Michael Rosenberg is a contributor to FOXSports.com and a columnist for Detroit Free Press. His new book "War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest" is available at all fine book stores (including Barnes & Noble and Amazon).
Q: Unlike last year, the NBA trade deadline went out with a whimper. Mirroring the financial times that all Americans are facing, it appears the owners have become more enamored with expiring contracts than they are with acquiring quality players. Do you feel that this "movement" is temporary or something that fans should learn to expect?
MR: Yes, financial times are very tough for NBA owners. I hear Mark Cuban is now choosing between a burger and fries -- he can't afford both.
I think there are two factors at work here. One is that billionaires HATE paying taxes; I mean, we all do, but billionaires seem to hate it more. So they are avoiding the luxury tax if at all possible. The other factor is that everybody is trying to get in on the Summer of LeBron (and Wade and Bosh, etc.). Of course, most of these teams will come up empty, a few will grossly overpay for lesser talents, and a lucky few will get the true stars. But the upcoming free agent classes are a bigger factor, I think, than the economy (though the economy is certainly a factor too).
Q: How much validity is there to the claim that fans from cold weather cities (i.e. the seldom balmy metropolis of Detroit, MI) are more passionate/dedicated fans that ones from milder temperatures?
MR: Charles Barkley once said in Philly, you wake up, it's snowing outside and you're already pissed off. I think that's one reason cold-weather places do have more loyal fans -- if the weather is nice all the time, how mad can you get when the Heat lose? But another factor is that most cold-weather cities don't have as many transplants as most warm-weather cities. In Michigan, the Lions have been passed down from one generation to another, much like a mutant gene. It's just not like that in Jacksonville.
Q: With more than $20 million in cap room this summer, Joe Dumars is poised to become King of the NBA free agents soiree in July. If you would be so kind as to dust off your crystal ball, will his "take on Allen Iverson's contract just so we can dump him in the off season," gambit pay off?
MR: Dumars is, among other things, an exceptional mover and shaker. He is politically very smart and usually manages to manipulate things to get what he wants -- and I mean that as a compliment. So I would be very surprised if he comes up empty in the next two summers. I think he will land Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh or another big piece.
Q: With Michigan's unemployment levels rising and the overall mood of the populous souring, how important have local sports been as a mood booster to fans in this economic tsunami of uncertainty?
MR: They have been big, but the attendance numbers don't show it, because nobody has any money. So it's hard to quantify. But I do believe that people are trying to get lost in the sports world more because the real world is so ugly.
Q: How much, if any, of Rasheed Wallace's paranoia is valid? Are the refs really gunning for him?
MR: John Nash, who drafted Rasheed in Washington and traded for him in Portland, once told me that the refs had it in for Rasheed from the moment he was drafted. This is odd, because Rasheed didn't get many technicals in college. But yeah, there is no doubt in my mind that the officials are tougher on him than most players. Rasheed is largely at fault for this, though. If he had just picked one season to shut up and play, the refs would have started to treat him like anybody else. Instead, he practically begs them to 'T' him up, and he can't let any perceived slight go unmentioned. So it is a vicious cycle.
Q: When seeking inspiration for your columns, whom or what do you seek?
MR: Beer. No, I'm kidding. Sort of. I try to write columns that would appeal to me if I were a Detroit sports fan -- I always figured that if I can make you laugh, or tell you something you don't know, or give you something new to think about, I've done my job. The paper only costs 50 cents -- what do you want from me? And now that it's free on the Internet, I don't mind saying I'm worth every penny.
Q: What advice would you give to young scribes seeking a career in sports journalism?
MR: Go to business school. I'm only sort of kidding. These are horrible economic times for journalists, and the future of the industry is frankly in doubt. So I guess I'd say to be the best you can possibly be, try to create a unique skill set, and have a backup plan.
Q: Your call for the more depressing: Kwame Brown's post skills or the Detroit Lion's hopes for next season?
MR: Lions. At least Kwame can get a DNP.
Q: It's been said that the hardest projects to finish are the ones you never begin. As a writer, what has been your secret for battling away procrastination?
MR: My wife would laugh her ass off if she heard that question. I wish I had a secret. I'm a pretty bad procrastinator. Generally what motivates me is not wanting to get fired for missing deadlines. This was much tougher when I wrote my book ("War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and America in a Time of Unrest" -- available wherever books are sold!) because I only had one serious deadline, and it was a long way away. But fear motivated me then, too. I was terrified that the book would suck, or that I'd get it wrong.
Q: We end all interviews with simple word association. I say "wombat" and you say:
MR: Atari. The cartridge that used to come with the system was Combat. I'm sure my fellow Children O' The '80s remember that.