Friday, February 01, 2008

Above the fold - Columnists say the darnedest things

After taking a couple of days away from the daily link dump, and my wordy commentary, "Above the Fold" reappears just in time for my Friday feature, "Columnists say the darnedest things."

Lets start at the Freep and Michael Rosenberg, who takes Tayshaun Prince to task, asking, "Where's the D?"

In the last few minutes, Bryant hit a jumper over Prince; nailed a three-pointer over Prince; lost Prince with his dribble and shot a pull-up jumper (which missed); and weaved through the defense, forcing at least 17 Pistons to collapse on him, which allowed Bryant to pass to a wide-open Ronny Turiaf under the basket.

Ultimately, none of this mattered, mostly because of Prince's offense. Once again: Prince was the hero.

But one of the Pistons' problems the last few years was that they let their regular-season success fool them into thinking they were flawless. The fact is that when the Pistons made back-to-back NBA Finals, Prince was a better defensive player than he is now.

I honestly think Prince's defense has always been somewhat overrated. For every play like the amazing Reggie Miller block, there's more games where Prince is just another guy defensively. He's not big enough to muscle players around, and he doesn't play dirty like another player noted for his defense, Bruce Bowen. Prince gets by defense thanks to his freakish length.

There's also the fact that Prince is a more active player on offense. When he was developing that rep for D, Prince was the 4th offensive option. As shown by his game winning trey last night, that's no longer the case.

But you know what the biggest reason why Prince is no longer, if he ever was, an elite defender? He doesn't have Ben Wallace behind him patrolling the paint. In his prime, the Pistons' perimeter defenders could afford to overplay on defense, knowing that Wallace was behind them to clean up after their mistakes. Rosenberg should have taken the Wallace actor into account, as he made every Piston on the floor better defensively.

Prince is what he is, a good all-around player. Asking him to be the stopper against such All-World offensive forces of nature as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James is a bit much to ask.

The Little Fella has taken a break from writing Oprah approved tear-jerkers, and is in Arizona for the Super Bowl. He goes for the local angle, and asks Tom Brady, Did Lloyd dick you over? "How did we miss you?"

And we did miss him. Oh, some wrote more than others. Some who cover Michigan on a regular basis dealt with Brady the way they deal with any Michigan quarterback.

But no one -- no one -- saw THIS GUY coming. No one saw the future of the NFL. No one saw a rock star/playboy superstar. No one saw a man who would have three Super Bowl rings before his 30th birthday and who might, before he's done, be considered the greatest quarterback ever to play the game. No one saw that when he wore No. 10 for the Wolverines.

It was like being handed the first iPod and saying, "Eh ... not interested."

Tom Brady = iPod? A great QB = Overrated piece of proprietary electronics? (I HATE iTunes) Whatever, Mitch.

Though this column was mostly a Brady fluff piece, he's right in that no one expected Brady to turn into Tom Terrific. That he made it to the NFL shouldn't be a surprise, considering Michigan's ability to churn out solid pro QB's. (I'm sure Chad Henne will the latest in that lineage.)

It's not as if Brady's Michigan career was chopped liver. His senior season was damn good. Once Lloyd Carr gave up on the asinine platoon with Drew Henson, the Wolverines became one of the best teams in the country. Brady was nothing less than great in the Orange Bowl victory over Alabama, and he just took off from there.

Brady just happens to be one of those players whose talents were tailor made for the pro game, and blossomed in the NFL. It helps that he landed on the right team, in the right system, playing for the right coach. Sometimes it's all about timing. Would Brady have turned into one of the best NFL QB's of all time if he had been drafted by the Lions? Yeah, right...

At the Oakland Press, Pat Caputo continues his Friday string of writing about niche sports that less than 1% of the Metro Detroit population actually care about. Today, it's the Oakland University swim team! Which means the only people who care are the parents of the swim team members. Way to generate readership, Caputo!

Nothing to see here, let's move on.

Unfortunately, the Detroit News allows the worst columnist in America to ruin our day with a "column" that is just a collection of quotes, rather than a piece that actually required cognitive thought. The premise? Some fans really like Kobe, and some don't! To pull out that hairy old chestnut, no shit, Sherlock!

Ali Hashem, 22, from Dearborn Heights was asked if he was a Lakers' fan. He quickly interrupted. "I'm a Kobe fan, I'm a Kobe fan," said Hashem, wearing a Kobe jersey. "If Kobe got traded to the Bobcats, I would be wearing a Bobcats jersey with his name on it. He's the best."

The hero worshiping thoughts of a kid who's too clueless to look deeper into Bryant? Wonderful journalism, don't you think? The rest of the column continues in that fashion, mostly with Flip Saunders quotes.

"Kobe is the biggest star," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "He's the most dynamic player."

Parker sure draws out some controversial quotes, huh? Flip's thoughts are as deep as a West Virgina fan's gene pool. Then Parker throws in in own "deep thoughts."
His fans certainly reacted when Kobe nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to cap a 12-0 run and give the Lakers a 62-58 lead with 4:18 left in the third.

The Pistons had to be scared, to say the least. It looked like Kobe might have a night his fans would remember.

Except it wasn't. Moving on from this tripe...

With it being Super Bowl week, the News breaks Jerry Green out of mothballs so he can continue his meaningless streak of covering every Super Bowl. If the assignment keeps him from writing about dead guys, then sending Green to Arizona is fine by me.

Today, Green writes a puff piece about Giants coach Tom Coughlin, and compares him to...Damn it, I spoke too soon...Weeb Eubank? I knew it, Green gets in a dead guy!

Maybe this chronic cynic is daft, but I see a similarity between Coughlin and Weeb Ewbank at Super Bowl III. Weeb, back then, was loose and unperturbed. He kowtowed to Joe Namath and his Jets were 18-point underdogs. Ewbank had Namath and his historic guarantee for victory. And Coughlin, with his Giants steep underdogs to the Patriots, has Burress and his now-famous upset prediction.

Does it seem as if every Super Bowl column Green writes, he mentions something about Super Bowl III, and how he was witness to Joe Namath's guarantee? We know, Jerry, we know...

In their weekly "Behind the scenes" column, Mike O'Hara and Vartan Kupelian write about such barely covered subjects as Phil Mickelson's predilection to bet, Super Bowl prop bets, and Tiger Woods getting pretty good odds on winning a Grand Slam... Just as Green can't help but write about dead guys, Kupelian has to squeeze golf into every "Behind the scenes" column.

Woods was asked in Dubai if he thinks 16-to-1 is a good bet.

"I don't know," Woods said. "It's about playing well at the right times. It's about getting lucky, actually. You have to have everything go your way. You can play well and still not have it happen."

"The only thing I can control is my own play, and hopefully I can have it peak at the right time, four times this year and hopefully it will be good enough."

Wow, Tiger thinks if he plays well, he has a chance?! Well, no shit!

Tiger Woods is the master of the inoffensive quote. When Woods talks, he doesn't really say anything at all. But it being Tiger, they find his generic mutterings to be column material. It's as column worthy as Parker's talking to Kobe fans...

That's "Above the Fold" for Friday, 2-1-08!

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