Thursday, January 08, 2009

TGIT: Thank God It's Thursday & Time For "The Knee Jerks"!

Hey! It's Thursday, which means you've stumbled upon another webisode of "The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno & Al", in which I go mano-a-mano with the MVP of the MVN, Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience.

This week, we fire a few parting shots at (now former) Detroit News columnist Rob Parker; wonder why in the world the Red Wings got jobbed when it comes to All-Stars; shake our heads at the Lions' terribly unattractive head coaching job; muse about Matt Millen, broadcaster; and scowl at the Yankees' spending spree and the Tigers' lack of a closer (just say NO to Fernando Rodney!) Oh, and there are the regulars: Word Association and Jerk of the Week.

As you will....

Eno: Thursdays aren't quite Fridays, but they're the next best thing! And when you figure that Thursday means The Knee Jerks, then maybe Fridays are overrated! I'm Eno, aka The Journalist, and he's Big Al, aka Mr. Big Shot. Welcome, Your Alness!

Big Al: I like "Your Al-ness!" I wonder if the girlfriend will go for it? So what’s on your ever churning mind this week, Mr. Eno?

Eno: Gosh, so much. First, I think we should talk MSM. Your take on Rob "Mr. Personal" Parker "resigning" from the Detroit News?

Big Al: Well, as you know, I'm not exactly a fan. I considered Parker exhibit “A” for all that’s wrong with the MSM. He took short cuts, used small sample sizes, his columns were rote and he all too often implicated the wrong people when slinging rumors around. Just as Kirk Cousins, the college kid Parker claimed was involved in a brawl at MSU, but who was not involved. Parker was deservedly suspended, and I think he had been on thin ice with the Detroit News ever since. The brouhaha with Rod Marinelli was the final straw. I know Parker took a buyout, but you have to think it was more, "take this buyout or you're fired." Parker will land on his feet, as there always seems to be a market for controversial hacks. See Jay Mariotti and Skip Bayless.

Eno: Mariotti just called Charles Barkley an idiot, which is the epitome of the pot calling the kettle black! Yeah, I think the Marinelli question was bush and if it needed to be asked, then it should have been asked off the record, if they're as good of friends as Parker claims. That's something you ask privately in a joking manner; not in front of the world, essentially. Yet it was still big news; you don't see newspaper columnists canned every day – especially for bad behavior.

Big Al: To be honest, most everything Parker did was bush. The out of line question to Marinelli was just another in a long list of crossing the line between being a responsible journalist, and a mudslinging hack. Thus, he'll be a good fit in New York City (where he does radio) and on ESPN, where irresponsibility reigns.

Eno: My old friend, Bob Page, was one of the only guys who left Detroit for New York and actually thrived. Remember when Parker came over from Cincy? He must have had an Eric Davis tribute in his house. Sheesh! OK, enough about Parker. Al, tell me the Lions' interest in Jim Harbaugh is nothing more than a sick joke disguised as a legitimate rumor!

Big Al: Harbaugh actually interviewing would be crazier than the Lions actually wanting to talk with him. It really makes no sense. Harbaugh is considered an up and comer, but he has no NFL coaching experience. Maybe the Lions got confused, and thought they were contacting successful Ravens head coach, and Jim's brother, John Harbaugh. It's the only scenario that makes sense. I get the feeling the Lions will miss out on one of the big name coordinators (the Giants' Steve Spagnuolo, the Titans' Jim Schwartz) and will end up with one of the cheaper, second tier guys, like Minnesota's Leslie Frazier, the Redskins’ Jerry Gray, or the Dolphins' Todd Bowles. It's going to be damn interesting to see if the Lions try to wait out the playoffs for those hotter names. If they wait, and then NOT get a Spagnuolo, the other guys could be in new jobs, leaving the Lions scrambling.

Eno: Well, as I wrote in OOB yesterday, the job is shaping up to be Ugly Betty, when they have the ability to make it America Ferrera. But they're offering a poor roster, second-tier dough, and little say in personnel matters. Boy, doesn't that just sound yummy?!

Big Al: Only if you are starving for an NFL head job. Meaning the Lions have to get lucky with their hire, and find someone other NFL teams have passed on. As the Lions aren't exactly known as having a nose for finding head coaches, I'm not expecting a "blow my socks off" hire. More of a "shrug my shoulders and wonder why I’m a fan of the Lions" hire.

Eno: Well, luck is a factor, and the Lions aren't too lucky. Other teams have gone the cheaper route and gotten lucky, but not the Lions. I do hope that whomever they get is defensive-minded. I know that didn't work with Marinelli, but I'm talking from a coordinator standpoint. If you have to choose one area the Lions are worst at over another, it's defense. They also need a big-time return man, and that shouldn't be as far down the shopping list as you might think. Field position is everything in the NFL anymore.

Big Al: The Lions have issues everywhere, from the coaching staff, to special teams, to the defense, to the front office. I'd like to think anyone they add would be an improvement. [GM Martin] Mayhew said as much, when he said the Lions weren't fast enough, were too small, and not all that smart. Good Lord, how does it get to this point?! I know, it's all thanks to the man now spewing his wisdom on NBC, Matt Millen. What are your thoughts on what Millen had to say, and his working as an analyst on NBC? It hasn't gone over very well in the D.

Eno: Well, some say it's "too early", like we're in a period of 9/11-like mourning around here. I'm not sure I buy that; folks outside of Detroit don't give two you-know-whats about what he did to us in the Motor City. They just see him as another talking head. That said, he's one of the best talking heads of his time. He was considered a poor man's John Madden, but I don't think you had to be too poor to appreciate Matt Millen, who when he was on his game, was one of the best analysts to ever step into a booth. My opinion.

Big Al: Your opinion is the same as mine, Eno. Not the same as our readers, though. I was called out for my praise of Millen the broadcaster. Yes, the man couldn't general manage his way out of an unzipped equipment bag, but he's a damn good TV guy. He'll have his pick of jobs next season, and deservedly so. I will say his reasons for failing in Detroit did come off as somewhat self serving. Millen did his damnedest to spread the blame evenly, even though he hired everyone working in the Lions' organization. It's going to stick in the craw of Lions fans for the rest of our lives, but as you say, no one in other NFL cities cares.

Eno: Yeah, our viewpoint here is myopic, as it should be. I agree that Millen's cryptic remarks were unacceptable. But again, look at the national audience. I bet a lot of those folks bought it. But people in the NFL won't, and that's why his future is behind a mike, not in a front office. OK, what's on YOUR mind, Alness?

Big Al: The NHL announced the reserves for the upcoming All-Star game, and only two Red Wings made the team: Nick Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk. Not even ONE other Wing? Where's the love for Brian Rafalski, Marian Hossa and Henrik Zetterberg? WHERE'S THE LOVE?!

Eno: Yeah, that was shocking. I mean, REALLY shocking. I can't explain it. Those three you mentioned are top drawer players. Very strange. I see where you were "converted" to the NHL having the Winter Classic on New Year's Day. But more important, do you think the Red Wings "sent a message" (yes, a hackneyed term) by slapping the Blackhawks back in their home-and-home series last week? I think they did. I think the Wings absolutely girded themselves and decided, as a group, that these young Hawks needed to be cut down to size. Don't think our Hockeytown Heroes weren't motivated to do that.

Big Al: I'm sure the New Year’s home-and-home with the Blackhawks (including the Ty Conklin Classic) were "message" games on the part of the Red Wings. Even the jaded veterans on the Wings, who have to be tired of playing a constant parade of Central Division dregs, were fired up to take Chicago down several pegs. The Wings wanted to show they were a better team, and did so with flying colors. As for the All-Star game snubs, the recognition would have been nice, but I'm not upset most of the Red Wings will be getting some rest before the grind of the second half of the season begins.

Eno: Yeah, I'm surprised but not pissed off. Just perplexed. Speaking of Conklin, he's playing really well, as he did last year in Pittsburgh. I know he was signed as a stopgap until Jimmy Howard is ready, but Howard isn't getting any younger either. Seriously – when is Howard's time? Chris Osgood is only 36 and isn't finished yet. Conklin is playing so well the Red Wings might not want to cut him loose. What's up in goal, both this year and in the future? Is Conklin going to be this playoff's Osgood? Entering the fray mid-series, etc? And what of Howard? Tell me, Al -- TELL ME!!

Big Al: I WILL! Simmer down, Eno! I think the Wings aren't as high on Howard as they once were; his time as a "Prospect" with a capital P may have passed. Why else would the Wings have drafted a goalie, Thomas McCollum, with their first pick in the latest amateur draft? THAT'S WHY!

Eno: Good point. Reminds me of when the Tigers were waiting on Rich Rowland as their next great catcher. They waited too long, eventually. Howard may never be the guy here; you're right. It's amazing that in the Wings' Cups in the past 11 years, all of them have been won with different goalie combos. This year may be no exception. I really like Conklin; he's saved the Red Wings' bacon on several occasions already – though the Red Wings hardly need their goalie to steal games. More like what Grant Fuhr did in Edmonton: let in four, but never the fifth!

Big Al: Good call on Rowland; very similar situation. Ty Conklin was a very savvy free agent signing by GM Ken Holland. The Wings know exactly what they have, and exactly what they need. They are the best organization in sports, bar none. As I know time is of the essence today, are you ready for some WORDASS?

Eno: Hit me; I'm open!


Big Al: OK, GO LONG! GO DEEP! Oh, you mean with a name? OK, let's begin with the star of the past NFL Wild Card weekend, the San Diego Bolts' midget running back, Darren Sproles.

Eno: Can you say Timmy Smith?

Big Al: Nice! Timmy Smith had ONE big game. It just happened to be in a Super Bowl. We'll see if the Chargers think if Sproles has any staying power. Next is the head coach of BCS whipping boy t OSU, CheatyPants mcSweaterVest...Uh, I mean, Jim Tressel.

Eno: Earle Bruce with some wins – just not THE biggest one.

Big Al: The man runs a more conservative offense than Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes in the 1970s! Next is the Georgia QB who announced he's going pro today, and might possibly be the first pick of the draft, Matt Stafford.

Eno: No one named Matt Stafford should be an NFL star. And not with the Lions – please.

Big Al: How about the other QB mentioned with Stafford, the Oklahoma Sooners’ Sam Bradford?

Eno: Stafford and Bradford. Sounds like a law firm. Again, if I'm the Lions, I pass. NO MORE "FRANCHISE QUARTERBACKS"!!

Big Al: Build the lines! Build from the inside out! With that settled, any names on your mind for WORDASS, Eno?

Eno: Sure. Rodney Stuckey.

Big Al: Future All-Star! Possibly future All-NBA.

Eno: Agreed. Cleveland Cavaliers.

Big Al: They are who we thought they were! *pounds podium* I can't believe I'm saying this, but they are the class of the Central, and maybe the entire East.

Eno: Hmmm...OK. Well, then, the Boston Celtics.

Big Al: Best win now, as the East is catching up. Quickly.

Eno: One more…

Big Al: Fire away when ready.

Eno: MLB Network.

Big Al: Instant crack for baseball fans! Anything else on your mind before we name our "Jerks of the Week?" There's gotta be an itch you need to scratch!

Eno: Hey, leave my itches out of this! OK, how about the Yankees' spending spree?

Big Al: INSANITY. Didn't the Tigers try the "let's try to put an All-Star at every position" strategy last season? For that matter, don't the Yankees spend like drunken...well any drunk? The one thing I do think they did right was signing pitching, in CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Signing Mark Teixeira was just rubbing their cash in the rest of baseball's face.

Eno: Hey, they can have all the pressure. The '09 Tigers won't be too many people's choice for the playoffs, which is just fine, don't you think? What's up with [pitcher] Freddy Garcia, BTW?

Big Al: I guess the Tigers weren't impressed by his late season audition. I believe Garcia also tweaked his surgically repaired arm in winter ball. Either way, I still don't get the Tigers' not showing interest in, well, any pitcher. Right now, the closer is...GAK... Fernando Rodney! I'm so confused.

Eno: Don't EVEN go there. But don't worry; the Tigers will NOT subject us to Rodney as their closer. They won't. They can't. Rodney did some Winter Ball pitching and was, as usual, inconsistent. In a season where Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland are both on the hot seat, they're not going to put their jobs on the line by putting the ninth inning in Rodney's hands.

Big Al: I hope you're right, Eno. I hope to GOD to you're right. Are you ready for "Jerk of the Week?


Eno: I am. Mine is Thomas Jones, for heaping public blame on Brett Favre for all of the Jets' problems. And that anonymous player who said Favre was distant. So what? Mike Curtis hated Johnny Unitas. Look what they did in Baltimore. The New York Giants defense hated the offense. Frank Gifford and Pat Summerall confirmed it to me a few weeks back. And look at those Oakland A's teams of the 1970s. Point being: look at yourself, too.

Big Al: Well played, sir. My jerk is an oldie, but a baddie: Drew "I HATE the Big Ten" Sharp. His recent column bashing the conference for its admittedly lackluster Bowl performance would have had more oomph if one, he didn't bash the Big Ten at every opportunity and two, he didn’t forget there's one fact that NEVER changes: SPORTS ARE CYCLICAL! The Big Ten won't always be down. In fact, if they develop a few QBs (that means you, Rich Rodriguez), the league Sharp loathes for no apparent reason may end up being pretty damn good in the next year or two.

Eno: And yours was well played, too, Alness. OK, my friend, it was a pleasure, as usual. See you next week, correct?

Big Al: Same jerk time, same jerk channel, Eno!

Eno: I love it!

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