Thursday, December 18, 2008

0 and how many?

It's hard to avoid the talk now. It's basically the cover story on, and it won't be long until everyone picks up the story. I mean, there can't be more than 70 or so who think the Lions stand a chance against New Orleans this week, not with one of the best passing attacks in the NFL coming to town against a banged-up secondary, and after that game, well, remember week 2? Do you really think a game outdoors in December will go any better?

Some people think it's a good thing if the Lions go 0-16. I guess they figure that this will be the last straw, and suddenly William Clay Ford Sr. will realize that for more than 40 years, he's been absolutely clueless, and the only reason he ever made the playoffs at all, other than one fluke season when they were just testing out this wild-card thing, was that the Lions were spectacularly lucky to land outstanding RBs just when the rest of the team was pretty decent. And then the right GM will get hired, and the right coach, and the right players will come to town, and so on.

Of course, 3-13 didn't do it, 2-14 didn't do it, and really, is there anything that honestly makes you think Mr. Ford understands anything about what he's done, or even if he does, that he'd do anything about it? The one thing Ford admired about Matt Millen above all else was his tenacity, that Millen would stick with a cause no matter what, no matter how quickly he demonstrated he was in over his head, no matter how badly he faltered, no matter how far out of his league he was. For most people, the unwillingness to walk away from a job so far beyond their abilities would be unthinkable. Only the most crooked or the most clueless would continue to work, and Millen is neither of those. No, it was tenacity, tenacity to a fault.

So what will 0-16 do? It will make Mr. Ford vow to redouble his efforts, because he really can find a way to make this team win, yes he can. And next season the Lions will take a QB with the #1 pick, and they will go 3-1 in exhibition games, and hope will return in August, and they will go 3-13 or 4-12, and another season will be wasted, and more talented players will leave because they cannot stand it any more. (Remember, Barry Sanders didn't retire because he was physically spent. He retired because he couldn't stand losing any more.)

I can't possibly root for that. This season is killing me. At least with 3 or 5 or 7 wins, there's some hope on Sundays, some bright spot, a possibility that the dark clouds will lift someday and that eventually I will get to see an X by Detroit in the standings, or perhaps even a Y. (Not even in 1991 did the Lions get the coveted Z, not that it would have mattered: Washington would have crushed them anywhere.) But this season has been different. Two weeks in, it was already worse than I'd pictured.

My friends talked me into going out to watch Bears-Lions, round 1 (I know some Bears fans, they're not bad people other than that), and it was so awful, they couldn't really even say anything about it ... and I knew it would be.

I don't even bother watching the games now. I watch the Red Zone channel or sometimes the Game Mix on DirecTV, and occasionally I'll flip to the Lions game, but they collapse so quickly I can't bear to watch. Thanksgiving was awful, worse than the beating inflicted by the Colts in 2004. I was thankful to miss the first three quarters. It's bad enough I don't even watch the night games much. Why bother, other than for fantasy purposes? (Somehow I'm playing for the title in one league and third place in the other, go figure.)

Some of my friends don't understand, they think it's simply pessimism. They don't know that I've seen this before, but never this bad ... all the bad seasons, none of them have been like this. Most of them have never rooted for a team this bad, and the ones who did either had history to cling to or great times in the future. The Lions have neither, not unless you're in your 60s or 70s. They don't understand what it's like to know that if everything falls just so, your team might be able to keep the game close, and that's all.

The players try so hard, and they're just getting to the point where they can actually put decent quarters together, but it only holds for so long, and honestly, how can a team with this little depth possibly survive what they've been through? The Lions have played five quarterbacks this season, and I doubt any of them would decisively win the job anywhere else. The receiving corps includes players cast off from the Colts and Seahawks, the secondary has a player who couldn't cut it in Oakland, and the linebackers, well ... they try hard.

It's been eight years since I had something to watch in December, nine years since a playoff game, seventeen years since a meaningful playoff game. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of other things to root for as a Detroit fan: since the 1991 NFC Championship, the Wings won three Cups, the Pistons won one title and played for another, the Tigers played in a World Series, and heck, even the Shock have raised a few banners in the WNBA.

But I really, really like football, perhaps even more than hockey, and it's hard to explain what it's like to endure eight years of absolutely awful football with no history on which I can draw. I know Bobby Layne and Doak Walker, but they're just names; the epic battles with Jim Brown's Cleveland teams are faded history, the loss of divisional control to Green Bay older than I am.

In a best-case scenario, the Lions will manage to land a GM with possibilities, a decent coach, two quality first-round picks (thank you, Jerry Jones) ...

and they'll win three, maybe four games. And then what? Another rebuilding year? Maybe, in three years, they'll be exactly where they were before Ford allowed Millen to destroy the team: above .500 but just outside the playoffs, searching for those elusive pieces but never quite finding them ...

or maybe they will, and maybe someday Gus Johnson really will get to call that magic play, and maybe, for a change, I'll actually care about the Super Bowl.

But for now, all I know is that in ten days, the Lions will do something they'll never be able to undo. How could I possibly root for that?

It's odd, in a way, because I'm much more detached than I used to be, with sports in general and not just the Lions. It's probably a good thing. When I was younger, this might have killed me. Now, it's more like breaking up with your girlfriend because you got a job in a new city, and not finding anyone remotely interested in you while you hear through the grapevine that she's doing very well for herself, thank you. At first, you might envy her, maybe even wish something bad for her (who's her in this analogy? I don't know), but eventually, you just want to find someone decent. Not necessarily Ms. Right, not even someone with long-term potential, just someone for a nice evening or two, but it never seems to work out, and every time you get that "Oh, sorry, I can't," you lose a little more hope, and you're not sure that even your lowered expectations can be met.

The worst thing is that there will be eight months of nothing before there's even a chance to change things, and even then, well, it'll be the AFC North and the NFC West. St. Louis? Cincinnati? Cleveland? Maybe, but if you looked at the schedule this year, didn't Atlanta and San Francisco look like possibilities? How did those games turn out? And what if they don't beat those teams? Pittsburgh? Baltimore? The last-place team in the NFC East? New Orleans again?

I just wish it were over.

Friday, December 12, 2008

$20 off Amazon Prime membership

No kidding. What's the best thing about Amazon Prime? Two-day delivery, free, including the Christmas season, and $3.99 per item for next-day delivery. (If the item doesn't arrive next day, you get your $3.99 back, too. I've done that once.)

Give it a try. If you normally order things from Amazon, it's absolutely worth it.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008


At some point last winter, my humidifier decided to retire itself. I didn't replace it right away because it wasn't a big deal. Around here, what you need during the summer, if anything, is a dehumidifier. We get all kinds of moisture, trust me.

And then during the fall or something, I saw a tolerable one on sale, and foolishly I bought it. I say "foolishly" because I had already learned in the past, or so I'd thought, that cheap usually means crappy when it comes to humidifiers. (That's true for a lot of other things as well.) I suppose I thought it would be different.

Last week, the first cold, dry spell hit. How did I know this? I woke up all congested, runny nose, dry throat, the usual stuff. My humidifier said sorry dude, I know it's only about 30% in here, but I don't feel like working harder.

I turned the fan on high one night, just to see if it would help. It helped all right: it helped drown out the radio when I woke up. Humidity? No help at all.

So finally, after two days of emptying Kleenex boxes at work, I order a Hunter humidifier, the kind I had before. Bad news: they tend to break after a few years. Good news: they work great until something breaks.

It got here yesterday. I unpacked it, filled the tank (it has a big tank, which is nice except that you have to remember it's going to be heavy, 8 pounds per gallon and all that), and plugged it in.

57%, it says. I don't need to do anything yet.

Oh really? I says. I go into the living room. The hygrometer reads something like 28%. The cats agree: don't touch us, we've seen this before. The cheap humidifier, now sitting near the hygrometer, guesses about 30% and is quietly doing not much of anything.

I go back in the bedroom, thinking this one was broken in the box. Time for a return. Great ... only now it says 56%.

Oh, you thought I thought it was really humid? Joking! That was just because I was bored in the box. Give me a bit, I'll figure out what's going on.

Ha ha, very funny, Mr. Appliance. Eventually it realizes how dry things are, I set it and turn it on, and it's off.

40% last night in the bedroom, 35% in the living room, much better than before (I prefer 45%, higher sometimes depending on what's going on outside.) Came home today after all the rain we've had, and it's 45/40. Almost tolerable. To no one's surprise, my congestion has mostly cleared up.

Dry weather, cold weather ... why do I live this far north again? Oh yeah. No hurricanes. And it's cheap. And the cats don't want to move.

Lesson: don't go cheap. Cheap humidifiers are worthless.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Impersonal finance

I've been using an old, old version of Money for a while. There are things about it that always bother me, like how it fails to categorize the same type of transactions over and over, all sorts of little things are difficult to set up, blah blah blah, so I figured I'd upgrade.

ha. I poked around on Amazon and found that pretty much everyone hates both Money "Plus" and Quicken. Also, apparently Money Plus Deluxe costs $1250. Special offers available, indeed. (Seriously, who would buy it at that price? What, does it come with Suze Orman?)

I guess it'll be for me.

It always amazes me when there's a serious need in the marketplace and it's completely unmet by the market leader or leaders. It's like they figure we'll give up and go with them if they agree to suck equally.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Dear old people,

I understand that you want your independence and all that, and maybe when it's dark and rainy, you aren't quite as comfortable as you were when you were, I don't know, my age or something.

But if you can't get yourself to drive faster than 50 in a 65, and you're in what's soon to be the left lane of an interstate highway, and traffic is merging into your lane, get off the road, or at the very least, get into the far right lane.

You're a danger to yourselves and those around you.

not old people