Friday, June 23, 2017

A sorry state of affairs

They may have once been "sleepless in Seattle", but they're no longer "sweepless". The Mariners just broomed the swooning Detroit Tigers in a 4 game set.

After a semi-decent start to the season, the Tigers now find themselves in last place of the entire American League, and seem to be on a mission to see how low they can go.

When they pitch OK, the Tigers can't hit, and vice-versa. Witness Michael Fullmer throwing a beauty of a game at San Diego, only to lose 1-0. Justin Verlander, once considered an "ace", remains mired at a mediocre 4-4, over 60 games into the season. When JV pitches well, count on the bull-pen to come and pitch batting practice to the opponents in the latter innings. It must drive him crazy.

Color manager Brad Ausmus, a "lame duck" on the final year of his contract -- good-bye. It's not his fault the team has been performing so poorly in most every phase of the game, but he'll take the fall.

I never did much care for Danny Kanell. True, he was quite the jock in college and even made it to the NFL as a starting quarterback for the NY Giants. In other words, he beat out thousands of others to progress that far, so credit where credit is due. But at the highest level, the Peter Principle finally kicked in and Danny didn't last long. A mediocre player at best.

Fast forward a few years and lo, there's Danny as a talking head on ESPN. He had replaced Scott Van Pelt as a partner of Ryen Russillo on the afternoon talk/radio show that was/is still show on TV. Evidently, SVP got his own show. though being bumped to the wee hours of the morning when only drunks staggering home after closing time, and insomniacs are watching didn't seem like much of a promotion.

Nonetheless, Danny was plugged into his place. And oh man, could he yuk it up. A regular Mr. Chucklehead. Thing is, DK always came across as thinking he was the smartest person in the room, and certainly far intellectually superior to any knuckleheads out there in TV or radio land that happened to be tuned in. And then his role was expanded. Danny walked from set to set on ESPN giving his "expert" commentary on a variety of blab-a-geek-a-thons as the afternoon progressed.

Until the axe fell. Kanell got canned from ESPN in their latest purge. Does anybody really miss his smug, holier-than-thou presence? Not me. Good riddance. For that matter, it seems astounding that Ryen Russillo, who has continued with a whozit co-host of the day format, continues to be on the air. For THREE freaking hours every day. The ultimate bore-a-thon. I've tried to watch it, repeatedly, but it doesn't take long to start sounding like the proverbial fingernails scraping on a blackboard. RR has an uppity nature of his own, and loves poking fun at many others while not realizing he's a colossal bore -- or is that boor? --  himself. On and on he'll blather -- about nothing remotely newsworthy. Three hours? Give us a break ESPN. Surely you can do better than that. You lay off a 100 people considered dead-weight, but the viewing/listening public is still stuck with inane gas-bags like Michelle Beadle, Rachel Nichols, Marcellus Wiley, Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman, LJ Granderson, and whatever duh ex-jocks they can lure onto their programs for even more idiot-speak? A sorry state of affairs in Bristol indeed.

Speaking of gas-bags, for a minute there yours truly thought he had witnessed an actual miracle. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated had kept an article to only 5 pages. Glory hallelujah, There was hope, Alas, it was short-lived. Immediately following that article in the latest issue was another one, by the same VV -- Verbose Verducci. Alas, another 5 pages. He may be a fine writer, and SI has never spared any praise exalting his journalistic talents, but the man seems to be unable write anything without going on WAY too long. Anything that starts out with Tom Verducci as the author is a guaranteed 3-4 sit-downer on the throne to finally slog through. I wonder if he's any sort of relation to James Michener or a descendant of Leo Tolstoy? Now THOSE guys could ramble on.

Can that be right? Louisville head coach Rick Pitino got suspended for five games because it was discovered he was complicit in providing an escort service -- see hookers -- to members of the hoop team? Well now. How stupid is that?

To bang Pitino, who has long raked in millions of dollars every year, for five games, is a bit like grounding a delinquent teenager for 5 minutes. Do you really think either serves as a deterrent in the future? They scoff at such a notion, and well they should. It's a joke to them. If you want to get a teenager's attention, take away his smart phone and make him/her sit in their room with no TV for a week or so. Go to school, come home and have dinner, then go sit, alone, with no entertainment. They'll be begging for leniency after a couple days.

If you want to get a major college coach's attention -- fine him 10% of his salary for every game missed (in this case Pitino would forfeit 50% of this year's salary), and make him spend that time with the Amish learning how truly humble people get along in life. After a week or two of that, Pitino would see the light indeed, and likely not re-offend. And there's way worse things than learning how to build a barn or pilot a horse-drawn carriage to get from place to place, including cleaning up the "droppings" enroute. Oh yeah, Tricky Ricky might just straighten right up and fly right, as they say. If he is so incorrigible and arrogant enough to be a repeat offender, give him a full year of the same -- no pay -- while wearing a GPS tether to make sure of his whereabouts at all times. Just the thought of the possibility hanging over his head would be enough to ensure model citizen behavior, which any coach making that sort of obscene money should have been exhibiting all along.

I fail to see the problem with such potential punishments. It's supposed to be hard, not laughable.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

More idle thoughts

Alas, my dear friend Mel, long known as the Chrome Cowboy (see post of Sept.19, 2011 on this page -- stage right)  has passed away in Florida. A more kind-hearted, generous, finer man and better "bro" never existed, at least in my world. I shall miss you, your wisdom, and infectious laugh terribly. The times we had...... what a hoot. RIP, my friend. You were the best.

So some window joint is advertising every second one is free. Dang, what a deal. Yet it makes one wonder --- you just know they're still turning a tidy profit -- how ridiculous was the standard mark-up before this "super-duper" special? Can you spell g-o-u-g-e?

Paul George of the Indianapolis Pacers has let it be known he will be leaving the team -- after next season. Well that's pretty stupid. Now he'll go through a whole year at Indy being known as a "traitor" that has spurned the team and their fans. Good luck with that. Why not wait until his contract was officially up before flapping his gums? Duh.

You know your team is really bad, or the reporter has WAY too much time on his/her hands, when a feature story appears in print about the head coach's adopted dog. No, not a leader dog. Stan VanGundy of the Detroit Pistons isn't legally blind -- though opinions have varied on his ability to judge talent -- but if this is the best they can come up with in Motown regarding their pro hoopsters, oh yeah, they gotta be fairly awful. Talk about going to the dogs.....

After getting torched by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, rumors abound that Lebron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers may be leaving his "home" team (again) and heading west. Maybe to the Lakers or Clippers. This would definitely upset the applecart in the eastern division. Cleveland without Lebron becomes quite ordinary.

But there would be hell to pay from a public relations standpoint. Remember when he left Cleveland originally to "take his talents to South Beach", the Lake Erie-ites burned his uniforms and regarded him in no higher regard than your average turncoat hooligan.

Then he was hailed as a hero when he returned home to bring the Cavs their first NBA title ever.

Imagine the reaction if he were to ditch them again. Oh my, how ugly would that get? Hey, either he has a sense of loyalty to Cleveland -- or he doesn't. He's already got three NBA championship rings and, lord knows, more money than he'll ever be able to spend. For him to leave Cleveland again would prove him to be nothing more than a title-chasing charlatan, with no loyalties whatsoever. And he would absolutely deserve all the abuse that would be piled upon him. Good man, faithful husband, and devoted father aside, this would be a bad, repeat, BAD move. One would think he's smart enough to realize that. He made his bed, to great fanfare, a few years back. Now he can lie in it or risk the wrath of the masses -- including many in the media.

Oh man, Tiger Woods is back in rehab -- eh? This time apparently for opioid addiction. Sadly, it happens a lot to people that have undergone multiple surgeries and become dependent on pain killers in the aftermath. In a recent article on the back page of Sports Illustrated, former Kentucky and NBA player Rex Chapman made an astounding point. The United States represents roughly 4.5%  of the world's population -- but consumes 99% of the hydrocodone, a generic name for Vicodin. As Chapman asked -- are Americans really in that much more pain than everybody else in the world? Probably not, but just have access to more pain-killing pills. Hence, so many more deaths and addictions result. Scary.

Yours truly has never been a Tiger fan, even back during his hey-day. For some reason I could never warm up to him -- something seemed fishy. Turned out, it was. His multiple extra-marital affairs have long been public knowledge, and his boorish behavior on the course evident -- though the media was wont to downplay it.

Then the DUI affair hit. No, he hadn't been drinking, but DUI is Driving Under the Influence. That can include drugs, even legally prescribed ones. Take too many, get loopy and pass out behind the wheel, and Eldrick was darn lucky he didn't run over somebody, seriously hurting or even killing them. He could have been slam-dunked for years in a penitentiary somewhere. Instead, he'll likely get off with a fine, joke probation, and maybe some "community service".

Still, it would appear any chance of him returning to a prominent role on the world golf scene is officially over. Even if a magic wand could be waved getting him totally clean, sober, and fully healthy, it's highly unlikely he can compete with the array of young guns out on Tour these days. Too many guys with way too much game for a forty-ish guy coming off rehab with questionable physical problems always lurking in the works. Ain't gonna happen. Color Eldrick "stick a fork in him" done. I never rooted for him, but it's sad to see how fast it all went south into crash and burn land.

Speaking of SI, their legendary jinx has struck again. The latest issue offers a feature story on world #1 ranked golfer Dustin Johnson and his brother Austin, his caddy. Not sure how many words it was, but let's just say it was 3-4 sit-downer on the throne to slog through. The article mentioned that DJ was attempting to become the first golfer since Curtis Strange, way back in 1989, to win back-to-back US Opens. That pretty well sealed his fate. Johnson wouldn't make the cut at this year's Open. Not even close.

Holy cow. Justin Verlander, once the ace pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, took a perfect game into the 6th inning against the Seattle Mariners with a 4-0 lead. The Virginia horse was back on a roll. Until the bubble popped. Enter the infamous Tiger bull-pen. By the time it was over, not only would JV not get a win, but the Tigers would lose 7-5.

After a fast start to the season, the Motown puddy-tats are now in a fight for dead last place in the entire American League.

Oh my indeed.....

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The thing about Brad Ausmus....

Detroit Tiger manager Brad Ausmus may be a lot of things. Certainly a handsome middle aged man. Most would consider him fairly intelligent. A nice guy, who's friendly and open to the local media.

And it's not his fault he's stuck with the proverbial hand of players he's been dealt. That blame lies squarely at the feet of general manager Al Avila, and his predecessor Dave Dombrowki. Ausmus can only try and make the best out of the players he has available.

True, he's made seemingly bone-headed managerial decisions here and there, but those calls are easily second-guessed when they don't turn out well. Who bats where in the Tigers' lineup, which starting pitcher takes the mound every day, and when to bring in which relief pitcher can go either way. When it works and the Tigers win, Ausmus gets little credit. Yet when it blows up and backfires, he'll be sure to get the blame. He can't make the hitters hit better or the pitchers become more unhittable. Such are the perils of a major league manager.

And he's also a "lame duck" on the last year of his contract. Given how the team has performed so far this year, it is entirely likely Ausmus won't be back for the 2018 season.

Thing is, it doesn't much matter who the "brain trust" -- and I use that term loosely when it comes to the Tigers -- hires as his replacement. They'll be stuck with the same mess that Ausmus is now.

Several aging players on the back side of their bell curves that make obscene salaries, even as their production continues to wither away.

Ausmus can't be blamed because his team is poor defensively all over the field. Hey, these guys are major-leaguers at their respective positions. They're supposed to know how to field them properly. Good grief, in his rather average, at best, major league career, Ausmus was a catcher. He does't know squat about being an outfielder or shortstop, etc.

Nor can he blamed for the lack of any sort of team speed on the basepaths. It's not his fault the Tigers' bullpen has been in kamikaze mode of late, where no lead is safe. He didn't go out and sign these clowns, Al and Dave did. He inherited it, like I did the bald spot on the back of my head from my father, and his father before him. Sometimes there's just nothing you can do about it.

Ausmus certainly can't be held accountable for the fact the Tigers' front office had the dubious wisdom to gut their entire farm system, trading away top prospects for short-term impact players in a "go for it now" mode, that never quite got there. Like Mother Hubbard, the cupboard is all but bare and poor doggie Brad is hard pressed to even get a bone.

But there is one thing that is extremely annoying about Ausmus and is entirely his fault.

What is it with him spitting through his teeth every 3 seconds or so? It's such a disgusting habit and totally unnecessary.

I mean, c'mon. Does he do this at home while watching TV -- or at the dinner table with his wife and kids? At a restaurant? While driving in his car? How about in church, if he goes there occasionally? It's probably a pretty safe bet the presiding clergy and fellow congregation would not be amused.

So for that very reason, I agree with a local columnist that recently suggested Ausmus should be fired.

It has nothing to do with his baseball acumen, or lack thereof, it's just a matter of common decency. If the Tigers are going to be a ho-hum team, which has become painfully obvious, the least their fans can expect is the manager to act like a semi-gentleman.

Screaming at umpires is OK -- even getting tossed out of a game for the usual ballistic, spoiled first grader hissy fits is acceptable.

Spitting every 3 seconds for absolutely no good reason is not.

Yep, ptui. He's gotta go.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The genius of Danny Ainge

Once again, Boston Celtics' Prez/GM Danny Ainge has made a shrewd, if controversial move.

The Celtics had the #1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Besides a little luck in the draft lottery, this was the result of Ainge's maneuvering in recent years past.

Years ago he realized the Celtics were pretty much dead in the water. Too many aging players at ridiculous salaries. So he traded them off for future draft picks while clearing a ton of salary cap room in the process.

Sure, he knew the team would stink for a while -- and it did. But he was looking years down the road. By stockpiling draft picks and making the Celtics a much younger team -- not to mention hiring a super-bright young mind in Brad Stevens as head coach -- Ainge was planning for the future.

True, the Celtics compiled the best regular season record in the NBA's eastern conference this past season. But few would doubt, likely including Ainge himself, that the Beaners weren't on the same level as Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Indeed, come playoff time, the Cavs slapped the Celts aside 3-1 in the eastern conference finals. When crunch time came, the Celts, though very good in their own right, weren't up to the task -- just yet.

And now he has traded that overall #1 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers. Who would do such a crazy thing?

But that is where Ainge's genius is showing once again. In return for that #1, Boston got the #3 overall pick in return -- PLUS another first round pick from Philly next year. Add that to the Celtics already having yet ANOTHER first round pick they acquired from the New Jersey Nets a couple years ago. Chances are, both Philly and NJ aren't going to be very good any time soon, so those picks will be high.

It's widely assumed the 76ers will go after one Markell Fultz, deemed the best overall player. At the #2 pick in the draft, the LA Lakers are assumed to have locked in on Lonzo Bell. Whoever Ainge and the Celtics determine to be the third best college player in America, or a foreign national for that matter -- you can pretty well rest assured that he will be yet another very solid brick in the house that Ainge is slowly building.

Even if Boston had a shot at Bell, chances are they would pass. Lonzo and the daddy-circus he would bring to town just wouldn't fit in Boston. The Bells are much more suited for a circus-like atmosphere -- hence the Lakers are perfect.

Hark back to the 80's, when both the Lakers and Celtics had formidable teams, though of very different natures. Out west, they even called themselves "showtime". High profile, lots of glamor and glitz with such players as Jabbar, Magic, and Worthy. Movie stars galore at courtside.

Meanwhile, the Celtics featured a more blue-collar, down and dirty going to work trio in Parrish, McHale, and Bird. It remains debatable which teams of that era were the best overall, but it could fairly be said they had some epic battles between them. And yes, back in those days, there was none of this nice-guy fraternizing with the competition. They flat-out didn't like each other and made no bones about it. Period.

But back to Ainge. He realizes that though his team is pretty good, they're not likely going to be able to compete with Lebron and the Cavs for the next couple years.

And there's the thing. James is getting up there is basketball years and it won't be long before his skills start to diminish. Father Time plays no favorites. When that happens, the Cavs will start trending downward quickly. Delete LJ from the equation and Cleveland becomes a rather ordinary team at best. At the same time, Boston will be on the upswing given all the draft picks Ainge has stockpiled and used wisely to date. There is no reason to think the other ones he amassed in this recent deal won't be used to procure not only talented players, but those that fit well within the system Brad Stevens has installed. Philly can make a splash with Fultz as the #1 pick, but given the rest of their roster, they're not going to be serious contenders any year soon.

Bottom line? Nope, the Boston Celtics won't be winning the NBA championship next season either. And as long as the Golden State Warriors can keep their team together, no given in future years, they'll remain a formidable opponent for any team that emerges from the east.

But make no mistake. Danny Ainge is quietly, shrewdly rebuilding the Boston Celtics, and they will be a force to be reckoned with in a few short years.

Brick by brick might not be sexy, but in the long run it usually proves to be fairly durable.

We'll see......

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Brooks Koepka -- US Open champion

Hats off to Mr. Koepka, the 2017 US Open champion, and a worthy one at that.

This is what happens when a player puts up three solid rounds of golf from Thurs thru Sat, then comes out on Sunday to blister an already ridiculously long and difficult course with a 5 under par 67.

While others were either treading water or falling back, BK hit seventeen out of eighteen greens in regulation, and made a fabulous sand save on the remaining one.

Throw in the fact that he was deadly with the putter. With one lone exception, he pretty much drilled everything from within 15 feet of the hole. Also add a couple long bomb putts -- OK -- a little luck doesn't hurt either, but it WAS what he was aiming for, and this is the stuff of champions.

Clearing the field by 4 shots in a US Open is very impressive stuff. A final tally of 16 under par (an all-time record) at a US Open course, typically laid out where EVEN par is the standard of excellence, is even more impressive.

Alas, Brian Harmon, the third round leader, and a lefty, would be among those to fall back a tad. In the entire history of the US Open, now 117 years, a southpaw has yet to win one. Of course, there haven't been that many out there over the years. Phil, Bubba, and, hmm, anybody else of note?

What's also interesting is Koepka winning this year's Open makes him the seventh player in a row to be a first time major winner. Be it the Masters, British Open, or PGA, somebody new has been walking off with the title every time. This is great for golf.

It would appear the anti-Tiger age is upon us. No longer is one player so dominant. Even in Woods' heyday, and it was something to behold for a decade or so, Tiger had come along at just the right time.

The old guard of Nicklaus, Player, Palmer, Floyd, Watson, Trevino, and that bunch had aged and were far beyond their primes. By the same token, the horde of young studs like Day, Spieth, Scott, Johnson, McIlroy, Fowler, and THIS bunch had yet to come of age with fully developed golf games.

It seems every week a new face, or three, pops up on tour that can shoot the lights out. In other words, the current competition is FAR more ferocious than anything Eldrick Tont Woods ever faced.

This week it's Brooks Koepka. Next major, or any other tournament, it might very well be somebody else. The game has evolved and is better than ever due to the sheer amount of hot-shot contenders that continue to emerge from all over the planet. And it's not likely to stop any time soon.

Tiger Woods may have rekindled interest in the game after the old stars had faded, but it became boring to watch him dominate weaker fields so much. Then Tiger himself became boorish with his personal behavior, as has been well documented.

In the end, this has worked out very well all around. The players have returned to acting like gentlemen (no club-pounding/cursing, or a caddy that thinks he and his master are royalty while the paying gallery mere peasants), and a wide open competition every week with fields that are well stocked with incredible talent, any of whom could emerge to capture a tournament on any given week.

Seven first time major winners in the last seven such tournaments speaks for itself.

But for now, all hail Brooks Koepka. He's the king of the mountain...... at least until the next tournament.

Let us not forget that the currently ranked #1 golfer in the world -- one Dustin Johnson -- and the defending champion of the US Open -- didn't even make the cut this week. Not even close.

Oh yeah, the competition is brutal out there these days.

And that's a great thing for golf fans.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The amazing US Open

There's a whole lot of stories going on at this year's USGA golf Open. One we won't hear about is how the course at Erin Hills, Wisconsin (a mammoth 7800 yards long) never would have existed if not for one Steve Trattner, now in prison for murder. A golf junkie, but not good enough to play at the higher levels, it was his idea in the first place and, after finding financial backing and a few architects, the former farm land was converted into a world-class golf course. Stuff happens, sometimes good, sometimes not so good.

Rickey Fowler started out with a bang, posting an opening round 65 -- seven under par. Alas, he fell back on day two, with a ho-hum 73. But after a third round 68 is very much in contention. Let's see how the orange guy fares on Sunday.

Brian Harmon is atop the leaderboard at 12 under through three rounds. He's a lefty. No lefty has ever won the US Open, not that there have been many southpaws on the circuit. Yes, this is the only major Phil Mickelson has never won, but he skipped it in order to attend his daughter's graduation ceremony. There's a man that has his priorities in order. Bubba Watson can be brilliant at times, but not this week. Could Harmon withstand the inevitable Sunday pressure at a US Open and come out on top? Maybe, but probably not.

Justin Thomas posted an incredible 9 under 63 for his third round. This, despite two bogies along the way, to check in a stroke back at -11. What was truly amazing is he eagled the par 5 18th hole. True, top pros eagle par 5's here and there, but this hole played at a ridiculous 667 yards. His second shot came to rest just a few feet from the pin.

Do the math. Two shots that covered SIX HUNDRED AND SIXTY SEVEN YARDS? That's over 330 on both his first two. Your average duffer would likely take at least three, maybe four shots to traverse that amount of yardage, even provided he/she hit them all straight, and not off into the weeds somewhere. Amazing.

A 525 yard par 4? Gimme a break. I could hit the best drive of my life, tee it up again in the fairway and hit another winner, and STILL not get there. These guys hit driver and maybe 5 iron. Quick, somebody check these dudes out for steroids, or confirm they didn't come from the planet Krypton and have a girlfriend named Lois Lane on the side. Great Caesar's ghost!! It doesn't seem fair.

Dustin Johnson, currently the world's #1 ranked golfer and defending Open champ -- didn't even make the cut. Not even close. Seems strange.

Other notables like Jason Day, Jordan Spieth, Adam Scott, and Rory McIlroy have fallen by the wayside. Some Korean guy named Kim has shot his way back into it. Is everybody in the Koreas, north or south, named Kim? Seems like these days.

Given so many players are within a few shots of the lead after three rounds, which will rise to the occasion of the final round remains to be seen. It should be quite the shoot-out indeed. Best guess is anybody that can post a 67-68 on Sunday, given the course will be playing the longest and the pins in the most difficult positions to get close to, will have an excellent chance of becoming the champion.

Meanwhile, Steve Trattner has served 11 years behind bars, only a third of his original sentence. He'll be an old man if and when he ever gets out.

But he saw his dream come true in the golf world. From former cattle ranch, to golf course extraordinaire, to Erin Hills hosting this year's US Open, it's been an unlikely ride in more ways than one.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Detroit Lions. Same old

Though long predictable, it's become a very bad joke. That would be the Detroit Lions and their ever-koolaided media trying to sell them again this year. Let's take a closer look.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been hailed as the best QB since the heady days of Bobby Layne -- way back in the 50s. Probably true enough, but that's a mighty low standard given the QBs they've had in the meantime.

He's thrown for a bazillion yards. Also true, but the lack of a decent running game forces him to throw so much. And after almost a decade, Stafford is yet to win a single playoff game.

Head coach Jim Caldwell has become what he always was. In past years, he was a decent coordinator working under other successful head coaches but, when given the reins of command himself, quickly crashed and burned. The Peter Principle is very much alive and well when it comes to Caldwell. As long as he's there, the Lions have ZERO chance of ever becoming Super Bowl worthy.

Their offensive coordinator is named Jim Bob Cooter. Hey, when a guy named Jim Bob is in charge of formulating offensive strategy and calling the plays, you just might be in trouble.

The Lions and their minions have claimed defensive coordinator Terry Austin is good enough to have been offered a head coaching job himself. So far he's been shunned by all the other teams.

Perhaps there's a good reason for this. In the classic novel "The Scarlet Letter", heroine/bad girl Hester Prynne was tagged with an "A" for adulteress.

Consider that no Lion head coach in history, after cycling through Detroit and inevitably being fired, has ever gone on to another head coaching position. And the list is long. Given the long history of the "good-ole-boy" coaching carousel merry-go-round the NFL has been, whereby most everybody gets another shot or two after being canned, it seems puzzling.

Yet Rooney Rule or not (Austin is African-American), perhaps he's been tagged with an "L". "Lions" or "loser", take your pick. Like Ms. Prynne, others may well see him as tainted goods.

Their offensive line remains a "work in progress". Well gee, when hasn't it been?

They've got one old veteran cast off from another team to anchor their defensive line, another younger player that has difficulty staying healthy, and a bunch of maybes.

No notable wide receivers, nor even tight ends. The running game still projects to be toothless if even their mediocre backs can stay healthy -- no given either,

Other than one semi-decent "cover guy" the secondary remains a work in progress as well.

No linebackers that could likely start for any other NFL team.

And they're still owned by the Fords. Long time patriarch William Clay passed on a while back after over a half century of utter futility, now his 90ish year old widow and daughters are in charge. Good luck with that.

What did they do? Hired an "estate planner" as President of the team. A guy that even admitted he didn't know squat about pro football. Ah yes, the genius of the Ford family when it comes to gridiron matters continues to amaze.

Put it all together and what do you have?

Like natives of the tropical zones in the world can't grasp the concept of snow, ice, and subzero temperatures, or polar residents the idea of air conditioning to cool things down, the Lions, their faithful, if ridiculously gullible fans -- and the local media -- can't seem to get their heads around the idea that some things just aren't meant to be.

No, they won't be going to the Super Bowl again this year either. Or next year. Or the one after that. Or ever. It -- just -- ain't -- gonna -- happen.

From top to bottom, it's still the same sorry bunch.

Until the Fords sell to somebody that not only cares about winning, but actually has a plan for how to do it, and hires competent personnel to accomplish it, nothing's going to change.

Even if that happens, it would take many years to build even a contender, let alone a team with the slightest chance of getting to the Big Dance.

The whole works needs to be blown up and started over.

In the meantime they will continue to plod along, and the suckers will come thinking this just might be the year, while the media eggs them on.

It truly is a sorry state of affairs. But hey, if this is what yanks their crank -- go for it.

Excuse me if I chuckle at it once in a while.....

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Talking heads and settling arguments

Though the 2017 NBA championship is barely in the books, the yappy heads have already started with their silly comparisons and speculation.

Is Golden State now the best team of all time, they wonder?

The objective answer would be -- not just yet.

After setting the regular-season record for victories last year with 73, had they capped it off with a title (they blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals), then followed it up this year (they indeed won) to make it three straight, the Warriors would certainly have to be considered as among the best, if not THE best. But it didn't play out that way. As the singer Meatloaf once crooned, two out of three ain't bad, but it won't get you to the mountaintop either.

True, given the ridiculous amount of talent they have, if they can keep the team together, along with head coach Steve Kerr, for the next several years, they could become quite the dynasty indeed. I mean, look around. Who's going to beat these guys any year soon?

But that's a lot of ifs. If Okla City hadn't lost guard James Hardin to Houston and super-star Kevin Durant to Golden State, how good would they be right now?

There is already chatter that Lebron James might opt out of Cleveland. That's probably not going to happen. James would be roundly derided as a title-seeking mercenary if he left the Cavs (his home town team) after already one such venture in Miami.

And where would he go to have a better chance at another title? The Clips in LA? It would be a PR disaster. Coach Pop in San Antonio may or may not even want him. Same with GM Danny Ainge in Boston. Bottom feeders like Detroit wouldn't even be considered. Here's a scary thought. How about if he did a "if you can't beat em -- join em" Durant and went to Golden State? If they could find a way to shuffle their salary cap around and add Lebron to their already formidable mix, the other teams in the league might as well not even show up. How good would THAT team be?

This whole greatest of all time thing is tricky business. Maybe it was a "showtime" Lakers team from the 80s. Or Jordan's Bulls in the mid-90s. And though it's generally accepted that each generation gets "bigger, stronger, faster", who's to say Bill Russell's Celtics of the late 50s and early 60s weren't the best of all time? Didn't they win a dozen titles or so? Nobody else has accomplished that before or since. Well then....

And some just have short memories. See the talking head that claimed Steph Curry is the greatest pure shooter in the history of the NBA. Granted, Curry can definitely put the rock in the hole from all over the court, and from long range to boot, but this is nothing a guy from the past couldn't do even better.

Try "Pistol" Pete Maravich. Thing is, unlike Curry, Maravich always played on otherwise lousy teams and the NBA didn't get the hype back then it does now. Plus, he couldn't play a lick of defense. But nobody played defense in his day. Scores were routinely over 120-130 points, sometimes much higher.

Tragically, Maravich died young (40) of an apparent heart attack while playing in a pick-up game long after his NBA career was over.

But think about it, if you remember him. Put both Maravich and Curry in their primes, and who do you think was the better overall shooter? How cool would it have been to see those two guys play a game of "h-o-r-s-e"?

Alas, it is something we will never know.

Then again, we could also imagine an opposite scenario. How about Shaquille O'Neal in a free-throw shooting contest with current Detroit Piston Andre Drummond?

It could be billed as "Brickomania". First one to make ten shots from the charity stripe wins. Surely the masons would be glad to sponsor such an extravaganza -- or debacle -- depending on how one wishes to look at it.

Problem is, this could go on for hours, days, weeks -- longer than your average Congressional investigation -- and perhaps as boring -- or laughable --before one of them made it to 10. But if you've been burned after ponying up $69.95 to watch a super-duper fight on pay-per-view -- only to see it end in a first round knockout, then this would be a way to definitely get your money's worth. You might have to take a week's vacation and stay up 24/7 glued to the flat screen throughout before it's over but, dammit, you couldn't say you got cheated on your investment.

Hmm. Maybe that's not such a good idea. Maybe a round of putt-putt golf would be a lot less painful.

And let's settle another raging debate once and for all. Is Kevin Durant now the best basketball player in the world -- having supplanted Lebron James?

Yes -- he -- is. LJ was the man, the king, in recent years, but like Tiger Woods a while back, the time has come to pass the torch. Also Michael Jordan. Everything Jordan could do, Lebron could do, plus he was/is a few inches taller. Nowadays, everything James could do, KD can do, plus he's taller yet.

People wonder whether the Golden State Warriors will accept an invitation to visit the Prez in the White House, if it's ever even forthcoming. Who cares? It's always been more of a photo-op for the Prez than an honor for the champions. Politics and sports mix about as well as bleach and ammonia. You can do it, and it won't blow up, but it will certainly create a poisonous atmosphere in a hurry.

However, on that note, let's put one other highly debated topic to rest.

Donald J. Trump is the greatest President the United States of America has ever had.

Since January of this year....

In the post-championship words of the above-mentioned Kevin Durant -- debate THAT.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Another TV day

Well, let's see. We now have an "extra-crispy" Colonel spokesman for the chicken joint. He replaces his "extra-doofus" forerunner that Norm guy was. Perhaps an improvement. In the meantime, their prices have been extra-going up. One can only wonder what might be next. Here's an idea. How about an "extra-breast or thigh" guy, to replace those dang wings? If I wanted expensive wings, I'd go to that wild buffalo joint -- though for the life of me I don't get it. I mean, c'mon, did you ever see a bison with wings? And somewhere, may he RIP, the "original" (no pun intended) Colonel probably isn't very happy on how he's being portrayed these days. Great cole slaw and gravy, but stay away from the corn and mac/cheese. Nasty stuff.

It seems Flo the insurance lady is getting a little porky in the strike zone these days. What I want to see is a picture of her mother. Anybody wondering how a young lady is going to turn out downstairs need only look at her mom. It never fails.

We also have a brand new "most interesting man in the world". A chip off the old block, this one. Still the same goofy look, slobbery lips, and doing dumb stunts only to hang out with babbling women. Stay wasted, my friends.

That insurance duck hasn't been quite the same since Yogi Berra passed on. At least one of them was yuk-worthy, and it wasn't the one with wings, though Yogi may indeed have them these days. Who wouldn't want a guardian angel like old #8? Yeah, he might get one into trouble somehow, but dang, it would be a blast.

From top to bottom, the Dems/Reps, left/right, libs/cons are still at each others' throats while nothing worthwhile gets accomplished. Just another day in America. Yawn.

The US Golf Open is going to happen this week. Bring it on.

With 3 minutes left in Game 5, and the Golden State Warriors ahead by double digits, apparently on their way to a championship, Kevin Durant's mom is crying at courtside. So what's up with her? This is no time for tears. Good grief, she'll probably get another mansion and a Rolls or Bentley out of the deal. Hey K-ma. Be happy. Your boy finally done good.

Idle thought: Why do so many moms of athletes have different last names than their sons? Maybe this free agency thing has gotten out of control on the homefronts. Probably not a good thing.

And yep, there it was. Golden State are the champs. Lebron James has been dispatched yet again. His record in the Finals now stands at a not-so-good 3-5. It will be a long flight back to Cleveland for the "king". And some serious 'splainin to do to the local reporters once he gets there. Good luck with that.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Penguins -- Stanley Cup Champs again

All hail Pittsburgh. They've captured Lord Stanley's beloved hockey cup -- again. May they enjoy the celebration, parade soon to follow, and God bless.

Honorable mention should go to Nashville. The Preds put up a pretty good fight, though, in hindsight, blowing the first game of the Finals where they clearly outplayed the Pens eventually came back to haunt them. Still, a #8 seed getting this far should be commended. Yes, it's been done before. The LA Kings won the Cup as a #8 not that long ago, so anything can happen, but what else is going on in the Nashville sports scene these days?

It's tough to begrudge the Penguins their championship. After all, consider the history of Pittsburgh pro sports.

Back in the 70s, they were known as the City of Champions. The Steelers of the NFL were certainly dominant. Bradshaw, Franco, Lambert, Swan, Mean Joe and the "steel curtain" and the rest of the gang were a formidable bunch to say the least. Lots of Super Bowl titles.

The Pirates of Major League Baseball were excellent as well back in those days.

No, they've never had an NHL team, and their most notable college football players were probably Dan Marino and Tony Dorsett -- both Hall of Famers.

But other than the Pens, they've hit a dry spell in recent decades. The Steelers are always pretty good, but can't get past that pesky Brady Bunch in New England come crunch time.

The Pirates? Well, they've fairly well stunk it up lately. Not since the heady days of Willie Stargell and the flat-top caps of old have they amounted to much. The city itself has seen its once proud and mighty steel industry wither away to near extinction.

So hats off to Sid the Kid and his fellow Pens, the 2017 Stanley Cup Champions.

Yep, they were the better team going in, and that's just pretty much how it played out in the end,

Besides, Nashville can fall back on all that terrific music they generate and continue to have a good time.

There's worse things. If the Preds don't believe that -- they need only spend a few days in Detroit checking out the landscape -- the sports scene, crime, gangs, drugs, neighborhoods, the whole works.

Losing to the Penguins might be a hard pill to swallow, but oh yeah, it could definitely be worse.....

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Detroit Tigers and reality

After a hot start, then a slump, then finally struggling back to .500, the Detroit Tigers are pretty much where they belong.

The Bosox just pasted them in Fenway and the Tigers find themselves a handful of games under .500 again.

Ah, but the ever-present half-fullers in Detroit, particularly certain media homers, will tell us Detroit is only 4 games out of first place in their own division -- the American League Central.

True enough. That would seem to be an anomaly I'll get back to.

However, out of 15 teams in the AL, the Tigers are in 10th place. For that matter, they're only a couple games out of being in the basement of the entire league.

If they were in the Eastern Division, they would find themselves 7 games behind the resurgent Yankees and tied with the Blue Jays as cellar dwellers.

Out west, the Tigers would be a whopping FIFTEEN games behind the streaking Houston Astros.

Currently, they're 5 teams and several games removed from any playoff wild-card spot.

So it's all how you want to look at it, but 10th place out of 15 teams after 60+ games is what it is -- and it ain't pretty.

There is little to suggest their lot will improve.

The Tigers have next to none when it comes to team speed, their team defense is below average, and what few quality players they have are aging.

First and foremost would be Justin Verlander. He's been referred to as the ace of the staff, the horse that pulls the wagon. Yet JV, now 34, is lumbering along at 4-4 this year with a meh ERA closer to 5 than 4. He's lost a few MPH on his once renowned heater, and for some reason no longer even attempts to throw his dreaded "split-finger" pitch that was so devastating just a couple years ago. In other words, he's eminently hitable.

Yours truly got quite the guffaw when one of the above-mentioned "homers" recently suggested that JV should have won the Cy Young award last year. Really? Let's see. He went 16-9, with an ERA around 3. Very respectful to be sure.

But former Tiger Rick Porcello, only now 28 (and how did they let this guy get away?) went 22-4 for the Bosox with a similar ERA. That wasn't even a close call. Hello?

Perhaps this should be expected from the Pollyanna snake-oil salespeople that have been prevalent on the Detroit sports scene for so long.

After all, these are the same people that will get the Motown faithful revved up every year thinking this will be the one when the Lions are finally capable of getting to a Super Bowl. It's been going on since the Eisenhower administration. You know, when shows like Ozzie and Harriet, I Love Lucy, and Leave It To Beaver were all the rage. Andy, Barney, Opie, Aunt Bee, and town drunk Otis of Mayberry hadn't even made their first appearance yet. Nor had color TV. Let's just say that was a LONG time ago. But they've roped in the sappies every year since. It might just be that Phineas Taylor (PT) Barnum had Lions' fans in mind when he stated there's a sucker born every minute. It would be hard to dispute that, given the team's last 60 years of futility while the faithful continue to believe. And you know what? They'll buy into it again this year, because it's just what they do. Poor souls knoweth not how they've been had.

Regarding the above-mentioned anomaly, something strange indeed has been going on in the AL Central Division so far this year. That would be the Cleveland Indians.

Let's not forget they were within an out or two of winning the World Series last year, before the Cubbies rallied to take it away. Let's also remember the Tribe pulled this off minus their best position player and down two quality starting pitchers due to injuries.

Those guys are all back and healthy now, but Cleveland has yet to find its stride. It's seems odd that with a starting pitching rotation that should be among the best in all of baseball, they have instead ranked dead last in productivity. Top to bottom, players one through twenty five, the Indians are infinitely more talented than the Tigers. But they continue to struggle along at a few games over .500.

Of course, anything can happen in Major League Baseball, and sometimes does, but with roughly 100 games remaining, it would be surprising if Cleveland doesn't exert itself and pull away from the field in the AL Central. Barring another rash of injuries, it seems inevitable.

The Tigers? They could put together mini-winning streaks here and there, but there's precious little to suggest they will be "in the hunt" as the regular season winds down. Too many other teams in the AL are just better.

What's worse is the Tigers pretty much looted their farm system in recent years, trading off promising prospects for "prime-timers" in a "win now" mode. But they never quite got over the hump. They still haven't won a World Series since way back in 1984.

And lord knows they keep bringing up, out of necessity, whatever conceivable talent they think they might have in the minor leagues for major league tryouts. Predictably, they don't last long. Even the "homers" admit the Tigers have a lot of what they call 4-A players. Pretty good at AAA ball, but not ready for prime time just yet -- if ever.

The Detroit Tigers would appear to be a team destined for a mediocre season. Maybe .500, a couple over or under, but certainly not playoff worthy.

As their few "star" players continue to age, and their skills decline accordingly,the future doesn't look exactly rosy either.

They could be forced to go into all-out blow it up and total rebuild mode shortly, because it doesn't seem like they're going to have much of a choice.

Tis the nature of the game for most every team over time, and that of the Tigers draws nigh.

Friday, June 9, 2017

NBA Finals and ghosts of 2016

Well OK then. The Golden State Warriors won't be the first team to go undefeated in the playoffs. After starting 15-0, needing only one more to complete yet another sweep and claim the championship, they fell to Cleveland in Game 4. Alas.

Yet perhaps something more ominous is now afoot. Ghosts of last year. Are they whispering?

Let's not forget the current situation is eerily like what happened at this time in 2016 between these two teams.

Golden State, after having put up the best regular season record of all time, which entailed home court advantage throughout the playoffs, was heavily favored to dispatch Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. After four games, they also had a 3-1 lead, with two of the remaining three, if necessary (they were) on their home court.

No way were they going to get beat three games in a row.

But they did.

With Draymond Green serving a long overdue one game suspension for his thunderous groin kicks to opponents in games past, Cleveland went into Oakland and captured Game 5.

And the momentum turned. Few were surprised Cleveland would go on to win Game 6 at home, but the deciding Game 7 was back in Oakland, and Green was back from the purgatory of testicle no-no land.

Golden State was supposed to win. All the odds-makers said so.

But in a one game for all the marbles scenario, sometimes strange things happen. You never know. What we DO know is the Cavs would go on to win it. GS had blown a 3-1 lead. Sigh.

During that contest, Lebron played like he was a man possessed -- on a mission. His teammates chipped in admirably, while the Warriors seemed to be in a bit of a funk.

Game, set, match, checkmate. It was over just like that.

So here's the deal. Once again Golden State is going back home with a 3-1 lead. They better hope they win Game 5 and close this thing out. Certainly, they will be favored to do so.

But if they don't, the whispers of those ghosts from last year will get louder. And if Cleveland goes on to win Game 6, a possibility, the spooks will be screaming.

Can you even imagine the fall-out if, after having acquired super-star Kevin Durant in the off-season last year to all but guarantee a championship, the Warriors were to come up short again, in a replay of last year?


Nah, that can't happen.

Can it?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Durant/Lebron/Jordan/Tiger/Gretzky/Howe and other GOATS

The debate currently rages as to whether Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors has supplanted Lebron James of Cleveland as the best basketball player in the world. The answer would appear to be -- maybe.

Let's not forget that for the longest time many didn't want to admit that James was better than Michael Jordan. Some still cling to that notion, but it's misguided.

Thing is, Lebron can do everything Michael could do -- ball handle, shoot (from 3-point range as well), run, pass/assist, rebound, be cerebral on the court, and play tenacious defense. Only James was bigger (taller) than Jordan. Hence, he was/is more of a force on the court -- better.

Ah, but many will say Jordan won all those (6) championships. True enough. But Bill Russel and the Boston Celtics of the late 50s and early 60s won twice as many. You've never heard anybody claiming old #6 was better than Jordan. So that argument doesn't necessarily hold water in a team game.

So far, Kevin Durant has won a grand total of zero championships (though he certainly appears to be on the cusp of his first). During the Finals, mano-e-mano, he has outplayed Lebron James to pretty much be the star of the show. And there's the same comparison again. Everything Lebron can do, Kevin can do, given the same criteria listed two paragraphs above. Plus, he's several inches taller as well -- better.

No doubt, James was the greatest of all time (GOAT) in recent years, but it just might be that Durant has replaced him like Lebron once did Michael. It's a hard pill for "King" fans to swallow, but it's sure starting to look like reality. Time marches on and players get bigger, faster, and better than in generations past.

One upon a time many considered Tiger Woods to be the GOAT of golf. Certainly many still do as well. From the late 90s through the early years of the Obama administration (2008-) he put up the greatest decade the game had even seen. Tiger was winning seemingly everything and surely would eclipse Jack Nicklaus' all-time major record of 18. But he didn't. As we know, through solely his own fault, his personal (married) life crashed, then so did his game. The latter wasn't helped by various injuries and back surgeries.

So OK, though some hard-core loyalists still won't admit it, the glory days of Eldrick Tont Woods are past tense. No, he won't ever return to his former greatness. Besides the injuries, Father Time has taken his inevitable toll and there's way, WAY too many young guns on the tour that will beat his brains out like Tiger once did to the former generation.

In the end, it would be difficult to argue that Jack doesn't remain the GOAT of pro golf. And that's not even getting into, shall we say, "character" issues. Mr. Woods found himself on the hot seat again just recently while Nicklaus was the paragon of a gentleman and model citizen over all these many decades.

On that note, how about Pete Rose? Was he the GOAT when it came to being a major-league hitter? After all, he surpassed the great Ty Cobb to be, far and away, #1. Thing is, Cobb's accomplishments happened a century ago and many don't know he was less than a "likable" guy. It was said he even killed a man once. But Cobb's career batting average was far higher than Rose's. Due to the length of seasons and years played, Rose got far more at-bats to get all those hits. So who was better? Character issues indeed. Rose got caught up in that whole gambling witch-hunt a while back which has so far denied him his rightful place in the Hall of Fame. Peter Edward may have been dirty in that regard, but that hardly detracts from his accomplishments on the field. Who's the GOAT?

Was Babe Ruth the GOAT home-run hitter? Maybe. Henry Aaron surpassed him, but like Rose, had far more at-bats to do so. Let's not forget, George Herman was a pitcher in his early years, so he forfeited a lot of trips to the plate.

Or maybe it was/is Barry Bonds who eclipsed them both. Sure, there's the whole steroids, human growth hormone, performance enchancing drug thing that continues to hang over his head. But though the authorities moved heaven and earth trying to nail him -- they never officially did. Bonds was never found guilty of any drug charge, only some minor obstruction of justice matter. So the record reflects that, like OJ, he didn't do it. Believe what you want, but it's no more than heresy and opinions. So who's the GOAT?

For many decades Gordie Howe was considered the GOAT of the NHL. Then along came that Gretzky kid. Over his long career, Wayne would not only surpass Gordie's once thought to be unapproachable scoring marks -- but shatter them.

In a mutual display of humility, both considered the other the GOAT. Comparatively speaking, Gretzky possessed far more skill than Howe. A faster skater, a magician with the puck, both shooting and passing to teammates.

As for defense, Howe was a force to be sure through his sheer physicality. It should be noted Gordie was not one to be trifled with when it came to fighting. As tough as they ever came. Gretzky wasn't much into slugging it out, but he played a more cerebral version of defense while on the ice.

Often an opposing team would assign a player to "shadow" Gretzky all over the ice. His solution was to shadow a second player on the opposition. It was a brilliant tactical maneuver. With Gretzky in essence tying up two players, it resulted in his teammates having a 4 on 3 advantage elsewhere on the ice. Tons of goal resulted. It remains a testament to Gretzky greatness how he was still able to rack up so many goals and assists under these conditions.

Yes, Howe was great indeed, the GOAT back in the day. But it would difficult to argue that Gretzky didn't ascend to the throne over time. The sheer numbers speak for themselves.

In ladies' tennis, who's the GOAT? Serena? Martina? Match them up head-to-head in their primes, and who would win? Take your pick.

How about the GOAT running back in the NFL? Emmett Smith holds the all-time record for rushing yardage. But he had the luxury of playing all those years for the Dallas Cowboys, who have always been noted for putting together terrific offensive lines that open holes for backs to run through.

Back in the day, Jim Brown was considered the GOAT. He was fast, powerful, and would flat run over defenders. A brute indeed, but he only played nine years. His rushing record has been passed by a lot of folks in the mean time.

Maybe it was Gail Sayers. The man was absolutely a sight to behold during his career with the Bears, but it was cut short due to a tragic knee injury. Surgeons couldn't fix those things back then like they can now.

How about Barry Sanders? Even playing for the woeful Detroit Lions, Barry was well on his way to setting the mark out of sight. But he wearied of their losing ways and culture and took an early retirement while still in his prime. Had he played for another 4-5 years, who knows how high he would have set the bar?

Put Walter Payton into the conversation. Though he too played for the usually not-so-good Bears, Peyton was Jim Brownish (speed/power) but also had terrific moves. Tragically, Sweetness died young of liver cancer.

Yet there is one that nobody wants to recognize for their own reasons, but he was, and remains atop the heap when it came to productivity. His per-game rushing average was a whopping 136 yards, a huge 12 yards better than anybody else has ever attained.

His name is Orenthal James (OJ) Simpson, currently still behind bars on a robbery charge. No, OJ never played on a Super Bowl winning team while toiling away in Buffalo, but to average 12 yards a game more than his nearest competitor over his then storied career is definitely an eye-opener.

So who's the GOAT indeed?

Probably the true "goats" are those that profess to name one or the other in various endeavors and cite reasons to support their so-called logic.

In truth, we'll never know, but it makes for great arguments among not only the talking TV heads, but also fans as well.

Me, I'll forever maintain my claim it was Jethro Bodine of the Beverly Hillbillies. Aunt Pearl's boy, bless her yodeling heart. Anybody that could be a brain surgeon, double-naught spy, international playboy, fry cook, and shoot the eye out of a fly at 100 yards has still got my vote as the all-around GOAT. Period.

The rest of them were just jocks. They come and they go, but there will only ever be one Jethro.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Those silly 2%ers

Granted, yours truly has no particular favorite in this year's NBA Finals between Cleveland and Golden State. But I am a bit tired of hearing Lebron this, Durant that, with an encore of Steph. One thing I know for sure is that one of them has to win and the other lose -- eventually. Definitely two heavyweights slugging it out for basketball supremacy.

Yet earlier today on a sports talk show, I heard an astounding prediction. The so-called "experts" gave Cleveland only a 2% chance of winning this series, given they were already down 2-0.

Wait a second. Only TWO PERCENT? Didn't the same thing happen last year? You know, after the Warriors had set the all-time record for wins in the regular season? And hadn't they trounced the Cavaliers in the first two games as well?

We know how that turned out. In fact, the stats show that Golden State beat Cleveland even worse last year in the first two games. A combined total of 48 points. This year it was only 41.

So where do they get off with this 2% thing? Surely, the Cavs are capable of coming back -- right?

And there it was. History was repeating itself. The Cavs were going to win Game 3. They were ahead by 6 points with under three minutes remaining, and playing at home. What could go wrong? Let's make it a 2-1 series and see what those wise guys come up with on their percentages tomorrow. Betcha that 2% goes up quite a bit.

Uh oh. What's that? The Warriors came storming back to win by 6 points -- in Cleveland? Get outta here. That wasn't supposed to happen. How, in the name of Hillary, did they blow such a comfortable lead?

Well then. I stand corrected. Instead of 2-1, the series is now 3-zip. And Cleveland star Kevin Love looked like he might have turned an ankle in a bad way in the waning seconds of the game. Oops.

Huh. Let's make that 1%. Where's Dandy Don Meredith when you need him to sing?

"Turn out the lights -- the party's over......"

And tell the fat lady to start warming up......

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

All hail --- Oklahoma?

Yep, congrats are in order for the Oklahoma ladies' softball team. They are national champions once again.

After a tournament that seemed like it would take forever to finally play out -- I mean, good grief, they've been going at it for a month -- how long should it take? -- even Congress is faster than that -- the Sooners wound up on top.

This was somewhat surprising, given they were merely a #10 seed going in and had to face heavy favorite and #1 Florida in the finals. But beat those pesky Gators twice in a row they did.

It's tough to begrudge the state of Oklahoma any sports glory. Once dominant, the boys' football team at OU hasn't been very good in recent times.

And the entire state has a grand total of ONE professional sports team. The Oklahoma City Thunder, which are the transplanted Seattle Supersonics. No NFL team. No Major League baseball, no NHL presence. They probably have a pro soccer team somewhere -- but who cares?

At that, in recent years the Thunder have seen such mega-talents as James Harden get away to Houston, and just last year Kevin Durant bailed to the Golden State Warriors. Things aren't looking exactly rosy on the NBA front -- one man show Russell Westbrook notwithstanding.

Besides, Oklahoma has to put up with all those tornadoes that tear up things, dust storms, droughts, and can the next swarm of locusts be far behind? It's always something in Okieland.

So here's to the Lady Sooners. They made (see-ya) laters out of Florida.

It's at least something.....

Monday, June 5, 2017

The case for Phil Mickelson

Once upon a time, many years ago -- believe it or not -- I was actually recruited to write this nonsense. I didn't go looking to do it, but a certain editor sought me out. He was and remains a great guy, smart as they come, and has actually even been promoted in the interim, but it's probably a fair question to ask --- what the hell was he thinking when he brought a nitwit (me) on board? Maybe it was one too many bacon and cheese omelets that choked off blood flow to vital parts of his brain.

Nevertheless, back in the day, I was given a few commandments to abide by.

Thou shalt not get overly vulgar with cuss words.
Thou shalt not use racial, ethnic, gender, or any other terms that could be deemed derogatory in any way, shape, or form.
Though it was never spelled out, it was tacitly understood that this is supposed to be a sports blog, so staying away from the hot rails of politics and religion were also highly recommended.

And one more. If "borrowing" someone else's work, ALWAYS credit the source. That plagiarism stuff can land one in hot water in a hurry.

Editors are a bit god-like. One never knows when they're checking out your work product, but it's best to assume it's 24/7.

That said, I hereby acknowledge one Karen Crouse of the NY Times for originally providing most of the following.

It seems long-time PGA golfer Phil Mickelson finds himself in a dilemma. His daughter Amanda's commencement exercises (high school graduation) fall on the very same day as this year's opening round of the US Open -- June 15.

Phil and his family live in California but the Open will be in Wisconsin. So regardless of whatever tee-time he might be assigned, there's basically no way he can attend both.

It should be noted that the US Open is the only major golf title that has so far eluded Mickelson. He's already won the Masters, British Open, and the PGA. So you just know he really, REALLY wants to win a US Open to complete a career "grand slam" before he heads off to the senior circuit -- if he so chooses.

Lefty will turn 47 on the very day of his daughter's ceremonies and the opening round in Wisconsin.

In other words, his window of opportunity is rapidly closing. Father Time won't spare him any more than he has anybody else over the years. Given the plethora of young guns already on the Tour, it's unlikely Mickelson was going to win an Open anyway. But ya never know when an "old" guy might rear up and shoot four good rounds in a row on a very tough course. Could happen

Yet to his credit, Mickelson didn't have any problem making the choice. Of COURSE he was going to be there for his daughter. He's played in hundreds, probably over a thousand PGA tournaments in his long career, and this year's Open is but one more. But his daughter will only ever graduate high school one time.

Sure, Mickelson already likely has more money than he'll even be able to spend, but this is a man that has his priorities right. So even assuming he would have made the cut at the Open for another cha-ching, it took a back seat to more important matters.

A gentleman on and off the course, and nary a whisper of a scandal of any sort. You've never seen, nor will, Lefty cursing or throwing a club in frustration like another celebrated golfer of not long ago.

Yes, for every spectacular shot he's made over the years, he's probably had the "yips" on a 3 or 4 foot putt. Lots of those have gone wide left or right. But that's what makes him Phil.

A truly good man, faithful husband, and devoted father.

While it hasn't gathered much media attention to date, Phil Mickelson should indeed be applauded for having a hard choice and keeping it simple. He knew what the right thing to do was all along and didn't hesitate when it came time. In the same position, not just everybody would do the same.

Hear, hear. Bravo.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

NBA Finals -- as expected

It could probably be fairly said that, so far, the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have gone as expected.

Two home games for GS, and two wins. As the heavy favorites going in, this was supposed to happen, although the margins of victory were a bit of an eye-opener. Twenty two and nineteen points in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Not exactly close calls. Far closer to blow-outs.

One could surmise that these results are a bit demoralizing for Lebron James and the Cavaliers. After all, King James was his usual model of excellence in Game 2, putting up a triple-double, while his star teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love each contributed 20 points or so. But they still got drubbed. That's likely because the remainder of their team was basically shut down by the Warrior defense.

Make no mistake. While the high-flying and high scoring Warriors can definitely put the ball in the hoop, they also play terrific team defense.

Former two-time league MVP Steph Curry put up a triple-double of his own, but was vastly overshadowed by the magnificent play of teammate Kevin Durant, including a whopping five blocked shots.

So now the series moves to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4. A couple different scenarios are possible. If GS waltzes into Cleveland and takes Game 3, consider the series over. No way is anybody beating that team four straight, despite what happened in last year's Finals. Remember, GS was up 3-1 and blew it. They got complacent, as they've been prone to do on certain occasions, and it cost them dearly. Don't for a minute think they've forgotten that.

Or maybe Cleveland regroups and wins Game 3. That would come as little surprise either. Still business as usual. If Cleveland wins Game 4 as well, it's definitely series on and things get interesting, to say the least. In a best two-out-of-three, anything can happen, especially if an injury to a key player pops up. You never know.

Yet most knowledgeable basketball people (which I do not profess to be) think Golden State will win at least one of the next two games in Cleveland. It's not like the Cavs are unbeatable at home and if the Warriors get it going in either -- look out.

For that matter, a sweep isn't totally out of the question. If the Warriors stay focused and play up to their capabilities, as good as Cleveland is, Golden State is better. The addition of the above-mentioned Kevin Durant last year has taken them from terrific to formidable. His presence on the Warriors can't be overstated.

Last year, the Warriors were noted for the "splash brothers" -- Curry and Klay Thompson, with Draymond Green doing the dirty work. Though Curry remains front and center, when's the last time you heard Thompson's name bandied about by the talking heads? Though he remains the same terrific player, he's been relegated to option three or four. This is a luxury no other team -- including Cleveland -- enjoys.

But just for the sake of argument -- what would happen if the Cavaliers came storming back and won the Finals like they did last year? Nobody seems to have even mentioned the possibility -- but it certainly exists.

No doubt, Lebron James would be exalted to God-like status. Any and all comparisons of who was the better player between him and Michael Jordan would be quashed. James would clearly assume the throne, and likely rightfully so.

But what of Golden State? After adding Durant, they were supposed to be a "super" team, and waltz to a championship. If they get knocked off in the Finals -- again -- what's THEIR next move?

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Tiger Woods and idle thoughts

So Eldrick Tont Woods, sometimes known as Tiger, turned out not to be drunk after all in his recent tete-a-tete with the law enforcement types. The ever reliable "authorities" say he blew 0.0 on the alcohol breathylizer. That's the good news for him.

However, the charge was DUI, as in Driving Under the Influence."Influence" is certainly not restricted to alcohol consumption only. It also entails any drug usage which would hamper his ability to drive an automobile. And that doesn't have to mean illegal substances like marijuana, heroin, meth, acid, and the like. Being under the influence also extends to prescription medication. Take too much of whatever, get zoned out, then drive a car, and if you get caught -- you have a problem.

By his own public admission, Woods is on the hook for such an infraction. Basically, he's already confessed to the crime. Tiger stated he was on post-surgery pain relievers and muscle relaxers, and didn't realize he had overdone it. That's the bad news.

Idle thought -- though he was found sound asleep at the wheel, with the vehicle still running, how did the car wind up with two flat tires? That question has yet to be answered.

At any rate, he was certainly unfit to drive. A potential menace to any and all other drivers who might have the misfortune to be in his vicinity. If a guy -- or girl -- keeps falling back asleep after being confronted by the cops, and doesn't know where they are, where they came from, or where they were going -- it could fairly be said that whatever they were under the influence of -- chalk it up to the f'ed up category. Way too much of something.

It will be interesting to see how the local prosecutors decide to proceed in this case. A conviction of some kind or other is already a slam-dunk -- if they want it. But will they? Who would be surprised if some sort of "arrangement" was reached, whereby Woods totally skates? Maybe a hefty donation to a worthwhile charity somewhere could make it all go away. Remember, this is Tiger Woods, not your average shop rat, super-sizer, or retarded blogger such as yours truly. The rules are different, and God bless America. Ahem.

Chances are, Tiger will plead guilty to a minor infraction and get off with the proverbial slap on the wrist. A couple thousand dollar fine -- laughable in his world -- and maybe a few months pseudo probation. No way will he have to wear a "tether", although his ex Elin probably wishes she had thought of that idea back in the day. And he can't be expected to "drop" periodically, because his own doctors will attest he needs to remain on certain meds.

Another idle thought -- what's more dangerous than Tiger being "off his meds"?

Answer -- Tiger being ON his meds.


Thursday, June 1, 2017

NBA Finals and the usual lies

They lied to us all day long. Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers was going to start at 9:00 PM. It said so in the paper. On the 4-letter network they even had a countdown clock in the corner, ticking off every second until game time. Click on the "guide" channel, fast forward enough hours, and, sure enough, there it was. 9:00.

But you know that's never going to happen. No major sporting event, and lots of minor ones, ever starts when it's supposed to. At 9:00, the players were still milling on the court warming up and the national anthem had yet to be sung.

Ah, but an update. Tip-off was to be at 9:07 sharp. Guess what? That didn't happen either. Another lie. They finally trotted out some yahoo (and the mandatory giant flag across the court) who proceeded to jazz up the anthem. God, I hate that. Can't they just sing it the way it was written? It's even disrespectful to the country.

Finally, FINALLY, the game got underway.

To the surprise of few, Golden State would pretty much have their way with Cleveland. No matter how you slice it or dice it, a 22 point victory is quite convincing.

At one point in the second half, a remarkable statistic was shown. The Cavaliers had turned the ball over 10 times and the Warriors none. When the other team is taking the ball away from you, and you can't reciprocate, then you have a problem.

Sure, Lebron James got his 30 or so points and Kyrie Irving chipped in with 20-some. But Kevin Durant was lighting it up for almost 40 with Steph Curry his usual 30. When the two best players on the other team are out-balling the two best players on your team -- you have another problem.

See Draymond Green (he of the past groin kicks) muscling up Lebron James. See Green manhandle James and wind up with an easy lay-up. See James get called for a foul after Green had done the dirty work. This would appear to be problem #3. The refs weren't kow-towing to the "King" like they so often do.See Lebron complain to no avail. A bad sign for Cleveland and their fans.

So officially the series stands at 1-0 in favor of Golden State. They definitely looked to be the better team, but folks have said that all year long. Let's not forget the same was said all of last year. In 2016, Golden State even raced out to a 3-1 series lead in the Finals. We know how that turned out in the end. In other words, this thing is far from over.

True, it's possible the Warriors could sweep this series in four games to complete an astounding 16-0 playoff run and capture the championship. But it could also flip back the other way. Different refs, different strategies, the Cavs get hot or the Warriors go cold -- who knows? Anything could happen.

Now we await Game 2. It's scheduled for Sunday night at 8:00.

And that will be a lie too. Maybe by quarter after we'll see some action. Maybe.

And also just maybe we'll get to see and listen to a singer that will give a proper, respectful rendition of the Star Bangled Banner.

But I wouldn't hold my breath on that one either........

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Tiger Woods trainwreck

Few would doubt that, once upon a time, Eldrick Tont Woods put together the greatest decade professional golf has even seen.

This roughly coincided with the latter part of the Clinton administration, on through the George W. tenure, and briefly into the Obama years.

He was winning seemingly everything. Tiger's relentless march toward Jack Nicklaus's all-time record of 18 major titles was almost a foregone conclusion. If was not a matter of if -- but when.

During that time, incredibly, not only was Woods far and away ranked #1, but in many tournaments he was the preferred choice to win over the entire field. That, in itself, showed his utter dominance.

And then the wheels fell off.

First, we were treated to the spectacle of his wife, Elin Nordgren, a beauty by any standards, chasing dear Tiger with one of his own golf clubs. Evidently, she appeared more than eager to inflict bodily harm upon his person -- perhaps take a divot out of his head.

This is what typically happens when a wife finds out her husband has been fooling around with as many as a dozen other women on the side. They tend to be a bit touchy when it comes to such things. Go figure.

In his haste to escape, yon Tiger wound up driving his car into some shrubbery on his own property. Not a pretty sight to say the least.

By most accounts, Tiger's little sexual escapades cost him upwards of $100 million when Elin inevitably and rightfully filed for divorce. She up and moved herself and their kids back to her native Sweden.

Then his golf game fell apart. Forget winning -- Tiger got to the point where he was lucky to even make a cut.

Along the way, he had four back surgeries which, to date, don't seem to have totally fixed what ailed him. Just a thought, but he might want to consider taking his business to another team of surgeons somewhere. How many whacks should they get before they're expected to get it right?

I mean c'mon. This guy's only a golfer. He swings golf clubs, his bag is carried by a caddy, and he strolls along the most luxurious golf courses in the world. It's not like he's a mixed-martial arts fighter in the Octagon. So how hard can it be to get in shape for what he does for a living?

And now, on this Memorial Day, poor Tiger has been busted for a DUI. This happened in Jupiter, Florida, not far from his primary residence there.

Yours truly has a friend and his wife that have a place in roughly the same neighborhood as Tiger (been there a few times), and my friend expressed astonishment that Woods was busted at all. According to "Joe", Jupiter is a place where money talks. If one has enough of it, they can typically BUY their way out of any complications with law-enforcement types --see cops. Evidently, Eldrick had the misfortune of running into an honest one bent on doing the job they are sworn to. Oops.

His booking mug shot shown on TV was -- shall we say -- less than flattering. Woods appeared like he was "three sheets" indeed. But that would be jumping to conclusions.

Yet it's probably a pretty safe bet that a blood sample was taken. So far, results unknown. Remember, this was on a federal holiday, and all the government types get a paid day off. Including the lab folks that analyze such samples.

But it will shortly become a public record and the world will know just what his blood-alcohol content was. The reporters will be all over it until they get what they want and are able to broadcast it. Probably within the next day or two.

Depending on what that number comes back as will likely determine how hard Tiger is punished. Chances of jail time? Virtually zero but, at the very least, it's going to cost him a few thousand bucks (and a former sponsor or three). This is chump-change in his world, of course, but the bigger hit will come to his already not-so-good reputation.

And he's still no closer to making any sort of "comeback", which was doubtful enough even BEFORE this latest "my bad" occurrence.

[As an aside, yours truly always finds it comical when the usual arm-chair anti-alcohol puritans deign to deliver words from on high following such a scenario. They will say Woods made a dumb decision by getting behind the wheel of an automobile after having too much to drink. Well -- no kidding. Hey, if one's already "in the bag" -- see drunk -- it pretty much goes with the territory that making foolish choices is a part of it. Hello?]

Nevertheless, Eldrick Tont Woods may or may not have finally hit rock bottom with his latest charade.

Though this author was never a fan of his, even back in his hey-day -- and yes -- I can root for and against whomever I wish -- one of the few rights that hasn't yet been eroded by Big Brother -- dear Tiger seems to have checked off another box in the category of "you shouldn't have done that".

In sum, a once promising career and wild popularity has pretty much turned into a train wreck over the last several years.

Here's hoping he snaps out of it and makes something out of the rest of his life.

We shall see.......

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Green Bay Packers enigma

In the Super Bowl era, as in the last 50 years, few would doubt the Green Bay Packers have, for the most part, been the class of the NFC Central, and now Northern division. They've won several Super Bowls along the way, while their competition has come up sorely lacking.

True, the Tampa Bay Bucs of the old Central division captured one. As did the fearsome Chicago Bears in the mid 80s. The Minnesota Vikings have made it to four Super Bowls, but came up short in the big game every time.

At the bottom of the barrel resides the Detroit Lions. They are one of only four teams to never have even made it to the ultimate game, let alone winning it. The other three are Jacksonville, Houston, and the "new" Cleveland Browns -- all expansion teams. Don't forget the "old" Cleveland Browns became the Baltimore Ravens and indeed won a couple Super Bowls. The Lions continue to flounder.

Yet a half century has passed and the Lions appear to be no closer to getting to a Super Bowl than they ever have. Over the course of all that time, they've won a grand total of ONE playoff game.

Former receiver supreme Calvin "Megatron" Johnson toiled away for a decade in Detroit and never experienced a single playoff victory. Is it any wonder he retired with his body and mind still semi-intact? A couple decades ago, Hall of Famer Barry Sanders did much the same thing. Had he stuck around while still in his prime, Sanders likely would have put the all-time NFL rushing record so far out of sight it would never be approached again. But Sanders had had enough of the losing ways. A sorry testament to the Lions organization indeed.

But despite their divisional superiority over the years, the Packers pose quite the enigma. They are a team "owned" by the fans, instead of a billionaire somewhere. Being a "small market" team, and with nothing else of note sports-wise going on in Cheeserland, the waiting line to get season tickets is long indeed. Let's just say that don't have any worries about not selling out a game any time soon.

At that, it is said these thousands of "owners" can buy in, but they can't sell. It's somewhat reminiscent of the old Eagles tune Hotel California. You can check in but never leave. Perhaps a bit scary in that regard, but the Green Bay faithful don't seem to have any problem with it.

Nevertheless, it poses an interesting question. If the collective fans own the team, then who, pray tell, gets to decide who the president, general manager, and other front office personnel are? Do they have annual town hall meetings with all the "share-holders" showing up to vote on such things? And if so, how do they weigh the votes if one person holds more "shares" than the next, which is inevitable in any business enterprise? Nobody seems to know, or at least aren't willing to talk about it.

Very strange, but it seems to work.

This year the Packers are highly favored to win the division title once again. Who's going to stop them? The Bears were bad enough during the Jay Cutler era. Now even he's gone. Superstar running back Adrian Peterson has scrammed from the Vikings and their maybe/maybe not quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is coming off a serious injury. They would project to be average at best in the upcoming season.

The Lions, the epitome of the little engine that "couldn't", remain in a state of disarray. Sure, they and their snake oil peddling media will continue to hype them, because that's what they've always done. What's truly amazing is the legions of suckers in Detroit that keep buying into the same scam year, after year, after year. By God, they love their puddy-tats. In most other cities fans would have been screaming bloody murder and boycotted such a sad sack franchise eons ago. Only in Detroit could they remain optimistic. Poor misguided souls. They knoweth not, and evidently never will. Clueless.

Let's not forget the last time the Lions were relevant happened way back in the Eisenhower administration. The late 50s. Leave It To Beaver was fairly new, as was I Love Lucy. Color TV was still on the drawing board. The ill-fated Edsel, ironically enough another Ford product, was about to make its debut. The NHL was still the "original six", and the NBA had a whopping nine teams -- exactly one -- the Lakers -- west of the Mississippi. Medical procedures were barbaric by today's standards and politicians were, for the most part, honest and forthcoming. Imagine that. Hard to believe -- I know -- but it really did happen once upon a time.

A lot of things have changed since then, and mostly for the better. Progress on several different fronts can be considered as no less than truly remarkable.

But the Packers are still the class of the NFC Northern Division, despite their head-scratching management decision making process.

The Bears and Vikings may have good games here and there but likely pose little threat to get back to a Super bowl any year soon.

The Lions remain -- well -- the Lions. Watch their faithful scream with delight when they win a few games. Then watch the same have to swallow the inevitable bitter pill of disappointment when they come up short -- again -- in the end.

And sure as it gets dark at night, you just know it's going to happen.

Some things are just destined to remain the same......

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Detroit Tigers. A snapshot

Almost a third of way into the season, the Tigers find themselves in a predictable position. A few games under .500, a handful back in their own division, and out of 15 teams in the American League, tied for the 10th best record. In other words, much closer to the bottom than the top.

There is precious little to suggest optimism.

Long time stalwarts such as Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Ian Kinsler are definitely on the back sides of their bell curves. They will fade soon.

J. D. Martinez is a capable hitter, but constantly battles injuries and is a defensive liability in right field.

The Tiger faithful have waited years for third baseman Nick Castellanos to "bloom", but he never has. He appears destined to be of "journeyman" status. OK and the best they have, but an ordinary hitter and fielder by any stretch.

Michael Fullmer shows promise as a young starting pitcher, but the rest of the staff is hit and miss on any given day. Sometimes they're quite good. Other times they appear to be batting practice pitchers.

The Tigers are woefully lacking in team speed and their overall defense leaves a lot to be desired as well.

While their bullpen has long been the subject of ridicule, Alex Wilson has stepped up of late to perform admirably. Can he keep it up? The jury's still out.

By necessity, the Tigers keep bringing up guys from the minors to see if they can contribute. Some have had brief success at the plate. But as opposing pitchers figure them out, it probably won't last long. And most of them are defensive liabilities as well. Some of the outfield antics they have shown could be a "blooper" reel of its own.

Speaking of ancient, can anybody even remember if and when designated hitter Victor Martinez was able to field a position? Now, at almost 40, he's struggling to hit his weight. And let's not forget how pitifully slow he is on the basepathes. Nobody can turn a ball hit into the gap -- double? -- triple? -- into a long single like V-Mart.

Catcher Alex Avila, son of GM Al Avila -- nepotism anyone? -- got off to a hot start with the bat. But there's a reason the Tigers, and other teams consider him a "borderline" player. He's not a particularly good defensive backstop, and his batting average coming down -- a lot -- is only a matter of time.

In the meantime, teams like the Yankees, Bosox, and Orioles of the east are definitely better.

Out west, Houston is tearing it up. Texas started off slow, got hot, and have recently been in a slump. But the Rangers have too much talent to keep down forever. They'll be in the thick of it before it's over.

The same could be said of the Cleveland Indians in the Tigers' own division. Top to bottom, they're superior to Detroit in every way. There's a reason they went to the World Series last year as well. While the Tribe has struggled early, few would doubt they'll show their prowess over the next 100 games or so. It's still the same club, and they're light years ahead of the Tigers.

Observers should be mindful of some of the trades/deals the Tigers have made in recent times, not to mention the loss of free agents. Max Scherzer got away and is still a dominant force for the Washington Nationals. Remember Rick Porcello? Still in only his mid-20s, the Tigers considered him expendable. So he went to Boston and promptly posted a 22-4 record as a starting pitcher while winning the AL Cy Young award.

For these, and a few other reasons, it's entirely reasonable, and I dare say logical to assume the Tigers will finish the season in roughly the position they currently find themselves. Maybe .500, a couple games over or under, nowhere near competing for the AL Central Division title, and probably out of the wild-card chase as well. There's just too many other teams in the American League that are better.

Worse yet, the Tigers' "window of opportunity" is quickly closing. They went for the gusto in recent years past by shelling out a lot of money in a "win now" mode, but could never quite get over the hump.

When the "core" of this team starts to degenerate, and it will soon, their prognosis for the future could best be described as "poor". What do they have to fall back on? Answer -- nothing.

They will join the Pistons, Red Wings, and ever-woeful Lions to make Detroit the city with the sorriest collection of professional sports teams in the entire country.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The NBA 55 years ago -- and now

While researching something else, yours truly came across what I think was an interesting bit of nostalgia. Consider what the NBA looked like way back in 1961.

In those days there were only nine teams, instead of the thirty we know today. This was during the hey-day of the Red Auerbach coached, Bill Russell led Boston Celtics dominance.

The teams in existence were as follows:

The West --

Los Angeles Lakers
Cincinnati Royals
Detroit Pistons
St. Louis Hawks
Chicago Packers

Note that Cincinnati doesn't even have an NBA team in modern times, nor does St. Louis. The Packers, usually associated with an NFL team in Green Bay, would morph into the Bulls eventually.

The East ---

Boston Celtics
Philadelphia Warriors
Syracuse Nationals
NY Knickerbockers

Also note that Syracuse dropped off the NBA radar, and the Philly Warriors would eventually become the 76ers.

Keep in mind how long ago this was. A guy name John F. Kennedy was President. If still alive, he would be 100 years old this year. A while back indeed.

Yet it's relevant in another way.

Many often wish to compare different generations of sports as to who was better.

Surely, there's no doubt the NBA players of modern times are much more highly skilled than their predecessors of old -- right?

Maybe. Believe it or not, they could shoot, ball handle, rebound, play defense, and run just as fast back in the old days. But they weren't so much into the chest-thumping, look-at-me, slam dunking, obscene salary, sneaker endorsing mode as they are today. Nor did the 3 point shot exist. Or mega-buck TV deals and every game for every team being on the air somewhere. Back then, America had four television channels. 2, 4, 7, and Canada's 9. CBS, NBC, ABC, and CBC. Period. This was before UHF, and decades before cable, let alone the digital streaming blitz that is now available.

But a much more important point looms.

At only nine teams, the league had less than a third of the players it has today.

In that regard, it could be argued that the talent level in the NBA has become watered down with all the "expansion" that has taken place over the years, giving rise to so many more teams.

Consider ----

How good would the players on any team be these days if there were only nine teams instead of thirty?

In other words, the bottom two-thirds of any roster wouldn't be there.

Given the roster sizes would be limited to the same dozen or so players, it would mean only the best 3 or 4 from every team would even be in the league. The other 8 or 9 would have to get a real job doing something else. Not good enough. And further given the salary cap, draft, and free agent movement -- see parity -- EVERY team would be really, REALLY good.

The cream of the crop indeed.

Regrettably, it hasn't turned out that way. In 2017 fans have become subjected to more talking heads, pundits, and other "experts" that never played the game -- merely talking about it on the bazillion channels now available on TV. There's way more of them than there are top-flight basketball players.

Sure, every player in the NBA is better than anybody on your block. Competition remains ferocious to even get there.

But just imagine how good the teams would be if only 9 or 10 of them existed instead of thirty.

Ah yes,. The heady days of Leave it to Beaver, the Flintstones, and the town drunk Otis locking himself up in Andy and Barney's Mayberry jail. Captain Kirk was just enrolling in the Starfleet academy. The Addams Family, Munsters, Green Acres, and my favorite of all time Beverly Hillbillies hadn't even been thought of yet.

Quality was on the way -- at least in TV land.

Maybe not so much in the NBA.......

Thursday, May 25, 2017

NBA/NHL viewing. Easy call

On this fine Thursday night, sports fans had a choice. Would they rather pay more attention to the NBA playoff game between Cleveland and Boston -- or the NHL contest between Ottawa and Pittsburgh?

True, one could flip back and forth. But which was the more must-see game indeed?

It was an easy call.

In the NBA, things pretty much turned out as expected. Even when the season began last fall, the consensus was certainly that the Cavaliers and Warriors would meet in the NBA finals for a rubber match. Round three, as it were.

And so it has come to pass. No great surprise. Golden State has steamrolled their way through the playoffs not losing a single game enroute. A perfect 12-0. Did anybody really think any team in the West was going to stop them?

The same can be said for the Cavaliers. With the exception of one minor hiccup, a close loss in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals, they've cruised through the playoffs as well. Did anybody really think there was a team in the east that could deny them? 

Conversely, the NHL playoffs were chock full of drama and surprises. 

The Nashville Predators, the eighth and lowest seed to even make the playoffs in the west, somehow got hot and found their way into the Cup Finals.

They awaited the winner between Ottawa and Pittsburgh, a #6 and #2 seed respectively. 

And a close, hard-fought contest the latter was in a Game 7 at Pittsburgh. Back and forth they went with the score knotted at 2-2.

OK, time to check in on the NBA game. Click. The Cavs are ahead by 35 points in the 4th quarter. Yawn. Of course they are. 

Click. The Ottawa/Pitt game has gone into overtime -- then double overtime. This is some serious drama going on. 

Finally, the Pens score the winning goal. There will be no Canadian teams in this year's Stanley Cup Finals -- again. Alas, how many will miss the rousing rendition of O Canada before the games in the series for Lord Stanley's Cup? Count yours truly among them. The legions of hockey hosers in the great white north can only sit idly by and watch the yanks to the south slug it out again. 

But now things have changed. 

Pittsburgh and Nashville present an interesting match-up in the NHL Finals. A #2 seed taking on a #8. The Pens, with home ice advantage, will certainly be favored. But hockey is very much an unpredictable game. A lucky -- or unlucky -- bounce here, a deflection there, and games can be decided. True, the Pens are the defending champs and have definitely been there, done that. But the Preds have been hot of late. This series could be a sweep, or go to seven games, with the decider going into double or triple overtime. It's a crapshoot.

Yet though the NBA Finals have long been foreseeable, hence the playoffs to date anti-climactic, the Cavs/Warriors III scenario shapes up to be far more interesting.

Two juggernauts squaring off against each other. A combined playoff record of 24-1 getting ready to lock horns to claim superiority once and for all. At least until next year.

It's finally time to tune out the NHL some and tune back in to the NBA.

It only took six months......