Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Let the eulogies begin?

I don't think it's quite hit me yet that the Pistons' season (and recent run of excellence) could end tonight. I guess I feel like Detroit will put it together for one last all-out effort.

Though I don't think it'll be enough to sustain them through the rest of the series, despite this team's record when faced with elimination, because they just looked tapped out on the court.

So I might not be ready to face reality yet, but plenty of others have composed their post-mortems:
I'm looking for at least one more display of Pistons Pride. I can't imagine Detroit going out like chumps on their home court. But the fate of this series may have already been decided. I'm not sure the Pistons are capable of scoring 90 points anymore, but for one night, I think they'll manage to get just enough points.

Pistons 91, Heat 86.

Baseball has been berry, berry good to us

Have you been reading your Big Ten Hardball lately? Maybe college baseball's under your radar, but it's definitely worth some of your time.

Brian has been doing some killer work and put in some serious time at U-M's Fisher Stadium over the past week. (I feel bad that I didn't offer him room, board, and breakfast. But he may have been offered other sleeping arrangements near the ballpark, anyway. Wait, that sounds funny, doesn't it?)

Not only was he witness to the Wolverines clinching the Big Ten championship over "my" Hawkeyes, which earned Michigan the right to host the postseason conference tournament, but Brian also watched the Maize-and-Blue (or is that maize jerseys with white pants...?) win the the damn thing and with it, an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan will play Vanderbilt in Atlanta on Friday, a match-up my dad surely would've enjoyed (though he didn't watch much college baseball), as one of his best friends is a professor at Vandy. Could've been a great road trip. Oh well.

The greater focus on BTH has come at the expense of Beyond Boxscores, one of my favorite blogs, but hey, the man had to prioritize. He has an obvious passion for college baseball, and I think it's really cool that he took it upon himself to fill a niche in the blogosphere that deserved some attention.

After he whetted my interest in college baseball back in April, I regret that I wasn't able to join Brian at "The Fish" last week, if only to subject him to all my questions about how postseason college baseball works.

"Wait, so they lost, but they're still in it? And Whoever U beat Middle State, but Middle State gets to advance in the tournament? Right, right - double elimination. I'm with you. Okay, explain "round-robin" to me. Okay, now explain it again."

It would've been scintillating conversation for him, I'm sure. And I likely would've been sent for hot dogs five or six times, just to go away.

Anyway, I think it's great that Michigan's found itself some success this season in a sport that hasn't gotten a lot of attention in these parts. Things are definitely looking good for the program. And it'd be fun to see the team put together a decent tournament run. And if they do, Brian will tell you all about it. Great work, sir.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Daddy's home, and he's not happy

Right now, I feel like a parent who's been gone for a week, only to return to a house that's been trashed by the kids.

I leave for one week, Detroit Pistons, and come home to a 3-1 deficit in your series with the Miami Heat?

No, don't speak. You've already done enough. It's my turn to talk, Misters. You'd better think long and hard about what you've done and how you're going to fix it.

What, you wanted to make this postseason even tougher? You fell behind 3-2 last year to the Heat, so you thought going down 3-1 this year would be more of a challenge? Oh, you've got yourself a challenge now, Detroit Pistons.

"If it ain't rough, it ain't right"? How rough do you want it? How rough do you need it? You've got yourself some big-time rough right now. You guys look like the Red Wings out there. The Florida papers are already declaring you done (via MLive's Full-Court Press). How's that making you feel?

Don't look at the floor. Look at me when I'm talking to you. This is serious. You are lucky you haven't been swept in this series (despite Dick Bavetta's best efforts in Game 2).

And I'm not even going to reach into the "you could've drafted Dwyane Wade, but chose Darko instead" box, because I've already gone there before, and it's a moot point. But it would be nice if you at least tried to stop him - foul calls or not.

Yes, I'm happy that you didn't take as many three-pointers last night, because you'd been taking far too many and looked like some Kentucky team that was a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament but took an upset loss when the threes stopped going in.

But that's (clearly) not enough. Stop blaming the officials. (Though I was almost inclined to side with you after fourth fouls on 'Sheed and Ben effectively killed last night's rally.) And stop complaining about the coach favoring offense over defense. Coaches and players chirping at each other through the press? You're already setting up the scapegoat for the offseason when the season isn't even over yet?

I don't even want to look at you right now. Where is your sense of accountability? Where the hell is your sense of responsibility?

You guys need to go to your rooms, and not come out until you're ready to play. You stare at those Dwyane Wade posters I taped to the ceilings, and the Shaq photos I put on the walls, and think about how you want to go down. Is this how you want this run to end?

I am very, very disappointed in you. And you should be disappointed too. Not just because of this series, but because Mom was going to make her famous Larry O'Brien trophy meat loaf tonight. And you know it's delicious. But there won't be anyone to eat it, because you guys will be up in your rooms, thinking about what you've done and what you're going to do about it. I'll just have to eat it myself. And you know I'm trying to watch how much I eat!

Walk upstairs in shame, Detroit Pistons. And if you're going to cry, you'd better do it in your pillows. Because if I hear any, I'm coming up there.

(Photo by Clarence Tabb, Jr./
Detroit News)

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Monday, May 22, 2006

Back in a week

I suppose the title of this post could refer to the Detroit Pistons, whose season appeared to be on the brink after Wednesday's Game 5 loss to the Cleveland LeBrons. But four days later, they seemed to have rediscovered that championship ju-ju and finally asserted themselves over a not-yet-ready-for-prime-time opponent. (After their performance in this series, however, it looks like the Cavaliers' arrival to prominence might come sooner than originally thought. Or maybe not.)

Unfortunately, I had to catch the end of yesterday's 79-61 victory from a Greektown bar, where my sister and I had left our mother while we caught the rubber match of Reds-Tigers at Comerica Park. While Mama Cass was counting the money she fleeced from slot machines (seriously - she's rich, bee-yotch!) Budweiser and I caught most of the second half at the casino bar. Good times. Hopefully, watching at least part of a Game 7 at a bar is enough to keep me from having to appear before the Gods of Sports Justice. But hey, I ate damn well on those casino winnings.

No, the title of today's post refers to me taking a week off. As noted above, I have some family in town, and we've planned a busy week for ourselves, so asking them to wait while I post some blog entries probably wouldn't go over well. But with the Pistons about to start a rematch with the Heat, and the Tigers continuing to play good (great?) baseball, I might not be able to resist staying away. I'll just have to write in the wee, dark hours of the morning.

(And then I can rant about ESPN and ABC already putting together warm, fuzzy "Pat Riley is back!" features. C'mon, some of the people reading this were toddlers the last time Coach Slickback won a championship. How about waiting until he gets back to the NBA Finals before combing his hair back for him?)

Anyway, the plan - if I can stick to it - is to get back bloggin' after Memorial Day. By then, we should have a feel for how the Heat-Pistons series will go, and could still have a first-place baseball team in Detroit. (My fingers just tingled from typing that.) Thanks to all of you for stopping by to read, and enjoy your holiday.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

How do you pronounce "Varejao"?

Question of the Day #3:

Besides wanting the Pistons to extend their playoff series with Cleveland to give themselves a chance to win it, I think we need another two games to determine just how the hell Anderson Varejao's last name is properly pronounced.

How many different variations have we heard over the last two weeks?

Is it "Var-AY-hoe"? "Var-AY-joe"? "VER-eh-joe"? "VEY-leh-zhoe"?

"Var-EEE-joe?" "Vur-EH-jew"?

"Ver-eh-JOW"? "Var-JOE"? "Var-ee-joo-HOW"?

"Voulez vous coucher avec moi"? Ce soir?

We have at least one more game to get a definite answer. (I'm not watching the Cavaliers play anymore if they advance in the playoffs. If the Pistons are done, NBA basketball will very likely be dead to me for the rest of the season as I try to digest what might be the biggest upset in NBA postseason history.)

Of course, I'm betting (not literally) we'll have two more games to watch Sideshow Bob's bouncy locks flounce up and down the floor. And today's Need4Sheed post reminded me that I haven't been doing my part as a Detroit basketball fan. I haven't been serving the Mistress Superstition. Like the Pistons, I've forgotten the little things that win games. I just hope it's not too late for me to, um, get back on the mistress. I'll do my best.

Pistons 84, Cavaliers 77.

Is it too soon for interleague play?

Question of the Day #2:

I don't know about you guys, but I'm not ready for the American League to start playing the National League yet. Didn't the season just start? Doesn't it seem like the Tigers have only played the Royals, Indians, and Twins? And now the Cincinnati Reds are coming to town?

Sure, it's just a taste. It's just for the weekend. Then the Tigers are off to play, well, the Royals and Indians.

After Memorial Day, however, Detroit gets their first big AL East test with the New York Yankees. (And for those of you who have been waiting for some national TV broadcast love, May 31's game is scheduled to be on ESPN2.)

Too soon or not, the Sweaty Men Endeavors staff will be checking out interleague play this weekend. I'm currently scheduled to take in Sunday's game at Comerica Park, as part of a Casselberry family day trip, in which I drop Mama Cass off at one of the Detroit casinos to gamble my inheritance away, while Lil' Sis tries to stay in her seat for nine innings and pretends to enjoy baseball. Should be a good one.

Bonus question: Has interleague play really been around for 10 years now?


How badly does Jeff Backus want out of Detroit?

Question of the Day #1:

Earlier this week, offensive tackle Jeff Backus ended his long negotiating nightmare - for now - by signing a one-year contract with the Lions.

And here's one big caveat with the deal: The Lions cannot name Backus their franchise player next year, guaranteeing he'll be an unrestricted free agent who can sign with any other team.

Here's the first thought I had when I heard the news on the radio: How much does he want to get the hell out of here?

According to reports, the Lions wanted to sign Backus to a long-term deal. Yet Matt Millen and Tom Lewand took weeks to enter negotiations with him and his agent. Meanwhile, I think it's safe to say Backus wanted to test the open market and see how the other side lives in the NFL.

So what's the real situation here? Did the Lions buy themselves more time to work out a longer contract with Backus? Or did Backus decide to bite down, collect $7 million, and serve out a one-year sentence with the team?

I'm thinking the coaching staff and front office has one year to make a good impression.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Detroit vs. The Gods of Sports Justice

One more thought for the day, because I couldn't get this question out of my head last night:

What if the blessing of the baseball angel has cursed basketball this year? Is it possible that the Gods of Sports Justice have decided the fans of Detroit shall enjoy the prosperity of only one team this spring? What if the Tigers are doing this - and by this, I mean a current first-place tie with the White Sox for the best record in baseball - at the expense of the Pistons?

Think of how the scales of Sports Justice have tipped for us over the past 10-15 years. When the Tigers were good, the other teams were either bad (Lions), or suffering bad playoff losses on their way to being good (Pistons, Red Wings). The one year the Lions were good, it was the beginning of the end for the "Bad Boys," the Tigers were on the downside of the slippery slope, and Bryan Murray's regular-season powerhouses were being upset in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Follow along the years with me. Red Wings = really good, Pistons = bad. Tigers, Lions = really bad. Pistons = very good, Red Wings = disappointing (or locked out). Tigers, Lions = really bad.

And now, with the Tigers apparently good, the Red Wings lost in the first round to Edmonton, and we're waiting to see what happens to the Pistons. Is a city allowed to have more than one good (or great) team in a given year?

I suppose we can take solace in the dependability of the Lions in this dynamic...


Saved by the baseball angel?

As troubling as last night's loss by the Pistons was, I wasn't quite as upset about it as, say, our friends The Sports Dude and K-Dog. (Wouldn't that be a great title for a sitcom? E-mail me, NBC.) What kept me from fully curling into the fetal position on my armchair? The future.

Thank you, Justin Verlander. Thank you.

Verlander went toe-to-toe with one of the best pitchers in baseball, Johan Santana, and was the last pitcher standing in a 2-0 win over the former Cy Young Award winner. (Here's an intriguing stat: Verlander didn't strike out any batters in his eight innings. Santana, meanwhile, notched 12 strikeouts.)

When switching to Tigers-Twins for commercial breaks during Pistons-Cavs, the kid made it pretty difficult to turn the channel back.

How charmed a baseball existence are the Tigers leading right now? Vance Wilson was the difference in the game. Vance Wilson. The back-up catcher who hit a sterling .197 last year hit a two-run homer off Santana - probably the best pitcher in the American League - in the eighth inning. Hell of a time for his first homer of the season, wouldn't you say?

(And the ball cleared Comerica Park's old left-field fence, past the bullpen, so it was hardly a cheapie. Actually, there's no such thing as a cheap home run at the CoPa, is there?)

After today, the Tigers will have passed Sparky Anderson's regular yard-marker for a team's success. Is the summer really going to be this fun for baseball in Detroit? Seriously?


This has officially become serious

So much for being calm and confident, eh? Even after losing Game 3 to the Cavaliers on Monday, the prevailing sentiment seemed to be that the Pistons were still firmly in control of this series and would win in six games.

At approximately 9:45 pm last night, the collective sphincter of Pistons fans everywhere tightened severely. It was probably already closing at tip-off, and progressively puckered throughout a game in which the Pistons could never assert themselves over an opponent virtually everyone believes (and probably still believes) is inferior in almost every way.

What the hell is going on here?

Three losses in a row is uncharted territory for the 2005-06 Detroit Pistons. And this is an unfortunate time to see how it works out for them.

"I'm still not concerned," Chauncey Billups said after the game. "I know what we're capable of."

Well, how about showing it then, guys? Is it safe to say the time for concern is right #@$%ing now?

How is it that the Cavaliers were playing with confidence last night, while the Pistons were flailing around like the team afraid to lose? This is what happens when you show the other team that they don't need to be afraid of you.

"It's just basketball," LeBronBronBron said in his post-game remarks. "They're not the Big, Bad Wolf. And we're not the Three Little Pigs."

Wait a minute. Who's supposed to be fearful, and who's supposed to be dismissive? Is this what it's come to? When did this NBA post-season become the Bizarro World for the Pistons and their fans? Who were those guys turning the ball over, getting their shots blocked, fumbling balls out of bounds, and fouling out? And who were those guys diving to the floor for loose balls?

Yet the Pistons would have you believe they're still cool like Fonzie. If there was any shock in the Detroit locker room last night, there was no awe to go along with it.

"We have been in this situation before," said Tayshaun Prince. "We know what to do. We feel like we can make it happen."

And if you had any questions about that,
Detroit Bad Boys supports Tayshaun's point with hard evidence. These guys apparently like it on the edge. But the Pistons are starting to look like a team that believes its credentials entitle a free pass to the NBA Finals.

Their season is hardly over - and this series could be far off in the rear-view mirror if Detroit is playing for another championship in three weeks - but did you expect to feel any doubt before the Eastern Conference Finals? Are you beginning to wonder if this team peaked too early, if coasting through the majority of the regular season caused a red-white-and-blue haze that might not be shaken off until it's too late?

Maybe I shouldn't be, but I am. (So is Drew Sharp, who already has his scapegoat lined up.) Yet right now, I'm looking at a pair of tickets on my desk to Sunday's Tigers-Reds game at Comerica Park, and thinking I should see if I can sell them to a buddy. Or maybe I'll just leave around the 7th inning or so. Because I think we'll have a Game 7 on Sunday, and I want to be in front of my TV for it.

"We've done enough talking. We may have done a little too much talking," said Ben Wallace. "It's time to play."

Now would be a fine time for that, Ben. Oh, and work on your free throws.

(Photo by Robin Buckson/ Detroit News)

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The payroll payoff

Big Al comprehensively covered the hand-wringing (from the mainstream media, anyway) over DEE-troit BAS-ketball suddenly being in a series with the LeBrons. As I said in response, the Pistons seem like a student blowing off a class because he or she already knows the material, only to get serious when exams come around. They need to create supposedly difficult situations to motivate themselves. I think we all still expect the Pistons to ace this exam.

So how about a lunch-time feel-good post? This was sent, once again, from the FRT New York bureau. (My friend, Mis Hooz, must want a raise. Keep holding your hand out, sister.)

Courtesy of Ben Fry, here's a handy-dandy diagram of the baseball teams that are doing the most with their money so far in 2006.

As you can (partially) see from the (partial) image capture, as of May 15, Detroit has the second-best record in Major League Baseball with the 13th-highest payroll - $83 million.

Today, that value's even better, as the Tigers are tied with the White Sox for the best record in the majors. (If you go to the site, you can follow how the values have changed throughout the season so far.) And if I'm reading this chart correctly, only the Cardinals are getting more for their player costs.

(I suppose it could be figured out which team is truly getting the best value, but there's a reason I was an English major in college.)

(And I can't find the link, but I believe the $83 million payroll is the highest the franchise has ever had. Nice to see it's finally paying off. I think the Free Press' Jon Paul Morosi makes that point here.)

Does that make you feel any better about spending eight bucks on a beer at the CoPa? Me either. But I'll try to tell myself that this weekend.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

How much is that fantasy team worth to you?

Just read an interesting article, courtesy of my friend Mis Hooz of the FRT New York bureau. (Mike at The Daily Fungo posted on this earlier this morning.) I continue to be astounded by the greedy short-sightedness of professional sports leagues. According to this New York Times article by Alan Schwarz, Major League Baseball is contending that anyone who operates a fantasy baseball league for commercial purposes should pay a license for use of player names and performance statistics.

(Sites like ESPN, CBS Sportsline, and Yahoo! each paid MLB $2 million for the rights to use player names, roster photos, team logos, etc.)

The company that's being sued by MLB says that names and statistics are freely available from sources such as newspapers, and are therefore in the public domain. MLB counters that such information isn't being used by fantasy leagues for journalistic purposes, and if they're capitalizing on names like Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, and Alex Rodriguez for profit, they should pay for it.

I can't imagine that MLB would win such a case, but I'm obviously no lawyer. What's unbelievable to me is that baseball is willing to take on something that fuels such a passionate following of its sport. If MLB wants to spite fan interest - which fantasy sports unquestionably inspires - in the name of money, then they deserve the backlash and resentment that could result from such a cash grab.

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Quit playing around

Okay, this wasn't supposed to happen. But clearly, the Cleveland Cavaliers deserve more respect than they've been getting - especially from the Pistons.

“Ain’t no way they gonna beat us in no damn series,” said Rasheed Wallace after the game. “They did what they had to do. They took care of home. They did what they had to do.”

'Sheed. Enough of this $#!+, okay? Not when you shoot 3-for-13. Not when you were outscored by Sideshow Bob. Sprained ankle or not, if you're going to show that much disdain for the opponent, you have to go out there and wipe 'em off the bottom of your shoe. If you're going to thump your chest like that, don't put it on your teammates to carry it off for you.

You believe there's no way Cleveland will win this series. Fine. I feel that way, too. So do all Detroit fans. But there's no reason to let the Cavs get this close. You can't let them tie the series at 2-2 and extend it to six or seven games. Do you want to let Miami sit at home and rest up, while you're expending energy on an opponent you should've already defeated? (By the way, New Jersey - you are free to get back into that series any time you'd like.)

The Cavs are not as good a team as the Pistons. Is that some kind of news flash? Yet they've won two games - and without their second-best player, Larry Hughes. It's not because LeBron James has been in triple-double form. It's not because, as Evan said in the comments, the referees are swallowing whistles at the end of the game (though that certainly doesn't help). It's because the Pistons aren't taking the Cavs seriously enough. They're playing as if they can win with a sub-par game. And now it's coming back to bite them in the @$$.

(Photo by Clarence Tabb, Jr./ Detroit News)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Hey kid, pass this note to the locker room

Dear Mr. 'Sheed --

I think it's great that you "Guaransheed" a victory tonight (and in Game 5 on Wednesday). It fires up the guys and they always have your back. LeBronBronBron can dismiss it as "just 'Sheed being 'Sheed," but inside, we know he's quivering at the thought of a focused, determined Pistons team.

But I did want to bring something up, even though it might upset you.

This Anderson Varejao guy. He kind of, well, he kind of made you look bad on Saturday. And if it made me mad to see his Sideshow Bob afro bobbing up and down the floor after a made basket, I'm sure you were pissed. Maybe even more pissed than you usually are at the referees.

Should this guy really be scoring 16 points on you? Exactly. I know, I know - he looks like a poodle. (Or "um poodle," as they might say in his native tongue.) That's all I'm saying. You know what I'm talkin' about.

And did you see the Cleveland Plain Dealer, with headlines like "Prove 'Sheed Wrong" and "Irritating Rash"? C'mon, enough of that stuff.

Who's my guy? Who's Our 'Sheed? Go out there and get 'em tonight, dude. If I were there, I'd slap you on the ass. Or not. Whatever you'd prefer.

Ian Casselberry

P.S. Did you see Need4Sheed get that big write-up in the Free Press today? Holla' to a girl.

(Congratulations, Natalie!)

Still waiting for a sign?

Yes, the Pistons are in the playoffs, with eyes set on another NBA championship. LeBron had a triple-double in Saturday's Game 3, the kind of performance - making his teammates better for three quarters, then "taking over" in the fourth - that forges superstars. Rasheed Wallace "Guaransheed" a five-game series victory over the Cavaliers. And it looks like we'll have a Detroit-Miami rematch in the Eastern Conference Finals.

But it's the other Detroit team that was in Cleveland this weekend that really caught my attention.

A three-game sweep for the Tigers at Jacobs Field?

That ballpark didn't even exist the last time the Tigers swept the Indians in Cleveland. The Tribe was still playing in "the mistake on the lake." The baseball team was better in the movies than they were on the field.

Some Tigers fans are enjoying the ride, basking in the enjoyment of a baseball team that's winning some games, that looks like it knows what it's doing on the diamond. But I get the feeling that plenty of others still think it's too early in the season to get excited. They're anticipating the eight-game losing streak that brings the Tigers back down to Earth. As much as they might want to, they still can't quite embrace this team. They need a sign that these Detroit Tigers are "for real."

For me, sweeping Cleveland on the road is that sign. The Indians were expected to place first or second in the AL Central division. And, of course, they still might. But the Tigers are making such a finish look pretty difficult right now. The pitching - especially Jeremy Bonderman on Saturday - was outstanding, allowing Detroit to win three close games. They kept Travis Hafner in check. They're 4-2 so far this season against the Tribe.

And on May 15, the Tigers are a half-game out of first place. (If the Tigers were in any other division right now, as the Daily Fungo points out, they'd be looking down at everyone else.)

Okay, the Indians were swept by the Royals in Kansas City last week. So they're clearly struggling. Maybe this feat isn't quite as impressive as it first appears.

And the Tigers have won a lot of close games so far, which could easily turn around later in the season. On Friday, Mike Valenti of the "Sports Inferno" on Detroit's WXYT-AM pointed out that the Washington Nationals followed the same pattern in the first half of last season. At the All-Star break, the Nats were in first place. But they were walking a tightrope, and started losing those close games. Eventually, they fell to a .500 record and a fifth-place finish.

Are the Tigers this year's Nationals? What if the lineup goes into a protracted slump, and isn't saved by the long ball? What if the starting pitching starts to falter? What if opponents catch up to the bullpen in late innings? What if the young players, like Curtis Granderson and Justin Verlander, are overcome by the grind of a full major-league season?

But what if the lineup can play even better, and score more runs? Detroit hasn't had full use of a healthy Dmitri Young and Placido Polanco yet. And what if the pitching rotation can continue to be this good? Maybe Kenny Rogers' wisdom has had that kind of effect on Mike Maroth and Nate Robertson. Maybe Bonderman finally found his slider for good. And even if Todd Jones eventually falters in the bullpen, might the Tigers have enough depth to compensate? (Such a question could also be asked of the rotation, by the way, with Jason Grilli and Roman Colon waiting for their chances.)

Okay, those questions can't be answered for certain until the season plays itself out. So I understand that some trepidation is justified. But the Tigers keep coming up with moments that make you wonder.

Look at what happened late in yesterday's game: In the 8th, Jamie Walker couldn't get Travis Hafner out when he needed to, but Joel Zumaya came in for a big strikeout and eventually preserved a one-run lead. And in the 9th, Vance Wilson fielded Grady Sizemore's bunt, and threw what looked like a sure error into the dirt near second base. Except Carlos Guillen did his best Plastic Man routine, stretching to catch the ball on the hop and get the out.

Lucky? Maybe. On another day, those plays could've gone the other way. But they haven't been.

(Photo by Robin Buckson/ Detroit News)

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Enduring Tino

Who's the guy at ESPN that decided Tino Martinez would be a good addition to its Baseball Tonight coverage?

I know that working on TV is likely harder than I realize, and I'm sure Martinez knows much, much more about baseball than I do. And I liked the guy as a player. Players like him who just approached their jobs professionally and came up with clutch hits when needed are why I found it difficult to truly hate the Yankees during their great run over the past decade.

But the dude is just painful to watch in the studio. He comes across much as I'd expect I would, except slimmer and probably more handsome. His hair looks awkwardly styled, like it's Picture Day at school. And he's hard to understand, blurting out often inarticulate sentences, trying to form a coherent thought as he's talking.

That last problem is compounded when paired with Buster Olney (to me, the gem of ESPN's baseball coverage right now), who can be something of a motormouth while darting his hands back and forth, like someone directing a airplane on a tarmac.

When Tino takes a deep breath and relaxes enough for me to make out what he's saying, however, he offers some interesting analysis - especially in regards to the Yankees, which was rather timely last night after Hideki Matsui broke his wrist. So maybe he just needs to exhale just before the red light on the ESPN cameras go on, and will get better later in the season.

But maybe I'm being too hard on Tino. In his defense, at least he's never been as totally shit-faced incoherent (and wobbly) as Rick Sutcliffe was in the Padres' broadcast booth Wednesday night. Check out the clip at Deadspin - you can almost smell the alcohol coming off it.

It's Big Al's world - I'm just along for the ride

Yesterday, at my Mother Ship blog, I wrote something about a New York Times panel that named "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years." The book so honored was Toni Morrison's Beloved, a pick that I can't really argue with, having written a looooonnng term paper on it in my last year at the University of Iowa.

Big Al, however, came up with a suitable challenger. And I'm still chuckling at his pick, which is #@$%ing hilarious. He elaborated on the nomination over at Our Wayne Fontes Experience. Surely, newspaper book reviews, literary criticism, and academic journals throughout the country will soon march right behind Big Al in agreement. Expect him to show up at lecture halls and bookstores near you, tweed jacket in tow, as he changes the way we look at literature.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Hit by the Fungo

Thanks to The Daily Fungo for mentioning me and this sweaty blog in last week's podcast. (You can also find it here.) Definitely an unexpected surprise to hear my e-mail about his post last Wednesday (Would you trade Craig Monroe and Wil Ledezma for Shawn Green?) read "on the air."

And it's still really weird to hear my name and "Sweaty Men Endeavors" voiced out loud. Still elicits chuckles. It's like hearing my voice on an answering machine. I'll probably never get used to it.

Mike, I'm glad the blog name didn't freak you out too much. And hello to anyone else who's stopped by after hearing the podcast. I often write about the Detroit Tigers and how much I hate Kobe Bryant.

If you're a Tigers fan, you'll enjoy The Daily Fungo. Check it - and the podcast - out, if you haven't already. (And hat tips to Billfer for mentioning it at The Detroit Tigers Weblog. That's how I found it.)

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Runs in the family?

Maybe this news has always been out there, and no one bothered to look into it until Delmon Young's 50-game suspension was handed down. But how did it take two weeks for us to learn that older brother Dmitri was also once suspended as a minor leaguer?

Tom Gage has the story in today's Detroit News. While in the Cardinals' system, Da Meat Hook was suspended for 30 games in 1995 for running into the stands to attack a heckler.

"According to a wire service report that ran in the New York Times, Young punched a fan and Keith Jones hit another in the back with a bat. Dmitri was 21 at the time.

'The initial suspension was 30 games,' Young said on Wednesday before the Tigers-Orioles game, 'but it was reduced to 20 games, plus community service.

'At the time, it was reported the fans had been calling me "pork chop", but I can tell you, it was a lot worse than that.'

It was a racial slur, he said, that he wouldn't tolerate.

'I hit him good,' Young said of the fan."

Oh man, watch out for those Fightin' Youngs. I hope Dmitri didn't see that crack I made about him eating Coney Dogs all summer long in April's Motor City Sports Magazine. (Not intended as a plug, I swear. Although the May issue is now on newsstands...)

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Win 'em when you can

Has any NBA coach ever done less with more than Rick Adelman, who was fired by the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday?

That's the first thought that came to mind when I heard the (unsurprising) news about Adelman's dismissal.

Shouldn't this guy have won a NBA championship at some point? Look at his record. Two of his teams have won 60 games. Seven of them won 50. You would think he might have won one accidentally - except that never happens. He's obviously doing something right. But just not enough.

Of course, Adelman's teams often had the right records at the wrong time. His first Portland team lost to the Pistons in the 1990 NBA Finals. (Sorry about that, Rick.) And after that, he kept running into the Phil Jackson wall. His Trail Blazers ran into the Chicago Bulls buzzsaw in the beginning of its championship days. Later, his Sacramento Kings couldn't get past Big Chief Zen Master's Lakers teams.

And then, with Sacramento's window of championship opportunity already closing, the Gods of Sports Karma struck Chris Webber in the knee for demolishing the University of Michigan basketball program. Tough break, coach. But you know what they say about karma.

Now the Kings, the Maloof brothers, and their next coach are left with the powder keg that is Ron Artest, who (jokingly, one would think) suggested he'd be willing to give up next year's salary to keep Adelman (and Bonzi Wells) in Sacramento. Uh-oh.

Joe Davidson of the Sacramento Bee says Adelman's options include TV work, a NBA front office position, coaching in college, or a life of leisure. The Kings are apparently interested in Terry Porter, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, and... Don Nelson?

And all the while, both parties might be thinking about opportunities lost. You have to win those championships when you can get 'em. Those windows don't stay open very long.

(Photo by Randy Pench/ Sacramento Bee)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Absence makes the blog go flounder

What I was thinking about while painfully, tearfully kept away from my computer throughout the day...

♦ I don't suppose there's any chance the Cleveland LeBrons have some confidence after cutting the Pistons' lead to five points in last night's Game 2, is there? I was distracted by Scrubs and House, so I can't really say whether or not the Cavs "put a scare" into Detroit. (Eno says no. Big Al says the Pistons wuz bored.) Having said that, any momentum the LeBrons might have mustered has to be killed by the three-day break before Game 3, doesn't it?

♦ Does ABC moving Game 3 to a 5 p.m. start mean the Pistons are getting "the J.V. treatment" again?

♦ For those who thought Fernando Rodney should replace Todd Jones as Tigers' closer - "The Closer Controversy!" - does last night's loss to Baltimore change your opinion at all? Do two losses in the last three games signify a downward trend for the previously impervious Tigers' bullpen? Or were they just due to blow a couple of saves?

♦ Pudge Rodriguez, Gold Glove first baseman? He looked like it last night. "Those two plays I made were very good," Rodriguez said to the Free Press. Oh, Pudge, you're so modest!

♦ Will any Tigers swing a pink bat on Mother's Day? My bet's on Da Meat Hook. Or maybe Brandon Inge. (I thought Alexis Gomez already broke out pink hardware during Spring Training. Wait - did that sound right?) I'll be honoring the occasion, as well, wearing the white clothing I turned pink when I mixed them with reds in my laundry.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Other people hear the growling

(Or WSIHWAY? a.k.a. What Should I Have Written About Yesterday?)

Here's a little something to make us all feel better after the Tigers lost two of three at the Metrodome last weekend: More national dap for the "Yes, they are really 20-12" Detroit Tigers.
Today's installment is brought to you by Dave Sheinin of the Washington Post, an excellent baseball writer who now has the luxury of covering both the Nationals and Orioles. And since the Tigers are in Baltimore to play the Orioles, Jim Leyland's club is the topic du jour.

Here's an excerpt which perfectly captures the unimpressed, we-haven't-done-squat-yet demeanor that Leyland conveys to the media:

"'We're okay. We're not bad,' Leyland muttered in the classic, low-key manner of that vanishing breed known as the Grizzled Baseball Lifer, when the question was put to him before a recent game. 'Got a long way to go. They're a good bunch. They're trying hard.'

And then there's this nugget, in which first-base coach Andy Van Slyke points out that the Tigers might want to be fearful of provoking another tirade from their manager.

"... After Leyland's clubhouse tirade April 17, one player turned to first base coach Andy Van Slyke, who played under Leyland for eight seasons in Pittsburgh, and asked whether that had been Leyland at his rampaging best.

'No,' Van Slyke said matter-of-factly. 'He had all his clothes on.'"

Keep playing well, guys. For the sake of your eyesight. But if you do happen to hit a slump, feel free to whip out a camera phone and "anonymously" send an image to a blogger. E-mail address is at the top right-hand corner.


Kick him when he's down? Sure!

(Or WSIHWAY? a.k.a. What Should I Have Written About Yesterday?)

Should've known better. Last week, I had some doubts about my Kobe Hatin'. But I knew it was only a momentary lapse. Based on that - and taking service time into consideration - the Kobe Haters Club (KHC) didn't feel the need to review my membership.

But really, it's Kobe himself whom I need to thank. What he did in Game 7 against the Suns on Friday might just supply me with a lifetime (or career-lasting) supply of Haterade. Three shots in the second half? One point? That's usually the first minute of a quarter for "The Mamba." Why did Kobe decide to crawl into his offseason hole in the ground during a game? (Even worse, it was a Game 7!)

For everything I've said about Jelly Bean's son, I never expected him to go down without shooting. Once the Lakers were down by 17 at the end of the first quarter, did he decide he was finally tired of carrying his team (whose depleted roster he helped create) and let them drown their way to a 31-point loss?

Or did Kobe have other intentions? Was he trying to make a point to those (such as myself) who have criticized his play, showing that the Lakers can't win unless he takes 40 shots a game? Was he making a case to the Lakers' coaching staff and front office that just making the playoffs isn't good enough? Was he giving the finger to those who gave their MVP vote to Steve Nash instead of him?

In today's Los Angeles Times, T.J. Simers said Bryant "can no longer be trusted" in big games. At this point, how can you argue with that? How do you know he's not going to bring some kind of agenda into a game? What defense could you possibly offer for that performance?

It was a baffling end to a series that really could've re-defined Kobe in the eyes of his detractors. Had he led the Lakers past the Suns, I probably would've poured my Haterade down the sink. He would've proven he could win both by making his teammates better and dominating a game when it was necessary.

But maybe that's just it. Maybe Kobe doesn't want to re-define himself. He probably doesn't feel he has to. And surely, he thinks he shouldn't have any detractors. How dare they?

Simers brings up another good point: Can we now officially end the Michael Jordan comparisons with Kobe? Jordan never would've gone into a second-half pout and given up a game. Even if he was going to lose, he wouldn't have stopped fighting. And if he wanted to make a point to the front office about the team assembled around him, he would've done it off the court to Jerry Krause's face.

I'd like to apologize to my fellow Kobe Haters for my lapse of faith. I shouldn't have let a couple of clutch shots bedazzle me. As Shepard Smith once said, "I have no idea how that happened, but it won't happen again." Surely, you won't mind, however, if I direct most of this week's Haterade toward David Blaine. Man, I hate that guy.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

All things must pass

Well, the winning streak had to end some time, I suppose. Although with Verlander on the mound against a line-up that looked more like the AAAngels (Kotchman, Kendrick, Napoli, Murphy), the chances of sweeping the homestand looked pretty good. Unfortunately, young Justin knew he wouldn't have his good stuff out there, and the Halos jumped on him. (Note to Angels fans, you can come down from the ledge. It's okay now.)

Hopefully, the Tigers' record in "getaway games" (currently 0-2) eventually improves. But 6-1 was still pretty damn nice, wasn't it? And this should be an interesting road trip. Will the Twins be looking for revenge after the three-game, 33-1, pounding they took in Detroit? Even if they are, do they have enough juice to do it? Johan Santana gives them a chance on Sunday. Man, it'd be nice to see the Tigers take two out of three at the Metrodome.

The Orioles aren't playing that well, so the Tigers could win in Baltimore (especially if they get to face Bruce Chen). And I'm looking forward to seeing how the post-Leyland tirade Tigers do against the Indians. (Quick scouting report: Don't pitch to Hafner.)

Maybe I'm projecting my own feelings onto all of Detroit sports fandom, but I think excitement for the local baseball team has taken away most of the sting from the Red Wings' first-round playoff exit. We can keep saying "C'mon, it's still early," but history's beginning to support the notion that this could be a good (or, at the very least, competitive) season.

▪▪ Will Brandon Inge's hot bat follow him on the road? If not for Garret Anderson's catch at the fence yesterday, he'd have home runs in three straight games. (Take deep breaths, Samela.)

▪▪ Both The Detroit Tigers Weblog and The Daily Fungo noted a rather mind-boggling, time-warping comment by Tigers radio announcer Jim Price yesterday.

▪▪ TigerBlog ponders the possible end of the Alexis Gomez era in Detroit.

▪▪ Jim Leyland apparently needs to do his laundry. (The cigarette smell alone is probably awful.)

▪▪ And be careful what you say in public, because Leyland is listening.

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone. Enjoy the weekend.

(Photo by Steve Perez/ Detroit News)


Between sips of morning coffee...

♦ When the Pistons lose their next game, do you think anyone will speculate that assistant coach Sidney Lowe is "causing a distraction" by taking the North Carolina State head-coaching job during the playoffs? (I'm surprised Lowe's name wasn't brought up sooner. Was he really the Wolfpack's sixth choice?)

MLive's A. Sherrod Blakely explains what Lowe is thinking.

♦ Speaking of the N.C. State job, did you see this shot taken by a Tar Heels fan in the Raleigh News & Observer? Love those inter-state rivalries. (Via Deadspin)

♦ Maybe I'm in the minority here, but does anyone else not give a $#!+ about how much Charles Barkley has lost gambling? When you see the amounts of money that he and John Daly have squandered, it's mind-boggling. And it's nice that Barkley was so honest on the subject (though he certainly sounded like an addict in denial during his ESPN interview). But was it really worth all the coverage it's received over the past day or two?

♦ I probably just listen to too much sports talk radio. That's the problem.

♦ Here's a hilarious story on the "gambling addiction expert" ESPN interviewed on "Outside the Lines" after the Daly and Barkley stories broke. (Via The Sports Pulse.)

♦ Can steroids help pitchers the same way they do hitters? Many people say no, which basically let pitchers off the hook during the past couple of years of increased steroid scrutiny in baseball. So then why are so many pitchers testing positive? Here's an interesting article from last Sunday's Washington Post on the subject.

♦ Did anyone watch the NFL Network's draft coverage last weekend? (I'm still sadly NFL Network-less. And yes, I talk to someone about it.) If so, do you agree that Mike Mayock did a better job than ESPN's Draft Guru Godfather, Mel Kiper? Just curious.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Oh, let us count the ways

So when exactly did it become clear that the Pistons were going to win last night's Game 5 easily? There were so many points where you could've just turned the channel because it was so obviously Detroit's night. Take your pick:

Was it the opening jump-ball, when Ben Wallace tipped the ball to 'Sheed, who then passed to Rip Hamilton for an easy lay-up?

How about Tayshaun Prince's half-court buzzer-beater to end the first quarter?

Could it have been the score after that first quarter: Pistons 39, Bucks 23?
Or did Terry Stotts determine the outcome of the game beforehand when deciding to put Michael Redd on Chauncey Billups, thus leaving T.J. Ford to defend Rip Hamilton? Ford may be fast, but he's not physical. And if you're not going to knock Rip around, he'll run all night. 40 points later, that bit of coaching strategy wasn't looking so good.

Maybe the credit should go to trainer Arnie Kander, who opted not to tape Hamilton's ankle so tightly.

(Photo by Daniel Mears/
Detroit News)

It's arrogant to say this was a "five-game sweep," especially when Milwaukee won Game 3 so decisively (and surprisingly). But apparently, that little spanking reminded the Pistons they needed to quit playing around, assert themselves, and end this thing as soon as they could. It wasn't ever really close after that. Detroit had a match-up advantage at every position.

You know what I'll miss most? Need4Sheed putting tutus on the Bucks in game photos. Classic stuff, Natalie.

So now the Pistons won't have to tip-off at 6 p.m. anymore - which Billups and coach Flip Saunders called "the J.V. schedule" - so TNT can show Bron-Bron in prime-time. They can join us in watching the rest of the Cavs-Wizards series. (Complete Sports has the good on last night's Game 5, including Washington's baffling last-second defense on LeBron.)

Or they can tune into the now-chippy Lakers-Suns series, in which Black Mamba battles The Bell. Or not, since Raja Bell was suspended for clotheslining Kobe. Did you catch Kobe referring to Bell as "this kid" yesterday to the press? HA! I still hate the guy, but he has the onions to back that up. (Hello to everyone who found this blog yesterday by Googling "Raja Bell" and "Kobe Bryant," by the way.)

Next stop on the championship train: the second round.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What should I have written about yesterday?

Okay, I blew it. I know that. A bunch of stuff happened Monday night, so what did I write about on Tuesday? Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing. Too busy sitting outside in the sun, sipping lemonade? Well, no, because it was raining.

I spent most of Monday night flipping between the Wings and Pistons games, Yankees-Red Sox, Prison Break, and 24. It's all kind of a blur, though I swear Jack Bauer tried really hard to stop President Logan from scoring that fourth goal on Legace, while Tim Wakefield went top-shelf with his knuckleball, and Michael Scofield wondered whether he and Alex Rodriguez are brothers, but still worked out a perfect scheme for the Pistons to defend Michael Redd that involved getting a spork and hot dog from the prison cafeteria.

Would I have written about the Red Wings' embarrassing first-round playoff loss to the Edmonton Oilers, which has all the local newspapers writing eulogies on the end of Stanley Cup championship days in Detroit? Probably, although Doug Mirabelli's police-escorted dash from Logan Airport to Fenway Park before the Red Sox played the Yankees was some gripping $#!+, man.

Here's who was on the ball (on the puck?) yesterday, while I was making sure Manny Legace stayed away from belts and shoelaces:

Radio Free Detroit has an outstanding series overview, and speculates what the future might hold for GM Ken Holland as he tries to revamp an aging, underachieving (in the post-season, anyway) roster. Keep on rockin', EJ.

On the Wings has its own comprehensive recap of the deciding game, in which the Wings blew a two-goal lead, and allowed four Edmonton goals in the third period.

Abel to Yzerman has closing thoughts on the game, as well.

Behind the Jersey breaks down the individual performances of each Detroit player.

Big Al says only two Red Wings showed up to play in this series.

Greg Eno thinks the Wings wouldn't have won the Cup even if they'd gotten past the Oilers.

♦ At "The Forehead," Mr. Sports Dude says it's time to clean house. Out with the old, in with the new (and young).

ESPN.com's E.J. Hradek says Legace took a risk in contract negotiations with the Wings, which will likely now bite him right in the five-hole.

♦ And if you'd like to join Manny under belt-and-shoelace watch, or just enjoy some good ol' self-torture, Off Wing Opinion has posted a highlight reel from the Wings-Oilers series.

Meanwhile, the Freep's Michael Rosenberg reveals how close Yzerman was to retirement during the regular season, while Mitch Albom turns out the lights on the current edition of the Red Wings. And the News' John Niyo has 10 questions the Wings need to answer this off-season.

I don't have much to add, other than to say the Wings (besides The 40-Year-Old Veteran, Yzerman) played like they were afraid to lose, demonstrating a baffling lack of composure. A team with as much playoff (and championship experience) as the Wings shouldn't have crumpled like that. Of course, the guy who mattered most - Legace - hadn't faced that kind of pressure before, and he melted under that heat.

And that leaves us with a summer full of Steve Yzerman retrospectives.

Monday, May 01, 2006

On second thought...

Yesterday, I was ready to write an "Oh my God, what the #@$% is Millen doing? He's doing this to spite us for all the 'Fire Millen' stuff! He hates us and wants to run the Lions into the ground and spread mulch all over the franchise and its fanbase! This is the WORST DRAFT EVER!" post, but I took a deep breath, decided against it, and walked to Dairy Queen.

Like Beyond Boxscores, I wasn't too keen on the Ernie Sims pick at #9. Why? Five concussions, and the kid isn't even 22 years old yet. Of course, I'm no doctor but I watch a lot of medical shows on TV, like ER, Scrubs, and Grey's Anatomy, and... well, I can't remember any episodes dealing with patients who had concussions. But isn't this something we've always been led to believe is serious, something that makes players retire? Merril Hoge? Steve Young? Troy Aikman?

And those players weren't linebackers, who I would argue get hit on virtually every single play. Their job is to run into people and hit them hard. That sounds like a position prone to concussions - especially if you've suffered them before. In an interview with Dan Miller, Matt Millen said Sims' concussions "were only minor." Is there such a thing? Well, apparently so. But once someone has suffered a concussion, isn't he or she is more prone to getting another one? All answers point to "yes."

Obviously, the various medical staffs involved cleared Sims to play. But to me, it seems like a risk with your #9 pick. Millen says if he hadn't taken Sims, other teams would've taken him right afterward. And maybe that (or him saying that Sims was rated higher than Michael Huff on their draft board) isn't spin.

It's easy to say the Lions should've traded down - and I think it's pretty clear they should've - but we don't know which teams were calling Millen and what was offered. I'm not saying the Lions should've taken a quarterback, either. They needed a first-round pick who could make an immediate impact. (Though I can't help but think Matt Leinart and Jay Cutler will go onto stardom, while the Lions will be looking for another signal caller in three to four years.) But Millen's had a history of taking chances on players with checkered medical histories. Some of those gambles have worked out (Shaun Rogers) and some haven't (Boss Bailey - as of yet).

Please read more of “On second thought...”…

But the pick I really hated was Brian Calhoun. I knew he was a talented runner, based on what he did to Michigan last season (155 yards rushing, 59 receiving). But even then, I never thought his size would allow him to be a full-time running back in the NFL. 5'9" and 201 lbs. says "third-down back" to me. It's been pointed out to me, however, that Calhoun's size measures up well against current NFL running backs. And I'm sure he'll be able to add bulk once he starts training with the Lions.

There's also been some talk that the Lions envision Calhoun as a slot receiver and kick returner. (And Tom Kowalski says the pick is a message to Artose Pinner and Eddie Drummond.) That kind of versatility could make him a valuable role player on the roster, especially in a Mike Martz offense. But is that what you want out of your third-round pick? Are my expectations for that round too high? Or is that exactly where you'd expect and hope to find a back-up running back? At his size, can he really challenge Kevin Jones as the starter?

I realize the Lions probably wanted an offensive lineman in the third round, only to see the guys on their board gone. So they likely had to take the best player available, whether he filled an immediate need or not. Sometimes, that's how the draft works, even if it doesn't look as proactive as we'd all prefer. And if that really is how it shook down, I think Millen bailed himself out on the second day of the draft with Jonathan Scott and Fred Matua falling into his lap. If both of those players managed to be starters, that's great value (and probably wishful thinking) for the picks. (Here's what Lionbacker thinks of Scott and Matua.)

So after sleeping on it, I don't feel quite so bad about the Lions' 2006 draft as I (or the Detroit Lions Weblog) did initially. Besides, I was excited as hell about the last two drafts, and how did those turn out? Just because I'm not familiar with some of these players or they aren't ones I was hoping for doesn't necessarily mean the Lions did a poor job. It looks like Millen gave his coaches what they wanted, which is how a GM-coach relationship should work. The Lions did fill needs (Boy, linebacker became a need awfully fast, didn't it?), and if Sims and Daniel Bullocks become immediate starters (which I assume is the expectation), that's more than they've gotten from three out of the last five drafts.

"Hey, at least they're starting!" You could make a t-shirt from that slogan. Isn't that kind of diminished optimism a fine example of being a Lions fan?

Wait a minute - this haterade tastes funny

As some of you might remember, my Man Card status was up for review a couple of months ago. With your help, I was able to get through that and maintain my membership. This weekend, I grilled some steaks and sawed off some tree branches in my yard. I'm doing really well.

But now, I'm worried about another card in my wallet. I think the Kobe Haters Club might have to call an emergency meeting, and my membership will probably be up for review. I think my previous record of Kobe Hatin' speaks for itself. But I don't know if I can attend any more monthly gatherings in good conscience with how I'm feeling.

In this first-round playoff series against Phoenix, Kobe has been anti-Kobe. He's been passing the ball. Getting his teammates involved. His scoring average is down more than 10 points per game. Lamar Odom and Smush Parker are making plays to help the Lakers win games.

What the hell is going on here? Is it possible that Kobe's regular season of ball-hogging was a ruse, meant to deceive potential playoff opponents? Do you have a better explanation for the Lakers taking a 3-1 lead in the series?

After the clutch shots Bryant hit yesterday - the first to force overtime, the second to win the game - I feel the need to take stock of my opinions and re-evaluate.

Which shot was more amazing? The high-arching floater over Boris Diaw's outstretched arm was simply perfect, just as high as it needed to be. If Kobe took that shot another nine times, how many would go in?

And then there was the game-winner, which Kobe hit with both Diaw and Raja Bell in his face. Everyone in the Staples Center, and everybody watching around the country knew that he - and no one else in a Lakers uniform - was going to have the ball in that situation. Didn't matter.

When asked about the shot, however, Kobe said "It felt routine to me." And I should thank Kobe for that, because reading that quote was enough to send some haterade gurgling back up my throat. Just when I'm ready to embrace the guy and turn in my Kobe Haters Club card, he reminds me why I can't stand him. But no hate today. The man deserves nothing but dap. Props. Praise. Adulation. At least until Phoenix comes back to win the series.

(Photo by Wally Skalij/ Los Angeles Times)

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