Archive for April, 2010
(Note: every Friday I’ll post a favorite rant from the archives)
from September 18, 2009
We had a thing about movies on TV in Detroit. Mainly, that we didn’t always like to tune in to watch the movie itself.
Often it was the sideshow, the stuff between clips of celluloid, that drew us to the TV, back in the day.
There was The Ghoul on Saturday nights, and the sheer quality of the flicks that The Ghoul foistered on his viewers made you want to look away, until there was a break and it was time for The Ghoul, Froggy, and Cheez Whiz.
There was Rita Bell and her “Prize Movie,” on in the mornings. Rita was a sweet lady (my wife once met her, working in the same building, and said she was very nice) who’d play a movie and then solicit phone calls in between, with lucky callers winning stuff.
Then there was Bill Kennedy.
Ole Bill, the former B-movie actor with the gravelly voice, which was made even croakier thanks to the cigarettes he chain-smoked on the air.
Bill Kennedy, who bellowed into the camera and sat behind a desk in front of faux bookcases. Sometimes Bill would have a guest in the studio—often times an actor or film director—and they’d chit-chat, putting the movie of the day on hold.
Bill would take phone calls, and viewers loved to pick his brain, asking him to regale them with stories of his days on movie sets.
Some B-movie actors grow up to be president. Kennedy settled for merely being King of Detroit afternoon TV.
“Bill Kennedy at the Movies” was the name of the show, and it was really a misnomer, because Bill liked to talk. And talking isn’t very mannerly behavior when you’re trying to watch a movie.
No, it was really “Bill Kennedy About the Movies.” Bill had the stories, and whether they were mostly true or not, it didn’t matter because Kennedy enraptured his audience, which was mostly female.
He’d call his female callers “dear” and “sweetie,” and try that nowadays.
The quality of movies Bill played was on a higher plane than what The Ghoul served up, but not by much. Again, when it came to Kennedy’s show, the star wasn’t the movie—it was the host.
Just like with The Ghoul and Rita Bell.
They did Bill’s show from both channel 50 in Detroit and channel 9 over in Windsor, depending on what part of history you’re talking about. Either way, Kennedy brightened the weekday afternoons for a gazillion homemakers and retired dears and sweeties.
Bill’s long gone, of course. Rita Bell isn’t with us anymore, either.
He’s still kicking, somewhere. Overday.
The rumors of Magglio Ordonez’s death are greatly exaggerated.
Look who’s batting third for the Tigers and hitting over .300 and displaying power and run-producing ability. Just like the good old days.
There were folks who wanted to run Maggs out of town last year, when he was 35 years old and looking every day of that, and then some.
The batting average was pedestrian. But what was most troubling was the power looked to have been cut.
Ordonez was a multi-million dollar slap hitter for most of 2009, when he battled injuries and some pre-season personal strife. He was 35 and the naysayers were out in droves. How quickly these power hitters can go down the tubes, people said while shaking their heads.
Then came September and suddenly Ordonez was himself again. He was torrid—positively scorching. It was he, not Miguel Cabrera, who put the Tigers on his back as they tried like mad to hold off the hard-charging Minnesota Twins.
Ahh, but was this simply one last hurrah for an expiring warrior, or was this a portend of his resurrection?
So far, the answer appears to be the latter.
Maggs is Maggs again. He’s hitting .310, but the best part is that he’s been plugged back into the power socket: Ordonez has six doubles, four homers, 17 RBI, and a robust slugging average of .517.
So stop writing the eulogies. Put that shovel away.
Yesterday was a milestone day for the Venezuelan.
Ordonez’s single in the fourth inning was the 2,000th hit of his career, making him just the sixth player from Venezuela to reach that number.
“It’s huge because there are only 260 players who have done it in more than 100 years of baseball,” Ordonez said of his accomplishment after the Tigers beat the Twins. “I’m happy for me, my family, my country and my team.”
The Tigers’ batting order, which seemed moribund after the cashiering of Curtis Granderson and Placido Polanco, is now no picnic for opposing pitchers.
It starts with The Kid, leadoff hitter Austin Jackson, who’s a rookie but who is hitting well over .300. The nerve!
Then you have 36-year-old Johnny Damon and his slap-happy left-handed hitting bat. After a rough start, Damon is another .300+ guy.
It gets worse.
Third is Ordonez, then you have to deal with Cabrera. Both guys are clutch and gobble up RBIs like Pac Men.
Sadly, the terror decreases dramatically the lower you go in the order. The Tigers’ top four are “Nightmare on Elm Street”; the bottom four are “Bambi.”
The team’s Jekyll and Hyde, schizophrenic batting order is one reason why the Tigers are leaving men stranded by the bucketful. It’s the worst display since FEMA post-Katrina.
Still, the Tigers might have two 100+ RBI men in Ordonez and Cabrera.
Quite a change from last year, when an $18 million bonus due to Ordonez hinged in the balance because it was based on plate appearances. And Maggs wasn’t getting enough of them, because he, frankly, didn’t deserve them.
That all changed in August and September, when his bat warmed in the season’s dog days.
No one talks about jettisoning Ordonez any longer.
Last year he was an old 35. Now he’s a young 36.
Joe Garagiola called it right when he titled his book.
“Baseball is a Funny Game.”
They say Nick Lidstrom isn’t the defenseman that he once was. He’s not as sharp; maybe has lost a step.
That’s OK. Lidstrom can lose three or four steps, as far as I’m concerned. His stick is still in its mid-20s.
It’s laughable, anyway, to accuse Lidstrom, the Red Wings’ Hall of Fame defenseman, of losing a step. That’s like crabbing that the Leaning Tower of Pisa has dropped another centimeter.
Speed and “steps” were never part of Lidstrom’s game. You don’t have to be blazing of foot to launch howitzers from the blue line. Or to look at the game as a bunch of angles, as Lidstrom does.
The Red Wings are in the second round of the playoffs because players like Lidstrom raised their game to a level that couldn’t be matched in Game Seven against the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Red Wings turned the drama of a Game Seven into slapstick hockey. It was like tuning in expecting to see “Gone With the Wind” and getting the Little Rascals instead.
6-1, the Red Wings won. Lidstrom had a couple of goals, an assist, and he played all the angles correctly. Again.
The critics were out on him, especially after Game Six, when Nicky was on the ice for three of the Coyotes’ goals—albeit two of them on the power play.
He was about to turn 40 at that point (he did yesterday), so it seemed fair to question whether his skills were slipping.
Lidstrom could slip and slip some more and I’d still take him over a majority of the defensemen in the league.
And as for Game Six’s supposed struggles, I’ll say this: I haven’t seen Nick Lidstrom play two poor games in a row. But then again, I’ve only seen him play for 19 seasons.
Lidstrom is the team captain and they knock him for that, too.
He’s not vocal enough. The team has no personality. We miss Steve Yzerman.
Contrary to popular, misguided belief, you don’t have to yell and scream to be a good leader.
All I know is, when October rolls around, you fit Lidstrom with fresh batteries, turn him on, and 82 games later he’s racked up another near-perfect season. Still. You don’t think that inspires his teammates?
He didn’t win the Norris Trophy last year, and won’t win it this year, either. But he has six of those and he needs another to validate his legacy like a hole in the head.
Then there’s that stick he has. The stick of a 25-year-old. It says here that Lidstrom has used his stick better than any defenseman that’s ever laced up a skate. He can go an entire game without throwing a bodycheck but the desired result is the same: scoring chances are denied.
Lidstrom is the well-mannered defender. He practically says “sorry” and “excuse me” while he relieves you of the puck. He wouldn’t lose his temper on the ice if you called his mother names. In a sport that’s famous for a bump and a cross-eyed look turning into World War III, Lidstrom manages to defend his zone with nothing but his savvy, his stick, and a wink.
So it’s the San Jose Sharks next for the Red Wings, who are trying to coax another long playoff run out of their old legs.
Two of those legs belong to Nick Lidstrom, who supposedly has lost a step or two from them.
Keep telling yourself that.
Carl Levin might have a blue streak in him—something he’s kept closeted until recently—but he still has a long way to go before he can touch the master.
According to AOLNews.com:
U.S. Sen. Levin (D-Michigan) was taking testimony of several Goldman Sachs executives alleged to have sold what they knew to be a toxic $1 billion collateralized debt obligation to unwitting investors. While grilling the bankers, Levin quoted from a 2007 e-mail from one former Goldman exec describing the transaction, known as “Timberwolf.”
Here’s where Levin cut loose.
“Look what your sales team was saying about Timberwolf,” said Levin, the committee chair. “‘Boy, that Timberwolf was one sh—y deal.’ They sold that sh—y deal … ‘Boy, that timber was one sh—y deal.’ How much of that sh—y deal did you sell to your clients? … You didn’t tell them you thought it was a sh—y deal … You knew it was a sh—y deal … How about the fact that you sold hundreds of millions on that deal after your people knew it was a sh—y deal? Does that bother you at all?”
All told, Sen. Levin used the word “sh**y”11 times.
Maybe ole Carl learned a bit from his time spent on the Detroit City Council (1969-77).
Levin spent eight years on council, and the last four of those overlapped the first term of Mayor Coleman Young.
Now THERE was a cusser extraordinaire.
Hizzoner considered swearing an art—literally. He said so, on numerous occasions.
What else do you expect from a man whose desk had the famous nameplate that said, “The Motherf***ing Mayor”?
Young could cut loose in epic fashion. Most of it was in private, but the roaming microphones and cameras around town caught a few samplings over the years, too.
Young in a 1989 portrait snapped by the great Tony Spina of the Free Press
I remember watching a bootlegged outtake reel made by some folks who were making a promotional video for the city. In it, Young is making an introduction to the city on behalf of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
Suddenly, Young let loose with a barrage of “F” words that had the video crew guffawing in the background.
Young was a potty mouth and he didn’t care who knew it. To his dying day he believed swearing to be a legitimate method of colorful communication.
Even the supposedly refined have taken to using Young’s tactics.
Vice President Joe Biden was caught on microphone telling President Barack Obama that the passage of health care reform was “a big [effing] deal;” and Sen. Jim Bunning told a fellow senator pleading that he cease his filibuster on extending unemployment benefits, “tough s—.”
But it was Coleman A. Young who had them all beat.
Swearing, he always believed, got people’s attention.
Thirty-three years after leaving city politics, Sen. Levin finally adopted Young’s gospel.
It’s the Valhalla of pro sports.
It’s the revered temple where you, at the same time, might find yourself both giddy and terrified to be.
The Super Bowl is a nice little sporting event, perhaps even deserving of its Roman numerals on occasion. Other games/events/tournaments shine in their own way: the Final Four; the Kentucky Derby; the Indy 500; The Masters.
You can have them all, and give me the Valhalla itself—Game 7.
They are two of the most concentrated words in sports. Simply by saying “Game 7,” you can cause grown men to crawl into the fetal position. Or you can bring glorious memories back to the fore.
You only need a couple of drops of Game 7 to turn a playoff series vat into a kick-your-ass level of spiciness.
You think the Super Bowl rules?
What the Phoenix Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings wouldn’t do to dispense of a playoff series and hop on a plane, jet out to a resort town, soak up the sun for two weeks, and play a single hockey game for two-and-a-half hours to decide their playoff fate.
Tonight’s Game 7 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series is winner-take-all (sort of), but it’s not that simple.
There is the matter of the previous 360 minutes of hockey, for starters.
You don’t play a playoff series, you invest in it.
A series that goes the maximum seven games is a portfolio filled with profits and losses and jackpots and busts. Each game is 60 minutes at the blackjack table or the slots. You go home either mumbling to yourself or clutching your bag of loot.
Game 7 is the day of reckoning.
The previous six games are in the record books, but they aren’t history. They’re with you, and whether you choose to have them load you down or give you support is up to you.
There isn’t a more nerve-wracking evening that a pro sports fan will spend than one watching his or her team play a Game 7.
It hardly matters that tonight’s contest is three rounds shy of the Stanley Cup Finals. Hell, it may as well be for all the marbles, because the loser has no more hockey this season. It’s the ultimate crap shoot. They make you bet all your chips at Game 7, like it or not.
You’re either going to go home with your pockets empty or you’re moving on to bet another day.
There’s nothing that happens in a Game 7 that’s meaningless.
For the hockey people, that means every crooked bounce of the puck, every whiff with the stick, every shoulder-slumped trip to the penalty box could play a crucial role in who wins and who loses.
And Lord help the fan whose team is forced into overtime in a Game 7.
I’ve been there. We all have.
I remember being dropped to my knees, practically bowing in deference to Steve Yzerman when he blasted a shot from just beyond the blue line over the shoulder of Jon Casey in the second overtime to win Game 7 of the Red Wings’ second round series with the St. Louis Blues in 1996.
And I remember feeling like I’d been slugged in the gut when Toronto’s Nikolai Borschevsky deflected a shot past Tim Cheveldae in overtime to beat the Red Wings in Game 7 of the first round in 1993.
Game 7 is the greatest moment in pro sports because there’s no in between: at the end of it you’re either going to feel pleasure or pain. Nothing else.
If the Red Wings win tonight, the hero is just as likely to be Henrik Zetterberg or Patrick Eaves. The game-winning goal may be scored in the game’s opening minutes or in its waning moments. A seemingly innocent-looking play early in the second period may turn as horrific as a car crash.
You never know.
This is Game 7. This is where you open up your soul and it’s either going to be sucked out of you or blessed.
No in between.
Where have all our Detroit-area retail brethren gone?
The other day, I got to thinking of unique-to-Detroit stores and shops, and also gas stations of days gone by.
I’m sure the following list of names will prompt a lot of “Oh yeah!!” moments.
Jacobson’s. I believe this was a mainly women’s apparel retailer, though they may have sold men’s clothes, too. Sometimes shortened to “Jake’s.”
Winkelman’s. As with Jacobson’s, “Winky’s” had a prominent location in Dearborn, on Michigan Avenue. Another mostly-female apparel shop.
Crowley’s. I used to frequent the Crowley’s in Universal Mall in Warren; speaking of Universal, that “mall” at 12 Mile and Dequindre has undergone quite a makeover. In fact, it’s not so much a mall anymore as it is a plethora of retail outlets, still using the Universal name.
Joshua Doore, Robinson’s, Wickes, Englander Triangle. Ahh, remember these furniture retailers? Joshua Doore had a catchy jingle (“You have an uncle in the furniture business…”) and a murdered executive, who was found in the trunk of his car. The mob was suspected in his murder.
Hughes, Hatcher & Suffrin. Harry Suffrin, who owned a men’s apparel shop downtown for years, merged with Hughes & Hatcher in the 1960s. I have especially fond memories of HH&S because their store in Westland Mall was a bi-level thing, with ultra-cool, carpeted stairs separating the upper and lower levels.
Towne Club Soda. Who can forget the super-thin, torpedo-like bottles and the monstrously heavy cases that they came in?
Stroh’s Beer. This one still bothers me. Stroh’s should still be around, and being brewed in Detroit!
Highland Appliance, Fretter Appliance. Remember Ollie Fretter, who promised “five pounds of coffee if I can’t beat your best deal”? And how about the old Highland TV commercials, including the quasi-famous one of the little kid “practicing” piano—when he was in fact playing a recording in his room while he was out on the ball field?
Great Scott! I’m not sure if this was a Michigan-only market, but I mention it because of its name. My name is Gregory Scott Eno, so when I was a small child I thought the name of the market was Greg Scott! Needless to say, I didn’t read the sign closely enough.
Cunningham’s Drugs. I know there are tons of now-defunct local drugstores out there, but Cunningham’s was a Detroit-area institution because of its multitude of locations. Their slogan for a time was “21 Stores under One Roof.” They even took to calling themselves “Cunningham’s 21″ for a while.
Now, here are some gas stations I remember from my youth:
Standard. The pre-cursor to Amoco—same sign and everything.
Texaco. Bob Hope used to swat a golf ball off a Texaco oil rigger in their commercials. An old-time sponsor of 1950s TV theater.
Gulf. I know they’re still around, but I don’t see their sign anywhere around here.
Sinclair. Their logo was a dinosaur. Talk about ahead of their time!
Clark. Yes, they’re still around, but I’m talking about the old Clark stations, which were tiny structures and had orange and white signs.
Check out those prices!!
Boron/Sohio. Boron was in Michigan, and Sohio had the same sign but was in Ohio.
Leonard. I seem to recall a station called Leonard on Plymouth Road in Livonia. Either that, or my mind is making things up.
Speaking of gas stations, remember when there was full service and they’d give away things, like knives and other household items, with fill-ups?
Then there were the banks: NBD; First Federal; Manufacturer’s (slogan: “That’s MY bank”); Detroit Bank & Trust. I also remember when the Penobscot Building in Detroit was briefly re-named the CNB Building, after a bank.
What do YOU remember?
Last Week: 3-4
This Week: at Tex (4/26); MIN (4/27-29); LAA (4/30-5/2)
So what happened?
Here’s what DIDN’T happen: significant innings from the Tigers’ starting pitchers.
The bullpen was busier than Ben Roethlisberger’s PR team last week, having to pitch at least three innings and sometimes more in every game.
It didn’t help that Dontrelle Willis had to skip his start on Saturday due to illness, pressing lefty Brad Thomas into duty. Thomas lasted just three rocky innings.
Rick Porcello is starting to get ghoulishly sophomore jinx-ish; Sunday’s brief stint was his third poor showing in a row.
The starters’ inability to go deep into games couldn’t have come at a worse time, given the Tigers’ brutal schedule that is devoid of off days. Now would be a great time for a rainout or two.
Offensively, the Tigers are doing OK but are stranding way too many runners on base, which is either costing them games or at the very least making them scramble in the late innings to make up for what they weren’t able to do in the earlier innings.
Tonight marks the end of the team’s 11-game road trip; the Tigers have gone 4-6 so far.
Hero of the Week
Cabrera is an RBI machine right now. He has 22 of them in 75 AB, and he’s getting them in all sorts of ways: booming home runs, laced doubles, opposite field singles; you name it. The ribbies are seemingly always clutch, to boot. He never drives in a meaningless run.
Even more impressive is that Cabby has only struck out seven times, which would put him in the 60 strikeout range for the season, which for a punishing hitter like him is amazing.
The BA is .347, the OBA is .437, and the SA is .627. Lots of sevens there, which is what the Tigers seem to roll whenever Cabrera steps to the plate with runners on base.
For the week, Cabrera went 9-for-29 with eight RBI. Six of his hits were doubles, another was a home run.
The guy’s a beast and you’d better stop whatever you’re doing to watch a Cabrera at-bat. He’s like Cecil Fielder in that respect.
Goat of the Week
The Tigers’ starting pitchers, collectively.
The bullpen is being called upon way too often, and for far too many innings.
The Tigers’ top three of Justin Verlander, Porcello, and Max Scherzer would appear to be so good as to leave most of the bullpen innings for the Nos. 4 and 5 guys. But only Scherzer, who leads the team with 24 innings pitched, has been able to pitch deep consistently.
The back end guys (Jeremy Bonderman and Willis) aren’t helping in this area, but they weren’t counted on to do so. Bondo (7.20 ERA) did go six innings at the Angels last week, so maybe that’s a good sign.
Upcoming: Twins and Angels
The Tigers finish their road trip with a wraparound series finale tonight in Texas.
After that, it’s another big week.
Two teams widely considered as playoff contenders visit Comerica Park.
First up are those damn Minnesota Twins, who keep losing key players and keep not letting it bother them.
New closer Jon Rauch is 6-for-7 in save chances, with a 2.00 ERA, as he serves a one-year apprenticeship as the injured Joe Nathan’s replacement.
Here’s another Joe who you don’t dare say WHO? about: catcher Joe Mauer, who is on the fast rack to the Hall of Fame.
All Mauer is doing is hitting .382 with 17 runs scored already. He might be the best all-purpose catcher since Johnny Bench, and maybe before Bench.
The Twins are 13-6 and are comfortably ensconced in first place in the AL Central, up three games on the second-place Tigers.
The Angels have clawed back to 10-10 after a rough start, including 2-2 against the Tigers last week in Los Angeles.
Something to watch, though, with the Angels is 3B Brandon Wood, who is in his first year as a regular and is 6-for-53 this season. The 25-year-old Wood went o-for-the Tigers series last week, and has struck out 17 times in 53 AB. How much longer before the Angels look elsewhere for a 3B? The other Angels 3B this season, Maicer Izturis, is hitting a robust .219.
That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next Monday!
Brendan Shanahan played 21 physical, angry seasons in the NHL yet he could walk into a Hollywood producer’s office tomorrow morning and be cast as the male lead.
Shanahan, 41, still has his looks; most old hockey players have faces that are zippered on and are the texture of corduroy.
Shanahan is still the best looking man in most rooms these days, plus among the smartest and most charming, and it’s enough to make guys like me sick.
I’m not telling you anything the ladies don’t already know.
He sat behind a desk in an office inside the Kennedy Ice Center in Trenton Saturday and spoke eloquently on a number of subjects, including his involvement in a fascinating story involving two local high school teams from 1999. But more about that later.
This used to be Shanahan’s time—right now. Spring hockey. The playoffs going on. Lose four games within a seven-game window and you’re on the golf course tomorrow.
Shanahan loves golf and he’s very good at it. But he never loved it enough to choose it over playoff hockey.
“I miss playing at the elite level. I miss the highest level of competition,” Shanahan told me. “I miss playing for the Stanley Cup.”
Shanahan isn’t in the playoffs this year for the first time in 14 years, because he retired last fall. That’s the only way you could keep him out of the post-season; Shanny played 21 seasons in the NHL, and he made the playoffs in 19 of them.
The last time he missed the post-season, it was in 1996 and it was because he was playing for the awful Hartford Whalers. Shanahan scored 44 goals in the 1995-96 season and those were ten more than the wins the Whalers had.
Shanahan, at that point, had played nine NHL seasons and his teams’ playoff runs lasted about as long as a 4th of July sparkler.
The Red Wings in 1996 were elite. They’d just set an NHL record with 62 wins, but were blasted out of the Western Conference Finals by the hated Colorado Avalanche.
In the early throes of the ’96-97 season, Shanahan got himself some ideas.
“(The trade to Detroit) took about two weeks to come together,” he said. “It wasn’t a phone call that said, ‘You’re traded.’”
Shanahan, unhappy with the tenuous Whalers, who would soon relocate to Carolina, looked at the Red Wings and saw an opportunity.
“They were an Original Six team, they were on the cusp of winning, and I thought I could help,” he said, adding a gross understatement at the end of that sentence.
The Red Wings had been manhandled by the Avs in the ’96 Final Four. They were humiliated by guys like Claude Lemieux and mocked by goalie Patrick Roy. The Red Wings’ overall team toughness was seriously questioned.
The Stanley Cup drought in Detroit had reached 41 years. And counting.
And here’s 44-goal scorer Brendan Shanahan, annually garnering triple digits in penalty minutes, a tough Irish guy who was as lethal with his gloves off as with them on, and he thinks he “could help”?
Yet not everyone agreed with him that Detroit would be an ideal destination.
“The players’ union tried to get me to go to Washington,” Shanahan told me. He nearly rolled his eyes when he said it. “There were others who tried to convince me that there were better places for me to go [than Detroit].”
But Shanahan wanted to make Shanny-to-the-Red Wings a reality.
I asked him about that first night as a Red Wing—when he was introduced at the team’s home opener, having rushed into town after the deal was finally done, to a mighty ovation. Thunderous, was more like it.
“When I stepped onto that ice, it was like, ‘OK, it’s official now. It’s all worth it.’”
Eight months later, the Red Wings exorcised their Stanley Cup demons. They won the thing 42 years after Lindsay and Howe and Sawchuk skated the Cup around the ice.
Shanahan played in all 20 of the team’s playoff games and scored nine goals, seemingly every one of them big—and was whistled for 43 penalty minutes. Natch.
The Red Wings weren’t soft any longer. Shanahan “helped” in that department, big time.
He’s helping in a different way now.
Shanahan, working with the folks at Gatorade, will serve as honorary coach for the 1999 Trenton Trojans high school reunion team who will take on the 1999 Detroit Catholic Central Shamrocks to settle some unfinished business. Those hockey powerhouses, fierce rivals, played to a 4-4 tie in a game at Trenton that was suspended following the horrific injury suffered to Trojan Kurt LaTarte, whose throat was slashed by a skate.
It’s all part of a TV series called REPLAY, where high school teams are reassembled to replay games that ended without a winner. The Trenton-CC game was selected for replay among over 2,000 applicants.
The CC honorary coach is Scotty Bowman. Yes, THAT Scotty Bowman.
“I want to win,” Shanahan said of the May 9 game. “I want to win at checkers. It should be an intense game. These players are blessed. They have a chance, 11 years later, to settle the score.”
Shanahan knows intense. He played hockey with a fierceness and fearlessness that I hadn’t seen in Detroit from a player of his talent prior to his arrival.
The playoffs, especially, were Shanahan’s time. He played in 184 post-season games and scored 60 goals. He racked up 279 penalty minutes. He helped import the term “power forward” from basketball’s lexicon.
And he won three Stanley Cups.
Shanahan scored, and he fought. He also increased the interest in hockey among the females. Often all in the same game. The Brendan Shanahan Hat Trick was a goal, a fight, a swoon.
I wanted to know what this time of the year meant to an old NHL warrior like him.
“You close yourself off to all other things,” he said. “Eating wasn’t enjoying food—it was just adding more fuel to your body. Sleeping wasn’t rest, it was something you needed. Everything was done for the next game. You sequestered yourself in the hotel with your teammates and you got blinders on.”
And the payoff?
“That’s what I liked most about it. When the final horn sounded and you were the winner and the season was over, that’s when you sort of pulled the blinders off and really took a look around you. You were on a mission. You were focused entirely on winning, and that was a lot of fun.”
Saturday was just the third time Shanahan had been on skates since he announced his retirement last fall. And don’t expect him to join any men’s leagues or appear in any old-timers games.
“Once you’ve climbed Mount Everest,” he said, “why step up a hill?”
(Note: every Friday I’ll post a favorite rant from the archives)
from January 4, 2010
Domino’s Pizza is finally coming clean.
They’ve admitted, finally, what most of us have known to be true for decades: they have an inferior product.
Domino’s is done trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes; they’re unveiling a new product—new sauce, crust, cheese, the works. TV ads are on the air now, with the dirty laundry there for all to see—and hear.
It’s like Big Boy’s saying their Slim Jim has been a fraud all these years. Or McDonald’s sheepishly acknowledging that the Big Mac isn’t all that.
Domino’s, though, has pretty much done one thing and one thing only for most of their 40-plus years of existence. And now they’re admitting that they couldn’t even do that right.
I haven’t had a Domino’s pie since the 1980s, I reckon. It was the pie of choice in my dorm at Eastern Michigan University, because the joint was close and they offered up some ridiculous deals, like a large pizza with one item for three dollars. Pittman Hall was crawling with Domino’s delivery men in those days, circa 1981-82.
The Detroit Tigers have been owned since 1983 by two men who made a lot of dough—pun probably intended—with a decidedly inferior pizza pie: Tom Monaghan (Domino’s) and Michael Ilitch (Little Caesars). I’ve crabbed about Mr. I’s pie in this space before.
I’m amazed that it took Domino’s this long, frankly, to reinvent themselves, what with the glut of pizza hawkers around town.
But this isn’t some New Coke marketing trick. Ann Arbor-based Domino’s is changing, and I don’t think there’ll be a hue and cry to change back.
It’s hard to put my finger on why I was never thrilled with Domino’s pizza. Plus, it’s been so long. But I do recall thinking that perhaps you’d be better off consuming the box in which it came.
This is serious business, to the tune of a $75 million ad campaign to say, basically, “We’re sorry!”
“A lot of people love us, but some people think we can get better,” says Domino’s Chief Marketing Officer Russell Weiner. “We listened to them, and we changed our pizza.”
Good for them, even if it’s some 20 years overdue. But I think Weiner has it backwards: some love Domino’s (though I’m dying to know who they are and if they’ve ever tasted another pizza before), but a lot think they can get better.
Domino’s admits now that they’ve been selling garbage, essentially, for decades. Now if we could only get our government to do the same thing.
Update: I have since tried the Domino’s near my office downtown (the Cadillac Square location), ordering online, and I must say the pizza has improved greatly.
NFL general managers, beware: you can’t stop Martin Mayhew, you can only hope to contain him.
Mayhew, the Lions’ football brainiac, reminds me of those chess experts who can play multiple opponents at once, because he’s staying one move ahead of his brethren.
His latest heist was the trade he made last night during the first round of the NFL Draft, when everyone thought Mayhew’s work was done with the selection of Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick.
Mayhew’s never done. You can’t drop your guard for one second with this guy. He’ll fleece you in broad daylight—in front of your family, your friends, your fans. He doesn’t bother to wear a mask. None of the great bandits did—just the amateurs who are afraid of being caught.
Mayhew obviously couldn’t care less who sees his face. He’s Jesse James, Clyde Barrow and John Dillinger, all rolled into one.
Mayhew picked Suh, as pretty much expected, then he went back to his chess board.
Later in the evening, the announcement came: the Lions had swapped with the Minnesota Vikings—a division rival, mind you—so that the Detroiters could get themselves a second first round pick. They bumped themselves up four picks, from 34th to 30th, and nabbed California running back Jahvid Best.
Mayhew is leaving a trail of victims in his wake.
It all started in October 2008, when Mayhew was on the job only a few weeks, when he played coy and gave misdirection about wanting to trade WR Roy Williams at the upcoming trade deadline.
His patience and savvy fooled Jerry Jones into surrendering a first round pick for the underachieving Williams.
It was then that I thought the Lions might have something special with this Martin Mayhew guy.
And it wasn’t beginner’s luck. Mayhew first perfected the art of the low-risk, high yield move. Now he’s flat out picking other GM’s pockets in full view of everyone.
In between there was his fine 2009 draft, from which the Lions got several starters.
I get the feeeling that Mayhew loves this stuff. Some executives become intoxicated by the art of the deal. Pistons GM Jack McCloskey comes to mind.
But Mayhew isn’t making trades and signing free agents just for the sake of it. His every crime has designs. He’s his own, one-man Mafia.
The impressive thing is that Mayhew seems to have this knack for making the other teams see things through his prism. I don’t know how he does it—charm, guile, intimidation—but he gets what he wants because he brainwashes the other guy into thinking that it’s for his own good, too.
Mayhew is the mugger who convinces you that you didn’t need all that cash and jewelry after all.
And the NFL’s GMs have to still suffer through a couple more days with Mayhew at the draft. They’d better watch their wallets—not that it would do them any good.
They say 40 is the new 30. Mayhew is the new Joe Dumars.
Remember when we gushed about Dumars? I was guilty of it. I was hardly alone.
Dumars is out; Mayhew is all the rage now.
Someone mentioned to Mayhew recently that he and the Lions have had a pretty good off-season.
“You don’t know if you have a good off-season until you play the season,” Mayhew said he responded.
Gee, all that and he has common sense and wisdom, too?
And to think that he served under Matt Millen for all those years. Millen was the goose who laid the Golden Egg (Mayhew) and no one knew it until the goose was run out of town.
The Lions had a good draft yesterday. Already. They’re Barry Sanders with two carries for 80 yards and 55 minutes still to play.
Pity the rest of the league.