The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Andy Williams had it all wrong. I’m sorry, but I’ll take September’s non-stop MLB pennant chasing + NFL + Notre Dame losing to Michigan combination over cold and snow and fake Santas any day. In fact, since it’s an election year, we get even more drama to go with our Irish-trouncing, and if you wait until the end of this post, you’ll even see that the Republicans have JOKES!

But first thing’s first: TUNE IN TO BASEBALL. My lord, between the AL Central showdown, the A’s/Angels wild card battle and the AL East title three-way, I can’t imagine a more exciting scenario (except maybe a non-baseball related three-way, but that’s for a different blog). Consider the NL wild card race and the fact that one of the three AL East teams could also nab the last AL West wild card spot and now allow your mind to be blown (again, maybe better for another blog).

And I haven’t even mentioned the myriad story lines decorating the start to the NFL and college football seasons!

The fact is, for dudes like Mr. Krause and I, it really doesn’t get much better than this. Unless you want to throw in some flaccid punchline deliveries (ZING!)…

Hate me ‘cuz you can, just don’t hate me ‘cuz I’m right.

Peace,

Jeff

Fleeing the Earth

As a fan of Michigan sports and especially University of Michigan football, I can't help but experience an inordinate amount of glee in the problems currently roiling the Ohio State football program. You can say I'm a bad person for feeling this way but if you ask a Buckeyes fan, I'm sure they'll admit to feeling the same way when Gary Moeller was forced out as the coach at Michigan. Sure, you'd like to be able to beat a team on their own terms but when they've got your number, it's a little satisfying to see the person responsible for that get the boot.

And it's not just football. With the Tigers playing in the same division as the Indians and the Indians currently whipping everyone's butts, it's just one more reason to dislike Ohio. But maybe I should be a little more empathetic and feel sorry for Ohio. After all, there must be some truth to this graphic: So, Ohio, I'm going to go easy on you. You've had a rough year with LeBron leaving town and Tressel's sweater vests hiding a growing laundry list of sins. But when the dust settles and Tressel gets forced out, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going to have a drink to celebrate. Same goes for when the Indians come back to earth.

-A

 

A Pleasant Peninsula

I'm proud to be from Michigan. We've got four of the five Great Lakes and really, how great is Lake Ontario anyway? Without Michigan, you don't get Kid Rock or Ted Nugent and how many other states let you to show people where you live just by holding up a hand?

However, I'm not always proud of Michigan. Sure, it's a great state but there are some issues. You know, like the fact that half of Detroit is functionally illiterate. Seriously, half. Even Togo does better than that.

Some of our other citizens don't fare much better either. You could call it a blond thing, you could call it a Michigan thing. All I know is that it doesn't say anything good about us.

There are two things that give me hope, though. First is the fact that we still have Justin Verlander and that's like money in the bank. The second thing? Actually, it's the hand thing. Come on, that's pretty cool.

-A

NCAA Frozen Four: Who to Watch for NHL Fans

NCAA basketball's March Madness reached an anti-climatic end Monday, ending a month of…well, madness, but fear not!  There is yet one more college championship to be won!

Frozen Four 3

In St. Paul, MN today, the final four, the Frozen Four (University of Minnesota-Duluth, the University of Michigan, the University of North Dakota, and the University of Notre Dame) will contend in the semi-finals matches for the championship game Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.  For those who love hockey (example: moi), the decision to watch is a no-brainer.  But in America, where even NHL teams struggle to bring in fans, the tournament is vastly under-publicized. 

Understandably, no matter how much you love a sport, it can be a bit difficult to watch when colors and numbers, and maybe some awesome hair are the only distinguishers between players.  Which is why I've come up with a short list of who to watch and why you should watch them.

 

 

 

 

Chris Brown (University of Michigan, #10)

Date of birth: 2/3/1991

Height: 6-2

Weight: 194 lbs

Position: Center

Hometown: Flower Mound, TX

Drafted 36th overall by the Phoenix Coyotes in 2009

All but one of these players was a part of the Team USA for this year's IIHF World Junior Championship (WJC), and if you watched any game involving the US, you probably heard Brown's name.  Helping the U.S. to win bronze, Brown, a sophomore, totaled three points (2 g, 1a) in six games, both of them with a man advantage, and one being the only against Team Canada in a 4-1 semi-final loss.  Brown is currently tied for fifth among the Wolverines for points, with nine goals and 14 assists, including five game-winning goals and four power play goals in 40 games. 

Brown is known less for offensive glamour as he is for his effective physical play, as well as being able to put up a good defensive effort.  He also has giant ears, so look out for those.

 

Justin Faulk (University of Minnesota-Duluth, #25)

Date of birth: 3/2/1992

Height: 5-11

Weight: 200 lbs

Position: Defense

Hometown: South St. Paul, MN

Drafted 37th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2009

Faulk, as a native Minnesot–an(?) will have not only the opportunity to play close to his hometown, but will also be playing for his childhood team.  The freshman business major has hardly been shy in showing his enthusiasm, putting up an impressive 30 points this season, with eight goals and 22 assists in 37 games with the Bulldogs.  Also a major player in the WJC, Faulk had four points in six games (1 g, 3 a).  In the tournament, that included one power play goal, and on the Minnesota team, Faulk is in a three-way tie for second in power play goals, with six total.  Scouts watching him in preparation for the draft listed his slap shot as one of the hardest of that year's pool.

 

Derek Forbert (University of North Dakota, #4)

Date of birth: 3/4/1992

Height: 6-5

Weight: 200 lbs

Position: Defense

Hometown: Duluth, MN

Drafted 15th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in 2010

Another guy playing to the home crowd, Forbert is seen as a good offensive defenseman, able to generate smart plays though not very physical.  Forbert has not scored with the Fighting Sioux this season, nor did he register a point in the WJC, but he does have 15 assists with his college team.  Despite his size, the freshman himself admits that he still has much to learn, including his skating skills and defensive play.     

 

Jon Merrill (University of Michigan, #24)

Date of birth: 2/3/1992

Height: 6-3

Weight: 209 lbs

Position: Defense

Hometown: Brighton, MI

Drafted 38th overall by the New Jersey Devils in 2010

Merrill represents another all-around American defenseman, able to not only play his position but also able to think offensively.  Ranked 21st among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting bureau before being drafted, Merrill has drawn comparisons to Detroit legend, Nick Lidstrom.  As a member of Team USA, Merrill got a goal and four assists in six WJC games and as a Wolverine, has gathered 24 points (7 g, 17 a) in 40 games. 

 

Brock Nelson (University of North Dakota, #29)

Date of birth: 10/15/1991

Height: 6-3

Weight: 185 lbs

Position: Center

Hometown: Warroad, MN

Drafted 30th overall by the New York Islanders in 2010

Not a spectacular player, but it's clear the kid has potential.  Though only able to get an assist in the WJC, Nelson has racked up 21 points (8 g, 13 a) in 41 games with the Fighting Sioux this year, and by watching his highlight video alone, it is easy to see Nelson has the makings of a NHL power-foward.  His size allows him to make defenders work for the puck when he's on it, and his skills allow him to out maneuver them when physicality isn't an option.  

If and when he makes it to the NHL, the freshman's experiences will probably teach him more than just playing good hockey.  I'm sure being in the Eastern Conference will change his team preferences a bit.    


 

 

Dillon Simpson (University of North Dakota, #18)

Date of birth: 3/10/1993

Height: 6-2

Weight: 205 lbs

Position: Defense

Hometown: Edmonton, AB

Undrafted, Elligible for 2011

I wanted to bring up Simpson specifically because of the four remaining teams, he is the only draft prospect for this year.  His father, Craig Simpson, played for Michigan State University before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1985 and then traded to the Edmonton Oilers where he won two Stanley Cups before ending his career with the Buffalo Sabres.  Dillon has two goals and eight assists as a Fighting Sioux freshman, though with time, I'm sure those numbers will improve. 


 

Missing from this list, you may notice, are Notre Dame players.  There is a simple answer to this.  There were no Notre Dame players fitting my criteria.

 

Notre Dame (25-13-5) and UMD (24-10-6) will be the first to play at 5 p.m. while Michigan (28-10-4) and North Dakota (32-8-3) will have to wait 8:30 p.m. to find out who moves on to the final round.  Both games can be seen on ESPN 2 HD or on ESPN3.com.

 

A Much Needed Diversion

The awards are all in here at RSBS and it would be hard to find a more deserving bunch of winners. However, we have to wait to hear who Major League Baseball determined to be the most valuable players and we like a little diversion during these times. So, since it's a Saturday and since Michigan just got beat like a red-headed step-child, we turn to Celebrity Jeopardy:

SNL with Will Ferrell, the gift that keep on giving (unlike that punk, Rich Rodriguez).

Happy Saturday.

-A

Et Tu, SI?

At this very moment, as I sit here writing this blog a long, long way from Comerica Park, the Tigers are attempting to sew up the AL Central title. But I'm worried. Very worried. I mean, there are the usual reasons as I explained the other day but this time there's a much more relevant reason. Comerica Park is on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

SI_comerica.jpg

Now, I don't know as though the SI cover jinx applies to ballparks or cities but why would SI even risk it? It's not as though the Detroit (or the state of Michigan for that matter) has anything else going for it. Yeah, the Lions may have finally won and the University of Michigan has eked out some close victories. But that's no reason to be going around messing with curses. That's some potent stuff.

I'm not really a superstitious man. I mean, it's not my fault that my teams do better when I don't watch them. That's just how it is. But the SI cover? That's fact. Just like the Madden cover is fact for the NFL. I don't buy all this "regression from the mean," scientific mumbo-jumbo. I believe what I see and what I see is that Sports Illustrated jinxes people by placing them on the cover.

And when you take all of this to it's (il)logical extreme, does this mean that all the people sitting in the stands when the picture of the park was taken are jinxed, too? Thanks a lot, Sports Illustrated. Just what Detroit needs: more bad luck.

I have an idea, though. I'm inviting you, SI, to come visit Detroit with me. I have a beautiful old building with a very special elevator shaft I'd love to show you. Make sure you dress warm.

-A

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…And In This Corner, Misanthropy!

misanthropy.jpg

I don't like it when things come down to the wire. I like to know early what's going on and then just settle back and not worry about it. Perhaps this explains why I often miss incredible finishes, like Boise State beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl a couple years ago. Or Michigan coming back against Notre Dame. And Indiana. I'm not sure what it is, maybe my German blood, but just like I don't enjoy gambling, I don't enjoy close finishes.

Which is why I'd like the Tigers to make up their mind about the AL Central title. A friend of mine used to describe this peculiar inability to make a decision with the phrase, "Either sh!t or get off the pot." And maybe someone needs to pointedly remind the Tigers of this. At this point I don't care so much how it ends (OK, that's not exactly true) but I'd just like it to end.

Would it be exciting if the Tigers and Twins ended the year tied and (once again) had to go to a one game playoff? Sure. Would I enjoy it? Not one bit. I can deal with it when it's teams I don't care about because, well, because I don't care about them. But watching Michigan when they're down 5 points in a dogfight with Indiana? Or the Tigers as they try to redeem the season? I'd rather just go to bed. That isn't going to make me an ideal candidate for Lipitor.

So, here's the deal, guys. If I wanted drama I'd just pop in some HBO on DVD. If I want mind numbing entertainment, I have the internet. But is it too much to ask for my sports teams to either just win or lose convincingly? At least the Lions have that one down. Kind of.

-A

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