Month: January 2022 (Page 1 of 2)

Weekend Sports Notes

Well, for most of my friends, this was a sports weekend to forget.


KU

I picked a very good night to have dinner plans that interfered with me watching the KU game. Thus I was able to not see a minute of KU getting whacked by Kentucky. We left right around tip off and by the time we got to our destination, the lead was already big enough that I was saved the awkwardness of checking my phone throughout dinner.

Without visual knowledge of what happened, I can’t really break it down. But I am concerned my little line last week, intended to be a throwaway, about Bill Self’s off-season transfer haul being a waste, seems more true than ever. Kentucky was a much more athletic team, and KU couldn’t hang. Remy Martin played 15 minutes, Joe Yesufu 5. Which means Self is basically running the same team out there that didn’t belong on the same court as USC last March.

There’s still a lot of basketball to be played, so it’s not worth worrying about March when we still have a day left in January. But a team that seemed like one of the best in the country six weeks ago, with plenty of room for growth, now seems like just another in a large group of decent teams with no real Final Four chances.

Fortunately KU gets a chance to bounce back by playing…(checks schedule)…at Iowa State, Baylor, and Texas over the next week. Oh damn!


NFL

I’ll tread lightly here, since I have a large Chiefs-fan contingent in my reader base. The AFC title game result was…surprising. I missed the early part of the game and was only half-watching as the Chiefs stretched the lead to 21–3. No need to watch the rest, I thought, as we straightened up after having some family guests over the weekend. Next time I walked by the TV the Bengals had the lead and I had no idea how.

From Twitter I gather the Chiefs defense did enough to win but, amazingly, it was the offense that let them down. That is also surprising.

My bigger takeaway is how this weekend might have officially turned the page for quarterback generations in the NFL. Peyton has been gone a few years. Brees left last year. Brady is leaving, maybe? If Rodgers continues to play he likely has just a brief time left in his career. Russell Wilson seems like he’s on the back-half of his career. In that group you have the quarterbacks who have dominated the game over the past 20 years.

On the other side of the generational divide, Patrick Mahomes has already ascended. Josh Allen sure seemed to this year. Joe Burrow is the swaggiest QB since Joe Namath and just got to the Super Bowl in his second year in the league, after blowing out his knee his rookie year. Those three play in different AFC divisions, meaning they will battle for a long time as long as they remain healthy. I would also add Lamar Jackson, who is doing things that no one thought possible for a quarterback in the NFL. Kyler Murray is just outside that group, but is such a unique talent that if he can learn to harness it for 20-some games he could easily move into that group. What a treat for football fans!

What is this bullshit rolling Michael Buffer out to “announce” the kickoff two-straight weeks? Is it 1997?

The Niners-Rams game wasn’t quite as fun as their last meeting, but still enjoyable as a neutral. So many just stupid plays that affected the result. So much over-coaching. I was hoping for a three-OT game as the teams traded stupid play after stupid play.

Props to Jimmy G for likely ending his career in the most Jimmy G manner possible. Carson Wentz probably shed a tear if he was watching, thinking Jimmy made a great play.


USMNT Soccer

During much of the Bengals-Chiefs game, I was actually watching more of the US-Canada men’s World Cup qualifier. Without diving into pay channels, it was only available on Telemundo, so in Spanish, in standard definition. Which was weird. Made weirder by being played in some glorified college stadium on a narrow, artificial turf field in Ontario.

I missed the opening Canada goal but watched with great frustration as the US mostly dominated the game, yet couldn’t put a tying goal in. They had a brilliant chance late in the first half when Weston McKennie had a beautiful header that the Canada goalie knocked away at the last possible moment. It was a brilliant save, made even more impressive since the goalie looked like some dude they randomly picked up before the game in a nearby park.

That was the story of the entire game: the US dominated possession but could not get good shots on goal. And when they managed a decent shot, the goalie was always there.

The game got nice and chippy late. Lots of pushing and mock, soccer player anger. The referee was great. He would come charging in from 30 yards away anytime there was a little dustup, blowing his whistle and waving his arms. The Canadian crowd was in a frenzy, as a win would both be Canada’s first over the US in a WC qualifier since 1980 and pretty much lock up their World Cup berth. They added a goal in the final minute of stoppage time as the US pressed forward and the place went nuts. If it wasn’t so annoying that the US had, once again, found a way to make getting to the World Cup entirely too difficult, it would have been awesome to watch.

I don’t follow the USMNT super closely. I do know they have their best crop of talent since those great teams of the early 2000s. They tend to play really well against Mexico, which is awesome. But they still throw too many duds up against teams they have way more talent than. For example, last week’s game against El Salvador. Played in freezing Columbus, OH, you would expect the US to win easily. They had to gut out a nervy 1–0 win. I watched most of the second half and they seemed so much better, but just can’t finish. I’m sure it is maddening to people that are really into the team.

They are still in a good spot to get to the World Cup next fall. But they could have wrapped up that spot by now and have only themselves to blame if it comes down to the last game or, worse, they have to go to a playoff to get in.

Friday Playlist

I don’t trust the Spotify algorithm to suggest music to me very often. I make a quick pass through my Discovery Weekly and Release Radar playlists each week, but I will generally only find a song or two that are new to me and fit my tastes. Last week, though, the Discovery playlist spit out a different version of an artist I really like (Julia Jacklin). After listening to her side project’s entire album, I let Spotify suggest music to me for about an hour. It was almost all glorious Australian indie-pop. Just about all of this week’s songs are ones I discovered during that span. This is another of my occasional All-Aussie PL’s.

“Bad Timing” – Phantastic Ferniture
Before Jacklin made it as a solo artist, she was a member of this band. After the success of her debut album Don’t Let the Kids Win in 2016, she got the group back together to record an album. She said it was a break from writing “songs that make people sad.” I wish I had heard this sooner. It is really fun.

“Drive Me Home” – The Buoys
These ladies from Sydney don’t sound overtly Australian, but you can hear the Aussie pop influence in there if you dig deep enough. I love the brightness of this track.

“Fem Chem” – Nice Biscuit
This Brisbane band also diverts from classic Aussie pop, taking it in a more psychedelic/surf rock direction.

“Waste Our Breath” – Something For Kate
I listened to SFK a little bit a year or two back, after I saw lead singer Paul Dempsey’s cover of Middle Kids’ “Edge of Town.” A couple songs from their most recent album, 2020’s The Modern Medieval popped up in that hour of Aussie music. I spent most of the rest of that day listening to their album, which is absolutely great. This is one of many standout tracks.

“Now We’re Getting Somewhere” – Crowded House
The algorithm threw in a few classics, too, including this from CH’s debut album. I’ve thought for years that I needed to write something about side one of that album, which is one of the great debuts ever made.

“Quicksand” – Hatchie
Big news late last year as Harriette Pilbeam signed with Bloomington, IN label Secretly Canadian. Perhaps this is the first step to the kind of success former SC band The War on Drugs has found? I don’t love this song the way I loved her 2019 music, but I do like her new, glammed up look.

Jayhawk Talk: Never Not Exciting

A delayed edition of Jayhawk Talk because Monday’s game against Texas Tech was far too stressful. I would complain about the rest of the season being as exhausting as the past week was for KU, but I prefer winning to losing. If that means 12 more games like the last three and a Big 12 title as reward, I guess I’m on board.

I did not watch the game live. Well, 99% of it. L had a game that night so I had to record it. Once we got home, I had some family time, took the trash out, and by the time I sat down to fire up the DVR, the live game was well into the second half in Lawrence. Thanks to skipping commercials, halftime, and then entire possessions in overtime (because I was angry), I actually saw the final 10 seconds or so of the game live. Glad those last 10 seconds ended with a double OT win.


The two big topics after the game were Ochai Agbaji and Remy Martin.[1] Which has been the case for much of the year.

Ochai was a flat-out stud. Yes, he missed four free throws in the final 13 minutes of play, three of which could have ended the game sooner. But dude was balling out. And he hit one of the biggest, most memorable shots in recent KU history. I’ll allow the misses if he keeps going for 30+ and/or hitting game winners.

As for Remy, I’ve tried to stay detached from the Internet outrage about his usage this season. I said early on I expected his arc to be similar to Malik Newman’s in 2017–18: it would take him awhile to get acclimated, but it would happen. Remy’s knee injury in late December has set that timeline back a bit.

Monday he looked as good as he’s looked since he got hurt. Texas Tech just did not have an answer for his speed. He got blocked at the rim several times, but he balanced that with buckets and assists because Tech could not stay with him.

And then he didn’t play in the final 15+ minutes of the game.

Listen, I get it. Remy couldn’t guard an 80-year-old lady in a walker. He’s constantly gambling for steals and putting himself in bad positions, forcing his teammates to cover for him. On a defensively challenged team, that’s a problem.

But this was another game when DaJuan Harris was totally overmatched physically. He was pretty much a non-entity on offense, trying about five different versions of his miracle shot against Iowa State, none of which came close to dropping. He got bullied on defense. Nearly every perceived advantage he has over Remy went away against Tech.

In a tight game I understand Bill Self wanting to reduce the unknowns. I guess he figured even if DaJuan couldn’t provide much, he also wouldn’t make the big mistake like Remy might.

But, still, Remy also had better upside than DaJuan against Tech. And it’s not like anyone on KU was guarding well Monday.

The key to this is how the game changed. After Ochai’s sweet alley-oop dunk put KU up by 12 with under 7:00 left, Tech began face guarding him and pressuring KU in the backcourt. Once KU got the ball in play, which for some reason they struggle to do, there was only token pressure in the backcourt. But Harris continually took his time getting the ball into the front court, putting no pressure on the Tech D. KU went through a stretch where they either didn’t get shots off, or were hoisting prayers at the end of the shot clock. All because Harris was too cautious bringing the ball up. Next thing you knew, the lead was gone.

I think you give Remy a shot in those situations. Let him use his speed to break the press, to maybe get a transition bucket or two, or at least force Tech to scramble on defense. That’s when KU was at their best Monday: when they could keep Tech from getting into their base defense and slow the game down. Sure, he might turn it over a time or two. But he also gets you a couple buckets which means this game never gets to overtime.

I have zero insight into what’s really going on with Remy. I remain hopeful he and Self will find a way to coexist so that he gets more minutes. If they can’t, Self’s off-season transfer shopping will have been a total bust, and, aside from having one of the five best players in the country, KU will be basically the same, not-very-athletic team that got run out of the gym by USC last March. Not a recipe for success this March.


  1. Well, KJ Adams got some much-deserved love, too. But he was not a prime subject of discussion.  ↩

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 67

Chart Week: January 12, 1985
Song: “The Boys of Summer” – Don Henley
Chart Position: #16, 10th week on the chart. Peaked at #5 the week of February 9.

You might wonder why I spend a few hours each week listening to re-broadcasts of a 40-ish year-old radio show that features songs I can listen to literally whenever I want. The biggest reason is for the times I hear a piece of music trivia that had eluded me all of these years. For example, this story behind Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer.”

Until last week, I did not know that Mike Campbell, certified genius guitar player and Tom Petty’s sidekick in The Heartbreakers, wrote “The Boys of Summer.”

Campbell was messing around with a LinnDrum machine in 1983 when he came upon a rhythm he liked. He added synthesizers and guitar and quickly recorded a demo that he presented to Petty and producer Jimmy Iovine. Petty was underwhelmed, thinking it didn’t fit the sound he wanted for his next album. Iovine said it sounded like jazz, which seems like a savage diss to me. Still, the producer suggested Campbell reach out to another client, Don Henley, who was working on his second solo album.

Campbell tweaked the chorus, called Henley, and played the demo for him. The next day the former Eagle called back with lyrics he wrote while driving around. Henley’s most famous line, about seeing a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac, was based on a real moment. He had seen a Cadillac Seville, which he viewed as the “status symbol of the right-wing, upper-middle-class, American bourgeoisie,” with a Grateful Dead sticker slapped on its bumper. He viewed that as a symbol of how his generation had sold out. (Henley has always held strong opinions on pretty much everything.)

Originally they planned on Henley singing over Campbell’s demo. However, after adding overdubs and mixing the song, they realized Henley’s voice would sound better in a slightly different key. Which meant Campbell would have to scrap his demo and re-record the entire song. Although that was a pain, it was a wise choice. As he laid down the new version, he improvised a simple solo over the song’s outro. That solo isn’t complex or showy in any way, but it is the perfect final statement.

A few months later, as “The Boys of Summer” turned into a hit, Campbell and Petty were in the studio working on the Southern Accents album. They had just wrapped up recording “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” and took a cassette of the session out to a car to listen to it. When Campbell flipped the radio on, “The Boys of Summer” was playing.

Petty chuckled and said, “You know, you were really lucky with that one. I wish I would have had the presence of mind not to let it get away.”

That seems a little too cutesy for me, but it’s a story Campbell has told many times. I’m sure Petty thought it was a great song. But I’m also confident that he stuck with his initial impression: it didn’t sound like a Heartbreakers track to him.

As for my rating, it is hard to ignore nearly 40 years of history with this song. The moment it comes on, when I hear Campbell’s first guitar notes and that opening synth line, I instantly think about the past. There is a wistful, universal feel to the song. We are all always looking back in one way or another. Campbell and Henley perfectly captured that urge. The hazy synths mimic the haziness of our memories. There are little touches, both musically and lyrically, that speak to how memories pop up and grab us when we least expect them. And I’ve always loved the urgency in Henley’s voice.

Although a thoroughly middle-of-the-road song, it sounds a lot less dated than the other Dad Rock that rose in the late ‘80s. We might not have The War on Drugs if not for this song, and the album it came from, Building the Perfect Beast.

It won a Grammy for Best Male Vocal Performance and was selected as the Video of the Year at the 1985 MTV VMA’s. Those were legit wins. This is a classic.

D’s Grade: 9/10

One spot above “The Boys of Summer” was Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas.” You would be correct if I you guessed that I skip it any time I hear a January 1985 countdown. I suppose that’s one way the current charts are better than the old ones: rather than linger for a few weeks after the holidays, the classic Christmas songs that now crack the Top 10 each December disappear with our trees and decorations.

Good news for my readers who enjoy these posts: After my normal, end-of-the-year lull, I suddenly have a bunch of these stacked up for the next month or so.

Weekend Sports Notes

Some weekend of televised sports action!


KU Hoops

For the first time all year, I bailed on a game. Well, partially. After a truly atrocious first half in Manhattan, which saw them trailing Kansas State by 16, I moved the KU game over to the laptop, sat it on the coffee table, and put the Bengals-Titans game on the TV.[1] I had zero interest in the football game, but I couldn’t stand watching KU continue to play the wretched basketball they played through the first 20 minutes. L’s team guards their opponents better than KU guarded K-State in the first half.

Lawrence Central high school’s Nigel Pack looked like Steph Curry, going insane for 22 points without trying very hard. Five-foot-one guard (OK, 5’8”) Markquis Nowell was blowing past KU’s guards like they were dribbling drill cones, and then throwing in circus shots that had about a 2% chance of going in when they left his hands. It was everything you expect from an upset: the favored team looked listless and confused, seemed to be doing five different things on defense, and even when they did something properly saw it somehow turn into a positive for the Wildcats. The home underdog was playing with massive confidence, making every hustle play, and was rewarded by hitting tough shot after tough shot.

Yep, I didn’t need to be all-in with this nonsense.

Long time readers probably already have a question in their minds. The answer is, no, I never fully reinvested. But I also didn’t go all Colts-Chiefs game, either.

I could see that KU sliced the deficit in half before the first TV timeout, but I kept the laptop on the coffee table. I knew K-State wasn’t going to keep shooting 800% from the floor (I checked the math, and that is indeed what they shot in the first half), but figured they would play good enough defense that making up 16 points (17 at one point) was going to be insanely tough.

Every so often I would pick up the laptop and watch a play or two closely, but that never seemed to work. Thus it stayed on the coffee table until the final moments of the game. It was indeed in my lap when Ochai Agbaji hit what became the game-winner, although it nearly tumbled to the floor as I screamed and yelled.

Since I didn’t watch the game super closely I can’t say much about the game’s details. Obviously K-State is really solid, and the fact they are scoring more easily makes them a legit tournament team. I love ripping Bruce Webber because of all his weirdness and public insecurities, but he is also a really good coach, especially when he gets the right mix of players. Which he seems to have this year.

A gutty performance by KU, especially by Ochai, Jalen Wilson, and David McCormack. They played their asses off in the second half. If the team, as a whole, had shown even half the effort in the first half they showed in the first half, that’s a relatively comfortable win. Instead it became a momentary classic.

That’s a new term I just coined. I like it. Everyone wants to call any exciting game an “Instant Classic.” All-too-often these games are forgotten a week or two later when some other game equals/exceeds it. Not every game can be a classic, folks. So how about Momentary Classic? KU fans are going to buzz about it for awhile. It was good highlight/discussion material for national media outlets for a day or so. I’m sure workplaces that have KU and KSU people mixed together are interesting this morning. The highlights will be fun to look back on for years to come. But odds are this game will be a footnote when we get to April and look back on this season as a whole.


Big 12 Refs

One thing Big 12 fans can agree on are that the referees that do conference games have a lot of issues. We can disagree about what those issues are – well, I’m sure we all think they call too many charges – but we would agree they make glaring errors every game.

I tend to think these errors balance out, and a fan who is pissed about a call in one game will likely see his team benefit from a crappy call in the next game.

Listen, I think the refs flat-out screwed up the call when a K-State player fouled Ochai Agbaji while shooting a three-pointer late. They called the foul, but only gave Agbaji two shots, saying it was not a shooting foul.

Big 12 director of officiating told the Kansas City Star that the call was correct because Agbaji had landed before he got hit in the legs. Which is absolutely ridiculous because every replay showed Agbaji was still in the air when he got hit.

I’m less upset about the call – KU won! – than about the explanation. How hard is it to say, “We messed up. We made this call thinking he had landed, but the replays clearly showed he was in the air and it should have been three free throws. Our bad.” But, no, the league has to “protect” the refs by providing an explanation that is clearly false.

And why isn’t this reviewable? They review whether a toe is on the line on a three all the time. Anytime someone gets accidentally hit in the face it turns into a 10-minute review that the refs often turn into a wrong call. But this isn’t reviewable? Maddening.


ESPN+

Man, ESPN+ sucks. The production values are always at about a C. The crowd audio is always terrible; it often sounds like you’re watching through an old telephone connection. Are there 8000 people in the gym, or 80? The graphics package is always glitching or lacking information. I swear, every single game I’ve watched this year they’ve had the score wrong at least once. Saturday they gave a KU basket to K-State then had the score wrong three times as they tried to correct their error.

And the announcers are just the worst. I think Saturday was the third time KU has had the combo of Bryndon Manzer and Ted Emrich. They suck.

Well, Manzer isn’t terrible. He understands hoops and often does a good job of explaining things. He just takes awhile to get there. And his style is so understated that he can get lost in what else is going on. He also tends to rely on “When I played…” examples too often. I give him a solid B.

Emrich is what really pulls them down. As understated as Manzer is, Emrich is the opposite. Over-the-top about the smallest plays, acting like a short jumper midway through the first half that turns a two-point lead into a four-point lead is Jordan dunking from the free throw line. He has that overly affected, modern sports broadcaster voice that sounds like 58 other people, all of whom sound like they’re trying too hard. Nothing sounds genuine about the way he broadcasts a game. Too many announcers like him fail to understand that the people watching at home understand what plays are important. We get those cues from the crowd and the players and the situation. Not every moment in a 40-minute game needs to be treated like the game-winning play.

Because of them, I watched the first half with the volume turned down about as low as I could and still hear the crowd and whistle. Which, as I said, wasn’t easy since ESPN+ apparently uses one crowd mic. And I kept the laptop muted until after Ochai’s game winner.

Sadly, since the Big 12 and ESPN LOVE to put KU on ESPN+, this won’t be the last time I have to deal with them.


NFL Playoffs

Greatest playoff weekend ever, right? Every game was mega-interesting. Every game went down to the final play. Every game held huge significance for the future of the league. I didn’t watch every minute of every game, but I was greatly entertained.

While I had Cincinnati-Tennessee on the TV Saturday, I wasn’t really watching very much. Tennessee always felt like a false #1 seed since they hadn’t been at full-strength since November, so I was not super surprised that the Bengals got the win. Not saying I would have picked them, since this was Cincy’s first-ever road playoff win. But still not surprised.

I still don’t understand how Green Bay lost to San Francisco. They destroyed the Niners on the first drive of the game, and never sniffed the end zone again. The Niners had guys hobbling off the field the entire day, yet somehow kept making plays. Jimmy Garappolo tried his hardest to piss the game away and the Packers refused to take advantage.

I have to think there was some kind of weird karma at play here, and has been for awhile. As Robbie Gould’s game winning field goal sailed through the uprights, I was trying to think who legendary quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ career should be compared to. He won a Super Bowl, so he can’t be Dan Marino or Dan Fouts. I’m leaning towards John Elway, since both were ridiculously physically talented quarterbacks who constantly made jaw dropping plays. But Elway not only won two Super Bowls, he went to three others. Rodgers has a long history of losing to lower seeded teams in the playoffs at home. I guess that makes Rodgers unique, which suits him and his personality just fine. We’ll see where he ends up next year.

I saw the first and final thirds of the Rams-Bucs game. It seemed like the wackiest, most mood-swinging game in recent memory, for about three hours. The fourth quarter was just nuts. So many plays that made no sense at all. It was all set up for Tom Brady to do some Tom Brady shit. And he damn-near almost pulled it off. Until, for some reason, the Bucs decided to let Cooper Kupp run right down the middle of their defense and catch a long ball. For the second time in the game!

The Rams are a wild ride, so I love that they are still playing. I don’t care if they win or lose, I just enjoy the craziness that comes with watching them for 60 seconds. Now we get to see what happens with Brady going forward.

And, of course, the nightcap Sunday, which has to be one of the best playoff games ever played. Forget my Momentary Classic comment above: this was most definitely an Instant Classic. There will be NFL Films shows about this game. It will be a constant call-back for any crazy, back-and-forth game.

All the ridiculousness of the LA-Tampa game got amped up about 50 times in this one. I didn’t care who won – well, I was leaning Buffalo but I don’t really have any love for the Bills – and was screaming as both teams traded punches in the fourth quarter. So many massive plays by both teams. So many tiny things that could have changed the outcome without it getting to the overtime coin flip. Just a magnificent game to watch, unless you’re from western New York. Even then it was pretty great for about 59:47. Mahomes-Allen is turning into the new Brady-Manning.

Pretty good weekend for my KU-Chiefs people.


NFL Overtime Rules

Here we go, the instant complaining about NFL overtime rules. Which I get, because these rules suck. A winner-take-all game should not be determined by the vagaries of a coin flip. But the NFL seems wed to these rules. They’ve only very slightly tweaked them in, what, 60 years? The NFL being an uber-conservative organization isn’t going to throw out the rules tomorrow because of the game yesterday.

Going to college rules would be silly. Because the college rules, as entertaining as they are, are no way to decide a playoff/championship game.

I’d lean towards just playing a 10-minute quarter in full. I get the concerns about turning an NFL game into a five-hour marathon if no one has the lead after 70 minutes. I strongly believe both teams should have a chance to score, though.

I’m intrigued about the idea of one team picking the spot on the field where the ball will be placed and the other team getting choose whether to play offense or defense. But that seems gimmicky and weird and I’d have to see it in action to form a full opinion on it.

Overtime rules are strange in most sports. Basketball and (playoff) baseball stick closest to their normal rules, but fouls and number of players left on the bench can throw both of those into nutty territory. But at least they’re playing the same game, with both teams having an equal chance to win what was an even game at the end of regulation.

It feels like football is destined to be flawed no matter what system us used.


  1. I also switched seats.  ↩

Friday Playlist

This week features a song that choked me up and an oldie I’m guessing most of you won’t remember.

“Wishbone” – Husbands
A cool post-post-post-post punk track by a duo from Oklahoma. With guest vocals from a third Sooner State artist. Doing my best to push emerging artists from Big 12 country!

“Everything Is Simple” – Widowspeak
“Everything is simple ’til it’s not.” Damn, that kind of sums up the whole world, doesn’t it? Which, from what I read, was Widowspeak’s intent: that transition from approaching something new with wonder and excitement about its potential to realizing its shortcomings and complications. This has a cool edge I don’t recall past Widowspeak songs having.

“Endless Summer” – Superchunk
At first listen I disagreed: I wouldn’t mind endless summer. Then I got into the lyrics and realized these alt-rock lifers are singing about climate change and its broader effects beyond how the seasons are different than they used to be.

“A Wave Across A Bay” – Frank Turner
“I spoke with Scott last night.” I did not know the background of this song the first time I heard it, and thus was not prepared for, and floored by, its impact. This is Turner’s ode to his good friend Scott Hutchison. He writes of the former Frightened Rabbit lead singer’s suicide in a way that I think Scott would very much appreciate: in stark, honest, often uncomfortable terms. Turner doesn’t shy away from brutality of the act. If you loved Scott’s music, or if you’ve ever had anyone close to you take their own life, this can be a difficult listen. But Turner also bites another Hutchison lyrical technique: turning a punishingly emotional song into something that is hopeful by the end. I think that’s what we all hope for those we lose this way: that despite the tragedy of their end, that they somehow found peace through their actions. “God damn I miss you, man…”

“Feel It Again” – Honeymoon Suite
A pretty solid, forgotten ’80s track. I only hear it once a year or so and always wonder why it wasn’t a bigger hit. It peaked at #34 on the US chart in the spring of 1986. It cracked the top 20 on their home, Canadian pop chart. I guess the world didn’t need a Canadian Night Ranger. They really broke the budget on this absolutely delightful video. I love it!

Jayhawk Talk: I’d Like to File a Complaint

I guess I have to start getting used to this.

Tuesday brought another ugly-ass road game for KU, this time in their visit to Oklahoma. The Jayhawks pissed away a 12-point lead in the second half, gave up a 20–2 run, saw their best player get injured early and go 34 minutes without scoring a point, made countless unforced errors while trying to come back, but, thanks to Christian Braun’s biggest shot of the year, escaped with a win.

There is some hope that the occasional game in Allen Fieldhouse will produce aesthetically pleasing basketball, like the second half of Saturday’s beatdown of West Virginia. But every single road game is going to be an absolute slog.

Some of that is defense, and commentators around the country are raving about what a tough, defensive league the Big 12 is.

That’s true, there are a lot of good defenses in the conference. That doesn’t fully explain why games in the Big 12 are so ugly.

The biggest factor is that referees have largely stopped calling fouls. It’s not like Big 12 teams are hiding in zones or playing passive man-to-man D. No, they are in each other’s jerseys most of the time. And grabbing. And holding. And riding guys out of position. There is no cutter that doesn’t get bumped. There is no guard trying to turn a corner that doesn’t have a hand on his hip. And refs just stand there and watch it.

Well, until the get a chance to call a charge. Which they jump all over.

Looking back through some Big 12 box scores – extremely small sample size warning – there is the occasional game with both teams over 20 fouls. But in almost every game I reviewed at least one, and often both teams, max out between 12 and 14 fouls for the game. Saturday Kansas State and Texas Tech played an intense, physical game. There were 22 total fouls called in the game.

Twenty two! In a game where every attempt to get close to the rim was like trench warfare.[1]

I don’t know if referees are overwhelmed by the physical aspects of the game – call it the Bob Huggins factor – and don’t want to blow the whistle on every play. No one wants that. But a few early calls can force teams to adjust and make the rest of the game less of a wrestling match and more of a basketball game. The lack of calls makes good defensive teams get hyper aggressive, knowing they won’t be penalized for it. It doesn’t punish weaker defensive teams (like KU) for relying on grabbing and pulling when their overall effort is poor.

Good defense involves moving your feet, beating your man to the spot, and being tougher than your opponent. When you grab and hold, that’s not good D. That’s lazy.

Until the refs remember they were supposed to clean up the game and allow more player movement four years ago, we’re going to be stuck with these ugly-ass games.


  1. I must admit I only saw the first half.  ↩

Tuesday Links

A few good reads to jumpstart your short week.


These are pretty funny. Although are we sure Pearl Jam is a sad dad band? I do shake my head at the word “crypto,” though, so they may be onto something.

What Your Favorite Sad Dad Band Says About You


Kevin Clark’s summary of the CFP National Title game was terrific. I loved this section, in particular, about Kelee Ringo’s pick-six that iced the game and title for Georgia.

You can go to a lot of games but you rarely get a moment like this. The type of moment that will not just be remembered—there are all sorts of memorable moments in title games—but a moment whose image will be painted on the side of random sports bars. Fans will look up the play on YouTube when there’s nothing to do after they’ve had two beers. People will get tattoos of the play and it won’t be considered that weird. Thatsort of play.

Sports are full of wonderfully ridiculous moments like this. I really didn’t care who won but was swept up in the moment, letting out a yell as Ringo raced up the field.

Every sports fan has moments like this. Most of the time they happen in games that aren’t for a championship of any kind. So they don’t get forgotten – most of us lunatics can talk about way too many random moments from 35-year-old Big 8 games – but they certainly have a pretty niche audience.

But for a moment like that to happen on the game’s biggest stage is pretty special. Georgia fans are going to talk about it forever, even ones not old enough to remember it. And the rest of us will, too. I’m lucky that I have one of those moments in my personal sports history. Slightly different context, but still a play that will never be forgotten.


A really good piece about the impact that John Madden had. I love the stuff about how he changed the way football was broadcast.

Madden’s genius was how he taught football. Those booms, that unbuttoned aura of regular guy-dom—all of that was an invitation. It made Madden’s classroom feel like a safe place, where you’d get a little smarter and the professor would never act like he was smarter than you.

The Genius of John Madden


When we visited Nashville in October, Jason Isbell was in the midst of his annual residency at the Ryman Auditorium. HIs band’s gear was on stage when we took our tour. This piece came out of that time. I don’t always love Isbell’s music, but I greatly admire his point-of-view and his efforts to make change.

Jason Isbell Is Tired Of Country’s Love Affair With White Nostalgia


I never had a Stretch Armstrong, but I played with my share back in the 1970’s. This hits right in my Gen X heart.

An Oral History of Stretch Armstrong’s Delightful Destructibility

Weekend Sports Notes

A lot of sports notes from the weekend. I should probably split this into a couple different posts. But it is a holiday and we all have a little extra time. So one extra-large post it is!


Kid Hoops

L played in her first-ever AAU tournament over the weekend. Or rather it was a “shootout”: a one-day, round-robin event focused more on getting teams games than declaring a champion.

Her coach told us that this was just a chance to get the girls together for the first time and get a feel for the roster. Seven of the ten girls played together last year. The girls haven’t had a proper practice together, just some light work at the end of their program’s twice-monthly, age-group training sessions.[1] Making it even more fun, L’s team is a 7th grade B team and this was an 8th grade A shootout. The coach stressed not to worry about the results, this was just about getting the girls on the court.

L had been really impressed with her teammates after their training sessions. After the most recent one she came home raving that all the girls were good and, most importantly, all of them knew how to run the offense. It drives her nuts that half the girls on her other team – let’s call them Jr T’s to differentiate – don’t run the plays correctly. We had a talk about playing time last week. She claimed she was fine not playing as many minutes for a chance to play with better players. I was glad that was her mental state. I told her if she doesn’t start and/or play much, that will give her the motivation to work harder to improve.

Her squad had three games Saturday. First game we played a team that was at least mixed with seventh and eighth graders. But their eighth graders were big. BIG. L had played against some of these girls in CYO ball before and I’m pretty sure they smoked us then.

We had eight of our players for game one. L’s St P’s buddy started, as she is our tallest player, but L was on the bench. The game started ugly. The other team pressed the hell out of our girls and we could not break it. We were down 8–0 or 10–0 before we even got a shot up. L checked in and didn’t help much, mostly because she didn’t get the ball. Another girl played lead guard spot and was not used to looking at L for help.

L played one shift without doing much. She came back in with about 5:00 to play and we were down 15–0. She got the ball in the deep corner, went baseline, and threw up a little floater than she has gone about 1–50 on this academic year. This time she swished it and we were on the board. She had a little grin on her face as she ran up cord.

A few moments later she got ahead of the break, received a great pass, and laid it in. In the last minute of the half, she got open on the wing from about 15 feet and drilled the J. It was 21–8 at half and L had six of the points, going 3–3 from the field.

She started the second half. She wasn’t as lucky this time, missing a tough layup, having a short jumper blocked, and badly bricking two free throws. She seemed to be meshing with her teammates more, though. We lost 43–20 but, again, expectations were low. She was pleased after the game.

Following an hour break and quick trip to Chipotle, it was back on the court against and all–8th grade team from Terre Haute. These girls were even bigger, and better. Everyone knew where to be on every play. They would get an offensive rebound, whip it to an open girl behind the arc, and she would drain the 3. Or the girl with the ball would draw the defense and then hit a cutter with no one on her. We lost this game 62–11 and it really wasn’t that close.

L started and again scored six points on a layup, a jumper, and two free throws. She also rebounded pretty well despite their size, made a couple nice passes, and even blocked the shot of one of their biggest girls.

Another hour off before the last game, against another big, all 8th grade squad. These girls looked super impressive warming up. Just as big as the previous team but more athletic and with a couple fast, small guards.

That team did not play to its ability. Or our girls just figured something out. We only had seven players for this game and they looked gassed at times. But they played hard, never trailed by more than 15, and closed strong to only lose 46–37. L started and scored seven this time, including a nice and-one that she cashed the free throw for. She also missed the front end of a one-and-one in the final minute putting her at 3–6 from the line for the day. She rebounded her ass off, probably her best rebounding game ever.

Her St P’s buddy – her name also begins with L so I need to come up with a way to identify her – had a nice basket at the hoop that she converted despite getting mugged. After the ref called the foul, L ran over and shoved her buddy, and sent her right into the girl that fouled her. That girl was not as excited about the play as our girls were. Fortunately L started laughing so there was no drama.

So a pretty good first day with the new team. L went from sitting the bench to starting five-straight halves. I’m not sure how good the two girls we were missing are. One of the other dads told me the coach had told him whoever started the third game would be his starters going forward. Who knows how that will work and when this team will play again, but I was proud of L for at least putting her name in the mix.

She struggled a bit in the half court sets. But, to be fair, most of the team did, even the returning girls. There was a lot of two girls standing in one spot or someone away from the ball bringing their defender to the ball instead of away. That will get worked out in time. When we got home I showed her videos of Kansas and Golden State running their weave offenses so she could understand how to pass in those sets. She kept bounce passing rather than tossing or handing off since she had never seen that kind of motion offense before.[2]

She proved to her teammates and coach that she deserves minutes. In fact, this was probably the best she’s played this school year. By my math she scored 28% of their points for the day. On the way home she noted, “It’s kind of weird I played better against 8th grade teams than I have against 7th grade teams.”

I’m hoping she can take that confidence and apply it to her Jr T’s team, which is all seventh graders from several Catholic schools. She was super frustrated about her play after their game last week. They play again tonight so we shall see.

Her AAU team may not play again for awhile. Most of the girls are on some kind of school team at the moment. They’ll have skill sessions and light practices every two weeks. The coach said they won’t really dive into things hard as a team until March and most of their play will come over the summer.

There was also a sixth grade boys shootout going on, and they played on the other courts and between L’s game. Those games are nuts. It’s all pressing and running flat out and chucking threes. Some of those kids are insanely talented, light years beyond what anyone I ever played with or against in sixth grade could do. I’m usually pro fast-paced offense in all sports (see below), but this was a little much. And those games are sooooo sloppy. Most of the coaches are psycho. Another check in the Better to Have Girls Than Boys column.


Orthodonture

L got her top braces put on last week, so these were her first games with them in. I asked her orthodontist if she should wear any kind of protection. Neither of her sisters played a contact sport when they had their braces so I never worried about it. He said you can get special guards, but he didn’t think it was worth it. At her games Saturday I noticed more than half her team had braces, and no one was wearing a guard. OK, then. I broke my glasses multiple times, and had to get stitches once when the frames sliced my eyebrow open, playing middle school ball. Teeth were never my issue.


KU

I missed the KU-West Virginia game while sitting through all the AAU ball. I did get the nervous texts from friends about the Twitter rumors that Remy Martin was out for the year. Wouldn’t be a college sports season without some kind of off-the-court drama.

I won’t get into the Remy stuff for now since it seems confusing and a little over-the-top at the moment.

I followed the score and then watched the recording on Sunday morning. That was a great performance by KU, likely their best of the season. It was, I think, the first time all year three players have balled-out at the same time. Who would have guessed that David McCormack and Jalen Wilson would be two of those?!?! I don’t think West Virginia is as good as their 13–2 second coming in indicated. Still, to hammer any Big 12 team by nearly 30 this year deserves a few minutes of satisfaction.

And on a day when Baylor lost their second-straight conference game, and Texas Tech also lost. A week ago it looked like Baylor would run away with the league. They might still do that; when healthy they are probably the most complete team in the conference. But, as Kansas State beating Tech and Iowa State being a couple shots away from being undefeated show, the Big 12 is going to be an absolute meat grinder this year.

I like that the conference is good, but I hate the way it is good: with seven or eight teams playing insane defense. That turns games into ugly slogs that are hard to watch. I guess that’s a good thing for the tournament, as playing non-conference teams will seem like a breeze after getting worked over by Big 12 teams for nearly three months. I certainly won’t complain if KU somehow comes out of this with another conference title, since that almost guarantees a one or two seed in the NCAA’s. I do reserve the right to complain about the aesthetics along the way. Especially if KU turns into a pumpkin in four or five of these games.


NFL Playoffs

The only game I watched much of was the Niners-Cowboys game, which was awesome as a neutral. The final, what, 18 minutes, were just tremendously stupid and entertaining.

Long-time readers will recall that I grew up a Cowboys fan, but have deserted them a couple times in my life. It’s been 12–14 years so I fully abandoned them because of Jerry Jones’ nonsense. But two of my college buddies I constantly text are Cowboys fans so at least watch their games these days so I can keep up with the conversation. I do enjoy watching the Fighting Jerrys lose, though. Especially in painful manner.

That was about the most painful loss possible. Get down big, early, at home. Get a break or two that allows you back in the game. Do some dumb stuff along the way. Then have your final shot to attempt to win the game taken away in a truly unique way. Running a quarterback draw with 14 seconds left and no timeouts, then watching the clock run out while the referee sets the ball has to be one of the five dumbest ways to lose an NFL game.

As I said above, I’m generally pro-offense, and enjoy all these wide-open offenses that make football so entertaining. But do we have to label all these coordinators and coaches as geniuses when they are constantly getting in their own way by trying to be too clever? Dallas converts a fake punt and then keeps the punt team on the field to try to confuse San Fransisco and ends up with a delay of game penalty that means their next fourth down is too far to go for it. And the Niners send a tackle in motion on a fourth and inches, which caused an illegal motion penalty and forced them to punt and give Dallas one final chance to win. Neither play was remotely necessary, and just examples of coaches thinking “Hey! I’ve got this great look no one has ever thought of before!” And using it in a high-stress situation that it has never been practiced under. Just dumb all around. And terribly fun to watch since I did not care who won.

I’m no expert, but the Bills-Chiefs game seems like it could be pretty good.


  1. We didn’t put a ton of research into picking a travel hoops program. We just asked a parent we knew where his two girls played and signed up there. But L’s program just had their first “graduate” commit to a D1 program. And it was a doozy. A high school junior who is ranked in the top five in the country committed to UConn two weeks ago. Girl must be a badass if she’s committing as a junior. I’m expecting nothing less than a full-ride for L now.  ↩
  2. I even sent her a GIF of KU running it and told her to watch it five times a day.  ↩

Friday Playlist

Some terrific new songs and RIP to one of the biggest names in the history of popular music.

“Wild” – Spoon
Spoon never, ever release a bad single. That doesn’t mean every single is great, but they always hold my attention for a week or two. This, however, is a great single, as good as anything they’ve done in quite awhile. This is also the song that reminded me to start my Favorites of ’22 playlist.

“You Will Never Work in Television Again” – The Smile
Hot damn! Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, along with their regular Radiohead producer Nigel Goodrich, with a side-project that kicks ass. I’ve always admired, but never loved, the direction Radiohead took after back-to-back alt rock classics The Bends and OK Computer. If this was the path they had taken, which is different from what they were doing but still honors their alt rock roots, I would have totally been onboard.

“Slide Away” – The Verve
Speaking of great 1990s British alt rock bands, I got on a kick late last night where I was listening to a bunch of tracks by The Verve. Urban Hymns will forever be one of my favorite albums. This was the first song I heard from them, in late 1993, and I remember it totally blowing my mind.

“Tomorrow” – Waxahatchee
From the soundtrack Katie Crutchfield wrote for the Apple TV+ series El Deafo, about a girl who loses her hearing and creates a superhero alter ego to get through life. Of course the song is delightful.

“Be My Baby” – The Ronnettes
We lost an angel this week when Ronnie Spector passed. Probably the first bad ass chick in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, she was the voice on this, one of the biggest and most important songs of the 1960s. Her ex-husband Phil Spector tried to destroy her life, and was nearly successful. She survived, put her life back together, and had a strong third act to her life. And she out-lived that fucker by about a year.

“Take Me Home Tonight” – Eddie Money
Money’s 1986 album Can’t Hold Back was meant to be a comeback for him after several middling years thanks to drugs and booze. Adding Ronnie Spector to this track turned it into the vehicle that brought her back to the public eye. She famously had to be coaxed to sing her lines. Who knows how the rest of her life would have turned out if she had not eventually relented. Soon she was singing and performing on her own again, and loving it, for the first time in nearly two decades.

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