Wojo: I have all the answers to Detroit sports’ ills — just ask

Detroit News

Detroit — We used to rabidly discuss the playoffs this time of year. (We did, look it up!). In case you haven’t noticed, that cherished Detroit tradition for the Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers currently is on hold. Instead, we talk about the Lions’ snazzy offense, their draft picks, Dan Campbell’s eating habits, and other existential sports issues.

Such as, why does the NHL hate the Red Wings? Seven straight draft lotteries, seven straight face-washes. Apparently, Gary Bettman remembers all those boos he endured at Joe Louis Arena.

Or, do the Pistons need to win another lottery to ever be good again? Uh, probably. They’ll get their 14% chance next Tuesday. If they land 7-foot-3 French phenom Victor Wembanyama, we might forgive the NHL for denying Connor Bedard to the Wings.

Most of the real drama is elsewhere these days. We used to wonder which of our team owners would make the big push. Now, we see Michigan State’s Mat Ishbia pushed onto the national stage by Nikola Jokic, and responding with his best Wisconsin basketball impression. He flopped, but he isn’t flopping as the Phoenix Suns’ rookie owner.

I mean, we can’t even drum up a decent quarterback controversy. The Lions cleverly drafted an older injured guy, Hendon Hooker, so Jared Goff’s biggest concern is figuring out which Alabama speedster to throw to. The smart money is on Jahmyr Gibbs, for now.

To fill the void, I’m here to address all the relevant local sports issues. I solicited questions from the Twitter machine (@bobwojnowski) for the inaugural “Ask Mr. Wojo” exercise, and these are actual responses from actual readers, except for the occasional bot.

Question: “On a scale of 1-10 (10 being the closest) how close is major college football to just becoming the NFL Lite with no salary cap transparency?” — @BrianRival

Answer: It’s getting dangerously close (I’d say a 7), with the expanded playoff, player payoffs and prolific portal parties. Now that players outside the SEC are allowed to be paid, and anyone can jump into the transfer portal the first time a coach calls him a bad word, the college game has become as annoyingly transactional as the NFL. Evolution was necessary, and the games remain mostly entertaining, but the gluttony is unseemly. That said, I’d still rather watch Northwestern-Iowa than Titans-Commanders, although it’s close.

Q: “Will 2023 be considered a failure for Jim Harbaugh if Michigan does not beat Ohio State and win the Big Ten for the third straight season?” — @lucrative313

A: Yep, just like it used to be, losing to the Buckeyes would be a season-wrecker for the Wolverines, especially playing them in the Big House. Harbaugh is on a roll, 25-3 the past two seasons and recruiting madly, possessing the way-way-way-too-early No. 1 class in 2024. Winning a playoff game and a national title remain the elusive goals. Probably can’t do either without belting the Buckeyes.

Q: “How many times per week do you drop coffee and bagels off at Schembechler Hall for the coaching staff?” — @realpowersbrian

A: What a dumb, predictable question. Donuts, ya’ nitwit, not bagels.

Q: “What the hell is going on with Mel Tucker in East Lansing? PS: God bless Tom Izzo.” — @KevinJPal

A: In today’s college football, you can’t overreact to every transfer or recruit. You also can’t overreact to every 11-2 record. Tucker’s second season set unreasonable expectations, which were lavishly affirmed by the school. Nothing wrong with a high standard, but Tucker is 18-14 and recruiting at a middle-of-the-pack level. Losing his starting quarterback, Payton Thorne, and best playmaker, Keon Coleman, to the portal set off alarms. If the Spartans go 6-6 or worse, the unrest will be real.

Q: “Hey Wojo, are you shocked/surprised where the Tigers are so far in the AL Central standings, 2.5 games behind the Twins? I’m sorta shocked/surprised actually.” — @JamesBrownII

A: Yes, I’m also sorta shocked/surprised, considering after two weeks of the season, I was appalled/disgusted. Javier Báez has been impressive/not as maddening since his early benching. If Riley Greene and Spencer Torkelson keep stroking/not whiffing, and Eduardo Rodriguez keeps dominating/DOMINATING, the Tigers’ rebuild will gain legitimate traction.

Q: “What would Miggy’s career stats be if the Tigers ever had the brains or nerve to make him sit when he was injured?” — @BobNotMckenzie

A: Miguel Cabrera was his own worst enemy at times, playing through injuries. When trying to contend, the Tigers did squeeze everything out of him. There’s not much left to squeeze, and not much reason to fret about it. His Hall of Fame legacy is cemented, no matter how much he plays the rest of the way. For the record, if you think he risks dropping his career .307 batting average below .300, let me introduce you to math. Cabrera would have to go 0-for-267 the rest of the season to reach .299. I feel comfortable saying that’s unlikely.

Q: “I have a son entering college who aspires to be a sports journalist. What advice would you give him? Also, what sports figure was your hardest interview? Your favorite interview?” — @jmbuchholtz1

A: Has your son considered computer engineering? OK, it helps to love sports. It helps more to love writing and reporting. Be inquisitive. Be dogged. My hardest interview? Tiger Woods, as a 15-year-old prodigy. A prearranged 10-minute phone interview lasted about 90 seconds. He literally said, “I hate doing this.” A lot of people do. Favorite interview? For accessibility, honesty and humor, it’s Tom Izzo, 28 years as head coach and still has time for everyone.

Q: “What really is the best fast-food burger in Michigan?” — @Goblue76

A: I like most food fast, but when I have an extra minute or two, it’s the ButterBurger from Culver’s, perhaps Wisconsin’s greatest contribution to American society. Much better than flopping.

Q: “Cheese curds or onion rings as a side?” — @MerLopj1013

A: Yes.

Q: “Does Tom Izzo need a second NCAA title to solidify his status as a great coach? #MSU” — @DetroitPodcast

A: To be considered a great coach? Nope, already there. To be considered a legendary coach? Nope, already there. To satisfy his own inner competitiveness and satiate fans? Sure. And next season will be his next-best shot. #DetroitNews

Q: “Is it time to be nervous about Juwan Howard? Michigan missed the Tournament and Hunter Dickinson bolted for Kansas. Ugh.” — @BlueHoopsGuy.bot

A: If basketball was one-tenth as big as football at UM, Howard would be feeling some heat. Dickinson admitted on a podcast he left for money. If the school expects to win big in hoops, it should offer players more than Pizza House coupons and gummies.

Q: “How much longer do we have to wait for each of our teams to make the playoffs?” — @MarkUreel

A: It doesn’t take a frosty glass of Kool-Aid to say the Lions should make it this year. The Wings would’ve made it next year if they’d landed Bedard. That said, 2024 is still on the table. I have the Tigers penciled in for 2026. The Pistons could make it in 2026, or sooner, if they win Wembanyama. The fear is, they used up their lottery luck on Cade Cunningham, who got injured. Further proof we can’t have nice things here.

Q: “The schedule comes out Thursday and I can’t wait! How awesome is the Lions’ record gonna be?!” — @LionsPride.FakeBot

A: I knew this was coming. Excitement is so high, I fear two-thirds of Lions fans will have a Dan Campbell kneecap tattoo before they win a playoff game. They’ll beat the Packers twice, the Bears and Vikings once each. They’ll finish 10-7 tied atop the NFC North with the Vikings and make the playoffs for the first time since 2016. You want to know how the story ends, be patient. You’re used to it.

Bob.wojnowski@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @bobwojnowski

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