Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Ranting on injuries

Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls is a wonderfully gifted basketball player. He even won the NBA MVP not long ago. But now, before the 2015 season has begun, he's out again with an injury. A broken eye socket, surgery required, and timetable for return unknown.

That would seem to beg the question..... Despite how talented a player may be, what good is that player to the team if he can't stay healthy enough to play? After all, this is hardly DR's first go-round with injuries. He's spent most of the last few years collecting tons of money while unable to play. Is it finally time to officially call Rose a bust? Maybe.

Down in Big D, QB Tony Romo is out with a broken collar bone and star receiver Dez Bryant has a broken foot. Can the Boys survive a couple months without their services? Maybe. Only because the NFC East is otherwise underwhelming. The Redskins are terrible. Mad genius Chip Kelly in Philly has made a lot of surprising roster moves, but they have so far more closely resembled madness than genius. And who knows about Tom Coughlin, Eli, and the NY Giants? As inept as the coach and QB seem, every few years they improbably rise up to greatness. Methinks 2015 will not be one of them. These guys are not good.

Big Ben of the Pittsburgh Steelers is out for a couple months with a strained knee ligament. Coach Mike Tomlin says he has all the confidence in the world back-up QB Michael Vick (sound familiar?) can step in and do the job. Well, good luck with that. Vick has been a disaster at QB since that whole dog-fighting thing landed him behind bars a few years back. For that matter, even in his prime, the Vickster was always much more hype than substance.

So far, the Green Bay Packers are cruising along undefeated. But it's likely only a matter of time before they will miss wide receiver supreme Jordy Nelson, who was lost for the season on a freak injury. True, the rest of the NFC Central division shouldn't be a problem for the Pack. The Detroit Lions are once again stumbling, Da Bears remain in floundering mode, and even with a so-far healthy Adrian Peterson, does anybody really think the Vikings are serious contenders? Not likely.

Tiger Woods supposedly had another back surgery and says he'll be raring to go when the next golf season begins. Though what remain of his ever-faithful groupies are no doubt delirious with joy at the prospect of their hero coming back, it can realistically be summed up in three words.


Eldrick had his decade of greatness, but now it's far in the rear view mirror. Whether it was getting married, having a couple kids, being exposed as a serial adulterer, the messy divorce that quickly followed, or a rash of injuries, real or feigned, it--just--doesn't--matter. He'll be 40 and the bevy of young studs on the PGA tour will eat him alive on the courses. Forget winning another major. He'll be lucky to make a cut. It's over. Get used to it.

On a personal note, here's to Scott and Jennifer, wherever you are. Loved you both, and would never in my wildest dreams have imagined the nightmare scenario that would befall you. RIP.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The wacky NFL

Wow. The Baltimore Ravens are 0-3? Who saw that coming? Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders is drawing comparisons to Aaron Rodgers? Really?

Well OK. Cleveland is still Cleveland and the only good thing to ever come out of Jacksonville was the Lynard Skynard band. The always self-overrated Detroit Lions are bumbling their way to another shameful season, the Patriots are rolling again, the Skins are a train wreck, and there's big time drama down in Dallas. These are all things to be expected.

The Miami Dolphins look pitiful and Ndamukong Suh, the former Detroit Lions stomper, is catching some heat for not playing hard with his new team. Combine big guaranteed bucks, a thug brain, and relocate it to another dysfunctional franchise and this is the logical result. No big surprise.

Peyton Manning is still throwing wounded ducks, but the Broncos keep finding ways to win. One is left to wonder how Archie's boy even finds time for football these days -- given he seems to be filming another moronic commercial every day. Skinny legs Peyton? High voiced Peyton? Peyton and the pizza Papa? Peyton speaking Chinese? REALLY? Has the man no shame?

[And now a personal commercial break. Alas, Samuel L. Jackson is back again hawking the Quicksilver credit card. As mentioned before in this space, quicksilver is another name for mercury, which is a highly toxic substance to human beings. But Sammy Jack says the way he sees it, we have two choices. Either get this piece of plastic to charge stuff, or one will surely face financial ruin.
Yours truly begs to differ. There is indeed a third choice. It's called the mute button every time that arrogant ass appears on the TV screen.]

Funny, or maybe not, how all the politically correct hoopla has died down over the Washington Redskins changing their "offensive" name. Maybe it's because they stink. If they were 3-0 and legitimate contenders, I'm guessing the ever-lovable media folks would be all over it. Was it ever truly important or is it about ratings? Who's kidding who?

Idle stat. The KC Chiefs were the only team to have a perfect record (3-0) against the Packers at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Not any more. They predictably got clobbered by the Cheesers in the Monday night game.

Don't look now, but the Arizona Cardinals are 3-0 and a really good team. They were last year too until starting QB Carson Palmer went down with an injury. Everybody wants to talk about the Seahawks in the AFC west, but don't count out the Cards. These guys are the real deal.

Closing thought. After getting blistered in their first three games, the Detroit Lions face the prospect of going to Seattle for the Monday night game next week. The Seahawks find themselves two games behind Arizona in their own division, and are formidable at home. Let's just pencil in 0-4 for the Motown puddy tats. The following week, the same Arizona Cardinals come-a-calling at Detroit's own Ford field. 0-5 anyone? After all their usual preseason local hype, the Lions might well be history with a few weeks still to go before Halloween.

A surprise? Hardly. It's the Lions, remember? Every time they take a small step forward to approach mediocrity, another crash is sure to be coming soon. Over a half century of history repeated over and over again speaks for itself.

Like Sammy Jack said --  any questions?

Besides, he still wants to know what's in your wallet. So does the Detroit Lion management.

And the suckers keep on coming for both.


Jordan Spieth and a very rich caddy

First of all, congrats to Jordan Spieth. He started off the golfing year winning the first two majors, and missed by one stroke in the third. Zoom, right to #1 in the world. Very impressive indeed. Then some Aussie named Jason Day got super hot and toppled the Texas kid from the throne. Temporarily.

However, when it counted most, JS came through. He not only won the season-ending Tour Championship, but captured the Fed-Ex crown as well. Besides the hefty purse that went along with winning this tourney, and returning to #1 in the world again, he got a whopping extra $10 million as the Fed-Ex champ. This was golf's version of the playoffs in other major sports. A big trophy, lots of dough, and bragging rights for a year to whoever comes out on top. All hail Jordan Spieth, king of the links, but he probably won't get a parade. Even that goofy Tiger Woods never got a parade, unless you count the bimbos -- but that's old news.

So no doubt Jordan Spieth, at the tender young age of 22, is quite the happy camper these days.

But you know who's even happier? His caddy.

That would be one Michael Greller. If you've watched golf tournaments on TV, you've seen him toting Spieth's bag.

Though he looks younger, Greller is actually 37. A former middle school math teacher that originally volunteered to caddy at various tournaments in his spare time, free of charge, for any player that would have him. Evidently, Greller had a thing about carrying another man's bag. Ahem.

Regardless, as fate would have it, he eventually hooked up with Spieth, and the rest is ongoing history.

Greller had been imparting the ways of math on the puberty terrorists for maybe 50-60 grand a year. Not a bad wage. But there's all those lessons to be drawn up, tests to be created and graded, the same with homework, having to cope with nitwit parents at the dreaded PTA conferences, and mostly being in the company of kids at their most rebellious age. Long hours filled with stress galore. Who needs it?

Consider where he's at now.

Different caddies for different players on different circuits make different wages. Some typically make a base salary of $1000-1500 a week, plus a share of their player's winnings, if they make the cut. Not bad. Beats cooking fries at Mickey D's, and is likely on a par, no pun intended, with what a junior high teacher knocks down.

Caddies certainly aren't unionized, so there's no guaranteed wages or benefits while plying their craft. They all work out their own deals with the player that employs them.

But the rule of thumb on the PGA tour is as follows:

For a player finishing outside the Top Ten in any given tournament, and by definition most do, the caddy will receive 5% of their winnings -- given the player made the cut at all.

Inside the Top Ten but not a winner? The rate goes up to 7%. Decent bucks.

Typically, the champion of any tournament is expected to give his caddy 10% of his earnings. In other words, win a million bucks, and the caddy gets a hundred grand. Definitely better than asking customers whether they want the extra-crispy or original chicken recipe.

After winning the Fed-Ex cup, Jordan Spieth's earnings this year topped $20 million on the golf courses. If Michael Greller was a 10 percenter -- the math is simple enough.

He made two million bucks. Plus he gets free first class air travel to exotic places featuring the finest golf courses and enjoys the luxury of staying in 5-star hotels. All this, while only working maybe 30 weeks a year. His young master doesn't enter just any old tournament these days, because he doesn't have to. #1 is #1 and they can pick and choose which venues they wish to play -- or shun. Arnie did it. So did Jack. As did Eldrick. It's good to be king.

It's even better to be his caddy.

For one Michael Greller, I'm guessing raking in two million living the life of luxury surely beats the hell out of putting up with a classroom full of adolescent hormones running amok for a measly 50 grand or so.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

It's just pitiful. (MSU and the Tigers)

Long starved for national respect, the Michigan State football team currently finds itself ranked #2 in the country. One question. How the hell can that be? Let's look closer.

They opened up on the road against a minor league (MAC) school in Western Michigan. The Spartans would defeat the Broncos 37-24. Yawn.

The following week Oregon would come a-calling to MSU land. You remember them. They went to the national championship game last year. Though the Ducks had lost Heisman winning QB Marcus Mariota to the NFL, this was supposed to be a big deal. MSU came in #5 and Oregon #7. At home, the Spartans barely squeaked out a 31-28 victory. Better than getting beat in one's backyard, but no way a "statement" win. Number 5 is SUPPOSED to beat number 7, especially at home. Hello?

Then the Spartans hosted the perennial powerhouse (excuse the snicker) Air Force Falcons and prevailed 35-21. Yawn #2.

Next up were the always "formidable" Central Michigan Chippewas visiting East Lansing. MSU would defeat them 30-10. Yawn #3.

It could be concluded that Michigan State has played four patsy teams in a row. Oregon, you say? They just got run out of their own house to the tune of 62-20 by Utah. As in 6 touchdowns worth. It likely could have been 7 or 8 touchdowns had the Utes not sent in their scrubs late in the game. It was a good old-fashioned beatdown. The Ducks may have started out the season ranked #7, then fell to #13, but after that debacle, kiss them good-bye out of the top 25, maybe the top 50. Either Utah's highly underrated (#18) -- could be -- or the Ducks are just plain terrible.

If the latter, then again, how did Michigan State rise in the rankings all the way up to #2, when all they've played is Girl Scout teams so far?

Yes, Alabama got beat at home by Ole Miss (hee hee), so they had to fall. For that matter, #1 Ohio State narrowly got by another minor league team (Northern Illinois). But what of Texas Christian? The horned frogs were the preseason #2 team and, last time I looked, they remained undefeated. Check out TCU's record.

Week one. @ Minnesota. Not a powerhouse, but still a Big 10 team, TCU won 23-17.
Week two. Home against Stephen F. Austin, the equivalent of a MAC team. The horned frogs know what to do with a patsy. 70-7.
Week three. Home again against SMU. A 56-37 victory.
Last night. @ Texas Tech. In a shootout, da frogs outlasted da raiders 55-52. It doesn't say much for the ribbit defense, but at least it was a victory against a semi-decent team on the road.

Four games, two on the road, four victories, a whopping 204 points scored, and they get leap-frogged in the rankings by the likes of Michigan State that has played four gimme games? Again -- how the hell does that work?

Then there's the Detroit Tigers. Though they haven't won a World Series since 1984, at least they were "contenders" in recent years. A close but no cigar team. Always the tease to their faithful.

But 2015 has seen them come apart at the seams. After a brief fast start, Murphy's Law kicked into high gear regarding the Tigers. Be it the lack of quality starting pitching, a woeful bullpen, below average defensive play, and certainly a dearth of team speed, the Tigers slip-slided away in a hurry. Throw in former GM Dave Dombrowski totally looting the farm system for "prized" free agents in a win-now mode that never quite worked -- then losing or trading those same studs not long ago for a few "prospects", and the Motown baseball picture is not pretty. D-ski was finally rightfully run out of town, but too late. The damage had been done. For many reasons, the near future of the Tigers appears bleak indeed.

Consider. They were long ago mathematically eliminated from winning another AL Central division title. Hovering somewhere around 20 games behind will get you there. Then they were eliminated from any wild-card possibility. As if. And just last night, they were also mathematically eliminated from even being a .500 team. They may win a game here and there, but these guys are not good.

So what did the Tigers do? Bring back the manager, one Brad Ausmus, who has presided over the debacle of this season for at least one more year. Remember, Ausmus had ZERO experience as a manager at any level of professional baseball when the Tigers made him their field general last year. Oh, that's right. He was a back-up catcher. Those guys are always so smart. Right.

And Brad said the -- duh -- right thing. He expects the team will be a lot better in 2016. Well, no kidding. What was he supposed to say? I've been a bonehead as manager, the players are either underachieving or pretty much just suck, and we'll be lucky to stay out of the basement again next year? But thank you very much for a few more million bucks, while I continue to spit every three seconds?

Sometimes teams get what they deserve. Not so in MSU's case this year, and they will be exposed eventually. #2 in the country? Please.

Other times teams rightfully reap what they sow. If the Tigers want to bring back the apparently clueless Ausmus for another year to oversee the rag-tag bunch they currently have on their roster -- well -- good luck with that. It ain't gonna work.

Best thing the Tigers could do is clean house entirely. From the front office, down to the manager and his coaches, and trade off whatever players that have value for a slew of hot shot minor league prospects and future high draft choices.

Instead of prolonging the agony of a slow death, why not blow it up completely and start over? Maybe it works out in a few years, or maybe not. But as is, any hope of the Tigers competing for a championship in the near future is little more than folly.

As for those that will believe next spring that "hope springs eternal"?

Well, I would suggest they look back up at the title of this post.

Detroit Lions. Do or die time

It was no great surprise the Lions fell apart in the second half of their opening game against San Diego. Typically, the Lions don't fare well out west, and Phillip Rivers is every bit the quarterback Matthew Stafford is -- if not more so.

What might have been somewhat alarming to Lions' fans was how they were manhandled in Minnesota the following week. Though Stafford was only officially sacked once, he flat-out got beat up. A telling stat was the very same Georgia Peach was the Lions leading rusher, for all of 20 yards. In other words, the Vikings stuffed the Detroit running game. This, while their own Adrian Peterson was running wild against the Lions. Hey, goons or not, the off-season losses of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley exposed the interior of the Detroit defensive line as being vulnerable.

So now the Lions are 0-2 and Denver is coming to town for a nationally broadcasted Sunday night game. Though the Broncos are rightfully a 3 point favorite, one never knows about the Motown puddy tats. Knowing the world will be watching and playing their home opener in the sure to be rocking and rolling sold out Ford Field -- the Lions are quite capable of pulling an upset.

And they better hope they do, because although it's only Week 3 in the NFL season, it's pretty much do or die time in the magical kingdom of the Honolulu blue and silver.

If they lose this game to Peyton and Co. to go 0-3, with a trip to Seattle (good luck with that) up next, the Lions' season will effectively be over. They're likely to get blistered in Seattle and have a home date with Arizona (a very good team) the following week.

Yes, the Lions have a home-friendly schedule in ensuing weeks against teams that are certainly beatable, but if they start off 1-4, much less 0-5, they can kiss the playoffs goodbye.

Perhaps it's for the best. Let's face it. Despite their usual local hype, the Lions aren't a very good team in the whole scheme of the NFL. They still don't know who's playing where on their O-line, hence Stafford getting abused and the lack of a running game. From the porous D-line, to average linebackers at best, to the Keystone Koppish secondary, it's little wonder the Lions' defense is ranked 30th out of 32 teams. They need to score a lot of points because they're surely going to give up a bunch.

That might not be so easy against Denver. They feature the #2 ranked defense and have a couple ferocious rushers named Demarcus Ware and Vonn Miller that are probably licking their chops thinking about slicing and dicing Stafford. And they very well might.

But you know what? Though Denver is clearly the superior team, look for the Lions to win this game. Because they always seem to do just barely enough to keep their faithful addicted to the kool-aid.

Do they have the remotest shot of going to the Super Bowl, much less winning it? Perhaps, as much so as a Kardashian could come out of nowhere to capture the Presidency in November 2016. But I wouldn't exactly bet on it.

Nevertheless, Lions' fans (and their ever faithful lemming leading media) always seem to think this just might be "the year". There is always hope, they say. Maybe, but one should consider who is peddling it. Is it really about hopes or more about preying on dopes? Shouldn't a half century with a grand total of one playoff win be cause enough to rouse even the most delirious fans back to their senses? I mean, what does it take before reality sets in? This team was no good. It's never been any good. It's currently not good. And it's not going to be any good in the near future.

Other teams have had their sine waves over the years. Dallas, Pittsburgh, San Fran, NY Giants and Jets, and Miami/Baltimore/St. Louis/Chicago/Minnesota/Buffalo to name just a few. They've seen the mountaintop but also the basement. Up and down they've gone over the decades. The Detroit Lions seem forever mired in flat-line mode. In their best years, they've been mediocre. Super Bowl worthy? It's never happened. Not even close.

Yet here's to the kool-aiders. God bless and carry on if you must.

But excuse me if I think you're all even nuttier than I am......

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Viagra and the WNBA

We've seen all sorts of dopey "male enhancement" pill commercials over the years. Evidently, one variety works best if the couple lugs his and her bathtubs to the beach, or up a mountain somewhere. Seems like a lot of trouble to go through. Lately, the pill-makers seem to believe guys will buy more of their product if it's pitched by women with British accents. By jove, they could bloody well be right. There's something exotic, or is that erotic, when it comes to sexual fantasies involving a partner from a different culture. And what American man would run off to his doc for a prescription after watching a trailer-trasher or ghetto mom -- brood in tow -- hawk such a product?

The latest ad features another gorgeous model, also with a Limey accent, but with a twist. She appears to be decked out in a Detroit Lions uniform -- #16. The entire decor of her magnificent bedroom also matches up with the white and blue road uniforms of the Lions. She's even playing with a football. The number 16 she wears belongs to one Lance Moore. The irony is delicious. Consider the name. Lance more. Perfect for such a product. Also seldom noticed is the wedding band she sports. So where is her husband? Shouldn't he be taking care of this business so she doesn't have to advertise? Or did he pull a Bruce/Caitlyn? Yikes, and perish the thought.

What does this have to do with the WNBA? It could fairly be said they're a bit "hard-up" themselves.

The WNBA is now in their playoff semi-finals but here's the thing. Did anybody even notice their regular season? These ladies are the best female basketball players in the world, but nobody seems to care.

They get ZERO media coverage until their playoffs are reaching a climax. Even then, it's on an obscure sports cable channel. Nothing in the newspapers or online during their regular season.

To be sure, WNBA teams typically play in arenas that have far more empty seats than bodies in them. That's probably why the maximum salary in the WNBA is around $100,000. Their NBA counterparts have a MINIMUM salary of almost $500,000. That for a rookie at the end of the bench that seldom even plays -- and it quickly escalates every year he stays on a roster. But even poor NBA teams playing in the same arenas put more butts in the stands, get a bunch of TV money, and enjoy hefty revenue sharing as well.

Is it right? Maybe not. But in the end it boils down to what is popular amongst sports fans. They either want to watch it -- or they don't.

Some things just aren't destined to catch on in America as big time sports, no matter how hard their boosters try. Men's soccer is like that. Maybe it's because they've never been any good at the international level. So is women's soccer for that matter. Even though world class, the only times it gets attention is when an event like the World Cup or Olympics rolls around.

Cricket and rugby are big in many countries, but not America. Women's fast-pitch collegiate softball gets on the radar screen during their "World Series" then quickly fades away. Do men even play competitive fast-pitch softball anymore? Or has it all devolved into the underhanded lob pitch beer-league variety? You know -- the big goobers swatting one home run after another, and huffing and puffing their way around the basepathes.

After a few post-game rounds at a local pub -- THOSE are the guys that likely need the little blue pills. That is, if their significant other is still home when they finally arrive in a drunken stupor. Hmm. It might just be these are the very same softball widows that have gone off to film Viagra commercials. Throw in a faked cockney accent, put on a Lions uniform, and let the royalties roll in. Beats the old man rolling in at 3 in the morning and flopping his beer filled belly next to them with NO chance of any action. And what lady wouldn't gladly trade a night of tolerating snoring, belching, and farting to be pampered like a movie star for a commercial?

That would explain the wedding band, and you go girl. You'll probably never play in the WNBA, but they pay peanuts compared to what you can make doing an ad spot that will get the libido challenged men all worked up and heading to their doctors for a prescription. As if they're ever going to have a woman like you. Right.

Then again, the latest one WAS wearing a Detroit Lions uniform.

One word.


Yogi Berra. One of a kind

It's sad that Yogi Berra just died but, hey, it's going to happen to all of us someday, and it can certainly be said Yogi lived a full life. He beat the average in many respects.

First, he was 90. That's WAY above average.

He was an 8th grade drop-out that went on to become a beloved icon. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY didn't like Yogi Berra. How many others have you heard of that ever achieved such status?

And then there was the baseball thing. After a stint in the WWII era Navy, Berra caught on with the NY Yankees. One must remember times were different back then. This was long before "expansion" was even thought of in the major leagues. Obviously, fewer teams meant less guys made it to the big time. That's likely why so many from Yogi's era remain revered to this day as baseball "greats". The talent pool wasn't as watered down.

[True, modern day players are much more highly skilled than their predecessors. As an example, Willie Mays' "sensational" catch of Vic Wertz's drive to centerfield was a jaw-dropper back in the day, but such plays -- and better -- are routinely made by current outfielders. They make the highlight reel once, maybe, and then are quickly forgotten.]

And what were the chances some 5 foot 8 chubby guy from St. Louis would become the starting catcher for the NY Yankees? But Yogi did and went on to greatness indeed.

Nineteen years in the big leagues and eighteen times an All-Star. Three-time American League MVP winner. 10 time World Series champion while with the Yankees. Yes, he was part of a formidable team with many other stars, but nobody else in baseball has 10 rings and probably never will. Like it or not, free agency and exorbitant salaries have pretty well sounded the death knell for dynasties.

Yogi would later go on to lead both the Yankees and cross-town Mets to World Series' as a manager. Overall, he was there for 21 if them, winning 13. Truly impressive stuff. Was he in the right place at the right time? Sure. In team games, one player, regardless of how good he is, can't propel them to championships. See Lebron James in his early Cleveland Cavalier years. And even the brightest and shrewdest manager can't lead his team to a parade unless he's got some serious studs playing for him.

As a player, Berra's career stats are good but not eye-popping. He batted .285, had 358 home runs, and 1430 RBIs. Over 19 years, that means he averaged 19 homers and 75 RBIs a season. He was a good but not great "defensive" catcher at the time, had an average throwing arm, and was rather slow of foot. Hey, remember he was 5-8 and chubby. Yet all in all, doing what he did for the Yankees year in and year out during their glory years of times long past made him a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame. Though it took the usual gang of stodgy old voting farts -- sometimes known as the BaseBall Writers Association of America -- a couple years to figure out the obvious, Berra was finally inducted in 1972.

Ever wonder if Yogi Berra and the lovable cartoon character Yogi Bear had a connection? After all, the picnic basket swiping Jellystone bear debuted in 1958 as a sidekick to Huckleberry Hound during the catcher's hey day. Yogi the Yankee sued Hanna-Barbara for defamation of character. He would later drop the lawsuit, while the cartoon company maintained the similarity of names was just a coincidence. Most believe Yogi Bear was patterned after Art Carney's Ed Norton character of the classic early TV show "The Honeymooners". For those old enough to remember, the voices certainly match up. Besides, only one Yogi was really Yogi. The Yankee player's real name was Lawrence Peter Berra.

Yet perhaps Yogi Berra's most lovable attribute was his frequent "words of wisdom". They were many, and classic themselves.

Come to think of it, the Jellystone bear had a pal named Boo Boo -- right? Given Lawrence Peter's many hilarious malaprops (boo-boos) over the years, maybe Hanna-Barbara should have counter sued for the same defamation. Can a cartoon character claim he was slandered? Hmm.

Nevertheless, you were a good man Lawrence Peter (Yogi) Berra. Maybe not exactly a class act, but an American icon that was beloved by all. He finally came to his fork in the road and took it.

It's not over til it's over? Well, it most certainly is now.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Canadian Kawasaki?

Yours truly has been to Toronto a few times (though not lately) and it's a terrific city. Lots of very interesting/entertaining stuff to see and do, and for the most part polite and respectful people. Heading up 401 from Detroit is like leaving Dante's Inferno for a 4 hour drive to Shangrila. Back in the day, I even saw a Leafs game in the old Gardens. No way could anybody buy a pair of tickets through usual channels, let alone a dumb Yank, but it had something to do with a scalper desperate to unload his stuff as game time approached. Alas, the Leafs would lose that game 4-1 to the LA Kings, but yours truly has never been in a more highly charged hockey atmosphere ever since -- and I've been to Red Wing playoff games at the Joe. Let's just say as opposed to Americans, the Canadians take their appreciation of hockey to a whole new level.

So what does this have to do with a Kawasaki? First, we have to shift sports. From the NHL to MLB. The Toronto Blue Jays are putting on quite a show this year. Not only do they (narrowly) lead the AL East division over the dreaded Yanks from Bronxville, they've assembled quite the murderer's row of sluggers in their line up. Far and away, the Jays lead the entire major leagues in home runs. To boot, they acquired some pitcher you may have heard of named David Price from the woeful Detroit Tigers a while back. Price has been lights out since he arrived in Toronto and is right there for Cy Young consideration this year. The fans love him, and well they should.

But for some strange reason, Blue Jay fans have adopted another hero. Enter one Munenori Kawasaki.

He's a 34 year old infielder from Japan, pretty much a scrub called up when teams could expand their rosters from 25 to 40 in September. At that, Kawasaki has less than 700 major league at-bats in his total career. A little dude, standing 5 foot eleven, 175 pounds, that bats left and throws right.

This year? He's hitting about a buck ninety, barely his weight, with zero home runs and one RBI. In other words, he's performing like an aging career "minor leaguer" would be expected to. Not good. He likely wouldn't be there at all if not for the injury to Troy Tulowitzki.

But the fans love him. Could it be our lovable neighbors to the north need to cut back on the Labatt and Molsen because it's making them crazy? Hmm, last time I looked, that pesky Seagram's plant was still on the Canadian side of the Detroit river. Have they been shipping too many cases up 401 as well, with the result being mass drunken lunacy at Blue Jays games? How else to explain their fascination with such a marginal player that would be lucky to hang on in the minor leagues for most other clubs?

Canadians for Kawasaki? Really? Sheer madness.

Then again, they can always look to the south and say one word. Trump. Or Jeb. Or Hillary. Or FOX. Or MSNBC. Or the Detroit Lions. Make that several words they have to choose from, then laugh hysterically.

Hmm. It seems madness is running amok south of the border as well.

All things considered in times like these, maybe I'll have a Labatt blue (or two) tomorrow. Like going to Toronto, it's been a while. Perhaps it will help numb the anxiety that comes with seeing so much insanity all around.

Nevertheless, Blue Jay fans are free to hop on board the Kawasaki of their choice and here's wishing them the best going down the road.

But yours truly would never ride one. It's long been a matter of principle. See my bio to the immediate right.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Andrew Luck enigma

It's probably fair to say the Indianapolis Colts found themselves in a bind -- albeit it a pleasant one -- back in the spring of 2012. Even though they were coming off a horrid season -- which resulted in them having the overall #1 draft pick -- they still had Peyton Manning. You know, the chicken-neck Omaha guy.

But some hotshot QB out of Stanford named Andrew Luck was there for the taking. If the Colts didn't take him, or at least find a way to trade down for a slew of other quality picks -- Luck would be quickly snapped up elsewhere. So what to do?

Even back then, the Colts considered Manning as being on the back side of his bell curve. And you can't take a QB #1 overall just so he can sit on the bench behind an old pro. The number one draft pick is supposed to play. Immediately. So something had to give. Luck was indeed picked by the Colts and Manning wound up in Denver. A tough call, but was it the right one?

Maybe. Over the first three years of their NFL careers as instant starting QBs, Manning and Luck have/had similar stats. Over 13,000 yards passing. Lots of touchdowns, but a lot of interceptions as well. Neither was, is, or will ever be a particularly mobile quarterback. In other words, foot speed and elusiveness are not high on their lists of assets. Put yet another way, they only run when they have no other choice, and are likely less fleet of foot than many of their offensive linemen, let alone the defenders.

Manning has gone on to break most of the all-time passing records, and likely would own them all if he hadn't been forced to miss a season due to a neck injury. He may garner them yet. Further, he's been to Super Bowls, though somewhat surprisingly has emerged triumphant in only one. Good grief, even his dopey brother Eli and the confounding NY Giants have won two. Go figure. How they bested an undefeated Patriots team a few years back at the Big Dance was a miracle of biblical proportions. Those clowns not only made it to the Super Bowl but knocked off Bellichick/Brady and Company? REALLY?

Thing is, like Manning, who was the #1 overall pick way back in 1998, Luck continues to enjoy the positive spin the media casts on him. As one of their adopted darlings, they want him to not only succeed, but rise to greatness. Nothing wrong with that and perhaps he will someday.

But for all his supposed upsides (see cerebral, rifle arm, nice guy, etc,) Andrew Luck has his shortcomings as well. The man is a turnover waiting to happen. Forty eight interceptions in a little over three years, including five already this year after two games? Thirty fumbles in fifty games?

That's a bunch -- on both fronts. These are not pretty stats.

But consider Luck as compared to one of his peers. One Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions. The Georgia Peach has thrown for a ton of yards as well. Yet while Luck has yet to win a Super Bowl, his playoff record is 3-2. Stafford's been in the league for 4 more years but has yet to win a single playoff game, and his chances don't look good this year either.

So how to tell whether the Colts were wise in shipping Peyton to take on the soft-spoken brainiac from Palo Alto? Good question. Luck got blown out of the playoffs last year by the Patriots in the Deflategate game. The year before, Manning got tsunamied out of the Super Bowl by the Seattle Seahawks.

You know what will eventually tell the story?

If and when Andrew Luck starts whoring himself for money he doesn't need by doing moronic commercials, then the Colts QB situation will have come full circle indeed.

I really, REALLY, don't want to see Andrew Luck "cutting that meat". Or doing pizza ads with "Papa" while pretending to speak Chinese. Or comparing himself to a variety of retarded clones to benefit a satellite TV outfit. Mercifully, the Buick ads went away a while back. Even the hangers-on like Willy Shatner and Sammy Jack find a way to do credit card commercials, but maybe they need the money. Manning never did. Hawking a phone company as Groucho, or chanting "D-CAF" pushing a sports drink? C'mon man. I know it's a tall order, but have a little self-dignity here and there.

And if I ever see Andrew Luck emerging from an amniotic sack shaped like a football, only to pop out fully grown to peddle another dopey product for money HE doesn't need, I'll never watch another Colts game again.

Fumbles and picks are one thing, but totally throwing class out the window as a shill is quite another.....

Monday, September 21, 2015

Detroit Lions update

It's a fair statement to say yours truly has seen a lot of football games over the decades. Be it college or pros, and whether at the stadiums or viewing on TV -- it's a rare occasion indeed when something happens as a "first". You name the play, from a 99 yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown, to successful Hail Marys and/or various trick plays, and it's all falls into the category of been there or seen that before.

But against the Minnesota Vikings, the Detroit Lions did something new. Yes, they were bumbling their way to another loss, but that was semi-predictable. Despite their local hype, the puddy-tats aren't a very good football team.

Nevertheless, here was the situation: Trailing late in the game, the Lions' had the ball and faced a 4th down. They had no choice but to "go for it". They did. A pass was thrown, caught, and a tackle made. Yet the linesman appeared to spot the ball a few inches short of a first down.

The referee didn't signal a first down, and the chains on the sideline didn't move. For a few seconds, nobody knew what the hell was going on. Surely this play would be reviewed. But it wasn't.

As the entire squadron of officials on the field and the "guys in the booth" were trying to figure out what to do -- QB Matthew Stafford hustled his team to line, snapped the ball, and ran another play. The play failed, and the Lions would ultimately go down to another well deserved defeat, but that's not the point.

Even AFTER the play, the zebras were still gazing at each other with the "what just happened?" look. Didn't the linesman apparently mark the ball short of a first down and, if so, shouldn't the ball have gone over to the Vikings? But the Lions had run another offensive play. Is there anything in the NFL rule book that allows the officials to "undo" a play that was likely fraudulently executed in the first place, to go back and examine the previous play to make sure they got it right? Yours truly knoweth not. If not, there should be.

True, it turned out to not make any difference. But what if it had, and the Lions had improbably come back to miraculously win the game? Stranger things have happened -- maybe. The irascible Donald's lead continues to grow in the polls. The Detroit Tigers went from the penthouse to the outhouse over the course of a few short months. Since his latest judicial beat-down, NFL Commish Roger Goodell has become quiet as a church mouse. And, of course, there's the whole Bruce/Caitlyn thing. Did I mention strange?

But back to the Lions. Did they attempt to cheat on the play? Probably. Did they get away with it? Yep. Were the officials incompetent? No doubt.

Yet here's the thing. The Lions are in deep trouble. Already 0-2, the Denver Broncos come to Ford Field next week. If Matthew Stafford thought he took a beating (he did) against the Vikings, things will only get worse when the likes of Demarcus Ware and Vonn Miller make mince-meat of the Lions' cobbled together O-line and have him running for his life all night (late game). Peyton isn't what he used to be, but against the Lions' Keystone Kop secondary he should have a field day throwing the ball.

And then the Lions head off to Seattle. They've lost their first two games on the road, and are likely highly pissed. Good luck to the Lions when they visit the slaughterhouse in the northwest.

Even trying to cheat won't help them there. And besides, nobody has mastered the art of cheating better than snake oil salesman Pete Carroll. But he's gone to Super Bowls, while the Lions continue to flounder under their latest clown coach Jim Caldwell. A great coordinator while working for successful head coaches for other teams, but a failure when given the reins himself.

Don't look now, but it's starting to show again. He may be a righteous dude, but the Peter Principle still applies. Like the Lions over the years, JC has a history of crashing and burning when he gets over his head.

This year shall be no different. Matthew Stafford has never been all that, Calvin Johnson is literally on his last legs, the defense porous, line play on both sides of the ball underwhelming, a running game that impresses absolutely nobody, and while the coaching staff still spouts Lion-esque Pollyannish platitudes to the press -- they appear to be clueless as well.

It's just another year for the, arguably, sorriest franchise in the entire history of the world of professional sports. Even trying to cheat isn't going to change it.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

College football news

At home, #1 Ohio State BARELY got by Northern Ilinois. Really? The defending national champs with all that supposed talent were lucky to outlast a MAC team?

Down goes #2 Bama. It seems Ole Miss has their number. It was one thing for the Rebels at home to knock off the Tide last year, but quite another to march into Tuscaloosa this year and throttle them yet again.

How Michigan State rose to #4 after an unimpressive 3 point home win over lower-ranked Oregon, and two patsy games is a good question. Yesterday, again at home, the Spartans beat Air Force.

[Idle thought. Air Force features a triple-option running attack. In other words, the fly boys put all their stock in a ground attack? Something is wrong with that picture.]

Michigan beat UNLV 28-7. It sounds convincing, but it's really not. The Wolverines were 35 point favorites. Hey, despite all the bluster surrounding Jim Harbaugh's return, Michigan is still Michigan. UM couldn't cover a 35 point spread if a team of autistic Campfire Girls visited their Big House. This was the take the points no-brainer bet of the week.

Stanford knocked off #6 Southern Cal 41-31. Count yours truly among those that never did much care for Trojans. Ahem.

There was the Reggie Bush cheating thing, his shyster coach Pete Carroll bailing on the program for big pro money in Seattle when the school got slapped with major sanctions, and I'm pretty sure some guy named OJ once played football there. How did he work out? With USC, it always seems to be something, and not good.

So hurray for Stanford. They are generally considered the brainiest school in the Pac-12, much like Northwestern in the Big 10 -- or is that 14 -- and it's good to see brains win over the jock/brawn of USC once in a while.

[Idle thought II. If they're so smart, why do they call themselves the Cardinal, as in singular? Are they like the evil Borg of Star Trek fame? Everyone is assimilated into one mass entity?]

Besides, look at the alumni Stanford has turned out. John Elway won Super Bowls, went to the Hall of Fame, has a bazillion car dealerships, and is GM/Pres of the Denver Broncos. A very impressive career.

Then there's Condoleezza Rice, the former self-professed smartest person in any room she walks into. And Tiger Woods, former golfer extraordinaire turned serial adulterer and duffer. And Chelsea Clinton, arguably the homeliest female to have lived in the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt. We're talking SERIOUSLY ugly here, but at least one had brains.

Hmmm. On second thought, maybe rooting for the dumb jocks isn't such a bad idea after all.

There's worse things.....

Jason Day Tripper

If your name was Daniel Berger or Brendon Todd, you had to feel pretty good about your first two rounds at the BMW Championship. It's the penultimate tournament to determine this year's FedEx Cup winner in the world of professional golf. Ten million bucks and a place in history await whoever comes out on top.

Then again, did you ever hear of Daniel or Brendon? Me neither, though who doesn't like a good Burger or a potent Toddy once in a while? Sorry.

Dan'l and Bren stormed the course indeed, both shooting the low-low score of 129 after two rounds. Slice it and dice it however you will, but 129 on a championship course (13 under par) is very impressive stuff after 36 holes.

And then they looked around and discovered they were 5 strokes back. That's a wow. How the hell could that be?

Turns out, one Jason Day continues to be on quite the roll. The Aussie is playing lights out golf. Booming 300+ drives, sparkling iron play, and laserish putting from all over the greens. Day shot 61-63 for the first two rounds to check in at 18 under par. That's a definite wow.

[Of course we always have to hear the latest regarding Tiger. He just had another top-secret back surgery, but has assured his flock he'll be ready for next season. That's a yawn. It's over Eldrick. Only you and your groupies refuse to comprehend the obvious].

In the third round, Day fell off a bit. He only carded a 2 under 69. But at 20 under par, he set a record for the lowest score after 54 holes. A record is a record. Another wow.

The Day Tripper enjoys a 6 stroke lead heading into the final round. A few of the usual suspects have crept up the leader board to be in semi-contention. Rory McIlroy lurks at 13 under, but the poor Irish lad hasn't been the same since he played hide the blarney with that Russian tennis star a while back.

Rickey Fowler sits at 12 under. Can he beat Jason by eight strokes or more on Sunday? Not likely.
Dustin Johnson is tied with Rickey, but not to worry. He'll fold on Sunday, because he always does.
Kevin Na? Nah.

Right now Jason Day is playing like Jordan Spieth did earlier in the year. He's on his level, and everybody else is looking up. And the wows just keep on coming.

Here's rooting for JD. He's a good dude and a class act, both on and off the course. Maybe not Mick Dundee, but who needs to live in the outback and wrestle crocodiles when they're the best golfer in the world?

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Michael Rosenberg shell game

For those unaware, Michael Rosenberg is a writer for Sports Illustrated. In a previous SI issue, he co-authored a story regarding the New England Patriots. In it, he and his cohorts dragged out all sorts of ghosts and goblins from the closet and under the bed involving the Pats/Bill Bellichick/Tom Brady, etc.

The story was slanted to make the Patriots appear like serial cheaters and no doubt millions of NFL fans ate it up. They would be those that are envious of New England's success, of course. In other words, people not from the far northeastern part of the US. The nor-easters see things a bit differently.

Yours truly is no Patriot lover nor hater. Certainly, they should be commended for their success over the years. Unless, that is, it only came about due to various "gates". But I don't really care if they win or lose. Like Rosenberg, I was once a Detroit Lions fan. Let's just say we've both felt the pain over the years that comes with rooting for the Honolulu blue and silver. But he has moved on, as have I.

Yet I deemed his original article quite biased, and panned it accordingly. See Patriots, prosecutors, and paranoia -- stage right.

To no great surprise, Rosenberg got a lot of pushback from the Patriot faithful. How dare he accuse their team of spying, deflating, even -- horrors! -- providing sports drinks for the other team that weren't properly chilled, and other dastardly deeds when none of it has been proven? Innocent until proven guilty indeed.

So Rosenberg decided to push back in the latest issue of SI. On the back page, you can find his article. MR goes on about how politicians are corrupt but home town coaches are honest. Everybody else is cheating, but the average fan refuses to believe it could happen in their home town. Valid points. Indeed, though Ndamukong Suh was, and is, considered a goon by most, the "stomper" was revered as a hero while in Detroit.

Yet true to form, he offers up his usual variety of lame anecdotal humor, and even tries to don a "shrink's" cap. MR lectures us on what we understand, our flaws, and how we come to perceive many things. Excuse the pun, but that's pretty heady stuff for some dude not far removed from being a lowly scribe for a Detroit newspaper.

"Sports are a reflection of society, and we like to stare into the mirror and declare that we look good", he states. Not bad Mikey, but all he's doing is trying to deflect the heat he's catching for the misguided article in the first place by changing the subject. Perhaps a career in politics awaits him.

In a last desperate attempt to justify his full-page non sequitur, Rosenberg even alludes to a Chief Supreme Court Justice from long ago. Evidently, Earl Warren preferred to read the sports section before checking out the front page. Something about people's accomplishments versus man's failures. Rosenberg laughed this off as sometimes the sections might get mixed up, and blamed the printer. OMG, MR, that's a real knee-slapper.

But here's the thing. Remember the steroids mania in MLB? Despite the media circus, nobody was ever found guilty of anything. Not Barry, nor Roger, though many will forever consider them "dirty". This came at the media's hand, aka the likes of Rosenberg. OJ was guilty of murdering his wife before he ever set foot in a courtroom. The press said so, and the masses believed it. Turns out, after all the evidence was in, the jury saw things differently.

Ray Lewis, Adrian Peterson, and even Lance Armstrong. What do they have in common? They were all sensationalized for various alleged wrong-doings by the media. Lewis was acquitted of all murder related charges, Peterson got a slap on the wrist for switching his kid, and nobody would ever know of Armstrong's cheating if Oprah hadn't offered him a few million bucks to spill it. As hard as they tried, the media solved absolutely nothing. But dammit, they swayed public opinion.

Rosenberg may blame it on the "sections" getting mixed up, but a strong case could be made that all the hoopla and hype that he and his kind constantly churn out -- without hard facts and evidence to back it up -- are nothing more than tabloid journalism.

I mentioned politics above. Remember Rosenberg started off in Detroit. It was, and continues to be the pits. Can't blame him for going to SI, with offices in the Big Apple. No doubt, he enjoys a lot of travel and first-class perks on SI's dime.

Then again, if he runs afoul of his bosses at SI, there's always the National Inquirer. They LOVE sensationalized stuff, pay better, and even enjoy a larger circulation than the sports mag. And they recently moved from Florida to NYC as well. Just a short walk for Mikey, from one office to another.

If he keeps up the dumb articles, we might see a lot more of Rosenberg's work soon.

While standing in the checkout line at the grocery store.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

For Ashley

At the risk of incurring the wrath of a tyrant, sometimes known as an editor/boss, once in a great while yours truly takes a brief time out from the world of sports to post something on a personal note.

This is one of those times.

Thank you Ashley.

'Nuff said.

Detroit Tiger Pollyanna syndrome

The media in some cities won't hesitate to slam one of their home-town athletes when they mess up. A couple days ago, a NY paper had a front page that blared -- THE $84 MILLION DOLLAR DOPE -- in a reference to Eli Manning's stunning brain fart that resulted in a loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

LA can be tough on their jocks, and Phillie downright brutal. Boston pretty much rips everybody else. The Cheesers in Green Bay are fiercely loyal to their team, because that's pretty much all they've got.

[Idle thought. If the Green Bay Packers are indeed owned by the fans, then who appoints the president and general manager of the team?]

The Chicago Cubs have always been loveable losers, but they're pretty good this year. Likely playoff bound, but don't get carried away, northsiders. The World Series will happen in October, but your team won't be in it. And hey, what's another year? Regardless, you won't see the Chitown press dissing their beloved boys.

And then there's Detroit. Land of the eternal, if delusional, optimists. Every year is THE year for the Lions -- until it isn't. The Pistons are always on their way back to being contenders, until the season starts and they're exposed as cannon fodder again. The Red Wings brag of having made the playoffs for 24 consecutive seasons. Hey, half the teams in the NHL make the playoffs. Though they'll never admit it, the Wings are very close to total rebuild mode. It's coming. Zetterburg and Datsyuk are getting old, and signing free-agent cast-offs as bandaids is only going to work for so long.

Most interesting is the Detroit Tigers. Though they haven't won a World Series since 1984, much has been made of their teams in recent years, both by the media and fans. All those division championships. Supposedly the best starting rotation in baseball. The acquisitions of super-star free agents. See their tickets sales go up, up, up. Along with the prices, of course.

But in the end, they never won squat. Close doesn't count. Only the foolish boast of also-ran status.

Somewhat surprisingly, or maybe not, after a fast start this year the Tigers started heading south -- fast. With 20 games left to go, they've not only already been mathematically eliminated from another division title, but find themselves in last place. The basement. For that matter, only the Oakland A's have a worse record in the entire American League.

Their once vaunted pitching staff has become a shambles. They're defense is lacking and forget team speed. They don't have any on the basepathes. For every good play there's a bonehead. Once lauded Pres/GM Dave Dombrowski was kicked out of town. He caught on with the Bosox, and don't look now, but the injury ravaged Beaners have passed the Tigers in the standings.

Manager Brad Ausmus is basically a dead man walking in Detroit. He'll be fired at the end of the year, and probably should be. It's not his fault Dombrowski looted the farm system, only to see it blow up in his face, and left the cupboard bare to the point where the Tigers have to utilize everyday players that should still be in the minor leagues. But make no mistake. With what little talent he has, Ausmus has made some incredibly bone-headed moves.

[Another idle thought. What gives with Ausmus and spitting through his teeth every 5 seconds? Is that really necessary? Sometimes he even runs dry and nothing comes out, but he still tries to spit anyway. C'mon Brad, kids are watching too. Is this what you're trying to teach them as a role model? Sparky may have smoked his pipe, Leyland had his Marlboros, and while both spouted inane platitudes, at least they kept it in the clubhouse.]

Nevertheless, the usual Pollyanna syndrome remains in Detroit. Sure, the Tigers may have bottomed out -- but that's supposedly a good thing. Huh?

Oh, that's right. As losers they'll get a higher draft pick. Maybe in a few years such a pick will be major-league worthy. Or maybe not. Or maybe they'll trade him away to another team for some aging free-agent on the back side of his bell curve that commands a mega-contract, only to see their original draft pick blossom into a star elsewhere. And OMG, they'll have first crack at players on the waiver wire. You know, guys that weren't good enough to stick with other teams. Gee, that sounds promising.

Bottom line is the Tigers are a mess with no help in sight, but their ever-faithful, if gullible, local media will always find a silver lining.

[Final idle thought. Ron Gardenhire, former manager of the Minnesota Twins, has been mentioned as a replacement for Brad Ausmus. Just one question. Why would Gardenhire want to take over this rag-tag bunch? He's already financially set for life. Worse yet, though Jim Leyland considered Gardenhire some sort of genius (not exactly a world-shaking endorsement), consider his record while with the Twins. He was 6-21 in the playoffs and never did make it to the World Series. The only manager in major league history to have led his team to the postseason 6 times, while never making it to the WS. And the most telling stat of all..... His last four years as the Twins manager came with the worst record in the HISTORY of that team. He was finally rightfully fired. And this is a guy the Tigers are considering as a savior to their flailing franchise? Really? Well OK. He's a loser and gets kicked out of a lot of games -- but at least he doesn't spit as much as Ausmus. That's at least something.]

Alas, even if that happens, the Motown faithful will trumpet it to the heavens. Gardenhire will surely lead them to the promised land.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Adrian Peterson's folly

Most would agree the Minnesota running back is, or at least was, one of the best in the game. Sure, we know all about his kid-switching incident last year and subsequent suspension from the NFL. Basically he missed a season. Actually another. Before that he had suffered a leg injury that put him out for a year. However, go back one more year, to 2012, and AP not only led the league in rushing, but cracked the elite 2000 yard club. At 2097, he fell only a paltry 8 yards short of the all-time single-season record.

That is still held by one Eric Dickerson who accomplished the feat in 1984. Perhaps George Orwell twitched in his grave. Sorry.

Nowadays, with most NFL teams having become pass-happy, it's highly unlikely any running back will get enough carries to approach the 2000 yard mark again. Besides being world-class himself, such a back would need a dynamite offensive line blocking for him to boot. But ya never know.

The list of backs that have cracked the 2K mark is small indeed. Besides ED and AP, Jamal Lewis did it in 2003, Barry Sanders in 1997, and Chris Johnson in 1999. Even Jason Pierre-Paul can still count that high on his hands -- maybe. Ahem.

But an astute reader will know by now that yours truly has overlooked something. There's another guy in the club. Way back in 1973, when something called Watergate was first coming to light, this man had, far and away, the greatest rushing season in the history of the NFL.

His name is Orenthal James Simpson, and he currently sits in a Nevada state prison. Think of OJ how you will for his off the field trials and tribulations, but what he did on the gridiron in 1973 has never been remotely approached ever since.

True, he only had 2003 yards, officially putting him in sixth place all time. But there's a MAJOR asterisk that goes with that number. OJ pulled it off in 14 games. The NFL wouldn't switch to a 16 game regular season schedule for several years after OJ was the first to crack 2K. In other words, all the others mentioned above had 2 more games to rack up rushing stats.

How good was #1 Dickerson? He averaged 131 yards a game. Very impressive stuff, but OJ averaged 143, a whopping 12 yard differential. It's not even a close call.

But back to Adrian Peterson. After basically two years off, he should certainly be well-rested and raring to go, even at the age of 30. Thirty is getting up there in running back years, but AP boldly predicted he could run for 2500 yards this season. He might well be in Superman shape, but throwing out a number like 2500 is quite a mouthful. Not only breaking the all-time record, but shattering it by almost 400 yards? While he's playing on a team like the Minnesota Vikings? Not likely.

To do so, AP would need to average 156 yards rushing a game. Every game. All season. That's a bunch, especially when defenses are surely geared up to stop him.

Strangely enough, Peterson was held out of all 4 preseason games. True, teams don't want to put their superstars at risk in exhibition games, but one would think after spending the last couple years either under Roger Goodell's thumb or in rehab, the best thing for AP to get back into "game shape" would be facing live competition. You know, where the other guys actually hit -- something that can't be simulated in practices.

Fast forward to the Vikings' first game of the regular season in San Francisco. As a team they looked awful. Offense, defense, you name it, the former Purple People Eaters more closely resembled Tiny Tim tiptoeing through the tulips. And this against a San Fran team with a new head coach that had also been decimated by star players either retiring or going elsewhere.

As for Peterson -- he had 10 carries for a measly 31 yards. Three yards a pop. One week down. Let's recalculate his 2500 prediction. Instead of the 156 yards per game mentioned above, he now has to average 165 for the next 15 contests. That would be 22 more yards a week than when the Juice was running wild, and 34 more than Dickerson averaged. Good luck with that. It -- ain't -- gonna -- happen.

AP may have a beautiful wife, boatloads of money, fans galore, and maybe the scars on his kid's legs will go away eventually, but the man is delusional if he ever thought he could run for 2500 yards in a single season.

Then again, even with the Vikings, it beats the heck out of where OJ has been for the last several years, with more to come.

Patriots, prosecutors and paranoia

A recent article in Sports Illustrated written by the three-headed monster of Greg Bishop, Michael Rosenberg, and Thayer Evans made a couple things (even more) evident.

First, these days most members of the media have taken on a prosecutorial stance. When any allegations are made against an athlete -- or team -- they must be true. Guilty as charged. We've seen the knee-jerk hang-em-high scenarios played out repeatedly in recent years. The press typically has a field day sensationalizing such stories and, sadly, a large portion of the public will buy into it. Never mind waiting for all the evidence to come in, and forget keeping an open mind until it does. Just trash their reputations, and never ever apologize later when the original allegations have been proven wrong. Lock em up now, and who cares about the truth? By the time it's sorted out, another "scandal" will have come along, real or invented, and off they'll go on another witch hunt.

Remember Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens? Neither was every convicted of anything regarding the usage of performance enhancing drugs. But like an accused child molester, even if he/she could prove they were 100 miles away when the incident happened -- or not -- just being CHARGED with it is a life-long stain that never goes away. Their lives and reputations have been basically ruined, even if they were completely innocent. It happens all the time, and while various persecutors no doubt savor such a trend, it's not right.

Enter the New England Patriots. The article written by the BRE triumvirate mentioned above was along much the same lines. They cited example after example of how the Patriots may have kinda sorta maybe "cheated" over the years. Or found loopholes in the rules that they exploited. Or at the very least made things as difficult as possible for visiting teams. But they had zero hard evidence of any blatant wrong doing by Bellichick/Brady and Co. Just a lot of allegations that were never proven but taken as a whole, paints a very damning picture of the Patriots to those easily swayed.

Consider the writers themselves. Bishop is from New York. You know, the Jets thing being continually clobbered by the Pats. Rosenberg cut his journalistic teeth in Detroit. Home of the Lions, arguably the saddest-sack franchise in the history of the NFL. Background information on Evans is sketchy, but it's a pretty safe bet he doesn't hail from the Boston area. In other words, this threesome has a whole lot of reasons to trash the Pats, the major one being jealousy.

Remember Spygate a few years ago where the Pats were filming an upcoming opponent's practices? Most people, including BRE consider that a done deal. Guilty as charged. But it was never proven.

They mentioned a game where the Patriots trashed the Packers 35-0. A Green Bay staffer was quoted as saying it was almost as if Brady knew what the Cheeser defense was going to do on every play. It couldn't possibly be that the Pats were a vastly superior team, and Brady is as good as anybody at reading defensive formations and calling audibles to change the play. He must have had a direct line into the Packer headsets -- right?

Look at what happened with the whole Deflategate thing. The media went wild over a few footballs that were "allegedly" under inflated by a mere one half PSI -- in a driving rainstorm. In a game the Pats would win by 5+ touchdowns. And BTW, Brady's stats were even better in the second half after the missing 1/2 PSI had been restored to the footballs. But he must have been guilty of something -- right? Hang-em-high and worry about the facts later.

Enter Roger Goodell, lord, master and high Commissioner of the NFL. Though his heavy-handed rulings on every single recent case of player "misconduct" had eventually blown up in his face, by thunder, he was going to zap this Brady guy and the Patriots. RG hired a company man, one Ted Wells, to do an investigation. It took two months and cost a couple million bucks. In the end, Wells' 200 page report offered no hard evidence of guilt indeed. Just more allegations, saying Brady was "more likely than not to have had at least a 'general' awareness of some sort of wrongdoing" by others. Wells had tried his best to give his masters what they wanted to hear.

Good enough for Roger. We know all about Brady's suspension, the million dollar fine, and loss of draft picks for the Patriots.

But in the end, a federal judge saw through the tyrannical charade. You can't hammer a guy because he may or may not have kinda sorta been aware of possible wrongdoing by somebody else. Once again, one of Roger's calls blew up in his face after an objective mind had thoroughly examined it.

Yes, the collective bargaining agreement, which the union foolishly signed off on, gave Goodell the power to pretty much do whatever he wants in matters of player discipline, allegations proven or not. But let's remember Goodell works for the owners, not the players or fans. His primary job is to make sure the billionaires make even more money.

Yet in that respect, Goodell and the owners should feel fortunate judge Richard Berman didn't go even further. Though most judges are loathe to undo a contract, Berman could easily have nullified certain clauses of the CBA, deeming them unfair under labor law. Though union Prez DeMaurice Smith and the players were idiots to sign such a contract in the first place giving Goodell such unchecked power, it only takes one objective guy in a black robe to upset the apple cart and throw things into even further turmoil. Any such ruling would have been devastating to not only Goodell, but the league. Thankfully, or maybe not, that didn't happen, though it certainly would have made things infinitely more interesting.

Nevertheless, Bishop, Rosenberg, and Evans got one thing right. These days it appears it's the Patriots against everybody else. The league keeps tweaking the rules in the hopes of slowing down the juggernaut Patriots. So far it hasn't worked. Take away one thing, and they'll find another. The prosecutor/jealous types will keep chalking it up to "cheating", but that's just their nature. It might just be as Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian put it.

"They do the best job, week in and week out, of coaching all the little things that make a difference in winning and losing".

Everybody else, including other teams, the media, and many fans, remain paranoid of the New England bunch. They continue to search for ghosts and goblins that aren't there.

And guess who has benefited the most (and still does) from this mass irrational phobia?

Bill Bellichick isn't exactly known for his gregarious sense of humor but, methinks somewhere, once in a while, he chuckles privately at how others are so easily distracted by those like BRE that are too busy trying to muddy the waters, but lose sight of the obvious.

Love them or hate them, the Patriots have just been flat-out good. Six trips to the Super Bowl with four victories, including the last one? They routinely cut loose Pro-Bowlers and plug in other no-names -- but somehow those guys turn out to be excellent too. And the beat goes on. That can hardly be called "cheating". That's finding the right guys and coaching them up.

All the pseudo-scandals and media witch hunts in the world can't change that. It is what it is, and has been for quite some time.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Detroit Lions. Going down

Only in Detroit does anybody truly believe the Lions are a really good team. They are decidedly not. Maybe average, at best, in the NFL. Everybody else around the country gets it, especially all the football gurus who get paid big bucks to be knowledgeable about such things. But in Detroit, this was supposed to be "the year". Sound familiar? Guess what? The only place the Lions are going is down. Perhaps hard.

Yes, the final score in their opening game against the San Diego Chargers was respectable, but the Lions were horribly outplayed. Jumping ahead to an early lead was nothing more than smoke and mirrors. A pin-balled interception returned for a touchdown? But eventually reality kicked in and the better team won. Here's a couple telling stats. The Chargers ran 74 offensive plays compared to a meager 47 by the Lions. Charger QB Philip Rivers threw for over 400 yards against the beleaguered Lions defense. Only a couple turnovers stopped the onslaught.

So the Lions are a predictable 0-1, and things don't get any easier next week. Off to Minnesota, where some guy named Adrian Petersen has had a full year to rest and rejuvenate. He's not only healthy -- he's pissed and on a mission. AP has predicted he'll rush for 2500 yards this season. Considering that number would obliterate the all-time NFL season rushing record by over 300 yards, AP's boast would seem to be quite the stretch. Then again, he'll be going up against the Lions, who, BTW, lost their best two run-stuffing defensive tackles (Suh and Fairley) to free agency last year. AP could well gash them for at least a buck fifty, maybe a deuce, especially at home.

However that turns out, next up for the Lions is Peyton and the Denver Broncos coming to Detroit. The Broncos have two absolute beastly edge-rushers in Demarcus Ware and Vonn Miller, and the Lions have cobbled together a new offensive line. Pass happy Lions' QB Matthew Stafford could have a long and painful day in the Lions home opener.

Then off to the proverbial slaughterhouse in Seattle. Good luck with that one.

Then back home to host the Arizona Cardinals. How good are the Cards? Many pundits are picking them to win the NFC West over even Seattle.

While the home town hype machine continues to peddle the Honolulu blue and silver koolaid, and the gullible fans likewise continue to chug it -- it's entirely possible the Lions could start 0-5. The once pseudo-promising season would have gone up in flames, before even Halloween.

Maybe it plays out that way and maybe not. But if so, this is what happens when a team waltzed through a pitifully weak schedule the year before, caught every break imaginable along the way to make the playoffs, and got bounced in the first round -- again. Playoff teams get tougher schedules the following year.

The really good ones stay competitive. The historic also-rans are exposed and go back down in a hurry.

Just a guess, but I'm thinking the Lions fit the latter category. And all their local hype isn't going to change that.

Roger Federer. Baffling

Unlike the ladies' side of the tournament, where two not in the Top 25 Italians made it to the Finals, the men's side wound up featuring #1 against #2. Novac Djokovic vs Roger Federer in a highly anticipated match-up. A Serb and a Swiss.

Few would doubt Federer has been playing fantastic tennis of late. In the apparent twilight of a legendary career, Roger has seen a resurgence of greatness. His serve is better than ever, the foot speed is still there, and he still has all the shots in his repertoire. To boot, he rolled through the first six rounds of this year's US Open. Dominant play indeed.

But then there's Djokovic. He's the #1 player in the world for a reason. The man has a formidable tennis game. Some have playfully dubbed him the Joker, but there's nothing comical once he takes the court. He trashed the competition along the way and rolled into the Finals as well.

And then something very strange happened. While Novac played his usual cyborg brand of tennis, Roger appeared to come unglued. Being the consummate pro he is, Federer would never give it away with facial expressions, screaming, official berating, racket throwing, and other childish tantrums many others have exhibited on the court. But it had to be driving him crazy.

Over and over again, he missed shots that are normally gimmes for a player of his stature. There goes one wide left, another wide right, and another long. And not by just a little -- they weren't even close. He ham-fisted relatively simple volleys into the net. It wasn't like Djokovic was running him ragged and repeatedly getting him out of position, but more like Roger's game had suddenly deserted him on the highest of stages.

Errant shots and unforced errors galore. This won't work against a top caliber opponent and is certainly a recipe for disaster against the likes of Djokovic. Novac played well, like he always does, but was hardly magnificent. It seemed all he had to do was keep the ball in play and wait for Roger to make another bad shot.

True, the final score might not reflect it. Djokovic bested Federer 3-1 in four hard-fought sets to win his tenth major and is a worthy champion indeed.

But deep down, Roger knows he blew it. So many gimmes he muffed. So many decidedly unFedererish mental errors along the way. So many routine strokes that went horribly awry. Novac wasn't at his best, and it was there for the taking for Federer. The Swiss had played so magnificently of late -- and then the wheels fell off.

Very baffling indeed.

Flavia Pennetta. Tasty stuff

Big time congrats to Flavia Pennetta, the newly crowned champ of the US ladies' tennis open. In a delicious twist of sports irony, the lovely Ms. P found herself pitted against her friend and competitor since childhood in the finals -- one Roberta Vinci.

da Vinci had cracked the Serena code, but couldn't seal the deal and get past her countrywoman. Nevertheless, an Italian was going to win it, and it turned out to be Pennetta.

To everyone's great surprise, after participating in her first major final -- let alone winning it -- Flavia promptly announced her retirement from tennis. This was very cool stuff. Nothing like going out on top. And that $3.3 million winner's check will likely pay the bills for at least a few months.

Yet yours truly has a confession to make. Before this US Open, I had never heard of Flavia. Turns out, she's 33, a bit long-toothish in the pro tennis world, and has a fiance named Fabio Fognini. He's a handsome rascal. Love has a way of being much grander when an attractive young couple has 3 million bucks to spend on an exotic honeymoon.

Still -- Flavia and Fabio. Somehow those names rang a bell from the past, but I couldn't quite place them. Were they singers from the 1950's? Two of the original Disney Mouseketeers? Characters from a Shakespeare play?

And then it finally dawned on me. Baskin-Robbins ice cream, from when I was a little boy. The 31 flavor thing was only a tagline meaning you could get a different flavor every day of the month. Actually, they had a variety of hundreds.

If memory serves me correctly, I tried a double dip cone of Flavia once, topped with Fabio sprinkles. Very tasty stuff.

Not as good as daiquiri -- those would also come in the adult form years later -- and I loved that green ice cream as a kid -- but who the hell wanted to risk spending their paper route money on something called Bear Claw, or Moose Jaw, or Grand Maw? I didn't want to lick something named after a wild animal, and surely didn't want to tickle my palate with the flavor of grandma. Ewww.

But for now, all hail Flavia Pennetta, the worthy champion of the US Open. May her and Fabio ride off into the sunset and partake of the best things life has to offer.

And who knows? Maybe you or I will run into them at an ice cream joint someday. They have three million bucks and we don't. The least they could do is buy. Hold the Grand Maw -- please.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

MSU vs Oregon. The epic that wasn't

Since even before the season started, college football fans (at least in the Michigan area -- maybe not so much in Oregon) have heard the hype. The game in Week 2 pitting Oregon against Michigan State was sure to be an epic, the pundits crowed. After all, it was a rematch of Top Ten ranked teams. Last year, MSU held their own in Eugene for the first half before getting run out of the building in the second. But this time it was in East Lansing, home of the Spartans. A clash of the titans that might rattle the football world to its core, suggested the usual suspects.

Common sense dictated otherwise all along. Regardless of the outcome, this would not be an earth-shaking occasion. It was a #5 team (MSU) playing a home game against #7 (Oregon). Michigan State was a predictable 4 point favorite. Typically, the bookies consider home field worth 3 points, and the Sparties got an extra one for being ranked a mere two slots higher. Sounded about right. In the end, MSU prevailed 31-28. They didn't cover. The over/under was 65 and the two teams scored 59. Some bettors won, some lost, but the aggregate score was hardly noteworthy. It wasn't like it was a 6-3 game, or 72-65. Either would have raised a few eyebrows. 

But one thing this game was certainly not was "epic". Both teams had their fair share of miscues. WAY too many stupid penalties and bone-head plays. 

As a senior, MSU quarterback Connor Cook is supposed to be a seasoned college veteran. Instead, he made several poor decisions and a few horrific throws. This will not help his NFL draft stock. The scouts are surely watching. Cook could have "came out" last year and maybe been a first round pick, or certainly a second. To be sure, most of the attention was on Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariotta, who went 1-2. Regardless, Cook would have been drafted fairly high by somebody and been a multi-millionaire by now. But he chose to go back to MSU to be the Big Man On Campus for one more year. This was a foolish move. Cook and MSU will certainly go to a bowl game in January, but have little chance at winning the national title. And if he blows out a knee or suffers another serious injury along the way, his draft stock will plummet. In other words, Cook had little to gain and a whole lot to possibly lose.

Conversely, Oregon QB Vernon Adams looked like a deer in the headlights at times. Sure, nobody expected him to completely fill Mariotta's shoes as a "rookie" QB, but a starting quarterback at a major college football power is supposed to be able to process information quickly as it happens on the field. When an obvious blitz is coming from the defense, one doesn't get to drop back and count a-thousand one to a-thousand five before throwing the ball. And trying to scramble with 6-7 defenders swarming around him is a recipe for disaster every time. Adams needs to learn to see the obvious before it happens, and adjust according. A-thousand one, and throw it NOW. To boot, he overthrew a wide-open receiver late in the game for an easy touchdown that may well have made the difference in the outcome. He's going to hate watching that play on film. 

So OK. Some will say it was an exciting game. In the respect that the final outcome was in doubt until the closing seconds -- they have a point. Yet the same could be said of Podunk U playing a down to the wire nail-biter against Hoodat State. Such contests happen every week in the world of college football, but go unnoticed. And hey, those games are everybody bit as important to the Podunk and Hoodat faithful as this game was to the Duck and Spartan fans. 

Bottom line? #5 played #7. Number five won at home -- barely -- in a game that was sloppily played by both to boot.

There was nothing epic about it. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Serena Williams. Still classless/clueless

This is not to doubt Serena Williams has been, and is, a terrific tennis player. She's won a lot of stuff over the years. Indeed, after having won the first 3 "majors" this year, Serena was on pace to complete the first calendar grand slam for a female tennis player since Steffi Graf pulled it off in 1988. Some guy named Reagan was still in the White House. Let's just say that was a while back. But when it came to class, and certainly humility, Ms. Williams has always been sorely lacking as a professional.

On the rare occasions she lost, there was always an excuse forthcoming. Maybe it was cramps -- or a headache -- or her back/toe/knee/shoulder/eyeballs -- pick your body part -- hurt. Or perhaps Mother Nature had conspired against her. It was too hot/cold/humid/windy/cloudy -- pick your weather condition. At any rate, it was always something. Serena could never bring herself to say the other player beat her fair and square.

This time around at the US Open, only unranked and mostly unheard of Italian Roberta Vinci stood in her way in the semi-finals. The bookies had Serena as somewhere around a 300:1 favorite. It was supposed to be a cakewalk, but it didn't turn out that way.

Undaunted, Vinci methodically, and convincingly defeated Williams in three sets. Though it may have been considered a monumental upset in the betting world, anybody that watched the match clearly saw this was no fluke. Serena indeed got beat fair and square in front of a world-wide audience. Every time Williams would rally, the pundits thought the end was inevitable. But then back would come Vinci.

What was comical was listening to some of the aghast Serena favoring talking heads that were looking for a way to explain it. The wind was blowing a bit. There was a shadow on the court -- maybe. Never mind this was during broad daylight, and both players obviously have to play on the same court, often switching ends -- this was not supposed to happen. But it did. The big muscle bound goof had gone down to defeat. Break out the prosciutto, pop a bottle of the finest red, and bring on the linguine. The Italian Stallionette had moved into the Finals.

Further telling was Williams' post match press conference. Far be it from Serena to ever compliment an opposing player, especially after she's been bested by such an adversary. Sure, no losing player looks forward to facing the press after getting beat, but some handle it with class. Not Serena.

In an incredibly obtuse statement, on a couple different fronts, Serena said Roberta Vinci, at the "advanced" age of 33, was going for it. Well, no kidding. Don't most players in tournaments try to win their matches? Hello??? Besides, the fact that Vinci had waded through a world-class field to win her first five matches should have been a hint that she's playing pretty well.

And here's the kicker(s). If, according to Serena, Vinci is at the "advanced age" of 33, then what does that make Serena herself? She'll turn 34 in a couple weeks. BTW, Serena even had Vinci's age wrong,. Roberta is 32. So if Roberta is "advanced", then Serena must a veritable geezer. Evidently, that little tidbit of irony was lost on the clueless Ms. Williams. It leaves one to wonder what she thinks of her sister Venus, who is a decrepit 35.

So after all the hype, there will be no grand slam for Serena Williams this year. She could scream and grunt all she wanted, destroy and throw a racket, and otherwise act like a spoiled child that was denied what they thought they were "entitled" to. In the end, she just got outsmarted and outplayed by a superior opponent on a particular day. It happens.

But Serena will never ever admit to such a thing, much less offer genuine congratulations and best wishes to one that has dispatched her.

Oh no. That requires class. Serena Williams may have a roomful of trophies and go down as one of the best players of all time -- but being a class act in defeat has always been beyond her capabilities.

For that matter, jumping up and down like a chimpanzee chock full of  'roids on the court after a victory has never been exactly lady-like either. Alas, some things and people just are what they are.

An all Italian ladies US Open tennis final, neither player being ranked in the top 25 in the world.

Dang. Who would have thunk it?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The NBC slap in the face

I'm pretty sure NBC stands for National Broadcasting Company. In my area, they're on channel 4. Have been since forever. Remember the word "national".

Well OK. Yours truly freely admits he's not the brightest star in the sky, the elevator typically struggles to make it to the top floor, and I've been called a lot of things over the years, many which I can't mention in this forum. And they might well have a point. Let's just say opinions vary.

And on top of being a hack writer, I have a geek side as well. I'm a Jeopardy! addict. Have been since I was a little boy. My mom got me hooked on it. Even as an adult, when I couldn't be home to watch it, I'd program the VCR/DVD to tape/record it.

During the last week and a half, Alex Trebek and Co. have been showing a teachers' tournament. After 8 days of whittling down the field to the final 3, the two-day cumulative finals were to begin earlier tonight. Promptly at 7:30, I turned on the flat screen, clicked on channel 4, and ----- what the hell?

It's a pre-game show, a whole hour's worth, before Thursday night football kicks off. The Patriots hosting the Steelers. Sure, I planned to watch that game, but it didn't start until 8:30, so what kind of sadistic network lunatics decided to give us Jeopardy! fans an hour's worth of breathless announcers spewing worthless hype, stats, and predictions instead of our beloved trivia show?

Yeah, I get it. The NFL is a HUGE deal, the veritable gorilla in the room of America sports, and yours truly is as hard-core a fan as anybody else. I couldn't wait for the season to begin. Let's also remember the NFL stands for "National" Football League. There's that word again. The name itself is certainly appropriate, given all 32 franchises are located in the continental United States. As American as it gets.

And if the game started at 7:30 instead of 8:30, no problem. Preempt the quiz show. But it didn't.

So what did we see? Some band nobody ever heard of singing a song on a makeshift stage in a parking lot. Then back to the talking sports heads. Oops, here comes another band. Never heard of them either. Then another dose of the hypesters still blathering on. Hey, we don't need all this. The opening act of the 2015 NFL season is coming up in a few minutes. We get it and will be watching it.

There was absolutely no reason -- ZERO -- to zap Jeopardy! only to force-feed the viewing audience a couple bands and the usual gang of chatterboxes trying to pump up a TV audience that was already geeked.

Back to the magic word. National. The National Broadcasting Company was about to show the debut of the National Football League. This was big news, so they brought in the big guns. Even Mr. Toupee himself, sometimes known as Bob Costas, was on hand to stir the football masses yet further into a frenzy with his thundering words from on high. Break out the red, white, and blue, let loose the dogs of the gridiron, and God bless America. The only thing missing were whips and chains with the fans flogging themselves in pure ecstasy.

[Idle thought. If NBC and Costas want even bigger ratings, he should whip off that rug he's been wearing for years on the air and show the world his chrome-dome that lies beneath. The numbers would go through the roof.]

But if one looked closely, guess who was sponsoring the whole works? The sign was prominent behind the bands on stage. Hyundai. You know, the South Korean corporation that has been flooding the USA with cars and other goodies in recent years.

So we have a "national" broadcasting company televising a "national" football league, and some suits in South Korea get to call the shots????  And they decided to zap the Jeopardy! final so we could watch a couple stupid bands and listen to mindless drivel from the talking heads???

Something is very, very wrong with this picture.

And the damn game didn't even start at 8:30. Oh no. They had to trot out yet another bimbo on yet another stage at midfield in Gillette Stadium to sing the National Anthem. And what gives with all these military color-guards always having to be on hand for such spectacles? Aren't we paying them to defend our country? If they're not fighting wars, they should be swabbing decks or painting ships. Or going through various drills. Or practicing in flight simulators. Or getting ready for cold weather hand-to hand combat if the geniuses in the Pentagon ever get bored and decide to invade Canada for some reason. Or at least doing push-ups. They're supposed to be ready -- dammit.

They do not, repeat NOT belong at a football game holding flags. There's plenty of cheerleaders that can handle that duty, and would be a whole lot easier on the eyes to boot. What would you rather see? Grim faced soldiers standing like statues (on tax-payer money), or beautiful cheerleaders (that a team has to pay for) with their various body parts bouncing around?

Such a slap in the face is almost enough to drive a geek/sports nut to watch soccer.

Good Gawd-a-mighty. What am I saying?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Detroit Lions and the usual hype

It's certainly predictable, and actually quite comical. The local hype surrounding the Detroit Lions is back in full bloom.

Let's not forget the Lions have only ever won one playoff game since Super Bowls started 50 years ago, and THAT game was way back when some guy named George Bush Sr. occupied the White House. Two terms of Slick Willy, another two of W, and the Obamameister is winding down HIS second term -- but all the while, the Lions have gone without winning another postseason contest, much less come within sniffing distance of the Super Bowl. It's an incredible record of futility.

But never fear. With another season about to start, the Lions and their ever-gullible fans think this just might be the year. Of course, they are helped along by their equally ever-koolaided homer media that keep peddling the snake oil.

One article said General Manager Martin Mayhew thinks this year's team will be better than last year's. Well, OF COURSE he does. I mean, what is the dude going to say? With the loss of our best two defensive linemen, a brand new offensive line to be sorted out, and a running game that remains very much in flux, his team likely won't perform as well as they did last year? Such a statement is not likely forthcoming from a company man, though it would more closely resemble the truth.

Another worthy home-town journalist said all the experts predicting the Lions to win only 6 to 8 games this year made sure he put quotes around the word "experts". As if they don't know what they're talking about. For whatever reason, said scribe has evidently concluded he thinks on a much higher plane than all the other pundits. Perhaps the word "worthy" mentioned earlier in this paragraph should have been in quotes as well. All the experts are wrong. Only the home town guru fully grasps how great the Lions will be this year. Right.

Even given their woeful record over the decades, the Lions can count on one thing. The suckers will keep coming back. The team even had the audacity to raise ticket prices yet again. The Ford family that owns them are worth countless billions, and get huge revenue from TV, advertisers, and sales of team paraphernalia. If they never sold a single ticket to a Lion's game -- they'd STILL make money. But they raised the prices anyway. And the fools continue to rush in.

Here's a question. Why would the average family of four want to drop a house payment to go see a Lion's game -- remember it's in Detroit -- not exactly the safest place in the world to get into and out of -- when they could either sit home and watch it for free or go to a fancy sports bar in the burbs at a fraction of the price? Atmosphere? Please. Let's add in parking, grossly overpriced nasty food and watered down drinks. This is atmosphere? To boot, at the stadium, even in good seats, one only gets one view of the action from far away, and there's a very good chance some screaming idiots will be sitting nearby. They don't know why they scream incoherently -- they just do. And maybe your vehicle will still be there undamaged when you get out. Or maybe not. It's Detroit.

So carry on, ye Honolulu blue and silver faithful. Let the hype begin once again. There is always hope, right? Sure. Maybe everybody in the Middle East kisses and makes up tomorrow. Maybe Halley's comet makes a U-turn and comes back next year. Maybe the Republicans and Democrats drop their partisan squabbles and go to work for the American people. And maybe yours truly has a Pulitzer heading his way for my brilliance writing this blog.

But I wouldn't count on any of that happening. Nor would I count on the Lions even making the playoffs this year, let alone going deep into them. Matthew Stafford will rack up his usual gaudy passing stats, the Megatron will take another beating catching a lot of his throws in double coverage, and the Lions will have their share of high and low lights during the season. But in the end, there's nothing special about these guys. It's just another year of the same old Lions.

Hype and hope are one thing. Reality is quite another.

A difference.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Jason Pierre-Paul scam

Idle thoughts: It was big news that Johnny Manzeil finally threw a, gasp, pass in a preseason game? Shut up. Who cares? He's a back up QB on a bad Cleveland Browns team that is going nowhere this year, except for the basement of the AFC Central. And isn't this the same team whose GM got suspended for 4 games for sending texts to the sidelines? How stupid was that in this day and age, when all such communications are monitored? Lebron may be back, but a lot of idiocy is still very much alive and well in the city of shitty, or the flake by the lake -- take your pick. Still think it would be pretty cool if Tampa Bay Ray player James Loney changed his first name to Buh. It would dovetail nicely with their playoff chances -- and their ballpark, for that matter.

And then there's the mysterious, or maybe not, case of Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP was a ferocious defensive lineman for the NY Giants, routinely leading them in sacks, tackles for losses, and very strange on-field antics after making a good play. Frere PeePee could be an absolute beast at times, though maybe not wrapped too tight.

But as we know, Pierre Paul experienced a minor inconvenience during the last off-season. Seems he was playing with fireworks and somehow managed to maim his right index finger. Most of us know to throw the firecracker before the fuse gets short, but perhaps this concept was lost on JPP. In any case, it went bang and his own doctors tried to save the finger, but could not. It was amputated. Ouch. Can JPP now only count to nine?

So OK, stuff happens. But Pierre-Paul's behavior since that incident has been quite baffling. He wouldn't allow the Giants and their team doctors to examine him. Did the team have an absolute right to do so? Maybe not, but it's usually a good idea for an employee to keep his employer up to date on his medical condition -- especially when said employee stands to keep making millions of dollars.

But not Jason. He kept the Giants in the dark all through summer camp and the preseason games. Further, he has yet to sign the $14.8 million contract tender the Giants placed on him. That WAS a team right contractually. Put another way, if JPP doesn't sign the deal with the Giants, he doesn't play for anybody this year. If he doesn't know that, his agent surely does. And let's face it. Almost 15 million bucks isn't exactly chump change.

So now with the regular season about to begin, Jason has finally decided to report. No doubt, the team doctors and coaching staff are eager to find out just how much the loss of his index finger might affect his production. If he was a concert piano player or a sign language teacher, this might well be a catastrophe, but being a defensive end -- who knows?

Yet here's the real deal. JPP has long been healed up. His hand is what it is. Of course he has to sign the $14.8 M contract. He has no choice. But in prolonging it until the dawn of the regular season, Paul was able to skip out on all the drills, workouts and practices that come with the training camp and preseason regimen for any other player.

He just wants to show up at the last second, jump into the starting line-up when the REAL season starts, and start collecting his hefty game checks.

This is wrong. If the Giants had any cajones, this is what they would tell dear JPP.

OK, if our doctors even clear you, you're back on the team, but you're not starting just yet. You have to prove to US you're still in shape after your disappearing act. You're going to run, run, and run some more. When you're not doing gassers, you'll be in the weight room pumping iron. After that, welcome back to the tackling dummies. Hundred of reps. Let's see what you've got. Yeah, we'll feed and pay you along the way, and maybe, just maybe, if everything works out, you could be back in the starting line-up in Week 3 or 4. But for now, you have some serious work to do and a whole lot to prove. It didn't have to be this way, but it was of your making, not ours. If that's not good enough, then fine. Sit on the bench until we find a way to trade you. How does Cleveland sound?