This year marks the fifth that I've posted on Facebook my favorite songs from the past year, and the third that I've posted about them here. As with the previous years, these are songs released in either 2013 or 2012. A few of the songs and artists appear on some real music critics' lists, but I assure you that no offense is intended by including them on mine as well.
21. The Man Who Lives Forever by Lord Huron.
"They say we're all gonna die, but I'll never believe it.
I love this world and I don't wanna leave it.
Say that death is a deal that you cannot refuse.
But I love you girl and I don't wanna lose you."
Missed out on them twice: first when the album was released late last year, the second when they were at Bonnaroo and E was saving us seats, but my brother and I stayed camped out for The Mowgli's. Trying to make up for it now -- a great song.
22. Call Me by St. Paul & The Broken Bones.
"This ain't the heartache
that I thought I knew.
This ain't the party
that I thought we'd do."
Some blue-eyed soul for you, courtesy of my brother who introduced me to the group. Blue-eyed soul is one thing, but that voice coming out of that person? Very cool.
23. Don't Swallow the Cap by The National.
"I have only two emotions,
careful fear and dead devotion.
I can't get the balance right,
with all my marbles in the fight."
I think I've seen just about every song from the standout album "Trouble Will Find Me" on one top songs list or the other. This is one of my favorites.
24. Dim Lights, Thick Smoke by Dwight Yoakam.
"You're drinking and dancin' to a honky-tonk band.
When you left your lovin' family life, that's right back were your ran.
So go on and have your fun, but you won't always look so smart.
When some day that lonely bar room breaks your honky-tonk heart."
I cannot explain my longstanding love of Dwight and his music. And I will not try.
25. Gasoline by Alpine.
"There's ... a light I've found in your eyes.
That ... I've never found in mine.
I know I ... I could never ever show you.
But there's always night time."
I suppose this song is another of those that I like that is close to a guilty pleasure. But like it I do.
26. Super 8 by Jason Isbell.
"Well they slapped me back to life
and they telephoned my wife,
and they filled me full of Pedialyte.
Some are guts, some are glory,
it would make a great story,
if I ever could remember it right."
Life, love, and near-death in, yes, a Super 8 motel in Bristol.
27. The Valley by The Oh Hello's.
"We were young when we heard you
call our names in the silence.
Like a fire in the dark;
like a sword upon our hearts."
Wikipedia says The Oh Hello's are a Christian band. If so, they provide a counterbalance to some of the irreligious songs on the list, including the next one.
28. Late March, Death March by Frightened Rabbit.
"As we walk … through an hour-long pregnant pause;
No grain of truce can be borne.
My bridge is burned .. perhaps we'll shortly learn,
that it was arson all along."
Veteran list followers won't be surprised by my inclusion of FR, one of my all-time favorite bands.
29. Open Ended Life by The Avett Brothers.
"Let's find something new to talk about;
I'm tired of talkin' 'bout myself.
I spent my whole life talkin' to convince everyone
that I was something else.
And the part that kinda hurts is
I think it finally worked …
and now I'm leaving."
Another regular denizen of the list. Not overly impressed by the new album as a whole, but this one is vintage Avetts.
30. The Great Divide by The Mowgli's.
"I've gone to meet my maker.
And when I find what I was made for,
this soul of mine will finally find some peace.
So I will smile, and I'll see you there."
The first of several acts I was fortunate enough to see live this past year. The Mowgli's really seem to like each other and have fun making music.
Following on the heels of my recent post on participation trophies comes this news from some of the fine folks at the Kanawha County Board of Education: it is considering a policy that would mandate playing time for middle school athletes.
Presumably suggested with the best of intentions by Board member Becky Jordon, the as-yet (and hopefully to remain) unspecific policy would apparently require all middle school athletes to receive at least some playing time in every game.
After receiving initial, and almost completely unanimous, opposition to the idea, Ms. Jordon attempted to explain the "thought" process behind the proposed policy but just dug herself a deeper hole. The explanation is so inexplicable that it deserves ample re-quoting.
"Jordon says the sixth- through eighth-grade is a fragile time for students, and some coaches are too hard on young athletes. That can be detrimental to their future success, she said.
'I think this has been misunderstood. Yes, there are a lot of young athletes that work really hard, and they deserve the right to play more. I just feel like it needs to be fair. I'm not saying take the superstars out of the game, but you know what? Give everyone a chance,' she said. 'We have some coaches that don't always treat everyone fair, . . . and often times there are hurt feelings.
I can promise that, if a kid sits on that bench all through middle school, they will not attempt to be engaged in high school. We know the kids that are most involved are the most successful,' she said. 'It's not just about bullying. It's an awkward age. There isn't a person that can say middle school was a great time. If we can make a minimal step to make kids feel better about themselves, we should.'"
While, at least as it was initially reported, it appeared the proposal would require equal playing time for athletes, Ms. Jordon either never made that part of her proposal or abandoned it. But the idea that a Board of Education (particularly one faced with budgetary difficulties following the recent resounding defeat of an excess levy) should be looking over the shoulder of every middle school coach in the county to "give everyone a chance" is almost as absurd.
Heaven forbid that 12, 13, and 14 year-olds learn that everything isn't "fair" or that everyone doesn't get "a chance." We should make them feel "better about themselves" even if it is at the expense of more talented, or, even worse, more dedicated teammates.
Not to mention the aside that "I'm not saying take the superstars out of the game" raises two serious questions: (1) why not? If participation, not excellence, is the mandated goal of Kanawha County now, why should the gifted get special treatment?; and (2) who exactly is going to determine which players are the "superstars"? Surely not the coaches, Ms. Jordon doesn't trust them enough to make decisions about playing time.
Perhaps the Board should spend its time, energy, and precious little funding to set up a blue ribbon panel to decide, on a school-by-school and team-by-team basis, exactly who the superstars are that are entitled to Board-sanctioned special treatment. And while they're at it, I guess they need to set up a second panel to determine which of the athletes has "worked really hard" enough to warrant playing time.
It also says something about Ms. Jordon's view of athletics and the school system when she asserts that "if a kid sits on that bench all through middle school, they will not attempt to be engaged in high school." Maybe they shouldn't be "engaged" in sports in the first place. Or, how 'bout they decide to be engaged in something they have an aptitude for, say debate, or chorus, or robotics, or a mathematics competition, or theater, or wood shop or metal shop (I'm probably showing my age here -- do they have wood shop or metal shop in middle school these days?), or even a job after school?
Of course, Ms. Jordon's proposal also completely disregards the value of Team and being a member of a team (even if you don't play much or aren't particularly good) about which I have written before. As I always told my players, there are six or seven McDonald's all-Americans sitting on the Duke basketball bench every year, but they practice every day and they're as much a part of the team as anyone.
But there is no capital "T" in team if everyone gets to play and only the "superstars" play more than the rest. Just show up and play, lest your feelings get hurt and you come to realize at 14, rather than at 18 or 19, that we are not all the same and that life doesn't hand out either participation trophies or playing time.
"Put me in coach, I'm ready to play."
Takes on a whole new meaning when followed with "no, I mean you have to put me in. It's my turn. Ms. Jordon says so."
It's only fair, right?
"We must picture Hell as a state where everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment."
An open letter from the Miami Dolphins:
Jonathan Martin didn't get it. And neither do you.
It's not that we're above the law. It's that we make the law, we are the law. An entirely different ethos applies here -- we decide what's wrong and what's right, even what's black and what's white. Envy, self-importance, resentment? Those are the qualities we were told we should build our lives around, ever since we were recruited to play college ball starting in the ninth grade, since we lost or won our first big game.
That you will never understand is a given. You in your comfortable La-Z-Boy, watching us risk our health every Sunday, not knowing if the next hit might end our careers. We gave up on you a long time ago. Sure, we depend on you to watch so that we can earn what we do playing a game, but we don't live in your world or live by your rules, and don't want you meddling with ours.
Jonathan, he could have been different from you. He had the ability, the physique, the strength to be a part of our world. But he wouldn't follow our law. He didn't join in the locker room pranks. He wouldn't help pay for a trip he didn't go on.
And so Richie got the word (even though he probably didn't need it) to come down hard on Jonathan. To bring him into the fold.
But Jonathan still wouldn't give in. Sure, he nodded his head and smiled sometimes, hoping Richie would stop. He may have even made a half-hearted attempt at joining in some dirty jokes or playing along with some racist comments. But he still wasn't one of us.
Even when he decided he had enough and left, in the middle of the season, we might have let him come back. We'll let outsiders hang around for a while, if they're really good or we really need them. But then Jonathan broke the biggest rule of all: never, ever, let anyone in that world know what goes on in this one.
And by doing that, maybe Jonathan, for the first time, understands the rules. Crap stays in-house, no matter what. If you have a problem, you work it out by fighting the guy who's causing it, even if he too weighs over 300 pounds and has a long history of "character issues" up to and including the possibility that he is a sociopath.
You don't go running to your agent or to the media. Even if you can't take it anymore.
Because, once you do, you're never, ever getting back in. Because, once you do, you will understand the lengths we will go to to protect our code, our rules, our world. Even if it means our black players explaining that Richie is really more black than Jonathan. Or that everyone under 40 uses the n-word all the time now; that it's not derogatory any more, it's a term of affection. Kind of like "Bro" or "Dude" in your world. Or easier stuff like that Jonathan never fit in, was stand-offish and quiet and not quite as manly as the rest of us.
It hasn't been easy to do, especially that whole Richie as an honorary black guy thing. But we did it because if we didn't there'd be no end to it. No end to your trying to impose your rules in our world.
The only funny thing these past few weeks (well, other than that honorary black guy thing)? When Jonathan's agent said that he's looking forward to playing football again. Not in this universe, pal. Not in Miami or the 31 other locker rooms. We live by our rules, not yours, not your agent's.
And our rules say welcome to Hell Jonathan.
About this time every high school soccer season, I'd begin thinking about the awards that we coaches would give our players at our season ending get-together.
I had a tradition that, every other season, I would find a toy, token, or object that fit each player and her abilities, attitudes, or interests. Sometimes they would be obvious, sometimes not. They were always meant to be fun, even if they were occasionally a little ambiguously mean.
The superstitious player who wouldn't abandon her soccer boots at the end of the season, choosing to use duck tape on them instead, received a big roll of tape for the next year. The elegant winger who ran like a colt and cursed like a sailor was given a Princess Leia doll with a tiny bar of soap in her mouth. The player who consistently "forgot" to bring her running shoes to practice got another pair of her very own for the next season.
I sometimes wonder if any of them have kept those knickknacks, which weren't huge and gaudy like the dozens I'm sure they had been handed at the end of every soccer, basketball, and softball league in which they had participated when they were younger.
Ever since our son, E, first brought home a "participation trophy" from soccer when he was four years old, I have been opposed to youth leagues that award them. Trophies should be won, not handed out like Halloween treats. When an athlete, at any age, earns a trophy, she does so knowing that her team excelled -- or at least was better than most -- not just for showing up.
Fortunately, E got it at an early age. As competitive as he was, it didn't take long for him to realize that trophies won were much more valuable than those provided for participation. And I never gave the participation trophies much more thought.
Others, however, have given them great consideration, and have concluded that we may well have poisoned a whole generation into thinking that they are entitled to anything and everything, including a trophy for mere attendance. In a recent op ed piece in the New York Times, the author cites psychologists and psychological studies that conclude that participation trophies are counterproductive. "Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, found that kids respond positively to praise; they enjoy hearing that they’re talented, smart and so on. But after such praise of their innate abilities, they collapse at the first experience of difficulty. Demoralized by their failure, they say they’d rather cheat than risk failing again."
I think it's a little too easy to blame the awards themselves to any great extent, but perfectly legitimate to blame what they represent: a generation of parents (yes, you baby boomers) that failed to discipline their children when they misbehaved and failed completely at the honest, subjective analysis of their children's abilities and the value that sports and teamwork can provide even in the absence of athletic skill.
As you might imagine, there are many stories that I could tell about dealing with unrealistic or misguided parents advocating for their children (often to the child's horror) with regard to athletics. But to do so at this point would be both futile and equally selfish on my part.
While the author of The Times article starts her article with the premise that if the youth league your child is joining hands out participation trophies you should "find another program", that's easier to do in New York City than Charleston, West Virginia. And, in some ways, it's just a further abdication of a parent's responsibilities. Isn't it more of a teaching moment, when their kid brings home that first shiny trophy that is the same as one that every other child received, for the adults to point that out, to state that while participation is fine excellence is better?
They will get it. E certainly did. While he lives in Richmond now, his room at home is still stuffed with various reminders of his athletic achievements: a state track relay championship medal, plaques from state tennis championships, a first-team all-state soccer plaque, even trophies from basketball and soccer tournaments won ten or more years ago. But those participation trophies? He banished them to the attic long ago.
I kept telling myself "it was only a friendly. It was only a friendly."
On two occasions this summer, after the U.S. Men's soccer team's big win over Germany and its shocking come-from-behind triumph over Bosnia-Herzegovina, I reminded myself of just that. After all, in the midst of UEFA qualifying, those countries may have treated the games as warm-ups, an opportunity to allow their reserve squad players a taste of international action.
But the mere fact that the Americans won both matches, in which they likely would have collapsed two years ago, or even earlier this year (remember the game against Belgium a week before the one against Germany?) made me think that something big was brewing with the national team.
Back in January, I wrote about how this was a cross-roads year for both the U.S. Men's and Women's National teams, as well as women's professional soccer in the U.S. Feast or famine; make or break. A year of ascendancy or disaster? is the way I put it.
While the Woman's national team has done just fine under new coach Tom Sermanni, and the jury is still very much out with regard to the new women's league, the answer for the Men's team is clear: ascendancy it is.
The improvement shown against two of the best squads in Europe in the friendlies was borne out in the remaining matches of CONCACAF qualifying as the Americans, after a serious misstep in Costa Rica (which was clearly the second best team in this Hex), steamrolled Mexico and Jamaica and then stunned poor Panama, on the cusp of kicking Mexico to the qualifying curb, with two extra time goals in the final qualifying match.
While some pundits wondered post-match about the wisdom of pursuing an in-game strategy that kept Mexican hopes alive in the World Cup (with their loss to Costa Rica in the final match and what seemed like a imminent win by Panama over the U.S. Panama would have traveled to New Zealand and back for a playoff and Mexico would have been sent home to lick its considerable psychological and monetary wounds), I'm glad that the team and Coach Jurgen Klinsmann saw fit to play hard and go for a win in their last competitive match before next summer's World Cup.
And least we forget, while Klinsmann is now being hailed as a savant and savior, it wasn't too long ago that his leadership and tactics were being seriously questioned. But first with those friendlies, then with the wins over Mexico and Panama, Klinsmann has show a deft touch with substitutions and the ability to get the most out of his players, especially those that he does not put in the starting 11.
Klinsmann's leadership strengths discredit the idea that the U.S. should have "thrown" the Panama game. That thought is completely contrary to the way that Klinsmann is going about the job of building a different soccer psyche in this country, and that is not the lesson that he would have wanted his players in Panama City to take away from that match.
Instead, the Americans flew back to the U.S. full of confidence, convinced that they can win any match, at any time, with any 11 players on the pitch. Whether that will bear out depends a lot on what countries it draws into its group in the World Cup (and it might get ugly)(you could waste hours keeping track of all the possible permutations using the draw simulator here). Nonetheless, that confidence will be there when they step on the pitch, somewhere in Brazil against an unknown opponent in June 2014. I can't wait. And I don't think they can either.
How cool is it that ...
The son of a former major league baseball player is now an established veteran of Major League Soccer?
That MLS can now afford to bring one of the best American soccer players back to play in his prime?
That the undisputed home of the U.S. men's team is in Columbus, Ohio, a city dominated all day, every day except once every four years, by American football and is the residence of a fairly miserable MLS team in recent years?
That the "home" of MLS is the Pacific Northwest, where there was no MLS club six years ago?
That many MLS clubs now play, or at least attempt to play, dynamic, passing football rather than the long ball and hoof it game that dominated the game in the U.S. for most of its formative years?
I'll admit that I've been a fan of soccer teams other than MLS clubs for a long time. Blackburn Rovers, Celtic, Barcelona, and now I am grudgingly becoming somewhat of an Arsenal fan as I have convinced myself the it will be years, if ever, before Rovers make it back to the Premier League and I want a club to root for in the Premiership.
But I think many American soccer fans, later to come to the game than I, are doing the MLS and American soccer a disservice by ignoring MLS in favor of the EPL.
There is no dispute that the level of soccer in MLS is still not equal to that of the top European leagues. Or some of South America. Or even (not yet) the Mexican League. But it's gaining. And it's our league.
American soccer consumers have been duped, first by Fox, now by NBC, into thinking the Premier League is the be-all and end-all of professional soccer. And I'll admit, that I am among that number and continue to be, because I've followed the highest (and lesser) levels of soccer in that league for close to 20 years now.
But we confuse the hype with the play on the field. And confuse the Premier League with English soccer. Let's face it, England long ago stopped being the center of the World's game. Except for the huge infusion of cash by foreign owners of EPL clubs, which brought it back to prominence in the 1990's and the early part of this century.
Four of the last five UEFA Champions League winners have not been English clubs. In the past 20 years, Spanish clubs have won six titles, Italian and English four, German three, and French, Dutch, and Portuguese clubs one each. And while I don't have the time or inclination to examine the rosters of each club, my uneducated guess is that, with the exception of Manchester United's 1998 roster featuring Beckham, Giggs, Scholes, Keane, etc., the English clubs that won had more "foreign" players than those from the other countries had.
This post didn't start out with the intention of bashing the Premier League, its clubs, or its fans. Especially not its English fans, many of whom have followed the same club, through thick and thin, for generations.
But American soccer fans have a certain obligation, I believe, to grow the game in this country. And the only way that can be done is with a strong domestic professional league.
Yes, MLS has its definite flaws. And the quality of play, while improving, is not up to that of the best leagues in the world. But it's getting better, and it's feeding more and better players to our national team.
So, go ahead and watch the Premier League on Saturday and Sunday mornings. But watch the MLS too. Or better yet, go see a game in Columbus or DC. It's a great experience. And it's real football.
I've been stuck in a rut with writing my next post for over a month now.
I started one about Ryan Braun's half-hearted explanation/apology and how it reflected what a bully he is, particularly with regard to the sample collector, Dino Laurenzi, Jr., about whom and his suspected biases he went on at great length in his "I'm innocent" press conference in 2012, but who only merited the following in his admission of guilt: "I sincerely apologize to everybody involved in the arbitration process, including the collector, Dino Laurenzi, Jr." when Braun finally fessed up and admitted to cheating this summer.
But I have grown bored with Braun and his ego-centric behavior, and, frankly, bored with my loathing of him.
I began another post about my prediction at the start of the year that this was a seminal year for the status of soccer in the U.S., from the Men's National Team, which was largely in turmoil and not playing particularly well at the time, to the Women's National Team which was trying to adjust to Life With(out) Pia, to the new women's league and where each was at now. But work and vacation got in the way, and I decided to wait until after the U.S. v. Mexico matches (the women this week, the men next week) to proclaim my current judgment on those issues. (But here's a teaser - Sydney Leroux is good.)
The third one that I started and never finished is the one I regret the most not completing. It celebrated the achievements of two friends, one a coach, the other a golfer. The coach achieved this June what he had long deserved - the right to call himself a State Championship coach. I considered him one of my closest coaching colleagues at Charleston Catholic, and I intended to recognize his achievement, not just in winning a championship (finally), but in always doing things the right way as well as his success in mentoring several generations of athletes, which far outweighs anything he or they will ever accomplish on the field.
The other friend is a far better golfer than me, but had never had a hole-in-one (although he did have a double eagle - an "albatross" - which is a far more difficult and rare achievement) before making his first ace late this year. I would have held him up as use an example of how good things come to those who wait.
But that post, too, went unpublished as it seemed that timeliness was important and ultimately unachievable.
Then today I had an epiphany of sorts as I listened to an NPR interview with Trent Reznor and realized that I am closing in on the 100th post of this blog that began with a whimper more than three years ago.
Reznor spoke in the interview of the changes in his perspective and his music; from the angry but "meticulous" noise of Nine Inch Nails to that of his new album which is much more melodic and at times downright mainstream. He also talked about writing about what he's feeling, what he believes in, and how he wants his music to sound at any particular time. And about trying not to care about what his fans (or former fans) may think.
I appreciate what Reznor is saying. When I first decided to write a blog, I admit it was largely self-promotion (or "business development" as lawyers like to say). I did, though, have enough self-awareness to realize that if I started another employment or internet law blog I'd soon lose interest and hate the idea, the writing, and the idea of writing.
Where I differ with Reznor is that I do care about whether anyone reads my posts and what they think about them. Unlike Reznor, I'm hardly a recognized member of this particular community. And just as importantly because it would be pure narcissism to write and not care whether my readers enjoy, or at least give thought to, what I write.
So, no retrospective as we near another landmark (the two I did near the first and second anniversaries of this blog are among the least read of all my posts -- I'm a little slow but I come around eventually). But an acknowledgement that I've found topics that have kept my interest for almost 100 times now and the hope that occasionally they've done the same for you.
Now if you'll excuse my I've got a black t-shirt to put on and some NIN to listen to ...
While I like to think I'm right most of the time, I will admit to my occasional mistake. And I may have been wrong about Landon Donovan.
Not that I think I was wrong that the team is no longer Donovan's (which was the gist of my post). It is clearly Jurgen Klinsmann's now, having claimed its first trophy under his leadership and, ironically, due at least in part to his dismissal in the last minutes of the semi-final and ban from the sidelines for the final ("he cares! he really cares!!"), along with two sublime substitutions that resulted in a goal from the entering player within his first minute on the field.
But I may have overstated the lack of influence that Donovan could have on the 2014 squad and its chances for success, now that it is all but certain to be in Brazil next year. His performance at the Gold Cup and Klinsmann's reaction to Donovan's effort certainly suggest that he will be in the team and will be looked to for significant contribution.
Where and when that contribution will come is what Klinsmann has to figure out between now and next summer. Donovan played either a withdrawn forward (or a "number ten shirt" as Fox Soccer analyst Brian Dunseth annoyingly and repeatedly feels compelled to say) or as an out-and-out forward at the Gold Cup.
The problem is that while Donovan did indeed wear 10 on his back in the Gold Cup, that spot on the preferred U.S. roster is now owned by Clint Dempsey, and barring either injury or a shocking downturn in form, it is what and where he will be in Brazil. Similarly, Klinsmann prefers playing with one true forward and Jozy Altidore is the clear front runner to start there a year from now. Besides, while Donovan was occasionally creative as a forward, he is not a target player up front.
Donovan has played on the wing for club and country, but Klinsmann seems to prefer outside mids with speed and who will defend better than Donovan. So that leaves Donovan with the role of "super sub" at any of these positions, which seems suitable at this point in his career. While Klinsmann repeatedly says there are no guarantees for positions on the squad or in the starting line-up (and we have no reason to doubt his word at this point), it would be a surprise if Donovan is in the starting 11 against America's first opponent in Brazil. But after the Gold Cup it would not be a surprise, if the U.S. has a successful run, that Donovan will be a part of it.
Other than Donovan, the players who in my view helped their chances of making the squad for the World Cup were Kyle Beckerman, Michael Parkhurst ("rah! rah! Wake Forest rah!"), and Brek Shea.
Beckerman, the dreadlocked defensive center-mid (his hair has its own Twitter feed), may have been the most consistent and most vital player for the Americans for the entire tournament. He bossed the game defensively and started attacks from the back with smart passing. While Jermaine Jones seems to have forged a good understanding with Michael Bradley in the midfield, he still has not overcome his penchant for at least one rash challenge per match which, given FIFA's yellow card rule, is problematic.
Parkhurst was solid defensively and showed good ability to get involved in the attack. While no doubt that offensive role will be more limited against the much higher level of talent that World Cup opponents will provide, he established himself as a useful player at right back, as Steve Cherundolo's understudy if nothing else. And while Shea's play was spotty, there's no denying that he was in the right place at the right time to score the two biggest goals of the tournament for the Yanks.
They are both quintessentially American.
One was the best in the world, probably the best that's ever been, at the very least for a single decade. He is a perfectionist, driven, ambitious, full of avarice and hubris, and impossible to ignore, love him or hate him. He had the reputation of always being at his best on the big stage.
The other is undoubtedly the best there's ever been at approaching the game from the "wrong" side, both literally and metaphorically. He is a swashbuckler, a gambler on his chosen field of play, but a family man off, who has overcome personal adversity and family medical crises to maintain a flourishing career into his mid-40's. He had the reputation of never being able to contain his daredevil game to comply with the strict limits imposed by the powers-that-be that control those big stages.
Both are admired by most if not most all golf fans, but either one or the other is genuinely embraced, never both by the same person.
The difference between the two was driven home this morning in the space of a few minutes. The first hit a bad shot, used the Lord's name in vain (on a Sunday, although admittedly he professes to be a Buddhist). The second hit a bad shot, after which his caddy apparently apologized for recommending the wrong club. He, however, said it was his fault, blaming the artisan, not the tool.
I can comprehend why those who are Tiger fans are so. He is the sporting Andrew Carnegie, a golfing robber baron who epitomizes why we are admired and disliked throughout most of the rest of the world.
For me, I'll take Phil. Even if he hadn't won today.
This post started out as a lengthy, bitchy explanation of how much I enjoyed my second Bonnaroo experience this past week and why I'm very probably never going back.
That draft, however, hardly reflected how much fun I had and that the Roo experience was overall a positive one. Plus it just seemed, well . . . old and grumpy. So instead, I decided to just hit both the highs and lows of the week to give you a little window into what it's like to be a Bonnaroovian.
Hi, Hi, Hi. Yes, Paul McCartney and his band played Hi, Hi, Hi during his fantastic Friday night show. But the showstopper was Live and Let Die, which probably isn't among my top 50 favorite Beatles or Wings songs. Blackbird showed that Sir Paul's voice still has some range and Helter Skelter and Back in the U.S.S.R. completely rocked. "Epic" was how my brother described it. Just so.
Low. People with crap on sticks. Big sticks that they wave around and block your view with during a show. Part of the "look at me" shtick that so many seem compelled to engage in. Several times I wished I had a blow dart or bottle rocket ...
High? Even if you indulged in a pharmaceutical, Django Django and Japandroids back-to-back would Wear. You. Out.
Low. Bros and Sorority Chicks. More interested in talking about themselves, school, drugs, than about music. While music is playing. Take your cellphone picture, tweet that you're at Of Monsters and Men, then shut up and leave.
High. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. My brother has convinced me that I undervalued the performance immediately afterward, and I admit my admiration has grown over the week. Absolutely killed Love is a Long Road, one of my favorite Petty songs.
Low. Hula Hoops. Another part of the "look at me" crowd, people take hula hoops to shows, take up six times as much room as anyone else, and twirl them in their hands and on their torsos. I remain unimpressed.
High. Macklemore. A rollicking hour of fun both a 21-year-old and a 55-year-old could love. Highlight was Mack borrowing a fur coat from someone in the crowd to belt out Thrift Shop. And, yes, Ray Dalton was there. And sounds better live, believe it or not.
Low. Stoners who believe it's their right to shove their way to the front of the crowd, no matter how late they are to the show or how many people are in front of them.
High. Our fellow camper Jason, who came all the way from California for the show. Fascinating guy.
Low. The fat obnoxious Canucks who camped behind us.
High. JD McPherson. Straight up rockabilly fun.
Low. Something called Delta Rae. No. No, no, no.
High. The National. Amazing live. And Kacey Musgraves, Dwight Yoakam, Jason Isbell, and, yes, Weird Al Yankovic.
High. The Mowgli's. At least three Nelsons will be surprised if they're not the next big thing.
Highest. The weekend spent with my brother and son, enjoying great music in the Tennessee sun. So long Bonnaroo. And thanks.
A great father's day present: your son driving 8 hours through the night to get you home to a hot shower, a real bed, and a loving, incredibly tolerant, wife/mother and over-the-top-happy-to-see-you Jack Russell Terrier.
An even better father's day present: a heart-felt card from one child and a cheerful text conversation with the other on "your" day.
The Best Father's Day present: spending an entire day sharing sunshine, huge rain drops, and great music from hip-hop only a 21 year-old should like (Kendrick Lamar), to hip-hop even a 55 year-old can like (Macklemore and Ryan Lewis), to a fantastic American band (The National), to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, with two of your best friends. One of whom happens to be your brother, the other your son.
I admit it, Alex Rodriquez duped me.
At a time when others were perjuring themselves (Rafeal Palmerio, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens) or simply stonewalling (Mark McGwire), Rodriquez seemingly took the high road. He admitted that, while playing for the Texas Rangers, he had used PEDs. And I, for one, applauded him for his honesty.
Turns out, it was just a smokescreen.
Ryan Braun, on the other hand, I was on to all along.
Now Major League Baseball has a second chance to get it right with Braun and Rodriguez and all the other cheaters who were obtaining PEDs including testosterone and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), from the now-defunct Biogenesis of America clinic in Florida.
It has apparently cut a deal with Tony Bosch, the founder of Biogenesis, to provide direct information linking many players to PEDs obtained from his "wellness clinic." MLB seemingly learned its lesson from the botched drug samples that were the basis of Braun's prior suspension and has been taking its time in investigating Biogenesis, its links to players and agents, and convincing Bosch (who previously denied that his clinic provided PEDs) that it is in his best interest, and perhaps only alternative, to name names.
One can only hope that they've gotten it right this time and that Bosch comes through with truthful information. And that the suspensions of Rodriguez and Braun and others who cheated will be severe. And that Braun and Rodriquez and others who will undoubtedly appeal whatever suspension are handed out will not benefit from some whacky arbitrator's imaginative decision.
Meanwhile, we wait with baited breath for the latest spin that Braun and his lawyers and agents, and Rodriguez and whoever is still clinging by their fingernails to his faded career and legacy, will put on the story.
Who put Bud Selig in charge of MLS?
There seem to be few explanations other than Selig-esque crass commercialism to justify the decision announced this week that the 20th MLS franchise has been awarded to New York City and its new owners, Manchester City and the New York Yankees. But apparently MLS Commissioner Don Garber is not only willing to take credit for the anointment of the newest club, he appears to actually thinks it's a good one.
Put together two of the most hated sports franchises in the universe and plop them down in a city that has shown a complete inability to support one, let alone two, professional soccer teams and you get what, exactly, that is appealing?
One wonders if the awkwardly named N.Y.C.F.C. was saddled with the moniker just to even things up with the New York Red Bulls and their uninspiring identification. "Go over-caffinated, sugary energy drinks!" doesn't lend itself to song or loyalty any more than the attempts by other MLS franchises to pander to Euro-snob U.S. fans by changing their names to sadly mimic storied franchises overseas ("FC Dallas", "Sporting Kansas City", "Real Salt Lake").
As smart as the decision was to add first Seattle, then Portland and Vancouver (with their devoted fan bases and true rivalries) to the fold in recent years, the selection of another New York City franchise appears even more ill-conceived than the attempt to create a rival for the L.A. Galaxy was by adding Chivas USA (whose attendance is abysmal so far in 2013).
Derbies aren't like sea-monkeys. They don't magically appear when you add water, or, in this case, a big pile of oil money and the Yankees' "mystique." That the Yankees were added as a minority owner in what appears to be an attempt to leverage Randy Levine's ability to strong-arm local politicians into handing over the use of public spaces to build nine figure playgrounds for rich owners makes the decision even more odious.
While the eight million or so denizens of The Big Apple will now have their choice of two soccer teams to ignore, those throughout much of the rest of the nation, many with soccer-rich traditions that pre-date both Garber and MLS, are left scratching their heads and wondering what they have to do to warrant consideration for franchises 21 and 22, which are apparently still in the works.
Prior to the NYC announcement, Garber had had identified Miami, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Orlando as possibilities for additional expansion. Orlando actually makes some sense, based on the dearth of professional soccer at the highest level in the fourth most populous state in the country. Miami has already had its chance and it, like Atlanta, has consistently proven for decades its inability to sustain franchises other than pro football. Minneapolis? A nice place in July and August, but it will almost certainly need a turf field, which causes its own problems.
The wrong-headed approach to MLS expansion appears to be driven by identifying owner groups seeking a franchise and then either choosing somewhere to plop it, or to accede to their demands for a location, rather than on the fan-base of an area and its interest in soccer. St. Louis, with a long history of soccer enthusiasm and excellence in support of teams at the youth and college levels, is ignored not because it wouldn't support a franchise, but because the individual who has put himself at the forefront of its efforts to capture a club is likely not up to the task. And don't even get me started on poor Rochester, which carried the banner for soccer in New York State for years and isn't even close to being in the conversation anymore.
More and more, despite its bizarre and inscrutable rules regarding salaries, designated players, and player contracts, MLS is just another American professional sport. While the players are still expected to be grateful for whatever is thrown their way, when it comes to ownership and the location of franchises, money is the only thing that talks.
That Landon Donovan was not named by coach Jurgen Klinsmann to the latest U.S. Men's World Cup qualifying squad for five upcoming matches -- two friendlies and three hex matches -- is not particularly surprising. Donovan, after taking a three months sabbatical from soccer, is trying to round back into shape in the L.A. Galaxy line-up, with varying degrees of success.
After making the decision, Klinsmann said the right things about Donovan -- noting that he understood and respected his decision to take time away from the game -- but also made it clear that this team is his, not Donovan's, and that it is developing its own identity, one that does not include Donovan as its centerpiece, if at all. Donovan also made the appropriate "team player" comments after his exclusion -- understanding and respecting Klinsmann's decision, saying that he will continue to work hard to get in game shape and win his way back into the squad.
While many have speculated that Donovan will return to the team for this summer's Gold Cup (and Klinsmann has noted that is a possibility) that doesn't necessarily mean there will be a place for Donovan in the matches that matter leading up to and hopefully including the World Cup in Brazil, since the coach has also said that he will likely call in an entire "second team" to play in the tournament. And while Klinsmann has not ruled Donovan out of future World Cup qualifiers, his comment regarding Donovan's chances of returning to the squad: "maybe later on we'll definitely expect him back in the team" hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement.
One of the obstacles that both Donovan and Klinsmann face to Donovan's return is where will he play? Clint Dempsey has essentially replaced Donovan in the number 10 shirt of the withdrawn forward or attacking midfielder (albeit with a somewhat different style -- Dempsey is more likely to try to advance the ball from midfield himself, taking on defenders, while Donovan relied on speed, passing, and diagonal runs).
The team is desperate for out-and-out wingers and Donovan has played on both the left and right in the past. But he was never a true winger, preferring to return to the center of midfield and rarely took the ball to the corner to send in a cross. And one wonders if age is robbing him of the speed that was a hallmark of his game, as well as an essential tool for a winger who can stretch an opposing defense.
Qualifying matches have revealed a weakness in the Americans' dead-ball skills, something for which Donovan is known. But he's already missed two penalty kicks in the MLS season, so even that potential contribution is in doubt.
Regardless of whether Donovan regains a spot in the squad, it is clear that it will no longer be "his" team. That in itself indicates the passing of an era. Clearly one of Klinsmann's goals is to make the national team his, or (to give him the benefit of the doubt) the U.S. Soccer Federation's . It may be the most significant contribution he will make to moving the sport forward here.
"Ron: I don't know how to put this, but I'm kind of a big deal.
Ron: People know me.
Veronica: Well, I'm very happy for you.
Ron: Um, I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books,
and my apartment smells of rich mahogany."
Far be it from me to suggest that Sunil Gulati would use the same terms to identify himself, and every indication is that he wouldn't, but the fact is he's kind of a big deal. That was emphasized late last month when he was elected by representatives of CONCACAF to serve on FIFA's Executive Committee.
Call me naive if you will, but I truly believe that Gulati has worked for the New England Revolution, MLS, the U.S. Soccer Federation, and now FIFA because he wants to advance the game in America. The unfortunate reality, however, is that he may be alone among the 25 members of the ExCom to put the game's interests above his own.
The tales of the excesses and arrogance of the men who run FIFA are legendary. Kickbacks, bribes, and private jets appear to be the rule, not the exception, when it comes to business as usual for the FIFA poo bahs. Some have suggested that the first question from most of Gulati's less-than-luminous predecessors upon their election was "just how many World Cup tickets do I get?"
I suspect that Gulati has bigger fish to fry. After the failed U.S. attempt to win the bid for the 2022 World Cup, Gulati didn't cry foul, as he was surely tempted to do, after many years of effort in the bid went down in flames (in particular, those from the gas wells in Qatar). Instead he shrugged his shoulders and vowed to carry on the fight for soccer in the States.
If Gulati sees his election as an attempt to remake FIFA from a fiefdom of stuffy old men in fancy suits into the actual international organizing body of the most popular sport in the world, he may have a few allies. Michel Platini, the President of UEFA (Europe's CONCACAF equivalent), is another influential member of the international soccer community who actually appears to have the best interests of the game at heart.
Can one or two or a few men change the mindset of what is essentially a huge multi-national corporation based on graft and backscratching? Time will tell. But that seems to be precisely what Gulati has in mind.
I admit to the certain shallowness that comes with being a sports lover. I've struggled with, and written in the past about, my unease with my fondness for sports and competition, its vague, sometimes intangible, sometimes downright offensive grip on me, our nation, and much of the world.
Still, the connection is there. And events like today's bombings at the Boston Marathon become somehow more personal, in some way more horrific, when tied to an athletic event.
I can recall certain events in my life, remember my horror, unease, repulsion at learning of or watching tragedy unfold. JFK, Martin Luther King, RFK, the Challenger, 9/11. Just initials or a single word or a simple number spark a clear recognition and a sharp pain.
I didn't know it at the time, but as I watched the twin towers tumble on a perfect September day in a conference room on the 15th floor of a building in Charleston, West Virginia, I was watching two of my friends die. Just normal guys, living normal lives, whose cruel fate led them to that place, one in each tower, on that unthinkable day.
As news that came to me today that folks I know who were in Boston were safe I was comforted, but it stirred the recollection that soon a different kind of news would be delivered to stunned parents, children, friends.
In some ways, it seems worse to me when terror and tragedy are tied to an athletic competition. The Munich Olympics. The Atlanta Olympics. Organized or random, political statement or senseless act, the idea that someone would intentionally take the life of or cause harm to those competing or watching an athletic event makes the act all the more cruel and heartless, aimed most specifically at those who are demonstrating the best of what we are capable of.
That is even more true of today's events. At first, because of when the explosions occurred, I thought it couldn't have been a planned attack, because it didn't occur when the leaders finished. The statement, I thought, would have been coordinated to cause the maximum damage to the "stars" of the event when they finished some three hours earlier.
But that wasn't the plan, nor the statement. The statement is simply that we're not safe. Anywhere, wherever we gather, even if for the simple joy of competing, even if only to prove that we can do something that we never thought we were capable of, we are not safe. And no amount of planning or protection or surveillance can make us completely safe again.
Our reaction to this sobering reality can take one of two paths: surrender, or keep competing. Give in, or fight back, through a demonstration of human spirit and resilience. Courage can be spectacularly demonstrated through sports, just by competing.
My daughter is supposed to run in a half-marathon in Boston next month. On her 25th birthday no less. My first thought was that I hope they cancel the race. My second was that if they don't, I hope she doesn't run.
But she has to run, if they hold the race. She has to represent that part of all of us who state by our actions that, understanding the risks, we will still gather, we will still compete, we will still run.
Run Kelsey. Run.
I am a connoisseur of sports nicknames. And while "March Madness" is mostly about basketball, for me it's at least a little about being exposed to one or two nicknames that I had never heard before.
There are 347 colleges playing NCAA Division I men's basketball this season. Most have boring nicknames like Tigers, Lions, and Bulldogs. And that's fine -- I like bulldogs. But the ones that pique my interest are the unusual ones. There's something special about a unique nickname and what it says about the school.
Nicknames originate from a variety of sources: school administrators, students, an actual vote, long-standing tradition. Many college nicknames were not chosen by the school or its students, but were first appended to teams by sportswriters. Back when scribes actually reported on athletes (or, this time of year, "cagers" which my brother assures me is a term that's still used), they had to come up with different ways to name to team. Still others were chosen by a particular coach.
So, while I bear no animosity toward any nickname (with the possible exception, as my friend Mary used to say, of a certain "worthless hairy nut") I much prefer the unique names, especially those with a history behind them (not the made-up, Johnny-come lately Banana Slugs or Cardinal). In no particular order, here are some of my favorite collegiate nicknames, along with a little background of the origin of the name.
Idaho Vandals. Okay, I lied. There is some order -- the Vandals are my all-time favorite nickname. There are lots of Spartans, Trojans, and Vikings, but for your hard-core pillagers and anarchists, I'll take a Vandal every time. Did the Vikings or the Spartans or the Trojans take down Gaul and Rome? I don't think so. An Idaho basketball coach from the 1910's first referred to his team's defense as so fierce that they "vandalized" their opponents; a writer for the school newspaper first referred to the team as the "Vandals."
Canisius Golden Griffins. The griffins of Greek mythology have the head and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. The nickname comes from a ship (believe it or not) that was built in Buffalo, NY and was the first ship to sail the Upper Great Lakes "Le Griffon."
Manhattan Jaspers. What is a Jasper you might ask? The correct question would actually be "Who was Jasper?" Brother Jasper was a Christian Brothers (F.S.C.) who was a BPOC in the late 19th century and introduced baseball to the school.
St. Louis Billikens. The Billiken is a goofy looking Buddha-like figure that was a charm doll created in the early 20th Century by a St. Louis illustrator and art teacher. It's not entirely clear how or why SLU adopted the Billiken nickname other than a supposed resemblance between the charm and a former football coach, John Bender, and its proximity to its creator.
Presbyterian Blue Hose. If they were called the "Blue Socks" it wouldn't seem all that unusual. But while at one time sportswriters apparently referred to them as either the Blue Stockings or the Blue Hose, the later won out, and an unusual name was born.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons. Another nickname coined by a sportswriter, trying to capture the spirit of a revived athletic program in the 1920's. Thank goodness we're still not "The Baptists." The Demon Deacon mascot is the perfect combination of a top-hatted Deacon with an impish attitude that represents the oxymoronic name.
Akron Zips. They were actually once the Zippers, named after a popular rubber shoe manufactured by BF Goodrich in Akron. With the advent of metal zipper that replace buttons in pants, Akron thought it wise to shorten the nickname to the Zips. Their mascot is Zippy the Kangaroo. Honest.
Southern Illinois Salukis. The only school chosen here that got its nickname via a campus-wide vote. SIU was known as "The Maroons" before they decided a better moniker was in order. While Salukis are cool dogs, the nickname makes even more sense when one understands that the Southern part of Illinois has long been referred to as "Egypt."
Richmond Spiders. Another nickname inspired by a person (in this case a baseball pitcher) and bestowed by a sportswriter. The only arachnid-named school to my knowledge, although I always thought that one of the all-girls' schools was missing out by not naming itself the "Black Widows."
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. "Gamecocks" is just fine, but Chanticleers? Very cool. Chanticleer was a rooster who ruled the roost in one of Canterbury's Tales. When the school went looking for a nickname to replace "Trojans" it wanted to identify with South Carolina's Gamecocks (it was a two-year branch of USC at the time) but keep a separate identity. And so they settled on Chanticleer.
So those are some of my favorite unusual names. I'm hoping to find one or two more in this year's tournament. But in the meantime, is there one out there that you're particularly fond of that didn't make my list? If so, post a comment and let us know.
Almost a year ago I posted about soccer and sexual orientation, about the need for a modern-day Jackie Robinson to come forward and do for the LBGT athletes what Mr. Robinson did for African-Americans 65 years ago.
I didn't think twice about the post when it was written. I had made a conscious effort to avoid political and polarizing topics in my posts to that point, although I had toed the line once or twice before (particularly with regard to Rashard Mendenhall's tweets after Osama Bin Ladin's death). But I didn't think my post about the need for a champion for gay rights in sports would stir up any controversy.
Boy, was I wrong.
Many of my friends questioned the wisdom of that post. While every single one professed deep and abiding agreement with the position I had taken, they all expressed concerns that others who might read the post who didn't share my (and their) sensibilities might be offended.
Since that time, there have been some interesting developments regarding gay rights and sexual orientation in this country and in sports. It's hard to ignore the huge movement to legalize same sex marriage in many states. In soccer, Megan Rapinoe affirmatively stated that she is a lesbian (and gave a heartfelt speech at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center's Anniversary Gala), and in football, former NFL player Kwame Harris was essentially outed when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting his ex-boyfriend.
The closest yet to the call for a modern-day Robinson came today, though, when Robbie Rogers, a player with Leeds United, a former MLS player and U.S. Men's National Team member, announced that he is gay and is "stepping away" from soccer. Many of Rogers' former teammates posted messages of support on social media. And Rogers himself wrote of the great relief that he felt in finally admitting what he had so long hidden out of fear.
Is there a long way to go? Of course. For starters, the one disappointment in Rogers' announcement, is that, at a mere 25 years of age, he will not continue to play professional soccer, at least at this point, and serve as the same beacon that Robinson did for black athletes.
And one only need look to Russia and Eastern Europe to see the ugly side of soccer hate that still exists, whether directed toward black or homosexual players.
But we are, at the least, several steps closer to soccer's Robinson. And Rogers' announcement that he is stepping away, not retiring, gives some hope that he may return to the field, perhaps back in MLS.
And I can, perhaps, feel a little vindication for asking someone like him to step forward.
Post-script: Rogers' signing rights were acquired by the L.A. Galaxy from the Chicago Fire. Rogers will be in the squad for the Galaxy's May 26 match, becoming the first openly gay male to participate in a professional team sport in the U.S.
An important year awaits U.S. soccer, both on the men's and women's sides.
The women will face the year adjusting to a new coach as Tom Sermanni officially takes over from Pia Sundhage, now in charge of the national team in her native Sweden. While the team has understandably expressed excitement at the prospect of having a new coach with new ideas after five successful years under Sundhage (understandable because, well, if they're going to play, they're going to play for Sermanni), several key players are aging at positions that usually expose age (everywhere but keeper, really).
On the professional front of the women's game, the National Soccer League is set to begin play in April. The league announced this past week the allocation of National Team players from the U.S., Mexico, and Canada to the eight franchises, which include essentially are four teams from the former WPS (Boston, "Sky Blue", based in the New York City area, Western New York (Rochester), and Chicago) and four new clubs and cities (Seattle, Portland, Kansas City, and Washington D.C., which had a team for two years before it was moved to Florida).
The players were allocated with the help of a panel of experts, presumably to assure parity. Some effort appears to have been made to allocate American players close to home as well (for example, Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe to Seattle, and Abby Wambach to Rochester).
While I don't profess to be familiar with any of the Mexican or many of the Canadian players, at first glance the Portland club, with Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, and Christine Sinclair from Canada look to have the makings of a powerful offense.
Presumably, as much interest will be focused on the business model of the new league as it tries to succeed where two of its sisters recently failed. Smaller, and in some instances shifting, venues and subsidies from the U.S., Canadian, and Mexican national teams may at least provide a tourniquet for the financial bleeding that is bound to occur with any fledgling professional league.
Meanwhile, on the men's side the National Team faces the final round of qualifying ("The Hex") for the 2014 World's Cup. Who will be in the starting 11 against Honduras on February 6 is anyone's guess, including, more likely than not, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann's. Keeper Tim Howard is a lock. Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey are certainties, barring injury. But even where they will play is not clear. Bradley could play holding midfield, or as an offensive mid. Dempsey could play out wide in a 4-3-3, as a withdrawn forward, or up front (although he does not seem to be preferred by club or country as an out-and-out striker).
The big questions are who will make up what was an inconsistent defense and who will play up front and in what configuration. Is it time to replace Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra in back? Will Herculez Gomez, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Eddie Johnson, or Chris Wondoloski play up front and alone or with a partner?
Whatever the line-up, the results have to be sufficient to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. There is no doubt that soccer's popularity is on the rise in the U.S. But in the women's game, the interest has been limited, to this point, to the national team.
By the same token, the rise in popularity on the men's side has largely been concentrated on the European professional leagues, particularly the English Premier League. And while it's encouraging that there are more broadcasts of soccer than ever, and that results even occasionally creep into smaller newspapers, it doesn't do a lot to grow the professional game in the States.
In order for that to happen, soccer fans have to take more of an interest in MLS, either by attending or just by raising the t.v. ratings. And that's most likely to happen if the men's team, stocked primarily with MLS players, qualifies for its seventh consecutive World Cup. Failure to qualify will not only be a blow to the growth of the game here, but also to U.S. Soccer, which invested its future (not to mention a lot of cash) in the talismanic Klinsmann.
I may be a Pollyanna, but I think Klinsmann will figure it out and the U.S. will qualify either first or second in the group. And the star of the team will not be Dempsey or Altidore or Landon Donovan. It will be the former coach's son - Bradley.
Can we even begin to compare what we're learning about Manti Te'o and his fake girlfriend to anything we've ever seen in sports?
Can we compare the spin that is already being put on the story to anything we've experienced before?
You bet. And not too long ago.
Much as Ohio State did with the Jim Tressel scandal a year and a half ago (yes, that guy who was run out of Columbus on a rail, and greeted with a standing ovation by the Buckeye faithful last November), Notre Dame officials had a choice in how to approach, or not approach as the case may be, the story regarding Te'o.
And, much like Gordon Gee and Gene Smith's party line, as delivered by AD Jack Swarbrick Notre Dame's decision was to get behind their beleaguered face of the university 110% (don't bother, I know you can't do anything more than 100%; drives me crazy too but think it fits here).
Two decisions had to be made. First, once they became aware of the fact that the heart-wrenching story regarding Te'o's relationship with Lennay Kekua, (whom he allegedly met at a Notre Dame-Stanford football game his freshman year, who he called his girlfriend, who met with him in Hawai'i, who he said (after her fake death) that he had talked to every night for four months and who had fallen to sleep with her over the phone many nights, who was first seriously injured in a car accident, then stricken with leukemia, who was supposedly released from the hospital to the congratulations of Te'o via Twitter and his father by phone, who then died the same day, or the next day, or two or three days after his grandmother died was completely false, what should they do?
Well, they did nothing. For three weeks. Until their hand was forced by the on-line publication of the article on Deadspin.com about the hoax, they did nothing. Other than conduct their own "independent" private investigation that apparently concluded (as Notre Dame did) that Te'o was the victim of an elaborate, cruel hoax, they did nothing. Not even contact "the authorities". Not that that's anything new for the Irish brass.
The second decision was what to say once the time was right. Or their hand was forced. And that determination was to paint Te'o as the victim and adopt his version of the events absolutely.
To be clear, I am unconvinced at this point that Te'o was in on the hoax, or that it was orchestrated by him to gain even more publicity and public sympathy. But it is unavoidably true that Te'o at best embellished the supposed facts about his relationship with this non-person.
And yet when, confronted at the press conference about the hoax, about Te'o's descriptions of his "meeting" Kekua, Swarbrick, alternatively displaying knowledgeable familiarity with social media ("Catfishing") and attempting to pass it off as something with which he had little acquaintance, stated that he was convinced that what Te'o meant by "meeting" Kekua was meeting her on-line ("like all the kids say these days" was the implied qualifier).
Trouble is, there's this description of Manti and Lennay's first meeting, in print, for all the world to see:
It never felt like a chance meeting, although it probably appeared that way from the outside looking in.
Their stares got pleasantly tangled, then Manti Te'o extended his hand to the stranger with a warm smile and soulful eyes.
They could have just as easily brushed past each other and into separate sunsets.
Where else could the information in those sentences have come from other than Te'o (or Kekua, who, in case I need to remind you, doesn't exist)? Or, even if we assume it was entirely the writer's fabrication (which, judging from those sentences, is probably better utilized in romance fiction), where was the statement from Te'o correcting the inaccuracy -- pointing out that he and Kekua had never actually met in person?
And that doesn't even begin to explain the supposed meetings in Hawai'i, the night-long phone calls, Te'o's father stating that Kekua's "death" led to the realization that Lennay could have been his daughter-in-law but that that chance was now gone (do you seriously say that about someone whom your son has never "met"?).
No, I'm sorry. The there are too many tales of real meetings to now slough off Te'o's references as social media jargon. They are what they are. And insisting that they are something they are not lends nothing to the story and further endangers Te'o's and the school's reputations. The Emperor has no clothes.
Whatever Te'o says in the next few days about his imaginary girlfriend, and perhaps more importantly what he says about what he did and didn't say, it had better be the truth. Because, sooner or later, the truth will be revealed.
Other than, perhaps, "Nick Saban's legacy", the most discussed topic emanating from the Alabama-Notre Dame NCAA football championship game does not directly involve a player or coach on either team. Instead, the focus has been on Brent Musburger and the girlfriend of AJ McCarron, Alabama's quarterback.
Most Irish fans are just fine with that.
The game had the smell of a rout from 'Bama's first drive on, and commentator and hall of fame blow-hard Brent Musburger wasted no time in confusingly alternating between trying to convince the viewers that it was still a game and handing Alabama the trophy.
Late in the first quarter -- far too early for the "filler" that television uses to try to keep the few still watching a blow-out engaged, the camera panned to the crowd and everything got more interesting and a whole lot creepier. In what had to have been a planned sequence, the camera fixed on a young lady in the crowd. Musburger, on cue, began to explain who she was, but apparently should have been shown a picture of her before the game, as what is left of his 74 year-old libido kicked in with a vengeance. With some "help" from sidekick Kirk Herbstreit, this is what ensued.
The dialogue in written form is every bit as interesting/amusing/odd.
"B: Now when you’re a quarterback at Alabama . . . you see that looovely lady there? She does go to Auburn, I will admit that, but she’s also Miss Alabama and that’s AJ McCarron’s girlfriend. Okay? And right there on the right is Dee Dee Bonner . . . that’s AJ’s Mom wow I’m tellin’ you quarterbacks . . .
K: Ha ha ha.
B: You get all the good lookin’ women ah that’s a . . . what a beautiful woman!
K: Wow! AJ’s doin’ some . . .
K: Some things right down in Tuscaloosa.
B: So if you’re a youngster at [sic] Alabama start gettin’ the football out and throw it around the backyard with Pop."
The day after the game, ESPN apologized for Musburger's remarks (although Musburger himself apparently has not) by saying that "the commentary in this instance went too far and Brent understands that." The young lady, Katherine Webb, (notably not identified by Musburger by name) has herself stated that she didn't take offense because "I think it's okay for a man to tell a woman that she's beautiful, no matter what age."
And, of course, pundits, experts, bloggers, and blog commentators have weighed in at both ends of the spectrum, from those who assert that Musburger's comments were "a major personal violation" and "evidence of a culture that views women as nothing more than chattel", to those who who viewed it as harmless banter and others who essentially accused Musburger's accusers of ageism by stating that the conversation wouldn't have been found to be offensive if Musburger were, say, Herbstreit's age.
To all of which I say: I'd almost rather listen to Musburger.
In the inevitable rush to be offended, and the equally inevitable rush to defend offenders, many forget their common sense. For me, the bottom line is: was this commentary something that would have been acceptable for Musburger to say, in-person, face-to-face with Ms. Webb?
Of course not.
Those who insist that Brent didn't say anything wrong and that our society has broken down because a man cannot compliment a woman on her appearance are taking little bits of Musburger's half-minute performance, ignoring or subtracting their tone, and making them the entirety.
Would it be okay for Brent to say to Ms. Webb during a conversation: "you look nice this evening"? Almost certainly.
What if he said: "you are a beautiful woman"? Maybe, although unlikely given their lack of familiarity.
How about: "you are a looovely lady!" No.
And, finally, what if Brent said directly to Ms. Webb: "you are a looovely lady! Whoa! I'm gonna tell my grandsons to forget about schoolwork and practice their spirals so they can snag a beauty like you some day!"? No. No. No.
Does the fact that Ms. Webb, 50 some years younger than Musburger, could be his grandchild make it creepier? Of course.
That is not to say those on the other side didn't go overboard too. Brent's musing weren't intended to further, nor were they caused or sanctioned by, some societal diminution of women. They were just the lame, off-the-cuff comments of a creep with a long history of inane remarks.
While Brent and Kirk yucking it up did have a "locker room" feel to it (that last "Whoa!" from Musburger gets me every time), they did not, as many have pointed out in their defense, discuss Ms. Webb's physical attributes or make any sexually suggestive comments.
All of which leads me to this -- a little advice regarding what I view as a few simple, common sense rules when communicating with or about your fellow human beings.
First, limit to whom and how often you comment on someone's appearance. Never talk about someone's appearance with someone else in a work setting. When you do discuss appearance directly with someone, be sincere and keep it generic. Remember the old saw: "If you can't say something nice ..."
Second, when saying, writing, or posting anything about someone, whether their personality, their appearance, their attire, or any other attribute, act as if you were saying it face-to-face and ask yourself if it would be appropriate in that context. If not, it's probably something that shouldn't be said.
Finally, sometimes it's okay to engage in humorous banter as long as it's not offensive. But choose topics, and know the person well enough, to be sure that they will not be put off.
For example, I just can't resist posting this picture again -- its ridiculousness is the cherry on top of the Musburger cake. While I don't know Brent, I am positive that he thought it was a cool picture when it was taken.
And, yes, I would be fine with telling him that to his face.
1. Little Talks by Of Monsters and Men.
"There's an old voice in my head that's holding me back.
Well tell her that I miss our little talks.
Soon it will be over and buried with our past.
We used to play outside when we were young, and full of life, and full of love."
As with 2011's Number 1, Little Talks is one of the first "new" songs I heard in 2012, and it remained my favorite all year. Horns, interplay between male and female voices, and a bunch of folks yelling "Hey!" - what's not to like?
2. It's Time by Imagine Dragons.
"So this is what you meant.
When you said that you were spent.
And now it's time to build from the bottom of the pit
Right to the top.
Don't hold back."
The lyrics seemed especially fitting on New Years' Eve, facing an abyss and the promise of a new year at the same time.
3. Some Nights by fun..
"But I still wake up; I still see your ghost.
Oh Lord, I'm still not sure what I stand for most;
Oh, what do I stand for? What do I stand for?
Most nights, I don't know. Anymore."
Love the harmonies, but love the rat-a-tat-tat snare drum even more.
4. Trojans by Atlas Genius.
"Take it off; take it in.
Take off all the thoughts of what we've been.
Take a look; hesitate.
Take a picture you could never recreate."
A song about love lost, but not forgotten.
5. Ho Hey by The Lumineers.
"So show me family.
All the blood that I will bleed.
I don't know where I belong.
I don't know where I went wrong.
But I can write a song . . ."
Heard it a lot. Still not tired of it.
6. Money Saves by Delta Spirit.
"They all said what you had, you let it go.
Like managing a hurricane, let it blow.
With your money save, your money save.
Well I alone yes I alone with you."
Not very fond of the new album as a whole, but think this song is great. The video is just a teaser, not the whole song.
7. The Myth of Youth by Geographer.
"Everything was simpler then.
Nothing gained, no one losing.
We held the future in our hands.
Now we've got nothing but the present."
A lovely song, not of love lost, as much as love just slipping away. Not an authorized video, but it is on YouTube.
8. Gimme Twice by The Royal Concept.
"Oh one thing that's in mind is that The Strokes's in town;
You'd rather sip through all your fancy wine
Then come alive once more.
Oh but this time I decide."
They do sound a little like The Strokes, but more like another previous list-topping group. Can you guess who?
9. Shackled and Drawn by Bruce Springsteen.
"Gambling man rolls the dice, working man pays the bills.
Still fat and easy up on bankers' hill.
Up on bankers' hill the party's goin' strong.
Down here below we're shackled and drawn."
My favorite song from The Boss's excellent latest album. Another video from a concertgoer.
10. East Harlem by Beirut.
"Sound is the color I know, oh,
Sound is what keeps me looking (for your eyes).
And the sound of your breath in the door,
And, oh, the sound will bring me home (again)."
Is that a flugelhorn I hear?
The list continues.
11. Beggar in the Morning by The Barr Brothers.
"I take my medicine on my knee.
Twice a day, but lately three.
Keeps the devil from my door.
And it makes me rich and it makes me poor."
This is kind of a creepy video. You will either love it or hate it.
12. Get Burned by Sleeper Agent.
"I'm not cold, I'm just a shakin',
And a little of your love keeps me a bakin'.
I'ma get burned (get burned)
I'ma get burned, burned, burned, oh."
A silly but highly infectious song.
13. I Will Wait by Mumford & Sons.
"So break my step.
Well, you forgave,
And I won't forget."
This video so makes me regret not seeing more of them at Bonnaroo.
14. State Hospital by Frightened Rabbit.
"And in the limp three years of board schooling,
she's accustomed to hearing that she could never run far.
A slipped disc in the spine of community;
A bloody curse word made pedestrian verse."
A bit of a departure for FR as they look at things from the woman's point of view in this song. Their new album out in February is called "Pedestrian Verse."
15. Lost in My Mind by The Head and The Heart.
"How's that bricklayin' comin'?
How's your engine runnin'?
Is that bridge getting built?
Are your hands getting filled?"
Another great song from their self-titled album (two others were on last year's list).
16. Went Away by The Maccabees.
"So hold me close, don't let me go.
I need you so.
Tell me something I don't know.
That I need to know."
Great guitar work in this song.
17. On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons.
"I've tried to cut these corners.
Tried to take the easy way out.
I kept on falling short of something.
I coulda gave up then,
but then again I couldn't have 'cause
I've traveled all this way for something."
The only artist with two songs on this year's list, this song has a bouncy island beat. The next one does not.
18. Carried Away by Passion Pit.
"Listen. I don't really know you.
And I don't think I want to.
But I think I can fake it if you can."
My favorite song on their new album.
19. Deconstruction by Fanfarlo.
"So come on, let's dissect it.
Let's cut it up 'til it's gone.
Let's break it up into pieces,
and throw away what we don't understand."
Sometimes Fanfarlo's lyrics are hard to understand, but figuring them out is half the fun.
20. Same Love by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.
"No law is gonna change us;
We have to change us.
Whatever god we believe in,
We come from the same on.
Strip away the fear,
Underneath it's all the same love.
About time that we raised up."
The first appearance of rap in the countdown, this is definitely not your standard rap song, with its theme of inclusiveness (and pro-same-sex marriage).
Here is the start to my list of favorite songs from 2012. As with last year's posts, and my Facebook posts from 2009-2010, these are songs released either in this year or the past year. A few entries, and a few more artists, appear on some real music critics' lists for 2012, but I assure you that is merely coincidence.
21. Everybody Talks by Neon Trees.
"Hey honey you could be my drug.
You could be my new prescription.
Too much could be an overdose;
All this trash talk make me itchin'."
Close to a guilty pleasure. But a pleasure it is.
22. Gold on the Ceiling by The Black Keys.
"Clouds covered love's barbed-wire snare.
Strung up, strung out, I just can't go without."
A little blues, a little straight-up rock 'n roll (T-Rex, perhaps?).
23. Grand Optimist by City & Colour.
"I fear I'm dying. From complications.
Complications, due to things that I've left undone.
That all my debts will be left unpaid,
feel like a cripple without a cane.
And a jack of all trades
who's a master of none."
I could see that it would suck, growing up a pessimist with an optimistic dad.
24. North Side Gal by J.D. McPherson.
"I got some good talk, but not enough game.
Wooing the sweet thing; oh ain't it a shame.
Every time I try.
Crazy about a north side gal."
The juke joint is rockin'.
24. JERK! by Stephie Coplan and The Pedestrians.
"Cut the small talk, cut to the chase, cut the cord, cut the crap.
Set the mood, set the tone, set the vibe, set the beat, set the trap.
Appear unimpressed with the dress that I bought today just for this.
Think of someone else while you're giving me that half-hearted post-sex kiss."
Stephie sent me a personal note enclosing her cd that I ordered from the band's website. If that doesn't get you on my list, nothing will.
26. Love Interruption by Jack White.
"I want love to
forget that you offended me;
Or how you have defended me
when everybody tore me down.
Yeah and I want love to
change my friends to enemies;
change my friends to enemies,
and show me how it's all my fault."
A little dark, even by Mr. White's standards. Love the video -- makes the lyrics seem plaintive rather than angry.
27. Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings) by Silversun Pickups.
"See you laughing in a picture;
but I know it's out of place.
You barely cried.
But you made it out alive."
A perennial list resident. I have no idea what the "artsy" parts of the video symbolize.
28. Hold On by Alabama Shakes.
"So, bless my heart. And bless my mind.
Got so much to do. I ain't got much time.
So, must be someone up above sayin':
C'mon girl. You got to get back up!"
I would love to see them live.
29. Songs for Teenagers by Fake Problems.
"Last night is all a blur to me.
I don't remember anything.
But at vaguely recall
Sounds like a happy song. Until you listen to the lyrics.
30. Country Roads by Mike Doughty.
"Almost heaven, West Virginia.
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.
Life is old there, older than the trees.
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze."
One of my favorite artists, singing about my favorite state.
If you follow women's soccer, or the tabloids, you've probably heard about Hope Solo's drunken bachelorette/bachelor party/melee, followed by her appearance at a hearing on domestic battery charges that she brought against her fiancee (now husband), a former NFL player with an impressive history of run-ins with the law including DUI, possession with intent to distribute, and, most disturbingly, sexual assault.
Various folks have weighed in on what should or should not be off limits with regard to Solo and what appear to be some questionable life choices (not that that should be particularly shocking given her public declarations in the past). But my take is a little different. It's about the choices that coaches and teams are sometimes forced to make.
Coaches are fond of saying that they have one set of rules that applies to all players. But they know, and the players know, that that's not always the case.
At any level, coaches have to make adjustments and even exceptions for exceptional players. And they have to depend on the players to understand that it's for the good of the team that they do so, even if the players that exceptions are made for aren't "team players."
After watching the U.S. Women's team in the Olympics, reading Solo's controversial comments regarding Brandi Chastain's commentary and the lack of public support that she received for those comments from her teammates and coaches, and then watch the last two friendlies that the team played against the Republic of Ireland, I wonder how much tongue biting and eye rolling goes on inside the team when Solo opens her mouth. Because two things are clear: first, Solo, true to her name, is not a team player; and, second, the team really, really needs her.
Admittedly, it may not be fair to evaluate based on two halves of two friendlies, but Solo's backup, Nicole Barnhart, looked very shaky in her two appearances. While her decision-making would undoubtedly benefit from more game time, she looked indecisive on crosses and balls in the box.
Keepers are like left-handed pitchers in baseball -- they're often viewed as the odd-balls, marching to the beat of a different drummer (no doubt in part because they are the only players allowed to use their hands). But that doesn't mean they can't or don't have to be good teammates.
It will be interesting to see how the new head coach of the National Team, Tom Sermanni, deals with Solo. Perhaps, like Pia Sundhage before him, he will decide that regardless of the distractions, it's best for the team that he tolerate them as best as he and the team can. But we should also probably hope (pun intended) that somewhere in the program a replacement is being groomed.
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