Thursday, March 05, 2009

Knee Jerks: The Lions Are Cursed? But Do They Have a PLAN?; BLAME IVERSON; Sparty A Hoops Champ? And Much More!

Welcome to Thursday and another riveting edition of "The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al." To set the record straight, every Thursday I chat up the MVP of the MVN, Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience. And, as always, there's no shortage of stuff for us to gab about.

This week, we: wonder if the Lions are cursed but also laud them (gasp!) for their free agency strategy; blame Allen Iverson for everything except the Bank Bailout; muse about Chauncey Billups's return to Motown; handicap Tom Izzo's boys' chances in March Madness; and the usual suspects, Word Association and Jerk of the Week, show up, too.

As you will.....

Eno: It's Thursday, and that can only mean one thing – besides that you're looking past it toward Friday: Jerkosity! It's "The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al." I'm Eno, aka The Journalist, and he's Big Al, aka Mr. Big Shot. Welcome to the program, Al!

Big Al: Thanks for having me. It's all my fault that our last couple of chats have been held in the wee, wee hours of Thursday morning. That pesky thing called "real life" just gets into the way, dammit! But, as usual, I digress. I was reading your blog, Eno, and I noticed we wrote about the same exact thing (in different ways, of course) after the Coast Guard announced they were ending the search for Corey Smith and Marquis Cooper in the Gulf. Do you really think, as I said on TWFE, that the Lions are a cursed franchise? How else can you explain awful things (like the Smith death) happening over and over again?

Eno: Well, the whole league seems to be cursed. NFL players are forever getting shot, stabbed, etc. It's weird. The Smith, Cooper, etc. tragedy just proves a simple theory: that pro athletes are no more immune to real life than anyone else. As for the Lions, they've had incidents, as I documented, but I'm not one to believe in curses, per se. That's a little too Tarot Card-ish for me.

Big Al: I'm not the sort for "superstitions" either, but damn, enough is enough. This franchise has had more than their fair share of tragic incidents, to say the very least. More than most, if not all, professional franchises, to be sure. Lets hope nothing of the sort ever happens again. As for the Lions themselves, I have to admit, I'm impressed by their actions since free agency began. They are signing mid-level veterans, mostly in the prime of their career (save for the Grady Jackson deal...he's OLD), to mostly cap-friendly deals. [GM] Martin Mayhew isn't making the mistakes of Matt Millen, throwing big money at one or two names, and scrambling to fill the remaining roster holes. The Lions have approached this off-season with...A PLAN? Can it be?

Eno: I think I see the formation of a plan in there, yes. They, frankly, had no real shot at any big-time FAs, simply because of their 0-16 record – despite their cap space. They got their share of rejections. So don't think they didn't try; it's just that no one wanted to come here who was in the upper tier. But that's OK; mid-level guys, as you call them, can't do much worse than the dudes on the 2008 roster!

Big Al: At least they are signing free agents from teams other than the Buccaneers! Now if they could just con the Cowboys into giving up more players for those the Lions were going to waive anyway. Getting anything for Jon Kitna, let alone a cornerback who should get plenty of playing time, may be the coup of the century. What Mayhew has on [Cowboys owner] Jerry Jones may be the same sort of thing Matt Millen had on William Clay Ford!

Eno: No doubt! That's twice the new MM has fleeced the 'Boys, as far as I'm concerned. I'm still reeling from getting a No. 1 pick for Roy Williams! OK, so I had the Lions picking Aaron Curry off the board with the no. 1 overall pick on the MVN Outsider Mock Draft. Agree, disagree?

Big Al: It makes sense in that Jim Schwartz is a defense-first kind of guy, and the Lions need playmakers, of which they have...well, let me count...ZERO! But I'm still not convinced Curry is the best player on the board. He may not even be the safest pick, as that would be one of the highly rated left tackles. Considering that the QBs on the Lions’ roster are currently Daunte Culpepper, who hasn't been good in 5 years, and Drew Stanton, who isthisclose to having "BUST" hung on him, I have to believe the Lions are thinking about taking Matthew Stafford. Curry should be a good player, but if Stafford has a chance of being a franchise QB, you have to take him. I'm not very comfortable with the Lions going into the season with Culpepper, Stanton, and a free agent reject as the QB depth chart. Not that I'm comfortable with Culpepper, Stanton and a rookie either. But if the rookie has a high ceiling...

Eno: Yeah, that doesn't make me warm and fuzzy, either. But just because the Lions DON'T take Stafford doesn't mean they can't snag a QB later. We'll see. OK, I wanna shift gears and talk Pistons. Just when you're about to write them off, here come wins over Orlando, Boston (both on the road) and Denver. What the hell?

Big Al: It's too easy to blame Allen Iverson, or is it? As soon as he gets hurt (and it's a questionable injury at that), the Pistons find their comfort zone and play like a legit playoff team. Now we get the news on Wednesday that Iverson will be missing two weeks at the behest of HIS, not the Pistons', doctors? Maybe this mess of a season really is all AI's fault.

Eno: I think Joe Dumars must realize at this point that Iverson isn't The Answer. This has ugliness written all over it. I'm dying to see what happens next. Yes, it's tempting to look at this three-game streak and say the Pistons don't need Iverson. But how do you NOT need a Hall of Fame player? EASY – when that HOF player is Allen Iverson!! Or am I being too harsh on A.I.?

Big Al: Not when that HOF player gets a back injury the moment he's told he'll be coming off the bench, instead of starting. It's not as if Iverson hasn't pulled stunts like this before. We've seen this sort of crap in the days before Iverson was traded from Philly to Denver. AI was a great player, but "was" is the operative word. Iverson needs to accept he might be better served by becoming a scoring sixth man off the bench. I know the Pistons sure would be. It's not helped, as we say damn near every week, that the Pistons have a rookie head coach trying to handle the mess that has been handed to him. But when Iverson is taken out of the mix, the team suddenly becomes much easier to coach. Who knew?

Eno: The Pistons, with and without Iverson, have this weird thing: they beat the good teams in unlikely fashion (i.e. on the road) and lose to the paupers of the league (i.e. at home). It's crazy, and one reason why they're where they should be – bobbing around .500. What make you of the reception Chauncey Billups received at The Palace on Tuesday night? Not surprising, was it?

Big Al: Not at all. After seeing the Pistons struggle mightily after Billups was shipped to Denver, we, the fans, got a wake up call. Chauncey Billups was damn good, and the team misses him badly. So I expected Billups to get a nice ovation. I have to give the Pistons franchise their due as well, as they made a point to treat Billups's return as a celebration. To the point where their PA announcer, John Mason, was allowed to give Chauncey an old school, Pistons style introduction. It was nicely done all the way around.

Eno: Absolutely. Very classy. I got a kick out of watching the FSD cameras following Billups around after the game as he hugged one Pistons player/coach after the other – including Rip Hamilton several times. Speaking of Rip, this guy is showing that HE can carry a team on his back. I sometimes forget how prolific a scorer Hamilton can be. He'll go down as one of the Pistons' All-Time greats, no?

Big Al: I think so. The collapse of the team after his leaving all but clinched it. The question is, was Billups around long enough to have his number retired? If they can retire Vinnie Johnson's (I think the Pistons got a little too out of control retiring numbers from the Bad Boy era, personally), the Pistons sure as Hell better retire Billups'.

Eno: Well, I agree there, but I was referring to Hamilton as an All-Time Great. Back to Billups real quick: I would have no problem with retiring no. 1 – as soon as Iverson stops soiling it. So now, please comment on Hamilton as a Piston All-Time Great?

Big Al: My bad! It's late! As for Hamilton, I think a Vinnie Johnson comparison might be apt. An important piece of the puzzle, but a complementary piece. In order of importance in winning the NBA Title, Billups, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace were bigger reasons why they won in 2004. If Rip goes down as an All-Time Pistons great, much of it is going to be due to his longevity in wearing the Detroit red, white and blue, rather than his high-teens scoring average.

Eno: I can see where you're coming from. OK, one more topic from you before we do WordAss. Proceed!

Big Al: From me? No pressure, Al. You can do it! Well, we have to mention the Michigan State Spartans, don't we? Tom Izzo's bunch won the outright Big Ten title Tuesday night, beating Indiana. This is the first Sparty team to win a regular season crown since the Flintstones days in the early part of this decade. The Flintstones did win an NCAA title, so do the Spartans of '08-'09 have a shot at making it to Ford Field, and winning it all? You'd think they would have a No. 1 seed all but locked up, right?

Eno: Seed, shmeed. Do they have a shot? Of course. Wacky things happen in March. But come on – only ONE team wins the whole deal, so for even the great teams, the odds are long. I wouldn't dare pick a Spartan title, but Final Four is do-able. This might be one of the best coaching jobs we've seen in the Izzone. The guy is still so young, no telling WHAT he can accomplish – as long as he keeps his rear end on a college campus. I'll say it again: Just say NO to the NBA, Tom – should they come calling. Don't make me go all Tim Floyd or Rick Pitino or Jerry Tarkanian on you!!

Big Al: I'm with you there. Izzo is NOT a pro coach. Too emotional, too critical, too much yelling, NBA millionaires would tune Izzo out immediately. Tom Izzo is a HOF college coach, and could stay on at MSU literally forever. If he left for the NBA, a bottom feeder team like Oklahoma City would hire Izzo, and he'd end up on the street in two years, once his players mutiny. What would be the better legacy? As for the NCAAs, the Spartans are one of ten or so teams that have a legit shot at winning it all. There's more than a little luck involved in winning the NCAAs. If the Spartans get the luck they haven't had in a few years, I could easily see a Final Four run. Get to Ford Field, and essentially having home court? They'll win it all. They just need to get there, no easy feat.

Eno: Ah, so you're saying a Final Four berth = a National Championship? They just need to show up, toss their jerseys on the Ford Field court for 80 minutes and walk away with the hardware? Not a bad gig, if you can get it!!

Big Al: Not necessarily. But fill Ford Field with 70K fans, the majority of them local? I'd like their odds.

Eno: Good grief, Al – do you hear that? The low spark of high heeled, WordAss boys?


Big Al: OK Mr, Winwood, if you insist. Think anyone under the age of 35, maybe 40, get your reference? 20 year old reader: "HUH? What the?" Oh well, kids and their iPoddies, MP7 players and the rap music. Now git off my lawn!

Eno: I can practically SEE the bathrobe and spiked out hair coming from you as you bellow from your lawn. OK, I'll go first. Red Wings stay idle at the trade deadline. Go!

Big Al: Good! No reason to give up anyone, or spend the cash. Any playoff help will come from Grand Rapids. The Wings are loaded out in west Michigan.

Eno: Agreed. OK, next: Jeremy Bonderman.

Big Al: Coming back in mid-season. I hate to say it, but Bonderman's recovery from surgery may take longer than we hoped. Rick Porcello, report to the starting rotation, please!

Eno: Nicely played! Next up: Manny Ramirez.

Big Al: Finally! FINALLY! He signed the contract! Now we can stop hearing about Manny being Manny for the rest of spring!

Eno: Last one: I say U-M in the NCAA hoops tourney and you say...

Big Al: Bubble team, gets in, loses in the first round. Their wins over Duke and UCLA, along with a decent RPI, get them in. Finally! FINALLY! Ready, Eno-sabi?

Eno: Aye, captain.

Big Al: OK. lets start with the man who's all over the Four Letter tonight....rather, this morning, the latest NFL free agent, Terrell Owens.

Eno: Any team signing him should be awarded a year' supply of Excedrin.

Big Al: Prilosec would have been an acceptable answer as well. The Lions almost, repeat almost, made a very creative trade for Denver's Pro Bowl QB, so next is Jay Cutler.

Eno: I didn't want to believe it, but it's true: Cutler is one of the Top Five QBs in the NFL. Had the Lions pried him away, Martin Mayhew would already be a better GM than Matt Millen and Russ Thomas COMBINED.

Big Al: Indeed. Too bad the Broncos are claiming Cutler's off the market; they’re making nice with their pissed-off QB now. One more. How about the young Tigers pitcher I mentioned earlier, fireballing Rick Porcello.

Eno: Oh, exciting! He's drawing raves. The young fireballer type always seems to create some sizzle in spring training.

Big Al: Much like another young fireballer back in 2006, Justin Verlander. Lets hope lightning strikes twice! As it's quite late, shall we get to our Jerks of the Week so we can call it a night?


Eno: Sure. You first. Smeller's the feller!

Big Al: Dude. Words fail me... (lol) Anyway, my Jerk is an easy one, and well-deserved. WXYT's afternoon host Mike Valenti did one of the most reprehensible things ever heard on the radio Monday. He read Corey Smith jokes, sent from his Neanderthal listeners, over the air. BS like this is why I've all but stopped listening to local sports talk radio. Valenti is nothing more than a vile shock jock, and his partner, Terry Foster, someone I once respected as a writer, has lowered himself to Valenti's level. Disgusting.

Eno: He did?? Goodness gracious. Let me digest that for a moment.... He did??

Big Al: He apologized for it Wednesday. I'm sure his arm was twisted by the Lions, as WXYT is their flagship station.

Eno: Yeah, those after-the-hubbub apologies are about as sincere as William Shatner. OK, mine is the New York Rangers, as a whole, for taking back Sean Avery. Talk about desperate!!

Big Al: What else can you say? Local radio hits a new low! Too bad new lows are coming all too often in the attempt to remain relevant in an era where new media dominates.

Eno: It's all ball bearings now, son! OK, this was late and great. But now it's time to hit the hay. Have a great slumber and we shall reconvene next week – hopefully at a more Godly hour!

Big Al: See you next week! Same Jerk channel, but not same Jerk time!

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