Sorry to break this to you, but this is Thursday at OOB, and that means you’ve stumbled across “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al”, my weekly confab with that MVP of the MVN, Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience.

In today’s webisode, we tackle U-M football as seen thru the eyes of coach Rich Rodriguez; the untimely (I think) firing of Tampa Bay Lightning coach Barry Melrose; the chances of the Lions pulling that 0-16 thing; and MSU’s unhealthy obsession with U-M.

Toss in some Word Association and Jerk of the Week, and you have the recipe for success…right?

Anyhow, carry on!

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Eno: Can you believe it’s Thursday again, already?? That means you’re about to be subjected to “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al.” I’m Eno, aka The Journalist, and he’s Big Al, aka the NEW Mr. Big Shot, now that Chauncey Billups is gone. How are ya, Al?

Big Al: As good as a middle-aged blogger and sports fan can be! I like that – I’m “Mr. Big Shot” in all conversations from now on, Mr. Journalist!

Eno: OK. I had been changing it every week, but if you like that, we’ll keep it like that. Let’s dive right in. I wrote about this yesterday: U-M football coach Rich Rodriguez says angry fans should “get a life”. Thoughts?

Big Al: He needs to “get a win!” I try not to take the angst of football coaches too seriously, as they always have some perceived slight to bitch about. But methinks RichRod has yet to grasp the importance of Michigan football to the fan base and alumni. This isn’t West Virginia; this is MICHIGAN, and MICHIGAN doesn’t lose nine games in a season. Honestly, I don’t believe he knows just how important the tOSU game is, either.

Eno: I think it’s kinda cute how naive he still is. I think it’s admirable to try to inject perspective, but like you said: THIS IS MICHIGAN. There AIN’T no perspective. RR tried to turn everyone’s attention to the economy, a la Barack Obama. It worked for Barack, but it’s not going to work in Ann Arbor. Like I wrote: every fan could be homeless and penniless – it doesn’t matter when there’s a 3-8 white elephant in the room!

Big Al: Exactly. WVU had a statewide fan base. Michigan has a NATIONWIDE fan base. A fan base that, rightly or wrongly, believes ten wins and a New Year’s Day bowl game is a birthright. If RichRod thought WVU was a pressure cooker, he stepped from the pan into a blazing inferno when he took the Wolverines job. I understand some of his frustration, but RichRod has not done a very good job this year. To lose to a two-win Toledo team is a fireable offense in my book. I know it won’t and shouldn’t happen, but emotions run wide and deep when it comes to Michigan!

Eno: Well, maybe this will be good for EVERYONE – coaches, fans, players, even the media – in the long run. Maybe U-M needed this kind of collapse to gain, ahem, perspective. But really, this kind of year was long overdue and maybe it’ll make everyone work harder and the fans will look around and see that just about every big time program has gone thru it. Look at Notre Dame last year. As for Ohio State, I do think he understands how big it is. And I stand by my cockamamie belief that U-M will give those Buckeyes a run for their money. I know it has “blowout” written all over it, but you have a bunch of U-M seniors who’ve never beaten OSU. Look for a close game, my friend.

Big Al: I do agree the Michigan program and fan base were long overdue for a bit of comeuppance, but come on! THREE lousy wins? This ain’t Indiana. As for the Big Game, I hope you’re right, but deep down inside I feel a 1968-style blowout coming. “The ghost of Woody Hayes” will be pleased.

Eno: You mean when he was asked why he went for two late in that game? “Because I couldn’t go for THREE!” Or how about those bumper stickers: “Oh How I Hate Ohio State”, and “Woody Is a Pecker.” Gotta love it. It’s funny. The game is EITHER going to be a blowout or really close. My gut tells me really close. Speaking of football and guts, what does yours tell you about the Lions? Do you believe, in your gut, heart, spleen, appendix, that the Tabbies will go 0-16?

Big Al: God, the Lions. Between the auto industry collapsing, the Wolverines turning into the Hoosiers on the gridiron, and the Lions with an excellent shot at going 0 for the season, can things get anymore depressing in the D? Don’t answer that question! As for the Lions, common wisdom is it’s impossible to go winless over a season. The old adage “On any given Sunday…” remains true. But looking at the Lions’ schedule, and how they are playing, 0-16 is not a bad bet. But when I think about it, as much as I want 0-16 to happen, I don’t think it will. [Quarterback] Daunte Culpepper may step up, and win a game or two on his own.

Eno: TWO??? TWO???? Oh my goodness, do I see a Kool-Aid mustache on your upper lip? Cripes sakes, Al. If they win one it’ll be a miracle. They just don’t have enough to compete for sixty minutes. I always thought that the Lions would benefit by one NFL rule change: switch the lengths of games to forty minutes. Their record would improve mightily!

Big Al: HEY! I’m no cornbread eater! I’m insulted. You just stepped into “Jerk of the Week” territory! Seriously, a win is possible for a couple of reasons. Kevin Smith is stepping up his game. Calvin Johnson, when the Lions get him the ball, is a game breaker, (7 TD’s and 18.6 YPC are impressive stats) and Culpepper is getting better. I can’t believe I’m DEFENDING THE LIONS! How did this happen?! I’m so confused…

Eno: CJ’s stats have been artificially inflated by, like, four plays this season, including that 90+ yard catch against Houston. But you know my feelings about him. Seriously, man, one win is about it. But regardless, Rod Marinelli must go. Can you imagine the PR nightmare if the Lions bring him back? Do you think he knows he’s a goner? His record is going to be either 10-38 or 11-37 after this season.

Big Al: The possibility of The Shoveler returning is why I’m rooting for a winless season. I’m scared to DEATH William Clay Ford will think a late season win or two is a sign of improvement, and keep Mr. Pad-Level for another season. In the eyes of the fans, Mr. Dig Towards The Light has to go. If the Lions even entertain the idea of retaining him, it will be torch and pitchfork time at Allen Park HQ.

Eno: LOL, I know what you mean. But I’m thinking that Junior might be starting to exert more of his will over things now, and that smarter heads will prevail. The ONLY game I see them winning is either Tampa Bay or Minnesota at home. That’s it. On the bright side, you mentioned Kevin Smith. I like that kid. A lot.

Big Al: Which is another reason the coaching staff should be given the ziggy. It took them TEN GAMES to determine Smith was their best running back! Insanity, pure insanity. Amazingly, Smith is a draft choice who is not a bust. Those have been few and far between during the Matt Millen Era. Speaking of which, I think 0-16 would be the perfect reflection of Millen’s incompetence. It has to happen to ensure the man goes down in infamy as the worst GM in sports history. He’s been gone for a couple of months now, but Millen still looms large over this sad franchise.

Eno: 0-16 would simply be a blemish that would stain the franchise forever. Even if someone does it after them, the Lions would be the first. They’re already in the midst of one of the worst eight-year stretches in league history. If they keep Martin Mayhew as GM (a bad idea) then they MUST hire a big-name, high-profile head coach. They can NOT go the “little known assistant” route, unless it’s someone from New England, Dallas, etc. The Lions don’t have that luxury. Gotta be a big time guy. And this job isn’t as bad as some might think. You get to work for the Fords, which NFL people think is a good thing, and you have the chance to be elected mayor of Detroit, governor of Michigan, and have job security for LIFE if you manage to turn this thing around. You’d be a freaking legend.

Big Al: Why else would have Bill Parcells approached the Lions? He knows running the team is one of the best gigs in the NFL. [You have] hands-off ownership; state of the art facilities; and a fan base desperate for a winner. What’s not to like? I’m sure the Lions will have their pick of some of the best and brightest from the front office guys in the league, for the reasons we both mentioned. The only question is, after 50 years of hiring the wrong guys, why should we think the Lions will get it right this time?

Eno: Good point. Thanks – now I’m depressed again. OK, turning to the ice. The Tampa Bay Lightning fire Barry Melrose 16 games into the season. Stupid is as stupid does. Or do you have another opinion?

Big Al: Last week I said Melrose would be back at ESPN sooner than later. I just didn’t think it would be this soon! Melrose had been away from coaching for 15 years; it was silly to think he could step right back into coaching at the highest level. Tampa Bay, from the ownership on down, is a mess.

Eno: SIXTEEN GAMES!! That’s just plain dumb. Unless something happened behind the scenes that was heinous, this is an inexcusable decision. If you’re gonna think outside the box and hire a TV dude, then don’t bail on him after 16 games. That’s lunacy. Whether you like Melrose or not, this is a dumb decision. Dumb, dumb, dumb. GM Brian Lawton: “We have high standards here.” Really, Brian? How about UNREALISTIC standards! When teams do stuff like this, it just makes me crazy. Like the Brewers firing Ned Yost with 12 games to go.

Big Al: The hubris of some owners is amazing. Just because they were successful at business (or in some cases, inherited a Scrooge McDuck level of riches //cough//William Clay Ford//cough//) they think they can be just as successful running a sports franchise. It doesn’t work that way. We’ve seen it time and time again over the decades, with the likes of Daniel Snyder, Ted Turner and Ted Stepien thinking they can make personnel and coaching decisions.

Eno: Literally, in the case of Teddy, who managed the Braves for a day before Bowie Kuhn kicked him out of the dugout. OK, I’ve been dominating this conversation. Before we move on to Word Association, whatya got?

Big Al: Any thoughts on Spartans’ head football coach Mark Dantonio living up to the stereotype of your typical Sparty who is overly obsessed with the Wolverines? It would be in the Spartans’ best interest if Michigan beat tOSU. But he was quoted as saying “Go Bucks!” in front of the media!

Eno: *head in hands* YES, yes, YES! Oh, Mark! It even seems contrived, as if that’s what he feels he’s SUPPOSED to say. Clearly an OSU loss helps Sparty. I think even Sparty fans know that. Hey, as much as I hate, hate, HATE the Minnesota Vikings, if a Vikings win helps the Lions, then I’m like, GO VIKES! That was pretty weird of Dantonio to say, I admit. But it just goes to show: they’re still learning how to handle winning in East Lansing.

Big Al: Dantonio has done a very good job of turning the Spartans program around, but I just don’t get what the man is thinking at times. Between his seething over the “little brother” comment and insulting Mike Hart in return, to this latest foot in mouth episode, the Spartans come off as being too worried the Wolverines. They need to be more concerned with East Lansing, and forget about continually comparing themselves to “big brother.” OK, ready for some Word Association?

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WORD ASSOCIATION

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Eno: Yep – you ready to start, or are you going to defer and defend the south goal?

Big Al: I guess I can start this time… Here goes!

Big Al: Rich Rodriguez

Eno: Confused.

Big Al: No doubt. Lions’ defensive coordinator Joe Barry.

Eno: Embarrassment.

Big Al: Works for me. Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock

Eno: He deserves two words: consummate professional.

Big Al: He’s the best in the NHL, without question. OK, the man who believes Detroit will lose a sports team, Freep columnist Drew Sharp.

Eno: Jackass.

Eno: OK, my turn.

Big Al: Go for it.

Eno: The Oklahoma City Thunder.

Big Al: Seattle Supersonics! They’ll always be the Sonics to me!

Eno: Nicely played, and very diplomatic. You see their record? OK, Dave Dombrowski.

Big Al: Pressure.

Eno: Dusty Ryan.

Big Al: Three words: Opening Day starter.

Eno: Three words that ought to scare Tigers fans to death. OK, NASCAR.

Big Al: I’m saying this as someone who grew up as a fan of stock car racing, and thinks Cale Yarborough is the shiznit. “BORING!”

Eno: And finally, Lions head coach Bill Cowher.

Big Al: YES!

Eno: Before Jerk of the Week, I want to get your impressions of all this weeknight college football. My opinion? We don’t need football on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights. Am I a JOTW candidate for saying so?

Big Al: No, as we are going through a bit of football overload right now. But I can’t blame the schools who agree to play on weeknights. It gets (for example) the MAC national exposure, and keeps the 4 Letter (ESPN) from replaying the World Series of Poker for the umpteenth time. I’m more upset by the NFL Thursday night package, which is on the NFL Network – a network NO ONE HAS! There are some very good match-ups no one can watch, save for crappy online look-ins on NFL.com. But I digress…

Eno: You mean I’m the only one who gets the NFL Network? You gotta get the dish, my friend!! You make a good point re: the smaller conferences. I suppose that makes sense for them. OK….drumroll please…..

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JERK OF THE WEEK

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Eno: JERK OF THE WEEK TIME!!! Who’s yours, Big Al?

Big Al: I had to think long and hard, and I almost went with Dantonio. But I have to go with…Drew Sharp. His fear mongering column stating Detroit was bound to lose one of our beloved pro sports teams because of the economy, population shift and whatever BS he pulled out of his you know where, felt like he was just piling on. If there is one thing the Detroit metro area takes pride in is being a four sports town, and for the most part, supporting them quite well attendance wise. I felt like Sharp was, to be quite blunt, pissing all over Detroit fans who are going through some unimaginably tough times in their personal lives. I’m sorry, but the man is a hack. Who’s your jerk, Mr. Journalist?

Eno: Sharp is yours two weeks in a row – not that I’m surprised. OK, I must go with Philadelphia Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, for not knowing the rules of the NFL re: overtime games in the regular season. I bet the Eagles wish he had kept that little fact in private. Makes the whole franchise look dumb!

Big Al: I was amazed at McNabb’s statement. But it goes to show you that many athletes aren’t really fans of their own sport. It’s a paycheck, a job, nothing more. I know you have to get going , as you are interviewing one of my all-time most hated players, Patty Waah [Patrick Roy], so I think we need to wrap this up. Any final thoughts?

Eno: Well, next Thursday is Thanksgiving Day so I guess both of our faithful readers are going to be enjoying us with a turkey leg in one hand and their mouse in the other. Or a foam brick, whichever.

Big Al: Well, they may not be watching the Lions game, as it’s not yet a sell out. So they may not have anything better to do but read “The Knee Jerks!”

Eno: We’re more entertaining, anyway, if you ask me. OK, my friend – see ya next week!

Big Al: As Jim Rome says, “I’m ouuuuuut!”

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