Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Happy Hour 01/30: Do a Non Sequitur Shot!

♦ Why does it feel so wrong to giggle incessantly at Deadspin's in-depth coverage of Super Bowl XLI, which they're calling "Negro Bowl I"? (In partnership with The Assimilated Negro, of course.) And the graphic is #@$%ing hilarious.

♦ According to Phil Rosenthal in today's Chicago Tribune, a local radio station ran a feature on a suburban man who apparently looks like Bears coach Lovie Smith. Man, why didn't I think of that last year when the Tigers were in the World Series? I totally look like Jim Leyland... on the radio, anyway. (Via Romenesko)

♦ Have you laughed at anything Bill Simmons has written from Miami so far? (Okay, maybe I'm a little bitter he didn't come to Detroit last year. Still - the funny man ain't making me chuckle.)

♦ Did you know about Jason Maxiell's snack of choice? Neither did I, until Detroit Bad Boys enlightened me. I'm wearing one of these t-shirts next time I visit either of many friends who have recently spawned children.

Will I go to fewer Tigers games this summer if virtually all of them are televised? (Just like in other cities - whoo-hoo!) I'm saying no right now, because nothing beats a warm summer night at the ballpark. Yet I know the power that a television and recliner hold over me when the alternative is money for tickets and parking, and a 40-minute drive to Detroit? No! No, I will not be that kind of baseball fan. I will not be that kind of sports fan.

So 161 Tigers games on local TV, eh?

♦ Mike McClary (on whose podcast I will soon be appearing, according to sources) wants Todd Helton to wear the Olde English D. Now that the Rockies' deal with Boston fell through, should the Tigers look at putting together such a package? Still keepin' it alive, Mike?

♦ I was afraid to write anything about Barbaro, in lieu of his euthanization yesterday. It's not that I was going to crack jokes; I just didn't give a $#!+. Michael Wilbon basically echoed my thoughts on "PTI," saying he didn't understand the mourning, but he recognized it. Deep down, however, I probably feel much like T.J. Simers does. (Via The Big Lead)

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I'm disappointed too, Tommy

No more worries about nothing firing up my sports blogging synapses today. I just read something that almost had me spitting tuna salad on my computer monitor.

In today's Detroit News, Michigan men's basketball coach Tommy Amaker is crying "¡Que lastima!" about the crap he and his team have been taking for their phony 16-6 record.

"I think everybody needs wins," he said. "I'm a little disappointed that we're the only team people talk about that needs wins. We're 16-6, which is almost a 73 percent winning percentage; we're 4-3 in the conference, tied for fourth...

"I think everybody, to be honest, needs wins, and I think every game down the stretch is important. It seems like we have that arrow pointing at us in that regard."

Coach, I'm disappointed too. I'm disappointed that your team has lost to every good team it's played this season. And none of those games were even close.

North Carolina State? Loss. UCLA? Loss. Georgetown? Loss. Purdue? Loss. Wisconsin? Loss. Indiana? Loss.

Okay, five of those six games were on the road. But for a team that "needs wins," shouldn't scoring one away from Crisler Arena be something of a priority? And it's not like each of those losses has been to a powerhouse. NC State is 1-5 in the ACC. Purdue is 3-4 in the Big Ten.

I'm disappointed that the majority of Michigan's wins this season have been achieved against such schools as Central Connecticut State, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, Wofford, and Delaware State.

I'm disappointed that Michigan no longer plays compelling non-conference games against the likes of Duke, Syracuse, Boston College, or Arizona. And then the athletic department wonders why no one - student or otherwise - treks out to Crisler Arena to watch the basketball team play.

Amaker argues that such criticisms are unfair, that every other school in the Big Ten and beyond does the same thing. That may be the case, Coach, but those other schools don't have as much to prove right now, either. Did those programs have as big a clean-up project as yours did? No. But they haven't had a six-year span to work with, either.

You know, I don't think it's going to take too long for Gary Walters to explain why his selection committee left Michigan out of the NCAA Tournament field on Selection Sunday. One or two sentences, tops.

With recruits like Alex Legion and Manny Harris coming in next season, Amaker may well have earned himself another year tacked onto Bill Martin's grace period. At the Detroit News' Big Ten Blog, Eric Lacy thinks Michigan's coach should officially be on notice if his team loses to Iowa at home tomorrow night. I'm inclined to agree, because the schedule sure as hell isn't getting any easier after that.

(Meanwhile, Maize n Brew has taken the time to draw up a list of potential replacements.)

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Happy Hour 01/29: What Will Edge Do This Week?

With the explosion of empty calorie hype that is tomorrow's Super Bowl media day, a thought occurred to me over lunch earlier today: How do you think Edgerrin James feels this week?

Why was I thinking of an Arizona Cardinals running back over tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich? Well, I really don't know, other than maybe an article or two about Chicago's arrival in Miami got me thinking about The Big Game. Either that, or maybe the red of the tomato soup got me thinking about the red in the Cardinals' uniforms.

That's something I can think about over tomorrow's lunch, I suppose.

(It's also possible that I was thinking of blood while reading this ludicrous column by USA Today's Jon Saraceno. The '07 Chicago Bears aren't the '85 Bears? Wow, I'm glad he clarified that for me. I was hoping to see The Fridge talking to the media horde tomorrow. Thankfully, someone had the foresight to remind me that I wouldn't. I also realized today that I'm 33 years old, not 11. Holy $#!+, am I that old? I'm totally putting down my G.I. Joe action figures and going out to buy beer and rent a car tonight. Again, I'm thankful for the enlightenment. Am I digressing?)

But this week, Edgerrin James gets to watch his former team play for a championship. That has to make him grind his gold fronts just a bit, especially when he can read plenty of articles about how the Colts took such a brilliant chance in replacing him with the tandem of Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes.

He could be getting ready to entertain his old teammates visiting his home state this week. Who would be a better tour guide? Edge went to the "U," after all. He knows South Beach! Would you like another mojito, Peyton?

Or he could be spending some of the $11.5 million signing bonus he received from the Cardinals to somehow distract himself from the anguish he might be experiencing. It can't be a good feeling to watch most of the guys with whom you spent the first seven years of your NFL career getting all the attention that comes with playing in the Super Bowl. And then, of course, there's the adulation that would come with winning the game.

I know sports are full of stories like this, the poor schmoes one year removed from championship glory. Don Mattingly (unofficially) retired before the Yankees won the 1996 World Series. Adrian Dantley was traded to Dallas three months before the Pistons won the 1989 NBA title. Hell, Edge can just talk to his old buddy, Peyton Manning, who watched his Tennessee Volunteers win the national championship the year after he graduated. And those are just the few I can immediately recall from memory.

Maybe I'm kind of a sap, but I feel for these guys. And if the Colts end up winning on Sunday, while they're taking turns hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy in the air, I'll be thinking about Edgerrin James, and what must be going through his mind.

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... So Are the Days of Our Lions

♦ Jim Carty of the Ann Arbor News thinks the Lions should call up the Eagles and ask about Donovan McNabb. Such a move, in his opinion, could perk up the fans' interest while the team continues its rebuilding.

I often enjoy Carty's columns, but I think he's out of his gourd with this one. Would he be an upgrade over Jon Kitna? Sure. But McNabb has run nothing but West Coast Offense during his NFL career, and those are three words many Lions fans hope are never uttered in Detroit again. Unless it's with sentences such as, "Thank Sweet Jeebus the Lions don't run the West Coast Offense anymore" or "Wow, Steve Mariucci's West Coast Offense sucked worse than fried spam."

And if the Eagles would ask for Detroit's #2 pick in return for McNabb, Matt Millen should respond with something witty, like "Who do you think I am? Matt Millen? Call me back when you're serious, chump!"

♦ Another phone call Millen might have made was to his offensive coordinator, Mike Martz: "Dude, shut up! You are totally gonna blow this for us!"

This, of course, would be after Martz blurted out to the press that the Lions were looking for everything except a quarterback in the upcoming NFL Draft. Nothing like tipping off your intentions to any team that might be interested in trading up to the #2 selection to pick a quarterback, eh? Nice work.

♦ Defensive end Kalimba Edwards is among the players interviewed in this ESPN.com investigation of "naturopath" Hank Sloan, who is currently under investigation by the state of Georgia for practicing medicine without a license. Sloan's approach, which "emphasizes holistic approaches to enhance the body's innate ability to recover," is legally recognized in 14 states. Unfortunately for him, Georgia isn't one of them.

During the off-season, Edwards flew to Atlanta every other week to receive "prolotherapy injections, liquid vitamins, IVs, anti-inflammatory shots and other non-steroidal injections" from Sloan to treat his groin injury.

Other athletes mentioned in the article are Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens, Falcons linebacker Ed Hartwell, and Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes.

Pride of Detroit caught Roy Williams telling FOX Sports Detroit that he wants the Lions to draft Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson. (Could that be because Peterson averaged 112 yards rushing against his Texas Longhorns?) Like most everyone else, however, Roy thinks Detroit should trade down to do so.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dealing with the football DT's?

I assume we're all going through football withdrawal today, and looking for ways to fill the void, whether it's cleaning around the house, sleeping, or going to the movies. (Can I really talk myself into seeing Dreamgirls?)

It's too bad the NHL opted to play its All-Star Game last Wednesday on that one cable channel that you never find on the first try, but you know it's somewhere above 60. I mean, if you're going to play that thing, play it when nothing else is on, right? Brilliant. But maybe NBC preferred to show skiing and poker this afternoon, and the NHL didn't have a choice.

Anyway, after reading the NY Times' The Fifth Down blog, and their post about Frank Caliendo's impersonation of John Madden, I figured that was just the thing to get us through the day. Be strong, and remember that this is an excellent day to plan next Sunday's food spread.

And here's the Letterman appearance from last week referenced in the article.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Happy Hour 01/26: Pick on someone your own age!

I had some time to kill before going to the movies last night, so decided to head across the street and check out some magazines at a bookstore. After pouncing on an open chair with Esquire in hand (there's a very interesting article this month about Chris Snow, the former Red Sox beat writer for the Boston Globe who's now Director of Hockey Operations for the Minnesota Wild - but okay, I was totally checking out Sienna Miller, too), I noticed a disturbing image staring at me from across the aisle.

The face was pale, hollow, and sagging. The hair was thin. The expression was almost blank, with a touch of helplessness. I had to get up (even if it meant losing that chair) to get a closer look.

It was Al Davis on the cover of this week's Sporting News.

The centerpiece of the issue profiles the worst franchise from each of the four major team sports. And TSN opted to give the cover to the Oakland Raiders' 77-year-old owner.

Why? Because it's still football season, and the NFL sells? Because Davis' hubris has made himself one of the biggest targets in pro sports? Because it just wouldn't be as funny to put Peter Angelos or Isiah Thomas on the cover? Or is it because the image of an increasingly frail old man who still insists on wearing a team logo tracksuit shockingly emphasizes the magazine's point?

Yes, the Raiders are terrible. I should applaud that because they're the only thing keeping the Detroit Lions from being the absolute worst team in the NFL. (But let's be honest, when you look at the history of the two franchises, it's not even close. As inept as they've been lately, the Raiders still have plenty of championship heritage.) Just five years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, the franchise has collapsed. The record since then is worse than Matt Millen's. And Al Davis' stubborn refusal to adjust his football philosophies is a big reason for that.

But that cover, as well as an interior photo of Davis struggling along a practice field with his walker, seems like picking on an old man to me.

The New York Times did the same thing this week, with the picture they ran from Lane Kiffin's introductory press conference. It's a lazy, reductionist way of making an argument: Look, Al Davis is old! HA! And he just hired a coach young enough to be his grandson! No wonder the Raiders stink!

The pictures are actually kind of a deceiving accompaniment to Paul Attner's article, which details several reasons the Raiders have suffered such a steep decline. Most of those mistakes can be traced to Davis' clinging to his team's glory days, when renegade players and chucking the ball down the field, along with the owner's maverick approach, made the Raiders the most infamous team in the NFL.

And now, Davis' meddlesome, egotistical micro-management has made it virtually impossible for him to hire an established, credentialed head coach. Thus, he has to settle for a fresh-faced college offensive coordinator more than happy to jump at the opportunity.

So Davis obviously deserves blame. No one's disputing that. And he probably even deserves ridicule for attempting to dress and act just as he did 20 years ago. He's the Izzy Mendelbaum of the NFL - a guy who thinks he can still take any one of these whippersnappers who dare get in his face and challenge his authority. In reality, however, his day has passed and it's long past time he step aside and yield to the present.

But criticize Davis with the facts. Even if he has made himself into a cartoon, to paste his face all over a magazine to point and snicker at an old man who doesn't know when to step aside strikes me as extremely mean-spirited. And it's just too easy.

Maybe it's hypocritical of me to be bothered by this, considering I said Bill Parcells was too old to be the Lions' general manager. But at least I made that claim about someone who could still probably kick my ass if I said it to his face.

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Thinking (and linking) over lunch

♦ I'm not sure I needed to know how Lions defensive coordinator Joe Barry (who now seems permanently saddled with the nickname "son-in-law") found himself hooking up with a daughter of Sgt. Marinelli. But thanks to today's Detroit Free Press, we now know the story. Better that than Senior Bowl scouting reports, right?

♦ Oh wait - never mind. We got that, too. The best quote from the article is Mike Martz's answer when asked what the Lions need. "Everything," he said. "Except for a quarterback." Order your season tickets now.

I don't suppose this is one of those "smoke screens" from the Lions, is it? I hear other teams do that sometimes. Humor us and keep an eye on JaMarcus Russell, will ya?

♦ I shouldn't care about this, but how do the Dallas Cowboys bring in a new offensive coordinator before hiring a new head coach? And then they might make Jason Garrett the head coach if he can't find anyone else? What the hell... ? How many coaches would be on board with that kind of arrangement?

Okay, here's why I care: Is Jerry Jones trying to steal attention away from Matt Millen? C'mon, man - this kind of incompetence is the only identity pro football has in Detroit right now. Don't take that away from us.

♦ "Hibachi," "Agent Zero," whatever - I'm excited about watching Gilbert Arenas play the Pistons tonight. (Even if he's averaged "only" 24 points against them this season.)

And no, it's not because I think he's standing in the way between the Pistons and another Eastern Conference championship. That's just dumb. He was a fun interview on "PTI" earlier this week, he was just voted to start in the All-Star Game, and anyone who says he wants to go back to college just to pound on Duke - especially when he says he wouldn't even pass the ball - is cool with me.

Also, if Arenas gets to go back to college to play Duke, I want to live my freshman year of college over again. Couple of things I'd like to do differently.

♦ Chalk it up to speculation, if you will, but one of the writers at Sports Inferno thinks Joe Dumars might be ready to make goo-goo eyes at Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo again. Could Izzo be Joe D's guy if things don't work out with their current coach, and Flip Saunders decides that the University of Minnesota job looks good, after all?

♦ Not that it was ever any great fear for Detroit Tigers fans, but now that Carlos Pena looks ready to sign a minor league contract with the Devil Rays, do we ever have to worry about him finally realizing that potential in another city? No, I didn't think so, either. Upside, down!

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Happy Hour 01/24: The coolest coach in America?

I don't know how I apparently became so busy over the last couple of days that I didn't post at least a paragraph on the Tennessee basketball coach's Maize n Brew and Rocky Top Talk showed me the way.

And since Dr. Lil Sis' boyfriend is a big Tennessee fan and has been trying to convert me (don't think I haven't noticed, pal), I just can't let this slide by without a comment.

C'mon - how cool is Bruce Pearl? (Okay, he wasn't exactly cool that time he sweated through one of his suits, but he seems to have discovered Degree since then.) How many other coaches in this country can you imagine smothering their torsos in paint and cheering with the students?

I love this. So many coaches look absolutely miserable, just sucking the fun out of their respective games. It's sometimes difficult to imagine these sourpusses being able to inspire any sort of enthusiasm from his players. So when a guy comes around who looks like he's actually having fun doing his job (USC's Pete Carroll also comes to mind), I feel like applauding.

Obviously, hijinks and hilarity don't go that far if a coach isn't winning games. But it's not like Pearl is just some attention-seeking clown who paints up to obscure a struggling team. No, he's revived the men's program in Knoxville.

Sure, I feel a little bit sorry for the poor student basketball manager who Coach Pearl probably asked to help him slather grease paint all over his chest and shoulders. But in the name of spirit and fun (which is supposed to be why we watch these damn sports in the first place), I think that's pretty damn close to awesome.

Am I about to call up Dr. Lil' Sis' boyfriend and sing "Rocky Top"? Hell, no. But I'll definitely hold my hands up in surrender. Your basketball coach is way cooler than either of the two whose games I keep forgetting to watch.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Dream of the Big Tuna

Did you watch The Office last week? If you're not familiar with it, there was a scene in which Jim asks Ryan if he wants to play a prank on Andy, who's been bugging the hell out of everyone. Ryan declines by saying, "Not right now. But ask me again ten years ago."

That's how I've felt when hearing or seeing "Bill Parcells" and "Detroit Lions" used in the same sentence over the past couple of days.

That ship sailed long ago, man. Depending on whether or not you choose to believe reports from a few years ago, the Lions had a chance with Parcells, but opted to keep on riding the Matt Millen gruel train. (Go ahead - it's okay to cry. I'm getting misty, too.)

Of course, this could've just been written off as a silly sports talk radio or message board fanboy fantasy. At least until Drew Sharp decided to use that scenario as the subject of his column in today's Detroit Free Press.

And with that, let us all get down on our knees and bow before the prophet that is Big Al. Or just tip your caps if you don't want to get your pants dirty. I understand. Laundry sucks.

But c'mon, he totally nailed this one. You could argue that it wasn't too much of a stretch to predict that one of Detroit's sports columnists would phone it in with this topic today. But I choose to praise Big Al for having his finger so firmly on the pulse of the local sports media. And if you don't care to join me, that's okay - Big Al praised himself already. (We kid because we love, Al.)

It seems pretty clear that Parcells' coaching days are over, so let's focus more on whether or not he'd be a good general manager. I think he would be. Parcells knows how to put together a winning football team. He left the Patriots because he wasn't entirely allowed to make those decisions, but proved he could do it with the Jets and Cowboys.

Was it ultimately a disappointment that the Cowboys didn't make it to the Super Bowl under his guidance? Probably. But they sure improved while he was there.

However, the Detroit Lions are just too large a rebuilding project at this point for Parcells to take on at this point. Once the Fords finally face reality and fire Millen after one more "... or else!" season, there will be one hell of a mess to clean up. We're probably looking at another three-to-five year process. I can't imagine Parcells would have the patience for that. Not at his age.

And if that sounds ageist, I certainly don't mean it to. It's not necessarily the number. It's the number of football miles that Parcells has put himself through in those 65 years. Coaching pro football is a punishing job (largely by choice). For their general manager position, the Lions need someone young enough to bring some energy to the challenge. They need fresh blood to tap.

Besides, do we really want to see Parcells have the soul sucked out of his remaining years by dealing with this mess? All the blonde hair dye in the world wouldn't hide that. Look how much Millen has aged during his six years in Detroit. You can't possibly want that on your hands. For the sake of his health, I hope he's not even tempted.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Happy Hour 01/22: The Tao of Chuck Wilson

As something of a follow-up to Friday's post about Chris Sheridan pouring gasoline on the smouldering embers between Rasheed Wallace and Flip Saunders, I thought I'd post a link to an interview from the latest Baseball Prospectus Radio podcast.

This weekend, Will Carroll and Brad Wochomurka talked to Chuck Wilson, formerly of ESPN Radio, and now the host of "On Deck" on XM Radio. Among the many topics they discussed were the many changes in sports broadcasting during Wilson's career - especially with sports talk radio.

How are athletes interviewed these days? What sorts of questions are they asked? Is the idea to make the writer look good, because he was "tough" in the eyes of readers and listeners? No one wants to be accused of asking soft questions. But does a different approach elicit better, more thoughtful answers, and thus everyone learns something about the game?

While listening to the interview, I couldn't help but think about what happened with Sheridan and 'Sheed last week. What was really the story? Was it the tension between 'Sheed and his coach? Or had it become what Sheridan wrote for ESPN.com? And did he really help matters by writing the next day about how he was confronted at practice? Isn't that essentially making himself the story? Even if the article later went on to explore that tension and what may have caused it, which is arguably what he should've done in the first place?

I thought it was a really insightful chat, and of course, the discussion later turns toward the coverage of baseball and how it's approached from so many more angles than it used to be. Writers, managers, scouts, and executives aren't afraid to look at the conventional wisdom of the game and ask "Why?" anymore, resulting in a much different experience with the game.

Does anybody else miss the old days of ESPN Radio with Wilson and Tony Bruno doing late-nights? I spent many a Friday and Saturday night driving home listening to those guys. And you just don't hear the same kinds of long-form interviews Wilson used to have on his "Legends" series anymore. Certainly not on the radio.

The podcast can be downloaded here or from the Baseball Prospectus site itself.

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Go win this thing, Peyton

The ball was right there in his hands, but then it slipped out. This time was different, though.

Instead of slipping right back into the New England Patriots' hands, as so many of these games had before, Reggie Wayne snatched that ball out of the air and cradled it in his arms as he fell to the ground. First down, 23 yards closer to one of the greatest comebacks any of us have ever seen. (To quote Barney from How I Met Your Mother, it would be "legendary.")

To me, that play, just before the two-minute warning at the end of last night's game, was an allegory for the Indianapolis Colts' recent playoff failures. How many times have the Colts had their eyes on the prize, had it right in their hands, only to see the Patriots take it away - and kick them down the stairs, for good measure?

But this time, Charlie Brown got to kick that football. Lucy couldn't pull it away, no matter how hard she may have tried. Peyton Manning and the Colts had the answers. They made the plays when they counted the most. They finally ran through the wall they'd been banging their heads against for so many years.

This thing was over in the second quarter. 21-3? Asante Samuel's 39-yard interception return for a touchdown was yet another slap right to Manning's face. And you had to wonder what was going to happen to the Colts after this game. Because if they couldn't beat the Patriots this time, when the hell were they going to do it?

But wasn't it even sweeter with that comeback? Could it really have happened any other way? The Patriots had to beat Peyton Manning down and rub his face in the dirt before he could push them off, get back up, and fight back. It was like an old Hulk Hogan wrestling match. The Hulkster looks beaten. The Iron Sheik keeps hammering away. But he keeps taking the punches, until that last one finally jolts him back to life. And then the rally begins.

Yet until it actually happened, until Manning finished off one of those drives that makes a quarterback legendary, until Joseph Addai pushed into the end zone with one minute left in the game, did such a comeback seem possible? Because we've never seen this before. The Patriots don't lose these games - especially to the Colts.

Even when Indianapolis beat New England earlier in the season, it seemed like the Patriots let it happen. They didn't attack Manning with blitzes as they had before. They didn't run Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney into the middle of that soft Colts defense. Belichick was just toying with Indianapolis, right? He had to be holding stuff back for that inevitable playoff rematch. Any time he wanted to, he could unleash the hounds on Manning.

But not last night. Tony Dungy and his staff should hold clinics on whatever adjustments they made during halftime. Instead of looking at the scoreboard and curling into the fetal position, the Colts came out with purpose.

Even Manning seemed more focused. He cut down on the pre-snap histrionics. No pointing to the right, hand signals to the left. No stepping back from center, pointing at a blitzer, yelling out instructions to his backs and receivers, and stepping under center again for an audible that may or may not have been called. No more trying to fool the defense. Just do what you do, and see if they can stop it.

And this time, the Patriots couldn't. Not only that, they were the ones committing costly penalties. They were the ones dropping the wide-open passes. They were the ones who'd look back on this game and kick themselves.

For the Colts' sake, I hope it doesn't end here. I get a little uneasy when I see a team celebrate like Indianapolis did right after the game. I know they cleared a huge hurdle, and going to the Super Bowl is one hell of an accomplishment. And doing it in front of the home fans had to make it feel that much more special.

But I couldn't help but think of the Pistons after they beat the Celtics in '88, or the Tigers after beating Oakland last season. Both those teams acted as if they'd already won the championship. Yes, they had to celebrate. It was only natural, considering all the frustration that came beforehand. I've obviously never been in such a position, but it seems like it'd be difficult to come back from that and play again. And I hope the Colts don't fall into that trap. That was just too good a comeback to waste.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Happy Hour 01/19: Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'

Between counting all of the hits The Wayne Fontes Experience has recently received for a blog-time of ripping on Rob Parker, Big Al wrote an excellent post yesterday that detailed all of the various fires that currently need to be put out in the Detroit Pistons locker room.

However, after the drama that's ensued over the past couple of days at The Palace, I'm beginning to wonder if this soap opera is a reality or a flame started and stoked by the media - especially the national press.

That's not to say that there aren't many real problems with this team. Things most certainly aren't clicking with the Pistons. Injuries and new players that simply haven't worked out have prevented the Pistons from establishing any kind of rhythm, and I'd bet that frustration over these misfires is a large reason for the current existing tension.

But then a national writer comes in, notices something worthy of attention (especially if he's not familiar with the situation), and runs with it. Perhaps the biggest problem he made, however, was not checking with any of the local guys to see if such behavior might be out of the ordinary.

Maybe that's not standard operating procedure for ESPN.com guys. Obviously, Chris Sheridan has covered the NBA for a long time and knows what's going on. But it seems to me that if you want information on a team you might not regularly cover - and I think a lot of columnists would say this - you check with the beat reporters.

In my handful of press box experiences, I saw it frequently. Beat writers from the home team swapping notes with the guys from the visiting team, and vice versa. Granted, such chats are more difficult courtside at the Palace with everyone shoehorned behind a couple of tables than at, say, the more spacious accommodations at Comerica Park. But there's plenty of opportunity to pull a colleague aside at halftime or when the media throng is huddled together looking for post-game quotes.

And I shouldn't presume that Sheridan didn't do that. (He seemed to have for a semi-mea culpa on his ESPN.com blog.) Again, he's been doing this a long time.

But it sure didn't look that way when he slipped the word "hate" in the "Daily Dish" column that spawned assorted blog entries (from the aforementioned local beat writers) and after-practice tirades, and generally been the topic du jour of Detroit sports.

According to the dictionary, sensationalism is defined as "subject matter, language, or style producing or designed to produce startling or thrilling impressions, or to excite." I don't know what you think, but that sounds pretty much exactly what Sheridan when he decided "discord and disharmony" just didn't do the trick, and opted for "hate" instead.

Of course, that may have been exactly his intention. If so, mission accomplished.

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You'd still have to find Michigan basketball fans

Today's Detroit News has an interesting article by Fred Girard about the progress of renovation plans for the University of Michigan's Crisler Arena. Last month, the cost for the project was estimated as high as $75 million.

Athletic director Bill Martin, however, says such plans aren't at the stage for a set price tag yet. For one thing, much more updated information is needed. The last infrastructure study on Crisler was done 10 years ago.

Plus, there are several more building projects on the docket, many of which hold a higher priority for the U-M athletic department. Included among these are the newly opened Ross Academic Center, updates to Alumni Field (softball) and Fisher Stadium (baseball), and the much-anticipated renovations and additions to Michigan Stadium, set to cost $226 million.

But even if improvements to Crisler Arena weren't far down the to-do list for Michigan, I'd wonder just how much support such plans would have in the first place. From both the inside and outside, the facility seems perfectly suitable. Nothing appears to be falling apart or in crying need of repair.

What Crisler seems to be most in need of is an atmosphere transfusion. The place is dimly lit. (Maybe to hide all of the empty seats?) You want to fall asleep as soon as you sit down. It's almost as dark as a concert hall while a symphony is performing.

The Maize Rage has done an impressive job over the past few years of boosting up the noise and spirit close to the court, but any and all fervor seems to be restricted to that section. It's certainly a good start, but hardly the Izzone at Michigan State, for example.

Unfortunately, my frame of reference for other Big Ten arenas is restricted to the state of Michigan. So I can only compare Crisler to the Breslin Center. But it's not too difficult to see what MSU gets right as soon as you walk in. The place is bright and exciting, almost like a miniature version of The Palace of Auburn Hills. It makes you sit up and take notice.

But the big question for the Michigan athletic department is whether or not they'd see any return on such an investment. I'm not saying anything a Michigan fan already doesn't know, but basketball just doesn't draw the same kind of support football does here. Fan interest isn't attached solely to performance, either. I don't have any hard data to back this up, but I don't remember Crisler being consistently filled during the "Fab Five" era. And that was arguably the program's most successful run. (It was certainly its most notorious.)

So would Michigan shelling out $75 million for an improved basketball arena be the athletic department equivalent of buying a Bowflex for yourself in January? This year you're going to start working out! And then by February, you've spent $1,500 on a dust-gathering coat rack/DVD shelf. Would the same thing happen in Ann Arbor after the one-year novelty of a newly spruced-up Crisler Arena wears off?

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Happy Hour 01/18: My Water Bottle Just Holds Water

Deadspin already covered this today, so there's really not much else I can add after all the good "the terrorists have won" jokes have been taken.

But after finding out about Michael Vick's drug-toting water bottle, my first thought was, "How come I never hear about anything cool like that?"

Well, sure - now I've obviously heard about this hidden-contraption beverage container. But I'm talking about before it hits the news, becoming familiar with the masses and fodder for late-night talk show monologues and snarky sports blogs.

And now I really want one - but so will everyone else. At the very least, I wish I'd heard of this before I bought a personal water bottle to bring along for "workouts."

Think of all the stuff you'll be able to sneak into baseball games this summer. At the very least, it could save you eight bucks on beer (though I suppose you can't fit much in that bottle, so you'd better go with the hard stuff).

Plus, it's way cheaper than "The Beerbelly."

Man, pro athletes always get the cool stuff first...

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Who needs breakfast? Have Links for lunch!

▪▪ ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan was presumably in town to cover Chris Webber's debut (in which I thought he looked nervous and slow - but it was his first game as a Piston, and the first time he's stepped onto an NBA court in about a month), but for today's "Daily Dime," he found himself watching the allegedly deteriorating relationship between Rasheed Wallace and Flip Saunders very, very closely.

▪▪ Detroit Bad Boys has a response, especially as to how 'Sheed's technical foul affected the outcome of the Pistons 100-99 loss to Utah.

▪▪ Oh, if only NFL teams got to call mulligans on their draft picks. Complete Sports combines Mr. Peabody with Mel Kiper and takes a look back at the 2006 NFL Draft. Who (besides the Houston Texans, obviously) would take a do-over with their selection? Which players far exceeded their draft slot? We loved Ernie Sims this past season in Detroit, but what if the Lions could've taken A.J. Hawk instead?

▪▪ According to the Detroit Tigers Weblog, Fox Sports Detroit will be replaying each of the Detroit Tigers' seven consecutive playoff wins from last season. Billfer has the schedule posted, and for someone who missed the entire Tigers-Yankees series while on vacation in Hawaii (I drank many Mai-Tais to forget that unfortunate timing), I'm most grateful for this.

▪▪ Big Al is performing a generous public service for "Cold Pizza" viewers curious to learn more about the nasally, drivel-spouting debate partner for Skip Bayless on "1st and Ten" this week. Yet another reason for the nation to feel sorry for Detroit. Yes, we actually have to endure more of this guy (and I don't mean Big Al).

▪▪ Need4Sheed has a great gift idea for Pistons fans on Valentine's Day. Is it okay to buy something for yourself? You're supposed to get a gift for the one you love, right?

▪▪ Baseball non-sequitor: The Braves have been doing some impressive work on their bullpen this off-season. (Buster Olney says so!) Back in December, Atlanta traded for Rafael Soriano. Last night, they got Mike Gonzalez to help set-up Bob Wickman for the ninth inning. Not sure the Braves fans like the deal, however.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Happy Hour 01/17: Paying Off a Bet

While the rumors surrounding Chris Webber joining the Pistons burned hot last week, our favorite Denver transplant, Kevin Antcliff, often sent e-mail or instant messages asking if I'd heard any news that wasn't made its way out to Mile High country. As a big fan of Webber's, KA was decidedly more excited about his possible return to Detroit, while I looked inward to examine the grudge I still held.

Eventually, our discussion came down to this: Kevin thought Webber would sign with the Pistons, while I remained skeptical and figured he'd eventually go to another team that would either pay him more money or afford him a chance to avoid questions about his past indiscretions.

After "I think he will" vs. "I think he won't," where else is there to go? We'd get our answer in a day or two, and then move on.

So I asked K-Dog if he cared to make our little argument interesting. Probably because I was bored at that particular point of the weekend. But what were we to do? We weren't going to bet money. And even if we had cash to burn, what good would handing $20 over to the other really be? No, we had to come up with different terms.

And with Kevin reviving his personal website (Have you stopped by yet?) I thought it might be funny if he christened its return with a declaration of my greatness, an Ode to Ian, if you will.

It was either that or saying my name the next time he made love to his wife. Since that might make things a bit awkward for all involved, however (and because there was really nothing I could do to reciprocate such stakes on my end of the bargain), we decided to stick with the loser having to kneel before Zod and lavishly praise the winner and his wisdom on his blog.

Now that Webber has officially become a Detroit Piston and is set to debut tonight against the Utah Jazz, I have to pay off my foolish bet. So here goes:

Women want to be with him, and men want to be him. Kevin Antcliff is one of the greatest minds that the internet - especially the blogosphere - has ever known.

The banner on his site - KevinAntcliff.com - for one thing, is really, really cool and I'm totally envious. But he is also well on his way to establishing his own kingdom of media, between his work for the online edition of Mile High Sports Magazine, The Stampede (the official magazine of University of Colorado athletics), along with the totally awesome soon-to-debut website that will help all of us to lead healthier, happier, and more fulfilling lifestyles and undoubtedly compel sponsors to lavish him with ad revenue.

Kevin has also, in all sincerity, bravely documented his effort to lose 100 pounds on a blog, which is now titled The 68. (It began as The 100, which should tell you how he's been doing so far.)

Not only do I applaud his honesty and willingness to be so open about things many of us would be too embarrassed to reveal, but I admire the determination Kevin has shown toward bettering himself and achieving his goal. It would truly benefit me to follow his example.

But I don't want to get too serious and mushy here, so please allow me to highlight many of Kevin's other contributions to mankind, including the following:

♦ Kevin Antcliff totally came up with the iPhone before Apple, but didn't have Steve Jobs' money to bankroll the project. (Plus, he's already busy enough raising his two beautiful children, Riley and Madison.)

♦ The reason no one has ever found Bigfoot is that Kevin already found him - and killed him with his bare hands.

♦ Before pursuing the affections of Tom Brady, supermodel Gisele Bundchen asked Kevin if he wanted to go out to dinner. Kevin declined, however, because he is a devoted husband and father. But this is how great a guy Kevin is: He gave Gisele my phone number. Unfortunately for me, she said no - after she was done laughing hysterically.

♦ When making Superman Returns, Bryan Singer asked Kevin if he could change Superman's name to Kevin Antcliff. Kevin declined because he loves Superman, and quite frankly, he's just that humble.

♦ If you mention the name Kevin Antcliff to Chuck Norris, Chuck Norris will hide under a table. And soil his trousers. So would Jack Bauer, if the writers of 24 ever had the guts to write that storyline.

But more importantly to this sports blog, Kevin clearly knows more about NBA basketball than I do. And I envy him for remembering how much joy Webber has brought to him as a basketball fan, rather than becoming jaded and holding onto a grudge.

You win, Kevin. This time.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Happy Hour 01/16: The Webber Presser

♦ Chris Webber's face went from smiling and youthful to aged and tortured in about five seconds. He had to expect some questions from the media about what happened at Michigan, and how he might deal with that upon his return to Detroit. But to ask for an apology - or expect one - is probably hoping for too much.

Did he dodge the question by saying today was about the Pistons? Did he sound like Mark McGwire when he said he didn't want to get into what happened 15 years ago? I certainly think so. Webber can't possibly be naive enough to think that people have forgotten about this. He could smooth over everything with a simple one-sentence mea culpa.

But such hard feelings might be limited to Ann Arbor, and not representative of the Detroit sports fan base as a whole. And ultimately, as Terry Foster pointed out in his blog today, Webber is a Detroiter, not necessarily a Michigan Wolverine. That's what he's coming home to.

♦ Having said all that, I wonder if Michigan basketball coach Tommy Amaker might be misreading the situation by saying he'd welcome Webber back to Crisler Arena. After all, quite a few banners had to come down because of the money that he and his contemporaries accepted. And of course, there's also that infamous time-out he called in the 1993 national championship game.

Sure, I understand why Amaker would want Webber stopping by practice, appearing at games, and maybe sitting behind the U-M bench. Young players who either remember C-Webb from his "Fab Five" days or know him from the NBA would take notice. That's a hell of a recruiting tool for a program in sore need of a draw.

And maybe Amaker looks at a half-empty Crisler Arena most nights, with a city and campus that doesn't seem to care much about his program, and questions whether or not it's worth placating some hard feelings in the area. In his eyes, maybe he doesn't believe people could even be bothered to express outrage at this point. So what is there to lose?

♦ If you're wondering why Webber made the bizarre choice of 84 for his uniform number (we know he wasn't getting #4), he explained during the presser that his six-year-old nephew saw him wearing #84 in a dream. And at the end of that dream, the Pistons won the game. So that's what's going on the back of his jersey.

And here I thought it might be a tribute to the '84 Tigers or former Lions receiver Herman Moore. Oh well.

(Thanks to Kevin Antcliff for the link. More on KA tomorrow, by the way.)

Sports Illustrated's Marty Burns isn't a fan of the Pistons signing Webber, largely because of his defensive shortcomings. Among the people he quotes in this article are a Western Conference scout who says "he's awful" and "can't play anymore," an anonymous Chicago Bull who thinks Detroit would be "crazy" to trade Antonio McDyess to make room for Webber, and various San Antonio Spurs who don't seem to care about the move.

♦ And finally, while looking up some stuff to possibly make a Thomas Wolfe (You Can't Go Home Again) reference, I was reminded that the main character in Wolfe's novel is named George Webber. Think about that when you close your eyes and try to fall asleep tonight.

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The Prodigal Son Returns

I pretty much said my piece on Chris Webber coming to the Pistons last week, so I'll try not to rehash it. After making the case that I didn't think he would sign with Detroit (and arguing over it with a few friends), I came to realize that it wasn't so much that I didn't think he could help the Pistons. Regardless of how his skills have diminished, I think it's clear that he's an upgrade over their current big men (or "bigs," as we like to say these days). And judging from the ovation he received at the Palace yesterday, the fans seem to agree.

So it must be that I belong among those that still hold a grudge over what he did to the Michigan basketball program. And I'm not saying that's rational. Webber was just a kid when he took those money-filled handshakes from Ed Martin. Many of us have done stupid stuff in our late teens that we regret as adults.

Sure, I still grind my teeth when I think about Webber complaining that he couldn't even afford a pizza while he was stuffing his pockets with thousands of forbidden dollars.

But he was right to point out the hypocrisy of a school pulling in millions of dollars in jersey and apparel sales from an athlete's notoriety while cutting those same kids off from the money they helped bring in. Even if Webber really didn't have an ideological leg to stand on, it was still an issue very much worth raising.

Besides, the Michigan athletic department has had many years since Webber's money-filled handshakes with Ed Martin to try and fix the damage that occurred, and generally botched the job with failures to react to such boosters, along with bad coaching hires since Steve Fisher was dismissed.

I guess what I'm saying is I should get over my grudge. Maybe I will. But I felt like Webber was dead to me when those penalties were handed down by the NCAA. And I chalked it up to karma when he suffered that knee injury in the 2003 playoffs that affects him to this day. Letting go of that won't happen overnight.

However, another NBA title would surely go a long way toward letting bygones be bygones. (And if that championship came with a little humility from Webber, it'd be even nicer.) The Pistons obviously needed a push, something to freshen up what's become somewhat stale. It holds some underperforming players (Nazr Mohammed) accountable for their lack of production and puts the rest of the roster - including the coaching staff - on notice.

Perhaps most importantly, this allows the other dominoes to fall for Joe Dumars. This very likely isn't the last move he makes. One of the bigs has to go. Long-range shooting and quality back-up point guard play have been constantly elusive for the Pistons since their last championship, and this gives Joe D yet another chance to address those needs. And with the Eastern Conference in its current state, such moves should make Detroit a favorite to return to the NBA Finals.

Redemption, forgiveness, affirmation, and success. They're all ingredients that could make for a compelling story, if the ending works out as everyone hopes.

Don't blow it, Chris.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy Hour 01/15: The Curse Even L.T. Can't Lift

Facing the possibility of losing your job after a 14-2 regular season seems pretty harsh. But when your postseason record is 5-13, and your team - which might just have been the best in the NFL - is going home after losing in the divisional round of the playoffs, I suppose you have to deal with a tough crowd.

I feel bad for Marty Schottenheimer. And I found it hard to believe that there was talk about him being fired if the Chargers lost to the Patriots.

Yet here he is, trying to digest another playoff loss. And he can't just shrug his shoulders and chalk it up to John Elway's greatness anymore. This Chargers team was probably the best team he's ever had going into the postseason. Better than those Browns teams that lost to John Elway. Better than the Joe Montana Traveling Road Show in Kansas City.

It wasn't Schottenheimer that fumbled away an interception, giving New England the ball back on the San Diego 32-yard line. Had Marlon McCree hung onto that ball, the game might have been over. The Chargers had an eight-point lead, and could've run a big chunk of the remaining six-and-a-half minutes off the clock. Yet the Patriots capitalized on the opportunity - because that's what they do - and tied the game five plays later.

However, the head coach may have made the situation even worse by challenging for a replay when it was glaringly obvious that McCree had fumbled. Down by contact? No chance, Coach. Burning what turned out to be a precious time-out on such an unnecessary challenge likely cost the Chargers crucial yards they needed for a game-tying field goal attempt.

And Schottenheimer did make the call to go for it on 4th-and-11 from the New England 30-yard line. Was he just trying not to be Andy Reid? Sure, that decision was made in the first quarter and didn't directly affect the outcome of the game. But those three points ended up being pretty important.

Dropped passes? Muffed punts? Turnovers? Personal foul and unnecessary roughness penalties? Even though the head coach didn't botch those plays, we know where the blame for such mental mistakes ultimately falls.

This one really has to hurt. Because the MVP, LaDainian Tomlinson, had a good enough game for his team to win. And the Patriots looked as beatable as they ever have in the Belichick/Brady era. Schottenheimer may never have had a better chance than this - and it could be the last one he gets.

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Why I wanted the Seahawks to lose?

I didn't watch much of yesterday's Seahawks-Bears playoff game (this isn't helping my sports blogging bona fides), but I suppose I was sort of cheering for Seattle, as my default setting is to root against any Chicago sports team.

Yet while I was watching - and later listening on the radio in my car - my interests changed, and I began pulling for the Seahawks' elimination from the playoffs. It's not because of any dislike toward the team. Their uniforms look pretty cool. It's nothing against Matt Hasselbeck or Shaun Alexander. I like both of those players. I think Mike Holmgren's a very good coach. And Seattle is a city I desperately want to visit someday soon.

But if I had to hear one more reference to Seattle's Pete Hunter being a loan officer, I was probably going to shove a white-hot knitting needle through one ear and out the other.

Yes, I get it. One week, this guy is processing loans for a mortgage office. The next, a Seahawks team with no healthy defensive backs is calling him to ask if he wants to cover Terrell Owens in a playoff game. It's a fun story.

But did we have to be reminded of it every single time Hunter was involved in a play?

"Pass to Berrian out in the flat, tackled by the loan officer."

"Grossman down the sideline, incomplete. Pete Hunter on the
coverage. Did you know he was a loan officer just two weeks ago?

"Hey, maybe after the game, he can help me refinance my mortgage.

Oh yeah, you need all the help you can get with that! HAR HAR!

And oh, by the way, a gain of three up the middle for Thomas Jones..."

For the love of Starbucks, how much more of this could we have been subjected to, had the Seahawks advanced? Can you imagine if Seattle made it to the Super Bowl again, and we'd have had two weeks of loan officer stories to listen to?

So thank you, Chicago Bears. Thank you, Robbie Gould, for kicking the 49-yard field goal in overtime that sent the Seahawks home. And thanks also for sending Pete Hunter back to that mortgage office. No offense, Pete.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Could Andy Reid just kick himself?

I didn't watch a whole lot of NFL playoff action yesterday. I missed all of the Colts-Ravens game, though when I looked at the box score and saw that Indianapolis won without Peyton Manning throwing a touchdown pass, I began to think that this might be their year.

My long-term memory might be failing me, but I don't recall the Colts winning too many games like that in their years of assorted playoff disappointments. Less than 200 yards passing for Manning? And only 100 yards rushing - as a team? Winning ugly can get you a long way...

But I did get home in time for the fourth quarter of Eagles-Saints. And based on what I was able to see, I really have only one question:

Why in the name of Ron Jaworski did Andy Reid decide to punt with less than two minutes left in the game?!?

Even with two time-outs to burn, did he really think the Eagles could get the ball back with time to drive for a game-tying field goal? With the way New Orleans (especially Deuce McAllister) was running the ball?

Maybe Marty "We'll take the wind!" Mornhinweg has a greater influence over Philadelphia's play-calling than we could ever have imagined.

And this was after Reid had opted to go for it when it was 4th-and-10, only to see Jeff Garcia's pass to Hank Baskett (which would've gotten a first down) wiped out by a false start penalty. At that point in the game, how much of a difference does five yards make?

"In hindsight, I guess maybe we should have [gone for it]," Reid said after the game, "because we didn't get the ball back. I thought we would be able to get the ball back."

It was an utterly baffling decision. Had he made such a call during the regular season, maybe it would've been understandable. Maybe it would've been a valuable exercise in seeing what your defense is made of. But with the season on the line? How could a team that played with such urgency on the way to a surprising NFC East division title suddenly turn so conservative when it needed to be most daring?

That's a hell of a question for Reid, his team, and Eagles fans to chew on from now until the beginning of training camp in late July.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Follow-Up #3: Webber, Due West?

While several reports have Chris Webber joining the Detroit Pistons as soon as Monday, indications are starting to sneak out that such a homecoming might not happen, after all.

Webber's agent, Aaron Goodwin, spoke to the Los Angeles Times to address the possibility of his client signing with the Lakers, and said there was one big factor working in their favor: "Chris loves Los Angeles."

Terry Foster of the Detroit News, however, wrote on his blog that the Lakers might not be the L.A. team C-Webb really wants to play for. He wouldn't have to share the ball with Kobe Bryant if he played for the Clippers.

In addition, Webber might be saying he'd like to join the Pistons, but telling others he'd prefer to avoid the pressure that might come with playing in his hometown. Could it be that he's trying to gauge public interest, and if he finds out that there's still a grudge held against him in metro Detroit, he's just as soon not deal with that?

And if he truly has reservations about being expected to help Detroit back to championship glory, is that the kind of guy the Pistons really need on their roster?

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Friday Follow-Up #2: Those Frisky Philly Fans

Ever since the story about the two grad students who were willing to have sex for a voyeur in exchange for Eagles playoff tickets broke last weekend, I've been wondering how things ended up. Did they end up performing their way to seeing the Eagles beat the Giants last Sunday?

(Thanks to all of you who stopped by to read about that, by the way.)

According to the Eagles' AOL Fanhouse blog, the answer is... well, maybe. I suppose we should commend these kids for not kissing (or, well, you know...) and telling. But their proposal certainly drummed up some interest.

From Philadelphia Will Do (via Philly Edge - who changed his name to protect the, um... kinky?):

“We (had several) offers,” Peter said, declining to divulge details of any encounter. He said he had been contacted by five newspapers, and men’s magazine Hustler, with requests for more on the story.

He admitted to being “(un)comfortable with all the commotion this has caused.”

Peter, though, had no regrets about the posting, which was first reported on by Philebrity.com, and then subsequently by the Daily News and several national Web sites. The results of the game, however, did disappoint him.

I'm a Giants fan. She’s the Eagles fan…. This was a big game for the both of us. (It was for) bragging rights.”

So wait - she wasn't an Eagles fan, but a Giants fan? Wow, that's kinda hot. (For an early Friday evening, anyway.)

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Friday Follow-Up #1: Forget Miami Martz?

Following Mike Martz's Wednesday night interview with the Miami Dolphins, the task now falls to Wayne Huizenga and his front office to whittle their list of 12 candidates down to a more manageable number.

(With that many candidates, this could've been a reality show. Where was ESPN on this one?)

Will Martz make the cut? Unfortunately, the magic 8-ball provides no answer.

The Detroit Free Press' Nick Cotsonika speculates that Miami may have just been picking Martz's brain, to see what he thinks of their team and how it can be improved offensively.

And the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero singled out two candidates who don't seem to fit what the Dolphins are looking for.

Tim Lewis - who was the New York Giants' defensive coordinator until today - is probably out because he favors a 4-3 scheme, which doesn't really cater to the skills of middle linebacker Zach Thomas and defensive end Jason Taylor, who earned the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award playing in the 3-4.

And then there's Martz. What are the strikes against him? 1) He doesn't care much for Daunte Culpepper, and told people the Dolphins were better off keeping Gus Frerotte. 2) He's been known to abandon the running game quickly, which might not suit a roster with Ronnie Brown and a soon-to-return Ricky Williams.

In the meantime, he's apparently waiting for the Oakland Raiders to show up on his Caller ID.

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At least Keira Knightley is in "Bend It Like Beckham"

Big Al already covered yesterday's news about metrosexual icon David Beckham leaving Real Madrid for Major League Soccer's L.A. Galaxy, and echoed my thoughts so closely that I'm better off just linking to his post.

And while you're still wondering if the reported $250 million that Beckham will earn over five years was a mistake made by every single news outlet in the country, the go-to guy for sports business, Darren Rovell, analyzes where that salary figure really comes from and whether or not this will benefit the MLS' long-term prospects for success.

Also, today's Los Angeles Times has all you need to know about the man who you might happen to stumble upon on a Saturday afternoon when it's raining outside and there's nothing else to watch on TV.

Meanwhile, let's leave it to the geniuses behind The Simpsons to perfectly sum up what kind of impact Beckham's migration to the U.S. will have on sports fans' awareness of soccer.

Yo, paella man! Wing one up here!

(Oh, my sister's boyfriend is going to give me hell for this...)

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Happy Hour 01/11: The Tangled Web Webber Weaves

The rumblings began over the weekend that Philadelphia might show Chris Webber the door, and today it became official - though the Sixers still sent C-Webb on his way with a sweet check (for presumably less than the $43 million remaining on his contract) to stick in his pocket.

That leads to the question of where Webber will end up next, and when that's the case, the possibility of returning to Detroit to play for his hometown team inevitably comes up. And the Pistons are among the five teams Webber is interested in joining, now that he's a free agent. So would he be a good match with DEE-troit BAS-ket-ball?

According to some reports - for instance, ESPN's Chris Broussard earlier today on "Cold Pizza" - it's close to a done deal. I'm hardly an expert (though I love to try and pretend I'm one here), but I think Webber and the Pistons are a bad fit.

Could the Pistons use Webber? Well, sure - it wouldn't hurt to have someone with his talent, even if it's not what he used to be. Detroit's been pretty inconsistent this season, especially with Chauncey Billups' calf injury. Fortunately, the Eastern Conference's mediocrity has allowed the Pistons to remain near the top of the standings.

He'd be a fantastic sixth man. And with fewer minutes to tire him out, Webber might find some of the energy we remember him having - much as it has with another formerly explosive player, Antonio McDyess. But that presents an immediate question. Would he be willing to come off the bench here, as McDyess has, or would he want to be a starter?

For some Pistons fans, the answer is a no-brainer. Webber's an obvious upgrade over Nazr Mohammed, so get him. I'm sure Flip Saunders is at least intrigued by the idea of being able to run some offense through Webber at the high post. And maybe C-Webb could start while Rasheed Wallace comes off the bench, something that Saunders has been toying with - for whatever reason - over the last couple of games.

However, it's play in the low post that Detroit's been lacking - and has been for the last few years. If Webber was willing to do what 'Sheed isn't - get down low and pound the ball in the lane - then he might be a better fit here. But he's never been the type of player who's comfortable with his back to the basket. And those knees don't allow him to leap over defenders as he used to.

Plus, if he was on the roster, Webber would take minutes away from the one guy who seems interested in fighting for points down low: Jason Maxiell. Maxiell's one of the reasons Joe Dumars wouldn't open the vault to re-sign Ben Wallace, and at this point, I think it might be in the Pistons' better interests to continue his development, rather than stunt his growth by relegating him to a practice player and bench warmer.

But that's just talking about the on-court stuff. It's the off-court side to this potential pairing that concerns me. I think a lot of people still hold one hell of a grudge against Webber for actions that virtually destroyed the University of Michigan basketball program.

In addition, when Webber was a free agent back in 2002 and had a chance to sign with the Pistons, he criticized the organization for playing its games in Auburn Hills, a Detroit suburb, rather than within the city limits. Of course, a big reason he may have opted to stay in Sacramento was that Michigan had just been freshly penalized by the NCAA. Not only was it revealed that Webber took almost $300,000 from a booster, but he lied about it to a grand jury.

And I think plenty of hard feelings remain over that. I'd go so far as to say that even though he's a Detroiter, he's hated in this area. But that might be some of my Ann Arbor bias showing through. Maybe time has healed some wounds and I'm misreading the Detroit fanbase. I'm sure plenty of Pistons fans would be willing to forgive and forget if Webber gave the team 20 points and 10 rebounds a night, and helped DEE-troit BAS-ket-ball regain its championship contender status.

Then again, there's still that timeout many of us can't forget...

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Not sure I needed to know that

Like any blogger, I always like to know how readers find their way to my site. Did people respond to something I wrote about Tony Romo, for instance? How many people found Sweaty Men Endeavors through my post on Kobe Bryant last year? Did that post on those frisky Eagles ticket-seekers draw some traffic? (More on them tomorrow, by the way.) Etc., etc. You know how it goes.

Site Meter and other such web counters, of course, become crucial tools in satisfying such curiosity. You can find out some really interesting things. It's often surprising and sometimes enlightening to see what sorts of web searches bring people to your blog. (And yes, I realize I asked for plenty of problems when I gave this blog its title. Believe me, there have been some gems.)

And then, sometimes you're reminded that you'd just rather not know. Because the truth is too disturbing. Case in point. I hope you found what you were truly looking for, sir or madam.

Boy, I hope this doesn't turn out to be something that happened when I was blacked out from drinking...

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