Greg Eno

Archive for April, 2007|Monthly archive page

Trade Johnson? Don’t Get Me Started (Too Late)

In Lions, NFL Draft on April 30, 2007 at 5:58 pm

Set your Wayback Machine (if you’re old enough to remember) to 1989, please. Specifically, April ’89.

Try to recall your feelings when the Lions lucked out and had Barry Sanders fall into their laps with the #3 overall pick, after the Packers went brain dead and selected OT Tony Mandarich from MSU. Remember how special of a talent Barry was coming out of college — having applied for draft eligibility early. Remember how the Lions hadn’t had a superstar running back since Billy Sims — and his career was cut short due to injury.

Did you have any thoughts of trading him? Even though the Lions could have probably commanded quite a bounty, at least in terms of quantity?

I’d wager that the notion of trading Barry Sanders didn’t even enter into your 1989 mind.

And nor should the idea of trading wide receiver Calvin Johnson have gotten any credible amount of consideration.

I’m going to say this just once, so I’m going to make it as clear as crystal: When a player of Johnson’s magnitude becomes available, YOU DO NOT TRADE HIM!!

Let’s try this again.

When a player of Johnson’s magnitude becomes available, YOU DO NOT TRADE HIM!!

Do you need any clarification?

There was an annoyingly large number of folks who assailed the Lions and president Matt Millen for drafting the best wide receiver prospect in a decade, then having the gall to actually keep him.

Oy vay.


You don’t trade future sure-bet Pro Bowlers for four maybes. Period.

The Lions, according to the annoying ones, should have packaged Johnson for more picks and some players and really went to town addressing their multitude of needs. Perhaps a cute little theory, and maybe one that could work, if only you are able to do one thing: make several dead-on decisions, instead of just one.

Johnson is a special player. He is, according to the offensive guru Mike Martz, the best wide receiver Martz has seen coming out of college. EVER. The consensus on Johnson was unanimous: he’s a blend of so many great receivers, rolled into one, that it will make your head swim.

So you want to go and trade a guy like that??

For who, exactly? The Lions, in one selection, got it right with Calvin Johnson. He was widely regarded as the best player in the draft. But if you trade him, now instead of being perfect once, you’d better be perfect three or four times (depending upon who you listened to, the Lions could have commanded three or four draft picks/players for Johnson in a trade), because if just one of the acquisitions busts, then you’ve made a bad trade automatically.

Frankly, any trade involving Johnson, short of dealing him for Marvin Harrison and LaDainian Tomlinson, is a bad one, in my book.

Yes, the Lions have holes. Yes, their offensive line is horrid. Yes, they have drafted receivers a lot lately, with limited success.

So what? You draft Johnson, thank your lucky stars, for once, that you finished 3-13, and patch the holes elsewhere in the draft. Millen maneuvered himself enough so he had three second round picks and three fifth rounders, all without having to trade Johnson.

The Lions have a gem in Calvin Johnson. Doubtless had they traded it, they would have ended up with at least one piece of fool’s gold in return.

Keeping him is fool-proof.

Monday Morning Manager

In Monday Morning Manager on April 30, 2007 at 4:59 pm

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 3-3
This Week: (4/30/5/2: BAL; 5/4-5/6: at KC)

Only 24 Tigers games have been played and I think it’s readily obvious: the AL Central race will be a thrilling, wonderful ride that is sure to go down to the last weekend — maybe even the final game of the season. Perhaps the final pitch.

What makes it extra special is that this isn’t a two-team race, or even a three-team struggle. Four teams, I believe — everyone except Kansas City — have a shot at the title and/or the Wild Card. And don’t be surprised if the winner wins 90 games, tops (although I predicted before the season that the Tigers would win 95+ games; perhaps I dipped my ladle into some of the Lions Kool-Aid that was nearby). All the clubs will beat up on one another, although with all the combinations, there’s sure to be one pairing that appears to be one-sided; that’s just baseball. Remember how the Tigers had a devil of a time with Chicago last season? But guess who was sitting home, watching the playoffs on TV?

Some youngsters are hitting speed bumps in 2007. Last week it was Joel Zumaya’s turn. He needed that 1 1/3 innings scoreless outing Sunday the way a corn dog needs mustard. Zumaya said some stirring things after blowing Friday’s game, using phrases like “I have no clue” when referring to the location of his fastball. So it was good to see him hurl some shutout pitching, though he did walk two more batters.

And Gary Sheffield is throwing the dirt off himself and rising from the shallow grave that was his April.

But what’s up with Sean Casey? ONE, count it, ONE run-batted-in in 70+ April AB? That’s only one more than me, and I didn’t even suit up. It’s a statistical oddity that I presume will correct itself. I doubt he’s ever had a one-RBI April — or any month, for that matter.

I still say things are OK, because the club has yet to click “on” when it comes to hitting as a team. Brandon Inge went 3-for-3, including a walk-off HR yesterday, and still is hitting an unsightly .145. When you go 3-for-3 and your average is still lower than your playing weight — especially early on when you don’t have many AB, then you know you’ve been struggling.

The Tigers need to keep beating up on the Royals (they play them in KC this weekend). It’s always nice to see them on the schedule.

Wings Nearly Clipped In Game Two; Was It Only A Temporary Stay?

In NHL, playoffs, Red Wings on April 30, 2007 at 3:12 pm

Here’s one skewed way to look at the Red Wings’ second round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks: the Wings are 1-1 when they fall behind 2-0. But they’re 1-0 when they fall behind 2-0 before they get a shot on goal — not that they’d like to put that unbeaten streak on the line tonight in San Jose.

“Not the start we wanted, that’s for sure,” center Kris Draper told me after Saturday’s come-from-behind, 3-2 win in Game 2. “We probably gave the puck away in our zone three or four times in the first shift.”

The Sharks scored on their first shot, 36 seconds into the game, and had a 2-0 lead after 4:17. The Wings didn’t record a shot on goal until 13 minutes had been played.

This was a very different type of playoff win for our Hockeytown Heroes. It wasn’t the typical bushels-of-shots/something’s bound to go in game we’re used to seeing from the Red Wings. But then again, these aren’t the Calgary Flames on the other bench, either.

“They’re a good team,” defenseman Chris Chelios said about the Sharks when I suggested that it was unusual for the Red Wings to be limited to such few shots — and win. “They’re solid all the way around. You gotta be happy with a win, no matter how you get it. We got a couple lucky bounces and I think two deflections, and that’s the type of game where, whether you deserve it or not, you gotta come up with a win.”

I still have grave doubts whether the Red Wings can handle these big, bad Sharks — although had San Jose escaped with a win in Game 2, it would have been largely unimpressive. Aside from their two goals (the first, from the point, fooled goalie Dominik Hasek; the second was the result of a Hasek giveaway), San Jose was pedestrian. Give the Red Wings high marks for crawling out of a stunning 0-2 hole to grind out a win.

But the Sharks, when they care to be, can control things with their size and playmaking ability. They are the mirror image of the Red Wings when it comes to puck control in the attacking zone. But nobody said these playoffs would be easy. GM Ken Holland told me before the postseason even began that he felt each of the eight Western Conference playoff teams was a legitimate Stanley Cup contender.

The Red Wings stockpiled a bunch of points against the likes of Columbus, Chicago, and St. Louis. They took care of a pesky but unrefined Calgary club. They gutted out a win Saturday to perhaps rescue their season — if only temporarily. Now the real test has arrived in teal and black.

Is it a bad omen that we have Sharks playing a team that wears blood red?

Few Things Can Be Louder Than An Athlete’s Silence

In Cowboys, MLB, NFL, Sheffield, Tigers on April 29, 2007 at 2:08 pm

The network dweebs could hardly contain themselves.

This was going to be a watershed moment, the one that the entire country was waiting on pins and needles for – because the network dweebs told us so. Superstar, enigmatic running back was going to say a few words, so the camera was positioned, and the microphone thrust at his lips. Videotape whirred and was ready to capture the bon mots forever onto the magnetized ribbon.

Duane Thomas was a running back who had, frankly, only one good season. He was like the Russia that had once been described as being a “riddle wrapped inside an enigma.” Extremely talented, but not always caring to put those talents to use. We media folks have always been fascinated with his type – the athlete who could be so good, if he’d only tap into his pool of skill and raw ability.

Thomas carried the ball for the Dallas Cowboys, and later the Washington Redskins. In between there was a stop with the San Diego Chargers, but the riddle/enigma couldn’t be persuaded to suit up for even one game for them. He was a man with issues. Something was the matter all the time.

In 1971, Thomas took a vow of silence, using the NFL as his monastery. Something was the matter again. So there would be no speaking to anyone – not the media, not to his teammates, not to his coaches. His contract, after all, called for ball carrying – not conversation.


Thomas in typical repose

Throughout the season, Silent Duane fulfilled the ball carrying part of his pact quite well. He rushed for nearly 800 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. Yet through it all, he was mum. He made his stone-faced, button-down coach Tom Landry look like a chatterbox.

The Cowboys made it all the way to Super Bowl VI behind Thomas’s ball carrying, and whipped the Miami Dolphins. Thomas starred in the big game, too – carrying the ball 19 times for 95 yards, and scoring a touchdown. Then, afterward, word got out to the network dweebs that Thomas was going to speak.

Duane Thomas is going to talk!

As champagne flowed and players whooped and hollered in the background, Silent Duane was directed to the makeshift TV stage, elevated above everyone else. The camera was trained on him, the microphone inches from his rusty mouth.

“Duane, you had a great game today,” the announcer blabbed in so many words, “looks like your team really had the running game going.”

Thomas, a twinkle in his eye, then spoke.

“Evidently,” he said.

End of interview.

Rarely has one word on live television made so many network dweebs gag. Unless that word started with an “F.”

That was it – the extent of Duane Thomas’s verbosity in 1971.

“Evidently.”

Thomas was out of football by 1975 after two unspectacular seasons with the Washington Redskins. Something was the matter again, and this time football wasn’t going to be his monastery anymore.

*****************************************

Steve Carlton was, for my money, the best left-handed pitcher since Sandy Koufax. He managed to win 27 games in 1972, for a horrid Phillies team that had only won 59 as a team. Sometime in the mid-1970s, stung by what he considered to be poor treatment by the press, Carlton took a Thomas-like vow of silence. But Carlton’s lips would only remain zipped with the media. Apart from them, he’d engage anyone else in discussion.

Years of this went by. The muteness of Carlton became winked at – a contemporary legend that was being lived out in a modern day’s world of aggressive reporting and growing electronic media.


Carlton didn’t speak to the media for the last two decades of his career

And it was only relevant because Steve Carlton was a dominant pitcher. Nobody usually cares if the bench warming player goes quiet, after all.

And that’s the way it stayed, right until the end of Carlton’s 24-year big league career. He pitched, he showered, he got dressed, he left. It became accepted behavior, if not celebrated.

But today you can’t get a guy not to talk – at least not for very long. The media is intoxicating to today’s athlete. Rarely is silence a weapon of choice. Usually a war of words is the way to go. Today’s players are drawn to the tape recorders and cameras the way bugs are to light. Or, probably more appropriately, the way flies are to … whatever flies are attracted to.

It’s not always a bad thing.

Gary Sheffield came to the Tigers with a reputation that preceded him by fifteen minutes of infamy. He’d been some places before, and there tended to be some sort of acrimony at just about every stop. But if you think all the stories were true and unembellished, then I’d like to interest you in a book called, “Duane Thomas’s Greatest Quotes.”

Sheffield started this season in a slump. He’s still not out of it. In the throes of it about ten days ago, I approached him as a mole for Michigan In Play! Magazine, somewhat warily, as he walked away from the batting cage.

“Got a few minutes to talk?”

“Sure.”

And for the next ten minutes, Sheffield regaled me at his locker. He patiently, warmly, and with humility talked about his horrible slump. He’s always been a slow starter. He can’t explain why. He wants to show the fans that he was worth the trade – and the dough that accompanied it. He’s not panicking. He thinks the team is very good, the camaraderie marvelous.

“A couple of homers and five ribbies today, right?,” I said, ending our discussion.

He smiled broadly. “Absolutely.” Then we both chuckled.

Sheffield went 0-for-5 that day, including a crucial strikeout in the tenth inning of a tough loss to the Royals. The slump continued for another day.

But he had spoken about it, hadn’t hidden from it. He didn’t pull a Duane Thomas or Steve Carlton.

Few of them do, anymore. It’s too hard.

A New Poll: Never Too Early To Track Mediocrity

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2007 at 4:44 pm

I keep hearing talk about how bad the Washington Nationals are this season. In fact, there’s a notion going around that they’re so putrid, they might challenge the 2003 Tigers and 1962 Mets for ineptitude. That’s appropriate, considering ’03 Tigers alum Dmitri Young plays for the Nats, along with former Tiger Robert Fick.

As of today the Nationals are 7-15. It’s early, but that’s a 51-111 pace.

To have some fun, I decided to create a poll this season. Quite simply, “How many games will the Washington Nationals lose in 2007?” (to vote, see the red box in the sidebar)

I already cast mine: between 100-105.

Last season it looked like the Royals might threaten the ’03 Tigers, but they “recovered” to lose 100. So to make things interesting, I’m going to cut the polling off by the end of May — when they’ll have played about 50 games or so, or 1/3 of the season. Then I’ll dust it off at the end of the season to see how close the results matched the Nats’ real record.

**********************************************
1961 Cubs Update

I know this was just bugging the hell out of you.

“I wonder how Eno’s replay of the 1961 Cubs is going?”

Glad you asked.

Using my Strat-o-Matic cards, I’m replaying the 1961 Cubs, who went 64-90 in ’61. (Actually, I’m playing an 84-game season — each team twelve times).

So far? It ain’t pretty. We’re talking ’62 Mets/’03 Tigers/’07 Nationals here.

The Cubbies, MY Cubbies, are 2-9. They lost their first two to the Milwaukee Braves, won, then dropped seven in a row before beating the Giants, 11-2.

I might fire myself before all is said and done.

But hey, don’t blame me: Ernie Banks is hitting .150 and my starters can’t get out of the fourth inning half the time.

Lochead’s Amazing Goal Made Detroit Go Crazy

In NHL, playoffs, Red Wings on April 27, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Bill Lochead wasn’t a star NHL player. Not even close . He scored 69 NHL goals, and was out of the league before his 26th birthday. He’s 52 now, and presumably somewhere in his possession is The Puck — the disc of vulcanized rubber that found its way into a net some 29 years ago, making this town go mad.

Lochead (pronounced “La-HEAD”) scored one of the most famous goals in Red Wings history when he used outstanding body control to beat Atlanta Flames goalie Dan Bouchard in April, 1978. The goal put the Red Wings ahead late in the third period of Game 2 of their mini-series with the Flames, and they held on to win the game and the mini-series, two games to none.

Why so famous? Why such exhiliration when it went in? Why so much lore?


Bill Lochead: The accidental playoff hero

Well, the Wings were in the playoffs for the first time in eight years. And they hadn’t won a playoff series in 12. And just the season before (1976-77), the Wings won just 16 games and were by far the worst team in the league.

But then GM Ted Lindsay hired Bobby Kromm from the WHA as coach, and a new slogan was adopted: “Aggressive Hockey Is Back In Town.” They made t-shirts and bumper stickers — back when people actually had metal bumpers — with the slogan on it. Even Lindsay was photographed wearing the t-shirt.

The Red Wings weren’t a great team in ’77-78, but they were respectable again. They finished 32-34-14, doubling their win total and nearly doubling their points, too (78 from 41). And they would go up against the Flames in the first round mini-series. The NHL (and NBA) did that back then, giving the best teams byes while the lesser squads played the 2-of-3 series to eliminate the pretenders.

The Wings marched into Atlanta and torched the Flames, 5-3, scoring four goals in the first period then hanging on.

So it was back to Olympia Stadium for Game 2. A win and the Wings would be in the quarterfinals.

Near the end of the third period, just a few minutes remaining, the puck got dumped into the Flames’ zone. Bouchard saw Lochead and one of his defensemen racing for it. He hesitated (probably a fatal error) then roamed from his crease, determined to poke the puck away from Lochead and harm’s way. But Lochead blocked Bouchard’s attempt. What happened next, I can still see, as if it occurred last night.

Lochead, his momentum carrying him, was now almost entirely behind the net. The puck was slightly behind him. Somehow, he managed to corral it and deposit it into the empty cage as he was skating past the goal, behind it. It remains one of the most amazing goals I’ve ever seen in 36 years of watching hockey.

Olympia Stadium went ballistic. The game was shown on local TV — a rarity back then that a home game should be on the telly. I went ballistic, too. Lochead was mobbed.

But there were still a few minutes left, and the Flames pulled Bouchard and nearly tied the game. But they didn’t, and the Wings won, sweeping the mini-series.

In the quarters, the Wings got a surprising split in Montreal, but then lost the series to the powerful Canadiens, 4-1. I remember Scotty Bowman donning a helmet behind the Montreal bench during the Game 4 blowout at Olympia, protecting himself from the debris the Detroit fans were showering onto the ice.

Yes, I’m sure Lochead has that puck somewhere. After all, it was probably the most famous playoff goal scored in Detroit until Steve Yzerman beat the Blues in double OT in 1996’s Game 7.

We were so easy to please back then.

Lang Can’t Be M.I.A. Against Sharks

In NHL, playoffs, Red Wings on April 26, 2007 at 3:52 pm

The cry came loud and clear, outside Joe Louis Arena — and it was a Saturday afternoon pre-game, so maybe it wasn’t alcohol-induced, either.

“Calling Robert Lang! Robert Lang, will you show up today?! Are you even in the building, Robert Lang?!”

It was one Red Wings fan’s plea, shouted on the way into JLA prior to Game 5 of the Calgary series. You couldn’t help hearing it, if you were in the right place — like in the general downtown vicinity.

OK, so maybe it wasn’t that loud. But the message was. Simply put, Lang, the Red Wings’ closest thing to Brendan Shanahan, had been a virtual no-show in the first four games of the first round series. And he would need to get it going, if the Wings were to continue to boast being able to throw four quality lines at their playoff opponents.

But this is how it goes sometimes in the postseason. There’s always a guy who just can’t get off the dime. He is a regular season contributor, but then he becomes the sort of player about whom the TV and radio announcers will say, in a playoff game, “We haven’t said his name very often tonight.” The courteous way of calling a guy a stiff.


Have you seen this man?

In that Game 5, Lang was mostly quiet once again. Coach Mike Babcock kept giving his power forward power play time, but Lang just couldn’t do anything with it. He never really had a good scoring opportunity. The Wings won, though, 5-1, and so his silence was overlooked.

Lang finally got on the goal-scoring sheet in Game 6, when his wrist shot from the circle beat Miikka Kiprusoff cleanly late in the second period, tying the game 1-1. The Red Wings won in double overtime, ending the series. A few minutes prior to that game-tying goal, Lang had a half-open net staring at him during a power play, but was unable to lift the puck above the sprawling Kiprusoff. But at least he had gotten a scoring chance.

Lang, acquired on draft deadline day in 2004 from Washington, has actually been productive in the playoffs as a Red Wing — in seasons in which the team has lost two out of the three playoff series in which it played.

But all that previous success will mean about as much as that apocryphal hill of beans if Lang doesn’t get it together in time for Round Two against the deep, talented, dangerous San Jose Sharks.

When Lang was traded for, his presence was to have given the Red Wings another scoring power forward in the Shanahan mold — big, hard to move off the puck, and with a deadeye shooter’s touch. And Lang has been that — at times. He just hasn’t been as prolific at depositing pucks past enemy netminders as expected. This season, Lang had 19 goals and 33 assists in 81 games. If those numbers don’t cause you to want to sling an octopus, you’re not to blame — or alone.

Robert Lang is one of the few players the Red Wings didn’t get a whole lot out of in the series against Calgary. Maybe he wasn’t very conspicuous by his absence — despite that big-lunged fan outside JLA before Game 5 — because the Wings took care of business. But he can’t end up on the side of a milk carton against the Sharks.

“Robert Lang, will you be in the building??!!”

Inge, Not Sheffield, Leads The List Of Slow Starters At The Plate

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2007 at 4:19 pm

He’s battled a flu bug; maybe that’s the reason. He’s hit a few homers, so maybe it’ll all come together soon. And he bats ninth, so at least there’s no pressure, from that standpoint. Besides, he’s still playing a solid third base.

Gary Sheffield has gotten the most attention among all the Tigers who’ve gotten off to painfully slow starts at the plate, and with good reason. Actually, with tens of millions of good reasons — the green paper with presidents’ faces on them.

But the cold bats go beyond Sheffield. Every night the Tigers, it seems, are starting four guys with BA under .200. And the furthest away from .200 is third baseman Brandon Inge.

Inge is at .111, and there have been enough AB this season to make this a genuine, full-blown slump. What’s worse, other than the three homeruns, Inge is barely making good contact. He’s striking out a lot — though that’s not unusual. But he’s striking out A LOT. Twenty-four K’s already, in just 63 AB. Them are Rob Deer numbers.

When I spoke to Sheffield last week for a piece for Michigan In Play! Magazine, he talked with the quiet confidence of an 18-year veteran. I wondered aloud whether it was too early to panic about his snail-like beginning.

“I never panic in baseball,” he said. “I know what I can do.”

Inge is far younger than Sheffield, but he doesn’t strike me as a panicker, either. But I’ve been watching Inge after one failed at-bat after another, and there is certainly frustration, which I haven’t really seen from Sheff. And Inge’s body language after some of his strikeouts tell me that there might be some confusion in his batter’s mind.

All of which I’m sure isn’t news to manager Jim Leyland, batting coach Lloyd McClendon, or anyone else associated with the ballclub.

One of the reasons the Tigers were so successful in 2006 was because of the production they got from the bottom of the order — specifically Craig Monroe and Inge. But Monroe is slumping, too (.172 BA, 1 HR) — and so is #7 hitter Sean Casey (.188, 1 RBI in 69 AB).

But the worst of these offenders is Inge. He’s nowhere near getting himself out of this malaise, it appears. Not much has been spoken about him by Leyland — maybe because of the higher profile Sheffield’s slump.

Brandon Inge won’t be able to fly under the radar much longer. Nor will Monroe, nor will Casey. Sooner or later these guys have to start contributing to the cause. Amazing that the Tigers are 11-9 despite such horrific starts by so many key hitters.

The Tigers have hit the 1/8 mark in the season, and so many batting averages are still below people’s playing weight around here. Heck, Inge’s is below an anorexic actress’s weight.

Yo, Adrian! Be Careful — You Just Might Become A Lion!

In Lions, NFL Draft on April 25, 2007 at 12:14 pm

Adrian Peterson was hoping for something that he should probably watch out for — because he just might get it (though not likely).

“They’ve done pretty good picking the Oklahoma guys,” Peterson said at Lions HQ in Allen Park yesterday, according to the Freep’s Nicholas J. Cotsonika. Peterson, from Oklahoma, was referring to the Lions’ history of selecting running backs from that state’s schools: Steve Owens and Billy Sims (1970 and 1980, respectively) from Oklahoma, and Barry Sanders (1989) from Oklahoma State.

Well, maybe Cotsonika is too young to know, because the inclusion of Owens in that list is my doing.

Clearly in the case of Sanders, the Lions hit the jackpot, but only because the Green Bay Packers went sideways and selected MSU tackle Tony Mandarich instead of Barry. But with Owens and Sims, the results were mixed — because of that bugaboo with some running backs: the knee injury.

Owens rushed for over 1,000 yards in 1971 (the first Lions back to do so), but that was about it. He hurt his knee in 1973 and could never recover, despite a few comebacks. His last game, somewhat fittingly, was the Lions’ last game at Tiger Stadium, on Thanksgiving Day 1974.

Sims, a Heisman Trophy winner like Owens, had a few good seasons before blowing out a knee in a game at Minnesota in 1984. He, too, tried like mad to make it back before announcing his retirement at training camp in 1986.

If the Lions take Peterson, he’d be the fourth high profile back from the state of Oklahoma to be selected by the team in the last 37 years. And two of them had their careers cut terribly short by injury.

So maybe Peterson was right: the Lions have done “pretty good” at “picking” the Oklahoma guys. They just haven’t had as much luck keeping them healthy, Sanders excepted. And even Barry left us too soon, frankly, despite having played 10 years in Detroit.


Ex-Lion safety Mike Weger can rest easy: his #28 won’t be worn by Peterson in Detroit

It’s highly unlikely, in my mind, that the Lions will select Peterson with the #2 overall pick, despite the comparisons to Eric Dickerson. There’s just too much of a logjam in the backfield. Only if someone like Sanders or Reggie Bush were available would I make that leap of faith. Peterson is very good, clearly. But I don’t know that he’s good enough to draft at a position where there seems to be some depth — provided everyone is healthy, of course.

All I know is, the draft is but three days away and I am SOOO glad. The NFL should really do something about reducing the amount of time between the Super Bowl and its draft. Two-and-a-half months just seems awfully long. Actually, maybe it didn’t seem as long until the NFL Network arrived. I guess the wait didn’t bother me until I was reminded of it every single flipping day, thanks to those TV folks.

Still, how about a late March draft, guys? Do teams really need over 80 days to make up their minds? The non-playoff teams get nearly 120 days.

The NBA draft is held a few weeks, at most, after the Finals. The NHL draft, about a month after the Stanley Cup is presented. But the NFL drags its feet, until you’re unable to use the word “mock” without following it with “draft.” Until Mel Kiper stares at you from your bowl of Froot Loops.

We’ve had the Super Bowl, March Madness, the Masters, spring training, Opening Day, and nearly 20 regular season MLB games, since the final gun went off in the 2006 NFL season — and just NOW we’re getting around to the draft. Oy vay.

But back to Peterson. I think it’s a “no go”. I’m still putting my Monopoly money on the Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn.

Go ahead and mock me if you wish.

I guess I can use mock without following it with draft, after all.

Tuesday’s Feature: The Straightaway

In NASCAR, Straightaway on April 24, 2007 at 2:42 pm

(every Tuesday, “Out of Bounds” will feature “The Straightaway,” NASCAR commentary by longtime racing observer Siddy Hall)

THE STRAIGHTAWAY

by Siddy Hall

2007: THE YEAR OF THE DEBRIS CAUTION

Among the most commonly uttered words during this 2007 NASCAR season have been “Car of Tomorrow,” “Go-or-Go-Home Car” and “Caution is out for debris on the racetrack.” Here are some Fast Facts regarding this year’s cautions:

· 16 of 71 Cautions have been for debris, or oil on the track (22.5%).
· Las Vegas and Martinsville combined for 22 Cautions, none for debris.
· The remaining six races had 16 of 49 Cautions for debris (32.7%, and nearly three per race)

Three of the year’s eight races have been dominated by Debris Cautions. They are California, Atlanta, and last week’s race, Phoenix.

CALIFORNIA (3 of 9 Cautions for Debris): The final Debris Caution appeared with 23 laps remaining. Without this interruption, Jimmie Johnson may have four wins on the year. After re-shuffling the deck, he lost his lead to eventual race winner, Matt Kenseth.

ATLANTA (4 of 6 Cautions for Debris): Only 14 laps remained when “debris” was spotted on the track. This helped create the Jimmie Johnson – Tony Stewart duel where Johnson prevailed.

PHOENIX (4 of 6 Cautions for Debris): Despite only two wrecks, the race never saw a complete cycle of green flag pit-stops.

Listening to the radio broadcast of the Phoenix race became almost comical. After the third caution and the second for debris, nice guy radio announcer Barney Hall said, “Well, it’s good to have two of these cautions being for debris. That’s better than cars wrecking.” I didn’t fully agree but I respect and enjoy Barney Hall’s broadcasts so much that I found myself nodding my head in agreement.

OK, so we’re exaggerating — slightly.

However, when the fourth Debris Caution appeared things got sort of funny. Nobody would explain why the caution was out. Through the airwaves you could hear the announcers slapping themselves in the forehead and shaking their heads. They couldn’t bring themselves to admit what was going on. They simply went to a commercial and listeners were left to figure out that the caution was for debris. Well, that wasn’t difficult.

“Debris Caution” could be understood as a metaphor for “Boring Race.” As the stakes in NASCAR racing continue to grow, the organization has appeared to paint itself into a corner with its racetrack selection. California and Phoenix consistently provide viewers with dull races. Why? Because there’s too much room in the corners at these tracks. These are tracks that were built to accommodate open-wheel racing. They are not true stock car racing tracks.

Typical NASCAR fan when told today’s race would be run on another D-shaped oval


In NASCAR’s quest to conquer markets they’ve compromised on the type of track that they’ll run on. Essentially, any track will due provided that it meets certain criteria such as location and seating – that is, things that have nothing to do with the quality of a race. Thus, when the races suffer, the Debris Caution comes out.

The same thing is true for the Brickyard 400. This track was never intended for stock car racing. But after years of suffering through an inferiority complex with Indy Cars, NASCAR fans eagerly embraced a chance to race at the Holy Grail of American motorsports. What’s sad is that in the same town sits a great racetrack, the O’Reilly Raceway Park (formerly known as the Indianapolis Raceway Park).

Do you want to watch a boring drag race or do you want to watch some rubbin’ in the corners?

“Wake me when they wave the checkered flag”

A better drag race is the NHRA. NASCAR is all about the corners. A straightaway is just an excuse to reach the next turn. The sooner that turn arrives, the better.

Including Atlanta in the list of “Caution for Debris” tracks is really sad. There is no way it should make this list. It’s inconceivable. It earned its inclusion for a different reason though. It’s not because there is too much room in the corners of Atlanta. It’s because there are too many tracks built like Atlanta.

The 1.5 mile D-shaped oval tracks are sprouting up everywhere like mushrooms after a rainstorm. It’s the NASCAR cookie-cutter track. The drivers and crews have mastered the layout. Drivers can navigate it with their eyes closed.

This year’s Atlanta race came on the heels of the Las Vegas race, another cookie-cutter track. The Vegas track had a new surface, creating a challenge for the drivers. After going from Vegas to Atlanta, the latter’s once-treacherous speeds seemed like a Sunday drive.

Part of the answer to all of this is simple. O. Bruton Smith or Brian France need to build another Rockingham. NASCAR has failed to replicate what was the finest racetrack in the business.

(you can e-mail Siddy Hall: cityhall172000 at yahoo.com)