Tourney Notes, Weekend One

This is a very busy week, with our spring break beginning Thursday and a lot of prep in the days between now and then, along with some babysitting of a nephew one day. So I figured I would start my NCAA post Sunday night as I watch the final game of the weekend, Oregon-UC Irvine.


I told you this was going to happen. OK, I feared a blowout because of Auburn’s experience, speed, athleticism, and depth. But I didn’t expect an even worse version of last year’s Final Four beatdown by Villanova.

Man, that got ugly quick. And kept getting uglier. I guess KU made an effort to get back into it in the second half. But by then I had the game muted, was watching stuff on YouTube, and busier texting with fellow KU friends who were grousing about the game to pay much attention.

More on KU down the road.


Seriously, I’m madder about this game than the KU game. I’m not sure what the hell happened on that attempted alley-oop with a little over a minute left, UCF up three, and poised to go up five. Throwing a lob on the break in crunch time in march is not for the light hearted. Only those of the stoutest constitutions can pull it off. Naturally Duke went down, drilled a three, and the game was tied.

That baffled me. But it did not make me mad. What did make me mad was the blatant push-off by RJ Barrett on Zion Williamson’s missed free throw that gave Duke the game-winning bucket. Two hands in the back, extended arms. That’s a foul all day, every day. But since it’s Duke in the NCAAs somehow it becomes a play-on. Two last-gasp shots rimmed out for UCF and the Blue Devils live to fight another weekend. FUCK.

Then again, perhaps that was some kind of karmic balance for Grayson Allen’s last-second shot crawling all over the rim and then falling off against KU last year. If so, I suppose I’m fine with this miss.

But, damn, that was America’s chance to end this Duke nonsense. Now they will get their shit together, roll through their regional, and make it to Minneapolis. And in his hometown, Tre Jones will, miraculously, find his shot and punish anyone who dares defend him the way UCF did Sunday. And then we’ll hear the endless blathering about how he persevered, how Coach K and his teammates never doubted him, and the usual Duke bullshit.

Fuck I’m mad right now…

Big 12

Sucked. Texas Tech looked outstanding all weekend. But other than that? Mostly garbage. But, again, we knew this was coming. Unless you were a fan of one of the other schools, you knew every one of them had shitty performances in them. Hell, I picked Auburn, right? And, gee, the SEC seems kind of good.


Just me or was this the worst first weekend in years? Lots of blowouts, lots of chalk. Were there more than a handful of games that made you start texting people to make sure they were watching? UCF-Duke, obviously. LSU-Maryland was freaking great. Iowa-Tennessee was shockingly good for the last ten minutes plus overtime.

Oh, a word about Iowa. I’ve never liked them. As a friend of mine put it, “They’re super generic and never great at anything.” College wrestling fans probably get annoyed by that but it’s true: plenty of good Iowa football and basketball teams over the years. But never national title contenders. I can’t say I’ve watched more than three minutes of Iowa all this season. I hated all those guys by the end of that game. Every single call they would throw their arms up in the air and argue. A couple even did the dismissive wave of the hand that is an automatic T in the NBA. Their coach is a real prick so they obviously get it from him.

Anyway, what stood out in that game was what had to be the worst call of the tournament. In case you missed it, an Iowa player attempted a three-pointer. It appeared to be blocked cleanly by the Tennessee defender. The ref standing five feet away even made the tipped hand signal to indicate the shot had been blocked. Tennessee, up three, had the ball and a player racing forward for an easy layup/dunk. But the ref on the opposite side of the court blew his whistle, came running over, and called a foul on the shot. As he and the ref who, you know, actually saw the play, discussed it, viewers were shown replays that confirmed there was zero contact on the play. But the discussion ended with Iowa shooting three free throws to tie the game.

How does this happen? How does a ref with a worse angle get to overrule a ref right next to the play? Chris Webber suggested that perhaps the outside ref just anticipated the play. Which happens, whatever. But if the closer ref has a better angle and view of the play, the outside ref should always defer. I think this guy just got shitty because he knew he made a bad call and refused to back down. Or he had money on Iowa. You never know.

Fortunately the Vols won in OT and the Hawkeyes were all crushed afterward. Which serves them right, whiny bitches.


I had a very good weekend. I missed 11 first round games, which isn’t ideal. But I also end the weekend a perfect 16 for 16 on Sweet 16 teams. That’s solid. I am currently tied for second in one pool and waiting for results in the other, which is old school and does everything in Excel rather than online.[1]

Women’s Tournament Commercials

Have you seen these? On ESPN? In which a series of legendary players and coaches and other people around the women’s game offer little testimonials to why the women’s tournament is so good? And then, at the very end, Kobe Bryant shows up talking about “that Mamba mentality.”


Kobe Bryant is not a woman. He never even played college basketball. What the fuck does he have to do with women’s college basketball.

Oh, AND HE WAS ACCUSED OF RAPE. Yes, charges were dropped when the accuser refused to testify, but in his statement after he accepted that she viewed their encounter as not consensual. WHICH MAKES IT RAPE.

Who the hell thought this was a good idea? And apparently I’m the only one who thinks it is strange because I haven’t seen any of the usual outlets expressing outrage. Maybe that’s a sign of how little attention people pay to women’s college basketball.

  1. Run by computer geeks, no less. Not sure how this happens.  ↩

Friday Playlist

A slap-dash, quickie playlist this week as I had a few things lined up this morning and have a lot of basketball to watch this afternoon.

“Friendly Aliens” – Chad VanGaalen. This guy is from Canada. This song is trippy and strange and fun.

“Without a Blush” – Hatchie. Your weekly Australian song. Her EP last year was excellent. Looking forward to her full-length debut in June.

“When Am I Gonna Lose You” – Local Natives. LN was big in 2016. They have a new album out next month. The first song I heard off of it I did not like. The first time I heard this one, I loved it.

“Same Things Twice” – Idlewild. Man, these guys were one of my favorite bands of the early-mid ‘00s. Some of their music back then was sooooo good. Over time their sound changed, I moved on to other bands, and I kind of forgot about them. Apparently they are back. I don’t love this song, but maybe some of the other tracks on their next album will be solid.

“Dunked On” – Froggy Fresh & Money Maker Mike. Happy March Madness!

Tourney Time: The Field

A rather busy week has kept me from diving too deep into the nitty gritty of this year’s NCAA tournament field.

It’s the first week of kickball practice, so I’ve been making sure our teams are good to go, balls have been inflated and distributed, and making sure all the stuff I need to clear with the school office before teams get outside has been cleared.

M had her scheduling night at CHS on Tuesday. Really we could have done it at home, but it was interesting to sit through the presentations before hand. It sure seems like there is a ton more support for kids than there was when I was in high school…THIRTY PLUS YEARS AGO. Holy shit. And going gave us a shot to run into the spirit store and buy her first round of uniform shirts.[1]

I’ve also had to deal with contractors. We’ve had some touch-up work done to the projects we did last fall. The crew was supposed to arrive Tuesday, but after waiting around for 90 minutes and no one showing, I made a call and found out they had pushed to Wednesday without informing us. So Wednesday I was in my sit around on the iPad, watch TV, and make sure the painters paint the right stuff mode again.

Long way of setting up I don’t have a ton of deep thoughts about this year’s tournament. I was at the Champions Classic in November. I saw Duke destroy Kentucky. I’ve known what’s up for four-plus months. Even with the randomness of the NCAA tournament, this year is all about Zion and Duke. They can lose. But this is one of those rare years when it will be a monumental upset if they don’t win. Then again, the 2014–15 Kentucky team was supposed to be a sure-thing, and America was saved from that fate…so that Duke could win. Sometimes even when you win you lose.

Looking at the Big 12, I have no idea what to make of this year’s group of tournament squads. My first inclination is to say this will not be a banner year for the conference, certainly not like last year when three teams reached the Elite 8. There are no great teams, every team has significant flaws, and then each team’s performance in the conference tournament highlights different angles of why this time of the year is so hard to predict.

Take Iowa State, for example. Do we evaluate them as the team they were at the tail end of the conference season, when they looked lost? Or do we take them as the team that ran through the conference tournament and decide all their issues are fixed and they’re the most dangerous team of the Big 12’s bunch? Or…do we throw out what happened last weekend because the ‘Clones always play their best ball in the Big 12 tournament?

Texas Tech would seem to be the Big 12 team best suited for a long run. They were simply awesome in February, finally giving Jarrett Culver support on offense while continuing to play their intense defense. But, opposite of ISU, the Red Raiders simply did not show up in KC. Which team is the real Texas Tech?

Kansas State got a great draw, well at least for the first weekend. But they will always struggle on offense and if Dean Wade’s latest injury is as bad as it seems to be and his career is over, they are really going to struggle to score the 55 or so points they need to win even with their defense.

I’m struggling with my picks because I’m not sure what to do with the teams I watch the most. Every Big 12 team going out early would not surprise me. But three or even four teams getting their shit together for a weekend and making it to the Sweet 16 isn’t a completely ridiculous notion, either.

OK, big picture time.

Obviously, I’m picking Duke to go deep. I think their bracket is the weakest of the four, they stay in ACC country the entire time, and if Zion is healthy there’s no one out there who can guard him.

In the West, I feel like I, and a lot of people, just forget about Gonzaga once the conference seasons begin. So I’m not sure if they’re good enough to make a return to the Final Four or if they’re still awesome and it’s just because I haven’t seen them play since December. I think Florida State could give them fits. But John Beilein is the current Best Tournament Coach out there. You know what, I’m getting nutty and picking FSU.

The Midwest has the potential to be a treeeeemendous Sweet 16 in Kansas City. I like Carolina and Kentucky to get through, and Calipari to beat Roy in a game that KU fans will struggle to figure out who to root for or against.

I sooooo badly want to jump on Virginia’s bandwagon this year. I generally do not like them, but I’ve loved the way Tony Bennett has handled their loss to UMBC last March. They are a hell of a team, but I’m worried they are a player short of what you need to win four games. The South is, to my eyes, fairly open for the top two seeds. Tennessee playing a regional final in Louisville seems like a good thing. Rick Barnes will remind folks, especially in Texas, that he’s a hell of a coach and get the Vols to the Final Four.

So, Duke, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee. Duke beats Tennessee easily for the title. Count on two of those teams getting beat this weekend…

  1. I also treated myself to a pretty sweet CHS hat. It was quite a deal, only $25 for a stretch-fit Under Armour cap. I guarantee the exact same hat with Notre Dame on the back instead of Cathedral would cost at least $10 more at Dick’s.  ↩

Reader’s Notebook, 3/20/19

The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup – John Feinstein
Years ago I used to read a lot of Feinstein’s books. His A Season Inside is one of my all-time favorite sports books.[1] But, over time, I found his books to basically be the same format with different details. There were little moments that would appear in every book that drove me nuts. Plus he comes off as a bit of an arrogant prick. I had plenty of other books to read, so it had been probably 16–17 years since I had read one of his efforts.

But…he has a bunch of golf books. And I’m in a golf mode.[2] Seemed like a perfect moment to jump back into his writings and see if he adjusted his style at all once I stopped reading his work.

Good news, he did make some adjustments. Yeah, it’s the same deep look at an event/season concept. In this case his focus is on the 2016 Ryder Cup. But some of those things that used to annoy me most were either sanded away or had disappeared completely.

All in all, I really enjoyed this. There is a solid history of the Ryder Cup, with some deeper dives into how the European team came to dominate it in recent years. There’s a ton of material about how the US adjusted how it picked its team in order to try to fix what went wrong in 2014 specifically. He goes deep into the men who made both teams in ‘16. And then he covers the actual event in a brisk manner that feels right.

It was interesting to read it months after the 2018 Ryder Cup, which much of what went right for the US in ’16 went wrong again. It was also a reminder at how quickly things change in sports. In 2016 Tiger Woods was just an assistant captain and his future was uncertain. Jordan Spieth was still the brightest young star in the game. People didn’t hate Patrick Reed.

The biggest revelation, though, was that I actually kind of liked Phil Mickelson after reading it. I’ve never liked him, always thinking he was a phony, Eddie Haskell-type whose personality outweighed his immense talent. But, good grief, I have softened on him after reading this book and because of his recent embrace of social media where he comes across as a pretty funny dude.

Tornado Weather – Deborah E. Kennedy
Another book I loved so much that I hated it. Kennedy is an Indiana native and sets this, her debut, in a fictional town in northern Indiana.

The story revolves around the disappearance of a young, wheelchair-bound girl one day after getting off of her school bus. Each chapter centers on a different member of the community, sometimes with a direct link to the possible crime, other times only having tenuous connections with the girl that grow stronger after later revelations. Each chapter is more about its character than about the disappearance, and Kennedy slowly, carefully reveals details of what really happened as she builds up the town.

And her town is full of characters. A worker at a massive dairy who is actually an embedded reporter who is about to publish an expose on how it relies on illegal immigrants for labor. Two strippers, one intelligent and beautiful and another dumb, prone to terrible decisions, and not particularly attractive. A series of dirtbags who aren’t nearly as smart as they think they are. A young man who believes he is a woman and struggles to find him/herself in a town that isn’t nearly ready for that kind of thing. The family of the missing girl. And on and on.

Kennedy sets up a town that seems divided at first, but is actually way more interconnected than it knows. One character in particular seems unsettling and odd at first, but eventually pulls the entire story together. This character offers the final line of the book, which is one of the best, happiest, most emotional lines I can recall reading.

I had seen Kennedy compared to Daniel Woodrell. I’m not sure who made that comparison but I found it to be waaaay off. She reminds me so much more of Carl Hiaasen. Her writing is full off oddball, hilarious, unforgettable characters. She pushes their actions to the edge of believability but always stops before she pushes too far. Time and again I was laughing out loud. Within all that humor is a compelling, carefully crafted story.

Another debut novel that completely floored me. I loved it. Which makes me hate Kennedy. (Not really.)

  1. Helped largely by the fact he took a year-long look at college basketball, Kansas was one of the teams he focused on, and they just happened to go on a run that ended with a national championship.  ↩
  2. More on that down the road…  ↩

Season’s Greetings!

You may have noticed something very important was missing around here last holiday season. Yes, I never linked to the newest edition of The Hater’s Guide to the Williams-Sonoma Catalog, the annual gut-bust of a read. Good reason for that: Drew Magary, the mad genius who puts those together every year, suffered a sudden and major health issue last December.

Fortunately he has returned, apparently in good health, and realized the phrase better late than never applies to internet parodies as much as anything else.

So, for your reading pleasure, here it is:

The 2018(ish) Hater’s Guide To The Williams-Sonoma Catalog

The “(yes, THAT Roy Shvartzapel)” line made me laugh the hardest.

Tourney Time: KU

Mid-March is here. The conference tournaments are complete. The brackets released. It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yaaay…

It can be hard to get tone across in text. If you guessed, based on the opening lines of this piece, that I’m not super pumped about the NCAA tournament, you would be correct. However, unlike some recent years, I also am not dreading it. Basically, because Kansas has no shot to make a deep run, and I’ve known that since the second week of January, I approach this year’s tournament without any excitement for the possibilities the next two to three weeks hold, but also without any fears of the potential bad outcomes. KU is just a team in the tournament this year. They’re not a contender, but they’re also not a sexy pick to lose early. No one will be surprised if they lose early, and it will be a result of all the baggage this team enters the tourney with, not because “Bill Self/KU always choke” or something lazy like that.

My expectation is that KU will lose in the round of 32. Auburn is one of the hottest teams in the country, they just ripped through the SEC tournament and destroyed Tennessee in the title game, they shoot a ton of threes, and are a very athletic team that will give you fits on the defensive end. That sounds like an absolute disaster matchup for KU. But Auburn has a tough opening round game against New Mexico State. If the Aggies pull off the upset they’ll approach the KU game confident that they pushed the Jayhawks to the wire in December in Kansas City, and that was a KU team with Udoka Azubuike and LaGerald Vick.

I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong and KU will get their shit together this week, cruise past 3-point happy Northeastern in the opening round then fend off whoever they play in the second round. After that is, likely, North Carolina in Kansas City. Normally I’d love that match up. Bill Self vs an angsty Roy Williams in KC with the crowd going nuts. But Carolina is rolling now and KU has zero answers for them at pretty much every spot on the court. The only hope will be that Roy, once again, is thoroughly confused when Self throws a junk defense at him and KU somehow hits shots late to pull the upset.

A fourth-straight trip to the Elite 8 would most likely see Kentucky as the opponent. A team that handled KU easily in the second half of their game two months ago, and has only gotten better since. Again, not totally impossible to imagine a KU. But highly unlikely.

It’s just hard to see KU getting those three solid-to-great performances each night you need to win in March. Maybe Dedric Lawson continues to average 20 and 10, but who else can you count on to perform at a high level every night? Devon Dotson is the most likely choice. But every night? And who fills that third slot beyond him? Too many question marks.

It’s going to be a disappointing end to a year that began with so much promise, but then turned into the most topsy-turvy KU season in a long, long time. The good thing about the disappointment is that we’ve known it is coming for a long time. When Auburn beats us by 15 Saturday it won’t hurt nearly as bad as any of those Elite 8 losses, getting thoroughly out-classed by Wichita State, failing to show up against Stanford, or Northern Iowa’s heroics. It’s going to be a bummer but won’t hurt that much and I won’t be ashamed to be a KU alum/fan for a month like I’ve been after some of those other losses.

More about the broader tournament later this week.

Friday Playlist

Some more rockin’ tunes this week.

“Satellite” – The Get Up Kids. This band might be the most successful to come out of the Kansas City/Lawrence music scene of the late 90s/early 00s. I run into people all the time who love them. But I was never a huge fan; emo just never was my bag. But this song hits me in the right spots, a fun little raver that makes me want to jump around.

“You’re Not Always On My Mind” – Quivers. I should have thrown this in last week’s list as this is yet another Aussie band. And yet another band that, as soon as you hear them, you know they are from Down Under. This is some top notch jangle pop.

“The One Who Breaks Your Heart” – SONTALK. After a dazzling EP debut last summer, Joseph LeMay dropped his first full album today. I first heard this song earlier this week and it blew me away. I’ve read some of the story behind it and, sadly, LeMay seems to be one of those artists I feel guilty about liking his music. He has struggled with his mental health for several years, often controlling his moods by disappearing into his studio for days and writing/recording music, ignoring his friends and family in the process. This song came out of one of those episodes, when LeMay decided to write a “What If” song, the question being how he would react if his wife asked him for a divorce. It’s a gorgeous song, all big and bright, but knowing that back story gives me pause these days.

“Darkness” – Pinegrove. I totally missed that Pinegrove released their second album late last year. I think some of that was because there was some controversy around band leader Evan Stephens Hall and some allegations made against him by a woman. No details ever emerged, but the band went on a hiatus and announced they were shelving the album until everything got resolved. They self-released the album on Bandcamp with all proceeds going to charity, and finally physically released it a month ago. The songs are good. I wish I knew more about what was going on with Hall so I knew whether it was ok to like his music again.

“Coaches Who Cry” – Wild Pink. It is March, so perhaps this song is about Roy Williams? From a new EP featuring remixes and some extra tracks from last year’s excellent Yolk in the Fur album.

“I Can See Clearly Now” – Johnny Nash. One of this week’s The Number Ones entries was this classic from 1972. Go read the summary, it’s great. Even better is this amazing video. Johnny just chilling in a park in DC singing for, well, no one it appears.

Going Out in Style

Hey! Another super long post about kids sports! This one is a little special, though.

After five years, M’s CYO sports – and likely all sports – career is over. It was not a bad ending.

Her volleyball team came back from the brink of losing twice in their tournament, closed out their arch-rivals in the championship game, and ended the season as B-league City champs!

First off, they got very lucky with how their tournament worked. Her team had a bye so started play on Saturday. A quarterfinal Sunday, semis and finals Monday night. The tournament that C’s team played in, on the other hand, stretches over three weeks for some reason. They won’t be done until a week from tomorrow. That’s just stupid.

Anyway, the games…

Saturday’s quarterfinal was an easy, two game win. They were way better than the girls they were playing, and it was a good sign they didn’t mess around and make it close. The only bummer to the day was the inevitable scheduling issues. We were match five or six of the day, with 45 minutes allotted for each match. I think we started about an hour and 15 minutes late. Sitting in a hot, crowded lobby with hyper kids running around was fun.

Sunday’s quarterfinal only started about 15 minutes late, which was much better. The competition was better, too. We lost the first game 25–20 but it really wasn’t that close. St. M was really good and seemed to never let a ball hit the floor. In the second game we were up most of the time but hit a lull in the middle of the game and dug a hole. We were down 21–18 and parents were getting nervous. We got the ball back, though, and one of our best servers won six-straight points to force the third game.

The third game was sensational. Our girls played the best they’ve ever played together. We started out 6–0 and never let St. M get back into it. We were up 9–3 and you could see the St. M girls getting frustrated. Meanwhile our girls were all giddy and bouncing and confident. They knew they were winning that game and closing out the match. They were running down every ball, getting last-second tips at the net, and our best hitter was putting balls away. We ended up winning 15–5.

M was so pumped after the game. She kept talking about how badly she wanted to go to the championship game and win it. The other St. P’s B team, made up of 7th graders, reached the opposite semifinal and she kept saying how she hoped they would win so it could be an all St. P’s final. Seriously, she said this same thing at least five times Sunday night and then again Monday morning before school.

Late Sunday night the team got an email from our hitter’s mom saying she had come home from the game, pretty much collapsed in bed, and now had a 102-degree fever. Not good. If you can’t go to school, you are ineligible to participate in any after-school activities. She’s probably our fifth or sixth best player overall, but she’s also the only girl who can play above the net. We would need her to win.

Around noon Monday the mom sent out a message saying the fever had broke, her daughter was up and feeling fine, and they were headed into school so she could be cleared for the game. It didn’t matter if she played well or not. If she wasn’t there I think it would have gotten in our girls’ heads, so her mere presence was all we needed.

Onto the evening semis. Our girls’ old nemesis, St. B, cruised pretty easily in their semifinal against our 7th graders. The first game was close but the second was something bad like 25–5.

We were playing HM, a team we had beaten 15–11 in the third game earlier in the season. This match ended up being almost exactly like our quarterfinal match. We lost the first set 25–20, although this one was back-and-forth until the very end. The second set was also very tight until HM squeezed out a couple points to go up 21–18. I leaned over to S and pointed out this was the same score that we started our comeback in Sunday. She looked at me like I was dumb. We ended up winning 25–22.


(I did not say that to her.)

Our girls were pumped. But they had also just played a very tight, stressful, three-game match while St. B had been resting for an hour after an easy win. A couple of our girls looked totally gassed. The girl who was sick had not played well at all. Oh, and our girls had never beaten St. B’s in an even-talent competition in five years.

St. B’s beat us 26–1 for a City title in kickball in sixth grade. They beat us two other times in the kickball regular seasons. They knocked us out of the semifinals in the fifth grade volleyball tournament. They had beaten us earlier in the season in two very close games. Hell, their A team had given our A team their only loss of the year. The only time M’s class had beaten them was in 6th grade spring kickball, and that was against a St. B’s team that was mostly fifth graders. And we still barely won.

I guess you could say we were due.

Surprisingly, our girls looked fresher to start the match. St. B’s big hitters kept putting it into the net. Our girls built up an early lead but then had three-straight servers put their first ball into the net. It was back-and-forth for a bit but we pulled out the first set, I believe it was 25–20.

The second set both teams looked tired. Play was a little more ragged than in the first game. We got a little margin and then it was a lot of point for us, point for them. Which was fine since we were up. Avoid the big run and we can nickel-dime our way to the win. They got within one point at 20–19 before a mis-hit gave us the ball with a 21–19 lead. We had a server who is capable of serving quite well but has a tendency to crumble in tough spots. So of course she had four perfect serves. On match point a hit sailed just long and our girls went crazy. They jumped on each other for a moment, collected themselves for the handshake line, and then piled on each other again. M’s voice clearly rang out above the shouting, “WE JUST WON CITY!!!!!” There are benefits to being a loud talker.

In the stands parents were high-fiving and hugging each other. There were tons of other St. P’s parents there between the other B team playing earlier and many of the A team families coming to watch. It was all very cool.[1]

The best thing about the weekend, beyond the results, was that M played the best volleyball of her life. This year she’s been a front-row only player and doesn’t get many chances to set because our best player is a setter. But she’s gotten better and hangs in there on points. In the third game on Sunday, she made a couple huge plays, including one punch of a ball that was headed into the net that avoided the defense and landed for a point. She set our hitters for a couple kills. She ran down a ball that was headed toward the stands. In the second game of the championship match, she made probably the three best sets she’s ever made, which her best friend put away for kills all three times. She’s always been one of those kids who was just on the team. A good teammate for sure, and a good friend. But often she had little to do with the final outcome. It was great to see her contribute, and I could tell she was proud of herself.

I thought it was funny that somehow she wiggled her way to the middle of her team and when the CYO director handed over the trophy, it went to her first. She paid her dues!

Unless something crazy happens, I can’t see her trying out for any sports next year. So after 10 seasons of kickball, five of volleyball, a few of soccer way back, and three summers of swimming, this was it for her competitive athletic career. It was a pretty great way to end it.

  1. A few miles away our C team was winning their tournament at the same time. And our A team plays tonight in their semifinals.  ↩

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 23

Chart Week: March 1, 1986
Song: “Beat’s So Lonely” – Charlie Sexton
Chart Position: #26, 12th week on the chart. Peaked at #17 for three weeks in March/April.

One-hit-wonders come in all size, shapes, sounds, and types. Charlie Sexton may be one of the cruelest examples of a OHW.

Sexton was a bit of a musical prodigy, trained in his preteens by legendary bluesman W.C. Clark. Soon after he was performing with bands and recording his own music. When he was 16 he recorded his first album, Pictures for Pleasure, which earned attention for his combination of Texas blues and Bowie-esque New Wave. The video for “Beat’s So Lonely” got sucked into the MTV hype machine based on Sexton’s good looks. It wasn’t a massive hit but did spend nearly five months on the charts.

After that, Charlie never hit the Billboard Top 40 again. He recorded more music on his own. He opened for David Bowie in 1987. But eventually he transitioned away from the life of a solo artist. He wrote music for movies and even had cameos in a few films. He formed a band with Stevie Ray Vaughn’s old partners. And he has been a long-time member of Bob Dylan’s touring band.

Really not a bad career. I bet he’s had a pretty steady paycheck for his entire adult life. Yet, to much of the music masses, he’s either forgotten or mocked because he only had one radio hit in the MTV era.

I wonder which is worse: to do what Sexton did by scoring a hit immediately and then never reaching those heights again, or to be like, say, Michael Sembello, another man who was a musical prodigy (he joined Stevie Wonder’s studio band when he was just 17) but had to work for years before his only hit, Flashdance’s “Maniac”? That’s probably not a fair comparison since “Maniac” is an iconic song of its era that still gets plenty of airplay, while “Beat’s So Lonely” is only remembered by us music geeks who delight in the esoteric.

I guess the important thing is to have the hit.

By the way, this is one of those songs I think the Music Gods wanted me to write about. Last week’s local and SiriusXM countdowns were both from 1986, and I heard this song a total of four times between Saturday morning and Monday afternoon. It was already in my Spotify library so I hear it a few times a year, but to hear it that often in such a short time was odd.

One of those times L was in the car with me and heard Mark Goodman talking about how Sexton recorded this song when he was just 16. When the song started and she heard his voice, she said, “HE WAS ONLY 16? HE DOESN’T SOUND 16!”

Nope, he did not.

Friday Playlist

“Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself” – Alex Lahey. We don’t deserve all the great music that Australia is pumping out these days. Last week Julia Jacklin’s newest album came out. Stella Donnelly’s was released today. Alex Lahey is next on the list, with hers dropping on May 17.

“In the Capital” – Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. Man did I get excited when I heard this track. A new album from RBCF in 2019?!?! Turns out this is just part of a 7” single that will be released in April. Oh well, this will suffice, yet another great track from one of the best bands going right now. Oh, they’re from Australia!

“Cellphane Car” – The Stroppies. Might as well go all in with the Tunes from Oz this week. These kids embody much of what is typical of Aussie indie pop music. And the name is pure Australia as well. It’s a goofy little song with some tinges of the 1960s in it.

“Recurring Dream” – Crowded House. Ironically, coincidentally, whatever it is, I had a Crowded House night earlier this week where I spent a couple hours listening to songs by one of my favorite bands ever. Being the greatest Australian band ever, it seems right to throw them in here this week. This amazing track is one of the earliest songs the band ever recorded, dating back to 1985. But it did not make their debut, self-titled album and other than getting an occasional live performance wasn’t made public until the rarities compilation Afterglow was released in 1999, or “noineen, noiney-noin” as Kiwi Neil Finn would say. 

“Breathe” – Prodigy.

OK, these dudes aren’t from Australia. But, for the second straight week, I need to play a video for a musician who passed away recently. Frontman Keith Flint died earlier this week, likely as a result of suicide. For awhile in the mid-90s American rock radio was a beautiful mess. Songs like this were what made that time so fun, balancing out the third-wave grunge ripoffs that were also polluting the charts. I probably said “Psychosomatic, addict, insane” a million times back in 1996-97.