Friday, August 31, 2007
It's just another no-win game. Win big and yippee do, it's App State. If it's close and we win, we're all pissed it was close and no one much cares that we got the win, it's more relief that we avoided a monumental upset (see Ball State last year). Lose and the world ends. Where the fun in that? When all you're basically hoping is that nothing goes horrifically wrong and that you get out of the game without any injuries, the only thing to be pumped about is that baseball can now fade into the background again.
I'm in Michigan right now. I could hop in my car tomorrow morning, drive 45 miles to the west and I'm sure someone would be willing to give me a ticket to go to this game. But I can't do it. If it makes me a bad fan, it makes me a bad fan. Call it my own silent protest that we couldn't even manage to find a Division 1-A opponent to schedule. I'd prefer to save my first real football watching experience of the year for Oregon next week.
Instead of attending/watching that game, I will be heading down to Belle Isle for the American Le Mans Series race. My favorite driver, local boy (and unforunately a Bucknut) Bryan Herta, is starting third and was fastest in practice. Those cars are fricken cool and they're going to slice and dice their way around that circuit. It's going to be an absolute blast. I'll be checking the score on my phone at every opportunity, but I have no doubts that I made the right call about which event to attend this weekend.
By the way, the City of Detroit owes a big thank you to Roger Penske and to all the volunteers working out there at the track. I was there today for Free Prix Day and the island is in amazing condition. They've made a ton of improvements (mainly the paving of the paddock) to the track from six years ago when CART left the city. The volunteers were all great, the circuit should provide for better racing action, and God the weather was perfect. It's looking to be a great weekend down there, and it's another event to bring some positive pub to the city. Everyone was raving about what a beautiful setting it was for a race. I'm so happy that Penske was able to get the race back in the city. I swear they should just make that guy Mayor.
The one downer thusfar is that the shuttle system today was an absolute debacle. Rather than just getting on the bus and going to the track (like 6 years ago), they decided to start charging $5 apiece for the ride, which is fine, especially if they are only charging $5 for parking. But the execution was all wrong. It's like Alex Mitchell missed a block on our famed short-side sweep on third and one.
They were only set up for one person at a time to move through the line, despite a line of a couple hundred people (and multiple buses just sitting there, waiting to take people to the track). In an effort to speed up the line (which didn't work), one worker passed out bracelets. The next person came through and put them on each person (I'm 25, I can do that myself). Then you got up to the lady selling the bracelet and you had to read her the number off your bracelet so she could record it in the book (why? I don't know. It seems that since they were sequential, it'd be easy enough to keep track of which ones had been purchased). After that, a person next to her would give you a ticket that corresponded to your bracelet number (which was never used for anything). You were finally allowed, then, to proceed to the bus. It was the most inefficient thing ever. You've got 5 or 6 people working there. Just open up another point of sale or two!
The only thing that I can come up with is that they were worried about corruption or something (but for the $5 bus fee?) and this was a system of checks and balances. I'm not sure what the big deal is though. The bracelets were in sequential order. The city should know how many are being passed out. It'd be pretty easy to determine how much money should be in the kitty at the end of the day. Hell, give bracelets to the people at each parking lot and have them collect money as you're pulling into the lot. It's not that hard.
One person asked if we could buy bracelets for the rest of the weekend as well (so as to not have to go through this process again). The reply was no, but that that was a good idea and maybe they should think about doing that next year. Yikes.
Then we got on the bus. Our driver drove about 15 miles per hour (including during the trek onto the highway). He then explained that the driver of the bus behind him did not know the route and so he had to show him the way, and couldn't lose him. Shouldn't "knowing the route" be a prereq for something like that? Just asking. Like, maybe take a spin down there the day before so it doesn't become an issue? Or, they have these things called Garmins. They're pretty useful.
As well organized as this event seems to be, I'm fairly confident that they'll get it fixed for tomorrow (having more people at the point of sale would be a BIG help). But if they go with the same process, it's going to become an absolute disaster as 52,000+ people each day make their way down to the island.
Once on Belle Isle, though, it couldn't be more perfect. They've got stuff there for everyone. Moonwalks, slides, slot car racing, Playstations, autograph sessions and Disney stuff for the kids, there are concerts, the paddock, and booze for adults. And they found a support race (the ALMS) which is absolutely perfect for this track. I forgot how much I really do enjoy going to the races there. And even if the improvement to the track don't end up adding passing areas, for the ALMS cars it won't matter. They'll pass anywhere and everywhere. It's going to be awesome. The tighter the track, the more fun the racing gets because the LMP cars can't afford to dick around with the GT cars for too long. So the pressure is on to get past them, and get past them now.
So while hundreds of thousands of people are yelling "GO BLUE!" tomorrow, my alma mater will be in my thoughts, but I'll instead be yelling "GO BRYAN!" in what promises to be a much more exciting event. Just get through this "Functional DNP" without any injuries and then I can kick into football form next week. I've waited this long, I can handle seven more days....especially when all it means is that I'll miss a very vanilla 49-9 nailbiter. And the meltdown that's sure to ensue because OMG WE DIDN'T THROW DEEP ENOUGH!!!!11!
Friday, August 24, 2007
Anyway, I've been toying with the idea of what to do with this blog as it relates to things like the Packers, Nascar, the Pistons, and to a lesser extent the Red Wings (they're more on topic since most of the people that read this blog are hockey fans, and I'd assume many of you are Red Wing fans as well). I like writing about those things, but I feel that (especially with the Packers and Nascar) it's not the best audience. It almost feels useless to write about the Packers, and I don't write about them enough to feel good about ever advertising this as a Packers blog.
So, as you may have noticed, I've joined the Yardbarker Network, and I'm in the process of getting the site modified to reflect that. I feel that the majority of my posts about those other teams will be over there. My "column" is linked here (and in the next round of updates, I'll add it to the sidebar).
Here are a few quick thoughts on the Packers, though, now that we're three games into the preseason:
Their defense is going to be extremely good. The changes they made at the end of last year paid off and they're looking to be successful this year as well. The defensive line is just stellar. I'm really looking forward to seeing KGB in a part-time role, Cullen Jenkins has been a beast outside, and Corey Williams looks great in the middle. And I didn't even mention the NFL's second-leading sacker, Aaron Kampman. Hawk and Barnett have been great and Poppinga looks like he's more comfortable as well. Add in two top corners in Woodson and Harris, along with a good safety in Nick Collins and they're going to be tough to score against. The only real question mark is the SS position. Atari Bigby looks to have that starting spot locked down, and if nothing else he provides an athletic upgrade from Marquand Manuel. We'll see if he can cover. He definitely can stop the run and get to the quarterback on blitzes.
The offense I'm less happy with. The running game just hasn't been there in the preseason thusfar. Granted the projected starting running back is hurt (Morency) and they've been without Miree, the top fullback as well. And granted they've played two top run defenses in Pittsburgh and Jacksonville, but the running game hasn't been good. Jackson has shown flashes, but nothing consistent. If Morency comes back, I think they could be alright in the running game though.
As for the passing game it's been pretty good. They torched Seattle, Jacksonville, and Pittsburgh's backups through the air. Apart from the Pittsburgh game Favre has been sharp. Rodgers has been wonderful the whole time. He looks like a completely different player than a year ago. James Jones has been very impressive as the slot receiver (and if you've got a big roster in your fantasy league, I highly recommend picking him up). Driver has been great, and thankfully it looks like the injury he suffered last night isn't as serious as it looked. ::exhale:: Even Bubba Franks looks better than last year.
The big areas that needed improvement from last year were the special teams and the red zone. The special teams have gotten a shot in the arm with all these new draftees the last couple of years. Mason Crosby is going to beat out Dave Rayner for the kicker job (they may keep both of them). Jon Ryan looks to be improved as well. He was (understandably) kind of a mess last year with the impending death of his father. Will Blackmon won the returner job with an 83 yard dash against Seattle. The coverage units can use some work but guys like Hunter, Hall, White (if he makes the team) and even Barbre look like they'll be a big help in that area.
The red zone is still a problem. Again last night, Favre led a long drive down the field, they got inside the 10 and it stalled. One two of the plays, Favre had guys open (Mathis made a great play on Driver and the other pass got just tipped at the line) but the result was the same as last year. A field goal (again, pick up Crosby in your fantasy league). I hope a big body in James Jones along with the resurgence of Bubba Franks will help in there, but we haven't seen it yet.
Overall though, I'm very happy with what I've seen this preseason. No one has done anything against the Packers first-string defense, and they've played three pretty good offenses. They have the look of a dominating defense. They took the ball away a lot last year (2nd in the NFL). They got sacks a lot last year (4th in the NFL). They just gave up too many big plays. A year in the system, as well as a year of experience for guys like Hawk, Collins, Poppinga, Williams and Jenkins should pay some huge dividends. They're going to be tough to score on. If the offense can get it going, they should be right in the thick of the hunt for the division crown, or at least a playoff spot.
Mike Holmgren always said that the journey is the reward. And throughout last season, and I'm sure throughout this season, it's been an absolute joy watching this team mature right before my eyes. The foundation is in place for a very good defense, which should ease the transition to the Aaron Rodgers era, whenever it happens. And unlike the last two years, I now feel that Rodgers can be a starting QB in this league, and a pretty good one to boot. He's doing his best Hasselbeck impression against the backups, and he's led scoring drives when he's been with the starters. And that's all you want to see in the preseason.
One last thing today: This is quite possibly the worst idea ever. I'm pretty sure someone should get fired for okaying this.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
It's not that big of a big deal. It only affects three players on the team. And at least Rbk didn't screw with the actual design of the jersey. But I think this looks really friggin' stupid:
I guess I don't see what's the big deal about having the letter overlap a seam. Would they not be able to sew it in? Would having a letter sewn on have an effect on the player's range of motion?
The other question is should the Red Wings make it to the Stanley Cup Finals, where would that patch go? Would they put it on the sleeve like the VK/SM one was in the Finals in 1998? Would it just be for those three players?
Overall I think the new jerseys are a mixed bag. Some of these might be rumored changes. I haven't been keeping up on what's legit and what isn't. I think all of these are real though.
I like the new look for Washington, especially the reds.
Nashville's are similar to what they were before, but I like the blues a little bit better. Not a fan of the white ones. You can't read the "Nashville" above the logo and the color scheme is weird. The white/gray thing doesn't work. And apparently they might be wearing a "Ten Seasons" patch, which would be great except for the fact that this is just their ninth season because of the lockout.
Columbus's new duds are sharp. I don't like the white collar on the blue jersey, but I think the jersey itself looks really nice.
I don't like the rumored Pens jerseys. Too much gold, and it's unnecessary on the sleeves. Their jerseys from the last couple years have been one of my two or three favorites. I hope they're not actually changing.
I'm not a fan of the new Sharks logo. No need to add orange. Their jerseys have been pretty nice since they've come into the league.
I've never liked LA's uniform schemes as it is, but the new ones look really goofy with no coloring at the bottom.
I'm not sure what to think of Florida's. Part of me actually likes it, and part of me thinks that the piping and those horizontal stripes look terrible. I think I like the blue ones better than the whites.
Edit: And courtesy of the New York Islanders, we now have an answer to the question, "Who has the worst jersey in the NHL"? Though a friend of mine works in the video game industry, and someone told him, "Wait until you see Dallas's" when he made a similar comment.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
He justifies it in this way:
"Mike Fisher of the Ottawa Senators. He's a power forward-type player that goes out there every night and finishes all his checks. He plays hard and is just a real character guy. He's really there for his team and wants to win. When I was younger, I liked guys like Joe Sakic and Paul Kariya and the guys that would score the goals. But as I got older it became more of a power forward-type player (that I admired). I watched the little things that guys did. Mike Fisher, every time I watched him play, he'd be giving 110%. He wouldn't back down from anyone and would just be going 100 miles per hour everywhere, finishing every check, no matter how big the guy was, and giving his all – being a real team player."
Now, it makes sense that a guy like that would be Bailey's favorite player. He was a little pinball out there, forechecked hard, hit people. Caporusso is a pretty skilled forward. I was expecting a Mike Cammalleri, maybe Mats Sundin since he's a Leafs fan? But no, Mike Fisher. A player on the rival Senators, no less.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. I mean, I'm the guy who spurned the likes of Yzerman, Shanahan, Fedorov, and Lidstrom to buy a Doug Brown jersey. I love the guys that work their tails off out there. And with Fisher, you gotta like a guy whose TSN profile says that he "kills penalties with aplomb".
I just find it very strange that we've had two players in a two calendar year span who have cited him as their favorite player. Maybe it's an Ontario thing.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Antoine Pitts has been doing profiles of the incoming Michigan freshmen. He's already done Hagelin, Hunwick, and Palushaj. I like finding out what numbers guys are going to be wearing, and he's including that in the profile (they aren't up on MGoBlue yet). Hagelin is 12, Hunwick is 31 and Palushaj is 8.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
The Harbaugh/Hart controversy has stirred up again, in the light of Jim Harbaugh's comments to Pat Forde in a column that ran on ESPN.com tonight. In it are several very hypocritical remarks by Harbaugh (which I'll get to in a minute) along with Forde drawing conclusions off some very limited information and knowledge (such as his statement that he's never seen an entire Junior class having not declared degrees, when at Michigan it is VERY common to not declare until Junior year--which has since been corrected in a sidebar).
Harbaugh's first new remark is that Hart's comments were "orchestrated and organized" and that "when I was a player, nobody would've said what Mike Hart said about me" due to fear of what Bo would do to said player. He also mentions that Bo taught him to speak his mind.
Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but was Mike Hart not doing exactly what Bo would've taught--at least in Harbaugh's head? To speak his mind, and speak the truth as he knows it? Seems to me that's exactly what Hart did. And defended his school against an unfair accusation to boot.
It's also ironic that Harbaugh brought up Bo's teachings, being that he all but admitted to Jamie Morris that he wouldn't have made the comments he did if Bo was still alive.
Then he goes on to attack the General Studies degree, saying that "we don't have one of those at Stanford" and "In my opinion, that degree does not give you the skill set to compete in the working world."
So now we're not just tearing down the student-athletes on the football team, we're also going after the 200 or so students at Michigan majoring in General Studies. And that's after we've gone after Communications majors, since apparently Harbaugh was wronged by being "pushed" into that concentration. And that's after we went after the "Sports Communications" majors like myself, who he attacked in his original comments.
What I really want to know, though, is when the fuck did Jim Harbaugh become an expert at General Studies, and how on Earth does he know if it gives you "the skill set to succeed in the working world"? It's simple. He doesn't. I would be willing to bet that the man couldn't tell you one thing about that major, apart from the fact that a lot of football players are in it and therefore it must be easy. Never mind the fact that it requires half the credits taken to be 300 level classes or higher. Never mind the fact that it's a pretty flexible major, which is nice for athletes who have a very limited block of time for classes. Or that it doesn't require a foreign language, which is attractive to a lot of us, not just athletes.
Has he had a lot of experience himself in the "working world" (and I'm speaking of the one that most of us go into, not the world of professional football)? Has he seen a lot of examples of General Studies students becoming bums on the street since their degree didn't prepare them for the real world? Of course not. He was talking out of his ass, and Forde printed the quote, followed by a remark that if football players are in that program so disproportionately to the student body compared to the student body as a whole, they must be funneled into it.
Pat Massey for instance, was a General Studies major. He was in the program that Harbaugh denounced as, essentially, useless. Massey is now working for KeyBank in Cleveland in the same group as a friend of mine, who graduated from Michigan's Business School. Now, he may have been one of the smarter guys on the team. I don't know. But he ended up in General Studies, got his degree, and seems to be making the most of it. And yet, Harbaugh lumps him right in with those other people who "don't have the skill set to make it in the real world".
And for Crissakes, Harbaugh wanted to major in HISTORY (remember the disclaimer). Would he have been a teacher? What skill set would majoring in History have given him that majoring in Communications (or General Studies) wouldn't have?
You want to talk majors and proportions? Oh good! I was hoping you'd say that. And this is where that disclaimer above comes in.
I went through Stanford's website and found the majors for their football players. And some information popped up that was extremely interesting, to say the least. Of the 101 players listed, 52 of them are undeclared. Of the remaining 49 players, what do you reckon was the second most popular major? If you guessed that very communications degree that Harbaugh is so offended to have been pushed into, you guessed right. 14.3% of the players with declared majors are majoring in Communications vs. 1.55% of the student body as a whole (which includes Journalism students, so the percentage is likely lower than that). I hope the seven guys on his team that are Comm majors are really happy with Coach since he apparently doesn't think they're going anywhere in life.
So now about that random degree that almost nobody in the school majors in, but a disproportionate amount of football players do....at Michigan it's General Studies. At Stanford, I believe it's called Science Technology & Society. According to the Stanford STS website, there are 58 STS majors in the school. 58. That works out to .9% of the 6,400 undergrads. Want to know how many football players major in it? 9. Or 15.5% of the entire major (which dwarfs the Michigan team making up roughly 10% of General Studies). And since I know nothing about STS except for the fact that a lot of football players are majoring in it, I'm going to assume that it's easy, useless in the grand scheme of things, and say that Harbaugh and his predecessors are pushing players into it because they can't handle the "real" majors.
Here's the list of Stanford football team majors if you're interested:
Science Technology & Society: 9
Management Science & Engineering: 7
Poly Sci: 5
Public Policy: 4
Computer Sci: 2
Intl Relations: 1
Yup Jimmy, you've got a team of actual rocket scientists on your hands.
I'm not going to sit here and say that every football player that Michigan brings in could've gotten in in their own right. It's not true. But these players bring a skill that normal students don't have and that the university is looking for.
To me, the most important thing that athletics brings many of these "borderline" players is a chance. A chance to get a degree from a top-notch university, which they might not otherwise have gotten. Many of them will take that degree and use it as a way to open a door. We don't always know the circumstances for why a player is borderline. Maybe he was in a terrible school system (many of them are). Maybe he took the path of least resistance through school, being spoon-fed because he was an athlete, and he has the potential to do good things academically and just hasn't shown it. Maybe he's just dumb. We don't know.
But what I do know is this: A degree in it of itself won't make a person successful. But if you've got one from an institution like Michigan and you're willing to work hard, a degree can be the thing that opens the door. And these "borderline players" that get in...if they can cut it, they're getting a degree that they might not otherwise have gotten a chance to get. I don't call that abandoning them when they're out of school and no longer on the football team. I call it giving them the best possible chance to be successful in a life outside of football. The school can only do so much.
If you're smart, you're smart. If you're dumb, you're dumb. At some point, the player has to be accountable for what happens in his own life, just like any of us. And if he's too dumb or too lazy to make it in the real world, well, then he didn't take advantage of the chance he got and that his athletic talents got him. But I refuse to believe for a second that there has ever been a player who would've been a dynamite Engineer, was shuttled into Sports Management because he was an athlete, and is now a failure because of it. And that seems to be what Harbaugh is implying when he talks about players being pushed into soft majors and then abandoned when they're out in the real world.
Let me make one final comment. I love Jamie Morris. I worked with him in Michigan Sports Marketing for the better part of a year. If you know the man, you know how much it probably hurt him to say what he said to Jim Harbaugh. That's not a man who likes to burn bridges. The nature of his job in Development suggests that. If he told Jim Harbaugh to "lose my cell phone number", then he really believed that Harbaugh was completely and utterly in the wrong on this one. And that's good enough for me.
Friday, August 03, 2007
The linked article indicates that Wisconsin, BU, Notre Dame, and MSU were interested in him.
MGoBlog and WCH have their takes on his commitment.
He's supposed to be a good penalty killer, good faceoff man (Yes, I am saying THANK GOD on that one....seems like we've brought in a few guys lately that can do that. It'll be a nice change.), good defensive forward, can score some goals. Having never seen him play, it does seem like he'd fall into the Helminen, Ebbett, Rust category, no? And that's a good thing.
WCH also makes mention of the fact that Joe Exter is going to become the NTDP's goaltender coach. That is great to see. It was awesome how the college hockey world came together about his injury (what with the Exter-ribbons and whatnot) and it's nice to see that he's stayed in the game and has landed a pretty good job. And umm....now that he's going to be working with some pretty darn good goalies, I'd like to remind him that I wore one of those ribbons. So if he could...ya know...steer a stud netminder to Ann Arbor, I'd really appreciate it. Kthxbi.
Honeybaked U16 team won the MWEHL regular season title, and Lynch was the 3rd leading scorer with a 14-14--28 16 PIMs line in 28 games. He was just a tick behind a recruit that I really wanted in Kenny Ryan (5 points, but he played 3 less games), and just ahead of Michigan recruit Chris Brown, who led the team in goals, PIMs, and PPGs.
Lynch's verbal gives the Wolverines commitments from an incredible 21 players who have yet to suit up for the team.
Thursday, August 02, 2007
One thing is certain though: As of last week, the Kings and Cammalleri were not close.
I still don't see how Detroit could fit him under the cap long-term, as long as they want to re-sign Zetterberg (which they obviously do). But the thought of Cammi in a Wings jersey still makes me very happy and I hope there's some way to get it done. Datsyuk, Cammalleri, Lidstrom, and Rafalski all would have high salaries though, and that doesn't leave a lot of room for Zetterberg to get his $5 million raise and still field a competitive team. That'd be like $33 million tied up in five players. If they've got information that Lidstrom is going to call it quits in the near future (and they signed Rafalski with the idea that he'll be our #1 dman once Nick is gone) then it would be more doable.
Another bit of news from the Cammalleri family, his cousin Anthony Agozzino, who the Wolverines were rumored to be interested in, has signed with an OHL team (HT: Western College Hockey).
The Anaheim Ducks have decided to not match that offer sheet for Dustin Penner and I think that's a wise move. Penner is a good player and all, but that's a lot of money and a lot of picks to give up for someone who only had 45 points last year. I mean, Tomas Holmstrom put up better numbers (more goals, more points, less games) and I wouldn't be in a hurry to pay him over $4 million. I bet the rest of the GMs in the NHL really hate Kevin Lowe now after the stunt with Vanek followed up by him signing Penner. And you better believe that Brian Burke is going to try and get Getzlaf and Perry locked up before they're RFAs next year. Anaheim can't be THAT bummed, though. They're getting a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd rounder for a guy they signed as an undrafted free agent--and who has really only had one big year. Side note: I wonder if there are any other JuCo transfers that have made the NHL. You don't usually see guys going the Junior College route before playing college hockey.
This interview is a couple of weeks old, but I just now saw it. Justin Spiro, a good friend of JMFJ's and a regular posted on the LetsGoKings board, interviewed Jack and posted it on the site. There's some good stuff in there. They still haven't revealed what his jersey number will be for next year. He was wearing 33, but he seems to be thinking of changing it. The smart money is on 78.
The best segment of the interview:
JS: You have gained a type of cult-status with Kings Fans. Many of them want to know if Jack Johnson has a “JMFJ” shirt of his own.Gotta pimp the product: The JMFJ shirts are still available.
JJ: I cannot say that I do. I have given a few of them out as gifts, though. I do not think I would feel right wearing one. It would be like walking around with a nametag.
Somebody gave my younger brother Kenny a “JMFJ” shirt (Ed Note: It came from The Blog That Yost Built store!). My Dad and I had to stress to him that the abbreviation stood for, “Jack ‘My Friend’ Johnson”. He wore it to school at the end of last year and we had to prepare a ready explanation for the teachers. The whole “JMFJ” thing has really taken off. I think it is hilarious, and in a weird way flattering.
Additionally, Spiro has started a blog: The Converted King. He's been a Wings fan in the past--and will continue to be--but he's known Jack since they were in middle school, and it makes sense to follow--and root for--the team that your good friend is on. The site is mainly for his thoughts as a new Kings fan, but I expect there will be lots of good JMFJ stuff as well.
Lastly, if you've got 20 minutes or so to kill, the Canadian Business Journal has a database of every player in the NHL that you can sort by $/point, $/goal, $/penalty minute, and $/time on ice. It's easy to see why Anaheim did so well this past season. They had 5 of the top 43 players in Dollars Per Point. And that's the key to winning in the salary cap era. Get production out of guys while they're on their rookie contracts. Derian Hatcher was the worst in $/point this year, making a whopping $388,889 per point.
In terms of bang for the buck, Dion Phaneuf was the biggest bargain. The Flames paid him "just" $232 per minute that he was on the ice. Patrick Elias made $5,372/minute. It's amazing that despite the amount of time he spends on the ice, Nicklas Lidstrom was still 432/449 on this list. Basically that means that he makes a lot of money, folks.