Wednesday, August 31, 2005

In Katrina's Wake

Friends, let's be honest. It's easy to feel badly for those stuck in Katrina's path. We can all feel the heartbreak of those who have lost loved ones. It's easy to be overwhelmed at the video coming from the area. It's almost beyond comprehension. It's even easier to head off to work and complain about ridiculously high gas prices while feeling guilty about our fellow citizens who are without homes, jobs, electricity or food. What is difficult is writing a check to help the relief efforts.

Believe me, I'm as guilty as the next guy. I've learned to tune out the pitch for money. Even worthy organizations get lost in the near constant refrain for money. I get cynical about these non-profit CEO's who are living better than Fortune 500 executives. I cringe when I see charities mismanage money. However, Katrina has me pondering that wisdom.

This isn't your usual disaster, if there is such a thing. This was a category five hurricane that swallowed everything in it's way. It may be weeks before people can return to the area their homes once stood. It may be months before electricity is up again. It may be winter before children can return to school. And the economy of the area? Who knows when or even if that will rebound to pre-Katrina levels.

This hurricane has simply destroyed a part of my nation. Our nation, for most of you. Many of these people were poor long before Katrina took what little they had. These fellow Americans need our help. They need my help, but what can I do?

Let's face it, it's not like I can go down and lend a hand. First, I have some responsibility here. Second, I haven't got lots of cash myself and who is going to bankroll this plan? Third, I have limited skills. Typing a lousy sports blog isn't the kind of help these folks need.

So, that leaves me with making a donation to a relief organization. Yeah, I'm a bit leery, but I'm far more afraid for my countrymen in the south. They need to get the water pumped out. They need to have their communities secure. They need food, clothing and shelter. Eventually, they will need to rebuild. Everything. With such a daunting task at hand, the least I can do is send whatever money I can afford.

However, as I have rather limited means, I feel like I should do more. Again, what can I actually do to help? Well, I'm happy to say that some in the blogging community have chosen tomorrow as a cyber-fundraising day. The idea started by Hugh Hewitt has taken flight. All day tomorrow, September 1st, bloggers are going to be writing about Katrina and relief charities they will promote.

The Truth Laid has assembled the list of bloggers involved and is maintaining a list of charities, as is Instapundit. As I may not post tomorrow, I've jumped the gun and have added links to some relief organizations in my sidebar tonight. Many are taking donations online right now.

If you don't feel right about donating online or may never get around to putting a check in the mail, there are other options. For my local sports minded visitors, I know that AM1270-The Sports Station in Detroit, is attempting to get people out to Lucky's in Novi tomorrow to collect monetary gifts for the relief effort. The Sports Inferno guys got this going and I tip my cap to them.

I'm confident others in the Metro area are organizing collections and I encourage you to add the names of those organizations or events in the comments section of this post.

The bottom line is that the area needs everything and we have to try and provide those attempting to fill the voids with enough resources to meet the unbelievable demand. This need isn't going to go away tomorrow, or next month or even by the year's end.

If I can get one of you to donate one dollar, I'll have accomplished far more than I would have thought. I sincerely thank anyone who makes a donation of any size.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Black Monday

It was only one pre-season game.

It was only one stinking, putrid, horrific, awful, embarrassing pre-season game broadcast to a national television audience.

In case you missed it, and I'm hoping most of you did, the Detroit Lions got hammered last night by the St. Louis Rams, 37-13. It wasn't as close as the score might indicate. To put into words, let alone complete sentences, my disgust with last night's performance is challenging. Please forgive me if my writing is even worse than normal. Much like the Lions, that may be difficult to comprehend, but it is possible.

I must admit that I cashed out when the score was 21-6, Rams. There was no need to continue to waste time in that fashion. After all, the Tigers were busy coughing up a 5-0 first inning lead on FSN-Detroit. By all accounts, nothing improved at Ford Field after I moved onto less frustrating ventures.

As a form of release, allow me to review some of my observations for this debacle. That's what blogs are for, right?

Everything combined-the expectations, the new uniforms, the Monday Night Football broadcast, their performance or lack thereof-may have made last night's game the worst exhibition loss in Lions' history. It was very deflating.

The Lions first teamers didn't score for the third straight game. I wish that was our biggest problem. No, fans of the Black and Silver (and some Honolulu Blue), the biggest problem our offense seems to have is that the line has a difficult time blocking. Anybody.

For a pleasant change, Joey Harrington got left off the hook because his line was so terrible at every phase of the game that Harrington had no time to do much of anything. The Rams blitzed repeatedly and nailed Harrington for a loss nearly every time. Matt Millen had best be checking the waiver wire for O-Lineman today. This group is not getting the job done. Which leads us to our next two problems.

This offensive scheme, I use that word with hesitance, is not only dull, but horribly ineffective. The lack of touchdowns is one reflection of that. So, too, is their inability to adapt to defensive changes. Guys, if the QB is getting mashed like Thanksgiving Day potatoes, maybe we need to look at something else.

I have to assume they, in fact, did make some changes. I believe the Lions attempted to run multiple receiver formations forcing the Rams into playing more dime packages. It just didn't help the team improve. Of course, in the coaches defense, it's hard to make a good change when your quarterback is on the turf most of the night.

Oh, and why can't this team throw the ball down the field? Ever. I'm sure one reason Steve Mariucci, and, yeah, I'll be getting back to him shortly, doesn't like Joey is that Harrington wants to fling the ball downfield. You remember downfield, right? Where the endzone is. The place touchdowns are scored. No, the Lions prefer tossing out patterns. And more out patterns.

This team has three number one picks, three former All-Americans, at wideout and the most effective way to take advantage of their abilities is to limit their patterns? I just don't get it.

Why don't the Lions run three and four receiver sets all the time? Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams should be a load to handle, I don't care how young they are. Toss in Kevin Johnson and Marcus Pollard and Mariucci could play to Harrington's strength. Nope. Short, conservative passes are the rule around Ford Field. So, too, is losing.

As for Mike Williams, doesn't a number one choice for a fourth string receiver seem a bit much? I like the guy. He could be good. Very good, in fact. However, he's the fourth receiver on a team that seems to have flaws all over the place. Couldn't the tenth overall pick have gone to an area of more need? Like, let's say, a playmaking linebacker? (I wonder how Derrick Johnson is doing this pre-season?)

As bad as the offense was, the defense was worse. I am under the impression after last night's game, that the Lions have either A) opted not to have linebackers on the payroll or B) have chosen to play a defensive scheme that doesn't employ LBs.

Did a linebacker get close to making a play last night? Not the back-ups, I'm talking about the starters, if there are any. Teddy Lehman gets a pass as he didn't suit up, but for all of Lehman's speed, he can't even secure a starting role, so how good is he? (This is coming from someone who might list Lehman as his favorite Lion.) Boss Bailey was invisible. Earl Holmes didn't make a play. James Davis? No sign of him, either.

The D-Line was manhandled as badly as the O-Line. Shaun Rogers was out and it showed. The Rams' Steven Jackson is still running. He could have gotten 200 yards, if it were a regular season game. The defense has been bad since game one and it's not improving. Here's where we get back to Mooch.

This team is not improving on either side of the ball. The talent on paper sure seems better, but the product is still the same. Yes, it was only a pre-season game. Is it asking too much, though, to expect to see signs of progress?

I'm not talking Super Bowl champion dominance, just an effective use of what weapons you have and some steady improvement. Does anyone in Detroit think we've seen any of that thus far this pre-season? How about during Mooch's reign?

I'm not in the camp that wants Mariucci on the next plane out of Metro Airport, but I am in the group that's thinking about calling my travel agent to check on prices.

Oh, and before I forget, to all those fans who loved the new black (Raiders) jerseys the Lions donned last night- Where was all that manhood the new look was supposed to inspire? I thought it was psychological. The Honolulu Blue just wasn't tough enough. Well, the boys in black and silver got pushed around like the JV squad Monday night. The new duds were duds, indeed.

Okay, I'm a little mad. Maybe, I'm over-reacting. Maybe the Lions will be just fine come the season opener versus Green Bay. However, after the lack of effort displayed last evening, the Lions have forced many of us to re-consider our aspirations for 2005.

Before the game, I expected something like 10-6, maybe 9-7. A playoff berth was mandatory. Now, I am expecting them the struggle to get to 8-8. It's hard to envision this collection of players making a huge improvement during the regular season.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Armstrong Rumors Arise, Again

I hate to complain for the second straight post, but do the French have nothing else to do? It's seems the Tour de France folks still have their collective shorts in a knot about Lance Armstrong's reign as king of their event. Today, the director of Le Tour is claiming that a urine sample from six years ago proves conclusively that Armstrong used performance enhancing substances. Yeah, and my daddy is bigger than your daddy, pal.

Let's get some things cleared up first. The French hate Armstrong. Not because he won all the dang time. No, because he was an American that won all the dang time. Don't cloud the issue. They hate Armstrong because he's an American. Period. If this were some guy from Amsterdam, Munich or Paris, this issue would be brushed aside.

The French have been on a witch hunt to nail Armstrong since 1999. They have failed miserably. (Insert stereotypical anti-French joke here.) Even with Armstrong now into retirement, they push on. The media, and you think ours is bad, continues to dig for every piece of evidence that Lance did something, anything remotely illegal to gain his success. An American just couldn't win their event cleanly. Obviously, ignoring Greg LeMond's efforts.

Here's the problem I have with the entire matter. Let's assume, for the sake of French sports fans everywhere, that Armstrong is on every illegal substance known to mankind. He cheated his way to the top. You know what? Who cares? Not because I think the Tour isn't great, because I enjoy it. We shouldn't care because I challenge anyone else facing what Armstrong has to duplicate what he has accomplished.

Armstrong had one foot in the grave. His body was filled with cancer. If he took a whole bunch of banned substances to stay alive, who could blame him? Who would even suspect that they would not only help him fight off the cancer, but return to a regular life? Become the greatest cyclist in Tour history? Preposterous.

Does Armstrong's death defying return make him above the rules? No, but they never really caught him breaking the rules, did they? And even if they did, how many athletes faced with death would be able to take steroids, growth hormone or whatever else and not just win, but dominate the field of competition? How many healthy riders get bounced from the Tour for taking performance enhancing drugs and never get remotely close to a yellow jersey?

I'll admit there is plenty of smoke around Armstrong. His success is so amazing, his return to cycling so mind-boggling that you do have to wonder how it happened. Perhaps, Armstrong is just a phenomenon, chemically aided or not. Even his greatest skeptics would have to concede that Armstrong's return, however fueled, is miraculous. Unfortunately, that sentiment will never ease the French.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sunday Night Moanin'

I'm hoping this post won't be entirely ranting on my part, but I've got to get a few things off my chest.

* I have to start with my annual complaint about ESPN's coverage of the Little League World Series. I'm sorry, but it's wrong for these games to be on television. I'll retreat from that statement just a bit. I guess it would be alright for them to be on some cable access channel with video courtesy of some parent's video recorder. It should not, however, be on the world's primary sports station and it most certainly should not be on in primetime.

There are a number of reasons that ESPN's expanded coverage of this and the girls LLWS is wrong, but my primary concern is that it simply puts too much pressure on these kids. These kids just don't need to have these contests made more important than what they are. Everytime we increase the coverage of these events, we increase their perceived place in sports' hierarchy.

Everyday we hear about parents, and children, who have gone off the deep end because of their involvement in amateur sports. These people tend to lose sight of the fact that these games, while important to the very young participants, is not all that significant in the big picture. However, that's a much tougher sell when ESPN and their primary baseball announce teams show up at your regional LLWS venue.

This expanded coverage should stop yesterday, but it won't. Neither will my complaining about it.

* What does it say when ESPN is willing to broadcast LLWS regional games in primetime, but simply refused to broadcast the NHL?

* By the way, I like the NHL/OLN TV deal. I think the network will throw all their attention on hockey, something no other network probably would. As for those concerned about not seeing the games on OLN, because the network is in fewer households than ESPN, let's keep something in mind--No one was watching before.

The NHL is a regional sport, for the most part. People here, for example, really only watch the Red Wings. Sure, they might catch some Hockey Night in Canada, but they can still do that. The odds of them watching an Atlanta-Calgary or Minnesota-Columbus game on Tuesday night are pretty small regardless of what network is showing them.

* An interesting note from the NHL/OLN deal, the commitment to Monday Night Hockey. Now, unless I've gone plain crazy, wouldn't that mean we would get a Monday Night NFL game on ABC and a Monday Night NHL game on OLN from October through December? I wonder how they picked Monday night over the other days of the week? I wonder what the ratings will be?

* It pains me to see the Kansas City Royals this horrible. Growing up in the Seventies, the Royals were the model franchise. A consistent contender playing in a great ballpark with some great players. I know they are in the Tigers division, have beaten our guys far too often and have had some altercations with the Tigs, but the Royals shouldn't be this bad.

* Who died and made Kyle Farnsworth the second coming of Dennis Eckersely? Look, Farns was having a great season here, I'm with you on that. However, let's get some perspective. His career has been up-and-down at best. The way fans in Tigertown talk about Farnsworth you would think the team parted with Rollie Fingers. He might be a late bloomer, but let's ease up on the Farnsworth hype.

* I was at the old ballpark this past Monday night. I ventured over to the Little Caesar's stand to find that the $5 pizza was something closer to $10 inside the yard. I think it was $12.50. That's criminal. Or, at least, it should be.

* I went to the dentist this week. Three days later, my mouth is still occasionally swollen, my teeth hurt worse than when I first arrived there and I'm on about 2,000mg of antibiotics a day. I had a filling done. I just love dentists.

* Hey, has anyone heard anything from Terrell Owens? Seems mighty quiet, doesn't he?

* I tried to sit through the Lions pre-season tilt with Cleveland. I made it until the second quarter. I flipped the channel for good when Jeff Garcia launched that deep pass, that looked more a like a punt, into nowhere-in-particular. Well, that's not right, either. Specifically, the ball fell right into a Browns' DB's hands. Not a Honolulu Blue shirt around. No, kids, Garcia ain't the answer.

* Just wondering, but is it too early to be officially worried about the Lions defense?

* Is there anyone more frustrating than Carlos Pena? Two games played since his return from Toledo and the guy cranks out three homers. Carlos, Carlos, Carlos. If you want to be a star, that's fine. Just play like one from April through September. Not just August and September.

Pena falls into the "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me" category. I don't care if Pena hits fifteen homers between now and the end of the campaign, the Tigers cannot count on him in 2006. If that means letting him go, that's fine. And this is coming from a fan that likes the guy.

* Have you ever had a surprise job interview? I'm serious. I had a surprise interview. I applied for a job with my current employer and found out about five hours before that I was going to be interviewed that day. I've been to surprise birthday, anniversary and retirement parites, but this was the first surprise interview I've been invited to.

* I was watching the CBC coverage of the Edmonton vs. Toronto CFL game last night. I noticed the network went without announcers for the game. The little bit of halftime I saw was even without the traditional studio show. I remember one U.S. network doing that years ago, NBC, I believe. It was fine, but I feared the CBC may have axed their CFL crew in a cost-cutting move. (Eskimos played lousy and ended up losing, by the way. Stinking Argos.)

Thanks for joining me in my latest little rant. I've got to go now. I have to take my next round of medication.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Danica Mania In Overdrive

An ABC reporter asked Dan Wheldon, prior to last week's IRL event in Kentucky, how he intended to hold off Danica Patrick? Are they kidding, I thought? Shouldn't they have been asking Patrick how she intended to hold Wheldon, the current Indy 500 champion and IRL points leader, at bay? The question was just an example of the extreme silliness the Danica-crazed press has gotten.

Before the race, I saw a replay of the lap at Indy where Wheldon passed Patrick for the final time. The view was courtesy of an in-car camera on Patrick's vehicle. Wheldon passed, then disappeared so far down the track that the person I was watching with asked me if Patrick's car was still moving at the time? (That was from someone who knows less about racing than I do, noting that I know next to nothing.) Yet, if you knew nothing about racing, and watched only the pre-Kentucky race interviews, you would suspect it was Patrick who was the points leader and Indy champ not Wheldon.

A few races back, members of the Andretti Green Racing boycotted an autograph session after seeing the seating arrangement. There was one section for Patrick, another for all the other drivers. I think the sign actually said "other drivers", as if Wheldon and Helio Castroneves were toss away figures in the sport.

At the time, I just figured it was your typical jealousy amongst drivers and teams. It probably was, in part, but after seeing the media drool all over Patrick this past Sunday, I can see how some of the top drivers are put off by the Danica steamroller.

If Danica wins at Pikes Peak this week, it will be hailed as one the greatest sports achievements of all-time. If Wheldon or Dario Franchitti have the audacity to win, no one will notice. If the race means anything, then isn't it fair to assume that whomever wins the race matters, as well?

If Patrick captures the checkered flag, but is triumphant over a field of talentless nobodies, as the IRL and mainstream media media would have you believe, then what is the significance of her potential victory?

I'm not rooting against Patrick, but it's just plain media overkill at this point. Haven't Sara Fisher and Janet Guthrie traveled this path long before Patrick? I guess I'm just too much of a newbie to understand, but what has Patrick done that the women before her haven't?

Patrick may one day emerge as the greatest female driver in history. She may just vie for the greatest open wheel driver of all-time. I seriously doubt it, but I guess it's possible. However, before we proclaim her as the savior of open wheel racing in America, let's remember something. She hasn't won anything, yet.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Tigers Three Ring Circus

I guess it's time to comment on the three ring circus that the Detroit Tigers have become. In the first ring we have Pudge Rodriguez, the Tigers Hall of Fame bound catcher. Pudge, who as Greg Eno pointed out months ago, has not been the same player in his second year in Detroit as he was his first. Something has been wrong with him since Day One of Spring Training. However, Pudge turned particularly surly after the Tigers shipped Kyle Farnsworth to Atlanta.

Pudge's attitude became the story in town when he went to Colombia during his suspension. When Rodriguez was due back in Kansas City, the disgruntled backstop missed his flight. That didn't sit well with Tigers management. The whole story blew-up when Terry Foster reported that Pudge actually got permission to skip town originally from owner Mike Ilitch, after Dave Dombrowski and Alan Trammell said no.

Since returning to the ballclub, Pudge has spent far more time not playing than helping his team on-the-field. Some are wondering if Pudge is hurting or pouting? The speculation increases daily and the stories have taken on a life of their own. They beg the question, should Pudge be traded this off-season?

Then, there is Ring # 2. Here we have Tigers' manager Alan Trammell. Tram is under daily fire, especially from the residents of Tigertown. Trammell's managerial competence is questioned by at least half the folks in town and I'm not counting the media. Regular Tigers fans, even those who adored Trammell as a player, are becoming increasingly angry about Trammell's decision making.

Trammell's supporters often point to the clubhouse decorum he has been able to maintain. Of course, in light of the Pudge stories, his critics now claim he can't control the Tigers' biggest player. There are also rumors that the team likes Tram, but doesn't respect his managerial acumen. The cries for Trammell's removal grow daily.

That brings us to our third and, for now, final ring. In Ring Three, we have Tigers' President and General Manager Dave Dombrowski. There is still a percentage of fans that disapprove of the deal for Farnsworth. They feel like Dombrowski tossed away the year. Unfortunately, that same sentiment appears to be shared by some of the guys wearing the Old English D. (Not surprisingly, Rodriguez leads that rebellious group of players that are ticked off at the Tigers' head hancho.) There is a group of fans, and apparently players, who feel like it's Dombrowski who should get the boot.

Dombrowski, too, maybe having his own issues. If, in fact, Pudge did go over Dombrowski's head and ask Ilitch for time away, only to have Ilitch grant it, Dombrowski may wonder what control he truly has? Toss in the rumor that Ilitch supposedly will not allow Dombrowski to fire Alan Trammell, even if the Tigers' G.M. thought it necessary and you could easily have Dombrowski wondering about his own status. The Tigers' boss has only one year left on his contract and I haven't even heard a rumor about an extension.

Here's what I think. I think if the Tigers trade Pudge, that's fine. There are ways, even if forced to eat a portion of his salary, that the team could improve without their most visible player.

I think if Trammell gets fired, I'd feel bad, but I'd get over it. There are other managers, with varying degrees of experience, available. His loss wouldn't be insurmountable.

I think I don't like the thought of losing Dombrowski. Can he be replaced? Of course, but of the three, he would be the most difficult. Dombrowski is a good general manager, like him or not. He has rebuilt this team and made more good moves than bad ones.

There are darn, darn few general managers with his record of success. Dombrowski could be with the Tigers for the next fifteen years, if Ilitch doesn't screw this up. Yet, the Tigers' owner, if we are to believe the word on the street, is doing everything he can to give Dombrowski reason to seek work in another city.

I think that's not a very good move.

I think the off-season, that began in earnest at the trade deadline, just got far more complicated. Instead of wondering which players should stay and which should go, citizens of Tigertown and, perhaps, Mr. Ilitch may have to ponder who is going to replace the G.M., the manager and/or a Hall of Fame catcher, as well.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Fantasy Fishing

No, I'm not joking. There really are fantasy fishing leagues. Yes, there is more than just the ESPN version. FLW Outdoors offers this one. Think this is being played by just twenty or thirty good ol' boys? Here Deborah Weisberg, in a special to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, reports on the game's growing popularity.

Rooney Tallies, Toffees Fall

While I remain a fan of Wayne Rooney, as I continue to support his former side and not his current one, today's tally didn't warm my heart. I won't bore you with more discussion about the Premiership opener. At least, not now.

Joey Perfect

Joey Harrington went 9 for 9 in yesterday's pre-season opener against the New York Jets. The score? Well, that doesn't really matter, but if you must know, it was 10-3 Jets. A thriller by all accounts. However, we are allowing ourselves to be diverted from the big story.

Joey was perfect. 9 for 9. No touchdowns, but no interceptions, either. No drops. No overthrows. No passes that reach receivers on the third hop. Harrington's perfect completion percentage accounted for 100 passing yards.

Little else in this pre-season will matter, injuries being the only other major issue, than Harrington's play. If it's good, Lions fans will harbor playoff aspirations. If it's bad, or even mediocre, the Honolulu Blue faithful will be demanding a Jeff Garcia stint as starter.

So, while I hesitate to put much credence into last night's performance, Harrington's perfect game was the story as it will be every single week of the season, exhibition or regular. Number Three got the job done yesterday and even the boo birds are forced to keep quiet for about six days.

There was some bad news. Fullback Cory Schlesinger is out for about the next two months with a broken fibula. That's not going to help. Let's hope the Lions FB makes it back ASAP.

For those of you who are interested, here is more coverage of the Lions/Jets tilt:

Detroit News game recap by Mike O'Hara.

Steve Pate of the Oakland Press checks in with this.

This recap from the Lions official site.

Here is Tom Kowalski's view of the opener.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

One Day Left

The Detroit Lions kickoff their 2005 season in about twenty-four hours. The Lions open the pre-season against the New York Jets. I'll be the first to admit that unless you are a real diehard NFL fan, pre-season football can be some of the worst stuff on Earth. That said, is anyone in town not excited with the fact the Lions are taking the field tomorrow night?

It may only be worth watching for a quarter, and that might be too long, but our hopes begin anew Friday night.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Time For A New Approach

The Philadelphia Eagles asked Terrell Owens to leave training camp today. Owens, who is looking for a new contract, got into a disagreement with head coach Andy Reid. Owens apparently used some profanity with Reid and that got him the boot.

Rumor has it the dispute arose when Owens refused to participate in a team required autograph session. Owens said he couldn't join the autograph session as he is recovering from a groin injury. That's hysterical. I broke my arm in fourth grade and still had to do my homework. I had to write with my other hand.

Yet, Owens, who even at his current paltry salary will probably make more than almost 99% of the people on Earth, cannot risk aggravating his groin injury by signing some autographs? Now, I'm no doctor, but I have yet to hear of anyone ever injuring his groin, or aggravating a current groin injury, by signing an autograph. Of course, signing the autographs wasn't the issue.

Owens has two problems. First, and most importantly, he's angry at the Eagles for not giving him more money. He will now take whatever action he chooses to display his displeasure. Team mandated autograph session? Not without a new deal in place.

Second, Owens has the attitude far too many of our athletes have. An attitude that says "All I'm here to do is play the game, everything else is optional". Alan Iverson's "Practice?" line is another perfect example of this attitude. This idea that the team should expect nothing other than a gameday performance is a cute idea, if the players were making $30,000 a year.

However, when your employer pays you lottery winning money, is it asking too much to scribble your name and participate in practice? Some intelligent, level headed folks would say yes. I would disagree, but I have a solution. (Yes, that's a first.) It's time for the leagues and owners to have players sign personal services contracts.

If today's athletes want to make millions and millions of dollars, they should have to sign a contract complete with personal service requirements. Things like practice, team meetings and autograph sessions would be a mandatory. Failure to comply is a breach of the contract and the deal is void instantly.

I usually side with the players in most labor-management confrontations. I've never begrudged them the big money, as teams must be making enough to cover their costs, but this time I'm clearly on management's side.

Maybe I'm just plain tired of T.O. Who am I kidding? Of course, I'm tired of T.O. He's a great football player, one who puts out every Sunday, put who just can't seem to find any happiness. More money. New team. Super Bowl appearance. Doesn't matter, T.O. always seems to need something more.

The Eagles should stop the madness and terminate their relationship with Owens. They won't, of course, because T.O. is so darn good. Maybe the Eagles owner should just refuse to sign anymore checks for Owens? He could always claim he has groin injury.

Drew Sharp Won't Like This

Seems some folks over at think the Big Ten is a pretty good football conference. Pat Forde gives the Big Ten love here and both Forde and Ivan Maisel rank the Big Ten as the nation's top conference. Did I mention The Sporting News also ranks the Big Ten first overall?

I suspect Drew Sharp, of the Detroit Free Press and noted Big Ten hater, is working on his rebuttal right now.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Rogers Reinstated

Kenny Rogers was reinstated today by an arbitrator. I couldn't be more annoyed. An arbitrator thinks assaulting two cameramen doesn't merit at least twenty games off? What is this arbitrator thinking? It's only a twenty game suspension if Rogers used a weapon? I can't believe that anyone with an ounce of common sense thinks Rogers deserves to have his suspension curtailed.

Bud Selig may be the worst commissioner of all-time, but the guy can't even level a suspension without someone outside the game revoking his decision. How can he effectively perform his job, if every decision he makes needs to be approved by Donald Fehr, the U.S. Congress and some random arbitrator?

Monday, August 08, 2005

Harrington Assault Begins files this report from the Detroit Lions public scrimmage. Joey doesn't even get a break in practice.

While on the radio this morning, they were running a contest to see what Harrington's nickname should be. Apparently, while at Oregon, someone dubbed the Lions QB "Princess". Ouch. The leader amongst listener responses (before I left my vehicle)? "Joey Checkdown".

Yes, boys and girls, Lions' season is definitely underway.

Palmeiro Opens Can Of Worms

Thanks to Rafael Palmeiro's abject stupidity, baseball is getting dragged through the mud, again. Of course, Raffy's steroid use also drags a few other institutions through the slop, as well. Congress, the Hall of Fame and a Hall of Fame voter or two manage to get tossed under the bus in the wake of Palmeiro's performance enhancement.

Palmeiro's positive test means the United States Congress is probably going to revisit Major League Baseball's steroid policy. This is, of course, crazy. Having our government investigate and police MLB's, or any other sports, drug policy is a ridiculous waste of our tax dollars.

It's also backwards, as I thought Congress wanted MLB to catch steroid users. However, the congressional committee seems annoyed at the fact MLB caught a big name player. Wasn't that what you folks wanted, the league to catch the guys on the juice? So, why then, after nailing Palmeiro are you looking to nail baseball? Sure, the suspension is lighter than most of us want, but they did catch him. Palmeiro's legacy is shot as is his credibility. What more do they want?

If I am to interpret Representative Patrick McHenry's, R-NC, comments correctly, it appears the U.S. Congress wants to oversee the Hall of Fame election process, too. McHenry said "We're talking about the Hall of Fame and whether or not you can be there with Willie Mays and Henry Aaron." I appreciate McHenry's concern for the Hall's current members, but determining who belongs in the Hall isn't the job of Congress. Nor is any of this mess.

Which leads me to part two of the dilemma Palmeiro has created, the Hall of Fame issue. It's no wonder McHenry is concerned about Hall of Fame inclusion for Raffy as, apparently, Jayson Stark doesn't think it's the job of the Baseball Writers Association to figure out who makes the Hall, either. Nope, Stark contends it's not his job to play cop, it's his job to select Hall of Famers based on numbers. This is ridiculous on two points.

First, if Stark thinks it his job to blindly vote for everyone with unquestionable numbers, do we really need him to vote? Honestly, if 3,000 hits gets you in. Period. No debate. Then we can cut Stark and his BBWAA buddies out of the process, can't we? Reach certain milestones, you are in. Don't reach them, sorry, thanks for playing.

It's part of Stark's responsibility as a voter to deliberate each candidate's merits. Stark may not feel it's in his job description to police the sport, but is it asking to much for him to police the institution which he has been entrusted to vote for? I don't think so.

The second problem I have with Stark is that he is either a journalist or a reporter, take your pick. However, when the steroid problem was running rampant in the sport, did Stark or 99% of his buddies, call anyone out? Did or any of his colleagues do any investigative journalism? If they had, would we even be having this discussion now?

Stark apparently didn't feel it was his job to police the league then, just report on-field incidents. Sure, the sport can face it's greatest problem since 1919, but we'll skip that to provide more worthless trivia. (Sorry, that's a cheap shot, but I'm annoyed.)

I'm not saying it would have been easy. I'm not saying that in Stark's shoes I wouldn't have done exactly the same thing, but what I don't understand is how not one of the regular baseball beat guys jumped all over this story. Not one. (Some mild apologies including one to Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post.)

They all knew what was going on or heard the rumors. Yet faced with the greatest controversy since the Black Sox scandal, Pete Rose aside (more on him in a minute), the press opted out of the story. I'm sorry, but I honestly think that it was Stark and his BBWAA brethren's job to report this story. The press always maintains its role is watchdog, so why couldn't any of them break this story?

Stark contends that "It's the sports job to police itself" and that "baseball's police station was a place where the cops sat around, played cards, smoked cigars and let the inmates hit 900-foot home runs." How is that description any different from what Stark and the rest of the baseball media did? Or any different from his opinion of what his responsibility to the Hall of Fame is?

The other Hall of Fame debate Palmeiro has opened up is the comparison between his indiscretion and that of Pete Rose. Again, this argument is an apples to oranges situation. (Someday, I'll elaborate my thoughts on the entire Rose ordeal, but for now, I'll try and stick to it's relevance to Palmeiro.)

The entire era of steroid use is uncharted water for baseball. They have never had to address this kind of high tech performance enhancing issue before. Not only that, but the Players Association, who continues to get off far too lightly in this nightmare they helped perpetuate, made it difficult for MLB to institute a drug policy with any teeth. (Note that the MLBPA still has not responded to Bud Selig's request to up the penalties for positive steroid tests. How many months have Don Fehr and company stalled on this matter?)

Palmeiro, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and any others rumored to be on the juice couldn't have imagined the consequences. They could not have been able to determine what the league's penalties would be. Sure, they could guess, but it would only be a guess. Rose had no such gray area.

Since 1920, it was clear what the penalty for gambling on baseball was--bet on baseball and you get a lifetime suspension. No exceptions. No escape clauses. No help from the MLBPA. No Hall of Fame. There was a sign on every clubhouse door Rose ever walked through informing him of what would happen. I knew that thirty years ago as a youngster. Rose knew all of that, too. That's why the lies persist.

What Stark, Rose and a number of people need to get hold of is that the Hall of Fame is not a right. It's an honor. If you do something to dishonor the game, you shouldn't expect induction regardless of what your stats look like.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Barry Smith To Phoenix?

Reports are circulating that NHL legend Wayne Gretzky is about to take over as head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes. These reports also say that former Detroit Red Wings associate coach Barry Smith is about to be named as one of Gretzky's assistants. Here is the story at

Friday, August 05, 2005

Comings And Goings

Is it just me or does there seem to be quite a few more transactions in the sports world than normal? Many have taken place right here in Detroit. I've refrained on commenting on many of them because so many others have. However, there is a new batch of moves everyday and I'm overdue to provide a post, so let's review a selection of moves from the old transaction wire.

Matt Millen: The Lions' boss gets a five year extension. No one is surprised by Millen's new deal. Historically, the Ford family has been very loyal to Lions' senior management. About the only thing shocking to some of us locals was the length of the deal. Five years is a bit much for a guy with a record nowhere close to .500.

I understand the team appears headed in the right direction and the Fords like Millen, but five years? How about two and we'll see how all that potential is working out?

Rafael Palmeiro: The Orioles star isn't really going anywhere, but the suspended list. In what has to qualify as one of the most moronic moves of all-time, Palmeiro got nailed taking steroids only months after vehemently denying such stories to Congress. "Hey, Rafael Palmeiro! You just got your 3,000th hit, what are you going to do next?" "I'm going to get suspended!" Brilliant. Just brilliant.

Steve Yzerman: It's nice that the Red Wings captain is going to get what I assume will be a farewell tour. Going out after an eye injury and a lockout certainly would have been anti-climatic for one of the game's all-time greats. With the new salary cap in place, I doubt we will see too many more players spend twenty plus years, and their entire careers, with only one team.

Darren McCarty: While McCarty's game appears to be in decline, it's hard for Hockeytown to let go. Mac was your typical tough Canadian kid whose personal life, both good and bad, played out before us. It made him seem like a regular guy, something this city always embraces. Detroit's hockey faithful will miss him, but will never forget. Good luck in Calgary, Darren.

Larry Brown: Yes, we are all tired of this one. However, someone thought this move should have happened in January.

Eddie Drummond: Eddie, good to have you back. In hindsight, holding out was not a good move.

Roman Colon: Colon came over to the Tigers in the deal that sent Kyle Farnsworth to Atlanta. I saw his first Detroit appearance, brief as it was, and I liked what I saw. He claims to have quite an array of pitches at his disposal which makes you think he's headed for the rotation eventually.

Paul Kariya, Peter Forsberg, Nikolai Khabibulin, Jeremy Roenick, Chris Pronger, et al: The NHL is a continuous transaction. These big names led the parade of players that have all changed sweaters this week. Kariya being the latest by joining Nashville today. (Nashville?!?!?) It will be interesting to see how all of these moves pan out not only this year, but over the next several seasons.

MLB should pay close attention to the NHL's transition. For all those calling for a salary cap in baseball, take heed. This is what would happen. If you like it, then that's fine. But if you don't like all this movement and many teams, both big and small market, being unable to move due to cap restrictions, you may want to watch what you wish for.

Antoine Walker, James Posey and Jason Williams: All part of the largest trade in NBA history and the newest members of the Shaq and Wade Show in Miami. On paper, the Heat look much improved by adding this kind of talent. However, the proof is in the pudding.

Walker and Williams are good passers, thus helping feed Shaq, but they also like to handle the ball quite a bit. And did I mention both like to shoot some, too. During a long regular season, that probably won't be an issue. But then comes the post-season.

Will 'Toine and White Chocolate relinquish the rock to their superiors? Can Williams stop Chauncey Billups one on one? Can Walker stop Tayshaun Prince? Can either stop me from getting shots?

Miami's offense is unquestionably better and has more viable options with these guys in the mix. (For the record, I like Posey and feel he will fit in fine.) However, will this new collection of players play like a team in the closing minutes of a playoff game or will Walker and Williams revert to their previous style of play and hoist up shots without deferring to Shaq and Wade? We will know by next June.

Atkins Nutritionals, Inc.: You remember the Atkins craze, right? Well, it's with some perverse pleasure that I report the company has filed for bankruptcy. Why do I find this modestly amusing? First, because I'm tired of being told what to eat and when to eat it. Second, I like bakeries. These Atkins folks shut down many a fine bakery by convincing people that bakeries are a pox on society. What comes around, goes around. (Although, I'm confident the company will not go away, just re-organize.)

I may have missed a transaction (or ten), and that last one wasn't sports related, but I figure you are probably just about ready to fall asleep by now, so I best stop here. As always, thanks for stopping in. Feel free to grab a doughnut on the way out.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Polanco Signs New Deal

Placido Polanco signed a four year deal with the Detroit Tigers today. This is good news. All the guy does is show up and play well. What more can you want? Oh, he signed a reasonable deal, too. If you consider four years and $18.4 million reasonable.

Hopefully, this signing will help ease some frustrated players in the Tigers lockeroom. I think the veterans, in particular, need some reassurance that the Tigers are truly committed to winning.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Mike Williams Joins The Lions

Just a quickie about Mike Williams arrival at Lions' training camp. The guy missed four days of workouts and there is already worry about how far behind the former USC star is behind. Is it nuclear science or football?

I realize the guy has missed almost two years of action, so it would have been better to be in Allen Park since Day One, but what's another four days going to do? Make him worse? Didn't he attend mini-camp? Did the Lions not give him a playbook then? Sometimes I think we over analyze this stuff.

That said, I'm happy he's in camp.

A Day At The Races

On Sunday afternoon I did something I have always wanted to do. I went to an Indy Car race. Now, stop all the snickering and rolling of the eyes. (Billfer, I didn't even mention soccer, so keep reading.) As a youngster, the only racing anyone cared about in America was held in Indianapolis on Memorial Weekend. When people thought auto racing they thought the Indy 500 and nothing else.

I watched Indy back in my childhood when the kings of the sport reigned-A.J. Foyt, Bobby and Al Unser, Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, et al. Since then, I have always wanted to see cars circle the track at speeds over 200mph. Just once, I wanted to see what that was like. It wasn't amongst my top ten sporting events to partake of, but it did make my list of things to do.

Amazingly enough, I got free tickets to Sundays' Firestone 400 from someone at work. My opportunity presented itself and, best of all, it was going to be a freebie. No need to invest any big time capital into an event that was as much curiosity as anything else. I could attend, be totally disappointed and not out much cash. How could I resist?

The doors opened to the public at 9:00 am. The race was slated to begin around 3:00 pm. Stinking made-for-tv start time. Anyway, there was no way I could see myself sitting around from nine in the morning until late afternoon waiting for a race, so my friend and I left for Michigan International Speedway around noon.

We arrived around 1:30 pm. We were greeted by free parking, a nice bonus, and quite a few racing fans already well into a tailgating session. (I'll let you fill in the blanks.) There was a Silverdome-esque walk up to the track. Around the structure, the teams, sponsors and the Indy Racing League had set-up a carnival-like event. There were race simulators, souvenir trailers for each team, sponsors had their own areas as did the Indy Racing League itself. All-in-all it was much like a fanfest at any other sporting event.

So far, neither of us had been scared off. In fact, the track volunteers/employees were very cordial. We headed for our seats. There seemed like about ten flights of stairs up and we ended up only about the same number of rows from the Uecker row. We were not only high up, but at an uncomfortably steep angle to the track. Think top row, Pontiac Silverdome. Needless to say, it was a bit unsettling.

The crowd was rather sparse. Maybe half the primary grandstand was occupied. I read attendance figures this morning that pegged the total crowd at around 35,000-40,000. In contrast, a NASCAR race brings in over 100,000 to MIS.

After a prolonged, and I mean prolonged, pre-race show, there was an airshow, but I didn't come for planes, the race began. Let me make this very, very clear. Watching that first lap with these incredibly expensive cars circle the track at 200 mph was one of the most incredible things I have seen in sports. I kid you not.

It was just plain unbelievable. They went past so fast, that it was nearly impossible to tell who was in what position. Oh, and the noise! My ears are still ringing. (Note to all, including me: Go to Indy Car race, bring or buy earplugs.) These little machines, the ones that seem to be just gliding along on television, are moving so fast that both my friend and I got just a tad queasy due to the speed, noise and our position relative to them.

It does get very challenging to figure out where every car stands as the laps mount. The pit stops and natural separation of the good cars from the bad make it a real hodge-podge on the track. There are top five and top ten boards on the infield, but finding the drivers amidst the high speeds can be hard. At least for this newbie it was. Maybe experience would help. So would a radio.

They do broadcast the race at the track, but I do wonder why? There ain't no way anyone can hear it above the thunder of all those engines.

Bryan Herta had the best car in qualifying on Saturday and all day long Sunday. The race ended up tight, but Herta and his team deserved a win yesterday. I'm a rookie and even I know that.

Overall, the race was about what I had expected it to be. The cars were unimaginably fast and I felt the trip was well worth the time spent. I would not classify myself as an Indy Car Series junkie, we left early and listened as much to the Tigers on the radio as the race, but I have a greater appreciation for what I see on television. I guess, basically, that means you can add Indy Car to the sports I am a casual fan of.

I'll warn you now, I will probably champion the IRL's cause in this space every once in a while because: 1) It's an underdog, even in auto racing. 2) It's a more legitimate sport than half the things the sports cable stations are showing. 3) I enjoyed my brief exposure to it.

Now, before many of you think I am nuttier than you even suspected, let me clear up a several things. I did not go to watch current media darling and IRL driver, Danica Patrick. I don't root against Patrick, but my interest in her sport pre-dates her birth.

Auto racing is not going to replace baseball, football or basketball on my sports hierarchy. It's going to have a tough time getting past hockey and golf, too. I'm not sure if it can unseat, soccer. Probably not.

I have no desire to watch NASCAR and even less desire to see one of their events in person. Having Chevys, Pontiacs, Fords and Chryslers zip past at me at mind boggling speeds is part of my daily travels, not something I would pay to watch. Nor do I think sitting crammed with 100,000 folks at MIS is something I would enjoy.

Yes, I have all the same pre-conceived stereotypes about auto racin' fans that 99% of you do. They are, of course, unfair and partially spot on. No need to dig up that kind of unnecessary banter here, but suffice to say at the concessions stands you could choose between hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, various beverages and cigarettes. Yes, cigarettes. My advice? Don't lose your smokes before the race. They are $8 a pack at the track. (Lived up to all your stereotypes, didn't it?)

And, yeah, I kind of like Formula One, too. It's the same thing to me, but I'm sure the F1 diehards will tell me how stupid I am. Like that's news.

I apologize to the Marx Brothers for stealing the title of one of their movies for my title for this post. I love Marx Brothers movies, by the way.

Here is a link to the Indy Racing League's site. Yes, it may end up in my sidebar, but not this second.

If you have any interest in Indy Car Racing, and you probably don't, but if you do, go to a race.

The White Flag?

My first reaction to hearing of Kyle Farnsworth trade to Atlanta? "The 2006 season has begun. The Tigers have unofficially conceded 2005". Harsh? Yeah, it's harsh. Was it a gross over-reaction on my part, as I never envisioned the playoffs? Absolutely. Unfortunately, I think the ballclub shared my sentiment.

You cannot convince me the Detroit Tigers didn't mail in yesterday's game against Oakland. They may not have thrown the contest, but they sure weren't interested in playing. Jim Price, of the Tigers' radio network, said as much during the game. The Tigers had to believe that the trade of Farnsworth, especially with minor league hurlers coming in return, signaled the end of the competitive portion of their season.

However, keeping the big picture in view, something that's darn difficult when your team is on a decade plus long losing skid, the Tigers did what they had to. There is no question Farnsworth was having a very good season, but this was his first successful spell as a closer. The Chicago Cubs, his former employer, gave Farnsworth a number of opportunities to become their closer, but he failed. More often than not, he failed miserably.

Instead of waiting for Farnsworth to walk away at season's end at get nothing in return, Dave Dombrowski got proactive. He moved the Tigers third closer of the year to the Braves and got something for Farnsworth, probably at the peak of his value.

From a rational standpoint, Dombrowski appears to have done the right thing no matter what Farnsworth does in Atlanta. Farnsworth turned down a three year offer from Detroit and made it clear he wanted to be a free agent. The Tigers, rightfully leery of Farnsworth's long term success, probably hesitated to give him too much money. It's a hard premise to argue. Alas, that doesn't make the remainder of 2005 seem any better.

Sure, Fernando Rodney could come in a be a star. He could make all of us forget Farnsworth by September 1st. But right now, fans, and even the team, feel a bit let down. They feel like the remainder of this season is like so many prior-primarily a time to evaluate for next year.

The one who may get the closest observation is Alan Trammell. I worry that Tram may have a worst case scenario on his hands. Coming off a road trip that all but eliminated his team from post-season possibilities, and a tacit signal from management that they have waved the white flag for '05, Trammell could find his team in a complete free fall. How, and if, the Tigers rebound from their disastrous west coast visit may determine if Trammell's job is on the line.

The baseball season in Detroit has two months left, but for a great many of us, it sure felt like it ended yesterday afternoon.