Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Mega wad of money

Five hundred million dollars.
That’s what the Mega Millions tally was at today.
By the time the numbers are drawn Friday, that total will be even larger.
I know I will buy a few tickets. That is if I can scrape together enough change.
So what’s the plan? What would you do with the money?
Me, I’d trade in my old, tired subcompact car that has so many miles on the odometer its tongue lolls out through the grill any time I have the audacity to travel over 65 mph.
It has been years since I could adjust the driver’s seat. It has been nearly as long since I was able to roll down the driver’s side window. The glove box locked permanently long ago, forcing me to take a crowbar to it. Now it’s literally a box; a shoe box crammed full of things like the car title, proof of insurance, pens, notebooks and CDs of bands like The Stooges, The Rumpshakers and Hank Williams Jr.
The car body is a Joan Rivers model without visits to the plastic surgeon. There are dents and dings; scratches and scrapes. There is a big divot in the rear quarter panel where a woman ran smack dab into me less than a week after I’d taken the collision insurance off.
So I would get a new car; probably a Ford Fiesta or a Chevy Cruze. I’d buy my mom a new car, too. Her Chevy Impala is so old it has arthritis and liver spots.
I’d renovate the kitchen like my wife, Kim, has wanted to do for years. I would put a sunroom on the back of the house.
I’d also give money to a few good deserving causes like cancer research and animal rights organizations. I would love to improve the library at the school my kids attended years ago.
Mostly, I’d like to exhale. No more living paycheck-to-paycheck. Kim could retire. Me, I would keep working. Otherwise, I can see myself getting fat and lazy and semi-comatose on the couch day after day.
Good luck with the Mega Millions drawing Friday. How about picking up the tab for once?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Saying goodbye to Rocky, Tim and Ken

I’m not sure when mortality first taps a person on the shoulder.
I do not know if that crooked hand arrives at a certain time in life, or when adverse health descends like a thick fog on a moonless night, or maybe it is a combination plate of both.
It just seems like more and more, I’m either going to the funerals of friends, meeting with friends who have just come from the doctor’s office, or making an appointment with the doctor myself.
Rocky Lesnau will be buried tomorrow. He owned a heating and cooling company in Armada. He was a good guy, a great husband, father, and grandfather. Cancer is the bastard that took him.
Tim Bryant, the media relations director of Fox Sports Detroit, died a week or so ago. Tim was genuinely a super person. His good nature did not get switched off as soon as the lights went off in his office. Tim was in Florida when he died in his sleep. He left behind a wife, Teresa, a son, Danny, and a lot of sorrowful friends.
A few months ago, Ken Gibbs left us. We lived in the same neighborhood, and Ken and his wife, Debbie, were good friends. Not too long before he was felled by a brain aneurysm, Ken came over to reconfigure an old entertainment center of ours. It had been fine for the 27-inch Zenith we’d had for years, but was woefully miscast for the large screen Panasonic television we had purchased. Ken brought his saw, a few other tools, and his expertise.  Debbie, his two daughters, and their grandkids certainly miss him.
Three friends gone in the span of a handful of months. I do sports for a living, I do not do obituaries. Especially those of friends. This is getting downright discouraging. Rest in peace, guys. May God bless you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hall of Fame football coach honors family

A football family is a generic term.
It can also take on very personal tones.
Members of that family are not just kids who flex in the weight room, or ones who hunker down pawing and snorting at the line of scrimmage. They are not just the coach calling plays from the press box, or the handful of guys who are dragging the down markers to and fro on the sidelines. They are not even only the folks who occupy the coaches’ office, a cluttered environment adorned with damp towels, sweaty T-shirts and footballs used long past their expiration dates.
If it was high school football and the school was Royal Oak Kimball and later, Royal Oak High, the football family was also defined by head coach Terry Powers’ mom and dad; his two brothers; his wife and their two sons.
Walton’s Mountain or a football field in Royal Oak? The Huxtables or the Powers? They were all pretty synonymous for a whole lot of seasons.
“My mom and dad, along with my two brothers, came to all of our games for the first 15 years or so that I was the head coach,” said Powers. “They’d climb into a van and drive across the state from Kalamazoo. That was their Friday night.”
There will definitely be some family representation at the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) 2012 Hall of Fame Induction Saturday at the Ann Arbor Sheraton.
University of Michigan coach Brady Hoke is the guest speaker. The evening gets underway at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail hour. Dinner will be served an hour later and the induction ceremony starts at 7:30.
All of the honored coaches will give a speech, and as of Friday afternoon, Powers was still penning his thoughts.
Coaches with a minimum of 20 years on the sidelines and 100 wins are eligible to be inducted.
“I’ve got a lot of people to thank,” he said, smiling.
Powers coached football for 35 years, the majority of those at Kimball. He stepped down as the varsity coach at Royal Oak High five seasons ago. He started his career at Kalamazoo Central, then moved onto Detroit Catholic Central. He then went to Kimball, and is still teaching art at Royal Oak High School.
Among his many accomplishments are four-time MHSFCA Coach of the Year, The Daily Tribune Coach of the Year, and Coach of the Year for both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News. He won 186 games as a varsity coach.
Also being inducted Saturday are Tim Baechler (Canton), Phil Bareis (Chelsea), Paul Davis (Potterville), Pat Egan (Yale), James Galvin (East Grand Rapids), Tom Holden (Fruitport), Scott McNitt (Clinton), Robert Newvine (Macomb Dakota), Glen Noble (Hopkins), Matt Prisk (Traverse City West), Joe Reddinger (North Dickinson), Scot Shaw (Three Rivers) and Joe Zomerlei (South Christian).
Chances are, most if not all of the coaches will have family members in attendance. That will certainly be the case for Powers.
His brothers and sister will be there, along with his wife and their two sons, Patrick and Matthew. Sadly, his dad, Bob, has been having heart issues and cannot come, and his mom, Delores, died of cancer a few years ago.
Just thinking about the family support brought Powers close to tears.
“My wife, Carolyn, was always my most loyal fan,” he said. “That’s amazing, since when we started dating, she thought the number of points scored on a touchdown had something to do with the stance.
“My parents and my brothers would drive across the state every Friday to get to our games,” he said. “Mom would fix the sandwiches and they would eat on their way. My dad would be on the sidelines with our two sons when they were younger. “
Later, Terry Powers coached his two sons.
“That was a very special time. That was one of the highlights of my coaching career,” he said. “Why did I get into coaching? My dad coached me all my life. I know how much I got out of football, and I wanted to pass that on. There are so many life lessons to be learned.”
One of them is there is nothing more important than family. You can take that literally.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Everybody loves some body sometime

What, no ball game?
Buy three box seats, stick a cap on your dead pal’s head, and sit him down. Stick a beer in one hand, a hot dog in the other, and relax for nine innings.
At the very least, purchase a big screen television so you could watch games in the comfort of your own house in high definition. Stick him on the couch. Use his head for a coaster.
If this bizarre case is not the macabre real-life version of the movie “Weekend at Bernie’s,” then my name is Harry Caray and it is time for the seventh inning stretch.
Two men who admitted to driving around Denver with their dead friend's corpse and using the dead man's credit card to fund the night’s festivities were sentenced to probation late last week, according to news reports.
Robert Young, 43, and Mark Rubinson, 25, both pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of abusing the corpse of Jeffrey Jarrett last August, the Denver District Attorney's Office said in a press release.
Neither man was accused of killing Jarrett, who died at 43 from a lethal combination of drugs and alcohol.
Under the plea agreement, Young was given a two-year deferred sentence and must undergo "mental health evaluation and treatment, substance abuse assessment and treatment, and cognitive behavioral therapy," the release said.
He also must submit to random drug and alcohol testing, perform 50 hours of community service and pay $1,289.56 in restitution, in addition to maintaining full-time employment.
Rubinson was given a one-year suspended sentence and was ordered to the same drug and alcohol monitoring, therapy and work conditions, and perform 200 hours of community service.
These guys found Jarrett dead at the Denver home he shared with Young and rather than calling 9-1-1, they put the corpse in the back seat of Rubinson’s SUV and went for a ride. They went to Viva Burrito restaurant, stopped to gas up Rubinson’s vehicle, unloaded Jarrett’s body back at his house and then visited Shotgun Willie’s, a Denver area strip club.
They paid for the meal and gas with Jarrett’s credit card. While at the strip club, they used the card to withdraw $400 from an ATM.
The more I read the story, the more I shook my head. What on earth were they thinking?
And then I began thinking if these guys were so depraved, why did they stop there?
Why not go skiing in Vail? What harm would it be to put a corpse on the chair lift for about 12 round trips? How about scuba diving? You could save by just not filling up the oxygen tank. Give skydiving a try. No sense worrying about whether the parachute is properly folded and packed.
Only after leaving the club did the men call the police to report Jarrett’s death.
Per their probationary sentence, the men must write letters of apology to Jarrett’s family.
Can you imagine how those might read?
“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jarrett:
We apologize for taking your dead son for a ride and using his credit card and stealing his cash. We just thought he would like to go partying with us one last time. He loved Mexican food. He loved the ladies. We really did love him, too. We are truly sorrowful and sorry.”

Friday, March 2, 2012

So you are a reader; write on!

Did you know that Friday was the National Education Association’s Read Across America Day?
So how did you celebrate? Me, I watched television.
Live! With Kelly. Segue to Ellen. Then there was some ESPN SportsCenter thrown in.
Just kidding. I read the newspaper Friday. I read Motorcyclist magazine. I read some more of Jonathan Raban’s “Driving Home.”
You see, I read a lot.
I like crime books. I like adventure books. Ironically, I don’t read much sports stuff. I love sports, but mostly to watch or participate in, not to read about. At least not in book form. The sports section comes first in the newspaper.
I grab snippets off the computer screen, but that is about it. I cannot sit there and stare at a screen and pretend it’s a page that I can feel and smell. Give me coffee, a bagel and ink smudge. Call me a Neanderthal and I’ll just shrug, order a Mastodon burger with cheddar cheese and bacon and go on reading my book.
The NEA’s Read Across America Day is an annual reading and motivation program that calls for every child to celebrate reading on March 2, the birthday of beloved children’s author, Dr. Seuss.
In cities and towns across the nation, teachers, teenagers, librarians, politicians, actors, athletes, parents, grandparents, and others develop NEA's Read Across America activities to bring reading excitement to children of all ages. Governors, mayors, and other elected officials recognize the role reading plays in their communities with proclamations and floor statements. Athletes and actors issue reading challenges to young readers. And teachers and principals seem to be more than happy to dye their hair green or be duct-taped to a wall if it boosts their students' reading.
I’ve always been a reader. I’ve been a reader even before I could read, if that makes any sense. I remember sitting in my parents’ bedroom and just spitting out a string of letters and asking my mom if that is a word. If not, I’d spit out some more vowels and consonants and hope I’d come up with a word. That could go on forever.
I’d get up on Sunday mornings when the color comics were in the newspaper, and beg my older brothers to read them to me. Most times they wouldn’t, but I kept begging.
The worst thing that happens to reading for most kids is mandatory requirements. The teacher says you’ve got to read three chapters in this book and four in that book and 200 pages in that text book before the next class.
Well, pretty quickly, reading becomes a chore and not a pleasure. Books arrive with groans, not grins. In that way, it is sort of like running. For kids, running starts out as pure joy. Race you to the next house. Let’s run around the block. I’m going to chase the dog around the backyard.
But it becomes punishment. The coach thinks you’re screwing around so he tells you to run a lap. The gym teacher asks why you’re late for class, so you run two laps. Running becomes a disciplinary measure, not unlike a swat on the rear or a time out in the corner.
I understand reading assignments. That is part of the educational gig. But I think we overdo it.
So just go read something fun tonight. Go to the library and pick up a book. Maybe it is something you’ve never read before. Maybe it is one of those books you were forced to read back in school, something tedious like Tolstoy or something undecipherable like Shakespeare.
Just read something. I don’t care if it is on the computer screen, from Amazon, or from Barnes and Noble.
Reading takes us places we couldn’t get to ourselves. Who’s got the money to fish with Hemingway or climb into a dog sled with Jack London?  Gun down a bad guy in the wild west with Robert Parker. Get an offer you cannot refuse from Puzo. Take a drive in a van with Kesey or befriend a kid named Potter thanks to J.K. Rowling.
It was National Reading Day on Friday. I started off with Kelly. I segued to Ellen. I watched some SportsCenter.
And then I started reading. It was a great day. Just like all of the others.