Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sam McGuffie Leaves Michigan

I am sure most of you have heard this by now, and apologies from the Ace of Sports staff for being late on the updates-finals had something to do with it.

McGuffie is gone, most likely headed somewhere closer to home.  What can you say if you are a Michigan fan?  It sucks.  It really sucks.  Yeah, maybe he had a hard time breaking tackles.  Maybe he was never going to a a workhorse back.  Doesn't matter.  The dude was probably the most talented freshman on the team last year, and him leaving really sucks.  

He showed flashes of that talent at times, and began to hit his stride early on, especially in the Notre Dame game.  Then, the concussions happened.  He reportedly suffered two in a span of three weeks, and that's never good.  He played sparingly the rest of the season, with Brandon Minor taking on most of the running back duties.  

Though this is very disappointing, running back is not the position Michigan needs to worry about-that would be uh...every other position.  Brandon Minor proved, at least to me, that he can run well against a very good defense (Penn State, anyone?), Michael Shaw has a ton of potential, and who knows what Carlos Brown will do when (or if) he ever returns.  

I don't believe this was Rich Rodriguez's doing.  I think Sammy was very far from home, he was not in the system he signed up for, and I don't know if his maturity level would have allowed him to assimilate easily onto any team, even one in the south.  

Definitely sucks, but Michigan fans just have to move on.  Good luck to Sam, wherever he goes.    

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Real Winter Meeting Update

Reporting live (just kidding) from these winter meetings for Ace of Sports, I'm Joe Stapleton.

As I said in the earlier, hastily-put-together post, the Tigers trade for Gerald Laird was met with a resounding "meh."  Laird fills a need.  Will he be any good?  Who knows.  We only really need him to be serviceable, considering our, ahem, POTENTIAL hitting prowess.  

Seriously, it's going to be hard for Dave Dombrowski and Co. to surprise any of the fans this off-season after what they pulled last winter, landing Edgar Renteria, Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.  Of those three, only Cabrera lived up to the hype, and that's pretty generous.  He got off to a very slow start, and he only really crawled out of it when things stopped mattering and it became apparent that no matter how many runs the Tigers gave him, Nate Robertson was going to keep finding a way to lose games.  As for the other two "big time" free agents, one was profoundly ineffectual and the other's career is probably over.  Guess who is who.

As of now, those signings did NOT work out.  However, Cabrera still has time to be great, and my bet is he will be next year.  

The Tigers also traded for Rays starter Edwin Jackson after talks for Mariners closer J.J. Putz fell through.  They gave up Matt Joyce, which is too bad (a power bat with potential), but they got a pitcher who was tied for the team lead in wins last year and showed some great potential. The guy has a chance to be very good, he's only 25, and we desperately need starting pitching.  So there.

Apparently we are also talking to Jon Smoltz, which is a little disturbing but if it works out could be awesome.  And the Rangers are "interested" in Shef.  Take him.  Please.

Hopefully through this storm of trades we will come out still holding Clete Thomas.  Dude's awesome.  More updates later. 

Ok, instead of making a new post I'm just going to add on to this one: the Tigers claimed this kid Kyle Bloom in Rule 5.  Lots of upside: he's a lefty, he's been a starter for most of his time in the minors, but we would probably use him as a reliever.  As a reliever in the minors, his stats have been much better than his starts.

We also got shortstop Adam Everett from San Fran, who mercifully took The Bum Renteria off our hands.  Good riddance.  The man is just collecting a paycheck at this point.        

While it's nice bringing on a young reliever with potential, the Tigers were not able to do what they came to the meetings wanting to do: nab a consistent, reliable closer.  They were in talks with Putz for a while, but he decided he would rather go to New York to be a setup man for K-Rod.  By the way: the Mets can suck it.  Keep spending fellas, you're just going to end up choking your brains out in August and September.  Not that I'm bitter.  I really wanted Putz. 

However, I am currently in the process of talking myself into Edwin Jackson as a reliable starter.  Instead of relying on a turnaround from either Robertson or Willis, we can just hope.  The guy clearly has some good stuff. 

Overall I would rate the Vegas trip pretty productive.  Depending on what kind of tail Dave and his boys ended up with, I think they would say the same thing, maybe a little better, maybe a little worse.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tigers Winter Meeting Happenings

The Tigers popped the cherry at baseball's Las Vegas winter meetings, acquiring catcher Gerald Laird from the Texas Rangers on Monday.

Laird split time with Jarrod Saltalamacchia last year and posted some impressive numbers for limited playing time.  The Tigers gave up two prospects, which sucks.  

The Tigers needed a catcher, so it was a needed move.  Was it necessarily profitable?  Who knows.  For now, all I have to say is "meh."

For now, we're reportedly in contact with the Mariners about J.J. Putz, who would be a huge pickup.  More updates and appropriate analysis to come.  

Monday, December 1, 2008

Completely Random Lookalike Epiphany

I'm watching the Red Wings/Ducks game tonight (with Detroit currently winning 2-1 ... thank you Marian Hossa). Johan Franzen scores a goal on a beautiful tip-in of a Nick Lidstrom shot. FSN subsequently zooms in on Franzen. I have a moment of clarity that makes me realize I watch too much TV:

Johan Franzen, Right Wing, Detroit Red Wings

Toby Flenderson, Human Resources, Dunder Mifflin Paper Co.

And yes, I Googled "Johan Franzen Toby Office" to make sure I didn't steal this from somebody else.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Michigan Season Review: A Look Back At Our Predictions

...would be ashamed.

They say hindsight is 20/20. To make the obvious joke, our Michigan Football Roundtable series showed foresight so poor it needed some JoePa glasses. Few Michigan fans were able to predict just how poor this season would turn out to be, but some of our predictions were comical, even though we didn't get our act together in time to post a final season record prediction. Judging by our other previews, it's a damn good thing we didn't try to pick the Wolverines' final record. That could've been embarassing.

Anyways, for the purpose of comic relief, here are our preseason roundtable predictions, in all their misguided glory:

Impact Freshman:

Joe and Webstarr: Darryl Stonum.
Not a terrible choice, considering he finished with 14 catches for 176 yards and a touchdown. However, he was never a huge part of the offense, disappeared for long stretches (although that can be blamed on the general ineptitude of the passing offense), and showed a troubling propensity for dropping passes.

Sam: J.B. Fitzgerald. Finished with 8 tackles, and saw playing time almost exclusively on special teams.

Ace: Terrence Robinson. Damn, wrong pocket-sized slot receiver. Robinson took a redshirt after injuring his knee before the season. I did include this caveat:
[Note: If Odoms beats out Robinson as the designated slot guy/returner, just switch my vote to him. You can basically just swap "Odoms" for "Robinson" for that entire post and it would still ring true. I'm totally cheating, but you get the idea. Slot guy = big deal.]
However, this is called "hedging your bet" and is totally cheating.

The Actual Impact Freshman: Martavious Odoms.


Sam McGuffie showed early flashes of brilliance (mostly in the Notre Dame game) and finished second on the team in rushing (486 yards) but faded quickly down the stretch. Michael Shaw seemed to have a big impact any time he touched the ball (5.1 yards per carry), but that didn't happen very often (42 attempts in 10 games). Boubacar Cissoko saw the field sporadically, and traded decent plays (3 pass breakups, tied for second on the team) with coverage blunders one would expect out of a true freshman.

Ultimately, Odoms was the freshman with the biggest impact. He led the team with 49 catches, 443 receiving yards, and 1040 all-purpose yards, and the offense's ability to move the ball often relied on him to turn bubble screens into first downs. He also returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown in the Purdue game. Yes, he had some major issues holding on to the ball on punt and kick returns, but it's hard to argue against him being the best freshman on the team this season.

Breakout Player:

Joe: Kevin Grady. Joe certainly went out on a limb here, and the gamble didn't really pay off. Grady was a seldom-used short-yardage back, carrying the ball 14 times for 33 yards and a touchdown. It is clear that he doesn't fit in to RichRod's offense.

Webstarr: Brandon Graham.

More on Graham later.

Sam: Stevie Brown. If this award went to the player who caused the most fans to "break out" their inner demons and do serious damage to property, people in the vicinity, and unfortunately placed pets, Brown would win in a landslide. However, we were looking for something different. From Stevie and Sam. Sorry, guys.

Ace: Carson Butler. Caught two passes all year, was in the coaches' doghouse for blowing assignments and punching opposing players, and eventually moved to defensive end. Epic fail on my part.

The Actual Breakout Player: Brandon Graham.


Went from a pass rush specialist (8.5 sacks in 2007, but only one other tackle for loss, and 3.5 of those sacks came against an incompetent Notre Dame line) to a full-fledged beast this season. Led the team with 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss, had 46 total tackles and forced two fumbles. Despite facing constant double-teams, BG lived in the opponent's backfield. Graham was by far the best player on Michigan's defense, and was named second-team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media.

Team MVP:

Joe: Tim Jamison. Jamison had a solid season, with 5.5 sacks and 10.5 TFLs, but had nowhere near the impact of Graham.

Webstarr: Wasn't in the article, but knowing Noah the pick would have been BG. Too bad he didn't send me anything before the season. Children, this is why you shouldn't be lazy -- you lose the right to gloat if there's no proof you were right in the first place.

Sam: Morgan Trent. Sam made the argument that Trent was the most proven player on the roster in the preseason, and used this pick as evidence that Michigan was not going to be very good. The overall point was correct, but Trent actually seemed to regress this season after a solid 2007 campaign. He did intercept three passes, but nobody in the Wolverine secondary can escape the fact that as a whole they gave up way too many big plays to considered anything but a liability.

Ace: Carlos Brown. Oops. Brown was limited by variety of injuries throughout the season, and rushed for 122 yards on 29 attempts, all but six of which came against Northwestern in his lone game as the featured back. My visions of Brown as a 1000-yard back and part-time QB could not have been much further from reality.

The Actual Team MVP: Zoltan Mesko.


Yeah, I said it. Our punter is my pick for MVP this year, and only partly because I already named Graham as the breakout player of the year. Brandon Minor, who one could argue was the most valuable player on offense, only ran for 533 yards this season. The rest of the offense teetered somewhere between surprisingly mediocre and epic suck. Besides Graham, nobody on defense can claim that they performed consistently well this season. K.C. Lopata hit only two-thirds of his field goals this season, and blew an easy chance to tie the Toledo debacle.

Mesko, however, averaged 43 yards per punt, nailed 24 kicked inside the 20-yard line while kicking only three touchbacks, boomed 24 50+ yard punts, forced 21 fair catches, and was the biggest reason why Michigan spent much of the season as the top net punting team in the country (we're currently #5). Zoltan the Inconceivable was able to almost single-handedly change field position, and with the 111th ranked offense in the country, field position was at a premium. He was the lone Wolverine to garner first-team All-Big Ten honors.

That should really tell you all you need to know about this season.

Lil' Wayne Lyric:

Before the season, we all tried to choose the Lil' Wayne lyric that would best describe the season. I won't do the rundown, but all our quotes essentially talked about overcoming adversity to achieve great success. In the long term, this should be the case, and I certainly believe it will be. However, if you were to take a Weezy quote that summed up the general Michigan fan's reaction to this season, I would go with:
"And man I miss the times, we would shine, you would keep me on your side
You would teach me how to ride and you would teach me how to pry
Then we get on the line and go over our lines
We were in the same position and that's when you change positions, shit
I never change and I miss ya, and its strange but I never forget ya
say that ain't you in them pictures"
--Lil' Wayne, "I Miss My Dawgs"
Interpret that as you will. In two years, I expect the tune to be very different.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Holy Hoop on a Stick! Michigan Beats No. 4 UCLA


I just want to say that the backdoor cut by DeShawn Sims, and the subsequent rim-rocking dunk off an Anthony Wright feed that provided the winning points in Michigan's 55-52 upset over UCLA, was the most beautiful thing related to Michigan basketball I've seen since, um, LaVell Blanchard announced he was coming to school here. Seriously.

Oh, and Stu Douglass officially has a license to shoot.

Regardless of how representative of the team this game really was (no, I don't believe we're a top-5 team, obviously) it was incredibly refreshing and encouraging to see Michigan close out a game like this. Too many times in the past few years we've taken good teams down to the wire, only to falter down the stretch. Tonight Michigan finished, and now we have a signature win and two cracks to upset Duke in the next five games.

For tonight, I am happy. Just don't drop the f-bomb (football) on me for the next 24 hours. I want to enjoy this one.

UPDATE: Here's the final minute of the game, found via The Big Lead.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

About the Banner


I've gotten a few comments about this recently, and they are completely valid.

The banner at the top of this website is completely cursed. Chauncey Billups was traded. Joel Zumaya's arm may fall off before we ever see him have another productive season. Mike Hart is (1) no longer a Wolverine, and (2) is out for the NFL season with a torn ACL. Roy Williams pouted, took plays off, and was then traded (although one could argue that worked out great for both the Lions and Roy). Only Pavel Datsyuk remains untouched by The Ace of Sports Banner Curse (TASBC, for short).

I might throw up a temporary replacement soon, just to ensure that Datsyuk doesn't get run over by a runaway Zamboni. However, I am not a graphic designer, by any standard. If any enterprising reader has the ability to create a banner for the website, I would be forever indebted.

If you are interested:
  • The banner must have "The Ace of Sports" prominently displayed on it somewhere, since that's the name of the blog and all.
  • It should incorporate images somehow involving the Pistons, Red Wings, Lions, Tigers, and Wolverines.
  • The dimensions are 1000 x 200 pixels.
  • Other than that, go wild.
As a college student in the current economy, I have no reward of monetary value to give out if you submit a worthy picture. However, I would be happy to give out a guest post, link to your website, shoutout, or anything else within reason that doesn't rob me of beer money.

Many thanks in advance.


Thoughts on the Transfers


Yikes. Take a couple (unannounced) weeks off, and shit really starts hitting the fan. We lost to Northwestern during a miserable day at Michigan Stadium. I left at halftime while we were ahead, something I could never have imagined doing just a short few months ago. I was too numb, in every sense of the word, to willfully stay while every fiber of my body screamed for a warm couch, some hot food, and a clear view of an HDTV. I watched the rest of the second half, still caring about the outcome, but for the first time as a Michigan fan also caring about my sanity, and whether this was all worth it.

I guess I wasn't the only one feeling like that. Zion Babb got kicked off the team, Jason Kates has decided to transfer, and there is rampant speculation that Artis Chambers and Sam McGuffie will also finish their collegiate careers elsewhere. From a completely nonpartisan standpoint, I can't say I blame them. It's easy to sit here, quote Bo, and dismiss the players as not tough enough, mentally or physically, to play for Michigan.

Except, as much as I can, being a 5-11, 140 pound bespectacled aspiring writer, I understand why these guys would leave. Nobody signs up to play for Michigan player thinking 3-8 (and in all likelihood, 3-9) is within the realm of possibility. Recruits weren't thrown into the middle of a Mike Barwis workout on their official visit. Most of this team signed a letter of intent to play for Lloyd Carr. Many of these players saw their positions disappear, or other players leap them on the depth chart, and have little hope of seeing the field is they remain Wolverines. To see the end of your playing career when you're 20 years old can't be easy. I'd be looking for ways to extend it as long as possible, too.

It doesn't just end with football. No matter how much help these guys get, Michigan classes are hard. Nothing in high school prepares you for your first week of midterms, or having hour-long tests that count for 30% of your overall grade, or how hard it is to write a five-page paper when you know your friends are just ten minute walk away, getting drunk at a house party. The flip-side to being a great school academically is, well, that it's a great school academically. I can't imagine how poorly I'd be doing in school if I had to juggle academics with a sport as time-consuming as football.

It's not just the academics. Ever been through a Michigan winter? It sucks. You go outside only as a last resort. The wind cuts straight to your bones at every corner, and it always seems to find a way to blow right into your face. Nobody wants to party anymore, since cabs are expensive and there's just no way you're walking across campus. All the pretty girls in tank tops and miniskirts you saw during welcome week are replaced by an army of puffy Northface coats, scarves, and sweatpants. You're pretty sure there's a girl in there somewhere, but there's just no way to be sure.

North Face, the official sponsor of the least-titillating winters of your life.

I love Ann Arbor, and the University of Michigan. I grew up here. I always knew I would go to school here. But for the kids who came here expecting one thing, and getting something completely different, I feel you. As Brian so eloquently put it, these guys want a place that will specialize in Not Vomiting Every Weekday. And maybe that place won't stress you out so much with an academic program that causes 4.0 GPA high school students to decide that Tuesday is a tremendous night to get shitfaced, as long as it makes them forget about their test on Thursday. Maybe they'll even be able to see the sun between November and May.

Although I didn't intend this when I started writing tonight, this has essentially become an open letter to the fans who make personal attacks on the players.

Get a life.

Bill Simmons Is Scared

I'm assuming most of you readers, since you are reading an online blog, know who Bill Simmons, aka "The Sports Guy" for is. He is probably the most famous sports blogger ever, and is a champion to any one of us typing away at our keyboards to probably no one just because we have opinions. He's the one who "made it," not because he had connections or because he had the right internships, but because people really loved reading what he had to say. In the blogging world, at least in my blogging world, he is king.

That said, there are a few drawbacks to his writing, the first being he is an unabashed Boston sports fan. We all know how obnoxious they are -- they are the ones who somehow perfected the art of being whiny and arrogant at the same time. Part of me actually likes this aspect of his writing, and it is refreshing to hear him just come out and say it, because he sounds like me writing about my teams. He covers the Boston teams with the same love and affection we at the Ace of Sports do for Detroit teams. However, there are times where it is so glaring he actually makes himself look bad. Here's the example I'm getting at (watch out -- this is pretty long. You know how he can be):

Random tangent since we're here: I want to come back in my next life as Joe Dumars. He should have broken up the Pistons after they folded in the 2007 East finals against the Cavs, but instead, he waited an extra 16 months, overpaid Chauncey Billups, then killed this season's team by getting out of the Billups contract by dumping his salary for Iverson's expiring contract, only nobody in Detroit caught on because, "Hey, we got Allen Iverson!!!!!" Meanwhile, he has the media convinced Rodney Stuckey is headed for the Hall of Fame, and the Pistons have a chance to land LeBron in 2010. Really? LeBron is going to drop a nuclear bomb on Cleveland by ditching it for a division rival? That's happening? Last time I checked, free agents were fleeing Detroit (Allan Houston, Grant Hill, Ben Wallace) and not signing there. And if you really think Detroit is landing a marquee guy in 2010 when big markets such as New York and L.A. and warm-weather cities such as Miami, Phoenix and Orlando will all be throwing money around -- not to mention deep-pocketed Portland, which will have assembled a contender at that point and remains the most logical destination for LeBron if he only cares about winning titles and nothing else (and also, Nike is right there) -- then you're obviously in denial. Chris Bosh loves Toronto. He's not leaving. Dwyane Wade isn't leaving South Beach so he can wear a parka and live in Michigan. And LeBron wants to be the next Jordan and/or the most famous athlete on the planet; these things aren't happening in Detroit just because Worldwide Wes likes the Pistons. Come on.

Here's what that cap space will get Dumars: Maybe a discount superstar like Dirk Nowitzki (who's about three months away from turning into the 1991 Tom Chambers) or a nonsuperstar free agent like Carlos Boozer. That's about it. As for the Pistons fans, Dumars might be better than many GMs in the league, but remember, he's the same guy who botched the Darko pick, hired Flip Saunders, overpaid Nazr Mohammed, shoved Carlos Delfino down your throats, pushed out Larry Brown and badly misjudged Mehmet Okur. He's not a genius. He's a solid GM who made some good moves and some bad ones, and he definitely held on to the 2004 nucleus for about 18 months too long. It's OK to lightly question the direction of this team without feeling like an ingrate. Really, it is. You are within your rights. The five-year grace period is almost up.

And there it is: the fear. Can you smell it? It practically oozes from his words. The best part is when he tries to convince himself that Portland is more of a contender in the hugely competitive Western conference than Detroit is in the much weaker Eastern conference. Bill, I'm sorry Joe D can't make all the right decisions. Your squad has been known to blow a few big ones as well (Antoine Walker, anyone?). The fact is, we in Detroit trust him. All he's done is win us a championship with one of the most likable and truly team-first teams in recent memory, certainly a more legit project than your Celts, who were gift-wrapped, packaged and sealed for you by a former player in a trade that should have been vetoed by the Commish. So good job Danny Ainge, you've built a winner, at least until the aging Ray Allen slows down (which he already did against, ahem, Detroit in the playoffs. It's only a matter of time), Kevin Garnett gets a little older and loses some of his defensive quickness, and Paul Pierce decides he's done enough and starts mailing it in. That day is rapidly approaching. The point is, your team may be good now, but they're OLD. OLD, OLD, O-L-D OLD. And who do you have waiting in the wings? The great Rajon Rondo, Big Baby Davis, Eddie House (truly a joke of a player), and Kendrick Perkins (nothing but a body). The only legit players you got are Tony Allen ( and that's stretching the definition of "legit") and Leon Powe, who is, admittedly, a beast. Good luck with that team in five years. Hell, three years.

Here's the thing: Bill knows all of this. This is not new to him. That's why he went on his "tangent." It was written as much to reassure himself as to demoralize Detroit fans. You can hear it, especially when he talks about free agents leaving Detroit instead of going there. Good argument, Bill. Every team lets free agents go. It's not like players look at teams that have let a few go and say, "oooh, they let those guys go, I don't want to go there." Each case is different, and the players know that. Also, Allen Houston? Grant Hill? Really? I think I was nine when the Houston was here, and only a little older during Grant Hill. You're showing your age, Bill. Maybe you should take some of your own advice that you give Charles Barkley in the paragraph before the one I posted. Another good part is when he says the weather is one of the top reasons players decide where to go. Here's a revelation for you. Real players care about two things: money and rings. If the Stons got the money and the team, there should be no problem whatsoever signing a top-notch free agent.

And excuse us in Detroit for being excited about landing the player with the third-best average of all time. I love Iverson. He truly showed me what the NBA could be when I was in sixth grade and he took the Sixers to the finals when the second-best player on the team was Aaron McKie and he was THIS CLOSE to winning the first two games in L.A. against the mighty Lakers. I will always be grateful to him for what he showed in that series. And you know what's funny about Allen Iverson? I've never seen him cry and be wheeled out of the gym in a wheelchair from a fake knee injury. Even you, Bill, had to see the sapiness in that whole act. The Celts were praised and hyped and fawned over and dramatized (Bill Russel's televised conversation with KG, anyone?) by the media that whole season, and Pierce wanted just a little bit more, so he sold his dignity for a chance that a few people would believe he was actually hurt and he could pretend he was a hero. One problem: he lost the respect of countless fans. Congratulations, Paul.

So there you have it: the unflappable Bill Simmons, he of the boundless ego, is officially scared. I am looking forward to the rest of the season like I have never before. Go Pistons, and God Bless Joe Dumars.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Zion Babb Off Team

Wide Receiver Zion Babb has left the Michigan football team, according to pretty much everyone but us.  RichRod won't tell anybody why, but we can assume it has something to do with the 3-8 record.  
Look for a lot more players to leave after this season, possibly even Sam I Am McGiffie, which would be a huge blow.  However, I'm convinced that Michael Shaw is just a less-hyped version of Sam, so I won't be crying if he leaves.
That's all for now, more updates to come.  To those thinking of leaving: Those Who Stay Will Be Champions.  Think about it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Suck My Balls, ESPN


Please, please put that same bet up again for the Ohio State game. Assholes.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Iverson In His New Duds

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

I must say, it's pretty unreal to see AI in a Pistons jersey. I've always been an Iverson fan, every since he a high-flying phenom at Georgetown. He may not be the spectacular dunker he was for the Hoyas (don't believe me? Check this out), but the man still can put the ball in the basket. Iverson may be on the decline, but he still brings more superstar power to Detroit than anyone since Grant Hill.

I loved watching him play during his Sixers days, when he single-handedly carried terrible teams way further than they ever should have gone. Remember, Aaron McKie was Philly's number two scoring option when they made the NBA Finals in 2001 (I guess you could argue Dikembe Mutombo was, but he mostly just cleaned up what AI's not like they ran the offense through him). Iverson's step-over on Tyronn Lue remains one of my favorite highlights from my lifetime.

It's going to be fun watching AI suit up for Detroit Friday night at New Jersey, and for the rest of the season. Now that he is not burdened with carrying a team, or the growth of another superstar, we may just see a reenergized Iverson. If we do, this Detroit team will be one to watch out for deep into the summer.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It's November Fourth


That's all. Happy Election Day.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why I'm Not Sorry Chauncey Billups was Traded

I have talked to many, many, many fans today who liked the trade for Allen Iverson, but were hesitant to celebrate too much because they had a hard time watching Chauncey Billups leave the 'Stons.  Don't hesitate!  Celebrate!  (Like that one?  That was waiting for a while).

Look, Chauncey was one of the best point guards in the league when he was with the Pistons.  Until 2004.  Yes, after 2004 he still averaged around the same amount of points and assists, and he remained a favorite among fans, but something had happened.  Winning the title in 2004 was probably the worst thing that could have happened to Billups and many others on that roster, most obviously Rasheed Wallace.  

For most great players, winning their first championship only provides them with the added incentive of defending it.  Jordan, Magic, Bird, all of them were like this.  They won, but they wanted to win more.  For other players, winning a championship is more like the end of a lifelong dream.  This is not necessarily a bad thing; few have a championship, and those who do have accomplished something extraordinary.  However, what sets apart the very, very good players from the great ones is how they react to that first championship.  Jordan, Bird, even Duncan and Shaq, used it to motivate them to get even better, to defend their title.  The Pistons who won in 2004 used it in the exact opposite way, which is why Detroit has not seen another championship banner since then.

Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace seemed to be the spokespeople for the horrible attitude that afflicted the Pistons after their 2004 title, especially after Larry Brown left.  Their attitude was:

"We've been to the top, which means We are already better than everyone else.  If we play poorly, it's not because the other team beat us, it's because we didn't play well.  We can toy with teams for the first few games of a playoff series and flip a switch when we decide we want to win, and we can win another championship that way."

This attitude that these players were so good that they could toy with whatever teams they wanted to for however long they wanted led to some dubious playoff series, especially last year against Philadelphia, in a series that should not have gone six games.  There have been other examples of this, but I won't go into them because it will take too long.   

To put it simply: Billups stopped being hungry.  He didn't crave a championship like he did in '04, and it showed.  Sheed doesn't care what the hell happens and it shows.  These guys were the main proponents of the inflated view the Pistons had of themselves from '04 until now.  Unfortunately, we traded Dice, not Sheed, so some of that attitude is still around.  

Allen Iverson, however, is probably the hungriest player in the League now that Kevin Garnett got his title.  That attitude that he brings to every game, where he goes all out, never lets up, and tries his hardest at all times, is one the Pistons need more than any other team at this point.  Hopefully, his play, and the way he plays, will be infectious.

Now, analysis of the trade itself: if you hadn't guessed, I love it.  It is a no-lose situation for the Pistons, and as usual, a shrewd business move by our ever-shrewd president, Joe Dumars.  Allen Iverson has one year left on his contract.  Billups had three.  If Iverson doesn't work out, which he almost undoubtedly will, the worst that happens is we don't do so well this year, we don't re-sign him, and we got rid of an expensive, over-the-hill guard (Chauncey).  Also, the chances are good that Dice, out of love for the Pistons organization, will sit out this year and re-sign with us next year, which would be awesome.  Great move financially, and overall a steal.  

Here's how I see this playing out as far as the lineup is concerned: Curry will start with Iverson at point, Rip at 2, Tay at 3, Amir at 4, Sheed at 5.  Stuck will come off the bench, along with Mad Max.  That's a fucking great lineup.  As the season progresses, the lineup will be shuffled during games.  I see about 20 minutes each game of a small-ball lineup: Stuck, AI, Rip, Tay, Sheed.  That's a good lineup, especially because, if you replace Sheed with someone more mobile, maybe Kwame Brown (can't believe I just said that), it allows the Pistons to play more up-tempo and will give opponents a completely different look.  With all those scorers on the floor, the only thing we would need Kwame to do is rebound, and there is no reason he can't do that.  Tay is an almost impossible matchup for anybody, by posting up against small forwards or blowing by slower power forwards.  Rip is faster than most small forwards, the only question is if he can hold his own on defense.  That puts Stuck in a role most of us imagined him taking over after a few more years, but if Joe D thinks he is ready now, I believe him.

Awesome trade.  For the first time in a while, I am genuinely excited about the Pistons winning it all this year.  This puts us right back into the headlines, but so be it.  I have loved AI for a while, ever since he introduced me to the NBA in 2001 when he almost won the first two games of the Finals in L.A. when the Sixers' second-best player was Aaron McKie.  He will improve this team dramatically both on the court and attitude-wise.  Now, how do we get rid of Sheed... 

Rip Signed to Extension


From ESPN via DBB: Detroit has just signed Rip Hamilton to a three-year, $34 million extension.

I'm going to wait for someone who knows more about the salary cap to break this one down. I'm still recovering from the AI trade. My initial reaction is relief that there won't be a total overhaul of the roster after this season. Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to eat lunch. Um, dinner. I need to get away from my computer now.

Now That It's Official...


Lost in all the hoopla of whether the Chauncey/Dyess/Samb-for-AI deal is good for the Pistons is the fact that, well, Detroit is trading Mr. Big Shot. This may seem dumbfoundingly obvious, but it seems that the fact hasn't sunk in yet that Detroit is trading a fan favorite, as well as a superb basketball player.

I have to get this off my chest: I don't believe in clutch. There's a multitude of reasons, but here's my argument boiled down in to a couple of sentences. Check out's "Clutch" statistics (they use the quotes too). Notice something about the top of the leaderboard? It's just the league's best players, with almost no exceptions. To me, "clutch" falls in to the same category as "grit" and "being a winner" as terms thrown around by sportswriters because they're easier to say than it is to actually break down why a player is good.

However, I never had a problem with Chauncey's "Mr. Big Shot" moniker. Why? Because the dude had cajones. Detroit did not have a go-to scorer during its run to six straight conference finals appearances, but Chauncey was always the man in big-time situations. Whether he made the big shot or missed it, a Pistons fan was never unhappy to see the ball in Billups' hands with the clock winding down. Many will call that clutch; I prefer to say that Chauncey just has no fear.

I've already said I love the trade, from the standpoint that the Pistons have a brighter future and a great present as well. Still, there's a heavy feeling in my gut, one that knows that number one in the Red, White and Blue won't be suiting up for the D again. "Allen ... I-I-I-Iverson" just doesn't have the same ring as Mason's "B-B-B-Billups" introduction. And so, I'll be pouring out a beer for Chauncey tonight (and probably drinking a couple as well).

They say the mark of a great GM is the ability to make personnel moves without letting sentiment get in the way. Good think Joe Dumars is our GM, because this is a trade most Pistons fans would have a really hard time making.

Just look back and appreciate some of Chauncey's finest playoff exploits:

Breaking Pistons News: Iverson to Detroit


Stephen A. Smith is reporting on Sportscenter that a HUGE deal is near completion in Detroit. The Pistons will reportedly send Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess to Denver in exchange for Allen Iverson.

My first instinct is to say I like the trade. AI is still a go-to scorer who is as hungry as anyone in the league for an NBA title. He can play both guard spots, and with Rip Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey will form one of the most potent backcourt rotations in the league.

The trade, if it goes through, is bittersweet. Chauncey has always been a fan favorite, and it's always tough to see an NBA Finals MVP go. However, he is going to his hometown team and a playoff contender, so as a Pistons fan I'm happy for him.

This is definitely a huge vote of confidence for Stuckey, Amir Johnson, and Jason Maxiell, all of whom are in line to play even bigger roles with the team if this trade goes through. Losing Ben Wallace to free agency was one thing, but trading Chauncey really signals the beginning of the end of the old guard (the core of the team that won the 2004 title) and the start of the youth movement in Detroit.

More on this later, after it is (and IF it is) confirmed.

UPDATE: Tom Ziller at the Fanhouse posts another reason why this deal makes a whole lot of sense for Detroit:
This deal isn't about tomorrow or April, though: it's about July. Iverson is a pending free agent, while Billups and Antonio McDyess will take up $19 million of cap space next season. If Dumars lets A.I. flee and fails to re-sign aging forward Rasheed Wallace, the Pistons will be looking at upwards of $20 million in cap space in the summer of 2009. The free agent crop is solid -- not replete with superstars, but solid. Lamar Odom, Shawn Marion, Hedo Turkoglu, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, Ben Gordon ... there's a chance Dumars could pick up two of those guys with all his space. (UPDATE: Rip Hamilton could also opt out this summer, if he wants to pass up $11 million in exchange for long-term security. That'd give Dumars more than $30 million to play with.)

Or -- and here's the scary thought for non-Pistons fans -- Dumars could let the freedom ride til the summer of '10, when Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire hit the market. Atonement for the '03 draft debacle, perhaps?
Don't doubt Joe D. This move doesn't severely cripple the Pistons' chances this season (in my opinion), and gives up a hell of a lot more flexibility down the road. If we pick up a superstar or two in a couple of years, this will be looked at as possibly the best personnel move Dumars has ever made.

UPDATE 2: Damn, take a nap, and things get all official. Yes, this trade is actually happening, and there's seemingly hundreds of reactions out there on the internets already. True Hoop loves the deal for Detroit. So does Ball Don't Lie. Kevin Sawyer at DBB is less enthused (still waiting to see what Matt thinks). ESPN's Chad Ford and John Hollinger weigh in, as does Keith Langlois at True Blue Pistons. Also, Dave Dial at MLive's Full Court Press blog has a great breakdown of the salary cap ramifications of the deal, as well as a list of potential free agents for next offseason, if Detroit chooses to use its cap space on the class of 2009.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Michigan Three-Man Front


I mean, seriously. Scott Shafer, please stop single-handedly raising my blood pressure to Old Faithful-esque levels. The last time the Wolverines gave up 48 points to Purdue? Um, never.

Have I mentioned their quarterback played running back two weeks ago? Ugh.

Time to block this out of my mind and attempt to enjoy the rest of Halloween weekend. Heavy drinking is absolutely inevitable.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More Glass-Shattering Action, This Time Actually Related to a Team I Write About

Tomas Kopecky on Denis Gauthier, from Monday night's shootout win over the Kings (no sound on video, which comes via Yahoo!'s Puck Daddy):

They sure don't make glass like they used to...that hit wasn't even that hard.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Beautiful Sunday

I just enjoyed a relaxing and productive Sunday for the first time in a while. Can't touch on the reason why, however...


Oh, right.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Awesome Hit Nominally Related to Michigan Hockey

Remember Mike Van Ryn? He left Michigan after his sophomore season for the NHL Draft, and little has been heard from him since. That is, until yesterday, when he was on the receiving end of this spectacular hit:

I will say this. Van Ryn did a great job of playing the puck out of the zone despite knowing that a big hit was coming. I just don't think he expected quite THAT big of a hit.

Lions Draft Options

First of all, many thanks to all of our readers who have been leaving comments, questions and suggestions. It is very much appreciated, and it also gives us an idea of what you guys want to read about, which helps us in our endless pursuit of making you happy. Seriously, I eat these questions up like Gosder Cherilus at an all-you-can-eat before he shows up to training camp out of shape and overweight, so keep 'em coming.

Reader Zac brought up three very good draft options that would fill the Lion's most prevalent needs. Here's what I think of each one.

Sam Bradford/Matt Stafford, QB's for Oklahoma/Georgia- I have to agree with Zac and go with Bradford on this. I think he and Stafford are equally suited for the pro game, but what's wierd about Stafford is that he really hasn't imporved much since last year. He is on pace to throw fewer scores, and only one less pick than he did last year, and so far a much-hyped season has been pretty unremarkable. I don't know anyone who would pick a player who seemed to have peaked his junior year and then didn't do much his senior year (oh wait, that's exactly what the Lions did with Gosder. Awesome). Now, Stafford is only a junior, and if he stays in school this is a moot point, in fact, Bradford is a year younger, so this may all be moot, but Bradford to me is the better choice. He's going to throw for almost twice as many touchdowns as Bradford, and less picks, and while he is younger, he's simply more talented. If Bradford waits and Stafford leaves though, take Stafford. We can't afford to wait.

(Quick note-anybody else confuse these two because their names are straight out of a Shel Silverstein poem? I can imagine Joe Buck, when both quarterbacks are in the NFL, "It's Stafford against Bradford! Hello everybody, we are just about ready for kickoff!" Wouldn't he just get a kick out of that? Also, really glad I finally dropped Shel Silvertstein in a blog post)

Vontae Davis, CB for Illinois- If the Lions picked their quarterback first in the draft and this guy is still available by the time they get to their second pick, they would be lucky. I think the best-case scenario is either getting Malcom Jenkins out of OSU or Macho Harris of Virginia Tech, possibly the owner of the coolest nickname for a cornerback of all time, with apologies to Neon Deion Sanders. However, both will go very high. Realistically, if the Lions are using this pick as their second of the first round, they might be able to get Deondre Wright, a lockdown guy out of New Mexico, or maybe that kid out of Western Michigan, Londen Fryar. Both would be very good alternatives. The great thing about corner is it is one of the surest positions in the draft. If you were the best corner on your team in college, you were always one the other team's best receiver, who was probably NFL-caliber himself if you were playing at a big-time school. Generally, if you're fast and have good instincts, you can't go wrong. Good hands are a plus.

Andre Smith, OL for Alabama- This guy is a certified monster. He just eats people alive. He would be especially important because he plays the all-important left tackle position and protects the quarterbcak's blind side. In fact, if he is available by the time we make our second pick of the first round (I love saying that), take him instead of a cornerback. Definitely. I just think this position is more important. One good young left tackle is going to be more effective in improving the offense than one good young cornerback is in the defense.

The question, as Zac points out, is: who is running the Lions scouting? If it is the same people who landed such gems as Charles Rogers, Mike Williams, Teddy Lehman, Drew Stanton and Gosder Cherilus (yeah, I'm already considering him a bust. If you disagree, check beck with him in three years when he's desperately trying to make a team as a 480-pound convicted felon), then the Lions are in trouble again. All I know is that the guy currently in charge of college scouting is dome dude named Scott McEwen. Whether or not he's a new guy I have no idea. Hopefully he was hired yesterday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lions Positions of Need

The same reader I mentioned who wanted to know some possible replacements for Matt Millen also wanted to know what positions the Lions should focus on in this year's draft.  I am happy to oblige, but just note what is happening here: this Lions season may go down as the forgotten season in the NFL.  Notice how there has been no post up about Sunday's game, which was pretty eventful.  We remind me of Mark McGuire at the congressional hearing--"I'm not here to talk about the past.  I just want to make, uh, a better...future..."  That's exactly what we're doing.  Forget this season, let's just move on as quickly as possible, even if it's still going on.  

Anyway, the positions.  I am going to list off the positions on the field in order of importance for the Lions current roster:

-OFFENSIVE LINE.  Can't stress this enough: with very, very few exceptions, a team is only as good as its offensive line.  It's something owners tend to forget when they're drooling over a 6'5" wideout with a 4.3 40.  If he doesn't have time to get open, he won't get the ball.  You can have all the athletes you want, but if you don't have the big boys up front, even Tom Brady would look not great.  I know we drafted Gosder Cherilus, but he is obviously a joke.  Jeff Backus used to be good, but now clearly is not and should not be starting.  The fact that George Foster holds a roster spot on our team says a lot.  The offensive line sucks, and that is priority number one.  Even a mediocre quarterback can look competent if he has four seconds to throw the ball every time.  And right now, our QB's are all worse than mediocre.

-Cornerback.  I know we are trying to move on from this season, but did anyone see the Texans game?  Matt Schaub was making our secondary look like swiss cheese.  Matt Schaub!  If he can do what he did against the Lions, think of what a real quarterback will do!  I don't want to think about it, it's too scary.  The defensive backfield for the Lions has been bad ever since I can remember, and it's because no one ever invested in it.  In the draft, try to go for a corner who can make tackles.  Seriously.  Then have him teach everyone else, because everyone's forgotten.  Unless you can consistently get a very good rush on the passer, the cornerbacks need to be top-notch if you're going to have a successful defense.  And right now, our corners are bottom-notch.

-Quarterback.  It's true.  Dan Orlovsky is not the quarterback of the future, and John McCain will refer to Barack Obama by name before Drew Stanton is healthy enough to play a down for an NFL team.  The Lions are entering a new era, and it would be great to step into that era with an unproven wild card under center than three proven losers.  We have two first-round draft picks.  We can swing a good left tackle and a very good quarterback, can't we?  

-Linebacker.  Just get Paris Lenon off the team.  Please.  He can't tackle anybody, and on any other team's roster he'd be...wait--he wouldn't be on any other team's roster.

-Saftey.  Someone who can cover.  And don't get some slowing-down, past his prime guy who was once known for bone-crushing hits.  Please.  Just someone who can play a cover 2.

-Defensive line.  I actually think the guys we have right now would be ok with a little motivation.  Corey Redding is still talented, Dewayne White can play when he wants.  They would be alright, and that's all I want at this point.  Somebody remind me again how much we're paying Corey Redding?

-Running back.  Don't do it.  Don't draft a freaking running back.  You just did, and with a good o-line, the yards will come.

-Wide Receiver.  Don't even think about it.

There you have it.  If the Lions follow this basic draft rubric, I think they are heading on the right track.  If not, then say hello to Michael Crabtree, everyone!

Possible Millen Replacement

We got a great comment from a reader asking for our take on who would be a good replacement for Matt Millen.  There are a lot of good candidates, including the 18 listed by the Free Press recently.  There are a few that really stand out on that list:

-Floyd Reese, former Titans GM and current ESPN NFL analyst.  Reports say this guy wants the job, which is going to be half the battle for the Lions.  It should not be played up too much, however.  The kinds of guys applying for this job, at least the ones we're looking for , are going to get a charge out of building a team from the ground up and making it their own.  You got the feeling that Matt Millen never really was that excited about building a team.  I don't know, maybe it was the trips home a few states away that tipped me off, whatever, I'm over it.  Anyway, Floyd Reese built a solid team in Tennessee, but there are some definite blemishes on his resume.  Yes, one of his teams was a yard away from winning the Super Bowl, but look how their team was built: they did not have much success after that year.  They kept starting a banged-up quarterback well past his prime (Steve McNair), they never really invested in wide receivers to help him out, and they relied mostly on an inexperienced but freakishly athletic defensive line.  That isn't exactly the way I would go about building a team for the future.  Oh, and he drafted Vince Young, aka Captain Crazy.  Not a good move.

-One who I think could be a keeper , Ruston Webster, Seahawks VP of Personnel.  This guy got into the game as a scout, and moved his way up as a scout as well.  If there is one thing the Lions need, it is a man in charge who knows talent when he sees it.  This guy picked linebacker Lofa Tatupu, a pro bowler, and was a VIP in the piecing together of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Super Bowl-winning squad.  That team wasn't exactly built for the future either, but the Lions are in no position to get picky.  At all.  And this guys young, which must be good, right?

-Tom Heckert, Eagles GM.  The list makes a good point about this guy wanting out from under Andy Reid's foot, and that will play a larger role than people think.  He clearly knows how to build and run a team, as the Eagles have been good since like, 2002.  Wow, that's a long time ago.  Anyway, he's from Adrian, which is something.  

Look, what the Lions don't want, and what they wont necessarily attract, is a head guy at an established  team who wants another note on his football pedigree.  Anyone who knows anything about football knows that taking over the Lions is like taking over a problematic, 15-year-old foster child who's already experimenting with crack cocaine: it's gonna take some time, some patience, and some commitment.  A young guy looking to make a name for himself would be perfect, and also living in the state of Michigan would be appreciated.  The Lions are on the right track by firing Matt Millen and dumping this season.  Now, they have some time to pick a decent replacement.  Let's hope they use it wisely. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

In Yesterday's News...

Roy Williams was traded from the Lions to the Dallas Cowboys.  Yeah, you already know.  Midterms may be taking over Ace's life, but I'm an English major.  Needless to say, midterms are relatively light.  This means I will try to take over posting duties while I can.

First off, as a diehard Lions fan, I have been given new life by the firing of Matt Millen.  It's like I've been baptized.  I know that that is only the first step on the long road from complete laughingstock of the League to sweet mediocrity (my humble goal, for now), but it's still a step in the right direction.  And in an era that has taken about 3 trillion steps backward in the past seven years or so, the forward-thinking is a welcome change.

The Lions traded wide receiver Roy Williams for first, third, and sixth-round draft picks in 2009.  The trade, surprisingly, made a whole lot of sense for the Lions.  Why not trade a guy who clearly does not want to be in Detroit for some good young talent?  You can't really blame Roy if you're a Lions fan.  Let's face it: who really WANTS to be in Detroit?  I doubt Tim Tebow is looking at the possible teams he could go to in 2009 and thinking, "wouldn't it be great if I could go to a team that just fired its president, has no vision for the future, and seems to kill the career of anyone who doesn't get out fast enough?  If only there was a place that had all that...How about Detroit?"

The fact is the Lions are the most demoralizing place to work in America right now, and if you throw in how awesome and secure Ford Motor Company employees must feel right now, it looks like ol' William Clay has got things running smoothly as ever.

Roy Williams was great while he was here.  Some may complain about him underachieving.  Look at who was throwing to him during his Lions career: Joey Harrington, Jeff Garcia, Jon Kitna and recently, Dan Orlovski.  Are you kidding me?  Just typing those names makes me want to puke.  If you know there is a good chance that even if you get open, your quarterback is either going to miss you or not see you, where does your motivation come from?  A job well done?  Please.  Jesus Christ wouldn't have given his all for those quarterbacks if he was a wide receiver for the Lions the same time as Roy.  Not even for Jon Kitna.  And that's saying a lot, because from what I hear, Jesus Christ was a really hard worker. 

I feel no animosity towards Roy, and I wish him the best in Dallas.  However, with the way Tony Romo panders to Terrel Owens, who will be lining up alongside Roy, it doesn't look like he'll see the ball much.

What the Lions need to remember is that three draft picks don't mean shit if you draft three Gosder Cheriluses next year.  Don't fuck it up.

Monday, October 13, 2008


...are taking over my life. Posting, if there is any, will be quite light over the next couple days. In its stead, enjoy some much-needed comic relief, courtesy of Dan Orlovsky.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Overheard in the Student Section: Toledo

Photo courtesy of The Detroit News


Something just didn't seem right from the start. We arrived at our seats five minutes to noon, and entire blocks of the student section were completely empty. Kickoff came and went, but still many of those seats remained unfilled. Unless I was unaware that Saturday was "Disguise Yourself As a Blue Metal Bench Day", something was amiss.

As for the noise, well, there was little to speak of. I realize that it's hard to put your heart and soul behind a struggling team, but I'm pretty sure Northwestern fans would have been disgusted with the sound output of our student section. There was one kid, standing a row in front of us, who did his best to encourage our section to yell on every defensive play, to do something to help a team that found itself struggling with a 1-4 MAC squad. People looked at him like he had nine heads.

We all know what happened. Steven Threet gifted Toledo a 100-yard touchdown, Nick Sheridan remained Nick Sheridan, and K.C. no longer stands for Kicking Consistency. Now we're 2-4, desperately trying to figure out how we'll win another game, with our bowl streak tenuously hanging by the thinnest of threads and our undefeated record against the MAC shattered like a Bee Gees record on Disco Demolition Night. Holy Toledo, indeed.

But what disappoints me almost as much as our play is the complete lack of support coming from the player's own peers. I was talking on Friday to a woman who works with me at the Michigan Union who is close with many current and former players, all of whom will remain nameless for the sake of this post. After the Wisconsin game, she said at least four current and former players all separately expressed their disappointment in the fans who booed the team after the first half. Not only that, but the bile coming from the fans doesn't stop after the game is over. Students actually have the gall to walk up to players on campus and tell them, in so many words, that they aren't happy with their play on the field. People may not realize it, but these guys actually listen.

This is not a plea to stop booing in order to not hurt these players feelings. However, you have to wonder how hard these guys want to play for a student body in which seemingly 25% of the ticket holders don't show up to games, and half of those that do spend the entire 60 minutes exploring uses for every possible variation of the word "fuck". This may be a lost season from a Big Ten standpoint, but these players still have to show up for six more games, including two more at home. They can't just go "fuck it" and walk out on this season, not unless they want to throw away lifelong dreams of NFL millions, thousands of hours of work, and a huge part of their identity. Our "fans", however, seem to have no such qualms about doing just that, and I doubt that's helping our team in what is already an incredibly trying season.

My one quote for this game comes from the bitter end, overheard as I was ascending the stadium steps towards the exit, readying for a dreary walk to campus followed by a postgame ritual of crappy Chinese food and a much-needed nap. I didn't want to hear anything else. The sound of the stadium announcer proclaiming "Final Score: Toledo 13, Michigan 10" was more than enough for me. Then I heard it:

"I hate to be The Right Guy, but I'm The Right Guy."

It was said so joyfully, with so much pride in the speaker's own greatness and glory, that it HAD to come from someone wearing a Toledo shirt. I was almost too scared to look back, in fear that I would lose what little faith I have left in Michigan fans. Sure enough, I turned to see a guy decked out in Michigan gear, smiling like he had just bet the farm on a Toledo victory. Just to rub it home, he repeated the same statement three more times during the 40-row ascent out of the Big House. I remember the number, because that's how many times I had to count to ten and resist the urge to knock the motherfucker straight to Row B. He capped off his Chronicles of Douchebaggery with a simple "Rich Rod sucks," before disappearing to wherever people without souls go (probably Pike).

I tend to think of myself as a rational, level-headed guy, but at that point I really hoped that man's night would end with a slow ride in an ambulance. My emotions have settled down a bit since then. Now I only wish he is subjected to the kind of toture detailed at the beginning of the song "Method Man" (I'd post a link, but I have relatives who occasionally read this blog, and I'd like to continue to be on speaking terms with them). Hey, it's better than death. Barely.

In all seriousness, I have no respect for you if you take joy in watching your team lost just because it makes you right. Do us all a favor and just stay home next time. I'm sure your friends in Round One of the Ninth Circle of Hell will enjoy your company (and yes, I have actually read Dante, so save it). But before you go, try to sell your ticket to someone who actually cares about Michigan football, if there are any of them left.

Friday, October 10, 2008

That's Not Right

Joe Elliot, lead singer of Def Leppard, has an issue with placing things right side up:

You'd think when booking a band for "Face Off Rocks", the NHL would have found someone who actually, you know, knew something about hockey. Honestly, that was worse than seeing the Wings fall to the Leafs in the opener.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Dear TMQ: Stop, Please


From today's Tuesday Morning Quarterback:
Rich Rodriguez Was Behind This Somehow: Reader Brian Lemay of Ann Arbor, Mich., notes the Wolverines were playing well against Illinois in the first half. At intermission, the Michigan cheerleaders donned jackets and pants; in the second half, Michigan was blown out. And about that Gatorade shower Rodriguez received the week before, after the Wisconsin game: Standards are slipping if the coach gets a bucket dunked on his head for reaching a .500 record.
This combines all of Gregg Easterbrook's ingredients for his "Things That Piss Ace Off" cocktail. One part creepy obsession with cheerleaders half his age, two parts completely unprovoked potshot at Rich Rodriguez, and one part complete lack of knowledge about college football. I'm sorry, but a Gatorade shower is completely warranted in the case of a young, rebuilding football team pulling off the greatest comeback in the history of a storied stadium in the first conference game of the tenure of their new coach.

Mr. Easterbrook, kindly fuck yourself and die.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Why the Red Wings Will Win the Stanley Cup

Newly acquired Red Wings Marian Hossa (left) and Ty Conklin should be laughing all the way to the Cup (photo courtesy of the Detroit News)

I know, I'm really going out on a limb here. With the Wings opening their season next Thursday against the Maple Leafs, I was going to do a detailed preview of Detroit's team. However, I'm sure Christy at BTJ and Dave at Gorilla Crouch will have me covered on that one, and probably do it way better than I could. Plus, you can sum up this Detroit team in a couple of sentences: They're the same team that coasted through the regular season and playoffs en route to a Stanley Cup. Oh, and they added Marian Hossa. There, Red Wings covered.

With that done, I decided to take a look at the other contenders in the West, to see if anyone has a shot at knocking off Detroit.

Anaheim Ducks: Yes, the Ducks are very solid defensively. Chris Pronger may be everybody's least favorite NHL player, but he's still a very solid presense on the blue line and an underrated offensive threat. Jean-Sebastian Giguere is one of the better goaltenders in the league. Scott Niedermeyer came back. However, they had the 28th best offense in the NHL last season, and only had one player score more than 54 points (C Ryan Getzlaf). Even with the addition of Brendan Morrison, that's not going to cut it. For the Ducks to beat the Wings in the playoffs, they'd need Osgood to turn in a subpar series while Giguere plays out of his mind. Next.

San Jose Sharks: I find this team to be quite similar to the Ducks. Solid defense and goaltending (3rd in the NHL in goals against last season, behind Detroit and Anaheim) with a subpar offense (19th in the league in goals for). Like Anaheim, San Jose relied heavily on one player to carry the scoring load. Joe Thornton had 29 goals and 96 points, and the Sharks next leading scorer, Milan Michalek, had 24 goals and 55 points. If a team can shut down Thornton's line, they'll beat the Sharks. Detroit can do that. Let's move on.

The San Jose offense, aka Joe Thornton

Edmonton Oilers: This is a team that a lot of people expect to make a run in the West after disappointing the last two seasons. They have a lot of young talent up front, led by forward Ales Hemsky. However, their goalies are Matieu Garon and Dwayne Roloson. I don't see this team advancing much further than the second round, if they even get that far.

Chicago Blackhawks: Here's another team being mentioned as a potential sleeper in the West. They have a ton of young talent, with second-year forwards Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews leading the charge. Even with all that talent, however, the 'Hawks mustered only the NHL's 24th best power play. Also, goaltenders Cristobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin both consider themselves deserving of the starting spot, which could prove to be an unneeded distraction on a young team. Chicago will be a team to watch down the road, but this won't be their year.

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews give Chicago one of the league's most exciting young duos (Getty Images)

Dallas Stars: The Red Wings' foe in the 2008 Western Conference Finals look poised to return to the same position in 2009. The Stars are definitely the most likely team in the West to knock off Detroit. They added Brad Richards and Sean Avery to an already potent offensive attack, which features Mike Modano, Mike Ribiero, and Brendan Morrow. However, the concerns for the Stars start on the blue line. Sergei Zubov, who has been a mainstay on the Dallas D since the mid-nineties, is out for at least a month with a hip injury, and at 38 years old, who knows if he'll be the same player when he returns. Marty Turco has always been a great regular season goaltender, but he's been inconsistent in the playoffs (although he has greatly improved in that respect in the last two postseasons). I'll admit that Dallas scares me a bit, but when stacked up against the ridiculous Red Wings lineup, my fears are quelled for the time being.

Marty Turco could stand between Detroit and a second consecutive finals appearance

The Flames, Predators and Wild probably also deserve mention as potential contenders, but let's be honest: if those teams beat Detroit, we've either fallen victim to devastating injuries or a Tim Donaghy-style officiating conspiracy.

As for the East, we beat Pittsburgh last season and then stole one of their top forwards, Montreal starts a 21-year old in net, and nobody else is worth talking about. What does it all add up to? A second straight visit from Stanley.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Overheard in the Student Section: Wisconsin

Photo courtesy of the Detroit News

Before I could fully comprehend what was going on, I felt my back hit the concrete. Blackness engulfed me as I felt bodies pile on top of me. Hysterical screams pierced the air. My hat was lost in the struggle.

It was awesome.

Johnny Thompson's 4th quarter interception return for a touchdown set off a raucous celebration in the student section, punctuated by my friends decided it was a good idea to form a giant dogpile in our section. The scene would replay itself two more times, after Sam McGuffie put Michigan up 27-19 and when Allan Everidge's pass sailed out of the back of the end zone on Wisconsin's two-point conversion attempt. I finally learned my lesson during the final celebration, and jumped on top of my 6'2" friend before I could be once again buried underneath the sweaty pile of exuberance.

The scene could not have been more different at halftime. Boos rained down on a Wolverine team that had managed a paltry 21 yards of offense and coughed the ball up five times en route to a 19-0 deficit. We spent much of the halftime show discussing what the post-game meal would entail and how big a deficit it would take for us to leave the stadium. Morale was low.

Since it's Tuesday night, I really don't need to tell you what happened next. The offense came to life, and the defense continued to play the way Michigan fans expected them to play before the season. Steven Threet briefly blacked out and was possessed by the spirit of Randall Cunningham. Brandon Graham unleashed the beast. Travis Beckum forgot the basic rules of football, costing the Badgers the game-tying two point conversion.

Oh, and the student section was louder than I've ever heard it. As the second half progressed, and the tides turned, the fans who remained (and shame on you if you left) brought the noise like Public Enemy, circa 1988. After Thompson's touchdown, you could sense that the students, whose skepticism of this team has been well-documented on this site, finally embraced the team. They certainly seemed to embrace us. On the final drive, Steven Threet spent most of the time between plays with his arms raised, trying to squeeze every last decibal of noice out of the student section.

Our quarterback (courtesy of the Detroit News)

In case you can't tell by now, there is not like the previous "Overheard..." posts breaking down all the stupid things said in the student section last weekend. I will only say that those who booed should feel ashamed for booing their fellow students who were doing all they could in the first Big Ten game of the RichRod era. However, I would rather not dwell on the negative. There were too many positives coming out of this game.

There is a different feeling on campus this week. Despite the struggles, the 2-2 record, the long stretches of offensive putridity, we love this team. People are starting to truly believe that Rodriguez was the right hire, and that we really will be good -- no, great -- in the seasons to come. We've been saying that all season, but the words had rung hollow, like we were only saying them to try to convince ourselves that, if we said them enough, they would become true.

Every week may be an adventure, but now it's an adventure in the sense of a roller coaster, not walking alone through a bad neighborhood at night. I look forward to more dogpiles, chaos, and lost articles of clothing in the years to come.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Best. Day. Ever.


Todd Jones retires.

Up next: Jim Tressel involved in massive steroid bust. Tupac is actually resurrected. September 24th pronounced "Random Sexual Acts with Sports Bloggers Day".

Claude Lemieux May Return to NHL


From Yahoo!'s Greg Wyshynski comes the news that 43-year old Claude Lemieux is contemplating a comeback attempt. As long as he returns with a Western Conference team, please, please, please let this happen. Darren McCarty is probably salivating at the mere thought of facing off against Lemieux one more time.

I dislike Claude Lemieux more than any other sports figure since I've followed sports (around 1994). March 26, 1997 (and no, I didn't have to look that up) was one of the greatest sports nights of my life, because I got to see him pounded mercilessly. Seeing that happen in 2008-09 would not be nearly as sweet, but it still would add some needed spice to a regular season slate that is devoid of the classic Red Wing rivalries of the nineties. If the Turtle gets signed to the Colorado, every Detroit sports fan will have the first Wings/Avs tilt on "save until I delete" status on their DVR.

C'mon Claude. If you come back, it'll be the first thing you ever did that I'll support, even if I absolutely do not have your best interests in mind.

Glazer: Millen Out as Lions GM


Strike up the band! Cue the Munchkins! Party in the streets! Jay Glazer is reporting that the Lions have finally (FINALLY!) rid themselves of Matt Millen after a late-night meeting last night. It is not clear whether he was fired or if he resigned, but I couldn't care less about the details.

Millen leaves with a career record of 31-84 as a GM. I'm usually reluctant to say this, but that is a record that will never be broken.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bill Ford Finally Speaks His Mind


Who had 84 in the pool for "how many losses under Matt Millen will it take for Bill Ford Jr. to finally snap?"

In all seriousness, though, it's about damn time. How much longer can William Clay Ford possibly hang on to Millen if his own son is publicly talking about how he'd fire the guy? It'll be interesting to see if Senior publicly responds to Junior's comments, or if he'll continue his lifelong trend of keeping his head firmly wedged up his own ass.

In other news, Tom Kowalski still makes zero sense.

Monday, September 22, 2008

All Aboard the 0-16 Bandwagon


While watching the debacle that was Detroit's 31-13 loss to San Francisco, Webstarr and I tried to come up with a list of players on the Lions that we could see being an acceptable starter on a decent team. The list, after several minutes of racking our brains:
  1. Jason Hanson
  2. Calvin Johnson
  3. Roy Williams
  4. Ernie Sims
  5. Cory Redding
  6. DeWayne White (when he's trying)
  7. Dominic Raiola
  8. Nick Harris
Last time I checked, you need 24 starters (including the kicker and punter). If you want to be nice and project Kevin Smith to be a decent NFL back (or Rudi Johnson, who wasn't bad yesterday), the Lions clock in at nine, with two of the acceptable starters being the kicker and punter. We're not even halfway decent, by the loosest possible definitions of halfway and decency.

I really hate to say this, but I'm actively rooting for the Lions to go 0-16. If Millen somehow survives an 0-16 season without either being fired or resigning out of embarrassment, then I'll be comfortable renouncing my Lions fandom until his GM-for-life status finally ends. As for Marinelli, I couldn't care less what happens to him. The chances of the Lions picking up a credible coaching candidate while Millen is still GM seem slim at best, so there's no point in starting over with another crappy coach and another crappy philosophy that produces the same crappy results.

If you think I'm sad, or mad, you're wrong. It's become much worse than that. I'm completely apathetic. I've watched every game of the Millen era, and I say that with pride. Each Sunday, however, I find it tougher and tougher to justify watching the Lions take any shred of hope I had left and trample all over it. I've got better things to do. I'm sure most Lions fans do.

Saying "Fire Millen" doesn't begin to cover it. With this ownership, management, coaching staff, and team, we're a solid half-decade away from beginning to think about contending. Will I care about the Lions by then? Who knows. Hopefully, I'll have better things to do on my Sunday afternoons.