Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The sorry state of Detroit sports

To much misguided fanfare, Detroit will debut a sparkling new arena next season to host both the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Pistons. Given both had perfectly functional venues to play in before, which were completely paid for, cha-chinging the tax payers of the Detroit area for even more money everybody knows they don't have (see recent bankruptcy) to pay for Little Caesar's Arena would seem to be the height of billionaire (see owners) hubris.

And what will they have to offer? Two cellar-dwelling teams in their respective sports. The Pistons are a highly overpaid mess that have little if any hope of improving any year soon. The Red Wings had been living on borrowed time for quite a while, but finally bit the inevitable bullet and went into full-blown rebuild mode. Goodbye to most of their semi-decent players. Hello to future draft picks they hope and pray will work out. No matter how one slices or dices it, NBA and and NHL action for Detroit teams is going to be pretty ugly for the next few years. But dammit, they'll have luxury boxes galore and a super-fancy big screen for whoever wants to forego a house payment to go see a game featuring their bottom feeders. Good luck to the marketing people trying to sell THAT bill of goods.

The Detroit Tigers are projected by most knowledgeable baseball people to finish next season slightly over .500. They have a lot of "unknowns", which loosely translates into "if everything goes perfect", they just might be pretty good. But it never works out that way. Few would question the Cleveland Indians remain the class of the American League central division, by a long shot (see vastly superior talent), and the same gurus have the Tigers finishing anywhere from 10 to 15 games behind the Tribe -- and missing the playoffs. Again. Too many other better teams like the Yanks, Bosox, Rangers, Blue Jays, Astros, and maybe Mariners in the way to a post-season berth. Likely not going to happen for the Motown puddy-tats, despite their hopelessly inflated player payroll.

The Detroit Lions remain -- well -- the Detroit Lions. A recent President of the USA once coined the phrase -- "the audacity of hope". Whether or not he succeeded remains highly debated to this day. But nothing has been more audacious, or perhaps bodacious, than the other Detroit club of puddy-tats selling the same "rope-a-dope-hope" to the suckers for so many years, decades even. And still they open up their wallets and make their pilgrimage to the holy house of futility. Unbelievable.

It was laughable to read a Detroit area football writer saying the Lions had "upgraded" their offensive line by signing a couple free agents. What yon scribe neglected to mention was that the two "newbies" were replacing two other guys that wisely went elsewhere and, BTW, signed for more money. So if contract value is any indication of talent, the Lions actually took another step backwards. Only in Detroit could this be interpreted as a positive.

Finally, mercifully, they cut linebacker Deandre Levy. For years he had been touted as such a great player. But for those same years, he couldn't stay healthy. What's the sense of paying a guy big bucks if he can't even play? Other than that, and Levy's talent was questionable to begin with, the Lions likely don't have a linebacker on their entire roster that any other NFL team would be interested in.

They have one decent cornerback in Darius Slay, but other than that the secondary's pretty much a Keystone Kop outfit.

Running back? WHAT running back?

Tight ends that have Roberto Duran-ish hands of stone.

Since the departure of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the "stomper" and a guy with "issues", they haven't had much of a defensive line presence.

Calvin "Megatron" Johnson had finally seen enough, like Barry Sanders a couple decades ago. They had enough money for several lifetimes, so what was the point in continuing to get beat up and risk serious injury on a team that had zero, repeat ZERO chance of ever getting to a Super Bowl, much less winning it? They walked, and justifiably so. Who can blame them? One's already in the Hall of Fame, and the other's a definite maybe in a few years.

Speaking of their receiver corps, well, um, good question. Golden Tate likes to celebrate and talk smack, but this is the same guy that left a Super Bowl winning team in the beautiful city of Seattle to come to the dregs of Detroit and play for the historically sad-sack Lions. Not smart. The Lions have signed a couple aging cast-off free agents from elsewhere, but certainly no game-changers. Journeymen at best.

No doubt the Lions will try to sign quarterback Matthew Stafford to a long-term extension. With apologies to Ty Cobb, the younger Georgia Peach can sure rack up the passing yards. Thing is, if a team can't run the football -- the Lions have been atrocious in recent years -- they have to pass. There's not a whole lot of other options. So Matthew continues to heave away and rack up some stats.

But they mean nothing in the whole scheme of things if the team is so woefully lacking every place else. This has been more than evident in recent years. The Lions have a glass ceiling they can't seem to break through. Maybe barely sneak into the playoffs as a wild card, only to get blown out in the first game. In the entire 50+ years since Super Bowls started, the Lions have won a grand total of one -- count it -- ONE playoff game. To their credit, and my good fortune (I happened to be in attendance at that game), they trounced the Dallas Cowboys to the tune of 38-6. Their finest moment. Never in my life, and I've sat front and center at many a rock concert, have I experienced a more deafening roar than on that day. It was truly incredible. Alas, the very next week, those same proud strutting Lions would travel to Washington DC and get trashed by the Redskins 41-10. A thirty one point beatdown. Back to earth they thudded, and haven't recovered since. That's been over a quarter century ago.

If Stafford has any brains, or at least aspires to ever winning a championship, he'll look elsewhere when his current contract expires, rather than signing on to a long-term deal with the Lions that would doom any such chances he has in the next few years while he can still be a productive player. Though he's made a lot of money, he will have given up a decade in his career, a long time by NFL standards, to utter futility while with the Lions. The choices are simple enough. Want to make an even huger pile of money and be the big fish in a polluted pond? Stay in Detroit. Want to have a shot at a ring? Gotta go somewhere else, even if it means a little less dough. Given the current landscape around the NFL, he certainly wouldn't lack for suitors. But if he gets a few years older and/or suffers a serious injury along the way -- ya never know -- that possibility will vanish into the ether as well.

Regardless, the Lions, despite the legions of kool-aiders they have addicted to their brand over the years (and more than a few "find a silver lining in the mushroom clouds of nuclear war" members of their local media conspiring to peddle the same snake oil), are not and will not soon be anywhere near Super Bowl contenders.

It... just.... ain't.... going.... to... happen. Their upside is mediocre.

To sum up, professional sports in Detroit isn't looking exactly rosy these days.

In fact, it pretty well sucks across the board.

And likely will remain that way for the next few years.

Which, if any, of these teams, can any objective person foresee actually being a contender any time soon?

Truly a sorry state of affairs indeed......

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