For Immediate Release ...
7/24/2010 11:50 PM EDT
One of the mysteries of this unbearable and unnaturally tropical Detroit summer is whether the Detroit Tigers would be buyers or sellers as the hours ticked down to the July 31 trade deadline.
Would team President Dave Dombrowski spend more of owner Mike Ilitch's money -- he's already spending $134 million in payroll this season -- in hopes of orchestrating a deal for an arm or bat that would fuel a run at the playoffs?
We may have learned the answer in the third inning Saturday night at Comerica Park. That's when Magglio Ordonez fractured his already tender right ankle sliding into home plate. Ordonez and his $18 million salary (along with his .301 average, 12 home runs and 59 RBI) will be out of the lineup for six to eight weeks -- basically the rest of the regular season.
A humiliating four-game sweep at the hands of the Double-A team passing these days as the Cleveland Indians immediately after the All-Star break, followed by losing two of three to the Rangers, sparked a flash fire of speculation: Will Detroit buy or sell?
The loss of thirdbaseman Brandon Inge earlier this week for up to six weeks with a broken hand, combined with a calf-gimped Carlos Guillen leaving the same game that claimed Ordonez, further point at one answer: Sell, in hopes of assembling the young pieces that will make for a triumphant 2011.
Detroit is just 2.5 games behind first-place Chicago, but with so many vital pieces missing (Inge more for his steady infield play than his rally-killing 76 strikeouts), that looks like a monumental deficit to surmount. Ordonez was one of the precious few consistent bats on an otherwise impotent team at the plate.
Dombrowski -- a bit of an inscrutable baseball Jesuit-Mandarin at times -- has made noise about finding help and being a contender, but that was before the lineup began to resemble a MASH casualty ward. Even Johnny Damon is down with the flu.
My feeling is that, at best, the Tigers will make a minor move, probably no larger than the deal that brought (for little gain, it turned out) Jarrod Washburn and Aubrey Huff to Detroit last summer. Dombrowski isn't going to dismantle the team. There's no need for a fire sale and many baseball insiders see this team as a major contender next year, and that could be bolstered by chucking a few pieces now for parts that will fit better next year or later.
Inge, who makes $6.6 million and is a free agent in 2011, seemed like a natural piece of tradebait until he went down with the busted hand. It wouldn't surprise me to see Damon and his one-year, $8 million deal moved, possibly in a package with another pending free agent, Jeremy Bonderman (and his $12.5 million contract).
Oh, and the Tigers lost 3-2 on Saturday night. That's seven losses in the nine games since the All-Star break, going into a Sunday doubleheader with the Blue Jays. Troublesome, indeed. But a string of victories in the next few days -- a tall order, since Detroit will be on the road at Tampa -- could stir an 11th-hour desire to make a serious move ... but I am doubtful.
But you never know. Mike Ilitch, after all, has spent an estimated $563 million on salaries since 2006 in his quest to win a World Series.
7/21/2010 9:36 AM EDT
's O Street Blog
in the Free Press
was quietly retired in May -- at her request, Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson
Jackson, as you'll recall, was caught on camera defacing the new $5 million Mexicantown Bagley Avenue Pedestrian Bridge
in early May by signing her name with a marker on a bench. The video, taken by an MDOT employee during the celebration of the span's opening, made its way online and a parody cartoon video soon followed.
Jackson, who quickly owned up to her mistake, was taken off the blog and her accompanying print column that she'd done for about a year. The punishment was to mothball everything until the end of May, during which time she'd return to her old job as editorial page copy editor.
At some point during May, she decided she didn't want to go back to blogging/columnist-ing.
"Oneita decided to take on another assignment at the paper, one that doesn't include her O Street Blog or the weekly column in the paper," Henderson said to me via e-mail. "As I said, this was her choice, not mine or anyone else's in management. She has been working in her new job since late May."UPDATE
: Jackson replied this evening to my earlier e-mail request for comment, saying, "There is more to the story" but declined to elaborate.
In other media news ...
If you can get past the freakishly disturbing images of happy people with cartoonishly inflated heads on the web pages, it's worth checking out a new reader contest launched by the Detroit Media Partnership
for The Detroit News (link
) and Detroit Free Press (link
Participants in "Reader Envy" can vote for a chance to do something with their favorite News or Freep journalist. The contest pages offer capsules on the journalists and a place to vote, along with running totals.
The "winning" journalist will donate $500 to their charity of choice and the reader gets whatever that journalist is offering as a prize.
For example, Freep editor/publisher Paul Anger
will donate to Gift of Reading and take the winner to breakfast. Detroit News boss Jon Wolman
(Charity: Focus Hope) also offers up breakfast, but names the joint -- Wolfgang Puck Grille
The Freep, as of this morning, had 1,514 total votes while The News had just 228.
A lunch with News columnist Laura Berman
and her husband, Freep columnist Brian Dickerson
, was tied as the top voter-getter at The News' contest page (with 25 percent of the votes) with Geek Watch blogger Eric Henrickson
, who is offering a day at an anime convention.
The readership is least interested, so far, in a background check from The News' Rob Snell
Not among the choices for voting: Mitch Albom
, Charlie LeDuff
or Oneita Jackson.
Crain's isn't offering such a contest, but if we did, I imagine it would be something like this...
"Bill Shea: Spend three hours watching a grainy VHS recording of the 1987 Cleveland Browns-New York Jets AFC Divisional playoff game. Then, a quick trip to Meijer to stock up on Absolut and Wild Turkey that he won't share with you. Spend an hour debating how Barry Goldwater was sabotaged by Lyndon Johnson in 1964. The evening wraps up with you watching him write four blog entries, at least three of which mention his Ohio roots. Charity: The Gonzo Foundation."
And lastly ...
Not to pile on Mitch Albom, but the criticism of his receiving the Red Smith award for sports writers continues to gain steam. The latest is from Jason Whitlock
and he doesn't mince words (link
7/20/2010 2:17 PM EDT
FOXSportsDetroit.com is bolstering its ranks by hiring a pair of former Detroit News veterans, Dave Dye and Mike O’Hara, the website said today.
Dye, a Detroit News sportswriter from 1985-2009, will primarily cover college football and basketball, with a focus on the Spartans, Wolverines and the Big Ten, FOX Sports Detroit said in a statement.
Dye’s weekly Big Ten Insider column begins Wednesday. He’ll write specifically about Michigan State University on Thursdays and the University of Michigan on Fridays. He’ll also have Monday wrap-up coverage and look-ahead information during football season.
O’Hara, who spent more than 30 years at The News until taking an early retirement a couple of years ago, will write a Monday Morning Quarterback column and a Friday insider’s column about the Detroit Lions.
Already writing for the website is another former Detroit News veteran, Dana Wakiji, who covers the Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons.
On-air personalities John Keating, Mario Impemba, Ryan Field, Trevor Thompson and Mickey York also provide news and commentary for the website.
FOXSportsDetroit.com has a content-sharing agreement with The News, and also uses content from Fox Sports nationally and the Associated Press.
City-specific sports sites are a growing trend: Fox Sports, Comcast and ESPN have been launching them in recent months. Washington D.C.-based online sports media company SB Nation launched SB Nation Detroit on June 7 as part of a rollout of 20 regional sports websites.
7/19/2010 10:00 AM EDT
Some Monday morning media tidbits:
~ Former WXYZ Ch. 7
investigative reporter Steve Wilson
had a near-fatal heart attack incident earlier this month, which included driving himself to the hospital. Read his excellent first-hand account at his new journalism venture's website here
~ In related news, former Fox 2
investigative reporter Scott Lewis
, after taking a buyout from that station last year, has joined WXYZ's On You Side team, basically replacing Wilson, whose contract wasn't renewed this year.
~ The hardest working -- or at least busiest -- metro Detroit media personality has to be radio jock Jay Towers
. And now his face is on 50 billboards scattered across the region (and in a TV and direct-mail campaign) since he's taken over the morning show on on 100.3 WNIC
early this month. He also remotely hosts "Jay Towers in the Afternoon" on Philadelphia's 106.1 FM
. That's while keeping his other two jobs: weekend anchor at Fox 2
and program director of 106.7
The Beat of Detroit.
"It's pretty crazy, but also the way our business is now. I get in at 4:30 a.m. go on at 5:30 a.m., do the show until 10 a.m.; (then a) planning meeting, cut promos, tape the Philly show, hit the sales meetings, work on the music and staff for WDTW, and then TV on weekend. I'm 35 and feel 21 at 6 a.m. and about 71 at 6 p.m.," he said in a note to me.
~ It was widely reported a few weeks ago -- not the least of all the Free Press
, which splashed it huge, along with a hagiographical photo worthy of a sainthood campaign -- that columnist Mitch Albom
had won the Red Smith Award
for sports journalism. Some interesting backlash has emerged within the lumpen ranks of sports writers here
. Check out the comments.
~ In Tooting of Thine Own Horn News: The blog you're presently reading recently won a Silver Award at the annual conference of the Alliance of Area Business Publications
. The award came in the all-publications online category for best staff-generate blog. Judges cited the writing as "easy and comfortable, but packed with news and analysis. His blog posts read like front-page news delivered with context by a friend over a cup of coffee. More traditional journalists could learn a lot from his style." That will get a chuckle and eye-roll from some of the traditional journalists I know, but I'll graciously accept the compliment. This is immense fun and I appreciate that anyone reads it.
7/15/2010 9:56 PM EDT
When newly minted NBA
free agent LeBron James
went on national television to announce he was abandoning his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers
-- who had drafted him out of high school in 2003 -- to instead play with his friends on the Miami Heat
, the value of the scorned franchise instantly fell $86 million to the new estimated worth of $390 million, according to a calculation by Forbes.com
Dan Gilbert, the founder of Livonia-based Quicken Loans/Rock Financial
, was the lead investor on the $375 million purchase of the Cavaliers in 2005 from Gordon Gund
. Forbes estimated the team was worth $356 million that year.
When James said on his staged hour-long (and tremendously criticized) ESPN
special that he was "taking his talents to South Beach," the Heat increased in value overnight by $46 million, to $410 million from $364 million. The Miami franchise is owned by Micky Arison
, CEO of mega-cruise line Carnival Corp.
Forbes ranks him at the 56th richest American at $4.3 billion.
Gilbert is not on the list.
7/15/2010 11:17 AM EDT
Could the Detroit Pistons
be headed to a new home in Las Vegas?
A report Wednesday in the Las Vegas Sun
) says an investment group based there, International Development Management LLC
, has an NBA team "under contract" to play in that city if a deal can be reached on public funding for a new arena.
The team in question was not named. Besides Detroit, other NBA teams currently for sale include the Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies and Milwaukee Bucks. The Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers have also been mentioned as possibly being on the market or could change hands as parts of other deals.
Pistons owner Karen Davidson
, who inherited the team when her husband, Guardian Industries Inc.
chairman Bill Davidson, died in March 2009, said in January that she wants to sell the team, and New York-based Citi Private Banks Sports Advisory
has been retained to act as financial advisor on any deal. The team and its management organization, Palace Sports & Entertainment
, is expected to fetch $400 million or more.
Davidson nor the team have been willing to discuss in detail any potential buyers, but she did say in recent weeks that she expects a deal to be finished by the time the season starts this fall.
I put messages seeking comment into Davidson's spokesman and PS&E
President Alan Ostfield
. Chris Milam
, CEO of International Development Management, told The Sun that any deal hinges on arena financing, which has been controversial in Las Vegas and doesn't appear to have much support right now from the Clark County board of commissioners. An idea has been floated to create a special tax district along the city's famed Strip of casinos and hotels to capture up to $125 million that would be used to finance an arena.
Milam will present his plan to the board on Aug. 4, the newspaper reported. He's an Austin, Texas-based developer with long-running interests in Las Vegas.
Las Vegas, home to 567,000 of Clark County's 1.3 million residents, does not have any professional sports teams from the four U.S. major leagues. The city hosted the NBA's all-star game in 2007 and the NBA's summer league plays there.
Names linked to possible interest in the Pistons include the Ilitch
family (owners of the Detroit Tigers
, Red Wings
and the Little Caesars
pizza chain); Sam Simon
, owner of Atlas Oil
in Taylor and possibly a co-investor with the Ilitches; and Rochester's Andy Appleby
, who has put together a consortium of sports investors.
The website Field of Schemes
, which tracks sports venue news, has an archive of updates on the Vegas situation here
: Cash is king is business, but I would be skeptical that the NBA would look favorably on moving an established team to Sin City. That said, forget for a moment the hornet's nest of potential trouble with gambling (remember that NBA referee who was on the take a few years ago?) and consider that the league has struggling teams in small markets like Memphis that are a better choice for relocation than Detroit. The team has been successful and apparently profitable here, so moving would defy logic.
Still, if Karen Davidson feels the need to shed the team ASAP, it's possible she could strike a deal that would see the team move across country. Anything can happen for money in pro sports, which is why sold-out stadiums in Cleveland didn't stop the Browns
from decamping for Baltimore in 1995-96.UPDATE
: The NBA and the Pistons apparently have issued statements denying, respectively, that any team is under contract with International Development and that the Pistons are in any way involved in this. I didn't see the statements myself (I'm on vacation, allegedly), but several local news outlets are reporting this tonight. That said, since I haven't read them, I don't know if it's clear that the Pistons/Davidson have been in talks at all with Milam. Sounds doubtful at this point.
7/11/2010 9:41 PM EDT
, founder of Livonia-based Quicken Loans/Rock Financial
and majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers
, apparently won't ask the National Basketball Association
to investigate the circumstances behind star LeBron James
' decision Thursday to depart as a free agent for the Miami Heat
James staged an hour-long ESPN special Thursday to tell the world that he's leaving his hometown Cavs after seven years to join friends Dwyane Wade
and Chris Bosh
in Miami. The method of his announcement, and Gilbert's subsequent angry public letter about it, have drawn scathing criticism across the spectrum.
"NBA commissioner David Stern
said Sunday that the league would investigate the Heat's signings of James and Bosh for any illegal negotiating or planning before free agency officially started if the Cavaliers or Toronto Raptors
make that request," ESPN reports here
. Bosh left the Raptors for Miami several days before James announced his decision.
Bosh and others have publicly discussed meetings as far back as 2006 for the three players, who all were drafted in the first round in 2003, to orchestrate playing together. James, who became a free agent on July 1, entertained delegations from seven teams bidding on his services. He's become one of the league's most dominant players and is a two time NBA MVP, but didn't win a championship in Cleveland.Dallas Mavericks
owner Mark Cuban
is quoted by ESPN as calling for a probe regardless if Cleveland or Toronto ask for one. It's illegal for teams to interfere with players under contract by seeking to offer them future deals. Whether meetings among individual players to discuss such plans is a violation isn't clear.
It's unclear if the Cavaliers could make a tortious interference
claim. An e-mail message was left for Cleveland's media relations staff. ESPN reports that Gilbert wants to move on from the James situation.
Gilbert was the majority investor on the $375 million purchase of the Cavs in 2005. The $476 million value of the franchise estimated by Forbes
is expected to drop by $100 million or more. He vowed in his open letter to do whatever possible to win a championship, and promised to do so before James and the Heat do.
It also was reported that the Rev. Jesse Jackson
said Gilbert's letter represents a "slave master mentality." (link
: Mount St. Gilbert cools down and has a long, calm chat with Sports Illustrated
, explaining a lot of interesting stuff. (link
) He thought James was going to sign until the last minute. He also said James wouldn't return his texts, etc., nor those of the PR staff. He also doesn't back off his criticisms or his championship promise.
And Yahoo NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski
blasts both Gilbert and James here
. Wojnarowski has been the most outspoken and vitriolic of the national writers on this story.
7/8/2010 9:43 PM EDT
I don't know where Dan Gilbert
is tonight, and I've never met him, but I feel closer to him right now than I ever have. Or ever will. He and I both took a boot to the gut about 20 minutes ago.
Sadly, we both knew it was coming, like we're tied to the railroad tracks and can see the locomotive approaching. Knowing didn't lessen the blow much. Me, I prepared for the announcement of all-galactic superstar LeBron James
leaving Cleveland (my hometown) for Miami tonight by taking a medicinal nip of Wild Turkey
while on my couch. That softened the bitter shock -- another in a long line of them over the past 36 years -- slightly. And it made watching the shabby, sleazy and squalid spectacle staged by LeBron and his handlers tonight, in collusion with the waterheads at ESPN
, fractionally more tolerable without hurling a bottle at the television.
What Gilbert is doing tonight is anyone's guess. Possibly a swan dive from atop Quicken Loans Arena
. Or maybe he's squirreled away in some dank office somewhere, plotting in the best Richelieu-Machiavelli style his next move to salvage the value of his franchise. Or maybe he's hurling bottles (probably something nicer than rotgut Kentucky bourbon) and who can blame him? Police in Northeast Ohio have been preparing for violence since this morning. The urge to smash something is visceral, but it's passing.
: Gilbert issued this letter
on the Cavs' website tonight. It's a stunning, angry missive and minces no words and promises that Cleveland will win an NBA title before LeBron's Heat
Gilbert was the lead and majority investor on the $375 million purchase of the Cavs
in 2005. Forbes
said not too long ago that the team is worth $476 million.
Tonight, it's worth a whole lot less. How much less remains to be seen. Some say as much as $250 million less. Most think it won't be that bad, but it's not going to be good. It's like Gilbert's personal Black Thursday on the stock market. I don't know how much of that $375 million was Gilbert's, but it's possible that his personal investment evaporated tonight. If this was Vegas in the '50s, LeBron would be waking up tomorrow in cement shoes underneath Hoover Dam
. But it's 2010 and we're civilized men, and this is just a game, right? Bread and circuses. Very, very expensive bread and circuses.
Will the plunging value of the Cavaliers affect Gilbert's business in Michigan? Too soon to say. He's spending far bigger dollars on his Ohio casino ventures, which will make him money long after LeBron is enjoying retirement pinochle card games with Benedict Arnold
and Judas Iscariot
at the Home For Aged Quislings.
Any thought of Gilbert selling the Cavs and using the proceeds, along with his riches from Quicken Loans/Rock Financial
, to buy the Detroit Pistons
probably disappeared the moment LeBron said he was taking his talents to South Beach (to play caddy to Dwyane Wade
and party with the Jersey Shore
What could make matters worse for people like me (as if that matters to him, LeBron or anyone else)? Gilbert could announce that he's moving the Cavaliers to Baltimore ... but even that wouldn't top Art Modell
's 1995 betrayal and relocation of the Cleveland Browns
, who always will be first in Cleveland's heart.
And at least Gilbert is no Ted Stepien
I'm not sure Detroit has experienced anything like this. Or any other city, at least not on such a global scale. James went on national television to stab his home in the back in what amounted to a weird, self-absorbed infomercial that should embarrass everyone involved, but likely won't. That's a first in pro sports. Hope it's a last.
The media backlash has been staggering. A good example comes from Michael Rosenberg
, the Freep
columnist who also writes for Sports Illustrated
). It's brutal.
So LeBron is off to Florida, joining the annual migration of Ohio snowbirds and mercenary basketball players and their insufferable egomaniacal narcissism -- the one thing that James truly is the king of. Me, I will never watch another NBA
game without being paid to do so. Ever. I am done with this silly and useless league. If the NBA shut down for good tomorrow, no one would miss it in a year.
I plan to stage a ceremonial burning of my LeBron sweatshirt. Expect Dan Gilbert to do much the same, but in the form of 80-percent off merch sales of No. 23 paraphernalia.
7/8/2010 12:19 AM EDT
By the time LeBron James
brings his tiresome, self-absorbed medicine show to ESPN
tonight, the roll call of winners and losers is going to be clear:
~ Dan Gilbert
: By some estimates, the Detroit online mortgage mogul and Cleveland Cavaliers
owner could see the value of his franchise drop by $250 million in a matter of seconds -- if James opts to leave (link
values the team now at $476 million. Gilbert led a consortium of investors in paying $375 million for the team in 2005, and he's busy planning a new downtown Cleveland casino near the Cavaliers' arena. If fewer people are coming to Cleveland 41 nights a year because LeBron is elsewhere and the Cavs are back to their old losing ways, Gilbert will be stuck. He won't be able to get his money back in a sale, and his casino might not be as lucrative (although he's still going to be swimming in cash, a la Scrooge McDuck
in piles of gold coins). The Cavs also will lose a ton of money from merchandise sales. There's not much of a market for Jamario Moon
jerseys and bobbleheads.
~ World Wide Wes
: Never heard of him? You're not alone, but the West Bloomfield resident's name is cropping up more and more in mainstream stories. No one is quite sure what William Wesley
does, but he's considered by some to be the most powerful man in pro sports. He's clearly a kingmaker, fixer and power broker, especially in the NBA and college basketball, because of the two decades-plus he's spent forging relationships. He's connected to Michael Jordan
, the Clintons
and major college coaches and programs, and he was a player in the James drama. But in the last week or two LeBron's tightly-knit cadre of advisors, managers and handlers elbowed World Wide Wes aside. WWW was telling people James would end up in Chicago, and that wasn't going over well with some in The King's privy council. GQ
did a story on Wesley a couple years ago that's the best piece I've seen on him (link
). The New York Times
profiled him, too (link
). He's close to the Pistons' Rip Hamilton
and was involved in that Pistons-Indiana Pacers
brawl a few years ago at the Palace
. This guy is everywhere, but does getting the fish-eye/freeze-out treatment from LeBron's people tarnish him?
: The backlash at the sports network for agreeing to host James' variety hour tonight was quick and spectacular. Pundits were weighing in with the invective from all over the map. Here are some of the better critiques: L.A. Times
), NY Times
) and USA Today
: He's taken a tremendous pounding for basically having the biggest ego in a league filled with grossly narcissistic man-children. Even staid BusinessWeek
piled on, lambasting James and his "insatiable desire for attention" (link
). And the last time I checked, Cleveland hasn't won a pro sports championship of any sort since the Browns beat the Baltimore Colts
27-0 on Dec. 27, 1964. That's 45 years, six months and 11 days. LeBron is called The King, but of what?
Cleveland was a third-tier team wallowing in the NBA's low-rent district, a Siberian wasteland for free agents. James arrived directly out of nearby St. Vincent-St. Mary High School
in 2003 and instantly resurrected the moribund franchise. And because he's from Akron, he's beloved by Northeast Ohio to a degree rarely seen in professional sports. Perhaps only former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar
, who grew up near Cleveland and manipulated the NFL draft to ensure he ended up with his boyhood team, is more loved. Only perhaps.
James could squander that hometown goodwill in the few seconds it takes him to say "Chicago" or "Miami." The love would evaporate, and a measure of respect from fans and observers elsewhere, who value loyalty, would disappear, too.
If James leaves for Chicago to join Carlos Boozer
, he'll instantly become the biggest villian in Northeast Ohio since the inept and nakedly avaricious Art Modell
relocated the Cleveland Browns to Baltimore in 1996. James will join a litany of loathed bogeymen haunting Cleveland that includes Modell, John Elway
, Michael Jordan
and the entire Pittsburgh Steelers
organization. Not pleasant company for a native Ohioan. And that brings us to Boozer: This cretinous jackanapes is best remembered as the Cavalier who publicly betrayed the trust of former team owner Gordon Gund
, one of the genuine nice guys in the NBA, when he broke a promise to re-sign with the team in 2004. Gund wrote a letter to fans to explain the situation (link
), something I'd never seen in pro sports. Is this the class of character James wants to spend his career with?
And anyone who spurns their home on national television is deserving of every epithet that comes his way: traitor, Benedict Arnold, Judas, apostate, back-stabber, betrayer, defector, deserter, double-crosser, fink, snake, treasonist, turncoat and (my favorite) quisling.
~ The Detroit Pistons
: The franchise was never a contender for James' services. A few years ago, the thinking was Detroit would clear the decks and make a serious run at him. Today, the team faces uncertainty on the court and a cloudy future off of it because it's for sale. The odds of James signing here are about the same as him signing to play shortstop for the St. Louis Browns
~ Michigan State
: The brain trust in East Lansing got a rude wake-up and harsh lesson in the reality of modern media frenzy-journalism when Tom Izzo
flirted with the Cavaliers and their vacant coaching position. MSU nor Izzo understood that the old rules no longer applied and looked foolish when the coach -- who is the highest-paid state employee -- and the university president and athletic director attacked reporters during the press conference announcing Izzo's decision to stay. They got swept up in something far larger, and much more global, than the parochial issues of ego, pride and loyalty in mid-Michigan. The mini-drama remains a good lesson for the school's journalism and public relations industry students -- how not to handle a situation.
~ The NBA
: Who's running this league? The inmates? Maybe for now. The Washington Post
) reports that 25 of the 30 teams claimed a financial loss for last year, to the collective tune of about $400 million. The player's union dismissed that as bad noise. The owners are expected to lock out the players in 2011 and bring the hammer down on salaries, making this summer's free-agent feeding frenzy possibly the last of its kind.
~ The fans
: While some enjoy the free agent road show antics, most outside of the cities signing these players do not. And with higher ticket prices and a lockout looming, the fans end up footing the literal and proverbial bill. Thankfully, NFL training camps begin in a couple of weeks.
: Not that I matter a fraction of an iota in this nonsense, but I did grow up near the Cavs old home, Richfield Coliseum
, in suburban Cleveland. I can't go more than a couple of blog entries without reminding readers that my geographic sports loyalties remain with Cleveland, so I might as well insert myself into this one (maybe that LeBron narcissism is an airborne malady?).
My prediction is that tonight will end badly for Cavs fans, but the sense of loss and betrayal is a familiar one. James' defection will simply be one more incident in a long line of staggering heartbreaks, joining Red Right 88, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, Jose Mesa's meltdown, The Move, The ALCS Meltdown at Fenway.
Detroiters not familiar with those incidents? Count your blessings and your championships. And ignore that mournful, dirge-like howl you hear from across Lake Erie tonight.
7/5/2010 11:16 PM EDT
If Facebook status updates and cloying media columns are any measure, then Detroit spent much of Monday afternoon reflecting on the weird and savage life and career of former Detroit Red Wings forward Bob Probert, the enfant terrible of the 1983 NHL Draft.
Probert was a heavyweight in a town full of 'em, and his passing represents the further receding of the age of the gonzo athlete. His on-ice dominance for the Red Wings was matched only by a personal life of pure, utter madness -- booze, drugs, violence and lord knows what other forms of bad craziness.
He was a big, violent man with many eclectic tastes, and the Red Wings used his services to the fullest. He could shoot and score, but let's face it: He was paid to be Steve Yzerman's bodyguard and to bloody the ice to the delight of the mob. He was a goon's goon and is still fifth all-time in penalty minutes with 3,300 -- that's 2.2 entire days in the sin bin.
Not surprisingly, his lifestyle outside of hockey was something of a reflection of what he did on the ice ... he lived mainly by his own rules and marched to the beat of a very different drum. People tried to help him over the years, but Probert may have been born beyond anyone's help. As the saying goes, the star that burns brightest burns half as long. And Probert burned very brightly in so many ways, good and bad.
The 45-year-old Probert apparently dropped dead of a heart attack Monday afternoon while on a boat in Lake St. Clair. There's been no official ruling, but it's not hard to believe that his take-no-prisoners lifestyle contributed to his sudden end.
Perhaps it's a good thing that pro sports has become a finely tuned money machine that requires only the most perfect specimens on the court, ice or field. There is little tolerance for the Bob Proberts of the world today. Modern scouting likely would have sniffed out his personal demons and he would never have found a spot in the professional ranks -- straight to the reject bin. Too much money is at risk these days to rely on a professional madman whose after-hours tastes include drugs, booze and violence. That was fine in 1983, when the Red Wings and the NHL were still little more than a cottage industry, Detroit was still mired in the Dead Wings era and American society hadn't lurched toward a Roundhead Puritanism that would please Oliver Cromwell.
Probert would be lucky today to get a job sweeping the aisles at Joe Louis Arena.
Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand gets busted for drunken driving -- the police video is humiliating -- and Miguel Cabrera last summer made headlines for an epic bender at the Townsend ... and the resulting media outcry was deafening, with hysterical demands for apologies and treatment. Probert's antics in the digital age of blogs, Twitter and the 24/7 news cycle would have been ... well, interesting is one word. Probert hadn't been a Red Wing since 1994, so he wasn't in the local spotlight. He wouldn't have lasted long today.
I'm sympathetic toward the darker customers that grace American life, but it would be irresponsible to celebrate the many colorful off-ice incidents of Bob Probert. He's nobody's role model, and no one ever confused his life with a Horatio Alger tale or Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy. But there is something slightly sad about the rapid extinction of such characters in pro sports. The litany of hardcore/oddball gonzo athletes from Detroit's past is long and proud: Ty Cobb, Bobby Layne, Dave Rozema, Mark Fidrych, Joe Don Looney, Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman, Ted Lindsay, etc. They each left an indelible mark on Detroit and gave fans memories and stories to tell. And they did things their own weird or angry way.
Bob Probert left a lot of stories ... and perhaps a cautionary tale. But maybe not. Maybe his is just a sad story, because they don't make them like Bob Probert any more so there is no one to caution. I never met Probert, but I doubt he had much time for cheap sentiment. He had too much living to do, until he didn't.