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Thoughts on “The Number Ones” of the ’80s

Tom Breihan passed a notable milestone this week in his The Number Ones series: he finished the 1980s. Most days I just glance at the comments. But Monday, as Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise” closed out the decade, I read deep into them, enjoying commenters’ various picks of favorites, most hated, most overlooked, etc tracks.

I don’t participate in the comments section, so I’ll share some of my picks here.

My top 10 Number One songs of the 1980s:

1 – “Let’s Go Crazy” – Prince & The Revolution, 1984. Not my favorite of his songs (my favorite peaked at #2), but my favorite of his number ones.
2 – “Open Your Heart” – Madonna, 1987. Just a perfect little pop song augmented by a fabulous video.
3 – “Out of Touch” – Daryl Hall and John Oates, 1984. Another tough choice from many H&O choices. Like “Let’s Go Crazy,” it’s not my favorite H&O song, but it is a very close second to a track that also peaked at #2.
4 – “Miss You Much” – Janet Jackson, 1989. This feels more like a ‘90s song since most of the singles off Rhythm Nation peaked after the turn of the decade and they were so influential on the music of the ‘90s. But this hit in late 1989, so it’s a legit ‘80s track.
5 – “Down Under” – Men at Work, 1982. Maybe THE essential song of the MTV era.
6 – “Billie Jean” – Michael Jackson, 1983. Again, tough to choose from many options. This suffers just a bit because I’ve never been sure if I like it or “Beat It” more.
7 – “West End Girls” – Pet Shop Boys, 1986. I’m always a little surprised and pleased when I remember this hit number one.
8 – “Owner of a Lonely Heart” – Yes, 1984. An odd song, both in general and in Yes’ discography. It was odd in a good way, though, and remains an absolute jam.
9 – “When Doves Cry” – Prince, 1984. One of the first songs I can remember that haunted me after I heard it for the first time because it was so good.
10 – “Don’t You Want Me” – The Human League, 1982. This along with “Tainted Love” were massive songs to me as I shifted toward picking my own music rather than just listening to what my mom played.

Just missed: “Like a Prayer,” Madonna; “Time After Time,” Cyndi Lauper; “Beat It,” Michael Jackson; “Bette Davis Eyes,” Kim Carnes.

Biggest surprises from reading through Breihan’s 1980s entries:
1 – How freaking huge Phil Collins was. I remember him having a ton of songs, but did not remember him being as massive as he truly was. Seven number ones as a solo artist, with two more top tens. A number two hit in “Easy Lover” with Phillip Bailey. Another number one and five top tens with Genesis. That’s nuts! It’s easy to make fun of Collins for a variety of reasons. And some of those songs are true crap. But a few are still pretty solid. He deserves to be in the pantheon of ‘80s artists whether or not he is your cup of tea.
2 – A new appreciation for George Michael. I was never a huge fan. It was interesting to read about his development as an artist, how he was one of the few white artists to make Black-influenced music that came off as authentic rather than a rip-off of Black culture, and how visionary he was in carving out his career.
3 – The Heart song “Alone.” I had always thrown this in with all the other crappy power-ballads of the era. After reading Tom’s write up I was convinced that it is a freaking beast of a song. I’ve cranked it way up the two or three times I’ve heard it since I read about it.

Now, for balance, here are my ten least favorite number ones of the 1980s.

1 – “Kokomo” – The Beach Boys, 1988. There are a lot of legit choices for worst number one song of the 1980s. To my ears, this blows all the contenders away. This is a truly wretched track that sums up the disaster that was The Beach Boys under Mike Love’s control.
2 – “Do That To Me One More Time” – The Captain and Tennille, 1980. A song that seriously makes me want to vomit. And that’s before knowing how dark and sad their private life was.
3 – “Wind Beneath My Wings” – Bette Midler, 1989. Hot garbage.
4 – “Chariots of Fire” – Vangelis, 1982. Garbage.
5 – “Endless Love” – Diana Ross & Lionel Richie, 1981. A true piece of crap. This was somehow supposed to represent teenagers being in some kind of forbidden love? The fact it was number one for a million weeks is a crime against humanity that Lionel still needs to be held accountable for since he wrote it.
6 – “Say You, Say Me” – Lionel Richie, 1985. A song that makes no sense, lyrically or musically.
7 – “The One That You Love” – Air Supply, 1981. I will shit on Air Supply any time I get a chance.
8 – “Ebony and Ivory” – Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder, 1982. It’s is frankly stunning that two of the greatest songwriters in the history of popular music could make something this bad.
9 – “Hangin’ Tough” – New Kids on the Block, 1989. Set back white boys like 100 years with this bullshit. They might have sold more records, but NKOTB could never hold New Edition’s collective jock.
10 – “Lady” – Kenny Rogers, 1980. Guess who wrote this? LIONEL FUCKING RICHIE, THAT’S WHO.


August 2021

* Pearl Jam – 51
* The War on Drugs – 32
* Alien Boys – 27
* The Rolling Stones – 25
* Torres – 25

Complete stats available at my page.

Tuesday Links

We’ll do some links today since I can’t seem to get my latest Reader’s Notebook entry finished, nor come to any thoughts worth sharing on other subjects.

Guess I haven’t posted any links in a few weeks because the first is a few weeks old. Hell, it was old when I talked about it with friends in KC two weeks ago. My bad.

The intro to this piece made me laugh out loud, because it is very true. For many, many years each time I flew I would have some kind of KU/Lawrence/KC shirt on. I figured I should always be representing.

There’s almost an unwritten law of civic pride if you grew up or spent any significant time in metro Kansas City (which straddles Kansas and Missouri): “If one is traveling away from Kansas City, one must wear a T-shirt or other piece of clothing identifying oneself as a Kansas Citian.”

’Ted Lasso’ makes me homesick for Kansas City. I called his mom to ask why

I must admit I didn’t know much about Charlie Watts, other than how he looked, before his death. These are some fine little anecdotes that will shed some light on who he was.

14 Charlie Watts Stories That Prove He Was the Rolling Stones’ Rock

I missed Sunday’s six-hole playoff between Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay, but apparently it was must-see TV. A tense affair that seemed to feature some real bad blood between the two. When I first started paying attention to golf again three years ago, I was fascinated by DeChambeau. He seemed to be what I begged golfers to be for years: bring a different perspective to the game. Like many, though, I was eventually turned off by his needy behavior, by his total lack of self-awareness, and his whole “I’m the smartest guy in the room” act. An act that regularly was proven to not be so smart. It’s kind of amazing how quickly he has morphed into the most hated golfer in the game.

Nothing about the Bryson DeChambeau experience is easy these days

I was floored when I heard how much Amazon was spending both to acquire the rights to and make a new series based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. Especially since they would be mining material that was far less known that his Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings stories. And then I read this piece, which makes it seem crazier.

What the Tolkien estate sold was the rights to the Second Age, but reportedly not the parts of those stories told in the books primarily about the First Age (the Silmarillion, etc.) At the same time, Amazon cannot contradict those stories either. Amazon’s series will have to be consistent with the Tolkien canon, while at the same time drawing on the vaguest, least detailed portion of it: genealogies, a few outlines of stories, and not much more.

I guess there’s an audience out there for this, especially given how huge Game of Thrones was. But seems like if you’re going to, likely, eventually, spend over a billion dollars on a project you should have more leeway in how you create the final product.

Tolkien and Amazon’s Fight for a Franchise

Speaking of Amazon…our home is as guilty as anyone for being sucked into making it our first, and often only, stop when shopping. Reading this piece, which details how difficult it can be to sell your good on Amazon and how equally tough it can be to not sell your stuff there, makes me want to use it as more of a starting point from which I branch out and eventually click buy on the site of the actual producer of whatever I’m buying.

As Demand For Bikes Surged, Amazon Got In The Way: A bike parts company ditched Amazon to support indie shops instead

What’s going on in Afghanistan is obviously an absolute mess, one that President Biden will pay the political price for despite his three predecessors being the ones who created it.

Phil Klay, who has written a lot about the wars we’ve been fighting for the past 20 years, provides some perspective.

9/11 unified America. It overcame partisan divides, bound us together, and gave us the sense of common purpose so lacking in today’s poisonous politics. And nothing that we have done as a nation since has been so catastrophically destructive as what we did when we were enraptured by the warm glow of victimization and felt like we could do anything, together.

American Purpose After the Fall of Kabul

Finally, Steven Hyden adds to his series of Best XX Songs by Group Y with a look at The Who. I’ve long said their top 5–10 songs stack up next to any other band’s. Especially when you hear them live. But they just don’t have the depth that other bands have. That’s probably why Hyden has gone through The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Pearl Jam, and Led Zeppelin before getting to The Who.

Unlike other lists, I’m not sure there can be any debate about what their best song is.

The Best Songs By The Who, Ranked

The Roy Kent Effect

This episode…hmmm. I thought about it a lot between my two viewings, the first on Saturday morning, the second Sunday evening. The idea kept occurring to me that every season has a lull episode, one where not much happens but the pieces are all getting sorted into the right places to build towards bigger developments in the future. That made a lot more sense back in the day when a full season included 20+ episodes and you had to work in some breaks. In the modern era, where a “season” is often 10-12 episodes, a lull episode feels like a waste.

I’m hoping that’s what this week’s episode, “The Signal,” was. Based on the last five minutes, when shit suddenly started happening quickly, I’m pretty sure that’s the case. But those first 25-30 minutes felt a bit wasteful.

Let’s discuss.

“Wait, your mum’s your cleaner?”

Good for Rebecca for getting shagged! One of the great things about this show is how it takes a very modern and fair view of sexuality. Women are just as free to be sexual beings and have casual relationships as men. No one tell my daughters I feel that way.

“Stupid barking means it’s over, right?”

The way Roy knew to immediately step out when the Diamond Dogs meeting began was just perfect.

“Hey, Roy. You know you’re paid to coach the whole team, right?”

“No, no, that’s fine. Just take four percent of my paycheck.”

“You’re an ugly, ugly boy. With bad hair. Say it.”

“I am…I am an ooglay, ooglay boy…with hair that maybay, could be slightlay…with bad hair, fine.”

First, it’s fun to try to write in Jamie’s accent.

My favorite part of this week’s episode was the Jamie and Roy stuff. So, YES! It has taken far too long to get Jamie worked into the main plot lines this season. I’m just going to assume that Phil Dunster was filming another project and they had to back off on Jamie while he was away.

I didn’t buy for a second that Jamie had somehow matured so much that he would effortlessly slide in and become a perfect teammate. I liked that we saw that while Jamie has indeed matured, he’s still not totally comfortable with it. I love that he finally realizes geezer Roy Kent can teach him a ton about the game. I love that Jamie can swallow his ego enough to beg Roy to make him better.

And I thought it was a great that Roy was the one reluctant to engage. He’s been a leader most of his playing career. He had the moment last week where he felt the magic of passing his knowledge along to younger players and seeing it make a difference in their games. And now he’s on the coaching staff. But he still has so much baggage with Jamie, and is so fucking stubborn, that he has to be pushed to work with Jamie.

When it happens he is spot-on with his assessment: being a good teammate doesn’t mean that you forget what made you great. It’s fine to pass the ball and to care about your teammates’ feelings. But Jamie was a budding star because he had an uncanny ability to get the ball past the keeper. Maturity is finding the middle ground of those two behaviors, and the right moment to apply each.

“The little prick’s gonna fucking score from there.”


By the way, it was something to see Jamie stand over that free kick as Cristiano Ronaldo would, THE EXACT SAME WEEK CR7 RETURNED TO MANCHESTER UNITED. Are the writers Rebecca’s mom’s psychics or something?

“Looks like the coaching staff are panicking, Arlo. This is what a fish pie can do to a team.”

The fish pie lines made me laugh.

I was kind of shocked that there wasn’t a 15-second description of what the FA Cup is, or what the soccer term “park the bus” means. I guess the writers have decided we all either know that stuff already, or we’re fully capable of looking it up on our own without some patronizing aside within the show.

“Tartt buries it in the back of the net! Richmond, impossibly, are on top!”

I found the way we experienced what should have been the episode’s, and entire season’s, biggest moment fascinating. Here we have tiny Richmond taking out giants Tottenham in the closing seconds of an FA Cup quarterfinal, at home, and we only hear it in the background while Rebecca searches for Ted. That’s a tough choice but I think it worked. A lot of shows would have cut back-and-forth between the action on the field and Rebecca’s search, building the drama in the process. The way it was presented deprived the audience of a moment of tremendous joy, which cranks up the anxiety about what the hell is wrong with Ted even higher.

“I wanna make an appointment.”

Two massive reveals in the closing moments. First, Sam is Rebecca’s Bantr buddy? SAM?!?! That is unexpected and verrrrrry interesting. It was funny to think back to the messages they’ve shown the past few weeks and think of them in Sam’s voice instead of Ted’s. And I told you they wouldn’t take the lazy Sam-and-Diane path with Ted and Rebecca! (Do not bookmark this comment in case they hook up in the season finale.)

Of course Ted’s panic attack – or whatever it was – is the biggest long-term development this week. Bigger than Richmond’s win since that’s where the cameras went as the game was won.

I thought it came about strangely. The only panic attack I’ve ever had was when I had to get an MRI without sedatives, so while I’m no expert, I know they can happen at any moment for any reason. However, Ted didn’t seem very affected by the call from his son’s school throughout the episode until – WHAM – it floors him at the end of the game? We know stress has been building in him. The Led Tasso thing a few weeks back, in addition to being weird, was not something a man who is in a good place does. I just thought the timing felt a little odd. I even wondered if there was a scene between those two points that set it up better that did not make the final cut of the show.

Regardless, we will finally get the meeting we knew would happen, Ted and Dr. Sharon. When she arrived she seemed like a threat to Ted. She just might be here to save him.

Ah, but there is still a threat to Ted. Maybe two, in fact. There is Roy, who every Richmond fan will be shouting for to take over since he’s English, played the game, and has had an immediate impact since joining the staff. And there is Nate, who has a gift for making strategic decisions akin to Ted’s gift of setting people at ease. It was fine to have folksy Ted making the players feel good about themselves when no one else wanted to coach Richmond (plus their owner was trying to destroy them). But when guys with actual soccer, excuse me, football acumen are on the staff? Game changer. At least for dramatic purposes.

I’m calling it now: no matter what happens over the next six episodes, there’s about a 92% chance that season three will involve either Ted coaching another club because Roy and/or Nate have taken over Richmond, or Ted remaining at Richmond while they take on another club(s) he must coach against.

Lock that in on your favorite betting app.

Not my favorite episode of the season, but the final five minutes seem to have us headed down a more interesting path.

Some more quotes and thoughts to wrap up:

I guess that last time in Charlie Watts’ life a Rolling Stones song was used in a new context on a TV show or movie was last week’s episode. RIP.

I love Bantr now being the prime sponsor for Richmond. We know Sam approves of that!

2MSCNT being Rebecca’s hookup app is hilarious. I thought it was a throw-away line last week but they went all-in with it.

I enjoy how British people pronounce the word “clothes.” They really stress that “TH.” It sounds very proper and dignified.

“I am a strong and capable man, I am not a piece of shit.”

“Colin, you don’t need the second part.”

“That is a joke for people born in the early to mid 70s.”

I mentioned this last week, Ted makes fun of himself for it this week.

“Steve Wiebes vs Billy Mitchells.”

If you know, you know.

“And then I stood up, I flushed the toilet, I pulled up my trousers, and I walked straight out of there.”

I wasn’t enamored with the Rebecca’s mom angle, nor the Beard-Jane stuff. I suppose they were both designed to highlight difficult conversations we put off to set up Ted’s conversation with Sharon. But this line made me laugh. Heavy conversations about the state of your marriage should always be done on the shitter.

“Aww, look at that sponge!”

“That’s rubbish!”

“Temper your chocolate, you twat!”

I missed the lads in the pub! This was a fine way to bring them back. Mae making faces and doing dances with them always gets me, too. I guarantee I’ll be thinking “temper your chocolate, you twat!” when I start watching my fall baking shows.

I miss Trent Crimm of The Independent.

Finally, there is the shot of Rebecca’s shoes that she kicks off when she arrives home after the game. Those are, what, six-inch heels? Isn’t the woman already 6-4, 6-5? Good Lord!

(Hannah Waddingham is 5-11, for the record.)

Friday Playlist

We’ve reached the point in the year when it starts to hit you how deep into the calendar we are. I’m only 4-5 weeks away from starting to give early attention to my favorite songs of the year list. Yeesh.

“Undone” – The Shivas
I know I had heard of this Portland band in the past, but can’t say that I recall any of their songs. This one is treeeeemendous! I sampled a few of their other tracks and none either sound like this or can match it’s feel. There’s really a little of everything in this track, from the ’60s up to the present. They get that mix just right.

“In Blur” – Deafhaven
Once black metalists, Deadhaven pivoted toward more traditional shoegaze on their latest album. Which pissed off a lot of fans. The move worked for me, as I dig this and several of their other new tracks.

“Blue Heaven” – Public Service Broadcasting with Andreya Casablanca
PSB’s upcoming album is inspired by a trip to Berlin, and time spent in the Hansa studios where both David Bowie and U2 recorded some of their best work. German singer Casablanca supplies the vocals on this ripper.

“Running” – Blackfoot
Some more wonderful Zamrock for your ears.

“Get Off Of My Cloud” – The Rolling Stones
RIP to Charlie Watts. I’m not a drummer, I don’t know much about music theory, but I knew exactly what people writing his obituary were saying when they described him as an “in the pocket drummer.” He was always right THERE. Never flashy. Always with that little grin on his face.

“Midnight Rambler” – The Rolling Stones
While looking through some live Stones vids, I came across this insanely good performance from 1971.

“You had me at ‘Coach'”: Ted Lasso, S2,E5

I took a little heat from a few friends during our Kansas City trip for why the hell I’m not doing breakdowns of Ted Lasso as I did for ER back in the day. Sadly those ER breakdowns were all in my pre-blog life, and lost forever when I left my former employer in 2004. I wonder if they’re still stored on some old backup in their servers somewhere…

I’ve never thought of going all-in on a show like that again. Not for Ed or Scrubs or The Office or Parks & Rec or The Americans or The Good Place, the shows I’ve been most obsessed with in their moment since my ER days. And since I both started Ted Lasso about a month after it debuted, and was never sure which of my friends were also watching it, I never considered it, either.

Cal me me peer-pressured, because here goes: my first Ted Lasso breakdown! I’ll admit I feel real pressure to live up to the legend of my ER breakdowns. And to try to remember how I structured them. So this may be a work in progress until I find my rhythm again.

Four storylines this week:
1 – Nate trying to build up some confidence
2A – Ted trying to instill confidence in Isaac
2B – And doing so by attempting to lure Roy into coaching
3 – Rebecca continuing her search for love

Let’s start with Nate. I have not loved Nate this year. That’s because he lost much of the cluelessness that made him so adorable last year. A few times that’s been replaced by shrillness. I enjoyed watching him learn how to translate his confidence from the coaching room to real life, so, at least in this situation, he wasn’t treated like a fucking doormat. I doubt whether that has any long-term consequences, though.

I was a little frustrated by how Ted’s part began. Reviewing tape of a loss in the locker room and he’s sharing his idea of Rom-communism, where everything will just work out in the end.

I know Ted is not your typical coach, but what kind of leader has that attitude? It’s one thing to accept bad results, bad luck, and even shit play by looking on the bright side and believing better days are ahead. But to just say it doesn’t matter because things will work out? I was not a fan in the macro sense.

Ahhh, but in the context of this episode, it ends up working quite nicely. All the little callbacks to classic ’90s rom-coms were very nice. It’s one of those things that could very easily go awry in the hands of weaker writers. But this crew always manages to pull it off. They won me over in the last ten minutes after a few rough moments early.

I very much enjoyed every moment of Roy’s screen time. Which is like the “Duh”-est thing I’ve ever written. Roy Kent is fucking gold. I’m a little sad that we won’t see him doing analysis in the studio anymore, because that stuff was legendary. But I also see how it likely wasn’t sustainable. He needed more to do than sit in a studio saying hilarious things. Adding him to the coaching staff both continues the surprising transformation of this character and opens up all kind of wonderful opportunities for plot developments.

One of the many things that is great about this show is how you see genuine moments of emotion from nearly every character. We saw it from Roy this week when it hit him in the studio how much he misses being part of a team. Those emotional moments are the realist thing on the show, and even more that the general sense of positivity, I think they are what make viewers build such a strong connection to the program.

As for Rebecca, I read a summary of the Christmas episode from a week ago that pointed out how Rebecca picking up Ted to share in her gift-giving trip was a wonderful moment because you could see the real affection they have for each other, but there was nothing sexual about it. I thought that was a nice observation. And I thought it was an interesting choice to avoid the Will They or Won’t They angle. A choice maybe only Ted Lasso would make.

Ahhhh, but this week, did you notice? Did you see that early in the show there was a transition from Ted on his phone to Rebecca on hers on her dating app? And later, it goes the opposite way, Rebecca messaging from her owner’s box jumping to Ted walking into the locker room, looking at his phone and smiling? Just a coincidence, right? Just a little moment to throw us off, right? Or were those clues about where we are headed?

Other assorted thoughts:
It wasn’t just this week, but there are a ton of 1990s pop culture references in the show. Obviously that’s because that’s when Jason Sudeikis/Ted Lasso grew up. But I sometimes wonder if soccer players from Europe and Africa who were born in the late ‘90s would really get Ted’s references.

Nice touch to begin an episode built upon The Rolling Stones’ “She’s A Rainbow” with Frankie Avalon’s “Swingin’ On A Rainbow.”

Hannah Waddingham is one of the most striking women I’ve seen in my life. It’s like she was cut out of marble in ancient Rome or Greece. Honestly, I have trouble focusing on what people are saying any time she is on screen.

As Keely and Rebecca were discussing Bantr in the hallway, Isaac snuck out with his free coffee maker, his arms wrapped around it in a big, sad hug. Just another sign that he needed some help.

The only KC reference I caught was Rockhurst University grad George Wendt’s picture on the wall at the kebob place.

Did you read how Roy signed his picture? “Yum. Roy Kent.” Love it.

I believe I wrapped up my ER breakdowns with some of my favorite lines of each week. There are soooo many great lines in Ted Lasso each week that I’m going to have to do some serious editing to keep from sharing too many. Here are this week’s top lines:

“No, I gave you an indoor whistle.”

Nate’s look of utter confusion was hilarious. And props to Ted for realizing a replacement was necessary.

“My mother says I was born caffeinated.”

Dani Rojas!

“Oh, you’d look well-fit with pigtails.“
“I do!”

I love Keely’s sexual admiration for Rebecca. Speaking of…

“Fuck, you’re amazing. Let’s invade France.”

“Oy, this is Isaac. These are all the other fucks. You’re with them.”

Roy’s absolute disdain for social niceties will never not be funny.

”I brought you here to remind you that football is a fucking game that you used to play as a fucking kid. ’Cause it was fun even when you were getting your fucking legs broken or your fucking feelings hurt. So fuck your feelings, fuck your overthinking, fuck all that bullshit, go back out there and have some fucking fun.”

I coached soccer for three years with a friend. His daughter anchored our back line; L was our scoring machine up front. We agreed we really should have used this speech at halftime the year we lost our playoff semifinal 1–0.

”So you’re feeling under pressure?”

I do enjoy how Doctor Sharon just casually goes along with Ted’s little games. She acts put-out, but she’s always right there with him.

”He’s 17. He’ll probably have chips for dinner and a wank before bed.“
”Apologies for the language.”

I’m going to miss Jeff Stelling apologizing for Roy’s language.

”George, didn’t you lose your license drink driving?“
”That was an allergic reaction to my medication!“
”Is that the same medication that made you piss your pants?”

Roy Kent! Roy Kent! He’s here, he’s there, he’s every-fucking-where!

A Return to the Motherland

A wedding took us back to Kansas City for a very quick trip over the weekend.[1] I think most of my regular readers were at the wedding, so most importantly it was great to see you all!

The wedding was wonderful and the reception everything we hoped it would be. It was a terrific night with nearly all of my closest KC friends dancing together for three or four hours. This wedding was originally supposed to take place nearly a year-and-a-half ago, but was wiped out by the first weekend of national lockdown. That was a bummer in many ways, but ended up being a good thing for me. Had the wedding taken place as scheduled, we would have been on spring break in Colorado and missed it. I’m very glad I was able to attend.

Being such a tight trip – we arrived in KC before 4:00 Friday afternoon and left right at 7:30 Sunday morning – did not leave a ton of time to squeeze stuff in.

After we checked into our hotel, S and I made a lap of the Plaza. It’s always a shock how things have changed down there. I’ve been bummed for years that probably 90% of the shops and restaurants on the Plaza can also be found at the mall that is a mile and a half from our house. Sure, our mall doesn’t have the same feel as the Plaza. But the Plaza doesn’t feel nearly as unique when I can buy a lot of the same shit five minutes from my front door.

Thank goodness for places like the Charlie Hustle store, Rally House (which is a chain but always seems like a KC store to me), and the Made in KC Marketplace, where I bought a cool t-shirt.

It was crazy to see that building that used to house The Capital Grill, among other things, completely demolished.

I thought it was cool that since the last time we stayed at the Plaza Hampton Inn they’ve torn down another one of the old apartment buildings on the north side of 47th street. Thus I was able to look out our room window and see my old apartment at Plaza Terrace. I was living there exactly 20 years ago!

Friday night we met a few of you for dinner at Third Street Social, which was excellent. Before we got to KC I thought we might walk there from our hotel. I had made the walk from 46th and Jefferson to the Peanut many times over the years. I knew that might be a stretch for us – again, it’s been 20 years – but would be doable. We could always catch a ride back afterward. Then we felt the KC heat and humidity and decided we didn’t want to be soaked with sweat for dinner and drove ourselves.

We even got a bonus loud Kansas City thunderstorm that woke us up after midnight. It also allowed me to see Gary Lezak get excited about approaching heavy weather on the 10:00 news.

Saturday we got up and took another walk around the Plaza. My plan was to order some Joe’s Barbecue to take to a lunch we had planned for 11:30. John N told me that you could order curbside online, so I tried to do that around 9:00 AM. By then the earliest pickup time was already 11:30. I thought about just running over and getting in line around 10:45, but after our walk I wasn’t in the mood to stand in a line.

Past experience taught me that you can’t rely on Gates to have burnt ends when they first open. So we called an audible and grabbed some Planet Sub, which I had actually been thinking about earlier in the week. Whole Planet Sub, no Dijon. My go-to order for 32 years is still a winner.

That was consumed with friends at Loose Park, near the Rose Garden. We found a shady spot and had some good conversation before it was time to get ready for the wedding.

Too little time to eat all the foods I wanted to eat, or see much outside the Plaza. Most importantly, too little time to really catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in two years (four years for a few of you). We could never find any direct flights from Indy to KC. I forgot a new terminal is being built at KCI. Stacey B suggested perhaps when it opens they’ll add those direct flights back in. Those flights were always full, and I would love to have that quick flight option rather than driving eight hours or having to fly to Baltimore or some other bullshit to get to KC.

A few quick travel notes:

  • We used Apple Maps via CarPlay to guide us. It seemed pretty good. We even switched to Google Maps at one point and it kept overriding our intended destination and replacing it with a generic address in downtown KC. Apple Maps did keep offering alternate routes that were strange. Not the “Take this route to save 13 minutes” type stuff. They were always long detours from our intended path. One said it would take us 3:38 longer than just staying on I–70 the entire way. Who the fuck wants to do that unless I–70 is shut down?!?!
  • Sadly, speaking of that, Friday on our way over there was a terrible accident on the opposite side of I–70 in central Illinois. There was a Life Flight helicopter sitting in the eastbound lanes and dozens of emergency vehicles. Traffic was backed up over three miles behind the crash. We later learned a westbound truck had crossed over, hit two cars, instantly killing the driver and passenger in one of them. Just awful…
  • After that I feel bad about making this comment, but it was kind of good to see that I–70 in Missouri is still the shit show it has always been. That stretch from the western St. Louis suburbs until about half an hour outside Columbia is one of the craziest stretches I’ve ever driven. It has always been “Go 80+ in the left lane, or 60 in the right line.” There are no other options. Occasionally someone from out-of-state will get stuck in the left lane going too slow and it’s a mad dash to find an opening to pass them on the right. I think I actually waved my fist in mock disgust at a driver from Michigan who was puttering along at the speed limit in the left lane. “You have to go 85 if you want to drive in the left lane in Missouri, motherfucker!”
  • We took S’s Jeep Grand Cherokee. As usual she is waaaay below her lease mileage limit so that made more sense. I don’t always love driving it – I find its transmission to be a little rough – and would have preferred driving my Audi. But you can’t argue with the free miles we have stocked away in the Jeep.
  • I was kind of surprised there wasn’t more insurrectionist propaganda along the way. Sure, we saw a few flags and signs. But far fewer than I expected. If only that meant the supporters of insurrection had actually disappeared.

Again, great to see all of you who were at the wedding. I’m committed to getting back next year, so long as travel returns to normal and I can get to KC without spending two hours in Charlotte waiting on a connecting flight.

  1. We did not go into any Quick Trips, though.  ↩

Friday Playlist

By the time you read this post and begin listening to this week’s tracks, S and I will be on the road, headed west towards Kansas City and a weekend wedding. To honor that occasion, these songs are inspired by the collection of music the bride-to-be gave her DJ. Plus one song required any time I go to KC.

Oh Crap: College Sports Realignment Talk

I believe it was right as the Olympics were beginning that the first rumors surfaced that Oklahoma and Texas might leave the Big 12 for the SEC. My immediate reaction was, “No way. Texas isn’t leaving all the Longhorn Network money on the table so they can lose to Alabama every year.” Within three days we knew that not only were the rumors true, but the move was pretty much a done deal after at least six months of secret negotiations.

I guess I should have known this was coming. When we went through the last round of conference realignment merry-go-round, I said the “new” arrangement would last roughly a decade before the next series of moves began. That was nine years ago, so right on time. You should pay attention to what I write!

It also should have been a clue that things were happening when rumors started bubbling up earlier this summer that Oklahoma was tired of playing at 11:00 AM central time on Fox.

I did not expect it all to happen so quickly, though.

First, I must say the bitter part of me, which has watched the rest of the Big 12 bend over backwards to keep Texas happy for 25 years, actually enjoys the idea of them going to the SEC. Texas only really cares about football. Other than when they had once-in-a-lifetime QB Vince Young, they’ve been chasing Oklahoma the entire life of the Big 12. And now they think they’re going to go to the SEC WITH Oklahoma and have more luck in a conference that has at least two teams that can wax OU in any given season? Good-fucking-luck with that. And good riddance!

But, really, the more pressing matter is what the hell happens to KU now. KU came awfully close to getting totally screwed ten years ago, and it was only the Longhorn Network placating Texas and Oklahoma deciding it was better to remain where they were for the time being that prevented some horrible scenario where KU was playing in the Mountain West.[1]

Are things any different this time, after a decade in which the KU football program has gotten progressively worse each year and brings literally nothing to the table where football is king?


I’m not going too deep into the weeds of the rumors now, as things have calmed down a bit since the initial news broke and it seems like we may be in for a period of uncertainty before any new news drops.

The folks I follow, though, seem confident that KU will land somewhere safe. I sure hope they’re right.

If KU has any chance of remaining in the Power 5, it is almost solely because of basketball. A lot of national writers have shit on the idea that basketball has any sway in realignment. And I get it. They’ve all been programmed to think that the entire college sports world revolves around football, and there are never exceptions to that rule. One ESPN writer has gone to great lengths to show how little basketball factors into the overall TV contracts for conferences.

His math misses the point that KU has been a top 30 athletic department in terms of revenue over the past decade. That’s entirely because of basketball. He also discounts what a report in The Athletic pointed out: when it comes to basketball programs that generate TV viewers, there are the K schools: Kansas and Kentucky. Everyone else is well behind them.

KU basketball demands eyeballs, regardless of who they play and when they play. That matters, even if it may not matter as much as what Texas or Oklahoma can provide through football.

That’s the point the football-focused writers who are covering realignment miss: this round of realignment is not about network TV the way it was ten years ago. It is about generating new sources of revenue for televised coverage. KU is one of the very few schools that can do that on the basketball side. When conferences are looking for every possible angle to enrich their coffers, especially when a break from the NCAA seems more-and-more likely, KU basketball is absolutely an asset. Is it enough to make a difference in saving KU’s Power 5 status? Well that’s the multi-million dollar question.

Mike Vernon seems to be the most checked-in source for KU news. He insists that the people he’s talking to inside/around KU are both prepared for this moment and confident that they are in a good place. Vernon has been right on a lot of huge KU news over the past year, generally well before national writers. What he’s reporting so far is almost entirely from the KU perspective, so sharing their confidence could be entirely misguided. KU could have a terrific plan, have all the right people making the decisions, be having quiet, preliminary talks with other conferences, and there’s a decent chance none of that will matter when decision time comes.

With that in mind, allow me walk through the four scenarios I see for how this could play out for KU.

  • Join the Big Ten, 15–20% chance.
    This seems to be the path that KU really wants, and is working hard to leverage its strongest academic selling points to earn. For this to happen, the Big 10 is going to need to add at least one more school, and likely as many as three. So even if the Big Ten is super interested in adding KU and working to make it happen, it’s going to take some time. This would be my preferred landing spot – come on, games in Bloomington and West Lafayette!?!? – but as much as I want it to happen, I’m struggling to find the scenario where it works for the Big Ten. It will take a ton of things breaking just right for this option to become reality. So 20% is probably optimistic.
  • Join the ACC, 15–20%.
    There have been rumors floating around that ESPN is pushing this. The thought is that they already control the rights for the SEC (excepting the CBS Saturday game) and thus have THE football conference locked up. Adding KU to the ACC makes it THE basketball conference, and ESPN owns those rights as well. Thus they would control the premier league in both sports just as the NCAA falls apart. Convenient! These rumors also seemed to be what set off the Big 12 commissioner a couple weeks back, when he accused ESPN of trying to destroy what was left of the Big 12. The catch here is the ACC is already the premier basketball league. Adding KU would be a nice cherry on top, but not a necessity. And this would also require at least one more team joining the ACC with KU to keep things balanced. (Or losing a team to the SEC/Big Ten I guess.) If ESPN is genuinely involved, though, that could push this scenario over the top.
  • Remain in an expanded Big 12, 50–60%.
    I think KU will do everything it can to land in the Big Ten or ACC. That may be too daunting of an ask, though. The Big 12 grabbing Houston, SMU, Cincinnati, and Central Florida and retaining the current eight programs gets the conference back to 12 teams, adds two more Texas schools to juice the TV numbers, and keeps them in the Power 5. Not ideal, but it keeps the three remaining Big 8 rivalries with K-State, Iowa State, and Oklahoma State in place; keeps travel reasonable; and even with a reduced football TV contract, keeps some money flowing in. This feels like a short-term solution, though, and every member of the Big 12 version 3.0 would be angling to move elsewhere when the inevitable fall of the NCAA comes.
  • The Nightmare Scenario: being forced into a second-tier conference like the AAC, 10+%.
    This is absolutely an option, and probably more realistic than any KU fan wants to admit.

Kansas is a very small state with two Power 5 football schools and a state legislature that is hostile to higher education. Research dollars are drying up. For whatever benefits KU gains from being an AAU accredited university, from the Med center/school’s dramatic ascent in recent years, from its healthy endowment, and from what basketball can provide, the long-term prospects for the school are challenging. Not that they aren’t for every school, but the odds for KU look particularly bleak. If the Big Ten and ACC pass and the Big 12 can’t cobble together a survival strategy, dropping out of the Power 5 is a real possibility.

For various reasons going independent is unlikely to work, so most likely KU is looking at joining the AAC where there is still a football option. That will lead to a devastating decrease in TV dollars. I think KU basketball will be fine in the short term, call it the Bill Self factor. One positive is that playing in the AAC would be a much better way to finally rebuild the football program. But the loss of TV revenues would be massive, and the school and athletic department would quickly feel the effects from that reduction. In 5–10 years, after the dust settles and Self is retired, KU will have a very different place in the college athletic world.

There are all kinds of other silly rumors that have popped up over the past month. ESPN would also try to get Kentucky to flip from the SEC to the ACC when building its basketball super conference. Nebraska might jump back to the Big 12. The California schools will leave the Pac–12 en masse for the Big Ten. I mean, those seem silly at first glance but it’s hard to know what’s based on reality and what is not right now.

I think the only thing that is certain is that the NCAA is on its last legs. That’s the whole point of the SEC looking to expand, from my view. Schools are sick of the NCAA taking a huge cut of the money they generate. They are tired of an organization the contradicts itself every time it makes a public statement and has steadfastly refused to get out in front of any of the important issues facing college sports. Adding Texas and Oklahoma gives the SEC the power to have the biggest say in what the landscape of college sports will look like they day they break away from the NCAA. The SEC will likely take whatever the first step is that ultimately kills the NCAA for Power 5 football schools.

It is a frightening time for KU fans.[2] KU has always punched above its weight in the college sports world thanks to basketball. There’s a decent chance that advantage could go away in the near future and KU will be just another state school from a small state that plays games on channels no one ever watches.

I’m not investing too much emotionally into what Mike Vernon is reporting, or what my friends with connections at KU are telling me. It’s all too speculative at the moment. I will cling to the hope that there do seem to be options, though, and KU is being aggressive in finding one that protects both KU’s history and the opportunity to remain successful in the future.

  1. If KU goes to the Mountain West in 2012 or 2013, is Bill Self now coaching in the NBA, the glory days of KU hoops are long past, and the program is not waiting to hear what the penalties will be for getting into bed with Adidas?  ↩
  2. And for fans/alums of every other remaining Big 12 school.  ↩

Reaching for the Stars, Vol. 61

Chart Week: August 1, 1981
Song: “Don’t Want to Wait Anymore” – The Tubes
Chart Position: #37, 7th week on the chart. Peaked at #35 for two weeks.

The Tubes will collect residual checks until they die for one song: “She’s a Beauty,” their #10 smash from the summer of 1983. It is an absolute classic of its era; any list of best songs of the 1980s would be incomplete without it. If you listen to 80’s on 8 on SiriusXM or your local retro station very often, you are guaranteed to hear it a couple times each week. Nearly 40 years after its release, it still immediately reminds me of hanging out with friends at the YMCA day camp pool while Q–104 or ZZ–99 blared out over cheap speakers.

Most folks would consider The Tubes One Hit Wonders. For years I would have argued against that, submitting that they also had a cool song called “Talk To Ya Later.”

For years, it turns out, I was wrong. I remember “Talk To Ya Later” pretty well, but it didn’t even crack the Hot 100, peaking at #101 in 1981. I’m guessing it was resurrected by some DJs after “She’s a Beauty” hit, and that’s how I know it.

The band indeed hit the Top 40 one other time, though, in the summer of 1981 with “Don’t Want to Wait Anymore.” This song is not seared into my brain at all. In fact, when I heard it last week, I was both sure I had never heard it before and shocked that it was The Tubes.[1]

Some of that is because rather than regular lead singer Fee Waybill, guitarist Bill Spooner supplies the vocals here.

I also probably don’t remember it because it kind of sucks.

Seriously, what the hell is this? How did the same band that came up with such a bright, fun, and unforgettable track as “She’s a Beauty” hit the charts with this piece of boring, middle-of-the-road, crap? I would describe “She’s a Beauty” and “Talk To Ya Later” as “Fast Times Rock.” I.e. from that broad swath of early ‘80s music that was equal parts New Wave and straight rock and would have fit nicely onto the soundtrack for Fast Times at Ridgemont High or any other teen movie of the early ‘80s.[2]

This song strikes me as something a band trying hard to sound like Chicago on the state fair circuit might have written, not a group that had serious roots in the art, punk, and glam worlds. I guess there’s a touch of some Styx-like space rock in there, if you listen hard enough. Still, that ain’t New Wave. Hell, if there was a horn section, you could talk me into believing this was a deep track on Chicago 16 or Chicago 17.

I totally get why the rest of the band does not appear in the video. They knew it was trash. I guess the joke was on them, though, as this is the song that saves The Tubes from being a One Hit Wonder by the strictest definition of the term.

  1. Somewhat ironically I heard two different countdowns from August 1981 last week. When I turned on the Sunday morning countdown, what song was playing? Yep, “Don’t Want to Wait Anymore.” The Music Gods make their presence known once again.  ↩

  2. Actually the Fast Times soundtrack is loaded with classic rock, although there are some terrific New Wave tracks on it as well. Maybe the soundtrack for The Last American Virgin would be a better choice. But “Virgin Rock” does not sound right.  ↩

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