Mo Williams can now have a career as one of those "money-back guarantee" guys on the infomercials.

Mo Williams can now have a career as one of those "money-back guarantee" guys on the infomercials.

After Cleveland’s Game 4 loss at Orlando to the Magic in the Eastern Conference Finals, Cavs guard Mo Williams guaranteed his team would win the series and move on to play in the Finals. Well, after last night, the dream matchup of Kobe vs. Lebron is just that…a dream. And Mo Williams looks like a fool. It’s never a good idea to guarantee anything in sports. There are only a few  certain guarantees in all of life, two of them being death and taxes. How often does a certain individual make a guarantee and how often does he or she actually come through? All it does is create more pressure on you and your teammates. This year’s Cavs squad seemed a like a tightly-knit bunch, clowning for the cameras during pregame activities and proclaiming their cohesiveness in interviews. But to make a guarantee of that magnitude is a selfish gesture that does not put the team first. More often than not, the promises go empty and the fans and media will jump all over you. Granted, the Cavs did come out focused in Game 5 on their home floor to force a Game 6, riding King James in the fourth quarter. But, as they have done all series, the Magic refocused and trounced the Cavs to put the finishing touches on a series that they for the most part dominated. Granted, LeBron had one of the best playoff series performances of  all-time, averaging nearly 39 points per game, while dishing out eight assists and pulling down eight rebounds. All while continually being double, triple and quadruple-teamed in clutch situations. No one will soon forget his last-second heave in Game 2 that won the game and had him mobbed by his teammates at half-court. But that’s pretty much the only bright spot for the Cavs in the series. After sweeping through the first two rounds against Detroit and Atlanta, the Cavs found themselves in a real battle with an Orlando unit that had found its flow against Boston in the second round. King James got no help from his teammates, and Williams actually hurt his team by making those outlandish comments. I remember in 2004 when Rasheed Wallace guaranteed a victory in the playoffs and Detroit ended up winning and eventually taking the whole thing. He looked like a total genius and was a genuine hero in Motown after. But rarely does this happen. Everyone remembers Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna famously pontificating that the Lions would win 10 games in the 2007 season. After starting the season 6-2, it looked like Kitna was a sports prophet and would be a hometown hero as well, but the Lions finished 1-7 down the stretch and failed to live up to the promise. In 1997, New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing famously said “See you in Chicago” before his Game 7 with the Miami Heat, insinuating that the Knicks would advance to the conference finals against the Bulls. Ewing missed his final six shots in the fourth quarter and the Heat went on to win and face the Bulls. Failure stories like this are more common than the opposite. Moral of the story is this: Keep your damned mouth and let your play do the talking. Otherwise, you’ll just like like a fool. See ya next year, Mo…

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Michael Vick still has those elusive moves, doesn't he?

Michael Vick still has those elusive moves, doesn't he?

Sports outlets around the country are a twitter with the news of embattled ex-NFLer Michael Vick’s release from federal prison this week. Unless you care nothing about sports or have lived under a rock for the past two years, you already know that Vick spent the previous 19 months in Leavenworth, Kansas as part of a sentence for federal dogfighting crimes. You already know the scope of these crimes, from the thousands of dollars funneled over state lines to finance the fights, to the brutality of the fights themselves and the ‘unconventional’ methods used to breed the dogs and put them down if they did not meet battle standards. You already know that Vick went from media darling to one of the most despised sports figures in the country. But that’s all in the past. The issue now is whether Vick should be allowed to play in the NFL again. And the answer is an unequivocal yes.

The argument here is not whether Vick is a good person or not. He is definitely not a role model. But what he is is a gifted athelete who can still help out several NFL teams. He worked his whole life to get to where he was and, unfortunately, his bad decisions and seedy friends he kept undermined his achievements. Even Atlanta Falcons Arthur Blank, who probably felt the sting of this whole incident more than most, agreed that Vick should be able to see the playing field once again.

“It goes beyond, ‘Has he paid his debt to society?’ Because I think that from a legal standpoint and financially and personally, he has,”  Blank said Wednesday at the NFL owners’ meeting in Florida.

Vick will serve the remainder of his sentence in home confinement and working for a local construction company for ten dollars an hour. He also has spend many hours working with the Humane Society as a volunteer. Vick’s main goal is to get back into the league and attempt to untarnish his image. Is he remorseful for what he has done? Who knows? Maybe the man is just a bad guy, but the fact of the matter remains that he has done his time and paid his debts. His life is in financial and social shambles. His one chance to get some of it back is to return to the league. Just because he has committed a crime does not mean he should not be able to work ever again, correct? The NFL is battling an image problem, but if you are going to let PacMan Jones or Ray Lewis back in the league after they committed felonies, why is Vick any different. Granted, if he plays for my team, the Detroit Lions, I will not be cheering for them or him. I can rest easily knowing that the Lions drafted a quarterback, Matt Stafford from Georgia, with the number one pick. Signing Michael Vick doesn’t seem like an option for them.  For some reason, I can see Vick playing for the Oakland Raiders. How fitting would that be??

Tonight’s game 7 of the Western Conference semi-finals in Detroit between the Red Wings and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks has all the makings of a classic. The Ducks staved off elimination Tuesday night in Anaheim with a physical style of play, leading to a 2-1 win to force a final game and an all-out brawl at the horn that saw even Pavel Datsyuk in the middle of the scrum. Throughout the series, which features the last two Stanley Cup champions, the Wings have dominated the Ducks in most aspects of play, but Anaheim have held their own by steady goaltending by Jonas Hiller and capitalizing off of Detroit miscues. Easy scores have come off of turnovers or miscommunications, and the Detroit penalty-kill, ranked 24th in the regular season, has been an achilles’ heel for the team. Both goals in game 6 came off of short-handed situations for the Wings, and even then they had opportunities at the end for an equalizer with Datsyuk’s wide-open look with just a few seconds left.

Tonight, I look for the Wings to come out focused, determined and somewhat angry. Aside from the obvious retaliation for the Ducks constantly getting after Datsyuk, the Wings will be skating and hitting hard. Red Wings forward Daniel Cleary had this to say about the Ducks’ “physical” play:

“I felt that some guys took liberties on certain players unknown to fight so we just have to see Thursday.”

Seems like ominous words to me.

The Wings will have to use what the Ducks have used against them by making the most of their scoring situations and also by limiting the mistakes. Chris Osgood is a solid goaltender, but even he can’t bail the Wings defense out by himself. Someone will need to get after Ryan Getzlaf to knock the Ducks off their offensive game and Detroit will need to score the first goal early to get the crowd fired up. The home team has won 63 percent of Game 7s in the NHL playoffs, and I look for trend to continue tonight. Then, its all about the Chicago Blackhawks…

Mothers across the country will be the focus of their families’ attention today. It’s Mother’s Day! The day that we honor, cherish and love our moms and thank them for doing what they do, mainly giving life to all of us and then putting up with us every day afterward. My mother is one of the greatest people I know. Smart, savvy, beautiful and caring, Mom is always there for me with a good word of advice or a solid shoulder to lean on. Mom always pushes me to be a better person, a harder worker and a more responsible adult. She nurtured me to become the man I am today, yet knew when to hold back and let me figure things out on my own, so that I could become an independent person. She is also my hero. Battling a dehabilitating disease while raising two wily sons must have been the hardest thing she has ever done in her life, yet she managed to accomplish this task, and she did it well to say the least. A son or daughter is usually a direct reflection of how a mother raised her children, and anyone who has met my older brother Shawn or I can tell you a lot about our mother without ever knowing her. People who I work for and who have never met her ask about her well-being, a testament to her character. She loves cats, and card games, Jeopardy and Dr. Phil. She has traveled the world, and met my father in Amsterdam during her travels. She lived there for several years and gave birth to her sons there. She still speaks Dutch when phoning old friends and family back in the Netherlands, something where I should probably follow her lead. She enjoys watching the Red Wings with my stepfather, and likes to call or text me after my favorite sports teams suffer a loss so she can harass me and get a rise out of me…and it usually works. She knows how to push my buttons, and vice versa. When she is happy, I am happy. When she is sad, I am sad. The worst thing I can ever do is ‘disappoint’ her, which I have done on several occasions. Luckily she doesn’t hold grudges….right Mom??? She loves homemade salads and back in her day she was quite a cook herself, probably something she learned from her mother, who made the most delicious family meals during the holidays. I see a lot of my mother in my grandmother. Two great ladies, may the elder rest in peace.

So here is to mothers across the nation. To their sons and daughters, husbands and partners, thank and love them, not just today, but every day of the year. Mother’s Day is there to remind us of how special moms are and to reflect on what they do for us.  A wise older man told me once “cherish your mother, because you only get one in life…” No truer words can be spoken. Mom, I love you very much and I hope you enjoy your special day!

"I said hit him below the knees, Dennis! The knees!!"

"I said hit him below the knees, Dennis! The knees!!"

Things seem to be getting worse for Detroit and its citizens. After losing Pistons owner Bill Davidson and legendary pitcher Mark “The Bird” Fydrich in the past several weeks, Motown lost another of its sons after the passing of Chuck Daly, who guided the Pistons to back-to-back titles in the early 90s during the Bad Boys days. He passed at age 78 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Daly was not a Detroit native, nor was he born in state, but Michiganders claimed him as their own. He was a Midwestern-bred man who embraced the blue-coller work ethic that the city was known for. From all accounts, Daly was a class-act individual known for the ability to coach different personalities and dressing in snazzy courtside attire. Some of my first memories as a sports fan where the awesome playoff series between Michael Jordan’s Bulls and Daly’s Pistons in the late 80s and early 90s. One of the biggest subplots in today’s NBA playoffs is the rough play and flagrant fouls occurring an almost a nightly basis, but if you look back at those playoff series almost 20 years ago, today’s chippiness is child’s play comparitively. I was a Bulls fan back in that time (who wasn’t??), and I despised the Bad Boys and their brutish tactics. Anyone remember Dennis Rodman pushing Scottie Pippen into a television camera and giving Pippen a concussion? I don’t even think Rodman was ejected from that game. Daly dominated the Bulls then, and in turn he was given the reigns to the 1992 Olympic basketball team, deemed the “Dream Team” and the most dominant basketball team ever assembled. Joining Daly on the team was his shooting guard Joe Dumars, now the president of the Pistons franchise. Daly retired from basketball as the Pistons’ all-time winningest coach and was the only coach at the time to win an NBA title and an Olympic gold medal. He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame and was named one of the league’s top 10 coaches of all-time as well. He is one of the most-famed Detroit sports figures of the past half-century and his legend will be remembered for many years to come. Rest in Peace, Chuck. You will be missed.

"Do I need to turn this up for you, commissioner Delaney??"

"Do I need to turn this up for you, commissioner Delaney??"

The big news from the Big Ten conference this week is the once-again refusal to expand the league into a 12-team, two-division conference. This issue has been tackled several times since the BCS was created as a way to determine the national championship in college football. ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg, who blogs all things Big Ten, sums up the pro and cons of expansion best:

PROS

  • A 12th member ensures a championship game, which would bring in revenue and exposure for a league that often becomes an afterthought after Thanksgiving.
  • Regardless of whether it helps the teams, a championship game would be a marketing boon for the league. Fan support is not a problem in the Big Ten.
  • Big Ten teams heading to BCS bowls would have the same layoffs as their opponents in those games. Ohio State didn’t play for 50 days before crumbling in the 2007 national title game against Florida, which had only 36 days off.
  • A 12th member could expand the Big Ten’s brand to another region of the country, possibly even the New York/New Jersey market with Rutgers or Syracuse. Expansion also could reignite old rivalries like Penn State-Pitt.

CONS

  • The division alignment could present problems, and scheduling might be an even bigger headache than it already is. Annual rivalries could disappear or be marginalized. Would one division include Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State? How do you split them up? There might be a lesson to be learned with the Big 12 South last year.
  • The 12th member can’t just be a fit for football, but also for other sports as well as academics, geography, etc. Notre Dame is the obvious fit, but the Big Ten twice tried to add the Fighting Irish, and it didn’t work. There isn’t another school nearly as obvious as Notre Dame, which, from a business perspective, has no reason to relinquish its independent status.
  • As Delany points out, it’s important to study other leagues that have expanded and added championship games. Is the ACC really better off with more teams and a title game? The Big Ten still plays more BCS bowl games than any other league and gets its teams to the national title game.

Living in SEC country, I constantly hear about how overrated the Big Ten is and how no one outside of the Midwest really cares about the conference or its teams. Nevermind the fact that Michigan has the largest alumni base in the country, ahem, ahem. When football teams stop playing before Thanksgiving and resume competition after the New Year, people generally stop tuning in. When sorting through the pro and cons as mentioned by Mr. Rittenberg (who has my dream job by the way), I think its easy to say that expansion needs to happen. The Big Ten seems to be a step or two behind the other power conferences these days, and creating the two-divisioned league would help bring the the league up to speed with most of the other of the conferences. Adding another quality opponent to the schedule will also help the teams in the league with thier RPI. Imagine the positive implications if say a Michigan or an Ohio State were forced to drop a team such as Appalachian State or Youngstown State from its schedule and instead played a Pittsburgh or a Rutgers. League strength of schedule would go up across the boards and help the conference’s top-tier teams inflate their overall BCS scores. Of course, as mentioned above, Notre Dame would be the ideal candidate. Geographic location, academics and football tradition aside, Notre Dame already has a solid rivalry with many teams in the league. Imagine being able to not only look forward to the ND-UM or ND-MSU games, but also what if Notre Dame had to play in the Shoe? Or if the Irish had to travel to Happy Valley for a night-time WhiteOut? Television ratings would be out of this world for these “dream” matchups. But we all know Notre Dame is too smart (i.e. greedy) for this. For one, the Irish have the best deal in the world. They have their own television coverage with NBC (NotreDame Broadcasting Channel) and have special clauses in the BCS rules that allow them easier access to play in the BCS games. And of course, if they joined the Big Ten, they would be forced to sacfrice their traditional rivalries with powerhouses such as Navy and Air Force. Right…..

Expansion needs to happen one way or another. For the Big Ten to start getting the national credibility and recognition it deserves, the athletic directors along with Big Ten commish Jim Delaney need to find a school who fits along with the Big Ten criteria and make it their number one priority in the next few years. Sad to say however, that it seems as though Joe Paterno will never live to see the day this occur.