Monday, September 29, 2014

Orioles/Tigers. A different view

First of all, the Tigers have a huge advantage going in, and it has nothing to do with starting pitching. The Orioles will be without the services of three of their best position players. Manny Machado and Matt Wieters are out for the season with injuries, and slugger Chris Davis still has 8 games to go on his "drug" suspension.

Davis was slapped with a 25 game suspension a while back for using, of all things, Adderall.  That particular medicine is used in treating ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). The symptoms can range from a short attention span, to constantly fidgeting, and even narcolepsy.

But in their post-steroids witchhunt overreach, Major League Baseball has deemed Adderall a banned substance.

Unless one gets permission to use it. Davis had that permission last year from MLB but, oops, he forgot to ask pretty please for a renewal of his MLB prescription, used it anyway, because his symptoms haven't changed and likely never will -- so he got busted. It was OK last year, but not this year? And only because he didn't ask for permission? Hypocrisy anyone?

Nevertheless, a short attention span might be a good thing in baseball. If a player strikes out while at bat or makes an error in the field -- best to forget about it and move on.

And it's certainly understandable why a batter might be fidgety in the batter's box when a potential 100 MPH fastball might be heading his way in a couple seconds. But a sudden attack of narcolepsy? Imagine.....

The game is tied in the bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded. Two outs. The count is 3-2. Here comes the windup, the runners are off and -- wait a minute -- Chris Davis is taking a nap on home plate. Good luck trying to sort that out. Methinks it would have been a lot simpler to let the dude have his meds.

Though the Orioles will have home field advantage in this series, somewhat surprisingly, the Tigers had a better record on the road than at home this year. And c'mon, home court, ice, or field might juice up players in basketball, hockey, or football, but it really means little in baseball. That's likely because there's no such thing as momentum in MLB. There's typically 20-30 seconds between every pitch and even when a ball is hit, the play lasts for only 10 seconds or so -- then it's back to the same plodding pace. Fans may jump up and scream when one of their home town heroes hits a home run, but after it's over, they usually have enough time to reload with hot dogs and beer before something else happens. The nature of the game features a lot of things -- but momentum isn't one of them.

Back to the match-up itself. As mentioned above, the Tigers go in with a huge advantage due to a few Orioles players not being available. Removing Machado, Wieters, and Davis from the equation might be akin to the Tigers being without Ian Kinsler, and a Martinez or two. Had that been the case for a while, the Tigers might well have not won their division at all.

Yet somehow, the Orioles not only persevered, but actually finished 6 full games ahead of the Tigers at the end of the regular season. That's a bunch.

Prediction. Methinks the Tigers will dispatch the Orioles. Who wins the wild card play-in game between KC and Oakland doesn't matter. Either will fall to the LA Angels in a 7 game playoff.

So it will be Ye Olde English D's taking on the Halos for a shot at the World Series.

And that's where it ends for the Tigers. The fact the Angels finished a whopping 8 games ahead of the Tigers, for the best record in all of MLB, is no coincidence. Top to bottom, they're a superior club.

Food for thought for Tigers' fans -- who do you think most of the talking heads, deep-pocketed sponsors, and other movers and shakers would rather see in the World Series? Your team, or one from LA? Do you think they'd prefer to talk about Miguel Cabrera, a Venezuelan, or Mike Trout, the All-American boy?

But the playoffs are the playoffs. Anything can happen.

Let the games begin......


Sunday, September 28, 2014

The demise of professional boxing

For a very long time, boxing was a very big deal in the American sports world. The list of notable pugilists over the decades is long indeed. Back in the days before televisions even existed, many legends had carved out their spots in American boxing history. Think of Jack Dempsey, Gentleman Jim Corbett, Sugar Ray Robinson, Jake LaMotta, Rocky Marciano, and the mighty Joe Louis to name a few.

Yours truly wasn't around in the pre-TV days, though as a young boy, I do have memories of watching a black and white set with rabbit ears on top and only 4 channels to choose from. Obviously, this was long before cable, dishes, and TV coming through a phone line was ever even imagined.

Yet, believe it or not, wireless remote controls existed back in those days. How do I know this? Because I WAS one for my late beloved dad.

Get me a beer, boy.
Turn it to channel 2, boy.
Go help your mom with the dishes, boy.
The picture's fuzzy, boy. Fix the rabbit ears.
Turn it up, boy.
Stop walking in front of the TV, boy.

But dad, I have to -- to get you a beer or help mom in the kitchen.

You heard me, boy.

Ah yes, the good old days. And Friday night was a holy time in our household. At least to dad. Some razor blade company, either Schick or Gillette -- I forget which -- featured the Friday night fights. Dad was into boxing -- in a big way. Those were times for us remotes to get like Elmer Fudd -- be vewy, vewy quiet. One time, during a particularly very good match, I forget who the competitors were, I actually went out of the front door, walked around to the back to fetch a beer in the fridge, then reversed course to present it to dad in the living room -- so I wouldn't walk in front of the TV. We remotes had to improvise at times.

But in the 1970s, I got into following boxing myself. Over the next couple decades, there were a lot of world-class guys to root for or against. Danny "Little Red" Lopez, only a featherweight, was one of my favorites. Hector "Macho" Camacho was certainly famous, as was Julio Caesar Chavez. Going up a few pounds, there were the likes of Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran, Tommy "Hit Man" Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, and "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler.

And oh my, the heavyweights were everywhere. Besides Ali, consider Smokin Joe, George Foreman, the Spinks brothers, and Ken Norton. Even Jerry Quarry was a household name. Later on, along came the likes of "Iron" Mike Tyson and Larry Holmes, to name but a few. Boxing was STILL a big deal.

Yet as we all know, though it's still out there, pro boxing has all but disappeared as a mainstream sport over the last decade or two. Even Olympic boxing every 4 years has been relegated to back-burner status compared to what it used to be.

How or why this happened in America is a very good question. Did fans just grow tired of the sport? Maybe. Or did all the shady back room deals involving promoters, highly controversial decisions that went against the apparent winner of a match, and seemingly every even semi-successful fighter having his own "posse" of wannabes and thugs following him around everywhere finally turn people off?

And let's get real. Boxing always was, and is the only sport where nobody knows what the score is until it's all over. That's ridiculous. Even more outrageous is the fact that the ringside triumvirate of "judges" are free to go back and change their scores in a particular round that happened earlier. That not only sets the stage for possible corruption, but invites it. Unlike the umps in baseball, and refs in football, basketball, and hockey, boxing judges largely remain in the shadows.

The most obvious thing they should have corrected a long time ago is the scoring itself. Beginning with the first, after a round is over, the scores of the judges should be posted on a scoreboard for all those in attendance to see, and certainly not subject to change later. It's preposterous to think that could happen in any other sport. The score is what it is, inning by inning, quarter by quarter, round by round, and even second by second. So SHOW IT in real time. What's the problem?

Nevertheless, for the above and likely other reasons, pro boxing has all but died in this country. Don't believe that? OK, quick, name a famous boxer not named Floyd Mayweather in ANY weight division, and he's 37 years old. See what I mean?

Sure he was, and is a great champion. But even Mayweather, with all his millions, undefeated record, and bravado is withering away in the public eye. In order to watch one of his latest fights, one had to pony up $79.95 or whatever to catch it on a cable station. Even more telling is there was little coverage either in print media or on the Net as to the outcome of his latest match.

Floyd may still be raking in the millions but he, and all the others, can't even seem to find their way onto TV sets in most homes.

Methinks sometimes the old days were better. At least we could watch it on TV for free, even if it was in black and white, and had to forever twiddle with rabbit ears to get decent reception.

Maybe one Friday night soon, I'll make a pilgrimage to my dad's grave. I have this very old long neck bottle of Pfeiffer that I could rest against his tombstone. I think he'd like that.

We remotes never totally forget our place.....

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The utter stupidity of Michigan football

As the program continues to flounder deeper into the depths under head coach Brady Hoke, it appears, incredibly, that Michigan has given him a long term (7 year) contract extension. Unbelievable.

Even more mind-boggling is Hoke, at $6 million a year, is the highest paid college coach in the country. And the university is on the financial hook for this clown through the year 2021. Money's not a big deal at Michigan. They've got tons of it, but one would think, at some point, the common sense factor would kick in. Evidently not.

UM athletic director David Brandon explained it this way -- "yesterday's performance against Utah was so impressive we decided we had to act fast to keep Brady in Ann Arbor". Earth to David -- the Utes hammered your Wolverettes 26-10 in your own house. If this is impressive to the good Mr. Brandon perhaps he should be closely monitored for the possession and usage of mind-altering drugs.

Oh, it gets even stupider. Brandon seems to think UM is only a couple seasons away from competing for a national championship. To wit -- "once we learn how to score offensive touchdowns and get our turnovers under 4 a game -- we'll be unstoppable". Well gee, David, thanks for the flash of brilliance. We fans would have NEVER thought of that. Maybe when his time is done at Michigan, Brandon can get a job with the Fords overseeing the Detroit Lions as GM or president. Great minds think alike -- right?

And just when you think the absolute max of lunacy has been reached -- along comes Brady Hoke himself with a few more words of wisdom. He disagrees with Brandon's opinion of a couple years until glory returns. The Hokey Pokester came out and said the Wolverines have a shot at the national championship THIS year. Evidently, the $40+ million contract has sent him off into a strange world of insanity not even the likes of Rod Serling, Stephen King, or Isaac Asimov could have ever imagined.

So let's see. Michigan beat a couple patsies at home in Appalachian State and Miami of Ohio. They got "mercied" 31-0 at Notre Dame. As mentioned above, the Utes came into their Big House and gave them another thrashing. And just yesterday, the Minnesota Golden Gophers reclaimed the "little brown jug", on Michigan's home field, for the first time in a very long time, with a 30-14 beatdown of the Maize and Blue. Actually, the score should have been even more lop-sided. Minn got jobbed out of a safety in Mich's end zone, and one of their corners had an easy "pick 6" on one of several errant UM passes -- but dropped the ball.

Next week UM goes to Rutgers. While not a national power, the Scarlet Knights aren't exactly a patsy either. They'll likely be favored at home, and it's entirely possible UM will be taken to the woodshed again.

Then UM comes back home for Penn State. That's a maybe.

The following week, it's off to the slaughterhouse, aka Michigan State. "Little brother" has grown up to be a brute, and if "little sister" Mich is getting waxed at home by the likes of Utah and Minn, how ugly might it get for them in East Lansing?

Given the way they're played so far this year, and looking at the rest of their Big 10 schedule, it's not out of the realm of possibility UM could go totally winless in their conference. Such is the sorry state of their program right now.

But never fear. Brady thinks a national championship is still within reach this year, and his boss David thinks it will happen no later than next year.

There's confidence. There's arrogance. And then there's the utter madness that sometimes sets in when one snaps and totally loses touch with reality. What comes after utter madness?

I don't know either, but whatever it is, they seem to be stricken with it in Ann Arbor.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Detroit Tigers and the playoffs

Remember earlier in the year when the Tigers were projected to run away with the AL central division race? They supposedly had the best starting pitching rotation in all of baseball, sluggers galore, and had even added free agent and former All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler. At the trade deadline, they picked up ace pitcher David Price from the Tampa Bay Rays. Plus, J.D. Martinez, who was merely a cast-off from the lowly Houston Astros, suddenly turned into a hitting machine upon arriving in Detroit. It should have been a no-brainer.

But it wasn't. With only a couple games to go, the Tigers STILL haven't won their division, though their "magic number" is one. Worse case scenario for the Tigers? They don't win another game and Kansas City doesn't lose another game. In that case, they would tie for the division lead and a one game playoff would happen. Whoever lost that game would be relegated to "wild card" status, and face yet another one game playoff against the other wild card team, the Oakland As. Winning two crap shoots in a row is risky business.

Yet let's assume the Tigers finally eke out the Royals for the division championship. What are their chances in the long run to keep moving on?

The Baltimore Orioles have pretty much slugged their way into the AL east crown. In fact, while flying under the radar, don't look now, but the O-Birds have the best record in all of baseball. A full 14 games ahead of the Tigers. Former skipper Earl Weaver would have been proud.

The Los Angeles Angels, with Mike Trout and company, are certainly more talented from top to bottom than the Motowners. The "halos" have great starting pitching as well, including a bullpen far superior to the Tigers. Sluggers? The Angels have a few of their own. Defensively, the Angels are as good or better than anybody else in MLB. Plus, they have one thing the Tigers do not. All-around team speed.

The fact they're a whopping 9 games ahead of the Tigers in overall team standings is no coincidence. These guys are that good. How a potential seven game Detroit/LA playoff series would turn out is anybody's guess.

But look closer at the Tigers, particularly their starting pitching. Max Scherzer is cruising along to another great year, though why he turned down a $140 million contract extension continues to boggle the mind of yours truly. It's not like he's going to get any more some place else. Maybe he just wants out of Detroit. Color him gone after this year.

Justin Verlander has had a rather jouneyman season, barely above .500. Hot shot Rick Porcello started off on fire, but in the last couple months has been losing more than he's winning. He stands barely above .500 himself. Same with David Price. He always appears dominant when he pitches, but his record since joining the Tigers (3-4) speaks for itself. Anabel Sanchez spent a long time on the disabled list and, even if he's finally healthy again, the Tigers don't know what to do with him.

Granted, the Tigers have had a very successful September to date. The glass half full scenario would suggest it's the mark of a good team when somebody different, however unlikely, steps up every day to make a key contribution that results in a win. The glass half empty scenario would suggest they're getting it done with smoke, mirrors, and a healthy dose of luck.

How will all this play out for the Tigers when the playoffs start? No idea. After 160 games, the records would indicate they're not nearly as good as the Angels and Orioles. And even in the National League, the Dodgers and Washington Nats appear to be vastly superior. (More about that in a future post).

But you never know when the playoffs start. The Tigers could be quickly bounced, or maybe even go on to win, gasp, the World Series.

Ten teams will start the playoffs, and that's exactly the odds I give the Tigers of winning it all.


This is not to say the baseball playoffs drag on for a while (see cha-ching), but it's not even October yet. Chances are good you'll be handing out candy on Halloween and still not know who the World Series champion is. After all, there was a reason Derek Jeter was recently referred to as Mr. November......

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Derek Jeter's finest accomplishment

It couldn't have been scripted any better. During his last game at Yankee Stadium, after the Baltimore Orioles had rallied to tie the score in the top of the ninth inning -- Jeter drove in the winning run with one of his trademark opposite field singles in the bottom of the ninth. The Bronxers went crazy.

It seems like it's always been that way with Jeter. When the heat is on, he delivers. Captain Clutch. What's ironic is, during his entire career with the Yankees, the above was the first game he had played in a game at home with his team already eliminated from playoff contention. There will be no typical October heroics for Jeter in this, his final season. It's a shame he won't be given a chance to go out on top with another World Series championship, but it was not to be.

Even the most rabid Yankee-hating fans wouldn't dispute Jeter's greatness over the years. Certainly, he'll be an absolute lock for first ballot Hall of Fame induction when he becomes eligible in 5 years. He might even accomplish something no player in the history of the game ever has before. Unanimous selection. Time will tell, but probably not. There will likely be a few voters that leave him off their ballots as a matter of principle. Perhaps they will have a point. After all, if the likes of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Ted Williams weren't "worthy" of a sweep, then why should Jeter be the first? Even the top vote-getter, percentage-wise, of all time, one Tom Seaver, was left off 5 ballots. Was Jeter better than those guys?

Nevertheless, Jeter has had a remarkable career. Besides his 5 World Series championships, and a dozen or so All-Star selections, he's #6 on the all-time hits list. His career batting average is actually slightly better than #1, Pete Rose, but Charlie Hustle played a few more years than Jeter. As did Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, and Tris Speaker -- the only players with more career hits. (Though to be fair, Cobb's .367 lifetime batting average stands far and above the rest, and Stan the Man's .331 was definitely a cut above Jeter's .309).

There is also ZERO doubt Jeter's #2 will be retired by the Yankees. Nobody will ever wear it again. Oddly, or maybe not, #2 is the only single digit number that has not already been retired by the Yankees. The Yanks are big on immortalizing past heroes. Consider the others ---

#1. Billy Martin
#3. The Babe
#4. Lou Gehrig
#5. Joe DiMaggio
#6. Joe Torre, just recently
#7. The Mick.
#8. In honor of both Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey.
#9. Roger Maris.

#10 is gone as well for Elston Howard, as are a slew of other numbers for various former pin-stripers.

Jeter definitely belongs in the club. But he did something even more remarkable over his long and distinguished baseball career.

Remember, Jeter was there throughout the infamous "steroid era", but nobody has ever suggested he was even remotely involved. Further, he's a handsome guy, and a superstar that was making countless millions of dollars. It's a safe bet to assume Jeter has had his fair share of "offers" from the fairer sex over the years, up to and including many which might be considered by some to be world-class cuisine. Yet he's remained single, and we've never seen his name splashed around the tabloids because he's "seeing" somebody, and they just became an "item". For all the legions of newshounds and paparazzi that would like nothing better than to sink their slimy little teeth into such a story -- it never seemed to happen. For all his on-field heroics, Jeter was a master of keeping his private life just that -- private.

So all hail the fantastic career that Derek Jeter had as a baseball player. A worthy Hall of Fame inductee indeed.

But his finest accomplishment might well have been playing 20 years in the high-profile zoo that is New York and, never once, during all that time, could anybody find the slightest bit of dirt to associate him with. And you just know there were many over the years that were digging as hard as they could trying to find something -- anything -- to take the shine off of Jeter. But they never could, because what they were looking for wasn't there.

Turns out, every once in a great while, a superb athlete and an all-around nice guy come in the same package.

Imagine that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Red Wings arena. A huge scam

First of all, there's not a damn thing wrong with Joe Louis Arena. It's only 35 years old, structurally sound, has no obstructed view seats, and all the amenities, including luxury suites. Too boot, it's served by the "people-mover", a mini-railroad mass-transit system that snakes around downtown Detroit with stops at or near various places of interest.

But evidently, this isn't good enough for the Ilitch family, which own the Red Wings. They want a brand new arena. Why? Likely a couple reasons.

The "Joe" is located on the Detroit riverfront. Once the "hot spot" in town, it is no more. That honor has passed on to the "Fox" district. It includes the Fox theater itself (which Ilitch owns), the Fisher theater, Comerica Park (which Ilitch also owns), and Ford Field, amongst other attractions. The Fox district is to Detroit what the strip is to Las Vegas. What Steve Wynn is to Vegas, Mike Ilitch is to Detroit. And the pizza man wants another sports palace built in his high-priced stomping ground to house his hockey team. Remember how the Jeffersons were so proud of movin' on up to the East Side? It's like that with Ilitch and the Fox district. But unlike Ilitch, George and Weezie didn't own the building. A slight difference.

And, of course, the finances. It always boils down to the money. Though a commenter on this site said Ilitch would be paying 81% of the cost for said new arena, further research suggests otherwise. It appears he will only cough up roughly 53% of the estimated $550 million. And you just know there will be cost overruns, because there always are. After all, when's the last time you heard of a major project like this coming in on time and on budget? It NEVER happens. So let's say $600+ million.

And what of the remaining 47%? Who pays for that? That's where things get really complicated. The deal on the table so far involves everything from tax-exempt bonds, to 30-year bonds, to property taxes, to school taxes, and money that would have gone to pay for city services like police and fire. Throw a huge bank in the mix while all this money is subjected to being "captured" by one entity or another -- and good luck sorting it out. Even the powers that be have admitted it's somewhat "convoluted". In other words, the average tax-payer doesn't have a prayer of sorting it out. But you can bet he/she will wind up paying for a great deal of it in the end. Such is the way billionaires operate these days.

Often, a legal procedure called "eminent domain" comes into play. By definition eminent domain is The power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.

Eminent domain is a necessary evil for serving the general welfare of the public. Take I-75, for example. It runs from Miami to Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan's northern peninsula, some 1786 miles. No doubt, countless thousands of people had to forfeit their houses/properties along the way for this interstate to be constructed. But it truly serves the public good. Millions of vehicles traverse it every year.

But though technically allowed under the above definition, it just seems wrong that a "private person" (see Ilitch) can use the same to commandeer private property in his pursuit of building an unnecessary new bauble. It would be one thing if he was paying for 100% of it all, and giving the evictees due compensation for their forced forfeitures. But he won't be. Given the further above cluster**** when it comes to financing, expecially considering the cesspool of how money moves around and disappears in Detroit, one way or the other I suspect the taxpayers will be on the hook for at least $300 million. 

And that's just wrong. If Ilitch wants a new castle for his hockey team -- then he should pay for it -- ALL of it. It's not like he can't afford it. 

Remember the late Bill Davidson? He owned the Pistons. Sick of Detroit, he moved them to the Pontiac Silverdome, which was the recently constructed stadium for the Detroit Lions. Realizing the "sight lines" weren't so hot for basketball, Willie D bought up a big chunk of land out in the burbs and built the Palace -- all with his own money. He likely could have leaned on politicians to soak the taxpayers -- but he didn't. That was a class act by another very rich guy. The Palace remains a state of the art facility to this day. As does Joe Louis Arena. Whether the Pistons or Red Wings are competitive in their respective sports or not is irrelevant to this conversation. A new arena isn't going to make them any better.

Methinks one Mike Ilitch should take a page out of Davidson's playbook. If he wants a new arena, then pay for it. Lock, stock, and double what the properties of the evictees were worth. No shenanigans with various bonds and taxes that will eventually land at the feet of the very same people he'll want to patronize his latest creation, to pad his already bulging bank accounts even further.

Better yet, build it out in the burbs like Davidson did. Let's get real. Given the outrageous cost of Red Wings tickets, and the state of Detroiters in general, not a whole lot of them can afford to go to the games anyway. Most of the attendees have come from the more affluent suburbs for many years now. And the guess here is, given a choice, they would rather not have to go to downtown Motown to watch a game.

But in the end, sometimes there's no getting away from the greasy factor. Whether it's politics, an owner's hair, or the product that made him rich in the first place.......

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Irritating Detroit sports things

Evidently, yours truly is missing out on a bunch of videos. Some of them might even be good. Why? Because when clicking on such, I will not, repeat WILL NOT be force fed an advertisement for 20-30 seconds before being allowed to see the video that should have popped up in the first place. I understand the need for ads. They pay bills. But make them optional, not mandatory. Put them off to the side where a user can make a choice whether or not to pay attention to them. Making them a prerequisite to viewing what one originally clicked on is not only wrong -- it's insulting.

The Detroit Tigers' hype is getting old. Their media is counting down their "magic number" to either clinch the AL central division crown or qualify as a wild card team. Hey, enough with the former Cy Young winners, MVPs, and even a triple crown winner a while back. And enough with blockbuster trades and free agent signings. If they're all that -- show me a World Series championship -- which, BTW, they haven't won in 30 years.

Same with the Detroit Lions. They beat a bad NY Giants team at home, lost to a pretty good Carolina team on the road, then beat the Packers at home. This might be the year, quoth the ever-faithful Honolulu blue and silver lemmings. No, it is not. But hey, miracles have been known to happen. Bottom line? A Lombardi trophy is asking too much. But until the Lions are at least in the NFC championship game in January -- they can spare me the hype, because I tuned it out long ago. If memory serves me correctly, late USA olympic hockey team coach Herb Brooks once famously said -- fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Good grief, Lions' fans have bought into the same snake oil hocus-pocus nonsense every year since Eisenhower was President -- even as the ticket prices keep going up. What kind of fools are THEY?

The Detroit Red Wings just started their pre-season but, to their credit, they aren't predicting great things this year. They know they're an average NHL team.

And no word at all out of the Detroit Pistons' camp lately. Smart move. When you're already terrible with no help in sight, and those pesky Cleveland Cavs in their own division recently loaded up with Lebron and Kevin to complement Kyrie and a fairly stout supporting cast elsewhere, firing up the hype machine would be the epitome of cluelessness. They'll likely finish 20-some games back. Even the Palace roundball sappies would have enough sense to see through that -- I think. Best to lay low for a while until maybe, just maybe, the worm turns in a few years.

But the most irritating thing of all regarding Detroit sports? A new arena, that just HAS to be built to house the Red Wings. Joe Louis is no longer good enough. This is hogwash. More about that later. Stay tuned.....

Monday, September 22, 2014

The NFL and the IRS

Did you know that the NFL pays no taxes? That's right. Despite being a business conglomerate that generates roughly $10 BILLION a year in revenue, the league offices themselves are considered a non-profit organization. Kind of like your average church. Praise the Lord and pass the offering plate.

To be fair, the individual teams themselves don't enjoy the same tax-free status, and certainly not the coaches and players. They have to pony up to the IRS like the rest of us schmucks, but millionaire and billionaire schmucks can afford to hire schmuckish financial people to find loopholes, whereby we run-of-the-mill schmucks always wind up getting stuck with the full tab. You've heard of SNAFU? This is SNASU. Situation Normal, All Schmucked UP. Ahem.

But obviously it's good to be King, or Pope, or Roger Goodell and company. In other words, in charge. Let the peons worry about paying taxes, bless their ignorant little hearts and accessible wallets. We shall remain above it all, while living in the lap of luxury.

Though many would find the above outrageous, it only begins to touch on the incredible hypocrisy that continues to go on. Let's look a little deeper.....

The NFL was originally granted its tax exempt status as a "trade organization" way back in 1942, when it was only a fledgling league. They were given a break by the revenuers so they "might further promote the interests of the game". But let's get real. Nobody was paying attention to such shenanigans back then. In 1942, the USA, from coast to coast, was totally consumed gearing up for World War II. Pearl Harbor was fresh in their minds, hence few noticed or cared about some tax loophole for a sports league nobody paid much attention to anyway.

But times have obviously changed in the ensuing 72 years. The NFL long ago bypassed baseball as the gorilla in the room of America sports. Despite only playing a 16 game regular season schedule -- as opposed to MLB's 162 -- the gridders STILL outearn the boys of summer. They don't need a "trade organization" to promote the interests of the game. It's already everywhere -- and a cash cow to boot. Good grief, the Commish himself, Goodell, made a whopping $44 million last year.

The hypocrisy goes even further. One would think every American professional sports league should be treated the same when it comes to the tax man. One couldn't be more wrong.

The PGA enjoys the same tax-exempt status as the NFL. As does the NHL. Major League Baseball did for many years, but when a couple tenacious fact-finders started probing into the earnings of MLB executives, in order to make them public knowledge -- the league decided it would rather give up its tax exempt status back in 2008 rather than have their financial souls bared to the masses. Make of that what you will.

To top it off -- the NBA has NEVER had such an exemption.

So..... evidently it's OK for football, golf , and hockey, not OK for basketball, and baseball changed its mind when given a choice between transparency and paying taxes.

Only a fool would think the NFL's free tax ride is going to change any time soon. It would take an act of Congress signed by the President to do so. And that's not likely to happen. Not long ago, a well-meaning Congressman put forth such a bill in the interest of fairness. After all, why should the fans that pay for it all continue to get dinged with taxes, while the league office of top executives continues to get an exemption? That bill went nowhere. Never even it made it out of the committee stage.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out why. Amongst other things, the NFL itself spends upwards of $40 million a year retaining the services of various lobbyists. Their main law firm is located just down the road from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. Put in the "right" hands for the wrong reasons, that kind of dough can twist a lot of legislative arms when it comes to not changing the current tax code. In short, it ain't gonna happen.

Of course it's wrong. And of course it's hypocritical. And of course double-standards continue to abound. But that's the American way. Money not only talks, but buys special privileges to make even MORE money.

Will your truly stop watching NFL games because of this? Hell no. I wouldn't miss Sundays, and Monday and Thursday night action for all the girls in Hef's mansion -- or even my high school sweetie -- showing up at my door ready for some action. Not that I'd likely live through either -- but what a way to go.

Nevertheless, it still doesn't make the tax shenanigans right......

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Michigan and the Big 10. Random hits

First of all, it's ridiculous for the Big Ten to still call itself that, now that they have 14 teams. The member schools may well offer top-notch programs in various disciplines, but if they don't know the difference between 10 and 14, perhaps this is not a preferred destination for a math or accounting major.

Trivia question: Over the first three weeks of the season, which was the only Big 10 school to record a football victory over ANY opponent from the 5 "power" conferences?

Though they shamelessly continue to schedule them, UM football avoided being upset by a patsy this year. But overall, despite supposedly recruiting blue chip preps every year, their program appears to be merely a shell of its former self. So far this year, they have only ventured away from home once. At then #16 ranked Notre Dame, they were shellacked 31-0.

A couple days ago, the Wolverines faced Utah, an unranked team, and again at home. They were drubbed 26-10 by the Utes, in front of a stadium that featured a whole lot of empty seats. It never used to be that way for Michigan. They always packed them in. But that's what eventually happens when a team is taking on water faster than a submarine with screen doors. Brady Hoke and his staff have clearly proven over the last few years they are little more competent, if at all, than the disastrous Rich Rodriguez regime that preceeded them. The Blue faithful are getting bluer by the day.

And speaking of water, even Mother Nature gave Michigan the Rodney Dangerfield treatment in a big way. Torrential rain during the Utah game. The game had to be halted for a couple hours because the field was flooded and unplayable.

Things like this don't happen very often, but consider Michigan Stadium itself. Unlike other venues, most of it is beneath ground level. Fans enter the stadium about 3/4 of the way up in the stands. All the good seats are technically underground. The better the seat, the father down a fan has to go.

Once upon a long time ago, somebody had to dig a very big deep hole to create that stadium. And supposedly, the venue itself sits on an aquifier, an enormous pool of water just beneath it. Though the playing field itself is ever so slightly convexly dome-shaped for drainage, when Mother Nature brings the heavy stuff, the rain water has no place to go. So the field gets flooded, like it did yesterday. One would think, after all these years, and all the brilliant engineering minds at Michigan, they would have come up with a contingency plan by now. Obviously not, but Michigan is Michigan. It's all about tradition.

And don't look now, but that "tradition" has become an embarrassment.

Michigan gets Minnesota next week, again -- SURPRISE -- at home, and the Gophers aren't exactly world beaters. But don't be surprised if they waltz into Ann Arbor and claim the historic Little Brown Jug the two teams have always played for. Such is the sorry state of Michigan football.

The following week, Michigan travels to Rutgers. In years of yore, the Maize and Blue would have considered that a gimme game. Not now.

Which brings me to the answer of the trivia question. Rutgers, RUTGERS, a brand new member of the Big 10, 12, 14, whatever, was the only conference school to defeat an opponent from a major conference in the first three weeks. They got by Washington State of the Pac 10, 12, 14, whatever.

The other so-called powers in the Big 10 have either had their way with patsies -- or lost when they faced a good team outside the conference.

With QB Braxton Miller of Ohio State on the shelf for the year, it appears Michigan State is the only remaining school in the conference that's even remotely relative on the national stage. And THEY got hammered when they faced a top tier school like Oregon a couple weeks back.

Some of us can remember when Big 10 football was the Big 2 (Michigan and Ohio State), and the Little 8 (all the rest). Oh my, how times have changed.

Nationally, these days the conference looks like 11 pipsqueaks, a couple mediocres, and one possible contender who, as mentioned above, has already suffered a blow-out loss to a top team.

Sadly, at least for some, the once proud Michigan program appears to be amongst the bottom of the barrel in an already weak conference. Not counting the patsy walkovers, the Wolverines have played two games against competent opponents, and didn't score an offensive touchdown in EITHER game. If a #16 ranked team could trash them 31-0, what might the score be against a top 3 team? 70-0? 100-0?

Not long ago, such a scenario would have been unheard of. Nobody could have possibly foreseen such a monumental collapse happening over the years. But it did.

We have come to abbreviate a biblical passage -- Pride goeth before the fall. Actually, the original wording was/is -- Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

At Michigan, there's certainly been no shortage of pride and haughty spirits over the years. They've been about as proud and arrogant as it gets.

Though definitely wobbly for a while --  now they've finally fallen. Problem is, the football "front office" at Michigan seems to realize and embrace the need for changing with the times at about the same rate as the Vatican, or your average ultra-right wing talk show host. Let's just say it takes them a good while before the lightbulb finally goes on -- if ever. And by the time they finally make a change -- they're STILL behind -- because other programs have morphed into something even better.

The sad part is Brady Hoke still remains proud of his team (and himself). The sadder part is Michigan is on the hook to pay him millions, not only for the remainder of this season -- but for two more. And the REALLY sad part is none of them appears to remotely grasp the fact their program is, was, and will continue to be a joke until they clean house, start over, and hire a coach that realizes pride and haughtiness doesn't win football games. Good grief, Brady Hoke is the only college head coach yours truly is aware of that doesn't wear a headset. So he has no idea what plays, on both sides of the ball, are being called, or what to look for to make adjustments while the game is still going on. Brady yells when things go wrong, which has been a lot lately for Michigan. But it's gone from apparent to blatantly obvious Hoke doesn't have a clue how to put this Humpty Dumpty team back together again.

Yeah, it's usually not cool to fire a head coach in mid-season, but in this case they could bring in Barney Fife or a Kardashian and not do a whole lot worse.

Yet if Hoke is still in charge next year at Michigan --  it will send a loud and clear message.

The "brass" at Michigan is even more clueless than he is.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Roger Goodell and the bigger picture

OK. Everybody knows the NFL has been taking a lot of heat lately over certain player off-field "incidents". And everybody also knows Roger Goodell is the Commissioner. Though he serves at the pleasure of the "owners", Goodell is basically the face of the league. The boss. The head dude. And theoretically, when things go awry -- the buck stops with him. Certainly, few would question that Goodell has been under intense scrutiny in the last few days/weeks/months for what he did -- and what he didn't do. Tough job, but it pays well. Reports say Goodell raked in a whopping $44 million last year.

Idle thought. All the teams have to abide by it, so if Roger the Dodger wants to lead by example, perhaps the first thing he should do is institute a salary cap on himself. Methinks he could squeeze by on a paltry $10 million or so.

Nonetheless, Goodell has been put in an awkward position not of his making. He's supposed to come up with all the answers, politically correct and otherwise, for the actions and misdeeds of others, specifically the NFL players. And that gets downright complicated.

Consider the volatile mixture that embodies a typical NFL player.

The majority of them are in their 20s and never had a "real" job. Being the best of the best, at least on the gridiron, throughout high school and college they were idolized by their adoring fans. They could choose from the fairer sex for a little "play time" like a sheik from his harem. Though many of them likely weren't proficient at even the 6th grade level of basic academics, rest assured the powers that be would find a way to give them a high school diploma. Then came the full-ride scholarship at a university somewhere, where they would set them up with a "curriculum" your average yorkie or beagle could get passing grades. Stars again, but still no responsibility.

On to the NFL, where they become millionaires. The potential for trouble should be apparent.

Take a 20-something that has been entitled since childhood due to his athletic skills, combine it with a lack of any true education, be it scholastically or societal, and give him an obscene amount of money. Have him play a game that is extremely violent by its very nature, and what do you get?

What we have now, though yours truly suspects it's always been there -- just brushed under the rug in the past.

Crashing cars and assaultive behavior. Alcohol, drug, and firearm abuse. This should come as no surprise. It's just little kids in big bodies that never had to learn any better because they could run, rush the quarterback, and catch passes better than everybody else.

Roger Goodell is currently catching all the heat for this, but it's hardly his fault. Sure, he can form a committee to study the problem and have them consult with various "experts". And yes, the Commish definitely appears to be in damage control mode. He has vowed the NFL will "get it right" with upcoming policy changes. That might mean longer suspensions and heftier fines in the future. Much like the President can thunder down from on high, or our illustrious legislators (on second thought forget them -- they can't agree on what day it is), along with various activists demand accountability and change -- it's all just empty talk in the end.

Because in reality, there's really not much Goodell himself can do to fix the problem unless he wants to change the game itself.

Let's get real. Immature young men with way too much money, especially being highly conditioned to play a very violent game, where only the strongest survive -- are going to do immature young men things.

And who's kidding who? The NFL itself rose to be the gorilla in the room of American professional sports because of the very nature of the game. They once trumpeted all the hard-hitting action, and now they're trying to scale it back.

Unless Goodell and company change the rules again whereby only former college students possessing a Master's degree with an impeccable background are eligible to play in their league -- good luck with that -- there will be continue to be "incidents" amongst the players.

For that matter, there are various players around the league that have become known as thugs not only off the field -- but ON it. While universally despised elsewhere, their home fans continue to embrace them as heroes.

Is Goodell supposed to come up with a policy to correct the fans cheering for various thugs as well?

There's a lot of blame to go around and it shouldn't all fall in the lap of the Commish.

The man's trying hard in hard times -- but there's only so much he can do when it comes to human nature. It is what it is, and it ain't always going to be pretty......

Friday, September 19, 2014

St. Andrews admits women members

The Royal and Ancient golf club at St. Andrews has been in business for quite a long time. According to them, some 260 years. Doing the math, that means they date back to 1754, over two decades before the American revolutionary war began.

Wow. Yours truly didn't know the game of golf even WENT that far back. Since the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series or the Detroit Lions were semi-serious contenders seems ancient enough. But 260 years?  The city of Chicago didn't even exist in 1754, and the Ford family was only considering buying the Lions in those days, though the exact dates remain foggier than the Lions current secondary. Ahem.

Nonetheless, The Royal and Ancients have finally voted to allow women memberships in their exclusive club. Who will be the first honoree remains to be seen. Will it be a "royal" for ceremonial sake like, say, Queen Lizzie the Deuce? Or perhaps a princess, whose main jobs in life appear to be procreating possible future heirs to the throne and photo-ops? Or might it be someone more worthy like an actual lady golfer, past or present, who has, you know, made her fame and fortune by actually playing the game? Hard to say.

Remember, it was only two years ago that Augusta National, home of the Masters, finally caved and admitted female members. True, they'd only been around since the 1930s, nowhere near as long as the Royal and Ancients. But also remember who their first lady inductees were. Condoleezza Rice and one Darla Moore. Condy was a honcho in the Bush II administration, but has anybody ever seen her actually play golf?  Not sure about Ms. Moore either. Is she the same Darla that was a Little Rascal back in the 1930s as well, with Spanky, Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Stymie, Butch, and the rest of Our Gang? Beats me, but flush with money or not, I'm thinking a caddy would have a very long and exasperating day carrying either one of their bags around for 18 holes.

But the green jacketed prudes at Augusta are two year old news these days. They've been cross-pollinated, as it were.

However, the initial XX chromosome choice of the Royal and Ancients remains in question. Who will it be?

Just a guess, but I'm thinking we can probably rule out a Kardashian. And Miley Cyrus would appear to be a non-starter. Even though they've loosened up a wee bit after 260 years, methinks that twerking thing could result in the elders having their lower undergarments retied in a bloody well tight knot, by jove.

Who to pick? Hmm. The smart choices might be Oprah Winfrey and Ellen DeGeneres. It doesn't matter if they play golf. Both could easily afford the dues, and the R & A could cross a couple more things off the politically correct bucket list, that is sure to keep on coming in future years. Just a thought......

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Jameis Winston. Today and tomorrow

College football fans know Jameis Winston as the Heisman trophy winning quarterback that led Florida State to the national championship last year. Immensely talented, Winston can definitely get it done on the field.

Alas, it appears Jameis is one of a growing breed that seems to think he's "entitled" to get away with misdeeds that would land your average history or biology major in big trouble -- because he's such a terrific athlete. After all, Tallahassee is another college football crazy town, and the Seminoles need him if they want to have another terrific season -- perhaps even repeating as champions. Jameis Winston is smart enough to know that. But in another way, he keeps proving his dumbness over and over again.

Barely 20 years old and in his sophomore year at FSU, consider the things Winston has already been accused of doing. Shooting out windows with a BB gun and swiping too many soda refills from Burger King? OK, that's kid stuff. Swiping crab legs from a supermarket? No biggy, but still an alleged crime, and most kids know better than to shoplift. Their parents taught them better than that.

Mixed in between was a charge of sexual assault. That's no laughing matter to be brushed off. Yet the local cops in charge of investigating the matter, likely 'Noles fans themselves, sat on the case for nine months so Winston and FSU could complete their run to a championship. That's inexcusable. A math major would have been jammed up right away. Who's kidding who?

But Jameis Winston evidently hasn't learned anything from his "entitled" brushes with the law over the last couple years. Just recently, he jumped up on a table at the school cafeteria and yelled a phrase that was deemed to be politically incorrect at best, and downright offensive to many at worst.

Jameis has since publicly apologized for that little moment of indiscretion. But Jameis always apologizes for his misdeeds, and says he'll straighten up. And then he'll go on to do something else dumb. The young man seems to be incapable of appreciating just how fortunate he has been to date, let alone showing the slightest sign of maturing.

That's today. But "tomorrow" opens up another can of worms.

It's highly likely Winston will forego future years at FSU, and declare for the NFL after this season. Based on football talent alone, many NFL teams might covet his services as their franchise QB of the future. A high first round draft choice for sure, if not #1 overall.

But look at it from the NFL's point of view. They've already got a handful of messes on their hands (see notables Adrian Petersen, Greg Hardy, Ray Rice, and recently Jonathan Dwyer, amongst others).

Deep pocketed sponsors and/or endorsers are either chastising or outright bailing in the wake of some of these "incidents". For the NFL, it's a public relations nightmare, with no clear cut solutions in sight.

Now imagine you're the general manager of an NFL team. You'll call the shots next year on who your team drafts. With the heightened awareness of so many recent players stepping out of line, even your billionaire owner has become sensitive to taking on a previous "bad apple" that might embarrass his franchise in the future. What do you do if Jameis is on the board and it's your turn to pick? Take him, pay him millions of your owner's money, and hope he finally grows up into a mature superstar? Or pass on him, wary he'll continue to be a bonehead and bring yet another public relations disaster crashing down on your team in the future? Your job might well depend on it. A tough decision indeed.

But that's the situation Jameis Winston has put himself in through his past foibles. It might be fair to say right now Winston is on double secret probation, ala the Delta Tau Chi fraternity in the classic 1978 movie Animal House. If he can straighten up and fly right for the rest of the year, chances are good an NFL team will snatch him up in the 2015 draft. But given his history, even one more little "infraction", despite how trivial it might be all by itself, would not bode well for him. Not even a parking ticket, much less a food fight.

And heaven forbid he should have his way with the dean's wife at a drunken frat party and the press gets wind of it. Though it would make everybody forget about the BBs, pop refills, and crab legs, it's probably not the best career move Winston could make at this point.

Former NFL player, head coach, and current analyst Herman Edwards probably said it best. Somebody somewhere needs to make Jameis Winston understand two words -- "stop it".

Idle thought: Perhaps a few private moments with Adrian Petersen and a switch in a woodshed would do the trick. If nothing else, Winston would definitely sit up and take notice.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Bryan Holoday and C'MON MAN

Well OK. I get it that orange is one of the Detroit Tigers' team colors. But catcher Bryan Holoday painting his fingernails bright orange before going out to catch a game against the Minnesota Twins won't exactly win him any awards in the manning-up category.

And this dude's from Dallas? The rough and tough Big D? Wearing fingernail polish? Really?

No doubt, manager Brad Ausmus was OK with this. Well then. What's next? Ausmus fielding questions at a press conference clad only in a bright orange thong? Scary thought.

And what gives with Victor Martinez's mouthguard? When wearing it, he brings back old memories of Lon Chaney's portrayal of the wolfman. With all the different varieties available to players these days -- this is the best he can do?

Major League Baseball umpire Joe West got a one game suspension for grabbing the jersey of a player during an on-field argument. Had it been the other way around, with the player doing the same to an umpire, he likely would have been bounced for at least 10 games. If it's a Commandment that a player shalt not touch an umpire, then an equal Commandment should state an umpire shalt not touch a player. So where's the equality?

Note to out-going Commissioner Bud Selig.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In defense of Michigan

Now that was an interesting stat. The Univ of Mich has the Big 10's leading football defense. Really?

Well, let's see. They gave up 14 points at home to patsy Appalachian State in their opener.

The following week they were blistered 31-0 at Notre Dame.

In week 3, they gave up 10, again at home, to a Miami of Ohio team that is beyond pitiful. Despite playing in a 2nd/3rd tier league, the Redhawks more closely resemble the Washington Generals playing against the Harlem Globetrotters every Saturday. Before the game even starts, you just know it's going to be a blowout. But in their infinite wisdom, and perhaps desperation for an easy win, Michigan scheduled them anyway. Somebody should be ashamed of themselves.

Nonetheless -- given the above -- if Michigan has the best defense in their conference, then only one conclusion can be logically drawn.

The Big 10 (actually 14) across the board is playing some sorry-ass defense. If Michigan is #1, how bad are the rest of them being lit up by opposing offenses?

The new Ray Rice dilemma

We've all seen the video(s). Ray Rice and his then fiance were bickering before getting on an elevator and, once aboard, she charged him and got knocked out. What sort of punishment Rice deserves has certainly been the subject of much debate in recent times.

Actually, it's two-fold. First, there's the legal system, with prosecutors, defense attorneys, a judge, and all that. And then there's the NFL itself, championed by one Roger Goodell. But let's look a little closer at both.

Though it's preposterous to believe the prosecutors didn't have the "inside" elevator video all along, they opted to basically drop the charges if Rice entered an "intervention" program. Upon successful completion of said program, Rice's "record" would be expunged. It would be like it never happened. Given the nature of the incident, why they would agree to such a deal seems to remain a very good question indeed.

But they did. And they're stuck with it. Just because the knockout punch video went viral and the masses got their bowels in an uproar makes no difference. The prosecutors had the evidence all along, so they don't get to go back and take a second bite at the apple seeking harsher punishment. That would clearly be double jeopardy for the same crime and no court in the land would grant such a motion.

But trickier is the situation the NFL finds itself in. Particularly when it comes to the Players Union, and the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement). Remember, Commish Goodell originally suspended Rice for two games for an incident that happened back in February. Goodell would subsequently claim he had not seen the knockout video until recently. When it went public, the Commish quickly put Rice on an indefinite suspension. And that opens up a can of worms.

Whether their hearts are in it or not, the Players Union is legally obligated to represent, defend, and protect Rice to the best of their ability. After all, he was a dues paying member in good standing.

Enter the current dilemma(s). Turns out, the CBA has a double jeopardy clause as well. Like prosecutors, once the NFL has signed off on a punishment for a particular "infraction" by a player, they don't get another bite at the apple either. Further, there are no provisions in the CBA for an indefinite suspension. Rice is appealing, as well he should. The very word "indefinite" should raise eyebrows. Can you imagine a judge sentencing a convicted defendant to an "indefinite" amount of time in jail? An appellate court would throw out such a vague sentence in a heartbeat. 30 days, 6 months, 5 years, whatever. But indefinite is not an option, nor should it be.

And here's the real kicker. Despite the video, Ray Rice hasn't been convicted of anything in a court of law. The prosecutors signed off, remember? As mentioned above, if Rice completes his "intervention" program, in the magical world of American jurisprudence, all this supposedly never happened.

But Roger Goodell trying to play politician, and flip-flopping whichever way the winds of public opinion are blowing could very well wind up being problematic. He's the Commissioner of the NFL. A lofty position indeed that comes with a lot of power.

Yet being judge, jury, and executioner at his whim isn't going to fly. With the Players Union and the CBA in place, even the mighty NFL has its checks and balances, as well it should.

In the current Rice case, some valid arguments have yet to be resolved.

It will be interesting to see how it all plays out....

Monday Night Football

As a rule, yours truly has long scoffed at the stats from hell the sports geeks have visited upon us in recent years. Baseball is probably the worst. They have acronyms like WAR and OPS that the average fan is clueless about, and likely couldn't care less. And excuse me for still thinking the term "Sabermetrics" is better suited to a Star Wars movie than baseball games. I know good pitching and good hitting when I see it, and don't need to be bombarded with worthless trivia to put my already feeble brain on overload.

But this is about football, in particular the game between the Philadelphia Eagles visiting the Indianapolis Colts last night. A couple of interesting stats jumped out.

In his brief (two year+) NFL career, Colts' QB Andrew Luck had never lost back-to-back games. He has now. For that matter, he didn't lose many games while he was in college at Stanford. But a couple of them came against Oregon, then coached by one Chip Kelly, who BTW happens to be the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles these days. It seems Chip has Andrew's number.

But the more interesting stat was the Eagles became the first team in NFL history to rally back from 14 or more point deficits in the second half to win their first two games. That's a lot of history.

More times than not, even highly successful former college coaches struggle when they make the jump to the NFL. It's a whole different deal. Amongst others, people like Lou Sabin and Steve Spurrier are evidence of that, though former USC coach Pete Carroll seems to be doing rather well in Seattle.

But the Peter Principle, whereby one rises to their own level of (in)competence -- and stays there -- doesn't seem to apply to Chip Kelly either. He's turned the Eagles around in a big way -- quickly.

Much like his Oregon teams, Kelly and his staff have the Eagles in a high-speed, no-huddle, shoot-em-up offense, often featuring weird formations. Two running backs, three tight ends, and no wide receivers? Get outta here. Nobody does that. But it seems to be working.

And here's the thing about the Eagles. Under Kelly, they seem to have more gas in their tanks than other teams. In other words, they eventually wear them down, hence their second half superiority. Sure, every team rotates personnel on a lot of plays but, overall, the Eagles appear to be a cut above when it comes to conditioning and stamina over the course of an entire game.

They may not have the most talented players across the board on their team (though they collectively aren't too shabby), but if the other team is gasping for air in the fourth quarter while the Eagles are like the Energizer Bunny -- it certainly works to their advantage.

Granted, Oregon never won a national championship under Kelly, and the Eagles could fairly be called a semi-long shot to win the Super Bowl.

But hats off to Kelly for having his team supremely conditioned and bringing his own brand of innovation to an NFL team with looks, formations, and plays that have never been tried before. So far, so good.

And just think, Lions' fans. A couple years ago, when Jim Schwartz was obviously crashing and burning, your geniuses in the front office (as always) were slow to pull the trigger. It's entirely possible you could have had Chip Kelly. Can you imagine how much more explosive your offense would be with Kelly and company calling the shots? Now you're stuck with Jim Caldwell for the next few years, and likely going nowhere.

To borrow a line from the immortal Walter Cronkite -- that's just the way it is. Most other NFL teams have gone up and down, and back up again, but the Honolulu blue and silver seems forever stuck in a mode somewhere from mediocre at best, to just plain bad. And they're not going anywhere this year either. Or next year, or the one after that.

They've long been mired in their old ways, and the hiring of retread Caldwell is just the latest example. Of all the head coach possibilities in the latest merry-go-round, the Lions sat on their hands while the others were snapped up, then finally said Caldwell was the guy they wanted all along. Please. Funny, or maybe not, how no other team was clamoring for his services. Caldwell's record as a coordinator serving under other head coaches is outstanding. But when given the reins himself -- not so good.

Like Schwartz, in 4-5 years, he'll be gone too, never to hold another NFL coaching position. That's another interesting stat. In the entire history of the Lions, NONE of their head coaches has ever gone to another NFL team to be a head coach again. An assistant here, and a coordinator there? Yep. But never allowed to be the head man again. By anybody. Ever. The Lions are where head coaches come to get rich, but then die.

Caldwell will likely face the same fate in a few years. He brings nothing new.

It's guys like Kelly that make things interesting......

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Detroit Lions thud back to earth

After a rousing opening day victory over the hapless NY Giants, the Lions crashed and burned in Week 2 versus the Carolina Panthers on the road. The final score, 24-7, seemed indicative of how the game went.

For the last several months, Lions' fans have been fed a steady diet of hype from their local media. After all, they have a new head coach, and he's been to Super Bowls. A new offensive coordinator, one Joe Lombardi, came on board via the New Orleans Saints and had installed the offense that Drew Brees and company had used to such great success.

And oh my. The talent. Entering his sixth season, QB Matthew Stafford is at his optimum age and experience level. Same with Calvin Johnson. The Lions picked up Super Bowl winner free agent Golden Tate in the off season to complement the Megatron. Not long ago, they had added supposedly rejuvenated running back Reggie Bush. And besides the always fearsome duo of Brendan Pettigrew and Joe Fauria at tight end -- the Lions used their first round draft pick to select Eric Ebron, a hot-shot tight end from, ironically, North Carolina.

But wait, as the $19.95 (plus shipping and handling) commercials say, there's even more. The offensive line has become a cohesive unit both run blocking and pass protecting. Taken collectively, their offensive cup runneth over with talent across the board. The Lions should rack up more scores than your average sheikh with his harem.

Yet against the Carolina Panthers, the ersatz high-flying Lions were held to 7 points for the entire game. One measly touchdown.

Of course, that likely had to do with something that has been mentioned in this space before. It's an insidious disease that has plagued the Detroit Lions franchise for decades. Despite wholesale turnovers of players many times over and umpteen head coaches coming and going -- it persists. Though technically named osteus cranius eternicus, it loosely translates to Bonehead Syndrome that just... won't... go... away.

And once again, the symptoms were on full display in Charlotte. Start off with a poor game plan. That's on the coaches. Mix in the usual variety of stupid penalties and add a few turnovers. That's on the players. Season well with lack of execution, simmer for 3 hours, and what do you get? The Lions getting rightfully trashed 24-7 in another road game.

Regardless, the Lions' hypsters will tell you they are still in first place in the NFL North division. Indeed they are, though in a 4-way tie with the Packers, Vikings, and Bears.

At that, the Vikings still have the Adrian Petersen mess to deal with. Without their star running back, they might be in trouble. The Bears lost at home to Buffalo, then went out to San Fran and stormed back to win the game. Try and figure THAT out.

And yeah, the Packers got hammered in Seattle in their opener, and fell behind early to the NY Jets at home in Week 2. But most every team gets zapped in Seattle and the Cheesers came back to dispatch the Jets.

So the 1-1 Packers visit the 1-1 Lions next week. Somebody's gotta win, and somebody's gotta lose. If the Pack plays like they did in the first half against the Jets -- they'll go down at Ford Field. But if they play like they did in the second half -- they might well prevail. Further, it remains to be seen if Jim Caldwell, his staff, and the players can temporarily put the Bonehead Syndrome into remission for that game, or whether the age-old Lions curse will rear its ugly head again.

Stay tuned......

Saturday, September 13, 2014

UM/MSU football

Some things are predictable in football. Michigan and Michigan State will always host a patsy team to open their seasons. Despite all their spring and summer practices, it's like they need a warm-up game before they take on anybody serious.

This year was no different. MSU walloped Jacksonville State in East Lansing. The latter may as well have been the original Jackson Five, dead or alive, for what little resistance they put up against the Spartans on the gridiron. But they got a big check for marching off to a slaughterhouse.

To no one's surprise, UM had their way with Appalachian State in their own first game. It was a blow-out as well. The Mountaineers limped home to the boonies, or more properly Boone, North Carolina. But they got handsomely paid as well.

Evidently, the adminstrators and coaches at second-tier football schools think it's OK to send their troops off to be humiliated, as long as the cha-ching factor is high.

But occasionally it can backfire on the powerhouses. A few years back, the very same App St. waltzed into Ann Arbor and knocked off the "mighty" Wolverines. A day that shall live in infamy in Maize and Blue land.

And after all, what do the big schools have to gain by scheduling such patsies? They're SUPPOSED  to beat them handily, and the money is the same for them. However, if a monumental upset happens, they have a lot to lose. If they were "ranked" going in, they can kiss it goodbye for the season coming out. So why bother?

Yes, for some reason Big "10" schools are still only allowed to play 8 conference games a year, but the conference itself now consists of 14 teams. That means at least 5 potential conference opponents are left off every team's schedule. Yet given a 12 game schedule, that also means 4 games are left over as "electives", as they say in college.

Typically, UM and MSU will front-load their schedule with these 4 games. Also typically, three of them are of the Campfire Girls variety, with one being against a worthy opponent.

It was, and is, the same way this year. After jacking up the jackies from Lynard Skynard land, the Spartans went out to Oregon and got blistered. No shame there. The Ducks are a Top 3 national team. But in week 3, they take a vacation so they can prepare for --- Eastern Michigan, followed by Wyoming? Please.

After the Wolverines finally got revenge on the Apps, they went to South Bend and got lit up themselves by Notre Dame. Not just a thorough butt-whuppin', but skunked 31-0. It was the first time a Michigan team had been shut out in 30 years. At that, the score likely should have been even more lop-sided. Such was the beatdown they suffered. Sadly, at least for Michigan fans, this was the last time the teams will meet, at least for the foreseeable future. Notre Dame can forever crow about taking Michigan to the woodshed in their final go-around.

But like the Spartans, Michigan had yet ANOTHER patsy on their schedule coming up. At home, against a gawdawful Miami of Ohio team. The blue beat the red by a score of 34-10, but still fell well short of covering the point spread (33) against such pitiful competition.

Next up, they host Utah. Chances are the Utes will at least give them a decent game.

But the question remains. The Big 10 went to 12 teams a few years back. Now that it actually consists of 14 teams, why should schools like UM and MSU play 4 non-conference games when those same games could be devoted to teams WITHIN the conference? What's the point of allowing more teams in the conference only to ignore them in favor of playing 4 games a year OUTSIDE the conference?

And it's certainly not like UM and MSU stand to gain a lot of respect by scheduling a few patsies every year with their electives. Yeah, a lot of teams from other "power" conferences do the same thing every year -- but it doesn't make it right.

Interesting trivia question. When was the last time the Ohio State Buckeyes lost a football game to an in-state opponent?

Turns out, it was way back in 1921, when a guy named Warren Harding was President and, if I'm not mistaken, roughly about the same time Vin Scully called his first Dodgers' game. Or Regis first stepped in front of a camera. I wonder if any other team in any other state can boast the same? But enough of that nonsense.

Thing is, if the current trend continues, Michigan State, under head coach Mark Dantonio, might reel off several years of being unbeaten within the state. Michigan appears to be no match for them anymore. No, it likely won't last for 93 years and counting, ala the Buckeyes, but if Dantonio and UM coach Brady Hoke miraculously live to be Methusal-esque while remaining the head coaches of their schools -- it's theoretically possible.

Yes, another September has been wasted in non-conference play. But the date to keep an eye on is Oct. 25. The Wolverines visit the Spartans. And if MSU blows them out, which would come as no surprise, it might also spell the beginning of the end for Hoke.

Dantonio was the answer for MSU. Under his tutelage, that program continues to rise in prominence. Hoke is not, and never will be, the answer at Michigan. Despite their annual trumpeting of "blue chip" prep recruits every year -- UM just can't seem to get it together anymore to compete even within their own conference, let alone the national stage. And that falls on Hoke. No pun intended, but the blue-bloods in Ann Arbor that are in charge of such things won't tolerate this for very much longer. I look for Hoke to be gone after this year.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Oscar Pistorius. Will it FINALLY ever end?

Finally, FINALLY, there is some progress in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. No need to recount the events of that tragic day. Everybody knows about the gunshots through a bathroom door, etc., etc. The only question is, and ever was, did Pistorius knowingly shoot Reeva Steenkamp, or was it a case of mistaking her for an intruder and a horrible accident?

Remember, the incident itself took place on Feb.13, Valentine's day of 2013 -- over a year and a half ago. After the trial FINALLY got started, a year later, it has dragged on for months. And it's not like the prosecutors and defense counsel have been in court every day slugging it out with their various unproveable theories. Far from it. The reason this has dragged on so long is because of the judge, one Thokozile Masipa.

Her Honor seems prone to more delays, adjournments, and vacations than the US Congress. Granted, Pistorius has remained free on bond, likely because of his world-class stature/fame, rather than rotting away in a cell somewhere like a "common" defendant would, while the marathon trial continues. It's likely few would consider him a "danger to society" or a flight risk. For that matter, where could a guy like Pistorius possibly go and attempt to hide?

Still, this trial is approaching the absurd in its length. And that falls on Judge Masipa. She long ago heard all the evidence, or lack thereof, and it's solely her call to make. Yet she drags it on, and on, and on.

Further granted, Masipa is only human and perhaps she relishes her time in the international spotlight. After all, had you ever heard of her before this case? Not me. And when it's finally over, we may never hear of her again. Remember a guy named Lance Ito? He was the judge in the super high-profile OJ Simpson murder trial back in 1994. Heard a peep about him since? Me neither. See what I mean?

But the 15 minutes of fame thing with Masipa appears to be out of control. It's turned into over 15 months, and STILL it isn't over.

Mercifully, she FINALLY handed down a partial ruling. In a rambling, semi-intelligible opinion from the bench, she decreed Oscar Pistorius would not be found guilty of murder. The prosecution had not met its burden to prove murder beyond a reasonable doubt. So Oscar won't be spending time in prison until Chelsea's still unborn child runs for President or William Shatner gives up his TV gigs.

However, she went on to say Pistorius acted negligently, which legal analysts have said could result in Judge Masipa finding Oscar guilty of "culpable homicide", though she didn't say so herself.

Culpable homicide is comparable to manslaughter. In other words, the defendant didn't intend to kill the victim, but through his/her carelessness, a death resulted anyway. Kind of like backing over your own grandma in a Walmart parking lot. That will normally spell trouble. You didn't mean it, but were supposed to have better control of your vehicle. One might have to do a little time for such an unfortunate incident. In Oscar's case, such a finding could result in anything from a few years in prison, to a slap on the wrist. No jail time. It's up to the judge's discretion.

So just when the Honorable Thokozile Masipa was about to address such a finding, incredibly she adjourned court. AGAIN. They'll be back in a day or two, and maybe she'll plod along some more. Or maybe she needs another vacation while she "deliberates" further. It would be nice to have a long overdue verdict sometime in the near future. But with a judge like that -- who knows? Many hairs have turned gray/white or fallen out while waiting on her to come to a decision.

Of course, when she FINALLY makes her ruling, there will be the matter of sentencing. No doubt, that will come later. In Masipa's case, likely much later. But hey, with a little luck, maybe Her Honor can wrap this up by the time Chelsea's just "showing" a little bit with the future Prez in her womb.

Here's hoping. Meanwhile, Pistorius has to keep twisting in the wind waiting for his fate to be determined.

Guilty of a lesser charge or totally innocent -- it's WAY past high time for Judge Masipa to FINALLY start making calls regarding Pistorius.

It's one thing for her to milk her "15 minutes". But this has become ridiculous. Even William Shatner would blush.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ray Rice, the tape, and somebody's lying

Just a couple days ago, yours truly wrote a post titled "Ray Rice. Beyond the obvious" (see stage right). I was mostly right, a little wrong, and one very important issue remains in question.

On the correct side of the ledger was the obvious. Though Rice's elevator fiasco happened back in February, it's ridiculous to think the cops and prosecutors didn't have a copy of the tape all along. Why it took until a few days ago to finally "surface", via TMZ, an entertainment outlet of all things, strongly suggests somebody's lying, and has been for months.

Commish Roger Goodell and his NFL honchos still maintain they were unaware of the incriminating video until it went viral. Ditto with the Baltimore Ravens, Rice's former team. Could be. Of course, once said video was broadcast to every nearby galaxy in the universe, both the NFL and Ravens took quick action. Baltimore cut him. Roger suspended him indefinitely. Yeah, yeah, we all know that.

Where I was wrong was to suggest the media wouldn't follow up on it, because another hot story would come along and off they'd go to their next sensational scoop. Turns out, nothing momentous has happened in the last few days and, other than your usual assortment of torn ACLs or who America decides to bomb next, nothing really exciting has happened to capture the attention of the thundering herd of newshounds. So, to their credit, they've looked deeper into who saw the elevator video, and when.

And that's where things start to get really dicey. The casino where the incident happened says they sent the tape to the cops, prosecutors, and even Ray Rice's own atttorney/agent within days of the knockout taking place. That sounds entirely plausible. If so, no way would Rice's legal counsel make the tape public. They were under no obligation to do so, and talk about a conflict of interest? Whoa.

But the cops and prosecutors are different animals with different legal obligations. Yes, they've been known to lie, cheat, and deceive by holding back evidence in the past in their quests for right/wrong convictions, but what possible good would it have done them to sit on the video for so many months in this case? This happened in Atlantic City. Even if they were football fans, it made no sense for them to go out of their way to protect a running back that played in Baltimore.

And then the worm turned again. Some "law enforcement official", who has chosen to remain, no surprise, anonymous, has now claimed the tape was sent to the NFL offices back in April. Only a couple months after the incident. Not bad by cop standards when it comes to turning over evidence.

Further, they claim to have a voice-mail from the NFL offices acknowledging they received it. Back in April. It shouldn't be that tough to substantiate. Unless the tape was delivered by a top-secret courier, highly doubtful, Fed-Ex, UPS, or even US snail mail will have a paper trail. Easy enough for competent reporters to check out.

On the other hand, maybe there's a reason this "law enforcement official" has remained anonymous. He could be lying too trying to provide cover for his department's collective butts. It certainly wouldn't be the first time such a thing happened. And so far, the original prosecutors have remained silent. Typically, when prosecutors think they have a strong case or, at the very least, have done no wrong, they will be front and center to the media trumpeting their cause. But not this time. Make of that what you will.

However......  if when all is said and done it turns out the NFL indeed had that tape since April, a certain Commissioner will be in a heap of trouble. There's only a few ways it can play out.

Goodell could claim that while the tape was delivered to the NFL offices, it was never sent up the chain of command for him and his honchos to review. It's possible, but would suggest incompetence on his part. If the CEO doesn't know what's going on with his junior executives to the point of them withholding information crucial to the company -- then obviously his management team leaves a great deal to be desired. And the boss should be held accountable for having assembled such a team.

Another possible outcome is a Watergate scenario. The head dude knew about it all along, but tried to cover it up. We know what happened to Nixon. When the evidence became overwhelming, he was forced to resign the Presidency in shame. Over a stupid little break in and burglary, which was never necessary in the first place. The act itself was dumb, but it was the ensuing cover-up that got him in such trouble.

If it turns out Goodell gets tied to a Tapegate in the Rice case, for equally implausible reasons, he can kiss his butt goodbye as Commissioner. Already a few NFL owners are questioning his judgement in this matter, and if they find out they've been deceived for months.....

Or it might just be that Goodell has been on the up and up all along. Maybe the NFL wasn't privy to that tape until last Monday, and the anonymous "law enforcement person" is just blowing smoke (lying) trying to deflect blame elsewhere. Also entirely possible.

Personally, I hope nothing earth-shaking happens in the world of sports in the next few days that will distract the attention of the media. It would be interesting to see them pursue this Tapegate case to the end. One way or the other, let the truth be known.

But one truth is inescapable. Somebody's lying.......

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lions OK. Giants horrible

The Detroit Lions won their season opener. Some would say it was a rout. The 35-14 final score would certainly suggest that. But let's look a litttle deeper.

First of all, the NY Giants are a terrible football team right now. Despite winning a couple Super Bowls in recent years, the Giants are a shell of their former selves. Their once vaunted defensive line can't generate any pressure. Once known for their bruising running game, they no longer have an O-line capable of opening holes, let alone a featured running back to run through them.

Their receiver corps has been decimated, and their secondary looks like the Keystone Kops running around, totally lost in coverages. Against the Lions, they blew more assignments than the girls on the chicken ranches outside of Vegas.

QB Eli Manning appears totally clueless. On one play, he threw a pass to a receiver while five, count em, five Detroit Lions defenders were in the area. Not surprisingly, it was intercepted. It's hard to believe he was once the Super Bowl MVP. Sorry for the pun, but Eli's not coming anymore. He's going, quickly, and in a bad way. As in down. Bordering on pitiful, not only in this game, but last year as well. Bottom line is the Giants aren't a pretty sight these days.

But what of the Lions? 35-14 is still pretty impressive, right? Maybe. Local koolaiders have said these are not your "same old Lions". They have talent across the board every which way, they claim.

Yet a case could be made on several fronts these are indeed the same old Lions. They beat a patsy at home on opening night and the Honolulu blue and silver faithful are already revved up. Again. For the umpteenth decade in a row.

On offense, it's still basically the Matthew to Calvin show. Both have racked up impressive yardage stats over the last few years, but how has that worked out in the end? Only one playoff appearance in which they were blown out by New Orleans a few years back.

Though the Lions had their way against the hapless Giants, they were up to their old not-so-good tricks. Stupid penalty after stupid penalty. At one point, the Lions had more penalty yards (85) than the Giants had (75) in total offense. New coach Jim Caldwell may have brought in new schemes but, so far, he appears clueless on how to fix the on-field mental discipline problems that have plagued the Lions since, well, forever. It's like such gaffes are woven into the DNA of the franchise. Such things are easily overlooked when posting a 21 point victory over another team -- despite how terrible they are -- but might well cost the Lions dearly when they face better competition.

In that respect, the Lions caught a major break. The NFL couldn't have handed them a softer schedule for 2014 than what it did. Outside of their mandatory 6 division games, the Lions only have a couple against top-notch opponents. Check it out.

Next week they go to Carolina. They'll face a sterner test there than the sorry effort the Giants gave them at home. Then back home to face the Packers. Then off to the carnival land of Rex Ryan's NY Jets. If they come out of all that 4-0, lookout. The Lions might re-adopt "Another One Bites the Dust" as their theme song, and start talking about the Super Bowl. Again. That didn't work out so hot the last time, even when Barry Sanders was running wild. Barry finally came to his senses and took a hike, leaving many millions of dollars on the table, because he just couldn't see the Lions being truly competitive in the near future. Turned out -- he was exactly right.

And now here we are again, Lions' fans. Your team still features much the same, both good and bad, and they just put up a "big" win over a team in total disarray on Monday Night Football. Plus they have a weak schedule for the remainder of the year. They could get off to a flying start, much like they did last year at 6-3.

But in your heart of hearts, do you really think they can compete with the likes of Green Bay, the 49ers, much less the Seahawks, if they even MAKE it to the playoffs? Not I. Further, many football "experts" have predicted the Lions to finish third, or even last, in their own division. Somewhere between a 6-10 and 8-8 record seems to be their common theme.

The Lions are supposedly better than they were last year. But they've said that EVERY year since the 1960's.

Here's wishing them well, but yours truly stopped buying into the hype many years ago. It's put up or shut up time.

We shall see......

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ray Rice. Beyond the obvious

If you've been living on the planet earth for the last 24 hours, chances are good you've seen the video. But for those that have just returned from the planet Ork to pay homage to the late Robin Williams -- this is what happened.....

On a casino elevator in Atlantic City, his then fiance (now wife) got up in his face and former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked her flat out cold with a Mike Tyson-esque left hook. Upon seeing the video from inside the elevator, the Ravens immediately terminated Rice's contract and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. All that is pretty much common knowledge at this point and the talking heads are doing what they do. Rehashing the same news over and over and over again.

But here's what they're NOT talking about. There's another dark side to this story.

The original incident occurred way back in February. Over six months ago. Until today, both the Ravens and the NFL have maintained they never saw the video before. It has been reported that Roger Goodell and company requested the video all along, but were denied. So in fairness to Goodell, he acted upon the information he DID have and originally suspended Rice for 2 games.

Is Rice at fault? Absolutely. But there are shadowy others that should share major culpability as well in this fiasco. Namely the cops and prosecutors. Though officially unknown, there's an extremely high probability the cops obtained that video within a day or two of the original incident. Typically, whatever evidence the cops have, the prosecutors get within a few days.

Which basically means both the cops and prosecutors sat on this recently released video for months, refusing to release it. Why it finally came out would seem to be a good question. The better question is -- why would they hold it back for 6 months? By doing so, neither the Ravens nor the NFL knew exactly what had happened in that elevator, which allowed a process flawed at its core to play out for those same 6 months.

Goodell was operating semi-blind, and no way were the Ravens going to dump their star running back without a REALLY good reason. They didn't have one.

Consider --- though originally charged with aggravated felonious assault, the prosecutors were content with letting Rice enter a "diversion" program. No trial, let alone possible jail time. If he kept his nose clean, even THIS incident would have been expunged from his record like it never happened. That agreement is still in effect.

From the Ravens point of view at the time, they certainly had no reason to come down hard on Rice, given the authorities themselves were treating it like a parking ticket.

Of course, the recent video changed all that in a big way. Rice's career as an NFL player might very well be over. Sure, even if his NFL suspension is ever lifted -- no given -- other teams will suffer injuries at the running back positions and be looking around for replacements. Few would doubt Ray Rice, at age 27, remains a Top 10 NFL running back. But can you imagine the bad publicity and outcry from various folks that would come along with any other team signing him? Desperate for a running back, would an NFL GM dare bring in Rice, even if playoff implications were involved? Unknown. That left hook may have sealed the deal on him ever wearing an NFL uniform again. Right or wrong, some things just don't go away.

Naturally, there's always the hypocrisy factor. Former Raven, and one time teammate of Rice, Ray Lewis has come out with a public statement on the matter. He takes it personally. Remember, Lewis himself was once up to his eyeballs in a double murder investigation. Two guys got stabbed to death. Lots of blood. The white suit Lewis was wearing at the time while at the scene of the crime was never found. By attempting to turn state's evidence on his alleged accomplices (who were subsequently acquitted), Lewis walked with only a minor obstruction of justice charge. In the end, the two victims are still quite dead, but nobody was ever convicted of their murders. Lewis went on to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame and is currently a talking head on football programs himself. But he takes this Rice incident personally. Right, but excuse me for thinking something is wrong with this picture.

Thing is, even given the recent video, the prosecutors can't go back and recharge Rice with a more serious offense. They already cut their slap on the wrist deal with him. Why they would have done so in the first place, when they were aware of the video all along is the question reporters should unmercifully hound them about until ALL the truth comes out. But they won't. They're too busy focusing on the obvious. And in a week or so, if not less, another "big" story will come along, and they'll go chasing the latest scoop. The Rice matter will quickly fade away in their rear view mirror. And the cops and prosecutors that truly obstructed justice for over 6 months will never be held accountable.

Ray Rice is only a football player. He just got banged, at least career-wise. Cops will forever hide behind their blue wall of silence and prosecutors have immunity for their misdeeds.

And the beat goes on, but that doesn't make it right......

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A headline and the Detroit Tigers

Interesting headline seen recently -- Truancy Task Force says (school) attendance is key to achievement (of their goal).

Well, butter my butt and call me the world's ugliest biscuit. These people are GENIUSES to come up with such a brilliant solution. And for the small fee of 50 bucks, they'll allow you to listen in on one of their brainstorming sessions. One word -- puh-leeze.

But back to sports. Don't look now Detroit Tiger fans, but that ticking you hear getting louder in the background is the playoff clock winding down on your team. They were supposed to win the AL Central Division going away -- remember? With about only 20 games remaining, they find themselves 2 behind the KC Royals, who have a very favorable remaining schedule, and in a virtual tie with the Seattle Mariners for the second/last wild card spot.

After all the hoopla about the Tigers having the best starting pitching rotation in all of baseball, and adding David Price to boot, things don't seem to be working out.

Former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander is a journeymanesque 12-12, with an ERA approaching 5.
Fellow former Cyster Price is only 13-11, and has gone 2-3 since he joined the Tigers. This wasn't supposed to happen to a couple "aces", but it has. Anabel Sanchez remains on the shelf with an injury, and whether he can return or not this year is unknown. Even if he can, how effective would he be after such a long lay-off?

Relative (25) youngster Rick Porcello has pitched fairly well over the season. He was considered a  good pitcher, but after starting out hot, he's come back to earth with a 15-10 record. Lately, Ricky P has been shelled here and there. Perhaps the long season is finally taking its toll on him.

Max Scherzer has followed up a Cy Young year with yet another stellar campaign (15-5). But here's the thing about Scherzer ---- after this season -- color him gone from the Tigers.

Before this season started, Scherzer turned down a whopping $140 million dollar long term contract extension to stay with Detroit. Even given his continued excellence, it's certainly debatable whether another team will offer him more next year. Turning down $140M guaranteed might not have been the smartest of moves. With that amount of dough a person can live in the lap of luxury for life. Does the name Juan Gonzalez ring a bell? Bet he still wishes he could have a mulligan on that decision back in 2000. Regardless, chances are mighty slim Scherzer will be wearing a Tiger uniform next year. Hey, he was born and bred in Missouri, even originally drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals. Maybe he'll pull a Lebron, sans the championship rings, and go back home for less money.

Hitting-wise, slugger Miguel Cabrera's numbers have come down a bit. Much has been made about him having a lingering sore ankle. That may be, but it's unrealistic to expect even Cabrera to put up outrageous Triple Crown numbers every year.

The Tigers signed perennial All-Star free agent Ian Kinsler away from Texas. He's been OK, but nothing terrific. Better than what they had before at second base, which was basically a ham sandwich with a glove.

On the positive side, Victor Martinez has been having a monster year. Yes, he's a good player, but few would have foreseen the success he has had this year with the bat. Along the same line, nobody, repeat NOBODY saw J.D. Martinez banging the ball all over the park the way he has this year for the Tigers.

So in the end, things sort of balance out. Some players perform better than expected, and others not as well. Ya win some -- ya lose some. And injuries are a crap shoot. Ya never know what the next pitch, swing, or play in the field will bring.

As mentioned above, KC plays the majority of its remaining games against sub- .500 teams. Meanwhile, the Tigers have a home-friendly (13 home, 6 away) schedule for the final three weeks. Normally, that would be considered an advantage, but the Tigers have actually been a better team on the road this year than in the friendly confines of Comerica Park. At home, they're a pedestrian 36-32. On the road, they're 42-33.

Nevertheless, it's 143 down and 19 to go for the Tigers. Currently, they find themselves totally out of the playoffs. This was.... not..... supposed..... to..... happen.

And their handsome, suave, debonaire, rookie manager Brad Ausmus seems to spitting a lot more these days, not to mention going gray up top faster than Obama. Tough jobs.

But the countdown continues. Tick, tick, tick......