Archive for December, 2012

It was done with a wink—a victimless act perpetrated at a rather harmless time. The boys in blue were all over the place, but not one of them sounded the alarm.

The specter of competition took a back seat for the moment, as the Hall of Fame-bound slugger strode to the plate at Tiger Stadium. It was a Thursday afternoon—September 19, 1968—and the Tigers had wrapped up the league pennant a couple of days prior. They led this game over the New York Yankees, 6-1, in the eighth inning.

A quick bit of Internet research says a paltry gathering of 9,063 attended the contest. Given the score, the inning and the relative unimportance of the game, it’s likely just a few thousand remained when Denny McLain, already with his 30 wins for the season, grooved one in to Mickey Mantle.

McLain has come clean. The story isn’t apocryphal. As Stengel would say, “You can look it up.”

It’s a tale in Detroit sports lore that sounds like urban legend, like the one about AlexKarras throwing his helmet at Milt Plum in the Lions locker room after a tough loss.

The Karras tidbit is true, and so is this one about Denny and The Mick.

Yeah, McLain has said, I served up a fat ball to Mantle on that overcast September afternoon in 1968. Yeah, I hoped he would drive it out of the ballpark for a home run. It was his 535th career dinger, after all.

Mantle, a boyhood idol of McLain’s, came into the game—his last ever in Detroit—tied with Jimmie Foxx for third in all-time home runs, with 534. Only Babe Ruth and Willie Mays had clubbed more.

McLain wanted Mantle to break the tie, and shoot into third place all by his lonesome, on McLain’s watch.

So yeah, McLain grooved it, after Mantle told catcher Jim Price that a belt-high batting practice pitch would be lovely, in response to McLain’s query as to where Mantle would like the next pitch.

SMACK!

Mantle clubbed McLain’s offering into the green seats, which were barely dotted with paying customers.

Tie broken.

McLain was among those applauding as Mantle rounded the bases on his gimpy, almost 37-year-old legs. The Mick nodded McLain’s way, a subtle act of respectful thanks.

The victimless crime had been perpetrated.

Twenty-six years and some change later, the gauntlet was again temporarily picked up, like a wayward penalty flag. But this instance was hardly victimless. Shameless, yes.

Here’s former Lions offensive tackle Lomas Brown, crowing on ESPN Radio last week, about a 1994 game quarterbacked by (then) newly-signed free agent Scott Mitchell:

“We were playing Green Bay in Milwaukee. We were getting beat, 24-3, at that time and (Mitchell) just stunk up the place. He’s throwing interceptions, just everything. So I looked at Kevin Glover, our All-Pro center and I said, “Glove, that is it.” I said, “I’m getting him out the game.” … So I got the gator arms on the guy at the last minute, he got around me, he hit Scott Mitchell, he did something to his finger … and he came out the game. Dave Kriegcame in the game. We ended up losing that game, 27-24. ”

Or, the Reader’s Digest version: “I purposely let my quarterback get waylaid, so he’d get hurt.”

No shame. No honor. No class.

Brown played for the Lions from 1985 to ’95. He was the team’s starting left tackle for every one of those seasons. Mitchell, a lefty thrower, didn’t need Brown to protect his blind side; that job was fulfilled by the right tackle.

No matter.

Brown’s self-revelation of his blatant disregard for his own quarterback’s health should be a bigger story than it is. Maybe it was the timing, coming right before Christmas, today’s Lions out of the playoff picture.

Denny McLain’s fat pitch to Mickey Mantle, while done on purpose, caused no one any physical harm. It didn’t imperil the game; Mantle’s knock (in the eighth inning) made the score 6-2, which turned out to be final. The only thing McLain’s act hurt was one of the old green, wooden seats that Mantle’s home run ball nicked.

Lomas Brown’s recollection of his “gator arms,” a clever way of saying that he let his man beat him and have a free shot at the quarterback, is one of the darkest admissions I’ve ever read in sports.

Don’t snicker. Don’t chortle because the victim was Mitchell, who was hardly beloved in this town. I wasn’t a fan of Mitchell’s, either. The last image of him that I have is of Mitchell lying face down on the turf in Tampa during a playoff game in 1997, acting as if he’d been shot, when he was apparently injured during a quarterback sneak, of all things. You can question Mitchell’s toughness (and it was questioned a lot while he was the quarterback in Detroit from 1994 to ’98); that’s fine.

But Mitchell should no more have been the victim of Brown’s friendly fire than Bobby Layne. Brown wanted Dave Krieg in the game. So what if Krieg had stunk up the joint?

Pro football is a brutal game, and that’s not hyperbole. In fact, that’s a statement that should stand along with “water is wet” and “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”

Pro football is locomotives crashing into each other every Sunday afternoon. It’s the perfect storm of size, speed and crossing paths. There’s a reason why the average length of an NFL career is less than three years. Too often, players walk onto the field as rookies and their careers are ended by being carted off it.

It’s a dangerous enough sport without being double-crossed by your teammates.

Mitchell was lucky that all he hurt that day was his finger. Damn lucky.

Brown’s recollection, according to the fact checkers, is less than accurate, by the way—when it comes to the score. That was confirmed by Kirkland Crawford of the Free Press.

“Detroit was actually down, 24-0, in the second quarter and never trailed 24-3, as Brown said,” Crawford wrote, putting facts front and center. “Mitchell suffered a broken bone in his right hand when he was hit by Green Bay’s Sean Jones. At the time, the Lions were only down, 10-0, and Mitchell was 5-for-15 for 63 yards and two picks.”

Oh, and the Lions lost the game, 38-30—not 27-24 as Brown “recalled.”

Brown not only inexplicably confessed to his shameful act, he made it into a fish story. You know who does that? A braggart.

Mitchell, understandably, was appalled. “Reprehensible” was the word he used when he responded on Wednesday. He recalled of having Brown over to his house for dinner when they were teammates, with the other O-linemen.

It matters not that Brown, several days later, backed off and showed some remorse. The deed was done.

“You get frustrated during the course of the game,” Brown told ESPN2’s First Take a couple of days ago. “You do things that, a lot of the time, you think about later in life—you don’t think about right there, because it’s in the heat of the moment…

“The one thing I can say is I should have been more tactful at how I said that. That was wrong on my part. I should have humbly said that. It came off as boastful. I shouldn’t have said it that way.”

No, Lomas, you shouldn’t have done it that way.

Reprehensible, indeed.

Wax up the sleigh. Check it for flight. Shine St. Nick’s boots. Make sure Rudy’s nose is bright and squeaky clean.
Test the GPS. Gather the weather reports. Check the sack for rips. Tell Mrs. C not to wait up.
It’s gonna be another long night, but then it always is on December 24.
The jolly, old, fat man is set to make his annual trek. Chimneys the world over wait. Fireplaces are about to be pounced on.
Santa has something for everyone, or so they say. Keeping the faith, I’m going to accept that statement as fact. So, with that in mind, let’s see if he can find room in his big, red pack, upon his back—as Andy Williams sang—for these goodies.
For Calvin Johnson, a new NFL record, but more importantly, a football team worthy of his gargantuan talent.
For Matthew Stafford, highlight reels of Slinging Sammy Baugh and Fran Tarkenton, so the kid knows that you don’t have to have perfect “mechanics” to be a winner in this league.
For Jim Schwartz, a general manager who will draft him some defense.
For Rick Porcello, a team who wants him.
For Jhonny Peralta, a new nickname: The Kitchenette, because they say he has no range.
For Torii Hunter, nothing—because he already had his Christmas when he signed with the Tigers.
For traffic lights throughout Metro Detroit, Anibal Sanchez’s timing.
For Alex Avila, health and happiness—and for him, they’re one and the same.
For Miguel Cabrera, the abolition of sabermetrics.
For Tigers fans, also nothing—because they already have their new third base coach.
For Tommy Brookens, the new third base coach, the best of luck.
For the NHL, coal in its hockey boot.
For Mark Dantonio, a quarterback.
For Brady Hoke, a headset.
For Joe Dumars, a slashing, scoring small forward in the draft, because it sure isn’t on his current roster.
For Lawrence Frank, a book on the Pistons of the 1960s—oh, wait, he’s already writing the remake.
For Andre Drummond, the career of Shaquille O’Neal, because Ray Scott told me that Andre reminds him of a young Shaq.
For Greg Monroe, the career of Bob Lanier, because (see above).
For Pistons fans, a new RV, because you can all fit in one.
For George Blaha, some recognition (finally) as a damn good football play-by-play guy.
For Charlie Villanueva, no regrets.
For Tayshaun Prince, a nice twilight so his career will be properly book-ended.
For all of us working stiffs, the longevity of Jim Brandstatter.
For all of us husbands, Brandy’s marriage, too.
For Cecil Fielder, Prince Fielder’s smile at the next Thanksgiving table.
For Notre Dame football fans, you don’t get anything—your prayers were already answered.
For NHL fans, never Fehr.
For Alex Karras’ legacy, a diabolical plan to gain induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
For Miguel Cabrera, whatever he wants.
For Dominic Raiola, a seven-second delay.
For Ndamukong Suh, peace.
For Louis Delmas, two good knees.
For the two Vs, Vinnie Goodwill and Vince Ellis (Pistons beat writers), a thesaurus to help them describe what they are forced to watch nightly.
For Jerry Green, many more Super Bowls.
For Rob Parker, see Dominic Raiola.
For Mark Sanchez, the hell out of New York.
For Toronto Blue Jays fans, somebody to pinch them.
For Chicago Cubs and Lions fans, a support group.
For Billy Crystal, the only known celebrity Los Angeles Clippers fan, a winner.
For Billy Crystal’s movie career, the same, for it’s as overdue as are the Clippers.
For Magic Johnson, all the success with the Dodgers as he had on the basketball court.
For the San Francisco Giants, the antithesis for Magic.
For Linda McCoy-Murray, happiness with her new man. But he’ll never write like Jim.
For Jim Leyland, we folks off his back already.
For our daughter, anything she wants, because she tamed Oakland University as a freshman like she had ice water in her veins.
For my wife, see Charlie Villanueva.
For all of you who read me every week, a year’s supply of Zantac.
Ho-ho-ho!!!

Dec
20

Doctor, Conspirator?

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His name really was Mudd.

Today is the 179th birthday of the most vilified doctor this side of Mike Myers’ Dr. Evil.

Samuel Mudd was born on December 20, 1833. Before his 32nd birthday, he was a convicted felon.

With the rebirth of Abraham Lincoln in our social consciousness (they even made a movie where Abe isn’t a vampire hunter), now is a good time to remember Dr. Mudd, who was convicted along with several others for conspiring to kill the president in 1865.

Justice moved a lot quicker in those days, for good and for bad. The president was assassinated on April 14, 1865 (he died in the wee hours of the 15th). Less than a month later, Mudd and his co-defendants were on trial. By the end of June, Mudd was convicted along with the others.

It was Mudd’s prior acquaintance with assassin John Wilkes Booth that planted the seeds of conspiracy.

Mudd first met Booth, history says, in November 1864 in a church in Bryantown, MD. Booth used a guise of a real estate hunt as an excuse to visit the town, but his real intent was to scout out an escape route in his plot to kidnap Lincoln and ransom him for the release of Confederate prisoners of war. During this first Bryantown visit, Booth allegedly met Dr. Mudd and even stayed overnight at the doctor’s farm.

Historians pretty much agree that it’s unlikely that the doctor would have knowingly participated in Booth’s kidnap plot, though a second Booth-Mudd meeting occurred in December, which included drinks at a tavern and at Mudd’s farm. The nature of the meeting is unknown.

Mudd’s farm was only five miles from Bryantown.

Co-conspirator defendant George Atzerodt claimed that Mudd knew of Booth’s plot ahead of time, which turned into one of the murder variety.

You know the rest. Booth shot Lincoln at Ford’s Theater, and sought medical assistance at Dr. Mudd’s farm later that night. The doctor treated Booth’s broken leg (suffered while leaping from the balcony onto the stage after the shooting) and let Booth spend the night. It’s unclear—and this is a biggie—whether Dr. Mudd knew, at that time, that Booth had murdered Lincoln.

The doctor didn’t help his own cause. Mudd failed to contact authorities until several days after Booth left his farm, fueling speculation that Mudd was part of some sort of plot.

Mudd was also less than forthcoming about whether he had met Booth previously, once authorities were able to question the doctor. Mudd at first denied ever having met Booth, then retracted and confessed to the first meeting in Bryantown in November 1864. It wasn’t until he was in prison that Mudd confessed to the December 1864 meeting. Both denials were, obviously, big mistakes.

Mudd served less than four years in prison. It always helps to have friends in high places; Mudd’s defense attorney, Thomas Ewing Jr., was influential in then-President Andrew Johnson’s administration. This connection was a big factor in Johnson’s pardon of Mudd in February 1869. Mudd returned home in late March.

Dr. Samuel Mudd, as he appeared while in prison





Thanks to the pardon, Mudd resumed practicing medicine and in 1877 he even ran for the Maryland House of Delegates as a Democrat. He lost.

Mudd died of pneumonia on January 10, 1883. There is irony in his burial, which was in the cemetery of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Bryantown.

That’s the church where Dr. Mudd first met John Wilkes Booth.

Categories : crime, Enotes, presidency
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Dec
18

Let’s Get Serious

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It’s another of the talking points pushed by the gun camp, symbolically accompanied by the throwing up of hands in the air.

“If you ban guns, only criminals will have guns.”

First, I am not in favor of banning guns. I fully believe in the Second Amendment to the degree that folks should have the right to protect their castles—even if deadly force is required.

I do, however, believe that reasonable, responsible gun owners can darn well protect themselves—and their homes and their families—with weapons that aren’t designed to mow dozens of people down in minutes.

But here’s the thing. These mass shootings that are being committed nowadays aren’t being committed by criminals. In fact, many times the perpetrator has no previous criminal record. Not even a parking ticket.

Like Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old monster who shot up Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT.

Lanza had no criminal record.

Neither did the shooter in the recent mall incident in Oregon. Same with the Aurora, CO theater shooter last summer.

The kids who committed the atrocities at Columbine weren’t criminals, either. Nor was the perp in the Virginia Tech massacre.

Loners? Yes. Troubled? Definitely. But not criminals.

Criminals aren’t committing mass shootings. Armed criminals typically rob or steal. Or trade on the black market. If they stockpile artillery, it’s to sell. They don’t acquire automatic weapons so they can shoot up a mall, a school or a movie theater.

Those are facts.

The folks who are arming themselves to the hilt, throwing on military-style vests and camouflage gear, aren’t criminals. They’re suffering from mental illness.

Until we start treating root causes rather than symptoms, we’re going nowhere in the effort to try to make what happened in Connecticut on Friday a once-in-a-lifetime tragedy.

It’s time to start educating about mental illness, which is still, in the 21st century no less, terribly misunderstood.

Look no further than the reports that Lanza may have been autistic, or afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome.

Adam Lanza





Neither has ever been directly connected to violent behavior of any serious degree. Yet you just know that there is a segment of the population that will take the autism and Asperger’s thing and run with it. And you know that those afflicted with said disorders will now be looked at sideways.

There is so much we don’t know about mental illness. I’d say we’d better start getting a handle on it, because it ain’t going away.

If there is any common ground I can find with those on even the most extreme side of pro-guns, it’s that people are ultimately responsible for their actions. The gun provides them with the means of destruction, but not every gun owner commits mass shootings, so that should be a clue right there.

Lanza’s mother, Nancy, who was gunned down first last Friday, has been taking some posthumous heat for her decision to have guns of the magnitude that was used by her son, in the first place.

But even his own mother clearly didn’t understand the scope of Adam Lanza’s troubled state.

This is a time for experts in many arenas to sit down, together, and start hashing some stuff out. To do whatever we can to prevent another atrocity like Newtown from happening again is going to require serious, honest discussion from everyone across the gun, mental illness and law enforcement spectrum.

You’re afraid that only criminals will have access to guns?

It’s not working too well when the non-criminals get a hold of them, either.

Categories : crime, Enotes, laws, society
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The Tigers have so many of these introductory press conferences nowadays, they’ve turned to re-introducing guys.

The latest multi-millionaire to wear the Old English D—that’s D, for Dollars—is Anibal Sanchez, whose timing is impeccable.

Seriously, Sanchez is to timing what Beethoven was to music; or what Berra was to malapropisms.

Sports agents have wet dreams about their clients doing what Gene Mato’s did this summer and fall.

Sanchez, in the last year of his contract, was on a collision course with free agency when the Tigers acquired him from the Miami Marlins last July, along with infielder Omar Infante.

They call it Rent-a-Player—that acquisition who’s a short timer, because everyone knows he’s free to walk after the season. And often times, they do.

Only, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch doesn’t rent. He buys. With Ilitch, it’s more like Rent-to-Own.

Sanchez did his part, timing one of the best stretches of his career to coincide with his date with free agency. With every scoreless inning Sanchez threw, starting in August and not ending until the final out of the World Series, agent Mato’s eyes must have filled with dollar signs, like in the cartoons.

When a reported bidding war for Sanchez’s services ensued between the Tigers and the Cubs, it might have been tempting to let the pitcher sign with the North Siders and wish him well. After all, it was the Cubs, baseball’s Bermuda Triangle. We’d have never heard from Sanchez again, much less having to worry about him coming back to haunt the Tigers.

But this is Mike Ilitch we’re talking about. And he owns Yankees West.

Ilitch wasn’t about to be outbid by the Chicago Freaking Cubs.

I think it’s rather humorous to hear people wring their hands over big contracts, as if it’s our money to spend. But there is genuine concern about Sanchez’s 5-year, $80 million contract—if only because of the position he plays.

High profile, expensive free agent pitchers, as soon as the ink dries on their signature, become as unpredictable as tomorrow’s weather. Their arms get fragile. They need a GPS to find home plate. They spend more time on the disabled list than eggs on a grocery list.

But if you’re going to have an embarrassment of riches anywhere on your roster, then it may as well be in your starting rotation. You could do worse.

The Tigers can now trot out, weekly, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Sanchez, and a pitcher to be named later, who might as well be Dontrelle Willis. The critique is that they’re all right-handed (except for Willis). But that’s like saying the one thing wrong with Roger Staubach, Terry Bradshaw, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady is that they all wear number 12.

In a business where teams struggle to even name four starting pitchers, the Tigers have four who could lead many rotations in baseball. The Tigers are so rich in starting pitchers that they actually have six of them.

Ricky Porcello, the oldest 23-year-old pitcher in baseball, will apparently battle it out with lefty Drew Smyly for the fifth spot in the rotation. But there should be no battle here. Keep the southpaw Smyly, whose ceiling is ridiculously high (witness what he did in Game 1 of the ALCS in Yankee Stadium, after the Tigers were waylaid by Jose Valverde in the ninth inning), and trade Porcello.

Porcello has made well over 100 starts. You won’t pull the wool over any GM’s eyes with him, because he literally is as good as his numbers say. There are no ifs, ands or buts about what Porcello is: a 175-inning guy who’ll post a 4.50 ERA and be around .500. A young pitcher who runs out of gas in the sixth inning, often punctuated with the dreaded three-run homer served up.

Yet Porcello, at 23, is likely tempting to other baseball teams, because many will look at him and think he is still young enough to mold and further develop. Maybe we can be that team, other GMs will say, who can improve his stamina and turn him into a 200-inning guy.

For such thoughts, the Tigers could flip Porcello (perhaps in a package) for a veteran left fielder or shortstop, two areas where the team would like to upgrade, if possible.

As for Sanchez, agent Moto said today, The good news is Anibal ended up where he always wanted to be.” I wasn’t at the presser, but I presume Moto said that with a straight face.

If Sanchez always wanted to be with Detroit, then why get into a bidding war with a team that hasn’t won a World Series since Honus Wagner was refusing to let his likeness be used for a tobacco company’s baseball card?

But that’s nitpicking.

Just like worrying that the Tigers have too many right-handers in their rotation.

So trade Rick Porcello and problem solved.

Categories : Baseball, Detroit Tigers
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For eight years, every Saturday, I have pumped out 1,000+ words about pastimes—kids games played by grown-up millionaires. I have mused about the merits of the Lions’ latest draft, the Tigers’ latest free agent signing, the Pistons’ latest implosion, the Red Wings’ latest Stanley Cup.

Not this Saturday.

This Saturday, there won’t be any hand-wringing over the NHL’s (latest) lockout. There won’t be any fussing about another Lions season gone wrong. No analysis about whether the Tigers should have committed $80 million to a pitcher. No unsolicited solutions to all that ails the Pistons.

Who cares?

What does any of that matter, when 20 precious children woke up, went to school, and ended up being carried out of their classrooms in body bags?

For many, sports is a diversion—a way to unplug, for 2-3 hours, the cord that connects us to our troubled lives. We shove our money problems, our marriage troubles, and our job worries to the back burner, so we can yell and scream at the TV and bring our sports teams’ troubles to the fore. Sometimes the logic seems ill, actually.

But it’s not real life, in the strictest definition. The drama is played out on the field, or on the ice, or on the hardwood. At the end there is a winner and there is a loser but none of it really matters.

Even Reggie Jackson, who didn’t meet a spotlight he didn’t like, once tried to put sports in perspective.

“I was reminded that when we lose and I strike out, a billion people in China don’t care,” Reggie said.

Sports is a diversion, but even that is kind of disingenuous to say. The line between sports and real life is being blurred, almost daily. The off-the-court, off-the-field, off-the ice news is capturing a larger slice of the information pie. Sports isn’t, any longer, just about hitting a curve or sacking the quarterback. It’s not just about how to defend the pick-and-roll or getting the puck out of your own zone.

They used to do a lot of killing in sports, but it was all figurative.

Kill the umpire! Kill a penalty. Kill the clock.

Lately, as we’ve seen with recent incidents involving players of the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys, they’re killing people for real.

But on this day we don’t look to sports to divert us. The games go on, but today we are glued to our TV sets, tied to the Internet, frantically searching for answers that may never come, to a one-word question.

Why?

That three-letter word starts so many of our queries.

Why did a 20-year-old young man kill his mother? Why did he then drive to the school where she reportedly worked, and gun down the principal and a school psychologist?

And, the biggest “Why?” of them all.

Why did this young man, reportedly identified as Adam Lanza, march into a classroom and start shooting grade schoolers?

More whys.

Why did his mother have such powerful weapons registered in her name, to which Lanza had access? Why didn’t anyone see this coming?

After the why come the next big questions, and those all start with “How?”

How will the parents of the dead children cope? How will the parents of the surviving children ever hope to re-instill a sense of security in their kids? How will the town of Newtown, Connecticut, a small burg of about 27,000 people (not unlike the size of Madison Heights, where I live), manage to carry on after the slaughter that occurred in their town?

You want to keep sports in this discussion, in an allegorical way?

Well, here it is.

The country has hit its two-minute warning. But it needs to get the football back from the gun lobbies before it can mount a game-winning rally.

We’re out of timeouts, too.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in the wake of the news of the shootings that “today isn’t the day” to talk about gun control. Someone should remind Carney that we have no timeouts remaining.

If the day to talk about gun control isn’t the day in which 20 of our babies are shot dead, sitting at their desks in a kindergarten class, then we’ll never have that talk.

The nightmare in Connecticut has pushed us to the brink. Our backs are against the wall and all that sports rot. The gun violence keeps getting worse, backing us closer to that wall. It wasn’t bad enough after Columbine, apparently. Wasn’t bad enough after a Congresswoman was gunned down at a public appearance.

We edged closer to the wall after the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. And even closer, after the mall shooting in Oregon, just this week.

Now 20 little boys and girls are dead. If this doesn’t cause us to start kicking, clawing and scratching, trying to fight our way back from the edge of insanity, then the clock will run out and the game will be over.

For decades, the gun people have put all their chips on “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” It’s a rallying cry that lacks common sense and immediately puts blinders on those who utter it.

It’s catchy, I grant you that. It’s also true in the most literal sense. A Glock or an assault rifle won’t, of course, kill someone if no one takes hold of it, aims it, and pulls the trigger. You got me there.

But people with guns kill people. Why doesn’t the gun camp think that’s as catchy?

Get ready for the argument of, “If only someone at the school was armed, then a lot of lives might have been saved.”

The old OK Corral argument. The notion that, like in the movies, a hero will draw his weapon, and pick off the bad guy with one shot, with no possible chance of collateral damage or stray bullets striking and killing others.

You think that’s really how it would go down if everyone walked around with a pistol on their hip? Or is it more likely that more people might choose to go for their weapons to “solve” problems, in a horrific moment of indiscretion?

Is the way to put out a fire, to throw more fire at it?

We’re at the two-minute warning. We have no more timeouts remaining. We need the ball back. The situation is just that dire.

We can’t put off the rally any longer. Twenty babies are dead. If that’s not a game changer, then we’re doomed.

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Dec
14

Undercooked Rice

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Susan Rice tried to take one for the team, but she put it behind the eight-ball instead.

Rice, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, today yanked herself out of the running (that she presumably was in) to be the replacement for the retiring Hillary Clinton as President Obama’s next Secretary of State.

In a letter to the president, Rice wrote, in part, “the confirmation process would be lengthy, disruptive, and costly — to you and to our most pressing national and international priorities. That trade-off is simply not worth it to our country.”

The road to Hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. And Rice just paved another one with her premature bailing on the president.

If you believe the conspiracy theories—and this one seems to have some merit—the GOP assault on Rice’s competence to be SOS, which was odd in of itself for its “jumping the gun” nature, is part of a scheme to bring Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to the fore as Clinton’s successor. Why? So Kerry’s ultimately vacated seat could be filled by, say, recently defeated Republican Scott Brown.

Far fetched? Hardly.

Phase One of that plan is complete, with Rice’s too-soon withdrawal from contention.

I must say, I’m disappointed in Rice, a woman in whom I thought was more fight.

She thinks she’s doing right by her president and her country, when she is, in fact, putting Obama in a box and feeding into a negative stereotype.

The stereotype is that women are weaker than men, emotionally, and when the heat gets turned up, they do things like Rice did.

It also shows that bullying works, another bad message to send to our young men and, especially, women.

Rice should have hung in there. She should have stood with the president, if it came to his nominating her. Obama is already taking some heat for not supporting her strongly enough, which supposedly led Rice to the decision that she made.

But what was Obama to do? Once Rice tendered the letter, it pretty much forced his hand.



Rice should have floated the notion of withdrawing past the president, first, to test the waters. I’m confident that Obama would have encouraged her to not withdraw, even if he ended up choosing Kerry (the only other likely candidate) instead.

Rice bailed far too early. Frankly, she had an obligation to stick it out. She let down her president, her country and her gender. I imagine there are “binders full” of strong, independent women out there (NOT necessarily feminists, either) who aren’t too pleased with this decision.

Perception is reality. And from where I sit, I see a bunch of angry white men who bullied a black woman out of contention for SOS. And she let them get away with it, without much of a fight. 

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, is how the saying goes. Only, Susan Rice didn’t get anywhere near the kitchen, yet she still failed her gender. How ironic, huh?

Categories : Enotes, Politics
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Dec
12

Deli Advertising

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The sandwich board is making a comeback.

I’m not talking about literal sandwiches here, like the kind you eat.

I’m talking the term often used for the signs those poor folks are holding or wearing these days, hawking a variety of retail outlets, from cell phone stores to oil change places.

The sandwich board was so named because of its original incarnation, which was usually two pieces of wood, connected with rope or twine, which the wearer would sling over his shoulders, advertising on the front and back, creating a sort of human “sandwich.”

The sandwich boards started showing up in earnest in the late-1920s and early-1930s, which were, not coincidentally, the days of the Great Depression. But in those days, often the human sandwich was promoting himself, not any company.

The sandwich board is back, but in a more streamlined fashion. It used to be that the only businesses in recent years who commissioned people to stand on the curb and wave people in, holding a sign, were car washes (the fundraising kind) and, during tax season, tax preparers (with typically someone dressed as Lady Liberty or Uncle Sam).

Now, there are so many sandwich boards and signs out there, I’m surprised they’re not bumping into each other.

There’s this one dude who works for one of those companies that buys and sells gold. I see him every Friday when I’m on my way to cash my check on Rochester Road, and I have seen him for over a year now, rain, snow or shine. He wears headphones and is swiveling his sign like mad, all the time. And I just see him on Fridays. Doubtless he works the whole week as well.

The thing is—and granted, it’s hard to tell just by driving by at 40 mph once a week—he seems perfectly happy to be doing it. Not bored at all. He walks up and down, forward and back, swiveling his sign.

To be honest, I don’t even know where his employer’s store is located. I only see him, not the actual store front.

But he’s there, every week, with his gold sign with black print, walking up and down that tiny stretch of Rochester Road. He looks to be in his 20s, and physically fit.

I wonder what they pay people these days to be human sandwiches?

Back in the day, the sandwich board advertised people, not businesses





Is it worth the cost? Is such advertising really effective? Using my Friday Guy as an example, maybe not. You’ll notice I have made mention of driving by him, but not knowing the name of his company, nor exactly where the store is located. And I’ve seen him do his thing for well over a year.

Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of having him there?

I also drive by an oil change place every night on my way home from work. That dude strays from the sidewalk, however, and damn near stands on the street. Kind of dangerous, if you ask me.

But again, does his presence make me want to get my oil changed?

Does any human sandwich influence your wanting to drop some dollars at the sandwich’s business?

Regardless, there’s no question that the human sandwiches are increasing in number. I guess it’s the new wave of guerrilla marketing.

We’ve come a long way, I guess, since “Eat at Joe’s” was the sandwich board of the day.

Not sure if that’s good or bad.

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There was a time, believe it or not, when Bill Ford wasn’t a very patient man.

There was a time when coaches of his football team were held accountable for their records, for their incompetence. There was a time when he showed some urgency to win.

There was a time when he acted as if he was in his 80s.

It was when he was in his 40s.

Ford, the Lions owner, used to know a bad pony when he saw one.

And he saw one, big time, in the form of Harry Gilmer, the cowboy hat-wearing former quarterback from Alabama who Ford hired as Lions coach for the 1965 season.

The job became available because the coach for 1964, and for seven years before that, George Wilson, was the first to fall victim to Ford’s long ago impetuousness.

Not long after Ford bought out his partners to become Lions sole owner in 1964, he rolled up his sleeves and went after Wilson, ordering the coach to fire some of his assistants. Wilson told the owner to shove it and resigned.

Enter Gilmer, and after two lousy seasons, Ford had seen enough, rendering the dreaded ziggy.

Gilmer’s records in those two seasons were 6-7-1 and 4-9-1. You have records like that now, and you get a contract extension.

When last seen in Detroit, Gilmer and his cowboy hat were the targets of snowballs being heaved by the fans at Tiger Stadium after a loss to the Minnesota Vikings, his last home game as Lions coach.

After Gilmer came Joe Schmidt, who coached the Lions for six seasons before becoming mystified and frustrated, the loser in a power struggle with GM Russ Thomas.

Enter Don McCafferty, and in his only season as Lions coach (1973), he felt the wrath of Ford’s impatience. There were public grumblings from the owner after an embarrassing home loss to the putrid Baltimore Colts, in which Ford questioned the players’ will to win.

Ford was 48 years old when he levied that disgusted review of his football team.

That was a long time ago.

McCafferty died the following summer. Assistant Rick Forzano became the head coach. Ford, still showing a tendency to be impatient, fired Forzano after a little more than two full seasons.

Tommy Hudspeth was next. Ford gave Tommy a season-and-a-half before canning him and bringing in Monte Clark.

It was then that Ford, for whatever reason, seemed to lose his zeal to hold his coaches’ feet to the fire.

Clark stayed on for seven seasons, perhaps one year too long. Darryl Rogers—the hires were starting to become really inexplicable at this point—was brought in. Rogers was so bad that he openly asked reporters, “What does a guy have to do to get fired around here?”

Rogers stayed on too long. His defensive coordinator, Wayne Fontes, replaced Rogers in 1988. Fontes coached for eight full seasons, which was also too long.

Bobby Ross, brought in to replace Fontes, committed a self-ziggy in 2000, in his fourth season as Lions coach. Had he not canned himself, who knows how much more rope he would have been given.

Then there’s Matt Millen, perhaps the most hated man in Detroit sports. Ever.

Look what it took for Ford to fire Millen, after nearly eight years of slapstick.

The older Bill Ford has gotten, the more passive he’s become.

Now compare this to Mike Ilitch.

Ilitch is 83. You could make a case that he looks physically gaunt—frail, even. His appearance at the trophy ceremony when the Tigers captured the 2012 American League pennant caused some stage whispers about the owner’s health. At times, it looked as if Ilitch was being propped up, literally, by GM Dave Dombrowski on the mini-stage as the league trophy was being presented.

Yet as the autumn of his life is upon him, Mike Ilitch—owner of two teams, a pizza empire and other holdings—seems to be just getting started.

There’s urgency with his baseball team. It envelopes the organization.

“Win one for Mr. I” seems to be the mantra.

There’s always urgency with his hockey team. The Red Wings have been a Stanley Cup contender for about 20 years and don’t show any proclivity to being tired of that stature.

There’s urgency with Ilitch’s city, too. Just this week, grandiose plans were revealed for a new hockey arena for the Red Wings surrounded by an entertainment district, reportedly not far from Ilitch’s Fox Theatre.

Ilitch’s hockey brain trust of VP Jimmy Devellano, GM Kenny Holland, assistant GM JimNill and coach Mike Babcock have been together forever, but it’s a good forever. There’s been no real reason to change, so why do so?

Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland have been Tigers since 2001 and 2006, respectively, but there is a feeling of urgency. There’s a feeling of accountability. Their still being with the Tigers doesn’t smack of complacency, nor of passivity.

Win one for Mr. I—that’s the marching order, up and down the Tigers organization. And it’s not a phony, Knute Rockne kind of thing.

Ilitch, at 83, frail or not, burns with the desire to slay his white whale—a World Series championship. Just ask new Tiger Torii Hunter, signed last month.

Hunter spoke of meeting Ilitch and shaking his hand and seeing a fire in the old man’s eyes. The fire to win a World Series, an accomplishment that has also eluded the 37-year-old outfielder.

Hunter couldn’t wait to sign on the dotted line after seeing that fire in Ilitch’s eyes.

The two octogenarian owners in town, Bill Ford and Mike Ilitch, each have white whales. One is bereft of a Super Bowl, the other a World Series.

Both are proud, loyal and considered to be very nice men who are respected within their respective circles.

But when compared, side by side, it just isn’t close when it comes to rendering a verdict as to which man has the stronger sense of urgency to win.

Does Bill Ford want to win a Super Bowl before he dies? Of course he does.

Mike Ilitch just seems to want to win a World Series more.

Dec
07

From Zero to 60, In His Grave

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One of the greatest ironies these days is that if you’re off to Lansing via car, chances are you just might have to travel on the Reuther Freeway, aka I-696, for a portion of that trip.

That would be the Reuther, as named after Michigan labor pioneer Walter P. Reuther. The same Reuther who is spinning in his grave right about now with great centrifugal force.

If only Ford Motor Company had acquiesced to organized labor back in the late-1930s as quickly as the Michigan Legislature ramrodded the first stage of the so-called “right to work” bill through session yesterday.

Reuther, eventual head of the UAW, paid for his union organizing efforts physically, at the famous Battle of the Overpass at the River Rouge plant, in 1937, when he and Richard Frankensteen were beaten severely by henchmen hired by Ford. The auto company was unhappy about Reuther and his fellow organizers handing out pro-union leaflets along the overpass.

So what would Reuther, and other labor organizers and champions of the early movement, think of the “right to work” bill, and its potential to take down labor unions?

This isn’t exactly what Reuther had in mind when he worked tirelessly to ensure union representation for autoworkers some 75 years ago.

I wonder how many of today’s young state lawmakers even know who Walter Reuther was. I wonder if they know why the Department of Transportation named I-696 after him?

I wonder if they know the sacrifices that Reuther and others made so that the middle class could be fortified and have peace of mind?

I wonder if they care.

For now, it’s all about not only union busting, but Democrat busting. It’s no secret that labor unions, while not as strong as they were 10-15 years ago, still form a good portion of the base of the Democratic party. And wouldn’t the state GOP just love to hack away at that base, which they are now beginning to do by shoving the “right to work” bill onto Governor Rick Snyder’s desk at warp speed.

Weaker labor unions—the bill would prohibit unions from requiring membership as a condition of employment—would be a boon to the Republicans.

But of course, the bill is being propped up as something that will ensure fairness and keep Michigan competitive in terms of salary and benefits, when statistics from other “right to work” states suggest mostly the opposite.

More likely is that the bill would become a slippery slope down which salaries, benefits and the middle class itself would all slide.

The manner in which the bill made its way through the Legislature, complete with protests and pepper spray, is, for now, worse than any of its residual effects. The Republicans’ zeal for this bill is so blatantly partisan and filled with not-so-hidden agendas that it’s either something to laugh or cry at. Nothing in between.

I know which one Walter Reuther would pick.

Categories : Enotes, laws, Politics
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