BOWL SWAG: Like every other college football bowl game, the Dec. 26 Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field will give “swag” to players from the participating schools, Georgia Tech and Minnesota. Bowl organizers provided a list of the “gift package” that’s valued at $550: A Fathead vinyl wall decal of each player with their likeness; JBL E55BT Bluetooth headphones; $175 Best Buy gift card; and a Quick Lane Bowl backpack, luggage tag, football, mini helmet, and merchandise package. Additionally, Golden Gophers coach P.J. Fleck (Western Michigan’s coach from 2013-16) and Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson, who is retiring after the bowl, will each get a Shinola watch and a welcome basket featuring Michigan-made products and a Quick Lane Bowl merchandise package.
GATE WOES: Northern Illinois scored 20 unanswered points to beat Buffalo 30-29 in a thrill in Friday’s MAC Championship Game at Ford Field. However, the game’s official attendance at the 64,500-seat stadium was 10,255, the lowest in the game’s history since it began in 1997. It peaked in 2016 when 45,615 saw No. 13 Western Michigan beat Ohio University 29-23. The game has been held at Ford Field since 2004. Before that, it was played at Doyt Perry Stadium (2003), Toledo’s Glass Bowl (2001) and Marshall University Stadium (1997-2000, 2002).
TIGERS TOYS: The Detroit Tigers, who are expected to again struggle in 2019, will try to lure fans to Comerica Park with a number of marketing efforts next season. The first announced so far is a $105 “Roar of ’84” ticket package to mark the 35th anniversary of the 1984 World Series team. The deal is five Saturday games, and one of the mementos is a two-parter: A Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell bobblehead set that fits together to form the back-to-back pose from the cover of the 1979 Tigers yearbook.
The anniversary ticket deal games are:
1. May 18 vs. Oakland Athletics (1984 World Series championship pennant)
2. June 29 vs. Washington Nationals (Sparky Anderson bobblehead)
3. July 6 vs. Boston Red Sox (Lou Whitaker bobblehead half)
4. July 20 vs. Toronto Blue Jays (Alan Trammell bobblehead half)
5. Aug. 10 vs. Kansas City Royals (1984 Kirk Gibson road jersey)
The Sparky Anderson bobblehead is the only one of these trinkets that will be available to the public. The rest are available only via this ticket package.
LIONS DISS: The game show “Jeopardy!” on Nov. 26 had a category called “Predictions by 2030” and the $600 question was “As of 2018, this NFC North team had never even made the Super Bowl, much less won it, but by 2030? It’s gotta happen, right?” Of course, the answer is “Who are the Detroit Lions?” [Insert sad trombone sound] Detroit’s last NFL championship game in 1957. If it makes Lions fans feel any better, Detroit can at least claim it hosted two Super Bowls. Cleveland, on the other hand, has never hosted one, and its Browns, like the Lions, have never played in one.
EX-TIGERS AWARDS: The Major League Baseball Players Association said last week that players selected Curtis Granderson as Marvin Miller Man of the Year for a third time and J.D. Martinez as Player of the Year in the 2018 Players Choice Awards. Both are former Detroit Tigers stars: Granderson from 2004-09 and Martinez from 2014-16. Granderson, 37, is a free agent after playing for Toronto and Milwaukee last season. Martinez, 31, is with the Red Sox. Each season, voting for the awards is conducted in clubhouses in mid-September under the supervision of accounting firm KPMG, the MLBPA said.
MLB RSN BUYERS: Another week, another potential suitor for Fox Sports Detroit and its 21 sister regional sports networks. This time, it’s Major League Baseball itself. Commissioner Rob Manfred told the sports finance blog John Wall Street last week: “We’re very interested in the RSN sale process and have preferences in terms of who the owners are going to be. Candidly, we’re looking at the RSNs ourselves.” Other potential owners include Amazon, private equity giants, traditional broadcasters, and Fox Sports itself buying them back from Disney.
JACKPOT RECORD: The Vancouver Canucks set a 50/50 raffle jackpot record by hitting a $1.4 million (Canadian) total for their game on Nov. 27 against the L.A. Kings, per media reports. The winner got half, and because it’s in Canada, the jackpot is tax-free. The charitable beneficiary is the team’s Canucks for Kids Fund. Helping fuel the jackpot was Canada allowing raffle tickets to now be bought online rather than just in-person at the arena. The money was guaranteed by Toronto-based Ascend Fundraising Solutions, which pledged at least $500,000 toward the jackpot, Sportsnet.ca reported. Locally, the Detroit Lions for several years have run a 50/50 raffle and its largest jackpot this season was $131,638 on Thanksgiving.
MLB GAMING: Major League Baseball last week struck a multi-year deal that makes MGM its official gaming and entertainment partner. MGM’s sports betting operations will have access to regular and exclusive advanced stats for its gambling clients, and MLB’s team logos will be part of the gaming giant’s promotions. There also will be cross promotions and branding. It’s unclear what the deal means for the Detroit Tigers, who have gaming advertising deals with MotorCity Hotel Casino — owned by Marian Ilitch, whose name is on the trust that owns the team. MGM has a casino in Detroit. The National Basketball League struck a similar with MGM in June and the National Hockey League signed one with MGM in October. The relationships have developed because the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal law that limited sports gambling, and each state is now allowed to craft its own rules. Michigan has not yet done so.
NEW LEAGUE: The Alliance of American Football, the latest attempt at a spring pro football league, held a quarterback-only draft last week and 28 passers were selected in four rounds. Perhaps the most notable name is Christian Hackenberg, who was a second-round pick of the New York Jets in 2016. He was taken seventh in the second round last week by the Memphis Express. The new league kicks off its 10-week season on Feb. 9, and games will air on CBS Sports Net (with the first game and the championship game to air on CBS itself). There are no Midwest teams.
NEW LEAGUE II: Pro wrestling impresario Vince McMahon’s new spring pro football league, the reborn XFL, on Wednesday will announce which eight cities will get teams for its inaugural season in 2020. It appears, however, that the names were accidentally revealed online, and they are Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington, DC. Detroit is among 21 cities for which XFL domain names have been registered, so it’s possible Motown gets a team in the future — if there’s a future. McMahon’s first XFL lasted one season in 2001.