They say there are three versions of a violent event: the accused’s, the victim’s, and the truth.
When the violence results in the victim’s death, we are left with only two of those three—usually.
In the matter of the trial of grandmother Sandra Layne, a 911 call gave a glimpse into the victim’s version. And it was enough to convict Layne of second degree murder.
The 75-year-old Layne, from West Bloomfield, was convicted the other day in the killing of her 17-year-old grandson, Jonathan Hoffman. She shot the troubled Hoffman six times last May 18, in her home. She claimed self defense—that she was fearful for her own life.
The teen had been living with Layne and her 87-year-old husband while the kid’s parents (divorced) were in Arizona to help tend to a daughter with a brain tumor.
The jury didn’t buy Layne’s plea of self defense.
They didn’t embrace Layne, really, when she took the stand in her own defense, which is always a risky move. Layne’s defense team apparently gambled that the sight and sound of a 75-year-old woman conveying her fear of her own grandson (due to proven drug use among other things) would sway the jury into acquittal.
But Layne shot Hoffman six times. She didn’t try to call the police before she broke out her gun. Nor did she call them after she showed Hoffman the weapon, presuming her intent was to use the gun to scare her grandson.
A 911 call can be a powerful tool, both for the defense and the prosecution, depending how the events unfolded. It’s even more powerful when the dead speak, as Hoffman did for the jury.
Five words were chilling.
“I’m going to die,” Hoffman told the dispatcher in the call. “Help.”
I’m going to die. Help.
Those words from a dying teen trumped anything Layne could offer up on the stand.
Sandra Layne reacts after being convicted of second degree murder in the shooting death of her 17-year-old grandson, Jonathan Hoffman
“They played the 911 tape over and over again,” said Chief Assistant Prosecutor Paul Walton, who tried the case and interviewed jurors after the verdict. “And they arrived at second-degree murder.”
Layne wasn’t liked well enough by the jury, and after the verdict, it turns out that she wasn’t all that well-liked by her own family, either.
Layne’s son-in-law, Michael Hoffman, said, “I never liked her. She was always a thorn in my side.”
OK, that was the son-in-law. But even Layne’s own daughter, Jennifer Hoffman, said, “I know my son is in heaven, and this is a place that (Layne) will never see.” She added that instead of calling Layne mother, Hoffman would “like to call her monster.”
The case sparked some interest because of the relationship between the accused and the victim, and the extreme ages. A teen aged victim and an accused grandmother is not your garden variety case.
A Lifetime movie? Perhaps.
Layne will be sentenced on April 18. She could be in prison past her 90th birthday, given the charges.
A 17-year-old boy dead, a 75-year-old woman going to prison, where she will likely perish.
No happy ending to any of that.
The news that the Red Wings are moving to the Eastern Conference should have been announced by one of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not a league spokesman.
The Five-Star General of choice should have gotten up, like in a military briefing, and announced that the Red Wings’ years-long occupation in the West was finally over with.
It’s peace for our time. We don’t have to fear fear itself anymore. The Korean War is ended. It’s pulling out of Vietnam, without Saigon falling.
The Red Wings’ mission out west has been completed. The NHL is letting the Winged Wheelers pull up their stakes from Los Angeles. That time share in Anaheim is going up for sale. They won’t need the guest house in San Jose.
Vancouver is a beautiful city, but it’ll have to survive without the Red Wings. The oxygen masks marked “Denver” can be put away.
No more looking around Dallas—Dallas—for good ice. The Alberta twins, Calgary and Edmonton, and their 9:30 p.m. Detroit starts won’t be missed.
So long, Minnesota. We hardly knew ye. St. Louis and the Gateway Arch? We’ll miss your breweries but not much else. Somehow we’ll have to live without that hockey Mecca, Phoenix.
Columbus will have to go back to being that town where Ohio State University calls home. Nashville? Love your music, loathe your hockey tradition.
Finally, there’s Chicago. Like Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “Chicago, we’ll miss you most of all.”
But the soon-to-be truncated rivalry with the Blackhawks—which began when they were the Black Hawks—isn’t enough to make the Red Wings grow wistful for the West.
No more 10:30 p.m. Detroit starts. No more playoff games watched by hundreds of thousands who showed up as bleary-eyed zombies the next morning at work.
The Red Wings have carried the West long enough. Their occupation has ended. General Bettman says it’s OK for the Red Wings to join the East.
Fittingly, the news came down this week, with the Red Wings making one of those lovely Western Canada swings through Alberta. They reacted so giddily, you half expected that they would drop their hockey sticks and run to Philadelphia.
Or Boston. Or New York. Heck, even New Jersey, and no one runs to New Jersey unless they’re in the Mob.
The Red Wings are moving to the East for the 2013-14 season. It’s all part of the realignment that was signed off on by the players association.
It’s Christmas in March for the Red Wings and their fans, particularly those old enough to remember the Original Six, when a trip “out west” meant you were taking the train to Chicago and Detroit.
The Red Wings will be placed in a division with four, count ‘em, four, Original Six organ-eye-zayshuns.
Detroit. Montreal. Toronto. Boston. And the New York Rangers are just a division away. Only the Chicago Blackhawks, from the O-6, are left behind in the West. The Blackhawks are a dynamic hockey club with a wealth of young talent, and they started this season with a streak of getting points in their first 24 games. It’s their turn to prop the West up.
That’s what the Red Wings did, you know—prop up the West. Don’t let anyone in the league offices in New York tell you otherwise. But the NHL loved having the Red Wings playing all those games in the Mountain and Pacific Time zones.
The Red Wings, with their expansive fan base and their Stanley Cups and their annual appearance in the playoffs, papered the houses, from the old Fabulous Forum in Inglewood to the arenas in San Jose and Anaheim, and all the way to Columbus. Especially Columbus.
For two decades, the Red Wings’ success was a boon to the attendance out west. It wasn’t unusual to see more blood red and white jerseys in the seats than those of the home teams.
Those days are done. The Red Wings will be rekindling rivalries that go back to before World War II.
The fans are beside themselves. They’re rubbing their hands together at the prospects of seeing the Canadiens and the Maple Leafs and the Bruins in Joe Louis Arena more than once every Leap Year.
The beauty of the move is that, finally, the powers that be saw the value of having the Red Wings in the Eastern Time zone.
It’s what’s best for the NHL, really.
The timing couldn’t be better. Look at the standings. All four of these Original Six brethren—even long-suffering Toronto—are good teams. It’s not just that they share lineage, they’re highly competitive.
NBC is a winner, too. The league’s TV network surely must be busting buttons when they see all the tradition-rich games featuring the league’s top squads that they can schedule for Sunday afternoons.
Remember Detroit-Toronto in Steve Yzerman’s young years? Remember how exciting those games were? And the Maple Leafs weren’t even any good back then.
I can see the smiles on the faces of the old-timers when they see those iconic Canadiens jerseys skating up and down the JLA ice several times a season.
You missed the Bruins’ visit to Detroit? There’ll be another one next month; you won’t have to wait until the next presidential election cycle.
Not all the teams in the new division are filled with tradition, but that’s OK. The Red Wings will also be joined by Florida, Tampa Bay (though Yzerman is the GM), Buffalo and Ottawa. But as Bettman pointed out, the Florida markets are filled with transplanted Michiganders.
The winners, clearly, are the Red Wings and their brand in this league gerrymandering. No more jet lag, and during the playoffs, no less. Fox Sports Detroit will enjoy higher TV ratings. A road trip from Toronto to Detroit is back in play, and vice versa.
The Red Wings’ mission out west is complete. They’ll be able to get through a hockey season without spending half of it waiting for their bodies to adjust to the time.
You miss games in L.A.? I guess you’ll have to wait until the Finals.
Kevyn Orr is just like any Washington, D.C. bankruptcy attorney who is black, who has a strong resume, and who oozes confidence.
Except that he’s been plucked from the vine to save a city that some say is beyond saving.
Orr is Detroit’s new Emergency Financial Manager (EFM). He is unique in that, while he’s a bankruptcy lawyer and has been a part of many such restructurings, he actually would prefer not to lead the city into bankruptcy as a way to cure what ails it.
“Frankly, I’d like to avoid it,” Orr told the Detroit News’ Nolan Finley. “Bankruptcy can certainly have benefits to what the emergency manager would have to do, but I would like to think of that as a last resort as opposed to a first option. No, I don’t think we’re inevitably headed to bankruptcy, but people have got to be realistic, reasonable and focused on changing the architecture of the finances of the city so they can go into a sustainable model for the future.”
Orr might be the most delusional man in America. He calls the Detroit EFM job “the Olympics of restructuring,” yet he says the job could be done not within the planned 18 months, but three to six months, “if people in a collegial and good faith basis could get together.”
Ahh, more delusional thoughts. Words like “collegial” and “good faith basis” are not normally indigenous to the machinations of Detroit.
But Orr is confident, and with a connection to Michigan, professionally (“this is the state that gave me my start”), and a University of Michigan graduate, he says he felt “compelled” to take the EFM job when Governor Rick Snyder came calling.
“(This could be) something I can tell my grandkids about.”
Orr is 54. With the decisions he has to make, and the enormity of the task before him, you would think his main objective would be to make it to 55.
But at least the City Council dropped plans for a lawsuit to stop the EFM, albeit temporarily, from taking over. Orr officially starts his new job on March 28. Be thankful for small favors.
The good news, I suppose, is that Orr doesn’t seem to think that the turnaround of Detroit is an impossible task. Difficult? Yes. History making, potentially? Double yes. But not impossible.
But Kevyn Orr might not be so delusional after all.
“I’m prepared to be the most hated man for a period of time,” Orr told Finley.
That may be the most intuitive thing anyone in a leadership role in the city of Detroit has ever said.
There was Hal Newhouser, Prince Hal, who never got the credit he fully deserved because he had the misfortune of dominating during the so-called “war years,” as if he planned it out that way.
There was Jim Bunning, who’d one day baffle America as a Senate curmudgeon. But before that he baffled hitters.
There was Denny McLain, whose life off the field was as turbulent as a private plane in a storm, but who thrilled for two years with fastballs, the organ and hubris.
There was Mickey Lolich, old rubber arm himself, portly and durable. Mr. Opening Day.
There was Jack Morris. The Cat, who never met a big game he didn’t like, or thrive in.
Then there’s Justin Verlander.
It’s Verlander’s world and we’re all just living in it—and that includes American League hitters.
See Verlander smile, broadly. See him giving TV interviews during games. See him with swimsuit models. See him throw no-hitters, and come close to throwing more.
See Verlander win the Rookie of the Year award. See him pitch in two World Series. See him win the Cy Young Award and the MVP in the same year. See him almost win another Cy Young.
Verlander isn’t a pitcher, he’s a cereal box.
The Tigers haven’t had a pitcher like Verlander, in terms of personality, talent and accomplishment, since…well, they never have.
We are seeing something unprecedented right now. The Tigers have a top flight pitcher, maybe the best in the game today, whose world is his oyster. And there’s something else that may be unprecedented.
Actually, there are maybe 200 million things that could be unprecedented.
Verlander’s contract expires after the 2014 season. Whether the Tigers sign him to a new deal before then or not, it’s likely that Justin Verlander will become the big league’s first $200 million pitcher.
I’m usually not keen on giving pitchers outlandish contracts. Pitchers are high maintenance, delicate creatures. They make their living putting their arms through gyrations that the human arm wasn’t meant to be put through. After every outing, they strap enough ice on their arm to keep a keg of beer cold.
The ink dries on their big contracts and the next thing you know, they’re in the doctor’s office. Then they’re on the disabled list.
The fat contract for pitchers I usually shy away from. But Verlander is no typical pitcher.
I would have no qualms throwing $200 million at him, spread over 7-10 years, even though he just turned 30 years old. And I’d have no qualms even if it was my money to spend, to show you.
I’d have no qualms because Verlander isn’t a typical pitcher any more than was Feller or Koufax or Ryan or Clemens. Verlander is a freak, but in a good way.
Like Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens before him—power pitchers with howitzers for arms—Verlander has that feel about him. He has that feel of someone who is going to be bringing it well into his 30s, if not into his early 40s.
First, there’s no violent delivery to put unneeded wear and tear on the arm. Verlander’s motion is as smooth as a milk shake and as powerful as a locomotive. The baseball explodes out of his arm with nary a jerk or a snap.
Second, in seven full seasons he’s never sniffed the disabled list, and he’s never had a “tired” or “dead” arm. It just doesn’t feel like he’s ever going to be brittle.
Verlander is going to get his money—somewhere. So it may as well be in Detroit.
But here’s where the fun-loving, the world-is-my-oyster Verlander shows up.
He recently told the press that to be a free agent would be “fun.”
You gotta like a guy who doesn’t mince words.
Of course it would be fun, to be the best pitcher on the planet and have teams lined up, ready to shower you with cash. Who wouldn’t love to be courted and wooed?
That’s not to say that the Tigers won’t sign Verlander to a contract extension long before free agency can kick in, with its temptations and playful wickedness.
Owner Mike Ilitch never met a big star that didn’t make him want to break out his wallet—whether his own player or that of another team’s. That goes for the Red Wings, too. If you could play at the highest level, Ilitch signed you. If you were a member of one his teams, he kept you.
How many Red Wings players did Ilitch let walk away into free agency? Only two notable names pop out—Sergei Fedorov and Brendan Shanahan. And both wanted to leave for different reasons. Fedorov chased crazy money with Anaheim in 2003, and Shanahan felt that the torch should be passed to younger Red Wings when he left for the New York Rangers in 2006.
Other than those two cases, Ilitch has kept his stars in Detroit when it comes to his hockey team. In baseball, he’s done the same thing—while adding to the payroll with players from outside the organization.
So I wouldn’t worry too much about Justin Verlander hitting the free market after next season. Ilitch won’t have that. There will come a time when the owner will yank DaveDombrowski by the ear into a room and ask his GM, flat out, how much it’s going to cost to keep Verlander in the Old English D. Dombrowski will tell his boss, who will fork over a check, and that will be that.
That check is likely to steamroll past $200 million.
It will be a bargain.
Verlander is nothing like we’ve ever seen on a pitching mound in Detroit. He’s 30 years old and he’s just getting started. He’s pitched in more big games already than most guys will see in a lifetime. His awards and achievements and accolades read like a 20-year veteran’s. He’s funny and good-looking and loves the media.
He also thinks free agency will be fun. Too bad he’ll never get to find out for real.
Carl Levin never shortchanged Michigan.
In an ever-growing world of political cynicism—both from the constituents and from the lawmakers themselves—it was good for Michiganders to know that Levin, the six-term U.S. Senator who won’t seek a seventh, was on the job.
He may go down as one of the best, most effective senators ever to represent the great state of Michigan. Hell, he may be the best.
I used to think that no one would eclipse Phil Hart in that category, but Levin has changed my mind after well over 30 years on the job.
Levin won election in 1978. It was the Republican Bob Griffin whose seat Levin won. Griffin initially didn’t seek re-election but then changed his mind. But it was too late; Levin wasn’t to be denied.
It was Levin and Don Riegle in those days—two Democrats who were progressive, young and determined to make their mark in Washington. Riegle had won Hart’s old seat, in 1976.
Riegle was Michigan’s senior senator by just two years, but Levin has held that distinction since 1988. With the exception of Spencer Abraham’s one term (1994-2000), Levin has worked lockstep with another Democrat as his junior senator.
The news that Levin won’t seek a seventh term in 2014 is bittersweet.
On the one hand, the 79-year-old will enjoy much-deserved retirement. He’ll be able to watch his beloved Tigers play more often.
On the other, Levin’s absence leaves the senate seat wide open, obviously. And there’s no guarantee that another Democrat will just automatically capture the seat.
Already, though, Rep. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township) says he’s mulling over a run at the seat in 2014.
“I’m going to seriously consider it,” he told the Free Press. “We need to hold on to that seat.”
That’s an understatement, but with Abraham’s exception, Michigan voters haven’t sent a Republican to the Senate since Griffin in 1972. They tend to do so with governors, but not with senators.
Still, the idea of no longer having Levin—longtime Chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee—working for Michigan, isn’t a warm and fuzzy one for Democrats.
But Levin was no partisan fool. He wasn’t so liberal that he couldn’t see the forest for the trees. But he didn’t suffer the fools on the other side easily, either.
The significance of Levin’s service wasn’t lost on President Barack Obama, a former colleague in the chamber.
“If you’ve ever worn the uniform, worked a shift on an assembly line or sacrificed to make ends meet, then you’ve had a voice and a vote in Sen. Carl Levin,” the president said in a statement.
We were far too young to even be within 500 feet of a casino, but we had our version of a slot machine. We may not have been old enough to bet, but that didn’t stop us from plunking down coins for a shot at what was inside those mysterious wax packages.
Come to think of it, the Cunningham’s drug store near my Livonia house was sort of like a casino. There was no clock. They served food and drink at cheap prices. There were surveillance mirrors on the walls.
And, of course, the gambling that we did inside!
There was no crapshoot on the Vegas strip as thrilling to an adolescent boy as a venture into the Cunningham’s on Plymouth Road and Farmington during baseball card season.
Your fate was held in the hands of the trading card gods. You had no more control over how you’d make out as the adult in Caesars Palace did at the Roulette Wheel.
We collected cards back then—circa the 1970s—ostensibly to someday accumulate every card in that year’s set. That was the goal, every year. Whether through barter, luck or perseverance—or all three—you wanted to be able to check every card off the list. And we’re talking some 500+ cards.
There were two ways to acquire cards.
The first was the wax package route. Fifteen cents bought you 10 cards and a flat rectangle of pink bubble gum with a sugary coating that invariably rubbed off on the card it rested against. For years you could tell which card was the “gum card” because the sugary coating left a stain on the card that was indelible.
The second was the slot machine method. They had the machine near the front entrance, chained to the floor. There were maybe four or five slots with respective metal levers, each operated by placing two quarters on the steel tray above the levers. The trick was, after plopping down your four bits, to jam the lever into the machine and pull it back out, rapidly. The cards then poured through the slots.
We believed that the number of cards that was distributed was directly proportional to how hard you were able to jam the lever into the machine, and also by how fast and violently you pulled it out. We believed this because the number of cards that the machine doled out was often different, unlike the wax packages, where you knew you were always getting 10 cards.
I’m sure there were many Cunningham’s cashiers who furrowed their brows at the gaggle of boys who treated the baseball card machines like the slots in the casino, complete with cheering and cussing.
But the acquisition of the cards was only the beginning of the collection process. The next step was the Barter. That took place outside the store.
We’d always opt for a combination of bubble gum cards and those from the machine, sans sugary coating. No one just bought one over the other. You combined, apparently to somehow better your luck.
Outside the store we’d stand, our bikes between our legs, gum packing our cheeks like sunflower seeds in a hamster’s.
The first thing you tried to do was offload “doubles”—those duplicate cards that were not needed. We’d shuffle through our cards like traders on the floor of the NYSE, calling out doubles loudly in case anyone was interested, right then and there.
The checklists were always mental. Everyone seemed to know which cards they needed, cold. We didn’t have to consult with a grocery list of needed cards. And we also knew which cards we already had, so the doubles could either come in the form of two of the same card from that day’s haul, or by way of mentally connecting your collection at home with those cards being shuffled in your hands in front of the store.
Sometimes you’d end up with triples or even quadruples, usually of some bench player who rarely found his way into an actual game. No one got three or four Rod Carews.
I kept my cards categorized by team, rubber banded together. It was easier, to me, to keep track of who I had and who I needed if I could think of them by team name.
Topps was the trading card brand of the day, and nobody else. We only knew Topps. Today, the baseball trading card world has been turned upside down by so many different companies and sizes and shapes of cards that it’s a lesson in futility to even think of garnering a complete set.
Topps used to release their card sets in stages. The first was right about now, in spring training. Those cards kept us busy for a couple months, and then we’d keep our eyes on the machine in the front of Cunningham’s.
Sure enough, the machine’s sample cards would one day change and there’d be a sign on the machine that indicated a new “edition” of cards was available.
That was an exciting day, boy.
More wax packages would be snatched up and into the trays would go our quarters as we sought to add copiously to our sets. Then, of course, more bartering in front of the store, done through wads of gum.
One year a Bill Freehan card became contentious.
It was the 1973 set. I can still see the Freehan card today: the Tigers catcher lunging to try to tag a New York Yankee player out at the plate. The card was auspicious because it was a horizontal photograph, as opposed to the standard vertical. That in of itself made it a cool card to have.
Anyhow, I needed that card to complete my Tigers team. My friend Rob Polster had it. And Rob was a transplanted Chicagoan, never really a true Detroit sports fan. He rooted for the Windy City teams. He was a Cubs fan, as was his family.
To this day I blame Rob Polster’s lack of Detroit sports loyalty for his utter disregard in bartering with me for the Freehan card. He knew how important it was to me, but there was no fellow Tigers fan empathy going on. If anything, there was some Chicagoan spite.
Rob simply wasn’t going to trade me the Freehan card. I’d be left to get it on my own devices, i.e. multiple trips to Cunningham’s until I got lucky.
I never got the card. A couple years later Rob and his family moved back to Chicago.
The House wins again.
It doesn’t take much to give us Spring Fever in Michigan.
It’s cold and flu season, but some of us will be coming down with an incurable case of Spring Fever as the temps are expected to hit and surpass 50 degrees on Friday and Saturday. That’s all it takes, you know—a day or two of 40+ degree weather to make us think of baseball, Easter and flowers.
Get ready to see folks in shorts and flip flops this weekend. I only partially exaggerate. Flip flops, maybe not, but certainly shorts. I have joked with out-of-towners who live in warm weather climates that while they may think of temps in the low-60s as being “cool” this time of year, people in Michigan would be walking around naked if the mercury touched that mark in the dead of winter.
Just a day or two, that’s all we need, of unseasonable warmth and you can get a new lease on life. Your countenance changes. You become more optimistic. You wonder whether Punxsutawney Phil will need shades and a glass of iced tea when he pops his head out on February 2.
Even though we know the balminess won’t last long—maybe 48 hours, tops—it doesn’t matter. All things are possible. You wonder if the tulips will be popping out before MLK Day.
We starve for anything above 40 degrees right about now. The holidays are over, there’s a hangover about that, and a whole winter is still ahead of us. Bone-chilling cold is certain to get us, sooner or later. So a forecast like this weekend’s, when 50 degrees looks like 80, is a great elixir. The snow will melt before our eyes but we won’t see it actually happening, much like how a clock or watch’s minute hands move as if by magic. All of a sudden the grass will reappear.
We see these temps coming a mile away, once they appear on the 5-day forecast. There’s a buzz created.
“It’s going to be 50 on Friday!” we say on Monday.
“50 degrees on Friday,” we say again on Wednesday, to which someone says, “55 on Saturday,” as the 5-day is updated.
We say it with excitement. We say it with amazement.
It’s bound to be fleeting but that’s OK; we would be happy with just an hour of it, truth be told.
Yes, it’s just the second week of January and no matter how warm it gets this weekend, the whole winter, just about, is staring us in the face.
We’ll worry about that come Monday.
How long before video stores go the way of travel agencies?
Remember the local travel agent? They’d advertise on local TV and they had tiny offices with globes on the signs and maps on the walls. You’d ring them up if you wanted a surrogate to get you the best deal on a hotel in Chicago or a rental car in Boston.
Then the Internet struck, with its multitude of websites, and the American traveler became his or her own travel agent. The middle man, as so often has happened after the Internet, was cut out, like a tumor.
Why pay someone to do something that we could do for free, and still get discounts to boot?
So I wonder about the fate of the corner video store.
Actually, you may have to drive past quite a few corners before you find a video store these days.
NetFlix, the Red Box kiosks, the Internet (of course) and more people owning BluRay discs than DVDs, are all contributing to the slow death of the local video store, I’m afraid.
But some of it is the video store’s own doing.
Take late fees. Please.
One of the allures to the above alternatives to renting movies is that none of them will charge you a late fee. And late fees, if we’re just talking between us, is surely a big revenue gainer in the video rental business.
One of the reasons why late fees are so common is that the due dates for the movies are all over the map.
This one’s due in two days. That one’s due in three days. You have a full week on that other one. Oops, better get THIS one back TOMORROW. Or else.
We used to run a late fee balance at one of the local stores like a drunk would a bar tab.
Even asking for a printout of the due dates, which the store gladly provided, didn’t always prevent Video A, B or C frome being brought back tardy.
But here’s the deal: video stores must be feeling the heat from their competitors. So why not back off on the late fees? And I have just the idea to make that happen, and make the video store more attractive.
If I ran a video store, I’d advertise that every movie in the joint, from A to Z, was a one-week rental. Every single one.
Doesn’t matter if it’s a “new release.” Doesn’t matter if it came out on Tuesday, or 12 years ago. Every one of my films, you can have for a week.
Simple. Easy to remember.
Will people still be tardy, even under that arrangement? Sure. But that’s on them.
I’d even call my place One Week Video. Seriously.
Think of it. You come in, browse, grab a bunch of movies, pay me and know that everything is due one week from today. Simple. No muss, no fuss.
I’d even have seven different types of bags, each with a day of the week on it. You come in on a Monday, you get a Monday Bag. And so on.
“Honey, when are these movies due back?”
“What does the bag say?”
Of course, you go beyond the seven-day limit, and we have a problem. But I won’t tag you for very much. Promise.
It’s an idea that makes far too much sense, which is why it won’t be adopted.
Which is part of why the video store will join the travel agent, the drive-in movie and mini-golf in the Dungeon of the Forgotten.
Sooner, rather than later.
It’s a question that has tantalized the football fans in these parts for some 55 years (and counting).
“What’s wrong with the Lions?”
At this point in their inglorious history, I can give you 1,964 reasons why the Lionsaren’t winners.
That number, 1,964, happens to be the total yardage rolled up by receiver Calvin Johnson in the 2012 season. It was record-setting stuff. More yards than any NFL pass catcher has accumulated in a single season. Ever. The previous record holder was the great Jerry Rice, no less.
It’s a remarkable achievement, for sure. The 1,964 represents over 120 yards per game. Just call him Two Yards a Minute Calvin.
Opposing defenses looked at the Lions offense this year just like they did in the 1990s, when they looked at the Lions during Barry Sanders’ heyday. Opponents looked at the Lions in 2012 and in one sweep of the arm, knocked all the skill players off the board and honed in on stopping Johnson, just as they did with Barry some 20 years ago.
With Sanders, sometimes it worked, to focus strictly on him. Barry was the most elusive, trickiest, slippery runner of his time. Of any time, truth be told. Jamming seven defenders near the line of scrimmage, each with the expressed assignment of getting their hands on No. 20, sometimes worked. But not very often.
Johnson, it can be argued, is the Barry Sanders of receivers in today’s NFL. Just as Barry was better than any other runner at avoiding tackles and thus was frequently able to make defenses designed primarily to stop him look silly, so does Calvin Johnson make defensive coordinators’ game plans as ineffectual as a breath mint after limburgercheese.
Every week the charge to the defense was “Don’t let Calvin Johnson beat you.” Sometimes coordinators settled for “Don’t let Calvin Johnson humiliate you.”
It clearly didn’t matter that Johnson was the only player on the Lions offense that you had to worry about. He got his yards anyway. 1,964 of them, shattering the record set by Rice some 17 years ago.
Here’s another number that, when combined with the 1,964, hints at why the Lions won just four games in 2012, a year after winning 10 and making the playoffs.
That number would be five.
Johnson scored just five touchdowns to go with his 1,964 yards. In 1995, when Rice caught passes totaling 1,848 yards, the 49ers receiver caught 15 touchdown passes.
The 1995 49ers won 11 games and captured their division. They were the defending Super Bowl champs. And Jerry Rice scored three times as many touchdowns with his 1,848 yards as Johnson did with his 1,964.
I started this by saying that there were 1,964 reasons why the Lions didn’t win diddly-poo (to steal from Jim Mora’s lexicon) in 2012.
As yet another lousy Lions football season went down the drain, the focus became, yet again, on hollow personal stats.
Would Johnson break Rice’s record? Would quarterback Matthew Stafford throw for 5,000 yards again? Would he set a record for most passes attempted in a single season?
These are questions asked by losers, as the calendar flips to December.
Rice’s 1995 season notwithstanding, the NFL’s pedigree is such that, for the most part, seasons of terrific individual accomplishment are generally not paired with team success.
The Packers of the 1960s featured the running back tandem of Paul Hornung (Mr. Outside) and Jim Taylor (Mr. Inside). Taylor did have a monster year in 1962, when the Packers finished 13-1 and won the NFL Championship: 1,474 yards rushing (5.4 yards per carry) and 19 touchdowns. Hornung never rushed for more than 681 yards in any given season of his career.
Taylor’s individual auspiciousness and the Packers’ great team success in 1962 is an anomaly. And even so, the Packers’ emphasis wasn’t on Taylor leading the league in rushing or scoring more TDs than any running back in the league. Their coach, Vince Lombardi, would have none of that. Taylor’s numbers were a byproduct of the Packers’ system and their Hall of Fame-laden offensive line.
O.J. Simpson became the first rusher in NFL history to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark for a single season, in 1973. His team, the Buffalo Bills, missed the playoffs.
Eric Dickerson was the second runner to hit 2,000 yards, in 1984. His Los AngelesRams lasted one playoff game.
The Lions’ Sanders rushed for 2,053 yards in 1997. Those Lions didn’t win a playoff game, either.
Even Rice’s 1995 49ers lasted just one playoff game in his record-setting year.
The racking up of yards by Johnson and Stafford in 2012 and the questions about whether they’d be record setting in nature (Stafford had the chance to become just the second passer in league history to throw for 5,000+ yards twice in his career), became annoying and, worse, were symptomatic of the Lions’ problems.
Break Rice’s record? Become the first receiver to hit the 2,000 yard mark? Throw for 5,000 yards again? Throw more passes in one season than anyone else?
I have one more question for you, to go with those.
We were down this road before with the Lions. It happened, ironically enough, during Rice’s great 1995 season.
The ’95 Lions had Sanders running the ball, Scott Mitchell throwing it, and Herman Moore and Brett Perriman catching it.
Sanders had 1,500 yards rushing, on the button. Moore caught 123 passes for 1,686 yards. Perriman had 108 catches for 1,488 yards. Mitchell threw for 4,338 yards and 32TDs. Moore and Perriman became the first teammates to each have 100+ catches in one season.
Yards, yards, yards. And more yards. Bodacious in nature. A whole lotta yards.
So the Lions took all those yards and went into the playoffs against the Eagles in Philadelphia. That was the embarrassing 58-37 loss, a game in which the Eagles once led 51-7.
The Lions in 2012 once again became a team boiled down to a couple of individuals chasing hollow records. Johnson’s achievement was noteworthy, but what did it do for the team’s fortunes?
1,964 yards. Five touchdowns. A TD every 400 yards, just about.
Well, that didn’t take long.
The year 2013, the year of the next Detroit mayoral election, was hours old when the first salvo was fired by a candidate at another, and—surprise—it had the tinges of race baiting to it.
Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, by all indications a pretty smart guy, said something un-smart that was clearly aimed at presumed candidate Mike Duggan.
Napoleon told a reporter that Palmer Woods, one of the city’s jewels when it comes to neighborhoods, wasn’t really a part of Detroit.
Palmer Woods is where Duggan has recently taken up residence as he presumably prepares for a run at Dave Bing’s job—whether Bing runs for re-election or not. Duggan, as we all know, is white.
The day after saying flat out that Palmer Woods is not Detroit, Napoleon backpedaled.
“Palmer Woods is not Detroit? Nothing is further from the truth,” Napoleon wrote on Facebook. “It is one of our prized neighborhoods. However, the Palmer Woods experience is far different from that of the average Detroiter’s neighborhood experience. Most Detroiters, including those in Palmer Woods, understand that without clarification. But to set the record straight, I believe Palmer Woods is not only Detroit, it is what we want Detroit neighborhoods to aspire to be. And our city won’t be transformed until the Palmer Woods experience is one that is shared by all Detroiters.”
Nicely played. For now.
It didn’t figure to take long before Duggan, aiming to become Detroit’s first white mayor since Roman Gribbs left office on December 31, 1973, was taken a shot at by the (so far) rather small field of fellow candidates. And it wasn’t surprising that the shot taken focused on Duggan’s choice of residence.
Duggan lived for years in Livonia, which is as white as salt, for the most part. He moved to Palmer Woods last year.
Wayne County Sheriff and Detroit mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon
Napoleon recovered nicely, for the most part, from his gaffe. But it still displayed, within him, the old refrain.
You’re not a Detroiter unless your trash doesn’t get picked up. You’re not a Detroiter unless your street lights are out for months. You’re not a Detroiter unless you live among abandoned homes and crack houses. You’re not a Detroiter unless you are out of work and are bereft of hope.
Is that how we want the next mayor to look at things?
We’d rather have him (or her) look at the city the way Napoleon did in his backpedaling statement on Facebook.
To wit: “But to set the record straight, I believe Palmer Woods is not only Detroit, it is what we want Detroit neighborhoods to aspire to be. And our city won’t be transformed until the Palmer Woods experience is one that is shared by all Detroiters.”
Too bad that’s not what Benny Napoleon said the first time around. Then again, political candidates often need two tries to get it right. At least.