Job Stability In Detroit…

When I was a kid, my grandfather, who had come to this country as an immigrant with a tradesman skill, believed that education was the way to a better life for his kids and grandkids. Nonetheless, he held onto the idea that one should always have a trade/skill to fall back on if necessary. His world-view was that a skilled trade was something that would always be in demand somewhere – - whereas book-smart jobs or professional jobs might just evaporate one day as they had in the Great Depression. Forget how this affected me in my growing up; that is not important. Consider how my grandfather would advise anyone who might think of becoming the Head Coach of the Detroit Pistons. This is not exactly a “steady job”:

    Rick Carlisle was NBA Coach-of-the-year in his first season in Detroit and then took the Pistons to the conference finals in his second year, 2003. Then they fired him.

    Larry Brown came in and won the NBA Championship with the Pistons in 2004; he and the team “parted company” in 2005.

    Flip Saunders then took the Pistons to three consecutive Eastern Conference finals and the team fired him.

    Michael Curry was just fired as coach of the Pistons after the team finished under .500 and made an ignominious 0-4 exit from the first round of the playoffs.

It would seem as if being coach of the Detroit Pistons is about as stable a position as being a wife of Henry VIII.

Stephon Marbury is an NBA free agent. He has no agent so he speaks for himself; and evidently, what he is saying is that NBA free agents should think twice before they sign with the NY Knicks because of Coach D’Antoni’s system and because of the way the organization treats its people. Here is what he said to the NY Post:

“I wouldn’t want to play in that system. That system can’t win championships. You can’t win championships if you don’t talk about defense. In Boston, the coaches even play defense.”

This is an amazing statement from Starbury on so many levels that it could be the basis of a senior thesis on sports psychology. First of all, Stephon Marbury was never – as in not ever – a defensive minded player for the entirety of his career in the NBA. Yes, he can defend marginally better than Jason Kidd; on the other hand, a garden gnome can defend marginally better than Jason Kidd. Secondly, since Starbury has never – as in not ever – won a championship at any level past high school, what credentials does he bring to the discussion about what it takes to win a championship? He may, in fact, be absolutely correct in his assessment; but he has too much baggage with the Knicks and too little in the “accomplishments section of the ledger” over his entire career to run his mouth with any credibility here.

Yesterday, I wrote about some of the financial doings and decisions going on in the NHL. Here is another one. About a month ago, the NHL held its awards presentation ceremonies in Las Vegas. That is a great idea since this is a celebratory event and Las Vegas is a great place to go for “escape” and “vacation” and things of that ilk. Obviously, that led someone to ask the question about if there might ever be an NHL franchise in Las Vegas and reportedly George McPhee – GM of the Washington Caps – answered in this way:

”I wouldn’t have a problem with it. Our sport has been remarkably successful in places that aren’t traditional markets.”

I too would have little problem with a franchise in Las Vegas. It is a place where visitors from all over North America – and indeed all over the world – are routinely in town. Even if there are only 5,000 to 7,000 dedicated hockey fans living permanently in town (and there are likely a few more than that), there will always be visitors who might be interested in taking in an NHL game while on holiday there. Having said that, George McPhee must not be paying close attention.

    Memo to George:

    1. How are the NHL and its franchise in that non-traditional market known as Phoenix doing? Does the word “bankruptcy” come to mind?

    2. How are the Florida Panthers doing at the gate and in terms of local radio and TV deals? Does the word “pathetic” come to mind? They played to 22% empty seats at home even though they discounted tix below face value.

According to an item in the Totally Random column in the LA Times, a high school soccer goalkeeper named Meghan Huggins in Arkansas earned a soccer scholarship to Lamar University. Her comment to the local newspaper on that accomplishment was as follows:

“I wish I could major in soccer in college, but they make you get an actual degree in some kind of something.”

Please copy that down and tape it to your computer screen so that when you read the next bloviating nonsense from the NCAA about their “student-athletes” most of whom will go on to become pros in something other than athletics, you can reach back and ground yourself in reality with Ms. Huggins’ words. I checked the Lamar University website for her, but could not find a major in “Some Kind Of Something”…

With regard to current events, it is pretty clear that waterboarding is not an activity that is in favor with the current administration to the degree that it was with the previous administration. I do not want to get into any debate about whether or not waterboarding is or is not torture; that is for the administration in office to determine. Nevertheless, I do have a question for the powers that be when it comes to hostile interrogation of suspects regarding terrorism:

    Would it be torture to make these captives watch – on a continuing basis – reruns of ESPN’s Cold Pizza?

I would probably do just about anything to make that go away…

Finally, here is an insightful analysis of the “Alex Rodriguez phenomenon” from Bill Simmons of

“No modern athlete brings more to the idea table. He plays in New York for a team that stopped making the World Series as soon as he arrived. He has made statistical history but cheated to do it. He’s our highest-paid athlete in a tanking economy. He’s the star client of this generation’s most despised agent. He’s handsome and articulate, only his polished personality is so contrived nobody can connect to him. If gossip rags and blogs had a Thank God for This Athlete fantasy draft, he’d unquestionably be the first pick.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…

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  • Tony  On July 2, 2009 at 8:06 am

    To be fair, the Panthers have missed the playoffs every year since 99-00 and didn’t light the world on fire this year either. When you suffer futility that long, you can expect people to stay away – it wasn’t that long ago that the Blackhawks’ attendance was one of the worst in the league, and they’re about as traditional a hockey market as you’ll get.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On July 2, 2009 at 10:43 am


    The Panthers have not been good for a decade to be sure. Nonetheless, discounted tickets and an arena that is about 22% empty on a given night would lead me to believe the community is not fully enamored with the team.

    If you want to talk about a “dry spell”, the Blackhawks have not won a Stanley Cup since I was in college. I don’t remember the exact year but it must have been in the early 1960s. Even fans in a traditional hockey market can get frustrated in that run of futility.

    If you took just about any NHL team and put it in Phoenix for a while and then moved it to a comparable facility in Ontario for a while, I have to believe the team would do better at the gate, draw better TV ratings and have a far broader community following in Ontario. And I say that knowing that the Toronto Maple Leafs are already in Ontario and the Ottawa Senators are already in Ontario.

  • Rich  On July 2, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    As for an NHL team here in Las Vegas, I’d like to add my two cents. Though our city has not ever given any pro sports team enough attendance to make it highly profitable, there is reason to believe that a major league team that plays indoors could survive here. I took my wife and son to see a Wranglers game here a couple of months ago, and though the house was not full, it was spirited for a game that was meaningless (they had already make the playoffs), and not major league. I have seen more empty seats at UNLV Rebels basketball games, and Las Vegas 51′s Triple A baseball games. I don’t really care if the NHL places a team here, but I think it could work out, at least better than some other venues around the continent, Phoenix among them.
    One last cent: How many Rangers fans, or Boston fans, or Ottawa fans would like to escape the icy grip of winter to catch their favorite hockey team in Las Vegas, where it is relatively warm that time of year, and there are other things to do in this town besides catching the hockey game or shoveling snow. How many Islanders fans would jump at the chance to fly to Detroit to catch an NHL game….come on, you have more fingers than that! But I know that many would come to Las Vegas just to have an excuse to hit the sports books. Add the visiting team fans to the hometown base and you might have something.
    The NHL should give it a shot and approve a franchise here just to see if it works out.

  • Ed  On July 2, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    I think the Blackhawks won last in 1961. But the previous ownership also hurt – no televising home games ever??? Doesn’t help interest. Also recall Chiacgo had a minor league franchise (Wolves? ) in Chicago sometimes outdrawing them – it wasn’t a hockey problem, it was ownership.

    I don’t know about a Vegas franchise for the NHL – seems to me most hockey fans already live in NHL cities, and why would you go see an NHL game while on vacation when you can already see them in your home city? Especially if your team is not around?

    Oh, and as far as the NYR are concerned, the subway, AMTRAK, and LIRR have stations under MSG – you needn’t ever be outside. I grab a train to go to the game, have a roof over my head the next 4 hours or so until I get off the train after the game. The same applied to Boston with the old Garden I believe, likely still does right next door.

    We should applaud Ms. Huggins in the spirit of equality. Now female athletes can disdain their education just as cavalierly as men. But a soccer major? I thought the joke was the like of Art History majors being useless… “What do you say to someone with a degree in soccer standing at your front door? “Thank you”, then pay them for the pizza. Not a lot of high paying US jobs in soccer in a GOOD economy.

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On July 2, 2009 at 3:55 pm


    Your reasoning is precisely why I have thought that an NHL or an NBA franchise would work in Las Vegas. Soome local interest; some fans come out to see their local heroes as an excuse to take a winter break in a fun place; guys who went there with wives to “see shows” negotiate one night off to catch a game.

    I also think MLB would have worked better in LV than it has worked in Washington DC. That is not to say that I think LV is an ideal place for a baseball team; summer weather in LV can be as bad as winter weather in Detroit.

    The NFL need not think about Las Vegas until well after they put a team in LA – or even 2 teams in LA?


    Assuming your date is correct, that would be 48 years and counting for the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup.

    Hawks’ ownership was unenlightened to say the least but it seems to have turned around in the past few years. I think the Chicago Wolves are still in business; I remember them winning the Calder Cup a couple of years ago.

  • Ed  On July 2, 2009 at 9:54 pm

    Curm – old man Wirtz died and his son (Rocky, is it?) is in charge now. He added games to the TV schedule, etc, and last I read was pretty popular with the fans. Once he took over, they picked up – and with the likes of Toews and Kane, and now Hossa, added talent helps.

  • Rich  On July 2, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    Midsummer baseball games at Cashman Field in Las Vegas are a breathtaking experience, mainly due to the heat.
    They run misters in higher priced seating areas that work well due to the low humidity. After the sun goes down and the air cools down into the high nineties they shut the misters off. Moderately priced cold beer helps keep some fans cool.
    For the price of one behind-the-plate seat for one game at Yankee Stadium you can get a pair of premium seat season tickets to see some Pacific Coast League baseball.
    Traditionally a hitter’s league, with plenty of major league players either on their way up, or rehabbing (think Manny becoming Manny again), or on their way down, the PCL is nearly as entertaining as MLB, but with more errors, and a guaranteed rendition of “Y M C A” at every game.
    There’s little traffic going into to the three dollar parking lot, a short walk to the seats, and no excruciating traffic jam on the way out.
    Minor league baseball is always fun, but I don’t think the locals would go for the three or four hundred dollar family experience that the majors cost. Its so reasonable here that I would splurge for the ten or fifteen bucks to buy you a seat here when its nice and toasty; say late July. You get the beer….

  • The Sports Curmudgeon  On July 3, 2009 at 9:57 am


    I knew the Hawks had a change in ownership but did not realize that it was due to the death of the previous owner.


    I have been to Las Vegas in the first week of August twice for conferences. I don’t think there is a misting device on the planet that would make it comfortable when the temperature is above 110 degrees – - which it was more than one time on both of my summer excursions to Las Vegas. Sorry, that goes a notch beyond “toasty”. I think I’d take in a night game…

    Like you, I love minor league baseball. And in terms of entertainment value for your dollar, I think minor league baseball is a much better deal than MLB – - despite the sometimes significantly lower level of play.

  • Rich  On July 4, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    I was talking about night games. The day games are too hot to describe.

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