Archive for October, 2010

Oct
31

Osgood May Be Nearing End of Great Career

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The 36-year-old defensive tackle, once called by his coach as “the greatest lineman I’ve ever seen in Detroit,” noticed something unnerving in how that same coach was now behaving whenever the defensive tackle was in his presence.

It was July, 1971 and another grueling football training camp at Cranbrook, the private school off Woodward Avenue in tony Bloomfield Hills. And Alex Karras began noticing something strange about Joe Schmidt, the Lions head coach.

“Whenever Joe would ask me if I still felt like playing, I’d tell him, ‘Yeah, I feel great,’” Karras related in a book he wrote calledEven Big Guys Cry. “But he wouldn’t look me in the eye when he asked me. And when I answered he’d kind of look down and just nod and say, ‘OK.’”

Karras said that Schmidt would ask him the same questions occasionally: How do you feel, Alex? Still think you can go another season?

The exhibition season came and went. Karras played, but not always very well. Sometimes he was pretty good; other times, he was pedestrian. And Karras knew it. He knew when some young whippersnapper guard got the best of him in the pretend games played in August and early-September.

Still, he was Alex Karras. The Lions’ first-round draft pick of 1958, 10th overall out of Iowa. A multiple Pro Bowler, multiple All-NFL—either first or second team. The great Green Bay guard Jerry Kramer, no less, professed his dislike of playing against Karras because Jerry couldn’t block him.

So he was 36 years old, so what? Maybe it just takes longer to get going.

Schmidt and Karras were teammates, even good friends at one point. Schmidt himself played until he was 35.

After the Lions’ final preseason game in 1971, Schmidt delivered the news: Karras was being fired—cut from the Lions after 12 seasons. Schmidt said it was one of the toughest decisions he ever had to make as a coach.

Schmidt explained that Karras’s production and skills were beginning to wane in 1970, when the 10-4 Lions made the playoffs. Karras didn’t agree, but that accounted for why Schmidt acted oddly in training camp, 1971 around the man known as “Tippy Toes” for his bemusing footwork in rushing the passer.

“Alex rushed the passer on mincing steps,” sportswriter Jerry Green once said.

But Schmidt fired Karras, and those mincing steps were on their way out of the NFL.

I can empathize with Joe Schmidt’s dilemma, faced with having to tell a former teammate and friend that his time as a pro football player had ended. Contrary to what you might think, football coaches dread cutting players. For them, they’re the cop in the middle of the night rapping on the door of a victim’s loved one.

I’m beginning to wonder if Red Wings coach Mike Babcock will soon be faced with the same dilemma regarding his veteran netminder, Chris Osgood.

Osgood has been a great Red Wing. For as long as I shall cover sports, I will never forget his tears, as he wept openly in front of his locker as a 21-year-old rookie, his gut wrenched over a puck he misplayed that ended up in the Detroit goal late in the third period, giving Game 7 of a 1994 first-round playoff series to the San Jose Sharks.

I’ll never forget his mother, hugging him tightly in the euphoric locker room inWashington in 1998, the Red Wings having just won a second consecutive Stanley Cup—a Cup that Osgood backstopped all by himself, overcoming one bad goal after another to play steely when it mattered most.

“You did it, Chris! You did it, baby!” his mother shrieked as she clutched her champagne-soaked son.

I’ll never forget the class and dignity he showed when the Red Wings cut him loose in 2001 in the wake of acquiring Hall of Famer Dominik Hasek.

And I’ll damn sure never forget how he rescued the Red Wings in 2008, taking over for the shaky Hasek in the first round of the playoffs and playing brilliantly, leading his team to yet another Stanley Cup.

I’ve written that Chris Osgood’s No. 30 sweater should hang from the rafters at Joe Louis Arena—or wherever the Red Wings end up playing—because of his years of service and multiple Stanley Cups won as starting goalie.

When Osgood struggled last year—his second straight sub-par regular season—I wrote that Osgood was merely sandbagging, and that he may yet be the starting goalie come playoff time, ahead of the rookie Jimmy Howard.

So don’t tell me that I haven’t been in his corner.

Howard has instilled himself as the No. 1 goalie in Detroit, without debate. Not even I, a longtime Osgood supporter, could deny that Howard played his way to first string, fair and square.

Osgood, who will be 38 next month, has accepted his status as permanent backup with his usual class and humility.

But backups still play in the NHL. Rare is the goalie who plays 70+ games nowadays.

Thursday night, Osgood was called upon, the situation rather urgent. Howard had come down with back spasms. The afternoon of the game, Babcock told Ozzie that he’d be between the pipes. It was a time when the backup had to gather himself and be ready at a moment’s notice.

Osgood didn’t appear ready once the puck was dropped.

The game barely 12 minutes old, the Red Wings were trailing, 3-0. The third goal was a seemingly harmless wrist shot from 40 feet out that eluded Osgood, who didn’t so much as touch it.

The Joe Louis Arena crowd shifted restlessly in their seats. Some verbally assaulted Osgood. You’d have thought Rush Limbaugh had just walked into the Democratic National Convention.

The Red Wings tried to come back but lost, 4-2, to the inferior Phoenix Coyotes.

It was yet another mediocre performance brought forth by Osgood, who made some nice saves but who also allowed the kind of goals that hockey people say the goalie “would like to have back.”

The number of goals that Chris Osgood would like to have back are piling up; they have been, going on three seasons now.

It may be time, sooner rather than later, for Mike Babcock and GM Kenny Holland to face that dreaded decision.

How to tell Osgood, a great Red Wing, that his services are no longer needed?

He’s helping to lose games for the team, and has been doing so for quite some time. Osgood, I’m sad to say, is no longer a serviceable NHL goalie.

I’m just glad I’m not the one who has to tell him that to his face.

Categories : Uncategorized
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Major League Baseball wants its playoff cake and eat it, too.

Commissioner Bud Selig, The Man Who Destroyed Division Races As We Used to Know Them, is at it again. Selig wants more playoff teams, and he wants them now—as early as next season. The players union has indicated that more post-season teams in 2012 might be amenable.

“We haven’t abused our allotment,” Selig told reporters this week. “We only have eight out of 30 teams make the playoffs.”

Selig points to the NFL, which has 12 of its 32 teams make the playoffs, and the NHL and NBA, which each allow 16 of their 30 teams into the post-season party. Then he looks at MLB and sees but eight out of 30 teams qualify, and apparently Bud wants some of that playoff action for his sport, too.

This isn’t a debate about whether there should be more playoff teams in baseball. Sadly, Selig and his owners squashed that like a bug when the Wild Card was introduced in 1995, which has since rendered a lot of divisional races as moot as a Brett Favre retirement announcement.

No, the ship has sailed that allowed intelligent discussion about the pros and cons of a Wild Card, which reared its ugly head again this year in the American League East when what should have been a heart-pounding, nail-biting race between the Yankees and the Rays instead turned meaningless, as both teams made the playoffs.

It’s too late to save the division race as we once knew it.

The focus of the argument now is, if Selig wants more playoffs, then he has to give somewhere else.

Namely, the length of the regular season.

The World Series will once again drift into November this year. Thank goodness the Texas Rangers are hosts this weekend. MLB is playing with fire. Heaven forbid the day when the Minnesota Twins and Colorado Rockies meet in the November Classic. Can you throw a curveball with mittens on?

Selig wants more playoffs, but when are you going to play the extra games?

There’s even talk of extending the divisional series to a best-of-seven, too.

Just how many days does Selig think October has, anyway?

Additional playoffs will have to mean either: a) a reduced regular season (thus cutting into each team’s gate); b) starting the season earlier; or c) schedule more honest-to-goodness doubleheaders (NOT the day/night ones, either; I’m talking the old-fashioned Sunday afternoon twinbills).

It’s the lesser of two evils, to begin the season in March as opposed to having the World Series end in mid-November. At least a March start will allow for as many games in the first week or two to be played either indoors or in warm weather climates.

Have as many northern-based teams play out west or down south or in Toronto as possible, beginning around March 24 or so. This may mean some teams will play their first 6-10 games on the road, but so be it. Everyone gets 81 home and 81 away, so it all evens out eventually.

I’m guessing that more playoffs in MLB would mean two more teams in each league qualifying, creating an NFL-like system of six teams in each league participating.

That scenario would likely give the top two divisional winners, by won/lost record, a bye in the first round. Then the other four battle it out—the third divisional winner and the three Wild Cards—with those two winners facing the bye teams.

I’m not wild about any of this, and one reason is that getting a bye and waiting a week or so to play your first playoff game seems unnatural, after playing 162 games with little rest. I can’t help but wonder if this would inadvertently penalize the best teams, who would have to begin the playoffs cold against a team that just got done playing a series.

The only way this scenario could be avoided would be to add four playoff teams to each league, so that no one gets a bye. Now you’d have 16 out of the 30 teams making the playoffs. Kind of makes a 162-game season overkill, to eliminate less than half of the MLB teams.

Can you imagine five Wild Cards per league?

However he chooses to implement it, Selig can’t keep everything else status quo. He can’t start in early-April, play 162 games, extend the DS to a best-of-seven, and add playoff teams. The World Series would bump up against Thanksgiving.

I’d like to see Selig try to convince perennial bottom feeders like the Royals and Pirates that they should give up some home dates in order to make the regular season shorter, so Bud can add playoff teams and lengthen the DSs.

Bud Selig has already destroyed the traditional pennant race. Now he wants to emulate the other three majors and add to his post-season invite list.

I don’t like it, so the least he can do is compromise elsewhere.

Selig wants his cake and eat it, too. I hope he chokes on it.

Categories : Baseball, Out of Bounds
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Oct
26

Burning Sensation

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I smell them in the evening, as I walk our Jack Russell Terrier around the neighborhood, and few things stagger my olfactory nerves with such a wallop.

They’re bonfires, and folks are having them all over the place anymore. And that’s a good thing.

We sprung for a nice, stone-framed fire pit this spring, in anticipation of those cool evenings when you’d just as soon be outside next to crackling wood than inside watching TV.

There’s something wonderfully intoxicating about gathering around a fire, in your own backyard, assembling some gooey s’mores or turning an impaled frankfurter over the flame. Or just sitting and staring at the orange, yellow and blue that emanates from the burning wood.

You can get awfully relaxed looking at a fire. The worries of the day magically leave you. And the smell, meshed with the cool autumn air, makes you feel like you’re camping in the woods.

The fire experience reached its apex for us as a family in late August, when we vacationed near Port Huron. Our beach resort had a fire pit, and our daughter fixed a roaring gem around dusk. By nightfall, all you could hear was the crackling of the wood and Lake Huron lapping up onto the beach. Above us were stars that went 180 degrees, horizon to horizon. The moon was in the sky overlooking the water, casting a beam of light that went across the lake from beach to horizon.

It was heavenly.

I love smelling the fires around the neighborhood at night, walking the pooch. It’s funny about things that burn. If they’re not supposed to be burning, the smell can be awful. But if it’s a planned, controlled burning, then it’s positively inviting.

I like having my bundles of wood nearby—like a security blanket. Lets me know that the flames will be carrying on for quite some time; all I need to do is reach in, grab another log, and pile it on.

All that wood we go through, and the next morning it’s nothing but a pile of ash in the pit.

A drawback to the bonfire? It makes your clothes (and sometimes your hair) smell like smoke.

A small price to pay, I say!

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Oct
25

No Joke—The Texas Rangers Are in the World Series

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It’s time for another World Series. Time to take attendance.

In the National League—San Francisco Giants? Check. Lineage of the old New York Giants—the franchise of Ott, Mathewson, Hubbell, Mays, Durocher and Irvin, then later in San Francisco: McCovey, Marichal, Cepeda, all those Alous. Here’s your pass—good luck out there.

Now to the American League.

Hey, is this someone’s idea of a joke? Who goes there? The Texas Rangers?

The Texas Rangers?

I’m not laughing. This may as well be the World Serious. No time for gags.

Texas Rangers, please have a seat. Where are the Yankees, tied up in the back room? Were the Red Sox too busy? Heck, give me the Oakland A’s—or even the Angels of Los Angeles/Anaheim/Southern California. Let’s make it an intra-state Series.

What happened to the Baltimore Orioles? I hear Boog Powell is ready to club another three-run home run while Earl Weaver steals a smoke in the runway.

Really, stop fooling around here. The Texas Rangers? Aren’t they the team that got their asses kicked by a bunch of dime beer-consuming fans in Cleveland back in 1974? Manager Billy Martin was running around the field at Municipal Stadium wielding a bat, trying to keep the drunks off his players.

What’s tradition with the Rangers? They came from Washington—first in war, first in peace, last in the American League. Ted Williams was the Rangers’ first manager; he lasted one season before he realized he didn’t look good in cowboy boots.

The Texas Rangers? In the World Series?

Where’s Allen Funt and that hidden camera? OK, you got me good. I wasn’t ready for that one. Nicely played.

How could the Rangers be in the World Series? Their all-time greatest team includes Buddy Bell and Pete O’Brien. Is this the Rangers’ reward for being the first team to schedule Sunday night games? Hey, it was only because it was too damn hot to play during the daytime—let’s not go overboard here.

Didn’t Nolan Ryan just pitch for them a couple of years ago? He went from the mound on a Friday to the president’s office on Monday, I hear.

The Texas Rangers, showing up to the World Series? To actually play in it?

Is this like when they elected Carrie as Prom Queen? Are they going to dump pig’s blood on them just before the first pitch in Game One?


The Rangers, trying to take cover on Dime Beer Night in Cleveland, 1974


No teams named after a whole state should be in the World Series—isn’t that a rule? The Minnesota Twins did it three times and the Arizona Diamondbacks once but I hear someone had some photographs.

The Texas Rangers. They didn’t even win a post-season series until this year. Hell, they hadn’t even won a playoff game at home, period, until this month, and that was in the second round. There ought to be a law against such a fast track to the World Series.

With the Giants all the aforementioned names come to mind. With the Rangers, I keep thinking of Billy Sample and Steve Buechele and Jeff Burroughs. I stop and try again and all I can come up with is Joe Lovitto and Jim Sundberg and Dean Palmer.

Yeah, I know they had the Rodriguezes Pudge and Alex, but they both beat it out of town.

This is the franchise that won 94 games in 1977, but it needed four managers to do it—all managing within a week of each other.

Frank Lucchesi was fired on June 21. Eddie Stanky was brought in and he managed one game on June 22 before he got homesick and quit. The Rangers then turned to coach Connie Ryan and he managed six games. Finally, Billy Hunter took over a week after Lucchesi’s last game and guided the Rangers for the final 93 games. The name plates were made from dry erase board.

Two of the Rangers’ first three managers were Ted Williams and Billy Martin. Whitey Herzog was in between. Three big names, and that was the problem—they were bigger names than their players.

Until the Rangers won the ALCS the other night, the proudest night in franchise history was the night Nolan Ryan beat the stuffing out of young whippersnapper Robin Ventura on the pitching mound, when Ventura charged Ryan after being hit in the back with one of Nolan’s fastballs.

Someone should have told Robin that he got lucky with a medium-speed fastball in the back; if Nolan wanted to, he could have killed him, right there in the batter’s box.

So it’s not a joke then? The Texas Rangers are really here to play in the World Series?

Ohhh….I get it. This year’s Series is going to bleed into November and they needed a warm weather state.

Categories : Baseball, Out of Bounds
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Phineas Taylor Barnum was a born showman. He was placed on this Earth to sell tickets, fill houses, and count receipts. He was the Columbus of show business—P.T. discovered acts, and freaks. Sometimes they were one and the same.

Barnum had a wonderfully simple explanation of how he was able to become a millionaire with traveling shows that featured lizard boys, bearded women, and the “Feejee” mermaid (a creature with the head of a monkey and the tail of a fish).

How did ole P.T. do it?

“There’s a sucker born every minute,” he said.

And a whole bunch of them, apparently, paid admission into Barnum’s shows.

Jim Campbell was as far removed from P.T. Barnum as a human being could get.

Campbell was the Tigers’ general manager from the early-1960s through 1983. He was a staid man with a bald head and a round face and he said “Hell” a lot.

“That was a hell of a game.”

“Hell, I don’t know.”

“Hell, we’re real happy.”

Campbell was as much of a showman as sardines are a dessert. He wanted his team to make money, no mistake about it. He just didn’t want any pomp and circumstance in the process.

Campbell once closed the centerfield bleachers at Tiger Stadium for weeks, because there were too many beach balls being batted around up there. He abhorred the bashing, rock-and-roll music played at ballparks. Campbell was an organ guy.

Campbell lived and died with his Tigers, 162 times a year. There was a ten-game losing streak that caused him to lose so much weight, he looked like he had a disease.

But there wasn’t any showman in Campbell.

Still, he found himself a sucker anyway.

Forty years ago this month, Bob Short, the owner of the Washington Senators, dialed up Campbell. Several discussions later, Campbell fleeced Short so badly that if it had happened on Wall Street, the SEC would have begun an investigation.

Campbell not only wasn’t a showman, he had a great disdain for the malcontent, for the miscreant. Rocky Colavito, Hollywood handsome and a basher of home runs, once tested Campbell with a contract holdout. Rocky might as well have had a staring contest with a statue.

Campbell won; he signed Colavito but traded him out of Detroit forthwith.

So by October 1970, Campbell had had his fill of one Denny McLain.

Two years prior, Denny was on top of the baseball world. He won the MVP, the Cy Young Award, and 31 games, pretty much with two pitches—a fastball and a curve. But it was a very fast fastball and a very curvaceous curve.

Denny flamed out in the World Series in ‘68, but he came back to co-win another Cy Young in 1969.

But in 1970, Denny started to go sideways.

The warning signs had been there. Even when he had success on the diamond, Denny flaunted team rules. He jetted across the country, playing the organ—during the season. He engaged in shady financial practices, once involving some of his teammates in a failed paint business.

There were whispers—more like shouts—that Denny had also got himself involved with some mobsters. He gambled freely. He commiserated with bookies. Rumor still has it that gangsters stomped on Denny’s foot late in the 1967 season, knocking him out of commission while the Tigers were embroiled in a tense pennant race.

Denny was a free spirit and he marched to the beat of his own drummer and Jim Campbell hated that.

In 1970, Commissioner Bowie Kuhn suspended McLain for the first half of the season for the gambling and mobster allegations. Then Denny doused a couple of sportswriters with a bucket of ice water. Later, Kuhn suspended him again for carrying a gun in violation of his probation.

Denny had turned into a full-time pain in the ass and won all of three games in 1970, so when the Senators’ Short showed interest in acquiring McLain, it was all Jim Campbell could do to not choke on his own saliva.

On October 9, 1970, Campbell finalized the deal—one that was so lopsided that Campbell practically stumbled all over himself to phone it into the league offices before Short came to his senses.

For McLain, third baseman Don Wert, pitcher Norm McRae and outfielder Elliott Maddox, Campbell had coerced Short to cough up third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez, shortstop Eddie Brinkman, and pitchers Joe Coleman and Jim Hannan.

Campbell had gotten from the Senators: a starting left side of the infield, a young, up-and-coming starting pitcher, and a bullpen arm for McLain, an aging Wert, and two players the Tigers had no intention of developing.

Rodriguez, Brinkman and Coleman were productive Tigers for several years each. Wert went 2-for-40 for the Senators and retired. McRae did nothing; Maddox did slightly more than nothing.

And Denny McLain?

Denny battled manager Ted Williams and his own degradation of skills all summer. He won 10 games and lost 22. A year later, McLain was finished, performing horribly for Atlanta and Oakland before calling it quits. He was 28 years old.

P.T. Barnum was right—there really was a sucker born every minute.

Ironically, Campbell made another move that off-season that seemed counter to his persona.

Campbell fired manager Mayo Smith—he was nothing like he was in 1968, either—and replaced him with the volatile Billy Martin, who wasn’t the type of manager that Campbell normally fancied.

But Campbell felt the 1970 Tigers had laid down so badly for Smith—and he was right—that the players needed a fiery type to jump start them.

It worked, for a time.

Martin performed his magic and furthered his reputation as a manager who could make chicken salad out of chicken feathers. He guided his aging, creaky team to the 1972 American League East Championship, taking them within one run of the World Series.

By the next season, Martin’s bizarre antics wore thin on Campbell and owner John Fetzer, so Campbell fired Billy.

The GM wasn’t going to be anyone’s sucker.

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Oct
20

MSU’s Dantonio Returning Greatness to Spartan Football

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It’s amazing how often the saviors of college football programs arrive, and you didn’t know it at the time.

When the University of Michigan tabbed him in 1969, Glenn E. “Bo” Schembechler was the head coach at Miami of Ohio, a school so unheralded they need to remind you what state they’re from all the time.

Bo coached at Miami in the Mid-American Conference for six seasons, compiling a 40-17-3 record, yet one of the Detroit newspapers welcomed Schembechler to town with a derisive, two-word headline.

“Bo WHO?”

That November, on a gray day in Ann Arbor, his Wolverines having just upset the mighty Ohio State Buckeyes, no one asked who Schembechler was. Instead, they wondered where he’d been.

Bo took over a Michigan program that was a shell of what it used to be (sound familiar?). The year prior to Bo’s hiring, Woody Hayes’s Buckeyes beat Michigan, 50-14. Late in the game, Hayes elected to go for a two-point conversion, despite the lopsided score. After the game, reporters asked him why.

“Why did I go for two?” Hayes growled. “Because I couldn’t go for three!”

In 1969, behind the running of Billy Taylor, Michigan stunned previously unbeaten OSU, 24-12.

Schembechler, the coach from Miami (of Ohio), turned into one of the most successful coaches in college football history. Some would tell you he was the best ever at Michigan—even better than Fielding Yost.

Bo saved Michigan, even though no one could see it coming.

Mark Dantonio didn’t drop out of the sky onto the campus of Michigan State University, but he may as well have.

Dantonio was an assistant at MSU and OSU before becoming head coach at Cincinnati, a nice little program but not exactly the career path to elite status. Just ask Brian Kelly. In Dantonio’s three seasons coaching the Bearcats, his overall record was 18-17.

Mark WHO?

The Spartans, following the retirement of George Perles in 1995, have used the revolving door method with their football coaches. No one man ever stuck around long enough to get a good foothold on what they were going to do with the program.

MSU had Nick Saban for five years, then Bobby Williams for three, then John L. Smith for four. The Spartans’ cumulative record during that time was 73-69-1. The wheels, they were a spinnin’.

Then came Mark Dantonio from Cincinnati, with his 18-17 record and a resume that most athletic directors may have tossed back into the pile.

It’s looking like the hiring of Dantonio might be the best one MSU has made with the football program since plucking Perles from the pros in 1983.

It isn’t just that Dantonio is an MSU guy; after all, so were Saban and Williams. It’s that Dantonio has something that’s hard to describe—a certain je ne sais quoi. He just feels like the right guy to make the Spartans relevant again in college football.

This isn’t just the drumbeat for a guy who’s enjoying a 7-0 start this season. Dantonio, since taking over in 2007, has been building something in East Lansing, though it hasn’t always shown in the won-lost record.

There’s some continuity forming in the football coaching at MSU, a program that needs such continuity in the worst way.

Winning football programs have that continuity. Few are the schools who change coaches with the frequency of leap years, who find success on the gridiron.

The University of Michigan, I fear, may be heading in that direction. The anti-Rich Rodriguez folks can certainly make their case for a change, but every time you change coaches, you potentially set the program back a couple of years, at least.

I hit Lloyd Carr with the situation going on at my alma mater, Eastern Michigan University, before we at the Wayne County Commission honored Carr and Perles with Lifetime Achievement Awards on October 7. EMU is being coached by Ron English, former defensive coordinator at U-M under Carr. The Eagles just snapped an 18-game losing streak.

Has Carr spoken with coach English, I wondered. He had.

“When you’re a new coach at a school, it takes you a year, maybe two, just to figure out what you have and who can play,” Carr told me about English, who’s in his second year at Eastern.

And it was, ironically, John L. Smith, who said these words to me when I interviewed him in the summer of 2006 about what he was trying to do at MSU.

“We need to get some continuity here,” Smith told me, “So we’re not changing coaches every dadgum couple of years.”

2006 would be Smith’s last year at MSU.

Mark Dantonio is building something in East Lansing—something that campus hasn’t seen the likes of in decades. It can be a powerhouse program again, maybe as soon as this season. No joke.

One thing’s for certain. No one dares ask, “Mark WHO?”

Categories : football, Out of Bounds
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Oct
20

So Long, Mr. C!

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The exasperated spouse or parent has been a staple in American family sitcoms since they were recording the programs on kinescopes. That remained constant for decades; what would change was the source of the exasperation—another spouse, a child, a neighbor, etc.

Tom Bosley was among the best at being exasperated, and Lord knows he had plenty of sources with which to deal.

Bosley, 83, passed away today at his home in Palm Springs, CA, his family said. Reports say he died of heart failure, and that he was also battling lung cancer. A recent staph infection didn’t help, either.

Bosley was Howard Cunningham, father of Richie and Joanie and husband to Marion on the ABC hit “Happy Days,” which ran from 1974-84.

There was no shortage to the annoyances Howard Cunningham had to put up with.

There were his kids, who although well-behaved for the most part, were also rather impressionable and prone to getting caught up in the schemes of their friends.

Ah, those friends—Ralph Malph, Potsie Weber, and once Joanie started dating, Chachi Arcola.

And the biggest one of them all—Arthur “Fonzie” Fonzarelli.

If it wasn’t for his sweet, empathetic wife Marion to calm him and put him in his place, poor Howard might have ended up in one of those rooms with the rubber walls.

The show took place in Milwaukee; Bosley was from Chicago, about two hours south—so the midwestern accent he had worked perfectly for the show’s setting.

Bosley was a mostly unheralded character, making the rounds in late-1960s and early-’70s sitcoms and dramas, his mug popping up here and there. Then he got that mother lode of breaks that every character actor dreams of.

Bosley was cast as Howard Cunningham in 1974, as ABC’s Garry Marshall decided to make a TV series based loosely on the cult movie favorite “American Graffiti.”

Bosley, along with Henry Winkler (Fonzie) and Marion Ross (Marion), were the only three of the troupe who appeared in all 255 episodes.

Bosley was a salmon swimming upstream after “Happy Days,” refusing to be typecast. His doggedness paid off; he landed the role of Sheriff Tupper in “Murder, She Wrote” (1984-88) and Father Dowling in “Father Dowling Mysteries” (1987-91).

Bosley was a man with a wide, ruddy face, dancing eyes, and the shape of a bag of flour. His popularity was either helped or hindered by the fact that many folks mistook him for David Doyle, who played a character named Bosley on “Charlie’s Angels.”

Former co-star Winkler told TMZ that he was “blown away” the first time he saw Bosley perform, on Broadway.

“And then I got to act with him for 10 years and he was great,” Winkler said. “Tom Bosley was our mentor. He was a true artist … a great husband, and a fabulous father and grandfather. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.”

Bosley last appeared in the 2010 comedy “The Back-up Plan” with Jennifer Lopez.

Categories : Enotes, Entertainment
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Oct
18

Reasons for Latest Lions Loss Encoded Within Stat Sheet

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Another football Sunday for the Lions, another time to play a little game to amuse yourself.

It’s called “Why Did They Lose?” and it involves perusing the stat sheet after the game.

On some Sundays, you need to look hard, maybe two or three times, to find this skewed version of Waldo. Other times, it practically jumps out at you.

Let’s take a peek, shall we, in the wake of the Lions’ 28-20 loss to the Giants in the Meadowlands?

Let’s see…

Oh, this is one of those weeks where you don’t have to look very hard. Put the magnifying glass away, save the squinting. This week’s game of “Why Did They Lose” must be for beginners—set at the remedial level.

Where do you want to begin?

Well, there were the penalties—11 of them for 91 yards of precious football real estate, compared to just two for 15 yards for the well-behaved Giants. The Giants were awarded four first downs thanks to penalties; the Lions—none.

Here’s another—the Giants had 167 rushing yards on just 30 carries (5.6 avg); the Lions managed a measly 64 yards on 21 attempts (3.0 avg). The Lions’ leading rusher was their third-string quarterback, Drew Stanton. Take away Drew’s 30 yards on three carries, and the other runners combined for 34 yards on 18 carries.

Moving down the stat sheet…

Turnovers: the Lions had three, the Giants just one.

Thanks for playing “Why Did They Lose?”!!

The game also had the usual fourth quarter backbreaker. This time it was the Lions surrendering a 45-yard run to Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw late in the quarter, not long after the Lions had pulled to within 21-17. That set up a Brandon Jacobs TD run, and the Giants were safely ahead by 11 once again.

Another football Sunday for the Lions.

As for the penalties, the Lions are in the middle of a cruel, vicious cycle.

They haven’t won for eons, thus they don’t typically get the borderline calls from the officials. And, because they’re talent-challenged, they have a smaller margin for error than most clubs. On top of all that, the Lions commit preventable, foolish infractions that kill momentum and wipe out what little good this team is able to muster.

I’m looking at you, Stephen Peterman.

The guard ran roughshod over a Giants DB, leading into him with his helmet, in an overzealous attempt to “clean up” a good gainer for the Lions. The boneheaded move cost the Lions 15 yards and changed the complexion of a critical possession.

The Lions have 106 feet on the legs of their 53-man roster, and they’ve just about shot them all off and we’re only six games into the season.

I’ll suggest it yet again. I believe that NFL games are more lost than they are won. Every week it’s a game of “Who can make the fewest mistakes?”

The question that resonates more every week isn’t, “What did Team A do to win?” It’s, “What did Team B do to lose?”

It’s usually easier to spot the loser on a pro football scoresheet than it is the winner.

You want a bright spot? Then I submit to you Mr. Stanton, who played reasonably well after being pressed into duty late in the first half thanks to Shaun Hill’s arm injury.

What is it with Lions QBs and the ends of halves this season?

Stanton turned the ball over twice and his accuracy issues occasionally reared their heads, but considering the circumstances, I thought he acquitted himself OK—better than I feared, let’s put it that way.

But the Lions couldn’t get RB Jahvid Best going, and that’s becoming a weekly concern.

Best, when he’s on, is the closest thing to Barry Sanders in terms of slipperiness that we’ve seen since Barry retired in 1999. But his flashes have been few and far between. He’s battling turf toe, but 16 yards on 12 carries—his production Sunday—is still unacceptable.

The Lions tried several first down runs, but they often gained nothing and at 2nd-and-9, 2nd-and-10, the Giants could think pass and nothing else, with impunity.

Too often 2nd-and-10 turned into 3rd-and-long, which turned into Nick Harris-awaiting-the-snap.

It all added up to another loss—that’s 24 straight on the road if you’re keeping score at home—and anyone who has the gall to act surprised and wonder why only needs to have the stat sheet thrust beneath their nose.

The answer can be found within that document; it usually is, after all.

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The second-best coach in Red Wings history has just pulled off a sleight of hand of epic proportions. Henning, Blackstone, Blaine, Copperfield—they got nothing on Mike Babcock.

It was a blink-and-you-miss-it sort of thing. Heck, even if you propped your eyelids open with toothpicks, you still would have missed it. That’s how tricky Babcock is.

The second-best coach in Red Wings history, trailing only that enigmatic savant, Scotty Bowman, guided the franchise through a transition period and I bet you didn’t even know that until the very moment you’re reading this.

But more on that in a bit.

This week the Red Wings announced they have signed Babcock, their coach since 2005, to a four-year extension, running through the 2014-15 season.

The news was greeted with the customary yawns and shrugs befitting an organization that never seems to make the wrong move. The Red Wings could have announced they’d signed Babcock to a 10-year extension and no one would have said boo.

It was like peanut butter announcing it was renewing its contract with jelly for another four years.

The Red Wings were so bad for so long—from the late-1960s through the mid-1980s—that it’s easy to forget that, prior to Bowman and Babcock, not every man who stood behind the Detroit bench was a shmuck.

There was Jack Adams, for whom the league’s Coach of the Year Award is named. Jack’s Red Wings teams were almost always solid, sometimes spectacular, when he coached them from 1927 thru 1947, winning three Stanley Cups along the way.

There was Tommy Ivan, who won Stanley Cups with the Red Wings in 1950, ’52, and ’54.

And there was Jimmy Skinner, a Cup winner in 1955 in Detroit.

But Babcock has already, in just his sixth season as Red Wings coach, leap-frogged his way past Messrs. Adams, et al to be nipping on Bowman’s heels in terms of greatness in the Motor City.

A typical Red Wings season under Babcock, averaging his five in Detroit, has been 52 wins, 20 losses, and 10 overtime/shootout losses. That’s the mean. That’s greatness.

All that, plus a couple Presidents’ Trophies for the league’s best regular season record, a Stanley Cup, and a near-miss. Oh, and a 100-point season last year, when injuries ravaged his team—plus a first round playoff victory.

But it’s Babcock’s aforementioned sleight of hand that gets me.

Did you know that the Red Wings underwent a transition period from 2005 to 2007?

You’re excused. No one else noticed it, either. It’s another tribute to Babcock’s greatness as an NHL coach.

It may be hard for you to believe, but the Red Wings were a team at a crossroads when Babcock joined them in 2005, on the heels of the infamous labor lockout, which canceled the entire 2004-05 season.

It was barely perceptible, but it was there.

The Red Wings were coming off two seasons of being coached by Dave Lewis, Bowman’s longtime assistant who was—wrongly, I believe—promoted after Scotty retired in the glow of the 2002 Cup.

Lewis’s teams had great regular seasons—continuing tradition—but were largely busts in the playoffs. The 2003 team was swept by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks in the first round, and the 2004 squad didn’t make it past the second round.

The coach of the Mighty Ducks in 2003—a team that made it all the way to the Cup Finals as the league’s Cinderella story—was none other than Mike Babcock.

Lewis was canned during the lockout, and Red Wings GM Ken Holland wanted Babcock and no one else. Holland remembered what Babcock’s ’03 team did to the Red Wings, and he also knew what Babcock had done previously as coach of a minor league team in Cincinnati that was partly affiliated with the Red Wings.

So Babcock came to town with his scarred rock jaw and his intense stare and clothes that needed pressing more than a Panini sandwich and proceeded to rub his veteran players the wrong way.

But it didn’t take him long to learn to back off and realize that his was a locker room full of Hall of Famers, not AHLers.

Ahh, but where was the transition, you might ask?

Within his first two seasons at the helm, Babcock lost veterans Brett Hull and Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan—for starters. At the same time, he was cultivating and blending in younger players like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Johan Franzen.

Babcock’s starting goalie when he arrived in Detroit was the fragile Manny Legace.

Yet the Red Wings kept winning.

There was a disappointing first round playoff loss in 2006 to the Edmonton Oilers, who would go on to play in the Finals. But after that, Babcock’s teams went to three straight Conference Finals, winning two of them.

You missed the transition again, didn’t you?

OK, stay with me here.

Babcock took over a Red Wings team coming off two straight disappointing playoffs, a lockout, and that was about to see its roster evolve, with legendary players leaving and bright new stars entering.

All that, and Babcock had to adapt his fiery, oppressive coaching style to suit his plethora of veteran players.

Yet the Red Wings kept winning, kept going to the Final Four, and won a Stanley Cup and damn near a second.

So you can see why the news of Babcock’s four-year contract extension was hardly Earth-shattering. The better question isn’t why the Red Wings extended him; it’s, why didn’t they extend him longer?

The second-best coach in Red Wings history has just been given four more years in Detroit—years during which he just might do the ultimate frog leap: pass Scotty Bowman in terms of Hockeytown coaching greatness.

Who knows what that tricky Mike Babcock has up his sleeve, eh?

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Oct
15

No Champagne Allowed: LDS Winners Need to Tone it Down

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I’m usurping Bud Selig on this one. I’m railroading the legislation through. I’m going to be judge, jury, and party pooper.

I’m starting the new rule, effective with the 2011 MLB playoffs.

NO champagne celebrations after winning divisional series.

That’s it—record it, stenographer. Have it ready for my signature, forthwith. If I have to fly to New York and enter it into law myself, so be it.

There’s nothing right with acting as if you’ve won some sort of championship, when all you’ve done is advance to your league’s finals.

Yet every year since the Wild Card and, by extension, another layer of playoffs was added to MLB’s post-season, we see the winners of the DS carry on to the hilt—the on-field pile, then the champagne-drenched locker room.

Enough.

Can you imagine this kind of behavior in other sports?

Winning a divisional series in baseball is no different than surviving the second round in the NBA or the NHL; in all three instances, it means your team is in the Final Four. Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s hardly cause to party as if it was 2099.

I’m not a homer here—I treat the Tigers’ locker room party after they eliminated the Yankees in 2006 no differently. It was over the top, just as all the other post-DS celebrations.

It’s funny, but if you look at old films from World Series celebrations of the 1940s and ’50s, they were amusingly muted. The final out is recorded, and maybe the catcher leaps into the arms of the pitcher. In many scenes I’ve witnessed, there is a simple handshake. A handshake!!

Oh, there might be a few players slapping each other on the back and occasionally hugging, but there wasn’t much to it.

And that was after winning the World Freaking Series.

Yet here we are today, with divisional series winners reacting as if they just found out that their tax rates were slashed to those of poverty level folks.

So what IS the proper way to celebrate a divisional series win?

Just as you do in the aforementioned NHL and NBA, after winning a conference semi-final series.

Some fist and chest bumps, a few slaps on the back, and a proud walk to the locker room, er, clubhouse.

That’s it.

You wanna crack open a bottle at your locker? Then it’d better be pop or Aquafina. Or a beer, tops.

No lining the lockers with protective plastic. I don’t want to see one Andre label. Same rule applies as it does for bats: no cork allowed.

You wanna kick it after winning the LCS? Be my guest; knock yourself out. You’ve won a pennant, after all. You have my permission.

But I’m taking a hard line on the LDS celebrations, my friend. There’s a new party sheriff in town, and he’s going to be raining on your parade, starting next year.

If only.

Categories : Baseball, Out of Bounds
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