Best of Ryan Adams

OK, for music post #2, I wanted to celebrate Ryan Adams’ new album, Prisoner. Rather than setting the stage myself, I thought I would share this excellent view of the State of Ryan Adams that Steven Hyden published earlier this week. It’s a good primer on where Adams has been over the past few years. And it has a little extra weight since Adams confirmed on Twitter than Hyden’s theory about Ryan Adams is correct.

With ‘Prisoner,’ Ryan Adams Completes His Trilogy Of Divorce Albums

Now, briefly, a few words about my relationship with Adams. When I first heard about him in the early 00s, I discounted him simply because he was an alt-country artist. I do like a few alt-country acts, but for the most part that’s not my favorite genre. Later, when he was going through his bratty stage, I thought he was a dick and had no interest in checking out his music simply because of that. I knew a lot of people who loved his music, but generally wasn’t interested.

Every now-and-then I’d hear one of his more poppy or mainstream rock songs and think, “That’s pretty good.” But still never had a desire to really check out his catalog.

That changed in the early summer of 2014, when “Gimme Something Good” started popping up everywhere. All the music sites I follow gushed over it. Our local station put it into high rotation. It was one of the songs of the summer of ’14, and I loved its neo-Petty sound. When his self-titled album was release that September, it became a key part of one of my favorite musical years in recent memory. And I began sticking a toe into the very deep pool of Adams music. I also learned that some of his difficult years were the result of an undiagnosed medical condition. As he made some lifestyle changes, he became a little less confrontational and more open and funny. He still doesn’t shy away from silly arguments on Twitter, but he seems like a much better dude now that he was a decade ago.

Three years later, I’m a confirmed fan. There are still parts of his career I haven’t spent a lot of time exploring. But he has 17 solo albums, a handful with Whiskeytown, and numerous other EPs: I may never get to it all!

I’ve been looking forward to his new album with great anticipation. I’ve listened to it twice and it has not disappointed. The man is a treasure.

So, I thought I’d take a crack at a list of my favorite DRA songs.[1] Again, I’ll point out there are whole albums of his I’ve never listened to. But with so many tracks to choose from, I still had trouble keeping this down to only 10 songs. In two weeks, after I’ve fully digested the new album, I bet I’ll want to swap a few tunes out.

Consider this a primer for my friends and readers who have never given Adams’ music the attention it deserves.

“Welcome To New York,” from 1989. I was, of course, all-in with his full cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. Gimmick or not, I thought he did a fantastic job of making all the songs his own while being faithful to their original spirit. When the album first hit, the common joke was that all this song needed was a big sax solo and it would be the greatest Springsteen song since 1984. And now, every time I listen to it, I expect that sax to crash in during the final third.
“Gimme Something Good,” from Ryan Adams. My gateway drug to falling in love with his music.
“When The Summer Ends,” from 1984. In classic Adams form, he released a surprise, 11-track EP of songs in the style of mid–80s bands like Hüsker Dü a week before Ryan Adams hit. This song so badly wants to be turned into a 3:30 pop song that just dominates the radio. Never question his ability to write a great track.
“This House Is Not For Sale,” from Love Is Hell. Of all his early albums, I love Love Is Hell the most. I love the weariness and rasp in his voice. I love the Britpop influence you hear in almost every song. And, in a catalog that is often about the end of relationships, I love that here he seems to be reaffirming his commitment.
“Wonderwall,” from Love Is Hell. In the running for greatest cover of all time. Even Noel Gallagher said he prefers this to the original.
“English Girls Approximately,” from Love Is Hell. Britpop + alt-country = a fucking gorgeous song.
“Burning Photographs,” from Rock N Roll. Despite being one of his most maligned albums – he has even publicly dissed it – this was the first DRA song I ever liked. In fact, I believe it was one of the first digital songs I ever purchased back in the summer of 2004. Along with Modest Mouse’s “Float On,” it’s one of the songs I will always connect to the final weeks before I became a father.
“New York, New York,” from Gold. Adams at his most buoyant and catchy. Released a week before 9/11, it became an anthem for a city that sought to ease its pain and find a path to recovery.
“Nobody Girl,” from Gold. I just love the way this track rolls and builds and then keeps going.
“Come Pick Me Up,” from Heartbreaker. It music be a little frustrating to always be compared with your first piece of art. Heartbreaker was Adams’ first solo album, and considered by many to be his finest body of work. And this track almost always ranks at the top of his best songs. We know he loves it because it generally serves as his set-closer in concert. There are so many great elements here. The opening harmonica riff. The drums that kind of stumble in. The little riff that sounds light and happy going into the chorus. The general morning after feel to the whole song. But that chorus, though! He’s written hundreds of great lyrics, but I don’t know that any are as unforgettable as these:

Come pick me up, take me out
Fuck me up, steal my records
Screw all my friends, they’re all full of shit
With a smile on your face, and then do it again
I wish you would

Dude, seriously.

  1. DRA = from his given name David Ryan Adams and the initials he often signs his blog posts with.  ↩

Friday Playlist

It’s the first really big new music Friday of 2017! Which means bonus musical content for you!

Strand of Oaks and Son Volt have new albums out today. Middle Kids released their long-awaited debut EP. And the crown jewel of the day is Ryan Adams’ Prisoner, which is already making me happy/sad. Oh, and there’s a bonus cherry on top: Prince’s music hit all the streaming services again last weekend, which is also worthy of celebration.

So, first, your normal Friday Playlist. More to come in a bit.

“Ran” – Future Islands. Another band – like Ryan Adams – who was a big part of the epic 2014 year in music. This doesn’t reach the peak that “Seasons (Waiting On You)” reached, but it’s proof they’re not a one-hit wonder.
“All Who Wander” – Old 97’s. Never been a massive fan of this group – I do like a few of their songs – but this song is right down the middle of things I like these days.
“The Animator”/“Come To The City” – The War on Drugs. I was listening to their 2011 album Slave Ambient yesterday while cleaning the kitchen and had to absolutely blast this section. Really hope we get some new music from them before the year is over.
“17 Days” – Prince. One of my favorite B-sides, this was originally written for Vanity 6, but he reclaimed it when Vanity went off on her own. It was the B-side for “When Doves Cry,” and is just another reminder of how locked in he was between 1982-88.

“Edge of Town” – Middle Kids. I suppose I’m officially on this band’s early bandwagon. With good reason, though. Man do I love their early batch of songs, and I’m thrilled they’re starting to get some serious attention in the states. They just picked up a gig opening for Ryan Adams in their native Australia later this spring. I would be lying if I said I was not crushing more than just a little on lead singer Hannah Joy. Phantogram’s Sarah Barthel will no doubt be disappointed that I’m moving on from her.

Oh, there will be a bonus video up in a bit, too. Like I said, HUGE day!

Reader’s Notebook, 2/16/17

The Nix – Nathan Hill.
My brother-in-reading Dave V. received two copies of this book over the holidays. He was generous enough to pass one of them my way. Quite the gesture, which I appreciate immensely!

This is a great book. It’s also one of those books that makes me mad, as it is Hill’s first full-length novel. How can people write something this brilliant on their first effort? I’ve tried a couple half-assed attempts to write lengthy stories over the past 10 years and the results have been thoroughly embarrassing. And this guy rips off something like this. Man…

Anyway, as I said, it’s really good. It is built on a mother-son relationship that broke in the late 1970s and was forced back together 30 years later by a series of crazy incidents. The biggest being the mother, Faye, threw handfuls of gravel in the face of a presidential candidate and became public enemy #1 in the political/culture wars that drive our media. Although son Samuel had not seen or talked to Faye since she walked out on the family when he was 11, he is contacted by her attorney in hopes that he will write a letter on her behalf for the judge in charge of the case.

That sets off a path of discovery for Samuel, who slowly pulls out the details of his mother’s life, back to her high school days in Iowa, through her first tumultuous month at college in Chicago, which coincided with the 1968 Democratic convention. We also learn about Samuel’s childhood, and a pair of powerful relationships that have haunted him deep into his adulthood. Eventually Faye hops on the path of discovery, traveling to Norway to discover the secrets of her father’s youth. The seeds for our own foibles and failures were often sewn long before our births.

There are stretches of brilliance here. Hill balances humor, absurdity, and profundity well. The current sections of the book correctly foresaw the ridiculousness of the Trump era. And I found his exploration of the reasons why and process through which people choose to isolate themselves from others interesting.

Great books should connect with and force you to consider your own life. The Nix certainly struck a chord with me. My family history is quite different than that of Samuel and Faye’s. But I was a child of separation in the 1970s and divorce in the early 1980s, so I do feel some common threads between my experience and the book. With both of my biological parents dead, that lends a bigger mystery to questions I never asked, either because I was too young or just wasn’t interested at the time. I don’t know, if my mom was still alive or if I had a better relationship with my dad, if I would ask some of the questions this book prompted. I could sympathize with many of the issues Samuel and Faye sought to answer, though.

The Nix is tremendous. It’s popular fiction with a healthy dollop of literary depth. It measures up nicely with books by Lethem, Franzen, Eggers, and Chabon that are in a similar stylistic pocket.

Bat Shit Crazy ’17


You all laugh at me for my stupid sports superstitions. But today I’m laughing at all of you. Because today I have proof that these “stupid” superstitions work!

Let’s jump back almost two years to West Virginia’s visit to Lawrence in the final week of the 2015 season. For the full recap you can read here, but basically, Perry Ellis got hurt before halftime, West Virginia was kicking KU’s ass and led by 18 in the second half, I got pissed and started watching other things. I checked the score every 5–10 minutes, but when it refused to budge under eight points, I began shutting down for the night. I was brushing my teeth when I checked my phone one last time and saw KU was down two with the ball and ran downstairs just in time to see KU tie it. They would go on to win in overtime.

So guess what I did last night when West Virginia was again kicking KU’s ass in Allen Fieldhouse? I started watching other things. I muted all my in-game text conversations. I shut down Twitter. I waited longer to do it this time, I think there was six minutes and change left with WVU up by 8 or so. But still, KU looked terrible and I started watching the local weather, some of the UConn women’s game, a few moments of Food Network. Anything to avoid what was going on in Lawrence, but always with my mind on what happened two years ago.

I’d check the score on my phone, but it was going the wrong way. Down 10. Down 12. Down 14. Shit. KU was actually going to lose two-straight home games for the first time since I was in high school. This is strange and frightening territory.

But then the deficit started coming down. I didn’t see how, but now when I would flip back to ESPN the margin was 10. Then 8. Then 5. I decided to stay with the game when KU was down two with West Virginia inbounding and about 30 seconds left. The Mountaineers promptly threw the ball out of bounds, Frank Mason got fouled, and the game was tied.

What in the actual hell is going on?!?!?

I think a few kids in the student section actually lost their minds as both teams strode to their benches for a time out. Like heads splitting open and entire souls pouring out because what was happening in front of them.

But WVU still had time for a possession. I felt like the Hoops Gods would punish me by allowing a game winner if I watched, so I flipped away and slowly counted to 90 in my head. When I switched back, KU was running off the court celebrating while the screen showed a tie score and “End of Regulation” in the clock section.

Wow. I had no idea how it happened, but now I was back in. I un-muted the phone. Sent some shaky-handed responses to the texts that flowed in. Raced through Twitter to get some context. Cracked open a new Irish Ale. And then sat back and watched overtime. Just like two years ago.

Which in classic form for this team, was never easy. I mean, how very KU to jump out to an 8-point lead in OT and then do their best to piss it away.

But they did it. Home losing streak snapped. Bob Huggins sadly forgetting about his Beat KU Bonus he had already mentally deposited. And with Baylor’s loss earlier in the night, a two game lead in the conference with just five games to play. It ain’t over; KU’s been two games back this late in the season and still won the title. But as always seems to be the case when we get to late February, the other nine teams in the conference would all swap places with KU.

More importantly, we have proof that if I get pissed and shut the game off for awhile, good things will happen. At least if it is West Virginia playing in Lawrence.[1] Hell, this might be enough evidence for fan sainthood!

BIFM and Rock Chalk, bitches!

  1. Or the Colts playing the Chiefs in the playoffs.  ↩

Trivia Man

Once upon a time, not that long ago, I was known as the trivia guy. Where other people mastered law or medicine or sales, my mind was best suited to accumulating a nearly endless parade of useless if somewhat interesting facts about old pop culture, sports, and history.

Some might say I had a gift.

My reputation reached its zenith when I ran a daily trivia email list for something like three years. It kicked off when I got one of those “80s Trivia Question of the Day” calendars and shared each day’s tidbit with a few friends. That list of recipients grew and grew until I think I was sending it to something like 60 people a day. After year one, I kept it going with questions I came up with on my own. Keep in mind I was gainfully employed during this span. Fortunately, my boss said he was cool with it as long as he was on the list and I got my real work done.

Anyway, some of that gift faded as I grew older, memories went hazy, and fatherhood destroyed significant portions of my brain. I can still remember a lot of stupid shit, but not nearly at the same level of clarity as I used to.

All that is leading up to how we spent our Saturday night: at St. P’s annual trivia night. This was our third year participating. Year one I went in focused and excited and was quickly humbled. Questions were all over the place – why can’t they just ask for 80s movie quotes? – and I felt stupid before we got through round two. There was some bullshit question where they handed each group ten kinds of pasta noodles and we had to correctly identify them. How is that trivia?!?! Our team finished in the bottom quarter.

Year two I relaxed and decided to socialize and drink and not sweat the questions. I believe there was some turnover in who made the questions, because they felt significantly easier. Still, our group was middle of the pack and the night was more about fun than competing.

This year we added a couple new families. I was excited about one couple, as their three oldest kids are all the smartest in their classes, always landing on the class honors list. They’re both attorneys and can both talk about just about any subject, so I thought they would really help.

I’m not sure who decided how to split our group, but it ended up being husbands against wives. Not that it mattered all that much, since we generally find a way to split spouses, but that meant the ladies table had our medical expert, who often comes in handy for a question or two. Still, we had ten reasonably smart guys spanning a roughly 20 year age range: I liked our chances.

I’d love to give you a full, round-by-round breakdown of the contest but A) there were 85 questions over 3.5 hours and B) I was drinking all night. Memories are hazy.

What I do remember was we were in the zone all night. We aced the first section, missed just one on the second section, and then did shockingly well on the entertainment question.[1] Turns out when there are a collective 18 daughters from the group, you know a lot about High School Musical and Twilight! The first time they flashed the scores, we were one of four teams tied for first. The ladies were one point behind us.

We kept nailing category after category. Each group gets a mulligan to place on one question per round. We were consistently getting nine correct and placing our mulligan on the one miss. Scores went up again after the 6th round and we were all alone in first. Amazingly, for the second year in a row I was the only one at the table who could correctly answer two questions in the “Have You Been To Mass Lately?” section. Which is a misnomer because they’re more questions about the local Catholic schools and churches rather than mass itself, and the two I knew were both related to high school sports.

Anyway, we get through all 85 questions and are feeling pretty good about ourselves. Then again, we had been knocking back beers, mules, and drunken grapes for almost four hours; it was impossible not to feel good!

Finally the final scores flash and we were the big winners! We missed only five questions for the night. Second place? Our ladies! No collusion here of any kind, I can promise you! That was awfully fortuitous, though, as only the top two teams win prizes, and both prizes are rather fat gift cards to a local restaurant. So looks like the 20 of us will all be going out again in the near future.

Our attorney friend was by far the MVP. But it was nice to exercise that part of my mind that was once so powerful and contribute.

  1. Long a category where the wives distance themselves from the husbands in the groups that are split by gender.  ↩

Friday Playlist

“The Punisher” – Lucius. I don’t know anything about this group, but this song is awesome.

“Thick as Thieves” – The Menzingers. This band has always leaned a little too emo for my tastes. But they shifted ever-so-slightly on their latest album and I’m finding a handful of the tracks very nice to listen to. Good to hear some guitars in the indie rock world!

“The Distance” – Emma Ruth Rundle. Rundle doing what she does best: gorgeous, dark, moody indie rock.

“No Known Drink or Drug” – Japandroids. The first album of 2017 I looked forward to with great anticipation has been out three weeks now. Japandroids’ Near to the Wild Heart of Life is quite good. The only problem is it must be compared with their last album, Celebration Rock. Celebration was an all-time classic, and one of the top five albums of the new millennium. An impossible measuring stick. Wild Heart of Life is fun to listen to, but leaves me feeling a little empty simply because it doesn’t reach the epic heights Celebration reached. A good problem to have, I think. And more guitars!

“Pash Rash” – Jeff Rosenstock. Rosenstock’s album Worry was on a ton of Best of ’16 lists. I finally gave it a listen a couple weeks back. Like Menzingers, he brushes up against that emo/pop-punk sound that is not my favorite. But he has plenty of songs like this that I can crank up and enjoy.

Reader’s Notebook, 2/9/17

Catching up on three recent reads.

On Bullshit – Harry G. Frankfurt. “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit.” Thus begins what is, really, an extended essay in book form on the meaning of bullshit. I read a blurb about this somewhere over the holidays and thought it sounded like a hilarious and quick read. In fact, Frankfurt was a professor of philosophy at Yale and Princeton, among other places. This is a serious look at BS. Seriously. He delves deeply into what exactly bullshit is, and how it compares to outright lying, for example. I’ve never done great with philosophical texts, so I admit my enthusiasm waned quickly. Probably far more interesting in title than in execution.

Reputations – Juan Gabriel Vázquez. This wonderful book has won numerous awards both in its original Spanish, and after being translated. All the best awards, too!

Vázquez centers the tale on a political cartoonist in Colombia. For decades Javier Mallarino has skewered the famous and powerful of Colombian society, mostly from a leftish point of view. His career is celebrated as he is presented an award for his contributions to Colombian society. Following the ceremony, a young blogger approaches him and asks if she can come to his studio and interview him for her website. He agrees, and their conversation ends up shaking everything he believes to be true about his work.

As the title suggests, the central theme of the book is about reputations. How they are made, what they mean, how they can come to dominate all aspects of our life. Mallarino had been comfortable making and breaking the reputations of others, and in turn building his own as a champion of the common man in the face of the rich and powerful. However, his visitor makes him consider the effects his cartoons can have on individuals other than his direct targets. She also forces him to recall a moment from his past, on which one of his most famous cartoons was based, and determine whether what he drew was based on true events, or just his perception of them.

My Struggle: Book 3 – Karl Ove Knausgaard. Karl Ove is back with book 3 of his epic novel/memoir. This time he focuses on his childhood years, growing up on a small Norwegian island in the 1970s. It is mostly a carefree time, although as always with him, there is drama. He is effeminate, prone to outbursts of tears, mean to many of his friends in the manner many smart kids are, and painfully learns that most of the children he goes to school with don’t like him. Yet, like is still pretty idyllic. He runs around an island pretty much unchecked.

Except for his relationship with his father, who is distant, uncommunicative, and unceasingly cruel to Karl Ove. Knausgaard lives in constant fear that even the most minor misstep will invoke the wrath of his father. A lost sock. Candy bought without permission. Eating two apples instead of the allowed one. Running in the house. Not sitting up straight. Young Karl Ove lives in near paralysis when his dad is around, knowing every action puts him on the verge of a rage by his dad.

The relationship with his father puts Book 1 in better perspective. Its easier to understand now how Karl Ove felt so conflicted about his dad’s death, and how they had become so distant in his father’s final years of life. Karl Ove is already building that distance as Book 3 ends, when he is about to go to high school.

The one part of the book that really frightened me was the closing section, when Karl Ove and his classmates are discovering and exploring their sexual urges. This was 1970s Scandinavia, so kids were allowed to go off into the woods in groups and basically figure things out on their own. The boys all became sexual predators by today’s standards, and the girls did little to stop them. As the father of three daughters, one of whom is 12, this section made me even more uncomfortable that I already was about what’s to come.

Prince’s Friends Speak

I really should be flogged for not sharing this earlier. It took me several nights back in December to get through it. And it was worth every second.

Prince’s Closest Friends Share Their Best Prince Stories

The saddest thing about Prince dying is that we lost the chance that he would ever really open up about his life and career. He was slated to put out an autobiography, but I’ve not heard how deep into that project he was. I imagine if he ever really loosened up and shared with the public, he would have some amazing stories to tell.

Without his reflections, these stories are pretty great.

Sports, Man

Sometimes sports are the worst. Sometimes they’re the best. There’s been a lot of both lately.

Super Bowl

Had I been fully neutral, that would have been an awesome Super Bowl. The league heavies get blasted early and look thoroughly overmatched by their young, brash, high-powered opponents. Then an epic comeback, featuring an all-time play, and the first overtime game in Super Bowl history that ends with the Patriots staking claim to greatest franchise in league history and Tom Brady officially passing Joe Montana as the greatest quarterback ever.

That’s pretty great, right?

However, I was not neutral. I reveled in Atlanta’s early dominance. I was giddy when Brady threw a pick-six. I laughed as Atlanta’s defense punished Brady every time he dropped back. It was going to be a really fantastic day!

And then, just like I secretly feared they would do, New England completely flipped the script. They took Atlanta’s offense out of their game. They started finishing their drives on offense. They converted one two-point attempt. They survived a massive throw by Matt Ryan and catch by Julio Jones that really should have ended the game.[1] Then they turned into the Pats we all know and hate. Edelman, Hogan, Amendola, and Bennett started carving up the Atlanta secondary. Edelman’s fingertip catch still looks utterly impossible. And then another score, another two-point conversion, tie game.

Man, Matt Ryan had a great season and was great in the first half. But you knew there was no way he was going Aaron Rodgers and getting he Falcons 60 yards in 40-some seconds for a winning field goal attempt. If it’s fair to say there was a less-than-zero chance, that’s what I’d call it.

I don’t know why they even bothered playing overtime. Even if Atlanta had won the toss and received the ball first, I don’t think anyone but the biggest Falcons fan believed they had any chance to win at that point. Not for the first time that weekend, I snapped off the TV before the final play ended to avoid the post-game celebrations.

Just an awful outcome. The worst, Jerry, the worst.

KU Basketball

Yep, I turned the game off before the final buzzer on Saturday, too. Coming off fantastic wins at #4 Kentucky and at home against #2 Baylor, KU looked awesome in the first half against Iowa State. They shot 71% from the field. They out-rebounded the Cyclones 19–3. They had a 14-point lead at halftime. Life was great!

Except the Jayhawks must have thought, “OK, we’ve had a rough ten-day stretch. We can just cruise to the finish from here.” No flow on offense. No commitment on defense. Terrible turnovers. Missed free throws. Failing to cover shooters. It all added up to an overtime loss and the end of the 54/51 game home winning streak.[2] Thank goodness for Frank Mason, otherwise the game never would have made it to overtime. I wish he would have drained the potential game-winner, though, which was the same shot, opposite side, that he hit to beat Duke back in November.

Sports are awful.

Until they’re not. About an hour later, Baylor lost at home. Two hours after that, West Virginia also lost at home. While the home court winning streak was over, the Big 12 title race stood exactly where it was at the beginning of the day. Weird.

KU had to get their shit together quickly and go play at Kansas State Monday night. A K-State team that felt they should have won in Lawrence last month and had zero fear about playing the Jayhawks. Especially at home. When it was 20–8 K-State early and Bill Self asked a player “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?” as he called a timeout, I was saying the exact same thing. What the fuck are you guys doing?

A 14–4 KU run turned the tide. KU controlled most of the rest of the game, although that grasp was pretty tenuous in the last 6:00. K-State got the lead once – and caused me to throw my remote, two pillows, and pound our leather ottoman while shouting a string of expletives – but KU quickly answered and weathered the storm to pull out a game most KU fans had chalked up as a loss.

Sports are fun!

Except for all the nonsense going on off-the-court around the KU basketball program right now. Which makes sports terrible. I’m keeping my head in the sand and hoping the people I know who are close to the program and keep saying this will blow over are right.

So…just over halfway through the Big 12 schedule, KU has a one-game lead. They’ve played in Morgantown, but not Waco. They’re done with Iowa State and K-State. They have tricky trips to Stillwater, Lubbock, and Austin left. I’d love it if they finished 14–4, which is what I picked at the beginning of the year. I think that’s optimistic, given their depth, how many minutes #BIFM is playing, and how tough the league is. The good thing is I expect Baylor and West Virginia to pick up a stupid loss or two in addition to the expected losses. It ain’t over, but I’d rather be a game ahead than a game behind at this point.


The Royals signed Brandon Moss and Jason Hammel over the past two weeks. I think they’re both good moves. Both players come with risks, but if they deliver, they could go a long way to keeping the Royals in the playoff race. If not, I guess we’ll see a fire sale in July.

The wife mentioned to me over the weekend that she thought we should take the girls back to KC for a game this summer. I’m thinking we schedule that trip early in the summer, lest we arrive when the big names have all been traded if the team is 10 games back at the All Star break.

Sports are ok, I guess. For now.

  1. What is it with coaches against New England in the Super Bowl who refuse to run the ball when there is absolutely no reason to throw it? Seattle should have won two years ago and now Atlanta goes from chippy field goal to clinch the game to punting the ball with all kinds of time for Brady to get the tying score. Terrible.  ↩
  2. The whole counting games in Kansas City thing was dumb. KU played a number of games in Kansas City during this stretch that weren’t officially home games, and thus were not counted. Same court, different rules. They even lost a couple of those. I don’t care if it’s KU playing in KC, Indiana playing in Indy, Duke playing at MSG: if you’re not playing on your home court, it doesn’t count as a home court win. Even if you sell it as part of your season ticket package.  ↩

Big Game Time

Sports are funny. As much as the location where you grew up or live, style of play, or favorite athlete, narrative is a huge part of how we choose the teams we root for. If you’re an uncommitted fan, or just a fan with no strong ties to a particular team to begin with, the story that surrounds a team can often be as big of an attraction as anything.

I was never really a Patriots fan. But I bought into their “No superstars, one team of egoless overachievers” ethos big time when they burst on the scene in the 2001 season. I admit, too, that much of my desire to see them win that year was who they played. They beat the Raiders in the Snow/Tuck Rule game. They beat the Steelers in the AFC title game. They beat the Rams in the Super Bowl. Three teams I did not like. Since I had no strong feelings either way about the Patriots, and they projected a laudable image, I jumped on their bandwagon that playoff year.

My admiration for them continued for several years. It’s kind of easy to forget now, but it took several years for Tom Brady to become TOM BRADY. For several seasons he still seemed like that guy who got lucky with a chance then took it and ran. Belichick was the coach who took a bunch of cast-offs and mis-matched parts every year turned them into winners.

Even as I became a Colts fan and the Patriots always found a way to beat them, I still generally pulled for the Pats against the field.

I don’t know when the change came, but eventually I bought into the “Pats are evil” narrative. Brady and Belichick turned into humorless, insufferable robots who showed almost no joy in winning and whined when things didn’t go their way. They bent rules. Maybe even broke some. And those are just the scandals that have become public. Surely there are more we don’t know anything about.

Unless you’re a true fan of a team, if they keep winning for too long, I don’t think you can help but to eventually root against them. Oh, and it didn’t help that Patriots fans are the worst. Seriously, has any fan base ever managed to be both insanely arrogant and dismissive of their opponents, and martyrs who constantly complain about how everyone is persecuting them at the same time? Cowboys fans are delusional.[1] Steelers fans are just arrogant, but in a tolerable way. Browns fans are pathetic. Raiders fans are best avoided. But Patriots fans somehow manage to stand on both extremes of the fan continuum, and in the process piss everyone else off.

So…where once I would be rooting for the Patriots against a generic NFC team in the Super Bowl, now I hope whoever they play crushes them. I mean, it won’t change the past 15 years, but it will make me feel good for a couple hours.

Still, I can’t help but admire what the Patriots have done. It’s really freaking tough to keep an NFL franchise competitive year-and-year. The Colts did it for a dozen years, but then fell off. The Eagles were really good for a long stretch, but had a deep dip at the end of that run. The Packers and Steelers probably come closest to doing what the Patriots have done in the salary cap era, and both of those teams have had some stinker years sprinkled in all their success. And neither has had the same level of success as New England has.

The Patriots just keep chugging along, though. Even when Tom Brady got hurt, they were still pretty good. All the pieces around him keep changing, but every damn year you know they’re going to play for the AFC title and will advance to the Super Bowl more often than not.

It’s a hell of a thing. And I hate them for it.

Sunday’s game seems to fit right into the classic Patriots narrative. Atlanta is the bright, shiny, new thing. The team that runs up-and-down the field and scores points at will, a thing of beauty to watch. They have athletic freaks all over the field. And they have a quarterback of which much has been expected who seems to finally be coming into his own.[2]

The Pats are their standard collection of middling parts around Brady on offense, and a stout, smart, but largely starless defense. You just know Belichick and his staff have spent 22 hours a day for the past two weeks coming up with 800 ways to shut down the Atlanta offense. They’ll bring out some looks no one has shown since 1977, then throw something at the Falcons that they drew up in practice yesterday and are running for the first time. It will be depressing to watch.

Unless…that Atlanta offensive line can continue to dominate and open holes for Devonta Freeman while giving Matt Ryan plenty of time to find his receivers. Unless Julio Jones blows right past the Pats’ secondary like he has everyone else this postseason. Unless the Falcons defense can frustrate Brady by moving him out of the pocket and getting him out-of-rhythm.

It’s possible, I guess.

Not likely, thought.

New England 24, Atlanta 13


  1. Well, until this year.  ↩
  2. Speaking of narratives!  ↩