Category: Uncategorized (Page 1 of 325)

High School Hoops Chronicles, S1V2

Time to catch up with L’s exploits on the hardwood.

Two Fridays ago we traveled to North Vernon, IN, about 90 minutes south, nearly all the way to Louisville. The varsity team was playing the #14 team in the state, which features a senior who signed with Michigan State earlier this month. She averaged 22 & 12 as a junior and is ranked in the top 60 in the country. We weren’t sure if she was the one good player down there, or just a sign of a good program, so had no idea what to expect from their JV squad.

It ended up being a super entertaining and fun game, at least as much as a JV game with dodgy offense and indifferent defense can be. It was tied after one quarter, we trailed by two at halftime, led by four at the end of three, and ended up losing by two. We had a six-point lead early in the fourth quarter and missed a couple chances to extend. Our best inside player only played the first quarter so she would be eligible for the entire varsity game, and her absence really hurt us on the boards.[1]

L played pretty well. She scored nine points on 4–7 shooting, hitting two long jumpers. She had a rebound, three assists, two steals, and two turnovers. She played roughly 25 of the 28 minutes. She made a free throw with two seconds left to cut the margin to two, then intentionally missed the second but we couldn’t get the rebound to try to tie.

The funniest aspect of the night was how the PA announcer kept saying L’s name wrong. When he introduced the starting lineups, he said our last name in the way people have been mispronouncing it my whole life, but which makes no sense to me. There’s no U in our name, but people are always adding it.

Then, once L started hitting baskets, the announcer called her “Lisa.”


Multiple times.

She heard him because she was shaking her head and laughing after one of her makes.

I thought about being That Dad and going down to correct the guy working the mic. But I figured if he was imagining letters in both her first and last names, he probably either wouldn’t remember my corrections or would be so flustered it would make things worse for the entire team.

Our varsity lost by 17 and it was never close. The Michigan State recruit scored 17 and had over 10 rebounds. She is a nice player. The real issue was letting a sophomore score 23. I guess it is more than a one-girl program. You let two kids combine for 40 points in a high school game and you’re probably going to lose.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving we were at Warren Central for a boy-girl JV doubleheader. This is significant since L has a boyfriend these days, and he’s on the boy’s team, so the assumption was we’d watch her game then hang around to watch his.

Only wrinkle in that plan was the Warren girls smacked the Irish around pretty good. We were down 12 at the end of the first quarter, and down as many as 19 multiple times. We ended up losing by nine but it’s not like we went on some big run.

L had a truly rough night. She played 24 minutes and did not score, taking just two shots. She did have a lifetime-high six rebounds, but balanced that with seven turnovers. That was indicative of the entire team: any positives were outweighed by bigger negatives.

I thought she actually played fantastic defense. She just kept checking girls who could make varsity-level shots. One of her best defensive possessions of the game, in which she had a girl completely locked up on three different moves, ended with that girl hitting a step-back jumper from 18 feet. I had to remind her later sometimes you do everything right and the other girl just hits a great shot. You can’t let the result get you down.

The coaches were on the entire team pretty hard, and jumped on L specifically a few times. She’s never really had to deal with coaches like that, and it has been a tough transition. Tuesday it was a little overwhelming for her. I don’t think it helped that both of her sisters were in attendance and she put extra pressure on herself that night. There were some tears after the game. We hung around for a few minutes of the boys game, but she wanted to get the hell out of the gym pretty quickly. I don’t blame her.

Saturday was a super doubleheader, with both the boys and girls playing JV/varsity double-dips against a school that traveled from down near Louisville. The schedule had the girls varsity playing first in the main gym followed by boys varsity, while in the auxiliary gym the boys JV played first followed by the girls.

The girls varsity game was faaaaantasic, with the teams trading leads all night, a few crazy-curious calls by one specific ref, and a super exciting final minute. With the game tied, CHS went up on a basket by our senior center with about 20 seconds left. JHS came down and got a running layup to tie with about four seconds left. After a timeout, CHS inbounded to our best perimeter player, who fumbled the ball, took a couple dribbles to half court, and let it fly. Swish, ballgame.

If you watch the video closely you might recognize a guy in a green shirt in the upper row who called the basket good before most of the folks.

This was our first time doing the reverse schedule thing, so we hustled up to the aux gym thinking the JV game might be about to start. Nope, everything was on hold and the warmup clock hadn’t even started yet. Made sense since the JV coaches were both on the varsity benches, along with several girls from both teams who were double-rostered. We’ll know better for next time.

JV got a relatively easy eight-point win. They were up by 12–19 almost the entire night and got sloppy in the final minutes of the game. L was solid. Her stats weren’t gaudy – she made one shot, hit one free throw, had one rebound, one assist, one steal, and two turnovers – but she was much more steady than she had been the previous Tuesday. She again played 24–25 minutes.

CHS swept the boys games, too, so it was a fun night all around and she was in a much better mood on that ride home.

The girls JV and varsity are both 2–3 on the season now.

Two games this week, and five over the next 12 days.

  1. Not sure if the rules are the same around the country, but in Indiana a player can five total quarters in one day. So if you play the entire JV game, you can only play one quarter in the varsity contest. That’s going to be a problem for this week, at least, as our varsity center is out with a concussion, which means our only decent JV player with size will be playing up until the senior returns.  ↩

Holiday Weekend Notes

For the first time in three years we were home for Thanksgiving week. We packed a lot in, and it deserves a wide-ranging, extra-long breakdown.

College Visitor

I picked M up Tuesday around noon after her last scheduled class of the week. We grabbed lunch at Hangover Easy, a place just off campus I’ve wanted to try just because of their shirts. It was solid, but I couldn’t find any shirts for sale. I guess I’ll have to get one online.

That night she (and C) went with me to L’s game. M had a couple nights out with high school friends, but didn’t do anything too crazy. She thought about going to the IU-Purdue game with one of her best friends but they slept too late to make it to Lafayette in time. Seemed like she behaved herself. Unlike me during my freshman Thanksgiving break, when I may have consumed as much alcohol as I ever did before or have since.

S ran her back to school Sunday evening.

She will be back soon. UC has class this week then go straight into exams. She only has two true finals. One of them would normally be on the 9th, but all tests for that course are done outside class, so she’s hoping she can come home earlier in the week.

Oh, she was also elected as social chair of her house. Most of the new officers don’t take over their duties until January, but since she has to plan the formal this spring, she’s already pretty deep in finding a venue and getting all that arranged. Shocking she would be social chair, right?

Hawaii Basketball

Mixed results for KU out in Oahu. Smashed Chaminade in round one, as expected, with Kevin McCullar becoming the first KU player ever to record back-to-back triple doubles.

Then smashed by Marquette in the second round. That game never felt close, which was super annoying. There was the added bonus of Shaka Smart acting like a clown and then pretending he didn’t know why anyone was upset. It’s always a shame when someone acts like a punk then wins the game. Thanks to the Purdue-Tennessee game taking about five hours to play and this one starting after 11:00 PM eastern, I recorded it and watched first thing Wednesday morning. Good call, as I was able to fast forward through most of the second half. I would have been up until 4:00 AM pissed had I watched live.

Finally an encouraging win over a tough Tennessee team in the consolation final. Jamari McDowell stepping up might have been the best development of the week.

KU has some holes, but I think as a few players get more comfortable, those holes will get smaller. And Bill Self will figure out how to hide them better as the season continues. This is a good team that can get a lot better.

Jim Irsay

Oh boy…

In case you missed it, the Colts owner appeared on HBO’s Real Sports and, as is his general MO, was very candid about his life. Which in general is a good thing. Until he claimed that the only reason he was arrested a decade ago when he was pulled over for driving under the influence was because he is a “rich, white, billionaire.”

Please note he was pulled over and arrested in Carmel, IN, which isn’t exactly the most diverse suburb in our area, nor one that has ever been noted for its anti-capitalist views. Hell, the new mayor who was elected earlier this month refused to denounce a local mom’s group that used a quote from Hitler in their literature.

So, sure, the white cops in a super white, conservative suburb decided that they were going to stick it to the man by arresting the Colts owner.

It’s sad that someone who has done so much to both own up to his mistakes and help end the stigma around mental heath disease can’t take responsibility here and resorted to pretending that he, with endless resources and likely decades of people looking the other way at similar behavior, is the person oppressed by a racist police department.


Last year we were in Italy for Thanksgiving. Two years ago Hawaii. So it was nice to be back home again in Indiana for the holiday this year. We hosted, and had just 16 this year. We’ll be closer to 30 at Christmas so this felt super manageable.

I did the bird, Giada’s dressing, and potatoes. We delayed our meal until later in the day to allow for a sister-in-law and her kids to return from their trip to Denver. That made the day a lot easier than eating around 1–2 as we usually do. Although that last 45 minutes always gets crazy no matter what time you eat.


Several of you asked over the past week. No, I did not drive down to Cincinnati for the KU-UC game Saturday night. Had the game been played at noon, I could have made it work. However, the 7:30 kickoff was the exact moment that L’s game was scheduled to tip. As much as I love my Jayhawks, I love my daughters more, and chose to be a good dad.[1] Plus, M wasn’t interested in going back on Saturday and we really didn’t want to make the drive both Saturday and Sunday. Oh, and it was very cold.

Naturally I was annoyed that I missed it given the result. When we walked out of the CHS gym, KU had just taken a 21–10 lead into halftime. As we were pulling into our driveway Devin Neal was scoring his second touchdown of the night to extend the lead. Once I was seated in front of the TV I made M come down and watch with me. The next hour or so involved a lot of me waving the wheat and sending her bean emojis – 🫘 – with her flipping me off and telling me how much the Bearcats “freaking suck” in return.

Good times!

Sooooo happy for Jason Bean. Sure, the UC defense had basically given up by the fourth quarter, but it was fantastic for him to cap his regular season college career with two more long touchdown runs. His 340 total yards were both super-efficient and impressive. The guy has taken a lot of abuse, verbal and physical, over his career. He tried to leave KU last summer but no one wanted him. And, in the end, he is as responsible for KU’s turnaround as Jalon Daniels is. JD beat Texas two years ago. But Bean nearly beat OU that same year, did beat OU this year, and led the Jayhawks to two conference road wins this season. KU won eight total conference games from 2009 to 2021. Jason Bean has been the starter in six Big 12 wins over the past two years. When this season seemed to be on the verge of going down the toilet because Daniels could no longer play, Bean stepped in and KU barely missed a beat, winning eight regular season games for the first time since 2007.

There is a lot of praise to go around for the KU turnaround, from Lance Leipold and his staff, to Travis Goff and the athletic department, to players like Daniels, Neal, Kenny Logan, Cobee Bryant, etc. Bean’s name needs to be high on that list as well.

Eight wins! The Big 12 was a true adventure this year, with results often not making sense from week-to-week. KU was pretty damn steady, though, with the only real blip coming over the past two weeks because Bean was hurt and Cole Ballard had to drop his clipboard and fill in for 2½ games. KU was damn close to 11–1, and who knows, maybe they can stick with Texas longer if Bean had practiced as the QB1 all week instead of finding out about 30 minutes before the game that he was the starter.

Rock Chalk, bitches.

Other Football

As much as I hated all the hype that surrounded Ohio State – Michigan, that was a hell of a game. Incredibly entertaining.

M asked me if the weekend after Thanksgiving is when most rivalries play. I liked that she picked that up. I switched to Indiana-Purdue a few times during the OSU-UM game and that game felt very familiar. For a good chunk of my life the Kansas-Missouri game was at the end of the year,[2] and at least one team was usually pretty bad. Some years both sucked. There’s nothing quite like sitting in a cold-ass stadium in late November with 24,000 other people watching two shitty teams battle for bragging rights and not much else.

The Colts are 6–5? The Colts are 6–5! They would be playing in a Wild Card game if the season ended today. They have a pretty favorable schedule remaining, too. They – especially Gardner Minshew – do not make it easy each week, so I wouldn’t go printing playoff tickets up just yet.

Poor Detroit fans. It’s been since early in the Barry Sanders years that they had a good team to root for on Thanksgiving. When it finally happens again, they get curb-stomped by a mediocre Green Bay team. Just a cursed franchise.

Oh, and the Buffalo-Philadelphia game was straight-up awesome. Rain and a sloppy field. Josh Allen doing good Josh Allen things. Jalen Hurts doing Jalen Hurts things. Maybe the biggest and most clutch field goal in adverse conditions since Adam Vinatieri’s kick in the snow 21 years ago. And then a fun overtime to top it off. That was a fine way to end a terrific weekend of sports.


The Pacers are a wild-ass team. Last Tuesday they clinched a spot in the quarterfinals of the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament with a 157–152 win over Atlanta. When we got home from L’s game, the Pacers were down by 20. I know everyone makes a run in the NBA, but coming back from 20 down to build a 12-point lead is kind of crazy. Even then the game came down to the final minute, and the Pacers just did not miss. Tyrese Haliburton had 37 points and 16 assists. Buddy Hield was 6-for–6 from deep. I don’t know that Bobby Knight purists love them, but I sure enjoy watching this year’s team.

They scored 131 the next night…and lost by one. Which was kind of incredible given what they did the night before. Then they dropped another 136 in a win on Friday. They are on pace to shatter the record the Sacramento Kings set last year as the most efficient offense in NBA history.

  1. Guess who has a game the same time as the KU-IU game in Bloomington in two weeks?  ↩
  2. I believe if you dive into the site’s archives you can find some of my thoughts about football rivalries and when they should be played.  ↩

Reaching For The Stars, Vol. 94

Chart Week: November 14, 1981
Song: “Never Too Much” – Luther Vandross
Chart Position: #37, 6th week on the chart, first week in the Top 40. Peaked at #33 for two weeks.

Happy Thanksgiving week to you all! A quick entry based on a Casey anecdote about how a pop artist paid the bills before he started making hits of his own.

The Voice of a Generation. The Velvet Voice. Soundtrack to more babies being made than any artist of his era.

Those are a few of the nicknames Luther Ronzoni Vandross Jr. picked up over his career.[1] That last one is unofficial, of course.

“Never Too Much” was indeed the first single of his solo career. But Luther had been on the charts before. He was a highly valued backup singer to some of the biggest stars of the Seventies, lending vocals to tracks by Donna Summer, Roberta Flack and Donnie Hathaway, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, and Chaka Khan. For my readers, the song you probably heard his voice on first was David Bowie’s “Young Americans.”

Luther did more than sing backup to other stars, though. He wrote and sang advertising jingles for a variety of major companies, including Pepsi, Juicy Fruit gum, Miller beer, and NBC. As I was looking into his jingle career, I found this amazing ad for Gino’s pizza. Which, unfortunately, will not embed in this post. Please, click the link.

There’s an equally amazing video on Facebook where Luther talks about the making of that ad.

In this countdown, Casey mentioned some of those ads Luther’s voice appeared on, and suggested all that work had made him both famous and very comfortable financially, an assertion the Facebook video seems to confirm. That wasn’t enough, though.

“The money is fine,” Casey quoted Luther as saying, “but sometimes I want to sing a whole song!”

Luther got his chance and capitalized on it, becoming one of the most successful soul singers of the next two decades.

He wrote, composed, arranged, and produced this track, along with most of his debut album. From the first notes, Luther carved out a unique space in music. “Never Too Much” is a cool mashup of contemporary soul and yacht rock, largely thanks to its impeccable production. Every sound is polished for maximum shininess. There’s a jazzy quality to how Luther sings the verses. The song is not too far off from the music George Benson was making around the same time. Luther is always in the pocket with his vocals, never showing off or pushing too far, which was his great strength. His voice was warm, comforting, sophisticated, and smooth as silk.

“Never Too Much” was #1 on the soul chart for two weeks, the first of his seven Soul/R&B number ones.[2] There were bigger things to come for Luther on the pop chart later in his career. This was fine way to introduce himself to the world as a singer capable of carrying an entire song on his own. 7/10

Weekend Notes

Kind of a chill weekend, with the holiday ahead of us. M does not come home until Tuesday so it was the usual crew around the house. L had a game Friday, more on that later. The weather was nice, so S and I did some yard work at a sister’s house Sunday. And a fair amount of football, the biggest game being a certain showdown in a certain state when a certain blogger attended college.




So freaking close to ending the 14-game losing streak to the Wildcats, closing out the current edition of Booth Memorial Stadium with a huge win, and going to Cincinnati next weekend with a chance for win #8, the program’s most since 2007.

The first four minutes could not have gone worse for KU, giving up a long pass on K-State’s first play then letting them score soon after, and following that up with a quick three-and-out. K-State is not a team you can get behind under normal circumstances. When you’re playing with your third-string quarterback, there is way less room for mistakes.

Fortunately the KU defense bucked their heads on K-State’s second drive, then Devin Neal got busy. Two Neal touchdowns had KU a PAT away from a touchdown lead in front of a frenzied home crowd. So naturally KU decided not to block a dude, who smothered the kick and then ran it back for a safety. Instead of 14–7, it’s 13–9 and KU fans are getting a queasy feeling in their stomaches.

Still KU led by four at halftime, and quickly added another Devin Neal TD early in the third quarter to extend the lead.

Then came the play of the game. Senior linebacker Rich Miller had a sure pick-six in his hands. And he dropped it. It was inevitable that KSU would rip off a long run on the next play, and eventually punch it in and get the two-point conversion to cut the lead to three. The game might have been over if Miller walks that interception into the end zone. Seriously, he could have done cartwheels into the end zone. Maybe he was trying to do just that and that’s why he dropped it.

Now it was just a question of how KU would find a way to blow the game. Turns out it was by fumbling a punt at midfield early in the fourth quarter.

Such a dumb play. So, so stupid. I don’t want to kill the kid who made the blunder, but he did the exact same thing in the Oklahoma game. JUST CATCH THE DAMN BALL.

31–27 Kansas State, final. Which, if KU blocks that guy in the first half and then K-State doesn’t go for two in the third quarter, it’s actually a tie game as KU drove late. And instead of getting picked off in the end zone on fourth down, they kick the short field goal to take the lead in the closing minutes.

Who am I kidding? If the game was tied and it came down to a field goal attempt, KU would have missed it. Or K-State would have blocked that one and run it back.


A game effort from KU when a lot was stacked against them. The offensive coaches had a pretty great plan for limiting what freshman Cole Ballard had to do, and he played a nearly perfect game in the first half. It felt like KU ran out of wrinkles in the second half, though, and Ballard was asked to do more than he is capable of at the moment. He was lucky that a couple bad balls weren’t picked, then luckier when his first interception was negated two plays later by a Mello Dotson pick. I can’t fault Ballard for the interception on KU’s final offensive play. It wasn’t a great throw and as the Fox announcers pointed out, the KU receivers did not run great routes. I was more annoyed that since KU knew it needed a touchdown, that Neal didn’t touch the ball on first or second down. Passing early with an inexperienced quarterback against a good defense seemed like a real reach. Give your stud who grew up in Lawrence hating Kansas State a couple shots at punching it in.

Oh well. KU did a lot right Saturday and aside from three mistakes, did more than enough to win the game. Those three mistakes were huge, though, and K-State took advantage of each one. That’s where KU is trying to get, when you are the team that holds steady in the game’s biggest moments. The Jayhawks are closer, so much closer than they have been for years, but they still aren’t there yet.

Throw in the fourth quarter collapse in Stillwater and the funkiness last week against Tech, and KU is very close to being 10–1. 9–2 is much more realistic. 7–4 with one to play is nothing to be mad about, especially at KU. But Saturday was a huge missed opportunity.

I have to say I got sick of all the KU-KState “banter” on Twitter. It’s one thing to talk shit with your rival. But a lot of what happens on Twitter is just dumb, lacking in either thought or foundation in facts. I guess that kind of sums up social media, right? I miss the old, third party Twitter apps that allowed you to mute people for specific amounts of time and then automatically bring them back into your feed. Maybe the Tech Toddler will post some more racist/anti-semitic stuff and he’ll get bought/forced out and some new ownership will bring back those options.


In other college football news, I’ve never felt strongly about Michigan. Pretty much everyone here in Big 10 country seems to hate the school and their fans. In the time we’ve lived here, Ohio State has generally been the better team, so I’ve learned to hate Buckeyes fans more than Wolverines fans. The only Michigan person I know is pretty cool, plus he’s an Indy native so his Hoosier DNA balances some of that Wolverine douchiness.

But the last couple weeks have flipped that.

I’m not super fired up about the Michigan sign stealing scandal. Everyone is trying to steal signs. You can’t tell me every program doesn’t have some grad assistant watching tape and trying to match up formations with whatever signs they can pick up on the sidelines, looking for an advantage.

And I feel like whatever Michigan was doing was way less egregious than what the Houston Astros did. A baseball hitter knowing whether the next pitch is a fastball or off-speed makes a huge difference in their approach. I don’t think stealing signs in football gives you the same advantage, as it’s an 11-v–11 matchup, and if you adjust your defense, the offense can audible to another call. Plus pretty much every coach who has talked about it claims they often rotate their signals, so what you learned in week three may have no relevance in week six.

That said…Michigan fans need to shut the fuck up. This whole Michigan Vs. Everybody bullshit is so fucking dumb. You had a booster paying someone to go to games and steal signs. That seems a little dirty, even if 90% of other coaches are smacking their heads because they didn’t think of it first. And it’s pretty telling when the Big 10 presented all their evidence to UM and Jim Harbaugh quickly agreed to serve a three-game suspension. That doesn’t seem like a manufactured witch hunt to me at all. It seems like UM fans should be thankful Harbaugh folded and a more significant punishment wasn’t levied.

And I think those UM fans who rushed the field in Maryland after UM won the program’s 1000th game should all be shot. Or at least imprisoned for a lengthy amount of time. And they have the nerve to wonder why people hate them. I might actually root for Ohio State this week…

HS Football

Not super relevant to our family but thought I would share that Indiana will have a new 6A football champion for the first time in four years.

Center Grove was down 18 in the third quarter, came back to take a lead, then couldn’t cover a Ben Davis fumble in the closing seconds of regulation, allowing the Giants to kick a tying field goal that sent the game to overtime. CG could only manage a field goal while Ben Davis scored a touchdown to advance to the state title game.

Quite a run for the Giants. They were down 18 to #1 Brownsburg in the sectional finals and came back to win with 24 fourth-quarter points. It took a field goal in the final 90 seconds then an interception to knock off Cathedral in regionals. And now this, the biggest win of all. Props to them. Ben Davis is one of the most successful programs in Indiana history, but they’ve been down a little lately. A lot of people who probably wouldn’t normally pull for them were hoping they could end Center Grove’s streak Friday night. Not only had CG won three-straight state titles, the year before their streak began they lost in the state title game. Hell of a run. I’m sure they’ll still be really good next year.

Jayhawk Talk: Champions Classic

Without going back and reading a bunch of them, I’m assuming my Champions Classic posts have a similar theme every year: that wasn’t pretty basketball. Most years it is at least competitive, but despite the big-time matchup, it rarely has the same juice as a March tournament game.

Chalk that up for another year, with #1 KU outlasting Kentucky by five last night.

It was a game of swings.

KU opened up ahead 8–0 then 11–3. Some of us were cautiously thinking this could, finally, be payback for the Cats’ destruction of the Jayhawks back in 2014.

As always, such thoughts were noticed by the Hoops Gods, and Kentucky started hitting just about every three they threw up, disrupting KU’s offense, and charged back, leading by double digits before Hunter Dickinson swished a three at the halftime buzzer to cut UK’s lead to seven at the break.

I was pretty chill during the first half. Yes, KU was out of sorts and had totally abandoned looking inside. But Kentucky was a bunch of (super-talented) freshman, Bill Self >>> John Calipari when it comes to actual coaching, and the second half would be much different.

Thus it made total sense that UK doubled their led in about three minutes because what the hell do I know about basketball?

To say I was not enthused was an understatement. I was dreading how a team that couldn’t hang with a bunch of kids playing their first marquee college game would matchup with Marquette/UCLA/Tennessee/Purdue next week in Hawaii.

Then Self did some of that coaching shit, though, and the game flipped.

The KU offense inverted, sending Dickinson out high with KJ Adams low or DaJuan Harris in the mid-post, and KU started getting shots at the rim and slicing into the deficit.

The last 10 minutes were straight fun. KU comes all the way back, and even takes a brief lead, before falling behind by six with around four minutes. KJ Adams had just fouled out, Kevin McCullar had four fouls, and several of the KU players looked frightened to shoot. This did not bode well for my Jayhawks’ hopes.

Then something crazy happened: Harris scored eight points in one minute of game time, draining consecutive 3’s then hitting two free throws. KU never trailed again as their defense pretty much shut down everything UK tried to do, closing the game on a 14–3 run.

Worth noting this comeback, while with lower stakes, came on the same court, and going the same direction on that court, as KU’s massive second half against Miami that propelled them to the Final Four two years ago.

Cool shit.

Also cool was Dickinson absolutely dominating without trying very hard. 27 points, 21 rebounds. Yes, UK was missing all three of their biggest players. Even so, this game was a sign of what Dickinson can do.

Kevin McCullar had a bad game in some ways, shooting horrifically from outside and with a few bad turnovers. Yet it will go down in history as the third recorded triple double in KU history as he scored 12, had 10 assists, and grabbing the final UK miss right before the game ended for his 10th rebound. He’s going to be a feast-or-famine player offensively all season. This game shows how good he can be even when the shots aren’t falling.

DaJuan Harris told the world a week ago, after taking just one shot in KU’s first two games, he was saving his shots for when the team needed them. I guess we should have listened to him. He cashed a 3 on the game’s first possession, and hit five-in-a-row before a desperation heave at the end of the shot clock missed badly. I don’t think going 5-for–5 will be normal, but as always, if he can take and hit a few every night, that will open up so much for the offense.

The bench was trash. Just straight, hot garbage. Four combined points in 37 player minutes, and two of those were free throws by freshman Jamari McDowell in the final 10 seconds. A lot to work on here. Johnny Furphy will get better. Hopefully the other guys can, too.

Play of the game? Had to be McCullar throwing a half-court lob to Adams, who jammed it home from a near-impossible angle. KJ is low-key one of the best dunkers in KU history, combining Udoka Azubuike’s power with Andrew Wiggins’ leaping ability.

Another theme for these annual posts is that I’m not sure what you take from these games. Kentucky was far from full strength. This win will still look really good in March when seeding time comes around. Cal might still fuck it up, but seems like he finally had a class of outstanding freshman who can actually play together. We’ll see if he can keep them on the same page when their bigs come back.

KU took some punches and responded as they should against a team filled with first-year players. The shooting and depth will be issues all year, but it feels like most of the Jayhawks other struggles Tuesday were things that will be cleared up with more time together. The offense, which has more pro-sets than ever to play to Dickinson’s strengths, was often very slow to develop. The defense was solid much of the game, but I would expect them to have forced more than eight turnovers from a team playing almost all freshmen.

The Jayhawks have now won four-in-a-row in the Champions Classic, tied with Duke at 8–5 overall in the series. KU has now won six of the last eight versus Kentucky. More importantly, after the NCAA sanctions knocked KU back behind UK in the all time wins ledger, this was a huge game in re-claiming that title, something Bill Self mentioned early in his postgame comments.

It was a big night. But there are plenty more big nights to come this year.

Tuesday Links

As promised, I have a big batch of articles to share. I read most of these while on our trip last weekend, thus on my Kindle, which meant I couldn’t clip pull quotes as I read. With a couple exceptions, you’ll just have to trust me that these are worth your time. Most are pretty lengthy, so if you have travels planned for next week, or just need some distractions to get away from “loved ones” who rub you the wrong way, these could be ideal.

I went to Target the day before Halloween to grab the small amount of candy we need every year. The Halloween section was being cleared out and replaced with Christmas candy. Again, on the day BEFORE Halloween.

This story popped up the next day. Target isn’t alone, and there are a lot of factors that go into it. But, seriously, could you wait until November 1 to do the change-over?

‘Christmas creep’: Why holiday candy hits shelves so early

I was re-reading a post from 2013 and came across this article I linked to back then. At the time it marked the 30th anniversary of one of the most dangerous years in the Cold War, and it seemed hopelessly in the past. Add ten more years, the rise of authoritarianism around the globe, a ground war in Europe, an expansionist China, the latest conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, plus everything going on in our fair country, and it seems like we could pretty easily slip back into the dark days when global nuclear conflict is not a totally unrealistic option.

Inescapable, apocalyptic dread: The terrifying nuclear autumn of 1983

As the parent of a Swiftie, I enjoyed this quite a bit.

My Delirious Trip to the Heart of Swiftiedom

This is an incredible story, both in the audacity of the crime and the utter lack of recourse most victims have. If you plan on doing any major projects around your home, I recommend reading it closely. And write checks or wire money. Never, ever use a peer-to-peer payment system for anything other than childcare or reimbursing a friend for lunch.

The Great Zelle Pool Scam

There is a movie coming out about Diana Nyad’s exploits. Apparently it has pissed a lot of people off, which is something she’s been doing her whole life. I don’t really know or care what the truth of situation is, but this was an enthralling piece.

Diana Nyad’s Swimming Brought Her Glory, Fame, And An Adversary Dedicated To Exposing Her Lies

I’m always suspicious of articles like this about retiring politicians as they try to claim the moral high ground, suggesting if their colleagues just behaved like them our political process would be less dysfuncitonal. But Mitt Romney’s viewpoint here is compelling and yet another sign our country is well-down a dangerous path that will likely take decades to get off, if we’re lucky.

What Mitt Romney Saw In The Senate

Here is a piece I did go back and find a pull quote for. It is about the small group of lawyers and support staff in Germany who are still searching for surviving Nazis. Their search has expanded to include administrative staff who worked at the death camps. It raises an interesting moral discussion about whether a young woman who typed orders given and followed by others is responsible for the deaths of the names on those pieces of paper.

This passage was especially chilling and powerful, given it was a German taking his own people to task for just going along or following orders rather than standing up to genocide.

The Furchner case upturned his thinking about the Holocaust, Kleist told me, finally making sense of the number of people the Nazis were able to murder in a mere 12 years in power. “This genocide wasn’t efficient because of the crazy people at the top,” he said. “It was efficient because every day, thousands of Germans like Frau Furchner showed up at an office and did their jobs. This is why they got so far. This genocide. It was so…so ordinary.” He hoped her case would lay a new inscription on the past: that ordinary people did this too. He hoped it would send a different sort of message to the future: that ordinary people could do this too.

The Race to Catch the Last Nazis

What if someone who had a similar name and similar career to yours turned into a conspiracy-spouting nut job and you were the target some of the blowback for their behavior? Author Naomi Klein has been dealing with exactly that for the past few years.

I realize I’m on her side here, but I continue to find it baffling how the Covid pandemic has pushed so many people from various perspectives into the lunatic fringe, where government actions designed to contain the virus and prevent deaths are seen as a way of crushing the individual, implementing socialism, etc. It’s even more amazing that while the pandemic began with our former president in office, many of these people have decided our government’s entire response to the pandemic is part of a Biden-led plot. I mean, look at a calendar, people…

Naomi Klein on following her ‘doppelganger’ down the conspiracy rabbit hole – and why millions of people have entered an alternative political reality

Finally, a fun, lighthearted, and educational piece.

Are any words the same in all languages?

Weekend Travel Notes

It was Adult Fall Break time for S and me, the first time we’ve done this in a couple years. This was for a medical conference, the first time we’ve done that since before Covid. We spent Thursday through Sunday in Clearwater Beach, FL, staying right on the beach. Like in a hotel, not in a tent or something.

The weather was perfect, low 80s each day. Someone told us it was a little warmer than usual for this time of year. I did not complain. Being off the beach we always had a nice breeze so it never felt too hot. We go back to the Tampa area in four months for spring break. Really hoping we get weather as good as we had this weekend.

Our trip was pretty casual. S did the morning education sessions. I took a couple long walks, read a lot, and generally killed time until she was done. Then we’d head down to the pool where we met up with friends and had a few drinks, followed by an early dinner each night, then we were old people and usually asleep by 10 and awake around our normal time well before 7. Kind of lame but also pretty relaxing.

A few assorted highlights from our stay.

There is a Hulk Hogan store and museum in the main drag where a lot of shops and restaurants are. Sadly I walked by before it was open, brother.

For breakfast Saturday we went to this cute little place I had found ahead of time. We walked in and the hostess/waitress was wearing a KU shirt. We Rock Chalked each other – I was wearing a KU shirt as well – and later learned that she grew up not too far from where I went to high school, although probably a few years ahead of me. I was hoping that meant good things for the football game that day. Alas…

There was also a big CrossFit competition in a little park right north of our hotel. I hung out and watched a bit of it on my walk Saturday morning. That stuff is intense. And the competitors are insanely fit, but in all body types. Made me feel real good about the three-egg omelette and three pieces of toast I had pounded for breakfast.

I ate a lot of shrimp and grouper over our three days.

We watched three gorgeous sunsets, but just missed sunrise each day.

Our travel was easy both ways, other than some two year old kicking the shit out of the chair next to me in the Tampa airport and his parents just sitting there and watching him. Finally after half an hour the dad said, “Ok, buddy. That’s enough.” Not sure what their deal was, they decided to come sit next to me, but more evidence that people are the worst.

I decided I really like taking trips in November, especially if we go someplace warm. In recent years we’ve done Tampa, Italy, Hawaii, San Antonio, and Phoenix after November 1.[1] They are nice breaks from the growing midwestern chill – although it was 78 in Indy last Wednesday – plus as Christmas decorations start to appear it feels like an informal start to the holiday season.

Some sports happened while we were away. Let’s bullet point them

  • In high school hoops, JV and varsity both got crushed Thursday by a really good program. JV lost by 17, varsity by 19. L said she played pretty much the entire JV game and was shooting a lot, but not hitting. She scored four. Rudely no other parent kept complete stats for me and shared them. She’s been frustrated by some of her teammates’ focus and dedication in practice. I told her to keep her head down, keep working hard, and it will pay off. Not coming out of the game is a sign her coaches trust her. Her next game is this Friday.
  • In high school football, CHS played an amazing regional final against Ben Davis, losing 27–24 on a late field goal. CHS gave up a pick-six in the first half and fumbled at the BD one in the second half, which was kind of the ballgame.. They came back from 10 down twice to tie it. Might have been better they lost since their quarterback got hurt late in the game. He played through it but not sure he would have been ready for Center Grove this week, and CHS did not need to play the three-time defending champs with a 5’7”, 140 lb backup running the offense.
  • Speaking of backup quarterbacks, I was able to watch the first half of the KU-Texas Tech game Saturday. We discovered why Jason Bean avoids contact, and that third-string quarterback Cole Ballard, a walk-on freshman from the Indy area, is actually kind of decent. Hell, he played amazing for someone in his situation. KU played better once he came into the game, but that was more about adjustments on both sides of the ball than anything he did. The Jayhawks really should have won, which is amazing when the third stringer plays three quarters of the game and KU was getting run over in the first quarter. Another sign of how far the program has come that fans were upset losing this game under those circumstances. Bad time for the injury, with K-State coming to Lawrence next week. That’s not a team you want a walk-on freshman facing. But maybe you play Ballard anyway then hope Bean is healthy for Cincinnati and try to get win #8 there?
  • I was able to watch a good chunk of KU’s manhandling of Manhattan Friday night. Not sure KU fans should get too up after two blowout wins over weaker opponents last week. Just as we shouldn’t have been too down about how the Jayhawks looked in the scrimmage against Illinois. Tuesday night against Kentucky will tell us more than any of those earlier games.
  • M went to her first UC basketball game Friday. She got good seats and they won, which was cool.

As mentioned, I read a lot over our trip, finishing one book and knocking a ton of stuff out of my Instapaper queue. Be looking for a links post sharing some of those articles soon.

  1. We also did Chicago one year in December. Although the holiday decorations were in full force, that wasn’t enough to make up for the wind chill in the teens.  ↩

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 93

Chart Week: November 5, 1983
Song: “Automatic Man” – Michael Sembello
Chart Position: #34, 7th week on the chart. This was the song’s peak.

A quick RFTS to fill the place of the Friday Playlist as we are taking an adult fall break for the next few days.

The 100th entry in this series is getting very close. I’ve been reading through most of the previous posts, both to refresh my memory and to look for trends. When we hit the century mark, I’ll pull together some stats and observations to share.

For this week’s edition, we hit a familiar topic: a forgotten song by an artist generally assumed to be a One Hit Wonder.

Michael Sembello was a musical prodigy.[1] By his mid-teens he was already serving as a session guitarist for established stars. When he was 17, Stevie Wonder invited him to contribute to two songs on Fulfillingness’ First Finale. Two years later Sembello was a featured artist on Wonder’s mega-classic Songs in the Key of Life, playing on every track and earning a songwriting credit for “Saturn.” He continued to work with Wonder through the remainder of the Seventies. He also wrote and produced for other artists, including Diana Ross and Michael Jackson.

In 1983, he recorded his first solo album, Bossa Nova Hotel. Through a series of industry connections one of its cuts, “Maniac,” was added to the soundtrack for Flashdance. You may have heard it.

“Maniac” hit #1 for two weeks, was nominated for both Grammy and Academy awards, and landed at #9 on the final Hot 100 of 1983. For better or worse, depending on your perspective, it is one of the most recognizable and unforgettable songs of the decade.

“Maniac” was officially a single from the Flashdance LP, as Bossa Nova Hotel did not hit record stores until September 1983. Sembello warned people that he was not going to release another song that sounded like it. He wanted listeners to forget about his big hit and instead focus on his wide-ranging talent.

That should have been a clue that his next single would be a dud.

This song…oooof. It is cheesy as all get-out. At the same time, it is so blandly anonymous its cheese almost doesn’t register. I’ve listened to it several times this week, and each time my brain thinks it is hearing “Number One” by Chaz Jankel, one of the featured songs in the movie Real Genius. Sembello’s voice is less processed here than “Maniac,” and it comes across slighter because of it. Whether you liked “Maniac” or not, it was a song that grabbed you and forced its way into your head. Nothing about it is compelling enough to register and create long-term memories. It didn’t help that “Automatic Man” lacked the connection to the visuals of Jennifer Beals’ (and her dance double) scenes in Flashdance that “Maniac” had.[2]

The video, though? It is amazing! I had never seen it before this week. I’m am prepared to say it is one of the greatest videos ever made. There is just so much confusing and bizarre stuff going on that you can’t look away. Kind of the total opposite of the song.

This was the final charting single of Sembello’s solo career, and it dropped out of the Top 40 after just two weeks. He continued to work with other artists, most notably Chaka Khan and New Edition. But he never re-captured that magic from the summer of 1983. One critic called Sembello “…Michael McDonald with a rhythm machine, but that would be unnecessarily cruel to McDonald. And the rhythm machine." Well, I think that was unnecessarily cruel. Sembello did some cool things in his career. This song was not one of them. 3/10

  1. Another repeating theme here. In my post about Charlie Sexton, I specifically compared him to Michael Sembello. And a young Ollie Brown was also partially discovered by Stevie Wonder.  ↩

  2. Jennifer Beals is an underrated foxy chick of the Eighties.  ↩

High School Hoops Chronicles, Season One, Volume One

Welcome to the first post in a new, recurring series in these parts. L started her high school basketball career Tuesday night, and I think that deserves a clearly identified set of entries to document her adventures.

The season opener was against the Jesuit school not too far from our house, BPHS. We have good friends who have a son who goes there and it was fun to see him working as a team manager when we walked in. He was in C’s class at St P’s, I coached him in soccer a couple times, and we are still close with his parents. He ran over and said hello and gave C a hug, while his mom showed up later and sat with us.

When we got to our seats L was trying to get my attention from across the court as they warmed up. She was saying something with exaggerated mouth movements. At first I wondered if she was telling me she forgot her water bottle, which she did for their scrimmage two weeks ago. But C caught on to what she was saying quicker, “Oh, she’s starting!” That was my expectation, but I could tell L was excited about it, so I gave her a big thumbs up.

What gets a thumbs down, though, was BPHS’ sound system not working. They lined the teams up to announce starters, paused for a few minutes, and when they couldn’t get the microphone to work scrapped introductions. So we were robbed of hearing her name called before her first high school game. I will hold this against BPHS as long as I live.

On to the game. CHS won the tip, L got the ball, and she sat up the offense. Keep in mind every day when I pick her up from practice she complains how they only work on defense and haven’t done anything on offense. I figured this was a slight exaggeration, but I’m not there. Anyway, she dribbled to the right wing, stopped, waited for a cutter who wasn’t sure what to do, and tried to perform one of the worst dribble handoffs I’ve ever seen. The girl guarding L ripped the ball away and headed up court. One play, one turnover. Not the start I was hoping for.

But L raced back and blocked that girl’s shot! She doesn’t get a lot of blocks so that was a solid recovery.

The whole game had a ragged quality like that play. Lots of tossing and hoping instead of smart passes on offense. BPHS was very physical on defense – I wish they handed out programs so I could see how many of their girls were sophomores and juniors – and any half-assed offense by CHS was blown up. The Braves led by five after the first quarter, seven at halftime, and nine at the end of the third quarter.

BPHS hit the first shot of the fourth quarter to go up 11. The key to their lead was hitting four threes to CHS’ zero. That math adds up, I double-checked.

With about four minutes left it was still a nine-point game. Then something happened, I’m not sure what, and the Irish started playing better offense and getting stops on the other end.

With just under 2:00 left we trailed by five and were inbounding under our own basket, L throwing the ball in. The first attempt got blown up, as L missed an open cutter then tried to force it to our tallest girl inside. A loose ball went off the defense and we got another chance. This time L hit our center, a sophomore from St P’s, and T hit the shot. Down three.

After forcing a five-second call on defense, we had a possession that was truly crazy. It was a wild swing of bad passes, near steals, and a couple terrible shots with offensive rebounds sprinkled in. Eventually L got the ball on the baseline with a lane to the hoop. She drove, flipped it up-and-in, and the margin was down to one with under 30 seconds left.

On the next BPHS possession we got a steal and seemed to have an open layup to take the lead. Only our girl got completely blown up by three defenders. The referee indicated that one of the girls got all ball, which she probably did, but ignored the other two who absolutely wiped our girl out.

I started laughing. I remember well from my sports writing years that refs in JV games do everything they can to get those games over shortly after 7:00 so the varsity girls can have 20 minutes of warmups and then start right at 7:30, even if that means swallowing their whistles on close plays. It was already after 7:10 and the refs knew their job was to avoid overtime.

So CHS is inbounding under our own basket again. We called a timeout and the varsity coach jumped into the huddle to draw something up. It ended up being the same play we had run the last two attempts, only with a couple girls flipped to new spots. L found her old Panther pal again, T hit the contested shot, and we were up one with :07 left. Pandemonium on our side!

After a timeout, BPHS got a relatively open look near the rim by their strongest player. She had to rush her shot, it didn’t hit any rim, and our girls ran around screaming like they had won City when the buzzer sounded.

An exciting and entertaining if not aesthetically pleasing game.

That layup was L’s only basket of the game, going 1–5 from the floor. She also had 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers, that one block, and one foul. I wasn’t tracking minutes but she played around 20 minutes of the 24-minute game. She, like all of her teammates, struggled on offense. She looked nervous early and never seemed to get comfortable. But her defense was really solid. I’ll get more into that in a minute.

After she came back from the locker room and found us she said she played terrible, “I had so many turnovers!” To be fair she made some bad passes that got knocked around before we re-gained possession that didn’t count as official turnovers. But I pointed out she also had three assists and played solid defense. When we got home I told her how good her defense was and she said “That’s the best defense I’ve ever played.” Again, more on that in just a sec. She also told us how nervous she was when the game started, which is unusual for her.

The varsity game was also very entertaining. CHS got up 11 early, but BPHS steadily clawed back into it. The Irish led by one at halftime, trailed by one going into the fourth, and were down by three midway through the quarter. We went on a 10–0 run to take the lead and ended up winning by eight. Our best player, a junior shooting guard, had 24 points. When I told L that this morning she said, “You see what I have to guard every day in practice? She is so good.” I think having to try to slow J down in practice has tightened up L’s defensive game. J also, apparently, guards the hell out of L, so maybe once her nerves calm down and the team is running better team offense, that will provide some benefits in L’s game, too.

Game one in the books, both JV and varsity are 1–0. Not a great performance by L, but she played her best in the game’s biggest minutes. It wasn’t bad for her first high school game.

We have another road game on Thursday, but I will be in Florida that night so no breakdown for it. The girls have a week off before their third game, so your next update will come Thanksgiving week. I promise they won’t all be this long. Unless the games are good enough to warrant 1000-plus words, of course!

Reader’s Notebook, 11/7/23

The Kennedy Men – Laurence Leamer
After about a month of reading, split into sections, I knocked out my Big Book for the fall.

A neighbor passed this to me over the summer. We were sitting on the porch having some drinks and somehow books or the Kennedys or something along those lines came up and she mentioned she had read this book and loved it. She offered it to me. I’m not one to turn down a book so I happily accepted. I was in the midst of a run of reserved library books coming in, so I let it sit on my bookshelf figuring I’d get to it eventually.

The book is subtitled “1901–1963: The Laws of the Father.” The first section was the hardest to get through, as it focused on the Kennedy family’s early history in America and then Joseph Kennedy’s childhood and rise to power. It was hard to get too interested in that part when I knew that there was much bigger stuff coming. It took me over a week to get through Book One, then I set it aside to knock out another book to reset my mind.

Section two begins just after Joe Kennedy Jr. is killed in World War II, with the family, especially his younger brothers, struggling to cope with their loss. John F. Kennedy was thrust into the role as anointed child, the one expected to fulfill all of Joseph’s grand plans. That section takes us through his first run for congress, election to the senate, and finally winning the presidency in 1960. Brothers Bobby and Ted are also covered, if not as in-depth as the future president.

Finally, section three is about the Kennedy presidency, with much time spent on the administration’s various battles over and with Cuba, and JFK and RFK’s uncomfortable relationship with the civil rights movement.

I feel like I know a lot about the Kennedys, so not much here was a true revelation. It was rather shocking, though, to see just how poor JFK’s health was his entire life, and how compromised he was in his final years. I knew he was a womanizer, as well, but the sheer number of women he “entertained” was pretty staggering. I mean, Bill Clinton got impeached over a relationship with one woman. JFK would have laughed at that had he still been alive in 1998.

All that underscored my biggest takeaway, which is you can’t hide anything anymore. JFK was a serial philanderer, suffered from a number of significant health issues, and was under the care of several doctors who used treatments and drugs that the Leader of the Free World probably should not have been using in the nuclear age. But the pubic knew very little about that, and the press, which did know, chose not to publicize it.

Compare that to today when we probably know far too much about our political leaders.

It was also fascinating to read about JFK’s leadership style. In college I learned all about his collegial method of coming to decisions. He believed that you surround yourself with the smartest people you can find, talk issues through from every angle, and then arrive at a decision. I knew less about what a pragmatic, centralist he was. He was suspicious of every political extreme, and worked hard to minimize both those on the far left and far right. That practical style of leadership may have prevented him from accomplishing more in his nearly three years in office. But it also likely was the key factor in avoiding nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Like politicians of today, he always had his eye on the next election. But he also had a special gift for seeing through the emotions of a moment and identifying pitfalls others couldn’t see, as well as paths towards compromise that would neuter his opponents in the process.

The book was a bit of a chore to get through, more because of Leamer’s writing style, than its length. I’m guessing his technique was typical of how some biographies used to be written (this was published in 2001). He had a tendency to overwrite, with most sentences stuffed with too many $1000 words. Here are a couple examples that I noted.

“Kennedy treated gossip like chocolate bonbons, a pleasant little addiction he enjoyed tasting several times a day.”
“The youths dressed up in ersatz adulthood on their forays into the Manhattan nightlife, acting with the nonchalance of the regular habitués.”
He also referred to cheating men like JFK as “swordsmen” far too often. That term has always given me the creeps for some reason.

Anyway, the Kennedys are endlessly fascinating, so while this sucked up most of a month of reading time, it was not a waste even with some stylistic hurdles along the way.

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