Tag Archives: Detroit

Saying No to Little Caesar’s Arena in 2017-18

The ice is in.  It’s been painted.  The first octopus has been tossed onto it, scraped off of it, and twirled around in the air over it.  We’re barreling toward the opening of Detroit’s latest attraction, Little Caesar’s Arena, the new home of the Red Wings and Pistons.

I’m excited.  I think we all are, here in Detroit.  It’s been four years since the city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, and the transformation from then to now has been swift.  Make no mistake, there is still plenty of work to be done.  There always will be.  The public school system is at the top of the list (as it is for most metropolitan areas, if we’re being fair).  But those who were here 10 years ago cannot deny that things are much better now than they were then.

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Cleveland State Gets New Horizon League Foe in Northern Kentucky, Tourney Home in Detroit

Cleveland State fans received some great news over the weekend that was confirmed in an announcement by the Horizon League on Monday. After much speculation, Northern Kentucky University has accepted an invitation to become the 10th member of the conference.

This, of course, means that there will be two less non-Division I teams on the schedule this basketball season! At least we hope that’s the case.

The arrival of the Norse to the Horizon League is the culmination of the chatter that actually started late last year by CSU athletic director John Parry during one of the Viking men’s basketball broadcasts. NKU was one of the four names Parry had originally mentioned, along with Horizon League associate member for soccer Belmont, Murray State and Lipscomb.

Without mentioning schools, the anticipation of an announcement grew a little when CSU men’s basketball coach Gary Waters echoed Parry’s statements that expansion was going to happen. Then, late last month, Wright State athletic director Bob Grant stated the 10th team was imminent.

From a geographical standpoint, North Kentucky seems to be a natural fit for the conference, as it is situated in the Cincinnati area and is in close proximity to WSU. The Horizon League likely balked at the Norse’s entry in the past, as they were transitioning from Division II to Division I since 2012. Already eligible for conference championships, Northern Kentucky will become a full Division I member at the end of next school year.

While in Division II, though, the Norse proved itself to be a powerhouse program, consistently making the NCAA Tournament, reaching the championship game in 1996 and 1997. They’ve also significantly upgraded their arena to the Bank of Kentucky Center. The 9,200-seat venue, which was opened in 2008, is already being considered one of the best facilities in the conference.

There also is a great deal of familiarity already between Horizon League schools and Northern Kentucky as far as personnel is concerned. Cleveland State alumni may recognized NKU’s current president, Geoffrey Mearns. After all, he did spend a great deal of time in Cleveland, both as the dean of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and, prior to his departure, as CSU’s provost.

Athletic director Ken Bothof should also be a person known within conference circles. Bothof, of course, arrived at Northern Kentucky from Wisconsin-Green Bay, where he headed the athletic department from 2002 to 2013.

There’s even a familiar face on the basketball team’s coaching staff as well. One of new head coach John Brannen’s assistants will be Ronald Nored, who heads to NKU after a stint as an assistant coach under Brad Stevens with the Boston Celtics. Nored should be well-known to all conference fans, since he played guard at Butler during its national runner-up years in 2010 and 2011.

Now that the Norse are officially in the fold, they will look to make an immediate impression on the basketball court, if Brannen’s hiring is any indiciation, and look to improve on its 13-17 record from last season. Incidentally, this should also make NKU’s sole conference opponent from last year, Youngstown State, very nervous. The Penguins escaped the Norse at home in that contest, 78-74. And while Northern Kentucky has worked to improved, YSU has worked to keep more players from defecting.

The addition of NKU wasn’t the only news to come out of Horizon League headquarters. Last week, the conference found itself a new home for the men’s basketball tournament: Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. It was announced that the Horizon League would play in the Motor City for the next five years, two at Joe Louis Arena and the remaining three at the new Red Wings arena that is slated to open in 2017.

Prior to the announcement, the tournament has been played at the home arena of the top seed, a move that was made after 2002, when two Chicago teams, Loyola and Illinois-Chicago, battled for the Horizon League crown in the sparsely-populated Wolstein Center.

What will not change is the tourney format, which has given a double bye to two first two seeds. Now that there is a 10th team, the single bye that was rewarded to the third and fourth seed has now been eliminated.

However, unlike in previous years, all of the tournament games will be played in Detroit, eliminating the games hosted at schools with the higher seed that didn’t get a bye. It would appear that this will be similar to how the Mid-American Conference tournament is run when it played at Quicken Loans Arena.

In another similarity to the MAC tournament in Cleveland, the boosters in Detroit are likely planning to promote the Horizon League event in a similar fashion. For anyone living in Northeast Ohio can attest, that could certainly bode well for people who may not be keen on the idea of traveling to Detroit.

But think about this way, Cleveland State fans. You’ve probably went up there for Indians-Tigers games or Browns-Lions games. Joe Louis Arena and the new venue aren’t that far away. As long as you don’t venture outside of property owned by Dan Gilbert or Red Wings owner Mickey Ilitch, you should be fine.

And if not, you can always stay across the river in Windsor. Just remember your passport, since they changed the rules on crossing the U.S.-Canadian border.

Cleveland State Wrestler Corba Is Still Wrestling

For all the brouhaha that was made during the defunding of the Cleveland State wrestling team, lost in its aftermath is the fact that some of the grapplers are still competing. And one of them, Nick Corba, is about to take his game to the next level.

Corba, who wrestled at 175 lbs. for the Vikings this past season, went to the United World Wrestling National Championship in Las Vegas and won his weight class, which for this tournament was 84 kg (185 lbs.). He started out with wins against Joshua Roetman and Jared Johnson, then took two of three matches from Utah’s Wyatt Koelling to take the crown.

With the championship, Corba will now represent the United States at the Junior World Championships, which will take place in Salavador da Bahia, Brazil in August.

The Tribe is Creepin' On Ah Come Up

Some call it comeuppance and some call it getting a pound of flesh. In baseball, more so than most other things in the world, things have a way of evening themselves out; of course, the timing isn’t always the way we’d like to think it should be. Now think about the Cleveland Indians since Terry Francona has assumed the helm, and remember that they needed every one of those 92 wins in 2013. Technically, two more wins would have given them a Central Division title, though we know Detroit collected their $200 and stopped on “Go” last September. In that same breath, two fewer victories, whether you subtract a game or two from that four-game sweep over Oakland last May or any of those games with Chicago in September they had no business winning, would have put the Tribe in a mad dash for tee times as the Major League Baseball post-season commenced last October.

Glancing at the calendar, I see it’s June and we can hardly call this season new at this point, but what goes around, comes around for the Cleveland Indians. After enjoying a 17-2 season series against the White Sox, a comedy of righteous moments that literally took words out of White Sox play-by-play personality Ken “Hawk” Harrelson’s mouth on several occasions. Now, taking 17 of 19 from anyone other than Houston involves a good share of favorable bounces, like the divine intervention that gave them the double-header sweep at “New Comiskey” on June 28th last year. In Game 1, we were all disappointed to see Trevor Bauer fail to get three outs in the first inning of a start, putting the Tribe in a 5-0 hole before batting in the top of the second inning; response runs were there for the taking, however, and after evening things up in the next frame, the Tribe would cruise to 19-8 victory. The night-cap was all White Sox and this twinbill was destined for a split until the away team put up 4 runs on 4 hits in the top of the ninth off Chicago closer Addison Reed for a 9-8 win. Downing the south-siders was just how it went in 2013; Jason Giambi had two walk-off bombs against Chicago in a year that he did little else on the stat sheet.

Thus far, it’s been a different story when it comes to Robin Ventura’s squad and the Braves of the Cuyahoga. While I personally don’t care for those that dismiss teams that are strong in the 1-run games as teams that should regress back to the mean, you have to admit four walk-off wins in nine home games opens the door for the credit to go to Lady Luck, but you can counter that by pointing out the back end bullpen is a big part of the game. The Indians know it all too well, having dropped two in walk-off fashion on the South Side already this season, and a third at home, where John Axford yielded three runs in the ninth, instead of locking down a 3-1 victory. Through 10 games, the upstart White Sox have taken 7 of 10 from the Indians, and sit in second place in the division, one half game above the Tribe, who trail division-leading Detroit by just 3 games. Better the standings look like this in early June, rather than early October.

Speaking of October, the Oakland Athletics have found themselves on the dance-floor in each of the last two seasons, and appear to be on their way back this season. I know it’s simple, but success comes in winning more games than you lose, and the A’s did that, turning out Win-Loss records of .500 or better against all but three of their opponents a year ago; they dropped 11 of 19 against Seattle, despite outscoring them by 5 runs on the season, and went 2-5 against the Orioles and the Indians. They were swept in Cleveland last May, on the strength of some solid starting pitching (the Cleveland starter got the win in each game), but also with the benefit of the doubt; an Adam Rosales ninth inning double that obviously cleared the threshold for home run somehow could not be upgraded with the aid of replay and Rosales was eventually stranded on third base when Chris Perez saved a 4-3 win for the Tribe. Oakland did bounce back in August, taking 2 of 3 from the slumping Indians at the Coliseum on the East Bay, but could only salvage 2 wins in 7 tries.

You might say Bob Melvin’s squad went out and got their pound of flesh, when it came avenging their dismal showing against the Tribe in 2013, being in the clubhouse with a 4-2 season-series win over the Tribe. It looked like it might be more of the same after the Indians took 2 of 3 in the season-opening series, with former Indians southpaw Scott Kazmir salvaging the only victory the A’s could manage to get on the west coast, but they responded to last season’s 4-game sweep at Progressive Field by taking all three games at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario. In the six games, Oakland outscored the Indians 40 to 15. Through 60 games in 2014, the A’s have outscored their opponents by 120 runs and sit 14 games over .500. The Indians, on the other hand, are in the red on run differential to-date, despite breaking even in the win column.

On the bright side, there is a flip side to this coin. Some might say this exposed the Indians for what they really were a season ago, a team that could beat up on the bums and didn’t belong in the same ballpark with the real contenders, but they stunk against the other playoff qualifiers in 2013. In seven games with the eventual World Champs, Francona’s former team took six. They were 2-4 against Tampa Bay and 4-15 against Detroit, who ended up just one game better than the Indians in the Central Division standings, a fact that needs to be qualified (again), since Jim Leyland shut the team down for a meaningless series in Miami to end the regular season. Being taken behind the woodshed by the contenders, thus exposing the Tribe as “pretenders”, provided some balance in the grand scheme, essentially canceling out their mastery of the American League bottom-feeders.

We probably didn’t think about it too much, as it was happening with the Red Sox, given the Red Sox were so emotionally charged when they came to Cleveland in April, on literally the day of the Boston Marathon tragedy. The one they call Tito would only get one win in seven tries against the organization he once to led to their first title in 86 years, when his lineup torched Ryan Dempster, Clayton Mortensen, and Alex Wilson for 12 runs in a 12-3 win at Fenway. As far as bouncing back is concerned, the sample size is a little small and we really have no idea what to make of the 2014 Red Sox, but they just completed a 3-game series sweep of Big Papi and company, which has to be a huge weight off the shoulders of Francona, whether he admits it or not.  Let’s also consider how many good things happened, as it pertained to confidence going forward in the series that ended with Asdrubal Cabrera’s walk-off home run to secure the sweep on Wednesday night (Thursday morning, to be technical).

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Then, you have Detroit, the team that knocks the Indians off their pedestal anytime they’ve gotten a little momentum in recent years. I’m sure most of us have not forgotten how quickly the 2011 came out of the gates, starting 30-15, an amazing run that included 3-game sweep of the Tigers, two of those wins coming in the form of walk-offs. Well, the next time the two teams met in June, the Tigers took two of three, knocking the Indians down to 36-31 and into second place in the division. In August of that year, the Tribe took a series at home, putting them within 3 games of Detroit’s divsion lead, but the Tigers won the last 10 matchups that year, and thoughts of the post-season were laughable by season’s end.

A year later, in 2012, it was a lot more of the same. Hell, the stat sheet shows the Tribe took the season series 10-8, but it comes down to the team from the Motor City killing their spirits. They were still outscored by 15 runs over the course of 18 games. They won 7 of the first 9, including a 5-3 win on July 26th that had some fools believing there was still life in this club. Of course, you can’t solely blame the Tigers for the 11 game losing streak that followed that inspiring win, though they were responsible for losses 7, 8, and 9. They’d pull out a couple more, and even scored one last walk-off win against Jose Valverde (aka Papa Grande) in September, you know, for old time’s sake. But much like [SPOILER ALERT] Tessio in Part I, the Indians and Manny Acta were already dead.

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Well, that wasn’t a depressing walk down memory lane or anything! Let’s bring it back to the present-day, and though we have learned to taper our emotions after early-season success, the clubhouse had to have been buzzing at the comeuppance that came with sweeping the Tigers at home last month, and the balk-off could really be seen as the exclamation point. Again, we look at our calendar and we know that it’s early, that this 4-to-1 advantage the Tribe currently holds over the Tigers could easily be 5-14 by season’s end, a la last year, but things feel different this year for some reason. Perhaps we’ve already seen the woes this team inevitably experiences every year since Dick Jacobs family name was taken off the ballpark’s marquee.

They didn’t get to 30-30 by starting 30-15, but from 24-30 (their low-water mark). They’ve shown they can beat Detroit and they can beat Boston, and it’s too early to think about whether or not they can beat San Francisco; they’re 0-3 this season and 0-6 in their last six tries, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Of course, if they don’t cross that bridge, they are only 2-4 against the team that shares the bay, so there are multiple pounds of flesh to be had in Northern California, come October, I suppose.

That’s a concern for another time, of course, but the Indians were left for dead just a few weeks back and now, to quote everyone second favorite Bone Thugs ‘N Harmony album, they are creepin’ on a come up. So, to all you busters out there, beware!

History Repeating Itself? Pagenaud & Conway, Top Times in Detroit

SAM_4058Two very familiar names on Belle Isle found themselves atop the fastest laps chart in the second practice session for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix today – Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #77 for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Mike Conway, driver of the #20 for Ed Carpenter Racing.

Conway & Pagenaud were the winners of last year’s Dual I & Dual II in Detroit, respectively. They had a bit more to contend with in the afternoon session since three red flags were waved throughout – Sebastien Saavedra found himself in the runoff while Justin Wilson made contact with the wall twice, damaging the nose & back wing – both of those cars returned to the pits on their own, after being assisted by the Chevrolet Holmatro Safety Team. The third red was brought out when Ryan Hunter-Reay (who finished first in the morning practice session) came to a stop on the course. With only 5 minutes left in practice, he was towed to a safe area until the checkered came out. Hunter-Reay said he was unsure of the reasoning behind the stall.

It’s also worth mentioning that Helio Castroneves finished both practice sessions today as third fastest. This track is kind of sentimental to Castroneves (and his fans) because it’s where he first climbed the fence like Spiderman after his win here in 2000… which was also his first career series win!

Given how the practice sessions differed today, I think it’s safe to say that the qualifying for Dual I bright & early tomorrow morning is going to be interesting! I can’t wait… how about you?

Stay up to date on everything happening with the Verizon IndyCar Series at the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit by bookmarking my author page, liking my public page on Facebook & following me on Twitter! I’ll be here all weekend bringing you live updates and fun event details!

Man & Machine Meet in Detroit

We are just about at the halfway point. A little less than three months since the last IndyCar race weekend and a little less than three months until the next one! We as race fans, and specifically IndyCar fanatics, have been biding our time during the offseason – last month I suggested a daytrip to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for some time spent at the Hall of Fame & Museum to help with those wintertime blues, and hopefully you were blessed to enjoy the company of friends and family over the Holidays. Then of course, last weekend we sufficed our need for speed (or at least the ability to read about it on Twitter) with the Roar Before the 24 along with all the news and testing notes that came out of it. But what now, you ask? Don’t worry, I have you covered…

One of my favorite off-season traditions is heading to the Cleveland Auto Show in March, but this year I decided to do something I haven’t done in about ten years and I couldn’t be more excited about it – in addition to the Cleveland event, I’ll be heading up to Detroit this month for the North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center. If you’ve never been to this show, I highly suggest checking it out – it’s always phenomenal, from the presentation itself to the sheer variety and number of vehicles (over 500 this time around) on display, this is not a show to miss. Just under a million visitors attended the show in 2013 where 71 different vehicles made their debut, so you can only imagine how the 2014 event will top that. Of course, the best way to find out is to experience it first-hand.

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While the Press Preview kicks off in 4 days, the public show will open up 9 days from now, its duration lasting just as long. Inevitably, there are always displays related to racing and of course I fully enjoy those, even though they are not regarding my favorite series – however I was pleasantly surprised this week to find out that the IndyCar presence will be relatively substantial this time around! First off, there will be an exhibit and information area in Michigan Hall, for the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Doubleheader sponsored by Chevrolet. Chevrolet will also have the Borg Warner Trophy on display on its main exhibition floor – I am very much looking forward to seeing the newest addition to this work of art: Tony Kanaan’s image (between the newly-retired Dario Franchitti and late Dan Wheldon), marking his first Indianapolis 500 win, in 2013. It’s no surprise that Chevrolet is featuring so many pieces from IndyCar, seeing as how they have won the IndyCar Series Manufacturer Championship for the second season in a row – and yes, that victor’s trophy will also be on display during the annual event at Cobo Center this month.

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Still not enough? Well that’s okay, we’re not done yet! As great as it is to see those iconic trophies, let’s not forget that we are indeed at an AUTO show, so of course Chevrolet is providing us with some DW12’s in person! Both Tony Kanaan and Helio Castroneves’ IndyCars will be on display for Auto Show visitors, along with their firesuits & helmets. I think this is a great feature for Chevrolet to take the time and space to put on view – not only will it excite IndyCar fans and allow them to get up close to these amazing machines and pieces of history, but it will undoubtedly spark the interest of those who perhaps don’t know as much about the sport that we love so much and with any luck, they will check out the series or even come to the Dual in Detroit at the end of May!

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Now, seeing as how the Belle Isle race is sponsored by Chevrolet, it’s no surprise that they are the manufacturer promoting IndyCar at NAIAS so heavily. However, they are not the only company doing so – Honda will have a replica of Scott Dixon’s 2013 Championship-winning car on display in their exhibit as well.  And last but certainly not least, there will be an appearance by Charlie Kimball during the public show. He will be at the event on Friday, January 24th to meet and greet with visitors, so make sure you come say hello and congratulate him on this first IndyCar Series win at Mid-Ohio this past season!

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I for one am very much looking forward to spending a full Midwest winter day inside, indulging in the amazing craftsmanship of so many incredible vehicles, enjoying all the exhibits featuring my favorite racing series, and more than likely talking to and meeting like-minded individuals and sharing ideas in what promises to be some great conversations. While loving cars for their aesthetic appeal, sheer power and modern technological advancements is in and of itself, more than enough to make us keep coming back to these shows, I think another big advantage to coming out and embracing your passion is finding others who have the same love. During the season, it’s not hard to find fellow fans – at the track, on social media, at industry events – but in the offseason, making those connections is all that much sweeter and makes us truly understand and appreciate not only the importance of that link between man & machine, but mankind itself. Hope to see you in Detroit!

The North American International Auto Show at Cobo Center in Detroit runs it’s public show January 18th – 26th. Times and ticket prices are available here. There is also information available on the Industry Preview on January 15 & 16th as well as the Charity Preview on January 17th if you are interested.