Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Friday, September 29, 2006

Some sound and lots of fury

Hello to everyone who's stopped by, looking for that clip of WXYT's Mike Valenti going ape$#!+ on his beloved Spartans earlier this week. Sorry to disappoint you guys. I don't have the clip, but I'm happy to help out.

You can find it here, via The House Rock Built. And you can find Mr. Valenti himself at the site for his radio show, where the rant is being discussed on the message boards.

Meanwhile, the audio clip/podcast I've been enjoying is Jason Whitlock's appearance on Detroit's other sports talk station, WDFN, yesterday. Fresh off his dismissal from ESPN, following some negative comments he made about Mike Lupica and Scoop Jackson to The Big Lead, Whitlock aired out some dirty laundry in his paper, the Kansas City Star, and has been making the rounds to various sports talk shows (including Gregg Henson's show in Philadelphia), aiming his six-shooters squarely at Lupica, Jackson, and... Mitch Albom.

On the podcast of his appearance on "Stoney & Wojo," listen to Mike Stone completely clam up (and get kind of miffed) once Whitlock starts taking shots at Albom (who Stone used to co-host a show with, back in the days before Detroit had 24-hour sports talk radio) for toeing the ESPN company line on the Barry Bonds steroids scandal. Whitlock can't resist bringing up Mitch's little mix-up with fabricating a story last year, saying Albom essentially "got busted for steroids" in his own industry.

(And while we're on the subject of ripping Mitch Albom, did you see the review of his new novel by Slate's Bryan Curtis? Whoo! That kind of thing leaves scars, man.)

Plenty more is discussed in the interview, which makes it worth a listen, but if you're pressed for time, it's toward the end of the podcast (part 4).

I haven't always been a fan of Whitlock's work (especially for his views on how Notre Dame treated Tyrone Willingham vs. Charlie Weis), but I do like that he's often willing to take some unpopular stances in the name of bringing an issue to light. (Unlike, say, Rob Parker, who does it simply for the sake of playing contrarian.) Maybe he sometimes tries too hard to be controversial, but his columns aren't usually boring to read.

(I remember when Whitlock worked at the Ann Arbor News and skewered Magic Johnson's butchering of the English language in his color commentary for the 1994 NBA Finals. As a young journalism student, I didn't think you could do that in print and still have a job the next day. Though I'm not sure anyone but Whitlock could've gotten away with it...)

I used to be a huge fan of "The Sports Reporters" on ESPN, though with the advent of sports talk radio, blogs, and daily programming such as "Pardon the Interruption," the show isn't nearly the novelty it was ten years ago. So I haven't watched in quite some time. And after listening to Whitlock's peek behind the curtain at how the producers (allegedly) dictate discussion, it might have to be a damn boring Sunday morning before I watch it again. That young journalism student sheds a tear as something else he once admired spirals down into the circular file of disappointment.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sniffling, Sneezing, Stuffy-Headed Men Endeavors

I've been fighting a nasty cold the last couple of days, which has rendered me near-comatose, and not at full blogging strength. (But I know I was slacking on posts before that. I'm not using being sick as an excuse. Well, not totally, anyway.)

I'm going to blame the Lions. Before I went to Ford Field to get some stuff for Motor City Sports, I was a thriving, virile, somewhat energetic young man. After watching the Lions lose to the Packers, and trolling for quotes in the locker room afterwards (a player talked to me!), I became sick a couple of days later. Coincidence? Or something more... ?

In the meantime, check out this sign I noticed across Beacon St. while trying to find my way to the media shuttle. ("Guys? Guys? Need a ride back to the parking garage! Please stop? Look, my tag says media, too!")

Maybe this is why Sprint sought me out for the Viral Blogger Sell-Out test program, along with Big Al. They wanted to buy me off, so I wouldn't stake a claim on "sweaty men." Right. That must be it. It's not like I'm enjoying playing with their new phone at all...

So I'm hoping one more night of Nyquil-induced coma slumber will do me good, and I'll be back in blogging shape, able to send out the week with a bang. After looking over my recent posts, I realize I haven't written anything about our mighty, playoff-bound Detroit Tigers - which is absolutely disgraceful. Well, it's embarrassing, at least.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Why John L. gets to wear the big headset

"Should we have probably used Jehuu more? Yes."

-- John L. Smith, Detroit News 09/26/06

So this is why football coaches often say they have to go back and look at the film, I take it?

Wow. I mean, I watched the game at home on my TV, and came to a very similar conclusion as Michigan State's head coach. Hell, I even made that assessment while the game was still being played.

There are surely many reasons MSU lost that game Saturday in embarrassing fashion to Notre Dame - and I've read and heard most of them.

I'll try not to follow Kirk Herbstreit and Desmond Howard, kick MSU while they're down, and say they're the only school in the country that would collapse like this. I have a few Spartan friends, and consoled them on Sunday and Monday. I was at the Lions game on Motor City Sports Magazine's credential, and as you might imagine, the collapse was the talk of the press lounge. Those in the media who are MSU alumni (and there are quite a few) were pretty damn angry - and sensitive.

But as long as I've watched football, I don't think I've ever understood why coaches, when their team runs out to a big lead, stops doing what established that margin in the first place.

Jehuu Cahlcrick was pretty much an unstoppable force on Saturday night, plowing between the tackles, mowing over anyone who got in his way. His size (6'0", 260 lbs.) and strength was overwhelming the Notre Dame defensive front seven. It was like watching a boulder flatten out Wile E. Coyote. He racked up 111 yards on only eight carries. Eight carries. And for almost the entire fourth quarter, he didn't touch the ball at all. You think he could've gotten a couple of first downs when the Spartans needed them most?

I'm not saying that's why MSU eventually lost the game. But I'd certainly tag it as evidence. Why did offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin steer away from what was so clearly working? John L. says it's because Notre Dame was bringing more defenders up the middle, and they preferred Javon Ringer running to the outside.

Sure, it's easy to look in hindsight and say that was obviously not the way to go. Even at the time, however, that seemed like a bad game plan, didn't it? I don't get it. But hey, that's why they get to wear the fancy headsets, I guess. I'm just listening to music with earbuds.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Can they win before Halloween?

So we're talking about at least an 0-5 start for the Lions, right?

As he explained at Monday's presser with the media, Sgt. Marinelli likes to break up the 16-game season into "quarters," and if there was one game the Lions could surely win in this first chunk, it had to be the Packers, right? At home?

So much for that. The Lions added a year to Brett Favre's career on Sunday. He was so happy on the field, jumping up and down, with arms raised. Why retire if he's guaranteed at least two games against Detroit per season?

Now what? There's a chance the Lions could win their next game at St. Louis. Mike Martz will surely want sweet, cold revenge against the team that told him his services were no longer required. But we know how the Honolulu Blue boys play on the road. And I'm sure the Rams wouldn't mind sticking it to their old head coach, either.

After that, it's Minnesota. How do you like their chances at the Metrodome? They should beat Buffalo at home, but they should've beaten Green Bay. And the Bills' are currently one of the better defensive teams in the NFL. At the New York Jets? Atlanta at home? What if they're 0-8 heading into their home game against the 49ers? That doesn't seem entirely unlikely, does it?

If you can bear it, I wrote some Game Balls & Extra Laps for your perusal over at the Motor City Sports website.

Otherwise, let's be thankful for the Detroit Tigers. At least one of the teams that plays on Brush St. has brought us some much-needed joy this season.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Sometimes, the rock pounds you

Anyone else ready to check out on the 2006 Detroit Lions if they lose to Green Bay (one of the very few NFL teams that actually looks worse than the Honolulu Blue) at Ford Field on Sunday?

After two weeks, I'm already riding the roller coaster with these guys, feeling optimistic after the Week 1 loss to Seattle, but finding Week 2's meltdown in Chicago all too familiar. The schedule's being nice to the Lions by sending the Packers to town, and the polite thing to do would be to acknowledge that kindness. (Actually, this is the beginning of what could be a nice soft spot in the schedule, if the Lions can manage to play well. Three of their four October games are on the road, however.)

Favre's always good for a couple of interceptions at whatever terrordome the Lions play their games in, right? Especially if the Lions' defensive line can crumble the pocket as they did against Seattle. Get Favre frustrated, push him into trying to force a play, squeeze a few bad throws into coverage, and voila!

This would also be an excellent time for the Detroit passing game to really click. Green Bay is near the bottom of the league in pass defense. If some of those passes start to connect, or receivers can break free over the middle, Mike Martz might finally have something to smile about. (Unfortunately, they're quite good against the run, so this probably won't be the week for Kevin Jones to find 100 yards.)

Would that mean that Mike Williams, Detroit's next first-round draft cut, might see the field on Sunday? It's not looking for Big Mike, judging from much of the chatter around town.

Yesterday, MLive.com's Tom Kowalski detailed several of the issues that make up the current "he said/they said" snipping going on between the Lions and their embattled wide receiver.

Meanwhile, why did Fox Sports Detroit edit Terry Foster's probing questions on Williams' lack of playing time out of the tape of Rod Marinelli's Monday press conference? The testy exchange between T-Fos and the Sarge may have been the best part of the presser. If you watched the live broadcast, you saw it. On tape, you didn't. Tinfoil hat, anyone?

By the way, the wide receiver corps is a total mess right now. Corey Bradford, maybe the team's biggest free-agent signing in the off-season, was benched last week because he's been botching pass routes. And Matt Millen supposedly called the Raiders to inquire about Jerry Porter. That's our Millen!

Soap opera aside, this should be the week the Lions get it done and give people a Monday morning smile. Much like The Sports Dude, I'm picking a win for our gridiron heroes.

Lions 24, Packers 13

Other quickies:

▪▪ Could the Lions really be on Monday Night Football? Well, they could at least be playing on a Monday night. And they'd have their Brush St. neighbors, the Detroit Tigers, to thank. If the Minnesota Twins end up winning the AL Central, they'd have home-field in the first round of the playoffs. And if that series went to a Game 5, it would be at the Metrodome, and the Twins have first dibs if there's a conflict.

▪▪ Hey kids! Want to read a blog from a Green Bay Packers rookie? Linebacker Abdul Hodge is posting a diary at the University of Iowa's student newspaper, The Daily Iowan. (Go Hawks!) Will he say anything about the Lions game next week?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Game Balls & Extra Laps

I tried to work up some healthy indignation over the Lions' 34-7 loss to the Bears on Sunday, but I just couldn't get it going. (Note to the current administration in Allen Park: This is the onset of apathy, and it's creeping in fast. Am I reflective of the general Detroit Lions' fan base? Well, that's something you should probably be trying to figure out.)

Big Al managed some good outrage over at The Wayne Fontes Experience, so I'll defer to him on this. (But he had the right idea last week, when he passed on watching the Lions.) What was most disheartening about the Lions' effort at Soldier Field is that it felt like watching a rerun. Didn't they leave a very similar steaming load of junk in Chicago at almost the exact same time last year?

I did manage, however, to type up some Game Balls & Extra Laps for the Motor City Sports website. Check 'em out, if you get a chance. The whole thing won't take too long to read. Trust me - how many Game Balls do you really think were handed out?

One more note: Our good friend Kevin Antcliff is back in the blogging business. (No, he didn't break that quickly. This was in the plans all along.) He has his own cheers and jeers for the Denver Broncos at the shiny, newly revamped Mile High Sports website. Stop by and give the K-Dog some love (especially for his theory on how much the Broncos miss Gary Kubiak).

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Blue is back

First off, an apology feels in order. I know this isn't MGoBlog, The M Zone, Michigan Sports Center, or another of the ever-growing number of sites largely centered on U-M sports. But several blogs out there link to me as a place to find commentary and the like on Michigan football, so if anyone clicked over here, looking for stuff on the Wolverines, I'm sorry for not holding up my end.

My excuses are lame, but I'll note them anyway. For the Vanderbilt game, I had a prior commitment and set my VCR to the wrong channel. (Yes, I still use a VCR. No TiVo or DVR in Casa de Casselberry yet.) So I saw nothing. And for the Central Michigan game, well, I fell asleep during that one-hour rain delay - some time after the third or fourth Bo Schembechler interview I heard. But really, was there much to say about those games?

Of course, that all changed this weekend.

Okay, seriously - who was expecting that? Even if you were optimistic enough to think Michigan could pull out a win at South Bend, you couldn't have been predicting a 26-point victory.

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

And really, does the point spread truly indicate just how thoroughly the Wolverines dominated the Irish? The only thing that ever kept this game close was a Chad Henne interception early in the game that tied the game at 7-7. From there, this was truly one of the most unexpectedly enjoyable victories I can remember. I don't think I put my fingernails in my mouth once the entire afternoon. What a pleasant surprise.

This was such a deep, powerful cleanse for the Michigan football program. You couldn't have found something this good at GNC, man. How light and unencumbered did you feel on Sunday morning? Everything that you wanted or could've hoped for was given to you on Saturday. Lloyd Carr's new offense and defense addressed plenty of questions and concerns - and emphatically so.

▪▪ Winless at Notre Dame Stadium since 1994? Forget that.

▪▪ A six-game losing streak in road openers? No longer relevant.

▪▪ What's wrong with Henne? He was rather inconsistent and inaccurate in his first two games, looking much like a quarterback who - despite Lloyd Carr's protestations to the contrary - appeared to be regressing in his progression.

One game can change a lot. He was on against the Irish, making good decisions, handling himself with cool poise, throwing with accuracy and touch, and perhaps most importantly, connecting on the deep patterns which were entirely missing from the Michigan game plan in the first two games. Was he really only 13-of-22 for 220 yards? It seemed like he threw for 400 yards. Of course, three touchdowns can do that to your perception. Speaking of those three touchdowns...

▪▪ Will anyone ever replace Braylon Edwards? Mario Manningham made quite a case for being Ann Arbor's Next Top Receiver, with those three scores. Terrail Lambert surely reduced to curling around the cool solace toilet in the Notre Dame locker room after being frequently victimized by Manningham. (Sorry, I just can't join Frank Beckmann in calling him "Super Mario." Even if the nickname fits, it's just too dorky for my liking.) In Lambert's defense, however, he didn't get juked out of his jockstrap like Ambrose Wooden did on that first 69-yard touchdown.

The only thing that came close to stopping Manningham was the Michigan marching band. He appeared to have suffered a wrist injury after that third touchdown catch just before halftime. But not even that would hold Manningham back. Get this stinkin' cast off my wrist! Unwrap this bandage with authority, my good teammate! That may have been as dominating a four-catch (only four?) performance as you'll ever see.

Any concerns about the defense were likely answered in the first two games, with Ron English molding his squad into the fast, aggressive, attacking unit Michigan fans wanted from Jim Herrmann for years. Even though the competition was Vanderbilt and CMU, it would've been hard to imagine Notre Dame scoring too many points on those guys. So at the very least, the defense would keep Michigan in the game, right?

That expectation changed almost right away, once Prescott Burgess took an interception 31 yards for a score. But would you have guessed that was only a precursor to the rest of the day? Michigan treated Brady Quinn like a kid with taped-up glasses on the first day of school. He was pushed, shoved, and hit constantly throughout the game. A clean dropback-and-throw was a rarity. The defense ripped the Heisman Trophy out of his hands and beat him over the head with it.

Is it an exaggeration to say Michigan hasn't abused a quarterback like that in a big game since Colorado's John Hessler was chewed up and spit out in 1997? (And c'mon, how many times did you mutter "1997" to yourself while watching that performance?) By the time Quinn had the ball slip out of his hand - a fumble which was returned for another touchdown - you almost had to feel sorry for the guy. Almost.

I'll admit it - I was greedy. I wanted fitty points on the board. I smelled blood and wanted to pour a whole fresh pack of O-Neg down my gullet. I was dreading the offense going into a shell to protect their lead in the second half. Fortunately, the running game was churning out so many yards that it never seemed like Michigan was easing off.

So for the rest of the week, at least, it's Gatorade showers and caviar dreams for Michigan football and its fans. Saturday's game was the beginning of a brutal stretch, however. If the Wolverines can get through the next four weeks unscathed, then they likely are as good as they looked against Notre Dame, which was like one of the best teams in the entire country. Suddenly, this football season looks like it could be a hell of a lot of fun.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Lighten up, Francis - it's football

Earlier this week, I expressed my admiration for Rod Marinelli's willingness to show some joy on the Lions sideline before (and during) Sunday's game with Seattle. I said that most football coaches, especially in the pros, were "often the most sour-pussed, irritable-looking cusses on the planet."

And it probably shouldn't, but this is something that drives me kind of crazy. Are 100-hour work weeks really necessary for a coach to succeed? Certainly, you don't want to leave any proverbial stone unturned. But really, man, how much film can a guy watch? How much classroom work can be done?

Justin Peters made some similar observations last week in Slate, mostly in response to Nick Saban's baffling brain freeze in Pittsburgh. Peters attributed Saban's lapse of reason to the hours he puts in at Dolphins Stadium, epidemic among virtually all NFL head coaches.

Judging by the hours they claim to put in, NFL head coaches have the most demanding job in the world—medical intern, first-year associate, meth tweaker, and 1920s-era trans-Atlantic pilot rolled into one. It's no surprise that the rate of attrition among head coaches is so high. A 2002 Pro Football Weekly series on coaches pinpointed two ways that the clipboard carriers could lower their blood pressure: retirement and death. With that in mind, it's perhaps understandable why coaches might want to seize every possible moment to do … whatever it is that they do.

What makes this more curious, Peters also notes, is that the men in charge arguably do less actual coaching than they ever have before, delegating many responsibilities to coordinators and position coaches.

Marinelli seems like the workaholic, sleep at team headquarters, kind of guy, and I'm sure that's exactly what the Lions and their fans want. The Sarge looks like a football coach. He's not the kind of guy you'd want starring in Ford commercials and hosting bocce ball tournaments. But given the project at hand, and his obvious intensity, you have to wonder if Sgt. Marinelli is also an excellent candidate for a quick trip to Burnout Land.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

In Roy we trust... ?

It's been the topic du jour on Detroit sports talk radio this week. Even ESPN gave it plenty of play on SportsCenter. Roy Williams has guaranteed a Lions victory over the Chicago Bears this Sunday, which makes me think that, well, maybe Roy's been smoking a bit of what Charles Rogers is often thought of enjoying during his down time.

I know I should be writing something about the Tigers and their continuing slide (so much for Tuesday's win starting a new trend), but they're kind of bumming me out right now. I need to feel better, and I think we all do. Tigers fans are just completely on edge these days, seemingly readying themselves for what would be a historic collapse. I don't know how you guys were raised, but in the Casselberry home, my mother taught me that nothing makes you feel better about yourself than making fun of other people.

It's not that I think Roy deserves ridicule for showing some confidence in himself and his teammates. As Herman Edwards once memorably scolded, you play to win the game. Right? It's just that, well, I'm not sure Roy is the most reliable source on this one.

I wrote a totally in-depth investigative piece on Roy's prognostication skills for the Motor City Sports Magazine website, which you can find here. Roy's made a few other predictions over the past few years, it seems, and let's just say if he was a gambler, he'd be homeless. But I should really let you make that judgment for yourself. Click away!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

They're pulling me back in...

I was prepared for the worst. I didn't think Sunday's game against Seattle was going to be pretty. I thought the Seahawks would come into Ford Field (hopefully, with better entrance music than "Bittersweet Symphony"), remind each other they lost Super Bowl XL in that building, and crush the Lions like a bowl of holiday walnuts.

So what am I supposed to think now, after the lovable Leos lost by only three points to the defending NFC champions? I'm looking at that bowl of Kool-Aid. The cup is in my hand. Do I reach for that ladle and fill it up or not?

Maybe some of you thought the Lions would play the Seahawks that close. If so, you're certainly smarter than me. But you couldn't have predicted that kind of performance from the Detroit defense. Not after what we saw in the pre-season, when draw plays were guaranteed first downs for the opposition, receivers were allowed to run clear down the field unchallenged, and special teams players were starting alongside Ernie Sims at linebacker.

The defensive line was damn close to dominant. (And I'm not just talking about the two blocked field goals.) If Steve Hutchinson makes that much of a difference for Seattle's offensive line (and I think many of us would've guessed that), then the Seahawks front office should tell Deion Branch to keep his bags packed, ship him and a first-round pick (if that's even enough) to the Vikings, and wait by the phone with fingers crossed.

Or maybe... maybe Detroit's front four is just really that good. Is that possible? Matt Hasselbeck was running around for cover like Jeff Garcia last year. Shaun Rogers and James Hall were in his face all day. Not only was Tyoka Jackson's name mentioned on the broadcast, but it was because he made some big plays. Maybe Rod Marinelli should coach those guys every gameday. (Just watch it when you go for some drive-thru munchies, Coach Joe.)

Thousands of fantasy football players wept when they saw Shaun Alexander's rushing totals. And it wasn't just the D-line's work, in that case. As Evan pointed out in the comments, Ernie Sims was ready for him on virtually every carry (and yes, Evan, he totally deserved a Game Ball). The linebacking play might have been the most surprising aspect of the game. Who were those guys out there flying to the ball?

Yet the Lions did still lose the game, and you have to pin that on the offense. And I thought a Mike Martz offense got at least six points just by rolling out of bed on Sunday morning. But I think Sunday's game was a great example of just how much talent matters. Good (great?) coaching - and it looked like Sgt. Marinelli and his staff did a hell of a job coaching his guys up - will only take a team so far. Eventually, you need some guys to make key plays. And I'm not sure the Lions have that yet.

Read more of "They're pulling me back in"...

The passing game looked out of sync all day, with several of Jon Kitna's throws landing just ahead of his receivers, and those same receivers making their breaks just a second too late. (I'll have more on Roy Williams' little guarantee tomorrow, but when you go back and watch that game, you can see what he's getting at. If a few of those catches are made, it may have been a whole different ballgame. I know - "what if?") Kitna did get some good pass protection, however, which was a pleasant surprise.

But the offensive line was terrible with the running attack. Kevin Jones barely had a hole to run through. When he did get some space, he usually churned out some yardage. On most of his carries, however, there was a tackler - often, many tacklers - waiting for him. Jones showed a lot of moxie by fighting for yards, never going down easily, and earning the love and respect of Lions fandom. Yet he had to come out of the game for a blow several times because knocking heads with defenders just got too tiring.

It's hard to knock him, but sometimes, KJ is a little frustrating to watch because he never seems able to make a play on his own. Again, his line wasn't doing him any favors. But there are times when a running back has to do it on his own. Break it to the outside. Cut back against the flow of the play. You'd love to see what KJ could do with a credible run-blocking unit in front of him. Yet I occasionally wonder if his apparent lack of "wiggle" is the one thing keeping him from being an elite runner.

And while I'm nitpicking, let's talk about Roy Williams. Roy, not every ball thrown to you is going to be perfect. Sometimes, you have to jump for a catch. Other times, you might have to dive. I can only imagine how those turf burns hurt. But the great ones do that. They don't just reach. Or give up on a ball that's thrown just a bit too far. They get in there and fight for the ball like there's money stuffed in it. And occasionally, those guys even make a catch over the middle when they know they're going to hit - and hit hard.

Go ask your teammate, Mike Furrey, about that. Did you see that 19-yard catch he made in the second quarter? Ken Hamlin nailed the poor guy, but he still held on to the ball and got a first down. I know, Roy - you've made some pretty one-handed catches while you've been in Detroit. But I'll go so far as to say that's the best catch a wide receiver has made since Matt Millen took over this team and subjected us to the likes of Bill "Please Hammer, Don't Hurt Me" Schroeder.

(I see the Lions brought back Az Hakim today. But you know what? The guy was never better than when he played in Martz's offense, so why not give it a go? Not sure where he'll will play, though. I'm liking Furrey in the slot, as mentioned above.)

Maybe I'm being too hard on Roy. Maybe I'm underestimating him, and he's just one of those guys who makes it look so easy, so effortless, that it looks like he's not trying. But it's not difficult to see he could be a special player. You just have to wonder whether he really wants to become that guy.

One more note on the game, and it's in response to something else Evan said in the comments: I'm very close to sold on Rod Marinelli. The Sarge had me the moment he plugged in his headset and a big grin broke out on his face. And how about that first Seattle kick was blocked? How often do you see that kind of joy from a football coach? They're often the most sour-pussed, irritable-looking cusses on the planet. Yet Marinelli looked like there was no place he'd rather be than on that sideline on Sunday. And I imagine that has a tremendous effect on his players, even when he tells them their effort wasn't quite good enough.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Game Balls & Extra Laps

I'll have plenty more to say about the Lions' 9-6 loss to Seattle tomorrow. (Eno has something up, though.) But for now, with something of a deadline crunch, please allow me to point over to some quick hitters I wrote for the Motor City Sports website.

Who deserves a Game Ball? Who should run Extra Laps in practice this week? And who might look better or worse after looking at the game tape? Check it out, if you get a chance. It might be a regular feature if it's popular with the kids.

(So let me get this straight: the Tigers lost by 11, and the Lions lost by three? What's wrong with that picture?)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

This has to be a joke

Is today's Jeremy Bonderman-Johan Santana match-up really not on TV in Detroit today?!

Seriously? Whose #@$%ing idea was that?

You have to be kidding. Do the Lions still have so much play in this area that FSN or TV20 said, "Thanks, but no thanks"?!

So what you're telling me is that I have no choice but to watch the Lions all afternoon.

This is making me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry...

Maybe it's just as well, so I can be spared the pain of watching Detroit lose their third in a row at the Metrodome.

What a weekend this is turning out to be.


Friday, September 08, 2006

The train wreck begins Sunday at 1 p.m.

Given how interested I was in last night's Dolphins-Steelers game, I might be more ready for football than I thought. (Actually, I think I just enjoyed watching a sporting event that I wasn't agonizing over, as I'd been with the Tigers for the past month.)

Unfortunately, the start of the NFL season means our beloved Honolulu Blue-clad gridiron gladiators - the Detroit Lions - must also begin playing. And I believe I'm with the rest of the crowd (other than The Sports Dude, who clearly found some wacky tobacky during his vacation up north); I can't remember being less excited about a new pro football season. I think this could be very, very ugly - especially for the first few weeks of the schedule.

I'm actually less optimistic now than when I wrote a Lions Preview for Motor City Sports Magazine, which is now posted at the mag's brand new website. Back then, I was so young, fresh, and full of hope, still excited about what Mike Martz's new offense might offer. (Yet I still predicted a 6-10 record.) Now, especially after watching their efforts during the pre-season, I feel much like I often do before family dinners at the holidays. I don't even want to deal with it.

Two of Matt Millen's first-round draft picks - who were supposed to be cornerstones for the team - have been told to leave. The new head coach is flying his team cross-country mere hours before they play a game. And one of his assistants is ordering Wendy's single combos with no clothes on.

I'm still intrigued by the Lions' new offense. The most exciting moment of the off-season was when Martz joined the coaching staff. Even though Roy Williams seems to be the only player who could remotely be considered a superstar, I like Martz's track record of creating an offense worth watching. And really, could it possibly be worse than anything Steve Mariucci's staff drew up?

The defense, however, nearly has me curled up in the fetal position. I just don't think Rod Marinelli and Donnie Henderson have the players that can make their scheme work. What the hell happened to that linebacker corps? And did you see what Randy Moss did to Detroit's secondary in a pre-season game? If the defensive line can't make plays, this thing could be scarier than The Exorcist.

While I consider whether or not I'd be better off going to the movies on Sunday, here are what others are predicting for the Ford Field Follies:
  • The Armchair Quarterback picks the Lions to finish 3rd in the NFC North.
  • So does Complete Sports.
  • Salon.com's King Kaufman has Detroit finishing in last place.
  • Bill Simmons gives the Lions a thumbs-up for hiring Mike Martz.
  • The Gatorade Dump is spiked, looking at a first-place finish (11-5!).
  • Sports Illustrated's Peter King is apparently dipping in The Sports Dude's stash, and is looking at a 9-7 record. (Best case scenario, 11-5? Is he #@$ing kidding?)
  • King's colleague, Dr. Z, proves much more rational with his 6-10 prediction.

Blogger invasion extras

As a follow-up to Wednesday's post about the soggy bloggy field trip to Comerica Park, others in the gang have chimed in. Check out Billfer's post at The Detroit Tigers Weblog and Brian's at Beyond Boxscores.

But the best description of the excursion might belong to our little Samela, at Roar of the Tigers. She definitely captured the tone of the evening well. Reading her post made me feel like I was there getting soaked (and touting the virtues of Neifi) again. I was laughing all night.

More than words, however, Samela brings us pictures - and some damn gorgeous ones, to boot. The hour-and-a-half rain delay obviously gave her ample opportunity to stretch her photographer wings.

You can see the best of the bunch at Sam's Flickr page, including this guy who may or may not have really been Fernando Vina.

That could be him, right? Maybe he's gotten a bit thicker since he's not playing. Who else would wear that shirt?

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Like stripes on the fur coat of a tiger...

▪▪ When Mike McClary suggested Magglio Ordonez play more at DH during The Daily Fungo Podcast roundtable a couple of weeks ago, I asked where Dmitri Young would play. Obviously, that problem's been taken care of. And Marcus Thames showed what he'll do with more playing time last night, didn't he?

▪▪ If you didn't catch it already, Terry Foster's mole in the Tigers clubhouse has reopened the lines of communication. Some interesting thoughts about Maggs in there, as well.

▪▪ Jon Paul Morosi and Drew Sharp have more on the situation - and the question of how Young's demeanor affected team chemistry - in today's Detroit Free Press.

▪▪ Tom Gage, Lynn Henning, and the aforementioned Foster quote three (anonymous) team sources - each of whom say they're not surprised by Young's seemingly abrupt release - in the Detroit News.

▪▪ I've joked about this in several places now, but if cutting DaMeatHook had this effect on the Tigers, Dave Dombrowski should consider re-signing him over the weekend and then cutting him again. Here's your obvious question of the day: How big a win was that?

▪▪ Did Justin Verlander strengthen his case for AL Rookie of the Year last night? Billfer thinks so. And is he actually getting stronger late in the season?

▪▪ In his online column for the Washington Post, Thomas Boswell doesn't imply that Ryan Church could be the player to be named later in the Nationals' deal for Nook Logan. But if he's fallen out of favor in D.C. as Nook looks better in center, maybe that's the guy the Tigers should be interested in. (Boz believes the Nats should hold onto Church, however.)

[Edited at 6:30 p.m.]


After further review, I still hate it

Philosophically, I like the idea of instant replay. If a referee misses something on the field, why not take advantage of the available technology to make sure the correct call is made? After last season, however, I became increasingly convinced that it doesn't work well enough - either in the NFL or college football. I realize it's expecting too much for a system to be perfect, and what's in place now might be better than nothing. But if instant replay can't truly serve its purpose, then I'd just as soon see it ditched altogether.

To me, the latest glaring example of the system's flaws took place in last night's Dolphins-Steelers game. The outcome turned on an 87-yard touchdown catch-and-run from Charlie Batch (who looks much better with some hair on his head, by the way) to tight end Heath Miller. However, television replays clearly showed that Miller stepped out of bounds just past the 2-yard line. The touchdown should not have counted. And with instant replay, the correct call would be made, right?

Well, no. The play was never officially reviewed because the referees didn't see Dolphins coach Nick Saban throw his red challenge flag onto the field. And once the ball was snapped for Pittsburgh's extra point, it was too late to go back and look at the tape.

Doesn't that seem ludicrous to you? The Dolphins quite possibly lost that game because the officials didn't see Saban toss his little red flag.

Of course, you could fault Saban for his tentative, seemingly embarrassed attempt at issuing a replay challenge. Maybe it was chaos inside his headphones with various coaches arguing as to whether or not the play should be disputed. And given the point of the game, perhaps there was greater concern over losing a time-out. If the referees are to be believed, they tried to give Saban as much time as they could to decide.

Judging from his body language, it almost looked as if Saban didn't quite believe the Dolphins had a case, and finally just thought, "Oh, okay - I guess I might as well give it a try." But c'mon, even Marty Mornhinweg used to throw that challenge flag with more authority! Saban should've run right up to an official to make his case - or better yet, run onto the field. You think Bill Cowher would've just let a play like that slide? He might've tackled an official, if it meant getting a review before the next snap!

If the challenge wasn't a moot point once the extra point was kicked, it certainly became one after Joey Porter returned an interception 42 yards for a touchdown to seal the game. (Nice kiss, by the way.)

So maybe the system works, and it just didn't appear to because of Saban's hesitance. But I'm certainly not convinced. Too many reviews were botched during last year's pro and college post-seasons. And after seeing what happened last night, I'm extremely wary of the instant replays to come.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

I'm gettin' too old for this $#!+

When was it decreed that the "NFL Kickoff" now has to begin with a #@$%ing concert? Did anyone else sit down to watch football at 8 pm, only to be horrified at Rich Eisen's introduction? "And now performing for you live... Diddy!"

Okay, so maybe I should've looked at my TV Guide, to see that the "NFL Kickoff Special" would be on first.

Still, I hate this $#!+. Look, if P-Diddly wasn't good enough to play the Miami Sharks' quarterback in Any Given Sunday, then I don't want him rapping on a football field either, okay?

Why aren't I watching Tigers-Twins? That's a good question. Where'd my clicker go... ?

(Image from "Heart of the City" © 2006 Mark Tatulli)

EDIT (8:30 pm): But I have to say, I like looking at Pink a hell of a lot more than Hank Williams, Jr. And though they altered the lyrics to fit the NFL's opening night, I wholeheartedly endorse the use of a Joan Jett song for football broadcasts. That chick rocks, man. I hope NBC keeps using that song all season.

Sir, keep your hands where I can see them!

Okay, there have to be more constructive, less disruptive methods for Detroit Lions coaches to blow off steam after the workday ends. They might be getting a little too high-strung over in Allen Park, if Joe Cullen's recent shenanigans (such a frivolous word probably shouldn't apply) are any indication.

If you haven't heard or read about this already (I was informed earlier this evening by our Rocky Mountain Bureau Chief, Kevin Antcliff) here's the lead from the AP:

"DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) -- A Detroit Lions assistant coach was arrested twice in the past two weeks -- once while police say he was driving nude and a week later on suspicion of drunken driving.

Police in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn said Joe Cullen, who coaches the team's defensive line, was pulled over Aug. 24 and ticketed on suspicion of indecent and obscene conduct."

Go ahead and read that last part of the introductory sentence - the one after the dashes - again. I'll wait.

Okay, you back with me?

Here's a little more clarification from the Detroit Free Press:

"... a Dearborn police ticket describes the coach as “driving on public street without any clothes on. (NUDE).”

Just in case you didn't quite catch that, the coach was driving around Dearborn NAKED. Au naturel. Starkers. In his birthday suit. What was between his buttocks and the upholstery? Nothing!

This happened the night before the Lions were set to fly out to Oakland on the same day as their pre-season game with the Raiders. See, we're not the only ones who thought that was a bad idea, apparently.

If you go to the Lions' official site, a picture isn't listed with Cullen's bio. And maybe now we know why. How was he dressed for the photo shoot? Perhaps... not at all?

At least "Frank the Tank" didn't get behind the wheel. And really, only his wife was embarrassed when he went streaking. "Joe the Show" is another story altogether. Yep. This is taking a whole organization into the news. That's a whole different bag of... um, you know what I mean.

In a statement released by the Lions, Cullen apologized for a "mistake in judgment." Is that what the kids are calling it these days?

I was under the impression that "mistake in judgment" applied to circumstances like, say, not bringing a raincoat to Comerica Park on Tuesday night when rain was in the forecast. I think we need to come up with a better description here. The more euphemistic, the better, of course.

And you thought you were stressed out about the Lions' season beginning on Sunday. Man.

Let's not entirely make light of the situation, however. It's incredibly fortunate that Cullen didn't hurt anyone - or himself. The man obviously has some serious issues to deal with, and is now seeking treatment for his problems, so he probably doesn't deserve to be kicked while he's down.

Having said that, in the interests of safety and health for both Cullen and the rest of the Lions coaching staff, I'd like to leave a couple of links to suggest other ways of relaxing after work.

I'm no doctor, nor do I run a professional website, but I'd like to offer a few ideas of my own. Swedish massage, for instance. Or maybe the Japanese stuff. You know - shiatsu. (Actually, I hear the Thai stuff ends pretty well, if you know what I mean. And I think you do.)

How about running? No, not like Frank the Tank. Put some running shorts on, for Millen's sake. Maybe staying inside with a treadmill would work better. Or just do yoga instead.

Think about trying a hobby. My friend Mis Hooz finds knitting very therapeutic. Or cooking. That works for me. Even more so, when I think about Rachael Ray while I'm preparing dinner.

You know, a good puzzle sometimes does the trick. Go for some Sudoku. Or a crossword puzzle. And hey, Mike Mussina does those, so that sport-o image can be maintained.

Or just sit back and watch some good ol' sitcoms on TV. That 70's Show is pretty funny stuff. Man, the laughter just makes that tension melt away. Oh, that Fez is so effeminate!

The point is that there are better ways to dial it down once it's time to go home. I understand that the Lions' coaching staff might be frustrated on Sunday evenings after their games. But don't take it out on your fellow citizens. That's what sports talk radio is for. Go call Mike Valenti on 'XYT, man. Just don't get hammered, step into your car naked, and start driving.

If that's not the lesson for the day, then I just haven't done my job as a blogger. Oh, and stay in school. Don't be a fool.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Blogger invasion at Comerica Park

Call it The Detroit Blog-Down. Or maybe the Motor City Spiel-Down. Whatever. Bloggers were out in full force last night at Comerica Park, taking over the first row of section 212 in the right-field mezzanine. The '27 Yankees can keep their Murderer's Row. I'll take these guys instead.

Who was in the bunch? Billfer, who organized the whole CoPa klatsch. The Bleacher Guy (efforts are apparently under way for a legal name change). Brian from Beyond Boxscores. Big Al was in Da Hizzey! Eno dropped by for a bit. And the woman responsible for the following photograph, who endured being the only female and youngest of the gang, Ms. Samela (to whom I apologized profusely and frequently for sticking her with that nickname) of Roar of the Tigers, rounded out our super-team.

From left to right, we have Rob, Brian, me, Bill, Greg, and Sam waiting out a rain delay. Big Al joined us later on - unfortunately, after this photo was taken.

And let me clarify, that is NOT sweat staining/soaking my shirt. (Actually, from a distance, it almost looks like stripes on the shirt, doesn't it? So just pretend.) Just because the blog is titled "Sweaty Men Endeavors" doesn't mean I take it that seriously in public. That is rain, people. Check your game recaps. Clearly, the only people who took their weather forecasts seriously were Brian and Samela. Smart kids. I spent the rest of the night worrying I'd come down with something.

Anyway, it was a great time at the ballpark (and Nemo's beforehand). Very cool to meet everyone, and put faces to blogs. And a lot of joking around. Popular punching bag of the night: Neifi Perez, who could become the Tigers' Chuck Norris (at least on defense) if any of our jokes were committed to paper or recording. Oh, well.

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Against my better judgment?

After playing fantasy football for the first time last season, I knew I'd only want more this year. I thought I'd cut myself off at two teams, but once Pradamaster invited me to join The Ultimate Bloggers Fantasy Football League, I remembered that good things come in threes.

I just posted my draft post-mortem on the league's blog, but in a nutshell, I'm pretty happy with my team (except for the QBs). I don't think any of us were pleased with NFL.com's draft and roster restrictions (can only start two receivers, can't load up on reserves until all the starting positions are filled), but we all had to deal with them, so it's not like anyone gained an advantage. If you weren't able to attend the draft, however, NFL.com's player rankings really screwed you. Don't believe me? Ask twins15, who had the Steelers defense auto-picked for him in the 2nd round.

But the league should be a lot of fun, and I'm looking forward to playing with those guys. (Don't worry - I'll save my fantasy football angst for the league's blog.) Man, I'm not getting anything done this fall...

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

If you think you had a bad weekend...

Didn't have anything to do? Maybe the food or turnout at your end-of-summer cookout was disappointing? Hey, at least you weren't Michael Barrett of the Chicago Cubs.

Here are two words that could have men across the country curling up in the fetal position today: intrascrotal hematoma.

In layman's terms, Barrett was suffering from internal bleeding in his scrotum. You may now go find a piece of wood to bite down upon.

Barrett needed emergency surgery for that condition after taking a foul ball to the cookies in Saturday's game versus the Giants.

How tough is Barrett? After his clockweights were assaulted by the ricochet from Matt Cain's bat, Barrett stayed in the game. He even went to bat in the bottom of the inning. (!!!) Eventually, however, Barrett succumbed to the pain that would surely have felled most any other man in a similar situation.

From MLB.com:

"That's a tough one there -- that one might be the toughest one," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "He said, 'Bake, I'm feeling sick, I'm hurting badly.' He tried to tough it out. I don't remember it happening. There are so many foul tips coming back to the catcher."

I'd like to say Barrett has some... well, you know. But actually, he might not anymore. We'll see. Here's a photo of him demonstrating how many he hopes to still have when this is all over.

As you might imagine, Barrett will very likely miss the rest of the season. The prayers and get well wishes of the planet earth's entire male populace are with you, Michael. Along with several bags of ice.