March’s Moment to Shine – The Ever-Inspiring NCAA Tournament

Here, watch this: I was at that game. It was nuts. I mean, listen to Ford Field after Durrell Summers powers that dunk through. Michigan State (or Michigan, for that matter) playing in the Final Four in their home state behind a home crowd may never happen again, and although the Spartans came up short against one of the most perfect North Carolina teams, the Spartans felt like champions that entire weekend. I’ve seen a lot of cool things in Detroit, but for a freshman Michigan State student like myself, seeing Park, Witherell, Madison and Brush streets and its pedestrians drenched in green and white was a sight I will hold deep in my memory forever. And to go to the game that they won helped, too. As with the football, I was never much into college basketball as a youngster, especially with the Goin’ to Work Pistons at my doorstep,… Read More…

Welcome to the Lions Den, Coach Caldwell: Challenges Facing the Future Ex-Coach

Sadly, 20 months later, Coach Caldwell is ready to become the latest Ford recall… (11/3/15) Today, the Lions announced their latest casualty–Jim Caldwell. And one happy man, Ken Whisenhunt, is now in the employment of a far less-talented team but a far more talented owner. “Congratulations, Ken, you’re not a Lion” Whisenhunt was the chosen one.  He was the reason we all were rooting for the Chargers to lose on Sunday to Peyton Manning.  But as luck (and Lions lore) would have it, Peyton did win a rare playoff game but Kenny chose the Titans over working for his former teammate and current Lions GM, Martin Mayhew. **You may also enjoy Kevin’s “35 Years of Lions Draft Butchery”** Very wise choice, KW.  No Lions coach has ever been a head coach after his tenure with this franchise.  It’s really an incredible run.  Even the Bengals have been to the Super… Read More…

How the Sights and Sounds of the Rose Bowl Define Our Memories in Some Type of Way

The Rose Bowl. Growing up in the Midwest, it’s the event that became our first memory of each New Year. For sports fans, it continues to be that special tradition that proves to us that no matter how much we may change as a person from New Year to New Year, there are some things that just need to stay the same. Sure, we watch the Rose Bowl a little differently than we did when we were kids. Instead of hot chocolate fighting off Jack Frost in our tippy toes, copious cups of coffee fight off the champagne in our heads and our stomachs, for example. Tradition is tradition. My friend Michael once told me that his dad taught him two things growing up: (1) Hate Ohio State and (2) Hate Brent Musburger. And as funny as both notions are to our Midwestern ears, the reality of Brent Musburger’s love… Read More…

“Gobble Gobble!” Thanksgiving, Northern Michigan and Family

Perhaps Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s front-loaded.  All the work is done on the first day and the rest of the weekend is comprised of football, avoiding the mall and general digestion. Throughout the late 1970s and into the early 1990s,when the above couch wasn’t full of random cousins it served as my bed.  In 1984, I was a college sophomore, stressed out completely, and couldn’t wait to drive with my family five hours north to my Aunt Joan and Uncle Bill’s cottage on Oden Island, just north of Petoskey, Michigan. We’d load up the station wagon, pray for no icy roads on Wednesday evening and get going on I-75, along with a couple thousand other travelers–some, like us, not wearing hunting orange and plaid. It was one of those fatigued moments of joy when we’d drive across the steep bridge to the island and down the road… Read More…

Go Pick on Someone the Size of a House: “Bullying” in the NFL

Yet another victim has fallen into the hungry maw of bullies. Another Rebecca Sedwick? Another Phoebe Prince? Thankfully, this is a man who did not die by his own hand, but still martyred himself to make us aware of an insidious problem. Jonathan Martin, an offensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins, endured a hardscrabble life, with nothing to go on but the example of a struggling Harvard professor for a father and a mother scraping by as a corporate lawyer. He grew to be a whisp of a figure, a mere 6’5″, 312 pounds, living no doubt on Ramen noodles and a paltry $390,000 salary in 2012. He was constantly mocked at work–at one point forced to pay for the expensive meals of his teammates. Ironically, it was at the lunch table that he’d had enough. He sat down, and everyone at the table got up. That was it. Off… Read More…

The Prince and Us Paupers: Being Stingy with Others’ Money

I was at the cider mill today and a billionaire walked by me with a bag of donuts and a half-gallon of cider.  I could have yelled, “Hey, Mr. Karmanos!  Thanks a lot for hiking Fedorov’s salary so the Wings had to outbid your Hurricanes in order to win the Stanley Cup!” But I didn’t.  First of all, it would have been tacky.  Secondly, to quote Sonny Corleone, “It’s strictly business.” A week ago, one millionaire was celebrated in town.  Today, the same guy’s probably the real reason that Congress can’t get along.  And if it snows this winter, it’s his fault, too. Detroit now has four sports stations.  Dodging commercials and jumping from 1130 to 1270 AM, from 97.1 to 105.1 FM you hear the same topic.  Certainly with only one baseball game played the day before in the ALCS, all the talk was on the Tigers-Red Sox game–more… Read More…

We Are Still Fans…Somehow

College football’s Nittany Lions won a thriller this past weekend, a tight game requiring multiple overtimes. I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, in a region teeming with Penn State grads and Nittany Lions fans, and I befriended a few of the rare ones who tolerated someone who went to Notre Dame. After the PSU game this Saturday, my Facebook page was abuzz with Penn State pride. One friend wrote simply “We are…,” to demonstrate her team-pride. Discounting the possibility her typewriter broke before she finished the phrase, and ignoring the fact the slogan just may be appropriated from another college team and a film with Matthew McConaughey, there may be some inadvertent significance to the fact the phrase read simply “We are…” The missing words, “Penn State,” once stood for college football dominance as well as decent academics and a diversified alumni, but to many, the words have come to… Read More…

Detroit Sports Masochism: Big Papi, Crazy Uncle Jim Leyland and Neanderthal Man

I learned long ago that my garage is never more organized than it is on autumn Sunday afternoons.  When the Lions are on, something positive has to happen by 4 PM.  So, to the embarrassment of my wife, I buried a coaxial cable under the ground and ran it to the garage so I could keep half an eye on my latest garbage-picked 32″ television  while I fold paint tarps, sort screws, clean bike chains or set mousetraps. I have been a Lions fan since the mid 1970’s.  I have seen the Dallas Cowboys and 49ers go from bad, to great, to bad again, then great again.  And since turning negative-seven years-old, the Lions have amassed exactly one playoff victory–in 1991 against the Cowboys without injured Troy Aikman.  For me, Wayne Fontes is the good old days.  No Lions head-coach has ever been a head-coach anywhere else. Last night, I… Read More…

Post-Season Tigers: Ethical Crossroad for Detroit Fans (Moral-less)

Tonight the Tigers give it another try.  Under Jim Leland, they’ve been to the post-season many times and twice been to the World Series–crushed by the Cardinals in ’06 and crushed by the Giants last year.  It’s a battle of the big-dough, Little Caesar’s fortune against Billy Bean’s rummage-sale sabremetrics (although he’s never publicly endorsed the scheme). Poor Mike Ilitch (a phrase not heard often), born just four months before the stock market crash, has had to endure plenty of Great Depressions.  He transformed the 1970’s Red Wings from a group outdrawn at Joe Louis Arena by the Ice Capades into the Yankees of hockey, not missing the post-season in over twenty years, to the point, when the team doesn’t win another Stanley Cup, it’s a disappointing season. As the Tigers were moved from one pizza czar to another in 1992, Ilitch patiently tooled, re-tooled, then re-re-tooled his team (and… Read More…

Little League Purgatory: Nostalgia is 20-20 and Cornfields Line All Outfields

It might have been a Hallmark Channel’s special–everyone was completely bathed in sunset gold; there was even corn behind the outfield.  But hidden in this pastoral setting lies the fine print for parents–the eleventh commandment of my nephew’s little league game. “If a new inning doth start ere 8:30 PM, the game must continue until both sides have batted completely.” Coach-pitch is that bastard child, somewhere between tee-ball and concussion–when dads (mainly) publicly humiliate themselves by missing the plate repeatedly–at least that was the way it was way back when my kids played. Now, after too many trips to the chiropractor or too many threatened lawsuits, some clever dude invented a gadget that throws a perfect pitch each time. But the with the added time it takes to catch the ball from a young infielder, transfer it from your glove, load it in the slot, step on the pedal, release… Read More…

Yom Kippur: Judaism’s All-Star Break

I don’t really consider myself a very religious person, but I do celebrate the Jewish holidays and participate as much as I can because, while I may not be religious, I frequently find myself digging spiritual concepts and spiritual philosophy, and I use Judaism, sports, film and music as avenues to tap into that vague spirituality. It could be The Muppets or Maimonides. Everything from “There is no spoon” to “Luminous beings are we” to “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” Or, even baseball.  That’s why I love Judaism. I find that—perhaps more than other religions—Judaism is celebrated and practiced in so many different ways, that there’s something for everyone. Especially given the religion’s history and what its people have been through, Judaism has transformed into a variety of vehicles traveling down the same road. In my case, I’m constantly trying to find new ways to experience… Read More…

The Great American Ballpark Tour – Any Man’s Dream

It all started four weeks ago as I watched it pour rain here in Connecticut and track the storms on the radar. I had a Friday night without the kids and desperately wanted to go to Yankee Stadium to see my Tigers take on the Yankees. It’s a trek down to the city, especially Friday rush hour. But some great tickets came through and I realized that I was on the brink of man greatness – four ballparks in four weeks! When I told some of my married friends they claimed that married men across America were building statues of me.   2:30 rolled around that Friday and I looked at my friend, Jason, at work and told him “you have 10 minutes to decide whether or not you want to go to Yankee Stadium with me or not”. He jumped at the opportunity and off we went on week… Read More…

College Football is Back, and So Are the Memories

I didn’t choose to go to Michigan State University for Big Ten football, even though if you meet me today, I’ll jokingly tell you that that was the reason. The first time I ever really started to feel old was when I–for the first time in my life–didn’t have a school to go back to last fall. To add insult to injury, I couldn’t even be in the same state for Michigan State’s home opener vs Boise State.  That stunk.  Because there’s something special about College Football, isn’t there? I’m not even talking about the play on the field, though that is special in its own right. No, I’m talking about the way that College Football serves as a special place in our puny little human hearts.  The way that cool air and and those changing leaves beckon the call for new adventures, new experiences and new student section shirts…. Read More…

From Russia With Hate: Not Tuning-In 2014 Winter Olympics

The following was originally posted on Joe’s blog at this link. If you follow my blog you know that I rarely comment on current events and mostly am guilty of reminiscent wool gathering. I have also stated that I am not content just writing about the timeline of our marriage. But, what is going on in Russia needs to be addressed now and regularly until the Winter Games and beyond. The persecution of LGBT people in Russia is horrifyingly similar to the gradual evolution of the Jewish holocaust led by Vladimir Putin an ex-KGB thug.  He knows what he is doing. Find a group of already disenfranchised people and make them the enemy. It starts slowly. Rights are incrementally removed. In this case they are using the old favorite of our own anti gay crowd. ” We must protect the children.” Who will protect the gay children? You are going… Read More…

The Anatomy of a Great Game

  As I write this, my favorite baseball team won their 12th straight game and 4th straight against their division rivals 10-3. Our ace went 7 strong innings to win his 17th of the year. The 3rd and 5th hitters in the lineup had 3 RBI each. And we taxed their bullpen so much, that they had to bring in their utility player in in the 9th inning to pitch. All that and yet—the excitement, fun and thrills didn’t come close to the game that preceded it.  On August 7th, 2013, Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians fans were treated to what was absolutely the most exciting game of the year. Yes, Indians fans too, even though they were on the losing end. The August 7th match was one of those games that comes around once or twice a year, and goes the way of a team like the Tigers, who… Read More…

Jose or Jhonny? A Choice Between Right and Braun

 Let me show you what is probably the only defining baseball moment for Detroiters—surely my generation of Detroiters—to come out of the mid to late 90’s: If you can look past the fact that Frank Beckmann was a part of this, it’s a pretty incredible moment. The scene is the last game ever to be played at historically legendary Tiger Stadium. One of the only bright spots in a dismal baseball future, Robert Fick, steps up to the plate with the bases loaded. With one swing of the bat, Fick immortalizes himself in baseball history, hitting a grand slam off of the roof—the ultimate send off to every Michigander’s favorite sports venue. He’s wearing Norm Cash’s number, and Frank reminds us that Al Kaline said before the game that he’d hit a homerun that day. And he did. This is the kinda crap that provokes lines from screenwriters like Aaron… Read More…

“Brotherly Love” is Ironic? I’ve Never Heard That.

(Mike Schmidt, arguably the greatest third baseman to ever play the game, a career Phillie and a hometown hero.  In this photo, he’s in comic disguise to hide from Philly fans.) Look up the phrase “philly fan” in the online “Urban Dictionary” site and you will see adjectives like “obnoxious,” “juvenile,” and “unruly.”  It can be rough for visitors to our sporting events…well, it can be rough for home teams as well (see Mike Schmidt above), but visiting teams and their fans know that Philadelphia may be a great place to live, but you don’t want to visit. To a great extent, the reputation of Philly fans are over-rated. Are they full throated?  Yes.  Obnoxious?  Sure.  Homicidal?  You bet.  But if you’re wearing an opponent’s jersey and happen to visit The Link (Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles) or Citizens Bank Park (home of the Phillies), there’s a decent… Read More…

Golf Voyeurism: Tiger, Phil, Stevie and Reality TV

NASCAR’s ratings are high because it has two audiences–those hoping for a great race and those waiting for an accident. Tiger Woods is golf’s NASCAR. It was like having to stand-up at a wedding with your ex-fiancee.  For pure TV reality-show squirm-factor, this morning’s second-to-last pairing at the British Open couldn’t have been better.  It wasn’t so much Tiger Woods opposite this year’s Masters champ, Adam Scott; it was Tiger Woods and Scott’s caddy, “Stevie” Williams.  ESPN referred to it as a “frosty handshake.” Steve Williams became Tiger’s Robin after the previous sidekick, Mike “Fluff” Cowans, was dismissed for treason to his majesty, after reportedly releasing his salary and bonuses to a magazine. Williams, can be his own NASCAR wreck, speaking ill of fan-favorite Phil Mickelson (“I hate the P****.)  And in 2011 he expressed his joy in winning with Adam Scott in a speech that many would award the… Read More…

5 Songs That Will Shave 10 Seconds Off Your Mile

‘shopped by John Kalmar, @johnkalmar I used to be as inactive as it gets. My life was just sitting and watching other people being active in high school. I’d sit around and listen to music, play video games, watch movies, watch sports. But I wasn’t really getting around and doing much. By the time I was 16, I started to realize that if I wanted to, I could really go out there and be physical in my spare time. In order to motivate myself, I decided to get into the podcast scene. I’d throw on a podcast, and go for a walk. Walks turned into sporadic running and sporadic running turned into running, no walking. Eventually, I wanted to be better, faster, stronger. I began to find that there were certain songs I could listen to that would actually dredge up emotion within me that would push me to limits… Read More…

Boston Strong

On April 15, 2013 I scrambled out of Boston in the biggest hurry and the most confused I’d ever been in my life.  At 2:35PM I had just finished my 4th Boston Marathon and was basking in the glory of not only my 3 hours 51 minute finish, but the $16k I had raised for the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge.  No matter how many times I do it, crossing the finish line at a marathon is about the biggest natural high one can get in life. It was a pristine, beautiful day and I had not a care in the world as I tweeted and took pictures throughout the course. While I battled a blister and some fatigue, I had finished again!  I stopped and talked to the members of the DFMC team. I had my picture taken about 100 yards away from the finish line at 2:45 and then… Read More…