Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Weekend for the Ages

I went into this weekend of sports with excitement. I am not a big supporter of the fall season, but the one thing that gets me through it is the fact that my weekends are filled with football. This weekend would be the first full weekend of football this season, with college football in its second week and the NFL opening up their season on Sunday (well, Thursday, but whatever).

Not only would there be a plethora of football, but the Detroit Tigers haven't lost a game since September began. They shocked the Chicago White Sox in a weekend series (culminating with an onslaught of Mark Buerhle and the Sox bullpen for all the nation to see on ESPN2), marched into Cleveland and swept the Indians in style, and then were coming back to Detroit to hopefully welcome the Minnesota Twins into the new House of Horrors.

Let's take a look at the weekend and see what happened:

Friday: Twins and Tigers -MLB
After a Verlander game, it's been a bit of a letdown lately with Brad Penny struggling right behind him. But on Friday the offense picked up the slack for Penny, who gave up four runs in the first but picked up the pace for the rest of the game. Alex Avila hit a three-run home run in the second and Ramon Santiago hit a two-run homer in the fourth to put the Tigers ahead for good.

Saturday: Twins and Tigers - MLB
This was one of FOX's afternoon games, but I was not able to watch it due to regional coverage of another game. But my dad was fortunate enough to go - albeit with a Twins fan - and he had a heck of a game to watch. Max Scherzer pitched seven innings and only gave up two runs, but it looked as if the Tigers weren't going to get ahead, because the Twins pulled into a tie in the sixth inning.


In the ninth though, defensive replacement Brandon Inge came up, and with nobody on, he smacked a Glen Perkins fastball into left field - the same area my dad was sitting in with his buddy. I was coming back from a concert when I got a text from my dad - all it said was, "Walkoff!" I have never seen a walkoff home run, so I was jealous and elated at the same time.

Saturday: Notre Dame and Michigan - College Football
When the game started, it looked as if all the Michigan hype was going to be for those new permanent stadium lights, and the Michigan team on the field was going to act as though the lights were off. I was able to watch this game on my computer, and when the game first started, I was getting the correct video but the audio from another game. So I went on to MGoBlue.com and picked up the Michigan audio feed with Frank Beckmann and Jim Brandstatter. The delay was noticeable, but I'd much rather hear those guys than Brent and Kirk. You'll have to let me know if they were leaning towards ND for most of the game.

Of course, "most of the game" didn't matter in the end. Even though I was tempted after multiple turnovers, stupid penalties, and embarrassing defensive series to turn off the game and pop in a movie, I kept it on. And when the fourth quarter began, I was glad I did.

Michigan managed to take a 24-7 deficit at the start of the quarter and roll four touchdowns down the field. From making up for fumbles to passes from QB Denard Robinson to taking advantage of missed coverage and getting from the UM 20 to the ND 16 and setting up for an unbelievable finish, they did it all. And all I could do was sit there and think, "Is this really going to happen for a third straight year? That's impossible!"

And then I saw Robinson lob a pass up to Roy Roundtree in the end zone, and Roundtree leaped over the defender and kept his foot in bounds, and I was in complete shock. It happened again! Notre Dame's turnovers (like the one in the red zone late in the fourth quarter) doomed their team into looking at a sea of maize beside themselves with joy long into the night. An evening that began with a walkoff ended with an amazing catch under the lights.

Sunday: Twins and Tigers - MLB
Thanks to MLB.com who made this game the free game of the day on MLB.tv - and I managed to learn about it in time. I spent the majority of the game pining for another few runs, because I knew the Twins, even with their AAA club in the house, could easily tack on two runs and erase our first inning lead. But Doug Fister showed me a clutch performance that made me like him even more.

When Jose Valverde came into the ninth with a chance to break Todd Jones 11-year-old record of 42 saves in a season by a Tiger, I was very nervous. When Valverde walked Mauer, I was really nervous. I was not thrilled when Miguel Cabrera couldn't handle the ball and turn a double play to end the game. I was on the edge of my seat when Mauer scored to cut the lead by one. But when I saw who was coming up - some dude named Rene Tosoni - I felt a little better. And I think Valverde did, too, because he threw three straight pitches past him and was able to do his Potato Dance of Joy in front of the Tigers faithful.

Three straight sweeps. They're starting to make me look bad.

Sunday: Detroit and Tampa Bay - NFL
When I heard on Friday that Bucs running back LeGarrette Blount was tweeting that he'd be running over Lions DT Ndamukong Suh, I said to myself, "We better crush this team." 

But I wouldn't be able to watch it, due to regional coverage of another team. (I'm really starting to hate that.) I kept an eye on the score, and got a little frustrated when I saw a "6" on the Lions side. That's a number I'm used to, because it means the Lions couldn't get into the end zone and had to settle for their kicker Jason Hanson to kick a field goal. It seems to be how we used to score in previous seasons.

Fortunately for me, QB Matthew Stafford turned into the Matthew Stafford we were hoping for, throwing 24-for-33 with 305 yards and helping the Lions score three touchdowns in the second and third quarters to help shut down Tampa Bay. Even though the Bucs scored late in the fourth and attempted an onside kick, WR Calvin Johnson shut the door by catching the kick and avoiding an offensive attempt to tie it up.

Do you know this was the first time since September 30, 2007 that both the Tigers and the Lions won on the same day? Isn't that ridiculous? I hope and pray that this wonderful weekend of sports is not the only wonderful weekend of sports I will get this year. I don't want this to be the highlight of the fall season. If these teams can keep up this momentum (and the Wolverines can figure out their offense and defense), I'm thinking we all will be enjoying more than the changing of the leaves in the next few months.

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