Thursday, April 30, 2015

Jason Kidd and a hard call

Earlier tonight, in a playoff game between the Chicago Bulls and host Milwaukee Bucks, things got out of control. Though the Bucks had surprisingly given the favored Bulls a "run for their money" in the series by only trailing 3 games to 2 with game 6 on their home floor to even it up, it was not to be. Not even close.

During the first half the Bulls roared out to lead by over 30 points. And then it became 40. The rout was on and the Bucks didn't like it one bit, especially in front of their own fans.

That's totally understandable, and frustration is bound to mount. But these guys are professionals and, as such, there are some things they should know are way out of bounds, no pun intended.

Such was the case with Milwaukee Buck Giannis Antetokounmpo, #34. A 20 year old NBA rookie from Greece with no college experience, GA committed a big-time no-no.

Bulls' guard Mike Dunleavy (the opposing #34), an old-pro out of Duke, had been lighting up the Bucks with his shooting. It happens. But long after Dunleavy had taken and made another long range shot, GA got a running head start and bulldozed Dunleavy out of bounds with a hit akin to an NFL linebacker sacking a quarterback on a blitz.

A foul was called of course and, after review, it was deemed to be of the Flagrant 2 variety, which resulted not only in free throws and possession for the Bulls, but GA being ejected from the game.

To no great surprise, the talking head apologists immediately went into politically correct spin mode.

Giannis is only 20, one said.

A rookie that still needs to mature, echoed another.

It was frustration boiling over and he has to learn how to blend physical toughness with mental wisdom on the court, added yet another.

To all of which, yours truly says -- Hogwash.

If Jason Kidd does the right thing, this is what he'll say.......

I'm the head coach and this kid is gone. Cut. Immediately. NOW. I'll have the financial people and lawyers looking into ways to totally void his contract for conduct grossly unbecoming of a professional basketball player. Let somebody else take him if they wish, but he'll never be on this team again while I'm the coach.

I don't want to hear the whining about how he's only 20 and a rookie. Twenty year olds are old enough to vote, drive and own fancy cars. They're old enough to fight and die in wars. They're old enough to get married, buy a house and father children.

Which means they're DAMN sure old enough to know the thuggish behavior I just witnessed on the basketball court is totally unacceptable. There is no reason or possible excuse for such an action. I don't care how good he is or might become. I won't tolerate it. He's outta here.

So what are the chances of Jason Kidd growing a few hairs on his moral backside and actually stepping up to say that?


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A few trying minutes in a Red Wings bar

Once upon a very recent time, there was this well meaning, if not-too-bright on-line sports journalist. Hereafter said sojourner shall be referred to as Dab (Dumb-ass blogger).

At any rate, Dab happened to wander into a watering hole in the greater Detroit area not long ago. Upon entering, it was immediately apparent this particular establishment was a big-time Red Wings bar.

The guys and gals were all decked out in various red and white Wings' paraphernalia. Caps, shirts, jackets, jerseys, the works. Names and numbers everywhere. Posters adorned the walls and the monster TV screen was all set up for Game 7 of the Detroit/Tampa Bay playoff series. This place would be rocking shortly.

They even had a bowl of free red "wings" (the chicken variety). Nice touch, thought Dab. He'd never seen red wings before. Must be some sort of food dye. So he put a couple on a plate, sat down at the bar, ordered a beer, took a bite out of one and started chewing on it.

Within a few seconds, Dab realized something had gone horribly wrong. He would later learn the red dye was no dye at all, but rather some sort of Satanic mixture of habanero and ghost pepper sauce. At that point in time, Dab did what any other gentleman would do in such a situation. He made a mad dash for the restroom and tried in vain to drink water from the sink to quell the volcanic eruption that was happening in his mouth. Dab could hear guffaws from without. Finally, after perhaps 10-15 minutes, which seemed more like days, Dab was able to re-emerge and resume his seat on the stool, though he was painfully aware of the smirks from around the room.

A rather large brute with a winged-wheel tattooed on his forehead, real or fake Dab did not know, took the seat next to him and asked the following question:

"Hey buddy. Did you see Game 6 a couple days ago?"

"As a matter of fact, I did", replied Dab.

"What did you think of that Kronwall hit and him getting suspended for tonight's game?"

"Well, I'm OK with it, I guess."

"What's that supposed to mean?", added a woman with winged-wheel fingernail polish that had quickly approached and jumped in.

Uh-oh, thought Dab. Maybe that was the wrong answer.

Others closed in and more verbiage followed.

"Hey, the refs didn't call anything and they don't miss much", said one.

"It was only a Russky getting decked by one of our guys", added another beefy one with a shaved head and one red and one white earring.

"Who's side are you on, anyway?", roared an elderly woman with a bright red capped front tooth.

Yep, definitely the wrong answer at the wrong time in the wrong place, Dab astutely concluded. But deftly gathering his wits about him the sojourner make a brilliant come-back and responded with....


As the masses with red and white mayhem on their mind were closing in, the bartender came to our hero's rescue.

"Okay, guys. Give the man a little room and let him speak his piece. Go ahead mister."

Dab wasn't at all sure he wanted to say anything further, but all eyes were upon him and a response seemed mandatory.

"Look at it this way", he began. "If a Tampa Bay player did to Zetterberg what Kronwell did to Kucherov, would you think him getting suspended for a game was the right call whether a penalty was initally called or not?"

Hard stares, but silence. Dab pushed on.

"It just so happens I'm a Red Wings fan too, but the game has to be fair and work both ways. Folks down in Tampa feel the same way about their team. One of them is going to win tonight and the other's season will be over. Either way it's not the end of the world. I just hope it's a hard fought game and nobody gets seriously injured."

The hostile masses slowly withdrew and began conferring amongst themselves.

"Nice save", said the bartender, and he leaned in closer. "But you were never in any danger. They're all Red Wing hard-cores, but basically harmless. They wear the gear and bark a lot but don't bite".

"That's nice to know", said Dab. "I was a little concerned there for a second".

"If it makes you feel any better, here's a little secret. I've been a Montreal Canadien fan since I was a kid, but none of them know about it".

Smiling back, Dab replied, "So how do you put up with this insanity for every Red Wings game?"

"Simple. They think I'm one of theirs so they tip me really well. When one is in Rome trying to make a buck...", he softly chuckled.

Dab was impressed, but another question popped into his still somewhat hot head.

Devilishly winking at the bartender, he asked, "So what would happen if I turned around and announced you were a Canadien fan?"

"That would backfire on you in a hurry".

"How so?"

"They wouldn't believe it and I'd announce right back you just told me any pansy hockey fan could eat six of those red wings over there in that bowl. Then I'd take my own leisurely visit to the men's room and let those good folks out there take care of whatever happened next. Good luck with that."

Even your average Dab eventually sometimes realizes he's been seriously outflanked and it's time to mosey on down the road to greener, and cooler pastures.

Alas, the real Red Wings would later go down to Tampa Bay and be eliminated. No doubt there was much grief in said establishment when the final horn sounded. Dab was thankful he wasn't still around to witness that.

Nice tavern. Cold beer. Very interesting bartender, and the regulars indeed turned out to be harmless enough. Dab still wonders about the red tooth, Wings earrings, fingernails, and tattoo. Will they disappear now or are they there year-round? Will the same folks swap it all in for Detroit Lions' Honolulu blue and silver stuff in the fall when another mania begins?

Dab doesn't know, but he learned one valuable life lesson during that particular stop.

Beware of those red chicken wings. Those little buggers will hurt you worse than any check Kronwall can deliver.....

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore unrest and strange consequences

Without getting into the blame game as to rights, wrongs, and reasons, suffice it to say the city of Baltimore has experienced some turbulent times in recent days. The usual suspects from various news outlets are all over it. But it's resulted in some very strange consequences regarding Major League Baseball as well.

Currently, the Baltimore Orioles are playing a series at home against the Chicago White Sox. Tonight's game has been cancelled due to security concerns. Some of the unrest is happening not far from Camden Yards. That seems like a prudent enough decision. Perhaps the game can be made up at a later date via a double-header or playing on an otherwise "off-day". No biggie.

But what is going to happen in the next few days will likely be firsts in MLB. Tomorrow's (Wednesday) game is scheduled to be played in an empty stadium. No fans allowed. Has that ever happened before? This is due to a 10 PM city-wide curfew that has been imposed by the local government. Everybody off the streets or get arrested.

There's no way a game can start at 7:30 PM, and have all the fans not only emptied out of the stadium, but back home by 10. Makes sense. But another part doesn't. What about the teams themselves? How do they get to and from the stadium? It's not like they live there. The Baltimore players and coaches no doubt have local residences. After the game is over and they're showered up and changed, it will certainly be later than 10 PM. Will they all get individual police escorts back to their cribs if hell breaks loose again? Good luck with that.

The White Sox are certainly staying in a posh hotel somewhere in town. Given the carnage that they've already wreaked on some of their own, it's likely the local populace won't exactly feel all huggy-kissie-tingly towards the Chisox either. It's probably not much of a stretch to say their buses to and from the stadium will be afforded security resembling that of a Presidential motorcade. The "grand old game" just got a bit dicey.

Yet it gets stranger still. Sure, most are hoping the mayhem quickly runs its course and things return to semi-normal in Baltimore, whatever that is. But the Orioles and MLB are doubling down on the caution thing. In their infinite wisdom, they have decided that the Orioles will play the next series in their current homestand -- in Tampa Bay.

That's right. The Orioles will play a 3 game set against the Rays in Tropicana Field, with the O's being the home team and batting last. That's surely never happened before. Very strange indeed.

Think ahead as to what has to happen to even this out. From July 24 -26, the Orioles are next scheduled to play in Tampa Bay. So will the Rays have to return the favor and come to Baltimore to play as the home team in Camden Yards for that series? Logic and justice would say yes. What goes around comes around and not counting a few thousand gallons of jet fuel -- it's pretty much a push.

Interesting that former Baltimore Raven Ray Lewis took to social media with a video offering his two cents worth -- though yours truly is not at all sure a home-boy rant from a millionaire was the best tactic to get the uneasy masses settled down. What would have been much MORE interesting was if Ray-Ray was wearing that white suit that mysteriously got lost in the aftermath of that little murder dust-up he was involved in a while back. Not sure about "likes", but if Ray was looking for some serious hits, THAT would have gone viral. Somewhere, Anderson Cooper and his ilk would drool over such a thing happening. Talk about being all over it for a month or so..... Ray may be a lot of things, but he's not THAT dumb -- I think.

At any rate, these are trying, and strange times in more ways than one. Hopefully they will pass soon. But if we see video of Cal Ripken Jr. looting a party store and slugging it out with the riot police later -- then it's time to worry.

Nah. Never happen.

Could it?

Monday, April 27, 2015

A-Rod, records, the Yankees, and dilemmas

It's a safe bet to say Alex Rodriguez isn't exactly the most revered professional athlete on the planet. He has his detractors -- millions of them. Of course, this all stems from his steroid abuse in years past. When was he juiced and when was he not? Only A-Rod knows for sure, and maybe not even him.

Given he's been in the majors for 21 years, it's not too tough to make an argument that most people can't recall in vivid detail every little thing they did over those many years. Good grief, some of us have a hard time remembering what we did last week, or yesterday, or even 5 minutes ago. Where was I? Right. A-Rod. See what I mean?

Nonetheless, fair or not, a few things about Rodriguez are beyond dispute. At last look, he had 659 career home runs, just one shy of tying Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list. Lofty company indeed.

Further, though he's 39 years old and it's early in the 2015 season, A-Rod has so far been the Yankees best hitter, leading them in average, home runs, and RBIs. After being forced to sit out the entire 2014 season, who would have seen that coming? Whether he can keep it up is anybody's guess, but he obviously still has some serious pop in his bat. Passing the Say Hey Kid is going to happen and likely soon.

Perhaps it should be noted that A-Rod is no doubt under a microscope these days when it comes to "illegal foreign substances". Whatever he's doing, he's doing it clean.

The Yankees have long faced a dilemma with Rodriguez since the whole steroid debacle came to light a few years ago. Like it or not, and they surely don't, they're stuck with his mega-contract. Over this year and next, they still owe him around $42 million. So what to do? If a guy can still play at a high level, and obviously A-Rod can, it would be folly to sit him down or send him away while paying him anyway.

Dilemma #2. The bonus clauses. When A-Rod passes Mays, he's due a $6 million bonus. The Yankees might well refuse to pay, citing the "cheating" thing. Given his current public stature, it would be bad PR for Rodriguez to fight for such a bonus. Obviously, he doesn't need the extra money. But another entity will likely jump in. That pesky Players' Union. A contract is a contract, and everything in it must be honored, they will claim. If A-Rod passes certain milestones along the way and is due bonuses, then dammit, the man is entitled to the money, they will surely argue.

From the union's point of view, this is something they have to pursue, lest a precedent be set. If the Yankees are allowed to renege on A-Rod's bonus clause, then what's to keep other teams from doing the same to other players in the future for reasons that may or may not be valid? We've all seen it before across the spectrum. Once the lawyers get involved, the truth ceases to matter. In their magical world, light can become dark, red is now blue, and trees aren't trees anymore -- they're dragons or cocker spaniels. It's all about winning and, in the end, the average Tom, Dick, or Mary has no clue what the hell is going on. Better to nip it in the bud while sanity still prevails -- sort of.

Dilemma #3. The Yankees have long been known for honoring their great players. They retire numbers and build monuments in their name. Give the Yankees a reason -- any reason -- to hype one of their own, and they'll be all over it. Yet they remain curiously mum over Rodriguez and his impending milestone. Just because they don't want to pay the bonus, and $6 Million is chump change to a franchise that rakes in what the Yankees do every year through their various team tenticles, doesn't mean the clause won't kick into effect when A-Rod pops another homer. Ignoring it won't make it go away. It's going to happen.

Idle thought: As mentioned above, Rodriguez was forced to sit out the entire 2014 season. For the sake of argument, let's say he would have hit 30 home runs last year, a reasonable estimate given his career stats. Instead of being at 659, he'd be at 689, only 25 behind Babe Ruth's mark of 714. Given the rest of this year and all of next, it's hardly a stretch to say he'd likely pass George Herman in the all-time home run club as well. That would mean another $6 Million bonus. For that matter, if he pops 30 this year and another 30 next year, entirely possible, he'll be right there anyway. Which would bring the Yankees to....

Dilemma #4. Would they retire A-Rod's #13? They've already retired every single digit number with the exception of #2, and that was worn by Derek Jeter. It's coming around. Good grief, they even retired #8 TWICE, on the same day, in honor of Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey. Throw in Jeter and the total is nineteen different numbers. But the answer to the question is -- not a chance. In fact, after A-Rod has played his last game for the Yankees, look for them to quickly give #13 to another player most of us have never even heard of yet. They will try to make the "stain" go away as quickly as possible. The Yankees have a storied history, but given the Steinbrenner years (and even currently), they've also shown they're hardly above hissy fits and pettiness in their front office.

It really is a shame, on a lot of different levels, that it all had to come to this. Alex Rodriguez may or may not be a lot of things. Great player, cheater, liar, egomaniac, lousy teammate, whatever.

But after the penalty phase for past misdeeds, real or alleged, the powers that be have ruled he is eligible to play, and he's playing extremely well.

He did his "time", so why can't everybody, especially the Yankees, just appreciate what he is doing now? Like it or not, the guy's still got game.

Personally, though reaching the home run marks of Aaron and Bonds may be a stretch, here's hoping A-Rod closes in on the Babe in the next couple years.

Imagine, the Yankees trying to ignore one of their own breaking such a hallowed record in the "House that Ruth built". (Granted, it's not the same Yankee stadium, but close enough).

Good luck with that.

The Red Wings and their hype machine

If one has been following the Detroit Red Wings' first round playoff series with the Tampa Bay Lightning, it really has become comical. No, not the teams or the quality of play -- both have been very good -- but rather some of the Detroit area media hype. Talk about overreach.......

Before the series started, most considered TB the superior team, including the Detroit media. It would be an UPSET of monumental proportions if the Wings could prevail.

During Game 1, when the Wings were outplayed, outshot, and out-everything else, they somehow squeaked out an improbable victory. The media said, Holy Lord Stanley, these guys won't go down without a fight. Well, no kidding and let's hope so. Waving the white flag of surrender and forfeiting the rest of the series while ahead 1-0 would have been quite the story indeed.

The Wings were thumped in Game 2. The media said, yes, but TB isn't such a good road team. Big time advantage for the Winged Wheelers.

They would win Game 3 at home to go up 2-1. The media said the Wings were showing their "pedigree". While I'm not sure exactly how a comparison to dogs is relevant, and further considering most of their players are foreign born, this was a confusing analogy.

Alas, while ahead for most of Game 4, the Wings would fold in the final minutes, only to lose in overtime. The media said it was a collapse of epic proportions. Can their death knell be far behind?

On to Game 5. The Wings posted a convincing 4-0 shutout in TB to go up 3-2 in the series. The media said Detroit was the "gold standard" of the NHL all along. They haven't won a Cup in over a decade and some star players have taken less money to play elsewhere in the meantime -- hardly a ringing endorsement from those that matter most -- but the spinmeisters got busy again. The series should be over, they say, save for a few minutes back in Game 4. Perhaps, but they seem to forget about the "stolen" Game 1, else it might be 3-2 the other way. In such situations, the media always talks about their team "having their backs against the wall" and/or facing "do or die time". Funny, yours truly never quite equated an NHL playoff hockey series to a firing squad, but to each their own.

Now the Wings go back home for Game 6 with a chance to close it out in front of their raucous fans at Joe Louis Arena.

Here's a prediction you can pretty well count on -- somebody's going to win and somebody's going to lose that game.

If Detroit prevails, their media might well call it "destiny" and start looking up more "puh-leeze" sound bytes of the greatness variety to apply to their next series. It can't just be hockey games. Oh no. The media insists it has to be of maximum importance, the ultimate roller coaster ride, as if life in Detroit (such as it is) depends on the Wings success.

But if TB comes into Joe Louis and wins Game 6 to even the series at 3-3, entirely possible, the media will no doubt attempt to prepare Red Wings fans for the doom that may await them. They had their chance at salvation, but are now facing Armageddon. Did I mention "puh-leeze"?

Here's hoping there's a Game 7, just to see what the media will come up with. If the Wings win and move on, we'll likely hear and read about "character", "playoff experience", "a comeback for the ages", and with apologies to John Wayne, maybe even "true grit".

But if they lose, the media will play the card they always play in such situations. To wit:

"Though they gave a valiant effort, the Wings weren't really expected to beat TB".

And if THAT happens, yours truly would have a couple questions. Well OK, so what the hell was all that crazy roller coaster hype about -- from destiny and the gold standard to being on the losing end of nuclear war? Further, does the media really believe this stuff themselves, or just try and sell it to the gullible masses?

Here's wishing the Red Wings all the best, but if they wind up losing this series, it's a pretty safe bet the populace in Detroit isn't going to start jumping out of tall buildings or bulldoze their entire city to start over -- though that's a thought.

It's a hockey series. Somebody's going to win and somebody's going to lose. Before the playoffs are over, every team but one is going to taste defeat. The high quality of play between various teams along the way is certainly to be appreciated, but can we have a little slack when it comes to the ridiculous hype?

Idle thought: There was much media hand-wringing over Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek starting in the nets. After all, he had no playoff experience, the pundits said. This was always a stupid over-hyped premise. What difference does it make whether it's a playoff game or one back in January? It's still the same game. Guys skating on ice with sticks trying to put a puck in the net. Most goals in any given game wins. And it's not like the net gets any bigger just because it's a playoff game. Either he performs well as a goalie or he doesn't. So far, Mrazek has been quite good.

And don't look now, but when's the last time you heard or read the name Jimmy Howard? The long-time Red Wing goalie has been kicked to the curb by the media. Such is the plight of goalies. Win a few games and be a star. Lose a few games and have a kid get hot in your place -- and you're forgotten faster than Mitt Romney or a runner up on Jeopardy. It's a tough, fickle business being an NHL goaltender, running for President, or trying to outsmart a couple other geeks on a trivia show.

Be it athletes, politicians, or game show participants, there's always somebody giving you competition and breathing down your neck. If you slip just a little, they just might take your place.

Pity it doesn't work the same way with the media.

Hmm. Considering many of them have heads bigger than Barry Bonds, maybe THEY should be routinely tested for performance enhancing drugs for some of the over the top hype they continue to come up with.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Derrick Rose and the smell test

In the opening round NBA playoff series, few would doubt the Chicago Bulls are a superior team to the Milwaukee Bucks. Though not total blow-outs, the Chitowners pretty well handled the Beermeisters during the first three games. Then came Game 4 in Milwaukee and something strange happened at the very end to decide it.

It should be noted that Bulls' guard Derrrick Rose is a great player -- on the rare occasions of late that he isn't on sick leave for one reason or another. This guy's made more money while NOT playing over the last couple years than many other players will make in their careers, but I digress.

At any rate, in Game 4 of the series at Milwaukee the score was tied with time winding down and Rose in possession of the ball. The shot clock was off. Time for one last play and Rose had many options. He could create his own shot, pass to a teammate, or drive to the basket in the hope of either making it or drawing a foul. Mysteriously, Rose tried to dribble between two defenders, and had the ball stripped from him. No last shot in regulation for the Bulls to possible win it. A turnover Rose was squarely responsible for with 2 seconds to go. Bucks ball and time out is called.

Now two seconds might seem like an eternity when it comes to drag racing or a man having caught a certain, ahem, appendage in his zipper, but it's not a whole lot of time for a pro basketball team to inbounds the ball and hope to put it in the basket. Yes, miracle half-court or longer shots happen, but they're rare. One thing that NEVER happens is the defenders allowing the ball to be inbounded from the sideline straight to a player waiting underneath the basket for an easy lay-up. But happen it did. The culprit? The same Derrick Rose that had committed the turnover seconds before. Normally a terrific defender, Rose appeared lost -- almost like he let it happen. Bucks win. There will be a Game 5 back in Chicago.

Nobody, probably even the Bucks themselves, really think they have a chance at coming back from a 3-0 deficit to win the series against an obviously superior team. But Rose's last second miscues on both ends of the court allowing Milwaukee to win a game raise an interesting scenario. Could it have been on purpose? Before you say pshaw, no way, and this author has totally lost his mind (too late for that anyway), consider the ramifications of Rose's unusual bone-headed plays.

For the sake of argument, let's say a typical NBA arena seats about 20,000. It's a flat-out guarantee Chicago's United Center will be sold out for Game 5. At playoff prices, tickets aren't exactly cheap, even if one can get them. They range from the nosebleed $60 variety all the way up to well over $1000 a pop. Let's assume a rather conservative overall average of $200 per seat. Do the math. That's $4 million in tickets sales alone. Cha-ching. Let's further assume that between parking fees and ridiculous concession stand prices, ranging from food, drinks, programs, team paraphernalia, etc., they rack up another million at least.

And that's not even counting the mega-bucks that will be paid by the TV folks for the rights to broadcast it. Add it all up, and your guess is as good as mine, but $10 million doesn't seem too far-fetched. For one more game.

If Derrick Rose had taken the shot or passed off to an open teammate, maybe the game -- and series -- would have been over, and maybe not. And if Rose hadn't gone into brain-lock on the defensive end to allow the winning bucket, at least there would have been overtime.

You know who's happy about this? The TV people and their sponsors (commercials) of course. The players on both teams as well. They get extra pay for another playoff game. But who's REALLY ecstatic are the owners of the Chicago Bulls, the United Center, parking attendants, and the various concessionaires mentioned above. This is another huge cha-ching that just fell in their lap.

So maybe it was meant to be. Then again, maybe Derrick's late-game actions in Game 4 don't exactly paint him as smelling like a Rose either. I wonder if he's any relation to Pete? Didn't he get in trouble for....


Idle playoff thoughts

Detroit Red Wings vs Tampa Bay Lightning.

Instead of being tied 2-2, many in Detroit think their Wings should be up 3-1 in this series. After all, already up two games to one, they were ahead 2-0 with just five minutes left to play in Game 4, but wound up losing it 3-2 in overtime.

Idle thought: Congrats on playing 55 minutes worth of good hockey, though you lucked out when the Tampa Bay goalie accidentally knocked a puck into his own net. But the game is 60 minutes, and if you can't close the deal during the last five, only to lose in OT, then you blew it.

Besides, in Game One, the Lightning outplayed the Wings for the entire game, including outshooting them by a 3 to 1 margin, but somehow Detroit "stole" a victory. The folks in Tampa Bay likely think THEY should be ahead 3-1 in the series.

2-2 sounds about right. Even Wings coach Mike Babcock admitted the same.

LA Clippers vs San Antonio Spurs.

Rememer the whole sordid Donald Sterling affair less than a year ago? As then owner of the Clips, he was eventually forced to sell. The brand new, chrome-domed NBA Commish with the big floppy ears (sometimes called Adam Silver) banned him for life.

Then along came one Steve Ballmer, a former Bill Gates associate. He would pay the ridiculous sum of $2 billion to purchase the Clippers, far above their market value. So Sterling has faded away, along with V. Stiviano, his arm-candy bimbo that got the whole mess rolling in the first place by going public with a private conversation. You remember Maria Vanessa Perez, aka Monica Gallegos, aka Monica Perez Gallegos, aka Maria Valdez, who changed her name in 2010. Throw in a Ferrari, a couple Bentleys, a Range Rover and some serious cash along the way, and you pretty well get the picture. Such a nice upstanding lady.

Idle thought: Congrats to the chrome-domed owner of the LA Clippers with the big floppy arms. He could be seen spastically waving them and chanting like your typical fanatical rednecked fan after maybe 7 or 8 too many beers during the first game his Clips faced the Spurs. The Clippers would win Game 1 of that series convincingly at home.

But then came Game 2 and the defending champion Spurs evened the series at the Staples Center. Not so high a profile for the 2 billion dollar spaz man. No sign of Sterling, but he's probably got more pressing matters to tend to these days. Like -- a bunch of lawsuits and his beloved wife still slugging it out with Maria Vanessa Monica Perez Gallegos Valdez Stiviano over a few other assets. Girls, girls. What's a few bucks between a WASP billionaress and a world class golddigger that apparently couldn't decide what race she is on her lengthy rap sheet? Can we have a little decorum and civility here?

At any rate, the Clips went to Alamoland for Game 3 and were totally blown out 100-73. Given such a dismal performance by his team, forget the high profile rabid fan routine. Ballmer might be hanging out with Darth Cheney in one of his bunkers.

But this is what happens when two coaches like Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich square off and match wits. One has never won anything and the other has developed a team concept that is second to none and has several world championships to show for it. One team talks smack on the court and a couple star players make dopey TV commericials for more money they obviously don't need. The other remains humble, unselfish, and continues to work their butts off to be the best they can be. When the Spurs are clicking they're a thing of beauty to behold, both offensively and defensively. Plus they play 10 men deep in their rotation.

Final idle thought: Obviously, $2 billion was WAY too much to pay for the Clips. So far, all Ballmer has to show for it is his team is the best team at Staples Center -- and that's because the Lakers have become pitiful. The Clips have little chance of getting by the Spurs in the opening round of the playoffs and their future doesn't appear so rosy either. With the salary cap being what it is, and they already overpaying for some "star" power, they're pretty well in a bind as far as improving their squad in the near future.

Chances of them reaching the NBA Finals, let alone winning it in the near future? Slim to none. Ballmer may have known how to max out the software potential, but he's no further ahead than Sterling when it comes to sniffing a championship. And one of them just pocketed two billion dollars from the other. So who's the dummy indeed?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Floyd Mayweather vs Muhammed Ali. Who's the greatest?

It's an interesting comparison and the real answer might well be neither. More about that later.

Few would doubt that both Mayweather and Ali were/are brash, to say the least. Ali long called himself the "greatest" (so did Jackie Gleason, another heavyweight in a different game), but his record suggests otherwise. Over his storied career, he was 56-5, with 37 KOs. It's those five losses that detract from his claim. They didn't all happen ala Joe Louis when an aging fighter hangs around too long only to get pummeled by younger boxers. Rather, Ali's defeats were spread over his career. Consider them.....

1971. In his prime he was beaten by Joe Frazier. Yes, Ali would win the subsequent two rematches, but a loss is a loss.

1973. In a non-title bout (and how can a champion fight without his title on the line?), he was soundly whupped by Ken Norton, including getting his jaw broken. He would win that rematch as well -- barely.

1978. Ali was beaten fair and square by Leon Spinks. LEON SPINKS! Hardly a show of greatness against a fighter that only had seven previous pro bouts under his belt. The apologists chalked it up to Ali getting old. Well OK. Then why did he keep coming back for more?

1980. Ali is destroyed by Larry Holmes. No rematch necessary. It would have been more of the same.

1981. In a pitiful swan song, he's beaten by Trevor Berbick.

Let's not forget 1975. The year of the rumble in the jungle and rope-a-dope, where Ali outsmarted George Foreman. It is notable that Ali never offered Foreman a rematch.

So a case could be made that Ali wasn't even the best heavyweight, let alone the greatest of all time. For that matter, in 1970, a computer simulation predicted that Ali would have been KOed by Rocky Marciano in his prime in the 8th round had they fought. There was outrage from the usual suspects, of course, and we'll never know. But Marciano remains the only undefeated heavyweight champion of all time with a record of 49-0 including a whopping 43 KOs. Too bad he died in a plane crash the year before the simulation aired. He likely would have smiled.

Mayweather doesn't call himself the "greatest", but rather the "best ever". He may have a point -- to a point. At 47-0, approaching Rocky's mark, his record is hard to dispute. He's been in against some mighty fine fighters over the years and managed to win every time. Should it matter that Mayweather is smaller in stature than the heavyweights that used to get all the attention? Probably not. Sometimes greatness comes in small packages.

His upcoming fight with Manny Pacquiao is a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because people have wanted to see them square off for years. But bad, because it took so long to finally happen. Both are "aging" fighters, and this is something that would have been infinitely more interesting had it came together years ago when both were in their primes.

Nevertheless, it will be record-setting in it's own right. Depending on pay-per-view sales, it is estimated Mayweather could make as much as $180 million for this one fight. Pacquiao's potential take is unknown, but it's likely a safe bet to say the Filipino congressman won't be hurting for money any time soon.

Most boxing analysts predict Mayweather will win to go 48-0. If so, and after such a mega-payday having finally dispatched such a world-class worthy challenger, would Mayweather hang up the gloves and call it quits? Stick around for one more to tie Rocky's record? Go for 50? Nobody knows.

Then again, what happens if Pacquiao wins the bout? It's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility. He's got some serious game too. Would there be a rematch for another couple hundred million so Floyd can add to his fleet of luxury cars he doesn't drive or Manny can build up his re-election campaign warchest?  Would the viewing public be dumb enough to buy into it again at ridiculous pay-per-view prices? Hard to say. If Manny wins, we'll find out. If Floyd wins, there will be no rematch.

The whole "greatest" thing seems to have a way of changing over the years. For decades, Babe Ruth was considered the greatest baseball slugger. Most of his records have been eclipsed. Gordie Howe was the "greatest" hockey player ever, until Wayne Gretzky (the "great one") came along and shattered his marks.

Once upon a time in boxing it was Joe Louis. Then Rocky. Then Ali. Now Mayweather. It could be argued that Julio Caesar Chavez was the greatest of all time. At one point he had an astounding professional record of 89-0-1. A six time world champion is three different weight classes. He still hold records of the most successful defenses of titles (27), most title fights (31), and is second to only the above-mentioned Joe Louis (23) with title defenses resulting in knockouts (21).

Alas, like the Brown Bomber, JCC hung around too long and wound up sullying his record. But at one time, both were considered the "greatest".

Personally, I think the greatest has nothing to do with boxing. Fittingly enough, Jackie Gleason himself rightfully dubbed that honor on another. As Ralph Kramden in the Honeymooners, who can forget that "Alice, you're the greatest".

It was either that or one of these days, pow, zoom, right to the moon. But perhaps we should leave that sort of thing to the pugilists. Pays more these days too.......

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Greg Hardy and the NFL

The former Carolina Panther and new Dallas Cowboy has just been suspended for the first 10 games of the 2015 season by the NFL. Hardy has appealed the penalty. Of course he has. He'd be crazy not to. And you know what? The league's going to lose this case when it comes before an arbitrator -- and rightly so.

No ruling body, be it the government, a corporation, or a sports league, can make new rules and then apply them retroactively to things that (allegedly) occurred before the rules were in place. This would be like the state of Michigan randomly fining bars and restaurants because they USED to allow smoking before the ban went into effect. A preposterous premise that any judge would toss out of court in a heartbeat.

But that's what the NFL is doing in the Hardy case. One would think they'd learn. After all, precedents have already been set. I'll get back to that.

Consider what allegedly occurred that got Hardy into this mess. He was accused of assaulting and threatening to kill his former girlfriend and found guilty by a judge in North Carolina. But North Carolina, like any other state, rightfully allows a defendant to appeal such a conviction. Hardy did. When all was said and done, the original charges were dismissed against Hardy. In other words, according to the law, he's innocent.

That opens up another can of worms. Since when should the NFL be allowed to further discipline players for incidents that may -- or may not -- have happened off the field? If such an incident is not job-related an employer has no business imposing a random punishment on an employee. That's what the legal system is for. To do so would seem to constitute "double jeopardy".

Sure, if a teacher has a sexual encounter with a student or a bus driver gets popped for drunk driving, further employer sanctions are warranted. It could be considered job related. But if a construction worker partakes in a little hanky-panky with an 18 year old or an accountant gets cited for a DUI, it has nothing to do with their job performance. If they were both hard workers, do you really think their bosses would give them time off? And excuse me, but doesn't the NFL, by it's very definition, make billions off a very violent game? It's OK with them if bones are broken and ligaments get shredded on the field, but they want to step in and further hammer a guy because he slapped his girlfriend or switched his kid off the field? This is not to say it's right, but it IS to say it should be none of their business.

Of course we all remember the Ray Rice debacle. Once the "elevator tape" surfaced, the NFL had a huge PR disaster on their hands. The media and much of the public were outraged, but the NFL had already handed down their original penalty, and the matter had been settled in the courts. Caving to the pressure, however misguided, the NFL tried to re-zap Rice. They lost. The retroactive, double jeopardy thing. You can't do that. A neutral arbitrator rightly ruled against them.

And now comes Hardy, technically an innocent man. Roger Goodell and company banged him with a 10 game suspension. The NFL has to know, or certainly should, that such an arbitrary suspension won't hold up in the long run. Some say it could be reduced to 6 games. Truth is, the entire suspension should be thrown out, and might well be. Again, you can't make up new rules and retroactively apply them, especially against a guy that had his original charges dismissed by the prosecutors and the court. It's a ridiculous stance to take and the NFL is surely, well, let's hope, smart enough to realize it. So why would they do such a thing?

Because Goodell and his merry band of enforcers found themselves between a rock and a hard place. To roll over and do nothing to Hardy would surely expose them to media hysteria and millions of arm-chair prosecutors sniping away. Another PR disaster. If nothing else, the NFL is image conscious these days. Better to take a stance that will keep the savages at bay, even if they know it will fail in the end. Let an arbitrator overrule them. At least they tried -- right?

But that's the thing. By pursuing such a futile action, the NFL exposes itself as being incompetent. Why pay lawyers millions of dollars to argue a case they already know they can't win? But that's the way it works these days. Better to appear politically correct on a losing cause than step up and face reality. The NFL has $10 billion reasons why they're not worried about the stupid factor with their fans for the coming season. They will come in droves and gladly continue to pay ridiculous ticket prices to support outrageous player salaries and 10 bucks for a dime's worth of nasty beer. The stupid factor is a given and they know it.

Over the next few months Greg Hardy will twist in the wind, while the media snipers and arm-chair idiots continue to besmirch his name. Seems like everybody's a prosecutor these days. Never mind the facts, he must be guilty of SOMETHING.

It will take a while before this case is finally resolved, but it's 4 months before the 2015 NFL campaign gets serious. Plenty of time for an arbitrator to hear all the evidence, lack thereof, and make a final ruling.

Don't be surprised if Greg Hardy is suiting up for Game 1 as a Cowboy in September. And given all the above, he damn well should be.

Detroit Lions 2015 schedule -- an objective look

Like all other NFL teams, the Lions have known for some time who their opponents would be this year. They just didnt't know in what order they would face them. Now they do. Here's a look at their schedule and how things might well play out.

Week 1.
@ San Diego. Probably lose.
Week 2.
@ Minnesota. Even with Adrian Peterson, the Lions likely win.
Week 3.
Denver. They still have Peyton, right? Probably lose.
Week 4.
@ Seattle. Forget about it.
Week 5.
Ariz. Cards beat them last year without their starting QB, and they'll beat them again this year with him.
Week 6.
Chicago. A gimme.
Week 7
Minnesota. Another gimme.
Week 8.
@ London vs Kansas City. A serious road game for both teams. And the coin flip says -- Lions lose.
Week 9.
Week 10.
@ Green Bay. See Week 4.
Week 11.
Oakland. Put it in the bank.
Week 12.
Philadelphia. Will be interesting to see how the Eagles shake out this year, but the Lions get them at home. Probably win.
Week 13.
Green Bay. The Pack is a much better team, but the Lions play them tough at Ford Field. Probably win.
Week 14
@ St. Louis. Look for a let down after the home game against the Cheesers and it's on the road. Probably lose.
Week 15.
@ New Orleans. Tough call, but the Lions have never fared well in the Big Easy. Probably lose.
Week 16.
San Fran. The 49ers lost Jim Harbaugh and are taking on water fast elsewhere. Lions win.
Week 17.
@ Chicago. Lions roll.

The Lions definitely have a tougher road this year than the patsy schedule they faced in 2014. Yet this is what happens when a team makes the playoffs, even if they got bounced -- again -- in the first round.

So add it all up, and it comes to 8-8.

Or maybe 9-7.
10-6 would be nice.
11-5 is theoretically possible, if they catch every break imaginable.

Then again, it could go the other way.
7-9 is entirely possible as well.
So is 6-10 if the breaks go against them.
5-11 would be considered disastrous, but it could happen.

The Honolulu blue and silver hype machine, along with their ever-faithful, if gullible media, will kick into warp drive again when the 2015 campaign finally kicks off -- almost five months from now. The die-hard fans will pay big bucks to flock to Ford Field to see their heroes. Likewise, taverns will be chock full of thousands of them eating wings, chugging beer, and rooting on their beloved puddy-tats while clad in their garb. It happens every year.

Bottom line?

It's all about getting to and winning the Super Bowl.

The Lions' chances of accomplishing that this year?

See Weeks 4 and 10 mentioned above.

Not a chance.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cocky, stupid, and amazing

The Golden State Warrior finished the regular season with the best record in the NBA. As the #1 overall seed they will enjoy home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

They have Stephen Curry, an MVP candidate, Draymond Green as a most-improved player possibility, and Klay Thompson, who can also shoot the lights out from 3 point range. Plus they have a head coach in Steve Kerr who knows a little something about winning himself. He was the "other" guard on the Jordan/Pippen Chicago Bulls teams that had their dynasty back in the 90s.

Though they haven't won squat yet when it matters in the playoffs -- these guys are getting cocky, both on and off the court. Don't look now, but the #8 New Orleans Pelicans have given the Warriors all they want in the first two games by the Bay. While nobody expects a #8 to prevail over a #1 in a series, GS would be well-advised to stop thinking they're "all that" and get back to playing hard-nosed fundamental basketball. Getting cocky has been the downfall of many over the years and running the gauntlet of the Western Conference NBA playoffs won't exactly be a cake-walk. Home court or not, these guys can be beaten, and don't be surprised if it happens along the way.

Sometimes looking beyond stupid reveals -- even more stupid. You've likely seen the commercial. The one with the dopey lady that used to sell insurance policies out of shoeboxes in a sanitarium that is now out and about. See her merrily walking down the street. See a line of delivery vans having fallen in line behind her following her every move. See an equally dopey cop watch the spectacle. What this has to do with insurance is a very good question.

A better question might be -- why the hell is this nitwit walking in the middle of the road when it's plainly visible there are sidewalks on both sides of it? HELLO? And how stupid are the drivers of the vehicles that they ignored their routes to tail and mimic this twit's every move? Worse yet, what happened to the cop? How come he didn't write her a ticket? This is worst case of jay-walking yours truly has ever seen.

While on the subject of stupid, a cable TV channel covering the NBA playoffs has quite the talking head panel to analyze the games they broadcast. A cast that would make the Marx Brothers, Stooges, or even Congress look brilliant by comparison.

Shaq. A 7 foot, 300+ pound behemoth whose most intelligent moments come in the form of goofy smiles and occasional grunts. Perhaps he should stick to those foot powder commercials with the paid models giving him adoring looks. Let's just say his mouth is not an asset.

Kenny. The yappy little guy with the inferiority complex that seems to be on a mission to prove he's relevant in some way. It's not working.

Charles. A one of a kind guy. Thankfully. Charles thinks he's smarter than everybody else. Charles is also likely proud of his golf swing. Charles has never won squat in his whole life but has always been the center of attention. Note to Chuck. Stop with the dumb jokes. If you want to do something entertaining, swat Kenny off his stool.

Ernie. Such a panel wouldn't be complete without a nerdy little white guy in a bow tie serving as a foil. Please.

Long-time NBA ref Joey Crawford is not just still around, but is once again officiating playoff games. You remember Joey. He's the bald headed guy that stiffly lumbers up and down the court like he just came out of a colonoscopy. The all-time loosest cannon amongst NBA refs. The guy that once gave Tim Duncan a technical foul for smiling at him, amongst his other ridiculous moments. Joey was never content to merely call the game -- he wanted to be an entertainer himself. He would have been perfect as a ref for the Harlem Globetrotters games over the years.

But after all his gaffes, goofs, and boneheaded calls over the years as an NBA ref, one could logically ask the question -- what the hell is he still doing out there -- especially in the playoffs?


Pete Rose, FOX, and grumpy old men

It appears Charlie Hustle is finally back in baseball -- sort of. FOX has signed him to do pre-game TV commentary on various games and other talking head duties. It's a start.

While FOX is affiliated with Major League Baseball as a broadcast partner, and Rose remains "banned" from the game, the network didn't need the league's permission to hire him (though they did give them a heads-up). This is a good thing because the alternative would definitely be cause for concern. If and when a major conglomerate like MLB can dictate who they will or will not approve as on-air talent to provide commentary on their business, then any objective media coverage could find itself on the endangered species list down the road. Tow the party line or get your press passes yanked. Granted, most scribes and talking heads have already succumbed to the politically correct fever, whereby they've lost sight of objectivity in favor of being Pollyannas. In other words, they're scared to death of being critical of ANYBODY, lest it, horrors!, offend someone -- even though it's their job to do so when a given situation calls out for it . True, there's still a few around with a little gumption, but they're a dying breed.

Pete Rose has been banned since 1989 -- 26 years ago. At that, he was conned in the first place over his betting. Rose was led to believe that if he just "fessed up" and accepted a ban, MLB would consider leniency towards him in the future. Twenty six years and no change. That's a mighty long sentence with no end in sight. So what happened to the "leniency"? New and current Commissioner Rob Manfred has stated he would consider Rose's case based on its merits. Translation? He's going to kick the can down the road much like his predecessor Bud Selig and other Commissioners before him did. In other words, Manfred is more worried about his image than righting an obvious travesty of justice.

Public opinion overwhelmingly supports Rose not only being reinstated to the game, but getting his rightful spot in Cooperstown as the all-time hits leader -- a record that will never even be approached in the future, much less surpassed.

What few realize is that the Hall of Fame itself is an independent entity from MLB. They are not, and never have been bound by any rulings or proclamations handed down by any Commissioner over the years. However, they have always had a rule that says induction into their Hall requires 75% of the eligible voters cast their ballots for any given candidate.

Enter the grumpy old men. For the most part, the Hall electorate consists of the BBWAA (BaseBall Writers Association of America). In order to be a member of THAT club, one must have been a baseball beat writer for at least 10 years. Consider what that translates to as well.

Some hot shot kid fresh out of journalism school might find a job with a newspaper, but it would likely take them several years to work their way up to getting a major league assignment as a beat writer. Add on another 10 years after they become card-carrying members of the BBWAA, and what do you have? Old schoolers, set in their ways. These are the people that decide who goes to the Hall of Fame -- or not.

They don't want to hear about how the Hall if chock full of drunks and adulterers that their predecessors voted in. They also don't want to hear about how Ty Cobb once allegedly killed a man, and all the other racists they voted in over the years. And they surely don't want to hear the truth about the most "infamous" of them all - one Shoeless Joe Jackson and his Chicago Black Sox that supposedly threw the 1919 World Series. Nevermind that when all the evidence, or lack thereof, finally came out, Jackson was totally absolved of any wrong doing. Look it up. No, it's much easier to sweep the mistakes of the past under the rug and pretend they never happened than face them and correct it, if posthumously. Jackson went to his grave in 1951 still rightfully proclaiming his innocence -- to no avail. The old schoolers weren't interested. Still aren't.

Look at recent history. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both otherwise locks to the Hall of Fame, were accused of a lot of things, but never found guilty of ANYTHING relating to substance abuse. Like Shoeless Joe, when they finally got their day in court, they were absolved. Yet that doesn't seem to make any difference. Initial perception (see media hype and the ever-growing horde of arm-chair prosecutors) became reality. Once accused, they MUST be guilty seems to be in vogue these days. That should be a very scary thought, because it could happen to you some day. Don't think so? How many times have we heard of guys doing 25-30 years in prison before DNA evidence finally cleared them of a crime they never committed? It happens. Why? Because old-schoolers were content to let them rot rather than be objective and open-minded all along to things that just might contradict their original perception.

Let's get real. Some day, some year, Pete Rose will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Make no mistake, it's going to happen eventually -- because it has to. The all-time hits leader in the entire history of baseball being denied because he bet on his own team to win while he was a manager? Are you kidding me? The only thing holding it up is the grumpy old men who would rather stand on their misguided principles than face reality. Like the dinosaurs, they may have been around for a long time and ruled the roost, but their time is coming to fade away into extinction and be replaced by more intelligent creatures. They will see things differently and rightly so.

The only question is whether Rose will still be alive to enjoy it. Now 74, he's not exactly a young man. So why not just get it done already?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Detroit Red Wings and crazy playoffs

Few would doubt the annual NHL Stanley Cup playoffs are always a crapshoot. Higher seeded teams that showed their superiority during the regular season are often shown a quick exit. Conversely, there have been squads that barely squeaked into the playoffs as wildcards that have got hot and rolled to win it all. Ya never know.

What's the difference between a really hot goaltender stopping everything and a guy getting beat every which way? Given any netminder that makes it to the NHL has already proven he's very skilled -- mostly luck. The shots are going to come and any NHL goalie will stop the vast majority of the garden variety. But throw in screens, deflections, weird bounces, and/or a defensive gaffe in front of him that results in a 2 or 3 on one situation headed his way quickly, and sometimes he just has to live with his best guess and hope it works out. The same guy can be a brick wall one game, and a screen door on a submarine the next. Again, ya never know.

During the first two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Wings have shown how unpredictable the playoffs are.

In the first game, they were out-skated, out-coached, out-toughed, and out-shot by a 3 to 1 margin. Yet incredibly, they came away with a 3-2 victory. They had absolutely no business winning that game, but their goalie was hot/lucky. Brick wall.

The very same guy, one Petr Mrazek, got yanked during the middle of Game 2 when the red light behind him kept going on. Screen door. In post-game interviews, Red Wings players said it felt like a close game. The problem? At the end, the scoreboard read 5-1, not so close, with the Wings on the short end.

Detroit is fortunate indeed to not be down 0-2 in this series. Ipso facto, it now becomes the best 3 out of 5, with the Wings having regained home ice advantage. Theoretically, this should work in their favor. Any team would rather play at home in front of their raucous fans to juice them up. But will it make a difference?

Maybe. Maybe not. After all, the Wings "stole" one in Tampa Bay against a team that badly outplayed them. Top to bottom, roster wise, the Lightning are superior to the Wings. Bigger, stronger, and faster. Could they go into Detroit and win one, or even both of the next two contests? Sure. These guys are all professionals and playing in a hostile arena isn't likely to faze them much. Been there, done that, lots of times -- both ways.

Or -- they could split the next two games to make it a best 2 out of 3. Or -- Detroit could win both to go up 3-1, and take a commanding lead. Like most other NHL playoff series', this one started out a crapshoot and remains so.

However improbably it may happen, one thing is etched in stone. First team to 4 victories moves on and the other goes home.

Coaches can juggle lines, scratch this player in favor of that one, and spout all the Soupy Sales-ish words of wisdom they want while the media hangs on their every word. Hey, all these guys, on both teams, are really good or they wouldn't be there. Brick walls and screen doors. Screen shots and deflections. Weird bounces and goalposts that can go either way.

Bottom line?

Forget all the stats the media monsters keep throwing out, because they're irrelevant. It's the NHL playoffs -- remember? Anything can happen and already has in this and other series'. There will likely be much more of the unexpected before it's over.

In any given game between any two given teams, predicting the outcome involves a system we have all long since become familiar with. Sometimes the old ways are best.

Got a coin?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Jordan Spieth. Let the idiocy begin -- again

As we all know, Jordan Spieth won the Masters golf tournament last week. Along the way, he equalled or bettered several scoring records. Very impressive stuff indeed.

To boot, Spieth has been on quite a roll over the last few months. Virtually unknown and buried in the world golf rankings a scant year ago, JS has become the hot topic in golf and zoomed into the Top Five. Again, credit where credit is due.

But these days, you just know what's going to happen next -- and it's already begun. With apologies to the Bard, cry havoc and let slip the dogs of hype. The create-a-hero maniacs are up to their usual shenanigans. Appreciating a run of very fine play isn't enough for them. They're always looking for ways to make it into something more -- and sell it to the masses. Evidently, they think the sporting public would wither away if they didn't have a hero, real or created. There MUST be a #1 sensation at all times. While many have claimed nature abhors a vacuum, it could also be argued that filling it with empty sound bytes and pseudo-hype isn't the best scenario either.

The cover of the latest edition of Sports Illustrated is a good example. Ignoring the obvious groaner pun -- JORDAN RULES, they say. The Spieth era begins now.

Well, maybe it does, but maybe it doesn't either. Jordan Spieth has been on a hot streak of late, winning a few tournaments, coming close in others, and just chalked up his first Major, replete with the coveted green jacket. And he's still only 21 years old. Did I mention impressive stuff?

But the dogs of hype are out of control -- again. It's like they expect Spieth to continue a run of dominance for the next several years on the PGA tour. Could it happen? Sure. Odds against it? High.

The competition is too ferocious, with new young guns popping up like dandelions every spring. Remember not long ago, much the same was said about Rory McIlroy. Yes, he's still the #1 ranked player in the world, but it's not like he's blitzing the field every week. Far from it. He misses cuts in some tournaments, finishes in the pack in others, and occasionally wins one. After he went on a hot streak a few years back, including winning a couple Majors by wide margins, he was anointed as some sort of golf god by the hero-makers. These days, Rory's just another good player. Creating false idols can be tricky business, especially when a new object of worship seems to pop up every few months.

The same hype-droids are still clinging to their biggest hero of all. Tiger Woods. They will force feed us Tiger highlights, even if he's hopelessly out of contention in any given tournament. We still see the obligatory Tiger press conferences with the media hanging on his every word -- though he might be 15 shots back. They are pulling out all the stops to resurrect their hero of yesteryear. Never mind the game is better than ever since Eldrick went in the tank a few years back, it's like they just -- can't -- let -- him -- go.

So here's an idea. How about holding off on elevating a 21 year old phenom like Spieth into golf's version of future sainthood and give the kid a chance to breathe and just play the game?

Is that asking too much?

It would be fitting if the media monsters that continue to peddle their sensationalism of sports figures were held to the same standards. After writing a good article or doing a TV interview with an athlete that was an eye-opener -- maybe we should expect them to win a Pulitzer or an Emmy every year. After all, if they want to put pressure on those they cover by creating ridiculous standards -- why shouldn't they be subjected to the same themselves? Anything less would deem them as not having lived up to their potential.

Seems fair enough.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Aaron Hernandez gets convicted

No big surprise here. The verdict was as expected. Whether or not he really did it -- only Hernandez knows for sure -- will forever remain a moot point. The jury coming back "hung" would have been a stunner, and an OJ-ish not guilty finding would certainly have set the talking heads and legal analysts into warp-drive speak for a few months. But the 12 people in the box found differently and so be it. Guilty of first degree murder. A mandatory sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole.

That should be just about that -- right? Game over. Not exactly. When given such a chance, people always want to get their licks in, however misguided, illogical, and dumb they may be. The horse is dead, but they want to keep kicking it anyway. Consider.....

After the Murder 1 verdict was announced, the court allowed "victim impact" statements. Relatives of the victim could come forward to express their grief and outrage to the judge. Most courts are already hopelessly backlogged and this is a colossal waste of the court's time. The sentence is mandatory. He's never getting out, so emotional pleas will make ZERO difference. If they want to whine, take it to the media outside, who will typically be more than happy to listen to them for hours, days, weeks, or until another big story breaks in 5 minutes.

There are those crowing that Hernandez also got convicted on 5 weapons charges. Again, what difference does it make? After he dies in prison for the murder charge, will they let him rot in his cell for a few extra years on the weapons charges before disposing of his remains? What's the point in tacking on a few more years to a natural life sentence? Just how dead does a convicted murderer have to be before he's paid his debt to society in full? Such overkill, pun maybe intended, is stupid, when one thinks about it.

Yet sometimes the crowing is taken to heights of ignorance as people gleefully celebrate what should be considered a very sad case all around. At least one young man was murdered. A former star athlete will spend the rest of his life behind bars after being found responsible. This is not funny, on any level.

But as irony would have it, Hernandez will spend his time at the Walpole max-security prison located only three scant miles away from Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, where he was a star not long ago.

Some pundits find this amusing in their vengeful ways of thinking. Hernandez will be able to hear the roar of the crowds at the place he once played in, they say while the venom continues to ooze from their fangs. Life behind bars isn't good enough for them. They have to rub it in.

But they just show their ignorance. Three miles is a long way for sound to travel. Even a rocking NFL stadium isn't heard three miles away -- the sound is channeled up, not outward --  much less in a walled maximum security prison.

So Hernandez did the crime, and now he's gotta do the time. The jury and judge said so.

All the rest of the hoopla is just people taking advantage of their "15 minutes" to flap their gums when the opportunity arose surrounding a tragic situation.

Bottom line. Now in the "system", Hernandez will be "disappeared" and quickly forgotten as just another number.

Heard anything about OJ lately? Likely not. He's still doing his time in a podunk town of northwestern Nevada, appropriately enough named Lovelock.

See what I mean? Big news today is no news tomorrow.

But there's no reason to gloat about the outcomes of such scenarios. It's not funny, never was. It's just sad and tragic that certain things happened in the first place.

NFL teams and the duh factor

As mentioned in my previous post, with the draft drawing nigh, the NFL experts are dissecting every college player wannabe with a precision a microbiologist would be proud of. They know EVERYTHING. And that's just the mainstream sports media, along with the usual TV talking head swamis that make a fortune predicting the future to those gullible enough to listen and believe it as gospel. The suckers were, are, and will always remain many -- and the pseudo-shamans know it.

Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they get it wrong. It's kind of like your average tarot card reader, astrologer, or first marriage. Maybe it works out as hoped. Maybe not.

But if one can look beyond the self-professed geniuses, they will find another group of people that know a little bit about football. This would be the NFL itself and its various teams. Though some have historically enjoyed much more success than others over the years, theoretically every franchise devotes vast resources to being the best team they can be.

Besides the head coach and the offensive/defensive coordinators, name the position and the team has a coach for it. Name an injury and they have world class doctors to repair it. They have trainers. shrinks, counselors, personal assistants, masseurs, and pretty much everything imaginable to keep their players in tip-top form. On the business side, they typically have a general manager, assistant GM, director of player personnel, and a room full of bean counters. There's media relations folks, advertising/marketing folks, human relations folks, the sales department, and likely another room or two full of support staff that perform various functions we never hear about. And lord knows, every team has an army of scouts out looking for potential talent 24/7/365. In other words, they have all the bases covered to the best of their ability.

Further, every team has watched extensive film on any player of possible interest, were there at the meat-market NFL combine in Indianapolis to poke, prod, measure, and psychoanalyze everything from prime ribs to chuck roasts, depending on their possible needs.

Yet very strange things are happening with some teams and potential draft picks. Consider:

It's all but a given QB Jameis Winston of Florida State will wind up being drafted #1 by the Tampa Bay Bucs. They need a QB, JW would be a fan favorite having played his college ball upstate, and it would be stunning if they traded that pick away.

Consider further the "war rooms" of every NFL team have had ample time to do their homework and put their draft boards together. They know who they want, how much they can afford with salary cap implications, and pretty much what the other teams are looking for as well. In short, they likely have a very good idea who will still be available when it's their turn to pick, last minute trades up/down aside.

Enter the duh factor. Why would the Chicago Bears bring Jameis Winston in for a workout? They pick 7th. Not a chance Winston falls that far. A potential trade? What have the Duh Bears got to offer the Bucs that they would give up a potential franchise QB? Ain't gonna happen. So what's the point of bringing him in? Sure, if I'm Winston, I'll fly first class to Chitown on a private jet to be treated like royalty while checking out the sights on their dime. If they're dumb enough to pay for it -- why not?

Same with Marcus Mariota, the recent Heisman trophy winner from Oregon. He'll likely be the second QB off the board. The San Diego Chargers recently sent their "brain trust" up to Oregon to work him out. The Chargers have the 17th pick in the draft. Mariota may or may not fall out of the Top 5, but he sure as hell will be long gone before the #17 pick rolls around. So what's the point other than wasting a bunch of man-hours and jet fuel sending people on a wild goose chase? Duh.

But you just know how it's going to work out in the end. The perennial "duh" franchises like the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, and Jacksonville Jaguars will all crow about how they made a killing in the draft. Their local media will spread the propaganda because that's what they do. And the local suckers will believe it and buy more tickets -- because that's what THEY do. These teams are all about selling hope, but make no mistake -- you won't see any of them in a Super Bowl soon -- if ever. Too much duh factor.

On the other hand, smart teams like the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, and Seattle Seahawks will quietly find "diamonds in the rough" and quickly turn them into solid players at the NFL level. For every lost star to free agency, they have a way of finding another to plug in and not miss a beat -- because that's what THEY do.

A difference.

No duh about it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

More dumb things. Please

What a surprise to see the top paying jobs in America. Who knew that a brain surgeon typically hauls in more annual loot than a garbage collector? And what a stunner that lawyers charging $300-400 an hour make more than the folks that deliver pizzas or super-size you? Please.

That most interesting guy in the world is back again. Not sure what he drinks, but whatever it is seems to still have the magical ability to attract brain dead stick girls the world over. His motto should be -- stay wasted, my friends, and the moronic bimbos will keep on coming. Please.

A few more guys in Major League Baseball have recently been given 80 game suspensions when the steroid Stanozolol was found in their system. It's hard to say who's dumber. The players themselves, when it's long been known that steroid is easily detectable through the most basic urine test, or new Commissioner Rob Manfred who is shocked -- SHOCKED -- that over the counter pharmaceuticals in the home countries of many Latino players might turn up in their systems at some point. Please.

Of course those players say they have no idea how such a thing could happen. They would never knowingly put such a banned substance into their body. Either they're liars, or just.... that... dumb. At any rate, in modern times this excuse ranks right up there with the dog ate my homework alibi of old. Nobody believed such nonsense then or now. Pretty please.

It's not enough that Jordan Spieth won the 2015 Masters, while setting a few scoring records along the way. Oh no, we must always have the Tiger comparisons. Tiger once did this. Tiger once did that. Well, guess what? Tiger finished a whopping 13 strokes behind and isn't even in the Top 100 golfers in the world anymore. So why does the fascination about a once great player that is obviously on the back side of his bell curve continue? Gimme a break. He had his ten years of dominance and it's over. Stick a fork in him. Please.

Why do veterinarians push year-round monthly heartworm pills for pets in Michigan, when it's a mosquito borne disease? Show me a mosquito in Michigan from Dec.1 to April 1 -- and I'll eat it. There aren't any. So why should people pay for four pills -- and they're not cheap -- that their pets don't need? The cha-chings for the shots are bad enough.

Idle thought: Given many such shots cost about $25, and they typically contain about 1 CC of medicine, and further given there are roughly 3700 CCs in a gallon -- simple math will tell you a single gallon of rabies and/or distemper vaccine winds up fetching a colossal $92,500. So theoretically a jug of this stuff is worth 3 brand new cars? Something is very wrong with this picture. Puh-leeze. Did I mention vets are among the top paying jobs as well? Imagine that.

The NFL draft is approaching and the usual annual hype is already everywhere and will reach the also usual fever pitch before it's over. Some college players will go on to be pro stars and others will be busts. We've seen plenty of both over the years, regardless of where in the draft they are taken.

But there's another really dumb thing going on right now with a few teams and college prospects.

More on that next time out......

Monday, April 13, 2015

NBA, stars and teams. Part II

In my previous post I attempted to outline why a "superstar" player on any given NBA team doesn't necessarily translate into a championship. Names such as James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul were mentioned.

Consider what some superstars have accomplished, or not, during their careers.

Bill Russell of the long ago Boston Celtics won lots of championships, but he had a terrific supporting cast as well.

So did Michael Jordan of Chicago Bulls fame, on both fronts.

Kobe had Shaq, Kareem had Magic, and all four enjoyed the luxury of very talented teammates when the Lakers were all the rage.

Bird had McHale, Parrish, and a couple mighty fine guards when the Celtics peaked again back in the late 80s.

For all his talents, Dr. J and his 76ers couldn't win until they acquired Moses Malone.

A phenomenal talent himself, the late Pistol Pete Maravich never did sniff a championship in all his years in New Orleans. He didn't have any help.

Arguably the best player of all time, Lebron James, couldn't get over the hump in his first go-round with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He would eventually win championships in Miami, but without the likes of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and others, that likely wouldn't have happened either. Superstars are a good thing, but standing alone aren't enough to win championships.

There have been exceptions, notably the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons of the late 80s. It was thought they just out-muscled, out-willed, and out-toughed everybody. But that's not exactly accurate. They had two future Hall of Famers in Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars at the time, plus a terrific supporting cast of their own. Everybody knew their roles, did them well, and they had the perfect coach in the late Chuck Daly to bring it all together.

Back to the present. Certainly the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks have all but lapped the field during the regular season in their respective conferences. But can either close the deal in the next several weeks of the playoffs? Maybe. Maybe not.

Here's two teams to watch out for.

San Antonio. As defending champs and a veteran team, the Spurs have been there, done that. Plus they have the best head coach in the game. They have a mixture of aging stars and terrific young players. On both ends of the court, nobody plays better team basketball than the Spurs. While others have grabbed the limelight, San Antonio is quite content to fly under the radar. And don't look now, but they've won their last 10 in a row and might well wind up the #2 seed in the West. Bet against Coach Pop and his Spurs in the playoffs at your own peril.

The name Lebron always rings a bell. A superstar indeed, maybe even the best all-around player ever. Yet just last year in the NBA Finals, the King and his band of Miami Heat mercenaries were humbled at the hands of the Spurs. So he went back home to Cleveland. Nothing wrong with that.

The Cavs themselves have been flying under the radar all year as well. But after a slow start, they finally gelled, and have put together a very impressive record of 51-28 at the time of this writing. True, Lebron doesn't have D-Wade and Chris to help him anymore, but he might have something even better. Kyrie and and Kevin. Also true is the Cavs hired a nitwit coach with zero NBA credentials on any level, appropriately enough named Blatt. But hey, they're owned by Dan Gilbert. It has been said even an incompetent clueless boob can occasionally strike it rich in America. People are free to draw their own conclusions about such things. Is this a great country, or what?

But in the East, there really isn't that much serious competition. After a quick start, the Toronto Raptors have been wilting in the last couple months. The Chicago Bulls, with or without Derrick Rose, appear to be a good, but not really good team. The Washington Wizards? Please.

It appears only Atlanta and Cleveland will be serious contenders in the playoffs. And who do you think would win that series, even given the Hawks would have home court advantage? Did I mention betting against Lebron and the resurgent Cavs at your own peril?

Who will eventually advance to slug it out in the NBA Finals is anybody's guess. Possible future injuries aside, I'm just saying that star players are a terrific asset, and the talking heads will continue to rant and rave over them. That's what they teach them in talking head school. But without a very good supporting cast, and a coach that has the wisdom to put all the pieces together in the right places at the right times, even the best of players will find themselves kicked to the curb somewhere during the course of the playoffs. Scoring titles, MVPs, and a bazillion endorsements and/or more moronic TV ads are one thing. Winning a ring is quite another.

Sometimes the low profile guys that work the hardest wind up coming out on top. You didn't see Coach Pop or any of his Spurs selling insurance last year. Likewise, we haven't witnessed Lebron James or any of his Cavs teammates in any dopey commercials lately either for a few more bucks they don't need.

And all in the above paragraph continue to fly under the radar of the terabyte-per-second talking hypester droid machines.

Idle thought: Do these guys and gals rant like that when they go home? Is it any wonder wedding rings on their fingers appear to be scarce? Who would put up with that crap for long?

Bottom line. Listen to the hype if you will, but in a month or so, don't be surprised if a couple teams that have been patiently working and planning for the playoffs all along wind up clashing in the Finals for all the marbles.

I'm just saying.......

Sunday, April 12, 2015

NBA. Stars today, gone soon. Part I

It's interesting to note some of the things that have been going on around the NBA lately. Not the least of which is the typical media hype over certain star players. The talking heads need their heroes even more than the fans.

While terrific players are, duh, necessary to a team's success, a media created superstar doesn't necessarily translate to playoff success, much less winning a championship. Let's look at a few.

Just last night, Russell Westbrook of the Okla City Thunder poured in a whopping 54 points. His team would lose by 12 to the lowly Indiana Pacers. Granted, teammate "superstar" Kevin Durant is on the shelf again with another injury. KD seems to have a little Murphyish Tiger Woods in him. For a guy in such terrific shape, if something can go physically wrong, it probably will. But even if Durant was still there, the chances of OKC reaching the NBA Finals were slim or none. That's because a while back they made the incredibly bone-headed mistake of letting a key player get away in free agency.

Enter James Harden, the younger clone of Grady from the Sanford and Son comedy series of old. Like Westbrook, Harden's been lighting it up on the court with his scoring. See him drill 3 pointers. See him dribble his way through four defenders like Curly Neal of the Harlem Globetrotters for improbable baskets. See him neck and neck with Westbrook for the scoring title and MVP consideration. See him and his Houston Rockets likely make an early exit from the playoffs. When one guy's hoisting up 40-some shots per game, it doesn't say a whole lot about his supporting cast.

There's Batman and Robin, sometimes known as the Splash Brothers, for Golden State. When it comes to pure shooting, few would doubt the tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are a dynamic duo indeed. Perhaps the best ever. It should also be noted the Warriors have the best record in the entire NBA and will enjoy home court advantage throughout the playoffs. But when the defenses start tightening the screws in the playoffs -- does anybody really think these guys can run the formidable gauntlet of the West? Not I. Steph and Klay might well get splashed out of the post-season in the first couple rounds of play.

Notice we haven't heard much about Chris Paul and the Clippers lately. Maybe that's because dear Chris is still recuperating from having his ankles broken by the above-mentioned Curry in a recent game. Ouch. And mercifully, those moronic insurance TV ads Chris did with his twin brother Cliff seem to finally have run their course. Yes, the Clips are pretty good, what with the likes of Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan prowling the court. But Sir Charles Barkley hit it on the nose when he said, "If your best player is only 6 feet tall, you're not going to win a championship". Anybody that swings a golf club like Chuck gets my attention, though some of his stupid commercials can go away any time now -- please. Nevertheless, let's scratch the Clips from serious consideration to go far.

The Atlanta Hawks won the East by a wide margin and will enjoy home court advantage as well. Conversely, they don't feature any "superstars" and have relied on team basketball to get them in the position they're in. But again, does anybody really think they'll make it through to the Finals, let alone win it? Count yours truly as highly skeptical.

So when push comes to shove with the big boys and the refs start swallowing their whistles in the playoffs, who can we look to see still playing in June?

The likely possibilities might surprise you, because they've been flying under the radar all year long while the yappy heads have been ranting about superstar players and their individual accomplishments. But when one really thinks about it, such an outcome wouldn't be surprising at all.

On to the real deal, next time. Working.....

Detroit sports. Good news and bad news

Let's start with the Detroit Tigers. The good news is they're off to a terrific 5-0 start, having so far out-scored their opponents by a whopping 28 runs.

The bad news is -- the Kansas City Royals in the same division are also 5-0. Remember last year? Pundits said the Tigers had the "best starting rotation in baseball", sluggers galore, and were a shoo-in to reach the post season. Indeed they did, only to be broomed out of the playoffs by Baltimore. In the end, guess who wound up going to the World Series? Yep, the very same KC.

The moral of the story? Wake me up in October and we'll all see who's who.

The Detroit Red Wings have reached the post-season for a record 24th straight year. Impressive? Sure. Any record is noteworthy. But making the playoffs in the NHL is a watered down stat. Fully half the teams in the league qualify for the post-season every year. A squad has to be pretty bad NOT to make it.

The good news is -- when it comes to the annual chase for Lord Stanley's cup, anything can happen. Top seeds can, and have been bounced early. Lesser teams like the Wings can get hot and roll to the Cup. The NHL playoffs are a total crapshoot, so Detroit has as good a chance as anybody else.

The bad news? The Wings can't seem to figure out who their goalie is. Everybody they throw in can be brilliant one day and get lit up like a pinball machine the next. Few would doubt that brilliant goaltending is a must to get far in the NHL playoffs. They will be tested -- severely. We'll see.....

When it comes to the Detroit Pistons, good news is tough to come by. It appears they're going to finish about 30 games behind in the Eastern Conference (it would be 35 in the West) and any delusions about making the playoffs have long since been quashed.

The really bad news? The few players they have with any talent are nearing the ends of their contracts. Given the first opportunity, chances are these guys will look to go somewhere else to play for a contender. The Pistons and their hype machine can spin things all they want, but if you think they're bad now, wait a couple years. It's likely going to get even worse.

For what it's worth, the good news is -- the season is almost mercifully over for the woeful Pistons.

Idle thought: Given an 82 game regular season, you have to be bad -- REALLY bad -- to finish 30 games behind.

Last but not least are the Detroit Lions. The good news is -- like the Red Wings -- the Lions have a 24 year playoff streak of their own that remains intact.

The bad news is -- that's how long it's been since they last won a playoff game.

Good news. The Lions de-thugged themselves somewhat when Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley left town to play elsewhere.

More good news. The NFL draft is approaching and we all know the Lions "braintrust" will select either "can't miss" players, or "diamonds in the rough", that somehow all the other teams overlooked. How will we know this? Because the club and its ever-faithful local media will tell us so. It happens every year.

The really good news? Spring has sprung and the next thing you know, Honolulu blue and silver koolaid stands will start popping up everywhere in southeastern Michigan. Powerful stuff, that brew. Some have been addicted to it for over 50 years. They have to have their fix. Sadly, few ever find their way out of the madness that goes along with thinking every year is going to be THE year. The dream of the Lions getting to the Super Bowl, much less winning it, is kind of like thinking the Loch Ness monster will be reeled in by a fisherman any day now. Or Bigfoot will parachute into Washington DC and announce he's running for President next year. Now THAT would be an interesting development. Given the current field of wannabes -- he might not be a bad choice -- but I digress.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the Lions, there's always bad news. Good grief, over a half century and counting of futility and bumbling is ample evidence that only the hardest of hard core Hono BS koolaiders could ignore. Then again, it's their time, money and fantasies. If they want to keep chasing rainbows looking for a pot of gold at the end -- more power to them. The world is a big place and it needs all kinds. After all, who would doubt successful people would be much less so if their legions of loyal, brainwashed droids ever became self-aware and realized they'd been conned all along?

In sum, depending on how one wishes to look at it -- perhaps there is good news for the Lions. The hopelessly addicted koolaiders will no doubt line up for their fixes once again this fall.

But the bad news can also be summed up in six scant words.

It's still the Lions.



Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Masters, wine, and Jordan Spieth

I love the Masters. Always have, but some of this reverence and awe stuff has its limits.

Maybe it's cool to keep galleries far away from some greens so Augusta National can show off their flower gardens instead of letting the cha-ching paying fans get an up close look at the putting action. Or maybe not.

Name any other sporting contest and the paying public in attendance are free, even encouraged, to make as much noise as possible. DEE-FENSE!!. At the Masters, speaking in hushed tones continues to be in order. Even the announcers, who as talking heads would rant and rave over a spectacular shot at any other golf tournament, are quite subdued. Instead of "Holy Ben Hogan, that shot was INCREDIBLE", they're much more likely to murmur "Well played". Such is the aura that continues to surround the Masters, and maybe that's not such a bad thing. After all, the thought of Dick Vitale or your average Latino soccer announcer handling such duties certainly gives reason for pause. We'd likely cringe at a young golfer being called a "diaper dandy", or a futbol play-by-play man screaming, "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL, when a golfer sank a putt. That could get old quickly. Given a choice, hushed tones seem preferable.

There is also the legend of the course itself. In order to be proficient as a player, one has to be patient, take it slowly, and gradually learn the nuances over the years before one can hope to become a worthy competitor.

One word. BS.

Augusta National is like fine wine, they say. One is supposed to savor it, sniff the aroma, ever-so slowly sip it and let one's palate fully appreciate the ecstasy of such a magnificent blend stimulating one's senses.

Then again, what's the difference between a 200 year old bottle of French burgundy and a half gallon of Mad Dog? Pretty much the price. Chug either one and you'll be on your knees worshipping the porcelain god in about 30 minutes begging for forgiveness. It's wine, and will your headache in the morning be any different depending on which variety you chose the night before? Likely not.

Nevertheless, Augusta National at the Masters certainly poses its own unique challenges to the players. Lightning fast greens, some with contours bordering on the ridiculous. It's supposed to take time and years of experience playing this course for any participant to fully grasp the complexities of it. They have to "mature", like the above-mentioned fine wine. So sayeth the people that continue to speaketh in hushed tones.

But there's a major flaw in their holier-than-thou logic. If it takes so much experience, how could some 21 year old kid named Tiger come along in 1997 and blister the course to the tune of 18 under par, still a record, in his first go-round at Augusta National as a pro? He wound up winning that Masters by a whopping 12 shot margin. Also still a record.

This year another 21 year old is shooting the lights out. Enter Jordan Spieth. Though barely old enough to legally imbibe with riesling or rice wine, god help him, Spieth torched the venerable course with an opening round 64. Eight under par. Impressive indeed.

Sure, there were those that said one-hit wonders at the Masters are a dime a dozen. History is full of them, and Spieth would be another. But then he came out in the second round and chalked up a 66, another 6 under, to sit atop the leaderboard at 14 under par. A full five strokes ahead of the nearest competitor. Equally impressive.

Will the pressure of the Masters get to him on the weekend causing him to choke? Maybe, but maybe not either. Though he hasn't won a Major yet, he's still only 21 and, in fact, tied for second last year at the very same Masters. It should also be noted Spieth is currently ranked #4 in the world.

Since November of last year, Spieth has won a tournament in Australia where he shot a final round course record of 63, then followed it up by winning an event in Florida, also setting another record by posting a score of 26 under par.

As recently as March 15, Spieth won the Valspar Open. The following week he was runner-up at the Valero Texas Open. Seven days later he lost in a sudden death playoff at the Shell Houston Open.

Spieth has either been winning or knocking on the door for the last several months. And now he showed up at Augusta and has posted a tournament record 14 under par after two rounds.

What will happen on the weekend is anybody's guess. Young Jordan could choke up and fold under the enormous pressure. Or he could continue his stellar play and shatter Eldrick's 18 under mark at the Masters. Hey, if Tiger could do it at 21, who's to say somebody else can't come along and do the same?

Methinks it will be somewhere in between. Spieth has been there, done that enough already, where his collar isn't likely to get tight.

But the powers that be at Augusta likely aren't too fond of having their hallowed course brought to its knees either by another young whippersnapper.

Look for them to toughen up the course any way they can. There's not much they can do with the water hazards, bunkers, and Rae's Creek. They are what they are. Even moving the tee boxes back a bit would have little effect. But tweaking the pin placements and mowing the greens down to turn them from already fast into putting on glass is certainly within their power to do, and I'll just betcha they will.

This might get very interesting before it's over.

I dare say watching the final two rounds of the Masters beats the hell out of chugging a bottle of  merlot, or was that strawberry hill? Doesn't matter. Yours truly tried that once many moons ago. It didn't work out well then either.....