Saturday, December 17, 2011

I'm Still the Smart One, Right?

So, I'm out on the ice with the boys Thursday tending the 6x4 and we are all of us every one giving it our all out there and when the game is over, I can't get the tape on my ankle and my ankle brace undone and I don't have knife to cut it off which means I can't get my hockey underwear off (think either long johns or lightweight sweat pants) which means I have to put my jeans on over them and they are soaking wet as I have, as mentioned, just finished giving my all out there and sweat and lots of it is the byproduct.  Because they are wet, they are cold and they are nasty, too.  I'm thinking I'm going to get some sort of rash before I can finish the drive home.  Or catch my death en route, one or the other.  When I do get home, my poor daughter has to cut the tape off so I can hit the shower which, although she said nothing (such a sweet child) has to gross her out to the maximum.  I mention all of this to Jeannie yesterday and she asks why I didn't ask somebody in another locker room if they had a knife and I tell her I didn't think of it and she asks me why I didn't go to the office to see if they had some scissors and I tell her I didn't think of that, either and I say, "So what you are saying is that anytime a little problem like this crops up (and they have, you know.  We're eighteen years into our marriage, after all.) I can just call you and you will give me all sorts of potential solutions?" And she says, "Of course," and I say, "Okay, but I still get to be the smart one, right?"

You gotta work to make your marriage work, boys.  Keep it in mind!

We are at the Joe Louis here tonight for the Wings and the Kings and it is not going well at all for one of the teams whose name ends in "ings" and I can tell you for sure that it is not the local hockeyists as they led 2-0 at the 2-minute mark and 3-0 eight-and-a-half in.  And that is where we are now.  I was planning a quick getaway tonight but as soon as I got here they asked if I could pick tonight's Three Stars of the Game which means A). I have to pay attention and, B). I cannot leave early as it is difficult to pay attention to something one is not actually at, you know?  But, what the hey.  The crowd is having a good time and the we can spread out in the pressbox as it is not crowded, so let's enjoy...  3:02 left, 1st Period: Detroit 3, LA 0.

One is done and the Wings dominate with a 4-1 lead at the first intermission.  8 (8!) different Wings record at least one point in the period.  Incredibly, LA outshoots Detroit 10-9 in the period, proving once and for all, we suspect, that "Shots on Goal" is the weakest stat in the history of athletic competition.  1st Intermission: Det 4, LA 1.

Okay, two periods complete here and it is still Detroit by four, 6-2. 12 different Wings have recorded a point here, which is remarkable.  As is the fact that the LA club leads in shots 19-16.  I didn't check in with you because not a lot was going on here.  Detroit appeared to get a little bored midway through the period, analogous to a cat tiring of playing the with mouse he's caught, I thought, and the Kings made 'em pay and the game was 4-2.  Then it got a little chippy and there was some shoving and cruel taunts and hurt feelings.  The Wings got two goals late: Henrik Zetterberg roofing a backhand under the bar although there clearly was no open spot for him to hit and Pavel Datsyuk was in alone in the last minute and he did what he does when he is in alone, netting his 10th of the year.   Detroit is 12-2-1 (.833) at home this year.  In another half an hour or so, they will be 13-2-1 (.843) and you can book that.  2nd Intermission: Detroit 6, LA 2.  

I am going to shut this thing down now as I will have to hustle in the 3rd to get away once the 3 Stars are turned in to Budd Lynch--the legendary PA announcer here.

It turns out Dec. 15 was the 32nd anniversary of the last game ever played at Olympia Stadium.  I was there.  Detroit fell behind 4-0, but came back to tie Quebec 4-4.  A few nights later, they played the first game in this building, and I was here for that one, too.  I cannot believe I have been coming to games in this place for 32 years....

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Let's Watch the Lions and the Vikings!

Good afternoon from Ford Field.  This is the first time I've seen a football field since last Saturday night when I was leaving Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis about an hour and a half after poor Isiah Lewis was flagged for running into the kicker in that heart-breaker of a Big Ten Title game which the Spartans lost to Wisconsion 42-39.

This is the first time I've seen this field since Thanksgiving Day when I thought at the half that the Lions were going to upset the Packers since Detroit had out gained Green Bay 202-86 in the first half and were only down 7-0.  But, the Packers drove the length on the first possession of the second half, the drive culminating in that Ndamukong Suh stomp/Personal Foul which enabled Green Bay to continue their drive and score a TD when they'd been stopped on 3rd and a goal and were certainly going to bring their field goal unit onto the field.  Things went downhill from there in what wound up a 27-15 Packers win.

Ten wins almost always get you into the playoffs.  To get to 10, Detroit must win three of their last four.  And even then they could get edged out.  Heading into today's game, the Lions are the #7 seed in a race in which only the top 6 make it.  At 7-5, Detroit has the same record as the Bears and the Falcons.  But Chicago is the #5 seed and the Falcons are # 6.  Here's why:
*Chicago finishes ahead of Detroit based on conference record (6-3 to the Lions' 5-5).
*Chicago is the No. 5 seed ahead of Atlanta based on head to head (1-0).
*Atlanta is the No. 6 seed ahead of Detroit based on head to head (1-0).

I think it's going to come down to Detroit and Chicago and both teams still have to play at 12-0 Green Bay.  The combined record of the remaining opponents for the Lions and the Bears is identical: 26-22.  Atlanta has the easiest remaining schedule with their opponents a combined 20-28.  However, Atlanta has to play at New Orleans so who's to say they won't lose that one meaning the best they could do is finish 10-6, too. But that's the problem.  Even if the Lions finish 10-6, they will still miss out if both the Bears and Falcons do too.  So, you Lions fans, it's not enough just to root for the Lions, you must also root against the Bears and the Falcons.  The Bears are at 7-5 Denver today, the Falcons are at 4-8 Carolina.  

Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson will not play today.  And even at this late moment, under 20 minutes to kick, we do not know if Vikings QB Christian Ponder (crossword clue: Jesus Contemplater?) will be able to start due to injury.  We will, of course, keep all y'all updated...

We've had some computer problems but it looks like we are back least for now.  Let's bring you up to speed.  In less than ten minutes (9:06 elapsed to be precise) the Lions have taken a 21-0 lead over the Vikings.  Detroit has run 11 plays on offense and have scored 21 points.  On the Vikings first play from scrimmage, at their own 7, QB Christian Ponder had the ball slapped out of his hand by Cliff Avril and Stephen Tulloch recovered in the end zone for his first career TD.  7-0, Detroit.  On the Vikings second possession, Ponder was intercepted by Alphonso Smith of Detroit and the Lions turned that turnover into points too, when Matthew Stafford hit a streaking Titus Young down the near left sideline for a 57-yard TD.  14-0, Detroit.  Stafford made it two TD passes in the first quarter the next time Detroit got the ball when he hit Brandon Pettigrew from 17 and with just under 6 minutes left in the quarter, the Lions had a 21-0 lead.  The Vikings have just driven down the field to score and make it 21-7 and we still have almost two minutes left in the quarter.  What a start we are off to here.

Halftime and we've been having a heck of a time with the internet here this afternoon.  Let's get caught up on what has transpired so far.  First of all, it's 31-14 Detroit.  Minnesota turned it over 4 times in the half and the Lions got 24 pts off the turns.  Alphonso Smith had two intercepts in the half, returning one for a score.  Matthew Stafford threw 2 TD passes.  Christian Ponder has 2 TD passes for Minnesota--the only reason they remain in the game at all.  Word at the half is that Carolina has the lead over Atlanta, which is great news for Detroit.  Remember, the Lions, Falcons and Bears are all 7-5.  Only two of the teams will make the post season.  If current scores stand up, and if the Bears can lose at Denver, Detroit will have a one-game lead in the playoff chase.  Second half just underway...

We're into the 4th, now and the Lions lead 34-21, but haven't put them away just yet with 12:09 to go.  Joe Webb is in at QB for the Vikes and all he did was tear off a 65 yard scramble for a TD, probably the longest QB scramble I've ever seen.  The Detroit secondary continues to rack up injuries, and there is some cause for concern here.  Meanwhile, ATL has come back to lead CAR 24-23.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Let's Watch the Red Wings and the Coyotes!

Well, let's see.  We haven't been together since last Saturday night and that thrilling down to the last cup Big Ten Title game.  Tonight, a contest of much less import as the Wings try to put an end to a modest two-game losing streak against the Phoenix Coyotes, a team many say is playing its last year in the National League.   For the record, this will go down as the day Albert Pujols got a contract worth a smidge (4 million dollars is indeed a "smidge" when it's part of a $254 million dollar deal) over a quarter of a billion dollars.  Wow, etc.  That is more that the current owner of the Angels, the team shelling out the dollars for Pujols, paid for the entire franchise short a few years ago.

I've been at this for about five minutes and can report that the Red Wings lead the hockey game 2-0.  Twice Wings were left all alone in front of Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, and twice they buried the thing.  Todd Bertuzzi made no mistake at 1:16 and Valteri Filppula--who I had heard earlier today wasn't even going to dress tonight due to a leg injury--found the net at 2:09.  The goals were strikingly similar.  In each case, the goal scorer was all alone below the hashmarks on the circles, right out in front of the goal.  In a strange oddity, Phoenix has outshot Detroit 5-4 here in the early going.  DETROIT 2, PHOENIX 0.  

8:05 Make it 3-0, Detroit.  Phoenix put Detroit on the power play and Tomas Holmstrom put it on the board at 14:46.  He fired in a rebound and in spite of a 10-10 shots on goal total, the rout is on.  And now it is REALLY on.  Darren Helm just took a feed off to the side of the net and made it 4-0 at 15:29.  Which turns out to be bad news in the extreme to those of us up here in the press box as Mike Smith is replaced in goal by Jason LaBarbera which is much more difficult to spell. DETROIT 4, PHOENIX 0.

Juri Hudler greeted LaBarbera with yet another goal and Detroit's running away, 5-0 after one.  In a statistical oddity, or quirk if you prefer, shots on goal in the period were even: 12-12.  Sometimes things just don't add up. AFTER ONE: DETROIT 5, PHOENIX 0.

True story: back in the day, Phoenix coach Dave Tippet was the coach of the Houston Aeros, and when we'd go down there to play them I'd run into him outside the arena between periods, pacing, having a smoke.  I don't know if Tippet's quit yet, but if he hasn't I'll bet he's lighting the last one with the next one right now outside the building between periods here at the Joe.  

Hockey hurts.  I'm out there tending some net this very afternoon and some guy winds up for the slapper from the point to my left and I go down but the puck surprises me a little and goes up.  No problem--I figure to snag it with the trapper but I miss and it ticks the edge of the ole catch glove (that's what they call it: a "catch" glove) and deflects a little but that's no problem because it has to hit me in the chest and stay out but no, it finds a gap between my torso and arm and in it goes and I'm left down on my knees muttering some very bad words which I will not share with you here except to mention that one of them (which I may have uttered more than once truth be told) is a perfect rhyme for "puck".  Literally adding injury to the insult which this goal was, is the fact that on its way through it nicked my left side which felt a lot like being snapped with a wet towel in the boys locker room and which left a welt.  I hate hockey.  I hate it so much I have vowed never to play again until next Tuesday when the usual crew gets together again at the Oak Park Ice Arena.

There was a fight out there today which you really don't like to see in Rec Hockey.  I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm out there to have some fun and get some cardio and that's it and the boys know that if they screw with me--slashing me with their sticks trying to dig the puck out from under my pads and crap like that--I will up and leave which apparently ruins their entire game because it's better with a goalie than it is without even if it's a crummy goalie like, oh I don't know, me.  Anyway, out there today one guy gets it into his head that he's Gordie Howe and this other guy decides that he's John Ferguson (look it up if you have to) and they stand each other up and then there's a shove and then there is the dropping of the gloves and then there is a guy prostrate and motionless on the ice and I decide I've played enough hockey for this day.  They say the goalies are the crazy ones, right?  Let me tell you, the boys who skate out are, as was so well put by goalie Denis Lemeaux in the movie classic Slapshot, all a "bunch of English pig-dogs with no brains."  And with that, the second period is underway here in Detroit.

Here's your Middle of the Period update: still 5-0, Detroit.  Phoenix got back-to-back power plays, including an overlap which gave them :49 of a two-man, and got nothing.  9:13 left in the middle twenty.

Ok, 5-1 after two.  Radim Vrbata slapped one by from the left circle late in the second.  Same thing that happened to me today.  Jimmy Howard went down and the puck went up.  There wasn't much of an opening under the bar but these are NHLers and they don't need much.  21-20 shots after 40 mins, favoring the Coyotes.  Did you know that Detroit and Phoenix each have 33 points and are tied for 3rd place in the Western Conference?  Me neither.  AFTER TWO: DETROIT 5, PHOENIX 1.

Here's the quote of the day/year, courtesy of Pujols circa 2009 via Deadspin:

"People from other teams want to play in St. Louis and they're jealous that we're in St. Louis because the fans are unbelievable. So why would you want to leave a place like St. Louis to go somewhere else and make $3 or $4 more million a year? It's not about the money. I already got my money. It's about winning and that's it. It's about accomplishing my goal and my goal is to try to win.

The third period is about to begin.  I'm going to do something I rarely do in deference to the score.  I am going to go downstairs early tonight and get set up for the post game interviews.  I've the Wings blow the lead it is on my for the karmic disruption this change in routine will cause.  If I don't get back to you tonight, we will see you Sunday at Ford Field for the Lions and the Vikings (I can't come to the game here Saturday against Winnipeg because we are going to cut down the Kincaide Family Christmas Tree and we always get the chicken dinner in Frankenmuth afterwards and we never get home before ten or so). So, for now and unless a change in conditions warrants it, goodnight from the Joe Louis Sports Arena!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Let's Watch the Big 10 Title Game!

8:18  Kick off here at Lucas Oil Stadium.  Wisconsin gets the ball moving from my right to left.  Here we go....
8:29: UW in end zone.  71y in 9 plays. 4:56 elapsed.  MSU couldn't stop Monte Ball.  Remember, MSU was down 14-0 to UW at Spartan Stadium on Oct. 22.
8:38: Wow! MSU simply drives 59y (46 on the ground) in 6 plays to tie the game with 6:44 left in first. Drive took 3:13.   State just pushed 'em right down the field.  7-7!
8:47 UW RB Montee Ball hits is QB Russell Wilson for 32y to give 'em 1st and goal.  Ball's done this before.  He's now 2/2 for 57y and a TD passing this yr.
8:50 One play after the pass to Wilson, Ball lugs it in from 6y out.  UW goes 60y in 7 plays in 3:00 to lead 14-7 with 3:44 left in first.
8:52 Deadspin reported this week that a Craigs List ad was offering people $75 to come in sit in a section near midfield tonight--a report laughed at by the City of Indy and the Big Ten.  The thing is, the section in question, near midfield and opposite the main TV cameras, is surprisingly unfull tonight.  Game not a sellout as the uppder end zone seats are empty.  MSU fumbles kickoff and UW recovers at MSU 24.  Yikes.
8:59 Montee Ball just scored again.  Has 2 TD and 105 rush y on 13 carries before game is 12 mins old.  UW scored 2 TD in :32 after MSU fumbled a kickoff.  Spartans down 21-7, under two left in first.
9:06 MSU goes for it on 4th and 1 and BJ Cunningham is WIDE OPEN to take Kirk Cousins TD pass from 30.  80y in 7 in 3:07!  Second just underway (14:55) and it is 21-14 UW and it is a HELL OF A GAME!!!
9:21 INCREDIBLE!!!  Nichol laterals to Cunningham for a TD and Sontag--the extra point holder, runs it in for 2.  MSU LEADS 22-21!!! Still 10:21 left in half.  MSU has come back from 14 down to lead here--just as they did in win over UW in Oct.
9:31 UW: 155y, 3 TD on 1st 3 poss. 6 plays, 6y on last 2. 22-21, MSU, 8:42 left in half.  Spartan ball: 1st and ten at MSU 42. Cousins picked on first play though.
9:42 UW has NO ANSWER for MSU right now. Another long drive (84y) and its 29-21 State. 22 unanswered by MSU! (They had 23 unanswered after being down 14 in first meeting v UW).
9:48 Montee Ball had 105 y rushing in 1st qtr, has 2 (two!) in second.  UW has gone 3-out on last four drives after scoring TDs on first 3. :46 left in half, 29-21, MSU!
9:59 MSU outgained UW 208/-4, outscored 'em 22-0 in 2nd qtr.  Lead 29-21 at half!
10:22 Almost ready for the second half.  An incredible turnaround in this game.  State came back from 21-7 down after one to lead 29-21 after two.  A long way to go.  Big hits on UW QB Wilson and RB Ball in that second quarter turned the game around, I think.  At least to this point.  MSU gets ball to start third.
10:37 Momentum shifts again.  MSU had UW stopped on 3rd and long but offside call kept drive alive and it's 29-28 as they drive 62y in 8 in 3:30 on first poss of second half.  42y Wilson pass is the scoring play.  MSU went three/out to start second half.  9:13 left in 3rd.
10:48 Promising MSU drive stalls, but MSU punt pins 'em back at one.  4:52, 3rd, 29-28, MSU!
10:59 Ta-dah!  Cousins to Cunningham, again.  It's a 44y TD pass--BJ's 3rd TD catch and Cousin's 3rd TD toss tonight!  The drive: 44y in 3 (1:41). There happens to be the same amount of time left in the qtr as the drive took,: 1:41. MSU 36, UW 28!
11:04 3rd qtr over.  36-28, MSU. Boy, am I nervous...
11:10 UW scores again in this ping-pong game on a shovel pass to Ball who has 7y rushing since he had 105 in first qtr.  UW misses 2-point when Worthy tips pass. 36-34, MSU and the Spartans are knocking on door again...
11:20 MSU settles for short FG to lead 39-34 with 8:28 left.  I am still nervous...
12:49 Back in press box, almost time to leave.  Was ten feet fro Isiah Thomas as two teammates helped him off after the game, after he got flagged for that running into kicker penalty that negated the Keyshawn Martin punt return which likely would have won game for MSU.  Toughest thing I've ever seen in sports.  Toughest loss I've ever seen.  Great game.  Good night.