Friday, August 30, 2013

10-0 Becomes 10-1.

Wednesday night I did something I thought I'd never do: attend my third Tigers' game in one year, and the second in ten days.

But, my brother-in-law wanted to go and all I had to do was swap a co-worker a couple of nights and next thing I knew: done deal, Comerica Park, Wednesday night.

The game was brutal.  Berr-rutal.  The Tigers lost 14-4 to the Oakland A's.  I said about a week ago that I'm a team's lucky charm.  I was 10-0.  Key word: was.

Perhaps the most important reason I went was because Doug Fister was pitching and this would be the first time I had gone to see him pitch all year.  The only other time I went was the final home game at Comerica where Fister set the AL record for most consecutive strikeouts.

Fister had a pretty bad night, going only five innings and giving up seven runs.  The A's were hitting practically everything.  The game was so out of reach that Manager Jim Leyland pulled Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder after the 7th inning.

So the Tigers lost 14-4.  Not fun?  Not exactly.  Sure, I 'd always take a win over a loss, but I think I had more fun at this game than I did my first game back in April this year.  I took a date.  It didn't go so well.

We barely saw any of the game, but the Tigers won.  It was a disaster.  A mutual friend of ours was there with a friend of his, and it became one girl and three guys.  Never okay.  They ended up hijacking my evening and bored me to the point that I drank too much.  My date and I never took our seats, and I never got anything to eat at the game (I wanted some chili cheese fries - months later I found out they're overrated).

I had planned on, once the game ended, to go inside The D Shop and look around.  Couldn't buy anything since everything sold there is about $15 cheaper at DC Sports, GameDay Detroit, or online.  We didn't do that.

Instead, someone had the brilliant idea of: "Let's go to Greektown!"  They had me at "No fucking way would I willingly go in there."  I hate the casinos.  I don't gamble and can barely breathe through all the cigarette fumes.  But being the too nice a guy I am, I went along without saying anything.

It wasn't fun in there.  We didn't play slots long because they're kind of confusing and I lack the motivation to truly understand how to play them.  I was still drinking, but I was really starving.

By the time we left Greektown, I demanded we go to Five Guys, to the point of running away from my group and ordering my food.  I was so drunk, my food sucked.  The fries were disgusting, and the burger didn't taste like anything special.

Last Wednesday was way more entertaining.  We began to notice people leaving the game early.  My brother-in-law was indifferent to leaving.  But I wanted to stay because even if the Tigers are losing, I still enjoy the ambiance.  I take it all in.  We had great seats and there was always a chance a home run ball could land in our laps.  It didn't but the little kids next to us got a ball from Torii Hunter.

We left the game with my first loss.  I knew my good fortune had to run out at some point.  But it was still more fun than last April's game (although not as fun as game ten days earlier).

I think the most important thing I took from this game is that maybe I'm finally turning a corner and am not so much of a fair weather fan as I am becoming a real fan.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What's With All the Tom Brady Hate?

Tom Brady is a hated man.  He's loved in New England, but hated everywhere else.  I get that he's to be despised in places like Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and New York, among 27 other cities.  What I don't get is why there's so much hatred over here in Michigan.  

I listened to the Valenti and Foster show the day after the Patriots lost the Super Bowl in 2012 to the Giants for the second time, and I remember hearing an irate caller blast Brady for being overrated and was sick and tired about hearing "how good he is."  I've heard the same thing over the course of the last few years on local and national sports talk radio, including Friday afternoon on the Karsch and Anderson show, on the day after the Patriots lost to the Lions at Ford Field.

The hatred for Tom Terrific can be summed up in two ways:

The only reason he's good is because he's coached by Bill Belichick.  He's a product of one of the greatest coaches and one of the greatest systems ever.  He's been surrounded with talent like Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Correy Dillon.  On top of that, Matt Cassel took over for Brady when he was lost for the season in 2008 and led the team to an 11-5 record, despite missing the playoffs.  Since leaving the Patriots, Cassel has never replicated his performance in four years with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Or, the Patriots were exposed as a result of Spygate, where the Patriots were caught videotaping the New York Jets' play calling and used it to their advantage to cheat.  The saying goes that ever since Spygate, Brady has never won a Super Bowl.  These are two ridiculous arguments that can easily be debunked by simple logic.

First, Belichick wasn't that great a coach prior to his arrival to New England.  He failed miserably in Cleveland and he quit coaching the New York Jets a day or two after accepting the job. 

Second, Cassel did perform well in relief of Brady in 2008.  But in 2007, the Patriots went undefeated and made it to the Super Bowl.  They made another appearance in the Super Bowl four years later under Brady's leadership.  Plus, Cassel was a relative unknown.  He was in his second year in New England, so he already had a grasp of Belichick's system.  There was little game tape for other teams to study him and find his weaknesses.  It was only when he went to an inferior team like the Chiefs, where he was more easily exposed.

Third, yes, Brady did have Randy Moss.  From 2007 until 2010.  Not his entire career.  The other players I mention were good, but they were developed in the Patriots' system.  Wes Welker was a nobody.  When the Patriots won three Super Bowls, players like Bethel Johnson, David Givens, and Troy Smith were average to slightly above average receivers.  Later on, he had Wes Welker and Julian Edelman.  Neither of those guys were anything before playing with Brady.  Tom Brady makes them better, as do the elite quarterbacks.

As far as Spygate goes, remember, they did still play another fifteen games to go undefeated.  And like I said, they went to the Super Bowl, twice.  To expect them to go there and win it every year is ridiculous, as not even Peyton Manning has those kinds of expectations.

Tom Brady shouldn't be so vilified around here, unless you're a Michigan State fan or a Buckeye transplant.  He played here in Michigan.  Brady wasn't a 4- or 5-star recruit.  Brady came to Michigan when Brian Griese and Scott Dreisbach were going back and forth for the starting quarterback position.  In 1998, Brady finally beat out Dreisbach after Griese had left.  The same year, another highly touted recruit, Drew Henson arrived in Ann Arbor and shared playing time with Brady.

Brady eventually had a successful career at Michigan, despite constantly looking over his shoulder with Henson expected to be leading this team to Big Ten Championships, Rose Bowl Championships, and National Championships.  Henson's story fit the Michigan narrative perfectly.  Coming out of Brighton, MI, Henson was a blue chip player whose potential was virtually unlimited.  A two-sport athlete, Henson was destined to play either in the NFL or the MLB.

Henson was the future, even if Brady was the present.  Henson eventually led the Wolverines to a share of the Big Ten title in 2000.  He was expected to lead Michigan to a National Championship and be selected Number 1 overall in the 2002 NFL Draft before baseball came a callin' with George Steinbrenner's New York Yankees.

Henson's career in baseball was brief.  He couldn't hit a curve ball on the big stage.  His career MLB totals were going 1-for-9.  When baseball wasn't going anywhere, he opted for the NFL.  He was drafted in the 6th Round of the 2002 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans.  Then his rights were traded to the Dallas Cowboys for a 4th Round pick the next year.  Henson never took off in the NFL as he languished in Dallas, Minnesota, and one year on the 0-16 Detroit Lions.

Brady on the other hand came from San Mateo, California.  While not highly touted like Henson two years later, Brady was a find.  His story in many ways, is more compelling because he had to work so much harder to earn his place at Michigan.  Despite leading the Wolverines to victory at the Orange Bowl over Arkansas on January 1, 2000, he wasn't expected to go very far in the NFL.

Brady managed to be skipped over 198 times before the Patriots drafted him in at 199 in the 6th Round of the 2000 NFL Draft.  He looked like an average athlete with nothing tangible to separate him from every other quarterback.  He spent his rookie year playing behind franchise quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who had been the guy for eight years and led the Pats to a Super Bowl in 1996.

The rest became history.  Brady went on to win his first Super Bowl in his second year, a feat later accomplished by Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh.  He won two more and appeared in a total of five Super Bowls. He's also been selected to eight Pro Bowls, two First Team All Pro, three Second Team All Pro, and won two MVP awards and two Super Bowl MVPs.  The guy's resume makes him a sure lock, a first ballot Hall of Famer.

If anything, Brady's story should be a great teaching lesson about the shortfalls of promise and the reward of dedication and determination.  He never came to Michigan as the next big thing.  He wasn't even a savior in New England as they already had their franchise quarterback in Bledsoe.  But the forces of history soon allowed Brady a favorable route. He put in the time and effort to realize his own potential.

Henson is not a bad guy.  He was flashy, and had a high ceiling.  I think he had a greater love for baseball, and because it didn't work out, he tried the NFL.  The NFL didn't work because he had been out of the game for too long.  He took a gamble many of us only dream about.  If I were a two-sport athlete, I too would've taken the $11 million contract the Yankees were offering.  The risk of career ending injury in football is much, much greater than in baseball and had he been seriously injured in 2001, he may have been left with no career in either sport.

Brady and Henson will be forever linked.  Both had success at Michigan.  Brady went on to have even more success at the next level.  More success than any other quarterback with the possible exceptions of Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw.  I like Brady because he's a Michigan quarterback, even if he doesn't play for the Lions.  Michiganders should be proud to call him one of our own, even if he only played in Ann Arbor for four years.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Did I Mention I'm Every Team That I Root For's MVP?

Time for a humble brag.  I get to because I suck at most other things in life.

I've been to ten sporting events, college and professional, and not one time has my team ever lost.  Last Sunday, my record jumped to 10-0 and 5-0 for the Tigers.  Just my being there for the team is really all they need to win.  It's a fact.  It's science.

January 1996: San Antonio Spurs at Detroit Pistons.  Grant Hill was in his second year with Detroit and already an NBA all star.  I was at the Palace of Auburn Hills because our high school basketball team was invited to play one of our rivals, Hale.  Hale ended up beating Atlanta, but in my first pro game ever, the Pistons eked out a 99-95 victory over David Robinson and the Spurs.  1-0.

To be fair, my 10-0 record is a little inflated.  I was a Pistons fan way back when, but I don't follow the team anymore and don't care for the NBA.  I've got two others, which one could argue that I'm either  8-1 or 8-0.

May 3, 2003: Some NL team at Chicago Cubs.  My 23rd birthday happened to coincide with my brother in law's bachelor weekend.  We got to see Sammy Sosa and the Cubs take on a team and win.  Don't remember the score, either.  2-0.

I used to be a Cubs and White Sox fan as I watched games on WGN in the summertime as a teenager.  By the time I went to the Cubs game, I only went because I was with a group, but I still enjoyed seeing Wrigley Field and all. 

August 2004: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers.  My first Tiger game ever.  I had never been to Tiger Stadium, but this was my first of five games I attended there.  I went with my roommate and watched Dmitri Young hit a solo home run and the Tigers went on to win 4-1.  3-0.

October 31, 2004.  Michigan State at Michigan.  I was working on a Congressional campaign for Dr. Joe Schwarz.  It was the final weekend of the 2004 Presidential campaign, and I was going door-to-door in Tecumseh, MI, when after we finished, I was invited to attend the game.  Couldn't pass up my first time ever inside the Big House.  It was a beautiful day, too.

Almost regretted it at first.  Michigan State built a commanding 17-point lead headed into the fourth quarter.  I was surrounded by Spartan fans, too.  Michigan rallied to tie the game at the end of regulation.  Michigan went on to win in a classic that took three overtimes, capped off by Braylon Edwards' dramatic touchdown catch that sealed the deal for the Wolverines.  I don't remember the score.  But I remembered how much fun it was.

Added bonus: I was seated behind the endzone where both teams had to run the ball in to score, so I had a better view of what happened than most others there. 4-0.

It behooves me to mention I'm one of those "State of Michigan" fans that roots for all Michigan schools.  So even if Michigan and Michigan State are hated rivals like Sunnis and Shi'as, I'm sort of like, well, I'll give a political answer to who should win in a head-to-head matchup.  But every other team they play, I root for the Wolverines AND Spartans.  This day, I was a Wolverine fan.  Fair weather?  Go ahead.  You could say this counts as a loss, too, but I wore a Michigan shirt.

July 2007: New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers.  My second Tigers game.  I don't remember much about it beyond the Tigers winning the game. Don't even remember the score.  I do remember Curtis Granderson hitting an in-the-park home run, though.  5-0.

December 12, 2010: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions.  My first Lions game ever!  You'd think my obsession with a bad football team that I'd have gone to a game by now.  Nope.  Not even to the Silverdome.  The Lions started the game with their third string quarterback, Drew Stanton.  Matthew Stafford was in his second year, but was headed for injured reserve after aggravating an injury to his throwing shoulder.  I was all about rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.  Every time he made a play, the energy at Ford Field was so palpable, the crowd chants "SSSSSSSSSSSUUUUUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHH."  I think I feed off that as much as Suh does.

The Lions won 7-3.  Aaron Rodgers was injured on Green Bay's last drive of the first half and was replaced by Matt Flynn.  A lot of people were trying to take away credit from the Lions because Rodgers went down, but they seem to neglect to mention the Lions PLAYED THE WHOLE F@#KING GAME WITH A 3RD STRING QUARTERBACK.  

This game was pivotal.  The Lions came in 2-10, badly needing a win to show progress after another embarassing Thanksgiving Day loss to New England.  They closed out the season winning the rest of their games, going 6-10.  They even started 2011 5-0, which technically was a nine game winning streak that carried over from the year before.  Meanwhile, Green Bay also never lost a game again and went on to win the Super Bowl, establishing Rodgers as an elite quarterback.  6-0.

December 2011: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions.  For the first time in twelve years, the Leos were in control of their destiny for the playoffs.  I thought this would become an annual tradition with me and my brothers-in-law.  This game I actually got to see Stafford, but not Suh as he was serving a 2-game suspension for the infamous "stomp" on a Green Bay Packer in the weeks prior.

The Lions had a 20-point lead in the third quarter, but Minnesota with their third string quarterback, managed to rally and make a game of it.  A blown call that actually benefited Detroit (for once) saved the Lions and the game.  Defensive End Cliff Avril should have been flagged for being offsides, but the referees didn't catch it, and the Lions stole the game by less than a touchdown.  But come on, the Lions were screwed out of twelve calls for every bad one that went their way that year.  Get over it, Drew Sharp.  7-0.

September 27, 2012: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers.  I finally got to see Doug Fister at Comerica Park.  I'm like a hipster music snob in this sense: I knew about Fister before everyone else.  Well, he was "my Tiger" before a lot of others, and I had the jersey to prove it.  I donned The Doug Fister Jersey in the final regular season game at Comerica and watched him set the AL record for nine consecutive strike outs, just one shy of Tom Seaver's MLB record of ten. I don't remember the score, but I remember being so stoked the whole time I was there.  8-0.

April 29, 2013: Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers.  I took a date to this game.  I did not have a fun date.  I did get to see a little of Max Scherzer build on what's become an epic season.  The Tigers won 4-3.  It was great that they won, but my night didn't get much better.  9-0.

August 18, 2013: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers.  Oddly enough, my third time seeing the Royals, I was a bit nervous as the Tigers dropped five of their last seven.  But Scherzer was on the mound again, and pitched another gem, going eight innings and giving up two runs.  The Tigers won 6-3.  I was with my sister's family and my aunt.  After the game, my nieces got to run the bases, and I snapped a ton of photos from the field including mundane shots of the dugout.

The grounds crew yelled at me to stay off the field; I didn't notice my right foot touched the grass, but now I can say I was on the field.  Technically.  10-0. 

So there it is.  I'm obviously a good luck charm of sorts.  I should be paid to sit in and watch these games.

One could argue that I should only be 8-0 since I'm not much of a Cubs or Pistons fan, or be 8-1 because the Michigan State loss.  But I still say, based on my attendance records, the Tigers should pay me to attend games.

World Series MVP?  Metrichead.

Monday, August 19, 2013

How I Fell In Love With Baseball Again

On Sunday, I went to see the Tigers play for the 5th time ever.  They beat the Kansas City Royals 6-3.  I watched Miguel Cabrera hit his 361st home run, tying Joe DiMaggio for 77th all time. 

Two years ago, I never thought I'd write something like that.  I only got interested in the Tigers somewhere late in the 2011 season during the playoffs.  If someone calls me a fair weather fan, I'd say guilty as charged.  Same could never be said for the Lions.

I grew up in a Detroit Tigers household.  My earliest memories of the team are watching them on Channel 4 in Detroit in the summer of 1985, a year after they won the World Series.  Sports came to me kind of slowly; the next sport I fell in love with was basketball via the Detroit Pistons.  Then came football and the Detroit Lions and hockey with the Red Wings.

My favorite Tigers player growing up was Cecil Fielder.  "Big Daddy" came out of nowhere in 1990 to hit 51 home runs, with the last two on the final day of the year in dramatic fashion.  Fielder was the first player to hit 50 homers since 1977.  Before 1990, he was a journeyman ball player having bounced around the Toronto Blue Jays and some teams in Japan. 

Fielder was an All Star on teams that had heavy hitters, but only average pitching.  Fielder, along with Mickey Tettleton and Rob Deer managed to hit more than 30 home runs in 1992, the same year Tom Monaghan sold the team to Mike Illitch. 

1993 was the last year the Tigers would have a winning season until the 2006 season.  After an underachieving 1992 season, the Tigers suddenly got hot in May and June, taking a commanding lead of the AL Central.  They cooled off in early July, and despite losing the division, still remained above .500. 

Two things happened that made me lose interest in the team.  The 1994 strike and the subsequent bottoming out in 1996.  I didn't understand the politics and business side of baseball much, but the strike that year ended the season and baseball wouldn't come back until the first half of an abbreviated 1995 season. 

Illitch hired Randy Smith to be the new GM, despite having a losing record with Florida and the team never posted a winning record under his tenure.  Baseball wasn't fun for a long time, despite the 1998 season where Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa obliterated Roger Maris' single season home run record and the New York Yankees posted a record win season and won the World Series.  Those were exciting times despite the Tigers' irrelevance.

After 2002, Randy Smith was fired and Illitich hired Dave Dombrowski as the new GM.  Dombrowski's first move was to hire Tigers' great Alan Trammell, the MVP of the 1984 World Series Tigers.  They won only 43 games that year, barely avoiding the record for most losses in a season. 

By then I had accepted the Tigers' irrelevancy as part of summer.  Detroit had improved in each of the next two years under Trammell, but 2005 wasn't good enough and Dombrowski let go of Trammell for failing to post a winning season.

The same year, the steroid scandal went public after Jose Canseco (a former crush of my sister's) wrote a tell-all about steroids in baseball and dropped names.  To me, the scandal was hypocritical.  So many players were found to have "cheated," including McGwire, Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, and Ken Caminiti. 

My stance on performance enhancing drugs are the same now as they were eight years ago: let them eat PEDs.  It's not cheating if everyone's doing it.  No, not every ball player was using steroids, but it's hypocritical for baseball to be outraged when the league has for years done things to juice the game (ending the "Dead Ball Era," adding lights to night games, lowering the pitching mound, etc).  Just tell the players what's in them and let them decide if the risks are worth it.  I'd rather see home runs galore.

But the Tigers apparently weren't using them enough as they still couldn't post a .500 record or better.  Until Dave Dombrowski hired Jim Leyland to manage the club in 2006.  That year, the Tigers not only posted their first winning season, but went all the way to the World Series and lost to St. Louis in five games.

We had a World Series contender, and I still didn't really care.  The steroid "scandal" maintained my apathy.  The Tigers managed to stay competitive, despite underachieving from 2007-2010. 

Something finally clicked towards the end of 2011.  The Tigers were in the ALCS, facing the Texas Rangers.  Despite having one of the best pitchers in the game, Justin Verlander, he struggled and it was another pitcher they had acquired at the trade deadline that got me curious about the Tigers again: Doug Fister. 

Fister managed to play well when their ace and other pitchers on the staff couldn't.  Before being traded, Fister was another nameless pitcher on a languishing ball club in Seattle.  He never had a winning record until he was traded to Detroit.  He went 8-1 in the second half of 2011 and Dombrowski pulled off another of many coups (the trade for Cabrera, the trade that got Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson, and more recently, the trade for Anibal Sanchez). 

In 2012, the Tigers were expected to compete for the World Series.  They got off to a hot start, but cooled off and struggled most the summer.  Fister injured his right costochondral muscle (rib cage) and struggle to get healthy for the next two months.  He arrived just in time for the team to get hot.  Luckily, Scherzer managed to find his game in the middle of that year, and the Tigers had a solid 1-2-3 rotation with ace Verlander, Fister, and Scherzer.  Adding Sanchez late in the year gave them what's now the best starting rotation in the league with Rick Porcello rounding out the rotation.

We thought once the playoffs had rolled around, that Verlander finally found his way in the big game.  Verlander had struggled in the 2006 World Series, and again in the years where he was playing in prime time.  He played brilliantly against the Oakland A's in the Divisional, and the Yankees in the ALCS, but was shelled in Game 1 of the World Series at San Francisco. 

Fister, on the other hand, showed he was pure clutch down the stretch.  Despite finishing with a 10-10 record on the year, Fister managed to be the pitcher Verlander was in 2011, a pitcher who comes in to stop the bleeding and get a win the team needed it most.  On the final home game of the 2012 season, a game I attended, he broke the AL record for consecutive strike outs with 9.  He was one shy of tying Tom Seaver's MLB record of 10 in a row. 

I was excited because I was probably the only one there that was wearing his jersey (even though I saw a fan a few rows away wearing a shirt with his name and number on it).  Make no mistake, my support of him can't be in question even if my support for baseball on the whole can be.

His reliability moved him up to No. 2 in the rotation and he earned the nod for Game 1 of the ALCS.  The Tigers swept the Yankees and Fister was called on again to start Game 2 at San Francisco.  Fister outperformed Verlander, but ended up picking up the loss despite giving up only one run.  The game was most memorable for Fister taking a line drive to the back of the head from a hit off of Gregor Blanco's bat.  What initially looked like a deflection of his glove was in fact a ball that smacked the back of his head behind his right ear.  I have no idea how he was still alive, let alone able to continue playing.

The Tigers got swept, and that loss was tough to take.  Come 2013, the Tigers currently have a 7-game lead and the 2nd best record in baseball behind the Atlanta Braves (as of August 19).  Fister is currently 10-6 and has an ERA of 3.63.  I predicted he'd win 20 games and he started off going 5-0 before hitting a wall with some bad luck from the offense and a about three or four poor outings. 

He should have won about 15 games by now, but he's still one of the best in baseball.  Both he and Verlander have since been eclipsed by Max Scherzer, who's pitching out of his mind and now stands at 18-1 on the year with a 2.82 ERA. 

But I'm not mad.  Between Fister, Sanchez, and Verlander, any of those three could fall in the 2-4 spot.  If Fister is the No.3 come playoff time, I suspect he'll be pitching in Game 7s if need be.  Despite Scherzer's season and Verlander's resume, I'd go with Fister in a Game 7 situation.

As the season begins to wind down, my chances to see Fister pitch are left to two or three games.  In order for him to win 20 games, he'll have to win every start from here on out.  That's too much to ask.  But I have to see him play in person at least one time this year. 

Even if I don't get to see him, I have faith he and the Tigers are going to win the World Series.  Although I'd like to see them play San Francisco in a rematch, it's highly unlikely, given the Giants' record. 

If Doug Fister can't win 20 games, this year, may he at least be the pitcher who seals the deal for Detroit in October.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Preseason Doldroms

I'm not going to panic about the Lions yet, based on their two preseason performances.  But I am going to make a mental note about recent history and remind myself the rebuilding period is over.  It's make-or-break time.

We're in Year 5 of the Mayhew/Schwartz regime.  This is sort of uncharted waters.  In years passed, coaches were fired somewhere between the middle of Year 3 to the end of Year 4.  Franchise quarterbacks found themselves "Lionized" - a term coined by local beat writers that meant the QB reached the point of hopelessness.  Just see Jon Kitna, Joey Harrington, and Scott Mitchell, et al.

I have only watched parts of the second preseason game against Cleveland.  The preseason is difficult to gauge a team.  I personally think it's too long and should be cut by one game.  But it's clear from what highlights and I've seen and what's been written, they haven't looked good.

We can make all the excuses in the world we want for them right now: preseason games are meaningless. They're shaking off the rust.  They didn't have Calvin Johnson. Whatever, I don't care.  The fact is, this team is built to make a playoff run.  The fans should demand not just a playoff appearance, but at least a victory.  Something tangible to take into the 2014 season.

Next week is the big dress rehearsal.  That's just the way the preseason works. Game 1, you briefly see the starters probably no more than a couple of series.  Game 2, you see a little more of the first team, maybe they play into the second quarter.

Game 3 is the most important.  This is the closest it gets to a meaningful game in the preseason.  The depth charts have been finalized for Week 1 and hopefully the rest of the year.  The key thing is to get everyone on the same page, create some form of continuity, and keep them healthy.

The Lions will get a huge test in the form of the New England Patriots on Thursday.  Two years ago, the Lions beat the Patriots in the same dress rehearsal game, and they went on to a 10-6 season and a short trip to the playoffs.

The last preseason game is meaningless to starters, but valuable to coaches and players on the bubble of being cut.  The Lions can't afford injuries and the goal for most players is to make it through without injury.  But the Lions can use the extra game time to develop rookies and second-year players.

The goal from here on out should be playoffs every year.  Realistically, they look right now to be a 7-9 or 8-8 team (not my official prediction, YET).  They can make the playoffs.  They need to make the playoffs and do so without any dumb luck or outside factors, like a blown call here and there by the referees.  I want solid, decisive victories.

Bottom line: the Lions need to win, or both Jim Schwartz and Martin Mayhew need to be released.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

So Long, Blimpy Burger (For Now)

Today's the last day to get a burger at the current Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger in Ann Arbor.  The owners announced a while back that they would be forced to move after the original owner, who still owned the property, decided to sell out to the University of Michigan to make way for more dormitories. 

I went there on Monday afternoon at 3:45 in the afternoon.  I checked my watch to see how long I'd have to wait once I got my food.  I ended up being in line for about 45 minutes.  The line wasn't as long when I first arrived, but when I left, it was probably a good 30 feet longer when I left. 

I ordered a quint, with bacon, fried egg, cheddar, and a side of fries.  As I waited in line, I kept hoping the table by the window that looks out over Division and Packard Streets would be open for me to sit down.  Because it was so cramped in there, I didn't want to sit in the middle of the restaurants surrounded by people on both sides of me staring at my food.

Lucky me, I got to sit exactly where I wanted.  I didn't mind the long wait and I knew going there another day or two later, I'd have had to stand in line for hours.  The burger was as delicious as it was unhealthy, something the restaurant prides itself on.  Their fries were always average and I wished I had a smaller order. 

By the time I had left, it was an hour later from when I first arrived.  I parked my car far away enough to at least burn a few calories.

I'm going to miss the place, even though I have only been there a few times.  The owner is looking for another place to resume business.  I hope he finds it, but no matter how much the same the food is, it won't be like the original, even though I think this current stop is/was the third location (they've been in business since 1953). has written extensively about the move in the past few months after it was announced in the spring that they'd have to move.  Most of the comments section were favorable towards the restaurant and some had some acrimony towards the University of Michigan for buying up the land. 

If there's one thing I've learned from all of this, it's the parallels you can draw between Blimpy and when the Tigers left their stadium on Michigan and Trumbull for Comerica Park.  Neither location was the original, but it's the place we've identified with.  Same product, but it doesn't feel the same.


ps - The Cheesecake Factory opened officially yesterday in Novi, a day before Blimpy closes its doors.  People waited as much as four hours by the end of the day to be seated.  Usually, I'd say no food is worth that much wait time, but at least if you're going to Blimpy, you're going to there for the last time.  Cheesecake will still be there.  I promise.