Monday, October 27, 2008

Losing Patience... Finally!

My first posting about the Detroit Lions comes after Week 8 when the Lions are a dismal 0-7.  Watching the games each week, I can only say they look like bantha poodoo.  This, after going 4-0 in the preseason.  Do you think they cut the wrong players?

Matt Millen is gone-- 5 years too late.  Roy Williams is the latest of Millen's high profile first round draft picks to be dismissed or shipped off to another team, joining Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, Mike Williams, Kevin Jones, and Teddy Lehman.  Jon Kitna is on injured reserve, out for the season with a back ailment.  I think he's played his last game in a Lions uniform. 

This season was over when it started 0-4.  In that initial run, Detroit lost to Atlanta and Green Bay, both fielding actual or virtual rookie quarterbacks against what was supposed to be a much improved Lions defense.  

Yesterday, when the Redskins came to town, I was in my car when the game started so I was listening on satellite radio.  Dan Miller, the Lions play-by-play guy, mentioned something that I had not heard in quite some time-- the game did not sellout and was therefore not being televised in the Detroit, Lansing, Saginaw and Toledo home markets.  When I got home and turned on the game, I saw what appeared to be a half empty Ford Field.  I checked the Lions website and found the news release announcing the non-sellout.  It stated that 5,000 tickets remained available as of 1:00 PM on Friday.  A sellout for football at Ford Field is 65,000.   According to the official post-game stat sheet, less than 55,000 showed up.  

Finally, the sponsors are frustrated enough with team management not buy up the remaining block to ensure the sellout and the fans are fed up enough not to show up.   Maybe this will finally get William Clay Ford, Sr. to come out of his coma and let his son, William Clay Ford, Jr. take the necessary steps to start moving the Lions in a positive direction.  Step One-- dump Rod Marinelli and staff and get some real coaches in there.  Step Two-- get some real players in there who know and understand football and who really want to play on this level and WIN.  What I saw yesterday was a bunch of guys just there to collect a paycheck.  The Lions need to do what 49ers interim coach Mike Singletary did and single slackers out and tell them to hit the showers early.  Consider what columnist Ann Killion wrote in the San Jose Mercury News:

On Sunday Singletary, in order: 1. benched J.T. O’Sullivan, who was having another disastrous performance. 2. sent Vernon Davis off the field for acting like an idiot. 3. apologized for the team’s performance.

In an embarrassing, potentially season-finishing 34-13 loss to awful Seattle, Singletary showed that he is not going to just sit back and spout platitudes and clich├ęs. That he’s not going to pretend everything is fine while his team is collapsing around him. That he’s not going to blame the players and absolve himself.

Rod Marinelli should take the same approach with his players.  If he doesn't, newly appointed general manager Martin Mayhew should take the Singletary approach with Marinelli.

Oh, Good Evening!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Will the Big 3 Survive?

I know little to nothing about big business or big finance.  What little I do know, I have picked up over the last month of watching CNBC, almost constantly, since this major financial breakdown started last month.  It is truly scary to watch what has been happening on Wall Street and elsewhere and the various negative effects on the credit markets.  The fallout has touched everyone in some way.  I made the mistake of checking my 401(k) last week-- after saying I would not-- and my heart sank.

That said, the $700-billion bailout-- now referred to as a rescue-- by all accounts, was necessary to prevent an all-out financial meltdown.  Will it work?  That remains to be seen.  But, if lawmakers were willing to approve that kind of bailout for Wall Street, surely they should consider a similar plan to help the ailing U.S. automotive industry which, if it goes under, will destroy the U.S. economy.

General Motors, The Ford Motor Company and Chrysler, LLC are all struggling to survive.  They have each shut down plants putting hundreds of thousands of blue collar people out of work.  They have each downsized their head counts offering attractive, but certainly not lucrative, buyout packages to employees willing to accept them.  Nothing is working.  Now, this morning, comes news that Chrysler will trim its white collar workforce by 25-percent.  25-percent.  That is roughly 15,000 people.  How will those folks feed their families and pay their mortgages and car notes?  

Yesterday, I taped an interview with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.  While chatting after the session, he asked where my hometown was and I told him, Detroit.  I expressed my concerns about the domestic auto industry and asked if lawmakers had been approached about coming up with a rescue package.  He looked me in the eyes and said, "we already gave them $25-billion," referring to a previously approved loan package, not tied to the big economic bailout, to help GM, Ford and Chrysler develop new technologies.  Graham also said it would be difficult to keep offering money to Detroit automakers while not doing the same for, say, BMW, which has a plant in Greer, South Carolina.

Unfortunately, it was neither the time nor the place to engage him in a debate over the issue, but my initial thought was this-- the last time I checked, GM, Ford and Chrysler are all American companies which provide the industrial backbone of the nation.  BMW is German.  

Granted, throwing money at a problem may not be the best solution but if we can throw $700-billion to bailout the mistakes of greedy speculators and others who didn't have the wisdom to see that offering loans to people who clearly could not afford them, then certainly we can do something to help the industry that accounts for millions of hard working Americans' jobs.

Now, I realize, the domestic car companies are not without blame in this.  All three were very short-sighted in succumbing to the consumer demand for gas guzzling trucks and SUVs, fueled by cheap oil and subsequently, cheap gasoline.  I must admit, I love HUMMERS.  I drove an H2 for three years and when the lease expired, I got an H3.  But, the demand for those types of vehicles is way down with gas prices spiking to more than $4 per gallon this year.  The new focus must be on more fuel efficient vehicles that can run on alternative energy.

Also sharing in the blame-- the United Auto Workers.  I'm all for people being paid a fair wage for their work, but the UAW continues to demand compensation for its members that is way out of line with how the industry is doing.  Labor costs are killing the Big 3 and will continue to do so until union leaders wake up and realize they had better agree to some major concessions.  Making less money is better than making no money in this climate.

Oh, Good Evening!