Month: December 2014 (Page 1 of 4)

Fin de Año

Last day of the year. As is my routine, this morning I paged back through the site’s archives for the last 12 months and jotted down some highlights.

In January we kicked off the Worst Winter Ever[1] with nearly 20” of snow in three days, followed by the first Polar Vortex. Of a possible 35 hours of school the first week of January, M. and C. were in class for six.
I also adhered to my stupid sports superstitions and refused to turn the TV back on as the Colts charged back from 145 points down to beat the Chiefs in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs.

In February, we traded in our minivan for a Jeep Cherokee. My street cred went up 27%.
One night while driving home from a high school basketball game, I passed what was either a drug raid or a training exercise for several law enforcement agencies.

March brought an early end (again) to the KU basketball season, and the end of the Wiggs and Jojo Show.
Our spring break destination was Kansas City, where we saw many friends, ate barbecue, and listened to the Royals begin their season in Detroit.

In April, M. began her CYO sports career with her first kickball team.
C. took the training wheels off of her bike.
And I kept score when Yordano Ventura pitched, foreshadowing the fall.

In May it finally warmed up a little.
We kicked off the summer by becoming boaters and with a stomach bug making Memorial Day weekend extra interesting.

The girls began their first season of swim team in June.
And we lost Casey Kasem.

Early July brought our annual family gathering at the LVS.
The rest of the month was a nostalgia trip, as I redesigned the blog (again), and reviewed many of my past writings. I also cleaned out the attic, bringing out toys from my youth for the girls to play with and sending hundreds of CDs to my sister-in-law’s yard sale.

August brought the end of an era, as L. joined her sisters at St. P’s. I still haven’t changed my life much, but no longer am I required at home all day.
She also took off her training wheels just as school was beginning.
I gave up caffeine and the Royals got hot.

September was all about fall sports, with M. on the kickball diamond again and C. and L. on the soccer fields. I kept score for M.’s team and coached C.’s. I only got into two “discussions” with other coaches.

Sal, Alex, Hos, Moose, and LoCain made October the best October ever.

Basketball kicked off in November. I made my first visit to Hinkle Fieldhouse and got to see KU play in Indy. Unfortunately against a historically good opponent.

Our holiday season has been a good wrap-up to the calendar year.

It wasn’t a perfect year. There were many challenges and low points along the way. Like most days over the past 10 years, my limited patience was often tested and sanity put into question because of my parenting responsibilities. There were things I hoped to figure out about my future that are no clearer today than they were on the last day of 2013. And there are family members facing current difficulties that have us worried.

But on balance, there was more good than bad, more love than hate, more happiness than anger.

Hopefully most of you can say the same.

Enjoy the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one.

If what I read this morning is correct, the current cold snap is going to push us up a spot and 2014 will be the third coldest year in the recorded history of Indianapolis. Global warming deniers rejoice!  ↩

⦿ Tuesday Links

I’m a horrible blogger. Christmas and its associated activities got me well behind in sharing links. So not only do I have a general glut, but I also have a few that should have been shared before Christmas. I’m going to knock out those holiday-related ones today and attempt to get the rest of the queue cleaned out on Friday.

I suppose some of you still watch Christmas movies after Christmas. Heathens. So these first two should be of use to you wack jobs. The rest of you, who are ladies and gentlemen, can tuck them into your Instapaper/Evernote silos until next December.

I learned a ton from this Rolling Stone oral history of Christmas Vacation. The mountains in the background of the opening scene always bugged me. There aren’t mountains in Chicago! Good to finally learn where those scenes were shot.

Xmas or Bust: The Untold Story of ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’

The New York Times looked at the Christmas movies of the past couple decades and tried to determine which ones will stand the test of time. I agree with their choices, although I’ve never seen The Santa Clause. I recorded it this year but never got around to watching it.[1]

Entries in the Silver Bell Sweepstakes

Finally, tech writer Steven Levy somehow got his name attached to an email he never wrote, and credit for a TV rant he never gave, about the alleged War on Christmas. And so each year at this time he gets many interesting emails from people who believe he is responsible for the originals. It’s a funny example of how the Internet makes it both easy to share information and spread misinformation.

A Holiday Confession

  1. My current, personal rankings of Christmas movies: 1) Elf, 2) Christmas Vacation, 3) A Christmas Story, 4) The Polar Express  ↩

Top Albums of 2014

Sharing my favorite songs of the year with you was not enough. Thus, I must offer a few thoughts on the year in music in general, then share my favorite albums of the year. I like to think of it as a rough guide for people with some iTunes or Amazon credit to burn who would like to add an album or two to their collections.

I’ve long taken pride in my musical tastes. Since becoming a father and suburbanite ten years ago, I’ve liked to say that I still listen to the music of a 23-year-old. My tastes have continued to lean toward the alternative/indie rock side of the spectrum as I’ve slipped into that tenuous stage of life known as “middle age.”

But in 2014, things changed. A little. The bands I listened to most this year still reside in that rather broad part of the rock world that is still labeled “alternative.” Yet, a significant number of those bands boasted influences from the mid–1980s Heartland Rock sound. Springsteen. Petty. Dire Straits. Mellencamp. Bryan Adams. With faint echoes of Dylan. It is the core rock sound for those of us who grew up listening to American Top 40 in the ‘80s.

Which is kind of weird. I’ve been this big alt-rock guy since the early ‘90s, but suddenly I’m embracing artists who are pushing 40 and harkening back to the mainstream rock sound that dominated FM radio when we were in middle school. There’s probably some deeper meaning hidden in there, but, frankly, I’m a little fearful of chasing it down.

So let’s just use that as our general statement of purpose and jump into my favorite albums of 2014.

Burn Your Fire For No Witness – Angel Olsen
I wrote about this album briefly last spring, and I’m afraid I have to use the same lazy description of Olsen I used then: She’s a modern day Patsy Cline, at least in terms of her voice.

This is a gorgeous and heart-wrenching album. It is filled with songs about wounded people clinging onto some sliver of hope that better days will come. Despite all that pain, this is a wonderful album to listen to.[1]

Essential Tracks: “Hi-Five,” “Lights Out,” “Windows”

Transgender Dysphoria Blues – Against Me!
Another album I wrote about multiple times this year. As I said when discussing the title track in my favorite songs of the year section, it is one of the most powerful expressions of self I’ve ever listened to.

Essential Tracks: “Transgender Dysphoria Blues,” “True Trans Soul Rebel,” “FUCKMYLIFE666”

They Want My Soul – Spoon
Spoon received a lot of run this year for their longevity. They’ve been putting albums out for nearly 20 years now. There have been a few valleys in their career, but they’ve never sucked, and quite often they’ve been brilliant.

After spending recent years in one of those relative valleys, this was a fantastic return to the form and sound that has made Spoon one of the best American rock bands of the current century. You don’t listen for deeper meanings, although they are certainly there. You just listen to enjoy.

Essential Tracks: “Rent I Pay,” “Do You,” “Inside Out”

The Voyager – Jenny Lewis
Lewis taps into the late 1970s, AM radio pop sound more than the Heartland Rock vibe, but there are certainly common elements. Those are brought forward a little more thanks to the production work of Ryan Adams.

While not as striking as Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, Lewis also shares an honest portrait of self; in this case of a single, childless woman in her late 30s, contemplating the choices she’s made, confronting pain, fending off demons, and learning to be comfortable with the woman she has become.

Essential Tracks: “Head Underwater,” “Slippery Slopes,” “She’s Not Me”

Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
2014 was the year I dove into the Ryan Adams experience. Sure, I was familiar with a handful of his songs, but never had I listened to an entire Adams album. But after falling in love with his two 2014 releases – this self-titled full length and the glorified EP 1984 which honored the classic sound of mid–80s American hardcore – I decided to take the plunge. And thus most of the past fall was spent listening to some of his epic 17-plus album collection.

When he’s at his best, Adams is the mid-point between Tom Petty and The Smiths. He’s never been as locked into that sound as on this disk. Every song would have fit perfectly into a classic album of the 1980s. Born In The USA, Damn the Torpedoes, and The Joshua Tree being the most notable. It is musical comfort food, but with substance and warmth to it.

Essential Tracks: “Gimme Something Good,” “Trouble,” “My Wrecking Ball”

Album Of The Year

Lost In The Dream – The War On Drugs
If Ryan Adams is where Tom Petty meets The Smiths, TWOD are where Springsteen meets The Cure. Wonderful, classic Heartland Rock stacked on top of layers of synthesizers and over-dubs to create a sound that is more lush than dense.

This album is absolutely loaded with delights. The extended, psychedelic jam of the opener, “Under The Pressure.” The liquid, ‘get the hell out of town fast’ scorcher “Like An Ocean Between the Waves.” The wonderful moment to catch your breath that is “Eyes To The Wind.” And, “In Reverse,” one of the all-time great album-ending tracks.

And then there are two perfect pop songs that sound straight out of the last half hour of a 1984 American Top 40, “Red Eyes,” and “Burning.” Each song is carried by a sense of liberation, of breaking free from the troubles that have held you down for too long.

If I had a list of Best Musical Moments of 2014, so many of them would come from this album. There is the acoustic guitar that comes in at the end of “In Reverse,” which opens up the perfect ending to the perfect last track and ties the entire album together. There is the moment when Adam Granduciel lights the fuse on his guitar and soars into the heavens on “Like An Ocean Between the Waves.” There is that perfect lyric in “Eyes To The Wind,” that sums up where our narrator is just before he decides to dig out of his hole of depression:

“I’m a bit run down here at the moment.”

And the top moment of the year must come from my favorite song of the year, Granduciel’s “WHOO!” that throws the drums into another gear, kicks off a gorgeous guitar run, and begins what amounts to the chorus of “Red Eyes.”

Sometimes my choice for favorite album of the year fades in time, replaced by newer, greater disks. Lost In The Dream, however, is an album that is going to stick with me for a long, long time. It is one of my favorite albums of recent years and certainly deserving of the label as my favorite of 2014.

Essential Tracks: “Red Eyes,” “Like An Ocean Between The Waves,” “Burning”

  1. In sharp contrast to Sharon Van Etten’s stunning Are We There Yet, which is even more of an emotional nuclear bomb of an album, but often so stark and personal that I had a difficult time listening to it.  ↩

Christmas 2014

Well, I believe it was a fine Christmas at our house. As I type this at about 10:30 PM, Christmas night, the girls are all in bed snuggling with one new item or another. As I take my last listen to my favorite Christmas songs, I’ll share a few details of our holiday.

Christmas Eve was a blur of trips to the grocery store, food prep, and last-minute cleaning and straightening jobs around the house before we had to get ready for 5:00 pm Mass.

There was a chance of snow Wednesday night. Or, rather, there was an expectation of heavy snow but with the balancing factor that it had been in the 50s for a couple days and the ground would be too warm for the snow to stick. As far as I know, it never changed over to snow. But when we walked out of Mass at 6:30, heavy drops of cold rain blew directly into our faces. Not the most beautiful of Christmas Eves.

From Mass it was on to the in-laws’ for our annual Christmas Eve dinner. Good food, good company, and a quick round of gifts after.

We headed home so we could watch a movie (most of Christmas Vacation, although the girls were too wound up to really pay attention) and get the girls settled down for bed. An uncle and two aunts came to spend the night with us, which is a must. The girls have never had a Christmas morning where there was not at least one aunt or uncle around when they opened presents.

We forced the girls to bed around 10:30, to many complaints. M. had been whining for two days about how unfair we are to them. The neighbors, she tells us, are allowed to get up at 6:00 to open their presents. We informed her 6:00 gifts were not happening in our house so she needed to change her attitude in the last bedtime before Santa came. She literally stomped her foot and grunted, her new favorite way of disagreeing with us. Then both she and C. complained that they wouldn’t be able to sleep. They figured things out, eventually, as everyone was fast asleep when I went to bed at 12:30.

M. was the first in to our room, at a completely reasonable 7:30, the exact time we told her we would consider getting out of bed. Which makes me think she had been awake for at least an hour, staring at the clock until it reached the magic minute when we were willing to get up. The other two were roused and brushed teeth as the aunts and uncle were notified that their presence was required downstairs.

And then the best 20 minutes of the year, if you’re a kid at least.

M. had asked for Sänd, the Brookstone-specific brand of kinetic sand. She got regular kinetic sand, which she was happy with, although she let everyone know she had asked for Sänd.[1] She also got a warm robe and Battleship, as she is our family gamer.

C. got a new makeup kit. Unlike the one she got two years ago, she did not use 60% of it in the first four hours she owned it. She also got a Simon game[2] and a Spirograph, which has been a big hit.

L. got the most popular gift, a Zoomer Dino which is a lot of fun, although it sure has to be charged up often. Other gifts included a Knot-a-Quilt set and a bungee pogo stick. In her stocking was a Pete the Cat doll, which is now permanently attached to her.

That was the Santa loot. From dear old Mom and Dad, the girls got an iPad Air, which caused much shrieking. We’re hopeful that they behave with it and there are not arguments over playing time, one sister playing with another sister’s game, etc. So far they’ve had the most fun sending messages to other people in the family, and the neighbors, using Siri. They also made faux-feces with M.’s kinetic sand and sent pics to everyone, saying it was “Green Turdes.” When I think back to Christmas 2014, I think the lasting memory will be “green turdes.”

Everyone also got robes and slippers and the game Life from their grandparents. There were also small Lego kits and Barnes and Noble gift cards in their stockings.

So the girls did pretty well for themselves. It’s going to be interesting how they handle getting games for the iPad. So far they’ve only downloaded free games, other than Minecraft which I paid for. I have it locked down so I have to approve purchases first on their iPad and then on my iPhone, so any future buys will need careful parental review. Over the past year they’ve saved money for Lego kits, books, and other special purchases. I wonder if they’ll start sliding that money over to the App Store instead.

After gifts we had the traditional large family brunch, which fed 17. Then in the afternoon five more extended relatives joined us for dessert. I was wiped out by about 3:00, two glasses of wine not helping, so I pulled the “It’s My House” card and went into the basement where the kids were playing and watching A Christmas Story and took a nap. When I woke, many of our guests were gone and it was a much quieter home. Host of the year!

So Christmas 2014, good. I read this a few minutes ago and it rings pretty true. No telling how many more Christmas Days like this we have left.

I hope all of you had fine holidays as well.

She wrote a note put with Santa’s cookies and milk reminding him that she reeeeeeeally wanted Sänd and would be disappointed if he didn’t bring her some. Seriously…  ↩

No volume controls. How have they not added one in the last 30 years?  ↩

Final Countdown

Happy Christmas Eve, eve!

It feels like I should say, “Man, the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has really flown this year,” since I think I say that each year. But it’s especially true in these years when we’re on the short side of the holiday cycle. In those years where there are nearly five weeks between the holidays, I usually have a few days right before the Winter Solstice when I’m a little burned out on the whole holiday spirit thing. But this year I’m keenly aware that in just over two days I’ll be unchecking all the Christmas songs in iTunes, putting the movies away, erasing all the DVR recordings, and a week later getting the tree and decorations taken down and put away.

We tried to do something new over the weekend. We booked a family trip on a carriage ride around Monument Circle and through downtown Indianapolis. We went Sunday night and lucked out, as it was chilly but dry and windless.

We didn’t tell the girls where we were going, but on the drive down, we gave them a series of hints and they tried to guess. Which turned out to be pretty funny. They filled a notebook page with their guesses and M. tried to draw circles around them and make connections between them. They never really got close. But we told them just before we made it to the heart of downtown which got them very excited. And as we hit downtown traffic, we kept passing, and then getting passed by, a carriage at a series of red lights. They loved watching the horse, and decided that’s the carriage they wanted, as it was trimmed out in blue rope lighting.

When we got to our designated spot, sure enough, we got a blue-trimmed carriage. They thought the horse, named Aladdin, was really cool. And they enjoyed the 20-25 minute ride. I guess it being the last Sunday before Christmas outweighed the Colts playing in Dallas at the same time, because downtown was absolutely packed. The girls thought it was cool to see people stop and point at us, or take pictures as our carriage went by.

In addition to taking a lap of Monument Circle, we rode past the state capital building, down by Lucas Oil Stadium, then through the section of Georgia Street that was redone before the Super Bowl to have a central pedestrian mall area. It was filled with Christmas trees and ice sculptures, which the girls thought were great. They also thought it was very cool to drive by St. Elmo Steakhouse, a place they’ve heard about but never seen. We’ve taught them well because they all know about St. Elmo’s world famous shrimp cocktail.

It was a nice and fun way to spend a December evening. The girls immediately decided we have to make this a new holiday tradition. Which I’m down with, although I also realized we’re not too many years from the girls thinking our holiday traditions are dumb and they’d rather be doing something with their friends than spending a few hours downtown with their parents.

The traditional cookies and treats all got made over the weekend, too. My world famous hazelnut toffee chocolate chip cookies. Well, really Giada’s world famous hazelnut toffee chocolate chip cookies. The chocolate crinkles that tons of people make but the girls insisted we make as well. Pretzel treats with melted Hersey’s Hugs and M&M’s. And bags of “Reindeer Chow”; Chex cereal with melted chocolate and Nutella, sprinkled with powdered sugar and M&M’s. An entire corner of our kitchen corner is currently buried underneath all those sweets along with the other items our neighbors and friends have shared with us.

Elfie got in the act, too. On Saturday morning he was waiting for the girls inside our big mixer with a note saying “Let’s bake cookies!” He’s also been found drinking from a syrup container, sleeping under the Christmas tree, and riding our decorative sleigh with a stuffed reindeer attached by rope reins. This morning he has the girls super-sized Find Santa book laid out on the floor, with a bag of Hersey’s Hugs next to him. Interestingly enough, he picked the page where you are searching for Santa at the North Pole. I’m not sure the girls understand the significance of that, since on Christmas Eve morning he’s always perched on the mantle, waiting for his final trip home.

There’s lots of cleaning and other prep ahead of me in the next two days. So, in case this is the last post before the holiday, allow me to wish all of you the merriest of Christmases.

(One thing I forgot. One of the local radio conglomerates is headquartered right down in Monument Circle. As we drove through before we parked, I pointed that the Christmas music station was in that building.

“Oh,” said M., “is that why we have such good reception, because we’re right by the building?”

I think I laughed and muttered, “Sure.”

“I bet lots of people come down here to listen to the station because the reception is so good,” she continued.

I decided it wasn’t the time to explain FM radio propagation to her.)

Favorite Songs Of 2014, #1

“Red Eyes” – The War on Drugs

It’s hard to write about a song that you love so much, but can barely sing along to. Adam Granduciel hides many of his lyrics deep beneath layers of guitars, synthesizers, distortion, and plain old mumbling. For much of the song, I’m just kind of humming along, guessing at words here and there, playing a little air guitar or drums, and making up words that seem to fit. And this is even after looking at numerous lyrics sites, which can’t seem to agree on several sections.[1] I was pleased to find a couple other reviews of the song in year end lists that made similar statements about the difficulty in discerning the lyrics.

What grabbed me about this song the first time I heard it last December was the quality that is present in so many of TWOD’s best songs: that sense of exuberant escape. We may not know which way he’s running, but that bountiful sense of freedom lifts you up and carries you along with it. As the synthesizers shimmer and the drums pound, Granduciel throws in those perfect little guitar runs that make you want to let go and follow wherever the song leads you to.

I can’t tell you exactly what he’s singing, or even singing about. But all those feelings that are wrapped up in the music continue to lift me up even after 12 months of listening to it.

I was not a big fan of the official video for the song. But I loved this fan video, which to me captured that primal feeling of escape that is the song’s core.

Bonus points: My favorite musical moment of the year, Granduciel’s “WHOO!” that sends the song into overdrive as the chorus, as much as there is one, begins.

Baby don’t mind
Leave it on a lie, you can have it your way


20 – “Black And White” – Parquet Courts
19 – “I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up)” – School Of Seven Bells
18 – “We Only Come Out At Night” – Sugar Stems
17 – “Too True To Be Good” – Dum Dum Girls
16 – “Milwaukee” – The Both
15 – “New Skin” – Torres
14 – “Seasons (Waiting On You)” – Future Islands
13 – “Fall In Love” – Phantogram
12 – “Spinners” – The Hold Steady
11 – “Rent I Pay” – Spoon
10 – “Teenage Wasteland” – Wussy
9 – “Goshen ’97” – Strand Of Oaks
8 – “Lazaretto” – Jack White
7 – “Honey Do” – Beverly
6 – “Head Underwater” – Jenny Lewis
5 – “Run Forever” Emma Ruth Rundle
4 – “Lights Out” – Angel Olsen
3 – “Gimme Something Good” – Ryan Adams
2 – “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” – Against Me!

  1. Granduciel rather cheekily only provided lyrics to part of the song in the liner notes, and some clearly changed between recording and writing them down.  ↩

Friday Vid

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” – Darlene Love

Most holiday seasons there is one Christmas song I listen to a little more than the others, or one that connects with me a little more than the rest. Some years it is a relatively new song that gets stuck in my head. Other years it is a song I’ve heard hundreds of times that suddenly tickles the right part of my brain.[1]

Year-after-year, though, there is no finer, modern, secular Christmas song than this. That’s likely because it’s just a flat out amazing song. Adjust the lyrics a bit to take out the holiday references, and it becomes an all-time great pop song, suitable for playing in any season.

Tonight is the final time Darlene Love will be singing it on national TV. The good folks at Worldwide Pants have put together this mash-up from some of her appearances on David Letterman’s show over the years. I suggest you stay up late tonight, or set the DVR, as I imagine this year’s rendition will be especially good.

(The New York Times writes about tonight’s performance here. How in the hell did I not know that Love played Danny Glover’s wife in the Lethal Weapon series? I’m so disappointed in myself.)

  1. Oddly enough, no song has emerged as The One this year.  ↩

Favorite Songs Of 2014, #2

“Transgender Dysphoria Blues” – Against Me!

No song was a more forceful statement of self than this, the opening track of the first Against Me! album since lead singer Laura Jane Grace began her transformation from man to woman. It is packed with a righteous rage, the entire album a gigantic middle finger to everyone that questions the manner in which Grace leads her life. And yet, it also rings with an optimism and a profound sense of liberation.

This is a remarkable song, and features one of the most powerful moments of this, or any year, when Grace begins the second verse by spitting out, “You’ve got no cunt in your strut!” Because of what it represents, I’ll put that lyric up with just about any in rock history for throwing hate back at the haters.

You want them to see you
Like they see every other girl.
They just see a faggot.
They hold their breath not to catch the sick

20 – “Black And White” – Parquet Courts
19 – “I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up)” – School Of Seven Bells
18 – “We Only Come Out At Night” – Sugar Stems
17 – “Too True To Be Good” – Dum Dum Girls
16 – “Milwaukee” – The Both
15 – “New Skin” – Torres
14 – “Seasons (Waiting On You)” – Future Islands
13 – “Fall In Love” – Phantogram
12 – “Spinners” – The Hold Steady
11 – “Rent I Pay” – Spoon
10 – “Teenage Wasteland” – Wussy
9 – “Goshen ’97” – Strand Of Oaks
8 – “Lazaretto” – Jack White
7 – “Honey Do” – Beverly
6 – “Head Underwater” – Jenny Lewis
5 – “Run Forever” Emma Ruth Rundle
4 – “Lights Out” – Angel Olsen
3 – “Gimme Something Good” – Ryan Adams

Favorite Songs Of 2014, #3

“Gimme Something Good” – Ryan Adams

This was the soundtrack of my summer, something I heard every 90 minutes or so while we were lounging in the water at the lake. Which made perfect sense, because it has a timeless sound that would have let it fit perfectly into playlists from about any summer of the last 40 years. A song made for singing along to while riding in cars packed with friends, while chilling at the pool, or while grilling your dinner on warm nights.

I’ll get more into this next week, but Adams, and the sounds he created for his self-titled album, were at the core of what I listened to this year. Modern rock heavily influenced by the Heartland Rock of the mid–1980s. It may not be cutting edge, but it sure sounds great.

All my life been shaking
Wanting something
Holding everything I have like it was broken

20 – “Black And White” – Parquet Courts
19 – “I Got Knocked Down (But I’ll Get Up)” – School Of Seven Bells
18 – “We Only Come Out At Night” – Sugar Stems
17 – “Too True To Be Good” – Dum Dum Girls
16 – “Milwaukee” – The Both
15 – “New Skin” – Torres
14 – “Seasons (Waiting On You)” – Future Islands
13 – “Fall In Love” – Phantogram
12 – “Spinners” – The Hold Steady
11 – “Rent I Pay” – Spoon
10 – “Teenage Wasteland” – Wussy
9 – “Goshen ’97” – Strand Of Oaks
8 – “Lazaretto” – Jack White
7 – “Honey Do” – Beverly
6 – “Head Underwater” – Jenny Lewis
5 – “Run Forever” Emma Ruth Rundle
4 – “Lights Out” – Angel Olsen

Hot Sports Takes

Back again to fill in a couple hot sports takes between favorite songs entries.

Bill Self Issues a Fatwa Against Mock Drafts

Last Saturday KU coach Bill Self, after responding to a question about how well Kelly Oubre had played against Utah, railed against the numerous mock NBA drafts that dot the Internet. He said they hurt more people than they help by building unrealistic expectations for young college players.

Which I think we all would kind of agree with, whether you like Self or not, or think his rant was reasonable or not. Mock drafts are silly. I don’t know that they actually hurt people, but we probably put way too much weight into them.

A couple college hoops writers, one of whom puts out his own mock draft, took Self to task for his comments.

Which I understand, too. Mock drafts weren’t causing Kelly Oubre to play awful basketball in the first 4–5 games of his KU career. And if the mock drafts did not exist, people would still be wondering why this top ten recruit was struggling so mightily to get on the court.

I found the defense of mock drafts equally silly, though. These are made up lists based on guesses and the heat of the moment. If a kid has a couple bad games, suddenly his draft stock is “plummeting.” Go get a couple double-doubles back-to-back and your stock is instantly rising.

I get what Self was doing. He had said for a couple weeks that Oubre was doing fine, he just needed to stop thinking so much and then the light would go on.[1] He was tired of hearing questions about why one young player wasn’t getting very many minutes when people were ignoring the fact that A) that kid hadn’t settled into the system yet and B) he was losing minutes to two other guys who are going to play in the NBA eventually. Self was just protecting his player.

I also think he was trying to nip a bigger story in the bud. KU had three players leave the program between their season-ending loss to Stanford last March and the first game of this season. If Oubre is buried behind Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Brannen Greene in January, you can bet the rumors would pick up about him wanting out of the program, too. And then come the articles wondering, “What is wrong with Kansas?!?!” I think Self wanted to crush that before it ever got started.

That said, I think he chose his words and tone poorly. He came across as whining, at least when you read his comments. But I guess you can get tired of saying, “Kelly will be fine,” and people insisting that maybe he isn’t.

I think this “controversy” gets to two bigger issues.

First, the expectations that players come into college with. We’ve read about them since they were in the ninth grade. We’ve watched them on ESPN playing against other elite players. Freshmen aren’t novelties anymore. They come with gaudy resumes and the expectation that if they’re as good as everyone says, they’ll spend a quick year in college before moving on to the next level.

Which ignores the reality that every player adjusts to the college game in different ways, and every year’s ratings are different. I think a lot of people expected Kelly Oubre to make an immediate impact the way Andrew Wiggins did last year. Oubre was a terrific high school player, and I think he’s going to be a very good college player before he’s done. But he’s not Wiggins. Same for Cliff Alexander, who I think some people expected to be a Julius Randle-type player. He may well be before the year is over, but he’s a different kid and will get there by a different path than Randle did at Kentucky last year.

Second, I think a lot of people confuse the hype and expectations that come with lofty recruiting rankings and high slots in mock drafts as a representation of current reality. Those mock drafts are based on looking out to the future three, four, five years. Who is going to be an NBA All-Star vs. who will be in Europe after a year? We forget how much development must take place for even the best of these players to get to that level.

Royals Free Agent Signings

I’m really struggling with what the Royals have done over the past week. They signed Kendrys Morales to a two-year, $17 million deal. Alex Rios to a one-year, $11 million deal. And Edinson Volquez to a two-year, $20 million deal. A lot of money for three players who are aging and have not been at their peak for several years.

I want to hate the moves. I want to shake my fist in the general direction of Dayton Moore and wonder what the hell he’s thinking.

But the thing is, I think he’s earned some leeway. He’s made some bad roster moves, but lately most of them seem to work out. Maybe not always with wild success, but enough to help the club.

Each of these players is a high risk signing. But maybe Morales is completely healthy and in shape again, and can be the everyday DH for the next two seasons. Maybe Rios is healthy and can take advantage of Kaufman Stadium’s deep gaps and start lining doubles again. And maybe Volquez has enough left to take advantage of the K’s spacious outfield and the Royals fine defense and can be a solid, back of the rotation guy for two years.

I wish they had signed Melky Cabrera instead of Rios. Jake Peavy instead of Volquez. Just about anyone instead of Morales. But I’m not ready to kill Moore for them. Yet.

I do also wonder if there’s another big move ahead. A payroll of $110+ million seems awfully high for the Glass family. I wonder if Greg Holland or Wade Davis will be traded for prospects to slice a chunk of that cash off before spring training.

But, hey, it’s nice to be talking about the Royals, the defending American League champions, in December!

  1. Which may be what has happened over the last two games.  ↩
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