sports

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon brings us this week's sports roundup:

Tigers approaching the trade deadline

The Tigers came out of this past weekend 11.5 games behind AL Central Division leaders the Kansas City Royals.

After the Red Sox, “beat the crap out of us,” as described by Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, there’s some question as to how things are going to play out approaching Friday’s trade deadline.

This was a big week for the Detroit Red Wings. The team signed defenseman Mike Green and veteran center Brad Richards.

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon says that while the Red Wings have a top line of players, people often don't realize that in hockey third- and fourth-string players can be just as important. And the Wings need more than a few key players.

But securing top talent says a lot about how the Wings are perceived by NHL fans and players.

Bacon says it shows how strong the organization is when it can recruit top players even when Detroit doesn't have the best reputation in the country. 

Ty Cobb safe at third after making a triple on August 16, 1924.
National Photo Company / Library of Congress

He was arguably America’s first sports celebrity. He paved the way for the "bad boy athlete."

Tyrus Raymond Cobb spent 22 seasons with the Detroit Tigers. Besides being a brilliant outfielder and base stealer, Ty Cobb had a rough reputation: surly, mean, racist, someone who hated women and kids.

John U. Bacon brings us the week’s sports roundup:

Michigan women’s softball team

The Michigan women’s softball team reached the Women’s College World Series only to lose the series 2-3 against the Florida Gators. Bacon believes what head coach Carol Hutchins and her team have achieved is nothing short of a miracle.

Michigan had to play half its schedule on the road before playing their first home game. “Imagine, if you will, the University of Alabama hockey team taking down the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA championship”.

Hockey

With the Detroit Red Wings' season over, Bacon claims that with trade deadlines and summer camps in August, the Red Wings need to get a new coach by June. Jeff Blashill, head coach of the Grand Rapids Griffins, is said to be the man to succeed Mike Babcock.

Joe Louis was the guest of honor at the "Champions Day" celebration of 1936.
Boston Public Library / flickr.com

Seventy-nine years ago this month, Detroit sports teams and athletes celebrated a winning streak that's never been replicated since.

That year, Detroit athletes earned titles that kept piling up: the Tigers won their first World Series, the Lions won their first national championship, the Red Wings took home their first Stanley Cup. Not to mention Joe Louis and a myriad of others that came out victorious. 

West Michigan speedskater April Chernoby takes advantage of unusual ice conditions on Lake Michigan.
courtesy April Chernoby

The beginning of March brought on some unusual conditions along the coast of West Michigan. The ice off the coast of Grand Haven was as smooth as glass - perfect for skating. 

John Bieniewicz was refereeing an adult league soccer match in Livonia last June. 

He died a few days later.

Bieniewicz was allegedly struck by a player who was upset at being ejected from the game. 

MGoBlog

An analysis by Forbes' Chris Smith values the University of Michigan's football program at $117 million - behind Notre Dame ($122 million) and the Texas Longhorns ($131 million).

Football teams are school entities, so they can't be bought or sold. Smith calculates the value of the program on four things:

University of Michigan football game
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon joined us in the studio today to analyze what happened in Michigan sports this week.

You can listen to our conversation with him below:


Gordie Howe's Hockey Card at age 43.
Trish Thornton / Flickr

You don’t have to know much about hockey to know about Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe. 

This week, we learned his family is “expecting the worst.”  With his days numbered, you’ll be reading a lot about Howe’s hockey heroics.  He set just about every NHL scoring record, and a dozen still stand.  One of the most impressive: he finished in the top five for scoring for two straight decades.

He played in the NHL at 18, and at 51. 

Howe’s heyday paralleled his team’s, and his town’s.

The Wings were a dynasty, winning four Stanley Cups, and nine regular season titles.  No team symbolized the Motor City’s might like the Red Wings. 

Creighton Miller carrying the football for Notre Dame against the 1943 Michigan team. Bob Rennebohm of Michigan (wearing jersey #88) is also pictured.
1944 Michiganensian

Michigan and Notre Dame have the longest running duel among major college powers, and one of the best. But that seems to be coming to an end this Saturday – and with a twist: For the first time, it’s Notre Dame that’s backing out.

The rivalry between Michigan and Notre Dame goes back to 1887, when a band of boys from Michigan took a train to South Bend and literally taught their counterparts how to play the game.  

Melanie Kruvelis

The World Cup is over. And even if you weren't rooting for Germany or Argentina, the game was really something to watch. (Germany won, for all the non-sports fans out there.)

In addition to the game itself, the fans are just as fun to watch.

They paint flags on their faces, and scream, and cry a lot. 

Those fans exist outside of Brazil, too. There's an intense support section for the Detroit City Football Club. The minor league soccer team is called Le Rouge, and is in its third season.

Before the game, a lot of fans and supporters go to a bar and rally the troops.

Then the "Northern Guard" march to the stadium. There are smoke bombs, drums, gas masks, megaphones, and a lot of rouge and gold. 

Throughout the entire game, there's chanting -- some of which could never air on public radio.

According to Alex Wright, one of the DCFC co-owners, about 2/3 of the team play for their college team during the school year. The home games at Cass Tech High School began selling out this season, and Friday's game sold out by record numbers. 

Wright said that he and the other co-owners wanted to create the team because they're committed to the city. Wright doesn't believe that soccer is going to save Detroit, but it's just a reason to feel good about what's going on in the city. 

DCFC's season is over now, but fans like "Big Vytau" plan to come back next year -- and probably for a few years after that.

*Listen to the full interview above

user: Edwin Martinez / Flickr

  

Last summer, I told you about Coach Mac, my little league baseball coach who believed in me, and helped me rise from the team’s worst player to become the team’s captain in one season.

I didn’t know where my old coach was, but after the story aired, I received a thank you letter from Coach Mac himself. This week, Coach Mack passed away.

The summer before Mac McKenzie became our little league baseball coach, I spent the season picking dandelions in right field, and batting last. But just weeks after Coach Mac took over, I rose to starting catcher, lead-off hitter, and team captain.

Playing styles of these soccer players from Brazil and Croatia might not reflect their national characteristics.
User: Diário do Nordeste / flickr

Last Thursday afternoon, the 2014 World Cup began as Brazil and Croatia ran out onto the pitch in Brazil. And with that, fans of Association Football (aka “soccer” here in the USA) plunged into a month of the High Holy Days: World Cup action.

Many fans of “the beautiful game” get downright nationalistic as they cheer on their favorite team, whether it be England, Italy, Brazil, Germany, Ivory Coast ... and of course, the U.S., which opens its World Cup bid this evening at 6 against Ghana.

With soccer, there's a lot of credence put into national identities and how teams play. But, if you think the playing style of your favorite team somehow reflects some deep cultural trait of that country, Stateside guest Andy Markovits says think again.

Markovits is a University of Michigan political scientist and lifelong soccer fan. He joined us today to talk about how generalizations of national characteristics can be superficial and dangerous. 

*Listen to the conversation above. 

Jason Hicks going for his ninth strike.
Amber Taylor / YouTube

We're talking the traditional, pitcher-of-beer, middle America, tenpin bowling.

Chad McClean set the official record in Gainesville, Florida last year. He managed 12 strikes in one minute.

Unofficially, Jason Hicks tied that record at his family-owned Clio Bowling Arcade last month. MLive's Aaron McMann says Hicks actually hit a 13th strike, but it was a second too late.

Here's a video of his last attempt:

David W. Carmichael / Wikimedia Commons

Fresh off their gold-medal win in Sochi, Meryl Davis and Charlie White will ride their fame straight onto one of the most popular shows on television.

Charlie White will be paired up with professional dancer Sharna Burgess, and Meryl Davis will be paired up with dance pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy.

USA Today reports on the next "Dancing with the Stars" lineup.

Olympians Charlie White and Meryl Davis seem to have an obvious advantage. (

U.S. Olympic Team / Facebook

Why in the world are the Winter Olympics in Sochi, one of Russia’s warmest places?  

Chalk it up to corruption – both the Russians’, which we’ve come to expect, and the International Olympic Committee’s – which we’ve also come to expect.

The IOC hasn’t just shown a willingness to be bought, but an insistence.

That’s how you get a Winter Olympic skating rink built in the shade of palm trees. The warm weather is funny, unless you spent your entire life training for these Olympics, and there’s no snow. Then it’s just heartbreaking.

The University of Michigan named a new president last month, and the football team landed another great class of recruits last week. But there’s another story that keeps eclipsing those two. Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon has details.

I’ve been reluctant to write about the Brendan Gibbons’ story, because so little is clear – from the incident that started this saga five years ago, to the various responses since.

One thing is clear: the athletic department continually fails to follow the advice legendary athletic director Don Canham,

“Never turn a one-day story into a two-day story.”

This story starts in 2009, when Wolverine kicker Brendan Gibbons had an encounter at a party with a female student. Ultimately, only two people know what happened, but we do know she contacted the Ann Arbor Police, then decided not to press charges.

New legislation attempts to reduce the number of sports-related concussions in kids.
YMCA of Western North Carolina / flickr

Super Bowl Sunday is days away, and when you think about the atmosphere at any given sports event – be it the Super Bowl, a Red Wings game, or even your child's grade-school team – chances are the atmosphere is one of fierce competition.

Think of the crowd and the chants. You know, "Beat 'em, beat 'em, let's deFEAT 'em." But my next guest is asking us to look at sports in another light – in a spiritual light.

Jeanne Hess has been the head coach of Kalamazoo College's Volleyball team for some 30 years, and is an associate chaplain. Her book is called, "Sportuality: Finding Joy in the Games."

Jeanne Hess joined us on Stateside today.

*Listen to the audio above.

He calls himself a "hockey rock star" – and he's earned the right to do just that.

Whether it was his 15 seasons as an NHL enforcer, the four Stanley Cups he won with the Red Wings, the legendary "Fight Night at the Joe" when he took down Claude Lemieux of the Avalanche, or his rock band "Grinder," Darren McCarty has played hard and lived hard, coping with family issues and addiction even as he skated to NHL stardom wearing  No 25.

He tells his story in an autobiography called "My Last Fight: The True Story of a Hockey Rock Star," written with the help of journalist Kevin Allen.

And, just like Darren on the ice, this book pulls no punches.

Corey Seeman / Flickr

Since I review the year in sports each December, my editor thought, “Hey, why not preview the year in sports in January?!?”

Why not? Because I have no idea what’s going to happen. Nobody does.

That’s why we watch sports: We don’t know how it’s going to end. It’s also why we shouldn’t watch pregame shows: everybody is just guessing. 

That said, if Michigan Radio wants to pay me to make wild, unsupported guesses – then doggonnit, that’s what I’ll do. 

Let’s start at the bottom.

Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
Detroit Tigers

The year in sports started out with the Detroit Lions missing the playoffs, and hockey fans missing the entire National Hockey League season.

The NHL lockout started the way these things usually do: The players thought the owners made too much money, and the owners thought the players made too much money.  And, of course, both sides were dead right.

Michigan Football / Facebook

Moments before the Michigan Wolverines introduced Brady Hoke as their new head football coach in 2011, Michigan fans had lots of questions. Why not hire a national star like Les Miles or Jim Harbaugh, who both played at Michigan? Who was Brady Hoke? Was he up to the task?

Hoke answered these questions by nailing his first press conference. He won over more Michigan fans in just a few minutes than his predecessor, Rich Rodriguez, had been able to do in three years. When a reporter asked Hoke if the Wolverines would be rebuilding, he famously replied, “This is Michigan, for godsakes” – and a star was born.

It was hard to imagine a happier honeymoon than Hoke’s. In his rookie season, the Wolverines beat Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State – for the first time in eight years. They won their first BCS bowl game since Tom Brady did the job in 2000, en route to an 11-2 record. From the fans in the stands to the team in the trenches, the love for Coach Hoke was universal.

Julian Carvajal / Flickr

When I started in tee-ball, I was so short that if the catcher put the tee on the far corner of the plate, I couldn’t reach it.  Yes, I struck out – in tee ball.  


Our first year of live pitching wasn’t any better. One game we were beating the other team so badly, they were about to trigger the “Mercy Rule,” and end the game. Coach Van pulled me in from my post in right field – where I kept company with the dandelions – and told me to pitch. I wasn’t a pitcher – I wanted to be a catcher, like Bill Freehan -- but I’m thinking, “This is my chance.”  I walked three batters, but miraculously got three outs. We won – and I figured that was my stepping stone to greater things.

I was surprised my dad wasn’t as happy as I was. He knew better – but he didn’t tell me until years later: Coach Van was not putting me in to finish the game. He was putting me in to get shelled, so the game would keep going. He was putting me in to fail.  

Politicians are falling all over themselves in Washington and in Lansing to oppose spending any money to, as they put it, “bail out” Detroit.

University of Exeter / Flickr

Summer time, and the livin' is easy.

But not if you have children. Nowadays, you have to drive your kid to soccer camp and band camp, to this lesson and that clinic, to make sure they never have a single un-programmed minute of summer to themselves.

Yes, something is gained from all this -- like structure and safety -- but something is lost, too. You see a basket in every driveway, but no one playing on them. Without their own games, kids never learn how to settle their own arguments. Does any ten-year-old know what a "do-over" is?

Flickr

Bring the X-Games for 2014 to Detroit.

That's what an impassioned pair of Detroit boosters is saying to ESPN.

They've launched an all-out campaign to get the sports network to choose the Motor City over three other contenders for the summer 2014 X-Games, which are ESPN's extreme sports answer to the Olympics.

Kevin Krease and Garret Koehler are the ones responsible for this bid to win over ESPN.

The two joined us in the studio to talk about their campaign.

Listen to the full interview above.

On today's show: Boondoggles.

We took a look back at some of Michigan's sorriest episodes in government spending.

And, we spoke with the members of the duo Midnight Faces, a Grand Rapids band taking a new approach to music from the '80's.

And, Dr. Amanda Lotz joined us in the studio to discuss the future of television now that services such as Netflix have become increasingly popular.

Also, a campaign has started to bring the summer 2014 X-Games to Detroit. We spoke with the guys responsible for starting the campaign about why they think Detroit should be chosen to host the event.

First on the show, with school out for the summer, state officials are already looking for ways to get more students to show up for classes in the fall. The state Department of Human Services wants to expand pilot programs that put more social workers in schools with high truancy rates.

At the same time, DHS has a new statewide policy that threatens to take away welfare benefits from families with kids who persistently miss school.

But, critics say that still means too few families are getting the support they need to avoid losing their cash assistance.

Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher gave us the full report.

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Tomorrow night will bring Game Four in the Western Conference semifinals between the Detroit Red Wings and archrivals Chicago Blackhawks.

The Wings handed the Blackhawks a pair of stinging losses in Games Two and Three, so tomorrow night’s game at the Joe finds the Wings up two games to one.

John Keating covers the Red Wings for Fox Sports Detroit, and he has done so for many years, so he’s seen this team through its ups and downs. He joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

user migbcn / Flickr

We have seen droughts in sports in this state, that is for sure.

The last time the Lions won the NFL championship, for example, was 1957. Well, there’s been a similar drought in the world of bowling leagues, but that might be about to end.

Mel Shannon’s been bowling with the Knights of Columbus Men’s League in Ann Arbor for about as long as anyone can remember.

Last time Mel won the championship was 46 years ago - 1967.

But, Mel is on the verge of winning the championship again tonight.

Mel is a Word II veteran who is 87 years young and he stopped by the studio along with John Kennard - who is also part of the K of C men's bowling league.

Listen to the full interview above.

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