Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What I'm Watching - The CNN Republican YouTube Debate

I have to say, watching the CNN YouTube Republican Debate, they are a much more entertaining group, in terms of going after one another, than the Democrats are. Hillary and Barack Obama have been going head-to-head lately (and, wow, has John Edwards become irrelevant and invisible the past two weeks -- Everything is focused on Obama and Clinton, and that's good news for the Obama campaign) and added a bit of a spark to the Democratic campaign, but the way that Rudy and Mitt Romney went after each other early in the debate, and how Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee joined in, it's intense there. Even John McCain and Ron Paul are going after each other on interventionism v. non-isolationism.

Like their last debate, CNN is allowing the crowd to be a "12th Man" and it's incredibly distracting, not just to the candidates, but the television audience. When Rudy starts talking about gun control, I want to hear his answer, not hear the crowd booing him before he's even able to get an answer out. Same with Ron Paul being booed on Iraq. And these "campaign videos" just as they were for democrats, are worthless. Mitt Romney aired a campaign ad. Fred Thompson spent his video attacking Romney and Huckabee. Rudy's was pretty good, and funny. More people need to take these videos in the light-hearted nature Rudy did. I'm waiting for Mike Huckabee's, I wonder if it will feature his endorsers Chuck Norris and professional wrestler Ric Flair.

I'm not a Republican expert, so I don't have much real "analysis" so far, other than Fred Thompson looks tired to me, and I haven't been overly impressed with Rudy tonight. Though I don't really like the way Mitt Romney has been answering questions either, he just seems too smug and too "I know more than you." Huckabee's been good, but he's a likable guy so I'd expect him to do well (though as Chris Matthews was talking about on Hardball tonight, his stance on guns, and the need for all citizens to have them in order to protect themselves against the government is nutty, but that's a separate issue). And John McCain's been solid and he said "life is not like 24 and Jack Bauer" when discussing torture, so bonus points for talking about Jack's torture techniques and history.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

The Lightning Round -- Weekend Wrap Up

It may have been a slow holiday weekend in some contexts, but with the NFL playoff chase heating up and the Michigan coaching search perhaps reaching a surprising (and for many Michigan fans, if the reports are true, disappointing end). So let's get to it.

** Scoreboard Watching for the Wild Card ** With the Detroit Lions continuing to blow games all that's left is hoping the Lions hang on to their Wild Card lead. And as that goes, every team the Lions needed to lose Sunday, did. Arizona was upset by San Francisco, Washington lost to Tampa Bay despite knocking Jeff Garcia out of action early on, and Philadelphia lost to New England (though they made that scary late). Those losses are important because each of those teams (the Cardinals, Redskins, and Eagles) have beaten the Lions, so to make the playoffs, the Lions must finish with a better record than each of those teams. And as of today, they do. But just barely. Next week's game against Minnesota, who now is only a game back of the Lions, is a must-win game should the Lions want to salvage their season. They cannot afford to lose that game and slip into a four-game slide. What's most maddening is that despite the three game losing streak, the Lions continue to hold a slim lead for the Wild Card, which means if they would have been able to win one or two of these games, they would be in prime position to make the playoffs. Now? They have to hold on for dear life and they've showed no evidence they'll be able to maintain their grip.

** Michigan going after Ferentz, not Miles? ** While LSU's loss to Arkansas on Saturday knocked the Tigers out of the National Championship hunt, and thus makes it more likely that if Michigan wanted to hire former player, assistant, and renowned Michigan-man Les Miles, they could likely do so before LSU's Bowl Game, M-Go-Blog which first reported Lloyd Carr's retirement is now reporting sources are saying Iowa's Kirk Ferentz has been offered, and may indeed accept, the Michigan job. That groan you are hearing is coming from Ann Arbor, where Michigan fans are desperate for Les Miles or failing him an NFL coach like Jon Gruden and failing him a name like Cincinnati's Brian Kelley. And while Ferentz would be better than any of Michigan's current crop of assistants (like Lloyd Carr disciple Mike DeBord), Ferentz will not thrill anyone in Ann Arbor. While his name makes sense (he's familiar with the Big Ten, Midwest recruiting, and Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman, who also came to Michigan from Iowa) he's a vanilla candidate, who may be another .500 season away from being fired from his home school, Iowa. While his Iowa teams won the Big Ten in 2002 (11-2) and 2004 (10-2) his last three seasons are 6-6, 6-7, and 6-6. His Big Ten records those seasons? 5-3, 2-6, 4-4. Underwhelming to say the least. Plus, he's making almost three million dollars a year at Iowa, so he wouldn't even be cheaper than Miles most likely. If he's the choice, and I'll have more to say if he is, it certainly won't make Ann Arbor happy, that's for sure.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Another Ruined Thanksgiving -- Packers Carve Up Lions 37-26

The Green Bay Packers score touchdowns. The Detroit Lions score field goals. The Green Bay Packers make tackles. The Detroit Lions do not. And that's why the Packers are 10-1, on their way to an NFC North championship and a first round bye in the 2007 NFL Playoffs and the Detroit Lions are 6-5, in a tailspin of a three-game losing streak and are likely to miss the playoffs, again, after starting off the season 6-2. It was another lost Thanksgiving for the Lions, who have not won on Turkey Day since 2003, and likely another lost season, with games at Minnesota, 9-1 Dallas, and at San Diego on the agenda.

This game, like the Arizona game, started off so promising too. The Lions drove right down the field to start the game, and appeared to have a first and goal on the one-yard line. A chop block on center Dominic Raiola, though, set the Lions back, and they were forced to settle for a field goal. The first Packers play from scrimmage was a Brett Favre fumble, and the Lions recovered, deep in Packers territory, with a chance to take a 10-0 lead and put some distance between them and the dangerous Packer passing attack. The Lions offense, though, went three-and-out (a common theme) and were held to a field goal. The Lions defense then forced Favre and the Packers to punt again, and the Lions moved the ball. But then they hit a brick wall and were forced to punt from the Packers 38-yard-line. And that was it. The Lions dominated the first quarter, holding the ball for over 12 minutes, putting up over 100 yards of total offense, and forcing a Green Bay turnover. But all they had to show for it was six points, and that haunted them the rest of the afternoon.

The Packers intercepted a Kitna pass to start the second quarter, the Packers scored one play after that, and before the Lions could turn around, it was 14-6. And even after a great kickoff return (the first of the season really), the Lions again we held three plays and out, and it was another Hanson field goal instead of a touchdown. Brett Favre then went to work, picking apart the Lions defense, as he did, all game long, and by the time the Lions scored two late fourth quarter touchdowns, it was already over.

The Lions did fix some things from their previous two losses. They ran the ball well, Kevin Jones had 93 yards and the team had over 130. And Calvin Johnson was actively involved in the offense, and was targeted all game long. Unfortunately for the Lions, he dropped a number of catchable passes in the first half (odd for Johnson who has proved himself sure-handed this season) and while he had some nice catches late, again, it was already over by that point. The Lions seemed to move the ball at will when they were in their own territory, but as soon as they crossed the 50-yard-line, they fell apart. Penalties, dropped passes, sacks. They would seemingly be in a rhythm, but then they would cross mid-field and the drive would stall. The defense wasn't much better, as they could not get pressure on Brett Favre, and despite the Packers all but abandoning the running game, wide receivers were open all over the field, and Favre, who may have the best field vision of any quarterback to ever play, found them every single time.

Is the season over for the 6-5 Lions? Probably not. While Philadelphia, Washington, and Arizona are only half a game back of the Wildcard lead (and all have the tie-breaker over the Lions, so the Lions must end the season with a better record than each of them, unless Arizona wins the NFC West), the Eagles must play the Patriots, and the Reskins must travel to Tampa Bay. The Cardinals will likely have an easy time with the 49ers, so Lions fans have to hope Seattle stumbles at St. Louis. But most importantly, the Lions have to start winning and the last three weeks, the Lions have shown no evidence they'll be able to do that again anytime soon.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Video of Nick Saban Comparing Loss to 9/11

Nick Saban is often one who attracts controversy, usually though it has to do with his decisions to continually hop jobs, from Michigan State to LSU to the Miami Dolphins to now Alabama. Monday, though, responding to his team's third consecutive loss, this time to lowly Louisiana Monroe, he compared the loss to a "catastrophic event" like Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks on September 11th. While watching Morning Joe this morning, their sports reporter, Fred Roggin, had video of Saban's comments.

An Alabama spokesman tried defending Saban's comments, by saying he was not trying to equate losing a football game with 9/11.

A Saban spokesman said the coach chose the 9-11 and Pearl Harbor references to illustrate the challenges facing his team.

"What Coach Saban said did not correlate losing a football game with tragedy; everyone needs to understand that. He was not equating losing football games to those catastrophic events," football spokesman Jeff Purington said in a statement to The Associated Press. "The message was that true spirit and unity become evident in the most difficult of times. Those were two tremendous examples that everyone can identify with."

Saban may not have meant any harm with his comments, but putting losing a football game on the same level as 9-11 or Pearl Harbor may go a bit too far. The logic of trying to get your team to come together after difficult times makes sense, but I'm sure there are many people who found Saban's comments, trying to use the tragedies of 9-11 and Peal Harbor to fire up his team is something a lot of people will find offensive.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Hail, Hail to Lloyd Carr

Lloyd Carr, as expected, and as leaked to the media yesterday (and originally reported by M-Go-Blog over a week ago), will announce his retirement today, ending a 13-year-run which will likely be much more fondly remembered a decade from now than it is today. While many Michigan fans are happy to see Lloyd ride off into the sunset, and while a fresh start and new blood will likely be good for the Michigan program, I am not celebrating today. Lloyd Carr never asked to be the head coach of Michigan, it was a job he took only after former head coach Gary Moeller was fired after a drunken escapade at a metro-Detroit restaurant, and he did something even Bo Schembechler never did, won a National Championship. He ran a completely above-board program, one that made Michigan proud, and he was great in the community. On the field, he was frustrating at times with his conservatism, but he was without a doubt successful, winning numerous Big Ten Titles and taking his teams to 3 of the last 5 Rose Bowls. And while many will focus on his 1-6 record against Ohio State in the past seven seasons (and his similarly futile Bowl record), I’ll choose to remember his 5-1 start against the Buckeyes, including the victory in 1997 which helped catapult Charles Woodson to the Heisman Trophy and Michigan to the National Championship.

These last seven years, despite the trips to Pasadena, Michigan fans have been on edge, in part because of the continuing losses to Ohio State. Carr, though, has remain steadfast, despite having to continually play true freshman quarterbacks before they were ready for action. First it was Drew Henson’s broken foot in 1999 which ushered in the John Navarre era before he was ready, and then Henson bolted for the New York Yankees, leaving sophomore Navarre to take the reigns a year earlier than expected. Then, when Carr groomed Matt Gutierrez to replace Navarre, Gutierrez blew out his elbow and forced Carr to audible and play true freshman Chad Henne instead. Now this season, when true freshman Ryan Mallett was supposed to have a year of absorbing the offense, learning from senior leader Henne, and preparing himself to take over in 2008, he too was forced into action early with Mallett’s continuing shoulder and knee problems. Now, injuries are part of football, but Carr never had a chance to develop and groom his quarterbacks the past half-decade like he would have liked. And despite that, Michigan remained a top national program and had chances (although they never capitalized on those chances) to win another National Championship.

Now of course, before Carr’s press conference is even over, the question will turn to Carr’s replacement. Surely LSU’s Les Miles (a former player and assistant under Bo) will be the leading candidate, but his tension with Lloyd Carr may prevent Michigan fans’ dreams from coming true. There are other numerous top candidates to consider as well, including Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly, West Virginia’s Rich Rodriguez, and even Jon Gruden and Bill Cower of NFL fame (though, admittedly, both of the last two are probably pipe dreams). Michigan needs a fresh start, so hiring assistants Mike DeBord or Ron English would be an enormous mistake. Especially DeBord, who was a disaster at Central Michigan (as opposed to Kelly, who turned CMU around after DeBord’s tenure).

There will be plenty of time for speculation though. Today should be about Carr and all that he brought to the Michigan program. He is a better coach than his 1-6 record against Ohio State the last seven years indicates, and a better coach than he likely will be initially remembered as. He has done a lot for Michigan, and once time heels some of the wounds of Michigan fans, he’ll be remembered and revered as such. And deservedly so.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Detroit Lions Let Game, Potentially Playoffs, Slip Through Their Fingers

The defense wanted it, and they stopped the New York Giants twice in the last six minutes of the game. The fans wanted it, and they made more noise during those two defensive stops than perhaps ever has been made at Ford Field. The offense wanted it, but, unlike the defense, which stepped up in crunch time, and the fans, who allowed the Lions to drag their unbelieving souls to the brink of jubilation, they could not come through, and in the end, the air went out of Ford Field, and potentially out of the Lions 2008 season, when a Jon Kitna pass slipped through the usually sure-handed fingers of Shaun McDonald and into the waiting arms of a New York Giant defender. And just like that, instead of pulling of another miraculous comeback, and scoring 14 points in the last six minutes of the game, the Lions lost, for the second straight week, falling to 6-4 on the season, and putting themselves on the verge of blowing a 6-2 first half of the season.

For the second straight week, the Lions defense, much maligned during the run-up to the regular season, continually kept the Lions in the game. They forced turnovers (two), kept the Giants out of the endzone for most of game (surrendering only one touchdown) and when it mattered, in the fourth quarter, they stopped the Giants twice, giving the Lions two chances to win the game. The first drive ended with a Jon Kitna interception on an under thrown ball in the end-zone to Shaun McDonald. The second, with under two minutes to play and the Lions nearing the red-zone, ended with a more accurately thrown Kitna pass bounced off of McDonald's hands. And for the second straight week, the Lions lost all semblance of a running game. While Kevin Jones did have positive yards this week (as opposed to last Sunday's -4 performance, -18 for the team), he still only had 11 carries for 25 yards, and that was it for the Lions running game. Two weeks, 7 total rushing yards. Suddenly Mike Martz doesn't look like such a genius. The offense, outside of parts of games early this season, has never been in sync, and never put the games together everyone expected. And that's despite improved play from the offensive line, and all the talent you could ask for. Yet, something, somewhere, isn't working, and the Lions are running out of time to figure it out.

There are two things the Lions must do if they will save their season and make the playoffs. First is get Kevin Jones going again. In the three game Lions winning streak (before this recent two game slide) Kevin Jones ran for 76, 105, and 71 yards. The team had 147, 119, and 130. The last two games? -4 and 25 for Jones, -18 and 25 for the team. That's inexcusable, I don't care how much Mike Martz likes to throw the ball, and how much the Lions feel the matchups favor their passing game. At least we tried to run the ball this game, unlike last week, but we gave up quickly, and didn't have much success when we did try to run. That has to change.

And as my colleague Tom Kowalski wrote Sunday, Calvin Johnson needs to play all the time. His touchdown catch today, fighting for the ball over the outstretched arms of Kevin Dockery, was a thing of beauty, and there aren't two or three wide receivers in the league (Terrell Owens, Randy Moss, and maybe Tory Holt) who could have made that catch. The fact that he isn't on the field for the majority of the Lions offensive plays is mind boggling. He already is a special player, and he could be an elite player, at a young age, if the Lions just gave him that chance. I know he's been fighting a sore back, and I know Mike Martz has confidence in Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey (and both are valuable parts of the offense) but Johnson is a game changer. He must become a larger part of the Lions offense going forward.

The season isn't over for the Lions, but a three game losing streak (with a loss Thursday against Green Bay on Thanksgiving) may do it. The Lions still have the Wild Card lead, at the moment, but with Arizona, Washington, and Philadelphia nipping at their heels, and each of those teams holding the tie-breaker over the Lions, it won't be easy down the stretch. And with the next game just three days away, the Lions won't have much time to think about it, which is good. Because they need to keep playing one game, one snap at a time. Leave the playoff speculation, and hair-pulling, to us.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Same Old Story: Ohio State 14, Michigan 3

In the stands it was brutally cold, rainy, and at times, snowy, and on the field, it was even worse, with the Michigan Wolverine defense giving the Wolverine offense every opportunity to defeat Ohio State, only to see the Wolverine offense struggle to gain any traction on the slick Michigan Stadium field turf. So the careers of Mike Hart, Jake Long, and Chad Henne end 0-4 against the dreaded Ohio State Buckeyes and the tenure of Lloyd Carr may have come to end, and if it does, he'll be 6-7 against Ohio State, and an amazing 1-6 in his last seven games.

You feel bad for Hart, Henne, and Long, who came back for their senior seasons, shunning the NFL Draft, to not only win a National or Big Ten Championship, but to beat Ohio State for the first and only time in their careers. Instead, their regular season ended just as it began, with two bitter losses in a row, and people left without answers, and Michigan fans and alumni questioning the future of head coach Lloyd Carr. You feel especially bad for Hart and Henne who obviously were nowhere near 100% and just could not get anything going against a tough, ferocious Ohio State defense.

In many ways, Michigan likely would have been better off, as tough as it would have been for Lloyd Carr to do, sticking with Ryan Mallett, who came into the game briefly in the third quarter when Henne had to return to the locker-room to have his shoulder examined. Henne was clearly not healthy enough to lead Michigan to a victory, as his throws were constantly sailing on him, and he had a very hard time directing the ball and getting it where he wanted it to go. Sitting down a senior quarterback like Henne, against Ohio State, would have been a difficult move, but for the good of the team, it may have needed to be done. Hart was also struggling, and came out of the game a few times, but both he and Henne really showed what they are made of, despite the loss. The same can't be said about the Wolverines' wide receivers, who could never get a handle on the wet football and continually dropped passes, and tight end Carson Butler, who singlehandedly killed two of Michigan's only significant drives with holding penalties. Ironically, it was the defense that kept giving the ball back to the Wolverine offense, largely keeping Ohio State in check (aside from one long touchdown rush by Chris Wells) but the offense never got started and kept going three-and-out.

If this was Lloyd Carr's last game at Michigan Stadium, it was a sad way to end an uneven era (and I'll have much more to say when/if Carr does retire). And I agree with Gregg Henson, who wrote today that in addition to Les Miles, the Wolverines should strongly consider Cincinnati head coach (and former Grand Valley State and Central Michigan head man) Brian Kelly. He knows the state of Michigan very well, will be able to recruit around here without a problem, and he's won everywhere he's been.

Today, though, is not about Lloyd Carr's future, or his successor, it is about another loss to Ohio State, and another lost season for Michigan. We still have a Bowl Game to play, but the season ended today, on a cold, snowy, rainy day at Michigan Stadium. Ohio State was victorious again, and one more time, Michigan has to go back to the drawing board with a lot more questions than answers.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Counting Down to Michigan - Ohio State

It is starting to get pretty exciting around Ann Arbor as our date with the Buckeyes of Columbus is under 48-hours away. Yes, some of the air of game was taken out when both Michigan and Ohio State lost last weekend but this is still one of the greatest rivalries in sports (which is why HBO produced a documentary focused on the series) and a trip to the Rose Bowl and an undisputed (and unshared) Big Ten Title is on the line.

It may also be the last game in the rivalry for Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr. Great Michigan blog M-Go-Blog created some controversy earlier in the week when they reported that numerous sources have Carr announcing his retirement sometime after the Ohio State game but before Michigan's Bowl Game, wherever that might be. We've heard these rumors before of course (most loudly three seasons ago when many believed that Carr would follow Chris Perry and John Navarre off into the sunset) but the timing seems right (this time it's the next generation, Mike Hart and Chad Henne ending their careers, along with Jake Long) and we've heard rumblings all season this would be Lloyd's last. If so, even more motivation to give Carr a proper send-off by defeating Ohio State and giving him a 7-6 record against OSU rather than a sub-.500 6-7 career mark.

Not only does Lloyd deserve a victory, but so do I. In seven years at Michigan, as an undergrad and a Law Student, I have seen only one victory over Ohio State. Yes, Michigan is just 1-5 in my career as a student, and I've seen us lose at Michigan Stadium and at the Horseshoe. My junior year of undergrad, the site of my only victory, we rushed the field and played in the Rose Bowl (which we lost to USC, but that's another story -- But, man, Mike Williams was dominant in that game...Whatever happened to him?). Here's to hoping Saturday is a repeat of that glorious victory. Though with the health of Hart and Henne still up in the air, and Ohio State hungry after losing their chance at the national title on Saturday (maybe they'll be more dejected than hungry, but I wouldn't hold my breath) it certainly won't be easy. Never is against Ohio State. And it shouldn't be any other way.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Detroit Tigers Acquire Outfielder Jacque Jones

The Detroit Tigers continued to fill their off-season needs on Monday, trading for outfielder Jacque Jones of the Chicago Cubs in exchange for utility infielder Omar Infante. The trade (first reported by The Detroit Free Press and later confirmed by my colleague Danny Knobler) gives the Tigers a much needed left-handed bat, a veteran outfielder who can play all three outfield positions, and somebody who is solid defensively. And all they gave away was a utility infielder manager Jim Leyland did not like very much anyway.

Now, I think Omar Infante will be a solid major league player as his career develops. He had his ups and downs in Detroit, and even though he's been in Detroit since 2002, we forget he's only 25-years-old. His best baseball is in front of him, but even with that said, he likely never was going to develop the way he needed to in Detroit, especially with Leyland always looking for his replacement (have it be Neifi Perez, Ramon Santiago, or Ryan Raburn).

Jones is a perfect one-year stop gap, with an acceptable salary ($5.5 million, of which the Cubs will pay a portion) who will form a nice platoon with Marcus Thames in left-field. While Jones had not hit less than 14 home runs in any season since his first (where he only played in 95 games), hit only 5 last season (after blasting 27 in 2006, tying his career high). He's a career .285 batter, and should fit in nicely in the #7 or #8 spot in the Tigers batting order. Essentially, he's Craig Monroe, but left-handed and with a higher batting average. Certainly will be fine until Cameron Maybin is ready to take over in 2009.

Now the attention of the Tigers turns to the bullpen, as re-signing Todd Jones, and perhaps acquiring another reliever take center stage. Should the Tigers do that, even with the injury to Joel Zumaya, things are looking up for the Tigers heading into the 2008 season.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

When the Detroit Lions Lose, They Lose Ugly

Well, that wasn't very good. The Detroit Lions were blown out (again), on the road (again) on a day where they could have picked up a game on every NFC Wildcard rival. The Giants lost. The Saints lost. The Panthers lost. Washington lost. And, so did the Lions. So, we lose a game to Green Bay in the race for the NFC North (now two games back) we didn't lose any ground in the Wildcard hunt. That's the good news. The bad news? Well, the entire game for the most part. Penalties. Sacks. Turnovers, and lots of them, four by Jon Kitna by himself, after not having any the last three weeks.

The brutal game was a result of a lot of problems. The defense, despite giving up over 30 points, played decently well at times. They forced turnovers and were playing on their heels all game thanks to turnovers and horrendous special teams play which let kick returner (and former University of Michigan Wolverine standout) Steve Breaston run wild, leading to two Cardinals touchdowns. But the secondary could not stay with Larry Fitzgerald (and to add injury to insult, the Lions lost their best cornerback, Fernando Bryant, to a foot injury late in the game on a meaningless play). And even though the defense kept trying to keep the Lions in the game, forcing turnovers in the fourth quarter when the Lions desperately needed them, the offense just could not get anything going and squandered their opportunities.

And a big reason why was the lack of a running game for the Lions. It's no accident that the Lions three-game winning streak (snapped with authority by Arizona today) coincided with the return of Kevin Jones, who gave the Lions pass-happy offense some balance. Even before the Lions fell way behind Arizona, they never tried to establish the running game, which was stunning given Arizona's strong pass defense and a run defense which gave up over 120-yards last week to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Kevin Jones didn't have a single carry in the second half, after having only 4 in the first half, and finished with a touchdown but with -4 yards rushing. The Lions team? -16. That's not a dash in front of the "16" either. The Lions simply won't win without balance and without their running game, and there is no greater example of that than today's loss.

The Lions have shown this year they respond to adversity. Blowouts at Philadelphia and at Washington did not derail them. Will another blowout loss at Arizona? It certainly doesn't get any easier for Detroit, as the hungry (and anxious to shake off their own double-digit loss) New York Giants come to Ford Field next week. The Lions ended the first half of their season 6-2, but if they want to avoid starting the second half of their year 0-2 (and potentially letting the season get away from them) they have to improve their offensive line play, protect the football, and most of all, find that running game again. Because without it, no matter how great the first half of the season was for the Lions, the season will end just as all of them have in the Millen-era, with bitter disappointment.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

What I'm Watching -- American Gangster

So after watching Michigan lose to Wisconsin earlier in the day I took in another bloodbath this evening, the new Russell Crowe, Denzel Washington movie, American Gangster (which while violent, was actually not nearly as gratuitously violent as I thought it was going to be). The reviews for the film have been glowing, and I definitely came out of the theater agreeing with the consensus. Both Washington and Crowe provide convincing and stirring performances, and the film, though long at almost two and a half hours, did not seem long at all when I was wacthing it, as I was riveted by the performances and the overall story. And any movie in which Joe Louis is a character, even a minor one, is cool by me.

Overall, I really did not have a lot negative to say about the film, except perhaps that the film underused the Cuba Gooding Jr. character, Niky Barnes, who apparently is a significant figure in the real life story, but was a minor character in this movie. Otherwise, the movie does what any good bio-pic/historical movie does, and that's make me want to check the stories of the real people on Wikipedia, which is what I did when I got back from the movie. Just a very, very solid film. Highly recommended.

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If Michigan Loses an Irrelevant Game, Does It Matter? Yes.

The University of Michigan's football team lost for the first time this afternoon since Big Ten play started, falling short against Wisconsin, 31-21. Of course, Michigan was without their best player for the entire game (running back Mike Hart) and their starting quarterback (Chad Henne) for all but the first two series of the game, and Michigan can still win the Big Ten, go to the Rose Bowl, and, perhaps most importantly, ruin Ohio State's perfect season and chance at a national championship by winning next week, at home, against the Buckeyes. So given all of that, did this loss mean anything? Yes. It means something for next week and it might mean something for next year.

The problems the game poses for this season first, as while the offense (and we'll get to true freshman Ryan Mallett's play in a moment) was shaky all day, the defense was the real story. Yes, they tightened up in the second half, and gave Michigan a chance to win, but that was only after one of the worst first halves I've seen from the Michigan defense this year. Stupid penalties by Shawn Crable. The inability to get to the quarterback and the inability to cover wide receivers. And worst of all, the inability to just tackle. That first half was dominated by Wisconsin breaking tackles, or, as the case more often, senior quarterback Tyler Donovan eluding Michigan tacklers, as the Badgers built a 16-point advantage (which ended up being the margin of victory).

Offensively, Michigan was offense, which freshman Ryan Mallett completing just 11 of 36 passes and while he had a couple of nice touchdown tosses, he also had two interceptions. Many of Mallett's throws were over the heads of the wide receivers or at their feet, and if it wasn't for Mario Manningham taking a short throw 97-yards for a touchdowns, Mallett's stats would look even more anemic. The running game was no better, combining for just 47 total yards, and neither the running backs, nor the offensive line could get anything going against Wisconsin's defensive front. It is a game worth forgetting, almost immediately.

But, despite the game having no impact on Michigan's chances to win the Big Ten or go to the Rose Bowl, it is important. Because, as bad as the defense played, it gives you no confidence they'll be able to look any better against Ohio State last weekend. We may have been missing Hart and Henne on offense, but on defense, for better or worse (and it's looking very much like the latter) this is the Michigan defense that will take the field next Saturday against the Buckeyes. And if they play like they did today, Michigan Stadium will be emptied out at halftime. And the game is important as a preview of what Michigan fans will see next year. No Hart. No Henne. Ryan Mallett will be throwing the football and Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor will be running it, and they showed nothing today which gives you a good feeling about 2008, when the Wolverines must play at Notre Dame, at Penn State, and at the Horseshoe in Ohio State. And potentially, some of his wide receivers could go pro as well.

Now, you hope that Mallett improves, and once he knows more of the offense, gets more reps in practices, and matures, there is every reason to believe he will be better. But, it may be a rough transition from Henne-to-Mallett, and despite Mallett's impressive pedigree, it may take him a while to grow into the leader of the Michigan football team. His play this year, despite being shaky, should aid him in understanding what it's like to play somewhere as hostile as Camp Randall stadium, and should speed his development. But, as we saw today, he has a long way to go.

Michigan has faced a lot of adversity this season, a lot of it self inflicted, a lot of it due to injuries beyond their direct control. After losing their first two games of the season, Michigan responded, with eight straight victories. They must respond again next week to salvage their season, as if they end their year the same way they started it (with back-to-back losses) nobody will remember the good things Michigan did in the middle of the season, and nobody will ever let Chad Henne, Mike Hart, and Jake Long live down an 0-4 record against Ohio State.

10:40 Update: So Ohio State lost too. Awesome. As much as I usually would take great joy in seeing Ohio State get upset, their loss, coupled with Michigan's earlier in the day, certainly takes all the air out of next week's finale. Sure, it's still the biggest rivalry in (college) sports, and sure, it's still for the Big Ten Title and a trip to the Rose Bowl, but suddenly, the game just doesn't have the same intrigue it did twelve hours ago.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Study: "K" Players Strikeout More Often

Here's something interesting (and rather strange) from A study done by two professors, one at the University of California, San Diego, and one at Yale, found that your name actually may affect the choices you make in life. They postulate, and I guess, through their study, prove, that there is some correlation (and perhaps causation) that those people whose names start with, say the letter "J" are more likely to drive a Jeep than a Saturn because it shares the same letter as their first name. I'm not making this up. They even studied baseball to help prove their theory.

Even weirder, they gravitate toward things that begin with their initials even when those things are undesirable, like bad grades or a baseball strikeout.

In what they call “moniker maladies,” a pair of researchers find that although no baseball player wants to strike out, players whose names begin with K (scorecard shorthand for a strikeout) fan more often than other players.

If the preference for people, places and things that share one of your initials is conscious, then it shouldn’t work if the thing you’re choosing is basically undesirable. Strikeouts are undesirable. Yet based on data from 1913 through 2006, for the 6,397 players with at least 100 plate appearances, “batters whose names began with K struck out at a higher rate (in 18.8% of their plate appearances) than the remaining batters (17.2%),” the researchers find. The reason, they suggest, is that players whose first or last name starts with K like their initial so much that “even Karl ‘Koley’ Kolseth would find a strikeout aversive, but he might find it a little less aversive than players who do not share his initials, and therefore he might avoid striking out less enthusiastically.” Granted, 18.8% vs. 17.2% is not a huge difference, but it was statistically significant—that is, not likely to be due to chance.

"Statistically significant" in math talk, maybe, but maybe, the two are really unrelated. Ken Griffey Jr. may take issue with the study, as might Keith Hernandez and Kenny Lofton.

Interesting, but I don't think GM's need to start forming new theories on which players to sign, based on the letters in their names, just yet. Though it does open the door to a lot of questions. What about players whose names start with the letter "S" do they strike out more? Did Hank Aaron hit so many home runs because his name starts with "H"? Did Pete Rose have significantly more pop-ups than other players? What about Ricky Henderson? Did he steal more bases because he liked to run? What about closers? Are they more likely to have "C" names? Inquiring minds want to know.

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry - Documentary Review

There is nothing quite like the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. For those who live it on a year-in, year-out basis, it needs no explanation. For non-football fans, watch HBO's new documentary "Michigan vs. Ohio State: The Rivalry" because after watching the hour-long program, you'll understand why every year, on the third Saturday in November, the states of Michigan and Ohio stand divided, and football takes center stage.

I just returned from an advanced screening of the program (debuting on HBO on November 13) and it was a packed Michigan Theater full of fans and former players (including Jamie Morris, current announcer Jim Brandstatter, and quarterback Rick Leach, who gave a speech after the viewing of the program) and everyone seemed to enjoy the presentation. And everyone got to boo Comcast when it was thanked for their assistance in putting on the night's event, which I think people found therapeutic (Michigan fans are at odds with the cable giant over a dispute with the Big Ten Network, leading to Michigan games, as well as other Big Ten games, not being aired on local television). Before I get to a review of the program, here's a trailer floating around YouTube which gives you an feel for what the show is like.

Overall I thought the documentary was good. It is hard to boil down the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, and all of its history and tradition to only an hour, but the producers did as good a job as could be expected. Certainly after watching it, you really got a good feeling for the start of the rivalry, and the Ten Year War between Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes. The program featured lots of interviews with former players (though no current, or even recently current players were featured. I think Desmond Howard was the most recent Michigan player interviewed), coaches (including Bo and Ohio State coach Earle Bruce), media (including Michigan alumnus and Hardball reporter David Schuster, who I was unaware went to Michigan), fans, and alumni (like Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes fame). And there was a lot of game footage, including some old footage I had never seen before.

I thought though, and I'm probably only saying this because I'm a University of Michigan alum (soon to be twice over), but I thought a little more time was spent on Ohio State than Michigan, and the program painted Ohio and Ohio State in a slightly better light. The show, for example, had a really nice five to seven minute segment on how dedicated Ohio State fans are to their school, and how football is a second (or, for some people, a first) religion in Columbus. It was a well put together segment and while some of the Ohio State fans came off as a bit nutty (as most super-dedicated fans are) I really respected their love and dedication to their team. There was no similar segment for Michigan and our love of school and state. The documentary did, though, spend a few minutes discussing all of the players Michigan has "stolen" from the State of Ohio.

Later, the program went through all of the Ohio State coaches after Woody Hayes was fired, including short segments on the tenures of Earle Bruce, John Cooper (which was more, admittedly, a pro-Michigan segment than anything else, since it highlighted Cooper's inability to beat Michigan), and Jim Tressel. For Michigan, there was no similar "post-Bo" segment, as aside from being seen on the sidelines in one video clip, Gary Moeller was never seen, and Lloyd Carr was never seen or even mentioned by name. Not once. That's remarkable. Ohio State's 2002 National Title was mentioned, but not Michigan's triumph in 1997. Again, I'm probably biased towards thinking Michigan got downplayed, but it was definitely something I noticed. And I was really surprised Bob Ufer, the legendary Michigan announcer, was not talked about more, and some his famed play-by-play calls were not used more. Maybe that was a cost issue (as obtaining the rights to Ufer's calls may have been prohibitive) but it was missed.

Overall though, the documentary was well done and well put together and you come out wishing that it were longer and wishing the Michigan-Ohio State game were this weekend instead of next. Check it out next week when it airs on HBO, it's the perfect appetizer for what should be one heckuva main course when Michigan battles Ohio State for the Big Ten Championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl at the Big House in Ann Arbor.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What I'm Watching -- Heroes and Prison Break

Both 24 and Prison Break may have slipped in the ratings some this year, and both have had up and down seasons, they are still appointment viewing for me anyway, so after watching last night's two-hour Prison Break and catching up on Heroes this afternoon, both shows are starting to move in the right direction.

Starting with Prison Break, you had to figure Michael's escape plan wasn't going to go quite as planned. Too early in the season first off, and just as he did in the first season, these false start escapes certainly build a lot of tension. The first hour was definitely more action-packed and exciting than the second, but overall it was a good night. Getting Lechero in on the escape made sense (I wonder why Lechero wasn't interested in escaping earlier, despite his power role inside Sona) and adding the wrinkle that Whistler may not be the innocent prisoner we thought I like a lot. Who is this guy? Is he working with the Company? Is he just a pawn like Michael? And if so, why not tell Michael he's had contact with the Company? Certainly gets me to keep watching.

As for Heroes, finally we are moving in the right direction. As I've written before I've not been a huge fan of this season so far. The stories have been too disconnected, the characters not interacting nearly enough, and there was no over-arching storyline connecting all of the Heroes. A few weeks back I thought they were headed in the right direction but then they fell back again. Maybe I'm just not enjoying the whole killer-twins/Sylar storyline, so the lack of that this week made for a better episode, I don't know.

What I do know is that it was about time for Hiro to come back from Japan, and they wrapped that plotline up pretty well. Now he can get back to avenging the death of his father, who if we believe Bob (and who knows at this point) was caused by Parkman's dead at the behest of this Adam character, who was Hiro's hero-turned-nemesis Takezo Kensei. While David Anders was fine as Kensei, he does his best work (as Alias fans will attest) as a villain, and I'm sure he'll bring a lot of his Sark character from Alias to his new role on the show.

And now, preventing the spread of the Shanti-virus, and saving the world again, will bring the heroes back together. Which may mean that Peter is on the wrong side of things, teaming up with Kensi-turned-Adam. But maybe not. Bob is the one creating the virus (of which Nikki is now infected) so who says he's not the one to release it to the general population. It keeps you guessing, which is exactaly what Mohinder is going through, and that should make Heroes really interesting going forward.

As long as, you know, this current writers strike doesn't short circuit everything, which I'm fearful it might.

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Monday, November 5, 2007

Weekend Sports Wrap-Up: Wolverines, Lions, and McCosky's Anti-Blogger Column

A big sports weekend in Michigan leaves everyone happy, well, outside of East Lansing anyway. The Pistons are 3-0, Michigan stages a big fourth quarter comeback, and the Lions dominate a game in a way they haven't in over a decade. And Detroit News Pistons beat writer and columnist Chris McCosky took bloggers to task for something they didn't do, while practicing the very type of journalism he lambasted the nonexistent bloggers for. But, let's get to the good stuff first.

** Michigan Defeats Michigan State 28-24 ** Michigan State looked like they had it cold. Michigan's best player, running back Mike Hart, was out of the game, and quarterback Chad Henne probably should have been, both due to injury. Michigan couldn't move the ball, and Michigan State could, scoring two touchdowns to take a 10-point lead with just under eight minutes to play. But then, as they always seem to do (see last season's game against Brady Quinn's Notre Dame team or Michigan's incredible Big House comeback in 2004), Michigan State couldn't finish. Chad Henne, showing a lot of heart fighting back both shoulder and knee injuries, drove the Wolverines for two touchdowns on Michigan State's prevent defense, giving the Wolverines the victory, and giving them a chance, by beating Ohio State in two weeks (no matter what they do next week against Wisconsin) to win the Big Ten and go to the Rose Bowl. Unbelievable considering the start Michigan had to the season.

The game itself was pretty boring for the first half, lots of punts on both sides, but the second half, with the Spartans taking the lead, and then Michigan's incredible fourth quarter comeback, was worth the price of admission. Henne and Manningham have hooked up before in big games (like 2005's Penn State game where they thrilled the Big House crowd by scoring the game winning touchdown with one-second to play) but nothing may top their game Saturday. Aside from a victory over Ohio State of course.

** The Detroit Lions Defeat the Denver Broncos 44-7 ** That's not a typo either. Neither was Shaun Rogers having a 66-yard interception return for a touchdown that you may have seen in the box-score. The Detroit Lions finished the first half of their season 6-2, an amazing, incredible, words-can't-describe-it start, and while I don't want to look toward the play...Nah, I won't even say it yet. One snap at a time, right? We all knew the offense would be good this season, and with Kevin Jones back and healthy, the offense is really humming (I don't think it's a coincidence that the Lions are 3-0 and that quarterback Jon Kitna has not thrown an interception since Jones became the full time starter after returning from his Lisfranc fracture) but the defense. You can't say enough about them. The supposed Achilles Heel, and all they do is lead the league in turnovers, disrupt kickers knocking them out of their rhythm (when they aren't blocking kicks), and score touchdowns.

Shaun Rogers was a monster Sunday, with 2.5 sacks, 4 quarterback hits, and the INT return. He was unblockable despite double coverage and he had Ford Field rocking when he stiff-armed his way into the endzone for his touchdown. The secondary may not be the best in the league, but when your front-four gets that much pressure on the quarterback, it doesn't matter. And give the Lions credit for being agressive. Their onside kick attempt may have failed, but it was agressive, as was a fourth down call early in the game. And Kitna, as earlier mentioned, isn't making mistakes. ANd with 3-5 Arizona next, the Lions have a chance to get another win before the final seven games of the year against some very tough teams (7-1 Green Bay twice, 7-2 Dallas, 6-2 New York Giants, and a trip to San Diego).

** Detroit News Columnist Chris McCosky Rips Bloggers ** This has been talked about a lot in the Detroit Tigers blogosphere this weekend and I don't have much to add to the great posts in response by Billfer at the Detroit Tigers Weblog, Kurt at Mack Avenue Tigers, and Ian at Bless You Boys (many others had great responses too and Billfer's got the full list) but a few comments which repeat some of theirs.

First, McCosky, who for those who have not read the article yet, wrote a column saying that "bloggers are not journalists" because they aren't educated the way most newspaper journalists are and because they don't have access to teams like most journalists do. Specifically he took Detroit Tigers blogs to task for reporting a rumor that Joel Zumaya injured his shoulder not moving boxes as he and the Tigers claim, but in an ATV accident.

McCosky wrote that "Bloggers are having a field day speculating on how Joel Zumaya really injured his shoulder. Nobody believes a heavy box fell on him. So the Internet is rife with stories about how he fell off his dirt bike." Problem for Chris is, as the numerous stories responding to his post have pointed out, no Detroit Tigers blogs talked speculated like Chris claimed. Comments left on an AP story speculated about Zumaya's injury, and the Tigers blogs, which are very professionally written, by some who are employed as journalists, never treated the comments as fact.

I mentioned the story at my Detroit Tigers blog but in a post titled Don't believe the rumors about Zumaya's injury, yet. I talked about the speculation about Zumaya's injury, and cautioned readers that:

Now, while the moving boxes story isn't very exciting, there is no reason, without substantial proof to the contrary, to believe Zumaya injured himself on a dirt bike or participating in any other extreme sport. The poster's numerous misspellings and other inconsistencies notwithstanding, unsubstantiated rumors are just that until proven otherwise. If it's me, I give Zumaya the benefit of the doubt until something more concrete contradicts his original story.

Mike Stone, of WDFN and WXYT's 7-Sports-Update gave Joel Zumaya the "Stonehead" of the week award and brought up the ATV rumors (though he said they were unsubstantiated) as he did on the Stoney and Wojo radio show on Friday. Yet, McCosky doesn't seem to find Stoney talking about the issue, only bloggers, who, stayed largely away from the issue.

I like McCosky's work covering the Pistons, and his segments on WDFN. He should stick to that, because here, he's completely off-base, largely because of his own inaccurate reporting about whom was talking about the Zumaya rumors. If he had his facts right, and cited blogs which he found so objectionable, and still wrote that he didn't think "bloggers were journalists," I could respectfully disagree with that. But here, because he mischaracterizes Detroit Tigers blogs and what they were (or, in this case, were not) talking about, his column rings hollow.

Guess I did have something to say about that after all.

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Weekend Political Wrap-Up: Obama Scores, Bloomberg Waits in the Shadows?

Not only was it a big weekend in Detroit Sports but there was quite a big of politics to talk about this weekend, and on the heels of asking Is Hillary Clinton Tough Enough To Be President? let's take a look at what happened this weekend in Presidential Politics.

** Barack Obama Appears on Saturday Night Live ** Saturday Night Live, despite perhaps losing some of its relevance over the years, is still a big platform for Presidential hopefuls, and Barack Obama made his mark Saturday Night, appearing in the show's opening sketch to dig Hillary Clinton. It was a funny sketch, and Obama had good timing, and came off well. The video is embedded below.

I've always thought that "stiff" politicians, like Bob Dole and Al Gore, have always came off very well when they appeared on SNL, and I always contended had they appeared on SNL while they were running for President (instead of after) they may have been better off. On the heels of a successful debate on Tuesday, Obama continued gaining momentum with his SNL appearance.

** Barack Obama Continues Pressuring Hillary Clinton A national poll may have found that Hillary Clinton remained unscathed despite her debate performance Barack Obama kept the pressure on in a speech in South Carolina.

“She’s also a skilled politician,” Obama said, “and she’s run what Washington would call a ‘textbook’ campaign. But the problem is the textbook itself. It’s a textbook that’s all about winning elections, but says nothing about how to bring the country together to solve problems. As we saw in the debate last week, it encourages vague, calculated answers to suit the politics of the moment instead of clear, consistent principles about how you would lead America. It teaches you that you can promise progress for everyday people while striking a bargain with the very special interests who crowd them out.”

I like the textbook analogy a lot. And he's right, Clinton has run, until last Tuesday, a flawless campaign which very much could be considered "textbook." But, the analogy also fits very neatly into the narrative Obama is trying to write. Will it work in Iowa, where Obama needs to win to give himself a chance to topple the Clinton political machine? Maybe. But even if it doesn't, it's nice to see Obama sharpen the distinctions between himself and Clinton, and now nobody can say he's going down without a fight. Obama also had an effective counter-argument to the Clinton camp's argument that he is engaging in negative campaigning when interviewed by the Washington Post.
Clinton's campaign has accused Obama of trading the politics of hope for a series of negative attacks. Obama responded by saying, "I think it would be hard to argue that we are engaging in negative campaigning when we're making a basic argument about why I'd be the best candidate, and show the differences that we have not just on policy but on our approach to leadership."

** New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg: Will He Run? ** If the media loves something more than a potential fight between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, it's speculating about whether New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will make a third-party run for the White House in 2008. He continues to say he isn't interested, but he also is the subject of much speculation, and there are plenty of people who would love to see a Bloomberg campaign. Fiscally conservative but socially liberal on many issues, Bloomberg could bring together a lot of the population who is tired of the partisan bickering in Washington. And this week, he's subject of a cover story in Newsweek about his life and his potential candidacy. For anybody following the 2008 campaign, the article is a must-read, as despite Bloomberg's denials, if he runs, it will change everything. And not just because he can finance his campaign entirely by himself, without taking a dime from anybody (much less taking a dime from special interests) allowing him to do anything he wanted as President without worrying about angering his donors. Because he wouldn't have any. That's amazing to think about.

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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Jerry Seinfeld to Larry King: "Do You Know Who I Am?"

This video is making the rounds online, but it's too funny not to put up a post about. Jerry Seinfeld was on Larry King Live earlier this week, to promote his new cartoon film, Bee Movie. King, asking Jerry about the ending of Seinfeld, wanted to confirm his belief that Jerry chose to end Seinfeld, rather than the show being canceled. Seinfeld's reaction made for the following hilarious exchange:

I think my favorite part is at the end when Seinfeld says "Can I get a resume in here Larry can go over." I don't know if Larry found it funny, but I sure did.

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Is Hillary Clinton Tough Enough to be President?

It has been a few days now since Tuesday's Democratic Debate in Philadelphia, plenty of time for the dust to settle and the campaigns to spin and hone their messages in response to their candidate's performances, and I think a real question that has to be asked coming out of that debate, aside from the individual policy differences between the candidates, is whether the front-runner for the Democratic nomination (and, in fact, the Presidency), Hillary Clinton, is tough enough to be President of the United States.

Usually, using the adjective "tough" to describe a Presidential candidate or questioning the "toughness" of a Presidential candidate would not be that out of the ordinary. But with Senator Clinton being the first woman with a legitimate chance of winning the Presidency, one has to be careful, just as the candidates have to be (and have) been careful, to not draw distinctions simply based on the gender of the candidates. But, in watching how Senator Clinton and her advisers have tried to "spin" her now admittedly poor performance in Tuesday's debate, she has opened the door to this kind of criticism, and it has nothing to do with whether a woman should be President, and everything to do with how this woman candidate is acting. Take a video released by her campaign for example. It's a well put together clip of all the times the other candidates mentioned Senator Clinton's name during the debate, with the tag line of "The Politics of Pile On" as opposed to Barack Obama's tag line that he practices "The Politics of Hope."

By trying to garner sympathy and support by claiming "the guys are ganging up on me" and "piling on," as Clinton's campaign put it, Senator Clinton is trying to exploit her difference in gender, while at the same time trying to also say she's as strong, or stronger than any of her male counterparts. No male candidate could, with a straight face, complain about other candidates "piling on," but Clinton can, and has, and maybe that's smart, because, 60% of Democratic voters are women, and there's support she can gain there, but it makes me uneasy, and it should make Democratic voters uneasy.

Elsewhere, her campaign has blamed her bad performance on tough questions from debate co-moderator Tim Russert. Her campaign leaked to Drudge that his questions "bordered on unprofessional" and a campaign conference call had one participant suggest that Russert should be "shot." Now I watched the entire debate, and there is no doubt, Russert asks tough questions, and a lot of those questions were directed at Senator Clinton, but that's what one should expect if one is the front-runner. And none of his questions were that unfair, from asking Hillary about why she told a mass audience one thing about Social Security reform and another to an individual privately, or why she won't release her records from the National Archives (her answer there was borderline dishonest by trying to first claim the Archives were releasing her records, which President Clinton has actively prevented), or what her view was on a controversial drivers license bill in her home state of New York. And if I learned anything from Scooter Libby's conviction earlier in the year, it's that Tim Russert wins credibility contests with politicians. Americans trust Russert, and rightly so, and attacking him, or his credibility, won't work.

And if Clinton can't handle questions from Tim Russert, or can't handle policy jabs from her fellow candidates, how will she be able to handle a general election, much less the life and death decisions she'll face in the White House as President? The Republicans, especially given their hatred for everything Clinton, will make Russert and the Barack Obama and John Edwards' of the world look like softies. And what about when Clinton sits across the table from foreign leaders who may not have the progressive view most Americans do, and may not take her seriously because she's a woman? Is she going to say then that those leaders are treating her unfairly because she's a woman? And if she does, what can she do about it? To be President, whether you are a man or a woman, you have to be able to handle the criticisms and the attacks which come with holding the office. And as Clinton and her campaign has shown this week, they may not be able to handle that pressure. As Barack Obama said today Clinton is trying to use her gender as a shield.

"So it doesn't make sense for her, after having run that way for eight months, the first time that people start challenging her point of view, that suddenly she backs off and says: 'Don't pick on me'," he said.

Senator Clinton is trying to have it both ways. She needs to appear tough and able to handle anything that comes her way as President, but at the same time, she and her campaign complain about Tim Russert asking her tough questions, and her opponents challenging her record (or, her refusal to release his records as the case may be). Conveniently, that's exactaly the kind of "double speak" Senator Obama and John Edwards are jumping on. And I think more than anything else, that is the question people need to be asking about Senator Clinton. Can she really handle being President? Because, not being able to handle a few tough questions from one of the most respected members of the national media, certainly does not lead one to believe that she can. Now, how best Obama and Edwards can exploit this weakness, especially given the nature of Iowa caucus-goers to punish those who appear to be campaigning negatively, that's a post for another day.

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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Video: Bonds May Boycott Baseball Hall of Fame

It was a humorous gimmick. Fashion designer Marc Ecko purchased Barry Bonds 756th Home Run ball and allowed internet voters decide what to do with it. While 19% wanted to launch the ball into space, and 34% wanted to give it to the Hall of Fameas is, the winning majority (47%) voted to give the ball to Hall, but only after branding it with an asterisk first, a sign of baseball fans disapproval of Bonds alleged steroid use.

Now, Bonds says should Ecko go through with branding the baseball, and the Hall of Fame go through with accepting the ball (which they have said they would), he will boycott the Hall of Fame. Should he be inducted, Bonds told Jim Gray, interviewing him on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight, "that he would won't be part of it, I won't be there, you can call me but I won't be there." I've embedded the video below.

My thought is, if Barry Bonds wants to boycott the Hall of Fame, who cares? I don't think Major League Baseball will be too broken up about not having to deal with Bonds, and honestly, his record-breaking home run ball being branded with an asterisk, leading to his boycott of the Hall of Fame, would put a nice bow on Barry Bonds' tainted career. Bonds can continue to claim he did not knowingly use performance enhancing drugs, but that claim strains credibility the more one looks into Bonds' history, statistics, and the controversy which oozed from the Bay Area Lab Co-Operative (BALCO).

Plus, this all assumes that Bonds will be elected to the Hall of Fame. While there is no question, steroids or not, BALCO or not, that Bonds is one of the best players ever to play the game, he was never a favorite of the media before the steroid allegations. Now, especially if Bonds is indicted and/or convicted of lying to the BALCO grand-jury about his alleged steroid use, or it otherwise is proven that Bonds knowingly used steroids or other performance enhancing drugs, he may never have a chance to boycott the Hall, who may choose instead to boycott him.

You have to give credit to Olbermann in getting Bonds to sit down for an interview, even if Jim Gray, and not Keith, did the interview. Bonds hardly ever sits down for one-on-one interviews with the media, and I'm actually a bit surprised Olbermann and MSNBC did not try to make this a bigger deal ahead of time. I think the interview, and some of Bonds quotes, may get talked about a lot in the coming days (maybe I'm wrong) and it could have maybe gained Countdown some extra juice (pun intended) in the ratings. Then again, Part 2 of the Bonds interview airs tomorrow on Countdown (8:00 EST on MSNBC) maybe they had ratings in mind after all.

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Detroit Tigers Lose Joel Zumaya Until At Least Midway Through 2008 Season

Just days after the Detroit Tigers made a big step toward returning to the World Series trading for All Star shortstop Edgar Renteria the Tigers organization announced a significant setback Thursday as potential new closer Joel Zumaya underwent joint reconstructive surgery on his shoulder and is expected to miss at least the first half of the 2008 season. As my colleague Danny Knobler reported, Zumaya injured his shoulder helping his family move personal items as a result of the San Diego wildfires:

Zumaya was moving personal items after the wildfires that affected areas near his San Diego home, and suffered an injury that required AC joint reconstruction. The surgery was performed Wednesday, and was announced by the Tigers today.

The Tigers said that Zumaya will have to rest his shoulder for the next six weeks, and will begin a throwing program in approximately four months. That would be during spring training, and the Tigers say they're hopeful Zumaya would be ready to pitch sometime during the 2008 season.

This is just the latest in a series of freak injuries to the Tigers young phenom, who electrifies Comerica Park crowds by regularly topping 100 miles-per-hour on the radar gun. In the Tigers World series run in 2004, Zumaya famously (or infamously) missed time because of wrist inflammation allegedly caused by playing too much of the video game Guitar Hero. Then last season, Zumaya missed over half the season after dislocating a finger on his pitching hand. Now, he'll miss almost half the season after moving items due to the wildfires in San Diego.

This injury puts even more pressure on the Tigers to re-sign veteran closer Todd Jones, who may consider signing with his hometown Atlanta Braves rather then return to his beloved Tigers. Zumaya likely would have assumed the closers role in Jones' absence, but with Zumaya out, should Jones leave, the closing duties will fall to Fernando Rodney (unless, of course, the Tigers sign Mariano Rivera or former Tiger Francisco Cordero). The problem with moving Rodney to closer, though, is that with Zumaya out, the Tigers would be void of set-up men.

Re-signing Jones just became an immediate priority, and now that the need for a shortstop is taken care of, General Manager Dave Dombrowski will have to get to work rebuilding the Tigers bullpen, because without Zumaya, and potentially without Jones, no matter how many All Star offensive players the Tigers sign or trade for, they won't return to the post-season without solidifying their now very shaky bullpen.

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