Category: Sports Written by Leland Stein, III
TIGERS CELEBRATE home victory. – Dan Graschuck photo
By Leland Stein III
As the Detroit Tigers try to negotiate the Oakland A’s and looks to either the New York Yankees or Baltimore Orioles in a possible American League Championship Series (ALCS) in the 2012 Playoffs they have presented themselves as more than just a sports team. They are a galvanizing collective that has set the entire Metropolitan Area, the State of Michigan and even Canada on fire.
Talking to fans at Comerica Park, I encountered fans from as far away as the Upper Peninsula, Grand Rapids and Jackson, just to mention a few.
Yeah, sports are just entertainment; however, its civil and communal effects are essential to an area like Detroit that is still trying to recover from the economic downturn that engulfed the entire United States in 2007-08.
Anything that can make the resident collective feel better, move – at least for the now – past their all too real problems is a positive.
Make no mistake about it the Detroit Tigers have been a positive for Detroit and its surrounding areas. Since Opening Day when Justin Verlander followed up a historic season that saw him take home both the Cy Young and MVP honors, after posting an absolutely fantastic 24 wins, a 2.40 ERA and 250 total strikeouts, and, after the Tigers beat Boston 3-2, the Detroit fans have been absolutely giddy about this team.
The fact that the Tigers lost in six games to the Texas Rangers in the AL pennant series in 2011 elevated the expectations in the 2012 season and the hoped for glory never did stop as the Tigers teased all with they play.
The 2012 Tigers stayed in the pennant hunt all season, but took all it fans on a roller coaster ride that was joyful and painful. Win big series over contending teams and then lose to the bottom feeder teams.
No matter, for third time in franchise history and third time under Jim Leyland, the Tigers surpassed the three million tickets sold mark.
"It's unbelievable," Leyland said.
This season, the Tigers have seen 41 percent of games sold out at Comerica Park (33 of 81 games). It started on April 5, when on Opening Day against the Red Sox, Detroit drew 45,027 fans -- the second-largest crowd in Opening Day history and largest at Comerica Park.
Since then, the fans have continued piling in. On Thursday, in the regular-season home finale, the Tigers hit three million fans for the first time since 2008, when a record 3,202,645 tickets were sold. It also happened in 2007, the year after Detroit went to the World Series.
Leyland said he certainly wasn't taking any credit for it, deferring to owner Mike Ilitch's willingness to bring in stars like Ivan Rodriguez, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. But he took pride in it happening under his watch.
"I'm proud of that. It's nice to be part of that," he said. "This has been some of the best times in Tigers' history it seems to me. Spirit-wise, fan-wise, emotion, so at least I've been here during that time. That's pretty good.
"Three million, when I thought about three million to be honest with you ... I thought of the Dodgers, the Cardinals, the Yankees. To be honest with you, I didn't think of Detroit. Now that it's happened three times, it's pretty impressive. These people are unbelievable."
With the support of one of the best fan’s base in Major League Baseball (MLB), the Tigers if they can continue their MLB Playoff run will not only be special for the franchise; but, more importantly it will be therapeutic for its fan base.
These Tigers have had to scratch and claw for everything they've gotten. They didn't clear .500 for good until the 85th game of the season and didn't take over first place until the 155th.
But isn’t that the story of Detroit? A city that in recent years has had to claw for everything it has gotten. The Tigers never gave in as they kept plugging along, keeping the White Sox in the front view mirror, just as Detroit has had to do.
With only nine wins from being World Series champions the 2012 Tigers has given the Metro Area an uplift that is in measurable. No matter is they go all the way or not.
Last Updated on Monday, 08 October 2012 17:01
Category: Sports Written by Leland Stein, III
TWIN TOWERS Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. – Andre Smith photo
By Leland Stein III
AUBURN HILLS – The proud Detroit Pistons franchise has been relevant and out front in the NBA wars for too many years to recount.
However, in the past few years the Pistons have been an afterthought in the Detroit sports community..
No matter, at the Detroit Pistons have started its 2012 training camp the feel around The Palace of Auburn Hills is one of sincere optimism.
The root of the Pistons uplift starts with the center Greg Monroe. He is not spectacular or a high flyer, but he is efficient and hard working.
The hope is that University of Connecticut first round 2012 NBA Draft pick center Andre Drummond will give Monroe the space needed to step his game to an All-Star level.
The fact of the matter is many in the NBA circles, many of the players already consider Monroe an All-Star. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James both told me in London that the 2012 Dream Team could have used Monroe, not to disparage any of the other selection.
However, they noted that Monroe’s skill set would have fit nicely with what the 2012 Team USA was trying to accomplish.
No matter, because of the Pistons inept overall record, Monroe’s elevation as a player was not as visible and as a result a college player like Anthony Davis was put on Team USA.
Pistons’ draft pick Drummond, only 18, was the draft’s second-youngest player, after of course, Davis. Because of his age and being very raw offensively, he dropped down from a project fourth to sixth selection on the first round.
“When we came out of the Chicago predraft camp, he was one of the players we met with,” Pistons President Joe Dumars told reporters. “When he left the room, we all looked around and said, ‘Well, that’s the last time we see him.’ I’ve been saying that for three straight years, but – really – this guy wasn’t supposed to be there at nine, for real this time.”
Concurred Drummond: “We had the meeting in Chicago and we just had this certain vibe for each other. I think we would be a great fit for each other. All I know is that I’m walking into a brotherhood and I’m walking into a great family and coaching staff and the organization is amazing. I know that I’m going to grow as a player and as a person. I know the fans are great out there, so I just can’t wait to play in Detroit.
As the pres-season games commence the Pistons do indeed have a very young core led by rookie Drummond, and, up and coming young future stars Monroe and point guard Brandon Knight..
The Pistons open the 2012-13 season on October 31 at home versus the Houston Rockets.
The team needs to get off to a good start to win back it loyal faithful that kicked the team to the curb over the past three years of losing.
Just as quick as one can say Jumping-Jack-Flash, a Pistons team that had set consecutive sellout records and played in six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals, drop from the public conscious like a giant boulder in water.
Will this be the group to awake the basketball faithful in the Detroit Metro Area?
The Pistons have added 13-year veteran Corey Maggette, who can play the small forward and shooting guard. So far in practice the Pistons coaches have praise his effort. Maggette have never been short of talent, it is just that injuries have knocked him out the box to too many seasons to mention.
The Pistons have also added 2011 draft pick swing man Kyle Singler and center Viacheslav Kravtsov, along with 2012 draft picks Khris Middleton (Texas A&M) and Kim English (Missouri).
The Pistons youth movement should now be in full bloom. In fact it is about time that the franchise devoted its direction to its draft picks and its young players.
Last Updated on Monday, 08 October 2012 16:48
Category: Sports Written by Leland Stein III
Steve Sabol, who just transitioned, was the president and one of the founders of NFL Films, along with his father Ed. Steve took his father’s vision to another level and by most accounts became the linchpin behind the ever present mega-cable and television sports genres.
“As one who actually grew up with NFL Films,” Victor Marsh recalled, “I am sadden by Mr. Steve Sabol Passing. Filmmakers of Steve's caliber and attributes are rare in life. He served as the Master Storyteller of our generation;”
My early memories held baseball up as America’s Game and it was acknowledged as the preeminent American sport. The NFL was gaining ground, but baseball was king. So it took visionary filmmakers like Ed and Steve Sabol to expose my Marsh and me to the humane, intricate and exciting undertakings of professional football.
Ed’s first major contract was to film the 1962 NFL Championship Game between the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers at Yankee Stadium in New York. That was just the beginning as he and his equally visionary son, Steve, transformed how we view sports – especially football.
They took a sport, football, the modern day first cousin to the Roman Gladiators, who fought so gallantly against lions and each other in the now world famous Coliseum, and gave this violent sport a human face.
Ed was the main man behind NFL Film, but his son Steve learned the game from the bottom up, too. Steve served as a cameraman, editor and writer in the 1960s and 1970s, before becoming CEO. When ESPN was founded, they signed NFL Films as a production company and Steve became an on-air personality. He won 35 Emmy Awards and played a part in founding the NFL Network.
While baseball was resting on its laurels as America’s Pastime, football, Ed and Steve were revolutionizing how we see sports on television. They came up with the football follies and highlights.
More importantly, they filmed football not only on the playing field and the action shots; they filmed the sidelines, put microphones on coaches and players, and shot angles and action in a football game while not always following the football.
What was unique about Steve and Ed’s approach to the filming the NFL was they somehow turned this game of large men - and small - crashing into each other with mean intentions into ballet and poetry.
Steve famously authored the poem "The Autumn Wind", which was put to music and shown with highlight, and, was later adopted by the Oakland Raiders as its unofficial anthem.
Steve eventually became the artistic vision behind the studio that revolutionized the way America watches football and all of sports.
No one thought that 24-hour news or sports would succeed - the idea was way over most heads. But men like Steve and Ted Turner saw the future and who can deny either of them? No one!!
Partnering with ESPN, Steve and his artistic presentation of football helped drive football into America’s Game. It is unquestionably the top rating draw in this country, and, the Super Bowl has posted 10 of the top 20 Nielson rated shows in American television history. No other American sports even has made the Neilsen top 46, but the NFL has 21 Super Bowls in that list.
Steve and his father may not be reason the NFL has ascended to such heights, but one could argue that they have been a linchpin behind the marketing and interest in the game.
Surly Steve and his amazing feel for presenting the most violent of games into a family friendly genre indeed is noteworthy. Baseball, basketball and hockey h no connecting organization like NFL Films.. Now that the NFL Network has succeeded both baseball (MLB Channel) and NBA TV has cable stations that try to mirror what Steve and Ed did for the NFL.
Although both MLB and NBA TV do a credible job of highlighting games and even showcasing classic contest from the past, but they can match the magnificent marriage of music, poetry, voice overs and film artistry of NFL Films.
Last Updated on Monday, 01 October 2012 17:14
Category: Sports Written by Leland Stein III
Tennis players flame out as quick as a comet streaking through the sky. However, Serena Williams is knocking out time and opponents.
Recently Williams won her fourth US Open title. It was not easy as she was in a fight for her life, at one point two points from defeat, she suddenly regained her composure and her game, coming back to win the last four games and beat No. 1-ranked Victoria Azarenka 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 at Flushing Meadows. The win was her 15th Grand Slam title overall..
It was the first three-set women's final in New York since 1995, and Williams came through with a late charge. She is the first woman to win Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in the same season since she did it a decade ago.
Williams improved to 26-1 since a first-round exit at the French Open in late May. She has gone on to win Wimbledon, the London Olympics and US Open singles titles. Along with her sister Venus, Serena also has won doubles titles at Wimbledon and the London Olympics.
At 31, Serena, is playing some of the best tennis in her life and has ventured on a streak that is indeed noteworthy. In fact, it has put her in the status on one of, if not the greatest female tennis player ever.
Already, Serena is in very elite company. With her 15th singles Slam she’s only 3 away from tying Chris Everett and Martina Navratilova and 7 from equaling Steffi Graf’s 22. (Margaret Court holds the record at 24.)
Serena was the oldest women’s champion at Flushing Meadows in nearly four decades. And yes, Slams are certainly tougher after age 30, but no matter, there is Serena. She has put Father T on hold!
Currently, Serena’s 30 Slam titles places her ninth on the all-time list (15 singles, 13 doubles, and 2 mixed doubles). She is the most recent player, male or female, to have held all four Grand Slam singles titles simultaneously (2003) and only the fifth woman ever to do so.
In doubles, Serena and her sister Venus have been unbeatable in Grand Slam finals. And, oh yes, Serena is also a two time winner of the WTA Tour Championships and four Olympic Gold Medals (singles in 2012, doubles in 2004, 2008 and 2012). And, in a recent appearance on the David Letterman Show, Serena predicted that she will play in the 2016 Olympics at Rio De Janeiro.
But Serena’s much-heralded career has not been without controversy. Not surprisingly, her father and coach, Richard Williams, was also no stranger to controversy. In the early 90′s, when his daughters were juniors, Richard kept Serena and Venus (1 year older) out of competition. Despite the oft-expressed criticism that his daughters would suffer, Richard boldly predicted that both girls would be #1 and each would win numerous Slams.
Most scoffed at Richard’s controversial methods but he would now appear to be prophetic. And yet his unconventional attitudes seemed to hover over the Williams sisters. Some criticized Richard for coaching his daughters to trust no one. Lindsey Davenport, former No. 1 player, said that when the Williams’ first arrived on the tour she reached out to them but was rebuffed.
In 2001, there was more controversy. During the Tennis Master Series tournament in Indian Wells, Venus withdrew just minutes prior to her semifinal match with Serena, claiming an injury. But others contended the withdrawal was due to Richard not wanting his daughters to play each other.
Fans were bitterly disappointed when Venus withdrew and Serena was subsequently booed during the championship match against Kim Clijsters and during the trophy presentation. Richard accused the crowds of overt racism.
I was at that tennis match and sitting behind Richard and the Williams family as Serena took the court. There were indeed a number of racial insults tossed at the family for Richard not letting his daughters beat each other up.
It turns out he knew his daughters better than anyone, as Serena is so competitive that playing them against each other early in their careers could have drove a giant wedge between them.
Family comes first in the Williams family and it is one of the traits that had centered them and drove them to unforeseen heights. It has grounded them and given them a foundation that is solid as a rock.
Last Updated on Monday, 01 October 2012 17:17
Category: Sports Written by Amber Bogins
After the Lions loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Cliff Avril met with the media and revealed he had not taken anything positive from the game.
“I mean we put ourselves in this mess. Luckily we have the bye week where guys can evaluate themselves and try to get on the right track,” Avril said.
He was asked how difficult the loss was, and Avril responded by saying: “It’s a team sport where the offense has to back us up, special teams have to back us up. Once we get all three phases going I think we are unstoppable.”
Avril was also asked if it was possible to take anything positive out of the game knowing that the defense played well by not giving up a touchdown. Avril said, “we lost, it doesn’t make a difference how well we played. Can’t even feel happy losing.”
The Lions are on a bye this week and will take on the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday October 14 in Philly.
Last Updated on Monday, 01 October 2012 16:14
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