maybe even (gasp) win a game in the postseason, they might as well fold up their tent in Detroit and go someplace else, but it's obviously not destined to happen in Motown.

Hey, the old Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore and became Super Bowl champions. Same with the old Baltimore Colts moving to Indianapolis. The old LA Rams moved to St. Louis and won it. The old Houston Oilers went to Tennessee and at least GOT to the big dance. Expansion teams have come into existence and made appearances in the Super Bowl. See Carolina. Before them, Tampa Bay was an expansion team. They were initially terrible, but they eventually got it together and won a
Super Bowl. But never the Lions, one of the NFL's original franchises. Besides them, only the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and new Cleveland Browns -- all relatively new teams in the league -- have never made it to the Super Bowl.

And it's not going to happen this year for the Lions either. If things break right for them -- maybe a playoff game. If things break bad, not even that. Somewhere between 10-6 and 7-9, even given the "patsy" schedule that was handed to them.

But the Super Bowl this year? Not a chance....

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The NFL and the Karate Kid

Many moons ago, a friend of mine named Carl, who was highly advanced in a martial art (3rd-4th degree black belt - I forget) told me an interesting story. He had opened his own "dojo", basically a school to teach youngsters the discipline. Though meek and mild-mannered, and a guy that would do anything to avoid a physical confrontation in public -- including running away -- this was a guy that could be flat-out dangerous with his hands and feet if he was cornered by others and was forced to fight for survival. Occasionally macho idiots who had heard of his skills just had to "check him out". Still, he would do just enough to escape the situation, while inflicting a minimal amount of harm.

But he also said he always gave the parents of incoming students the same lecture. And if necessary, even adults who had signed up. He would teach them, or their children, many different exercises, mental disciplines, and slowly bring them along in the physical nature of his particular area of expertise. Like everything else in life, some will be better than others, he would say.

Yet he also told them that if they hung around long enough, and were good enough to advance far enough up the ranks -- they would get hurt eventually. He himself had suffered many injuries, including broken bones, on his way up the ladder to his lofty status. One has to compete against people better than themselves to prove their worthiness for advancement. It goes with the territory. So if anybody had concerns about the possibilities of injury, he made it quite clear from the outset this was the time to walk back out through the door. This was not a dance school. There would be contact. Eventually, serious contact. Injuries will happen.

The reason I relate that story is because it could be applied to the NFL these days. Sure, they've gone out of their way attempting to make the game safer. Better helmets and pads, banning such things as crack-back blocks and head-to-head contact, instant possible concussion monitoring, and scaling back the brutal practices and training regimens the players once faced, amongst other things.

Most, but not all, would say these are all good things. Player safety should be paramount. It also seems quite righteous that the NFL is willing to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars (the exact figure is yet to be determined) towards former players who are suffering from various maladies, physical and mental, that likely came about from their "playing days".

Back in the old days, nobody knew about concussions. A player got his "bell rung". He would play on or risk losing his job to another. Strained ligaments were a "sore knee". Good grief, Jack Youngblood of the former LA Rams once played an entire Super Bowl game on a broken leg.

Nowadays, people would think Jack was crazy. Maybe he was. And it didn't say much for his back-up, whoever that was, that he couldn't be more effective than a guy with a broken leg.

But let's get down to the nitty-gritty. In modern times, everybody knows that playing football includes the possibility of injury, sometimes very serious.

As my old pal Carl mentioned above would say, the further up the ladder you go, the greater the risk of getting hurt. Besides having the God-given talent, you have to WANT to do it, mentally and physically for a long time, through a lot of trials and tribulations, in order to accomplish anything great. 99.9% of those that start will never reach the peak of their aspirations -- be it in a dojo or in an NFL stadium.

More to the point, the NFL players themselves have no reason to whine anymore. They have certainly been made aware of the potential risks in the game they choose to play. A career can end, or a life be tragically altered with a horrendous injury on any given play. Again, it goes with the territory. Bad stuff is going to happen sometimes in a game that includes high-speed collisions on most every play, regardless of how "in shape" the athletes are, and whatever other safety measures and/or precautions have been taken.

Obviously, the players want to do it, because the competition remains ferocious to make it on an NFL team, much less be a star. And ironically, or maybe not, the NFL remains far and away the most popular sport in America. Fans LOVE their football, as does the media.

So why not just let them play it without all the sissy rules? Everybody knows what the deal is -- risk and possible reward. Granted, a lot of NFL players aren't the brightest stars in the galaxy. Without football, they might not be mentally capable of handling a drive-thru order at a typical fast-food joint. How else to explain false-start penalties when they heard the snap count in the huddle 10 seconds before? Or jumping offsides when the football is right underneath their noses and hasn't moved yet?

But dammit, they can run, catch, block, tackle, kick, and dance in the end zone. And the possibility of an obcene multi-million dollar contract doesn't exactly serve as a deterrent to the wannabes.

So let them play and beat each other up. They like it, the fans like it, and the media thrives on it.

But no more whining about the injuries that might happen. Or have even occurred in the recent past.

Like Carl would have said -- they knew what they were getting into -- but they did it anyway.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

LA Clippers sold. OF COURSE

The sale of the LA Clippers has just been finalized. The NBA's board of governors (see other owners) fast-tracked this deal. Well, OF COURSE they did. If the Clippers, who have never won anything, are worth $2 billion on the open market, the values of the other franchises just went through the roof as well.

Meanwhile, former (for the time being, pending appeals) owner Donald Sterling is suing the NBA, and the league is suing him right back. Well, OF COURSE they are. This is what happens when a billionaire doesn't get his way and a rookie commissioner is trying to establish his authority. Between Sterling and Adam Silver, a case could be made they deserve each other.

Tom Watson, captain of the US Ryder Cup golf team, finds himself on the hot seat. Should he use one of his captain's picks to select Tiger Woods, even though Tiger can't seem to stay healthy and has been stinking it up on the courses when he is? Well, OF COURSE he will. Tigermania, however currently misguided, is still rampant amongst the media and his legions of groupies. While he's at it, perhaps Watson should pick Jack Nicklaus as well. If it's about former greatness -- then why not?

The Cleveland Browns recently brought in QB Rex Grossman to fill a back-up role. Well, OF COURSE they did. Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer are slugging it out for the starting job, and somebody's going to be "disgruntled" when they lose that battle. I smell potential trade bait. Might as well have a decent back-up that would be happy to fill the role.

After Indiana Pacer forward Paul George suffered a broken leg, team president Larry Bird said he could not be replaced. Well, OF COURSE he can. Somebody will fill that roster spot, unless Bird plans on his team playing a man short all year. Please.

Hoops fans are supposed to care whether Lebron James' or Carmelo Anthony's off-season weight loss was more impressive? Pretty please. Melo can throw up his 30 points a game, but as long as he's with the Knicks, OF COURSE he has no chance at a championship. Meanwhile, how good the Cleveland Cavaliers will be remains to be seen. New Lebron, new Kevin Love, new coach, new chemistry -- we'll see. They might even compete for the Eastern Conference title. But could they survive in the Finals against whoever comes out of the wild, and vastly superior West? OF COURSE, hmm, probably not. Something about Lebron being on a mission is difficult to totally discount.

Idle thought: I wonder if Jim Leyland, former manager of the Tigers, a Pittsburgh native, and former manager of the Pirates as well, was on hand to watch the Pirates demolish the Tigers in their short series. OF COURSE he was. What else does he have to to these days?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams dead at 63. Alas

Once in a great while, yours truly takes the liberty of writing a post that is not sports related. So far, the boss, that dastardly editor, has shown lenience on such occasions. Either that, or he doesn't bother to read my tripe anymore. Regardless, this is one of those times.

Robin Williams is gone at the age of 63. Few would doubt he was amongst the most quick-witted, ad-lib impromptu hilarious people there ever was. Put Williams in a room-- any room -- under any circumstances -- and he would find a way to make people laugh.

Sure, he came to fame as the loveable and goofy alien Mork on the TV show, nanu, but he became so much more. From hit films like Mrs. Doubtfire and Good Morning Vietnam, to his always hilarious antics on late night talk shows, to stand-up comedy routines, and much more, Robin Williams was an icon.

Yet few remember who his own hero was. The late Jonathan Winters, who was equally adept at creating scriptless humor out of virtually nothing. Williams often said he patterned himself after Winters. But very few have the gift of such talents. Yes, there have been other quick-witted people like Carson, Leno, Letterman, and Rickles, to name a few, but usually they were reacting to things said by others -- rather than creating it from scratch. Winters and Williams could walk on a stage anywhere, with no pre-written "lines", no teleprompter or cue cards, no nothing, and bring down the house with their imagination and spontaneous humor. A rare special talent indeed.

But on a much more somber note, it's time for a dose of reality. Once again, in a "high-profile" death, the authorities are playing hide and go seek with the facts. Reports appear unanimous that Williams committed suicide by asphyxia. Certainly the cops and the medical examiner know the circumstances and forensics surrounding his death. What does "suicide by asphyxia" mean? Did Williams zip tie his own neck? Hang himself? Out with it.

Hey, if Chicago Cubs and Detroit Lions fans can weather countless decades of heartbreak, and the "View" continues to air, how another celebrity killed himself won't exactly cause a mass panic across the nation. We can take just about anything, however it went down. So let's hear it.

Nevertheless, yours truly mourns the loss of Robin Williams. Only 63, and what a talent.


Detroit Tigers. Falling apart

Few would have thunk it, but it's happened -- again. While being the overwhelming favorite to win the weak AL Central Division, the Tigers now find themselves in second place behind the KC Royals. KC has been super-hot lately, and the Tigers can't seem to get out of their own way.

For the Tigers, it's been a combination of Murphy's Law and, frankly, stinking it up.

As for bad luck recently, the Motowners have had plenty. When their vaunted starting pitchers do well, the hurlers on the other team seem to do even better. Conversely, when the Tigers put a few runs on the board, the opponents put up more. That's just baseball. Stuff happens, both hot and cold.

But the last couple games for the Tigers have been telling, and not in a good way. In Toronto, they blew a 5-0 lead, and eventually lost the game in 19 innings. During the marathon game, the Tigers used everybody on their roster except starters Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, including starting pitcher Rick Porcello on "short rest". Eight pitchers in all. But the Tigers had left themselves short-handed to begin with. Starter Anabel Sanchez was hurt, as was reliever Joakim Soria, but they hadn't called up replacements to fill those two spots. That's not bad luck, that's bad managing. And they got caught for their dereliction of duty.

Without the benefit of an off-day, Detroit had to travel to Pittsburgh to face the Pirates. Justin Verlander would start. But the Verlander of this year hardly appears to be the Cy Youngish Verlander of not long ago. Indeed, he was only a mediocre 10-10 entering this game. And what happened? The Fastball Flakes man got lit up, again. He gave up 4 runs, 4 hits, and two walks in merely the first inning. The Pirates were teeing off on him like it was batting practice. Verlander would not make it to the second inning, and reports say he might even be injured.

Still, that doesn't excuse the Tigers' overall play of late. They're committing little league errors in the field, and bone-headed plays on the basepaths. In the game against the Pirates, the Tigers had two runners thrown out at home, one by at least 15 feet. This might be understandable if the Tigers were trying to score the winning run late in a close game, or perhaps end a marathon like they endured in Toronto. But they were several runs behind at the time in Pittsburgh. Either the baserunners ran through the stop signal, or the third base coach waved them on. One way or the other, this is flat-out dumb baseball.

With their pitching staff gassed, or hurt, the Tigers had to call up (finally) a few scrubs from the minors to hopefully tide them over. Predictably, they got lit up like pinball machines as well. More batting practice for the other guys.

And it's not going to get any easier. Far from it. The Tigers still have two double-headers staring them in the face in the month of August, with only two off days. With Sanchez hurt, Verlander iffy at best, and the overall play of their positional players of late -- this may not bode well.

Further, their remaining games are not in their favor either. The "experts" have said the Tigers' schedule is the second toughest in the major leagues, behind only that of the Baltimore Orioles, who are, somewhat surprisingly, soaring high out in the East.

Once thought to be a "lock" to easily win the Central Division, the Tigers appear to be anything but.

Currently, they're in a dogfight to merely make the playoffs, even as a wildcard, where they would face a one game elimination match against the other wild card. Anything could happen. Got a coin to flip? Feel lucky?

But despite their recent bad play and Murphy's Law, I suspect they'll find a way to right their ship and cruise into the playoffs as division champions.

They better, or everybody from President/GM Dave Dombrowski to rookie manager Brad Ausmus is going to have some serious 'splainin to do.....

Race driver killed

It really is a shame that young (20) race driver Kevin Ward was tragically killed at a dirt track in upstate New York. Sometimes crashes happen at all levels of racing, and occasionally result in fatalities, though the sport as a whole has become much safer than it used to be through various upgrades in protective measure for the drivers.

But a driver getting run over as a "pedestrian" and killed by another race car is most ususual indeed. Yet it happened to Kevin Ward.

Apparently, noted NASCAR driver Tony Stewart made contact with Ward's car which spun the youngster crashing into the wall, effectively ending his race. Whether this initial contact was Stewart's or Ward's fault seems immaterial at this point. But Ward was pissed.

So he climbed out his car, still fully healthy, and waited for "Smoke" to come around the track again, presumably to holler, shake his fist, maybe throw his helmet, and otherwise let Stewart know he wasn't exactly happy with how the crash came about.

Little did he suspect he would be dead a few seconds later, having been run over by the very car and driver he wished to express his outrage at. This was a tragedy indeed, but beyond the obvious, a few things are wrong with this.

First of all, Ward climbing out of his car to stand in the middle of a race track, yellow flag or not, was an incredibly stupid thing to do. On top of that, he was wearing a black fire suit at a dimly lit dirt track. The back ends of cars typically fish-tail through the turns at dirt tracks and that is precisely what got Ward killed. When Stewart came around again, his right rear snagged Ward and the youngster got caught up underneath the car. Game, and life, over.

But he should have known better. What Ward did was like playing hopscotch on the interstate. One might survive, but it's definitely tempting fate. These are bad ideas. With all due sympathy to Ward and his family, sometimes doing stupid things can get one killed. Most any race car driver knows to stay in his/her car wrecked car until the rescue squad arrives and everything is totally safe. You do not, repeat NOT stand in the middle of the track waiting to flip the bird to another driver. In that respect, Ward himself was responsible for his own demise.

Of course, there's the cops. There's always cops poking their noses around looking for a reason to put somebody in jail even if a crime hasn't been committed. Amid much fanfare, the head boy in blue called a press conference. He said no criminal charges were being considered against Stewart at this time. Well, no kidding. It was a tragic racing accident, mostly prompted by a stupid act of the deceased. Yet despite the race track videos, they still want any spectators that filmed the incident to come forward to share their "evidence". Maybe, just maybe, they can build a case that Stewart mowed down Ward on purpose -- with malice and aforethought -- and send him up the river for a bunch of years. Though it's typical cop-thought, they had no business in this matter to begin with. It was obviously an accident, but the authorities always want to assign blame and burn somebody these days, whether it's justifiable or not. Scary thing is, they can often get gullible juries to believe it.

The whole incident was, in a word, unfortunate. The Ward family will grieve their loss of Kevin, and Tony Stewart will no doubt have haunting memories for quite some time.

But like Dale Earnhart Jr. said -- it's racing -- and sometimes bad things just happen. Considering his daddy -- he would know.....

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Gimme a break

So Florida has more deadly shark attacks than the other 49 states combined? Well, that's about a stupid statistic, considering some 30 states have no ocean shorelines. You won't see too many shark attacks in Nebraska. Gimme a break.

Don't look now, but those pesky KC Royals are only 1 1/2 games behind the Detroit Tigers again. Despite all the Motown huffing and puffing about Cy Young winners here and sluggers there, they have yet to blow down the weak AL Central Division. C'mon boys. Straighten up. God help them if they somehow manage to lose this thing and fall out of the playoffs. The media will eat them alive.

Tiger Woods once said he would walk away from the PGA tour if he couldn't compete for championships anymore. Pushing 40, with his game a mess and his seemingly ever-fragile physical health, the time might soon draw nigh to see if he was a man of his word. For all intents and purposes, having failed to make the Fed-Ex playoffs, Woods is done this year. He'll have several months to rehab and get his game together. But if his 2015 campaign looks anything like 2014, we shall see if he will gracefully bow out, or continue trying to hang on.

On a related note, Woods also once said he might come back to play with his son if his son was good enough to be out on tour. This was a few years before his son was even born. Let's not forget, his ex Elin popped out a daughter first. They named her Sam. Odd name for a girl, but Tiger said it was because his own dad, despite naming him Eldrick Tont, always called him Sam. Beats Sue, but the Woods' clans appears to be a little strange when it comes to what they call their children.

Nevertheless, as the chromosomes would have it, Elin gave birth to a son a couple years later. Charlie Axel. He's 5 years old now. So even if the boy grows up to be interested in golf, no given, and he becomes good enough to be a touring pro, and daddy Sam, oops, Tiger (and where did that name come from?) wants to play with him in a tournament -- it's likely at least 15 years away. At which time Eldrick would be in his early to mid 50s, and teeing it up on the geezer circuit, sometimes known as the Champions tour. And that's if he doesn't keep stinking it up and walk away from the game like he once promised. This could get complicated. We need a break from this whole Tigermania thing. Either he gets it back together or he doesn't but, if not soon, Father Time's not going to do his back, legs, and whatever else any favors in the future.

Watched a bit of the Detroit Lions/Cleveland Browns pre-season game. For all the hype of Detroit's supposed high octane offense and the debut of Cleveland's Johnny "Football" Manziel, talk about a yawner. That game could have put a glacier to sleep. Sure, it had to do with playing a bunch of scrubs that will be long gone before the regular season starts, but why even bother? Between the Lions and the Browns, two perennial losers, one would think their projected starters need all the game reps they can get.

Yet NFL teams across the board continue to charge regular season ticket prices for the charades they pass off as pre-season games. Gimme a break.

Thing is, the NFL has the season ticket holders between a rock and a hard place. If they want to keep their precious seats for the real games, they also have to pony up big bucks for a month's worth of shams.

And forget any giving of a break. That's just not right.....

Friday, August 8, 2014

The silly season

You've likely already seen the TV ads. The "attackee" is portrayed in stark black and white with a grim expression on their face. Obviously, these people are evil. Then the picture changes to the "attacker" and, presto, it's in color as the hero(ine) smiles, shakes hands, kisses babies, and otherwise promises to save the day. First in black/white and sinister, then blooming color in a magical land where your fondest dreams may come true. Or so they say. It's kind of like watching the Wizard of Oz. Yep, it must be another election year. The silly season indeed.

Some Little League pitcher from a team in northern California is quite an amazing kid. Remember, though there have been cheaters in the past, supposedly no participant in Little League can be older than 13. But this not-so-little little dude had sideburns and the beginnings of a goatee. At 13? Really? Somebody needs to seriously card that boy, or at least drug test him. I sense some silliness afoot.

Idle thought: If it was found he had a gorilla in his family tree a few generations ago -- would that be grounds for disqualification?

After the first round of this year's PGA Championship, Tiger Woods found himself a whopping 9 strokes behind. But never fear, quoth the Eldrick, winning this major for his 15th was still within his reach. Alas, after the second round, Tiger had lost 6 more strokes, a full 15 behind the leader and nowhere near making the cut, let alone winning it. Of late, it appears Tiger has taken on the personna of Don Quixote. Tilting at windmills -- with an occasional f-bomb thrown in for good measure. Alexander Dumas likely would have considered such behavior quite silly, not to mention beneath his hero's dignity.

People in Cleveland stood in line for 6 hours just to hear Lebron James give a pep talk about the next basketball season that won't even start for another few months? With a rookie NBA coach and a roster that hasn't even been determined yet? Wow. It would appear they seriously -- SERIOUSLY -- need a few more entertainment options on the southern shores of Lake Erie. These people are getting silly.

And of course, there are the loveable?, and usually laughable Detroit Lions. As they approach the pre-season games, the historically silly-making Honolulu blue and silver koolaid is being dished out every which way. Again.

With a "hot-shot" QB, a Megatron, another "great" draft, a couple of "can't miss" free agents, a new coach/coordinators/systems, ferocious defensive line, veterans returning and the young studs having another year of experience under their belts -- this just might be "the year". Right.

Personally, I have long considered (and still do) the Lions to be like the editors of Mad magazine refer to their contributing artists and writers.

The usual gang of idiots.

To think they are anywhere remotely near Super Bowl caliber this year is just plain, well -- do I really need to say it?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

When will Tiger Woods hype finally stop?

According to the old saying, a lot of people get their fifteen minutes of fame. Some only get fifteen seconds, and then we never hear about them again.

And of course, there are the all-timers, whose accomplishments were so exceptional that they will be forever remembered as great men indeed, be it over years, decades, or even centuries. Names likes Alexander the Great, Caesar, Babe Ruth, Jack Daniels, and Larry, Moe, and Curly come to mind. You know, the true immortals.

Though it's a lot better than 15 seconds or minutes, Eldrick Tont (Tiger) Woods has enjoyed 15 years of fame, mostly for playing golf. Ahem. But there's a catch....

For roughly his first 10 years as a pro golfer, he lit up the sport like no other had ever done before, or perhaps will ever do again. Tiger was racking up tournament wins at an incredible rate, including one major title after another.

Often overlooked is the fact he re-kindled interest in the game of golf itself. From little kids in poor neighborhoods taking up the sport, on up through weekend TV ratings in pro tournaments, the game got a much-needed boost in popularity across the board, seemingly because of Tiger's mere presence.

But for the last 5 years of the above-mentioned 15, Woods hasn't fared so well. Sure, he's changed caddies, equipment, women, his swing, and had various physical ailments. Yet the fact remains that Tiger hasn't won a major since 2008, six years ago. Actually, he hasn't really come close.

For that matter, in recent times, Woods doesn't even seem to be competitive anymore. Translation? He's stinking it up. Bad.

In six tournament outings this year, his best finish was a tie for 25th. He's missed the cut, withdrawn from a couple others, and has made a paltry $108,000. That's a fairly handsome sum if one is flipping burgers at a fast food joint or writing a dopey sports blog (present company excluded) for a living, but far beneath what had come to be expected of the mighty Tiger.

After suffering back spasms which caused him to withdraw again last week, Woods and his medical folks pronounced him fit to play in this year's PGA tournament.

[Idle thought: This event is being held at a place called Valhalla. In Norse mythology, Valhalla was the enormous palace of the head god Odin. Who knew it was in Kentucky all along? Go figure.]

But once again, Tiger wasn't very good in his opening round. He sprayed shots all over the place, from creeks, to woods, to the gallery. He would finish at 3 over par 74, some nine shots behind the leader. And he was up to his old antics when frustrated. Pounding clubs on the ground and even dropping an "f" bomb. The man's pushing 40, and is a seasoned vet on the tour -- but he still acts like a spoiled brat throwing a hissy fit when things don't go his way. One would think he would have matured by now, but some things just aren't destined to happen.

Nevertheless, the last 5 years of Tiger hype have been strictly on his former greatness. And it definitely continues. Watch the sports highlights on ESPN. You'll always see a clip dedicated to Eldick even if he's hopelessly out of contention at any particular tournament. Unless he miraculously turns his game around, chances are he's going to miss the cut at this PGA. Reports say after this tournament, Tiger will go on vacation for at least six weeks.

So that begs the question --- with all the other great young players in the game -- and a new one seems to pop up every week -- how much longer will Tigermania be mandated upon the viewing public?

How bad and for how long does this guy have to stink it up before the collective media loses its fascination with him, and moves on to more objective coverage with the multitude of superior talents currently playing the game?

Another year? 2? 5? Who knows? But somehow Tiger stills draws them like moths to a porch light.

Here's wishing him the best in the future, but this hype thing really needs to stop, because he doesn't deserve it anymore. Not even close.