Monday, October 24, 2011

Lions Bad Boys of NFL

What the heck is going on.  The Lions are showing too much emotion?  Bobby Layne must be standing up and applauding in the afterlife.  This is not your Matt Millen Lions and this is not your Barry Sanders Lions.  This is a new one for Lions fans.  This is something out of the New York Jet playbook.  Controversial coach, some controversial players, and a few really classy ones (see Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford, and Jason Hanson).  The Lions are following their coach's emotional example.  Whether it is NdamukongSuh and Cliff Avril kicking/insulting Matt Ryan while he is writhing in pain or Coach Schwartz chasing Jim Harbaugh trying to make a point-whatever it was. 

The best word to describe it is pretty much what kind of ride we are on-a roller coaster.  I mean the first 5 games were back and forth, heart stopping victories.  The next 2 games (both losses) were the same, gut wrenching, heart stopping, but still losses.  I will say this, the Lions definitely know how to deflect attention from their losses. It is pretty clear that the Lions can't really run the ball and offensively rely on the big play or home run too much.  Just check their 3rd and 4th down efficiency.  Defensively, if the line doesn't get to the QB or stop the run, well, it is an adventure.  Yet, no one is talking about that.  All we can talk about is how dirty Suh is or how unstable Schwartz is. 

Being a life long Lions fan, I love the fact that we are relevant and that these two losses, while to pretty good teams actually make the Lions themselves mad that they lost.  Listening to Suh, Stafford, and Schwartz talk after the games makes me think, gulp, of the Detroit Pistons of the 80's.  Love them or hate them, they were winners.  Dirty or not, they were relevant.  Laimbeer, Mahorn, and the guys up front did the dirty work (like the Lions defense) and the backcourt got the points and the glory (like the offensive skill players and quarterback).  No matter what, these Lions are not going to go back to their old ways.  They just can't.  They have come too far from the scourge of 0-16. 

The playoffs have to the be the goal.  Think Rams and the Greatest Show on Turf.  They turned it around real quick and became relevant for 5-6 years going to 2 Super Bowls and winning one.  The next game is Denver and I think that Suh and the boys have a statement to make playing Tebow.  Now, I am not saying hurt the lad...just hit him hard.  Win by more than a dozen.  Let's put these two losses behind us and move into better playoff position.  Other than the Packers, Saints, and 49ers, making the wild card is in the Lions power and in their own grasp. 

Now, emotions are great and I say keep it up, but don't blow any your best Mike Singletary or Mean Joe Greene and make it count on the field.  Do I think Suh is dirty?  Not really, but I am a homer and the perception is that he is a dirty player.  That is a tough one to beat-just ask James Harrison or Rodney Harrison (who said Suh was a dirty player-how's that for an oxymoron).  The entire defense needs to decide that being emotional is not the only part of them.  They need to show the NFL that they are emotional but also hard hitting, aggressive and willing to do what it takes to win.  The Lions have gone too far with the over emotional stuff to change their tune now to become cerebral and heady players.

Remember, you give a guy a fish for one meal and teach the another a guy to fish for many meals.  The Lions need to focus on sustainability.  Suh, Stafford, Johnson, Pettigrew and the entire team need to decide are they in this for the long run.  If so, let's get back on track.  Play daring, be emotional, but remember the goal is always, always to win games and you can't let your emotions get in your way.

Go Lions and thank you for making a long time fan very happy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Open Letter to Dads

To all you open letter to encourage each of you to focus on what is important in your relationship with your kid.  Notice I didn't say your relationship with your student athlete.  You see, your kid may be a student, an athlete, a student-athlete, an all star, a bench warmer, a reserve, a 5 star recruit, an academic genius, or even a combination of some of these.  Maybe your kid is the 5.0 student athlete who is a 5 star recruit being looked at by both the Ivy League and the SEC.  It doesn't matter.  First and foremost, your kid is exactly that-your kid.  They may be smart, athletic, musical, or anything else.  But that is what they do and what they have accomplished.  No matter what, the big thing is they are your kid.  And guess what, your first priority is being their father, not their quarterback or pitching coach, not their academic advisor or college counselor, or not their musc teacher.  Now, as a father, part of your duties might include coaching, tutoring, or teaching music.  But, c'mon, your first job is to love them as a father.

It doesn't matter if your kid is a 5.0 student with 3 honors courses.  It doesn't matter if they have 50 schools wanting to recruit them for a sport, or their SAT scores are off the chart.  If you are not there in their lives making a difference by loving them, guiding them, listening to them, and protecting them then you really have missed the point of being a father.

I can appreciate all the sacrifices fathers make for their children, especially if it is out of love.  But if love is lacking and it is not the motivation for you in your relationship with your kids, you are really missing out.  Now, I am not going to dole out a lot of advice on how to raise your kids.  How you raise your kids is a decision that you and your spouse have to make.  But, what you need is to begin by loving your kids, every day of their lives.  When kids know that they are loved and that love is unconditional it gives them a comfort level and strength that cannot be matched.

If your kids make a mistake and discipline or correction is warranted, you choose how to do that, but make love the key component.  Your kids need to know that you love them when you discipline them, when they drop the game winning throw, when they win the long jump, when they get a C or an A, or when they get in a car accident because they weren't paying attention.  No matter what the scenario, start with a hug and I love you and go from there.  I know there may some situations that very serious and have serious consequences for your kids, BUT you still need to let them know you love them no matter what.  Again, hug and say I love you and then begin sorting out the issues, working on challenges, or facing a life crisis.

Don't let your kids at any age feel they are alone.  Let them see your love in action.  Play a video game with them.  Let them show you how they use a notebook or their computer.  Listen to their music sometimes with them-trust me, your ears won't bleed (not much).  Talk to them about school, sports, sex, drugs, the sky, cars, peanut butter, or anything.  Just talk to them!

There is alot going on for kids today.  Alot of pressure to be number one in everything they do.  Part time jobs are hard to find.  Getting into college is harder and more expensive.  Temptations regarding drugs, sex, and other stuff are staring them right in the face.  Again, you choose how to raise them and deal with these things, but please love your children unconditionally.  It is the greatest gift you can give to them.  Trust me, you will make mistakes as a father, but kids are pretty forgiving and guess what, deep down inside under all that sarcasm and silence, they love you back. 

So, dads, get to it-love your kids-every day and in different ways!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lions 3-0

All things in the world must be okay.  The stock market is volatile?  Gas is high?  Politics are partisan?

How can it be?  C'mon, the Detroit Lions are 3-0.  Did you hear me?  They are 3-0.  Let it soak it in.  Let it breathe like a fine wine.  Let it permeate the air like a good deodorizer.

Bottom line is it has been 30 years since something like this has happened.  If I hadn't just had heart surgery, I think, I would need heart surgery.  This is epic stuff.  This is like Ben Hur, Gladiator, Braveheart, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones combined.  Now...what lies ahead you may ask.

Stop, don't ask.  Don't question.  Just knock on wood, kiss your rabbit's foot, and pick a four leaf clover.  Whatever you have been doing for the past 3 Sundays, keep doing it.  If you get up wearing one sock on Sunday AM, keep doing it.  If you stay late Saturday watching infomercials, don't stop.  Whatever you are doing, do it again and again.  Just like the athletes that wear the same t-shirt or socks for good luck.

Glory be, though, these Lions are not about luck.  They are about "getting it" and "getting after it".  First their GM is, well, not Matt Millen.  But that does not make him special.  What makes him great is his ability to choose draft picks.  Suh last year and Fairley this year.  The D-line is set for awhile.  Calvin Johnson at WR and Matthew Stafford healthy.  This is monumental stuff for Detroit.  Couple this with the Tigers and ....

....sorry, I fainted and lost my breath for a few moments.  All I can say is thanks to the Lions and deep down, thanks to Coach Schwartz.  Watch him on the sidelines.  He is not Mr. Calm or Mr. Cool.  He is a football coach who wants to win, expects to win, and makes sure the team is ready.

Now, I still hold to a little bit of reality to say that the Lions won't be undefeated, but I can wish for a playoff spot and maybe, just maybe a playoff win.  Thank you Lions, one and all!  You have made some pretty tough times a little easier to handle.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Dangerous Parts of the Game

They say football and hockey are the most violent sports.  I have seen boxing matches and MMA fights that were pretty bloody and looked painful.  My son wrestled this year and never really knew how hard those mats were until I heard him hit it pretty hard.  Rugby is pretty tough too.  What if I told you the most dangerous sport League Baseball.  Especially if you are a Dodger fan.

It has gotten out of hand in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium.  The senseless beating of the Giant fan on opening day was a travesty.  I heard all the politicians and community leaders today talk about how this can't happen, we will get the suspects, and every other politically correct statement.  But why did it have to come to this?  A few years back, a brother of one of my co-workers was killed in the parking lot.  But the parking lot was dangerous even before that time.  I am not here to pinpoint the exact date when Dodger Stadium became a scary place.  I am here to say it is and has been for a long time.

First, we must avoid stereotyping different cultures and people who attend the games.  I don't what color the perpetrators are, what they wear, or anything like that.  Whoever did this are gutless and aren't any better than terrorists.  Anyone who would attack another human being because of their game attire; well, those attackers are sick and deserve to be punished to the full extent of the law.

But let's get back to the issue at hand.  The parking lot at Dodger Stadium.  Simply, it needs better lighting, better exit strategy, and a better environment.  Dodger Stadium really starts as you enter the parking lot, not when you enter the park.  So make the parking lot look better, decorate it up a little.  Put the security guards who stand on the field in the parking lots before and after the game.  As Tim Conway Jr said in his radio show today, how many times have you seen 2 guys raking the infield and one guy attacks the other with his rake until all the security guards come running.  Hey, have enough guards on the field, but let's think of the safety of your fans all over Dodger Stadium...

Hiring former Chief Bratton as a consultant is a shrewd move.  You know what would be smarter, McCourt should sell the Dodgers.  The perception is that he and Jamie are selfish, broke, clueless, and don't care.  Maybe that is only partially right, but they just don't seem genuine.  And that has caused alot of the blame for this violence to land at their feet for not investing in security at the park.  But what is the answer?

Simple, the McCourts need to sell the team and get out...Fast!!  Mr. McCourt talk to Bud Selig and the other owners (though they may not want to talk to you) and find out how fast you could get out.  The fans don't trust you and unfortunately, they don't like you and that's not just because of your messy divorce.  Sell, sell, sell.  Maybe Bud or someone can broker a deal where you and Jamie make a little money, so you can start over selling crafts at a local Farmers Market or become a motivational speaker on how to own a baseball team with no capital and no money down.

Frank...Jamie.  Jamie...Frank...go back to Boston.  We appreciate the playoff appearances and hiring Joe Torre, but you just seem not to get it.  Baseball is really a family or group outing.  Peanuts, hot dogs, programs, Take Me Out to the Ballgame,double plays, Derek Jeter, infield pop up rule, etc.  Not kick the Giant fan in the head.  Or not come forward to help solve the crime of who kicked the Giant fan in the head.  Not email LA Times and say that anyone wearing Giants gear deserves what they get.  You see what I am saying...the culture and atmosphere at Blue Heaven on Earth has changed.  It has changed because Dodger management has let it change.  They have turned a blind eye to the crimes and violence.  They love to tell you the 2011 crime is less than 2010 crime, but that doesn't bring a Giant fan out of a coma.  Where is the type of security needed to keep fans safe to enjoy the game.  Oh yeah, the extra cost of security is somewhere in a Divorce Court being split different ways for the final settlement.  You see, to  the McCourts, the Dodgers, their fans, and the brand name in general don't count. 


Friday, April 1, 2011

Lakers Using Tough Love

You ever hear the phrase "tough love"?  Right now, the Lakers are showing the NBA what "tough love" really see, the Lakers love being counted out, told they are too confident, that they don't have the same fire, and what they really, really love is being told they are soft.  What did Jason Terry call Matt Barnes this morning on ESPNRadio-the "Charminator" because he is soft like toilet paper.  The NBA needs to wake up.  Some of the Lakers are not and never have been soft.  These Lakers have never given up and keep playing hard whether good times or bad.  These Lakers are, in no particular order, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Matt Barnes, and Phil Jackson.

 No real need to explain Kobe's toughness, his inner strength, or competitive fire.  Sometimes, it looks like that fire will burn him up or that toughness will zap his energy, but it doesn't.  It is just time that all the bandwagon Kobe fans and Kobe naysayers admit one him or hate him, Kobe doesn't have too many equals today when it comes to competitors...especially in the NBA.  Maybe Duncan in his prime.  Or maybe Garnett or Pierce (nah, you have to have more than one championship really to know how tough winning is).  Kobe has always played tough and at times, had it tough.  He played thru all the junk that happened in Colorado.  He played thru the issues with Shaq and the constant barrage of gossip and insults in the media.  He played thru trade rumors, injuries, and shooting slumps.  Tonite, he banged the knee of Utah player and he stayed in to put the game away.  Kobe is tough...and only a few NBA legends are at or near his level.  Of course, MJ is right up there-probably a few notches higher.  Magic and Bird are right there as is Russell and West.  I would put Willis Reed, Havlicek, Frazier, Cowens, Wilt, Kareem, Duncan, and Hakeem right there. But they are below Kobe.

D-Fish is tough and I have explained it before.  He takes screens and give screens like a full back.  He hits shots with no time left.  Gets criticized for all of the Laker woes including getting killed by opponent point guards, not being quick to rotate or get back on defense, and inconsistent offensive execution.  You can't blame Fisher.  You should remember when his daughter suffered the eye cancer and how stoic he was.  He has given big licks and taken big hits.  And, he does not back down from anyone.  No matter how tall you are, look at Derek and tell me, he couldn't play fullback or safety in the NFL.  To measure his toughness, just ask the players that have been screened by him or charged into him committing an offensive foul.  Once those players get the little birdies to stop flying around their heads after running into D-Fish, they will try to tell you how tough he is, but it is hard to remember when you develop amnesia from that contact.

To observe how tough Barnes is, just watch last nite's melee and understand that is the reason Matt is here.  He will not allow anyone to push any teammates or cause any harm to the Lakers.  Some of you might say he is journeyman and not a real Laker.  I say, if he is getting paid by Dr. Buss and providing the supporting muscle, then he is a Laker.  Other teams may hate him but he wears the Laker colors and makes contributions not found on the stat sheet, so he is a Laker.  When it comes to mixing it up, no one is better.  John Ireland from the Mason and Ireland radio show in LA, said that Matt doesn't look to start a fight, but he looks to finish them.  

Phil is tough and provides the tough love.  This is not the easiest bunch of ballers to coach.  From Kobe's super competitive nature and complaining to Bynum's sulking to Artest's emotional pendulum to Lamar's new reality show to whatever else pops up, he does not get rattled.  However, he does know when to "zing" his players in the press, during the game, at practice, and pretty much anytime.  I don't hear Phil attending many of the players' birthday parties, graduation for kids, or going out for burgers and beers.  But he still cares and really what matters, he still wins more than other coaches.  The toughness Phil shows is when he criticizes the team, the league, or anyone else.  For one, he is usually right and Two, he always takes any responses or league warnings in stride.  He looks laid back, but he is tough as nails and cool as a cucumber during the finals.

Why the NBA needs to wake up is because the Lakers are making a historic run to a 3 peat.  They love being criticized, maligned, misunderstood, and insulted and they show the love by being tough on the other teams.  Just ask Michael Beasly of Minnesota, Coach Stott and Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks.  Also, just watch them.  Have you seen Kobe as engaged at any other time this year?  Jumping up and exhorting his teammates when on the bench.  Clapping and yelling after a Bynum or Brown dunk.  Double pumping his fist after someone else makes a big play.  He is focused in the right way.  He is holding himself responsible and mixing in tough love, encouragement, and leadership for his teammates.  Fisher is showing everyone but quietly remaining a human tackling dummy.  He doesn't go around picks, he rumbles nextto  them and hopes to side step the screen.  If not and he takes or gives a big hit-oh well.  Phil smirks from the sideline and calmly pokes Cuban, the league ownership of the Hornets, Jason Terry, the MVP candidates, and whoever else he needs to poke for his folly.  Barnes, well, as mentioned above, he is the muscle.  I know Artest is strong and Bynum is not backing down; however, Barnes takes his cue from other tough guys in Lakers past-Kurt Rambis, Michael Cooper, Rick Fox, and Happy Hairston.  He will never, ever back down unless on the bench.  He is here to provide the toughness and be a great teammate.  So where is this tough love?

In a nutshell, the Lakers love the fact people think they are tougher now than they have been in the past 5 years or since Shaq left.  If I were the rest of the NBA, I would start chewing some nails or gargling with paperclips in an effort to be as tough as the Lakers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

We Are So Short Sighted

Phil Jackson told us not to worry.  Kobe said that while disappointing we shouldn't overreact.  Derek said that the veterans know what to do.  While alot of us were running around yelling to trade Andrew Bynum for Melo and try to find a way to unload Ron Ron (Artest), we underestimated the fact that Phil, Kobe, and Derek know this team better than anyone and, oh yeah, they know how to win.

16 games after the All Star game, we are watching the injury and losing bug hit San Antonio and Boston.  Inconsistency hits Miami, Orlando, Dallas, OKC, and New York.  Atlanta, Portland and Dallas are playing a wee bit over their heads when they win and show their true colors when they lose.  And, just when you want to anoint Chicago as the heir apparent, they lose to Philadelphia on a bad shooting nite by Lou Williams.  What is this, the NCAA tourney?  Shades of Butler and VCU...are Atlanta and Portland going to make their conference finals?  I doubt it.  Still a few games to go and I don't hesitate when I say that the Lakers and Spurs should battle it out for supremacy in the West.  While in the East, Boston and somebody else will battle for their conference crown.  I say Chicago because they are somewhat consistent and play that suffocating defense that wins championships (see Detroit and Boston in this decade).  No matter how you slice it, it should Boston and LA again one more time.

Why did we doubt the Lakers?  Let's be honest, we are die hard LA fans-which goes against popular opinion-it actually means we live and die with this team.  Yet, we still  overhype their wins and winning streaks and become ultra depressed when they lose.  Why?  First, Kobe and Phil demand perfection in their own way and set the expectations and the bar high.  So when Pau Gasol just misses meeting those expectations or has one bad game, we jump to the conclusion that he is tired. If D-Fish has an off night, he is too old or too slow.  If Barnes doesn't hit a 3, it is his injury or his attitude-same can be said for Artest with one difference.  We sometimes think Ron Ron is complaining or doesn't like Kobe.  Really, I don't think Kobe is winning any teammate of the year contests.  What he is winning and wants to win again is a championship.  We think Shannon Brown is still immature if he doesn't constantly drive to the basket.  Steve Blake is a bust when he misses one three point shot.  Bynum doesn't look like he is running on one play and we immediately think he is lazy or hurt.

Looking at the Celtics, Spurs, and other teams facing losing streaks or inconsistency, all I can say is the Lakers may have been inconsistent and had some injuries, but at least they were smart enough to do it earlier in the year.  Now, as noted, Kobe demands perfection and often when it doesn't happen he tries to take over, which lately looks like a great strategy.  Note to Kobe, just don't do that too often as your friends Pau, Lamar, and Andrew all have scoring capabilities and your team is at their best when the "bigs" touch the ball on both ends of the court.  Again though, we or I cannot be shortsighted...we or I need to trust Kobe to lead us to 3 in a row.  Kobe leads by example and understands that he will make some mistakes but his successes outweigh his mistakes by a wide margin.

Phil, while demanding perfection and setting that expectation, doesn't just want it physically, he wants it mentally.  He emphasizes decision making-he wants the right choices being made AND in the last 16 games these decisions are looking terrific.  Bynum's positioning on the glass is text book.  Ron Ron seems to know when to shoot, when to drive, and thankfully when to pass.  Pau and D Fish seem to be getting stronger and becoming a bigger part of the offense.  Lamar has been the steadying influence on this team.  His calmness is only overshadowed by his decision making-when to bring the ball down court, when to post up, when to drive, when to shoot the three-pretty much all year, he has been making the right decisions.

For Phil, the pain has to be the bench, mainly Matt Barnes and Steve Blake.  They have been so inconsistent this year that they are consistently inconsistent.  Barnes due to injury and Blake due to the fact that in this offense there is no need for a dominating point guard.  Shannon Brown is having a steady year and there is hope he will continue to grow.  Luke Walton is a fan favorite who seems to be getting less and less quality time and it may be about time to move on.  Overall, I give the bench a C+ and Phil may grade it lower.  All we really need the bench to do is come in and pick the pace of the game.  Hustle, Hustle!

Why are we short sighted, well we want the view of what have you done for me lately and we overreact to every piece of bad news or loss that comes are way.  Playoffs are around the corner, so we can be short sighted because a series usually lasts only 7 shortsightedness is probably a good thing.  Anyway, here is Kobe and Phil as they work towards 3 in a row.  When we feel like we want to complain, let's just not say anything at all and go talk either one of them.  They are both honest.  One in a gritty, intense way and another in a humorous, transcendent way.  Either or, as long as Kobe and/or Phil around, we are good hands and should get our eyes check for shortsightedness.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Fav of all time

Everyone has favorites or fav's these days.  Here's my fav athlete of all time-

1.  Magic Johnson...greatest passer, greatest point guard, greatest winner of all time.  Yes I know other athletes won more championships and others have better talent.  But you have to look at his body of work. He won an NCAA championship game that set the table for the annual event we call March Madness.  Michigan State vs Indiana State is one of the top three NCAA finals of all time and not due to the excitement.  It set the table for Bird v Magic.  Lakers v Celtics and as I mentioned, March Madness.  The other 2 championship games would be NC State v Houston (Jimmy V running around looking for someone to hug) and West Texas (UTEP) v Kentucky with Coach Haskins team beating Coach Rupp's Wildcats with an all African American lineup.  Back to Magic-he became one of the faces of the NBA in its heyday.  He won with joy and lost with courage.  And whole body of work you say...he has handled HIV as well as could imagine and his post NBA resume' is right up there with his business prowess.  Now if he leads a charge for an NFL team to LA, then he will reach even higher than the stratosphere.  What I remember best about Magic was his jump hook against the Celtics that won the game.  The smile, the charm, the competitive desire, the courage, and the talent made him magic, but his big heart made him Ervin "Magic" Johnson.

I remember the jump hook the best but my favorite, determining Magic moment is when he announced he had HIV.  I was on my way home from a conference near LAX.  I actually pulled over and cried a little.  Not because the Lakers would possibly begin losing, but because a true sports hero was hurting.  He handled it with class and integrity or at least as much as he could.  Let's understand that while we don't know all the ins and outs of his lifestyle pre announcement, we do know that he did not always use protection.  Since that announcement, Magic has shown that a condition doesn't define a man, but how he responds to that condition defines him.  Again, the words that come to mind are integrity, class, and with Magic-joy-always joy.

When you think of him as a basketball player there was never anyone like him before or after him.  Nobody really has become Michael Jordan or possibly was like him, but when you think of MJ, you can compare Kobe, Elgin Baylor, and others.  With offensive centers like Kareem, you may think Hakeem.  With Wilt you think Shaq.  With Bill Russell, you think Tim Duncan.  LeBron falls into the Elgin Baylor category and besides neither of them won a championship.  Larry Bird may be close because there was not a forward that big who could shoot and pass like him.  You may think Manu, Gervin, Havlicek, Dolph Schayes, or Bob Pettit.  With Magic, you can't think traditional point guard because they are too short.  Big O, Oscar Robertson-I don't think so.  Magic was 6'9 and played point, rebounded like a forward and could guard anyone. Remember game 6 in his rookie year when he played center against the 76ers?  No one like him, ever...period.

When I watch a sporting event, I seem to always hearken back to Magic and compare whether or not the players in the games handle winning and losing like he did.  He won with joy, competed with hear, and lost with integrity.  Again, no one like him, ever...period.  Thanks Magic.