I’ve been a sports fan for as long as I can remember. My earliest memories of going to a sporting event date back to when I was 5 years old and my family went to go see the Detroit Tigers play the hated New York Yankees. At the time neither team was very good, and it was a meaningless game in the middle of the summer.
Fast forward 22 years later and the same two teams were playing for something a lot more important: a birth in the American League Championship Series; which got me to thinking.
Has there ever been a better time to be a sports fan in Michigan? More>>
It wasn’t surprising that University of Michigan running back Vincent Smith accounted for three touchdowns in the first half of U-M’s 58-0 blowout victory over Minnesota. However, the fashion in which he scored was surprising. Smith ran for one TD, caught one and threw for another in a dominant first half of football in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
“I was just put in the right place at the right time,” Smith said. “I do whatever the coaches want me to do.”
Head coach Brady Hoke was pleased with Smith’s performance.
“He does everything you want him to do. Vince is a guy you know you can count on,” Hoke said
Jonathon Knight The Washtenaw Voice
Jonathon Knight The Washtenaw Voice
The Wolverines scored 38 points in the first half, highlighted by a 24-point second quarter. They marched down field on their first drive of the game, covering 80 yards in 3:35 to go up 7-0. And they never looked back.
Michigan scored on every possession in the first half while its defense held the Golden Gophers to just 69 total yards of offense in the first two quarters.
“We played probably our best game so far,” Hoke said.
Defensive lineman Craig Roh agreed with his coach, but wasn’t completely satisfied.
“We’re still miles away from where we want to be,” Roh said.
Minnesota was without starting quarterback MarQuise Gray, who sat out with a toe injury. Freshman Max Shortell had to step in for the Gophers and never really got on track. Roh said that the defense didn’t change based on who was taking the snapsm however.
“We knew if we lined up well, we could compete with anybody,” Roh said.
The 58-point win was the largest margin of victory in the 98-game history between the two teams. Capped by an 83-yard fumble return for a touchdown by cornerback Courtney Avery, the Wolverines kept possession of the Little Brown Jug, the oldest trophy in college football.
U-M quarterback Denard Robinson was effective in the passing game, completing his first 10 throws and finishing 15 of 19 for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson added 51 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground. His accuracy has been in question early in the season, but Robinson gave his critics nothing to write about this week.
“We had to work on our timing and getting into a rhythm,” Robinson said about his improvement.
Hoke said his impression of Robinson hasn’t changed.
“He (Robinson) throws the ball well and we like the way he throws the ball,” Hoke said.
Robinson wasn’t the only one throwing the ball, though. Backup quarterback Devin Gardner saw action in the game, and it wasn’t during garbage time. On the second play of the game Gardner took the snap with Robinson and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint in the backfield. Gardner handed off to Robinson who pitched the ball to Toussaint. It was the first time all season this formation has been seen.
“Al (Borges, the offensive coordinator) and I had talked about that package in March and April,” Hoke said, adding that using Robinson in different schemes is necessary based on his ability to threaten people with his legs.
Using a gaggle of trick plays, the Wolverines caught Minnesota off guard on numerous occasions and gave future opponents something to think about as they watch tape. One of the plays was the pass from Smith to wide receiver Drew Dileo for a 17-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. Smith said the last time he threw a pass was in high school.
“I love doing new stuff and going out and having fun with my teammates,” Robinson said about the new looks on offense.
The Wolverines now turn their focus to the first road game of the season next week against Northwestern. U-M has yet to stray from The Big House this year.
“I’m kinda interested to see how we react,” Hoke said. “They don’t know how we like to travel, and when I say we, I mean we as a staff and the expectations.”
For the second straight season, Michigan is 5-0, but Hoke is focused on keeping his team looking toward its ultimate goal.
“This was the first step to what the goal and expectation of this football program is and has been, and that’s a Big Ten championship.”
Having not scored a single point in the first quarter of the first three games of the year, the University of Michigan football team was looking for a quick start. So naturally they turned to the fastest player on the team, quarterback Denard Robinson.
Robinson scored twice in the first quarter on runs of five and 53 yards to get the Wolverines out to a 14-0 lead before adding a third score just before halftime. Robinson finished the game with 200 yards rushing and three touchdowns in the 28-7 win over coach Brady Hoke’s former team San Diego State.
“That’s one thing Coach was preaching all week,” Robinson said. “All the seniors wanted us to go fast. Tuesday in practice, we all came out and were ready to go.”
Defensively the Wolverines shut down the nation’s second leading rusher, Ronnie Hillman, holding him to just 109 yards on 21 carries. The defense also forced three turnovers at critical points during the game stalling key drives for the Aztecs.
“Well, I think Greg (Mattison, defensive coordinator) and his staff did a nice job,” Hoke said. “We were going to make an effort to zone blitz them a little bit and box all the power plays in, keep the ball carrier inside the box.”
Turnovers were an issue for the Wolverines, too. They turned the ball over three times in the third quarter.
“We need to talk about it. It’s what happened out there and that’s what’s keeping us from being the kind of football team we need to be. We turned the ball over, and we couldn’t get a first down,” Hoke said. “We turned the ball over four times; we got three turnovers from a defensive perspective. But really I wasn’t happy with how we played there in the second half.”
Robinson in particular struggled, throwing two interceptions on poorly thought out passes. He finished the day 8-17 for 98 yards passing.
“There were some throws that I just forced. I should have taken my time and do what Coach taught me. That’s all it was,” Robinson said.
U-M has started the season 4-0 for the third straight year and enters the Big Ten schedule ranked No. 19 the latest Associated Press poll. The Wolverines face Minnesota on Saturday to open Big Ten conference play at noon at Michigan Stadium.
Once upon a time, dedicated football fans decided that just because you’re not home doesn’t mean you can’t barbecue.
So they began cooking out of the backs of their vehicles, creating a wonderful tradition we refer to as tailgating. Many delicious feasts have been cooked outside of football stadiums and other sporting events.
But sometimes bad things can happen when we stray too far from our kitchens, and the government, in a USDA press release, raises concerns about food safety at tailgate parties and warns fans to take precautions.
“This year, we’re urging fans to follow the food safety play book at the tailgate parties they host,” said Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, USDA Under Secretary for Food Safety.
Sam Basha, 28, fan from Dearborn Heights, checks to see if his shish kabobs are done cooking.
Nathan Clark The Washtenaw Voice
The press release uses names of football penalties as food safety hazards such as:
- illegal use of hands (not washing your hands before and after handling raw food);
- off-sides (mixing cooked and uncooked foods);
- equipment violations (deciding whether meat is fully cooked based on color rather than using a meat thermometer);
- and holding (keeping cooked food out longer than the recommended one hour).
Even though most people know the risk of foodborne illnesses, sometimes the fun of tailgating will trump safety.
“I don’t take any special precautions because I trust my own cooking,” said Sam Basha, a 28-year-old from Dearborn Heights. “We’re here to drink and have a good time.”
“Foodborne illnesses? Bring it on,” said Rick Knight, a 60-year-old University of Michigan football fan from Bloomfield. “We’re not worried; the booze kills everything.”
Some tailgaters are not concerned about foodborne illnesses because of the trust they have in the person cooking the food.
“We’re not too worried about food safety,” said Stacy Tilbury, 45, from Kalamazoo. “If my husband cooks it, it’s good.”
Not every tailgater can say they’ve never seen somebody gets sick after a tailgate party.
“I had some friends (who) got sick a few years back after a tailgate,” said Jason Squires, 38, a tailgater from Davison. “But I know how to barbecue. I always check to make sure my burgers are not pink inside before I serve them.”
Even with the health concerns of foodborne illnesses at tailgate parties, some fans treat their parking-lot barbecues just as they would if they were at home.
“It’s the same as barbecuing at home for us,” said Lindsay Hosmer, 29, of Flint. “We’ve never had a problem tailgating.”
According to the USDA’s press release, when it comes to foodborne illnesses, there is no opportunity for an instant replay, and tailgaters need to make sure they understand food safety rules completely. The agency encourages anyone with questions or concerns about food safety to visit the website http://AskKaren.gov.
Where to go when you want to throw
ROBERT CONRADI THE WASHTENAW VOICE
A sign on a disc golf course in Ann Arbor provides the disc equivalent of ‘fore!’
With the popularity of disc golf increasing, courses are popping up all over the area.
But it can be difficult for beginners to know where to start. And for those more acclimated to the game, finding a new course that provides a challenge can be a problem.
As the game grows, the enthusiasm surrounding the game grows, too.
“Disc golf is the greatest (expletive) sport ever created,” said Craig Murrell, 28, a broadcast arts major from Ypsilanti who called Lakeshore his favorite course.
“It’s long and wide open, still challenging, but takes a long time and is free,” he said. “They also have a pro shop with professional players that have competed around the globe so it’s great to hear their advice.”
Here are some courses in the area that are a disc’s throw from Washtenaw Community College’s campus.
Mary Beth Doyle Park —Ann Arbor
Scouting report: Described as a nice course for rookies, MBD provides a bit of a challenge, but can be boring for those with more experience.
BRATS — Ann Arbor
Scouting report: A private course that requires you speak to the owner, BRATS has everything a veteran player could want in terms of shot types and pin location. Call Ben at (734) 883-4408
Hudson Mills — Dexter
ALEX PARIS THE WASHTENAW VOICE
An official disk golf basket, hole two, is found in a woodland course at Pioneer High School.
Difficulty: Medium to Hard
Scouting report: Hudson Mills offers two different courses, The Original and The Monster. Well maintained and offering a variety of different shot strategies, Hudson Mills offers everything a disc golfer could ask for. But be warned, the park charges $7 to enter or $50 for a season pass.
Lakeshore — Ypsilanti
Scouting report: The course is a wide open, spacious park that offers golfers many chances to go for the gusto. There is also a pro shop on site that has all the equipment you could imagine available for purchase.
Kensington Metro Park — Milford
Scouting report: With a nice mix of holes and placement, Kensington is a 27-hole course that gets crowded during summertime because of its popularity. Beginners and veterans can all find something to like about the course. This is another fee-based park, though, so be prepared to pay up to $7 a round if you don’t have a season pass.
Rolling Hills — Ypsilanti
Difficulty – Medium to Hard
Scouting report: Rolling Hills offers so much in terms of shot selection that beginners might not have enough discs to play a full round. Very challenging at some points, this course is a nice compliment to the other Ypsilanti course, Lakeshore. A season pass costs $25, but the course also charges for parking.
A memorable day in the ‘D’
Being a sports fan in Michigan is a blessing. We have professional teams in all four major sports, championship winners in the two most popular college sports at two renowned universities and a NASCAR. It’s an advantage that most sports fans around the country can only dream about.
And thanks to those advantages, I was able to have an incredible day with my wife Holly, while enjoying a day of sports I won’t forget.
In the span of 15 hours, we saw the Detroit Tigers come from behind and hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Detroit Red Wings win the first game of their opening round playoff series in convincing fashion. Most important for me, I got to enjoy these moments with Holly and friends that we don’t get to see nearly enough.
After dropping our daughter off at Grandma’s house, we headed to Detroit for a 1:05 p.m. start for the Tigers vs. the Texas Rangers. I scored second row seats in right field for just five bucks a ticket. After taking in the first three innings, we took a stroll around the park and enjoyed all the features that Comerica Park has to offer.
We found some different seats for the last half of the game and sat back for an amazing finish. With the game tied at 2, third baseman Brandon Inge came to bat for the Tigers. Full disclosure: I am not an Inge fan. But I looked at my wife and told he was going to hit a home run. On the very first pitch, Inge planted the ball in the left fields seats, and we jumped to our feet.
That ending would have been enough to make my day, but we still had the opening game of the NHL playoffs to attend that evening. So we made our way down to Greektown for an early dinner and drinks. And even though our service was terrible, our spirits were still high as we met up with friends before heading to Joe Louis Arena.
The atmosphere inside the arena was electric long before the game began. In the 20 years I’ve been going to the Joe, I’ve never seen the fans that rabid. The energy was coursing through my veins (along with a few cocktails), and I was ready for the game to begin.
A rough start didn’t detour the fans from keeping the Wings inspired. They kept chanting and cheering, and once forward Todd Bertuzzi dropped the gloves for a fight midway through the game, there was nothing stopping the winged wheel.
With the Wings holding a 4-2 lead late in the third period, I finally got to take part in singing “Don’t Stop Believin’ ” during a Wings playoff game.
The game was over, but there was still fun to be had in Detroit. We headed back to Greektown casino for a little gambling before hitting up Five Guys for a late dinner.
Our day was finished, and as I have thought about it, I doubt I will ever have another day quite like that. But that’s one of the beauties of Detroit: I will have many opportunities to try and top it.
But here’s the point: No other city in the country can offer that sort of day. Few other cities have the four major sports teams, but none of them have Greektown and gambling.
Here’s to hoping the Wings make a deep run into the playoffs because I already have seats for the Tigers in May, and I’m itching to spend another day in the “D.”
Lions need plenty of help via NFL draft
With so many needs at a variety of positions, the Detroit Lions will look to this week’s NFL draft for a lot of help. While the last two seasons have yielded some helpful talent, it’s imperative that the Lions make the right picks this year. They have the 13th overall pick.
Here is a look at potential draft picks for the Lions during this week’s draft:
Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
The secondary is an obvious concern, and Amukamara would be an automatic upgrade at cornerback. At 6 feet tall and 206 pounds, Amukamara is a physical corner who can play both man and zone defense. Concerns about giving up the big play may worry some in the war room.
Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College
Costanzo is big at 6-foot-7, 311 pounds. But scouts are worried about his ability to contain speedy defensive ends and how he uses leverage. He can also double as a guard and would be valuable as a backup while he adjusts to the NFL game.
Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA
Ayers may not be the best value at the number 13 pick, but the Lions need an outside linebacker, and depth at the position in this draft is limited. Ayers can hold his own in pass coverage and has the speed to rush the quarterback. If other options are drafted earlier than expected, Ayers may be a Detroit Lion.
Also keep an eye out for a possible defensive end being drafted. Ryan Kerrigan (Purdue) Aldon Smith (Missouri)and Da’Quan Bowers (Clemson) stand out as possible choices.
Brandon Harris, CB, Florida
Although he is undersized at 5 feet 10 inches, Harris has the athleticism to have an impact. A solid tackler, Harris is better at playing man coverage than zone and is not afraid to help support run defense.
Marcus Cannon, OT, TCU
At 6 feet 7 inches, 350 pounds, Cannon is massive in size, but is surprisingly athletic. Cannon would be a force in the run game, and if he can improve his footwork a bit, he can be solid in pass protection.
Chimdi Chekwa, CB, Ohio State
Capable of playing both man and zone coverage, Chekwa has amazing speed. His aggressiveness hurts him at times, as he can give up the big play. Chekwa is a nice option if the Lions are unable to land a cornerback higher up on their draft board.
Rest of the draft
The Lions are going to need to get some help and depth in the linebacker core and the secondary. The NFL draft is always an exercise in insanity to try and predict, and this year is no different. Look for the Lions to take a look at OLB’s like Sam Acho, Ross Homan and Chris Carter in the third round.
Depending on who they select in the first two rounds, a defensive end could be a third-round pick; the Lions want to continue to add talent to the lineup on the line.
At some point after the third round, don’t be surprised if a running back is selected to compliment Jahvid Best. He had injury problems in college and last season in the NFL. The Lions want to lessen his workload, and it doesn’t hurt to have another set of young legs in the backfield.
Expect multiple picks in the secondary and at linebacker to add depth to the roster in those weak positions.
Top 10 worst free agent signings in Detroit Sports
1. Bison Dele, forward,
HARRY WALKER/MCT courtesy photo
The late Bison ‘Big Bust’ Dele drives by Washington’s Terry Davis, in his short stint with the Pistons.
Also known as Brian Williams, Dele signed on with the Pistons to the tune of seven years and $50 million, becoming the Pistons highest-paid player ever at the time. He wasn’t in the last 10 years, exactly; Dele signed in 1997 and played through 1999. However, the signing was bad enough to still be included in the list. In his first year with the team, Dele posted promising numbers, but two years later, he retired in the midst of his prime, only playing a total of 49 games in his second season.
2. Ben Gordon, guard,
While it may be too early to judge, Gordon has so far been a colossal disappointment to the franchise. While shooting more than 40 percent from the three-point range with the Bulls, Gordon was expected to be the jump-shooter that Detroit fans had wanted for the last few years. Signing a five-year, $55-million contract, Gordon shot just 32 percent from deep in his inaugural season, a career low for the guard. To make matters worse, Gordon’s scoring dropped by more than seven points per game.
3. Derian Hatcher, defenseman, Detroit Red Wings
It was too good to be true. Hatcher grew up in Michigan and in 2003 was considered one of the best defensemen in the NHL. That’s why the Wings gave Hatcher a five year, $30-million contract. Hatcher would only play 15 games and scored a mere four points for the Wings due to injury and the 2004 season being locked out. Once hockey returned to the ice, the Wings bought out Hatcher’s contract and he headed for Philadelphia.
4. Fernando Vina, second
baseman, Detroit Tigers
Coming off of an all-star season and gold glove award, the Tigers signed Vina to a two-year, $6-million contract in 2003. Vina played just 29 games with the Tigers in his initial season because of a serious leg injury, and missed the entire 2005 season with the team. It’s widely believe that Vina may have concealed the extent of his injuries from the Tigers in hopes to gain a big contract offer.
5. Nazr Mohammad,
center, Detroit Pistons
When the Pistons lost defense stalwart Ben Wallace to the lucrative offer of the Chicago Bulls, they were desperately in need of a new starting center to keep alive the dynasty the organization had created. The Pistons offered Mohammed a four-year, $25-million contract starting in 2006-07. He started only 33 games in his first season with the team and averaged just 5.6 points per game and 4.5 rebounds. In his second season with the team, Mohammed played in 21 games before being traded to the Charlotte Bobcats.
6. Magglio Ordonez,
outfielder, Detroit Tigers
What makes this signing bad is not so much his play, but the amount of money Ordonez was paid. A five-year, $85-million (or $17-million average per season) contract was given to Ordonez in 2005. That contract made him one of the highest paid players in the game. He missed half of his first season and during his time in Detroit, Ordonez has not hit more than 28 home runs in a season. Outside of his 2007 season, Ordonez has only finished in the top 10 in batting average once. His defense has been questionable and his production in the last two years has been average at best; hardly the output you would expect from one of the top 15 paid players in baseball.
7. Charlie Villanueva,
forward, Detroit Pistons
Signing at the same time guard Ben Gordon did, Villanueva has been even more disappointing for the Pistons. His lack of rebounding and defense certainly haven’t matched his five-year, $35-million contract. Villanueva has started just 27 games in his two-year stint with the Pistons and has yet to surpass the 12 point average in either of his seasons with the team.
8. Ronald “Flip” Murray, guard, Detroit Pistons
After a successful season with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2005-06, the Pistons decided to steal away the shooting guard from their archrivals, after he posted career highs in almost every category with the team. Signing on for two years and $3.6-million per year, Murray reverted back to his old playing style, averaging around seven points per game in his two-year stint with the Pistons.
9. Damien Woody, tackle/guard, Detroit Lions
In all fairness, Woody was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2004 with the Lions, but his injuries and attitude earn him a spot on this list. His six-year, $31-million contract with a $9-million bonus was mostly undeserved. In 2006 Woody missed most of the season on injured reserve, while in 2007, Woody was benched and the Lions considered cutting him.
10. Dominik Hasek, goalie,
Detroit Red Wings
Let’s be clear, we’re talking about the second time Hasek signed a free agent deal with the Wings. While Hasek won many games, he once again caused a log jam at goal. Hasek was inconsistent and nearly cost the Wings the Stanley Cup in 2008 with his poor play in the opening round of the playoffs. Hasek was never able to recapture the magic that once made him the best goalie in the world.
Cabrera, Tigers drop the ball
Julian H. Gonzalez/Detroit Free Press/MCT
The Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, left, with Vice President/Assistant General Manager Al Avila, right, interperting for him, speaks with media for the first time about his recent DUI arrest at the Tigers’ spring training complex in Lakeland, Fla.
When news broke that Detroit Tigers all-star first baseman Miguel Cabrera was arrested last month for suspicion of drunk driving and resisting arrest, Tigers fans feared the worst.
The serious nature of the charges led many to believe that Cabrera was going to miss the start of the season due to possible jail time or suspension.
Instead, Tigers management has decided not to discipline Cabrera and for the most part, and turn a blind eye to the entire situation.
Almost immediately, manager Jim Leyland came to the defense of Cabrera and made it clear that the team would welcome back Cabrera with open arms. Teammates also were quick to say that while disappointed, they were excited to get him to spring training.
This is both disgusting and shameful. Cabrera’s actions have been completely ignored and treated as if he merely got a speeding ticket.
Cabrera was found by police two hours from his home, sitting in his smoking vehicle swigging scotch on the side of the road. This sort of behavior cannot be excused and, more importantly, cannot be left in the on-deck circle until the end of the season.
The Tigers needed to send a message to Cabrera that until his off-field issues are settled, he would not be accepted into the clubhouse.
His drinking problem, and it is clearly a problem at this point, has caused distractions for himself and his teammates twice in the last 17 months.
Fans certainly remember his October 2009 arrest that occurred during the team’s playoff push. After a night of partying (with members of the opposing team), Cabrera was arrested for domestic violence against his wife.
His actions then let the team down and he vowed to not let it happen again. Now, as the Tigers prepare for a new season, he has once again struck out, this time before the season begins.
Management clearly knows they cannot contend for a playoff spot without Cabrera. And that is exactly why they need to punish him. Cabrera needed to learn the lesson that he is not above the law or above the rest of his teammates. He should have to deal with consequences of letting his team down again.
To keep him on the field is a lose-lose situation. If he performs well, it feeds into the argument that as long as he delivers, his drinking doesn’t matter. If he struggles, his issues will certainly come into question.
The man needs to get his head right and get a handle on his issues before he even thinks of stepping into the batter’s box again.
Cabrera needs to deal with this issue now, no matter how long it takes to get his mind straight. The man clearly needs help, and baseball aside, that should be his first priority.
He is only 27 years old, with a long career ahead of him. But more importantly, he is a father and a husband and that should take precedent over baseball.
And shame on Cabrera, the Tigers and their fans if they think that baseball is more important than his health and family.