Archive for September, 2009
I’m not sure what it says on McLean Stevenson’s tombstone, but if I were commissioned to write it, I’d keep it simple, stupid.
“I should never have left M*A*S*H”
I tend to think of actors like Stevenson around this time of year, when the new fall shows debut.
I’m thinking now of those opposite of Stevenson, like the wonderful Patty Heaton, who played Ray Romano’s beleaguered wife in “Everybody Loves Raymond” for that show’s entire nine-season run.
Heaton—give her credit—didn’t give up on the TV sitcom format, even though it would have been easy to say, “I’ll never have anything like ‘Raymond’ ever again,” and not even try another show.
She hooked up with another TV comedic veteran, Kelsey Grammer, in the pun-titled “Back to You,” a cute premise involving TV news co-anchors who also just happen to be ex-husband and wife. That show hit the airwaves in fall, 2007, but only lasted about a year.
Heaton’s “Raymond” co-star Brad Garrett (Ray’s brother, Robert) teamed with the adorable Joely Fisher in “Til Death,” about a longtime married couple who must deal with a bubbly newlywed couple who moves in next door. That series ran from 2006-08.
Now Heaton is back, in a new ABC comedy called “The Middle,” in which she plays, well, a beleaguered wife—again.
But that’s OK. How many different roles are there for women in sitcoms, anyway?
Now, back to Stevenson.
McLean was a funny guy who found himself in the role of a lifetime—that of Colonel Henry Blake in “M*A*S*H,” the new TV version of the acclaimed film.
But Stevenson only stayed for four seasons, leaving the wildly popular show to “pursue other interests.”
Stevenson (top) and Heaton: A tale of two different career paths
From then on, it was a career filled with bad movies, bad TV shows, and frequent game show appearances. Nothing wrong with the game show thing, but Stevenson could have had so much more, if only he’d stayed with “M*A*S*H.”
But at least he had a sense of humor about himself; Stevenson used to have a license plate that read, “13 WKS,” in reference to the standard 13-week commitment all new network shows would get.
McLean Stevenson was canceled more times than Sports Illustrated subscriptions after their annual swimsuit issue.
His vehicles post-”M*A*S*H” were a distinct case of quantity over quality.
“The McLean Stevenson Show” (1976-77); “In the Beginning” (1978); “Hello, Larry” (1979-80); “Condo” (1983)—if you aren’t familiar with these bombs, you’re very excused.
Incidentally, “M*A*S*H” ran from 1972-83—or until Stevenson was done bombing on various networks.
Yet as successful as Patty Heaton was by virtue of staying with Ray Romano’s crew, I still feel for her, in a way.
How can you even come close to recapturing the camaraderie, success, and fun of working on a show like “Raymond” for nine years?
But she’s an actor, and I guess that’s what actors do—they work.
Besides, who knows? Maybe “The Middle” will find a toehold, where “Back to You” wasn’t able.
If Heaton does the “quantity over quality” thing, it won’t be because she left a prized show too soon.
She won’t be one who’ll be kicking herself, all the way to the final destination.
McLean no doubt had hoof marks on his rear end by the time he passed away in 1996, at age 68.
Good ole “13 WKS” himself.
Rip Hamilton appears to be done grieving, and that’s a step in the right direction, anyway.
Hamilton chatted up the team during Media Day on Monday, and he spoke with a twinkle in his eyes and often times barely able to suppress a grin.
“We have to teach the newer guys, the younger guys, how to win,” Hamilton said as the press people cornered him in his creamy white Pistons home uniform.
I know who “we” is, in Rip’s mind, but he’d be best off placing himself at the top of the list of “we.”
The Pistons are Hamilton’s team, for better or for worse. And he’d better start acting like it.
Monday was a good start, albeit in a venue and situation where everyone tends to say all the right things.
But it’s still progress for Rip, because last season he didn’t come close to saying any of the right things. At all.
Hamilton went into mourning and soaked himself in grief after the Pistons traded longtime teammate and friend Chauncey Billups to Denver for one Allen Iverson. Then Rip got hurt. Then he didn’t want to be the sixth man. Then he openly and brazenly challenged rookie head coach Mike Curry.
Rip Hamilton fussed and kicked and screamed and it was hardly what a new coach like Curry needed—heaped on top of the Iverson debacle and the degradation in skills and attitude of Rasheed Wallace.
But Hamilton didn’t care, clearly. It was all about him and how things affected…him.
I’m willing to give Rip a pass and call last season a fluke—something we’d all like to forget in Pistons Land—if he’s willing to step up and be a leader.
The Pistons could use one, you know.
In the Billups days, the Pistons liked to portray themselves as a team bereft of superstars but who get the job done because of their work ethic and commitment to team. The sum was always greater than their parts.
They won a championship doing that, and came close to another one.
Not having a superstar was fine, because Billups was more of a leader than we knew, until it was too late.
The Pistons still don’t have a megastar, but now they don’t even have anyone in the captain’s chair.
Hamilton better get used to that seat and the controls before him in the cockpit.
This is Rip’s team, make no mistake. Whether he chooses to act like it, we’ll see.
I don’t want to hear this talk about “we’re all in this together” and “we don’t need a leader because we can all lead.” And I especially don’t want to hear it from Hamilton, who should know better. That’s a bunch of doo-doo.
So newcomer Ben Gordon plays the same position? Tough. Deal with it.
The Pistons need a solitary leader, and there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that.
Who better than Hamilton, despite his gagging on the opportunity last season?
Hamilton (left) and newcomer Ben Gordon pose at Media Day
You’re not going to get it from Tayshaun Prince, the Marcel Marceau of the Pistons. Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, the new free agents, are, well, new. Rodney Stuckey is still too wet behind the ears. Ben Wallace, back from sabbatical, has never wanted any part of leadership.
Kwame Brown? Chris Wilcox?
It’s Rip, by default.
But on Monday, at least, Hamilton seemed ready to take a step toward becoming the captain.
“Offensively, we can hold our own with anybody,” Hamilton said, again trying to suppress the grin of a cat about to swallow a canary. “But we have to make a statement on defense, by stopping people. We have to get back to that.”
So true, so obvious.
It’s a start—because Hamilton didn’t do or say the obvious things last year.
Maybe Rip finally has the Billups trade out of his system. For him, it’s the “Billups trade.” For the rest of us, it will be known as the “Iverson trade,” because AI’s last name is now synonymous in this town with “debacle.”
Rip seems to be done pouting and grieving.
“I was told by one of my first coaches in the league that the more positions you know how to play, the better chance you have of staying on the floor,” Hamilton said on Monday, smiling. “I look at it as a challenge, if I have to play the (small forward) position,” he added, referring to the logjam at shooting guard, thanks to the addition of the flash scoring Gordon.
Those are some nice words, almost cleansing, after last season.
It’s a start.
Adolph Hitler is dead, alright—but maybe not how we thought.
Some recent DNA testing has indicated that what was thought to be the skull of the Nazi dictator is, in fact, not.
Not Hitler’s, but that of a woman, no less, probably no older than 40.
Hitler was presumed to have taken his life in 1945, along with mistress Eva Braun, when he was 56 years old.
University of Connecticut archaeologist and bone specialist Nick Bellantoni knew from the outset that something was amiss. “The bone seemed very thin; male bone tends to be more robust,” he said. “And the sutures where the skull plates come together seemed to correspond to someone under 40.” Hitler had turned 56 in 1945.
It’s been universally accepted that Hitler took cyanide and then blew his brains out with a gun in his Berlin bunker as Allied forces closed in on him, with Braun replicating his actions on herself.
But scientists at UConn conducted tests on the bullet-pierced skull—which had been secretly preserved for decades by Soviet intelligence—and discovered that it belonged to an unidentified woman under 40.
That wouldn’t seem to match Adolph’s description.
So if that’s the case—if the skull fragment long thought to be Hitler’s actually isn’t—then what really happened to him?
It could be that the story of his death is still accurate, and that the skull fragment is simply someone else’s.
“It could be anyone,” Bellantoni says of the piece of skull long thought to belong to Hitler. “Many people were killed around the bunker area,” he added.
Cue the conspiracy wackos.
Hitler escaped!! He lived for decades longer, perhaps plotting more atrocities.
A: Doubtful; B: So what?
Before you pepper me with venomous e-mails, does it really matter when Hitler croaked? After all, not a peep was heard from him after his alleged death occurred. Do you actually think that someone of his ego would simply go away, never to be heard from again?
All that matters is that the world didn’t have to worry about Adolph Hitler anymore after his 1945 “death.”
The presumed bodies of Hitler and Braun were wrapped in blankets, doused with gasoline, and then set on fire.
Bellantoni also doesn’t believe that the skull fragment thought to be Hitler’s is actually Braun’s, despite the gender matching and the age being close. Braun was 33 when she presumably died in April 1945.
Hitler, sadly, has been in the news quite a bit lately. Before this rather startling revelation about his skull, this country has been inundated with Hitler references, by those lesser intelligent of us who have compared President Obama and his health care reform to Nazism.
So be prepared to hear delusions of grandeur about Hitler and his slipping through the Allies’ fingers and dashing off to parts unknown, to live a quiet and simple life, with nary a peep.
He’ll join Elvis that way, I guess. There are folks among us—maybe the same ones who believe the moon landing to be faked—who still refuse to believe that Mr. Presley died.
Sometimes we go the opposite way; remember when rumors began—propagated by Detroit’s own DJ, Russ Gibb—that Beatle Paul McCartney had, in fact, died? And the group supposedly left clues of his demise in their songs?
Isn’t it funny how we, at the same time, are reluctant to believe that folks who died are dead and those that are living are still alive?
Nothing kills a good story like the truth, eh?
Our guest, A. Sherrod Blakely—Pistons beat writer for MLive.com—got caught up in some work-related stuff and couldn’t be with us, after all. But he WILL be joining us on October 12, so we’re pleased about that!
So given all that extra time to kill, Al and I started flapping our gums, as is our wont! And, as usual, a couple of good rants resulted.
We kicked things off by talking Tigers and their chances to wrap this division up (finally) this week.
Al, as usual, is a Nervous Nellie and I had to “talk him down,” as he put it. Because, after all, I AM the “Voice of Reason”!!
I reminded Al that the Tigers just need to win two of four against the Twins and that they certainly can do that.
Next, we moved on to U-M and their win over Indiana. The health of QB Tate Forcier is an issue, and again I “reasoned” Al down from the ledge, assuring him that the Wolverines CAN win without Forcier.
A good rant developed in this segment as we veered off into the college basketball programs in this area, especially the sad state of affairs at University of Detroit-Mercy.
We wrapped things up with the Lions and their historic win on Sunday over Washington. Another good rant formed here when the subject turned to Joey Harrington and how he never really fit in with this town’s fans.
Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, for updates on scheduled guests, time changes, etc.
Next week’s guest: Marvin Hagler, Jr., who is launching a boxing career on October 10. Marvin will then fight Sugar Ray Leonard Jr. (I’m not making this up) in February.
Oct. 5 Marvin Hagler Jr.
Oct. 12 A. Sherrod Blakely
Oct. 19 Bob Page
Oct. 26 TBA
Nov. 2 Jose Canseco (yes, THE Jose Canseco!!)
Some highlights from last night:
On U-M football: “(QB) Denard Robinson…if he’s in there, the other team knows it’s going to be a running play. But the defense can’t stop a high school team right now.”
On the Tigers: “I’m concerned about the Twins! Are they in the Tigers’ heads? Carl Pavano’s been unhittable against the Tigers this year.”
On the UDM basketball program: “Perry Watson was a good coach and had a lot of ties to the PSL, but as far as selling the program and getting people excited about it, there wasn’t much there.”
On the Lions: “You have to say the 2009 draft was a home run. Look at all the guys who are starting. And they’re getting some contributions from the players in the lower rounds, too. But they’re still not a very good team yet.”
On the Tigers: “I think they can get the two wins they need against the Twins. As far as Pavano, no one can explain it. Pavano probably couldn’t, and the Tigers probably couldn’t. It’s just one of those things. That’s why baseball is such a great game.”
On U-M football: “If Michigan can’t win without Tate Forcier, then they have issues. The kid’s been good, but let’s not get carried away. I’m more concerned about their defense than the QB situation. Michigan is supposed to be deep at QB. So let’s see it.”
On UDM basketball: “One of the biggest recruiting obstacles is Calihan Hall. It’s old, decrepit, and is just a glorified high school gym. Plus the campus is old and not very attractive. And it’s in a bad part of town. You don’t even want to park your car there. They won’t even play Oakland University, because OU’s program is way better.”
On Matthew Stafford: “There’s something about this kid that tells me that everything’s going to be OK. He has that presence about him. We wanted to believe that about Joey Harrington, but he was from Oregon and he was a pretty boy who played the piano. It wasn’t a good fit.”
You can listen to the episode by clicking below!
They say you can’t go back home again. That, and you can’t go to the drive-in movies again. At least not with as much convenience.
They used to sprout all over the land—the drive-in movie theaters of America.
They died a slow death, the drive-ins did. Their big screens stood above the horizon like tombstones in a cemetery, unused and garish reminders of a day gone by. Then, even the tombstones got knocked down, leaving only weeds growing around the feet of the speaker stands.
There’s a wonderful photo that first appeared in LIFE Magazine, taken in the 1950s when “The Ten Commandments” was a new release motion picture. The photo was shot with a wide-angle lens and showed a typical drive-in movie theater of the day.
Charlton Heston’s Moses filled the huge screen, during the scene where he parts the Red Sea. In the foreground are all the cars—hundreds of them—parked, following the action.
The drive-in was THE place to be in the 1950s and ’60s.
It was a place to hang out—to be seen as well as to see movies. Kids would sneak buddies in via the trunk—back when tickets were sold individually. Then the theaters wised up and just charged per car.
Young, awkward Romeos and Juliets snuggled in the front seat—this was when lots of cars had bench seats—and had their first hand-holding and cuddling (or more) experience.
And let’s not forget the refreshment stands and their between-movie ads. For a fun-filled trip down memory lane, go to YouTube and type in the right search string and enjoy.
Our daughter’s favorite is the dancing hot dog that jumps into its bun. Trust me, it exists.
As a kid, our drive-in (back when everyone had their own neighborhood drive-in) was the Algiers, at the northeast corner of Wayne Road and Warren Road, in Westland. There’s a McDonald’s there now—as if.
I’d get into my jammies and bring a pillow and I was ready to go—sure to be out like a light when we got home. I have vague memories of my dad carrying me from the car to the house, like a kidnap victim who’s been chloroformed.
The photo that first appeared in LIFE Magazine (that’s Charlton Heston as Moses in “The Ten Commandments”)
But I’m proud to say that my wife and I (she grew up on drive-ins, too) passed down the tradition of watching movies from the car to our daughter. Most of the open-air theaters were long gone, of course, but there was always the Ford-Wyoming.
The F-W (it’s still there) has nine screens, spread out over two corners of Ford Road and Wyoming in Dearborn. And that’s where we’d head, when we wanted to scratch that itch.
Our little girl loved it. She’d be in jammies, too, and the movies were the usual Disney/animated stuff, or something like “The Incredible Hulk” or one of the “Batman” flicks.
In 2002, after having already made a verbal commitment to take the gang to the drive-in, I was caught in a dilemma.
It was the same night, turns out, as Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals—the Red Wings and Carolina Hurricanes.
No worries. Along came the earphones, the portable TV, and the AC/DC adapter. All with Mrs. Eno’s approval, of course.
The movie? I couldn’t tell you what it was. But the game went into triple overtime before Igor Larionov ended it. I must not have been alone, because when Igor scored, I could hear hoots and hollers from other vehicles. By this time, wife and daughter are out cold, so I had to do one of those “silent” cheers—when your mouth makes the requisite contortions of screaming, but no sound comes out.
It’s one of my more memorable drive-in experiences.
Aside from the F-W, you’re mostly out of luck if you’re looking for a drive-in theater nowadays. The Silverdome teased us with some drive-in action in its parking lot after the Lions moved out, but that fizzled out quickly.
There was just something about watching a movie in your car. Not sure what it was. Something about the gravel lot and the tinny metal speakers and the too-far-away refreshment stand.
Maybe we’ll pile back into the jalopy and set out for Ford and Wyoming again, one of these nights.
I could go for a kielbasa-sized dill pickle for three bucks.
Every dog really does have his day.
Every blind squirrel really does find a nut.
The longshot came in. The House lost.
It was “any given Sunday,” finally. The dice came up snake eyes.
Someone had to be the victims of the Lions’ losing streak ending, and it happened to be the team with some of the most ravenous, venomous fans in the NFL.
The Washington Redskins are today’s NFL patsies. They will now officially spend the longest week of their football lives.
The Redskins have lost to the Detroit Lions. No team in the league has been able to lay claim to such a distinction since December 23, 2007.
Oh, what a week they’ll have in Washington, with all their radio shows and TV shows and chat rooms.
These aren’t the Houston Texans the Lions beat. Not the Jacksonville Jaguars. Not some team that plays in a city where you can hear a pin drop.
These are the Redskins, and their followers were scared to death of this matchup with the Lions.
Worst fears, realized.
Like my friend Big Al wrote over at The Wayne Fontes Experience, let another team’s fan base pull its hair out this week. Let another city’s radio airwaves be filled with hate and frustration.
The Lions walked off the field winners Sunday, a homely 19-14 win over Washington, but it was the Lions’ homely win and they’ll take it.
Linebacker Larry Foote, the Detroit native and U-M grad, was caught by the candid cameras in the locker room after the game, pouring champagne over head coach Jim Schwartz’s head. Not sure where Larry got the bubbly from, but someone obviously was holding it for just such an occasion.
The Lions won a football game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have to hold their 26-game losing streak longer in purgatory. But here come the St. Louis Rams, who are halfway there with 13 straight losses.
Let the Rams’ fans wring their hands now.
It’s off now, that King Kong the Lions were lugging on their backs for 19 games. But ole King wasn’t easy to pry off.
You just knew it couldn’t end with QB Matthew Stafford taking a knee as the time ticked away. You knew the Lions wouldn’t be able to be streak busters that easily.
No, it had to come down to a heart-stopping final drive by the Redskins, who managed to get to the Lions’ 35 in the waning seconds.
But this wasn’t Brett Favre, it was Jason Campbell. And this wasn’t 31 of the 32 coaches in the NFL, it was Jim Zorn.
Zorn ought to know better. He was a gunslinging QB when he played for the Seattle Seahawks, bombing away to Steve Largent et al.
But he stared down the barrel of a franchise-shaking loss and shook like a leaf.
Instead of chucking the ball into the end zone—for who knows what can happen when you do that, especially when the other team wears Honolulu Blue and Silver—Zorn had Campbell try one of those goofy hook-and-lateral plays after a measly 12-yard toss. The ‘Skins didn’t even sniff the 20 yard line, much less the end zone.
Ever since Cal beat Stanford in 1982, football teams have been trying to recapture that miracle. Hardly any have been successful.
Zorn would have been better off with a Hail Mary, but that’s the other guys’ deal to worry about today.
Zorn also made a questionable move to accept a penalty against the Lions, turning a 4th-and-four and a long FGA into a 3rd-and-14, which the Lions converted, enabling them to score a TD later in the drive.
They say you should never take points off the scoreboard, if you’re on offense. And you should probably not take fourth downs off the board, either, if you’re on defense. But Zorn did—more fuel for the fire that will engulf Washington and Redskin Nation this week.
They’ll be talking about this one for years in D.C. The Lions—a team the Redskins have dominated (never having lost to them at home in over 75 years)—mustered their first win in 20 games against Dan Snyder’s bunch.
The fun thing is, you don’t have to be relegated to wishing you were the proverbial fly on the wall in order to see what they’re saying in Washington. Thanks to Internet chat rooms, you can get a very nice picture indeed.
The Redskins fans want Zorn fired. Immediately. Some wanted him canned somewhere between Ford Field and Metro Airport. No joke.
The Lions are on the outside looking in again, but this time the view is just fine. This time the Lions can peer through the glass and watch debauchery and barroom brawls take place. The subject is still them, but in an entirely different way.
The Lions can watch as Redskins fans hurl empty beer mugs at Snyder and Zorn and Campbell and the like. They can press their noses against the glass and see a football team’s entire fan base bust up the joint, beside themselves.
All over the little Lions.
The 1-2 Lions—same record as the Redskins.
Stafford was pretty good—21-for-36, 241 yards, a TD and NO interceptions. He played smart. He “left some plays on the field”—his words—but he made a veteran move by slinging the ball downfield when he saw Bryant Johnson in single coverage at the goal line in the fourth quarter, drawing a pass interference penalty.
There’s the smattering of a connection developing now between the kid QB and the star receiver, Calvin Johnson. Stafford was also allowed to pass the ball on first down, when offensive coordinator Scott Linehan sensed a momentum shift.
The Lions will still likely only win two or three games this season. The Redskins are hardly a barometer against which to judge your team’s development. But a win is a win as they say, and though it was no Mona Lisa, it’s the Lions’ and they’ll take it.
The million-to-one shot came in. The tortoise won a race. William Hung came away with “Best Singer.” The Italian Army won a war.
The Lions are 1-0 in their last one game.
But keep the champagne chilled. No more bubbly in September. Never again, right?
My weekly take on the Tigers, also known simply and affectionately as “MMM.”
Week of 9/21-27: 4-2
This week: 9/28-10/1: MIN; 10/2-4: CWS
Goat of the Week
MMM has been riding Grandy all year long, and with good reason. This is easily his worst season, statistically, of his four full big league campaigns. Ironically, it was also the first season in which he became an All-Star.
It was hoped that MMM’s venomous words would light a fire under him, as it has with so many other players who’ve been filleted in this space.
But Granderson, heading into the season’s final week, is still muddling along around .250 with a distinct inability to hit left-handers—whether they’re of Cy Young quality or just up from AAA.
There are flashes—like what he did to the White Sox on Saturday—but nothing that’s sustained for any length of time. In that way, Grandy is like a microcosm of the Tigers’ offense as a whole.
Speaking of time, it’s running out. The Tigers need a big week from Granderson, if they want to clinch the division without it going down to the last day.
Dishonorable mention: The offense in general—again—which wasted Eddie Bonine’s no-hit bid on Friday night in Chicago.
Hero of the Week
OK, so Miguel Cabrera listened to MMM and its alter ego, Greg Eno, who waxed Miggy in a column last week about not carrying the team, like great players do.
Cabrera lit up the Indians and, to an extent, the White Sox last week, edging over 100 RBI for the sixth straight season—or, for his entire career, so far.
Cabrera took the scolding personally, apparently. That’s OK; we’re glad to help!
Honorable mention: Righthander Rick Porcello, who’s quieting any talk about hitting a rookie wall and/or wearing down, with a strong September.
Quick scouting reports: Twins and White Sox
This week marks the biggest regular season series in the ten-year history of Comerica Park.
The Twins are in town, for four huge games—games that will either keep the Twins in the AL Central race, or catapult the Tigers to their first divisional title in 22 years.
It’ll be fun at the “new corner”—Montcalm and Woodward—as every inning, every at-bat, every pitch will weigh significantly. This is what it’s all about.
The Twins, sans Justin Morneau, are on an 11-2 run, pulling from six games back to two.
Others are contributing, big time. Mike Cuddyer is the biggest bat right now. He has six homers and 18 RBI in his last 13 games, filling in for Morneau at 1B. Denard Span has been swinging a hot bat, too.
And there’s always Joe Mauer to worry about, too.
Beware Carl Pavano, too—who’s been able to vex the Tigers as both an Indian and as a Twin. He pitches on Wednesday.
The White Sox, who’ve had a miserable September, nonetheless took two of three from the Tigers in Chicago over the weekend, but the Chisox always play the Tigers tough—home or away.
The Tigers would be best served to have the division mostly sewn up by the time the White Sox arrive in Detroit. You know manager Ozzie Guillen will pull out all the stops to try to deny the Tigers an on-field celebration in front of his team.
Under the microscope
Granderson, as mentioned above, must come up big this week—especially in spacious CoPa, site of so many of his past doubles and triples. If he does, and Placido Polanco keeps up his strong September, then the Tigers’ offense will take on a whole new dynamic down the stretch.
If Curtis “does his thing,” it will go a long way toward clinching the division.
There’s just something about the Tigers’ offense, a certain je ne sais quoi, when the Nos. 1 and 2 guys are getting on base and wreaking havoc. That has been missing for alarmingly long stretches of time this season. If it returns this week, get ready to celebrate.
Bottom line: MMM wanted to see the Tigers enter these four games with Minnesota with no less than a two-game lead, and that’s exactly what they have.
Why is that so important?
The Twins now almost have to win three of the four games in Detroit to have a fighting chance. A split is great for the Tigers; it would keep their lead at two with three games to play. The magic number would be down to two.
If the Tigers, who’ve played so very well at home all year, can just hold serve and nullify the Twins with a 2-2 record in “the series,” then they’re almost assured of winning the division.
Of course, it would be even better to get greedy and win three, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Tigers’ magic number to clinch the division: 6
That’s all for this week’s MMM. Join me every Monday!
P.S. Also join me and Big Al from The Wayne Fontes Experience every Monday night as we co-host “The Knee Jerks” on Blog Talk Radio. The Tigers are a weekly topic. We go live at 11 p.m. ET, and every episode can be downloaded for your listening convenience!
I was in New York, one of my favorite towns, and I started walking. It was a June day, some 18 years ago, and if you haven’t been to New York in June, then your life officially has a missing ingredient.
I set out around Times Square and headed north, up Sixth Avenue, from around 42nd Street. Maybe a half hour or so had passed when I decided to stop and look behind me, to see how much concrete I had covered.
The blocks and blocks of midtown Manhattan that I had engulfed boggled my mind.
Wow, I thought—did I really do all that?
It’s time now that certain people stop in their tracks and take a look back—at the Detroit Red Wings and what they’ve accomplished since 1991.
There are still old-timers among us—I’m not quite in that fraternity—who remember the 1950s, and how the Red Wings, along with the hated Montreal Canadiens, dominated the six-team NHL.
Back and forth the Red Wings and Canadiens went, seemingly handing the Stanley Cup off to each other every spring. It was like the Lions and Cleveland Browns in the same decade, only more so.
The Red Wings—they of Howe and Lindsay and Wilson and Kelly and Sawchuk, meeting the Canadiens of Richard and Moore and Geoffrion and Beliveau and Worsley—every late April for a showdown for the Cup.
The old-timers will tell you that this was the heyday of Detroit hockey. The Red Wings did win four Stanley Cups in six seasons, from 1949-50 thru 1954-55. And when they weren’t winning them, they were coming damn close.
But those Red Wings teams, as mighty as they were, filled with as many legends of the game as they were, did not do what today’s late-20th, early-21st century Red Wings are doing—with no signs of letting up.
In a town besmirched by its football team, abandoned for 13 seasons by its baseball team until 2006, and teased relentlessly by its NBA entry almost yearly, the Red Wings’ annual contention for hockey’s Holy Grail is accepted almost casually, with a feeling of entitlement oozing from its faithful.
I have never been a fan of the designation of “Hockeytown,” which the team encouraged its fans to use in describing Detroit, sometime around the mid-1990s. Those of you unfortunate enough to consider yourselves regular readers will attest that I’ve derided that self-aggrandizing moniker with stubborn consistency.
The Canadiens have won over twice as many Stanley Cups as the Red Wings have managed—with both franchises’ timelines running almost concurrently.
So what does that make Montreal? “Chopped Livertown”?
The Red Wings play in Detroit, er, Hockeytown, and it’s a yearly ritual to set out in June and take in a hockey game at Joe Louis Arena. A game with Stanley Cup implications, of course.
The hockey denizens in town are aghast when their team doesn’t win the chalice.
I was on the ice at JLA, in the aftermath of last June’s Game 7 triumph by the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Hockeytown was being vandalized by a group of happy Penguins and their families and staff.
Champagne was being sprayed into the expensive seats by Penguins players—who were soaking their own fans who made the trek from Pittsburgh, and who were hanging over the glass, trying to get blasted.
Player wives and children hugged husbands and daddies. Business-suited men and professionally-dressed women—presumably part of the behind-the-scenes functionaries—gleefully meandered on the same ice surface that, less than an hour prior, was being urgently skated on by dead tired Red Wings players trying to muster one more goal.
There were tears. There were hugs. There was hooting and hollering.
By the Pittsburgh Penguins!!
They had the temerity to win the Stanley Cup in Hockeytown. The horror!
The Red Wings of today have won four Cups in the past 11 seasons. In these modern days, that would qualify as a dynasty of sorts.
But there’s this.
Since the 1991-92 campaign—that’s 17 seasons in a row—the Red Wings have begun the post-season as legitimate Cup contenders. Not maybe contenders. Not “if everything goes perfectly” contenders.
Real, honest-to-goodness, they’re-likely-to-win-the-whole-darn-thing contenders.
For 17 straight springs.
The old-timers can’t boast of that kind of run from their 1950s Red Wings.
Nor can any team, in any sport.
Has there been the same legitimate World Series contender since 1991?
Not even the vaunted New York Yankees can say they were World Series ready in the early-1990s. And certainly no other team can lay claim to constant championship contention for 17 straight years.
The NBA has had its flavor-of-the-day dynasties—the Bulls of the 1990s, the Lakers of the early 2000s. And blips on the screen in between. But no NBA club has been consistently in the hunt since 1991-92.
The NFL, the League of Parity, purposely has constructed itself to prevent dynasties. And none of its teams can come close to describing itself as a Super Bowl contender—legitimately—on an annual basis since 1991.
But the Detroit Red Wings have gone into the playoffs every April, starting in 1992, with genuine hopes of raising the Stanley Cup two months later.
Every single year since 1992.
There have been first round knockouts, for sure. Conference finals meltdowns, yeah. Bizarre second round losses, absolutely.
And a couple of disappointments in the Cup Finals themselves.
But there have been those four Cups and deep playoff runs in most years.
Yet you won’t hear or read much about that in Detroit.
Instead, it’s always about why the Red Wings can’t, or won’t contend. Why the goal-tending will surely fail. Or some such worry.
A few years back, after the lockout, the league operating under a genuine salary cap for the first time, the haters were out in full force.
Let’s see how fast the Red Wings fall when their bottomless money pit is no longer to their avail, the haters said—many hailing from Hockeytown, USA.
This fall, the trendy thing to do is to pick the young, hungry Chicago Blackhawks to become the new rulers of the West. The worry du jour is all the free agents the Red Wings lost this summer.
It says here that the hockey fans in Detroit don’t know how good they’ve had it, in the time it takes a child to be born, grow up, and graduate high school.
They’ve been walking with the Red Wings for 17 blocks now, and it never occurs to them to stop and look back at all that’s been accomplished.
It’s a fan base that’s been spoiled rotten, and I wonder anymore how many of them know that we had another name for the NHL franchise in Detroit long before Hockeytown became all the rage.
The Dead Things.
Folks around here ought to remember from where their team came, and immerse themselves in the historical significance of what the Red Wings are doing at this very moment.
Because it ain’t been done, anywhere, since the great Yankees teams of the 1940s, ‘50s, and early-‘60s.
Yet they never called New York, the greatest of all our cities, “Baseballtown.”
They didn’t have to.
A lot of them will be there, standing on the Comerica Park field, not the place of their glory but still right smack dab in the city of their faithful.
Darrell Evans says he’ll be there. Alan Trammell, too—excused from his duties as Chicago Cubs bench coach. Kirk Gibson, as well—appearing with the consent of his employers, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The old white-haired manager himself, Sparky Anderson, has submitted his RSVP.
They’ll all be there, and more, when the Tigers honor the 1984 World Series champs on Monday, prior to an all-important tilt with the Minnesota Twins. It’s the Silver Anniversary of their mugging of the baseball world. If you’re approaching middle age, like me, then you’re ready to protest—wanting your 25 years back.
It’s interesting that today’s Tigers will go out after the pomp and circumstance on Monday and take on the Twins in a game with pennant implications, for a couple of reasons.
One, the Tigers’ magical 1984 season began with the Twins—the Tigers sweeping them in Minnesota, long before the Metrodome began vexing them.
Second, the ’84 Tigers didn’t really have to play any heart-stopping, nailbiting games in September—at any time of the month, let alone in the season’s final week.
If it wasn’t for the Toronto Blue Jays’ gallant effort, the Tigers would have had the AL East sewn up by Memorial Day. And that barely qualifies as an exaggeration.
You know the story of the ’84 ride. A 9-0 start, which became 16-1, which turned into 26-4, which had even the oldtimer baseball people scurrying to the record books.
But the Tigers weren’t done sprinting from the gate.
After another ten games, the Tigers’ record was 35-5—a won/loss mark that is as famous in these parts as other storied baseball numbers like 61 and 715 and 56 and 511.
Thirty-five and five. It rolls off the tongue now, even to those too young to recall when the Tigers made a mockery of their competition.
But the Blue Jays were playing at well above a .600 clip, and in doing so were able to at least keep the Tigers on their radar.
Still, the Tigers’ divisional lead was generally swaying back and forth between eight and twelve games most of the summer. Occasionally the Jays would get within seven, and there was cause for panic.
The 2009 Tigers mustered a seven game lead a few weeks ago and certain keyboard mashers like yours truly declared the race over with.
It’s all relative, huh?
I’m glad the Tigers are honoring the 1984 heroes, who authored a season that we may never see again. A wire-to-wire lead, that unworldly 35-5 start. A no-hitter by Jack Morris. An 11-pitch at-bat by Dave Bergman on Monday Night Baseball, before a walk-off home run—against the Blue Jays.
And on and on.
I remember the Tigers, too soon, acknowledging the 1968 champs after just 10 years, in ’78. Mickey Stanley was still an active player, to show you. It was nice and all, but ten years is gone in a flash.
Twenty-five years motor by, too, but it is a Silver Anniversary, so it’s time.
The 1984 Tigers thrilled, they amazed, they made folks proud to be Detroiters.
The 2009 Tigers have caused most people to run for the Pepto-Bismol.
Both will be, when the dust settles, divisional champs. After that, who knows?
So take some time out on Monday—whether at the ballpark or watching from home—to give a nod to some ballplayers who made an entire baseball season a breeze.
Bless You, Boys!
It happened at a party, and the story isn’t apocryphal. It’s been confirmed by too many people.
The tough guy lawyer and former FBI man enthralled the guests as held his hand near an open flame. As people gasped, the tough guy drew his hand nearer to the flame.
So this man, once described by a former supervisor at the bureau as a “wild man”and “superklutz,” kept his hand near the flame long enough until his flesh started to burn. Finally, he withdrew it.
Someone asked him what the trick was.
“The trick,” Gordon Liddy said, “is not minding.”
Today, Liddy is 78 and is still going strong, his radio show syndicated by over 160 stations across the country.
It’s hard to imagine that the White House was once crawling with creeps like Liddy, though, back in the day.
Liddy was a New Jersey kid, from Hoboken—the town of Frank Sinatra. He was raised Catholic, and eventually entered the Army, serving during the Korean War. But a burst appendix kept him home, as an artillery officer.
Then it was off to study law, at Fordham University, and who knows where Gordon got his penchant for wildness, as indicated by the unflattering adjectives mentioned above while Liddy worked for J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI. Yet Liddy earned multiple commendations from Hoover, becoming, at age 29, the youngest Bureau Supervisor the FBI had.
In what sounds like a scene from “And Justice for All…,” Liddy once fired a gun in a courtroom during jury summation, while an assistant DA.
Liddy hooked up with Richard Nixon in 1968, running Nixon’s presidential campaign in the 28th district of New York. That’s how he muscled his way into the eventual president’s inner circle.
Scary, isn’t it, that the likes of Liddy and H.R. Haldeman and John Mitchell and John Ehrlichman ruled the roost at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Theirs was a secret society/Mafia/fraternity, all rolled into one. They engaged in political dirty tricks, unlawful surveillance, and threatened those who didn’t share their views of politics, or of how a White House should be run.
G. Gordon Liddy (the “G” stands for George)
And these were the men who were advising Tricky Dick from 1969-73, until the you-know-what hit the fan and they all ended up in jail and Nixon resigned in disgrace.
It should be noted that it was Liddy who was the “mastermind” behind the Watergate burglary. He didn’t participate, per se, but it was alleged that he supervised from a nearby building.
Most of those ne’er-do-wells from Nixon’s inner circle are dead now—none of them really lived a long life—but Liddy persisted, authoring books, hosting radio shows, and even acting. He stopped pulling parlor tricks like the hand-over-the-flame thing, but he didn’t really mellow.
He’s made many controversial statements on the air, not the least of which was this gem, barked out in August, 1994.
“Now if the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms comes to disarm you and they are bearing arms, resist them with arms. Go for a head shot; they’re going to be wearing bulletproof vests” … “They’ve got a big target on there, ATF. Don’t shoot at that, because they’ve got a vest on underneath that. Head shots, head shots…. Kill the sons of bitches.”
Stuff like that.
Liddy acted in episodes of “Miami Vice” and “MacGyver,” to name a couple. If you go to his website, you’re hit smack in the face with the Capitol dome and an American flag.
It’s funny, really, because Liddy spent a lot of his time in the White House trying to circumvent both of those institutions.
How do you suffer Gordon Liddy?
The trick is not minding.