Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Jon Kitna as "Naked Coach" Joe Cullen for Halloween

Halloween Update: The story has picked up legs, both nationally and locally on this Halloween day, so check the postscript below for an update on the "Kitna as Cullen" story, including a clip from tonight's Pardon The Interruption. And if you are joining us at Quo Vadimus for the first time (coming from The Big Lead, ESPN.com's Hashmarks, or Deadspin) welcome.

It was a low point in a low era for the Detroit Lions. It was right before Rod Marinelli's first game as Detroit Lions head coach, and one of his defensive assistants was arrested. The devil, though, was in the details, as Joe Cullen was not arrested for any ordinary offense. He was arrested for driving through a Wendy's naked. Cullen was suspended for a game by the Lions, suspended for another game by the league, and received treatment, and has, from all accounts turned his life around in a positive direction.

And Cullen's personal turnaround, and the all healing power of time, probably allowed quarterback Jon Kitna to have some fun with the incident at wide receiver Mike Furrey's for-charity Halloween Bowling Party Monday night. While some Lions dressed up as celebrities (Michael Jackson and Kid Rock were two such costumes) Kitna dressed up as a nude football coach, and his wife got in on the act by dressing up as a Wendy's cashier. The video from FOX 2 Detroit:

And the photo of Mr. and Mrs. Kitna:

While some think the stunt was in bad taste (As Terry Foster wrote today, former Lions linebacker Chris Spielman was in that category) I agree with FOX 2 sports anchor and Detroit Lions play-by-play voice Dan Miller, who writes the costume was all in good fun. And Jon Kitna certainly does not appear to a person who would dress up like that without either having the okay of Cullen or without genuinely believing it would not cause a problem.

And hey, when you are 5-2, you can have a bit of fun with a naked coach driving through a Wendy's.

Halloween, 10/31, Postscript: Lots of talk about Jon Kitna's costume today. First, Big Al over at the Wayne Fontes Experience had a nice rundown of the early talk, and drew a comparison of Kitna's costume to that of Scott Mitchell, who impersonated Wayne Fontes back in the day. Kitna defended his actions on WDFN radio Wednesday morning and said he spoke with Cullen after the party, and there was no problem with the costume. Drew Sharp, on the other hand, thought Kitna went over the line. The Pardon the Interruption crew, an in costume Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon, spoke about the gag on their Wednesday night, and they felt that while the costume may have been a bit over the line, it was funny enough to justify it.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Detroit Tigers Trade for Edgar Renteria

The Detroit Tigers aren't messing around. They want to win now and they aren't afraid to mortgage some of their future in order to help themselves today. Last season, right around this time, they traded one of their top pitching prospects (Humberto Sanchez) and two other young pitching prospects (Kevin Whelan and Anthony Claggett) for Gary Sheffield. Today, the Tigers traded two of their arguably top-five prospects (pitcher Jair Jurrjens and outfielder Gorkys Hernandez) for multiple-time All Star and Gold Glove shortstop Edgar Renteria.

On first blush, the Tigers gave up a lot for the 32-year-old shortstop. Jurrjens went 3-1 after being called up to the Tigers last season, and he looked very impressive late in the season. With Andrew Miller ticketed to start off next season in AA Erie, Jurrjens was the odds-on-favorite to win the fifth starting spot in the rotation for next season. Now, the Tigers will either have to bring up Miller (again faster then they really wanted to) or give the fifth spot to someone like Chad Durbin or Yorman Bazardo. And this assumes veteran Kenny Rogers will return, which is no sure bet.

Hernandez is also a very bright prospect. He hit .293 in Class A West Michigan with 58 steals, and had mouths watering over a potential Maybin-Hernandez-Granderson outfield of the future for the Tigers. But he just turned 20-years-old and he's at least three years away from the major leagues. Success at Class A West Michigan is a long way from success at Comerica Park, but Herandez has a ton of potential.

But the Tigers needed a shortstop now, not an outfielder three years from now, and there's no question, with Miller, and the drafting of Rick Porcello, outfield and pitching are positions of strength for the Tigers. And Renteria is one of the best available options for shortstop, certainly better than Jack Wilson, and better than any free agent the Tigers could have acquired. He can lead-off, allowing Curtis Granderson to move down in the lineup if the Tigers want (that's where manager Jim Leyland sees Granderson's future anyway), and he is a better defender than Carlos Guillen. He's also very familiar with Jim Leyland and Dave Dombrowski (having played for the World Series winning Florida Marlins team) and the Tigers have instantly become a better team today.

It's tough giving up so much, especially because Jurrjens looked so good last season, but shortstop was the Tigers biggest need, and the Tigers filled it with one of the best available options (and probably the best, A-Rod excluded). There's no question the Tigers, trading for Renteria, picking up Pudge's option, and trying to re-sign both Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones believe they have a short window to win a championship. They can be a great team for a long time with their young pitching and young talent, but they can be an elite team for the next two or three seasons, and the addition of Renteria certainly fits that strategy.

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Charles Barkley: The Cleveland Cavaliers Will NOT Make the Playoffs

Here's something interesting. On Jim Rome's radio show this afternoon, NBA Hall of Famer and TNT analyst Charles Barkley (who is a must listen any time he is interviewed) said he would be legitimately stunned if the Cleveland Cavaliers, the defending Eastern Conference Champions, made the playoffs. He wasn't joking either. He said that while almost every other contending Eastern Conference team has improved from last season, the Cavs have not, and as such, they will not make the playoffs.

While I agree with Barkley that the Cavs certainly did not improve themselves this off-season (and with the losses of Sasha Pavlovic and Anderson Varejao, they are almost undoubtedly worse than last season) while teams like the Boston Celtics and the Heat and even the Pistons did (though the recent injury to rookie Rodney Stuckey will set the Pistons back a bit), to say that the Cavs aren't one of the eight best teams in the Eastern Conference may be stretching it a bit.

Then again, the Cavs were a dreadful 1-6 in the exhibition season, second worse only to Miami's 0-7, and there are a lot of good teams in the East. Toronto, New Jersey, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, and Orlando are probably all shoo-ins for the playoffs. Indiana went 6-2 in the pre-season, and if Shaq and Dwyane Wade are healthy (a big if) the Heat will make some noise too. And we can't forget about Washington.

Maybe Sir Charles is smarter than I give him credit for....

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Balanced Attack Leads Detroit Lions to 16-7 Victory Over the Chicago Bears

It wasn't easy, and by the end, it looks a bit concerning for those long-time Detroit Lions fans, but as the Lions have told us all season, this is not your father's Detroit Lions team (or, for that matter, your grandfathers). A balanced attack led by over 100 yards rushing from Kevin Jones, 268 yards passing without an interception from Jon Kitna, and a ferocious defense with four interceptions (three in the Chicago end-zone) and suddenly the Detroit Lions are 5-2 and with a Green Bay loss Monday night at Denver would move into a first-place tie in the NFC North. Amazing. Absolutely, just amazing.

The return to full health of Kevin Jones has really turned around the Lions fortunes. A team that is known for their passing attack ran the ball 27 times on Sunday, with Kevin Jones gaining 105 yards (with a touchdown). That allowed Jon Kitna to sit back and pick apart the Bears secondary, and he found 8 different receivers with everyone, from Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson (who had another nice reverse for a first down) to Casey FitzSimmons and Sean McHugh coming up with big plays throughout the game. And how about the much maligned defense? Four interceptions, tons of pressure on Bears quarterback Brian Griese, and not giving up any big plays.

And what might be most impressive about the Lions, and so unexpected, is their resiliency. In the second quarter, they drove the ball over 90 yards before scoring a touchdown. Lions teams in the past were not able to do that. In the third quarter, after a nice drive to start the half faltered after Jason Hanson's field goal bounced off the upright, the Lions defense responded, and held Chicago to a three-and-out. Later, after the Bears drove down and scored their only touchdown of the game, and pulled within six, the Lions offense went to work, and drove 70 yards to the Chicago one yard line. They settled for a field goal, but those three points, making it a two-score game, were critical in helping the Lions move to 5-2.

Now, of course, all was not perfect (I'm a Lions fan, I've been trained to see the negative in even the greatest of starts). Kevin Jones had a fumble, they kicked to Devin Hester once and it cost them a touchdown, and I'm not sure why, up 13-7, the Lions were going for it on 4th and 1 from the 2 yard line (you need to go up two scores there and kick the field goal -- Luckily Chicago jumped off-sides and made the issue moot) but today is not about the negatives. Detroit has swept the NFC Champion Chicago Bears, winning on the road, showing the world they can win on the road. Most importantly though, they proved to them themselves that the Philadelphia and Washington debacles are behind them, and now the team has a lot of confidence going forward. Denver at home next week won't be easy, but the Broncos will be coming off a short week, and a 6-2 start is only a game away.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Obama Promises to Get Tough on Clinton

It's about time. Two weeks ago, I wrote about a couple of interesting Newsweek stories profiling Barack Obama's campaign for President and I commented, as many before me have suggested, that Obama needed to get tough on Hillary Clinton if he was to overcome her seemingly insurmountable leads in New Hampshire and practically everywhere else across the country. While Obama's campaign for the Democratic nomination for President is about a "new politics of hope," no matter how much the Clinton campaign claims otherwise, challenging Hillary on the issues and about her stances on the issues should be fair game. And Obama can't be scared off and knocked off message by the Clinton machine complaining that any attack on Hillary, issue oriented or not, is a low blow which makes Barack Obama just like any other politician.

Now, with two months to go before the Iowa caucuses, Obama appears ready, and willing, to take Hillary on, directly, and forcefully. The New York Times interviewed Obama this weekend and the resulting article was a fascinating look into the Obama campaign. It also featured Obama directly questioning Clinton's campaign tactics.

Asked if Mrs. Clinton had been fully truthful with voters about what she would do as president, Mr. Obama replied, “No.”

“I don’t think people know what her agenda exactly is,” Mr. Obama added, citing Social Security, Iraq and Iran as issues on which she had not been entirely forthcoming.

“Now it’s been very deft politically,” he said. “But one of the things that I firmly believe is that we’ve got to be clear with the American people right now about the important choices that we’re going to need to make in order to get a mandate for change, not to try to obfuscate and avoid being a target in the general election.”

There's a big difference between mud-slinging and campaigning honestly on the issues. Obama's campaign is about hope and about how he is different from the candidates which have come before. If he stays on issue-oriented attacks, he can beat Hillary and keep his head above the muck. And because Hillary is running a "general election" campaign, acting as if she's already won the Democratic nomination, and tailoring her votes and public speeches accordingly, there's a lot of unease within the Democratic base Obama should be tapping into. And the only way to do it is to point out the differences between him and Hillary.

Predictably, the Clinton campaign has already trotted out their standard line to respond to any Obama attack, legitimate or not, perceived or not.
Asked about Mr. Obama’s remarks, Mrs. Clinton’s spokesman, Howard Wolfson, said, “Senator Obama once promised Americans a politics of hope. But now that his campaign has stalled he is abandoning that strategy and is engaging in the same old-style personal attacks that he once rejected.”

“We are confident,” Mr. Wolfson added, “that voters will reject this strategy, especially from a candidate who told us he would do better.”

Obama can't let Wolfson's words go without somehow responding to them, without pointing out that if Hillary can't take the honest drawing of distinctions between her views and Barack's, how on earth is she going to survive a challenge from a well-funded, hungry, Clinton-hating Republican candidate? Obama is not making personal attacks. He's making political attacks, and that's a distinction with a very big difference. He can't let the Clinton campaign and their rhetoric knock him off message.

The next few Democratic debates are going to be critical for Obama. He not only is going to need to do well, but he's going to need to get the national media talking about a change in the race. If he can come out strong, and forceful, and give his best performance, suddenly, the story won't be about Clinton's inevitability. It will about Obama's surge, and how his change in strategy is refreshing, and how Clinton's the establishment that the American people are tied of. Just as Bill Clinton was the "Comeback Kid" when he was running for the Democratic Nomination, if Obama can gain some momentum in these debates, that will become his new nickname. The media will draw comparisons between Hillary's inevitability and Howard Dean's a year earlier, and suddenly it will be a race again.

It needs to be, because changing the story is the only thing that's going to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning the Democratic nomination. And for Barack Obama, the story can't change soon enough.

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

24 Season 7 Trailer Released

While the seventh season of 24 may not begin until after the new year, a two minute trailer, showing Jack Baurer taking heat from Congress for torturing terrorists and an undead and apparently suddenly evil Tony Almedia has been released by Fox. The clip is embedded below and it certainly sets a tone for the upcoming season.

As I wrote last month though, I'm not sold on Tony's return. While Tony was a great character, and added a lot to the show, he died, and we saw him die, and to bring him back, especially after 24 had such a down year last season still seems like a bit of desperation on the part of 24's producers. I do like, though, that we'll see a Jack v. Tony showdown. Tony provides a great foil for Jack, and somebody who, at least in the viewers eyes, may legitimately be able to out-think and well, out-Jack Jack. The elimination of CTU was an important step in revitalizing the show, and it looks like the only characters from CTU that I cared about, Bill and Chloe will be back in some capacity. One thing that did concern me was Jack's line in the trailer that "somebody in the FBI must have tipped them off." Can we go one season in 24 without a mole in the government? Just once?

The trailer though did get me excited for the coming of the new season, and for that it was successful. Maybe Tony being alive won't be so bad after all...

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Lightning Round -- I Agree With Rush Limbaugh, Sports Oddities, and More

So a few random things today.

** I actually agree with Rush Limbaugh ** Now there's something you wouldn't ordinarily expect me to say. But reading TVNewser this morning, they wrote that on Morning Joe, radio talk show host (or, as Keith Olbermann likes to say, comedian) Rush Limbaugh was fawning over the great Erin Burnett of CNBC. And sure enough, when I watched some of the show when I got back from class, Rush was extolling the virtues of the CNBC anchor (I've embedded the video below). As faithful readers of Quo Vadimus know, I have written (dating back to April) time and time again about Burnett's rise to stardom and how impressed I am with her work on both CNBC and Morning Joe. Nice to see that highly talented CNBC anchors can bring the right and left together.

** Feeling Lucky? ** ESPN.com had a really interesting story today. According to a newly released study, 1 in 5 people have tried using something lucky to help their favorite sports franchise. And as someone who still carries around a half dollar with him that I found after the Detroit Pistons lost Game Five, at home, in triple overtime, in the Western Conference Finals to New Jersey and then carried it with him throughout the Pistons next two victories and on through the NBA Finals, I guess I would be in that 20%.

The survey showed no real difference by gender, race or education in whether people try finding a way to help their team win. But those who do tend to be younger and make more money than those willing to risk letting the athletes determine a game's outcome. They also are more likely to be single.
I now wonder if my sports superstition is why I'm single.

** New Blog Plug ** My good buddy and fellow law student Kurt, author of the Clever WoT blog which is home to the Law Student Blogger Directory recently launched a new project, a blog, which is the the official online companion to the Michigan Telecommunications and Technology Law Review. For all the latest analysis of the intersection between technology and the law, the MTTLR Blog is the place to go.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Morning Joe Shows Off New MSNBC Studios at 30 Rock

MSNBC officially moved into 30 Rock in New York today, joining together with NBC News in one place, and one beautiful, gigantic studio. As TVNewser reports, MSNBC and NBC have been working around the clock to put the finishing touches on the new digs.

For MSNBC employees, some of whom have commuted to the Secaucus, NJ facility for the last 11+ years, it will mean leaving the North Jersey lowlands for the high-life on the 3rd, 4th, & 5th floors of 30 Rock. For the last several weeks, MSNBC producers have been working 12+ hour days, and 6-day work weeks. They would produce live shows in Secaucus then head to 30 Rock for rehearsals.

In the combined newsroom, MSNBC producers will be working right alongside their Nightly News counterparts. Each workspace has two monitors: one for producing, writing and desktop editing; the other for monitoring multiple channels (their own and the competition).

Brian Williams, host of NBC Nightly News, will also move into a fully renovated studio tonight (Inside Cable News has a preview), and he's located directly next to his MSNBC colleagues. Morning Joe this morning became the first MSNBC show to show off the new studios (and they had a new graphics program and logo to go along with the physical move) and what we saw was very impressive.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Detroit Lions Improve to 4-2, Defeat Tampa Bay 23-16

The last time a Detroit Lions head coach was doused in Gatorade, it was Matt Millen's first season in Detroit. The year was 2001, and the Detroit Lions had started off the season 0-12. The Lions were a national joke, as even Tonight Show host Jay Leno joked about the realistic possibility the Lions would end up 0-16 (which earned a strong retort, and then Tonight Show appearance, by Lions resident loudmouth wide receiver Johnnie Morton). The Lions came through against Minnesota though, a 27-24 victory (but it was a victory) and Morton showered rookie head coach Marty Mornhinweg in Gatorade. The high point of a 2-14 season, and potentially the Marty era, unless, of course, you count taking the wind against Chicago in overtime (oh, wait, that didn't work out?).

Today, though, new Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli had his own "Gatorade" moment, as his Lions defeated Marinelli's old team (where he was their longtime defensive line coach), Tampa Bay, to improve to 4-2 and show some real life for the first time this millennium. The offense may not have been as explosive as normal, and the defense may have given up a lot of yards to Jeff Garcia and the Bucs, but the Lions took the ball away in two critical situations (especially as the Bucs were about to score in the fourth quarter and cut the Lions lead to 2 points) and the offense responded when called upon (such as the 93-yard TD drive after that fumble, capped off by wide receiver Calvin Johnson's reverse for a score) and the Detroit Lions celebrated by pouring a bucket of Gatorade over the head of Rod Marinelli, and this time it may actually mean something.

The Detroit Lions, in each of their victories, have shown they have what it takes to win close, tough games in the NFL, a trait not before seen in the Millen-era. They take advantage of costly opponent mistakes, force some of those mistakes, and when the offense needs to put a game-icing drive together, like today's 93-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, they come through, no matter how much they have stalled previously.

Today really showed what the Lions can do with a healthy Kevin Jones. While Tatum Bell was okay as Jones replacement the first five games of the season, and had he been given the ball more often he may have been even better, but Jones is a difference making back for this team. He had over 100 yards of total offense today (and a touchdown) and when he is running the ball well, it forces teams to respect the run, giving quarterback Jon Kitna, and the Lions talented receiving quartet a chance to slice and dice the opposing secondary. While Kitna's numbers were not eye-popping today (16-20, 147 yards, 0 touchdowns) he didn't make any mistakes either, and the Lions played turnover-free football.

And on defense, while the Bucs put up a ton of yardage, did recover two Garcia fumbles, and former Buc Dewayne White came back to haunt his former team with three sacks. My MLive.com colleague Tom 'Killer' Kowalski graded the Lions defense at a 'D' for Sunday's performance, but that's more than a bit harsh. Yes, Jeff Garcia and Ernest Graham carved up the Lions defense pretty good, but the Lions held them off the board when they needed to most.

So now the Lions are 4-2, heading into a tough, tough game at Chicago. Playing at Solider Field has not been the Lions strong-suit in recent years (but neither has winning anywhere on the road) but they could really show they are for real, and put the bad tastes of the Philadelphia and Washington road debacles behind them, by upsetting the Bears next week. Move to 5-2, with games against Denver and Arizona after that, things could get rolling. But, as Coach Rod preaches, one snap at a time. After all, the last time the Lions were 4-2, they ended up 6-10. As we may be learning though, this Lions team may just be different than any other Lions team we've seen before.

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Michigan Survives Shaky First Quarter, Defeats Ilinois 27-17

A wide receiver reverse-pass for a touchdown? From Michigan? It was indeed a strange night in Champaign, where the University of Michigan football team, without their heart (no pun intended -- well, okay, maybe a little), running back Mike Hart, and without their starting quarterback Chad Henne for some of the game, held on and fought off a tough Illinois team to escape with a Big Ten road victory, their sixth straight after the team's disastrous 0-2 start.

It did not look good early for the Wolverines, who fell behind 14-3, and had lost their quarterback to an undisclosed injury. But, showing the fight which was missing the first two weeks of the season, Michigan refused to fade, and kept fighting back, eventually taking the lead for good in the second quarter. Carlos Brown filled in admirably for Mike Hart, and while true freshman Ryan Mallet looked shaky at times (a couple bad turnovers, and a sack which really raised the hackles of head coach Lloyd Carr) he had a beautiful touchdown pass to Adrian Arrington in the back of the endzone. And Henne continued to show he is tougher than most people give him credit for, coming back from not one, but two injuries which had knocked him out of the game.

Illinois, though, certainly helped Michigan out with their own poor play and mistakes. Time after time, Illinois seemed to hand Michigan unearned first downs, and eventually it came back to haunt them. A roughing the punter call (which admittedly was a bit weak), an unnecessary facemask personal foul on what would have been a fourth down, and 8 other penalties which led to 107 Michigan yards. Michigan won this game, but Illinois certainly helped out and did their part to blow it as well.

One more October game (home next week against Minnesota) and then the true test begins for the Wolvernes. A November featuring road games at Michigan State and Wisconsin, and a home showdown with Ohio State. With hopefully Mike Hart back healthy, and the team having some momentum, anything can happen (especially in this college football season. But, we can't count on teams beating themselves every week. If we do, it is going to be a long, cold November in Ann Arbor.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

What I'm Watching -- Las Vegas; Plus: David Copperfield Commentary

It's an all Las Vegas blog entry, as I just finished watching tonight's episode of NBC's Las Vegas and I just finished reading about the alleged sexual assault committed by Las Vegas legend David Copperfield.

Las Vegas the television show first, as it really is hitting its stride with Tom Selleck replacing James Caan. Tonight's episode, a murder mystery surrounding Selleck's billionaire casino owner AJ Cooper, was one of the strongest of the season so far (though, admittedly, the season is only a few episodes old). One of the things I thought the show would miss is James Caan's toughness and seriousness, which really grounded what could otherwise is a pretty outrageous show. Tonight's episode though, showed that Selleck's Cooper, while not quite James Caan, is no pushover either. I think that was important. And anytime a Bar Mitzvah plays a central role in an episode, that's cool with me. Though, I have to say, it does seem like whenever a Jewish couple is played for comedic relief on a television show, the easy, or maybe lazy, thing to do is have them speak almost exclusively in a sort of English/Hebrew/Yiddish-slang. While I like throwing a Yiddish word into a conversation as much as the next guy, it's not something that dominates a conversation. A word here or there, we don't need to get hit over the head with it.

Now, to the serious Las Vegas story, as illusionist David Copperfield is being investigated for an alleged sexual assault in the Bahamas. The FBI raided Copperfield's Las Vegas magic warehouse (which, I saw a tour of on Copperfield's DVD (David Copperfield - Illusion), and it's very very cool, with all sorts of historic magic memorabilia and artifacts, and apparently, $2 million in cash, which the FBI seized) and they continue to investigate the allegation. First, I don't really understand seizing the money. Taking computers, I can see, because they may have evidence of Copperfield's whereabouts or evidence of the alleged attack or contact Copperfield may have had with the accuser, but what does $2 million in cash have to do with anything?

When I heard about this accusation, I was really disappointed. I know an accusation is a long way from being charged with a crime, which is a long way from being convicted, and a long way from actually being guilty, but I have always been a big Copperfield fan. I'm not a big magic guy, but Copperfield was always just "cool." I remember watching, as a kid, one of his specials where he was in a straight-jacket, wrapped in chains, put in a locked safe, and put in a building which was about to be imploded. Somehow, in three minutes, Copperfield escaped, unharmed. The video is embedded below.

So Copperfield could cheat death, he was engaged to a Supermodel, he could saw people in half. Did I mention he was engaged to Claudia Schiffer? A few years back, my senior year of undergrad, my friends and I went to Las Vegas on the way home from seeing Michigan play in the Rose Bowl against Texas (we won't say what happened in that game, but needless to say, there's a reason why Vince Young is Vince Young, and why Lloyd Carr is, well, Lloyd Carr) and one night a bunch of us chose to hit up some Vegas shows. Two of my friends went and saw Blue Man Group, three went and saw Ka, MGM Grand's Cirque du Soleil show, and I went and saw Copperfield. Sat first row too. While not nearly as entertaining as Jay Leno (whom as I wrote about in August, was the best show I've ever seen) the show was really cool. A Chevy Impala appeared out of nowhere, and Copperfield did a number of interactive tricks with the audience, where he seemingly knew what the audience was going to say before they said it. Pretty cool stuff. Copperfield's DVD, David Copperfield - Illusion, is awesome too. Not only does it contain video of all of Copperfield's historic tricks, it contains a commentary track where Copperfield explains the origins and setups of all his famous illusions. Sadly, he does not explain how he walked through the Great Wall of China or how he made the Statue of Liberty disappear.

So obviously, I'm a fan, which is why the allegations are so distressing. I'm so used to athletes and actors and actresses being disappointments, and flouting the law or the rules of the game (as the case may be). But, David Copperfield allegedly sexually assaulting a woman in the Bahamas? Just another possible example of a childhood hero turning out to be a vast disappointment. Hopefully though, these allegations turn out to be false. It's important to remember these are just allegations, Copperfield has yet to be charged with a crime, and it certainly has not been proven that he committed a crime. Time will tell.

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Dan Patrick Finds New Home -- Sports Illustrated

Former ESPN SportsCenter anchor, radio host, studio host, and all around ombudsmen, Dan Patrick, has found a new home after leaving ESPN earlier this year. It was announced today that Patrick will join the pages of Sports Illustrated. Not only will Patrick pen a weekly column for the magazine, he'll write for SI.com and his daily radio show will be streamed on SI's website as well as they use Patrick to help re-launch their entry into digital media.

The move should be a good one for SI. While many may see Patrick as a broadcaster and not a writer, his book with Keith Olbermann, The Big Show which went behind the scenes of "The Big Show" SportsCenter they created was very creatively written in two different type-faces to designate when Patrick and when Olbermann was writing and his ESPN Magazine interviews were great. It will be interesting to see if Patrick writes more "sports" columns or more human interest stories, sort of like what Mitch Albom does for the Detroit Free Press (though, as Patrick's columns will appear in the front of SI, as a bookend to Rick Reilly's end-of-the-magazine column, it will likely be the latter).

In either case, I look forward to seeing his columns. Patrick was on MSNBC's Morning Joe this morning, discussing his move to SI (and discussing his old ESPN partner-in-crime Olbermann who has found success at the cable network), the video is below.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Video: Customer Stiffs Roy Williams, Pizza Delivery Man

As I wrote about yesterday, Detroit Lions wide receiver Roy Williams, who made headlines, in a negative way, by saying he did not tip his neighborhood pizza delivery guy, received a a taste of his own medicine today when he joined forces with Pizza Hut to raise money to fight world hunger. Williams, who has since said he has learned to tip, spent two hours on Tuesday delivering Pizza Hut pizzas around metro-Detroit, pooling his tips together with his own $5,000 donation, showing he has learned his lesson about what life is like for pizza delivery guys. Unfortunately, his lack of tipping was well known to those he delivered pizza, and as he told the local media following him around, at home houses, he was stiffed, and left without a tip.

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Morning Joe Discusses Fox Business "Peacock Hunting" Stunt

As has been covered extensively by media outlets and news blogs across the web, Fox launched the Fox Business Network (or is it just Fox Business? They seemingly dropped the "Channel" from their name just prior to lift-off) yesterday in an effort to revolutionize the covering of the business world just as Fox successfully revolutionized and took over the cable news network with the incredibly successful Fox News Channel. I wasn't able to check out the first day's coverage (FBN is not offered, yet, on my local cable network) but until they sign up Erin Burnett and/or Jim Cramer (the two CNBCers I watch most) they probably won't be getting my business.

Yesterday, as part of their launch, Fox Business began the day with a "shot across the bow" to CNBC, a playful stand-up by one of their news reporters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, where CNBC is located. Saying she was "peacock hunting" (the mascot of NBC) the reporter joked around about reporting on Wall Street from such a distant location. It was obviously tongue-in-cheek (as was Jim Cramer's response on Street Signs later that afternoon which was also a playful shove, not an "on air outburst" as blogger Ian Schwartz claimed). Sophomoric? Maybe. But, it was probably something that got the Fox faithful pumped up on their first day.

This morning, on MSNBC's Morning Joe, host Joe Scarborough attacked the Fox Business stunt, calling the people behind it "dorks" and "goobers" and saying that while Fox News filled a void in cable news, allowing it to become a huge success, there is no similar void in business news, and CNBC's brand will allow it to maintain its edge over its new rival. The video of Joe's discussion of the stunt, and the start of FBN, is below.

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What I'm Watching -- Heroes

Now that's more like it. After what I thought was a slow and uneven start to Heroes sophomore season, the hit television show shook off the rust and tried to show it won't fall victim to the "sophomore slump" that has doomed other television shows. Tonight's episode tied together some hanging storylines, introduced some new, critical plot points, and gave us an interesting, exciting, and cliffhanging ending.

As I've said before, I was not a big fan of the Maya and Alejandro storyline, but tonight, with them meeting up with Sylar, and unwittingly joining forces as they try to cross the border into the United States to meet with Dr. Suresh (well, Mohinder's father is dead, thanks to Sylar, so can't see that meeting working out well for the twins) but I'm now actually interested in seeing where the story goes from here. And since Sylar seemingly can't absorb people's powers, at least for now, he probably won't kill Maya and Alejandro right away.

And the storyline with Parkman and Molly was great too. We're finally learning more about the first generation of Heroes, and it really is no surprise that Parkman's father was part of the original group (it makes perfect sense now that I think about it, but I'll be honest, I never considered it before). I did not see coming that he was Molly's "boogeyman," and whether Matt can save Molly, and find his villainous dad should make for some great episodes to come.

I can deal without the Claire/West storyline, but if it's a necessary evil to get to eventual conflict with HRG, and fulfill Isaac's final paintings, I can deal with that. And the introduction of Dana Davis' character (Monica, Micah's older cousin) I thought was well done. Monica was great on last season's underrated drama The Nine, and she had a nice debut tonight.

The cast, though, is getting exceedingly large (and will grow with the introduction of Kristen Bell's upcoming character) and as such, the shows can't fit in each characters storyline each episode. Nikki has been relatively absent all season, and both Peter and Hiro/Ando/Kensei were absent from this episode. It's very Lost-like in a way, where the cast is so large, only some storylines are paid off each week, because 42-minutes just isn't enough time to tell everyone's story. I hope the writers and producers don't forget where some of the numerous storylines they have up in the air are going. I have confidence that they won't, and after tonight, in what was a giant step forward after three mediocre weeks to begin the second season, hopefully things will only get better from here.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Roy Williams to Deliver Pizzas for Pizza Hut

Less than a month after saying that he never tips his Pizza Delivery guy, Detroit Lions wide receiver is doing an about face according to the Detroit Free Press. Despite impeccable logic (Williams argued that since you don't tip your mailman or the FedEx or UPS delivery guy, why would you tip a pizza delivery guy), Williams has said he has since learned to tip, and will do so in the future.

Now Williams is taking his learning experience a step further. Pizza Hut, after hearing of Williams lack of tips, challenged him to be a deliver Pizza's for a day to learn the hardships of being a pizza delivery man, with the tips Williams collects, of course, going to charity. Tonight the Free Press reports Williams has agreed to the challenge, and will be delivering pizzas in metro Detroit tomorrow afternoon.

Like when Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban managed a Dairy Queen for a day a few years back, I think these stories are great. They are fun, show the athletes (or owners) have a personality and can take a joke, and they raise money for good causes. So if you get a pizza tomorrow from an NFL player, give him a good tip. It'll go for a good cause.

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MGM Grand Detroit Trip Report

Taking advantage of our fall "study" break, me and five of my fellow University of Michigan Law Students decided to support the Michigan and downtown Detroit economy last night by heading to the brand new, $700 million+ MGM Grand Casino in Detroit. And we came away very impressed, and not just because practically all of us came home with more money than we started with (although with my $100 gain, and two buddies of mine winning $300 and $400 respectively playing blackjack, it was a very profitable evening).

MGM was going for Las Vegas ambiance in downtown Detroit, and they certainly delivered on that, with a hotel/casino which easily would belong on the Las Vegas Strip. It made MGM's temporary casino look like just that, and it was obvious that the company wanted to put together a first class establishment. Just rows and rows and rows of slot machines too. And HD video-poker machines. HD. Gotta love that.

And it was jammed too, extraordinarily busy. We arrived close to 9:00 on a Sunday night, and the place was hopping. We were hoping, although the casino just opened to the public two weeks ago, that a Sunday night may be a bit calmer, allow us to play some $10 hands of blackjack. No such luck. While the casino had more slot machines than many Vegas casinos, the table games, I thought, weren't as plentiful as I would have thought. Every blackjack table was full, and while we eventually were able to find an open seat at a $20 table (and at one point, after waiting long enough, we were able to have all of us sit down at the same table) it was a madhouse. And interestingly, though this never affected me, when they raise the table limits, you don't get "grandfathered" in, as everyone at the table, not just newcomers, have to play at the higher rate. A lot of casinos will let those at the table continue to play at the original limit. I found that sort of odd.

The restaurants looked interesting, and some buddies of mine stopped at an upscale food court of sorts when we were done gambling, but had to wait in a long line as MGM had closed most of the stations by midnight. While midnight on a Sunday may not seem like a busy time, it was, and by the time we left, the line for the only remaining station spilled out onto the casino floor. You would think the casino would know how busy they were going to be, especially in the casinos opening weeks, and keep the restaurants open to accommodate their guests.

Overall though, the casino is big, bright, and hopefully will be a big addition for the city of Detroit. Though, with it's convenient right on, right off the freeway location, I feel like a lot of people will do what we did last night, and that's come downtown to the casino, gamble, and drive back to where they came from. Especially since there are no restaurants or bars within walking distance of the casino. The casino itself though is a nice attraction. Now all they need to do is ban smoking, like at Casino Windsor (now Caesars Windsor) and we'd be all set.

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

College Football is Funny; Michigan Defeats Purdue 48-21

If there was ever the year for the University of Michigan football team to stumble at the start of the season and still find themselves in the middle of the National Championship hunt, this was the year. In what has been a truly mixed-up college football season, a Florida team is undefeated and in the top 5, but it isn't Miami, Florida, or Florida State. And no team in California is unbeaten, but undefeated teams call both Massachusetts (and I'm not counting the New England Patriots) and Kansas home.

If only Michigan, ranked #5 to begin the year, had only stumbled against Oregon. They surely would still be in the top 10, likely in the top 5, and would be primed for a National Championship birth if they won-out and defeated Ohio State. If only. Instead, before Michigan ever stumbled against the Oregon Ducks, they fell flat against the Appalachian State Mountaineers which knocked them out of the Top 25 (and out of contention for the National Title). So after a night where both the #1 (LSU) and #2 (Cal) teams in the country are upset, the best Michigan can do, after a 48-21 drumming of Purdue, is hope to just get back into the Top 25, after being unranked since before the college football season started.

Michigan also has to hope that Mike Hart (pictured above, running over the Boilermakers defense in the game's first half) is not seriously hurt. Hart left the game late in the second quarter, after crossing the 100 yard mark for the afternoon and inching closer to the 1,000 yard milestone for the season, and if his twisted left ankle causes him to miss any significant time, the Wolverines won't be back in the national polls for very long. Even though previously hot Illinois was cooled off by Iowa, next week's game, a night road game (a potentially very dangerous combination) will not be easy. Neither will games at Michigan State, Wisconsin, and of course, against the new #1 team in the country, Ohio State. Mike Hart will have to be healthy if the Wolverines expect to win most, if not all, of these tough games to come in the 2007 season.

The hopes for a National Championship may be lone gone (which is made even more maddening by the amount of one-loss teams this year in college football) but as Michigan proved today, they still have a lot of fight left in them. Hopefully, as they face the rest of their schedule, and try to salvage their season, and Lloyd Carr's legacy, by winning the Big Ten and returning to Pasadena, they'll be at full strength, giving them a fighting chance to redeem themselves.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Today's Example of Why Ann Coulter Should Have Her Michigan Law Degree Revoked

I usually don't pay much attention to Ann Coulter. Well, except for yelling at my television screen whenever she comes on the air. While I tend to be on the more liberal side of issues, I certainly don't turn a blind eye to columns and television appearances by most Republicans. I've expounded before on my enjoyment of MSNBC's Morning Joe, hosted by conservative Congressman Joe Scarborough. But, there's just something about Ann Coulter. Maybe it's her often racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and mostly outrageous remarks. Most of which are likely made to get her attention so she can sell her books and appear on even more television shows than she already does. I saw her on Tucker Carlson's show earlier in the week (hey, another Republican show I watch) and aside from hawking her latest book, she found time to plug a National Enquirer story about a politician she obviously has some sort of unhealthy obsession with. When you are citing and publicizing stories from the National Enquirer, that's one step above saying that Bigfoot exists because it was in the Weekly World News.

This makes me embarrassed to be an almost-graduate of the University of Michigan Law School, where, I'm sad to say, Coulter once attended. But this week, Coulter's really gone and upset me, and a lot of other members of the Jewish faith, by going on CNBC's The Big Idea (a very underrated show hosted by advertising guru Donny Deutsch) and claiming that the world would be better without any Jewish people in it. Excellent. There's somebody who people should be listening to and spending money to buy her books and keep her in business. Even after Deutsch gave her a chance to take back her obviously anti-semitic comments, she went further, saying that Jews needed to be "perfected" by converting to Christianity. Media Matters posted the video and transcript (And before people start, let me go on record saying that Media Matters is not perfect and gets things wrong, like the Rush Limbaugh fiasco a few weeks back, but they had the video and I wanted to post it) which I've embedded below.

I fear, though, that by even talking about her, I'm feeding the beast, so to speak. People (including me) need to start ignoring Coulter, in hopes that she'll go away. By talking about her offensive comments, it just encourages her to make more and more comments that are even more offensive than her original remarks. So, after this post, Quo Vadimus will return to being a Coulter-Free-Zone.

Until, you know, the next time she makes outrageous, offensive, anti-semitic remarks. So, in other words, check back in an hour or so.

11:00 Update: Reading TV Newser's report on Coulter-gate, I saw that somebody is taking my advice. The National Jewish Democratic Council has started a petition demanding media outlets stop giving Ann Coulter airtime. There's a novel concept.
We are writing to ask you to refrain from inviting Ann Coulter to participate as a guest on your network's news programming.

As you know, it has long been documented that Ms. Coulter takes liberties with the facts. Furthermore, her comments -- be they about Democrats, 9/11 widows, Jews, or others -- often border on hate speech.

While Ms. Coulter has her freedom of speech, you have the freedom to exercise better judgment. You wouldn't put people who claim Martians roam the earth to frequently comment on science. It is time to stop putting Ms. Coulter on the air to comment on politics, thus giving her free publicity and attention.

I think I would have written the petition a bit differently (Martians? Really?) it's the thought that counts.

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Interesting Analysis of the Barack Obama Campaign

There have been a few really interesting columns about Barack Obama and his presidential campaign in the past few days, mainly from Newsweek and MSNBC.com, and if you have been following the 2008 primary race, they paint a really interesting picture about Obama's campaign and the uphill battle he is facing trying to take down Hillary Clinton, who, it seems, in every place except for Iowa, holds a double-digit lead on the Democratic field.

First is a Newsweek article by Andrew Romano discussing how Obama is counting on the youth vote in Iowa to lead him to victory. Iowa, of course, is home of the nation's first primary caucus, and is where Obama is spending a lot of time and money, and where he hopes that he can win there, show he's for real, and ride that momentum into the other states where he currently is far behind Hillary Clinton.

In the latest NEWSWEEK Poll, Obama trails Clinton 25-31 percent among all Iowa Democrats, but leads 28-24 percent among likely caucus-goers. The difference, according to previously unpublished results from the poll: 20 percent of those likely voters were under 30, compared to 13 percent of the wider Democratic pool—meaning that when caucus-goers skew young, Obama is leading. “If Obama really has the ability to go out and identify young voters and motivate them wherever they live, he would, in theory, be able to make a big difference,” says pollster Mark Blumenthal. "It's unlikely, but it's not impossible."

While I have no doubt Obama is more attractive to younger voters than Clinton, or any other Democratic candidate, I get very uneasy when discussing the impact of 18-24-year-olds on any election. In 2004, there was all sorts of talk and debate about the "hidden vote" that was going to push the Democrats and John Kerry over President George W. Bush. While Bush may have had a small lead in national polls, these polls, so the argument went, did not represent the electorate because it all but ignored college students, who, because of their use of cell phones instead of land-lines (pollsters can only poll people who have land lines) are often under-counted in national opinion polls. Once these kids showed up and voted, the election would be over. Well, more young voters did show up to the polls, but not nearly enough did to make any noticeable impact. And it's going to be very difficult to mobilize this often uninterested voting group to participate in the primary caucus, which as the Newsweek article points out, is historically void of young voters.
In fact, only 12,000 18-to-34-year-olds (10 percent of the total turnout) even bothered to show up [for the Iowa caucus] in 2004. “These things are held at 6:30, 7, on a Monday night in the dead of winter, and you’ve got to sit there for a few hours,” says Goldford. “It’s a really tough sell to get young folks in.”

If Obama is going to defeat Clinton, it's going to be because he can do something that no other candidate has done in recent history, and that's bring new people into the political process. It's just so incredible hard, which is why it really hasn't worked before.

And it hasn't worked so far for Obama because everytime he even tries to attack Hillary Clinton, he gets nailed for not following his own rhetoric about being a "new kind of politician." As Romano pointed out today, the Clinton campaign machine has been great at knocking Obama for not following his own words.
To date, the Clinton campaign has largely let communications staffers like Howard Wolfson and Phil Singer do the dirty work. "Senator Obama referred to Senator Clinton as Bush-lite," said Wolfson in a typical post-debate volley back in July. "Six months ago, he entered the race promising to elevate our politics... What happened to the politics of hope?" Earlier this week, Singer twisted the knife after Obama criticized Clinton for an Iran vote: "It's unfortunate that Senator Obama is resorting to the same old attack politics as his poll numbers start falling."

But now Clinton herself is getting in on the fun. First, make sure everyone knows that Obama's "new politics" means he won't attack; next, when Obama says anything vaguely critical, characterize him as betraying the promise of that "new politics." And, finally, argue that because Obama can't attack, he's not fit to face a Republican in the general election.

It's a great campaign strategy by Clinton, and as the title of Romano's piece says, it really puts "Barack in a box." Part of Obama's problem, especially during the debates, is he is so tentative to attack anything about Clinton or her policies. As I wrote after the last Democratic Debate in late September, there's a difference between attacking Clinton personally, which is the old-school politics Obama is trying to change, and attacking Clinton's positions, which should be completely fair game. John Edwards, who I supported in 2004, did a great job of that in the September debate. Obama, meanwhile, outside of a throwaway jab on Hillary's first health care debacle in the early 1990's, continued to be too passive. And his poll numbers continue to slide.

As Richard Wolfe wrote earlier this week Obama is starting to fight a bit more now.
Obama is trying to carve out space that is more than just the archetypal Washington outsider. He suggests that he is a truth-teller who bucks “conventional thinking” and isn’t in the pockets of the special interests. “If you want conventional Washington thinking, I’m not your man,” he said in his Iraq speech. “If you want rigid ideology, I’m not your man. If you think that fundamental change can wait, I’m definitely not your man.”

Maybe so. But many Democrats also want a candidate who can stand up for themselves in a TV debate in the general election. And Obama’s inability to land his punches on Clinton during the Democratic debates has given many Democrats cause for concern.

Will Obama continue to sharpen his attacks? Or will he continue to try to play it safe, and continue to slide in the polls? We are going to see how badly Obama really wants to be the next President, because he is going to have to do something to shake up this race if he is going to win it. Counting on high school seniors and college freshman in Iowa is not going to be enough. Hillary Clinton has an aura of inevitability surrounding her, not just for the Democratic nomination, but for the Presidency. Obama needs to shake that somehow. Whether he does will determine how far his campaign will really go, no matter how much money he raises.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What I'm Watching -- Prison Break and Heroes

So it has been a few days since the shocking events on Monday's Prison Break, and at the risk of spoiling the episode for those that have not seen it yet, here are my thoughts on the death of Dr. Sara Tancredi. Kristin of E! Online and TV Guide have interviews with the cast and producers, and as it turns out, Sara's death was planned from the beginning. While the team behind Prison Break would have preferred to push Sara's death back until later in the season, they could not come to an agreement with actress Sarah Wayne Calles, and thus, her head ends up in a box during the show's third episode.

A lot of Prison Break fans, from the message boards I've seen since Monday's episode, are not happy. Many claim they will stop watching the show. Others are equally as outraged at Sara's death, but aren't giving up on the show yet. Myself, I didn't find Sara's death so offensive. Yes, I'll miss the actress Sarah Wayne Calles, who I thought did great work, but I was never as invested in the Sara-Michael relationship as apparently a lot of other people were. People in Michael's life die, on a regular basis, because of The Company, including his father. Sara's death will lead to some great drama down the line, especially when he discovers Sara's dead and finds out Lincoln was hiding that fact from him. Plus, it really adds pressure to Michael and Lincoln's current situation, putting real life and death stakes into their actions, and puts Lincoln in an incredibly difficult yet completely understandable position. He can't tell Michael about Sara's death, because The Company still has his son LJ, but you know Michael won't see it that way when he finds out about Sara's death later in the season. It makes for even more intriguing television in what I think is a great third season so far.

As for Heroes, I'm still uneven about the first few episodes of the season. While the return of Nikki, Micah, and Sylar were good to see, I still don't understand the point of the South American twins who kill people with their tears before bringing them back to life. I have confidence this is leading somewhere, but right now, it's just wasting time I would rather be spending with other characters, like with Sylar, trying to figure out why he lost his powers. Next week looks good too, as Parkman and Nathan look into the mysterious killer haunting the first generation of Heroes. The bits with Hiro in feudal Japan have actually been pretty good too, but knowing that they made David Anders, who plays Takeo Kensei, a series regular, makes me wonder how (or if) he'll travel back to the future with Hiro, or whether once his story in Japan is over, so is Anders time on Heroes.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Detroit Tigers Exercise $13 Million Option For Pudge Rodriguez

The Detroit Tigers announced today that they have exercised a $13 million option to bring catcher Pudge Rodriguez back to the team for a fifth season. General Manager Dave Dombroski made clear today he sees Pudge as a key part of the Tigers going forward.

Dave Dombrowski, the club president/general manager, said in a statement that Rodriguez “has done a tremendous amount for our franchise in his four seasons in Detroit.”

“Pudge remains a quality major league catcher and we expect him to be a key player for our club in 2008,” Dombrowski said.

As I last month when word came out the Tigers may not bring Pudge back I think this absolutely was the right decision, and a decision the Tigers had to make. Is Pudge Rodriguez worth $13 million for one season? No. Not when considered in isolation. But when you look at the other options, and the stability that Pudge brings to the team, and add in the fact that $3 million was gone regardless (because of a $3 buyout the Tigers would have had to pay had they chosen not to exercise their team option), I am convinced this was the right move.

Could the Tigers have wrestled Jorge Posada away from the New York Yankees? Maybe. But that's not a risk I'm willing to take when the other options are Jason Kendall and Paul Lo Duca, neither of whom is any better than Pudge at this point in their careers. And while defensively, Pudge does not throw out runners like he used to, he still has a strong reputation which prevents teams from running on him like they do most other catchers in the league.

The Detroit Tigers have a small window to win now. With the core of Bonderman, Verlander, Zumaya, Miller, Maybin, and Granderson, the team should be a contender for years to come, but they have a chance to be an elite team for the next one or two years if they stick with the players they currently have. The best chance for them to win a World Series is to bring the core back for another season. That included Pudge, and includes Kenny Rogers and Todd Jones (though I don't think anybody will complain if the Tigers go after Mariano Riveria, who ESPN.com reports will test the free agent market. In two years, Rogers and Jones will be retired, Gary Sheffield likely will be too, and Pudge may be gone as well. But by bringing the band back together, a process started today with the exercising of the option for Pudge Rodriguez, the Tigers have given themselves a chance to win the World Series in 2008, an opportunity, no matter how few walks Pudge takes, or how much his skills have declined since the Tigers signed him four years ago, which is more likely to occur with Pudge than without him.

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Chris Matthews Discusses Controversial Comments on Morning Joe

Hardball's Chris Matthews will be co-moderating tonight's Republican debate with CNBC's Maria Bartiromo (live from the great state of Michigan) but many have called for Matthews to recuse himself from his role due to recent comments Matthews made at an anniversary party celebrating Hardball's 10th anniversary. Matthews went hard after the Bush administration and the "criminality" of conduct by Vice President Cheney.

"They've finally been caught in their criminality," Matthews continued, although he did not specify the exact criminal behavior to which he referred. He then drew an obvious Bush-Nixon parallel by saying, “Spiro Agnew was not an American hero."

Matthews left the throng of Washington A-listers with a parting shot at Cheney: “God help us if we had Cheney during the Cuban missile crisis. We’d all be under a parking lot.”

Matthews defended himself on Morning Joe this morning, in an interview previewing the debate, saying that he has been tough on both Republican and Democratic administrations during his media career and that tonight's debate should not be about him, but about the Republican candidates, one of whom may be the next leader of this country.

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First Television DVR Ratings Released

Television ratings make or break television shows, network executives, and well, even the networks themselves. But with more and more home viewers using Digital Video Recorders, like TiVo and similar services provided by their cable and satellite services, and watching shows when they want, and not at the time they are actually broadcast, the next-day ratings don't mean nearly as much as they used to. A recent fascinating story from Variety outlined how the networks have forever changed how they evaluate shows in light of the increased usage of DVRs.

"We're going to see a tremendous boost when the (DVR) numbers come back," says ABC research senior VP Mike Mellon -- who expects "Grey's Anatomy" to grow by a full ratings point, for starters

"This is a whole new world, and anyone who doesn't understand that is behind the times," he says. "I recognize that everyone wants to understand what their performance is quickly, but the days of having a single number that reflects a show's performance are over."

Biggest factor in the new Nielsen paradigm is digital video recorders, which have become increasingly common in TV homes -- and are thus having a greater impact on viewership. Last season, about 9% of the Nielsen sample included DVR homes; this season, the number has doubled to roughly 20%.

The new metric for television shows is not the "overnight" ratings which have been king for years, but a new "Live +7" designation, which measures how many people watch a given show within seven days of its original broadcast. And the early results, for the week before the official 2007 television season began, but which included a number of season and series premieres, showed that DVR usage indeed provided the large boost networks were expecting. According to a CBS press release, posted at the great TV news website The Futon Critic Survivor was DVR'd and watched by over 2 million additional viewers in the seven days after its original broadcast. Prison Break added 1.5 million viewers to its season premiere, a huge increase for a show which many critics have criticized so far for its ratings erosion. When looking at the DVR numbers, though, the show is not fading nearly as quickly as first believed. The top ten of DVR'd shows included:

1. Survivor: China - CBS 2.116 million additional viewers

2 Family Guy- FOX 1.843 million additional viewers

3 Prison Break- FOX 1.546 million additional viewers

4 Back To You- FOX 1.456 million additional viewers

5 Grey's Anatomy/Private Practice Clip Show ABC 1.256 million additional viewers

6 Big Brother 8 - CBS 1.249 million additional viewers

7 Simpsons- FOX 1.089 million additional viewers

8 Kid Nation- CBS 1.006 million additional viewers

9 K-Ville- FOX 993,000 additional viewers

10 Shark CBS 982,000 additional viewers

Next week, when the "Live+7" results are released for the first official week of the television season, we may see an even greater impact of DVRs. But as these first numbers show, the television landscape, and how shows are judged, may never be the same.

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Monday, October 8, 2007

Why Fantasy Football is Great for the NFL

I'm yelling at my television screen. No, it's not in response to tonight's shocking Prison Break (though I will have thoughts on the big goings on in that episode tomorrow), or something happening on Heroes (which had another good episode) but because I want Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch to score a touchdown. Alas, he's stuffed on five yard line, and Buffalo settles for a field goal.

I love the NFL and the Detroit Lions, though, God only knows why. And when there's a big game on, Patriots-Colts, or something similar, I'll watch. But, I'm more likely to watch Prison Break and Heroes than some non-discript Monday Night game. Like Dallas at Buffalo. Yet, I kept switching back to the game, from Heroes, because I need Marshawn Lynch to score a touchdown.

I'm in four fantasy football leagues. Three I take seriously, one more seriously than the others. The other I have all Detroit Lions in, and is just for fun (Yes, I understand that this says something about me that I find fielding an all Detroit Lions fantasy football league as "fun" -- But I'm okay with that). Another is a Law School league, which I started two years ago, and have yet to win. And I'm about to fall to 2-3. But the league I care most about is one I have been in since at least 2000, and probably before that (but Yahoo! records only go back that far and I don't remember when the league was founded) and won in 2004. And this week, I have the chance to win, despite my quarterback, Jon Kitna, scoring -3.96 points after a 2 INT, 5 sack performance on Sunday. All Buffalo Bills running back Marshawn Lynch needed to do was rush for 80 yards and a touchdown. So far, in the first half, he has 38 yards, and 2 receptions for another 32 yards. 5.27 points down, 6.03 to go.

Fantasy sports has become a multi-billion dollar industry in America. While a lot of people gamble on the NFL and other sporting events, accounting for a large part of football's current popularity and rise to replace baseball as America's current pastime, Fantasy Sports cannot be overlooked as a factor too. People have bookies, but even more have fantasy football teams. Highlights, graphic packages, and commentary is driven by fantasy content. And all the better for the NFL.

So you can bet, during the entire second half, I'll be watching, hoping everytime Buffalo has an offensive possession they give their workhorse the ball. And I'm not the only one.

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Sunday, October 7, 2007

Washington Redskins Defeat Detroit Lions 34-3

There is no logical explanation for it. The Detroit Lions, after today's drumming at the hands of the Washington Redskins, are 0-21 in the lifetime of the Detroit Lions franchise in Washington against the Redskins. Hardly any of the current players (kicker Jason Hanson among them) ever played in Washington for the Lions. But, no matter, the 2007 Lions looked a lot like the 2000 Lions which looked a lot like the 1992 Lions which looked like, well, every Lions team before them who played in Washington. Different players, coaches, schemes, general managers, even ownership. Can't blame this one on the Ford family, this streak of futility even predates them.

For the second straight game, the Detroit offense, which was explosive the first few weeks of the season, exploded. For the first half, they were nowhere. The second half, they moved the ball a bit, but never could put a sustained drive together. They would pick up a few first downs, but then drop a key third down pass, or take a sack, or a safety, or newly acquired tight end Courtney Alexander commits a false start (which he did twice on third and short). With how great the Lions offense looks at times, you want to chalk this up to a bad game, and some bad matchups, but this is the second straight week the offense has been stagnant for the majority of the game. Last week, the Lions had a miraculous fourth quarter to makeup for three periods of ineptitude. Today, God took a holiday, and the Lions were blown out of the water. Maybe we should just give up before the game starts if it's against the NFC East on the road. So far, Philadelphia and Washington have won by a combined 90-24 tally. Ouch.

With their 3-2 record heading into the bye week, the Lions have a lot to work on, starting with their offensive line. Jon Kitna is simply not getting enough time to throw the ball, and benching Damien Woody for Steven Peterman didn't work. They need to find a way to make sure he not just stays healthy, but stays upright enough to allow his wide recievers to get to the spots they need to get to so Mike Martz' offense can work. Left tackle Jeff Backus had another bad game.

The Tatum Bell experiment should also be over. Kevin Jones showed in the second half against Washington that he is healthy enough to take over as the feature back. And he's effective when he's in the game. Bell is a capable running back, and has shown flashes at times, but it's not good enough. It's time for Jones to take over as the primary ball carrier for the Lions.

The defense, not sure what to do there. The Redksins ran a perfect gameplan against the Lions defense. Long drives, tire them out, keep the Lions offense off the field, and run a lot of screens and passes to the tight end. The Lions just don't have the talent on defense to be effective consistently on a week to week basis. If the front four does not get pressure on the quarterback, and for the most part, they did not on Sunday, the Lions have no chance on defense. Which is why the Washington Redskins, with a gimpy running back, unproven quarterback, and missing their best wide receiver, and their second best the entire second half, were able to successfully play "keep away" from the Lions.

The season is not over, by any means, it's still a 3-2 start. But Tampa Bay in two weeks, at home, is as close to a "must win" game as this Lions team will have this year. They need to continue to prove to themselves that they can continue to bounce back from losses and games like this. Not so much for this year, but for the years that follow, when the talent is better able to handle the scheme the Lions coaching staff wants to run.

Of course, by that point, Mike Martz will be gone, and we'll be back to square one on offense. But, such is life for the Detroit Lions. There's a reason why the team has won just one playoff game since 1957.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Hulk Hogan to Host New American Gladiators: I Can't Make This Up

In what I thought was a great idea (and that's not sarcasm) NBC is planning on bringing back the hit (well, hit may be an overstatement) show American Gladiators. I'm all for bringing back the show, mostly for nostalgia purposes, as I remember watching the show as a kid and loving it. Hosted by Mike Adamle and Larry Csonka (and even Joe Theismann for a time), the show was ridiculous, but in an entertaining way. The Joust. The Eliminator. And the Gladiators, like Zap and Ice and Storm and well, that's all I remember.

You can watch the old repeats of American Gladiators on ESPN Classic, but in 2008, a remake of the show will air on NBC and according to TV website Zap2It the show will have a new host: Hulk Hogan. Yes, the former professional wrestler, movie actor (I refuse to call the man who starred in such hits as Mr. Nanny and Suburban Commando as a movie "star") and reality television personality will now add "American Gladiator host" to his resume.

Pro-wrestling legend and VH1 reality star Hulk Hogan is on board to serve as the show's host. Though the deal is still being finalized, TV Week reports that both NBC and the Hulkster (real name: Terry Bollea) are gung-ho about the series, which is likely to find a midseason berth on the network.

As with the original series, which aired in syndication for much of the 1990s, the new "American Gladiators" will feature amateur athletes facing off in a series of combative challenges against a group of professional "gladiators." The show is a pet project of NBC co-chairman Ben Silverman, who was developing a version of the show at his company, Reveille, before taking his new job. Reveille remains involved with the project.

I'll check out the new American Gladiator, but I can't imagine it being better than the repeats of the original which I can watch each night. And the addition of Hogan, while potentially entertaining in the short term, is more likely to be annoying in the long run. We'll see though, maybe Hogan will surpise.

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