Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Drop the gun, Mac!

I’m not a detective and I do not play one on television.
I’m just a sportswriter trying to figure out how this idiotic criminal enterprise was supposed to work.
Royal Oak police say a woman in her 20s with long brown hair placed an order at the drive-thru speaker of a McDonalds restaurant on Woodward Avenue. When she pulled her vehicle up to the window to pay she pointed a black handgun at the cashier and demanded all of the money.
The cashier simply left the window and the suspect fled the area in a red sport utility vehicle. She did not get any money or presumably, food.

You talk about a small fry in the world of crooks. Who was the big cheese of this operation anyway? Maybe she was strung out on Coke.
“It’s kind of unique. We don’t see a lot of attempted robberies at drive-thru windows,” Royal Oak Police Lt. Thomas Goad told Mike McConnell of the Daily Tribune.
Gosh, I wonder why? Especially when all the alleged victim has to do is step away from the window. The crook is outside. The employees and the cash are all safely inside.
Even McDonald’s own McBurglar knows enough to get inside the fast food joint before he starts pocketing grub.
Anyone with information is asked to call Royal Oak Police at 248.246.3500. Presumably, the search will not begin at a Mensa Society gathering or at a high school’s National Honor Society meeting.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Kicking off another high school football season

No offense to all the other high school sports.
I enjoy every one of them.
But there’s something almost magical about football and Friday nights.
The lights that rise above the stadium, making navigation easy enough even if you’ve never been to that particular field before.

I’ve driven out to rural areas where not even GPS can penetrate the desolation; small towns where gas stations simply pump gas and not sell submarine sandwiches and birthday cards; and diners where waitresses refill your coffee cup long before it is even necessary.
There will be nothing but empty fields and farmhouses for miles, but the glow that is created by the lights embroidering the high school football field make it easy to locate.
Roll the car window down, even on a frosty night, and you can hear the marching band warming up. The trumpet section and the drum line puff their chests out until someone cries “Uncle!”
The public address announcer’s echoing syllables. The snare drums' urgent staccatos. The cheerleaders and their hair-trigger smiles. The concession stand hawking popcorn, hot dogs, soda and Snickers bars.
Pads smacking and helmets thwacking and breath exhaling and coaches shouting from the sidelines.
It is all part of the sound track of high school football.
Too busy to get to a game this year? That is too darn bad. Norman Rockwell couldn’t have done Americana better.

Monday, August 20, 2012

No J.R. in this Dallas episode

Chances are, if you are waiting for a table at the Da Nang restaurant in downtown Clawson, you won’t have to wait long.
Believe me, that is no reflection on the food, which is reputed to among the finest Vietnamese fare around.
It has much more to do with a young man named Dallas Shields, who buses tables at Da Nang.
Rated on pure speed alone, there is no way plates, glasses, silverware and crumpled napkins linger on a table for long. The cartoonish Road Runner would come off like a loiterer by comparison.
“The food is amazing,” said Shields, who will begin his senior at Hazel Park High School soon. “The cooks make me something different all of the time, and it always tastes great.”
Great could be the descriptive word of choice for his running career in high school so far.
As a junior, he was all state in both cross country and track. He finished fifth in the state in the 3200 meter run (9:37.84) and was third in the event at the Oakland County Meet (9:32).
In cross country, he finished ninth at the state meet at the Michigan International Speedway last November, finishing in 16:03.3.
His goal this cross country season is to break the school record set by Gus Forget, a foreign exchange student from Belgium who  won the Class A state meet in 1996 with a 15:40 showing.
“I want to stay healthy and try to break the school record,” said Shields, who is already a member of his school’s Hall of Fame.
So far, his best time in cross country is 15:57, a time he ran at the 2011 regionals at Metro Beach.
“Actually, I want to get under 15:28; I think that is possible,” he continued.
While Shields will most likely be running alone much of the season due to his talent, at least there will be more of a familiar crowd at both the start and finish of races.
The Vikings have 22 runners this year, said Shields, and 16 of them are boys. Included in the mix are his brothers; Dylan, a junior, and Jeremy, an incoming ninth grader.
The Shields brothers won’t have squatter’s rights on family ties. Sophomores Alex and Max Hamlet are twins; and the Bucher brothers are Kyle and Patrick. Kyle is a senior and Patrick is a sophomore.
“We have a lot of runners and it will be fun to see them improve. Some seem to be pretty dedicated,” said Shields.
His own dedication could land a spot on a college team. He spent part of the summer at a camp at Grand Valley State University that was populated by some of the state’s top high school runners.
“I’ve never had anyone who worked as hard as Dallas,” said Bill Boldt, the veteran coach at Hazel Park High. “There have been times where I have had to tell him to ease up a little bit. During the track season, he was getting up on his own at 5 a.m. and running six to eight miles, and then he would practice with the team in the afternoon.”
When the cross country team practices, depending upon what the training schedule dictates, Shields will go on a long eight to 10-mile trek with the other runners. Then, on his own, he’ll do speed work or hills.
Shields plans to take this weekend off from running. At least from official workouts. He will still be clearing tables at Da Nang at breakneck speeds. Say hello if you get the chance. He’ll be the blur going by saying “Beep! Beep!”

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Like Johnny Winter said, still alive and well

“You look good,” people say.
They don’t really mean good. Not like they say Robert Pattinson looks good. Or they imagine the mythical Christian Grey looks good. Or even a vintage car like a ’68 Mustang that will be rolling down Woodward Avenue through Oakland County this weekend looks good.
Basically, they mean I look alive.
That’s the way it goes when you have cancer. Looking good means looking alive.
It’s been several years since I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. By the time the doctors found it, the cancer had spread to my bones and lungs.
Through the work of an excellent surgeon, Dr. Michael Cher; an incredible oncologist, Dr. Ulka Vaishampayan; and a loving wife, Kim, who is definitely better than a mediocre person like me deserves, I am still alive.
Translated; you look good. At least considering the alternative.
I go in to see Dr. Vaishampayan every six weeks or so. I get scanned every three months or so. A couple of times over the last couple of years, they’ve spotted something on my brain.
(Insert joke here. I have never been extended an invitation from the Mensa Society, either pre-tumors or post-tumors).
But they zapped those spots with radiation and I’ve never been mentally sharper (see above reference to the Mensa society).
In fact, my last scan came up cleaner than a kitchen sink owned by an obsessive-compulsive armed with a sponge, a can of Ajax, and incredible focus.
So I am looking good. Not like they say when Miguel Cabrera hammers a home run. Or when Justin Verlander slings another victory. Or even when Kate Upton appears in Mr. Verlander’s suite at Comerica Park.
Good is relative, I guess.
I gobble a handful of pills every day. I munch a chemotherapy pill every day for four weeks, take a couple of weeks break from it, and then start popping them again for another month.
At times, I have the energy level of a sloth. I am gaining weight, my hair is turning gray, but not Grey.
Sorry, Kim, but I am not complaining. I love my job. I love my life. I’ve got a great family that is only getting larger. Two grandkids have been added to the roster in the last year, and it was only a few years ago that I wasn’t even sure I’d see 2012. Josie will be a year old in September. Julian is a little more than one month old.
I am a grandpa and I could not be happier. Kim’s a grandma and she is ecstatic. Our own kids are all doing great; Kyle is with a telecommunications firm, Brittany is a dentist, Breanna is a pastry chef and Jordan is pursuing music.
You’re looking good. That means I’m looking alive. Life really is a blessing. Thanks so much, God. I guess You do grade on a curve.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Why not balls instead of bombs?

Let’s put the bombs in mothballs.
Why not holster all of the guns?
Neutralize the nukes and instead, break out the soccer balls. Brandish the badminton racquets. Keep the warships in port and instead, haul out the kayaks and canoes.
Call me naïve, but why didn’t George Bush and Saddam Hussein just take out a pair of boxing gloves to settle things?
Instead of terrorism, why not settling things on the trampoline? How about a rousing contest of Twister?
The London Olympics once again restored my faith in the power of sports.
I was watching the Russians beat the Brazilians in men’s volleyball the other day.
I found myself cheering for the Russians and that alone is incredible. I grew up during the Cold War. I was a kid when people weren’t putting in swimming pools, they were building bomb shelters. The specter of an atomic bomb landing somewhere north of Eight Mile Road seemed very real.
So what, a couple of decades later, I am screaming for another wicked kill at the net by Dmitriy Muserskiy, Russia’s 7-2 definitive point of emphasis.
I marvel as he gets kill after kill, just as I marvel at the talents of teammate Maxim Mikhaylov, who scored 25 in his team’s win over Bulgaria.
Earlier in the Olympic Games, I found myself loudly cheering for China’s 16-year-old Ye Shiwen, a marvelously talented swimmer.
I was cheering for her, even though I don’t normally spend a lot of applauding for China because an awful lot of things we used to hammer together here in America are now being cranked out in China.
Time was when the “Made in China” tag was one that harkened immediate derision. Now, you can hardly find a product without that tag.
The Olympic Games are hardly perfect. But we’d be a lot closer to perfection as a human race to follow their lead.
The only superpowers this world needs are on the field of play.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Welcome mat out for prep football

The beginning of high school football practice.
Fifty seven years old and I’m still scarred by the recollection.
Running sprints in temperatures that would cause Bedouins to wilt. Doing so many pushups and sit-ups that Arnold Schwarzenegger would whimper. Getting yelled at by coaches in language that would cause Kid Rock to cringe.
It’s probably true that misery loves company, because there was plenty of company on that practice field.  Not just teammates and coaches, but rocks and ruts; weeds and weasels. Nobody would call them plush accommodations because they were not.
Two-a-days were supposed to be a team-building endeavor. I called it tough love, only nobody bothered to call Social Services to confirm that.
All these years later, I still quiver every time I hear a whistle. My therapist has been working earnestly for a long, long time.
The theory was that all of that practice would turn us into winners. Our inept play later during the regular season disproved that premise.
I think we only won two or three games as seniors.
Practice has officially begun in Michigan. By Thursday, kids will be slipping on their pads and the crunching and cracking will begin.
Good luck, everyone. If you're lucky, physical therapy is the only kind of therapy in your future.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Young Chinese swimmer's as good as gold

If Ye Shiwen was an American, the ticker tape parade would already have started.
If the 16-year-old was from Cheyenne, Wyoming, and not China, tears of pride would have been welling up in the eyes of folks from Poughkeepsie to Pocatello.
But Ye Shiwen is Chinese.
So her remarkable gold medal performances in both the 400 IM and the 200 IM at the 2012 Olympics in London have to be tainted, right?
Wrong, according to all of the drug tests administered.
That is good enough for me.
Chinese swimmmer Ye Shiwen captured two gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics. (AP Photo)
So let’s celebrate the amazing teenager. In Saturday’s 400 IM, Ye Shiwen blistered the final lap in 28.93 seconds, a split-second quicker than American winner Ryan Lochte.
Her overall time of 4:28.43 was more than a second quicker than the previous world record set by Australia’s Stephanie Rice at the 2008 Beijing Games. Rice was wearing a now-banned bodysuit.
If she were American, she would be appearing on Jay Leno next week, followed 24 hours later by a seat adjacent to David Letterman.
She’d shake hands with Obama, dine with Madonna and get on stage with Lady Gaga.
Instead, Ye Shiwen’s showing caused gagging among folks like John Leonard, the head of the American Swimming Coaches Association, who questioned her legitimacy.
The Guardian newspaper quoted him as saying the last 100 meters of her 400 IM "was reminiscent of some old East German swimmers."
"History in our sport will tell you that every time we see something, and I put quotation marks around this, 'unbelievable,' history shows us that it turns out later on there was doping involved," Leonard was quoted as saying.
If Leonard is shown to be correct, then I am a dope. But so far at least, he has been proven to be wrong and he is the dope. He should apologize.
Congratulations to Ye Shiwen. The 16-year-old has shown some real gold mettle.