Thursday, October 4, 2007

Hockeytown! now Hockeytown?

It was the best of times and I guess the worst of times at the Red Wings season opener at Joe Louis last night. The good times part is the Wings won in a shootout and it looks as though we haven’t missed a step even with the departure of some key players like Todd Bertuzzi, who scored a goal and an assist for his new team, the visiting Ducks. Hank Zetterberg scored a goal and picked up an assist for the homers and was the first star of the game and Dallas Drake, our off-season free agent pickup, kicked off the fighting portion of the season.

But the worst of times part is the game was not sold out. In fact, from what they are reporting, there were up to 2500 empty seats. This is the first time the Red Wings did not sell out since 1996, ending a streak of 396 regular season games.

Of course, the nattering nabobs of negativity that are the Detroit sports columnists used this fact as an obituary for Hockeytown (which was a cheesy marketing slogan anyway). When I say negative, I mean specifically Drew Sharp. He will take any development, make a sweeping generalization and then smear the hometown team and fans with hackery like this, “Sprinkle red roses over the grave. The myth of Hockeytown officially passed away Wednesday.” (Did they revoke our three recent Stanley Cups?) Wojo in the News had a much more nuanced and balanced account of what is happening.

This drama all because a game in early October did not sell out? Okay, it was the season opener but maybe fans are just getting over the Tigers missing the post season and the Lions are giving us hope early in their season. There is only so much love (and disposable income) to spread around.

The real problem may be how meaningless the NHL regular season is, especially for a team like the Red Wings, a highly skilled crew who can cruise through the regular season. We don’t even get excited about having the best record in the league, since on two occasions all this has meant is a first round playoff exit. I usually set my hockey alarm clock for the playoffs.

And I know there is a lot of sentimentality with Joe Louis Arena, it does have great memories and good sightlines to watch a game, but Mr. Illitch needs to build a new stadium. It was a bad idea to build the arena on the river, since an enclosed arena doesn’t exactly take advantage of river views. And it makes getting to the stadium a pain the ass besides.

Winning is not enough for the Red Wings, especially when your fans take it for granted. The Wings need a new stadium and a move to the Eastern Conference.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Lions Now Players in NFL Power Rankings

Somebody please slug me in the gut! Not one but two ESPN NFL power ranking "gurus" have the Lions at #12 for week 5. That means we are in the top third of the NFL. Can the Lions really be better than two out of three NFL teams? This is rarified air for the Lions and I don't know how long they are going to be able to breathe up there. We are no doubt a bit over-rated, probably because everybody loves the Mike Martz offense and the Lions have been lucky enough to play some pretty poor teams.

Now it’s on to Washington. It’s always one step forward then a few steps back with the Lions and I am fully prepared for the worst. Yet I niavely hope for something better. The Lions history in D.C. is ugly, many a blow out and embarrassments. I am just hoping to be competitive. Let’s keep it close. Which is quite possible since the Redskins offense is not all that. Not sure what the under is for this game but I think we are looking at a low scoring affair. Whatever happens I am happy. The Lions could be 3-2 going into their bye week, which was at the higher end of my pre-season hopes.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Red Wings, Pistons about to get off the Bench

Oh man, it was a beautiful feast of Red Wings and Pistons information in the Detroit News today. We are about to hit that sweet spot in the sporting seasons as baseball heads to the post season, hockey begins to stir, football games become more intense and basketball concludes their sexual harassment trials (ok, bit of a cheap but shot but had to be done. Now how glad are you that Bill Davidson picked Joe Dumars over Isiah?)

The Detroit News rounded up the Detroit Red Wings front office starting five (Jimmy Devalano, Jim Nill, Ken Holland, Scotty Bowman and Mike Illitch) to reminisce about the first 25 years of Mike Illitch's ownership of the team. And what beautiful times they have been. Even before the Cup with Scotty's teams, they had me at Jacques Demers and Bob Probert and of course Steve Yzerman, with Mickey Redmond supplying the mixed metaphors and cheesy play-by-play. I especially enjoyed the cloak and dagger tales told of busting Petr Klima, Vladimar Konstantaniv and Sergei Fedorov out of their respective communist countries. These guys did whatever it took to win. An even with the recent salary cap, they have demonstrated they can compete with a lower payroll.

And the blessed Pistons. This year is going to be interesting. I think a lot of us thought any chance at another championship ended a couple years ago when they stumbled through Cleveland before losing to Miami. And last year did not go so well either, though we did make it five straight Eastern Conference Finals appearances. But if what they are saying is true, and they are going to put the new younger crew on the floor for some serious and meaningful minutes than we have some potential excitement with the Pistons. Also looking forward to McDice as the starting center. It seems the Pistons have something to prove this year. When they do, that means trouble for the other team.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Soft Bigotry of My Low Expectations

Go ahead and color me honolulu blue and silver impressed with the Lions 34 point 4th quarter Sunday afternoon. They set a freaking record against one of last year's Super Bowl teams! (Though it looks as if the Chicago Bears will play out the sad encore of a next season all recent losing Super Bowl teams seem to endure.)

When I think of the Lions breaking records it's for such things as losing 24 straight road games - a full three seasons worth. Most points ever by an NFL team in a quarter, this may be the high water mark for the Lions season. We may look back on this like when the statue of Saddam fell in Baghdad.

But maybe, just maybe, the Lions are in the "last throes" of their pathetic six year run. CouldRod Marinelli and all this "pound the rock" nonsense really work? Because usually they are busy losing games in the fourth quarter and now they go ahead and break a record for scoring points. They have flipped the script.

My two football teams, all I want is 7 wins. The Spartans can go to a bowl game with 7 wins. Not any prestigious bowl game, but they do go to a bowl, and it has been a few seasons since that has happened. They only need to win three of their final seven games. That seems doable. Andwith the Lions a .500 hundred season would be awesome but even winning just seven games would be great, since that means no double digit loss total.