For Immediate Release ...
9/15/2010 10:16 AM EDT
I finally got around last night to watching that Johnny Knoxville
-hosted documentary about Detroit. I’d put it off because I’ve been on a bit of Detroit doc overload. The film, a slick infomercial called Detroit Lives
, can be viewed here
Knoxville is best known for his popular stupid-dangerous-absurd stunt/prank MTV
, which spawned a couple of movies.
(Disclosure: I’m apparently in the minority outside of male college fraternity members, but I’ve always liked Johnny Knoxville because I think he’s a genius for making a lot of money at being stupid. I admire that sort of capitalism. Anyone could have done it, but he monetized gross juvenile stupidity first.)
The three-part documentary is the product of Palladium Boots
, which started life as a German tire maker in the ‘20s and later got into footwear by manufacturing boots for the French Foreign Legion
. Now, it’s a fashion brand relaunched last year, and part of its shtick is edgy, hip short online films that feature the occasional gratuitous boot shot.
Anyway, what I took away from this: Hipsters and adjunct hipsters believe they will save Detroit with art, individual creativity and hyperlocal collectivist action. That strikes me as a bit short-sighted. What they advocate is just one aspect of a renaissance that will be driven by people creating lots of jobs downtown. The Dan Gilberts
, Mike Ilitches
, Peter Kamanoses
, Roger Penskes
— people with a lot of money willing to invest it in businesses in the city, which means jobs. And lots of jobs equals people living and spending money downtown, which rebuilds the tax base.
It's not all billionaires and millionaires. New entrepreneurs willing to invest in businesses with a dozen or 20 or 50 employees ... if you get a hundred of those people, you have something very real started. Those folks are every bit as valuable as the investors employing 1,000 people.
Urban farmers, metal sculptors, painters, poets and musicians are a cool and necessary part of the culture, and it’s great they’re establishing beachheads to retake the city from the brink, but any real healing has to come from people moving back to the city because there are good jobs, schools and reliable city services in addition to vibrant culture. It’s economics, nothing more. Hipsters growing carrots isn’t enough. Detroit isn't an art project, and it's dangerous to dismiss the very real problems with crime and violence in the city. Detroit Lives gave off a slight vibe of that.
As for the video, I’m not offended by it but I’ve seen a growing blowback against it on Facebook. I kind of rolled my eyes at talking heads bitching about Detroit ruin porn when the documentary is basically just that: upbeat ruin porn (along with the prerequisite cursory examination of the city’s fabled music scene and lots of driving around in an open-top Cadillac). They visit the various abandoned buildings that are ubiquitous to such documentaries: the Packard plant, Fisher plant, Michigan Central Station, etc. Knoxville spends much of the documentary being surprised by Detroit.
The difference here is that it’s a boot commercial, even if a subtle one, and it presents the city in a more positive light compared to the end-of-civilization nihilism of a lot of the other look-at-Detroit stuff, especially Julien Temple
’s gruesome recent BBC
special Requiem For Detroit
. Tone and outlook make a difference, but it’s still ruin porn. That said, it’s much easier to digest, at least for me as a city resident, when it’s not an apocalyptic indictment of Western civilization.
So, watch and feel free to leave me some comments here with your thoughts on it.
Before I forget (if I’m even allowed to forget): I noticed in Tuesday’s Free Press
that the newspaper put three reporters on yet another story
about Calvin Johnson
’s non-touchdown catch on Sunday … 48 hours after it happened. The Freep must assume the zeitgeist among its readers is a lingering angry obsession about the catch and the rule that was correctly enforced that said it wasn’t a touchdown.
Perhaps the newspaper is right (I'm not a Lions fan, so I don't know). Still, it may be a stupid rule, but it remains the correct one, even if the rule is an example of the NFL’s slavish, Stalinist devotion to petty bureaucracy on the field. And no matter how much Mitch Albom
disagrees with the rule, the call on the field isn’t going to be changed. Time to move on.
Two things that should be of greater concern: The Detroit Lions
managed to rush for just 20 yards against Chicago, and franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford
’s shoulder was turned to gristle because the team failed to protect him. If they can’t protect him, and can’t reduce pressure on him by effectively running the ball, Stafford’s career may be a short one.
Word is Stafford has a second-degree separation in his throwing shoulder — a key part of him that prompted the Lions to lavish him a contract that could pay him as much as $78 million. That should could be the difference between winning three or four games and seven or eight games.
The team says he doesn’t need surgery, but Stafford is reportedly meeting this week with renowned sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews
. You don’t visit a dentist if you don’t need your teeth worked on, right? Andrews may yet say surgery isn’t required, but the team’s pronouncement seems premature if the quarterback is undergoing tests with Andrews. Stay tuned.
Two quick items:
~ The Detroit Tigers
have unveiled their 2011 schedule here
~ Forgive me and please indulge my self-absorbed Andy Rooney
-style curmudgeonly rant, but have the Sunday comics always been this grindingly unfunny? Other than Dilbert
and occasionally the Lockhorns
, the comics drive me every weekend into a fit of anger. Everyone has different tastes, but come ON. This stuff is either lame, senseless or ancient (and I'm talking to you, Sally Forth
, Judge Parker
and Prince Valient
). Perhaps I was spoiled growing up with Bloom County
, The Far Side
and Calvin & Hobbes
. Sometimes I'll read Doonsbury
if Uncle Duke is in it, but otherwise it's tiresomely preachy.
9/13/2010 9:39 AM EDT
If the Detroit Lions
' business department spent any time envisioning a catastrophic scenario for the 2010 season, it probably played out something like Sunday's game at Chicago.
The sight of second-year quarterback Matthew Stafford
grimacing in pain after a brutal sack by the Bears' Julius Peppers
-- the one player Detroit knew it had to keep away from Stafford -- must have caused a lot of stomachs to drop in the Lions' front office.
Less than two quarters into the season, the nightmare had arrived. And in broad daylight. It was a road game, too, meaning everyone back in Detroit got to see it. Probably in high definition, too.
Losing Stafford for any appreciable length of time isn't going to help the team sell tickets. That's what logic says. Still, the Lions tell me this morning (without revealing numbers) that they've had the best Monday-morning ticket sales since individual game tickets went on sale over the summer. They say they're confident Sunday's opener at Ford Field against the Philadelphia Eagles (0-1) will be a sellout (the team has to sell 54,500 tickets at the 65,000-seat stadium to have the game aired locally).
Despite the final score, the loss of Stafford and the weird, silly and stupid but legitimate ruling on Calvin Johnson
's non-touchdown at the end, fans saw a Lions team play step for step with the Bears. Being competitive in losses is an improvement for Detroit, and that will keep some fans coming back. That won't last without victories.
Stafford sidelined doesn't help anything. Reports today say he'll be out at least two weeks, and possibly up to six. If they lose those games, local television blackouts will be commonplace again. The team had told me
a couple weeks ago it expected, at worst, just one or two blackouts rather than four or five of the eight home games.
Fans' September tolerance, fueled by the perpetual optimism that the start of every new season brings, won't last long if the team struggles without Stafford. Their patience with this team hangs by by the slenderest of threads, and that thread frayed some more Sunday.
Backup quarterback Shaun Hill
has had some good games
in his career with the San Francisco 49ers
, but there's a reason the 30-year-old quarterback is a career second-stringer and was deemed expendable and traded to Detroit. It's reflected in paychecks: He'll make $1.5 million this year. Stafford is in the second year of a six-year deal is and is due to make just $395,000 but the team is expected to exercise a $17.5 million bonus option on him that's prorated through 2014. Overall, Stafford's deal is worth a potential $78 million
if he meets all incentives -- which will be hard if he's going to suffer an endless string of shoulder injuries.
Sunday's injury was Stafford's third major shoulder incident since joining the Lions. Last year, his non-throwing shoulder was hurt at the end of a game, but he famously
returned to throw a short touchdown to beat the Cleveland Browns
. He injured it again in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals
and was then put on injured reserve.
Stafford is the face of the franchise. He's the one on billboards. He's the one fans cautiously are hoping is the team's first legitimate franchise quarterback since Bobby Layne
two generations ago. They're wearing his jersey. They believe he's the anti-Joey Harrington
Stafford is supposed to be The One. And that brings us to The Culprit.
Left tackle Jeff Backus
, who turns 33 next week, will be paid $4.95 million dollars this year to protect Stafford's blindside. He failed to do that on Sunday about as badly as you can without pulling a Marcus Junius Brutus
. Stafford is a right-handed passer, meaning he is vulnerable to pressure from the left side of the defense because his body is facing the opposite direction to throw. Left tackles get huge contracts to keep people such as Peppers, who is being paid nearly $85 million the Bears to turn quarterbacks into bloody piles of bone splinters and hamburger, away from quarterbacks' vulnerable backsides.
A first-round draft pick out of the University of Michigan
in 2001, Backus has started all 144 games in which he has played. In July 2006, he signed a new contract reportedly worth nearly $40 million and includes about $16 million in bonuses. And he's been appropriately remorseful and contrite about his gross failure to do his job Sunday. But as far as ticket- and merchandise-buying fans are concerned, it might as well have been Jim Backus
of Mr. Magoo
fame out there playing left tackle.
Expect the Lions to pursue a replacement in free agency or via the draft in 2011.
As a former gimp-kneed, third-string right-handed quarterback (I'm still right handed and gimpy, but no longer an arena football
quarterback), I can sympathize with Stafford. You need absolute confidence that your blindside is going to be protected. If there's some worry that it's not, that will eat away at a quarterback and affect his performance. It's a terrible distraction.
In other NFL
news, word today is that the player's union is seeking decertification, a tactic that could prevent a lockout by team owners when the league's labor deal expired in March. The New York Times
explains it here
9/10/2010 1:14 PM EDT
writer Michael Silver
has annually ranked
's 32 owners since 2006 (the first two years were when Silver wrote for Sports Illustrated
Naturally, Detroit's William Clay Ford Sr.
(and son Bill Jr.
) perpetually lingers near the bottom because of the franchise's woeful performance on the field, which has been abysmal since about the end of the Franco-Prussian War
Sharing the top spot are the New England Patriots
and Jonathan Kraft
and the Dallas Cowboys
' Jerry Jones
and Stephen Jones
. Go figure.
In honor of the Lions opening the 2010 regular season on Sunday at Chicago, here's a rundown of Silver's rankings commentary on Ford (and the son) for the past five years. It ain't pretty, people:~ 2010
30. Detroit Lions – William Clay Ford (Bill Ford Jr.): I could tell you that the Lions have been the league’s most pathetic franchise for more than a decade, but you already knew that. I could tell you that Detroit had the league’s second-lowest attendance last season. I could remind you that, in the wake of the Saints
’ Super Bowl XLIV
triumph, the Lions are now the only original NFL team never to have appeared in the Super Bowl (all XLIV of which have been contested with the Fords in charge). But what I’d really like to do is remind you that the franchise that once kept an assistant coach employed after he rolled up naked to a Wendy’s
drive-through window continued its tradition of forgiveness when team president Tom Lewand
was arrested for driving under the influence (he later struck a plea deal that reduced the charge to operating a vehicle while visibly impaired, earning six months of probation and a league-mandated 30-day suspension). It was a proud moment for the franchise, and it had to be especially gratifying to fans when the elder Ford said of Lewand, “He has all my support.” I suspect Ford Jr. wouldn’t be quite so forgiving, but for all his overt machismo – he showed up at training camp with a custom Ford GT
that had employees oohing and aahing – he doesn’t seem to wear the pants for this franchise. As the AFC owner says, “The whole thing’s a joke.” Suffice it to say that they’re not laughing in Motown.~ 2009
29. Detroit Lions – William Clay Ford (Bill Ford Jr.): Coming off the first 0-16 regular season in NFL history, the Fords understandably have less goodwill among their fan base than anyone in the league. It’s almost as if they want to be ridiculed. After finally ending the disastrous Matt Millen
era after seven-plus years last September, the elder Ford waited just three months before deciding to promote the deposed president’s two lieutenants: Tom Lewand (the new president) and Martin Mayhew
(now the general manager). Or, as one owner put it, “Millen’s two puppets are running the show – that’s a real confidence-builder.” After an encouraging start – brainy Jim Schwartz
was hired to replace Rod Marinelli
as coach – the Lions mishandled their draft, prematurely declaring their intention to pick quarterback Matthew Stafford
No. 1 overall. That blew their negotiating leverage, and the Lions ultimately signed Stafford to a deal considered overly generous in league circles. Nice work – but not surprising in the least. ~ 2008
24. Detroit Lions – William Clay Ford (Bill Ford Jr.): I don’t have too many specific complaints about these owners, other than the fact that their team perpetually stinks, and they don’t seem to have the slightest clue as to what to do about it. The elder Ford’s uncanny loyalty to team president Matt Millen is perplexing to his peers, as is the failure of Ford Jr. to prevail upon his father to make a change. “The kid lets it happen, but it’s not like he’s a shrinking violet,” one owner says. “He’s the (executive) chairman of the Ford Motor Company
!” Granted, it’s a rough time for the auto industry, but that’s not the only explanation for the Lions’ struggles. Despite a new stadium (Ford Field opened in 2002) and a sizeable market, the team’s revenue flow is unimpressive.~ 2007
29. William Clay Ford (Bill Ford Jr.), Lions
Which genius auto magnate is responsible for the disaster in Big D? That depends on whom you talk to -- though I'm told that Ford Jr., if he had his way, would have fired team president Matt Millen long ago. Either way, there's no disputing that this franchise runs like the Edsel
. Let's forget, for a moment, the team's addiction to drafting receivers high in the first round (hey, Calvin Johnson
may indeed be a difference-maker) or Millen's obsession with men whose last names start with the same letter as his, and focus on one, unforgivable sin. You are the Fords, and you (via Millen) just brought in a first-time coach, Rod Marinelli, who is selling himself as a disciplinarian that will transform the culture of the team. He is the new sheriff in town, no doubt about it. But then one of his assistant coaches, Joe Cullen
, gets pulled over twice in one week -- once for DUI (driving under the influence), and once for DUE (driving with unit exposed). And you, as Marinelli's ultimate bosses, allow Cullen to keep his job. Gee, I'll bet that really helped Marinelli's respect quotient in the locker room.~ 2006
22. William Clay and Bill Ford, Lions
If Bill Ford approached his NFL stewardship with the same degree of sincerity he displayed in those folksy TV ads a couple of years back, the Lions might be humming as a franchise, rather than sputtering into the garage.
9/8/2010 9:17 AM EDT
It was fall-like outside briefly in recent days. Did you notice that, before it got gross again? It's back in the high 60s now. Me, I prefer the mid-50s. That's sweatshirt weather, which means the leaves are turning color and -- most importantly -- football is back. High school, college and the NFL.
We'll have some early sense this Sunday if William Clay Ford Jr.
's tremendous investment of hundreds of millions of dollars in his Detroit Lions
will pay dividends when the team faces the Chicago Bears
at 1 p.m. at Soldier Field
. Since it's a road game, there's no worry for fans or local advertisers that it will be blacked out.
Earlier this week, I wrote about the financial side
of the equation for the Lions, and I also predicted
they'd go 5-11 this season -- more than doubling their win total from last year. I also think they'll be more competitive in the games they lose, which is critical in their effort to convince fans to buy tickets and for the team to avoid costly local television blackouts.
The national football writers are cautiously optimistic about Detroit. Here's a quick rundown of some of the Week 1 power rankings. The average rank among the 32 teams for the Lions in 27th:
~ Peter King, Sports Illustrated
: The magazine's senior writer has the Lions at No. 24
. "If the Lions were in the NFC West, they might win it this year. They're making significant progress -- assuming Ndamukong Suh
is the genuine item and Kyle Vanden Bosch
has something left," he writes.
: The sports network puts Detroit at No. 28
. "QB Matthew Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson
and RB Jahvid Best
are a good, young nucleus to build around," it writes.
~ USA Today
: The national newspaper has a weekly poll that shows both staff rankings and ranking by public vote. Right now, the Lions are at No. 26
~ CBS Sports' Pete Prisco
: The veteran sportswriter puts Detroit at No. 29
, and writes, "They will be better. There is more talent, just not enough of it. Matt Stafford
and Jahvid Best are nice building blocks on offense. They will be in a lot of shootouts."
~ Bleacher Report
: The sports website has Detroit ranked No. 26
. "The Lions are finally on the right track. After securing the offensive building blocks of the future, they are now concentrating on the defense."
~ Fox Sports
: The network has kind words, but the lowest ranking for the Lions at No. 31
. "The Lions could have left New York City after making the second pick in the draft, DT Ndamukong Suh. That's how good he is. The rest is just gravy in the long road back to respectability in Detroit," it wrote.~ NBC Sports/Pro Football Talk
: PFT's Mike Floria
ranks Detroit No. 29
. "The Lions' first-round pick has sparked more buzz in one preseason than anyone on the franchise has generated in 11 regular seasons," he writes.
9/7/2010 11:34 AM EDT
There are days … usually nights, actually … when being a Detroit resident leaves you helpless and angry. Mad at the city, at the police, at the pathetic criminals who do so much damage to Detroit’s already devastated reputation.
Take Friday night, for example: We watched a pair of shifty young men walk past us on the Chrysler service drive sidewalk, wait for us to get about 100 yards away, and then proceed to smack the glass out of a parked car so they could steal the radio, navigation system or whatever. It was just across I-375 near Greektown
in front of the Woodward Academy
. The car’s owner was probably inside the casino gambling, or maybe at the Eminem/Jay-Z
concert at Comerica Park
We slowed down, looked back but kept walking. Our apartment building was just a block away.
Outwardly I was calm but inside, I was seething. I certainly wasn’t going to go charging back in some sort of vigilante rage — after all, it wasn’t my car and I wasn’t armed. Just being honest, ya know? We did tell the doorman at our apartment building, and he called the police. I have no idea if they showed up. Probably not. The next day, there was fresh green auto glass along the curb in that spot.
What made me so angry this time was that I had just talked to interim Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr.
a few days before about this very situation — visitor’s cars being broken into in my Lafayette Park
neighborhood, which has long been a very popular place to park for events because of its proximity to the stadiums, theaters, etc., but is seemingly ignored by police.
What sparked my conversation with Godbee was walking home from the Detroit Lions-Cleveland Browns
preseason game on Aug. 28. There was new auto glass shards – the infamous Detroit Diamonds (in photo) – littering Gratiot, Antietam and Rivard and the vehicles were still there, windows and stereos gone. In broad daylight. Meanwhile, there were three or four police officers at some intersections around the stadium just steps away.
That’s nothing new. For all the time I’ve lived and worked downtown, thieves have been breaking into cars on those streets, within sight of Ford Field
and Comerica Park, but with no police around. You come to accept it as an ugly premium for living in the city, and you tell yourself it happens in every big city. But does it?
Later that night after the football game, en route to New Center’s Northern Lights Lounge
(Warning: They’re deadly serious about their Long Island iced tea, which is Soviet-severe), we saw at least six tow trucks in the Grand Circus Park
area removing cars that may or may not have been illegally parked. There could have been more. We counted six that we passed, and each truck was accompanied by at least one cop.
Detroit sent this message to visitors that night: We’re not going to protect your vehicles if you come downtown, but if you don’t park properly, we’re going to tow you. But please come spend money downtown, mkay?
Every one of those people whose car or truck was damaged told family and friends what happened, further damaging the city with tales of theft. Those tales go viral, especially in the age of social media and smart phones. Are they likely to come back downtown and spend money? Some of them probably won’t. Others will come less often.
It’s the emphasis on parking violations, of all things in this town, rather than prevention of actual physical crime that’s galling to me as a city resident.
What I'm seeing is that it’s more cost effective to assign officers to parking enforcement on busy weekends than it is to deploy them to protect cars. Protection doesn’t raise revenue. Towing cars does. Does that seem sleazy and short-sighted?
The police chief says that’s not true: “We’re equally concerned about protecting vehicles as we are towing them,” he told me, noting that cars have to be removed from fire lanes, etc.
The visual evidence of that concern is to the contrary, however. Cars are towed and cars get the parking boot, but cars are broken into almost daily where I live (much worse during events). And it all comes as one of Mayor Dave Bing
's SUVs just had its wheels stolen and the Rev. Jesse Jackson
had his vehicle stolen when it was in town the other day. If their vehicles can't be protected, what does that say for the rest of us? Is it hopeless out there?
Would putting one or two officers on foot patrol in areas of parked cars during big events put a strain on police manpower? The Detroit Police Department has 3,500 officers, an over-burdened and undermanned small army forced to do yeoman’s work in a beleaguered city whose government has a national reputation of corruption and inefficiency and whose population seems bent on self-destruction via crime and drugs. So it’s not the rank and file officers to blame. It’s those who assign them their tasks.
“If we’re not distributing officers correctly, I will take talk with my command staff,” Godbee said. “We need to pay attention to those areas.”
I don’t know if the chief had that talk between the time I talked to him after the football game and Friday’s rash of car crimes. It was a week. I e-mailed him and others over the weekend, but haven’t heard back.
Detroit assigns 70 officers to Ford Field, posted inside and outside, for Lions games, and up to 30 officers for Tigers games.
The chief makes an excellent point in that when you move officers from one area to another, crooks often simply go to where the cops just vacated. “The criminals watch us, too. They take the path of least resistance,” he said. But having several officers lingering in intersections around the stadium, where one would suffice, means there is manpower available to protect other areas during events.
“We’re constantly moving and deploying,” he said. “This has been a long-standing issue when we have visitors come (into the city).”
The police department used to deploy educational efforts to teach visitors tactics to reduce the odds of break-ins, such as parking in garages, keeping valuables out of sight, etc. It’s unclear why that effort ended, but Godbee said it’s something he plans to revisit. He said he understands the image hit the city takes when cars are targeted during events.
“We need to do a better public relations campaign,” he said. He's right. Like the city's image, the police department's credibility hangs by a frayed sliver. (I'm not even getting into the towing situation, which is its own hornet's nest
Better PR would help. But in the meantime, I’m still angry and frustrated, as I’m sure the victims of these crimes remain, too. I feel it’s only a matter of time before I’m the target of something worse — I’ve already had my bicycle and car’s radar detector stolen in the past year, and those were inside secured and patrolled lots. I did all the right stuff but it didn’t matter.
I regularly ask myself if I want to buy a handgun. This has to be a thought that crosses the mind of a lot of downtown residents.
I’ve used firearms and am trained to do so (and I already own a reconditioned .303-caliber Mk. III Short Magazine Lee-Enfield
rifle), yet I understand introducing a weapon into a hostile situation carries immense risk and the distinct possibility of catastrophic results for everyone involved. A long, thoughtful calculus must go into the decision to buy and legally carry a gun: Even with proper training (including combat shooting courses) it takes a very distinct emotional, mental, moral and physical mindset to bear a firearm, much less properly use it, knowing there are lifelong consequences. Some people can do it, but most cannot and should not. You can’t go back once you pull the trigger.
This is a decision I continue to mull. And one I wish I didn’t have to.
9/6/2010 4:41 PM EDT
It's Labor Day. The pool's closed, but it's too cool outside to swim anyway. Cable keeps showing Jaws
, which pleases me, but also Caddyshack II
, which should be a crime.
So, I'm listless and bored, meaning what better time to prognosticate on the 2010 Detroit Lions
season that begins in six days? In case you missed it, I did a piece
looking at the business side of the franchise at the moment in this week's issue. They're spending a lot of money on players. A lot.
Anyone with a pulse that's been in the same room with a television airing an NFL game is apparently qualified to predict games, and I meet both those criteria. So after consulting the I Ching
, Magic 8 Ball, Ouija board, tea leaves, rolled bones, The Sporting News
and other necromancy, here's my meaningless game by game divination:
~ Sept. 12 at Chicago Bears: This is not a particularly interesting Bears team. Chicago has struggled on offense since Sid Luckman
was quarterback. Or at least since Walter Payton
was in the backfield. The Lions are in the same boat, but the names are Bobby Layne
and Barry Sanders
. Detroit can win this game, but I don't think it will. 0-1.
~ Sept. 19 vs. Philadelphia Eagles: This is a very different Eagles team without Donovan McNabb
. Lions win in an upset. 1-1.
~ Sept. 26 at Minnesota Vikings: Adrian Peterson
~ Oct. 3 at Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers
is an excellent quarterback, and the Packers have a stingy defense. Also, it's Lambeau Field
, where the Lions haven't won since Roosevelt was president. Teddy Roosevelt. 1-3.
~ Oct. 10 vs. St. Louis Rams: The worst team in the NFL should be on the upswing (and I mean the Rams), but quarterback Sam Bradford
will undergo severe growing pains this season. But the Lions could make him look like a 10-year veteran. They will, but still win in a shootout. 2-3.
~ Oct. 17 at New York Giants: The Giants score a lot of points while giving up a lot of points. This has the potential for an upset. Lions pull it off, and Merril Hoge
doesn't stop talking about them on ESPN
for at least 48 hours. 3-3, and there's Joy in Mudville. This will be Detroit's first road victory since winning at Chicago on Oct. 28, 2007. That's 2 years, 11 months and 19 days.
~ Oct. 24 - BYE: Even the Lions can't lose this one. Right?
~ Oct. 31 vs. Washington Redskins: Now they face McNabb and the pay the price. It's on Halloween, so there should be some costumes in the stands to distract from the frightful game. 3-4.
~ Nov. 7 vs. New York Jets: Joe Willie
's old team is a trendy Super Bowl pick. I'm not convinced, and the Lions give them a fight before succumbing. 3-5.
~ Nov. 14 at Buffalo Bills: This might be the NFL's worst team. 4-5, and people make optimistic noises about the playoffs.
~ Nov. 21 at Dallas Cowboys: Those noises were premature. 4-6.
~ Nov. 25 vs. New England Patriots: This is the Thanksgiving Day game. Despite Pats quarterback Tom Brady
now sporting a Justin Bieber
hairstyle, he's still too much for Detroit. 4-7.
~ Dec. 5 vs. Chicago Bears: Detroit earns a split on the season series, and I think it'll be a blowout. 5-7, and the diehards construct all sort of bizarre and absurdly elaborate playoff scenarios. 5-7.
~ Dec. 12 vs. Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers won't make anyone forget Brett Favre
, at least not completely. But he won't remind anyone of Randy Wright
, either. 5-8.
~ Dec. 19 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers: On paper, Detroit is better than the Bucs, but Detroit also remains a project under construction. A bitter road loss. 5-9.
~ Dec. 26 - at Miami Dolphins: Back to back weeks in Florida are not uncommon for Michigan snowbirds, but they are for Detroit's football team. A Boxing Day defeat. 5-10.
~ Jan. 2 vs. Minnesota Vikings: If Minnesota is resting Peterson and Favre for the playoffs, Detroit has a shot. But the Vikings' second team is still pretty good. 5-11.My take
: The Detroit Lions are a better team than they were in 2009, when they went 2-14, but the ghosts of Matt Millen
's grossly inept reign, which reached the humiliating 0-16 nadir in 2008, are not yet completely excised. The fixes will take time -- this isn't just dropping a rebuilt transmission under the hood. That said, the team will be more competitive on the field and it will score a lot of points. It also will give up a lot of points because the defense lags behind the offense in terms of talent. In 2011, the Lions will be a legitimate contender for at least a Wild Card.
I'm not the only one who thinks so: NFL.com
's Pat Kirwan includes
the Lions in his five teams that will contend for a title in the next decade.
9/1/2010 9:50 PM EDT
The annual Ohio State
game will be preserved as the Big Ten
splits into two divisions in 2011, and the annual grudge match will remain the regular-season finale for the rival schools.
As expected, the conference tonight announced
the introduction of two divisions (which will get names later) and a championship game, which will first be played on Dec. 3, 2011 at Lucas Oil Stadium
in Indianapolis. The game will decide the Big Ten winner and who plays in the Rose Bowl
or (potentially) the national championship game.
The University of Nebraska will become the conference's 12th team in 2011, and will be in the same division with Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Minnesota and Northwestern. The conference schedule will feature all divisional opponents and three from the other division.
The guaranteed cross-division matchups are Illinois-Northwestern, Indiana-Michigan State, Ohio State-Michigan, Penn State-Nebraska, Purdue-Iowa and Wisconsin-Minnesota, the Big Ten said.
Theoretically, the Buckeyes and Wolverines could play back to back games. Michigan has lost six consecutive games to Ohio State and eight of the last ten.
In an interview
with the Associated Press
, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany
confirmed the OSU-UM meeting would remain the last game on the schools' schedule, a tradition since 1943.
8/27/2010 11:24 AM EDT
Damning internal financial documents for several Major League Baseball
teams (not the Tigers
) leaked to Deadspin.com
) and now widely reported upon could have ramifications locally.
The documents show that the skinflint Pittsburgh Pirates
and Florida Marlins
, perennial bottom dwellers, are making money while not investing in the product on the field. Instead, they rely on low payrolls and revenue sharing to turn a buck. They have no incentive to spend on better players, so they don’t.
The leak confirms what's been widely suspected for a long time in baseball: A lot of a big-market, free-spending teams, and maybe even the mid-market teams, are subsidizing the owners of the cheapskate franchises.
Financial details about the Tampa Bay Rays
, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
, Seattle Mariners
and Texas Rangers
also made their way online.
Major League Baseball has its own investigative unit, the sinister-sounding Department of Investigations
, which is probing the leak. A report
from the New York Daily News
suggests an insurance carrier involved with the teams may be the source of the leak.
The leaked information is causing an especially nasty storm in Miami, where the Florida Marlins
recently cried poverty to convince Miami-Dade County to have the public pay $500 million for a new stadium. Turns out, the Marlins made a profit of $49 million from 2008 to 2009, and now South Florida politicians – and probably the taxpayers – are hopping mad.
In response, Marlins management said what can be summed up as, “Sorry, Charlie. We have a deal. Now pay up.”Jeff Passan
at Yahoo Sports unloads
on the Marlins and baseball: “The swindlers who run the Florida Marlins got exposed Monday. They are as bad as anyone on Wall Street, scheming, misleading and ultimately sticking taxpayers with a multibillion-dollar tab. Corporate fraud is alive and well in Major League Baseball.”
The Tigers have a distinct Marlins tint in the media guide because many of its key personnel — team President Dave Dombrowski
, Assistant General Manager Al Avila
, Vice President of Player Personnel Scott Reid
, legal counsel John Westoff
, minor league operations Director Dan Lunetta
, baseball operations Director Mike Smith
, manager Jim Leyland
, all-universe first baseman Miguel Cabrera
— used to work or play for that franchise.
That’s not to suggest any of those people have anything to do with the financial situation in Florida. They don’t. It’s interesting coincidence. But we don’t know Detroit’s fiscal reality. Speculation for a long time is that baseball teams have been clever with the books to make themselves appear destitute — but Detroit could be an honest exception.
The Tigers may very well be losing money because owner Mike Ilitch
has spent vast sums on players, spending that is considered far out of whack for this size market. He’s a billionaire, a fan, and he wants to win, so he writes checks — to the tune of more than $560 million since 2006.
The Tigers aren’t asking for a new stadium, but Ilitch likely will seek some level of public assistance for a new downtown arena for his Detroit Red Wings
at some point in the future. How the baseball disclosure affects that, or any owner seeking public money for facilities, is unclear — but it doesn’t seem helpful. Ilitch paid the majority cost of Comerica Park
himself, but public money primarily via a taxi cab and hotel tax generates significant funding for the capital costs (which are still being paid).
Writing on Slate.com
, baseball Sabremetrics wonk Phil Birnbaum
fascinatingly spells out
how teams can either spend on players and probably not turn a profit, or they can rely on the corporate welfare of revenue sharing to make money while fielding a non-competitive team. He also shows that new stadiums don’t always translate into profitability for baseball teams.
It’s unknown if the Tigers are a donor or recipient of baseball’s revenue sharing, but the team’s payroll spending levels suggest it pays. Ilitch is an owner willing to subsidize any financial losses with revenue from his other businesses, and that willingness to spend to win sets him apart from many of baseball’s owners.
The question now is: Will the furor over the newly disclosed financial documents make it all but impossible for him to get public help for a new hockey arena? Or will it have blown over by the time he’s ready to ask?
What everyone seems to agree on right now is that when baseball's labor agreement, which ends in December 2011, is renegotiated, revenue sharing will a major negotiating topic. It was meant to restore competitive balance in the game, but it turns out teams are using the money to pay down debt, build stadiums, etc. ... everything but what it was meant for: paying better players.
8/25/2010 2:14 PM EDT
More than once in my life I have waxed ... well, maybe not eloquently but at least with conviction ... about shallowness, feeble-mindedness and gross hypocrisy of sports writers.
Not one but two Boston Globe sports columnists today have reinforced my point. Dan Shaughnessy and Tony Massarotti each have penned missives bemoaning Johnny Damon's decision to stay with the Detroit Tigers rather than approve a (non-existent) trade that would send him to the Yankees Lite ... er ... I mean the Boston Red Sox.
Shaughnessy wrote this: "For the next five weeks, you could live in downtown Boston and your wife could shop on Newbury Street. Or you could live in downtown Detroit, amid the boarded-up buildings and the proverbial skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets. Is this really a tough call?"
Really, Shaughnessy? Have you been to downtown Detroit? I live downtown and have never seen a burned-out Chevy. Is Boston fin de siècle
Paris? Leave the pot-shot humor to those with a sense
of humor, mkay?
Cheap, superficial insults --
low-rent laughs for the mob -- from a sports writer, of all creatures, one who is considered among the best around. Wow. It simply further reinforces the idea that the sports section is the toy department of newspapers and not to be taken seriously. Not surprising, I guess.
Over at the Boston Herald (think of it as that city's Detroit News, with the Globe as the Freep), sports columnist Michael Silverman suffers from a more mild case of the vapours in print. He does call Damon's decision as leaving "nearly everyone in baseball scratching their head."
Really? Outside of Boston and Detroit, no one cares. A twilight-years player and two teams on the fringe of contention is not great copy or a vexing question for great baseball minds.
Speaking of burned-out wrecks ... With about six weeks left in the season, Boston is six games behind the Yankees and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Detroit is nine games behind the Minnesota Twins. That's big but not exactly an impossible difference, although it's clear the Sox are in desperation mode -- so much so that the sports writers are mystified and complaining that a 36-year-old part-time outfielder rejected the team they cover. Was it a personal affront?
Of course, there's mild spin in Detroit that Damon's pure love of the Tigers fueled the decision (but, thankfully, none of the tiresome schlocky gibberish about Johnny lifting Detroiter's weary spirits).
Damon's Detroit crush may or may not be true; I have zero insight into his thinking. But it's also true that Damon had a very bad experience in leaving Boston for New York four years ago, and the Red Sox are among the 21 teams on his no-trade list. He apparently was treated very shabbily by the Southies when he returned to Fenway Park in pinstripes. That shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone. Why is it a surprise to witless sports writers that Damon might feel sour about it?
Word is that Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski didn't have any deal on the table from Boston. A trade would have had to been worked out, and Damon would have had to approve waiving the no-trade clause. And it's not even clear Boston really wanted him. It may have claimed him simply as a tactical measure to keep him away from the Yankees and Devil Rays.
My take: Damon likes his teammates and the organization. He doesn't like Boston, or at least not as much as the Tigers. He's getting old. He knows Tigers owner Mike Ilitch sometimes throws the Big Money at old, fan-favorite players (See Ordonez, Magglio). So instead of green-lighting a deal (that would be for less than two months) that could make him look mercenary in many people's eyes, and then want to come back to Detroit, Damon instead took stock and decided that his financial future is probably more solid in Detroit. Johnny is betting that the best contract he can get for next season is here, not Boston, and his odds are better of getting it if he shows some loyalty -- especially if the Sox can't make up any ground in the standings.
But returning to the subject of sports writers ... there are some good ones. There are some great ones. I'm friends with some, and I was one once myself. I'm writing about sports right now. The best are excellent writers who happen to write about sports, such as Gay Talese and George Plimpton. But the number of Oscar Madison hacks is staggering (and I'm sure I'd be counted among the Madisons more than the Plimptons myself). So on that note, I'll leave you with one of my favorite Hunter Thompson quotes about the profession:
"Sports writers are a kind of rude and brainless sub-culture of fascist drunks whose only real function is to publicize & sell whatever the sports editor sends them out to cover ... Which is a nice way to make a living, because it keeps a man busy and requires no thought at all. The two keys to success as a sports writer are: (1) A blind willingness to believe anything you’re told by the coaches, flacks, hustlers, and other “official spokesman” for the team-owners who provide the free booze ... and: (2) A Roget’s Thesaurus, in order to avoid using the same verbs and adjectives twice in the same paragraph."
A few years before he died, Thompson added an addendum to the above: "The incredible dumbness of Sportswriters is a subject I thought I'd exhausted a long time ago -- but let's hit it one more time, just for the fun of it. ... I have described them as "a rude & brainless subculture of fascist drunks" and "more disgusting by nature than maggots oozing out of the carcass of a dead animal. ..."
"But they keep coming back for more, like pimps & real-estate agents, & on days like this I run out of patience. ... I have explained many times that I am, by Profession, a Gambler -- not some jock-sniffing nerd or a hired human squawk-box with the brain of a one-cell animal. No. That would be your average career sportswriter -- and, more specifically, a full-time Baseball writer."
Maybe that's too harsh, but HST didn't deal in half-measures. And today, his words Feel Right.
8/25/2010 1:43 PM EDT
Wayne County Board of Commissioners Chairman Ed Boike’s concerns about Pinnacle Race Course's agreements with the county are outlined in a document prepared by the county board’s legal staff and provided to Crain’s. The verbatim text is below:
~ It appears that the property was improperly sold to Post. Post did not satisfy all of the conditions required in the agreements and was not entitled to purchase the property for $1. Post may owe the County millions for the property or should return the property to the County.
~ Post did not create and retain the required number of jobs in the County. The Term Agreement required Post to create 1100 construction jobs and 1200 permanent full time new jobs. Information obtained suggests that Post did not create the jobs despite documents submitted by Post.
~ Further, the extremely short time period Post had to fully comply with the $1 purchase price clouds the possibility that it created the required number of jobs and invested the required amount of funds. The Land Bank sold the property to Post less than 4 months after the Development Agreement was executed.
~ The Option Agreement is invalid. The Commission did not approve the Option Agreement or Amendments One, Two or Three to the agreement. On October 25, 2007, the County entered into an agreement with Post It Stables which gave Post the exclusive option to purchase approximately 240 acres for $1 in consideration for Post’s “commitment to either (1) develop the project … which project will include a minimum investment by developer of ONE hundred and forty million dollars ($140,000,000) and will generate approximately 1,300 jobs or (2) return the property to the county in a similar condition as received.” The net effect of the amendments was the option deadline was extended form January 31, 2008 to March 31, 2008 and the number of acres was increased by approx. 60 acres from 240 to 319. This could very well invalidate the transaction.
~ The Development Agreement appears to be invalid. The Commission did not approve the Development Agreement, which is the primary agreement to the project. I have been advised that the Commission may have delegated authority to the CEO to execute the agreement but I have not been able to locate a Commission resolution doing so. This could very well invalidate the transaction.
~ The Commission’s approval of the Term Agreement may be void. The Commission’s approval was contingent upon the terms being substantially the same as the Development Agreement and the Development Agreement being executed within 30 days. Resolution 2008-172 requires a Development Agreement “in form and substance that does not deviate from the Term Agreement.” The terms of the Development agreement substantially vary form the Term Agreement and was executed 90 days later on July 3rd. It may be argued that both agreements are void as the Commission’s approval was not granted.
~ The Land Bank leased 258 acres of land to Post before it owned the land and before the Term Agreement was approved by the Commission. The lease commenced March 24, 2008.
~ Questionable property conveyance. The deed conveying the land from the County to the EDC is dated the same day as the deed conveying the land from the EDC to the Land Bank (April 14, 2008). EDC’s conveyance to the Land Bank was recorded before the County’s conveyance to the EDC.
~ It appears that the Land Bank reduced the amount of investment and number of jobs required under the Term Agreement to trigger the $1 purchase price.
~ The entire transaction appears to violate the Michigan constitution. It is well established law that the State or its subdivisions are not permitted to give government assets to any person or entity unless there is an exchange of fair value. The County expended millions to acquire the land, incurred millions in bond debts and spent millions improving the land for this specific project in exchange for a few jobs that did not materialize. The County did not receive fair value for the 320 acres of public land. The transaction was an abuse of discretion by county officials.
~ Post is required to commit funds to pay down the County’s debt service, before it may use revenue for other purposes. The Term Agreement provides “until the public infrastructure bond debt service relating to the 320 acres is paid in full, all revenue streams . . . due and payable by [Post] … will be devoted to the public infrastructure annual debt service in an amount that is estimated at $2 million annually.” This language was omitted from the Development Agreement. Therefore, it is not clear if this requirement is applicable.
~ Property liens. Liens have been placed on the property by Contractors against Post.