Blogs > From The Bleacher Seats

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

Monday, October 28, 2013

Losing Jim Leyland is a crying shame

Jim Leyland cared.
Do you know what, that is the bottom line for me.
He moonwalked in the clubhouse. He got sprayed with sparkling cider.
He bawled and he sniffled and sure there were cynics who rolled their eyes.
Me, mine were too busy tearing up, too. Pass me some Kleenex. Thanks for the memories, Skip.
I like a guy who cares. I dislike guys who don't.
Cry me a river, Jim.
Go on and turn in our man cards, but there is nothing wrong with guys who cry.
Did I agree with everything the Tigers’ manager did on a daily basis? Hardly, but my resume in professional baseball begins at the ticket booth and ends in the beer line. Sure I played the game, but swatting a baseball off a tee, or smacking it on a high school diamond hardly puts me in the Mensa Society of baseball.
Still, bitching is part of the fun of being a fan. We're all experts because we have plunked our money down. We are all smart because we have yanked on our too-tight pants and stirrup socks and waddled out to the slow pitch softball diamond. Some of us have even picked up the phone and whined on sports talk radio. We sit around the cafeteria at work eating our bologna sandwiches with the slice of cheese and say "Geez, what was Leyland doing last night?"
That is the nature of sports. That is human nature. We are all experts even though my expertise is as imaginary as Criss Angel's levitation act.
Sure it drove me nuts when Leyland would take out a starter and hand over the team's fate to a bullpen that was held together by duct tape, twine and too many hanging curves. Sure I screamed a few times when the team failed to advance a runner be it by bunt, hit and run or whatever.
But do you know what; I scream more in a typical commute to work than I do in a week's worth of Tigers' games so I figure that is a mighty fine batting average on Leyland's part.
He gave us some fine moments, and that is not something the Detroit area is currently known for. We're the butt of plenty of jokes, but Leyland and his players kicked the butts of a lot of teams hailing from more scenic locations.
Three division titles and two American League pennants in eight years in the Tigers' dugout.
Leyland is 68 years old and when he announced that he was stepping down a week ago, he cited low fuel in the tank. He started to tear up a couple of times at the press conference with Dave Dombrowski sitting next to him. He cried plenty after the Tigers won a playoff series or the pennant. He thanked his players, the front office, team owner Mike Ilitch and also us  fans.
We’re the fans that booed him. We’re the fans that cheered him. We’re the fans that agreed with him. We’re the fans that disagreed with him.
Yep, we fans have more personalities than Sybil.
Don't take any of it personally, Skip. It is just because the Tigers mean a lot to us. Just like they mean a lot to you. Jim Leyland cared. That is why I liked him.
Pass that Jim a Kleenex. Pass this Jim a Kleenex. See you later, Skip.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

60 Minutes does Detroit

I was watching the 60 Minutes segment on Detroit Sunday evening.
Then the furor ensued but honestly, I’m not sure what the uproar is about. There was some good, and there was some bad. Just like the city itself.
Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans talked about Detroit’s potential. He’s the second-leading landowner in the city, behind only General Motors.
There was a resident whose group razes abandoned buildings. There was an urban farmer who raises eggplant and other vegetables.
Then there were the neighborhoods and the desolation; the burned out buildings and the general disarray.
Hence, the outcry. But why, I ask. I am not a suburbanite who never ventures south of 8 Mile Road. My wife and I are in the city all of the time. Our youngest son lives on the east side of Detroit near Kelly and 7 Mile. His house will never be featured in Better Homes and Gardens.
Anybody who claims that devastation is not part of the city’s landscape is myopic. Turn left or right off Woodward Avenue and go just a few blocks and the blight can be overwhelming. Anyone who has traveled Gratiot or Grand River; Trumbull or Temple knows they are not exactly TMZ bus routes where tourists are looking for celebrities.
We were at PJ’s Lager House on Michigan Avenue a month or so ago watching our son’s band play on a Sunday night. All of a sudden, people from inside the bar rushed out the door. They were toting towels and looks of real concern. A young man from Germany had been stabbed. Somebody had swiped his backpack. Welcome to America.
But, do you know what, it could happen in any city. There are garden spots in Chicago, Boston and New York and there are areas where you wouldn’t want to go at, say, 11:30 p.m. Or 11:30 a.m., for that matter.
Detroit has its problems. There is no argument there. Detroit has its potential. There is no argument there, either.
The folks from 60 Minutes did a segment on the largest city in America ever to declare bankruptcy. Was it OK’d by the folks from Pure Michigan? No, but was it a one-sided hatchet job? No again.
It was what it was. Just like Detroit is what it is.
Let’s just move on and help the city raise itself up.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Can the tuba section play Taps for Raiola's career?

I’m a former marching band member. I say that proudly.
I’m also a former high school football player and an ex-college lacrosse player. I say that proudly, too.
For a lot of reasons, I take offense at what the Lions’ Dominic Raiola said to members of the tuba section of the outstanding University of Wisconsin marching band that played at Lambeau Field Sunday.
According to the Tom Melton Scouting blog Raiola and the Lions were on the field in pre-game warm-ups when he turned around and called tuba players “fat (expletive)” and told them “they sucked.”
From the blog, Raiola was yelling at a band member saying, “Hey fat guy, you want a hot dog?’’ Plus he hurled several other profanity-laced insults.

“Basically, they were verbally assaulted by a member of the Detroit Lions team," Wisconsin director of bands Michael Leckrone told "To their credit, they just stood there and did what they were supposed to do, which is focus on their performance. I think they were a little bit shaken by it, and they reported it to me after the conclusion of the pregame show and we were back in our seats."
On Monday, Lions’ head coach Jim Schwartz said that he’d “be very disappointed if that was the case because that’s certainly not the character we want to display.”
Consider yourself disappointed, coach. Raiola has since belatedly apologized to the band.
"My interaction with the Wisconsin Marching Band was inappropriate," Raiola said. "I apologize to those I offended along with all of the members of Wisconsin's marching band. I also apologize to the Lions' organization and my teammates. I understand the standards to which we should conduct ourselves, and my actions Sunday fell dramatically short of those standards."
The Lions lost at Green Bay for the 23rd straight time Sunday.
I played the trumpet, not the tuba. I really didn’t march at many games because I was playing football. But I had a lot of friends in the marching band. And I had a lot of friends on the team.
None of those football teammates said anything akin to what the foul-mouthed Raiola said.
Raiola is a jerk. I don’t know him personally, but from afar no one in the NFL has talked more for less reason. He is constantly yapping.
In December 2010 he was fined $15,000 by the Lions for taunting a fan in Miami after a Lions’ win.
In December 2008 he was fined $7,500 by the team for making an obscene gesture toward fans at Ford Field after a loss dropped the Lions to 0-13.
Berating a marching band member. Belittling college kids who worked hard to make the prestigious University of Wisconsin marching band.
And this guy is a team captain?
Maybe it’s time for the tuba section to gather and play “Taps” for Raiola’s mediocre career.