Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Saturday, December 31, 2005

On a good note

Okay, I'd like to be positive for the last day of 2005. I feel like I've been something of a Negative Norm lately, getting down on the Lions and Tigers, Michigan football, and even Monday Night Football. So on New Year's Eve, let's talk about one of the good things in sports, especially in this area: the Detroit Pistons.

Unfortunately, while writing this, the Pistons lost to the Cleveland LeBrons, 97-84. But I'm staying positive here. In the past week, they've beaten San Antonio and Miami, arguably their two biggest competitors for the NBA championship. They're entitled to a lose a game. But a loss hardly takes away from how impressively this team has started the 2005-06 season. Right now, the Pistons' record is 24-4.

Detroit has many more games to go before they can match the 95-96 Chicago Bulls, who began their season with a 41-3 record. But many fans are thinking (expecting?) that the Pistons could win 70 games, just like those Bulls did. That'd be nice, especially since the Pistons' previous championship teams never seem to get mentioned in the same sentence with the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, and even the Rockets. But I'd like to keep this within the context of Detroit sports history for now.

Earlier this week, in response to Greg Eno's post about how Chuck Daly would've handled a potential 70-win team, I asked if it was time for the Pistons' streak to join the Tigers' 35-5 beginning to the 1984 season on the hallowed mantle reserved for Detroit's sports legends.

Bear with me here, because my math skills are strongly suited for blogging. After playing roughly 25% of the regular season schedule, the Tigers won 88% of their games. The Pistons have played almost 35% of their schedule, and have won 86% of those games. What does that mean? Honestly, I have no idea. But it sounded like I was onto something there, didn't it?

The Tigers went on to win 69 more games (a .750 winning percentage) on the way to a World Series championship. The Pistons have 53 more games and the postseason remaining. Maybe comparing baseball to football is like comparing pizza to Chinese food. They could both be placed in the same category (sports, food), but they're ultimately different. A Major League Baseball team plays virtually every night. An NBA team plays approximately 3-4 times a week. MLB, 162 games. NBA, 82 games. Who's to say which is more grueling or more demanding? We could empty many, many pitchers arguing that point.

Let's end by acknowledging the greatness that we've been able to witness, and appreciating the fine play and memorable moments these teams have given us. I raise my glass of champagne (I'm just, uh, testing it out for tonight) to these Pistons, the best thing going in the past year of Detroit sports. May it continue into 2006.

Happy New Year, everyone. Take care of yourselves, and thank you so much for reading.


Friday, December 30, 2005

New Year's Day massacre?

So really, how ugly will Sunday's Lions-Steelers game be? I'm envisioning something like the scene in Revenge of the Sith when the Jedi Knights are mowed down, one by one. Or maybe the end of Bonnie and Clyde.

Remember when the Lions used to win games like this? They used to beat teams you wouldn't expect them to beat. Of course, they'd lose to, say, the Arizona Cardinals in the same season. But they could be counted on to beat the Cowboys or 49ers (when they were good), which is probably what sucked us all into the hellish covenant we're trapped in as Lions fans.

Wow, I miss those days.

▪▪ Add Damien Woody to the "If you don't like it here, get the #$@% out" pile. On Wednesday, he said he never would've signed with the Lions two years ago if he'd known how dysfunctional the organization was.

$#!+, Damien - we could've told you that. Going from the cream of the NFL (the Patriots) to the crap? How did you think that was going to work out for you? But we figured your ridiculous salary ($11.5 million in 2004) was enough to make you happy.

▪▪ Want a good laugh before the holiday weekend? Check out this headline from today's Detroit News: Jauron is ready to continue as Lions' coach after season.

Is he $@#%ing kidding? Dude, if you don't have time to update your resume right now, I'd be happy to do it for you. How about we put "Named Jeff Garcia starting quarterback" right at the top, and see how that works with future employers?

I know this is one of those silly things that fans often say, but if Dick Jauron is the Detroit Lions coach next season, that could be it for me. I might just walk away. I can't take another year of this #@$%ing $#!+. Name one thing he's done to prove he deserves to keep that job. And if he's popular with the players, that's even more reason to drop him off at a bus station next week.

Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Peaches, flowers, sunshine. My pain will end on Sunday.

Can you live this fantasy life?

Well, I got to live out one fantasy before the end of 2005. This past weekend, I ended my first fantasy football season with a beginner's luck run to a league championship.

(I'll get to work on a more ambitious fantasy some time after the new year. Ms. Johansson, have you found my blog yet? It's okay, I'm a lonely man with hobbies. I'm patient, with plenty of time on my hands. Wait, was that a poor choice of words?)

Thanks to the Chicago Bears' defense (and Brett Favre's newfound love of throwing interceptions), I managed to overcome my boneheaded decisions to start Ryan Moats at running back and Joe Jurevicius at receiver, and my Swift Sweaty Men scored a victory over Jim's Wabi-Sabi Warthogs. (Other bloggers in our league included Donutbuzz and Spinster Girl.)

My father and I tried fantasy football some 15 years ago, and after that, I told myself I'd never play again. I hated how it affected the way I watched a football game; for example, rooting for Anthony Carter to score touchdowns against the Lions. Never mind that we had no idea how to put a good team together. We just picked the players we knew and liked.

But after the Lions' putrid preseason debacle against the Rams in August, and my threat to take up knitting as a result, John felt my pain and suggested fantasy football as a way to get through the NFL season without forking out my eyeballs and stuffing them in my ears. And with Jim wanting to put together a league of bloggers (doesn't that sound superheroic?), the timing was perfect. I was back in.

And I was totally hooked. I loved it. I spent much more time than I'd like to admit looking at statistics, reading advice from fantasy football "experts," scouring the waiver wires for players, and bugging the other owners in my league about trades. I sought a shoulder to cry on when Donovan McNabb's injury laid him up for the rest of the season. I likely tested the limits of my heterosexuality while devoting my thoughts to players such as Andre Johnson, LaMont Jordan, Ernest Wilford, and Kurt Warner. (I know what you're saying: C'mon, Ian - if you're going to go there, at least think about someone like Tom Brady. I hear you, dude. My sister said the same thing.)

But now, the season's over and I have to find something else to fill that time. (Again, Ms. Johansson, this is where you can help me.) I'm already thinking about what I want to do next season. I want to join more leagues. Hell, I might start my own. This blog could become a support group for fantasy football addicts. What I'm saying is that I'm a voracious, greedy man who just wants more.

Thanks for inviting me to play, Jim.

I have some other thoughts on fantasy football, mostly for beginners like me or those who haven't played. I'll save them for after the jump, in case you've played for years and already know this stuff or have already had your fill. But I'd love to swap notes with the rest of you.

Still fantasizing?

This I learned: Be a hell of a lot more patient. I was using the waiver wire like a madman each week. Of the original 15 players I drafted, I only had three of them by the end of my season. Of course, some of those cuts (McNabb) were due to injury.

Be especially patient with your wide receivers. I let players like Reggie Wayne and Plaxico Burress go after one or two bad weeks, and was scrambling for warm bodies (Koren Robinson?) at the end of the season. I totally underestimated how important that position can be for a fantasy team.

Worst move? I kicked myself for weeks over cutting LaMont Jordan.

Best move? Getting the Bears defense off waivers in Week 4. Picking up Kurt Warner after McNabb got hurt was a distant second. I'd love to say drafting Shaun Alexander, but I was lucky enough to score the second pick in our draft. It was either him or LaDainian Tomlinson. Why did I go with Alexander? Intuition, I guess. And he was playing for a contract.

Biggest bust? I picked Kevin Jones in the second round. And eventually cut him for Samkon Gado. What a nightmarish season this guy had, in fantasy and reality. Of course, whenever he scored a touchdown, I had him on the bench. Dallas Clark and Michael Clayton also crapped out big-time.

Care to add anything, fellas?

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Five for fretting

Well, now we know the answer. Since the end of September, after losing to Wisconsin, Michigan fans have wondered whether this year's team could lose five games. And many dreaded being confronted with the awful truth.

So here we are. Five losses. The kind of season Michigan hasn't had in 20 years.

I don't know about you, but I'm more annoyed than angry. And I think that's because this Alamo Bowl game had the stink of the familiar to it. Michigan had difficulty establishing its running game. By the time the offensive coaches figured out Mike Hart could get yards running off-tackle instead of between them, it was too late. And the defense got pushed around - especially in the second half - making yet another quarterback look like a Heisman Trophy candidate and high NFL draft pick.

(Image via AP)

Wasn't an 11-point lead a comfortable one in past years? Shouldn't 28 points have been enough to beat that Nebraska team?

Every one of my fingers is ready to make excuses, to point at someone or something to blame for losing the game. My middle finger, in particular, is looking at that idiotic officiating crew, the one that really could've been the worst we've ever seen. It's like those guys were making $#!+ up as they went along. ("Well, we think he hit him before the ball got there. Okay, now we think he didn't. What's the rule on that, anyway?") The ESPN announcers, Mike Tirico and Kirk Herbstreit, were reduced to laughter on a clear pass-interference penalty committed on Mario Manningham in the end zone.

At least it was equal opportunity incompetence. Both Lloyd Carr and Bill Callahan looked similarly perplexed when the referees attempted to explain their decisions. But Callahan didn't have to use two time-outs to stop the game and make sure replay officials could look at a play. Gee, you think Michigan could've used those at the end of the game? And while we're talking about the end of the game, Nebraska didn't have 10 precious seconds taken away on their last drive before the referees whistled for play to begin. (Here's more on the officiating from The M Zone.)

I'd also like to point another finger at Tyler Ecker. Did Michigan lose that game because of him? Of course not. But in two straight games, this guy has made tremendously bone-headed decisions that cost his team a chance - just a chance, mind you - to win. At the end of the Ohio State game, Ecker stayed in bounds, futilely trying to fight for yardage instead of getting out of bounds to stop the clock. Last night, during Michigan's desperate, rugby-esque attempt to keep the play alive to score a miraculous last-second touchdown, Ecker broke free from the scrum and ran down the sideline. But who was next to him, with no defenders near him and a clear path to the end zone? The very much faster Steve Breaston. Tyler. Dude. Pitch the #@$%ing ball. (Again, I refer to you The M Zone for their take on the play.)

Look, I've never been in those situations. I don't know what's going through a guy's mind when all hell's broken loose, the game is on the line, and a near-inexplicable miracle play is possible. So I have no idea if I'd react any differently than Ecker or just curl up into a ball and cry for my mommy. And I know these guys are just kids. But the blood flow to his brain does seem to get cut off in late-game situations. That's all I'm saying. Maybe the coaching staff should send Ecker out to Princeton-Plainsboro Teaching Hospital and get Dr. House and his crew to look at the man's head. Just a thought.

But Michigan ultimately gave this game away itself, turning the ball over on two consecutive possessions after establishing that 11-point lead. And Nebraska, to its credit, capitalized on those crucial mistakes.

Is there anything good to point at from the game? Well, Chad Henne played quite well. His completion percentage wasn't great, but Michigan didn't lose because of his poor decision-making or overthrowing and underthrowing his receivers. He managed the game well (which often seems like a backhanded compliment for a quarterback, but in this case, I mean it well) and made the plays that were available to him. But when your best third-down play is Chad Henne running for a first down, the offense might not be working quite so well.

Other than that? Um... Erin Andrews looked nice. She shore is purdy. But when I mentioned the comely sideline reporter to my sister, who called from South Carolina to complain that ESPN hadn't cut away from the Blue Field Bowl (brief excerpt: "#$@%ing mother#$@%ing stupid-@$$ bull$#!+!"), she pointed out Andrews's hideous ensemble. An orange sweater and a pink jacket, with a belt tied around her waist? I had to agree with Lil' Sis - and this is from a guy who went to the coffee shop this morning with a green fleece, black sweatpants and brown shoes. But hey, if someone has to tell me that Steve Breaston was going to be named Stephanie, I want that person to be Erin Andrews.

Okay, back to more serious matters. Five losses. Definitely worse than four, for those of you who thought this game didn't really matter. And if not for Ron Zook, Michigan would be looking at five straight bowl losses.

Where is Michigan football going from here? Was this "that" season, the one which signifies a slippery slide into mediocrity that other programs such as Penn State, USC, Nebraska, and Oklahoma have endured over the past decade? Or was this an aberration? A hiccup? It has to be, right? Michigan has too many good players, and continues to bring in more of them.

Changes definitely seem necessary, however. I'm not getting on any "Fire Lloyd Carr" bandwagon. But I hope he spends this offseason taking a hard look at the schemes and philosophies employed by his coaching staff. Is the talent on the roster being utilized to the best of its abilities? Are the offensive and defensive game plans really as creative as they need to be? Are the proper in-game adjustments being made?

I don't know if firing Jim Herrmann or Terry Malone is the answer. (Although you don't have to twist my arm very hard when it comes to Herrmann.) But last night's game looked like the other 11 Michigan played this season. The same plays, the same results. Other than the loss, that might be the most disappointing aspect of last night's game - especially considering the preparation time that was available.

So what's happening here? Do we Michigan fans have something to look forward to? Or do we have something to dread?

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Hardly bowled over

Raise your hand if you watched the Motor City Bowl on Monday.

Stand up if you actually attended the game at Ford Field. (Lift one leg if you can name the two teams who participated.)

Yesterday's Detroit News had an interesting piece on the game by Terry Foster. Even in this area, the Motor City Bowl is perceived as something of a joke. Throughout the season, Michigan and Michigan State fans taunted each other with the possibility of being the first team in the state to play a bowl game in Detroit. Yet it was a big deal for Memphis and Akron, and their respective fans and alumni. Restaurants around Ford Field were packed. Almost 46,000 fans attended the game.

Just imagine if the Motor City Bowl bothered to promote the game in this area. As far as I can tell, there was no effort. I listen to both sports talk radio stations, I read both Detroit newspapers in print and online, and I watch local newscasts and sporting events on TV. Not once did I see or hear an ad for the game. I couldn't even have told you when it was being played. Did I miss something?

Would that have made a difference? Maybe, maybe not. But it couldn't have hurt. Had I known one of the nation's top running backs was playing in the game, I might've been intrigued. Remind me that I love college football. Point out that I've never seen a game at Ford Field, and this would be a great chance to do so. I suppose if I really wanted to go to the game, I would've made an effort to do so. But hey, I'm just like anyone else. I need a tap on the shoulder, now and then. I'm waiting to be wooed. Make me notice you next year, Motor City Bowl.

Step forward if you've watched any of the college football bowl games so far.

I don't know where exactly I'm going with this, other than tonight's Alamo Bowl between Michigan and Nebraska will be the first bowl game of the season I watch. But I don't feel too excited about it, which I think is the prevailing sentiment among most Michigan fans. There's just not a lot of buzz surrounding this match-up. If it's not in January, we're not... well, I can't think of any word that rhymes with January.

The Ann Arbor News's Jim Carty says the environment surrounding the Alamo Bowl is more fun for the teams and those covering them than in Pasadena before the last two Rose Bowls. Hopefully, that celebrity treatment will result in a better game than most seem to expect. ("Hey, aren't you Chad Henne?" "Why, yes I am. How about I throw two touchdown passes for you on Wednesday night?")

I'm not sure what to expect. Will Michigan take out their frustration over the past season on a not-ready-for-prime-time Nebraska team, and show the rest of the country that they should be considered as one of next season's top programs? Or will they approach this game as a disappointing letdown, with the same frown and shrug of the shoulders that many of their fans are currently sporting?

Maybe the result will be somewhere in the middle. MGoBlog predicts a 10-point Michigan victory. That's probably spot-on. I don't know much about this Nebraska team, other that they have a good defensive line. I'd like to be optimistic and say Michigan gives us something to smile about until next August. But who am I kidding? If the Wolverines blow out the Cornhuskers tonight, fans will wonder why they couldn't have done that all season long. And I'll probably be right there with them.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ready for something else

Is ABC done patting itself on the back for Monday Night Football yet? Is it okay to turn the TV on again? Will you guarantee that I don't have to hear Don Meredith warble "turn out the lights, the party's over" anymore?

Look, I know that MNF was once a cultural phenomenon, back in the days of Cosell, Gifford, and Meredith. And there were some special moments in the 555 games ABC showed over the past 35 years - especially the ones on the field, not in the booth.

But those days have been over for 10-15 years. It's just not as big a deal as ABC thinks it is. Last night's broadcast was like listening to a bunch of old guys talk about their high school glory days.

It is the end of an era, but I imagine all that matters to most sports fans is that there will still be football on Monday nights. It's just moving to ESPN. I see a bunch of people shrugging their shoulders. What do you see?

It's still somewhat exciting when your team's playing on Monday night, when your team is the one everyone's watching. Of all the Lions games I've been to, the Monday night game in 1990 versus the Raiders was probably the most memorable. (Insert any and all cliches about electricity in the air here, please.)

But nowadays, it's just another game for the weekend, isn't it? It's not your only chance to see the Cowboys or the Steelers. The only difference is all the bells and whistles meant to attract casual TV watchers - who probably weren't watching anyway - but mostly obscured how lame and creaky the show had become. Hank Williams, Jr's hokey, honky-tonk theme song that was overplayed 10 years ago. The Dennis Miller experiment. Terrell Owens and the desperate housewife. How about the game, guys?

Oh, and speaking of those games, here are the last three ABC showed on Monday Night Football: Saints-Falcons, Packers-Ravens, and Patriots-Jets. Four of those six teams were under .500. The Saints, Packers, and Jets each currently have a 3-12 record. No wonder NBC wants "flexible scheduling" for their Sunday night package next year.

The party was over a long time ago, Don. Please - don't sing anymore.

Too bad, so sad

I know it was a crappy game, but do you suppose there's any way Joey Harrington gave himself a chance with the Lions next year after that game-winning drive on Saturday? I realize it wouldn't have happened without Roy Williams. But I couldn't help but feel a gurgle of excitement. (Or was that too much rum in the egg nog?) Could there be more Harrington-to-Williams highlights in the Lions' future? Oh, what could have been...

By the way, how badly are the Lions going to get stomped by the Steelers this Sunday? The Steelers need a win to ensure a playoff spot, while the Lions just want this slog to be mercifully over. If you're still playing fantasy football, put your Steelers in the lineup.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I wish I could quit them

I know. I should be writing about the Pistons. If the Lions are the lump of coal in our holiday sports stocking, the Pistons are the surprise iPod. After wins over Memphis (who looked really good; they should be a contender in the Western Conference) and Portland (Who took a worse job? Nate McMillan or Larry Brown?) this week, Detroit already has 20 wins. And it's not even Christmas yet. Chauncey Billups looks like a MVP candidate. The Eastern Conference standings seem ridiculously lopsided. But it's still early, isn't it? 59 more games to go.

And I'll enjoy every one of them once this football season is over. But for right now, the Lions are like the cold I can't shake.

Yesterday, Dick Jauron joined the rest of us in the reality room and named my brother in new beard-dom, Joey Harrington, the starting quarterback for this Saturday's game vs. the Saints. (I've been informed by my Joey-loving sister that Joey had a beard at the beginning of the season. Thanks for the info, Lil' Sis.) What, it took you three games to figure out that Jeff Garcia wasn't going to get it done for you, Dick?

(Photo by Julian H. Gonzalez/
Detroit Free Press)

Not only is Garcia not starting, he's been demoted to third-string. If Joey can't get it done, it'll be Orlovsky time in San Antonio.

Apparently, there is no truth to the rumors (started by me, just now) that Jauron came to his decision after watching Garcia participate in a snowball fight with his fellow players outside the Allen Park practice facility. His snowballs either hit the ground at his teammates' feet or hung in the air so long that they had plenty of time to get out of the way. I also can't confirm that the mysterious snowball that hit Dre' Bly squarely in the back of the helmet was thrown by one Joseph Harrington from 30 yards away. Hey, Joey's not that accurate.

What the hell is this coaching staff doing? Jauron should've done this when he was named interim head coach, back when it was clearly the right move. Now, with only two games left, what's really the point? These guys seem to have no idea what they're doing. Is the idea to win games or to evaluate players for next season? There have to be dents all over the walls of Matt Millen's office from constantly banging his head.

In between head bangs, however, I hope Millen's looking for his next head coach. In Sunday's Washington Post, Mike Wise wrote what could be a primer for Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, someone I would hope Millen's interested in interviewing.

Here's Wise on Williams's coaching style. Does this sound like someone the Lions could use?

Williams doesn't just rub some people the wrong way; he can chafe until the skin is raw. Players. Media. Doesn't matter.

Williams henpecks his players. He rides them when they play well. He rides them when they smell like fermented beans. Some hard-nosed football coaches conceal their ornery side; Williams embraces it.

"Oh, you should have seen me all this week," he said after Washington emasculated the Cowboys, 35-7. "I was giving it to them every day. 'You... don't get it right, I'll cut your asses right here. I was so hard, I just had to ease up a little."

How would Gregg Williams handle Roy Williams dropping an easy pass? Or Charles Rogers lazily lollygagging through practice? What would he think of Dre' Bly ripping his teammates in the press? Is that the type of approach that would shake this team out of its apathy?

On the other hand, maybe he wouldn't get along too well with Millen.

Yes, he'll occasionally give you that sideways look, the one that says, "You can't possibly tell me something about the human condition or this game that I don't already know." Around the practice facility in Ashburn, a person covering the team summed up Williams's arrogance this way: "If you don't know the second 'g' in Gregg's name stands for genius, just ask him. He'll tell you."

Uh-oh. Disagreement between GM and Head Coach over how to build a winning football team is what caused this mess. But if Williams and Millen share similar philosophies (and I think we're still trying to figure out exactly what Millen's is), personalities should be checked at the door. Millen and his next coach might butt heads over personnel matters, staffing issues, or offensive and defensive schemes - just like he did with Steve Mariucci. But if Millen does his homework this time, and knows what kind of guy he's hiring, they should be able to work together constructively, even if they don't always agree. Is Gregg Williams the right guy for that?

Unfortunately, Mike Wise doesn't mention the Lions in his article. He mentions the Chiefs, Rams, and Texans as preferred destinations for Williams. And maybe an offensive guy, like Mike Martz or Cincinnati's Bob Bratkowski, would be a better choice. But Millen has to at least make a phone call to Williams. His first try at head coaching in Buffalo didn't work out. However, some coaches - like Bill Belichick and Mike Shanahan - get it right the second time. Millen needs to get this right on his third try, and make sure Williams isn't another Norv Turner.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Try that hot stove again

I'm trying to get warm by thinking about baseball. Yet after the White Sox acquired Javier Vasquez last week, any delusions I might have had about the Tigers competing in the AL Central next season seem to be lost in the snow. At this point, a third-place finish seems optimistic, fourth place realistic.

Maybe I'm dealing with short-term memory - and these moves only look good on paper right now - but has a defending World Series champion done a better job of possibly improving its team than the White Sox have? The Red Sox tried, when they signed Matt Clement and Edgar Renteria. But they also lost Pedro Martinez. And Renteria is now with the Braves. Kenny Williams isn't just using money to fill the holes. He's making smart deals (and with an eye on the future). With Vasquez and Jim Thome, both their lineup and starting rotations could be better next season.

Like Brian at Beyond Boxscores (and the Free Press's Drew Sharp), I hope the Tigers haven't finished their offseason by signing Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones. (I also hope their lineup is as good as the Freep's John Lowe thinks it is.) I want them to do more.

But after seeing the deal that Jarrod Washburn signed with Seattle, I'm beginning to think Dave Dombrowski is taking the right approach. Sign a couple of stopgaps to two-year contracts, and hope the celebrated minor league prospects are ready to step in after that.

What's a better deal: $8 million per season for Rogers or $9.4 million for Washburn? Washburn's younger (31), but is he a better pitcher? And if he craps out, Seattle is on the hook for four years. The Tigers can cut their losses after two.

To me, Dombrowski doesn't look so much like Mr. Freeze anymore. He's just staying out of what is now definitively a bat$#!+ crazy market for free-agent pitching. I'm curious what the rest of you Tigers fans think.

Lookout Landing hates the Washburn deal, and supplies a bunch of information that explains why.

♦ U.S.S. Mariner isn't a fan of the signing, either. Actually, that's probably being kind.


How did they lose to those guys?

Let me see if I can make sense of this: Green Bay beat Detroit last week, 16-13. That same Packer team got stomped by Baltimore last night, 48-3. Yet the Lions beat those same Ravens back in October, 35-17.

I know, I know - one game was in Green Bay, the other was in Baltimore, and the Lions won in Detroit. Maybe that explains everything. Or I'm a buffoon for trying to figure out three terrible football teams.

And if anyone reading this watched last night's game, did John Madden cry when Brett Favre was benched for Aaron Rodgers in the third quarter?

One more thing: if Green Bay picks ahead of Detroit in next April's draft, what are the chances that they do the 2006 equivalent of picking Tony Mandarich over Barry Sanders? Is that too much to hope for?

(Photo by Chris Gardner/ AP)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Anticlimatic and apathetic

If you weren't already despondent enough about the Lions' 2005-06 season, the lead from Leonard Shapiro's story in Saturday's Washington Post might make you want to cry in your orange t-shirt:

The day before the Detroit Lions hired Marty Mornhinweg, then an obscure assistant, as their head coach in January 2001, team president Matt Millen canceled an interview with a much more prominent candidate, Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis.

The overall story is about the success of minority head coaches in the NFL this season, not the debacle that is Detroit Lions football. And I imagine Shapiro is taking a shot at Millen because of the way he disregarded the NFL's order to include at least one minority candidate in the interviewing process while targeting Steve Mariucci.

Given the opposite directions of the Lions and Cincinnati Bengals, however, you can't help but look at that moment, wonder what might have been, and then ask Millen, "Hey, how'd that work out for us?"

Is 41-17 enough of a definitive answer to that question?

How did that game work out for you? I wanted to write another "live blog," but gave up after the first quarter. I was running out of different ways to point out how awful the Lions were. There weren't even jokes to make. You don't want to read one of those things without some humor. And I don't want to write one.

(Image by Daniel Mears/ The Detroit News)

Was that the most predictable outcome of the season? If anyone was under the delusion that the Lions would somehow stay competitive with the Bengals, that balloon was popped almost immediately when R.W. McQuarters fumbled on the opening kickoff. Cincinnati was inexplicably held to only a field goal, which was the last stand the Lions had in them.

The team in orange, white, and black looked completely relaxed. The Bengals did absolutely anything they wanted to on the field. Carson Palmer was just playing catch with his receivers, who seemed open on every play. On each of his carries, Rudi Johnson gained three yards before a Lions defender even touched him.

The team in honolulu blue, silver, and black looked as tense as a klutz being asked to hold a newborn baby for the first time. The Lions knew they were totally overmatched, and just bit down on their wood splints while they took their beating and hoped it would be over quickly. You could almost hear them praying every time the ball was snapped.

As I watched the game, I think I knew what the Lions were feeling. Years ago, I played on a Rec League basketball team that was terrible. Really, really bad. We had no idea what we were doing, and were overmatched in every single game. If we lost by less than 20, we practically celebrated after the game. The only games we actually did win were by forfeit when the other team didn't show up. Not even our parents would watch us play.

And I remember sitting on the bench once the game started, looking at the scoreboard, and thinking, "Which way are we going to lose today? How bad will it be?" One time, my friend Chris and I discussed whether we should wait until we were down by 10 points or 20 points before calling time-out. And the game hadn't even started yet.

I felt dread before every game. I knew what was coming. Hell, we all did. And we were powerless to stop it. I saw the same look in the Lions yesterday. I recognized that body language.

But this game was supposed to be about the sideshow, about the fans making their displeasure known. And from what I could see and hear on the broadcast, that might have been yesterday's biggest disappointment.

(That, and Chad Johnson just handing the ball to the referree after his touchdown. Not even a little shimmy? What, he didn't want to use his good material on us? Or maybe he was embarrassed after watching his teammate, Kelley Washington, make an ass of himself. Could you tell he hadn't caught the ball much this season?)

(Image by Rashaun Rucker/ Detroit Free Press)

I didn't go to the game, so I didn't see the protests and marches surrounding Ford Field. But I've seen the reports on the local news and the pictures in today's newspapers. I know people were expressing their outrage. They just didn't do so inside the stadium.

And it's hard to blame them. Once McQuarters fumbled that opening kickoff, the inevitability of the day was deflating. After that, it seemed like the fans didn't want to bother anymore. Why waste the air and energy?

How many ticketholders gave up their seats to Bengals fans? Not every orange garment in Ford Field was an indication of protest. How many "Fire Millen" chants broke out in the stadium? I didn't hear any on TV.

In Friday's Free Press, Drew Sharp wrote that the fans needed to make a statement with apathy. If you show anger, you're showing that you still care. And as long as that was the case, the Lions knew they still had you. Yesterday, it looked like the Detroit fans agreed with him. How many of us still care right now?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Mad Fans - Beyond Thunderdome!

So is Ford Field going to become Thunderdome this Sunday? Two teams enter, one team leaves? That's what a lot of people around here seem to expect. And I think it's fair to say that Sunday's game against the Bengals is the most anticipated during Matt Millen's five-year regime. It's all the rage on sports talk radio and the blogosphere. And the national press, such as ESPN, is waiting to see what will happen, as well.

Lions fans seem ready for an outright revolt. The "FI-RE MIL-LEN!" chant has become the new black at every sporting event in the area (and has even found its way to other cities). You can buy t-shirts, hats, bumper stickers, and football jerseys that say "Fire Millen."

Duncan DeBruin, of "Fire Millen" sign fame, has become a local cult hero. (Years from now, we could be talking about him the way Kyle Reese talked about John Connor in The Terminator. "He's got a strength. I'd die for John Connor!") His makeshift sign has been photoshopped into the hands of Saddam Hussein, the Pope, and Matt Millen himself.

We've got websites like firemattmillen.com, firemillen.com, firemillen.net, and since57.com. Sports talk radio station WDFN is organizing an "Angry Fan March" before Sunday's game and sponsoring a billboard near Ford Field. TheLionsFanatics.com is asking fans to wear orange shirts - the primary color of the Cincinnati Bengals - to the game for an "Orange-Out" protest against team ownership.

(Photo by Morris Richardson/ The Detroit News)

I love that Lions fans are expressing their displeasure and letting their voices be heard. Look at how fans in other cities handle losing and mediocrity. The Chicago Cubs, for instance, never have a motivation to change anything. They know that, no matter, that Wrigley Field is going to sell out most every game each summer. The fanbase embraces that "lovable loser" mindset that their history has perpetuated.

But Lions fans, they're mad as hell, not going to take it anymore, and trying their best to effect change with their favorite football team. T-shirts, chants, marches, and banners are the new pitchforks and torches. The outrage is just too loud to ignore now. The Lions and their ownership have to do something after this season is mercifully over to appease the masses. People invest their love, time, and money in this team, and have gotten a putrid product in return. Our excitement has been thrown right back in our faces. Too many Sunday afternoons and Monday mornings have been ruined by the terrible football the Lions have presented over the past five years (and decades before that).

So what's actually going to happen on Sunday? I'm all in favor of safe, non-disruptive (but noticeable, of course) methods of protest. However, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit fearful of what else we could see. A later 4 p.m. start gives fans another 3-4 hours to get liquored up. I haven't attended a game at Ford Field yet, so I don't know how different the environment is from the Pontiac Silverdome.

But I remember how #$@%ing crazy people could get there, especially when they had more time to drink. You could spend the whole fourth quarter scanning the stands for fights breaking out, instead of watching the game on the field. A simple trip to the bathroom could be an unwelcome adventure. (And if a fight broke out near you, your day was probably ruined.)

Don't do it, people. Don't throw $#!+ on the field. Don't get into fights amongst yourselves, and certainly don't be stupid enough to try and take on one of the players. Please don't run on the field naked. No streaking. I know the game is indoors, but it's still very cold. It might be good for a laugh, but we see enough naked men when we look in the mirror each morning, okay?

Just enjoy the game, even if means rooting for the other team. (And you might as well, because the Lions have no chance on Sunday.) Look at how the Cincinnati Bengals play the game and see how a good (maybe great) team applies its craft on offense and defense. Remember how beautiful a downfield pass can be while admiring Carson Palmer throw to Chad Johnson. (And if Chad has the onions to whip out a "Fire Millen" sign after scoring a touchdown, I promise I will buy a Bengals #85 jersey next week. He will be my hero.) Watch the offensive line open holes for Rudi Johnson to run through. Wince and yell "Oooooh!" when Odell Thurman knocks the snot out of Artose Pinner or Marcus Pollard.

Civil disobedience is the last thing Detroit needs. Its reputation already stinks. Columnists, commentators, and analysts already have those pieces written, ready to run next week. They're just waiting for the cue to break them out. They'll show the same old footage of cars being turned over and set on fire in 1984. They'll show the abandoned buildings. They'll sling the same old, tired, rehashed, stupid jokes and insults about our city and its people. Why give ammunition to those who want to insult and make fun of us?

Please don't do it. Show your unhappiness, voice your displeasure. But don't make anyone miserable. Don't stain a town that's trying to clean itself up and reform. Relish the chance to let your voice be heard. Share in the camaraderie with your fellow fans and friends. Protest productively and constructively. Be safe. Let everyone enjoy themselves.

And then forget about this team until they hire a new coach, general manager, and select the next supposed superstar of the future in April's NFL Draft. On three - Go... Change!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Hello, I'm your blogger

Hey, check out the doofus in the snow!

If you're in the metro Detroit area, and have access to the Metro Times, a certain chronicler of sweaty men is one of nine local bloggers profiled in this week's cover story, "Meet the Bloggers." (And as the links indicate, the article is also available at the MT's website.)

If you've already read the feature, and are visiting for the first time, thanks for stopping by to check this out, and I hope you're intrigued enough to keep coming back in the future. (I'll do my best to keep you interested.)

For those who haven't seen it yet, the article is a fascinating look at the variety of blogs that are being written in Detroit right now, and I'm incredibly flattered to be a part of the piece. It feels a bit strange to see this blog alongside sites covering the city's politics, urban decay, art and music scenes, and community. But sports are a big part of the culture around here, and I'm obviously glad that Sweaty Men Endeavors was considered an interesting enough part of Detroit's blogosphere to be included.

I'd like to thank the writer, Nate Rogers, who was intrigued enough by the "slightly gay name" to check it out, look me up for an interview, and write what is quite possibly the best article the Metro Times has ever published. I'm thrilled with the piece, which reflects the enjoyable conversation Nate and I had last week, and captures the tone of this blog very well.

And I'd also like to thank the article's photographer, Doug Coombe, who made it fun to sit down on snow-covered metal bleachers in an empty Michigan Stadium and make a fool of myself in front of the camera. After trucking through the snow and up the stadium steps, I was ready to collapse and make snow angels (which might have made another beautiful set of photos), but Doug's a busy man and had to get moving. (Just tell me you were as tired and sore the next day as I was, man.) Doug can now add me to a photo resume that includes shots of Oasis and the White Stripes. I'm sure he's thrilled about that.

So please pick up a copy - I promise I haven't taken every one in Ann Arbor - and see what metro Detroit's bloggers have to offer. It's a really cool feature, and I think it's great that the Metro Times chose to cover this subject. We all appreciate your readership.

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Ben Sweets?

What did you think of Ben Wallace's rockin' red goggles last night? Chauncey Billups thought "he looked like Blankman," which was hilarious. With that kind of support, it's no wonder Ben ditched the goggles early in the game.

Big Ben is already one of my favorite Detroit athletes. But as someone who has to wear goggles when he plays basketball (though it's been more than quite a while since I stepped on a court), Ben became something else to me. He became an inspiration. He became my hero. So don't let Chauncey make fun of you, Ben. Chicks dig glasses, man.

(Image by Robin Buckson/ The Detroit News)

Actually, I was thinking of someone else when I saw The Bespectacled Mr. Wallace last night. With the giant curly hair and big glasses, along with a healthy slice of confidence and an aura that just screams "bad aasssss," I briefly thought Clinton Portis's alter-ego, "Bro Sweets," was suiting up for the Pistons.

And Portis's teammates love Bro Sweets. When the Redskins were losing and he thought he should stop dressing up each week, his teammates talked him out of it, saying they needed him to keep the locker room upbeat.

(Image from Deadspin)

The Pistons locker room is surely upbeat already. A 16-3 record will do that for you. Big Ben's been a little down, though. He said he didn't know what his role was. But what happened last night? Big Ben became Ben Sweets and brought it with 17 rebounds, five blocks, and four steals. And the sweetness spread to the rest of the team. Rip Hamilton scored 36 points. Chauncey added 28 points, and racked up 19 assists. Sacramento had no chance in the game, losing 109-98.

Blankman? Hell, no. Ben Sweets? Hell, yes.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Ron, I understand and I want to help

The Kings are in town to play the Pistons tonight, yet I'm thinking of Ron Artest. Why? If you didn't know already, Ol' Run-Into-the-Stands Ronnie has asked the Indiana Pacers to trade him. And Sacramento is reportedly a potential destination for the "eccentric" (and by using quotation marks, I mean quite possibly bat$#!+ crazy) "Tru Warier."

The Kings could probably use him, too. In the game I'm watching, Peja Stojakovic (whom the Pacers would likely receive in any trade) is getting abused by Tayshaun Prince. It's not pretty to watch. Peja really isn't even trying. Hell, I might do a better job playing defense. Not just because it might take Tayshaun longer to run around me, but I might actually, well, move my feet. Anyway, my point is that a guy who takes pride in his defense - such as Artest - would be extremely beneficial to the Kings.

But it might not be the best move for Ron. See, he's already said that his first preference is to play in New York. Maybe that's because that's his hometown. He was born in Queens, and went to college at St. John's - he's a New Yorker at heart. But I wonder if there might be more to it than that.

There have been many great man-crush romances in the world of sports. For instance, John Madden has been endlessly in love with Brett Favre for years. ESPN's Pedro Gomez demonstrated an undying devotion to Barry Bonds at the beginning of this past baseball season. Here in Detroit, we've seen Dennis Rodman's great love for Chuck Daly, and more recently, Steve Mariucci's affection for Jeff Garcia. And hey, I'm guilty myself, having once expressed my man-crush on Tom Brady.

Ron Artest has missed Isiah Thomas ever since he was fired as Indiana's head coach. The two formed a close friendship, but Isiah had to move on to New York, while Ron was trapped in Indianapolis. Is it a coincidence that Artest's most infamous display of sheer insanity was in Detroit, where Isiah established his legendary NBA career? November 19, 2004 was a cry for help, and we should've realized that.

We understand, Ron - we loved Isiah, too. He was a small guy taking on the big men, defying preconceived notions of basketball success. He was fiercely competitive, with a burning desire to win. And win he did, bringing Detroit two NBA championships. But most of all, we remember that smile. Oh, Isiah.

Ron just wants to be with Isiah. Are you listening, Indiana Pacers? Don't trade him to Sacramento, Dallas, or Cleveland. (And if you're stupid enough to trade him to Miami, I hope you have to face the Heat in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Burn, baby, burn.) I know he's made you miserable. And after you stuck by him, despite all of the trouble he's caused, you probably feel jilted and betrayed. But don't stand between a man and his happiness. Let Ron go to New York. Let him reunite with Isiah. Let him be happy.

A happy Ron Artest is the best thing for all of us. Make this happen. Deep down, these are the types of endings we all want to see.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A marriage of convenience?

Did any of you catch this? (I found it through Buster Olney's ESPN blog.) Apparently, the Tigers weren't Todd Jones's first choice, either.

From Sunday's Atlanta Journal-Constitution (scroll to the bottom):

Braves officials weren't amused by the comments of veteran reliever Todd Jones after he signed a two-year, $11 million contract with Detroit on Wednesday. The Marietta native, who writes a column for The Birmingham News, told the paper he wanted to close for Atlanta, but the Braves offered only a one-year, $2.5 million contract.

"I did everything in my power to be available [to the Braves]," said Jones, 37, who had an improbable resurgence last season with Florida, recording 40 saves and a career-best 2.10 ERA. "I wanted to come home for a severe discount and they didn't even want to hear it."

It's okay, Todd. We're still happy to have you back in Detroit.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Lions-Packers: The Live Blog

Okay, the last time I did one of these, my friend Chris said it made him go blind. So proceed at your own risk. But I figured we Lions fans could suffer together. Packers fans, too. And for the rest of you, well, I'm not sure why you'd watch the game. Unless you had a player from your fantasy team involved. Even the Detroit News called this "Must Miss TV."

8:32 – How long is it going to take the ESPN broadcast to acknowledge the Lions are playing in this game, too? Let the Brett Favre lovefest begin!

Okay, my clock says it was only a couple of minutes. Poor Paul Maguire must have lost the coin flip to Joe Theismann.

8:33 – Don’t get me wrong. Favre’s the only reason I want to watch this game, too.

8:38 – Of course, the first play of the game is a penalty. Lions fever - catch it! The rest of the country gets to share what we’ve endured through the past 15 weeks.

8:40 – There's Joey on the sideline, hiding underneath a massive parka. “Please don’t make me play, Mr. Jauron. It’s 15 degrees!” He doesn't want to take that thing off.

8:41 – A 40-yard run by Kevin Jones! Yes!

This is probably a good time to mention that I cut K.J. for Samkon Gado in my fantasy league this week.

8:43 – And then Jones gets hurt, one yard away from scoring a touchdown. Oh yeah, that’s why I cut KJ. Picked him in the second round of my draft.

8:48 – Is there anything gay about five shirtless men huddling next to one another in 15-degree weather?

8:50 – According to Theismann, the “shiny thing” around Favre’s finger has nothing to do with the ball just slipping out of his hand. It’s “just a great play by James Davis.” Davis didn’t touch him, Joe.

8:55 – Could you show an IMAX film on Grady Jackson’s belly? Mike Patrick says Jackson has “chronic bad knees and a hip problem.” Wow, you're kidding.

9:00 –Matt Millen sighting! 20 bucks says the Green Bay crowd breaks out into a “FI-RE MIL-LEN” chant before the end of the game.

9:02 – Okay, if you’re in metro Detroit, have you switched over to the Pistons-Clippers game?

9:04 – Here's a shot of Grace Gado, Samkon’s mom. She looks like she’d rather be back in Nigeria than freezing her ass off in Green Bay. “I hate you for making me sit in this, son. Wait - how much are you making?”

9:05 – Favre throws into triple coverage. There's not another quarterback who does this, and still has a NFL job. Only Brett Favre. If he threw it the wrong way, Theismann, John Madden, and Sean Salisbury would praise him for “making things happen" or "being creative."

Theismann called it a “gunslinger’s throw,” which reminds me: Every time the term “gunslinger” or “riverboat gambler” is used in reference to Favre, I’m doing a shot. (Paul Katcher’s drinking game might be more fun, though.)

9:06 – Mike Patrick just said “riverboat gambler!” Pass the whiskey! Hangover tomorrow?

There’s more, if you can take it…

9:13 – Garcia overthrows #80 in the end zone. And I’m being completely serious here, it took me a few seconds to remember who wears #80 for the Lions. Can you really blame me?

(By the way, here's an excellent breakdown of why the Lions aren't playing Charles Rogers, courtesy of The Highlight Reel.)

9:17 – Touchdown, Lions!

This would be an excellent time to mention that I benched Roy Williams on my fantasy team this week. (Even worse, I benched Terry Glenn. I am a %@#$ing moron.)

9:24 – Here’s my dilemma: I need a good game from Samkon Gado to win my fantasy game this week. It’s the only thing I have going for me. This, right here, is why I originally didn’t want to play fantasy football.

9:25 – But I’m #@$%ing hooked on it. I’m sooooo playing next year.

9:33 – The Packers get a field goal blocked. Is it possible they really might be worse than the Lions? Even with the "riverboat gambler" at quarterback?

9:37 - And that might be the most infuriating thing about this season. The Lions stink like soft German cheese. Yet they don't stink enough. Five teams are worse than them! Four teams have the same record. So after all this, the Lions might not even have a top five draft pick. That, my friends, is pro football hell.

9:43 – A 63-yard touchdown run for Gado! My fantasy win, barring a couple of fumbles, seems assured. Am I really cheering for Samkon Gado?

9:55 – This has nothing to do with sports, but there’s been nothing type-worthy in almost 15 minutes. How super-cool $#@%ing awesome does King Kong look?

I love those shameless ads that try to sell the love story aspect to the ladies, too. You will believe a giant ape and petite blond can mate. In theaters Wednesday.

9:56 - You know what stunk? Syriana. Man, I wanted to like that one.

9:57 – Theismann just said “Dick Jauron is tickled” at Green Bay throwing an incompletion. Look at Jauron’s face. Does he look like a man who's been tickled? Ever?

10:00 – Even if I wanted to watch something else right now, I can't. For those of you not in metro Detroit, the local ABC affiliate is showing the Lions game so non-cable subscribers can watch it. That means Grey’s Anatomy is being pre-empted. No Izzie Stevens for me tonight.

10:02 – Even Chris Berman knows he's become a caricature. After throwing out his tired old “NFC Norris” division and “the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field," with his not-even-a-good-imitation-of-John-Facenda, he says, “There you go. We had to do it.” No, you didn't, Chris.

10:17Jason Hanson slipped as he was kicking off. Even Jason Hanson - otherwise known as The Lions offense - looks like a clumsy oaf out there. What a season we've had.

10:25 – Theismann balks at Jeff Garcia’s broken leg being described as "a non-weight-bearing bone. #$%# that, says Joe, “it hurts!” Thankfully, ESPN does not subject us to the infamously horrifying Theismann leg break from 1985.

Still, I'd love to see Maguire provide analysis. "Look at that! I tell you what you're seeing! Watch this! BAM! That thing just snapped like an old carrot! Look where the foot is and the rest of the leg goes! Do you know how hard that is?"

10:28 – Pistons 68, Clippers 55. The basketball game's moving much faster than the football game. ESPN should switch over.

10:33 – Favre says, "Maybe I’m just not smart enough to talk myself into retirement.” Does anyone else think "Brett Fave-er" is beginning to look like Anderson Cooper?

10:39 – Theismann echoes the thoughts of every single Detroit Lions fan: “I just don’t like what they’re doing on offense. They’re not giving a chance to anybody.”

Somewhere in East Lansing, Tom Izzo is holding Steve Mariucci. It's okay, Steve. Just hug it out.

10:50 – Whose dreads are more beautiful, R.W. McQuarters’s or Al Harris’s? You think anybody's ever approached them about starting a new Milli Vanilli? The NFL Network has to show something in March.

10:56 – A deep ball! That’s caught! By Roy Williams! For non-Lions fans, you have to understand how special this is. Other teams line up with five receivers. The Lions occasionally throw forward, instead of sideways. Of course, this is underthrown (and I don’t think it’s “by design,” Paul McGwire - Garcia's arm is just that weak) and hangs in the air like the ball is filled with helium.

11:00 – I don't watch all the NFL teams, but if any of them is worse in short yardage than Detroit, I want to see it. And it’s not just because of Grady Jackson’s gargantuan gut. If you put a quarter in front of the football before the snap, the Lions couldn't get to it.

11:01 – Maguire's gushing; “They’re gonna go for this! I love this! Why not?” Well, Paul, because they suck at short-yardage. They run right into the middle of the defense every time. They don't pitch the ball. No toss play. No bootleg for the quarterback whose greatest asset is supposedly his mobility.

And then Garcia has to call time-out. And does what he does best, which is throw a snit when something doesn’t go right. Because it ain't his fault, y'see. It's the other guys.

11:03 – A quarterback sneak???!!!! WORST FUCKING CALL EVER!! That's what they came up with during the time-out?? Are you fucking kidding me??

Grady Jackson might’ve eaten Garcia and his 185 lbs. on that play! Has anyone seen him since that play ended?

Mariucci called that, didn’t he? He and Izzo are high-fiving right now.

11:05 – The bright side (for me)? Gado could get a lot of yards on a potential 99-yard drive.

11:07 – Or fumble. Dammit.

11:12 – Okay, Gado threw the ball before he could get tackled, but it's not intentional grounding. The Packers were called for holding, yet it didn't happen in the end zone? Even though the ball was on the one-yard line, so the lineman had to be behind it? So there's no safety. Mike Carey's must have malice in his heart.

11:13 – "What a smart move by Mike Sherman”? Bitch, please. He threw the red flag for a challenge on a play that couldn't be challenged. He totally fucking lucked out.

11:15 – Maguire asks, "You wanna know why he’s the greatest?” Not enough hyperbole for the evening, Paul? Favre checked down to his tight end on the play. Shit, Garcia does that every series.

11:22 – Roy Williams drops a pass thrown right to his chest. If he catches it, he probably scores a touchdown. How about some concentration, asshole? If Roy had "the mentor" he whines about needing, would he know he should catch a ball thrown right to him? Would a veteran teach him that?

11:24 – Maguire says, “There’s only one guy I wouldn’t want to give the ball back to with two minutes left, and that’s Favre.”

Really? Gee, Paul, I’d take Peyton Manning. Or Tom Brady. Has he been watching Favre play in this game?

11:28 – Theismann asks if the Lions will play for overtime or try to throw down the field for the win. Maguire says they'll throw the ball and go for the win. He clearly hasn’t watched this team much this season. Or noticed that the Lions just let 40 seconds run off the clock when they could’ve called time-out to give the offense more time.

11:34Shawn Bryson runs out of bounds. Not only is he short of the first down, but that stops the clock, so Green Bay can get the ball back. Does he realize what point of the game it is?? How does everyone turn stupid when they put that silver helmet on?

11:35 – ESPN reminds us of one of the all-time worst moments in Lions history: 1993 playoffs, Favre throws 40 yards (really more like 60 or 70 yards) to a wide-open Sterling Sharpe in the end zone. 12 years later, I still don't know how Sharpe got that open.

11:38 – Interception by Dre' Bly! Don’t lateral it, don’t lateral it.

He pitched the ball back. Look, I know Bly’s trying to be a playmaker, but I’m not sure anyone makes dumber decisions under that pretense. He laterals the ball to defensive lineman whose hands are all taped up. He runs the ball out of the end zone when surrounded, rather than settle for a touchback. He costs his team as much as he helps it.

11:39 – We're going to overtime and... the referee has no coin. Or lost it. Seriously.

You know the refs didn’t want overtime. Weren’t even planning for it. They have cars running outside Lambeau Field.

11:45 – And here is the Mind-Numbingly Stupid Play of the Game: Shaun Rogers throws Gado down after he's at least three steps out of bounds. A 15-yard penalty when Green Bay just needs to kick a field goal. Rogers must just want to go home. Totally moronic.

11:47 – Favre hits Robert Ferguson for 17 yards. First down, and the Packers are in field goal range. Game over. Why did it take until midnight to get to the inevitable?

11:49 – Maguire says Green Bay should kick it on third down. So you get another down if it goes wrong! Any time an announcer says this, he acts like he’s the first one to think of it.

11:51 – Does calling a time-out to "ice" the kicker ever work? This is one of the most misguided strategies in sports.

Ten years ago, when I played Rec League basketball, I had two free throws at the end of the game. We had a one-point lead, and the other team called time-out. At our bench, my teammates joked that I hadn't shot a free throw all season. They asked if I even knew how to shoot a free throw. That totally relaxed me. And I made them both.

11:52 – And to absolutely no one's surprise, Ryan Longwell's field goal is good. Packers win, 16-13. It was like watching a three-hour rerun.

And if you made it through this live slog blog, thank you for suffering through another Groundhog Day with me, through three hours of being a Detroit Lions fan. The rest of you should consider yourself lucky. I envy you.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Winter wonderland in Dallas? Bah, humbug in Detroit?

Please tell me Kenny Rogers isn't the only free agent starting pitcher the Detroit Tigers are going to sign. Please tell me they're not opting for Rogers over guys like Matt Morris and Kevin Millwood, and that there's still a spot open in the rotation for one of them.

The Tigers also signed their former closer, Todd Jones. Like Out of Bounds, the Sports Dude, and the Detroit Tigers Weblog, I like this move. It's not as Whoo-Hoo! Exciting! as signing B.J. Ryan, Billy Wagner, Kyle Farnsworth, or Tom Gordon may have been, but I think those guys received bat$#!+ crazy contracts that blew the market for free agent relievers out of control. Want some evidence of that? Jones reportedly signed a two-year deal worth $11 million.

Though I think the price tag was a bit high, the Tigers needed someone dependable to pitch in the ninth inning - not just to save games, but also to buy time while they figure out whether Fernando Rodney is capable of being the future closer. Based on past impressions, Jones also seems like the sort of guy who would be willing to tutor Rodney toward eventually assuming that role. Maybe he'd even agree to step aside for the good of the team if Rodney was ready to take over.

And if they were paying $10 million a year for a closer, that would never happen. He'd still be pitching - even if he stunk like soft European cheese.

But the hot stove league is making me sweat. Baseball's winter meetings have been busy, with teams making all sorts of deals and signings. And the activity is getting even more frenzied. The Red Sox traded Edgar Renteria to Atlanta, just a year after signing him. The Rangers traded Alfonso Soriano to the Nationals for Brad Wilkinson and Terrmel Sledge. The Blue Jays added Lyle Overbay (whose swing is made for Comerica Park) to their offseason shopping cart, joining A.J. Burnett and the aforementioned Ryan.

Did Javier Vasquez turn down a trade to Detroit? If the price was Curtis Granderson and Joel Zumaya, Vasquez probably did the Tigers a favor. Yet Dave Dombrowski says such a deal was never in the works. The Mets say the Tigers were asking for too much in return for Pudge Rodriguez, which strikes me as curious. Is this an indication that they don't really want to deal him? Are they hoping his attitude will improve under a new manager? Me, I would've settled for that big apple that pops up after a Mets home run. That thing is cool. But maybe that's why I'm not the Tigers' GM.

And am I being a total Tigers slappy for looking at the deals the Red Sox and Mets made with the Marlins for Josh Beckett and Carlos Delgado, respectively, and thinking that Detroit could've made similar offers? Should I wipe the stripes off my glasses?

But maybe I shouldn't panic. Beyond Boxscores came up with a shopping list more loaded and more ambitious than my Amazon wish list, and there are still plenty of items left among the 20 choices. (Brian also wonderfully explains the two-sided coin that is offseason Tigers fandom in this post.)

Can we get at least one of them, Dave? Another general manager is getting all the heat in this town right now. Maybe you've heard about that? So you might be lurking under the radar a bit. But you don't want it to get to that point, do you? Dave?

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Forget the Alamo

As regular readers of Sweaty Men Endeavors (and my mother ship blog, Fried Rice Thoughts) likely know, I'm a graduate of the University of Iowa. But I've spent most of my life in Ann Arbor, rooting for the University of Michigan. I've been a conflicted man over the past two years, an Ian divided, and to paraphrase George Costanza, "an Ian divided against itself cannot stand!"

So Sunday's announcement that the Outback Bowl chose Iowa for its game over Michigan was a tough one for me. Like all Michigan fans, I was angry over the Wolverines getting snubbed. And that was an outright snub; Michigan is the higher-ranked team, and oh yeah, beat Iowa (at Kinnick Stadium), which should be the ultimate tie-breaker. I'm disappointed to see the January bowl game streak come to an end, and would've preferred a match-up against a Florida team with Urban Meyer and Chris Leak.

I'm not as disappointed as Schembechler Hall ("like making out with the hot girl's not-nearly-as-hot friend") and MGoBlog ("by 'enjoy,' I mean 'tolerate'"), but I'll admit I'd be much more interested in the Alamo Bowl match-up with Nebraska if the 1997 teams from each school suited up. Go get Scott Frost and Jason Peter to suit up for Nebraska. Michigan, call up Charles Woodson and Brian Griese. (Or maybe since Griese blew out his knee this season, they can play Tom Brady instead. That's fair, isn't it?)

But maybe the old college football adage - if you have to lose, lose early in the season - applies here. Michigan's loss to Ohio State is fresher in the mind, while Iowa ended the season with two big wins over Wisconsin and Minnesota. Ultimately, an Alamo Bowl bid seems like an appropriate end for Michigan's season - a mediocre bowl to commemorate a mediocre season. Neither lives up to previously high expectations.

Of course, my inner Hawkeye is thrilled. Iowa's own January bowl streak continues, which I hope further cements the football program's place as a growing Big Ten and national power. Beating Florida again would be a big step toward attaining that status. (And if it's anywhere near as exciting as last year's Capital One Bowl victory over LSU, I'll need to watch the game in a padded room for my own protection.)

Overall, I'm feeling bittersweet. Iowa didn't deserve to be chosen over Michigan. Yet the Outback Bowl believes Iowa will bring more fans to Tampa. I initially found that hard to believe, but maybe there's some truth to that opinion. Would Michigan fans buy fewer tickets, still sore from a disappointing season? Would they save their money and vacation plans in hope and anticipation for a better bowl game next year?

Michigan's probably received a more prestigious bowl bid or two based on reputation and their traveling fan base, so getting passed over for similar reasons shouldn't cause many hard feelings. Unless you think this indicates something more ominous. Dave Dye touches on this fear in the Detroit News' Big Ten Blog - are the times a-changin' for the Michigan football program?

But maybe the Outback Bowl's reasoning is a bit simpler. Never underestimate the desire of an Iowan to go somewhere else when he or she has the chance. Those winters are brutal, and any opportunity to enjoy sunshine and fun over cold and isolation will be taken enthusiastically. (And if you think Ann Arbor's a ghost town while the students are gone, try looking for a soul to talk to in Iowa City when school's out. Remember the scene in 28 Days Later when Cillian Murphy's character wakes up from his coma and wanders through London? It's something like that, with those staying behind to get drunk filling in for the zombies.)

Either that, or the bowl officials were impressed by Iowa's ability to blow up press boxes.

And it's not just bowl games Iowa's taking away. They're coming into Michigan and getting players, too. Of course, Michigan got Adrian Arrington last year, so that probably evens out. Maybe the best recourse would be for the Detroit Lions to hire Kirk Ferentz as their head coach. Wait a minute - what am I saying? I don't want that. Not as an Iowa fan or a Lions fan.

See? An Ian divided against itself cannot stand!

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