Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lebron's grand return to Cleveland

Everything was set to welcome the King back home. A sold out arena of over 20,000 fanatical fans, and legions more in the streets partying on.

Just before the game started, a TV commercial Lebron James had recently made showing him huddling up and pep-talking his new teammates was featured on the jumbotron in the arena. The fans went even wilder.

The Cavaliers had spiffy new uniforms and multi-colored shoes.

When James entered the arena, he was greeted with a thunderous standing ovation.

And the pre-game powder. Let's not forget the King clapping his usual liberal portion of Gold Bond, or whatever, in the air just before tip-off. The pretty girls swooned. Some ugly ones too.

Bieber, Spike Lee, and a handful of actors and rappers were on hand.

This was new Cleveland head coach David Blatt's debut. Blatt's had his travels. After going to Princeton, Blatt would wind up playing in Israel, then coaching several Israeli teams, including the Israeli national team. Along the way, he won the Israeli championship, the Israeli Cup, and was named Israeli coach of the year. Evidently a nomadic sort, Blatt went on to coaching stops in Russia, Turkey, and Greece. How all this qualifed him to be an NBA head coach is anybody's guess, but never underestimate the wisdom of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Ahem. At any rate, making millions as an NBA head coach surely beats the heck out of going hand to hand with those pesky Hamas rascals.

And to top it all off, the Cavs were hosting the NY Knicks, who had been blistered at home just the night before by the Chicago Bulls. Throw in the newly acquired Kevin Love, a superstar in his own right, and this had all the makings of a rout. Cleveland was going to party -- dammit.

But it didn't turn out that way. Blatt's brats went splat. The supposed King would shoot 5-15 and commit 8 turnovers. In the end the Knicks -- the KNICKS -- would rain on Cleveland's parade as they unceremoniously dumped the Cavs 95-90.

In the usual post-game talkathon -- you know, where "experts" tell you again what you just watched -- the yappy little chihuahua (sometimes known as Stephen A. Smith) was once again barking away from on high, correction, make that down low, as he analyzed the game. This was important. That was important. Blah, blah, blah. But you know what? This was the first game out of 82 for the Cavs in the regular season. A week from now, much less a couple months, and nobody will remember it anyway. So they lost one. Did anybody really think they were going to go undefeated?

Which team the Bieb, glitterati and rappers were rooting for is uncertain, but a good guess would be they're trying to latch onto James' coattails in his highly ballyhooed return home for photo ops and the like. Why else would they be in Cleveland?

Spike Lee is a die-hard Knicks fan. Given their history (and Spike's films), it's somewhat of a minor miracle either or both didn't become mummified a long time ago.

So Lebron's triumphant return didn't turn out so well. It happens. But given the cast of characters that were associated with the game, methinks the TV people missed out on a golden opportunity for a mega-event.

I'm thinking a big pit of mud, or even cole slaw. With a cage around it, like the octagon in mixed martial arts. Throw in Bieber, Spike Lee, Stephen A. Smith, a couple smack-talking rappers, and let them slug it out until only one survives.

NBA basketball is okay, but THAT would attract a record audience indeed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Michigan State. A final four team?

After the first poll from the almighty committee that will eventually decide which four football teams qualify for the national championship playoff -- the Michigan State Spartans find themselves on the outside looking in.

Idle thought: Condoleezza Rice is a member of this supreme council. Didn't she botch enough things when she was W's right hand girl (see non-existent weapons of mass destruction and the resulting Iraq war)? And now she's supposedly an expert on college football? Says who?

At any rate, MSU is ranked #8 and needs some help to move up four spots in the remaining weeks. It's odd, because through the first seven games, the Spartans have only played two bad quarters of football. Early in the season, at Oregon, MSU was hanging with the Ducks, but fell apart in the fourth quarter to lose by 19 points. Fast forward a few weeks, and the Spartans were dominating Nebraska at home. Another fourth quarter let-down let the Cornhuskers back in the game, but the Spartans still held on to win 27-22. Other than that, they've pretty well blistered everybody they've played.

But maybe that's the thing. Strength of schedule matters to Condy and Company. While the Spartans mowed down early season non-conference patsies, then in-conference patsies like Indiana, Purdue, and Michigan, the only tough games they've played resulted in a loss on the road and a close one at home. Perhaps that's why they're rarely mentioned as being a potential Top Four team amongst all the talking heads.

Certainly, 2 out of the current top 4 belong there. Miss St., and defending champ Flor St. both remain undefeated having played some pretty tough competition. After that, there's a bevy of one loss teams, including Mich St.

Some of the usual suspects lurk, like Alabama, Auburn, Oregon, and Notre Dame (which came within a whisker of knocking off Flor St. on the road). Despite having one loss as well, many pollsters want to jump on the Ole Miss bandwagon, likely because they haven't been any good in decades. It's like if the Chicago Cubs suddenly roared to a division title in baseball.

Yet while they may well be a Top 4 team, Michigan State continues to get the Rodney Dangerfield treatment nationally.

In order for MSU to move up the 4 spots necessary to get into the Final Four, three things have to happen. Two of them the Spartans control, while the third will happen elsewhere.

#1. After their bye week, MSU hosts Ohio State, also a one-loss and ranked team. Just beating the Buckeyes isn't good enough. It has to be convincing.

#2. MSU won't get any brownie points from the committee even if they roll through the weak remainder of their Big 10 schedule. Knocking off Maryland on the road, Rutgers at home, and Penn State in Happy Valley isn't going to impress anybody. Therefore, they must also rack up a decisive victory in the Big 10 championship game against whichever opponent emerges.

#3. This is what could benefit the Spartans most. While Flor. St. and Oregon are likely on cruise control, some of the current teams ranked above them still have to face some mighty tough competition, especially in the SEC. Both Mississippi teams, Auburn, and Bama have a brutal schedule amongst themselves in the next few weeks. Somebody has to lose those games. Plus they have a conference championship game themselves. While the SEC champion will no doubt get an invite to the big dance, it could well turn out that many of them will have at least two losses.

If Michigan State remains impressive and unbeaten for the rest of the year -- with only one early loss --would the committee actually ignore them on their final ballot in favor of another team that had been beaten twice -- the last defeat being quite recent? That would be tough to justify, even for Condy.

But first things first. State has to roll at home over the Buckeyes, and that's no piece of cake. Even though OSU lost their star QB Braxton Miller for the season due to an injury, his replacement J.T. Barrrett has come on like gangbusters in his absence, running and throwing for ridiculous yardage.

Nov. 8 will feature the biggest Big 10 game of the year between MSU and OSU. Somebody's going to move up a spot or two in the polls, with an outside chance of going to the Big Dance. The other will go bowling for dollars elsewhere in January at a second tier affair.

Yep, it can fairly be said that in the next 6 weeks or so, we'll see a whole lot of poll shuffling going on. Which four teams will eventually be chosen by Condy's "coalition" for a chance at greatness is anybody's guess. Today's allegiances could be tomorrow's outcasts. Sound familiar? But you just know, no matter how it works out, there will be those left out that will claim they got screwed over by politics and what can be sold as popular to the American people.

Hmm. Looking at it that way, maybe Rice's "appointment" to such a committee begins to make a little sense.

Just a thought.....

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Who wins Game 7?

First things first. As yours truly was starting to look some of the following up, I stumbled upon an excellent article written by one Ronald Blum of the Associated Press. He'd already done all the heavy lifting. So -- with all due credit and apologies to Blum, I'm going to "borrow" some of his work.

As all baseball fans know, the KC Royals routed the SF Giants 10-0 in Game 6 of the World Series. They are now tied at 3 games apiece. Tomorrow night, the deciding Game 7 will be played in Kansas City. Which team will win is anybody's guess.

But Blum pointed out some staggering historical statistics of World Series' past.

Home teams have won 9 straight Game 7s.
The Giants have lost all 4 Game 7s they have ever participated in.
Teams with the home field advantage (KC) have won 23 of the last 28 titles -- including the last 5 in a row.
In the only other wild-card only World Series, back in 2002, the Giants won the opener, fell behind 2-1, took a 3-2 lead, and eventually lost the last two games. Through 6 games this year, this is EXACTLY how it has played out so far. Weird.
The last 8 teams to win Game 6 to even the Series went on to win Game 7.
And no road team has lost Game 6 and came back to win Game 7 since Cinci's Big Red Machine did it against the Bosox way back in 1975.

Well then. Given all the above stats Blum originally provided, it seems obvious who will be World Series champs by this time tomorrow night. Every possible trend leans heavily towards the Kansas City Royals, including the poll I mentioned in my previous post. And while the Bay area of San Fran has always been one of my favorite places to visit, I get this sense that most across the country are pulling for KC. It's understandable. After all, the Royals have only won one World Series, and that was way back in 1985 when a guy named George Brett was a young man. Their NFL football team, the Chiefs, haven't sniffed the Super Bowl since the late 60s. They don't even have an NBA or NHL team. It would mean SO much to the good people of Kansas City to win the World Series. It's difficult to find a reason to root against them.

Conversely, San Fran has enjoyed major success with their NFL 49ers over the years. Since 1982, five Super Bowl championsips and an appearance in a sixth just two years ago. Five rings and a runner-up? That's more glory than other cities featuring pro teams have enjoyed in their entire history.

And again, I love San Francisco. The exotic foods in Chinatown. The trolley cars. Going up to the very top of Lombard Street to navigate the super-sharp turns while looking down on the city. Wandering around Fisherman's Wharf on the piers taking in all the live street acts and never ceasing to be amazed at what some of them can do. Going across the Golden Gate bridge to enjoy nature at it's finest in Meir's Woods, and even taking the ferry over to Alcatraz (though my ex tried to leave me there one time, and I found that decidedly NOT funny). All in all, a fantastic place to visit.

But while Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, yours truly find himself pulling for the Royals. Consider their two most famous players from the past. George Brett versus Barry Bonds. Need I say more?

And after all, according to Blum, every stat in the book points towards KC winning Game 7 and becoming champions.

Except two. 2014 is an even-numbered year, and San Fran won the World Series in both 2012 and 2010, while being mediocre at best in the odd numbered years. Weird again.

And most important of all, yours truly is rooting for Kansas City. That means they're likely doomed, an unenviable trait I inherited from my late father when it comes predicting the outcomes of sporting contests. Our combined record could be compared to the Detroit Lions and the Super Bowl, or the Chicago Cubs and the World Series. Needless to say, we've never exactly been "on a roll".

San Fran wins. San Fran wins.

There. That ought to do it......

KC/SanFran and a weird poll

Normally, yours truly writes his nonsense in the spooky hours of the night. Always best to be inside with the lights on when the vampires are looking for their next victims, werewolves are running amok, and the politicians are on the campaign trail. In their scariest portrayals, the likes of Lon Chaney, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi had nothing on the politicos in the weeks leading up to an election. And somehow I draw comfort in knowing that the howling at the moon heard far off in the distance might well be my ex. Off in the distance is a good thing sometimes.

Yet it was necessary to write this post at an earlier hour than usual. That's because Game 6 of the World Series hasn't started yet, hence I have no idea who's going to win it.

Let's look at what we already know about the 2014 Fall Classic. Obviously, San Fran leads KC 3 games to 2. Though some of the scores of previous games have been lopsided, both ways, it could fairly be said the two teams are pretty much equal. Either can win on any given night.

In the first two games, the teams split in KC. In SF, the Giants won 2 out of 3. Now game 6, and possibly game 7, will be played in KC. Back and forth they go.

Which brings me to the poll. The usual gang of geniuses on the 4-letter sports network took an on-line poll of all 50 states as to which team people thought would eventually become world champions.

Sure, the Giants only have to win one out of two, while the Royals have to win both. Advantage Giants. But KC is playing at home, so slight advantage Royals. Still, given the teams seem evenly matched, simple logic (and odds) would dictate San Fran has a much better shot of winning it all.

But amazingly, the poll came back 49 states to one. A landslide. In favor of KC. Only the folks in California, which I'm pretty sure is where San Fran is located, thought the Giants would prevail.

Here's hoping KC prevails tonight. Nothing like a Game 7 in the World Series for all the marbles. Given it's definitely the last one, that's the only game of the year where fans get to see all the usual rules of baseball thrown out the window. All hands on deck. Starting pitchers will be in the bullpen, and could be summoned for an inning of relief duty on "short rest". Who cares if their arms are sore the next day? They'll have all winter to rest up.

The poll aside, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Uh-oh, gotta go. Game 6 has started. No fair peeking only to write about it later.

Then again, I peeked outside. It's now dark with a clear sky, but not a full moon. Only a crescent.

Maybe there will be no howling heard off in the distance later. Bless her heart.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The real (Colt) McCoy

Every once in a while, there's a feel-good story in sports that has nothing to do with Derek Jeter. Enter Colt McCoy, currently the QB of the Washington Redskins.

Given McCoy's background, one would think the Skins would have been the last place he'd wind up.
Though actually born in New Mexico, McCoy was a big-time Dallas Cowboys fan before his baby teeth had even fallen out. He went to and played at a Texas high school not far from Big D. Then on to the University of Texas where he became quite the star -- a four year starter.

But the NFL draft being the strange creature it is -- McCoy wound up going to the Cleveland Browns as only a third round pick. There, he found himself a third string QB with no chance of playing -- until injuries hit the guys in front of him. Playing on a bad team, his success there was a mixed bag. Ironically, he found himself backing up QB Brandon Weedon in his last year in Cleveland. I'll get back to that.

Eventually, the Browns shipped McCoy to the San Fran 49ers, another team where he had little chance of any playing time. Then the Niners traded him to Washington for a couple low draft picks. In the NFL, this is hanging on by the skin of one's teeth. McCoy was basically a forgotten man in DC as well.

But then strange things started happening with the Redskins. Heisman winning and super-hyped QB Robert Griffin III out of Baylor didn't play particularly well and, most importantly, couldn't stay healthy. He's still recovering from his latest injury. The Skins looked to #2, Kirk Cousins out of Michigan State. After a decent start, Cousins quickly crashed and burned with godawful play. So he was benched. The only guy left was Colt McCoy.

Though having had precious few "reps" in practice, McCoy's first game starting for the Skins would be against the Dallas Cowboys, in Dallas, on Monday Night Football. Going in, Da Boys had the best record in all of the NFL, featured the league's best running back in Demarco Murray, and the Redskins were 9 1/2 point underdogs. Jerry Jones, the cheerleaders, and a throng of over 80,000 yee-hah folks were waiting. No pressure.

Yet McCoy not only kept his cool -- he played great. In a suite high above the playing field, his mom and dad, life-long Dallas yee-hahers themselves, had switched loyalties. Their boy was playing for the once-hated Skins, so they rooted for them. It seems awkward for a mom and pop to abandon a decades old allegiance cuz one of their kinfolk has taken up with the other side.(Would a McCoy have rooted for another McCoy, after he'd joined the Hatfields?). Unknown. But stranger things have happened. See politics leading up to an election.

Nevertheless, after shaking off some of the initial rust, Colt McCoy was quite impressive against the Cowboys. He completed 80% of his passes, scrambled when necessarily for crucial first downs, and led his team to a win in overtime. All the analysts, experts, and pundits had it wrong. The Redskins were in for a beat-down, they said.

What became ironic during the game was when Dallas QB Tony Romo went out with an injury on an innocent enough looking play. His back-up? One Brandon Weedon. The guy Colt McCoy used to back-up during their Cleveland days. Small world.

But on this night, the same guy that was a Cowboy fan at age 5, played prep and college ball in Texas, and whose dream job was likely being the Dallas QB himself -- found himself playing for their arch-rival -- and a heavy underdog at that.

Yet when it was all over, the Redskins had scalped the Cowboys. Jerry Jones is not happy. 80,000 yee-haws have to go home, sober up, and break out the cold cream to wash off their Cowboy faces. The cheerleaders? They're probably still shaking their pom-poms and dancing somewhere, because they don't know any better. Nice to look at, but dumber than bricks.

Regardless, hats off to the real McCoy. Colt finally got a chance to play where he always wanted to, and wound up hog tieing the Cowboys in front of a national TV audience.

To boot, he's an all-around good guy. Active in his church, helping old folks around their yards and visiting nursing homes in his spare time, involved with meals on wheels, and donates a bunch of time and money helping out youth programs.

How can you NOT root for a dude like Colt McCoy?

Move over, former #2 in the pinstripes. Though Colt McCoy likely won't wind up in the Hall of Fame, you're not the only feel good story in sports these days.......

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Detroit Lions. Bumble down, bumble up

In years past, few would doubt the Detroit Lions would find a way to bumble away a game they should have won. From coaching decisions, to offense, to defense, to special teams, if there was a way to screw up a game -- the Lions would find it. Turnovers, false starts, illegal procedures, stupid personal fouls, and mind-boggling coaching decisions all factored in. It was like the coaching staff was clueless and the players dumber yet. Even in recent seasons where they got off to a fairly good start -- the Lions were always a ticking time-bomb waiting to implode on themselves. November and December could, and has, gotten ugly. Whether or not the same fate awaits them this year remains to be seen.

But so far in 2014, the bumbling seems to have taken a very strange turn -- to the Lions advantage. Just last week, in a home game against the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees and company had them all but put away. Enter a couple of bizarre pass interference calls, and Brees himself uncharacteristically throwing a foolish interception late in the game and -- presto -- the Lions bumbled into a win.

Consider the recently concluded game in London against the Atlanta Falcons. After being down 21-0 at halftime, the Lions rallied in the second half. But they still should have lost the game. With the Falcons ahead by two points and just a few seconds left in the game, the Lions lined up for a winning field goal attempt. The snap is good,. The hold is good. The kick is away. It's wide right. Time has expired. The Lions lose.

But wait. The Lions themselves were called for delay of game before the previous play happened. A five yard penalty. Reset the clock to 4 seconds and try again. This time the kick was good. Lions win.

So even when they pulled another bone-head, they bumbled into a win. The coaching staff of the Falcons must have been pulling their hair out. How the hell could this happen?

Yet that's the way it seems to be going for the Lions in this magical year so far. Before, they could play well, but bumble their way into a loss. In 2014 they haven't played particularly well, but despite the miscues, are bumbling their way into wins.

Sure, their local media is making a big deal out of how they're winning games without the services of Calvin Johnson. But in previous years, QB Matthew Stafford and the Megatron put up outrageous passing yard statistics -- and the team couldn't win squat when it counted. Since 2009, together they've been to a grand total of one playoff game -- and were blown out.

Lions fans hear about Golden Tate. He's a decent receiver, but why in the hell would he leave a Super Bowl championship team in beautiful Seattle to go to the dregs of Detroit? Reggie Bush was a cast-off from another team, as were some other Lions' free agent signings. Tight end Joe Fauria went totally undrafted a couple years ago. No other NFL team thought he was worth taking. But Detroit signed him. Alas, Fauria has been on the disabled list for a month since tripping over his own puppy dog at home. This sort of thing could only be a part of Lions' lore.

Long-time center Dominic Raiola remains a spokeman for the team. Dom likes to talk, and talk, and talk. Since joining the Lions back in 2001, Raiola is the all-time NFL leader for having participated in the most losing games. One would think a player with such a horrific track record would shut up and show some humility. But not Dom. He continues to bumble on talking about how the Lombardi Trophy will be coming to Motown every year. Maybe he took too many helmet to helmet hits while at Nebraska. Poor devil. (BTW, Raiola joined the Cornhuskers right after they had won a national title -- and they immediately tanked thereafter).

Nonetheless, one way or the other, the Lions have always bumbled. Sometimes up, sometimes down.

After the "running amok" regime of former head coach Jim Schwartz, the Lions have a new head coach.

One Jim Caldwell whose name, if I have this right, roughly translates from the ancient Sanskrit as -- "Praise God for giving me another shot".

You see, Caldwell has done well in the past as a coordinator under other successful head coaches, but when given the reigns himself -- not so good.

Enter the bumblers that were more than willing to throw millions, likely 20+, for a 4 year deal, to a guy that has a history of failure as a head coach.

As they always say in Detroit, this could be the year. Just wait until Megatron gets back. We'll be unstoppable. Right. Seems to yours truly I've heard that before a time or 50 over the last few decades.

But ya never know. With a little luck, sometimes bumbling has a way of working out in the end.

Look at Joe Biden.......

Friday, October 24, 2014

People who need to shut up

Peyton Manning, QB of the Denver Broncos, needs to shut up. No, this has nothing to do with his making moronic commercials to pad his already super-stuffed bank account. The mute button on the remote solves that problem every time.

Old #18 is upset due to, of all things, the Denver scoreboard operator. During the recent game against the San Diego Chargers, the operator dared flash signs calling for the crowd to make some noise. Problem was, Peyton and his offense had the ball at the time. A home crowd is supposed to be quiet, QUIET, when their offense has the ball. Even the Almighty Peyton was flapping his arms -- nothing new there -- trying to get the fanatics in attendance to pipe down. The bigger problem? Denver was already comfortably ahead by two touchdowns and time was winding down in the game.

Yes, the elder Manning recently passed Brett Favre on the all-time passing touchdown list, to no one's great surprise. Play long enough, whether at Indy or Denver, behind offensive lines that gave him "all day" to throw, and complement that with a bevy of super-talented wide receivers to throw TO, and presto, a lot of passing touchdowns are going to happen. But all the accolades that came with Peyton ascending to #1 evidently weren't enough. He wanted more. And how dare a scoreboard operator not do things exactly according to the wishes of Peyton, the self-appointed God of all things football in Denver? Worse yet, the same scoreboard operator had the utter gall to show a picture of Chargers' QB Philip Rivers. Needless to say, Zeus Peyton was not happy with this.

Therefore, old chicken-neck has vowed to "have a word" with that scoreboard operator. And you know what? If I was that scoreboard operator -- here is what I would say...... 

Your point is noted Peyton, but running the scoreboard and all the other ever-changing lights, signs, and ads around the stadium is quite a handful. So why don't you stick to yelling "Omaha", doing your happy feet dance, and throwing the football? Lord knows, you could never run. I'll stick to putting what I think is pertinent up on the big screen, juggling the myriad of advertisers around the stadium, and trying to push the buttons fast enough to keep everybody happy. I have no place to run either. I'm stuck in a mini-studio with more screens and gadgets around me than you could ever imagine. I can't do your job and you can't do mine. So shut up.

On another note, it's getting absolutely stupid how much attention is being paid to a guy wearing a Marlin's jersey that has showed up sitting in the front row behind home plate both in KC and San Fran for World Series' games.

"Officials" in KC deemed it so "distracting" they even offered the guy a seat in the owners' suite. He declined, and why not? Sitting in the front row behind home plate is one of the best seats in the house. Going up to billionaire land might offer the lap of luxury (free beer, hot dogs, and ice cream?)  but it's also a lot further away from the actual action on the field. Besides, this dude paid big bucks for those seats.

A Marlin's jersey is distracting? Shut up. Last time I looked the Florida Marlins still played somewhere around Miami. How can this possibly be offensive to people in KC or San Fran?

For that matter, if he ponied up likely 5 figures worth of dough per game to get those seats -- he should be able to wear whatever he wants. Though some college and pro teams run promotions handing out free teeshirts so the crowd can be a solid mass of one color -- it's not like it's mandatory. One can wear an old rock concert souvenir, a Harley shirt, or even one featuring a pic of my boss, the sports editor, perhaps even Bieber -- though the latter two are definitely not recommended unless one is quite proficient in martial arts. It can be tough getting out of a stadium or arena wearing a shirt like that.

The guy at the World Series games doesn't have to wear home-town colors in either city That would only prove he's another in a long line of lemmings that have been cha-chinged. By wearing Marlins gear, he's showing he's an independent thinker. He should be applauded -- not ridiculed. Who are the fools indeed? These people need to seriously shut up.

Look at it this way. The man's obviously a baseball fan with the means to travel and purchase first-rate seats at prime games. If he wants to sit behind home plate where the TV cameras will show him in the background on every pitch -- then he has every right to do so.

And he can wear whatever he wishes. Personally, I wouldn't care if he was wearing the black of ISIS.

In the end, it's just a shirt, and who cares as long as the person wearing it follows fan protocol at games, which the Marlins Man has obviously done?

Too many yappy heads looking for something to complain about when the least little thing doesn't fit into their small worlds.

They need to shut up.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Detroit Lions vs God

In the NFL's infinite wisdom, the Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons will find themselves playing a game this Sunday in England. Pip pip, cheerio, and perhaps a jolly good time will be had by all -- the inevitable jet-lag for the players notwithstanding. Yet it poses a dilemma for their fans back stateside.

Due to the time change, the game will start at roughly 9:30 AM in both Atlanta and Detroit (eastern time zone).

Granted, your typical NFL fan is pretty much a heathen. How else to explain not only the rowdy behavior and outrageous outfits in most stadiums on game day, but also much the same in thousands of bars jam-packed with folks rooting on their home teams? Infidels indeed.

It's common practice for many of these establishments to offer up game-day "specials", whereby they'll provide free food (often catered by a hard-core "regular" patron), and discounted beer when their team scores. Most all hawk football "squares" every week, ranging from a buck a pop to 5, 10, even 20 dollars per square. Oftentimes, the same bar will have a variety of different square sheets of differing values in play at the same time. Winners will typically be paid after each quarter and upon the final score. Do you feel lucky, and how much do you want to gamble?

Also, it's certainly not uncommon for a bartender or waitress to offer a "50-50" raffle. Step up and buy your tickets. A buck apiece or six for five dollars. The "lucky" winner is usually drawn at halftime, but this has always been a rip-off. Why? Because even if you win, you only get half. The other half goes into the wallet or purse of the bartender or waitress. I can see 10% to pay for the tickets and the trouble of taking up the collection-- but half? No way. And it's amazing how many times the boyfriend of the bartender or a slobbery drunk (who will give his share of the winnings right back to her in an attempt to impress) seems to win these things. At any rate -- it's a sucker bet. If you just have to, much better to plop those same bucks down on Keno easy picks. At least that way you know it's on the up and up. I think. Would the governor and the state lie to you? Hmmm. Nevermind. But I digress.

Back to the game this Sunday. Few would question Lions' fans have kept the faith for a very long time. The last time they won the NFL championship was way back in 1957. Eisenhower was President and the Edsel was about to make its debut. This was a full decade before Super Bowls even started. In the ensuing 57 years, the Lions have won a grand total of one playoff game, and remain the only non-expansion team to have never reached the Super Bowl.

Yet the Honolulu blue and silver heathens continue to fanatically support their team. This is most definitely keeping the faith.

However, faith comes in a different variety as well. As in worshipping on Sunday mornings at the religious establishment of one's choice. It's likely not too much of a stretch to assume even some Lions' fans are God-fearing people and would normally be getting "churched up" on Sunday mornings.

But with the game in London starting at 9:30 AM local time, they have to make a tough choice. Do they put on their suits and dresses, spiff up the kids, and head to the local tabernacle to hear Pastor Smith's sermon, sing songs of praise, pray, and drop a few bucks in the offering plate? Or do they arrange for the baby-sitter ahead of time, put on their Lions gear, and head to the local saloon to start getting loaded while scarfing up a breakfast buffet at 9 in the morning, and checking out which numbers they drew on their square sheets?

It would appear different faiths can present a dilemma at times......

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Recent outrageous bytes

As the saying goes, 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on your insurance. Everybody knows that.

Just one problem. Yours truly has been looking for 15 MONTHs for one of their offices to talk things over in person, but still can't find one. Evidently, the Tasmanian devil doesn't even HAVE a phone and Icky Woods isn't returning my calls -- even though I offered to throw in cold cuts. So what's a guy to do? Guess I'm stuck with my old insurance company of Dewey, Cheatham, and Howe for a while longer. Maybe not the most reputable, but at least I know where to find them.

The World Series is getting interesting. KC roared back to tie it at one game apiece. But some silly things were said in the "booth". Maybe this is what happens when you combine an announcer (Joe Buck) and a sports scribe (Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated) with a washed-up baseball player (Harold Reynolds). Joe likely wouldn't be there at all if it wasn't for his daddy Jack, and methinks Tom would be better served keeping his day job writing an occasional Michener-esque sports piece for SI. And Harold? What's he supposed to be? The comic relief?

Got a yuk out of a couple of their comments, though. Over and over again, one would breathlessly say the current batter "took a big rip at that one" as he whiffed on his swing. Tell ya what. I could take a big rip, you could take a big rip, heck, your average Supreme Court justice could take a big rip. We likely wouldn't hit anything but air either. So what's the big deal about swinging a bat?

After it became apparent the series would be knotted up 1-all, one of them ventured to say it could be a long series. Really. Unless one of the teams decides to forfeit in the next few days -- I'd say chances are very good it's going to go at least 5 games. Barring a sweep by either in San Fran for the next 3 games (not likely), throw in the travel days, and presto, we'll likely have World Series baseball into next week. This is a good thing.

Either way, this Sunday should be quite the couch tater extravaganza. The NFL will feature its typical triple-header, the NASCAR boys (and that pesky Danica) will be at the short track in Martinsville, and Game 5 of the World Series will be on. Happy clicking.

Can that be right? Some sellers (scalpers) were asking over 10 grand a pop for seats close to the visiting dugout in KC? Wow. Did they get it? Dunno, but I didn't see any empty seats.

If you think that's bad -- consider San Fran. Rumors have it some seats are on the market for over a whopping $100,000 apiece. Will they get it? Beats me. I know the price of real estate in San Fran has been exorbitant for some time -- but if true -- this is ridiculous. A hundred grand to watch a single baseball game? Double it if you want to take your significant other? And how much are the hot dogs? $500? $1000?  Get outta here. Maybe that's why God throws them an earthquake every once in a while -- to jolt them back into reality.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The enigma of starting pitching

The Detroit Tigers (and their local media), perhaps rightfully so, boasted all year long about having the best starting rotation in all of baseball. After all, they had the reigning Cy Young winner in Max Scherzer, former Cyster Justin Verlander, and even added a third past winner in David Price at the trade deadline. Anabel Sanchez was excellent, as was Rick Porcello. Quite the formidable five -- at least on paper.

But after winning the American League central division yet again, the Tigers were unceremoniously broomed by the Baltimore Orioles in one of the ALDS match ups. There would be no World Series in Motown. In fact, despite three Cy Young winners in a row taking the mound, they failed to win a single playoff game. So much for "dominant" starting pitching. In turn, the Orioles themselves would be swept away by the KC Royals in the ALCS.

A couple years ago, KC made a trade to obtain James Shields from the Tampa Bay Rays. He was going to be the "ace" of their staff, a leader in the clubhouse, and all that. Shields has even been dubbed "Big Game James" by the KC faithful and their own local media. But is he really? Let's take a peek at his career stats.

Over 7 seasons with TB and 2 with KC, Shields compiled a 114-90 win/loss record with a respectable 3.72 ERA in the regular seasons. Not too shabby, but hardly the stuff of Cooperstown. Yet in the post-season, he had a record of 3-4, with a whopping 5.19 ERA. In all his playoff starts, he had never managed to record a single out after the sixth inning. It leaves one to wonder how in the hell he became known as Big Game James, when he seems to falter so much in the most important contests. Earlier tonight, in Game One of the World Series against the San Fran Giants, he didn't even make it to the fourth inning. He would eventually take the loss in that game as well.

Yet SF is the true enigma when it comes to just how important starting pitching is. Sure, they have ace Madison Bumgarner who posted a regular season record of 18-10. Very impressive. And he cruised through the Royals' line-up for 8 innings in the opener of the Fall Classic.

But after MadBum, look at what the Giants have for starting pitchers. Tim Hudson? He was 9-13 during the regular season. Ryan Vogelsong? 8-13. Jake Peavy is a respectable 6-4 since coming to the Giants in a mid-season trade, but overall he was 7-13 in 2014. Former hot-shot pitcher Tim Lincecum, even after throwing a no-hitter earlier this year, has since crashed and burned. He's been buried deep in the bullpen, and may well not see any action at all in the World Series.

So add it all up. The Tigers had a fantastic starting rotation -- but went nowhere in October.

Conversely, the Giants had one good starting pitcher in MadBum, but the rest of them were shaky at best. But guess who's in the World Series (and leading 1-0) and who's not?

That's likely because the Giants are a team that finds a way to win in many different ways. While the Tigers relied on starting pitchers and a couple sluggers to carry the day, consider their shortcomings.

Their bullpen was shakier than Barney Fife. They don't know how to bunt when the situation calls for it to advance runners, and had little, if any, team speed on the basepathes. Defensively, it's not just centerfield -- the Tigers are below average at several positions.

Now the Tigers face the very real prospect of losing Scherzer to free agency. Aging outfielder Torii Hunter might well retire, or not even be invited back. Former ace Justin Verlander and slugger Miguel Cabrera had "off" years by their standards, and many blame this on the surgery to their "core" muscles last off-season. Balderdash. They had the finest medical care in the world, months to recover, and the experts pronounced them 100% good to go before the season even started. It might just be they're getting older and on the back side of their career bell curves as athletes. It happens earlier to some than others, especially when they already have a few hundred million bucks in the bank.

Between SF and KC, who will ultimately win the World Series is anybody's guess, though the Giants definitely have an advantage having won the first game.

As for the Tigers? President/GM Dave Dombrowski and their local media can spout all the platitudes they wish to the contrary about their "window of opportunity" closing -- but it appears that is exactly what is happening -- and quickly.

Look at it this way. After a fast start, the Tigers faded badly down the stretch, and barely hung on to qualify for the playoffs. Delete Scherzer from the equation, (and does anybody really expect J.D. Martinez, merely a cast-off from the lowly Houston Astros to put up the same numbers next year?) and no matter who the Tigers plug into his spot from within or without, it's likely going to cost them a few wins. Just two less wins and the Tigers wouldn't have made the playoffs at all this year.

Methinks their window is indeed closing, and if Mad Max takes a walk, it will pretty much be nailed shut. Even Dombrowski, with all his slick maneuvering, will be left with the unenviable task of trying to stop the bleeding from gaping wounds when he only has a few band-aids in his pocket.

But ya never know. Maybe it will work out for the Tigers next year.

Hope springs eternal, right?

In the meantime, let's enjoy the World Series which features two teams without dominant starting pitching. They just find a way.

Maybe the Tigers will too. Someday. It's only been 30 years and counting......

Monday, October 20, 2014

The NFL's boneheaded London gambit

Next Sunday the NFL will once again ship two teams over to jolly old England for a game. You'd think they'd learn.

Though the NFL continues to be the gorilla in the room of American sports, it has long since been proven that England, and the rest of the world for that matter, has little interest in American football, real or fantasy. Remember how the NFL tried to expand it's brand a few years ago with the NFL Europe experiment? It crashed and burned like the Hindenberg.

For reasons most sane Americans, and even the not so sane (see yours truly) can't comprehend, the vast majority of earthling sports fans find soccer (futbol) much more captivating. Spanning the globe -- for every yankee doodle dandy football fan, there are legions of soccer fanatics elsewhere. But it is what it is and different strokes for different cultures.

Yet still the NFL persists in sending a game here and there overseas. This is dumb on many levels.

First, it's a colossal waste of jet fuel.

Second, even the blokes and blokettes of England that pay the admission price to attend such a contest view it as a novelty. A circus act, a freak-show. Like other American foreign policies, this is not to be taken seriously.

Third, even fanatical American NFL fans don't understand half the rules and complexities of the game. To people in the UK, who don't understand ANY of the rules and regs, it likely looks like a game of human pinball. Nevertheless, if I was a British subject that could spare a few pounds sterling, such an event could hold a certain allure. Once. It would be like visiting the San Diego zoo to see the pandas. That's a much hyped exhibit as well. Pretty cool, but once is enough. No need to go back.

Most importantly, if the NFL wants to make an impression in England, why are they sending the Detroit Lions and the Atlanta Falcons overseas to represent them? Sure, the Brits likely won't know the difference, but c'mon. A contest between the Motown meltdowners and the Tara tweety-birds is the best they could do?

If Roger Goodell and company want to make a splash in a foreign market, here's a suggestion....
Don't send a couple historical also-rans. Send your best.

Remember last year's Super Bowl was played between the eventual champion Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. As this year's schedule would have it, way back in Week 3, on Sept. 21, the Hawks and Broncs played a rematch. It was quite a thrilling game with Seattle narrowing prevailing by a 26-20 score.

THAT'S the game that should have been played in London. Not some contest between the Lions and the Falcons. And consider:

If you were a UK citizen and did a quickie internet search on Detroit and Atlanta, what do you think would pop up?

Both are crime-ridden cities. Murders, carjackings, gangs, drugs, and corruption. One is even bankrupt.

On the other hand, Denver and Seattle are both beautiful thriving cities, with much better football teams to boot.

So if the NFL absolutely insists on sending two teams (roughly 22,000 lbs. or 10,000 kilos) of ruffians to play in your back yard -- which would you rather spend your hard-earned quid to see?

Foreclosing on the Pope and the Detroit Lions

Home foreclosures are at an 8 year low. Well, duh. Everybody that could have lost their house in the great recession already DID lose their house. OF COURSE the percentages are going to go down. There's nobody left to foreclose on.

The current Pope is making a hero out of one of his long dead predecessors. OF COURSE he is. This is what Popes do. They beatify, canonize, and even confer sainthood on their fallen brothers from times past. Too bad they're typically a couple centuries behind what's going on in the real world.

But on to sports.

The Detroit Lions lucked up and pulled off an improbable win against the New Orleans Saints -- with no small amount of help from the refs. A couple phantom (BS) pass interference calls against the Saints made the difference. Sure, the Lions have suffered from equally bone-headed calls in the past, and what goes around comes around. Now the Lions are 5-2. Let the feverish Honolulu blue and silver masses jump on the bandwagon yet again. Careful. Over 50 years and counting, including last season, should make them wary. Speaking of Popes, Alexander the poet continues to have it right when it comes to Lions' fans.

"For fools rush in where angels fear to tread".

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Michigan State. Movin' on up?

Remember, this is the first year four college football teams will qualify for a shot at the national title in a mini-playoff. Were it still the same usual two, Michigan State would likely not get invited, even if they "run the table" for the rest the season.

But things have, and continue to fall in place for the Spartans to make it into the "final four". After an early loss to Oregon, consider what has taken place elsewhere with the usual suspects.

The Ducks themselves have been beaten. So has Auburn. Oklahoma just fell for the second time. Baylor got blitzed by unranked West Virginia. Alabama has lost one game, and barely hung on to win another by one point over also unranked Arkansas. To their credit, the Tide just tsunamied Texas A&M 59-0. It's not nice to fool with Mother Nature or Nick Sabin.

Shockingly, two historically door-mat teams find themselves in the Top 3. Mississippi State is #1, and Ole Miss #3. Both remain undefeated. But consider the games yet to be played. Miss State has to go to both Alabama and Ole Miss. Somebody has to lose those games. Then there's the SEC championship game itself. Only two can play, and somebody has to lose that too.

In the meantime, Michigan State has been taking care of business. In back-to-back road games they convincingly won at Purdue, and just throttled Indiana by 40 points. Next up for the Spartans is welcoming the floundering Michigan Wolverines. You just know the former "little brother" will be super-geeked to give their one-time nemesis an Adrian Petersen type switching. And they likely will.

Then Ohio State visits East Lansing. While the Buckeyes have certainly remained respectable in the wake of losing star quarterback Braxton Miller for the season -- it would be quite the upset if OSU were to knock off MSU. Besides, even when OSU has been at full strength in the last few years -- the Spartans seem to have their number.

After that, the Spartans pretty much have a cakewalk schedule until the Big 10 conference championship game. And if they stay healthy who's going to beat them?

Ah, but defending champ Florida State and media darling Notre Dame remain ahead of them as well in the standings you say?

True enough, but as yours truly signs off on this post, those two teams are about to play each other. Somebody has to lose. And you also know, given the alleged shenanigans swirling around Seminole quarterback Jameis Winston, the pollsters are just itching for a way to bury FSU in the rankings -- should they lose.

Nevertheless, when you add it all up, Michigan State has a terrific chance of going to the "final four".

They just have to take care of business, while the other usual suspects are knocking each other off.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Silly surgery talk

Reports have it that Okla City superstar forward Kevin Durant underwent successful surgery to repair a broken bone in his foot. This was at the base of his little toe. That sort of injury can occur (it happened to yours truly) when one is walking around the house barefoot and snags their little toe on the edge of a wall, piece of furniture, etc. As soon as it happens, one knows they messed up. This is going to hurt. Count a-thousand one, a-thousand two as the foot nerves are sending the message to your brain -- and then YOW.

But sometimes this surgery talk with pro athletes gets downright silly. OF COURSE Durant's surgery was successful. When's the last time you heard of a surgery on an athlete being a failure? Can you imagine what they might say?

"It it with deepest regrets we inform you that despite having a world-class surgical team, they totally botched the procedure on Mr. Durant. Though the initial goal was to repair a minor fracture, something appears to have gone amiss in the operating room. How Mr. Durant wound up with his foot-bone connected to his jaw-bone is unknown at this time but, despite finding himself in somewhat of an awkward position, the patient is recovering quite nicely. A second surgery to correct this minor oversight is currently under consideration". Right.

Almost a full year ago the Detroit Tigers had two players, pitcher Justin Verlander and slugger Miguel Cabrera, that underwent "strikingly similar" surgeries to repair their "core muscles".

A question: Just what exactly does "core muscles" mean? Abs? Diaphragm? Something in the pelvic area? The dreaded gluteous maximus out of jointus syndrome? Nobody seems to know, but their local sports writers keep using it as an excuse as to why they had "off" years and eventually crashed and burned in the first round of the playoffs.

It's entirely possible even the Fastball Flakes man and the Venezuelan hitting machine didn't know either. Something hurt and the team docs said they had to have an operation to make it better. And let's face it, if you've ever been in the OR for whatever procedure, you had no clue what happened after the anesthesiologist "turned out the lights". Even if it was only an "out-patient" procedure, you're going to wake up groggy in a strange room, with a bandage and a bunch of stitches somewhere, plus a handful of scripts to fill. Pills to pop later. But you really have no idea what actually went on in the OR, or whether your surgery was successful -- or not. Time will tell.

As one is waiting to get wheeled down to a pick-up area so they can go home, it's always a good sign that the surgeon makes an appearance and assures one that everything went just fine. If he/she doesn't show up -- that's a bad sign.

But if you initially went in for minor toe surgery and come out with your foot bones connected to your jaw bone -- that's a sign something went horribly wrong in the operating room. A second opinion from another doctor is probably a very good idea.

And don't get me started on "high ankle sprains". Just how high does the ankle go anyway?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Wildcards and a bonehead

When the baseball playoffs started a couple weeks ago, who would have ever believed the San Francisco Giants and KC Royals, both wild-card teams, would wind up going to the World Series?

All year long we heard about Cy Young award winners and MVPs of the past (or soon to be). Ace pitchers here, sluggers there, and sensational athletes elsewhere. The Detroit Tigers, the LA Dodgers, the Washington Nationals, the LA Angels, and even the Baltimore Orioles jumped into the picture. All dominant teams throughout the regular season. And they've all been kicked to the curb.

Let's not forget the loveable talking heads and scribes that bombarded us with stats from hell over the past six months. There was WAR, OPS, the dreaded "sabermetrics", and many other categories consisting of tera-gazilla bytes of useless information they continually droned on about. Trying to decipher the baseball statistics put forth these days is akin to understanding the complexities of the human genome. Very few people comprehend it, and most don't give a damn anyway. In the end, only the finished product matters. There's good guys and bad guys. Smart people and dumb people. Pretty girls and ugly girls, etc. How they came to be the way they are is irrelevant. It just IS. Yet sometimes the bad, dumb, ugly clowns wind up as the most successful and powerful -- even to the point of taking our money and bossing us around. These are called politicians. Sabermetric THAT.

And this year certainly proves the same can be said about major league baseball teams. Two wild card clubs navigating their way through the gauntlets of "superior talent" to face off in the World Series? Who woulda thunk it?

As for the bonehead? That honor should be bestowed on St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny. With his team trailing 3-1 in the NLCS, he had his ace pitcher Adam Wainwright on the mound protecting a 3-2 lead in the ninth inning. The Cards needed a win to stay alive and send the series back to St. Louis for game 6, and maybe 7. For the previous several innings, Wainwright had been mowing down the Giants' hitters. He had great "stuff". But Matheny decided to yank him. It didn't take long. On the first pitch from the relief pitcher a Giant hitter clubbed a home run to tie the game. They would go on to get a couple more hits, and then a dramatic walk-off 3-run homer ending the series.

And what was the logic in taking Wainwright out? Pitch count? That ranks right up there with sabermetrics. If a guy's going good, leave him in. He's got four days of rest coming up anyway. A few more pitches aren't going to result in his arm falling off.

Further, consider this was Game 5 of the NLCS. Even had the Cards won, Wainwright wouldn't have been available to pitch in the remainder of the series anyway. Do the math. Friday would have been a travel day and games 6 and 7 would have been on Saturday and Sunday in St. Louis. Why, pray tell, would Matheny yank his ace, who was going good, only to see his bullpen suffer a meltdown and end their year?

This is not the first time Matheny has pulled a bonehead in the 2014 post-season that cost his team. But this gaffe wound up being terminal. Outta here.

Consensus has long had it that the baseball fans in St. Louis are the most knowledgable of any big league team. So chances are they certainly understood a boneheaded move when they saw one, expecially a gaffe that resulted in their team being eliminated. But Cards' fans are also extremely loyal to their beloved Redbirds, and all they entail. They can close ranks and protect their own with the best of teams in any sport.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, fallout Matheny has to face......

Nevertheless, on with the wild card World Series. This wasn't supposed to happen, but it's kinda fun in a way.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

AL playoffs and the broom

In case you didn't notice, every American League baseball playoff series was a sweep. That's pretty weird.

Five teams entered the postseason, including three division champions and two wild cards. Look at what happened.

In the wild card game, the KC Royals knocked off the Oakland As. Well OK, it was only one game, but technically that's a sweep. Perhaps of the whisk broom variety.

Then on to the ALDS matchups. The same Royals surprisingly swept away the heavily favored LA Angels 3-zip. In the meantime, the Baltimore Orioles were busy doing the same to the Detroit Tigers.

In the recently concluded ALCS, the Royals swept the Orioles 4-zip. The KC-sters are World Series bound awaiting the winner of the San Fran/St.Louis matchup in the NL.

Idle thought: What kind of odds would you have given when the post-season started that KC, merely a wild-card team, would not only advance to the Fall Classic, but so far remain undefeated during the playoffs at a combined 8-0?

This is good news and bad news. Definitely good for the Royals and their fans. Not so good for the As, Angels, and Orioles they swept along the way.

But it's bad news for a lot of other people. When sweeps happen, future potential games don't get played. And when those games don't get played, that's big-time lost revenue on several fronts.

Players not getting bonuses is a drop in the bucket. But owners are denied the major cha-ching of sold-out stadiums at playoff prices. Win or lose, with revenue sharing, packing a house either at home or on the road for another game means many millions of dollars to their bottom lines. Teams that play in big markets like those in LA or NY can still manage to offer huge player payrolls while not getting any playoff money. But there's a reason small market teams like, say, Seattle, Minnesota, and Tampa Bay continue to develop talent -- but can't keep them when free agency hits. Without big playoff bucks -- they can't afford it.

Though most fans don't notice, playoff sweeps are definitely bad news for others as well. Consider the various TV networks that ponied up big bucks in advance for the right to broadcast them. If there's no Game, 5, 6, or 7, obviously they can't televise them. That means empty air time they have to fill.

And trust me, the deep-pocketed "sponsors" they had lined up (see commercials) for playoff games aren't about to cough up the same mega-bucks for a 30 second ad spot on a Seinfeld rerun, cooking show, or the like. So they take a major hit too, both financially and in the almighty Nielsen ratings.

Bottom line? Sweeps are only good things for the home team. It's bad for most everybody else.

But hey, former KC Royal, Hall of Famer, and all-around good guy George Brett gets to seriously party for the first time in 30 years. Far be it from yours truly to argue with that......

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jameis Winston. Where there's smoke....

Granted, there's not always fire, but odds are something is getting way too hot. And if the smoke keeps popping up in the same place, eventually people are going to investigate further to find out what the hell is going on.

Such would seem to be the case with Jameis Winston, star quarterback for Florida State. Winston was accused of a sexual assault, as in rape, a couple years back. Though never officially charged, the case hasn't been fully resolved to this day.

Some claim the local police themselves botched the investigation at best, or covered up incriminating evidence at worst. Sure, local cops and prosecutors in big-time college football towns are likely fans too, but if this is true, it could well explain some of Winston's actions since. And let's face it, if they were hiding evidence then, after almost two years it's likely buried so deep now Indiana Jones and Lara Croft couldn't find it with the entire US Army Corps at their disposal. It also certainly wouldn't be the first time corrupt cops and prosecutors played fast and loose with the evidence, but usually it's the other way around. They fabricate or hold back evidence in the pursuit of getting convictions -- not letting an alleged "perp" continue to "walk".

Perhaps Winston thinks he's above it all and can get away with just about anything because he's a star jock. In and of itself, swiping an arm load of crab legs from a supermarket wouldn't normally be considered a big deal. Nor would standing up on a table in a school cafeteria and yelling a vulgar sexual phrase. Lots of kids do dumb stuff like petty shoplifting and saying things they shouldn't.

But one would think that after someone "skated" on the very serious potential consequences of a sexual assault charge, they would learn their lesson and straighten up. Had that played out differently, some things would have happened that didn't, and others would not have happened that did.

This is not to assume guilt or innocence either way, but consider the hypothetical ramifications if Winston would have gone to trial and been found guilty of rape. Star prep QB or not, his butt would have been sent off to prison for many years. He would not have even played at FSU last year, let alone winning the Heisman. And without him, it's likely a fair statement to say the Seminoles wouldn't have won the national championship. In this scenario, when and if Winston got out of prison, the riches of the NFL would not await him (if indeed it does now -- opinions vary). He would have been a registered sex offender for life. Good luck getting a job and finding a place to live, let alone making millions and having a mansion.

Just recently, Winston has been associated with taking money for signing autographs. Again, in and of itself, who cares? It was always a dumb rule anyway. But added to all the other stuff, a pattern has seemingly emerged. A few words come to mind. Scofflaw. Incorrigible. Even habitual. But it's tough to justify any of those considering Jameis Winston has yet to be found guilty of a single crime. On the official record books, he remains clean as the proverbial whistle. Still, when you keep seeing the same guy walking away from smoke, it should come as no great surprise public perception will start associating him with fire.

That's the part Jameis Winston apparently still fails to comprehend. He knows he's a great quarterback, and a pretty good baseball player too. He also knows his Seminoles have a very good shot at repeating as national champions. As long as he's playing. What he doesn't get is how fast and far his own personal stock is falling in the eyes of many. Given the recent rash of "episodes" with NFL players, the league, and its constituent teams, are hyper-sensitive about taking on another player that has perceived character issues. Commissioner Roger Goodell has found himself on the hot seat from various quarters lately over how he handled, or didn't handle certain situations. And as a group, it's likely also a fair statement to say the NFL owners are a rather conservative bunch. Unlike the late Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders, the last thing one of these billionaires wants these days is to draft a player that has a past littered with red flags, only to see that smoke become a raging inferno that not only embarrasses their franchise, but they owe millions of contractual dollars to.

But for right now, Jameis Winston continues to skate along. And that's the thing. Since he arrived at FSU, the Seminoles have yet to lose a game, including winning the above-mentioned national championship last year. This Saturday they'll get a good test when #6 Notre Dame visits. But they'll be favored and likely win again.

And as long as the Seminoles keep winning, chances are the local yokels in charge of pursuing investigations that would land an average college student in big trouble will continue to look the other way.

In the opinion of yours truly, the best thing that could happen in the big picture is for FSU to not only get beaten, but soundly, and fall out of the national championship picture. You just KNOW there are many that vote on such things just itching for the chance to drop them down in the polls. Good grief, FSU still hasn't lost a game, and remain reigning champs, but the pollsters have already elevated Mississippi State -- that's right -- MISSISSIPPI STATE --  to the #1 spot. Unbelievable. That cowbell thing has gotten out of control.

Nevertheless, Jameis Winston is going to have to grow up sooner or later. Better for him to get knocked off his pedestal soon, and go about rehabbing his image, not so much as a football player, but as a man. There's still time, but it likely won't happen as long as the 'Noles keep rolling and he gets a free pass for his "indiscrepancies" along the way.

Or maybe he's one of those unfortunate few that will never grow up. If so, when he leaves the protective cocoon of Tallahassee, methinks he's in for a rude awakening in the real world.

And that could get very ugly for young Mr. Winston. Because in the real world, even if an NFL team gives him a shot -- no given -- he'll be just another number. Produce or you're gone. Straighten up or welcome to the wonderful world of the jurisprudence system.

And they don't care about Heismans.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dallas Cowboys and DeMarco Murray

Don't look now, but dem Cowboys be back. The Big D-sters have been taking care of bidnuh lately. This is somewhat reminiscent of the Cowboy teams back in the 90s that won Super Bowls.

You remember them. They were "America's team", or so quothed their ever-lovable owner Jerry Jones. Actually, coast to coast, they were likely far more despised than loved but, hey, three Super Bowl championships in 4 years was impressive by any standards.

Plus they had their famous cheerleaders gyrating around showing off their pom-poms -- and those things they shook in their hands added a little spice as well.

Before Jones built his current mega-palace, even their old venue was unique. It was almost enclosed, like a dome, but not quite. There was a small opening in the center. Supposedly, this was so even God could watch his beloved "boys". Make of that what you will.

Nevertheless, the Cowboys currently stand at 5-1, the best record in the NFL. After losing their opener to the 49ers, they've reeled off 5 wins in a row. OK, they didn't exactly face the toughest competition through the first 4 wins, but going up to Seattle and beating the defending Super Bowl champs in their own house a couple days ago speaks volumes. Dese boys got sumpin going on.

A lot of it has to do with running back DeMarco Murray. Though mostly flying under the radar so far, the dude's been running wild. In the first six games this year, he became only the second running back in NFL history to rush for over 100 yards in all of them. The other was a guy named Jim Brown, way back in 1958. Pretty lofty company.

It's strange that Murray was only a third round draft pick out of Oklahoma in 2011. After all, he put up some very gawdy stats as a Sooner, including several school records. Most touchdowns, most all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving, returning kicks). And I dare say a lot of pretty fair running backs, including a guy named Adrian Peterson, have passed through Okla over the years. But for whatever reasons, Murray did not and, apparently, still hasn't achieved "star" status. This, despite leading the league in rushing (and it's not even close) over the first 6 games, and actually being on a pace to break Eric Dickerson's all-time single season record. Sure, it's only six games, and there's ten more to go. And some of them will be tough. Particularly against the resurgent Philadelphia Eagles, which they have to face twice. But a few are against "lesser" competition where Murray could run wild against porous defenses. We'll see. Assuming he even stays healthy -- never a given for a running back.

Yet two things jump into the foggy mind of yours truly.

First, Murray signed a typical 3rd round draft choice rookie contract back in 2011 that ran for four years. Besides a signing bonus, overall it paid about $3 million. Do the math. This is a "contract" year for Murray, and he's leading the league in rushing. Unless something goes horribly wrong from now until January, maybe even (gasp) February, DeMarco is in line for a whopper raise in his next contract.

Second, Da Boys themselves. Ah reckon the good folk down in Big D are plum tickled with thar team this here year so far. And well they rootin-tootin ought to be. 5-1 sure beats the heck out of a brahma bull kick to the nether regions.

Yet as a lone voice in the wilderness, I merely cry out for one thing.

Even if the Cowboys and DeMarco keep it going, here's hoping they don't go back to thinking they're America's team. Like any other team from any other city, there will always be more fans across the country that dislike them more than they like them. So please no more of that nonsense.

But credit where credit is due. The Texas-sized TV screen overhead in the stadium for the fans was a nice touch.

And by all means, keep the cheerleaders, even if they're clueless as to what's going on in a game.

Something about those pom-poms.......

Mad magazine zaps the Detroit Lions

It is with great pride, and no small measure of utter stupidity, that yours truly reveals he has been a subscriber to Mad magazine for a very long time. I first became addicted way back in junior high school. I think one of the Roosevelts was President then, though I can't remember which -- or maybe it was one of the Harrisons. Let's just say it was quite a while ago. I've got hundreds of back issues and various other Mad paraphernalia stashed away in my residence. It would probably be worth a small fortune on eBay to some other idiot. Damned if I can remember where they are, though. That's what happens when you read that mag over a long period of time.

Nevertheless, the most recent issue, #530, took a small swipe at the Detroit Lions. In recent years, as Thanksgiving approaches, Mad has annually featured a piece called "Questions we'd like to ask the turkey hotline".

In the latest turkey version, written by Scott Maiko (see page 56), over a dozen poignant, if ludicrous questions are posed regarding the gobblers that will wind up being devoured in late November. Here's a couple examples:

Where can I get more of that sexy plastic netting the birds come in?

I've been to six stores and no one carries these "dingleberries" my grandson mentioned in his reply to my post for Thanksgiving menu suggestions. Where can I find them?

And it gets worse from there.

So what does this have to do with the Detroit Lions?

It's all about long-standing tradition. Some things we just have to put up with whether we like them or not.

As the Mad editors noted in the intro to Maiko's article, NFL fans across the country will be force-fed a Detroit Lions game on Thanksgiving day on national TV. On top of the poultry, mashed taters and gravy, veggies, deviled eggs, ham roll-ups, and especially the above-mentioned dingleberrry sauce, having to watch the Lions to boot is a recipe for digestive disaster. Put all that together and it might be a safe bet to say Thanksgiving day results in more folks "worshiping" their porcelain receptacles than any other dates not called New Year's Eve or St. Patrick's day.

But in a way it makes sense. Always showing the Lions on turkey day? Who could argue with the logic?

Mad had it right. Some things just have to be revisited every year. Whether we welcome them or not.

It's just tradition.....

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Weekend Michigan sports

The Detroit Lions beat the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings are a mess. Their All-Pro wide receiver Percy Harvin bailed on them to Seattle via free-agency -- as did Jerod Allen to Chicago, likely the best pass rushing defensive end in the NFL not named J. J. Watt. Their quarterback position remains unsettled at best. Rookie Teddy Bridgewater seems to have inherited the position by default. Nobody else was any good. And, of course, likely the best running back in the league, one Adrian Petersen, finds himself up to his eyeballs in legal trouble. Depending on how all that works out -- Petersen may or may not EVER return to the Vikings, or any other team in the NFL. Add it all up and the Vikes have more than their fair share of problems. But the Lions got a road victory and a win is a win.

Michigan eked out an ugly victory at home over Penn State to reduce the temperature of head coach Brady Hoke's seat by a couple degrees, but it remains hot. These were two bad teams playing boring, mistake-prone, predictable, and all-around second-class football. Somebody had to win. And oh my. How far the once mighty have fallen. Under the late Joe Paterno, Penn State was always a power to be reckoned with. That nasty little Jerry Sandusky dust-up a few years back blew up their whole program. In the meantime, Michigan has fared even worse, though for different reasons. Once a power themselves, after 3 years under Rich Rodriguez, and 3 going on 4 under Hoke, UM shows no signs whatsoever of being anywhere near competitive on the national level. They keep getting worse. Six, going on seven years without a major bowl appearance? Oh my indeed. This is not the Michigan yours truly remembers from decades past. What has happened to these guys?

Idle half full/half empty thought: What gives with some of these political campaigns? If you believe the "good" stuff, which is about 10% of the TV ads, then it's hard to choose betwen the candidates because they're obviously both superheroes. They will fight, fight, fight for the truth, justice, and the American way. But if you believe the other 90% of attack ads from both sides, then neither one of the bums deserves to get a single vote. Yep, must be election season again. Alas.

Pretty sure the Red Wings have started their regular season. Wake me up after the Super Bowl. Better yet when the playoffs start. The Wings look to be about average. Though their current string of 20+ seasons in a row making it to the postseason is still intact, most consider the Wings a "bubble" team this year. Maybe they make the playoffs -- and maybe not. But legitimate Stanley Cup contenders? Not a chance.

Not sure if the Pistons and the NBA have started their regular seasons yet. But like the NHL, most will pay them little heed until the snow starts melting next spring. Bad news for the Pistons, though. They play in the same division as the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the recent additions of Lebron James and Kevin Love, the Cavs suddenly became favorites to win the Eastern Conference. The Pistons are still terrible with no help in sight. They'll likely finish at least 15, maybe 20 games behind. After the passing of the late-great Bill Davidson, long time owner of the Pistons, former Michigander Tom Gores swooped in and bought the team from his widow Karen. Pretty slick -- but guys that make billions by managing other peoples' money have to be shrewd operators.

Just a couple problems. Gores now finds himself with a team chock full of ridiculous players' salaries, and they haven't a prayer -- none -- of competing for a championship in the near future. Plus, despite various promotions, gimmicks, and even give-aways, the Pistons continue to struggle mightily just to get people in their own arena to watch the games.

So it leaves one to wonder..... between the shrewd billionaire and the poor distraught widow of the former owner -- just who out-slicked who? Nobody's heard from Karen lately. She might have bought a small tropical island somewhere and is living in the lap of luxury sipping on exotic cocktails with those little umbrellas sticking out of them, while her man and maid servants cater to her every whim. Tom Gores recently hired Stan Van Gundy to be his president, head coach, and all-around Messiah that will lead his Pistons back to the Promised Land.

Right.  Pretty sure I know who got the best of THAT deal.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The NFL back in LA?

It's been quite a while, actually 20 years, since the National Football League had a team in Los Angeles. The Rams were there for decades, but they finally left to play in St. Louis. The Raiders moved south for a while to LA-LA land, but even they eventually returned to Oakland.

This seems odd. Los Angeles is arguably the biggest sports market in America. St Louis boasts their famous arch and the baseball Cardinals are perennial contenders. Plus it's the home of the Budweiser clydesdales. Other than that -- not too much. Oakland boasts of -- well -- yours truly has been there a few times and can't think of anything they could possibly crow about. But it's the home of Hell's Angels. At least it's something.

Nevertheless, both St. Louis and Oakland are considered "small market" cities when it comes to professional sports.

But the question remains. How come there's no NFL team in LA? Good grief, lots of other much smaller markets have landed them. The smallest of them all is likely Cheesertown. But Green Bay is Green Bay. That's tradition, and they support their team like it's the only thing they have -- which is pretty much true. But how can it be that towns like Jacksonville, Tampa, and Charlotte have NFL franchises while LA remains without? Even the "New York" teams have moved to New Jersey. And whoever heard of Foxborough until the former Boston Patriots moved there? Buffalo is great -- if you're in the snow removal business, but what else do they have going on?

Yet a major obstacle in LA remains. They need a new stadium. If we can safely rule out any more NFL"expansion" teams in the near future -- a pretty good bet --  no current owner is going to pack up and move to LA, only to have his team play in the ancient coliseum. And no owner is going to shell out a billion or two to construct a magnificent football palace in a different city before his team even plays there.

Compounding the problem is LA mayor Eric Garcetti says the taxpayers in the Los Angeles area want nothing to do with building a new stadium on their dimes. They've already got enough problems with droughts, wildfires, and an occasional Bieber sighting. While the huddled masses yearning to be free lance porno stars would welcome another NFL presence -- they're not about to pay for it. Bring it on, they say, but build your own damn castle.

So it appears all parties potentially involved are stuck on the horns of a Mexican standoff -- or something like that. In order for LA to get another NFL team, something's gotta give.

This is the time for out-of-the-box thinking. The Los Angeles area has an untapped gold mine right under their noses. Movie and TV stars. There's at least hundreds, perhaps thousands of them living in the burbs of LA proper. And they all make countless millions. Leave the common folks alone, and have the glitterati pay for a new stadium. How could this be done?

Elementary, my dear reader. Construct a new stadium that consists of nothing BUT super-posh luxury suites to view the games. Any celeb or other big shot can buy into one for life -- for the low-low price of only a million bucks. Plus an annual "maintenance fee" of, let's say, a paltry $100,000 to pay the "sanitary engineers" to clean up after them. The high-rollers would likely be climbing all over each other for a chance at such an opportunity. And imagine, if only 2000 of them signed up for the original $1 million price tag -- do the math. That's $2 billion bucks. It would be by far the most ever spent on the construction of a new stadium. How fancy could THAT be?

Consider the top 3 most costly stadiums.

1. Met Life Stadium which houses the NY Giants and NY Jets, though these "New York" teams actually play in New Jersey, cost $1.6 billion.
2. The new Yankee Stadium had a price tag of $1.5 billion.
3. Cowboys Stadium, the lovable Jerry Jones' coup de grace, checked in at roughly $1.3 billion.

A $2 billion dollar facility in LA could put them all to shame.

That's the beauty of it. No more of those super-hard sardine grandstand seats, and no more of the end-zone lunatics as well. No more having to traipse to concession stands for nasty food or filthy restrooms, only to get in line. For a million bucks, every suite could be outfitted with a full bathroom, even a shower stall. Fine food and drink could be catered at the push of a button -- for a nominal surcharge, of course.

And remember the $100,000 annual maintenance fee. Multiply that by 2000 suites and presto, that's $200 million bucks a year. That will make team payroll with a bunch left over.

But what of the ordinary football fans, you say? There's no place in this line of thinking to accommodate them at such a stadium?

Tough. If they'd supported their past teams in the first place -- they wouldn't continue to be without one. There's a reason the Rams and Raiders departed, and it starts with fan interest, which translates to revenue. Owners are big on revenue.

Granted, if all the seats were enclosed luxury boxes, the stadium itself would be quite silent during games.

But who cares? Chances are they couldn't attract a winning team anyway. And when losing teams are playing at home and getting blown out, their crowds get Elmer Fuddishly vewy, vewy quiet.

Besides, the celebs and honchos likely couldn't care less about who won or lost a dumb football game anyway. They'd be there for the party, the "networking", or just hanging out between gigs.

It might be worth a shot just to see how it worked out. If nothing else, an all-luxury stadium catering only to the filthy rich would definitely be something new. And what better place than LA to try out the concept?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Brady Hoke. Fate already sealed?

It probably should be, even at a major university like Michigan that is so steeped in tradition. In a way, the Maize and Blue faithful are like the Marines. The few, the proud, the chosen. And let's not forget the arrogant. Unfortunately, when battles have heated up lately, both seem to suffer a lot of casualties while producing precious few wins.

Current head football coach Brady Hoke was supposedly hired because he's a "Michigan man". Actually, his previous history with the Michigan football program consisted of him serving for 8 years as a lowly assistant coach.

Then Hoke got a break. The head coaching job at Ball State. He would be there for 6 years, and post a 34-38 record.

On to San Diego State, where he would go 13-12 over two years. So in his 8 year "apprenticeship" for the Michigan head coaching job, Hoke wasn't even a .500 coach. But by God, he was a Michigan man. Or so sayeth the guy that hired him at the time -- one David Brandon -- the athletic director.

Though a previous graduate way back in the early 70s, Brandon himself had only come back on board to Michigan in 2010, after trying to run Tom Monaghan's flailing Domino's pizza empire after it had already been sold to Bain Capital. Mitt Romney and venture capitalists, aka corporate raiders anyone? How's Domino's doing these days?

Remember, Hoke replaced Rich Rodriguez, who was considered a colossal failure and run out of town. Despite his posting a sub -.500 record during his previous 8 years at Ball and San Diego State, Hoke was supposed to be Michigan's savior. His record at Michigan?

2011.  11-2
2012.  8-5
2013.  7-6
2014.  2-4 to date.

And here's the thing. When Hoke first took over, he inherited RichRod's recruits. As Hoke has phased more and more of  his own recruits into the program every year -- the team as a whole keeps getting worse.

Losing the Little Brown Jug -- especially at home and in beatdown fashion -- to the Minnesota Golden Gophers was a slap in the face to a once proud program. And since when does a Big Ten team, ANY Big Ten team, lose to the likes of Rutgers? The once mighty Wolverines are perilously close to becoming a laughingstock. Fodder for late night comedians. This is how far the program has fallen under Hoke.

So up next they host Penn State. The Nittanys aren't far removed from having their whole football program in total disarray after that nasty Jerry Sandusky business a while back. Penn State pretty much had to blow up the whole works and start over.

This is a major crossroads game for Brady Hoke. If his team wins it, maybe his seat goes from nova hot to simmer. But don't be surprised if Penn State waltzes into the Big House and puts another thumping on the beleaguered Wolverines.

Either way, Michigan has a bye week following this game to get ready to travel to Michigan State. After road trips to Purdue and Indians, the Spartans will likely be licking their chops at the prospect of hosting Michigan. If both teams hold true to form -- that game could get seriously ugly for the Maize and Blue.

Hoke desperately needs a win against Penn State. Because bye week or not, his team is likely to get blown out when they travel to East Lansing.

If the writing isn't already on the wall for Hoke's ouster -- it will be if his team becomes 2-6. Their only wins have come against cream puff patsies Michigan typically schedules early on their schedule. The only really good team they've faced so far was Notre Dame, where they got blistered 31-0, and it probably should have been worse.

And they can forget about the last game showdown at Ohio State. Even though Buckeyes' star QB Braxton Miller is out, the chances of Michigan winning that contest are about as good as Ray Rice getting a humanitarian award from the National Organization of Women. I wouldn't exactly bet on it.

Before that happens, Michigan hosts Indiana and Maryland, plus travels to Northwestern. In days of yore, those game would have been considered gimmes. Not any more. Given the current cluster**** that is Michigan football -- it's entirely possible they could lose them all.

Regardless, it's become obvious that Brady Hoke never was, is, and ever will be the man to lead the Wolverines back to the "promised land". The longer he stays, the worse they get.

UM has a new president, and new board of regents, trustees, or whatever the behind the scenes, mucky-muck power brokers call themselves these days. They need to do some serious house-cleaning. It starts with brooming Brandon and Hoke, because these guys are clueless.

Step two is forget about the "Michigan man" nonsense when it comes to hiring their replacements. Go find people that are eminently qualified and have a track record of success elsewhere. If they had enough money to make Hoke the Joke the highest paid college football coach in the country, they can certainly afford to pay big bucks to others that actually know what they're doing. And it's not like Michigan is Podunk U. These are plum jobs in the world of college sports. Lots of people would be interested.

But their records at Michigan speak for themselves. Be it on the field of play with wins and losses, or even overall perception as to competence, the BB boys, Brandon and Brady gotta go.

And the sooner the better.....

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Matt Prater and the Detroit Lions

Signing place-kicker Matt Prater was actually a big deal for the Detroit Lions. He's arguably the best kicker in the game. Last year he went 25-26 on field goal attempts for Denver and holds the all-time record for longest 3-pointer. 64 yards. In short, he's long and accurate -- exactly what any team wants in a place kicker.

And let's face it -- though they've been historically undervalued/underpaid compared to most of their teammates -- kickers can definitely make the difference in the win/loss column. How many times have we seen games go down to the last few seconds, when a field goal attempt, sometimes very long, determines whether or not a team wins or loses? I dare say quite a few.

Just last week against the Buffalo Bills, had Prater been on the Lions roster, they may well have won that game instead of suffering a last-second heart-breaking loss. And who was responsible? Buffalo's kicker. He booted a 58-yarder through the uprights as time was running out.

In the big picture, that could have cost the Lions dearly. Sure, it was early in the season, and it will shortly be forgotten, but all the games count the same. Instead of being 4-1, the Lions are 3-2. It's entirely possible that one game could wind up making the difference as to whether the Lions make the playoffs -- or not. And how far they'll go if they get there. Though few would consider the Lions a legitimate Super Bowl contender, having a great place-kicker is definitely an asset they didn't have before.

Yet Prater comes with perceived baggage. He racked up three DUIs and had to enter the NFL substance abuse program. After serving an NFL-mandated 4 game suspension this year, he was cut by the Broncos. Turned out, Prater had violated the terms of his program by having a few beers on one occasion at home over the summer. In and of itself, that was totally harmless, of course. He's a grown man, and if he wants to have a few brews at home -- then who cares?

The probation department cares. When one is zapped with a zero-tolerance policy, they mean it. Thou shalt not have a single drop of alcohol, even in the privacy of one's home. It can be a stupid, vastly overreaching policy at times. Yours truly knows a man who found himself in much the same situation as Prater, though he couldn't kick field goals. After three DUIs, and the expenses that came with them, he no longer had a driver's license, or even a car. A friend was taking him back and forth to work every day. But the powers that be had this "night hawk" policy. That meant 24-7 they could search his house. One day they did in the wee hours of the morning, while he was fast asleep in his own bed, and found a couple cans of Budweiser in his refrigerator. Off to jail he went. How stupid and blatantly unfair was that? But that's how it works these days.

However, my friend was not a pro-athlete making big bucks. He was, and is a non-union welder trying to scare up enough work to make ends meet. And that's not easy with no driver's license, and having to pay someone else to drive him around.

Yet that raises a more important point. What gives we these multi-millionaire athletes getting popped for DUIs?

For argument's sake, let's say a pro athlete is making a measly $1 million a year. Chump change by today's standards. After taxes, he likely takes home roughly $700.000. Most of us could do rather nice on $700K a year. That's not even to mention the guys making $10 - 15 - 20 million or more annually.

Even with a paltry $700,000, a guy could buy a brand new high-end Chevy, Ford, Dodge, whatever, for maybe 50 grand, and pay another guy 50 grand to drive him around all year. Now he's down to $600,000. That will buy a whole lot of clothes, groceries, vacations to tropical paradises, get the attention of the pretty girls, and definitely keep the lights on. And tell me people wouldn't be lined up around the block standing in line for a $50K salary to drive a pro athlete around -- and I'll tell you you're nuttier than I am.

So why do these guys drive their own vehicles after they've had too much to drink, then get popped for DUIs, when they could have had an easily affordable chauffeur hauling them around all the while?

Beats me. But Matt Prater is a 7 seven year veteran in the NFL. Though terms of his contract weren't disclosed, the collective bargaining agreement dictates he'll make at least $855 thousand, though likely pro-rated taking into account he wasn't there for the first five games, when he joined the Lions. Still, it's way better than cooking fries at Mickey D's.

He can afford a Chevy, Ford, Dodge, or whatever. And 50 grand for some guy or gal to transport him from his house, apartment, to the practice facility, stadium, airport, restaurants, movies, also whatever.

And if he wants to have a few beers at home -- nobody should care. As long as he keeps booting 3-pointers through the uprights for the Lions -- that's all that matters.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Artificial turf. Cancerous?

Once upon a time, artificial turf was a terrific invention, especially when it came to sports fields. At least for the people that had to pay for such things.

Unlike natural grass, obviously there was no need for watering, mowing, fertilizing, and de-weeding. As anyone who has ever had a yard well knows, if you've got grass -- you're going to get various weeds -- particularly dandelions. And if you've got a stadium that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build in the first place, having your "lawn" sprinkled with dandelions wouldn't exactly look good on TV. The cameras would do zoom shots, and the talking heads would make you a laughing stock on the airwaves. Not good.

So a natural grass field requires a "grounds crew" to maintain it. In baseball, we typically only see these folks when they're rolling out the tarp when a game is delayed due to rain. But make no mistake, the grounds crew stays busy behind the scenes as well doing all the above chores to keep the field looking pristine.

And consider how bad a natural grass field gets chewed up during the course of a college or pro football game. Like a golf course after tournament pros have played four rounds of action, there's divots everywhere, similar to pot-holes on Michigan roads. You've seen it. The potholes aside, somebody has to fix these lawns, hence the grounds crew. They stay busy.

Artificial turf pretty much eliminates the need of such a crew. Expensive to install in the first place, but a long-term money saver.

Yet there's a couple drawbacks to artificial turf. Originally, it consisted of a mere half inch of foam rubber padding with some fake grass on top. Underneath it was solid concrete. While it looked pretty to the fans, football players didn't like it. When crashing to the ground, it was HARD. Plus, their cleats actually gripped TOO well. Sudden attempted changes of direction resulted in a lot of knee and ankle injuries. Natural grass has some "give" to it. Turf did not.

Then somebody came up with the brilliant idea of shredding up old tires to mix in with the fake grass. It had more "give" to it and was actually eco-friendly. After all, countless millions of worn out tires accumulate every year and nobody had ever really figured out a good way to dispose of them. And they're free. People just wanted rid of them. So mixing them in with "turf" seemed like a great idea. A win-win.

But as it turns out, maybe not. Recently, concerns have arose as to whether those little black dots we see scuffed up on the fields might actually be cancerous. Yours truly is certainly no tire expert, but a preliminary search shows there's a lot of nasty compounds that go into making the rubber that meets the road.

None of this matters, as long as they're tires. We put them on our vehicles and drive until they're worn out, then buy new ones. No harm done. It's not like we chop up our old ones and sprinkle them over our Frosted Flakes in the morning.

But shredding them into tiny bits and putting them on athletic fields has opened another can of worms. After the shredding process itself, who can be sure some of the above-mentioned nasty chemicals won't come back into play for those that are constantly exposed to them?

Remember asbestos? It was cheap, very effective, and used in thousands of heat-related products. Nobody knew the dangers until people started dying decades later. DDT was great for killing unwanted pests, until somebody figured out it was killing humans too. Those, and other various concoctions along the way came, were effective for their initial purposes, eventually found to be hazardous to human health, and finally banned entirely.

This is not to conclude that recycled shredded tires on athletic fields pose an elevated risk of future cancers. But recent studies are beginning to point that way, particularly amongst younger athletes who haven't fully matured and have been constantly exposed since childhood to whatever is in those tires.

There's been a mini-spike in symptoms that could be attributed to the chemicals contained within tires. They include---

Adverse affects on the respiratory system.
Irritation of the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes.
Liver and kidney problems.
Neurotoxic symptoms.
Allergic reactions.
And yes, various associated cancers.

Of course, the powers that be steadfastly maintain (see the almighty buck) there is insufficient data, and certainly no medical proof that kids wallowing around in and inhaling used tire dust is detrimental to their health.

But hypothetically speaking -- what if it turns out those shredded tires really ARE causing a variety of maladies, and, god forbid, wind up being the next asbestos or DDT? These days everybody is quick to jump on the blame-game bandwagon. Somebody must be at fault. Crucify them -- at least financially. Yet in this scenario, the only way it becomes someone's fault is if they knew that stuff was harmful, but continued using it anyway. That likely won't be known for at least a few more years until more studies have been completed.

However, if those studies eventually make using shredded tires on athletic fields akin to Agent Orange, then obviously major changes will have to be made. And it's no secret how the government typically overreacts when they have a "crisis" on their hands. Tons of new rules and regulations, which might well include banning artificial turf entirely, even the old stuff that didn't HAVE tires in it.

Here's hoping not. But if so, perhaps something good will come of this. The return of natural grass, from preps to pros, which means the return of the grounds crews to maintain it.

And that means more jobs. Always a good thing.....