Archive for June, 2012

Jun
29

I’ll Have What She Had

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The trick to Nora Ephron’s work was that it was written from a woman’s perspective but it didn’t make fools of the men.

Ephron, the screenwriter/director/producer who passed away on Tuesday (age 71) after a bout with leukemia, wrote some of the best romantic comedies of her generation. She wrote them as a woman, for women, but the male characters were some of the best on screen as well.

An Ephron film, at its best, drew gobs of men to the theater, and not just as polite dates.

But for all of Ephron’s notoriety as a master of the rom-com, it was a decidedly different type of story that opened up doors for her.

That would be Silkwood (1983), the adaptation of the true story of Karen Silkwood, the whistle-blowing worker for a plutonium plant who died in a mysterious car accident. Ephron wrote the screenplay and turned the directing over to no less than Mike Nichols. A writer could do worse.

After the success of Silkwood, things got less serious and more funny in Ephron’s words and screen direction.

There was 1986′s Heartburn, which, like Silkwood, starred Meryl Streep, who paired with Jack Nicholson. Again, Ephron wrote and Nichols directed.

But Ephron will probably forever be tied to When Harry Met Sally.., a smash hit starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. The pairing of Crystal and Ryan, who had on-screen chemistry to the nth degree, plus Ephron’s writing and Rob Reiner’s direction, was a lethal box office combination.

Among the most famous scenes in cinematic history has Ryan faking an orgasm in a diner, after which an older woman (Reiner’s mother in real life) deadpans to her waiter, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

One of the funniest lines ever, right? But someone had to write it. That would be Nora Ephron.

Ryan popped up in another Ephron vehicle (this one she directed as well), Sleepless in Seattle, in which Ryan shared billing, but precious little screen time, with Tom Hanks.

That lack of shared screen time would be more than rectified in 1998′s You’ve Got Mail, among one of the first movies to acknowledge the power of the burgeoning Internet. Ryan and Hanks demonstrated the same sparks together as Ryan and Crystal did nine years earlier in Harry.

Ephron, by this time, was done being just a writer; she was now producing and directing everything she wrote, and thus became one of the few female filmmakers who wielded some genuine power in Hollywood.

Nora Ephron: 1941-2012
Her most recent work was 2009′s Julie and Julia, a foodie rom-com in which the Julia in the title was famed chef Julia Child.

But the common thread that ran through her romantic comedies, and I can’t emphasize this enough, was Ephron’s ability, as both writer and director, to prop up women without downgrading men. Yes, there were some muted villains in some of Ephron’s films (Old man Fox in You’ve Got Mail, who revels in putting other bookstores out of business), but for the most part, the men in her movies weren’t dunderheads with bubbles coming out of the seat of their pants.

She wrote and directed movies that got both sexes to the theater willingly and with something for both genders. An Ephron film could be laughed at by the women without making their male dates squirm with shame.

Ephron once wrote a six-word biography for herself thusly, “Secret to life: marry an Italian.”

But on a more serious level, she made no secret of her support for the female cause.

“Maybe young women don’t wonder whether they can have it all any longer,” she once said, “but in case any of you are wondering, of course you can have it all.”

Takes one to know one.

Categories : Enotes, Entertainment, movies
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Jun
27

Water Boy

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It’s said that, ideally, you’d take your weight, cut it in half, and the resulting number is how many ounces of water you should drink per day.

I’m secure enough to tell you that my number is approximately 100.

I’m not afraid to indirectly tell you my weight, because for the past several months, water has been my beverage of choice, by far.

I have a 20-oz plastic tumbler that has been seemingly attached to my left hand with invisible string, always filled with ice and frequently being drained of its clear H20.

I like Aquafina when it comes to bottled water, but I can subsist on tap water, too. I don’t know how many times a day I am drawing more water into the tumbler from the refrigerator dispenser, but it’s enough to give my thumb a nice workout.

At work, we have an unending supply of bottled water (Ice Mountain, but it’s fine), and I kill about two of those 16.9-oz bottles per day. So that’s 34 ounces right there, plus all the tumblers during the evening. So I figure I’m pretty darn close to the magic number of 100 ounces, if not above it.

I used to be a pop drinker, as did my wife and daughter. We were always in search of the best deal on 12-pack cans of Coke or Pepsi products—at Meijer, Target, etc. Three for $12 was dismissed. Three for $11 was sometimes acceptable. But usually we would only purchase three for $9 or $10—and our loyalties went with Coke or Pepsi based on what was on sale.

But then the pop started going slower and slower as my water consumption increased. Before long I had the rest of the family on board with the whole water thing. Now, we only purchase two liter bottles of pop, and Towne Club at that. Why? Because we found them for 79 cents a bottle at a local market.

The 12-packs of pop in the basement fridge have been replaced by cases of Aquafina or Dasani. But I pretty much let the ladies have the bottles while I draw my tumblers from the fridge’s tap.

I love my water. An ice cold tumbler goes down so nice. I don’t miss pop. I have an occasional cola with some popcorn or pizza, but that’s it. I’m on my third tumbler of water as I write this blog entry.

Between the water consumption and the 2-3 walks per day of the family dog, I at least have the illusion that I’m doing something healthy for my body.

Late night snacking continues to be a problem, however. I wonder how many ounces of leftovers and salty snacks are appropriate for a 200-lb man? And, after midnight?

I have a feeling that number is way below 100.

Categories : Enotes, Health
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Jun
25

Monday Morning Manager: Week 12

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Last Week: 3-3

This Week: at Tex (6/25-27); at TB (6/28-7/1)

So, What Happened?

Interleague play is done for 2012, and for the Tigers it’s bittersweet.

In a way, they’re happy to have once again fed on the NLers to the tune of an 11-7 record, but the National League rules on the road were starting to wear on manager Jim Leyland, given his injury-riddled roster.

What’s more pressing is worrying about getting through the rest of this 10-game road trip while also staying within shouting distance of the Indians and White Sox.

The Tigers managed to go 3-3 while their offense again abandoned them. During one four-game stretch (Wednesday thru Saturday), the Tigers scored a grand total of five runs. They lost three of the four.

Even Sunday’s 3-2 win, though huge, made MMM uneasy because after scoring twice in the first inning, the Tigers bats again turned into cooked spaghetti until the eighth, when Delmon Young’s single broke a 2-2 tie.

A win is a win, but after taking Game 1 of the Cardinals series, the Tigers are 2-3 and have scored eight runs in those five games.

MMM is getting antsy again about the offense, something that appeared to be correcting itself last week at this time. For a brief while, it looked like you could check out the latest sportsbook review and bet the over on any Tigers game. Not now.

Oh, and Justin Verlander is very good at pitching baseballs.

Hero of the Week

MMM certainly isn’t going to dole out a Hero to anyone who swings a bat, not in a week when runs were as plentiful as teeth in a hockey player’s mouth.

So MMM finds himself selecting the default hero, when the offense is slumbering.

You get one guess.

Justin Verlander, once again, saved the Tigers’ bacon, tossing a complete game victory at the Pirates in Pittsburgh on Sunday, salvaging the final game of the series and ovcalmlercoming a stunning two-run homer by Garrett Jones in the seventh inning which tied the game, albeit briefly.

On Tuesday, JV started the Cardinals series in Detroit with a win. He’s 8-4 and on a three-game winning streak after going 0-3 with a 4.10 ERA in the four starts prior.

Sunday was classic Verlander, classic pitching that Jim Leyland described afterward as “The horse pitching like the horse,” in remarks to FSD’s John Keating during post-game coverage.

Verlander didn’t let Jones’s shocking home run—the Bucs had managed just two soft singles prior to the seventh inning—bother him. The Tigers offense, to their credit, scratched out a run in the eighth and Verlander calmly set the Pirates down in the final two innings, like a reigning Cy Young and MVP winner should.

JV bookended the week with victories for the Tigers, and he did it in style, especially on Sunday. And that’s why he’s MMM’s Hero of the Week.

Honorable mention (and MMM DOES mean honorable): Max Scherzer, for a courageous pitching performance on Saturday, which came just two days after his younger brother passed away.

Goat of the Week

MMM is getting cranky with catcher Alex Avila.

Al-Av just returned from the disabled list on Thursday, but it didn’t take long for him to get into MMM’s dog house.

Actually, it’s a carry over from before Avila’s DL time—way before.

MMM has been sour with Avila since the season’s opening weeks. His walk-off homer on Easter Sunday has been his lone highlight, really.

Avila has been one of the many drags on the Tigers offense—but more specifically, one of the 2011 All-Stars whose performance this year has left a lot to be desired.

He joined the team for Thursday’s game, played all three games in Pittsburgh over the weekend, and had one bad at-bat after the other. Saturday, Avila struck out on three pitches to end the ballgame, representing the tying run. None of the three swings were good, and neither were any of the pitches.

MMM is losing patience, fearing that Avila’s 2011 was an aberration and the 2012 version is closer to what we should expect.

There’s still 90 games to play, but MMM isn’t seeing any signs of a turnaround.

Under the Microscope

This week, MMM almost literally means Under the Microscope.

The Tigers lost closer Jose Valverde last week due to a wrist sprain. Right now it’s not deemed serious but who the heck knows? MMM has seen plenty of so-called “non-serious” injuries turn into season-long annoyances.

The image of Papa Grande in obvious pain, as beamed by FSD during Tuesday night’s win over the Cardinals, was more than a little disturbing.

So MMM doesn’t feel that it’s an overreaction to place Valverde UtM until further notice. Any long term absence would have serious implications for the bullpen. Joaquin Benoit would move into the closer’s role, thus vacating his eighth inning setup job, at which he’s been brilliant this season.

The dominoes would then start to fall, as Valverde’s loss would change some key relievers’ roles and the way Leyland manages the pen. The potential for disaster makes MMM cringe. It might drive someone to start playing the Lotto or something similar.

MMM wouldn’t be surprised to even see Phil Coke close some games if Valverde’s injury suddenly gets upgraded from non-serious to, “UH-OH.”

Upcoming: Rangers, Rays

 

The 10-game caravan continues with stops in Texas and Tampa this week.

It’s not getting any easier, this road trip!

Nothing like a couple of serious playoff/World Series contenders to juice up a trip.

The Rangers, however, did stumble a bit in late May as the LA Angels made a move and climbed back into the AL West race. All-World player Josh Hamilton spent a night in the hospital recently due to dehydration brought on by a stomach virus.

Oh, who is MMM kidding? The Rangers are a kick ass team and that’s exactly what they did to the Tigers in Game 6 of last year’s ALCS—kicked their ass.

The Rangers took three of four from the Tigers in April. Funny, but that’s exactly when things started to go sideways for Detroit. The Tigers were 9-3 when the Rangers came calling, and before long, Leyland’s boys were 10-10 and beginning their free fall into mediocrity.

The Rays are, once again, all about pitching. They love to beat you, 2-1 or 3-2, especially at home, where they can use that fake grass to their advantage, particularly in the late innings when scratching out runs usually means the difference between winning and losing.

This isn’t good news for a Tigers offense that has been more miss than hit this season. But, who knows? These things sometimes have a way of surprising you.

Last week the Tigers looked to be turning the corner. This week we’ll find out if a mugging awaits them around that corner.

That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next week!

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Roger Staubach stood at the rostrum at his Hall of Fame induction in Canton, Ohio in 1985 and addressed the crowd. He was barking out signals one last time.

But this was no football huddle, and the play that Staubach was calling moved him to tears.

Staubach, the legendary Dallas Cowboys QB, found his voice quaking and his lower lip trembling when his list of thank yous finally came down to his coach.

“That man in the funny hat,” Staubach managed, before emotions overwhelmed him and he had to pause to regain composure.

Tom Landry, the man in the funny hat, was the only NFL coach Staubach had. Heck, Landry was the only coach any Dallas Cowboy had, if that player’s career spanned any period from 1960 to 1988.

The relationship between quarterback and coach in the NFL, if allowed to progress for any longer than a couple of years, is not unlike that of husband and wife. There’s arguing, rolling of eyes, tears and ecstasy. There’s name-calling, yelling and hugs.

Then, eventually, there’s often divorce.

Staubach and Landry experienced all of the above, including divorce, albeit retirement-induced. Landry continued to coach the Cowboys for nine more years after Staubach hung up his right arm following the 1979 season.

After Staubach, Landry was married to Danny White. Before Staubach, the coach was hitched to Dandy Don Meredith. Before Meredith, Landry’s football spouse was tiny Eddie LeBaron, all of 5’7”, who needed a step ladder in order to read defenses.

The Cowboys’ continued success, after their growing pains of the early-1960s passed, was because of remarkable consistency in their organizational chart.

The Cowboys operated for nearly three decades with Tex Schramm running the show from the top of the chart, Gil Brandt manning the scouting department, and Tom Landry coaching the players afforded him by the first two.

The Cowboys didn’t change anything when that trio formed the team’s football pyramid.

The helmets didn’t change; the blue Lone Star on silver was the same helmet worn from Meredith to Hogeboom, from Lilly to Jeffcoat, from Hayes to Pearson.

The white jerseys didn’t change. The fact that the Cowboys were the only team to wear white for every home game didn’t change.

The philosophy on both sides of the football didn’t change. Landry’s famously intricate defenses especially didn’t change.

Yet all of that consistency met its match with the Green Bay Packers of the 1960s.

Landry’s Cowboys went up against Vince Lombardi’s Packers twice in the NFL Championship Game (1966 and ’67) and came up short both times. The latter came during the famous Ice Bowl game on New Year’s Eve, 1967.

The Packers had their own consistency going; Lombardi and QB Bart Starr formed another famous married couple, another relationship filled with head butting and challenges and respectful disdain.

In the AFL, the Oakland Raiders, in the latter part of the ’60s, were forming their own powerhouse platoon, led by their irascible, bombastic owner Al Davis.

Quarterback Daryle Lamonica, a discard of the Buffalo Bills, came to Oakland and Davis, through his coaches, turned Lamonica loose with an offense that was a precursor to the video games of today: have Lamonica fade back five steps and heave the football as far as he could. It was an offense that earned the quarterback the moniker of The Mad Bomber.

John Madden took over as coach in 1969 and he and Lamonica, then he and Kenny Stabler, provided the coach-and-quarterback consistency so vital to NFL success.

Davis, the Raiders’ common denominator all by himself, presided over one AFL Championship and four Super Bowl titles.

The cause and effect of franchise consistency can be found all over the NFL.

The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s had one coach (Chuck Noll) and one quarterback (Terry Bradshaw). The San Francisco 49ers of the 1980s had one coach (Bill Walsh, though George Seifert coached the 1989 team) and one QB (Joe Montana). The Cowboys returned to glory in the 1990s with one quarterback (Troy Aikman).

It doesn’t take more than a few minutes of research to ascertain that NFL teams who are changing quarterbacks and/or coaches like socks, are likely teams finding themselves at or near the bottom of the standings every year.

The NFL’s dynasties, starting in the 1950s with the Cleveland Browns, can be neatly divided into decades and further identified by coach and quarterback. Cleveland had Paul Brown coaching and Otto Graham quarterbacking. The Packers had Lombardi and Starr. The Steelers had Noll and Bradshaw. The 49ers had Walsh and Montana. The Cowboys had Jimmy Johnson and Aikman (Barry Switzer coached the team to its third Super Bowl win of the 1990s in 1995-96).

All this talk of consistency within a franchise’s org chart is probably making Lions fans’ eyes glaze over, like I’m writing of the components of nuclear physics.

Yet it shouldn’t, because something fascinating is happening with the Lions right now.

The team that couldn’t shoot straight when it came to coaching and quarterback hires now has both of those positions locked up as tight as a drum.

The 2012 season will be the fourth straight for Jim Schwartz as coach and Matthew Stafford as quarterback. You have to go so far back into the team’s history books to find such a streak that you’d need to blow the dust off before reading about it.

Four years in a row might not sound like a lot, but not since the Lions of the 1950s have they had the same coach and unquestioned starting QB for four straight years (Buddy Parker and Bobby Layne).

While the Packers ruled the 1960s, the Lions were shuffling quarterbacks and coaches. When the Steelers ruled the 1970s, the Lions were shuffling quarterbacks and coaches. When the 49ers ruled the 1980s, the Lions were…well, you get the idea.

It’s both pathetic and amazing to write this, but it’s been almost 60 years since the Lions have been so well set at coach and quarterback, at the same time, as they are now with Schwartz and Stafford.

Schwartz enters 2012 in the last year of his four-year contract, signed in January 2009, just weeks after the Lions finished the first 0-16 season in NFL history.

Since then, Schwartz has led the Lions from zero wins to two, two wins to six, and six wins to ten (and a playoff berth). The progress the team has made in terms of wins and losses has been like a checker moving across the board.

Stafford missed large portions of his first two seasons due to injury, but he was still here and he was still the unquestioned no. 1 QB, hurt or not.

The consistency doesn’t end with Schwartz and Stafford.

The Lions will begin 2012 also in their fourth straight year with Martin Mayhew as GM, Scott Linehan as offensive coordinator and Gunther Cunningham as defensive coordinator.

That’s consistency not found in every NFL city, just so you know.

So far, the lack of football heads rolling in Detroit since 2008 seems to be working. The Lions seem to be getting better. Schwartz is on the last year of his contract, but that will soon be ripped up and an extension signed, I would imagine.

All of a sudden, the Lions are a model of consistency in today’s NFL. An improved won/lost record has been concurrent with that consistency.

Funny how that works.

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Jun
22

The Hurry-Up Artist

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The world according to LeRoy Neiman could be captured very efficiently.

The painting artist Neiman, famous for his bushy handlebar mustache and his ability to create art on the fly, died Wednesday in New York at age 91.

Neiman painted people in action; Neiman’s art was what the world would look like if a still camera could snap impressionism.

There was no such thing as a Neiman “still life.” He painted people doing something—playing poker, boxing each other, engaging on the gridiron. And he did it rapidly.

It wasn’t unusual for the TV networks to commission Neiman, especially during Super Bowls, to produce “on the spot” works—the prior action as Neiman saw it. Then the cameras would show Neiman at work, producing yet another work of color, ambience and activity.

Neiman painted life like a photographer shot it, but with the editorializing that the painter gets to do, that the photographer can’t. Neiman’s works had the ability to capture the human condition with brush strokes instead of a lens.

Neiman, foreground, and Muhammad Ali, background, as the artist saw him

You could even call Neiman a journalist, for that’s how vividly he was able to tell a story with his paints.

Sportswriter Nick Seitz, in a story at CNN.com, said Neiman had “the journalistic talent, as well as the artistic ability, to convey
the essence of a game or contestant with great impact, from the Kentucky Derby to Wilt Chamberlain, from the America’s Cup to Muhammad
Ali, from the Super Bowl to Bobby Hull.”

You can thank Hugh Hefner, of all people, for hooking Neiman up with the world.

It was Hefner who hired Neiman to produce a series of paintings called “Man at His Leisure” for Playboy magazine. Neiman did it, for 15 years, beginning in the 1950s. The world took notice of the way Neiman would so succinctly and efficiently capture the essence of such iconic events as the Grand Prix in Monaco and the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

Neiman was as colorful as his paintings. The handlebar ‘stache was just the tip of his iceberg.

To hear the artist tell it, the creation of Neiman was every bit as important as the creation of his art.

“I guess I created LeRoy Neiman,” he once said, according to the biography on his website. “Nobody else told me how to do it. Well, I’m a believer in the theory that the artist is as important as his work.”

As big as LeRoy Neiman was, however, his work is still bigger. And, obviously, it will live forever, unlike the mortal artist who created it.

Categories : art, Enotes, sports
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Jun
21

What’s So “Real,” Anyway?

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I think the problem I have with “reality TV” is that the producers/networks and I have drastic differences of opinion as to what constitutes “reality.”

To me, reality isn’t following the life of a B-list celebrity who is clearly signing on for the show because he/she can’t get a job in the business anymore.

To me, reality isn’t watching a guy (or girl) trying to find love in a forced environment that is about as unnatural and unconducive to finding love as you can get.

To me, reality isn’t the exploits of people who do very unusual things to make their bucks, i.e. the pawn shop people, the tattoo people and the storage people.

No.

Reality, to me, is the single mom who is trying to decide whether to pay the light bill or buy food for her babies.

Reality, to me, is the caregiver of an elderly, infirm, or terminally ill family member, and all the emotions and angst that go with such an arduous task.

Reality,to me, is the challenged high school student who is trying to overcome calculus in the morning and bullies in the afternoon.


One of the latest “reality TV” entries is upon us

Reality, to me, is the unemployed father who has to look his family in the face every morning and tell them that everything is going to be OK—even if he isn’t sure about that, deep down.

Reality, to me, is the rescuing of uncared for or injured domestic animals and trying to find them loving homes ahead of the needle that will put those animals down forever.

But do you think we’ll ever see a series about any of it?

What is so “real” about the reality dreck that is being shoved down our throats? And it seems to be getting worse.

Look, I know there is an audience for this junk—or else the junk wouldn’t be cranked out at break neck speed.

But can we please stop calling it “reality”?

The great irony is that there is very little that is “real” about any of these so-called reality shows.

These shows are like controlled lab experiments with the partipants playing the roles of the rats who run through their mazes and ring their bells.

I’m not saying don’t watch, because who the hell am I?

But enough with calling this genre “reality TV.”

Because there really ain’t nothing real about any of it.

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Jun
18

Monday Morning Manager: Week 11

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Last Week: 4-2

This Week: STL (6/19-21); at Pit (6/22-24)

So, What Happened?

Is that actually a winning record MMM sees next to “Last Week”?

Yes!

The Tigers won a couple series last week, and that makes three in a row, to go with the one they racked up in Cincinnati a week ago Sunday.

As usual, the Tigers are cleaning up on the National League; they’re 8-4 so far in interleague play.

As vintage “Saturday Night Live” character Chico Consuelo might say, “Interleague play be berry berry good to me.”

Or, should MMM say, Berry Berry good—as in Quintin Berry?

The player that FSD analyst Rod Allen started calling “Q” after about a week in a Tigers uni, Berry got the nod on Sunday afternoon as the starting left fielder, batting in that revolving door no. 2 spot.

So what did he do in response?

How about 5-for-5 (all well struck singles), a stolen base, an induced balk, and a run scored?

Naturally, Twitter and sports talk radio is now buzzing with Berry Mania, something that MMM alter ego Greg Eno cautioned against, in a piece written before Berry’s Sunday outburst.

MMM understands all this, however misguided it might be, and it is dealt with if you continue reading.

But Berry aside, the Tigers finally are starting to look like the team that was unanimously picked to win the AL Central.

Austin Jackson returns and the Tigers go 6-2. Coinkydink?

MMM thinks not.

Hero of the Week

This is a tough one, and for a change, it’s tough because there are several worthy candidates; not tough because of a dearth of possibilities.

MMM could go with Prince Fielder, who continues to drive in men in scoring position. He could go with Miguel Cabrera, who hasn’t been shabby, either. Or how about the aforementioned Berry?

Ah, but Austin Jackson, International Man of Baseball, gets the nod.

Jackson came back from the disabled list a week ago Saturday in Cincinnati and since then, the Tigers have won six of eight and there is absolutely a connection between the two.

Jackson is drawing walks, for one. He’s laying off the high fastball out of the strike zone. He’s swinging with confidence, and doesn’t the Tigers offense simply look better with him included in it, anchoring that leadoff spot?

Jackson is looking more like a pure 21st century leadoff hitter everyday; the fast guy with some home run power who can draw walks. Kind of like a Rickey Henderson Lite.

Honorable mention: Fielder, whose two-out hits with RISP are looking very Victor Martinez-esque. Fielder pounded those kind of hits out all week, in Chicago against the Cubs and at home vs. the Rockies.

Goat of the Week

Who says life in this space every week is fair?

Who says that just because a guy had been going good, one bad game shouldn’t make him eligible for MMM’s GotW?

Sorry, Papa Grande.

Jose Valverde was practically a one-man wrecking crew on Friday night, when his laughable play of a bunt in the 10th inning led to an unsightly eight-run rally by the Rockies, thus denying the Tigers a chance at a must-needed sweep.

Valverde’s lollipop toss to Fielder—who frankly should have caught it, regardless—put runners on first and third with none out, instead of a runner at second and one out.

Was that alone an eight run mistake? No, but Valverde compounded his error by surrendering hit after hit, until he was mercifully yanked by manager Jim Leyland in favor of Luis Marte.

The outing didn’t hurt Valverde’s ERA all that much; of the six runs charged to him, only one was earned.

MMM is Goating Valverde because now we’ll never know if the Tigers could have snagged Friday’s game  and pulled off a sweep that would make them 33-33 this morning instead of 32-34—and two games behind the first place Chicago White Sox, instead of three.

Forget that Valverde was working on a streak of four straight 1-2-3 inning outings—he’s still MMM’s Goat of the Week.

Under the Microscope

Let Quintin Berry Mania commence.

It was already out there, in light of Berry’s initial performances while filling in for the injured Jackson.

After Sunday’s 5-for-5, the campaigning for Berry as an everyday player will be ratcheted up just like the presidential one that’s going on right now.

Berry is the Flavor of the Month. And he’s UtM because with Andy Dirks remaining out with a bad Achilles tendon, skipper Leyland has to almost go out of his way to not write Berry’s name on the starting lineup scorecard.

Not that he’d admit it.

After Sunday’s win, 97.1 The Ticket’s Jeff Riger tried to intimate to Leyland that Berry’s play must be making it tough for the manager to keep Quintin out of the lineup. The scene was played out on FSD’s “Tigers Live” coverage after the game.

“No, not really,” Leyland said. “Not really. We’ll have the best lineup out there.”

Leyland went out of his way to repeat the edict a few moments later, almost as if he was disdainful of Riger’s attempted inference.

MMM’s take? That Leyland was, indirectly, trying to deflect the Berry Mania by saying, boldly, “I don’t give a rat’s behind if Quintin Berry just went 5-for-5—that doesn’t change his status on the team.”

We’ll see.

Upcoming: Cardinals, Pirates

Tony LaRussa won’t be managing against his friend Leyland, but the defending World Champion St. Louis Cardinals invade CoPa Tuesday-Thursday.

The Cards, of course, lost Albert Pujols to free agency, but they also gained Carlos Beltran, and Beltran is having a wicked year.

In fact, the Cardinals as a team rank first in the NL in team batting average, partially led by Beltran with his 19-48-.306 and .983 OPS. No less than six Cards have BAs of .300 or better.

Then it’s off to Pittsburgh for a return engagement with the surprising Pirates; the Tigers took two of three from the Bucs in Detroit last month.

Conversely from the Cardinals, the Pirates rank 29th in MLB in team BA with a paltry .228 mark. They have scored just 222 runs in 65 games—a 3.4 average per game.

But oh, the Pirates can pitch.

The Bucs rank seventh in MLB with a 3.51 ERA. But the rotation is kind of Jekyll and Hyde.

What does MMM mean?

James McDonald and AJ Burnett have ERAs of 2.32 and 3.52, respectively. However, Erik Bedard and Kevin Correia have ERAs of 4.36 and 4.43.

Still, not bad overall.

Last week MMM said it was time for the Tigers to get on a roll, given that the opponents were the sad sack Cubs and Rockies. The team went 4-2, though that included a gift-wrapped win for the Cubbies on Tuesday, and an implosion at home on Friday.

Otherwise, a 6-0 week may have been in the offing.

See how greedy MMM can get after a rare winning week?

That’s all for this week’s MMM. See you next week!

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It’s not Quintin Berry’s fault that he’s not Austin Jackson, just as it’s not saccharin’s fault that it’s not sugar, not Dan Quayle’s fault that he’s not Jack Kennedy and not analog’s fault that it’s not digital.

Berry played the role of Jackson, the Tigers’ dynamic center fielder, for a couple weeks and the reviews were rather kind. Too kind, in fact.

Berry, 27, is on his fifth MLB organization with the Tigers. He’d never set foot on a big league diamond until the panic call went out a few weeks ago, the Tigers in Cleveland.

Jackson, in the third year of a career that has more upside than a room full of first-round draft picks, was being bothered by an abdominal strain. And if you’ve ever strained your abdomen, you know how painful that can be. And you’re not a starting center fielder who bats leadoff.

The Tigers, bereft of position players in their farm system that can actually play in the majors right now, sent for Berry, who was minding his business playing for the Toledo Mud Hens.

That’s how so many Tigers have started this season—as Mud Hens.

Berry wasn’t even Jackson’s understudy, per se. He was grabbed off the bargain rack by the Tigers over the winter, a body to assign to Toledo. His was a minor league contract.

It was like going to a Broadway play and not only is the star ailing, the replacement hadn’t even seen the script.

Berry was put in center field and penciled in to bat leadoff for the Tigers on May 23 in Cleveland. He didn’t even look like Austin Jackson: Berry is a beanpole who bats left-handed. Jackson is a buff, compact player who bats right.

The Tigers, though, were desperate and thus brazenly tried to pass Berry off as a suitable replacement for the bourgeoning star Jackson.

Berry then went out and did his best impersonation of Jackson over the next week or so. He slapped some hits around the park, made some fine catches in the field and didn’t embarrass himself, which was probably the best thing he did of all.

The reviews of Berry were kind because the expectations weren’t exactly high. It would have been difficult for Berry to disappoint, but quite easy for him to impress.

He was following Jackson, but not in the way that a rookie singer follows Sinatra on stage at the Sands in Las Vegas. In this case, Sinatra had laryngitis and the rookie crooner needed to only carry a tune for a few songs, trying not to have the audience members throw tomatoes at him.

The longer Berry stayed in the lineup, the more the mystified Tigers fan base, looking at the rest of the scuffling team with a sour puss, wanted Quintin to stay there—even after Jackson’s scheduled return.

Bench Brennan Boesch! Put Berry in right field!

Bench Delmon Young! Put Berry in left field!

The fans were beside themselves with ideas for what the Tigers could possibly do with Berry once Jackson returned to the lineup.

Then Jackson came off the disabled list last Saturday in Cincinnati, reclaimed center field and leadoff in one fell swoop, and in the five games since that’s happened, the Tigers were 4-1 in no small part because of Jackson’s bat, glove and mere presence.

Berry didn’t get returned to Toledo, but he didn’t return to playing, either. Not as a starter, anyway. And that, my friends, is exactly how it should be.

Berry moved Tigers fans for about 10 days, but let’s peel back a layer or two of skin away from his onion.

Berry bailed the Tigers out for a few games, no question, helping the team to tread water while their All-Star-caliber center fielder recuperated.

But Berry is no Austin Jackson. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and nor has a crime been committed.

The highlight reel catches Berry made in center field looked pretty, but—and I don’t mean to tell tales out of school here—they were necessitated by his poor reads and circuitous routes to the baseball.

But he did make those catches, and for that we all should be grateful. Still, if you put Jackson and Berry in center field for separate teams for 150 games each, it will be very plain who the better outfielder is—and it won’t be Berry.

I haven’t come to bury Berry, but I haven’t come to overly praise him, either. He is a very fast player who is also very marginal. His speed mesmerizes the folks around town because the Tigers have been so bereft of it for decades.

Even the mainstream media—folks who should know better—are being sucked in by Berry Mania.

Just yesterday I heard my friend Jamie Samuelsen and partner Bob Wojnowski on 97.1 The Ticket bemoaning the lack of Berry in the Tigers lineup against the Colorado Rockies, even though a left-handed pitcher was on the mound.

Before Boesch’s bat heated up last week, there were calls for Berry to replace him. Young, also, was being run out of town by Berry maniacs.

Jackson is the straw that stirs the Tigers drink. I’ve said it before and, after the team’s resurgence after his return to the lineup, I’m saying it again. When Jackson is doing his thing at the top of the batting order, the Tigers offense is a different animal, plain and simple.

The Tigers’ fall to as many as six games below .500 ran concurrent to Jackson’s absence. This is no coincidence.

But in Detroit, we get enthralled by the scrappy, by the fast, by the underdog. I can still remember the cries for quarterback Mike McMahon when he played for the Lions as a backup—mainly because McMahon was mobile and ran around the backfield like a chicken with his head cut off. Certainly not for his passing skills.

Jackson, one of the premier center fielders in baseball, went down, and here came Berry, riding in from Toledo on what some people thought was a white horse.

Berry did his best at being Jackson’s stand-in. For a few games the Tigers got a lift from the journeyman. It didn’t hurt his standing that, at the time of his promotion, Boesch and Young were terrible.

But let’s not get carried away. Berry may not even be with the team come September. He might be long forgotten by then, as the Tigers, it is hoped, scramble for a playoff spot. Or, his speed alone may keep him on the roster. We’ll see.

Who will not be forgotten, who will not be a footnote to this season, is Jackson. And, I submit, Boesch and Young, when all is said and done.

Jackson has the potential to be the best all-around center fielder the Tigers have had since Al Kaline roamed there in the late-1950s.

No, I haven’t forgotten about Curtis Granderson.

Berry played his rear end off trying to give the Tigers Austin Jackson when they didn’t have Austin Jackson. For that he should be commended.

But not only is Berry no Jackson, he’s not even Boesch or Young.

Berry is who he is, and that’s OK.

Trouble is, too many fans believe him to be something that he’s not, and that kind of thinking never leads to anything good.

Categories : Baseball, Detroit Tigers
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Jun
14

Flag on the Play!

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It was a ritual I remember pretty clearly, though I took part in it some 37 years ago.

I was an 11-year-old safety boy—remember those?—and part of my duty included taking care of the school’s U.S. flag.

And I do mean “taking care of.”

I remember that there was much reverence, as much as a youngster can show, every time a partner and I lowered, folded, unfolded and raised Old Glory.

Every morning I was part of the tandem that was responsible for getting the flag up the pole before the school day. Sometimes I was part of the pair who lowered it at the end of the day and folded it, properly.

In both instances, the flag was sacred. I remember being told to don’t dare allow the flag to touch the ground, even for a second. And it had to be folded a particular way—a way that I really didn’t understand because it seemed clunky, but I did it. Because that’s how I was taught.

As I grew older, I learned of other unwritten—and written—rules of how the U.S. flag ought to be treated.

Shining a light on it at night, for example. Lowering it at the end of the day, if there is to be no light source.

A neighbor of ours, a couple years ago, installed a flag pole and hoisted the stars and stripes up it. Terrific.

He hasn’t paid attention to the flag since. He certainly hasn’t shined a light on it at night. It wasn’t long before his flag, once brand new, started to look tattered and torn and something straight out of a Revolutionary War painting.

So the question on this Flag Day 2012 is simply, “Do we as Americans know how to treat our flag anymore?”

This is a nifty gadget for individuals who wish to fly the U.S. flag at night

There’s something called protocol, and I don’t think we’re following it.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen U.S. flags flying at night—in the dark.

The U.S. flag, should one choose to display it, ought to be done so properly. I think we’re losing that.

For those wondering why I haven’t called my neighbor out about his ham handed attempt at flying Old Glory, I can tell you that he’s not the type to take such advice—at all. His intentions might have been good, but his execution is sorely lacking. And always will be.

There’s been much consternation over the past several decades about flag burning. I can see why that’s a hot button issue.

But daily displays of the U.S. flag that are at once derelict, lazy and disrespectful ought to be paid attention to, as well.

Fly it. Display it. Do it proudly.

But do it right, or don’t do it at all.

Categories : Enotes, holidays, society
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Jun
13

Bacon—The OTHER Dessert

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Burger King knows America all too well.

When in doubt, offer us bacon.

Despite all the saber rattling about eating healthier in this country, the struggling hamburger chain is turning to bacon—fat, salty, calorie-filled bacon—to attract customers this summer.

But here’s the best part: the bacon is being sprinkled and laid on…an ice cream sundae.

You heard me.

The salty-sweet dessert clocks in at 510 calories, 18 grams of fat and 61 grams of sugar.
So what does a bacon sundae consist of? Vanilla soft serve with fudge, caramel, bacon crumbles and a piece of bacon.

It was the comedian Jim Gaffigan who said that “EVERYTHING tastes better with bacon. Foods wrap themselves with bacon in order to taste better.”

But this is a little ridiculous, don’t you think?

No. 2 BK has been scuffling, trying to keep up with No. 1 McDonald’s for quite some time. Burger King’s menu items just haven’t landed as well as they would have liked.

So now they turn to bacon, that old standby.

Early returns, in my highly unscientific poll, aren’t encouraging.

My polling sample consisted of my wife, daughter, and a co-worker.

The responses I got ranged from “That sounds awful” to “That sounds disgusting.”


Yes, that’s a strip of bacon sticking out from that sundae

The new item has already begun to be offered, in Nashville, TN—which should come as little surprise. If anyone likes their fat, it’s the Southerners. The rest of the country will be rolled out starting on Thursday.

The bacon sundae is part of a slew of limited time items which include several pork, beef and chicken sandwiches.

BK has changed its tag line to “Taste is King,” a departure from “Have it Your Way.”

Makes sense. I can’t imagine that a bacon sundae is having it anyone’s way.

But this is the country that has introduced such items as fried dough (Elephant Ears), corn dogs, hush puppies and chicken fried steak to the world.

Who knows? Maybe bacon sundaes will take off.

I mean, it’s a breakfast AND a dessert. If we can’t be healthy, at least we can be efficient.

Categories : Enotes, food, society
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