Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Regionalize Detroit's Government Now

After spending the past three days in New York City, I returned home last night to referee a girls' basketball game -- Alexis Goree's jumper at the buzzer enabled Ferndale to nip Birmingham Seaholm 50-48 -- and I was never so happy to get yelled at for 90 minutes in my life.

Don't get me wrong, I love NYC, but home is home. However, if there's one thing that I would bring home from New York and institute immediately in the three-county area, it would be a metropolitan government. If there's a city in the 'Lower 48' as our friends in Canada have nicknamed the United States that's a more rudderless ship than Detroit, please point it out to me. I wake up this morning and read about Detroit's corrupt city council killing a Cobo Hall expansion deal contingent on regional management and simply shake my head at the stupidity the vote represents.

But never mind the race-baiting reasons offered by people like Barbara Rose-Collins for killing the Cobo deal. Her tenure of representation in Washington, D.C. and Detroit is punctuated by missed votes, irresponsible decisions and untimely, ill-advised comments like the ones she made yesterday. In short, she's a loose cannon who represents her own motives over the greater good.

Detroit needs the suburbs and the suburbs need Detroit. Both desperately need a significantly healthier Detroit than the one that's currently limping along the riverside, and a Cobo Hall deal done sooner than later is a step in the right direction.

But there's more to it. The 'burbs need a viable Detroit to survive. Please stop fooling yourselves, Detroit apologists, by telling me of a handful of condos and hotels and restaurants recently opened, and for every eatery that opens, there's two that close and another three that remain shuttered. Detroit is sagging badly. Just ask the Book-Cadillac or Fort Shelby staff, who openly wonder how long their hotels will be open without guests. Try to find a cup of coffee at 8am on a Sunday morning in downtown Detroit; I'll take your phone call after the first 1/2 hour.

Losing the Cobo deal to racially-charged vote-getting is beyond short-sighted. Governor Jennifer Granholm, Oakland County head L. Brooks Patterson and Wayne County leader Bob Ficano have all publicly warned there's little political will to re-fund this project should Detroit reject this deal, one that took a staggering five years -- nearly as long as America was engaged in World War II -- to craft, finalize and agree upon.

In the big scheme of things, this is a relatively small project. Detroit's response? Play the race card. Polarize the region further. Bamboozle the five-year deal in the same amount of time it takes to order a five-dollar foot-long sandwich from Subway. And a crowd of residents was there to cheer the decision.


If the citizens of New York City want something, they do it. They decide to do, make the needed sacrifice and get it done. The 2nd Avenue subway line took years to build, but they did it. It came down to a simple mantra: We need it so we're going to build it. All five boroughs are represented and the greater good of the entire city is represented. What's the difference between five boroughs and three counties?

Detroit needs to learn acceptance of the significant resources of the suburbs. You can't live in a cocoon forever. The same greed and benevolence that has killed the good life for so many skilled union auto workers in metro Detroit is in play again with the edict from Detroit's City Council that Detroit residents get all the jobs and contracts for Cobo's repair and expansion. Two stadiums, three casinos and the Cadillac and Shelby hotel projects were accomplished from level-headed leaders who utilized the entire region's resources for the good of region. Yet who benefits most from those projects? The City of Detroit. Demanding exclusivity from residency workforce restrictions does nothing to build back the city, much less erase the racist reputation of the region.

The time has come to represent the greater good of the entire region rather than the vote-hunters from America's most-crippled big city. Metropolitan government would benefit Detroit and the suburbs that surround it more than any state takeover or city council do-good'r ever will.

~ T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Why No Suburban Tournaments?

Yesterday Detroit Pershing took down fellow eastside rival Detroit Southeastern to win their first Public School League (PSL) championship in boys' basketball since the 1996 Doughboys. The Catholic High School League (CHSL) will play their girls' championship this weekend and their boys' title tilts next weekend.

Make no mistake, these are great traditions and any suburbanite who's never attended at least one of these tournament championships is missing out on a great day of basketball. It's a great thrill for the players, coaches and fans of the schools participating. It's a healthy exercise in fellowship within your community of schools. Finally, championship tournaments create buzz about school sports, and when is that not a good thing?

So why don't the bigger suburban leagues have a championship tournament? The PSL and Catholic League aren't exactly using dollar bills for scrap paper these days. In fact, these two leagues are hit harder than any of the suburban public schools by the recent economic hardship. ThePSL has had nearly 100 tournaments since 1904 and the Catholic League is less than a generation behind their PSL soul mate.

The suburbs? Zero and counting. In New York City, many of the public schools don't even bother to participate in the New York state tournament because the NYC title means so much more. Thankfully, nearly all our schools participate in the annual MHSAA tournament. We could have the best of both worlds -- why don't we?

Here's the facts. Suburban schools, specifically the Oakland Activities Association (OAA) and Macomb Area Conference (MAC), have a number of schools that could host games as neutral sites. Parking, seating, lockers and security in some of these modern schools is not an issue like it is in the parochial and Detroit public schools.

Let me take it a step further: How much fun would it be to include the OAA and MAC champions in an Operation Friendship Final Four? Are you kidding? A potential quarterfinal, semifinal or finals preview? Clarkston v. Pershing? How fast can you spell 'sold out' on the eve of the MHSAA tournament? Would it not be a great opportunity to share the respective communities with one another through school sports? There's great life lessons to be learned here through b-ball.

Unfortunately, it looks like the OAA could be a candidate to dissolve before an idea like a conference tournament, much less a super-conference Final Four, even takes hold. Maybe a tournament could help hold theOAA together. The MAC isn't going anywhere soon.

I hope someone grabs the ball and get things rolling.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Officiating Uniforms Weren't Always Just A Click Away

Yesterday I worked with veteran Detroit-area prep official Mike Hesson for a boys' basketball game between visiting Avondale High and the Rochester Adams' Highlanders.

Hesson's a walking, talking memoir of officiating's local history within a 30-year time period that dates back to the heady days of his sports officiating class at East Detroit High in the mid-to-late 1970s. Among the fond memories we reminisced from Hesson's treasure-trove of recollections was the creation of the officiating uniform.

Yes, there was a day when even the niftiest officiating uniforms were piece-mailed together from stops at uniform stores, restaurants with yellow napkins and sporting good stores that carried BB's, golf balls or fishing tackle.

"You purchased the striped shirts from local sporting goods stores," Hesson began. "But there was no choice in material so you chose long sleeves or short sleeves and were happy to have that choice. Striped jackets weren't available, so on inclement days, officials wore clear vinyl or plastic jackets. On cold days you added sweatshirts and long johns."

"Knickers weren't available -- and you couldn't use baseball pants because there were no pockets on those pants -- so officials would buy 'Cook's Whites' from a restaurant supply store and cut the pants down into knickers," Hesson recalled. "And all officials knew the Detroit-area restaurants with yellow napkins. You would have dinner there and forget a yellow napkin in your pocket. The napkin would be filled with BB's, sinkers or possibly a golf ball, and that's how you made your penalty flag."

Even more inconceivable is the way all the other accessories were created, like the bean bag, timing devices, all-black shoes and the game's Back Judge (BJ). Yes, the BJ was a accessory, a luxury even, if you will.

"Without a doubt, the schools were shamed into the fifth guy. I think it was '82 or '83 when the MHSAA (Michigan High School Athletic Association) started using the Back Judge for playoff games. Most crews were bring five guys and splitting four checks by that point anyway," Hesson explained. Ironically, the back judge position is where most varsity crew rookies get their start, yet the few flags the BJ throws per game usually all have the potential to be the most-scrutinized calls of the night.

"I can't remember if a bean bag was required when I got started, but it was a process of taking material from an old shirt, filling it with popcorn and sewing it up," Hesson said. "There were no all-in-one socks, either. First it was a black stirrup sock with a white sock over the top. Then we changed to a baseball stirrup with three stripes until we changed to the socks we have today."

"And there were no timing devices!" Hesson told me. "Oh my god, you would wear a coaches' stopwatch with a wristband that railroad people used to wear the watch on your wrist." Hesson also explained black shoes were a rarity and choice was limited to Spot-Bilt or Ridell. Most officials would buy a pair of all-black shoes and have a new sole applied, because you couldn't use football cleats -- they weren't available in all-black back then.

Today, it's all point 'n click on the Internet with drop shipping included. In less than five minutes an official can have his or her entire uniform ordered and fulfilled. The two biggest national officiating apparel giants are located less than seven miles from each other in the same town, Ann Arbor, Michigan. Cliff Keen Athletic and Honig's Whistle Stop.

Back in the day it was about a Cup o' Joe, a diner's special and a stop at the marina or bait-and-tackle shop, all to make a few calls and few bucks along the way.

(Photo courtesy Stan Lopata family collection)

~T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries (already out) and Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Final Salute To Our Family's FlyBoy

The first house I ever bought was the typical, sweat-equity special: Low on charm but high on potential. The first day I owned the house, I tore out old cabinets and found rations booklets dating back to World War II. I never understood those rations booklets until I met my wife and her grandparents.

World War II was all about sacrifice. Professional sports slowed while collegiate and prep sports in some instances stopped, as they did in 1943 when the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) shelved the boys' basketball tournament. The Chicago Cubs missed the first era of lights by 45 years when the Wrigley family donated their lighting material purchase to the war effort. Bomb shelters and draft boards were the order of the day and life went on with heavy hearts and responsibilities alike. Detroit shed her Motor City moniker and instead became the Arsenal of Democracy.

I never really knew my wife's grandfather, Bill R. Whitesell, besides the handful of times we shared a few words. That's Whitesell in the picture to the right, receiving a rank and pay grade increase in an official United States Air Force photo taken at Tachikawa Air Base. Whitesell passed on this morning in Monroe, Michigan at 86 years of age. Naturally Debbie's side of the family knew him best as Grampa. I've witnessed this grief already. My parents, grandparents and siblings have either passed on or moved on from any further contact.

Bill Whitesell was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1922. By the time Adolph Hitler's German Nazi military machine was beginning to dominate and desecrate Europe in 1940, Whitesell -- like so many other strapping American boys -- was enlisting. There's a reason this era of young Americans is called America's Greatest Generation and this is one of those defining characteristics; Uncle Sam didn't have to ask twice. Whitesell joined the Army Air Corps but earned wings in the Navy Air Corps, too -- a dual designation that is rarely witnessed in modern times.

Through WW II, the Korean War and Vietnam, too, if it had two wings, an engine and a prop, Whitesell could lift it into the sky and push it in and out of clouds. He motored the famously amphibious PYR-5's in the Pacific Theater; hauled the mail in C-130's; flew both the light B-25's and heavy B-52's from Willow Run and whistled through the wind in P-38's and C-47 Gooneybirds, too. Whitesell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

He ascended to his final rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1965 while flying AC-119's -- better known as 'Flying Boxcars' -- over the darkened skies of Vietnam at nearly 50 years of age. His call sign was "Shadow Zero-Niner", a fact recalled more than a few times as his family remembered his life and times this morning. His wife, Jacqueline, recalled the many men he saved, including 125 he discovered in a cave on a single flight. Whitesell also lived with a heavy heart for the kills he made during his combat duties. Glory is brilliant. Grief is messy. The fighting men and women of America live with this burden long after the bands stop playing and the parades end.

Yet the most amazing feat might have been obscured save for an innocuous comment made in passing. Whitesell moved his family an astounding 48 times and managed to keep his marriage in tact for 66 years, right up until his morning passing.

Maybe that accomplishment, in light of today's throw-away society mentality, deserves the most credit. Sitting around the table listening to the war stories was a stoic reminder of the sacrifices so many of us have never been asked to partake in. We enjoy the daily fruits of a country Whitesell's generation risked their lives for several times over. It almost makes you vengeful of corporate America's numerous irresponsibilities we will be forced to bear the brunt of in the coming years. That we continue to destroy the good life that was handed to us without a second thought is sickening.

Bill Whitesell will get a military burial and a 21-gun salute, but it won't be on CNN. He didn't earn his 15 minutes of fame as 'Joe The Plumber'. He was the unassuming war veteran. He was a husband, a father and grandfather many times over. He was an air cadet, a pilot. He was "Shadow-Zero-Niner".

Bill Whitesell embodied what being an American used to be all about. Sacrifice for the greater good, even if that greater good meant the ultimate sacrifice. It's a lesson we can all sacrifice a few minutes for.

(Official USAF photo courtesy Whitesell family collection)

~T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

This & That...

The Detroit News had a write-up in this morning's boys' basketball notebook that recanted Pershing's loss to Detroit Southeastern on January 27th as 78-77. Previously The News reported the score as 77-76 and the Freep reported a 78-75 tally, both coming the day after the game. That makes three losses in the same game for the Doughboys. Ouch.

DOUGHBOYS V. C-TOWN? Would a Clarkston - Detroit Pershing game in the MHSAA tournament be worth the price of admission? Clarkston is having a great season and is clearly the best OAA team this season. Pershing is the region's top-ranked team and still a statewide No. 1 in some polls. Clarkston's Dan Fife can coach his kids to play any game at any tempo; Coach A.W. Canada from Detroit Pershing has proven himself equally adept. I think it would be a marquee game that would be remembered for years, much like Bruce Flowers and Berkley, undefeated after 25 games, taking on Highland Park and Terry Duerod in the 1975 Class A quarterfinal. The Polar Bears defeated Berkley 84-55.

MARIAN MAGIC: Birmingham Marian advanced to the Catholic League's championship game last night when the Mustangs went the length of the court in the final 5.9 seconds to score a lay-up at the buzzer and nip Warren Regina's Saddelites, 42-41. Marian Coach Mary-Lillie Cicerone stayed to watch the nightcap, a rugged 56-52 victory by Dearborn Divine Child over Livonia Ladywood.

These two games, played at Novi's Detroit Catholic Central High, illustrated quite nicely the girls' ability to offer an entertaining brand of basketball, different from the boys, but equally as compelling. It's too bad these games were seen by a few instead of the many that nearly filled the gym the night before for Birmingham Brother Rice and Catholic Central.

NUMERICALLY SPEAKING: Friday night's Rice-CC game revealed an instance that scoreboard watchers all know to be rare. During the game's second stanza, a foul call stopped the clock and all three rows of the scoreboard had the same number for a few seconds.

The top row showed the time remaining. 3:33. The second row detailed the score and quarter: 22-22 in the 2nd period, reading 22 - 2 - 22.

The bottom row showed fouls and timeouts remaining, and before the 6th foul was reported, the board revealed five fouls against each team and each team with all five timeouts available, or 5 - 5 - 5 - 5.

What are the odds of that happening again this season?

~T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing.

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Karmanos: Clueless

Most people in southeastern Michigan don't see metro Detroit the way coaches, players and officials of the metro's prep games do.

In a word, it's rough. Detroit's infrastructure, like street curbs, street lamps and water mains, are in serious distress or outright failure. When I traveled to Allen Park Cabrini this past week, I missed my turn off of Southfield Road into the neighborhood Cabrini is tucked within because the businesses that used to help illuminate smaller street signs are now darkened. In River Rouge, the 'Joe' jobs, like plumbing and electrical work, are gone and greasy spoon diners are shuttered. They don't plow neighborhood streets in Farmington Hills like they used to and Royal Oak's schools ask for parent volunteers to weed and feed the flower beds. You could seemingly insert any city name you want throughout this paragragh and still be factual.

This is why Compuware's Chief Executive Officer, Peter Karmanos, is being vilified in so many corners today. He hired Kwame Kilpatrick, Public Enemy No. 1 in the city of Detroit, and gave him a golden parachute from hell, a hell he helped forge.

It was Kilpatrick who promised much and delivered little in a term-and-a-half as mayor. The city parks and recreation centers? The parks are still an open sore and the city's recreation centers, especially the ones that were viable, are now shuttered in plywood and have been pillaged of the metals that made up the buildings' electrical and plumbing systems. The city's school board? A dysfunctional disaster that makes George Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina look heartfelt and thoughtful. The city's finances? Imagine a 400-car freight train running downhill with no brakes as it heads for a city with 800,000 people. City services are still pathetic and much of the progress the city was making in entertainment and overnight accommodations has been erased with the economic depression we're in.

But here's why Kilpatrick's hiring ought to make you mad as hell. In a time when we really need to make stand against corporate misbehavior, Karmanos instead emboldens it. You don't reward your son with ice cream for stealing candy from the candy store!

Worse, 250 people not convicted of perjury, not on the hook for a cool million as a part of a plea deal and not found guilty of ruining the lives of two honest cops got pink-slipped from Compuware this week while Kilpatrick was hired. There's enough good people losing jobs in this state alone to re-populate the cities of Warren, Saginaw or Flint to make them look like they did when they were teeming cities with enough tax base to fund a small country's entire government. But Kilpatrick, who hasn't told the truth in what seems like never, steps out of the joint after serving just 99 days for being as big a jackass as anyone in Detroit's 308-year history and takes a $100,000-a-year job as penance.

America is morally bankrupt and you don't have to look far to find the source. It comes from people like Peter Karmanos, who got sweet-talked by Kilpatrick to locate his headquarters in downtown Detroit. It comes from people like Karmanos, who shied from saying anything critical of Hizzoner a year ago when Detroit desperately needed someone to step up publicly and take a stand. Not brave enough when Kilpatrick seemed determined to drag Detroit to the depths of well-fed sewer rats, Karmanos waits to hire the most famous liar, cheater and crook in Detroit's political history with the allure of his bottom line being advanced handsomely less than week after his jail time ends.

Alienate the many to line the pockets of the few? I'm willing to bet that's not in the Compuware mission statement. Even Vito Corleone knew how and when to say 'No'.

Morally bankrupt? Who cares, right Pete? As long as you make that loot, it's all good. Who's next, Pete? Was Reggie Rogers just misunderstood? Did Bob Probert simply get caught up with the wrong people? Are you holding a tasty position for Monica Conyers, too? I can own a room, too, Pete. Why can't I get a 100K-a-year gig?

On second thought, never mind. If Karmanos will hire Kilpatrick, I don't to be hired. I'll continue to work my three jobs to make a little more than half of what I used to make. You can't buy pride, honor or integrity. You lose your credibility, not to mention your mind, when you hire Kilpatrick. It's a move so disingenuous to the good people of metro Detroit that Karmanos should be stripped of all his Detroit privileges. The only question that comes to light is just how deep was Karmanos buried in Kilpatrick's pockets when Hizzoner was mayor? In light of all the truth, especially the truth Kilpatrick used taxpayer money to attempt to bury, it makes you wonder if any of Kilpatrick's previous dirty deeds have Karmanos's fingerprints on them?

Live with that, Mr. Karmanos.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Holla' For History

I was listening to WXYT's afternoon drive-time show called The Sports Inferno last week when I became amused with what I heard from New York native /reborn Detroiter Mike Valenti.

"Let's get down to brass taxes..." Valenti said as he began one of his legendary rants about whatever. Don't get me wrong --I enjoy Valenti, because he is like me and simply tells you how he sees it without any holdout -- but he's the classic example of a sports fan with a radio show, a point he'll readily admit. There's nothing wrong with it, either.

What amused me is the 'brass taxes' thing. It's brass tacks. This is an example of how time changes history in subtle ways. Brass tacks was a way of measuring cloth, linen or anything else by the yard on a counter. A person would come in and ask for so much of this or that, and the actual cost would be determined by placing the material on the counter against the ruler held in place with brass tacks, thus the phrase, "Let's get down to brass tacks."
Here's another one: Toe The Line. How many times have you heard it repeated as Tow The Line? Or the oft-heard phrase, "It's a dog-eat-dog world." I've heard that catch-phrase repeated many times as 'Doggy-dog' world.

Here's why I bring this up: History is important. It shows us the right and wrong in the world before us, thus the coined phrase, "Those who do not heed history are doomed to repeat it."
I'm writing a prep basketball history book and I'm waist-deep in the city of Detroit right now. Among the interesting facts I've learned from basketball research as it relates to metro Detroit? The 30-year absence by Detroit's public school teams from the Michigan High School Athletic Association's annual boys' basketball tournament from 1931-1961. The seed of racial mistrust in Detroit is one planted long before riots and failed urban renewal.

Here's another one: School sports might have saved the city before and after the 1967 riots. The divisive busing issue was so strongly contested that many coaches and players from that era were literally scared to travel outside of their neighborhoods, but school sports was a respected rite of passage, almost an institution in Detroit. Rival schools of various religious and ethnic backgrounds might not have gotten along on any day -- save for game day. It was on these days they respected one another, played hard and shook hands after the game. That very well might have kept the city from an all-encompassing implosion that would have made the '67 riots look like a small camp fire easily doused with canteen water.

If you think the Detroit PSL doesn't have friends, consider the Catholic League fought long and hard alongside the PSL schools in the 1970s to get millage and bond requests passed. What would Detroit's schools look like today had it not been for a lil' neighborly love 30 years ago?

And what of the other history not so easily interwoven into prep sports?

The decision to plow through neighborhoods with concrete freeways did little but speed up fears of intermixed, racially-charged neighborhoods. If you look at the pictures of football and basketball, schools and neighborhoods radically changed within a few years. Today our freeways in Detroit do little but expose the worst homes and buildings within eyeshot, because really, who wants to live next to a freeway and have to leave your garage at 55 miles an hour? When's the last time you heard a neighborhood benefited from have an eight-lane ribbon of concrete driven through its heart? And if you think a freeway is bad, what about displacing the many for a hulking auto complex -- remember Poletown?

Finally, I've learned that while Kwame Kilpatrick and Coleman Young weren't great leaders, neither were a lot of their white predecessors, like Charles Bowles, Louis C. Miriani and a laundry list of leaders remembered for their poor decisions as much as any positive accomplishments. The decision to allow auto companies to erect massive auto factories in the middle of neighborhoods without a lick of civil engineering 80-90 years ago has continually crippled a lot of potential re-birth. The refusal to replace trolleys with elevated or tunnel trains, eliminating the trolleys altogether and the final legitimate transit piece, the removal of the Inter-Urban lines. This straddled the city with empty buildings and no motivation to turn them into anything but gravel lots to park suburban cars upon.

There's a ton of unique story lines and historical references that continue to co-exist with us in our daily lives. In that way, Detroit is just as compelling as Chicago, Boston and New York City. We have a lot of things wrong about the Motor City but an open canvas to remake the city, the region and the landscape we call home for the better.

All that and more is possible if we heed history and stay away from brass taxes, whatever those are.

~ T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, due August 2009 from Arcadia Publishing.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Hypocrisy Of Mainstream Media At Work

What if Michael Phelps was black? What if Phelps was a two-time Olympic gold medalist for Team USA's men's basketball team and was caught taking a hit off a glass lettuce burner?

Are we ready to be honest? Before you answer, name the last time a black athlete was pardoned in public for owning a scandalous photo similar to the one that Phelps recently cop'd to?

I'm not taking up 'The Cause' -- whatever that is -- because there are a ton of instances that offer no rhyme or reason for why they occur within our media's obsession with the instantaneous crucifixion and subsequent resurrection of the subjects pushed in front of our collective conscience in the same knee-jerk fashion most of us would like to push our in-laws out in front of rush hour traffic. Bill Clinton was crucified for banging a not-so-very-hot intern; George Bush was ignored for purposed war crimes. Go figure. Why do Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmerio get a virtual pass for their suspected roles in baseball's performance-enhancing scandal when compared to the outright vicious response Barry Bonds has elicited from media and fans? Please don't tell me it's just because he owns baseball's most famous mark, because to do so would be an outright admission you're living with your head in the sand.

That said, I find it somewhat amusing that Phelps gets a pass on this photo in the manner I've witnessed. In the Detroit Free Press Monday, the the Off Beat column penned by Krista Jahnke was titled "So Michael Phelps Is Human After All". Nationally-syndicated radioman Jim Rome was quoted as saying with a DUI on his slate already, he's not human, he's building a body of work. Today's edition of The Detroit News featured columnist Bob Wojnowski pleading for calm and reason in relation to the mistake Phelps made.

It makes me remember Detroit Southwestern High grad Jalen Rose being arrested during his first year at Michigan (1992-93) for playing video games in a Detroit house that doubled as a drug den. I was on the desk at The Ann Arbor News on the Saturday night a story came hurdling down the wire almost a year after the actual arrest just minutes before the morning edition's 1:00 am deadline. As you can imagine, we held production and made room for the story on the front page above the fold. We told ourselves we were being responsible journalists. Today I look back and cringe.

Rose wasn't smoking, wasn't selling and wasn't buying. He was playing video games, but he played a brash, in-your-face style of basketball. Rose played the 'City Game', and White America wasn't ready for Rose's style of talk-you-down, break-you-down, drive you down on your ass and shout you down the court while wearing shorts with a foot more material than any player in America. After Mick McCabe, the Detroit Free Press prep writer, discovered and published news of the October 4, 1992 arrest on March 9, 1993, six months after it happened, Rose was crucified for weeks and painted as a ghetto gangbanger. Fans and pundits alike called for his suspension. Wire services crackled with updates.

Phelps was inhaling from a glass stanchion the size of an exhaust pipe from a certified used Mini Cooper. He admitted to it. America's response? The mainstream media and sponsors alike call him human.

For the record, I have no problem with Phelps. I think the public backlash is punishment enough, and any prosecuting attorney willing to prosecute this as a criminal offense needs to just open a Facebook page like the rest of us if he really needs the attention that bad.

If nothing else, I hope you enjoy reading the paper in the morning all the more with eyes wide open.

~T.C. Cameron is the author of Metro Detroit's High School Football Rivalries. Cameron's 2nd title, Metro Detroit's High School Basketball Rivalries, is due in August this year!

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Pershing's Super Bowl Sunday ShoutOut

Did you notice it?

Larry Foote, the former Michigan Wolverine, gave his prep alma mater some serious holla' when the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense introduced themselves in the first quarter of their 27-23 triumph over Arizona in Super Bowl XLIII. The overwhelming majority of players who introduce themselves -- 44 offensive and defensive starters in all -- make mention of the college or university they played football for.

Not Foote. When the heavy hitter's face emerged, his quote was simple: "Larry Foote....Detroit Pershing...Doughboy."

Of course, most of us in metropolitan Detroit know the Public School League (PSL) players from Detroit who populate the rosters in the NBA and NFL are fiercely loyal to their Detroit upbringing. Many of these players mention the PSL like it's a badge of honor on their athletic resume. It's one of the reasons I cringe when I hear suburbanites say things like, "They should just bulldoze Detroit and start over."

Try saying that to the community at Seven Mile and Ryan in Detroit. To anyone who thinks high schools in the city don't have a spirit or energy comparable with the schools in the 'burbs, I point to schools in the city like Pershing. In New York City, the word Pershing is commonly associated with Park and 42nd Street -- Grand Central Station and that intersection's name -- Pershing Square.

In Detroit, Pershing is synonymous with a football and basketball tradition swathed in royal blue and gold.

CHARLIE'S NOT SORRY: That's two championship rings for former Detroit Lion and standout Eastern Michigan University quarterback Charlie Batch. Of course, Batch is a local legend in the Pittsburgh area, where he grew up, but Batch was also one of the outstanding football players to ever toss the pigskin in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

MAC DADDY: Did anyone else take notice that three of Pittsburgh's four quarterbacks are Mid-American Conference products?Ben Roethlisberger played at Miami University andByron Leftwich was a member of Marshall's MAC championship teams. Batch makes the Mid-American hat trick possible.

There are, in fact, 22 players on the Steeler roster (active, injured/reserve or practice) from colleges in the Great Lakes, including two from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC).

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