Monday, January 30, 2017

Serena and other GOATS

Many constantly wish to debate which was the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) in any particular sport. If nothing else, it serves as bar room talk and/or fodder for the talking heads on a slow news day.

Recently, we saw the Australian tennis Open conclude. As we know, Serena Williams claimed the ladies' championship and Roger Federer the gentlemen's. Along with their past accomplishments, does that make either of them the GOAT? Maybe.

As the #1 player in the world, Serena was expected to win. Not so for Federer as the #17 seed. Both are roughly the same age, so that's a push, but there's been a huge difference over the years.

On the women's side, Serena has faced far less brutal competition than Federer. In recent times, there has been no lasting figure in women's tennis, other than her sister, to regularly challenge Serena. Not a Martina Navratilova, nor a Monica Seles, or even a Chris Evert from further back to constantly rival her. Look at the Top Ten in women's tennis right now. Besides Serena, 6 spots are taken by Russians or those from former Soviet Republics, two go to Serbs, and the last one is Venus.

Of those non-Williams, none stand out as being top notch good for any length of time. Yes, they and others have had moments of greatness, but always fall back into the pack. They come and they go. In America, few even know their names.

On the other hand, Federer has had to wade through a formidable gauntlet of contenders every time he entered a tournament. Among others, consider Brit Andy Murray, currently #1. Throw in Serb Novac Djokovic, and Canadian Milos Raonic. And we certainly can't discount the presence of Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who has defeated Federer twice as many times as vice versa over the years. These guys have all been out on tour for quite a while.

In short, Federer's had a much tougher row to hoe than Williams has over the years. For him to come roaring back at his age to win yet another major, something he hadn't done in almost five years, was truly astounding. Most had given him up for all but finished. It was reminiscent of Jack Nicklaus winning the Masters at the ripe old age of 46. Nobody saw that coming either.

So are Federer and Williams the GOATS in tennis? After all, they've both won as many major titles as anybody else ever has, but the criteria has been different over the years.

Elsewhere, who are the GOATS indeed? Is it Babe Ruth as a baseball hitter? Ty Cobb maybe? Ted Williams or Pete Rose? Arguments could be made for a lot of guys in different respects. And pitching opens up another whole can of worms.

Many will claim Wayne Gretzky was the GOAT in hockey. But the Great One himself has long maintained it was Gordie Howe. Though Gretzky not only broke, but shattered all Howe's scoring records, their styles of play were vastly different. Each brought something to the table that was better than the other.

How about NASCAR? Is it Jimmie Johnson, seven time Cup champion? Maybe. Then again, it could be Dale Earnhart Sr., who won it as many times, or Richard Petty before him. Truly a tough call.

Golf will forever have the Tiger vs. Jack debate, but Nicklaus appears to have outlasted him in the end. Woods had the greatest decade professional golf has even seen, or likely ever will. But Jack bore the standard of excellence for a quarter century and Tiger's chase for his major record is all but finished. He's not going to get there. And what of Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones, and Sam Snead of yesteryear? Just because they came before the times of most of us shouldn't detract from their greatness in their eras. Those who would use money winnings as a measure of greatness miss the obvious point of how large the purses were (and weren't) in different times. For that matter, Jones never won a dime. He was a life-long amateur never wishing to turn professional. Go figure.

Is the GOAT quarterback Tom Brady? Joe Montana? Somebody else? Should Super Bowl wins matter that much to an individual in a team sport? Dan Marino put up outrageous passing statistics for a very long time but never got a ring. And let's face it. Put Brady or Montana on, say, the Cleveland Browns or Detroit Lions over all those years, and just how good would they have been anyway?

Michael Jordan as the GOAT in basketball? Perhaps. But everything he could do, Lebron James can do today, maybe better. Or was it Wilt Chamberlain? Nobody dominated the game like he did. Bill Russell and all those Boston Celtics titles, anyone?

One thing I know for sure -- my two little toy Yorkie boys are the GOAT of the canine world. At least until I start remembering the ones I had in years past, RIP, who dwell in urns on the mantel above the fireplace. At the time, THEY were the GOAT.

And so it seems to be in the world of sports. Every day we see a new record set of some sort. This is due to the stat geeks looking up things that no sane person would consider. I mean, how earth-shattering is it that this girl here became the first 24 year old from Billings, Montana with a boyfriend named Whozit to hole a 20 foot putt after after eating a 6 egg bacon and cheese omelet for lunch? Or that guy there that ran a sub-four minute mile while whistling Dixie with his shorts on backward, who, BTW, has a great-aunt that once knitted two sweaters in a single day? But dammit, they're both records, which makes them some kind of GOAT.

Even my ex was the GOAT, at least in the early years of our marriage. Then things happened and, well, let's just say I no longer refer to her as such in capital letters.

That GOAT stuff can turn out to be tricky business indeed....

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Idle thoughts and geezers

Idle thought #1. Why does that company keep insisting "we are farmers"? Hey, if I wanted a bushel of corn or a truck load of sugar beets I'd give them a call. But what's that got to do with insurance?

When it came to the finals of the Australian Open, it appeared to be the geezer tournament. Venus Williams -- age 36. Serena Williams -- age 35. Roger Federer -- age 35. Rafael Nadal -- age 30. Wait a second. How did a young pup like Nadal get in there? Somebody card that dude.

Didn't anybody tell these people that pro tennis players are supposed to be washed up by the time they turn 30?

Idle thought #2. But that's not nearly as bad as gymnastics, especially the women's variety. Those poor young lasses are put out to pasture before they're even old enough to vote.

So OK. Serena whupped Venus. Yawn. It will be nice when these two grunters and screamers finally go away.

Idle thought #3. And what is it with that anyway? Why do so many female tennis players have to shriek every time they hit the ball? You don't hear the men doing it.

And Nadal will probably do the same to Federer. How do I know this? Because I'll be rooting for Federer, and that's the kiss of death. That, plus the age difference, and the fact that Nadal is a whopping 23-11 all time against him.

Idle thought #4. Charles Barkley was right. When your best player barely stands 6 feet tall, you're never going to win a championship. Such is the plight of the LA Clippers and guard Chris Paul.

Idle thought #5. Some things are just pitiful, hard to look at even. Exhibit A would be the free-throw attempts by Clipper Deandre Jordan. This dude shoots, if you want to call it that, charity shots like one would expect of Ray Charles or Helen Keller. What's that you say? They were both not only blind, but are now dead? Exactly the point. Did I say it was ugly to watch in action?

Speaking of geezers, 41 year old Tiger Woods is back in the news again. When is he not? At the Farmer's Open mentioned at the top of this article, Wood couldn't even make the cut. Actually, not even close. But that didn't stop the TV folks from force-feeding their audiences another slew of Tiger replays. Hey, what's up with that? Instead of the leaders of the tournament, we get more of Eldrick? The dude hasn't won a tournament in almost 3 years. Tell ya what. Woods might as well run for President, Pope, or Emperor of planet Earth. It doesn't matter what he stands for or how good he is, the legions seem to flock behind him. He was great once, you claim? Sure he was. So was Jack Nicklaus, but he's never going to win another tournament either. Does anybody want to see clip and after clip of Jack's finest moments when they're trying to follow a current tourney? Well then.

Idle thought #6. The Detroit Pistons have thudded into the basement of their division. This should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody. Besides a lack of talent, their management structure is ludicrous. Stan VanGundy is the head coach. Up from him are two -- count em -- two general managers whose duties remain a total mystery. Those two guys report to -- you got it -- Stan VanGundy, the president. Does anybody know who's in charge of what? How screwed up is that? This team has morphed from the Bad Boys to the Sad(sack) Boys.

Not to be outdone is the owner himself, one Tom Gores. He had a perfectly good arena for his team to play in, which the previous owner had paid for out of his own pocket. The Palace of Auburn Hills was, and remains a world class facility. What did Gores do? He dumped $10 million into improvements and upgrades for the Palace, then turned around and moved the team to Detroit. So the updated and completely paid for Palace will now sit empty while Gores and his new-found pal Mike Ilitch -- owner of the Detroit Red Wings -- share a new arena still under construction the Red Wings didn't need either. And the people of Detroit, struggling to make ends meet (in a city struggling to emerge from bankruptcy itself), will get socked with another tax to pay for it. Is it any wonder this clownish franchise finds itself in last place? To boot, the Pistons recently gave their best player, one Andre Drummond, a max contract. Millions and millions of dollars coming out of his ears. He shoots free throws pretty much like Deandre Jordan. These guys are NBA professionals and can't do any better than that? Your average 12 year old, boy or girl, would smoke either of them in a free-throw shooting contest. It's shameful.

Detroit Lions fans are already looking ahead to next year. Well, of COURSE they are. They've been doing the same thing, year after year, for over half a century. Next year will be the one, they say. And the team will no doubt raise ticket prices again, because that's what THEY do. Never mind the Lions haven't won squat since the Eisenhower administration. They know the suckers will pony up again because they...just...don't...know...any...better.

In a way, it's truly laughable but, more than that, it's just sad. How can that many people remain so blissfully ignorant for so long?

Like the wise man, or at least wise guy Mr. T once said -- I pity the fools.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Yordano Ventura and defying death

On some level, it's sad when anybody dies, even a complete stranger. Yet it's even more tragic when life is snuffed out at an early age. Little children aren't supposed to get cancer and other horrible diseases -- but they do. Fine young men (and women) march off to war and come back in boxes. For various reasons, they and others were denied the chance to ever experience full adulthood and whatever they might have accomplished along the way. Truly sad indeed.

The vast majority fly beneath the public radar, and the grieving is confined to their friends and family. Yet when somebody "famous" passes away, it's newsworthy. Was that person better and/or more deserving than anybody else? Of course not, but such is the nature of our species that we will publicly mourn the loss of a "notable" we never met more than we would the next door neighbor we have known for many years. It's just the way most people are. And everybody's last day is coming -- it's just a matter of when.

However, there are times when we do some stupid things and put our lives at risk unnecessarily. This is particularly common in young males. Yours truly was no exception. Among other crazy stunts, I once rode a motorcycle going 140 MPH, at night, swerving through traffic, with a fellow rider three feet away from me in the same lane. Things come at you pretty fast at 140 and there's not much time to react if something unexpected were to happen, and likely nothing one could do about it anyway. (Heck, helmet or not, blow a tire at a buck forty and you'll probably tumble for a quarter mile breaking every bone in your body). It was funny back then but, by all rights, neither of us probably should have survived to tell about it. Yes, we were experienced riders and knew each other's moves like we did our own, but three words. We were lucky.

Even more so lucky, we're both still around decades later, having been fortunate enough to experience so much more life. Somewhere along the way, I began to be aware of my mortality. I'm not Superman, never was, though I thought so back in the day. It's a miracle I lived through that stunt and a few others. "By the grace of God", for those so inclined -- and I am.

Others weren't so lucky, and their "number" came up. Bang, you're gone. Forever. You shouldn't have done that, whatever it was, and now you're dead. No mulligans.

Yordano Ventura's number came up, innocently enough, while merely driving a car in his native Dominican Republic. Baseball fans knew him as a star pitcher for the Kansas City Royals. He was only 25. Details of the crash remain sketchy (was he drunk?), but he's gone. Could and should he have done something differently? Perhaps. It's no secret that the Dominican Republic is an unsafe place to drive. Other motorists routinely go way too fast, are inebriated, and otherwise ignore traffic laws. Basically, it's a free-for-all on the roads. And after all, Ventura was a multi-millionaire as a professional baseball player. He could have had a qualified driver tool him around in a limo. Then again, unless Ventura was driving extremely recklessly himself, unknown (but he wasn't wearing his seat belt), it's a sad state of affairs when one gets snatched away while performing the mundane task of simply driving their car. But it happens.

This comes not long on the heels of an eerily similar incident in the Dominican which took the life of St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Oscar Taveras, who happened to be a friend of Ventura's. Small world.

Still fresh in the minds of many is the boating accident which claimed the life of Jose Fernandez, a pitcher for the Florida (Miami) Marlins, along with a couple of his friends. Fernandez was only 24.

His case appeared to resemble my motorcycle scenario described above. It was purely reckless, but he didn't escape it intact. Bang. This is not to speak ill of the dead, but Fernandez did a lot of things wrong that wound up sealing their fate. First, they were piloting a boat capable of great speed, at night, in waters they were not familiar with. Obstacles such as rocky reefs lurked in the darkness. They found one. Later on, it would be revealed that Fernandez was far over the legal limit for alcohol consumption and had cocaine in his system. So add it up and what did you have? A young macho male, in a fast toy, who was drunk and high, and didn't know the territory. He likely thought he was the Man of Steel too, like yours truly once did. It was a recipe for disaster which became his last meal indeed. Though this scenario was not as dangerous as, say, playing Russian roulette, nevertheless, when one tempts fate, sometimes they come up on the short end. Suddenly. Long shots occasionally come in.

But what is one supposed to do? Live in a biosphere while perfectly healthy? Life is for exploring and that requires risks. Nothing is completely danger-proof. People get struck by lightning. A tree falls on their house in the middle of the night, or a car crashes into their bedroom as they sleep. Somebody fires a gun a half mile away into the air, and that bullet has to come down somewhere. If it hits you in the head, guess what? Case closed. It's a helluva way to check out, but weird stuff just happens sometimes. It's fate. How many "close calls" have we all experienced in our lifetimes that could have, and sometimes should have ended tragically? Likely a bunch. But if you're reading this, you were one of the lucky ones like myself. Knock on wood, as they say.

Many complain about this and that, and perhaps rightfully so. Life can be hard sometimes. Another way of looking at it is -- every day you wake up is a GOOD day. You can handle whatever comes your way -- somehow.

The people we see in the obituaries had a BAD day.

Enjoy it while you can because, like Yordana Ventura, you never know if a BANG is in your near future. Five seconds before it happened, Ventura likely wouldn't have believed it himself.

May he and the others R.I.P.

It's just sad......

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tiger mania. Spare us

First it was rather comical. Then, like somebody telling the same joke over and over again, it got to be annoying. Now, it's just downright sad. Pitiful.

That would be those, especially the media, that are attempting once again to resurrect Eldrick Tont Woods, sometimes known as Tiger, to his former godlike status. They,,,just...won't...give...up.

Because Their Highness has -- sound the trumpets -- royally announced that he will enter another golf tournament, the madness has began anew.

Out come the highlights from times long past. Line up the cameras and microphones for "breathtaking" interviews. Trot out the usual gang of "experts", analysts, and other talking heads to get their opinions on such an earthshaking event. No doubt, the 4-letter sports network has gone to Defcon 1. Condition red, all hands on deck, and man the battle stations. Dammit, this is serious stuff.

Or is it?

Woods hasn't even played in an official tournament in over a year and a half.
He hasn't won one in over three.
His last "major" victory was almost a decade ago.
And last but not least, Tiger is currently ranked #663 in the world. That's just not "under the radar" as they say, it's buried deeper than the Marianas trench. To put that in perspective, that means the equivalent of about a dozen complete NFL rosters worth of guys are viewed as being better than him, right down to the third string offensive guards. That's a whole lot of folks. Far more than both houses of Congress combined.

So one could logically ask --- why the insanity over some guy with those credentials, or lack thereof, deciding to play in another tournament?

Perhaps it harkens back to what he once was. There is no doubt whatsoever that once upon a time, Tiger Woods was the greatest golfer in the world. From the late 1990s until about the time Barack Obama was first elected President, Woods put up arguably the best decade of golf ever seen. He was winning seemingly everything. Tournament after tournament. Majors galore. It was only a matter of if, not when, he would surpass Jack Nicklaus's all-time mark.

But then, as we know, his personal life imploded, he was beset by various injuries, and his game basically went from top of the line, to mediocre, to non-existent. A colossal fall of the once so mighty. And long before he was even 40 years old, which he is now. Actually 41. Not geezerish in the world of professional golf, but definitely on the back side of his bell curve.

His chances of winning when thrown in with all the young lions currently on tour would be slim at best. True, guys like Nicklaus won tourneys well into their 40s, and lefty Phil Mickelson still makes some noise once in a while, but for the most part it's a younger man's game.

The competition is a lot more ferocious than in years past. It's not just the established big names like Jason Day and Dustin Johnson, there are scads of players capable of putting together four good rounds to win a tournament. Plus, the young guns from the world over are going to keep on coming. What Woods once did to the established players of his time, as in run roughshod over them, he can now expect to be done to him in return. Sure, the other competitors will give him the proper and respectful lip service but, make no mistake, on the course they'd just as soon beat his brains out.

Then again, there's always the long-shot chance of something totally unexpected happening. See the recent presidential election. So you never know. Could Woods actually pull off the unthinkable, Trump style, and -- gasp -- win something again? It IS theoretically possible. To even begin to try and imagine the aftershocks of such an event is mind-boggling.

First thing that would likely happen is Woods would probably zoom up at least 640 spots in the rankings. They'd find a way to get him in the Top 25, after a single win. The mania would heighten. It's an angry mob out there just waiting for a reason -- any reason -- to go nuts again. Their hero has been out of action long enough, and they're just itching for a chance to get behind him again.

But even such an unlikely win wouldn't put the king back on the throne. No, he would have to do much more than that.

The huge test will come in April. Some little thing called the Masters. If Tiger can stay healthy and be even semi-competitive for the next two months, both far from a given, the golfing eyes of the world will be watching closely. Woods knows the course well and has won there before several times. Might there be the snowflake's chance in the Sahara that he could pull off the unthinkable and capture another green jacket? Thing is, besides all the other stuff he's gone through, Father Time isn't going to cut him any slack any more than he does anybody else. If Tiger's ever going to win again, it has to be soon. So this is likely his best shot.

But if THAT were to happen, it's scary to think what might come next. His groupies would flog themselves in ecstasy in the streets. Talking heads on TV might get so excited they'd spontaneously combust and burst into flames on the air. (Now THAT would be interesting viewing.) All other action on the 4-letter networks would immediately stop, so they could devote round the clock coverage. The endless replay loops would go on for days, weeks, years.

Tiger himself might have to quickly leave Georgia and head west to California, forsaking his Florida home. Why? Because if that sort of thing can come to pass, maybe instead of California one day breaking off and sliding into the Pacific, everything east of it would slide into the Atlantic. That's not supposed to happen either, but who knows?

If a guy can come from #663 all the way back to #1, anything's possible. Actually, Tiger is tied at #663 with a Canadian named Adam Svensson. Both are a mere one thousandth of a point ahead of a South African named Titch Moore. Ever heard of him? Me neither. But he has the dubious distinction of being #666, supposedly the sign of the beast. Woe be it to Tiger if he should happen to fall back such a minuscule amount to claim THAT spot. Yes, he can be a pesky little devil at times, but let's not get carried away here.

Speaking of which, we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves either. Woods is a long, long way from any such lofty status. First he has to make a single cut and there's no guarantees he'll even be capable of that. He could well crash and burn again.

Which in the whole scheme of things might be for the better. Who wants to see so many people beating themselves senseless in public? And though it sounds intriguing, maybe those live exploding heads on TV isn't such a good idea either.

Most of all, America seems to doing fairly OK with four time zones. Zapping it down to one, as in everything east of the Rockies being underwater, would quite likely impose some serious hardship on a lot of folks. A pretty drastic scenario, to say the least.

But for now, is it asking too much that they quit with the Tiger replays from yesteryear already? The guy hasn't done squat in his hopeful comeback yet, and odds are long he ever will. I mean, isn't that a little bit like having to re-watch the inauguration of, say, George W. Bush over and over again? He's still alive and had his day too (strangely enough roughly during the same time Woods did), but it's hardly newsworthy now.

Let's see about him making a cut first......

Sunday, January 22, 2017

NFL. You can't win if....

You're the Green Bay Packers and you only force the Atlanta Falcons to punt once in the entire game. Up and down the field they went, scoring galore. Nobody's going to mistake Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan for Tom Brady or Joe Montana, but if you let him throw for 400 yards and 4 TDs, you better put up a bunch of points in return. And how about a banged-up Julio Jones, wide receiver supreme for the Falcons, not only gutting it out, but racking up 170 yards and 2 TDs while shredding your secondary? Not good.

True, Aaron Rodgers and the Pack had been on a roll, winning their last 8 in a row, but there's this little thing called defense that comes in pretty handy once in a while.

Bottom line -- the Packers go home and Atlanta moves on to the Super Bowl. And good for them and the city.

After all, what have they had to celebrate over all the years? Out of 50 Super Bowls, the Falcons made it there just once -- and lost, back in 1999, to the Denver Broncos. That was some guy named Elway's swan song. Out of all those super-duper baseball teams back in the 90s, which featured a lot of future Hall of Famers, the Braves only managed a single World Series championship. Good grief, Atlanta lost its NHL team years ago.

So it's hard to root against anything Atlanta -- although....

Coca Cola is headquartered there. Remember their super-bonehead move a few decades ago? They took the #1 selling soda pop on the market -- and changed the formula!!!!  Instead of having its age-old bite, the "new Coke" was a sweet, syrupy, wimpy version. Coke fans everywhere revolted. Finally, the company relented and brought back "Coca-Cola Classic" -- the old stuff. In the meantime, the company had watched its market share get hammered, much to the delight of rival Pepsi. What quietly went unnoticed was the syrupy glop finally disappeared from the market, while the "Classic" was dropped from the original. Now all is back to what it was, but they never have fully recovered to be in the dominant position they once were. Which just goes to show -- once again -- if it ain't broke, don't mess with it. What were they thinking?

It's definitely hard to win if -- you're the Pittsburgh Steelers, and can't seem to score touchdowns. You might get away with it against a team like the Kansas City Chiefs, and they did, by only kicking 6 field goals in an 18-16 playoff victory last week. But KC isn't known for a high octane offense either. They rely mostly on defense, special teams play, and a running game. Quarterback Alex Wilson is OK, but he's not "IT". The Steelers snuck by them -- barely.

But to do the same thing against the high-flying New England Patriots is a whole different can of worms. Besides having the #1 defense, the Pats have #12, a guy named Brady. One way or the other, this Brady character is usually going to account for at least 3 or 4 touchdowns in a game. You can't keep up with just field goals.

True, the Steelers scored an early TD, but then their place kicker immediately missed the point after. It was as if their mood was -- here we go, here we go -- oops -- what the hell was that? And they wouldn't get it into the end zone again until garbage time, already getting blown out by 27 points. Game long since over.

Idle thought: You have to give credit to both these teams. Not a single penalty between them in the entire first half. That's great coaching and player discipline. When's the last time a game featuring the Detroit Lions went more than 2 or 3 minutes without a flag being thrown? Has it ever happened? False starts, offsides, holding, interference, delay of game, it's always something.

Know what must have driven Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin crazy? Two receivers for the Patriots, Chris Hogan and Julian Edelman, caught over 300 yards worth of passes between them. And it's not like they're Jerry Rice and Calvin Megatron Johnson running around out there. Hogan and Edelman are two shifty little white guys, but man, they lit up the Pittsburgh secondary like a pinball machine.

This might be lesson learned time for Tomlin. Recall last week, after defeating the Chiefs, he was filmed referring to the Patriots as "a-holes". This no doubt served as bulletin board fodder for the Pats, as it they needed any more motivation. Note to Tomlin -- yes, they probably all have one -- let's hope it's ONLY one -- scary thought -- but it's probably not a good idea to refer to them in such a way, even if you think it's in private. These days, hardly ANYTHING stays private for long.

After the game, an easy victory for the Pats, there was that Brady guy on the sideline talking to a breathless reporter. He first wanted to say "hi" to his mom and dad. OK. But then he referred to them as beautiful.

Wait a second. His dad is beautiful too? Wow, toss in Giselle and that's some kind of pretty family.

Idle thought: When they get their monthly electric or gas statement, can it be referred to as -- gasp -- the Brady Bill?

At any rate, like the Packers, the Steelers are going home too. Tom Brady marches off to his seventh -- count em -- seventh Super Bowl in quest of victory number 5, which would break the tie he's in with the aforementioned Montana and Terry Bradshaw for the winningest Super Bowl QB ever. Love him or hate him, bet against Brady at your own peril. He most definitely is "IT".

And what a game it should be, if one likes offensive fireworks -- and what fan doesn't? Between Brady and Ryan, with their respective receivers corps, this could boil down to which team has the ball last. In other words, it's hard to imagine this Super Bowl will be a low scoring affair, although one never knows.

Bring it on.....


Friday, January 20, 2017

Trump's ball, Tigers and Aussies

Don't get yours truly confused with one of those goofy hard-core partisans. I am decidedly not -- but rather quite independent, actually. Nonetheless, we have a new Prez, so I decided to check in on the festivities. Click.

There's an old black dude up on stage, reminiscent of Cab Calloway, trying to get the crowd into it. A dynamite back-up band behind him. And front and center are two dorky looking white boys, in goofy looking matching suits, wearing shades. These are evidently the front "men". They could easily remind one of a couple guys named Jake and Elwood from yesteryear. Hmm. This is starting to look and sound familiar. No sign of Aretha yet and, for obvious reasons, Ray isn't available anymore. But the two boys are blasting away on trumpets. Well, of COURSE they're blowing their own horns. This is in honor of Trump -- right? Would he have it any other way? Wait a second. Their suits are the wrong color. Whoever heard of the "Red Brothers"? OK, enough of that nonsense. Here's hoping for the best in the next four years. Click.

Interesting article in the local paper. The Detroit Tigers are not only rolling into their annual winter bus tour, but pretty much rolling with the same roster they had last year.

Which means they're also likely to roll right back into second place, at best, in the AL Central Division again.

The Cleveland Indians clearly remain the class of the division. They have, arguably, the best starting rotation in all of baseball. A great bullpen, even after fireballer Aroldis Chapman bailed in free agency. Hitters galore. Terrific defense. Team speed, and a manager in Terry Francona that's been there, done that when it comes to winning championships.

And don't sleep on the Kansas City Royals. They could come roaring back as well.

Meanwhile, in the East, the Toronto Blue Jays, Yanks, Bosox, and even Tampa Bay will all likely be contenders. Somebody has to win that division, but a couple of the others will be strong candidates as wild cards for the postseason.

In the West, the Texas Rangers won't have dropped off any. Plus the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners were in the hunt until the last week of last season. So we'll have a division champ and two more wild card wannabes.

Translation? Like last year, the Tigers could easily also find themselves rolling right back out of the playoffs, given they haven't upgraded their club. It's like musical chairs, with the Tigers being a step slow when the music stops.

Can that be right? The Tigers have a pitching coach named Dubee? Holy "smoke". Does he "weed" out the bad ones? Will the ones with good "stuff" create a "buzz" in town? Does he advocate throwing a lot of "high" hard ones? Sorry.

The Aussie tennis Open has started and the early rounds are underway. Pretty boring stuff. Who cares about tennis tournaments until maybe the quarterfinals, when all the riff raff has been weeded out? Uh oh. How did I get back on weed? Pushing on here....

We'll see the usual assortment of "ovas" from foreign countries. These are typically leggy long haired blondes with perfect teeth. Another distinguishing characteristic is they all have this super annoying habit of shrieking every time they strike a tennis ball. One is left to wonder if they exhibit the same behavior while partaking in their love lives -- if they have any. Scary thought. Maybe. Some guys like that sort of stuff. Either way, thank you Lord for mute buttons and earplugs.

If this tournament is like any other recent tennis major, the American men will have all been eliminated before the serious competition heats up in a couple weeks. Pretty much the women too, with the exception of the Williams sisters. At that, elder Venus, a veritable geezer at 36, has been watching her best years fade into the rear view mirror for some time now. Venus is no longer a threat to win a championship. Perhaps a semi-finalist at best.

Anything Serena does will be trumpeted to the heavens. There's that "trump" thing again. Dammit, it just won't go away. Kidding. But Williams junior is no spring chicken herself, only a year younger than big sis. She could easily get zapped by one the "ovas" or another rising young star somewhere along the way. BTW, she's quite the grunter and screamer herself.

Thing is, and always has been, is if she loses she'll never graciously admit the opponent was just better that day. With Serena, there's always an excuse. Perhaps an upset stomach, or a sore knee, ankle, hip, elbow, pick a body part. Maybe sun spots or another astrological reason why the universe turned against her. It wouldn't be too surprising to hear her somehow blame Putin and those pesky Russians for somehow disrupting her "campaign". (Hmm, that sounds vaguely familiar too.) Anything but owning the reality she got whupped fair and square.

Serena's time in the spotlight is quickly drawing to a close as well. The talented kids from the world over are going to keep on coming and Father Time has yet to make an exception when it comes to aging stars trying to hang around too long.

But the show must go on. Speaking of which, the Packers/Falcons/ NFC and Steelers/Patriots AFC championship contests should both be great games to watch this weekend.

Can't wait. Oh yeah, bring it on......

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Insurance, UConn, rants

What to do? One insurance company has a lizard as a spokesperson. Another has a duck. Still another boasts an upside down whale in mid-flip. Finally, another has long wanted to sell us a piece of some rock. Hey, I don't want a rock. Many would say I've already got enough of those bouncing around between my ears like lottery balls. I want good coverage at affordable prices. Seems simple enough.

And what happens if one has to make a -- gasp -- claim for a loss or damages? Do we have to attempt to communicate with a lizard, duck, or whale? And BTW, just where are these companies located? I haven't seen an office for any of them in my town. Might they be in Syria? Tibet? Do we have to parachute into a war zone or climb a mountain to collect a check?

UConn's lady hoopsters continue to amaze. They've now won 91 in a row, an all time record in any sport, and there's little to suggest they'll get defeated any time soon. By the time they host #5 South Carolina in a few weeks, Geno's Bambinos will be gunning for #100. And this comes on the heels of a 90 game winning streak that ended just a couple years ago. Let's toss in the last four national championships, with a fifth this year quite likely. This is incredible stuff, the likes of which we will likely never see again.

Thing is, it wasn't supposed to be like this. After last season, UConn graduated its three best players. Not surprisingly, they were taken first, second, and third in the WNBA draft. Coming into this year, they weren't ranked #1. It was said by some that their front line was too small. They didn't have enough depth, and were without a premier point guard. In other words -- vulnerable. Other teams wanted a crack at them in their non-conference schedules. Payback time. But it quickly became apparent any weakness was a mirage. The beast was indeed back and ferocious as ever.

Poor South Florida. They were ranked #20 and supposedly a very good team. Then they went into Storrs, home of the Huskies, and were mauled to the tune of 102-37. A 65 point beatdown? Has that ever even happened before in basketball? For that matter, in their last five games, they've outscored the competition 462-236, almost double. This is an average of about 45 points a game. And you can bet the UConn starters aren't seeing many minutes in the second half of those games. The "bench" gets to play more, hence they get more experience, and better. An ominous sign down the road for any opponents.

Here's a question. Assuming UConn -- like most other college basketball teams -- has an incoming freshmen class of three or four players, and further assuming the five star prep recruits are standing in line for a chance to play there, just how good are the girls that become Geno's chosen few?

Answer. Unbelievably good. Top of the line talent that possesses good character as well, or they wouldn't get picked.

As long as the upperclassers keep taking the newbies under their wings and Geno Auriemma's still there drilling his system into their pretty heads, this thing could keep going on for a long time. How scary is that to the competition?

Uh oh. There's a new "most interesting man in the world". Evidently, the slobber-lipped guy that liked to hang out with flat chested girls that kept mouthing words but never actually speaking, has retired. Or maybe, considering it's a beer commercial, he's on a serious drunk and the ad folks can't find him. If so, that ought to be one dandy hangover if he ever sobers up and resurfaces.

Nevertheless, the new guy is up to similar antics. He's kicking some sort of hard hairy fruit between the long necks of giraffes -- like football field goals going through the goalposts. This is quite the party trick if one happens to live in, say, Congo or Ethiopia. But I'm not at all sure what relevance, if any, it has in the so-called civilized world. You know, where the political leaders are always respectful of one another. Hmm. On second thought..... nevermind.

Football fans know that Pittsburgh Steeler wide receiver Antonio Brown is in hot water. After the team defeated Kansas City in a playoff game, Brown made the mistake of filming head coach Mike Tomlin's (and QB Ben Roethlisberger) post-game speech/rant. This was bad enough in the sacred realm of the locker room. What was much worse is he put it out there on social media for all to see. Though he took it down later, it was too late. It had been captured and has been replayed many times, much to the chagrin of especially Tomlin. He was hot and made no bones about it.

To the press, Tomlin called Brown selfish, inconsiderate, and disrespectful. All true. Further, Tomlin said Brown would be disciplined internally. Fair enough.

But perhaps what he should have said could have gone something like this --- "He's not only disrespectful, etc., etc., he's an idiot. What kind of fool pulls a stunt like that? The Patriots are going to be tough enough to beat at their place, and this lamebrain gives them bulletin board fodder showing me calling them a bunch of a-holes? Tell ya what. While the other players get a day off to rest, Brown's going to be running laps, and more laps. Until he drops. And then some more laps when he finally gets up. I'm going to do my best to sweat that stupid thing right out of him. And if that doesn't work -- he's gone. I have enough problems to deal with and sure don't need a bonehead on the team undercutting what we're trying to accomplish".

Bet that would have got some serious attention.

Yet here's the part nobody seems to mention. When Brown was actually in the process of recording, between players, coaches, and staff there were probably at least 70 people in the room. And not even one of them noticed this?

Maybe it's just yours truly, but that seems a little strange......

Sunday, January 15, 2017

NFL playoffs. Dumb things

OK, we know the Green Bay Packers knocked off the Dallas Cowboys. A bit of an upset, but hey, while Da Boys had put up the best record in the NFC the Cheesers had been on a roll -- winning their last 7 in a row entering this game.

Idle thought: Love him or hate him, you have to give it up to Aaron Rodgers. This dude is most definitely the real deal when it comes to premier quarterbacks. A slam dunk first ballot Hall of Famer if he never wins another game.

But some dumb things happened in the above game and elsewhere during the playoffs.

With only 3 seconds left on the clock and the Packers lining up for a game-winning field goal attempt, the Cowboys called a time-out. This was presumably to "freeze" Green Bay place kicker Mason Crosby. It was dumb. Crosby's in his tenth year kicking for the Packers and such a long time professional veteran isn't going to be phased by waiting around for a few more seconds. The Packers snapped the ball, and the kick was up and good -- but it didn't count. Well OK, do over time. Had Crosby missed the second one to send the game into overtime, the Cowboys' decision would have looked pretty good. Crosby nailed it anyway -- game officially over.

But here's the thing. What if it had played out a different way? Crosby missed the original attempt but made the second one that actually counted? Head coach Jason Garrett and the Cowboys' "brain trust" would have looked like complete boneheads for calling the time-out in the first place. Good luck explaining THAT to the press.

Speaking of brain trust, the term is used quite loosely when it comes to the Cowboy coaching staff. Jason Garrett himself is in his 7th year at the helm and hasn't won squat in the playoffs (two measly victories), let alone getting anyway near a Super Bowl victory. And consider his coordinators. On the defensive side is one Rod Marinelli. You remember Rod. He was the Detroit Lions' head coach from 2006-2008 and put up a woeful 10-38 record before getting run out of town. Heading up the offense is one Scott Linehan. He had the same position with the same Lions a while back and was summarily fired -- in mid-season, no less because --

A. His schemes weren't imaginative enough, hence not enough scoring, or
B. The team couldn't or wouldn't execute plays properly, or
C. They constantly shot themselves in the foot with too many dumb penalties, which culminated in
D. Taking A, B, and C together, they collectively looked like the Keystone Kops after a long night slamming tequila shots running around.

These are the brains of the Cowboy operation? Wow. Sure, they have talented players, but plugging in a former Ivy Leaguer (Garrett/Princeton) and a couple guys that weren't good enough for the lowly Detroit Lions and expecting miracles is a lot to overcome. Or -- just plain dumb.

In another playoff game, the Steelers got by the Chiefs 18-16 in KC. Most expected this to be a close, hard fought contest, and it was. But another bonehead reared his not so pretty face. That would be #32 of the Chiefs, one Spencer Ware, a third year running back out of LSU. On a passing play, his job was to pick up a blitzing linebacker. Fair enough. Goes with the territory. But the FIRST thing he did was grab the backer's face mask and twist his head before contact was even made. Good grief, it didn't take an eagle-eyed official to spot such a blatant foul. Tweet, 15 yard penalty. Three years in the league and Ware still doesn't know any better than that? Bonehead indeed.

Hats off to the Atlanta Falcons for dispatching the Seattle Seahawks. Yours truly thought it would go the other way because Seattle had recent playoff success under their belts, including a couple trips to the Super Bowl (one win), while Atlanta typically chokes in the playoffs. But credit where credit is due.

Though they would never say it, you just know the Falcons were rooting for the Packers to upend the Cowboys. Because that happened, Atlanta gets to play at home for a berth in the Super Bowl. Had the Cowboys and their, ahem, brain trust prevailed the Falcons would have had to travel to Big D.

So now it will be Aaron Rodgers and Co., seeking their ninth straight win, against the high flying high scoring Matt Ryan and his Falcons.

Should be a dandy and fun to watch.

In the AFC, Pittsburgh has to travel to New England. It's mighty tough to pick against the Pats, especially at home. But if anybody can knock them off , it's likely the Steelers and their smash-mouth style of football. Another good match-up.

Best of all, between all four of these teams, there doesn't appear to be a dumb one in the bunch.

Imagine that.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Detroit Lions graveyard

The Detroit Lions have been around for a very long time. All the way back to 1931 (actually 1930 when they were known as the Portsmouth Spartans). Over all those years, they've had a total of 26 head coaches, up to and including the current one -- Jim Caldwell.

But all the previous ones have/had something in common. Once their time in Detroit was over for whatever reason, none of them ever went on to become an NFL head coach elsewhere. This was understandable back in the early days when both coaches and players were all but anchored to one team -- nobody else wanted another's retreads -- but not so much in the last few decades where free agency has abounded.

True, for good reason (see win/loss records) the Lions haven't exactly been known as an elite franchise, but it seems odd that not a one -- zero -- former head coaches have landed elsewhere in the same position further on in their careers, given the good old boys coaching carousel we've seen of late. It's as if Detroit is the coaching graveyard. The last stop.

Let's go back 50 years ago, when Super Bowls first started, and examine the head coaching list of the Lions from then until the present, including their years and win/loss records.

Joe Schmidt.  1967-1972.  43 wins, 34 losses, 7 ties. He would be the last head coach (save one -- barely) to put up a career winning record, because then the clown parade began.

Don McCafferty.  1973. 6-7-1
Rick Forzano. 74-76. 15-17
Tommy Hudspeth.  76-77. 11-13
Monte Clark.  78-84. 43-61-1
Darryl Rogers.  85-88, 18-40
Wayne Fontes. 88-96. 66-67, though he gets credit for being the coach when the Lions won their only playoff game to date -- and dang it -- he almost made it to .500.
Bobby Ross. 97-00. 27-30
Gary Moeller. 2000  4-3. Mysteriously, though he had the first winning record for the Lions in almost 30 years, evidently the club couldn't have that -- so he got fired. Go figure.
Then back to their usual ways, only worse.
Marty Mornhinweg.  01-02  5-27
Steve Mariucci.  03-05  15-28
Dick Jauron.  05  1-4
Rod Marinelli.  06-08  10-38
Jim Schwartz.  09-13  29-51

None of the above ever went on to lead an NFL team again. And it hasn't been just the coaches. The Lions appear to sound the death knell for front office personnel as well.

Matt Millen presided over the club as chief honcho for 8 -- count em -- EIGHT disastrous years, before they finally figured out he wasn't and never would be the answer. He went on into the world of broadcasting and analyzing, but with good reason, no other club would touch him.

Not long ago, the tag team of Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew, bean counter and general manager respectively, were given the boot. Ever hear about them resurfacing somewhere else in a similar capacity? Me neither.

It should be noted that a few former Lions' head coaches have indeed landed jobs elsewhere in the NFL as coordinators and the like, but were never put back in charge again.

While author of yesteryear Nathaniel Hawthorne's Hester Prynne had her scarlet letter "A" for adulteress forever attached to her as a stigma of shame, it very much appears that once one has cycled through the not-so-hallowed halls of the Detroit Lions in a managerial position, they are branded with an "L", which is self-explaining and perhaps equally shameful.

In a somewhat surprising turn, the Lions were able to lure one Bob Quinn, former scouting guru of the highly successful New England Patriots into their general manager position to oversee the team and somehow turn it around. Why would he leave an elite organization to come to the land of losing? Many millions of dollars likely had something to do with it. Maybe not so surprising. Win or lose, that's a helluva raise and he's financially set for life. Who WOULDN'T take such an offer?

Quinn's tenure having just begun, the jury remains very much still out on how successful he will be over the long haul. He's fighting a whole lot of history and culture, and not exactly of the positive variety. Quinn's only 39, the same age as Tom Brady. That would seem quite young for a general manager position. If he crashes and burns like all the rest before him, will he too wind up in the graveyard long before he's even 50? It is said the good die young, but it hardly seems fair. Such a nice young man, and now he's stumbled into the NFL's version of the twilight zone or a Stephen King novel -- take your pick.

Since 2014, Jim Caldwell has patrolled the sidelines as the Lions head coach. He's yet to win a playoff game with them either, and finished up last season with the team getting blown out in their final four games. Ouch.

A lot of other NFL teams would start looking elsewhere for a head coach. This sort of stuff wouldn't fly in towns that are used to winning. The fans would demand his head.

But JC has posted a 25-18 record over his three seasons. True, .581 is a respectable, but not great winning percentage. Yet in Detroit, a coach with a -- gasp!! -- winning record, even if it's .501, is viewed as somewhat of a messiah. The bar has indeed sunk that low. OF COURSE they gave him a contract extension. This guy's the greatest thing since wireless remotes, DVRs, and smart phones in the eyes of the Motor City. It wouldn't be surprising to learn they already has plans in the works to have a statue of him made out of solid gold. Hmm. I wonder how long THAT would last in Detroit before it came up missing?

Nonetheless, Caldwell has done what so few others have done with the Lions before him. Win more than lose. Maybe a city-wide holiday named after him?

Still, his time isn't done yet. At 25-18, just a couple bad years, or one horrendous one, could put him right back in the career loser's column with all those listed above.

One thing is a good bet. When he's done in Detroit, however many more years it takes, chances are he'll never get another head coaching job either.

Because that's just the way it's always been.

The unforgiving graveyard awaits them all.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

California dreamin' -- or folly

So the San Diego Chargers are going to move to LA, where they will become.... huh... that would seem to be a good question. They'll still have the same ownership, front office, and core of players. Which is to say they'll still be El Stinko as an NFL team.

Meanwhile, they had to pony up $600,000,000 as a "relocation fee" to the league. That's a serious chunk of change. Are the Chargers even worth that much on the open market?

Once they get into LA-LA land, they'll join the recently re-relocated LA Rams. Another bad team. So Los Angeles went from no NFL teams to two, and still don't have a prayer of winning anything. It is likely the citizens let out another collective yawn. Things aren't going well in sports in the city of glitz and glamor.

Besides super-star Mike Trout, the baseball Angels have little to offer and are a bottom feeder. The NBA's Lakers have gone from the penthouse to the outhouse. The Clippers are pretty good, but you just know they'll make an early exit from the playoffs because that's what they always do. The same can be said of the LA Dodgers.

Good grief, it is said there are more leftover fans from Oakland Raider "nation" still in LA than will cheer for either of the two new football teams combined. Definitely not a good sign.

Elsewhere in California the pickings are slim as well. Of course, there are the Golden State Warriors, but beyond that.....

The San Fran 49ers have gone from the heady Harbaugh years to just shy of horrendous or, put another way, almost as bad as the Cleveland Browns. Don't get me wrong. San Fran is one of my favorite cities to visit. Lots of great things to see and do. But there's a reason they have a whole platoon of Dirty Harryish homicide inspectors. Like Chicago, one should take great care regarding which neighborhoods they venture into.

The above-mentioned Oakland Raiders were coming, coming, coming. Oops, their quarterback went out with a broken leg. Down they go again.

Further north, Stanford is known for its academic prowess. Yet their football team never seems to crack the Top Ten, and their hoops squads are typically second tier. Want brains? Gonna cost ya five star jocks out of high school. Alabama would seem to be just the opposite.

The latest big sports splash is DeMarcus Cousins reportedly getting ready to sign a whopping $200 million multi-year contract with the Sacramento Kings. That's good news and bad news. The good is, Cousin will get a few box car loads of cash. The bad news is, he'll never have a prayer of winning anything while with the woeful Kings. They stunk before, and have now likely crippled themselves with the salary cap as far as signing any other talent. Not that any other high profile player would want to go there in the first place.

What else is California noted for? Well, when it's not on fire, one of those pesky earthquakes might shake, rattle, and roll. Recently, they've had blizzards in the northern mountainous areas, up to 10 feet of snow, and torrential rains further south. With winds up to 100 MPH. Cue mudslides, or the latest portmanteau, "floodslides". They can't seem to win for losing. It's always something.

When's the last time USC or UCLA did anything of note in the sports world? The Bruins have never been known as a football school, and their hoops haven't been dominant since the John Wooden days of yesteryear. The erstwhile prophylactics of USC gave us the scandal of the Pete Carroll years before he bailed to the Seattle Seahawks. Remember Reggie Bush finally admitting he was "on the take" years after the fact? The school itself suffered harsh sanctions but the two main culprits went on to make millions elsewhere. That hardly seemed fair. And didn't USC give us a guy named OJ a while back? How did that work out?

Adding to California's hall of shame are those goofy behemoth-butt K girls and their extended clan, whose only talent appears to be being famous for -- being famous. Don't they hang out there too?

Last but not least, merry California evidently remains the home of the few dozen so-called "celebrities" that swore to leave the country if a certain underdog presidential candidate pulled off the improbable upset. We know what happened. So the question now becomes -- why are they still here? Liars and hypocrites, the lot of them. Boo, hiss. Off with their heads.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

NFL playoff picks


Houston @ New England.

Is there anybody in the universe that doubts the outcome of this game? This is more like a mercy killing.
Pats, by a bunch.

Pittsburgh @ Kansas City

This should be a rock-em sock-em affair. But KC's at home and had an extra week to rest and prepare for the Steelers. They knew Big Ben and Co. would make short work of Miami.
Gotta roll with the Chiefs, in a close one.


Green Bay @ Dallas

An interesting match-up. The Cowboys had the best NFC record and are at home, but Aaron Rodgers and the Cheesers have reeled off seven wins a row, including taking apart a pretty good NY Giants team last week.
Semi-upset special. If Jordy Nelson is healthy enough to play well, I like the Packers. If not, gotta go with Da Boys.

Seattle @ Atlanta

An even more interesting match-up. Very quietly, the Falcons steamrolled the NFC South, including winning their last four in a row. But nobody else is any good in that division. Then again, which Seahawks team will show up? The one that looks Super Bowl worthy again? Or the one that got beat at home by the lowly Arizona Cardinals a while back?
Hey, it's the playoffs and Atlanta always chokes.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Of Mach and Matthew

Of course, the title of this post is not to be confused with "Of Mice and Men", which I think was a book written by John Steinbeck back during the Great Depression. Not sure, because yours truly never read it. However, I HAVE read all of John Grisham's books and been over a 40 year subscriber to MAD magazine. So that should count for something.

By and large, all but a handful of things I have ranted on are topics which come to me by observing the world of sports. See or hear something on TV, in a venue, or maybe even a sports bar by one of the other patrons, and it gives me an idea I run with.

To be sure, yours truly would be the first to admit (lord knows I've been told enough by others) that the quality contained within these posts is hardly Pulitzer worthy. Rather, more the ravings of a semi-literate lunatic. But I really do try and, hey, the boss man (editor) already knew I was an idiot when he approached me about signing on for such an endeavor in the first place. And I got a free lunch out of the deal. Who could turn that down? Over 1800 articles later, here we are, still alive, kicking, and blathering on, though the content probably hasn't improved much. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Mach and Matthew. Right.

Every once in a while, a topic will be suggested by another for me to expound on. Most will be declined for various reasons. It's already been covered 100 different ways, could get me in trouble with the aforementioned boss man, or perhaps I just draw a -- surprise -- blank. Surprisingly, or maybe not, are the times when somebody gives me an idea for a post, and they probably don't even realize it. This would be one of those times.

There's this person out there somewhere named Mach. I don't know him -- or her. Or where they live. It could be anybody from anywhere. I have no means of finding this out and don't want to. Evidently, Mach reads my articles at least occasionally, and sometimes even hits me up with a comment here and there. For both I am grateful, though I sometimes question the very sanity of said Mach. After all, logic would seem to dictate that anybody that would continue to read this tripe can't be wrapped too tight.

But after my previous article, which was not exactly kind to the Detroit Lions, Mach weighed in again. It appears he/she is a Lions fan. Did I mention something about the elevator and the top floor?

One of Mach's comments suggested that quarterback Matthew Stafford, a hero in Detroit, might be better served if he took his talents elsewhere when he becomes a free agent after next season. And that struck a chord with yours truly. Let's look at that possibility a little closer.

Stafford will have put in roughly a decade's worth of service to the Lions after next year. To date, his win/loss record is 51-61, for a percentage of a paltry .455. True, Stafford has put up some amazing personal passing statistics along the way, most notably with the help of the recently retired Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, but he's never won a single playoff game. Chances are, he won't next year either. The Lions, as a team, and given their, shall we say, "challenged" philosophies and coaching staff, don't appear headed for greatness any year soon. The very notion of them being anywhere near Super Bowl worthy is somewhere between sad and flat out laughable.

So put yourself in Matthew Stafford's shoes when he becomes a free agent, unless he's foolish enough to sign on for even more years of frustration with the Lions in the next year.

When the opportunity arises, he'll be 30 years old. Still in his "prime" with likely the best grasp of the game he's ever going to have. At the peak of his bell curve, as it were. Where might he want to go, given choices and, most importantly, where would be a good fit? Money shouldn't be a problem. Stafford's already made upwards of $100 million and will continue to make big bucks no matter where he might land. He's pretty well set for life already in the finances department. Of course, this all assumes a disastrous injury doesn't befall him in the next year, but the possibility always looms in the NFL. As they say, each and every play can be a player's last. It happens frighteningly often.

A couple seemingly ideal possibilities can probably be ruled out. Stafford grew up in Dallas, but pulling a Lebron James and going home appears off the table with young Dak Prescott lighting it up for the Cowboys. Though he went to college at Georgia, about an hour's drive from Atlanta, the Falcons don't seem a likely destination as well. Their current QB, Matt Ryan, is about three years older than Stafford, but will still be quite serviceable if and when Stafford hits the market. Plus he knows their playbook inside and out. Talent wise between Stafford and Ryan is too close to call for the Falcons to bench Ryan (and his big contract) in favor of the Georgia peach.

Yet other possibilities are intriguing. Consider the Denver Broncos, reigning Super Bowl champions, no less. Since Peyton Manning retired, they're in desperate need of a talented veteran presence that Stafford could bring them. Elsewhere, the core of the team remains solid -- just no decent quarterback.

Could we dare mention -- gasp -- the New England Patriots? Tom Brady might want to play for another 5 or 10 years, but that's not going to happen. When his fall comes, and it will be soon (he'll be 40 in August), it's likely to be precipitous. Somebody will have to take his place. Sure, they've groomed Jimmy Garoppolo for the job, and he's done a fine job when given the rare chance to play. Yet one has to think a guy like Bill Bellichick would take a hard look if somebody like Stafford was out there for the taking. And what quarterback wouldn't want to play for such an elite organization? They can make the playoffs on autopilot. Could Stafford lead them back to another Super Bowl or three? Entirely possible. It would be a win-win, no pun intended.

Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh is now 35. How much longer does he have? Head coach Mike Tomlin and the Steelers organization would no doubt love to plug in a guy like Stafford if Big Ben calls it a career.

The above three, Denver, New England, and Pittsburgh are proud franchises with a history and expectation of winning. This sets them at a polar opposite from what Stafford has endured in Detroit. Depending on how things play out after next season, any would be a good fit for Stafford.

Of course, on the flip side, there would be any number of not-so good destinations. Teams like the Bears, Chargers, and certainly the woeful Browns might want to throw big bucks at Stafford, but he'd be crazy to go there. Even if Drew Brees hangs it up in New Orleans, the rest of the team has deteriorated badly since they won the Super Bowl several years back. Why would Stafford be interested in any of them if he has no shot at the ultimate prize? And when he's at the peak of his career with lifetime dough already in the bank, one would think his main objective would be playing in and winning a Super Bowl. Isn't that what it's supposed to be all about?

You can bet that behind the scenes the Detroit Lions will be trying to lock up Stafford for more years during the 2017-2018 campaign. And who knows? After so many seasons toiling away for the dysfunctional from top to bottom Lions, maybe he doesn't think so straight anymore and could be coaxed into it. A decade in that town, playing for that team, is just about enough to land anybody in the proverbial cuckoo's nest.

It should also be noted that, by most all accounts, Matthew Stafford is a good guy, an upright dude. Always has been. Man works hard and keeps his nose clean.

So for his sake, here's hoping he takes a good long hard look around when free agency becomes a possibility, and turns it into a reality. He deserves it.

Besides, even with him, the Lions haven't come anywhere close to playing in the Super Bowl, let alone winning it. Stafford hanging around for a few more years wasting his considerable talent isn't likely to change that. Put another way, the Lions are going to lose anyway. It's just their nature. Always has been as well.

So, with apologies to Bogey, here's looking at you kid, or at least Mach, whoever and wherever you are. Thanks for the idea and I hope I didn't botch it too badly. I'm still not going to read Steinbeck's tome, but I've only got halfway through the latest edition of MAD. Time to go put in some more quality throne time and get a few yuks. The Lions, mercifully, are done this year, so no more humor to be found there, though I must admit it's been a rich source over the years.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Detroit Lions. Poof--again

It's sadly comical how they fall for it every year. "They" would be Detroit Lions fans and their ever gullible media that continues to get them drunk on the same kool-aid season, after season, after season. Decades now.

It would be a bit like expecting Old Yeller to not die at the end of the movie, or replays showing Hillary winning the last presidential election. No matter how much one watches it and hopes for a different outcome, the result is always going to be the same. BTW, isn't such behavior the classical definition of "insanity"?

Yet the line most often used, that never seems to fail, is "these are not the same old Lions". And the suckers buy it. Again. But are they indeed the same old Lions? Let's examine it a little further.

They're still owned by a Ford, but not the late William Clay. No, his 91 year old widow Martha is now in charge, along with some help from their daughters. It is entirely possible, perhaps probable, that they know about as much about the intricacies of pro football as your average plumber knows about brain surgery. The only son, Bill Jr., is too busy running the Ford car company to dabble much in the football operations anymore. Lest we forget, when he tried that, Junior thought Matt Millen would be a savior for the Lions and talked his dad into hiring him to run the show -- for eight -- count em -- EIGHT long and dismal years. Yes sir, a chip off the old Edsel, that Billie.

These days, in their infinite wisdom, the Fords have a new president of the Lions. One Rod Wood, an estate planner by trade. That would lead to the obvious question -- how, pray tell, can a guy with that background possibly know the first thing about overseeing an NFL franchise?

Combine such clueless front offices with many clown coaches over the years, and there you go. A recipe for the many disasters that have befallen the woeful Lions over the decades.

But now they had yet another chance to redeem themselves in a playoff game at Seattle. Things didn't look good going in. The Lions have historically not played well on the road, and particularly so at outdoor venues. Seattle would offer both.

After a down, then up regular season, the Lions finished with a whimper losing their last three games. It should be noted that while the Lions had an overall easy schedule, they did have to play four games against teams that would wind up making the playoffs. They lost every one of them. Two to the Packers, and one apiece to the NY Giants and Dallas Cowboys. If nothing else, the Seahawks obviously were another playoff team. Understandably, the bookies had the Lions as 8 point underdogs, a huge margin in the NFL. Point spreads are rarely that high.

To boot, the Lions had won a grand total of one playoff game since Super Bowls began a half century ago. A 1-9 total record. Further, they are one of only four teams to have never made an appearance in the Super Bowl, let alone win it. The other three are Jacksonville, Houston, and the (new) Cleveland Browns, notably all expansion teams who didn't even exist when the early Super Bowls were being contested.

The Lions haven't been exactly kind to themselves on another front either. The draft. No one would doubt the Cowboys had a wildly successful draft last spring. First round pick Ezekiel Elliott is leading the league in rushing, and even later round pick Dak Prescott has proven himself to be a wunderkind taking over for injured quarterback Tony Romo. Not long ago, the Lions first choice was an offensive tackle -- one Reilly Reiff -- who couldn't start. Needless to say, the difference is glaring.

After a brilliant, if somewhat shortened career, former Lion Calvin "Megatron" Johnson decided to walk away and retire after last season. CJ had shed blood, sweat, and no doubt tears attempting to help the Lions for ten years, not to mention putting up eye-popping individual receiving stats, but never once got to experience the taste of winning a single playoff game.

The same could be said for Barry Sanders almost two decades ago. Though he's now rightfully enshrined in the NFL's Hall of Fame, he finally wearied of their losing ways and took an early hike as well. This, while having several potential outstanding seasons still in front of him. At that, BS is #3 on the all-time NFL career rushing list, but barring injury and had he played out the string, Sanders likely would have put the mark so far out of sight it would never be remotely approached again. Sanders, a proud but humble man, just couldn't take the losing culture any more. Some things in life are just more important.

To be sure, the Lions brought in one Bob Quinn, a former scouting guru for the New England Patriots. As much as the Lions have lost -- the Patriots have won, at least in recent times. A fantastic move -- right?  Not so fast. As the general manager, one of the typical duties is the hiring and firing of head coaches. It made sense that he would want his "own man" at the helm on the field. But this was not to be. The above-mentioned Martha had taken a personal liking to current coach Jim Caldwell. The same guy who's track record shows he had been a good coordinator under other successful head coaches elsewhere around the league, but was over his head when he assumed field command himself. The upshot? What the owner wants -- the owner gets. So Caldwell it was, with Quinn basically hamstrung right off the bat. Put another way, what good did it do to bring in a fresh new mind from an elite organization if he didn't have free rein to do his job in full? This was a typical Lions wrong-thinking gambit.

On to the game in Seattle. They could win, quoth the Lions faithful, as they chugged another fifth of kool-aid. Their latest hero, one Matthew Stafford, could lead the team to victory. Indeed, like Calvin Johnson, Stafford has put up some gaudy passing statistics, and led several improbable come back from behind drives to win games earlier this season.

Alas, Stafford and the Detroit offense wouldn't score a single touchdown against the Seahawks, settling for two measly field goals in a 26-6 beatdown. Make that a 1-10 playoff record and add another year since their last and only playoff victory (now 26 and counting) while the Super Bowl -- as if -- drought continues as well.

During the game the Lions pulled some of their usual bone-headed stunts. Lots of stupid penalties, including a few "what the hell are you thinking out there?" personal fouls.

Though the game was all, but not quite out of reach in the fourth quarter, the duh Lions struck again. With all three of their time-outs still remaining, the Lions called one with 4:25 still left on the clock. But wait a minute. A Seattle player had been shaken up and was down. The clock would have stopped anyway. So the Lions had blown a time out for no reason whatsoever. Less than a minute elapsed on the game clock before they had found a way to use up their remaining two as well. At this point, a phrase mentioned above bears repeating. What the hell are you thinking out there? Hello Caldwell? Anybody home?

And here's the best part when it comes to shooting themselves in the foot again. Before this game was even played, coming on the heels of three straight not-so-close losses to end the regular season on a decided whimper, incredibly the Lions added a year to Jim Caldwell's contract. He'll be back next year. Hey Bob Quinn. Was this your call? That's hard to believe unless his short time in Detroit has caused his brain to malfunction. (Hmm. That's possible.) Or did Martha and her happy estate planning Rod order it from on high, thereby making it as difficult as possible to succeed in his GM position? This too, would be typical SOP for the Lions. Strive for success while putting as many obstacles in front of themselves as they can.

Yet despite their usual foibles and the predictable outcome of the game against the Seahawks, perhaps something good came out of all this.

You know those football sheets where you pick squares and hope the last two numbers of the final score tally with the numbers you were given at random? Zero is always good. So are four and seven. Eight, nine and five, not so much.

But it never -- ever -- comes up 6 and 6. This game did, the oddness of which is somehow fitting of a Lions game. So just when somebody thought they had a sure loser on the sheet, BAM, they're now a very surprised winner.

Yours truly chuckled when he saw a Detroit area scribe say (before the game) that these are not the same Super Bowl winning Seahawks from a few years ago. Perhaps not. But then they argued that these are not the "same old Lions" either.

Well now. As it turned out, nothing could be further from the stark reality of it all. The puddy-tats are very much the




How could anybody that possessed the capacity of even semi-objective thinking have possibly have deemed them otherwise?

Sadly, it's a sure bet the suckers will be back yet again next year hoping for a different outcome. But no, Old Yeller and Hillary aren't going to be resurrected either.

You'd think they'd get that by now. I mean, how many times does one have to get hit in the head with a hammer before they figure out that whatever they're doing isn't a good idea?

Some things just aren't meant to be, and all the faith and blind hope in the world isn't going to change it.

It's the Detroit Lions.

Poof. Down they go again.

Sound familiar?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

UConn lady express rolls on

One just about runs out of superlatives when attempting to describe the UConn ladies basketball team, and head coach Geno Auriemma.

Are they the greatest dynasty ever in the entire world of sports?

Geno's won 11 national titles there, to eclipse John Wooden's former UCLA mark of 10.

The last four years in a row they've captured the crown and are highly favored to five-peat this year.

Currently, they're riding an 89 game winning streak. A few years ago, UConn and Geno ran off another 90 in a row for the all-time record, again outdoing Wooden's former mark of 88.

Auriemma's .870 career winning percentage is the highest of any coach, in any sport -- ever.
To put that in perspective, consider the Golden State Warriors from last season. They also set an all-time record by posting a 73-9 regular season mark. True, that equates to a winning % of .890, slightly higher. But they only did it for one year. Auriemma's career spans thirty.

It's quite likely the above mentioned winning streak record will not only be broken, but shattered this year. Barring unforeseen events, such as a rash of injuries, UConn appears poised to keep rolling for some time. Up next, they face #22 ranked South Florida. A good team, but likely not nearly good enough to knock off Geno's bambinos, especially when the latter will be playing at home.

Then they get a streak of nine games playing against unranked teams. That collective outcome is fairly predictable. Blowouts. If they get that far, then they'll face South Carolina, currently ranked #5. That should be a test, but again, UConn will have home court advantage. It's entirely possible, even likely that the Huskies will roll to another undefeated regular season.

And who's going to beat them in the NCAA playoffs?

Further, it's not like they've played a schedule made up entirely of patsies. The closest they've come to suffering defeat was in the opening game of this season. A close 78-76 win on the road at then #12 Florida State. It was almost to be expected. After all, this was the first game in four years that Geno and UConn were without the services of Breanna Stewart, who graduated last year and was the #1 pick in the WNBA. In her four years, they were national champs every time, and Stewart hadn't tasted a single defeat in well over 2 years before she left. The first couple games figured to be ones of adjustment without her.

After FSU, next up was a match on the road at then #2 Baylor. UConn prevailed 72-61, a comfortable win.

Then they started rolling and the competition didn't seem to matter. Again, they weren't all patsies. Games included #14 Texas, and then #2 Notre Dame. They were handily dispatched, with the ever-proud Fighting Irish getting taken down at home. A bad day in leprechaunland.

As could be expected, those games against unranked teams were indeed blowouts. But hey, they can only play whoever they're scheduled to play. And UConn, being a rather small school compared to many of the huger institutions across the land, plays in the American Athletic Conference. Therefore, their conference schedule could be looked at as weak. However, it's not like they duck anybody on the non-conference part of their schedule. By most accounts, Auriemma's more than willing to take on all comers, but a lot of the larger schools are no doubt wary of putting UConn on their schedule, for fear of the awful beating their team might take, be it at home or on the road. Any high-profile match-up would likely be televised, perhaps nationally, and other coaches/administrators at other proud universities could be understandably gun shy of the embarrassment they might be made to suffer. So it is what it is, certainly through no fault of Geno and UConn.

Auriemma's closing in on 900 career wins (898). The all-time record holder was the legendary and recently deceased Pat Summitt with 1078. Not far behind her is Coach K at Duke, with 1056 (including his first 5 years at Army). Just one more year with the Blue Devils and he'll take over the #1 spot. When he will retire and what his career grand total will be is anybody's guess.

At first glance, Auriemma being so far behind Krzzewski (158 wins), and with Duke a perennial powerhouse, one might think Geno will never catch him.

But there's a major catch. Coach K will turn 70 next month. Auriemma is a full decade younger at 60. With college hoop teams typically playing about 30 regular season games a year, plus the tournament, and further factoring in UConn getting 5 star recruits every year from the prep ranks to reload, it's no stretch to assume Auriemma will chalk up at least 25 wins a year, likely several more.

If he decides to hang out until he's coach K's age, another ten years, that's certainly upwards of another 250 wins, maybe over 300, in the career category. Even 5 more years and he'll be breathing down the neck of coach Pat's mark.

Of course, one never knows what Auriemma has in mind for his future. Maybe he'll hang around until he puts the mark so far out of sight that it will never be approached again. Or in a few short years, he could decide to retire at a fairly young age and go on to enjoy other things in life, such as travel. Even if he stepped down after this year, not likely, he certainly has no financial worries. Besides the big bucks he's made at UConn, there would be no shortage of other offers. Tons of endorsement offers would roll in if he wanted to take them. He could get behind a microphone for one of the networks as an analyst. Lots of things that pay quite handsomely.

But for now, and the foreseeable future, coach Geno Auriemma and his Lady Huskies are something to behold indeed, and have been for quite some time.

So with all due respect to all the others out there over the years, and there are many great ones, are both this coach and his teams the best of all time at what they do?

It's truly difficult to argue against it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Cooper, Caldwell, and Giants

It's interesting to note Jonathan Cooper, an offensive guard, was recently released by the Cleveland Browns and quickly snatched up by the Dallas Cowboys.

If anything, the Cowboys have long been known for having a superior offensive line. And the Browns have long been known as, well, terrible all around. Yet wait a second -- this guy wasn't good enough for Cleveland but apparently is for Dallas? How can that be? The thought here is the Browns missed something. The Cowboys don't often. Example: they saw something in a not so highly rated quarterback in last year's draft that apparently escaped everybody else all the way until the fifth round. Enter Dak Prescott. How's he working out?

Head coach Jim Caldwell of the Detroit Lions has been told he'll be coming back again next year. But did he earn it? Not really. In fact, it could be argued that one event, totally out of his control, wound up working in his favor to get another season at the helm.

That would be the NY Giants defeating the Washington Redskins last weekend, a game the Skins were favored to win. That result knocked the Skins out of the playoffs as a wild card, and let the Lions squeak in. Had it gone the other way, coupled with the collapse of the Lions during their last three regular season games -- all losses in which they were outscored by a 90-51 margin -- it would likely have spelled the end for Caldwell in Detroit.

Caldwell's history speaks for itself. He's been thought of as a successful coordinator when working under other head coaches elsewhere on good teams, but when given the reins of command himself has usually crashed and burned once his new team has fully implemented his schemes. But hey, it's Detroit and the Lions. Even mediocre is great by their standards. Because Caldwell has posted a barely above .500 record while there, it's a wonder they haven't carved out a huge marble statue of him yet to proudly display in front of Ford Field. Another year over .500 and they might rename the stadium after him.

Further, it could also be argued the only reason Caldwell was still around THIS year was because the Lions' owner, the doddering Mrs. Ford, personally took a liking to him. When new GM Bob Quinn was brought in from the Patriots last year, he likely wanted his own head coach. Given Quinn's pedigree with such an elite team, a head coach with Caldwell's dubious past likely wasn't his first choice, to say the least.

The NY Giants made a mini-splash in the news. It seems their receiver corps headed down to Miami to party for a day or so. In itself, nothing wrong with that. Hard working men that take such a beating for a living deserve a little R and R once in a while.

But in the whole scheme of things, it leaves one to wonder. After the Washington game mentioned above, which was in DC, they probably had to fly back to NY. True, the Giants are actually based in New Jersey, but do they even have airports in that state or has the mere physical presence of governor Chris Christie crowded them out?

Nonetheless, said receivers quickly flew to Florida. Then had to make a quick turn around and head back to Jersey. After which, in a couple days, they have to fly to Green Bay for a playoff game this weekend. That's a lot of air miles in a short amount of time. Will it (jet lag) take its toll? Unknown.

Meanwhile, the Packers have been sitting home, or at least at Lambeau Field, likely watching film and game planning for the Giants. To boot, after a slow start this year, the Pack have got many players back from the injury list and Aaron Rodgers has found his stride again (you knew he would, cuz he's too good not to).

On top of that, GB has been super hot, riding a 6 game winning streak to end the regular season, during which they've outscored the competition by an impressive 185-112 tally.

Add it all up and what do you have?

Beats me, but throw in the rabid cheeseheads that will be rooting them on and amping them up and I know who I like to win the game.

By a lot.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Big 10 and Michigan. Yikes

The Big 10 is known for a lot of things. Huge schools, traditions, academics (well, sorta), and of course sports, among other things. A proud conference indeed.

Yet one might give pause to attending or sending a child to further his/her education there, especially in any branch of mathematics. After all, they don't seem to grasp the basic principle of simple counting. To wit: How could the conference have expanded to 12 schools, then 14, and still call itself the Big 10? Maybe not so proud, or shouldn't be.

But as we all know, this is football bowl season. Indeed, the Big, ahem, Ten got ten invitations to various bowl games. Out of fourteen schools, that's pretty good.

Now the bad news. Of those ten bowl games, seven of them wound up being defeats. A 3-7 record on the biggest stages is, well, not so good.

Down went Ohio State, in flames. to Clemson. Skunked.
Michigan lost. So did....
And Penn State, conference champs.

Only Minnesota, Northwestern, and Wisconsin were able to win a bowl game, and the Badgers over a second tier (MAC) conference team, barely.

So all the hue and cry about the mighty Big 10 perhaps being the best football conference in the land is likely no more than hooey. Out of 14 teams, a 3-7 bowl record and 4 Did Not Qualifies is what it is. Not pretty.

The state of Michigan itself fared even worse. They went 0 for everything across the board. Besides Michigan going down, so did the Eastern, Central, and Western Michigans. Once mighty Michigan State was among the DNQs this year. Though MSU can rightly boast of featuring the only veterinary school in the state, their football program appeared to, excuse the pun, go to the dogs.

This, from the same state that took a few weeks, including a recount, to figure out which Presidential candidate had tallied the most votes.

Which would seem to fit right in with a conference that can't count, as mentioned above.

And we won't even talk about the condition of the roads in Michigan, because it can be summed up in one word.


In fact, pretty much all around.

It would seem to go hand in hand with why they call themselves the Wolverine State when there aren't any wolverines in the entire state, except in the zoo. Sigh....

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Detroit Lions. A worrisome pattern

Well OK. The regular season is now over for the lovable, or not, Detroit Lions. They just dropped their final game, at home, to the Green Bay Packers 31-24. Actually, the score was deceiving because it wasn't that close a game. After a tit for tat first half, the cheesers thoroughly dominated the puddy tats in the second. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a meaningless "hail mary" pass into the end zone for a touchdown as time was about to expire, long after GB had started celebrating the win.

So now it's off to the playoffs for both. As division champs, the Packers get to head back home to the friendly confines of Lambeau Field to host the NY Giants, a wild card team with actually a better record. Meanwhile, the Lions face the daunting task of traveling to the not-so-friendly confines of Seattle.

For the Lions, this is what happens having dropped the last three games of the regular season. The same Giants dumped them 17-6 a couple weeks ago, and the Dallas Cowboys totally trashed them 42-21 just last Monday night.

As has been mentioned in this space before, the Lions had a ridiculously soft schedule this year. At that, they needed several breaks, which they got, to barely limp into the playoffs.

Yet a closer look reveals a worrisome pattern has developed by the Lions. Consider who they've played.....

Besides the mandatory 2 games apiece within their division against GB, Minnesota, and Chicago, here's a list of the rest.....

Indy  Win
Phil   W
Tenn  Loss
Hous  L
LA     W
Wash  W
Jax      W
N. Orl  W
NY (Giants)  L
Dal   L

The Lions finished the season a semi-respectable 9-7, but who they've defeated, and lost to, is very telling.

See the pattern? Out of the above teams, nary a one of Detroit's nine victories came against what would be a playoff squad. Every single time they played one, they got beat. To boot, besides the Tttans, even the lowly Chicago Bears knocked them off once. Basically, they feasted on below average competition.

But now, however far they go, and it will quite likely be another one and done in the playoffs, EVERY team is, obviously, of playoff caliber.

All year long they couldn't beat a playoff team and potentially three grueling matches with them, all on the road, stand between them and a first ever Super Bowl appearance?

Three words.

Not a chance.

Despite the usual hype generated around Detroit when their team has even a modicum of success, in the end it appears to be boiling down to a quite familiar result.

It's just another year.

Given their long and sordid history, that's another pattern that's very difficult to argue.

They are, after all, still the (same old?) Lions -- right?

Idle thought: If we call the Green Bay Packers the Pack, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the Bucs, and the Jacksonville Jaguars the Jags -- um -- what should we call the Tennessee Titans? Careful.

Detroit Lions update

As this is written, the Lions are slugging it out with the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North Division title. But the Motowners have already caught yet another major break.

The Washington Redskins, at home, went down to the NY Giants earlier today. That guarantees the Lions a spot as at least a wild card in the playoffs. In effect, so far, they have backed in.

The game going on against the Pack is crucial. The winner gets to play at home next week against the wild card Giants, while the loser has to hit the road and take on the Seattle Seahawks in the house of horrors in the great northwest.

Playing at home against the Giants, a very good team themselves at 11-5, is one thing, but perhaps manageable. But going to Seattle likely spells the end of the road for whichever team has the dubious honor of the trip. If so, it could well be another one and out in the playoffs for the Lions, which have never won a playoff game on the road since a decade before Super Bowls even started, and only one total at home, well over 20 years ago, at home.

Yet though it's long been forgotten, at least in Detroit, one particular play has made all the difference for the Lions. It happened in Minnesota against the Vikings, way back on Nov. 6. The Vikes had tied the score with seconds left in the game and had only to kick the point after touchdown to win it. But their place kicker, one Blair Walsh, missed it. A sure loss for the Lions turned into a gift from heaven win in over time.

This was "yuge", and yes, that word is spelled as intended. As in bigly (might as well go with the flow).

Had Walsh made that PAT, all but automatic for any NFL place kicker, the Lions would already be eliminated from the playoffs.

But they're improbably still alive.

Back to the game......