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The musings of a Detroit-area sportswriter in the digital age.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Ryan Raburn finds himself in the weirdest positions

How does Tigers outfielder Ryan Raburn keep finding himself in these odd positions against Seattle? Tuesday, Raburn made the worst outfield blunder since Jose Canseco head-butted a fly-ball over the fence, when he seemingly pushed a ball out of the field of play with his glove in an effort to make a so-so catch as far as highlights are concerned.
Raburn was unavailable for comment after the game, but manager Jim Leyland did his best to work sympathy.
"He didn't really see the ball," Leyland told "It was tough to see for him. He didn't see it, and it hit off the heel of his glove and went over the fence. I mean, that's baseball. I don't have any problem with that."
(Watch the play again here)
If you recall, when the Tigers visited Seattle nearly two weeks ago, Raburn became the first player to hit a ball that reached the roof of Safeco Field, when his foul pop nailed a truss.
Safeco Field's site says the following of such a hit:
"A batted ball hitting a roof truss in foul territory is a foul ball, regardless of where it lands or is touched by a fielder. If caught by a fielder, the batter is out and the base runners advance at their own risk."
Wonder how many in attendance knew the verbiage of that one without checking. Safeco Field has been open longer than Comerica Park and this has never happened.
Can you guess who nearly caught the redirected foul ball? Miguel Olivo. The same guy who benefitted from Raburn's blunder at Comerica Park earlier this week.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Game creators attempt to redirect 'Madden Curse' by giving cover to non-star

By now, you've heard Cleveland running back Peyton Hills (who again?) will grace the cover of the latest installment of the Madden football video game franchise, as voted by fans.
Despite the relative no-name status plaguing the Hillis choice, the game will still sell. It's one of the best-selling video game franchises ever. So it didn't matter if he, or Eagles QB and former Madden cover boy Mike Vick won the vote.
Vick, famously featured on the 2004 edition of the game, broke his leg six days after the game debuted in 2003.
Lions legend Barry Sanders was shown in the background of the iconic franchise's cover for the 2000 edition, then faxed in his resignation before the 1999 season.
These guys aren't the only ones. This Sports Illustrated gallery helps digest the injuries and other career-altering events.
Some may argue the Madden curse doesn't exist or is purely an indictment of the perilously short nature of the careers of NFL players, stars or otherwise. And it's easy to blame the system. We've seen playoff rosters in other sports reward the the washed-up superstars who rely on name recognition to earn the fans' votes (I'm looking at you in 2003 MJ or AI in recent years).
Let's be honest: Who cares about Peyton Hillis? I'm assuming nobody voted for their own team's stars because of the legendary hex the game (and Sports Illustrated covers) bring on their centerpiece (or faint background image in Sanders' case).
Lions behemoth defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was even in the mix, but thankfully lost in the early going.
If something derails this burgeoning star, it would just be another bad break for Cleveland fans.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

If the Tigers were a rapper, they'd be ...

You would think the easy pick would be Eminem or early '90s era Kid Rock. Because I enjoyed the poll on Gossip Sports so much, I'm not going to fault them for such an obvious oversight, but the site says the Tigers are like pioneer LL Cool J.
"Decent skill, big budget, but still impossible to be taken seriously."

Since Marshall Mathers couldn't rep Detroit, they picked him to be most relevant to the Boston Red Sox:
"Disproportionate percentage of female and white fans. Extremely loud and overbearing, but often with skills and budget to match. Was, at one point, the most outsized and recognizable face in the industry, now settling uneasily back into past-its-prime adequacy."
Jay-Z was, of course, the Yankees.
They went through the entire MLB, division by division with intimate knowledge of the rap industry. Here's what they said about division rival Cleveland, which was compared to Cypress Hill:
"Stormed the scene in the early-to-mid-90s with manic, fast energy and quality skills. Since then has vanished in a cloud of smoke."
I'd say the list is pretty humorous and not completely far-fetched. Worth a read if you have the time.

Wearing a Red Wings jersey to court won't get you out of a fine for throwing octopi

A Farmington man is fighting the disorderly conduct charge levied against him for throwing an octopus onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena during a March contest vs. Pittsburgh, reports WDIV-4.
Charlie Graves said will be back in court in July, long after the Stanley Cup final, but says he will throw another octopus if he can get playoff tickets.
"The city of Detroit takes pride in their tradition, and if the (NHL commissioner Gary Bettman) thinks we are going to go down without a fight, he is wrong," Graves said.
A now-notorious fan exposed the masses to the renewed vigor the overzealous NHL has for busting octopi tossers, after telling Deadspin he was fined $500 for his heave during Game 1 of the Red Wings' series against Phoenix.

Lions players don't know where their paycheck comes from

What is the deal with the Lions organization and the Ford Family allowing players to advertise with auto companies besides Ford?
First, it was Pro Bowl wide receiver Calvin Johnson for Acura. While it's understandable the Lions wouldn't want to give him another reason not to re-sign after next season, the Ford Family has to have some respect for itself.
What a slap in the face this is. Sure, I've never signed anything prohibiting a deal with the Detroit Free Press or News, but I still wouldn't do it. It's also common practice reporters can't write for competing media. This is just common sense, which is what Johnson should have used when Acura came calling. He should know by now where his paychecks come from.
Then, just last week, Chrysler announced it was going to attempt to get the same dynamic punch in sales the Lions' defensive line got from Ndamukong Suh, featuring him in their ads. That was an even bigger blow in my mind, because Chrysler is another brand in the Detroit Three — what I would consider more direct competition than Acura's parent company Honda.
The Lions told Don Shane from WXYZ-7 at the time there was nothing in a player's contract to forbid shilling for an adversary. There doesn't need to be. It should just be common sense.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Octopi rally song

It took more than a week, but the Red Wings' octopi rally cry is here, set to the tune of "I Will Survive." Plenty of digs at NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, as expected.

Everyone loves the Cee-Lo hit "Puck You" in an ode to Bettman here: (Warning: As expected, it's explicit, but still funny)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Eminem Chrysler ad, now with more Red Wings

Everybody loved the Chrysler 200 Super Bowl ad with Eminem. Like many successes, it spawned knockoffs. Here's another, infused with Red Wings highlights.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

They took our jobs

I've long recited that phrase from an epic episode of "South Park," but never imagined in this field I would bemoan computer software that could one day replace writers of my ilk.
Narrative Science, wrongly accused by Deadspin of scripting a baseball game story which neglected the fact there was a perfect game pitched, is a program that takes the nuts and bolts and crafts an entire article.
The company says:
"We tell the story behind the data. Our technology identifies trends and angles within large data sources and automatically creates compelling copy. We can build upon stories, providing deeper context around particular subjects over time. Every story is generated entirely from scratch and is always unique."
Narrative Science says it can cost-effectively create:
  • Sports Stories
  • Financial Reports
  • Real Estate Analyses
  • Local Community Content
  • Original Web Content
  • Other Industry Coverage
It wouldn't be so bad so long as legitimate news reporters were needed for follow-up and feature stories, but there's no telling what types of stories this computer program is capable of.
In this day and age, where professional teams hire their own staffs of writers, photographers and videographers, it's another bad sign for the legion of sports reporters who've seen newsroom staffs dwindle in the past decade.
Maybe I'm making something out of nothing. I hope that's the case.
We can only hope readers step to the plate on this and demand human-generated stories by writers actually present for or familiar with the situation they're expected to write about.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Verlander's comical balk

Like many fans (and reporters for that matter), I have a limited understanding of the MLB's balk rule, but it was plain to see whatever Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander did Saturday night against the A's couldn't have been legit. It's worth a good laugh, even. Verlander said he realized he couldn't go to first and his instinct forced him into the quick-pitch situation where he even hit the batter, David DeJesus.

ESPN enters new age of transparency

It's still odd to me that journalists could carry enough cache to earn endorsement deals, but such is your career if you work at sports juggernaut ESPN. The four-letter network, under heat in recent months because of revelations centering around their reporters' other meal tickets, announced last week it would be creating a more transparent atmosphere in relation to the moonlighting. The list debuted Monday. Some highlights:
  • Erin Andrews: Reebok
  • Chris Burandt (Who is this guy BTW?): Monster, Polaris, Slednecks, Klim, HMK, Starting Line Products, Holz Racing Products, Fox Racing, Snox, EGT, VCHK, 509, Boon Docker Performance, RSI, RPM, Sled Solutions, Better Boards, Timbersled, Sledez, Edge Products
  • Urban Meyer: Nike
  • Jalen Rose: AEG sponsored by Nike
  • Scott Van Pelt: Titleist
  • Lee Corso: Nike
  • Mike Ditka: Under Armour
  • Kirk Herbstreit: Nike
Of course there were several caveats to these deals, where ESPN takes responsibility off its shoulders.

Deadspin, ever critical of the move, composed a mash-up of ESPN personalities' endorsements, leading off with Erin Andrews' deal with Reebok, which was reportedly established AFTER she railed on Nike football cleats during bowl season.
The network said:
"ESPN’s relationship with sports fans is critical and this document focuses on protecting the integrity of that relationship. We are asking all recipients to recognize that this document will never be a finished work. The world will evolve and these guidelines will have to evolve with it."
One particular section of the document, a short and easy read for the layman (see below), seems to be in direct response to the Andrews contract, which was pre-approved by the network, but will not be renewed.
"Any endorsement related to apparel, footwear or athletic equipment used for training, playing or participating in any sport or event ESPN may cover including the companies that manufacture and distribute any such material (may be subject to review and a "strong presumption that they will not be approved."). Provided, however, that in assessing
apparel, footwear and equipment, exceptions will be granted to players, coaches and administrators who are engaged as analysts and for whom such endorsements are part of the sports coverage/reporting landscape."
ESPN also nixed any deals that may involve political endorsements, firearms, lottery or gambling.
Ironically (or not), the network's new guidelines don't even once mention the word "journalism," or ethics, but the incredibly brief outline does mention integrity once, as seen above.
Legendary newscaster Bill Bonds is the only person I can readily remember shilling products on TV outside of a newscast. He had built such a report in his time, his star shines while repping for Gardner White and Better Made potato chips. He's also been on the silver screen, making a brief appearance in a sequel to "Planet of the Apes." Bonds also has a popular mixed drink after his namesake that's quite popular in Metro Detroit.
Let's be clear about the ESPN hacks, though: Most of those people wouldn't have this side work without ESPN. It's not like your typical cops and courts reporter is going to get the chance to spot for a bail bondsman, nor should they.
How could it have taken the network this long to realize they might have an ethical quandary on their hands as thick as the barbecue sauce on "SportsCenter" host Dan Patrick in a 1990s spot for TGI Friday's.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Tossing octopi at the Joe: Tradition or cash grab?

In my previous post, I understood why those Wings fans got in trouble for launching octopi — they were in Glendale, Ariz.
Deadspin today tells the tale of one unfortunate Red Wings fan who hoisted an octopus in last night's win over Phoenix and was sent to jail and faces a $500 fine.
The offender claims to be an avid Wings fan with a near flawless attendance rate, who, was ushered up to the glass when he presented his eight-legged projectile.
"Walking from the upper deck to the lower, every guard and security person let me down and said 'go.' I walked down 25 seats and tossed it on the ice during the stoppage after the goal and they were cheering me," said the fan, "Tommy B." in the Deadspin report.
"All of a sudden, a guy from there said, 'You're going to jail. Come with me.' "
His citation says he was being reprimanded for throwing an object that could cause harm onto the playing surface of a sporting event.
The reason "Tommy" was cited for his toss while other patrons were left alone makes me wonder if he wasn't conspicuous enough during the deed or maybe this is an easy cash grab by the DPD. Surely we'll find out in the next couple games.

Don't expect men to wear women's jerseys anytime soon

Hip hop and sports culture have fused into a world of shared admiration, where rappers wear hats and jerseys to support their favorite teams and players — some of whom are actual, real-life friends — and athletes in exchange give the cunning lyricists a popular figure to adore in rhyme.
Lil' Wayne may have made a first recently in rap sports apparel fashion, donning a Notre Dame women's basketball jersey bearing the name of sophomore star Skylar Diggins.
Diggins rose to fame with the Fighting Irish's run to the NCAA women's basketball championship game, which they lost to Texas A&M.
Granted, the concert was in Bloomington, Ind., about 200 miles from Notre Dame, but I suspect most would just as soon opt for an ND football jersey. Given the flirtation between the two on Twitter, it's a wonder he didn't have the location for his tour stop rerouted. He could always add a stop on the end though.
Wayne did take a second in this explicit video to give Diggins a shout-out.
I wouldn't expect this trend to catch on, as many male sports fans are too large to fit into women's-sized jerseys. Wayne, on the other hand, doesn't have that problem. Estimates place him around 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ready for the arms (and legs) race?

It's that time of year ... are you ready to see the octopi hit the ice? Have you ever wondered how fans get those slimy mollusks into the game or how they might heave them onto the ice? A video unearthed in Wednesday's Sports Illustrated Hot Clicks replayed one group of friends who pitched the sea creature to the rink last year during a Red Wings first-round game AT PHOENIX.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Another sports show on Comedy Central!?

Undaunted by the failure that has become The Onion's "SportsDome," Comedy Central is less than a week away from being the next network to fail in giving Norm MacDonald his big break.
Since leaving (getting fired from) "Saturday Night Live" in the mid 1990s, MacDonald's deadpan humor has floundered in numerous projects. His delivery, which makes him well-suited for a sitcom such as "The Office" or "Parks and Recreation," will fail him once again.

MacDonald's latest vehicle, "Sports Show," debuts Tuesday at 10:30 on the network known for "The Daily Show" and "South Park."
The network says:
"On Sports Show with Norm Macdonald, Norm will once again use his dry humor and pitch-perfect delivery to parody the news, but this time the focus will be solely on sports."
I don't recall MacDonald talking much about sports on SNL, or ever for that matter, and nothing about his track record makes me think this will work.

Not coincidentally, MacDonald has a standup special on Comedy Central last month.
I wish him well, but I don't see it working this time ... again.
UPDATE: USA Today reported Comedy Central is set to stream MacDonald's comments during Sunday's Masters final round, which will be simulcast on mobile devices. It should be a decent audition, but I wonder if it's going to be the first time the network gets to hear Normy Mac talk sports.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Darko really thinks he's going to win it all with T'Wolves

Darko Milicic was far from a contributor on the 2004 champion Pistons team, so it's not a big surprise he's giving away his championship ring.
Milicic, who came loaded with expectations, was sandwiched between LeBron James and the other two-thirds of the current Miami machine in the 2003 draft.
He was traded for spare parts in 2006 after riding the pine under two different Pistons coaches.
Milicic is thriving with the Minnesota Timberwolves, even earning himself a big deal last summer for his improved play (and the negotiating power of his agent.) He's doing so well, he's jettisoning the only good things to come from his Pistons career:
A championship ring and a championship belt.
Those can be had, in addition to an autographed Darko jersey (no word which team it will be) AND a trip to the NBA Finals.
To summarize, you can get the best parts of Milicic's Detroit career and return to the Finals before him, for the low, low cost of $10 to a charity raffle.
(I'd pay $20 if they'd throw in an unused bottle of hair bleach from his hair stylist.)
But hey, there's always the chance Darko gets back to the mountain top with the T'Wolves, right?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

A doggone shame

Everyone knows Monday's game was one of the more boring national championship games, and the proof is in the ratings. The CBS telecast barely beat "Dancing with the Stars" on ABC. It was the third-lowest rated of all-time, beating the 2009 snoozer featuring Michigan State and North Carolina. It was down 18 percent from last year's title game between Duke and Butler, but ratings for the tournament as a whole seem to be up, but that likely has to do with the fact EVERY game was on somewhere.
Kohl's jumped the gun, attempting to sell Butler championship gear. If you suffered through Monday's game, or know someone who did, you know that UConn won its second title in the past decade.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Rodman retirement videos

Former Piston Bad Boy Dennis Rodman returned to The Palace Friday for the first time in more than a decade. He had many video-worthy moments:
Rodman got emotional during a press conference preceding his jersey retirement:

Former teammate and soon-to-be fellow Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas talked about what made "The Worm" so special:

After welcoming introductions from all of his former Bad Boy teammates, Rodman took the mic. The crowd hung on his every word, and eventually, his No. 10 was raised to the rafters.

Watch the entirety of the night with this complete video: