Wednesday, November 30, 2005
"I'm not talking about it. When you stir up the garbage, it stinks more."
Using that as a description, then Dre Bly just made Allen Park and Ford Field a tad more odiferous.
Bly, the Lions' Pro Bowl cornerback, guns blazing, is talking to whomever will listen and push "record" on their tape recorder or can jot down notes real fast on a pad. And he doesn't show any signs of stopping until the rickety ship that is the Detroit Lions is repaired and flying high.
Bly: get better or get me out
"I don't want to be here if things are going to stay the way they are," Bly told the Detroit News. "I told Matt (team president Millen) that.It hurts to have so much talent and not win. I want to win, not lose. It's not just about me. My teammates hurt, too."
Bly, in a separate interview with the NFL Network, also sharply criticized quarterback Joey Harrington, saying basically that he -- Bly -- wasn't convinced Harrington was the man that could lead the Lions to any season where the W's outnumber the L's.
Speaking to the News, Bly didn't back off from those comments.
"As of today, I don't know if he can get it done," Bly said, referring to Harrington.
It is a sentiment shared by Lions fans everywhere, and, apparently, some players as well. For it is highly unlikely Dre Bly is a lone wolf here, the lone disbeliever in the Lions' lockerroom in Harrington's ability to be a serviceable quarterback in the NFL.
Bly wants out of Detroit if things don't improve. I think what was most telling was this comment: "I'm in the middle, near the end of my career," said Bly, in his seventh NFL season. "I don't want to end my career losing. I don't want to go out like this."
It's a cry for help, Dre Bly's comments. He is seeing the best years of his playing career being wasted with an organization that has, collectively, played the role of Mr. Magoo for far too long when it comes to building a winning program.
Bly's words about Harrington has been semi-compared to the Philadelphia Eagles' Terrell Owens and his diatribe against QB Donovan McNabb. Owens had said to ESPN The Magazine that the Eagles would be far better off if they had Brett Favre at quarterback instead of McNabb.
But Dre Bly isn't upsetting the apple cart of a defending conference champion. He is voicing his concerns about a situation that anyone with a pulse can see is outrageously dysfunctional. If anything, Bly's comments might actually help -- if anyone will listen.
The garbage may stink a little more now that Dre Bly has stirred it, but sometimes you need to smell it all the way up your nostrils and into your brain before you change the bag.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Back on July 12, I wrote this juicy little morsel:
In a flash, it seems, the Lions suddenly possess one of the youngest and potentially most exciting offenses in the entire NFL. No joke. Which team tops them, at the skill positions, when it comes to youth and talent?
But really, this Lions offense is primed for success and could be awfully fun to watch....defenses might have fits with this group.
The words are bright and mocking me as they stare at me thru my computer monitor. Unfortunately, you do not write a blog with invisible text.
It just goes to show you what kind of pep and optimism I, and others had when training camp was about to get into full swing. Everything, indeed, seemed in place for this Lions team to score some points and throw opposing defensive coordinators into a tizzy.
The fact that it didn't happen -- didn't come close to happening -- is a big part of why Steve Mariucci is no longer employed as the Lions head coach.
"Quite frankly," team president Matt Millen said, "we have not lived up to our expectations. I believe we've underachieved as a football team, and I also believe we have not developed our younger players,
and that's bothersome."
So it wasn't just delusional bloggers like yours truly. Even the boss says the Lions had the makings of a good football team, and instead they flushed it down the drain. Of course, the person who says that is also the one in charge of procuring the talent, so what else was he going to say?
"It wasn't me, it was HIM," Millen basically said of himself and Mariucci.
Just like in "Jerry Maguire," when evil agent Bob Sugar says, "It's not show 'friends,' it's show 'business.'"
Okay, so it might not be so incredible, but there are actually folks out there who consider themselves lucky -- or maybe cursed -- to be on the "Out of Bounds" e-mailing list.
What is that, you ask?
Every Saturday morning my weekly 1000-word column will wind up in your inbox, should you choose to do so. Simply email me at GregorySEno@aol.com with your address, and voila -- a fresh column every Saturday.
Now how can you say no to that? Never mind -- forget I asked.
Anyhow, the weekly column does indeed appear here every Sunday, but isn't it cool to say you read it before anyone else?
Again, don't answer that. Instead, email me if you want to be added to the growing "OOB" weekly subscribership!
I can think of at least two instances in Detroit Lions history for which you could amend that to read, "A journey poorly travelled begins with a single misstep."
Call me crazy, but I have always maintained that if Andre Ware, draft bust extraordinaire, had not held out and missed all of training camp in 1990, he would not have failed as miserably as he did. He may not have been Joe Montana, but his career would have at least had a fighting chance if he was signed, sealed and delivered to training camp on time in July 1990. Of course, we'll never know.
If Matt Millen hadn't become smitten with Marty Mornhinweg over dinner and a late night film session in January 2001, his track record in Detroit would probably be a whole lot better.
Millen is 20-55 since taking over the Lions, but 5-27 of that was with Mornhinweg prowling the sidelines. Marty wasn't ready to be a head coach -- he wasn't even a coordinator -- and had Millen been a tad more patient and interviewed other candidates, I doubt he would have hired the "other" MM. And maybe, just maybe, the Lions wouldn't be in the muck they find themselves in currently.
The irony is Millen himself was no more suited to be in the president's chair than Mornhinweg was to be the head coach, but there you have it.
Millen has had to grow into the job, and while that's been ugly to watch at times, I still believe that there's been enough improvement in the level of talent procurement to make a case for why he should be retained, at least for another year or two. The five year extension might have been a little much, I'll grant you that.
Regardless, Matt Millen is still employed by the Lions because of, a) that five-year extension, and b)
Bill Ford must believe that Matt is one good coaching hire away from turning the program around. And, frankly, the old man just might be right.
Millen has, most likely, one more shot at hiring a head coach, so he'd better make it a good one. But, really, how many of us thought the Steve Mariucci hire would go as south as it did, and so quickly?
But here's the caveat for Millen: we're not paid to do due diligence and research on candidates -- he is. So while many of us may have thought, just based on his won/lost record, that Steve Mariucci was "the guy," it was incumbent upon Millen to, again, take his time and make sure that the nice winning percentage Mooch had in Frisco wasn't papered. Maybe if Millen had been more deliberate, talking to various people around the league -- personnel directors, players, coaches, and even broadcasters (gasp!) -- he might have discovered that Mooch had some warts that weren't going to go away simply because of a five year, $25 million contract.
Well, he didn't, obviously, and now he is looking at an 0-2 count with Nolan Ryan on the mound.
Even football men can strike out, you know.
Yes, they have something in common (read on)
Now that the stench of the Steve Mariucci era is starting to slowly waft away, may as well open up a can of worms to replace it.
The 2006 candidates for the Baseball Hall of Fame were announced yesterday, and Pete Rose's window has officially closed -- for the writers' ballots. Rose can now only be elected by the Veterans Committee, several years hence.
It's a can of worms because, even though Rose cannot be elected by the BBWAA, he can still get in -- eventually, and that means the question of whether he should be inducted in Cooperstown will never truly go away.
It's great fodder for debate and ribald discussion -- Rose's Hall of Fame eligibility. It's beginning to rank up there with the spirited discussions of whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing President Kennedy (he did), or whether he was part of a conspiracy (he wasn't). All you need to do to get a dull party moving is to say, "I think Pete Rose should be in the Hall of Fame -- what do YOU think?" Then, watch the fur fly.
It's kind of like Coke or Pepsi, Rose's eligibility. People's minds are unlikely to be changed. Either you believe he should be in, or you don't. Fence-sitting is nearly impossible. Isn't it funny how, in this country, we love to spend time on issues about which 99% of the people won't ever change their minds? Just like all the dough the two cola makers spend, when nobody EVER changes allegiances from Coke to Pepsi, or vice-versa.
But yet it's intoxicating, the Rose question. It's kind of like the weather; you talk about it to break up uncomfortable gaps in conversation. If you're with a fellow sports fan and suddenly there is an awkward silence, just toss out the Pete Rose issue and you've bought yourself about five minutes, at least, of discussion.
By the way, Pete Rose SHOULD be in the Hall of Fame. And I prefer Pepsi. And don't bother trying to change my mind.
How about that weather, huh?
Monday, November 28, 2005
Yet not only did Fontes, a defensive guy, get the full-time job, he led the Lions to the NFC Championship game in his third full season -- building an offense, of all things, around a guy named Barry Sanders.
The Lions team that Steve Mariucci inherited in January 2003 was nothing to write home about, for sure, but in his third full season, Mariucci hasn't come close to improving the team in any fashion that would warrant excitement.
So Mooch is out, and is being replaced by.....a defensive guy. With five games left in the season. The similarity to Fontes' situation is eery.
Nobody knows for sure if Dick Jauron, the interim coach, will last beyond the final five games of the 2005 season. Nobody knows if he can, in those five games, make enough of an impression on his bosses to even be considered a candidate for the full-time gig. In fact, we don't even know if Dick Jauron WANTS to coach this team full-time. The Lions job hasn't exactly been valhalla for football coaches.
Steve Mariucci is unemployed today because he was unable to convince his players, his boss, or his public that his system, especially his offensive one, was suitable for winning in the NFL. He is no longer coaching the Lions because, I believe, he was incapable of instilling a feeling of accountability among his players. He is no longer our whipping boy because his team gave up on him.
As I've said before, the next coach of the Lions ought to be a hotshot offensive guru who will do whatever he can to make this football team exciting to watch. He ought to be someone who won't call for five yard passes when you need eight yards for a first down. He ought to be someone who will try to stretch a defense now and again. He ought to be someone who is chomping at the bit to be a head coach -- badly enough to even want to coach the Detroit Lions.
Steve Mariucci never quite got it. He never understood that stubbornness and conservatism and an infatuation with a 35 year-old has-been quarterback was not what this franchise needed to be successful. He had no vision, and the team had no personality, on either side of the ball. Now he has no job.
No man who has coached the Detroit Lions under Bill Ford has gone on to be a head coach again in the NFL.
Some job, eh?
Come back here for my thoughts after the official announcement!!
No, those 1972 Miami Dolphins, they of the perfect 17-0 record, have been pretty quiet thus far. You know the drill, right? A team shoots out of the gate 8-0 or so, and the talk is of matching the ’72 Dolphins, and those hyper-protective ex-Phins start pontificating about how they are the greatest and nobody’d better even THINK of going undefeated again, but even if they did, who cares, because no one ever WILL go undefeated again, dammit. Or so they hope.
Those ’72 Dolphins have always been a tad obnoxious and sore winners about that, if you ask me, but I can understand their pride. Even though the combined winning percentage of the teams they beat that year was .357 (stat courtesy Sports Illustrated), they did, after all, sail through an entire NFL schedule undefeated, then ran the table in the playoffs and Super Bowl. And they are the only team to do that in league history. So it’s not like they have nothing to be prideful about. I just wish they’d do so with a little more savoir faire.
The Indianapolis Colts are, as you know, 10-0, and they have a potential pitfall coming tonight against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. The game’s in Indy, so that should help confirm their victory, but the Steelers aren’t chopped liver, although with Tommy Maddox at quarterback, they’re not prime rib, either. Anyone who can’t beat out Charlie Batch isn’t anyone worth writing home about, you know. Still, the Steelers just might throw a scare into Peyton Manning and company, before collapsing into defeat sometime in the fourth quarter.
The task to go 16-0, then sweep the playoff games, is becoming more than just a nice thought for the Colts. It’s quite attainable, because you don’t go 10-0 in the NFL on a fluke, so why shouldn’t the Colts be able to go 6-0 from here on out? Their schedule isn’t all that tough right now, from an opponents winning percentage standpoint.
But here’s what’s so impressive about the ’72 Dolphins’ feat, and why it’s unlikely to be matched: the NFL, today’s NFL, is so freaking fickle. Teams are so up and down -- 32 yo-yo’s on any given Sunday, which is what the league wants, of course. If Paul Tagliabue had his way, every team would be mathematically in the playoff race heading into the final weekend. And it damn near occurs every year, too, it seems. So the idea of a team navigating through those unpredictable, choppy waters for 16 regular season games without a loss is actually pretty amazing, when you think about it -- which is what NFL fans everywhere are starting to do, and it will be picking up steam each week.
I think the Colts’ run at perfection is good for the league, and so is, I suppose, the ’72 Dolphins’rather boorish behavior when it comes to their record. It all makes for an interesting cocktail that football fans everywhere will be imbibing in earnest, starting with tonight’s tilt.
My hunch? The Colts lose one -- and only one -- sometime down the stretch here, getting tripped up by a lesser weight. And those ’72 Dolphins can put their heart defibrillators away for another year.
The Colts will go 15-1, it says here. The Detroit Lions, in nearly three seasons under Steve Mariucci, only just got their 15th win TOTAL under Mooch a few weeks ago. If I was Lions owner Bill Ford, I’d send my crack team of spies to Colt Land and (New England) Patriot World to see how good teams get ‘er done, year after year.
Somehow I don’t think those teams accomplish it with smoke and mirrors. There’s a recipe, and it’s funny how the Lions have treated it as if it was of the secret variety. But what’s the big secret, when all but a handful of teams have appeared in at least one Super Bowl?
Food for thought, I’d say.
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Somewhere, surely, kids are getting together a good game of Kickball...right? Or a rousing session of Bombardment? Or maybe a spirited round of Smear The Queer?
If they are, let me know about it. I'll be happy to give the lads some pointers. In fact, if there's an Oldtimers game being planned, make sure I get an invite. I'll even bring my own red rubber gym ball.
I may not have been the grandest student there ever was, but I sure was good at Recess. They still have Recess in school, right? Those 15 minute breaks outside, or in the gymnasium, which may have been just as much for the teachers, if not more so, than for the kids. Actually, I wonder if they do. Our daughter's in middle school now, but while she was in elementary, I think Recess was changed to recess, and it was merely held once, at lunchtime. No wonder the teachers have all these "in service" days.
All I know is, when I was doing the K-6 thing, that bell rang at 10:00 every morning and 2:00 every afternoon (or thereabouts), and out the doors we would bolt, headed for the playground to pick up where we left off from the previous Recess. It's funny how time efficient we were back then. For we were able to form ourselves into the Flavor of the Month, game-wise, like a college marching band at halftime gathers itself into formation. If the government moved like we did at Recess, they'd have all the country's problems solved and would have time for, well, Recess.
We were also very creative, too. All we needed were some of those red rubber gym balls, 15 minutes, and -- voila! -- instant game. And looking back on it, we were violent little rugrats.
Take something we played called Rough-It-Fumble (I swear I'm not making this, or any of which that follows, up). How the Livonia Public Schools allowed this mayhem to occur on its playgrounds, I'll never know, but today you'd have an investigation launched and hidden cameras around if someone ever found out about this tomfoolery. Basically, there was a stretch of field, and at one end was a "goal line" -- usually an imaginary one determined by something like a trash can or a pole in the ground. We used a football, although it probably could have been a loaf of bread or a Barbie doll for all that it mattered. Anyhow, the game would start when someone would throw the ball high into the air (not TOO high -- these are 10 year-old arms we're talking about here), and whomever grabbed it -- why they'd want to, once you see what happens next, is beyond me -- had to somehow negotiate through the throng and past the goal line. If it sounds like Smear the Queer, it is -- but a bastardized version.
In Rough-It-Fumble, there were teams, of sorts. Mainly that meant kids would choose sides by saying something like, "You're on my side," or, "I'm on your side." Hey, we only had 15 minutes -- there was no time for drafts or free agent signings. So the game would begin and the poor dude with the ball would run as far as he could, which was usually somewhere around three feet, because he was being chased by a gang of other kids who were already practically on top of him to begin with when he caught the ball. Included in the chasing gang, by the way, were any kids who said, "I'm on you're side," because, well, kids are liars, basically. But in theory, there were "teams," which meant the kid with the ball could pitch it to anyone on his "team," with the goal being to move the ball toward the goal line, along with the other goal -- that being to get the gang from chasing you. This is because of the "Rough-It" part of the game's name. You see, the rules of Rough-It-Fumble -- I probably lost the loose-leaf binder in which they were written -- call for the unmitigated brutalization of the ball carrier, the borders of which lie somewhere between death and the tearing of said ball carrier limb-from-limb. That's probably why there was a lot of pitching of the ball, whether if it was to a "teammate" or not.
Kickball, Bombardment, Rough-It-Fumble -- these were REAL games, not this namby-pamby stuff kids play nowadays, such as Playstation 2.
Getting much less violent, there was always Kickball, which was baseball meets soccer. The pitcher would roll one of those ubiquitous red rubber balls to the batter, who would run up to it and kick it with all of his or her might. If it was caught in the air by a fielder, it was an out, like regular baseball. But if it wasn't, the batter would run the bases until he either: a) stopped at a base; or b) was hit by the ball while not on a base. Yes, folks, in Kickball fielders could simply take the ball and throw it at the batter/baserunner. Whammo! And the head wasn't off limits, either. Girls played Kickball, too, so naturally that meant that....the head wasn't off limits, either. Kids -- boys in this case, in addition to being liars, are also sadistic.
But hey, if you're looking for sadism, look no further than Bombardment. Again, any teacher who would allow a lively game of Bombardment to occur on his or her watch would be called before the school board and verbally caned by parents. But in my day, you played Bombardment to prove you weren't yellow, dammit! Here's how it worked: two teams would face each other, with that imaginary line separating them. Several of those red rubber balls, as many as you could muster, were used in Bombardment. At the sound of the word "GO" or "NOW!!", both teams would start firing balls at their opponents, careful to do courageous and sportsmanlike things such as aiming for the head of someone who wasn't looking -- or a girl. If you were hit by a ball, you were out. If you threw a ball at someone and they were lucky enough to catch it, you were out. If you got hit in the head, you might be out -- literally. Yes....fun times.
Kickball, Bombardment, Rough-It-Fumble -- these were REAL games, not this namby-pamby stuff kids play nowadays, such as Playstation 2. And what made them special is you could only play them at Recess, because when else are you going to be able to get, oh, 30 kids together? So you treasured every kick, every hurl, every pitch, every bruising tackle, as if it was going to be your last. Which of course it was -- until the next Recess. That's the other thing kids are: myopic.To wit, the bell would ring again and the games would pause and we all hustled back into the building, faces flushed and maybe our bodies bruised. Our 15 minutes of game were up. Until, of course, the next Recess.
But like I say, Recess just isn't itself anymore. It's now a watered down shell of its previous life. It's closely supervised and well-structured and safe and who needs that, anyway?
Really, it appalls me to think our 12 year-old daughter may never know the feeling of a red rubber gym ball being hurled at her head by an obnoxious boy. Of course, isn't that supposed to be his way of saying, "I like you"?
Now THAT'S Bombardment.
Friday, November 25, 2005
The bad thing about the Lions playing on Thanksgiving Day is the whole world gets to see our football team in action.
It's one thing for the Lions' warts to be beamed from regional broadcasts to Arizona or Carolina or Baltimore, but when the entire freaking nation gets to see what we have to put up with week to week, it's like being outed. Lately on Turkey Day, our laundry has never looked dirtier.
The Lions got drilled yesterday, slapped around and toyed with by the Atlanta Falcons, 27-7, in a game that I think was over with after the very first play from scrimmage. Falcons quarterback Michael Vick calmly laid a 30-yard pass to Alge Crumpler, and things got worse from there. Even the Lions' moral victory of stopping the Falcons' opening drive enough to force a field goal was only putting off the inevitable.
Last year on T-day, Peyton Manning scorched the Lions, leading the Colts to a 41-9 victory. Peyton, had he been left in for the entire game, could have had eight or nine TD passes, in my opinion. As it was, he had six.
So with two dynamite quarterbacks coming to town in successive Thanksgivings, the Lions got outscored 68-16 and looked every bit as powerless as those scores would indicate to stop either of them.
Lions tight end Marcus Pollard played for the Colts last year, and I don't believe, wearing the Colts white uniforms, he dropped a pass like he dropped two of them yesterday. Funny things happen to players, even good ones, when they slip that Honolulu Blue (or Motor City Black, as in yesterday's case) over their pads.
There's really nothing more to say. The season is officially over. No more hand-wringing over the quarterback situation. Jeff Garcia didn't provide the needed spark in relief of Joey Harrington. Maybe the talk should go from quarterback controversy to coaching controversy. The Lions are dead in the water and their emperor has no clothes. I think yesterday's game may have been the final blow for Steve Mariucci. Stay tuned.
And please, PLEASE -- no more talk from the out-of-town announcers about how good the Lions' front four is. They are serviceable against mediocrity, but are helpless against good football teams. Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson are, indeed, decent football players. But even they become invisible for long stretches of time. They are, frankly, somewhere in the upper-middle class, but no higher.
Maybe the rest of the country has figured that out by now after two straight turkey performances on Thanksgiving.
The Los Angeles Clippers? The NBA’s version of a redheaded stepchild? The Los Angeles Clippers? The dregs of the league for so long, their very name elicits bellylaughs and jokes?
The Los Angeles Freaking Clippers? As Rip Hamilton would say, "Yessir!"
The Clippers’ 9-2 getaway is, not surprisingly, the best in franchise history. In fact, given their inglorious history, I also wouldn’t be surprised if 6-5 would have been their best 11-game start. Maybe even 5-6?
The Los Angeles Clippers are 9-2, and if this doesn’t initiate some sort of Congressional investigation, then I don’t what will. Maybe the government can send for those Roswell, New Mexico folks -- the ones who deal with aliens and UFOs? For surely there must be something celestial at work here. The Los Angeles Clippers are 9-2, and that means a life imbalanced on this planet.
But let’s get into this further. We can’t, as a people, simply accept the Clippers’ jackrabbit start without doing something like....finding out why. And it turns out that a 36 year-old point guard is a key to their success. How ironic. Where has Sam Cassell been all the Clippers’ lives?
Cassell is averaging 16.5 ppg, 8.1 assists/game, and is providing floor generalship that Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy has said is a huge part of why the Clips have turned swan-like after being the league’s ugly ducklings ever since moving to southern California in the late 1970’s from Buffalo. Cassell has worn championship rings and tasted champagne, too. His NBA career began with back-to-back titles with the Houston Rockets in ’94 and’95.
Throw Cassell in there, along with Elton Brand (23+ ppg), a Clipper holdover from last season, and free agent signee Cuttino Mobley (16+ ppg), and the "other" Los Angeles team has a formidable trio of scorers and an experienced distributor of the ball. You know, like their co-occupants in the Staples Center used to have.
(l to r): Cassell, Brand, Mobley
are a trio to be reckoned with
It may be too early to say that the Clippers are the new Lakers, but if they have ever won nine of eleven, anywhere in any season, then I want physical evidence. It’s already been determined that they’ve never shot out of the gate 9-2. Have they pulled off a 9-2 streak at all in their lifetime? Odds would say yes, in 27 seasons as Clippers, but even if they had, it was probably meaningless, because the Clippers have played mostly meaningless seasons, firmly ensconced as L.A.’s minor league squad. They’ve treated the playoffs as if the postseason was Bird Flu.
Lovable losers are shedding their skin all over the place lately. In 2004, the Red Sox won the World Series. This October, it was the White Sox. Both teams broke streaks totalling nearly 175 years. Now the Clippers look like winners -- maybe not of the whole enchilada, but a playoff berth looks viable.
Maybe Jack Nicholson will even change allegiances.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
See ya! Wouldn't want to be ya!
Sorry, Denver, but you're going to have to pay for Dallas' transgression.
Last weekend in that Lone Star State city, the Mavericks and the Cowboys took our boys from the Pistons and the Lions, respectively, to the woodshed, sending them to bed without dinner. It wasn't very hospitable of the hosts, if you ask me.
Well, look who comes into Detroit tonight: the NBA's Nuggets, and the NHL's Avalanche.
So with apologies to Denver, the home of Haas Rock Publications -- the parent company of Motor City Sports (MCS) Magazine, and which also publishes Mile High Sports (MHS) Magazine -- I hope your teams get the snow kicked off their peaks, if you know what I mean.
Nuggets-Pistons isn't much of a rivalry, to be sure, although there are some connections. Larry Brown coached both teams. Ummm....forget about that one -- half the teams in the league can make that claim. The Pistons beat the Nuggets 186-184 in the highest scoring game in NBA history. I wonder if the Denver faithful are still smarting from that one? Doubtful. Earl Boykins, the Nuggets' tiny guard, attended Eastern Michigan University. Okay, so I'm grasping for straws here. See what I mean? Not a lot of rivalry-making history here. But the Nuggets should still be shown the door and kicked between the back pockets on the way out.
180 degrees away from Nuggets-Pistons is Avalanche-Red Wings. The only thing is, who even plays for the Avalanche anymore? Patrick Roy is long gone. Peter Forsberg is gone. So is Adam Foote. And Mike Ricci.
But Joe Sakic is still kicking it, and the Avs are 11-7-3, so they must be doing something right. So it's okay to still hate them, even if their roster is populated with a bunch of guys you look at and say, "WHO?"
It may not be as much fun to spew venom and vile against the Avalanche now that some of the names from "back in the day" are gone. But as long as they are called the Colorado Avalanche and have that stupid bigfoot paw on their sweaters, they are Public Enemy #1 to Red Wings fans.
Happy Thanksgiving, Denver. But your teams are going to be the turkeys this holiday.
This is Thanksgiving Week, and I would be remiss to not give a shout out and a big THANK YOU to all of you who frequent this blog, whether it's from time-to-time, or on a regular basis. EVERY ONE OF YOU is important to me, because I know you don't have to take time out to read my blatherings, but that you choose to do so, for whatever reason.
Among the regulars, thanks to Ian at Fried Rice Thoughts, and his "stepblog," Sweaty Men Endeavors, Brian DeCaussin and his Beyond Boxscores, DolphinFan and My Opinion On Sports, The Sports Dude at Luke Walton's Forehead, the Leelanau Sports Guy, the Sports Litter, the Cheap Seats, and since I am HTML-challenged, to make it easier on myself, just look for them on the sidebar to the left for their links. Anyone I may have forgotten: I apologize profusely.
Those of you who don't blog, but stop by to read me, THANK YOU TOO!! You know who you are.
Which brings me to my request.
I don't always know who you are, so if you could indulge me and drop me an email at GregorySEno@aol.com, or simply add a comment to this post, telling me who you are, how often you visit, how I can email you (if you want), how you found me, and anything else on your mind, I'd sure appreciate it. This goes for the "regulars", too. I would like to create a Christmas List of sorts, whether you've been naughty or nice, so that I can thank you with a small treat around the holidays.
Again, THANK YOU SO MUCH!! You have no idea how much I appreciate you stopping by. I write for you guys, not myself. And I hope you have enjoyed yourself, whether you've visited once, or hundreds of times.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
It started with Chuck Hughes’ horrifying death on the field as a Lion in 1971, continued with Mike Utley’s paralysis in 1991, and added another notch with Reggie Brown’s near-death experience in 1997. All were Lions, and all were felled at home, in front of Detroit’s frenzied fans.
But last night, the venue was Joe Louis Arena, the player was a Red Wing, and even though the location and sport changed, it didn’t do a damn thing to change how we reacted, whether if you were at the Joe, or watching on television.
Jiri Fischer, the big defenseman, was down. But not on the ice, although that would have been bad enough, considering the distress he was in. Instead, there was commotion near the Red Wings bench, and it was soon evident there was trouble, big time. Fischer was being worked on, at the end of the bench, having collapsed for no apparent reason. Doctors arrived. CPR was administered. A defibrillator was used. The stretcher was wheeled across the ice. Fischer’s fiancee was helped to the scene by Robert Lang and Brendan Shanahan.
Joe Louis Arena fell silent.
Jiri Fischer, the behemoth defenseman. Jiri, the redwood who could hit like a freight train. Jiri, only 25 yet an elder statesman of sorts on the Red Wings’ blueline. And now he was down, being attended to like a heart attack victim? In front of 20,000+ stunned fans and hundreds of thousands watching on TV?
If we all knew then what we know now -- that Fischer suffered a seizure of some sort and is now resting comfortably in the hospital, being alert and even jovial with doctors, nurses and teammates. For now, the situation doesn’t appear to be life threatening.
But we didn’t know that then. All we knew was that we didn’t want to watch, yet couldn’t stop ourselves. We didn’t want to know what was wrong, yet couldn’t find out soon enough. We didn’t know what we were witnessing before us, yet at the same time we knew -- we knew it was very bad.
Why, oh why, are we subjected to this in Detroit more than any other city? It’s not like it gets easier the more often it occurs. But there we were again, our hearts in our throats, watching another local sports hero being wheeled away toward a waiting ambulance.
Fischer’s situation may have been made worse by the fact that he wasn’t on the playing surface when it happened. There was no big hit, no collision. He was sitting on the bench. At least if he had been on the ice and had been hit or had been checked into the boards, we could have reasoned away an explanation of his plight. But when a seemingly healthy player collapses on the bench, away from the action and for no apparent reason, it invites the worst of thoughts.
Heart attack. Stroke. Aneurysm.
None of that was the case, of course, but who knew? Who could have ruled anything out when a player is carted away, his jersey torn away and his bare chest visible after having his heart shocked back into function?
Fischer is going to be okay, it is presumed, although "okay" might be a relative term. Whether there is any hockey left in his 25 year-old body, maybe nobody knows. Maybe it is too soon to tell. But for now, "okay" means he is alive. "Okay" means his condition isn’t life threatening. "Okay" means we can breathe again. And that’s okay with me.
But if we never have to experience one of these horrifying things again in Detroit, it’ll be too soon. Enough already.
Monday, November 21, 2005
You know, "On any given Sunday, Team A, the underdog, can catch Team B napping or looking ahead to its next game, and, well...WIN."
But the truth is, with the Lions, the phrase that best describes them is, "On MOST given Sundays."
On most given Sundays, the Lions will walk into an opponents’ stadium as an underdog.
On most given Sundays, the Lions will lose that game.
On most given Sundays, the Lions will attack feebly on offense, throwing flair passes for no gains and handing the ball off on 3rd and 15.
On most given Sundays the Lions will be the tonic for teams who have had problems running the football previously.
On most given Sundays the Lions will create ways to lose that they haven’t tapped into for quite some time.
On most given Sundays the Lions will have you believe they are just a few "plays" short of being a winner.
On most given Sundays the Lions will perform poorly in 3rd down situations, on both side of the ball.
On most given Sundays, we’ll all talk about why this was a typical Sunday for the Lions.
On most given Sundays.....
this stuff happens to the Lions
The Lions went down rather meekly to the Cowboys, 20-7, yesterday, in a game where even when the score was just 10-7 Dallas, you got the feeling this was going to be no picnic. The Lions seemed, in fact, to be TKO’d the moment Billy Cudiff’s 56-yard field goal dropped over the crossbar at the end of the first half, mainly because of how the Cowboys were able to be in a position to attempt such a kick in the first place. The Lions helped them along with a couple of encroachment/offsides penalties, which conveniently moved the ball closer. In fact, the Lions were so riddled with penalties, referee Ed Hochuli got almost as much airtime as Fox Sports’ Dick Stockton, which, frankly, isn’t a bad thing.
Hardly anyone thought the Lions would beat the Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday, despite the "On any given Sunday" stuff. But what is so wrong about putting a scare into them, at least? Do these road games as underdogs have to be so formulaic? Even the worst TV shows make some sort of effort to throw some drama or conflict in there to spice things up, even though the outcome may be pre-determined. But watching the Lions in these sort of affairs is wonderful for those with high blood pressure, stomach problems, or a heart condition. None of these ailments will act up, because the Lions provide no flair for the dramatic.
What does it say when I, no football defensive guru, can correctly predict a handoff to Shawn Bryson on 3rd-and-long? What does it say when my non-football defensive guru mind can anticipate a flair pass when Joey Harrington goes back to throw?
The Lions flew to Texas, got off the plane, took a bus to their hotel, had their meetings, bused to the stadium, put on their uniforms and pads, got taped up, got introduced, and ran through the tunnel, prepared to play the Cowboys. But why did they go through all that, really? I mean, they didn’t do anything that would have seriously challenged the prognosticated final outcome. Seems like a lot of travel planning and pregame effort for not a lot of...anything, if you ask me.
So where do the Lions go from here? To their annual Thanksgiving Day game, that’s where, and a date with the 6-4 Atlanta Falcons, grumpy after blowing a game to Tampa Bay, at home. Be prepared for the usually lame quotes like, "We have a chance to show the country we’re not as bad as our record," and "It’s a great chance to perform on national TV and show everyone how good of a team we can be," and so on. Blecch.
On the positive side, coach Steve Mariucci only has a few days to thrill us with his secretive starting quarterback posturing. And it’s going to be bad enough, considering Joey Harrington didn’t do anything to put a stranglehold on the job, just one week after looking decent against the Cardinals. Of course, the last three words of the previous sentence should tell me why there was a change in performance against the Cowboys. By the way, Pal Joey spoke bravely in the papers about throwing deep against the Dallas secondary, explaining that their rather aggressive blitzing packages might be susceptible to the long ball. It was all lip service; the Lions threw deep once, I believe.
On most given Sundays, the Lions will prove themselves Liars, to boot.
Sunday, November 20, 2005
U-M playing Ohio State. Must see TV. Michigan State playing Penn State later on. Could have bowl implications -- for Blue and for Sparty. Red Wings on the tube in the evening, ready to sing the Blues to St. Louis. Pistons on even later, 8-0 and looking invincible.
But this was Black Saturday. Blame it on the curse of The Brawl, which was one year ago Saturday. U-M loses, blowing a fourth quarter lead. MSU clocked, never really in the game. Red Wings get caught with their pants down, losing to an inferior Blues team. Pistons torched in Dallas by a bunch of Mavericks.
It’s not often all four of our major teams are playing on the same day, and even less so when they all get sent to the woodshed. But it happened yesterday, and that means we are only left with the Lions to be the salve for our wounds. May as well pour salt into them.
As for U-M, they blew it, plain and simple, fair and square, and they will have to gnash their teeth over it for 365 days. The seniors bow out with a three-game losing streak to the Buckeyes, which they can’t do anything about in 2006. Coach Lloyd Carr didn’t silence any critics, and in fact may have gained a few. How could they do that, you wonder, against Ohio State, and at home? But it happened.
MSU fought the good fight, but their season has been careening out of control for weeks. It’d be interesting to find out what really happened in East Lansing after the 4-0 start, if someone in the know would ever reveal it. But I smell a rat, and you wonder how much more time coach John L. Smith has, now that the "L" in his name stands for second half loser. The Spartans have collapsed like houses of cards in the last three seasons after mid-October, and something has to be done to get rid of this nasty taste that sits in their mouths from November to August.
The Red Wings figured, as did everyone in the free world who give’s a rat’s you-know-what about hockey, that the game with the woeful Blues was a "gimme." The boys from St. Louie were suppsed to be just what the doctor ordered after a three-game losing streak. Wrong. The Blues scored twice in the third period, and it was "Katie bar the door," as Mickey Redmond would say.
The Pistons? Well, maybe their hot start caught up to them, along with playing a decent team in the Mavs, and on the road on the second of back-to-back games in Texas. They had to lose sometime, I suppose. May as well get your butts kicked good and thorough in the process.
Speaking of Dallas, that’s exactly where the Lions find themselves, looking to salvage something from the weekend for the Detroit/Michigan sports fan. Any holding of breath is done at your own risk.
Willie Horton, local boy, hero and forever a Tiger, used to cart the same batting helmet around with him, regardless of what team he played for at the time. He would merely have his current team’s equipment manager paint over it to reflect the proper colors and logo. After he left the Tigers, that meant several coats of paint; Willie played for five teams after being traded from Detroit in 1977. What did NOT have to be painted over, however, was his heart. Willie Horton never really stopped being a Tiger, and he always was sure to remind folks of that fact.
Chris Osgood once again wears a sweater that has the winged wheel adorning its chest, and it fits like a hockey glove.
"This is where I’ve always wanted to be," goaltender Ozzie said during training camp. "In a way it seems like I never left."
It’s funny that Osgood should say it like that, because for at least one season, the fans in Detroit seemed to have dropped him like a bad habit. In fact, some couldn’t get Chris Osgood out of their heads fast enough.
Osgood, in the only sweater that truly matters to him
Osgood, in my mind, never got a fair shake in this town. The Red Wings won a Stanley Cup with him as a backup (1997), and as a starter (1998), and he got about as much credit for the latter as he did for the former. He was the goalie the Wings won a championship "despite of", as if he never made a big stop in his life. It was just that the goals he let in seemed to be even bigger, because from where they came -- which was near the center red line.
If you polled 100 supposedly die-hard Red Wings fans, and asked them what they remember about Chris Osgood during that ’98 Cup run, I bet you 90 of them, or more, would point to two goals specifically: the overtime loser against Dallas in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, and a game-tying goal in Game 3 of the conference semis against the Blues (the Wings won in overtime). Both were on the road, and both were fired from center ice. And both caused Red Wings fans to want to chew through a puck, after saying a word that rhymes with it.
What fans don’t remember is how Chris Osgood responded after those ugly incidents. In both occasions, he rebounded to play fabulous goal, leading his team to victory in the following game. And what they also might not recall is how Osgood sat at his locker, lights and cameras and microphones surrounding him, and bravely answered reporters, who are paid good money to watch what transpires and then ask marvelous questions like, "Hey, what happened?" He simply explained that, yeah, he’d like to have the shot back, but it wouldn’t bother him in preparation for the next game. And he was absolutely right.
It was a stark contrast to the first time in his career that he faced the media music. That would be the 1994 playoffs and the Game 7, first round stunning heartbreaker, when the Red Wings lost to the San Jose Sharks, largely because of Osgood’s error. His failed attempt at a clearing pass led directly to the series-clinching goal with about seven minutes remaining. After the game, Osgood, all of 21 years old, sat before reporters and wept openly, blaming himself for losing the series to the third-year Sharks. It was a delicate yet powerful scene.
You can’t win with Chris Osgood as your goaltender. But yet the Red Wings had won with Chris Osgood as their goaltender. Funny, eh?
But in 1998, what he was displaying, for anyone who cared to notice, was remarkable moxie and mental toughness that is so very required of your netminder if you wish to hoist that tall Cup. Problem was, hardly anyone cared to notice. Instead, Osgood was vilified for those goals -- skewered and sliced and diced -- and the feeling was that the Red Wings would somehow have to go about winning the whole enchilada without him, even though he just happened to play perhaps the most important position on the ice. They did, of course, win in 1998, and Osgood bashers thought it was a paper Cup for the netminder.
There wasn’t anything really close to a Stanley Cup in 1999, 2000 and 2001, so when the Red Wings had a chance to trade for Dominik Hasek in the summer of ‘01, they did it, pulling the trigger to obtain a goalie who will certainly be enshrined in the Hall of Fame. And before the fax machine in the league office could stop whirring after receiving notice of the deal, Osgood was being verbally and mentally tossed aside by his public in Detroit.
There wasn’t room for him here, once Hasek was aboard, and even though Ozzie would have stayed on as the backup -- he said he would, if asked -- he was released. His heart broken, he found himself with the New York Islanders, of all teams. Within two years, the St. Louis Blues acquired him.
While this was all going on, the Red Wings, with Hasek minding the net, were on their way to their third Cup in six seasons. Images of that run were of Dominik Hasek making big saves, especially in that triple overtime thriller in Carolina in Game 3 of the Finals. Chris Osgood was a bad headache that had finally gone away. So unfair.
So Osgood piddled around with the Blues for a season and some change, unable to lead them very far in the postseason, and that fact wasn’t lost on Red Wings fans, many of whom smiled knowingly from afar. To them, it was confirmation of what they long believed: You can’t win with Chris Osgood as your goaltender. But yet the Red Wings had won with Chris Osgood as their goaltender. Funny, eh? What isn’t funny is Osgood’s career numbers: 2.44 GAA, 41 shutouts, 2.24 GAA in the postseason. And you cannot win with that?
The Red Wings tried another hotshot goalie after Hasek’s first retirement -- Curtis Joseph. They paid a lot of money, if you ask me, to not go beyond the second round of the playoffs in two seasons of Joseph in goal in Detroit.
Now here we are, post-lockout in 2005, and Chris Osgood, signed on the cheap as a free agent last summer, once again is a Red Wing. You’d think that, after the way he’d been treated the first go-around, he’d have stayed away from Detroit as if the place was contaminated with Bird Flu. But when the Red Wings came calling, Ozzie couldn’t whip out his pen fast enough to sign a contract. If you think that is strange behavior, indeed, to want to return to the belly of the beast, you are allowed. But Osgood wouldn’t have it any other way.
"It feels so good to be a Red Wing again," Osgood has said. He is a backup now, playing second fiddle to Manny Legace. Once, Legace had Osgood’s back. But the role reversal is fine with Osgood; he’s just happy to wear the Red Wings sweater again.
Take that, Osgood bashers. Your team is just going to have to try to win another Cup with #30 in goal from time to time. So deal with it.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
They’re 8-0 now, after leading the poor, undermanned Houston Rockets to believe they might actually end up winning their game with the Pistons Friday night. But the Pistons put another one in the left hand column, 78-70.
Watching the Pistons anymore is sort of like watching Roller Derby, or Pro Wrestling, or a movie you’ve seen a dozen times. It’s the same script: Pistons toy with their opponents, maybe even fall behind a little bit on occasion, then turn on the jets and clamp down defensively in the final several minutes, leaving the other guys gasping for air and wondering what hit them. It was the same script that was followed in the victory over the suddenly pedestrian Rockets.
The Pistons’ lead throughout the game was like bankers’ hours in reverse: 5-to-9. And everytime the Rockets crept near, the Pistons, with their killer starting five taking turns doing so, would make a few big shots, tap a ball away or block a shot, and extend their lead back to comfortable proportions. It’s been the same modus operandi, ever since Opening Night.
Back in the summertime, shortly after the team hired Flip Saunders as coach, I blogged that the onus/pressure wasn’t on Flip, but rather the players. This was their chance, I wrote, to prove to everyone that their success wasn’t entirely due to Larry Brown. It was also an opportunity, I droned, to have the tail wag the dog, so to speak. That is, I didn’t feel like there was anything wrong with a little "inmates running the asylum" jazz going on in the Palace. The Pistons police themselves, and they’re about as tightly-knit of a group of basketball players as there is in the NBA today. It was much the same type of thing when Chuck Daly coached in Detroit. The players knew Daddy Rich was the coach, but they had their own internal checks-and-balances that worked so well with Daly’s style.
Well, the Pistons of today have answered my blogged bell, so to speak, and have almost made Flip Saunders invisible. Of course, that’s not literally true; Flip’s penchant for motion on offense and pushing the ball upcourt and feeding whatever hand is hot has been certainly evident. The Pistons no longer treat the 100-point mark as you and I would treat the ledge of a 100-story building. Friday’s low-scoring game notwithstanding, the Pistons are scoring more, yet their suffocating defense hasn’t gone away. I suppose we should give Flip Saunders credit for that, too -- fair is fair, after all.
I think what’s impressive to me about this bunch is they hardly ever get rattled, and they truly believe they will win everytime they step onto the court, and are genuinely surprised when they fail to do so. They treat the final five minutes of every fourth quarter as if they own them -- possessing copyrights on how they’re to be filled. Remember, this is a team that was perhaps a Rasheed Wallace brain fart and seven minutes away from winning back-to-back championships.
The players believe in Flip Saunders, but most importantly, they believe in themselves. And that’s what really matters in those final crucial minutes, when games can go either way. Mostly, they tilt in the Pistons’ favor, and that’s why Flip Saunders leapt at the chance to coach this group -- because there isn’t much to coach. Saves on the antacid, you know.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Each year, it seems, the Michigan-Ohio State football game takes on a different personality. It's still the best rivalry in sports, for my money, but for different reasons every time they butt helmets.
This time, Michigan, like Lazarus, or a Phoenix, can rise from the dead ashes and actually be the Big Ten's BCS Bowl representative, if it beats the Buckeyes in Ann Arbor, and if Penn State loses to Michigan State. How ironic is THAT? This one has got to kill Sparty: a win gives your team a bowl game, but it could also send U-M to a BCS Bowl. What is more prevalent there -- the bitter, or the sweet?
If anyone thought Michigan had a chance to even sniff a portion of the Big Ten championship, when it was 3-3 and looking extremely shaky, they were buried beneath the pile of naysayers who all would have been fitting stand-ins for Chicken Little.
If you had to pinpoint one moment when it started to all come back together for Lloyd Carr's crew, it was the last-second win over Penn State at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines were seconds away from dropping to 3-4. Sales of nooses, pistols and razor blades would have gone through the roof in Ann Arbor the following day.
But the Wolves recovered, big time, and here they sit, making the Ohio State game big in more than just reputation alone.
Speaking of the Buckeyes, it sure would be nice for Carr if his boys can get this game tomorrow. The coach's armor against OSU has been chinked lately, and a win would fend off the doofuses who think there is actually somebody better suited to coach U-M than Lloyd Carr (there isn't). So win one for the Carrster, fellas -- okay?
As if the guys needed another reason to go out there and whip some Buckeye tail.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
The "victims" (clockwise, from top): Culpepper, George,
Vick, Lewis, Faulk, McNabb
Maybe the only people pleased about this are the folks at Sports Illustrated.
Did you hear about the new sports curse? It's out there now -- along with SI's cover jinx and anything having to do with a certain football team that plays in Detroit.
Apparently anyone who has appeared on the cover of any "Madden" video game over the past several years is doomed. That's the latest scuttlebutt, especially in the wake of the Eagles' Donovan McNabb's injury. The list includes Daunte Culpepper, Ray Lewis, Eddie George, Michael Vick and Marshall Faulk. They're all past cover boys, and all have met with injuries of various degrees of seriousness.
Excuse me, but these fellas aren't playing tiddlywinks. Football is a tough, brutally violent game. The aforementioned players are some of the game's top stars, which means they tend to find themselves holding the football a lot. Guys who dance around the gridiron holding footballs get hit a lot, if you haven't noticed. So it makes sense that McNabb, et al would get hurt now and then.
This is really too silly to even talk -- or blog -- about, but it's Thursday and it's a slow news day, so indulge me.
According to AOL's poll on the matter, 35% of voters think John Madden's video game has somehow levied a curse on its featured cover stars. Maybe some of the voters danced around a football field, too -- sans helmet.
Speaking of magazine cover curses, Oprah Winfrey is my heroine. She places herself on the cover of every single issue of her "Oprah" magazine. Narcissistic? Probably. But there's a chick who is anything but cursed, and she proves it every month she appears as her own cover girl.
Then again, she doesn't tote pigskins around amongst hulks.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
I had much the same sentiment when I heard about the trading of our old pal Sergei Fedorov.
"Sergei Fedorov? Is he still in the NHL?"
Fedorov was dealt away by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to the Columbus Blue Jackets, sent away in gift wrap and a bow, in exchange for a pail of practice pucks and a sharp stick in the eye. Okay, so it was for forward Tyler Wright, rookie defenseman Francois Beauchemin, and a fifth-round draft pick in 2006. Can YOU tell the difference?
So this is how far Fedorov has fallen. He has, at age 35, been traded for the hockey equivalent of chopped liver, and what’s worse, he is almost irrelevant, at least now. He’s missed 13 games this season with a groin injury, and only has one assist in the five games in which he has played. It seems like ancient history since he was a factor in the NHL.
The trade has been portrayed as being made because the Blue Jackets are desperate for offense after the injury to their young stud, Rick Nash. The 21 year-old Nash is out til mid-December with a sprained knee. Well, I’d say "desperate" is the proper word if you’re going to send for Fedorov. Of course, the Jackets didn’t give up much, so maybe it’s worth a flyer on their end. Maybe a 50 or 60% Fedorov is still better than some of the hacks the Blue Jackets dress on any given night.
Actually, I hope Fedorov heals and gets back to being a semi-force in the league, because it’s sad to see a once-great player like him kind of fade away like so much dust in the wind. But if his groin doesn’t respond, if his mid-30’s body begins to betray him, then he’ll probably wallow around the league, maybe going from team to team, each club hoping they’re getting the Sergei Fedorov who once owned the ice in his better days.
In Columbus, #91 will be reunited with Jackets GM Doug MacLean, who was an assistant coach in Detroit when Fedorov first joined the Red Wings in 1990.
"We have a lot of young players, a lot of young kids with a lot of talent," MacLean said. "We're adding a three-time Stanley Cup champion, a Hart winner, who still has a tremendous skill level and is excited to play. He'll be a terrific addition."
MacLean neglected to mention that Fedorov’s Hart Trophy -- given to the league’s MVP -- was won in 1994, which might as well be during the Original Six days, for as much as it means today. That’s okay -- the Jackets were desperate, remember.
As for the players Columbus "surrendered" -- Wright and Beauchemin, maybe one day they’ll be answers to trivia questions like, "This All-Star and certain Hall of Famer was once considered a throw-in in a trade for Sergei Fedorov back in 2005."
Sergei Fedorov was young once. And one day he was, when he cared to be, Lord over his ice. He was, at times, dominant, and it was all so effortless for him. His supreme talent and abilities caused many in Detroit to think he was dogging it, not giving it his all. Sometimes it was true, if you asked his own teammates.
Now he must rely on superior effort to keep a job in the league. It usually boils down to that, for 35 year-old hockey players.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
(l to r): Roy Williams Roy Williams Roy Williams (soon-to-be)
I am going to court today.
Relax, it's not what you think. Rather, I'd like to walk into whatever department handles this sort of thing and ask to have my name legally changed to Roy Williams.
Look, I want a piece of the action that having that sobriquet obviously generates. The Lions' Roy had three touchdown catches in Sunday's win over the Cardinals, and the Dallas Cowboys' Roy had the game-winning score -- a 46 yard TD return of an interception -- in their huge Monday night matchup in Philadelphia.
I figure I could use some Roy Williams luck right about now. Heck, who couldn't, right? If I changed my moniker to Roy Williams, maybe my income would jump. Maybe my 12 year-old daughter wouldn't think her dad is a sports-infused geek. Maybe my trick knee would behave itself.
I figure it's worth a shot. It's every man for himself out there, you know? You do what you have to do to climb that ladder in life, so if having people address me as "Roy" or "Mr. Williams" or "RW" would make that happen, I'm cool with that. I'd even forgive my wife for calling out "Greg" in moments of passion.
But seriously, the Roy Williams wave is high, and I want to ride it, baby, ride it for as long as I can.
And how about this? The two Roys square off this Sunday, in Texas Stadium. So see? It's guaranteed that Roy Williams is going to come out on top once again.
Call me Roy.
Monday, November 14, 2005
To that end, I suggest you check out the discussion forums at Motor City Sports (MCS) Magazine's website. Visit www.motorcitysports.net/forum, register, and join in the fun!
Yours truly pops in there often, so this is your chance to skewer me in a venue other than this friendly little blog.
Williams (left) and Jones finally had a chance to party
Attention NFL schedule makers: keep those Cards comin’.
If the league had a category in "Jeopardy!" called "Most Dysfunctional Franchises", surely the Arizona Cardinals, who were the Phoenix Cardinals, who were the St. Louis Cardinals, who were the Chicago Cardinals, would join our own Detroit Lions as an answer. It might go something like this: "This franchise, one of the few to never appear in a Super Bowl, has never found the winning combination, despite several location moves."
The Lions beat up on the Cardinals yesterday, 29-21, at Ford Field, their third win in as many seasons over the team from the Sun Valley. It’s nice to know there still is one organization more fouled up than your own.
And just look what they’ve done to Denny Green.
Every time the Fox TV cameras showed Green, the Cardinals’ head coach, on the sidelines, he looked more and more dazed and confused. And this used to be one of the best coaches, in my mind, in the NFL. But these wretched, flightless Cardinals have turned him into a big bowl full of football goo. You could almost see his stock falling before your very eyes.
Kurt Warner, the Cards’ quarterback, is suddenly finding it difficult to beat the Lions, as amazing as that seems, regardless for who he plays. He lost to them in 2003 with the Rams, last year with the Giants, and now yesterday. Long gone are the days when he directed "The Greatest Show On Turf" with the Rams. Now he leads "The Latest Show Made Of Nerf."
The Cardinals are 2-7, and they deserve every one of those seven, believe me. I also wonder how they got their two, and even though I subscribe to NFL Sunday Ticket, I haven’t seen how they’ve managed to win twice. Were there forfeits I am not aware of? Regardless, the Cards were just the elixir the Lions needed. They arrived for their annual beating just in the nick of time, for the Lions were a team on the brink of some sort of major implosion.
Of course, beating the Cardinals doesn’t mean that whatever was ailing the Lions has gone away. That’s not how it works in the NFL. You got warts? Then you’re a frog until you have them surgically removed. Winning is nice, but what do you put the odds at of the Lions walking into Texas Stadium next week and defeating the Cowboys? Do you REALLY think they can pull THAT off?
But back to yesterday. For one game Joey Harrington was sharp as a razor, Roy Williams was Randy Moss, and Kevin Jones was Kevin Jones -- The Second Half of 2004 Version. The offensive line wasn’t offensive. The playcalling was amazingly nonlethargical. The defense had their usual timely takeaway. And when Warner got the ball back with less than two minutes remaining and only a touchdown and two-point conversion away from a tie, the Lions didn’t suddenly play matador defense, allowing the Cardinals to drive down the field in a heart-clutching manner. Instead, they made Warner look like the 0-5 starter that he is. Too bad they couldn’t have pulled that off against Chris Weinke and the Carolina Panthers a few weeks back.
When John Teerlinck was the defensive line coach in Detroit in the mid-90’s, he would appear on one of those Sunday night TV shows each week during the football season. Whenever the Lions won, Teerlinck would say, "It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood."
Too bad the Lions can’t get the Cardinals to move in permanently.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
To think that I once talked to Steve Yzerman out of pity.
It’s true. I found him in the Red Wings’ lockerroom back in October 1983, after a rare victory, an 18 year-old rookie with the funny last name that people couldn’t pronounce. If you think it unthinkable that we once didn’t know how to properly say "Yzerman," I can assure you it was the fact, Jack. Anyhow, as the rest of the press gathered around guys like John Ogrodnick and Brad Park, I noticed Yzerman, all by his lonesome, dressing, being wedged into his locker by the throngs of reporters and cameramen. He seemed beyond shy; lonely, even. So I decided to talk to him. I was there "working" for the Michigan Daily, U-M’s newspaper, courtesy of a free press pass from my pal Chris Gerbasi.
"Nice to get a win," I said, or something like that, to a kid who, little did I know, would grow up into a Hall of
He looked up at me, wide-eyed, unbelieving that someone wanted to talk to him. Then he sort of grinned and said something in reply, of which I don’t remember. And I didn’t think to take a tape recorder with me. Curses!
Three years later, I directed Yzerman in a public service announcement I wrote about promoting youth and amateur hockey. It was his first month of being captain of the Red Wings. "You sure that’s thirty seconds?," Yzerman asked me when I showed him the script. "It looks like ten." I assured him the amount of words I had written, when spoken at the correct rhythm, would encompass half a minute. It was his first commercial, I’m sure. We shot the spot. It worked. So you see? I launched that Hall of Fame career, I tell you.
To think that I once saw a fan dragging an entire row of chairs behind him at the old Olympia Stadium, with the apparent intent on taking the seats home with him. How he planned on jamming 12 red padded chairs, joined together, into his vehicle shall forever be preserved in a time capsule, I suppose. It was after the Red Wings’ final game at the old Red Barn, back in December 1979. I shouldn’t talk, really. For I tried to grab an out-of-town team name from the scoreboard that was mounted onto the facing of the balcony. It was "Los Angeles," I think. One of Detroit’s finest shooed me away. I never was good at thievery.
After the game, a thrilling come-from-behind 4-4 tie, my friend Bob Davis and I, along with a dozen or so others, waited outside the Red Wings’ dressing room. Our patience was rewarded. Out came the players, every one of them, wearing their overcoats and smoking cigars as if they had just won the Stanley Cup. It was a freaking tie against the bloody Quebec Nordiques. So easy to be satisfied back in the 70’s and early 80’s. Anyhow, I got just about everyone’s autograph on the front of the game program, including radio announcer Bruce Martyn.
"Great game, huh?," I asked Bruce. He, too, was chomping on a stogie.
"Yep....second half of it, anyway," Martyn said. The Wings fell behind 4-0, then caught up, culminating in Greg Joly’s end-to-end rush which produced the tying goal with perhaps two minutes remaining.
To think that people actually think Joe Louis Arena gets loud, even when Stanley Cups are won there. I will spot you every loudest crowd you’ve heard at the Joe, and it won’t hold a candle to the roar I heard at the Olympia when Joly scored that goal. It wasn’t just a crowd cheering. The floor shook and the old metal and wood of the stadium rumbled and it echoed and you would have thought the Red Wings had just saved the world as we know it with that single goal. I’ll never forget that noise.
To think that I actually stood in the Zamboni entrance of Olympia and watched the Red Wings -- on television. My friend Steve Hall played on one of those youth travel teams, and I was along to watch when their game was being played on Olympia’s sheet of ice. After the game, waiting for the players to dress, a bunch of us friends and families gathered around a small black-and-white set and watched the Wings play on the road. It was surreal, to be honest, standing in a near-empty Olympia, watching the Red Wings play in another town. See? I helped spawn JoeVision.
To think that I went to about six Red Wings games during the 1985-86 season, when they won just 17 games and gave up over 400 goals. Actually, I know why I went. You could find a seat, that’s why. We might be hockey mad in this town, but even a 17-57-6 team will try our patience. So I’d finish up my work downriver, hop in the Cavalier, and shoot up I-75 to catch the Red Wings game, by myself. Maybe 15,000 or so were there with me. The Wings would either give their opponents a hard time before collapsing into defeat late, or they’d get absolutely blown out. They gave up 10 goals in a game three or four times that season, you know. But you could get a ticket.
To think that I once told Terrible Ted Lindsay that I sometimes turned in around five AM. "Oh, living the good life I see," he said, chuckling. It was after the taping of Bob Zahari’s show when I worked for Maclean Hunter cable -- it’s Comcast now, of course -- and Z and I were shooting the breeze with Lindsay, who’d been the guest that night. Lindsay mentioned something about getting up at five AM to do his exercises and workout. That’s when I made the crack about going to bed when he was waking up. Today Ted is 80 and is still working out, keeping his slight body fit and who knows, maybe he’ll live to be 100. The jury is still out on my life expectancy, however.
To think that I once calmed Jimmy Rutherford before his coaching debut. It was back in 1991. Rutherford, the old Red Wings goalie, was GM of the Detroit Junior Red Wings of the OHL. A couple days prior, he had fired coach Andy Weidenbach, and decided to take over the duties himself. I was directing the TV broadcasts of Junior Wings games back then. But on the night of Rutherford’s debut behind the bench, there was a terrible snowfall and the team bus carrying the Jr. Wings’ opponents was running awfully late. So all there was to do was wait. I caught Rutherford pacing in the hallway outside the dressing room.
"Of all nights for this to happen," I said, smirking.
He forced a nervous grin, arms folded as he paced. "I just want to get the game started," he told me. We chatted for a few minutes. I could tell he was glad he had someone to talk to at that time.
The game eventually did start, and the J-Wings won, I believe. My pregame talk must have, ahem, worked.
Yes, to think that you can find yourself in some interesting situations, if you hang around the rink long enough. Must be something in that paint they use to turn the ice white.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Babcock: 15-2-1; Saunders (right): 6-0
Motor City agrees with them
Looks like the Red Wings and the Pistons finally figured out a cure for what has ailed them at the beginnings of seasons: hire new coaches.
Mike Babcock’s Wings are 15-2-1, and Flip Saunders’ Pistons are 6-0 in their respective young seasons, and if two new coaches have started 21-2-1 combined in the same city at the same time, then perhaps it can be found with some intense Google searching, or through a crack team of sports geeks. But I doubt it has occurred, whether it be in Detroit, New York, LA, or Peoria or Parma.
The funny thing is, both teams’ players are heralding their new leaders as offensively gifted yet faithful to things that have brought their franchises past success. Babcock has got guys like Brendan Shanahan motivated again, for one.
"I’m playing for a coach who I don’t want to disappoint," Shanahan told the Detroit writers a week or so ago. "Babs has given us accountability on the ice again." He also has taken the shackles of the left wing lock off players like Shanahan and instructed him to go to the net more and create havoc. Shanny is up for the dirty goals, and it’s paying off.
Saunders has Rip Hamilton excited -- not that #32 was ever not into it. "With this offense I can move around a lot, come off screens, get some shots," Hamilton said last week. Saunders even supposedly told point guard Chauncey Billups that he thought Billups was too unselfish. Had Larry Brown said something like that, we all would have rushed to get him a thermometer and some cold compresses.
Yet both men -- Babcock and Saunders -- are staying true to the foundations upon which they latched: defense. Babcock, with a budding star goalie in Manny Legace and the veteran Chris Osgood backing him up, is relentless it seems teaching his guys to drive the net, finish checks, control the puck, and backcheck. The left wing lock may be gone, but still here is the concept of "Red Wings Hockey."
"When you have the puck most of the time," you don’t get as tired, Babcock says with all the simplicity and wisdom of a hockey guru.
Saunders hasn’t dared touch the Pistons’ bread-and-butter: tough defense. He is not an idiot, after all. But he has
brought with him an offensive resume that says you can create ways for guys to get shots and that you’d better ride a hot hand when you find it. It’s doubtful the Pistons’ offense will grind to those awfully frustrating haults in the mud for five, six minutes at a time, which nearly derailed their attempts to reach the NBA Finals last season. Still, after all the glitzy talk about more points and more movement with and without the ball, the end of the day -- and game -- finds the Pistons stepping on opponents’ throats with their brutally tough, incessant defense. They don’t need a coach to tell them to do that.
Babcock’s Wings had a nine-game winning streak earlier this season. Saunders’ Pistons are 6-0, pulling games out of the fire when necessary. They’ve shut up whatever critics they had, at least for the time being, which is all you can ever really ask for as a coach in this town.
Friday, November 11, 2005
So, here I go anyway.
If I was Dave Dombrowski, or better yet, Michael Ilitch, I'd ask around for Roger Clemens' phone number.
Clemens has filed for free agency. He may not even, truthfully, pitch in 2006. He is 43 years old.
Clemens a Tiger? Is it even remotely possible?
No matter; I'd start to crunch the numbers, give Roger's agent a call, and find out what it might take to bring the old Texan to Motown to pitch a few innings and teach our kids how to be major league pitchers.
I am usually loathe to talk too much about signing free agent pitchers, because most of them seem to go the opposite of north as soon as the first check of their new contract clears. But I kind of think Roger Clemens is a proven entity in this game, don't you?
Clemens won 13 games and posted an ERA of 1.87 in 2005. He keeps himself in terrific shape, despite kind of peetering out in the postseason. And that shouldn't be a concern if he came to Detroit, because the Tigers are probably not a playoff team anyway, even with Roger the Dodger.
Clemens, if he came, wouldn't be coming to capture another World Series ring -- he finally won one in 2000 with the Yankees -- that's for sure. He'd have to be sold on being a mentor and basically an ambassador for baseball in a city that is begging for some sort of relief from the stench it's been served for 12 years.
I'm sure Jimmy Leyland would appreciate the presence of a guy like Clemens, as would pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. Something about having a Hall of Famer on your staff that makes you smarter, you know?
The Tigers need help offensively, no question. Discipline at the plate is the key, and new hitting coach Don Slaught means to provide that. But when you have a chance to take a flyer on a Roger Clemens to take the mound every fifth day or so, don't you give it a whirl?
Even if it isn't likely to happen, I'm still going to place that phone call, if I'm DD or Mr. I.
What have you got to lose, really?
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Pucks are being put into the net at a much higher rate in this, the new and improved NHL. I don't have the actual statistics, but I also didn't need a thermometer to tell me the temperature dipped dramatically after lunchtime yesterday. Some things jump out at you.
The NHL's new rules must be having an effect, because final scores are actually reading 5-4, 8-6 -- stuff like that. In the "old days" -- that would be pre-lockout -- NHL scores were like a Sacramento Kings pregame presentation: low and irritating.
These days, a one-goal lead isn't as iron-clad as before. Neither are two-goal leads. In fact, the goals are coming so furiously now, relatively speaking, an NHL game is like a New York subway: you missed the last goal? There'll be another one around in a few minutes.
This is what the league wanted, of course. What batter way to wash the bad taste of the lockout out of everyone's mouth than by talking about all the offense?
I suspect the removal of the center red line, for offsides pass purposes, has a lot to do with the openness of the NHL today. So does the referees' constant thrusting up of their right arms to indicate penalties. It's not uncommon to see a team get 10, 12 power plays a night. You wonder when teams are going to start hiring special teams coaches, a la the NFL.
Five-on-five hockey is almost placed on the backburner now, like it's something that has to be condoned in between power plays. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, somewhere in the midst of his team's nine-game winning streak and hard-pressed to find anything to critique, said he wished the Red Wings were stronger in 5-on-5 situations. I suppose they were there somewhere, if you rooted through all the power plays and penalty kills.
It's fitting that Wayne Gretzky, that old Edmonton Oiler, should debut as a coach during these times. He was a large part of those footloose and fancy-free days of yore. I wonder if Paul Coffey is still in game shape?
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
But I’ve given it some thought the last couple of days, and as much as I hate to join the angry mob with torches, I am going to admit I was wrong.
I was wrong when I thought Steve Mariucci was the right man to coach the Lions upon his brief courtship and hiring in January 2003. I was wrong when I figured the Lions had finally done a good thing, something that had been elusive for them: hire a coach that other teams actually coveted. I was wrong to think that the West Coast Offense was the module by which the Lions would be efficient enough to actually move the ball downfield.
And, I was wrong to agree with all the high draft picks used on wide receivers. But that’s not what this blog entry is about.
This is about Mariucci, the Lions coach, and the feeling is here that he may not hold that title all that much longer. I initially thought, on Monday, the day after the Lions once again went down feebly to an inferior opponent, that it didn’t matter what I or the hundreds of thousands of would-be vultures thought about their football coach -- Mariucci’s job was still fairly safe, because Bill Ford normally rues canning coaches still under contract.
But Ford isn’t getting any younger, frankly, and he has signed off on some fat free agent contracts and a new five-year extension for president Matt Millen, and his coach didn’t come cheaply, either. He’s spent a lot of dough the last few years, and all he’s got to show for it right now is a broken, divided, direction-less team that is currently being lambasted by its fans like never before. But there is one more thing that may cause him to pull the trigger.
His team is painstakingly boring.
When the Lions ran the run-n-shoot offense in the early 90’s, they didn’t always win more than they lost, but darn it, they were an exciting group to watch, mostly. Of course, the defenses weren’t always up to par, either, which contributed to the excitement -- and a lot of 41-34 type games. But the Lions -- with a guy named Barry Sanders in the lineup, of course, to be fair -- could score, and score quickly, and at times it looked as if opposing defenses had no clue out there.
Right now, the Lions’ offense is the clue free unit, and it is so unimaginative and impotent that if it wasn’t so sad, it might be frightfully funny. It is a rudderless platoon, lucky if it can score a touchdown per game, and if there are any fast fixes out there, then they must be camouflaged amongst the shoddy playcalling, dropped throws, awful pass protection and mediocre run blocking.
Matt Millen uttered, in the wake of the Lions’ loss to the Vikings Sunday, "I’m responsible for this mess."
Well, yeah, Matt, you are, but in saying those words, you also reiterated that you are the one that has the responsibility of fixing it -- with Bill Ford’s approval.
Steve Mariucci should be removed as coach -- if not now then immediately after this sorry season concludes -- removed as far away from Detroit as possible, taking his Just Toast Offense with him and his phony little offensive coordinator, too. Ted Tollner betrayed Lions fans like no coordinator I’ve seen. He crowed all summer about throwing the ball downfield -- "stretching" the field for his array of young receivers -- but it is clear he is nothing more than a Mariucci Marionette, calling plays that have so much of his boss written on them, you can practically see the copyright symbol on the TV screen. Ted Tollner can go, too, after he kisses every Lions fan from Ypsilanti to Traverse City right between the back pockets.
It’s too bad, of course, that it had to be this way. The town was alit when the Lions hired Mariucci, a reltively big name who could have gone to other places, but chose Detroit. It doesn’t take much for us to get excited about the football around here as it is, and when Mooch was hired, there seemed to be genuine reason to dance in the streets and slam the car doors.
But it’s been almost three seasons now, and while normally I don’t think that’s proper enough time to evaluate a coach -- read: Alan Trammell -- I also don’t see any significant progress, nor any reason to believe there will be any. Mariucci is a stubborn, conservative play-calling son-of-a-gun, and do you really think that’s going to change any time soon? He never had confidence enough in his quarterback to be anything else, frankly. Joey Harrington might not be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but he isn’t chopped liver, either, and I believe another coach, another offense might have provided him with a better chance of success. Maybe we’ll find out soon enough. Maybe they’ll both be gone.
I don’t want to be a hypocrite, either. For I have often observed that folks sure like to fire coaches, but they don’t always have an idea of who they’d like to see as a replacement.
So if I were Bill Ford (or Matt Millen), I’d go looking for the most innovative offensive mind available -- coordinator or position coach. It doesn’t matter, anymore, if the new coach has any head coaching experience. That isn’t necessarily mandated for success. The league is full of capable head coaches who got their training as a coordinator -- on both sides of the ball. I’d go looking for that person, do my due diligence, conduct some intense, involved interviews, and make the new man look me straight in the peepers and promise me he’ll make my football team exciting to watch again. Then after I got him to sign on the dotted line I’d remind him that I don’t take such promises lightly.
But that’s just me.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
In the multi-page piece, they did one of those "tale of the tape" comparisons between the two superstar quarterbacks. It was all there -- passing yards, TDs, QB rating (including red zone rating), 3rd and 4th down conversion percentages, etc. Then, at the bottom, was this stat:
Tom Brady 9-0
Peyton Manning 2-6
See the difference?
As far as I'm concerned, the folks at SI could have saved themselves some ink and space, and only used that statistic. It's the only one that truly matters, isn't it?
Well, Peyton got the best of Brady and the Pats last night, big time, notching his first victory over New England, and getting a monkey off his back.
So what is he going to do about that gorilla?
Peyton Manning, it says here, has to succeed in January if he is to be truly compared, side-by-side, with Tom Brady. It's kind of strange to say that, because Manning is probably destined for Canton, but if you want to accurately gauge how he matches up with a guy like Brady, then you have to look at what each has done when the consequence of losing is you watch the rest of the games on television.
Call it the Bill Russell/Wilt Chamberlain syndrome, if you'd like. The two centers are forever joined at the hip, it seems, when it comes to comparing great big men in the NBA. But the nod always goes to Russell, despite having the lesser personal numbers, because of all those championships the Celtics won on his watch. Fair? That's debatable. But when you have two players so closely matched, something has to be the tiebreaker.
The law of averages says the Colts were due to feast on the Patriots, and with one team 8-0 and the other 4-4, that number came up Monday night. Don't forget -- Brady threw 3 TD passes of his own. I'd say his defense let him down.
Don't get me wrong -- I'm a huge Peyton Manning fan. I find him funny, smart and insightful, in addition to his talents on the field. He is a great ambassador for the NFL. He'll make a good TV guy someday. But he needs a few more notches in his belt that occur in January -- and February for that matter -- before he supplants Tom Brady, in my book, as the best quarterback in the league.
Should it be any other way?
Monday, November 07, 2005
Terrell Owens isn't going to play another down for the Philadelphia Eagles this season, maybe not ever again, and I don't know whether that's what he wanted, but he sure seemed to act like it.
Terrell Owens isn't going to play another down for the Philadelphia Eagles this season, maybe not ever again, and this should be met with cheers, shouts of "Bravo!", and handstands from every fan who thinks high-priced, spoiled athletes are inmates running the sports asylum.
Terrell Owens isn't going to play another down for the Philadelphia Eagles this season, maybe not ever again, and even his own quarterback thinks that's a good thing, apparently. Certainly his coach feels that way. Andy Reid appears to be the one who made the decision to essentially fire Owens, who was suspended for yesterday's game at Washington and who is now going to be deactivated for the remainder of the season.
Donovan McNabb, the eagles' QB and the target of some of Owen's ire, admitted that maybe it "was for the best" that T.O. not suit up anymore in an Eagles uniform. He's talented and all, McNabb pretty much said, but at what cost? Was his talent worth the divisiveness, the fighting -- literally and figuratively -- and the distraction?
Terrell Owens isn't going to play another down for the Philadelphia Eagles this season, maybe not ever again, and that's what should happen more often when players engage in the kind of behavior Owens engaged in: dissing teammates publicly without provocation, physically fighting your own in the lockerroom, and complaining that the organization lacks class because it didn't put life on hold and make a spectacle over his 100th career touchdown.
The Eagles rid themselves of Terrell Owens, perhaps the game's most talented and explosive receiver (with apologies to Randy Moss), seemingly as casually as they would have released a practice squad placekicker. They did it because they are out for the greater good. They did it because the feelings and morale of 52 other players mean more than that of one. They did it because it was something that needed to be done, and I tip my hat to them.
Shame on you, Terrell Owens.
Thank you, Andy Reid.
You're welcome, Donovan McNabb.