Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Forget the hard cell approach

I don’t have a cellphone.
I know that puts me amidst the Neanderthals and the Cro-Magnons, but I just don’t like them.
I do plenty of talking on the phone at work, thanks.
Coaches calling in scores. Parents calling in story ideas. More coaches calling in scores. More parents calling in story ideas.
Not that I mind, but a good chunk of most days are spent answering the phone.
So when I leave the office, the last thing I want is a phone riding shot gun. When I get in the car, I listen to music.
There’s a phone hanging off the kitchen wall at home, so I am not exactly incommunicado. I’m not living in a cave doing stick drawings of sabre tooth tigers, mastodons and women who have never flossed, brushed their hair or heard of Dr. Oz.
The theory when we bought our first cellphone in the Evans house was it was for emergency purposes only.
If one of the kids had car trouble. If one of the kids needed bail money. If one of the kids had to be reached at 4:30 in the morning to find out how come they left for the corner drugstore six and a half hours ago and hadn’t come home yet.
But quickly, emergencies devolved into the mundane.
My wife calls me from the driveway. She calls me from the garage. She calls her friends from hither, yon and all points in between. She uses the house phone to call her cell phone when it’s wedged between the cushions on our couch and she can't find it.
Since I don’t have a cell phone, that means I don’t text either.
I can hear the collective gasp of horror from here to the Continental Divide.
Speaking of the Continental Divide, what is it with cellphones these days? They are much more than just phones. They are computers with miniscule monitors.
They tell you where to eat Chinese. They give you the weather in Bejing. They give you the movie times. They give you the time in Istanbul.
They assure you that you do indeed know Uranus from a hole in the ground. Mars and Venus, too.
I am fine without a cellphone. I am fine without instantaneous information on everything from the Kardashians to the Karzai.
I wonder whatever happened to the encyclopedia salesmen who used to go door-to-door?
You know, the guys with the very prominent foreheads wearing animal skins.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I'm Fairley certain he screwed up

Boy Scouts are great people.
If I owned a business and needed some quality employees, I would hire a Boy Scout.
That is, unless I owned a football team. Then sure, I’d still hire a few Boy Scouts. But I would also hire some guys who never earned a merit badge in their lives.
Let’s face it, there are no merit badges for what goes on during an NFL game.
Every hike brings violence that not even Quentin Tarantino could conjure. Faces are smashed, limbs are torn asunder, blood is spilled.
Then it is time to hut hut once again.
The tricky part is maintaining a proper balance. Too many nasty individuals and you’ve got “The Longest Yard” without the warm and fuzzy ending.
Too many Boy Scouts and you’ve got a losing team.
There’s not a whole lot warm and fuzzy about what’s been happening in extended huddle of the Detroit Lions lately.
Nick Fairley has just been busted for the second time in two months when state police down in Alabama pulled over his Escalade in a rural area near Mobile. The vehicle was clocked at 100 miles per hour and Fairley allegedly tried to flee the pursuing police car before stopping. He faces charges of reckless driving, no proof of insurance and an open alcohol container. He also reportedly refused a breath alcohol test.

A little more than a month earlier, Fairley was arrested for marijuana possession. Fairley, the team’s first-round pick in 2011, could be suspended by the NFL.
Unfortunately, he is not a solo act. Mikel Leshoure was busted twice in the off-season for marijuana possession; Johnny Culbreath also got busted for pot; and wide receiver Titus Young sucker punched a teammate.
So there you go; it’s been an eventful offseason for the Detroit Lions.
I know there are Boy Scout merit badges for tying different knots. What if that rope is made of hemp?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Life and death situations

You cruise along in life.
You say your prayers, but they are often obligatory.
No deep-seated feelings.
Then something happens. Dad gets cancer and dies. A brother is diagnosed with a rare neurological condition and he dies. You are diagnosed with cancer yourself.
And just yesterday, another brother is taken to the hospital due to a suspected stroke.
Prayers take on a lot more urgency.
I don’t expect any Get Well cards. I don’t expect any Sympathy cards, either. As a family, we had it pretty good for a lot of years.
You just never know.
So don’t lose your sense of appreciation.
I’m not saying wake up every morning, climb the maple tree out back, and warble with the bluebirds of happiness.
Just don’t spend all day grousing about things.
The neighbor who wakes up early Saturday mornings and, instead of the alarm clock, you wake up to a Briggs and Stratton.
The guy driving the massive SUV on southbound I-75 who is so close to you he is French kissing your fender.
The person at the grocery store who is unloading 17 items in the “12 items or under” line.
Aggravations, sure, but don’t let them ruin your day.
Just keep your emotions under control.
There is so much that can’t be controlled.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. I think that is in the Bible.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nope, I am not keeping up with the Kardashians

It used to be where a person had to actually do something to become famous.

Roger Maris swatting his 61st home run.

Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.

Jonas Salk inventing a cure for polio.

Albert Einstein and his Theory of Relativity.

You know, famous equaled monumental.

These days, famous has an entirely new definition.

You’re a housewife from Beverly Hills.

You’re a Kardashian.

You live on the Jersey Shore and you’re dumb as a cinderblock on steroids.

You own a pawn shop in Vegas. You own a pawn shop in Detroit.  You are toothless and from Kentucky and you wrestle raccoons in pickup trucks and dive for snapping turtles in swamps.

You put a video on YouTube.  It goes viral and all of a sudden you are somebody even if your return to  nobody comes quicker than a answering volley from Nadal.

You have a bazillion people following you on Twitter. You have 239,128 alleged friends on Facebook.

Call me old-fashioned, but give me real accomplishments. Give me a home run. Give me an astronaut. Give me a cure or a genius.

Please, dear God, do not give me a Kardashian.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ears to ya, 60 Second Crush!

I’m not much of a photographer, but I darn sure wish I’d had a camera that night a handful of years ago.
Our youngest son, Jordan, was playing with his band at Paychecks in Hamtramck. This was back when he was in high school, as were all of his bandmates.
My mom, a.k.a., Jordan’s grandma, dutifully was in the crowd.
A few songs into the set, I looked over and there was mom with a death grip on a couple of napkins trying in vain to shove them into each ear.
That band’s name was Aeroplayne and they did not exactly do Sinatra or Benny Goodman, much to my mom’s chagrin.
You have to admire her dedication, though. Every time Aeroplayne was on stage, mom was in the audience.
These days, Aeroplayne is at least a few bands in the rearview mirror for Jordan.
That is why I never recommend bands. Or movies. Or restaurants. Or anything else that is served up with a tube amplifier, hot sauce and subjectivity.

My heavenly music might be your hell on earth, but on Saturday, May 19, I am going to see 60 Second Crush. It’s their CD release show at the Corktown Tavern in Detroit. The tavern is located at 1716 Michigan Avenue. Also on the bill are Superlast and Devil Elvis.
If you are not familiar with 60 Second Crush, let me caution you: if mom was going, she would would have a death grip on a couple of napkins Saturday night.
They don’t do Neil Diamond. They don’t do Neal Sedaka. They don’t even do Vince Neil. What they do is very hard-driving Detroit rock and roll and they do it very, very well.
The show starts at 9 p.m. The cover charge is $7. Maybe I’ll see you there. I’ll be the one without napkins in my ears.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Courts are now in session in Shelby Township

Bryan Atherton drives by Mae Stecker Park off 24 Mile Road just east of Van Dyke a couple of times a day.
Once on the way to work. Again on the way home.
"Rob used to play there all of the time," said Bryan Atherton. "Basketball was his passion, so when he got old enough to drive, he would go there and meet with friends to play. But they’d play everything there, too, be it volleyball or tennis or basketball. It was a great place to meet and to hang out."
Great just got even better. Thanks in large part to money donated by the Robby Atherton Foundation, the basketball courts at the park have been renovated.
There’s a new surface. There are new backboards and rims. The courts have been expanded, and all in all it’s a place that Robby Atherton and everyone else would be proud to call home.
If only Robby Atherton still had that option. He died tragically during his senior year while at Michigan State University.
Obviously pleased with the new courts at Mae Stecker Park in Shelby Township are Bryan, Terry and Megan Atherton. (Photo by David Angell)

"I miss the everyday things most," said his dad. "I miss the phone calls where we just touched base; we did not even talk about anything in particular."
Robby Atherton was the Macomb County Basketball Player of the Year in 2004. He played at Eisenhower High School.
"Rob grew up playing sports in the Shelby recreational leagues," said Bryan Atherton. "He started playing basketball when he was four or five. He loved the competition. He loved the rivalries, but not in a heated way. He just loved to play."
Later on, he played travel baseball and basketball. Dad was his coach for years.
Robby played a lot of sports, but he embraced the heck out of basketball.
There was that district opener against Romeo when the Bulldogs went into the state tournament with an impeccable 20-0 record. Eisenhower was, remembered Byran Atherton, either 15-5 or 16-4.
Robby Atherton heroically drained a three-pointer from near the half court line and the Eagles handed the Bulldogs their first loss of the season.
That was the memory most in the county would hold dear, unless they happened to hold the Romeo High color scheme of red and white close to their hearts.
Another memory is one that Bryan Atherton holds particularly close to his heart. It was a small moment that occurred in the state tournament the next year. Eisenhower and Grosse Pointe North were locked in a highly competitive regional semifinal game at East Detroit High School. The game was inhale-exhale close when Robby Atherton was fouled with less than a minute to play. Grosse Pointe North called time out to ice Atherton, but on the way back to the bench, Robby spotted his dad sitting a few rows behind the Eisenhower bench and gave him a little smile.
"It was one of the few times I made eye contact with Rob when he was playing," said his dad. "It was like our moment. I was nervous about the free throws, and when he smiled, it was like he was telling me `I got these, dad.’"
And he did.
Just like plenty of kids through the coming years will be knocking down shots at Mae Stecker. They’ll be playing on some of the nicest outdoor courts imaginable, thanks to the hard work and dedication over the years of family and friends through the Robby Atherton Foundation.
The Foundation has held fundraisers like the annual golf tournament, softball tournaments and bowling events. Soon, the Foundation will have raised and distributed over $200,000 through scholarships, aid to sick and needy persons and families and through association with charitable organizations like the Rainbow Connection in Rochester.
The Robby Atherton Foundation donated $60,000 to the renovation of the basketball courts.
Altruism and good intention seem to run in the family. Bryan and Terry Atherton have two children; Robby and his younger sister, Megan. Megan also graduated from Eisenhower and Michigan State. She is now a nurse at the prestigious Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit.
"When Robby died, Megan not only lost her brother, she also lost her best friend," said her dad.
Court is now in session at Mae Stecker Park in Shelby Township.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Happy Mother's Day, mom

Mother’s Day is coming up.
I finally got something off my chest last week that has been bothering me for well, about five decades.
Where I grew up, every house had a milk chute.
The Twin Pines milkman would come by in the morning, open a small door situated next to the side door, and put the gallon of milk and butter or whatever in there.
Honestly, I do not remember ever having a milkman, but that was what the door was for.
When I was about seven, I took a crayon and scrawled “Pall Mall” on the Munson’s milk chute. The Munsons lived two doors down. I have no idea why I did it. I didn’t smoke, my parents didn’t smoke, so it certainly wasn’t an unsolicited advertisement.
But I did it anyway.
Finally, at 57, I admitted my childhood indiscretion to my mom.
“Why did you do that?” she exclaimed.
I told her the truth; that I did not know. She did not ground me or give me a time out. I’m a little old for that.
I have a feeling that Mrs. Munson knew it was me. About once a week for years, she would ask who wrote that on the milk chute.
I don’t recall her asking anyone else. She just asked me. I kept denying it.
Until a week ago. Coming clean five decades later was sort of a Mother’s Day present.
My mom is in her 80s and is doing great. She was a great mom under some pretty trying conditions. She had three sons and all of us arrived within hardly more than a three-year span.
We did the things most boys did. We played sports. We crashed a few cars. We had girlfriends, some that got parental approval and some that did not. We tended to linger longer with those that did not, I suppose.
Tom, Bill and Jim. We all eventually got married. We all eventually had kids. We’ve all worked pretty much all of our lives. We’ve had births in the family and deaths in the family and that is the way the circle of life meanders.
My mom worked hard for most of her life. She was a grade school teacher and later a principal. The hours she put in were monumental. She’s been retired for awhile now.
Physically, she is slowing down a little bit, but who isn’t? Mentally, she is still sharp as ever.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom. I think I’ll light up a Pall Mall in your honor (just kidding).

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Jim Evans Tournament not held on Memorial Day ...yet

I’ve covered plenty of tournaments in my time.
Many of them with names attached are of the memorial variety.
That’s why when Brian Gordon suggested a baseball and softball tournament at Royal Oak High School in my name a few years ago, I immediately checked my pulse.
I looked in the mirror to make sure somebody was staring back at me.
I cross referenced the obituary page and made sure yours truly did not have a byline on it.
I inhaled, exhaled and finally told Brian thanks, but a tournament was not necessary.
He went ahead anyway. I just look at it as the dumbing down of high school athletics. What’s next, the Paula Deen Cross Country Invitational?
Anyway, the tournaments were played on Saturday, May 5, in Royal Oak.
I guess it is Brian’s way of saying thanks.
No thanks are necessary, because more than 30 years later, I still love this job. I get to write about the accomplishments of your sons and daughters.
The homer hit so far that folks from NASA tracked it via satellite. The 3-point shot from so far behind the arc that the Spalding had to show a passport before it was allowed to travel through the hoop. The running back quicker than a fleeting thought. The linebacker so tough that beef jerky comes off like filet mignon.
It’s even better when stud is just an abbreviation for student-athlete. I love the kids who study on the bus. I love the ones who finish their homework in the bleachers waiting for their own games to begin. I love the ones whose grade points are even more impressive than their scoring averages; whose real slam dunks come in AP classes.
I love all of the kids who seize the opportunity, because it is so fleeting.
The shelf life of high school athletics is mighty short. It lasts about as long as cottage cheese or a gallon of milk, and that is that.
It’s either onto college or the real world, and neither of them offer the same kind of attractions.
Most who go on to college play intramural sports. That’s great, but do not go looking for your name in the newspaper, online, or in a game program.
Most who go right into the working world wind up playing slowpitch softball or flag football, and the only people watching those games are holding your kids or your Styrofoam cooler filled with beer.
So appreciate the high school years. I’ve appreciated all of these years covering high school sports.
Honestly, I appreciate the Jim Evans Tournament, too. Let’s hope it doesn’t add Memorial too soon.