Saturday, January 30, 2016

Australian Open. Blowouts coming

It really is a shame it has to boil down to this. Of all the gifted tennis players in the world, both male and female, you'd think the finals of a major tournament would feature more competitive matches. 

But the Australian Open seems to have two lop-sided affairs coming up.

On the XX chromosome side, we have American Serena Williams, age 34, going up against German Angelique Kerber, age 28. Serena has yet to lose a single set in this year's tournament, and when's the last time you heard of Angelique's name being mentioned? 

Granted, Ms. Kerber is a bit long in the tooth as tennis players go, but Ms. Williams is absolutely ancient. Though still very much a dominant player, one is left to wonder when Serena's great fall will happen. Her sister Venus, merely a year older, crashed and burned years ago as a world-class singles player, and was ousted by an unknown in the opening round of this year's Aussie Open. Color Venus gone. But Serena keeps marching on in her banana/canary outfit. Here's at least hoping she has it laundered between matches. 

Nevertheless, her day will come, but not in this tournament. Look for Serena to blitz Angelique. The media will start their usual "grand slam sweep" possibilities and the younger Williams sister will pose for a few more ads along the way. Hopefully not in yellow. It is difficult to reconcile a woman trying to pass herself off as ladylike and chic when one has witnessed all the grunting, screaming, and sometimes chimpanzee-esque actions she typically displays on a tennis court. But she's going to win this one -- likely quite easily.

On the XY chromosome side, we have Novac Djokovic, a Serb, squaring off against Andy Murray, a Brit. Djokovic bested the seemingly ageless Swiss Roger Federer in the semi-finals, while Murray outlasted Canadian Milos Raonic as well. All four are terrific players. With the seemingly early swoon of Rafael Nadal, Federer would likely have added a few more major titles to his already bulging showcase -- if not for Djokovic. But that's the way it works out sometimes. On that note, one can also wonder when Federer will crash and burn himself. Surely, it has to be coming soon.

Time out. A guy named Milos Raonic is a Canadian? Really? What province did he come from?

Andy Murray will likely be the crowd favorite when he faces off against Djokovic in the Finals. After all, the Aussies still retain a lot of British heritage, considering they were once a colony of His or Her Majesty's Empire. Don't they still have provinces of their own named Queensland and New South Wales? But wait a second. Didn't they rise up and throw their English oppressors out a century or two ago so they could be an independent country free of such tyranny? And they'll likely be rooting for a Brit to win their championship? That seems odd, but so did Crocodile Dundee falling head over heels for that dorky American big city girl that didn't know a kangaroo from a can of tuna fish. But I suppose the folks Down Under have their ways. Go figure.

At any rate, the men's Finals will likely be another blow-out as well. Andy Murray is without a doubt a world class tennis player. He doesn't grunt like Serena, or scream on every shot like so many other female players do. God, that's annoying. But he has his own little high pitched squeak when he serves. Kind of like the last sound one would expect to hear of a mouse as the trap slammed shut on its neck. 

Andy is certainly animated, and can become even McEnroe-ish on the court with his verbals. He rants at himself, the umpire in the chair, and likely to the Almighty above when things aren't going his way. Or sometimes when they are. Let's just say he wears his emotions on his sleeves. 

On the other hand Novac remains quite stoic. He might mumble to himself occasionally, but rarely will we see an emotional outburst from the Serb. Djokovic has become almost android-ish when it comes to playing tennis. The man has no weaknesses, never gets "gassed" no matter how long a match may drag on, and seems oblivious to a hostile crowd rooting against him. He just keeps playing and hitting winners. 

Murray might win a set. Maybe. But in the end, Djokovic will win the title. Like Serena, at this point in time, the competition doesn't even matter. Both of them are far above whatever opponent managed to survive the other half of the bracket to make their way into the Finals. 

Though the matches have to be played, they're just a mere formality. 

Barring some sort of injury, they will likely both be blowouts. 

Serena and Novac are just too damned good. Period. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Detroit Lions. Another yawn

A lot of Lions fans thought late owner William Clay Ford must have been the problem. After all, he'd been in charge since 1963. Many coaches came and went, certainly entire generations of players, two new stadiums were built, and front office personnel was shuffled.

Still, the Lions remained the Lions all along. As in "same old". In the rare years when they were semi-competitive, they offered up just enough to keep their koolaided fans (and faithful media) hopeful for better things to come. Next year was always going to be the year.

The magical next year never happened. The Lions would crash and burn, and the whole process would start over again. It's been going on for over a half century.

But WCF can be blamed no longer. He has an airtight alibi, as in he's no longer alive. His dear widow Martha, now 90 herself, is running the show along with her daughters. Good luck with that.

Not long ago, the Lions underwent quite the purge. The president was fired, as was the GM, along with the offensive coordinator and a few coaches. Martha was doing quite the house cleaning and it was certainly long overdue. Even more recently, the Lions, in their infinite wisdom, have seen fit to can a few marketing people and even trainers. Will the waterboys be marched off to the guillotine next?

Yet the lead actor somehow survived. That would be head coach Jim Caldwell.

JC is an interesting sort. He was smart enough to endear himself to ownership -- Martha "loves" him, and always seems to say the "right things". The press also loves him because he's so accessible. On top of that, Caldwell is considered a "players coach". They love him as well.

So what could go wrong? Mostly the fact Caldwell is still there. His track record strongly suggests he's well suited to be an able lieutenant, but not cut out to be a general. He may be a nice guy and all, but this is not what the Lions need. They need somebody smart, tough, and demanding. A no-nonsense guy that won't shy away from hammering his own players, if necessary, in the pursuit of excellence. No more wishy-washy stuff about a player working hard and showing "potential". Either get it done -- NOW -- or you're gone. Period. Caldwell will never be that person.

JC's track record to date with the Lions falls into the category of "very predictable". Like in Indianapolis before, he inherited a team his predecessor had put together. In his first (2014) season with Detroit, the Lions had been so bad the previous year the NFL gave them a patsy schedule befitting such a sub-par team.

The Lions would go on to squeak into the playoffs (along the way catching every break imaginable to do so) and make a predictable first round exit.

But they had made the playoffs, hence their 2015 schedule would be a bit tougher. And so it was. Besides their mandatory 6 division games, the Lions had to play some good teams at the start of the season. The result? They were clobbered every which way and their season was basically over before Halloween. The back end of the schedule was a bit kinder, and the Lions won some meaningless games after it didn't even matter any more.

The upshot? The Lions' faithful, likely including Martha and the girls, forgot about the first half of season -- which was telling -- and only considered what a great "turnaround" Caldwell had engineered. It was the usual Lions' "fool's gold". The fans and media bought in yet again. These guys are getting better, they claimed. Reload the season tickets and sit with bated breath when the draft comes around. Anything's possible next year. It could be the one.

No, it won't be. If anything, the 2016 season will be just another cruel punishment inflicted on the sappies. Given their sub-par 2015 performance, the NFL has once again handed the Lions an easy schedule. The Lions could well go 10-6 or 11-5 again and make another playoff appearance. Jim Caldwell would probably get a contract extension. But does anybody seriously think the Lions would even remotely be considered as Super Bowl contenders? Of course not. The Motown koolaid is strong, but hopefully not THAT strong.

Look around the league and even at the Lions themselves. Carolina is sitting on top of the NFC. Seattle will be back, and Arizona is really good. Heck, within their own division, Minnesota's on the upswing and if Green Bay can ever stay healthy, they remain a force.

Meanwhile, Calvin, the former Megatron Johnson, doesn't even know if he wants to play next year. Can't blame him. He's got enough money and has taken enough beatings. The Lions O-line remains Keystone Koppish, they don't have a decent running back, have a bevy of tight ends -- but even when they can stay healthy, none are complete players. Their D-line also remains in flux, the linebacker corps is average at best. the secondary is unsettled, and they have over 20 guys that are in contract limbo.

Many say defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is worthy of being a head coach somewhere. Well, he's interviewed for 7 such jobs recently, and nobody else has found him fit to hire. He'll be back with the Lions because he doesn't have a helluva lot of choice.

So yeah. Let the hype begin for the Detroit Lions and their 2016 "possibilities". But in the end, you just know what's going to happen. They'll do just enough to keep the suckers coming back for even more frustration. And they'll willingly do so. Such is their nature. Poor devils.

When it comes to the Lions -- it's just another year. After over a half century of futility, who's even counting any more?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Kevin Durant. What's next?

NBA fans know Kevin Durant as a superstar player for the Oklahoma City Thunder. He once led them to the Finals, but never quite over the top. Along with Russell Westbrook, they've formed quite the dynamic duo in Okie land. The Thunder made a horrible mistake letting point guard James Hardin get away to free agency in Houston, which likely doomed whatever chances they had at a title, but that's a story for another day. Nevertheless, the landscape has changed.

While the Thunder remain a very good team in the West, nobody would seriously doubt Golden State has become the class of the field. The San Antonio Spurs continue their standard of excellence, and the LA Clippers seem destined to forever be yappy wannabes.

Recently, Kevin Durant and the Thunder played a game against the Knicks in NYC. Durant said he LOVED the place.

True, Phil Jackson has done an admirable job with the mess he inherited. The Knicks have gone from jokes to almost a .500 team.

Thing is, Durant will be an unrestricted free agent after this year. He can go anywhere, and he'll surely get a max salary wherever he lands. Would he stay in Okla? Maybe. Has the siren song of the bright lights in the Big Apple become too alluring? Maybe. But if he goes to Madison Square Garden, he's not going to win a championship there either. In fact, he'd never even see another Finals -- not as long as Lebron and Co. in Cleveland continue rolling along. That could be several more years.

Sure, he and his agent might be able to squeeze a few more million out of some teams than others, but if he ever wants to win a championship, there's a logical choice. And does it really matter whether he makes $20 million or $25 million a year? No sane person can spend that much money anyway.

If I'm the San Antonio Spurs, I quietly begin putting out feelers as to whether Durant would be willing to come play for coach Popovic in Alamoland. True, it would have to be on the sly -- friend of a friend of a friend type of thing -- else the Spurs would get slammed for "tampering" while KD is still under contract. But surely there are ways of unofficially communicating such a message.

Consider the Spurs' current situation. They know they're a good team -- arguably the second best in the entire league. But they also know Golden State is a step above them. Further consider that despite all his brilliance over the many years he's played, center Tim Duncan will be retiring soon. This year might well be his last go-round.

The Spurs have some other players getting long in the tooth, like Tony Parker and Manu Genobili, but they likely still have a couple good years left in them. They also have what might quietly be the best young all-around player in the NBA. Kawhi Leonard. And Lamarcus Aldredge. And nobody finds and develops overseas talent like Coach Pop and the Spurs. The Spurs routinely play almost their entire roster in any given game. Such is the nature of the system Pop has developed, and it's worked well.

But as is, chances are the Spurs won't be able to get past the Warriors in the playoffs. Golden State is just too good.

Yet plug in a 27 year old Durant at the prime of his career to replace Duncan, especially under Coach Pop's tutelage, and the landscape could shift again.

No, KD wouldn't get all the press, glamour, and endorsements he might playing for the Knicks, much less the woeful la-la land Lakers, but he'd have a legitimate shot at winning a championship. Besides, the only year of college ball he played was in -- yep -- Texas. One could consider it a homecoming of sort.

It will be interesting to see where Durant lands after this season. Pretty sure it won't be in such places as Utah, Detroit, Sacramento, or Philly. Even a superstar has his limitations when it comes to making a big difference on another team. Some NBA outposts require nothing less than Divine intervention to change their misfortunes. Or at least people in charge that know what the hell they're doing and have a plan.

Panthers, Warriors, and Huskies

If one is as clueless as yours truly, they might draw the same parallel. The Carolina Panthers are to the NFL what the Golden State Warriors are to the NBA. Consider:

The Panthers have the best record in the league, are young, and led by a super-star QB named Cam Newton.

The Warriors are also young, have the best record in their league, and are led by by super-star point guard named Steph Curry.

Carolina's only loss came in Atlanta. A head scratcher. After being so dominant at home and on the road elsewhere during the season -- how could they possible lose to the lowly Falcons? Then come back to blitz the Seattle Seahawks and absolutely obliterate a very good Arizona Cardinals team in the playoffs?

On a similar note, while nobody expects an NBA team to go undefeated, how could the Warriors lose to the lowly Detroit Pistons on the road -- then come back to annihilate a fully healthy Cleveland Cavaliers team a couple days later? The beat down was so bad on the shores of Lake Erie, the Cavs fired their head coach.

True, the Warriors won the NBA championship last year, and the Panthers have merely made the "Finals", AKA the Super Bowl. Maybe they win and maybe they lose. But perhaps that's the thing with these two teams.

They're both immensely talented in all phases of the game, but are beatable in any given contest if the other team plays extremely well and a break or three goes their way. It can happen.

Thing is, if either one of these teams gets on a "roll" during a game-- look out. Witness what Carolina did to the Arizona Cards in the NFC championship game. Witness what Golden State is capable of doing to any opponent, anywhere, when they go on a "run". Once either starts, it has a steam-rolling effect and is almost impossible to stop. What was a close game can become a total blow-out in the course of a few minutes.

This is not to underestimate the Denver Broncos' chances in the Super Bowl. They are a worthy team indeed. And a lot of people would like to see Peyton Manning ride off into the sunset as a champion. Could happen. The down side to that, of course, is we'd likely get bombarded with even MORE of his moronic commercial endorsements. Horrors!! If he and his Broncos lost, maybe those ads would mercifully finally fade away. The "mute" on my mute button has worn off from so many times of pressing it when a Peyton commercial comes on. Hundreds, thousands, seemingly billions of them at every hour of the day or night.

My boss/editor recently told me the NFL gods wouldn't deny Peyton his last chance at another Lombardi trophy. Maybe not, but if the fan gods get a vote, I'm hoping they'll see the wisdom in sparing us mere mortals the agony of having to suffer through another year or two of Peyton hawking various products for money he obviously doesn't need. The man has no shame.

For that reason only, I hope the Panthers clobber the Broncos in Super Bowl 50. True, Cam Newton is beginning to get on the commercial bandwagon himself with dopey videos, but he's got a long ways to go before catching up to chicken neck's stats when it comes to being totally shameless. (Though I must admit, him climbing into an ice bath tub with a teammate was a good start).

And c'mon, the dude just signed a $100+ million dollar contract last June. Shouldn't that be enough money? Does he really need to whore himself out like Peyton has over the years? If we ever see him advertising Fig Newtons, then we'll know he's gone off the deep end. Here's hoping he straightens up and shows a little -- make that a lot -- more class than the Manning brothers have in recent times when it comes to such things.

When it comes to being capable of total dominance, another team should be added to the Carolina Panthers and the Golden State Warriors.

Enter the UConn Lady Huskies. Geno's Bambinos if you will. They don't get much TV time and even less press coverage, but what they have done in recent years is truly remarkable. They are likely the greatest sports dynasty of all time, eclipsing John Wooden's UCLA Bruins, the Boston Celtics' run in the 50s-60s, coach Pat's Tennessee Vols, and any other team that has come along before or since -- in ANY sport. But because they're girls, they don't get the attention they deserve.

In a recent article summing up the men's college basketball rankings, much was said about how some teams had gone up or down. A mere footnote was devoted to UConn, saying they won their last two games by an average of 54 points and remained #1. Well, no kidding. When a team is a three-time defending national champion, remains undefeated this year, and is blistering any and all competition, it doesn't take a genius to figure out who should be considered the top dogs. By a long shot. Fifty four point margins of victory? A lot of female college basketball teams don't score 54 points in an entire game, let alone win by that much. It's outrageous, and speaks volumes to UConn's vast superiority. They've graduated super-star players to the WNBA, but keep plugging in new ones, and the beat goes on in Storrs.

Carolina might well win the Super Bowl in a couple weeks, and Golden State another NBA title in June. No doubt each would be deserving of much fanfare/hype. And they would certainly get it.

But the UConn Lady Huskies have already set a standard so high, that no other team, in any other sport, will ever be able to match it again. And they're still going as strong as ever. A truly remarkable run for the ages, with no end in sight yet.

Sure, yours truly will be tuned in to watch the Super Bowl. Then the Daytona 500. Then on to the rites of spring like the Masters golf tourney and the Indy 500. Wouldn't miss them for anything.

And when it comes to the NCAA college hoop tourney, I can channel surf with the best of them.

But I'll always be keeping an eye out for whatever obscure cable channel airs a UConn game. The program Geno Auriemma has built over the years is second to none in the entire sports world. It's not even a close call.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

What Tom Brady SHOULD say

First, congrats to the Denver Broncos for knocking off the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. No doubt, the media will be swarming around Peyton Manning, and far be it from Archie's boy to shy away from cameras. How many dumb commercial endorsements has he already made and how many times have we groaned when they keep popping up on TV -- over, and over, and freaking-ay over again. Obviously, the man has no shame.

But there will come a time (likely soon) when Tom Brady is forced to take center stage in front of the news hounds. They'll want his take on how and why the Patriots lost the game in Denver.

When that happens, if things go as they have in the past, Brady will likely trot out the usual party lines. The Patriots missed opportunities, didn't execute well in certain situations, and overall they just didn't get the job done.

But if he wants to be open and honest -- here's what Brady SHOULD say ---

[First of all, I stunk. Those interceptions I threw in the first half were inexcusable. After all my years in the league, I'm supposed to know better than to make stupid throws like that.

Second, the offensive line put me in that position. They stunk too. The reason I was trying to make something happen with such awkward throws was because I was under siege for most of the game. The big guys up front that are supposed to protect me became a screen door on a submarine. All I knew was after getting the ball, it was a-thousand one, a-thousand two, and a swarm of orange jerseys in my face. I did the best I could.

Third, the game plan from the coaches was stupid. Even an idiot knew Denver was damn near impossible to rush on, and we were down to our third string running back. So why did coach Bellichick and his merry band of geniuses call any running plays at all? They weren't going to work. Especially with that pitiful O-line trying to block for them.

Fourth, for whatever reason, our usually reliable place kicker missed an extra point early in the game. That changed the whole complexion of everything from then on. How can this guy be so reliable from 40-50 yards on field goal attempts, but miss a gimme like an extra point? If he'd made that, we wouldn't have been forced to go for a two point conversion -- which failed -- to tie the game in its waning seconds. Then we're talking overtime. Anything could happen. But he blew it. I know it, he knows it, the rest of the players know it, and our fans back home DAMN sure know it.

I don't expect the media to ever find fault with somebody these days with whatever happens on the field. Oh no. They remain too busy in their politically correct world coming up with superlatives for anything a player might have got right. Hey, good players are supposed to make good plays. This is nothing special.

But when I, the coaching staff, and the O-line stink it up, chances are we're going to lose against a good team. Throw in a crucial missed extra point -- and there you have it.

And let's get real. If we hadn't been such collective boneheads, losing 4 of our last 6 six regular season games against sub-par competition (the Eagles, Jets, and Dolphins? Really?), we wouldn't have been in Denver at all. They would have had to come to Foxborough -- where we have long owned them.

But it is what it is and we got beat. Denver wasn't all that. We just stunk.]

In the NFC, the high-flying Carolina Panthers obliterated the Arizona Cardinals. No surprise that they won but, dang, who saw a total blow-out like that coming?

Carolina vs Denver in the Super Bowl -- to be played in the San Fran 49ers spanking new fancy stadium in Santa Clara. Let the hype begin. The next two weeks will be chock full of it. Armies of experts, talking heads, analysts, and stats from hell coming at us.

Meanwhile, Tom Brady has to go home to the condolences of his super-model wife, and maybe tally up his countless millions one more time.

Poor devil.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Very strange sports things

So David Blatt was canned as the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers? That seemed strange, given the Cavs had made it to the NBA Finals last year and had the best record in the Eastern Conference this year.

Then again, it was easy to wonder just which country David Blatt had allegiance to. Born in Massachusetts, he eventually immigrated to Israel to coach, said he became "much more Jewish and and much more Zionist" while there, and went on to other stops in Russia and Turkey along the way. This qualified him as a well traveled international coach, but hardly constituted a glowing resume as NBA head coaching material. The game is played a lot differently abroad than it is stateside.

Nevertheless, in their infinite wisdom, the Cleveland Cavaliers inked Blatt to a 5 year contract to run their team, though he had ZERO NBA experience beforehand. Hey, doesn't that Dan Gilbert Quicken Loans guy still own the team? You know, the same fine gentleman that is investing millions in the Detroit business district while professing his love for all things Cleveland. Very strange.

Thing is, the Cavs have to pay Blatt's considerable salary through the 2018 season. He can kick back and do nothing for the next three and a half years while the millions continue to roll in. Well OK, maybe the Cavs wanted a REAL American to run their team. So they hired ----- Tyronn Lue. Does it get any more American than a guy named Tyronn coaching basketball? Maybe not so strange.

But it gets weirder. Before Blatt, the Cavs had fired head coach Mike Brown. They're still on the hook for HIS salary through 2018 as well. Throw in Lue's 3-year deal, and bow-tie Dan will be paying three head coaches through the 2018 season -- two of them no longer even working for his organization. That loan business must have money to spare galore.

On to the NFL playoffs.

In the AFC, the New England Patriots are a 3 point favorite going on the road against the Denver Broncos. Sounds about right. But a current Sports Illustrated article seemed a bit strange. It pointed out that Denver has the top-ranked defense in the league, and the Pats' two best linebackers are banged up and still iffy. Further, Brady and Co. will be without the services of their top running back. History tells us that Brady has an 11-5 record against Peyton Manning, but a not-go-good 2-6 record when his Pats play at Mile High. Add it up, and one would think the odds tilt a bit in Denver's favor.

But the SI scribe fearlessly predicted the Patriots would clobber the Broncos to the tune of 42-17. Really? A twenty five point beat down? As in over 3 touchdowns worth? In Denver? Very strange indeed.

In the NFC, his prediction was Carolina 34, Arizona 23. Obviously, he thinks the Panthers will easily cover the 3 point spread. The Cardinals have been the NFL's best road team while Carolina remains unbeaten at home. Something has to give.

But it won't be yours truly to Biker George (see previous post -- stage right). He dinged me for a Jackson when I was foolish enough to think Seattle would knock off his hometown Panthers. Then he offered a chance for me to get my money back by taking Arizona.

Not this time, George. A lot of things might be strange, including yours truly -- opinions vary -- but he's not hitting me up for another 20 on this game. I think his homies are going to roll into the Super Bowl as well.

Parting thought: How in the world did the Detroit Pistons manage to knock off the Golden State Warriors a few days ago? It doesn't get any stranger than that......

A must see game

The defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors continue to cruise along. Just when you think they might be showing vulnerability -- see their loss at the hands of the not-so good Detroit Pistons -- they'll come roaring back. See how they put a 31 point woodshed whuppin on Lebron and the Cavaliers (in Cleveland) a couple days later. Then went into Chicago and demolished the Bulls. Needless to say, a 40-4 record speaks for itself.

The Warriors have rightfully got a lot of attention so far this year. When they "get it going" in any particular game, which is often, they can pretty much run any other team out of the building -- be it at home or on the road.

But while the Oakland Boys have been grabbing the spotlight, another usual suspect lurks not far behind.

Enter the San Antonio Spurs. At last look, they were only 2 games behind the high-flying Warriors. Granted, they play in different divisions, but both are obviously in the Western Conference and there will come a time when the playoffs start as to who gets home-court advantage. It would seem these two teams are destined to clash sometime in late May or early June.

How important is home-court advantage? Neither team has lost a single home game this year so far. True, it's only slightly past the half-way point of the regular season, and no NBA team -- ever -- has gone through an entire year without getting beat at home. So chances are, both the Warriors and Spurs will taste defeat on their home courts somewhere along the line before the playoffs start.

But for right now, a must-see game is coming up Monday night. San Antonio visits Golden State. The defending champs/Splash Brothers host the quiet but deadly efficiency and team play of Coach Pop's boys.

Something has to give. Also true is in the whole scheme of things, perhaps this one game doesn't matter THAT much. They will play a rematch in San Antonio not long after. Perhaps they'll "split" and get on with the rest of their regular seasons clobbering most everybody else.

After all, it's not like the NFL conference championship games on tap Sunday. Whoever loses those games is done for the year, while the winners go on to the Super Bowl. Golden State and San Antonio will still have almost half a season left to slog through. A lot of things can happen during that time -- not the least being injuries to key players. You never know.

But you indeed know the Spurs and Warriors will both bring their "A games" trying to knock off the other and send a message on Monday.

It should be quite the contest indeed.

Bring it on.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

What became of "Megatron"?

Detroit Lions' wide receiver Calvin Johnson was once known as the "Megatron". No real name necessary. Every NFL fan, particularly in the Detroit area, knew who Megatron was.

But something has changed in the last year or so. Megatron seems to have ceased to exist. Now the media, and even the team itself, refer to him merely by his real name. It's Calvin this, or Johnson that, but nary a mention of Megatron.

It's a subtle, but very telling sign. How could this come to pass for a receiver supposedly in his "prime"? After all, nicknames like "Magic", "Babe", and "Tiger" never reverted back to Earvin, George, and Eldrick.

Granted, Calvin Johnson is unlike the three above-mentioned names in that he's never won anything while toiling away for the Detroit Lions and their losing ways over the years he has been on their roster. Not even a single playoff game, let alone sniffing, much less winning a Super Bowl.

But the former Megatron put up some very impressive receiving stats over the years as well. Though possessing immense talent, this was most likely the result of the Lions not having many other offensive options to go to over the years. Their lack of a running game, other mediocre wide receivers, and tight ends with Roberto Duran-ish hands of stone usually equated to one thing. When QB Matthew Stafford was in doubt -- which was often -- heave it in the general direction of Calvin and hope he makes a spectacular play. Oftentimes he did.

Yet that came with a price. The opposing defenses knew this, and the Megatron was forced to absorb hit after brutal hit. He might catch the ball in double or triple coverage, but he would also get hammered a millisecond later. Over time, this will take it's toll on the toughest and best conditioned athlete.

In the last couple years, Calvin -- nee Megatron -- Johnson has taken so much punishment he's barely able to practice between games during the weeks of the season. To his credit, CJ toughs it out and gives everything he has on game day. He's also making more than a million bucks a game. Hardly chump change. But he is not the force he once was. Various injuries have hobbled him and opposing defenses are no longer awed by his presence. They fully understand he's "lost a step" and rotate their coverages accordingly. Megatron has ceased to exist. Now it's just Calvin Johnson, a good, but no longer elite wide receiver.

One can't blame Calvin Johnson for signing on to a long term contract with the Lions. It guaranteed him lifetime financial security. With various "bonuses" to date Mr. Johnson has made over $100 million. Even after taxes, that's likely enough to afford most people a rather comfortable lifestyle.

And the Lions contractually own his butt for the next 4 years. Unless something drastically changes, CJ can't become a free agent until the 2020 season.

Consider his physical state right now. Does anybody really think he'll make it through another 4 years of taking the poundings that come with playing for the Lions?

By most all accounts, Calvin Johnson is a truly good man. His once-freakish abilities as a wide receiver aside, he's tough, humble, a team player, and quietly "gives back" to certain worthwhile organizations. Johnson doesn't beat his own drum like so many other professional athletes do with high profile interviews and their TV addiction (plus cha-chings) to whoring themselves out to endorse various products they likely don't even partake of. Calvin Johnson has remained above that fray -- and kudos to him for doing so.

Yet one is left to wonder just how high a wattage bulb burns between his ears. Look at it this way ---

There is little to no chance the Detroit Lions will get to the Super Bowl in the next four years. In the NFC, there are too many other teams that are already superior -- see Seattle and Arizona. And others that are young and coming on strong -- see obviously Carolina and don't sleep on Minnesota in coming years. If Calvin Johnson stays with the Lions throughout the duration of his contract, he'll never be a champion, and four years from now -- if he even makes it that long -- who knows how bad his legs will be?

If I could advise Calvin Johnson, I would tell him this:

[Your Megatron days are over, at least in Detroit.
You already have more than enough money in the bank to keep you, your kids, and likely grandkids financially secure for their lifetimes.
So instead of contemplating full retirement, why not just take a year off? Let your body completely heal. It's not like you need another $20+ million this year to go out and take another pounding.
And instruct your agent to tell the Lions you want out of the contract. It would give them a lot of cap space to help their team elsewhere -- lord knows they need it -- and you could come back fresh in 2017 playing for a team elsewhere that has at least a decent shot at getting to the Super Bowl.
You've still got a few good years left in you if you play it smart, and might even get a "ring" someday if things work out just right.
With the Lions, the best you can ever hope for -- besides more money which you don't need -- is being able to walk without a limp when you're 40. Or maybe even being able to remember what your name is by age 50. These are not good scenarios.

In the whole scheme of things, you're a mighty fine man, Calvin Johnson. So while you're off contemplating your future, here's hoping you think ALL your options through thoroughly.

Unless all those brutal losing years in Detroit have already turned him into the mental equivalent of an Edsel with a blown head gasket, there's a better way to proceed in the future.]

For his own sake -- here's hoping the former Megatron finds it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Detroit Tigers spending. Real or BS?

Much has been made in the Detroit area recently regarding how Tiger owner Mike Ilitch has been willing to "open up the vault" to procure talent for his baseball team.

The Tigers' team payroll for the upcoming year will approach a whopping $200 million. Sound like a lot of of money, right? It is and it isn't.

The average John/Jane working stiff find 6, 8, 10, or even $20 million yearly salaries to a player hard to comprehend. Chances are, they can slave away for 30-40 years at their own craft and never make anywhere near what a baseball player earns for one single season. But this is what has happened across the spectrum of professional sports -- mostly due to free agency bidding wars and the obscene TV money rolling in for the rights to broadcast such games.

A "hard" cap is a fixed number and no team is allowed to exceed it. Period. A "soft" cap is also a fixed number, but teams are given loopholes to work around it. This would be the case in the NBA, where clubs can exceed the number to resign their own players.

But Major League Baseball has no cap whatsoever. Instead, at a certain threshold, a "luxury tax" kicks in. Any team exceeding that number has to pay a percentage of their overage to the league as a penalty. Theoretically, this was supposed to keep the ultra-rich large market clubs from scarfing up all the high-priced talent, while the small market teams couldn't afford to pay for a roster of super-studs. In reality, it has served as no deterrent whatsoever.

[Case in point. Since 2003, the NY Yankees have coughed up roughly $280 million in luxury tax fees. But as we know, money doesn't always equate to championships. And didn't the Kansas City Royals -- a "small market" club -- convincingly win the WS last year?]

In 2016, that particular number will be roughly $189 million. For the sake or argument, let's assume Mike Ilitch has decided to spend the full $200 on player payroll for this season. The pundits will tell us the pizza baron is "going for it", or is "all in" when it come to seeking a World Series title -- something the Tigers have been without since 1984.

If that be the case, Ilitch would find himself about $11 million over the luxury tax threshold. Again, a lot of money to pay in penalties, right? Not exactly.

Turns out, the actual luxury "tax" for the 2016 season is about 17%. That equates to under $2 million. The current average Major League player yearly salary is over $4 million. Two million might buy you a back up catcher or the last guy on the bench in the bullpen. Looked at that way, it hardly seems like a pile of money.

And let's get real. Like all other MLB franchises, these days the Tigers are awash in TV money. The exact figures remain "classified", but it's in the hundreds of millions. The TV folks pony up big bucks to broadcast games, which in turn are financed by their advertisers, which in turn again means we have to watch a lot of commercials hawking various products. Any way you slice it or dice it, the eventual cost gets passed on to the consumer, hence also exorbitant ticket prices and paying 10 bucks for fifty cents worth of cheap draft beer/6 bucks for a nasty hot dog you wouldn't feed to your dog at home, etc, etc, etc. All the vendors of such overpriced gut bombs around the stadium have to pay the club to do business as well.

Last year the Tigers got about 2.5 million fans in attendance. Let's conservatively say the average ticket price was $25. That's well over $600 million right there.

Let's not forget about all the "licensing fees". Every store, shop, kiosk, whatever that sells Detroit Tiger paraphernalia has to pay the club a handsome fee for the right to do so. When you consider all the jerseys, caps, jackets, shirts, and countless other items with the Olde English D on them, we're talking about an incredible amount of merchandise being sold. Ilitch benefits from all of it.

Consider the stadium itself. Ilitch cha-chings Comerica Bank every year for the naming rights. Inside, you'll find advertisements EVERYWHERE. All these people have to pony up to Ilitch for their signs to be displayed. How much is that worth?

True, he has some overhead. Ilitch has to pay to keep the lights on for night games and the water bill for flushing the toilets. Plus there's the "ground crew".  Maybe a dozen folks that mow the lawn, bring out/remove the tarp during rainy days, but mostly watch the games. Throw in a few locker attendants to clean up after the athletes make their usual mess. Let's say there's 25 in all making an average salary of 40K. That adds up to a measly $1 million. You can buy a lot of pepperoni for a million bucks, but it's chump change in the world of MLB. Negligible.

But now we find ourselves hearing and reading about what a kind, generous owner Mike Ilitch of the Tigers is. He's willing to go over the luxury tax threshold and take a "major" financial hit in his never-ending quest to give the faithful Tiger fans what they have long deserved. He's "all in" for a shot at a championship.

What a martyr, they say.

What BS, yours truly says.

A $200 player payroll guarantees but one thing. Whether the Tigers finish in last place again like in 2015, or go on to win the World Series, Ilitch is going to be making money hand over mozzarella either way. Such is the financial nature of professional sports ownership these days. Paying a measly couple million in "luxury tax" is laughable. Also, probably tax deductible.

Who's kidding who?

NFL playoffs. Perfect balance

If one harkens back to the first (wild card) round of the NFL playoffs, they would remember something very unusual transpired.

Kansas City won @ Houston.
Seattle won @ Minnesota.
Green Bay won @ Washington.
Pittsburgh won @ Cincinnati.

In other words, four games and all four "road" teams came out of top. Bet you could have got long odds on that happening.

Fast forward a week.

New England won at home against KC.
Denver won at home against Pittsburgh.
Carolina won at home against Seattle.
Arizona won at home against Green Bay.

All the "home" teams" came out on top. The polar opposite of the week before.

Look at what's about to happen.

New England, a "road" team, goes to Denver and are 3 point favorites.
Arizona, another "road" team, goes to Carolina and are 3 point underdogs.

Add it all up and things have perfectly balanced out in the playoffs so far.

Who will win these conference championship games is anybody's guess. Good arguments for, and against, could be made regarding all of them. Many potential strengths, but a few possible weaknesses across the board as well.

But one thing is fairly certain. After 19 weeks of NFL action, the cream rose to the top in the end.

Denver and New England were the #1 and 2 seeds in the AFC. They earned a "bye" in the opening round which gave the players an extra week to recover from various "dings" that happen over the course of a grueling season.
Same with Carolina and Arizona in the NFC.

Four REALLY good teams getting after it for a trip to the Super Bowl.

Peyton vs Tom again. Both trying to win another Super Bowl.
Young Cam taking on old pro Carson. Both trying to win their first Super Bowl.

Perhaps that's the way it should be.

Nevertheless, once again, it all seems to balance out.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Glenn Frey. Another icon gone

Yeah, I know. This is supposed to be a sports blog, and 99% of the time it is devoted to just that.

But once in a great while yours truly makes an exception and devotes a column to something or somebody else.

This is one of those times.

Like so many others around the USA and the world, I mourn the passing of Glenn Frey. No doubt, age 67 is considered "old" in some circles, but not so much in others. It all depends on how one looks at it, and most times how old the "looker" is.

It appears Frey had a few different medical problems going on, and they finally came together to spell his demise.

No, I never met Glenn Frey, nor even ever saw Eagles live in concert. But dating back to the 70s, yours truly was fascinated by the musical genius he was capable of.

Frey was not only the "Founding Father" of Eagles, but immensely talented in so many other ways. He wrote a slew of hit songs that we all still remember to this day. He could play the guitar superbly and his singing voice was extraordinary.

His Eagles were known for a lot of things, but probably their four and five part perfect harmony during songs was the most noteworthy. And no other band, to my recollection, has ever combined easy listening music, lyrics that told a story, and prompted more people to sing along than what Eagles did at the height of their fame. To this day, decades later, put an Eagles song on the "jukebox" in a bar, turn it up, and even the younger folks that weren't born at the time the song originally came out -- somehow know the words and get into it. I suppose transcending generations is the very definition of "classic" music.

Unlike so many others in the entertainment industry since, Glenn Frey never saw or felt the need to hype himself to the media. He was content to let his (and the band's) work product speak for itself. And yes, back in the 70s, there were certainly a lot of musicians and bands that had become wildly popular in America and beyond.

But Glenn Frey and Eagles always had, and still do, their own little niche. Nobody did it quite like those guys.

And now he is gone at a rather young age, like so many musical geniuses before him. The list is long.

I shall miss you, Glenn Frey, but never forget what you accomplished during your life. So many memorable songs that made me think then, and still do to this day. And the music itself was glorious.

Not sure if there's a Tequila Sunrise in your future, but Take It Easy, wherever you are. Ain't no Lyin Eyes about it.

Golden State Warriors. Mysterious

The Golden State Warriors started off this season 24-0. Needless to say, very impressive stuff. Their first loss came at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, but was understandable. That particular game was the 7th in a brutal seven game road trip that had the Warriors travelling all over the country.

[It should be noted no NBA team -- ever -- has swept a 7 game road trip.]

They would recover from that loss to reel off another 5 game winning streak. Then they got torched in Dallas. OK, those things happen, and the Mavs aren't too shabby in their own right. They had a terrific game and the Warriors a bad one. Still, Golden State was an eye-popping 29-2.

They would then go on another 7-game winning streak. Mysteriously, the Warriors would then get narrowly beaten at the not-so-good Denver Nuggets. No matter. A 36-3 record was pretty difficult to criticize. Predictably, they would pound the woeful LA Lakers in the next game.

Then something very strange happened. Golden State would visit the Detroit Pistons, just another of several mediocre teams in the NBA Eastern Conference. The Motowners -- who don't even play in Motown -- were decided underdogs. But they rared up and put an 18 point thumping on Golden State. Nobody saw that coming. The Pistons beat THOSE guys by 18 points? Really?

But on second thought, perhaps it was understandable. The Warriors didn't take them seriously and got caught looking ahead to ---

A rematch with the Cleveland Cavaliers two days later.

How soon we forget, but the 2015 NBA Finals between these two teams had a lot of story lines. The first two games -- both @ Golden State -- went into overtime, and the teams split. Cleveland would take Game 3 at home to go up 2-1 in the series.

Let's also not forget Cleveland was playing without the services of all-starrish Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and big man Anderson Varejo. Lebron James, like his earlier days in Cleveland, was trying to pull off a stupendous feat almost single-handedly. Plus, the Cavs had a highly questionable rookie coach they had imported from abroad who had ZERO NBA experience.

As we know, James couldn't pull it off back in his early Lake Erie days, and it turned out he wouldn't pull it off in the Finals last year either. The Warriors would convincingly win games 4-5-6 to become champions.

But this was a different deal. Kevin, Kyrie, Anderson, and everybody else on the Cleveland roster was healthy and raring to go. At home, with millions watching on TV, this was Cleveland's chance to send a message to Golden State.

"You got us in the Finals last year when we were short-handed. Let's try this one more time, especially on our court".

And hadn't the Warriors been trashed by the lowly Detroit Pistons only a couple days before? Surely they were vulnerable. Should have been a helluva game.

It was, if you like blow-outs. Golden State waltzed into Cleveland and did a lot of things. They played terrific team defense. When their shooters weren't raining 3s on the Cavs, they were fast breaking up the floor for dunks and layups.

When it was finally mercifully over, the defending champs had put a 34 point blistering on the Cavs in their own back yard. Had they not sent their starters to the bench for the entire fourth quarter, it might have been 50.

So that poses a question? Who ARE these guys?

They can get trounced by a second tier team like the Pistons on one night, then two days later make mincemeat out of a fully healthy Cavalier team that had every motivation in the world to come out and show the world what they are capable of?

My answer to the above "who are these guys" question would be this.....

Beats the heck out of me. They're beatable, sometimes when one would least expect it to happen. But when they get it going, even and especially against good teams, look out.

Know what's really going to be interesting? Coming up soon, the Warriors will play home and away games against the San Antonio Spurs. Don't look now, but while Golden State has noisily racked up their gaudy 38-4 record, coach Pop's team has quietly cruised along to the tune of 36-6.

Those battles of the titans will be must-see games. More than likely a preview of the NBA Western Conference final. Who's going to beat either one of them in a seven game series during the playoff preliminaries?

Meanwhile, Lebron and Co. might be the beast of the East, but suffering a 34 point beat down at home isn't mysterious at all. The best of the West is clearly superior.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Iowa's MSU revenge

Not long ago, the Michigan State and Iowa football teams squared off for the Big 10 championship game. (It should be noted that the "Big 10" actually consists of 14 teams -- go figure). At any rate, the Spartans pulled out a narrow victory which propelled them into the -- drum roll please -- Final Four of college football.

As we know, they would later get absolutely obliterated at the hands of Alabama in a semi-final game. 38-0 is a lot of things. A beatdown, ass-whuppin, men against boys, whales devouring plankton, Barney Fife taking on Rambo in a cage match -- and like that. Let's just say it was a rather one-sided contest.

But fast forward and Michigan State was -- presto -- ranked the #1 team in the nation in college basketball. Those pesky Spartans were at it again. Per usual, they front loaded their schedule with mostly home games against patsies.

[It wasn't until their 12th game that they had to play a true "road" contest in a hostile arena. In all, of the Spartans thirty one game schedule, they only have to play nine in an opponent's arena. Does that smack of the proverbial unlevel playing field?]

And then something strange happened. Against in-state "rival" Oakland University, they of the third tier Horizon League, the Spartans needed overtime to finally barely dispatch the lowly Grizzlies. A few eyebrows went up among the national pollsters. Yes, it was a win, but.....

Then MSU headed off to Iowa. The Hawkeyes would thump them. No more #1 for Michigan State. Down they fell in the polls. Iowa had exacted a bit of revenge, though in a different sport.

Fast forward another couple weeks. Iowa headed to MSU for a rematch. This was the Spartans' chance to set things right again. Instead, they were drilled by 17 points at home. The Iowa revenge was complete. And let's face it -- when a highly ranked team gets taken to the woodshed at home to the tune of 17 points -- no matter who did they flogging -- they're going to rightfully tumble even further in the polls.

In their very next game, Michigan State got beat yet again by Wisconsin. After all the hoopla and early patsy games, the Spartans now find themselves a very mediocre 3-3 in conference play. How far will they fall even more in the polls? Unknown, but it should be at least several more positions.

Yep, Iowa might have got hammered in the Rose Bowl by Stanford a few weeks ago, but their hoops squad has taken out some revenge on Michigan teams. Not only did they trash MSU twice, but also knocked off UM just recently as well. A clean sweep of the "mitten state".

Of course all of this will have long been forgotten when the -- another drum roll please -- Holy Grail of the NCAA hoops tournament rolls around in a couple months. Anything can happen, and sometimes does. There's no "super team" out there this year. Heck, even the supposedly unbeatable Kentucky Wildcat steam-rolling machine got knocked off last year in the semis.

So Michigan State might well recover and eventually go on a run when the tournament starts. Barring a total collapse over the next few weeks, they should at least qualify. Where they will be seeded is anybody's guess.

But there's two things we know.

The Spartans were overrated to start the season, and are definitely vulnerable to a good team in any given contest -- at home or on the road.

And second, the Iowa Hawkeyes have exacted their revenge indeed for their loss at the hands of the Spartans in that football game.

True, Iowa was taken to their own woodshed by Stanford to the tune of 45-16 in the Rose Bowl. That's a serious whuppin.

But it pales in comparison to the annihilation the Michigan State Spartans were handed at the hands of the Alabama Crimson Tide. 38-0?

Did I mention Barney climbing into the Octagon to square off with Rambo?

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Picks, Biker George, and $20

In a way, I'm almost surprised the Arizona Cardinals held off the Green Bay Packers. With Aaron Rodgers throwing yet another successful Hail Mary at the end of regulation time to tie the score, yours truly was resigned to seeing another of his "picks" crash and burn.

I thought KC would upset New England. We know how that worked out.

But that's the way it goes -- and always has. The easiest way to get rich is notice who I pick to win games -- and bet the other way. I suspect getting it wrong was a trait I inherited from my late father. If he picked them -- they were going down. Even in death, Murphy's Law haunted him. After he had taken his last breath at home, the "body snatchers" originally took him to the wrong funeral parlor. A few days later, after the ceremony had been concluded, the hearse started off going to the wrong cemetery. Don't get me wrong. My dad was a very smart man in a lot of ways and was highly respected as such -- but when it came to sports -- he was jinxed. Like father, like son, I suppose.

Thing is, yours truly really didn't care who won those games. Nor do I give a rat's behind who prevails when the Steelers tangle with the Broncos on Sunday. Predicting the winners of those contests was done all in fun.

But the remaining game is personal. That's because of a certain gentleman I'll refer to as Biker George. He rides a Harley Sportster through rain, sleet, freezing temps, and even a moderate amount of snow. BG could hardly be referred to as a "fair weather rider". The man's serious about riding that damn motorcycle, and kudos to him.

Another thing is -- George is a good ole boy from North Carolina, with serious family roots not far from Charlotte where the Carolina Panthers play.

One day not long ago in a local watering hole, BG was ranting and raving about how his beloved Carolina Panthers were going to open up a good old fashioned can of whup-ass when the Seattle Seahawks come to his former town for a playoff game. They're 15-1, have the best record in the entire NFL, and Cam Newton's a freak of nature, he said. All certainly true.

I knew I probably shouldn't do it -- most times it's best to keep quiet in such situations -- but eventually I gave into temptation. In other words, I couldn't stand to hear any more ranting coming from BG about Carolina this, and Carolina that.

So I looked at him and said, "I've got 20 bucks that says Seattle is going to beat Carolina". At the time, the S-Hawks were a 3 point underdog. (It has since come down to 1.5).

In his drawl, BG shouted, "You're crazy, John. Any idiot knows the Panthers are going to win the Super Bowl".

"Maybe so", I countered, "and perhaps a couple more wagers will come about at a later date. But for now, I've got a Jackson's worth of confidence that your boys are playing their last game this year. And forget the 3 points. Seattle's going to beat them straight up. Bet or no bet?".

Needless to say, Biker George was all over it. The bet was on, and everybody in the room knew it.

Personally, I'd rather see Carolina win the game. Not because I root for them, but because I root against Seattle. For the most part this is because of their head coach Pete Carroll. When he was running the football program at Southern Cal, all kinds of NCAA violations were beginning to come to light. The university would eventually be hammered with various sanctions. But Pete had merrily bailed to go to Seattle for millions of dollars. In his mind, what happened at USC under his watch was now somebody's else's problem to clean up.

On top of that, just watching him turns my stomach. He's got those small little teeth like a rodent, chews gum rapid-fire like a used-car salesman shyster, and loves to run up the score when his team is facing a clearly inferior opponent. To boot, every time his team catches a break -- and last week's failed chip shot field goal attempt by the Minnesota Vikings' kicker was a huge one -- he acts like that was his plan all along. The man has a sense of self-entitlement second to none. The words "shame" and "humility" don't exist in his world.

Nevertheless, Biker George's ranting had become unbearable as well. I've been all over North Carolina in years past and it truly is God's country, as they say. And I like George, always have, but enough is enough.

I'll be rooting for the Panthers to win, and even told George so. He thought that rooting against my own bet made me even crazier. Point noted. But I look at it this way:

If the Panthers win, it costs me 20 bucks and I'll have to listen to Biker George crowing for a while. But at least the rodent and his team will have been dispatched. A Jackson is a small price to pay for some inner satisfaction on the professional level.

But if the Seahawks win, I'd consider the 20 bucks from George as a consolation prize. Plus, being able to call him the same "crazy" in the near future for making such a bet on his wannabe homies could have its upside on the personal level.

Nah, I wouldn't do that. Just take the Jackson, shake hands, and order up a burger, fries, and another beer. But I reserve the right to look him in the eyes and smile.

Besides, any biker that's been around as long as George should have upgraded from a Sportster a long time ago.

Friday, January 15, 2016

NFL playoff predictions

Though, as they say, anything can happen on any given Sunday (or Saturday) in the NFL, the four playoff games on tap wouldn't seem to be that hard to predict. Let's take a look at them without even getting into the point spreads.

Green Bay @ Arizona.

The Packers have been a mystery all year. They started off hot, got shaky due to injuries, but held on to make the playoffs. The Cheesers then thumped the Redskins in Washington. But those were the Skins -- not the Cardinals. Just three weeks ago Aaron Rodgers and Co. got blasted by 30 points in Arizona. There is absolutely no logical reason to think a similar result won't happen again.

Prediction: Arizona by a bunch. Those guys are good.

Pittsburgh @ Denver.

The Steelers are the only team in NFL history to enter the post season without the services of their top receiver (Antonio Brown -- concussion) and running back (DeAngelo Williams -- leg injury). On top of that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a sprained shoulder and likely won't be able to throw long passes. To win a game, a team has to score points. The Steelers will be hard-pressed to do so against the likes of the Broncos' defense. Despite the hype, the return of Peyton Manning is a non-story. He's on his last legs and everybody knows it. But even old chicken neck should be able to exploit the not-so-talented Pittsburgh secondary.

Prediction: Broncos roll.

Seattle @ Carolina.

True, the Seahawks stumbled earlier in the season, and the Panthers themselves went into Seattle and pulled out a late victory. And the 15-1 record of Carolina was no small feat. Granted, the Seahawks caught a miracle in Minnesota to stave off elimination in a wild-card game, but I've been saying for weeks to look out for these guys. They were within one last second bad break themselves last year from winning another Super Bowl. Been there, done that in crunch time. Plus, their star running back Marshawn Lynch has finally healed up and will be good to go for this game. Carolina's QB Cam Newton may well be a "freak" and an MVP candidate, but is he really ready for what Seattle will bring in a playoff game? I think not. Throw in the revenge factor for the earlier home loss and.....

Prediction: Seattle makes it to a third straight NFC championship game.

Kansas City @ New England.

The most interesting match up of all. The two teams were almost polar opposites during the regular season. The Patriots started off on a long winning streak, but stumbled badly down the stretch losing 4 of their last 6 games. That included wrapping up the regular season with losses to the NY Giants and Miami Dolphins, both of whom have since parted ways with their head coaches. Conversely, the Chiefs started out miserably, but then got hot and won their last 11 in a row, including going into Houston and blistering the Texans 30-0 in another wild card game. Very impressive stuff. Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady have gained a reputation as miracle workers over the years -- always finding a way to make more out of less. But the Pats are seriously dinged up. Rob Gronkowski is a maybe, their O-line remains in flux, their top two running backs are still out, and their collective defense has been exposed as vulnerable in recent weeks. Brains are good, but sometimes relying on smoke and mirrors to outsmart a pack of hungry rabid dogs doesn't work out so well. Especially when they're already in the house and smell meat. That can have a way of getting ugly.


Make that 12 in a row for KC.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Gregg Popovich and talking idiots

Regardless of which team an NBA fan roots for, it's likely safe to say most all of them would grudgingly admit Gregg Popovic of the San Antonio Spurs is far and away the best head coach. Not only does he know the intricacies of the game, Coach Pop has a magical way of connecting with his players. At the same time he treats them with great respect, they also know they have to play "Spurs basketball" within Pop's system or -- look out. Not only will Popovich get on an errant player, but so will his teammates.

There can be little logical argument that over the years this method has not yielded terrific results. No, the Spurs don't win the NBA championship every year -- nobody does anymore -- but they're always right there in the hunt.

Quick question. When's the last time you can remember the Spurs being a bad team? It's like they never go into rebuild mode -- they just add a piece here and there and keep on rolling.

Yet few would also doubt Gregg Popovich considers much of the media to be no more than a nuisance. A necessary evil, if you will. He understands they have a job to do, but doesn't like it much when they get up in his face asking their typical stupid questions.

True, Popovich is no doubt under an NBA mandate to give such mini-interviews, else be fined by Peanut Head, AKA commissioner Adam Silver and his minions.

Yet yours truly gets a huge kick out of how Pop can fulfill his obligations while still pretty much blowing off a moronic talking head.

At half time in the recently concluded game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, a garden variety sideline reporter rushed up to Popovich for a quick interview. After listening to a couple of sentences with evidently no question in sight -- Pop came up with a beauty.

"Are you here to tell me things I already know?" The reporter had to quickly reload and try a different tack.

So he asked why the Spurs were having a bit of difficulty scoring points. I could hardly wait for what was going to come back.

Basically, Popovich said, "A couple guys aren't shooting very well". Then the coup de grace.

Referencing Jack Nicholson's famous line in the movie A Few Good Men, Pop said, "I'll ask them nicely to shoot better. Anything else?" The yappy head with the microphone and cameraman had been put in his place. He could think of nothing further to say.

And that's the way it should be. PhD's that don't want to give interviews, particularly to others that are obviously still at the third grade level should not be forced to do so. Pop's team was in a tight game against the Cavs at the time and likely had some serious second half strategy to go over with his team in the locker room. A couple minutes wasted answering stupid questions was time taken away from the short half time break to get things sorted out.

The Spurs would go on to win that game rather convincingly. Now at 35-6, there can also be no doubt Coach Pop's system is still working in a big way. It's about "team", not mouthing off to the press.

Consider some of the Spurs players.

Tim Duncan
Tony Parker
Manu Ginobili
Kawhi Leonard
Lamarcus Aldredge

All have been, or still are among the best in the league. When's the last time you saw or heard any of them volunteering to goon it up in front of a camera? It doesn't happen.

Guys like Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and currently Kobe Bryant couldn't seem to get ENOUGH of the cameras and personal attention. The "look at me" syndrome. It was, and is classless. They were already making obscene salaries and had whored themselves out to endorse various products for even MORE money. But some people just can never seem to get enough of the limelight. William Shatner is a case in point. The former Captain Kirk will hawk anything to keep his mug on TV. Tiger Woods is in a class by himself when it comes to this. These people had/have absolutely no shame.

Another quick question. Does anybody really run out and buy a certain brand of foot/body powder because some big ugly goof like Shaq says he uses it? Hey, if their pitchman is a doofus, do you want to rub that stuff all over yourself?

So here's to Gregg Popovich, He just does his job, is the best at it, and could care less about personal attention. In fact, he does everything in his power, short of running afoul of Peanut Head, to avoid it.

And I, for one, truly appreciate the delicious irony when some idiot TV reporter gets embarrassed by the person they are interviewing -- rather than the other way around.

Let's get real. The TV folks have spent hours in make-up and wardrobe before we ever see them on camera. Everything is just as perfect in the "lipstick on a pig world" as their behind the scenes miracle workers can make it. Plus, they've rehearsed their lines prior to going "live". Then they'll run up to a coach that has spent the last hour pacing up and down the sidelines, arguing with officials, and making a thousand different decisions regarding game strategy. He's sweaty, still in mental overdrive thinking ahead, and now he has to deal with some pretty boy/girl sticking a microphone in his face while breathlessly either pointing out the already obvious, or asking duh-worthy questions.

Yep, add it all up and definitely count me a Gregg Popovich fan. He's just doing what so many others in a similar position would like to -- but don't have the brains and/or balls necessary to pull it off.

Truly a one-of-a-kind and a class act indeed...........

Fixing the college polls

We see it every year. Have for a very long time. Lots of people make a great deal of fame and fortune because of it. But it's stupid, and always has been.

That would be the college polls in football and basketball. They begin even before seasons start. Teams are ranked according to the "experts". For the most part these so-called experts consist of "eligible" reporters, mysterious behind the scenes stat nerds, and typically a couple computers that were programmed by even more dweebs.

Over the course of their long seasons, we'll see the Top 10 reshuffled often and teams making it into the Top 25, falling back out, then climbing back in -- both on the hardcourt and gridiron. Every day the talking heads on TV will rant about who moved up -- and who moved down. This depends on what happened in the previous few days. In a week things will change again. In a month, everything could look drastically different. It seems like the ultimate wild goose chase with the ever-gullible fans being dragged along.

True, there's no fixing stupid when it comes to the lemmings, but there's a better way.

Any and all polls should be banned until they are at least semi-relevant. Anyone who violates this mandate shall be either...

A. Imprisoned and waterboarded at Guantanamo.
B. Forced to buy life-long season tickets to the Cleveland Browns -- or
C. Parachuted into a desert island to spent a month alone with Anderson Cooper, Rachel Maddow, Rush Limbaugh and Bieber. Horrors!!!

With those punishments looming, even the hardest core gas baggiest talking heads would think twice before running afoul of the new rule.

When it comes to football, let them play their games through September and October. No polls. Nobody knows who is ranked where. It would make them try harder all along. The first poll should come out in mid-November when things have been sorted out some. Did it make a difference that Alabama got beat by Ole Miss earlier this season? Or Ohio State getting thumped at home by Virginia Tech last year? Not at all. They both went on to become national champions. So what was the point of the poll-mania at the time other than people blathering on without a clue how the season would eventually turn out? By the middle of November, we would all pretty much know what the pecking order is. We don't need an army of phi beta wimpas trying to take us on a mythical two month roller coaster ride beforehand. The cream will eventually rise to the top. That's why they play the regular season.

It should be much the same in basketball. No polls whatsoever until after the Super Bowl has been played in early February. By then, all the patsy games good teams played at the beginning of the season have long been forgotten, they've waded though much of their conference schedule, and we have a pretty good idea of who the top 10 or 12 teams are. Their records will show it.

Besides, in college hoops, all the hype of the previous months gets thrown out the window when the NCAA tournament starts. True, they have to "seed" the brackets -- much like a tennis tournament -- but by then hoops fans fairly well know who the contenders and pretenders are. We never needed a bunch of pseudo geniuses throwing rankings at us back in November and December that didn't matter anyway. It is, and always has been, nothing but worthless sound bytes intended to prey on the sort of people that buy giant foam fingers and show up half naked with school color make up smeared on their bodies. Idiots. Ever wonder how many hours they spend in a bathroom somewhere trying to get all that stuff off later? Do they also buy cold cream by the 55 gallon drum? And what do they wipe it off with? Towels? Good luck throwing all that goop in the washing machine with a serious dose of detergent/bleach and popping it on hot. But I digress.

The point is -- pre and mid-season polls are like trying to predict the weather. In the summer it gets hot. In the winter it gets cold. We get that. Good teams will win and bad teams will lose. It's likely a fair statement to say even casual fans can grasp that concept. They don't need to be bombarded with who went from #8 to #4, or vice-versa every week. It will play itself out eventually when it matters most.

You don't see the same poll-mania applied to pro teams throughout their regular seasons. The NBA, NFL, and NHL only seeds (ranks) their teams when the playoffs start. This is by necessity to determine which team will have home court/field/ice advantage. No mention of it whatsoever in the previous months. Major League Baseball would likely cringe at the thought of nerds and/or computers ranking their teams. They just start sorting out the who's who in October. It doesn't matter who had the best record since the season began in April. Win a series and move on. Lose it and go home. Pretty simple. They have no need nor desire for their teams to be handicapped through spring, summer, and early fall.

Only in college sports, particularly football and basketball, does the ranking/poll madness exist from before the season starts, all through it, and right up until the playoffs start. Then it's all thrown out the window like it never happened in the first place.

So what, exactly, was/is the point of all this irrelevant hysteria that continues to go on every year?

I say ban the polls until only a couple weeks are left in the regular season. The pollsters themselves would have a much better idea of who belongs where, and the teams still have a couple/few games to make a move up or down.

And if the A, B, and C possible punishments listed above aren't a sufficient deterrent to keep the geeks from their burning desire to play the number game -- how about.....

D. Anyone that throws out early poll numbers, be they in print, on radio/TV, online, or even tweets such a thing -- will be immediately hunted down, taken into custody, and be given an automatic sentence of 5 years serving as a man/maid servant to any and all whims of the people mentioned in C above on that desert isle.

That very possibility would be just about enough to scare off Satan himself, let alone the nerds.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The yuk-worthy Detroit Pistons

True, the Pistons might just make the playoffs this year in the otherwise woefully weak Eastern Conference. If so, they'd get bounced early because they aren't very good in the whole scheme of things. Championship contenders? Not a chance.

But they're good for one thing. Laughs. In last night's home game against the high flying San Antonio Spurs, no sane person would have expected them to win. They didn't.

On to the yuk-worthy moments.

See Stanley Johnson wearing Ben Wallace's old #3 uniform. See Stanley trying to sport the same fro that Big Ben was once famous for. Earth to Stanley. You are to Ben Wallace what Gomer Pyle would have been to Rambo. Shazam!!

See a "problem" with one of the nets at halftime. See a Pistons staff member climb up a ladder to replace it. See this process drag on, and on, and on. Halftime has come and gone and this clown still hasn't completed such a simple task. This is not your proverbial brain surgery. You cut the old net down and loop the new one in the twelve rings around the rim. A semi-trained circus chimpanzee could probably do it in under five minutes.

In the meantime, both teams are back on the floor waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

See Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich take individual players aside during the interim and counsel them on game strategy. See Pistons head coach (and President) Stan Van Gundy walk up and down the sidelines flailing his arms while ranting and raving to no one in particular.

In the meanwhile see Pistons announcer George (blah-blah) Blaha rambling on with worthless sound bytes to fill air time.

Finally, mercifully, the new net has been installed. See sidekick announcer Greg Kelser make an appropriate statement. "I've seen shattered backboards replaced in less time than it took to replace that net". Touche, and right on, GK.

But wait. That just won't do. If one net has been replaced, the one at the opposite end of the court must be replaced as well. The chimp, sorry, staffer goes about repeating his task. And we/they wait, and wait, and wait some more.

One would think that a multi-billion dollar enterprise like the NBA would have such a simple thing as basketball nets not be an issue. One would be wrong. Evidently, they (or at least the Pistons) think brand new ones act a bit differently than a net that has been used for a single half of basketball. This is true if one buys a five dollar net from their local sports store and hangs it on their garage hoop. It takes a while to break it in. But there's no excuse for the NBA not to have ready to go nets that will last an entire game. Turned out, neither new net was an issue. Balls that swished -- swished. So what was the problem in the first place? Only a "Detroit" team could come up with such tomfoolery. And the Detroit Pistons don't even play in Detroit. Haven't for over 40 years.

A lot of things about the Pistons are yuk-worthy. Besides the mini-Ben wannabe, they have a Dinwiddie and even a Pope on their roster. If that's not laughable enough, consider they also have Reggie Jackson. The Mr. October tag doesn't much apply, given the NBA season doesn't even start until October is almost gone. But this Reg swings for the fences and strikes out a lot too.

But just when you think the laughs are dying down, enter one Andre Drummond. He's the Pistons "big man". A guy to build the franchise around. Andre scores a lot of points, grabs a bunch of rebounds, and does a fairly good job of protecting the rim on the defensive end. Let's give him a bazillion dollar long term contract. So sayeth the Piston faithful.

Well OK, and right up until we saw him step up to the free throw line for some "charity" shots. There goes the first one. Oops, wide left. Air ball. The second is on it's way and oops, a brick. A few minutes later the good Mr. Drummond was at the foul line again. It's up and -- well -- the basketball barely knicked the outside of the rim this time. But he's getting closer.

Bottom line? When it comes to free throw shooting, Andre Drummond makes Shaq look like Rick Berry. It's pitiful. Also hilarious.

The Detroit Pistons may or may not be a lot of things these days, but they're certainly entertaining.

That is -- if one is a big fan of comedy.

All things considered, top to bottom these guys are a regular knee-slapping riot.....

Monday, January 11, 2016

Clemson/Bama and the true goats

So Nick the _ick (fill in your own letters, but I suggest either "d" or "pr") Sabin and the Alabama Crimson Tide are national champs again. A half-hearted congrats to them. But they only won the game for two reasons, neither or which were in their control. In other words, it was far more a case of Clemson LOSING it than anything Bama did.

Though the ever politically correct talking heads would never dare say such a thing -- they're too busy lauding false praise on anything and everything rather than being objective -- yours truly is under no such restrictions.

The two reasons Clemson bit the big one are as follows:

1)  Clueless special teams play. They gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown. OK, that happens once in a while. But when you've got the other team on the ropes, and they're kicking the ball back off to you, you can't, repeat CANNOT, ignore the possibility of an onside kick. Clemson did just that. Chalk up 14 eventual points for Bama that shouldn't have happened. But the main reason was --

2) #25 for Clemson. A defensive back. In all my days of watching college and pro football, I've never seen a single player botch so many plays in one game as this clown.
On one, his defensive assignment was to cover the opposing tight end. Instead, the tight end ran a "wheel" route up the sideline totally uncovered while #25 was in la-la land somewhere. Touchdown.
On another, with Bama facing third and short, their running back broke through the line and found -- 50 yards of open space. Another touchdown. Where the hell was #25?
The coup de grace was when Alabama lined up with two wide receivers split to the right. But only one Clemson defensive back was out there. The receivers did exactly the right thing. One ran a short route while the other went deep. The lone Clemson cornerback also did the right thing. He took the receiver on the underneath route, likely thinking #25 had the deep coverage. Problem was, #25 had gone brain dead again. He stood like a statue in the middle of the field while the Bama receiver ran totally uncovered down the sideline. If Alabama's quarterback saw it  -- it was another no-brainer touchdown. He did, and it was.

The official stats will show that Clemson outplayed Alabama in most facets of the game. It could certainly be argued the Tigers were a better team than the Tide. But that doesn't matter. Only the final score counts.

Alabama is national champions and Clemson is not. They'll have a parade in Tuscaloosa and Nick the whatever (see above) Sabin will spout a few more moronic platitudes about how his team never said die and found a way to win in the end.

All of which will be total BS, of course. Clemson was the better team and should have won. In the meantime, Dabo Swinney's Tigers, for all they accomplished this year, will be quickly forgotten. Nobody cares about who came in second. No parade and no platitudes. Losers just slink away into oblivion.

This is what happens when an otherwise superior team exhibits two fatal flaws on the biggest stage of all.

Clueless special teams play and an equally clueless defensive back missing one assignment after another can have a way of turning a victory into a loss every time.

Especially if the other team recognizes these flaws and continues to exploit them. To Alabama's credit, they did just that.

So let the media/talking heads yammer away with their politically correct do-gooder stuff when it comes to Alabama. These people could find a way to heap compliments on the benefits of nuclear war.

But make no mistake. Clemson's special team coach should be fired immediately for incompetence, and #25 had no business on the field in the first place. He might be wonderfully physically talented, but he's dumber than a brick.

He cost his team the game with his brainlocks.

Hmm. I wonder if he's even bright enough to realize that?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Weird NFL playoffs

Who would have ever imagined all four road teams would win their playoff games this weekend? Betcha coulda got long odds on that. And there was certainly no shortage of weird things happening.

The Seattle Seahawks, though likely a better team, had no business -- NONE -- winning their game in Minnesota. But a couple freakish breaks went their way. For all his talents, Adrian Peterson once again coughed up a fumble on a routine play, which breathed life back into Seattle. Well OK, that wasn't so extraordinary. AP has a long history when it comes to fumbling.

But with the game on the line in the final seconds, the Minnesota placekicker missed a chip-shot field goal. Shorter even than an extra point. This, after he had drilled three previous ones from much further out. This is the sort of thing that can get a kicker cut. At any rate, the Vikes are done and the S-Hawks move on. More on that later.

As mentioned in my previous post, the Steelers either needed a last second miracle to beat the Bengals, or have a few of Marvin Lewis's looney tunes go berserk again. They did, and Cinci is out in the first round again after a game they all but had in the bag.

The Packers went into DC and thumped the Redskins. No big surprise there. Though the Cheesers have looked a little shaky of late, the Skins are no more than average. They won a very weak division to qualify for the playoffs in the first place. Best thing the Skins did all year was finally realize Robert Griffin III was a bust. Even when he can stay healthy, which isn't often, he's a terrible NFL quarterback.

Kansas City waltzing into Houston and drilling the Texans was only surprising due to the final score. 30-0 is pretty much a beatdown. Like the Redskins, somebody had to win the woeful AFC South division, and it turned out to be Houston.

That sets the table for some interesting match-ups next weekend.

The Seahawks go to Carolina to take on the #1 seeded Panthers. I've been saying for weeks to look out for Seattle. Yep, they caught a major break in Minnesota to survive, but they're certainly playoff and Super Bowl battle tough in recent years. Been there, done that. Plus they have the revenge factor against Carolina. The Panthers beat them in their own house earlier this year. Methinks the S-Hawks will capitalize on their lucky win against the Vikes and run roughshod over Cam and Co. down in NASCARville.

Green Bay goes to Arizona. The Cardinals trashed them earlier in the year, and the rematch should be no different. Top to bottom, Arizona is a far superior team. And Aaron Rodgers will once again be running for his life against the Cards' ferocious pass rush.

Pittsburgh @ Denver. Never count out the Steelers, but even with their QB position in flux, the Broncos are a tough out at home. Plus they have a pretty stout defense as well. On the other hand, if Big Ben's healthy (unknown), he likely has the finest corps of receivers in the entire league to throw to. Then again, it's also highly likely the Denver D line will be in his face all day. Who wins? If Roethlisberger's 100% good to go, give me the Steelers. If not, two things happen. Denver wins the game and Peyton Manning films another dozen or so moronic commercials.

The most interesting match-up of all is KC going to New England. Sure, the Chiefs will be underdogs. But like Seattle, don't sleep on KC. After a slow start to the season, they've reeled off 11 wins in a row, no small feat, including the 30-0 demolition of Houston mentioned above.

Once considered "expendable" or average at best, their quarterback Alex Smith has suddenly blossomed into a star. Over the last half of the season, he's quietly put up the best QB stats in the entire league. To boot, the Chiefs have a lights out defense of their own. In recent weeks this is the team that nobody wants to play. Andy Reid has them on a roll and they're confident as could be.

If anybody's going to go into Foxborough and knock off the Bellichick/Brady Patriots -- it's these guys. True, the Pats have got some of their key guys back from the injured list, and betting against them at home in a playoff game is a risky proposition indeed. Like Seattle, they definitely have the advantage of the "been there, done that" going for them.

Nevertheless, KC is hitting on all cylinders of late, and I'm predicting they'll pull off the "upset". Further, don't sell their Super Bowl chances short either. If they can beat New England on the road, yours truly would like their chances against whoever comes out of the Pitt/Den game.

So there.

Always did like Kansas City. A truly terrific town. Didn't they just win something in baseball a couple months back? Seems like longer ago, doesn't it? How soon we forget.....

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why Marvin Lewis should be fired

The Cincinnati Bengals head coach has been around for several years, but it has become obvious reaching the playoffs is his glass ceiling. Though perennial qualifiers, once again his team got ousted in the first round.

And it shouldn't have turned out that way --- which brings up an even more important reason why Marvin Lewis should be kicked to the curb in Cinci. Let's look at how the playoff game against their bitter rival Steelers played out.

In a driving rain, the Steelers were grinding it out and appeared to have the game somewhat in hand for the most part of three quarters. 15-0. But then the Bengals made a couple good plays, the momentum turned, and they were not only back in the game, but actually ahead 16-15 with little time left on the clock. The Steelers only had one time-out left and the Bengals had the ball.

All they had to do was run -- not pass -- a few plays while eating up the clock, and the game was all but in the bag. What should the head coach and/or the offensive coordinator have been telling whoever got the ball? No matter what else, your prime directive is ----

Don't fumble the ball.



Running back Jeremy Hill (#32) fumbled the ball.

But all was not lost. Pittsburgh still had a long ways to go to get in game-winning field goal range with only several seconds left.

And then the wheels totally fell off.

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict (#55), who has been known for cheap shots in the past, committed another one after an incomplete pass thrown by Ben Roethlisberger. There was absolutely no reason to go head-hunting on a Pittsburgh receiver after the play was over. Tweet. Personal foul. Fifteen yard penalty. The Steelers were now at about max-range for their place kicker.

Jeremy Hill crossed himself and likely prayed to the heavens. "Please don't let my team lose/go home because of my fumble when it mattered most".

A 50-some yard field goal attempt in a downpour was hardly a sure thing. But then even more Bengal stupidity set in. Defensive back Adam Jones (#24) got flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for abusing an official. Tweet. Another 15 yard penalty. The field goal attempt was now more of the garden variety.

And sure enough, the Pittsburgh place kicker drilled it through the uprights.

Steelers win and Bengals lose -- again. And all because of the main reason Marvin Lewis should be immediately fired. His team has absolutely no discipline -- NONE -- when the pressure is on. These are supposed to be professional athletes and should be expected to act accordingly.

They should not -- repeat NOT -- lose their focus, much less become totally unhinged and act like savages on the field.

So if I'm Mike Brown (the Bengals owner), here's what I would have done. Marched down from my luxury suite to the locker room after the game.

Once there, I would have pointed at Marvin Lewis and said, "Obviously you're not only incapable of coaching my team to a playoff win -- but can't even get them to act like professionals. So you're fired. Effective immediately".

Then I would have pointed at #32. "That fumble was inexcusable. You're cut. Now."

Then #55. "You've been a loose cannon for a long time and it appears there's no rehabilitating you. I want professionals on my team -- not rabid wild animals. You gone Burfict".

Then #24. "You might be Pac-man's namesake, but only an idiot would accost an official on a dead ball foul, which costs his team the game. And me another playoff game worth millions. I have no use for idiots. Shower up and hit the road. On second thought, you don't get a shower. Anybody that dirty deserves to leave here dirty. Just change into your street clothes and get out".

But chances are playoff Starvin Marvin and his above mentioned 3 stooges will be back again next year.

Everybody will talk about how talented they are, but they'll get bounced again in the playoffs.

Because in Cincinnati, that just seems to have been how it works, or not.

Marvin Lewis may be a fine man and a nice guy. Certainly the Bengals haven't been lacking in talent. But under Marvin, they have had no discipline, and never will. It's just the nature of the beast(s).

Teams like the Steelers know that if they wait long enough the Bengals will self-destruct, because that's what they've always done under Lewis.

If they ever want to get to the "next level", Marvin Lewis has to go. Thirteen years and not a single playoff win? And this guy's still around with his team as clueless as ever?

One word.


Friday, January 8, 2016

Idle thoughts

The Seattle Seahawks are going to take on the Minnesota Vikings in a playoff game this Sunday. For whatever sadistic reason, the Vikes have returned to an open air stadium. This does not normally bode well in January. Translation? The weather forecast calls for a temperature somewhere around zero degrees with a wind chill factor of 20 below. And these guys are going to be crashing into each other at full speed under such frigid conditions? Enjoy yourselves, boys.

[Ah heck. It doesn't matter. The S-Hawks have that Super Bowl look about them again. No amount of cold is going to keep them from putting a whuppin on the upstart M-Vikes.]

It was interesting that Carolina Panther star quarterback Cam Newton (and his significant other) named their new baby son "Chosen". That's not a name we hear everyday. As Spock would have said, may Chosen Sebastian Newton live long and prosper. Then again, the name thing could have been a lot worse. Naming his boy Isaac Newton would have raised a few eyebrows . But if Cam and his girlfriend really wanted to have the media go wild -- they could have dubbed him Figaro Uriah Newton. Fig Newton for short, and somebody would have eventually figured out his initials were quite F.U.N. as well. Come to think of it -- doesn't Cam Newton wear jersey #1? So.... is he telling us his son is the future, ahem, "Chosen One"? Yikes.

Lady's college hoops doesn't get a whole lot of TV time. To nobody's great surprise, the UConners are once again ranked #1. Yours truly caught a bit of a game they were playing at Houston. The Lady Huskies were actually trailing. Horrors!!!  While playing their trademark lock down defense, UConn missed one open shot after another. Could the Cougars (helluva name for a female team) actually pull off an upset?

Then off to take a quick shower. For whatever reason, watching cougars working up a sweat makes me feel dirty. When I got back, UConn was up by 40 points. Ah yes, Geno's Bambinos may have experienced a short lull against the Cougs, but they remain very much the real deal. When they get on a roll, as they so often seem to do in games -- lookout. Will anybody beat these girls all season? So far, the closest any opponent has come is to lose by 10 points. They were Notre Dame and Maryland, both ranked in the Top 5.

The Golden State Warriors keep rolling along. Now at 34-2, they're on track to challenge the best NBA regular single season record ever. Can they keep it up? Maybe.

Games to watch. A week from Monday, they go to Cleveland. Lebron's on a mission to bring an NBA title to Cavland, and he's got some very talented help. And the Warriors still have home and away games against the San Antonio Spurs. Don't look now, but Coach Pop's crew has quietly racked up a 32-6 record. Those will be battles of the titans indeed.

And the Detroit Lions have a whopping 24 players that can become free agents, and no general manager to conduct any sort of negotiations.

Just another day in Motown. The magical kingdom of Ford ownership stumbles/bumbles/lurches on.....