Sunday, October 5, 2014

That's The Ball Game

Over the last 3 years, I've watched the most baseball of my whole life. I went out for an amazing opportunity with the MLB, made life long friends, and watched the Tigers reach the World Series. It's been ridiculous to see the turn around for this team since 2006. So much goes into the team being competitive again, it's easy to take for granted just how hard it is to reach this stage. Back in '06, no one thought they'd get as far as they did. From there, the team knew they could hang with the titans of the game. They brought in the best hitting and pitching and proceeded to string together a current streak of 4 straight Central Titles, 2 A.L. Championships, Back to back MVPs, and Cy Young winners. And still, a Championship title eludes a team that many deemed most worthy. This was a different year from the previous few. The winds of change blew and most knew what was coming, but had no idea of the ripple effect it would have. While it was a thrilling year, it was a frustrating one as well. For every big moment, there was doubt and frustration, plus letting a few key games get away. And for the first time, I got mad. Like, stupid mad about Baseball. For so many years I watched my dad jump off the figurative cliff when it came to the Tigers. (He still jumps that cliff with the Lions.) But I was always upbeat, always looking on the bright side. While that will never change for me, somehow the workload increased. At the end of the day, it's just sports. But it's weird to see how much importance we put on them. I should be mad, cursing, swearing this team off, and throwing my hat down into the dirt.

But I won't do that.

This team still had an amazing season, capped with a division title. There are positives to be acknowledged, but I understand it'll take a while to see them. Today hurts, no doubt about it. But there's work to be done and they'll get right back at it.

I'll paraphrase a really good comic strip I saw the other day:

The human mind wants sports to work so much because the mind works best when it can comprehend. So often we assign narratives to games, so that we have something to go back to, to solve the story when it ends. But sports is chaos. Nothing is guaranteed, despite all the players, stats, projections, and numbers. When the game starts, it's a free for all. It's almost futile to even try to comprehend Sports. Which is why when these moments DO pay off......They are so very very Awesome.

I believe in Detroit, I believe in the Tigers, And I believe us. The championship will come. I just hope we aren't charred, cynical, and heartless husks when it happens. Because when it does happen, IT WILL BE SO VERY VERY AWESOME. I end this note with my all time favorite quote after a loss.


"You Lost Today, Kid. But That Doesn't Mean You Have To Like It."


GO TIGERS



Thursday, May 15, 2014

In Other News: Hockey and An Apparent Lack of Professionalism

Hello dear friends,

Over the past 2 months, we've seen some pretty definitive highlight reel hockey. Game 7's, goals that make you squee, and goalies that are demonsrating they've all got their brick wall impressions down pat. But there have also been some bittersweet moments. My Red Wings were eliminated in 4 straight after an amazing Game 1 performance. Needless to stay, I was a little miffed. But, after what it took to get us to the playoffs, I was convinced that this season wasn't a loss. Many of our young guys stepped up, took jobs, and showed they have the drive and skill to become elite. A most pleasant surpise after such a turd sandwich start.

However, there is something that can no longer be ignored. I, like many of my hockey brethren, have noticed that there's a popular rebirth of a very special kind of hypocrisy. Why, it's the ol' "Why Are You Picking On Us For The Shitty Things We Do" fan syndrome. The Bruins won the Cup in 2011, and came close again last year. Most would think that's the sign of a great team and that the fans have nothing to complain or worry about. However, darkness lies beneath.

We start with Lucic's spear. After having a hit finished on him by Danny Dekeyser, Lucic felt his entire family heritage was disrespected. So in an effort to disrespect Dekeyser's family heritage, he decided to unleash a most heinous nut job. Didn't see it? Here it is, with perfect commentary by Ray Ferarro: Milan Lucic Isn't A Good Sportsman

Lucic was then fined, and then gave a perfect hockey answer to try and excuse his actions. "Heat of the Moment" this, "I'm not that type of player" that. This was the Kobra Kai level of deflection. And even better? The Bruin fanbase was 100% on his side. Most were decrying Wings fans saying that they are babies. But some chose this to be a perfect opportunity to try and give the female gender a leg up in the Battle of the sexes. I'm not gonna publish these people's names, but if you follow @Wingingitmotown, you could find what I'm talking about. My thoughts on the subject are this: Each body has an inherent soft spot. To say one is softer than the other is semantics, because I'm pretty sure pain is pain. There's no reason to compare these things. I know how effing terrible it is to land on the jewels. This makes me an expert on knowing this pain. I admit though that I'm not an expert in giving birth or having a time of the month. And as such, I do not claim to know how they feel and I even more so don't comment on them. The whole idea here is, unless you have first hand experience, it's best to just keep to yourself.

Then the insanity rose to a new level in the series between the Habs and Bruins. An historic rivalry renewed, only to be sullied by poor sportsmanship, ignorant fans, and a heaping dose of racism. Ouch Ouch Ouch Ouch Ouch. And so, the series culmintes in a dramatic Game 7 vicory by the Canadiens. Great series comes to an end, one team stays home, another moves on. In the pantheon of sports, there are few rituals as celebrated as the handshake. Yet true to the theme of everything being no longer sacred this year, this holy ritual was tainted. When the series ends, the part that makes this sport so great is the acceptance that you were beat in the confines of the game. The handshake line is the purest symbol of this. Yet Milan Lucic, in his infinite wisdom, saw this as a time to spread more of his lunkheadedness. Dale Weise told the media Lucic's special parting words and all I can say is "What the Flying Hell is Wrong With You, Lucic?" The game's over, you lost, the clock ran out, the other guys won. The second the game ends, you're supposed to turn off the animal and take your handshake. Why would you be surprised if someone raised their hand to your idiocy. Talk smack all you want during the game but the second that game ends, you gotta flush that nonsense. If you said that to Weise with 1 tick of one second left on the clock, he probably wouldn't have said anything. It's because you sought him out in the line to say some stupid junk that he said something. It reminds me of the end of Heavyweights. Camp MVP gets trounced my Camp Hope. Now they want to file a protest for losing. Camp MVP? Boston Bruins? See the similarity? 

But then once again, the Bruins fanbase choose blind faith over cool headedness. Instead of taking a hard look at the way their beloved team handles themselves, they lash out to all those around them. This is why we can't have nice things. The Bruins and their fans need to reevaluate themselves after this. Because there's no place for ignorance like this, period. One of the great aspects of sports is that you recognize it's a game when it's all over. But if you begin to place an imaginary greater importance on this, the line between sanity and insanity degrades. You lack professionalism, Boston. Remove your heads from your collective rears.

It's only game. Why you heff to be mad/threaten people/spread ignorance?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Disney NFL Logos: Off Topic, But Just as Fun and Important

               This time of year is always pleasant because of 3 things: The Holidays, Hockey, and not having to deal with baseball for little bit. I know, it's a somewhat blasphemous statement but hear me out. For 162 games, I scraped, cheered, angered and drove myself up the wall for Baseball. I've done it before and I'll do it again. But the reaso I an keep that endurance up is because of a nice 4 month break. But how to fill that time? Personally, I like to indulge myself in a video game or 2, watch some great holiday movies, and mess around with Photoshop. And since the Lions are having another classic roller coaster season, my Photoshop skills were tickeld when I thought to myself: What would NFL logos look like if imagined with Disney Characters? After some research, several Bond films as background noise, and sitting on my couch, I churned out the following 18 masterpieces. These were the logos deemed most suitable to fit with Characters from the Disney-verse. The rules were strict Disney, no trying to shoehorn new acquisitions into NFL logos here. No Marvel or Lucasfilm. Just straight animation domination.

                                Bagheera - Carolina Panthers

                               
                                Big Al from The Country Bear Jamboree - Chicago Bears


                                Bullseye - Indianapolis Colts


                                Captain Hook - Tampa Bay Buccaneers


                                Diablo, Maleficent's Pet Raven - Baltimore Ravens


                                Classic Disney Font - New York Giants


                                The Seven Dwarfs - Pittsburgh Steelers


                                Hayabusa, Shon Yu's Falcon - Atlanta Falcons


                                Iago - Arizona Cardinals


                                John Smith - New England Patriots


                               Ariel - Miami Dolphins


                                Pegasus - Denver Broncos


                                Peter Pan - Cleveland Browns


                                Sabor from Tarzan - Jacksonville Jaguars


                                Zazu - Seattle Seahawks


                                Shere Khan - Cincinnati Bengals


                                Simba - Detroit Lions


                                King Triton - Minnesota Vikings


So there you have it. If the mood strikes, there could me more from other sports as well. We'll see what happens I guess. Anyways, here's a link to bigger versions, should you want them for your phone or computer: http://imgur.com/a/cygsq#0

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Prince, Thundercats, and My Damn Heart.

                About 2 years ago, I walked into work for a shift. I went to my friend Mike Heidner's office to check up on him. As we're shooting the breeze, his phone rings and it's his boss, Mike Happy. (So what? we got a lot of Mikes in the office.) The news was grim. Victor Martinez, during some routine exercise, managed to screw up both of his knees. Good grief, what a blow. Vmart had an amazing debut year for the Tigers, in both production and character. Now he was done for the season, even before the season started. What were the Tigers supposed to do? Diamond Dave Dombrowski knew what to do. He reached under the mattress, into the couch, and behind the fridge to scrounge up 210 Million to reel in Prince Fielder. Problem solved, right? We now had the replacement protection for Miggy, we had more power now, and it was a great story. Hometown kid returns. A newer, crazier, flashier, and ridicuouls era for Tigers baseball had begun. The Rise of the Thundercats. 
                For Prince's debut season, we pretty much got what we expected. Home Runs, RBIs, and a laid back smile. The first series against the Red Sox at home his fort year here was epic. He hit his first dingers at COPA and we steamrolled the Sox. Things looked to be pretty on track. He went to the Home Run Derby in Kansas City and made it rain in right field, eventually winning the Derby. Then the playoff chase began and we watched as he helped the Tigers get their work done to hold off the surprise White Sox to win our second consecutive AL Central division Title. 2 Stellar rounds of postseason baseball later, and catching the final out of the ALCS, the Thundercats were going to the World Series. Detroit was poised to claim it's first championship in 28 years.
                 Then? Nothing. A giant broom with the words "San Francisco" burned into the handle descended from the skies. A ridiculously awesome season, decapitated. A championship, stolen. A Crown, smashed. How could this happen? Why did this happen? Both very good questions. There are the answers you want to hear, then the answers you don't. I did notice that there was a vocal group already calling for Prince's head. I don't usually give these people any thought but given my team just got spanked, I was a little peeved. He just freaking got here. He wasn't the only one that sucked. He'll be better next year. Little did I know, it would be the start of a troubling trend.
                 This year began pretty well for the Tigers. For a team that lost in a most frustrating way, we looked to be back and ready to roll. Such was the case for most of the year but then a decline happened pretty much across the board. Miggy got hurt, Prince was not hitting, Verlander was sputtering, and bottom lineup guys were non-existent. All of those things could be accepted except one. Prince was the sore thumb, both in the lineup and the Tigers money bags. His price tag became blinding by the time the postseason came around. I consider myself to be a lenient and realistic fellow when it comes to sports. How much I invest my interest is always fluctuating. Despite the teams troubles, I wasn't asking for anyone to be dealt and that includes Prince. 
                The ALCS came and went, the Tigers were spent, and left feeling that they let this one get away. While I felt the same, I didn't necessarily think w huge roster shakeup was needed. I was more concerned about the leadership and direction of the team. Notice how teams can change with a few key moves that don't involve shipping a player out? That's how I felt about the Tigers. Maybe a new voice could wrestle the team away from their slump in the postseason. Apparently there was more under the surface. The media weren't the most keen about Prince due to his sometimes rude and noncommittal answers and laid back attitude. Then his postgame comments after losing game 6 became glaring. "It's Not Really Tough, Man. It's Over, Bro." Maybe you say those things a few days after losing. But after just walking off the field? Maybe not the best choice. Then there's the fan opinion, which is as useful as jumping into a volcano. We're all fans, we all have our opinions, our gripes and approvals. But the idea of just shipping Prince out of town seemed a bit rash. I didn't think they would do it.
                Lo and behold, rumors begin to swirl yesterday that a huge trade was on the table for the Tigers. It was a 1 for 1 deal that would bring Ian Kinsler from the Texas Rangers to play second, whilst sending Prince Fielder deep into the heart of Texas. Then Jon Heyman reports it's validity and then the dominoes began to fall. Tigers send out a press release stating the trade is official. Fielder out. Kinsler in. Looking over the deal, it makes sense. Almost too much sense given how well it works for both sides. Tigers get their Second Base position shored up and save a ton of money to be played with later. Rangers get the lefty power they were seeking, in a par that sure to be enjoyed by Prince, seeing as the right field in Arlington was modeled after the place he hit bombs in as a child. You know the place? Tiger Stadium? Win Win. But for me personally, I'm a little confused and frustrated. Prince was a Tiger for just 2 years. After all the pomp and circumstance surrounding his glorious return to the D, he's done. I liked the guy, and partnering him with Miguel Cabrera made them biggest duo since Maris and Mantle, in my mind. They became the Thundercats, a term I came to be obsessed with, and associated with those two the most. Now, they go their separate ways. Watching Miguel tweet photos of him and his new brother was heartbreaking and emotional, wishing Prince the best in his future endeavors. This trade makes sense for baseball, but not for my heart. In the time I've been a Detroit sports fan, I never thought we were the type of city and organization to cast people out for not being good enough. We've always been here with open arms, welcoming those who had either nowhere to go or needed help. Prince had 1 really solid year and 1 shitty year, combined with 2 sub par postseasons. In my mind, that's not enough to get me to pick up the phone. However, Dave Dombrowski is a maverick GM, one with a sharp mind and his eyes on the future. This deal would not have been done had it not made sense. It was a perfect storm trade, with ripple effects that have yet to be determined. You have to tip your cap to a GM that's able to make a deal that can make you better now and in the future. It just sucks that Prince was the commodity in this one. I'm pretty sure this had nothing to do with him and everything to do with his contract. Comments, attitude, and production can all play a factor in a players fate. Did Prince do himself any favors? Maybe yes, maybe no. But his contract was the big point here. With that in mind, we all remember what makes the world go round. I hate to see my Thundercats split up and it will weigh on my mind, come spring 2014. Tigers Baseball wise, it's a great move that works from every angle. Tigers Baseball fan wise? This was a little too early for me. I wish Prince the best of luck in Texas. 

But before I cut this off, for one last time, say it with me:
THUNDER. THUNDER. THUNDER. THUNDERCATS! HOOOOOOOOOOOO
video

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Miguel Cabrera. Beast. Machine. Back To Back Most Valuable Player.

                 Last year, Miguel Cabrera won the first Triple Crown in 47 years. Harold Reynolds said that was the "Clincher" for the MVP. While I may agree with him on some level, I didn't think he needed the Triple Crown to prove his dominance. So we all tuned our TVs and watched as the envelope was opened and Miguel Cabrera's name was proclaimed. Joy and agony, those are the words I think of when I think of last years debate. So many numbers, so many stats, so many closed minds. But the writers spoke with a great volume of votes for Miguel. Some might have thought that was enough to silence the madness. And yet...it lingered.
                 Fast forward to the end of this season. Tigers get eliminated from the ALCS and we're left to wonder what we have to do to win. Just like all things, it was time for reflection, a look back at what happened. We saw Miguel Cabrera put himself on pace to not only win the Triple Crown again, but he was going to do this with better numbers than last year. You know, the numbers that won him the Triple Crown. Were it not for a sports hernia, we all might have seen a rare display of Basbell perfection. Instead we were treated to a guy that, despite injury, still showed up to play. Not only that, he still produced. Unreal. Un. Real.
                  On the other sides, Mike Trout and Chris Davis sit. Chris Davis made some adjustments and flourished. In the words of Carl Spackler, "Cinderella Story, Outta Nowhere." He matched an MLB record for Home Runs at the All-Star break with 37 dingers. That earned him the nickname "Crush", and for good reason. He hit the ball hard as a pull hitter, but it was his opposite field power that stole the show this year. Sure the Orioles trailed off but Davis still kept hitting. And he did it with authority and masculinity. Now there's Mike Trout, the savior apparent for the Halos. He had the most ridiculous rookie season ever and lost. Anyone else could have taken a step back, take a breather and just work on fundamentals. Instead, Trout went out and had a better season. The baseball illuminati looked at Trout and said, "Do it again." Well, guess what? He did it again, and did it better. While the core issue here is Miggy's offense versus Trout's Defense, of course you can dig deeper and show Trout's value goes beyond just his value on the other side of the ball. However, the writers are compelled to look at all facets. So based on that fact, as well as the monster seasons that Davis and Trout had, you can't help but appreciate how awesome it is that Miguel Cabrera won again.
                  Think about that for a moment. 2, TWO, other players had comparable seasons, and arguably better, more complete seasons. Yet Miguel Cabrera is the AL MVP again. Some could say that it was a bias and a unrisky thing to do to vote Miggy again. but I choose to believe that Cabrera showed more heart this year, more fire this year, and more determination this year. He bascially had his legs taken away from him. The Baseball gods weren't ready to let Miguel bring the ethereal world and the real world together with a season for the ages and back to back Triple Crowns. However that didn't stop Miguel Cabrera from looking in their eyes and saying, "Is That All You're Gonna Do?" He went on to keep hitting homers, keep getting on base, and keep putting his team in position to win. He's the player the Tigers need and deserve. This MVP award only confirms what all of us have known: Miguel Cabrera is the best player on this planet, or any planet for that matter. To be the best, you gotta beat the best. That's a slow Thursday for Cabrera. Congrats to him, can't wait to see more in March.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Sure Thing: Max Scherzer and What Comes Next

               Today, Tiger fans got some consolation. After being dismissed by the Red Sox in the ALCS, The Motor City Faithful were rewarded for something they knew since June. While it's not a World Series Championship, the Cy Young winner once again resides in Detroit. What makes this even more awesome is that, like the MVP debate of last year, we all were sure this was gonna happen. Yes, there were other pitchers that could have easily taken this award. Yes, there were stats and facts that could have swayed this away from Max. However, Max has just as many stats and facts to back up this win. Even better, he had the kicker of that most holy of stat: The Intangible.
               When Max Scherzer was was part of the great Dave Domblockbuster Deal of 2009, he was not the pitcher that we see today. Hell, early on the Tigers had to send him down to Toledo for the great retooling experiment tht every pitcher can go through. Take a step back to take a leap forward. I had the privelege of working on a Tigers Weekly TV show that spotlighted this moment in Scherzer's career. After seeing Max come all the way back from what could have been a death sentence to win the Cy Young, I have to wonder: Are the Tigers extremely lucky? Or has Detroit once again worked itself into having a group of people that are above the crowd? Funny enough, we've seen this story before in the form of another local sports club. You may have heard of them, the Detroit Red Wings?
              The Red Wings were left for dead, a once great franchise now wallowing at the bottom of the standings. Affectionately called the Dead Wings, they had one hell of a dry spell. But the winds of change blew with the purchase of the team by Michael and Marian Illitch. Then the dominoes began to fall with the hiring of Jim Devellano, the clutch pick of Steve Yzerman, the sleeper pick of the millennium in Nicklas Lidstrom and the arrival of the Russian Five. The result? 22 straight Playoff appearances, 4 cups in 11 years, and a return to glory. It now appears that same magic is working for the Tigers. Coming off their third consecutive division title and back to back ALCS appearances, the Tigers have poised themselves for continued success. And this success is attributed to every level of the organization, starting with Dave Dombrowski going all the way down to the coaches. The Tigers have built a winning culture for the Olde English D, just as the Red Wings did. And we all know that old saying...

"If You Build It, They Will Come."

               Max Scherzer is a great pitcher, but there's always a balance that must be reached between talent and discipline. Herb Brooks said, "You do not have enough talent to win on talent alone." Max Scherzer has great talent, but it took the tutelage from some of the great minds in baseball to help him towards the elite level of play that we are seeing from him. This Tigers winning culture can turn so-so skill into great skill. The results are far more than twice over when you have amazing skill to start with. I remember seeing Max in one of his first starts as a Tiger and he was good but unproven. Watching this guy hone, refine, and push himself towards the strong and skilled pitcher he is today has been amazing. Now, he's won the Cy Young and is amid rumors of being traded. Round and round we go. Whetever happens next, we're all gonna look back at this season with fondess, excitement, and pride. Whether it's more skill, more hard work or even the intangible that's gotten him here, I'd like to believe it's the balance of all three. So he's got that going for him...which is nice.
               When you know something is going happen, when you feel deep in your bones that something will come to pass, there is still some small, minute, infinitesimal piece of doubt. But that doubt gets obliterated when you see that thing turn from fantasy to reality. Tigers fans are still waiting for another World Series win. It's nice, however, to be reminded that we still have top talent on this team. It was even nicer to be able to say one of the more gratifying and infuriating statements in all of fandom.

Told ya.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Baseball, Class, The Old School, and Cigarettes

Last night I was watching Superman, the 1978 movie.

I couldn't remember the last time I had seen it in it's entirety. So in viewing the hallowed film, I realized that it's half Gone With The Wind, half Star Wars. The scale and scope of the film is completely ridiculous, made even more amazing by the composing of amazing music from John Williams. Sorry, back to the point. In the first half, Clark returns home from football practice, after having showed us that he's far more powerful than a locomotive. He then begins to talk with his father. It's an honest conversation about the reason Clark is on Earth. Jonathan Kent has always been a wise character, one of good moral standing and true fatherhood. He's always been the constant, keeping Clark clear and focused. Then, as the conversation ends, Clark's challenges Pa Kent to a race for the Barn. It's in that moment that Pa Kent clutches his arm and collapses; one of the most moving sequences in cinema. In the span of a half hour or so, we've seen 2 very key people in Clark's life die and it's heartbreak city both times. It's the one thing that Clark, despite all of his amazing abilities, couldn't stop. Nature. The cycle. Life. After a brief moment of discovery inside the Kent Barn, Clark now knows he must leave to find his purpose. The day that Ma and Pa knew would come had finally arrived. We are greeted with a sweeping shot of the plains, Clark stands stoic on the horizon. Ma Kent goes to meet him and they exchange a few words, chief among them, "Remember Us, Clark.....Always Remember Us."

Fast forward. The Tigers have scheduled a press conference. I knew it would be Leyland-related. Whether he was coming back or not, this felt like the first thing to address just a day or so after being knocked out of Boston. Over the years my opinion of this man fluctuated, but I never called for his head. Even with a few mistakes in huge games during his tenure, I never wanted him canned. He was too much of a baseball figure, a baseball man, to be given the pink slip. If he was gonna go, it was on his terms. And so I watched as Jim Leyland announced he was stepping down. I'd like to think we all hoped this day would have come with Leyland getting another ring around his finger, but sadly, 1997 will be the only one scraping his knuckle. The man who came into our homes and showed us how to play has arrived at the point that all men reach, the point of acceptance that he's got nothing left to offer. A sad, but inevitable milestone. 

He does not, however, leave this post unaccomplished: Two American League Championships, three-straight Division Titles and two World Series appearances, not to mention the knowledge and demeanor passed on to those around him. He came in and laid down the blueprint for us to succeed. While the ultimate goal couldn't be reached, he still used steady (and sometimes shaky) hands to guide this team into a new school era with old school skill. He's my first manager as a fan, a guy who told it like it was. He didn't beat around the bush, and he certainly wasn’t afraid to drop an F-bomb or 12. In this world of grown men being paid to compete in a game they played for free as kids, Jim Leyland knew when to push and when to let go. Do we all wish he was better at it recently? Of course. But time and fate have their own plans. I'll always think of his meals, his stories, his smiles, his tears, his class, his words, his cigs, his heart, and his fire with great fondness, bewilderment, and joy. He's a Tiger forever, and I couldn't be happier. 


Back to my opening thoughts. With the passing of his father and the discovery of the Krypton crystal, Clark is now aware that there's more to his destiny. In order to fully realize this, he must reflect on his past. That whatever he may encounter next, he must remember where he came from. The Tigers have choices to make moving forward. Sure, Jim Leyland is still very much alive and will be taking a job with the team, but for this Tigers team to succeed and forge their new path to glory, they must always remember their past. The story of Leyland's tenure helps fuel the torch to find greatness, and I've said this before and I'll say this again: It's Not About How Hard You Can Hit. It's About How Hard You Can Get Hit, And Keep Moving Forward. Detroit embodies this sentiment more than any other city right now. And we rise because of it.