Month: June 2023 (Page 1 of 2)

Friday Playlist

“Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) – Arcade Fire
As I write this our power has been out for about 15 hours, our home just one of over 45,000 in Indianapolis that remain powerless after major storms hit us yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately for us, it seems like just one wire affecting 4-5 houses in our neighborhood is causing our outage. So we could be waiting awhile. I will not let that deter me from using some of the remaining power in my electronics from getting a playlist out to you!

“All I Do” – Bully
We are at the mid-point of the year. Bully’s Lucky For You is the best album I’ve heard in 2023’s first half. Really there aren’t many other contenders. Let’s hope the next six months feature a little more competition.

“Act Natural” – Margaret Glaspy
Every couple of years Ms. Glaspy shows up with a killer song. This is her latest example, about trying to keep your cool when you meet someone who knocks you off your feet. Maybe her next album will help elevate the back half of ’23.

“The Alcott” – The National featuring Taylor Swift
M is off to her future home city of Cincinnati to see Taylor Swift tonight. I’ll share more about that next week. The National haven’t started their new tour yet. I wonder if there’s any chance for fellow Bearcat Matt Berninger to show up in his home town and sing this with Taylor.

This song is either completely terrible or completely awesome. My opinion changes every 30 seconds or so.

“Strange Currencies” – R.E.M.
A song that played a huge part in season two of The Bear. I believe it was played three different times. It comes from one of the more maligned records in R.E.M.’s career, 1994’s Monster, so I doubt I had heard it in 20 years or so. Which means I forgot what a great song it is.

“Anytime” – Neil Finn
Another track played on The Bear. In fact, it was one of three Neil Finn songs to appear, along with “Something So Strong” from his Crowded House days and his cover of Hunters & Collectors’ “Throw Your Arms Around Me” with Eddie Vedder.
Extra points for selecting this live version from the 7 Worlds Collide concert album.

“Last Day of June” – Finn Brothers
Hell, I’ll include two Neil Finn songs too! This was already on my list for today for obvious reasons. It is from the first Finn Brothers album, recorded with his brother Tim in 1995.

“Independence Day” – Palehound
I don’t recall if I’ve ever listened to any of Palehound’s music. After hearing this, I’m very interested in their new album, which drops in two weeks.

The title is also a reminder we are just a few days from me posting my annual Independence Day playlist. An underrated cool music day of each year.

“I Was Made for Boogie Wonderland” – Earth, Kiss, and Fire
It’s been awhile since I’ve heard a good mashup. I would rate this one as a B. Seems like it should be a little better than the final result.

2003 NBA Draft Diary Revisited

As promised, a look back at the very first post I ever published to this site. Perhaps you’ve already gone back and re-read it. I thought it would be fun for me to annotate it with some thoughts.

I have edited out sections of the original that did not inspire me to add something new.

With apologies to the Sports Guy…

Ah, back when I read and loved everything Bill Simmons wrote.

We are coming to you live from the palatial basement of DDB in beautiful Carmel, IN. I have a bowl of Margarita’s salsa with a bag of Tostitos Hint of Lime chips in front of me, and an ice cold Boulevard Pale Ale to my right. We’re ready to watch the lottery picks of the 2003 NBA Draft. Why just the lottery picks? Well, I realized too late that I didn’t have much around for dinner so I only think I can go about 12–13 picks before the real hunger kicks in.

You may (or may not) recall that the first name for this site was DDBinIndy. Very clever.

Our house was at least 50% made up of food and beverages brought from Kansas City a week earlier. I know we did not have real furniture yet, so I was watching on the futon brought from my KC apartment. This was probably the first big event I watched on the fat, rear-projection 62” TV that came with our house. That thing seemed so cool at the time when it was actually kind of garbage. I bet it cost the previous owners a couple grand. When we replaced it eight or nine years later, it was with a LCD screen that cost maybe $500 that I could carry out of Costco with one hand.

One of the more interesting drafts in recent memory. The top three picks are all but locked in, and have been for several weeks. The foreign invasion looks to be as strong as ever. And, most importantly to America’s sports fans, two Kansas Jayhawks are possible lottery picks. So let’s get started.
Have I mentioned how I think ESPN taking over the NBA is going to kill the league? Seriously, Mike Tirico as the lead announcer? This guy is about as charismatic as a bowling ball. He makes Bryant Gumbel look like Soul Brother #1. There’s a reason why he does so much golf.

I still strongly dislike Tirico, but he’s hung around to become NBC’s #1 announcer/host for pretty much everything. Apparently my finger was not on the pulse of what America prefers here. The Soul Brother #1 line was solid.

Stuart Scott is the devil. Wait, if he was the devil, he wouldn’t have to suck up to people in a manner that makes Ahmad Rashad look reserved. He’s just a horrible broadcaster with a tired act.

Harsh. I got tired of Scott’s shtick pretty early in his ESPN career. But apparently he was a really good guy, everyone who knew him loved him, and since he lost a battle with cancer a few years back I feel kind of bad about this one.

And I think we can all agree the Indiana Pacers only signed Tim Hardaway to get him out of the studio. I haven’t even mentioned Bill Walton yet. Tom Tolbert is good, but I think his sarcasm gets lost in the format. Greg Anthony was the surprise of the year with his insightful commentary, but he’s too close to his playing days to be critical of people. I know they need time to prove themselves, iron out the kinks, etc, but I don’t think Marv, the Czar, Ernie, Kenny the Jet, and Chuck over at TNT lose sleep about the ESPN crew gaining on them.

The final line of that section might be the most incisive of this piece. There were several articles this season about how, no matter how many different formats and personalities they try, ESPN can never seem to catch the magic and quality of TNT’s studio show, which still features Ernie, Kenny, and Chuck with the addition of Shaq.

“With the first pick, the Cleveland Cavaliers select LeBron James.” Have there been less surprising words ever spoken?

There have been a few no-brainer #1 picks in the interim, but kind of funny it took until last week for the next “We’ve known who the #1 pick will be for over a year” selection. Also, not sure why I didn’t write more about Victor Wembanyama in my post about this year’s draft.

Is LeBron the next Jordan? That I can not say. I saw some footage this week of him playing two years ago, when he was quite a bit shorter and less athletic. He was scoring at will on people without exploding to the rim. Good, solid fundamental basketball. That base is why I think he’s going to succeed. Hopefully he can keep his head on straight.

Twenty years later and LeBron sure seems to have kept his head on pretty straight. I have rarely loved him, but I’ve always admired and appreciated him. We should be so lucky that the next super-duper alpha star handles themself as well as LBJ has, aside from the occasional whining. Or manufactured drama about his team’s roster. No one is perfect.

At number two, the Detroit Pistons select Darko Milicic. I’ve been trying to tell you for years that Larry Brown is a genius and the best basketball coach on any level. He just spent seven years putting up with Allen Iverson, got to the Finals once, and had a really good run there. As his tinkering starts to grow tiresome and Iverson gets ready to jump the shark, why not take a job with a team that was in the conference finals and has the #2 pick in the draft? Seems like a good move to me, but no one else would have had the imagination, creativity, and passion to make the move. Only Larry.

Darko went down as one of the greatest NBA busts ever, in one of the greatest drafts ever. So maybe this pick wasn’t so inspired. Yet LB did win an NBA title the following season despite Darko being a wasted pick. Well, not totally wasted if you were into early Blog Era sarcastic sports content.

Can we get some non-grainy video for these Euros some year? Are they still using Beta cam over there or what?

This made me laugh. Kids, Betacam was…

With our final lock pick, Denver goes with Carmelo Anthony. Dude exudes cool, calm, and style. I have some questions about his ability to dominate in the NBA right away, but I keep thinking George Gervin when I look at him.

‘Melo did just fine. Hell, he just retired! That George Gervin comp was pretty close.
Melo’s career line: 22.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.7 apg, eFG% of 48.5, Player Efficiency Rating of 19.5 and 108.5 Win Shares.
Gervin’s: 25.1, 5.3, 2.6, eFG% 50.7, PER 21.4, 116.3 Win Shares.

Sadly they do not appear on each other’s Basketball Reference Similarity Scores section. Probably because of differing eras and Carmelo taking more outside shots.

4 – Toronto – Chris Bosh. You know, it’s one thing for a Shaq or Kenny Anderson who completely dominated as freshmen to declare for the draft early. But when kids I never heard of, who had nice, but not incredible seasons do it, I think there are big problems with the draft entry process. I think I heard Chris Bosh’s name twice all season. And now he’s the #4 pick in the draft.

I clearly missed here, although I will always say Chris Bosh was overrated and wouldn’t have been nearly as good had be not played with LeBron and D-Wade. Then I looked at his stats and he was very, very good, borderline great, for a five year stretch in the middle of his career.

And, yes, I knew Shaq played two years at LSU. I was just making the comparison between a guy who lit the world up as a freshman and one who was semi-anonymous.

5 – Miami – Dwyane Wade. My first “Whoa!” of the night. Miami has 73 swingman-type players, and they draft another one? I know Eddie Jones is on the downside of his career, but he’s got 157 years left on his contract, making him untradeable. Caron Butler didn’t quite become the next Paul Pierce, but he had a nice rookie year. Wade is a really good player, and I think I have more faith in his NBA potential than my Marquette friends. But if he’s bringing the ball up for the Heat on a regular basis, Riley has truly lost it.

Note that I was higher on Wade than my Marquette buddies!

I think I had Eddie Jones on my squad one of the years I played fantasy basketball, so I always loved his subtle, stat-filling game.

The NYC fans booing Pat Riley still, almost ten years later, was great too.

That shit has never ended, nor should it. New Yorkers will boo Pat Riley’s funeral. I love it.

6 – LA Clippers – Chris Kaman. He’s big, he’s white, and he can shoot with both hands. He’s drafted by the Clippers. Let’s go ahead and give him the early lead for Most Likely to Bust.

Looking back, I should have wondered if Darko was Serbian for Chris.

7 – Chicago – Kirk Hinrich. Best pick of the draft!!!! When even the commish is surprised, you know something interesting has happened. I’ve been saying for months Hinrich is the better NBA prospect than Collison. Whether he’s Stockton, Hornacek, or Kerr remains to be seen. But I think, baring injury, he’ll have a long, solid career.

Decent take. Kirk played for 11 seasons, averaging nearly 11 ppg and dishing just under 5 assists per game.

9 – New York – Mike Sweetney. Great moment, the Knicks select a Georgetown player and everyone in the Garden goes nuts. Crazy insane times. You know there were guys calling their cousins Sal, Vinnie, and Rocco to discuss getting season tickets so they could pick up playoff tickets in April. Somewhere, Joey Tribiani was yelling “KNICKS RULE!!!” off a fire escape. Can’t wait to see how an undersized forward with a history of weight problems does in the Big Apple.

Sometimes I was funny on this site.

10 – Washington – Jarvis Hayes. Clearly, the Wizards weren’t interested in getting Christian Laettner and Nick Collison on the same team. Some draft preview had Nick going here and mentioned they could have the two best white players to sit the end of a Dream Team bench together. Nice.

Christian Laettner was still playing in 2003???

11 – Golden State – Mickael Pietrus. The pick was greeted by absolute silence. Is it better for the New York fans to boo your pick as a horrible reach, or greet it with ignorant silence? And this is team #4 that took a pick that has no clear path towards playing time. “I don’t know what they hell you’re doing,” Tom Tolbert. Line of the night regarding Clippers North.

“Clippers North.” NBA Finals appearances/championships since 2003: Golden State 6/4, LA Clippers 0/0. In my defense the Warriors continued to suck until they drafted Steph Curry.

12 – Seattle – Nick Collison. Genius pick. Pure brilliance. Rewarding hard work, commitment, and success in college. Granted, I think Nick’s going to have to work hard and hope he can reach Ed Nealy levels of success, but still, you have to admire the Seattle GM’s foresight. He’s 6’10’’ but doesn’t jump well. He relied on exceptional position and moves to score in college. That will only get you so far in the NBA when you have a three-inch vertical.

Man was I rough on one of my all-time favorite college players. He only hung around for 14 years. He was never more than a role player physically, but became a rock in the Thunder locker room, mentoring guys like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden as they transitioned into a winning franchise. They even retired his number!

Also, it was a travesty how David Stern and the rest of NBA ownership let Oklahoma City steal the franchise away from Seattle.

Other comments:
Did they keep Vitale in his Florida office in an attempt for him to not talk over others? Or do they know he has no clue about what it takes to be a player in the NBA and this way they can minimize the damage he does to his reputation by cutting off his ridiculous comments?

Maybe this was the genesis of the Hot Take Culture that dominates ESPN today: Dick Vitale coming onto the NBA draft show and saying ridiculous things that annoyed people.

So who wins the Paul Pierce – Jermaine O’Neal match-up anyway? Looks like Jermaine just keeps taking Paul to the hole, but the Truth continues to light it up from outside.

I forgot about this commercial. PP was my favorite NBA player of that era. JO become my favorite Pacer of that era. Good stuff.

And with that, I retired for dinner.

Big miss here not sharing what I ate. Decent odds that I went to Qdoba and got some fat burrito with queso added on. One of my favorite activities that summer was going to the gym on nights that S had to work, then stopping at Qdoba across the street on the way home. I wasn’t exactly trying to lose weight at the time, but I think I cancelled out any calories burned when I followed up a workout with Mexican food.

Happy Blog-iversary

It is June 27, 2023.

That means this site, or at least its earliest version, was Internet birthed 20 years ago today. That first post is here. I’ll be addressing it directly soon.

A lot sure has happened in that span, hasn’t it? If you want a full accounting you can dig through the over 3300 posts I’ve racked up since then.[1]

S and I had been married for nearly two weeks when I posted that first entry.[2] We had occupied our house in Carmel, IN for 10-ish days. I had officially begun the work from home part of my career with C corp.

In that first week as a home-based employee, sorry, associate, I discovered that I had a monumental amount of time for dicking around on the Internet. After blogging about Big 12 basketball the previous winter, I decided to put together a personal blog to stay connected with both my friends back in Kansas City and those who were scattered around the country. I was halfway smart. I had some writing skills. I enjoyed exploring the Internet. I sure had the time. Why not put all that to good use by offering some takes?

A lot of those early posts were pretty silly. When we found out S was pregnant with M, that really changed the focus of my writing. Eventually the kids came to dominate the content here. Going to grad school and becoming a sports writer for a few years both provided material and influenced my writing style.

There has been a ton of KU sports content and a couple years where there were a lot of Royals posts. Plenty of other discussions of all kinds and levels of sports.[3] Overly detailed accountings of our travels. Tons of music entries in various formats. The occasional political post. For only the briefest of times did I tag my posts, as I found it kind of a pain and also struggled with how to label certain entries. Today I wish I had tagged everything so it would be easier to look back and count up how often I’ve written about various topics.

When I started this site I had the secret goal of some random person coming across my writing, thinking it was great, and offering me a ton of money to write for the general public. Such ideas weren’t so crazy in 2003.

Sadly that opportunity never came along, not that I deserved it. Although I did become an official, professional sportswriter, that had nothing to do with what I wrote here. Also, sadly, I’ve witnessed firsthand how the writing industry has fallen apart over the past 20 years. Newspapers have been stripped to the bone. Websites designed the replace them are cutting staff and pay left and right. There are way more opportunities to write for the public than ever, yet fewer and fewer ways to make a living doing so.

Regardless of what my motivations were for starting the blog, it has become an integral part of my daily life. I may not write or post each day, but there’s always a tickle in the back of my brain that I need to bang out some thoughts to publish.

I stopped tracking how many views my posts receive years ago. Typical of me, what began as an effort to try to gain some measure of attention eventually turned into an outlet that is pretty private. It’s been ages since I shared with anyone new that I operate a blog.

There are a few friends and family who have continued to check in over the years. I know a select few will read just about anything I post shortly after it hits the web. Others check in more occasionally.

Regardless of how often you read my writing, or whether you read it closely or just skim it, I appreciate every one of you who has kept this site bookmarked and part of your Internet routines.

Keeping this site alive another 20 years seems both crazy and daunting. I don’t have plans to stop any time soon.

Thanks for reading.

  1. Obvious asterisk here: not all posts have been carried along the many times I’ve bounced the site through different platforms and hosts. Let’s say I’ve lost 100 posts in those transitions, so we’re pushing 3500 total entries.  ↩
  2. That was our Summer of Weddings, a season in which many of my readers and friends also got hitched.  ↩
  3. I’ve written about my teams in four Final Fours with two national championship teams, two Super Bowls and one Super Bowl champion, and two World Series and one World Series champion. Not bad. Pacers need to step it up.  ↩

NBA Draft Notes

L had a game early Thursday evening and then wanted to stay and watch her teammates play in the second game, so I didn’t make it home until the late teens of the NBA Draft. Thus no extensive breakdown this year.

Gradey Dick was, apparently, the star of the show for his outrageous suit. I got a few texts about him from non-KU people. I heard a lot of commentators destroying him for his fit. Many of them are people who do deep dives on players for their personal prospect rankings. I’m not sure why his outfit surprised anyone. Surely they’ve seen the Tik Toks Gradey has been posting for years. I would have been surprised if he didn’t wear something garish and attention grabbing.

I was hoping he would go to Orlando at 11, but Toronto at 13 isn’t a bad spot. It’s a strong organization that has nurtured young players. They need shooting. Seems like a good spot.

I thought it was funny how a guy like him, with a known skill that is coveted in the NBA of now, became a semi-boring pick since he doesn’t appear to have some huge, untapped potential. He’s probably going to be a very good shooter no matter what his role is. He has the ability to be one of the best shooters in the league if all goes perfectly. He’ll get stronger and smarter, which should make him a passable defender. He is great without the ball on offense. Maybe that doesn’t scream All Star, but does check so many boxes of what organizations want from their complementary players.

The Pacers entered the draft as one of the most intriguing organizations because of the five picks they possessed. A couple trades whittled that down to four selections, but gave them lots of options.

I was following from the summer league stands and was shocked when I saw Bilal Coulibaly’s name come up as their first pick at #7. I flipped to Twitter and saw that they were trading him to Washington for Jarace Walker, who the Wizards took with the next pick. I guess the Pacers got two future second round picks for doing the swap. The NBA Draft is so weird sometimes.

I loved the Walker pick. He slots in nicely next to Myles Turner on the defensive end. He is a great piece to complement Tyrese Haliburton on the offensive end. He can even do a little playmaking from either the wing or the high post. If he can develop a jump shot and/or get better at attacking with the ball, he might become a home run pick. Even if he can’t do those things – and he’s only 19 so he has plenty of time – he seems like an upgrade at the big wing slot.

I wasn’t as big of a fan of the Pacers’ other picks.

They took Ben Sheppard at 26. Sheppard is supposed to be a great shooter and decent athlete. In the film I saw, his body needs a lot of work. He reminded me of those late ‘80s role players who weren’t super strong or athletic. I have low expectations.

In the second round they took two athletic guards, neither of whom project as great shooters or have a ton of size. Mojeve King is a 21-year-old product of the G-League. Isaiah Wong was a terrific college player but needs to make great improvement to his game to have a chance to be an NBA player.

There was a lot of whining here about the Pacers not drafting Indy native and IU alum Trayce Jackson-Davis, who went at 57 to Golden State. The Pacers needed size, he’s athletic, and made major improvements to his game last year that made him much more NBA-ready.

The Pacers’ GM Chad Buchanan went on local radio Friday and basically said that TJD’s agents told him he didn’t want to play for the Pacers. He offered that comment in context of the other players who TJD would be competing with. I guess he saw the combination of Walker and returnees Jalen Smith and Isaiah Jackson as too much to fight against if he wanted serious playing time this year?

I thought it was a little funny that, during the draft, TJD Tweeted out something along the lines of the teams that passed on him will regret it. Which is fine. But maybe don’t tell some organizations you don’t want to play for them, then get upset when you drop.

Buchanan also said the Pacers tried hard to trade up for every spot from 10 to 20 to get Cam Whitmore, who had the big fall of the night, but couldn’t find any takers.

I believe that, ideally, the Pacers would have used their draft picks to get an established veteran back in a trade. There were concerns about adding so many rookies to a roster that is already young. I guess they couldn’t find a trade partner that suited their needs.

Overall, I’ll give them a solid B for their draft. Not great, but not terrible either, and if one or two of those guards hit it could become a very nice draft class.

Jalen Wilson went to Brooklyn at 51. He’ll be playing for a fellow Jayhawk in Jacque Vaughn, a coach who has always looked to develop his young guys. Word was Jalen did not shoot well in his NBA workout process. While people admire his rebounding and will, there are real concerns about his game given his lack of athleticism if he can’t develop a shot. He’s been working on that for two years. Seems like he has one more summer to make it happen if he wants to play in the NBA as opposed to heading overseas.

Weekend Notes

Quite a few things to discuss this week, so I’m going to split this into two posts. The personal stuff first, the NBA Draft stuff later on today.


We dodged a big ol’ bullet Sunday when storms roared through our area. There was a tornado on the ground about 10 minutes north of us. Several on the ground on the south side of Indy did significant damage. There was fairly large hail within two miles of our house.

But we just got a couple brief downpours and gusty winds.

In fact, we had worse problems a few nights earlier when the wind kicked up and briefly knocked our power out. I’m talking like a quick blink. However, a few minutes later I noticed a fire truck was sitting in the street in front of our house and the firefighters were walking through our neighbors’ yard.

We later learned the gusts had pulled down a power line in their yard which had caused a small fire. They were not home, but fortunately the fire was just in their yard and well away from their house.

Also fortunate that it wasn’t an integral power line for any of us and no one had to sit in the dark until the power company arrived to fix the line at 3:00 AM.

A Night of Music

S and I joined some friends to watch Ben Folds play at the Rock the Ruins concert series at Holliday Park, which is about 10 minutes from our house.

It had been a hot afternoon, but once the sun disappeared behind the park’s thick tree canopy it became a lovely evening.

I’m not a huge Ben Folds fan, but did very much enjoy the show. He only played a couple songs that I knew, somehow not playing “Rockin’ the Suburbs,” which would have been perfect for the setting.

A key part of Holliday Park are some “ruins” that were transported from a building in New York to Indy in the 1950s. Folds mentioned that it was an honor to play in this ancient, historic site. “One that they rocked so hard 2000 years ago that they blew the motherfucker up.”

The Bear

I spent a good chunk of the weekend racing through season two of The Bear. I loved the first season. I liked this one even more.


Everything that made season one great was still there. I can sum all of that up with one word: porn.

The show is food porn, obviously. It is acting porn. It is music porn.[1] It is cinema/photography porn. It is writing porn. Just about every aspect of the show is pornographic it is so good.

What made this season slightly better than the first was how the little moments where the supporting characters were allowed to shine in those first eight episodes were all expanded here, often to episode-long explorations. Marcus going to Copenhagen. Sydney’s food tour of Chicago. Richie’s week learning how the best restaurant in the world operates. Tina’s trip to culinary school.

I think what was brilliant about these episodes/scenes was their restraint. Any actor can go big: see Jamie Lee Curtis’ turn as Donna Berzatto in episode six. In each of those other performances, though, the actor we are focused on had to go small and subtle. We learned so much about them through small gestures and looks and actions. I don’t know who deserves more credit, the writers or actors, but major props all around for making such good television.

My favorite scene of the year? Near the end of episode nine, “Omelette,” as the new restaurant is minutes away from opening their doors for Friends and Family night, Carmen and Syd crawl under a table to make sure it is level. Their conversation was so honest and open and intimate despite being just about work.

One of the big storylines of the season was Carmy trying to balance beginning a romantic relationship with the super cute Claire and opening a restaurant under a ton of pressure.[2] When I heard he and Syd connecting under that table, though, I knew that Claire wasn’t going to work out. Not because he and Syd have a romantic attraction for each other, but because she is the only woman, maybe person, who he can truly be open and connect with. If you are more honest with your co-worker than your girlfriend, girlfriend ain’t gonna last.

So of course Carmy fucks it up.

There were also like half a dozen other conversations like the one between Carmy and Syd that were amazing and affecting and make this show so good.

I also loved how everyone but Carmy figured their shit out over the course of the season while he became more of a mess. By the end of the year, The Bear (the restaurant) was a lean, mean fighting machine of competent, confident staff that saved F&F night when it was on the verge of becoming a disaster. And did so largely without Carmy, who was locked in the walk-in , pounding on its doors and screaming.

Richie especially was a revelation. He went from literally having no idea where he fit into the new restaurant concept and how that would affect the rest of his life, to being a total food and hospitality badass in a suit.

I feel obligated to throw out a few words about episode six, “Fishes.” The obvious comparison is to last season’s episode seven, “Review.” They are both over-the-top, breakneck episodes designed to overwhelm and challenge. If you want to love the show, you have to keep up. “Fishes” is like your worst family holiday nightmare cranked up to the maximum boss level. It is probably too much. Especially with how it ends. It was shocking and draining and thoroughly depressing. Much of what happens in that episode does end up being vital for how the rest of the season plays out, but I think it came very close to distracting from how strong and consistent the other nine episodes were.

Despite that slight hiccup, there is just so much goodness in this show. It’s the best thing I’ve watched this year and I give it my highest recommendation.

Kid Hoops

Two weeks of JV updates for L.

The past two weeks they’ve split the JV pool into two teams that each played one game in the Thursday league.

A week ago L’s group played sectional rival North Central, the school we live down the block from. She scored a game-high 10 points in a nine-point win. Everything was at/near the rim as she went 5–8 on 2’s and 0–3 on 3’s. Her best move of the night ended up a waste. She ran out on a break, caught a pass over the top of the defense, took two dribbles, then stopped and faked, sending her defender by her in the air. The CHS bench all let out howls and screams. And then she blew the layup. Oh well…

This past Thursday they played Lawrence Central, another school that falls into CHS’ sectional. L had five points in a seven-point win. This time she was shooting from outside, going 1–4 on 3’s and hitting another long two. LC was playing a zone and a couple times she was wide open but chose to pass.

When she subbed out after turning down her most open look of the night, her coach told her, gently, that she needs to shoot more. “You have a nice shot. Be ready and take them when you’re open.” That’s exactly what I’ve been saying…

I should probably mention who coached her team that night. It was the CHS freshman coach. He just happens to be a 1982 McDonald’s All American at Cathedral and a first-round pick in the 1986 draft.

I had not met him before – he is a VP for Community Relations and Diversity at CHS – but did introduce myself since I was keeping the book. Super nice guy. If you do some digging you can find stories about his life and what he does outside of coaching and his work for CHS.

I also met the dad of another freshman. He told me he liked my KU shirt a couple weeks ago in passing. We talked this week and he told me he has both graduate and law degrees from KU, although he arrived in Lawrence about the time I left. We bored our daughters with about 10 minutes of KU hoops talk before we broke it off.

College Prep

We have begun ordering things for M to take to college in less than two months.[3] Saturday the Amazon man dropped off like five boxes for her. Sunday three different Amazon folks came to our house with stuff. Two things are coming tomorrow. Two other things are backordered and will be here in the next couple weeks. And we’ve only just started.

I swear I didn’t take half as much shit when I moved into McCollum Hall in August 1989. Pretty sure I just took some clothes, toiletries, my boombox, and a bunch of cassette tapes.

Ok, that might be an exaggeration but I know we easily fit everything into the trunk of my stepdad’s Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera. We’re thinking about renting a van for the day we drive M to Cincinnati.

  1. THREE Neil Finn songs!?!?! As if the music choices weren’t good enough already…  ↩
  2. For the record, I’m very much in favor of dudes dating short, cute, dark-haired medical residents. Although Molly Gordon is 5’5” so perhaps I shouldn’t call her short.  ↩
  3. Yikes!  ↩

Friday Playlist

“Body” – Briston Maroney
It’s always exciting when young artists prepare to release their second album, and it seems like it will be as good as their first one.

“Roll the Credits” – Danielle Ponder
As if it isn’t enough that Ms. Ponder can sing like this, she also used to be a public defender. What are all my attorney friends doing in their free time?

“Hard to Build. Easy to Break.” – Cowboy Junkies
The Cowboy Junkies have pretty much sounded the same for 30 years. Which, in their case, is not a bad thing.

“Easy Out” – THALA
This starts out nice enough, and then those dreamy guitars kick in for the chorus and it becomes something special.

“The Last Remaining Light” – Far Caspian
This song seems perfectly suited for now, when that solstice-time light lasts deep into the evening.

“Sink In” – Hello Mary
Super mid-90s alt-rock vibes here. Nineties icon Tanya Donnelly has given this band her stamp of approval.

“You Got the Love” – Rufus & Chaka Khan
Debut album, side one, track one. Outrageous.

“School” – Paw covering Nirvana
For my birthday I decided to spend much of the day listening to Paw. I did not realize their two late career EPs had both been added to Spotify, so I was able to listen to them for the first time in many, many years. This is the song that got them in trouble with Courtney Love, who allegedly asked them to stop playing it. Four guys from Lawrence, KS somehow made a Nirvana song roar even louder than the original.

Two videos this week from the Live at Daryl’s House show.

The “Surrender” performance popped up after I searched for other Cheap Trick songs earlier this week. Then I started digging through the other performances from that series that were available, and Cee Lo helping out on “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” was one of the best.

Notes on Relocation, Bad Owners, and Loyal Fans

I have not returned to baseball this year. The Royals are truly terrible – on pace for their worst season ever – and have given me no reason to drop my boycott of the sport, prompted when the dishonest and corrupt combination of MLB ownership and commissioner Rob Manfred manufactured last year’s labor strife.[1]

I don’t have much idea what’s going on in the sport right now, other than the Royals sucking. I have enough Reds-fan friends to know they are on a historic winning streak. But I haven’t turned on one of their games either, something I used to do quite a bit.

(A big downside to my boycott: I LOVE the Royals’ City Connect collection, but refuse to give MLB a dime, let alone $30–40 for a new hat or shirt.[2] I may crack on this one, but for now I’m holding firm.)

Despite my boycott, I read this excellent, lengthy piece about the Oakland A’s relocation. It brought back some memories.

The Long, Sad Story of the Stealing of the Oakland A’s

My high school year in California was spent one BART stop away from the Oakland Coliseum. The Royals and A’s were rivals at the time – the A’s had abandoned Kansas City for the Bay Area 20 years earlier for crying out loud! – and I would argue with my classmates about how the ascendant A’s would never catch my beloved, but aging, Royals.

At lunch I would sit with other sports fans as we would pass around the sports sections from the San Francisco Chronicle and Oakland Tribune. I would focus on the national stuff, or on my teams from back in KC, while listening to the A’s and Giants fans bicker, the A’s fans gush about the young Jose Conseco and Mark McGuire or how they were building a dominating starting rotation.

The thing I picked up in my 11 months in California was that Oakland fans had an immense, almost defensive, pride in their teams. I think it came from the collective chip on their shoulders about being the city across from The City. They all still loved the Raiders, who had left Oakland for the first time a few years earlier, because they couldn’t bring themselves to root for the 49ers. They knew the Warriors had no chance to beat the Magic-Kareem Lakers, but went crazy the night Sleepy Floyd went off and stole a game from the mighty Lakers in the 1987 Western Conference semifinals.

And the A’s were their team, even if they had been mostly horrible since the end of their early ‘70s dynasty.

There’s always been that small, intense core of fans in Oakland. Through various ruinous ownership groups that often seemed more focused on finding a way out of town, that group has held on.[3]

I don’t know that any city deserves a team. The Bay Area might be massive, but perhaps having the Giants is enough. Still, I feel for A’s fans. They’ve put up with a lot of shit in the nearly 60 years the team has been based there. And, despite playing in a dump of a stadium, they’ve always come back when the team gave them a reason to believe.

I think we can agree that the A’s ownership group is terrible and have treated their fans like crap. Good luck making money in Las Vegas, with your tiny stadium and disinterested local fan base.

History—and hell, too, probably—reserves a special place for people who relocate pro sports teams. Every sports fan knows Art Modell, for example, as the guy who wrenched the Browns out of Cleveland. And we know Clay Bennett as the Oklahoman who stole the Supersonics out of Seattle. We remember these men for the damage they caused, which extends beyond the fan bases they forsook. Rather, it corrupts the foundation of faith on which fandom depends. Fans everywhere are poorer for it.

  1. Then, after crying poor for months, immediately after winning pretty much every aspect of their battle with the players, instituted like a dozen new ways of screwing the fans for more money.  ↩

  2. Hell, I won’t even link directly to MLB’s site to show off that gear.  ↩

  3. When we moved to Kansas City in 1980 and started getting the paper, one of the first stories I remember is about Charles Finley being close to selling the team to a new owner who would take them to Denver. That move fell through when the Raiders announced they were heading to LA and Oakland/Alameda County made big concessions to keep the A’s.  ↩

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 86

A rather uninteresting weekend around here, even with an extra day thrown in, so let’s jump straight into our latest exploration of Old School American Top 40s.

Chart Week: June 23, 1979
Song: “I Want You To Want Me” – Cheap Trick
Chart Position: #16, 9th week on the chart. Peaked at #7 for two weeks in July.

Sometimes our musical memories trick us into believing a band was more popular that it actually was.

Cheap Trick is a good example for me. I think of them being huge in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, and I’m not really sure why. My parents never owned any of their albums. I certainly didn’t. As we will soon see, they weren’t super successful on the pop chart, either.

I could chalk it up to the old “Bus Stop Theorem,” which holds that the influence of older kids on your school bus can have a disproportionate impact on your worldview. But I was pretty young when Cheap Trick had their first moment of pop chart glory, and I’m not sure if my fellow grade schoolers had that kind of sway yet. Maybe they were on TV a lot, which made me think they were huge at the time?

Something caused this impression, but I do not know what.

(Quick aside: A few years later our middle school bus driver would let us play the radio on our ride to school if we were on good behavior. She generally kept us pinned to Q–104, the most popular Top 40 station in Kansas City. Every now-and-then she would let us switch over to KY–102, the more rock-oriented station. One of those KY–102 days Cheap Trick’s “She’s Tight” came on. The older boys loved it. Betty was in her 50s, I’m guessing, and was much more into songs like “Islands In The Stream.” She didn’t always understand the lyrics to songs, but this one caught her ear.

“WHAT ARE THEY SAYING?!?!” she exclaimed.

One of the older boys was ready for this.

“She’s NICE. Like she’s a nice girl.”

Betty wasn’t so sure but reluctantly let us keep listening. We all cackled behind our seat backs. I wasn’t sure what it meant to be tight, but if the 7th and 8th graders thought it was cool/funny/risqué, that was enough for me.)

Regardless, I was amazed to review the band’s chart history and see other than two brief moments, they never got tons of radio airplay.

Casey Kasem shared a story in this countdown about their popularity. He pointed out how despite releasing albums that got great reviews, their singles consistently flopped. All seven songs they released before “I Want You To Want Me” failed to make the Top 40.[1] In fact, this was the second version of “I Want You To Want Me” released to radio stations, and the first hadn’t even cracked the Top 100.

However, Casey said, the band was immensely popular in Japan. When they toured that country in 1978, it was like the second coming of the Beatles. The band was swarmed at the airport upon their arrival. News programs dedicated long segments to the band. A music magazine devoted an entire issue to Cheap Trick. When they announced a concert at the legendary Budokan arena, so many people called to buy tickets that the phone system melted down.

Casey didn’t offer any evidence for what prompted the Japanese to love Cheap Trick so much. Some quick research suggests a few possible explanations.

First, several Japanese writers had seen Cheap Trick open for Queen in Milwaukee, enjoyed their performance, and asked the band to write about their experience for a magazine. Based on that article, the entire Japanese music press began following the band closely. Soon Cheap Trick had their first #1 song in Japan, “Clock Strikes Ten.”

Next, Cheap Trick didn’t sound like many other bands of their time. They weren’t hard rock or straight pop, nor were they early adopters of the New Wave sound. They had an edge but they sure weren’t punk. However, they incorporated elements from all of those styles, predicting where music would go in the ‘80s. While that made them outliers to what was popular on American radio, the Japanese were receptive to their unique sound.

The band was from Rockford, Illinois, and cut their teeth playing small venues in the Midwest rather than making their name in Chicago or another large scene. For a lot of American labels, music execs, and program directors, that made them tough to market.[2] The Japanese didn’t care that they weren’t from a music hotbed.

Cheap Trick recorded their April 1978 Budokan shows and released the highlights as a live album in early 1979. That finally pushed them into the mainstream in America. The live recording of “I Want You To Want Me” made it all the way to #7. It went to #1 in Japan (of course), Belgium, and the Netherlands, and hit #2 in Canada.

The group’s US pop chart success was short-lived. Their next three singles all snuck into the Top 40, but none got higher than #26. After that, 16 straight releases failed to chart.


The band was on the verge of being dropped by their label in 1987 when they agreed to bring in outside songwriters to help them on their next album. That worked, as the sappy, lite-rock track “The Flame” made it to #1 for two weeks in the summer of 1988. A remake of Elvis’ “Don’t Be Cruel” peaked at #4 later that year. Two more singles cracked the Top 40 over the next 18 months before the band, again, disappeared from the charts. This time for good.

Kind of a weird career. I would imagine those guys have some stories.

“I Want You To Want Me” is a nearly perfect, great song.

There’s that terrific opening line, when lead singer Robin Zander tells the crowd, “I want you, to want…me!” followed by the shrieks of the Japanese audience as the drums kick in.[3]

Rick Nielsen’s core riff is a nice summation of what Cheap Trick was all about. There was a hint of punk, a hint of power pop, a hint of New Wave, yet it remained slippery and undefinable. He throws flourishes all over the song, not waiting for his solo to show off.

The driving beat is insistent and undeniable.

Zander’s vocals are fantastic. He is horny but never sounds desperate. Everything is offered in a cheeky tone. Nielsen intent when he wrote the song was for it to be something of a parody. While the live version shifted away from that perspective, it never takes itself too seriously.

And I love how the verses and choruses seem flipped. My favorite section is the one when Zander rips through the lines:

Didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I see you cryin’?
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I see you cryin’?
Feelin’ all alone without a friend, you know you feel like dyin’
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I see you cryin’?

They are quite different but I like to think “I Want You To Want Me” has at least a few common strands of DNA with a song that was racing up the charts as it fell, The Knack’s “My Sharona.”

“Surrender” was Cheap Trick’s best song, and should have peaked way higher than the #67 spot. This wasn’t a bad way for Cheap Trick to finally nab its first true hit, though. 8/10[4]

Any Cheap Trick discussion demands a reference to a certain 1980’s teen movie.

  1. Including “Surrender.” What was wrong with America?  ↩
  2. I do not understand why. They played fun, great music and had humble roots. Seems like an easy sell to me.  ↩
  3. Unfortunately this line is different in different live versions. But you get the point.  ↩
  4. I waited until after I finished this to re-read Tom Breihan’s entry on “The Flame” for his discussion about Cheap Trick’s earlier songs. I like “I Want You To Want Me” a little more than he does, but we agree on “Surrender.”  ↩

Friday Playlist

Boy do I have a list for you this week. A couple gems I’ve come up with on my own. Some discovered via Spotify’s suggestions. Two new entries in the “Country Or Not” category. One track from a performer facing a huge challenge. And our latest shoutout to a lost artist.

“No Reason” – Sunny War
If this song doesn’t get you tapping your toes, snapping your fingers, nodding your head, or wiggling your ass a little, I don’t want to be friends with you.

“Before” – Swiss Portrait
The latest dreamy offering by Scottish bedroom popper Michael Kay Terence.

“Portrait” – The Goa Express
This track rips. And it is the first one in this week’s list from Spotify’s Discover Weekly. I love it when they push stuff like this on me; songs/artists I had not heard before and which fit my sensibilities. This week’s inclusions were especially good…

“First High” – Nikki Lane
Like this one, which was sequenced right after the Goa Express track. Lane is officially a country artist. If you didn’t know that you wouldn’t call this a country song, as it is straight sassy, fun-as-hell pop.

“All For the Best” – Miracle Legion
I definitely love it when the Discover playlist includes a classic that is new to me. I don’t recall ever knowing about Miracle Legion. Probably because they came up in the 1980s college rock scene, something I was not a fan of at the time. And they never were very popular, having more success in Europe than in the States. They were compared by some to R.E.M. Maybe a few strands of shared DNA, but I don’t find them to be much alike at all. This nice track comes from their 1987 debut album Surprise Surprise Surprise.

“When the Storm Has Passed” – Great Lake Swimmers
Just the right amount of twang in this gorgeous track. I’m not surprised that these guys are A) Canadian and B) influenced by Neil Young. Just like Young, they are not country, but there is some influence from that world.

“The Weakness” – Ruston Kelly featuring Samia
Earlier this year I shared the original version of this as a “Country or Not” entry. Releasing an updated, toned down version with additional vocals by Samia nudges it maybe half a notch closer to country. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but Samia sure sounds a lot like Kelly’s ex-wife Kacey Musgraves on this track.

“Wendy” – Jesse Malin
News broke earlier this week that Malin suffered a very rare spinal stroke earlier this spring and is, for now at least, partially paralyzed. Perhaps in an effort to raise funds for his medical care, there is a new EP on Spotify featuring three tracks from his 2003 album The Fine Art of Self-Destruction, which had been updated an re-released a year ago. That album was produced by Ryan Adams and you sure as hell hear his presence on this track. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was an Adams song, not a Malin one.

“Summer Is Here” – ARMSTRONG
It is true. Summer is here.

“Sister Havana” – Urge Overkill
RIP to UO drummer Blackie Onassis, who passed this week. One of the best names in ’90s rock. Hell of a good drummer, too.

Kid Notes

There’s been a lot of talk about M here lately. Maybe too much talk. A few words about her sisters.

Middle Sister

C has had a pretty quiet summer break so far. She has filled M’s spot working for their aunt the chef on weekends a couple times. She will take that job over full time in August so this has been good preparation for that.

It’s good that she’s made a little money. Once school ended any reservations she had about driving disappeared. She’s been zipping all over the place. It helps that a couple of her closest friends can’t drive yet and she’s been running them around. Monday she had been gone for a couple hours and texted me asking if she could pick L up from summer school. So I guess she’s enjoying driving. I hope that means she’s a little more comfortable than she was back when I was riding with her in preparation for her driving test.

We’ve had to have the talk with her a couple times about “Hey, it’s great you’re spending time with your friends, but you might want to slow down on the trips to Target, the mall, or meals out because you’re blowing through your meager bank account balance pretty quickly.”

She has allegedly reached out to a couple places about working but they either haven’t called back or told her they aren’t hiring. Kid needs to find some way to make some cash, though.

(Not So) Baby Sister

L is a week-and-a-half into summer school and seems to be enjoying it. Friday when I picked her up and asked how her day went she said, “I made five new friends today!”

I asked her if she just walks around and talks to random people.

“Sure, what else am I going to do?”

I used to say she was destined to be class president because of how she brought people together. She might be on that track again.

Tuesday she told me three boys asked for her Snap account. Oh boy…

The basketball has gone pretty well. She’s fit right in at practices and is having fun.

Last Thursday she played in two JV games. She didn’t do a whole lot as the offense was pretty raged and the girls were clearly uncomfortable playing together. A couple looked like they had never played organized basketball before. L scored two in the first game, four in the second.

In that second game she played against two of her travel teammates, which was fun. Their travel coach was there to watch as his daughter was playing on a different court before us. Nice that CHS won that game by 25.

Then Tuesday night she and a few other JV girls got invited to play up in the varsity league. I was both excited and nervous for her. I didn’t want her getting killed by some 18-year-old woman. I wasn’t sure how much she would actually get to play, so told her just to have fun, listen to her coach, and pay attention to what the older guards were doing.

She played a fair amount and did better in those games than in the JV ones.

She looked comfortable and generally ran the right stuff, especially when she was on the court with varsity girls. When it was 4–5 freshmen together things got ugly. One of those youngin’ spells turned a 10 point lead into a six point loss. In their defense, the freshmen only gave up about half of a 19–4 run, and when the starters came back in they didn’t do anything to change the momentum.

She was 0–5 in the first game. Three of those misses were runners in traffic I could tell she rushed. I told her after the game I could tell she kind of went, “Oh crap, I’m wide open!” and tried to get rid of the ball before someone rotated to her. Another miss was a half-court heave at the first quarter buzzer that hit the front rim.

In game two she was 1–5, the only make a two with her foot on the 3-point line. She looked more aggressive in this game. She played several minutes with four starters and did not look overwhelmed.

CHS as a team maybe shot 20% for the night. I told her not to worry about her misses as long as she was taking good shots when she was open.

I don’t know that either team they played was super good, or that either of them had their full varsity rosters. But my biggest takeaway was that L just needs to get stronger. The times she struggled the most Tuesday were when older girls got a body on her. She struggled to handle that pressure, and it was obvious that she was a 14-year-old getting bodied by 16 and 17 year olds. Once she starts true strength training I expect that to be a huge help.

She’s always been smart on the court, and that will improve as she and her teammates get more familiar with what their coach wants them to do. There is still plenty of room for skill improvement, but her shooting is so much better than it was this time last year.

Keep improving the overall game and add some muscle and I’m feeling good about her high school basketball future.

(Late update: I did not mention how much she played. I would say she clocked roughly ten minutes in both games. These games are 10 minute quarters with a running clock.)

In related good news, she claims her knees haven’t hurt for nearly three weeks. I was very worried about her being on the court three straight days this summer. So far, at least, it seems like the knee pain that has plagued her for over two and a half years has receded. Fingers crossed that doesn’t mean she is completely done growing. I’d love for her to add another inch or two before she’s done.

Other than being tired, she was raring to go when I dropped her off at 5:41 for this morning’s workouts.

Mr. Scorekeeper

As I have done so many times over the years for CYO sports, it seems I have become the official scorekeeper for the summer league team. Which I don’t mind. It keeps me calmer, lets me listen to the coaches, and helps me to learn who all the CHS girls are. As a bonus if we have any crazy parents (I haven’t figured that out yet, but it seems inevitable) it keeps me away from them.

This probably makes me a bad person, but it drives me a little nuts how no other parents have come over and said, “Since you did the first game, can I do the second one?” It was the same story with L’s winter league team through CHS. I would do game one then hope to sit in the stands for game two, only for L to run over and ask if I could run the clock again. In four months of games, no other parent ever volunteered to split duties with me.

If it was more in my personality type, and I wasn’t a freshman parent, I would send a message out to all the parents with a signup sheet for the rest of the summer.

Instead I’ll just be smug that I’m always the one checking in with the coaches to see if I can handle the book for them.

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