Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Sporting Noobs Podcast - Episode #05

Someday, this podcasting thing will go smoothly for me and Kevin.

We thought we had one in the bag this week, only to find out - much to my shrieking horror - that I somehow botched the recording. Best guess? I forgot to hit the "Record" button. Nice podcasting, Poindexter.

A second attempt, unfortunately, wasn't going to happen as Kevin finally succumbed to the flu bug afflicting the Antcliff home.

So Episode #05 of The Sporting Noobs Podcast has me flying solo once again, armed only with bad sound effects (one of which K-Dog hoped he'd never hear again) as I tried to come up worth 20 minutes of your time.

First topic is the quarterback shuffles in the NFL. Jay Cutler's taking over in Denver, but should Jake Plummer have been the only QB to lose his job going into Week 13?

After that, it's the BCS: Should USC have hopped over Michigan in the standings? And I just had to rant about Notre Dame's bogus #10 ranking (No, it's not that I think they should be higher - believe me), while getting a long-time pet peeve about the Irish and the Big Ten off my chest.

Of course, it wouldn't be The Sporting Noobs Podcast if it didn't end with Game Balls and Extra Laps. Who took a ball home, and who had to stay after practice?

You can download the show through Libsyn or iTunes. (And if you like what you hear, please leave some positive feedback at the iTunes Store. Affirmation ain't a bad thing.)

Please say hello and sign up for the weekly Noobsletter at noobsletter@thesportingnoobs.com. You can also join the club at thesportingnoobs.com.

Back at full strength next week! Let's hope we get it on the first try. Thanks for listening!

▪▪ This week's plug: My friend Miko's band, The Cashiers.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Cracks in that crystal ball

Okay, I'm probably about a week late on this, but now that all of the Major League Baseball awards have been announced, I figured it might be funny to go over the predictions I made for the 2006 season, which I posted two days before Opening Day. (Because you know if I'd gotten 'em all right, I'd be bragging about that...)

The one pick I'm thrilled to have been dead wrong on was the Detroit Tigers' won-loss total. At the time, I thought I was being far too optimistic by predicting 85 wins, and a third-place standing in their division. What a homer, right? Well, the Tigers actually won 10 more games, finishing 95-67 and winning the AL Wild Card spot.

(I did say, however, that the Tigers would be competitive if they got good play in center field from Curtis Granderson. I didn't have solid numbers to back that up, just kind of a belief based on a lifetime of watching Detroit baseball.)

Here's how my AL Central picks compared to reality:

1. Chicago Minnesota
2. Cleveland Detroit
3. Detroit Chicago
4. Minnesota Cleveland
5. Kansas City

Hey, at least I got the Royals right. And I thought the White Sox would repeat as World Series champions. Oops.

But I also picked the Yankees and A's to win their divisions. Actually, my success rate was the same in the National League, where I picked the Mets and Cardinals, but missed on the Dodgers in the AL West, who finished behind the Padres. Not bad. Yet I had Atlanta getting the NL Wild Card spot (Why? Because they always make it to the playoffs!), and Toronto in the AL. Not so good.

When it came to the individual awards, that's where I did my worst work. Got 'em all wrong, in fact. And I may very well have established a curse with my Cy Young Award predictions. Get some rabbits' feet for the poor schmucks I pick next year.

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez Justin Morneau
NL MVP: Carlos Delgado Ryan Howard
AL Cy Young: Rich Harden Johan Santana
NL Cy Young: Mark Mulder Brandon Webb

Wow, that stinks. Did I really pick someone other than Johan Santana? And Mark Mulder? What the #@$% was I thinking? See where trying to be different gets you? Thankfully, I didn't try to completely embarrass myself by predicting the Rookies of the Year in each league. (But if I pick a Florida Marlin in the NL next year, I might have a shot at being right.)

So I guess I'll try again next year. And maybe try to pick up a different crystal ball at a garage sale. Bah.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Carlos Guillen - you have DIBS

At one point or another, perhaps you've noticed the list of websites under the DIBS banner on the sidebar here. (Unless you happen to belong to DIBS, in which case you already know about this stuff.) To paraphrase from the press release at Tigers Central, "DIBS" stands for "Detroit Independent Baseball Scribes" and is a grouping of independent blogs and websites that cover the Detroit Tigers. The community was the brainchild of Brian Borawski, Bill Ferris, and Ryan Sosin, who wanted to gather the various fans and writers producing independent sports coverage online.

In its second year of existence, the ranks of DIBS has grown, as many more sites and blogs popped up to cover the growing appetite for Tigers-related material. For instance, Sweaty Men Endeavors. I didn't start this blog until fall of 2005 (um, Happy Blog-iversary to me?), toward the end of another disappointing baseball season. Besides the fact that SME hit the scene with approximately 1/6 of the schedule remaining, I just didn't write much about the Tigers. I was all about the football. But during the winter, Billfer extended the hand of community and friendship and I gladly embraced it. (That is to say, I shook it. Figuratively. Over e-mail.)

Anyway, that's a really long-winded introduction to the point of this post, which is that each of the DIBS members got together and nominated their choices for Tigers Player of the Year, Pitcher of the Year, and Breakout Player of the Year. And since the Tigers had that nice World Series run, a selection for Post-Season Performer was also made. Here are the winners:

DIBS Player of the Year: Carlos Guillen

I believe that Guillen received first-place votes from everyone except... me. Yeah, I voted for Kenny Rogers. I know he's not an everyday player, but I thought Rogers made the biggest difference on this 2006 team, giving the team - especially the pitching staff - the guidance and leadership it'd been sorely lacking. But it's not like I'd argue with Guillen. He was the Tigers' best everyday player.

DIBS Pitcher of the Year: Kenny Rogers

Closer vote than I might have predicted here. Justin Verlander got his fair share of first-place votes, too. Joel Zumaya also received one.

DIBS Breakout Player of the Year: Justin Verlander

Also something of a close vote here, with Zumaya and Curtis Granderson getting some votes. I voted for Zumaya, which seems kind of silly with Verlander winning the AL Rookie of the Year award. But I was trying to look at the term "breakout" a bit more literally, and though Zumaya was considered a top prospect in the Tigers' organization, he really seemed to come out of nowhere and became the player everyone wanted to see. We got a taste of Verlander and Granderson in 2005.

DIBS Post-Season Performer: Kenny Rogers

Almost unanimous here, except for the one first-place vote going to Sean Casey. Hard to argue, since Casey was seemingly the only one who brought his bat to the World Series. But Rogers taking the mound at Comerica Park this post-season was a sure thing.

I'd like to thank Billfer for inviting me into what has become a damn fine collection of bloggers and webmasters. I think we've all raised the level of discourse surrounding the Tigers, and made writing a hell of a lot of fun. And as I've written here before, meeting several of the other DIBS members at a Tigers game in September was some of the most fun I had this season. I hope we get to do it again next year. A tip of the hat to everyone involved.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

The revenge of Joey

It might have been the most predictable outcome on the Detroit Lions' 2006 schedule. When you ran down the games and saw Miami as the Thanksgiving Day opponent, you knew there was a possibility that Joey Harrington could come back and stick it to his former team (if he, not Daunte Culpepper, was the Dolphins' starter by then).

Some of you may have thought the Lions would have a chance to crush Joey, showing him that he was never right for this town. If you fall into this category, you really haven't been paying attention, and should brush your teeth because they're stained with Honolulu Blue Kool-Aid.

But then the Lions really began to ask for a beating, making things worse by trying to rattle their former quarterback during pre-game introductions. The Dolphins requested that their defense be introduced - surely to prevent the Ford Field crowd from booing Harrington - and the Lions almost accommodated them.

But they just couldn't resist poking an elbow at Joey, announcing his name to the fans. And they didn't just do that, either. The introduction was accompanied by Billy Joel's "Piano Man." Get it? Joey likes to play the piano. (And as I once wrote in a column for Motor City Sports Magazine, Detroit fans don't really dig that. Ask Grant Hill about that, too.) Oh, the Lions were giving the crowd an appetizer of hijinks to tide them over until they went home to their Thanksgiving feasts.

Of course, if Harrington actually had been rattled and taken out of his game by these tactics, maybe it would've been seen as a devious move by the Lions. But since Joey essentially dropped a grand piano on his former team with three touchdown passes, the pre-game frivolity ended up looking desperate and unprofessional.

But it's sad and it's sweet, and I knew it complete...

After being exposed like a bully who had his shoelaces tied together by the smart kid before a fight, the Lions said the attempt to embarrass Harrington was "an unfortunate error," one that was apparently unauthorized by upper management. And as a result, the team says it will be changing the way game-day operations are run, likely with management exercising a bit more control over the production of things such as pre-game introductions. Or that was just the right thing to say while wiping egg off of their collective faces. Who knows?

So if management is saying "wasn't me," who does this fall on? I interviewed Lions public address announcer Terry Braverman for a magazine piece almost two months ago, and think it's safe to assume this wouldn't have been his idea. He takes his job pretty damn seriously, and cares a great deal about his professionalism. (And anyone familiar with his work in the same capacity for Michigan State University would say the same thing.) The script for introductions, promotions, and announcements is given to him beforehand, and he goes over it with the production staff. Now that's not to say he's Ron Burgundy, and just reads whatever is put in front of him.

I'd hesitate to call out Bryan Bender, the Lions' director of broadcasting and promotion, for this, too - though this might end up at his feet. I set up my interview with Braverman through Bender, and in the interests of full disclosure, he helped me out quite a bit. But he's another guy who's concerned about professionalism, and wanted to make sure I wasn't just writing some fruity-tooty, "He talks into a microphone - whee!" kind of article.

It's certainly possible that somebody just decided to slip that stuff in a little while before game-time. Or maybe all this stuff just didn't seem that bad when going over it. Maybe it was seen as fun and good-natured. Oh, if only the Lions had won the game...

(Meanwhile, Joey wore the proverbial $#!+-eating grin in post-game interviews, calling the Lions' introduction "clever.")

Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness... But it's better than drinkin' alone...

So can we get back to the really important stuff? Like seriously ratcheting up the "Fire Millen" talk again? I'll save that for another post, but it's long past time the Lions pulled the plug on this total traveshamockery, isn't it? Light the torches and keep them blazing until the merciful end of this season.

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While we were sleeping...

It appears that Michigan State University hired a new head football coach. By the time you read this, it may have already happened (and you surely go elsewhere on the internet and blogosphere to read anything MSU-related, as this might be the first Spartans-related item I've written here).

But if you've been keeping track of this thing, there have been quite a few bouncing balls to follow. LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini. Miami Dolphins' receivers coach Charlie Baggett. (Surely, the rumor mill surged around him this weekend, with the Dolphins in Detroit.) Philadelphia Eagles' QB coach Pat Shurmur.

Cleveland Browns' defensive coordinator Todd Grantham seemed like he was the guy a couple of weeks ago, and an announcement was just a formality. Then he was out (possibly because MSU was dragging its feet on a decision). Then he may have been in again. But now, he's out.

Some people wanted Central Michigan head coach Brian Kelly, who built a Division II powerhouse at Grand Valley State and is seen by many as a fast-rising coaching star. But it looks like he's going to take the job at Iowa State. (Having lived in Iowa, I'll say that Iowa State isn't a better job than MSU, but it could be a better stepping stone. And given the way the Big 12 is set up, the Cyclones probably have a better chance to contend faster in the conference's North division.)

Am I missing anyone else? Former Detroit Lions coach (now NFL Total Access co-host) Steve Mariucci? Florida defensive coordinator Charlie Strong? New York Jets' running back coach Jimmy Raye?

Oh yeah - the guy MSU is actually going to hire: Cincinnati head coach Mark Dantonio. The Enlightened Spartan says so. So does the Detroit News.

And given his pedigree - with names like Saban and Tressel on it, and the gold star of being Ohio State's defensive coordinator for its 2002 national championship team - he might just be exactly the right choice for the Spartans. He was at Michigan State during its most recent run of success. He has all kinds of recruiting ties in the Midwest, and understands this area. He's a defensive guy, not someone who's going to bring in some wacky gimmick offense.

But it's the Tressel and Ohio State points on his resume that might be most important (at least from a Michigan fan's point of view). And that bit of nervousness is what makes MSU alumni like my buddy (and former roommate) Rob pretty happy about the choice. Of course, that could depend on what Dantonio says in his introductory press conference, and whether or not he chooses to define his program in comparison to Michigan.

EDIT (10 a.m.): It's now official, according to the Lansing State Journal. No fireworks, no politics - the MSU Board of Trustees approved Dantonio smoothly (which was hardly a given, according to rumblings, with up to three different factions pushing their preferred head coaching candidate). The new coach has a five-year (rolling) deal, worth $1.1 million a year.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Sporting Noobs Podcast - Episode #04

Michigan-Ohio State post-mortem below

Oh, this podcasting thing is so much better when you have somebody to play with talk to - both for hosts and listeners, I'd imagine.

The Noobs are back at full strength for the fourth edition of The Sporting Noobs Podcast, as Kevin returns from the D.L. to join Ian for another football-loaded show.

We look back at the Michigan-Ohio State game, wonder what happened to the Wolverine defense, and discuss the prospects for a rematch for the national championship.

Then it's over to the pros, as we talk about Sunday night football - Broncos-Chargers - and our developing man-crushes on LaDainian Tomlinson. Is he the most talented running back that's ever played in the NFL?

Finally, we end the show with this week's Game Balls and Extra Laps and get in the holiday spirit with a list three things we're thankful for.

You can download the show through Libsyn or iTunes. (And if you like what you hear, please leave some positive feedback at the iTunes Store. We could use the attention.)

Please say hello and sign up for the weekly Noobsletter at noobsletter@thesportingnoobs.com. And for more, stop by thesportingnoobs.com. Thanks for listening!


Monday, November 20, 2006

42 points by Troy Smith on the wall...

42 points. Take 'em down, pass 'em around...

That's the thing I can't get over. You can say Michigan just ran out of time and the last team to have the ball was going to win. (Did you like their chances to tie the game or even take lead had they recovered that onside kick?) You can point to missed tackles or overthrown passes. You can wonder how helmet-to-helmet hits on quarterbacks outside the pocket should be interpreted by the referees.

You could even sound like the sorest of losers, like the moron caller I heard on WTKA after the game who blamed Ohio Stadium's shoddy turf for the Wolverines' loss. (Fortunately, that guy seems to be in the smallest of minorities.)

But ultimately, it comes down to 42 points. You can't expect to win a game giving up that many points. (Unless you're, say, the San Diego Chargers.) And if you watched the Michigan defense all season long (well, except the game that was on ESPNU), you wouldn't have predicted it to yield six touchdowns.

39 points - on the road, with that defense - should be enough to win a game. And against any other team in the country, that number on the scoreboard probably would've been enough. Mike Hart pushed through the first tackle, and looked as fast and nimble as I've ever seen him. Chad Henne may have played his best game at quarterback. (But ooooohhhh, if he only could've connected with Mario Manningham on that pass down the sideline in the first quarter.)

But Ohio State was expected to be be an offensive juggernaut coming into 2006 - with two fantastic wide receivers (make that four?), two spectacular running backs, and the best player in the country taking the snap at quarterback - and in the course of three-and-a-half hours, destroyed all the good work Ron English had done with Michigan's defense this season. (I imagine he won't be including this game in his resume once he starts applying for head-coaching jobs.)

Coach English made some good second-half adjustments, finally figuring out how to break the Buckeyes' pass protection and get the blitz into Troy Smith's face. But by then, it may have already been too late. Michigan had already coughed up 28 points, and it fell upon Henne and the flying Wolverines to get the maize-and-blue back in the game.

On The Sporting Noobs Podcast (new episode coming tomorrow!), I said Ohio State would win because of their offense - and more specifically, because of Smith. Kind of a "no duh" statement, I realize, but what I meant was that I thought Michigan could knock around that Buckeyes defense a bit. The real test of strength would pit the supposedly immovable object of the Michigan defense against the irresistable force of Ohio State's offense. I just didn't expect quite so big an explosion after the collision. (My prediction, by the way, was Ohio State 31, Michigan 26. I just felt Smith would find a way to win the game - as he had the previous two years.)

But Michigan picked the worst possible day to start giving up the big play. And that was the difference in the game. Chris Wells' 52-yard run. A 39-yard pass to Ted Ginn. Antonio Pittman's 56-yard run. All for touchdowns. Michigan had some big plays of their own, but the Ohio State offense was just relentless. Even when it looked like the Wolverines defense had everything covered, Roy Hall or Brian Robiskie found a sliver of open space in a corner of the end zone, and of course, Smith didn't miss them. He really didn't miss anything.

After the season ends, I'm sure we'll once again hear all the talk about how Jim Tressel owns Lloyd Carr in this rivalry. And 1-5 is a difficult number to argue against. But I'm not so sure it's a question of Tressel owning Carr. I think it's more that Troy Smith owns Michigan. I'm not sure I've ever looked more forward to an opposing player graduating than Smith. And I hate saying that, because it seems like such a lame admission of defeat.

But Michigan just can't beat this guy. And I felt that way the entire game. The only thing that was surprising to me is that he never made Michigan pay by running the ball. But he also never had to. His development as a quarterback over his four years at Ohio State has been truly impressive. (I would've said it was a joy to witness, if so much of that growth hadn't taken place at Michigan's expense.) Obviously, Smith is fresh in my mind, clouding my long-term memory, but I can't think of any other players who I both hated and greatly admired at the same time.

(And this doesn't even need to be said, but if anyone but Smith wins the Heisman Trophy, the damn thing should be melted down and used to make doorknobs, and never given out to anyone ever again.)

Now, the current sensation sweeping the nation is the question of whether or not Michigan deserves another shot at Smith and the Buckeyes. Right now, I'm standing on the side labeled "No Rematch." It's not that I wouldn't like to see Michigan play Ohio State again on a neutral field. Despite all the breakdowns, belated adjustments, and missed opportunities that plagued the Wolverines on Saturday, they still only lost by three points and fought the Buckeyes hard until the very end. And that was in Columbus.

I like their chances if they were to play Ohio State again in Arizona, and sure as hell wouldn't complain if the BCS roulette wheel hit Michigan's number on December 3 and set up that rematch. And yes, I'm biased - but I think Michigan is better than USC, Florida and Arkansas (and we already know they're 26 points better than Notre Dame). So if they're the second-best team in the country at the end of the regular season, it stands to reason they should play in the Fiesta Bowl.

But if you were among the people who said that Saturday's game was the de facto national championship game, well, Michigan had its shot and lost. On the day their defense had to play its best, it gave up 42 points. And the disappointment from that and the sadness over likely the most emotional day in Michigan football history are the emotions I can't move past right now. They're too fresh in my mind.

Of course, I could change my mind in a couple of weeks. And you bet your sweet maize-and-blue ass I'll be watching USC-Notre Dame and the SEC championship game to see how it all shakes out. Just hold 'em to 38 this time if you get another shot, boys.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Suddenly, it's just a game

I was getting set to finally write something about tomorrow's game in Columbus (and even my sister - who hardly ever reads my blog - ripped into me last night for not writing about Michigan-Ohio State this week), but right now, it doesn't really feel appropriate.

I have a couple of memories of Bo Schembechler that I'd like to share, one of which is particularly special because it involves my father. Dad loved Michigan football and admired Bo greatly. And at some point, I really want to write about that. But not today.

Rest in peace, Bo.

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The Sporting Noobs Podcast - Episode #03

This week, the third time was most certainly not the charm. The Sporting Noobs were definitely cursed, but fought through disease and computer crashes to post the latest episode of the show before it was time to record the next one.

On this third edition of The Sporting Noobs Podcast, Ian is left all alone to record the show as Kevin fights to recover from the sickness plaguing him. Can he do it by himself, with little more than stand-in sound effects to keep him company? How will Kevin react when he hears what noises Ian uses in his place? And will you all be able to stay awake while he drones on for 20+ minutes?

It's all about football this week, as we assess the playoff chances of the various contenders in the NFL and talk some BCS while previewing Saturday's clash of Big 10 titans between Michigan and Ohio State. And since we didn't forget this time, Game Balls and Extra Laps make their long-awaited (by us, anyway, even though it was only a week) return.

You can download the show through Libsyn or iTunes. (And if you like what you hear, please leave some positive feedback at the iTunes Store. We could use the attention.)

Say hello and sign up for the weekly Noobsletter at noobsletter@thesportingnoobs.com. And for more, stop by thesportingnoobs.com. Back at full strength next week! Thanks for listening.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

So I hear the Tigers got Gary Sheffield...

The best cure for a baseball hangover? Attack the off-season right away.

Gary Sheffield was being fitted for the Olde English D almost before Detroit fans could settle in to talk about what the Tigers could do to improve the team this off-season.

That's how fast Dave Dombrowski made this deal. He basically pre-empted our Hot Stove talk.

This is very much unlike, for instance, how fast I got around to writing about this trade.

When did it happen? Friday afternoon, after I decided I'd spent entirely too much time in front of the computer and was ready for the weekend. When am I writing about it? Five days later. (Long after every blogger with an interest in the Tigers said their piece on the matter.) When news breaks, Sweaty Men Endeavors apparently does not break in.

And here I was, all set to joke about the big trade in the AL Central over the weekend: The Indians acquiring Josh Barfield from the Padres.

Nothing? Not even a chuckle or an eye-roll? Okay. I know how it goes. Snooze and you lose. And then you hear crickets chirping.

Actually, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that Barfield deal may have had an indirect effect on the Sheffield trade. San Diego was desperate for 3rd base prospect Kevin Kouzmanoff, and feared that Cleveland was ready to send him to the Yankees for Sheffield. So they pounced on the deal, leaving Detroit's offer as the best one (it may have been the best one, anyway) on Brian Cashman's table. (It turns out, however, that the Indians probably would've traded Kouzmanoff to Atlanta for Marcus Giles.)

But that's all a moot point, isn't it? Sheffield is with the Detroit Tigers - making perhaps the biggest deal of the off-season before the GM meetings could even begin.

Last Friday, just a couple of hours before the deal was done, I wrote that Sheffield's history of petulant behavior when he wants a contract extension made me nervous. That was really the only problem I had with getting him. I certainly couldn't take issue with his baseball skills. He's a fabulous hitter, with rock-solid consistency over the past eight years (excepting 2006 when he was injured). 30+ home runs and 100 RBI is almost a guarantee.

If a guy like that is available, and the one crying need on your team is for a big bat, you make that deal. Every time. And if that player's contract is the only potentially thorny issue, it's in your best interests to take care of it immediately. So the Tigers did just that. (Even if they hadn't, I neglected to consider Jim Leyland's influence in the matter when expressing my original fears.)

I sort of felt like a kid after I heard the news and subsequent reactions on sports talk radio. Suddenly, I was making out lineups in my head. It seemed like a trade you'd make on a video game, when you can just load up your favorite team with the best players. "Say, how about we put... Gary Sheffield on the Tigers? How would that look?"

I can't say I've always been a fan of Sheffield, but I've always admired his talents - and have long been fascinated by the way he waggles his bat threateningly at the plate. Trying to emulate that waggle - snapping the bat back and forth as if waving at a bee near my right ear - led to a couple of embarrassing swings while playing softball. How the hell does he do that and still get his hands back in a position to hit the ball? (And not just "a ball," like some slow-pitch toss, but a major league fastball.)

And now that guy is playing for our team? (I had much similar feelings after the Pistons hired Larry Brown as head coach. A guy I'd watched and admired for years was now going to do his thing in Detroit? How cool is that?)

Though the Tigers haven't yet addressed their other off-season concerns (still to come: the baseball winter meetings), it seems like there was a big exhale of relief to go along with that burst of excitement this weekend. Now you know that the Tigers intend to keep that championship door open until they can barge right through it. For those of you who used to wonder why Mike Ilitch didn't employ the same "whatever it takes" philosophy with the Tigers that he did for the Red Wings, you can probably shuffle those thoughts to the back of your mind now.

These are now much different days in Detroit - at least on the baseball side of the street.


They're keepin' the "Lights" on for you

Congratulations to my buddy Clint, and everyone else associated with Friday Night Lights, as they got some great news from NBC yesterday. As first reported by TV Guide's Michael Ausiello, the show was picked up for a full season by the network, meaning 22 episodes will be broadcast.

I was able to briefly chat with Clint yesterday (just an hour after they got the news themselves - that Ausiello guy is fast!), and he said a celebratory lunch was being enjoyed by all. I'm sure those were some damn tasty sandwiches.

I know it might seem like I'm saying this just because my friend works on the show (and thanks to those who pitched in some feedback), but Friday Night Lights is some damn fine television, and I've become insanely fond of the show.

The Red Wings are in Vancouver, so game time is at 10 p.m. EST. And the Pistons are off tonight. No sports stuff is standing in your way (or good TV, since FOX moved House to 9 p.m.). If you haven't given it a chance yet, I don't think you'd be sorry for giving up an hour of your time. Tuesdays at 8 p.m., people!

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Monday, November 13, 2006

Welcome to Detroit, Sarge

With the season 10 weeks old, I'm sure other people have already said that Sgt. Rod Marinelli long ago became aware of what he was really getting into here. But in my eyes, the Sarge officially became a Detroit Lions head coach yesterday, and must now feel completely trapped in the Honolulu Blue-colored toilet swirl known as the Ford Field Follies.

On how many different head coaches have we seen "the look"? You know that look. Hands on the hips, lips pursed in total frustration, cap pushed up high on the forehead to reveal the furrowed, sweaty brow upon which the weight of 50 years of ineptitude now rests.

The Sarge had to feel helpless yesterday, as he looked at his players out on the field and wondered what the hell they were doing. Where was the team that beat Atlanta 30-14 last week? (By the way, that win doesn't look so impressive any more with the Falcons crapping out against Cleveland, does it?)

How the #@$% do you lose to that 49ers team, in a game that everyone checked off as a win when they looked at the Lions' schedule before the season?

Yeah, yeah, yeah - "any given Sunday," blah blah blah. Screw that. Answer me this: have you ever been so totally assured that your team was going to lose a game in which they were only down by six points? One long pass to Roy Williams, along with an extra point, and the Lions would have the lead! But that was never going to happen yesterday, and you could just feel it.

Even when they got close to a score at the end of the game, you just knew something would go wrong. No, it wasn't a Kevin Jones fumble. That was (correctly) ruled "down by contact." But eventually, Jon Kitna confirmed those fears by throwing an interception. But even if the Lions had gotten the ball to the one-inch line, they just weren't going to score.

And it's not because the 49ers are once again some great team. C'mon, they're terrible. Any other team in the NFL would've been up by at least two touchdowns in that game. The fact that the Lions even had a chance shows how bad they still are (with the possible exception of Frank Gore, who was a concussion away from rushing for 300 yards).

But you know what really has me mad about yesterday's loss? The fact that I'm mad about it. Because I told myself that I was done investing this kind of emotion in the Lions. Just accept that they're going to be terrible, and get on with the rest of your Sunday. Go watch another team (if your non-satellite TV package will let you). Go see a movie. Go enjoy the outdoors. Look for something on this blessed planet to make you appreciate your life as a human being. Go find a woman to kiss. No, instead I found my own ass to kiss and stayed home to watch my Detroit Lions.

Oh, they'll definitely win this game. San Francisco's terrible. I'm going to order a pizza and enjoy a Lions victory.

I am a #@$%ing idiot.

And yes, I still went to the trouble of typing up some Game Balls and Extra Laps. At least I didn't have to type very much under the "Game Balls" heading. Check 'em out after the jump, while I go jump off my roof.

Week 10 Game Balls & Extra Laps

Game Balls

I know I've done this before, but... you're kidding, right? 49ers 19, Lions 13. No Game Balls!

Okay, I'll give one out. But to the 49ers. I know you're not supposed to give them to the opponent, but...

Shawntae Spencer
– Sweet Fanny Chanel, that was a hell of a hit he laid on Jon Kitna! Kitna thought his name was Joey Harrington after that. I believe ESPN's Tom Jackson would've used the words "JACKED! UP!" Look up "cornerback blitz" in the dictionary, and there should be a new entry. I guarantee they shot out of their seats and cheered in the 49ers' film room today. High-fives all around.

Extra Laps

♦ Kevin Jones – I was beginning to think K.J. earned a permanent pass from this list after three impressive performances in which he ran with power and speed. It looked like he'd finally found his identity as a running back. Well, you can pretty much slap a question mark on his jersey again. In fairness, Jones only ran the ball 13 times (though with nine catches, he received more than 20 touches). But 44 yards against a mediocre rushing defense was a huge disappointment.

♦ Roy Williams – Too tough to make Roy run extra laps when the 49ers covered him tight all day long? He still managed five catches, right? But the footage of him jawing during pre-game warm-ups - counting off the way the Lions would score, and how they'd get 35 points - was just embarrassing and made Roy look like an ass. I should accept that Roy just likes to talk a bit. But as fan, I really wish he'd shut the #@$% up - especially when nothing is guaranteed with the Lions.

Stanley Wilson – Sometimes, you just have to make a play. You don't have to force it, like 'Dre Bly often does. But when it's literally thrown right to you, the least you could do is take advantage of the opportunity. That could've been the game right there, Stan. Maybe Wilson just dropped Alex Smith's pass because he was so surprised by it. I've done that in pick-up games when I couldn't believe I was that open for a lay-up. But hey, I'm not a professional athlete either.

♦ Rod Marinelli – Through nine games, the coaching seemed to be a strength of the team. What the Lions seemed to lack was the talent to execute the schemes. But not yesterday. Call it whatever you want: sluggish, flat, lackadaisical, apathetic, etc. The Lions looked unprepared and unmotivated on both sides of the ball. Sure, some of that falls on the players. But Marinelli likes to point the fingers at himself when things go wrong. And this time, we should follow his advice.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Help a sweaty man?

Okay, my friends - I am holding out my hands to you, the readers of Sweaty Men Endeavors, hoping for some help. I am only one man, and this World Wide Web is a vast expanse, spanning... well, the world. Widely.

I've spent the better part of a week futilely searching for what I need, but feel like a man who's trying to find his glasses in the ocean. Maybe it doesn't exist, but it's more than likely that I just don't know what to look for.

What I'm hoping to find is a college football equivalent to a Baseball Almanac or Retrosheet, a site that documents the game's history - game accounts, box scores, rosters, etc. - and would provide mucho information to a curious young man. Such a person might be, for example, trying to do some research for an article.

Sure, I could get up off my ass and head to a library. And I intend to do that this weekend. But I've found that in recent years, libraries tend to just send you back to a computer, anyway. So I'm thinking I'll just save myself a trip, if necessary. Plus, I often assume that other people know more about these sorts of things than I do, and a solution is just a mere comment or e-mail away.

So once again, I'm coming to you, seeking aid. Consider this the blog equivalent of a door-to-door plea for assistance. If there's a resource on the internet chock full of history, facts, trivia, and minutia for college football, I'd appreciate you pointing me in the right direction. Thank you in advance.


Musings with your lunch?

Tuna sandwich or chicken salad? Anyone have thoughts on that? I'm leaning toward the sandwich...

♦ Is it completely lame that I opted for "regular" TV last night, instead of Louisville-Rutgers?

See, I kind of forgot about it. I intended to watch, but last night, I just felt like some fictional laughs and drama before falling asleep. Yes, even though it was a good game (25-22 in the fourth quarter, when I remembered to turn the game on), and I missed a great finish, along with perhaps one of the recent amazing events in college football.

Was that wrong of me? Look, the body clock just can't get attuned to Thursday night college football. Unless it's a bowl game in December or January. (Big Al knows what I'm talking about.)

MLive.com's Danny Knobler is reporting that the Detroit Tigers have what the Yankees could be looking for in a Gary Sheffield trade. (Namely, young utility infielders and starting pitching.) And a deal could be close to happening.

I'm not crazy about this idea. Sheffield's bat would be amazing in the Tigers' lineup. But I don't know where you'd put him on the field, and Sheff doesn't strike me as a guy who'd enjoy playing most of his games at DH. A small problem? Maybe.

The big problem, as I see it, is that Sheffield wants a contract extension. And if he doesn't get it, he's historically pouted, sulked, and dogged it until he's either given what he wants or sent to another team that's willing to meet his demands. (Search for the archives of Buster Olney's ESPN.com blog, if you're interested in some stories on this.)

Does that sound like the kind of guy who'd fit well in Detroit's clubhouse? Do the Tigers seem like a team interested in a potential chemistry killer? If you're nodding yes, I have Dmitri Young holding for you on Line 1 with some thoughts on that subject.

♦ According to the Detroit News, you can scratch Steve Mariucci off your list of potential new coaches at Michigan State. Is that a sigh of relief I hear from Spartan Country, or is that just a gust of wind outside my window? I can't quite tell (though most of my Sparty friends have said they hope Mooch isn't the choice).

The article goes on to tout LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini pretty strongly, though Todd Grantham (who could be the favorite for the job) is the first name listed. I think it's interesting that Pat Shurmur (another favorite, depending who you ask or what you read) isn't even mentioned in the piece.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

It's the Mike Martz show!

With our very special guest, Rod Marinelli! YAY! [cue music]

Is it better to have hired, giving your team a great offense for only one season, than to not have hired at all and still struggle to score points?

That could be the question facing the Detroit Lions after this season (and maybe through the rest of their remaining schedule) with rumor smoke signals floating near offensive coordinator Mike Martz. On NFL Network (which I now have, thank you very much - my skin is glowing as I've joined the 21st century), Adam Schefter reported that Arizona will very likely pursue Martz to replace Dennis Green as its new head coach.

And with the Cardinals' stockpile of offensive talent, they'd seem to be an excellent fit for Martz. Unless he either isn't interested in taking another head-coaching job right now or just doesn't want to work for Bill Bidwell.

But MLive.com's Tom Kowalski thinks the Lions shouldn't even take that chance. Pay the man now, says the Killer. Hold onto the Wizard of Woodward by any means necessary. (Okay, Ford Field is technically on Brush St. But it's near Woodward. And I couldn't think of any "wizard" or "genius" synonyms that began with the letter "b.") This team's development is at too fragile a stage to risk losing the man who's finally been able to make use of the offensive players Matt Millen has acquired. Replacing him with a protege such as Wilbur Montgomery (who'd likely follow Martz out of town, anyway) wouldn't be a viable option.

But how far do you go to keep the man? Kowalski advocates paying Martz a higher salary than the head coach, if that's what it takes. And even if Marinelli says that would be okay with him (what else is he supposed to say?), there can't possibly be another NFL team that has such a dynamic within its coaching staff. The closest I can think of, off the top of my head, is Washington, where Gregg Williams and Al Saunders make head coach money. But I don't think either of them are paid more than Joe Gibbs.

Big Al already said it: No way that would work. And it's pretty much ludicrous to even suggest that it could. But he also raises another interesting question: Who's had more of an impact on the Lions' fortunes this season? Even with only two victories, Detroit has been competitive in almost of its games, and that's due to Martz's offense.

But now we're getting into territory where answers are difficult to grasp. Not to underestimate the job Martz has done, but is it easier to turn around an offense? Sure, it all has to work in sync, but if you have the right trigger man - and Jon Kitna sure looks like that guy - can things click pretty fast? (You could also argue that Martz's offense just makes quarterbacks look good. Both Jamie Martin and Ryan Fitzpatrick put up good numbers under center in St. Louis last season.)

Compare that to a defense, where you're not just instituting a system, but a mindset. One of the problems that Marinelli and the defensive coaches have harped on is the players' reluctance to trust the scheme. It's been difficult to fight tendencies and break old habits, but if everyone does what he's supposed to do and maintains an assignment, the system works. You saw that against Atlanta. But it's also a question of making the defense tougher - putting them in attack mode, rather than reacting to the opposing offense. I know virtually nothing about coaching football, but that has to be a more difficult task.

Project that out further to overseeing an entire football team and coaching staff. Big Al also asked why Martz wasn't just hired as the head coach, if the Lions think so highly of him. But maybe he's a guy who's simply better at focusing on one side of the ball and teaching his players how to score touchdowns (or in Roy Williams' case, how to beat double-team coverage). Ultimately, maybe he's not suited for looking at the entire picture, as a head coach has to.

Of course, we don't know if Sgt. Marinelli is that kind of guy either. But we've already seen Martz essentially burn out in St. Louis, while building a one-dimensional team. I'd hate to see Martz leave after just one season; he was their biggest off-season move and has done exactly what everyone hoped he would. But taking another job was an understood risk the minute he was hired.

It's still too soon to say for certain, but I'll take my chances with Marinelli. Look around the NFL at the teams that are winning right now, and look at their head coaches. Doesn't Marinelli look more like one of those guys than Martz does?

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A belated roar for Bodiford

I was disappointed to see that the Detroit Lions cut my main man, Shaun Bodiford (otherwise known in the Casselberry household as the only professional athlete who's talked to me for more than two minutes), a couple of weeks ago. It was a bit baffling, considering that the coaches seemed to think highly of him and Matt Millen keeps throwing veteran wide receivers (Corey Bradford, Az-Zahir Hakim) into the garbage bin.

"We hoped to release him and then get him back," said Sgt. Rod Marinelli, "but that didn't happen."

Oops. It sounds like Mike Martz didn't want to release Bodiford, either. But Big Mike Williams eats up a notable chunk of the Lions' salary cap. (How's that draft pick working out for the Lions, anyway?)

And it surely had to sting a bit when a NFC North opponent quickly signed him from waivers. Green Bay was thrilled when a guy with Bodiford's skills - especially on kickoff and punt returns - was available to replace the suspended Koren Robinson. So a talented kid that could've eventually replaced Eddie Drummond on special teams, or man the third or fourth receiver spot on the roster is off to join his old junior college quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.

If you haven't already read his harrowing life story, PackersNews.com details the path Bodiford took to the NFL. I'm still rooting for the guy, even if he's wearing green and yellow now. Hey, you never forget your first, right? (And I'm looking for the follow-up interview, Shaun. Call me.)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thinking (and linking) over an early lunch

♦ I don't know how interesting you find little sportswriting tidbits like this, but for the young and aspiring out there, here's a tip: If you're trying to set up an interview with an official from the National Hockey League, being aware of the league schedule could help you. That way, when he says, "Well, the GM meetings are tomorrow," you don't say something like, "Really? I had no idea."

Or you could just not say, "Really? I had no idea." Actually, I don't think I said that. But it was something close. Not a big deal, I suppose, but I felt kind of doofish.

♦ Does Chauncey Billups already have an eye on his next destination after opting out of his contract after this season? According to ESPN.com's John Hollinger, Milwaukee could be targeting Mr. Big Shot, and Billups is already quite aware of how much salary cap room the Bucks will have next year. (Insider subscription required)

Shira Springer of the Boston Globe has much more detail on the situation, including the amount of cap space Milwaukee will have ($14 million). However, MLive.com's A. Sherrod Blakely says not to believe the hype. About Milwaukee, that is. He wouldn't be surprised if Orlando - especially if they get rid of former Piston Carlos Arroyo - tries to entice Billups with big money. (via Full Court Press)

Was it around this time last year that we started to hear noise about Ben Wallace and Chicago... ?

♦ One more NBA note: You can now count King LeBron among those who hate the new NBA ball. Seriously, what's the shelf life of this thing if the superstars say it sucks?

♦ I was already a huge admirer of The Wayne Fontes Experience, but Big Al posted a magnificent rant about Michigan Stadium yesterday that makes me want to sit him on my shoulders, as he voices some thoughts I've been repressing for a couple of years.

In particular, he's dead-on about Michigan's stance on advertising in the stadium, which I've just never understood. Not only is it pretentious, but it's hypocritical. How can you be indignant about slapping a Pepsi sign on the scoreboard when the players are running around with shoe logos on the hallowed maize-and-blue uniform?

Michigan takes pride in the fact that they won't allow advertising in the Big House. First off, the thought that advertising is somehow beneath Michigan is bullshit. They are way off base with that statement, as NIKE has plastered their swoosh all over Michigan players, coaches, and staff. Personally, I'm all for advertising. Hell, if they allow ads inside the stadium, you'd think the athletic department could then afford to put backs on the damn seats!

Amen, Big Al. Did I miss the memo on Michigan Stadium being some kind of college football Sistine Chapel that should be untainted by corporate logos? No, it shouldn't look like the outfield wall of a minor league ballpark or a NASCAR driver's uniform. But for all the money Michigan is asking for from ticket holders, shouldn't such an obvious revenue stream be acknowledged?

♦ Kevin and I might cover some mid-season NFL awards (an extended version of Game Balls?) on the next edition of The Sporting Noobs Podcast. But in the meantime, The Armchair Quarterback has some mid-season thoughts of his own. Much as I've found myself doing, TAQ focuses largely on the disappointments. But who can blame him? There are so many this season.

Wabi-Sabi heard what Mitch Albom said on last Sunday's The Sports Reporters about college football, got mad as hell, and decided not to take it anymore. His post is titled "Mitch Albom is an Idiot."

What set Jim off was Albom's assertion - expressed on last Sunday's The Sports Reporters - that an undefeated Louisville team has no business playing the winner of Ohio State-Michigan in the BCS championship game. Not only that, the BCS title game should just be a rematch of Ohio State-Michigan, if the Nov. 18 match-up is a close one.

(By the way, how many more people would you think agree that Albom is an idiot, compared to 10 years ago? I know a lot of people love Mitch because of Tuesdays with Morrie, and his subsequent Hallmark-ish novels, but there's also a lot of animosity towards him now. And I'd be surprised if many sports fans [local or otherwise] hold his opinions in high regard anymore. He's not even the first columnist I read in the Detroit Free Press most days.)

♦ I'm (more than) a week late on this, but I think it's still worth linking to - largely out of sheer admiration. If you're curious what it's like to run a marathon (and my curiosity is mostly of a vicarious nature), Susannah posted a mile-by-mile diary of her experience with the Detroit Free Press/Flagstar Bank Marathon at Pub of Knowledge. There's some scenery, some inspiration, a fair share of agony, and a little bit of fantasizing (sort of) about Mark Messier.

I have to say, nothing makes me feel better about myself than reading about running a marathon while sitting in a chair shoving a turkey sandwich in my face. Suz ran 26 miles. I wish I had 26 potato chips on my plate.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Sporting Noobs Podcast - Episode #02

Last week went so well, we thought we'd try it again. The Sporting Noobs are back on the air!

In the second edition of The Sporting Noobs Podcast, Kevin has a major bone to pick with the NBA's new "no talkback" rule, all the ejections it's led to, and the players this might affect the most, while Ian tries to help him talk through his anger.

The Noobs also take a look at the spotlight match-up from Week 9 of the NFL: Colts vs. Patriots. Are the Colts now officially the best team in the league? What exactly was the Patriots' game plan? And how could New England boo Adam Vinatieri?

Finally, your appreciative hosts read from the very first batch of listener e-mail. Who took the time to write in to The Sporting Noobs?

(And can Ian actually make sure to emphasize the "b" in "Noobs" to avoid any possible confusion with other sports publications that might be available on newsstands? Hoo boy.)

You can download the show via the podcast's home page. The Sporting Noobs Podcast is also available via iTunes. (And if you like what you hear, please leave some positive feedback at iTunes. The show is young, and our egos are fragile.) Tell all your friends about us. We're nice kids!

Let us know what you think and sign up for the weekly Noobsletter at noobsletter@thesportingnoobs.com. And for more, stop by thesportingnoobs.com. Thanks for listening!

Kevin forgot to mention his new weight loss blog, titled "The 100." You can find that here.

And we forgot to pass out Game Balls and Extra Laps on the show this week. We apologize, and will try to remember the next time.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Game Balls & Extra Laps - Week 9

Is there possibly anything to complain about, following a 30-14 victory over a team that appeared to be one of the best in the NFC? The Atlanta Falcons needed a win to keep pace with the competition in the conference, yet inexplicably came to Detroit and played one of their worst games of the season. (Really, just about every contender in the NFC took a crap on their chances yesterday. At least the Giants won - but barely.)

Though it's only the Lions second win of the season, one look at their upcoming schedule makes you wonder if this could be the start of something good.

Is a two-game winning streak too much to ask for? Not really, when Detroit's next two games are against San Francisco and Arizona. And even though Miami upset Chicago at Soldier Field (Joey Harrington? Was that you?), they've still been one of the biggest disappointments of the 2006 NFL season. A win on Thanksgiving Day is not out of the question.

But maybe that's being greedy. For now, savor the win. Appreciate a day when the teachings of Sgt. Marinelli's staff yielded some impressive results. The Lions' offense has been been putting up some good numbers for the past few weeks, yet couldn't stop anyone on defense. However, when both units on the team come together - putting points on the board, while keeping the opponent out of the end zone - this could be the team Detroit's been dreaming about for far too long.

Nothing but Game Balls for the boys this week. No Extra Laps, no late hours in the film room. It was that kind of day. One of the awards could go to Mike Furrey, who's enough of a threat to keep extra defenders away from Roy Williams. And he's exactly the type of hard-working, no-nonsense, make-the-tough-catch kind of player that Detroit can adoringly embrace with both arms.

But Furrey could get one every week. So from now on, unless otherwise noted, it should be understood that Mike Furrey always gets a Game Ball. Hell, these should be named the Mike Furrey Game Balls. There's a dirty joke begging to be made there, especially since I'm nursing quite the man crush on the guy, but I'm going to pass on it. Snicker amongst yourselves, tough guys, while we pass out the other awards after the jump.

Week 9 Game Balls

(not to be confused with these "Game Balls" - it was my idea first, right?)

♦ The defensive line – With three starters out, due to injury or suspension, it looked like a potentially rough day for the Lions. Could they possibly contain Michael Vick, who was superhuman in his last two games? Rod Marinelli was part of the Tampa Bay coaching staff that learned to make Vick miserable, and clearly the Sarge passed his wisdom - keeping Vick in the pocket so he couldn't run - onto his current Honolulu Blue-clad troops. Nice work, men.

♦ Jon Kitna – Sure, the 20-of-32 passing for 321 yards and one touchdown was impressive. Kitna is having the time of his life playing in Mike Martz's offense. (Imagine what he might do after a full year in the system.) And if there were any questions about Kitna's leadership, his fight with D'Angelo Hall (who was apparently picking on quarterbacks, rather than going at Roy Williams) in the third quarter - and the bruises he wore on his face afterwards - took care of those.

♦ Kevin Jones – A few weeks ago, I was able to stand by Jones' locker and listen to him say that he had to be himself. What did that mean? Was he a power back that would pound the rock or more of a speed back that would sprint for the corner? Well, he was both on his first touchdown run, bulling through the line before he broke free and juked past Chris Crocker to the end zone. So whatever the answer was, K.J. seems to have found it.

♦ Roy Williams – In the latest edition of The Sporting Noobs' Noobsletter (which you can subscribe to by e-mailing noobsletter@thesportingnoobs.com), I ripped on Roy for talking trash about D'Angelo Hall in the media. Even if you want to act like Chad Johnson, no one's paying attention when your team's 1-6. But I'm sure Hall took notice of Roy after #11 caught six passes for 138 yards. His 60-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown was the back-breaker.

Friday, November 03, 2006

This is not my beautiful house...

So I've been kind of a bad sports blogger this week. By Tuesday, when I came up for air after working on The Sporting Noobs' inaugural podcast (while alternately clearing leaves from my yard into the street for the city to pick up and finalizing plans to completely avoid costumed children later that night), I realized that I didn't have many original thoughts in my head to offer.

I was all set to write about coping with the Tigers' World Series loss, only to find that Billfer had already detailed the five stages of grieving. How about that? Well, maybe I'd joke about the fact that I was suffering from temporary sports burnout after following that World Series so closely. Except Big Al had the baseball hangover thing covered. Damn it. Boy howdy, the local sports blogosphere is really strong right now.

(Seriously, though - a lot of great stuff has been produced over the past few weeks. Bloggers have really shown what they're capable of, giving the kinds of insights and opinions that just didn't seem available in mainstream newspapers. [Or maybe the papers just seemed redundant when Detroit Sports Blog Nation gave me everything I needed/wanted.] Good show, everyone!)

But this week, it's kind of felt like coming back home after being away for a few years. Your parents turned your old bedroom into a smoking lounge or an oversized storage closet. Or your friends have new friends. Maybe a couple of them have gotten married.

And they may also now have kids, which means they don't want to go out and do cool stuff anymore, like watch a suddenly very important Thursday night football game at a sports bar, yell at the top of your lungs at giant screens, drink much more than you should when you have to go to work the next day, and exchange high-fives and/or hugs with (equally) drunken strangers over two schools you've never really given a $#!+ about.

(I'm speaking totally hypothetically, of course. Though if I may add some constructive criticism to this, like, completely fictional scenario, the second you ask your wife if you can go, you can't go. You just gave up any say you had in the matter. Just an opinion. Maybe I don't know anything since I'm single, childless, and spent the evening flipping between Louisville-West Virginia and Grey's Anatomy. And after all, the children are the future.)

Hang on - there was a point in here somewhere. I just need to find it again. Oh yeah - everything else in Detroit sports kind of has an unfamiliar feel to it, even if I'd been following it (albeit with somewhat divided attention) throughout the season.

Case in point: The University of Michigan football team. (I realize that I wrote a lot about Michigan football last season, which made several blogs generously list me in their sidebars as a "Michigan" blog, and sent some people over here to get some Sunday morning post-mortems. I apologize for slacking on that. All I can offer in my defense is that I was seduced by the mistress baseball. She was looking damn fine, man.)

I knew they were having a great year. I've enjoyed watching their defense crush opposing quarterbacks into dust, like a loaf of stale French bread. But is their season already almost over? Really? Man, that went by quick. Ohio State in two weeks? Wow. Well, at least I'll be able to settle back into the groove and watch the Wolverines play Ball State on TV tomorrow.

Wait a minute. What's this you're telling me? The Michigan game won't be on local TV tomorrow, because it's being carried by ESPNU (for which the "U" apparently stands for "Unknown to your local cable company")? That can't be right, can it? Seriously, won't a local station (Channel 7 in Detroit) pick up the feed? It has to be available. The game's a sell-out. And we're talking about the #2 team in the entire frickin' country!

Okay - apparently, I'm a few days behind on this. (Remember, the mistress baseball.) Surely, someone who knows more about the situation will tell me it's all going to be fine, and I can sink into my armchair with some pizza and watch the game like I always do? What? You're telling me it's not on regular TV.

So the only way I'll get to see Michigan-Ball State (which admittedly will hardly be the greatest contest in college football this weekend) is to either a) scalp a ticket to the game, b) invite myself to the aforementioned buddy with kid's house, since ESPNU is only available via satellite and he has Dish Network, or c) get up early and stake out a table at the previously mentioned sports bar.

I like to fall back on four words during times such as these: ARE YOU #@$%ING SERIOUS?

Yeah, yeah, yeah - I can listen to the game on the radio. I probably will. Unless I decide I'd rather just go see Borat in the afternoon instead. And yes, I understand that in the old days, such a game wouldn't have been on television. We've become spoiled. But you know what? In those old days, I wouldn't have been able to stomp up and down and pitch a fit on my sports blog either. I like these days, okay? Stick that "old days" talk in a pipe, douse it in gasoline, light it, and then roll around on the ground to try and put out your flaming upper torso, okay?

And you may ask yourself - Well... how did I get here?