Greg Eno

Archive for the ‘The Knee Jerks’ Category

A Very Special Christmas Day Edition Of "The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno & Al"

In The Knee Jerks on December 25, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Merry Christmas and thanks for stopping by! As you know, every Thursday (even on holidays, obviously) I chat with the MVP of the MVN, Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience.

This week, we (as usual) talk about the history-making Lions; EMU’s new football coach; the Rob Parker-Rod Marinelli feud, which has gotten very personal; the Tigers’ continued search for a bullpen; what in the world is going on with the Pistons; and, as usual, WordAss. Oh, and instead of Jerk of the Week, we hand out candy and coal in certain folks’ stockings.

As you will….


Eno: Happy Holidays and welcome to a very special Christmas Day version of “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al”. I’m Eno, aka The Journalist, and he’s Big Al, aka Mr. Big Shot. Hey, Al!

Big Al: Yo, Eno! Happy Holidays, sir. I was going to make a joke about asking if someone had married a better blogger in your family, but a version has already been done by a columnist in our little town!

Eno: Very funny – I like it! Well, may as well start there. What’s your take on the whole Rob Parker/Rod Marinelli flap?

Big Al: As you well know, I’ve been a Parker jihad for my entire blogging life. I don’t like his writing, or his broadcasting. I do agree that he crossed a line in making what was essentially a bad joke in bringing up Marinelli’s daughter in the post game presser. But…Marinelli deserves to be called out for keeping his son-in-law on staff as the defensive coordinator, even though statistically, his defense is the worst in Lions, and maybe NFL, history. Parker should get a slap on the wrist. Personally, I think Marinelli is enjoying playing the victim here, and made a big show of rejecting Parker’s apology for that reason. Parker has apologized, Marinelli has said his piece, so let’s all move on.

Eno: I agree with you mostly. I think Parker definitely crossed the line, and he’s lucky that wasn’t Mike Ditka or Bill Parcells up there; he would have gotten his clock cleaned. Don’t kid yourself. I also think Parker’s clumsy attempt at an explanation in his column was weak. He was trying to be funny? Trying to get Marinelli to laugh? And he thought THAT was the way to do it?

Big Al: Good point, Mr. Journalist. Marinelli did himself a favor by taking the high road when Parker asked his joke question. A Denny Green or Jimmy Johnson type would have gone medieval on his ass. Parker’s “apology” was revisionist history, as I seriously doubt Marinelli would consider anyone in the media a “friend.” I believe he thinks of the media as something to be tolerated, nothing more. As for humor, I doubt anything would have gone over well after getting blown out 42-7. The only joke was Barry’s defense, which never stopped the Saints till they took a knee at the end of the game.

Eno: 11-for-11 in 3rd down conversions – you don’t even see that in high school! And Gosder Cherilus – whoo boy! I don’t know, man. 0-16 looks like the surest bet in Vegas now, despite the Packers’ 5-10 record. Right?

Big Al: We could pool our money together and make a KILLING in Vegas. The Lions losing in Packer-land is the surest bet of our lifetimes. The Lions haven’t won in Green Bay since the Majik-Man, Don Majkowski, was under center for the Pack. 0-16 is a done deal. As for Cherilus, he hasn’t had the most impressive of rookie seasons, huh? Best case scenario is he becomes another Jeff Backus. Utterly, overwhelmingly, average. Then again, after this season, I’ll take utterly, overwhelmingly average from the Lions. It’d be a massive step forward!

Eno: And what of the other big news – Bill Ford, Sr. saying that 0-16 doesn’t warrant a housecleaning? Like I wrote in OOB, I hope to God he just said everything wrong and that this whole Tom Lewand/Martin Mayhew sticking around thing will be moot once we see who they bring in. But here’s the thing: in order to get who you need, he’s gonna want total control. No one is going to want to come here and work in a committee!

Big Al: I hope your reading between the lines was correct, that there still could be a front office overhaul. But knowing Ford, who seems to dig in his heels deeper and deeper the more public and media sentiment turns against him, he’s going to want to keep the status quo. It’s how he rolls. I’m also afraid that Marinelli will avoid the ziggy as well. But with Millen gone, the world will demand a scapegoat. Marinelli is still the likely person to receive the blame for 0-16. After all, he continues to say, “It’s on me.” God, what a mess this Lions franchise has become. Our only hope may be the NFL stepping in, like the NBA has done in the past in Cleveland and New York.

Eno: Well, Ford is a businessman, no? Then how can you market and sell bringing back the same bozos who led you to 0-16? Ford may be stubborn, but he’s got to understand the bottom line. That’s the only reason Darryl Rogers got fired. The Dome was half empty. Even Ford famously said, “We’re losing and we’re boring.” So it would almost be fun to see him try to bring the same management and coaching team back and see where his ticket sales go.

Big Al: If there are no substantial changes made, ticket sales are going to tank. They’ll be lucky to sell 35K seats a game. Ford may be a businessman, but as his very limited involvement in the family business shows, he’s not a very good one. I’ve always said the wrong Ford bought the team. Henry Ford II, Hank the Deuce, the man who ran Ford Motor with an iron fist, was the Ford grandson with the smarts and the will to win. Instead, we got the idiot brother who can’t do anything right.

Eno: True enough. OK, how about my alma mater, EMU? I love the Ron English hire [as head football coach]. Thoughts?

Big Al: The Eagl…uh, Hurons, could have done much worse. English was considered a real up and comer as Lloyd Carr’s defensive coordinator, until they all were somewhat tarnished in Lloyd’s final season. But English knows the area, has a good pedigree and should be the man to finally change the fortunes of EMU football. The fact that it’s a minority hire doesn’t even matter. English is a solid coach, period.

Eno: Well, EMU has traditionally looked beneath them for their coaches – i.e., smaller schools. I like that English is the first guy they’ve had in a very long time (since Ron Cooper in the early 1990s, who was from Notre Dame) who comes from a big time program. And I like that Eastern brought Lloyd Carr into the search as a consultant. EMU is a sleeping MAC giant; I truly believe that. It’s the closest state MAC school to the metro Detroit area. That’s an advantage that they haven’t exploited in forever. Maybe now with English, who’s said to be a strong recruiter, that will change.

Big Al: It’s a shame EMU has become the red-headed step kid in Detroit college sports. Sure, they’re in the shadow of the Big Blue Machine a couple of miles to the west, but they really should be more of a factor in the MAC. Hopefully English is the start of an EMU renaissance. Or at the very least, make them respectable. Hey, maybe English will take over the Wolverines someday. I’m sure that would have been Carr’s preference.

Eno: We’ll see! OK, I’ve chosen the first two topics. What’s on your plate du week, Monsieur Grand Shot?

Big Al: Of course I have a few things on my mind. Why are we here? Is there an afterlife? How did the tree change from a stick to a full fir in A Charlie Brown Christmas? Oh, you mean in SPORTS? Well, then…I need to think.

Eno: Don’t hurt yourself there!

Big Al: Funny, Mr Eno. Real funny! OK, what’s your thought on the Tigers, and other teams for that matter, sitting on their hands in free agency? The economic downturn, in a way, may be the best thing to happen to the Tigers. They may have a better shot at a pitcher or two as no one (save the Yankees, of course) is handing out big contracts. The price of some pretty good players may come down as we get closer to spring training.

Eno: Speaking of the Yanks, they owe MLB some $25 million, I believe, in luxury tax. Checks are due January 31st – honest! As far as free agency, you know I’ve never been big on signing arms; I’d rather trade for ’em. I want to know why the Mets needed Frankie Rodriguez AND JJ Putz! Sheesh! No real urgency now, anyway. Sometimes teams want to see what they have after a few weeks of spring training. The Tigers just need to concentrate on their bullpen. I think the starting rotation, believe it or not, is likely to bounce back. Too many good young arms NOT to. I would focus on the back end of the games, not the beginnings of them.

Big Al: I couldn’t agree more. As the price drops on the big name free agents, the price for average bullpen arms should drop even more. The Tigers should be able to add a couple of very capable bullpen arms before the season starts. They may catch lightning in a bottle, and stumble upon a closer. Bullpens are mercurial things, as you can’t predict performance from year to year. After the year both Fernando Rodney and Joel Zumaya had in 2006, no would have predicted the Tigers would be struggling to find end-of-the-game arms two seasons later. But that’s the nature of bullpens. As the famous Crimson Tide kick returner Forrest Gump once said, “Bullpens are like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get.”

Eno: Was that the same Gump who discovered the Watergate break-in and met President Kennedy and helped invent the smiley face? Well, you’re right about mercurial bullpens, but I’d also extend that to the rotation. I just don’t think the Tigers’ starters are going to be struck down by the same baloney as last season. I expect Justin Verlander to bounce back, Jeremy Bonderman to be healthy and better, and Nate Robertson to straighten up. Only Dontrelle Willis am I suspect about, really. Then there’s Kenny Rogers, who STILL doesn’t know if he wants to pitch in 2009.

Big Al: It’s rare for the Tigers to not have their 25-man roster set before the New Year. GM Dave Dombrowski is normally quick to pull the trigger on trades and free agent deals. He did get a shortstop, catcher and another rotation arm, but not signing anyone for the bullpen has me extremely nervous. There really isn’t a single reliever currently on the 40-man roster I’d trust with a late game lead.

Eno: Relax, grasshopper. Confucius say, “plenty of time to get a reliever.” Don’t you know that sometimes they fall off the grapefruit trees toward the middle-to-latter part of spring training? The itchy trigger finger didn’t work last season, did it? I’m willing to let this play out. Don’t forget when the Willie Hernandez trade was made: a week before camp broke in 1984!

Big Al: And I’m still bummed the man with the greatest batting stance of all time, John B. Wockenfuss, who went to the Phillies along with Glenn Wilson, didn’t get a World Series ring! Johnny B! Johnny B! Fuss! OK, with that out of my system, what’re your thoughts on the Pistons’ current issues? They are the fifth seed in the East right now, and don’t look anything like a title contender. Allen Iverson doesn’t seem to get along with Michael Curry, Curry’s rotation seems to be pulled out of a hat on a nightly basis and the Pistons’ defense, long their calling card, is non-existent. Is it time to push the panic button?

Eno: Hmmmm…..well, kinda sorta. I still like to think that this is still part of the meshing process: new coach, new superstar, etc. I don’t like the lack of composure being shown by Rasheed Wallace and Rip Hamilton, especially. And that’s a direct reflection of Curry’s ability to keep his players disciplined. As for Iverson, what makes you think he doesn’t get along with Coach?

Big Al: Well, there’s the fact that [Iverson]’s been benched late in games. Iverson also had more off court issues during his two months in Detroit, than he had in his entire time in Denver. We had the skipping of practice, and now he’s been fined $25K for mouthing off at fans. Maybe it’s just me, but Iverson seems confused on the court, and unhappy off the court.

Eno: Well, you can never tell with those types; are they EVER truly happy? I think what we’re seeing, though, is that this bunch of Pistons isn’t as mentally tough as the Bad Boys. Remember the dinner they took Mark Aguirre to and basically browbeat him into behaving – players only? There really isn’t anyone on the roster who will take the lead in that manner. So it has to come from the coach, who is a rookie. It’s a little dicey, I admit.

Big Al: I don’t think there was a tougher team, both physically and mentally, than the Bad Boys. Nothing fazed them…save for old age. The Pistons are rudderless right now. Turns out Chauncey Billups was more of a stabilizing influence than we all thought. The Pistons still have the pieces to have a good team; I’m not sure Curry has the ability as a rookie head coach to piece them back together. The next question is, if this malaise continues, does Joe Dumars blow this team up sooner or later?

Eno: Well, it’s funny. I have suggested, more than once, that the next coach of the Pistons will be…..Joe Dumars. I wouldn’t hate it. I thought, for a time, that [former Pistons GM] Jack McCloskey wanted to coach the Pistons before he hired Chuck Daly. I put it to him once, and Jack told me that if he wanted to, he would have taken the job. Something tells me that Dumars might, before all is said and done, do a Gregg Popovich and roam the sidelines. But that’s down the line. As for now? I think we might see some serious trade deadline activity if the Pistons are still muddling along at five, six games above .500, heading for a 45, 46-win season.

Big Al: February may be quite interesting for Dumars and the Pistons, considering they have two very large expiring contracts in Rasheed Wallace and Iverson to dangle as bait. It remains to be seen if Dumars makes a move then for players, or would prefer to have that cap room available for free agency after the season ends. Joe D has his work cut out for him in trying to fix his sick team, to say the very least. Ready for some WORDASS?

Eno: Go for it, oh Al of Bigdom!


Big Al: OK, let’s rock and roll. Let’s start with Lions LB Ernie Sims.

Eno: Wow. Um, didn’t I see him on a milk carton today at the supermarket?

Big Al: Very good, Eno! Sims may be the most disappointing of the Lions. How about another Lion, the soon to be owed an $8+ million contract kicker, Leigh Bodden.

Eno: Bodden Bodden. That’s where he belongs.

Big Al: You’re on a roll, good sir! Let’s try one of the central figures in the Lions’ front office, Tom Lewand.

Eno: Show him the money – and make him keep his hands off anything football.

Big Al: Just like Rod Tidwell! One more for you. I’ll stay with my Lions theme and go with Bill Ford, Jr.

Eno: Three words: PLEASE. GET. INVOLVED. You ready for some?

Big Al: Fire away, Eno.

Eno: Someone who I spoke to on Monday and will have written about by the time this is being read: Red Wings “backup” goalie Ty Conklin.

Big Al: He’s NUMBER 1! Plus, I must add, “You’ve been Conk-blocked!”

Eno: I love it! OK, if you’re gonna do Lions, I’ll do Red Wings. Chris Chelios.

Big Al: The 2000 Year Old Man, with apologies to Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner.

Eno: Nice reference! Too bad our kiddie readers won’t get it. OK, the Chicago Blackhawks.

Big Al: No kidding they won’t. (Look it up on YouTube, then learn and laugh) The ‘JHawks? Faux-tenders.

Eno: Really? Wow. OK. Jiri Hudler, who quietly has 13 goals.

Big Al: Coming into his own. The Wings’ ability to to keep finding players like Hudler is why they are the best organization in sports

Eno: OK, before we hand out candy and coal….I know we talked about them recently, but how ’bout those 24th-ranked Michigan Basketball Wolverines?

Big Al: It’s been over 10 years since the Wolverines have been ranked. The Michigan basketball program isn’t all the way back, but they are well on their way. Give coach John Beilein another couple of seasons, and he should have Michigan back where they should be: as a perennial NCAA tournament team. At the very least, Michigan hoops is FUN again, which is something we couldn’t say during the Tommy Amaker and Brian Ellerbee eras.

Eno: Please don’t mention Brian Ellerbee and “era” in the same sentence. I’m trying to keep my lunch down here! I think it’s great what’s happening in Ann Arbor, especially on the heels of such a crummy football season. Now if they’ll only either renovate or replace Crisler Arena!

Big Al: Ellerbee was the wrong coach at the wrong time. He was wrong, period. That seems to be the next move Athletic Director Bill Martin plans: a new practice facility and doing something with Crisler. If they want to compete in the Big Ten for players, Michigan has to upgrade facilities, as Michigan State did.


Eno: OK, let’s wrap this up. Give me three people who deserve candy in their stocking, and three people who deserve coal!

Big Al: Deserving of candy are…Michigan head coach John Beilein for turning around the hoops culture at U-M, Red Wings D-man Nick Lidstrom for being so damned good, and the last goes to the Detroit blogosphere. You’ll never find a more creative, fun and well written bunch of folks. I’m giving coal to 54 people, actually. The Detroit Lions roster gets not only a lump of coal, but an entire coal mine!

Eno: OK….my candy receivers are EMU for making an intelligent football coaching hire for a change; Mike Babcock for simply being the best coach in the NHL; and Lions placekicker Jason Hanson for not becoming homicidal by now. Coal? How about Detroit News columnist Rob Parker, on principle; Plaxico Burress for throwing it all away; and the NFL officials. They’ve had an awful year.

Big Al: Dead on as always, Mr. Journalist. I’m off to enjoy Festivus, for the rest of us! And maybe that little holiday called Christmas too! All the best to you and yours, Eno!

Eno: Have a great Holiday, and my family’s best to you and yours – truly. I’m having a blast every week. See ya on New Year’s Day!

Big Al: Works for me, looking forward to it! Now where’s my aluminum pole?

Eno: Ugh.

"The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al" — Webisode #12

In The Knee Jerks on December 18, 2008 at 8:35 am

Welcome to Thursday at OOB, and another webisode of “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al,” my weekly whine with the MVP of the MVN, Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience.

Just because it’s the holiday season doesn’t mean we’re in a charitable mood. Several targets are in our sights this week, including the Lions (what’s new?); the quick-to-fire NBA execs and owners; our struggling Detroit newspapers and their sports writing employees; the Tigers’ lack of a closer; and, of course, we play some WordAss and name our Jerks of the Week.

To wit….

Eno: ‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the Web, not a blogger was stirring – except the Knee Jerks!! Welcome to this inane, weekly gabfest. I’m Eno, aka The Journalist, and he’s Big Al, aka Mr. Big Shot. Happy Holidays, Almeister!

Big Al: Happy Festivus, Eno! Ready to partake in the feats of strength and the airing of the grievances?

Eno: I love the word “partake” – reminds me of food and beverage, which I partake in lustily, especially around this time of year. The Crown Royal awaits. Anyhow, I suppose we would be remiss if we didn’t talk – AGAIN – about the Lions’ journey toward 0-16. Or is there anything else to say about it, really?

Big Al: A little, actually. In Wednesday’s MLive, Lions beat guy Tom “Killer” Kowalski said that anyone rooting for the Lions to go 0-16 is a not a “true” fan. Personally, I don’t take being lectured to by a journalist very well. I honestly believe fans want the Lions to go zero for the season because it’s the only way William Clay Ford Sr. will wake from his Scotch-induced slumber, and make sweeping changes in his organization. The Lions NEED to go 0-16.

Eno: Like I said the other day at OOB, Rod Marinelli won’t be fired by Ford – he’ll be fired by the circumstances. Never before has Senior had his hand forced like this to fire a coach. But come on, 0-16 gets you fired … right?

Big Al: That’s my biggest fear – that Ford decides to keep the status quo. Any other franchise would have changed direction three-to-four years into what became a historic mess. But with Ford? You just don’t know, which is why 0-16 is necessary. No one can stay employed after having a winless season. Even Ford has to realize it.

Eno: I agree. 0-16 equals the ziggy, plain and simple. Any thoughts about Carl Peterson, who just resigned from the KC Chiefs as their GM? Could he be a candidate for the Lions?

Big Al: Ten years ago, maybe. But now? I wouldn’t be thrilled with Peterson. He hasn’t had a very good decade. They were almost as happy in KC to see Peterson go as we were to see [Matt] Millen get the boot. I would honestly prefer someone much younger, who could stay for 15-20 years. The likes of Peterson or (former Titans GM and current ESPN talking head) Floyd Reese are short-timers, in my mind. But if….GAK…Mayhew stays, an older, established GM might be the way to go. It’s not how I would do it, but Ford just might.

Eno: Well, here’s what MUST happen: if Mayhew stays (I agree with your GAK), then an established head coach has to be paired with him. If you go with a new exec, then I would tolerate a first-time head coach, as long as the new exec has credibility. But you CANNOT keep Mayhew and go the cheap route, i.e. a position coach or a coordinator. It’s GOT to be someone with head coaching chops.

Big Al: From your blog to Ford’s desk, Eno. What’s even scarier in my mind is the fact there looks to be several front office openings available, so the Lions need to move fast, but not make a mistake in doing so. It’s the old manufacturing paradigm: You want it done faster, better and cheaper. But you can only have two [of those three]. This is the most critical time in Lions history, and they absolutely cannot afford to make another hiring mistake.

Eno: I agree about it being the most critical, if for no other reason than they will now have to respond to the most inglorious of all records: a winless 16-game season. How they respond may dictate their legacy as a franchise. This SHOULD be a turning point in franchise history. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could tell our grandkids, “Son, I remember when the Lions bottomed out at 0-16, and yet they rose, like a Phoenix….”? What about you? Do you think the historical implications of 0-16 will hit you right away, or will it take a while to sink in, that we really did live through this?

Big Al: It’ll make a HUGE splash initially, just because of the 24/7 news cycle world in which we live. But in the long run, I honestly think it’s overblown. If the Lions, as you say, miraculously rise from the ashes, it will be remembered like the Tigers’ 119-loss season [of 2003]. It was necessary, even inevitable. I know the 1976, 0-14 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team is often thought of as the worst ever, but no one thinks the Bucs are a bad franchise anymore. The next few seasons will ultimately determine how we think of this season.

Eno: OK, enough of that. What in Sam Hill is going on in the NBA? Reggie Theus gets the ziggy in Sacramento, bringing to six the number of coaches who’ve been canned since the beginning of the season. And the NHL isn’t far behind. What gives, Mr. Big Shot?

Big Al: No one has patience anymore. Everyone wants instant gratification. I’m already hearing the rumblings of unhappiness regarding the performance of the Pistons rookie head coach, Michael Curry. Most any coach or GM deserves two-to-three years to implement their system. But there is so much money at stake in today’s sports, that no one is willing, save for the polar opposite William Clay Ford, to wait for results. They want it NOW, if not sooner. It’s not right, but that’s the current landscape.

Eno: And some of these rosters are awful, that these guys have to coach. Speaking of Curry, I know it’s early, but what’s your gut tell you about this guy? Is he the Pistons’ coach in 2010-11, when all these spiffy free agents are available, or will [Joe] Dumars show his fetish for firing coaches by that time?

Big Al: His lack of coaching experience is being exposed early on in this season. His rotation changes often seem to be (pun intended) knee jerk reactions. I think Dumars knows what he has, and will ride it out for at least the next couple of years. But Curry does have to grow into the job, as I wouldn’t want the current version of Curry running this team if Dumars does go after the one or two superstars in either ’09 or ’10. Do you think Curry is on a shorter leash than we may have been led to believe?

Eno: Meaning….??

Big Al: This is the first coach Dumars hired who didn’t have a track record of some sort. I’m thinking Curry may be only a one or two season guy; that Dumars will bring in a more experienced coach when he finally purges what’s becoming a somewhat old roster.

Eno: You know what, I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe like how he canned Rick Carlisle in favor of Larry Brown? Could be. But that may not be the INTENTION – just what ends up happening. Some coaches are just good enough to get you to a certain level, then you hire someone else to get you over the hump. The Red Wings did that when they replaced Bryan Murray with Scotty Bowman. I can see that happening with Curry, although I think Dumars would love for MC to be “the guy” for a long time.

Big Al: Which may be what saves Curry, at least for the time being. He’s always been Dumars’ “guy,” even back in his playing days. I like Curry, and he was the sort of player you’d think would turn into a good coach. Curry maximized his limited athletic ability to its absolute fullest. Curry had to work harder and play smarter than those with far greater natural ability. I hope the same proves true as a head coach, but the jury will be out for quite some time to come.

Eno: How come the benchwarmers are always the guys who would “make a good coach or manager”? It’s funny. No one ever says, “That Nicklas Lidstrom – he’d make a good coach someday.” But they WILL say, “That Michael Curry – he’s a coach in the making!” That always cracks me up, but it’s not without precedent: great players rarely make great coaches – I get that.

Big Al: It is weird, as you’d think the uber-talented would be excellent coaches. But they rarely pan out. Ted Williams, Wayne Gretzky, Frank Robinson, Larry Bird, Isiah Thomas, the list of failed head coaches/managers who were great players is long. One of the few I can think of who was actually an excellent head coach who was also a Hall of Fame caliber player was the Lions’ Joe Schmidt. But he’s the exception to the rule.

Eno: Well, don’t forget that Bird led the Pacers to the NBA Finals, no? And Williams was Manager of the Year in 1969, but his disdain for pitchers quickly wore thin in Washington. See? Aren’t you glad I’m here to point out your bad examples? What WOULD you do without me? OK, I’m volleying the ball into your court: what’s on that frazzled mind of yours, Al?

Big Al: But the examples you mentioned never won it all, and quickly wore out their welcome. Anyway… I think something we should bring up is the current situation the Detroit newspapers find themselves in. Bloggers and journalists often find themselves at odds (Jerry Green HATES me, for example), but bloggers do heavily depend upon beat writers for information. As you are a working journalist, what’s your take on what’s happening at the Freep and News?

Eno: Well first of all, your description of me is appreciated but is also an oxymoron: working journalist? Anyhow, I think newspapers are, sadly, in dire straits and this is only the beginning. What’s interesting to me is that it’s a double-edged sword. There are more outlets for writers, of course, but who’s really good anymore? Gone are the likes of Jim Murray, whose stuff was biting, hilarious, and just plain awesome. The pie is sliced so thin anymore. I know about you and Green, and I’ve kept out of it, as I count Jerry among my pals. But I can see where the frustration comes in. It’s the same with TV. EVERYONE is a TV producer nowadays. That was my original vocation, so I have some sensitivity there, too. But what are you gonna do? I do think, though, that print journalists would do themselves a favor if they embraced bloggers and their input rather than scorned them.

Big Al: Personally, I have the utmost respect for the beat writers, as they truly are on the front lines. I’m sure traveling with a team for an entire season takes the romanticism out of sports. But the journalists that should be worried are the columnists. They seem to be the ones most threatened by the blogosphere, and tend to be the ones to take potshots at guys like me. What we saw happen in Detroit Tuesday, their cutting back on home delivery and taking the first step into going online only, is going to be happening all over the nation, sooner than later. Personally, I think the Detroit News is dying, and will be gone within a couple of years. Not many cities can support two [daily] newspapers. I don’t think Detroit can, not anymore. I do agree that journalists should be more like bloggers. I want opinion and analysis, not a glorified version of the AP game story. I do feel bad for many journalists who are very good at what they do, but there are as many who have been on auto-pilot for years and needed the wake up call they are currently getting. The next few years are going to be fascinating.

Eno: Absolutely. You gotta understand that a lot of the older guys, especially, spent most of their working lives building an audience, and it seems to have been eradicated so quickly – or at least significantly reduced. And these are guys who started with typewriters, don’t forget! I think the younger journalists are able to suffer us easier. But there’s something to be said about getting better if you get nudged a little. I think that the columnists who choose to “raise their game” in light of what’s happening, rather than grouse about it, are going to be better off. OK, anything else you want to talk about?

Big Al: Since we last spoke, the Tigers traded young corner outfielder Matt Joyce to the Tampa Bay Rays for 14-game winning starting pitcher Edwin Jackson. Thoughts on the trade have been mixed, at best. Jackson is your typical Dave Dombrowski pitcher: big, strong, tall, plus fastball. He also thinks the strike zone runs from the bill of the cap down to the ankles. Joyce, on the other hand, showed tons of potential in his half season in the bigs, and is something the Tigers have lacked for years: a left-handed bat with power. What’s your take on the trade?

Eno: Well, I love those left-handed sticks, but I like arms more. The Tigers don’t need offense; they need pitching and defense – which, I believe, are about to enter their 115th straight season of being the Most Important Things A Baseball Team Can Have. There’s still Jeff Larish, after all. If you can hit, you can hit. I don’t know where it says you have to have “X” number of lefty bats in your lineup. I’m all for it. I’d always rather trade for a pitcher than sign one. Those free agent pitchers tend to go sideways before the ink even dries on the contract. Your thoughts?

Big Al: I can see what the Tigers were thinking in this deal. You can’t have enough arms. But Jackson’s peripherals have been awful. His career WHIP [walks plus hits per innings pitched] is over 1.50, which is God awful. There are a few other red flags as well. Jackson was removed from the Rays’ rotation during the playoff run, meaning he was considered their worst starter. There’s also the fact that they traded a 14-game winner for a still unproven corner outfielder, which are damn near a dime a dozen. My worry is Jackson will, like the rest of the Tigers’ staff last season, be unable to throw strikes….ever. The bullpen is still untouched as well. There’s no closer, the set up men are wild and injury prone. The Tigers have other holes to fill.

Eno: My, that glass isn’t half-empty in your mind – it’s damn near dry! But I hear you. One team’s trash is another’s treasure, I understand. But you almost HAVE to take some fliers on some arms right now. The pitching has to come from SOMEWHERE. I liked Joyce, but….you gotta give up something, as they say. I didn’t expect the Tigers to fill all their holes at the Winter Meetings; sometimes the best times for the best trades are about 2/3 through spring training. You can make some gems then. OK, how about we play something I like to call WordAss?

Big Al: Such language! Well…I never…Oh, you mean Word Association? That’s different. You want to start it off?


Eno: Sure! OK….Scott Shafer, former U-M defensive coordinator

Big Al: A bad fit.

Eno: The NEXT U-M D-coordinator…..

Big Al: That’s a tough one. A Michigan Man!

Eno: Ahhh….OK. Spencer Haywood, who by the time folks read this will have been honored with a night at UDM

Big Al: Under appreciated.

Eno: Antonio McDyess

Big Al: Roster glue. A few for you, sir. Let’s start with the Tigers’ closer in 2009.

Eno: Hopefully not in the organization currently.

Big Al: Funny! How about the Lions’ placekicker who just missed making the Pro Bowl, Jason Hanson?

Eno: I’ve always said: replace Bubbles the Rampant Lion with a silhouette of Hanson kicking on the Lions’ helmets!

Big Al: Works for me. Bubbles is overrated. Someone who’s off to a slower start than usual, the Wings’ Nick Lidstrom.

Eno: He IS? I hadn’t noticed. I thought it was Nik Kronwall who was struggling. Lidstrom: Today’s Mechanical Man, with apologies to Charlie Gehringer.

Big Al: Well, a slow starting Lidstrom is still better than most NHL D-men. Then again, the entire Wings’ blue line, if you go by goals against, is off to a slow start.

Eno: OK, two more for you: first, the Manning Brothers, Peyton and Eli, both Pro Bowlers.

Big Al: Mannings? Hmmm… Over exposed, but not overrated

Eno: Nice. I love Peyton’s commercials. I think he’s funny as Hell. OK, finally, Sean Avery

Big Al: Good riddance to that self-aggrandizing trash!

Eno: Wow, Mr. Bettman, I mean Mr. Beaton!

Big Al: Indeed. [Red Wings coach] Mike Babcock was recently asked about Avery, and he told a story where he basically said 4th line players need to be very low maintenance. That’s the last thing you can say about Avery.

Eno: No doubt. One more topic before we switch to Jerk of the Week: your thoughts on the upcoming outdoor NHL game at Wrigley Field?

Big Al: It’s going to be fun to watch, and it’s quite a spectacle. But why do it on a day where you’re competing with college football for attention? The NHL having its showcase game on New Year’s Day never made sense to me. Though I will admit I’d love to see the Winter Classic be held in the Detroit Metro area one day.

Eno: Good point; it would seem the LAST thing they need is competition. I’m dying to see it, frankly. I thought it was cool as all get out last year when the Sabres and Pens played amidst the snowflakes. Keep it among the Original Six, btw. That probably won’t fly, will it? Could they ever have it in Detroit? Comerica Park? Michigan Stadium?

Big Al: Seems to me either place would work well. In my mind, the Wings not being considered to host the game is just another way the Wings are always dissed by the NHL. They’d rather bring the Wings into a town, as they are such a great draw. The NHL takes the Red Wings too much for granted.


Eno: Well, they’ve been great for 14 years now; some in the NHL probably don’t even know what it’s like to NOT have a strong franchise in Detroit. OK, who’s your Jerk of the Week, sir?

Big Al: I’m going with Auburn University for their outright strange hiring of Gene Chizik as their head coach. You’d think the War Eagles could get someone with more than two years experience as a head coach and a 5-19 record at Iowa State. If Michigan had made that sort of hire, AD Bill Martin would have been forced to go into the Witness Protection Program. It’s as strange of a big time college football hire as I’ve ever seen. Who’s on your bad side, Eno? Your Jerk of the Week is…?

Eno: Yeah, that Auburn thing was weird. Sir Charles Barkley had a fit. OK, I’m going with Tiger Woods’s caddie, Steve Williams, for his disparaging remarks about Phil Mickelsen, then trying to laugh it off as just being funny. If you’re No. 1 in the world, you don’t need to be dissing those below you, do you? And kudos to Tiger for calling Williams out the next day.

Big Al: You’d think even semi-public figures like Williams would know by now that anything they say in today’s world is going to get out. I’m sure he never thought what he said would reach the states. Yeah, right.

Eno: Exactly. OK, Mr. Big Shot. I guess we should tell folks that next week, since TKJ falls on Christmas Day, we will dispense with Jerk of the Week and give our list of those whose stockings should be filled with coal, and whose deserves candy!

Big Al: I’m already mining for coal, so I’ll be ready!

Eno: Alright! See ya next week!

Big Al: Take care, and Happy Festivus! Get out your aluminum pole!

Eno: Wow, that sounds dirty!

Big Al: It sorta does. My mind is in the gutter!

Eno: Or mine is, one of the two.

If It’s Thursday…. (Well, You Know The Rest!)

In The Knee Jerks on December 11, 2008 at 7:08 am

Happy Thursday! And time for another webisode of “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al,” my weekly gabfest with the MVP of the MVN, Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience.

This week, I crab about the Pistons, Al worries about the Tigers’ good field/no hit catcher and shortstop, and we marvel at the job John Beilein is doing with the Michigan basketball program. All that and more, including WordAss and the Jerk of the Week!


Eno: At the risk of sounding like “Meet the Press”, if it’s Thursday it’s the Knee Jerks. I’m Eno, aka The Journalist, and he’s Big Al, aka Mr. Big Shot. Greetings, sir!

Big Al: Yo, Eno! Mr. Journalist is in the house! What’s up, sir?

Eno: Well, the Pistons are making me cranky. I hate to start off grumpy, but what is UP with these guys? They’ve been schooled by the horrible T-Wolves and now, the other night, the previously 3-15 Wizards, after having them down by 17 in the second quarter. Is it too early to be worried and/or pissed off?

Big Al: From the way they’ve been playing, you have every right to be Grumpy Eno. Defense was non-existent last night, and the Pistons are still disjointed on offense. Right now they are a fringe playoff team, at best. Add in a rookie coach, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Eno: Does it have anything to do with the Allen Iverson trade, or no? And if so, is it just a matter of it taking some time to jell?

Big Al: I’m not sure it’s all on The Answer. Sure, he’s not the player he once was, but he has to be better than this, right? I’m more inclined to blame the Pistons themselves, especially [Rip] Hamilton, [Tayshaun] Prince and Rasheed [Wallace]. They are playing as if they are still pissed that their point guard buddy, Chauncey Billups, was traded. I will admit that Rodney Stuckey has not been able to fill Billups’ shoes, but that wasn’t a realistic expectation. Do you get the feeling Michael Curry’s constant lineup changes are, well, knee jerk?

Eno: Well, I like the reasoning behind going small with Stuckey in the starting lineup. And I like Curry’s assertion that Prince, in such a lineup, can guard a lot of 4s and give 4s problems offensively. I’m very excited about Stuckey; it’ll be a thrill watching this kid grow up before our very eyes. Here’s something: do you think they missed Antonio McDyess more than they anticipated?

Big Al: You nailed it, Mr. Journalist. Dice was the glue that held this team together, and if anyone can get the “core” to move on past the trade, it’s McDyess. But with Dice back, and Curry going to a three-guard lineup, there are now three power forwards coming off the bench: Amir Johnson, Jason Maxiell and McDyess. Where are the minutes going to come from? The bench is now overloaded with big men. It might make sense for Iverson to come off the bench, but I’m not sure a “superstar” would agree to such a thing.

Eno: About Iverson. He speaks with forked tongue, sometimes in the same sentence. He’ll say something like, “It’s easier for me here because we have so many weapons, but I’m sitting more than ever, and I’m not used to that.” My gut? He wants to be The Guy, and he’s trying to convince himself, more than anyone else, that he’s happy here. Not that he was happier in Denver, necessarily. Thoughts?

Big Al: There’s a point where you can no longer be “The Guy.” Skills slowly begin to erode, you lose a half step, you begin to cheat on defense and force things on offense. Iverson may have reached that point, and can’t, or won’t, accept it. Iverson would be a great offensive weapon coming off the bench, but his wanting to still be the straw that stirs the drink won’t allow it. It may take the entire season before this team jells. If so, they could be struggling to make the playoffs, which is something I never would have imagined before the season. I’m not sure if I’d prefer the Pistons to end up in the lottery, than be a seven or eight playoff seed.

Eno: Well, I like to think that this is just one of those bumpy portions that any 82-game schedule presents. Look at the Spurs; after the Pistons beat them, they fell to 5-5 at home. I know the Celtics are the cream of the league, but I bet even they hit a rough patch. So does your gut say this gets better, or are they a 45, 46-win team?

Big Al: As Curry is still learning how to be a head coach, the Pistons may just be a 45 win team. But you’d have to believe they’d be a lower seed no one would want to play. The Cavs are playing like the class of the Central Division, so a fourth seed may be the absolute best we can hope for. Do you think this is a 45 win max team?

Eno: No, I don’t. Too much talent to not win 50, 51 – even with a rookie coach. Maybe Joe Dumars will gather them together and have one of those “Come to Jesus” meetings. Of course, you don’t really do that with an experienced coach, but in this case it might be warranted. I certainly hope it’s not any pouting due to the Chauncey trade. Cripes, move on! Which is what I should do now….what’s on YOUR mind?

Big Al: What’s on my mind? Grinds my gears? Gets me going? The Tigers. MLB’s Winter Meetings are currently underway, and the Tigers are on the prowl for a closer. My preference, Kerry Wood, signed with the….GADS…Cleveland Indians. Rumors say the Tigers have now set their sights on a former Wolverine, Seattle’s JJ Putz. But getting Putz, an elite closer when healthy, will cost the Tigers some solid prospects; Jeff Larish and Matt Joyce being the names most often mentioned. The idea of giving up even more prospects in an already weakened farm system has me concerned, to say the very least. In what direction do you see the Tigers heading?

Eno: Well, as much as I HATE to sign free agent pitchers because of their history of blowing up almost immediately (a tradition that began with Wayne Garland back in 1977), I would have preferred that route to the “prospect route.” BUT, Wood hasn’t exactly been the picture of health throughout his career. Still, it’s a little annoying to think he’ll be in the Tigers’ division. As for Putz (God, I’d hate to have that last name; Eno is bad enough!), I like him, and he might be one guy worth a little future-mortgaging. I’m not as sold on Larish and Joyce as some are; something about them screams Eric Munson.

Big Al: But Larish and Joyce are left handed bats, which are few and far between in the Detroit system. Think it would be worth looking at a second tier free agent closer, like Brian Fuentes or Chad Cordero? Or go for the old man, Trevor Hoffman? I honestly wouldn’t want to be in Dave Dombrowski’s shoes right now.

Eno: Hoffman? Why the hell not? He’s remained durable. What do you think about little Adam Everett, the new SS?

Big Al: He can’t hit Paris Hilton’s weight, but he can pick it better than anyone in the bigs. I like the idea of having an airtight left side of the infield, which it will be with Brandon Inge at third, but will it also be one that struggles to hit the Mendoza Line? The bottom of the Tigers’ batting order is where rallies will go to die. But if the money saved in signing Everett allows the Tigers to bolster their bullpen, I can live with it. Ask me again though when Inge and Everett are hitting a combined .180. Is that something you can live with?

Eno: NO!!! But SOMEONE has to bat ninth. But you’re right; the Tigers’ troubles last year were primarily in the defense and pitching. So I guess we shouldn’t sweat any perceived reduction in offense, huh?

Big Al: It’s the Tigers. I sweat everything! Eww, not a pretty picture. What about their picking up catcher Gerald Laird? Good, bad, indifferent? He’s another plus defensive player who may struggle with the bat.

Eno: Love it. I like Laird; always have. He’s who I wanted, and he’s not too expensive. The guy threw out 40% of his runners last year; that ain’t bad. Plus, I like this stat: 24 doubles in 344 at-bats. Sounds like a CoPa bat, to me! Don’t think he’ll “struggle”, per se. If he hits .260-ish, with 10 homers, 20-30 doubles, that’s fine. The Tigers have too many other weapons to worry about that kind of production from their catcher.

Big Al: Hey, at least he isn’t Dusty Ryan. The thought of “Dusty” being the Tigers’ opening day catcher wasn’t a pleasant one. Considering that the prospects the Tigers gave up for Laird are marginal, it was a solid deal for Dombrowski. But for all the defensive improvement and the likely addition of a good closer, the Tigers will still only go as far as their starting pitching. Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson are still question marks, Jeremy Bonderman is coming off of injury and Armando Gallaraga needs to prove he’s more than a “one season wonder”. Things have to go perfectly for the Tigers to contend, and that may be too much to ask for.

Eno: Well, the Central Division is funny. Teams seem to bob up and down yearly. No one gave the Indians much of a chance in 2007 and look at what they did; same with the Twins in 2008 and they almost won the division. Hey – if all that stuff can go WRONG in one season, who’s to say that a lot of it can’t go RIGHT in 2009?! The glass is half-full, Big Al! Now I sound like Chuck Tanner, who never thought his team was out of it.

Big Al: Chuck Tanner also had Willie Stargell,. Manny Sanguillen, and a high-on-LSD Dock Ellis. I’d have been upbeat too! Anything on your mind, Mr. Funny Last Name? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist after your comment about Putz!)

Eno: Ha-freaking-ha. Let’s talk about the history-making Lions. The drive for 0-16 seems to be one that cannot be derailed. What plans do you have to commemorate it when the final gun goes off in Green Bay? Is it going to be a “Kennedy assassination moment”? You know, “Where were YOU when the Lions went 0-16?”

Big Al: I know right where I’ll be, crying into a beer at the end of another soul-crushing live blog. 0-16 is inevitable at this point. I know the phrase “any given Sunday” is true in most cases, but there’s no way in Hell the Lions can beat the Colts, Saints or Packers, is there?

Eno: Nope. Even Drew Sharp is being stubborn, saying there IS a win in there, and that it’s in Green Bay. I know they’re Favre-less, and are pretty anemic at 5-8, but come on – really??

Big Al: The Lions haven’t won in Green Bay since, get this, Don Majkowski was under center for the Pack. It’s not going to happen. To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Peyton Manning and Drew Brees throw for a combined 1,000 yards the next two weeks. The Lions’ pass defense is that bad.

Eno: I agree. Of course, all streaks have to come to an end, but the Wisconsin one will continue at least one more year. OK, CB Brian Kelly got released, and C Dom Raiola got fined for giving Lions fans the bird. Thoughts?

Big Al: Kelly is the poster boy for the player evaluation mistakes Rod “I believe in invisibility” Marinelli has made this season. As for Raiola, I’m not going to hold an action made in the heat of the moment against him. Raiola has been a good soldier for years, and is the LEAST of the Lions problems. The Lions fined him $7,500, which seems fair to me. I thought it was a total non-story, but the press had to have something to write about on the Lions’ off day.

Eno: I agree about both. Kelly was pouting, and he’s clearly not part of the future. In fact, no one on this roster should be part of the future other than Jason Hanson and Calvin Johnson. Raiola’s move was a sort of reverse-Harry Gilmer. Remember when they pelted Harry with snowballs after his last game at Tiger Stadium [in 1966]? OK, I know you’re short on time today, so hows about we do some WordAss?


Big Al: Gilmer being pelted with snowballs is part of Lions’ legend, up there with Bobby Ross’ “abandon ship” and Darryl Rogers’ “what’s a guy got to do to get fired around here” quotes. One thing about the Lions, they have a colorful past…for all the wrong reasons. I’m ready for some Word Association, so let’s roll. I’ll start. As Michigan hoops had another big win this past weekend over Duke, Manny Harris.

Eno: HUGE.

Big Al: Very huge, indeed. We’ll stay with the Michigan theme; running back Sam McGuffie.

Eno: RichRod Flu. It happens in every program. Remember, Larry Bird was a Bobby Knight recruit to Indiana.

Big Al: Very good point, Eno. Plus one for you! Let’s go with the head coach of the Lions’ next opponent, a good friend of “Mr. Invisibility,” Tony Dungy.

Eno: Admiration. Total and complete. One of the league’s best people.

Big Al: I have issues with his tendency to be a “holy roller,” so to speak, but you know I’m a heathen anyway. But as a football coach, there aren’t many better. One more for you, Mr. Journalist. Lions wide out Calvin Johnson.

Eno: Two words: underused and overrated (but you already knew the second one). OK, now for you: over and under on the TD passes Peyton Manning tosses this Sunday against the Lions.

Big Al: Over/under? I’ll go four. To throw it out there, my prediction is 450 yards passing, five TDs.

Eno: Sounds about right. OK, Chris Osgood.

Big Al: Showing cracks in the armor.

Eno: Of course, that’s what I thought about 42-year-old Dom Hasek around this time and he bounced back. I think 36-year-old Osgood will do the same. OK, Marian Hossa, who’ll be the subject of my Sunday column this week.

Big Al: Can’t wait to read it. It’s a highlight of my weekend reading. Any thoughts on John Beilein’s Wolverines knocking off another ANOTHER Top Five team? I can’t believe Michigan didn’t crack the Top 25 this week. Farcical.

Eno: Wait – you didn’t give me a WordAss about Hossa! Nice try!

Big Al: Whoops. Sorry! Hossa? MVP!

Eno: Of the league?

Big Al: Now that I think about it, yes. I hate using the word (shoot, maybe I should have used it!), but Hossa has been Clutch, with a capital C!

Eno: OK, back to U-M basketball. I don’t think anyone should give a flying you-know-what about any polls until the end of the season. I mean, college basketball crowns an honest-to-goodness champ, so who cares who’s in the Top 25? It’s all about being #1, baby. But I’m sure the kids would like to see themselves in there, and it would help validate what Beilein is doing in A-squared. I love it that Michigan’s program might be back. The NCAA needs schools like that to excel in as many major sports as possible. And there I was, wanting them to hire Phil Hubbard after giving Tommy Amaker the ziggy!

Big Al: I love watching Beilein’s offense when it’s clicking. Seeing backdoor cuts going to easy baskets warms my old school heart. Michigan has been helluva lot more fun to watch than Michigan State. I’m not saying the Wolverines will be better than Sparty, but Tom Izzo’s team seems almost plodding compared to the Wolverines.

Eno: You know, you may actually be right. Fancy that! Seriously, folks, ready to do Jerk of the Week?


Big Al: I’m ready if you’re ready, sir. I’ll let Mr. Funny Name go first. (HA! I slay me sometimes!)

Eno: (At least SOMEONE appreciates it!) OK, I gotta go with pitcher Greg Maddux here. Why? For RETIRING! Don’t go, Greg! His presence in the big leagues was always strangely soothing to me. Damn him for quitting!

Big Al: You and the great Kansas City columnist Joe Posanski think alike. My “Jerk of the Week” will be Lions head coach Rod Marinelli. I’m still laughing over the “I believe in invisibility” quote! Then he finally cuts one of his pet signings this past off season, Brian Kelly. The Lions will end up taking a $2+ million dead money cap hit for that awful signing. Then he may have to start Drew Henson this week, if Daunte Culpepper’s arm is as badly hurt as it looked Sunday. I feel like I’m piling on, but he deserves it.

Eno: Indeed he does. OK, sir. It was great fun, as always. You coming back next Thursday? I heard your contract is up for renewal.

Big Al: I WANT A RAISE! But I’ll be here anyway. It’s always fun, Mr. Funny Name! I can’t help but run a joke into the ground!

Eno: I can tell!

Thursday = Knee Jerks (Webisode #10)

In The Knee Jerks on December 4, 2008 at 6:58 am

Rut-roh, Rast-ro. It’s Thursday, and you know what that means. It’s time for “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al,” my weekly sports gabfest with the purveyor of The Wayne Fontes Experience, Big Al himself — or as he likes to be called here, Mr. Big Shot (now that Chauncey Billups is gone). This week? We take on the Lions’ chances of going oh-fer 2008; rag on Sean Avery; wonder who will play shortstop for the Tigers; and as they say, much, much more! Oh, and there’s WordAss and Jerk of the Week, of course!



Eno: Goodness gracious, it’s Thursday again. That means another webisode of “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al.” I’m Eno, aka The Journalist, and he’s Al, aka Mr. Big Shot. Good afternoon, Al!

Big Al: Yo. I always have time on my oh-so-busy schedule in making fun of the Detroit Lions to chat!

Eno: I’m sure. OK, gonna start off with those Lions, after all. #1, do you feel in your gut they’ll pull off the 0-16 thing, and in all seriousness, what does that mean to the franchise in terms of how history will treat it?

Big Al: At this point, the opinions of the fan base, let alone of the football nation, couldn’t be any lower. So finishing 0-16, 1-15 really doesn’t make that much difference. It’ll be another in a long list of stains upon the franchise. Even if the Lions go 0-16, I don’t think they’ll be remembered as the worst NFL team ever. That will always belong to the 0-14 [Tampa Bay] Buccaneers of 1976. But the Lions are in the conversation.

Eno: I think they’d be worse than the Bucs because at least Tampa had the excuse of being an expansion team. Of course, those Bucs lost 26 in a row, and the Lions aren’t there, yet. How ironic, in a twisted way, that it would be the Bucs in that mix because of all the ex-Bucs on this roster! I personally think 0-16 would hurt Bill Ford deeply, though we’d never know it because he’s a hermit. Clearly 1-15 isn’t much different as far as draft position, etc, but it’s a world of difference from being the first team to go 0-16.

Big Al: You do make a good point; the Lions could be considered the worst non-expansion team ever. They may have that designation locked up even if they do somehow manage to win a game. But if being the “Worst Team EVER” means the Lions will finally do the right thing, and blow the entire organization up, and start from scratch with the right people, I can live with it. Of course, their being the Lions, there is no guarantee they will do the right thing or hire the right people. I don’t trust William Clay Ford’s instincts when it comes to, well, anything!

Eno: I got a kick out of the list of supposed GMs the Lions might hire that you posted on Wayne You’re right – a great list if this was 1995. But you’re also right that those guys might make good consultants.

Big Al: We can only hope that is what Pro Football Weekly’s list actually was, possible consultants. But again, we’re talking Mr. Ford, so no one knows what he may be thinking. The man never shows his face to the public, and worse, the media. I’d LOVE to know what he thinks of the whole cluster that has become his Lions.

Eno: Like I wrote at OOB, the biggest indictment of any owner is that he/she doesn’t care. And whether he cares or not, perception is reality. All Ford needs to do is show his face and people would feel better. Anyhow, what do you make of Marinelli finally bringing 0-16 up to his players, as he did Monday at practice?

Big Al: It was the final card he could play. The “You don’t want to go down in history” card. I think Marinelli’s long been out of ideas. He’s now in desperation mode. Marinelli doesn’t want to see his name in the record book as the worst head coach in NFL history.

Eno: Switching gears big time – I gotta bring up Sean Avery, our old pal from his Red Wings days. Seems Sean, now with Dallas, is truly losing it. Now he’s suspended by the NHL for comments he made about his former girlfriends who are now dating other players in the league. What’s up with this guy? He’s like the Dennis Rodman of hockey.

Big Al: That’s really what he is, the NHL’s version of Rodman. Why the Stars felt the need to sign that loon to a long term free agent deal is beyond me. His antics make me appreciate the professionalism of the Red Wings all the more.

Eno: Like what he did to Marty Brodeur in the playoffs – waving his stick in his face. Totally bush. Even his teammates are fed up. Even BRETT HULL, no less, is urging restraint. Maybe wearing a suit and tie has mellowed The Golden Brett, eh?

Big Al: It may have mellowed him (Hull mellow? Never thought I’d see those two words together!), but just because he’s “Brett Hull” doesn’t make him a good GM. Signing someone the likes of Avery shows he has plenty to learn.

Eno: The shame is, Sean Avery can be an asset as a kind of modern day Theo Fleury or Kenny Linseman – guys who should be in the Pest Hall of Fame. Avery is a talented, hard-nosed kid who I thought was going to make Detroit go crazy one day. But now he’s just being outrageous for the sake of it, and that’s just not acceptable. I’m sure this isn’t the kind of publicity [NHL Commissioner] Gary Bettman is looking for!

Big Al: I don’t know if I’d go THAT far. The NHL is a forgotten league in the big sports picture. Any publicity they may get, even for the antics of Avery, or their over the top suspension of him, at least gets them noticed. Too bad it takes off-the-ice BS for the mainstream media to put the NHL above the fold.

Eno: Exactly. OK, what’s on Mr. Big Shot’s mind?

Big Al: What’s NOT on my mind! I have to wonder what’s going on with the Detroit Tigers, and their not offering arbitration to [shortstop] Edgar Renteria. It seemed like a no-brainer thing to do. If Dave Dombrowski would have done so, he would have either ended up with one year of Renteria, which considering the lack of shortstops on the open market wouldn’t have been a bad thing, or if Renteria moved on, two relatively high compensatory draft picks. Do you think the Tigers are in such financial straits that they couldn’t risk paying Renteria $9-10 million?

Eno: It’s not that they’re in financial straits, it’s just that, where do you draw the line? Sometimes it’s just the IDEA of paying someone that kind of jack. Renteria has seen better days, and I don’t see him bouncing back all that much. He’s kind of like a super ball that’s been left out in the cold, if you know what I mean. It looks like Jack Wilson of Pittsburgh will be Renteria’s replacement. I personally think it was a smart thing not to offer ER arbitration. They can’t do much worse at SS in 2009, I wouldn’t think.

Big Al: Not that Wilson is all that cheap (I think he’s making around $6 million), and he would cost the Tigers player/players in trade. All Renteria would have cost is money. I think money played into the decision, we just don’t know how much. Considering the Tigers get plenty of financial support from the auto industry in one way or another (ticket sales, advertising, suite rentals, so on), they may be wary of spending any more than they have to in acquiring players.

Eno: Well, I think it’s pretty simple: Renteria was horsepucky here, and didn’t rate another $9 mill to come back. He had a bad year in Boston a few years ago, too. Maybe he’s not an AL kind of guy. So what else you wanna talk about? You said there was a lot on that twisted mind of yours!

Big Al: Thanksgiving wasn’t a bad holiday for just the Lions. The Pistons had themselves quite a holiday weekend. We saw head coach Michael Curry call a Thanksgiving Day practice the morning after a win. Allen Iverson decided he had better things to do, and cut practice. I thought Iverson had changed his stripes, so to speak. Now I’m not so sure.

Eno: I think A.I. was testing the new coach, and the coach passed. That said, I think a Turkey Day practice might have been pushing it, though Joe Dumars was there in support of the coach. I think Curry is trying to show that he’s the boss, but it’s a fine line. He needs to pace himself, though. There are still 65 games left, plus the playoffs.

Big Al: Exactly. As I wrote on TWFE, Curry needs to pick his battles. This was a battle he didn’t need to fight. But that wasn’t all Curry did. He also benched Tayshaun Prince for the 4th quarter of Sunday’s loss. He then called Prince out in front of the media. It seems to have worked, as the Pistons had a very nice win in San Antonio Tuesday night. I’ll say this for Curry: he’s not afraid of shaking things up, and if there was a roster that needed a jolt of reality, it was the Pistons’.

Eno: Yes, this is true. Everyone said Flip Saunders was too easy on them; no accountability. But I have a problem with calling out your players to the media before you talk to that player. And just because they got a nice win in San Antonio doesn’t mean that Curry didn’t wound Prince a bit. Like I said, a fine line. But I think I’ll err on the side of Mr. Tough Guy right now, coming on the heels of easy-going Flip. I guess we just can’t be satisfied! Bottom line: Curry’s style is probably the best one for now, but he has to be careful.

Big Al: If there is someone Curry should have called out in private or public, it’s Rip Hamilton. He hasn’t been the same player since Chauncey Billups left. The Pistons need Rip if they are going to have any shot at winning the Eastern Conference. The man needs to step up, and get over it.

Eno: Yeah, I saw what you wrote on TWFE and I totally agree. Grow up; people get traded all the time. I know they had a good thing going, but they have also been bumped out of the Final Four for three years in a row. I suspect Rip will, eventually. He hasn’t played horribly; it’s just that he’s brooding a bit and that can’t happen. Like I said at OOB, good thing Joe D. made this trade in November rather than in February. That might have been disastrous. Plus it gives Dumars time to decide whether Iverson is worth an offer for 2009-10.

Big Al: The Pistons are definitely a work in progress. With the Pistons, it’s all about the playoffs anyway. It’s too early in the season to be overly harsh and judgmental. If they are still having issues like these in April, then we can rip them to shreds…no pun intended.


Eno: Nice! OK, ready for some Word Association, or as I like to call it, WordAss?

Big Al: Personally, I call it “Eno makes Al’s brain work overtime!” OK, let’s lock and load.

Eno: Charlie Weis.

Big Al: Five words. Too expensive to buy out.

Eno: Too fat, too. OOPS, did I say that? OK, the Colorado Avalanche (remember them?)

Big Al: Ah, yes. The Nordalanche. Used-to-be’s.

Eno: Daunte Culpepper.

Big Al: Backup.

Eno: NBA on Christmas Day.

Big Al: Two words. Meaningless tradition.

Big Al: Ready for a few?

Eno: Sure!

Big Al: OK. Tom Izzo.

Eno: Underappreciated nationally.

Big Al: Totally agree. And since he was called the best owner in sports, Mike Ilitch.

Eno: I’ll amend it to Most Committed Owner in Sports. Good for him.

Big Al: I thought it was a tad overblown as well. But we fans could do a whole lot worse than Mr. I. As you mentioned him in a comment on TWFE, Dick Vitale.

Eno: The Happiest Man To See ESPN Be Invented.

Big Al: Very funny. But as a failed coach, the Four Letter truly was his salvation. One more. Lions on Thanksgiving.

Eno: TURKEYS!! And one more for you: Martin Mayhew.

Big Al: Wrong place, wrong time. So what’s on your mind? What ya got?

Eno: SO true. OK, I see where some ink-stained wretch who covers ND football says the Irish should replace Weis with….Mark Dantonio!! Thoughts?

Big Al: I told you Dantonio was destined for bigger and better things. Yes, MSU is a good job in a big time conference. But it’s not a top tier football program, and I don’t think it ever will be. If Dantonio has another good season, I’d expect some very big programs sniffing around East Lansing. Like Notre Dame, once Weis has another five-to-six-win season in 2009.

Eno: I think Dantonio is a helluva coach but also a little…twisted, which isn’t bad, necessarily. The guy has a mean streak, I’m telling you. And did you notice how much he looks like Terry Donahue, UCLA days? Spitting image!

Big Al: There’s another program that could use a jolt. A hard liner like Dantonio could be the anti-Pete Carroll. Speaking of which, I had to give the USC coach props and admit he has some big cahones, by giving up a time out per half in the upcoming rivalry game with UCLA, all so they could bring back the tradition of both teams wearing home colors. I wish more coaches had his style.

Eno: I hadn’t heard that, but I agree. UCLA’s home blue is so powdery, you almost don’t even realize both teams are wearing dark jerseys. OK, who’s your Jerk of the Week?


Big Al: My jerk is Gary Bettman and the NHL for their indefinite suspension of Sean Avery. Yes, what Avery said wasn’t in good taste (It was rather vile, actually, saying “sloppy seconds” in regard to another player dating his ex-girlfriend), but the over the top punishment just drew more attention it. Slap Avery with a big fine, call him to the league offices and read him the riot act, but an indefinite suspension? Please. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. I don’t want to really go there, but there is a thing called free speech. We all have the right to make an ass of ourselves by what we say.

Big Al: Who’s on your list, Eno?

Eno: Well, I sorta agree w/you in that “indefinite” is probably over the top, but Avery definitely should have been disciplined. My JOTW is Giants WR Plaxico Burress, for SHOOTING HIMSELF IN THE THIGH, then getting hit with gun charges, and being suspended for the rest of the regular season. Talk about Sparties with mean streaks!

Big Al: No kidding. Growing up in a rural area, I learned at a very young age how to handle and fire a gun. I also learned there is a time and place for firearms. A nightclub isn’t one of them. The lack of common sense shown by supposedly college-educated athletes never ceases to amaze me!

Eno: OK, pal…hope you have a great week and we’ll re-convene next Thursday!

Big Al: Works for me, sir. Go do the journalism thing you do!

Eno: If you insist!

Yes, "The Knee Jerks" Are Open On Thanksgiving! Come On In….

In The Knee Jerks on November 27, 2008 at 6:08 am

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! And welcome to Webisode #9 of “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al,” my weekly gab fest with that MVP of the MVN, Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience.

In this installment, we look back at the Michigan-Ohio State debacle and MSU’s failure last Saturday; laud the Red Wings; slam those who would take away our Turkey Day game; talk a little U-M hoops; and of course, there are the regulars: Word Association and Jerk of the Week.



Eno: Thanks for taking the time on this holiday to join us at “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al.” I’m Eno, aka The Journalist, and he’s Big Al, aka Mr. Big Shot. See, Al? Told you I’d remember to call you that every week now, going forward!

Big Al: Damn straight. I would have been sure to correct you otherwise, Mr. Journalist! So what’s on your overflowing-with-Detroit-sports-information-and-trivia mind?

Eno: Well, this is an unusual time at TKJ, because we’re doing this BEFORE the Lions game, and folks will likely be reading it AFTER the game. So right off the bat, our readers know more than we do this webisode!

Big Al: Don’t they always? I’m so full of BS, Rod Marinelli has nothing on me. Smoke and mirrors, sir, smoke and mirrors. You, on the other hand, pull facts out of nowhere, such as your post recapping previous Lions Turkey Days. Hell, I can’t even remember what happened last year on Thanksgiving, let alone in 1987.

Eno: What can I say? It’s both a gift and a curse! OK, let’s start with Michigan football. I guess you were right and I was wrong. Who was that idiot who predicted a close U-M/OSU game? He should have his Knee Jerk stripes revoked!

Big Al: Dean Wormer has you on double secret probation, so watch what you predict. Hey, you were right for a half of football, anyway. But I have to say I saw this one coming, as Michigan QB Nick Sheridan, who I’m sure is a nice kid, just isn’t a Big Ten QB. His having to start had the Wolverines behind the proverbial buckeye before the game even began.

Eno: Well, is this getting to the point where U-M bores OSU now? I mean, when Michigan was kicking John Cooper’s tail, it almost became not fun anymore. Look at the Red Wings and Avalanche. The Avs bore me now. When was the last time Colorado beat the Red Wings? When Patrick Roy was in net? So is this rivalry in danger of turning into a joke?

Big Al: Not yet, as even though the University of Columbus is currently holding the upper hand, almost all previous Wolverine-Bucknuts games had something on the line, and were, for the most part, tight ballgames. I think this loss is the exception, rather than the rule, Rich Rodriguez needed to experience the rivalry before he could truly grasp its meaning. The Wolverines may not beat CheatyPants McSweaterVest and his band of ill-tempered, ill-educated louts, but it won’t be a blowout in 2009.

Eno: Well, regardless, I’d say that Meeechigan (RIP, Bob Ufer!) better damn well beat these Buckeyes pretty freaking soon. Or maybe U-M better figure out how to beat Toledo first? Baby steps, right?

Big Al: Need to crawl before you can walk, walk before you can run, and a quarterback before you can beat tOSU.

Eno: Indeed. And what about Sparty? Again they prove they’re Not Ready For Prime Time (RIP, Gilda Radner!) They finished 9-3, but is it a Fool’s Gold 9-3 or a we-can-win-a-Bowl-game 9-3?

Big Al: As always, it depends upon the match-up, but MSU is not yet an upper tier team. I don’t see them beating a comparable SEC team. I do think that with six weeks to prepare, the ever cranky Mark Dantonio will make Sparty a handful for whomever they play. What do you think of Dantonio’s stunt of calling time outs in the final seconds of the Penn State game? Was he being an ass, or trying to make a point?

Eno: With Dantonio, you never know. He’s a rather irascible fellow, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in a football coach. But methinks he tends to sweat the small stuff too much. Maybe he tries too hard at times. Of course, his predecessor, John L. (for Loser) Smith never could be accused of trying too hard, so there you go.

Big Al: I’ll say this for Mr. Little Brother, he’s making the MSU/Penn State and MSU/U-M rivalries much more interesting. Which I think is the motivation to his madness. No one cared about MSU playing Methusela at the end of the season before. Dantonio is making the Big Ten-manufactured series relevant. And anytime he can annoy the living Hell out of Wolverines, the folks in East Lansing eat it up. If I’m MSU, I’m worried when one of the elite programs that has an opening (Tennessee?) will come calling. Dantonio could be another Nick Saban, if the Spartans aren’t careful.

Eno: Wow – some elite company there! He came from little Cincinnati with a mediocre 18-17 record, and now you’re putting him up there with Duffy Daugherty! What’s gotten into you?

Big Al: Drugs? I’m not going that far yet, but Dantonio has been a great fit at MSU. I’ll say this, though. He’ll be better for the program than George “Motor City Bowl should be in the BCS” Perles, the last coach to have a lengthy tenure in East Lansing.

Eno: And now George might run for Governor, so go figure. Your turn: what’s on Mr. Big Shot’s mind?

Big Al: Turkey legs. Oh, you mean in sports? Well then…we have to mention the Lions, and the ongoing cry from the MSM about taking away our Super Bowl – the Thanksgiving Day Game. The show I like to call “Douchebags in the Morning,” ESPN’s Mike and Mike, Mike Ditka, and numerous columnists around the nation who’re looking to get some cheap heat, all call for the NFL to take the game away [from the Lions]. Personally, I think they can go to Hell. What are your thoughts on the matter? Should the 12:30 Turkey Day game remain ours and ours alone?

Eno: YES!!! Of course!! Are there REALLY a bunch of teams clamoring to play on Thanksgiving? I was talking to Keith Bulluck of the Titans a few weeks ago and he didn’t seem to be so jazzed to play the game that he would like to play it every year. Look, it’s easy to say this now with the Lions down. Funny, but I didn’t hear this in the 1990s, when the Lions were competitive. The only whiner was the late Lamar Hunt of the Chiefs. What is the motive to take it away? What does it matter to those folks? The Lions are rarely on national TV, so chill. Deal with it, I say.

Big Al: They can all pound sand. I’m just getting sick and tired of all the Detroit bashing. From the politicians in Washington more concerned with Wall Street than saving Detroit’s auto industry, to the sports media slagging away on the Thanksgiving Day game, it’s giving us in the Detroit area a MASSIVE chip on our shoulders. I, for one, am ready to go nuclear on the next politician or columnist who takes unwarranted cheap shots at Detroit, the State of Michigan, and the residents and fans of all things Detroit!

Eno: You know, I agree. The Detroit bashing seems to be at an apex right now. It truly does give us that chip on our shoulder you were referring to. I just think that it’s hilarious how this happens when the Lions are crappy. So, should we stop playing the MLB All-Star Game because the AL always wins? Should the Red Wings stop playing the Avalanche? Sorry – I already talked about that!

Big Al: Lets not forget the over done and totally untrue Red Wings = Yankees or Detroit = Beirut comparisons. Enough is enough, and I’ve had enough. Enough already! Seriously, I’m going to get out the big guns and go off on the next Detroit basher. The morons on CBS best watch what they say during the game. I’ll be watching them…

Eno: Whoa….let’s call a 20-second timeout!

Big Al: NO! NO! NO! I’M OUT OF ORDER? YOU’RE OUT OF ORDER!!! OK, I’m done. I feel better. What’s next?

Eno: Well, Al Pacino….I have Red Wings on the brain. I don’t write about them too much because, well, they’re just so good; what else can be said? I just hope folks around here appreciate what they have. This team is truly dynasty-ish. They’re never out of a game. Do you truly see anyone knocking them off four times in a playoff series?

Big Al: No. NO! NO! N…Sorry, I had a flashback! My only concern is Chris Osgood, as he has yet to play up to the level of last season. I realize it’s early, but I think the Red Wings have the same concern, which is why we are seeing more and more of Ty Conklin between the pipes. Other than possibly in net, I don’t think the Wings have a weakness. At least not a weakness that is easily exploited. The Red Wings’ worst enemy will not be the Sharks or the Ducks, it will be complacency.

Eno: But even that, I don’t see happening. It’s almost silly to nitpick them. Do you realize they’ve been Cup contenders since 1993? That’s amazing. No other pro sports team can say that. Makes you wonder if they’ll EVER be down – or how we’ll react to it when it happens.

Big Al: Probably the same way Wolverines fans reacted: with much anguish and finger pointing. But the Wings are in fine hands, so I doubt it’s something we’ll be have to worry about anytime soon – knock on wood.


Eno: Hey, how about some Word Association?

Big Al: NO! NO! NO! Oh, word association? Cool by me. I’ll start…

Big Al: Let’s begin with a local columnist, Mitch Albom.

Eno: Overexposed.

Big Al: No doubt. Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher.

Eno: Available?

Big Al: I wish. Lord, how I wish. Lions backup QB who just signed a two-year contract, Drew Henson.

Eno: Two words…three, really. No, four: Why the hell not?

Big Al: Hey, he was thought to be a franchise QB not all that long ago. How about the other backup Drew, Drew Stanton.

Eno: The future of the Lions. No joke. OK, my turn.

Big Al: Go ahead, oh journalistic one.

Eno: LeBron James.

Big Al: Two words. Big Apple.

Eno: Hmmm….or Motor City….OK, Joe Paterno


Big Al: Sorry, had to go for the zombie joke. Retire!

Eno: Wow…OK. Jim Price

Big Al: Is there one word I can use for “heavy breathing into an open mike?” No? OK, loyal.

Eno: Wow – THAT’S diplomatic! OK, one more: Thanksgiving.

Big Al: BRAIIINS! Seriously, Detroit.

Eno: Nice….alright, before Jerk of the Week, I’m gonna volley it back to you for the next topic.

Big Al: Volley? We playing tennis? You making a joke? You think I’m funny? I’m funny to you?!

Eno: You back in Pacino Mode? Or is that DeNiro?

Big Al: Sorry, for some reason I need to channel Joe Pesci in Goodfellas. How about something good about the Wolverines? The basketball boys beat a Top Ten team for the first time in, well, forever, when John Beilein’s team beat UCLA [last week]. I couldn’t remember the last time I so enjoyed watching a Michigan basketball game. Is Michigan hoops back?

Eno: Oh, that was terrific. Didn’t see the game but good for Beilein’s kids. That was great. It didn’t even matter that they lost to Duke after that. It would be wonderful to see that program back on the map. Do you see it happening soon?

Big Al: It was a great game to watch, and it was Beilein ball at its best. Treys, back door plays and his funky 1-3-1 defense. They aren’t back yet, but are on the way. I think Michigan could be an NCAA bubble team this season, and is maybe a year or two away from contending for the Big Ten title. Beilein knows what he is doing, and what sort of players he needs to run his system. Give him time, and he’ll win.

Eno: Yeah, he’s a keeper. You need stability. My alma mater, EMU, just fired another football coach. And they’re gonna bring Lloyd Carr in as an adviser to select the next coach. That kinda makes this old Huron (NOT an Eagle) a little….excited?

Big Al: It should. I like it that EMU asked Lloyd to help. Say what you will about his coaching abilities. Lloyd’s a good egg and well connected. He’ll go a long way in helping the Hurons (Eagles my ass!) find the right coach to right the ship.

Eno: Hey, maybe Lloyd himself will come out of retirement, a la Sam Rutigliano at Liberty U! A Huron can dream, can’t he?

Big Al: Or like Kansas State’s Bill Snyder. EMU could do a lot worse than Lloyd. A LOT worse. Ready to give your Jerk of the Week?


Eno: You know, I hate to make him a JOTW three times in a row, but I gotta go with your man Drew Sharp of the Freep.

Big Al: Really. What did the dull one say now?

Eno: Well, it’s this annoying insistence of his that the Lions absolutely, positively, can NOT go 0-16 because it’s “impossible.” Other than Minnesota at home, I don’t know where he’s seeing a win. At Indy? At Green Bay? Against the Titans? The Saints? Good grief! He was at it again last Sunday, predicting the Lions to beat the Bucs because of the aforementioned “impossibility” of going 0-16. It’s very annoying!

Big Al: I thought you were going to name Sharp because of his “column” about the Lions’ Turkey Day tradition, where he just came off as hateful towards those who really do root for the Lions. I honestly believe Sharp has five different boiler plate columns, and just changes the names and teams as needed. His shtick is getting old. Ready for my jerk?

Eno: Ready, willing, AND able!

Big Al: Sure you don’t mean, Abel?

Eno: *laughs*

Big Al: I’m going to give a co-Jerk of the Week award. My jerks are Lions head coach Rod Marinelli and Detroit News columnist Rob Parker for the unintentional comedy that ensues when Parker asks Marinelli if he’s going to quit/fire his son-in-law/quit over and over and over, while Marinelli talks in circles, never answering anything. I swear the two could join a touring company of “The Odd Couple.” Post-game pressers will never be the same once Marinelli gets the ziggy

Eno: That’s actually very funny, and very creative! I never thought of them that way! Parker has fired more coaches than George Steinbrenner.

Big Al: And written more bad columns than Drew Sharp!

Eno: Now THAT’S saying something! OK, my friend, enjoy your Turkey Day. Sorry the Lions are gonna be on local TV, though. Don’t let them ruin the turkey and stuffing!

Big Al: Lions ruin turkey? That’s un-possible! Have a great Turkey Day yourself, Mr. Journalist!

Eno: See ya next Thoisday.


If It’s Thursday, It’s "The Knee Jerks!"

In The Knee Jerks on November 20, 2008 at 3:15 pm

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!


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?




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 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…..



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!”

Welcome To "The Knee Jerks" — Webisode #7

In The Knee Jerks on November 13, 2008 at 5:59 am

Word Association! Jerk of the Week! Those are the two newest features installed in time for this week’s webisode of “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al”, my weekly foray into the sometimes inane world of sports with Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience.

This Thursday, Al and I tackle the new-look Pistons; the utter incompetence of anything Detroit Lion; U’M’s chances to win another football game; and the Tigers’ never-ending search for a reliable closer. Plus, of course, Word Association and you’ll see who our Jerks of the Week are. (Hint: they’re in the MSM, and are likely to be regular JOTWs).

So put your trays in the upright position, and there’ll be no moving about in the cabin…..


Eno: Good grief! It’s Thursday AGAIN? Time for another webisode of “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al.” I’m Eno, aka The Journalist, and he’s Big Al, aka The MVP of the MVN. How goes it, Al?

Big Al: I’m just a little ole blogger trying to make it in the big, bad blogosphere. I’m doing just fine and kinda dandy! I’m digging towards the light!

Eno: Nice! OK, on today’s docket will be the new features: Word Association and Jerk of the Week. But for now…how ’bout those “0-2 with Allen Iverson Detroit Pistons” [ed. Note: as of Tuesday morning]

Big Al: What? I’m sorry, I’m digging with my sharp shovel… Oh, yeah, the Pistons. Nothing to be worried about yet. It’s going to take time for Iverson to get in tune with the Pistons’ offense. I’m more concerned with the big men. They miss Antonio McDyess on the 2nd unit.

Eno: Does your gut tell you that Dice will be a Piston again some 30 days hence? Or will the Big, Bad Celtics or Cavs snatch him up?

Big Al: That’s my concern, and if I were a contender, I’d love to have Dice coming off of my bench. I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if someone other than the Pistons made a big time run at Dice. The Pistons and Joe Dumars have to be, at the very least, concerned.

Eno: But here’s the rub: Dice LOVES it in Detroit. Loves Joe D, loves the organization. Might he tell everyone else, “Thanks but no thanks”, and return to Detroit anyway? Or is that just me being wishful in my thinking?

Big Al: Not at all. McDyess owes the Pistons big time, essentially rescuing him off of the NBA’s scrap heap. Dumars gave McDyess a multi-year deal when the rest of the NBA thought he, and his rickety knees, were done. But the NBA is a business, and loyalty often takes a back seat to money and/or playing time.

Eno: True that. I think Iverson is in a good place as far as the Pistons are concerned. There’s often nothing more dangerous than a superstar hungry for a championship. Hunger seems to be what has propelled teams past the Pistons in recent Final Fours.

Big Al: Considering the Pistons have played the past few seasons like they were NBA royalty, when they were actually pretenders to the throne, A.I. can only help in that regard. But will it be enough? I’m not sure.

Eno: I kinda think it will be, strangely enough. This is the most talent that Iverson has been surrounded with, and I think he knows that. He’s 33, which isn’t ancient, but isn’t young, either. Look for Pistons over Celts in the Final Four!

Big Al: I’ve thought the Pistons should have won the East the past three seasons. And they managed to flame out spectacularly. When it comes to the Pistons, I’m just going to say, “Prove it.”

Eno: Fair enough. I’m cranky about the Lions, btw. I know that goes against my grain, but I’m just frustrated with not even being competitive. [Head coach] Rod Marinelli must go, but it’s almost like, why do it NOW? Unless it’s just another signal that ownership is committed to change. But these scores aren’t even funny. They’re unacceptable and humiliating. And Marinelli is so robotic in his Monday pressers it’s disgusting. And if I hear one more player or coach say how good they practice….arrggh!!

Big Al: With Marinelli’s story about being in a tunnel, seeing “the light” and digging towards it with his sharp shovel, he just had his Bobby Ross “Abandon ship, WHOOMP WHOOMP WHOOMP!” moment. He’s out of answers and running out of time.

Eno: Yeah, I don’t know WHAT the hell THAT was about. The man is 1-16 in his past 17 games. And here’s something. Some caller on 97.1 Sunday said, “Well, [former Lion] TJ Duckett says Marinelli is a good coach.” OK, what is Duckett’s definition of a “good coach”? Here’s the deal: maybe Rod is a decent position coach. Maybe. But 1-16 is 1-16. Everywhere else in the league, you lose, you get fired. Reminds me of another Lions coach quote: “What does it take to get fired around here?”

Big Al: Ah, yes. The infamous Darryl Rogers quote while he was wandering the halls at the Silverdome. It reminds me of one of my all-time favorites, Marty Moronwhig’s “We are officially eliminated from the playoffs” after his 0-9 start. Brings a tear to the eye. I’m with you on the “Marinelli’s a good coach” mantra. The local MSM continually tells us Marinelli would be a good coach “in a different situation.” Personally, I don’t see it. It’s been apparent since his first season that Marinelli is in over his head. His game management, in-game decision making, personnel moves, all point towards a man who has reached his level of incompetence.

Eno: Well, look at what Bill Parcells did in Miami. Mr. Reclamation Project Guy. He hired Tony Sparano (how many people thought he hired Tony Soprano?) and look at the Dolphins: 5-4 a year after 1-15. Do you know that my sources tell me that Parcells reached out to Bill Ford Sr. last year but was rebuffed? THEN he went to the Dolphins.

Big Al: I was waiting to hear Sparano hiring Pauly Walnuts as his defensive coordinator. The Fords haven’t been known for their sterling decision making. Jerry Vainisi, who was instrumental in building the Bears’ 1985 Super Bowl team, was hired by the Lions, but lost a front office power struggle with Chuck Schmidt. Wasn’t Chuck Knox interested in returning to the Lions at one point? Even when having a gift horse looking them straight in the face, the Lions never take advantage.

Eno: Yes…Chuck Knox absolutely wanted to coach here. And how did the Lions get outsmarted by the Vikings for Anthony Carter’s services? That’s another mystery I’d like solved!

Big Al: Or deciding against Warren Moon, and signing Scott Mitchell. Or all the draft picks, like Fred Biletnikoff, the Lions lost to the AFL. Or the Ron Jessie free agency fiasco. Where’s Robert Stack? He could have done an entire episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” with only stories involving the Lions.

Eno: Ron Jessie!! LOVE it! Yes, that WAS a fiasco! Don’t forget a smart, young secondary coach they let get away when Ford bought the team. Some ne’er-do-well named Don Shula.

Big Al: But Shula wasn’t good enough for the Fords! They hired immortals like Tommy Hudspeth, Rick Forzano, Rod Marinelli, and of course, Wayne Fontes instead. God, it’s depressing to think about the opportunities the Lions have wasted over the years.

Eno: Which is why I’m going to beg you to change the subject. What’s on your mind?

Big Al: Shovels, tunnels and lights in the distance. OK, I’ll move on. Rich Rodriguez and his Michigan Wolverines actually won a game this past weekend. It was just like old times! But with Northwestern and The University of Ohio State still on the schedule, beating the Minnesota Gophers may have been the last hurrah for the 2008 season. Any chance RichRod can pull another upset, especially against tUOS?

Eno: You know, I don’t think U-M will get blown out at Columbus, strangely. I don’t know why. I just have a feeling Michigan will give them a good game – but lose. Northwestern is winnable. Still, 4-8? Yikes. I think they’ll just burn these records and erase this season from the books in Ann Arbor. Never happened, or in Harry Potter-like terms: That Which We Will Not Discuss.

Big Al: Or “Season of Infinite Pain,” to steal from the indispensable MGoBlog. Beating the Buckeyes would be the “signature” win all Wolverines fans would love to see, much like Bo Schembechler’s upsetting what may have been Woody Hayes’s best team in 1969. Obviously, beating the 2008 Bucknuts would not be anywhere near that level, but it would go a very long way in soothing the Wolverines’ angry fan base. If Steven Threet is healthy, Michigan may have a puncher’s chance in winning.

Eno: Well, we’ll see; I think it’ll be a good game – better than last season’s debacle. OK, ready for some Word Association?

Big Al: Fire away.


Eno: BCS

Big Al: SHOVEL! OK, I’ll stop. BCS = BS.

Eno: Amir Johnson.

Big Al: Unproven.

Eno: Arizona Cardinals.

Big Al: Contenders.

Eno: Marian Hossa.

Big Al: Superstar.

Big Al: My turn. Chris Osgood.

Eno: Hall of Famer.

Big Al: Whoa! Michael Curry.

Eno: Prepared.


Eno: Marinelli!!

Big Al: Threw you a softball, and you hit it out of the park!

Big Al: One more. Tigers 2009 catcher.


Big Al: I’m with you there, as I don’t think the Tigers have a clue who will be joining Dusty Ryan in wearing the tools of ignorance either.

Eno: MUST be someone not with the team currently. OK, there’s some talk that Tigers coach Lloyd McClendon might be a contender for the Seattle managerial job. Thoughts?

Big Al: When you think of how many old, white, retread managers MLB owners have rehired over the decades, someone like McClendon, who never had a chance in Hell of succeeding in Pittsburgh, deserves another shot. Another quick Tigers question. Do you think they’ll have any interest in [closer] Trevor Hoffman? He was told by the Padres to look for another job today.

Eno: First, I agree with you about Lloyd, but does he have a chance in Hell of succeeding in Seattle? Now, about Hoffman: my “knee jerk” reaction was to say the Tigers should take a look at him – a good look. Just think: we need Randy Smith now! Wasn’t he the “go to” guy when it came to the Padres?

Big Al: Radar Randy Smith, the genius talent evaluator! My only concern with Hoffman, or any of the other rumored relievers I’ve seen associated with the Tigers (Juan Cruz, Brandon Lyon, to name two), is that they all seem to be variations of Todd Jones. Soft tossers, nibblers, guys who depend upon their defense. I’m not very enthused about any of the closers the Tigers are rumored to be targeting.

Eno: Yeah, you need a guy to blow people away. This “pitching to contact” thing can be heart-stopping. One more subject before we get to Jerk of the Week: your take on Cleveland Browns players suspecting teammates of quitting in last Thursday’s game vs. Denver?

Big Al: Talk about a team in disarray. It tells me that [head coach] Romeo Crennel has lost control of his locker room. That team is a mess. From their QB controversy, the Kellen Winslow suspension/non-suspension, to the team now pointing fingers at each other, Crennel is not long for his job. I wonder if the trade for known locker room cancer Shaun Rogers hasn’t exacerbated tensions in the room.

Eno: Right, and so much for the Patriots pedigree that Crennel boasts. I guess not all of Bill Belichik’s guys make good head coaches. I thought it was odd that such a charge came after a close game. Usually the “quitting” accusation comes after blowouts. How do you “quit” when you’re leading going into the fourth quarter? Am I missing something here?

Big Al: The whole situation is Lions-esque. Which is why I brought Big Baby into the equation. This had to have been brewing for quite some time, and the pressure cooker finally exploded after losing thanks to a fourth quarter collapse. It’s what happens on losing teams. We’ve seen it plenty often with the Lions.


Eno: Yeah, we’re experts on the subject. OK….without further ado – drum roll, please……..Our very first edition of Jerk of the Week! Al, tell the readers what this entails.

Big Al: Any doofus we think is deserving of the moniker over the past week. Could be an athlete, a columnist, you or me, anyone we think needs to be called out! As this was your brilliant idea, Eno, why don’t you go first?

Eno: Well, this didn’t technically happen last week, but to start things off and give people a flavor for what this is all about, my nomination is Detroit News columnist Rob Parker for inaccurately reporting the name of an MSU football player who was supposedly at a party where bad stuff happened – without, apparently, double-checking his sources!

Big Al: Couldn’t happen to a worse columnist! Super Genius, indeed! My pick is a columnist as well: the Detroit Free Press‘ Drew Sharp for two of his ridiculous columns last week. The first was a ludicrous comparison between the Pistons and the Lions, and the second was trashing fans of Wolverines football: “No, actually, it was everybody else who basically stopped caring.” No one has stopped caring about Michigan. Both columns, as Peter Griffin would say, “Grinds my gears!”

Eno: Why do I think these two guys are gonna be JOTW regulars? OK, my friend – great chatting with you, as usual. See ya next Thoisday!


Eno: Nice.

Big Al: I can’t help myself.

"The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al" — Webisode #6

In The Knee Jerks on November 6, 2008 at 5:02 am

Don’t touch that mouse! It’s Webisode #6 of The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al, my weekly confab with MVN’s Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience. As usual, this week’s edition is chock full of goodies: Allen Iverson; Daunte Culpepper; a new thing we do called Word Association; the Tigers’ quest to patch their holes; and that crazy, gimmicky NHL.

Oh, and next week we’ll debut another new feature called The Jerk of the Week.

Carry on….


Eno: Well, lookie there – it’s Thursday, and time for Webisode #6 of “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al.” At the risk of being like a game show host who announces the rules every week even though everyone knows them, this is where I verbally tussle with Big Al of the Wayne Fontes Experience. I’m Eno, aka The Journalist, and he’s Big Al, aka a man who’s Daunte Culpeppered Out. Welcome to the show, Al.

Big Al: Thank you. It’s almost always a pleasure. And yes, I’m feeling a bit Peppered and Answered out!

Eno: Well, we’ll bury Daunte till later. I suppose we should talk about The Trade. What does a card-carrying Knee Jerk like you think about Allen Iverson, Detroit Piston?

Big Al: I’ve always LOVED The Answer as a player, but not because he can be a prolific scorer. I’ve always admired his toughness. I think Iverson, pound for pound, may be the toughest player in the NBA. He’s fearless.

Eno: That’s what they used to say about Isiah Thomas. I like the trade. I wrote that the Pistons could actually use a ball hog in their midst. You gotta have a “go to” guy in today’s NBA. Now they finally have one.

Big Al: And it’s been long overdue. I don’t want to slight Chauncey Billups as a player, but I think Iverson may be just what the Pistons need: a player HUNGRY to win a title.

Eno: Well, ask yourself this: did Chauncey REALLY elevate his game in the playoffs? If anything, he regressed. He got burned several times by inferior point guards. And yes, AI’s hunger is a big factor. If he’s on a mission, I love it.

Big Al: I agree. Billups looked old and slow during the last couple of playoff runs. He’s no longer the same player who won the NBA Finals MVP. Billups is still a productive player, but considering the Pistons’ weak spots (someone who can create his own shot, a sense of urgency), Iverson may be the better fit.

Eno: I also think the Mr. Big Shot thing was more of a Detroit myth. I don’t want to slam Chauncey, but this is the NBA. It’s a big boy’s game. You win with the best players, not with memories, nostalgia, and warm and fuzzies.

Big Al: Which is something Joe Dumars realizes. He saw first hand as a player, the Bad Boys Pistons grow old and stagnant. He’s not going to let that happen under his watch as GM.

Eno: What do you make of all this talk that the AI trade is part of Joe’s grand plan to land LeBron James AND Chris Bosh (your man) in 2010?

Big Al: I think it’s a little too early to get wrapped up in future free agent classes. But it’s beyond obvious Joe D has a plan. Having cap flexibility is the best hole card an NBA GM can have at his disposal. When you look at the 2010 free agent class, you don’t necessarily need to sign LeBron to make your team a juggernaut. Hell, I’d be happy with just Bosh!

Eno: I was interested by Rasheed Wallace’s seemingly non-committal attitude when asked about the trade. He even seemed kind of leery. Almost like he wasn’t sure it was a good thing.

Big Al: He’s a hard cat to get a read on, period. But I think ‘Sheed realizes a couple of things. One, this year may be his last shot at a title, and two, this is likely his last season as a Piston.

Eno: Could be. OK, let’s bottom line this. Does this leapfrog the Pistons over the Celtics? Why or why not?

Big Al: Over the Celtics? No. But I sure think they, along with the other East contenders, became much more leery of the Pistons. I don’t think we’ll ever see any of those ten-minute long scoring droughts with Iverson on the floor. That alone makes the Pistons a much tougher playoff matchup.

Eno: So the Celtics won’t have that complacency that sometimes nabs defending champs? You just mentioned Iverson’s hunger!

Big Al: Complacency is the bane of any title-winning team. We’ve seen it with the Pistons. It’s hard enough to repeat as it is, so I expect the Celtics may no longer have the same hunger of Allen Iverson.

Eno: Well, I think this DOES put the Pistons above the Celtics, if only because it gives the Celtics something to defend that they didn’t have to last spring. So what else you got for today?

Big Al: The baseball winter meetings are currently taking place. If you go by the rumors, the Tigers’ first priority may be finding themselves a shortstop. The two names prominently mentioned so far have been Rafael Furcal and Kahlil Greene. Think the Tigers are getting an itchy trigger finger, looking to make a trade?

Eno: Yes, I’ve been saying that, for sure. Standing pat isn’t an option, when everyone’s on the hot seat. I like both guys you mentioned. Too bad Edgar Renteria went sideways on us. What about a closer, though?

Big Al: I doubt the Tigers go for an expensive free agent closer. I could see them looking at someone who is coming off an injury and/or an off season, like a Chad Cordero. Unless the Tigers trade Magglio Ordonez, I can’t see them having the capability to add much salary.

Eno: Ahh, Maggs. His agent says he won’t be traded. Can you believe an agent? Plus, Maggs is a 5-and-10 guy now. He can veto any deal. I truly hope he won’t be dealt. He’s grown on me!

Big Al: I’m with you, Eno. The Tigers are going to have a few offensive black holes (3rd base, catcher, and depending on whom the Tigers go with, short), I’d hate to lose the firepower Ordonez adds to the everyday lineup.

Eno: I know you’re not crazy about him, but I still like what Gary Sheffield can bring. I think he’s healthy. I think he might surprise some folks. I still don’t like the catching situation. Dusty Ryan?? Cripes sakes!

Big Al: Dusty Ryan? I’d use something stronger than “cripes sakes!” I hope you’re right about Sheffield. So do the Tigers, as his being on the roster is keeping them from moving Carlos Guillen or Ordonez to DH.

Eno: OK, here’s something. The Phillies are World Champs! Is this a parallel universe?

Big Al: Quite possibly. Hell, this could be one of many, if you believe Star Trek! Is this Evil Spock’s universe? I wonder! Sorry, I’m a closet Trekkie.



Eno: And you’re admitting it on National Internet? Gutsy guy. Sorry, but I can’t hold off any longer. Let’s play Word Association. Ready?

Big Al: Yep.

Eno: Daunte Culpepper.

Big Al: Desperation.

Eno: Dan Orlovsky.

Big Al: Backup.

Eno: Drew Stanton.

Big Al: Mistake. OK, let me try. Rod Marinelli.

Eno: Clueless.

Big Al: Calvin Johnson.

Eno: Overrated.

Big Al: I saw that one coming. One more. William Clay Ford.

Eno: Misguided.


Big Al: That he is, that he is. Speaking of misguided, do you think the Lions’ signing of Culpepper is misguided or a smart personnel move?

Eno: Hmmm….. I think it’s a smart personnel move by a misguided organization. How about that? Meaning, that for their situation, it’s really a low risk move. I just wonder why no one else was as “smart” as the Lions and signed him earlier. But we’ll see

Big Al: If you go by [offensive coordinator] Jim Colletto’s comments about Stanton embarrassing himself if he had to take the field, the Lions had little choice. Signing Culpepper is the culmination of several screwed up drafts, having to scramble to make up for the mistake of drafting Joey Harrington.

Eno: I’m glad you mentioned the “E” word. I thought at first that it was OK, then after reading Stanton’s response, I thought it was the wrong word. Even Marinelli thought it was wrong. Your thoughts about using the word “embarrass”?

Big Al: It’s probably the worst thing a coach could say about a player in public. It’s one thing to use such an inflammatory word behind closed doors. But to use the “E” word while speaking to the assembled media? Let alone making the Stanton pick appear to be a waste in the coaching staff’s eyes? Absolutely MORONIC. Just another reason, of many, why the Lions need to broom everyone at the Allen Park complex.

Eno: Do they MAKE brooms that big? They also don’t know what to do about running back. Sometimes it’s Kevin Smith, sometimes it’s Rudi Johnson. They have NO idea who they are or who they want to be

Big Al: We already know who they are: the worst team in the NFL. But playing Johnson over Smith makes no sense. Same for Jordon Dizon being deactivated every Sunday, or keeping 35 defensive linemen on the roster. They compound one mistake by making three more!

Eno: Or not keeping gosh darn Gosder Cherilus in the lineup and let him make mistakes and learn! Sometimes they act as if they’re some contender who can afford to let young guys sit!

Big Al: Amazing. The Lions are 0-8 with one of the older starting lineups in the NFL. It’s not as if the kids would do any worse. Save for “embarrassing” themselves.

Eno: Alright, I’m getting a headache. Change of subject. Red Wings. What’s up with their goals agaynst, as they say in Canada?

Big Al: Cup hangover. It’s fun and easy to play offense, but hard to play good defense. Nothing to worry about. Now if we’re still seeing this in March, then it’s time to be concerned.

Eno: True enough, I suppose. I never asked you about the shootout, btw. Do you like it?

Big Al: I’m old school. It’s fun to watch, but it’s too gimmicky. And it totally screws up the point totals. The Gary Bettman-ization of the NHL is a horrible thing.

Eno: You mean expanding into cities that have no business having hockey teams?

Big Al: Or moving TV coverage to a network no one can find on their cable? Keeping the Red Wings in the West? Yeah!

Eno: RIGHT! And no, I don’t like the shootout either. Let me ask you: what’s so bad about a STINKING TIE?

Big Al: Unless it’s the playoffs, not a damn thing!

Eno: I NEVER liked the notion of getting a point for losing. Jack Adams must be spinning in his grave.

Big Al: You, me, fans in Original Six (even Twelve) cities, and every single Canadian agree. We hate what’s happened to the NHL.

Eno: I must also rant here that there are wayyyyy too many power plays. Special teams are on the ice almost half the damn game. Ted Lindsay once told me that if there were two or three 5-on-3s in a season, that was a lot. And the person responsible for the second penalty would be in the minors the next day!

Big Al: In my mind, the worst thing ever is the instigator penalty. I’m not for goonery, but fighting has its place in hockey. Jeez, we’re both sounding like Don Cherry, save for the xenophobia!

Eno: Aka the “anyone who isn’t Canadian must suck” attitude! Cherry, I used to listen to him. Now he’s just a cartoon. Almost literally, with those jackets he wears. Speaking of cartoons, what chances do you give our old pal Barry Melrose in succeeding in Tampa?

Big Al: Let’s just say he best not have quit, but only taken a leave of absence, from ESPN. Don’t lose the hockey hair, Barry! Hard to believe he was once thought to be the heir apparent in Detroit back when he was coaching in Adirondack.

Eno: I know! Hey – you know those types. There’s always a headset and a makeup artist waiting for them should they fail!

Big Al: Exactly. Melrose will have one foot in the media. To be honest, I was surprised he left what was likely a cushy and well paid gig in Bristol.

Eno: Yeah, me too. I guess once a coach….anyhow, must be the Dick Vermeil thing, sans the tears. OK, almost time to go. Any final thoughts/rants?

Big Al: Final thoughts? The Lions signing Culpepper is placing a Band-Aid on a compound fracture and [U-M football coach] Rich Rodriguez is sooo on my @# !&*O!* list!

Eno: Ahh, THAT will have to wait for next week! My finals are: Iverson rocks and let’s hear it for 11-0 Tennessee vs. 0-11 Detroit on Turkey Day!

Big Al: Oooh, I can’t wait! Much like I can’t wait for our next “Knee Jerks!” Till then, aloha!

Eno: Thanks, Jack Lord!

Thursday = Knee Jerks: Webisode #5

In The Knee Jerks on October 30, 2008 at 6:13 am

You’ve landed on Thursday at OOB — which means yet another delightful webisode of “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al”, my weekly tete-a-tete with that rabble rouser at The Wayne Fontes Experience, Big Al himself.

This week, we dive into: the big (?) MSU win over U-M last Saturday; why in the world the Lions should consider signing Daunte Culpepper; the World Serious; the possibility of a Tigers blockbuster trade; and a preview of the Pistons season.

So, without further ado……


Eno: Uh-oh – it’s Thursday. That means you’ve come across another webisode of “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al.” I’m Eno, aka The Journalist, and he’s Al, aka A Pissed Off Wolverine Fan. Is that an accurate assessment, Big Al?

Big Al: Pissed? I’ve passed that stage of grief in regard to the Wolverines. I think I’m at acceptance at this point. I just keep chanting, “Serenity now!” whenever I see winged helmets.

Eno: OK, seriously. I know we addressed this a few weeks back, but did you think it was going to be this bad? And how in the HELL did U-M manage to be ranked in the pre-season Top 25?

Big Al: Not in my wildest dreams did I think Michigan would be cellar dwellers. I figured .500 was a worst-case scenario, but this? No one saw this coming, not even The Amazing Kreskin! “SERENITY NOW!” Then again I don’t know if The Amazing Kreskin is still alive, so it might have been hard for him to predict anything, let alone the collapse of the Wolverines, of all things.

Eno: Wow – a Kreskin reference! Wonder what percentage of our readers will get THAT one! And yes, I believe he’s still alive, somewhere. I must say, though, that you can tell who’s the “little brother” in this state, because MSU’s t-shirts featuring the scoreboard and their other displays of rubbing it in smacks of losers who don’t know how to handle winning. I like State, but don’t they know what the series has been like in the past, oh, 40 YEARS?

Big Al: I understand their glee, but Sparty’s memories are awfully short-term. But in their minds, Spartan Bob ran the clock perfectly and Desmond Howard wasn’t interfered with. I wouldn’t expect anything less from the Sparty faithful.

Eno: Besides, it wasn’t like they beat the best Michigan team ever assembled. They’re joyful over knocking off someone that Toledo beat, after all. OK, so what does your gut tell you? Is RichRod going to get this thing going as soon as next year? Or are we looking at a two-to-three year fix?

Big Al: It’ll be 2010 at the earliest before RichRod turns the Wolverines around. Mostly because he’ll still have QB issues next season. I’ll bet you dollars to donuts there’s a true freshman under center in 2009. That alone will guarantee another long season in Ann Arbor. Michigan fans best get used to seeing some ugly football for quite some time to come.

Eno: Well, thanks for the warning, I suppose. But wasn’t it nice to see the Ohio State University get whipped by Penn State? Didn’t that ease the pain a bit?

Big Al: It’s always nice to see CheatyPants McSweaterVest get his comeuppance, especially being taken down by the 150-year-old Joe Paterno.

Eno: Al, why don’t you REALLY tell us what you think of Jim Tressel? Gosh, you’re so wishy-washy!

Big Al: Hey, I’m not called a “knee jerk” for nothing! I’ll be honest though: the Sweater Vest has Michigan’s number, and I don’t see his dominance changing anytime soon.

Eno: Probably not. A U-M win this year, at Columbus, might eclipse Bo’s job over Woody in 1969. OK, so that’s Michigan. How did you handle the Lions’ blackout?

Big Al: Unlike most Lions fans, who took the week off from the team, I watched a cruddy, YouTube quality stream over the web. I just had to get my hate on, and I wasn’t going to let a silly, archaic, NFL mandated blackout stop me!

Eno: Talk about resourceful! I’m impressed – or petrified, I’m not sure which. Instead of re-hashing another loss, I was interested in your post at TWFE about Daunte Culpepper. I think I want the Lions to sign him. Am I a whack job? Careful, now!

Big Al: No, I won’t go there, even if you did serve up a beach ball right down the middle. As for Culpepper, you’re correct. This was more than your typical Tuesday free agent workout. I would not be surprised to see the former Viking/Fish/Raider in a Lions’ uniform next week. This Sunday is likely Dan Orlovsky’s last hurrah. The Lions lose to the Bears, which is almost a given, Stanton is under center the next week, and Culpepper could be the backup.

Eno: Well, like I commented on your blog, everyone thought Jim Plunkett was done when the Raiders signed him. Two Super Bowl wins later…. Now, I’m not saying Daunte is leading the Lions to the Big One, but at 32 he might have some football left in him. I’m just wondering what it is about the Lions that intrigues him. The winning culture?

Big Al: More like the Lions’ QB situation is awful, and Culpepper sees a possible starting opportunity. There may be some football left in Culpepper, but the question I have to ask is: Is there any football left in his destroyed knee?

Eno: Well, that’s the thing. It just shows that a football player’s desire to play sometimes supersedes winning. Plus, there’s always that green stuff called money.

Big Al: Which may be what’s stopping the Lions from signing him, post haste. Before his short-lived retirement, there was talk Culpepper had wanted a multi-year deal in the $5 million-a-season range. That’s an awful amount of jack for a QB who hasn’t been the same player since he stopped throwing to Randy Moss. If Culpepper wants to play, it’s going to have to be at a much reduced rate. At least I hope that’s what the Lions are telling him.

Eno: Probably will be one of those incentive-laced things. Culpepper told the Chiefs to take a hike, so apparently that means he feels he’s close to signing with the Lions. Daunte wore #11 in Minny; we haven’t had a running QB wear that number since Greg Landry! That is, if Daunte can still run!

Big Al: The last Lion to wear #11 was a diva wide receiver. Maybe the Lions want Culpepper to play wideout? Josh McCown did!

Eno: You’re right! Too funny! OK, I mustered up the first two topics today. What’s on your agenda?

Big Al: OK, what’s your take on how MLB handled the World Series weather issues in Philadelphia? Starting Saturday’s game at 10 p.m. was bad enough. But Monday night was a bad joke! Bud Selig has to be thanking the baseball Gods BJ Upton and Carlos Pena bailed out baseball by tying the game while playing in a monsoon.

Eno: Well, Bud said he never would have let the Series end on a rain-shortened Phillies win, which is commendable. I don’t know about this. Seems whatever you do, you’re wrong. I’m no Selig fan, but I don’t find much fault with him here. It’s a tough deal. But it also illustrates why the season should be shorter and the WS shouldn’t be knocking on November’s door!

Big Al: Exactly. Let’s not forget the playoffs have been expanded as well. Today, Reggie Jackson would be known as Mr. November! Unfortunately, baseball is allowing TV to dictate scheduling. Monday’s game never should have been played, period.

Eno: I opined a week or so ago that baseball playoffs were more fun when you had to sneak out to watch them, i.e. DAY GAMES! Wouldn’t it be nice, Al, for MLB to toss us old-timers a bone and play, say Game 1 on a Wednesday afternoon or something?

Big Al: There’s a certain cache’ to daytime playoff baseball that is sorely missed. I vaguely remember being allowed to follow the 1968 Series between the Tigers and Cardinals in class. (I would have been six at the time. Yes, I’m old) The Tigers, as a matter of fact, played in the last daytime World Series game back in 1984. Ah, the good old days. Speaking of the Tigers, they are known for making moves immediately after the Series ends. Two years ago, it was trading for Gary Sheffield. Last year, Edgar Renteria. Do you get the feeling we’ll see the Tigers make an aggressive move once the Phillies win?

Eno: You know, I do. I don’t know why I say that, but something tells me that, since [Tigers GM] Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland are on the hot seats, aggressiveness might be warranted here. It backfired last year, but standing pat seems riskier. I’d like to see them go after [pitcher] Derek Lowe. But yes, I think we’re in for another blockbuster; just maybe not this soon.

Big Al: From what I’m reading, Lowe might be out of the Tigers’ price range. But they do need to move quickly, as they need to fill holes in the rotation, the bullpen and at shortstop. It all depends on what Mike Ilitch decides to do with his payroll. If the Pizza Man decrees a lower salary burden, Dombrowski really has his work cut out for him. The pressure is truly on his shoulders to fix his mistakes, but it may take more than a year to do so.

Eno: This is going to be interesting. Leyland had magic in Year One, half a good year in Year Two, and a crappy year in Year Three – when the expectations were the highest, ironically. This thing could go either way. What are your odds that Jim’s in Detroit in 2010?

Big Al: No better than 50/50, possibly worse. Ilitch went all in before the ’08 season. He’s an old man, and desperately wants to win a World Series. If the Tigers don’t measurably improve early on in ’09, Leyland may not finish the season on the Detroit bench. Considering the money spent, I’d imagine the Pizza Man’s patience has to be running thin. Lelyand will be on a very short leash.

Eno: Wow…OK. There haven’t been too many managerial changes in Detroit in mid-season. We’ll see how it goes. Your thoughts on how the Milwaukee Brewers handled the Ned Yost/Dale Sveum situation?

Big Al: I thought it was Mickey Mouse. The manager can only do so much, and play the hand he was dealt by the front office. A playoff contender making a coaching change a few weeks before the end of the season is something that happens in the NHL, not MLB.

Eno: Right. Then they extend the GM’s contract and don’t even mention Sveum’s effort in getting them into the playoffs. Bush league! What else is on your mind?

Big Al: The Pistons begin their season tonight, but it really feels like they are flying under the radar. I’m interested to see how [new coach] Michael Curry handles such a headstrong bunch. Curry is saying all the right things, but it’s a long season. Sooner or later he’s going to have to butt heads with players like Rasheed Wallace. It’s going to be interesting to see Curry’s development as the head man

Eno: Well, he’s a recent player, so that should help. These Pistons haven’t really been coached by someone like Curry before. His task is simple for a rookie coach: win 50-55 games, navigate through the Eastern Conference mine field, and then make it to the Finals. Piece of cake!

Big Al: Indeed. And doing so while following Joe Dumars’s mandate of making sure young players like Rodney Stuckey, Amir Johnson, Kwame Brown and Jason Maxiell get plenty of time in the rotation. Curry has his work cut out for him.

Eno: I often wonder how much micro-managing Dumars does. But then again, I’ve never really read any of his former coaches (and that list is beginning to rival that of Liz Taylor’s ex-husbands) critique him about that, or anything. So he must be a fair guy. Still, Flip Saunders used to defer lots of seemingly coaching questions to Dumars, so that makes me wonder. You? Or am I making something out of nothing?

Big Al: I think there’s something to what you say. Without question, the Pistons are Joe Dumars’s team, and in many ways, I think the players are more loyal to Joe D than their coaches. Let alone the fact Dumars is also a favorite son of the owner, Bill Davidson. It has to be an intimidating atmosphere for a coach. Even more so for an inexperienced one.

Eno: Right, but Curry was hand-picked by Dumars (of course, so were the others) and has his boss’s highest regard right now. Plus, Joe D is kinda ticked at the players right now, which makes it easier for Curry, too. But it’s a player’s league, and always will be. That’s why you see so many recent players as coaches. Gone are the days of guys like Jack Ramsay and Frank Layden!

Big Al: That’s DOCTOR Jack Ramsay! You’re correct in saying Dumars has issues with the “core.” The trade deadline might be quite interesting, with ‘Sheed in the last season of his contract. I get the feeling Dumars won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a trade if the Pistons struggle…or even if they don’t.

Eno: Oh no, not at all. He’s a Jack McCloskey disciple, don’t forget, and Trader Jack made the boldest trade in Detroit history when he swapped Adrian Dantley for Mark Aguirre at the deadline in 1989. Of course, to hear Jack tell it, it wasn’t bold, just necessary. So yes, Joe D is in a trading mood. If he can do something McCloskey-like, he’ll do it. For sure.

Big Al: Joe D definitely learned a few things from Trader Jack. But Dumars finds himself in a very tough situation. The Pistons are in a sort of limbo. They are too good to break up, and should win 50+ games. But they aren’t good enough to win the NBA title. What do you do? Blow it up, or continue tweaking? It’s getting to the point of diminishing returns in regard to the core. I’m thinking this is their last ride as group.

Eno: Ha! Haven’t people been saying this is “the last ride” since 2006? But you’re right about being a tweener. This is a unique situation, in any sport. The Pistons are, indeed, good enough to be a contender, but maybe not more than that. It is strange in a way. So, as we finish our little ride for this week, my vote for strangest item of the week was the Isiah Thomas, “did he or didn’t he?” overdose story. Yours?

Big Al: It’s sad all the way around. Thomas claims it was his kid who OD’d, while the authorities say it was Isiah himself? The police have no reason to lie. What kind of father throws his own child under the bus? Isiah Thomas is a sad, sad man.

Eno: Yeah, his life has careened out of control. Thank God the Pistons didn’t make him their Joe Dumars, after all. Everything Isiah touches turns to dust. BTW, I was wrong about Warren Mott losing to Sterling Heights Stevenson by 10 – they lost by 28. And on a cold, damp night. What we parents won’t do to support our band-playing daughters, huh? But Mott’s going to the playoffs. Wish them luck at Cass Tech this weekend!

Big Al: Same for my high school alma mater, Carleton-Airport (I hate that they are always referred to by that name; it’s just “Airport!”), who host Trenton in the playoffs. Go Jets! And go Mott! I’ll see you next week, Mr. Journalist!

Eno: In the words of Sarah Palin, “You betcha!”

The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno & Al (Episode 4)

In The Knee Jerks on October 23, 2008 at 4:34 am

You’ve stumbled onto Thursday at OOB, which can only mean one thing: The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al, my weekly chat with Mr. Wayne Fontes Experience himself, Big Al.

In this episode, we talk some Tigers pitching; a little World Series; a certain talent-less NFL team (take a wild guess) and whether a Hall of Fame QB tried to help them; and where we place Mike Babcock among NHL coaches (hint: it’s at least above Joel Quenneville). There’s even — GASP! — some boxing in there. It’s a full plate, and you don’t have much time, so here we go….

Eno: Well, the calendar says it’s Thursday, and that means you’re about to be subjected to another episode of “The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno & Al”. I’m Eno, aka The Journalist, and he’s Big Al, aka The Patient. Al, good to hear that you bounced back from your Tuesday trip to the docs, and that the rumors of your demise have been greatly exaggerated!

Big Al: I’m a survivor, what can I say? If I can survive what the Lions throw at me, I can survive anything! Though I am contemplating suing the Lions, William Clay Ford, Rod Marinelli, and the NFL for the cost of my medical bills and a little extra for pain and suffering. I think I have a case!

Eno: You know, you might! OK, I usually start, but I’ll defer and defend the south goal. What do you got?

Big Al: Throwing me a change up! Even better than Fernando Rodney’s! Speaking of which, the Tigers hired a new pitching coach since we last talked. They hired Rick Knapp, who was a long-time minor league pitching coach/instructor for the Twins. Thoughts?

Eno: Well, I like the pedigree; the Twins always seem to hang around every year because of their pitching. I like the hire. I think it’s interesting that Knapp has been doing the same gig for some 12 years and is only now getting a call to The Show. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but I give my stamp of approval – as if Jim Leyland cares!

Big Al: I’m sure the Marlboro Man cares about your opinion! What I liked about the hire, other than what you mentioned about the Twins pedigree – which is a good thing as the Twinkies always seem to have a endless supply of major league ready arms – is Knapp’s mantra, “Make the first pitch a strike.” The Tigers hurlers, both starters and relievers, had the awful habit of nibbling around the corners, instead of attacking batters with their best stuff. If Knapp can straighten out Justin Verlander, who was often hitting the 100 pitch count in the 5th inning, Knapp joining the Tigers will have been a genius move.

Eno: Yeah, the bases on balls were horrifically high last season. They say the best pitch in baseball is “strike one”, so we’ll see. We’ll also see what Knapp can do with Dontrelle Willis. Do you think Dontrelle’s another Steve Blass, or, closer to home, Kevin Saucier? Or is there hope for Willis after all?

Big Al: I think there’s still hope, but the “Steve Blass Syndrome” is always going to hovering over the D-Train till he proves otherwise. Hopefully his hearing a new voice will go a long way towards fixing Willis’s control issues. I don’t think we’ll ever see the same dominant Willis who won 22 games and finished 2nd in the Cy Young voting [a few years ago]. My fingers are crossed, hoping Willis can be a solid number four or five starter. That would go a long way toward shoring up a staff with more than a few holes. Other than Verlander’s pitch counts, getting into Willis’s head will be Knapp’s no. 1 priority.

Eno: Yeah, especially with Kenny Rogers probably done, and God knows what to expect from Nate Robertson, if anything. Speaking of baseball, don’t trash Tampa-St. Pete and their Johnny-come-lately fans – unless you want to be under siege. I trashed them – twice – lately on Johnny Grubb and those folks are in a tizzy! Basically, I crabbed that the Rays being 26th in attendance was shameful. Then on Monday I took a swipe at them and Philly as cities. But they know Eno down there now – for better or for worse!

Big Al: Keep holding their feet to the fire, Eno! Tampa had trouble selling out GAME 7 in the ALCS! But they had no problem selling out the Bucs game, as it was Mike Alstott Night. Screwy priorities, if you ask me. Let alone that Alstott was one of the most overrated fullbacks in NFL history. But I digress… Tampa is an awful baseball town, and you called them out on it. The truth hurts. Personally, I’ll be rooting for Philly; as nasty as their fans can be, you can’t deny it’s a great sports town, much like Detroit.

Eno: Yeah – Philly is Detroit, plus corrosives. The late, great sportswriter Jim Murray once wrote, “When a plane lands in Philadelphia, everyone gets on — nobody gets off.” Anyway, I agree – I’m rooting for the Phils, too. What’s your take on another Cubs collapse? Were they even IN the playoffs?

Big Al: I have a soft spot for any city that can boo Santa Claus. As for the Cubbies? Short playoff series are practically a toss up. We saw it with the Tigers in ’06; they got hot at the perfect time. The Cubs are unquestionably a better team than the Dodgers, but LA got hot, and also got some very good pitching, at the right time.

Eno: Well, whatever – but the Cubs have now officially started a second century of waiting for a championship. Unbelievable that you can go ONE HUNDRED YEARS and not win. Makes the Lions’ drought look like a two-week vacation. After THAT segue, what do you make of this allegation that Brett Favre somehow gave the Lions an hour of his time to work on a game plan for the Packers? I don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or roll my eyes at this – or all three!

Big Al: I think Rod Marinelli’s “No comment” on the situation speaks volumes. Of course Favre is going to deny it, but considering his acrimonious departure from Green Bay, his trying to get back at the Packers doesn’t surprise me. But really, it’s a non-story. Giving the Lions, of all teams, inside info would be like giving me step-by-step instructions in ballroom dancing. Even if I know what to do, I don’t have enough talent to do anything with the knowledge! The Lions could have listened in on the Packers’ huddle, and it wouldn’t have done them a lick of good.

Eno: Too funny! That’s what I meant about the laughing and eye rolling! Here’s the white elephant in the room that all the MSM types seem to want to ignore about the Lions: THEY DON’T HAVE ANY TALENT! Honest to God – these guys write and write and the coaches talk and talk and the Lions’ lack of NFL talent is rarely talked about. The MSM and the coaches seem to think that it can be corrected. NO IT CAN’T – not now, anyway. But did you notice that when the veteran players are asked what’s wrong, like Dom Raiola, he says, “I don’t know.” That’s because he’s afraid to publicly say the team isn’t any good.

Big Al: I totally agree. For all of Marinelli’s bluster about playing hard every snap, giving 100%, if the talent isn’t there, giving 1000% isn’t going to make any difference. You win in the NFL on talent, period. I also found it fascinating the Lions named Rudi Johnson as captain, replacing the “injured” Jon Kitna. Whatever it says about a player being made captain who was picked up days before the season started, it can’t be very good. There must be a HUGE leadership vacuum in the Detroit locker room.

Eno: I know – I thought the same thing about the Rudi Johnson thing. OK, on to that “other” Johnson – Calvin. Before I say anything, what’s your impression of #81?

Big Al: That he should be touching the ball more than five times a game. The fact that (offensive coordinator) Jim Colletto can’t get the Lions’ only playmaker the ball is an indictment of his badly designed offense. But my biggest fear about Megatron is his becoming “Lionized” – a talented athlete playing down to the talent surrounding him.

Eno: Well, we may slightly disagree – but about his “playmaker” status. Maybe it’s the Lionizing that you referred to, but Johnson, to me, seems unable to make the routine plays with any reliability. Seems that he drops at least one pass per game, if not more. Mike O’Hara (of the Detroit News) crabbed about CJ’s two catches on Sunday, but he failed to mention Johnson’s drop on that drive near the end of the first half – the drive where Marinelli once again showed the clock management skills of a five year-old. Typical that Johnson caught the meaningless Hail Mary with time expired. I just don’t think Johnson makes enough plays, period. Now, should the Lions throw to him more? Of course, because he’s still the best they’ve got. What I’D like to see are more of those plays where he comes off the line of scrimmage and catches the ball in the flat, like a pseudo running play. Nobody seems to be able to tackle him when they do that.

Big Al: You make a good point, as Roy Williams had the many of the same issues. It would also help if the Lions had a legitimate NFL-quality QB throwing to Johnson. Dan Orlovsky is not exactly a top tier QB. Save for a couple of Scott Mitchell seasons in the mid-1990s, when was the last time the Lions had a QB you knew could get the ball to the right receiver in the proper spots? Since Bobby Layne left for the Steelers, they’ve been few and far between.

Eno: Yeah, speaking of the Cubs’ 100 years, how can you go 51 and only have ONE Pro Bowl QB? And if you look at Greg Landry’s stats from that year (1972), they weren’t eye-popping. Must have been a thin year for NFC QBs. I don’t know, Johnson frustrates me. What’s funny, Al, is when you look at what the Lions’ opponents do the week AFTER they play Detroit. Look at what Matt Schaub and Steve Slaton do next week. It’s funny, it really is. Hell, the 49ers just fired Mike Nolan becuase he’s 0-4 since playing … the Lions!

Big Al: Yet Rod Marinelli remains employed. No one ever said the NFL was fair. It’s not as if the Lions have been getting pounded by elite teams. Hell, the tough part of the schedule is just beginning. Which is why the 0-16 talk isn’t just so much hot air. The Lions are playing several playoff contenders in the second half of the season. It’s going to get real ugly, real quick at Ford Field.

Eno: I recommend that no one under 18 years of age be allowed to watch what Peyton Manning does to them. It’s gonna look like no contact drills. Switching gears yet again, the Scotty Bowman-infiltrated Chicago Blackhawks just fired Denny Savard just four games into the season and replaced him with Joel Quenneville. Thoughts?

Big Al: I’m thinking it’s Scotty Bowman making his presence felt. He wants his own people in there. But still, 4 games into the season? If you have that itchy of a trigger finger, why did they even bring Savard back in the first place? It’s similar to the Tigers giving Phil Garner the ziggy a week into the season (in 2002). They were looking for any excuse. Plus Quenneville is no slouch behind the bench.

Eno: Hey, Garner had to go. I called for that one. After the Tigers went 0-3, I was saying, “Get rid of Garner!” Axing Randy Smith at the same time was a bonus! Well, I must say about Quenneville: Mike Babcock is twice the coach Quenneville is. Babcock showed balls of steel when he replaced Dom Hasek in the first round against Nashville. Not too many coaches would have the guts to make that move, because most of what could happen is bad. Then you got Quenneville who REFUSED to yank Jose Theodore and insert the backup against Detroit in the second round. Joel should have benched Theodore when the series shifted to Colorado; what harm could it have done? But he stuck with Theodore and the Red Wings kept scoring. The Avs wouldn’t have won that series, probably, but if they ever could have used a spark, it was before Game 3 in Denver. Yet Quenneville didn’t give them that chance.

Big Al: Quenneville definitely made some strange decisions in that series, especially in reagard to Theodore. But comparing any coach to Babcock is a losing proposition. The man (Babcock) is practically a class by himself in NHL coaching circles. He’s done an amazing job in forming the Red Wings into his vision.

Eno: Hey, did you realize that I managed to work in both Detroit athletes named Dominic/Dominik into this chat? Pretty clever, eh? Well, Al, anything else that’s eating you?

Big Al: Other than the ulcer in my gut? I know this is out of my comfort space, so to speak, but I find the sudden collapse of the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) promotion Elite XC fascinating. Not two weeks after their street fighting, Internet sensation Kimbo Slice was taken in 15 seconds by a much smaller, run of the mill tomato can, the promotion dissolved, losing immense amounts of money in the process. It just goes to show MMA in many ways is no different than boxing. It’s run by a bunch of shysters taking advantage of fighters getting their heads beat in for a small slice of the money pie.

Eno: Yeah, I think you just described boxing, didn’t you? Or the MMA? I can’t tell the difference! Oh, where have you gone, Gerry Cooney and Ken Norton? Where have the closed-circuit TV bouts gone? The fights down in Manila?

Big Al: The glory days of boxing. I was a big fan in the ‘80s, when Detroit’s Kronk Gym was dominating the lower weight classes. To me, watching Tommy Hearns in his prime was a sight to behold. I remember watching him DESTROY Pipino Cuevas for the welterweight title on Wide World of Sports. And watching Hilmer Kenty win the first title for Kronk back in the day. I think being old enough to have seen the likes of Marvin Hagler, Joe Frazier, Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard – I could go on and on – in their primes, in many ways the golden age of the sport, soured me on today’s boxing and MMA. It just isn’t the same.

Eno: The hardest punch I ever saw, bar none, was the one Tommy laid on Roberto Duran. Wow. I saw Hearns-Leonard II on closed circuit, and I’m telling you, Tommy won. Well, Big Guy, time to say farewell, I fear. Got anything going this weekend?

Big Al: I’ll be trying to find ways in that crazy thing called the Internets to watch the Lions game, as I think we’ll be guaranteed a blackout. And let’s not forget the little in-state tussle going on in Ann Arbor Saturday. I expect we’ll both have something to say next week about the Wolverines and Spartans.

Eno: Oh yes, we will. I’ll be at Warren Mott’s game against SH Stevenson on Friday, since my daughter’s in the band. Mott is 6-2, Stevenson 7-1. But I’m picking Stevenson by 10. So much for me being a homer! Well, have fun LISTENING to the Lions lose to Washington. See ya next Thoisday.

Big Al: See you next week on TKJWTFWEAA!