Thursday, March 31, 2016

The outrage of league tyranny continues

Major league shortstop Jose Reyes was charged with a "domestic incident" last fall. After all the evidence or, more specifically, lack thereof, was examined -- the PROSECUTORS moved to dismiss the charge. Yet it is widely speculated Reyes might still get slapped with a 30 suspension by the league.

This is not only wrong -- it's outrageous. One of the fundamental tenets of the American legal system has always been a "defendant" is innocent until proven guilty. In Reyes' case, he wasn't even tried, much less convicted of anything. Hence, 2+2 = 4 logic dictates he remains innocent.

So how could the Commissioner and his merry band of kangaroo court stooges justify punishing an innocent man? It shouldn't matter what they THINK might have happened -- as in he got arrested so he must be guilty of SOMETHING -- the only relevant point is they are substituting their judgment for that of the legal system, which was specifically designed by our forefathers to deal with such matters.

If that example isn't preposterous enough, consider pitcher Aroldis Chapman's "case". He was vaguely implicated (see "person of interest") in a similar scenario. Chapman quickly found himself slapped with the same 30 game suspension by the baseball overlords. The problem? He was never even CHARGED!!!  That would beg the obvious question......  What kind of tyrannical sports hierarchy allows for speculation alone to be sufficient cause to hand down punishment as they see fit? It's insane. Is this America or some third-world totalitarian regime?

We all remember the big snafu over steroids and human growth hormone that enveloped baseball a few years back. Some guys were proven to be "dirty" and punished accordingly. Fair enough. But consider the two main "headliners" -- as in Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. A swarm of investigators spent countless millions of taxpayer dollars trying to nail these guys. The "arm-chair" prosecutors sitting at home in the "court of public opinion" were almost unanimous in their verdict. Guilty. The allegations were everywhere. The various media couldn't wait to buy into it hook, line, and ratings. But then a very strange thing happened. Neither was ever convicted of ANY "performance enhancing drug" charge. After all of THAT, Bonds and Clemens still remain innocent.

But few are willing to face the obvious. Prosecutors never, EVER, apologize when they get it wrong. It's not in their DNA to do so. And the media is no better. It's certainly no secret they move from one witch hunt to the next while peddling their sometimes snake oil. They are quick to sensationalize, even fabricate, to drop the hammer of guilt on their target of the day. Whatever sells, and conscience/ethics be damned. The truly sad thing is -- they know the gullible public will eat it up, because it's what they WANT to believe as well. Yet oftentimes, such allegations turn out to have no basis in truth.

Baseball writers to this day continue to deny Bonds and Clemens their more than rightful places in the Hall of Fame. This is solely attributable to them continuing to cling to their original knee-jerk reactions when allegations of wrong-doing first surfaced years ago. Guy was accused? Must be guilty. Never mind juries that heard all the evidence disagreed and found them to be innocent. Such actions on the part of writers not only smack of "yellow journalism", but even cowardice. Properly raised children will dutifully admit culpability when they're caught saying or doing something wrong. And it takes a man or a woman to fess up when their wrongful words or actions as an adult are similarly exposed. The only way the media ever "retracts" anything is when they're staring down the gun of a lawsuit they know they will probably lose. Begrudgingly, they might print a small blurb on Page 9 as a "correction". Or run a short ad in the wee hours of the morning when they know the viewing audience is at a minimum. But make no mistake. They have no sense of fair play, let alone the collective conscience of righteous people. It's not in their DNA either.

Tom Brady got banged over "Deflategate". The NFL commissioned a persecutor, one Ted Wells, to find something, ANYTHING, to show Brady's complicity. In the end, after millions more were spent, Wells came back with a tome worthy of a James Michener novel. His conclusion? It was "more likely than not" that Brady had something to do with it. Maybe. If it even happened in the first place. Bang went the Commissioner. Four game suspension. No concrete proof, mind you, not even a "preponderance of the evidence" -- except in Wells' mind. But the kangaroo court swiftly ruled again. Have I mentioned outrageous?

It took a federal court judge to finally see through what was a flimsy transparent case to begin with and set aside such an arbitrary punishment of a man who might very well have been totally innocent all along. No proof means no conviction, which means you can't bang somebody just because you THINK he may have done something wrong.

Certainly, many people will disagree with the hypotheses set forward above. The cops are always right, wars are always justified, and the media would never mislead the public for their own personal gain. If someone is accused of a crime -- they must be guilty. Excuse me if I strongly disagree.

These are the same folks that never stop to consider what it would be like if it happened to THEM.

Anybody can accuse anybody else of anything, but it doesn't mean they committed a crime. The Duke lacrosse sexual assault scandal several years back is a shining example of how wrong the "system" can be at times. Some black female dancer accused the white team of committing all manner of sexual atrocities on her at a party. People marched in the streets demanding justice. The usual race baiters were out in force preaching from their self-anointed pulpits. Reporters who should have known better jumped on the bandwagon and wrote scathing articles denouncing the culture of the whole university as being elitist, male dominant, and even condoning white supremacy. Those poor boys were fed through the meat grinder every which way, their reputations destroyed until finally -- FINALLY -- the truth came out through proof-positive DNA evidence. The district attorney himself was found to have concealed evidence that would clear the boys, and subsequently disbarred. That wasn't good enough. He should have been prosecuted and thrown in the same prison he was attempting to put those innocent kids in. HE was guilty, not them. Yon dancer was found to have several samples of DNA in or about her nether regions, but none matched any of the lacrosse players. It was all a fantastic lie, which she finally copped to. The "defendants" were innocent all along. But how do you unring THAT bell?  She faded into oblivion and incredibly was never held accountable for the false havoc she had wrought on others. SHE was guilty -- not them. The preachers and reporters quickly moved on to their next "story". THEY were guilty -- not them. The always innocent boys will forever remain stigmatized in the public eye by ignorant people, and how did they explain that on their resumes when applying for a job? The unfairness was outrageous.

So the next time you read or hear of some Commissioner, prosecutor, or bimbo making allegations of "criminal" behavior -- along with the media jumping on the bandwagon and demanding "justice" -- here's a thought ------

How about holding off on dropping the guilty gavel until it plays out to the end? Doing so prematurely is exactly the lemming behavior that the tyrants and persecutors continue to rely on.

While it's easy to judge others blindly, how would you feel if YOU were the innocent one snatched up and thrown into such a system and fed to the wolves?

And don't kid yourself. It can happen. It does all the time all over the country -- most of which are injustices we never hear about. But to those people -- it's very real. Not right by any means -- but definitely real.......

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Why Byron Scott should be fired

The list of reasons is long, but here's a few.

At last look, the LA Lakers sported a 15-59 record, by far the worst in the western conference of the NBA. Were it not for the absolutely pitiful Philadelphia 76ers in the east, the once proud Lakers would find themselves the plankton of the entire league.

Byron Scott is now a whopping 95 games under .500 during his short tenure as the Lakers' head coach -- an all-time record. The apologists will say other coaches for other teams have posted a worse winning percentage, but they neglect to mention those coaches didn't last long. As in being fired, and rightfully so.

If one looks at Scott's all-time career coaching record, which included stints elsewhere, they will discover BS, an appropriate enough monogram, is an incredible 162 games under .500. This is also an all-time record among NBA head coaches. And the Lakers still have a few more games to lose this year. Nothing like padding the stats while making history in the world of futility.

Thing is, once upon a time, Byron Scott was a very good player for the same Lakers. But some guys can make the jump from uniform to suit, while others crash and burn. A good example might be Isiah Thomas, who made his playing fame with the Detroit Pistons.

"Zeke" won a couple championships and even found his way into the NBA Hall of Fame. A terrific player indeed. But when he went into the management/business world, he was exposed as an incompetent hack. The former Continental Basketball Association (CBA) he bought quickly slid into bankruptcy. Throw in his total bungling as an "executive" with the Toronto Raptors and NY Knicks. A brief stint as the Indiana Pacers' head coach replacing the legendary Larry Bird (who had moved into the front office) was disastrous. Fired, fired, and fired. So IT, also an appropriate enough monogram, tried his hand at coaching a low-level college team. Florida International. He went 7-25. Did I mention fired? The dude's been all over the map in the sports business world, but a total failure in every venture.

[And BTW, what was up with him smooching Magic Johnson at mid-court before games they played against each other? Can you imagine Bill Laimbeer doing the same with Kevin McHale back in the day? Me neither. It would have been considered not only wimpy, but perhaps even perverted. They would have been ostracized by players and coaches alike, while the media had a field day ridiculing them. But it was OK for Ervin and Isiah. Right.]

Back to Byron Scott. True, the apologists will also say he didn't have much talent to work with in the current version of the Lakers. Fair enough. Most any talented player that could find a way to get away from the me, me, me Kobe Bryant to go elsewhere -- did so in recent years.

Fast forward to the present. BS has another year worth over 4 million dollars on his Laker contract. Plus the team has an option to extend him yet again in the 2017-2018 season for the same price.

Hey, FOUR MILLION BUCKS? To keep the losingest coach in the history of the game calling the shots for a team that is currently pitiful and getting even worse by the day? That would be insanity.

Like Isiah Thomas, Byron Scott wasn't worth four CENTS as any sort of manager. That would seem to beg an obvious question. Given their sad-sack resumes of failure, why would any sane high-level business person in the world of sports offer either another job?

And somewhere, the late Jerry Buss, long-time owner of the Lakers, is probably wondering how in the hell things could go so wrong with the team he led to so much greatness over the years. They've gone from Showtime to Blowtime.

The Lakers have a tough rebuilding task in front of them indeed. Mercifully, they'll finally be rid of Kobe Bryant. They foolishly paid him 24 million bucks for two things this year. To conduct his own pompous "farewell tour" around the league, while showing once again what a selfish player he has always been. The TV folks will show highlights of Kobe Bean nailing a long shot here and there. What they WON'T show is all the off-balance bricks he throws up in between. Or his lack of hustle on the defensive end. Pompous press conferences -- yes. The slightest acknowledgment of his and the team's pitiful play  -- no.

But the first thing they have to do is fire Byron Scott. His all-time worst pitiful record as a head coach speaks for itself. Who would replace him? Does it matter? Plug in a Kardashian, Alfred E. Neumann of MAD magazine, or a cardboard cut-out of Miley Cyrus. They couldn't possibly do any worse. Perhaps the latter could "twerk" them into a few more wins.

But it's never gonna happen with BS. He's gotta go.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Idle rants and a little bias

Congrats to the Oregon State lady's basketball team for reaching the Final Four. But wait a second....

How in the world can a women's team be proud to call itself the....... Beavers? Really? Say it ain't so. Where's the politically correct police when you need them? Then again, maybe all is not as it appears at first glance. Instead of a negative sexual connotation, could it be that all these girls have an older brother named Wally? And had to put up with some sleaze ball named Eddie Haskell along the way in el-hi school?

The Beavers weren't supposed to win, you know. After all, they were the #2 seed going up against a #1 in Baylor. And the game was played in Texas, giving the Bears basically home court advantage. Further, a mostly white team beating a mostly black team in a high level basketball game isn't supposed to happen in this day and age. Maybe those PC cops need to start working a little overtime or put on another shift.

[And now a word from our commercial sponsors. This is brought to you by the "just when you think it couldn't possibly get any stupider department".

See Sammy Jack, Chuck, and some runt named Spike on a "road trip" in a car. These three stooges offer up dialog that would make Larry, Moe and Curly look like Nobel prize winners in comparison. Have they no shame? Turrible, and yes, that spelling is intentional. To boot, yours truly once had a teacup chihuahua named Spike, and the resemblance between my late boy and the dude in the commercials is striking. Especially when it came to "speaking". Yap, yap, yap. But one of them was at least lovable and had a little sense and dignity.]

The Beaves advanced in spite of what looked like highly biased officiating against them. Da Bears repeatedly committed fouls that weren't called. Wide bodies aren't supposed to be able to bull over opponents all over the court, particularly close to the basket, and not get whistled for it.

Compare the two head coaches. Scott Rueck, age 46, of OSU, and Kim Mulkey, age 53, of BU.
Rueck showed up in a conservative suit and tie befitting his position. He acted professionally throughout the contest.

Mulkey showed up in a garish orange jacket, leg-hugging white jeans, and 6-inch stiletto heels. She appeared to go "off her meds" when things didn't go according to plan. See Kim take off her jacket and throw it. See a ref notice it and call a well-deserved technical foul for unsportsmanlike conduct. See Kim going ballistic and continuing to bark at the refs. At that point, she should have been T-ed up again and ejected. Sure, this was an important game, but Mulkey's been around the block and got enough miles on her to know better than to throw a temper tantrum. Besides, what kind of message does such an outburst send to her players? If the coach is out of control, how can she expect her players to maintain any sort of discipline on the court?

See Kim put her neon jacket back on. Then take it off again. Was this a basketball game or a geriatric tease show?

In the end the, ahem, Beavers (and their coach) maintained their composure and dispatched the roughneck Bears in spite of a lot of factors working against them. (Here's wishing good luck to Mr. Mulkey when Kim gets home and vents. How would you like to be THAT guy?)

That's the good news.

The bad news is they get a date with mighty UConn in the semi-finals. Hope they enjoyed cutting down the nets in Dallas.

Because the next go-round in Indy could get ugly.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Auriemma/Shaughnessy gambit

Geno Auriemma was exactly right. I'll get back to that.

Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy had said Geno's Lady Huskies continuing to steam-roll their opponents was bad for lady's college basketball. It was an ignorant thing to say, and smacked more of bias/envy than being objective.

Perhaps Shaughnessy wants us to believe it's somehow Geno and UConn's fault that they have assembled a dynasty in recent years. Hey, isn't being the best what every team or player in every sport has always aspired to? Are they supposed to apologize for having reached that pinnacle?

The response to Shaughnessy's petty jealousy has been righteously swift. He's being pilloried by the talking heads, especially the female variety. In today's world, it's usually a bad idea for a male -- even a reporter -- to criticize anything a lady or team of such has accomplished. Right or wrong, the critic will be eaten alive. The fairer sex normally doesn't respond well to any sort of public condemnation -- under ANY circumstances.

But in an ensuing press conference, Auriemma made a terrific point. If the dominance of UConn lady basketball was so bad for the game, then why.....

Was Tiger Woods heralded as a hero during his decade of domination on the PGA tour? He was winning just about everything too until he flamed out personally and physically. Most still suggest Eldrick was GOOD for golf. It forced other golfers to get better. Yours truly disagrees with that assumption. Like it or not, every generation of athletes is better than the last. Golf would have been just fine with or without Tiger, and the players continue to get better regardless. But certainly nobody ripped him when he was tearing it up on tour. Quite the contrary. He was idolized, and his legions of groupies still believe he will rise to his former greatness again. Um -- well -- good luck.

Geno could have went further. Until she recently started showing some chinks in her aging armor, Serena Williams was winning just about everything on the pro tennis circuit. Like Tiger, she was a hero. I don't recall any scribes saying Serena was bad for tennis.

Where was the outrage when the NY Yankees and Boston Celtics of long ago were reeling off one championship after another?

Or with John Wooden's UCLA basketball teams in the 60s?

Or Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls rolling to so many NBA championships in the 90s?

Even this year, the Golden State Warriors aren't criticized, but rather celebrated as they chase the best all-time regular season record.

Novac Djovokic has become seemingly unbeatable in men's pro tennis. Nobody rips him. And for sure nobody took issue with Roger Federer racking up so many titles a scant few years prior to the Serb coming on the scene and displacing him.

Ever hear of anybody saying Jack Nicklaus, Richard Petty, or more recently Peyton Manning or Derek Jeter were bad for their sports? Among other notables, they won a lot of stuff too over the years.

But for whatever reason, Shaughnessy zeroed in on the UConn lady's hoops team.

Well gee. Let's take a closer look. Danno has long been a columnist at the Boston Globe. Bet you won't find any of his articles critical of the New England Patriots back when they were the class of the NFL. And OF COURSE he resides in Beantown. Where else would an Irish sports writing dude that looks a bit like an older gargoyle version of Rory McIlroy take up residence to ply his trade?

And OF COURSE he's going to be St. Patty's day green with jealousy over any success story that happens in New York, Philly, or Jersey, much less some girls college hoop team from tiny Connecticut that might well turn out to be -- quietly -- the greatest sports dynasty of all time.

Idle thought. As the lyrics to the classic song go -- Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling.

So here's an idea for Shaughnessy. The pipe may still be calling him, but he needs to quit that stuff, else he "crack-up" completely.

One is free to root for or against Geno Auriemma and the program he has built with the Lady Huskies over the years, but saying they are bad for lady's college basketball is like claiming Donald Trump has made Presidential politics less news-worthy.

It was a stupid thing to say and defies the obvious.

There has never been a greater interest in either.

And both are good things.....

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Ranting on hoops

NBA fans might want to circle April 20 on their calendars. On that day a game will happen which could have huge implications. The Golden State Warriors, in their second to last regular season game, will visit the San Antonio Spurs.

As we know, both teams remain undefeated at home so far this year, and no team ever has run the table with their regular season home schedule. Of course that assumes both teams will remain "clean" until then.

Not long ago, San Antonio visited Golden State and got drilled. In the rematch in Alamoland, the Spurs returned the favor. It has become apparent SA head coach Gregg Popovich has conceded his squad won't catch the high-flying Warriors for the best record and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Coach Pop is resting his aging starters and is willing to sacrifice a "road" game here and there to have them fresher when the playoffs roll around. But it's a safe bet they also want to remain undefeated at home.

The Warriors are chasing history. They need to go 8-2 in their final 10 games to eclipse the all-time best regular season mark of 72-10 set by the 1995-96 Bulls. They have a home friendly remaining schedule and, needless to say, want to stay perfect there as well.

However, one of those games is against the very same Spurs. You just know the Spurs would like nothing better than to knock off Steph and Co. in their own back yard to make a statement. It's hard to imagine Coach Pop resting his A-Team for THAT game. All hands will be on deck.

After a few intervening games, which both teams may very well cruise through against lesser competition, will come the rematch mentioned above on April 20. And you just know as well, with the playoffs on the horizon, the Warriors would like nothing better themselves than to spoil SA's perfect home record.

Barring a complete collapse or a rash of key injuries, it's pretty much a lock GS and SA will be seeded #1 and 2 in the western conference playoffs. It's highly unlikely any other team can knock either off in a 7 game series leading up to the showdown. The high probability is somewhere along the line SA will have to steal a game at GS to advance to the NBA Finals against whoever comes out of the East. Can they do it? Maybe. Bet against Coach Pop and his bag of tricks at your own peril.

Speaking of "locks", enter the UConn Lady Huskies. It's almost hard to imagine them NOT winning another championship. Good grief, they've only lost one (regular season) game in TWO YEARS while rattling off three straight titles. The only semi-decent competition they seemed to have this year -- see Notre Dame and South Carolina -- didn't even make it out of the regionals. And the only losses ND and SC had incurred prior to bowing out of the tournament came at the hands of -- you guessed it -- Geno's Bambinos. Neither was particularly even close. UConn is just on a different level than anybody else -- as in vastly superior. In three tournament games so far they have outscored their opponents by 52, 46, and a whopping 60 points. Up next is Texas. Good luck with that Longhornettes. Welcome to the meat grinder that awaits you. Try to stay within 30.

UConn getting beaten by anybody this year would be akin to the Miracle Mets, the Miracle on Ice, Joe Willy and his upstart Jets knocking off the mighty Colts, or the late Jimmy V's NC State squad improbably capturing a national title back in the 80s. Anything's possible, even Chris Christie losing 150 pounds, being named the sexiest man alive, and storming back to win the Presidency in November. Even the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl. But I wouldn't bet on it.

But the last 10 games of this regular NBA season offer up some compelling scenarios, particularly with the Warriors and Spurs. On the other side, some guy named Lebron thinks (again) this just might finally be the magical year for the Cleveland Cavs. We'll see about that. Even if they emerge as champions of a rather weak East, they'll be going up against either SA or GS in the Finals and ceding home court as well.

Two words.

Good luck.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Down go the lady Irish

Notre Dame's female basketball team was quite good this year by most standards. After all, they'd only lost one game -- that to the UConn juggernaut that keeps steamrolling on. A 31-1 record was quite impressive indeed, and most expected them to roll into the Final Four. Maybe they would get a shot at avenging the drubbing they took at the hands of Geno's Bambinos a few months back. 

Then came an Elite Eight game. See head coach Muffet McGraw sporting her fancy hoop earrings. See her hair perfectly coiffed. See MM trussed up tight in a butt/hip/thigh hugging skirt. So tight she could only take baby steps. Probably a good thing considering the sparkly super-high heels she was also wearing. Hey, is this a basketball game or a tawdry fashion show? It's probably a good thing TVs still can't convey smells to viewers. What are the chances Miss Muffet was also reeking of fancy perfume? 

See the ever-moronic Notre Dame leprechaun dancing about the court trying to exhort the Irish faithful. See them playing in a mostly empty arena in Lexington, Ky. Just who, exactly, was the clown in the Lucky Charms outfit trying to amp up? Hello?? Does it make sense for cheerleaders or mascots to display their team spirit to fans that aren't there? See some nitwit fan with green grease paint covering his face. 

Alas, see Notre Dame get thumped by Stanford. There will be no title, not even a Final Four appearance this year. What few Irish eyes that were in attendance are not smiling. See the leprechaun with his head bowed at the end line. Maybe that dude will finally see the wisdom in shaving off that ridiculous red beard. Even if he keeps it, what is his end goal in life? To be a roadie for ZZ Top? Do they have a major for that at Notre Dame?  

See the Notre Dame cheerleaders still dancing, smiling, rooting, and waving their pom-poms. As with most cheerleaders, they remain clueless. They have no idea what just happened. You can teach them drills and dress them up but, as they say, there just ain't no fixing stupid. But they will cry sad tears indeed when the dim awareness is replaced by the reality of having to, you know, actually having to go back to class. No more fancy free road trips. Total bummer. It would be interesting to know what THEY major in. Do the hallowed halls in South Bend offer an advanced curriculum in bimbology? If so, perhaps one could go on to write her Doctoral thesis on the subject of why her school has always called itself the Fighting Irish, but the real Notre Dame is a cathedral in Paris -- which I'm pretty sure is still in France. If she can logically explain that in her dissertation, forget the pom-poms and make-up, she is obviously destined for greater things. Maybe a Nobel Prize, or at least a career in politics. 

But for now, things aren't looking so good in Notre Dame athletics. The lady hoopsters just got bounced. The men will be next. Their football team remains in mediocre mode, and they still can't figure out what conference they want to play in, if any, depending on the sport. 

The only allegiance Notre Dame has seems to be to itself. They always want their cake and eat it too. 

The late Bo Schembechler of Michigan once had it exactly right.

To hell with Notre Dame. 


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Red Wings, Kevorkian, and paranoia

You just knew it was going to happen, because it does every year. Somewhere, in some town, in some sport, some "homer" scribe will attempt to put the fans on "red alert". This typically happens when a team might not make the playoffs.

[Sometimes this is referred to as "jeopardy", though I'm fairly certain Alex Trebek couldn't care less. The Canadian is always much too busy trying to show off his fluent French on an American game show to be bothered with such stick, ball, and puck trivia.]

This time around it would appear to be the Detroit Red Wings causing such a stir. They've made the playoffs a whopping 24 years in a row -- but might not this year. It's going to be close. Never mind they haven't even made it to the Stanley Cup semi-finals since some guy named Obama was a rookie President -- and are at best an average team this year --  OMG perish the thought they might not qualify for the post-season. (Let's also ignore the fact that fully half the teams in the NHL make it to the playoffs every year. A team has to be pretty bad NOT to.)

Per usual in a situation like this, some scribes are urging the masses to be scared -- very scared. As in---

It's time to sound the alarm.
Push the panic button.
And with apologies to Neil Diamond, pack up the babies, grab the old ladies and head for Brother Love's travelling paranoia show.

Idle thought: Why do so many black athletes have different last names than their mothers and siblings?

Yessiree, the media has always tried to scare the wits out of the gullible public with their inane propositions of doom. Harken back to the "old days".....

Once upon a time, school kids had to participate in nuclear war drills. Clang, clang, clang would go the bells, and the little Leave it to Beaverites would dutifully line up in the hall, sit down with their backs to the wall, and pull their knees up to their chins with heads bowed between their legs. Hey, if one of those "Commie" nukes -- that could start falling any second -- happened to hit in the neighborhood -- what difference did such stupid drills hope to make? Vaporized is vaporized. If they were going to take the kids out of class, why not let their last living moment on Earth be of frolicking on the playground? People built "bomb shelters", my own grandparents included. Lots of canned goods and a few gallons of water. Problem was -- there's a little thing called "air" that was also necessary for survival. And where there was air given such an incident, it would be highly radioactive and kill them anyway. A total waste of time and money. So what was the point? It was just more media gibberish designed to make the masses behave as good little droids. Did I mention we're always supposed to be scared of ghosts and goblins for our own "safety"? Maybe they should throw in dragons, werewolves, and vampires as well. And you never know where and when that pesky Godzilla might show up again to wreak havoc. It's always something.

Now, of all things, it's the Detroit Red Wings. There's a possibility they might not make the playoffs. HORRORS!!!

To which yours truly says -- who cares? If they make it -- fine. If they don't -- that's fine too. Contrary to the doomsday scenario some scribes are pitching again, the Wings failing to make the post-season would rank right up there in the whole scheme of importance with an already filthy rich politician losing an election. Who cares? We're talking about a billionaire owner and millionaire players missing out on a few extra playoff bucks. Average people should go into a state of panic at the mere possibility? Please. We have more important matters to deal with, like paying bills that we can't afford, especially after paying the exorbitant prices to even attend a playoff game or two.

The scribes get in for free on press passes, so it's easy for them to "sound the alarm". But they don't really care. When hockey season is done they'll move on to whatever other story they can sensationalize in the world of sports to the masses. It's not their fault. It's in their DNA and it's what they do. Like cable news channel talking heads blathering on about the latest disaster somewhere in the world -- it's always about the hype. Americans are supposed to be terrified because some airport in Belgium got bombed? Really? Do you think the Russians, Chinese, anybody in South America or Africa gives a rat's behind? They have their own problems.

In a perfect world, these people would have a conscience and suffer the same pain they attempt to inflict on their viewing and reading audiences. If they're THAT alarmed, they should be gobbling Xanax like M&Ms. Or if "all is lost", go to a seance and consult the ghost of Jack Kevorkian to put them out of their misery.

But in the meantime, excuse me if I don't buy into panic mode -- however it works out. It's a game. Out of all the teams, there will only be one champion this year in each team sport. And next year it will start all over again with more re-tooled hype. This is, and has never been, a big deal. Who's kidding who?

Let the paranoid fear-mongers march out into the hall with their heads between their knees. The rest of us have more important things to concern ourselves with.

Always did, actually. Some people eventually figure it out -- and some never will.

The Bonehead Files. Lebron James

So Lebron Raymone James says he would even take a pay cut to be able to play with the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul -- eh? Welcome to the Bonehead Files LRJ. Let us count the reasons why.

1) By a pay cut, does he mean he might actually settle for a paltry $20 million instead of the $24 he's making this year? Gee, what a trooper. Give that man a medal and let's all have a good cry over the poor dear having to eat ramen noodles trying to get by on such a pitiful wage. (His vast array of lucrative endorsements are another matter we won't even bother to get into).

2) In order for this unholy trinity to come together, at least two of the players would have to change teams. The chances of that happening are likely about the same as Jeb Bush roaring back from the scrapheap to capture the Presidency in November. Or the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl. Let's just say the odds are not good.

3) An Ohio native, and hated when he originally left the Cavs to win a couple championships in Miami, all was pretty much forgiven when he went back. I mean, c'mon, the guy got a couple rings, but always remained a home boy at heart. Even the Heat faithful -- bless their leathery skinned hearts -- understood that. It was the one move Lebron James could make and not catch a lot of flak for. He wanted to win a championship for his "home" team, which he had failed to do in his first go-round.

4) Thing is -- what of Carmelo and Chris? No way would Anthony leave the Big Apple. Sure, the Knicks are no good, but he likes the high-life of NYC and his wife and kids have become, ahem, accustomed to such a lifestyle. Does anybody think for a second Melo would "take his talents" to CLEVELAND, of all places? Not a chance. There's a big difference between his significant other and adorable offspring enjoying Times Square as opposed to taking in the breathtaking sights on the shores of Lake Erie. He'd probably find himself in divorce court within a couple months. Good luck with THAT.

5) Same with Chris Paul of the LA Clippers. True, despite all the hype and stupid TV commercials, the Clips remain second class citizens in the NBA. This is quite evident by their record this year. While they've gone an impressive 45-11 against average or sub-par teams, the Clippers are a woeful 2-12 against the upper echelon teams. (See Cleveland, Toronto, Okla City, San Antonio, and those pesky Golden State Warriors.) At that, though CP might not be the brightest star in the universe, it's likely a safe assumption even HE still has enough functioning neurons to realize life in general is a whole lot more exciting in LA-LA land than it would be in Buckeye country. Hey, if one is destined to not win a championship either way, which town would YOU rather live in? Warm climate year-round or getting pounded by howling winds and feet of snow in the winter? Movies stars or zebra mussels? That ain't gonna happen either.

6) If Lebron James were to relocate to either NYC or LA, (he'll be a free agent next year) he would be publicly held up to ridicule, perhaps Kardashian style, for caring more about fame than substance.

Lebron Raymone James has so far been a person/athlete to admire. Long happily married to his wife, kids, and not even a whisper of any sort of scandal all along the way. Sadly, such a thing is almost a rarity in big time pro sports these days. Yet most of us understand he valiantly tried to win a championship in Cleveland originally -- saw that it wasn't going to happen -- and went to Miami to hook up with Wade and Bosh to get to the mountaintop. Twice. We also understand his going back to Cleveland and trying again later in his career. Last time yours truly looked, the Cavs had the best record in the NBA east, and few would bet against them making it to the Finals again this year. Whether they can win a 7 game series once there -- well -- that's a whole different animal. We'll see. Maybe.

But for Lebron to even mention the possibility, much less his desire to somehow wind up on the same team as Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul is utter nonsense. For the reasons listed above -- it's a virtual impossibility. A pipe dream at best.

He's still a good dude, but for creating a media sensation with such a remark, the otherwise honorable Lebron Raymone James has earned himself a place in the Bonehead Files. That was dumb, bro.

And speaking of crazy dreams -- if it has anything to do with a certain "pipe" --  quit it. From what I hear, that stuff will make one loonier than Steve Ballmer at a Clips basketball game or -- OMG -- Detroit Lions' season ticket holders that keep re-upping at higher prices. These are true definitions of insanity indeed.

Just keep playing for the Cavs and hope things work out.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Ladies hoops. The fix is in

Their male college counterparts get much more attention and hype, but the ladies are slugging it out in March Madness too. Yet something seems drastically amiss. The venues where the games are played, particularly in the early rounds.

It's almost unheard of for a boy's team to get a game in their home arena once the tournament starts. Maybe in one close to home, but not HOME home. Pure logistics dictates the various arenas for these contests have to be selected far in advance so they can prepare for what will be coming their way. Various teams wind up placed in various regions around the country to fill out the bracket, and the TV folks need a bit of advance notice to set up their gear. It's almost a crap shoot. Nobody knows who's going where to play whoever else until the almighty "selection committee" has weighed in at the last second. But the venues themselves were locked in beforehand.

Not so in the girls' version, and the apparent fix runs very deep if one takes a close look at it. True, unlike the men, where upsets can and do happen, and even an "underdog" can win a championship, the women typically have a pecking order of haves and mostly have nots. Most years there's only 2 or 3 teams that are legitimate contenders to win the title. This year is no different. But as far as the "fix" being in, take a closer look at the bracket.

While it may not be totally surprising teams such as UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina and Baylor wound up the #1 seeds in their respective regions, it hardly seems fair that all four got to play their first two games in their home arenas. Sound a little fishy? It gets worse.

Consider the #2 seeds. Texas had it's first two game in Austin. Arizona State in Tempe. Maryland in College Park, and Oregon State in Corvallis, Oregon. All their own home arenas as well.

And worse yet...

#3 seeds Louisville, Kentucky, Ohio State, and UCLA played their first two games in -- yep -- you guessed it -- Louisville, Lexington, Columbus and Los Angeles. Of these "top 12 teams" only Maryland failed to advance.

Something is very wrong with this picture. As in the chicken and the egg -- which came first? Deciding on the venues, or seeding the top teams accordingly so they could play at home? Either it's at the very least grossly unfair in a competitive way regarding a "national" tournament, or at worst more corrupt than Washington politics.

Ah heck. It probably doesn't matter anyway. Chances are, nobody's going to beat Geno's Bambinos of UConn this year, regardless of where the games are played.

But upon closer inspection, it still doesn't make the current system any more palatable. Look at it this way -- if the top 3 seeds in the 4 men's brackets somehow mysteriously all wound up playing their first two NCAA dances in their home arenas -- the media would go berserk crying foul. There would probably be a Congressional investigation. All kinds of hell to pay. Such a scenario would never EVER pass muster. Heads would roll, and rightly so.

Yet it seems to happen every year lately with the women and nobody seems to notice or care.

Maybe that's why they tuck their games away on an obscure cable channel while the boys are trumpeted to the heavens in every way possible by the media.

It's just not right.....

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Adam LaRoche snafu

The Chicago White Sox -- and in particular GM Kenny Williams -- are absolutely right, you know. I'll get back to that.

As baseball fans have no doubt heard, Adam Laroche has, so far, decided to retire because he has been told to cut back on the access his 14 year old son Drake has with the team. Not that the kid has to go away entirely, mind you, just that he shouldn't be treated like he's an actual member of the ChiSox roster.

Allegedly some real members of the team quietly complained the kid was underfoot a bit too much, so Williams requested LaRoche to "dial it back" a little. Apparently outraged, the elder LaRoche would rather retire. That is certainly his choice, but a few other subplots have come into play.

A couple members of the team said it was wrong to deny a kid such full access, and even went so far as to say they considered young Drake -- all of 14 years old -- a team leader. Really? These highly paid baseball professionals look up to a ninth-grader for inspiration? Dang.

Of course, those that complained in the first place have to remain anonymous. If they "came out" the media and politically correcters would surely lambaste them as being "anti-child". Shame on them for -- horrors!! -- trying to keep the operations of a major league baseball franchise  -- um -- professional.

To be sure, there's nothing wrong with a parent taking their child to work. People in many walks of life have done it for a very long time. Mom or Dad wants Junior or Missy to see what goes on in the office, or fire station, or factory, or hospital, and a vast variety of other workplaces. Maybe even the sewer. Somebody's gotta do it to put food on the table and pay for their Air Jordans and IPads. But this is typically only once a year on "bring your child to work day". Not 24/7/365 like Adam LaRoche wants for his son.

On that note, one could ask -- if young Drake is hanging out at the ballpark and/or in the clubhouse every day -- why isn't he in school during the spring and fall? How does that work?

And it's not just home games. Drake gets to fly with the team on road trips as well. Plus he has long had his own locker in the clubhouse -- right next to Dad's. What's truly comical is some jocks from other teams speaking up and saying if the ChiSox want to "bar" Drake from their clubhouse (again, they do not, but only want Dad to dial it back a bit), they would welcome young LaRoche into THEIR clubhouses to hang out. Gee, are they in need of a 14-year old leader too? If so, it does not speak well of their coaching staff, much less their collective team brain power. They need a ninth grader to show them the way? Really?

But there is something more important that has gone unspoken in this snafu so far. Sure, Adam LaRoche loves his son very much and wants the best for him, like any half-way decent father would. Yet another question needs to be asked --- what effect has such preferential treatment had on young Drake?

It would be easy to imagine the kid fancies himself as "entitled". That might work for a little while but, eventually, as Drake grows up, the real world will come crashing down on him like it does any other young adult. While Adam LaRoche (and others) may consider himself a super-parent, there's also the distinct possibility that spoiling Drake rotten in his formative years will come back to haunt him when he has to go out and find his way. The world is a tough place these days for most people, and it doesn't care much that your daddy used to be a major league baseball player. That and a few bucks will still get you the same Big Mac.

Then there's the matter of Adam LaRoche himself. He's now 36 years old and can barely hit his weight any more. He's tortoise slow and a defensive liability to boot. How and why the Chisox offered him a whopping $25 million (all guaranteed) over last season and this one is mind-boggling itself. Especially when he was dragging his kid along, like he was a player or something.

LaRoche has made plenty of mega-dough over his long career, so him walking away from $13 million this year matters little. But for a guy on his last grossly overpaid legs anyway to take some sort of "righteous" stand over his already spoiled rotten kid having his executive perks finally trimmed back a tad smacks of nothing short of either arrogance or flat out stupidity.

So yes, Kenny Williams was absolutely right and should stand by his decision. The Chicago White Sox are a professional baseball team and will be run accordingly. Kids are welcome -- to a point. But they're not players, nor will they be treated as such and offered the same amenities.

Here's what he should say to Adam LaRoche --

"When Drake can hit .280 at this level and play a defensive position very well -- call me. Or if he develops a 95 MPH heater with a couple breaking pitches he can consistently throw for strikes -- I'm open to that too.

But for now, he is decidedly NOT a major league talent, nor even a minor league one. I like the boy and all, but he's no more special than anybody else's kid. I asked you to merely dial it back a tad, but you decided you'd rather 'take your ball and go home' while creating a media sensation on your way out. And BTW, thanks for leaving that $13 million on the table. It will be put to good use elsewhere."

There has to be a limit to this sort of thing. I mean, c'mon, what's next? Should every player's kid, male or female, have full access to all team functions? Should that apply in all other walks of life as well? Lots of kids want to grow up to be doctors. If their mom or dad is a surgeon, should they be allowed in the operating room to look over their shoulders as they work? Would a soldier take his 14-year old on a combat mission? Would a lineman have his daughter next to him up in the bucket when he's making a high voltage splice?

In the end, Drake LaRoche is just another kid. And perhaps the White Sox are to blame for allowing him such special "insider" privileges in the past.

But there's never been anything wrong with one seeing the errors of his/her ways in the past and trying to correct them in the future.

In this case, it's not only a matter of maintaining professor decorum, but likely beneficial to the kid as well in the long run.

Warriors/Spurs showdown

In hindsight, the results of the long anticipated game probably should have come as no surprise. Though the Golden State Warriors are known as a 3-point happy high scoring bunch, typically great team defense trumps an offensive juggernaut. And nobody plays team defense better than the San Antonio Spurs. By NBA standards, a low-scoring affair was likely. The final score of SA over GS 87-79 was hardly a shocker.

But another stat was glaring. GS hasn't defeated SA on their home court since way back in 1997. That particular losing streak is now at 33 and counting. To put that in perspective, elder statesman of the NBA Tim Duncan was still at Wake Forest back in 1997. A guy named Gregg Popovich was a rookie head coach. Players like Steph Curry and Kawhi Leonard were just starting to lose their baby teeth. So for the Warriors to get knocked off yet again in San Antonio is hardly earth-shaking news. Besides, even though GS gets most of the attention these days, SA remains right on their heels and is far and away the best "other" team in the entire NBA.

Yet some other interesting possibilities remain in play. Even after the loss, GS is 62-7, and remains undefeated at home. With their 13 remaining games the Warriors would need to go 11-2 to eclipse the all-time best regular single season mark of the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72-10). Possible? Sure.

For that matter, San Antonio is yet to lose at home this season as well. Can they win all their remaining home games? Definitely possible.

And that's the thing. No NBA team -- EVER -- has gone undefeated at home for an entire regular season. There could very well be two this year.

The very last week of the regular season will be compelling regarding these two teams. They meet twice again, once in each city. Theoretically, both teams could finish with perfect home records and GS could eclipse the Bulls' former mark. Given the Warriors are "allowed" two more losses, even if they lose @ San Antonio again, that gives them one to spare.

At the peril of looking ahead, chances are very good Golden State and San Antonio will clash in the Western conference playoff finals. Who else is going to beat either of those teams in a 7 seven game series when they have home court advantage along the way? The Thunder? The Clips? Not likely.

But such a scenario might play right into the hands of another team out there. For the sake of argument, let's assume Lebron and the Cavaliers emerge as champions of the East. Granted, the Toronto Raptors have quietly been having a great season themselves -- so the Cavs are hardly a gimme to waltz into the Finals.

But if it plays out that way, the Lake Erie boys might have an advantage. If they can breeze to and through the Eastern finals while GS and SA are beating each other's brains out in the West in what figures to be a long brutal series, maybe bestowing the 2016 championship on the best of the West could be premature.

Hoop fans know how bad Lebron wants to win a title in Cleveland, and how disappointed he was last year when he and the Cavs came up short against Golden State. Remember, Cleveland was ahead 2-1 in the 2015 Finals before Steph and the Warriors stepped on the gas and blew them away.

Maybe it will work out that way again this year and maybe not.

But first things first. Let's definitely keep an eye on GS's quest for the Bulls record, but the other eye on whether Golden State or San Antonio will ever get beaten at home. Will one of them finally blink as the season is winding down? Both? Neither?

Very interesting stuff. And there's that little thing called March Madness in college hoops playing out in the meantime.

Oh yeah. By all means, keep bringing it on.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Michigan State. Ker-splat

I dare say few saw it coming. After all, weren't the Michigan State Spartans the same basketball team that.....

Were once ranked #1 in the entire country just a couple short months ago?

Had only lost 5 games all year, and most of them while their best player was out with an injury?

Were virtually unbeatable once he returned?

Blitzed through the Big 10 Conference tournament to claim that honor?

Had a storied history of going deep into the NCAA tournament, including several Final Fours and one outright national championship? (Well, OK. That was 16 years ago, but it doesn't seem like that long.)

Felt slighted by not being named a #1 seed in this year's March Madness tourney?

Was expected by many to at least reach the Final Four, and quite possibly wind up kings of the college hard courts once again?

Still had the same head coach with his long history of success in the past? The same guy that lands blue-chip preps year after year and molds them into a hard-nosed unit that's always long on defense, crashing the boards, team play, and overall toughness?

Featured Denzel Valentine, the injured/healed player mentioned above, who some thought was the best overall player in the country?

THOSE guys?

But then the lights went up for the tournament, and the #2 seeded mighty Spartans had a "cream-puff" first round opponent in lowly #15 seed Middle Tennessee. Or so they and many others thought. A cakewalk, right?

Problem was, MidTenn didn't seem to get the memo. They outplayed MSU from start to finish. The Spartans never led in the entire game. This was no fluke. MSU was out-coached, out-smarted, out-hustled, out-shot, out-toughed, and out-everything else from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Instead of folding under the pressure, MidTenn rose to the occasion and knocked off MSU fair and square 90-81. It was the Green that choked when the Big Dance started. (The very name of MidTenn -- the BLUE Raiders, probably doesn't sit well with Spartan nation. Getting trashed by anything "blue" likely reminds them of their bitter rival Michigan on some level).

Needless to say, there is little joy in East Lansing right about now. And good luck to MSU head coach Tom Izzo when they get home from St. Louis and he has to face the local press. The scribes really need only ask one pertinent question. How in the hell did THAT happen? He most definitely has some 'splainin to do.

[Idle thought. We know how Superman has an "S" emblazoned on his chest. Tom Izzo, being from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, could rightfully be dubbed Yooperman. The "Y" on his chest could also signify YEOW, regarding this game. Alas, Yooperman has no fortress of solitude to retreat to. Those pesky reporters will find him with their microphones, cameras, and barrage of mostly dumb questions.]

Thing is, this was supposedly MSU's best shot at another title in quite some time. Sure, they've always been competitive, often in the top 4-5 in the country (no small feat), but this was the team that had all the makings of being capable of running the table in the NCAA tourney. Or so it was assumed.

Instead they went ker-splat in the very first round. They were 18 point favorites going in and got drubbed by 9. A 27 point swing. Oh my. What will happen to the Spartans in the near future is an open question. They're losing their three best players to graduation and/or the NBA. Can Izzo reload and bring the greenies back to prominence once again next year and beyond? Maybe. Or might this game have signaled the start of MSU's fall back into mediocrity -- or worse? Time will tell.

And hey -- in the whole scheme of things, does it really matter if a team gets knocked out in the first round, or after having made it to the Final Four? If a team lasts for a few games, their school gets some hefty paychecks -- and maybe the coach gets a contractual bonus -- but the players don't get anything. Anything short of becoming a champion means they came up short. In the end, they were still losers.

When all is said and done, only one team gets to cut down the nets that matter. It just won't be Michigan State this year.

Maybe it's better they got knocked out early, rather than winning a few games (with the ensuing crescendo of hopes that go with it) only to be eliminated later.

But Middle Tennessee? A #15 seed?


The Mateen Cleaves rape case

It appears the former Michigan State point guard could be in a heap of trouble. If found guilty of the charges against him, Mr. Cleaves will go bye-bye for a long time.

In today's politically correct world, the very language we speak has undergone a remarkable transformation. Certain ethnic, racial, and religious terms from the past have been deleted like they never existed. In addition, there are no more cripples, nor bald, short, fat, or retarded people. They all still exist, of course, but are referred to by kinder, gentler names, so as not to -- horrors!! -- offend someone. Yet one is left to wonder whether the truly stupid ones can appreciate, much less comprehend the difference.

Even lawmakers and prosecutors have invented a new language. Though it still happens, nobody gets charged with "rape" anymore. This has been changed into varying degrees of "criminal sexual conduct". It can be first, second, or third degree but, in the end, laypeople (no pun intended) don't understand what the exact allegation(s) are. They just know somebody supposedly did something very bad in a sexual way.

The Mateen Cleaves case is shaking out much the same way in its early stages. He's been charged with three counts of criminal sexual conduct (rape), though that seems odd given only one incident allegedly occurred. Also with one count of assault with "intent" to commit criminal sexual penetration -- there's that pesky "rape" word again. If true, the "assault" word translates into beating somebody up before having their way with them. But the very word "intent" mentioned above somewhat clouds the whole scenario. Did he "intend" to do it, actually do it, or not do it at all? I mean c'mon. In cases like this, "intent" is a stupid word. If a rape occurred, it's a virtual certainly it didn't happen by accident. You don't just fall into these things. Ahem.

But prosecutors these days love to pile on charges that few outside the legal profession can fully comprehend. This has become a typical ploy as they look down the road at a "plea bargain". They'll charge a "perp" (another word we don't hear anymore) a variety of different ways for the same alleged crime. The media eats it up and regurgitates it to the public in sensational fashion, which is exactly what they want. Nothing like tainting a potential jury pool.  If they can just get the defendant to plead guilty to one charge, they'll typically dismiss all the others and chalk it up as a win.

Cleaves has also been charged with "unlawful imprisonment". That's sort of like "kidnapping" (when's the last time you heard that word?) an adult. But a definite no-no.

Maybe Cleaves did these bad things and maybe he did not. Hopefully, as all the evidence, or lack thereof, are thoroughly analyzed by objective, unbiased minds, justice will be done. Of course, such neutrality in the legal system long ago went the same way as former "shrews" and "brats". They too both still exist, but one is now an overly concerned mate and the other merely a misunderstood child.

We have evolved into a jurisprudence system where the truth has ceased to matter. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys care about only one thing. Winning. And they will use every dirty trick they can to accomplish it. Sometimes justice is eventually done, and sometimes not. Guilty people go free on technicalities. Innocent ones spend years behind bars. Some have even been wrongfully executed for crimes they didn't commit.

What is somewhat sadly comical in this case are the early statements of Cleaves' defense attorney. [The charges are an outrage, my client is totally innocent, looks forward to his day in court, and will be fully exonerated], says counsel. Maybe. But haven't we heard that line before a few times? We'll see.

That in itself isn't so funny, but his next statement was. [This has been catastrophic to my client's career. Where does he go to get his reputation back?]

Well then. The logical question might then be -- WHAT reputation?

Sure, Mateen Cleaves was a star player on the Michigan State Spartans' basketball team, even a national champion way back in 2000. Then a first round draft choice by his home state Detroit Pistons. He was a bust. For 6 seasons Cleaves bounced around the NBA on different teams, never lasting long. Throw in a stint in the D-league, playing for a Russian and a Greek team -- ANYTHING to collect a roundball paycheck. THAT reputation?

Cleaves has since fancied himself as some sort of musical talent scout. To boot, he's even done some basketball commentary as an "analyst" on some obscure cable station. Anything but going out and getting a REAL job after he crashed and burned at professional hoops. THIS is the reputation yon learned defense counsel is staunchly trying to resurrect in all its glory? Really? And his point is?

Nevertheless, here's hoping Mateen Cleaves didn't do these bad things. Maybe it will turn out to be another case of a false accusation -- with the "victim" hoping for a private settlement (see cha-ching) to make it all go away. But if Cleaves indeed did the crime(s) with which he is currently charged, then by all means throw his butt in the slammer for a decade or two.

Still, yours truly smells a plea bargain waiting to happen. Some money changes hands, the prosecutor gets a watered down "win", the typical couple years "probation" is ordered by the court, and Cleaves is back out there trying to find and sign up the next Bieber.

Isn't true justice wonderful?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Detroit. Slip-sliding away?

No, not the city itself. That became a hopeless cause long ago. Violent crime, blight, gangs, drugs, crooked politicians/corruption, and other factors collided over the years to turn it into the mess it is today.

Rather, this is about their professional sports teams. Let's look at them.

The Detroit Tigers. As the late Ernie Harwell was fond of saying, "hope springs eternal". Indeed it does at this time of year -- every year. But last time I looked, the Tigers finished in the basement of their own division last year. Sure, they went out and made a few moves in the off season hoping to shore up certain deficiencies. But it's not like they operate in a vacuum. So did every other team. The ever-faithful Tiger glass half-fullers (with the local scribes spewing the usual propaganda) always assume the optimum scenario. Players that had an off year in 2015 will bounce back to peak form. Those that were injury prone will remain healthy. With another year of experience under their belts, the "rosy prospects" will be even better. Every free agent is going to come to town and have an All-Star year. But we know it usually doesn't work out quite that way. Not long ago, the Tigers had the "best starting pitching staff in all of baseball", and a regular "murderer's row" batting line-up. Or so the fans were told. What could go wrong? Evidently, something did, and has for over 30 years. The Tigers haven't won a World Series since Ronald Reagan was campaigning for his second term as Prez way back in 1984. It's almost Orwellian. Sorry. There is little reason to think they'll pull it off in 2016 either. Much more likely is the Tigers (despite their enormous player payroll) will be a mediocre team. Maybe not wind up in the cellar again, but does anybody really think they'll improve enough to roar into the post-season? Highly doubtful.

The Detroit Pistons. They don't even play in Detroit. Haven't for forty years. Currently the Pistons are on the bubble of making the playoffs. Maybe they squeak in as an 8 seed in the rather weak Eastern conference of the NBA -- and maybe they don't. Even if they do, what will be their reward? Two things. They'll get a couple home games in the first round of the playoffs. These are major cha-chings for the owner and franchise. That's the upside. The downside is they'd be unceremoniously broomed out of the playoffs by the #1 seed Cleveland Cavaliers. Bottom line is the Pistons are at best a mediocre team and, given their current structure, don't have much of an upside in the near future either.

The Detroit Red Wings. Yep, they've made the NHL playoffs 24 years in a row -- a record. They even won a few Stanley Cups along the way. But that streak is in danger of being broken. The Wings have been slumping, the Philly Flyers have been hot as of late, and the Detroiters currently find themselves in 9th place in the East, with only 8 spots available. Upside? Like the Tigers, it's always about young prospects. Finding young Dylan Larkin in their own backyard was a terrific break. But after a hot start, he's cooled off some. Same with their goalie Petr Mrazek. For a while, he was almost unbeatable, but lately the other teams have figured him out and he's giving up goals at a rate more in line with his original resume. Their two best players, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are in their middle 30s and likely won't be around much longer. Outlook for the future? Somewhere between average and bleak. On that note consider -- nobody much calls Detroit "Hockeytown" any more. Though once considered a prime destination, in recent years star free agents have been willing to accept less money to play elsewhere. Definitely a bad omen.

The Detroit Lions. James Michener could have probably penned his longest novel of all in a documentary of the Lions' foibles over the decades. From top to bottom, this has arguably been the most pathetic franchise in the history of American professional sports. The Lions last won a game of note way back in 1957, when a guy named Eisenhower was President. Ironically enough, this was about the same time the Edsel was about to be put into production and start rolling off Ford assembly lines. True, William Clay Ford didn't buy a controlling interest in the team until a few years later. Yet history reveals an even more astounding piece of irony. Guess what day WCF officially sealed the deal to take over the Lions? The very same day, Nov. 22, 1963, that Prez John F. Kennedy was fatally shot in Dallas. DEFINITELY a bad omen. Everybody knows there have been 50 Super Bowls played and the Lions have never made it to a single one. And they also know the puddy-tats have won a grand total of one -- ONE -- playoff game over all that time. Countless generations of players have come and gone. A variety of sometimes bizarre head coaches have hit town with high hopes and limped out in shame a few years later. Out of all of them, NO head coach ever employed by the Lions has ever gone on to become a head coach again elsewhere in the NFL. Given the good-ole-boys coaching carousel that is still prevalent around the league, only one logical conclusion can be drawn. Detroit is where head coaches go to initially get rich, but eventually die. Jim Caldwell will be no different. One Bob Quinn is supposed to be their latest savior as a GM because he came from the Patriots. Seems to me, once upon a time, a guy named Matt Millen came riding into town to great fanfare. How did that work out? Bottom line? The Lions remain pretty much a mess. They don't even know who's who on their O-line. Still no decent running back, nor reliable tight end. They've got a Ziggy on the D-line who's pretty good, but the rest consists of cast-offs from other teams and a few -- there's that word again -- prospects. They've got one good linebacker, if he can stay healthy, and the secondary remains Keystone Koppish. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has put up some gaudy passing stats over the years, but never won a single playoff game. His primary target was one Calvin Johnson, who also put up good personal stats. When in doubt -- heave it in the general direction of the former Megatron. It worked a lot, but CJ took a continual beating over the years. You can't throw to a guy in double or triple coverage and not expect him to get pounded a millisecond after he catches the ball. The last couple years Johnson has rarely been able to even practice. To his credit, he showed up on game days and remained effective. Yet who can blame the guy for retiring? He's got plenty of dough. Better to get out now with his faculties still somewhat intact. The Lions' biggest weapon just took a hike and the rest of the team is underwhelming at best. Forget 2016, Lions fans might still be waiting for a Super Bowl appearance in 2026, or 2036, or 2086. But in the foreseeable future, these guys are going nowhere. The truly sad part is how the Lions and their faithful scribes will convince the latest generation of suckers that this just might be the magical year. Three words. No -- it -- won't.

All in all, things aren't looking good for the former (they don't build many cars there any more) Motown. And the outlook for the professional sports teams that still bear their name doesn't appear too rosy either.

Tis a shame. Once such a proud, thriving, prosperous city, only to see it all slip-slide away. Alas.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Golden State and the trap games

To date, the Golden State Warriors remain on pace to break the Chicago Bulls' all time best single season record of 72-10, which was set back in 1995-96.

Now at 60-6, an astounding winning percentage of .909, they need only go 13-3 in their remaining 16 games to eclipse the former mark. Still, that requires a winning percentage of .812. Guess how many other teams in the entire NBA have played over .800 ball, or even .750 this year? One. Yep, the San Antonio Spurs. They just improved to 57-10 which equates to .850 ball. Also very impressive, but they remain 3.5 games back of the Warriors.

In their one and only meeting so far this year, at home the Warriors drilled the Spurs by 30 points. A blow out. But the final few weeks of the regular season offer up some interesting scenarios, and it starts in just a few days for the Warriors.

Assuming they trash the lowly NY Knicks at home, GS then has to fly to Dallas for a meeting with the Mavs on Friday. Let's not forget that one of their 6 losses came against that very team earlier this year, and it wasn't really even close.

Though it's a short plane flight, the very next night (Saturday) GS will be in San Antonio. The Spurs haven't lost at home all year and they'll be catching the Warriors on the tail end of back to back road games. Plus the Spurs are now fully healthy and typically go at least ten deep in their roster. No doubt, this will be a must-watch game. Likely the most anticipated game of the entire season so far. Can coach Pop and the Spurs stay perfect at home and close the gap a bit with the Warriors by knocking them off? Maybe. Then again, if Steph and Co. get on one of their rolls, what could be more of a "statement" than waltzing into Alamoland and coming out with a victory? We shall see. But it might very well be a trap game for GS.

Even more interesting is what transpires over 3 days starting on April 7. The Warriors host the Spurs again, have a day off, then fly to Memphis for a game against the Grizzlies. The very next day, GS is right back in San Antonio taking on the Spurs again. More air miles, more jet lag, another back end of a road "two-fer", and another clash with Pop's machine in their backyard. And make no mistake, the Spurs have been playing fantastic team basketball, particularly of late (winning 12 of their last 13). This could easily be another trap game for the Warriors.

Thing is, if one looks closely at the schedule, the Spurs have a decided advantage. Before all 3 of their remaining games against the Warriors -- they have a rest day. While GS is playing elsewhere on the road, Coach Pop and the Spurs can watch it on TV and game plan. A quirk in the schedule, but it is what it is, and it definitely favors San Antonio.

Does all this matter in the whole scheme of things? Yes and no. Yes, the Warriors certainly want to break the Bulls' old record, and both teams would love to finish the regular season undefeated at home. No NBA team has ever done it before. How cool would it be to see two of them do it in the same year? It's possible.

But no -- when the playoffs start, everything is reset to zero and the regular season goes out the window -- save for home court advantage.

Many think it's a given San Antonio and Golden State will meet in the Western conference finals, with the winner likely going on to be world champions. Also given that with 80% of the regular season already played and both these teams head and shoulders above everybody else, it would be difficult to argue that assumption. Who coming out of the East could defeat either of them? Lebron and the Cavs have the best record in the much weaker Eastern conference, but still lag far behind the records of GS or SA. As in double digits. Not even a close call. And whoever comes out of the East would be faced with the daunting prospect of ceding home court advantage to a team that might not have lost at home ALL YEAR. Good luck with that.

But that's getting ahead of things. For now, the rest of the regular season offers up some very intriguing games to watch, and certainly a few "all-time" scenarios to keep tabs on as they play out.

Hmmm. Come to think it, the date mentioned above, April 7th, rings a bell. Isn't that the same day all the world class linksters get together at some high-falootin joint called Augusta National to club it out in the Masters for the proverbial green jacket? You know, replete with the hushed reverent tones, pool table fast greens, say amen brother corner, and some in the gallery eating allergy pills like M&Ms while being exposed to all the flora that has come into bloom? With any luck, there might even be a Tiger sighting. Eldrick's gotta come out of hibernation eventually. And you just know he'll show up for this gig. His chances of winning it? Zero. Even making the cut? Mighty slim. His time has come and gone. Even if he's not self-destructing, the young studs these days are way too good, and will beat his brains out. But good gawd-a-mighty, we'll be force fed a few thousand Tiger highlights from years past when the annual royal event starts up. All the more reason to ignore the first two days of the tournament. Eldrick won't be playing on the weekend, so the viewing public will get far better TV coverage of the other more worthy golfers.

Nevertheless, that should be quite the couch tater weekend indeed.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The talking head explosion

In a way, it's a good thing. That being so many more cable channels for your average couch tater to choose from. Name the topic, from politics, to religion, to food, to movies, to comedy and drama, and even game shows, cartoons, music and much more -- and there's a lot of options available with a few clicks. All in all, thousands of them.

And of course, sports. As they say in the business, this has been taken to a whole new level. The original 4-letter sports network was a brilliant idea. So were pet rocks, cabbage patch dolls, lava lamps, bean bags, and black lights back in their days. Smart people got rich offering up such products to the gullible masses. But their time would come and go. Seen a bong lately? Or a waterbed store?

Yet sports have an eternal air about them. Americans never could and still just can't seem to get enough of them. They'll watch anything that showcases some form of athletic competition. How else to explain the X-Games, the NASCAR truck series, Major League Baseball's spring training games, or -- horrors!! -- a "friendly" between two soccer teams from different countries that matters not one whit? And don't get me started on the NFL, NHL, and NBA preseason yawn fests.

But somewhere along the line it all exploded into what we have today. The 4-letter network now features several different channels to choose from. Though yet to be medically proven, there are rumors they can live-stream videos via IVs into people in comas, and the afflicted will suddenly sit up and scream "BOO-YA!!" If true, amazing technology, that.

Yet to staff all these extra cable stations the cable folks obviously needed a lot more bodies -- heretofore known as talking heads. It just wouldn't do to show -- say -- Tiger Woods highlights from the 2002 Masters tournament without current day announcers virtually going orgasmic with the accompanying dialogue.

These people can and will blow the most trivial thing that has happened thousands of times before into some sort of earth-shaking event. They act like they've never seen a basketball dunked. Or a slugger hit a long home run. Or a puck rattle off a goalpost. Or a long touchdown pass on the gridiron. It's like they wake up in a new world every day. Everything is OMG, DID YOU SEE THAT? Freaking incredible -- and on they'll go. For minutes, sometimes hours, with their pesky staff of stat geeks steadily feeding them a trove of worthless information.

Does any sane person really care that Joe Jock is the first left-handed player with a little sister named Gertrude that made five free-throws in a row? "OMG, it's now six. A new all-time record has been set and the sky's the limit", they will rant. "We're seeing history unfold before our very eyes". One word. Please.

It is interesting, if not laughable, to note who the sports channels have hired to fill out their staff, given the explosion of exposure. There are a few ex-coaches that attempt to spout their expertise. Some come off as credible, others not so much. Hey, there's a reason they're EX-coaches.

Certainly a variety of ex-jocks that have gone through the rigors of talking head school 101 before ever being allowed on the stage when the cameras are rolling. Occasionally one or two can actually seem cerebral when discussing a particular topic. But far more often, they remain the dumb oafs they were as players.

What is more comical yet is how the shows change, but really not. They may shuffle from one particular channel to another under the same umbrella, but the talking heads just move maybe 30 feet to a "new" studio for another show. The same cameramen take a short stroll, the techs in the booth push a few buttons -- and away we go with another "exclusive" of breaking sports news. Most times it's just a rehash of what we just saw with a new shift of a breathless ranter probing even MORE dumb jocks or supposed "experts" regarding the latest and greatest sports news.

One thing seems to be beyond reproach. These folks are trying their best to comply with Title IX. As in, women have to have equal exposure and access. They are certainly plentiful on the myriad of talking head sports shows, and usually the ones asking the questions as "anchors". Is this because they suffer from the Anderson Cooper/Rachel Maddow/Wolf Blitzer syndrome? You know, folks that always ask tough questions but are never put in the spot where they might have to answer any?

At that, the ladies on these shows typically evoke a yuk. See their hair perfectly coiffed. Never see them in slacks, but always in short tight dresses attempting to show off their legs. See them in high heels which tighten up whatever leg muscles they have. See them oh so casually continually cross and uncross their legs. It's almost a sexual subliminal come-on, but it's always there. Do they teach them that in talking head school?

See them take charge of the jocks (dumb or not) that -- you know -- actually played the game and know what the hell they're talking about. Sometimes. The same big oafs that wear boring suits, have wash and wear hair and could cruise through the make-up room backstage in 15 seconds. There just ain't no prettying-up some things.

Here's an idea. Once, just ONCE, I want to see a talking head sports show with the woman wearing a frumpy Hillary suit while the guys are dressed like the Chippendales and shaking THEIR booties.

And who knows? Maybe it could start a trend. How great would it be to see the men in Congress all show up in red "power suits" like the ladies always do with their dresses? Just once would be enough.

The above always has been about projecting an "image" to the masses and continues to be so. And sure, the smart people in TV land and politics rightly understand the vast majority of their viewers and constituents are basically idiots. How else to explain why some folks will watch a re-run over and over again, and keep re-electing the same crooks that have been ripping them off all along?

Yep, bring on one of the sharp-tongued (and mostly clueless) stick girls dressed up like an Amish woman, and have her pose questions to -- say -- Mike Ditka and Herman Edwards, who are both decked out in nothing but a bunch of bling and a thong.

Now THAT would be a show worth watching.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

GS Warriors and the long walk

It's sort of like standing in front of Bally's in the middle of the Las Vegas strip and deciding to hoof it to another casino. Look to the left and one can see Mandalay Bay down the road and across the street. Glance right and you'll spot the super-tall Stratosphere. Neither looks all that far away. But you start walking, and walking, and walking some more, and like a mirage, they just never seem to get any closer.

Such would seem to be the plight of the Golden State Warriors chasing the Chicago Bulls' all-time best single regular season record of 72-10 set back in 1995-96.

After starting out the season an amazing 24-0, the Warriors finally got beat (by Milwaukee). That was in the seventh game of a seven game road trip. Quite understandable. No team in NBA history has every swept a seven game road trip. After umpteen thousand miles to and fro around the country, and likely considerable jet-lag, the Warriors were gassed. It was a "getaway" game and they just wanted to finally get home.

Then a lot more wins -- but also a few puzzling losses along the way. How in the world could a team like GS get beat by lowly Denver? Or pedestrian Detroit? The shocker was the Warriors losing to the sad-sack LA Lakers -- the worst team in the league not named Philadelphia. How in the hell did that happen?

This is the same team that had no problem against the likes of Cleveland, the LA Clips, Okla City Thunder -- you know -- GOOD teams. And in their first meeting with San Antonio, they crushed the Spurs by 30 points. Very strange.

Fast forward and see the Warriors sporting a 58-6 record. That's just shy of ten wins for every loss. Incredible stuff. But do the math. That means they had played 64 games with 18 remaining. To surpass the old Bulls' record, they would still need to go 15-3 to finish out the season. In other words, win 5 out of every 6. Like walking on the Vegas strip, the desired destination might have gotten a little closer, but it still seems far away. Going 15-3 would be winning at an .833 clip. A high bar to shoot for indeed. Most teams would be considered outstanding just to win at a .700 pace.

Crunching more numbers, the 95-96 Bulls won at an .878 pace to compile their 72-10 record. What's that? The Warriors just knocked off Phoenix to improve to 59-6? Do THAT math and one will discover GS has a .907 winning rate so far. So the odds just got a little better. Kind of like getting to the Monte Carlo had I turned left, or Treasure Island had I gone right. But there's still some serious real estate to cover either way before getting to the copper castle or that giant obelisk with the heart attack rides on top. And dammit, I'm tired and it's hot out here.

Several interesting subplots are in play. Both the Warriors and the Spurs remain undefeated at home so far this year. No NBA team has ever gone a full regular season with a perfect home record.

The Warriors have a home-friendly schedule for their remaining games and several of them are against "patsies" they should easily dispatch. Then again, as mentioned above, the only games they have lost this year are to teams that were not a little, but a LOT inferior.

Though the Warriors at home thumped them earlier, the game everybody will be watching is when GS visits San Antonio next Saturday. Will the Spurs keep their perfect home record intact? Maybe. If so, that would mean the Warriors used up one of their allotted 3 losses remaining in their chase of all-time regular season greatness. But if they win that game, it would not only send a "message" to the great but so far runner-up Spurs, but greatly enhance their chances at the record.

Better yet, a few weeks after that particular showdown, the Spurs and Warriors have to play each other twice more -- once in each city.

Here's a long shot -- but possible scenario. Theoretically, three firsts could happen in the NBA this year. Both Golden State and San Antonio could wind up with perfect home regular season records.

Even if San Antonio knocks off GS both times they visit Alamoland, the Warriors could still surpass the 95-96 Bulls. They are allowed 3 more losses. That would mean they have one to spare while beating everybody else down the stretch.

Could it all happen? Probably not, but who knows?

One thing is for sure. This is going to get very interesting as the regular season winds down. Those guys don't have the option of jumping into a cab to get where they want to go. They have to grind it out the old-fashioned way.

Something's gotta give.

Or does it?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Johnny Manziel vs the media

A few facts about Johnny Manziel are indisputable. He was born in Texas, and played both high school and college football there.

He's the only freshman EVER to win the Heisman trophy.

He's now the ripe old age of 23.

He's rich.

And he's out of a job -- at least for the time being.

Many would say it's his own fault, and perhaps they have a reasonable argument. But let's take a look with the proverbial hindsight.

Having already attained almost cult hero status during his prep and college years at Texas A&M, Manziel was one more thing. An arguably good looking red-blooded young American jock that liked to party when he wasn't playing football -- that would soon be a multimillionaire playing quarterback in the NFL. Let's just say he likely didn't have many problems getting dates and could pretty much gain admittance to any party -- anywhere.

Sure enough, the Cleveland Browns made Manziel the 22nd overall NFL draft choice just a couple years ago. Johnny Football signed a 4 year contract for over $8 million, over $7 million of which was guaranteed. He's already collected around 5 -- minus taxes of course -- and even though the Browns recently released him, they're still on the hook for over a million bucks a year for the next two years.

Some claim Johnny Manziel has been a "bust". His stats aren't all that and he can't seem to "keep his nose clean". There's another way of looking at it.

Given he was a first round NFL draft choice, and further given there are only 32 of them in most years, Manziel was in very select company. Put another way, add up every man, woman and child in this country, and roughly one out of every 10 MILLION of them each year gets such a nod. There are 10,000 of the "one-percenters" we hear some politicians railing about for every first round draft pick. Having attained that status, it's difficult to argue Manziel was a "bust". Who are the elite indeed?

And let's remember he was only 21 when thrust into the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, an historically bad team anyway. Peyton Manning was still at the Univ of Tenn and Tom Brady at Michigan at the same age. They eventually had the good fortune to be drafted by competent franchises that were trending up at the time. Not so with Manziel and the Browns. Collectively, they were and remain terrible. Plopping some wide-eyed Texas kid down in Cleveland and expecting him to be a miracle worker was asking the impossible.

Yet the media continues to crucify Manziel over his off-field "discrepancies". And the ever gullible public that long ago became foolishly addicted to "political correctness" also continues to worship at the altar of the talking heads and scribes.

Yeah, I get it. Manziel went to a frat party somewhere along the line. Who cares? Isn't this the same thing most young talented jocks do?

And he was recently allegedly spotted at a club in Hollywood. Again -- who cares? It's the NFL off-season. He's of legal age and, last time I looked, the United States was still pretty much a free country. So what's the big deal? It's not like he shot up a school or tried to plant a bomb on a plane. The dude's 23, got bucks, and is having a good time in his personal life. Yet somehow we are supposed to believe this makes him a bad person. Hey, what could possibly be more "normal"?

Oh wait. He was still in the concussion protocol and was supposed to report to team headquarters to be examined. Again, like a good little droid. Well, guess what? It's nothing that couldn't have waited a few days, or even weeks. It's not like Johnny Football was getting clocked by blitzing linebackers doing a little partying in LA-LA land. In fact, it may well have been therapeutic. Maybe the powers that be should commission some studies on THAT.

Of course, we have heard even more allegations that Manziel had an altercation with his girlfriend -- the dreaded "domestic dispute". Horrors, he might even have pulled her hair, some claim. Well, who knows? I wasn't there, neither were you, and the media is once again trying to connect dots that may or may not even exist.

No charges were filed in the original incident or non, but some Texas police department has re-opened their investigation looking for something -- anything -- to nail him with. Again, who knows? Maybe she pulled HIS hair (or ears), or kicked him in the shins (or nether regions), or tried to scratch his eyes out, all of which could be considered assaultive behavior -- and he was merely trying to defend himself. Or maybe nothing worth pursuing happened at all. Without a video, we don't know and likely never will. But the media hounds never dig trying to find a feel good story, do they? No, it always about whatever dirt, real or fabricated, they can come up with.

And SURPRISE, the Cleveland Browns are closely monitoring this latest "investigation". Now that they've released Johnny Manziel -- while still owing him a couple million bucks -- maybe the cops and hence Czar Goodell and his merry band of inquisitors can come up with something to justify suspending Manziel from the NFL.

On the surface, it would seem preposterous. How can you give a guy time off that doesn't even currently work for your company?

But other hanky-panky could be afoot. If the almighty NFL league office hands down a suspension to Manziel -- even in absentia -- the Browns might -- just MIGHT have cause to void the remainder of his contract terms. Goodbye the 2+ million they still owe Johnny Football. It's chump change for an NFL franchise, but Cleveland has long been a chump operation anyway.

Idle thought: What are the chances somebody in the Browns' front office is behind the Texas cops reopening the case to take another look at the Manziel/girlfriend affair, in the hope that they may find something -- anything -- to charge him with?

Would that be conniving cheap-shot dirty pool? You betcha. But it's an election year. In the whole scheme of things, such a low blow would be business as usual. It's not right -- but it's most certainly real.

Two words. Wotta country.

But again, Manziel's still only 23, full of piss, vinegar, ego, and has a penchant for going out and having a good time when he's not playing football. Of course he has some maturing to do. Just what about all that is so abnormal for someone of his age and talent? Throw a few million bucks into the equation and should this be a great surprise? It's just the proverbial wild oats.

He just might turn out to be a superstar for some NFL team in the future. Given the right team with the right system that can fully utilize his considerable talents, hard telling what he might accomplish.

Or maybe he'll wind up truly being a bust. But the media vultures continuing to prey on his every move (especially off the field) in search of whatever "dirt" they can drag up and sensationalize aren't exactly helpful to his future possible development.

Here's an idea. Give the kid a chance to get a few things out of his system, like most American males are in need of at his age, and let's see what happens.

Is that asking too much?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Calvin Johnson. Plan B?

Calvin "Megatron" Johnson spent nine years toiling for the woeful Detroit Lions and just recently retired from the NFL. But might there have been a better way?

Born Sept. 29, 1985, Johnson is now 30 years old. Had he played in the 2016 season, obviously he would have turned 31 shortly after it began. Not exactly geezerish in the NFL world as a wide receiver, but his best years are likely behind him. There is no doubt Johnson had suffered through a range of injuries in recent years that limited his practice time, but he always seemed to show up on game day and play like a gladiator. And really -- what else mattered in the brutal world of the NFL? Coaches might care about practice, and it's surely important, but only the results of the games themselves truly count.

To his credit, Johnson got out with his body and brain pretty much intact. Plus enough money to provide him, his immediate family, and likely the next few generations of Johnsons a comfortable lifestyle. These are very good things well earned and deserved by a very good man.

But what if.....

Calvin had chosen a different tack? For the sake of hypothetical argument, consider the following scenario:

Much like Barry Sanders, Johnson surely knew he'd never get within Hail Mary distance of a Super Bowl while with the Detroit Lions. To continue playing for them would mean a lot more money and personal stats racked up, but the Promised Land would forever remain out of reach. Plus, Calvin had been dinged up in recent years.

Instead of outright retiring, as in forever, Calvin might have considered asking the Lions to void his contract, and the team likely would have agreed. The mega millions saved could be put to work elsewhere signing quality players. Few would doubt the Lions have many needs.

Then take the whole 2016-2017 season off to let his body fully regenerate and heal while continuing to work out on his own to stay in shape. One more year has clicked by and Calvin would then be 31 going on 32. A small chronological difference, but a full year off could do wonders for his body, psyche, and give him one last shot at glory.

At that point, he could be a total free agent, fully re-charged and raring to go. Somewhere. Anyplace but back to Detroit. Out of the other 31 NFL teams, tell me at least 25 of them wouldn't be interested in his services and I'll tell you I don't believe it. If CJ was willing to accept a more modest contract to play for a team that had a legitimate shot of going on to and winning the Super Bowl, it could be a win-win situation. Johnson could pick whatever team he wished. At that point, it wouldn't be about the money anymore, which he already has scads of, but rather one last shot at a ring.

Think the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, and especially Tom Brady, if he's still around, wouldn't dearly love to have Calvin Johnson to throw to? How about Big Ben in Pittsburgh? CJ could be the difference maker for a few already very good teams getting over the top to capture the Lombardi trophy in February of 2018. Good grief, the Lions had him under contract through 2019 (hence both sides thought he could play at least that long), but Johnson walked away and who could blame him?

Chances are very good Calvin Johnson still has a few more years of "dynamite" wide receiver left in him -- and it seems a pity he, a good team somewhere, and the viewing public will never get to experience them. And it would be great to see such a fine man finally play for a winner.

Alas, like Barry Sanders before him, the Lions and their incompetent losing ways just flat wore him out and he decided to retire. On that note, had Barry played a few more years (and he surely could have) he likely would have set the all-time NFL rushing record bar so high it would NEVER be approached again.

So chalk up a #20 and a #81, both fantastic players, as just two more guys the Lions drafted high, chewed up (physically and emotionally) and eventually spit out on to their huge scrap heap of players that never got a realistic chance of ever knowing what it felt like to at least be a legitimate contender -- let alone a champion.

It really is a shame -- but that pretty much sums up the Lions over the decades.

Shameful indeed.