Sunday, August 27, 2006

Class Remissed

I love the word syllabus. It looks funny, sounds funny, and doesn’t seem to have any real connection to the item it’s describing. (By the way, it refers to a chronological schedule of a school course’s semester — not to be confused with syllable).

So with school about to get back into full swing, it’s time for a syllabus — if there was ever such a thing as a course in Detroit Sports. You’re responsible for your own blue books.

WEEK I: Detroit Lions & The Holy Grail.
An in-depth study of the team’s failure to appear in even one Super Bowl in 40 years. Topics will include: The Great Quarterback Search; losing a playoff game by the score of 5-0; Russ Thomas: Evil football demagogue, or frugal executive?; Darryl Rogers: WHY?; Tom Brady: WHY NOT? (Lab work will include breakdown of videotape of the January 5, 1992 playoff win over the Cowboys, the Lions’ only postseason win since 1957).

WEEK II: What Would Larry Do?
Deep philosophical debates highlight this particular week’s emphasis. Students will form teams of four and prepare for a lengthy argument for and against Pistons coach Flip Saunders’ performance in the 2006 playoffs. Comparisons will be made to Larry Brown, and whether the team’s meltdown would have occurred under his watch. (Lab work: deciphering Ben Wallace quotes culled from the ’06 postseason, using them as either pro- or anti-Flip fodder).

WEEK III: Is Hockeytown turning into GhostTown?
Here we will ruminate about the Red Wings’ loss of captain Steve Yzerman (to retirement), winger Brendan Shanahan (to flight), and goalie Manny Legace (to apathy). The team’s future will be dissected, along with a mandatory essay titled, “If I Were GM Ken Holland, I Would ...” (Lab work: Students will spend the majority of the week trying to answer the following question: Where in the world did Fernando Pisani come from, anyway?)

WEEK IV: Strrrrrretch!
The Tigers’ 2006 September stretch-run will be analyzed. Second-guessing manager Jim Leyland and bemoaning certain players will be encouraged, though it’s not anticipated that such encouragement will be necessary. Win or lose, a discussion of what GM Dave Dombrowski did to help nip the pack at the end will be 50 percent of the final grade for this week. (Lab work: Students will role-play the 1987 final weekend — with half the class as the Toronto Blue Jays, and the other half as the Tigers. Blue Jays students will be mandated to attend class during labs with extra-tight collars).

WEEK V: The Misfits.
After four grueling weeks, we take time out for fun to remember some of the miscreants who’ve played sports in our town over the years. Players discussed will include Bob Probert, Joe Don Looney, Reggie Harding, Denny McLain, and Juan Gonzalez. An essay titled “My Favorite Misfit Is …” will count for 75 percent of this week’s grade. (Lab work: Students will be asked to locate the Customs window where Probert was caught with drugs in his underwear).

WEEK VI: The Choir Boys.
The fun continues for another week, as we recall the “Good Guys” over the years. An essay titled “Nice Guys Don’t Always Finish Last” will be due that Friday. (Lab work: Students will contest who can gather the autographs of Nick Lidstrom, Curtis Granderson, Jon Kitna, and Antonio “McNice” McDyess the quickest).

WEEK VII: Fire Millen. And Harkness. And Bill Ford Sr. And Russ Thomas. And Billy McKinney. And Randy Smith.
A return to the grind, as the week looks at some of the most vilified executives in city history. Bad trades, ill-advised signings, and absurd bon mots fill this week. (Lab work: Students will pair off and see who can screw each other the worst in a sports version of the board game Diplomacy).

WEEK VIII: Can’t anybody here play this game?!
It seems like more fun, but it’s actually painstaking, as the class will debate who were the least talented players to wear a Detroit pro sports uniform since 1979 — the year of the 2-14 Lions and the 16-66 Pistons. (Lab work: Find goalie Bob Essensa and crank call him).

WEEK IX: We’re from Detroit, too!
Venturing from the four majors, this week will focus on great athletes with Detroit ties who have excelled in other sports. Peaches Bartkowicz, Sheila Taormina, Tommy Hearns, and Todd Eldridge will be discussed. Students must choose one and write a paper on that person. (Lab work: Students will be asked, “What was the Virginia Slims Tournament, and where was it played?” for extra credit).

WEEK X: We played in Detroit, too!
Detroit has a rich history of defunct teams from sometimes-defunct leagues. The Michigan Panthers, Detroit Wheels, Michigan Stags, and Detroit Drive will be among those whose résumés will be scrutinized. Remember John Corker? Marc Tardif? (Lab work: A field trip to Cobo Arena to look for Stags artifacts).

So there you have it — the syllabus as it would be.Don’t worry: I’d grade it on a curve. A long, sloping, meandering curve.

1 comment:

Big Al said...

Nice post!