Friday, October 22, 2010

Trying to Cling to the term "Career Tiger"

I have read the book Al Kaline and the Detroit Tigers by Hal Butler about three times now. My father owned a copy, and I think I was bored one day and he suggested I read it. (This was before I asked him what number I should wear for softball - I told him I was playing right field and without a beat he said "six.") The book is great, and it really helped me realize how great Kaline was for the Detroit Tigers. His leadership over those seasons, from an eighteen-year-old rookie to the wizened veteran hoising the World Series trophy, was crucial for that team of amazing talents. Not to mention that he was a stellar outfielder and slugger.

I think the thing that impressed me the most about Kaline was his committment to the Detroit Tigers themselves. They weren't giving multi-million dollar contracts at the time, but each year the Tigers offered a contract, Kaline accepted it. And now, for many of my father's generation, he is their favorite Tiger of all time. He never gave his heart to another pro franchise, and he remains a part of the organization to this very day.

This man was a career Tiger.

Think about Steve Yzerman. It's a different sport, yes, but I think it still applies. He came to the Red Wings as a fresh-faced rookie on a pretty terrible team people liked to call the "Dead Things." The Wings knew they had something special and made him captain at age 21. He helped create the ultimate team of the 90s (in my humble opinion) which won back-to-back titles after a 42-year drought.

The man was committed to the team and the fans embraced him back. I loved watching him on those teams - he was never the highest scorer on the team, nor was he the hardest hitter, but you could feel his presence holding the team together for one common goal.

This man was a career Red Wing.

It is very rare for there to be a player who is with the same team for his whole professional career. It may be due to the team deciding he's not worth it. It could be for injuries. It may be just for more money. But the offseasons of pro franchises are filled with "This guy's going here" and "We just got this guy!" It makes me excited when we can get a player like Tracy McGrady (the injury-free one) or Mike Modano or Miguel Cabrera and they really embrace their Detroit-ness. But it's always great to have a guy that's been in the system since his first day turning pro.

Now I'm not trying to compare Steve Yzerman or Al Kaline to Brandon Inge here, but the announcement yesterday that he had been re-signed for two more years did make me excited. In all the articles it talks about how he was drafted by Detroit in 1998, played for one of the worst teams in baseball history in 2003, and went to the World Series with that very team in 2006.

In my years as a Tiger fan (which has grown since that 2006 season - before that I was more of a spectator to a losing team), I remembered Inge, whether he was the catcher or at third. I remember for one Spring Training the only thing people could talk about was Inge's complaints about getting paid. But I remember a few seasons after that voting for him as many times as humanly possible so he'd be the last player voted in to the All-Star game!

Ever since he's been given the third base position outright, he has turned into a fine fielder. He led all third basemen this season with a .997 fielding percentage and only nine errors. I want to be able to trust the player in the Hot Corner with every ball hit to him, and Inge has proven himself this season. He won't be the big bat you hope for, but that can be arranged in other areas of the lineup.

I also know that he lives in Michigan. While all the other Tiger players retreat to their warm winter homes (some to their home countries, to be fair), Inge has set up permanent residence in Michigan in a time where everyone is seemingly leaving the state. That gives me a huge sense of respect to this player.

I hope that this is the last contract he signs, whether he plays two or three seasons with the Tigers. I want him to retire as a Tiger - and not one of those day-contract things, either. I'm still clinging to the belief that there are players that are work-hard career players who are committed to their team.

It's more than likely that Inge will never be inducted into the Hall of Fame or anything. But when Brandon Inge does come back to Comerica Park for something, whether it's for a special event or as part of a front office, I know that I'd give him as much of an ovation as he deserves. He stuck with us through thin and thick, and I will always respect him if he sticks with us to the end.

So how about it Brandon? You wanna be a career Tiger?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The M Must Stand for Misery

I guess we know which fork Michigan picked.

It's really unfortunate. The past two games have shown pretty much all of Michigan's weaknesses. The game against Michigan State showed their terrible defense. The game against Iowa showed their terrible special teams. And in both cases, the offense didn't prove that a team could just get by with...well...a good offense.

Also, does it seem like Denard Robinson is injured in some way in every game? I think I've seen him being walked off the field more often than fans at a World Cup match. (it's a few months old, but I think it can apply.) I don't know whether to roll my eyes every time it happens, or be thrilled it's not more serious. (I'm looking at you Stafford.)

These next three games could salvage a season. But does Michigan really have what it takes to defeat three mediocre teams in the Big Ten? They had a hard enough time with Indiana!

This bye week could not have come at a better time. It's been a roller-coaster of a first half for Michigan, and the games only get tougher. A game at Happy Valley under the lights. Another against a pretty formidable defense. And a final one against a team that looks pretty bad, but will probably bring out everything against this team. Everyone brings their A-game to Michigan, unfortunately.

Hypothetically, we could still end this season 8-4. But is it a good season if you lose your third straight game to MSU, your third straight Homecoming game (aren't those supposed to be pancake walks?), and quite possibly your gajillionth straight loss to Ohio State? (Doesn't it seem like a gajillionth by now?) I just can't justify that. They have to show improvements against Penn State. The defense can't run out of gas after the first quarter, like it seemed like it did on Saturday. Wide receivers can't drop passes. Everything needs to click.

Can Michigan save this season? That is really the question on people's minds. And it will stay in their minds for the next two long weeks.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Fork in the Road

The Big Ten season is barely a week old, and already we as Michigan fans are at a crossroads. A pivotal game. A fork in the road. Insert cliche here.

But let's be frank: this Michigan-Michigan State game really does set the tone! Both teams have experienced some tests on their nonconference schedule, and both teams have seen where their strengths and weaknesses lie. But they still haven't had that one true test that separates the contenders from the pretenders. (I'm just full of them today. I sound like an ESPN analysist.)

So where do we go from here? Well, we'll just have to play the game to find out. One team will be 6-0, probably rise up a spot or two in the national rankings, and spend the next few games showing that this perfection is real. Another team will be 5-1, climbing from a hole, and trying to convince people that the first five games were in fact the real deal - not the last game.

If we look at last season with Michigan, it all went downhill after the State game. They lost in overtime in East Lansing, and they just couldn't muster any more energy. I remember watching the last few games at Wisconsin and against Ohio State, and wondering where the electric atmosphere was. It's like they were just in a daze, or at least rushing as quickly as possible to get the season over with.

From what I've seen with State (and it hasn't been all that much, to be fair), I've seen them be a very capable team; a team that could beat Michigan. I have no doubt that this game could be won by State on Saturday. (I just really hope it's not.) But if Michigan wants to prove its real-ness to the country and to the fans, they have to show that they have what it takes to beat this excellent State team.

I hope that the defense enjoyed their brief rests off the field against Indiana, because they'll probably be experiencing that again this week. State will probably use a four-down method and just keep pounding the ball and passing it at the most opportune times - the most opportune times to make the Michigan fans go "UGH! Not again!"

If the defense can recover from those mishaps and show that it can learn, then we'll be fine. That's the best way for a young defense to prove itself: fix the mistakes as quickly as possible! If Greg Robinson wants to keep his job, he needs to show that his young defense is learning and fixing the problems. The defense can only get better...right?

As much as Denard Robinson is the leader of this team, the defense is what will make this team top tier in the Big Ten (with their outstanding offense brought down a bit by its middling defense) or just the middle-of-the-road (with their outstanding offense brought down by their lousy defense). This game against a true opponent with a lot of talent will set the tone for the rest of the year.

I am still smarting from the sting of last season's State game - probably the most lingering loss I've felt in a while. All I want to see is a Michigan win on Saturday, and proof that this team is going to take the high road, going to prove its worth, going to be the dominant force, going to choose wisely, etc., etc. etc.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

PLUS: What I'm Watching

I am ready to admit that I watch too much TV. I watch at least two hours a day - which for some people may seem like too little! But when that two hours is the only free time you have in an incredibly busy schedule and doesn't allow you to do much else - like reading a book or baking cookies or playing with children or pets - it may feel like too much TV.

But there's so much good television on right now! (And some incredibly bad television, but I try to avoid those shows.) How can I possibly pass up on the next TV show that everyone is talking about the next day?

This year I went back to a few of my favorites and introduced myself to some new shows. Over the years I have learned that if I'm not fond of a show, I will stop watching it. Past shows I've forsaken are Grey's Anatomy, Desparate Housewives, Bionic Woman (just like everyone else), and *gasp!* Glee.

Whenever I turn on a show, I want to have spent the entire day going, "Ooh! When I go home I can watch ______!" The benefit is that I am doing that every day, even though I am always looking forward to a different show.

This season I had to encounter an odd problem. I gave up my DVR and am recording shows from a VCR again. This has saved me money over the months, and I have no problem going back to the Stone-Age to find videotapes. I have had to deal with the fact that I can't watch other channels while I'm recording, I can't playback as that show is recording, and I only can set the recorder for 8 programs in a week.

This has resulted in me dropping The Big Bang Theory. While my family is having a hard time understanding it (my parents love the show), I have a very reasonable explanation. The Big Bang Theory used to be in a perfect spot for me: Monday evenings, when nothing else was on. Unfortunately, CBS decided to be greedy and move the show to get higher ratings. The highest-rated night is, and has been since Friends and Cheers, Thursday nights. And they scheduled it at 8 p.m., the same time as a show I began watching last season, Community.

This I had no problem with. I'd record Community (and with my limit of 8 programs, I'd also record 30 Rock and The Office on the same program to free space), and watch The Big Bang Theory online.

Oops! Little did I realize that The Big Bang Theory is not a show that they air online. All I could get were brief clips of each show. And that's where I have the problem. Every single other show I watch could be viewed online. Why does CBS think that TBBT is too good to be on the Internet? As a result, I had to drop it.

But this isn't about what I've dismissed from my VCR programming; this is about what I'm actually watching! Here is my list of too many TV shows:

8:00 p.m. Chuck
I have loved Chuck since it premiered back in 2007. It's quirky and action-y and makes me laugh. Plus Zachary Levi is awesome. I am sad that more people do not watch this show. I would prefer that they stick with the spy games and leave out all the "comedy" that takes place at the Buy More, but sometimes those plots intersect (take Monday's most recent episode), and it shows that both elements have to be present.
Watch this show, people! It's hilarious!

10:00 p.m. Hawaii Five-0
The only reason I started watching this was for Scott Caan. I had never seen Alex O'Loughlin in anything else, so I was not in it for him. I have been enjoying both of the actors' arguments with each other, and I have continued to watch because of it. The plots are a little thin, and if Grace Park has to go undercover every single episode I may give it up. But for now I'll keep tuning in.

Online: How I Met Your Mother
Hey CBS! Thanks for putting this show online! Now get The Big Bang Theory episodes available ASAP!
I don't know how I started watching, but I am hooked till they reveal who the mother is. I've also gotten my friends into it, so we have something to talk about! I just wish there were less Barney-centered episodes and more Ted-centered episodes.  

8:00 p.m. Melissa and Joey
I am a child of the 90s, so when I saw Clarissa had a new show on the air, I decided to give it a try. The show is striving to go back to the sitcom roots, including a sprawling set and a laugh track, but the comedy bits are actually pretty funny. The show is about a Toledo city councilwoman (Melissa Joan Hart) with a racy past who hires a nanny (Joey Lawrence) to take care of her niece and nephew. It's good to have some lighthearted nondrama in my Monday and Tuesday full of hour-long drama and dramedy.

8:00 p.m. No Ordinary Family
This show had an online preview of the pilot a few months ago, and I enjoyed the episode. I'm not sure how long I will last with this show if it gets too much into the family angst thing and not enough into the family fighting crimes together thing. But the end of the second episode was intriguing.

10:00 p.m. Detroit 1-8-7
I watched this show because it's filmed in Detroit and takes place in Detroit. Somehow it makes me feel more connected to it than other shows that take place in New York or LA. Someday it's going to be filming right by an area of Detroit and I'm going to go, "Geez, I've been there!" That's not something I can usually say about a scripted TV show. I do like the characters, and the third episode opened up a storyline that's probably going to last for the entire season. I just hope it goes on that long! 

8:00 p.m. The Middle
My parents recommended this one to me, about a middle-class family in the middle of Indiana (thus, "The Middle"). I started watching in the middle of last season, but it's incredibly funny. The three kids especially are hysterical!

8:30 p.m. Better With You
How did I start watching this show? My VCR (I am so not hip) programming problem strikes again. I watch The Middle at 8 and Modern Family at 9, so I just set up one program from 8-9:30. Since I had time, I decided to just watch whatever show was on in the middle. So here we are.
Shockingly, the show is funny! The humor reminds me of How I Met Your Mother with a family cast instead of a friend cast, and the leads all play their parts well. It's actually one of the better new shows that I'm watching!

9:00 p.m. Modern Family
Awkward family comedy that is very different from The Middle yet is just as funny. I love that all of my comedy shows are funny in their own way. None of the comedies that I watch make me laugh the same way! This show sometimes makes me groan at the uncomfortable events that family goes through, but at the end it shows that there's a lot of love going around.

8:00 p.m. Community
The plot is thin, but the way that the cast gets the jokes across is insane. Plus it has had quite a few perfect episodes (paintball, anyone?), and the cast is hilarious.

8:30 p.m. 30 Rock
I watched many 30 Rock episodes bit-by-bit, and the great part about the show is that even when you're entering in the middle of a season, it doesn't really matter. Another inclusion into my Wednesday-Thursday comedy block.

9:00 p.m. The Office
I started watching this show after finding all five seasons for about five bucks when I was working in China. After Christmas I had nothing to do except pack for home, and I watched almost every single episode in five days. So naturally I just kept watching.
Last season wasn't the best, but it still had Jim and Pam getting married and Pam having her baby. I am also invested in an Andy-Erin relationship somehow getting off the ground.

10:00 p.m. Ace of Cakes
This show is fabulous, and it makes me really want to have a pumpkin-chocolate chip cake for my birthday. It just looks so gooooood! I love that some of the second-tier decorators are getting more screen time, and it's not just Duff all the time. Duff and Geoff just went on a road trip making cakes for some small town events, and it was very fun to watch.

5:30 p.m. Inside Michigan Football
Hey - I have to incorporate Michigan sports in here somehow!

So there you have it. There are a few shows that I may catch up with DVDs later, but these are the ones I take the time to watch each week. So far, it's made for some very entertaining evenings!