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

Monday, May 30, 2011

Another Memorial Day remembrance

This may have been overlooked, as it should have, on Memorial Day, but Monday was also the 20-year anniversary of the end of the Bad Boys era, marked by the Pistons' walkoff with seven seconds remaining in the final game of a four-game sweep at the hands of the Bulls.

Michael Jordan, who had just gotten finished bad-mouthing the Pistons to the press, went on to lead the Bulls to three-straight titles, "retired" and played minor league baseball, and came back to win three more championships.
Noted Piston Bad Boy Dennis Rodman, who wore No. 91 in Chicago in reference of the Eastern Conference Finals diss, according to ringleader Isiah Thomas, was a member of the latter trilogy.
The New York Times noted the similarity between the Pistons' exodus and the two-time defending champion Lakers at the hands of the Mavericks.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

'South Park' compares student-athletes to modern-day slaves

If you saw the PBS Frontline program a few months back titled "Money and March Madness," you could see the similarities in last night's "South Park," a show I've long been a fan of and especially appreciate when they cross over into the sports realm.
In the Frontline episode, we learn just how much the NCAA makes off its student athletes and that former UCLA star Charles O'Bannon sued the organization over video game image rights.
Eric Cartman, the same character who last year attempted to drive in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, compares NCAA student-athletes to modern-day slaves.
As the founder of the Crack Baby Athletic Association, or CBAA, Cartman is exploiting the young babies for his league's financial gain. There are several parallels between the Frontline episode and the fictitious CBAA, with a bit of info regarding Guns 'n Roses guitarist Slash you may have never realized.

The de facto "30 for 30" on Michigan's Fab Five focused heavily on the group's indignation toward Nike, among other companies profiting off their image.
The idea of playing student-athletes is gaining more steam every week, but the ideas how to distribute the money evenly, while not trouncing on Title IX are hard to come by.
As we've found under Jim Tressel's watch at Ohio State, student athletes are taking matters into their own hands, selling merchandise and gifts bestowed on them for their athletic ability, rather than having a reliable stipend with which to buy their tattoos and jewelry.
Each episode, creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone take aim at any subject they feel topical and the NCAA was just the latest to walk into their cross-hairs. Maybe they rejected the idea for college BaseketBall.

Monday, May 23, 2011

CAPTION THIS: Robert Horry hits GW 3-pointer in 2005 NBA Finals

There aren't many Detroit sports fans who don't remember Robert Horry's (aka Big Shot Bob) 3-point dagger against the Pistons in Game 5 of the 2005 NBA Finals at The Palace. Of course, Rasheed Wallace accepted the blame for the blown coverage, the defending champion Pistons missed a chance to step on the Spurs' throats and later lost in Game 7 after stealing a Game 6 victory in San Antonio.

Flash forward six years later, an advertisement for the Finals on ABC/ESPN in the new ESPN the Magazine has caption bubbles above the heads of each player (and the ball) in frame on that particular play. The only person, though, it doesn't "quote" is Wallace.
What do you think it should say?

Friday, May 20, 2011

'Don't believe the mascot promos;' life is not what ESPN portrays

The four-letter network is having trouble keeping its talents' misdeeds out of the media, and soon the disarray within the Bristol, Conn., compound will be exposed when "Those Guys Have all the Fun, Inside the World of ESPN" is released Tuesday.
(Just to clarify, The Oakland Press was apparently left off the publisher's distribution list for promo copies.)
Deadspin has been all over this since the promo copies were released for reviews and some sites have even leaked excerpts, detailing some of the legendary in-fighting that has taken place. Reportedly, there's a portion dealing with the debacle that became LeBron's narcissistic exit interview with the Cavaliers known as "The Decision."
My favorite passage comes from former "SportsCenter" anchor Jack Edwards:
"A team is where you have your teammate's back regardless of what happens; you defend them and you sort out any dirty laundry quietly behind closed doors. There was almost none of that at ESPN. There was no encouragement, because the atmosphere was one of stick the knife in his back, climb the corporate ladder. It was a very, very negative place to work. Don't believe the mascot promos. Life is not like that at 'SportsCenter.' "
We also learn Mike Tirico might not be as nice of guy as we've been led to believe by his friendly smile and soft, golf-friendly voice.
Know anybody who watched the Erin Andrews peephole video? Employees at ESPN did. Readers also learn (maybe for the first time) what a tortured-genius, rabble-rouser type Keith Olbermann was during his time with the network. Apparently, nothing has changed for Olbermann.
The book is more than 700 pages and tells the history of the network (can you believe it didn't begin until 1979?), according to former ESPN employee Darren Rovell, now a sports business analyst for CNBC.
"If you want the highlights from the guys who brought you the highlights, all the essentials are there," Rovell said.
For the stories straight from the guy who interviewed a hell of a lot of ESPN personnel current and former, listen to an interview with author James Andrew Miller in a Sports Illustrated podcast.
This has PR nightmare written all over it, and from what I've read, the network has been in crisis control mode since excerpts began leaking. Can't wait.
(Click here to pre-order)

Debunking viral Longoria 'catch' video

If you haven't seen it yet, Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria appears to "save" a female reporter from an errant flyball during an interview.

Reason's why it's fake:
  • I read as much about the first time I saw it.
  • Gillette is the only sponsor visible in the park, really?
  • Who does an on-field interview during BP?
  • Who takes nighttime BP outside of Jake Taylor?
  • Aren't all those trick shots fake except for those guys that were on "E:60?"
  • But Longoria is wearing the official Rays jersey. If it was an advertisement, that would be forbidden. Not so fast. MLB and Gillette have "the longest-running" endorsement deal in pro sports. Use of MLB licensed logos and apparel would be acceptable.
Regardless, still a good video and halfway believable with a Gold Glover like Longoria taking part. Are there any other reasons you could call out this video as a hoax?
UPDATE: Tech site Mashable points out the interviewer's microphone has no mic flag, which wraps around the microphone and typically identifies which network or station is conducting the interview. Another good catch.

Monday, May 16, 2011

You're nobody 'till somebody skewers you

As they tend to do, The Onion went after a real person, this time in the form of Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander, after the hurler threw his second no-hitter in Toronto.

The story jokingly portrays JV's parents as non-baseball people in "Justin Verlander doesn't bother telling parents difference between no-hitter and perfect game," as they wonder what's so great about a no-no if it's not a perfect game?
"A frustrated Verlander, who threw his second career no-hitter last Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays, said his parents Richard and Kathy had asked if he would be receiving some kind of promotion for his accomplishment, if this meant he would finally be allowed to hit during the games, if he would have received a promotion had he thrown a perfect game instead, why he 'slacks off' and throws some pitches slower than others, and whether or not he needed any money."
Later in the story, a fake quote from Verlander makes the pitcher happy for his younger brother who "gets it."
The real dig comes near the end, when the story says JV's parents would really only come to understand and follow their son if he were in pinstripes.
"Verlander, who signed a five-year, $80 million contract extension in 2010, told reporters his parents had never really understood his job as a starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers, and said they would only be truly proud of him if he played for the New York Yankees."
Before they could get off the phone, Ma Verlander "reportedly" asked her son if she could simply tell her friends he threw a perfect game anyway.
Read in full detail

It's a stretch to compare Pistons' and Lakers' playoff exits

(First off, I know I'm a week late on this, but I just found this story link buried in my email.)
Since we're approaching the 20th anniversary of the infamous Pistons walk-off in the Eastern Conference Finals, it's worth noting the New York Times saw a similarity between the Pistons' exit and the way with which the two-time defending champion Lakers went out - like goons - last weekend against the Mavericks.
Detroit's 1991 loss marked the end of the Bad Boy era, but was precipitated by a smattering of trash talk from Bulls star Michael Jordan in regards to the Pistons' well-noted physicality. Those comments have long been the held as the reason for the Isiah Thomas-led walkoff with seven seconds remaining.

Like Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom's frustration fueled antics, the Pistons shoved Bulls star Scottie Pippen to the ground, a tag-team effort between Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman. That was the only noted flareup of that Game 4. The fire had already been extinguished.
Thomas noted at Dennis Rodman's Pistons jersey retirement that Rodman chose to wear No. 91 during his stint with the Bulls from 1995-98 to symbolize the event.
"I bet you didn't know that," Thomas said.
Rodman said that night that former Bulls coach Phil Jackson asked Rodman prior to the Hall of Fame rebounder's time in the Windy City, to extend an olive branch to Scottie Pippen for the hard fouls Pippen, also a Hall of Famer, had to endure during the rivalry with the Pistons.
It was a different time when the hard-nosed Pistons refused to shake hands with the upstart Bulls. It's a different era where Bad Boy-type fouls are assessed with varying degrees of intent, but the Pistons and Bulls had a rivalry going back at least four consecutive years where they met in the playoffs. Lakers-Mavs doesn't convey anywhere near the same hatred. Those Laker outbursts were (mostly) unexpected and definitely uncalled for. At least the Bad Boys could claim they were going for the ball.
That's why the exits of these three-time consecutive conference champions differ. The Lakers' demise looks worse than the egress of a group of playground-style ruffians who had long played the villain. That's hard to do.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

MSU game could be played on same carrier used in bin Laden burial

Next season’s aircraft carrier game between Michigan State and North Carolina, the two teams paired in the 2009 NCAA championship game at Detroit’s Ford Field, was already a notable matchup, but could gain added notoriety if a particular vessel is available for the game.
Why would they choose to play on that particular vessel? The game is scheduled on Veteran’s Day.

The USS Carl Vinson, the same ship used in the sea burial of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden nearly two weeks ago, is one of the two carriers that could be used for the historic game, according to Yahoo! Sports.

If you can’t snag one of the 7,000 seats onboard, which are reserved for military and big wigs, you can watch the game like everyone else on ESPN.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Livonia home attempts to replicate Joe Louis Arena

CBS Local is calling a home in Livonia decked out with replica Stanley Cups on the lawn and Red Wings banners on its side the "Ultimate Red Wings House."
Also, to no one's surprise, local fans think the Red Wings will win tomorrow's Game 7 in San Jose.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Where else would Dennis Rodman have his 50th bday party?

While the Pistons retired his No. 10 jersey April Fool’s Day, April 1, former Bad Boy Dennis Rodman mentioned his age and the fact he was nearly 50 years old. He also, except for a few curse words, behaved himself during the event.

While the Pistons retired his No. 10 jersey April Fool’s Day, April 1, former Bad Boy Dennis Rodman mentioned his age and the fact he was nearly 50 years old. He also, except for a few curse words, behaved himself during the event.

Well, his 50th birthday party plans sound more like the persona America came to meet once Rodman left the Pistons and began expressing his flamboyant side while remaining one of the best defensive players in NBA history. Rodman plans to turn the half-century mark at a New York City gentleman’s club Wednesday — and he wants his jersey to hang their permanently, according to the New York Post. Dancers at the club will also be dressed in Pistons jerseys.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Little things remind you why it's awesome to cover sports for a living

A recent clip of a Kansas City beat writer taking an 80 mph fastball is pretty funny to watch. If he can take it, why can't I? I've always thought it would be fun to do a video where I try and accomplish what the players are going through. The closest I've come is a getting beaten badly by Oakland guard Blake Cushingberry at a game of Around the World.

As the KC writer grimmaced in pain, it reminded me of the Sunday night program "Dare Don" on WXYZ Channel 7 in the late 80s and early 90s (estimate), where readers would submit ideas for sports anchor Don Shane to carry out. I even remember him playing goalie for the Red Wings for a brief period, but I can't recall if it was Tim Cheveldae who was coaching him from the side.
Executors of the "Sports Show with Norm MacDonald" website immediately followed with a video of a reporter getting checked into the boards.
It's the little things like this that remind you how cool it really can be to cover sports.

An NYC perspective on JV's no-no

News spread fast of Justin Verlander's second-career no-hitter Saturday night vs. the Blue Jays. Here's what the scene looked like in Times Square in New York City (thanks to WXYZ-7's Tom Leyden via Twitter).
Oakland Press beat writer Matthew B. Mowery thinks the no-no could be a sign Verlander has his timing back, let's hope so.
From a hilarious balk to a no-hitter, what a wild month it's been for the former AL Rookie of the Year winner.

When is a Kia Optima worth $26k?

It's hard to fathom, but yes, there is a Kia on the market currently selling for that price. And it might get even higher! How could it cost that much you wonder? Does it come with a slew of autographs from the reigning NBA rookie of the year and slam dunk contest winner? Check. Was it leaped over in a single bound while being used as a prop on all-star weekend. Check.
The now famous ride from which Griffin's teammate Baron Davis poked his head out to hand Griffin a ball while the latter was in midair is up for auction. It hasn't quite reached the stakes of the Wayne Gretzky rookie card auction, it still has a few days. And come on, it's still a Kia. I'm pretty sure my boss got a buy-one, get-one deal on those a couple years back.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Octopi throwing is fun, but how creative is it really?

Things are looking bad for the Red Wings right about now. Down 0-2 about to play Game 3 in their Western semifinal. Any hint of Wings rally will likely be met with an octopus toss, which could spell doom for the Sharks.
We all know throwing octopi on the ice is a fun way to show team spirit, but how creative is it, really? It's a tradition spanning more than 50 years that simply takes super bravado and a subdued gag reflex, as the mollusk swishes around your person until its departure.
The Sharks have only been around since 1991, so their traditions, unless playing the Wings, has been flaming out of the playoffs in an infamous blaze. So you have to give props to anyone thinking outside the box.
This Sharks fan is getting some airtime for his originality, after dressing up as Red Wings fan BEING EATEN by a shark.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Wolverines nation takes to the sky with disdain for Tressel

Somebody, presumably in the Ann Arbor area, has had a billboard made voicing the Wolverines' collective feelings of the one they call "Sweater Vest." This signage was reportedly spotted along I-94, but no more info was available.
Thanks to Deadspin for the post.