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My take on Linsanity

9:10 pm in Uncategorized by Chip Burch

If you read all the sports web sites, all you read about is Jeremy Lin.

The Asian-American point guard for the New York Knicks is generating Tim Tebow-like coverage since he has come off the bench to lead New York to an unprecedented seven-game win streak.

The coverage of Lin may be over the top at times, but it’s a great story, and worthy of all the publicity he’s been given.

For those of you who know his story, skip the next paragraph. This is for those who don’t know.

Lin wasn’t good enough to play basketball for any big-time college basketball programs, so he landed at Harvard. He was an undrafted free agent who the Knicks just happened to take a flyer on by signing him. He’s sleeping on a teammate’s couch, then when Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudamire get hurt, Lin comes in and takes over, giving the Knicks win after win.

But along with all the coverage, Lin has generated some detractors. The biggest of which is cowardly lion Floyd Mayweather, who tweeted that the only reason Lin is getting the coverage is that he’s Asian, and black players are doing it all the time and don’t get the same run in the press.

I’m going to put aside the fact that the Grand Rapids-born Mayweather is a bigot (he’s made racist comments before and hasn’t apologized) and tackle the meat of the tweet.

The reason Lin is getting all the pub is that he’s come in and helped a struggling franchise win – just like Tebow did. Lin has single-handedly brought the Knicks from also-ran to relevant in the NBA – just like Tebow did.

It doesn’t hurt that he’s playing in New York, the biggest media market in the U.S. That’s also a small part of the hype.

But being Asian-American has nothing to do with the hype he’s getting. Don’t be fooled; others who have had similar runs have got the same coverage (see LeBron James).

The bottom line is that he’s winning. Someone who can come in from literally nowhere and turn around a franchise is a great story no matter what ethnicity the person is.

While I don’t follow him that closely, I am interested in seeing how long this run can last. Even if he loses a game or two, if the Knicks go from being out of the playoffs to Eastern Conference contender, then the legend of Lin will continue to grow.

That’s good for both the Knicks and the league. If this kid is the humble sort like Tebow, He’ll be well worth watching.

Hopefully he does keep it up. I’d hate to see him go back to being an unknown bench player like he was before Anthony and Stoudamire’s injuries.

Manning saga similar to Favre?

9:43 pm in Uncategorized by Chip Burch

The back-and-forth between Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay and quarterback Peyton Manning has been great for the media.

The talking heads love to dissect and predict what is going to happen to Manning now that he has spent the entire season injured and a $28 million roster bonus in on the line at the beginning of next month.

I’m going to try to not go there, because you’ve heard it all before. What I want to do is go a different route with this whole conversation.

What I’m seeing between these two has drawn a parallel in my mind to a movie we saw some five years ago. It was the saga of Brett Favre.

We all remember that script. Favre retired, then realized he had no life outside of football, so he unretired and basically wanted his old job back. The Green Bay Packers wouldn’t give it to him, and the two went back and forth about it.

The drama ended with the Packers trading him to the New York Jets – somewhat. Another unretirement later he was in Minnesota trying to stick it to the Packers for what they did.

I see something similar in the way the Manning situation is playing out.

Granted, there are some differences. For example, it wasn’t about money with Favre. It was about playing. And Manning was injured, not retired last season.

But it’s clear the Colts don’t want Manning at the current price. If Manning is willing to take a significant cut in the roster bonus he would get March 1, the Colts would then be more than happy to bring him back.

(Yes, I believe Irsay when he said Wednesday he would like Manning back if Manning restructures the contract.)

But Manning won’t do that. He wants the $28 million, and he wants to play for the Colts – and likely as the starting quarterback.

The Colts will likely draft Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in April’s draft. Luck will be the Aaron Rodgers of the Colts – the guy that is being groomed to take over when the aged veteran is no longer there.

And you know that’s what’s going to happen if there isn’t any kind of movement on Manning’s side. Don’t think for a second Irsay will pay $28 million to a guy who is questionable to even play. Manning isn’t going to come back and mentor Luck.

So Irsay will be forced to release the guy who many say (correctly, of course) built the current indoor stadium the Colts play in. It’s going to be a huge public relations nightmare, but it will happen.

So I’m going to predict that once Manning is released, he’s going to want to go to a team within the AFC Central so that he can prove to the Colts they made a mistake in cutting him. How Favre-ian of him.

Can Manning still play? I don’t know. No one will know until he puts on a uniform and performs in a game, pre-season or otherwise.

But if he can, I just see this looking an awful lot like Favre and his multiple unretirements. This might get messy.

Bests and worsts of Super Bowl XLVI

8:19 pm in Uncategorized by Chip Burch

I’ve got to admit Super Bowl XLVI was a great game to watch.

The 21-17 win by the New York Giants over the New England Patriots (I believe I had that one) had all kinds of drama involved, and it was must-see TV for a change.

Even when Ahmad Bradshaw scored with a little under a minute left, there was debate about whether that left too much time on New England quarterback and former Michigan man Tom Brady to make the comeback.

But the New York defense, which was somewhat maligned during the regular season, made sure it didn’t matter.

So after a really great game, here are the bests and worsts of Super Bowl XLVI:

BESTS

Best play: The obvious one is New York Giant Mario Manningham making a sideline catch that extended the game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. Yes, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick had to challenge it, but there was nothing there to overturn the call. It was a great catch by the former Michigan receiver. Runner-up was the Brady-to-Danny Woodhead pass near the end of the first half to give the Patriots the lead. Brady had all kinds of time to find an open receiver and did – like he normally does.

Best quote: After Giant Brandon Jacobs made a chip block on an unknown (to me at least) New England Patriot so hard it snapped the Patriot’s head back, NBC’s Al Michaels got off this beauty: “His (Jacobs’) chip blocks are assault and battery.” Funny. There really wasn’t a runner-up in this category.

Best thing about halftime: Rodney Harrison’s analysis of how the game would be won was spot on as usual, saying the game would be won on the last possession. It was, as the Giants foiled the late Hail Mary by Brady to get their second Super Bowl win, both over the Pats. Runner up? I actually kind of like LMFAO’s “I’m Shuffling,” and to see it on Madonna’s halftime show was kind of cool.

Best commercial: The M&Ms spot where Ms. Brown tried to convince a couple of guys she wasn’t naked led to Red shedding his “shell,” causing some women to look in disbelief. Runner-up was the Coke commercial where the polar bear in the New England scarf was upset and went outside to find other polar bears throwing him a Coke, only to see him fumble and juggle it on ice like he was a running back breaking tackles. I had to chuckle at that one.

WORSTS

Worst play: In the fourth quarter Brady scrambled and heaved a long pass intended for Rob Gronkowski, but was intercepted. He had room to run but threw up a jump-ball because of pressure coming from his blind side. Runner-up was Brady taking an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone for a safety in the first quarter.

Worst quote: In the third quarter Michaels was explaining the “MHK” on the Patriots’ jerseys, but screwed up when he said, “The MHK is for Mary Kraft, the widow of Patriots owner Robert Kraft.” Michaels made it sound like Robert was the one who died, not Mary. Runner-up was Cris Collinsworth saying after Patriot Wes Welker dropped a wide-open pass, “Welker makes that catch 100 out of 100 times.” Uh, Cris, make that 99 out of 100.

Worst thing about halftime: You guessed it – rapper MIA flies “the bird” during the halftime show. Many people wanted the NFL to skew younger with their halftime shows, and MIA showed why that was a horrible idea – and just five years after the “wardrobe malfunction.” That was so not necessary. Runner-up was the fact that to me it looked like the Bay City, Michigan-born Madonna lip-synched her entire show.

Worst commercial: Congratulations to GoDaddy.co. You were missed in this spot. But your triumphant return came when new NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and “The Biggest Loser” trainer Jillian Michaels put body paint on a model that was being shown with shots of her head and shoulders, her stomach and her legs. It proved once again that GoDaddy will stop at almost nothing to get people to their web site. Runner-up was the Audi commercial where a boss is being driven by his employee and “dies.” The employee starts and stops the car to revive the boss. Dumb commercial.

Shanahan having impact on NHL

9:39 pm in Uncategorized by Chip Burch

I heard a couple of statistics on ESPN that gave me some hope that hockey is seeing the light when it comes to fighting.

Those statistics are the number of fights is down 25 percent in the NHL, while suspensions for hits have jumped 72 percent over last year.

This is an encouraging trend. Hopefully both will lead to less fighting in hockey.

This would go against what Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke thinks about fighting. He said in an interview a few weeks ago fighting belongs in the NHL, and should never be taken out of the game.

But what the man now in Burke’s former position of NHL czar of discipline, Brendan Shanahan, is doing by giving out so many suspensions is what I have been calling for for years – and it seems like it’s working.

Shanahan – yes, that Brendan Shanahan of Red Wings and Blues fame – is handing out discipline for hits that would normally have been “enforced” on the ice. Because Shanahan is taking matters into his office instead of the players’ “office,” there is less of a reason to drop the gloves.

I don’t know how much this has to do with the deaths of three hockey “enforcers” in the same week during the past summer. I really don’t know if that has anything to do with the lack of such “enforcers” in the league.

But I’m going to take that out of the equation for now. I’m just going to look at the stats I just presented.

If this trend continues, it would mean the NHL is finally catching up to the other three “big leagues” where fisticuffs are concerned. The NBA, NFL and (somewhat) MLB will suspend anyone who throws a punch.

And I’ve always said that if the cheap stuff is disciplined at the league level, there won’t be a need to enforce it at ice level. This is also in direct contrast to Burke, who thinks players will take liberties with the scorers of the league if fighting isn’t allowed.

Shanahan won’t let that happen. As a former player who was the recipient of some of those cheap shots (I can still remember when his face was bloodied in a playoff game after having it smashed into the glass), he won’t allow that stuff to go on.

Hopefully Shanahan will keep up the trend of making sure the cheap hits and head shots are dealt with so that the other players in the league don’t have to do it right then and there.

Then we don’t have to worry about any “enforcers” dying way too young, and that can be permanently taken out of the equation.

Lions’ season a huge turnaround

10:04 pm in Uncategorized by Chip Burch

For those of you who predicted the Detroit Lions would go 10-6, congratulations. You are better than I am.

The Lions made an incredible turnaround this season, erasing the memories of Matt Millen and Rod Marinelli by going to the playoffs just three years after not winning a game all season.

(Side note: Hey Marinelli, how did watching the Lions in the playoffs feel while your Chicago Bears were out of the playoffs?)

And to think I predicted the Lions would go 6-10. Oops.

A lot of things went right for the Lions to do as well as they did.

The biggest thing was quarterback Matthew Stafford stayed upright for 16 games instead of half a season. He threw for a club record 5,038 yards and 41 touchdowns this season, which is what the Lions were hoping for all along.

His main target was Calvin Johnson, who also ended up with a franchise record 16 touchdown catches as part of 1,681 receiving yards – five short of Herman Moore’s single-season record. We saw what Stafford and Johnson can do when they’re on the field together, helping the Lions to the fourth-best passing attack in the league.

And when Johnson was slowed, Nate Burleson shined like everyone saw when he played for Seattle, catching 73 balls for 757 yards.

The defense was improved, but barely. They were the 10th-worst rushing defense and the 11th-worst pass defense in the league. Having Nick Fairley healthy for 16 games will help out next season.

The result was finishing second in the NFC North Division and the 17th game.

No, I didn’t see that coming. I didn’t think the Bears would be as bad as they were, and the Lions split with them. I also thought the Lions would split with Minnesota because the Vikings have Adrian Petersen and so many receiving weapons, but a rookie quarterback was too much for them to overcome.

That was two of the four losses that turned out to be wins. I also didn’t see the Lions beating San Diego.

So the next question is what the Lions should do with personnel.

The first priority should be to get some help in the defensive secondary. This has long been a sore spot for the Lions, and Louis Delmas isn’t the answer without more help.

Another priority should be a feared running back. As we’ve seen with Pittsburgh Penguin Sidney Crosby, concussions can be problematic, so Jahvid Best is iffy at best. And Kevin Smith has always been injury-prone his entire career. Getting a top-notch back would take some of the pressure off of Stafford’s arm and improve the Lions’ standing as the fourth-worst rushing offense in the league.

Those who are saying the Lions have turned the corner are getting ahead of themselves, because one good season does not mean the Lions are going to be there every year for years to come.

Really, the Lions are a few tweaks away from becoming a perennial playoff contender. Wouldn’t that be nice to see for a change?

What would happen in a BCS playoff

9:49 pm in Uncategorized by Chip Burch

Every year I do what the college presidents won’t do, and have a playoff for college’s football’s national championship.

This simulation is done through whatifsports.com and seeds the top eight teams in the final BCS poll and plays them against one another in a bracket format.

The format is a no-re-seeding format so that the winner of 1-vs.-8 plays the winner of 4-vs.5 and the winner of 2-vs.-7 plays the winner of 3-vs.-6. It’s played on neutral sites under perfect conditions with the higher seed being designated the home team.

The results of this year’s simulation will shock you. Consider yourself forewarned.

First round

(1) LSU vs. (8) Kansas St.: LSU 30, Kansas St. 26. Trailing 28-12 in the fourth quarter after the Tigers get a 54-yard touchdown from Michael Ford, the Wildcats get two touchdowns from Collin Klein – one running and one passing to Tyler Lockett. However Kansas State misses the two-point conversion after Lockett’s catch, and LSU sacks Klein in the end zone with a second left for a safety – the only sack of the game for the Tigers. The Wildcats rush for 259 yards to LSU’s 119 but Klein was just 4-of-6 for 51 yards.

(2) Alabama vs. (7) Boise St.: Boise St. 36, Alabama 30: Who said the Broncos can’t play with the big boys in the SEC? Boise St. jumped out to a 29-6 lead with 5:43 left in the third quarter and held off a 17-point charge from the Crimson Tide in the fourth to win. ‘Bama scored a touchdown with 51 seconds left but can’t recover the onside kick. The Tide hurt themselves by going just 4-of-13 on third downs.

(3) Oklahoma St. vs. (6) Arkansas: Arkansas 49, Oklahoma St. 37. Razorback Dennis Johnson runs for two touchdowns and catches two more to lead Arkansas to an upset win over their Big 12 rivals. Razorback signal-caller Tyler Wilson outduels Cowboy counterpart Brandon Weeden, as Wilson was 16-of-23 passing for 318 yards and five tuddies, while Weeden was 41-of-57 for 514 yards and four scores. Arkansas wins despite a 34-24 first-down deficit and seeing Wilson sacked four times.

(4) Stanford vs. (5) Oregon: Oregon 42, Stanford 24. Stanford was looking forward to a rematch after Oregon won the regular-season game 53-50. After the Cardinals get out to a 10-0 lead halfway through the first quarter, the Ducks score 35 unanswered points to beat Stanford again. Three Stanford turnovers turned into 14 Oregon points. Oregon’s LaMichael James is player of the game after rushing 24 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns and catching four balls for 80 yards. Stanford’s Andrew Luck was just 18-of-29 for 261 yards and a pick.

Semifinals

(1) LSU vs. (5) Oregon: LSU 40, Oregon 13. So much for that much-ballyhooed Ducks offense. Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas picks the wrong time to have the worst game of his career, throwing three interceptions – including a pair of pick-sixes in the third quarter – and is sacked five times in going just 13-of-25 for 171 yards and a score. LSU’s Jordan Jefferson is player of the game after going 17-of-29 for 251 yards and a tuddy.

(7) Boise St. vs. (6) Arkansas: Boise St. 41, Arkansas 20. Could this be the year the Broncos win it all? They get to the championship game after dominating the Razorbacks. Moore is 30-of-41 for 444 yards, five touchdowns and two picks in the win. Arkansas hurts themselves with 11 penalties in the game and was outgained 567-371 on offense.

Championship game

(1) LSU vs. (7) Boise St.: Boise St. 22, LSU 16. Yup, this was the year. Despite this game being a field-goal battle (each team made three field goals), the difference was turnovers, as the Broncos converted both of the Tigers’ fumbles into 10 points while LSU did nothing with a Moore pick. Moore was still 27-of-37 for 307 yards and two touchdowns while Jefferson was 17-of-25 for 201 yards, no scores and no picks.

So for the second year in a row, a No. 7 seed wins the BCS playoff. (Oklahoma was seeded seventh and won last year.) Also this proves that the BCS should let the Broncos, who were in the non-automatic-qualifying Mountain West this year, into the championship game, since they knocked off both of the teams playing in the real national championship game.

The ball’s in your court, BCS presidents.

The top 10 national sports stories of 2011

8:47 pm in Uncategorized by Chip Burch

Earlier this week I brought you the top 10 Michigan sports stories of 2011.

Now I bring you what I thought were the top 10 national sports stories of the year. This doesn’t include international stuff, just the biggest sports stories stateside.

So here we go:

1. The NFL lockout. Wanting a bigger piece of the $9 billion that the league made in the past couple of years, the owners and commissioner Roger Goodell decided to force players to accept major concessions to their salary and benefits packages. Needless to say, the NFL Players Association and leader DeMaurice Smith were not happy, and refused to go along. When the NFL locked out the players, lawsuits flew. Fortunately both sides realized a long court fight wouldn’t benefit anyone, and settled so that we could have two pre-season games and an entire 16-game schedule. But it had the makings of being messy.

2. The NBA lockout. This was messy. NBA owners, claiming millions in losses, wanted strict controls on player salaries. Commissioner David Stern and the owners tried their best to bully the National Basketball Players Association and head Billy Hunter to accept deals that were horribly in the owners favor. They said no, so the lockout happened and as a further bullying tactic, canceled 16 games for each team. When the union pushed back with lawsuits of their own, the two sides settled. Another season saved.

3. Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky is accused of molesting children. This story is ongoing, as the trial for Sandusky hasn’t started. The scandal swept up longtime head coach Joe Paterno, causing him to be fired not long after victims came forward with the same story. Sandusky, meanwhile, has claimed innocence throughout the process, despite another assistant coach supposedly being an eye-witness to a sexual act with a boy. Everyone felt dirtier for having to see these stories.

4. The Dallas Mavericks win the NBA title over Miami. “Not five, not six, not seven,” proclaimed Mimai Heat forward LeBron James. They might want to start with one after they lost to the Mavericks. Dallas became just the ninth team in the last 32 years to win an NBA championship, defeating the L.A. Lakers and San Antonio Spurs along the way. Dirk Nowitzki finally got an MVP award after downing the supposed “team to beat.”

5. Ohio State football hit with sanctions after Jim Tressel lies to NCAA investigators. First it was five players who got cash and tattoos for some of their football gear. They were to have been suspended for five games for their bad decision. Little did anyone know until the Columbus Dispatch did some digging that Tressel had been warned about the violations before the 2010 season started, but did nothing, then lied to the NCAA in saying he didn’t know about it. Tressel lost his job after public pressure, then the NCAA hit the Buckeyes with a bowl ban to go along with an extra year of probation and four more scholarships taken away from the program. The Buckeyes still got a glimmer of hope when Urban Meyer agreed to coach them next year.

6. The Green Bay Packers win the Super Bowl over Pittsburgh. The Packers were a team that had supposedly had troubles on defense, but their trip to the Super Bowl was a combination of defense and Aaron Rodgers’ arm. And it’s not like the team they beat had been lucky to get there, because the Steelers won the Super Bowl two seasons prior and had to go through the brutal AFC playoffs – complete with Indianapolis, New England and Baltimore – to make it to the title game.

7. Tony Stewart wins the NASCAR Sprint Cup, beating Carl Edwards. OK, technically Stewart and Edwards tied for total points. But with a season-ending win over Edwards at Homestead Miami Speedway, Stewart would clinch on the first tie-breaker: wins. It capped a remarkable comeback for Stewart, who was 10th in points going into the Chase for the Cup. All five of Stewart’s wins came in the Chase, making his third Cup championship all that more impressive.

8. The Boston Bruins win the Stanley Cup over Vancouver. With the title, the Bruins shed the longest active Cup drought in the NHL – a drought they were saddled with when Chicago won theirs the season prior. Boston had to go through a difficult Eastern Conference playoffs that sported Buffalo, New Jersey, Pittsburgh (minus Sidney Crosby) and Washington. The Canucks, meanwhile, were feeling it after watching Canada win the gold in hockey the year prior. They had stormed through the brutal Western Conference playoffs, only to be stopped by Boston goalie Tim Thomas and his unorthodox style of goaltending. While Beantown celebrated, Vancouver rioted in images that will be forever linked to the 2011 NHL playoffs.

9. Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine is accused of molesting children. So far this hasn’t blown up like the Sandusky case, because the statute of limitations had passed for prosecuting Fine. However there’s still some question as to whether head coach Jim Boeheim knew about the allegations like Paterno did and did nothing. Boeheim is under enough scrutiny for calling victims “liars” and “wanting money.” He backtracked on that a couple of weeks later and more accusers are coming forward to this day. Whether this reaches the level of Sandusky is still to be determined.

10. The L.A. Dodgers file for bankruptcy and are being sold. This wasn’t supposed to happen to one of the more storied franchises in Major League Baseball. But Frank McCourt’s divorce of his wife thrust the Dodgers into the public spotlight, and a TV deal that would have kept the Dodgers afloat and McCourt as owner was shot down by commissioner Bud Selig, who did everything he could to get McCourt to sell the team. McCourt declared bankruptcy against MLB’s belief that they controled the team. Lawsuits flew here also, but McCourt relented and now is looking to have an auction for the team. Interested possible owners include former Dodger Steve Garvey and Earvin “Magic” Johnson, among others.

The top 10 state sports stories of 2011

1:28 am in Uncategorized by Chip Burch

Every year at about this time, a whole bunch of top 10 lists make their way around the Internet with the top whatever of 2011.

You’re going to see another one here.

Every year at this time I rate the top 10 sports stories from around the state and the nation. It’s time to do it again.

So without further ado, here are my top 10 Michigan sports stories of 2011:

1. The Detroit Lions are 10-5 and going to the playoffs. Things certainly have changed for the Lions since Martin Mayhew took over from Matt Millen as president of the Lions. He’s drafted two great defensive linemen and used key free agents to turn around a team that was 6-10 last year. The Lions are going to the playoffs for the first time since 1999, and now no one is calling for William Clay Ford Sr. to sell the team – yet.

2. The Detroit Tigers win the American League Central Division, then beat the New York Yankees to get to the AL Championship Series. The Tigers weren’t supposed to get that far. Questions about the bullpen without Joel Zumaya, the back end of the starting rotation, and the spring training arrest of Miguel Cabrera brought the doubters out in droves. But Detroit outlasted the Chicago White Sox to get to the top of the heap, then surprised everyone again by downing the vaunted Pinstripes. To go along with that…

3. Detroit Tiger Justin Verlander was named AL MVP. There were many, including Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who thought pitchers shouldn’t win the AL MVP. But when you’re first in wins, first in strikeouts and first in earned-run average, there’s not a great case to make for anyone else. And a case couldn’t be made for anyone else when it came to how important they were to the team. That’s why Verlander was deserving of the award.

4. The Michigan football team goes 10-2 and is going to a BCS game. No one was expecting a lot from first-year head coach Brady Hoke, but he proved the doubters wrong with a perfect non-conference slate, then losing only to Michigan State and Iowa the rest of the way. Led by quarterback Denard Robinson and a revamped defense, the Wolverines established themselves as another player in the Big Ten-plus-two championship race. They also beat Ohio State for the first time in seven years, which will score points with the alumni.

5. Flint businessman Tom Gores buys the dysfunctional Detroit Pistons. The Pistons were put up for sale by Karen Davidson, the widow of owner Bill Davidson. Gores came in after talks broke down with Tigers and Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Illitch. Gores takes over a team that fired coach John Kuester when the team boycotted a shootaround and guard Rodney Stuckey refused to give the coach any respect during the season.

6. The Red Wings make the playoffs again, bowing to San Jose in the conference semifinals. This is becoming old hat for the Wings, as they barely sneaked by Nashville at the tail end of the season to claim the third seed in the Western Conference. But second-seeded San Jose made life miserable for Detroit, getting up 3-1 in the series before almost blowing it. Retirements came in the form of Brian Rafalski, Kris Draper and Chris Osgood, but Nicklas Lidstrom returned for one more crack at the Stanley Cup.

7. Michigan State wins the Legends Division, playing in the first-ever Big Ten-plus-two championship game. The Spartans were tripped up by only Notre Dame early, then seemed to be a team of destiny when a “hail Mary” pass fell into the hands of Lowell’s Keith Nichol against Wisconsin. The Badgers got their revenge in the title game, sending MSU to the Outback Bowl instead of a BCS bowl.

8. Wayne State gets to the Division 2 championship game. When you think of Division 2 football teams in Michigan, it’s pretty much Grand Valley State and everyone else. Not this year, as Wayne State shocked everyone not following the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference with their ascent to the title game. However they were in uncharted territory when they got there, and three-time champion Pittsburgh State made it four with a convincing win.

9. Michigan’s hockey team goes to the NCAA championship game. This Wolverine team was a top program, though a couple of stumbles in the regular season had some people questioning whether they would get to the title game. But they did, and had it not been for a controversial goal waved off against Minnesota-Duluth, the Wolverines wouldn’t have got to overtime and lost quickly.

10. Fennville basketball player Wes Leonard makes a game-winning shot for the Eagles, then dies. Fennville had a perfect 20-0 season on the line against Bridgman, and Bridgman gave them everything they could handle. Leonard made the last-second shot, and as his team celebrated, Leonard’s heart stopped. Doctors couldn’t revive him, and Fennville had to go to the playoffs with a heavy heart. Still, the Eagles made it to the Class B quarterfinals before losing. Leonard will never be forgotten at Fennville because of the circumstances surrounding his death.

NCAA did good with OSU, but…

5:57 pm in Uncategorized by Chip Burch

The NCAA came down on Ohio State for the “tattoos for stuff” scandal. They could have came harder, but the penalties the Buckeyes got will do fine.

OSU saw their probation period lengthened by a year, four more scholarships were taken over the next three years, and the Buckeyes are not going to a bowl game next season after five players were caught giving away their gear to an unscrupulous tattoo parlor owner.

That owner sometimes paid cash for the stuff. That also drew scrutiny from the NCAA.

Ohio State thought its self-imposed penalties would placate the NCAA. They originally put themselves under two years probation, docked themselves five scholarships over three years, vacated the entire 2010 season and suspended the affected players for five games for the infractions.

But then the Columbus Dispatch found out then-coach Jim Tressel knew about the violations before the season but hid them, lying to the NCAA about his knowledge of the incident.

OSU had thought firing Tressel would help, and the NCAA hit Tressel with the dreaded “show-cause” penalty for five years, meaning any school that wanted to hire him would have to show cause why they shouldn’t be punished also.

Before the NCAA had a chance to have their hearing, other violations came to light, pretty much putting the entire football program under a dark cloud of suspicion.

As it was, the NCAA hit OSU with extra penalties for their “failure to monitor” the program.

The penalties were enough to put the Buckeyes down for a while, but there could have been more done – especially after the other violations were discovered, like players getting too much pay for too little work.

The one thing that the NCAA should have dome but backed off of was the “lack of institutional control” penalty. That would have hit the program harder than just a bowl ban and a reduction in scholarships.

And speaking as an unbiased observer and not a Michigan fan, that penalty was warranted after all the violations continued to come to light about the program.

But like I was afraid of and had blogged about before, the NCAA couldn’t find it in them to hit one of their marquee programs hard enough. Heck, they even let two different coaching staffs work, as new coach Urban Meyer can put a staff together and recruit while interim coach Luke Fickel is allowed to coach OSU in their bowl game this year.

I’m sure all Michigan fans would have liked to see the Buckeyes get hit with an eternal bowl ban and be forced to lose to Michigan from now until Jesus’ second coming. But let’s be realistic here.

The NCAA did a good job of making sure OSU was punished for their acts of stupidity. But still, there was more warranted. It’s too bad the Buckeyes won’t see too much lasting harm in their program.

NHL needs to market other stars

9:39 pm in Uncategorized by Chip Burch

It looks like the Pittsburgh Penguins – and the NHL – will be without their main star player, Sidney Crosby, for an extended length of time due to a recurrence of concussion symptoms.

Crosby missed the last half of last season and a good chunk of this season because of being knocked into another area code in back-to-back games last season. He survived only eight games this season before experiencing the symptoms again.

A lot of people who barely watch the NHL are now saying the league will take a hit because it’s biggest star isn’t playing, while it’s second-biggest star, Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals, is mired in a scoring slump (nine goals in 29 games played).

Granted, I understand why the NHL is heavily marketing those two players. They are both dynamic goal-scorers who can light the lamp at any time they are on the ice.

But the loss of Crosby and Ovechkin’s slump is proving the NHL can’t put all their marketing eggs in those two baskets and hope the casual fan will tune in to see them.

The NHL needs to have other players they can market that will draw fans to their TV screens and arenas. Like the NBA, there are other players deserving of getting top billing when they are playing.

Here’s a few of the players I would recommend the NHL start giving Crosby-like pushes to:

Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit: Datsyuk has been a mainstay in Detroit for a reason. He can make opponents look silly with his puck-handling ability. He does with a puck what Michael Jordan used to do with a basketball in his heyday. And he can score with the best of them, having been in the top 20 in points scored in four of the last six years. Plus he is a four-time Lady Byng Trophy winner for gentlemanly play, which greatly contrasts to the image most people have of hockey as brutal and violent.

Patrick Kane, Chicago: Talk about a dynamic scorer. Kane has put the league on notice he is a threat to score every time he touches the puck. His stats are insane since joining the league five years ago: (an average of 25 goals and 50 assists a season for 75 points per season). Kane was a big reason the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup two season ago. And when he teams with Jonathan Toews, look out.

Tim Thomas, Boston: Yeah, he’s a goalie – a 37-year-old goalie. But the Davison native gets the job done, as proven by his backstopping the Bruins to the Stanley Cup last season. Some would say his unorthodox style will get him in trouble, but the stats beg to differ: a 2.15 GAA and a .931 save percentage after the 2007-08 season (including this season) and two Vezina trophies as the league’s best goalie. Also, there was another unorthodox goalie in Dominik Hasek. How’d that work out for him? Thomas can make the big save, and some of those are highlight-reel stuff.

Ryan Miller, Buffalo: Another goalie, sure. But remember, the former Michigan State netminder was the guy who helped Team USA to the silver medal at the Vancouver Olympics. Miller is as solid as a goalie gets (his .914 career save percentage is ninth all-time) and the Sabres are always a threat in the always-unpredictable Eastern Conference as long as he is healthy – something that has been an issue for him since getting ran into twice this season.

Tyler Seguin, Boston: This is Bruce Bentley’s boy, since he played his junior hockey with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League. Seguin put himself on the map with his play in the playoffs last season as a rookie, earning a roster spot with his ability to set up other players for goals. Maturity issues aside, Seguin leads the Bruins this season in goals (13) and points (26). Dude is gifted.

If the NHL were to give serious pub to guys like this, they wouldn’t have to be relying on Crosby and Ovechkin to move the needle when it comes to hockey coverage.