WJR fumbles another broadcast firing

brandyJim Brandstatter  is one of us.
And I thought someone should stand up for him. He is a Detroit sports fan. He wore the maize and blue of Michigan football and he is every bit a key fabric of Detroit as anybody. He is so Detroit that I used to go to my local super market and purchase a chicken salad named after him. What WJR did to the man was unnecessary and uncalled for.
The station fired one of us for the sake of “going in a different direction.” In other words the people that run the station did not have a good reason to fire him. Their thinking is he’s done it long enough so let’s try new juice for the hell of it.
He’s old (68) so people will understand.

Isn’t this the same station that fired Ernie Harwell? I guess Brady should not feel so bad. He is in good company.
They will pump up Brandstatter’s replacement Lomas Brown, but my guess is Lomas will be no better than Brandstatter. He will just be a different voice.  He’s not going to give us exciting insight when the team goes sour because that is not what local broadcasters do in Detroit.
Case in point came earlier this week when Nick Castellanos, who is a butcher in the outfield, received no criticism on FS Detroit when he lost a fly ball in the roof of  Tropicana Field. He didn’t even get a light tap on the wrist for costing the Tigers four runs during a 10-9 10th inning defeat.
I liked Brandstatter in the booth for Lions games. What I didn’t like were the apologetic post game interviews with coaches and players.  I doubt that we will get hard hitting post game interviews from Brown either.

I liked Jim Brandstatter as color man for Michigan football, but his play by play calls are not compelling or captivating.
Everybody who knows him will tell you that Brandstatter is a good man with a good heart. But that’s not the issue here. Was he a good broadcaster? The answer is yes.
Were fans clamoring to have him fired? The  answer is no.
Brandstatter took the high road and did not thrown flames at WJR after his firing. He was blind sided like the rest of us. Now he can enjoy his Sunday’s and does not have to catch ungodly early morning flights after Saturday Michigan football games to catch up  with the Lions on Sunday. This could turn out to be a blessing for him.

Somewhere under the rainbow

double rainbow.jpgTRAVERSE CITY — Many of the ribs and beef brisket were consumed and our lips dripped with bar be-que sauce when strange clouds began to billow over the horizon.

I was part of a family outing on Grand Traverse Bay when the sky turned menacing. We didn’t run. We didn’t panic when it looked like one of those space ship hiding clouds from the movie Independence Day hovered in the distance. Instead of running for cover we all gazed at the sky.

I was waiting for a bright ray to zap us from the sky.

It was Big Pretty, the DK Broiler, Big Ralph, Abs, Brandon, Sarah Boo and other family members enjoying the Cherry Festival and other festivities surrounding it.

I should have known something was up when a family of nine ducks high tailed for cover. I’ve always heard that the animals are the first to go when the weather is about to turn bad.

It was 96 degrees and sunny but that was all about to change. We could see a layer of black clouds I’d never seen before. They looked like the waves off the Pacific crashing into boulders off the Hawaii or California.

Suddenly the calm sky turned windy with gusts of about 50-60 miles an hour.

“Maybe we should get inside,” somebody shouted.

I didn’t need a second warning and disappeared with the ducks and scampered inside room 104 of the Brio Beach Front Inn. This storm was moving and it was moving fast. It struck quickly. By the time I reached the room the monsoon hit.

The wooden deck we enjoyed lunch on was soaking wet and the family of ducks were huddled under a wooden boat deck.

I heard thunder and saw lightning as the storm pounded the area. About an hour later I poked my head outside and two surprises await. The temperature was 20 degrees cooler and a double rainbow played across the eastern horizon.

I’ve never seen a double rainbow before, especially one you could see from start to end. It sat in front off a white house on the Eastern shore about two miles away. I don’t know much about rainbows but wondered if we ventured to the white house would we be looking up at the rainbow or would it disappear?



Grosse Pointe North should rehire Frank Sumbera

frank sumbera2My first sports writing job in Detroit was with the Detroit Free Press. The paper wanted to develop young talent that would go on to bigger and better things.

I was one of those people and my first assignment was covering prep sports in Macomb County, Harper Woods and Grosse Pointe. That is where I met Frank Sumbera, who was one of the nicest and most successful football and baseball coaches I’d encounter.

He always greeted you with an hand shake, smile and a story. He loved his job. He loved his kids and he loved to shoot the breeze. I made it to a number of Grosse Pointe North baseball and football games because the teams were good and the coach knew what he was doing.

Now Frank Sumbera is no longer employed at North although he is the third winningest baseball coach in state history (1,097 wins) and has more than 200 victories in football . He was fired although administrators want you to believe he walked away on his own.

One of two things happened. This gentle giant turned into a troll over the years or parents bitched about little Johnny not getting enough playing time or complained that Sumbera turned evil while trying to get the best out of his kids.

I don’t usually sign petitions, but I signed an online petition asking Grosse Pointe North administrators to rehire Sumbera. This man coached with class and had the respect of fellow coaches in the area.

Sumbera told Dave Goricki of The Detroit News that he was fired after administrators received complaints from parents who said he caused mental anguish to athletes and basically turned into a monster.

I just don’t believe it. That is not the man I knew. I knew Frank Sumbera, the kind gentleman. Did he get on players if they did not meet expectations? Yep. That’s what I would expect a great coach to do.

Varsity athletics are not rec leagues.

I am not going to dog parents that have problems with coaches. I was one of those parents when my daughter Celine played soccer at West Bloomfield High School. The coach said she was not one of his top 12 players and wasn’t even close. He made her a reserve. I knew in my heart that she was the best player on the team and if she started West Bloomfield was a much better team.

Despite being the second leading scorer her freshman season and outscoring both starters combined, she was benched. So I bitched and told the coach and administrators that if Celine started then West Bloomfield would win its division.

She finally got her chance to start her junior year only because four starters were injured. But Celine was upset. As soon as the injuries healed the plan was to bench her again.

I told her they could not bench her if she were the leading scorer on the team. She scored the first goal of the season and the game-winning goal in the championship game against Birmingham Seaholm, which WBHS won. She made All League, All District and All County. She scored 14 goals. The second highest scorer tallied five goals.

So coaches make mistakes and I believe parents have a right to complain. GPN parents are being portrayed as people who want their precious kids to be treated with kid gloves.

If they have legitimate concerns they should be heard. Sumbera should also be heard and his accusers should have to face him in an open forum. Let’s get it all out in the open.

Don’t stab the man in the heart in a dark back ally.





The small things make for a great Father’s Day

dime storeI grew tired of watching my shiny bald head in the mirror when I worked out in the morning at my health club. So I bought a couple of bandanas to wrap around my head.

The other day I drove to a graduation party in Detroit with my wife Abs. My children Brandon and Celine drove separately. Afterwards, Abs said she knew a cool place that sold bandanas of every color and design for my shiny, bald head. She suggested we stop there so she could buy a couple for me for Fathers Day.

We drove into the parking lot and were surprised to see Brandon walking toward us demanding that we get out of there as quickly as possible. Celine shopped for bandanas inside. We took off so we would not spoil the surprise.

I was thrilled that my family thought about me.

But that wasn’t the best part about Fathers Day. Celine wanted to hold my hand as we walked inside the Chrysler House for an hour long wait to enjoy brunch at The Dime Store. When I went for a walk downtown in the heat Brandon insisted on going with me, so we could visit without the ladies and talk.

We went to Avalon Bakery, Under Armor and a couple other shops before making it back to the Dime Store.

The gang bought me a flowered shirt that drew two compliments in one day and some shorts and T shirts. The gifts were not the best part of the day.

I received love and that meant more than anything. Celine wanted to hold hands and Brandon wanted to spend a few minutes alone with dad. Those are special moments that might sound corny to non dads, but I really appreciated it.

When I was young one of my goals was to make life better for my children than it was for me. We are on our way. Celine completed her freshman year at Stanford University,  made the deans list, is an officer in a women’s business group and is president of the sophomore class. Brandon carries a B averaged in high school and has his eye on helping children when he is an adult.

I am proud of both of them.

It is important for men to be good husbands. I believe it is even more important to be a great dad.

Detroit’s Mariners Park has good fishing and is safe

MyfishingMariner’s Park is not the best known of Detroit’s parks, but fisherman Sid swears that it is Detroit’s safest area.

It is tucked in the Northeast corner of the city abutted by Grosse Pointe Park and the mouth of the Detroit River as it meets Lake St. Clair. There are parts of Mariner’s Park which are typical Detroit. It is kind of dirty because people don’t pick up their litter. There are a couple of worn soccer goals that have not been score upon in years.

None of that matters to Sid who says he comes here to fish every day — weekend and week day. He’s got three poles poking in the river in search of silver bass and green bass,  cat fish and walleye.

You can catch anything in here,” said fisherman Sid, a retired Detroit auto worker. “We are not having a lot of luck today but sometimes you get a hit on your first line before you can get the second in the water. And it is like pop, pop, bam, bam all day long.”

My Golden State Warriors T-shirt draws his attention and ire.

“Hey man. I don’t like your shirt,” he said. “I was rooting for LeBron and the Cavs.”

I explain that I have a daughter who lives in the Bay area and she brings me back shirts with Golden State, Stanford and 49ers logos on them. That seems to satisfy Sid and we move on to other things.

We look out over the water. Belle Isle is just across the pale blue river. About a quarter mile to our left the water turns a deeper blue. That is the beginning of Lake St. Clair and its deeper, rougher waters.

“I’d rather sit out here than be in my back yard,” Sid says. “This is the safest place in the city. All the Detroit police come out here on their days off. There are some right over there.”

He points to a picnic table filled with laughing men and women playing cards. Two children sell bags of candy for a dollar a bag. A woman braids a young girls hair and people sit in their cars marveling at the open water and fresh air.

But mostly people fish. A woman pulled a Walleye out of a white bucket. The three foot monster is still flopping as she takes it home to cook.

Sid turns his attention to two other women who struggle bait their hooks. He laughs.

“Those girls got bells on their lines,” Sid says. “I’ve been coming out here for more than seven years and I ain’t ever used a bell in my life.”

One of the women turns our way.

“I know y’all talking bout us and our bells,” she said. “Tell that old man we gonna catch more fish than him.”

We share a laugh and I leave this budding fishing rivalry.

As I leave about a half dozen men debate where LeBron James will end up after free agency. By the way LeBron if you ever read this, the brothers out there don’t want you to end up in a Los Angeles Lakers uniform.

I am nearly in my car when a man stops me to talk.
‘What’s your boy Trump up to,” he asks.

I can tell a joke is coming but he wants to make a political statement at the same time.

“He’s rough on them Muslims and Hispanics,” he said. “We not gonna have none of them in our country after a while. You know we are next. So watch out”

I argue that Donald Trump will not begin randomly shipping black people to Africa.

“OK,” the man said chuckling. “I want you to remember what I told you after he ships your ass to Wakanda.”

I will make sure to keep my papers updated.







Spinning into the new Power House

power house gymHe was about 21 or 22 years old with long blond hair. And this dude was built like a brick house.

His arms were large and muscular and he ripped off his t-shirt to reveal six-pack abs. It was difficult not to notice this young man because he was prancing, flexing and admiring himself in the mirror.

I nicknamed him Thor.

Welcome to the new Power House Gym in West Bloomfield.

One of my final images of Planet Fitness was walking in on a 70 year old guy running a blow dryer between his legs after a shower to dry his duffle bags. It was not a pretty sight, but it was a common sight at my old gym.

I am transitioning from one gym to a new gym — the West Bloomfield Power House. It is a brand new $3 million facility with new equipment, new people and hopefully a new phase of fitness for me.

Planet Fitness was good for me. It helped me lose 46 pounds in less than a year and gain new friends that I nicknamed “The Old People.” I was in a comfort zone and happy there, but I believe now is the time to venture into an uncomfortable situation and push myself further in my quest for good health.

I want to take fitness classes under the eye of trained professionals along with men and women who are in different stages of health. I began the process by taking my first spinning class, which sounds wimpy, but is the toughest thing I’ve gone through in life.

I thought spinning classes were groups of old ladies in granny glasses spinning yarn to make scarves and mittens, not a way to torture human beings on futuristic stationery bikes.

When I told instructor Nicole it was my first time spinning her eyes gleamed as if to say “I got me a newbie.” Then she proceeded to turn me into a pile of sweat. God bless Nicole. She’d come over to my bike every so often to say I was doing a great job. I know she was fibbing a bit, but it made me feel good to hear it.

I knew I was in trouble when a couple of the veteran women had Ezekiel Elliott thighs. We did a lot of speed intervals which lasted from 10-90 seconds. At the end the 10 second bursts seemed like an hour.

Even though I am sort of an ugly guy people say I look good following my weight loss. That’s because most of my gut is gone and my face is no longer puffy. The one complaint I hear is my ass is too small.

No problem. Power House has a class called butz and gutz and I plan on visiting soon for more torture.

I will never become like Thor. But I’d like a better body so I can admire myself in the mirror. The difference is if I ever get to that stage I will prance in the privacy of my own home.



School threat worries family

school shootings.jpgFor two days we debated whether to send my son to school on Monday.

Two months ago someone posted that blood will shed June 4 at West Bloomfield High School. That worried my son Brandon so much that he wanted to stay home for school. A number of his classmates wanted to do the same. But if somebody wanted to do carnage why would they telegraph it?

Monday morning I received the assurances that I needed. Our superintendent Gerald Hill sent out an email saying that the school remembered the treat and that they were on top of things. So were the West Bloomfield Police Department and the FBI.

They said they investigated the threat and found it not to be credible. All was safe.


I trusted the authorities and sent my son to school.

My son reported a reassuring police presence, but a number of his class mates did not attend school. I bet it was the safest day of the year to be a Laker.

Last April marked the 10-year anniversary of the deadliest school shooting in American history when 32 people were killed at Virginia Tech. More than a dozen were injured. In the last five years there have been more than 100 mass shootings at schools, including the Parkland High School shooting where an expelled student shot and killed 19 students and faculty a few weeks ago.

I love my son Brandon very much and do not want him shot. I don’t even want to see the horror of him running from school as class mates are shot inside.

No parent wants that.

After Parkland every high school in our area received at least one threat and kids were sent to jail. I lectured my son not to even joke about making a threat.

He looked at me as if I were crazy and said: “I know that. I would never think of doing that.”

I know he would not do something that stupid but part of being a parent is to cover all areas and concerns no matter how far fetched.






The hot wire kid gets caught

Deveron was a fast talking, street smart kid with a ready smile and a mop of curly hair.

He was also one of my best friends while growing up on Detroit’s west side. He was a great kid with one tiny vice. He stole cars.

An older cousin taught him how to hot wire cars and Deveron became an expert at it. One day we sat in a rusted out hoop tee in his back yard talking. This car did not run, but he’d get behind the wheel and we were driving down Lakeshore Drive in Grosse Pointe or taking an impromptu spin down I-94 to Chicago.

I asked Deveron why he stole cars. He basically said because he was good at it and that he believed he could not get caught.

“You should come with me sometimes and see how easy it is,” he said.

I thought about it, but ultimately fear won out. I was not afraid of getting caught by the police. I was afraid of the old ladies who raised me and pounded into me that if ain’t mine I don’t touch it. They’d kill me if I started stealing cars.

I didn’t even tell them of my friendship with Deveron. That would freak them out.

They stressed education to me. That is why I was the nerdy kid reading books on the front porch, pretending I was inside the pages of adventure novels.

One of the main reasons I bring this story up is because I was ripped by some people a few weeks ago when I said on twitter that America needs more schools and fewer prisons.

If education wasn’t stressed to me I might have taken Deveron up on his offer and became a car thief instead of a journalist. Maybe America would need one more prison cell for me after I got caught.

Often people become criminals because there is no hope in their lives. They are more street smart than book smart and that leads you down a dark path.

One day I was walking down the street when I heard a police siren screaming a few blocks away. Soon a car came shooting toward me going at break neck speed. Deveron was behind the wheel. He shot a quick glance my way before making a violent right turn. He was going so fast that two hub caps fell off the car and rolled past me.

A few seconds later a police cruiser made the same violent right turn.

Deveron, the hotwire kid, was caught.

It was the last time I ever saw my childhood friend. They threw him into juvenile detention and when he got out his family shipped him down south to try to turn his life around.

I am glad I said no to a life of crime and yes to a life of writing and reporting.


The seniors take over the gym

Senior-FitnessWe call ourselves the old people.

We are gym members between the ages of 55 and 75 who show up every morning at Planet Fitness to work out and gab. We are all very different people. We are white and black, blue and red, male and female.

The only things we have in common are ailments.

If you put our medical records together we’ve had hip and knee replacements, heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, high blood pressure and Vertigo. But we keep on ticking and hope the exercise improves our health. We worry about one another so much that if somebody doesn’t show up for three days we fear the worst and give that person a phone call.

“Have you seen Bill,’ someone asked last week.

“Oh he is in Arizona playing golf,” someone else replied.

“Oh thank God. I thought he was dead.”

Sometimes we get together for dinner. A few weeks ago eight of us ate dinner at a place that turns into a dance club at 9 o’clock. We were all out of there by 8:30. No one wanted to be called grand pa or geezer.

The old men crack me up. Sometimes they believe the cute 25 year old in Lulu Lemon tights is looking past all the 25 year old pumped up studs at their wrinkled 60 year old ass.

“I think that cutie is checking me out,” one of the old people said.

I spoiled the day for him.

“Yeah she is looking over here, but you must have missed the “when are these old farts going to get off the weight machine so I can use it” look.”

A woman did ask for my phone number. However, I spent the next two weeks trying to figure out if she wore false teeth. Obviously she was not one of the young cuties I was talking about.

We are the cool old people. There are other groups of old people we don’t associate with. For instance, watch out when you enter the men’s locker room. You might walk in on a 70 year old who is running a hair drying between his legs to dry off his balls after a shower.

How sick. Don’t they have towels for that?

Women complain about other old people that stare at their breasts while working out. I swear I am not one of those people. I am a leg and butt man.

There is an old guy that wears short shorts and when he stretches his private parts burst loose and his duffle bags are squeezed against the floor. I am reporting this guy next time.

A month ago I visited my friend Larry Bird in the hospital after he had knee replacement surgery.

He got misty eyed and said: “Thank you for visiting. I feel kind of special.”

You are special. Besides I knew the surgery would keep you out of the gym for more than three days and I had to tell the other old people that you were not dead.





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