Dear Jim Caldwell

An open letter to Detroit Lions Head Coach Jim Caldwell from an average Lions fan.


Dear Coach Caldwell,

  • I watch every game on TV.
  • I try to attend one or two home games each year.
  • I have friends that have season tickets.
  • I grew up in this area and have been a fan for all of my life.

At your introductory press conference at Ford Field, I listened to every word, every idea, every concept and philosophical thought you had. I was very impressed and was absolutely sold that you were the correct person to lead the Lions to success. Even in the face of losses, I was convinced your high character and discipline would lead, eventually, to wins on the field.

As the past few years have gone by, I have become increasingly frustrated with a lot of behavior, but I’m going to focus on just one aspect in this letter, that being your communication with the fans. I will not get into the game day decision making, personnel decisions or other football activities.

I listen and watch your press conferences after each game as well as the weekly press conferences on Monday. I hear the annoyance and condescension in your voice as reporters ask question after question. I hear your avoidance as certain questions are asked. I hear arrogance in other answers. You may think the reporters are stupid and ask stupid questions and are a giant waste of your time. In fact, you have directly said as much.

What I want you to know, Coach Caldwell, is that when you are speaking to the reporters you are ALSO speaking to me. The writers for the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, MLive, Oakland Press and other publications are asking their questions in order to disseminate your answers to their readers. And coach, do you know who their readers are? They are Lions fans like me and tons of others.

When you are asked if there is a change of philosophy or a change in schemes based on the injuries on your defense, please know that this is something I would like asked. It is a reasonable question. When your answer is simply to berate, embarrass and demean the questioner, remember that you are also berating me. You are being condescending and obnoxious to me and all Lions fans that are listening. You are sometimes asked about Deandre Levy’s health. He didn’t play in the last game. What is his status? What is the injury? Did he practice? Did he show up at the facility at all? What is the prognosis? These are all reasonable questions that paying customers and fans would like asked. Questions I would ask if given the chance, but your responses are insufficient and infuriating. “Check the report” is simply not good enough and quite frankly, offensive.

You didn’t like those questions? Tough break, sir. You think you are too smart or above answering such nonsense? Too bad. Beyond being required by the NFL to give the pressers, you should take it as an opportunity to communicate directly to the fans. I can imagine its very tough after a bad loss to talk about all the mistakes, thoughts and decisions made during the game. It’s very, very hard, I am sure. How you handle these hard tasks says more about your character and your true self than anything else. It says more about you than an introductory press conference. When you act like an arrogant ass and demean the writers, you are demeaning all listeners and all readers and all fans. When you behave in this manner, you are an embarrassment to the Lions and the NFL.

What would I like you to do, coach? How about you show a slice of humility? How about a little insight? How about you attempt to communicate to the fans? How about you speak to us as equals…or at least as customers that have a right to answers? How about you act like there is valid information to be given in your press conferences?

Above all, Coach Caldwell, I’d like for you to think of each reporter in the room asking questions as representing 25,000 fans. Fans that pay your salary and pay to have a full stadium, fans that give you and your team a true home field advantage. In other words, do not treat them like a petty annoyance because when you do that, you are treating every single fan with the same embarrassing, arrogant, petulant attitude. And we deserve better.

2013 Michigan v 2012 Michigan State

2014 UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN TEAM: GOOD OR NOT?

The UM football team underachieved in the 2013 season. They finished 7-6 after they were embarrassed in their bowl game. They played some close games, but so what, close isn’t good enough. They were probably 4 plays away from being 11-1 in the regular season (with the only clear loss coming against MSU).

But, could close games in 2013 mean anything for the 2014 season? Maybe. To believe this is even a possibility, you just need to look at the 2012 Michigan State University team; keeping in mind that the 2013 MSU team put up an incredible 12-1 season, including a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl victory.

Following the 2013 UM season, newly hired offensive coordinator David Nussmeier famously said this: “We were 11 points away from being 11-1”.

Following the 2012 season, MSU head coach Mark Dantonio made this statement: “When you look at last season, we were so close in so many different areas from having another 10, 11-win season”

Granted Dantonio didn’t identify the exactly number of points in his statement, but the sentiment is the same as the Nuss statement. They were very close to having a very good season.

Both teams were very unlucky at times. They were both bad at times and they both had some good moments.

So, this got me thinking….how similar were these two teams? Lets look.

RESULTS

  Record Bowl Close Losses Close Wins
2012 MSU 7-6 Buffalo Wild Wings Lost 5 by 13 points Won 4 by 12 points
2013 UM 7-6 Buffalo Wild Wings Lost 4 by 11 points Won 3 by 15 points

Had MSU lost all their close games, they would have gone 3-10. If they had won all the close games, they’d have been 12-1. Had UM lost all their close games, they would have gone 4-9. If they had won all the close games, they’d have been 11-2. Of course, if they had lost all close games, both teams would have played one fewer game due to not being bowl eligible.

Truly astounding how close those numbers are.

Here are some schedule-related similarities. Also amazing.

  1. MSU started the season with a win over a ranked team in Boise State. They then had a blowout win over CMU.
  2. UM started the season with a blowout win over CMU. They then beat a ranked Notre Dame team.
  3. Each team had comfortable wins over Minnesota.
  4. Each team lost to Iowa by 3 points.
  5. Each team lost to Nebraska by 4 points on their home field.
  6. Each team lost to Ohio State by a single point on their home field.
  7. UM beat MSU in 2012. MSU beat UM in 2013.

Weird, huh?

OFFENSIVE STATISTICS

  Passing Yards Rushing Yards Total Offense First Downs Turnovers
2012 MSU 209.9 149.4 359.3 10.7 18
2013 UM 247.8 125.7 373.5 11.4 21

Again, very close. Passing yards shows a clear advantage towards 2013 UM, while the rushing yards is equally slanted towards 2012 MSU. Lets look at the players that put up those numbers.

QUARTERBACK STATISTICS

  Attempts Comp Yards Comp Pct TD INT
Andrew Maxwell (MSU) 466 234 2606 52.5 13 9
Devin Gardner (UM) 345 208 2960 60.3 21 11

Gardner was clearly superior in 2013 than Maxwell was in 2012. I don’t think many people would argue with this.

COACHING CHANGES

The 2012 MSU team’s play calling duties were in the hands of offensive coordinator Dan Roushar, who left MSU to work for the New Orleans Saints following the 2012 season. He was replaced by Jim Bollman, who along with Dave Warner called the offensive plays in the turnaround 2013 season.

The 2014 Michigan team will only have one coaching change of note from the 2013 team and that is the firing of Al Borges and subsequent hiring of Dave Nussmeier as offensive coordinator. This means a new play caller for the coming season.

DIFFERENCES

There are a few glaring differences between the two squads. Rushing offense and overall defense are the biggest.

RUNNING BACK STATISTICS

  Carries Yards TD Receptions Yards TD
Le’Veon Bell (MSU) 382 1793 12 32 167 1
Fitz Toussaint (UM) 185 648 13 18 203 0

Le’Veon Bell was probably the single biggest difference between these two teams. Michigan had nobody that even comes close to what he produced. But Bell was not on the team the following year when MSU had the big turnaround.

DEFENSIVE STATISTICS

  Passing Defense Rushing Defense Total Points Allowed
2012 MSU 175.8 98.6 274.4 212
2013 UM 231.3 140.2 371.5 349

WOW. Yeah, I guess its safe to say MSU defense was considerably better. And their defense improved even further from 2012 to their big 2013 season.

BOWL GAME

The other difference, and I’m not sure if it is a ‘big’ difference or not, is the results in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. MSU beat TCU 17-16 in the 2012 BWW Bowl. UM was housed by Kansas State 31-14 in the 2013 BWW Bowl. Does this provide momentum heading into the following season? I doubt it especially when there is large turnover of players. But, as a program, it might add a little bit of confidence and swagger.

CONCLUSIONS

So, does this stuff mean anything? ANYTHING AT ALL?

If nothing else, it shows an incredible similarity between these two teams. Both underachieved. Both lost close games. Both lost games at home and on the road. Both won close games. Both turned the ball over too much. Both were very disappointed in the results of the season.

Obviously, we do not know until the 2014 season rolls around, but I think it at least shows a season based on close losses can possibly lead to a much better season the following year. The other possibility is that MSU having core strengths of defense and rushing is a much better foundation for success in future years than UM’s core strength of … of … help me out here. What was their strength?

Teams younger that I am

How much older are you than professional sports teams?

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Here is an exercise anybody take do. It is a way for sports fans to show their age.

This is a list of all professional franchises in the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball that were either created or relocated (and renamed) after my birth.

NOTE: I excluded NHL for now because it would take a lot more work as I do not know a lot of the teams well enough. Will add it later.

MLB

Arizona Diamondbacks
-First Season in 1998.

Colorado Rockies
-First Season in 1995.

Los Angeles Angels
-Renamed from Anaheim Angels in 2005.
-Renamed from California Angels in 1997.

Miami Marlins
-Renamed from Florida Marlins in 2012.
-First Season in 1993.

Seattle Mariners
-First Season in 1977.

Tampa Bay Rays
-Renamed from Devil Rays in 2008.
-First Season in 1998.

Toronto Blue Jays
-First Season in 1977.

Washington Nationals
-Relocated from Montreal (Expos) in 2005.
-First season in 1969.

Teams new or changed in my lifetime: 8
Total teams in MLB: 30
Percentage of MLB teams that are new in my lifetime: 26%

NFL

Arizona Cardinals
-Renamed from Phoenix Cardinals in 1994.
-Relocated from St Louis in 1988.

Baltimore Ravens
-Relocated from Cleveland (Browns) in 1996.

Carolina Panthers
-First Season in 1995.

Cleveland Browns
-First Season in 1999.

Houston Texans
-First Season in 2002.

Indianapolis Colts
-Relocated from Baltimore in 1984.

Jacksonville Jaguars
-First Season in 1995.

Oakland Raiders
-Relocated from Los Angeles to Oakland in 1995.
-Relocated from Oakland to Los Angeles in 1982.

St Louis Rams
-Relocated from Los Angeles in 1995.

Tennessee Titans
-Renamed from Tennessee Oilers in 1999.
-Relocated from Houston (Oilers) in 1997.

Teams new or changed in my lifetime: 10
Total teams in NFL: 32
Percentage of NFL teams that are new in my lifetime: 31%

NBA

Brooklyn Nets
-Renamed from New Jersey Nets in 2012.
-Renamed from New York Nets in 1977.

Charlotte Bobcats
-First Season in 2004.

Indiana Pacers
-First Season in 1967.

Memphis Grizzlies
-Relocated from Vancouver in 2001.
-First season in 1995.

Miami Heat
-First season in 1989.

Minnesota Timberwolves
-First season in 1989.

New Orleans Pelicans
-Renamed from New Orleans Hornets in 2013.
-Relocated from Charlotte (Hornets) in 2003.

Oklahoma City Thunder
-Relocated from Seattle (Supersonics) in 2008.

Orlando Magic
-First season in 1989.

Toronto Raptors
-First season in 1995.

Utah Jazz
-Relocated from New Orleans in 1979.
-First season in 1974.

Washington Wizards
-Renamed from Washington Bullets in 1997.

Teams new or changed in my lifetime: 12
Total teams in NBA: 30
Percentage of NBA teams that are new in my lifetime: 40%

Summary

Total teams in MLB, NFL and NBA combined: 92
Teams new or changed in my lifetime: 30
Percentage of NBA teams that are new in my lifetime: 33%

33%! Holy CRAP!!!

1/3 of all teams have changed or were founded since I was young. That is crazy. Just one more sign that I am older than I feel.

Am I allowed to root for Michigan?

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Am I an actual Michigan Fan or simply a Walmart Wolverine?

Not sure when or how the term “Walmart Wolverine” was started, but I assume it was from a fan of Michigan State University and I assume that person was from South Eastern Michigan (Metro Detroit). I make these assumptions because SE Michigan is populated largely by fans of The University of Michigan. MSU fans in this geographic area can be very sensitive about this fact. I have spent time in the Lansing area over my lifetime (clients, friends, shopping, college visits, kids camps) and I think it is very safe to say that the vast majority of sports fans in that area of our state root for MSU. This is how it should be, in my opinion. MSU grads root for MSU. UM grads root for UM. Sports fans that did not attend either university will generally pull for the school that your family roots for or which school is closer to where you live. Of course there are exceptions.

For some reason, fans of UM that did not attend the school are an irritant to MSU fans/grads. Hence the term Walmart Wolverine is used to dismiss any UM fan other than graduates or students. In fact, many grads/students have been called that also, only to have to “defend” themselves. I think the term is supposed to mean a person that simply goes to a store a buys his or her allegiance. I think that’s what it means..

I have heard some people make the point that the term only applies to UM fans that did not attend the university and that says anything negative about any other school. Or goes ‘too far’ in rooting for Michigan. Or says they are a fan of ‘UM football only’, not basketball.

Anyway. I see this term can be and is used as a way for MSU fans to pivot an argument away from your own team’s issues and towards the UM fan and to whether they are even qualified to present an argument. Discussions on the radio and in person sometimes sound like this:

Person #1: Michigan is going to beat MSU 24-0 because MSU cannot throw the ball and their defense is overrated.
Person #2: Did you go to Michigan?
Person #1: No, I…..
Person #2: Oh, so you are a WalMarter. Who cares what you think?

The “argument” basically ends there and the MSU fan has successfully avoided addressing whether their team can, in fact, throw the ball and whether their defense is overrated or not. They simply dismissed the entire argument, not because of its merits but because of the person’s educational background. This comes off as a WIN for the MSU fan; but to me it is a LOSE because they seemed scared to discuss the important points. And because the UM fans history is irrelevant to the football arguments.

A couple of points from the MSU perspective that I completely understand. Firstly, some UM fans are incredibly loud, obnoxious and arrogant. And there are many more of these types that are UM fans than MSU (at least in this area). My feeling is that this is due to UM being so far superior to MSU in football for the last 4 decades. Success breeds fans. Young people growing up in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s with no general history are more likely to root for UM based on success. I wonder how the attitudes were in the 1950’s and 1960’s when MSU had the better program (of course there was no sports talk radio then). Success coupled with a very intense rivalry coupled with close proximity of the two schools and a lot of cross over in recruiting and the players themselves….and you get loud, arrogant, rude, incredibly obnoxious fans.

Secondly, when the trash talking between the fan basis crosses over from good natured bashing of each others teams and into the quality of the universities themselves it can get dicey. If a UM fan (not a grad) insults the quality of an MSU education while holding a degree from Central Michigan, this is perhaps not great footing to be on. I understand that 100%. I do not make fun of MSU as an institution and would be happy if any of my kids attended MSU. I would prefer they attended UM, but this is due to its reputation as a college, its proximity to home and that it is located in my home town – not much to do about sports.

Anyway, the question I want to get into…is what makes a WMW? Is it anybody that roots for UM without having attended the university? And is there such a thing as a WMS (WalMart Spartan)?  I want to give three specific cases – one for UM fan without being an alum and one for MSU and a third for either.

Here is my personal story and somebody please tell me if I am a WMW:

I grew up in Ann Arbor about 1 mile from Michigan Stadium. My father is an alum of UM as are 2 of my aunts. I was a fan of UM from the time I could walk and remember games in the early 1970’s, when I was very young. I attended games throughout the 1970’s (I was at the famous 1979 game against Indiana that Michigan won on the last play of the game). I continued to be a huge fan in the 1980’s. I graduated from High School in 1985 and did not have the grades to attend the University of Michigan. I attended Eastern Michigan University (side note – I enjoyed EMU and carved out a successful career based on my EMU degree and I follow/attend EMU sports). So, the MSU talking points would seem to imply that at age 18 in 1985, I was supposed to stop rooting for UM and root exclusively for EMU….I was supposed to stop caring about any Big Ten football and was supposed to rescind any allegiances that I had attained over the past 18 years. Does this make sense? Not to me, it doesn’t. I am still a fan of UM all these many years later. THAT makes sense to me. Does this make me a WMW? If so, so be it; but again…does this make any sense at all?

Here is the story of my step daughter and somebody please tell me if she is a WMS:

My step-daughter lives in Chelsea with her family. Her family is almost entirely UM fans. She plays Field Hockey for a Washtenaw County team and had the opportunity to attend summer field hockey camp at Michigan State University, more than once. She went and she loved it. She met the varsity coaches and some of the players. She loved everybody and loved the facilities and loved everything about the experience. So she now roots for MSU; at least in field hockey. I completely supported her rooting for the people that she met and liked and respected. I told her that was a great reason to root for a university. So, at 15 years old, she is an MSU fan. What happens if, in 3 years, she decides to NOT attend MSU for whatever reason, but still likes and roots for MSU based on her experiences at camp? Would this make her a WMS? When she is finishing high school at age 18, is she supposed to rescind her rooting interest in MSU and forget her positive experience at age 15? Is she only allowed to keep this if she attends MSU? What if she attends UM? Does any of this makes sense? Would this make her a WMS?

UPDATE: She has been accepted to both MSU and UM. She will be attending UM beginning in 2014. I guess she cannot like the MSU field hockey players and coaches anymore. Bummer.

Last case is simple and generic:

A football fan that roots for either UM or MSU as a kid. He or she attends a trade school or community college or does not go to college. Then what? WMW? WMS? What if he/she is obnoxious and over-the-top fan?

Obviously, none of this stuff makes sense to me. Honestly. It seems like this whole deal is about MSU fans feeling left out in the Metro Detroit area and being surrounded by UM fans that did not necessarily attend UM. MSU fans get sick of loud, obnoxious UM fans and I understand that, but it does not explain all this. Basically, I would say…get over it.

Are people allowed to root for anybody they want without being denigrated?  I guess the answer is NO – follow the rules and shut-up. If there are no rules, consult an MSU fan for your next step.

Sergio v Tiger

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Sergio Garcia:
“We’ll have him ’round every night,’ We will serve fried chicken.”
“I apologize for any offense that may have been caused by my comment on stage during the European Tour Players’ Awards dinner. I answered a question that was clearly made towards me as a joke with a silly remark, but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner.”

Tiger Woods:
“The comment that was made wasn’t silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate.
“I’m confident that there is real regret that the remark was made.
“The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it’s long past time to move on and talk about golf.”

OK. That is the end of the quotes section. Now for the opinion, analogy and conclusion section.

Sergio Garcia is a Spanish golfer who competes on the US PGA tour. He has endorsement deals with US companies and makes a boat-load of money in Spain, in the US and other countries around the globe. He is a rich young man who (probably) has a pretty damned good life. I know he used to date Martina Hingis (color me jealous).

Sergio is not from the US. He has not had the do’s and don’ts of our culture ingrained in him since birth. He has not been raised in a society that would ostracize a successful person for saying something stupid after having a few drinks (Jimmy the Greek). However, he has been around long enough to understand this and if he wants to be accepted in our culture and make money in our country and be followed by fans that reside in this great country, then he better be able to respect and abide by our customs and culturally significant rules. If I traveled to Spain, I would try to abide by their rules of civil society. If they do not tolerate eating with my hands, I would not do it…even if that is what I would do at home in Michigan. Simple enough, eh?

Is it simple enough to say that he should know better. And the fact that he should know better makes it a foregone conclusion that the man is a racist? I don’t think so. That is my opinion. It might be true that he is a racist. I do not know the man and do not know how his brain works and what prejudices he may have.

Is the fact that somebody was not born and raised in our culture a reason to take pause before sharpening the pitch forks and enlisting the racial police mob? I think so, but evidently I am in the minority.

A personal analogy is this. My wife was born & raised in The Philippines. She came to America in 1997 and has lived here since that time. She understands do’s and don’ts of her adopted country (she is a citizen). But, the fact that she understands them does not preclude her from making mistakes in spur of the moment conversation. This is due, in my opinion, to the fact that these cultural rules are not ingrained in her the same manner as they are with me and my fellow natives. One example is the use of the word ‘boy’. My wife uses this as a term of endearment & maternal instinct. She will sometimes refer to males ranging in age from birth to anybody 15 years or so younger than her. So, she has used this term to refer to men in their 20’s. This is not at all meant in a demeaning manner. She understands that this can be touchy. She understands it intellectually, but it is not natural to her. She uses the term in conversation because it is natural to her. It is ingrained in who she is, that that word is just a word. Not a loaded word.

So, back to Sergio. Perhaps, just perhaps, he used the fried chicken remark as an off-the-cuff remark not because he didn’t understand the cultural significance of it, but because the significance is not part of his DNA as it is yours and mine. If my wife had made this mistake, she would feel like crap. She would not be able to rest and would do whatever it took to try to make amends. Much like Sergio did.

But then again, a true racist that made the mistake of letting his real feelings possibly affect his bottom line, might also do the same thing.

There are not easy answers here. And that is my point exactly. Don’t jump to the easy conclusion. You don’t know and I don’t know. Those that read the quote and immediately branded Garcia a racist, are using their jump-to-conclusions-mat much too quickly, in my humble opinion.

Also, a parting thought. Does telling a racially insensitive joke make you a racist? Is Fuzzy Zoeller a racist? Was Jimmy the Greek a racist? I am willing to bet that 90% of American adult males (not just Caucasian) have told a racial joke at some point in our lives. But, it does not define us. It does not make us racists.

Chris McCoskey is tricky

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September 17, 2012

Here [article has been removed] is Chris McCoskey’s column on the Detroit News web site, titled “Lackluster Lions come up short again on big stage”. Overall, it is a fine opinion column by McCoskey that addresses the Lions inability to beat good teams. A fine opinion shared by many people including myself. If you look at the numbers, it really isn’t even an opinion. It is fact. They simply do not beat good teams. Especially if you use the numbers used in this column.

Here is his 5th paragraph:
The Lions now are 0-6 against NFC playoff teams since the start of last season. Until they beat an NFC playoff contender, they are going to be referred to as Paper Lions, a team whose recent success has been built on a deceptive 9-1 record against non-playoff teams.

Wow that is horrible. And it is horrible. Even correctly including all games, it is horrible. Even being completely honest, it is horrible. Even when you do not omit games to enhance your point…it is STILL horrible. So, why be dishonest Mr McCoskey?

McCoskey writes this using deceptive math to make something bad look even worse.

Let me explain my point:
Lions are 0-6 against “NFC playoff teams” and 9-1 against “non-playoff teams”.

Doing simple math, this equals an overall record of 9-7 since the beginning of last season. But that is only 16 games when it should be 18 (16 in 2011, plus 2 in 2012).

By his clever wording, he avoided including a win over AFC playoff team Denver last year. See, by saying “NFC Playoff team” and “non playoff teams” he avoids accounting for this game in either bucket. Pretty sneaky, sis!!!

But wait, the math still doesn’t work. That would still just be 17 games, not 18.

So what other game was ignored?  My best guess as to the other game he chose to ignore, is last weeks win over the Rams. You could argue that he was really talking about last season and not this season, so he need not include it. But, he included this years loss to the 49ers. His overall point was their inability to beat good teams since the beginning of last year. Meaning from September 2011 to the current day. If you include the losses from 2012 and you are being completely honest with your readers, then you must include the wins also. Even if it does not support your overall point.

So, his paragraph should read:
The Lions now are 1-6 against playoff teams since the start of last season. Until they beat an NFC playoff contender, they are going to be referred to as Paper Lions, a team whose recent success has been built on a deceptive 10-1 record against non-playoff teams.

It is still bad. Very bad. Since the start of last season, the Lions record still supports the idea that they get fat on bad teams and generally lose to good teams.

So…why stretch the truth and use fuzzy math? It kills your credibility. It’s embarrassing, Chris, really.