Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Serena Williams appears to be on track to win another major tennis tournament. As far and away the #1 female player in the world, it would be almost shocking if she didn't add this year's Wimbledon title to her already impressive resume. One never knows if and when an injury may occur but, barring that, Serena's been on a roll of late demolishing opponents.

That's a good thing for Americans in two ways. First, when Serena loses, we always have to listen to the whiny excuses. If it wasn't cramps, it was sunspots. Or food poisoning. Or aliens conspiring against her. It was always something. On the rare occasion Williams was defeated she could never woman-up and just admit she got beat fair and square.

The other reason is Serena Williams represents the only decent player Americans have to offer these days at the highest levels of tennis.

Look down the list of the women's rankings. The next American is her sister Venus, who's ranked 16th. While once a force, few would doubt Venus is on the back side of her bell curve. Has been for a few years. Venus can dust off a couple early round powder puff opponents in any given tournament to earn a paycheck, but she's never going to win anything of note again. Beyond VW, one can find such unnotable American names as Sloane Stevens and Madison Keys further on down the list. They're good, but there's a legion of European players that are better. When Serena hangs up her racket in a year or two, good luck waiting for the next lady American champion. It could be a while.

It's much worse on the men's side. For the most part, there's the Big Four. Novac Djovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Stan Wawrinka. A Serb, a Swiss, a Brit, and another Swiss. Yes, Rafael Nadal, a Spaniard, always lurks. But after suffering various physical ailments, or perhaps fighting off (or not) the hoard of beautiful women that would love his "companionship", his game seems to have tailed off. He's a handsome rascal and with that, plus the millions of dollars, let's just say Rafi isn't exacting hurting for Grade A female company if he so chooses.

Yes, much like Serena, Federer is towards the end of his career as well. But top-ranked Djovic could hang for a few more years, as could Wawrinka. Murray's long been a terrific player, but he mostly seems to be second best.

Thing is, the top ranked American these days is John Isner. He checks in at #17. When's the last time you heard of him winning anything? Guys named John Sock (31st) and Sam Querrey (44th) are in the rankings. Ever hear of them? For that matter, there are only 5 American male tennis players ranked in the top 100 worldwide. Like the ladies' side of the ledger, the men's rankings are chock full of European players.

So Americans would be well served to enjoy Serena Williams' success while it lasts. When Father Time comes a-calling for her tennis prowess in the near future -- as he surely will -- let's hope we won't have to listen to another world-class whine out of Serena blaming global El Nino, Tea Party advocates, or the Bruce/Caitlin thing working in tandem against her. Sometimes it's just time. Stars rise and fall and others take their place. Tiger Woods knows a little bit about that -- or at least he should.

But when Serena is gone, Americans might well find the tennis cupboard quite bare for many years to come......

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Bonehead Files. Russell Wilson

Evidently, all the rain that is typical in Seattle has leaked through Russell Wilson's scalp and waterlogged his brain. Through his agent, Wilson has made it known he wishes to be the highest paid player in the entire NFL. Not eventually. Now.

Russell seems to be a nice enough sort of guy, but this sort of grossly overvaluing his worth has earned him a place in the Bonehead Files.

Like any NFL quarterback, Wilson was great in high school. He spent 3 years at NC State playing football, and his last year was the worst. His coach had expressed concerns that Russell's dabbling in baseball was detracting from his football mentality. So they parted ways and Wilson transferred to Wisconsin. The Badgers won the Big Ten that year but got beat in the Rose Bowl by Oregon. No shame there.

Though he had put up some pretty good numbers both passing and rushing for Wisconsin, when it came NFL draft time, Wilson fell all the way to the 12th pick of the 3rd round -- 75th overall. The Seahawks needed a QB and they took a "flier" on Wilson. It's not like other teams were clamoring for his services.

As we know, that turned out well. Within a few short years, Wilson would be a Super Bowl champion. Just a few short months ago, they made it back to the Big Dance again -- but lost.

But here's the thing. The main reason why Seattle has been so good in recent years was largely due to Wilson's original rookie contract. Four years at a total of roughly $3 million. To be sure, that sounds cheap but, hey, he was only a 3rd round draft choice to begin with. Nobody expected him to be a Brady, Manning, or Rodgers. For that matter, he still isn't. Yes, he's mobile and quite accurate with his throws, but didn't his own bonehead pass likely cost the Seahawks another Super Bowl victory in the waning moments back in February?

By not having to shell out big bucks to Wilson, the Seahawks had money to spend elsewhere on terrific players. Their defense was ferocious and some guy named Marshawn Lynch seemed to be a pretty good running back, to put it mildly. It wasn't so much about Wilson leading them to victory, but more about not screwing it up. The Seahawks were loaded across the board.

Recently, they obtained All-World tight end Jimmy Graham, formerly of the New Orleans Saints, via free agency. He more than offsets the recent loss of Golden Tate to the perennial wannabe Detroit Lions.

Whether or not the Seahawks are foolish enough to give RW a mega-contract remains to be seen. But they can't have it both ways. That pesky thing called a salary cap would come into play. If they shower Wilson with money, some other high-paid players that made the team great in the first place would have to go.

Further yet, does Russell really have the audacity to think he's worth more than, say, Tom Brady? Didn't he just win another Super Bowl? And doesn't Brady have the opposite history of Wilson by getting more done with less? The Pats have a long history of either cutting or letting All-Pros get away in free agency. They'll go out and find players few ever heard of, plug them into the system, and presto, they keep winning. Forget about the recent deflategate ballyhoo. You don't beat the other team by 6 touchdowns because the footballs were (allegedly) a half pound under pressurized. It was a blowout. The vastly superior team won.

Look at it this way. If Russell Wilson had been on a lesser team for the last few years instead of the Seahawks, he might be fighting to keep his spot on the roster. He's OK, but not all THAT.

The highest paid player in the game? Get outta here Russell.

Welcome to the wonderful world of the Bonehead Files. You have earned it.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A big news week

Well, let's see. The Supreme Court legalized gay marriage and upheld Obamacare. The Confederate flag is under siege and the two escapees from a New York prison have been accounted for.

The Detroit Red Wings drafted another Russian and the Pistons picked a guy named Stanley with their first choice. Let's hope he's a steamer and not one of those pesky box cutters. Regardless, the woeful Pistons are years away from being championship contenders even if everything breaks right for them in the future.

The Detroit Tigers have won a few and lost a few to remain barely above .500. They're currently 6 games behind the AL central division leading KC Royals (a whopping 8 in the loss column). Did you know that going all the way back to the 60s the Tigers have never made the playoffs when trailing by that many games at this point in the season?

No news Dept. The Detroit Lions are post OTAs/minicamps and pre-preseason. Not much going on. Like other NFL teams, they probably have 90-some guys on their roster right now. In the next couple months that will have to be pared down to 53. Cuts are a-coming. Maybe Stanley can help them out. Ahem. And why even bother paying 20-30 guys they already know don't have a prayer of making the final roster?  It's just more laundry to do and mouths to feed. A total waste of time and money.

All quiet on the Michigan/Michigan State football front -- for now. But you just know that will kick into hyper-gear in a few weeks. Everybody wants to see how new UM coach Jim Harbaugh's team will stack up against the proven Spartans of Mark Dantonio. We'll all find out on Oct. 17 when they lock horns in Ann Arbor. Thing is, it might not even matter. Coming off a national championship, the dreaded Buckeyes from Ohio State appear to still be the class of the Big 10, or 14, or whatever they are. And what's with that anyway? How can a conference still call itself the Big 10 when they have 14 teams?

The US ladies soccer team will finally face some serious competition. They've barely eked by during their "group stage" and the first two games of the knock-out phase against much lesser opponents. Now they've reached the semi-finals and have to play the big girls. We'll see.

Phil Jackson thought he deserved a few votes as Executive of the Year for presiding over the NY Knicks? Really? Weren't they pretty much pitiful all the way around last season? PJ's long been known for his triangle offense. Recently in Madison Square Garden that has consisted of Carmelo Anthony, who can't even spell "defense" let alone play it, and a courtside yappy chihuahua named Spike Lee. The third side of the triangle seems to be missing. Like, you know, putting a decent team on the floor. Phil, Carmelo and Spike more closely resemble Larry, Moe and Curly than any sort of respectable NBA triumvirate. Nyuk nyuks where appropriate.

Lebron James and Kevin Love opted out of their contracts with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Interesting. Might they be headed elsewhere? Probably not. It appears as if both are willing to rework their deals to make cap space so the Cavs can sign another mega-player and possibly win a championship. In other words, take a cut in pay to make the team better. Horrors!! If true, whoever heard of such a thing with modern day athletes? Then again, what's the difference between making $20 million or 15? It's still an obscene amount of money. How many fancy houses, boats and cars do they need anyway?

Last but not least, still no word from Roger Goodell and his minions over Tom Brady's appeal of his deflategate suspension. What, pray tell, is the hold up? All the evidence and testimony are in. Nothing's going to change. So get on with it already. Make the call and we'll see what happens next.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Dustin Johnson. Doing it HIS way

In the wake of having a putt to win, then another to force a playoff, then finally missing it as well to "lose" the US Open to Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson has come under scrutiny.

Some say he choked. Maybe. Others claim he has yet to develop the mental discipline necessary to win at the highest level. Maybe. Still others say his competitors routinely outwork him in preparation. Could be.

But a lot of people wonder why a young man with such fabulous golf talent can't seem to break through and win a "big one". These are the same folks that always make such a huge deal over who is ranked where. Somebody has to be #1, 2, 3, etc., in their world. And the only thing that counts is winning, of course. Especially "majors".

Tiger Woods was long caught up in that mentality. He said coming in second is just the first loser and nothing mattered more to him than winning majors. Woods was certainly not alone. Many athletes over the years have strived to be the "greatest". Muhammed Ali once even famously proclaimed himself so.

There can be little doubt that America has long loved a winner (unless his name happened to be Lance Armstrong, Mike Tyson, Pete Rose, etc., but we won't open up those cans of worms here). And for the most part, nobody remembers or cares about who came in second in various events. It's the nature of the business, as they say.

But there's also some hypocrisy afoot as well. If winning is all that matters -- then why is making it to the Final Four in the NCAA college basketball tournament trumpeted to the heavens as some grand achievement? After all, it's just the semi-finals. Few will remember who the runner-up was in the title game, let alone the two teams that got knocked out a couple days earlier.

Maybe Dustin Johnson isn't of that mold. Sure, he'll try his best in any golf tournament he participates in, but perhaps he's not consumed by the winning/have to be the best thing.

Johnson just turned 30 and he's a world class golfer on the PGA tour. He's engaged to a beautiful woman who happens to be Wayne Gretzky's daughter and they have a young child together.

But the purists suggest Johnson doesn't take the game seriously enough. He could be much better if he straightened up and put his nose to the proverbial golfing grindstone. In recent years, it's also been alleged Johnson failed drug tests. One for weed and a couple for coke. The same purists say Dustin likes to party too much. He'll never reach the top unless he "matures".

Well, guess what? Maybe Dustin Johnson is just doing it HIS way. If he wants to have a good time away from golf occasionally partying, including smoking a little dope or doing a recreational line here and there, then who is anybody else to paint him as a bad person?

And hey, chances are Dustin Johnson will never be considered the greatest golfer. But he's travelling all over the world playing on the finest courses and making millions of dollars. All in all, I dare say that's a pretty sweet gig.

#1 is good. Rory and Jordan are currently slugging it out for that honor. But being a consistent Top-Tenner and raking in piles of dough while having a good time isn't exactly the worst thing in the world either. In the US Open, Johnson made $877 thousand and change for coming in tied for second. That will keep Wayne's grandbaby in diapers and formula for a while.

Everybody will continue to talk about titles, rings, MVPs, and the like. It's almost as if an athlete's sucess is defined by it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

One doesn't have to always strive to be the greatest. They just need to be pretty good against their competition over the years to enjoy a very comfortable life indeed.

So while many continue to chip away at Dustin Johnson for various reasons -- what man amongst you wouldn't trade places with him in a minute?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Brady, Goodell and legacy

It seemed almost kangaroo-courtish that Roger Goodell would hear the appeal of Tom Brady's four game suspension for deflategate. After all, the Commish was adamant the original penalty was by his own hand. One would think such an appeal would be heard by a neutral party rather than the judge, jury, and executioner that presided over it in the first place. But this isn't your average court system with checks and balances in place. It's the wacky, if tyrannical world of the NFL.

Much has been said about how this may affect Tom Brady's legacy. The people that espouse this philosophy couldn't be more wrong. Brady's legacy has already been etched in stone, regardless of how this turns out. As a 4-time Super Bowl winner and MVP, he's an absolute lock to be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame as soon as he's eligible.

Rather, this is more about Goodell's legacy. The gnawing question seems to be -- will he botch yet another one? In a few recent high profile cases regarding other players, Goodell has instituted punishments only to be overruled later. As an example, he tried to retroactively bang Ray Rice under a rule that didn't even exist when RR's little elevator dust-up came to light. You can't do that. That would be like a cop giving you a ticket for something you did 6 months ago when no such infraction was on the books yet. Any reasonable judge would throw that out of court in two seconds.

Nevertheless, the Commish just heard Brady's appeal of the 4-game suspension. Reports say the hearing lasted 10 long hours. No doubt, lots of lawyers and deflation experts on both sides had to weigh in. But now it's over and the world eagerly awaits Judge Roger's next ruling.

The problem? Rumors say such a ruling might not be handed down for a month or so. That begs a question. Why so long and what the hell is the hold-up? All the evidence and testimony is in. So render a verdict already. It shouldn't take more than a few hours of "deliberation", a day or two at most. It is or isn't what it was and nothing's going to change. Make the call -- dammit. Let's GO!!

Thing is, the good Commish once again finds himself between a rock and a hard place. No matter what he does, he going to catch some serious flak. There will be ramifications.

If he upholds Brady's original 4-game suspension, he'll likely soon find himself in a real court being called as a witness. That could get embarrassing under a withering examination by a shrewd attorney for Brady.

If he waives the entire penalty, basically exonerating Brady, Goodell would not only be cannon fodder for a legion of critics, but further perceived as being weak and incompetent.

The most likely scenario is the 4-game suspension gets reduced to 1 or 2. The Commish could save a little face. Would Brady accept that? Nobody knows. Or would he and his legal eagles still find it unacceptable and pursue it through the justice system seeking total vindication? Nobody knows that either.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but there's no excuse -- NONE -- for Goodell to drag his feet for a month.

By doing so, his already not-so-good legacy would be tarnished even more. The dude's making over $40 million a year and it takes him that long to make a decision on an appeal?

Funny, or maybe not, how Goodell and his minions commissioned a report from one of their own to find incriminating evidence and acted so quickly once they thought they had it. But now that the other side is rightfully fighting back, they have to meditate for a few weeks.

Between Goodell and Brady, yours truly is pretty sure which will go down in history as one of the all-time greats at what he accomplished over the years.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

More idle rants

So the US ladies soccer team just beat the Columbians? Well, they should have. The Columbians were forced to play the majority of the game a man, make that woman short. What kind of insane soccer rule allows that to happen? That's like an NHL team on a perpetual power-play. If they DON'T score a few goals it would be surprising. Yet the Americans only won 2-0, and one goal was on a penalty kick, which was a questionable call to begin with. Let's just say the American girls didnt't exactly shock and awe.

Remember when the Detroit Tigers started off the season 6-0, and then 11-2? Some of the Motown hard-cores, both fans and media, wondered if this year's Tigers could match the incredible 35-5 record the 1984 version had accomplished. (Stoked by the media, the koolaid continues to be addictive in Detroit amongst all their teams). Well, they recently won their 35th game. Too bad it took them 69 games instead of 40 to do it.

At last look the Tigers were 5 games behind the AL central division leading KC Royals, a whopping 8 in the loss column. After their 11-2 start, they went 23-32 to thud back to .500. Out of 15 teams in the American League, the D-sters currently find themselves in 9th place overall. Playoffs? They're in 6th place for the two wild cards spots available. Nevertheless, it's early, as they say. There's still 90 games remaining. Anything can happen. The Tigers could get hot and zoom back up to the top, or get cold and head south again. The only constant they seem to have on their team is slugger Miguel Cabrera. Their once vaunted starting pitching staff is a shell of what it was. Sometimes they get by, and other times they get rocked. The Tigers have yet to win a game all year when trailing in the ninth inning. They've become cannon fodder for opposing closers. Any of several of their players can have a huge game at bat, then turn around and go 0-20. For every defensive gem there seems to be a bonehead. Trying to figure these guys out is like trying to determine which way a bat will turn in flight while chasing mosquitoes. Good luck with that.

Out of all the college teams, Vandy and Virginny wound up meeting again this time around to decide the baseball championship like last year? What were the chances of that happening? Maybe it's because they both remain really good. And haven't we had enough of Florida and California teams? It's good to see two such schools in the limelight.

Uh-oh. There went that male enhancement commercial again. Got a problem? Take one of these pills to impress your lady. But wait, it might cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure. Or dizziness, hives, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, shortness of breath, light sensitivity, and a heart attack, stroke or seizure aren't out of the question. Dang. That's a whole lot of not-so-good maybes to have some fun. But never fear -- if you experience a fatal event don't take any more pills and call your doctor immediately. Right. However, if everything works out, but one is still in excited mode after a couple days -- it might not be a bad idea to only take a half pill next time around. That's some, ahem, hard-hitting stuff.

WTF Dept.
Some local TV news crew pre-empted my beloved Jeopardy! so they could talk about how much fun the people were GOING to have at the Detroit fireworks? A few hours before they even began while it was still broad daylight? Grrrr. If Detroit wants to rehab its sorry image, this is not exactly a terrific PR idea. And who watches fireworks on TV anyway? How incredibly get a life dull is that?

BTW, WTF stands for Wasted Television Foolishness. You thought perhaps it was something else?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Pete Rose

So the feds accidentally tumbled onto a 30 year old notebook that purportedly shows Pete Rose bet on games after all when he was a player? The media has gone wild. Surely, this is the last straw, final nail in the coffin, whatever, regarding Rose getting reinstated to Major League Baseball and being eligible for the Hall of Fame. Ain't gonna happen, they say.

Well, guess what? Looked at objectively, this doesn't change anything. It makes no difference whether Rose bet on his team to win as a manager or player. Betting on them to lose would have been an entirely different scenario. Even the most vehement anti-Rose folks have never suggested that ever happened.

And let's face it. Rose wasn't going to be inducted into the Hall any time soon anyway. He faced two major hurdles. First, though he says he keeps an open mind on such matters, it's highly unlikely new MLB Commish Rob Manfred was going to undo the action of one his predecessors, which had been honored by a couple more through the years.

Even if that happened, he still needed 75% of the "voters" to get into Cooperstown. For the most part, these voters consist of the BaseBall Writers Assoc of America. And they have to have been members for at least 10 years. Do the math. Some kid fresh out of journalism school doesn't just fall into being a beat writer for their local major league team. They have to work their way up for a few years. Then add 10 more before they qualify to vote. In short, most of these folks could be called "old-schoolers" set in their ways. There's no way three-quarters of them would vote for Rose even if he was eligible.

On a related note, few realize that Rob Manfred and MLB reinstating Rose is not theoretically necessary for him to become Hall eligible. The Hall itself is an entity independent of MLB and is not bound by whatver rulings may come out of the Commissioner's office. True, they've always "toed the company line" over the years -- but they don't have to. The powers that be at Cooperstown could declare Rose eligible for the Hall tomorrow if they wished. But even if they did -- highly unlikely -- that wouldn't help Rose with the BBWAA. If anything, such a move would likely alienate even more of them. It should be noted that Rose hasn't exactly curried favor with the stodgy folks at the Hall by having autograph signing sessions down the block when they conduct their hallowed induction ceremonies, but that's just Pete's little way of protesting. This is America -- he's allowed, and it shouldn't be held against him.

Yet while they continue to dig up 30-year old dirt on Pete Rose over gambling, yours truly still maintains he belongs in the Hall.

Oh, that's right. He lied. Well gee, I've never lied. Have you? Good grief, if always telling the truth was a prerequisite to being elected -- the White House and Congress would be empty buildings. Who's kidding who?

I don't much care that Peter Edward Rose had a gambling problem, or that he bet on baseball, or even his own teams to win. And yes, I get it that Rose might not be the most likeable person in the world for various other reasons. But it's absurd the all-time hits leader continues to be denied his rightful place in the history of the game.

He earned it over a couple decades with his play on the field. 4256 hits are 4256 hits. Ty Cobb's 4189 aside, that's roughly 500 more than Hank Aaron. 600 more than Stan Musial. 800 more than Derek Jeter. That's a huge differential over some of the greatest to ever play the game. But they were "nice guys" and Rose has been painted as a villain. The witch hunt continues after all these years.

What is ironic, if not downright hypocritical, is the Hall of Fame if chock full of drunks and adulterers that the "old school" folks voted in over the years. Ty Cobb was the first inductee and he was alleged to have once killed a man. But all that was OK. Then along came Rose to shatter arguably the most hallowed record in the game, but he's disqualified on ethical standards because he liked to gamble. The hypocrisy screams indeed.

As long as certain people have nothing better to do than try to throw more dirt on Pete Rose, maybe they should go back even farther and dig up the mountains of unsavory details on many of those that already have a plaque in Cooperstown.

And if that ever happens -- don't hold your breath -- perhaps the Hall should consider throwing a few of the bums out. Some of those guys made Pete Rose look like an angel.

In comparison, Rose has been made to twist in the wind for basically two reasons. The ever-rising tide of political correctness and media hysteria. They are joined at the hip. One cannot exist without the other.

In the eyes of yours truly, both represent philosophies of cowardice. They are afraid to speak bluntly about the obvious lest they -- horrors -- offend somebody somewhere.

Well, I for one am highly offended that Pete Rose continues to be denied his rightful place in baseball history.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The US Open and misplaced nostalgia

They are many that maintain the people that grew up during the 1930s -40s were the "greatest generation". After all, they suffered through the Great Depression and fought WW II.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

These were also the same people that taught their school children they'd be safer by sitting with their backs against the wall in the hallway with their knees up to their chest -- if nuclear war broke out and one landed nearby. Those pesky Russkies might invade any minute now. And that touching a toad would give them warts. And stepping on cracks would break their grandma's back. God forbid they should see someone naked -- they'd go blind. In hindsight, it was all nonsense, of course. The most paranoid generation might be more like it.

There are also many who claim golf needs him (guess who?) and the game has suffered since his decline. Hogwash. The sport has never been better for fans and viewers. Consider some of the young players who currently make it interesting every week.

#1 ranked Rory McIlroy made a charge on Sunday at the US Open only to fall short.
#2 ranked Jordan Spieth just became the youngest player ever (21) to win both the Masters and the US Open in the same year.
The Aussies have their own contingent. Adam Scott finished with a blistering 64 on a brutal Chambers Bay course and Jason Day, vertigo and all, was in contention throughout.
Dustin Johnson heart-breakingly 3-putted from 12 feet on the 18th green to lose it, though he had played superbly for four rounds.
South African Louis Oosthuizen shot an incredible 29 on the back nine, making birdies at 6 out of the last 7 holes. It wouldn't be quite enough to win the tournament, but it's a US Open record.
Players like Matt Kuchar, Ricky Fowler (though he bombed out of this one), and even the not-so-well liked Patrick Reed are on the prowl every week.
What do they have in common? They all got serious game and Oosthuizen aside, they're all in their 20s. Another common trait is they're all gentlemen and behave themselves accordingly while playing.

The final round at this year's US Open was the most exciting, back and forth, nailbiting, down to the last shot golf yours truly can remember. Amongst many players.

So who needs Tiger with his cursing, club pounding, and whatever on or off the course "drama" of the week he always seems to bring when professional golf is so chock full of young exciting talent?

Perhaps it's nostalgic. People long for what once was and think the good old days were better.

No they weren't. The fields of medicine and various other sciences have made tremendous advances. People live longer. Technology seems to morph every day into something easier, faster, and can do more. The greatest generation of old was no such thing. The greatest generation is the current one and the next one will be even better -- politicians notwithstanding. Ahem.

And so it goes with golf. Eldrick Tont Woods had his day, actually a decade, as king of the hill. So did Jack. And Arnie. And Ben and Byron before them. But it's over and the next better generation is upon us. Why not appreciate it for what it is instead of pining about history?

This is not to say nostalgia is always a bad thing. Every time I drive past where a local drive-in movie used to be, I remember the heady days of my high school girlfriend and something about the back seat of my old Chevy Nova. Sure did see the start and end of a lot movies, but always seemed to miss out on the middle part for some reason. Go figure.

With apologies to Archie and Edith -- those were the days indeed......

Saturday, June 20, 2015

The true US Open hero

We've got way too many heroes these days. It used to be someone had to do something spectacular -- far above and beyond the call of duty, as it were -- to qualify. Not anymore.

All the military folks have become heroes. Ditto for a firefighter rescuing a kid from a burning building. Likewise, teachers are heroes when their students excel at something. So are the kids for excelling in the first place. Win a spelling bee and you're a hero. If a janitor manages to catch a ferocious mouse on school grounds -- chances are he's going to be a hero.

Lord knows, awards have gone crazy. There's the Oscars, Emmys, Grammies, Obies, Tonies, and a few others in the entertainment world. People in the media business hand out awards amongst themselves in a bazillion categories.

What do they all have in common? They were just doing their jobs. Some do them better than others, but that doesn't make them heroes. Personally, MY hero was George C. Scott when he refused to accept the Oscar for best actor in his role as Patton. GCS thought it pompous to be given an award for merely doing his job. Obviously, he was the exception. Forget winning. Most will crow over a third place finish, or even honorable mention in ANY category.

Help an old lady with her groceries or return your neighbor's escaped dog to them and -- presto -- you're a hero. Actually not. This is just common decency, not heroic.

Which brings me to the US Open.

There has been much fanfare over Aussie Jason Day swooning from vertigo on the last hole of Friday's round. After several minutes, Day was able to finish the final hole, though still wobbly. In Saturday's third round, JD evidently experience many of the same symptoms midway through. But he toughed it out and is now a co-leader. The announcers marveled at his "true grit". Another hero was born.

Don't get me wrong. Jason Day is a class act and I have the ultimate respect for how he handles himself on and off the golf course, both playing and as an individual. But does that make him a hero or just a nice, if determined, guy competing for a major (cha-ching) championship? If he doesn't finish, he can't cash.

In their typical hero-making mode, the talking heads went on to describe the "tortuous" terrain/layout of the Chambers Bay course itself. Besides being very long, even by US Open standards, it features a roller-coaster of elevation changes. The players have to slog up and down. To boot, there's many steep side hills where balls can land that present a precarious lie/stance. It was insinuated all the players should be considered heroes just to complete such a rigorous grind day after day.

But they overlooked the obvious. The caddies. While the players are navigating the terrain, so are the guys carrying their bags. Besides the clubs, add in extra balls, a rain suit, umbrella, water bottles, towels, a snack or two, and even modern pro golf bags likely weigh at least 60-70 pounds. Every place the player goes, the caddy goes.

So if the players are to be considered heroes for being so tough -- what about the caddies that lugged around those heavy bags all day long? While the player strolls on, the caddy has to chase, retrieve and replace divots. Lots of extra mileage. And rake sand traps after their master blasts out of one. More work.

Who are the unsung heroes indeed?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tiger Woods. Time to retire?

Once upon a time, there was this young golfing phenom that burst onto the scene and was winning everything in sight. It wasn't a matter of if, but when he would break Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18 major victories. Not only was he #1 in the world, he was so good that in many tournaments betting on him against the entire field was a common wager.

And then his wheels fell off. After being exposed as a serial adulterer, along with the messy and expensive divorce that quickly followed, our hero's golf game started fading fast. Throw in a few injuries, real or "convenient" to explain horrible play, switching caddies, swing coaches, while desperately trying to recapture the old magic -- and things only got worse. Sadly, or comically, take your pick, our shining knight even had a tooth knocked out when he hovered too close to a cameraman while watching his latest beloved skiing down a slope in Europe. They've since split too. Ouch, on both fronts.

All the talk of Jack's record has long since disappeared. These days the same people that once took Tiger Woods against the field to win are now saying his chances of missing the cut are greater than winning any given tournament. My, how far the mighty has fallen.

How bad has it gotten? His last time out on tour at Jack's Memorial tournament, Woods closed with a a mega-duffer 85 to finish dead last. Tiger needed to work on his game to prepare for this year's U.S. Open.

Now it is upon us. During the first round, Woods made an impressive birdie on the 17th hole to shoot --- 80? He's 15 shots back of the leaders after 18 holes. Out of the entire 156 man field, Eldrick finds himself tied for 152nd, with only two golfers shooting worse. Including the amateurs.

After his long reign as the #1 golfer in the world, Tiger isn't in the top ten anymore. Or the top 20. Or the top 50, or even the top 100. He's currently ranked 195th. That means there's likely at least 125 guys you never heard of that are considered better players than Tiger these days. Forget about making the cut at the Open -- if he goes out and shoots another 80 in the second round, or worse, entirely possible, where will he be ranked next week? 225? 250? How far down do these rankings go anyway? And how terrible does Tiger have to get before they yank his PGA card and make him go through qualifying school to re-earn it -- something he never had to do in the first place?

Woods still has his die-hard supporters on the courses and amongst the media and fans watching on TV. They want him to win. They NEED him to win. They expect him to make a miraculous comeback any day or week now and become the dominant player he once was.

Well, it's not going to happen. Woods is 39. Lately, he can't even shoot his age anymore for 9 holes. Yes, other golfers have experienced great moments in their 40s, but they never "lost it" the way Woods has in recent years.

In today's politically correct world, and especially amongst the staid announcers at a golf tournament, they dare not say anything that could be interpreted as being critical of a player, even if he's stinking it up. During the first round of the Open one finally went "out on a limb" while watching Tiger butcher his way around the course and said -- this is getting ugly.

Ugly? When's the last time you saw a professional golfer hit a "worm burner" from a perfect lie in the fairway? Or spend more time thrashing around in the sand than pre-schoolers at a beach party? The only thing that saved Tiger from a 90 or 100 was this golf course is wide open with no water hazards and, ahem, woods. He was hitting it all over the place both with his tee shots and irons, and appeared to be clueless with his putter to boot. Fore right. Fore left. Maybe Tiger should go back to the good old days of foreplay because his golf game is in a shambles.

From the late 1990s through perhaps 2008, Tiger Woods gave the world a decade of golf mastery never seen before. He was the MAN.

But in the last 7 years, he's been slowly but surely going downhill. Recently, it appears the bottom has fallen out. 195th? Really?

Finally, at this year's U.S. Open at Chambers Bay golf course just outside of Spokane, Washington, something happened I dare say nobody would have ever thought possible not long ago.

While walking up to the 18th green to finish off his latest pitiful round of golf, the gallery didn't give Tiger Woods his usual applause and encouragement. They laughed at him instead. Can there possibly be a bigger insult than that? Ouch indeed.

Nobody knows what Eldrick Tont Woods future plans are when it comes to golf. Of late, he's been cherry-picking the tournaments he plays in, but the fact remains he's nowhere near being competitive. For sure Tiger will play in the British Open, PGA tournament, and likely a few others along the way this year.

But if he keeps stinking it up like he has been -- how much embarrassment is enough? Has the man no shame? Doesn't he know people are mocking him? Or does he even get that or care?

Woods might want to consider retiring at the ripe old age of 40. Yeah, the endorsements will fade away but c'mon, he's already got enough dough to live in the lap of luxury forever after.

And just think. No more practicing golf all day long and having to deal with that pesky media. That frees up a lot of bimbo time. Between the private jet and the limo -- take them to putt-putt courses all over the world. They won't know the difference anyway.

And Tiger might even be able to win a round here and there......

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Miguel Cabrera. How to negate his bat

It would be interesting to sift back through the records and stats to determine just how many games Miguel Cabrera has won for the Detroit Tigers not only this year, but in the last several.

It would also be tedious and time consuming and yours truly is too lazy to do it. So let's just say Miggy has made the difference in lots of games for the Tigers over the years. It seems like almost every day we hear of him stroking a two-run double or clouting another home run, solo or with men or base. The man can flat-out hit, both for average and power.

Further, Cabrera doesn't have any weaknesses while at bat. He can hit blazing fastballs, curves/sliders, and change-ups equally well. Down the middle, high/low, inside/outside doesn't seem to make much of a difference either.

So what's an opposing pitcher or his manager to do when Cabrera steps into the batter's box? How do you pitch him?

If I'm the other guys, I don't. I intentionally walk him the vast majority of the time. Take the bat out of his hands and deal with whoever's next in the Tiger line-up. Sure, if my team is ahead by 4-5 runs and Cabrera comes up to bat with nobody on base, then I pitch to him. But in most situations I don't. If one swing of Cabrera's bat can hurt me, I'll take my chances with the next guy.

A scenario. The Tigers have runners on first and second and nobody out. The game is close and here comes Cabrera up to the plate. I still walk him and load the bases. If I don't, Miggy might hit a three-run blast that makes the difference in the game. Anybody that can flick his wrists at a low and outside pitch and still hit it out of the park to the "opposite" field is somebody I'll let trot down to first with a walk.

With a little luck, maybe I get out of the inning with only minimal damage. Strike outs and pop-ups are always preferable and a double play comes in mighty handy once in a while. Sure, such a strategy could backfire. The next couple Tiger batters could get hits and break the game wide open. And yes, Cabrera himself might have struck out or bounced into a double play originally. But with apologies to Tom Clancy, Miguel has long proven himself to be a clear and present danger every time he steps into the batter's box. He can ruin you all by himself with one swing, so why continue to mess with him?

No doubt, this would be an unpopular strategy amongst many fans, especially Tiger supporters. They came to the ballpark and crowded around their TVs wanting to see Miggy get his cuts. It could almost be seen as an act of cowardice NOT to pitch to him.

Hey, there have been hitters intentionally walked with the bases already loaded. Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Nap Lajoie, and most recently Barry Bonds back in 1998, to name a few. So it's not without precedent.

When Joe DiMaggio was deep into his 56 game hitting streak back in 1941, an opposing pitcher once said if he could get the Yankee Clipper out his first time at bat, he would walk him every other time he came up to hit -- just to break his streak. The original Joe D (sorry Dumars) got a hit his first time up.

Would any modern day pitcher dare to use this strategy against Miguel Cabrera? Probably not for a couple reasons. It would be hugely unpopular, particularly at the Tigers home of Comerica Park, and the talking sports heads on various cable stations would make such a pitcher (and his manager) infamous for backing down from a challenge. The ensuing mockery would be brutal.

And after all, even though Cabrera typically sports a .330-.340 batting average, that means two out of three times he makes an out. The odds are still with the pitchers. It's that third one that can hurt you, though.

And it has, to a lot of pitchers and their teams over the years.

Again, if I'm the other manager, my job is to win games any way I can. And if that means walking Miguel Cabrera time after time, I just might do it anyway. I'm taking away his homers/RBIs and putting him on first. I don't have to worry about him stealing a base either to eliminate the double-play possibility. He's too slow.

But that will probably never happen. Pitchers have their pride too. They love nothing more than striking out Miguel Cabrera in a clutch situation. Sometimes they do. But if he clouts one 450 feet for a 3-run dinger that changes a win into a loss, I'm guessing given a do-over, they would have walked him.

The singer Meatloaf once recorded a hit song titled Two Out Of Three Ain't Bad. That rings true for a lot of different things in life. But certainly not all.

Consider parachutes opening. Major surgery being successful. Shooting down incoming nukes. Two out of three isn't good enough. That other one will result in a very bad outcome.

And so might pitching to Miguel Cabrera......

Golden State. Beginning of a dynasty?

The Golden State Warriors finally polished off the Cleveland Cavs and are now champions of the world. Or at least the NBA. Before they'd even showered up after the deciding Game 6 there was already talk of whether the Oakland bunch could become a dynasty.

Technically, a dynasty is defined as a group or family that maintains power for several generations. The Roman empire was certainly a dynasty. The Chinese have had many in history. And the Bushes and the Clintons keep working at it, but -- well -- maybe that's better left for others to debate. Yet in the world of sports, the word dynasty means different things to different people.

The Boston Celtics of the late 50s and 60s were considered a dynasty. They won something like 11 championships in 13 years.

John Wooden's UCLA mens basketball team of roughly the same era would qualify as well. They were virtually unbeatable for a decade.

Teams like the New York Yankees and Montreal Canadiens were once considered dynasties.

So were the Chicago Bulls in the 90s.

Tiger Woods was a one man golf dynasty not long ago.

Head coach Geno Auriemma of the UConn Lady Huskies hoopsters certainly has dynasty credentials. As did former coach Pat Summitt of the Tennessee Lady Vols. Her time is done, but Geno's still there and will likely shatter all the records before he calls it quits.

And then there's mini-dynasties. Wayne Gretzsky's Edmonton Oilers, the New York Islanders, and the showtime LA Lakers all had their runs. But none lasted more than a few consecutive years.

But like the modern definition of a "hero" -- and lord knows they're everywhere these days -- qualifying as a dynasty in sports seems to have become watered down as well.

Some say the San Antonio Spurs were a dynasty. They won 4 titles, but it took them over a decade to do so. Should that count? How about the hey-days of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Dallas Cowboys, and Miami Hurricanes on the gridiron? Were they dynasties or just really good for several years? Throw in the New England Patriots. All of them won multiple titles in a relatively short period of time, but never more than two in a row.

And now we have the Golden State Warriors. What they did this year was no fluke. Start to finish, they were the best team in the NBA. Could they become a dynasty? Maybe. Consider....

They're young. On their 15 man roster, only 4 players are over 30, none over 32. That's includes Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, age 31. Overall MVP Steph Curry is 27. Fellow splash brother Klay Thompson 25. Unsung hero (there we go again) Draymond Green is only 25 as well. The former Michigan State Spartan is not only skilled, but tough and tenacious, making life miserable for opponents on the court. Add in various other players that not only got game, but have 100% "bought in" to the system and there's no telling what the Warriors are capable of in the future.

Let's not forget, this was head coach Steve Kerr's first year. A rookie himself in that regard. He and the Warriors won 67 regular season games, the most ever by a rookie head coach in the history of the NBA. Sure, Kerr didn't just exactly fall off a turnip truck. Once upon a time, he was the backcourt teammate of a guy named Michael Jordan while the above-mentioned Chicago Bulls dynasty was going on. But nobody knew if he could coach, and certainly few would have foreseen what the Warriors would accomplish this year under his leadership.

All the way around, things point to the Warriors possibly being even better next year. Kerr has a year under his belt. The team is still young and now knows what it takes to become champions. A scary thought given how good they already are. Could they rattle off several titles in a row to become a "dynasty"?

Probably not. Remember when Lebron James "took his talents" to Miami and famously boasted they would win not one, not two, not three, not four, not five -- you get the idea -- but insinuated a dynasty was coming to South Beach while jiving it up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on stage? Lebron won exactly two and the Miami Heat were demolished by the San Antonio Spurs in their attempt at a three-peat. Lebron went back to Cleveland and the Heat promptly went into the dumpster. So much for the dynasty.

Credit where credit is due. The Golden State Warriors were the best team all year and are worthy champions indeed. But as the old saying goes, it's tough to get to the top but even tougher to stay there. A lot of factors could potentially come into play. Smugness and complacency are possibilities. The Warriors were hungry this year. Next season everything starts over and a lot of teams will be hungry. Everybody's going to bring their A game when they face Golden State. Kerr's crew was fortunate because they suffered no major injuries during the last season. Sometimes stuff happens.

There's no better example of that than the Cleveland Cavaliers. Given they were without big man Anderson Varejao and prized free agent Kevin Love, and lost point guard Kyrie Irving earlier during the playoffs, it's amazing they made it as far as they did. Had those three been healthy, the Finals may well have turned out differently. Or maybe not.

Dumbest remark of the day Dept. Towards the end of the deciding Game 6, when it was apparent Golden State would prevail, some TV announcer said it looked like the Cavs weren't even trying. Where is the the toughness?, he asked. Idiot. The Cavs had been playing the whole series severely under-manned with guys on the court few had ever even heard of before. Lebron might be the "king", but he's not Superman. After the fast-paced Warriors had run them up and down the court during a grueling series, their gauge had finally hit the dreaded "E". It had nothing to do with toughness or will. They'd already shown that with what they had. But out of gas is out of gas.

And speaking of gasbags, this post has run on long enough......

Monday, June 15, 2015

Barry Melrose. Quite the guy

Unlike precious few others in the sports world -- actually a total of none come to mind -- Barry Melrose doesn't seem to have a single detractor. It's almost impossible not to like the guy. His down-to-earth personna, devilish smile, contagious laugh, and willingness to be the butt of a joke (he can dish too) are admirable traits indeed. Well, OK, maybe the hair could use a tweak, but hey, there's lots of things harder on the eyes than the slick-back, duck-tail look Melrose sports. Have you checked out Don Cherry's outfits over the years?

But there is no doubt Barry Melrose knows his hockey. He was a former player that worked his way up through various teams to the NHL, and did the same as a coach after his playing days were over. Granted, Melrose wasn't exactly a superstar in either venture over the years, but he did once coach the LA Kings to the Stanley Cup finals. Regardless, it could safely be said Barry's been there and done that before he became an "analyst". The man knows what he's talking about.

One need look no further than this year's playoffs. Before they even began, Melrose picked the Chicago Black Hawks to win the Cup. They just did. Sure, Chicago is a team loaded with talent so picking them to win hardly qualifies as a miracle.

But consider the Finals themselves. Before they even started Melrose said the Black Hawks would prevail in 6 games. After three games, the Hawks found themselves down 2-1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. In order for Barry's prediction to come true, the Hawks would have to win the next 3 games in a row against a team that hadn't lost three in a row all year. Yet even then, he stuck with his prediction. And that's exactly what happened. The Chitowners just won their 3rd Cup in the last 6 years. Very impressive stuff, both for the team and Melrose calling the shot.

Alas, some incompetence and/or flat-out stupidity was involved at the end. The Black Hawks had just won the Cup in their hometown for the first time since way back in 1938. Their two recent clinching victories had come on the road.

The Black Hawk players were jubilant. Their fans in attendance were delirious with excitement and celebration. The presentation of the Holy Grail of hockey, Lord Stanley's cup, was upon them. Players could take turns holding it over their heads skating around while Black Hawk fans everywhere rejoiced.

But the cup wasn't there.

Incredibly, the explanation given was the cup was held up in traffic somewhere and would be a little late. Granted, Chicago has been experiencing some heavy rain for the last couple days, but there's no excuse -- NONE -- why the NHL couldn't get the cup there after the Hawks had taken a 3-2 lead in Tampa two full days before. It was a possible championship game and they had a full 48 hours to get a parcel there. It's not like it was a tank, a entire furnished condominium or even Chris Christie. It was merely a trophy. But they couldn't get it there on time. The stand at center ice of the United Center sat Cupless while everybody wondered what the hell was going on.

Then again, Gary Bettman is still the NHL commissioner, and ultimately in charge of all such matters-- right? Maybe such a huge blunder shouldn't have been totally unexpected after all. You can bet, man, that if there's a way to screw something up, Gary will find it.

In a perfect world, a job swap would be in order. Make Barry Melrose the Commish. Everybody likes him and he knows what he's doing. Put the not-so-beloved shrimpy Bettman on TV as an analyst. Good grief, isn't a Commish supposed to know a little about the sport he's overseeing? Let that clown rattle on for a few shows and he'd likely be fired by whatever network took him on board in the first place. The viewers would demand it. In the end, the NHL would be much better served all-around.

But for now, congrats to the Chicago Black Hawks, well-deserving Stanley Cup champions. Hope the hardware finally got there.......

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Detroit Tigers update

It seems like a long time ago when the Tigers started out this season 6-0, then went to 11-2. At the time, there were the usual few Pollyannish (see foolhardy) folks that wondered if the 2015 Tigers could match the 35-5 record Sparky Anderson's 1984 crew put up.

Fast forward to the present. The Tigers have played 50 more games, for a total of 63, and still haven't reached 35 wins. They've gone 22-28 since they were 11-2. At a pedestrian 33-30, they could be considered no more than average.

For that matter, as certain media is so fond of saying (as if it matters), if the season ended right now, the Tigers wouldn't even qualify for the playoffs. They're in 3rd place in their own division, and in 4th place when it comes to qualifying as a wild card.

Sure, there's still 100 games to go and anything can happen. The Tigers could play fairly well for the next three and a half months and cruise to another AL central division title. Or it could go the other way. They could crash and burn as well.

It should come as no surprise that the Tigers losing pitchers like Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello would cost them a few wins. As mentioned in my previous post, former ace Justin Verlander has thudded back to "average", if he can even stay healthy, and Anabel Sanchez has reverted back to his career self. Sometimes he pitches well -- other times he pitches batting practice.

The much maligned bullpen has been OK. Nothing great, but passable for the most part.

To nobody's great surprise, slugger Miguel Cabrera keeps on keeping on with his bat. Yoenis Cespides was a great addition in the outfield and J.D. Martinez seems to have come around after a slump. Jose Iglesias is a slick, if weak-hitting shortstop, and second baseman Ian Kinsler is a solid player. Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose have their good days and bad days, but are decent role players. Even James McCann, filling in for injured catcher Alex Avila has contributed here and there. The aging Victor Martinez has long been a one-dimensional player. He could hit, but do nothing else. Now he's on the shelf with an injury, duration unknown, but Father Time is definitely working against him.

All in all, the Tigers are a "maybe" team. Not only every game, but for the season. They're neither dominant nor doormats. They can play well one day and stink it up the next. They're capable of rattling off an 8-10 game winning streak, but equally capable of the same sort of losing streak.

A funny thing about baseball. Even the worst teams win 4 games out of 10 over the season. One would think the better teams would easily win 6 out of 10. But currently only one, the St. Louis Cardinals are above the .600 mark.

A 100 win season in MLB is considered phenomenal these days, but it only requires a .617 winning percentage. That's not even winning two out of three all year. Successful teams in other sports would consider only winning two out of three as almost underachieving. Think New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, or a few NBA clubs.

What's really weird in baseball is that on any given day, a cellar dweller can beat a first place team and nobody raises an eyebrow. Happens all the time. But it would be big news if the same happened in the NFL or NBA.

The cream has a way of rising to the top in the NFL and NBA. When the playoffs start, the pretenders are usually quickly exposed.

But in baseball, the postseason is every bit the crapshoot the regular season was. Many in the Detroit area thought the Tigers would go far last year. They were unceremoniously broomed by the Baltimore Orioles. And the Kansas City Royals, which the Tigers had "owned" all year, went on to the World Series, finally losing in a thrilling seventh game to the San Fran Giants. And had anybody ever heard of Madison Bumgarner before? Where did he come from to suddenly turn into Sandy Koufax on the biggest stage of all?

So will the Tigers even MAKE the playoffs? Personally, I'd say it's a coin flip. Maybe. Maybe not. But you never know. If they do, they could wind up winning their first World Series since Sparky's 1984 squad pulled it off. There's something Orwellian about that number, but I digress.

Let's just say stranger things have happened. After all, the New York Giants knocked off the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl a few years back -- right? As did the LA Kings barely sneaking into the playoffs and winding up claiming Lord Stanley's Cup not so long ago.

In the end, there's only one definitive answer.

We'll all find out in October.


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Justin Verlander. Jury's out

The Detroit Tiger ace of recent years seems to be at a crossroads. Once upon a time Verlander was amongst the most dominant pitchers in the game. He won the Cy Young Award and even had a breakfast cereal (Fastball Flakes) named after him.

His "stuff" on the mound was incredible. Besides being able to throw 100 MPH heat, he had a curve, a slider, and had mastered the split-fingered pitch (basically a change-up that "drops off the table"). And his control of all his pitches was excellent. JV could throw it where he wanted to. Along the way he racked up the wins, strike-outs and other gaudy stats.

But then two things happened. Last year, while apparently healthy, Verlander turned in a season that could be described as journeyman-ish. He lost almost as many games as he won. That seemed odd, given he was only 31 years old at the time. One would think a pitcher would be peaking at that age rather than suffering a serious downturn in his effectiveness. Especially someone like Verlander who, besides his phenomenal pitching skills, had a will to win unmatched by most. The fire burned within. JV would do whatever it took for his team to prevail when he was on the mound.

Then 2015 rolled around and Verlander had a mysterious arm ailment. Though he and the team pooh-poohed it as nothing serious at the time, obviously there was a bit more to it. A pitcher, particularly of JV's caliber, doesn't miss the first two and a half months of the season over a scratch or a bruise. Something was definitely wrong.

So Verlander quietly disappeared, while likely huddling up with the doctors and rehab specialists to plan a course of treatment that would get him back to the Tigers as soon as possible.

Of course, when such injuries occur, even after a player has been finally cleared as fully healthy, they don't just jump back into the major leagues. Typically they'll play a few games at the AAA minor league level to get back up to speed before facing the big boys again.

Verlander did, but he was underwhelming even in his minor league outings. But hey, the Tigers aren't paying JV $28,000,000 guaranteed this year just so he can pitch in Toledo. If he's good-to-go, they want some return on their money at Comerica Park. Put him out there and let's rock.

Earlier tonight, the Tigers did just that against the Cleveland Indians. Verlander finally made his first big league start. His stat line wasn't too shabby. A few hits, a couple runs, a strike-out and a walk. But what the stats don't show is Verlander was hardly impressive. The Tribe batters were hitting the ball hard and often against him. To their credit, the Tigers' defense made some sparkling plays in the field to turn several would-be big hits into outs, else JV's stat line would have looked a little different.

Once the proverbial work-horse, Verlander appeared to be gassed after about 5 innings. There are those that would say he needs time to get his stamina back, and that point is noted. But it could also be argued he's had two and a half months of rehab to work through something that was supposed to be "minor" in the first place and a couple recent starts at the AAA level to boot. So how long will it take before he's supposedly "in shape" again? Another month? Two? And let's face it, it's not like Verlander has to work on other facets of playing baseball. He doesn't have to hit, field an every day position and, for that matter, only actually participates every 5th or 6th day anyway. The dude's raking in a million bucks a week whether he works or not. How outrageous is that? Do the math. Verlander's making over $5000 an hour, every hour of every day, 24/7. Guaranteed.

Now 32, it will be interesting to see if Justin Verlander can ever regain his once dominant form. The medical experts say he's OK. JV says he's OK, and the Tigers better hope he's not only OK, but has several more thousand quality pitches left in his precious right arm.

Because if not, they're on the hook for some serious dough. JV gets another $28 million next year. And in 2017. And in 2018. And in 2019. It drops down to a "paltry" $22 million in 2020. All guaranteed money.

Here's wishing the Fastball Flakes man the best, but if he crashes and burns in the near future -- definitely possible given the trend of his last year and a half of production or lack thereof.......

Let's just say the current jury remains out.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

MLB. Put up safety nets?

It appears Major League Baseball is considering whether to put up safety nets to protect fans from bats (splintered or whole) and balls flying into the stands at high speeds. Recently, a woman at Fenway Park in Boston was severely injured when a jagged piece of a broken bat struck her. It was a life-threatening event at the time and she still remains hospitalized. And, of course, we've long occasionally heard reports of people, even kids, getting zapped by a line drive.

The advocates for putting up nets in the "danger zone", which is roughly from dugout to dugout -- or first to third base -- have some valid points.

After a wayward puck in a hockey game killed a spectator, the NHL put up nets surrounding both goals so that could never happen again. How many times a fan had been struck by a puck in the past and the severity of any injuries incurred over the years is unknown, but it's likely quite a few, with various degrees of harm. Hockey fans sitting in such seats have become used to viewing the action through the nets. Baseball fans would as well.

There's certainly no disputing most every baseball park, from the little leagues on up to the majors has long had a net (or fencing) protecting the fans sitting behind home plate. Lots of pitches get fouled "straight back" and protecting the fans from routine incoming high-speed projectiles would seem to be a very good idea. And the people that prefer to sit behind home plate, which are expensive seats, got used to the net as well. It's kind of like living near a railroad or airport. After a while, people have a way of tuning out the noise. So why not put up the nets to ensure a future tragedy can't happen?

But for every point, there's a counterpoint. The people against the nets have an equally valid argument.

After all, seating in the lower deck between first and third base is prime territory, typically inhabited by season ticket holders. They pay big bucks for those seats and if they don't want their close-up view hampered by having to look through a net -- then where do others get off telling them nets are for their own good? They could further argue MLB has been around for well over 100 years without such nets, so they have tradition on their side as well. Yes, occasionally a tragedy will occur, but doesn't that happen in all walks of life? The chances of getting hit by a splintered bat are likely less than getting struck by lightning, but people still freely travel around during thunderstorms.

And there's the little matter of souvenir baseballs. Most every fan's dream is to catch/retrieve one while at the ballpark, and the nets would take away countless such mementos.

So the question becomes thus: Should safeguards be imposed on people that don't want them? The seatbelt thing seemed to work out over time, but nets in major league parks? To protect people that willingly drop $300-400 for seats up close to the action?

There's a better way. Ban cell/smart phones in these stadiums. Yours truly has long wondered what kind of person goes to a ballpark to watch a game, only to spend 90% of their time on their mobile addiction. A game is typically 2-3 hours. Is it asking too much for them to go that long without tweets, texts, and selfies? Besides, while their snoots are concentrating on apps, they're not paying attention to what's going on in the game, supposedly the reason for their attendance in the first place. No wonder incidents of fans being struck by bats and balls has recently been on the rise. They can't duck what they never see coming.

One is left to wonder where all this safety for your own good may lead next. Lord knows, we've had enough from the government in recent years. Do you feel safer knowing your phone calls might be monitored?

But this is about nets and how much safety is enough -- or too much.

Idle thought: If they really want to protect people, maybe they should put up nets protecting the gallery when Tiger Woods hits a tee shot. That thing could go anywhere.....

Cavs and commercials

Well gee. If you owe less than $625,000 on your mortage the feds have a deal for you. An easy-peasy refi that can save you a bunch of bucks. That's great, but tell ya what. You're already an idiot. What kind of fool borrows that much money in the first place? If you're rich, you didn't need a loan. And you didn't get rich by paying interest, but rather collecting it. Something is wrong with this picture.

The Cleveland Cavaliers continue to surprise the basketball world. Already without several key players, they just knocked off the favored Golden State Warriors -- again.

Aussie guard Matthew Dellavedova (or is that In A Gadda Da Vita?) has proven to be quite the iron butterfly indeed while checking the reigning NBA MVP, sometimes known as Steph Curry.

In Game 3, the short-handed Cavaliers pretty well had their way with the Oakland bunch -- for three quarters. They led by a whopping 17 points going into the fourth, a seemingly insurmountable lead. But you just knew the Warriors would go on a run. And they did, closing the gap to as little as 3 points with plenty of time remaining. Would the Cavs actually blow such a giant lead?

It turns out not, but it sure looked like they were lost in the fourth quarter. They seemed to have only one play on offense. Give it to Lebron and let him create something. Meanwhile, the other four guys were standing around.

Another commercial break. You gotta love that TV insurance ad that brought back Jane and Dan of classic Saturday Night Live fame as Coneheads. Still not sure how successful one might be trying to contact their insurance agent at 3 in the morning -- and does the same guy in the same khakis always answer the phone? I dunno, but it beats the heck out of the shrew and her idiot husband in the original version.

Now Cleveland is ahead 2-1 in the Finals and has home court advantage to boot. Can they hang on and pull this off for a title? Count yours truly as still skeptical. Golden State was behind Memphis 2-1 in a similar scenario as well but came roaring back to dispatch the Grizzlies.

Wow. That was an eye-opener. If you've experienced massive internal bleeding and even death after taking a certain prescription drug, call this 800 number right away for help. I understand legal minds have been known to work miracles, but getting deceased people to pick up the phone to join a class action suit would be impressive indeed. Then again, maybe those lawyers wear khakis too and do their best work at 3 AM for the recently departed. Right.

On with the Finals. Every game is crucial, but Game 4 is super-crucial. If GS evens it up at 2-2, that's one thing. But if the CCers go up 3-1.........

Monday, June 8, 2015

FIFA, corruption, and American authority

It's long been suspected the governing body of world soccer (FIFA) hasn't exactly been squeaky clean when it comes to finances. Given recent revelations, or at least allegations, it appears the scope of the corruption borders on mind-boggling. Countless millions of dollars have allegedly changed hands in bribes or payoffs. The fat cats at the top have been living lives of luxury befitting kings and emperors while deigning to grant certain "favors" -- if the price is right. Allegedly.

Now the US Attorney General has jumped in and indictments are flying every which way. Ironically, this happens to be a black lady named Lynch. Loretta's evidently mad as hell and won't take it any more. Many, both domestic and abroad, applaud her efforts to finally bring these "crooks" to justice. They are sick and tired of the tyranny FIFA honchos have long visited on the world while lining their pockets with vast riches.

It's further assumed Lynch and company have only scratched the surface. As the feds keep digging it's entirely possible, perhaps probable, the list of "wrong-doers" will grow exponentially and the dragnet greatly widen. If it's not already, the FIFA affair could morph into the biggest sports scandal the world has ever known.

Sure, if American citizens are involved in this whole mess (and apparently several are), than the Attorney General has every right to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the (US) law. If the suspects are living abroad, they can be extradited to face the relevant charges in America.

But then things might get a little sticky. Lots of foreign nationals have also been indicted. The US is seeking to bring them to the States as well.

Thing is, even if Lynch's merry band of prosecutors gets them on American soil -- what can they charge them with?

If, say, a FIFA exec from Trinidad and Tobago took a few million in bribes from, say, South Africa, then what business is that of the United States? In what sort of court or jurisdiction could they lawfully proceed? And what would be next? Indicting somebody that robbed a French bank or printed counterfeit Euros in Italy? This world cop thing has its limits.

Now there are rumblings about taking the already awarded World Cups away from Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022 due to how they may have gotten the nods in the first place. There must have been corruption and bribes involved -- right? Well, good luck following the money trail in either one of those places.

Russia recently showed they can sucessfully host a mega-world event. Try the winter Olympics a couple years ago.

But Qatar seems to be a very strange choice. First of all, temperatures routinely approach 120 degrees during the time of year the World Cup is played. That might be fine for natives of tropical zones and, yes, World Cup soccer players are in tip-top shape, but 120 is 120. That's damn hot to be running around for hours. And what of the teams from colder weather climates like the Scandinavians? It hardly seems fair.

Secondly, the country Qatar isn't exactly "stable" these days. It's a hot bed of various sects with various agendas. Let's just say most of them aren't going door-to-door selling thin mint cookies. What the landscape will look like in 2022, seven years from now, is anybody's guess. But currently, it's a security nightmare. And this is where they want to bring teams from all over the world to compete in a sports competition that encompasses the same fervor as some radical religious beliefs ? Really? If things stay the same -- good luck with that.

Nevertheless, here's wishing Loretta Lynch well on her own crusade. Whether or not she and her minions have the authority to proceed in some cases remains to be seen.

And I always have liked her signature song. Nothing wrong with being a coal miner's daughter. Say what? That was a different Loretta? Whatever. Lynn, Lynch, what's the difference? If she can prosecute foreigners for foreign crimes, than that's close enough as well.....

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A phenomenal day in sports

In the Stanley Cup Finals, Tampa Bay defeated Chicago to even up the series at 1-1. Who will eventually win is anybody's guess, but the hockey itself has been outstanding. Fast paced, skilled players galore, lots of hits, and nail-biting action. Even the goal-tending has been excellent, but not so much that the games turn into 1-0 yawners. Both teams have found ways to put the puck in the net. This is really good stuff.

American Pharoah became the first horse to win the Triple Crown since some peanut farmer named Jimmy Carter sat in the Oval Office. How many undeclared wars and recessions ago was that? Methinks the prized colt will have the proverbial harem of Grade A fillies offered up for his pleasure when he's likely put out to stud in the near future. Ah yes, life is good for a Triple Crown winner. Successfully going the extra mile -- or is that a quarter-mile -- sometimes has a way of getting one over the hump -- or is that on the hump? Whatever. Ahem.

The Detroit Tigers finally won a game to break their long losing streak and poke their noses above .500 again. It's something.

And speaking of Tigers, one Tiger Woods went off the deep end today at Jack Nicklaus' Memorial tournament in Ohio. After barely making the cut on Friday, Eldrick shot the worst round of his professional career on Saturday. Sometimes this is called "moving day". Indeed it was for Tiger. He moved into the basement while carding a 13 over par 85. That not only put him in last place, but a whopping 8 shots behind the next worst competitor.

How bad was it? He's dead last in driving percentage regarding hitting fairways. There's goes one into the drink. See Tiger chump a short chip shot that would roll right back down to his feet. See him duff the next one into a bunker a few feet away. See him blast out of one greenside sand trap, fly the green, and land in a trap on the other side. Oops, there goes another sploosh. Oh my, that one's headed into the woods. This is how bad it was. He looked like ME playing golf.

At the end of the third round Tiger now finds himself a colossal 27 shots behind the leader. This, at a course he's oh-so familiar with and has won at 5 times before. And also after having taken another few weeks off since he last graced the tour with his presence.

It's downright embarrassing, and it will only get worse on Sunday. Due to an odd number of players making the cut, and given Sunday rounds are always played in twosomes, Tiger would be the first to tee off in the morning. And he would have to play by himself. That's if he even bothers to show up. Though he appeared fine physically, it would come as little surprise if Woods found a reason to bow out of the final round. There's only so many different ways the politically correct folks and apologists can spin his recent play. The hard truth is -- he's been average on his good days, but flat-out stinks on his bad ones. An 85, 27 behind the leader, and 8 behind the next to last place guy? Really?

Look for Tiger to go back into hibernation to "work on his game". But rest assured, he'll show up at the U.S. Open in a couple weeks. Typically, those courses are super-tough and the rough is ridiculously high and brutal to players that can't hit the fairways with their tee shots. Did I mention Tiger is dead last in driving accuracy? That could get ugly.

And Serena Williams won another major in tennis. No great surprise there, but her act is wearing a bit thin. When behind, Serena will typically make painful faces like Adrian Peterson just gave her a good switching, or hold a cold compress to her head as if she's on the verge of passing out from exhaustion or just got tased. Poor thing. But when she gets ahead, not to mention winning, all of a sudden she's jumping around like a zoo chimpanzee on some serious roids. God bless her and may she continue to do well, but c'mon. This woe is me, I'm gonna die any second, but oops, I'm winning now, so it's a miracle, I'm magically healed and ready to compete in a triathlon is definitely getting old.

Enjoy the well-deserved accolades, but quit with the drama already......

Friday, June 5, 2015

Cleveland Cavs. It's over

You've got to give the Cavs credit for what they've accomplished this year. They're in the NBA Finals. This, despite an apparently clueless coach in David Blatt, and a rash of injuries to key players.

Lebron James is often said to be the "best player on the planet". He might well be, except a whole lot of knowledgeable basketball people disagreed with that over the past season. After all, Steph Curry was voted MVP of the league, and James Harden came in second. It's pretty tough to claim you're the best in the world when your peers don't think you're in the Top 2 in your own league. And who knows? Maybe there's some 8 foot wundkerkind hoopster in Bangladesh or the Amazon rain forest that can put them all to shame but hasn't been discovered yet.

Nevertheless, the Cavs can now pretty much kiss any thoughts of winning this year's NBA title good-bye. Star guard Kyrie Irving is out for the remainder of the series with a broken left kneecap.

One should remember that the Cleveland Cavs were already playing seriously short-handed. After all, big man Anderson Varejao and prized free agent acquisition Kevin Love had already gone down for the season.

And Golden State did have the best record in the entire league over the regular season in a much tougher western conference. Besides that, the Warriors are healthy and held home court advantage. They were rightfully favored to win the Finals anyway.

With the additional loss of Irving, it's become almost reminiscent of Lebron's first go-round in Cleveland. Sure, he can single-handedly dominate a game, because he's just -- that -- good. But against a championship caliber team, one guy can't get it done.

To his credit, Warriors' head coach Steve Kerr has employed a clever strategy. Like with James Harden of the Houston Rockets in the western conference finals, Kerr refused to double-cover Lebron. These guys are going to get 30 points anyway, so put a single tenacious defender on them and make them work hard for them. In the meantime, take away all the easy passes that led to lay-ups and dunks by their teammates. If they get 40+ as Lebron did in Game 1 of the Finals, so be it. But don't give their teammates any gimmes.

Granted, the Cavs took the Warriors to overtime in Game 1 before falling, hardly a blow-out, but the loss of Irving in the process is likely a fatal blow to any hopes of a title. Never say never when it comes to Lebron, but if he and whoever's left on the Cleveland roster can win 4 out of the next 6 against a Golden State team firing on all cylinders -- it would be a monumental upset.

Given the latest turn of events, this series might well wind up being a sweep. Lebron's going to do superhuman duty and might score 40 or 50 a game, but without sufficient help, it won't be nearly enough. Golden State is just too good all over the court.

What will be interesting is next year. Assuming Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao, and Kevin Love return and are 100% healthy, and given they will have had another season to "gel" as a team -- plus the bench has been getting invaluable experience this year due to injuries against high-caliber competition -- King James might well win a title for his beloved Cleveland.

But it ain't gonna happen this year. They're still good, but when Kyrie went down, so did Cleveland's last hope.

Turn out the lights, get the fat lady warmed up, and bring on Yogi Berra to declare it official.

It's pretty much over.....

Detroit Sports. The Lions

Lions fans might as well consider last year a mirage -- because that's basically what it was. Yes, the Lions went 11-5 and lost a playoff game to Dallas. Many Detroit fans screamed their team was "jobbed" by a pass interference infraction that didn't get called, and they might have had a point. But they fail to see the larger picture.

That was a bad break for the Lions, but during the 2014 season, just about every other break imaginable went their way. Consider....

Due to their horrid 2013 showing, which led to the firing of Jim Schwartz, the NFL handed the Lions a patsy schedule last year. Besides their mandated home and away dates within their own division, the Lions really only had two tough opponents out of the remaining 10 games. Eventual Super Bowl champion New England and Arizona. I'll get back to that.

Even within their own division, Green Bay was the only serious competition. At that, Aaron Rodgers was dinged up for part of the season. The Vikings were without Adrian Peterson and had a rookie QB in Teddy Bridgewater. The Bears floundered about on both sides of the ball, and they've yet to figure out if QB Jay Cutler is really good -- or really bad. Let's just say he has his days -- both ways.

During the season the Lions made several improbable comebacks to win games they likely should have lost. The glass half-fullers would say this was due to their poise under pressure and will to win. The glass half-emptiers might counter with -- these guys were incredibly lucky. As an example -- in the game in London against Atlanta, the Lions got a second last second chance to win on a penalty against THEMSELVES. They had lost, but then they won? Has that ever even happened before?

Against New England and the Brady Bunch, the Lions were predictably blown out. When they faced Arizona, the Cards' starting QB Carson Palmer had gone out for the season the week before. Still, the Lions were defeated in the desert.

Their 11-5 season most likely should have been more like 8-8, but the Lions seemed to be blessed last year. If there was a break to be had, Detroit caught, dare I say, the Lions' share of them.

But 11-5 is good news and bad news. The good news is the Lions have been rewarded with several "feature" games in the coming year. Besides their traditional Thanksgiving day game, they'll be on Monday and Thursday night prime-time broadcasts as well. Lots of exposure.

The bad news is a playoff team the year before is going to get slapped with a much more difficult schedule. And the Lions have. But hey, if you want to be considered amongst the best, then you're supposed to be able to beat the best.

Idle thought: Given the quality of play in last year's Super Bowl between Seattle and New England, does anybody really think the Lions could have played at that level -- even given the chance?

Let's take an objective look at the Lions.

QB Matthew Stafford has overcome his former "china doll" syndrome and can certainly throw the football. One way or the other, he's going to get his 4500 -5000 yards and likely 20+ TD passes.

Calvin Johnson remains one of the top receivers in the league, but the Megatron is beginning to show signs of wear. As they say, he's not getting any younger, and he's taken a beating over the years from hauling in so many balls thrown into double and triple coverage. When your star receiver is too banged up to practice through the week but still goes out and takes his licks on Sunday -- it does not bode well for his future. Golden Tate was a marvelous free agent addition, though why he left a Super Bowl champion team in beautiful Seattle to come to the crime-ridden wasteland of Detroit doesn't exactly speak volumes as to his overall smarts. Beyond those two, the Lions receiver corps is iffy at best.

The Lions always seem to have a bevy of tight ends, but none of them seems to be a complete player. This one can't catch and that one can't block. It's always something.

Their offensive line is a rework in progress. How that will turn out is anybody's guess.

Their defensive line was gutted with the loss of Suh and Fairley, and maybe the new guys work out -- or maybe not. But despite their pesky little attitude problems, it's hard to believe the Lions D-line will be as good as they were last year.

The linebacker corps is average at best. Some of these guys could play for other teams, and others likely not.

The defensive secondary remains a crapshoot. One has 13 years of NFL experience under his belt. Experience is good, but with it comes age and eventually slower reflexes. Others continue to show "promise", and sometimes they play very well. That's if they can stay healthy.

The main reason Matthew Stafford has thrown for such gawdy yardage in recent years is because the Lions have lacked a reliable running game. Whether this is on the O-line not opening holes or the backs not being up to snuff is an open question. Let's just say Stafford and the Lions have been much better off with a pass-happy offense. Reggie Bush didn't pan out and in the recent draft the Lions selected Ameer Abdullah, a running back from Nebraska in the second round. Will he be any good at the NFL level, especially on the Lions? We'll see. Beyond that, the Lions have had a few ball carriers that could generously be called "serviceable". In other words, they couldn't get anybody better and somebody has to do it.

Getting place kicker David Prater was a terrific move. Though normally amongst the lower paid players, who would dispute a reliable long range field goal kicker often makes the difference in winning or losing a game?

The management side of the Lions is interesting. Since the recent death of long time owner William Clay Ford, nobody seems to know exactly who's in charge. Perhaps his widow Martha, who is nearing 90 years old herself. She came from the Firestone family and married into the Fords. How much can she be expected to know about football? Their son, Mustang Billy, seems to be quite busy running the automobile company. So who's calling the shots at the top?

As the GM, Martin Mayhew seems to be in charge of player personnel, be it the draft or free agents. He replaced another M&M named Matt Millen, whose 8 year reign of incompetence is legendary in Lions lore. And when it comes to the Lions and their many foibles over the decades, perhaps being considered the biggest dope of all-time is quite an accomplishment, if not necessarily complimentary.

Tom Lewand is the president of the Lions. He assumed the "oval" office (note the reference to the Ford car logo, and the color blue) right after the team had gone 0-16 in 2008. Though it is said Lewand oversees all aspects of the Lions organization, by most accounts, he's pretty much the bean counter.

Second year Lions head coach Jim Caldwell presents a mixed bag when it comes to coaching history. After his college playing days were over at Iowa, JC bounced around from one school to another in various coaching capacities. He finally got the head job, no snickers please, at Wake Forest. Over 8 years his teams would go a dismal 26-63. He was fired. On to the NFL under head coach Tony Dungy of the Indianpolis Colts. In those days, the Colts were a powerhouse. Before Dungy even retired, Caldwell had been named his successor-in-waiting. Indeed, in Caldwell's first season as head coach the Colts would go 14-2, but he had inherited the house Dungy built. In the very next season, the Colts plummeted to 2-14. Caldwell was promptly fired again.

On to the Baltimore Ravens where Caldwell was the defensive coordinator under head coach John Harbaugh. They won a Super Bowl.

In the meantime, after another loose-cannon bonehead year, the Lions finally fired Jim Schwartz. And who did they hire? Yup, Jim Caldwell.

He promptly led them to the 11-5 record of last year. Thing is, Caldwell's entire coaching history suggests he makes a capable lieutenant under other field generals, but he and his teams crash and burn quickly when JC assumes the reins of command. Given the tougher schedule, and all their flaws, we shall see indeed how well Caldwell's boys perform in 2015.

The Lions's ever-present glass half-fullers are predicting they'll go anywhere from 10-6, to 12-4 this year. The half-emptiers are talking more like 8-8.

Here's a scenario the Honolulu blue and silver faithful don't want to hear. Given all the above, yours truly can easily see the Lions going 6-10, and if all the breaks they caught last year go against them in 2015, maybe even 4-12.

The Lions' chances of competing for a Super Bowl? If all goes right, it's theoretically possible. So is Bruce, or is that Caitlyn Jenner being elected our next President to succeed the BO man.

But I wouldn't bet on it.......

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Detroit sports. The Pistons

First of all, the organizational chart makes no sense whatsoever. Stan VanGundy is both the head coach and the president, with a couple general managers in between. How can it be that a coach reports to a couple GMs and they, in turn, report to him as president? And what other team has two GMs anyway and nobody seems to know just exactly what it is they do or are responsible for? It's nuts.

Relatively new owner Tom Gores spent a few million bucks spiffing up the Palace where the Pistons play. That's great. What's not so great is the state of the team itself.

Around the NBA, various teams rise and fall. The San Antonio Spurs are getting old and their time is likely coming to fade. The Celtics are in all-out rebuild mode. The once mighty Lakers have become a laughingstock. Teams like the Bulls, Clippers, Rockets and Grizzlies are very good, but second best. The Atlanta Hawks have improved and the OKC Thunder might be a force if Kevin Durant can ever get and stay healthy.

What can you say about the Cleveland Cavs and the Golden State Warriors? They're in the Finals, and both have rookie head coaches. If they can keep their team together, the Warriors could be a major force for years to come. And hey, Lebron and Kyrie are getting it done with a clueless rookie head coach and such notables as Anderson Varejao and Kevin Love on the shelf with injuries. Look out for the Cavs in the next few years as well.

Meanwhile, the Pistons seem to be in purgatory. They're not quite bottom-feeders, but not nearly contenders either. Problem is, they win just enough games to be semi-respectable which also means they don't get a top draft choice. Let's not kid ourselves. Annually, the list of potential draftee "difference makers" can be counted on one hand. Sure, there's lot of "good" players available with later picks, but the Pistons already have several B players on their roster. Adding another one every year is never going to get them to the promised land. Nor are free agent cast-offs from other teams.

For that matter, even if the Pistons were in a salary cap position to go after a "superstar", there's no guarantee such a stud would want to come to the Detroit area. After all, the NBA season is played during the winter months -- snow, ice, freezing temperatures, etc. Throw in arguably the worst roads in the country, Michigan's much higher than average taxes, and it's entirely possible, if not probable, a player would settle for a few less bucks to go somewhere else with a much better overall climate. Especially considering the current state of the team he would be coming to.

The last time the Pistons won a championship was in 2004 when they upset the favored Lakers. (Yours truly watched the deciding Game 5 from a motel room in a little town called Laconia, New Hampshire. It was, and still is a major annual motorcycle run and while the other bikers were out and about further checking out the beautiful countryside/wildlife, and thought I was crazy, I wanted to see the game -- dammit).

Looking back at it, the Pistons winning the NBA title that year could be considered an anomaly. It probably shouldn't have happened. That team was pretty much cobbled together.

Chauncey Billups was a cast off from Denver. The Pistons got Richard Hamilton in a trade few thought wise at the time. They'd picked up Ben Wallace who had been a fringe player at best in his past. Tayshaun Prince was a second round draft choice. Rasheed Wallace, thought to be a loose, if gifted cannon, came on board. Stir in a few other B players, mix it all together, and there's no logical way the Pistons should have won the NBA title. But somehow they all came together, went "to work", and pulled it off.

It can happen with the right mix and the right coaching. But it's unlikely the modern-day Pistons can duplicate such an effort in the near future. They can work, work, work, but these days flat-out talent pretty much rules the day. Those who have it win. Those who don't aren't destined to go far. The Pistons would be in the latter category. And there doesn't appear to be a way the Pistons can get out of the mediocre mode any year soon. Some of their better players are nearing the end of their rookie contracts, and might well bail for greener pastures, in more ways than one.

Teams like the Celtics and Lakers may be in the pits right now but, rest assured, they'll come roaring back in a few years. Some franchises can't be kept down for very long. They will find a way. Others will rise and fall over the years. Look at the Miami Heat.

But most everything about the Detroit Pistons franchise, from the front office on down to the roster, suggests they're going to have a very tough time fighting their way out of mediocrity any year soon.

And it might well get a whole lot worse.....