Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Trip Through the Detroit Sports Scene...and Other Important Thoughts


Many Tigers fans, including yours truly, had concerns coming into this season about the starting pitching. Last year produced some of the most horrific results seen in years. There was Nate Robertson and his bone-chilling ERA that seemed to increase after every appearance, no matter how high it already was coming into the game. You had Dontrelle Willis and his complete loss of control, causing me to wonder why it's taking so long for the Rick Ankiel comparisons to start coming out of the woodwork. Oh well, I might as well be the first. Not to mention Jeremy Bonderman, who is slowly but surely continuing the fine legacy put in place by Nate Cornejo. Lots of promise, lots of disappointments...very little body hair. But all those concerns were washed away in the past couple weeks.

See, countless stories have been written where Jim Leyland expresses how good all these guys have looked throwing off a practice mound to some minor league catcher with no hitter in sight. Obviously, that's your true indicator right there of what they're really made of. Forget the fact that the Detroit Fire Department had to literally be on call whenever Robertson took the mound last season. What's really important is how he looks in the first week of February. I know something has to be written to fill the sports pages in these early days of spring training, but how about an actual look at why Robertson struggled so mightily last year and how he intends to change? So far, it seems like every day you pick up the paper, Leyland is singing someone's praises on how great they looked throwing in the bullpen...Robertson, Willis, Fernando Rodney, newly acquired Brandon Lyon. Even Lou Brown had enough sense in "Major League" not to get too excited when he saw Rick Vaughn hurling blistering 100 mph pitches with nobody in the batter's box.

Other Tigers Thoughts...

-You tellin' me old Tiger knuckleballer Steve Sparks couldn't find 20-25 starts with this squad, even at the age of 43? It was funny/sad one year going down to games at Comerica Park. Attended maybe 9-10 ballgames...I think Steve Sparks started all but one. The first couple times, it's like, "Hey cool, gonna get to see a knuckler in person"!! That was very quickly replaced by, "HOW IS STEVE SPARKS PITCHING AGAIN????? IS THERE NOBODY ELSE ON THE F$%^ING PLANET THAT CAN THROW A BASEBALL?!?!??!?" Ahh yes, Tigers baseball in the early 2000's...lots of good memories.

-There has never been a player in baseball history with a last name as hard to figure out as former Tiger pitcher Shane Loux. Some people tried getting the 'X' involved...some left it silent. Others went with "Looch," which just confused me further. He appeared in 14 games for them during the early part of the decade...and had 14 pronunciations to match. I still don't know the correct way to say it, and I hope I never do.

Pistons (Must be kept short for fear of a 20,000 word rant)

-8 losses in a row makes me think of guys like Eric Leckner and Pete Chillcut...and I get sad.

-No over the back call on the Hornets last possession will keep me up tonight.

-You don't need to watch the game or look at the box score to know how Rodney Stuckey played in a particular game. Just assume he went 2-9 and scored somewhere between 6-8 points. You'll have 95-99% accuracy every time.

-Will Bynum should have been getting minutes at point guard all year long. Might be a small thing, but when Chauncey was dealt, this team was effectively left without any point guards, save for Bynum. The guy can get in the lane, he can dish, he can finish himself. Not gonna set the world on fire, but Curry should have been giving him time all year...and he knows it.

-The McDyess-Maxiell combo needs to be used more. Teams cannot keep them off the glass when they play together.

-Pistons now just two games up on the 9th place teams in the East. Looks weird just seeing it in black and white. I'm an optimist, though. Get a few more wins, bump Philly from that 6th spot, and it's Orlando in Round 1. Still not convinced they have the chops to finally beat the Stones 4 of 7. Their bench just doesn't do much for me. J.J. Redick, Tony Battie, Anthony Johnson...I wouldn't even say it's equivalent to a side of rice pilaf. It's more like a side of croutons, but the ones that aren't even crunchy anymore because they've already been in bed with the salad dressing.

Red Wings

What a performance at Joe Louis Arena tonight. The High Socked One was in attendance as the Red Wings took it to the NHL's best, the San Jose Sharks. A dominating 4-1 win highlighted by two goals from Henrik Zetterberg and stellar goaltending by Ty Conklin. But that's not the performance I'm talking about. What I'm referring to did not take place on the ice, but instead in the stands. Midway through the first period, the crew at the Joe started bouncing up the various sections throwing little personal Little Caesar's boxes up into the masses. Whoever grabbed one got a free slice. Not exactly a reason to lose your mind. Tell that to my brother Sam.

We were in row 11, so there wasn't much time to prepare. The guy threw a couple boxes in the rows before us, but now he was coming to our general vicinity. The box came fluttering towards us, but it soon became clear that it was gonna be too far to the right and thus, no free Za tonight. Again, tell that to my brother Sam. Risking life and limb of himself and everyone around him, he smashed through a couple kids, maybe a dad or two, and reached out with his 6'2 frame. It was too far for him to get a clean catch, but he did manage to deftly get a hand on it and tip the box skyward. I felt like I was watching Dennis Rodman go after an offensive board. Sure enough, when the prize finally returned to Earth, Sam was in perfect box out position to secure it. If this were the NBA, he probably would have been called for one of those fouls where the guy gets the rebound, but then swings his elbows too wildly and catches someone in the chin. Maybe even a flagrant.

Sam was definitely not the most popular person in our section. He couldn't make eye contact with the guy next to him the rest of the night. But he returned to his seat with a smile, clutching the little box tightly against his chest. Like how a mother might hold a newborn baby, but with much more affection. Now don't get me wrong, Sam has had his fair share of athletic achievements in his life. Won the softball toss in field day at Forest Elementary in 5th grade. Best Athlete award in high school four straight years. Pitched at the University of Michigan for two years without ever allowing a run (true story, look it up!). But this improbable catch, albeit for a single slice of pizza, meant so much more. And the best part of the whole thing...he let me have the Za.


-Sometimes a movie looks really good to you in previews, but then you can never seem to find the rhythm once you get the chance to watch it. That's the story with me and the Don Cheadle movie, "Talk to Me." He plays this dude Petey Green who just got out of jail and is now trying to get a gig as a DJ on the radio. Have tried getting into it a few different times on TV...just can't stick around for more than five minutes. Is it supposed to be funny? I wasn't laughing. After a while, they just started ripping off entire scenes from Howard Stern's movie, "Private Parts." I guess the moral of this story is that it is hard to stay with a film longer than a few minutes if your heart really isn't in it...especially when the film in question is complete garbage.

-Just wanted to squash some of the rumors I've heard floating around lately...Gheorghe Muresan is not dead!! I know it seems like a weird issue to have to straighten out, but the truth must be told. There is already enough sad news in the NBA world from tonight (see end of article). There are those that try to claim the star of "My Giant" has left this world permanently, but he is indeed alive and well, most likely mulling over what to do for his next Oscar worthy performance. For some reason, when guys are 7'7 and look like monsters even with the lights out, people just assume they are dead when they leave the public spotlight. For instance, there is one girl that happens to be one of the sweetest people in the whole world, but insists, I mean absolutely insists, that Big Gheorghe passed away some years back. It's almost as if she is wishing death on the gentle giant! It got so bad that I started receiving messages and e-mails from her like this on a daily basis.

"R.I.P. Gheorghe Muresan 1971-2004. You will be missed."

Thankfully, all of these rumors are wildly untrue, we are still on track for "My Giant 2" in July of 2011, and I hope all of you sleep better tonight knowing that.

All Good Things Must Come To An End...

It began as nothing more than a little early season NBA curiosity. Many had expected the LA Clippers to improve with the additions of Baron Davis and Marcus Camby, and they were struggling mightily out of the gate. I casually checked up on Baron after a couple weeks and noticed he wasn't exactly setting the world on fire. I remember casually pointing out to my friend Harold late one night that Baron had not exceeded the 50% mark in any of his first 10 games of the year. I didn't think too much of it, but my interest had been piqued.

The real turning point in this whole saga came maybe 20 games in to the season. After rapping to Sam about Baron's struggles and his baby streak he had going, he wondered if the streak might extend from the end of last season. Worth a look, I thought. Bam! He was right. Just like that, 19 games were tacked on to the streak, and we were off and running. Baron Davis, a man once considered to be a future NBA superstar, was soon passing the 40 game mark without missing a beat and his story was officially brought to the attention of High Socks Nation.

As 40 became 50, my initial curiosity had now turned into an all out obsession. I was following Clippers games so closely on the Internet that people must have thought I had a close relative on the team. I wasn't afraid to approach a complete stranger in the shoe department at Dunham's Sports to see if she wanted an update on the streak. Yeah, you read that right. It had taken over my life. I just could not wrap my head around any NBA player, let alone one with the credentials and bank-breaking contract of Baron Davis, allowing a streak like this go on for this long.

You can tell where this is going. Tonight, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, while hosting the Boston Celtics, Baron Davis finished the game 6 of 10 from the field. It was over. After 62 games of failing to eclipse 50% shooting, it had come to an end. It almost took the perfect storm of factors for it to happen. While it looked for a moment like there might be some late game drama with the streak, Baron fouled out in the last minute, cementing his plus-50 percent game and eliminating the run officially. Zach Randolph played a major part in allowing Baron to have this kind of night by hoisting up 30 shots of his own. Usually, Baron will grab 8-10 of those shot attempts and bang 'em off the rim, but not tonight.

But hey, give credit where credit is due, and for the first time in nearly a year, Baron deserves some. The man made more shots than he missed. For the first time in 63 games. Many followers of this site have been it in from the beginning and might feel like I do right now. Like you lost something that was important to you, when you really weren't prepared to say goodbye. Others came along somewhere in the middle and were just starting to really enjoy this miracle. And then there are some that are ecstatic that BD pulled the 6 for 10, as they had grown tired of the streak and were not enjoying my quest to draw as many parallels as possible to the number "50" from Hollywood and the like. Regardless of which camp you fall in, the fact remains. Baron Davis shot 60% from the field tonight, and the lights have officially been shut off on this party.

It was most definitely fun while it lasted, and during this tough time, we will try to remember all the good memories. The JaVale McGee block in D.C., now known as the "Miracle at the Verizon Center." The 1 for 10 effort against Chicago after nearly a month of rest. The back-to-back 11 for 29 efforts when it really seemed like Baron had his heart set on never again approaching the 50 percent mark. I will sleep with a heavy heart tonight knowing I lost a good friend in The Streak. There will never be another one like it.

Feel free to drop a comment below or shoot me an e-mail at

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Goods on the NBA- Taking You Around the Association and Back

Baron Davis. Words can no longer describe what this man has accomplished in the last 11 months. He has taken a small streak being discussed by few and turned it into a national phenomenon that has every basketball fan asking, "What did Baron shoot from the field tonight"?? The man has now played in SIXTY ONE straight NBA games without once shooting over 50 percent from the floor. He's done it all kinds of ways. Games where he starts out blazing, then comes back to Earth with a disastrous 4th quarter. Games in which he goes 0-7 in the 1st half, guaranteeing that we have nothing to worry about. And games where he just decides, "Yo fellas, I know I'm the point guard, but I'm tellin' you right now I will be jackin' up at least 20 shots tonight...get yours!!"

Funny how much things can change in a short time. Just a couple of years ago, when Baron was leading his Warriors to a monumental upset over the top ranked Mavericks, he was the toast of the basketball world. Now, when my brother Sam recently suggested that I am the new Baron Davis of our Sunday morning basketball league, it was all I could do to not slug him right in the face. Them be fightin' words in our house.

We are approaching one of the most historic days in the great history of our country. The One Year Anniversary of BaronMania. If the basketball gods allow this run to make it to March 12 unblemished, we will officially be one year removed from the last time Baron made more shots than he missed in a game. I've already started to hear rumors of fans planning huge parties that night to celebrate the accomplishment. But what is on the agenda for a party that is, in essence, toasting one of the saddest and most embarrassing streaks in sports history? Possibly serve some nice steaks, but be sure to cook them just slightly less than half the time they're supposed to be on the grill in honor of the Baron. Or even show the movie "Speed" before the Clippers game, just for the sheer irony of the film in relation to Baron's streak. In that flick, Keanu Reeves and Co. were forced to keep their bus moving in excess of 50 mph at all times or have it blown up immediately. Baron's situation is similar, only he refuses to soar past the 50% threshold. Plus, Keanu had Sandra Bullock to help guide him through the various roadblocks that Dennis Hopper had put in place. All Baron has in terms of help is Steve Novak, Alex Acker, and a small side portion of rice pilaf.

Now that I think about, it is quite possible that Dennis Hopper has been holding Baron hostage for the past 61 games. B-Dizzle has made a foray into the Hollywood scene the last few years, and it seems like he may have went one step too far and actually got into hot water with Hopper himself. Maybe Baron shut Hopper out of a major movie opportunity, and the threat was made. Our hero might be facing immense danger if he ever breaks the 50% barrier. Taking all that into consideration, it looks like this streak might be goin' on for a while. A long while. Because honestly, you just don't mess around with Dennis Hopper...especially when the number 50 is involved.

The NBA trade deadline came and went, without too much heavy action taking place. Except for one very notable deal. Tim Thomas and Larry Hughes were exchanged for one another, with others, in a deal between the Knicks and Bulls. I'm pretty sure that after this trade, they have now each played for all 30 teams in the NBA. Both guys were drafted by the 76ers in the late 90's and have been on a mad quest ever since to suit up for every team in America. The unfortunate aspect of trades in pro sports is that families are forced to move and kids have to leave their friends. But it does not have to be the case here. Why don't Thomas and Hughes just let their families stay where they are, and the two NBA'ers can switch households? Nobody would know the difference. They can just be honest and tell their kids the truth. "Daddy might look a little different, but don't worry. He's still the same underachieving, lanky gunner with a questionable work ethic and a propensity to jack up bad shots. And Daddy will make sure to get injured real soon so he can come home and spend time with you guys!"

When did the NBA season just turn into one giant discussion about who should be this year's MVP?? Sure, it's an important award and something that should be discussed for a certain amount of time as the year draws closer to its conclusion, but why all of a sudden has this topic trumped actual commentary on the teams in the league and how they are all performing? Both Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are having magnificent years, I will not argue that. Both players present great arguments as to why they should be the MVP. But somehow it feels like every talking head on TV or the radio only wants to talk about one thing and one thing only when the topic of the NBA comes up: the MVP award. I especially enjoyed last week's riveting ongoing debate, "Which guy had a better game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden"?? Wake me up when that one is wrapping up. While awards in every sport are meaningful both to the players and the fans, ultimately what matters most and creates the most longstanding memories is the actual championship. I wish the primary focus would remain on the teams around the league and their quest for the title, and the award talk was put on the back burner for a while.

Somebody needs to tell my boy Walter Hermann it's Ok to receive the ball on the court and not immediately heave the pill towards the basket. The Argentinian Secretariat (he really does look like a horse, doesn't he?) was on the court for 18 minutes Sunday night, and wound up with a whopping 15 field goal attempts (made 5). For a guy that rarely sees game action and hadn't attempted a single shot in the last month of play, Herrmann was apparently intent on not letting one minute of court time go to waste. Reminded me of the time we had a get-together at the house for some game and had a pretty good deli spread going in the kitchen. Our friend Larry attacked the various foods so hard and with such vigor that my Uncle Leon exclaimed, "Looks like the man hasn't eaten a solid meal in months." In other words, Mr. Herrmann, act like you've been there before...three corned beef sandwiches on one trip to the buffet reeks of desperation.

Watching some of the New Orleans Hornets on the tube the other night, I noticed both Ryan Bowen and Sean Marks on the court at the same time for Byron Scott's crew. By watching them play, it becomes quite apparent that these boys were big fans of Cherokee Parks growing up. And that's not a good thing. Ryan Bowen is the poor man's Austin Croshere, if there is such a thing. Sean Marks looks like Adam Sandler's character from "Little Nicky." He's just got that look about him that says, "I was drilled in the side of my face by a shovel as a youngster." I was hoping that they would crash into each other at some point during the game with some solid momentum...just to see if, in fact, they would immediately meld together into one human being. The end product would be a player with a willingness to go after every loose ball in the arena, a total lack of any offensive awareness whatsoever, and also the predominant favorite to be the "next guy to get clocked by a Zach Randolph haymaker for displaying too much hustle while in Z-Bo's presence." I wait in breathless anticipation for the next long rebound and subsequent wild chase for the ball in the next Hornets game. We could be witnessing history.

Kevin Martin is the present day Mitch Richmond. Martin is going to put up these eye-popping scoring numbers on a horrible Kings team for a few years, and at some point, will be traded to a semi-contender where his impact will be much less than what everyone expected. Same thing happened with Richmond. He was dealt to the Wizards, where it was assumed that the trio of Richmond, Juwan Howard, and Rod Strickland would dominate the Eastern Conference for years to come. Didn't exactly pan out that way. Richmond's best days were behind him, Howard was discovered to be very average without Chris Webber by his side, and Rod Strickland was just getting ready to embark on the "7 teams in 4 years" portion of his career. Where will Kevin Martin end up to follow in Richmond's footsteps?? I'm thinking the Hornets are a decent possibility for the scenario. People will salivate over Martin joining Chris Paul and David West to form one of the "best trios in the league." But we've seen this story before, and it does not have a happy ending.

David Stern gets credit for being the best commissioner in pro sports, and I don't necessarily disagree with that. But I still feel pretty strongly about one piece of legislation that he has not put in play yet. I feel that Tyronn Lue should be allowed to show up at any NBA arena on any night and play backup point guard for whichever team he chooses. At this point, lil' fella has been on so many teams and backed up so many different point guards that I don't think any team in the league would even bat an eye if he randomly showed up in the locker room before a game. "Oh yeah, I forgot T-Lue was on this squad." This way, he could begin and end his career in storybook fashion. He began his career as the young little jitterbug that hassled Allen Iverson better than anyone during the 2001 NBA Finals. He could finish this run as the first ever "year round free agent" that had the freedom to visit any team on any night and handle the rock for 17 minutes. Heck, he could even play half the game for each team if he wanted to. We're gonna trust Tyronn to handle this the right way. It really isn't fair for any team to have to employ him for a full season, because honestly, his presence has basically become the NBA's version of Kryptonite in terms of the NBA Playoffs (1 appearance the last 7 years). Which is why this plan works out perfectly...nobody has to have him for too long. He could even have his own custom made jersey that just said "NBA" on the front and "Backup PG" on the number necessary. I think I just feel a little sympathy for Mr. Lue and the way he has sorta been kicked around during his career. It might sound outrageous, but think back to all the times growing up that your Dad played 'All Time Quarterback' for the games in the front yard. You knew the passes would get there on time, plays would be made, and the ball would always be in safe hands...same thing here with Tyronn Lue. Except the exact opposite.

This Week's Edition of "Unfortunate Lottery Picks of the Past"

Mike Sweetney (2003, 9th Overall, Knicks) - Sweetney was a dominant force in his days at Georgetown. That is, until he got to the NBA where the per diem money allowed him to select whatever he wanted off the Burger King Dollar Menu, several times over. This is the best example of a guy that literally ate himself right out of the league. Mike Sweetney was listed at 6'8 and 275 pounds. The problem is, these were the dimensions taken from his Little League card when he was just 11 years old. He lasted four NBA seasons, and actually was semi-productive in the middle two. But by the time he finished up that final campaign with Chicago, his size was becoming a problem that could not be dealt with. Several times that year, the referees demanded that Sweetney count as two players when he was in the game, only allowing Scott Skiles the chance to place three other guys on the floor with him, putting the team at a severe strategic disadvantage. Sweetney's NBA career may have come and gone in the blink of an eye, but he will forever be remembered by drive-thru workers throughout the nation.

As the Pistons trudge on through their most depressing season in a long time, the question continues to boggle the mind of all fans of the red, white, and blue: why was Michael Curry hired as coach of this team?? Coaching changes every 2-3 years have become the norm with GM Joe Dumars, so there was no surprise when Flip Saunders was canned after last year's loss to Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. But why did Dumars look to Curry, a man with no head coaching experience, to lead a team of established veterans trying to make one more run at the Finals?? There's something to be said for a "fresh voice" coming in and giving a message these players have not heard before, but if that's the case, why hire a guy who was already an assistant under Saunders?

While trying to remain fair, it is a fact that Curry has been nothing short of a train wreck as the head coach. The frequent and sometimes unexplained changes to the starting lineup have almost become this team's identity. There was the bizarre stretch when he would either start Kwame Brown or Amir Johnson depending on who the opposing team's frontcourt consisted of. Guess Curry does not believe in the old adage of, "Play to your strengths and make them adjust to you." Puzzling fans further was the demotion of Rip Hamilton to the bench despite his being the longest tenured Piston (along with Tayshaun Prince) and main cog on a team that has been to the last six Eastern Conference Finals. And then Curry decided to play only seven players Thursday night, a tactic practically unheard of in today's NBA.

Some might argue that the constant discussion and debate about starting lineups was overrated and that everyone ends up getting their minutes. But the bottom line remains that Michael Curry is also lacking in a major way when it comes to pregame planning and in-game decision making. Curry's shortcomings as a strategist came full circle on Thursday night at the Palace against San Antonio. The Spurs had the ball up 1, with 39 seconds left, about to come out of a timeout. The Pistons needed a stop and then a score on the other end to steal this game. The key here is that San Antonio had the ball and thus came on the court with their offensive lineup. What this means is no Bruce Bowen. While in this timeout, one would hope that Coach Curry would tell his Pistons, "Hey, if we get a stop here, this is the play I want us to run. We're not calling timeout, because that allows them to get Bowen back in the game. Get a stop, run this play, let's win the game"!! Unfortunately, that kind of forward thinking is something that is absent from the first year coach.

Instead, the Pistons got a stop, secured the rebound, and called timeout immediately. Reggie Miller, calling the game for TNT, was incredulous as to why Curry would follow this course of action. Gregg Popovich must have felt like a kid in a candy store, able to get Bowen in the game. The same Bruce Bowen that has been on the NBA All-Defensive 1st team for the last five years. Sure enough, Curry diagrammed a pick and roll for Iverson and Rasheed, to be defended by Bowen and Tim Duncan, another player with more All-Defensive awards than could ever fit on his mantelpiece. Really, is this the best matchup we have here?? To go against arguably the top two defenders in the league for the last decade? Apparently Curry believed so.

They ran the play, the screening action led to nothing, and ultimately it was another crummy fadeaway by Rasheed over Duncan that went begging and left Pistons fans frustrated once again. The funny thing is, Curry did not even realize his error following the game. This is what he had to say.

"We had Rasheed with a good look at a 17-footer in a one-point game," Curry said. "That's what you want."

Well, if that's what you want right there, then good luck finding another head coaching job after this one. Any Pistons fan that has watched this team with any regularity knows that this is the absolute antithesis of what you want in a big situation. Rasheed Wallace hitting a big shot inside of two minutes is about as sure a bet as Fernando Rodney locking down a big game with a 1-2-3 9th inning. The Pistons are now officially flat lining with several players showing no interest in really competing anymore, while the Palace continues to look more and more empty with each passing game. Not a fun time to be a fan of the Detroit Pistons. After all, it's never a good sign when you're watching them play and all you can think to yourself is, "Hmm...I wonder if Mike Fratello would like to get back into coaching." No, but really...would he???

The Oscars went down last night and "Wall-E" took home some hardware in the 'Best Animated' category. The movie has had praise lavished upon it ever since it hit the big screen. However, one main point has yet to be raised. The main character, Mr. Wall-E, is a COMPLETE rip off of Johnny-5 from "Short Circuit." Is it just a coincidence that they look exactly alike?? Why do we keep ignoring the elephant in the room? This movie was plagiarism at its finest and somebody needed to say it. Email me at or drop a comment in the section below.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Heating Up on a Very Cold Night

Michigan got a game they had to have on Thursday night by smashing Minnesota at home. It's as good as they have shot the ball in a long time, led by Zack Novak hitting 6 of the team's 13 threes. Novak has a unique way of catching and shooting the basketball. Most good shooters try to catch the ball on the hop, so their feet are set and they are ready to rise and fire. Novak does it the other way around, but never really gets called for the walk. He catches the ball, then takes his crow hop to set himself for the shot. Sort of like what Rip Hamilton will do on occasion, but much exaggerated.

The game also proved that Kelvin Grady really needs to be in the rotation for this team, as he knocked down all four of his shots and set up teammates with his blistering speed. C.J. Lee plays tough defense and works hard, but when it comes down to it, his ineffectiveness on offense and Michigan's tendency to have sustained scoring droughts makes it difficult to justify his playing 37 minutes in a game. Grady is the most talented point guard the Wolverines have by a wide margin. John Beilein loves for his team to shoot from downtown, and Grady was 3 of 3 on Thursday night. Hopefully this performance will lead to increased time on the court. Michigan's best lineup right now seems to be Novak, Stu Douglass, Manny Harris, DeShawn Sims, and Grady. Five legitimate scoring threats that you cannot sag off of and help on others.

Manny Harris needs to allow the game to come to him. His propensity to turn the ball over and force bad shots is becoming a nightly occurrence (4 TO/Game last 7 gms). Save for his brilliant second half performance at Northwestern, he has played poorly in 3 of his last 4 games. For Michigan to make the final push to get into the NCAA tournament, he must find a happy medium between being aggressive and not forcing the action. He is not a good enough shooter to get away with forcing bad fallaway jumpers the way a Vince Carter might be able to. The sooner he realizes this, the better off Michigan will be.

A quick look at Michigan's last four games. Right now, they sit at 17-10 and an even 7-7 in the Big Ten. While two more wins would put them at 19-12, that seems like bubble city if you ask me. While the big wins over Duke and UCLA will mean a lot, it seems unlikely that the committee would select eight teams from the conference, which would probably be the case if Michigan gets in. Now, if they happen to get three of the last four, putting them at the 20-win mark, you have to love their chances regardless of what happens in the Big Ten tourney.

@ Iowa- This is a must game for Michigan, and possibly the easiest of the four remaining. The Hawkeyes lack any real firepower and rarely score 60 points in a given game. They play tough on their home floor, but still usually fall short. This team is 3-10 in conference and also lost 6 of their last 7. If Michigan can't find a way to get this W, their chances would diminish greatly. After the way Michigan played tonight, they should be flying high coming into this game and I expect them to come away with a victory.

Vs. Purdue- Talk about a team starting to hit their stride. The Boilermakers looked outstanding in their home rout of Michigan State, as they are getting healthy now and wreaking havoc on the Big 10. The saving grace for Big Blue in this game is the fact that Purdue hasn't been all that impressive on the road this year. It will be Senior night for such legends as David Merritt and C.J. Lee, which will surely whip the crowd into a frenzy (sarcasm intended). I think Manny Harris plays with a chip on his shoulder to try and exact revenge for having to leave the first meeting with an ejection after an elbow to Chris Kramer. It will take a great effort, but after Michigan played Purdue very tough on their court for the better part of 30 minutes earlier in the year, I think Michigan gets another win on Senior night. Michigan State fans would not mind this result, either.

@ Wisconsin, @ Minnesota- These will be the hardest wins for Michigan to grab down the home stretch. It is very hard to imagine Michigan walking out of either building with smiles on their faces. They have two road wins in conference this season, coming at Indiana and Northwestern. And both of those wins came in overtime. If there is a game you could see them getting here, it would be the Minnesota game, as the wheels seem to have fallen off Tubby Smith's squad. On a side note, it seems hard to remember the last time Tubby really had a great team. He gets a lot of notoriety for being one of the top coaches in the game, but the truth is he won a title his first year at Kentucky with Rick Pitino's players in '98 and has not been back to a Final Four since. For now, let's chalk the Wisconsin game up as a loss, and with a week to prepare for the game in The Barn, a Wolverine victory to end the season at Minnesota. If everything goes as scripted here, Michigan will be making their first trip to the real tournament since 1998.

The Pistons still make me sad. There's too much to say right now, and none of it is positive. We'll leave it at that. Who's excited for that 1 vs. 8 match-up with the Celtics a couple months from now?!?!? But hey, at least Baron Davis pushed the streak to 60 last night! Post your thoughts on the college hoops scene or the NBA or anything else (anybody can not need to register or anything). Or just break me off an e-mail at

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Basketball On My Mind...

The NBA spotlight was shining solely on Phoenix this past weekend as it hosted the NBA All-Star festivities. When play resumed in the Association on Tuesday night, the country's attention again turned to the desert. The most famous streak in NBA history was entering the building in the form of Baron Davis, who was looking to extend his ungodly run of 58 straight games failing to shoot over 50% from the field. Let's take a closer look at the events of the evening...

This was Alvin Gentry's first time leading the Suns after Terry Porter was axed after just 51 games. This guy is like a professional "Interim" coach. He never seems to take over a team unless he is reaping the benefits of someone else's firing. This will be the fourth team he has coached, and only once was he actually hired as the head coach originally (LA Clippers). You have to think that his wife was married previously and grabbed Alvin on the rebound. The man has never been a first option for anything.

The Suns apparently are planning on going back to their Run 'N Gun style now that Gentry is at the helm. After one game, he has transformed them from "Possible playoff 8 seed" to "Overwhelming favorite to win the NBA championship." They went out and hung a 140 on the Clippers. They scored 81 in the 1st half alone and ended up laughing their way to a 40 point win. Of course, it is just one game and against one of the worst teams in the league, but 140 points is still 140 points. That just isn't done in the NBA, unless you're counting the time my brother Gabe scored 212 on 'NBA Live 95' with fouls turned all the way off and Mookie Blaylock recording triple digit steals and canning at least 60 threes.

Nothing puts a smile on my face quite like an NBA fight between two guys who really should not be fighting. And when the postgame comments are truly among the most bizarre you will ever see, it's a 2-for-1 deal. The standoff in this game was between Zach Randolph of the Clippers and Louis Amundson of the Suns. Randolph has always been a very talented player, but also a longtime NBA headcase who is not averse to brawls on the court. After all, he is the same guy that once clocked teammate Ruben Patterson in the face during a practice in their Portland days. And if you know anything about the NBA, you know that to take a shot at Ruben Patterson, you have to be either the toughest man on the planet or just plain out of your mind. He always has that look about him that says, "You don't want to mess with me." The other player in tonight's showdown, Louis Amundson, is not quite the same. He is an NBA journeyman who is on his third team in two years. He was unheard of at UNLV and even less heard of today. He frolics around the court in his blondish ponytail (yes, ponytail), just trying not to embarrass himself. In other words, he looks exactly like someone you would want to mess with. The AP game recap from tonight fills us in on the hilarious details.

But the game turned ugly late in the first quarter, when Amundson and Randolph became tangled up while going for a rebound. Randolph knocked Amundson to the floor with his left elbow, then glared down at him. When Amundson stood to face Randolph, the Clippers forward threw a punch with his left hand and connected with a solid blow. He was immediately ejected.

"I'm not going to back down from anybody," Amundson said. "I don't care who you are in this league."

Randolph said he was merely trying to push Amundson away.

"He hopped up and got in my face and almost kissed me in my mouth," Randolph said. "I just pushed him out of my face."If I would have hit him, he wouldn't have got up off the ground," said Randolph, who is almost certain to be suspended.

Said Amundson: "I was getting in his face, but I wasn't trying to kiss him."

Some great material here. First thing that strikes me is how Amundson lends credibility to Randolph's accusation by actually confirming he "wasn't trying to kiss him." Doesn't that go without saying, Louis?? Why even comment on that?? And to be honest, he really does look a lot like Sunshine from "Remember the Titans," who famously planted one on Gerry Bertier in the locker room after a long day in the sun. Might Amundson actually have been going in for a smooch on Z-Bo?? (That scene was never really explained in that movie. I guess he was trying to go for the "Everyone should be accepted on the team, no matter who you are" angle, but wasn't that going a little too far? Wouldn't a couple of good towel slaps have done the trick, or maybe just a little grabbitation of the backside to make his point? Something tells me he wasn't trying to make any point whatsoever, and that he was simply interested in getting involved on a romantic level with Bertier.)

I also love how Randolph plays down his forearm shiver (which looked pretty serious on the SportsCenter highlights) by claiming Amundson would still be down if he hit him with the real thing. Is this supposed to make him look better in this situation? Is David Stern supposed to look at the tape and decide, "You know what? He's right. That was only about 85% of his power. No way was that his best punch. He's free of all charges. The man is a mentsch." Nice try, Zach. I mean, how far has this guy fallen? He's playing in NBA Siberia out in Clipper Land and is now relegated to trying to leave games as early as possible by coldcocking random women from the opposing team.

Saving the best for last, we have the Baron Davis streak. For readers new to the High Socks Legend, this streak has become a main obsession of mine over the better part of the last few months. He entered play tonight carrying a streak of 58 games where he was unable to shoot better than 50% from the field. Not once. In 58 straight games. It's unheard of. Well, tonight had all the makings to end our party. It was a perfect storm. Alvin Gentry as the new coach of the Suns and almost demanding that no effort be exerted on the defensive end. Baron was going up against Steve Nash, who has never been one to shut the opposing point guard down. And Baron was as fresh as ever, coming off almost a full week of rest.

But for a transcendent athlete like Baron Davis, these were merely small roadblocks. There is nothing this guy cannot overcome. And surely enough, when the buzzer sounded, Baron's line was seared into the final box score: 4 of 10 shooting from the field. The most embarrassing streak in professional sports history lives to see another day. We now sit at 59 games. The streak used to be in the "improbable" category. It has now moved way past that, and is now in the "mind-boggling and literally impossible to believe this is still happening" stage. Baron cannot find it in himself to make more shots than he misses, even for one single night.

With that, I'm now off to bed, where I will sleep peacefully, undoubtedly dreaming of bricks by Baron Davis, haymakers from Zach Randolph, and ponytails on Louis Amundson...just another memorable Tuesday night in the National Basketball Association.

No need to discuss the Pistons right now...they make me sad. Michigan State was rolled in Purdue, where Chris Kramer attempted to take a charge on every single MSU possession. Share your thoughts on the night in hoops and the classic Clips-Suns contest in Arizona...or e-mail me at

Monday, February 16, 2009

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap

The Best 'Sheffs' Know When Their Cooking Days Are Over...Why Doesn't Ours???

After the Tigers made their unexpected run to the AL pennant in 2006, many felt they might just need a little tweak to help get over the top. Maybe a reliever or two, possibly a little more power to bring off the bench. You heard some fans mention the need for another "big bat," and that request made sense too. After all, the Tigers had gotten career power years from a number of guys that year, including Brandon Inge, Craig Monroe, Marcus Thames, and Chris Shelton circa April-May. The DH role was filled by a host of guys, ranging from Thames to Omar Infante to the random Matt Stairs appearance down the home stretch. The case could be made that a legitimate masher to go with Magglio Ordonez was the team's biggest need. Dave Dombrowski obviously felt the same way. However, his execution of these ideas and ultimate selection for who to target was a giant swing and a miss...and the Tigers are still paying for it.

Anyone who saw that Tigers-Yankees playoff series in '06 could tell that Gary Sheffield was a shell of his former self. His shoulder was messed up, his bat speed looked different, and for all intents and purposes, he was unable to simply catch a baseball anymore. He batted 12 times against the Tigers in that series. He picked up a total of one hit, a single, to go with zero walks and four strikeouts. Things were getting so bad for Sheffield that Joe Torre decided to sit him against soft-tossing lefty Kenny Rogers in Game 3, opting to go with Jason Giambi instead. It was becoming clear that the Yankees had fallen out of love with old Sheff. Despite the fact that he had put up big numbers in the years preceding '06, it was not an uncommon occurrence for one serious injury to derail a power hitter's career as he approached the age of 40. Look at Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire, or the best example, Ellis Burks. Burks was still consistently posting great years into his late 30's until a sprained wrist sidelined him. Without the same ability to quickly bounce back from injury as he would have 15 years prior, Burks played in a handful of games over the next 2 years before stepping away quietly. Meanwhile, Dombrowski had apparently viewed the situation in an entirely different light and saw Sheffield as the perfect answer to his "Search for a Slugger" dilemma.

Sheffield's two years with the Tigers have truly robbed the team of a weapon that many American League teams use to their advantage: the designated hitter...that actually hits. While he did have a torrid stretch for a time in his first year, it was interrupted by a fluky injury on one of his rare days playing the outfield. Besides that hot period, however, it has been nothing but frustration and wasted at-bats from a spot in the order that demands production. His batting average last season dipped to a Pete Incaviglia-esque .225. And despite only appearing in 114 games, he managed to equal his career high in punchouts.

Sometimes a trade can be highly damaging without really losing anything valuable in the deal. That is the case here. All the Tigers had to send to the Yankees was a small side of rice pilaf in the form of injured right-hander Humberto Sanchez. However, with Sheffield coming to the plate over 1,000 times in the last two years, the real harm was done in the player the Tigers received. I would love for Gary Sheffield to transform into the Gary Sheffield of old when he would routinely blast 35 homers and drive in 115. But the truth remains his career has not been the same since that ALDS in 2006 and he is entering camp 40 years old.

Sometimes the signs are there even before something takes place. The song Sheffield chose for his at-bat music when he arrived in Detroit always struck me to be quite ironic. He strode to the plate with the rap tune, "This Is Why I'm Hot" blasting through the loudspeakers. Just one major problem...Sheff hadn't gotten hot yet. It's been two years, and he's still tipping the hot scales somewhere between Cheryl Miller and Charlize Theron right after she did "Monster." As he approaches his third season as the primary DH on a team hoping to contend for a division title, it might be time for that song to come to fruition.

You Gotta Love NBA All-Star Saturday Night

Among the dumbest ideas in NBA All-Star weekend history...having a referee on hand to govern the playful little game of H-O-R-S-E on Saturday afternoon. Longtime veteran official Mark Wunderlich skittered around the half court, following the players everywhere, repeating every word they uttered in anticipation of their next attempt. A sample conversation went something like this.

Mark Wunderlich: "So what's it gonna be, Kevin"?
Kevin Durant: "I'm goin' from the elbow, gonna go off the glass."
Wunderlich (In official referee voice, but talking to nobody in particular): "He will be shooting from the elbow. And will be making it off the glass."

Very helpful, Mr. Wunderlich. Dude even went so far as to actually demand Joe Johnson pass him the ball under the hoop before a free throw just like he would in an NBA game. Not even kidding, he actually did that. Johnson was all set in to hoist up his "eyes closed" free throw and Wunderlich flashed his hands like a big man in the post, signaling Joe to toss him the ball. He reluctantly followed his orders, and after receiving the ball back from Wunderlich, proceeded to brick the free throw. Unbelievably, he wasn't even the most useless ref on hand for All-Star Saturday night. How about the ref suiting up for the dunk contest??? How is this guy needed at all? The only human I can think of that serves less of a purpose is the ice cream man who happened to "run out of ice cream sandwiches" earlier, but still goes around playing his jingle and selling his goods. If you don't have the ICS, then why bother even existing at all???? Same with the Slam Dunk Contest ref. If you aren't gonna make any calls during the event, then why bother being present? Might as well be at home watching "Forget Paris."

After watching Rudy Fernandez in his first dunk contest, one thing became evidently clear. The man has seen "Tin Cup" way too many times. In that movie, Kevin Costner ends the movie by blowing the U.S. Open by repeatedly trying to reach the green while hitting over water from approximately 350 yards away. Time after time, he dunks each ball in the water while Rene Russo laughs hysterically for no apparent reason. If only Fernandez could have dunked with the same frequency on Saturday night. He pulled fellow Spaniard Pau Gasol on the court to assist him with the humanly impossible, "Behind the back pass off the backboard from Gasol, Fernandez runs up, jumps and catches the ball well behind the hoop, flies through the air defying all laws of physics, and eventually ending up on the other side of the rim for the reverse slam." They attempted this dunk about 20 times in the 2 minutes allotted with zero success. It was hard to watch. And not in one of those, "This is hilarious...what great entertainment" ways. It was depressing. A lot of things went through my mind in that 120 seconds of sadness. Why does this two minutes feel more like 200? Couldn't Isiah Rider have gotten a one night reprieve from the state pen to at least give this contest four legitimate competitors? Or if the NBA really needed a white guy in this spot, wasn't Bobby Sura free? Knowing him though, he would have shown up ready to go for the festivities, only to pull out at the last minute with 'flu-like symptoms.'

Does Wilson Chandler know that it's okay to turn down an offer? When Nate Robinson initially approached him for his big tandem dunk during the contest, did it actually sound good to him? "Look here, Wilson buddy. I got a big idea this year. Now hear me out. What's gonna happen is you are going to get down on all fours a few feet in front of the basket. That sounds humiliating I know, but just listen to the rest because it's not what you think. I'm not jumping over you...I'm jumping ON you. I'm gonna take a giant step right on the small of your back and catapult myself up towards the rim. It's gonna be sweet!! I'm gonna rack up a 50, the crowd will go ballistic, and the only thing you might end up with is a broken back or maybe a little nerve damage. We cool"?? Well, somehow he agreed, Robinson pulled off the dunk, and Chandler left the arena later in the night having taken a hard shot to the back and a much more severe blow to his self respect.

Cheryl Miller...first let me say Yamma-Hamma!! Loved her getup...phhhhh. That was brutal. Did she literally borrow the outfit that David Alan Grier's dad wore in that dinner party scene in "Boomerang"?? Apparently they do not have mirrors in Phoenix. Sometimes I can tolerate her a little bit, but Saturday night, she was unforgivably awful. With Dwight Howard getting ready to attempt his final dunk in his showdown with Nate Robinson, Cheryl thought it was a good time to now start interviewing Lebron James about the possibility of joining the contest next year. Ok, not a terrible interview to go for, and makes for interesting speculation in the future. But why at that point?? Ever heard of building a moment? When we should have been hearing from the announcers what score Howard needed to keep the title, with the drama building for the contest we were presently watching, instead we were treated to a random interview with James throwing out some meaningless "guarantee" that he would join in next time around. Impeccable timing on that one. Sometimes the networks and talking heads get so obsessed with predicting events of the future and hyping up things down the road that they forget to actually keep the spotlight on the current moment while it is going on. Lastly, her deliberation while opening the envelope to reveal the winner was wildly ineffective. The crowd was all set to hear who the champion was, and Miller stood there holding the envelope like she'd just seen a ghost. Yeah, it's not the Oscars, time, just say what is on the card and go back to looking exactly like Larry Fitzgerald.

You always see the same familiar faces in the first row where the players sit during the dunk contest. You know, Shaq, Lebron, Chris Paul, Jerome Williams. Wait, whaaaat??? Yep, you heard me right. The Junk Yard Dog aint even in the league anymore, and he still manages to show up every single year in the prime seating among all the other A-Listers. Hey, I enjoyed Jerome's tenure as a Piston as much as the next guy, plus he was an honorary High Socks Legend, but shouldn't the top billing go to current stars or at the least, retired NBA stars? I understand George Gervin and Dominique being in the crowd reaction shot, but JYD?? Really? He hasn't played in the NBA since 2005, and many might argue it was actually much sooner. I demand that if he has the same seat next year, he bring along Don Reid and they wear matching teal Pistons jerseys from 1998. Jerome can reminisce about his offensive rebounding prowess with the Stones, while Don could wax on all night about his record season when he averaged just over 65 fouls per 48 minutes.

Speaking of bizarre NBA sightings, you could not miss big Adonal Foyle in the 2nd row, wearing a giant yellow sweater vest with large black polka dots. Excellent wardrobe choice, Adonal. On the one night in your life where you knew you'd be on TV with other famous players and people, you opted to resemble a massive bumblebee. Good look. After watching "Bee Movie" several times in the last few months, I gained a certain affinity for the species. I thought they were actually kind creatures at heart that were just misunderstood. However, after seeing what bees look like now in the form of Adonal Foyle, I view them as "disinterested, unmotivated, lazy, with absolutely zero low-post game to speak of."

Sometimes the 'Sweet Science' Can Be Quite Sour

Some pretty bizarre boxing action on Saturday night as well, making a good remote control man a critical factor for everyone's overall enjoyment. Luckily, I have won several medals throughout my life for mastering this skill. The fight I'm talking about was the Kermit Cintron-Sergio Martinez bout. Incidentally, the fighters had 3 career losses between them, all to the recently revealed to be cheating Antonio Margarito. Martinez knocked Cintron out with a clean shot to the jaw in the 7th. Or so it seemed. The referee counted to 10, while Cintron sat dazed on the mat indicating he'd been hit with a head butt and not a punch. The bell sounded to signal the end of the round, Cintron slowly rose to his feet, the referee began waving his arms as if to indicate the end of the fight, while Martinez jumped atop the corner rope to celebrate the victory. All of these things happened simultaneously. It was pure chaos.

Cintron thought that not only was he drilled with a head butt in the first place, but that he'd also beaten the count. The replay confirmed that Cintron was wrong on all fronts. He'd been cracked with a clean right, and was still touching the canvas when the ref hit 10. As boxing does on occasion, they got it completely wrong. They allowed the fight to go on, ruling Cintron had barely escaped the 10 count. Martinez continued to dominate, racking up rounds by attacking the cut left eye of Cintron. When the referee docked Martinez for a phantom holding of the head in the 12th and final round, it was only a blip in what was going to be a dominant final tally. Again, as boxing does every so often, they screwed it up royally. Michael Buffer took the mic, and to the crowd's disappointment, revealed that the bout had been scored a draw. Pretty heinous judging, really. Cintron had a couple good rounds out of 12, got knocked down (and really out), and finished the night with blood spewing madly out of the left eye. The real guilty party in the whole thing was the referee. Two of the three judges scored the fight a draw (the third had it correctly for Martinez), which means that if the questionable point deduction was not made, we would have had a perfectly fair and just unanimous victory for Sergio Martinez.

On one hand, it's ridiculous decisions like this that turn some people off to boxing. I am in the other camp, however. I think that human error and differing opinions are sometimes what makes sports great. I've never been an instant replay advocate, either. It was inevitable in football, and I am afraid of where baseball will take it now that it has opened the door already with home run reviews. While Don Denkinger indeed missed a huge call in the 1985 World Series that cost the Cardinals the title, it is that kind of moment which will be completely missing from the future history of the game if more additions are made to replay. Nothing wrong with a little controversy every now and then. They make for good stories and conversation down the road. Who says everything always needs to be seen in black and white?? Nobody likes to see a missed call, but every once in a while, it turns what would have been a ho-hum sporting event like Martinez-Cintron into a night of pretty entertaining boxing action. And yes, for the record, it is 4:08 AM and I most definitely should have stopped writing a good 35 minutes ago.

Other Odds and Ends

-Michigan picked up a vital road win on Sunday at Northwestern. It took overtime to do it, and the offense the last two minutes of regulation was nothing short of abysmal, but it's still a road win in the Big Ten. Another critical week is on the horizon. A home date with Minnesota and a road game at Iowa. To dig deep and grab both these wins would be a huge boost for John Beilein's club and their hopes of securing an NCAA tournament berth for the first time since 1998. Michigan currently sits at 6-7 in the conference, with five games left. It is imperative that Manny Harris play with the same aggression he displayed in the 2nd half against Northwestern. He literally threw the team on his back and willed them to a win. Lord knows he aint gettin' any production from his three point guards. Seriously, are C.J. Lee, David Merritt, and Kelvin Grady the worst set of point guards in Michigan history? These guys make former Wolverine PGs Avery Queen, Travis Conlon, and Mike Gotfredson look like NBA Hall-of-Famers.

-At what age does it become inappropriate to get a good head of steam while pushing the shopping cart and then hop on the sides and ride along until you crash into one of the aisles? I'll say 23.

-Did "Demolition Man" have the best cast of any movie in history? Wesley Snipes in his prime, Sly Stallone still doing his thing, Sandra Bullock probably looking better than she did at any other point in her career (though you could make a case for 'Speed'), Dennis Leary back when people still thought he was kinda funny, and a number of others that included Rob Schneider, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Gunton (warden from 'Shawshank'), and Jesse Ventura. Not too shabby. This flick also had one of the more bizarre final battles in an action movie, culminating with Stallone cracking Snipes in the head and knocking it clean off, since Snipes had just been frozen solid a moment prior. Though it sounds unrealistic, I remember watching in awe with my Dad, brother Gabe, and buddy B-Shoke, and buying the whole thing completely. Saw it again tonight, and yes, I'm still convinced Wesley Snipes is currently walking around L.A. without a head on top of his shoulders. It's that believable.

-The standards for a sports news item making it on to the ESPN Bottom Line ticker have practically been eliminated at this point. Apparently they will put up just about anything nowadays, no matter how dumb it makes us all seem for reading it. Caught this gem earlier tonight. "Phillies' manager Charlie Manuel says that you can 'probably pencil in' Cole Hamels for the start on Opening Day." Wait a you're telling me that the defending World Series champions are planning to give the best pitcher in the National League and their biggest postseason hero the ball on Opening Day????? You gotta be kidding me!! Come on, now...

-Though it has gone under the radar, gnochhi has emerged as quite possibly the most underrated food of the last decade. It's fun to eat, everybody pronounces it differently, and it goes well with a multitude of sauces. Next time you're at the local Italian joint, order up some gnochhi. You can thank me later.

-I could write a realllly long thing about this, since it really does bother me to the core of my being, but I'll keep it to a few sentences. One of my favorite parts of the NBA All-Star Game was always the player introductions. Maybe the best part of the game, really. You'd see the player get introduced, come out on to the court, and then do that cool walk down the row of the players that were already called, high-fiving or fist bumping with everybody in their own unique way. It was always a smile to see the players from different teams interact in that atmosphere, and usually made for excellent TV. The camera wouldn't dare pan away from the All-Star until he had completed his trip through the high fiving line of teammates. My, how times have changed. Tonight, the adwizards at the NBA thought of a much different, and less entertaining way, to handle the player intros. They would announce a guy, he'd come out and wave, and then they would call the next guy 3-4 seconds later. We never got to see the famous player greetings from years past because the camera just stayed on the spot where the players entered the whole time. It was like watching a 1-Camera sitcom ('Mad About You' tried this once and the results were not pleasing). It was disappointing, and to be quite honest, downright heartbreaking.

-When it comes right down to it, and we put all the BS aside, I think it becomes quite clear that Orange Pop is simply unbeatable. Obviously, it's not easy to locate in certain instances, but when it is accessible, there's nothin' better. Red Pop gets some attention, and yes, that is also a tremendous beverage, but don't even try and act like it can hold a candle to Orange. You would be lying to yourself, and more importantly, to Faygo.

I miss the days when Paul Reiser was in the public eye and the NBA All-Star Game was done right. Drop a comment of your own in the area below or break me off an e-mail at

Thursday, February 12, 2009

You Can Have All The Oscar Winners You Want...Give Me One 'Farina' and We'll Call It Even

I don't think I'm alone in expressing this sentiment...Dennis Farina is the most underrated actor of all-time. It is always such a thrill when you go to a movie, completely unaware of the supporting cast, and all of a sudden, Farina is staring back at you from the big screen. Some might say that he is only capable of playing one type of character. I'll give you that. But when that character is perfect, then what's the problem? He always has that rough edge to him, but he never takes it over the line. He might yell and scream, or even institute murder and violence, but it's always done with that little Farina charm that keeps you coming back time and time again.

The movie "Little Big League" told the story of 12-year old Billy Heywood managing the Minnesota Twins on an improbable playoff run. Two years later, "Eddie" hit the big screen, with Whoopi Goldberg coaching the Knicks as they battled for the 8th seed in the East. In both cases, these leaders were able to take over after the previous boss was fired. And in one of the most bizarre coincidences in the history of cinema, the ousted coach in both instances was Dennis Farina. How in the world did this happen? Granted, the movies are similar in plot and content. But the casts of each film are 99% different. Except for Farina. It just demonstrates the realism that he routinely brings to his roles. The producers of "Eddie" were so impressed with his turn as George O' Farrell in "League" that they basically had no choice but to bring him on board for their movie, too. It's impossible to think of another time that a guy played two different characters in two different movies, but did the exact same things in each one. Personally, I enjoyed his performance more in "Eddie," simply because he ended up catching on with the Charlotte Hornets at the end of the movie to try and take down his former squad in the finale. Running two different NBA franchises in a 90-minute span is nothing to sneeze at.

My boy Farina is also the only actor I can think of that has never played a nice guy in their whole career. It's just not in his blood. He is not there to coddle or babysit...he is usually about doing his job and requesting that you stay out of his way in the process. And he's always going to irritate you a little. Take his character in "Striking Distance," one of the best action flicks of the 90's. He plays Captain Nick Detillo in what might be the most sterling performance of his long run in Hollywood. He spends the whole movie trying to keep Bruce Willis from uncovering the truth about a series of brutal murders. Not exactly model behavior from someone who is a ranking officer in a law enforcement agency. It's classic Farina the whole time though. Lots of menacing stares, sarcastic remarks, and unnecessary scolding of anyone in his general vicinity. Honestly, you might think there is sarcasm in this piece, and there is none to speak of. I, along with my Dad and older brother Gabe, have seen "Striking Distance" a combined 500 times. And that might be an understatement. Terrific action, brilliant dialogue, Sarah Jessica Parker back when she was still legitimately frisky, Bruce Willis being Bruce Willis, and finally, another perfect game from Farina. It's worth a couple hours, trust me.

Even in movies with bigger stars demanding the headlines, King Farina ends up stealing the whole film. Take "Another Stakeout," for instance. You have Richard Dreyfuss still in the zone following "What About Bob." Emilio Estevez also stars, coming off his first of many unforgettable portrayals of hockey genius Gordon Bombay. Throw in Rosie O' Donnell in her prime (if she ever had one) and you have a pretty good lineup of mid-90's top tier talent. Farina blows 'em all away. He plays the same role as usual, portraying a bad guy that actually seems kind of nice. In film school, this type of part is defined simply as "Bein' Dennis." The last half hour is the best sequence of the movie, when Farina and his wife join Dreyfuss and Rosie for a dinner date. I know there must have been scripts with predetermined dialogue, but there's almost the feeling that Farina was creating his lines on the spot. He was almost too believable.

One of his lesser acclaimed roles was playing a casino boss in the box office flop "Reindeer Games." I happened to love the movie, and probably caught it another 40-80 times over the last decade. Another case of Farina outclassing the competition. This time, there was even more star power. Ben Affleck led the cast, back when he was still considered a hot commodity in Hollywood. Charlize Theron was not quite as well known yet, but her decision making even then was impeccable, choosing not to wear a shirt while going for a swim midway through the movie. This was much appreciated from me and all the other 16-year olds in attendance. Gary Sinise was his usual insane self in this flick, playing the same guy he played in "Ransom," but about 50 times crazier. Honestly, the movie really was a very nice combination of action and humor. But as per usual, it was Dennis Farina that brought the whole thing together. He's running an old Indian casino in Michigan of all places. The place is struggling to stay above water, while Sinise and Co., with their foolproof plan, are plotting to take it down dressed up in identical Santa costumes (though it always seemed too easy to identify which Santa was Isaac, he's the black one). Maybe my favorite Farina moment of all-time comes late in the movie. He is bruised, bloodied, battered almost to the point of death. In fact, he might have actually been dead. But he still somehow manages to grab a couple of huge semi-automatics, jump to the center of the big screen, and continue firing away at the bad guys...all while belting out the movie's signature line, "Hey, Santa Claus!! Welcome to the Tomahawk!!!" I even got the chills as I typed that.

Mega-stars like Tom Cruise, Will Smith, and Brad Pitt will always grab the most attention and the most cash to go with it. They get top billing in the biggest movies of the year. But beyond the flashy names, where many fail to look, there's a guy like Dennis Farina, slowly churning out historic performances that tend to go unnoticed. Well, today he gets his due. Growing up, I had a friend whose dad looked very much like my hero, Dennis Farina. He was a real nice guy, and always a pleasure to talk with. However, I did not see him very often, and when I did, it was only for a few minutes. It parallels the way I feel about the real Farina to a T. He's not in a ton of blockbuster movies, and his part is usually that of the 5th or 6th lead. But you know damn well that Farina is going to make every moment he's on-screen worth the price you paid for admission. Sometimes I find myself thinking, "I'm a huge Farina come I'm not angrier that he's not starring in the big movies"?? That's just not who he is. He'll make you laugh, he'll make you smile, he'll make you cry...but he does it all from the shadows. Because, just like my friend's dad, you see a little Farina here, a little Farina there, but you never feel like it's too much. Just the perfect amount of the perfect actor. Now if you don't mind, I'm going to watch "Striking Distance" for the zillionth time...The Legend awaits.

Do you have a favorite Dennis Farina movie or moment in particular? Post it in the comments area under the article or whip me an e-mail over at

Monday, February 9, 2009

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap

Maybe You Don't Know a Good Thing Till It's Gone

I never thought I would say this...but the Pistons miss Lindsey Hunter. Yes, the same Lindsey Hunter that continued to return to the Pistons the last few seasons, always one year older and 30 pounds heavier. His jumper had all but deserted him. His decision making in transition was fading faster than Meg Ryan's sex appeal. And he practically sent my boy Harold jumping off the nearest bridge whenever he attempted to go coast-to-coast, forgetting that he was now closer to 40 than he was to 20. But beyond allll that...the man could still bother the hell out of the other team's point guard. Chest-to-chest defense, swiping at the ball constantly, and taking charges...Lindsey continued to be a pretty good pest even in his later years. Well, this past weekend, the old dog could have been an absolute savior for these Pistons. On Saturday night, albeit in an overtime win, Ramon Sessions of the Milwaukee Bucks tallied 44 points and 12 assists. No, I did not say Pete Maravich. I did not say Walt Frazier. I said RAMON SESSIONS. The words "Ramon Sessions" and "44 points" should never be uttered in the same sentence. Not only is the guy a former D-League player that is really only playing big minutes because of a slew of injuries, but he also pronounces his name "Rah-MAHN." I'm all for originality, but if your name is spelled R-A-M-O-N, you're "Ra-Mone." No questions asked. Go ahead and ask Ramon Santiago or Razor Ramon. They'll tell you how it is. Regardless, the Pistons could not hold him in check whatsoever.

Last night, Steve Nash matched up against AI and company. Nothing to write home about...just 15 points to go with 21 assists. The box score does not indicate such things, but I'm pretty sure 20 of the 21 assists led directly to layups or dunks. Of course, Nash is a superstar point guard that can rack up assists on anybody, but the way he carved the Pistons up all night begged for a Lindsey Hunter sighting. Nice call on my Dad's part, too, who claimed a day earlier that "Nobody had Jumped the Shark faster than Steve Nash." It's tough to remember a two game stretch in which the opposing point guards put up such prolific numbers on the Pistons. You might have to go back to a Stockton-Payton back-to-back, when our lead guards were guys like Mark Macon and Negele Knight. There are rumors abound talking about Amare Stoudemire coming, Rasheed Wallace leaving...but you don't hear much about Lindsey Hunter making his annual comeback to the D. It might be rock bottom in admitting this, but the Pistons need him more than ever before. At the very least, just sign Lindsey to a special one-game contract, solely for next Tuesday's tilt at the Palace. After all, Rah-MAHN is coming to town that night, and Lindsey is the only one capable of blocking his current path directly to the Hall-of-Fame. I just gotta make sure Harold doesn't find out about it...

You Can't Get Too Comfortable When You're Sitting Directly on a Bubble

In a game that could have done wonders for Michigan's NCAA tournament chances, they came up just short on Saturday, falling on the road to Connecticut, the #1 team in the land. For a good part of the 1st half, Michigan looked to be in control of the game and on the brink of a double digit advantage. One of the turning points in the contest came with Michigan holding an 8 point lead. Stu Douglass, who otherwise had a marvelous game, somehow missed a wide open layup that would have stretched the lead to 10. UCONN would have most likely called a timeout, the Wolverines would have been fired up beyond belief on the bench, and things might have been different. Instead, UCONN went down following the missed bunny and got Hasheem Thabeet a dunk. Next time down, Jerome Dyson banged a 3 and now it was John Beilein signaling for a T.O., his lead now down to 3. When play resumed, Dyson knocked down another 3 and the game was tied. It was one of those games where the underdog played a very good 1st half and should have entered halftime with a solid 6-8 point lead. Instead, they went in to the break up a single point, probably thinking that they had fumbled away their best chance at taking this game.

A game like this, against an elite opponent, will usually spotlight your team's biggest points of weakness before the final buzzer sounds. This game was no exception. John Beilein had such success at West Virginia over the years by utilizing a system that put numerous shooters on the court at all times with an emphasis on stroking the three. He is trying to do these same things at Michigan. There's just one pretty big problem. His shooters just aint that good. While Stu Douglass looks like a pure shooter and was sizzling in the UCONN game by hitting 6 of 8 from downtown, his teammates do not exactly breed the same kind of confidence when the shots go up. Most of the Wolverine players are capable of knocking down 3's, but there is a difference between being capable and being consistent.

Take Laval Lucas-Perry, for instance. He joined the team in December and showed his range early and often. In his first 6 games, he buried 16 3-balls. In the 9 games since, he's only managed to hit 6. It seemed like he was going to be a dynamic player in this system, and he still may be down the road. But for now, his confidence is at an all-time low and he is a complete non-factor when he's in the game. Zack Novak is another guy being relied upon to knock down shots from the perimeter. Unfortunately, he has been drinking from the same water as Lucas-Perry. Novak scored in double digits the first two Big Ten games of the year. He was becoming a serious threat from the long line, with 8 triples in those 2 games. But in the 9 contests that followed, he crashed head first into the Big Ten wall, failing to reach the 10 point mark again and completely losing his once reliable 3-point shot. Michigan fans are aware that Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims will never be pure shooters from the outside. Their strength is attacking the basket, getting to the line, and yes, occasionally knocking down a 3. But without ample support from the perimeter, there is no way Michigan can beat good teams on the road, let alone a team sitting at 22-1 on the year. They shot 9-29 from deep on Saturday, a stat that only Baron Davis could be proud of. For Michigan to get back to their first NCAA tournament since 1998, the 3-point shot must return to being their greatest weapon instead of their Achilles heel.

Letting Out Some Serious Frustration

As per usual, Tom Izzo's group in East Lansing bounced back in a serious way after a tough loss. When Penn State tagged MSU with their second straight home loss last weekend, you knew that it was going to be a rough go for whoever had to play them next. Minnesota waltzed into the Breslin Center and promptly got taken immediately to the woodshed. Then Indiana came to town and was given the same treatment. In a weird coincidence, the final scores from each game were nearly identical (76-47 over Minn, 75-47 over Indy). Michigan State is now sitting pretty at 19-4 overall with a two game cushion atop the catbird seat of the Big Ten. And they're doing it without the services of 2nd leading scorer Raymar Morgan, who has not been able to make a real contribution in nearly a month as he fights off a mysterious illness.

In the last week, the Sparties began playing the lockdown defense they are famous for under Tom Izzo. On Tuesday night, the Spartans will invade Crisler Arena with hopes of dealing a crushing blow to Michigan's tournament dream. It will undoubtedly be an electric atmosphere in Ann Arbor, as this is the only matchup between the schools this year. For Michigan to pull the upset, they will need to keep the State supporting cast from getting off. Izzo's crew has started getting big nights from unexpected sources of late. Draymond Green, potbelly in tow, notched a double-double against Indiana. Future star Delvon Roe also seems to be rounding into shape and has been making a solid impact down low every time out. With Kalin Lucas doing his thing at the point, Chris Allen and Durrell Summers making shots from the outside, and Goran Suton maintaining his presence on the inside, Tom Izzo may very well be coaching in a National Semifinal at Ford Field come April 4th.

Caution... Do Not Attempt To Shoot Over 50% Past This Point

The Baron Davis traveling circus made a stop in Memphis on Friday night. The Clippers played their best game of the year. They put up an eye-popping 126 points and thrashed the Grizzlies by 21. For the game, LA shot 59 percent from the field. Pretty much everything they threw up went in. Even Ricky Davis, who has yet to turn down a shot in his NBA career, made 9 of 14. This was the night Baron Davis finally shot above 50 percent from the field, right???? How could he not?? Alas, while his teammates spent the evening cashing in from everywhere on the floor, B-Dizzle dug down deep and did what he had to do to keep his historic streak going, posting a pedestrian 4 of 10 from the field. That brought his run of failing to shoot above 50% to a nasty 55 straight games.

'Errant' Baron and his cronies cruised into the ATL on Saturday night still riding high after their manhandling of Memphis. Unbelievably, the 11 and 39 Clippers registered their second straight blowout victory, pasting the Hawks by 24. Again, they scorched the nets, scoring 121 points and shooting 57 % from the field. All followers of the High Socks Legend have come to keep calm even on a night such as this. Baron never disappoints. Our man sent 12 shots flying toward the rim on this night, and in classic Baron fashion, only 4 of them ended up pressing the nylon. This wild ride now sits at 56 consecutive games. 56 times in a row, Baron Davis has played in an NBA game and failed to make more shots than he missed.

To put it in perspective, just think of any random player in the league. Go check out his game log for the year. Chances are, you won't have to look through more than 5-10 games before you see your player with a plus-50 effort. What Baron has done and continues to do ranks as one of the most unlikely accomplishments in sports history. It's right up there with Bobby Higginson's '4 home runs in 4 straight at-bats' and Tim Biakabatuka's 313 yard game against undefeated Ohio State. When you get a chance to witness history like this on a nightly basis, you have to cherish it. You never know when a feat like this will come along again. Baron steps to the floor tonight to face the Bobcats in Charlotte. I'm counting down the minutes...

Other Things Floating Around In My Skull

-Has anybody ever walked into the store "Lids" at the mall and stayed for less than 45 minutes?

-I'm willing to admit when I make a mistake or a real bad decision. So I will go ahead and tell you that for approximately five full minutes yesterday afternoon, I watched the Pro Bowl. I am not proud of myself.

-For a supposed defensive specialist and otherwise average shooter, Arron Afflalo sure enjoys shooting that rock. He spent 8 minutes on the court against the Suns. He jacked up 6 shots. He made zero.

-Maybe it's just the nostalgic feeling I got from watching it, but I damn near jumped off the couch when G-Hill turned back the clock with a sweet one-handed finish on the fast break Sunday night. He'll always be one of my favorite Pistons of all time. Nobody can deny the guy's heart and courage for trying to play through severe pain and injury in that last playoff series against the Heat. He would suffer in the years to follow for trying to play on that already messed up ankle, but he didn't care. I get a little choked up thinking about it. (High Socks Legend preview: 25,000 word article on Hill to come somewhere down the line. Not kidding.)

-I enjoyed the movie "Notorious," but I definitely liked it better the first time I saw it...when it was called "Selena."

-From a guy who has consumed his share of Asiago bagels over the years, I will just come right out and say it. Why do these bagel places think it is OK to only cover the middle part of the bagel with cheese?? The outside turns into a simple plain bagel. And God forbid they threw a little cheese on the bottom, too. By only covering the top with cheese, this bagel becomes impossible to cut in half and enjoy both sides equally. Instead, you're forced to be a complete savage and eat it like a big sandwich with Asiago only patrolling 35% of the total surface area of the bagel. In other words, I'm completely insane and will now stop before I write a long essay on people that eat every part of the pizza except the crust and why they should all be shipped to a deserted island with no food or water to speak of. Until next time...

Post your thoughts on the Weekend Re-Kap in the comments section below, or bust me an e-mail at