Saturday, December 31, 2016

College football playoffs

You would have thought the semi-finals would at least be, well, semi-competitive games. Wrong.

In the Peach Bowl, Washington started off well enough, scoring an early touchdown, but then they got stoned. No, not THAT kind of stoned, though I believe it IS legal in Washington state these days. Stoned, as in that's it, you ain't gettin no more. So sayeth Alabama.

After that, it was a one-sided affair indeed. The final score of 24-7 doesn't do it justice. The Huskies could play the Tide ten times and they'd lose every one of them, likely all by lopsided scores. Washington clearly didn't belong on the same field as Bama.

Speaking of which....

The Fiesta Bowl was even worse. There was always some debate as to whether Ohio State should have qualified for these playoffs, when they couldn't even make it to their own Big 10 conference championship game. Problem was, the way things worked out, the other "contenders" were even LESS qualified. Somebody had to go, and the Buckeyes were the best of a mediocre litter.

But come game time, the slaughter started early and never let up. Clemson ran roughshod over OSU. Men against boys style. It was embarrassing. 31-0? That goes beyond blowout to flat out humiliating. On the national stage with football fans everywhere tuned in, the once proud Buckeyes got skunked? It was the first time in head coach Urban Meyer's 15 year coaching career (at several schools) that any of his teams had been totally shutout. Urban Meyer's boys looked more like an Oscar Meyer product with the wieners he put out there on the field. Or is Clemson just that good? They sure looked like it against the feeble scarlet and grey.

Sooooo, this means a rematch of last year's championship game between Alabama and Clemson. The red and the orange tee it up again. Nick vs Dabo. A year ago, Bama prevailed to the tune of 45-40, but the game was very much in doubt until the very end. Needless to say, it was quite interesting and thrilling to watch. Two heavyweights slugging it out.

And so it will probably be this time around in Tampa when they go at it again.

All of which means it will beat the bejeebers out of the two lop-sided games we just got done watching, unless one was a Bama or Clemson fan. OSU and UW coaches, players, and fans have to hang their heads in shame. To come all this way only to witness or experience their team thoroughly ground up like cube steak at the hands of vastly superior opponents.


Friday, December 30, 2016

A tale of Jabrill Peppers

College football fans know that Jabrill Peppers plays for the University of Michigan. They also know he's quite the standout athlete and has been since high school. Peppers has garnered many awards along the way and was even a finalist for the Heisman trophy.

But chances are he's played his last down for the Wolverines. Peppers, a junior, has made it known he intends to declare for the NFL draft when the current season is done. And done it is for the Wolverines, just losing 33-32 to Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Not a particularly good note to go out on.

Thing is, JP wasn't sure he wanted to play in the Orange Bowl at all. Projected as a mid first round draft pick, a lot of money was potentially at stake. Had he suffered a major injury playing in a "free" game, it could well affect his financial future -- and not in a positive way.

While at Michigan, JP showed he was a very versatile player on the gridiron. He could seemingly do it all. Safety, cornerback, linebacker, kick and punt returner, occasional plays on offense as a receiver or running back, and even the quarterback in the "wildcat" formation. It is seldom such a gifted athlete comes along and UM was fortunate to have him indeed.

However, despite that versatility, Peppers wasn't known as being outstanding at any one position. That would be a concern for pro scouts and their teams, due to the highly specialized nature of the NFL. If they draft this guy, what position do they put him at and how good will he be there? In that respect, taking JP is a roll of the dice.

But how could he let down his Michigan teammates and fans in the biggest game of the season? A dilemma. In the end, Peppers decided to suit up and play.

And BANG. Out he went with a hamstring injury -- severity unknown. Salt to pour on the wound of the loss. Just like that, his pro stock likely took a nosedive. The pros aren't real big on drafting damaged goods, especially a multi-'tweener like Peppers with no defined position.

In a perfect world, he'll heal up just fine, get drafted high and become an instant millionaire as a star player for some team in the NFL. But that's hardly a given. It could just as easily go the other way.

So did he do the "right" thing by playing in the Orange Bowl? Hindsight says no. But going in, opinion was likely near unanimous that he should play. The Maize and Blue needed him, dammit. And Peppers had never been injury prone before. What were the chances something bad might happen in just one more college game?

Here's wishing him the best, but somewhere out there, when JP's hammy gave way, it no doubt sent a message to a lot of other college players that will someday have to consider the same dilemma he did. To play or not to play with millions potentially on the line.

Or it might just be, in light of the injury, that Peppers will reconsider his professional ambitions and return to Michigan for his senior season. A good move? Depends. The school, team, and fans would surely love it, and JP would likely be in the Heisman mix again.

On the other hand, that's a gauntlet of 12 or 13 more college games to play when something truly bad is always just one play away. You never know what fate could hold and why tempt it --  gratis no less?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out........

Detroit teams

Things aren't looking so good in Detroit these days as far as pro sports go. Consider the teams:

Detroit Tigers

In the American League Central Division the Cleveland Indians are clearly the class of the field. They were oh-so-close to winning the World Series a couple months ago even while short-handed. A couple of their starting pitchers and a star outfielder were out with injuries. They'll be back. In all likelihood, the Tigers won't be equipped to compete for the division crown. That leaves a couple wild card spots regarding the playoffs. Thing is, the competition is pretty severe there as well. In the east, the Yanks, Orioles, Bosox and Blue Jays will all likely be contenders. Out west are the Texas Rangers and those pesky Houston Astros. Even back in the central, Kansas City shouldn't be overlooked. When the big dance starts next October, there's a very good chance the Tigers won't be invited.

Detroit Pistons

Currently the Pistons are wallowing in the basement of their own division. They are not a good team by any stretch of the imagination. Even if they somehow sneak into the playoffs in the rather weak Eastern Conference of the NBA, who are they going to beat? As a lower seed, it's almost a foregone conclusion they'd get blown out in the first round by a much higher one. The Cleveland Cavs are what they are. The Toronto Raptors look formidable as well. And don't look now, but the Boston Celtics are slowly climbing back into contention after blowing everything up and starting over. They ditched older players with ridiculous contracts and amassed draft choices. It takes a while, but look out for these guys in the near future. The Pistons are a young team, but the talent level just isn't that good in the whole scheme of things. Their future is not bright.

Red Wings

Like the Pistons, the Wings glory days are far in the rear view mirror. They too are bottom feeders in the NHL's Eastern Conference -- or close enough. As it stands, they're hopelessly out of the playoff picture and are now staring at a lengthy road trip. What star power they had has aged and they don't appear particularly adept at any of the facets of the game. The Wings' 24 year streak of making the playoffs is in serious jeopardy. And in the NHL, the playoff field is watered down to begin with. Fully half the teams qualify. In other words, one has to be pretty bad NOT to make it. When the Wings start bottoming out, and it appears that day is very near, they could be down for quite some time. Once known as "Hockeytown", it is no more. It's not even a preferred destination. Free agents around the league have been taking less money to play elsewhere. A very bad sign.


Who would have thought that of all the Detroit teams, the usually dreadful Detroit Lions would be their best hope at celebrating something? A Super Bowl victory? Not a chance, but they have a very good shot at making the playoffs. However, it is telling when their fans and media would seem to be content with merely a single playoff victory. After all, it's been over 20 years since the last and ONLY one. Is this what it's come to? Have the expectations sunken that low? A single playoff victory would be scoffed at in several other NFL towns. Think New England, Dallas, Green Bay, Seattle, and even Pittsburgh would be happy with that? Of course not. Anything short of the Vince Lombardi trophy is considered a failure in those towns. The Denver Broncos came up short in the Super Bowl just a couple years ago and their coach was summarily fired. Not good enough. But in Detroit they'll hand out contract extensions to a head coach and his staff if they can just put a mediocre product on the field. It truly is a sorry state of affairs.

All the way around.

And the city itself isn't any better. Crime is still rampant, it's barely emerged from bankruptcy, and who knows when the next corruption scandal will hit? Safe to say, Detroit isn't exactly considered a vacation paradise. Other than their renowned "Fox district" it's pretty much a place to be avoided at all costs, unless one is feeling adventurous -- to say the least.

Later update --- The once highly-touted #6 Michigan Wolverines from nearby Ann Arbor just got dumped by #11 Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Throw in the goofy weather and horrible roads and things aren't getting any better in the mitten state. Oh my.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The lucky Lions

Normally at this time of year, Detroit Lions' football fans have pretty well packed it in. One way or the other, their team will have bumbled their way through most of another season, and playoffs -- PLAYOFFS? -- forget that. It ain't happening. The Lions sordid history has clearly shown if there's a way to screw something up -- they'll find it. Or it will find them.

But this year has been a complete turn around. It's almost like every possible break they could ever ask for -- has come to pass.

The ridiculously easy schedule.
Improbable fourth quarter comebacks on even more improbable plays.
A Minnesota place kicker missing a point after touchdown that turned a sure loss into a gift from heaven win.
The list goes on.

Still, many were likely afraid to get their hopes up, for fear the dreaded "other shoe" was bound to drop eventually. This string of seemingly being blessed couldn't last forever -- could it? C'mon, it's the Lions. You just KNOW something stupid is going to happen to dash their hopes.

The last two games against the NY Giants and Dallas Cowboys have been somewhat telling. The Giants, the only team to beat the Cowboys (twice), convincingly took down the Lions. And the Cowboys just got done putting a beatdown on them. Hey, 42-21, as in three touchdowns worth, is a serious spanking of the woodshed variety.

But their incredible luck appears to be holding. Even with those two defeats, they remain in the thick of the playoff hunt.

A win at home over Green Bay next week would still give them the NFC north division title. After a slow start, and being absolutely hammered by key injuries, the Pack appears to have gotten their act somewhat together. This should be a helluva game in Motown.

Yet even if the Lions lose, to end their regular season on a three loss streak, the football gods have smiled on them by aiding them elsewhere.

The above mentioned Giants, after the quality wins over Dallas and Detroit, confoundedly lost to the lowly Philadelphia Eagles. That helped the Lions playoff picture.

Out west, the Seattle Seahawks, playing in a pitiful division, were locks to win it -- and they will. Yet in the fight for possible home field playoff advantage, they mysteriously, at home no less, went down to the woeful Arizona Cardinals. That also helped the Lions.

The Tampa Bay Bucs, yes, those Bucs, were quietly hanging around the wildcard picture. But they got beat by New Orleans. Okay, not that big of an upset, but still a game TB likely should have won. Another small advantage for the Lions in possible playoff scenarios.

In fact, the only thing still not left on the table for the Lions is a possible first round playoff bye. The loss to Dallas officially nixed that. A win over the Packers would not only give them the division crown, but likely a home playoff date.

Even if they lose that game, they're still not completely out of it. The only way that happens is if the Redskins manage to defeat the NY Giants. The Jersey boys will be heavily favored to win that game.

Yet if Murphy's Law comes swooping down, and every possible bad scenario for the Lions actually occurs, well, let's just say it ain't over yet.

But chances are the Lions will find themselves in the playoffs, one way or the other. Maybe at home, maybe on the road, but at least playing.

Which makes it better than most Lions years. How they will fare if and when they get there remains to be seen. Could they actually -- GASP -- win a playoff game for the first time since Slick Willy was settling into the Oval Office -- for their second of all time? Could happen. A march to the Super Bowl?  Um, theoretically possible, but so is the Donald ditching Melania to shack up with Hillary. Let's just say it's probably not a very good bet.

However, one thing remains etched in stone for the lovable Lions. It was a close call, and the Cleveland Browns almost pulled it off. But finally, mercifully, in week 16, the Brownies managed to win a game. They are now the proud owners of a 1-14 record after slipping by the San Diego Chargers. Cleveland has the dubious honor of travelling to Pittsburgh for a date with the Steelers next week. Make that 1-15.

So the Lions are still the undisputed champions of futility via their 0-16 season in 2008. Their place in NFL history remains secure. Kings of the basement. Even the Browns, and what a gawd-awful mess they are, couldn't sink to that level. A record that could be equaled, not likely, but never surpassed.

It's at least something.

There are those that claim any publicity is good publicity, so an all-time record of any sort must be fantastic, right?

Well then......

Saturday, December 24, 2016

An Ezekiel Elliott Christmas

That was a pretty cool gesture. It seems Dallas Cowboy running back Ezekiel Elliott bought all the offensive linemen brand new SUVs for Christmas. The five starters and evidently three back-ups, for a total of eight.

We're told EE shelled out about $128,000 for these vehicles. To the average person, that would be a hefty sum of money. Not so much for Elliott. He's making about $5 million this year. $128K represents about one fortieth of his yearly pay. So if you were making, say, $40,000 a year, a median wage, that would be like you putting out about a grand.

Thing is, at $40,000, it can be difficult to make ends meet occasionally. A thousand bucks for Christmas presents could put a strain on the budget. But at $5 million, there's plenty left over after shedding 1/40th of it. So it doesn't really equate. Let's just say EE won't have to worry about a ramen noodle diet any time soon.

But looking at the numbers raises another question. Eight SUVs at a total price of $128K works out to -- if my 6th grade Jethro math is correct -- about 16 thousand apiece.

Wait a second. Sixteen grand for a brand new SUV? Did they come with engines and floorboards or are they the Flintstone variety? Seems mighty low.

Still, it's the thought that counts -- right?

And along that line, yours truly wishes you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

But don't ask me to spring for a new car.

Ain't happening.

If you want one of those, get in touch with my boss, sometimes known as the dreaded editor. He's the one making the big bucks, and I have no doubt he'll tell you exactly where to go to get one. Or at least where to go......

Friday, December 23, 2016

Judging the Detroit Lions

Yours truly recently read an article where the scribe, obviously a "homer", said the Detroit Lions should not be judged on their woeful past, but rather on what they might accomplish in the future.

To which I say -- you've got to be kidding me. Obviously, he hasn't been paying attention to how life works in general. A few examples ---

When one is applying for a decent job, one submits a resume listing their education, experience, personal recommendations, etc. In other words, what they have done before and how well they did it.

The ability to borrow money, and at what interest rates, is largely based on one's credit rating. This is generated by agencies that scour your past history and determine whether you have been faithful in paying previous bills.

If one runs afoul of the law, judges typically have a wide range of sentences to choose from. What do they consider as a major mitigating factor?  Your record/rap sheet/priors, if any. A previous model citizen may get a slap on the wrist for the same crime a habitual offender will get the book throw at them. It matters.

Getting accepted into a university often depends on how good one's grades were in high school.

The very essence of how one matures as an adult, if they ever do, can usually be attributed to the lessons and examples, or lack thereof, they learned as children from their parents.

In countless facets of life, it's all about the past.

So why should the Lions be judged any differently?

Since Super Bowls started -- 50 years ago -- the Detroit Lions have done nothing of note. Fifty years ago is a long time. Lyndon Johnson was President. Woodstock hadn't happened yet. The Beatles were still together. Many households didn't even have color TV.

In fact, the Lions futility goes even farther back -- to the late 50s. Eisenhower was in the White House. The ill-fated Ford Edsel was just coming out. I Love Lucy, the Honeymooners, and Leave it to Beaver were churning out new episodes. Sock hops and hula hoops were the rage. Happy Days and their Fonzies existed in real time. A long time ago indeed.

In the interminable interim, Lions fans have seen their team not only fail to get to a single Super Bowl, let alone win it, but have grand total of one -- ONE -- playoff victory to remember. And that was a while back, as well.

Wayne Fontes was the head coach. Barry Sanders was in the early stages of his career and electrifying the crowd at the now defunct Pontiac Silverdome. And the Lions trashed the Dallas Cowboys 38-6. All year long, the team had been cocky, with Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" as their theme song. Yours truly just happened to be at that game and I've never heard anything louder before or since. Joyous times in Honolulu blue and silver land.

Alas, the following week the Lions would travel to Washington and get hammered 41-10 by the Redskins. Fittingly, it was their turn to finally bite the dust.

It was the lone highlight in all those decades of otherwise miserable football. And the Lions haven't done anything noteworthy since. Barry Sanders would finally throw up his hands in frustration and take an early retirement. At the rate he was going, Sanders likely could have set the all-time NFL rushing bar so high nobody would ever approach it again. But it wasn't worth all the losing that came along with it. So he walked. In hindsight, can you blame him?

Currently, quarterback Matthew Stafford is the darling of Lions fans and media. Look at all the gaudy passing statistics he keeps putting up, they crow. And how about all those comeback wins of late?

The reason Stafford racks up so many passing yards is because he throws more passes than anybody else. That's due to the Lions lack of a decent running game. He doesn't have any choice.

Thing is, Stafford's in his 8th season and has yet to win a single playoff game either. So what difference does it make how many yards he throws for if the team can't close the deal in the postseason?

Consequently, the standard of expectations has become quite low in Detroit. If they can just get to the playoffs, it will be considered a successful season. Other franchises would scoff at that. Just getting to the playoffs isn't good enough for the folks in places like New England, Green Bay, or Dallas. Anything less than a Super Bowl victory is considered a failure. Still other teams have been cyclical. They'll rise to greatness, then fall into mediocrity or worse. Up and down they go. The Lions have always remained basically flat-liners where maybe a C+ grade is their ceiling.

In days of yore, this author used to root for the Lions as ardently as any other hard core fan. But no more. When Barry walked, so did I and haven't looked back since. It's going on two decades and what have they accomplished? Still nothing.

So here's my thought on the Lions. Win something. And not just something, but a Super Bowl or two. In fact, be genuine contenders for a generation or so. No, I still won't come back into the fold, because over is over. But it's the least they can do for the sappies that keep hanging in there and cheering them on. Evidently, they have a masochistic streak in them. Gluttons for punishment. But different strokes.

In the meantime, I don't want to hear about how the Lions shouldn't be judged on their gawd-awful past. Like everything else in life, that is EXACTLY how they should be judged.

Speaking of which, if one so believes, how do you think you'll be judged when you stand before the Great White Throne facing the Almighty after you have passed from this mortal world? In how you conducted your life -- which is past -- or how good a person you promise to be in the future if you gain admittance beyond the Pearly Gates?

To say or think otherwise is just plain kool-aid fueled nonsense.

Like believing in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, you'd think they'd learn eventually, but some just never do.......

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Bonehead Files. Richard Sherman

Well now. There's something we don't see every day. Seattle Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman threatened a reporter. Evidently, yon journalist was asking questions that Sherman was uncomfortable with. What? A reporter making a pain in the ass of him/herself? That NEVER happens -- right?

At any rate, RS told the scribe "don't go there", else he'd see to it the reporter's media credentials got yanked regarding coverage of the team.

Bad, repeat BAD idea.

Dissing a reporter, especially publicly, is a bit like pissing off a hornet, member of a motorcycle club, or your average terrorist cell habitue. Rile one up and the whole swarm will come after you. In other words, they don't fight fair.

For a guy who's supposed to be smart, having graduated from Stanford, Sherman now finds himself a not so proud member of the Bonehead Club. A "made man" in the Phi Beta Dummy fraternity. One would think the degree he received in communications would enable him to choose his words a bit better. Guess not.

And speaking of clueless in Seattle, let's add another member to the distinguished order of the ossified.cranial cavities. His coach, one Pete Carroll.

Once upon a time not long ago, Mr. Carroll was the head coach at the University of Southern California. When rampant cheating was discovered on his watch, what did PC do? The most un-pc thing imaginable. Instead of hanging around and taking responsibility for his actions, or lack thereof, he bailed north to Seattle for more millions while leaving USC going up in flames due to various penalties the NCAA rightly hammered them with. Not even a "sorry guys" on his way out of town. Totally classless.

Carroll has always came across like the shady character a father doesn't want to see his daughter date, or you want to buy a used car from.  A fast talking, rapid-fire gum chewing, snake oil salesman. Even his little bitty weasel-like teeth add to the persona.

Further, like a typical bully, Carroll dearly loves to rub it in when his team is getting the upper hand on an opponent.

And now he's done it once again. Recently, at a home game against the LA Rams, his Seahawks were ahead by three touchdowns with under five minutes to play in the game. The contest was essentially over and the Seahawks had an easy victory in the bag. Seattle had the ball and it was fourth down. Punt time -- right? Sure, if it was anybody with a shred of decency. But not PC. He called for a fake punt, and the kicker ran for huge yardage and a first down.

If that wasn't bad enough, Carroll could be seen on the sidelines chortling with glee like it was the greatest thing in the world. Does it get any more low class and sleazier than that?

So for those reasons, this is a twofer post.

Richard and Pete most definitely belong.

Welcome to the Bonehead Club, fellas.

If anybody has earned it, you have.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christian McCaffrey. Pros and cons

Stanford junior running back Christian McCaffrey has decided to skip the Sun Bowl, where his team will square off against North Carolina, to begin his NFL draft preparation. So is this a good thing? A wise and prudent move? Or should he be criticized for it? Opinions vary. Let's look at some of the pros and cons.

The pay thing. Like any college athlete, McCaffrey wouldn't make a dime for participating in a bowl game. His all-around productivity while at Stanford speaks for itself. Few would question he's among the best running backs available to the NFL, having been the runner-up for the Heisman award last year and putting up impressive stats this season as well. So some team will draft him, likely high, and he'll become an instant millionaire as soon as his signature is dry on the contract.

Chance of injury. McCaffrey was dinged up with an "unknown" ailment earlier this season which forced him to miss a game against Notre Dame. In the roll of the dice world of running backs, which absorb so much punishment, one never knows when any given hit could end his football career. Representing his team, and school, in the Sun Bowl exposes him one more time to the unthinkable. Blow out a knee and kiss millions good-bye. While unlikely, it could happen. So why run the risk?

Arguments have been made, and the noise is recently getting louder, that football players, especially stars at major universities, should get paid for their services. After all, the schools make a lot of money off their work, by packing fans into the stadiums, selling their merchandise, etc. It may or may not happen in the future, but this is something that McCaffrey never enjoyed during his time at Stanford. However, that's a debate for another day.

These are all valid reasons why McCaffrey has every right, and probably should do exactly what he plans on doing.

Idle thought: If old Frankie Blue Eyes wanted us to believe "I did it my way", then why did he swipe his signature song from Paul Anka instead of writing his own? Or WAS that his way? Hmmm.

But there's another side as well.

When McCaffrey signed on to his scholarship offer at Stanford, like any other "student-athlete", he reaped rewards as well.

Free tuition, free housing in a dorm, free food, free books, free access to computers to aid him in his studies, free library and labs if necessary, and most of all the free education in whatever field he chose. All told, this is likely hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of freebies that a non-athlete and/or his parents would have to pay out of pocket, or borrow to be paid back later.

While the school was enjoying the cha-chings a player like McCaffrey afforded them, he also reaped the rewards of playing in world class facilities, travelling to many cities on free road trips, being seen on television and otherwise garnering the media attention playing for a school like Stanford. In other words, they benefited from each other. Without the college, who would have ever heard of Christian McCaffrey?

Right or wrong, NFL rules stipulate a player has to be three years removed from high school to be eligible to play in their league. So sans Stanford, or any other school he may have chosen, what options did McCaffrey have if he wanted to play professional football in America? Sit out for three years doing nothing but training and watching game tapes? We all know that wouldn't work. The pros would drop him off their radar faster than a torpedoed canoe. They want to see what a player can do in college against, the best of the best former high school players before they'd even give him a glance at the next level.

Nobody forced a player like McCaffrey to go to college. He chose it, with the scholarship and everything that went along with it. And part of that deal was certainly representing his school in the best way he could.

To bail on them on the eve of a bowl game, the highlight of any season for any football team, with the maximum exposure that comes with it, would seem to be a double-cross. A betrayal when his teammates and coaches needed him the most.

In a perfect world, at least for Stanford, McCaffrey would lead his team to a rousing victory in the Sun Bowl while racking up personal gaudy stats, which would improve his NFL draft status. He could come back to campus one last time and enjoy the adoration that would surely be bestowed upon him. And THEN get ready for the NFL combine and whatever town he landed in after the draft. Further, on some level, wouldn't the brass of a pro team wonder just a little bit about his loyalty in the future, given what he's doing right now?

And doesn't he owe the school at least one last go-round after all it's done for him in the last three years?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It's a tough call, and people on either side of the issue have valid points.

Here's wishing him the best, however it works out.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Detroit Lions. Strikes

Having caught every break imaginable so far this season, the Lions were cruising along towards the playoffs. This is not huge news in several other NFL towns, because they're used to participating in the post season most years. When perennially good teams have a drought, it doesn't last for long.

But the Lions are one of only 4 teams to have never even made it to the Super Bowl, let alone win it. The others are "expansion" teams -- the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the "new" Cleveland Browns. So as one can imagine, the Honolulu blue and silver faithful in Detroit are quite excited these days.

There has been talk of the Lions not just making the playoffs, but even hosting a home game (or two if they got that far). It could even be that the Lions, if they kept winning, might clinch one of the two coveted first round byes in the NFC. Scarce few would have thought that possible at the beginning of the season. Most pundits had them going somewhere around 5-11 or 6-10 for just another one of their ho-hum campaigns. All of these scenarios are still mathematically possible if Detroit wins its last two games and things play out elsewhere around the conference in their favor.

Of course, there is the flip side as well. Any and all of these scenarios can go poof if the Lions collapse to end the season on a three game losing streak while others in the hunt keep rolling. Nothing is etched in stone yet.

The Lions losing at the NY Giants could be considered "strike one". True, the Giants are a good team, and losing to them on the road is nothing to be ashamed of. But that game enabled the Giants to pass the Lions in the conference standings. The bye mentioned above is starting to look mighty iffy.

Next up, the Lions travel to Dallas for a Monday night game. All football eyes will be upon it. At 12-2, the Cowboys are leading the NFC pack by a full two games over the 10-4 Giants. Jerry Jones's boys need only win one of their last two. However, if they lose both and the Giants win out, while they would both still get first round byes at 12-4, the Cowboys might have to play @ NY somewhere down the line, the Giants holding the tie-breaker, having defeated the Cowboys both at home and on the road, for their only two losses so far. It's safe to say, the only road game the Cowboys want to see in the playoffs is the last one -- the Super Bowl just down the road a skosh in Houston.

If they can beat the Lions next Monday, they can lock up home field throughout the playoffs, and their last game @ Philly won't matter. So besides the national glare of Monday night football, da Boys will be highly motivated to defeat the Lions. If they can, they'll have the luxury of resting a lot of their key players for the regular season finale -- giving the bumps and bruises an extra week to heal before the even harder hitting grind of the playoffs start.

However, if the Lions were to lose that game, and they'll certainly be underdogs, it could be considered "strike two". That would put them at 9-6 with one game to play, The bye would have been long gone, and a home playoff game would be in jeopardy, again depending how things elsewhere around the league played out. But they'd still be very much in the hunt for the postseason.

What seemed like "cloud nine" just a couple weeks before, could turn into a house of horrors. Namely, they could miss the playoffs entirely.

It could, and likely will, all boil down to the Lions own regular season finale, a home game against Green Bay. The Pack started out slow this year, but appear to have righted their ship somewhat and are fighting for a playoff spot as well. They're only one game back of the Lions, have defeated them once already this year, and will be taking on Minnesota next week. Oddly, that game will be played on Saturday, Christmas Eve, rather than the usual Sunday. The Packers are home for it, and the Vikings, after a fast start this year, have all but collapsed. All signs point to a Green Bay romp.

The Lions will already know the outcome of that game, of course, when they play on Monday night. But if it just so works out that Detroit loses in Dallas while GB has won at home -- they would be tied atop the NFC north division, with the showdown in Detroit the following week for all the marbles.

It is worth noting that while GB has to travel to Detroit, the Packers will have a full two days more rest and preparation time to get ready for that game than the Lions.

Therefore, it's entirely possible both Detroit and Green Bay will be fighting for not only the division championship, but perhaps even a playoff spot at all. With the Giants as one likely wild card and the Tampa Bay Bucs quietly sneaking into the fray, the worst case scenario for Detroit could be falling out of the playoffs entirely. Everything would have to work out just right, or wrong, but it's a possibility.

What a New Year's day showdown it is likely to be. Aaron Rodgers and the Pack invading Motown with huge ramifications depending on the outcome of the game.

As mentioned at the top, the Lions have caught a ton of breaks this year to even be in the position they are. But if Murphy's Law boinks them on the head over the next couple weeks -- and it IS the Lions, remember -- how far they would have fallen, and how fast. From penthouse to outhouse, once again.

A loss to the Pack in week 17 could quite possibly be -- "strike three". And we all know what umpires yell right after that happens.

Yer out.

But it ain't over yet. As they have long said in Detroit, there is still hope.

Stay tuned........

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The WHAT? bowl

We knew it was coming and it has begun. College bowl season is upon us. This is nothing like the old days when there were only four bowls -- Orange, Rose, Cotton, and Sugar. It seemed a shame that only eight teams got to participate in the post season. The upside, of course, was those games would always feature really good teams slugging it out.

But now it's gone crazy the other way. This season we will be treated, and I use that word loosely, to a whopping 41 bowls. Eighty teams in all (the two that make it to the national championship game will play in two bowls -- semis and final).

Many of these are TV driven, see ESPN, and generate little fan interest. Worse, out of those eighty teams, a full twenty of them don't even have a winning record. When we've got bowl games featuring teams with losing records, there's too damn many bowls.

At any rate, earlier yours truly clicked on the 4-letter network and what did I behold? The Air Force Reserves Celebration Bowl. Dang, who knew the back-up flyboys and girls had a bowl named after them? Evidently, they were supposed to celebrate watching the likes of North Carolina Central take on Grambling in Atlanta.

Wait a second. There's such a school as North Carolina Central? Who knew? Grambling is different, of course. I knew of a Grambling man once. Bob Segar even sang a song about him. Or was that the Allman Brothers?

To be honest, I wouldn't watch such a nothing bowl game on a bet, but just happened to tune in as the game was nearing conclusion. Grambling was ahead 10-3. The NC Central crowd, what little there was of them, grew restless. Then holy Jim Thorpe, NCC broke through for a touchdown. The game was going to be tied up, as soon as they kicked the extra point.

But not so fast. The player that scored the touchdown went into bonehead mode. First he took off his helmet, a no-no until players get back to their sidelines, then danced in front of the sparse NCC rooting section. Another no-no. So naturally, and rightly so, he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Move the ball back 15 yards from where it would usually be spotted for a point after attempt. Now it became not quite so automatic.

And sure enough, it happened. The ball was snapped, spotted, and the kick is ---- blocked. Grambling still led 10-9. After a botched onside kick attempt on the ensuing kickoff by NCC, they retried and Grambling recovered to run out the clock. Game over.

Yet the failed extra point attempt had shown something a bit odd. The holder and the kicker were both white. They appeared to be the only Caucasians on the team. For that matter, in the whole stadium, which was pretty much empty to begin with. See lack of fan interest mentioned above.

So how would you like to be those guys? Their team finally comes back to almost tie the score and they muff the extra point?

Good luck in the locker room, and even better luck when they have to go back to campus. That could get uglier than about half the bowl games we'll be force fed in the next couple weeks.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The Thursday night football solution

Holy cow. Did you see the uniforms the Seattle Seahawks trotted out with to face the LA Rams? Some kind of neonish chartreuse. Do those things glow in the dark? Rave green, you say? More like heave green or, put another way, they look like the color one might expect to find in the bottom of an infant's diaper if one has fed the little tot radioactive cream of mango baby food. Yuck.

But on to Thursday night football.

Fans love the gladiator aspect of NFL contests. Big, fast, macho men running at full speed and crashing into each other. But the side they rarely see is the damage that is inflicted. Sure, we hear about broken bones, torn ligaments, and concussions. Yet there is way more that happens in painful ways fans don't consider.

It could likely fairly be said that every player on every team, with the exception of a kicker here and there gets damaged on game day. Brutish linemen slam into each other on every play. Linebackers and secondary personnel fly around making hits. Running backs, receivers, and quarterbacks absorb hit after hit. This takes its toll. No one escapes unscathed, it's just a matter of degree. As the season wears on, virtually everybody is playing hurt in one way or another.

Enter Thursday night football. After a typical Sunday game, Mondays are for players to take inventory of their body parts. Massages, ice baths, MRIs and the like are common. This is a recovery day. But even the most highly conditioned players don't heal up in a day or two from the bumps and bruises incurred during a game.

True, they make a lot of money and nobody forces them to do it. In fact, the competition itself is brutal just to MAKE it into the NFL, let alone stay there for long. So this is not about sympathy, but rather common sense. Even if we discount the preseason games as "light-hitting" affairs, at least sixteen all out wars remain on the regular season schedule. More, if playoffs are involved. That's a whole lot of punishment to absorb. The typical seven days between games is short enough to recover, only to go out and do it again. But asking them to speed it up and do it in a mere four days, which gives teams scant time to scout and prepare for their next opponent as well, has always been unreasonable.

Now, finally, the NFL is considering a new policy, and it's about time, because the solution has always been right in front of their faces. The league, like some political views and religions, has always been reluctant to change. Why tinker with a good thing -- super popular cash cow -- they likely doth protest?

Not too many years ago, they mercifully incorporated "bye" weeks into the schedule. Somewhere between weeks 4 and 13 all teams would get a week off. Of course they had to stagger this, typically 4 teams per week, so an almost full slate of games could go on elsewhere. Make no mistake. Players love weeks off to rest and recover.

So now the idea is to precede a Thursday night game with a bye week for the teams involved. It's the best of both worlds. Let's say a team played on a Sunday, or even Monday night. Giving them the following week as a bye before a Thursday night game means they would have 10 or 11 days off. Better than seven, and light years preferable to 4.

After the completion of the Thursday night game, they'd get another 10 days off until their next contest on a typical Sunday. That's back to back extra days of R and R for the wounded combatants, and the regular season schedule itself doesn't miss a beat. It's still 16 games spread out over 17 weeks.

Currently, the bye week consists of a full two weeks off. While good for the players, many of these days involved doing little if anything to prepare for the next game. Basically, a waste of time. Many coaches would likely say that it's too MUCH time off. Teams can fall out of their rhythm and who knows what kind of trouble some players might get in given so much idle time to go out and do whatever floats their boat?

It's the optimum solution to alleviate the literal pain of Thursday night games.

So that likely means the NFL, given their stodgy ways, will think about it for a year or two. Maybe they'll adapt it, and maybe not.

But in the meantime, the players that have to play on Thursday nights will continue to be the walking wounded sent back out into full fledged battle.

Yours truly would be the first to admit he's no genius, and can be feeble minded, even hare-brained at times.

But I fail to see any downside to this proposal.

It needs to be implemented ASAP, next season, for everybody's sake. It's been there all along, but nobody saw it.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Detroit Lions. Show time

The Detroit Lions continue to confound the pundits. Few, if any, foresaw them being 9-4 at this point in the season. True, they've had an ultra-soft schedule, and they've certainly caught more than their fair share of breaks along the way. Yet credit where credit is due. Time after time the Lions have rallied from behind in the fourth quarter of games to pull out a win.

Idle thought. Why is it that when one team gets multiple penalties called on it on a given play, only one of them is enforced? For example, say roughing the opposing quarterback and defensive pass interference happen on the same play. The offense gets to choose one, but can't have both. Why not? Take the ball at the spot of the interference call and move it ahead another 15 yards for the roughing. Hey, if you get pulled over for speeding and also happen to be under the influence, don't they charge you with both?

But now it's show time for the Lions. Their remaining three games will separate the proverbial men from the boys. All of their opponents are worthy contenders fighting for playoff spots and positions as well.

First up -- @ the NY Giants. Eli, Odell and Co. are a tough bunch to figure. They can play great one game, and not so hot the next. The Giants are without the services of fearsome D-lineman Jason Pierre Paul, but it's difficult to underestimate them -- particularly at home. After all, they're coming off a win over the high flying Dallas Cowboys. No easy task accomplished. Will they experience a letdown when Detroit visits? Maybe, maybe not. The Lions will have their hands full in New Jersey.

Then they travel to Dallas. As we all know, the Cowboys had rattled off 11 wins in a row after a one point loss to the Giants on opening day, before they fell again to them yesterday. Chances are they'll be fairly motivated to get back on the winning track to lock up a first round playoff bye so they can rest some of their key players. Taking on the Cowboys in Big D will be a formidable task for the Lions. Certainly they'll be underdogs, but the Lions are a strange bunch as well. Always have been. Just when one thinks they should win -- or lose -- any particular game, they'll up and do the opposite. They must drive the oddsmakers crazy.

In the regular season finale, Green Bay comes to Detroit. For much of the season, the Cheeser faithful were not happy campers. The Packers started off slowly, losing to teams they would normally roll over. Yes, they lost the services of sack monster Clay Matthews, their three top cornerbacks, and normally reliable QB Aaron Rodgers was struggling as well. To boot, star receiver Jordy Nelson had gotten banged up. Despite all that, there were even rumblings that long time head coach Mike McCarthy could be on the hot seat if they didn't somehow right their ship fairly quick. Green Bay is a great football town inhabited by the finest of people, but they won't tolerate a loser for very long.  But they appear to have righted their ship indeed.  The Pack have been playing very well of late. The beatdown they gave a very good Seattle Seahawks team is testament to that. Though the Lions and their fans will no doubt be geeked for this contest (depending on what happens in the above two games, and elsewhere around the league -- the Lions could be playing for a home playoff date, going on the road, or -- horrors -- missing out entirely), the Packers have to keep the petal to the metal to even get into the playoffs as a likely wild card. The Detroit game could well be a win it and go on, or lose it and go home affair for them. Factoring in playoff experience, which the Packers have a lot of, but the current Lions very little, betting against them in such a game is a mighty risky proposition. But again, the Lions always seem to do the unexpected. Their entire season to date is Exhibit A.

So how it will all turn out is anybody's guess. That's why they play the games -- right? But one thing for sure. The Lions have given their fans way more of a ride than most of them expected this year.

Could the magic keep going? And for how long?  Or will it all come crashing down on the Honolulu blue and silver between now and New Year's day?

This is crunch time for the Lions in more ways than one. Gone are the patsies they played earlier in the season. The Giants, Cowboys, and Packers are the real deal and they know how to act down the stretch. With two of the three games on the road, it's a rough task for Detroit.

Parting idle thought. Wouldn't it be something if the Lions wound up in a highly improbable march all the way to the Super Bowl? Unlikely, but theoretically possible. Who would be the most frustrated person of all? Likely Calvin Megatron Johnson, recently retired. After all those years he gave blood, sweat and tears in losing causes, while racking up border line Hall of Fame receiving stats, he'd have to shake his head and wonder why he didn't hang around for just one more year.

Nevertheless, on with the show. This is getting good.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Jeff Fisher insanity

Something is horribly wrong with this picture. In their infinite wisdom, the LA Rams have recently given head coach Jeff Fisher a two year contract extension. On top of the year he had remaining on the current one, they'll be saddled with him for a minimum of three more years. Or at least his mega-million dollar salary.

Let's look closer at what Fisher has accomplished as their coach. He's posted a 31-44 record. Earlier today the Rams were slaughtered by the Atlanta Falcons to the tune of 42-14. A four touchdown beatdown.

In the season opener his squad was torched 28-0 by the San Francisco 49ers -- the worst team not named Cleveland in the entire league, though it's close.

At 4-9 this year, the Rams have already been mathematically eliminated from any playoff possibilities. And no help appears to be in sight any year soon.

And now a word from our sponsors.

Gee, what a deal. Buy this auto for the low low price of only 25 grand and be the toast of your neighborhood. Of course that number doesn't include title, taxes, those pesky excise fees, options, and other goodies. So what do you get, or more importantly, not get?  A frame, a body, and a motor would seem like basics. Here's hoping they throw in seats, a steering wheel, head/tail lights, and brakes. Or are those considered options?

Over his 22 year career in the NFL, Fisher's teams have made it to the playoffs a grand total of just six times. And don't look now, but he's rapidly closing in on the all-time career loss record as a head coach. Just a handful shy. He'll most certainly blow by that dubious mark sometime next year.

With a track record like that and his current team plunging headlong into the dumpster, one would think the LAST thing a franchise owner would do is give him a guaranteed job extension. It's insanity. In any other job, except maybe congressperson -- ahem -- such ineptitude would have resulted in the employee being broomed long ago. What, in the name of St. Doofus, is going on here?

Yet here's wishing the best to the pro football fans in the LA area. They finally got a team back in town to root for. Unfortunately, they haven't been any good in several years, appear to be getting much worse, and are skippered by the soon to be losingest coach in NFL history. Plus, the ownership thinks so highly of Fisher as to shower him with even more millions and future job security.

Madness, we know, but the folks in LA-LA land have likely long become accustomed to no-talent wackos in their midst. They not only accept, but embrace them as some sort of royalty, worshiping their every word and action. We could offer the K girls and their clan as Exhibit A.

Now they have Jeff Fisher and the woeful LA Rams thrust upon them. It seems positively brutal, though they ought to dovetail nicely with those referred to in the previous paragraph. And sorry, too late to send them back to St. Louis.

And hey, what's a little more insanity in a place that continues to set the standard for it?

But a contract extension for Fisher? How low can they go?

That's just nuts.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Vonn Miller and Mad Dog

By all accounts, well, at least this one, that was a pretty cool thing to do. It seems Denver Bronco defensive lineman supreme Vonn Miller sent a bottle of wine to every player in the AFC West. Bubbly all around and Merry pre-Christmas boys.

Now yours truly would be the first to admit he knows absolutely nothing about wine. Never touch the stuff. In fact, the very smell of it makes my stomach a bit queasy. Methinks that all goes back to something incredibly stupid I and a few of my equally dumb buddies did many moons ago. It was New Year's eve. For whatever reason we decided to go out drinking. Memory fails me, but we must have found an adult to buy us booze, because we were all underage (19 or 20). Other than the communion variety, I had never tasted wine before in my life. But somehow I wound up with a big bottle of Mad Dog. Then we jumped into my mom's car (she knew nothing of our intent) and proceeded to drive around town swigging away. All this was quite illegal, of course, though we did have a designated driver who wouldn't be drinking.

To this day, decades later, I don't know where we went, though I vaguely remember being inside a pizza joint and throwing up on the floor. Let's just say I was trashed. Evidently, so were all my friends. When I woke up in the car the next morning, in the driveway of my parents house, damn near frozen to death, signs of sickness were everywhere. All over the front of my clothes, and my friends had done me the not so great courtesy of upchucking in the vehicle as well. What a god-awful smelly mess and there was no hiding it. Needless to say, mom and dad were so proud of me. That little stunt cost me a lot of grief and atonement, and rightfully so. At any rate, Mad Dog and any other sort of wine has definitely turned me off ever since. Even seeing other adults partake these days brings the memory back. Lesson learned the hard way and no thanks -- ever again. Though, vicious hangover notwithstanding, I was made to scrub that car all the next day, that poor little Chevy Nova was never the same either.

But back to Miller and his vino largess. The entire AFC West takes in the Oakland Raiders, KC Chiefs, San Diego Chargers, and his own Broncos. If we assume this was a "players only" type of gesture, that's still a whole lot of guys. Including practice squads, there's 53 per team. Do the math and that comes out to well over 200 players. We can probably also safety assume Miller was getting them something a little higher grade than Mad Dog.

Again, I know nothing of such things, but I'd take a wild guess and say one can get a pretty decent bottle of wine for maybe 100 bucks. Multiplied out, that comes to a tab of roughly 20 grand. Plus postage, of course.

Idle thought. How does one go about mailing 200+ bottles of wine? At that, did he send a bulk package to each team's headquarters or individuals to their home addresses? Either way, that shipping and handling thing had to be a killer.

Granted, most of us lowlifes, aka sports fans, couldn't afford to mail out 200 bottles of cheap beer -- if we even knew that many people -- let alone fine wine. OMG, that's over 8 cases. Even if you could catch it on sale at your local grocery or party store, who's got those kind of bucks to throw around?

But such a tab likely poses little problem for Vonn Miller. After all, he's making $19 million this year. Even after taxes, it stands to reason he'll take home at least 12 or 13 of that. A mere 20 grand is chump change in his world, like you or I dropping a couple bucks in a Salvation Army pot somewhere in ours.

Still, it's the thought that counts -- right? And sending a bottle of vino to every player on the opposing teams in his division shows class.

Here's hoping the story ends there and everybody lives, and partakes, happily ever after.

But if we hear in the future about a couple hundred NFL players stumbling stupidly about town, vomiting in pizzerias and inside their own rides, then we'll know the otherwise good Mr. Miller has done the unthinkable.

No, tell me he wouldn't. Over 200 bottles of Mad Dog could possibly be in the mail as we speak, seeking out to destroy their targets as once befell yours truly?

Perish the thought.

And God help them when their moms find out.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Woe is Washington

Most would likely agree that Washington DC is chock full of rather slimy individuals. They consist of pathological liars, frauds, cheats, and those that enact laws that are binding on citizens -- but not themselves, all the while richly lining their pockets at the expense of taxpayers. We sometimes refer to them as politicians.

And the sports scene in the nation's capital leaves a lot to be desired as well. Consider the teams.

In Major League Baseball, they offer up the Nationals. Once upon a time, they couldn't even spell their own name right on their jerseys, which said "Natinals". How embarrassing. The Nats would tell us they have an array of stars but, in the end, they never seem to win anything. Steven Strasburg was the best thing since wireless remotes, but his pitching arm is evidently as fragile as an egg. Bryce Harper is touted as a sort of super-star. He batted .243 last year. When's the last time a Washington team even made it to the World Series, let alone winning it? Come playoff time, they have a recent history of making a quick exit.

Speaking of which, consider the Capitals of the NHL. They too have been regular season wonders, racking up the points, but choke like chihuahuas on chicken bones in the playoffs.

The football team hasn't been any good in decades. Nor are they this year. They've received more attention for their name, Redskins, than they do for what they've accomplished on the field. This is perceived by many to be a slight on Native Americans and they have clamored for them to change it. However, the owner, one Daniel Snyder, has remained steadfast in his refusal to do so. The bottom line is -- it's his team, having paid handsomely for it -- and he can call them whatever he damn well wants to. There's two ways of looking at it. The Washington franchise was among the charter members of the NFL way back in the Great Depression era and they've always been the Redskins. So what's the big deal about changing their name now? Conversely, nobody, absolutely nobody ever got screwed worse in America than the Indians. Can we call them that? If not, folks in Cleveland better get busy changing the name of their baseball team. At least the slaves were finally set free. Native Americans were banished to reservations, where they still reside. This author suspects said Native Americans have way bigger life issues to be concerned with than the name of a football team. For now, at least the politically correct noise has mercifully died down. But it will be back when those prone to protest such things tire of other causes to scream about. Alas.

Their NBA representative, the Wizards, went through a somewhat similar controversy not long ago. Heaven forbid a team should be called the Bullets. Better to name them after sorcerers that can supposedly cast evil spells than anything remotely connected to a firearm. There's too much violence in America already, it is said. Naming a team after a projectile will only encourage more of it. It's OK to invade foreign countries on false pretenses, killing countless thousands, but a name like Bullets is taboo? That's some kind of twisted logic, but we've already mentioned politicians above. The collective Wiz supposedly have a super-star themselves -- one John Wall. At a home game, he just went off for fifty -- count em -- FIFTY points against the Orlando Magic. His team lost by 8. How bad are the rest of these guys if a non-contender like the Magic can outscore his teammates by a combined 58 points -- at home?

It is curious also that Americans have built monuments in Washington DC to honor a few past Presidents. These were supposedly great men, but were they really?

Abraham Lincoln has one such monument. Some consider him the greatest Prez of them all. His Emancipation Proclamation is deemed an historic document indeed. But closer inspection perhaps shows otherwise. The EP freed all the slaves in the South. People tend to forget many northern states had slaves as well, which were not expressly covered in the document. They remained bound for some time. So basically, Lincoln mandated a change to a bloc of states (Confederacy) that had seceded and were no longer even part of the United States (Union). Ordering others what to do while not abiding by the same rules oneself is the height of hypocrisy. Further, some historians have suggested Lincoln was of a bisexual nature. They claim to have evidence that while Mary Todd was away or otherwise occupied, Lincoln would rendezvous with male suitors. Perhaps Abe wasn't so honest after all. In modern times, attitudes regarding such matters have drastically changed from what they were in the mid 1800s. Society is light years more tolerant and accepting of various sexual preferences. Yet if true, can you imagine the fate that would have befallen Lincoln, let alone his legacy, if even a whiff of such behavior came to light back in those days?

George Washington, the "founder" of our country, is honored by a sort of giant phallus. Yikes.

Thomas Jefferson, a Virginia rancher, is widely credited with writing the Declaration of Independence. He has a monument as well. Yet Jefferson was a slave owner himself. While he advocated that some "truths are self-evident", namely all men are created equal, it appears TJ considered some more equal than others. Worse, it has since come to light Jefferson not only had a little hanky-panky going on with at least one slave woman, Sally Hemings, but fathered several children with her. Were there others? Unknown, but we're talking slaves here. Given access to such a "harem", it's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that Jefferson more fully used it. Most men of power would. About two centuries later, a likeness of Thomas Jefferson would be used on the American two dollar bill. When's the last time you saw one of those? Probably about the last time Washington DC had a sports team that did anything notable.

It's sadly comical that while DC has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, it is not only rife with crime, but the National Rifle Association maintains a huge presence there having their way with the above politicians that make the laws of the land. See lobbyists, ergo money quietly changing hands.

Add to all this a bombastic multi-billionaire named Trump is coming to town to run the whole shooting match, no pun intended. This could be a great thing, or a total disaster. Time will tell.

Yessirree, that's some kind of town.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Detroit Lions, playoffs, and the NFC

It certainly appears as if the long forlorn Detroit Lions will make the playoffs this year. Barring a complete collapse down the stretch, and even if that happened, they should make it into the postseason. Is it because the Lions are playing outstanding ball? Not really. They've been fortunate on a number of fronts, not the least being having many breaks go their way and a rather easy schedule, but more importantly, the NFC as a whole. Consider the competition ---

NFC East
At 8-4, the NY Giants record is deceiving. They're a slightly better than average team, but at times Eli doesn't seem to know whether he's coming or going, Odell is a wonderfully gifted if childish, tantrum prone wide receiver, and the defense surely ain't what it used to be. Grade B-

The Redskins putting the franchise tag on otherwise mediocre quarterback Kirk Cousins speaks volumes that they don't have star power anywhere else. Grade C

In Philly they started off hot. But a new coach, which means a new system and coordinators, combined with a rookie quarterback in Wentz was bound to catch up with them. It has. Grade D

The South
Like the Eagles, Atlanta jumped out of the gate. But we all know the Falcons have long been prone to late season swoons and early exits from the playoffs. It's happening again. Grade C
Sean Payton may be the highest paid coach in the league, and Drew Brees a future shoo-in for the Hall of Fame. Yet the New Orleans Saints have been trending downwards since the heady days of Bountygate. Things will only get worse. Grade C-
The Tampa Bay Bucs are capable of playing well on occasion. They're also capable of stinking it up. Does anybody seriously consider these guys to be contenders? Please. Grade C-
Cam and the Carolina Panthers have taken a nosedive since the Super Bowl beatdown they suffered 10 months ago. From penthouse to outhouse in a hurry. Grade D-

The West.
Not long ago, the Arizona Cardinals were considered as an elite team. No more. Coach Bruce Ariens' mind-numbing game mismanagement and otherwise sub-par performances from many of their players have brought them back down on the express elevator. Grade D
The recently re-transplanted LA Rams are trying to find their way in la-la-land. It appears their GPS system has totally winked out. These guys are not good. Grade D
And speaking of terrible, the San Fran 49ers epitomize it. Since Jim Harbaugh left, the Bay Boys make Pepe LePew smell like $500 an ounce perfume. Grade Z.

The North.
The Minnesota Vikings got it done with smoke and mirrors for a while, but like Philly, it was a train wreck waiting to happen. With QB Teddy Bridgewater going down, then superstud running back Adrian Petersen, combined with a mishmash ineffective offensive line and no better than average defense, it was only a matter of time as well before they headed south. It has come to pass. Grade C-.
Something strange happened in Green Bay and it isn't good for the cheeseheads. The Packers have become decidedly mediocre at best. True, they've had their share of injuries and seen key players bail to free agency, but the standard of excellence in Packerland is sorely being tested. Grade C
What can you say about Chicago? It's another year of Da Bears. Not pretty. Grade D-

You will note a few teams have been omitted from the above. In no particular order, consider---

The Seattle Seahawks. After a sluggish start, they appear to be rounding into the fearsome bunch we have all come to love -- or hate. At any rate, these guys are the real deal, have the been there done that factor on their resume, and will be a tough out in the postseason. Who needs Marshawn Lynch when Thomas Rawls can step in and be as good, if not better? Combine that with the rest of their cast of characters, on both sides of the ball, and another trip to the Super Bowl is definitely a possibility. Grade A-
Down in Big D, after losing their opener, the Cowboys have ripped off 11 wins in row. Color Tony Romo gone. Dak Prescott has future star written all over him. Remember when they lost the league's leading running back, Demarco Murray to free agency not long ago? Enter rookie Buckeye Ezekiel Elliot to more than fill the void. With their usual mammoth and efficient offensive line, weapons like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten to throw to, and a pretty stout defense, it appears the one-time so-called America's team is back. Oh yeah, throw in one of the best placekickers in the league, Dan Bailey, to boot, no pun intended. At 11-1, they've all but sewn up home field advantage in the playoffs. Beating them in Jerry Jones's palace will be a formidable task. Grade A

That leaves the Detroit Lions. At 8-4, they've certainly exceeded the expectations of just about everybody. Most of the pundits figured them to be a 5-11, maybe 6-10 team in early predictions.

So how has it come to pass that they sit atop the NFC North with such a lofty record? To watch them in any given game, they don't project an aura of greatness by a long shot. It's almost as if they mundanely plod away but somehow wind up winning in the end. As mentioned at the top, they've caught their share of breaks. (For those who would claim a team makes its own breaks -- yours truly would offer the Vikings' place kicker, Blair Walsh, missing a point after touchdown, which ultimately resulted in a Detroit overtime victory, instead of an almost certain loss. That's just luck).

Further, if things hold true to form, the Lions will get a playoff game at home. In that contest, they would likely face either a wild card winner from a watered down field, or perhaps another division champ with a lesser record. They could win that and advance.

But somewhere along the line, likely either Seattle or Dallas will stand in the way of the Super Bowl. Depending how the last four games play out, Detroit could actually host the Seahawks. If the Lions stay on a roll and the Seahawks stumble, they could be at Ford Field again. How the Lions would respond under such huge playoff pressure remains to be seen. After all, it's not like they have a wealth of experience in such contests. A meager one playoff win total since Super Bowls started 50 years ago speaks for itself. Yet perhaps it would be doable.

It's also unlikely anybody's going to waltz into Big D and knock off the Cowboys. But that's not impossible either. Stranger things have been known to happen in the postseason, not to mention whatever injuries could arise in the next month as well.

What will be truly interesting is when the Lions go to Dallas for a Monday night game on Dec. 26, the day after Santa has headed back to the North Pole. The whole country will be paying attention to that one, and it could well be a preview of a playoff match-up to come in late January.

Could the Lions actually pull off such a Herculean task and defeat the Cowboys in their own back yard? The final springboard to a -- gasp -- Super Bowl appearance?

Holy cow. Wouldn't that be something?

But hey. Nothing's impossible, right? Witness the recent Presidential election. Who saw THAT coming? And how 'bout dem Cubbies? 108 years in the making.

If the Lions go from a predicted 5-11 team all the way to the Super Bowl, one thing is for sure.

From coast to coast, people will be putting their right hand over their heart, their left arm extended and flailing, and all the while screaming in a Fred Sanford moment---

I'm coming Elizabeth!!!.

The big one indeed.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Bonehead Files. Tiger Woods - again

Sound the trumpets, gild the primrose path with rose petals, and keep 70 virgins on standby. His Highness Eldrick Tont Woods, sometimes known as Tiger, is making his triumphant return to grace us with his royal presence again.

Well then. What manner of lunacy is afoot THIS time?  Wasn't the Presidential campaign enough to satisfy the idiots for a while?

It appears not. They're back to root for their hero, boneheads such as they are.

Granted, from roughly 1998 to 2008 Tiger Woods put up arguably the most dominant decade of any athlete in any sport (though a case could be made for the likes of George Herman (Babe) Ruth from the mid 20s to mid 30s and certainly sprinter Usain Bolt of late, among others).

At that time, Woods was seemingly winning everything in sight. Tournament after tournament, breaking records, and few doubted he would pass Jack Nicklaus's all-time major mark. It wasn't if, but when.

Then the wheels fell off and he was exposed for what he had been all along, the latter likely heavily contributing to the former. Because while Eldrick had been tearing up the golf courses and enjoying the hero worship that came with it from certain quarters, he was, at heart, far from an upstanding young man.

His serial infidelity with his wife finally blew up in his face, and the public to date likely knows of only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. While he was Mr. Congeniality in front of the cameras, it became known that Woods and his then caddie Steve Williams were tyrants on the course regarding the paying galleries that had shown up to see him in good faith.

"Out of the way, peasants. Can't you see royalty is coming through? And don't you talk, much less try to take pictures. Just bow and scrape like the worthless peons you are."

Yet his groupies, egged on by the media blitz, kept coming back for more. And quite the blitz it was. During any given tournament, and even those in which Woods wasn't competing, the replays of his "highlights" ran in a continuous loop. There was no such thing as Tiger over-saturation. See Tiger smile. See Tiger putt. See Tiger eat a banana. See Tiger curse. See Tiger pump his fist. See Tiger pound a club. All of this was force fed to the viewers while other worthy to see action was going on all around him. And the public, bless their gullible souls -- ate it up. The TV folks could hardly be faulted. Hey, if they determine ratings will be higher by airing such nonsense as opposed to the sporting event itself -- that's exactly what they're going to do. They prey on the boneheads. How else to explain so many commercials featuring various wonder-products that would normally cost a consumer $200-300 -- right -- but every one of these things is now $19.95?  Call now while supplies last, boneheads.

But it is what it is and Eldrick is back again at something called the Hero World Challenge. Well, of course he would choose a tournament with a name like that. Hello?

Even back in his heyday, yours truly smelled something fishy about this guy, so no, I never became one of his legions of fans. The politically correcters, boneheads that THEY are, would and do accuse me of being a "hater". I guess because I refused to fall in lock-step with their vision of Woods, yours truly became a target of THEIR hate. It really is boneheaded logic if one thinks about it. Just because I chose or choose not to root for a person, while smelling a rat, means I must hate him/her. This author is probably one of few in the world that doesn't care much for coffee either. Because my taste buds preferences differ from most, does that make me a beanophobe on some level? See how ridiculous that sounds? Worse yet, if I'd rather watch an Indy car event than one of NASCAR, which is true, in the truest sense of the word have I now become a, gasp, racist? Argh.

Thing is, like a lot of sports junkies, I watch ESPN for the recaps to catch up on many events. It was noted that Woods was hacking his way around at the Hero tourney during his first round. To nobody's surprise, the TV folks were all over it. See Tiger hit one into the sand. Then again, and again. See him chip up a hill to a green, only to watch it roll back. Oops, there goes one in the drink. He must have hit some pretty good shots in between to salvage a one over par 73. Still, that left him a whopping 9 strokes back after a single round while the other guys were carving up a fairly easy course under ideal weather conditions. What WAS surprising is instead of seeing the Tiger highlight reels we've become accustomed to in the past, this time it was like a blooper show.

To his credit, Eldrick would come back (where have we heard that phrase before?) to post an impressive 6 under par 65 in the second round. Only 6 shots behind.

It used to be that the weekends belonged to Tiger. Even when trailing, Saturday was "moving day" to zoom up the leaderboard, and Sunday was time to break out the red shirt and black pants to polish it off. Not so in recent years.

Though he's been sidelined with various injuries, real or excuses for lack of a competitive game, even when he was "healthy" his record was far from admirable, much less worthy of the lofty position so many want to return him to. Ten missed cuts. A few quits when things were going even worse.

And these days, at age 40, with the wreckage still very close in his rear view mirror, does anyone really think he can storm back to recapture the glory of days past? At last look, Woods was ranked somewhere around #198 in the world. Not even on the radar screen of competitive golf at its highest levels. The young studs have blown by him like he once did to the generation before him. And those guys are going to keep on coming. They no longer fear Tiger, but view him as a washed up has-been that can't come close to challenging them.

Idle thought. In the second round of the current tourney, Brit Justin Rose, paired up with Woods, withdrew. Did he really have a bad back, or did he just not want to put up with the media circus, and Tiger himself for the day? Hmmm.

Here's wishing Eldrick Tont well in whatever the future holds for him. Many have said that Woods was good for golf, making it more popular. Perhaps. But there are us that got turned off to the game BECAUSE of him and only jumped back in when other stars emerged while His Highness was out taking a powder somewhere.

Yet to those that still hang on to the notion that their hero will once again assume his rightful throne and rally back at this stage of his career to win a bunch of tournaments and finally eclipse Jack's major record, I can but humbly offer only one word.