Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Detroit Tigers. Who are they?

It's tough to figure out the Detroit Tigers. Sometimes they look like world beaters, bombing the ball all over the park. Other times they go meekly, and get bombed themselves.

True, such is the nature of Major League Baseball. On any given day, any team can beat any other team. It's not at all unusual to see a last place team bop a first place team. Sometimes two or three games in a row. It happens all the time.

Strangely, there are instances when an "inferior" team just seems to have a "superior" team's number. There's no good reason to explain such a phenomenon -- it just happens. It must drive the good team, their manager, and fans crazy.

Upsets aren't exactly rare in other sports, but they don't happen with the same frequency as MLB.

The Tigers, and their "lame-duck" manager Brad Ausmus, find themselves in a precarious situation. With almost half the regular season having been played, they continue to hover around .500. Win a few, then lose a few. And .500 isn't going to get it done as far as reaching the post-season.

Few doubt the Tigers have plenty of hitters. When they hit. But these guys can put up 10-12 runs one game, then look totally lost the next game, like they've never seen major league pitching before.

Supposedly, the Tigers had a decent starting pitching staff. But these guys get rocked more often than they should. The weakness was in their bullpen -- but supposedly the Tigers addressed that problem in the off season. It hasn't worked out.

Thing is, while the Tigers struggle to stay above water, other American League teams are starting to gain some "separation". In their own division, the Cleveland Indians have been on an absolute tear. The Tigers have yet to beat the Tribe all season long. And a lot of the games have been blowouts.

It appears unlikely the Tigers are capable of winning their division, so their only hope is for a "wildcard". But the longer they keep plodding along, the longer those odds become. Though the cliche is overused, if the season were to end today the Tigers would be in eighth place out of 15 AL teams -- far out of contention.

Baltimore, Boston and Toronto are faring well in the East. Texas has been on a hot streak in the West, and Houston is playing as well as anybody.

Even within the Central Division, it's likely only a matter of time before the defending champ KC Royals wake up and start making some noise.

The Tigers find themselves playing nip/tuck with teams like the Yankees, White Sox, and Mariners for mediocrity. Did I mention .500 isn't going to get it?

Could the Tigers go on a hot streak and zoom back into contention? Sure. They've got enough horses.

Then again, it could just as easily go the other way. They could fold their way back into the nether regions like they did last year, although it would take a monumental collapse indeed to out-bottom the woeful Minnesota Twins.

It seems like it would be almost better for their fans -- and front office -- if one or the other would happen in the next few weeks or so. And let's get real. Despite their whopping $200 million player payroll, only the hardest core of their followers honestly believe they're an elite team, by any stretch of the imagination. Too many flaws, too many ups and downs, a regular yo-yo that seems to find its equilibrium at mediocre. World Series caliber? Does anybody buy that?

It might be better if they bombed out. At least that way, the manager situation would be resolved. Ausmus would be gone.

But the Tigers have put themselves in a tough situation. They have a few mega long term contracts they're on the hook for paying guaranteed big bucks to guys that aren't producing at that level.

The other teams aren't dumb. Why would any of them want to take some ridiculous contracts off the Tigers' hands for players that haven't been earning them lately?

True, the Tigers have a couple of young players with star potential. But they've also got an aging core of high-priced veterans. For the Tigers to win, they typically have to score a bunch of runs. Most days, their pitching staff is going to give up at least a few. With the on-again off-again nature of the Tigers hitters, it's hard to visualize them getting on a roll for an extended period of time.

Sure, other clubs ahead of them could slump, but likely not all of them.

It's certainly beginning to appear the Tigers are headed for another ho-hum season. All that money obviously hasn't produced a consistent winner.

But you never know. There's a long way to go in the season, and that's why they play the games.

Yet an objective look would suggest the Tigers are mediocre at best.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Cleveland. Cool or not?

No doubt about it. Cleveland is the home of the NBA champions. That's pretty cool. Owner Dan Gilbert is living large these days.

The Quicken Loans PGA tournament is currently going on. Gilbert is the CEO and head bottle washer of that outfit as well.

So how come his company's tourney is being played in Maryland? Don't they have any worthy courses in the Cleveland area? Maybe not so cool.

The Big Easy (no, not a Kardashian), sometimes known as Ernie Els, made an astounding golf shot on Saturday. The South African drilled a nine iron from the fairway into the hole on a par 4 for eagle. True, eagles on the PGA tour aren't exactly as rare as an honest politician. They happen all the time, especially on par 5s. So does the occasional hole-in one. But this particular shot was unique. It landed in the cup on the fly. No bounces or rolling across the green. Just clank, a slam dunk. When's the last time you saw that happen? Ever? Definitely cool, and it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy and finer gentleman.

Some soccer player got red-carded, as in ejected, for too much flatulence on the field? They have rules against farting in futbol? Really? Sure, it's supposed to be a gentlemen's game, sort of, but c'mon. If somebody's all gassed up, it's got to be vented eventually. And what's the harm? These guys are running around on a playing surface larger than a football field -- in open air stadiums. Some official gives a guy the boot because he ripped off a few beauties?

One thing's for sure. This could only happen to a male player. As we all know, females never do such a thing. Just recently have they admitted to actually sweating under extreme circumstances.

Nonetheless, definitely not cool, but laughable.

In just a few weeks, Cleveland will rock again when the Republican national convention comes to town. Some guy named Trump is supposed to be nominated for President amidst much fanfare. This is very cool for some people, but not so cool to others. Let's just say the opinion of the general populace remains hugely divided. There's lovers and haters on both sides, with not a whole lot of objective people in between.

The parade and aftermath to celebrate the Cavaliers' world championship went well in Cleveland. Nary a report of mass civil unrest, as in natives rioting, looting, and setting things on fire for no apparent reason.

Let's hope the same will be said of the convention when it's all over. Cleveland's on a roll. It would be a shame to see them take a huge step backwards by running amok in the streets over a mere nominating process. And the convention will pour countless more needed millions into the local economy when the politicos and high-rollers hit town. Cleveland's cool right now. That would be no time to screw it up.

Even the Cleveland Indians are leading their division in the American League. After faltering against the KC Royals, the Tribe has come back to sweep series' from the White Sox, Tampa Bay, and are currently trashing the Detroit Tigers. A winning streak of 8 in a row. Put another notch in the cool column for Cleveland.

Alas, they don't have an NHL team and not much is expected out of their NFL Browns again this season. But you never know.

How cool would it be if the Browns shocked the world and marched on to the Super Bowl? Impossible, you say? Hah. Nothing's impossible. Two years ago, who would have thought the Cavs had a prayer of being NBA champions? Or some guy named Trump emerging as the Republican Presidential nominee?

If the Donald is as smart as he says he is, there's only one thing for him to do. Name Lebron as his VP running mate. How cool would THAT be? Talk about shocking the political world. Hillary would quiver in fear.

Of course, between Trump and James, there could only be one King if the ticket was to be victorious. That could be problematical. But hey, they'd sort it out. Maybe.

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Bonehead Files. Rio Olympics

Could these upcoming Olympic games possibly get any more screwed up? Let us start counting the ways it already is.

The Zika virus, a mosquito transmitted malady, is giving some athletes pause as to whether they should attend. The medical experts say it can cause birth defects in women who are pregnant. Well OK. Just how many pregnant women compete in Olympics anyway?

Some male athletes are shunning it because their significant others MAY become pregnant in the near future. Here's an idea. Leave them home. Here's a better idea. If they just have to come along, load them up daily with deep woods OFF to keep the skeeters away.

The Russians find themselves in a predicament. One federation determined some of their athletes were doping in contests past, with a little inside help. So what did the international authorities do? Ban all of them. That's not right. Then is was suggested those that underwent, and passed, vigorous pre-Olympic drug screening would be allowed to compete.

But only if they competed as "independents", not under the Russian flag. Yet another federation said Olympic rules only allow athletes to represent a country -- so maybe those that were squeaky clean all along won't be allowed after all. How incredibly Catch 22 bone-headed is that?

Flint, Michigan isn't the only one with a water problem. It seems Rio is awash with liquid pollution. Nothing like row-row-rowing Olympic boats through water chock full of human sewage and other nasty waste products.

Political unrest festers throughout Brazil. Who knows what sort of nonsense and/or mayhem some group might bring to one of the many venues throughout the Olympics?

Rio is already way behind schedule and over budget getting prepared to host an Olympics. The power brokers that picked it to stage such a massive spectacle -- that will be shown world-wide -- knew most of the above was likely to happen years ago.

So here's the question.......  What sort of boneheads are in charge of these things?

And why -- tell me why -- do the Olympics have to be rotated to another country every four years?

It's a colossal waste of money. Billions of dollars are spent building the various required athletic venues and infrastructure that will be used once for a few weeks and then abandoned. Four years later, another city (usually on another continent) will have to do it all over again.

No doubt, politics are involved (aren't they always?). And hosting an Olympics comes with big-time bragging rights for the country that gets the nod.

Thing is, the taxpayers of that country are on the hook to pay for it all. Oftentimes, many of them are dirt poor to start with. The LAST thing they need is their government spending a ton of money they don't have putting on a one-time spectacle.

So here's an idea. The Olympics started in Greece. Put them back there -- permanently. Sure, Greece is broke, but have all the participating countries ante up one time to build a forever Olympic venue. It would be a huge jump start for their economy and we could dispense with all the political wrangling between nations having different philosophies that have long plagued what is supposed to be a pure contest between their best athletes.

Remember how the USA boycotted an Olympics in Moscow a few decades back because the politicians got in the way? The USSR would return the favor just four years later at an Olympiad held in the States. Meanwhile, athletes on both sides that had trained their whole lives to "go for the gold" wound up getting screwed. Through no fault of their own, they were never given the opportunity to compete at the highest level when they were at their peaks. It remains shameful to this day.

And now the boneheads are pressing on with what might very well turn out to be a debacle in Rio on a lot of different levels.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

US men's soccer. Shameful

The ever politically correct talking heads can gloss it over all they want, but the fact remains the US men's national team isn't any good.

Sure, they're probably better than any team in your city and can usually defeat countries who's main claim to fame is putting the banana in "banana republic" or the rum in your daiquiri. But against elite international competition they are exposed as the second class team they are.

Their recently concluded match with Argentina was an embarrassment. Though the final score read only 4-0, it was not indicative of the total domination the Argentines put on the Yanks. At that, in soccer, four-zip is a blowout. That's like an NFL team drubbing another 35-0. Or an NBA team winning by 50. 

Time of possession throughout the game is unknown, but it appeared to be about 99:1 in favor of Argentina. When the Americans had the ball -- it wasn't for long.  Yours truly watched that game and can't remember the USA generating a single shot on goal, let alone coming close to scoring one. This was truly a lop-sided contest indeed. It was like the Harlem Globetrotters toying with the Washington Generals. Knowing they were vastly superior, the Argentines were content to play a conservative game. They ran minute after agonizing minute off the clock and rarely attacked. Had they played more aggressively, it's entirely possible, perhaps probable, they would have scored several more goals. Even in lay-back mode, they narrowly missed some easy chances.

All of which begs a question. In a nation of over 300 million people, why can't US men's soccer compete with other quality national teams from around the world? After all, their lady counterparts have done so, and are arguably the best on the planet.

Here's a theory. The talent pool has been depleted by gifted athletes pursuing other interests.

While many countries, including Argentina, consider futbol the ultimate sport, it is not so in America.

Consider a few rough numbers. Multiply the number of NFL teams by over 50 guys on each roster and there's over 1500 jocks that don't play soccer. 

Do the math on Major League Baseball. Besides the roughly 30 teams in the big leagues at 25 players a pop (750), they all have at least four or five minor league teams. Add it all up and that's a few thousand more deleted from the soccer equation. 

The NBA and it's development league account for at least several hundred more missing in action. True, behemoth football linemen, a lot of pudgy slow guys in baseball, and likely anybody over six feet four probably couldn't maneuver well enough to be effective in high class futbol, but many of the "skilled" players might have made the grade on the pitch had they chose that as their profession. Consider shifty/speedy wide receivers and running backs. Defensive backs. Point guards, etc.

Several truths have become quite evident in recent years. 

Most American male super-jocks choose to take their talents in another direction. 
By and large the American sporting public has always been and remains far more interested in other sports than soccer.
The numbers themselves dictate a promising athlete has a far better chance of catching on with a team in another sports league -- and for more money -- then ever becoming a world class soccer player. 

For those reasons, it's little wonder the US men's national team lags so far behind other countries who's best athletes are devoted to futbol since childhood. They don't have a whole lot of other options.

Conversely,that might also explain why the US ladies team is so good. There is no Major League Baseball available to them. Nor pro football, other than a few rag-tag leagues here and there that pay pennies. True, the WNBA is alive and sort of well, but nobody pays any attention to them until their playoffs start. Sometimes not even then. 

The NHL siphons off countless players every year that might have turned out to be successful at soccer. The fairer sex has never had that option. Hence, it should be no great surprise the US ladies soccer team has so many terrific athletes and is an elite squad. 

The federations, talking heads, and other legions of "trendy" people can blather on all the wish telling Americans that soccer is the "world" game. In many quarters around the globe they're right. Futbol mania rules.

But not in America. Never has and likely never will. Too much other stuff going on. Other pro sports leagues have expanded. Pro soccer leagues continue to fight for survival. 

So hurray for the women being so good, but the men will continue to stink it up against top flight international competition. There's reasons for both. 

It just is what it is...... 

Is Lebron the greatest?

The discussion is raging on again about who's the greatest of all time (GOAT). Lebron James certainly deserves a place in the room.

His soon to be coronation in Cleveland for finally bringing a sports championship to a city that hasn't experienced one in over half a century is a worthy achievement indeed. After winning a couple titles with the Miami Heat, almost mercenary in nature, Lebron Raymone went home on a mission. And he pulled it off. All hail the Cleveland Cavaliers, 2016 NBA champions. Let the parade begin and let's hope the Cav faithful don't burn down what's left of the city in their exuberance.

[Why people celebrating a joyful event sometimes trash their own neighborhoods would seem to be a very good question.]

Uh oh. Time out. What's that? Goldie Hawn was flaunting her 70 year old body on a nude beach? Yikes. What could possibly be next? The Donald and the Hill doing a naked tag team pole dance at a joint fund-raiser? Heaven forbid. Brrr.

Lebron being offered up as the possible GOAT hoopster is a compelling argument. The dude seems to have it all, and can do it all.

At six foot eight and musclebound he presents an imposing physical presence. More importantly, James can not only shoot with the best of them, but ball handle, play tenacious defense, pass, rebound, and take over a game all by himself at times.

Everything Michael Jordan could ever do -- Lebron can do better. Kareem had his sky hook and Magic was flashier on a "showtime team". Bird was a more cerebral player that could pass, rebound, and shoot the lights out as well. Shaq and Wilt were just huge bodies that could push other players around to have their ways -- neither particularly skilled. Bill Russell won a bunch of championships with the Celtics of yesteryear, but one must remember back in those days there was only a handful of NBA teams -- none west of the Mississippi. Kind of like the NHL's "original six" when the late Gordie Howe was racking up so many stats.

Who else might be in the room? Oscar Robertson? He was a wonderfully talented player but does anybody really think he was better all-around than Lebron James? It's not even a close call.

So now that he's reached his crowning achievement by bringing a championship to Cleveland, what might James consider as his next mountain to climb? Keep playing for the Cavs and hope for a repeat, three-peat, etc.? Definitely a possibility. But he's happily married with young kids and has countless millions in the bank on top of all the hardware he's earned playing basketball. It would be hard to top what he and the Cavs pulled off this year, coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to dethrone the Golden State Warriors. If he retired tomorrow, the Hall of Fame would await him when he became eligible, and likely by unanimous ballot.

In Ohio, James is revered as almost god-like. In a way it's ironic. When he left the Cavs years ago to "take his talents to South Beach" in quest of a ring or five, Lebron was considered a traitorous scumbag and Clevelandites burned his image and uniforms in effigy. Fast forward to the present and Buckeye nation has gone from one extreme to the other. Such is the nature of the ignorant masses. They'll love or hate anybody depending on what they've done for them lately. The NBA title certainly swayed a lot of opinions in the other direction.

But what would happen if James decided to get into politics? Would anybody-- Democrat or Republican -- have a chance at winning an election if Lebron James was running for the seat -- even incumbents? Likely not. You think governor John Kasich got bombed in the Presidential primaries? It would pale in comparison to the landslide that would happen if James decided to run for Guv.

At age 31, James isn't old enough yet to qualify as a Presidential candidate. One must be at least 35.

One way or the other, it appears the Donald or the Hillary will be #45. And who knows? Either one could screw it up and be vulnerable to get knocked off in 2020. At that point Lebron Raymone James would have attained the age threshold -- barely.

Hey, he's already called the King. Why not shoot for Prez? If some community organizer out of Chicago could pull off a successful run to the White House, why not a hoops star? Good grief, Americans have elected a crook, an actor, a peanut farmer, a wimp, and an idiot to lead them in recent decades.

President James. It has a nice ring to it. Maybe the Secret Service would call him by the code name of Slam Man, or Dunk Dude -- possibly even the above mentioned GOAT. Enlist Oprah as his running mate for the female vote, and it would be an unstoppable ticket.

One thing for sure. He'd finally get his throne back from ESPN's Scott Van Pelt, who swiped it a few years ago in a TV commercial........

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Shane Lowry. Alas

The Irishman had it. The US Open was there for the taking. All he needed was a little sage advice from his caddie, or somebody he trusted before he teed off for the final round. It could have went something like this ----

[Hey dude. You've got a five shot lead and this course is tough. It's amazing you're at 7 under par, especially including that stupid penalty stroke you were forced to eat yesterday. Golf has some mighty dumb rules, but so be it.

Regardless, you don't need to go any lower. Four or five under is going to win this thing. So don't try to be a hero. Just maintain and play smart, conservative golf. If you can shoot this final round anywhere close to par, the championship will be yours.

Sure, a couple guys will probably make mini-charges, but they're already too far back. So forget trying to bomb 320 yard drives. Use a 3 wood, maybe even a 3 iron, whichever you're more comfortable with off the tee. But keep the shot in the fairway. Going into the ridiculous deep rough will cost you a stroke every time.

How are you supposed to reach the long par 5s in two? Don't even try. Just hit a couple shots maybe 260-280 yards and your third will be a short iron. Chances are you'll get a few birdie opportunities along the way, but it is key to have the ball on the green in regulation. Two putt pars will be just fine. Let the other guys take all the chances trying to be heroes. Most of them will pay for it dearly.

If you find yourself in a bunker, do not under any circumstances try to hit a miracle shot to make up for your prior mistake. Just get it out, safely back into the fairway, and at worst take bogey. You've got a few shots to play with and this is no time to get stupid.

A couple of the par 4s are rather short, even theoretically driveable, but it's fools gold. It takes a perfect shot to drive the ball on the green for an eagle possibility, but these holes are fraught with danger. The slightest miscue could have you hacking away to a double bogey -- or worse. Hey, they're a little over 300 yards. You can hit five iron and wedge for a birdie opportunity, and escape with a par at worst. Keep clicking off pars and you're in great shape.

Here's another tip. These greens are super-fast and have some serious slopes to them. When putting, don't try to ram it in the hole, or your next putt may be longer yet. Do it the Ben Crenshaw way. Try to have every putt die very close to the cup. Maybe it goes in, maybe not. But a tap-in for par is a whole lot better than looking at a 30 footer coming back because you got cocky with a birdie attempt.

Again, just keep it straight, even if short, and be happy if a birdie comes your way. But your mission is to play for no worse than pars.

And one more thing. Forget this is the US Open and the course is so ridiculously tough. It's just another golf tournament and you've played very well so far by being aggressive. Now is the time to dial it back and play boring, conservative golf. Take your pars and be happy.]

Instead, Lowry tried to go out with a bang and wound up self-destructing. The course ate him up rather than vice-versa.

As we know, Dustin Johnson would finally shed his "choke" tag to capture his first major. On Sunday, he didn't do anything spectacular, but carded a respectable 1 under par 69 (which included another stupid penalty stroke because his ball might have moved a thousandth of an inch when he was standing over it). And what kind of sadistic twisted minds came up with such petty draconian rules in the first place?

Lowry could have played it smart, but no. He tried to be a hero and would wind up carding a 6 over par final round of 76.

His once 5 shot lead turned into a 3 stroke deficit by the time the day was done. An eight shot swing in one round of golf is a big deal.

Somebody should have had a serious talk with the 29 year-old Irishman. It was there for the taking, but he blew it.

Dare I say -- Erin go blah?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

A weird sports day

In the US Golf Open, guys named Rory, Phil, and Rickey didn't make the cut. Justin, Dustin, and Bubba are still flailing away. Jason hung on by the narrowest of margins and then made a charge to get back in contention. An Andrew has emerged, but still no sign of Eldrick (alias Tiger). He remains in seclusion rehabbing whatever, not the least being his ego. The latter should come as no surprise. With his game in a shambles for the last couple years, why would he want to have another coming-out party at Oakmont, arguably the longest and toughest golf course in America -- if not the world? That could have got ugly and embarrassing in a hurry. Even the legions of die-hard Tiger faithful would likely have squirmed if their aging hero made another grand entrance -- only to get blown away by the course and competition.

Another former Michigan State jock got arrested. Yawn.

Some heretofore unknown teenager just knocked off the once mighty Roger Federer in the opening round of a tennis tournament somewhere. It was only a matter of time. Serena's turn will come next, and likely soon. Father Time seldom plays favorites in the world of sports and the hot-shot kids keep on coming.

With the deciding Game 7 of the NBA Finals looming between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, the Lebron James hype machine has gone into overdrive. It has become apparent that many, not all, consider the Cavs a sentimental favorite. That argument definitely has merit. After all, the Warriors won a championship just last year, and the Bay area has certainly celebrated many titles in the last few decades. The 49ers, the Giants, the Raiders, even the Oakland A's have been to the top. But never Cleveland all along -- in any sport -- during the same time. For Lebron and the Cavs to bring a title to long beleaguered Cleveland would be special on some level.

Yet they raise another interesting point. Lebron as Finals MVP even if Cleveland loses? To date through the series, LJ leads in points scored, assists, steals, and blocks. Very impressive stuff. Should he turn in another stellar performance in Game 7, only to suffer the agony of defeat again, who says the MVP has to come from the winning team? If his series stats are clearly superior to any other player's -- then why not?

The Detroit Tigers once again turned in a laughable performance. For all the koolaid they peddle in Motown regarding their various pro teams to the fans/suckers that keep buying it -- sometimes it's just downright chuckle worthy. In the latest game against the Kansas City Royals, Tiger manager Brad Ausmus somehow mustered up the infinite wisdom to eventually put a utility infielder, one Andrew Romine, on the mound to pitch. It's no secret the Tigers have a couple decent, not great, starting pitchers, but they're typically only good for 5-6 innings before they're gassed. Enter their bullpen, which has long been a joke. Batting practice pitchers. Watch the baseballs get rocketed all over the park. Romine himself had exactly one pitch in his arsenal. A mid 80's sorta fastball. One would think the Royals would tee off on such cannon fodder.

But here's the thing. KC would put up a whopping 16 runs and 20 hits against the woeful Tiger pitchers. They were probably gassed themselves from running laps on the base paths before Romine finally came in for mop up/mercy duty. Still, for the Tigers to have to resort to such a pitiful tactic speaks volumes about whoever else was still available in their bullpen. This game was on national
TV, turned into an embarrassment, and no doubt the talking heads will rightfully rip them for it. A back-up infielder coming in to pitch because the rest of the bullpen was even worse? Oh my.

What was truly knee-slapping was Brad Ausmus continuing to give all those "secret" signals from the dugout while this was happening. He didn't need to go through all the ear/nose/eye/mouth/wink/spit/grab crotch nonsense from the dugout. A few common sense words upon greeting his latest "relief" pitcher at the mound would have sufficed.

"Hey Romine. Try to throw the ball somewhere in the general direction of the strike zone and let's hope they hit it at somebody so we can get a couple outs and get this damn game over with".

Friday, June 17, 2016

NBA Finals. Game 7

One way or the other, you just knew it was going to come to this. To suggest it was a conspiracy would be quite a reach, but a lot of weird things have happened along the way in the NBA playoffs to get the Cavs and Warriors where they are today. In no particular order, consider the following-----

They were many who thought Golden State could never come back from a 1-3 deficit in the Western Conference finals against OKC -- but they did to prevail and move on. A full seven game series, of course. Cha-ching.

GS feisty forward Draymond Green got slapped with a one game suspension after an incident in Game 4 of the Finals. This, despite CC's Lebron James clearly being the instigator. And no fouls were called at the time by the on-court officials. The league stepped in and, after "further review", decided to zap DG for a flagrant foul that never happened. He would have to sit out Game 5 back in Oakland. Had be rightfully been able to play, it is highly likely GS would have closed out the series in five games. They had just trounced Cleveland in Cleveland and had all the momentum.

But Cleveland would go west and win that game, and then Game 6 back home to force a deciding contest. More major cha-chings.

In the meanwhile, Cleveland's $100 million man Kevin Love seems to have pulled a disappearing act on the court. Once in a funk, other "superstar" Kyrie Irving finally decided to show up and torch the nets. Golden State's long range bombers are either deadly accurate or throw up more bricks than a mason on steroids. Warriors' big man Andrew Bogut went out with a hyper-extended knee on a fluke play. Though not a "star", AB was a valuable cog in the Warrior machine. His presence on the court made a big difference. Especially around the basket on defense and grabbing rebounds on both ends.

Both teams have worthy "role" players (benches). Sometimes they step up and have a big game. Sometimes they look like the subs they are.

Egged on by the media, fans from both cities have gone into taunting mode. Who's the bigger crybaby? Lebron James or Steph Curry? One is a serial flopper while the other can't seem to decide whether a certain piece of rubber is a mouth guard or a pacifier. Let's just say they can both be very waa-waa childish at times. To boot, one is covered with tats, while the other has virgin skin your average nun could be proud of. Hey, wait a second. Isn't this backwards? Lebron plays in Cleveland, which has been virgin-esque regarding sports titles for over half a century. Steph plays in Oakland, home of Hell's Angels. Bikers have tats.

[Idle thought. Not that it will ever happen, but would the Warriors trade Curry even up for James, and vice versa for the Cavs?]

So now it's on to a deciding Game 7. Of course it is. Hundreds of millions of dollars would have gone poof had the series ended back in Game 5. The hordes of talking heads would have been deprived of another week jabbering on 24/7 with their analyses, stats from hell, "expert" opinions/strategies, and worthless predictions. And just imagine how many millions of invaluable tweets and texts would have been curtailed. Not sure about you, but yours truly sits with bated breath waiting for every movie star, rapper, or clueless politician to weigh in with their latest pearls of wisdom regarding NBA hoops. Right. By and large, these folks know big-time basketball like Shaq knows open heart surgery. Would you want that big goof cutting your chest open to do a bypass or valve job? How scary a thought is that? Brrrr.

Yet given the Finals have made it to a -- surprise/cha-ching -- seventh game, another rarity could come into play. As mentioned above, GS coming back from a 1-3 deficit against OKC, after being blown out two games in a row, was a highly unlikely occurrence.

And wouldn't it be something if the Cavaliers were to march back into Oakland in Game 7 to pull off the same feat against the defending champion Warriors? Oh my. The talking heads -- at least those that didn't spontaneously combust with excitement -- would blather on for days, weeks, or at least until the mighty NFL started coming to life again in August.

The pressure cuts both ways. Should the Cavs lose, Lebron James will have a 2-5 record in NBA Finals. He'll catch his fair share of flak.Yet even without Bogut, should the Warriors blow a 3-1 lead and lose Game 7 at home, they'll be taken to the woodshed and thrashed as chokers. A record-setting 73 win regular season? The first unanimous MVP in league history? None of it will matter unless they can finally close the deal.

The good thing is while these two teams are game-planning for each other in what will be the winner-take-all contest, the US Golf Open is going on. This is an equally big deal.

Whoa. Can that be right? Sure, the US Open typically features a course so tough even the best golfers in the world struggle to shoot par, but dang. A 684 yard hole? Sure hope it's not a par 3. There's big hitters, and then there's ridiculous.....  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Soccer hype. It ain't working

Currently a couple soccer tournaments are going on. The 4-letter network(s) are hyping it to the max.

Here's the question. Does anybody in the United States really give a rat's behind? Have they ever when it comes to futbol?

In the "new world" there's something called the Copa America tournament underway. They can call it the Copa Cabana, or Copa Feel, but the vast majority of American sports fans couldn't care less. Do you really think they get enthused over watching games like Columbia playing Venezuela or consider the USA taking on some third world country as must-see TV? Please.

In the "old world", there's something called the Euro tournament going on. Oh gee, what great fun. Americans can hardly wait to tune into a match between Albania and Turkey. Or was that Transylvania taking on the Vatican? At least the latter would present a decent subplot. The legions of Dracula in a good versus evil showdown with the cross bearers. By necessity, that would have to be a night game. Ahem.

Some pretty boy named Chrissie Rinaldo from Portugal scoffed at tiny Iceland celebrating after the teams dueled to a 1-1 draw. But we learned something. Iceland is evidently considered a part of Europe. Who knew?

And what gives with the ties in soccer? Wouldn't that be a little bit like Rachel Maddow planting a big wet sloppy kiss on Anderson Cooper? Besides being hard to watch -- what exactly was accomplished? I say get rid of the ties. Let them keep playing until a winner is decided with another goal. True, it could take hours, even days, and many players might have collapsed or died from exhaustion before another, OMG, goal is scored -- but who cares? It's soccer, the most colossally boring sport of all time anyway. Sometimes they have a "shoot-out" after several hours of yawnish play. Want to make a shoot-out interesting? Let the NRA make the rules and have guns involved. Now that would be infinitely more interesting to watch than guys running back and forth on the pitch accomplishing nothing all day. It would give "sudden death" a whole new meaning to have these guys shooting at each other in overtime. That, or send both teams to the locker rooms while a few land mines are planted on the field. There's too many players in soccer games anyway. They just keep getting in each other's way. Cull the herd with a boom here and there and Americans would sit up and take interest. They love things that go boom, especially when it's happening to somebody else.

Nevertheless, be it the Copa or Euro, most American sports fans would rather watch grainy old black and white videos of contests that were decided long ago. Or Serena Williams sweating. Or Danica Patrick being hopelessly out of contention and/or wrecking another very expensive race car. Or Odell Beckham advising the masses on the perils of being famous, while he does everything possible to draw attention to himself. Or Steven A. Smith and Skip Bayless (Sassy and Wimpy) jabbering on for hours while being more than irritating in their respective ways and saying nothing of substance. Or the late-night hosts the same 4-letter network offers up to recap stories that have already been told a dozen times? Where do they get these egomaniacal buffoons? ANYTHING but soccer.

While it is certainly true much of the world is futbol crazy -- every match seems like a Super Bowl in their eyes -- it is not so in America. Never has been and likely never will be. Too much other stuff is going on. The hypesters can keep trying to sell it, but it ain't working.

Then again, to be fair, America was likely the only country dumb enough to embrace such things as pet rocks, cabbage patch dolls, chiapets, and spend upwards of $300 on a pair of sneakers that supposedly made them jump higher. Or shoot a basketball better. Whatever. Fools come in many varieties, and the smart people will always be there to make big money off them. How else to explain the Detroit Lions -- arguably the saddest-sack franchise in all of professional sports over the last half century -- raising their ticket prices, and the suckers standing in line to purchase them? Amazing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

NBA Finals subplots

It's already been a very strange season, and most of it has to do with the Golden State Warriors. They set the all-time mark for wins. Steph Curry shattered his own record for made 3- pointers, and was unanimously voted the MVP -- the first time that ever happened in the history of the NBA.

After being down 1-3 to the Okla City Thunder, likely few thought the Dubs could storm back and win the series. But they did, and in convincing fashion.

And now the Finals are upon us and after 5 games, the Warriors lead the Cavaliers 3-2, with the series headed back to Cleveland for Game 6. Though both teams have been formidable on their home courts throughout the season and playoffs, they've also both been beaten in their own backyards. Game on indeed.

Yet many subplots have, and are afoot. In no particular order, consider the following......

Lebron James -- long time superstar and media idol -- is being mocked as a crybaby/whiner/punk in many quarters for some of his recent actions on and off the court. Who would have ever believed the King would suffer the ignominy of being scoffed at like a court jester? Especially among many of his brethren around the league? Oh my.

As mentioned in my previous post, Warriors' forward Draymond Green got zapped with a 1 game suspension over a "flagrant" foul that never happened. But the league had been itching to bang DG for past misdeeds and they finally saw their opening to bring the hammer down. Still, it was bogus and likely played no small part in the Warriors losing Game 5 at home to extend the series.

You just know that Lebron James and his Cav teammates will do everything possible trying to goad Draymond Green into another "infraction" in Game 6. Hence, if Cleveland wins, there would be a Game 7 -- without Draymond Green again.

Warrior big man Andrew Bogut suffered a hyper-extended knee and his future availability is unknown.

Sometimes Steph Curry and Klay Thompson -- the Splash Brothers -- go off on scoring binges. Other times they are shut down, or throw up long range bricks.

From game to game. Cav Kyrie Irving can be great as a point guard -- scoring 40 points, dishing out assists, and even grabbing a few rebounds. Or he can flip the other way. Can't throw the ball in the ocean, guard anybody, and become a turnover machine.

The benches (role players) of both teams have been up and down as well. Sometimes they light it up. Other times they stink it up.

Cavalier Kevin Love -- the $100 million man that was supposed to be the Robin for Batman Lebron, -- doesn't seem to be worth a C note under pressure, let alone all those extra zeroes.

The Warriors seem to have some sort of switch they can flip on to kick their team into overdrive when necessary. Nobody doubts they can score points in bunches and play terrific defense. Sometimes.

The Cavaliers appear to be a die-hard bunch. When they get it going, the Cavs can be mighty impressive as well. True, Cleveland had a much easier path to the Finals than Golden State, but that doesn't matter now. It is what it is.

Even the head coaches have similarities -- and differences. Steve Kerr was a teammate of Michael and Scotty back in the day when the Bulls were so dominant. He was a starter and could definitely play.

Tyronn Lu somehow made his way onto the LA Lakers roster back in the late 90's during the glory days of a couple guys name Shaq and Kobe. He got a couple rings, but contributed little on the court.

One seems to know the game as a head coach and makes adjustments accordingly throughout. The other just seems to be along for the ride and appears clueless. Guess who's who?

Maybe it's a good thing the NBA Finals were prolonged, rather than Golden State unceremoniously dispatching Cleveland in five. Lord knows, there's a lot more money to be made. The TV folks will pony up big time. They will be reimbursed by their sponsors -- mostly Asian car companies trying to sell vehicles to Americans. Get an exploding air bag and screw another American auto worker. Such a deal.

And it gives the talking heads another few days to yammer on with their usual stats from hell and other inane commentary.

After all, the Stanley Cup playoffs are over. All hail the Pittsburgh Penguins. Once the NBA is done, the sports pickings get mighty slim. Sure, the US Golf Open starts in a couple days and Wimbledon will be coming up soon in tennis, and there's the weekly roundy-round on the NASCAR circuit, but for the most part sports fans are stuck with the long dog-days of Major League Baseball. About as boring as it gets until September when the mighty NFL kicks off another season.

What's that? The Bachelorette is still dragging on? Not that yours truly would ever watch such nonsense, but will somebody please marry this twit to stop the suffering? Mostly from viewers. Good grief, they'll probably be divorced within a year, so what's the big deal?

Monday, June 13, 2016

The NBA's double standards

Draymond Green and the Golden State Warriors just got a raw deal. He'll be suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals -- and for no good reason.

Due to previous antics (technical foul protocol), Green found himself in the unenviable position of being on his last chance. One more screw-up, and bang, a suspension. But the screw-up never really happened. 

Lebron James had flung him to the floor -- no call -- and then stepped over him, making contact with Green's head in the process. Still no call. Green got up and flung an arm in frustration -- striking nothing but air. It wasn't even an attempted punch, but it just so happened to be in Lebron's direction. After league review much later, the suits of the NBA slapped him with a flagrant foul -- that never occurred in the first place. Bang, he's out for what many thought would be Golden State's close out game to repeat as champions. With Green removed from the line-up, no doubt the odds makers quickly scrambled to adjust their point spreads. And it likely breathed a little life into the Cleveland Cavaliers, who appeared to be seriously on the ropes of elimination.

But the whole charade was/is wrong and blatantly speaks of double standards. They have long been evident in many pro sports, but none more so than NBA basketball. The "stars" can get away with things "average" players cannot. Here's a few examples.......

Michael Jordan often took three, four, even five steps after his last dribble on his way to a dunk. Any other player would get whistled for travelling. But not MJ.

Shaquille O'Neal would routinely knock a stationary defender back a foot, then another foot, then yet another before slamming the ball into the basket. He had committed three obvious offensive fouls -- but no call.

Kobe Bryant could travel, palm the ball, or run over a defender -- but never a whistle. It was always the other guy's fault, even if he was trying to get out of the way. Conversely, just touch or breathe on Kobe, and an opponent would get hit with an imaginary foul.

A quarter of a century ago -- time flies -- Detroit Piston Bill Laimbeer was the poster child of being the victim of such blatant double standards. A white guy that stood 6-11, Laimbeer could be completely stationary with his arms raised as another player bulldozed him on the way to the basket. Guess who got called for the foul? It was outrageous. But Laimbeer was never considered a "dignitary" in the NBA, much less a media darling. So he routinely not only took the physical abuse but got whistled for the foul as well. A double whammy of gross injustice.

In this latest case with Green and James, one is left to wonder if the league -- and by extension, the refs -- might be complicit in some shady dealings.

After all, outside of the Bay area in California, Draymond Green isn't liked much. Meanwhile, Lebron James has long been considered the knight in shining armor by many across the land. One has been painted a villain and the other a hero.

The NBA itself, TV folks, sponsors, and the media would like nothing better than for the Finals to go the full seven games. A ton of future money and sound bytes are at stake. If the Warriors were to close out the Cavaliers in five games, all that would be lost.

And hey, like them or not, on some level it's hard to root against any team from Cleveland. That city hasn't experienced a professional championship -- in any sport -- since Jim Brown was playing for the Cleveland Browns, three years before the first Super Bowl happened. While there's been fifty years of Super Bowls, Cleveland never got to one, nor have their other teams won anything else along the line. It would be nice to see that city finally experience some glory. Maybe.

What better way to tilt the odds a bit in their favor than by suspending a star player for the defending champion Golden State on a bogus call to begin with? Most thought the Dubs would easily dispatch the Cavs in Game 5. Series over, and let the sniping and second guessing begin regarding the personnel of the Cavaliers.

But without Draymond Green, the Cavs actually have a decent shot at winning Game 5 to make the series 3-2, with Game 6 being back in Cleveland. Another win there and, bingo, the super-hyped Game 7 would happen. You can almost hear the major cha-chings that would come with such a scenario.

Yet let there be no mistake. Draymond Green was the victim of a double standard. Clearly, Lebron James was the instigator and major culprit in this instance, but he got to skate while Draymond received the Laimbeer treatment.

It's not right. It's never been right. They all play the same game on the same court, so what seems to be the problem with treating them all equally?

A foul is a foul, no matter who committed the infraction. So call it. And if it didn't happen, like this instance with Draymond Green -- which the refs rightfully didn't call at the time -- then who the hell is the league to step in later and possibly alter the outcome of a championship over something that was bogus to begin with?

Something doesn't smell right about this. When in doubt, follow the money -- then draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Rename Joe Louis Arena Gordie Howe Arena

Perhaps it's a knee-jerk reaction to Mr. Hockey's recent death, or perhaps it's long past time as just the right thing to do. The Detroit Red Wings are in the process of building a sparkling new arena, so why not name it after Gordie Howe?

Let's compare Gordie and Joe. They were eerily similar in some respects, but vastly different in others.

Louis was born in Alabama. Howe was born in Saskatchewan. Obviously neither qualified as Detroit "natives".

After his parents brought him as a child to Detroit during the depression era, Louis bummed around at various jobs trying to make a buck before he got into boxing. Howe bummed around in various junior leagues in Canada before finally catching on with the Red Wings. Both were major talents waiting to happen.

Louis would go on to become, arguably, one of the best fighters of all time. He held the heavyweight title for over 10 years. Howe would go on to become, arguably, one of the best NHL players of all time. Besides his incredible toughness, Howe's scoring records stood for decades until that pesky Wayne Gretzky came along much later to shatter them.

Louis was semi-literate at best and not the sharpest knife in the drawer. His managers ripped him off for most of his career, stealing the lion's share of his earnings. Though a good man, he just didn't know any better. Likewise, despite his greatness, Howe was too dumb to realize how much he suppressed the earnings of other players in the league. Gordie didn't care about the money so he signed contracts on the cheap. When other great players around the league would rightfully want a "raise", management would ask them if they thought they deserved more than what Gordie Howe was making. End of conversation.

Due to his largess -- and foolishness -- with friends and family -- Louis would wind up owing the IRS a pile of money he could never hope to pay back. With the loan-sharkish tactics of that time (90% interest) the infernal revenuers zapped him with, the Brown Bomber was in a heap of financial trouble. Let's not forget, this was during the Jim Crow era and the powers that were had little sympathy for some "minority" boxer they likely never wanted to see rise to greatness in the first place. They hammered him unmercifully. Finally a deal was struck that if an aging Joe would come out of retirement and forfeit all his future purse money to the IRS, they'd cut him a little slack. Today it would seem outrageous, but such were the times and culture back then. Through necessity, Old Joe would wind up getting in the ring with a rising powerhouse named Rocky Marciano -- and promptly beaten to a pulp.

Due to his loyalty -- and naivete -- Howe would continue to play for the Red Wings for well over 20 years -- always underpaid -- which effected others -- as mentioned above. While he had brought the franchise great glory during his career, when they finally deemed him expendable, Howe was given a small office with, evidently, no job.

In desperation, Louis would go on to try his hand at pro wrestling, and then even a referee at such spectacles. Anything for a buck. How far the once mighty had fallen.

Conversely, after the Red Wings gave their best player ever the "bum's rush", Howe would catch on -- with his two sons -- in the fledgling American Hockey League. It would merge with the NHL within a few years. Throughout his 40s, and even after 50, Gordie Howe remained a very productive player at the highest level of hockey.

Sadly, Louis would die just short of his 67th birthday in 1981. He was broke and very much old news in the boxing world. Whether he still had the mental faculties to realize the then brand new Joe Louis Arena for the Red Wings was named after him is a matter of speculation.

Howe would live to be the ripe old age of 88, and remained active in the Detroit area helping out various worthwhile causes all along until just recently when his health would no longer permit it.

Which former athlete gave more to Detroit over his career is not even a close call.

So here's the question(s) ----- Why did the Red Wings name a hockey arena after a boxer in the first place? Joe Louis was fond of golf in his spare time, but he likely never put on a pair of skates in his life. Wouldn't that have been a little bit like naming a new NFL football stadium after a bygone great tennis player? It made no sense then -- or now.

Pizza baron Mike Ilitch owns the Detroit Red Wings and he can name the new arena anything he wants.

With all due respect to the Brown Bomber and what he accomplished in the boxing ring many years ago, it's high time he and the Red Wings come to their senses and give the new facility a more fitting title.

Gordie Howe Arena. No, he didn't live to see it, but it should have borne his name all along.

Here's a little irony. The current Joe Louis Arena has a big statue of a black fist in front of it. Evidently, this was a throwback tribute to Louis' punching power back in the day. But in the end, he wound up getting pummeled. Meanwhile, besides his skill, Gordie Howe was likely the most formidable fighter the NHL has ever seen -- and that takes in a lot of tough guys. So keep the fist, but dye it a more neutral color.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Bieber, Mickelson, Lebron, and Ali

Bieber was slugging it out with a guy twice his size in a nightclub? How stupid is that? I mean, what's next? Hillary pole-dancing at a gay bar? That's a thought worthy of nightmares. Besides, most everybody is at least twice Bieber's size. The skinny little runt needs to chill before somebody clocks him good and proper. If he just HAS to show his alpha male side -- here's an idea.......  Set up a cage match with one of the descendants from the munchkins of Wizard of Oz fame. At least it would be a fair fight.

After beaning a spectator with (another) errant shot, Phil Mickelson had the gall to tell to the victim if his head was a little softer the golf ball might have wound up in the fairway? Really? If I'm the guy that got bopped in the head, this is what I would have said...... take your pick.

1) Yeah, and if you (Phil) didn't always and still have a case of the yips on short putts, your trophy case might be a lot fuller.
2) See this knot on my head, wise guy? How about I put one on yours the old fashioned way?
3) Everybody except you has always known you swinging a driver is as dangerous as a North Korean missile launch. Nobody's knows where the hell it's going, but it's got to land somewhere.
4) You knock me into next week and all I get is a stupid golf glove? Hey, you're a millionaire countless times over. Cut me a check for ten grand to cover my pain and suffering and we'll call it a day. It's chump change to you, but don't add insult to injury by giving me a trivial accessory you got for free in the first place.
5) Given your dorky smile and wimpy swings, you wouldn't happen to have a little brother named Bieber, would you?

Lebron James is certainly a lot of things, not the least being a terrific basketball player. But he recently showed another side. When desperate, he can become dirty. In the recently concluded game, which he and the Cavaliers would lose to the GS Warriors, James found himself in the unenviable position of looking at defeat at home for the first time in the playoffs. And he played dirty cheap shot basketball.

James knew full well GS player Draymond Green is perilously close to a one game suspension due to his own antics in the past. So LJ got physical (and vocal) with DG and tried to taunt him into retaliation. It didn't work. DG wisely walked away. In the closing seconds, when defeat was imminent, LJ did the same thing to Steph Curry. Bump him, shove him, put him on the floor, then get in his face hoping for a reaction. That didn't work either, as SC maintained professional decor. But for all the "nice guy" image Lebron James has built up over the years, it showed he has a dark side as well. It was not only dirty play, but dumb things to do. Blatantly fouling the best free throw shooter in the league when the game is already lost? How stupid was that?

Muhammad Ali has finally been put to rest. Yet one inconsistency has flown under the radar. The former Cassius Clay converted to Islam a half century ago. For eons, it has long been the practice of Muslims and their Semitic Jewish brethren -- yes, they come from the same roots -- to bury their dead as quickly as possible. Typically within 24 hours. It has long been a part of both faiths, and they are certainly entitled to believe what they will regarding the "after life". Apparently, it is paramount to return the body (and soul) to the Almighty without delay.

But it didn't happen that way with Ali. He was kept "on ice" for several days, and then his mortal remains were paraded through his home town for hours. Nineteen miles worth at walking speed so his adoring fans could pay their respects. That's fine, but also a blatant contradiction of the faith he professed to believe in. Are we to believe long held religious practices should grant exemptions because a man was rich, famous, and boxed for a living instead of being a "commoner"? May he rest in peace, but the entire spectacle seemed to smack of hypocrisy in the whole scheme of things.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

NBA Finals yo-yo

Over the years, we've seen everything from lop-sided affairs to nail biters in the NBA Finals series. There have been times one team was clearly superior (see sweep), and others when it dragged out for 7 games and nobody knew for sure who would eventually prevail until the final buzzer had sounded.

But the 2016 Finals have so far been a strange animal indeed. Consider what has happened....

Game 1. The Golden State Warrior win by 15 points -- a comfortable margin of victory.

Game 2. GS blows out the Cleveland Cavaliers by a whopping 33 points to take a 2-0 series lead.

Some were calling for the fat lady to start warming up, because the party would soon be over in Cleveland.

But not so fast. The Cavs would bounce back at home in Game 3 to wallop the Dubs by 30 points. Another blowout. Home court advantage is supposedly important (though as professionals, it shouldn't matter that much), but c'mon. A 63 point swing between the same two teams in consecutive games is astounding.

The series has had some sub-plots afoot. After being concussed in Game 2, sorta, kinda-like, sometimes star Cav player Kevin Love was out for Game 3. Are the Cavs better without him? In the mean time, sorta, kinda-like, once-in-a-while star player Kyrie Irving appeared to emerge from his coma and actually -- you know -- finally play a good game.

Much was made of Lebron this and Lebron that. Could and would he will himself to take things in his own hands and power his team to victory? That was always nonsense, of course. He's a great player, one of the best of all time, but any opposing team can "take away" a single player if they wish to. Sure, by doing so, such a team would expose themselves elsewhere, which not be such a great idea. Nevertheless, Lebron got his 30 points in Game 3. A worthy effort, but hardly off the charts. Hey, it's Lebron. He's supposed to get 30. Just another day.

What has been surprising so far is through the first three games, the highly touted Splash Brothers of Golden State have been held to little more than a ripple. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have yet to "go off" against the Cavaliers. Has the Cleveland defensive scheme been thwarting them or have they just not been knocking down the shots they normally do?

Star power is normally a good thing, but this series has been won in the trenches to date. In the first two games, the Warriors' "bench" players came on strong to throttle the Cavaliers. Depth is a very good thing too. Yet in Game 3, the tables were turned. The "non-stars" of the Cavs were instrumental in their romp to victory. The Cavs have life again, and if they can win Game 4 -- who knows? In a best 2 out of 3 series, they would still have to win a game at Golden State. A formidable task indeed, but it can be done, as the OKC Thunder proved not long ago.

Here's what we can count on for sure. Legions of former players, ex-coaches, analysts, "experts", and other talking heads will jabber on 24-7 not only dissecting what has happened so far, but giving their sage advice and predictions as to what the two teams should do next to counteract each other. Play this guy, or that guy. Go big or go small. Whatever. This is even more nonsense.

The Cavaliers and Warriors played twice during the regular season, and now three times in the NBA Finals. It's still the same two teams with same two rosters and they've watched endless hours of film of each other. There are no surprises left to be pulled out of the proverbial bag.

The same fifteen guys on one side, and the same fifteen guys on the other. Whoever plays best overall -- wins. Pretty simple. We don't need a forensic lab of TV geeks making this overly complicated.

But it still seems strange how wide the margins of victory -- both ways -- have gone so far.

One way or the other, yours truly hopes they hurry up and decide a champion.

Don't they know the US Open is going to start next week?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Kevin Durant. Now what?

Much speculation has swirled as to what the star player for the Okla City Thunder might do next. After all, he's a free agent that is likely to be coveted and courted by many NBA teams.

Does he have a "home-town" loyalty like Lebron James did for Cleveland? If so, it's hard to detect. Durant was born and raised in the Washington DC area, went to high school there, and then played a single season at the Univ of Texas.

Then he was snatched up in the draft (#2 overall) by the then Seattle Supersonics in 2008. The following year that franchise would relocate to OKC. They would make it to the NBA Finals in 2012, only to get hammered in 5 games by Lebron James and Co. during his Miami Heat days.

Though a wonderfully gifted player and, by most all accounts, a truly good man off the court, Kevin Durant has garnered several awards and accolades along the way -- but never won squat. He'll be 28 years old when the 2016-17 season starts. Not on the back side of his bell curve, but hardly the proverbial spring chicken either. Rather, he's right smack dab in his "prime" and facing a crossroads. Which way to go?

Many think he should re-sign with the Thunder for one more year with perhaps a player option for a second. It makes sense. Teammate and fellow star Russell Westbrook is under contract for one more year, and the Thunder were oh-so-close this year to getting back to the Finals. As we know, those pesky Golden State Warriors stormed back from a 3-1 deficit to break the hearts of the Okie faithful. Maybe next year could be the one. And even if not, Durant could rethink his options, in no small manner depending on what Westbrook decides to do.

Or he could bolt outright. No doubt he would command and get a long-term bazillion dollar contract somewhere -- but where would be the best "fit"? Assuming winning an NBA championship or two is still high on his to-do list, now what?

Forget going back home to the Washington Wizards. With or without KD, that team is going nowhere in the near future.

Miami has been mentioned. But their best players, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, are getting long in the tooth. The latter can't even seem to stay healthy.

San Antonio would be an interesting option. Tim Duncan is 40 years old and a shell of what he once was. The Spurs would likely dearly love to have Durant slide into Duncan's place. Plus, head coach Gregg Popovich is widely considered to possess the shrewdest mind in the game. If there's a way -- he'll find it. Sounds great -- right? Maybe. But the Spurs have an age problem as well. Besides Duncan, long-time stalwarts like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are nearing the end as well. True, Kawhi Leonard was quite the "find" and will likely be a sensational player for many years to come. Yet San Antonio has this "dotcom" aura about them. The bubble is going to burst eventually. And it might be soon. Even the most storied franchises can't stay dominant forever in modern times. I give you the LA Lakers as Exhibit A.

Though the sting is likely still there, would Durant consider the Golden State Warriors? More to the point, would they even want him? It seems like a stupid question. Of course they would want him. We're talking Kevin Durant, superstar, dammit. Or so many claim. But would they?

Last time I looked, the Warriors were defending world champions and had just put up the best regular season record of all time this year. They're back in the Finals and so far having their way with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Two games. Two wins -- by a whopping margin of 48 points.

Like all other teams, the Warriors have to do a juggling act to comply with the salary cap. Did you know unanimous MVP Stephen Curry is making less money than both Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala?

Thing is, the Warriors appear to be a happy bunch as a team. The chemistry thing. And why would anyone want to radically change something that is obviously working so well? As they say, if it ain't broke -- don't fix it.

Bringing even a superstar like KD on board could backfire. The Warriors would have to shed at least a couple key cogs in their machine to make salary cap room for him. More so than any other team in recent memory, the ongoing success of the Dubs is a result of all the parts coming together to get the job done. Sure, we know all about the Splash Brothers and the tenaciousness of Draymond Green.

But when those guys have an off-game -- it happens -- the rest of their deep roster has a way of stepping up to keep the motor humming along. It's the epitome of the team concept, and who can doubt their success of late?

Who would they get rid of to make room for Durant? Harrison Barnes, age 24? Shaun Livingstone, age 30? Iguodala at 32? Would Draymond, age 26, have to be sacrificed? Do any combination of that and the Warriors might have added a superstar, but gutted their team chemistry in the process.

If they stay together as is, GS could be championship contenders for the next few years. Dare I say even a mini-dynasty? So tell me again, why would they blow it up to get Kevin Durant? They don't need him any more than a farmer needs a new batch of expensive "miracle" fertilizer when he's turned out bumper crops for the last couple years. Why toy with success?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Novac and Serena

In recent years, we have watched -- arguably -- the best male and female tennis players of all time. Novac Djokovic and Serena Williams. They are, and have been, the #1 players in the world for quite some time. Love them or hate them -- that is beyond dispute. 

But the "best of all time" is quite a mouthful and takes in a lot of history, including other former great players. 

There can be little doubt that modern day tennis players are vastly superior to those of previous eras. As an example, put Rod Laver on his best day during his prime against Djokovic and the Aussie would be lucky to win a single game during a match. Same with Serena and say -- Chris Evert. It's not even a close call. Today's players are faster, stronger, hit harder -- just better -- by a long shot. They also grunt and scream a lot more, but that's a column for another day.

Consider the Serb Djokovic. Is he the best of all time? Statistically, not yet. If one goes by "major" titles, he still has quite a ways to go. ND has 12, having just completed the career "grand slam" by finally winning his first French Open. However, it should be noted he became the first player since the above-mentioned Rod Laver to hold all 4 titles simultaneously. This is very impressive stuff. 

Roger Federer has 17 such major titles to his credit and remains a fearsome force on the court indeed. He could add to his total -- or maybe not. It seems the Serb has had his way with the Swiss in recent times. More ominous is the age factor. Federer will soon turn 35, definitely on the back side of his bell curve, while Djokovic is only 29 and still very much in his prime. Six years is a lifetime in the pro tennis world. If Novac continues at his current blistering pace for just a few more years, there is little to suggest he won't win at least 5 or more majors to equal and surpass Roger's mark. 

But you never know. The same was once said of Tiger Woods chasing Jack Nicklaus. Ten years ago, everybody thought Eldrick would easily blow by the Golden Bear's all-time major mark. Then his personal life exploded and he was beset with leg and back problems. Now 40, and not even ranked in the top 200, nobody knows for sure if Tiger will ever play again, let alone at an elite level. As the months and years click by, his chances of ever recapturing glory are slip-sliding away. Nobody, likely even Woods himself, thinks he has a prayer of catching Jack these days. Dude will be lucky to make a cut if he ever comes back out on tour. The competition is just too brutal these days, and Tiger's aura of invincibility was shattered long ago. The young guns are going to keep coming while Father Time continues to erode at Woods. He had his magical decade -- and now it's over. 

Consider Serena. Is she the best of all time? Like Djokovic, not yet. She's still chasing Steffi Graf and Margaret Court for the most major wins. But she's getting close and remains the best female player on the planet. It's entirely possible, perhaps likely, Williams will win a few more majors, maybe even this year. Yet her window is rapidly closing as well. Nobody knows when a player will "hit the wall" and begin their often swift descent from greatness to mediocrity -- and then gone -- but it happens to all of them if they hang around long enough. 

Serena's elder sister Venus (only a year older) is a case in point. Yes, she's still a very good player -- better than anyone on your block --  but she hit the wall. These days Venus can win a few early tournament matches against much lesser competition, yet few consider her a legitimate threat to even make it into a semi-finals, let alone winning a tournament. It ain't gonna happen. Like Tiger, her time has come and gone. 

The same will happen to Serena. At 35, ala Federer, Father Time is relentlessly tugging at her as well. She just got thrashed in the finals of the French Open by a younger player most of us had never heard of before. To her credit, Serena didn't come up with the lame excuses she has in the past after being defeated. Her knee hurt. Cramps. Indigestion. A mysterious illness. Sunspots. Aliens conspiring against her. It was always something. Anything except giving credit to the woman who had vanquished her fair and square. But the media filled in for her. "Did you see her touch her hamstring after that last point? Poor thing must be in agony". To which I say -- shut up and get real. She got hammered by a superior player on that day. It happens.

And the young guns in tennis aren't going to quit coming either. Serena may or may not go on to become the GOAT, at least statistically, but, like her sister, the fall is coming. It's just a matter of time if she plays long enough.

Yet for now, between Novac and Serena, we are likely seeing the best two tennis players that have ever played the game. Whether or not either or both of them will go on to win the most majors remains to be seen. 

And who knows? Maybe someday in the future another wunderkind will pop up -- male or female -- to dominate their sport as others have in the past. 

Some marks seem unattainable, though. Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak. Did you know that after the streak was finally broken, he immediately went on another 18 game streak? Nobody will ever eclipse Cal Ripken Jr.'s record of playing in consecutive major league baseball games. Too much money these days and nobody hangs around that long. Wilt Chamberlain's 100 point game in the NBA has never been seriously challenged and never will be.

Given free agency and salary caps, no NBA team will ever reel off a decade of dynasty like the Boston Celtics did from the mid 50's to 60's. 

Will any team ever approach the current 108 year (and counting) World Series drought the Chicago Cubs have suffered through? Probably not, because it's likely only a matter of time before some lunatic somewhere pulls the nuclear trigger and the retaliation eventually sends much of the planet back into the stone age. Sports will be the least of the worries of those that manage to survive. 

But hey, the Detroit Lions are working on it. Sixty years down and no hope in sight. They might give the Cubs (assuming they win any year soon) a run for their money yet when it comes to all time futility -- if our descendants are around long enough to watch it.






Monday, June 6, 2016

Pity Cleveland

Just when you thought Cleveland might finally catch a break, it appears their poor beleaguered sports fans are going to get chumped again. The Golden State Warriors are absolutely giving the Cavs the red-headed stepchild woodshed treatment in the NBA Finals.

If the 15 point drubbing in Game 1 was considered an aberration, the 33 point beatdown in Game 2 pretty much separated the men from the boys. True, the Cavs were "in" both games and even led -- briefly. But then came a GS run. Those guys always make a run -- or three. Get up to take a leak or grab a another brew and, by the time you get back, a close game has turned into a 20 point difference -- just that fast. The Warriors are kind of like UConn ladies basketball in recent years. One way or the other, you just know it's going to happen sooner or later.

While Lebron James returned to Cleveland on a mission to finally bring a championship to that town -- there is little to suggest it's going to happen this year. Does anybody seriously think the Cavaliers can beat the Warriors 4 out of the next (possible) 5 games -- especially with two of them being back in GS's home arena -- if it goes that far? Be it the regular season or playoffs, the Cavs have now lost their last 7 games in a row to the Warriors. And most of them weren't even close.

There are some pro sports franchises that have suffered through long droughts. It's been well over a century since the Chicago Cubs won a World Series. But in Chitown they've been able to celebrate other championships over the years. The Bulls won several NBA crowns not that long ago. More recently the Black Hawks have captured Lord Stanley's hockey cup 3 out of the last 6 years. The Detroit Lions? Well, consider them like the Cubs with two notable differences. One has always been lovable and has a shot this year at greatness. The other has long been a joke and -- not a chance -- again. If the Cubbies were to finally win the World Series this year, millions of people across the country would smile and be happy for them. If the Lions were to win the Super Bowl, millions of people across the country would watch TV in amazement/horror as to why the Detroit faithful were trashing their city -- again. Why is it people in Motown celebrate by burning down their own neighborhoods? Seems counter-productive.

Cleveland hasn't tasted a professional sports championship in over 50 years. The Indians were pretty good here and there, but always came up short when it counted most. The Cleveland Barons -- the Lake Erie-ites one-time version of an NHL team -- only lasted three years (1976-78). They remain the only major American professional sports franchise to just disappear. Many others have switched cities and taken on different names, but the Barons just went poof. Only in Cleveland.

Cleveland's last go-round with sports glory happened way back in 1964. You remember those heady times. JFK had recently been assassinated in Dallas, the Beatles were making their American debut on the Ed Sullivan show, and there were exactly four TV stations available to watch.

Some guy named Jim Brown was running wild for the Cleveland Browns, which were owned by Paul Brown. A regular Brown-out. The first Super Bowl wouldn't happen for three more years. The Cleveland Browns would never win one. To add insult to futility, the original Browns wound up moving to Baltimore to become the Ravens -- and they WOULD go on to win Vince Lombardi's trophy.

Since then another "new" Browns team has been created. They haven't won squat either. Hot-shot college QB Johnny Manzeil was supposed to be their savior. How has that worked out? Cleveland still doesn't have an NHL team, and the Indians are plodding along at about .500 in baseball.

Ohioans can boast of many things. They had the fearsome Big Red Machine in the major leagues back in the 70's. John Glenn, the first man to orbit the earth, was a Buckeye. They've put 8 Presidents in the White House over the years. Alas, two of them were assassinated -- Garfield and McKinley -- and another (Taft) was so fat he supposedly got stuck in a bathtub and had to be pried out. How embarrassing. Of course, back then, there were ZERO television stations and nosy reporters covering such a spectacle -- so it could have been a lot worse.

Urban Meyer has enjoyed great success at Ohio State, even winning a national championship. Maybe someday he'll be as famous as his patron saint Oscar. There's wieners, and then there's WIENERS.

Cedar Point, on the shores of Lake Erie, remains an econo-amusement park destination for many. At the bottom of Ohio lies Cincinnati. They have recently made not-so-good headlines with a kid being able to find his way into a gorilla enclosure at the zoo -- and the animal then being slaughtered. Hey, the ape didn't want to be in captivity in the first place. So he's minding his own business, some kid jumps into his already limited space -- and he has to die for it? Something was very wrong with that picture.

Nevertheless, unless the Cleveland Cavaliers make an astonishing comeback, they appear doomed to falling short this year as well. It probably would have been nice to see Lebron and Co. finally exorcise the demons that have plagued the Cleveland sports scene for so many years. And maybe, just maybe, the Cleveland Indians will go on to win the World Series this year. Stranger things have happened, maybe. The Browns? Fuhgetaboutit.

But the Golden State Warriors appear to be too much. Even when their stars have an off-night, others step up to keep pouring it on. Besides their obvious front-line talent, they're deep and have the confidence of champions. Barring a rash of major injuries in the near future, it's hard to imagine the Dubs NOT repeating as NBA champions.

Like them or not, they're just -- that -- good.

Prediction. Cleveland will definitely bring their A game in the next two contests at home. But it won't be enough. They might win one.

In the end -- Golden State in 5.

And yet another year will go by with Cleveland still starving for a championship.

Some things just aren't meant to be......


Sunday, June 5, 2016

The death of Muhammad Ali

I too mourn the passing of Ali, but in a decidedly different way from many others. While "notables" (and the ever-fawning talking heads) go on and on about his "greatness", yours truly considered him anything but.

To me, the death of any person (or even some beloved animals) is a sad thing. But it's going to happen eventually to all of us. Millions are born and die every day around the world. Should one life be considered more or less important than another? In the whole scheme of things, of course not.

But we're human, with all the flaws that go with it, so we value some people much more than others. As an example -- the loss of a loved one, be it family or friend, is much more emotionally devastating than reading about a stranger dying across town. We had no attachment to the latter, so we forget about it in 5 seconds like it never happened. But it did, and somebody somewhere grieves.

Muhammad Ali was such a stranger to me. I never knew the man nor was ever in close proximity to him. In fact, he was an anti-hero in my life. Ali did things my parents rightfully taught me not to as a little boy. Don't brag, but rather be humble when you have success. Respect authority. For the most part, it's there for a good reason. Never EVER taunt or belittle an inferior opponent. Last but not least, if you don't have something worthwhile to say -- shut up. Ali ran roughshod over such gentlemanly behavior, which gave rise to the big-mouths and show-offs that infest professional sports to this day.

His gold medal in the Olympics goes back too far for yours truly to remember. But I vaguely recall the Sonny Liston fight as a young boy. Liston was a bruiser that was supposed to clobber the mouthy kid. In hindsight, Ali had fought a bunch of bums leading up to that fight, and Liston was little more than a bar brawler -- hardly an accomplished boxer.

For that matter, consider Ali's total career record. 56-5. Of those 61 fights, at least 50 of them can be chalked up to getting in the ring with "stiffs". They either weren't ever any good, or far past their prime.

Though much is made of how MA claimed the heavyweight championship three times -- those 5 losses -- and even one win -- are quite telling.

Joe Frazier whupped him. Ken Norton flat out beat him up. Leon Spinks -- LEON SPINKS!! -- would drub him. Sure, MA would avenge those losses, but they were still losses. Leon Spinks? Really?

Then the rumble in the jungle, rope-a-dope thing with George Foreman came about. Ali was flapping his gums again when it was over. But you'll notice that while he always quickly got rematches against opponents that had defeated him -- no such chance was ever given to Foreman.

Later on Larry Holmes would absolutely demolish MA in the ring. Holmes was everything Ali used to be but much better in every way. MA was past his prime, you say? True enough, but it's not like he didn't do the same thing earlier in his career to others. Former champ Floyd Patterson was on his last legs at age 37 back in 1972 -- while MA was in his prime -- but Ali shamelessly took the fight. A couple go-rounds with Jerry Quarry? And who the hell was Rudy Lubbers?

Against top-tier competition, Ali could be considered average. He won a few and he lost a few. Nothing great about it. Never was. Just him telling everybody how great he was, and way too many people buying into it.

So yes, it's sad that he has passed on. But no more so than the guy across town who I didn't know either. In death, one will be paraded across his home town for his adoring masses to give their last respects to -- while the other will quietly be put to rest. Which was actually the better man during his time on earth?

Hard to say. God will sort it out.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The sports crash

Certain times during the year feature a whole lot of sports action going on -- a couch tater's paradise. The NFL playoffs are one example. Two games on both Saturday and Sunday between quality teams? Bring it on.

At that time of year the Godzilla in the room of American sports is building towards a climax. Also, though the NBA and NHL have long begun play, the attention won't shift to them until after the Super Bowl has been played.

Then comes the Daytona 500, always a big deal. Major league baseball teams reporting to spring training? Not such a big deal. (And why do they call it spring training when it's in the middle of winter?)

Then a bit of a crash happens. Nothing exciting going on for a while. Opening days at the ballparks? So what. It's the first game of 162.

In early April the glorious Masters golf tournament comes about. But after the latest green jacket has been awarded, we face another lull. True, NBA and NHL teams are making their final pushes for the playoffs, but nobody cares much about hoops and pucks until the post-season actually begins.

The NFL draft, which is hyped to the max, comes and goes. Every team will say they got exactly the players they wanted and their local media/fans will believe it. Some will turn out to be stars, while others are busts. It's just the way it goes. Watching the NFL draft is a bit like waiting for your number to be called at the Secretary of State to do some business regarding your vehicle(s). Time seems to stand still and there are way too many people in the room speaking in hushed tones. Both are nothing more than sheep reporting to their masters. Did I mention agonizingly slow? When your team or number is eventually called, it's almost a cause for celebration. Thank you Lord for finally delivering me to the promised land. Let's hope it works out.

Come May, tennis and golf tournaments are being played somewhere and NASCAR will feature their weekly roundy-round event. More importantly, the NBA and NHL playoffs have come into full bloom like flower garden early perennials. A joyous time.

Over Memorial Day weekend, the equally glorious Indy 500 ran it's centennial race. A hundred years of the fastest cars, cutting edge technology, and drivers a heart-beat away from not living through it. Yet like the Dayton 500, a whole lot of pre-race hype is generated, but the contest itself only lasts for a few hours. And then it's over for a whole year. Bummer.

It should be noted that the thoroughbred ponies were galloping around in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, etc. When it comes to hype versus substance, the KD is far and away the king. People spend huge amounts of money to come from the world over to witness a spectacle that only lasts about 2 minutes? Really? That doesn't seem like much bang for the entertainment mega-buck. And last time I looked, horses give really lousy post-race press conferences and aren't much into mingling with their fans to sign autographs either. Where's Mr. Ed when you need him?

Currently, both the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals are underway. This is a great time of year. In their infinite wisdom, or perhaps by accident, the leagues have staggered the games the best they can to avoid bumping heads with the other in prime time. Night after night, we can watch one or the other. A good thing that spoils the legions of taters.

Then came Friday. No games. A mini-crash. Why are they giving these guys three days off? Don't they understand thousands of sports junkies will go into withdrawal and curl up in the fetal position sucking their thumbs -- or another brew -- while babbling incoherently due to the lack of action? What are they supposed to watch instead while desperately clicking the remote for a fix? Politicians slamming each other with the hordes of talking heads dissecting and twisting every word to suit their own biases? It's cruel and unusual punishment for tater nation. Pretty sure there's a law against that.

Mercifully, the playoffs get back underway on Saturday. But there will come a time in a couple weeks when they will be over too. Major crash.

Then what's to look forward to? The dog days of baseball? Yawn. Wake me up in September when things get semi-interesting. Even the NFL preseason doesn't start until August. All the claptrap about organized team activities and who looks good in practice matters about as much as the Iowa caucuses or first round matches at the French Open in the whole scheme of things. As in much ado about nothing.

We'll catch a break in a couple weeks when the US Golf Open tees off. All the big guns will be there to slug it out and it should be an exciting four days indeed. But you never know. Didn't some guy we never heard of before named Willett win the Masters?

The point is -- enjoy the NBA/NHL playoffs while they last. Because when they're over, another crash is coming.


Friday, June 3, 2016

More stupid rants

Well kiss my grits. Flo certainly hasn't missed any meals lately. That girl's hips/butt are expanding like her bank account after a bazillion moronic insurance commercials. It would be interesting to see pictures of her mother. You know what they say about how young ladies will eventually turn out.

People were shocked -- SHOCKED!! -- to learn the Lyft driver they were sitting next to was actually Shaquille O'Neal. Please. Shaq trying to go incognito in a car driving people around would be like Godzilla attempting to maintain a low profile while waiting tables in a pant suit. I mean, c'mon. Some things should be obvious. How dumb are the people that don't notice something just might be a little bit out of place?

Another Major League Player just got zapped with a 162 game suspension for his second violation of the dreaded performance enhancing drug policy. Well gee. When a guy's been a lightweight hitter all his life -- then suddenly starts banging out home runs at age 35 -- who would ever guess he might be juiced? Duh.

After years of carefully studying the matter, in their infinite wisdom the Food and Drug Administration has finally decreed sugar should be called sugar. No doubt, this comes as a huge relief to the millions of consumers that have long confused it with salt -- or ketchup -- or tuna fish -- or laundry detergent. One can't be too careful about keeping these things sorted out. Thank God the bureaucrats spend countless millions of our tax dollars on such worthy ventures to benefit mankind.

What's that? A Kardashian has filmed another butt video? Must have used a wide-angle lens. Maybe the K girl should team up with Flo for a future tag-team macro-project. Hey, scientists say the universe is expanding. Good thing. If those two get together, we're going to need the extra room.

The Hill is bashing the Donald and vice versa? This is not news, it's what politicians have always done. I still say put them in the Octagon to sort this out once and for all. Bill it as the Clown and the Crook. Don't know about you, but yours truly would gladly pony up $79.95 to watch such a spectacle on pay-per-view. One way or the other, somebody's gotta win -- right? So why not save us all the lies, smears, robo-calls, yard signs, bumper stickers, and other propaganda for the next few months and get it done with early?

The geniuses at Sports Illustrated have struck again. In a recent issue one feature article described the greatness of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Another touted the Tampa Bay Lightning. Shortly thereafter, both teams were zapped out of their respective playoffs. For whatever reason, another SI scribe penned two lengthy articles about an upcoming soccer tournament. No matter how hard they try to stoke American interest in futbol, it remains doomed to failure. This is because America has so many other sports going on that attract far larger fan interest. Baseball, football, basketball, hockey, auto racing -- even golf and tennis tournaments -- there's always something going on that couch taters would rather watch over soccer. True, soccer is far and away the most popular sport in many other countries, and good for them. But few in America have warmed to the idea to date. Though he might be the best soccer player on the planet, many Yanks likely think of a toy train set that derailed when they hear the name Lionel Messi.

It likely won't be long before SI's football "guru", one Peter King, comes out with his latest predictions on how the NFL season will pan out and who will win the Super Bowl. Thing is, the dude has long been clueless. He's always wrong. As has been written in this space before, PK couldn't pick his nose with a power auger. Yet year after year, scribes and talking heads keep thinking he just came down from the mountain with the latest tablets to be revered by the masses. It's incredible. And also quite dumb that they keep buying into such nonsense as gospel.

On a totally unrelated note, here's a shout out to my young lady friend Ashley. I know you've been going through some tough times lately. But I'll always have your back and help out however and whenever I can. That what friends do.....

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Detroit Tigers. Strange animals

Trying to get a feel for how the Detroit Tigers will stack up this year is a little like trying to predict which way a squirrel will turn next when a dog is chasing it. Win, lose, right, left -- nobody knows -- even the Tigers and squirrels -- until it happens.

Consider the Tigers so far this year.

They started out semi-hot with a 6-2 record.
Then they went cold.
Oops, then came a 5 game winning streak.
Alas, they would lose 11 of the next 12.
Had they turned it around by winning 8 out of the following 9?
Likely not, having dropped 4 of the last 5.

After roughly a third of the season has been played, the Motowners are likely right where they belong. Struggling to stay above .500 and a handful of games back in their own division.

Could the Tigers finally "get it together", play winning baseball for the next few months, and storm into contention? Sure. Good grief, they have one of the highest team payrolls in all of MLB. They're SUPPOSED to produce.

Then again, it could just as easily go the other way. Remember, owner/pizza baron Mike Ilitch shelled out a lot of pepperoni to his players last year and they wound up in the basement of their own division. Did the Beatles have it right way back in the 60s when they claimed "money can't buy you love"? Maybe, but it can usually get one most other things in life. Yet not necessarily pro sports championships. The late George Steinbrenner was often a poster child in that regard with his Yankees.

The Detroit Tigers present a mixed bag -- strange animals to try and sort out.

After his usual slow start, starting pitcher Justin Verlander appears to be rounding into form. Will it last? Unknown.
Once #2 starter Anabel Sanchez has been getting lit up so bad lately he's been demoted to the bullpen.
Acquisition Jordan Zimmerman was steamrolling right along, but has recently shown some chinks in his armor.
Michael Fullmer started off horribly, but seems to have steadied himself. For now.

Once thought to be the long term solution at catcher, James McCann can't seem to stay healthy.
Third baseman Nick Castellanos has finally had a break-out year. So far. Can he keep it up? We'll see.
Shortstop Jose Iglesias and second baseman Ian Kinsler are likely as good as it gets defensively up the middle. While IK is doing well with the bat, JI is once again struggling to hit his weight.
Center fielder Anthony Gose was a flash last year that appears to have turned into a bust this year.
Right fielder J.D. Martinez has blossomed into a super-star waiting to happen.
Aging designated hitter Victor Martinez remains an injury waiting to happen.
After a slow start, former MVP Miguel Cabrera is pounding the ball again.
Free agent Justin Upton has been a whiffing machine.

It's no great secret the Tigers had a sorry bullpen last year. They went out of their way to shore it up in the off-season. Cha-ching. Just one problem. The current staff might be even worse. No lead is safe when these guys take the mound. Opposing hitters often tee off on them like they're batting practice pitchers.

Offensively, the Tigers are decidedly old-school. They rely much more on slugging/homers than manufacturing runs via speed on the base paths. In other words -- as a team, they're slow.

Defensively, they're probably slightly below average across the board. For every sparkling defensive gem, there will be a bone-head or hands of stone moment.

Manager Brad Ausmus is in the final year of his contract. A "lame duck", if you will. It is interesting to note Ausmus had ZERO managerial experience at ANY level in baseball before the Tigers put him in charge of running the club. Given last year's cellar dweller results, the only way BA gets a new contract is if the Tigers do something outstanding this year. Just making the playoffs -- certainly no given -- only to lose -- might not be enough to satisfy the front office. Or the fans. They expect more from the $200 million they're shelling out in one form or another than another season of coming up short, and rightfully so.

So now it's June and the Tigers are still trying to find their identity. Are they really a good team? Not so good and self-overrated? Or just mediocre? In the next 4 months or so a lot can happen and probably will.

The defending World Series champ KC Royals have clawed their way back to the top of the division.
Before the season even started, many pundits predicted the Cleveland Indians to win the American League and go on to the World Series.

One thing's for sure. If the Tigers' .500 yo-yo act continues for the next 100 games, they can kiss another season good-bye.

Thing is, the Tigers are Detroit's best hope in the world of pro sports these days to recapture some sort of glory.
The Red Wings are a second-tier club that is facing the prospect of a major rebuild sooner than later.
The Pistons are nowhere near elite status in the NBA and likely won't be any year soon.
The Lions? Well, they're still the Lions, and their best player just retired in his prime. Need any more be said? The true "ly-uns" are their local sports media that keep peddling the same snake oil to the suckers every year when they know better. Or at least should.

Then again, perhaps Lions fans are the strangest animals of them all.

Whether it was Alfred Einstein, Ben Franklin, Mark Twain, or someone else who first coined the phrase -- "watching the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result" is indeed the definition of insanity.

A grand total of ONE playoff win in the last SIXTY YEARS? But the Honolulu blue and silver koolaiders keep thinking their team might just make it to the Super Bowl any time now?

These people are nuts......