Blogs > The Back Page

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hip hop connection to sports on full display in new 'Quest' film

Comedian and New York fanboy Michael Rapaport jumped behind the camera to produce the recent documentary about alt-rap pioneers A Tribe Called Quest. The group seems to be the only thing Rapaport supports more than his hometown Knicks and Yankees. Rapaport has appeared on ESPN's "The Next Round" to talk sports and he appeared at the end of the "Winning Time" 30 for 30 about Knick killer Reggie Miller.
Hip hop's link to sports culture is nothing new. It even inspired David Stern to call for a dress code in the NBA. Athletes have also been known to rap themselves.
Jalen Rose, himself an acknowledged hip hop fan, credits the art with inspiring the brash Fab Five in a recent ESPN documentary. Rose and the Fab Five starred at Michigan during hip hop's ascension to the forefront of public consciousness. Baggy shorts and swagger aren't alien anymore, thanks to Rose and Co. as well as hip hop.
Quest member Phife Dawg, the party responsible for some of hip hop's most notorious lyrics, routinely fused athletics into his rhymes, i.e. "Come up with more hits than the Braves and the Yankees" on Quest's 1993 hit "Award Tour."
Rapaport had the following to say to ESPN's Page 2 blog about the similarities between rapping and sports.
"I think hip-hop is not a sport, but it does have a sports mentality. In terms of being the best, kicking ass, it definitely has that mentality. Especially the golden era of hip-hop, the great MCs battling. L.L. (Cool J), you know, 'I wanna crush you.' Wanting to be the best. Michael Jordan to Joe Namath to Willie Mays to Joe DiMaggio to numerous other people, I think the similarity in mentality of it is the same."
In the new film "Beats, Rhymes and Life," Phife, in every scene, is decked out in athletic gear. Jerseys, hats, shorts, shoes, you name it. His fandom knows no allegiance to team, nor sport. In fact, the only time he wasn't matching between his hat and his shirt was the day he went to the hospital for a kidney transplant. That day, he wore a Pittsburgh Pirates hat with an Ohio State hoodie. The rest of the film, he's matched well, even when it comes to repping a prep basketball program he scouts for.
Certainly hip hop's influence on sports can be traced further and will likely continue to influence stars of tomorrow, from their fashions to headphones, but the "Quest" film highlights a key era in its rise.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Remember Zubaz? Tigers offering animal print leisure pants for 80s Night

Call it Zubazpalooza or an excuse to fill the seats in early August (staying in first place sort of accomplishes that anyway, though), the Tigers will be giving away pairs of Zubaz with tickets to 80s night Aug. 3 against the Texas Rangers.
What's is/are Zubaz? If you don't recall the animal print leisure pants of the late 1980s and early '90s, this informative video might remind you.
Ticket packages are $23 and include these awesome retro duds. They can be purchased here.

'Pure Michigan' spoof attacks inexplicable love for Brandon Inge

Fans sure do love Brandon Inge. Well, at least until the past few weeks. After Inge was sent to Toledo for reassignment, a Pure Michigan spoof (you've seen those, right?) surfaced about fans' undeserved love for the weak hitting third baseman.

What the video manages to do, however, in a not-so-subtle fashion, is lambaste the Tigers' fanbase for their support for a largely underachieving Inge, rather than more accomplished Latino players. The subject even spurred a Twitter debate between beat writers following Inge's demotion.
Some argue Inge's popularity remained constant because he's an English-speaking white player. I think more of his favoritism comes from his playful nature and the fact he's been with the organization for more than 10 years. He was part of the not-so-lovable losers of 2003 and got bounced around like a pinball in the early years. He fought off trade rumors numerous times and never took it out on fans who chided him for his poor hitting. He's a comeback story. If you know anything about Americans, they like the underdog. That's Pure Brandon Inge.
Whatever you want to believe about Inge's popularity, there's still a strong chance he returns thanks to his hefty contract and the fact nobody else wants him. Except for Tigers fans, that is.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Detroit players show off happy feet

It must be something in the air. First, Tigers catcher/DH Victor Martinez uses his dance moves to avoid the tag at home plate on Tuesday, then later in the night, video of Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh surface of him dancing to Katy Perry's "Hot N Cold" in his living room.
Below, Martinez explains the thought how to creatively score against A's catcher Kurt Suziki.
The play was rightfully SportsCenter's top play of the night.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Sports Illustrated opted to keep Solo, U.S. women's team off cover

It was a busy week for Sports Illustrated to narrow down their cover art. Ultimately, as you can see below, Yankee captain Derek Jeter again got the front-page treatment, while the American women's soccer team was bumped inside.
The raw emotion on the faces of the American players following their shootout victory would also have been far more compelling than what we have today.
There was also the death of a fan going for a souvenir to give to his young son. Don't forget a case could be made for the tragedy at the Ballpark in Arlington.
The American women's team won what is being dubbed an instant classic game over Brazil in the World Cup quarterfinals.
Reportedly, the Americans' potential defeat in Wednesday's semifinal was reason enough to bump the ladies, who already had already done an SI photo shoot prior to the Cup opener.
It seems hard to justify, given Hope Solo's instant popularity, that the powers that be would opt instead for Jeter with the single-copy (retail) sales that could be had putting a the attractive goalkeeper on the front. Perhaps the potential backlash was enough to land Jeter the cover spot.
Also, think about it: An attractive woman on the cover sells copies to men, while having a women's team on the cover could attract female buyers. Also consider where magazines are purchased: Grocery stores, drug stores, book stores and other centers of commerce. Not to generalize, but women have a reputation for shopping for, well, anything and everything.
Yahoo Sports blog Dirty Tackle argues: "The U.S. men's loss to Ghana last summer didn't really make Landon Donovan's goal against Algeria any less spectacular."
It then goes on to point out the expectation for the American women is very high and a quarterfinal win then does not usurp a player on the most famous of all baseball teams reaching a rare milestone.
This is, of course, far from the first time Jeter has graced SI's cover.
So, in terms of merit, sure, the Jeter moment should win. But if you're talking about making money, which most publications are, Solo and Co. may have been the way to go.

How to keep fans in the seats

In the latest installment of "Dude Talk," Dave Phillips and I discuss ways to keep fans safe from themselves at baseball stadiums. Some of the ideas we kicked around included electric guardrails. I've since added seatbelts, but I don't think anything could prevent a guy from leaning on/over a railing more than the thought of his private parts are being electrocuted.

In another episode, I thought the 23-year-old cell phone store employee who caught Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit should have kept the ball, while Dave argues the ball belongs to Jeter.

FSN Detroit takes you behind the scenes

While the Tigers begin the second half for better or worse Friday against the Chicago White Sox on Fox Sports Detroit, viewers will have a split-screen view of the behind-the-scenes crew. The TV magic can be seen on the network's FS Plus channel (check local listings).

"Tigers Live" host John Keating will lead viewers on a tour of the various functions that make a telecast go 'round such as the details of the production booth, camera wells, replay rooms etc.
FSD is planning monthly alternate telecasts during the second half of the season, with the next to come in mid- to late-August. FS Detroit personnel say the next installment is likely to be a camera isolated on each player position throughout the game.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hockey blog raising funds to get a Commodore 64

A Yahoo! Sports blog claims to have more than $6,000 pledged in an effort to persuade new Red Wing Mike Commodore to wear No. 64 as a tribute to the legendary computing system.
The blog, Puck Daddy, pledged to give $64 to the charity of Commodore's choice if he wears the jersey number.
You can offer your own donation by emailing

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Missing the Great Impostor

It's a shame Barry Bremen, aka the Great Impostor, wasn't more widely recognized following his most famous exploits of the 1970s and 80s. After his heydey, it's almost as if he didn't exist. I for one, had only heard a few things. And those came from the Great Burzini, county historian and general know-it-all Scott M. Burnstein, who knew Bremen as a family friend.
Sure, there's no way a character like him could exist. Sneaking into all-star games, Super Bowls and the U.S. Open. There's too much security in our post-9/11 society, as there should be. But we need another character like him. Someone who can play havoc with the establishment and make you do a double-take like 'Did that just happen?'

I feel ashamed I never knew about Bremen until he was gone. Maybe it's because he spent the last 20 years out of the limelight. The only person I can compare him to is comedian Andy Kaufman. Guys like that go out of their way to infect your conscience and it will be a long time before we see another.
Read more about Barry Bremen, the Great Impostor
Below is an interview I did with Burnstein after news of Bremen's death spread through the newsroom.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The best baseball movies of all time

I spent several hours recently compiling photos for a slideshow spanning the greatest baseball movies of all-time. It's similar to the other lists you've read, but much more enjoyable to watch. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Tiger manages to shout out biggest backer Nike in new Japanese commercial

Last week on "Dude Talk," we told you about Tiger Woods' new advertising deal. Well, here it is in all its glory. Note the Nike Tiger Woods brand hat prominently featured in this ad for a completely unrelated product. Nike must be proud of his ability to sneak a swoosh into Japan.

It makes sense, right? Nike after all, is the company that stuck with him through it all and even made that excellent, but not-so-well perceived commercial with snippets of patriarch Earl Woods.
Nike has long been willing to throw itself into controversy and recently leaped back into the fire by re-signing Michael Vick. It's no surprise they let Vick go in the first place, but given what Tiger's been through, it's no surprise they got him back.

Monday, July 04, 2011

LeBron only gets dunked on or dunks on campers from Detroit

Way back in 2009, seemingly eons prior to "The Decision," when LeBron James got dunked on by Xavier guard and Detroit native Jordan Crawford. Team Nike leaped onto the situation, quickly confiscating any video recording device in the vicinity.

Well, fast forward to this week, and it was James dunking on Troy 17 year old Evan Mahone in a game of lightning, or knockout, as they're calling it on the Internet. Much was made of the reparations: Autographed LeBron shoes.

This is what Mahone had to say on Facebook after the incident: "Got dunked on by Lebron :( but he gave me his shoes so its alll good broo ;)"
Popularity spreads fast. Mahone already has more than 1,500 friends as of Sunday night and his account is no longer accepting friend requests. It's safe to say he had a few hundred of those before the video leaked, but it's also safe to say several hundred more came with Mahone's 15 minutes of fame. I wonder how many people are going to pick up on the story once the preps season gets under way.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

How much do you remember about the last NBA lockout?

The recently imposed NBA lockout is expected to be lengthy like the last work stoppage that shortened the 1998-99 season to just 50 games, all played in 1999. The Spurs won the first of their four quasi dynasty titles that season. It was fitting that Spurs center* Tim Duncan and the Pistons' Grant Hill, in full teal uniform and all, were seen in Sprite commercials making fun of the labor strife.

Dime looked back at some of the commercials from the last NBA lockout. (There's some classics in there.)
In hindsight, those commercials were pretty funny. But the lockout was not. And neither is this one. It's being projected to be equally lengthy, and some pundits are suggesting the entire season could be wiped out. It's the NBA's Armageddon.
Nothing has changed more during this impasse than the emergence of social media. Teams are allowed to continue following their players during the lockout, but they cannot tweet or retweet anything the players say. If they do, it's a $1 million fine. Pretty steep. Put that into context, it's about a $20,000 fine for criticizing officials.
And have you noticed a lack of relevant material on and its affiliate sites? That's another no-no. Webmasters spent months figuring out how to make the league's stars disappear as if they had never been there.
Well, at least there's still the ever-profitable WNBA, which will continue to air for the rest of the summer both on the NBA's website and the league's TV channel. Enjoy your summer with no real hope to see the best basketball on the planet come fall.

Friday, July 01, 2011

NBA's website is locked out, too

Have you been to the NBA's website since 12:01 a.m., the first minute of the league's latest lockout? The site has a complete FAQ about its labor status and more info than you would ever need about the current happenings in the WNBA. That's pretty much it. No links. No pictures of players. No highlights. No team logos.
The league's website is also subject to the lockout, frozen in time and full of no particular useful information. The league's "web guys" have been hard at work for weeks carefully removing images and redirecting pages so as not to violate the rules.
“We're going back to the stone ages of the Internet," one team website administrator told ESPN blog True Hoop. "It's all going to be very dumbed down.”
In the meantime, staffers are going through thousands upon thousands of subpages, looking for any representations or mentions of NBA players.
Likewise, on the Pistons' homepage, you'll only see images of retired players (Dennis Rodman, John Salley) and non-players.
Never fear basketball junkies, it appears the NBA pages on ESPN, Yahoo! Sports and Sports Illustrated seem to be fully functional.