Category Archives: Random Thoughts

One More Time

sparky_anderson

“You’re out on the town, safe in the crowd
Ready to go for the ride
Searching the eyes, looking for clues
Theres no way you can hide
The fire inside”

-Bob Seger, “The Fire Inside”

It’s fitting that Nate Robertson gets the start for the Tigers today. With the the Tigers’ first division title in 22 years hanging in the balance, we hand the ball to a guy who, at the beginning of this season, pretty much said if he wasn’t starting, didn’t want to be here. Yet, here we are, four games to go, and Robertson is getting the nod. Shows what happens when you buy into something, eh Nate?

This Tiger team may be the greatest metaphor that the city of Detroit has ever seen. A down-and-out group during the preseason who hardly anyone gave a chance to do much of anything. A division title? Forget it. It won’t happen. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Detroit as a city rebounding? No way. It’s over.

Is it?

This city has long held the Tigers close, despite being treated to a number of terrible seasons where hope seemed to run out on Day One of the season. Sure, attendance dropped and money was lost, but the one thing that always stayed constant was the love of a team that most closely resembles the state of the city as a whole. Some will argue that the Lions are a more fitting metaphor: a bunch of losers with no way out and no hope of ever bouncing back. Yet, the Lions did get that first win last week, and although I don’t follow the team that closely, it was a great moment and a step in the right direction. Some will argue that the Red Wings are the face of the city. I disagree. The Red Wings are kings of the city, expected to succeed, and when they don’t, everyone is surprised. They are the gold standard that the city itself hopes to one day achieve. They are the success story that every true Detroiter wishes its city would become.

No, the city itself most closely aligns itself to the Tigers, a group who are constantly up and down and who you are never quite sure will actually pull it off or hang on to do something great. But it’s their character that connects us to them. Their love of what they do, the support that they give the city, the hope that they provide for the downtrodden. They are the great success story of Detroit, and they can put their seal of authenticity on their great tale today.

No, a win today is not a World Series victory, but it doesn’t need to be right now. The World Series experience in 2006 was a glorious and golden moment for this organization, but if you asked any Tigers fan about it, nine times out of ten you heard “This is great, but it sure would have been nice to win the Division.” I was one of those fans. In true “assembly line” fashion, the road to a championship needs all of the parts, and one of those is the satisfaction of grinding out 162 games and finishing what you started. All of those spring and summer matchups against “fill in the blank” that “didn’t mean anything”, well, those now mean a whole lot. Every game this team played this year means something now. Every hit, every run. It was all for the chance this team has today.

It’s fitting that in the year the Tigers are one step short of the division mountaintop, they also lost one of the great symbols of Tiger baseball. In 1987, the old stadium would have been rocking and rolling as the boys of summer put on the long sleeves and brought home the division. Today, it’s a new stadium that holds the opportunity, one that is yearning for a legacy of it’s own. It’s already been host to a pennant win and a World Series appearance, but now it’s time for the new park to wear a division crown. Since Tiger history never seems to fade away, it would be a fitting tribute to the ol’ ball park that used to live at Michigan and Trumbull if the Tigers win the division in the year that it died.

There are so many ways in which a win today would impact this city and this organization. I could sit here and list them for days. The truth is that for each of us, this means something unique. For me, it’s the vindication of growing up a diehard Tigers fan and thinking that I would never ever see this team win the division and make the playoffs. Sure, I’ve seen them in the playoffs. But that division win has been oh so elusive.

It’s in their grasp today. Pardon the pun, but can they finally “grab the Tiger by the tail?” I sure hope so.

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The Good Stuff.

denardrobinsoneasterntd rodneypump helmer-again1

Yes, I get it. I’ve been a little quiet over the past couple of weeks. I didn’t get on here and tell you how excited I was that we beat Notre Dame. I didn’t get on here to complain about the Tigers looking like they might have run out of gas on their playoff run. I didn’t get on here and go crazy because the Red Wings are in the middle of preseason hockey.

But just because I didn’t write about it doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it.

Folks, let me tell you something: right now is the most exciting time in the world to be a fan of Detroit/Michigan sports. There is so much going on that it’s almost unreasonable to expect to keep up with it on a regular basis. But this is our reward, this is our prize at the end of the rainbow. It’s funny that the summer, a time of relaxation, enjoyment and just general “feeling good” is for the most part a blank slate of sports. Summer, one of the most popular times of the year, doesn’t share the same enthusiasm for sports as the rest of us fanatics. Summer is our Sahara Desert. Summer is our barren landscape.

But now we have hit the tropical oasis. We have found the magical spring to quench our sports thirst. Drink up friends. The water is cool and refreshing.

The sweetest taste (for me) is obviously the rebound of Michigan football from last year’s mess of a season. With the right pieces in place, the Wolverines have already matched last season’s win total, scored as many points in three games as they did in six last year and have knocked off major foe Notre Dame. Now, the Maize and Blue head into the real deal: the Big Ten season. Every week will be a battle and there will be NO gimmie games. Have the Wolverines truly bounced back from the depths of despair, or is it just a mirage in a desert of uncertainty? I can’t wait to find out.

The Tigers, one season after finishing last in the division, are back in the thick of a division and playoff race. What a roller coaster ride they have been. Sometimes they offer the sweet taste of victory and the next night the bitter taste of defeat. But again, the ride is amazing. There’s nothing like the chase for the playoffs to stir the deepest echoes of fandom, and that’s exactly what the Motown kitties are doing for us right now. Can they deliver? Will they falter? I’m caught up in the anticipation and I’m letting it sweep me away.

And then there are our beloved Red Wings. Yes, they are only at the beginning of a journey that will hopefully last until June, but this campaign brings with it the need to justify their elite status to all those who have so quickly dismissed them. There’s nothing more fun than proving the doubters wrong and then laughing in their face afterwards, which is exactly what we have planned for this season. I can’t wait.

So sit back and enjoy my friends. This is an exciting time for all of us. One that is sure to be filled with ups and downs, trials and tribulations. But it’s not the destination, it’s the journey and I’m just happy to be walking down that road again.

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All In.

crable

Remember that summer day three years ago when Notre Dame was supposed to be invincible and Michigan wasn’t supposed to win? Remember when we went down to Notre Dame as underdogs, having struggled through so many road-opening losses over the years that we were already forgetting how it felt to start 2-0 or 3-0? But what you may not remember is that feeling that we took for granted back then and which, someday, we will probably take for granted again.

I was sitting at an Ale House in Orlando, FL. Yes, I was drinking heavily. Yes, I was nervous. But why wouldn’t I be nervous? This was a rivalry game between two titans of college football,  both ranked, both undefeated and both ready to stake their early season claim to supremacy over the young 2006 season. It was everything that Michigan vs. Notre Dame was supposed to be.

The outcome of that game went in our favor. In a big, big way. But I know that nowhere during my euphoric high of beating the Irish did I ever think that our next two matchups would lack that one thing that most every game before them had contained: meaning.

You could argue that the 2007 game had lots of meaning for both teams. But let’s not kid ourselves here. Those two storied programs were the laughingstock of the college football world. Notre Dame rolling into the Big House with a highly touted freshman QB that had engineered two losses. Michigan coming off of THE HORROR and the ass kicking from the Oregon Ducks, both in our house. A combined record of 0-4. A national broadcast. It was pure humiliation and anyone who tells you otherwise is full of it. All that blowout win did for Michigan was get a win in the Big House and put another win between us and the #2 team in all-time victories. But it wasn’t the same.

Ask any Ohio State fan about last year’s drubbing of Michigan. It wasn’t as much fun as beating a good Michigan team. The luster wasn’t there. After 11 weeks of ridiculing the Wolverines and ripping them, finally getting the turn in the whipping line just didn’t feel right. Just like going down to ND with one of the worst teams in school history didn’t really do much for the Irish in the long run either. Did it even the score from the year before? Sure. Was it a game for the ages (or even the year, for that matter)? Absolutely not. It was a joke. A sham. A ghost of what it used to be.

Which is why today’s game is that much more important. After two years of mediocre matchups between these two giants, we finally get what we have been waiting for. Both teams undefeated again. Both teams with their own agendas. Both teams out to prove why they belong. It’s all the drama that was missing during the previous two matchups and all we can hope is that these teams know how to live up to the expectation that has been set in the previous 36 matchups.

Who’s going to win? Don’t really know. I can sure as hell tell you who I WANT to win, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. And quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter which team wins tomorrow*, as long as they both step up to the plate and embrace the rivalry by playing their hearts out and giving us an entertaining, physical and 100% competitive game.

You can bet that the Michigan Wolverines will be “All In” tomorrow. I encourage every fan of the maize and blue to do the same. Wear your maize shirt to the bar. Refuse to get “down in front” at the big house. Pace nervously in your friend’s living room. Just do whatever it takes.

All In. F**K the Irish. GO BLUE!!!

*Of course it matters who wins! It better damn well be Michigan!!!

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Washburn to Detroit (From the eyes of a Tigers fan in Seattle.)

washburn

Jarrod Washburn is the reason for this blog. He played in Seattle. I live in Seattle. Seattle is where Mariners fans live. I have friends who are Mariners fans. Washburn got traded to Detroit. I used to live in Detroit. I don’t live there anymore. But I’m still a Tigers fan. As I have friends who are Mariners fans and me being a Tigers fan, I knew there would be some interesting discussions.

Trades are a funny thing. As fans, we speculate and speculate some more about what could happen, who could go where, what would it mean, how will he look in his new jersey, and will it really help the team out. Then, like an eye of a hurricane, everything slows down. Days go by with barely a peep of excitement. You start to wonder whether or not something is going to happen. You climb into bed at night starting to believe that the winds of change have died down and the trade storm is over. And then, BOOM. It happens.

My Washburn trade story is probably quite different than yours. About two weeks ago, I was chatting with KeiferNandez over at General Disdain and said to him “Hey, I’ve been hearing Washburn to Detroit rumors now. Wonder if it will happen…” I thought about it quite a bit, waited for the big move to happen, and…nothing. Meanwhile, the M’s were busy making trades for Ian Snell and Jack Wilson, thusly diminishing my hopes for anything to get done with Washburn. (In case you are scoring at home, I suggested to keifer that the trade would be Washburn for Jeff Larish and a pitching prospect.)

Anyways, my Friday started pretty much like any other Friday doesn’t start. I got out of bed late, took a shower, got dressed and jumped in my truck, on my way to meet up with the convoy headed to keifer’s bachelor party. My phone goes off with a text from keifer: “Washburn to Tigers a done deal.” Whoa. Honestly, I was too tired to get excited, plus I thought I was running late. But as I was driving the excitement set in. “A quality starter for the rotation.” “A lefthander.” “Playoff run?” Yes, I got way ahead of myself. But I was excited. It was a trade for something other than cash (I’m looking at you Josh Anderson. I won’t ever live down proclaiming how awesome you were earlier this season at Safeco Field.) Anyways, I was super pumped about the deal and began the mad scramble to figure out who we gave up.  Needless to say, my excitement grew when I found out it was Luke French and Mauricio Robles. Yea, I was a little bummed to lose a quality rookie like French, but to get Washburn? Absolutely.

It only took about 15 minutes in the car to get going on Washburn. I was pumped. But to my surprise, there wasn’t a whole lot of discussion about it. Keifer was pretty “meh” about the whole thing, and granted, I probably should have been too. Washburn has been great this season. But not spectacular. His record at the time was a not-too-shabby 8-6 (more on this later.) Top five ERA in the AL. But despite all of that, talking to keifer made me less confident about the whole thing. Now, I’m not saying that’s what he was trying to do, but facts are facts: I was less pumped about the whole thing as I started thinking about it more. It could have been because I’m pretty sure Washburn is a half-season rental. It also could have been because of the fact that, only recently, had Washburn been pitching REALLY well. In the end, I don’t really know what it was, but the convo died and moved on to the Snell acquisition, and I was completely fine with that.

As the weekend wore on, I felt like I was a little bit hard on Washburn. Heck, I hadn’t even given him a shot on the mound yet to start getting skeptical. So, by the end of the bachelor weekend, I was back to being pumped up, and ready to start moving towards the inevitable playoff run that Washburn would drive us towards. Three guys in the rotation with some of the best ERA’s in the AL will do that to you.

And then tonight happened. Washburn got blowed up to the tune of six runs and six hits over 5 1/3 innings, giving up two homers in the process. I found myself staring at the banner of this site throughout most of, harkening back to when I loudly proclaimed that the D-Train was taking us all the way. Whoops. Look, I’m not saying Washburn is heading down the same road as Dontrelle. Far from it, actually. But this start didn’t fill me with confidence, and I guarantee you I’m not the only one in Motown feeling that way.  But I still believe everything will be OK. After the game, Jarrod said he” really wanted to make a good impression and get off on the right foot.” Yes, that was a big FAIL. But I’m willing to give the guy another chance. It’s tough enough to get traded over halfway through the season. It’s even tougher to get traded to a division leading team that’s in the thick of a division race and you are expected to be the push that gets them over the hill. JW had alot on his plate tonight, and he gacked it up. It happens. I’m confident he’ll bounce back and do the right thing on his next trip to the mound.

If he doesn’t? Well, it’ll be more sleepless nights for this Tigers fan out here in Seattle.

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Final Thoughts on the Red Wings/Ducks Series

clearywin

(Photo courtesy of Julian H. Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press)

I know this is late. I’m fine with that. I needed a day or two to break down that unbelievable series against the Ducks and really figure out how I felt. I can tell you that when Dan Cleary banged home the game winner, I threw my coffee mug clear across the room, but that’s neither here nor there.

Of course, everybody has already tossed out their opinions on the series and has moved on to the Blackhawks, so I will spare you the obvious discomfort of reading another post. However, if you really MUST know exactly how I felt after the win, I urge out to check out Chief’s thoughts over at Abel to Yzerman as well as Brian’s thoughts on Genuinely Sarcastic. I would say they hit the proverbial nail on the proverbial head.

You can also check out my postgame recap that immediately followed the final horn at Winging It In Motown if you’re that desperate to get my own thoughts on the whole situation. (Plenty of good WCF preview material as well.)

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Some Rambling Before Game 5

hoss

It wasn’t so long ago that the Red Wings were talking about how the end of the regular season was a struggle to focus, with some players even suggesting that “boredom” might have set in.

There’s no boredom now.

Today’s Game 5 against Anaheim is as real and as meaningful as it gets. Everyone knew this series was going to be a struggle, and we are right in the thick of it. Yes, there will be a Game 6 and yes, there very well may be a Game 7. But all that matters right now is Game 5 and doing whatever it takes to get a win.

As for me, dear readers, take solace in knowing that I won’t be watching a second of this game in real-time. Why is this good news? Because I didn’t watch Game 4, minus a two minute period where Anaheim scored. On twitter, all of my tweeps rejoiced when I turned off the game and the Wings subsequently went on to win. Coincidence? Maybe. Taking chances? Not me.

OK, the REAL reason I won’t be watching is because it’s Mother’s Day (CALL YOUR MOMS!) and my amazing mother has flown all the way to Seattle from Tampa to be here, so I am taking her out to a well deserved brunch and day on the town. But if it helps the Wings, so be it.

But don’t think for a second I won’t be thinking about this game. This is the most important one we have been in so far, and I will definitely be checking for updates frequently. And while I don’t usually make predictions on these games, I am going to go out on a bit of a limb here, albeit not specifically on this game.

If the Wings can get it done in Game 5, this series will end on Tuesday in Anaheim. Why? Because the Wings haven’t closed out a playoff series at home since beating Carolina in the 2002 Stanley Cup Finals.

If Anaheim takes Game 5, I have no idea what happens. My gut says the series ends in Anaheim. But part of me wants to believe that the Wings can finally shake the Anaheim monkey off their back and find a way to force a Game 7 in Motown. However, a loss in Game 5 might put me close to a mental breakdown before Tuesday.

Anyway you cut it, this is going to be a wild ride. Buckle up, and I will see you on the other side.

Go Wings!

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Sherlock Holmes and the Case of Watson’s Intent to Whistle.

**Please tell me somebody else got the joke in the title.

bRAD

OK. I know “the incident” happened two days ago and that most people have moved on from it at this point. However, as both a Red Wings fan and a former official (albeit, a different sport), I wanted to take some time to let the entire situation sink in, as well as review all of the happenings and rules associated with the play. With that said, let’s break this puppy down.

First, let’s pull out the rule:

Rule 32.2: As there is a human factor involved in blowing the whistle to stop play, the Referee may deem the play to be stopped slightly prior to the whistle actually being blown. The fact that the puck may come loose or cross the goal line prior to the sound of the whistle has no bearing if the Referee has ruled that the play had been stopped prior to this happening.

Combine this with the fact that, throughout this entire thing, we have heard all parties say that “when the ref loses sight of the puck, he should blow his whistle,” and you can make a pretty strong case that (gulp)…Watson called this one by the book and called it correctly.

Fine. But knowing the rules and calling according to the rule book is only one component to solid officiating, and Watson knows this. He’s an official who has been in the league for a number of years and has officiated playoff games -including Stanley Cup Final games – many times before.  And he’s an official that darn well knows the importance of positioning when making a call. What do I mean? Take a look:

watsonposition

As you can see, our friend Brad is in a position where he probably cannot see the entire play in front of him. This is a result of the play changing direction very quickly, and is no fault of his. But this is also where things start to get messy. As you can also deduce, this is right before Hossa is going to jam the puck home to tie the game up. Watson is moving to go around Franzen, so that he can gather in the entire play in front of him, as well as have a clear view of the net. In the meantime, Hossa punches the goal in, but, for some reason, Watson decides that because he is out of position and can’t see the puck, he should blow the whistle.

Totally. Inexplicable. Why? Here’s why:

ref on net

Look where Wes McCauley is. Any hockey fan that watches the game on a regular basis has seen refs do this almost every time there is a close play at the net. They get in close, even grab the cage, and get a close look at what is going on. Where was our boy Watson when he blew the play dead?

(CAPTION INFORMATION)
Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen watch as a linesman calls no goal after a shot in the third period      Photos are of the Detroit Red Wings vs. the Anaheim Duckis in game three of round two of the Stanley Cup playoffs at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA., May 5, 2009.    (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)

Yes, on the back wall. So from where we left him, Watson skated around the downed Franzen, blew his whistle as he rounded him, and waved the play dead with his ass on the back wall. Folks, this is what I meant by understanding positioning.

Let’s play out the hypothetical: If Watson comes around Franzen and swoops in on the net to take a closer look at the play before blowing his whistle, what he sees is a pile up heading into the net and Chris Pronger grabbing the puck and throwing it out of the goal. In that extra second or two, he has determined that, even though he didn’t clearly see it from his bad angle, the puck was not frozen and has made it into the net for the goal. Granted, Watson has no idea how the puck got into the net, but he’s ruled it a goal and can go upstairs to video replay to help him iron out if the puck was kicked or batted into the net.

Some folks will argue that he did nothing wrong in blowing the whistle early, but I have to disagree. As an official, we are told to let plays start, develop and finish. Watson found himself in a “bang-bang” situation, which started when the puck was turned over, developed as it moved past Hiller, and finished with a rush to the net (which Detroit has done all season) and a goal by Hossa. But the play never finished because Watson killed it during the development phase. This is a mistake.

Look, mistakes happen. But here’s the thing that really gets me. I’d be willing to bet that, if he could answer honestly, Watson would tell us that he would have liked to have been in better position before whistling that play dead. As an official, you always want to be in the best position possible, and he knows he wasn’t on that call. And I’d also bet on the fact that he – while “right” according to the rules – knows that his call directly impacted the outcome of the game, and that is something no official ever wants. Don’t believe me?

Affecting the outcome of a game is a devastating feeling. Officials strive for perfection.

-Ed Hochuli, NFL

ed_hochuli_200608_ap

 

Ed’s been there before. He cost a team a game on a quick whistle and he knew it. But here’s where the NHL should take a lesson from the NFL. Hochuli was the one who made the call and he explained himself to everyone. He humbled himself because he was accountable for the call – right or wrong – on the field and he took it upon himself, knowing full well that it was on him and only him to explain himself. But when it comes to the Watson situation, we didn’t get anything. We got to hear from E.J. McGuire, series manager and spokesman for officials, who was most definitely NOT on the ice making the call.

On a replay, it’s easy to make the correct call. The official was down along the goal line. He was moving forward toward the net to try to get a look at where the puck was. When he couldn’t see the puck, all referees’ instructions are to blow the whistle and blow the play dead. A combination of the black puck and the black pants may have been a factor. But when he didn’t see the puck, he blew the whistle.

He didn’t make a mistake. In hindsight, if he had a slow-motion camera to review it, he may not have blown the whistle. He did what all officials are instructed to do. Blow the whistle when they don’t see the puck. And he didn’t see the puck.

He said he talked to the players on the ice. It’s an emotional game. He wanted to explain to the players on the ice, as he saw it, the puck was out of sight and he blew the whistle. The assumption was that the puck was covered.

Wow. Poor Brad. He’s basically thrown under the bus by this guy, with no chance to back himself up. The opening line of this statement pretty much states that Watson didn’t get it right. Then, to make matters worse, he tries to speculate that Watson didn’t see the puck because it blended in with the Anaheim uniforms. However, it’s the entire last section that really gets me going. McGuire says that Watson was trying to tell the players that in an emotional, hard fought game, he made a call based on an assumption, from the wrong position on the ice.

Yea.

I’d love to hear what B-Rad has to say about this. But something tells me that if he had a rule in place that allows for a replay of the situation, he would probably be in favor of it. Anything that helps officials get it right should be welcomed, as they are always striving for perfection.

officials_story

Or maybe I’m just making an assumption call from the wrong position.

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