Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Lightning Round -- Weekend Wrap Up

Wow. This was a busy weekend, both from a blog posting perspective, and from a real-life perspective. An engagement party. Two football games (and two victories). Seeing a movie for the first time in ages. And watching quite a bit of television as season premiere week continues. So, in case you missed it, here's a rundown of the posts from the past three days.

On Saturday, I wrote about the season premiere of the fifth season of Las Vegas which wrapped up the storylines of the characters of Nikki Cox and James Caan and introduced us to new casino owner Tom Selleck. It was pretty good, though I will miss Caan.

I also watched and wrote about Michigan's struggle to beat Northwestern on Saturday. And the more I think about it, the more similar Michigan and the Detroit Lions are. Good offenses, poor defenses, and both games Sunday were flipped, with the defense holding the team in despite poor offensive performances, only for the teams to wake up in the second half and win by double-digits.

Saturday night I ventured out to the movie theater (for the first time since watching Fracture during the spring) and watched and reviewed The Kingdom. I'm partial to anything staring Jennifer Garner, and after not being such a big fan of other, Middle Eastern/Current Event films (like Jarhead and Syriana) I was a big fan of The Kingdom. Poignant, powerful, action-packed and exciting. Even the humor worked. It's getting mixed-reviews (at best) and it was beaten out by The Rock's kids movie at the box office this week, but do yourself a favor and check out this movie. It's worth it.

Then Sunday was sports day. The Detroit Tigers wrapped up their season with a win and Magglio Ordonez won the batting title, Curtis Granderson put a bow on his amazing season by pushing his batting average over .300, Placido Polanco got his 200th hit of the year, and Carlos Guillen knocked home RBI 100. And Pudge Rodiguez may have played his last game as a Tiger. I had some quick thoughts on that too.

And then, finally, the Detroit Lions set an NFL record by scoring 34 fourth quarter points to defeat the Chicago Bears and improve to 3-1 on the season. The Lions are not an elite team, by far, but they are tough, and show a lot of heart, and after being nowhere for three quarters, they scored five touchdowns in the final fifteen minutes to stage a come from behind victory.

And with that, time to get some work done before Shark starts at 10:00 and Lions wrap-ups begin on the local news at 11:30. And Ebert and Roper review The Kingdom, and more, at 12:30. The weekend never stops.

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Detroit Lions Use Historic Fourth Quarter to Defeat Chicago

For three quarters, it seemed like the same story we had seen before. A Detroit Lions team failing to move the ball, at all. A costly redzone turnover. An offense failing to take advantage of a stiff defense giving them every opportunity to take the game by the throat. It was 13-3, Chicago Bears leading. The Bears, starting their backup quarterback, the Bears, without seven starters on defense, The Bears, 1-2, leading by 10, on the road. Mike Martz' innovative offense was oddly stagnant, as was the crowd, which was silent, all except the thousands of Bears fans, who had temporarily taken over Ford Field.

Then, suddenly, everything turned. Shaun McDonald scored. Then Keith Smith had an interception return for a touchdown (making up for one he had in his hands last year and dropped) and suddenly, in less than three minutes of game time, the Lions went from trailing 13-3 to leading 17-13. Ford Field was rocking. The Lions seemed to have everything under control. Then Devin Hester returned a kickoff for a touchdown, Chicago had the lead again, and all looked bleak.

There was a lot to be unhappy about as a Lions fan Sunday. The offense, which was the one saving grace for the Lions the first three weeks, reverted to a shell of itself for the the first thee quarters. The offensive line, after giving up nine sacks last week, surrendered six on Sunday. And while I was thrilled to see Mike Martz try to establish the run, after all but ignoring it the first part of the season, it wasn't working early, and too many series the Lions tried running on first and second downs instead of opening up their offense to take advantage of Chicago's decimated secondary. All of this was running through my head as the Bears re-took the lead in the fourth quarter.

But, then, something strange happened. The Lions didn't fold. After Hester's return, the Lions roared back, and 5 plays, 80 yards, and only 2:51 later, Troy Walters caught a beutiful ball form quarterback Jon Knita, dragged his feet in the corner of the endzone, and the Lions had the lead, again. And this time, for good.

The Lions then did something they have never really done before. They stopped Chicago three-and-out, then took over on a game-clinching, time-consuming, fourth-quarter touchdown drive. So often I have seen other teams ice games against the Lions on long drives where our defense could never come up with a stop. This time, it was Detroit on an 8 play, 62 yard drive chewing up over 5:00 of the clock. And with that, the game was over.


There were some exciting and frustrating moments to go (like Chicago's non-fumble, then touchdown, and then Casey Fitzsimmons running the onside kick attempt back for a score) but the Lions were 3-1. I don't want to get too ahead of myself, because after three quarters, I was ready to declare the season over in this blog entry, but the team continues to show heart, and continues to show they are a fighting team. Not many teams, after being held to 3 points in three quarters, would respond with 34 points and five touchdowns in the game's final 15 minutes. But the Lions did, and for this week at least, they deserve the bask in the adulation of victory.

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And the Detroit Tigers Had a Good Day Too; Plus: Pudge Done?

While a lot of the attention around Detroit is on the Detroit Lions victory over the Chicago bears, and the attention around baseball is focused on the historic collapse of the New York Mets (sorry Willy, Seth, and Alan, but congrats to Ben Wanger's Philadelphia Phillies) the Detroit Tigers finished their 2007 season today and despite not making the playoffs, and suffering through both a second-half slump and a rash of injuries, the season ended on a very positive note. Not only did the Tigers win their final game of the season (13-3 over the Chicago White Sox) but it was a banner day for a few individuals on the Tigers team.


Magglio Ordonez capped an incredible and MVP-worthy season by going 3 for 4 and winning the American League batting championship with a .363 average. It beats Norm Cash's amazing .361 season in 1961, and there isn't enough you can say about the season Magglio had. Neither can Curtis Granderson's season be properly praised. He finished his season with a 3-4 day, moving his batting average for the season over .300 (.302 to be exact) which is the holy line of demarcation in baseball, separating the men from the boys. He also added three more steals, giving him not only a .302 average, but 38 doubles, 23 home runs, 23 triples, 26 stolen bases, and 122 runs (3rd in the American League). He also knocked in 74 runs from the leadoff spot and played Gold Glove caliber centerfield. It will get completely overlooked, but it is not an exaggeration to say Granderson's year was one of the best all-around seasons in baseball history.

A few other Tigers hit milestones too, as Placido Polanco pushed his average above .340 (.341) and knocked through his 200th hit of the season. And Carlos Guillen had his 100th RBI of the season.

With such great individual seasons, it's really a shame the team's season has ended. But, the Tigers have a lot to be proud of this season. They fought through a lot of adversity, and individually, had some incredible seasons. Next year, though, it will be the team that hopefully is celebrating in October.

9:30 Update: Reading Kurt's great wrap-up of the Tigers season at Mack Avenue Tigers he noticed that Danny Knobler is reporting that Pudge Rodriguez has likely played his last game as a Tiger as the team is not expected to pick up his $13 million option for 2008. This stuns me, and I'll have more thoughts when it becomes official, but I think it's a big mistake. Yes, $13 million is overpaying Pudge, significantly. But there are no other options, no other good catchers available (at least not without a trade). And it's really only $10 million, because Pudge gets a $3 million buy-out regardless. Is Pudge the player he used to be? No. But he's still solid, he's great defensively (and still scares opposing runners even if he doesn't have a great arm anymore), and he's the best option the Tigers have. Especially when they have a huge void at shortstop, left-field, perhaps two spots in the starting pitching rotation, and perhaps closer to fill. Now we have to add catcher to the list. That's one too many holes for a team that's this close to being an elite team and making it back to the World Series. Maybe GM Dave Dombrowski will surprise me and acquire a solid replacement for Pudge, but at least right now, considering the other spots we have to fix on our roster, Pudge may not have been a superstar, but he was solid, which is a lot more than we can say about the position right now.

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What I'm Watching -- The Kingdom

I don't watch a lot of movies in the theater. DVDs, sure. But, even movies I see previews for, and think "Hey, that would be fun to go watch" I usually don't, for whatever reason. But, when I first heard the premise for The Kingdom, about a group of FBI agents investigating a terrorist bombing in Saudi Arabia, I knew I wanted to see it in theater. Maybe it was Jennifer Garner. Probably. Closest to Syndey Bristow she's played in the movies, and The Kingdom was directed by Peter Berg, who coincidentally guest starred on Garner's television show, Alias. Berg put a lot of people he knew and worked with before into the movie. Early on, I was struck by how attractive a school-teacher was in an early scene with Jamie Foxx's character, I was later unsurprised to find out she was played by Minka Kelly, who plays a cheerleader on the television show Friday Night Lights, which Berg helped bring to the small-screen after he directed the feature film version. Berg's real-life agent is Ari Emanuel, who is the inspiration behind Jeremy Piven's character on Entourage. Piven appears in the movie in a great role as a slimy State Department official. Even Kyle Chandler stops by for a cameo (Chandler plays the head coach on Friday Night Lights).

Seeing Jamie Foxx in a movie set in the Middle East though, that gave me pause. I saw Jarhead in the theater was was bored out of my mind. I also saw Syriana, and thought it was just fair. So, my history with movies set in the present-day Middle East, not so good. But, despite that history, and despite mediocre reviews, I thought The Kingdom was great, and I would highly recommend it.

The cast is top notch. Garner and Foxx are joined by the underrated and always solid Chris Cooper (who was phenomenal in Breach, a movie I always wanted to see and just saw a few weeks back), Jason Bateman, and Jeremy Piven. I tend to like Berg's movies (Friday Night Lights and The Rundown to name two) and I thought The Kingdom was the best of the three. It was powerful, suspenseful, had some great action, and the light-comedy contained in the movie was well placed and provided a breather in between bombings and shootouts. The acting was great, as was the overall story, and I really don't understand the negative reviews. The last scene, especially, was almost chilling. This is a great film, one of the best I have seen in a while.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Michigan Defeats Northwestern But Lloyd Carr Still Makes No Sense

The University of Michigan football team just completed a victory over the Northwestern Wildcats. Yet, there should be no joy in Ann Arbor tonight. No celebrations. The Wildcats, who were blown off the field last week, losing 58-7 to Ohio State gave Michigan all they could handle and then some, leading by nine at into the half, and holding that lead until a fourth quarter collapse, which in fairness to Michigan, was helped along by three straight turnovers the defense forced. Yes, the final score was 28-16, which looks like a quality win, but the score is nowhere near indicative of how close Michigan came to disaster. Again.

Despite the big margin of victory, why couldn't Michigan look stronger against an obviously weaker and inferior opponent? Most of the blame belongs to Lloyd Carr. I know Carr gets a lot of heat, more than he should, and I have always defended him in the past(until this season anyway). But, today, I lost faith in Carr's ability to make the decisions needed to set the program in the right direction, and it all is based on Carr's handling of his quarterback situation.

Senior Chad Henne, after looking awful the first two weeks of the season (both losses) missed the past two weeks with a knee injury. True freshman Ryan Mallett has stepped in, and while looking like he's in a bit over his head (at times), he has made a lot of quality throws, and has led Michigan to two victories. This week, Henne was medically cleared to play and the question was, who was Michigan's quarterback. For at least a half, it appeared even Lloyd Carr didn't know the answer.

Henne started the game, looked very sharp, drove Michigan down the field, and the team started off with a quick 7-0 lead. All looked good. Then, inexplicably, Henne was removed from the game. Mallett came in. And did nothing. Drive after drive. Nothing. Suddenly, a 7-0 lead was a 16-7 deficit, and Mallett was still having problems moving the football. Was Henne hurt? No. Apparently, this was Carr's brilliant gameplan. An effort to "ease" Henne back into action.

What a disastrous decision which should have cost Michigan the football game. Either Henne was healthy enough to play, or he wasn't. If he's healthy, he should play the whole game. If he's not, then Mallett should play the whole game. Having Henne play one successful series then watch the rest of the half, while his team fell further and further behind, was ridiculous. Thankfully, Carr came to his senses at halftime, Henne played the entire second half, and he led Michigan to a come-from-behind victory. The whole quarterback rotation was truly mystifying and even now, after the game, I still don't completely understand it.

And, why can't Michigan get a kicker who can, you know, kick? Jason Gingell may be a good guy, and a good teammate, but he's a horrendous field goal kicker. He missed two more today, including a chip-shot 26-yard attempt. 26 yards ! At some point, Carr has to make a change there, and has to start recruiting top kickers to this school. Ever since my freshman year and Hayden Epstein graduated, we've had nobody (with all due apologies to the mediocre but better-than-anybody-else-we've-had Garrett Rivas). How many years do we have to suffer through this before we recruit somebody that can kick?

So, bottom line, despite the negativity of this post, and the inexplainable decisions by Coach Carr, Michigan did win, and continue their march towards the Big Ten Title and another Rose Bowl Birth. Hopefully we look a bit better next week against Eastern Michigan, but I'm not holding my breath.

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What I'm Watching -- Las Vegas Season Five Premiere

Last night was the season premiere of NBC's vastly underrated Las Vegas and after having to wrap up last season's explosive season finale and deal with deal with the departures of James Caan and Nikki Cox the show did a great job of bringing everything together in its two-hour season starter.

I liked the debut of Tom Selleck as the new owner of the Montecito, but I still think that the show will suffer from Caan's absence. The way they handled his characters disappearance, vanishing from the hotel after being sought after for killing Mary's abusive father, was well done, and hopefully he'll be back in some guest spots from time to time. I also like how they aren't just shaking off Sam's escape from her kidnapper. Her suffering some after-effects from that episode makes sense, and I'm glad they just didn't blow things off and have her return to normal like nothing happened.

This seems like it will be a good, albeit different, season of Las Vegas without Caan but with Selleck. You can already tell, though, that they want to establish Selleck's character as someone who has his own way of doing things, and shaking things up among the remaining cast should be a good thing as the season continues.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hillary Clinton Never Takes a Stand and Other Democratic Debate Thoughts

Sometimes art imitates life. But, as I keep learning, a lot of times, life imitates art. And with the current fight for the Democratic nomination for President, this is really starting to look like a flashback of Senator John Hoynes' failed nomination fight on The West Wing, shown during the series second season.

Josh Lyman: Senator, you're the prohibitive favorite to be the Democratic Party's nominee for President. You have 58 million dollars in a war chest with no end in sight, and... I don't know what we're for.

Senator Hoynes:
Josh.

Josh: I don't know what we're for, and I don't know what we're against. Except we seem to be for winning and against somebody else winning.

Hoynes: It's a start.

I just watched the great two-hour MSNBC Democratic Debate, and other than coming away thinking that Tim Russert should moderate every debate, I have a few other thoughts. The first of which is, like the quote from The West Wing's second season above, I don't know what Senator Clinton is for. And I don't know what she's against. She refuses to answer anything, and unlike most of the other candidates, she doesn't even try to hide it. "I won't answer that . . . That's a hypothetical and I don't discuss hypotheticals . . . I won't put anything on the proverbial table . . . I won't negotiate against myself . . . I don't discuss the private conversations between myself and my husband."

Is it smart politics? Yes. By not saying anything, she can't get tagged later in the general election. But, as much as she wants to be the Democratic nominee for President, and as much as she thinks she already is the Democratic nominee, and no matter how many polls put her 20-points or more up on the field, she is not the Democratic nominee. And I don't understand how people can support a candidate who is running for President who doesn't tell people what they are for and what they are against.

Somebody needs to challenge her on that and it's becoming obvious that Barack Obama won't. And he's never going to win the nomination without going on offense at some point. I know he wants to come across with a "new kind of politics" and "turn the page" on the politics of the past, but he can't neuter himself. You can attack Clinton's policies without attacking Clinton the person and he can't be afraid to do that. John Edwards did a great job of that tonight.

Edwards, as well as Joe Biden, had good nights. I like Biden more and more every time I see him. Sure, he's not going to win, but he's the only one, especially when compared to Clinton, to actually answer questions, and he's incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to Iraq and foreign policy. Would he make a good President? I don't know. But he needs a prominent role in our government.

Using the West Wing quote to start this entry is a great comparison I think to this nomination fight. The start of that scene was Josh debating with other advisors to Senator Hoynes that Social Security needed to be front and center of the campaign. Senator Clinton, like Senator Hoynes, doesn't want to put any issue front and center, because she has such a big lead, that the more people learn about her, the more likely it is, they'll go to another candidate. I really believe that. She started with such a big lead because of her reputation, and name recognition, and the great work her husband did. So it allows her to take an "above the fray" approach. And unless somebody knocks her down a peg, she'll stay up there until she gets into the White House.
Josh: Mark, at 400 billion dollars Social Security represents one-fourth of the federal budget, and it's gonna be bankrupt in exactly 17 years. Right around the time you're going to check your mailbox, half of the elderly population will be living in poverty. This now, qualifies as a priority, and running for President of the United States not putting Social Security front and center is like running for President of the Walt Disney Corporation by saying you're gonna fix the rides at Epcot.

Mark: We're gonna get to Social Security, Josh. It's a long campaign. For now, we focus on the tax cuts.

Candy: It's what magicians call 'misdirection.'

Josh: Really? 'Case it's what the rest of us call bull--

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What I'm Watching -- Boston Legal's Season Premiere

After attending yet another Detroit Tigers game (which we won, 8-0, making me 1-1 for the week) I caught up on Boston Legal's 90-minute season premiere this afternoon, and it was its usual solid self. Like most David E. Kelley shows, and like, well, the first three seasons of Boston Legal, the show has undergone a cast renovation during the off-season (as I discussed back in June and the results aren't too bad. I love the addition of John Larroquette, and he's playing the perfect character, the gruff lawyer with a good heart, the same role he played for an episode on The West Wing when he guest started as White House Counsel back in the show's second season. Tara Summers made a nice debut as well. And I like how Mark Valley's Brad Chase moved over to the Distract Attorney's office instead of just vanishing like a lot of actors have in the past off Boston Legal. I still miss Julie Bowen though. I don't know if it was Bowen's choice not to return (she recently had a child) or if it was the producers choice, but she remains one of my favorite television actresses.

As you can tell by my last few entries, along with attending a few Tigers games this week, I've been watching a lot TV with it being season premiere week and all. Tonight I'll likely check out NBC's Life and ABC's Dirty Sexy Money, both at 10:00, but my focus likely will be on MSNBC's Democratic Presidential Debate. This has been a fun week. TV is back, and not a moment too soon.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What I'm Watching -- Prison Break and Heroes

So after attending yet another Detroit Tigers loss last night (and another tonight as a matter of fact, not a loss (well, not for sure a loss) but a game) I finally caught up this afternoon on yesterday's second episode of Prison Break's season and the season premiere of Heroes. After watching all of the bonus features and listening to all the actor/writer/producer commentaries on the Heroes DVD s over the past month or so, I was ready for the start of the new season. And how was it? Good but underwhleming. But, since Prison Break is broadcast earlier, let's deal with that episode first.

Despite sluggish ratings its first two weeks Prison Break has gotten off to a great start in its third season. The show has consistently improved from season-to-season and this year is no different. The problem I had with the first season, despite thinking it was great, was that Michael was two steps ahead of everyone. Sure, he had a slight problem with the false break-out early in the first season, and some other problems along the way, but nothing seemed to really phase him. Season Two, with the introduction of Mahone, the FBI agent on the trial of Michael and Lincoln and the rest of the gang, upped the ante, because in many ways, Mahone was Michael's intellectual equal. It was a fair fight. This year, with the introduction of Lechero, SONA's prisoner/dictator, Michael has to think even more outside the box than he has in the past. Monday's episode, with the potential death of Whistler, the man Michael must help break out of SONA, was exciting, and only two episodes into the season we're already well underway. More people need to start watching this show, because it is continuously improving.

As for Heroes, the season premier was good, but certainly not great. Even airing with limited commercial interruption, it seemed they tried to pack too much into the little less than an hour that they had. Obviously, things have changed in the past four months (Matt Parkman survived his attack from Sylar, is living with Mohinder and caring for Molly after divorcing his wife, Nathan is a drunk and (not in Congress? Maybe in Congress?) after saving New York from his brother Peter, who showed up at the end of the episode in Ireland with no memory, Claire and her family have relocated and gone underground, and Mohinder is working with HRG to take down the Company from the inside) and they introduced a few new characters as well. It almost seemed like too much. And I hated how they handled the death of Hiro's father. The storyline of people going after the first generation of Heroes (or, maybe the "older" generation is more accurate) is fine. But how it actually came off, with a small masked figure tackling George Takei off the famed Heroes rooftop wasn't great. Maybe the masked-person seemed too small or non-threatening but it was somewhat mediocre for such a large and important death and story-point.

I did, though, like Hiro's storyline in feudal Japan. Having David Anders play Hiro's hero Takezo Kensei is an interesting but really intrigued choice and his character, as a drunk Englishman who somehow becomes a legendary Japanese hero, adds all sorts of interesting directions for them to go. And as a big Alias fan back in the day, Anders, who was great as Sark, should be good to go here. Curiously, the California born Anders, who played a British con-man on Alias, and is now playing a British con-man on Heroes, is doing so with a completely different British accent than he had on Alias. It should be fun to see Hiro try to "coach-up" his own hero and how he'll interact with Ando in the future.

Overall, a good start, but hopefully it'll get better, and less cluttered and rushed, in weeks to come (but with such a big cast and so many storylines, it may be hard to do so).

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Same Old Detroit Lions? This Week At Least

After starting the season 2-0, and showing confidence not seen in years, the Detroit Lions took a gigantic step backwards on Sunday. The score is 35-7 and there is still 11:30 to go in the first half. No, that is not a typo. The Philadelphia Eagles have scored a touchdown on every possession (including twice on one-play drives with two long passes to Kevin Curtis) and have 317 yards in just over one quarter of action. The Detroit Lions offense is not much better, scoring on one touchdown drive, and going 3 and out with lots of sacks in between. It's been about as big of a disaster as one could imagine, and there's still 10:00 to go in the half now.

The only good news is Kevin Jones, returning from a Lisfranc injury, looks good in limited action, and has the Lions only touchdown. Otherwise, quarterback Jon Kitna has been sacked four times already, and now, Calvin Johnson just made an incredible catch, but was very very slow to get up, and it doesn't look good. So even when things go well today, it leads to something bad.

The Lions wanted to convince the world they were not the same team they were the last time they were 2-0, when they were blown out at home by the Philadelphia Eagles in the third game of the season and finished the year 6-10. The only thing that looks different today though is the stadium where the Eagles blowout is taking place.

The only thing to hope for now is that Calvin Johnson's injury is not too serious, and that the Lions are able to at least make the game close and not lose all of the confidence they had coming into this game. Because it is just one game.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Michigan Defeats Penn State -- Yawn

Sometimes there are football games with two evenly matched teams that go back and forth throughout the entire game, neither team willing to give an inch, and at the end, you say "Wow, neither team deserved to lose that game."

This afternoon's Michigan-Penn State game was not one of those games. In many ways it was the exact opposite, with Michigan winning 14-9 only because it seemed as if Penn State wanted to win just a little bit less than Michigan did. It was a pretty mindless game overall, with both offenses sputtering along, with Lloyd Carr and Joe Paterno fighting it out to determine whom was going to call a more conservative offense game. Turns out, some teams like to run the ball for no gain even more than the Wolverines.

Not to say there weren't some positives for Michigan. The defense, especially in the first half, put a lot of pressure on Penn State's offense. They weren't able to get to the quarterback nearly as much in the second half, but the early pressure was good. Mike Hart continued to look like a one-man machine and set the all-time Michigan record for 100-yard-plus rushing games. And Ryan Mallett, while missing some throws, and at times looking like a true freshman (which, in his defense, he is) looked poised and shows flashes of the quarterback we'll see in the next three seasons.

At times though, you just wish Lloyd Carr would open up the playbook and let Mallett loose. Michigan lost the Notre Dame game three seasons ago, Chad Henne's first, because Henne was a true freshman and Carr pulled back the reigns and didn't let him truly test the Notre Dame defense. Today felt like it was going to be one of those games. Michigan kept running the ball, often for no gain, on first and second down, instead of letting Mallett throw early. Either Carr has confidence in his quarterback or he doesn't. And if he doesn't, then he shouldn't be playing. But, of course Mallett should be out there, as he's shown leading the Wolverines to victory the last two games. So, let him play is all.

So, Michigan is now 2-2, 1-0 in the Big Ten, and have some easy games ahead. Looks like a big battle is brewing against Michigan State in a few weeks time. We'll see if Michigan can continue to salvage this season yet.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Geunius of Jake Byrd at the OJ Simpson Trial

I love the fact that OJ Simpson is back in the news and back on trial. It's great. First, it gives me a chance to redeem myself. See, back when OJ was on trial the first time, when I was in middle school, I was convinced of his innocence. I tried to tell people (and honestly believed at the time) that my opinion on the Juice's innocence had nothing to do with his past history as a football legend, but I was obviously blinded by that. Everyone signed my yearbook that year, no joke, "Have a great summer. P.S. OJ is Guilty." I still remember the afternoon the verdict was read. A huge group of us piled into Mr. Koponen's room (my 7th grade English teacher) because he was the only one with a working TV. And when the verdict came down not guilty, the room was silent. Except for me. I cheered. Not one of my prouder moments when I look back on it. Although, I still believe, as a matter of law, there was reasonable doubt in that trial, and the verdict was still likely the right verdict from a legal standpoint. From an actual "did OJ do it" standpoint, I'm no long in that camp.

So, OJ is in trouble again, which brings back so many memories of watching that trial (and I watched it from start to finish) and the launching of careers (like Fox News' Greta Van Susteren and ESPN sports legal analyst Roger Cossack who both worked for CNN at the time). It also brings out comedian Jake Byrd. Byrd loves getting himself on television, and yesterday, at the press conference OJ's lawyer held announcing his release from jail, Byrd planted himself right next to the lawyer (and the microphone) and "helped" answer many of the questions that were asked. He was hilarious, wore an OJ T-Shirt and an "I Heart Famous People" hat and Morning Joe this morning had the video. It's awesome video.

video

I do have to say though, OJ's lawyer really didn't impress me. Answering one of the questions on the video, the lawyer said he did not see a distinction between "not guilty" and "innocent" (Jake Byrd, helpfully, said "he's both dude!"). Of course there's a distinction though. "Innocent" means you didn't do the crime. "Not Guilty" means maybe you didn't do the crime, but in any case, there isn't enough evidence to convict you of that crime beyond a reasonable doubt. "Not Guilty" is a legal standard. "Innocent" is a categorical statement about whether or not you did it or not. At least regarding that question Jake Byrd, not the lawyer, had it right.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

24 Season 7 -- Already In Trouble

Despite the fact that the seventh season of FOX's addicting and thrilling 24 won't start until January, the network sent out a press release this afternoon, and it contained, well, a stunning revelation. (This would be the point, if you don't want to be spoiled, to check out my post on Keith Olbermann's ratings)

"Day 7" of 24 will continue the show's unique and trend-setting format with compelling new elements. With CTU dismantled, the show's setting moves to Washington, DC, where JACK BAUER (Kiefer Sutherland) faces trial for his actions in the pursuit of justice. Bauer's day gets off to a shocking start when former colleague TONY ALMEIDA (Carlos Bernard), last seen in "Day 5," returns after being left for dead by a terrorist conspirator in CTU's infirmary.

"Tony's uncertain fate near the end of 'Day 5' left the door open for his return," said executive producer/show-runner Howard Gordon. "And since there was no silent clock at the conclusion of his last appearance the 24 tribute to a major character's demise we always kept this as a possibility."

There were rumors of Tony's return floating around during the run-up to the season six season finale. I didn't like the idea back then and I don't like it now. Yes, 24 got stale last season, and suffered, by far, its weakest effort to date. And yes, Tony Almeida was one of the show's best characters. But, he's dead. Or should be. 24 may be known for its twists and turns, but to try to get around Tony's death, which we saw happen, because the writers have run out of other ideas, isn't the way to breathe new life into the show.

Season 7 could be good, without Tony's return. CTU is gone. So is the setting of Los Angeles. And the cast is almost entirely turned over, save for the only two characters worth bringing back, Chloe O'Brian and Bill Buchanan. And the new cast members, including Janeane Garofalo (who some find annoying, but I really enjoyed in West Wing last year) are more than enough to change things up without getting desperate. And bringing back Tony, no matter how great of a character he is, is just that. Desperate.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Ann Arbor Police: "We'll Get The Bar In The Long Run"

So this was interesting last night. I have some friends I went to undergrad with back in town for the big 0-2 Michigan versus 0-2 Notre Dame game, and they wanted to check out some of the old bars they used to go to in undergrad. One of the bars we checked out was Studio 4. Here's where things get interesting.

Apparently, Studio 4 has a reputation for allowing in underage patrons into their bar. I never had heard about this before yesterday, and they seemed pretty strict at the door when we went in, but that's the reputation. And the Ann Arbor Police Department apparently also knows about this reputation because about a half hour or so after we arrived, two or three police officers were walking around the bar. The first thought was, "this has to be great for business." What bar owner doesn't want police walking around their establishment? The second thought was trying to figure out what the police were doing.

It quickly became apparent that the police were there to curtail the underage drinking going on at the bar. That's a fine use of police resources, I have no problem with it. But, what was weird was how the police were trying to stop the underage drinking at the bar. Instead of citing the bar for violating Michigan liquor laws, or shutting down the bar, the police were seemingly indiscriminately questioning those who looked under 21. If you looked young, and had a drink in your hand, you were likely to be asked by a police officer for your ID. If it was a fake, you were escorted out, and allegedly (though I did not see this first hand) given a "minor in possession" citation.

This seems incredible inefficient to me. You are the police trying to prevent underage drinking and you are at a bar known to be serving underage drinkers. You have two options:

A) Shut down the bar, ticketing the establishment, and potentially begin proceedings to strip the bar's liquor license.

B) Walk around the bar, stop people seemingly at random (especially those who look young), hand out citations to them (but not the bar).

"Option B" doesn't get to the root of the problem. Sure, you may cause a lot of the underage drinkers to scatter, but in the long run, they'll be back. Either you want to prevent underage drinking or you don't.

So last night, I went up to the one of the police officers (I don't drink so I figured I had nothing to lose by trying to satisfy my curiosity) and asked about the policy of ticketing patrons but not the bar. "We'll get the bar in the long run" was the officer's response. What does that even mean? They knew the bar was allowing in and serving alcohol to underage patrons. They were at the bar, standing around. But, the decision was made to let the bar continue serving minors while the police tried to determine who was underage and who wasn't and taking out the ones they could find but not all of the underage drinkers?

The policy, to me, doesn't make any sense. Am I missing something?

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Admin Notes: Rebuilding the Sidebar

See what happens when you try to change some things around the blog when you are out of practice with HTML and have no idea how to use the Blogger software? As you may (or, actually, probably haven't noticed) my blog's sidebar is missing many of the links which were there earlier tonight. That's a result of me experimenting with a new Blogger template (which is three columned, which I like, and may try to implement again at some point in the future) which then wiped out most of my links when I tired to revert back to this current template. Oops. Have no fear, I'll rebuild the links, if not tomorrow, sometime this weekend.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Keith Olbermann Overtakes O'Reilly; Morning Joe Discusses

While the overall audience for Fox News' Bill O'Reilly remains much higher than that of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, the gap is shrinking by the week, and according to TV Newser, Olbermann defeated O'Reilly in the 25-54 demographic on Friday night, the first time Olbermann has done so when O'Reilly was not in repeats or had a guest host. Many are crediting Olbermann's gains to his appearances on NBC's "Football Night in America" where Olbermann has become a halftime panelist, bringing over his "Worst Person in the World" bit to a much wider audience. As CBSNews.com's Matthew Felling speculated on Morning Joe this morning, perhaps Olbermann's move to NBC is paying dividends by exposing sports fans, who remember Olbermann from his SportsCenter days and are now checking out his cable news program.

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To be fair, though, the Morning Joe team made it seem as if Olbermann had more viewers than O'Reilly overall, which he did not, but as Olbermann pointed out himself on Friday, all that he cares about (and all anyone should care about) are the demographic ratings. On that show, when we now know Olbermann was beating O'Reilly in that demo, Keith named O'Reilly his "Worst Person" for trying to distort the ratings, after Olbermann, earlier in the week, outpaced O'Reilly for half of his program.

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Sunday, September 9, 2007

Same Old Detroit Lions? Not in 2007: Detroit Lions Defeat Oakland Raiders 36-21

The Detroit Lions did a lot of things right during Sunday's opening day game against the Oakland Raiders. Unfortunately, all of those good things seemed to happen during the first two and a half quarters of football. After that, the Lions, who were leading, on the road, 17-0 regressed into the hapless, unable to win on the road, same old team we've seen throughout the Matt Millen era. So it should be no surprise that the .... Wait. The Detroit Lions won (!?) Yes indeed, the Detroit Lions are 1-0. After blowing their 17-0 lead, and falling behind 21-0, the Lions roared back to life, drove down the field for a go ahead touchdown, then two huge defensive turnovers later, it was 36-21, and the Lions won on the road and started their season off on a positive note.


The Detroit Lions deserve a lot of credit for their performance Sunday. Oakland is not an easy place to play on the road, and the Raiders had the #1 pass defense in the NFL last season. Despite that, the Lions offense looked good for most (but, admittedly not all) of the game, and Jon Kitna moved the ball up and down the field with relative ease. He connected with eight different receivers and three (Shaun McDonald, rookie Calvin Johnson, and Roy Williams) caught touchdowns. Johnson looked great in his first professional game, and should only get better as his playing time increases and he adds experience to what is an obviously very talented base. And the MVP of the game may have been Shaun McDonald. With the Lions trailing with 4:30 to go in the game, he caught a Kitna pass short of the first down on 3rd and 8, but broke a tackle and got past the sticks. A few seconds later, he caught a 32-yard touchdown pass to put the game away for Detroit.

The defense was also (again, for the most part) impressive. Kalimba Edwards two big sacks and a fumble recovery. Shaun Rogers looked as dominant as ever in his first game in almost a year, and he helped seal the game with a huge sack near the end of the fourth quarter. And while the defense gave up a lot of yards, they came up with big turnovers when they needed them in the fourth quarter, with new addition DeWayne White leading the way, forcing both big key fourth quarter turnovers (an interception and a fumble force and recovery within the final three minutes of the game).

Now was everything perfect? No. The offensive line was much improved, and gave Jon Kitna a lot of time to throw the ball, but the run blocking was average, and new right tackle George Foster had a few too many (three) false starts. Kitna looked good, but also missed some throws, and a first quarter interception after a 95-yard drive down the field, where he did everything else right, was deflating. And Mike Martz needs to show more confidence in Tatum Bell. Bell averaged 5.8 yards a carry (85 yards and a TD) but the touchdown and extra carries came when the game was already over. The Lions needed to stick with the run game more than they did early on, because it was working. And blowing a 17-0 lead in a matter of minutes wasn't good.

But, far far more good than bad. Lots to be excited out. Great debuts by Calvin Johnson, Shaun McDonald, and DeWayne White. A win on the road to start the season. A comeback win, no less. Maybe this Lions team really is different than the team's we have been accustomed to seeing.

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Jeremy Bonderman Done For The Year? Maybe.

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher, and ace of their pitching staff (though, Justin Verlander may have assumed that mantle with his performances this season), Jeremy Bonderman may be done for the season with elbow pain, another blow to a Detroit Tigers team that could ill-afford to lose Bonderman at such a critical point in the season. The Detroit Free Press reports Bonderman is feeling a "sharp pain" in his elbow and he says it reminds him of a similar, 2005 injury, which ended his season.

Bonderman allowed six earned runs and left with one out in the second inning of Detroit’s football-esque 14-7 loss. He admitted afterward that he is feeling a “sharp pain” on the outside of his elbow, and Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Bonderman would “probably” be shut down indefinitely.

“I’m done for awhile,” Bonderman said. “I know that.”

“It makes me sick,” he said.

Bonderman believes the injury is similar to the lateral elbow soreness that limited him to only two September starts in 2005. He did not pitch after Sept. 19 that year, rehabilitated the injury without surgery, and led the team with 34 starts in 2006.

The Tigers have never seemed to have everyone healthy at the same time this season. Kenny Rogers missed most of the first half of the season, then a significant part of the second. The bullpen, as has been talked about continuously, just recently got back to full strength, as the losses of Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney really hurt. Nate Robertson, Jair Jurrjens, and Andrew Miller have all spent time on the disabled list. The offense has faired better, but losing Gary Sheffield for the past few weeks coincided with the Tigers second-half swoon. Now, just as everyone seems to be back healthy, Bonderman goes down.

Just doesn't seem like 2007 is destined to be the Detroit Tigers year, does it?

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Saturday, September 8, 2007

Michigan Loses to Oregon -- Unbelievable, Yet Entirely Predictable

In a way this is my fault. All I wanted in the last two weeks (other, of course, than two Michigan victories) were two blowouts so I could see freshman phenom Ryan Mallett play. Well, I got my blowout today. And I got to see Ryan Mallett play. Little did I know it was going to come during a 39-7 Oregon Duck victory, Michigan's worst lost since the 1960's. Michigan has now lost four in a row dating back to last season, having lost each game since Bo Schembechler's death before the Ohio State game last year, and are completely lost, on every level.

Chad Henne, as he was last week, was downright awful. Having regressed from a senior leader to redshirt freshman practically overnight, Henne was not good at all. He threw an interception in the first quarter, into double coverage in the end-zone that Joey Harrington wouldn't have thrown, and didn't play in the second half due to a leg "injury." Maybe he was really hurt (he was shaken up after a big second quarter hit), maybe not (he still finished the half), but with the way he was playing, it didn't matter. I finally got to see Mallett play, but, as a true freshman, he was raw, and while he displayed his big arm, and showed off his potential, that was about all he showed off.

And Mike Hart. Where do I start? Sure he looked good again, but what was he doing playing in the second half, when Michigan was down by 25 and then over 30, when he could hardly walk? You could see that he wanted to play, and that he was shooing off his replacements as they tried to enter the game, but it was clear he was hurt, and clear that Michigan was going to lose the game anyway. You admire his heart and his dedication, but at some point, Lloyd Carr needs to, you know, be the head coach of the team and say: "Son, I know you want to play, but you're hurt, you're going to get more injured by being out there, and this one is too far gone." Who is running this team anyway? The players or the coach? And maybe that's the problem.

And how about that Michigan defense? The secondary? Wow. Oregon could, and did, anything they wanted. Michigan couldn't tackle. It was embarrassing how many tackles Oregon's running backs, quarterback, and wide receivers broke. They couldn't cover either, as Oregon connected on touchdown passes of 85, 61, and 46 yards. Oregon had 624 yards of total offense. That isn't a typo. 624 yards. 624 yards.

Of course this was going to happen. It was entirely predictable. Oregon ran the same spread offense that beat us last week, except they are better, faster, and more talented than Appalachian State. 0-2. The laughing stocks of college football. Michigan. Michigan.

I've seen at all in Ann Arbor now.

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Saturday, September 1, 2007

Michigan's season is over after Appalachian State loss

This is my seventh year at the University of Michigan. And I've seen some great games, and great seasons, and this was supposed to be the grand finale. A senior quarterback. A Heisman hopeful running back. The best offensive lineman in football. Great wide receivers. A work in progress defense, but nothing too atrocious. Right.

The University of Michigan made history Saturday, but not in a good way, becoming the first ranked division one team, ever to lose to a lower division team when the defending 1-AA champions Appalachian State stunned the Wolverines, defeating Michigan, at the Big House, 34-32. And it's not as if Michigan fans can say they lost on a fluke play or bad officiating or some other nonsense. Yes, Michigan had a potential game-winning field goal blocked as time expired, but the two point deficit is extraordinarily deceiving. Michigan was outplayed in every facet of the game on Saturday. Appalachian State's offense was better. Their defense was better. And their special teams were better. If not for a dropped touchdown pass and a few other mistakes, Michigan would have lost by double digits. It was embarrassing all the way around. But, as Mike Hart said after the game, to call the loss embarrassing takes away from the great game played by Appalachian State. Because, as bad as Michigan was, Appalachian State deserves credit. They played a great, great football game.

So what went wrong for Michigan? Everything. Their defense, which lost a ton of talent to the NFL, and was expected to struggle, was even more porous than anyone could have expected. Appalachian's spread offense had Michigan's defense totally confused, and they moved the ball at will most of the game, especially in the final two minutes when they drove almost seventy yards with no timeouts to win the game. Michigan's vaunted offense was anything but. Quarterback Chad Henne, except for one pass to Mario Manningham with six seconds to play (setting up the potential winning field goal) overthrew every long pass he attempted, and made a lot of other really poor decisions. One resulted in a critical interception, others ended drives. The offensive line was also poor, and Mike Hart missed almost a half of game-time with a bruised thigh. When he was in the game, he showed why he's so special (his 54-yard TD run in the 4th quarter to give Michigan the lead would have been a run of legendary proportions had Michigan won -- now it's just a sad footnote to a sad performance) but if he can't stay on the field, and he's proven over his career that he can't, that will hurt Michigan all season. And his replacement, Brandon Minor, shows flashes at times, but he also lost a fumble, and slipped and fell on a crucial two point conversion. Michigan's special teams were also anything but. Johnny Sears, returning kicks, is no Steve Breaston, and Michigan paid for it with poor field position. And the team had two blocked field goals in the fourth quarter, either one of which would have won the game for the Wolverines.

The only bright spot, and I only mention this because of the inordinate amount of pride I have in my high school, was starting fullback Mark Moundros. Moundros, an alumnus of North Farmington High School (where I, non-coincidentally, also graduated from), redshirted last season, won a scholarship this year (he walked on last year), and really impressed me as Mike Hart's blocking back. Moundros, who as a running back set all sorts of records at North Farmington, has bulked up, and was consistently opening holes and pushing back opposing defenders. But, that was it in terms of highlights.

So where does Michigan go from here? I'm not sure anywhere. Any hopes for a national title are over. And with how poorly Michigan played, I don't have a lot of confidence they can beat the likes of Oregon, Notre Dame, Penn State, Wisconsin, or Ohio State. What was supposed to be such a bright year has dimmed quickly.

At least there's the Lions. Right?

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