Sunday, December 31, 2006
The Detroit Lions have ended 2006 on high note. The offense finally clicked. Roy Williams was great. Surprise newcomer Mike Furrey was great. Jon Kitna was great. When was the last time I could say that? Even Mike Williams caught a touchdown pass. I must admit, it was rather impressive to watch. Why couldn't they play like that all season long?
All kidding aside, this was a pretty good game to watch. Detroit actually played like a team that knew it could win and knew how to win. The latter had been missing all season. Despite giving up their early 13-0 lead, the Lions stayed in this game and never collapsed. They took advantage of just about everything Dallas gave them, including a fourth quarter fumble that allowed Jason Hanson to kick his fourth field goal of the game and give Detroit extend a five point lead to eight points.
I must admit, I was worried that Dallas would tie the game in the final minutes. Detroit's defense allowed the Cowboys to inch down the field and actually get into the red zone. But, on fourth and goal, quarterback Tony Romo was stopped at the two yard line as he tried to run the ball in on a busted pass play. Game over. Lions win! DET 39-DAL 31.
Okay. Now comes the reality check. With the win today, Detroit finishes the 2006 season with a dismal 3-13 record. That's good for second worst in the NFL, just above the Oakland Raiders 2-14 tally. The Lions remain in the cellar of the NFC and the NFC North. Detroit was 0-6 in the division. They were 1-7 on the road, just 2-6 at home. 1-3 versus AFC opponents, 2-10 versus NFC opponents. There is MUCH work to be done.
When the 2007 season rolls around next September, I won't make the same mistake I made this season. I was excited about 2006 and felt Detroit had a real shot at finishing #2 in the division behind Chicago and earning a Wild Card playoff spot. Next season, I'll go in expecting nothing and hope the team surprises me.
Oh, Good Evening!
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I then went to msnbc.com to read more about the only man from my home state of Michigan to occupy the Oval Office. National Affairs Writer Tom Curry wrote a great piece on President Ford's lasting legacy, which is the appointment of Associate Justice John Paul Stevens to the U. S. Supreme Court. But what grabbed my attention was Curry's description of several headlines from the Ford Administration that for most people older than 32, may be just vague recollections. His words, not mine.
I was six days shy of my 10th birthday when Ford took the oath of office as the 38th President of the United States. I remember those days quite vividly. I was quite intrigued by the Watergate scandal. When the infamous White House Watergate transcripts were published, I read them. I think the fall of Richard Nixon triggered my fascination with the presidency.
I remember watching President Nixon's address to the nation in which he announced his resignation. I remember watching, the following morning, his farewell address to members of his administration and the White House staff. I remember watching Vice President Ford become President Ford. It was all so, fascinating to me then. I don't think I recognized the true significance of what I was witnessing- our constitution at work- but I knew it was important.
I also remember many of the things Curry wrote about as likely vague recollections. The SS Mayaguez incident; Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme's assassination attempt; Sara Jane Moore's assassination attempt. I remember the address to the nation announcing President Nixon's pardon, but I don't remember President Ford testifying before congress. Nor do I remember any of his major policies. I wasn't much into the true politics of the time at that age.
President Ford was special to me because he was a Michigan man. He was raised in Grand Rapids, went to college at the University of Michigan, he played on two national championship winning Wolverine football teams. Elected to 13 terms in Congress. Hand picked by President Nixon to become the nation's 40th Vice President after the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew. That was all so cool to me at age 9 growing up in Detroit.
The only man to serve as both vice president and president without having been elected, President Ford spent just over two years in the Oval Office. He dealt with many major issues, not the least of which was helping the nation heal from the black eye of Watergate. I will remember the courage he demonstrated in handling the Watergate affair, pulling out of Vietnam, and negotiating nuclear arms limitations with Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. I will also remember his loyalty to family and country. His devotion to former first lady Betty Ford and their children is truly admirable. But what I will remember most is President Ford's gentle humanness. Despite the demands of his office, he always found a way- not always intentionally- to show us all that he was still just a man. Tripping down the steps of Air Force One comes to mind often.
58 years of marriage, 4 children, 25 productive years in Congress, 8 months as Vice President, and 2+ years as President. All of it encapsulated within 93 years of meaningful life.
Take your rest, Mr. President. You've earned it.
I don't know when or where Nala was born. But I know she was just a young puppy, maybe a year old or so, when I, and an acquaintance at the time, found her crawling out from beneath a dumpster at an apartment complex in southwest Jackson, Mississippi. I wasn't sure how the other two dogs in my household would react, but I took her home and fed her and when Joe came home from work, he fell in love with her almost immediately.
I remember not wanting more than one dog in the house, and that was my Shar Pei, Coco. Joe had expressed to me that he wanted a dog of his own, but since I didn't want another dog in the house I said, "no." Then, I came home from work one day and found Joe sitting on the sofa with a tiny Miniature Pinscher in his lap. He got the dog anyway, knowing that I wouldn't put it out. I love dogs too much. So, when I found this wiry haired little mutt under a garbage dumpster and brought her home, I knew she was there to stay, too. Dad felt pretty much the same way when Joe showed up in Vegas with dogs in tow.
She was the only girl of the bunch. The dog queen of the house. We named her Nala after the character in Disney's The Lion King. She had a great personality. And loved to make noise. Her bark was distinctive and endearing and she was fiercely loyal. After I moved to Columbia and Joe packed up and moved to Las Vegas, whenever I would go out West to visit, Nala always remembered me and was overjoyed to see me. But when Joe would walk in the house, she ran straight to him and never moved from his side.
This is the second dog Joe has lost. The Min-Pin, Griffin, died shortly after the move to Vegas. He had gotten sick in Jackson and doctors couldn't diagnose the problem. Now, Nala is gone. I know Joe's heart is heavy. I know, all too well, the feeling of losing a best friend. It's true what they say about dogs and their masters. Even among all the people my brother has in his life and considers close friends, none is closer to him than Nala was. I'm so sorry she's gone. But I know she's in a better place.
Joe, your heart will heal with time. Remember all the good times you had with Nala over the last 12+ years. And, take comfort in knowing she is reunited with Griffin and Coco in Doggie Heaven.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
For the better part of the last month, I've seen any number of commercials, trailers, appearances on Oprah, reports on Entertainment Tonight, Inside Edition, Access Hollywood, and other shows promoting Monday, December 25 as the release date. Now, that Christmas is just a couple of days away, and I'm planning my holiday around Beyonce' Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose, Jaimie Foxx and Eddie Murphy, I find out the movie will not open in Columbia on Monday. Unless I travel to Charlotte or Atlanta, I can't see Dreamgirls until January 19th!
I feel like Della Reese's character, Vera Walker, in Harlem Nights when she went to the refrigerator in Benny's (Redd Foxx) kitchen with her "mouth ready for some orange juice" only to find "just a swallow left in the container."
I might be okay with waiting until Friday, December 29th, but January 19th? That's another 25 days! That's another three and a half weeks! That's unacceptable!
If DreamWorks and Paramount were going to do the staggered release, they should have promoted that. "In major cities Christmas Day, everywhere on January 19th," would have worked for me. Instead, they became Messrs. Grinch and stole my Christmas.
I guess this makes my holiday planning a bit easier. In terms of Dreamgirls and December 25th, I can just sing a few bars of my favorite song from the show. "And I am telling you, I'm not going!"
Oh, Good Evening!
Monday, December 18, 2006
(Posted at 1:25 PM)
Suspensions and fines have been issued by the NBA as a result of the Knicks-Nuggets brawl. They are stiff. Read Commissioner David Stern's statement.
A co-worker, friend, and regular reader of this blog wrote me this morning to say that she came looking for my thoughts on the now infamous Denver Nuggets versus New York Knicks brawl that happened over the weekend. Well, here they are.
I was at a holiday party on Saturday night when I looked at the television, which was tuned to ESPN-HD, and saw the SportsCenter anchor introduce highlights of that evening's game between the Nuggets and Knicks. The volume was turned down so all I could do was watch. When the video started rolling I was shocked. I grabbed the attention of a friend, whose husband is a former Nuggets player and current assistant coach with another team, so she could see the melee.
Here's the short of things: Knicks rookie Mardy Collins committed a flagrant foul on Nuggets guard J. R. Smith as he was driving to the basket. The game was out of reach to the Knicks and clearly, Mardy was frustrated that Smith was about to add to the New York deficit. The foul didn't go over well with Smith or his Denver teammates. Nate Robinson, another Knicks player, also played a role in instigating the ensuing brawl. Things really got out of hand when, out of the blue, Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony sucker punched Collins.
My thoughts: Carmelo Anthony is an idiot for doing what he did. He'll face a stiff penalty from the league, which- considering Commissioner David Stern's ongoing efforts to clean up the league's image- could include a lengthy suspension in addion to a hefty fine. Several others will face discipline as well, but Anthony clearly deserves the harshest.
One would think that after the Pacers-Pistons brawl of a couple years ago, this type of thing wouldn't happen again. I suppose that would be giving some of the NBA players too much credit, huh?
Oh, Good Evening!
(Photo Credit: AP)
Sunday, December 17, 2006
When you look at the numbers, they truly tell the story for Detroit:
- 10 first downs
- 2 for 12 on 3rd down conversions
- 58 rushing yards
- 84 passing yards
- 6 sacks for a loss of 51 yards
- 4 turnovers
The Lions are a joke. The season home finale is next Sunday against the NFC North champion Chicago Bears who have clinched home field advantage throughout the playoffs. Then we close out the seaon at Dallas. I anticipate the Lions will lose both of those games and finish 2-14 for the campaign. The only question is will the equally hapless Oakland Raiders win one of their final two games giving Detroit the #1 pick in the 2007 NFL Draft? Go Raiders!!
Oh, Good Evening!
As I make plans for the trip, I'm anticipating the many concepts that will be unveiled giving us a glimpse of future models to come from the likes of General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, and others. Not to mention all the current production models on display, most of them available for visitors to get up close, personal, and a little touchy-feely with. Here are some of the things I'm most looking foward to seeing at NAIAS 2007.
I think HUMMER models rock! I was fortunate to recently have an H1 Alpha for the weekend. I have an H2 and after a test drive, found the H3 to be a fully capable mid-sized SUV worthy of the HUMMER badge. Now, with the H1 Alpha in automotive production heaven, the HUMMER brand is looking to expand its line with more models attractive, and more importantly, affordably available to the mass consumer base. Word is, HUMMER will unveil an H4 concept vehicle at NAIAS aimed at competition with the Jeep Wrangler. The division is also said to be working on an H3 pickup truck, something that has been expected. But spy photos indicate the division is looking at releasing a crew cab configured model which, to me, would be disappointing.
I think a HUMMER pickup truck should be a production version of the H3T concept introduced at the auto show a couple of years ago. HUMMER is a statement brand with "in your face" styling. The crew cab idea is too safe. Go with the H3T! I would also like to see a diesel engine for the H2 and a V6, V8, or both for the H3.
I saw the Buick Enclave concept at last year's auto show and loved it. I told my mother-- whose last five vehicles had been Buicks, the last two, Rendezvous models-- that this would likely be the Rendezvous replacement. She wasn't too excited about that. But, when we went to explore a new vehicle for her in October, the Buick salesman confirmed my prediction. Mom ended up getting the all-new Saturn Aura sedan.
I'm looking forward to seeing the production model of the Enclave and it's corporate siblings, the GMC Acadia and Saturn Outlook. These are very good looking crossover vehicles with comfortable looking interiors that include a plethora of passanger and cargo configurations.
With a starting price above $100,000, I don't anticipate being able to buy a brand new Mercedes Benz CL550 Coupe. But I sure look forward to, at least, seeing one up close and personally and possibly sitting in one to dream. That's the beauty of the auto show. The model is so new that we probably won't be able to get in on at this year's show, but next year-- oh, yes!
The Dodge Nitro is a hot new SUV based on a modified Jeep Liberty platform. I've seen a couple of them on the road and they look way cool. Boxy, just like my HUMMER. Distinctive with the trademark Dodge, big mouth grill. And from what I've seen and read, full of cool features to make the vehicle attractive to youthful, active buyers.
Dodge, and its upscale cousin Chrysler, have hit some big homeruns in recent years. Between the two, there are several very desirable models including the Dodge Durango, Chrysler Crossfire, and Chrysler 300C SRT8. I've driven each of those models and they do not disappoint.
I'm not a big Ford Motor Company fan, but the nation's struggling #2 automaker could be on the road to recovery with models like the Ford Edge and Fusion, Lincoln MKX and MKZ. They have very good looks and reviews on their performance aren't bad either. Also, there is talk of a Mustang-based sedan concept. If true, that will be very interesting to see.
I'm also not a big Land Rover fan. But, I do look forward to checking out the new LR2. The entry level SUV replaces the much maligned Freelander here in North America. It also has an estimated starting price tag of $39,000. That would be about $13,000 more than the Freelander. Land Rover did the same thing with the Discovery replacement, LR3. Prices jumped by pole vaulting type figures which seemed to lock out some of the division's customer base. We'll see if the new LR2 is worth that much more than its predecessor.
Monday, December 11, 2006
Watching this team play football-- make that attempt to play football-- is truly laughable. Sunday's game against Minnesota begins with former Lions running back Artose Pinner running through every hole the Lions defense wanted to give him. The Vikings ate up almost half of the first quarter on their opening drive which went 80 yards for a touchdown and the game's first score. I said at that time, if Detroit does not match that and score a touchdown on their first possession, the game would be over. So, what do they do? They fumble the ball away and the Vikings proceed to score another touchdown. It's 14-zip!
Next possession, Jon Kitna throws an interception on the third play. Detroit had two possessions and held the ball less than four minutes in the first quarter, running a total of nine plays, two of which resulted in turnovers. Oh, and yes, the Vikings did score again after that second turnover pushing the score to 20-zip early in the second quarter.
Detroit's first possession of the second quarter-- three and out. I was about ready to turn the game off until Jamar Fletcher picked off a Brad Johnson pass at the 12-yard line and ran it back 88-yards for a touchdown. It's now 20-7. Woohoo!!!
Minnesota appeared to want to let us back in the game. A fumble recovered by the Lions resulted in a Jason Hanson field goal to bring us back within 10 points. I guess we had a ballgame. But, everytime the Lions offense got us closer to the Vikings, the defense would let the Vikings stretch their lead back out. Then comes the clincher for me.
In the fourth quarter, with a little more than four minutes to play, Detroit is down 10 points and driving. The Lions get down to the Vikings one-yard line. They run Kevin Jones up the middle for no gain, and Jones gets injured to boot. He's out. Next play, Arlen Harris goes right, no gain. Next play after that is 4th and goal and instead of kicking the field goal, which they need, head coach Rod Marinelli decides to go for it and Jon Kitna gets sacked!!! Detroit gets NO points!! What the HELL was Marinelli thinking? That decision is right up there with former head coach Marty Mornhinweg winning the toss to start overtime at Chicago in 2002 and opting to kick instead of receive. Lions lost and the road losing streak continued.
Detroit did get the ball back, but it was too late then. They still needed two scores and that wasn't going to happen in the 1:50 left in the game. The final score: MIN 30 DET 20.
While you are not supposed to win when you turn the ball over 6 times, if you are truly trying to win the game and you know you need two scores and the clock is your enemy, you can't get into the red zone knowing you need a touchdown and a field goal to extend the game and not get either.
All of this leaves me right where my brother, Joe, has been for a while.
- Jon Kitna is NOT the answer. He manages to throw multiple interceptions each game, most of them at THE most inopportune times.
- Rod Marinelli may be another Marty Mornhinweg in terms of head coaching ability. The only difference, Marinelli is a defensive coach, Mornhinweg was an offensive coach. Both seem clueless in terms of decision making.
- The above two notes are both a result of Matt Millen's total incompetence as Lions president. If he keeps his job after this season, we'll know the Ford family has no intentions of fielding a winning team anytime soon.
I'm done. The Lions gear is coming off the truck three weeks early this year. It's time to focus on the Pistons!
Oh, Good Evening!
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
As I gripped the steering wheel and eased off the gas pedal in hopes of not swerving out of control, I heard a slight bump indicating contact and kept rolling until I got to the Shell gas station at Farrow Road and Hardscrabble. I turned into the station and jumped out to survey the damage. At first glance, there were no signs of damage. On closer inspection, I found a piece of molding slightly out of place. Boy, these HUMMERS are truly sturdy! I know my car would have been messed up.
After seeing little damage to the truck and truly feeling sad about the deer, I circled back to see if it was laying in the middle of the road. It was nowhere to be found. But there was another little deer on the side of the road where the first one came from, looking poised to cross the street, too. I, again, circled back, and continued on home.
What is it with deer that they will run out into a street and keep going even though they see a vehicle coming straight at them? Do they have tunnel vision? Are they partially blind? Or, are they just dumb like that?
Bumping Bambi was not fun. I am thankful I apparently did not kill the deer on Farrow Road. I am very thankful my truck suffered little to no damage. And, I'm most thankful for the Seagram's I savored to calm my nerves when I got home!
Oh, Good Evening!
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Here's what I don't get. The BCS rankings are determined using several polls and a computer ranking formula that considers things like strength of schedule. The USA Today/Coaches Poll is among the factors in the formula. Throughout the season, the college football coaches across the country vote weekly on the Top 25 teams. Their votes remain secret. However, when the final poll is taken, the votes are made public. Why?
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel did not vote in the final poll citing his desire not to play a role in influencing which team his Buckeyes would face in the championship game. While some have criticized him for not voting, I think he did the right thing. What I want to know is why it's suddenly so important that we know how each coach votes in the final poll if it wasn't important that we know how each coach voted in the previous polls throughout the season?
Oh, Good Evening!
Monday, December 04, 2006
So began my weekend in the ultimate loaner vehicle-- the HUMMER H1 Alpha.
As most people know, I love just about anything and everything associated with the HUMMER brand name. So, when I found out earlier this week that I would be driving some of my colleagues through Downtown Columbia in an H1 for the annual Carolina Carillon Christmas Parade, I could hardly contain myself.
I remember the first year we rode in the Christmas parade. The dealership sent a beautiful light blue metallic H1 to the station to pick us up. It was so cool. But compared to the equally beautiful maroon metallic H1 Alpha, that first one pales. The exterior is the same. But inside, there is a world of difference. The H1 Alpha has heated leather seats, a fantastic stereo system with 6-disc CD changer, multiple cup holders. All the luxuries we've come to expect in our personal vehicles. But the biggest difference is under the hood. Gone is the loud, clunky, 6.5 L, 205 hp/440 lb/ft, turbo charged diesel engine, replaced by the much more quiet 6.6 L, 300 hp/520 lb/ft, Duramax Turbodiesel engine. The smooth, powerful engine accelerates the 7200 pound truck quickly and gives it great towing capacity. The H1 Alpha can pull more than 9000 pounds! I'd love to have the Duramax engine in my H2, not for the additional towing capacity-- which I would probably never use-- but for the additional fuel economy.
Enough of the serious motor talk. Just look at this truck! It's huge. It's clunky. It's 110% military metal. It's not a practical street vehicle. But it's hella fun to drive. It turns heads. I got a serious kick out of the reactions people had as they saw it roll by. Whether they were seeing me on the highway, rolling down Two Notch Road, or in my neighborhood, this truck grabbed attention. I took the parade crew to get coffee at Starbucks in Five Points and little kids were checking out the H1 in its parking spot. Yes-- it does fit in a normal parking spot! And, it also fits nicely in my driveway.
The H1 Alpha is as cool as cool gets in terms of 4X4 vehicles. But to really enjoy it, you need a gazillion acres in Montana or South Dakota-- like Ted Turner or Tom Brokaw-- where you can truly put it to the test. You also need the $130,000 to buy it in the first place and roughly $125 each time you need to fill up the tanks, one main and one auxiliary. If you can handle those two small details, the H1 Alpha just might match good sex on your list of most enjoyable things. It truly is "like nothing else."
Darn! Now, I have to take it back. Thanks to Columbiana HUMMER for allowing me to keep the truck for a few days!
Oh, Good Evening!
The Lions were on the road playing the New England Patriots. This was a game Detroit was supposed to lose and they did. But, they were in this game the whole way and you can easily make the argument that they could have and should have won. However, typical of the Lions, they found a way to give the game away. In this case, multiple turnovers including three in the fourth quarter. DET 21 NE 28. Detroit is now 2-10 and going home to face the Minnesota Vikings next week.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Pistons were in Charlotte to take on the Bobcats last night. I made the 80 mile trip up Interstate 77 to see this one in person. I bought the ticket as soon as the Bobcats put single game tickets on sale before the season started. Section 104, Row F, Seat 12. I was in the North Club Seats with a fantastic view, just 8 rows from the floor behind the Charlotte bench. There I was wearing my Pistons red, white and blue among all the orange and blue clad Bobcats fans quietly trying to cheer my team to victory. It didn't happen.
Chauncey, Rip, Tayshaun, Rasheed and the rest of the Pistons all seemed to lack energy last night. This was their third game in four nights (@ Miami on Thursday, vs. New York on Friday, @ Charlotte on Sunday) and they were trying to extend an eight game winning streak. Detroit led at the half but things fell apart at the end of the third quarter when, after tying the game at 68, the Pistons allowed the Bobcats to reel off seven unanswered points. Charlotte never looked back, winning the game by eight. DET 89 CHA 97.
At least the Pistons currently lead their division. The hapless Lions sit in the basement of theirs and if they could go lower, I'm sure they'd get their.
Oh, Good Evening!
Friday, December 01, 2006
With all of that said, why are some folks so upset that a man recently elected to serve in U. S. House of Representatives who claims Islam as his faith would like to be sworn in to his new position using the book of his faith, the Koran, instead of the book of Christianity, the Holy Bible? If America is truly the land of opportunity and the melting pot of the world, a place where people truly have the freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness without fear of persecution for things like race or religion, why is Congressman-elect Keith Ellison's choice an issue?
The people of Minnesota's 5th District have made Ellison the first Muslim ever elected to Congress. Obviously, they believe in the man, not because of his religion, but because they think he has the ability to get things done in Washington, DC to benefit them and the rest of the nation. Why does it matter whether he, or any other elected official, swears to do their job and do it to the best of their ability on the Bible, the Koran, or the Betty Crocker Cookbook? Whether he ends his oath with "so help me God," or "so help me Allah," or "so help me Betty" matters not to me. What matters is him delivering on his promise to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America." Worship who you want. Draw strength from whatever higher power you choose. Just keep my country safe for all who call themselves citizens.
If Congressman-elect Ellison wants to swear his oath on the Koran, more power to him. I applaud his willingness to serve in our political system. Think about it. Wouldn't you rather have him swear on the Koran and truly believe that he is bound to do right, than to swear on a book representing a faith that he doesn't hold and feel like his oath is worthless and not something he has to live up to? Yes, America's money says "In God We Trust," but I don't necessarily think everybody has to swear to America's god in order to serve the country.
Mr. Ellison, good luck on Capitol Hill. Take your oath the way you want to take it. Swear to do your level best to the higher being that you freely worship and then get at the business of protecting my right and everyone else's right to do the same.
Oh, Good Evening!