Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It Will Never Happen, But....

So, maybe this post has something to do with the fact that I went out for beers and buffalo-wings to watch the Sox trounce the Yanks with a couple of buddies. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I gave my two weeks last Tuesday and am none-too-concerned with work for the next week plus. Maybe it has to do with the fact that when my wife is out of town I am far less likely to sleep like a baby than I am to lie in bed with my socks still on my feet, staring at the ceiling, and wondering about next year's New York Jets. So: here is what I have been thinking, lying there, head full of coors, belly full of chicken. I've got the offseason trade that could make the Jets Superbowl Contenders in THREE short years!
The key cog in this trade? Trent Green. Seriously. No joke.
Thus far the Dolphins are the only team in serious talks with Kansas City for Trent's services. The Chiefs, while desperate to unload Green and get younger at QB, keep balking at the offer of a 6th round pick for Green's services. The last thing the Jets need is a second highly effective QB in their division (let's face it, Tom Brady takes two next year with that WR core.) So here's a simple solution: outbid the Fins with what you offer, but ask for MORE in return.

Look, I know I have said this before. I know alot of Jets fans (like my father and my uncle) can't see the light for some reason, but look: Chad Pennington is NOT winning a Super Bowl in his lifetime. Teams have won before on the strength of their defense, and with the benefit of a smart and efficient QB, i understand. But the fact remains, the timing with this Jets team just isn't right to accomodate holding on to Pennington and his unearned salary. Our defense, while it keeps getting stronger is two years from completely jelling, our offensive line is filled with holes that need to be attended to in free agency and drafts, and we are still one Curtis Martinesque RB away from dominance. So I make my proposal with one caveat: the Jets may very well stink this year. But I was willing to take mediocrity over slightly-better-than-average last year, if it meant improvement in the near future, and I echo that sentiment this year. It boils down to this: there are VERY few things I want to see in my life more than a Jets Super Bowl championship. Like, no joke. Here's the list:

1. Healthy family
2. World peace
3. Loyal Friends

....That's it I think. So again, I don't offer this trade lightly. I offer it because I think it could very well be a step towards finalizing the team that offers me the long-sought-after joy of a Super Bowl championship. I offer it, because for the Jets right now it makes sense:

Chad Pennington and The Jets 2nd round pick for Trent Green and the Chiefs 1st and 3rd round pick.

It's a deal that makes sense for everyone. Think about it: Herm LOVES Pennington (for some inexplicable reason that probably is closely related to the fact that Herm is a crappy coach) and the Jets need a veteran QB to provide insurance should we discover our investment in Kellen Clemens was a bust. Green wants an honest competition for the QB slot and with the NYJ he can find one. Meanwhile the Jets flip a second round pick where they would normally be taking a crapshoot on a lineman, and get a first round pick (with as bad as the Chiefs might be next year this could land them Ray Rice) and a third round pick (have you seen next years LB corps?) I'm going to be bold here: I don't see a decent damn reason NOT to propose this trade and see if KC bites. The only reason it wouldn't happen is if Herm ACTUALLY believes Damon Huard is the QB of the future AND ready to start next year in KC. I have to think with Pennington dangled in front of him, Herm would admit this is not the case.

So why does it make sense for the Jets? Well, it only does if you are willing to accept the premise that the Jets are not a Super Bowl caliber team right now. Beyond that you have to be ok with that fact that, given their shortcomings, it is very possible that the Jets aren't even a playoff team for the next couple years. I know that given what happened last year it is hard to resign the Jets to being a non-playoffs team this season. But look at it this way: after watching the Jets spend the last decade of their existence jumping in and out of the playoffs only to lose in the first or second round (and once in the third....UGH!) wouldn't itbe worth it to forgo that tease for a near GUARANTEE at a Superbowl Contender in Dallas 2011?!

But, you say, But GMS, what you have failed to explain here--the crucial details you have failed to provide--who says that we are a contender in 2011 if we make this trade, and why?! Well, believe it or not I don't have the answer to that question. Or not the definitive one at least. But here's what I know about the NFL--everything I know--is it takes three things to win a Super Bowl: a good if not GREAT QB; a solid defense; a running game. Right now the Jets are on their way to ONE of those things. This simple trade gives them 16 games to find out if they have any semblance of a second; it also gives them the opportunites to work on the two areas that still need improvement.

It all boils down to this Jets fans: if you look into the deepest most guttaral part of being a fan, and you can tell yourself that sutained mediocrity is fine, then this trade will make no sense in your eyes. But if it's 2:15 AM and you've been up twirling the Jets future around your unoccupied noggin for a few hours, I think you know what's proper: give me Trent Green, or give me death.

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Jets Annual Draft Blunder

I love the whole "Grading the Draft" bit you will find on sites like ESPN and Sports Illustrated this morning. Nothing like deciding whether the picks were good or not before these dudes have even played a game. In that light, here's the two grades that matter, calculated by yours truly:

Pats: A++++ With the Pats you have to bear in mind that they saw way ahead of time how weak this draft was, traded for a TON of picks in next years draft, honed in on one player whose talent should have made him a top 10 pick, knew they could get him at their low first round spot, and waited for him. Then they flipped a meaningless fourth-rounder for one of the three most talented wide-outs in the game. Oh yeah, plus they had the best free-agent signing period of any team since the salary cap era began. Add onto this that they were one of the 4 best teams in the NFL last year, and you can draw your own conclusions. Your 2008 Superbowl champs: The New England Patriots. MVP: Randy Moss.

New York Jets: F------------------------- The Jets ostensibly made the exact opposite decisions from the ones guided by last years philosophy of quantity plus underrated quality = good. If they didnt think this years draft was deep they should have done what the Pats did and trade for picks next year. Instead they gave away the farm to move uo 15 spots. What?! This year the guiding philosophy was, apparently: lets only use four picks, and lets trade up to put ourselves in perfect position to draft a franchise quarterback only to pass him up for a corner who was slightly above average on a slightly above average team, but who had a really good combine. Oh yes, and then lets pass up a future pro-bowl back with all kinds of different skill-sets who happens to come from right in our back yard, be an AWESOME human being, and a fan favorite...then take the second best linebacker on an overrated defensive team. Awesome plan Tannenbaum. Next year when Quinn wins RotY and whats-his-face, Darell Revis, from Pitt is getting booed every time he gets burned by Randy Moss, I will be the guy saying "told you so." Also, you didn't think Randy Moss was maybe worth a 3rd round pick? Really?!

All that matters: Jets will win 5 games next year, max (while Clemens goes through growing pains and Pennington sits with a sore pinky-toe.) The Pats will barely beat Quinn and the Browns in the AFC championship game. Pats: SB Champs '08. Browns: SB champs '09. Jets: Perennial Cellar-Dwellers for the rest of my life.

Friday, April 27, 2007

This is Mel Kiper's World, People...We're Just Livin' In It

A quickie this rainy Friday afternoon. Before I subject myself to two-straight days of sitting on a couch watching baseball and a perpetaully-counting-down-clock with Roger Goodell in my face, let me go on the record with these three things. I know the Jets don't theoretically need a RB/FB, and I know that this guy's a second-rounder, most likely, but I would be THRILLED if the Jets reach down and grab Brian Leonard. I love the guy. It's a man-crush. And I would hate, hate, hate to have to root for him in an Eagles or Giants uni. Secondly, I dont like the pitching match-ups for the Sox this weekend, but I am not as petrified as everyone else is. Other than Petitte who is due to come back down to earth, the Yanks are relying on a career minor-leaguer and a fresh-off the DL, not as sharp as last year, Wang. I think the dull wang pulls one out though, and the yankees avoid the sweep narrowly on Sunday. I won't be watching though, because I will be running a marathon. Followed by consumption of steak. And one or two beers.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I'm Gettin' Back into Gettin' Back into you

Welp. That didn't last long. Call it a binge, call it a full-blown remission. Whatever you want to call it, it was damn fun.

I watched all three Sox-Yanks games this weekend. Every damn pitch. I couldn't unpeel my ass from the couch. I'm sorry. I know, I know. I'm weak-willed, my addiction owns me. I am pathetic. Listen, I've beaten myself up over this all weekend. And then I decided it was all worth it. It's just not happening: I can't shake it. This feeling I get when Josh Beckett burns one past Derek Jeter's chin, when Papi hustles out a double, when Manny strolls to first like a dog that's just marked his territory after hitting his first HR in a thus-far abysmal spring. I love this feeling. I love the pure organic vitriol I feel for Alex Rodriguez every time he gets a hit. I get weak-kneed watching Mariano Rivera scrunch up his face like a fruitbat on the hunt after blowing a save. Some one check--I think I left my fingers drumming my coffee table while Papelbon mowed down Damon and Jeter in the ninth, and forced April-and-May-Rod into a weakly nubber to third. My heart didn't stop racing from Friday at 7 until this morning sometime. I could barely eat, I didn't sleep much. I could drink. But man, was I on a roll. And why? Because there is no high--NOT ONE--like the high of watching your favorite team slay its rival.

Did I wake up with the hungover lament of a regressed addict? A bit, sure. But consider me one-hundred percent hopeless. Thus far, I have compiled a list of things I love about this Red Sox team, and things I hate about them, and it comes down to this: unless I weigh ideology and principal significantly heavier than gratification and personal-joy, I have no argument not to get sucked back in. This is going to be a damn fun team to watch. Principally hard to root for, perhaps. But damn fun. I don't care that it's only April. The Sox win the AL East, take my word for it. And I will be watching.

In case you're wondering...in lieu of a preview, the lists I compiled in favor of the Sox, and against the Sox.

The Good
Dice-K Even though his game yesterday was sub-par, at best. But even against the best line-up in baseball he had strokes of brilliance. He's not going to be the Ace this year. But some of his sequences are as fun to watch as any pitcher I have ever seen. 15 wins and a sub-4 ERA, alone, will make him worth his salary. The festive-nature of his starts is just a bonus.

Josh Beckett has been phenomenal. That sequence against A-Rod on Friday (curve, slider, change-up, fastball) was ridiculous.

Curt Schilling's Blog Hate the guy, like the player, love the blog.

JD Drew from what I've seen of this guy, you can color me impressed. Maybe he just needed t play for a team where he wasn't the key cog. His patience at the plate is Abreu-esque. Nice fielder, too.

Okajima in the eighth is just fun to say. Papelbon to close the door is even more fun. He's done it enough in big situations now, I can say this confidently: there's no other closer in baseball I would rather have.

Papi and Manny

Is there a better looking park than Fenway?

There are few places that are more fun to be than an NYC bar while the Yankees are struggling...especially against the Sox. It is good to know that Joey Bag-o-Donuts from Staten Island is gonna' kick Joe Torre's ass next time he sees him.

The Bad
Julio Lugo just don't like the guy.

Wily Mo Pena needs to get some more damn at-bats...because right now he looks awful rusty, and at some point the Red Sox need to know whether or not he is going to have a future here.

Roger Clemens please just go back to Houston. I dont want you in the AL East. Period.

The Ugly
I'm addicted to a team that has more-or-less been built in the vain of the Yankees teams I always hated. GREAT.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I Don't Write Satire...I Just Write About People

Tackling the Imus Issue when the Horse has been Dead, Stewed and Swallowed; God Bless You Mr. Vonnegut, and Moving on.

A few years back, on a thanksgiving weekend trip from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to Providence, Rhode Island, I sat shotgun while a friend of mine drove. We were still coming down of a 24-hour whirlwind of margaritas, Irish Coffee's, bloodymary's and Keystone Light (I hadn't seen this friend in quite some time, we'd a bit of catching up to do.) The whole trip we kept ourselves awake with the grating tunes of pop-radio stations (those beloved but endangered venues where a guy named Jimmy McCartney is "spinning the top 40 for ya, all night, and giving away tickets to next month's big Winter Ball with the Gin Blossoms and 50-cent!" At least 5 times during that 6 hour drive we came across what would later be referred to as our theme song for that trip, "Hoes in different Area-codes," a rap anthem of sorts that in 1999 was on the tongues of just about every white-person age 13-21 from Atlanta, Georgia to Augusta, Maine. Each time it came on, in a sort of ironic homage to the absurdity of the lyrics, my friend and I belted out the chorus line, verbatim, "I've got hoes in different area codes...area codes (x4)" followed by the two of us doing our best to imitate the rest of the lyrics--shouting out random three digit area codes, that sorta-kinda rhymed. It's not a stretch of the imagination to suggest that teeny-boppers and frat boys everywhere were doing this same exact thing all winter that year (to differing extents of irony, to be sure.)

The point is, it never seemed inappropriate or odd for two twenty-something white boys to be singing along to a song which is accompanied by a video of predominantly African-American women shaking their rumps and being ostensibly referred to as hoes (and ones that could easily be cast aside at any moment for hoes in a different locale, disposable if you will.) The reasons for this are many, but the most important factor, I think, is that we were fully aware of the absurdity inherent in what we were doing. We could not only laugh at the posturing of the songs author (my Jersey City neighbor, Ludacris) but also at the effect of two kids who clearly didn't have "hoes" in any area code gleefully mocking the lyrics of the song. It was more a comment on the lack of intelligence of those who would create such songs, and those who would vault it to the top of the charts, than it was a deprivation of the song's targets. Indeed, we were singing satire. That's a double-edged sword of course: when Dave Chapelle plays a blind KKK member, he runs the risk of people "not getting it" or else getting it all too well, sensitivity trumping humor; when whiteboys refer to one another as "my nigga" it sure gives a hell of alot more pause then when two black men do the same thing; when Don Imus mocks the (inexplicably widely accepted) vernacular of hip-hop culture, he runs the risk of people "not getting it" or else getting it all too well. I can't say why in certain circumstances sensitivity trumps humor, but it often and somewhat randomly does.

This doesn't excuse the deplorable nature of Imus' comments. The "botched joke" excuse can work as a defense, when the Bush administration tries to twist one of it's foes comments about the War in Iraq into a criticism of our troops' intelligence. It doesn't fly when an old white man refers to young black women as nappy-headed hoes, calling to recollection a history of old white men abusing black women, profiting off of black labor, and institutionalizing the social divide of white male supremacy. Botched joke or not, that history just isn't funny. But just as shameful as what Imus said, is the trend that's emerging in which one person's folly becomes an excuse for society to reflect its weaknesses out on individuals, and think we can merely sacrifice that individual and the issue will go away. Let's be clear: what Imus said was stupid. But let's also be clear about this: what nobody wants to discuss is that what Imus said was clearly (for those of us who have bothered to listen to the entire exchange) meant to be a tongue-in-cheek mockery of a culture that (to varying degrees of disgust or apathy) "the kids" are worshipping, these days. Don Imus didn't refer to the RU players as "nappy-headed hoes" to call to our minds the tradition of white males sexually exploiting black women. He made the remark to call to mind the equally disturbing (but far less ridiculed) tradition of multi-millionaire "thugs" in baggy jeans. Here's where Imus made two mistakes, and where expressing a sentiment that (like it or not) he has expressed for decades on his show, got him into inescapable hot water: first, he didn't say something foolish and ignorant, but blame-absolving like "these girls are, as Fitty Cent would say, 'Nappy-Headed hoes,'" this still would have made the joke, and also made his intent clear for the mouth-breathing public who typically hears the replay of things like this in spliced audio-cuts, with predetermined reactions; secondly, he made the remark about athletes, and nobody loves to make societal mountains out of molehills the way the sports media does.

This leads directly to my two biggest concerns about this situation: first, the double standard that nobody wants to address, whereby our ipods are happily filled with rap lyrics expressing the very sentiment that Imus was trying to satire. Listening to Stuart Scot trying to excuse this double-standard was a total riot. Secondly, and I really wish I didn't have to say this, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton's role in all of this has been really dispicable. I always used to think of these two guys as intriguing individuals and strong leaders at best; and mildly amusing side-needlers at worst. I can't help but be bothered by their hypocrisy in all of this, though. They have been the spokesmen for demanding Imus' head. They have taken to the streets in protest, and to the talkshow circuit in defiance of an obviously inexcusable folly. They have made the sacrifice of Imus' career the news item dujour. And they have done it so that the other news item du jour (their last cause celebre, the appalling false accusation of the Duke lax players) has fallen by the wayside. Why is it a fireable offense--according to Jackson and Sharpton--for Imus to disparage these women (something they will certainly get over in their lifetimes, and something which, I regret to say, will likely not be the worst they encounter) but nobody is calling for Shaprton and Jackson to at least publicly apologize for their role in villifying and arguably ruining the lives of three innocent young men. (By the way, not that it matters much, but I was dead wrong about the Duke Lax case. I admit that 100%) But this all relates to the real issue here: the way we jump on stories and draw conclusions and demand a sacrifice when none of us want to talk about the real larger issues. Firing Don Imus doesn't change the racial tension in this country, it doesn't undo the double standards, and it certainly doesn't lead to dialogue. But dialogue is less and less the point. It's about finding our pulpit and yelling from it. It's about demanding people pay for their mistakes, and their prejudices. It's about being "right" on the issues. It's less and less about looking at people, and wondering, how the hell does all of this work again?


Cause here's the thing: there was a time when the social critics of the day wanted to look at the big picture, examine why we, as a humanity behave and interact the way we do. Nobody did that better than writer, social critic, crumudgeon and keynote-speaker at my graduation Kurt Vonnegut. Vonnegut died Wednesday, and as some of my friends joked, we were shocked it didn't happen right on the stage at graduation. He fought through the twenty minute speech, though at times it seemed he might not make it. I wonder, if Vonnegut wasn't busy fighting for his life, if he would have been interested in the Imus scandal, or if he would have shrugged it off as another example of people making satire: that is putting on the farce of being socially progressive, all while treading in a wading pool, afraid to jump into the big, scary ocean. Vonnegut, like yours truly, was a liberal, the kind who was proud to wear that label, but wasn't blind to the faults manifest therein: Liberals do some dumb things. We often mean better for the world than conservatives, but we oftener have a hard time seeing the forest for the trees. We want to rage against people who say dumb things, or who advocate pushing their agendas and beliefs upon us, but we really do value our freedom of speech, our right as citizens to believe in what we want to believe (and of course, to try to make you believe it too.) We also are a guilt-ridden people. We are sensitive to history, we are embarassed by the way this nation was founded, and continues to expand into the world at-large, and make its name in the books of history. But we aren't looking to take any of the blame for that, of course.

I like to think Vonnegut would have ignored the hoopla and seen it for what it has become: a manifestation of one of society's major weaknesses in a caricature of one man. Imus, like Mel Gibson, and Michael Richards before him, has come to symbolize a particularly nasty truth about American society: racial tension. It's something we are petrified of actually discussing, and so we project it onto characters everyonce in a while, and beat them to a pulp. We tell ourselves this is progress. Vonnegut once wrote: “If I’d wasted my time creating characters, I would never have gotten around to calling attention to things that really matter.” Indeed, the media, liberals, Americans have spent an awful lot of time lately focusing on a few "evil" characters. It's simpler than calling attention to things that really matter.

I didn't ever consider Vonnegut my favorite writer. I don't have one really, but he would certainly be in the mix, most likely falling short to Joyce, Faulkner and some others. He didn't write my all-time favorite book. Moby Dick is in a league of its own, but Slaughter-House Five is battling it out with Ulysses, Book of Daniel, If on a Winter's Night a Traveller... and some others for the high AAA's. But one thing will always keep Vonnegut in a special place in my memory: he was the first author who really made me want to write. After completing SH5 in 9th grade I sat down to begin a novel that was a complete rip-off of Vonnegut's work. I never finished it. Ever since then I have been not finishing novels which are complete rip-offs of other authors' work. We're predictable, us humans.

And so, three years after he told my graduating class that if we "really wanted to piss off (our) parents but didnt have the guts to tell them (we) were gay, (we) could always take up art," Vonnegut died. I bet thousands of kids began writing because of him. And now he's dead, and some of us are still writing but never finishing. So it goes.

The Golden Rule

I found out two weeks ago I have been accepted (again) into the NYC Teaching Fellows. I am going to go for it this time. There are some major implications to this that I will hash out at some point. It's not going to be easy, and I am certain that I will question everything from my decision to my motives to my desire to continue breathing on a pretty much daily basis for the next two years. Teaching in an inner-city school as I am learning via my brother is a total mind-blow, and trying to complete a MEd at the same time is only going to be more difficult. For now, it means two years of grad school, subsidized, two years of frustrating but hopefully occasionally fulfilling moments with my students, and an opportunity to do something on a daily basis that benefits someone other than myself. It will be a challenge. But I need a challenge. It's been a long time since I have faced one of any real consequence. Furthermore, I really think I was born to teach (seeing as basically everyone I am related to is an eduator) and you know, I just love everything about Literature and academics, with one caveat: I think sometimes the people who need literature and academics (young kids) don't get the advantage of seeing that those two things can actually be cool and fun. I'm not going to save the world. I am not going to be a part of some great movement whereby 5 years from now urban students will have the same opportunity as suburban kids. But I'll be damned if I have the opportunity to work with kids and possibly change the way one or two of them look at reading a book, and I pass it up because I would rather come to a job where I sit in a cube and babble on my blog all day long. Kinda hard to argue that people are having trouble seeing the forest for the trees, when I haven't gotten down of this branch in three years or so. Maybe I will still be teaching in the year 2081, when everyone is finally equal.

KV Nov. 11, 1922-Apr. 11, 2007
Don Imus, Al Sharpton, Stuart Scott still livin'. So it goes.

Friday, March 23, 2007

If You Do it in Numbers They Can't Stop All of You

Decemberists @ Loew's Theatre, Journal Sqaure, JC, NJ

I think we've established on here quite a few times that I am a bit selfish. It's not that I am self-absorbed to the point that I am inconsiderate of others, or self-centered to the point that I think everything should always be about me. It's just that I know what I like/enjoy and what I think is worthy of my time, and everything else can pretty much be damned. That said, it's very possible that the following opinions are held by me and me, only. It's possible that the way I am feeling this morning--after seeing the Decemberists (one of MY favorite bands) at Loew's Theatre (in MY hometown of Jersey City) with MY wife and MY friends--is a feeling only I could have. It's quite possible many left last night's show unimpressed (I'm not sure how) or at least feeling melancholy about what they'd just seen. That's fine. They are probably people I wouldn't care to associate with anyway. So here's the requisite "blog disclaimer": this review of last night's show reflects my biased and uninformed opinion. I don't have a Pitchfork degree in what makes an awesome show. Secondly, I am going to butcher this setlist, so if someone who is in the know stumbles across this here blog and has a more correct version, feel free to post. Alas:

I'm not sure what the fascination is among music writers, fans, and DJs to try to annoint the Next Bob Dylan. Within the last year alone I have heard references to the following musicians as "the next Dylan": Connor Oberst, a bit premature, it seemed; Ben Gibbard, this DJ having presumably been on Ludes; M Ward, which I can "kinda" see; Mason Jennings, enjoyable enough, but...please. Surprisingly enough Colin Meloy's name has never come up that I have heard, which leads me to one question and one exclamation: "Wherefor?" and "Thank god!" Don't get me wrong. I love Dylan and if we insist on crowning a "next (blank)" for every great artist of our idyllic sentiments, then Meloy's as good a victim as any. He covers the basics: he's more of a troubador/poet than any of those other candidates; he's political without beating you over the head with it; he's a jewish kid from Minnesota...err, scrap that. But you get the point. Still, who wants Colin Meloy to be our generation's Bob Dylan when he can be our generation's Colin friggin' Meloy?! Plus, for as much as I loved the Band, they were merely a backup (albeit an excellent one) to Dylan for a short few years. Meloy's the front man, sure, but this is a well-rounded band. Point blank (and without a shred of hyperbole) the Decemberists are the best live band I have EVER seen. Chris Funk is a master of every stringed instrument one can imagine, including a "Herty-Gurty" whatever that is. Jenny Conlee is queen of anything with keys from accordion to keyboard to organ. Nate Query more than holds his own on bass (standup and elec.) plus he looks like he stepped straight out of a J Crew Catalog. Homeboy was dapper and quite the looker. John Moen, drummer, may look like he should be teaching Ethics at some stodgy college (Middlebury, perhaps) but he too can rock, and had quite a sense of humor (in that corny old-guy kinda way.) So, anyway, the band is friggin' good. Like the best of this generation good. I don't need to convince you. Either you agree or you don't. On to the show!

We admittedly missed the opening act, somewhat due to schedule, and somewhat by choice (we could have rushed and caught most of it, or had a beer and some pizza in my living room.) Obviously, we chose the latter. So we walked in, literally RIGHT as the bassline for "The Island/Come & See/You'll Not Feel the Drowning" began to drench the audience in a beautiful (in need of some loving care) old theatre. Finding our seats (second row!) we settled in. It was a bit odd to sit at a show (the organizers at the Loew's strictly enforce this policy, which kinda stinks but actually worked for the "theatrical elements" of the set.) Following a nearly flawless (music-wise) performance of that long opener, which really showed off the theatre's acoustics, Colin made a little banter with the audience. Why don't more bands do this? I have heard the bitching about "I come to see music, not to hear them crack cheezy jokes or shout 'Hello Jersey City!' or whatever." I wholeheartedly disagree. If the music is all you care about stay at home with the album. The playfulness between bandmembers and between band and audience is what makes it FUN!

After referring to Jersey City as the real NJ and Hoboken (where they'd previously played at Maxwells) as, well, Hoboken, they broke into "Yankee Bayonet" with the Shara from My Brightest Diamond (opener) singing Laura Viers' part serviceably. It's not my favorite song, but it played well. I didnt have a pen so the middle of the set is murky in terms of order, but I particularly recall "Crane Wife 1&2" (excellent) "We Both Go Down together" (one of my favs) and Summersong (beautiful.) Giving us a glimmer into what inspired the Crane Wife, and what seemingly inspired the set, itself, Colin introduced "We Both Go Down Together," by saying, "And here's another song about senseless violence." On a more playful note, after referencing our beloved PATH train they blasted through "The Perfect Crime No. 2" (danceable even prone in a chair) "O! Valencia" (a real crowd pleaser) then told, what Colin called, "a story to take home and put under your pillows and give you really weird dreams" ("Shankill Butchers.") Colin wasn't the only one in a playful mood, introducing "Military Wives" (another personal fave) Jenny teased, "here comes the rock!" It was in fact enough rock to "rock (colin's) shoelaces untied" for the second time of the night.

You know when you are absolutely LOVING a show, and at a certain point you get that "shit man, this has to end kind of soon" feeling? Well, that followed "Military Wives," for me especially since Colin extended the song a good 3-4 minutes to engage the audience in sing alongs for the "La de da de da" part (see, audience participation: dorky, sure, but friggin' fun! As, too, were the handclaps.) Fortunately, my fears were a bit premature. After that we were treated to (I think it was after)Grace Cathedral Hill (beautiful and slow) and The Infanta (effin' rocked to the point where I was very tempted to break that "no dance" rule.) For the last song of the set they pulled out oldie but goodie "Mariner's Revenge Song" and inspired some massive audience participation, calling for us to scream at the top of our lungs as the heroes in the song are swallowed once again by a whale. The audience screamed loudly like kids on a playground while a huge puppet whale (think Chinese New Year gone wrong) circled the stage, and the band belted out their last notes. Perfect ending for the set.

As the crowd fiended for an encore I turned to my wife, literally wiping sweat from my brow (remember, we were sitting) and sighed, "The absolute only thing that could make this show any better than it was, is if they had played "Eli the Barrow Boy" or if they Encore with "Sons and Daughters." So what do they do? March back on and play "Eli the Barrow Boy" AND "Sons and Daughters." As the first notes of "Sons and Daughters" fell behind Meloy's voice, "When we arrive..." I had that spine-chilling feeling of bliss that concerts RARELY give me anymore. I didn't think it was possible to feel any better until, leading up to the final chorus line, Meloy urged the audience, "This next line really doesnt work unless all of us sing it, and if you take one thing home from this show, it should be this next line, and you should take it with you on the PATH, or in the car ride home, it goes 'Hear all the bombs fade away!'" And reminiscent of my family singing along to Alice's Restaurant each thanksgiving at Arlo Guthrie's urging ("you people think you're gonna end a war singing that soft?") the chant started quietly, the audience unsure of itself, growing momentum at Meloy and the bandmember's urgency, until blowing up into a standing chant, people clapping along, the entire audience on our feet (damn the rules) screaming, "Hear all the bombs fade away! Hear all the bombs fade away!" for a solid 90 seconds. Look, man, I don't know if music can change the world. But for those 90 seconds--maybe even for that entire show--it sure felt like it could. Dylan at his best always made me believe he was changing music. But this was a different feeling, entirely.

Did I have any complaints? Sure: while I am a fan of audience participation when it is encouraged, I really don't need to know that should Colin Meloy ever come down with strep, dude behind me can easily take over as front man because he knows every friggin' lyric to every friggin' song, and wanted everyone else to know that he knew them. Look man, I love the band too. I holler along to Engine Driver when I am alone in traffic. I dont do it when I am in the audience and the guy who sings the song for a living is three rows in front of me. Also I missed the first half of the UCLA game. Not that it mattered, those jerks at CBS had me programmed to watch OSU/Tennessee anyway. Oh well, guess I can't nitpick too much. I'm not that selfish.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Because Royal Blue and Yellow Just Look Nice

...I admit it, that's the reason I became a UCLA basketball fan way back in the day. It's inexcusable, it's the reason every sports columnists imaginary "wife or girlfriend" pick's their bracket winners, and it belies the general front-runner fair-weather-fan nature of the pick. But when I bought an Ed O'Bannon jersey during spring break of my 12th year, and sat glued to a TV in Florida with awe as one of the most exciting sports team I have ever seen picked apart an overmatched and worn-down Razorbacks press, I fell in love with a basketball team for the first, and honestly, only time. I root for UCLA now, sure. I get bummed when they lose, I love when they win. I hate Steve Lavin with a passion, I hold a special place in my heart for Jim Harrick. When I see replays of the Princeton 43 UCLA 41 game in 1996, I still change the channel. I was in a bad mood for a good two days after the Bruins followed up their most exciting victory in 10 years (defeating Gonzaga in a nail-biter that made Adam Morrison an infamous cry-baby) by throwing out a typical lackluster, "do we really have to play again?" performance in the Championship game against the Gators last year.

That's been the thing about the Bruins, though. They don't really lose heart-breaking games, and under Ben Howland, they don't really win convincing ones, either. They are a deliberate, defensive team that goes on spurts without much pizzaz. They're either getting trounced by a team that shouldn't be waxing the court on which the Bruins play; or they are inexplicably making very, very good teams look very, very shoddy. They win 68-60, and their style of play is--frankly--quite boring. I'll root like hell for 'em, sure. And if they win it all, perhaps in ten years I will blog about them as one of the most exciting teams I've ever seen. But that's what the tournament does. The fast-paced, win-and-in, buzzer beaters, tearful losers, upset special style makes legends out of otherwise flawed teams. It's the nature of the beast, whoever wins it all becomes immortalized as being perfect: because that's what it takes, despite all your ugly regular season moments, and all of your shortcomings, if you can be perfect for 5 games, you make history, and no matter what you do for the rest of your life, certain people will sing your name like a beautiful hymn each time they recall you slashing to the basket one March many years prior. Just ask Ed O'Bannon. The Brackets:

Midwest Round 1:

Fla. d. Jackson St.
Heard a nice interview with the coah of Jackson State on NPR this morning. I'll feel bad for him when they lose by thirty.

Arizona d. Purdue
Good chicken. Mediocre basketball. Lute can pull out a win or two in this bracket.

ODU d. Butler
I know very little about either of these teams, but ODU just sounds like a 12 seed that upsets a 5 seed...and maybe even a 4 seed.

Maryland d. Davidson
DJ Strawberry wins em one game. Daryls wrists are finally unshackled enough to applaud.

Oregon d. Miami(not Florida)
Oregon may arguably be the most overlooked team (not underrated, just overlooked.)

UNLV d. Ga. Tech
I smell a fix. I think I may be the only person picking the Rebs

Wisconson d. TAMCC
I wonder how many people thought A&M just got a really, really poor seed, and picked Wisconsin to lose this one?

West Round 1:

Kansas d. Niagra

Kentucky d. Nova
Nova is the first of the overrated Big East teams to drop.

Virginia Tech d. Illinois
How did the Illini get in over Drexel again?!

So. Ill. d. Holy Cross
As much as I'd love to pick the Patriot League and go with the underdog here, So. Ill. is one of those unheard of teams that is actually damn good. They have dominant guard play, and suffocating defense. The poor man's UCLA.

Duke d. VCU
Two things: it pains me to pick Duke; and this is a particularly weak Duke team. Two other things: Duke at their best are better than VCU at their best no matter what way you slice it; If EVERYBODY is picking an upset, and you dont think either team is going far in the tourney, it always makes sense to stay safe in a bracket challenge.

Wright St. d. Pittsburgh
Second overrated Big East Team to fall.

Indiana d. Gonzaga
This was a coin-flip. Neither team is very good, and neither team is winning the next game. I went with the team I have seen more of.

UCLA d. Weber State
Weber State scores fewer than 50 in this match-up.

East Round 1:

Eastern Kentucky keeps it close and possibly has a lead at the half. People in offices around the country are glued to ESPN.com for the first 5 minutes of the second half. UNC blows them out in the end by 15 or so.

Mich St. d. Marquette
Third overrated Big East team to fall.

USC d. Arkansas
Drexel fans watch with an emotional mix of glee, lament, and disgust. Syracuse fans do the same, although they dont deserve it.

Texas d. NMSU
Kevin Durant has 22 points, 11 boards and eighteen bajillion blocked shots.

GWU d. Vanderbilt
A vastly underrated GWU team...just kidding. I have no idea. I just dont see Vanderbilt winning an NCAA tournament game.

Wash. State d. Oral Roberts
(Insert joke about Oral here) Washington State has three viable scorers, and plays an excellent midcourt trap. They play the kind of basketball that has become very popular in the pac10 of late--namely, deliberate, and chess-like in pace.

Texas Tech d. BC
Bobby Knight is my favorite villain.

Georgetown d. Belmont
Somewhere a relative of JRFN wallows in pain...or actually...goes skiing and probably couldn't fuckin' care less.

South Round 1:

OSU d. Central Conn

Xavier d. BYU
BYU coach is consoled by his seven wives.

Long Beach St. d. Tenn.
This isn't your grandfathers LBS. But it's a good enough team to beat Tennessee.

UVA d. Albany
Could be your big brothers UVA.

Louisville d. Stanford
It pained me to do this. But Louisville is the better team.

Texas A&M d. Penn
I'm trying to think of a reason A&M doesn't win this bracket. Scorers, Good guard play, leadership, good rebounders, not bad from the line. I'm really trying...

Nevada d. Creighton
Nevada's caoch avoids any conflicts with the police for the first round.

Memphis d. No. Tex.
Memphis is quite good. Quite.

Midwest Rd. 2:

Fla. d. Zona
This will be a mop-up.

ODU d. Maryland
Let the George Mason comparisons begin

Oregon d. Winthrop

Wis. d. UNLV

Enjoy it while it lasts, Badgers.

West Rd. 2

Kansas d. Kentucky
If only Kansas had a tougher road to the elite 8, I'd feel alot better about the Bruins chances.

So. Ill. d. Va. Tech

Duke d. Wright St.

..I know....I know.

UCLA d. Ind.
In a slow and boring 68-60 type game.

East Rd. 2


Texas d. USC


Georgetown d. Texas Tech

Aside from Texas this bracket bores me.

South Rd. 2

Ohio St. d. Xavier
Possibly the easiest road to the Sweet 16 in the tourney (guess they are a 1 seed.)

UVA d. Long Beach

Texas A&M d. Louisville
Experience over youth.

Memphis d. Nevada

MY Super Sweet 16

Florida d. ODU
Joakim Noah does what I hope is his last stupid post-victory dance of the season. It probably won't be.

Oregon d. Wisconsin
This could go either way, but should it happen, this will be a phenomenally fun game to watch next weekend.

Kansas d. So. Ill.
Crap, I hate KU.

UCLA d. Duke
Ok, maybe I set it up so UCLA can slay my biggest nemeses back to back in one weekend.

Texas d. UNC
In what will be a physical, barnburner of a game.

Gtown d. WSU
Georgetown has size, but I'm not sure they have much else. Surprisingly, I wasn't very confident in this pick.

UVA doesn't have the front court to keep Oden out of the paint.

Texas A&M d. Memphis

Elite 8

Fla. d. Orgeon
Joakim Noah and his stupid dance advance. For now.

UCLA d. Kansas
About a potential Pitt-UCLA showdown in the previous round, our friend Jake writes: "I have a wierd preminition that this is going to be a late night game in the 70's that i'm going to be watching while drunk at a bar. Does it feel like that to you?" Since Pitt is losing early, I'll apply that statement here with Jakes compliance.

Texas d. GTown
Man alive, is Texas' road to the final four going to be a rough one.

A&M d. Ohio St.
Couldn't find a reason not to advance them.

Final Four

UCLA d. Florida
Avenge last years loss, make Joakim cry. These are two of the things this years team must do to park themselves in my Sports Pantheon with th 2004 Sox, the '94 Bruins, Oil Can Boyd, and Curtis Martin. Oil's in there for personal reasons. Back off.

Texas A&M d. Texas
Or the other way around. Either way a team from Texas wins. And then loses to UCLA in the Championship game.

Hey, what can I say? I told you I was a fan, didn't I?