Sunday, November 30, 2014

Ray Rice. What's next?

An observation: Watching the Detroit Lions host the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving day was one thing. Then watching the New England Patriots play the Green Bay Packers earlier today was quite another. One was a boring, error-prone game that somebody had to win, and the other a display of NFL teams at their finest with precise execution. A pity either of them had to lose. Minor leagues versus major leagues. Lost in Space versus Star Trek.

At long last, Rice Ray has finally won the appeal of his suspension from the NFL -- and well he should have. Consider what actually happened:

Way back in February, Rice and his then fiance (now wife) had their infamous "elevator incident". In a nutshell, they had been bickering, and once the elevator door closed, she charged him and got knocked out for doing so. Once word got out, Rice would meet with NFL Commish Roger Goodell a full four months later in June. At the time, Goodell slapped him with a 2 game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct code. Seemed fair enough and, most importantly in accordance with the league and union's collective bargaining agreement.

But when the "in-car" elevator video was made public, the doo-doo hit the fan, in large part due to the media exploiting their latest sensational "tragedy". It was shown everywhere, over and over again. Certain people were outraged, and they started pointing fingers at Goodell. They wanted more punishment. Roger was in a pickle. Should he stand by his original ruling or give in to the clamoring, if misguided masses in the name of public relations?

As we all know, he chose the latter and suspended Rice indefinitely from the NFL. This was clearly in violation of the collective bargaining agreement, let alone subjecting a "defendant" to "double jeopardy". You don't get to penalize a guy twice for the same "crime".

At that, in the meantime, the prosecutor had cut a plea bargain with Rice and his case was settled in the legal system. Done. They can not, and will never get another bite at the apple as Goodell chose to take. No court in the land would allow it. But that's where things seemed to get a little tricky regarding the good Commish.

He would later say Rice was not "totally forthcoming" at their original meeting in June, as to what actually transpired on that elevator, and had been unaware of the damning video for all those months.

Well, let's see. The casino obviously had the tape and turned it over to the cops. When cops have such evidence, it's an absolute 100% lock they will pass it along to the prosecutor. So the DA had it from the get-go but was content to quietly settle the matter. And let's remember, the incident happened in New Jersey and Rice was playing for the Baltimore Ravens. It's not like the prosecutor looked the other way because RR was a local football hero.

But it took until some celebrity-tracking outfit way out in Hollywood (DMZ) obtained a copy and made it public before Goodell was aware of it? Let's get real. Given their army of lawyers and investigators, it's hard to believe the Commish and the league wouldn't have known about it -- if they wanted to. And there's the catch. Who to believe?

Janay Rice has recently stated her husband told Goodell everything that happened on that elevator in their initial meeting. Roger has continued to maintain, "Not so", hence the second punishment.

A question: In this day and age, when an employee facing a disciplinary hearing meets with the CEO of his company in his executive office -- what do you think the chances are that conversation will be recorded by the honcho? My guess would be slam dunk. OF COURSE it was. But that tape's likely buried deeper than the Titanic. Either way, Goodell couldn't use it. Even if it backed up his assertions that Rice didn't tell the whole truth -- the union (and another independent prosecutor) would go rightfully berserk if they knew such conversations were recorded. And God help Goodell if the tape proved Ray and Janay right all along -- that he had indeed fessed up in the first place. So the Commish has to stick to his original story and hope for the best. Believe it or don't, but something's fishy here.

So after winning his appeal, Ray Rice is not only free and clear of the legal system, but also the long punishment arm of the NFL. A total free-agent.

Just one problem. Finding a team that will take him. Rumors, likely floated by the Rice camp, say as many as 4 teams have quietly expressed an interest in him.

Though only approaching his 28th birthday, and once a featured running back for the Ravens, plus a consensus All-Pro, the last couple years have seen Rice's stats drop dramatically.

Besides, even if a team can pick him up on the cheap, they'll have their own PR problems selling it to their fans. It's no big secret the NFL and it's constituent teams have been making major headway with the female demographic. Turns out, the ladies are starting to comprehend the Tampa two, double roll-up zones, and the double A-gap blitz at least as well as their significant others. Next thing ya know, they'll be flapping their arms and screaming "Omaha" in the middle of a "close encounter". Scary thought.

But their home team bringing Ray Rice on board with his perceived image could be problematic. Guys wouldn't care. If he can still run, catch passes, and otherwise be effective to help our team, then what's the big deal? All that other junk is in the past.

Yet the former football widows, bless their cooking and cleaning little hearts, would likely see things quite differently these days. Our team signed Ray Rice? The dude that knocked out his fiance? Forget buying tickets -- I'll be picketing the stadium tomorrow with my girlfriends.

How would the typical guy respond to that? My best guess would be unless he likes sleeping on the couch and eating TV dinners, he would nod his head in agreement. Yes dear.

Ray Rice might be a free agent, but couch taters are still under contract to their significant others.

There's a difference.......


College football playoffs

With nine days to go before we find out who the Final Four are in big-time college football, a few things have been cleared up. In no particular order, let's look at some of the contenders, and some of the pretenders that finally got exposed.

Though Florida State again escaped the jaws of defeat with a narrow victory over Florida, they remain the only undefeated team. As reigning national champs, how they fell from #1 when everybody else has already been beaten is a good question. The answer might lie in the alleged off-the field antics of Heisman holding QB Jameis Winston. Nevertheless, it's likely safe to say that most folks outside the Tallahassee area would dearly love to see the 'Noles get knocked off. America's team they are most definitely not. But unless they get upset next week by Georgia Tech, not likely, no way can they be denied a spot in the 4-team national playoffs.

Not long ago, both Mississippi and Miss St. were both ranked in the top 4. Miss St. was even #1 for a few weeks. But c'mon, didn't it always feel like they were pretenders? Ole Miss was the first to start sliding back. Respectable close losses to LSU and Auburn are one thing. But suffering a 30-0 beatdown at the hands of Arkansas totally dropped them off the radar.

Miss St. lost a close one at Alabama. No shame there. They still hovered around the #4 spot, but they just got trashed by the above mentioned Ole Miss. That won't work. See ya.

Bama themselves won a 14-13 squeaker at unranked Arkansas, and guess who beat them? Yep, Ole Miss. But that was a couple months ago, and you just knew that somehow, some way, Alabama would wind up in the Final Four. All they need to do is beat #17 Missouri next week in the SEC championship game at a neutral site.

[Along those lines, something hugely ironic almost happened. At home, Bama was getting their brains beat out by cross-state rival Auburn -- in the first half. The Crimson Tide would rally late to win the game 55-44, but had they lost -- NO team in the long mighty SEC would have qualified for the Final Four. Who would have foreseen even the possibility of that happening?]

Oregon will be ranked in top 2 after today. The Ducks are a shoo-in for the Big Dance. Or are they? Their only loss this year came at home, at the hands of then unranked Arizona, and guess who they have to play again (now #11) in the Pac 10 championship game next week at a neutral site? Interesting.

Pretenders? Even after a close loss @ Oregon early in the year, Michigan St. was hanging around the edges of contention. Until they got ran out of their own stadium by Ohio State. That won't work either, especially in a conference (Big 10) that is perceived to be weak. To boot, the Big 10 has long lacked the "sex appeal" factor on the national stage. Kiss the Sparties good-bye.

The Buckeyes themselves only have one loss on their record, and also early in the season. But that was a 14 point loss, at home, to unranked Virginia Tech. Since then, they've run the table. Next week they face Wisconsin in the Big 10 conference championship game. The Badgers are really good. If OSU wins that game -- they could conceivably sneak into the Final Four. They're not really pretenders, but they have a major problem. Everybody thought their season was lost when former starting QB Braxton Miller went out with a season-ending injury. But some kid named J.T. Barrett stepped up and proved to be even better. Sadly, Barrett suffered a broken ankle late in the regular season finale against lowly Michigan. He gone. So even if they advance, who can they beat with a third string quarterback that hasn't even played a full game yet? Especially when it comes to elite teams?

Notre Dame started out the year in fine fashion, winning their first 6, then suffering a close loss @ Florida State. They were in the hunt. Alas, their last 4 games have all been losses, capped off with a 49-14 thrashing at the hands of USC. This sort of Irish swoon might prompt the leprechauns in South Bend to quit with the Lucky Charms and switch to Wheaties. Besides, as has been mentioned here before, they can't even get their name right. Fighting Irish? The real Notre Dame is a cathedral in Paris. Shouldn't they call themselves the Fighting French? At any rate, they're history. Again.

TCU currently sits at #5. They just did a major two step on once proud Texas to the tune of over a 5 touchdown differential. If Wolverines think it's bad getting beat by Buckeyes, how do you think Longhorns feel getting hog-tied and branded by a bunch of Horned Frogs?

And Baylor lurks at #6 as well. They handed those Texas Christians their only loss.

Depending on what happens next week with other teams, either could land in the Final Four.

There's at least 6 teams with a shot at the national championship. But only four will get invited.

Bottom line? The usual. I don't have a clue how it's going to play out. But given a choice of who to root for....

Hmm. A crimson tide, ducks, seminoles, bears, and buckeyes?

A crimson tide reminds me of blood filled waters. Something really bad must have happened.
Ducks poop in my backyard.
Never met a real Seminole before, but that dude on their helmets looks like his loin cloth is on fire.
Ain't no bears in Texas. They're in the woods, or play at Soldier Field. Straighten up Waco.
Don't know about buckeyes, and don't want to. Some kind of tree or nut. Got plenty of trees around here, and between Planters and the local watering hole, I won't be running out of nuts any time soon.

Nah, count me all in for horned frogs. Probably not too many of them hopping around their downtown home of Fort Worth either, but I woke up next to one of their giant ancestors once during my younger, much wilder days. I could have sworn she was beautiful at closing time.

And good or bad, memories have to count for something -- right?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lazarus and Marshall football

The name Lazarus evokes a couple different trains of thought. First, according to scripture, Lazarus was a poor man, a beggar, that was brought back to life by Jesus four days after he had died. If I remember the good book correctly, Lazarus would live to be as old as Regis Philbin -- or your average Supreme Court justice.

The other Lazarus was from a Star Trek episode. Actually, there were two of them. One consisted of matter, and the other of anti-matter. As Trekkies know, if identical forms of matter and anti-matter ever meet, it will be the end of the universe. Poof, all gone. Even Judge Judy. Plus, these two guys hated each other but both somehow thought that by killing the other, their universe would reign supreme while the other's would disappear. Kind of like the Republicans and Democrats. But they could not be allowed to actually meet, or the poof thing would happen. Poof is not recommended when it comes to universes. So Captain Kirk, who has lived to be almost as old as your run-of-the-mill biblical patriarch, in his infinite wisdom, arranged for the two Lazari to be at each other's throats for all eternity -- yet forever sealed in the small confines of a space capsule in another dimension. The universes were safe. Hurray. But those two poor devils would slug it out until the ends of time. Wouldn't it be nice if we could do the same thing with Congress and the President? However, at the very end of the episode, Kirk would lament, "But alas. What of Lazarus?" A regular Lawrence Olivier, that James Tiberius Kirk was. Ahem.

In the almighty NCAA football rankings, there's only one undefeated team, right? Florida State. Wrong. Though continued to be buried somewhere between #20 and #25, Marshall was also undefeated. Sure, they play in a "non-power" conference, but how do we know they're not as good as the big boys? Undefeated is undefeated. How can teams with 2 or 3 losses continue to be ranked above them? Shouldn't the Herd get a shot at the big time playoffs?

What's that, you say? Marshall just got beat by Western Kentucky 67-66? Get outta here. That had to be a basketball score. No? It was a football game? Really? Dang. OK, tell me more.

Turns out, the 133 total points in a football game were for real. Tied for the third most all-time. Plus, despite 7 interceptions between them, the two QBs combined for 15 touchdown passes. Plus a running back for each team gained more than 230 yards rushing. Befitting the whopping 67 points they surrendered, the Herd defense was stampeded to the tune of a Boeing-esque 738 yards. At home. By Western Kentucky? The same Hilltoppers that had a yawnish 6-5 record going in?

Well then. Nobody's perfect, except maybe in the minds of Rachel Maddow and Lou Dobbs. A bad outing happens every once in a great while. And hey, when a team like the Thunderng Herd has a head coach named Doc Holliday, it's only a matter of time before a shootout at their own corrale doesn't turn out OK.

This post would have been a lot easier to write if only they had remained undefeated. Then yours truly could have further ranted about the injustice of them not getting a "shot" at the Final Four while others with losses most certainly will. To start off with one idea, then have it trashed and have to fall back on a feeble mind/imagination and just plain silliness isn't the optimum scenario.

Nevertheless alas, what of Marshall indeed? Instead of a shot at glory, losing only one game by only one point will likely doom them to an appearance in the Outhouse Wild Chick Military Potato Duck Bowl.

Oh yeah, you Go Daddy.

Does she have a bowl too? Hell, everybody else does.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Jim Harbaugh. Next Michigan football coach?

The rumors have been out there for a while that Jim Harbaugh is a possibility as the Wolverines' next head football coach. Whether he's owed a ton of contractual money, or the university can buy him out, it's almost a foregone conclusion that current head coach Brady Hoke won't be back next year. Instead of getting better -- his teams are getting worse. A likely beatdown awaits them in their season finale @ Ohio State (21 point underdogs), in which case the once mighty Wolverines won't even be bowl eligible. Roughly 40 bowl games will be played and they won't get into any of them? In Maize and Blue land, this is not only unacceptable, but an outrage. So yeah, the Hokester's fate is pretty well already sealed.

The question then becomes, who will take his place? Harbaugh? Maybe, maybe not. First, obviously, he has to want to come, and he's already got a pretty sweet gig going on as head coach of the San Fran 49ers. Or does he? More on that to follow.

It's hard to tell where Harbaugh's true loyalties lie, if indeed he has any. Let's look at his history. With apologies to Charles Dickens, it might be called a tale of two cities -- or at least general areas.

Though born in Ohio, Harbaugh split his time in high school between Ann Arbor, home of the Wolverines, and Palo Alto, a little southeast of San Fran. Upon graduating, he accepted a scholarship back at Michigan, where he would be the starting QB for three years.

Then off to the NFL, which included playing for several teams over a 14 year career. Upon retiring as a player, Harbaugh wanted to get into coaching, much like his daddy and older brother John had.

Back to California. First with San Diego U. He was highly successful there for 3 years, then moved on up, both geographically and status-wise to Stanford for 4 years. More success. Prior to the 2011 season, the San Fran head job came open. Though he was right back in the same 'hood where he graduated high school, now he was the head coach of an NFL team.

The season before, the 49ers had gone a not so good 6-10. But huge success came quickly again for Harbaugh. The turnaround was astounding. Consider the next three years of the 49ers.

2011. A 13-3 record, and would go on to the NFC championship game.
2012.  An 11-4-1 record which would result in a Super Bowl appearance.
2013. 12-4, and another NFC championship game.

Alas, San Fran would lose all the above. Harbaugh's teams were terrific, but could never seem to get over the final humps. Yet who could find fault with a new coach taking over a losing program and posting a 36-11-1 record in his first three years? Without naming them (you know who they are), there are at least several NFL franchises that haven't experienced any glory in January, much less the Super Bowl, for so long they'd do ANYTHING to have such a coach that could quickly turn their teams into contenders like Harbaugh did the 49ers.

But despite his success, the worm has turned on Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers are still pretty good, but their chances of ever reaching another Super Bowl any year soon aren't very good. For that matter, this year the Niners will be lucky to even make the playoffs.

Their recent nemesis and defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks just strutted into San Fran's brand new stadium and methodically beat them down. A rematch in two weeks up in Seattle likely doesn't bode well either for Harbaugh's crew.

In the meantime, the high flying Arizona Cardinals, even minus their starting QB, sit atop their division. The Cards play woeful Atlanta this Sunday. Assuming they win, they'll be 3 games ahead of San Fran in the same division, with 4 games remaining. San Fran can pretty well forget about winning the NFC West.

Worse, their chances of making the playoffs at all this year have become somewhat slim. There's only two wild card spots available, and with Detroit, Dallas, and Seattle all in the mix -- and all with current better records -- chances are good the 49ers will find themselves without a chair when the music stops.

If that happens, would they want to give Harbaugh the heave-ho in San Fran? Probably not. Good grief, how can you run a coach out of town when he's far and away the best one you've had in over a decade?

Still, Harbaugh is no dummy. He understands the NFC landscape, where his team is now, and where it likely will or will not be in the foreseeable future. The Niners were so close to glory, but now they appear to be slip-sliding away.

And that's what might make the potential Michigan job so interesting. The money would likely be roughly the same, maybe in the 5-7 million dollar a year range. They'd certainly offer him a long-term contract, say 5-6 years, so financial security wouldn't be a concern. As we all know, those poverty stricken devils, trying to get by on a measly $1,000,000 per year, have a hard time making ends meet. How can one afford groceries and laundry soap on a paltry $2800 a day? Ahem.

Though Harbaugh's 49er contract runs for another year, it's also no big secret that there have been tensions between him and the front office. It's been rumored that, even if his team wins the Super Bowl this year (not likely, as mentioned above), he won't be back for the 2015 season. Could the 49ers trade him to another NFL team for a draft pick or two? Sure. It's happened before. But that doesn't mean Harbaugh would report to his "new" team. And what other NFL team would Harbaugh find attractive? Remember the tale of two cities. It would have to be either northern California or Michigan. The current mess of the Raiders? Please. The Lions are out. They just signed a new coach.

You know what will be really interesting? Assuming the Univ of Michigan's season comes to an end in Columbus -- and Brady Hoke is gone shortly thereafter -- whether they keep their head coaching spot open for another month until the NFL season concludes. First they have to hire a new athletic director. Then he/she will have to address the head football coach problem. The pressure will be on after the anticipated blowout at Ohio State.

It's one thing if they run out and hire another yahoo like Hoke. Given their recent blunders, don't put it past them. But if they truly want a "Michigan man", and offer Harbaugh the chance to coach the team he once starred for.....

We'll see.....

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Ferguson and the jocks

Everyone has heard about what happened in Ferguson with the cop, kid, and fatal shooting a few months ago. Opinions continue to vary, as they typically do, and now both sides appear to be digging in. Things are not good in Ferguson and elsewhere, across the country, for that matter.

Yours truly would be the first to admit he is totally clueless as to what actually took place on that fateful day and who, if anybody, was at fault. I wasn't there. Didn't see it. Haven't been made privy to whatever "evidence" exists. Don't know. So offering any sort of opinion would come out of total ignorance, and I don't need any more people telling me how dumb I am. Trust me, the line continues to be long in that regard.

But I'm not a world-class professional athlete that can snap his fingers and have TV cameras, microphones, and a throng of breathless, if also clueless reporters show up in 5 minutes who will hang on my every word and trumpet it as gospel.

Enter a few jocks who can -- and have. Here's four. Lebron James, Serena Williams, Kobe Bryant, and Steve Nash. Well, let's see.

After his ballyhooed return to Cleveland, along with the free-agent signing of Kevin Love and spiffy resident point guard Kyrie Irving -- Lebron and the Cavs find themselves under .500.

Serena has won a lot of stuff in her career, but she's a super nova waiting to happen. She's only one year younger than her older sister Venus, and the V-ster already flamed out in singles competition a couple years back against good players.

Kobe Bryant reminds yours truly of William Shatner. You know, Captain Kirk, T.J. Hooker, Denny Crane, and all the moronic commercials hawking various products. Anything to stay in the public eye. Speaking of Thanksgiving, Kobe should drop to his knees and give thanks for two things. First, the Lakers were incredibly naive enough to pay him the mind-boggling sum of $48 million over last year and this one, when he's obviously a shell of his former playing self, and can barely stay healthy to boot. And second, that there are a couple teams like the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers that are even more pitiful than his Lakers, else they'd be the object of even more ridicule than they already are. They've gone from show time to blow time.

Steve Nash is a native Canadian that made huge fame and fortune in the USA as an NBA point guard. He could ball handle and pass with the best of them. He could shoot, and was deadly from the free throw line. He even won a couple MVPs along the way and narrowly missed out on a third. He's also 40 years old (geezerish in the NBA world), with another whopper Laker contract, and never even made it out of pre-season this year before being sidelined -- again -- with another long term injury. It is asssumed the good Mr. Nash in currently rehabbing and hasn't shirked it all to become a Belieber following the Boy Wonder around. But you never know when it comes to how those pesky Canucks stick together -- eh?

One would think that, given the current or soon to be problems facing the above-mentioned notables in their own spheres of competition -- they would have better things to do than chime in on an issue they are clearly clueless about.

Would anybody pay attention if Lebron were to offer tennis tips to top pros? Serena wanted to talk football strategy with Bill Belichick? Kobe and William teamed up to offer a seminar on how to be humble? Steve wrote a book on the finer techniques of sumo wrestling?

I dare say likely not. We would either scoff or outright laugh at such obvious nonsense from those totally unqualified to speak on such matters.

But they all just had to add their two cents worth regarding what happened in Ferguson.

Most of them probably couldn't even find it on a map, let alone ever having been there.

Yet it never seems to stop such people from mouthing off, even though they show their own ignorance (and bias) by doing so on matters they actually know nothing about.

I want to scream every time I hear/see of a pro athlete, that has likely made upwards of $100 million in their lifetime playing their sport, giving an interview or tweeting about "class struggles" and the like. Their hypocrisy is outrageous.

But the really scary thing is the thousands, if not millions of lemmings that hang on their every word.

And worse yet, believe it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rethinking personal fouls

Since forever, a personal foul in college or professional football will cost a team 15 yards. Sometimes. It all depends where they are on the field. Between the 30 yard lines, the 15 yard penalty is in play for both the offense and defensive teams.

But consider what happens when an offense gets past an opponent's 30 yard line. If the offense commit a foul -- they're still penalized the entire 15 yards. Yet if a defender is the culprit, it's only half the distance to the goal line.

Just a couple days ago, yours truly saw an NFL defender commit a personal foul when the opposing offense was on his 1 yard line. The penalty? A half a yard. Had the defense committed another on the ensuing play the penalty would have been a quarter of a yard. Another would be an eighth. Then a sixteenth. Theoretically, this could go on forever and, while the offensive team is carting off their injured players, they still wouldn't have scored a touchdown. Further, if the offense retaliates even once, they'll find themselves back at the 16 yard line. This has always been grossly unfair. There's a better way.

When the teams are between the 30 yard lines, as mentioned above, leave the rules as they are. A foul on either team will still result in an immediate 15 yard penalty.

But when an offensive player is fouled between the 30 and 15 1/2 yard lines of the defense, march off the whole penalty. Not half way to the goal. The whole 15.

Here's an outside the box idea. Once inside an opponent's 15 yard line, if the defense commits a personal foul on the offense -- give the offense the option of "banking" the penalty or taking it first and goal at the 1 yard line. This would be especially relevant down close to the goal line, as also mentioned above. After all, offensively speaking, what's the difference between running a play from the half yard line or quarter yard line? And had the offense scored on the play in question, assessing a 15 yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff hardly qualifies as punishment for the receiving team that committed the foul. Most NFL kickers can already boom kickoffs out of the end zone while kicking from the 35 yard line. Moving it up 15 yards to the 50, merely means they can likely kick it into Row 8 or so of the end zone fans. The current system hardly serves as a deterrent to defenders taking "cheap shots" in the shadow of their own goal line.

So why not let the team that was fouled bank the 15 yard penalty, and cash it in any time they wished for the remainder of the game -- while either on offense or defense? Though delayed, justice would have finally been served, and how interesting might game strategies become? Fans in the stadiums or watching on TV would be absolutely riveted wondering when their team was either going to pull out it's bonus card, or get banged, depending on whether they were the offenders or the offendees earlier in the game.

NFL head coaches currently have a red challenge flag they can throw after any particular play to have it reviewed. So why not give them a different colored flag -- pink, an exquisite chartreuse, or even polka dots would do -- to signify they intend to "bank" the penalty and have it enforced at a later time of their choosing?

Imagine. A particularly egregious team had racked up, say, 3 personal fouls, but the other team had banked them. If towards the end of the game the original offenders were driving for the winning score and inside their opponents' 5 yard line, the other coach could throw his flag and back them up 15, 30, or even 45 yards, depending on how much of his cache he wished to cash.

It would drive the screaming announcers, analysts and talking heads absolutely bonkers trying to predict the possibilities and/or figure it out.

And how can that be a bad thing? They already drive the average fans crazy.....

Justice indeed.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Detroit Lions. What's the deal?

The hype has certainly been there. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown for over 5000 yards in a season and is in his sixth year. The prime of his career.

Calvin "Megatron" Johnson has been touted as being the best wide receiver since Jerry Rice. He's fast, he's tall, he's physical, and he makes seemingly impossible catches.

The Lions added former Super Bowl champ and free agent Golden Tate to their receiver corps.

Reggie Bush was supposed to be a dynamic runner and a threat out of the backfield to catch passes as well.

The Lions had two pretty good tight ends and spent their first round draft choice last year on another one.

After some uncertainty, their offensive line has finally jelled.

So just one question.....

With all this firepower on offense, how is it they can't seem to score a single touchdown lately?

A closer look. Consider the tight ends. Veteran Brendon Pettigrew was probably a big fan of former boxer Roberto Duran. How else to explain his hands of stone? There's a reason, actually 224 of them, why all 32 NFL teams passed on Joe Fauria during the seven round draft in 2013. But the Lions signed him. Last year's first round pick, Eric Ephron, can't seem to catch and whiffs on blocks. Can you spell B-U-S-T? And that's when any of them can even stay healthy -- which isn't very often.

Like any other team, the Lions' wide receivers likely catch over 100 balls a day in practice. NFL receivers are supposed to be the best in the world at catching a football. But what good are they if they choke up and drop passes on game day? To his credit, on many occasions QB Matthew Stafford has hit them right in the hands or between the numbers with passes -- only to see the ball fall to the ground. This would not be tolerated by elite teams. If a receiver can't catch a well-thrown ball in a clutch situation, chances are good he'll be looking for a new job pretty quick, because he will have been cut. If the ball is catchable -- catch it. Isn't that the prime directive for receivers?

Yet Stafford himself pulled a big-time bonehead against the Patriots. While his team was trailing, in desperation Stafford scrambled on a fourth down. It appeared he had it easily. The first down marker was directly in front of him as he approached the sideline. All he had to do was finish the play and perhaps take a hit while going out of bounds. But the Georgia Peach went into a slide -- a yard short of the first down. Oops. The Lions turn the ball over on downs. While watching the replay on the Jumbotron, the Patriots likely chuckled. Even though they knew they were a vastly superior team, how could an opposing QB be so oblivious of the situation to pull such a brain-lock stunt? For his foible, Matthew Stafford was high on the panel's ridicule list of the weekly "C'mon man" segment. All he had to do was take one more step for a first down, with the bright red sideline marker staring him in the face, but he slid a yard shy? C'mon man indeed.

The Lions supposedly have the best defensive front in the league. A regular gang of brutes. But they never came close to sacking Tom Brady for the entire game. This, even though the Patriots had recently reconfigured their offensive line. Brady would go 38 for 53 and 349 yards. Those are impresive stats by any measure.

Lions's fans can lament the injury factor -- on both sides of the ball. But that doesn't hold water. It's now Week 11 in the NFL, and every team is banged up in one way or another. Some have even lost their starting quarterbacks for the year. The week before, the Lions lost at Arizona and the Cards were forced to start former Lion Drew Stanton in place of injured Carson Palmer. Stanton hadn't started a game in over a year. But Arizona still won handily. Good teams find a way. The next guy steps up and does the job.

Question: Where would the Lions be if Stafford went down for the rest of the year?
Answer: In big trouble.

The Lions have got fat so far this year for two reasons. First, they had a relatively easy schedule which is typical for a losing team the year before. Second, they made three improbable late fourth quarter comebacks in a row to win games they likely should have lost.

Interesting stat: In their last 5 games, including the 3 comeback wins against New Orleans, Atlanta, and Miami -- and also the last two losses to Arizona and New England (they can't all be easy), the Lions have had the lead in those games for about 46 minutes, and trailed by about 210 minutes. Yet they went 3-2 over that span. Make of that what you will, but it sounds a lot more like they've been eating their Lucky Charms than being dominant to yours truly.

Of their last five games, the Lions play four of them against sub .500 competition, including the next three at home. Even with their age-old and ongoing penchant for fumbles, foibles and brain farts, it's almost like the Lions would have to totally collapse NOT to make the playoffs.

But remember the four words that have come to aptly describe this team over the decades, despite how promising they may appear at any given time. They've certainly earned it.

It's still the Lions.

If there's a way to screw it up......  

And even if they make it to the playoffs, do even the hardest core Honolulu blue and silver koolaiders REALLY think they have the remotest chance of advancing far, let alone going back to Arizona for the Super Bowl? Whatever happened to Mr. T and his "I pity the fool"?

They've been lucky to beat mediocre teams, and were totally exposed by the Patriots. It wasn't so much men against boys as smart against dumb. The Lions like to fly around and hope for the best. The Pats are much more into precision. Big difference, as the eventual 34-9 score showed.

But never fear, despite the blowout at the hands of the Patriots, there are those in the Detroit media that continue to put a positive spin on all things Lions. After giving up 24 points in the first half, their mighty defense stiffened up in the second half -- they said. Truth is, the Pats would score 10 more points in the second half, while the Lions could only muster a single field goal. Besides, when leading 24-6 at halftime, the Pats knew it was pretty much a done deal. They dialed it back in the second half to cruise to an easy win. Had Brady/Belichick REALLY wanted to, they likely could have put 2-3 more touchdowns on the board. The Lions were helpless to stop them. It was the NFL tacit equivolent of the "mercy" rule in other sports.

Bottom line? The local Pollyannas aside, the 2014 version of the Lions are a slightly better than average team. Better than some, but nowhere near elite status.

And all the Koolaid in the world isn't going to change that.

Detroit Lions and deja vu. Again.

Wow. It's not even Thanksgiving yet and already Santa Claus is hawking Mercedes on TV. Maybe that finally answers the age-old question of where he gets all the money required for him and his elves to make and deliver a bazillion toys every year. And who knew he had a warehouse chock full of classic red cars in mint condition?

Regarding the Detroit Lions -- they seem to find themselves in much the same position they were last year. After starting out 6-3 in 2013, the usual gang of Honolulu blue and silver sappies were chugging their Koolaid like a Hummer does gas in 4-wheel drive. Playoffs, here we come, maybe even -- gasp -- the Super Bowl.

They had three "winnable" home games remaining, and even surprisingly blistered the Packers 40-10 on Thanksgiving. Alas, they would go on to lose to Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and the NY Giants at home, plus drop the finale at Minnesota to finish 7-9. Put another way, they self-destructed to lose 6 of their last 7 games to Hindenberg yet another season. The ever-present Koolaid had -- SURPRISE -- quickly turned rancid. Again.

And now another word from our sponsors. OK, the Mony Mony ad featuring another imported car was really catchy once, twice, maybe even 5 times. But after seeing it for at least the thousandth time -- this is getting really old, not to mention irritating. C'mon guys. Can't you come up with something new, or do you think Americans are just -- that -- stupid?

So now the Lions find themselves with another so-called "easy" stretch. The play Da Bears on Thanksgiving, followed by dates with the Buccaneers and Vikings -- all at home. Currently at 7-4, and after two predictable losses at Arizona and New England, the Lions should be able to cruise to 10-4. After that is a game at Chicago. Also winnable. Maybe even 11-4 going into the regular season finale at Green Bay. They can likely forget about winning that one. The Packers have been pumping it up as a team even more than Aaron Rodgers has in his own stupid commericials with Hans and Franz.

But an 11-5 record would surely get the Lions into the playoffs -- right? Maybe even a home game or -- holy Bobby Layne -- two. So quoth the Koolaiders. Again.

Yet why does that nagging Murphy's Law feeling persist when it comes to this team going down the stretch this year? Though solidly behind them (chug chug), it's almost like the Lions' faithful sense their team will unravel faster than Bill Cosby's reputation. Again.

It will be interesting to see how it plays out. First up, Da Bears on Thanksgiving. If the Lions win that one to go 8-4, with a long week to prepare for Tampa Bay, the Koolaid will be flying off the shelves.

But..... if they get beat to become 7-5 (entirely possible -- they're 2-11 on Turkey day home games since 2001), the lug nuts just might get a little loose. Last year it got worse and the wheels wound up falling off entirely.

Forget the Koolaid. For the long-suffering fans, that was likely replaced with 80-100 proof stuff to ease their pain. Again. If you're going to root for the Lions, it's not a bad idea to have some serious booze around -- just in case the usual happens. Getting hammered might not be the best plan in the world, but at least it enables one to forget about their team getting hammered, again, if only for a short while. And suffering through over 50 years of futility is just about enough to drive anybody to drink.

And the Lions continue to take full advantage of it. Did you know they charge more per fluid ounce of beer than any other team in the NFL? Their cheapest option is a 16 ounce draft beer which costs $8.50. That's a mark-up of roughly 765% over a typical grocery store price. And that's for KEG beer, as opposed to stores selling the civilized real stuff in cans or bottles. Doing the price/fluid ounce math, a half barrel of beer at Ford Field retails for over a THOUSAND DOLLARS. How incredibly price-gouging is THAT? The second highest mark-up in the league is in Seattle. But they're Super Bowl champions, while the Lions haven't won anything since long before Super Bowls even began, way back in the Eisenhower administration, fittingly enough just about the time the Edsel made it's ill-fated debut. Something is very wrong with this picture.

But one never knows. The Lions could run the table in the regular season to finish 12-4, bash their way through the playoffs, and wind up in Arizona, playing in the Super Bowl in February against whoever comes out of the AFC. It's possible.

So is yours truly coughing up a grand apiece for kegs of beer the next time I throw a yard party.

But let's just say the odds are slim of either happening and leave it at that.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Michigan football and Yogi Berra

If it wasn't already obvious, Michigan's football program is now officially in the dumpster. They just got beat at home -- on senior night -- by Maryland. MARYLAND!  In the Big House! As the all-wise Lawrence Peter (Yogi) Berra once profoundly stated -- it's over. At least for head coach Brady Hoke.

How and why Hoke came to be the head coach of such a storied football program is truly baffling in itself. Consider his resume at the time:

In six years (2003-08) of coaching at Ball State -- he posted a 34-38 record.
Off to the west coast for two years (2009-10) at San Diego State. A 13-12 mark.
So while doing his "apprenticeship" and perhaps being groomed for the Michigan job, he had an eight year mark of 47-50. What kind of nitwit major university would hire a new head coach for big bucks with a sub .500 track record at lower levels?

But let's back up a few years. Though largely successful as a head coach over the course of 13 years (never a losing season, a bowl game every year, and one co-national championship) Lloyd Carr was deemed too "old-school" after the 2007 season. Out he went. Michigan wanted a "nu-skool" head coach that would bring it's program up to par with the speedy guys out west, and the emerging rise of the brutes in the southeast. Plus beat Notre Dame, Michigan State, and those pesky Buckeyes along the way. A very tall order.

Enter one Rich Rodriguez. To be fair, RichRod was stuck with players Carr had recruited while trying to teach them to play an entirely different brand of football. The results weren't pretty.
2008. A 3-9 record and obviously no bowl game.
2009. 5-7. No bowling for dollars again.
2010. 7-6, which got an invite to the second tier Gator Bowl. UM got walloped 52-14 by then semi-unknown Mississippi St.
RichRod's three year record at UM? 15-22. Though his record was actually improving every year as his own recruited players were phased in, it wasn't good enough and fast enough for the Maize and Blue faithful. So he had to go.

Enter Brady Hoke. Along the same line, Hoke inherited RichRod's players while bringing in a new system of his own. A temporary fall-off in "production" would have been quite understandable. Instead, the opposite happened.

In his first year (2011) at the helm, Hoke's Wolverines compiled an 11-2 season record and went on to win the Sugar Bowl. Order and pride (never forget pride at Michigan) were restored. The Big House was happy. Surely another shot at a national championship was on the way.

They couldn't have been more wrong.

In 2012, Michigan would slip to 8-5, and lose the second tier Outback Bowl.
In 2013, they got worse at 7-6, only to lose the 3rd/4th tier Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
This year, they don't even appear to be competitive, at least against good teams. After losing to Maryland, the Wolverines find themselves 5-6, with the remaining game being in Columbus next Saturday against Ohio State. It takes 6 wins to become eligible for even the lowliest of bowls, and UM's chances of defeating Ohio State in their "horseshoe" this year might be akin to the odds of Obama and Boehner hand in hand jointly announcing the secret bromance they have shared for the last few years. It's possible -- but I wouldn't count on it. Michigan will likely get whipped like Petersen's boy at the hands of the Buckeyes.

After all, look at Michigan's football record this year. Sure, they had their way with the likes of Appalachian St., Miami of Ohio, and even perennial Big 10 weak sister Indiana. They also barely squeaked out wins against Northwestern and Penn State, neither of which can be found in the top 50.

But look what happened when they faced decent competition.
Notre Dame 31. Michigan 0.
Utah 26, Michigan 10.
Michigan State 35. Michigan 11.
Minnesota 30. Michigan 14.
Even Rutgers -- RUTGERS! -- beat them 26-24.
And now they've gone down to Maryland 23-16.

Add it all up and what do you have? Michigan's been outscored by a whopping 171-75 collective margin when they've played anybody tougher than the dreaded thin mint and peanut butter teams that ring our doorbells to sell cookies every year. Then again, like UM football fans, yours truly remains a sucker for a cute sales pitch. The girls next door hit me up. The girls in the lobby of the grocery store hit me up. And when the doorbell rings during cookie season, I'm reaching for another Jackson before I even get to the door. Damn adorable kids. Don't they make any ugly ones any more that would make it easier to say no? Sorry, got carried away there for a sec. Ahem. Back to Brady Hoke.

As noted above, his most successful year at Michigan was his first -- with RichRod's players. As he phased his own recruits in over the ensuing three years  -- the team continues to get worse. The record speaks for itself.

So yeah, given the expected blow out at Ohio State, no bowl game, and the total disarray of the program -- Hoke is likely gone after this season. No self-respecting university would keep a guy like this on given the death spiral he's led their football program into. Then again, any major university with an ounce of brains never would have hired him in the first place -- given his previous track record. Besides being a proven loser, Hoke's the only head coach in all of college football that doesn't wear a headset so he can be in constant communication with his coordinators and other coaches -- some of which are sitting high above in booths looking down and calling the plays. In other words, Hoke doesn't have a clue what plays his own underlings are calling. This, despite it being specified in his latest contract that he WOULD wear a headset. Evidently, Hoke's idea of being a head coach consists of patting players on their butts and yelling "good job" when they come off the field after a rare success, or blank stares when things don't go so well.

Speaking of his latest contract, then Athletic Director David Brandon gave Hoke a 7 year extension right after the Wolverines had been taken to the woodshed by Utah. At the time, Brandon said he was proud of how Hoke's team had fared against the Utes, and coaches like Brady don't come along just every day. He had that last part exactly right. Of course, in the meantime, Brandon has rightfully been run out of town. Brandon was even more clueless than Hoke. This is what you get when you pluck a CEO from a failing pizza franchise and put him in charge of an athletic department at a big time university. If he couldn't make pepperoni, cheese and breadsticks successful, then who in their right minds would hire him to oversee 31 different sports teams? Hello?

Nevertheless, courtesy of Brandon's infinite wisdom, Hoke has a contract that runs through 2021. Whether all those millions is guaranteed or not is unknown, but here's hoping they at least had the common sense to include some sort of buy-out clause. Would you rather pay a guy that no longer works for you $35-40 million for the next seven years, or give him $4-5 million just to go away?

Because Brady is definitely going away. Misguided arrogance, pride, and all -- even Michigan isn't dumb enough to keep him on as head football coach. I think.

What would be the worst thing that could happen? Michigan pulls a monumental upset at Ohio State, and qualifies for a toilet bowl somewhere. There would be those that say Brady deserves at least one more year. Puh-leeze.

Much better if the Buckeyes rout them by 4 or 5 touchdowns to put an exclamation point on Hoke's sorry tenure as the head football coach.

And if that happens, Yogi can make it official.

It is indeed over.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Seattle Seahawks. Do or die time

Though it's been done several times by various teams since Vince Lombardi's Packers won the first two, repeating as a Super Bowl champion has become increasingly difficult. It hasn't happened for ten years, since the New England Patriots last pulled it off in 2004-2005. Whether it's a letdown, complacency, losing free agents, the tougher schedule that will follow, other teams getting better and staying hungry, or a combination of all the above is a good question.

For the most part, parity in the NFL is alive and well. Over the years teams go up, and teams go down. Last year, few would question the Seattle Seahawks were the dominant team. They rolled through the regular season with a 13-3 record, and wound up blistering Peyton Manning and the Broncos 43-8 in the Super Bowl. Very impressive indeed.

But that was last year. "Last years" in sports are like celebrity marriages. Nobody gives a rat's behind about exes, they're only interested in what's happening NOW.

And now the Seattle Seahawks are facing the proverbial (excuse the tired cliche) do or die game. The Arizona Cardinals come-a-calling this Sunday in Seattle. Though they lost starting QB Carson Palmer for the season due to a knee injury, the Redbirds sport a league-wide best record of 9-1. Meanwhile, the reigning champs have struggled to a 6-4 mark. In other words, going in, Arizona has a 3 game lead on Seattle. If the home teams goes down this Sunday, that lead becomes 4 games with only 5 to play. Pete Carroll and Co. could pretty well kiss the division title good-bye.

Worse, they'd be in definite danger of missing the playoffs altogether. It's not unprecedented. Several Super Bowl winning teams have failed to make the playoffs the following year for various reasons. But who would have thought it possible with the Seahawks and their Legion of Boom, not to mention the most raucous home crowd in the entire NFL? After all, they're still pretty much the same core team. Yes, they lost Golden Tate to the Detroit Lions via free agency. But Tate is only a good, not great, receiver. Given the state of both teams, it seems logical the Lions benefited far more by acquiring him than the Seahawks suffered from his loss.

As NFL fans know, each Conference consists of four divisions. The winners of those divisions, plus two wild-card teams go on to the playoffs where anything can happen, and sometimes does.

Yet look around at the rest of the NFC. In the East, Philly and Dallas both have 7-3 records and are slugging it out for the division crown. Same with Green Bay and Detroit in the North. In the South, co-leaders Atlanta and New Orleans both only have 4-6 records, but SOMEBODY has to win that division and will qualify for the playoffs. Not counting the high-flying Cards, in Seattle's own West division, they find themselves currently tied with San Fran at 6-4.

Put another way, between Philly/Dal, GB/Det, and San Fran, the Seahawks likely find themselves in a four-way fight for a playoff wild card position with only two spots available.

If they win against the Cards (Seattle's a 6 1/2 point favorite) to go 7-4, they keep their hopes alive.
But if they lose to become 6-5, the fat ladies at Starbucks and Microsoft headquarters might just start warming up to belt out a swan song for yet another team to join the year-after Super Bowl championship scrapheap.

On with the game. Should be interesting. No pressure.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Shovelling off to Buffalo

Last year the Detroit area experienced a record snowfall, approximately 96 inches over the entire winter. Residents found it difficult to cope.

Now imagine that same amount of snow -- 8 feet -- were to fall in the course of four or five days. Everything would stop. Consider some ramifications:

Forget businesses, any unfortunate soul that experienced an in-home medical emergency (heart attack, stroke, etc.) would be in even direr straits. Ambulances and EMS personnel wouldn't be able to get there to assist them.

Pregnant women going into labor would have their babies the old-fashioned way, at home. All the pre-natal planning in the world would go out the window if driving to the hospital becomes impossible.

Woe be it to one if they were to lose power and not have a back-up generator, much less food in the house.The utility repair crews would be paralyzed as well. Eight feet of snow would rise above first floor windows blocking out daylight. It would be like living in an igloo with the entrance snowed in. Maybe okay for eskimos, but not recommended for city folks. Cars and small trucks outside would be completely submerged in the white stuff. Disappeared.

But this is basically what has happened to parts of Buffalo over the last couple days. And two or three MORE feet of snow is supposed to be on the way.

And on the sports front, the Buffalo Bills are scheduled to host the New York Jets this Sunday. Though they may be terrific football players, unless they can sprout wings and/or have a Star Trek transporter at their disposal, many Bills' players are snowed in just like the other residents. They can't get to the stadium. More on that to follow.

Stadium authorities have offered 10 bucks an hour plus free game tickets to anybody that wants to show up and help shovel out the open-air Ralph Wilson facility itself. Hundreds of thousands of tons of snow have to be removed. Good luck with that. First, the only way to get there is by snowmobile. Are we to believe football fans are crazy enough to bungee shovels to their Arctic Cats and Skiddoos, just so they can do such back-breaking work for a measly Hamilton per hour? Hmmm. Of course they will. Something about those free tickets. They'll come in droves. I can almost smell the two cycle exhaust fumes from the far side of Lake Erie.

Yet with the city still pretty much buried, and even more bad news on the way, it remains doubtful whether even the stadium itself can be made fit to play. And not counting those lunatic snowmobilers with their free tickets, how many people would show up?

Even if the teams themselves can somehow find their way to the stadium, this game should not be played. Why? Because it would give one team a huge advantage over the other.

While Buffalo has been under siege from the blizzard, the NY Jets have gone through just another week of usual NFL practice at home in Jersey. If the Bills' players can't get out of their own homes, obviously they haven't been able to practice this week. Yes, while reports have it the Bills' coaching staff has sent various plays and strategies to their players via Ipads, that hardly takes the place of real practice in preparing for an opponent.

In the event the game in Buffalo on Sunday is deemed unfeasible, alternate venues have been suggested. Perhaps Detroit, Pittsburgh, or DC, all teams that will be on the road this Sunday, so their stadiums are "available". It's not without precedent. Years ago, when snow collapsed the roof on the Vikings' stadium in Minnesota, the upcoming game was moved to Detroit -- and it worked out -- sort of. That's assuming Vikings' season ticket holders and others that had paid big bucks to see the game within a 20-30 minute drive of their homes didn't mind travelling about 700 miles by car, gas, motels, and all, for the same privilege.

It would be much the same for Buffalo fans were the game to be moved to any of the above mentioned alternate venues. We've all seen those pesky "hidden costs", like various surcharges and fees on bills, but this is getting ridiculous. Imagine having to drive 12 hours both ways to pay your electric bill, because it was the only place available to keep the lights on. I dare say most folks would not be happy with that scenario. But NFL football fans aren't most folks. They'll even travel overseas, at the cost of thousands of dollars, to see their bottom feeding team play another school of carp.

The talking heads keep ranting on whether or not Buffalo and their stadium will be fit to accommodate the game this Sunday. Maybe it will, and maybe it won't, but they miss a far more important point. This decision has to be made quite soon. Typically, for a Sunday game, the road team (Jets) travels on Friday. Once aboard an airliner at 35,000 feet, it's normally a really good idea for the pilots to know what their destination is. Those holding patterns have their limits. Something about a finite amount of jet fuel, and avoiding a possible mutiny. Besides, the travelling secretary of the team is usually much better off if he knows what town to arrange bus pick-ups in and make hotel reservations for the players, coaches, trainers, waterboys, etc., before they actually touch down.

Once on the tarmac, calling an entire fleet of cabs, even if the drivers speak English and have bathed recently, to take them all to a giant Motel 6 is not exactly the optimum scenario for a plane load of millionaires and their minions. Even if the proprietors of such an establishment left the light on for them, it's likely a fair statement to say the team esprit de corps would take a serious hit under such circumstances.

No matter what, whether the game can be played in Buffalo or elsewhere, it would be grossly unfair to the Bills. They haven't been able to practice all week while the Jets have. The only fair thing to do is cancel it. But how to make it up at a future date?

Simple. Don't. Give them both a tie on their records, a refund to those that had purchased or shovelled their way to tickets -- and tell them all to be happy.

It's the Bills and the Jets who, BTW, happen to play in the same division as the New England Patriots. Guess who the division champ is going to be? Who cares who would have won or lost such a game? Does any person this side of the afore-mentioned snowmobile lunatics seriously believe either has the remotest shot at making the playoffs? Not a chance.

It doesn't matter. Let it snow.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Adrian Petersen. Wait a second....

The star Minnesota Viking running back is back in the news. We've all heard of how he "switched" his kid a few months back. NFL Commish Roger Goodell has suspended Petersen without pay for the remainder of this season, not to be considered for reinstatement until at least April of next year. The Union is crying foul. Let's look a little closer.

In his statement, Goodell cited a few reasons for handing down this punishment. These included the fact the kid was only 4, and duh, daddy was a lot stronger, and also because Petersen hasn't shown "remorse". But wait a second....

Yours truly can't remember anything that happened when I was 4, but hasn't forgotten the belt that would flog my backside (both mom and dad) when I got out of line early on in grade school. It only took a few of those to realize there were some definite no-nos. Right or wrong, running afoul of parental law could get painful. Having seen the photos, this is not to say Petersen didn't go a bit over the top with his switch -- I believe he did -- but who am I to judge how a parent in a different part of the country disciplines their child? One thing I do know is the lessons of that belt stuck have stuck with me to this day. Even though I could now get away with some things -- I still don't do them -- because I know they're wrong. Though I didn't like it much at the time, I thank my parents for instilling those values in me.

And this whole remorse thing has gotten way out of control. As the man once said, if you do the crime, you do the time -- and then it's supposed to be over. As a child, such things as disrepecting an adult or getting caught stealing anything -- even a candy bar from the local store -- guaranteed a date with the belt. I still say please and thank you to this day, to people and even children I don't know, and wouldn't dream of stealing anything, nor will I tolerate a person in my life who I know does steal. When I got caught as a kid, I paid the price -- but then it was over. I knew mom and dad still loved me, but there was no need to drag it on. The message was clear and understood. There are lines not to be crossed.

Not any more. These days it's not enough to just do the time for a "crime". The jurisprudence system has gone all in on "remorse". They expect any defendant to grovel, admit they're a terrible human being, go to counselling, etc., etc. And when it comes to high profile cases -- re-enter the likes of Adrian Petersen.

The media wants him to grovel. His employer, the NFL, wants him to grovel, and no doubt millions of ordinary people who have been brain-washed expect him to grovel. But wait a second....

Why should Petersen grovel? He had his day in court, pled guilty to a misdemeanor, and was sentenced accordingly. It's supposed to be over. However, the NFL has this pesky (very grey area) clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) which states the league can impose further punishment over and above the court system for behavior deemed to run afoul of their own standards.

Perhaps that's fair enough -- to a point. Once Petersen was implicated in the "switching", he was placed on a mysterious thing called the Commissioner's Exempt List. Basically, he couldn't play for the Vikings, but would continue to receive his salary, pending the outcome of his case.

As mentioned above, this has been resolved in court. Remember, Petersen was convicted of only a misdemeanor, not a felony. At that, the "plea bargain" made sense for both sides. While the media coverage and graphic photos of "junior's" behind fanned the flames, one must also remember this happened in Texas. The prosecutor likely didn't relish the idea of going for the kill by presenting such a case to a jury of Petersen's peers. Many folks in the Lone Star State don't much cotton to the government telling them how they can and cannot discipline their kids. That would have been a roll of the dice indeed -- by both sides. It would have depended on the 12 folks sitting in the jury box.

To date in 2014, Adrian Petersen has only played one game for the Vikings before he was shelved. But wait a second....

He's been paid his full salary for the next 9 games. Former player and current talking head Jerome Bettis said nothing is more important to a player than actually playing. Even the money. Though perhaps well-intentioned, methinks the good Mr. Bettis knows better than that in his heart. If that were the case, everybody would play for free -- just for the honor of being in the NFL. Please, Jerome. Fans can be dumb, but not THAT dumb.

Petersen's salary is roughly $14,400,000 this year. Let's round it up a tad and say he stood to make a million bucks a game. He's collected 10 game checks, but only played in one, while perfectly healthy. Most people in the real world would be thrilled to collect their full salary for a couple months while not having to go to work.

But pending an appeal, and good luck with that, Roger Goodell has cut off Petersen's million dollar a week free-ride gravy train. Yo Adrian is not happy. The Union is not happy. And I'd wager Mrs. Petersen is definitely not happy. The NFL's view is that Petersen hasn't been punished at all so far. He's collected almost 9 million bucks for doing nothing. A valid point.

Most NFL analysts, experts, talking heads (you know -- the geniuses) have suggested that Petersen running afoul of the NFL's "personal conduct" code would normally result in a six game suspension -- without pay. They've also suggested, and likely rightfully, that the league is hammering Petersen as a make-up public relations call on how bad they botched the Ray Rice incident. But wait a second. What if....

Petersen were to come out and say tomorrow that he'd give back 6 game checks to the NFL, or the charity of their choice, but wanted immediate reinstatement? He's clear in the courts. It would have cost him roughly a whopping 6 million dollar fine and, even by Jerome Bettis's standards, the agony of sitting out three more games. Or maybe even give all 9 back, with the stipulation he doesn't have to go see a bunch of NFL mandated shrinks, much less grovel with pseudo remorse. He did the crime, he did the time, he paid the fine, and it's over. Let's rock and roll.

And wouldn't that be interesting?


Monday, November 17, 2014

Al Kaline and Giancarlo Stanton

Al Kaline, the former "Mr. Tiger", will soon be 80 years old. He retired as an active player 40 years ago after the 1974 season. Al Kaline is, and will always be, in the Hall of Fame. Though it might seem blasphemous for those in the Detroit area-- looking back at his career stats -- one can wonder if he truly deserved the plaque in Cooperstown.

After all, over 22 seasons, he never hit even 400 home runs (though 399 is pretty close). He had a career batting average under .300 (but .297 is a leaner). Only three times in those 22 years did he drive in more than 100 RBI's. Twice in Eiesenhower's FIRST term as Prez, and again in 1963 when JFK eventually made his fateful trip to Dallas. Over Kaline's career, he averaged a rather modest 72 RBIs per season. He was an above average outfielder with a terrific arm, but not much of a base stealing threat due to mediocre speed. Taken together in modern times, would those stats get him enshrined these days if he'd just retired last year? Maybe, maybe not. But times were different back then.

Kaline was also the first Detroit Tiger to get a salary over $100,000 for a year. And that didn't happen until 1969, in Kaline's 17TH season. Sure, the price of everything was a lot lower back then. Bearing inflation in mind, here's a few examples:

In 1969, gasoline typically sold for around 20 cents a gallon. Not long ago it was $4 a gallon, at least in America. Other countries pay much more. So gas has gone up by a factor of twenty.

In '69 a pack of smokes cost about 30 cents. Now the same pack costs roughly 6 bucks. An increase by the same factor of 20, though most of it is due to politicians taxing tobacco products for as much as they can get away with -- not the tobacco companies gouging people. Funny thing about that. States keep passing laws forbidding smoking in various places including, incredibly, bars. It's as if they want to get rid of it altogether. But they don't REALLY want that, because if it happened, they would lose out on billions of dollars in revenues. Who's kidding who?

Seats to a baseball game in '69 typically came in four varieties. For a buck, one could sit in the "bleachers". Two bucks got one in the "grandstands". Another Washington opened up the mysterious world of "reserved" seating. One might be eight rows back from the playing field -- or maybe 30. You coughed up your three bucks and hoped for the best -- preferably not sitting between two fat guys smoking big cigars with bullhorn voices that never stopped yelling. And of course, there was the cream of the crop, known as "box seats". They'd cost you a whopping $4, but dammit, you were close enough to your heroes to hear them talk, spit and scratch their cups.

Thing is, back then even young kids with brand new drivers' licenses could afford to go to a game with a few friends, if mom or dad would let them borrow the car.

Fast forward to the present. Without getting into ticket prices, though it might be a fair assumption to estimate they've gone up by at least the same factor of 20, we have one Giancarlo Stanton.

Stanton has been in the major leagues for 5 years, all with the Marlins. Like Kaline, he's an outfielder, although much taller and heavier. Also like Kaline, Stanton is hardly a speedster. Lou Brock on the basepathes he is definitely not. However, to his credit, during those five years, he's averaged 31 home runs per year. Impressive. Yet also during those same five years, he only had over 100 RBIs once -- last year. His five year average is 80. Not bad, but hardly earth-shaking. And here's the kicker -- Stanton's career batting average is a mediocre .271. Last year he improved slightly to .288. That's a respectable batting average in today's game, but no more.

And what just happened? The Marlins inked Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year contract worth $325 MILLION dollars -- the largest in sports history. The math is simple enough. That averages out to $25M a year -- for a 25 year-old guy with a five year career average of .271. They're on the financial hook until Stanton is Tiger Woodsish at the ripe old age of 38. And we all know what happened to his game in recent years. Thirteen years, when the guy could flame out or be injured at any time? Have the Marlins lost their minds?

Which brings me back to the Al Kaline comparison. Getting that $100,000 contract was a big deal back then and, yes, inflation has taken its toll over the years as mentioned above.

But are we to believe Giancarlo Stanton is worth not a factor of twenty, but 250 TIMES what Al Kaline was? For 13 more years that he hasn't even played yet?

Something is very wrong with this picture.

And this, dear reader, is exactly why young kids can't afford to go to ball games anymore.

It truly is a shame.

Or perhaps just flat-out shameful.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Detroit Lions. Coming crossroads

The Lions got beat fair and square in Arizona by a better team. This is what happens when a good, but not great QB (Matthew Stafford), a superstar receiver (Calvin Johnson), and other weapons of so-called offensive mass destruction (Golden Tate, a bevy of tight ends, etc.) run into a team with a defense that can neutralize them all.

Though the Cardinals were without starting QB Carson Palmer, and former Lion QB Drew Stanton did his part to help out the Honolulu blue and silver cause by throwing a couple interceptions (he also threw for over 300 yards -- not too shabby), the game swung on the Cardinals' defense. Their very talented cornerbacks and safeties were in the hip pockets of Johnson, Tate, and company all game long. Plus, their defensive front pretty much stuffed the running game of the Lions. End result -- Detroit could only manage 6 points for the entire game. A total offensive production of two field goals isn't going to get it done in the NFL these days.

After a rather weak first half of their schedule, where the Lions piled up a 7-2 record, they finally had to play a really good team on the road.

Next week they get the dubious honor of visiting New England. After a slow start, Belichick and the Brady Bunch have reeled off 6 wins in a row. The last two have been particularly noteworthy. They trashed Peyton Manning and the Broncos by 3 touchdowns and, earlier tonight, waltzed into Indy and did the same to Andrew Luck and his AFC South division leading Colts. The Pats are definitely on a roll, and few would think the Lions will have much of a chance in Foxborough next Sunday.

So for the sake of argument, let's say the Lions are 7-4 after that game is played. Then come the crossroads.

Out of their remaining five games, four of them are definitely winnable. Two against the Bears, and dates with the Buccaneers and Vikings. Let's also assume they lose their finale in Green Bay. Besides the Packers owning the Lions at Lambeau Field in recent decades, Aaron Rodgers and his own crew of cheesers have been on a roll as well. They just blistered a pretty good Philadelphia Eagles team by over 4 touchdowns and seem to be firing on all cylinders as well.

Idle thought: In two weeks the Pack hosts the Patriots. THAT will definitely be a game worth watching.

In the Detroit area, much praise has been lauded on new head coach Jim Caldwell. He's gotten rid of the losing culture. He runs the team like a CEO. No stone goes unturned. The players have all bought into his system. And that's great -- except it sounds familiar. Didn't they say the same thing about Jim Schwartz and the guy before him -- and the guy before him, etc.?

Here's a couple things that are indisputable. First, the Lions were in much the same situation last year with their record. They had several "winnable" games remaining and were supposed to cruise into the playoffs. Instead, they crashed and burned.

Second, Jim Caldwell has yet to coach the Lions in December, much less January, when they typically freeze up like the turf at Lambeau.

Though the Lions' faithful (see suckahs) are once again chugging the Honolulu blue and silver koolaid with visions of a deep run in the playoffs (gasp -- Super Bowl?) dancing in their delirious heads --  an objective person could look at their body of work so far this year and conclude they are an average team at best. Three straight improbable fourth quarter comebacks to win in recent games when they likely should have lost them all? And two of them coming against teams with losing records, all replete with bizarre last-second plays and questionable calls?

Nonetheless, such is the way it goes in the NFL these days. On any given day, with a little luck......

But if the Lions are predictably blown out by New England, to lose two straight to good teams, then will come the crossroads indeed.

Will they regroup and win the games they "should" to make it into the playoffs? Or will they practice their usual December origami and revert back to the puddy-tats we have all grown to love, and scorn, over the years?

One thing's for sure. The Lions don't want to pin their playoff hopes on winning that last game in Green Bay.

So can they take care of biz in "winnable" games? Who knows?

Just about the time Santa Claus in making his yearly toy run, a few days before the Green Bay game, the picture will definitely be clearer.

Melvin Gordon

Though a bit premature, and assuming he stays healthy for another couple months, let's all welcome Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon to the green room of the NFL draft in Chicago next April 30.

He won't sit there long, and he's probably not going to get drafted by the NFL team he has wanted to play for his whole life. But the junior would have to be absolutely crazy not to declare for the draft after he's played in whatever bowl game the Badgers wind up going to. He'll likely be a Top 5 pick. His draft stock will never be higher. The welcoming to the multi-millionaire club draws nigh.

And though he hasn't publicly said so, it's hard to believe Gordon's dream wouldn't be playing for the Packers. He was born, raised, and grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He was a high-school football star there. Gordon snubbed out of state scholarship offers, including Iowa and Michigan (turns out, a smart move), to play for Wisconsin. The man has "cheeser" written all over him. But unless the Packers somehow trade up on draft day, there's no way Gordon will be playing his professional home games at Lambeau Field. He'll be long gone before the Packers would otherwise pick. Besides, the Pack already has a featured running back in Eddie Lacy, a terrific young talent out of Alabama. So for the first time in his football life, Melvin will likely find himself playing for a team in another state.

In the recent game against Nebraska, Gordon broke the all-time single game major college football rushing record by accumulating 408 yards. The "all time" thing itself is noteworthy enough. That takes in a lot of players, even future NFL Hall of Famers that were hot stuff in college. Names like O.J, Billy, Barry, and Eric come to mind.

True, Gordon only surpassed previous record holder LaDainian Tomlinson's 406 yards by a measly two. But while at TCU, Tomlinson accomplished his feat against UTEP, which was, and remains not exactly known for it's defensive prowess -- or any prowess for that matter.

What's truly incredible is Gordon racked up his 408 rushing yards in only the first THREE QUARTERS against the #16 Cornhuskers. He would sit out the entire fourth quarter. On a reasonable 25 carries, Gordon averaged 16.3 yards a pop. Had he been left in for the final quarter against a defense that was obviously worn down -- he might well have rushed for another 100-150 yards, setting the mark so far out of sight, nobody would ever approach it again. It was a Melvin kind of day, and hats off to the Kenosha Kid for setting the record. Very impressive indeed.

Note to Melvin. Don't get carried away with the "On Wisconsin" stuff and be silly enough to return for another year. Yep, you're the big man on campus right now and have pretty girls galore fawning all over you. But you're also always one play away from a potential career ending injury. If that happens, you'll stay in Wisconsin, but probably not working at the kind of job you had planned on. And there's the little matter of a few million bucks at stake.

Congrats on the record, and may you rack up monster rushing yardage in the Iowa, Minnesota, and whatever bowl game your Badgers land in to pad your stats even further.

But when that is said and done -- here's your bucket list......

Do not pass GO and/or collect $200 under the table from a Wisconsin booster trying to lure you back for your senior season.
Declare for the NFL draft and hire an agent, preferably not Bieber, or anybody he hangs out with.
Work your butt off for the next several months to not only stay in shape, but get even stronger.
Stay away from the clubs and bimbos. Lots of things can happen with that combination, and most of them are bad. The NFL scouts will have you under a microscope.
Then hope like hell some good team trades up to draft you. A few years in Jacksonville or Oakland is not exactly the best scenario.

Be looking for you in the green room next year.
Good luck.

College football. The latest hits

The polls will look different when they come out again in a couple days. Of course, this year the only poll that really matters is the last one following the regular seasons and conference title games. The surviving Final Four get a shot at the national championship. The others will go bowling for dollars elsewhere. Strike up the marching bands, but it really doesn't matter much.

Yet it was interesting how things played out today. As mentioned before in this space, it seemed very strange that the #1 team, Miss St. could be 8 and a half point underdogs to Alabama, ranked #5. But did anybody really think Miss St. was going to beat the Tide in a showdown game? Not me. Granted, Bama had to withstand a second half comeback to narrowly prevail 25-20, but a win is a win, especially against the so-called #1 team. Count Alabama amongst the top 4 when the new polls come out. Miss St. may or may or drop out of the magical quartet, but they're going to at least fall a notch or three.

And now a word from our sponsors. I don't know about you, but yours truly much prefers the Super Creepy, Painfully Awkward, and Crazy Hairy versions of Rob Lowe. At least they're interesting. The "original" is about as stimulating as a tofu meat loaf -- or unflavored yogurt. Blander than a sugar free vanilla shake.

Elsewhere, #4 TCU held on by the thinnest of frog hairs to defeat unranked Kansas 34-30. Maybe they stay in the top 4 -- and maybe not.

Reigning champs and undefeated Florida St. has danced close to the flame several times this year. It's likely a pretty good bet that most folks outside of the Tallahassee area have been waiting -- and even hoping -- the Noles would finally get burned. But once again they came back from over a two touchdown deficit to defeat yet another team. This time it was Miami, 30-26. The 'Canes had numerous chances to "stop the chop", due to FSU turnovers and QB Jameis Winston throwing passes that would normally be intercepted. But Miami turned it over in key situations themselves, and dropped the easy "picks".

End result? Flor St. will definitely stay in the Top 4. And how could they not? They're the only remaining undefeated team.

By virture of sitting at home courtesy of a bye week, with Miss St.'s loss, Oregon will likely become #1. The Ducks have a couple patsies in Colorado and Oregon St. to finish their regular season. But then a Pac 10 conference championship game with #6 Ariz. St likely looms. This will be played in Levi's Stadium, in Santa Clara, home to the San Fran 49ers. Sounds fair enough as a neutral site between teams from Oregon and Arizona.

Yet somebody has to lose that game. Whoever does will likely fall out of the championship playoff picture. Oregon's only previous loss came at home to unranked and not-so-good Arizona, 31-24. On the other hand, Ariz. State's only loss was also at home, but they were blitzed 62-27 by UCLA. How can a team be ranked #6 when they suffered a 35 point beatdown at home? As this post is being written, the Sun Devils trail the woeful Oregon State Beavers in the fourth quarter. Even if they come back and win the game, this is not a good way to impress the pollsters.

The moral of the story? When it comes to who makes the Final Four, Oregon and Flor. St., appear to be almost locks. That only leaves two spots open and raises a few questions. Will TCU get in? Do you think they would have a chance against the Big Boys?

Will the Crimson Tide continue to roll, or might Miss St. bounce back in the SEC conference championship game?  And what about Baylor and Ohio State, both one-loss teams that have been on a roll lately? Do they still have a shot?

Oops. Arizona St. just went down to the lowly Beavers. Color them gone.

Two more weeks of regular season mayhem and then the conference championship games. A lot can happen, and probably will.

And though yours truly is no fan of Nick Saban and his uppity ways, methinks when the dust has finally settled in January, Alabama's going to be champs again. Sigh.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Kentucky basketball. No shame

To no one's great surprise, once again the Kentucky Wildcats were the pre-season #1 team. Despite their recent history of "one and dones", head coach John Calipari seems to reload with magnum force every year. Remember the Univ of Michigan's Fab Five from back in the 90's? Though they never won a championship, what Kentucky is doing would be like the Wolverines recruiting a similar class of freshmen for several years in a row.

But there's a downside. Like the cult classic novel and movie "Wild In The Streets", when the new generation takes over, somebody's gotta go to make room. And there's only so many spots on a college basketball roster. Which means, sometimes the geezers, at the ripe old age of 21 or 22, might get eased out to pasture. In the book/movie, anybody over the age of 30 was rounded up and sent to camps, where they would be forever dosed on LSD. It's not quite that extreme with Kentucky basketball, but let's just say surviving the annual purge to become an upper-classman on that team should come with a medal. A worthy feat indeed.

In fact, Calipari has so much young talent that's he's been experimenting with a wholesale "platoon" system. Start the game with five former prep All-Americans, and after several minutes pull them all out for Squad B -- also five former high school sensations. That's a serious amount of shock troops coming at the other team in waves. What the young Wildcats may lack in real-world maturity, they more than make up for in height, talent, and of course, tattoos. The Bluegrass state is one of the toughest in the nation when it comes to enforcing marijuana laws, but evidently they're all in when it comes to body art on their teen-aged basketball players.

Kentucky may or may not go on to win the national championship. We'll find out next spring. But being the consensus all-around #1 team going in, they should be ashamed of themselves for the competition they have scheduled in the early part of this year.

During their summer "exhibition tour" in the Bahamas, the Wildcats twice played the Puerto Rican Reserves and the Champagne Chalons Reims -- who and whatever they are. Sounds French. Do these guys make bubbly wine at their day jobs? Are they old-world kinfolk of country singer LeAnn? Beats me, but this doesn't exactly come across as tough competition for a #1 team to face. At that, Kentucky split two games with the Dominican Republic. Sure, they churn out lots of terrific baseball players, but they've got a hoops team too? Who knew? Of course, if Jamaica could have an Olympic bobsled team that would finish higher than the best USA team -- anything's possible. Idle thought: Where did they practice at?

Before Kentucky gets into conference play, their schedule is even more shameful. Granted, they have to play both Kansas and Texas at neutral sites (heaven forbid they should have to play a true road game before conference action begins), but check out the rest of the teams they have lined up----

Pikeville. Ever hear of it? Not me.
Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon has a team?
Montana State.
UT Arlington.
Eastern Kentucky.

And guess what? If lining up patsy row wasn't bad enough, all these games will be played on Kentucky's home floor at Rupp Arena.

Nothing like stacking the deck to rack up a bunch of easy wins.

For such a proud and storied program, it appears they have no shame either.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wacky NFL playoff scenarios

Interesting. Sports Illustrated has the Detroit Lions, who currently sit atop the NFC north division, winding up a wild card team and getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs -- by the Eagles. Could happen.

The author, one Andy Benoit, goes on to predict a Packers/Patriots Super Bowl with the Pack prevailing 31-27. It's possible. Barring major injuries (see Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady), few would doubt the Cheesers and a team owned by a guy that owns a cheese company (Kraft) are amongst the elite teams.

But right now, with 6-7 games to go in the regular season, a few very strange things have occurred.

Out of 16 teams in the entire American Conference, twelve of them still have a realistic shot at the playoffs. Only the Jags, Jets, Titans, and the still winless Raiders are out of it.

In the AFC North, all four teams are above .500, separated by no more than one game.
Cleveland. 6-3.
Cincinnatti. 5-3-1.
Pittsburgh. 6-4.
Baltimore. 6-4.
One way or the other, somebody will wind up being the division champ, though it might well have to be determined by various tie-breakers.

On the other hand, in the NFC South, all four teams are BELOW .500.
New Orleans. 4-5.
Carolina. 3-6-1.
Atlanta. 3-6.
Tampa Bay. 1-8.
Somebody has to win that division too and, the way they're going, it could be a team with a sub-.500 record that makes the playoffs.

Meanwhile, Philly and Dallas are slugging it out in the East, Detroit and Green Bay in the North, and Arizona and Seattle in the West for division championships. All have far better records than the above-mentioned bunch from the South.

Therefore, given the playoff format where all four division champs qualify, plus two wild-cards, it's entirely possible that a 7-9 or 8-8 division champ gets in -- while another team at 10-6 or even 11-5 is left out. How can that possibly be?

Sure, it's all about the mighty buck, and playoff games rack up some major cha-chings. That's why the NFL keeps expanding its playoff format. Like the movie Field of Dreams, schedule an NFL playoff game, regardless of the teams' records -- and they will come. Legions of them, with fat wallets and purses ripe for the picking.

The NFL has 32 teams, and twelve of them will make it to the playoffs. Watered down? Opinions vary, but so far the league continues to GROW in popularity. It would be interesting to see the public's reaction if the NFL expanded their playoff format even further. Instead of twelve teams, perhaps 16. Instead of two wild cards from each conference -- make it four. No extra weeks would be necessary. Just eliminate the first week playoff "byes" for the top two teams in each conference, and have everybody in action when the playoffs start. A "Sweet Sixteen" with a twist if you will, seeded accordingly. Teams with the best records get home field advantage. Oh yes, they would come -- in droves. Bring on the grease paint.

Yet it leaves one to wonder -- just how much can they water down the product before the public says "enough"?

Hard to say where the tipping point might be. The NHL currently has 30 teams and fully 16 of them will make it to the playoffs. That seems watered down, but they still pack the arenas at exorbitant prices once the post-season starts.

But not that long ago -- before they went through their own expansion -- the NHL consisted of twenty one teams. And SIXTEEN of them would go to the playoffs. In other words, a team had to terrible NOT to make it.

Want irony? While the pro leagues have expanded their playoffs, college football, certainly as big a deal in this country, had to be dragged kicking and screaming into allowing a whole 4 teams (instead of two -- out of a total of 119) to compete for a championship. And even those teams are determined by a special "panel". Instead of deciding it on the field with games, the likes of Condoleezza Rice and company will rule from on high as to which 4 schools get a shot.

For the most part, college teams are idle in the month of December. And spare me the argument about "student-athletes having to study for final exams" and the like. All the football players at Enormous U schools are NFL wannabes and have curriculums more patsy-like than their typical first games of the season. They could just as easily play a few rounds of playoffs during December. The lower division colleges do -- and those players have little chance of ever becoming a pro. So it's OK if the players that will graduate from lesser schools with a, GASP, education, and have to go get real jobs can play during December -- but it's putting too much of a burden on the big-time jocks with "majors" your average potted plant could breeze through? The hypocrisy screams.

Nevertheless, on with the games. It is what it is. How it all turns out is anybody's guess.

Packers 31, Pats 27 in the Big Dance? We'll see in February.

And why do I get this feeling that despite currently being ranked #5 and out of the college football playoff picture, that Alabama is going to win another national championship?

Here's a good question. Currently #1 ranked Mississippi State plays at Alabama this Saturday. So why is the #5 team an 8 and a half point favorite over the supposed top team in the country?

It's just about enough to make one scoff at the "polls".

But never fear, Condy will figure it out. Right.

Oscar Taveras. R.I.P.

Yours truly wouldn't wish harm on anyone. Well, maybe those roto-callers leading up to an election, but haven't we all thought that way?

The death of Oscar Taveras is a tragedy, but no more so than the passing, by whatever causes, of most anybody else.

Should it matter that Taveras was a major league baseball player? The fact that he hit for a certain batting average, clubbed a key home run in a playoff series, and was thought to be the #3 overall best "prospect" in all of baseball as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals?

In the whole scheme of things, probably not. While Taveras was a gifted baseball player, his very existence on the planet was no more important than that of a desert nomad, or a homeless person finding shelter in a dumpster. A human life is a human life. They all count the same, or at least should.

Like any other "celebrity", Taveras' death made news. At the young age of 22, with such a promising future, his life was snuffed out. All due sympathies to his surviving kinfolk and friends.

But sometimes a dose of hard reality is in order. Turns out, while driving a Chevy Camaro on the freeway at a high speed in his native Dominican Republic, Taveras had a blood alcohol content over 5 times the legal limit. In other words, he was super-drunk. For whatever reason, he eventually crashed into a tree, killing not only himself, but his 18 year old girlfriend and passenger Edilia Arvelos. Whether or not she was drunk as well is unknown but irrelevant. She wasn't driving the car. Oscar was.

Sure, young men/women (yours truly included) do/did a lot of stupid things that might have turned out to be disastrous. But most times we look back and laugh at them. Lessons learned, and stories to be embellished upon in later years to the amusement of others.

Yet every once in a while, though tragic, whatever powers that be say at the time, "Nope. You messed up. There will be no second chance. Game over."

By most accounts, Oscar Taveras was a good guy. He certainly had a promising future in baseball. Countless riches awaited him. Sadly, he leaves a one year old son behind. Oscar Jr.

But roaring down the interstate with a 5 times the legal limit snootful of alcohol in one's system was a very bad idea. It cost Oscar his life, along with his girlfriend's, and who knows what will become of Junior? A sad tale indeed.

The moral of the story can be summed up as follows in the immortal words of Don McLean:

Bye bye Mr. American Pie. He tried to drive his Chevy to the levee, but he should have stayed dry.

And sure enough, that was the day he died.

Or something like that. Close enough.

Five times over the legal alcohol limit -- at high speed on a freeway? May he and his girlfriend rest in peace, and God bless them.

But this was no act of God, like a lightning strike. Oscar Taveras did something stupid and wound up paying with his life. There will be no amusing stories to tell later.

And that's just the way it goes sometimes.......