Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Friday, March 30, 2007

John Beilein? Can't We Enjoy Some More Gossip First?

So if you were watching the NIT championship last night (and save your jokes about how we're used to watching it in Ann Arbor - I've already beat that quip to death), did it kind of sound to you as if Michigan has already found its new men's basketball coach?

Maybe it was just the announcers savoring a juicy story. Or maybe I was just trying to read into virtually every comment or gesture made during and after the game. I know there was talk around halftime that Michigan "will reach out" to John Beilein during the Final Four this weekend. But when Bill Raftery made a crack about Beilein drawing up a great play "for the Maize n' Blue!", to which Fran Fraschilla clarified, "the Maize n' Blue of West Virginia," I was beginning to think those guys knew something that the rest of us hadn't been told yet.

Obviously, Beilein had no comment after the game. How could you expect him to? He just won a tournament with his team. To talk about another job would be disrespectful to the kids who just worked their asses off for him. Pushing the issue any further might have resulted in a Roy Williams-Bonnie Bernstein moment. Of course, Williams had just lost a national championship game, so that's probably not a good comparison. But it would've been kind of amusing for Beilein to tell Fraschilla, "I don't give a $#!+ about Michigan right now."

There's been a highly entertaining debate going on between MGoBlog and Maize n Brew the past couple of days over whether or not Beilein should be Michigan's #1 guy to replace Tommy Amaker. Choosing a side in the argument probably depends on how realistic you think Michigan should be in their expectations and desires for a new head coach. Is Beilein the best guy available, the best fit for the type of program Bill Martin wants? Or should Michigan try to shoot for the moon, given the currently precarious state of basketball in the hearts and minds of Wolverines fans?

I suppose I lean more toward the shoot for the moon philosophy, though I can certainly understand why Michigan might prefer to be more efficient with their time and money. I can also see why you might want to avoid the potential embarrassment of being turned down by a top candidate only to then shuffle onto the next guy who now knows he was at least the second choice, as North Carolina did in the pre-Roy Williams days when they ended up settling on Matt Doherty after seemingly everyone else had declined the position.

From everything I've read about the guy over the past two weeks, Beilein would be a fine coach for Michigan - and not just because he appears to be the anti-Amaker. I don't think there's much question that we'd see a better product on the floor (though perhaps more in terms of philosophy and scheme than pure talent) next season with him running the show.

However, it's beginning to sound like Beilein isn't just Michigan's top choice - he might be their only choice. And that's where I start to make a face. Reports say otherwise, so maybe I'm reading into something that's not really happening. Or maybe Michigan's practicing some "I don't need no stinkin' permission" espionage, and that's why things have been so quiet up until this point.

But we've seen this enough times in the metro Detroit area to know when there's not really much of a search going on. When the Pistons fired Larry Brown, Flip Saunders was their guy. Not much of a search there. When the Tigers canned Alan Trammell, Jim Leyland was already driving to Detroit from Pittsburgh. Not much of a search (unless you count the token minority interviews). And Ken Holland already had Mike Babcock in mind for the Red Wings' job when he dismissed Dave Lewis. No search process.

You realize what this means? Matt Millen is the only one in this area who appears to have performed due diligence for a head coaching search over the past three years. And that only happened because Millen #@$%ed up his previous two searches when he jumped far too quickly on Marty Mornhinweg and Steve Mariucci.

Of course, I'm looking at this much more as a fan than an administrator. I want the sizzle that comes with reading that Michigan is talking to head coaching stars like my homeboy Bruce Pearl, regardless of whether or not that's a realistic expectation. Give me a few rising stars that other schools might also be after. (Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery is apparently on Michigan's list, so there's that. And despite signing a contract extension, Washington State's Tony Bennett might be, as well.) Even if this is serious, big boy stuff, it's just more fun with some juicy gossip, isn't it? This is why we're all here, man.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Happy Hour 03/27: Waiting For Bill

I understand that perception doesn't always equal reality, but right now, doesn't it seem like everyone except the Michigan athletic department is interested in hiring a men's basketball coach?

I'm distinguishing between the men's and women's positions because Michigan has reportedly contacted Vanderbilt and Bowling Green for permission to interview their coaches for the women's basketball job. Meanwhile, it appears that none of the schools that currently employ any of the rumored candidates for the men's coaching gig have received requests for interviews.

Am I being a bit hasty in asking just what the hell is going on here? There has been almost zero noise surrounding the men's basketball coaching search over the past week. The only chatter that is coming out is from coaches acknowledging that the position is open (or just casually mentioning Michigan as a state in which they've recruited before). And considering most every candidate that's been rumored is now available to be interviewed (or has received a contract extension from their respective employers), that's a bit surprising.

It's borderline shocking when you see that Iowa isn't showing Michigan the common courtesy of waiting until the Wolverines have decided to make their move before requesting permission to interview prospective coaches. I mean, the Hawkeyes have already contacted Tennessee so they can talk to Bruce Pearl. How rude! What the hell happened to all the kindness and politeness I encountered from people during my two years in Iowa City? See what a having a head coach opening can do to your manners?

So seriously - what's happening? Is Michigan gathering its reserves to make a really big move, one that might test the resolve of anyone claiming loyalty to their current position? Is the administration waiting until the coach of a certain NIT semi-finalist (who's been heartily endorsed by local columnists) is available to formally chat? Or are they still trying to figure out just what the hell they're going to do?

Okay, the waiting is the hardest part. I know that. But why is there any waiting at all?

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My DVR Absolutely Frickin' Hates Me

Wow! A 60-foot prayer banked in to force overtime! What an amazing shot by 'Sheed!

Yeah, I didn't see it. I didn't #@$%ing see it.

My digital video recorder, which up until this point had shown me what true love is with the wonderful technology that it offers, really, really let me down when I may have needed it most. And I'll have to take the rest of the day to re-evaluate what I thought was an unconditionally solid relationship. But let me briefly relive the fresh hell that I've endured over the past eight hours.

I knew I was going to get home late last night, so I set my DVR to record the Pistons-Nuggets game. For most regular season games, I might not have bothered. But I was curious to see how the Nuggets would approach a rematch after being embarrassed in Denver two weeks ago by our local hardcourt heroes. I also figured we'd be assured of a tight game, due to the flu bug that's found its way into the Pistons' locker room. Plus, I just wanted to see Iverson and 'Melo.

So that was the plan. I'd get home late and then watch the game on tape delay. I was a little wound up after walking in the door, so I banged out a post for the new gig before settling in to breeze through the game before falling asleep. I knew nothing about the game beforehand. If it was a blowout, I would've fast-forwarded through most of it, deleted the recording, and tried to rejoin Angelina Jolie in dreamland. (Brad Pitt ain't got $#!+ on me there.)

As you might imagine, I stuck with the game because after the first quarter, it was close the whole time - but especially up until the very end. And right after Iverson hit his second free throw to make it a 98-95 game, everything on the screen stopped moving. Then that box that says "Delete Recording" and "Don't Delete Recording" popped up.

If you live in my neighborhood, I apologize. I know 2 a.m. is late, much too late for the kind of "Oh my God, you just ran over my foot with your lawn mower!!!" scream that emanated from my house. Are?! You?! #@$%ing?! Serious?! There were only 12 seconds left!!

Quickly, I flipped to ESPN. SportsCenter was talking about the Kansas City Chiefs and their upcoming draft. The crawl at the bottom of the screen showed the Memphis-Phoenix and Portland-Chicago scores before cycling to the NFL news and MLB scores. And then it went to a commercial break. Noooooooo! I flipped over to Fox Sports Detroit. They were on a commercial, too. And the re-broadcast of the Pistons game wasn't until 3 a.m. I turned back to ESPN, only to see Women's NCAA Tournament highlights. The crawl told me that John Calipari signed an extension with Memphis. NBA scores were at least fourth in line.

Any energy I had was gone. I turned off the TV, dropped the remote, and went to sleep. Wait! Let me turn on the radio! Okay, Fox Sports Radio is doing its half-hour scoreboard update. I hear the Spurs-Warriors score, and then they move on to other news. C'mon, man. That was it. 12 seconds left. I'd find out what happened in the morning.

I made sure to turn on SportsCenter as soon as I woke up, right at the top of the hour. And then I saw it. Are. You. Kidding me? 'Sheed tied the frickin' game and the Pistons won in over time. I get to my computer and check out the newspapers (even the Denver ones). The game stories say it really happened. I click over to Detroit Bad Boys and Need4Sheed. Not only do they confirm the result, but they also have video for me to watch over and over this morning. Tayshaun knocked the ball away from 'Melo. 'Sheed picked up the loose ball, heaved up a prayer from way beyond half-court, and tied the frickin' game.

Un-freakin-believable. 12 seconds left. You better make it up to me when I get home tonight, DVR.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Has It Really Been 10 Years?

Wow, I was asleep at the wheel today. (In a figurative sense, that is. Not a literal, Tony La Russa sense.) Until getting my daily dose of The Wayne Fontes Experience, I didn't realize today was the 10-year anniversary of The Fight. (Clearly, I didn't read any newspapers - or their blogs - today.) How in the hell could I forget? I should never, ever be that busy.

I don't know if that's what it's typically referred to among Detroit fans. You might have to be more specific than that. (The Brawl refers to something else entirely.) But if you include the names of the two combatants, Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux, you should promptly get a smile of recognition. It was one of the most infamously memorable nights in Detroit sports history.

It's sort of a cop-out, which I apologize for, but I wrote about this almost two years ago on my personal blog, Fried Rice Thoughts. So I think I'll just cut-and-paste what I wrote back then, because it's pretty much what I would say now. (Besides, if the Free Press can rerun articles on this, why can't I?) The post was my Top 10 most memorable sports moments, and the McCarty-Lemieux heavyweight bout was #3 on the list.

3. Darren McCarty pummels Claude Lemieux - March 26, 1997: I don't generally care for fighting in hockey. But occasionally, it serves a sadistically delicious purpose. To me, that was never truer than when Detroit's McCarty sought out Colorado's Lemieux, who seriously injured Kris Draper by shoving his face into the boards during their 1996 playoff series. The next time these teams played, before the puck even dropped to start the game, McCarty attacked Lemieux, and began beating him like a chef pounding a veal cutlet. Lemieux turtled into a protective shell for self-preservation, and was essentially never heard from again. If raw meat had been in front of me while watching this, I would've eaten it, wiped the blood from my chin, rewound the tape and watched the whole thing all over again.

I also wrote a little bit more about it when Brendan Shanahan left the Red Wings for the New York Rangers.

I'm not sure I've ever felt more bloodthirsty while watching a sporting event, yet also feeling strangely touched over a guy defending his teammate's honor. It was another three months before the Wings officially became NHL champions, but I'm sure many fans would agree that they won the Stanley Cup that night.

Man, I miss Darren McCarty...

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If He Can Make 'SNL' Funny, He Must Be Pretty Damn Good

I completely forgot Peyton Manning was hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend. Of course, that show's been off my radar for quite some time. (And when it had one chance to win me back, when Rainn Wilson hosted a few weeks ago, SNL blew it.) Anyway, I heard it was pretty good, and thanks to YouTube, I've been able to catch up on some of it.

I know some people are sick of all the commercials Manning does, but he is pretty damn funny in them. Was that due to some clever scripts? Maybe. So I was curious if he could bring some laughs to SNL. Check out this clip and see what you think. This is pretty much how I imagined Manning talking to the rest of his Colts teammates on the field before I kind of started rooting for the guy. (via Deadspin)

Oh, and it's a bit longer, but this "NCAA Tournament Pool Party" skit is pretty good, too. And not just because Manning bears an uncanny resemblance to ESPN.com's Pat Forde with the wig and suit.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Curses! The Buckeyes Foiled Me Again!

You know, if I wasn't already genetically and geographically disposed to dislike Ohio State, I might begin to hate those guys. They're really starting to bug me. Virtually every team I've rooted for over the past six months has been defeated/eliminated/etc. by the Buckeyes.

In football, they knocked Michigan out of the national championship race in November. In basketball, they ruined any chance Michigan had for an NCAA Tournament bid - twice in one week! And now, the Ohio State University has taken my bracket, crumpled it up, and thrown it into the garbage, by eliminating my homeboy Bruce Pearl and his Tennessee Volunteers in last night's regional semi-final.

Now that I think about it, did the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, or did Ohio State? That happened back in October, so my memory's a bit hazy. I do remember the color red being involved, however, so I wouldn't be surprised...

Why do they enjoy hurting me? What did I ever do to piss those guys off -- oops, never mind, I know the answer to that.

I'm still not sure how the Buckeyes came back to win that game. (Yes, even though Rocky Top Talk has outlined a thorough explanation.) Weren't the Vols up by 20 at one point? I have a text message from Dr. Lil' Sis' fiancee that essentially confirms that scenario. And... and that Oden dude barely played in the game because he kept fouling people (though his fourth foul was a weak call). Yet there he was at the very end, blocking the Vols' last shot.

I suppose it's easy to say that Tennessee lost because all those three-pointers they made in the first half turned into bricks during the second half. (Those guards obviously have the green light from Coach Pearl to jack up all those threes. Otherwise, I don't know how the hell he could stand it. Maybe that's the way they always play, but I kept screaming "No! No! No!" at the TV every time JuJuan Smith or Chris Lofton hoisted it from near-NBA three-point range, only to say "Oh! Okay - well, keep doing that!" every time the shot went in.)

Anyway, so that happened. Thanks, Ohio State, for screwing me again. Dammit.

So let's bring this back home. Now that Tennessee's season is done, will their head coach be getting a call from the Michigan athletic department? Chalk this up to frivolous rumor (and a lot of those things have been swirling around over the past week), and that category could certainly apply here, but I've heard rumblings from the Volunteer State that Bill Martin plans to go after Bruce Pearl and go after him hard. Maybe even harder, now that Minnesota nabbed Tubby Smith (and if you haven't read Maize n Brew's account of that, get over there and go into your weekend with a smile). Of course, that could just be anxiety from Tennessee. Take it or leave it.

By the way, now that the shock has worn off, did Tubby Smith really leave Kentucky for Minnesota? I mean, that really happened? I just wanted to be sure. I don't have anything against Minnesota. I love Minneapolis; I almost moved there a few years ago. I'm just wondering when exactly the world I knew so well changed so drastically.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Happy Hour 03/22: What the Hell is Going On Here?

♦ In the span of about two hours, the game of coaching musical chairs got crazy in the Big Ten. First, it looked like Xavier's Sean Miller was going to be the next University of Minnesota head coach. Shortly thereafter (very shortly), the Gophers raised the stakes significantly, hiring Tubby Smith away from Kentucky to run the show at Williams Arena next season. (ESPN.com confirmed the story soon after that.)

As Maize n Brew Dave just said to me via IM, "What the hell just happened?" Even the Minnesota press was knocked off their chairs on this one.

The dominoes aren't just falling in order now; they may have been scattered off the table. One of the elite jobs in college basketball just opened up in Lexington, and can expect to attract some of the biggest names available (or not available until approximately two hours ago). And whichever school loses their coach to Kentucky might create an opening that jumps ahead of Michigan in the greeting line.

♦ I'm sure you've all read this already, but just in case you haven't had a chance to see what it looks like when a coach sells his soul, here's a link to the NY Times article on the O.J. Mayo/Tim Floyd courtship at USC.

The main reason I'm linking to it today is The Big Lead raised an interesting point earlier today: What are the chances Mayo plays a minute for the Trojans once the NCAA looks into his relationship with Ronald Guillory?

I'll repeat what I said in the comments section over there: If Jamal Crawford was suspended while at Michigan because of his living arrangements with what the NCAA termed a “sponsor,” then what the hell will they have to say about an “event promoter” making overtures to a college coach?

♦ A swap of first-round picks (#8 to #10) and two second-round picks for Matt Schaub? Last night, my initial thought was that the Texans gave up too much for a back-up - and still rather unproven - quarterback. Then Richard Justice said he loved the trade on his Houston Chronicle blog. And if you weren't sure such a deal expressed the Texans' intentions to make Schaub their starting QB, they followed up with a six-year, $48 million contract that effectively sends David Carr looking for free agent handouts.

But enough about those other teams. Let's bring it back home to Detroit. Atlanta now has the #8 pick in the first round, and the 7th and 12th selections in the second round. Is that what Matt Millen might be looking for in exchange for the #2 pick? Here's how ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli sees it:

Most teams use a chart, principally developed by former Dallas and Miami coach Jimmy Johnson, that assigns a points value to every choice in the draft. The corresponding points for the eighth pick in the first round is 1,400. The two second-round choices owned by the Falcons are worth 510 points (the seventh choice in the round) and 460 points (the 12th).

The total points value for the Falcons' three choices in the first two rounds is 2,370 points. On the points chart, the second overall choice in the entire draft, owned by Detroit -- which is rumored to be interested in trading back -- is worth 2,600 points. Atlanta would fall a little shy of that, but not by much, with its 2,370 points for the three choices in the first and second rounds.

If the Falcons have their eyes on Calvin Johnson, and the Lions want to move down, there might just be enough to dance with here.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Big Ten Basketball Jobs Are the New Thing This Spring

So if Michigan and Minnesota were eyeballing each other, looking at several of the same candidates to run their men's basketball programs, what happens now that Steve Alford is looking to bolt Iowa for the head coaching gig at New Mexico?

According to ESPN.com's Andy Katz, this is close to a done deal, and unless negotiations hit a snag, Alford will be announced as the Lobos' new coach on Friday.

Now we're looking at three head coach openings in the Big Ten? (Well, maybe it's two, if the Gophers job belongs to Flip Saunders.) The competition for coaching talent is suddenly getting pretty fierce.

On the bright side for the Iowa athletic department, at least they no longer have to worry about not being able to buy the FireSteveAlford.com domain now.

Meanwhile, here's a conversation topic you can discuss amongst yourselves: Is Iowa a better job than Michigan?

I'm sure I can guess what Wolverines fans would say, but I'd argue that they're remarkably similar, especially in terms of fan support. Iowa might have better facilities, but Michigan has a deeper pool of talent to recruit. But up until last season, I'd say Alford was under just as much pressure (if not more, due to the Pierre Pierce scandal) and scrutiny as Tommy Amaker.

UPDATE (3/22 - 2:30 a.m.): The Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa student newspaper, is reporting that Alford will inform his players of the move this morning at a team meeting.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Happy Hour 03/19: So Who's the New Guy?

Right now, the Michigan blogosphere and media runneth over with lists, candidates, and opinions regarding who should be the next men's coach at Crisler Arena. I really have nothing to add, especially since I'd just come up with the same names, and honestly, I don't know a whole lot about 60% of these guys.

My initial reflex was to jump up and down while fluttering my hands at the mention of former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery. At first glance, he would seem to be exactly what Bill Martin should be looking for. He's coached at a school with extremely tough academic standards, put together a consistent Pac-10 powerhouse, while notching some won-loss records any coach would be proud of. Plus he's got a little of that NBA experience, which is nice, too.

However, I also think he might be a bit too old to undertake a project like this, and seems to be more of a West Coast guy. I'm betting Michigan wants someone younger (although you could argue they've already gone that particular route) with strong Midwestern ties and connections.

As our buddy Doug Hill said over the weekend, Michigan really needs a coach who can sell this program, and I definitely agree with that. Amaker certainly had his failings as a game coach, but I think his primary flaw was his seeming refusal to promote Michigan basketball.

How can a coach in this era of college basketball not even have a radio or TV show? And last year (I believe), there were rumblings that Fox Sports Net wanted to follow Amaker and his team during the end of the season, as it fought to make the NCAA Tournament. What an opportunity to show yourself to fans, alumni, and potential recruits, right? Except Amaker refused. You know who didn't, and took FSN up on its offer right away? Tom Izzo.

So my current impulse is to bring in a guy who will work like hell to encourage interest in his program, and I think mid-major coaches are used to that sort of demand. They're not presuming people will watch simply because of notoriety and reputation. They're not banking solely on the name of their school to attract attention. They're out there working like hell to embrace the community at large because they can't afford not to. And Michigan needs that kind of mentality right now.

But here's what people who actually know about this stuff are saying right now:

Maize n Brew has done an incredibly thorough job of outlining the candidates (after reading his list, I knew there was no sense in me even trying) and assessing their chances of being your new Michigan men's basketball coach. Southern Illinois' Chris Lowery is the most likely, in his opinion, followed by Washington State's Tony Bennett and UNLV's Lon Kruger.

Michigan Sports Center details the most important qualities that the next coach will need (teaching fundamentals, recruiting Detroit), and posts its own meticulous list, with a couple of additional candidates to consider.

MGoBlog has zoomed the microscope in even further, breaking down the talent pool into two categories: Name Guys and Mid-Majors. (Oh, and just in case you weren't sure, Brian really, really doesn't care for Terry Foster.)

♦ Former coaches and TV analysts disagree! The Ann Arbor News' Nathan Fenno covers the differences in opinion over just how good a job Michigan is right now. (Fenno also wrote this insightful profile of Tommy Amaker almost a year ago).

♦ The Detroit News' Eric Lacy says Amaker's biggest problem may have been that he thought coaching basketball was the only thing he had to do at Michigan.

♦ Oregon's Ernie Kent says if Michigan talks, he'll listen. I'm sure his bosses are thrilled that he made these comments while his team is preparing for its next NCAA Tournament game against Kruger's Runnin' Rebels. (That just didn't sound right, did it?) (via the Detroit News)

♦ According to Ann Arbor News columnist Jim Carty, Michigan could've done much more to support Tommy Amaker, and will have to prove it's serious about winning to attract a better successor. (Maybe they can take a walk by Fisher Stadium to check out the renovations when the subject of a practice facility and investing in the basketball program comes up.)

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How's Your Bracket Looking?

Most people are doing fine on their brackets right now, I'm sure, unless you picked a lot of upsets. No double-digit seeds in the Sweet 16 for the first time in 10 years? But Texas (Trojan revenge for the 2006 Rose Bowl?) and Wisconsin both going home had to screw up some people up.

I'm still doing pretty well in my pool. I got 13 of the remaining 16 correct, which has me in second place. Though two of my Elite Eight are already gone, thanks to the Longhorns and Badgers.

But my main man Bruce Pearl has me looking good, after a 77-74 victory over Virginia, in what was the best game I watched yesterday. I took some ribbing over that pick (Crazy? How about crazy delicious?), but being right makes it all worth it.

Tennessee's run might come to an end against Ohio State, but the Vols certainly have a chance against a Buckeyes team that just squeaked by them earlier in the season and also came damn close to losing on Saturday.

I might have to ask Dr. Lil' Sis' fiancee to get me a Vols t-shirt. I'd probably keep it in the closet during football season, though. Unless I needed something to work out in.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Ding Dong, Tommy's Gone

WDFN is reporting that University of Michigan men's basketball coach Tommy Amaker has been fired. Eric Lacy of the Detroit News has reported the same (via Michigan Sports Center), as are Mark Snyder and Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press.

A press conference to announce the firing is scheduled for 3 p.m. this afternoon.

My initial reaction, despite joining the pitchfork-and-torch mob that wanted to see this happen, is a bit of shock. More after the presser, hopefully.

UPDATE (3:30 p.m.): The Wolverine is reporting (once again via Michigan Sports Center) that the presser has been pushed back to 4:30 p.m. However, the Detroit News' Terry Foster says there won't be a press conference today, and Michigan will issue a statement. Saturday's kind of a weird day for such a thing anyway, so maybe they're holding off on addressing the media until Monday.

UPDATE (4:30 p.m.): The Diag has more details, including Bill Martin's comments to the Associated Press.

"Letting Tommy go was the toughest decision I've had to make in seven years as athletic director.

"He took over a program that needed help, and he helped it in a lot of ways. But at Michigan, we have a tradition of winning Big Ten and national championships and we haven't been close to doing either in a lot of ways."

Amaker (who will receive a $900,000 buyout for the dismissal) also spoke briefly with the Detroit News. (via The Diag)

"It was tough. But with the way things went this year, we knew anything could happen.

"We tried to get this program to the next level. It didn't happen."

And on his Detroit News blog, Terry Foster said Martin gave Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman an ultimatum: Either let me fire him, or I quit.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Happy Hour 03/16: Eatin' My Corn from a Jar

A big, sweaty thanks to the "Corn from a Jar" podcast, which mentioned the very blog you're reading (with requisite chuckles over the title) and my Final Four pick of Tennessee on this week's show.

I became a fan of the "Corn from a Jar" blog during football season, so I could find some Tennessee stuff to talk about when I met Dr. Lil' Sis' boyfriend over the holidays. Shortly after the New Year, however, he answered the call from SportsBlog Nation and moved his operation over to Rocky Top Talk. And now that I'm doing the Bless You Boys thing, we're like SB Nation brohams! How about that?

Thomas Friedman was right. The world is flat.

Anyway, a fellow Tony Kornheiser fan can't be that bad of a fella, right? (Even though that show stinks.) So if you're interested, they poke a little fun at me and SME, and of course, my pick of Tennessee (which I think looks pretty damn good after that stomping of Long Beach St. earlier today). Keep me lookin' good, Bruce Pearl!

You can download the podcast here. If you're pressed for time, scroll ahead to the 28:30 mark of the show. And while you're at it, stop by and say hi to the guys at Rocky Top Talk. Thanks again to "Corn from a Jar."

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Give them nothing! But take from them everything!

Elsewhere in the universe, where basketball that really counts (and is shown on television) is taking place, I misread that Michigan State-Marquette match-up badly. Really badly. I thought Marquette's Dominic James would make a significant difference in the game. I guess I wasn't entirely wrong on that. MSU only allowed James to score 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting, which certainly made a difference.

And of those six shots James made, four of them were three-pointers, and that was most definitely the story of the game. Marquette was missing their second-leading scorer, but would it really have mattered? That was one of the most suffocating half-court defenses I've ever seen. The Spartans only allowed five two-point baskets. For the entire game.

If you've seen 300, there were several scenes in which King Leonidas' soldiers formed an impenetrable wall (or phalanx) with their shields and spears during battle. That's pretty much what happened last night in Winston-Salem. It was The Hot Gates all over again.

There was barely a sliver of a lane for the Marquette players to drive through. I actually began to feel sorry for them as guards and forwards tried to dribble to the basket only to have to turn back to the three-point line in frustration. In Tom Izzo's world, friends don't let friends drive to the basket. If that's what he did to his buddy Tom Crean, imagine what Izzo must do to his enemies. Take a seat next to Lupe for the rest of the weekend, Coach.

▪▪ Meanwhile, I know the rest of yesterday's NCAA Tournament games weren't that exciting. But I still botched a couple of my upset picks. Neither Davidson or Gonzaga beat their higher-seeded opponents. Sure, I got VCU right, but didn't (almost) everybody pick that one? It was still fun to watch.

▪▪ It has to be a sure sign I'm getting old when every time the cameras showed VCU coach Anthony Grant, I kept thinking, "Wow, he looks young." However, he is actually older. While that might make me feel better, tomorrow I will get bombed with green beer in a semi-pathetic attempt to hold onto what remains of my youth. Maybe I'll watch Grant's Rams play Pitt while I'm doing that.

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Do the Right Thing, Bill Martin

So is our long national regional nightmare now over? The Michigan basketball team had their season mercifully laid to rest last night in Tallahassee, 87-66. At least that's what I'm reading. Michigan Sports Center confirms this result, and there were highlights on ESPN this morning to corroborate this information. That's good enough for me.

I've already said my piece on Tommy Amaker - several times. My arms are tired from swinging, and my throat is sore from screaming. What needs to happen for the Michigan basketball program is now beyond obvious.

This thing has fallen apart on most every level. Amaker can (inexplicably) make his case, and maybe it will convince the right people in the athletic department. If so, they can all watch fan and alumni support erode even further. Just don't publicly shrug your shoulders, hold out your hands, and plead ignorance. No one's buying this $#!+ anymore.

EDIT (4 p.m.): Yes, I originally typed "Ed Martin" in the headline, instead of "Bill." Oops. Thanks to those who pointed out my mistake.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Not Interested, Tommy

But really, so what?

I hate that I feel that way about Michigan basketball. I actually strongly considered going to last night's NIT game vs. Utah State. The tickets were cheap, and I could've had almost any seat in the house. But ultimately, it just came down to the feeling that I can't support this stuff.

The majority of fans obviously shared the same sentiment. 3,114 fans attended the game. That's the lowest Crisler Arena crowd for a men's basketball game in 23 years. 1,000 fewer fans showed up for this game than last year's NIT first-round match-up with Texas-El Paso.

On TV, the crowd looked like what you typically see for a women's basketball or gymnastics contest in Ann Arbor. Credit the Maize Rage section for making it as loud as they could, but judging from the large sections of empty seats and bleachers, that was essentially a scrimmage.

We could argue about how many Michigan fans care about basketball, in general, (and I don't think it's very many) but if apathy hadn't already set in, a significant dose of it has rushed in over the past few weeks. Go ahead and question the reasonability or expectations of the Michigan fanbase, but don't question their intelligence. This was not a case of Michigan almost being good enough to get a bid to the NCAA tournament, but things didn't go their way, so they should just try to make the best of an NIT bid and show people they may have deserved better. Not this year. Not when schools like Syracuse, Drexel, Kansas State, West Virginia, Clemson, Washington, and Air Force didn't get in, either.

This is exactly what the Michigan basketball program deserved. I'm not talking about the players; it would've been nice for that senior class to participate in at least one NCAA tournament. I feel bad that they had to play in front of 3,000 people last night. At least they went out and won this game. (It's too bad no one will be able to see their second-round contest with Florida State. If a game is shown on ESPNU, and virtually no one can see it, will it really have happened?)

But this is about something much bigger right now. Basketball is undergoing a slow death at Michigan, and if the athletic department won't (or can't) take steps to prevent that and bring in someone who can at least achieve the bare minimum for a Big Ten program, who has at least a shred of interest in promoting his team and embracing the community at-large, then they can't possibly expect people to support the team. This charade has been carried as far as it can go. There is no better time to make a change.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Happy Hour 03/12: Read This Now, and Believe Me Later

Okay, my friends. It's tournament time. March Madness. The Big Dance. Cinderellas, Sweet Sixteens, Elite Eights, Final Fours, and Shining Moments. Quite possibly the most wonderful time of the year.

Yep. I don't know anything about it.

When I got home last night, I tried to watch the selection specials that I DVR'ed, but after about 10 minutes, I realized I hardly knew a damn thing about any of these schools. And right then, a small part of me cried because it occurred to me that I may have been a more knowledgeable sports fan in my teens and twenties. I would've been all over this thing 10-12 years ago.

Even back in high school, I knew so much more about college basketball than I do now. I actually took the time to watch other conferences play. This past weekend, I actually reminisced about how I used to set aside time on a Saturday or Sunday to watch an important Big East or ACC match-up. Nowadays, with the exception of a handful of SEC games this year (which probably involved either Florida or Tennessee), it's been quite a while since I watched a regular season game that didn't involve a Big Ten team.

Despite what I just confessed in the previous two paragraphs, however, I'm going to make some NCAA tournament predictions anyway. And you might just want to read this post through to the end. Wanna know why? Do you wanna know? Because last year, I won the Super Blogger Tournament Challenge Extravaganza.

Yeah, that's right. When it was all over, I barely beat crushed Complete Sports by one point to take the trophy that doesn't really exist I still drink ice-cold beer out of one year later. And after I wipe off my chin, I look at my reflection in the silver and laugh at how totally #@$%ing lucky I was awesome that victory was.

Essentially, I was the sports blog equivalent of the secretary winning the office pool.

So here's what I'm going to do: I'm not going through the entire bracket. Tony Kornheiser did that with a handful of experts on his radio show this morning, and after one or two repetitions of the bracket, I opted for my iPod. If I couldn't stand listening to it, I don't know how in the hell I can write it all out. Especially when you can find several dozen people in the blogosphere who know what the #@$% they're talking about. What I will write out are my first-round upsets and my Final Four picks. 'Cuz that's what the big boys like Dan Shanoff do (except a full nine hours earlier).

First-round upset winners:
Davidson, Georgia Tech, VCU, Gonzaga, and Creighton.

You might notice Michigan State isn't on that list. I couldn't pick the Spartans, as much as I wanted to. (Besides, is picking a #9 seed over a #8 really picking an upset?) Unless Tom Izzo pumps up his kids by taking them to a showing of 300 the day before the game, and/or kicks his old buddy Tom Crean into the deepest, darkest well in Winston-Salem after screaming "THIS IS SPARTA!" MSU ain't beatin' Marquette. Sorry, Sparty. (That movie totally kicked ass, by the way.)

Final Four:
Florida, UCLA, Georgetown, and Tennessee.

Yeah, that's right- Tennessee. Either my sister's fiancee (Yes, Dr. Lil' Sis' boyfriend proposed to her last week. We're all happy about it - thanks for asking) has completely corrupted my objective opinion, I've been mystified by bare-chested coaches who paint themselves orange, or I might just have one of those hunches.

Did I mention that I won my bracket contest last year? You might want to take this post very seriously, my friends. I'm kind of a big deal with this stuff.

EDIT (03/13): I didn't pick an overall winner, did I? I really should do that. But it's a boring pick, which is probably why I forgot to post it originally. I have Georgetown and Florida in the finals, with the Gators repeating as national champions.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thinkin' on a Saturday Morning

♦ On Thursday, I wrote that Rasheed Wallace looked gimpy to me and maybe the Detroit Pistons should consider sitting him out longer to recover. Well, 'Sheed looked pretty damn good last night with 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 50% three-point shooting. So how exactly do we explain the differences between his performances on Wednesday and Friday?

1) He needed a game to shake off the rust, loosen up that ankle, and get back into game shape.

2) Drew Gooden and Sideshow Anderson Varejao make a rough match-up for 'Sheed.

3) 'Sheed loves that thin mountain air in Denver. Less oxygen don't lie.

'Sheed couldn't help picking up that 16th technical foul, though (which seems to be the bigger story than the victory over the Nuggets). Oh, well. Give that ankle some more rest.

♦ Does the Detroit Lions' signing of T.J. Duckett tell us more about Kevin Jones' recovery from his Lisfranc fracture than the team is revealing to the public? I like the pick-up, especially since K.J. doesn't quite seem suited to power running. But the Lions' backfield suddenly looks awfully crowded. Maybe there's some truth to those Tatum Bell-to-the-Giants rumors, after all.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Happy Hour 03/09: You'll Never Hear From Dominic Rhodes Again

I didn't really have a strong opinion on the matter, but I thought Dominic Rhodes should've been named Super Bowl XLI MVP instead of Peyton Manning. His 113 rushing yards helped the Colts wear down that Bears defense, as they ball-controlled their way to victory.

Apparently, the Oakland Raiders felt the same way, because they've gone out and done what they always seem to do: Sign the Super Bowl MVP to a big free agent deal and watch him wilt under the pressure of his own overratedness.

How did Larry Brown and Desmond Howard do with the Raiders? How did cashing in Super Bowl stardom with Al Davis work out for them? Brown played 12 games in two seasons, snagging only one interception. Howard also only lasted two years, catching only six passes and returning just two punts for touchdowns.

A couple of weeks ago, Rhodes looked like a candidate for Dumbest Pro Athlete of 2007 when he was arrested for drunk driving before he could parlay his sudden stardom into a fat cash contract. But to Al Davis, that apparently showed the kind of menacing pirate streak that he still thinks the Raiders are made of. So naturally, they had to give him some cash. $7.5 million of it, to be exact. I suppose the Raiders learned one important lesson from their past, however. Rhodes only got a two-year deal.

Remember that game you had in the Super Bowl, Dominic? That was awesome...

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To Fight or Not to Fight?

I never got around to writing it, but shortly after the brawl between Ottawa and Buffalo a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to say that the NHL should go back to embracing its roots, rather than try to chase mass-market appeal.

The NHL took its shot at cultural relevance by turning its back on Canada and moving into the southern and Sun Belt portions of the United States, but that market just doesn't exist, and you can't even say hockey is the "fourth major sport" in this country and keep a straight face. It became roadkill to NASCAR long ago. (I really wanted to use an auto racing term there, but would've exposed myself as a total poseur.)

To me, the NHL is like Las Vegas. Remember when Vegas tried to re-invent itself as a family-friendly alternative to Disneyland? That tanked like ESPN Hollywood. So Vegas decided to once again embrace the decadence and depravity that made it such a destination in the first place. I thought the NHL needed to do the same thing. A lot of observers and fans might make faces when they see highlights of fights breaking out on SportsCenter, but hey, that Ottawa-Buffalo melee moved hockey up the queue for a couple of nights. Embrace the niche appeal of the sport. Bring back its cult appeal. And at one time, that worked pretty well.

One of the first arguments you'll hear in favor of allowing fighting in the NHL is that it would eliminate some of the stick work. Rather than resorting to channeling their pent-up rage through the weapon they're carrying in their hands, players can challenge their antagonists to drop the gloves, trade some punches, and settle the matter like men.

I don't know if I completely agree with that contention. Is the cause and effect of fighting vs. slashing really that starkly obvious? But hey, I've never played hockey either.

Would being allowed to fight have prevented Chris Simon from whipping his stick into Ryan Hollweg's face in one of the more frightening plays you'll ever see? Who knows? Simon's a proven neanderthal and his total lack of self-control might have led him toward such an action anyway. But this is the type of incident that truly stains professional hockey's reputation and prevents it from acceptance within the culture at-large.

Simon's been suspended indefinitely by the NHL, which somehow seems appropriate. Not in terms of the punishment; Simon should be kept away from an ice rink for a long time. But the word "indefinite" applies to the NHL and its identity as a sport.

I don't know if the corollary I'm trying to draw here makes any sense. It's probably unfair to project Chris Simon's psychotic tendencies onto the league as a whole. So maybe it's a stretch. But it does seem to reflect a larger problem that hockey's been struggling with over the past decade-and-a-half.


Who's Your New Tigers Blogger?

I've been procrastinating with this a bit, but now seems like an excellent time to share what's going on. I've been asked by the fine people at SportsBlog Nation to take over their Detroit Tigers site, Bless You Boys, and after giving the matter a whole lot of thought, I've decided I'll take the gig.

Not only am I curious to see what it will be like to write for a larger sports blog network, but I'm really excited about contributing more to what has now become a formidable Tigers blog community. I'm hoping my first post - the mission statement, if you will - will be up within the next day or so. (I can only hope my mission statement leads to a better result than Jerry Maguire's.)

To be honest, I was initially intimidated by the idea of running a Tigers blog when several other people already do it so damn well. Could I possibly have anything different or interesting to say about what's now Detroit's most beloved team? I guess that remains to be seen. But besides the sense of community and camaraderie that's been created, one thing that's been so great about the Tigers blogosphere is how each writer has been able to find his or her own niche to fill. I hope I manage to find mine over the next few months.

So what does this mean for Sweaty Men Endeavors? Well, I might be naive or delusional, but I intend to keep it going. I've put a lot of work into this over the past year-and-a-half, and I'm proud of (most of) it, so I'm not letting my baby go. There's too much stuff coming up - the NCAA tournament, NBA playoffs, NFL Draft, etc. - that'll be fun to write about. My attention span needs a place where I can write anything I want, and I don't want to give that up.

I'm not sure what will happen here during the summer, as I think it's safe to assume virtually all of my Tigers-related material will be posted at Bless You Boys. (I'd also like to thank Mike McClary for inviting me to post at The Daily Fungo over the last month or so. I hope I can still contribute to the discussion over there, as well.) But there's always something going on worthy of celebration or ridicule. Plus, I love baseball, so maybe I'll try to write about what's going on elsewhere in the sport. Once football season starts up again, however, I'll want to crush the Lions (and agonize over the Wolverines) and we've established a fine tradition of that here.

If you already check in at Bless You Boys, I hope you'll bear with me as I try to find my footing there for the next couple of weeks. And if not, I'd certainly love for you to follow me over and chime in during the upcoming baseball season. I really appreciate all of the readers who stop here every day to read, and think we'll have plenty of fun to spread all over this Detroit sports blogosphere. Thank you, and let's keep this thing going.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Not my favorite episode of "The LeBrons"

Before last night's Pistons-Cavaliers game, I thought that Detroit really needed to stomp the LeBrons. Blow the Cavs off the floor and give them something to think about as they looked ahead toward a possible (likely?) playoff match-up with DEE-troit BAS-ket-ball. Let 'em know who the best team in the Eastern Conference is, that they don't want any of this, and that last year's seven-game series was a fluke.

Instead, Cleveland looked like they were more interested in sending a message and jumped out to an early lead. And in the process, we got a reminder of just how scary LeBron James could be for the Pistons in the playoffs. 41 points. A near triple-double.

It's difficult to imagine he could put up those kinds of numbers in every game of a playoff series, especially when playing for Team USA didn't really give him any time off last summer. But remember how much energy you had when you were 22 years old? He just might be able to do this.

Detroit just didn't have an answer for LeBron last night. Had Lindsey Hunter not gobbled up the wrong pill from his kitchen counter, maybe the Pistons would've had an extra body to throw at him on the perimeter. (And with a 10-game suspension and approximately $250,000 in lost salary, those better be the best damn diet pills ever, Ivy Hunter.) Given the height difference between James and Hunter, such a match-up probably would've been exploited. But the Pistons could've used the help. Would LeBron have been able to drive to the basket for a game-tying dunk at the end of regulation had anyone else besides Tayshaun Prince and his five fouls been able to stick with him?

And for a minute or so, LeBron appeared to have made the kind of game-winning shot that might have been replayed in Nike and Gatorade ads for years to come. I would've loved to see and hear the reaction at a sports bar or in the Palace as that ball went through the net. In my armchair, I just sat quietly with eyebrows raised. Did that just happen?

On TV, it sounded as if the crowd was initially stunned (and rightly so) before trying to badger the officials into taking a look at the replay. You can say that the ball was clearly on LeBron's fingertips when the clock hit zero and the red lights went on. As a Pistons fan, I certainly would've made that argument. But I'm glad I didn't have to make that call, because it was damn close.

When the shot was waved off, I thought the Cavs were going to be deflated in overtime. I can't even imagine what it would feel like to run to the locker room, high from the euphoria of an amazing, crowd-silencing win, only to be told, "Sorry guys - shot didn't count. Get back on the floor." But LeBron and Co. took that energy into overtime, while the Pistons acted like they knew they were lucky to be playing an extra period. Letting one get away like that, against a division rival and likely playoff opponent, had to hurt.

▪▪ Rasheed Wallace might be the Pistons' most valuable player, but if he's gimpy, I'm not sure how much he really helps. The Free Press' Chris Silva said 'Sheed "showed no signs of discomfort," and he obviously had a much better view than I did. But to me, it looked like 'Sheed couldn't move on defense, and had nothing to put into his jump shot. (And I imagine he had even less interest than usual in mixing it up down low with that ankle.) Detroit's surely a better team with 'Sheed on the floor, even if he's not fully healthy. But maybe sitting him out until that ankle can heal up might be the better long-term plan.

▪▪ The Cavs don't have a match-up for Chris Webber, and he could drive them mad in a playoff series. Even with his lessened mobility, he can frustrate Zydrunas Ilgauskas by moving him all around the floor. Either Webber pulls him up toward the high post, opening the lane for drives to the basket, or faces Ilgauskas straight up and takes him to the hole. Maybe Mike Brown was experimenting when he put Donyell Marshall on Webber late in the game when Ilgauskas was either in foul trouble or needed a breather, but if that's what Cleveland has to resort to in such a situation, they could have big problems.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

A Case of "The Block"?

You know, the writing thing just wasn't coming to me today. Sure, the Pistons' 111-93 loss to Golden State last night raised my eyebrows. But, um... I sort of didn't watch it ("Yatta!"), so I couldn't work up much indignation. The sure-to-be brutal month of March isn't off to a good start for Detroit basketball, though.

You've had one of those days, right? Sometimes you just can't manage to do what it is you like to do. If you're a blogger, you're surely familiar with sitting at the computer, wanting to post something but nothing's getting the fingertips pumping. Even if you want to take another swing at Tommy Amaker for saying his job status isn't an issue when it's the only issue surrounding Michigan basketball right now.

On such occasions, it's probably best to just step away and let those writing cells recharge. But then I thought about my good buddy, The Daily Fungo's Mike McClary, and how he's starting up a new blog dedicated to the ballclub with the flashy new threads, your Arizona Diamondbacks.

Wait until Mike finds out the fun stuff that comes with running multiple blogs, like darker bags under your eyes, sore finger joints, chronic coffee mouth, frequent flat-butt, lingering lower back pain, and a DVR that reminds you every single night with its bloated hard drive that you're not watching TV anymore. But that might just be me.

Oh, and I'm hoping Mike devotes plenty of letters to the tangled bale of hair belonging to Mr. Eric Byrnes (who's loved in the Casselberry household for carrying one of my fantasy baseball teams to a league title last season).

By the end of the workday, I'd decided there would be no posts today. I could just copy some information from someone else and pass it off as my own stuff, like Ron Borges did, but that would just look old and musty. How many newspapers even do those "Sunday notes" columns anymore?

No, I was going to sit back with Baseball Prospectus 2007, attempt to expand my understanding of the game, and think about spending summer evenings at the CoPa (even though I never use that term).

But what if the ballpark's name changes, now that Comerica is moving its corporate headquarters from Detroit to Dallas? Will the Detroit Tigers' home have a new name/corporate sponsor? I'm guessing not, since they'll still have 7,000 employees in Michigan and approximately 23 years to go on their naming rights agreement.

I don't think anyone's a fan of corporate names on stadiums, but in Detroit, at least there was a local flavor to the ballpark's sponsor, which made it somewhat digestible. And now the name seems to reflect yet another body blow to the Michigan economy. If I wasn't fighting "The Block," I might actually write about that. But that wouldn't fill a whole post, would it? Neither would the other stuff.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

Who Wears the Pants in the Amaker Household?

Okay, I missed the Michigan-Ohio State basketball game yesterday, opting to see Zodiac instead. Some might argue that my sports fan card should be suspended for that. I'd point to the Big Ten men's basketball standings in my defense, which would've supported a case for a blowout that I had no obligation to watch.

(Sitting through almost three hours of Zodiac wasn't necessarily more fun. It's not that I didn't like the movie, yet I'm not saying I liked it either, so there's your less-than-enthusiastic endorsement. Drink some coffee beforehand, or get a Pepsi from concessions; there's a lot of sitting and talking. But I digress...)

So I didn't get to see Michigan get their hopes crushed by the Buckeyes yet again. (To even make such a comparison between football and basketball is silly, of course.) But it looked like a close one, at least according to the score I saw on my cell phone after the movie. The mantra from the home locker room at Crisler Arena, however, was "Coming close doesn't mean anything."

Tommy Amaker argued that his team deserved more, but I don't think he knows what he's really saying. As the Ann Arbor News' Jim Carty points out, if those seniors deserved anything, it was to have a better team built around them, and a coach who could teach them how to develop into better players. And Amaker never managed to do that in their four years at Michigan.

Yet probably the worst kept secret in Ann Arbor is that there will be no coaching change in the men's basketball department. Maybe Amaker did enough to save his job this week by beating Michigan State and fighting the #1 team in the country to a four-point margin. Some have said that the decision has already been made to keep Amaker, regardless of how his team finished the season. How is that possible? Well, such a decision might not have anything to do with basketball. Check out this nugget from Drew Sharp's column in today's Detroit Free Press:

"... fueling the coach's job security most is that he's the second-most-popular Amaker on campus. His wife, Dr. Stephanie Pinder-Amaker, is an associate dean of students who co-chaired a large university fund-raising initiative. She's a rising star in the academic community, something that's not lost on university president Mary Sue Coleman, who remains an advocate of diversity despite recent legal challenges.

Do you think she'll risk losing a highly qualified African-American female educator because her basketball-coaching husband hasn't fulfilled expectations?

Of course, you could write that off as speculation (and many would dismiss it because of the byline "By Drew Sharp"). However, it might also explain a few things. Bill Martin is getting a lot of negative feedback for the state of the men's basketball program, and maybe he's to the point where he might want to make a change, too. But what if it's not ultimately his call? If you're a Michigan fan (I'm not going to say "Michigan basketball fan" because that applies to a smaller readership), how infuriating is that?

And if you're Tommy Amaker, how big should your budget be for Valentine's Day, birthdays, and Sweetest Day? Maybe throw in something for Mother's Day too, just for the hell of it.

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Number Crunching the Detroit Lions' Offensive Line

While reading my Sunday sports section, I noticed the monster cash offensive guards are getting in NFL free agency, and that got me to thinking about numbers, which I don't really like to do because it exposes my poor math skills. So please indulge me while I think out loud a bit here.

In Cleveland, Eric Steinbach signed a seven-year, $49.5 million contract, while Kris Dielman could rake in up to $39 million over the next six years with the Chargers. So the top shelf of the market for guards right now is about $7 million. (Actually, Steve Hutchinson set that bar last year in signing with the Vikings.) The franchise tag (average of the top five salaries) for offensive linemen is $9.55 million this year. (The Ravens' Jonathan Ogden draws the biggest salary at $10.6 million.)

Last year, the #2 pick in the NFL Draft - Reggie Bush - signed a six-year deal that could be worth as much as $62 million. Two slots later, the first offensive lineman - D'Brickashaw Ferguson - was drafted, and he got a five-year, $27.5 million contract. So you can see where the battle lines will be drawn if the Lions take Joe Thomas at #2 in this year's draft. One of the arguments against selecting Thomas is that they'll have to pay Thomas a left tackle salary when they're already paying Jeff Backus that kind of money. But if the Lions aren't able to trade out of that spot and move lower in the draft, would they actually be saving money down the line with Thomas, considering the free-agent market for offensive lineman?

These numbers might also clarify why George Foster was part of the Dre' Bly deal and how Damien Woody could still have a job in Detroit next season, despite his putrid performance over the last three seasons.

So what I've been trying to do here is make a financial case for the Lions to draft Joe Thomas, but I'm not sure I actually clarified anything, other than drinking a lot of coffee on a Sunday morning makes me want to type a lot in the afternoon.

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What This Crazy Life is Doing to Me

I realize that posting something about one's fantasy baseball team might not be the best way to go most days. It could be boring, if not outright repugnant to some readers. But it's Sunday morning, and I'm drinking coffee strong enough to give me a permanent natural eyebrow lift. So I feel like writing.

Last year, I played fantasy baseball for the first time and the everyday aspect of it hooked me big-time. And when I get into something, I tend to dive in head-first. So this year, I tossed aside the syringe and opted for the IV drip, signing up for more teams that available leisure time will likely allow. (The first couple of teams, of course, are meant to be "practice" for the league[s] I really want to win.)

Since no one in my regular everyday life plays fantasy baseball, thus giving me no one to talk with about it, I figured I'd post my first draft results here and see if anyone has a thought or two to share. It's a Yahoo! 12-team rotisserie league, and I began with the fifth pick. In order of draft selection, here is Delaware Mud:
  1. Jose Reyes
  2. Travis Hafner
  3. Justin Morneau
  4. Victor Martinez
  5. Chone Figgins
  6. Ryan Zimmerman
  7. Adam Dunn
  8. Nick Swisher
  9. Brad Lidge
  10. Francisco Cordero
  11. Bob Wickman
  12. Jeff Francoeur
  13. Brad Hawpe
  14. Josh Barfield
  15. Derek Lowe
  16. Curtis Granderson
  17. Freddy Garcia
  18. Scott Olsen
  19. Kevin Millwood
  20. Scot Shields
  21. Dan Wheeler
I'd be curious to see what others think, but I'm pretty damn happy with this stash. With the fifth pick, I snagged who many "experts" consider the second best player in fantasy baseball, Jose Reyes. And I was still able to pick up a big power hitter by the time my turn came up in the second round.

I didn't want to take a catcher so early, but the top-shelf outfielders and third basemen were gone, so I just went with who looked like the best hitter on the board. Also, the run on closers started much sooner than I thought it would.

To me, the biggest mistake was waiting too long to draft starting pitching. Ideally, Derek Lowe wouldn't have been my first guy. I'd prefer to have at least one "ace." But a decent starting pitcher can be found on waivers most days, and maybe I can deal stolen bases or saves for some help down the line.

Actually, I really screwed up in the 14th round and missed Dave Bush. Had I been able to find him, he would've been my pick, but that was the one round where I was frantically shuffing through my lists, looking over names that hadn't been crossed off, and didn't get a pick in on time. So Josh Barfield was automatically selected for me. Not a bad pick, really. But Chone Figgins is eligible at 2B in Yahoo! leagues, so I had that position covered. It could've been worse.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Happy Hour 03/02: Call Him Trader Matt

Apparently, Matt Millen made some kind of New Year's Resolution that he intended to follow through on come March 1.

It's not the headline grabber that yesterday's Dre' Bly deal was, but the Lions made another locker room freshening deal today, sending defensive end James Hall to St. Louis for a fifth-round draft pick. Millen managed to get something for nothing at the last minute, considering Hall would've been cut had the Lions not been able to make a trade.

So if you're keeping track, that's two defensive captains the Detroit Lions have shipped out of town in two days. Hall gained a reputation as a hard worker, making the team as a free agent out of Michigan in 2000 (and notching an impressive 11.5 sacks in 2004). But between the constant losing and having to endure yet another rebuilding project, it's difficult to blame the guy for developing a sour attitude that probably wasn't going to change.

The theme of this off-season has become clear: you're either with Sgt. Marinelli or against him. So the Lions decided to make a move before they had to pay Hall a roster bonus. And the housecleaning caravan out of Allen Park is getting a bit crowded. Two of Hall's fellow defensive lineman - Marcus Bell and Tyoka Jackson - and tight end Marcus Pollard were also told their services were no longer needed. Offensive lineman Ross Verba was cut earlier in the week.

Here's something else that might be worth counting: Right now, the Lions have four fifth-round picks in the upcoming NFL Draft. Trader Matt could very likely not be done dealing yet.

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